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Diane A. Wade

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Diane is a perfectionist. She enjoys searching the internet for the hottest events from around the world and writing an article about it. The details matter to her, so she makes sure the information is easy to read and understand. She likes traveling and history, especially ancient history. Being a very sociable person she has a blast having barbeque with family and friends.

UK’s PM Boris Johnson has said he will press on “undaunted” with Brexit on October 31, despite losing a crunch Commons vote.

He must now ask the EU for an extension to that deadline after the Prliament backed an amendment aimed at ruling out a no-deal Brexit, by 322 votes to 306.

Boris Johnson has told EU Council President Donald Tusk that he will now send a letter seeking the delay.

Under the terms of the so-called Benn Act, passed last month by UK lawmakers, he has until 23:00 local time on October 18 to send it.

Having spoken to the prime minister at 19:15 local time, EU Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that he was “waiting for the letter”.

An EU source said that once Donald Tusk received the letter, he would start consulting EU leaders on how to react.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Boris Johnson has vowed to bring in legislation on October 21 to implement the deal he struck with Brussels this week.

Lawmakers could also be given another vote on the deal then, if Commons Speaker John Bercow allows it.

The Commons defeat is a major setback for the prime minister, who has repeatedly insisted that the UK will leave at the end of the month come what may.

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PM Boris Johnson told the Commons he was not “daunted or dismayed” by the defeat and remained committed to taking Britain out by the end of the month on the basis of his “excellent deal”.

In a letter to lawmakers and peers on October 19, Boris Johnson warned the EU could reject “Parliament’s request for further delay”.

He wrote: “It is quite possible that our friends in the European Union will reject Parliament’s request for further delay (or not take a decision quickly).”

The PM added that it was to his “great regret” that lawmakers had voted for more delay, and that he “will not negotiate a delay”.

“I will tell the EU what I have told the British public for my 88 days as prime minister: further delay is not a solution,” he said.

Downing Street refused to offer any explanation as to why the prime minister did not consider he was obliged to negotiate a fresh extension.

The EU said it was up to the UK to “inform it of the next steps”.

Image source: KCNA

Kim Jong-un has climbed North Korea’s highest mountain, Mount Paektu, on horseback, according to state media.

A series of photos released by KCNA show the North Korean leader astride a white horse on a snow-covered mountain.

This is not the first time Kim Jong-un has scaled the 2,750-meter peak and analysts say such gestures have been known to precede major announcements.

Mount Paektu holds a special place in North Korea’s identity and is feted as the birthplace of Kim Jong-un’s father.

A KCNA report released on October 16 said: “His march on horseback in Mt Paektu is a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution.

“Sitting on the horseback atop Mt Paektu, [he] recollected with deep emotion the road of arduous struggle he covered for the great cause of building the most powerful country, with faith and will as firm as Mt Paektu.”

In 2017, Kim Jong-un visited the mountain a few weeks before his New Year’s address, where he hinted at a diplomatic thaw with South Korea.

The North Korean leader has reportedly climbed Mount Paektu at least three times, and made a joint visit to the mountain with South Korean president Moon Jae-in in 2018.

Kim Jong-un climbs Mount Paektu

KCNA previously released photos of Kim Jong-un atop the mountain, after apparently climbing it in black leather shoes.

Mount Paektu, an active volcano, is said to be the birthplace of Dangun, the founder of the first Korean kingdom more than 4,000 years ago.

The mountain is hundreds of kilometers from the capital Pyongyang, and sits right on the border between North Korea and China.

Earlier this month, North Korean officials held talks with US officials in Sweden, the first since President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un met briefly at the DMZ in June.

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Hunter Biden has defended his foreign business dealings amid attacks by the White House and increasing media scrutiny.

The son of former Vice-President Joe Biden – who has had business ties in Ukraine and China in recent years – told ABC news that he had done “nothing wrong”.

However, he admitted to “poor judgment”, leaving him open to political attacks.

Hunter Biden’s foreign work and President Donald Trump’s intervention have sparked impeachment proceedings against the president.

His interview with ABC comes ahead of Tuesday evening’s Democratic debate, where Joe Biden – a 2020 frontrunner – will square off against 11 other presidential hopefuls.

Breaking his silence on his foreign business dealings, Hunter Biden, 49, dismissed claims of impropriety.

“Did I do anything improper? No, and not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever. I joined a board, I served honorably,” he said, adding that he did not discuss such business with his father.

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However, Hunter Biden acknowledged the possible political ramifications of his work, saying his failure to do so previously demonstrated “poor judgment”.

“Did I make a mistake? Well, maybe in the grand scheme of things, yeah,” he said.

“But did I make a mistake based upon some ethical lapse? Absolutely not.”

Hunter Biden stressed his record on the board of the UN World Food Program and work for US corporations to defend his lucrative role as a board member for a Ukrainian gas company.

He said: “I think that I had as much knowledge as anybody else that was on the board, if not more.”

However, he acknowledged the appointment may have resulted from his father’s clout.

“I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden,” Hunter Biden said.

His foreign business ventures have pulled him to the epicenter of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

President Trump and his allies have claimed that as vice-president Joe Biden encouraged the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor because the prosecutor was investigating Burisma, a gas company that employed Hunter Biden.

These allegations – though widely discredited – were raised by President Trump in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

This call has fuelled the Democratic-led impeachment investigation. The inquiry is trying to establish whether President Trump withheld nearly $400 million in aid to nudge President Zelensky into launching an inquiry into the Bidens.

President Trump tweeted: “A big scandal at @ABC News. They got caught using really gruesome FAKE footage of the Turks bombing in Syria. A real disgrace. Tomorrow they will ask softball questions to Sleepy Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, like why did Ukraine & China pay you millions when you knew nothing? Payoff?”

The president has continued to seize on Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine and China to stage political attacks against him and his father, charging both Bidens with corruption, without offering specific evidence.

In an interview on October 15, Hunter Biden dismissed the president’s claims as a “ridiculous conspiracy idea”.

Last week, Hunter Biden announced he would step down from the board of BHR (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Company.

His lawyer, George Mesires, told media his client had not acquired an equity interest in the fund until 2017, after his father had left office.

Hunter Biden said last week that he would not work for any foreign-owned companies if his father is elected president.

Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan has resigned after six months in the post.

In a tweet, President Donald Trump said Kevin McAleenan wanted to spend more time with his family. He said his replacement would be named next week.

