At least 60 Rohingya refugees feared dead after boat capsize tragedy

Half a million Rohingya have crushed into camps in Bangladesh in just over a month, fleeing a Myanmar army campaign and communal violence that the UN describes as “ethnic cleanising”.

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They have poured over on foot or crossed the Naf river which bisects the two countries in overcrowded boats.

One of them capsized in rough waters on Thursday agonisingly close to the shore.

The bodies of 23 people have been retrieved from the water so far but the death toll is expected to surge to around 60.

“Forty are missing and presumed drowned,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva.

In distressing scenes, refugees on Friday held funerals for loved ones — among them children — who had left to seek sanctuary from violence that has cut through their homeland in Rakhine state.

A woman carried a small white bundle to a grave for a Muslim burial, while male relatives wept at a school building where bodies had been laid out.

“My wife and two boys survived, but I lost my three daughters,” Shona Miah, 32, told AFP.

0:00 IOM confirms 23 dead and 40 missing after Rohingya shipwreck Share IOM confirms 23 dead and 40 missing after Rohingya shipwreck

One toilet for hundreds

Those who have made it to Bangladesh have been squeezed into a vast makeshift refugee settlement that has become one of the world’s in a matter of weeks.

Medical staff say the camps are in imminent danger of disease outbreak, as relief groups are overwhelmed by the numbers of hungry and traumatised Rohingya.

A dire shortage of clean water, toilets and sanitation is spreading disease and pushing the camps to the precipice of a health disaster, the Red Cross warned.

“Our mobile clinics are treating more people, especially children, who are very sick from diarrhoeal diseases which are a direct result of the terrible sanitation conditions,” said Mozharul Huq, Secretary-General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

In some of the camps hundreds of refugees are sharing a single toilet, said Martin Faller, of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“The conditions for an outbreak of disease are all present – we have to act now and we have to act at scale,” he added.

The UNHCR says nearly one in five of arrivals is suffering from “acute malnutrition”.

Worsening conditions are compelling Rohingya to try to move out of the wedge of land Bangladesh has set aside for the new arrivals.

But Bangladesh police have stopped more than 20,000 Rohingya from going inland, a senior official said Friday, after authorities imposed travel restrictions on the refugees fearing they will move further into the country.

Though Bangladesh has hosted the refugees, it has urged Myanmar to allow a safe return for the Rohingya.

Myanmar says it is ready to begin repatriating refugees to a camp in the Maungdaw district of northern Rakhine.

But rights groups say the criteria for return is convoluted, discriminatory and carefully crafted to take back as few of the reviled minority as possible.

Many Rohingya do not possess the requisite documents to be allowed back or are unwilling to return to villages that have been burnt to the ground.

The Muslim minority are loathed in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and are instead branded ‘Bengalis’ — or illegal migrants who do not belong in the Buddhist-majoriy country.

End the ‘nightmare

‘Attacks on police posts in Rakhine state by Rohingya militant group on August 25, set the crisis in motion.

The kickback by Myanmar’s army killed hundreds and left scores of Rohingya villages in ashes.

Rohingya who fled saying they survived slaughter by soldiers and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists who were once their neighbours.

Ethnic Rakhine and Hindus have also been displaced inside Rakhine, accusing Rohingya militants of atrocities.

Rohingya are still on the move and the UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned that the “systemic violence” could spill further south to the central part of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, threatening a further 250,000 Muslims with displacement.

On Thursday, as the UN Security Council held its first meeting on Myanmar in eight years, he implored Myanmar’s leaders to end the “nightmare” faced by refugees.

But the council failed to agree on a joint resolution after China and Russia supported Myanmar’s right to defend itself.

International pressure has so far done little to rein in Myanmar army operations.

Access to the violence-stricken part of Rakhine is tightly controlled by the military, preventing international aid groups reaching desperate Rohingya left behind or independent reporting on the crisis.

‘Get out’: US Air Force general rebukes ‘bigots’ on campus

“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place,” Lieutenant General Jay Silveria said in an address to cadets, faculty and staff at the academy in Colorado Springs, footage of which has since gone viral.

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“You should be outraged not only as an airman, but as a human being,” the academy’s superintendent said.

Five African-American students at the Academy’s Preparatory School found racist comments on dormitory message boards earlier this week.

One posted an image on Facebook showing a whiteboard with “Go home, nigger” written on it, and parents then alerted faculty.

“That kind of behavior has no place at the Prep School, has no place at USAFA (US Air Force Academy) and it has no place in the United States Air Force,” Silveria said.

“If you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said.

