September 2019

Shane Jones has responded to accusations of bribery by saying he suspects they're coming from National Party supporters.

The Regional Economic Development Minister has been accused of buying votes at a forestry conference earlier this month.

The New Zealand Herald has reported that some people who were in the audience that day said Mr Jones told them they needed to vote for him, or the forestry industry would miss out on money from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Mr Jones said he and his party, New Zealand First, have consistently stuck up for people working in the forestry sector, and he's not backing down from his message.

"I most certainly said 'if you like the policy we have dedicated half a billion dollars to rejuvenating the interests of the forestry sector - then back the champion, I am the champion of the forestry sector, a sphere of economic activity that has been neglected for a long period of time."

National's regional development spokesperson Chris Bishop said Mr Jones should be censored for his comments, which he described as outrageous.

"Mr Jones seems to conflate his own interests and the interests of the New Zealand First party with the public interest through the Provinicial Growth Fund, and he really needs to be censured for his comments."https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60447
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A beloved children's author described as one of New Zealand's most important authors - Jack Lasenby, has died.

Mr Lasenby was 88.

The Wellington-based author wrote children's books, novels, and short stories.

He was the winner of numerous awards, including the Prime Minister's award for Literary Achievement in 2014.

Some of his more popular titles include The Lake, The Mangrove Summer, and children's series featuring characters like Aunt Effie, and Uncle Trev.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60446
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Established stars Peter Sagan and Alejandro Valverde face a potential generational shift on Sunday as the 2019 world cycling championships wrap up with an epic men's elite road race between Leeds to Harrogate.

The 2019 cycling season has been lit up by youthful riders. Egan Bernal won the Tour de France at 21. Tadej Pogacar finished third at the Vuelta at 20. Remco Evenepoel came second here in the time-trial at just 19.

At the other end of the age scale is Valverde. The seasoned 39-year-old, is on flying form for the defence of his title despite giving flat-out performances at the Tour de France and the Vuelta, his Movistar team boss Eusebio Unzue told AFP.

"He's ready, he's always ready for the worlds. There is something about the world championships that makes him light up," said Unzue, who has directed Valverde for years at Movistar.

"Spain have brought a strong team, but maybe this course is more open than at Innsbruck," Unzue, a Spaniard who is not involved with the national team, told AFP in Harrogate.

Valverde finally struck gold in 2018 after first finishing third four times and second twice.

"If this race ends with a select group of riders going into the final kilometre, Valverde will be one of them unless something happens to him," the affable Unzue insisted.

Valverde says the race will finish that way.

"There will be a small group of us because of the rain and the slope at the end suits me," Valverde said on Friday.

The main challenge over Sunday's 287km (176miles) of likely rain-slick roads appears to be the seven technical laps around the tight Harrogate town centre, where crashes have occurred all week.

The wetter-than-usual late September in Yorkshire has opened the door for an unexpected winner.

British ace Chris Froome is absent after a spring fall, while 2018 Tour de France champion the popular Welshman Geraint Thomas is riding despite pulling out of the time-trial this week saying he was off form.

"I'll stay in the wheels and try and hold on, obviously it would be amazing but maybe top five is the target," Thomas said on Friday.

- The Belgian challenge -

The road race looks very much like a Belgian spring classic run on rainy, narrow roads over great distances.

"I see a Belgian, maybe on a solo break," Unzue said straight-faced when asked if he thought Valverde would win.

The Belgian team is strong. Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet recently won the Quebec grand prix, Philippe Gilbert won the Paris-Roubaix cobbled classic this season before winning two stages in emphatic style at the Vuelta.

The 19-year-old Evenepoel won the junior road race and time trial at Innsbruck last season.

If 30 or so riders come home together, that would offer a tantalising chance to three-time former winner the 29-year-old Slovak Sagan.

There could even be an Australian double in the men's marquee races. Rohan Dennis took the time trial and powerful puncher Michael Matthews has said repeatedly this week 'I'm here to win' in the road race.

The favourite is Dutch 24-year-old Mathieu van der Poel who told the Dutch press this week he dreams of adding the world title here to his European mountain-bike title and world cyclo-cross title.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe, who started as the favourite last year but fell off the pace deep into the race, arrived in Yorkshire on Friday still on a high after his 14 days in the Tour de France yellow jersey.

"This will be the best year of my life with or without a world title," Alaphilippe told AFP.

"But this world championships route suits me too," he added.

Yorkshire is hosting the worlds after vast crowds gave the Tour de France a raucous welcome in 2014. The Tour de Yorkshire was also set up in the wake of that success.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60462
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US special representative on Ukraine Kurt Volker resigned Friday after Congress ordered him to answer questions in an impeachment investigation on President Donald Trump, a source said.

A person familiar with the matter who requested anonymity confirmed Volker's resignation, which was first reported by the student newspaper at Arizona State University, where he directs an institute.

A whistleblower complaint released on Thursday said Volker met senior Ukrainian officials on how to "navigate" Trump's demands of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The complaint accused Trump of pressuring Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to supply dirt on former US vice president Joe Biden, the favorite to represent Democrats against Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Committees in the Democratic-led House of Representatives ordered Volker to appear next Thursday to answer questions.

In a letter released Friday, the lawmakers pointed to a tweet by Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, in which he showed a screenshot of a conversation in which Volker spoke of connecting him with a top adviser to Zelensky.

"The failure of any of these Department employees to appear for their scheduled depositions shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House's impeachment inquiry," said the letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Volker is a veteran diplomat involved in Europe who was appointed US ambassador to NATO under former president George W. Bush.

He left the diplomatic service to become a consultant and in 2012 was named executive director of Arizona State University's McCain Institute, a center focused on national security named after senator John McCain.

The Trump administration in 2017 appointed Volker to take charge of US policy on Ukraine, in an unusual arrangement in which he was essentially a volunteer for the State Department while maintaining his university duties.

The State Press, the student-run publication at Arizona State University, quoted a university spokesperson as saying that Volker had quit his Ukraine position.

The Arizona Republic also quoted the university's president, Michael Crow, as confirming that Volker would stay at the institute but leave the State Department.

The State Department did not answer requests for comment.

As an envoy, Volker was tasked with overseeing critical US support to Ukraine as it faces a separatist insurgency backed by Russia.

More than 13,000 people have died since fighting broke out in 2014, when Russia also annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

Democrats are looking into whether Trump used a delay in a $400 million aid package for Ukraine as leverage to press for action on Biden.
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US President Donald Trump told Russia's foreign minister and ambassador that he was unconcerned about their country's interference in the 2016 elections, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Trump made the previously unreported comments during the same May 2017 Oval Office meeting in which he famously revealed highly classified information on the Islamic State group.

During the conversation he reportedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he was not bothered by their country's meddling because the United States did the same in other countries, according to three former officials who requested anonymity.

The meeting was held just one day after Trump fired his FBI director James Comey, and Trump told the two senior Russian officials that the sacking had relieved him of "great pressure."

The comments alarmed White House officials who subsequently restricted access to a memorandum describing the meeting to those with only the highest security access.

The revelation comes the same week a whistleblower report concerning a phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky rocked Washington.

The whistleblower has said a transcript of the phone call was placed into an ultra-secure system for highly classified information.

The transcript was of a conversation in which Trump urged Zelensky to investigate the son of Joe Biden, the US president's main Democratic rival.

It was unclear if documentation of Trump's meeting with the two Russian officials was put into the same system, according to the Post.

However, the New York Times reported late Friday that the White House separately put transcripts of Trump calls containing sensitive conversations with both his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and the Saudi Royal family in the same ultra-secure system.

The practice was put in place following leaks, such as that of Trump's Oval Office conversation with Lavrov and Kislyak.