Kevin McAleenan, 48, is the fourth person to serve as the head of Homeland Security during President Trump’s tenure.

He has overseen Donald Trump’s tough policies aimed at curbing immigration across the Mexican border.

However, analysts have described a turbulent relationship between the two and Kevin McAleenan has criticized the tone of the immigration debate.

Recently he was shouted off stage by student protesters at a university in Washington DC.

Announcing his resignation, President Trump said Kevin McAleenan had done “an outstanding job”.

“We have worked well together with border crossings being way down,” the president said.

“Kevin now, after many years in government, wants to spend more time with his family and go to the private sector.”

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Kevin McAleenan became acting head of the department after the resignation in April of Kirstjen Nielsen.

President Trump had often accused her of not being tough enough on controlling immigration.

During the administration of President Barack Obama, Kevin McAleenan served as deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

In 2015, Kevin McAleenan received the highest civil service award from the then-president.

In 2018, he faced criticism in the media for carrying out President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy that led to the controversial separation of families at the US southern border, but he has maintained his agency’s duty is to carry out the law, not create it.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post described Kevin McAleenan as increasingly isolated within the Trump administration and overshadowed by others more vocal in their support for President Trump.

In an interview, Kevin McAleenan lamented not having control over “the tone, the message, the public face and approach of the department in an increasingly polarized time. That’s uncomfortable, as the accountable, senior figure”.

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Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has told Congress she was ousted over “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives”.

She said she was “incredulous” at being dismissed by President Donald Trump in May.

Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony is part of an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

The Democratic probe is looking into whether the Republican president improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden.

The scandal was sparked by a whistleblower complaint about a July phone call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

During that conversation, President Trump described Marie Yovanovitch as “bad news”, according to a rough transcript released by the White House.

The decision to dismiss Marie Yovanovitch several months earlier reportedly followed President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other conservatives arguing she was biased against the president.

Image source Getty Images

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Rudy Giuliani had been working in Ukraine to press the authorities to investigate widely debunked corruption allegations against Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, who was associated with a Ukrainian company.

The lawyer is coming under increasing scrutiny over his work for the president. Asked by reporters on October 11 if Rudy Giuliani was still his lawyer, President Trump answered ambiguously: “I don’t know. He’s a very good attorney and he has been my attorney.”

In a prepared statement, Marie Yovanovitch said:“Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president.

“I was nevertheless incredulous that the US government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”

Marie Yovanovitch said she did not know Rudy Giuliani’s reasons for attacking her.

“Equally fictitious is the notion that I am disloyal to President Trump,” she said.

“I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the embassy team to ignore the president’s orders ‘since he was going to be impeached.’ That allegation is false.”

She warned of the harm that will come to the US when “bad actors” realize “how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system”.

Marie Yovanovitch said she had never met or spoken with Hunter Biden and that Joe Biden had never raised with her the subject of his son or the Ukrainian gas company that employed him.

She also said she learned that President Trump had called for her ousting since 2018 despite Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan telling her she had done nothing wrong.

Marie Yovanovitch said: “He said that the president had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me.”

A Barack Obama-appointee, Marie Yovanovitch was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate and served as US ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 until last May.

The whistleblower complaint noted Marie Yovanovitch’s surprise dismissal was a red flag for some officials.

Former French President Jacques Chirac has died at the age of 86.

“President Jacques Chirac died this morning surrounded by his family, peacefully,” his son-in-law told AFP.

The former president was the statesman who championed the European Union, but whose later years were blighted by corruption scandals.

Jacques Chirac served two terms as president and twice as PM, and took France into the single European currency.

On September 26, the French National Assembly observed a minute’s silence in his memory.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission and former Luxembourg PM, said he was “moved and devastated” to learn the news.

He said in a statement: “Europe is not only losing a great statesman, but the president is losing a great friend.”

President Emmanuel Macron was expected to speak on TV at 20:00 local time to pay tribute to his late predecessor.

Former French President François Hollande also paid homage to Jacques Chirac: “I know that today, the French people, whatever their convictions, have just lost a friend.”

Another former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, said on learning the news: “A part of my life has disappeared today”, adding that Chirac “embodied a France faithful to its universal values.”

Jacques Chirac was born in 1932, the son of a bank manager. He served as head of state from 1995 to 2007 – making him France’s second longest serving post-war president after his Socialist predecessor Francois Mitterrand.

His health steadily deteriorated after he stepped down until his death on September 26.

Image source Wikimedia Commons

Jacques Chirac is not in a fit state to attend his corruption trial

Jacques Chirac also served as the French prime minister, but he was beset by a series of corruption scandals. In 2011, he was convicted of diverting public funds while serving as the mayor of Paris.

Despite his failings, Jacques Chirac won widespread support for his fierce opposition to French involvement in the Iraq War, and for being the first leader to recognize France’s role in the war-time deportation of Jews.

Among Jacques Chirac’s major domestic political reforms was a reduction of the presidential term of office from seven to five years, and the abolition of compulsory military service.

He moved during the course of his career from anti-European Gaullism to championing the European project and an EU constitution that was then rejected by the majority of French voters.

In 2005, Jacques Chirac suffered a stroke, and in 2014, his wife Bernadette said he would no longer speak in public, noting he had memory trouble.

Presidential hopefuls seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to fight President Donald Trump’s re-election bid in 2020 have gathered for the Polka County Steak Fry in Iowa.

The event comes less than five months ahead of Iowa’s caucuses – the first to take place nationwide in each presidential election.

Event organizers said more than 12,000 people attended the fundraiser.

Of the 19 Democrats left in the running, 17 spoke on September 21.

The attendees showed up for burgers and face time with 17 Democratic presidential candidates at the Polk County Democratic Party’s annual steak fry in Iowa on Saturday. Although 18 candidates were initially expected to attend, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped out of the presidential race on September 20.

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Image source: MSNBC

Organizers grilled 10,500 steak for the attendees. Around 1,000 vegan burgers were made — all of it made on 10 grills by 40 grillers. Senator Cory Booker is the only vegan in the presidential race.

Here are the candidates appearing at the steak fry:

  • Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke
  • Senator Kamala Harris
  • Senator Cory Booker
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Andrew Yang
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • Senator Michael Bennet
  • Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
  • Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard
  • Tom Steyer
  • Former Congressman Joe Sestak
  • Governor Steve Bullock
  • Marianne Williamson
  • Congressman Tim Ryan

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President Donald Trump has branded a whistleblower allegation that he made a promise to a foreign leader – believed to be Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – as a “ridiculous story”.

