english news

California couple abused 10 children amid ‘horrific’ conditions, say police

children

A California couple face multiple charges of torture and child abuse after 10 children were discovered in “horrific” conditions in a suburban home.  Jonathan Allen, 29, the children’s father, denies seven counts of torture and nine charges of abusing the children, who are aged between four months and 12 years old, at their home in Fairfield, north of San Francisco. The mother, Ina Rogers, 31, will be charged with nine counts of child abuse on Wednesday, prosecutors said. She has also denied any wrongdoing and told reporters that the allegations would “fall away”.

In strong echoes of the ongoing prosecution of David and Louise Turpin, the sheriff’s office in Solano county said the children were rescued from the filthy house in March. They had suffered puncture wounds, burns, bruising and injuries consistent with being shot with a pellet gun. Sharon Henry, the county’s chief deputy district attorney, said they were tortured “for sadistic purposes”. They were discovered when police responding to a missing juvenile report visited the address and found a home filled with rotted food and human and animal waste. Stories about the alleged abuse have emerged gradually in interviews with the children who are now in care. Eight of the children told professionals about incidents dating back several years, authorities said.(theguardian)…[+]

Syria: chlorine probably used in attack on Saraqeb – OPCW

syria

An investigation by the chemical weapons watchdog has found that chlorine is likely to have been used in an attack on a Syrian town in February. In what is likely to be seen as a dry run for a more controversial report later this month, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found that the February attack on the neighbourhood of Saraqeb was caused by the dropping of two cylinders that had contained chlorine on to a field in the town.

The OPCW is to report soon on whether chemical weapons were used on a larger-scale attack in Douma, eastern Ghouta, in May. Aspects of the evidence gathered at Saraqeb and Douma are very similar, weapons experts said. The OPCW does not have the power to attribute responsibility for attacks, and the UN body that did have the power to attribute blame has been closed after Russia used its veto to block the renewal of its mandate. Russia will not allow the mandate to be renewed unless the UN security council – on which Russia has a veto – is empowered to reject or endorse the body’s findings. Moscow has also become increasingly critical of the OPCW’s neutrality and working methods, especially after its experts found that a military-grade nerve agent had been deployed in the Salisbury attack on Russian former double-agent Sergei Skripal.(theguardian)…[+]

Tom Wolfe: Bonfire of the Vanities author dies aged 88

journalist

Tom Wolfe, the essayist, journalist and author of bestselling books including The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Bonfire of the Vanities, has died at the age of 88.

Wolfe died in a Manhattan hospital on Monday, his agent confirmed on Tuesday. He had been hospitalised with an infection. With his literary flair and habit of placing himself as a character in his nonfiction writing, Wolfe was regarded as one of the pioneers of New Journalism. Works like the 1965 essay collection The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,
1968’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – a firsthand account of the growing hippy movement, particularly novelist Ken Kesey’s experiments with psychedelic drugs – and 1979’s The Right Stuff – an account of the pilots who would become America’s first astronauts – established Wolfe as the face of a new style of reportage that could be read for pleasure. He even helped define the term New Journalism – with his publication of a 1973 essay collection of the same name, which placed his own writing alongside the likes of Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Gay Talese and Hunter S Thompson. “He was an incredible writer,” Talese told the Associated Press. “And you couldn’t imitate him. When people tried it was a disaster. They should have gotten a job at a butcher’s shop.”(theguardian)…[+]

Margot Kidder obituary

margot kider

“You’ll believe a man can fly,” promised the advertising campaign for the 1978 blockbuster Superman: The Movie. None of that technical razzle-dazzle would have counted for much, though, without the lively rapport between the film’s stars: Christopher Reeve as Superman and his alter-ego Clark Kent, and Margot Kidder, who has died aged 69, as the go-getting, chain-smoking reporter Lois Lane. They brought a screwball vivacity reminiscent of The Lady Eve to their scenes together, with Kidder playing Barbara Stanwyck to Reeve’s Henry Fonda. Her smart, sassy performance never allowed Lois to become merely the love interest or damsel in distress, even when those were her superficial functions in the script. In her hands, Lois was nobody’s fool, give or take her inability, necessary to the narrative, to spot that only a pair of glasses and a Spandex bodysuit distinguished Clark from Superman.(theguardian)…[+]

Putin opens 12-mile bridge between Crimea and Russian mainland

bridge

Vladimir Putin has opened a bridge between the Russian mainland and Crimea, tightening Russia’s hold over the contested peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The 12-mile (19km), $3.7bn (£2.7bn) bridge is Moscow’s only direct road link to Crimea. Russia expects it will carry millions of cars and rail travellers and millions of tons of cargo each year. Previously, all car traffic passed over the Kerch strait by ferry or by passing through Ukraine.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine remain extremely fraught as a simmering conflict continues between Kiev and Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine’s south-east. In 2016 the US imposed sanctions on Russian companies that were helping to build the bridge across the Kerch strait. Ukraine has said the construction of the bridge shows blatant disregard for international law.(theguardian)…[+]

Sergei Skripal briefed European intelligence services, reports say

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The former Russian spy Sergei Skripal gave briefings to European intelligence services in the years before the attempt on his life, which may offer a motive for why Moscow allegedly targeted him with a deadly nerve agent. Skripal was a regular lecturer in the US and Europe for at least a decade, speaking at universities and military academies and to other groups interested in intelligence.