Trump's relationship with Russia has come under intense scrutiny during his tenure in office.

The US leader has praised President Vladimir Putin and has appeared to accept his denials of US intelligence's finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to benefit Trump.

US intelligence and an investigation led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller has documented a broad effort by Russia to help Trump and damage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60460
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Democrats charged aggressively into an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump on Friday, ordering Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to turn over Ukraine-related documents and scheduling testimony for witnesses to alleged abuse of power by the US leader.

Three House committees gave Pompeo one week to produce the documents, saying multiple State Department officials have direct knowledge of Trump's efforts to enlist the Ukraine government's help in his US campaign for reelection.

"The Committees are investigating the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding security assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression," they said.

Public support is growing for impeachment after the release of an anonymous whistleblower's complaint on Thursday, reportedly made by a CIA analyst who had worked in the White House.

It accused Trump of pressuring Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to supply dirt on former vice president Joe Biden, the favorite to represent Democrats against Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

The complaint also revealed that White House aides, alarmed at Trump's implicit offer to release aid in exchange for Zelensky's help, sought to hide the record of the call in a highly secure computer system normally used only for the country's most top-secret intelligence.

Congressional investigators on Friday announced interviews starting next week with five State Department officials, including former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump reportedly forced out earlier this year for resisting his efforts to pressure Kiev to probe Biden.

The list also includes US special representative on Ukraine Kurt Volker, who resigned Friday after being ordered to answer questions in the impeachment investigation, a source familiar with the matter told AFP.

The whistleblower complaint said Volker met senior Ukrainian officials on how to "navigate" Trump's demands of Zelensky.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that the impeachment investigation would move quickly, saying evidence from the whistleblower's complaint against Trump of abuse of power and an attempted cover-up was unambiguous.

"The clarity of the president's actions is compelling and gave us no choice but to move forward," Pelosi said.

- 'At war' -

In a series of tweets Trump attacked Democrats -- including Adam Schiff, the lawmaker named by Pelosi to lead the impeachment probe -- calling them liars, while also taking aim at the "partisan" whistleblower and the "Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party."

In a video leaked from a private gathering Trump held Thursday with US diplomats in New York, Trump made clear he was battling for his survival.

"We're at war. These people are sick," Trump says in the video obtained by Bloomberg.

Schiff said Friday his committee will issue more subpoenas next week and conduct a closed-door briefing with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, the official who conducted a preliminary investigation into the whistleblower complaint and deemed it credible.

"We have to flesh out all of the facts for the American people. The seriousness of the matter and the danger to our country demands nothing less," Schiff said.

Meanwhile, more concerning allegations against Trump came to light late Friday, with The Washington Post reporting Trump told Russia's foreign minister and ambassador to the US he was unconcerned about Moscow's interference in the 2016 US elections because Washington did the same in other countries.

The paper cited three former officials who requested anonymity to discuss details of the May 2017 Oval Office meeting, during which he famously revealed highly classified information on the Islamic State group.

The comments reportedly alarmed White House officials who restricted access to a memorandum describing the meeting to those with only the highest security access.

- Support for impeachment -

More than 300 high-level professionals from the national security community have signed a letter backing the impeachment investigation.

"President Trump appears to have leveraged the authority and resources of the highest office in the land to invite additional foreign interference into our democratic processes. That would constitute an unconscionable abuse of power," they said.

Meanwhile public support for impeachment jumped, according to two new polls. The Hill-HarrisX survey showed support up 12 percentage points to 47 percent, against 42 percent opposed, while Politico's poll showed support up seven points to 43 percent, now equal to those opposed.

Democrats said articles of impeachment -- formal charges -- against Trump could be completed in as soon as a month and then swiftly debated and voted on in the House, where the party has a majority solid enough to ensure passage.

The case would then be handed to the Senate to try Trump -- who, for the moment, appears able to count on a Republican majority in the chamber to prevent his conviction and removal.

"As a former prosecutor, I should tell you that cases are made much easier when the defendant cops to the act, and here the president is not denying what he said," Democrat Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60459

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Anger is brewing on the Big Island of Hawaii over plans to build a giant telescope on a dormant volcano that is highly sacred to the region's native population.

For months, hundreds of protesters have delayed the start of construction on Mauna Kea volcano of the so-called Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, which astronomers say will have a dozen times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The demonstrators, who have converged on the site peacefully, argue that the $1.4 billion project would sit on a volcano that is sacred to Native Hawaiians and would harm the environment.

Celebrities like Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa and Bruno Mars have lent their support to the protesters.

"What I realized today, and obviously I've been following this for years now, is that it's bigger than a telescope," Johnson, who lived in Hawaii as a child, reportedly said when he visited the site earlier this summer.

"It's humanity. It's culture," he said.

Work on the project -- set to be completed by 2027 -- was supposed to start in 2015 but has been hampered by repeated protests.

"Construction has been delayed for years because of this situation," Christophe Dumas, a French astronomer and head of operations at TMT, told AFP. "The cost has also risen significantly... and the process to obtain a construction permit lasted 10 years."

Protest leaders say the consortium of scientists behind the project can build their scope on a less controversial site, including on a mountain in Spain's Canary Islands, where they say it would be a win-win situation for everyone.

Dumas argues, however, that Mauna Kea "remains the ideal site" in the Northern Hemisphere because of its altitude -- 13,796 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level -- as well as its remoteness and clear skies which make it one of the best places on the planet for astronomical observatories.

The new telescope, according to scientists, would enable astronomers to see "forming galaxies at the very edge of the observable universe, near the beginning of time."

Already, Mauna Kea, which means White Mountain, is home to 13 telescopes housed in 12 facilities at or around the summit, which have been the source of a host of new discoveries and scientific studies.

Some question whether one more telescope -- albeit a giant one -- would make such a big difference.

The answer is a resounding "yes" from opponents.

- 'Enough is enough' -

"I talked to the leaders of the opposition and they made it real clear that not only is it too big, but it's just one too many," said Greg Chun, executive director of Mauna Kea stewardship at the University of Hawaii. "They tell me we have shared this mountain long enough. Enough is enough."

He said Native Hawaiians have repeatedly expressed concerns about the development of the mountain but their complaints have, for the most part, fallen on deaf ears.

Scientists began flocking to Mauna Kea after a tsunami in 1960 devastated communities along the base of the volcano and local authorities, in a bid to revive the economy, began a drive to attract astronomers.

"From the very beginning, the development of astronomy has raised concerns about the development of the mountain," Chun said. "So it's not something new."

But many observers say the Mauna Kea debate goes beyond just a telescope and reflects deep-seated resentment by some Native Hawaiians over past abuses and the legacy of colonialism in the Hawaiian islands.

Jonathan Osorio, an expert on Hawaiian culture and a longtime opponents of the planned telescope, insists that he and fellow protesters are not opposed to science but they object to telescopes being built on sacred land.

Dumas for his part argues that the telescope is being used as a tool to pressure authorities to seek more autonomy for the native population.

"The telescope would not sit atop the mountain and will be visible from only a small section (14 percent) of the island," he said.

He said his team has gone to great lengths to respect local custom and tradition but the project now needs to urgently get off the ground.

"We can't wait much longer and the next few weeks are going to be critical," he said.

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Director Martin Scorsese unveiled his new film "The Irishman" Friday, kicking off the New York film festival with the ambitious Netflix movie that was more than a decade in the making.

The star-studded gangster epic had a budget of $160 million, using 117 different filming locations to shoot 309 scenes which together add up to a run time of 3 hours 29 minutes.

Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro started planning the film adaptation of Charles Brandt's book "I Heard You Paint Houses" 12 years ago.

"Things got in the way," Scorsese told journalists Friday after the world premiere screening. "We couldn't get backing -- there was no way -- for years," he added.