Donald Trump said his talks with leaders were always “totally appropriate”.

According to reports, President Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter – who was on a Ukrainian gas company board – in return for more US military support.

Joe Biden is frontrunner to be the Democrat’s 2020 presidential candidate.

He wrote in a statement: “If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.”

Joe Biden called on President Trump to “immediately release” a transcript of the phone call “so that the American people can judge for themselves”.

In its report on the complaint by the whistleblower, the Washington Post said the intelligence official had found President Trump’s comment to the foreign leader “so troubling” that they went to the department’s inspector general.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, quoted sources as saying President Trump had urged President Zelensky about eight times to work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani on an investigation into Joe Biden’s son, but had not offered anything in return.

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On September 20, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that reports of the complaint raised “grave, urgent concerns” for US national security.

Presidents Trump and Zelensky spoke by phone on July 25. The whistleblower’s complaint is dated August 21.

Donald Trump described the complaint as “just another political hack job”.

Speaking alongside Australia’s leader Scott Morrison in the White House, the president said: “It’s a ridiculous story. It’s a partisan whistleblower. He shouldn’t even have information. I’ve had conversations with many leaders. They’re always appropriate.”

President Trump also called for Joe Biden’s finances to be scrutinized.

He told reporters: “It doesn’t matter what I discussed, someone ought to look into Joe Biden’s billions of dollars and you wouldn’t look into that because he’s a Democrat.”

On September 19, President Trump wrote on Twitter that he knew all his phone calls to foreign leaders were listened to by US agencies.

Ukraine says President Trump and President Zelensky will meet next week in New York during the UN General Assembly.

Democrats are trying to get the complaint turned over to Congress, with many details still unknown.

Earlier this month, before the whistleblower’s complaint came to light, House Democrats launched an investigation into President Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s interactions with Ukraine.

Three Democratic panel heads – Eliot Engel (foreign affairs), Adam Schiff (intelligence) and Elijah Cummings (oversight) – said Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani had attempted “to manipulate the Ukrainian justice system to benefit the president’s re-election campaign and target a possible political opponent”.

They allege that President Trump and Rudy Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.

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At least five people have died after flash floods struck south-eastern Spain.

Other 3,500 people have been evacuated from their homes after rivers burst their banks as some areas of Valencia, Murcia and eastern Andalucía saw the heaviest rainfall on record.

Cars were swept away by rushing flood waters, causing at least three deaths.

One man was killed after getting stuck inside a flooded highway tunnel.

On September 13, another man was found dead in the village of Redovan in Valencia after leaving his home on foot, according to Reuters.

Torrential rain caused chaos on roads and public transport with two airports in Murcia and Almeria closing down, leaving travelers stranded.

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Image source: Al Jazeera

Thousands of police, fire-fighters and soldiers have been deployed in a rescue operation, some in boats and helicopters.

One emergency worker told Reuters that a man was holding onto a traffic sign as he awaited rescue from the flooding.

According to AFP, several railway lines and many schools in the region were shut down by the adverse weather conditions, with 689,000 students affected in Valencia alone.

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Hong Kong’s protesters made their presence felt in a sports stadium and shopping malls on September 10.

Soccer fans attending a match drowned out the pre-game Chinese national anthem with loud booing.

Protesters have also staged flash events in shopping malls, singing Glory to Hong Kong which has become an unofficial anthem of the protest movement.

The protesters won a major concession last week when the extradition bill which sparked the unrest was scrapped.

However, this has failed to end the unrest as protesters continue to demand full democracy and an investigation into allegations of police abuses.

On September 10, thousands of protesters gathered in shopping malls across Hong Kong chanting slogans and singing Glory to Hong Kong.

In the popular shopping district of Mongkok, a sea of protesters dressed in black were seen congregating across the different levels of one mall.

Image source Getty Images

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“Go Hong Kong” is a phrase that has been used frequently as a sign of encouragement.

Shopping malls have been the scene of clashes in recent weeks, with one incident in July seeing riot police fight battles with protesters inside a mall in the district of Sha Tin.

However, the recent events have played out peacefully.

Glory to Hong Kong was written by a local musician in response to calls for an anthem for protesters.

The lyrics include lines such as “Do you feel the rage in our cries? Rise up and speak up” and “persevere, for we are as one”.

The new rallying cry has joined other popular songs used by the protest movement, including Do You Hear the People Sing? from musical Les Miserables and the Christian hymn Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.

It was also heard at the Hong Kong v. Iran soccer match on September 10 at Hong Kong Stadium.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier saw thousands of protesting booing when the Chinese national anthem played before the start of the game.

It is not the first time people in Hong Kong have been heard booing the Chinese anthem – though it is not clear how long they might be able to do this.

In 2017, China passed a law making it illegal to disrespect the anthem, but the law has yet to be passed in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong, formerly a British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Under the “one country, two systems” rule, Hong Kong is granted a high level of autonomy, an independent judiciary and rights such as freedom of speech.

However, those freedoms – the Basic Law – expire in 2047 and it is not clear what Hong Kong’s status will then be.

There has been growing anti-mainland sentiment in recent years, and anger at what many feel is increasing mainland interference in Hong Kong affairs.

Former South Carolina Mark Sanford has become the latest Republican to challenge President Donald Trump in the GOP’s primary contest.

Mark Sanford, a long-time Trump critic, said in an interview announcing his candidacy: “I’m here to tell you now that I am going to get in.”

The former governor is the third person to challenge Donald Trump for the nomination.

However, it is seen as near impossible that anyone will take the Republican mantle from the president. No sitting president in the modern era has lost the race to be nominee for their own party, and Donald Trump remains very popular with Republicans.

The Republican National Convention, at which the nominee will be formally chosen, will take place in late August 2020 after a series of state primary elections and party caucuses.

However, some state Republican parties, including in South Carolina, have decided not to hold primaries in 2020 – to clear the path for Donald Trump and save money.

Mark Sanford, 59, is expected to centre his campaign on cutting government debt and spending.

He told Fox News on September 8: “I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican. I think that as a Republican party we have lost our way.

“We have lost our way on debts and deficits and spending… The president has called himself the king of debt, has a familiarity and comfort level with debt that I think is ultimately leading us in the wrong direction.”

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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In April, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld became the first person to challenge Donald Trump.

Bill Weld was followed by conservative radio host and former lawmaker Joe Walsh at the end of August.

