english news

Coronavirus: More than 200 Australians flown home after 14-day quarantine

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More than 200 Australians have been flown back home after 14 days in quarantine on remote Christmas Island amid coronavirus fears. They were evacuated from China’s Hubei province – the epicentre of the deadly outbreak – on 3 February. With no cases reported during the minimum required time, they were taken to six cities across Australia.

Many of the returnees, including children, expressed relief, saying they were happy to be finally home. More than 70,600 people across China have been infected by the virus, with 1,771 deaths. Most new cases and deaths in the past 24 hours have been reported in Wuhan, Hubei’s largest city.

More than two dozen countries around the world have confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. Australia is among them with 15 cases. Outside mainland China, five deaths have been reported – in France, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan. The virus, which causes acute respiratory disease, has been named Covid-19.(BBC)…[+]

Jeff Bezos: World’s richest man pledges $10bn to fight climate change

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Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has pledged $10bn (£7.7bn) to help fight climate change. The world’s richest man said the money would finance work by scientists, activists and other groups. He said: “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change.” Writing on his Instagram account, Mr Bezos said the fund would begin distributing money this summer.

Mr Bezos has an estimated net worth of more than $130bn, so the pledge represents almost 8% of his fortune. Some Amazon employees have urged him to do more to fight climate change. There have been walkouts and some staff have spoken publicly. Also, Mr Bezos is financing the Blue Origin space programme, criticised for its carbon footprint.(BBC)…[+]

Human compost funerals ‘better for environment’

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A US firm has given scientific details of its “human composting” process for environmentally friendly funerals. A pilot study on deceased volunteers showed that soft tissue broke down safely and completely within 30 days.

The firm, Recompose, claims that its process saves more than a tonne of carbon, compared to cremation or traditional burial. It says that it will offer the world’s first human composting service in Washington state from next February. Speaking exclusively to BBC News, Recompose’s chief executive and founder, Katrina Spade, said that concerns about climate change had been a big factor in so many people expressing interest in the service.

“So far 15,000 people have signed up to our newsletter. And the legislation to allow this in the state received bi-partisan support enabling it to pass the first time it was tabled,” she said. “The project has moved forward so quickly because of the urgency of climate change and the awareness we have to put it right.” (BBC)…[+]

Uganda’s Queen of Katwe star Nikita Pearl Waligwa dies aged 15

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An actress who starred in the Queen of Katwe, a Disney film about a chess prodigy from a Ugandan slum, has died aged 15, Ugandan media report. Nikita Pearl Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. The 2016 film was based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who took up chess aged nine despite not being in school and went on to compete in international tournaments.t starred Lupita Nyong’o as her mother and David Oyelowo as her chess teacher.

Waligwa played the role of Gloria, a friend of Phiona who explained the rules of chess to her. She was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016 and Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair reportedly mobilised people to help fund her treatment in India, with Ugandan doctors quoted as saying they did not have the necessary equipment. She was given the all-clear in 2017 but last year was found to have another tumour.(BBC)…[+]

South Sudan peace talks: Machar and Kiir in deadlock over states

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Former South Sudanese rebel chief Riek Machar has said he is not satisfied by proposals made by the president aimed at paving the way for the formation of a government of national unity. On Saturday President Salva Kiir agreed to an opposition demand to reduce the number of states in the country. But Mr Machar says the new proposals do not go far enough. Six years of conflict have devastated South Sudan, with some 380,000 deaths in the world’s newest country.

The two rivals are under increasing international pressure to meet a deadline of 22 February to implement a power-sharing deal. The US last year warned that it would impose sanctions on anyone working against the peace process.

Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, have said they will visit South Sudan once a national unity government is formed.(BBC)…[+]

Coronavirus: Fake flyers in Los Angeles target Panda Express

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Fake flyers telling diners to avoid Asian-American restaurants because of the coronavirus are among a spate of recent racist incidents linked to the outbreak, say California authorities. Coronavirus fears have spread even though the US has seen just 15 cases, over half in California. This week in Los Angeles bullies accused an Asian-American student of having the virus and badly beat him. The coronavirus has now reached 24 countries outside China.

