UK News

Culture

 

British Queen celebrates

World News

 

 

The first Democratic debate of the 2016 US presidential campaign kicked off Tuesday with frontrunner Hillary Clinton trying to draw a line under scandals that have chipped away at her support.

Here are some key moments in the debate:

- 'Will you say anything to get elected?' -

CNN moderator Anderson Cooper opened the debate with a tough question for Clinton about policy flip-flops and what she is willing to do to gain power, a topic that has dogged the former first lady, secretary of State and New York senator.

"I have always fought for the same values and principles, but like most human beings, including those of us who run for office, I do absorb new information, I do look at what's happening in the world," Clinton shot back, with a steel that would be seen throughout the evening.

- Barnstorming Bernie -

Bernie Sanders, Clinton's nearest rival in the polls, wasted no time in displaying his leftist chops, speaking in a tone that for America's conventional politics sounded uncompromising, bordering on revolutionary.

 

 

 

 

Cigarette smoking will kill about two million Chinese in 2030, double the 2010 toll, said researchers Friday who warned of a "growing epidemic of premature death" in the world's most populous nation.

On current trends, one in three young Chinese men will be killed by tobacco, the team wrote in The Lancet medical journal. Among women, though, there were fewer smokers and fewer deaths.

"About two-thirds of young Chinese men become cigarette smokers, and most start before they are 20. Unless they stop, about half of them will eventually be killed by their habit," said the article's co-author Zhengming Chen from Oxford University.

China consumes over a third of the world's cigarettes, and has a sixth of the global smoking death toll.

"The annual number of deaths in China that are caused by tobacco will rise from about one million in 2010 to two million in 2030 and three million in 2050, unless there is widespread cessation," the researchers wrote.

"Widespread smoking cessation offers China one of the most effective, and cost-effective, strategies to avoid disability and premature death over the next few decades."

The 2010 death toll was made up of some 840,000 men and 130,000 women in China, which has a population of about 1.4 billion.

Smokers have about twice the mortality rate of people who never smoked, with a higher risk of lung cancer, stroke and heart attack.

The proportion of deaths attributed to smoking among Chinese men aged 40-79 has doubled from about 10 percent in the early 1990s to 20 percent today, said the researchers.

- Women smoke less -

Among city dwellers the figure was even higher -- a quarter of all male deaths, and rising.

 

 

 

 

A rare grey pearl necklace that once belonged to a British aristocrat sold for HK$41 million ($5.27 million) in Hong Kong on Wednesday, auctioneers Sotheby's said.

The string of pearls was part of the collection of Viscountess Cowdray, Lady Pearson.

The buyer, a private collector from Hong Kong, made the winning bid by phone.

Viscountess Cowdray, who died in 1932, was famed for her collection of furniture and works of art, as well as jewellery. The pearls were first put up for auction in 1937.

 

 

 

In Roseburg, the small western US town thrown into the national spotlight last week by the shooting of nine students, it was time to reflect and pray Sunday.

The tragedy was very much still present at New Beginnings Church of God.

Pastor Randy Scroggins's daughter, Lacey, survived the shooting by playing dead and hiding behind the dead body of one of her classmates.

"The God who was good for us yesterday is still the God who is good today, even if we do not understand what happened," Scroggins told the church.

The pastor paid tribute to the victims, aged 18 to 67, and in particular to Rebecka Carnes, whose grandparents were on hand for the service, and Treven Anspach, whose body knocked down and hid his daughter during the melee.

Before the service, Scroggins shared Lacey's story. He said that when the shooter, Chris Harper Mercer, first entered their classroom, Lacey thought it was a joke or a security exercise.

 

Then the shots started. Their instructor, Lawrence Levine, fell first, followed by students, one by one.

 

 

 

 

Dozens of runners donned snow goggles and braved icy temperatures to participate in the world's highest marathon in the foothills of Mount Everest on Monday, five months after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal.

The annual Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon, which kicked off in 2003, is usually held in May to mark the anniversary of the first conquest of Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953.

But organisers postponed this year's race to October after a massive earthquake hit the Himalayan nation in April, killing nearly 8,900 people and triggering an avalanche on Everest base camp that left 18 dead.

"We decided not to cancel the race entirely because we wanted to send a positive message about Nepal to the world and help revive our tourism industry," organiser Shikhar Pandey told AFP.

"Everest represents Nepal. We want to tell the world that Nepal is safe by successfully organising an event like this," he said.

 

 

 

 

Students at a US college in Oregon where 10 people were killed by a lone gunman on Thursday described scenes of panic and terror as they ran for their lives or hid in classrooms.

"I probably heard a good 35 to 40 shots," Cassandra Welding, who was in an adjacent room to the shooter, told local media.

She said a fellow student at Umpqua Community College in rural Roseburg opened a connecting door to check what was happening and was shot.

"Then we locked the doors, turned off the lights and ... we were all pretty much in panic mode and called 911 and our parents and (said) 'I love yous' because we didn't know what would happen, if those were our last words."

"We put our backpacks in front of us, chairs, whatever we could, to shield ourselves in case he came in," she added.

Student Brady Winder said he was in class on what was the fourth day of the school year when he heard a loud pop at around 10:40 am from an adjoining classroom in Snyder Hall. He said he initially assumed it was a desk or someone hitting the floor.