Mark Sanford first served in Congress in 1995, representing South Carolina’s first congressional district. He later served as the state’s governor for two terms from 2003-2011. He then returned to the House in 2013.

The former governor criticized Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election but ultimately supported him. However, Mark Sanford would become one of his toughest Republican critics in Congress when President Trump took office.

That stance cost Mark Sanford the Republican primary when his seat was up for re-election last year. He was beaten by a pro-Trump challenger who went on to lose the election to her Democrat opponent.

Mark Sanford is known as a fiscal conservative and has been attacked by President Trump over an extra-marital affair that tainted his second term as governor.

He went missing for several days, with his staff telling reporters he had gone to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Mark Sanford later admitted he had instead gone to Argentina to see his mistress.

Election Day is still more than a year away but the race to become the Democratic challenger to President Trump is already well under way.

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have thrown their hats into the ring, but most of the other candidates are relatively unknown outside the Washington DC bubble.

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Zimbabwe’s ousted President Robert Mugabe has died in Singapore at the age of 95.

The Zimbabwean independence icon turned authoritarian leader had been receiving treatment in a hospital in Singapore since April.

Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup in 2017 after 37 years in power.

He was praised for broadening access to health and education for the black majority.

However, later years were marked by violent repression of Robert Mugabe’s political opponents and Zimbabwe’s economic ruin.

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His successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, expressed his “utmost sadness”, calling Robert Mugabe “an icon of liberation”.

He tweeted: “It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe.”

President Mnangagwa had been Robert Mugabe’s deputy before replacing him.

Singapore’s foreign ministry said it was working with the Zimbabwean embassy there to have Robert Mugabe’s body flown back to his home country.

Robert Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924, in what was then Rhodesia – a British colony, run by its white minority.

After criticizing the government of Rhodesia in 1964, Robert Mugabe was imprisoned for more than a decade without trial.

In 1973, while still in prison, Robert Mugabe was chosen as president of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu), of which he was a founding member.

Once released, Robert Mugabe headed to Mozambique, from where he directed guerrilla raids into Rhodesia but he was also seen as a skilled negotiator.

Political agreements to end the crisis resulted in the new independent Republic of Zimbabwe.

Image source Wikimedia

With his high profile in the independence movement, Robert Mugabe secured an overwhelming victory in the republic’s first election in 1980.

However, over his decades in power, international perceptions soured.

Robert Mugabe assumed the reputation of a “strongman” leader – all-powerful, ruling by threats and violence but with a strong base of support. An increasing number of critics labeled him a dictator.

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Hong Kong police have violently tackled suspected protesters with batons and using pepper spray on a train in the city’s subway after thousands of people marched on the street in defiance of a ban.

Police say they were called to the scene amid violence against citizens by “radical protesters”.

However, it is unclear if all those injured and arrested in the subway system were involved in demonstrations.

Protesters took to the streets on August 31 to mark the fifth anniversary of China’s government banning fully democratic elections in Hong Kong.

They lit fires, threw petrol bombs and attacked the parliament building.

In response, riot police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse crowds, and fired live warning shots as they tried to clear the streets.

The latest protests came just a day after the arrest of several key pro-democracy activists and lawmakers in China’s special administrative region.

Hong Kong Protests: Police and Protesters Clash in 13th Straight Weekend

Hong Kong has now seen 13 successive weeks of demonstrations.

The movement grew out of rallies against a controversial extradition bill – now suspended – which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

It has since become a broader pro-democracy movement in which clashes have grown more violent.

During protests, crowds gathered by Prince Edward and Mong Kok stations in Hong Kong’s Kowloon neighborhood.

Police said in a tweet they had responded at both sites after reports of “radical protesters” assaulting citizens and damaging property.

In a statement, Hong Kong’s government also said some protesters had “committed arson and “hurled miscellaneous objects and iron railings” on to railway tracks, “completely disregarding the safety of other passengers”.

Forty people were subsequently arrested for unlawful assembly, criminal damage and the assault of police officers, police spokesperson Yolanda Yu told reporters.

However, several people complained of excessive force used by the authorities.

MTR, which operates the city’s subway line, told local media that three stations – Prince Edward, Mongkok and Kowloon Bay – had been closed as a result of the incident.

Protesters took to the streets in the Wan Chai district, many joining a Christian march, while others demonstrated in the Causeway Bay shopping district in the pouring rain. Many carried umbrellas and wore face masks.

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Five people have been killed and 21 injured in the second mass shooting in Texas in a month.

First to be shot was a policeman who stopped the gunman’s car between the cities of Midland and Odessa.

The gunman went on to shoot at numerous motorists and passers-by.

At one point, he abandoned his car and stole a postal truck before continuing his spree.

The gunman was shot dead by police at a cinema complex.

The motive of the gunman, who was white and in his mid-30s, is unclear.

Four weeks ago, 22 people were killed in a mass shooting in El Paso.

About 20 people were injured – three of them police officers – in this latest incident of gun violence in the US, although the police say not all of them were shot. Some may have been cut by glass when their car windows were hit by bullets and shattered.

Odessa’s Medical Center Hospital said a child under the age of two was among those being treated there. Seven other patients are in a serious condition.

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Police said August 31 incident began at just after 15:00 local time after two Texas Department of Public Safety officers pulled over a vehicle on a Midland highway.

The driver then opened fire on the officers and, after driving away, began shooting at other people in several locations.

In a statement, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said: “We will not allow the Lone Star State to be overrun by hatred and violence. We will unite, as Texans always do, to respond to this tragedy.”

In a tweet, President Donald Trump said he was being kept informed about the shootings in Texas.

Later, VP Mike Pence said he and the Trump administration “remain absolutely determined to work with leaders in both parties in Congress to take steps that we can address and confront this scourge of mass atrocity in our country”.

Five people have been killed and many others injured in the second mass shooting in Texas in a month.

First to be shot was a policeman who stopped the gunman’s car between the cities of Midland and Odessa.

The gunman went on to shoot at numerous motorists and passers-by.

At one point, he abandoned his car and stole a postal truck before continuing his spree.

The gunman was shot dead by police at a cinema complex.

The motive of the gunman, who was white and in his mid-30s, is unclear.

Four weeks ago, 22 people were killed in a mass shooting in El Paso.

About 20 people were injured – three of them police officers – in this latest incident of gun violence in the US, although the police say not all of them were shot. Some may have been cut by glass when their car windows were hit by bullets and shattered.