At the close of his remarks, the general invited those gathered to take out their phones and record his message.

If “you need my words, then you keep these words, and you use them and you remember them and you share them and you talk about them: If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”

US Senator John McCain, a former naval officer who was held captive in Vietnam, tweeted a video of Silveria’s remarks, saying that it was an “important statement.”

Backdrop of racial tension 

“I agree, there’s no place for racism or bigotry in our military or this great nation,” McCain said.

The graffiti — and Silveria’s reply — come at a time of heightened focus on racism in the United States, a context he noted in his speech.

“We would… be tone-deaf not to think about the backdrop of what’s going on in our country, things like Charlottesville and Ferguson, the protests in the NFL,” he said.

In mid-August, top military officers offered strong condemnation of racism after a violent neo-Nazi and white supremacist rally over the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

One woman was killed when an avowed white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of people after the Charlottesville rally turned violent, and numerous demonstrators were injured during the events of August 11 and 12.

The response of senior officers was in contrast to that of President Donald Trump, who suggested there was blame “on both sides,” and that there were “very fine people” among the white supremacist protesters — remarks that were widely criticized.

There have been heightened calls for the removal of other Confederate statues in the wake of the violence.

Ferguson is a suburb of St Louis that became the focus of national attention following the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown, which sparked demonstrations and a heavy-handed police response.

Protesters have recently taken to the streets in St Louis amid outrage over the acquittal of a white former police officer in the shooting death of a black man.

And NFL players are protesting against racism by kneeling during the national anthem before games — protests that have drawn repeated criticism from Trump.

Hugh Hefner: oppressor or liberator?

Oppressor or liberator? Feminist in a silk robe, or pipe-smoking exploiter? Opinions were flying a day after Hugh Hefner’s death over just what he did – and didn’t do – for women.

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On one side, there were those who saw Hefner’s dressing women in bunny costumes with cottontails on their rears, or displaying them nude in his magazine with a staple in their navels, as simple subjugation of females, no matter how slick and smooth the packaging.

On the other were those who felt the Playboy founder was actually at the forefront of the sexual revolution, bringing sexuality into the mainstream and advancing the cause of feminism with his stand on social issues, especially abortion rights.

“I think it’s disgusting,” said feminist author Susan Brownmiller, of the praise she’d been seeing on social media since Hefner’s death on Wednesday at age 91.

“Even some of my Facebook friends are hewing to the notion that, gee whiz, he supported abortion, he supported civil rights … Yes he was for abortion, (because) if you convince your girlfriend to get an abortion because she got pregnant, you don’t have to think about marrying her! I mean, that was his point.”

Most offensive to Brownmiller was what she called Hefner’s equating the word “feminist” with “anti-sex.”

“It wasn’t that we were opposed to a liberation of sexual morality,” she said, “but the idea that he would make women into little bunnies, rabbits, with those ears … That was the horror of it.”

For Kathy Spillar, executive editor of Ms Magazine, the accolades were a result of something deeper: a decades-long public relations strategy of Playboy to sanitise what she called an empire devoted to the subjugation of women.

“From the beginning, they tried to sell it as women’s liberation,” said Spillar, who also directs the Feminist Majority Foundation. “And so they made huge outreach efforts over the years to women’s rights groups.” But there was nothing liberating about it, Spillar said: “Those photographs of women certainly aren’t empowering of those women. They’re there for the pleasure of men.”

“He was right about one thing,” Spillar added. “Sex sells. But it sells to men. And to put women in those horrible costumes that Gloria Steinem wrote about! Talk about sexual harassment, talk a hostile work environment.” She was referring to the famous magazine expose that a young Steinem went undercover to write, training as a Playboy bunny in a New York club – bunny suit and all.

Hefner himself, obviously, saw it very differently. “The truth of the matter is the bunnies were the pre-feminist feminists,” Hefner told the Associated Press in 2011. “They were the beginning, really, of independent women. The bunnies were earning more money than, in many cases, their fathers and their husbands. That was a revolution.”

To Kathryn Leigh Scott, a former bunny at the New York club, much of what Hefner said then rings true. Scott trained at the club in January 1963, at age 19, she says, with six other bunnies, one of them Steinem. She said she had fun, and made good money. She later wrote a book, The Bunny Years, to counter the view that Steinem portrayed in her article.

“I did not feel exploited,” Scott says now. “As a matter of fact, I felt that I was exploiting Playboy – because I was earning very good money in a very safe environment, certainly safer than that many of my friends were working in at the time.”

