Monthly Archives: February 2019

Cardinal defrocked over abuse allegations

Mr McCarrick in his priest's collar, file photoImage copyright

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Multiple allegations against Theodore McCarrick have emerged

A former Roman Catholic cardinal has been defrocked after historical sexual abuse allegations.

Theodore McCarrick is the most senior Catholic figure to be dismissed from the priesthood in modern times.

US Church officials said allegations he had sexually assaulted a teenager five decades ago were credible.

Mr McCarrick, 88, had previously resigned but said he had “no recollection” of the alleged abuse.

“No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.

“For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgment will be one small step, among many, toward healing.”

The alleged abuses may have taken place too long ago for criminal charges to be filed because of the statute of limitations.

Mr McCarrick was the archbishop of Washington DC from 2001 to 2006. Since his resignation last year from the College of Cardinals, he has been living in seclusion in a monastery in Kansas.

He was the first person to resign as a cardinal since 1927.

He is among hundreds of members of the clergy accused of sexually abusing children over several decades and his dismissal comes days before the Vatican hosts a summit on preventing child abuse.

The Vatican said Pope Francis had ruled Mr McCarrick’s expulsion from the clergy as definitive, and would not allow any further appeals against the decision.

‘Zero tolerance’

Martin Bashir, BBC religion editor

This is a significant moment in the Roman Catholic Church’s effort to address the tide of sex abuse scandals – not least because of the high status this former Cardinal Archbishop once held.

Not only was he the first cleric in more than 100 years to resign from the College of Cardinals, but his removal from the priesthood also confirms Pope Francis’ assertion that anyone found guilty of abuse will be treated with zero tolerance, regardless of their status within the church.

The Vatican has said that the investigative process was completed in January and Mr McCarrick was informed of the decision to dismiss him from the priesthood last night. It comes days before Pope Francis will host all the presidents of bishops conferences around the world at a summit in Rome.

The summit is designed to reflect upon the global challenge of abuse and to develop protocols and procedures that could be applied across continents.

What are the allegations?

Mr McCarrick is alleged to have assaulted the teenager while working as a priest in New York in the early 1970s. The claims were made public by the current Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

He said an independent forensic agency had investigated the allegations. A review board, including legal experts, psychologists, parents and a priest, then found the allegations “credible and substantiated”.

At the time, Mr McCarrick said in a statement that had “no recollection of this reported abuse” and believed in his innocence.

Several more men have since said the cleric forced them to sleep with him at a beach house in New Jersey, while they studied for the priesthood as adult seminarians. One man has come forward saying he was assaulted while still a minor.

It has also since emerged that financial settlements were reached in at least two cases of alleged sexual misconduct with adults involving Mr McCarrick.

They involved “allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago”, while he was working as a bishop in New Jersey, bishops in the state told US media.

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Media caption“It’s your word against God’s” video testimony from three Pennsylvania victims

How does this fit into the wider sexual abuse scandal?

The dismissal of Mr McCarrick is the latest incident in a series of long-running cases of sexual abuse of children and young men by priests at the Church.

In Germany, more than 3,600 children were assaulted by priests between 1946 and 2014, a leaked report revealed in October 2018.

In the US, a Pennsylvania grand jury named more than 300 clergy in a report which found more than 1,000 children had been abused.

In June 2018, a former Vatican diplomat was sentenced to five years in prison in the Vatican for child pornography offences.

In Chile, 34 Roman Catholic bishops offered to resign in May 2018 in the wake of a child sex scandal and cover-up.

In recent weeks, Pope Francis has also admitted that priests have sexually abused nuns and in one case kept them as sex slaves.

Downfalls Hitler actor Bruno Ganz dies

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Ganz was well-known in German-language cinema and theatre

Bruno Ganz, who played Hitler in the 2004 film Downfall, has died aged 77.

The Swiss actor died at home in Zurich on Friday night, his management said.

Ganz was well-known in German-language cinema and theatre and also had roles in English-language films including The Reader and The Manchurian Candidate.