Odessa’s Medical Center Hospital said a child under the age of two was among those being treated there. Seven other patients are in a serious condition.

Police said August 31 incident began at just after 15:00 local time after two Texas Department of Public Safety officers pulled over a vehicle on a Midland highway.

The driver then opened fire on the officers and, after driving away, began shooting at other people in several locations.

In a statement, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said: “We will not allow the Lone Star State to be overrun by hatred and violence. We will unite, as Texans always do, to respond to this tragedy.”

In a tweet, President Donald Trump said he was being kept informed about the shootings in Texas.

Later, VP Mike Pence said he and the Trump administration “remain absolutely determined to work with leaders in both parties in Congress to take steps that we can address and confront this scourge of mass atrocity in our country”.

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Hurricane Dorian threatening the Bahamas and the US south-eastern coast has strengthened to category four, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) says.

Dorian has maximum sustained winds of nearly 145mph.

The hurricane is expected to grow even stronger, its center potentially crossing the Bahamas before skirting Florida’s east coast early next week.

Reports from the Bahamas described tourists scrambling to leave before the closure of the international airport.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has declared state of emergency for the whole state and urged residents to stock enough food, water and medicine to last at least a week.

According to forecasters, Dorian could be the region’s worst storm since category five Hurricane Andrew killed 65 people and destroyed 63,000 homes in 1992.

President Donald Trump said he was monitoring Dorian, which he described as “an extremely dangerous storm” on Twitter.

Hurricanes, whose strength can range from category 1 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, tend to get stronger as they move over warm waters like those off Florida.

By the middle of next week, forecasters expect the hurricane to shift eastwards, putting the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina at risk.

Image source: Wikipedia

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“Dorian is anticipated to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane while it moves near the north-western Bahamas and approaches the Florida peninsula into early next week,” the NHC said.

The NHC warned that Dorian could cause “incredibly catastrophic damage”.

In an advisory on August 31, the NHC said Dorian was not expected to make landfall in Florida but the possibility that it will cannot be ruled out.

“Life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are still possible along portions of the Florida east coast by the early to middle part of next week,” the NHC said.

Residents of Georgia and South Carolina have been told to keep an eye on the forecast as Dorian churns towards the US coast.

Dorian’s exact path toward Florida remains uncertain but millions of people could be affected, as well as holiday attractions such as Walt Disney World and President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Dorian is expected to drop up to 12in of rain on the coastal US, with some areas getting as much as 18in. Tides in the region are already at some of their highest levels of the year, owing to a naturally occurring event.

A new moon, combined with the coming autumn equinox, has created what are known in Florida as “king tides”. These are likely to exacerbate dangerous levels of flooding, forecasters warn.

Florida governor has activated 2,500 National Guard troops, with another 1,500 on standby.

Shoppers in Florida have been queuing around the block to snap up supplies such as medication and fuel. Some petrol stations reported fuel shortages, while a few shops had run out of bottled water.

The coastal city of Miami ordered the removal of electric rental scooters from the streets to avoid any potential hazards.

Officials fear the rental scooters, operated by firms such as Lime, Lyft and Uber’s Jump, could be swept away by strong winds, turning them into projectiles.

No immediate mass evacuations have been ordered by state authorities but President Trump, who had warned that Dorian “could be an absolute monster”, said a decision could be made on Sunday.

People have been asked to bring their pets with them in case of evacuation. On social media, the names of hotels that accept pets are being shared.

Orlando International Airport announced it was halting commercial flights from 02:00 on September 2 “out of an abundance of caution”. Tourist resorts in the city remained open, however.

President Trump canceled a planned trip to Poland because of the storm, sending Vice-President Mike Pence instead.

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise visit to the G7 summit in France on August 25.

He attended side-line talks in the seaside town of Biarritz where world leaders, including President Donald Trump, have gathered.

Reports suggest the US delegation was surprised by Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit, which comes at a time of high tension with Iran.

The Iranian official said on Twitter that he held “constructive” talks with his French counterpart and President Emmanuel Macron, adding he gave a joint briefing to German and British officials.

Mohammad Javad Zarif also met President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on August 23 on the eve of the summit.

Relations between Iran and the US have deteriorated since Washington withdrew from a 2015 deal to limit Iran’s nuclear activities in 2018.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump Pulls US Out of Iran Nuclear Deal

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron Discuss New Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Five other nations – including France – remain committed to the deal, but Iran has started to ratchet up its nuclear activity in response to the US reinstating and tightening economic sanctions against them.

President Macron has taken an active role in trying to diffuse tensions and save the accord – but Iran’s relations with the West have strained further in recent months over a series of confrontations and oil tanker seizures in and around the Gulf.

Mohammad Javad Zarif was himself singled out for US sanctions last month, with US officials accusing him of implementing “the reckless agenda” of Iran’s leader.

Reports about the circumstances of his visit on Sunday are conflicting. French officials told reporters the foreign minister was invited in agreement with the US delegation, but White House officials have suggested they were taken by surprise.

They were also conflicting comments by President Macron and President Trump during the weekend as to whether G7 leaders had agreed a joint approach to easing tensions with Tehran.

On August 25, President Trump appeared to dismiss French mediation efforts.

He said: “We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.”

Leaders from the G7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US – have been attending the group’s 45th summit all weekend.

A range of topics, including the nuclear deal and Brexit, have been on the talks agenda.

Prince Andrew has opened up for the first time to defend his former friendship with US financier Jeffrey Epstein, saying “at no stage” did he “see or suspect” any criminal behavior.

Jeffrey Epstein, 66, took his own life in a jail cell this month while awaiting trial on trafficking charges.

In a statement, Prince Andrew said he wanted to “clarify the facts” around his “former association or friendship” with Epstein.

The Duke of York, 59, said it was a “mistake” to meet Epstein after he left prison in 2010.

He said: “During the time I knew him, I saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year.

“I have stayed in a number of his residences. At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behavior of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.”

Prince Andrew – who said he first met Jeffrey Epstein in 1999 – added that he had “tremendous sympathy” for all those affected by Epstein’s behavior.

The duke said: “His suicide has left many unanswered questions and I acknowledge and sympathize with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.”

Allegations against Jeffrey Epstein began to surface in 2005 when the parents of a 14-year-old girl told police in Florida he had molested their daughter at his Palm Beach home.

The financier was accused of paying underage girls to perform s** acts at his Manhattan and Florida mansions between 2002 and 2005.