Following Hefner’s death, many celebrities tweeted affectionate messages. “Thank you for being a revolutionary and changing so many people’s lives, especially mine,” wrote television personality and former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy. “We’ve lost a true explorer, a man who had a keen sense of the future,” wrote writer-producer Norman Lear. “We learned a lot from you Mr. Hefner.”

As for Steinem, who briefly wore that bunny suit in the early ’60s, she preferred not to comment so close to Hefner’s death.

“Obit time,” she wrote in an email, “is not the time for truth-telling. People will now be free to tell it, but later.”

UN chief tells Myanmar to end military ops as 500,000 Rohingya flee

“The situation has spiraled into the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare,” Guterres said in a speech to the UN Security Council.

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More than 500,000 Rohingya refugees have flooded into neighboring Bangladesh. The exodus came after attacks by Rohingya militants on security posts prompted a Myanmar military crackdown last month.

The speech comes as witnesses and survivors claim at least 15 people, mostly children, drowned and others were missing when a boat carrying Rhongya refugees capsized off Bangladesh on Thursday.

0:00 Myanmar invites UN Secretary General to visit country Share Myanmar invites UN Secretary General to visit country

“They drowned before our eyes. Minutes later, the waves washed the bodies to the beach,” said Mohammad Sohel, a local shopkeeper.

The UN has received “bone-chilling accounts” of refugees being subject to “excessive violence and serious violations of human rights, including indiscriminate firing of weapons, the use of landmines against civilians and sexual violence,” Guterres told the public session of the council.

“This is unacceptable and must end immediately,” he added.

Myanmar’s military has been accused of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims.

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Guterres called on Myanmar to halt military operations, allow “unfettered access” for humanitarian aid, and the “safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of the refugees to their areas of origin.”

“The reality on the ground demands action — swift action — to protect people, alleviate suffering, prevent further instability, address the roots of the situation and forge, at long last, a durable solution,” he said.

The UN chief noted that the “systemic violence” could cause unrest to spill into the central part of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, threatening 250,000 Muslims with displacement.

Guterres said a donors’ conference would be held on October 9, without specifying the location.United Nations Secretary General António Guterres address U.N. Security Council meeting on Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis, Thursday Sept. 28, 2017 at U.N.AAP

On Thursday night, witnesses and survivors said a boat carrying Rohingya refugeees overturned just yards from the coast in rough waters, after it was lashed by torrential rain and high winds.

“They drowned before our eyes. Minutes later, the waves washed the bodies to the beach,” said Mohammad Sohel, a local shopkeeper.

The tragedy is the latest in a series of deadly accidents as desperate refugees surge across the border into Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar, where the country’s military has been accused of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims.

Distraught survivors

The latest drowning tragedy comes after a series of deadly accidents as desperate refugees surge across the border into Bangladesh from neighboring Myanmar.

Local police inspector Moahmmed Kai-Kislu told AFP 15 bodies including at least 10 children and four women had so far been washed ashore, and there were fears the number could rise still further.

0:00 Myanmar rejects use of ‘genocide’ at UN to describe Rakhine crisis Share Myanmar rejects use of ‘genocide’ at UN to describe Rakhine crisis

The International Organization for Migration, which is leading the relief effort in the area, told AFP that one survivor said the boat sank as it tried to dock at a place that was out of sight of security forces.

“It’s a very sad story. There were a hundred Rohingya on board when it sank,” IOM spokesperson Hala Jaber told AFP.

“As (the captain) was trying to dock, the boat capsized and it was not far from the shore but it was far enough and was still deep,” she said, adding that search efforts were ongoing. 

One distraught survivor told AFP that his wife and one of their children had been killed when the ship sank.

“The boat hit something underground as it came close to the beach. Then it overturned,” said Nurus Salam, who had set off set off for Bangladesh from a coastal village in Myanmar late Wednesday with his family.

Another survivor, who was weeping on the beach, told an AFP reporter that her parents and children were missing.

The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) said 27 survivors had been located so far, including eight women and seven children.

‘Desperate’ escape

The huge influx of Rohingya to Bangladesh — the largest mass movement of refugees in the region in decades — was put at 501,800 by the UN Thursday. 

The exodus began on August 25 when attacks by Rohingya militants on security posts prompted a Myanmar military crackdown.

0:00 UN: ‘Egregious’ sexual violence reports emerge from Rohingya Share UN: ‘Egregious’ sexual violence reports emerge from Rohingya

It has created a humanitarian crisis as the government and aid agencies struggle to provide food, clean water and shelter.

Those who have made it to Bangladesh have brought with them harrowing accounts of murder and villages torched by Myanmar soldiers and mobs of ethnic Rakhine, who are Buddhists.