"I'm just happy we all got finally to do it because it did take a long time," said De Niro. "We were lucky to get people to put up the money."

After several studios declined the project, it took Netflix's deep pockets to get the green light for "The Irishman" -- the nickname of Frank Sheeran, whose account of real-life events forms the basis of the book and film.

Former henchman Sheeran (played by De Niro) claimed to have killed more than 25 people on the orders of mafia boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and truck driver union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

The film uses a new technology developed by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) -- the effects firm created by George Lucas -- to digitally "de-age" actors on screen.

De Niro, 76, is able to play Sheeran across several decades, from a 34-year-old in 1955 to his 2003 death aged 83.

Scorsese said it was necessary to "come up with a solution for a de-aging that wouldn't interfere with Bob and Joe and Al."

"Talking to each other with helmets on or tennis balls in their faces -- they were not going to do it," he said.

ILM eventually succeeded in developing technology which did not require fitting the actors with any devices.

After an unsettling first few minutes the special effects work well, with Pacino also shedding multiple decades in some scenes.

De Niro's first reaction to when he saw his younger digital self? "I could extend my career another 30 years," he joked.

- Murder and morality -

The movie will be released in a limited number of theaters in the United States on November 1, before it appears on Netflix from November 27.

With "The Irishman" Scorsese returns to the gangster movie genre, following "Goodfellas," "Casino" and "The Departed."

But this film adheres more closely to real-life facts and characters.

It also sets a slower, calmer pace than those earlier films, taking a step back as Sheeran, as an old man, takes stock of his life in a series of flashbacks and examines the morality of each event.

The movie also revolves around a key episode of his relationship with Hoffa, in 1975.

"He finds himself at the most important point of his life in a moral conflict because he's basically a good man," said Scorsese.

The director also makes greater use of dialogue, in particular humor, illuminating scenes between acting giants De Niro and Pacino.

Scorsese said he wanted to evoke the atmosphere of the 1960s as a violent time when it seemed like "everybody was getting shot," starting with President John F. Kennedy.

Seemingly tracing a link from those events to the current day, the director described "the true dark forces that are in our nation."

"It doesn't happen maybe with one gunshot," said Scorsese cryptically. "It happens on every level incrementally and before you know it, it's over."https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60457
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Renewed clashes broke out in Hong Kong Saturday night as police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse hardcore protesters hurling Molotovs and bricks after tens of thousands rallied peacefully in a nearby park.

Huge crowds had gathered to mark the fifth anniversary of the "Umbrella Movement", the failed pro-democracy campaign that laid the groundwork for the massive protests currently engulfing the finance hub.

Tens of thousands crammed into a park outside the city's parliament, the same site that was the epicentre of the 2014 protests.

But smaller crowds took over a main road opposite the building with groups of hardcore activists in masks throwing bricks and petrol bombs at the nearby Central Government Offices.

Police responded with water cannon laced with pepper solution and tear gas volleys, though the crowds soon dispersed at the sight of riot police.

The scenes were reminiscent of the Umbrella Movement, which exploded when huge crowds came out after police fired tear gas at a student-led rally which had taken over the same highway -- and was named after the ubiquitous tool people used to defend themselves from police.

Both 2014's protests and the current demonstrations were fuelled by fears that Beijing is eroding freedoms in the semi-autonomous Chinese city and frustrations over the lack of direct elections. But the character of the protests has noticeably hardened in the intervening years.

Compared to the current strife -- where street battles have erupted for 16 consecutive weeks -- 2014's protests were famous for students completing classwork in the camps, recycling their waste, and the police largely avoiding direct conflict during the 79-day occupation.

This summer's pro-democracy protests have had a distinctly more existential feel, with clashes growing in intensity and Beijing issuing increasingly shrill warnings.

- 'Peaceful achieved nothing' -

"I think people have prepared for a long-term fight, it is not easy to gain democracy from Chinese Communist Party," a 29-year-old engineer, who gave her surname as Yuan, told AFP.

She said she had largely sat out the 2014 protests but felt compelled to join the streets this summer, especially after police were accused of responding too slowly to a gang of Beijing supporters who attacked protesters in late July.

"Police behaviour is a major catalyst for people coming out," she said.

Many of those attending Saturday's rally defended the use of violence by more hardcore activists and spoke wistfully about the more festive atmosphere that characterised the Umbrella Movement.

But they said Beijing's refusal to grant democracy -- coupled with the ongoing erosion of freedoms -- had hardened their resolve.

"If Hong Kong people could have achieved our demands with peaceful, rational and non-violent action, then of course we would not have needed to use more radical approaches," a 20-year-old student, who gave her surname as Chan, told AFP.

"Looking back at the peaceful umbrella movement, there was no achievement at all."

The Umbrella Movement introduced a whole new generation of Hong Kongers to direct action.

Earlier Saturday, Joshua Wong, a prominent former student leader who served a short jail sentence for his role in organising the 2014 protests, announced that he would stand in upcoming district council elections.

He recently returned from the United States where he testified before a Congressional committee about eroding freedoms in Hong Kong, infuriating Beijing.

- China's birthday -

This summer's protests were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland.

But they have snowballed into a wider movement calling for democratic rights and police accountability after Beijing and the city's leader Carrie Lam took a hard line.

Activists are planning to ramp up their protests in the coming days.

Beijing is preparing a huge military parade on Tuesday to mark 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China, revelling in its transformation into a global superpower.

But democracy protesters are determined to take the shine off the festivities, with many shouting "save your energy!" on Saturday night as they changed clothes and dispersed.

Rallies are planned for Sunday to mark a Global Anti-Totalitarianism Day.

Students are planning a class boycott on Monday while online message boards -- used to organise the largely leaderless protests -- have filled with calls to disrupt celebrations of the People's Republic's 70th anniversary.

Among the demands being made by protesters is an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for the 1,500 people arrested, and universal suffrage.

But Beijing and local leader Carrie Lam have repeatedly dismissed those demands. Earlier this week a top Chinese envoy in the city described them as "political blackmail".https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60456

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Dressed in a blood-stained Chinese army uniform and a cap with a red star in the centre, Wang Huaifu and his comrades gesture with guns

in front of a row of soldiers triumphantly waving torn scarlet flags.

Wang is the lead actor in the patriotic "Battle of Shanghai" acrobatics show, a visual recreation of 1949 battles between the Communists and the Nationalists for control of Shanghai.

"Today's China and Shanghai did not come to be as it is easily. It was fought for," said 35-year-old Wang, who stars as a commander.

From movie screens to theatre stages, China's entertainment industry has turned red ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on Tuesday.

China's film sector wields huge power and is expected to become the largest cinema market in the world by 2020 with strong box office growth and rising ticket prices, according to consultancy PwC.

Ever since it seized power in 1949, the ruling party has used media and entertainment as propaganda tools to spread patriotism which is rooted in the core of communism ideologies.

But experts say patriotic entertainment has had to adapt to appeal to China's urbanised and cosmopolitan young adults who have become huge fans of Hollywood blockbusters.

"We are not trying to proceed with the spoon-feeding, rigid type of education," said Dong Zhengzhen, scriptwriter of "Battle of Shanghai".

"We should let the young people feel and consciously absorb through the charm of art itself."

The historical drama "My People, My Country" -- based on seven memorial moments since 1949 -- draws on "narrative and production techniques more commonly associated with Hollywood", said Nicole Talmacs, China cinema scholar at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University.

The film "downplays the stiff didactic approaches to 'history telling' that previous anniversary films have resorted to," Talmacs said.

The historical drama will roll out in almost 40 countries including the US, Canada and Australia the day after its debut in China -- partly due to Chinese media moguls' aggressive acquisition of cinema chains worldwide.