A controversial secret plea deal saw Jeffrey Eptstein plead guilty to a lesser charge of soliciting a minor for prostitution. The tycoon received an 18-month prison sentence and was released on probation in 2010.

Prince Andrew named in US lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein

Prince Andrew was photographed with Jeffrey Epstein in New York’s Central Park in late 2010 – after the financier was released from jail.

Footage has also emerged reportedly showing Prince Andrew at Epstein’s mansion in Manhattan in 2010.

In the statement, released on August 24, the prince added: “I have said previously that it was a mistake and an error to see him after his release in 2010 and I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we now know.

“This is a difficult time for everyone involved and I am at a loss to be able to understand or explain Mr. Epstein’s lifestyle.

“I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behavior.”

In July 2019, Jeffrey Epstein was charged in New York with further allegations of trafficking and conspiracy and was due to face trial next year.

Jeffrey pleaded not guilty to all the charges but if convicted, was facing up to 45 years in prison.

President Donald Trump has called Danish PM Mette Frederiksen “nasty” after she rebuffed his idea of buying Greenland.

He lashed out hours after PM Mette Frederiksen said she was “sorry” that President Trump had abruptly called off a state visit to Denmark.

The Danish prime minister has dismissed the suggestion of such a land deal as “absurd”.

Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II invited President Trump to visit the country on September 2, and the manner of his cancelation has stunned the Scandinavian nation.

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn on August 21, President Trump took umbrage at Mette Frederiksen’s remarks.

He said: “I thought that the prime minister’s statement that it was absurd, that it was an absurd idea was nasty.

“I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do is say no, we wouldn’t be interested.”

The president added: “She’s not talking to me. She’s talking to the United States of America. You don’t talk to the United States that way, at least under me.”

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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President Trump pointed out that President Harry Truman once considered making an offer for Greenland, which is an autonomous Danish territory.

He continued to make digs at Denmark online.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mette Frederiksen reiterated that Greenland could not be bought.

She told reporters the idea of selling the resource-rich Arctic island had “clearly been rejected” by its leader, Kim Kielsen, “a position I share of course”.

Mette Frederiksen also said President Trump’s visit would have been an “opportunity to celebrate Denmark’s close relationship to the US”.

“This does not change the character of our good relations and we will continue our dialogue on how we can deal with challenges we are facing,” she said, adding that the invitation to President Trump “remains open”.

Mette Frederiksen has said President Trump’s no-show was a matter of regret because “our preparations were well under way”.

While praising Denmark as a “very special country”, President Trump said in a tweet on August 20 that his planned visit would no longer go ahead because Mette Frederiksen had “no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland”.

President Trump had earlier confirmed reports that he was interested in buying Greenland. When asked on August 18 if he would consider trading a US territory for the island, he replied: “Well, a lot of things could be done.”

“Essentially it’s a large real estate deal,” he said.

On August 19, President Trump tweeted a jokey image showing a tall golden skyscraper among the homes of a small village on the island.

The cancelation was described as a “farce” by the leader of the populist Danish People’s Party, Kristian Thulesen Dahl.

He tweeted: “What is this man thinking of though? And with grounds that are worthy of an April Fools’ joke.”

Danish Conservative MP Rasmus Jarlov accused President Trump of lacking respect for his country.

Former foreign minister Kristian Jensen said President Trump’s move had resulted in “total chaos”.

A spokeswoman for the leftist Red-Green Alliance, Pernille Skipper, said: “Trump lives on another planet.”

Pia Kjaersgaard, the populist former speaker of the Danish parliament, said it showed “rude behavior to the Danish people and the Queen, who invited him.”

President Trump has reportedly taken an interest in Greenland, in part, because of its resources, such as coal, zinc, copper and iron ore.

However, while Greenland may be rich in minerals, it relies on Denmark for two-thirds of its budget revenue. It has high rates of suicide, alcoholism and unemployment.

The US has long seen Greenland, which sits along a direct route from Europe to North America, as being strategically important. It established the Thule air force and radar base there at the start of the Cold War, which now covers space surveillance and forms the northernmost part of the US ballistic missile early warning system.

Meanwhile, new Arctic sea routes are opening up as climate change is blamed for the accelerating thaw of ice in the region.

China has recently been taking an interest in the area, too.

President Donald Trump has accused Jewish Americans who vote for the Democratic Party of “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty”.

The remark drew sharp criticism that President Trump had used an anti-Semitic trope accusing Jews of dual loyalty.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America said the president was trying to “weaponize and politicize anti-Semitism” for political gain.

The remark followed attacks by President Trump on two Muslim Democratic congresswomen.

He has repeatedly accused Democratic representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib of anti-Semitism.

Under pressure from President Trump, Israel last week blocked Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country. The two women, who are vocal critics of the Israeli government, had been due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel later agreed to let Rashida Tlaib make a “humanitarian” visit to her grandmother in the occupied West Bank, but she declined, saying she could not comply with the “oppressive conditions” being imposed.

Speaking to reporters on August 20, President Trump said: “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

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On August 21, the president denied his comments were racist and told reporters: “If you vote for a Democrat, you’re being disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel.”

Earlier in the day, President Trump quoted a conservative commentator’s praise on Twitter who said “the Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel”.

“They love him like he is the second coming of God,” President Trump’s tweet continued.

The remark was denounced by a number of Jewish American groups, which said it played on an anti-Semitic canard that accuses Jews of being more devoted to Israel or their faith than to their own countries.

The same notion of dual loyalty has landed Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota congresswoman, in hot water.

Ilhan Omar has apologized after claiming that Israel had “hypnotized” the world. She was also rebuked by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives comments targeting lobbying firms that support Israel.

Ahead of the vote, which condemned “hateful expressions of intolerance”, Ilhan Omar pushed back by questioning what she termed “the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country”.

The comment sparked fresh complaints of anti-Semitism.

Recent polls show that roughly 75% of Jewish Americans identify as Democrats.

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro revealed he had been in talks with the Trump administration for months, even as the US ramped up its sanctions.

The US is one of more than 50 nations which do not recognize Nicolás Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

On August 20, President Maduro said that talks with the Trump administration had been going on for months.

However, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the only thing being discussed was Nicolás Maduro’s departure.

Speaking on TV, President Maduro said: “Just as I have sought dialogue in Venezuela, I have sought a way in which President Trump really listens to Venezuela.”

President Donald Trump confirmed on August 20 that his administration was “talking to various representatives of Venezuela”.

