english news

Boost for Modi as BJP wins state election outside heartland

moodi

The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s party has snatched a fragile victory in a state election outside its political heartland, boosting momentum for the Hindu nationalist leader a year before national polls. Though the final result is still uncertain, analysts said the surge in support for the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in Karnataka state showed that the party’s national appeal was still growing while its strongest foe, the secular Congress party, continued to decline. The BJP won 104 of 224 seats in southern Karnataka state, the most of any party but eight short of governing outright. Its state leader, BS Yeddyurappa, was sworn in on Thursday and now has 15 days to prove he can command a majority.(theguardian)…[+]

Populists’ rise to power in Italy sets perilous precedent for EU

italy

Italy’s new government, likely to be formally confirmed within the next few days, sets a perilous precedent for Brussels: it marks the first time a founding member of the EU has been led by populist, anti-EU forces.

From the EU’s perspective, the coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right League looks headstrong and unpredictable, possibly even combustible. Leaked drafts of their government “contract” include provision for a “conciliation committee” to settle expected disagreements. Mainly it looks alarming. Both parties toned down their fiercest anti-EU rhetoric during the election campaign, dropping previous calls for a referendum on eurozone membership (popular votes on international treaties are, in any case, barred by the Italian constitution). But as they approach power, the historic Euroscepticism of the M5S and the League is resurfacing.

An incendiary early version of their accord called for the renegotiation of EU treaties, the creation of a euro opt-out mechanism, a reduction in Italy’s contribution to the EU budget and the cancellation of €250bn of Italian government debt.(theguardian)…[+]

Royal wedding: Meghan Markle confirms her father will not attend

royal wedding

Meghan Markle’s father will not attend her wedding to Prince Harry, Kensington Palace has announced. In a statement issued on her behalf on Thursday after days of speculation, Markle said: “Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.

“I would like to thank everyone who has offered generous messages of support. Please know how much Harry and I look forward to sharing our special day with you on Saturday.”  Thomas Markle Sr, 73, had been due to walk his daughter down the aisle at St George’s chapel.

He reportedly underwent heart surgery on Wednesday, according to the US celebrity website TMZ, through which he appears to be communicating. TMZ reported that he was “alert and coherent” after doctors implanted three stents. It quoted him as saying: “I’m OK. It will take a long time to heal. Staying in the hospital a few more days. Not allowed to get excited.”

Doubts about whether he would attend were first raised on Monday, when he reportedly said he would not be there because he was embarrassed over claims he had colluded with a photo agency to stage paparazzi pictures of himself preparing for the event. It was also reported he had suffered a heart attack last week. At the time Kensington Palace appealed for respect and understanding towards him. His daughter was understood to still be hoping he would change his mind.(theguardian)…[+]

Mass grave of alleged victims of former president Jammeh found in the Gambia

grave

A mass grave containing the bodies of 12 west Africans allegedly killed by a paramilitary force controlled by the former president Yahya Jammeh has been identified near the Gambian capital, Banjul. The “Junglers”, a notorious hit squad that answered only to Jammeh, executed 54 people who were trying to make their way to Spain by sea in 2005, suspecting them of being mercenaries trying to overthrow the government, according to human rights groups that interviewed 30 Gambian officials.The only survivor of the massacre told the Guardian that he and his friends were arrested at sea and tortured before being driven to a forest, where they were kill

“Once we entered the navy boat, the torture started,” said Martin Kyere, who is from Ghana. “When we landed in Banjul, we found a lot of military men waiting on the shore, armed with guns and cutlasses.”

He said that on the way to the forest, when a fellow captive complained that he was in pain, one of the military men lunged at him with his cutlass. “His arm nearly fell off his body,” Kyere said. “All of us were tied by our hands. I succeeded in untying myself and fled.”  Just before he jumped off, his friends whispered to him, asking him to find their families if he made it back to Ghana, and tell them what had happened. As he ran, behind him he heard the others crying, “Oh God, help us!” Then he heard gunshots. Over the course of a week, near Banjul as well as Jammeh’s home town of Kanilai, the Junglers killed all 54 people, according to the human rights groups. Most of their bodies have never been found.(theguardian)…[+]

 

 

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)…[+]