"Chinese patriotism is no longer a localised affair," said Talmacs.

- 'Inappropriate' entertainment -

While China's entertainment industry tries to appeal to wider audiences, censors have recently whittled out and replaced shows with those that push the Communist cause.

In July the National Radio and Television Administration's development research centre released a list of 86 TV programmes that "eulogise the motherland, the people and the heroes" for TV stations to play during the key political year.

It also banned costume serials and dramas that have "strong entertainment elements" during the run-up to the anniversary.

Costume dramas -- such as the hugely popular series "Story of Yanxi Palace", which drew 18 billion views -- used to be abundant in China but are frowned on by the authorities for celebrating a lavish, scheming lifestyle under empirical rule.

And in June, the premiere of Chinese war epic "The Eight Hundred" was cancelled after an association of retired party cadres deemed it "inappropriate" because they said it glorified the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang.

Instead, a wave of stirring artistic offers are being rolled out to "firmly grasp the correct political direction, public opinion and value orientation," the top media body said mid-September.

The China Film Producers' Association has called on the cinema industry to use films to "vigorously promote patriotism as the core of the national spirit".

- 'Powerful tool' -

Movies such as "Liberation", "My People, My Country" and "Chairman Mao 1949" are filling Chinese movie theatres.

"The Bugle from Gutian", a film reflecting events that established the principle of absolute leadership of the Communist Party over the army, hit the cinemas on Army Day in August.

"I was very touched," said audience member Liu Hexin, after watching it in Beijing. "There had been so many predecessors shedding their blood for the beautiful life we have today."

Since the young crew of "Battle of Shanghai" was not alive 70 years ago, Dong and other directors on the show arranged visits to cemeteries where soldiers from the Communist People's Liberation Army are buried, as well as history classes.

"I think culture is the most powerful tool (for conveying messages) because literature and art works can cultivate roots and souls," said the show's chief director Li Chunyan.

As streets, subways, and screens across the country turn red ahead of the October 1 anniversary, Wang said he will celebrate the PRC's 70th year on stage.

"I hope to spread the positive energy and spirit to more people... so that I can be worthy of playing such a hero like the commander," he says.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60455

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Hundreds of thousands of people have joined climate strike marches across Canada, with almost 100 events planned in cities and towns.

Protesters are taking part in the global climate strike movement, which has seen people around the world take to the streets.

Yesterday 170,000 people took to the streets around New Zealand with thousands of adults joining tens of thousands of school students for the country's third school strike for climate action.

The movement wants world leaders to adopt ambitious climate change policy.

Initial school strikes were inspired by Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg's "Fridays for Future" movement.

The 16-year-old - who on Monday chastised world leaders at the United Nations over their failure to do more - spoke in Montreal at the start of strikes in the city, which are expected to draw more than 300,000 people.

"It is very moving to see everyone, everyone who is so passionate to march and strike," she told reporters. "It is a very good day, I would say."

During her visit, Ms Thunberg will receive the key to the city from Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

Organisers say half a million people have gathered in the eastern city of Montreal alone. Officials told local media the number was closer to 315,000.

These figures place the Montreal event among some of the most attended environmental marches in history. The September 2014 People's Climate March in New York attracted at least 310,000.

Schools, colleges and universities suspended all or some classes for the day, and the city government and some businesses have encouraged staff to take the day off. City public transit is also free for the event.

The march was mostly peaceful, though a man was tackled by police and arrested after approaching Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Léa Ilardo, 21, a university student helping to organise the march, told the BBC she hopes it serves as a demonstration of how important it is to take climate action.

"Why should we study or work when the survival of humanity and the planet is called into question?" she said.

Meanwhile, in Portugal, police removed hundreds of climate change activists, mainly from the Extinction Rebellion group, from one of Lisbon's main streets on Friday evening after a peaceful demonstration earlier in the day.

Throughout the afternoon, thousands of young protesters took over Lisbon's streets in a climate strike inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

But, later on, a group of hundreds of protesters holding Extinction Rebellion flags blocked one of the city's main arteries. Protesters put up tents and sat outside the Bank of Portugal building before being removed by authorities.

"There's no planet B," the protesters said.

A Reuters witness saw some of the protesters being dragged away by police. As officers removed them from the middle of the Almirante Reis avenue, some protesters shouted: "This is not what democracy looks like."

Extinction Rebellion activists disrupted London with 11 days of protests in April that the group cast as the biggest act of civil disobedience in recent British history.

On their Facebook page, the Portuguese branch of Extinction Rebellion said they demand, among other things, a climate emergency to be declared and carbon neutrality by 2030.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60443#fulltext

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A man's body has been found on the grounds of a house in a rural area near Palmerston North.

Police said the body was found on last night.

Officers are carrying out a scene examination at the property, in the small settlement of Bunnythorpe.

The man has not been formally identified yet, but officers believe they know who he is, and are trying to contact his family.

Guards will remain at the property overnight.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60442

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Joe Ngan was born in 1932 in a small village near Guangzhou in southern China.

He's now 87 and lives near his two kiwifruit orchards in Kerikeri, Northland.

But getting to his home of 40 years was a scary and long-winded affair.

When Joe was two, his mother died while giving birth to his sister, leaving Joe and elder brother Sun virtually as orphans. Their father was working in New Zealand

For a few years, Joe and his brother lived a privileged life with their grandparents.

Ngan Gar Shue taught his grandson Chinese chess and used to bet that six-year-old Joe could beat much older players. He also taught him a little French, believing it was going to become the main international language.

But life as little Joe knew it changed in 1937 when Japan invaded China and the second Sino-Japanese war began.

The family's first attempt to flee to New Zealand via Vietnam was thwarted when Joe's grandfather was hit by shrapnel.

The second attempt, this time without injured Ngan senior, was more successful.

The two boys, Joe (7) and Sun (12), took a boat in the middle of the night down the Pearl River to Hong Kong, from there travelling third-class on another boat to New Zealand.

"I ate bread for the first time," recalls Joe.

Arriving in Wellington four weeks later, Joe Ngan then started the next period of his life; living in two rooms behind his father's greengrocer's shop in Feilding.

Life was sparse and hard. Joe was expected to deliver groceries by bike every day after school.

The year he captained the Feilding Agricultural High School First XV rugby team his father said he couldn't go to Wellington on a sports trip.

"Being captain of the First XV meant nothing to him. He said work was more important."

Luckily some teachers persuaded Chong Ngan otherwise and the compact Chinese boy led the strapping farmer's sons out onto the field at Scot's College.

Joe wasn't quite so lucky in his desire to be a doctor.

Having specifically taken Latin and maths at school, Joe asked to go to medical school.

"But my father said no. White people don't want Chinese for a doctor. You've got three choices: fruit shop, market garden or laundry."

For six years the fruit shop it was, but having saved hard Joe then headed north for excitement and a change.

He worked on a dairy farm, ran a fish and chip shop in Kaikohe, trained to be a teacher and taught in Te Awamutu for years before owning two sports shops for 16 years.

Once the challenge of that dimmed his next adventure was buying a kiwifruit orchard in Kerikeri.

His wife Margot recalls him arriving in Northland (while she stayed behind to sell the house) with two saucepans and no knowledge of growing vines.

Over the years, the couple bought three more orchards and built and ran a kiwifruit packing house, dubbed the Kerikeri Cathedral by locals because of its high-pitched roof.

Joe and Margot still own two kiwifruit orchards which their son Michael runs.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60438

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The mayoral race in Whangārei has just three contestants and one is in it mainly to boost her chances of winning a council seat.

Roads campaigner Alex Wright, and lawyer Tony Savage are challenging Whangārei's mayor of six years, Sheryl Mai.