He said: “I don’t want to say who, but we are talking at a very high level.”

President Maduro had suggested that he authorized the back-channel discussions.

However, John Bolton cast those contacts in a very different light, tweeting: “As the President has repeatedly stated, to end the pilfering of the Venezuelan people’s resources and continued repression, Maduro must go. The only items discussed by those who are reaching out behind Maduro’s back are his departure and free and fair elections.”

John Bolton said President Trump’s aim was to “to end the pilfering of the Venezuelan people’s resources and continued repression” and that to that end, President Maduro “must go”.

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The US imposed sweeping sanctions earlier this month aimed at increasing pressure on President Maduro to step down.

Venezuela has been caught up in a struggle for power between President Maduro and the leader of the country’s National Assembly, Juan Guaidó.

Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president in January, claiming that the elections which brought Nicolás Maduro to power for a second term were fraudulent.

While Juan Guaidó has gained the backing of over 50 countries he has so far failed to remove Nicolás Maduro from power.

Talks between the two sides hosted by Barbados and mediated by Norway recently stalled after President Maduro denounced the opposition for backing the sweeping sanctions imposed by the US.

According to the UN, Venezuela is suffering one of the worst economic crises in history with a quarter of its 30 million population in need of aid.

More than four million Venezuelans have left the country over the past years.

Nicolás Maduro’s government has come under fire by the international community for a number of reasons.

When opposition parties gained a majority in Venezuela’s National Assembly, the president created a rival body stacked with his supporters which assumed many of its powers. His 2018 re-election was controversial, and labeled as rigged by his critics, after many rivals were barred from running or fled the country.

Protests and demonstrations erupted into violence and were met with a crackdown by authorities which saw civilians killed.

The US has been a frequent target of Nicolás Maduro’s anger.

President Maduro has accused the US, and John Bolton in particular, of trying to kill him, without supplying any evidence. He claims that his opposition is backed by foreign powers, rather than a domestic resistance to his authority.

Government officials were the first target of US sanctions against Nicolás Maduro’s government – but earlier this year, it brought new restrictions forward on the state oil company, which is a major player in the national economy.

That was followed in August by sweeping sanctions that froze all property of the government in the US, and blocks American companies doing business with Venezuela.

Image source Wikimedia Commons

Italy’s interior minister and leader of League Party, Matteo Salvini, has called for a snap election, saying differences with coalition partners cannot be mended.

He said that a failed attempt by the Five Star Movement to derail plans for a high-speed rail link showed the coalition could no longer govern.

Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio said his party did not fear another election.

Matteo Salvini’s right-wing party is well ahead in opinion polls, due mainly to his stance against illegal immigration.

He is also very active on social media and has developed a “man of the people” image, pushing for tax cuts despite Italy’s €2.3tn debt mountain, which is second only to Greece’s in the EU.

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In last year’s election, Five Star won twice as many votes as the League, but polls suggest the proportions have been reversed.

In EU elections held in May the League came top with 34% of the votes in Italy, whereas Five Star got about 17%.

Giuseppe Conte, the non-party law professor who serves as the coalition’s prime minister, has said Matteo Salvini, must “justify” to parliament his call for an election.

Both Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio are deputy prime ministers.

The authority to dissolve parliament rests with President Sergio Mattarella, but he may be reluctant to do so, as next month lawmakers – who are currently on holiday – have to consider the 2020 budget.

Political clashes over the project for a railway between the Italian city of Turin and French city of Lyon led PM Giuseppe Conte to put tenders on hold in March.

The multi-billion-euro TAV (Treno Alta Velocità) link involves digging a 36-mile tunnel through the Alps.

The project is bitterly opposed by Five Star on environmental and cost grounds.

The League argues that the TAV project would create jobs and stimulate economic growth, and that moving freight from road to rail is environmentally friendly.

Supporters of the TAV project say it would halve the travel time between the two cities to just two hours. The tunnel would also make it possible to travel from Paris to Milan in around four hours, down from nearly seven.

The TAV project was launched 20 years ago and part of it has already been dug. It is scheduled for completion in 2025.

Costs were initially projected to hit €8.6 billion ($9.7 billion), but Italy’s Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli – a Five Star member – put the price tag at over €20 billion.

The EU pledged to fund up to 40% of the cost.

Matteo Salvini’s demand for an election does not necessarily mean a poll will be called in the near future. Italy has not had an autumn election in all the post-war period, Reuters news agency reports.

President Sergio Mattarella could theoretically appoint a government of technocrats and postpone a new election until next year.

Italy has had a technocratic government before, but Matteo Salvini, riding a wave of popularity, can be expected to oppose such a move.

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A red alert has been declared in China as powerful typhoon Lekima heads towards the eastern coast.

Typhoon Lekima is currently battering Taiwan with winds of more than 120mph and is due to make landfall in China’s Zhejiang province on August 10.

Emergency teams have been deployed to the region to guide relief work, China’s emergency ministry said.

Thousands of people further up the coast in Shanghai have been warned to prepare to evacuate.

Lekima, which is the ninth typhoon so far this year, strengthened into a super typhoon late on August 7, but Taiwanese authorities have since downgraded it to a regular typhoon.

Flood warnings have been issued for eastern sections of China’s Yangtze River and the Yellow River until August 7. The provinces of Jiangsu and Shandong are also on alert.

Cruise liners have been told to delay their arrival in Shanghai and some train services have been suspended over the weekend.

China has also canceled some trains heading to and from the Yangtze delta region.

Image source Wikipedia

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Lekima is one of two typhoons in the western Pacific at the moment. Further east, Typhoon Krosa is spreading heavy rain across the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. According to forecaster, it is moving north-west and could strike Japan sometime next week.

On August 9, Lekima was passing the north of Taiwan, causing flight cancelations and the closures of schools and offices.

According to local media, power was cut to more than 40,000 homes and the island’s high speed rail service was suspended north of the city of Taichung

The huge storm came a day after eastern Taiwan was rattled by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake. Experts said the risks of landslides triggered by the tremor were made more likely by the typhoon dumping up to 35 inches of rain on Taiwan’s northern mountains.

On August 9, Lekima also brought heavy rain and high winds to south-west Japan, cutting power to about 14,000 homes, broadcaster NHK reported.

China’s weather bureau said typhoon Lekima was expected to have weakened further by the time it made landfall. The country has a four-stage color-coded warning system, with red representing the most severe weather.

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More than 600 Russian protesters have been detained over an unauthorized rally in Moscow, amid reports of police violence.