Rakhine, long a cauldron of ethnic and religious tensions, has been scarred by seething animosity since severe bloodshed erupted across the state in 2012.

The wave of violence has led to an outpouring of international criticism against the country’s Nobel Peace Prize winning leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose reputation as a human rights champion has been left battered.

But a diplomat at the UN said delegates were mindful she was treading a difficult line with the country’s all-powerful army, which has led the military operations. 

“We do not want to complicate civil-military relations in Myanmar,” said a Western diplomat.

Sea critters crossed Pacific on debris

Nearly 300 species of fish, mussels and other sea critters hitchhiked across the Pacific Ocean on debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, washing ashore alive in the US.

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It’s the largest and longest marine migration ever documented, outside experts and the researchers said.

The scientists and colleagues combed the beaches of Washington, Oregon, California, British Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii and tracked the species to their Japanese origins. Their arrival could be a problem if the critters take root, pushing out native species, the study authors said in Thursday’s journal Science.

“It’s a bit of what we call ecological roulette,” said lead author James Carlton, a marine sciences professor at Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

It will be years before scientists know if the 289 Japanese species thrive in their new home and crowd out natives. The researchers roughly estimated that a million creatures travelled 7,725km across the Pacific Ocean to reach the West Coast, including hundreds of thousands of mussels.

Invasive species is a major problem worldwide with plants and animals thriving in areas where they don’t naturally live.

Marine invasions in the past have hurt native farmed shellfish, eroded the local ecosystem, caused economic losses and spread disease-carrying species, said Bella Galil, a marine biologist with the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel, who wasn’t part of the study.

A magnitude 9 earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a tsunami on March 11, 2011, that swept boats, docks, buoys and other man-made materials into the Pacific. The debris drifted east with an armada of living creatures, some that gave birth to new generations while at sea.

“The diversity was somewhat jaw-dropping,” Carlton said.

“Mollusks, sea anemones, corals, crabs, just a wide variety of species, really a cross-section of Japanese fauna.”

The researchers collected and analysed the debris that reached the West Coast and Hawaii over the last five years, with new pieces arriving Wednesday in Washington. The debris flowed across the North Pacific current, as other objects do from time to time, before it moved north with the Alaska current or south with the California current. Most hit Oregon and Washington.

Last year, a small boat from Japan reached Oregon with 20 good-sized fish inside, a kind of yellowtail jack native to the western Pacific, Carlton said.

Some of the fish are still alive in an Oregon aquarium. Earlier, an entire fishing ship – the Sai sho-Maru – arrived intact with five of the same 6-inch fish swimming around inside.

The researchers note another huge factor in this flotilla: plastics.

Decades ago, most of the debris would have been wood and that would have degraded over the long ocean trip, but now most of the debris – buoys, boats, crates and pallets – are made of plastic and that survives, Carlton said.

Trump lifts barriers to Puerto Rico hurricane aid

A week after the Category Four storm stuck, the White House said Trump had made it easier for fuel and water supplies to arrive to the ravaged island of 3.

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4 million US citizens. 

He waived a 1920 law that restricts foreign-flagged ships from operating between US ports, in response to a request from Puerto Rico’s governor.

“It will go into effect immediately,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

For eight days, Puerto Ricans have struggled to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a storm that took down the power grid, crippled cell phone communications and wrecked water supplies.

0:00 Puerto Rico hammered by Hurricane Maria Share Puerto Rico hammered by Hurricane Maria

Hours-long lines have been the norm at island gas stations as people scramble to find fuel for generators and cars.

Around 10,000 people are in shelters according to emergency responders at FEMA, thousands more are clearing their homes of debris.

Shortages of food and water have added to the misery and uncertainty amid a frustratingly slow relief effort.

In a sign of the seriousness of the challenge, the US military on Thursday tapped three-star general Jeff Buchanan to lead its response.

Around 4,400 military personnel have been deployed to deal with the crisis.

This, after Republican Senator Marco Rubio complained “there is no clear command, control, and communication between local officials on the ground and federal agencies.”

Asked why it took eight days to get a top general on the ground, Trump’s homeland security advisor Tom Bossert defended the administration’s response.

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“It didn’t require a three-star general eight days ago,” he said, saying that much of the criticism was based on out of date information.

Critics say Washington is repeating the errors of Hurricane Katrina — which ravaged New Orleans in 2005.

Retired lieutenant general Russel Honore, who commanded military relief efforts during Katrina, said the military deployments come four days too late.