Anxiety and misinformation related to the virus have fuelled anti-Asian prejudice, Los Angeles authorities said at a press conference. “Many may be quick to assume that just because someone is Asian or from China that somehow they are more likely to be carriers of the virus,” said Robin Toma, executive director of the LA County Human Relations Commission.(BBC)…[+]

Trump says he has right to act on criminal cases

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US President Donald Trump has tweeted he has “the legal right” to intervene in criminal cases after his attorney general complained White House tweets were making his job “impossible”. In his post, Mr Trump also denied he had ever meddled in any cases. America’s top law officer William Barr on Thursday asked Mr Trump to stop his tweets, saying he would not be bullied. Mr Barr spoke out after Mr Trump renewed his attack on the criminal trial of his ex-adviser, Roger Stone. Prosecutors had recommended Stone serve a stiff sentence, but Mr Trump tweeted that was unfair. On Friday morning, Mr Trump ignored the attorney general’s plea to stop tweeting.

It is legally ambiguous whether the US president has the authority to order the attorney general to open or shut a case. The Department of Justice has been meant to operate without political interference since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. Mr Trump has previously called for investigations into perceived enemies, such as former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. On Friday, Mr McCabe’s lawyers announced the justice department had closed its criminal inquiry into whether their client had lied to investigators about leaks to the media.

The New York Times meanwhile reported Mr Barr had appointed outside prosecutors to review the case against another Trump ally, Michael Flynn. Flynn, who was Mr Trump’s first national security adviser, previously pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in a federal inquiry, but later withdrew co-operation and is in the midst of trying to recant his plea.(BBC)…[+]

Inside Virginia’s gun rights resistance

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The Culpeper County 2A Facebook group had five rules. Rule one was “Get Busy – Follow the Action Plan and take the necessary steps to protect our rights. Sharing memes isn’t enough. We need coordinated action.”

Rule two was “Do Not Give Up – We’re in the fight of our lives. Act accordingly. Never surrender.” At some point in late January the rules changed, and rule two became “No racism”. But the basic purpose remained: Culpeper County 2A (the 2A stands for Second Amendment) was founded with the aim of resisting gun control bills working their way through the Virginia state legislature.

Similar groups are springing up across the state. Dozens of towns and counties are passing resolutions declaring themselves “second amendment sanctuaries” – a term borrowed from the “sanctuary cities” immigration movement of several years ago. The resolutions vary from county to county, but they broadly declare support for the second amendment and label the proposed state gun control laws as invalid. Democrats won control of the Virginia House and Senate in November for the first time in 24 years, and they immediately proposed a raft of gun control measures from universal background checks to restrictions on high capacity magazines. The bills came as no surprise – the Democrats had campaigned heavily on gun control, backed by funding from activist groups which comprehensively outspent the National Rifle Association in its home state.(BBC)…[+]

Wildlife photos: Squabbling mice top ‘people’s poll’ award

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Anyone who’s travelled on London Underground’s network will know them – the little black mice that scurry along the platforms and under the rails. Sam Rowley was so fascinated by these subterranean rodents, he spent a week down the tube trying to picture them. And one night, he captured an image of two of them literally battling over a morsel of food dropped by a passenger. That persistence to get the snap has won Sam the Wildlife Photographer of the Year LUMIX People’s Choice award. Fans of the annual, internationally famous WPY competition were asked to rank some of the images that didn’t quite win its top prizes last October, but were nonetheless fabulous shots.(BBC)…[+]

Lyra McKee: Man charged with journalist’s murder

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A 52-year-old man has been charged with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry. He is also charged with possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and professing to be a member of a proscribed organisation.

Ms McKee, who was 29, was observing rioting in Derry’s Creggan estate when she was shot on 18 April 2019. The 52-year-old, from Derry, is due to appear at Londonderry Magistrates’ Court on Thursday. Det Supt Jason Murphy said a number of individuals were involved with the gunman on the night Ms McKee was killed. “And while today is significant for the investigation the quest for the evidence to bring the gunman to justice remains active and ongoing,” he added.

Ms McKee was a writer and campaigner from Belfast who had only recently moved to Derry when she was killed.

She was standing near a police 4×4 vehicle on the night of 18 April 2019 when a masked gunman fired towards officers and onlookers. Regarded by many as a rising star in Northern Ireland media circles, she had written for many publications, including Buzzfeed, Private Eye, the Atlantic and Mosaic Science.(bbc)…[+]