Mrs Wright is a dairy farmer who's best known for lobbying the Whangārei District Council for 15 years to seal rural roads being torn up by logging trucks.

She eventually succeeded; Wrights Road, which bisects the family farm and some other rural roads used by log trucks, has now been sealed.

Billowing dust clouds no longer plague rural homes, or force school buses to take evasive action when the trucks roll by.

Having battled the Whangārei District Council for so long, Alex Wright wants a seat on it in the hopes of making change.

"It should never [have] taken so long to fix a major health and safety problem on our metal roads. There's just too much red tape and bureaucracy and I would like to cut through some of that," she said.

The mother of seven grown children is standing for a seat in the Hikurangi-Coastal Ward but she's also standing for mayor.

"It's all about giving people choice in democracy, so I'm just trying to lift my profile with the voters and hopefully I'll make it somewhere," she said.

The more serious challenge to Sheryl Mai's mayoralty comes from commercial lawyer Tony Savage.

He's backed by a number of business people in Whangārei, including downtown landlords unhappy with higher rates, empty shops, and a council they say is obstructive.

Mr Savage said some major landlords could invest in converting their vacant office buildings to apartments, but won't because they find the council just too hard to deal with.

"But we've also got three and four star hotels with theatres that we're trying to get off the ground and council's not engaging with. There are a number of other developments ... we've got aviation schools wanting to come in, investing a lot of money and creating a lot of jobs and saying 'we can't work with this council'. There are numerous exmples of that."

Whangārei's population has increased rapidly in the past five years, fuelled mainly by the Auckland exodus.

But Mr Savage said the district is missing out on golden opportunities because the council lacks the commercial nous that he would bring to the mayoralty.

"I think I could lead better," he said.

"You know, the smart money is coming up from the Waikato and Tauranga because every blade of grass has got a cow on it. They're buying the land up here, getting ready for the rail, and the port and the reality is that other places are going ahead faster than us. New Plymouth, Napier, Nelson ... there is a huge economic boom coming and I don't think we're ready for that."

Sheryl Mai said the complaint that councils are hard to deal with is a perennial one in most communities.

She said the Whangārei council welcomes investors and the visible development in the district while she's been mayor is proof of that, with whole new suburbs springing up in town and at Ruakaka.

But there will always be rules the council can't over-ride, includng the Building Act and fire regulations, Ms Mai said.

"We're a regulatory authority and there are times when the rules don't match what a developer's hopes and dreams may be. But ... our economy is growing and we have people wanting to come and live here, which is good for business."

She said contrary to Mr Savage's claims, her council has been engaging with developers keen to build hotels and a conference centre in Whangārei.

But she said they are all eyeing a hefty cash contribution from the council - in one case, $20 million for a theatre.

That's something no council would decide in a hurry, especially when feasibility studies by the developers are incomplete, she said.

The study for one project in Riverside has been funded by the government's Provincial Growth Fund and is due out early next year.

The Whangārei mayor also rejects the suggestion that the council has blown off lucrative projects like aviation schools.

Pilot-training businesses did investigate setting up at Whangārei's Onerahi airport, she said.

But they decided against it, not because the council was difficult but because the airport has the shortest runway in New Zealand and will have to move at some point in the next 20 years.

"The Ministry of Transport own the land our airport is on. They would have been prepared to enter into a 30-year lease but in that timeframe we may have to move the airport because of changing airline requirements. So the developers' investment could have been cut short. It was their choice," she said.

Northland Regional Council economist Darryl Jones provided the following growth stats for Whangārei over the past six years.

The population grew from 83,700 to 91,400, residential building consents went up by 54 percent, tourism spending rose by 41 percent and 777 new businesses were created over the period.

Unemployment went down from 8 percent to 5.5 percent and the number of jobs rose by 13 percent.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60437
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Controversial US sprinter Christian Coleman's bid for 100 metres gold took centre stage at the World Championships on Saturday as endurance athletes prepared for another battle with Doha's punishing heat and humidity.

Coleman romped to a 9.88sec win in his semi-final to underline his intention to clinch his first major championship outdoor title, just weeks after escaping a lengthy anti-doping ban because of a technicality.

Coleman has received strong public backing from world athletics chief Sebastian Coe, who has defended the American's right to be regarded as a clean athlete.

The 23-year-old from Tennessee narrowly avoided a ban after failing to properly notify drug testers of his whereabouts on three occasions in a 12-month period -- an offence normally punishable by a one-year suspension.

"We have to be very careful not to play fast and loose with the reputation of athletes," Coe said on Friday following criticism of Coleman by US sprinting legend Michael Johnson.

"I am pleased Coleman is here and I want to make sure he is given every opportunity to be one of the faces of these Championships," the IAAF president added.

Coleman has angrily denied any suggestion he is guilty of taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Defending champion Justin Gatlin kept his hopes alive of a third world 100m title but only just, scraping through into the showdown later in the day as one of the two fastest losers.

While Coleman is seeking his first world outdoor title, Jamaican legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce got off to a terrific start in her bid to win a fourth 100m world gold.

The 32-year-old two-time Olympic champion timed an impressive 10.80sec, the fastest women's 100m heat in world championship history.

Renaud Lavillenie's desperate search for an elusive world gold to add to his 2012 Olympic pole vault title will have to wait another two years as the 33-year-old Frenchman failed to qualify for the final.

- 'It's a catastrophe' -

Coe and other IAAF organisers meanwhile will be nervously keeping an eye on Saturday's two endurance walking finals, the men's and women's 50-kilometre races.

The races get under way at 11:30pm local time in what are expected to be sweltering conditions.

The walks take place 24 hours after the first day's women's marathon in which Kenya's Ruth Chepngetich took gold after an arduous test of endurance that saw 28 of 68 starters fail to finish.

The IAAF announced the show would go on, stating no one had suffered heat stroke in the marathon and the completion rate was comparable to women's races at Tokyo in 1991 and Moscow in 2013.

However, the distressing spectacle of the marathon -- some competitors were stretchered off and another placed in a wheelchair -- made a deep impression on France's decathlon world champion Kevin Mayer.

"Clearly by organising the championship here, they (the IAAF) didn't put the athletes first, they've mostly put them in jeopardy," said Mayer, who is also the world record holder.

"Even if people aren't saying it out loud, it's obvious it's a catastrophe."

The marathon havoc will have done nothing to calm the angst of France's 50km walk champion Yohann Diniz, who defends his title on Saturday.

Diniz angrily hit out at organisers on Friday for forcing walkers to race in the heat while track and field athletes are competing in a comfortable 25 degrees Celsius in the climate-controlled Khalifa Stadium.

"I am disgusted by the conditions," the Frenchman said.

"I am extremely upset. If we were in the stadium we would have normal conditions, between 24-25 degrees, but outside they have placed us in a furnace, which is just not possible."

Aside from the 100m and the two walks, three other titles will be decided -- the men's long jump, the women's hammer and the women's 10,000m.

The latter event should ensure a sizeable contingent of Ethiopian and Kenyan spectators, who proved invaluable in livening up the atmosphere on the opening day.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60454

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Afghans voted in presidential elections amid tight security Saturday, as Taliban insurgents determined to disrupt the process unleashed a string of attacks on polling centres across the country that killed at least five people.

The first-round vote marked the culmination of a bloody election campaign that, despite a large field of candidates, is seen as a close race between President Ashraf Ghani and his bitter rival Abdullah Abdullah, the country's chief executive.

Authorities placed Kabul under partial lockdown, flooding streets with troops and banning trucks from entering the city in an effort to stop would-be suicide bombers targeting residents as they cast their votes.

The Taliban, who carried out multiple bombings during the two-month election season, claimed to have conducted hundreds of attacks against Afghanistan's "fake elections".