“We’re replaying a scene from Katrina in deploying the Department of Defense in helping the people of Puerto Rico,” Honore said in an interview with NPR.

Because of its distance from the mainland and the loss of the power grid Puerto Rico “is a bigger and tougher mission than Katrina,” he said.

Praised for the federal response to hurricanes in Texas and Florida, Trump has been on the defensive over his handling of the crisis in Puerto Rico.

Bottlenecks

Accused of showing indifference to its plight as he feuded with NFL football players, he has since pledged a massive relief effort and will visit the hurricane-battered island on Tuesday.

On Wednesday the US military swung into action, stepping up an air bridge to the island, and the USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed hospital ship based in Virginia, is expected to depart Friday for Puerto Rico to shore up its storm-hit hospitals.

Meanwhile, bottlenecks have developed in the distribution of aid that has arrived in Puerto Rico.

Cruz, the San Juan Mayor, confirmed that 3,000 containers of supplies were stuck in the city’s port because of disagreements over how the aid should be distributed.

Critics of the Jones Act say the lack of competition with foreign shippers makes any shipment from the US mainland to Puerto Rico 30 percent more expensive than it would be from a foreign port. 

The Jones Act restrictions were lifted for Texas and Florida after they were hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma respectively, but had not been waived for Puerto Rico.

The Department of Homeland Security said the waiver would last only 10 days.

“It is intended to ensure we have enough fuel and commodities to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations in the wake of these devastating storms,” Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of homeland security said in a statement.

Seven lawmakers led by Representative Nydia Velazquez of New York had urged Trump to waive the restrictions for a year in order to speed delivery of critically needed supplies.

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Catalan students rally to defend independence vote

“We will vote!” and “Independence!” they chanted as they marched along the Gran Via, one of Barcelona’s main avenues, blocking traffic.

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Many were draped in red and yellow Catalan independence flags.

Barcelona police said 16,000 people took part. Organizers put the figure five times higher at 80,000.

The Catalan government has insisted it will press ahead with Sunday’s plebiscite in the wealthy northeastern region which is home to 7.5 million people, despite a crackdown by Madrid which wants to prevent a vote ruled unconstitutional by the courts.University students hold Catalan pro-independence ‘Estelada’ flag during a demonstration against the position of the Spanish government on the referendum.AAP

The showdown is one of Spain’s biggest political crises since the end of the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco four decades ago and it had deeply divided Catalonia.

Opinion polls show Catalans are split on the issue of independence, but a large majority want to vote in a legitimate referendum to settle the matter.

“The majority of young people are separatists, and if they weren’t, they have become separatist after seeing what Spain has done in recent weeks,” 16-year-old high school student Aina Gonzalez told AFP.

Over the past few days, judges and prosecutors have ordered the seizure of electoral material including millions of ballot papers, the closure of websites linked to the vote and the detention of key members of the team organising the referendum.

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The electoral board set up to oversee the vote has been dissolved, and on Wednesday a judge ordered police to prevent public buildings from being used as polling stations.

The crackdown continued Thursday as police seized more than six million ballots and envelopes and 100 ballot boxes at a warehouse in Igualada, a town near Barcelona, a police source said. 

It is the first time ballot boxes have been confiscated though it is unclear if they were destined for the referendum, as the company alleges they were for internal elections at the FC Barcelona football club.

Risk of violence

Some students have said they may occupy schools and universities that could be used as polling stations, which firefighters and farmers have vowed to protect.

Catalonia’s regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, has warned of the risk of “the disruption of public order” if officers try to prevent people from casting ballots. But Spain’s central government downplayed the risk of violence.

0:00 Spain says Catalans can celebrate and demonstrate but not vote Share Spain says Catalans can celebrate and demonstrate but not vote

“If the judge’s orders are carried out… there is no reason for there to be a violent response on the part of anybody, and I trust this will be the case,” secretary of state for security, Jose Antonio Nieto, told reporters.

Justice Minister Rafael Catala accused Catalan president Carles Puigdemont of “serious irresponsibility” for pressing ahead with the vote and repeated Madrid’s call that the separatists “stop this process”.

Madrid argues that the referendum is illegal as it goes against the Constitution. Catalonia’s leaders retort they have a right to decide their future even if it not allowed by the Constitution.

‘Not solve anything’

“This referendum does not solve anything, it is a problem because it pits the two sides of Catalonia against each other,”  said Alex Ramos, the vice president of a group that opposes secession called the Sociedad Civil Catalana (SCC).

He said the “silent majority” of Catalans who oppose the referendum would not protest in the streets to avoid raising tensions.