Winder said his teacher called out through the door to see if everything was OK and then further shots rang out.

 

 

 

 

Bare-chested and with leaves wrapped around their necks, a small group of voodoo worshippers emerges from a dense forest in southern Togo.

The oldest among them, a man in his sixties with decorative beads around his neck, carefully holds up a blue stone and closes his eyes.

"We started the ceremonies six months ago," says Nii Mantche, the high priest of the sacred forest, from his position on a wooden stool.

"Today is the climax -- the release of the sacred stone. I am the only person to take out this stone from the depths of this forest."

Voodoo has a special place in the life of the people of Togo.

The nature-based belief system emerged at the end of the 16th century in the town of Tado on the Mono river, which separates the country from Benin to the east.

Followers worship a single god, the Mahu or Segbo-Lissa, through more than 200 deities who are represented mostly by clods of earth.

 

 

The tiny West African nation may have only seven million people but 51 percent practise voodoo, which has multiple forms -- more than those who follow Christianity and Islam combined.

In the south, voodoo shrines dot the countryside where most Togolese live, guarded by high priests and priestesses.

In Lome, the fetish market is renowned across west Africa and is home to traditional healers using objects from skulls and dried animal skins to bones, features and statues to treat ailments.

- Voodoo new year -

For the Guin people of Aneho, Togo's second city some 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of the capital, Lome, the annual Epe-Ekpe or Ekpessosso festival in September marks the start of the new year.

The traditional "taking of the sacred stone" ceremony was started in 1663 by settlers from the former Gold Coast -- modern-day Ghana -- and has now taken place 353 times.

It includes a major rite in all voodoo places of worship to beg the gods for forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

Three members of a group critical of Czech President Milos Zeman climbed onto the roof of the presidential palace in Prague and replaced his official flag with a huge pair of red underpants.

"The flag of a man who is a shamed of nothing flies at last from the Prague castle," the Ztohoven group of artistic pranksters said on their website and Facebook page.

For the group, the colour red of their boxer-short style protest flag symbolises the unhealthily close link they believe the head of state has with China and Russia.

Zeman's detractors also reproach him for his occasional use of bad language.

Dressed as chimney sweeps, the three men, aged from 33 to 41, clambered onto the roof of the presidential building on Saturday afternoon.

They have been arrested and could face two years in prison for their actions, police said.

 

 

President Barack Obama is weak, the United States needs a bold anti-politician not beholden to special interests, and the losers running Washington must be ousted once and for all.

So say a dedicated but seemingly growing band of voters who are shunning a Republican establishment desperate to regain the White House, opting instead for a brash, uncompromising and headstrong celebrity who can revive the nation's mojo.

"Donald Trump is standing up for what Americans want," said Kim Tyrrell, 35.

"He knows what's going on in America and he will do the best to protect us."

Tyrrell was first in line to see the real estate tycoon at a rally Saturday at Urbandale High School in Iowa, where a dozen supporters -- and a few voters who remain wary of the blunt billionaire -- shared their thoughts about the controversial candidate who has rocketed to the top of the Republican heap.

In interviews with AFP both at the rally and at another, faith-based event in nearby Des Moines where Trump and other Republican presidential hopefuls spoke, most acknowledged he has been light on his specific plans should he win the White House.

 

 

But supporter Mary Butler said many conservatives, furious over Republican leadership's failures in Washington, are not concerned about that just yet.

"They want to see fresh blood. They don't want to see somebody that's been around the horn for how many years in politics," she said.

Butler is rooting for Trump, she said, "because he has the smarts, the know-how to run his businesses," and understands what is at stake: "Running this country, (defeating) the Taliban and ISIS. You know, that kind of thing."

 

 

Good luck getting a table these days at Atelier, a trendy Havana restaurant where four charter flights of American Catholics packed the dining room on the eve of Pope Francis's arrival in Cuba Saturday.

Ditto a room in a "casa particular" -- a "private house," the family-run hostels the communist island began allowing in 1997, in its first tentative free-market reforms.

Clients at the major state-run hotels meanwhile face prices that have been jacked up 50 percent or more for the wildly popular pontiff's visit to Cuba, which has become an "it" destination since Francis helped broker a rapprochement with its long-time enemy across the Florida Straits.

Since the historic thaw with the United States was announced in December, there has been a buzz in the air in Cuba, where tourist arrivals are up 17 percent since January compared to the same period last year, according to data from the tourism studies department at the University of Havana.

 

American visitors are up 57 percent, despite the fact that the US embargo still bans tourist travel to Cuba.

And the buzz has grown to a roar around the pope's hotly anticipated visit.

David Donn, who flew down with 186 other Catholics on the charter flights organized by the Miami archdiocese, said he decided to make the trip partly to see the pope and partly because of the new allure of an island that has been taboo for American tourists.

"All my friends are totally fascinated. They've been calling me all week. They think it's wonderful," said the 63-year-old accountant from Stuart, Florida.

"With the relationship between the United States and Cuba thawing, I thought this was a great opportunity to come here and see Cuba before things start changing and the cruise ships start coming," he told AFP.

That desire to beat the impending cruise ships as the White House steadily chips away at more than five decades of policy isolating Cuba is one factor driving the increase in international travel to the island, said Jose Luis Perello Cabrera, a tourism expert at the University of Havana.