The vote held by Kabul's "puppet administration... faced failure and rejection by a vast majority of the nation," a Taliban statement read.

Officials said five security personnel had been killed and 37 civilians wounded.

"The enemy carried out 68 attacks against election sites across the country... but security forces repelled most of the attacks," acting defence minister Asadullah Khalid said.

Compared to previous elections, the initial toll appeared light, though authorities in the past suppressed information on election day only to later give larger numbers.

Having voted at a Kabul high school, Ghani said the most important issue was finding a leader with a mandate to bring peace to the war-torn nation.

"Our roadmap (for peace) is ready, I want the people to give us permission and legitimacy so that we pursue peace," said Ghani, who is seeking a second five-year term.

In a televised address late Saturday, Ghani called on the Taliban to "respect the choice of the people and end the war".

He added: "The doors of peace are open for you."

Some 9.6 million Afghans are registered to vote, but many lack faith that after 18 years of war any leader can unify the country and improve living conditions, boost the stagnating economy, or bolster security.

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission observers said turnout seemed low, especially among women.

"I know there are security threats but bombs and attacks have become part of our everyday lives," 55-year-old Mohiuddin, who only gave one name, told AFP.

"I am not afraid, we have to vote if we want to bring changes."

Abdullah and Ghani both claimed victory in the 2014 election -- a vote so tainted that it forced then-US president Barack Obama's administration to push for a compromise that saw Abdullah awarded the subordinate role.

"The only request I have from the election commission is that they ensure the transparency of the election because lots of people have lost their trust," said Afghan voter Sunawbar Mirzae, 23.

- Problems voting -

Voting in Afghanistan's fourth presidential election -- the first was in 2004 -- took place at nearly 5,000 polling centres across the country, and the interior ministry said it had deployed 72,000 members of the security forces to help secure these.

Many Afghans said voting went smoothly, triumphantly holding up fingers stained in indelible ink to show they had cast a ballot, but several said they had experienced problems.

"I came this early morning to cast my ballot. Unfortunately my name was not on the list," said Ziyarat Khan, a farmer in Nangarhar. "The whole process is messy like the last time."

Campaigning was hampered by violence from the first day, when Ghani's running mate was targeted in a bomb-and-gun attack that left at least 20 dead.

The campaign itself was muted compared to years past, as many thought the already-twice-delayed election would be postponed again while US-Taliban talks for a troop withdrawal played out.

That deal was scuppered after US President Donald Trump pulled out, and Afghanistan's next president will likely face the daunting task of trying to strike a bargain with the Taliban.

Election officials say this will be the cleanest election yet, with equipment such as biometric fingerprint readers and better training for poll workers to ensure the vote is fair.

Still, the US has expressed disquiet about the possibility of fraud and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Ghani in a phone call this week that candidates' behaviour must be "beyond reproach to ensure the legitimacy of the outcome".

Preliminary results are not expected until October 19. Candidates need more than 50 percent of the vote to be declared the outright winner, or else the top two will head for a second round in November.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60453

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Christian Coleman stormed to victory in the 100 metres at

the World Championships in Doha on Saturday, emphatically shrugging off the missed drug test controversy which had threatened to derail his career.

The 23-year-old American, who escaped a doping ban earlier this month on a technicality, swept over the finish line in a world-leading personal best of 9.76sec to claim his first major outdoor championship gold medal.

Defending champion Justin Gatlin took silver in 9.89sec at the age of 37 while Canada's Andre De Grasse claimed bronze in 9.90sec.

It completed a flawless championship campaign for Coleman, who had been the only man to duck under 10 seconds in both Friday's opening rounds and Saturday's semi-finals.

Coleman's victory in perfect conditions at the Khalifa Stadium was never in doubt, the stocky 2017 World Championships silver medallist exploding out of the blocks to take the lead over the opening 20 metres.

The American let out a roar of triumph as he crossed the line before punching the air in jubilation after a performance which makes him the sixth fastest man in history.

"I am humble, I am just here to win titles," an elated Coleman said afterwards.

"It is an incredible time, it is a PR for me. I think the sky's the limit, I think I still have a lot of things I can work on and improve, I think I can keep dropping my time," added the 60m indoor world record holder.

- Cleared on a technicality -

The victory was the culmination of a rollercoaster season for Coleman, whose participation in the championships had been in doubt until only a few weeks ago.

Coleman, who has strongly denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs, was left facing a lengthy suspension in August after it emerged he had registered three drug-testing "whereabouts" failures in a 12-month period.

The violation is regarded as equivalent to a failed drug test and often followed by a ban of up to two years.

Yet Coleman avoided a sanction when the case against him was dropped in early September because of a technicality.

Coleman had recorded his first whereabouts failure on June 6 last year, before two more offences in January 16 and April 26 this year.

However the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) abruptly withdrew the charges on September 2 after a review of the rules regarding how the 12-month window should be calculated.

Under an obscure regulation in the International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI) guidelines, Coleman's first missed case in June last year should have been backdated to the first day of that quarter, April 1, 2018.

That meant the dates of the three offences fell outside the required 12-month time-frame for a doping offence to have occurred -- leaving Coleman in the clear and free to compete in Doha.

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Michael Jackson’s bodyguard has shed light on what the King Of Pop was like behind closed doors.

According to Matt Fiddes, MJ knew the fascination with him would stop if he wasn’t a ‘mystery’ in the public eye, forcing him to don surgical masks and put tape on his nose to seemingly rouse suspicion.

Now choosing to defend his former employer – who died in 2009 – following the release of controversial documentary Leaving Neverland, Matt has revealed, perhaps not surprisingly, the superstar was just a normal guy at home.

‘He knew how to manipulate the media. He knew exactly how to get the front pages. He used to have a meeting as soon as he got to a [city], Matt told Metro.co.uk.

‘90% of the time it worked, by putting a mask on his face, or sticky tape on his hands – or tape on his nose was a favourite one. He would say he wanted his life to be the greatest mystery on Earth.

‘It’s backfired on him now, though, that’s the sad thing.’

Matt claimed Michael – who was married to Lisa Marie Presley from 1994-1996 and later Debbie Rowe from 1996-1999 – ‘didn’t want the media to know if he was gay or straight because he knew the fascination would stop with the newspapers printing about him’.

He also claimed Michael, who had, and still has, a loyal following, ‘didn’t want to upset any fans’ by shattering the mystical illusion around him.

Spending 10 years as the superstar’s right hand man, Matt continued: ‘He never used to live with makeup on. I remember one time we were watching TV at the [St Pancras] Renaissance Hotel in London and he wanted to go to [illusionist] Uri Geller’s house for a curry. He asked for the cars in an hour and he’s off getting ready, getting his hair done and he comes out in the whole image, the mask and fedora, the whole works.’

But to Matt, who now owns worldwide chain Matt Fiddes Martial Arts, back at home Michael was more about a ‘glass of wine, bottle of wine, he’d be swearing, he’d be a normal guy.’

He continued: ‘He was super intelligent, couldn’t sit down and watch a movie because he’d analyse every angle, very mistake the director made.’

According to Matt, the public thought they knew what Michael was like, but ‘unless you knew him’ you had no idea.

Claiming ‘this whole paedophile thing is complete nonsense’ Matt continued: ‘The guy had girlfriends and had a legitimate marriage to Lisa Marie, that was the way he lived his life.’

Of the claims made by James Safechuck and Wade Robson in the HBO documentary, that won an Emmy recently, Matt insisted it was ‘impossible’ for Michael to have done the acts he had been accused of – mostly because he was ‘hardly’ at the Neverland ranch, where the alleged incidents took place.

‘They say there were boys around, that was not the case at all. He made Neverland how it was so he could have it for the Make A Wish foundation; something he could give back on,’ the bodyguard and celebrity trainer said.