Catalan firefighters unfold a large banner with a ballot box at the Museum of History of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017.AAP

Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau called for European Union mediation in the standoff over the vote in an opinion piece in Britain’s Guardian daily newspaper, writing the city “does not want a collision with unforeseen consequences”.

Meanwhile media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders complained that journalists were the target of pressure from both the pro and anti independence camps.

The Bank of Spain warned that political tensions over the independence drive in Catalonia, which accounts for about a fifth of the Spanish economy, put its growth forecasts at risk although it kept them unchanged for this year and the next.

Lorena Torrecillas, a 27-year-old physiotherapist who passed by the student protest, said she opposed independence because the pro-separatist camp had not explained well enough what the advantages of splitting from Spain would be.

“I prefer to remain with what is known than with what will come, because it could be very good or very bad,” she told AFP.

0:00 Catalan parliament president accuses Spanish government of generating fear Share Catalan parliament president accuses Spanish government of generating fear

China sets 2019 deadline for green-cars

China has set a deadline of 2019 to impose tough new sales targets for electric plug-in and hybrids vehicles, slightly relaxing an earlier plan to launch the rules from next year that had left global automakers worried about being able to comply.

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Car makers will need to amass credits for so-called new-energy vehicles (NEVs) equivalent to 10 per cent of annual sales by 2019, China’s industry ministry said in a statement on Thursday. That level would rise to 12 per cent for 2020.

A single vehicle can generate multiple credits meaning the proportion by NEVs by volume would likely be lower.

The targets, announced by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), closely mirror previously announced plans, but remove an explicit 8 per cent quota for 2018, in effect giving carmakers an extra year grace period.

The quotas are a key part of a drive by China, the world’s largest auto market, to develop its own NEV market, with a long-term aim to ban the production and sale of cars that use traditional fuels announced earlier this month.

Global automotive manufacturers, however, had urged a softening of the proposals for all-electric battery vehicles and electric plug-in hybrids.

Under the rules, car makers will receive credits for new-energy vehicles including plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars that can be transferred or traded. Firms with annual sales volumes above 30,000 units will need to comply with the targets.

These credits – which will vary depending on the range and performance of the vehicle – will be used to calculate if firms have met their quota, a system which would likely mean the actual proportion NEVs made up of total sales was lower.

“The rules could result in the production of more than one million EVs annually in China by 2020, or about 4 per cent of sales,” Simon Mui, a transport and energy exert at the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in note.

Twitter reveals Russia-backed ads ahead of US election

A Twitter statement said the social media company shared data with congressional investigators about ads from RT, a television group with links to the Moscow government.

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Twitter said RT spent $274,000 in 2016 on Twitter ads that may have been used to try to influence the US election.

The news comes after Facebook acknowledged foreign entities linked to Russia paid to promote political messages on the leading social network, potentially violating US election laws.

A blog post by Twitter said its vice president for public policy, Colin Crowell, met with staff Thursday from two congressional panels investigating Russian interference in the election process.

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“This is an ongoing process and we will continue to collaborate with investigators,” the statement said.

Twitter said it examined efforts by foreign agents to interfere with the election after Facebook indicated it found 450 accounts that appeared to have been used for this purpose.

“Of the roughly 450 accounts that Facebook recently shared as a part of their review, we concluded that 22 had corresponding accounts on Twitter,” the statement said.

“All of those identified accounts had already been or immediately were suspended from Twitter for breaking our rules, most for violating our prohibitions against spam.”

‘Text to vote’ scam

The statement added that RT, which was named in January in a US intelligence report on election interference, spent at least $274,100 in 2016 for 1,823 tweet ads or “promotions” that “definitely or potentially targeted the US market.”

“These campaigns were directed at followers of mainstream media and primarily promoted RT Tweets regarding news stories,” the statement added.

In this June 13, 2013 file photo, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump’s closest allies are attacking the integrity of those involved in the widening probe of Russian interference in the U.S. election, accusing special counsel Mueller of driving a biased investigation.AAP

“We are concerned about violations of our terms of service and US law with respect to interference in the exercise of voting rights,” the statement said.

Twitter said that during the election campaign, it removed tweets “that were attempting to suppress or otherwise interfere with the exercise of voting rights, including the right to have a vote counted, by circulating intentionally misleading information.”

Twitter said some of the ads, or promoted tweets, aimed to deceive voters by telling them they could “text to vote,” which has no basis in fact.

“We have not found accounts associated with this activity to have obvious Russian origin, but some of the accounts appear to have been automated,” the statement said.