However, Whitehall sources said the revelation he spoke on the lecture circuit, as other spies had done before him, neither explained nor justified the nerve agent attack. Although his operational knowledge ended with his arrest in Russia in 2004, Skripal was still regarded as being of value because of his inside knowledge of the workings of Russian military intelligence.

According to the Czech magazine Respekt, Skripal visited Prague in 2012 and held discussions with Czech intelligence. He briefed security officers on Kremlin espionage methods, with the meeting described as “beneficial”. Members of Czech intelligence subsequently met Skripal in the UK at least once, the magazine reported.(theguardian)…[+]

Turkey’s president blames US for returning world to ‘dark days’

turky

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said the world is living in dark times reminiscent of the years leading up to the second world war as he lambasted decisions by Donald Trump to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Offering himself as the spokesman of the Muslim Middle East, he also criticised Europe for not doing as much as Turkey to help 3.5 million Syrian refugees, adding the EU had never fulfilled its part of a refugee deal with Turkey by providing promised cash.

Erdoğan was speaking at the thinktank Chatham House in London on the second day of a UK state visit. It has turned into part of his election campaign as a result of his decision to bring forward the date of the Turkish parliamentary and presidential elections by a year to 24 June. Theresa May, eyeing a post-Brexit free trade deal with Turkey, as well as security cooperation over returning foreign fighters, has taken a strategic bet on Turkey that has led to criticism of the Conservatives’ willingness to overlook Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian rule in pursuit of commercial agreements. Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader, picked out the environment secretary, Michael Gove, accusing him of “a fawning silence” over Erdoğan’s visit despite promising Brexit would give the UK a chance to promote human rights under the banner of “global Britain”.(theguardian)…[+]

Catalonia’s parliament elects hardline secessionist as president

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The Catalan parliament has narrowly elected a hardline secessionist as president, presaging the end of 199 days of direct rule from Madrid. Quim Torra, an uncompromisingly pro-independence MP who joined parliament six months ago, was elected by 66 votes to 65. He is the first candidate to be approved by the body since Carles Puigdemont’s administration was sacked seven months ago, when the Spanish government used the constitution to assume control of Catalonia and call last December’s regional election.

The Madrid government has said it will cease using article 155 of the constitution – which had never been invoked until last year – when a new Catalan government was in place. Torra is the anointed successor to Puigdemont, who has been in self-imposed exile since October, first in Brussels and now in Berlin, where he awaits the German court’s decision on Spain’s extradition request on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds. Puigdemont and the other politicians who have either fled abroad or been imprisoned were able to vote by proxy.(theguardian)…[+]

Parkland survivors meet man who took AR-15 from Waffle House gunman

gunman

In Miami on Saturday, survivors of the Parkland school shooting met James Shaw Jr, the man who grabbed the hot muzzle of an AR-15 and wrestled it away from a gunman who killed four people and injured four at a Waffle House in Tennessee.

Seventeen people were killed and 17 injured in the Florida shooting, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on 14 February. “I met one of my heros today,” Shaw tweeted, below a picture taken with Emma Gonzalez, one of the leaders of the Parkland students’ push for gun control reform which led to emotional speeches at the March for Our Lives in Washington in March.

Another prominent voice in that movement, David Hogg, tweeted his own selfie with Shaw, saying: “Wow just, wow @JamesShawJr9 lots of work ahead but the young people will win.” Shaw responded: “Thank you great meeting you all, let’s keep inspiring and bringing ppl together.” Another Parkland survivor, Samantha Fuentes, had something to celebrate. Three months after the attack, she said: “My face is finally shrapnel free!”

Fuentes tweeted a photo of her face on Saturday, showing a wide smile despite bruises and a hospital bandage stretching from her ear to her mouth. “Regardless of the fact I look like I lost a fight, inside I’m winning in a way. I’ve been struggling so hard to love my face again, thank you for all your support,” she wrote.(theguardian)…[+]

Lesbian teacher claims discrimination after showing class photo of future wife

lebian

A Texas teacher has filed a lawsuit alleging she was put on leave and transferred after showing her class a photograph of her future wife. Stacy Bailey has twice been named teacher of the year at Charlotte Anderson elementary school in Arlington, Texas. Last August, at the start of a new school year, she put on a getting-to-know-you slideshow. It included pictures of her family and friends, including a woman Bailey described as her “future wife”.

Later in the week, according to a court filing, Bailey was told a parent had complained about the art teacher promoting a “homosexual agenda”. According to the lawsuit, a school district official met Bailey and told her: “You can’t promote your lifestyle in the classroom.” The suit says Bailey responded: “We plan to get married. When I have a wife, I should be able to say this is my wife without fear of harassment. When I state that, it is a fact about my life, not a political statement.” The official is quoted as replying: “Well right now it kind of is.”

The court document says Bailey was asked to resign in October but refused, and that the school district, Mansfield ISD, near Dallas, voted to renew her contract last month but plans to transfer her to a secondary school. The federal lawsuit seeks damages and alleges Bailey was put on administrative leave, endured improper public discussion of her employment status and was considered unsuitable to teach at elementary level “all because of her sexual orientation and status as a lesbian”. She married her fiancee, Julie Vazquez, earlier this year. “We’ve been in disbelief,” Vazquez said at a news conference. “We’ve been shocked. We’ve been hurt deeply.”(theguardian)…[+]