‘We had a running joke he was never there. He had to be in Los Angeles to conduct business, it’s about four hours’ drive from the mountains and he hated the drive, so he was very rarely there. He was there to make public appearances. He was much more comfortable at the Beverly Wiltshire in a suite.’

He continued: ‘If he was doing what he was doing to young kids he would never get any work done. He was already recording, performing and rehearsing, for him to be messing around with young kids would be impossible because of the security that was in place. It’s impossible.’

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This week the Conservative Mayoral candidate for London, Shaun Bailey, posted a video to social media as part of the launch of his ‘Tube safety campaign’.

In the video he says, quite rightly, that ‘we all have the right to feel safe on public transport.’ He also rightly points out that tens of thousands of incidents go unreported every year.

The campaign’s central aim is to encourage more women to report by providing permanent space for TfL’s ‘Report It To Stop It’ campaign. This is a worthy aim but it does not go nearly far enough.

Because here’s the thing: women do report. They report harassment, they report assault, they report rape. They report and report and report and yet for so many of them, they get to the end of that gruelling and potentially traumatising process of reporting only to find that nothing is done.

So of course, women should be encouraged to report unwanted sexual behaviour and of course more data on when and where incidents occur would be useful. But at a time when reporting of sexual offences nationwide is up and yet conviction rates are down, another campaign which puts the onus on women to report without addressing the wider issues feels pretty futile.

In the last year alone, London saw a 20 per cent increase in reported rapes. Nationwide, the number of reports has more than doubled since 2013-14 and increased by nine per cent in just the last year. And yet conviction rates are now at their lowest since records began, with only just over three per cent of reported rapes ending in a conviction.

Just take a second to imagine that. Rape is one of the most violating things that can happen to a person, and reporting it takes that violation and makes it public property while an investigation takes place.

Our focus should not be on asking women to report. It should be on proving to them that reporting is worthwhile.

Victims are subjected to ‘digital strip searches’ in which their messages, their social media accounts, their medical notes and even their primary school records are laid open for inspection. They are advised not to seek counselling at this most emotionally punishing time, because those notes too would be available to a court. They are made to feel like suspects.

And yet, despite all of these barriers, so many women take the brave step of reporting because they want justice for what happened to them. Because they know that holding the man who assaulted them to account is important. Because by doing so they may be protecting future potential victims.

But out of every one hundred women who take that step, 97 are denied the justice they sought. And those 97 women become the example that other women hear about when they consider whether to report what has been done to them. The rapes, the assaults, the daily harassment on the Tube. When they sit on the underground and see posters imply that reporting will ‘stop it’.

Initiatives like ‘Report It To Stop It’ do work in the narrow sense. Following the 2015 launch of the campaign there was significant rise in reports of assault and harassment, which have soared by 42 per cent in the last four years. Meanwhile, a March survey by the transport workers’ union RMT found that one in ten Tube staff have themselves reported sexual harassment. But collecting reports means little if nothing is then done to hold perpetrators to account.

At the Women’s Equality Party we are campaigning for an end to end review of how the criminal justice system handles rape and sexual violence cases, to do the work that is needed to ensure victims are no longer put on trial.

Shaun Bailey’s campaign misses this wider point about how our society deals with sexual offences. His Conservative Government has demonstrably failed to take meaningful action both in terms of supporting survivors and challenging offenders.

So, while conviction rates remain through the floor, while survivors of sexual harassment, assault and rape are routinely treated as suspects and denied the services that they desperately need, our focus should not be on asking women to report. It should be on proving to them that reporting is worthwhile.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60449

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When Takai Palei arrived in Japan from Tonga in 1991, all he knew of the country was based on a Japanese Samurai movie. So it was a surprise when he landed, to find that no one was dressed in Samurai uniform.

Palei was in Japan on a scholarship to study and play rugby at Daito Bunka University. He arrived in the cold of winter, but there was luckily another Tongan there to show him the ropes.

Almost 30 years on, he is still in Japan, involved with the Tonga community there, and helping other students and rugby players in the same way he was helped.

He is the secretary of the Tonga-Japan Community organisation, and the assistant to the reverend at their Tongan church.

Through these roles Palei tries to encourage Tongan players to make the most of their opportunities in Japan.

"It's very rare to have such an opportunity like this in Tonga," he said, but he also knows how tough it can be.

He's seen students sent back to Tonga because the high schools and universities don't want them anymore, some don't cope with the Japanese way well.

"When I first came directly to university, I struggled the first year. The first year is only studying Japanese, every day for one year. But it's very good for us."

Palei says it's easier for the players who go through high school first, it gives them more time to adapt to the language.

He's disappointed to hear that many of the universities no longer teach Japanese to their players.

Palei says he's been told by management at some of the universities that it costs a lot of money to put the players through language lessons.

"I told them, don't bring the Tongan to use for your benefit. It's better to both benefit for both parties."

After finishing his university studies, Palei had only played for a year at the Yokogawa Electric Company before professional rugby players began coming to his team.

He retired from rugby soon after to concentrate on working for the company instead.

"I'm not good at rugby. But I make use of my time and am able to get my job. Now I am 25 or 24 years at Yokogawa Electric."

Living and working in Japan, he's been able to help his parents, and family in Tonga.

When he got married and had children, he wanted to stay on in Japan to give his own children the same opportunities he had.

It's the reason he encourages players to do well with their studies.

"Tonga can't compete with the All Blacks … they're at a high level, very professional. So the option for those who are not as good at rugby is to study hard, so they can go to work in a company."

Through the Tonga-Japan community, and their Tongan church, which he says are both run by the same people, just with different management roles, they try to meet with the players as often as they can.

It can be difficult to come together all at once and during rugby season church attendance may vary between four people, his family and the reverend, to up to 20 people.

That's because rugby matches are played on Sunday, making it difficult for rugby players to attend, not to mention how spread out they are over Tokyo and Osaka.

But for larger events, like Fakame [Children's White Sunday] or their recent fundraising for the Ikale Tahi team, many more from the community make sure they attend.

Their community group was also recently given permission to meet with the seven Tongan players in Japan's national team, to pray with them and give them encouragement.

He's very proud of those Tongan players who have made the national side, "because here in Japan most people know us because of rugby, and they promote us Tongans here in Japan".

He's also been making sure to message everyone on Facebook to tell them to support Ikale Tahi no matter what happens.

For now, Takai Palei and his wife Lusila, are staying in Japan for their three children, but they hope to return to Tonga when he retires.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60444

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A distraught son has shared horrific photos of his battered 86 year-old mother after claiming she was assaulted at her nursing home.

Benny Gomez posted the snaps on social media after his mother was left with two facial fractures, a broken nose and multiple bruises earlier this week.

Gomez accused staff at Westfield Center Nursing Facility in Livingston, New Jersey, of inflicting the injuries, but bosses there insist the elderly patient suffered an accidental fall.

Gomez says his mother complained about being abused before.

He told ABC7: ‘She tells me that the aides were rough with her and that they hit her.

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Some 400 boys and young men have been rescued from a ‘house of torture’ where they had been detained and abused for years.

Children as young as five were found in chains stuffed into a small room in the ‘most debasing and inhuman conditions.’

They had been tortured, sexually abused, starved and prevented from leaving the Islamic School in the Nigerian city of Kaduna.

Police raided the building on Friday morning and rescued ‘400 captives’ after they were alerted by suspicious neighbours.

Officers arrested the head and six members of staff at the school, which claimed to be reforming young people.

Many of those rescued bore scars on their backs and serious injuries, police said.

Some had their ankles manacled together and others were chained by their legs to large metal hubcaps.

Kaduna Police spokesman, Yakubu Sabo, said the adults and minors were kept in ‘the most debasing and inhuman conditions in the name of teaching them the Koran and reforming them.’