“We have shared examples of the content of these removed tweets with congressional investigators.”

Earlier this month, Facebook said it would turn over data on some 3,000 ads purchased by a Russian entity that appeared to inflame political divisions during the campaign. Some $100,000 was spent on the Facebook ads.

The House Intelligence Committee meets in a secure setting, behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 in Washington.AAP

Democratic Senator Mark Warner called Twitter’s presentation “deeply disappointing” and “inadequate.”

Warner told reporters that the Twitter data was “basically derivative based on accounts that Facebook had identified (and) showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions, and again begs many more questions.”

New research on ‘bots’

US lawmakers as well as a special prosecutor are investigating whether Russia interfered with the election or aided Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign.

A study released Thursday meanwhile found the campaign to spread “junk news” during the 2016 presidential election via Twitter appeared to target key states that were the most contested.

The research paper by the Oxford University Project on Computational Propaganda suggested a sophisticated effort to spread disinformation using automated accounts, or “bots.”

The researchers said that in the days leading up to the election, “Twitter users got more misinformation, polarizing and conspiratorial content than professionally produced news.”

But in swing states, “average levels of misinformation were higher,” even when weighted for the relative size of the state.

The study is just the latest to highlight the role of a disinformation campaign, widely believed to have been directed from Russia, to influence the election and help Trump while hurting his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

The Oxford researchers said the latest analysis suggests “strategically disseminated polarizing information” during the campaign.

A Twitter statement questioned the accuracy of the study, saying that research conducted by third parties about the impact of bots and misinformation on Twitter “is almost always inaccurate and methodologically flawed.”

One of the reasons for the inaccuracy, Twitter said, is that just two percent of all tweets contain geolocation data.

Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus announces she has breast cancer

The 56-year-old American actress revealed the diagnosis to her 750,000 Twitter followers, posting a note that read: “One in eight women get breast cancer.

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Today, I’m the one.”

“The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring friends, and fantastic insurance through my union,” she continued.

“The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality.”

Just when you thought… pic南京夜生活,/SbtYChwiEj

— Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) September 28, 2017

Louis-Dreyfus, who has two children with actor Brad Hall, attached an image of the note to a tweet in which she wrote: “Just when you thought…”

The news comes less than two weeks after the “Veep” star won a sixth consecutive Emmy for comedy acting.

A native New Yorker of French stock, Louis-Dreyfus has been one of America’s most popular and influential comedy actors since she found fame with cult sitcom “Seinfeld” in the 1990s.

On “Veep” she plays a somewhat bumbling vice president who later becomes the acting president, despite her hapless staff making political blunders along the way.

She has six consecutive best actress Emmys for “Veep” as well as three as an executive producer when it was awarded best comedy series.

She has won in the past for her roles on “Seinfeld” — which also earned her a Golden Globe — and “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”

It has been a rollercoaster year or so for the actress, who tearfully dedicated her acting Emmy in 2016 to her father, who passed away two days earlier.

“I am so glad that he liked ‘Veep,'” she said, her voice breaking down as she accepted the award. “Because his opinion was the one that really mattered.”

“Veep” recently announced that the seventh season of the HBO show, due to premiere in 2018, will be its last.

Dean Pay to revive ‘Dogs of War’ attitude

New Canterbury coach Dean Pay has promised to bring back the “Dogs of War” mentality and reintroduce “a little bit of madness” into the once-feared NRL side.

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A former premiership player with the Bulldogs, Pay will take over in 2018 after Des Hasler was sacked.

Pay wants an aggressive and physical playing style, similar to what he played under in his seven seasons at the club in the late 1980s and 1990s.

In his first appearance Friday as Canterbury’s new mentor, the former Bulldogs premiership winner spoke of bringing his own style to the club but still incorporating an old-school mentality.

After getting the nod for the head coaching role ahead of Jim Dymock following Des Hasler’s sacking a fortnight ago, Pay promised a return to the club’s roots and to instil a bit of ruthlessness.

“The last eight years I’ve worked with Craig Bellamy down in Melbourne and Ricky Stuart (in Canberra) so I’ve taken a lot from both coaches and I’ve got my own thoughts on the game,” Pay said.

“We’ll play our own style of footy; we’ll play Bulldogs footy next year. We won’t be copping anyone that’s for sure.

“I want to be a really aggressive team with our defence, and especially with our attack.”

Asked if that meant a return to the “Dogs of War” mentality, which the club was famous for during the 1980s, Pay said: “Well, we want a bit of madness out of them, that’s for sure.”