Demonstrators had gathered in Moscow after authorities disqualified a number of opposition candidates from standing in local elections.

Leading activist Lyubov Sobol was arrested before she could reach the protest, attended by 1,500 people.

Lyubov Sobol (Image source Wikipedia)

Video from the demonstration shows officers using their batons against demonstrators while making arrests.

Russian officials initially said there had been just 30 arrests and 350 attendees.

Monitoring group OVD-Info, which runs a hotline for reporting detentions, had been keeping a running toll, which rapidly jumped from a few dozen arrests to several hundred.

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Officers in riot gear had earlier moved into Moscow and warned people not to protest. Russian news agency TASS reported that one police officer had been injured while making an arrest.

However, protesters also reported mistreatment at the hands of police.

Footage broadcast on Russian TV and shared on social media showed police pin people to the ground, kicking or using batons on them.

Alexander Svidersky, a member of a district electoral commission, said he was arrested while out with his dog, which he managed to pass off to an acquaintance before being bundled into a police van. OVD-Info reported he said he was later taken out and hit around the kidneys before being dragged to another van.

Detainees at one police station also told OVD-Info they were threatened with having their fingers “cut off” if they did not allow their fingerprints to be taken.

Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer and video blogger, is one of the candidates excluded from the local elections. She has been on hunger strike for 21 days, and called on others to join the unsanctioned protest on August 3.

She was in a taxi about to set off for the rally when police officers dragged her into a black van.

Hours after Lyubov Sobol’s arrest, she tweeted from a police station, saying she had spent three hours being driven “all over Moscow” by a dozen masked officers.

Authorities said she was being held for violating regulations for street demonstrations.

Last month, Lyubov Sobol was dragged out of the electoral commission office on a sofa.

Speaking to independent broadcaster Dozhd before her detention, Lyubov Sobol said the authorities “are doing everything they can to try to intimidate the opposition”.

She said: “That is why it is important to come out today to show that Muscovites are not afraid of provocation and they are ready to continue to stand up for their rights.”

Shortly afterwards, Russian officials announced an investigation into FBK for alleged money laundering of a billion roubles ($15.3 millio) – though it did not name any individuals.

The nation’s investigative committee said that funds had been knowingly obtained through criminal means.

Authorities detained more than 1,000 demonstrators last weekend during a demonstration, one of the biggest crackdowns in years.

Election authorities have barred opposition candidates from taking part in Moscow city authority elections planned for September 8.

According to officials, many of the signatures required for their candidacy applications were invalid. But protesters say they were excluded for political reasons.

Another protest held in solidarity in St Petersburg had some 1,000 attendees – but it had not been banned by local officials, and there are no reports of arrests.

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President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw his nominee for Director of National Intelligence (DNI) amid criticism that Texas congressman John Ratcliffe was under-qualified.

Critics have accused John Ratcliffe of padding his intelligence credentials.

The president tweeted: “Our great Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe is being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media. Rather than going through months of slander and libel, I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people….”

He continued: “….John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our Country. I will be announcing my nomination for DNI shortly.”

John Ratcliffe thanked President Trump and said he did not want the job to become “a purely political and partisan issue”.

He tweeted: “I was humbled and honored that the President put his trust in me to lead our nation’s intelligence operations and remain convinced that when confirmed, I would have done so with the objectivity, fairness and integrity that our intelligence agencies need and deserve.

“However, I do not wish for a national security and intelligence debate surrounding my confirmation, however untrue, to become a purely political and partisan issue. The country we all love deserves that it be treated as an American issue.”

Image source Wikipedia

Speaking to reporters outside the White House on August 2, President Trump said John Ratcliffe was “treated very badly, very harshly by the press” and that he believes Ratcliffe “made the right decision”.

John Ratcliffe was appointed by President Trump days after his aggressive questioning of former-Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the ex-FBI director who led an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

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After he was picked, President Trump defended him as the best man to control US intelligence agencies – a frequent target of criticism by the president.

President Trump said: “We need somebody strong that can really rein it in, because as I think you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok.

“They run amok.”

The DNI is appointed by the president and must be confirmed by the US Senate.

The position was created in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. The DNI oversees the 16 civilian and military agencies that make up the US intelligence community.

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The Supreme Court has ruled that President Donald Trump can use $2.5 billion of Pentagon funds for a section of wall on the southern border.

There were five votes to four to block a ruling by a federal judge in California that barred President Trump from spending the money on the Mexican wall.

The wall, dividing the US and Mexico, was President Trump’s major campaign promise during the 2016 election.

The constructing of the wall is fiercely opposed by Democrats.

The decision by the Supreme Court means that the money will be used for wall projects in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

The court in California had argued that Congress had not specifically authorized the funds to be used for constructing the wall.

In a tweet, President Trump described the ruling as a “big victory”.

He tweeted: “Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”

President Trump has argued that a new wall would help to curb illegal immigration, which he says is fuelling crime and placing a strain on the economy.

Democrats say they are in favor of border security but the wall would be expensive and ineffective. They argue that President Trump has manufactured the border emergency and that the wall has become a symbol of Trump’s anti-immigration platform.

On July 26, the US and Guatemala signed a deal, under which migrants from Honduras and El Salvador who pass through Guatemala will be required to stop and seek asylum there first, rather than heading straight for the US.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has vowed to seek an expedited decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals “to halt the irreversible and imminent damage from Trump’s border wall”.

President Trump declared an emergency earlier this year, saying he needed $6.7 billion to build the wall as a matter of national security. However, this figure is far short of the estimated $23 billion cost of a barrier along the whole 2,000 miles of border.

Democrats claimed President Trump’s decision to declare an emergency exceeded his powers under the US constitution.

About 20 states, along with groups including the ACLU have filed lawsuits to try and stop the president using the emergency declaration to bypass Congress.

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The House of Representatives is also taking legal action to stop the diversion of further funds for the wall project.

According to US authorities, 104,344 people were arrested along the southwest border in June – a 28% drop from the previous month.

The Trump administration claims the decrease is due to new policies with Mexico to curb migration, including increased security on the Mexican side of the border, and the expansion of a scheme that makes asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases are being processed.

However, experts say that reduced migration is also typical during the hot summer months.

The number of people detained on the US-Mexico border is far lower when compared with the previous decade.

The number fell in President Trump’s first year but rose again in 2018 – but even before the increase, when migration numbers were at historic lows, Donald Trump described the situation on the border as a national security crisis.