He added: ‘The victims were abused. Some of them said they were sodomised by their teachers.’

The school which has been operating for a decade, enrolled students brought by their families to learn the Koran and be rehabilitated from drug abuse and other illnesses, police said.

But during the raid they found a ‘torture chamber’ where they said students were chained, hung and beaten.

One inmate was quoted by Nigerian media describing his horrific treatment.

He said: ‘I have spent three months here with chains on my legs.

‘This is supposed to be an Islamic centre, but trying to run away from here attracts severe punishment; they tie people and hang them to the ceiling for that.’

Most of the people rescued were from Nigeria but at least two are from neighbouring Burkina Faso.

Parents of some of the victims have said they were ‘shocked and horrified’ when they saw the condition of their children as they had no idea what was happening inside the school.

Parents were allowed to visit their children every three months, but only in select areas of the premises.

Mr Sabo added: ‘They were not allowed into the house to see what was happening… the children are only brought to them outside to meet them.

‘All they thought was their children are being taught the Koran and good manners as they looked subdued,’ he added.

The children and young men are now being looked after at a temporary camp in a nearby stadium while police attempt to find relatives.

Private Islamic schools, known as Almajiris, are common across the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria – a country that is roughly evenly split between followers of Christianity and Islam.

Parents in northern Nigeria, the poorest part of a country in which most people live on less than $2 a day, often opt to leave their children to board at the schools.

Over the years there have been allegations levelled at some of them over abuse and accusations that children have been sent onto the streets to beg.

Earlier this year, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Muslim, said it planned to eventually ban the schools, but would not do so immediately.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60440
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An Adelaide shopper has found themselves in a sticky situation after their bee-MW (or, Jeep) was covered by a swarm of insects.

The sight was spotted by a shopper at Marion Shopping Centre just before 11am Wednesday who discovered the car park was a little buzz-ier than usual.

Thousands of bees clung to the boot of the Jeep, refusing to budge.

In a similar sting on the weekend, a car at Christies Beach had its boot swarmed.

It's the time of year for it, with bees becoming most active in spring as the warm weather hits.

But for this stunned shopper, the un-bee-lievable sight has most likely left them a little stuck.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60418

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A former U.S. defense intelligence agent was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for selling national secrets to China, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Ron Rockwell Hansen, 60, was sentenced after pleading guilty in March to attempting to communicate, deliver or transmit information involving the national defense of the United States to China.

"Ron Hansen was willing to betray his oath and his country for financial gain," said Paul Haertel, special agent in charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City field office. "This case brings to light that not all spies are foreign adversaries. Insider threats pose a significant national security risk and the FBI will continue to aggressively investigate those who put our country and citizens at risk."

Hansen was arrested June 2, 2018, while attempting to board a flight to China and was found with thousands of dollars in cash, documents with locations of U.S. Cyber Command outposts and a passcode-protected thumb drive hidden in a shoe.

As part of his plea agreement, Hansen admitted that he was recruited by agents of a Chinese intelligence service to solicit national security information from an intelligence case officer working for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

He also said he met with the DIA case officer on the day of his arrest and received documents containing classified national defense information.

In addition to the 10-year federal prison sentence, Hansen agreed to forfeit property acquired through or traceable to his offense, including that used to facilitate the crime.

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A third person has been arrested on drug charges in connection to the 2018 overdose death of rapper Mac Miller.

According to court documents, Stephen "Stevie" Walker is accused of selling counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl to Miller through an intermediary, Cameron Pettit, who was arrested early this month on narcotic distribution charges.

Walker was arrested Monday in Los Angeles following an investigation that uncovered text messages in which Pettit agreed on the night of Sept. 4-5 to provide Miller, who was born Malcolm James McCormick, with a variety of drugs, including 10 blue pills -- the counterfeit oxycodone.

"Shortly after McCormick's death, law enforcement discovered a magazine in McCormick's bedroom covered with blue-colored power and indentations ... indicating that McCormick crushed and snorted one or more of the counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl before his death," the court document said.

Text messages reveal that Pettit obtained the blue pills from Walter by way of a courier, Ryan Reavis, who was arrested Tuesday in Arizona on drug, gun and fraud charges.

Miller was found dead last year in his Studio City, Calif., home, and an autopsy revealed he had died of an accidental overdose.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60435
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From his New York skyscraper, President Donald Trump should have felt on top of the world. Instead, scandal over his alleged shakedown of Ukraine's president for dirt on an opponent has brought him to the lowest point of his presidency -- and at risk of crashing further.

The former real estate tycoon and reality TV performer returned to Washington on Thursday as only the fourth president to face an impeachment inquiry.

On Twitter, he raged at the "hoax" and "scam." Aides insisted that the story was meaningless.

But in reality, this was the week when Trump was confronted in brutal fashion by the limits of his power, or even his ability to project that power.

Tuesday saw him boasting in front of the United Nations about what he called a historic peak in American military and economic might.

Yet diplomats in the UN hall were all too aware of his meager diplomatic victories and mounting domestic troubles.

Iran remains a combustible, unsolved affair, with frantic efforts by French President Emmanuel Macron to facilitate a meeting between Trump and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani coming to naught.

The China trade war rolls on. Attempts to force out Venezuela's leftist strongman Nicolas Maduro have failed. North Korea is not giving up nuclear weapons.

By coincidence, Trump's new British ally, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, plunged into fresh political turmoil back home this week, while Trump's old ally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was struggling to survive the aftermath of Israel's election.

Now Trump had a political maelstrom of his own, with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi announcing the start of a formal impeachment probe on Tuesday -- lighting a rocket under the already explosive 2020 presidential campaign.

- Wounded and defiant -

It wasn't meant to be like this.

New York is Trump's hometown and he travels the Big Apple like a modern-day emperor.

Everywhere he goes, his gargantuan, heavily armed motorcade requires swaths of one of the planet's busiest cities to shut down. Residents become spectators to the sheer potency of the presidential office.

And at night, Trump is escorted to his very own skyscraper. Trump Tower on the corner of Fifth Avenue is a monument to a man who has always believed in, and proclaimed, his greatness.

Yet as the week progressed, the view from that penthouse eyrie became grimmer. The man looking down became angrier.

Few Americans had ever thought much about Ukraine, let alone its new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who, like Trump, used to work in television entertainment.

Suddenly the allegation that Trump twisted Zelensky's arm to prosecute a corruption case against Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner for 2020, made Ukraine practically the only topic of discussion in Washington.

As impeachment talk swelled, Trump agreed to release a transcript of a lengthy phone call he had with Zelensky. He then authorized release of the complaint by the intelligence community whistleblower who'd raised the alarm in the first place.

The White House said these documents killed the story.

"He has nothing to hide," spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said on Thursday.

- 'It was all planned' -

But for Democrats and even a few from Trump's ultra-loyal Republican party, the documents amounted to smoking guns.

The intensifying scandal turned Trump into an ever lonelier, downbeat figure.

Usually his press conferences are stunning performances, filled with bragging, joking, storytelling and, above all, a willingness to take on any question.

At times, Trump takes so many questions that journalists are visibly exhausted.

On Wednesday, though, he ascended the podium to launch into a rambling monologue of over 20 minutes before taking just a few questions.

It was a speech delivered in a flat voice, filled with an air of hurt.

"So many leaders came up to me today and they said, sir, what you go through, no president has ever gone through," he said.

Trump has always prided himself on his ability to sell and persuade. His most famous book, ghostwritten, is even called "The Art of the Deal."

But these few days in New York have left the man with answers to every question stumbling, and reaching for conspiracy theories.

"It was all planned," Trump said grimly. "That was all planned like everything else."
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/60415

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