Pay had seven seasons at Belmore from 1989-95 including playing in the club’s 1995 grand final-winning side. The last of their eight premierships was in 2004, with Pay becoming their fifth NRL coach since then.

His predecessor Hasler was criticised by club greats such as Steve Mortimer and Terry Lamb as not understanding the DNA of the “the family club”.

Pay also revealed star recruits Kieran Foran and Aaron Woods were contenders for the club captaincy after James Graham was forced out for salary cap reasons. He has a three-year deal with St George Illawarra from 2018.

Pady said he wouldn’t make a decision on the new skipper until he had got to know all of his troops but confirmed the duo were among the contenders.

“I’ve got a few players in mind, but I’ll hope to get to know them a bit better in the pre-season and we’ll discuss it,” Pay said.

“(Woods) would have to be a contender as well.”

Woods and Foran have only been provisionally signed as the Bulldogs have been told by the NRL they must offload players to get under the cap before the contracts are registered.

It’s reported Brett and Josh Morris and Greg Eastwood have been shopped around to rival clubs and chairman Ray Dib said he hoped to make an announcement that the club was salary cap compliant in the “next few days”.

Pay also revealed that hooker Michael Lichaa, who was told he had would not be re-signed under Hasler’s watch, was a chance of remaining at the club.

Crows speedster not thinking of AFL trade

Adelaide livewire Charlie Cameron says the lure of returning to Queensland is far from his mind as he prepares for the AFL grand final.

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The line-breaking forward looms as one of the Crows’ deadliest weapons in Saturday’s premiership decider against Richmond at the MCG.

Already enjoying a breakout season, Cameron showed he belonged on the big stage when he booted five majors during last week’s preliminary final win over Geelong.

Brisbane have made no secret of their interest in the 23-year-old, who was drafted from Western Australia but grew up in Queensland and has family there.

Lions coach Chris Fagan last month declared he would love to have Cameron in his side, angering Crows counterpart Don Pyke who said it was inappropriate given Cameron is contracted until the end of 2018.

Speculation about his future continues to swirl but Cameron says there’s no strong desire on his part to return home.

“Not really. I guess I’ve always had that thought but I’ve enjoyed my time (in Adelaide),” Cameron said at Friday’s grand final parade.

“I’ve got a great group of people around me with Eddie (Betts) and the other indigenous blokes like Cam Ellis-Yolmen that I’m pretty close with.

“I guess there’s always rumours about me leaving. I’m just preparing for this week so I haven’t really thought about what’s going to happen in the near-future.”

The 30-year-old Betts has become a strong mentor to Adelaide’s indigenous youngsters, and Cameron has proven no exception.

When Cameron arrived at West Lakes as a homesick 19-year-old, Betts and his wife Anna took him into their home, snuck vegetables into his meals and helped him adjust to life as a professional footballer.

“He’s been amazing for me in terms of my transition into the AFL,” Cameron said.

“He’s helped me out a lot, so it would be weird if I left.

“But I haven’t really thought about leaving. I’m just trying to focus on footy and focus on tomorrow.”

Spanish police to enforce independence ban

Spanish police have sealed off schools earmarked as polling stations and occupied the Catalan government’s communications hub in efforts to prevent a banned independence referendum.

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Supporters of the poll spent Friday night in schools with their children and say they plan to stay until Sunday to keep them open for voters, although a Spanish government source says more than half have been closed off.

Tens of thousands of Catalans are expected to attempt to vote in a ballot that will have no legal status as it has been blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court and Madrid for being at odds with the 1978 constitution.

Catalonia is a wealthy region within Spain with its own language, which is taught in schools and universally spoken.

“We slept and waited for (police) so they would not try to evict us or tell us what they wanted,” Giselle, who did not give her surname, said at a Barcelona school where adults and children slept on gym mats.

“They came once and they were very polite. We told them we were inside and in peace,” Giselle added.

A Spanish government source said police, who have been mobilised in their thousands to the region in the northeast of Spain to enforce a court order banning the referendum, would remove people from polling stations on Sunday.

The Catalan government said police had occupied its communications hub and would remain there for two days after Catalonia’s High Court ordered police to prevent electronic voting and instructed Google to delete an application it said was being used to spread information on the vote.

Despite central government and court efforts to prevent the referendum, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont told Reuters on Friday it would go ahead, with no last minute compromise.

“Everything is prepared at the more than 2000 voting points so they have ballot boxes and voting slips and have everything people need to express their opinion,” Puigdemont said.

On Saturday the government source said police had sealed off 1300 of the 2315 schools in the region which were designated to be used for polling and 163 had been occupied by families.