His most famous role, however, was as Adolf Hitler in Downfall. One particular scene depicting Hitler in apoplectic fury became a meme and spawned thousands of parodies online.

The film, called Der Untergang in German, told the story of Hitler’s final days in his Berlin bunker. It grossed $92m (£71.3m) at box offices around the world when it was released.

It was named winner of the BBC Four World Cinema Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but since then it has become almost as famous for a wave of internet parodies of its final scene, poking fun at numerous news events.

A New York Times reviewer called Ganz’s performance “intriguing” and “creepily charismatic”.

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Tributes were paid to Ganz at the end of the Berlin film festival on Saturday, hosted by actress Anke Engelke

In 2005 Ganz told The Guardian newspaper that he spent four months preparing for the role, studying historical records including a secretly-recorded tape of Hitler and observing people with Parkinson’s disease, which he came to believe the dictator had.

But he said: “I cannot claim to understand Hitler. Even the witnesses who had been in the bunker with him were not really able to describe the essence of the man.

“He had no pity, no compassion, no understanding of what the victims of war suffered.”

Ganz, the most famous Swiss actor, had a rich and varied career. He appeared in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and played an angel in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) and its sequel Faraway, So Close! (1993).

He appeared in genres including noir – The American Friend (1977) – and science fiction – The Boys from Brazil (1978), which starred Sir Laurence Olivier. In 2008 he had a role in The Baader Meinhof Complex and his last role was in Lars von Trier’s 2018 film The House that Jack Built.

At the time of his death, Ganz was the holder of the Iffland-Ring, an accolade to the German-speaking actor judged “most significant and worthy”.

The ring is passed from person to person, and it is not yet clear who Ganz had intended it to transfer to on the occasion of his death.

It has been reported that Ganz had been diagnosed with colon cancer.

Appeal for calm after Nigeria poll delay

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Media captionElectoral commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu announces the move

Nigeria’s president and leading opposition candidate have appealed for calm after the shock move to delay elections for a week.

President Muhammadu Buhari said he was “deeply disappointed” but urged people to refrain from “civil disorder”.

Main rival Atiku Abubakar called for patience but accused the administration of “anti-democratic acts”.

Election officials cited “logistical” reasons for the 11th-hour delay in presidential and parliamentary polls.

In a press conference on Saturday, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec), Mahmood Yakubu, said the decision to delay had “nothing to do with political influence”.

How have the political parties reacted?

The two main groups, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), both condemned the move and accused each other of trying to manipulate the vote.

President Buhari, of the APC party, urged Nigerians to “refrain from civil disorder and remain peaceful, patriotic and united to ensure that no force or conspiracy derail our democratic development”.

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Atiku Abubakar was disappointed but appealed for patience

His main rival, Atiku Abubakar, called for calm over the next seven days saying: “I’m appealing to Nigerians to please come out and vote and I’m asking them to be patient about it.”

In a tweet he said the administration was trying to disenfranchise the electorate.

The chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondu, said the delay was “dangerous to our democracy”, accusing Mr Buhari of trying to “cling on to power even when it’s obvious to him that Nigerians want him out”.

And the voters?

In many cases they reacted with disappointment, frustration and anger.

In the northern town of Daura, Musa Abubakar, who had travelled 550km (342 miles) from Abuja to take part in the election, told the BBC that he “couldn’t believe” what had happened.

Hajiya Sa’adatu said she was “greatly disappointed” to learn of the delay when she came out to cast her vote in the northern city of Kano.

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Nigerians like Hajiya Sa’adatu learned of the news only when they woke up

“We spent all night without sleeping hoping to vote today,” Auwolu Usman, a voter in Maiduguri, told Reuters.

Oyi Adamezie, in the city of Warri, told Agence France-Presse: “I see this postponement of the election as a ploy to rig.”

Yusuf Ibrahim, in Abuja, told Associated Press: “I came all the way from my home to cast my vote this morning… I am not happy, I’m very, very angry.”

Election officials bore the brunt of the anger:

So why was voting postponed?

The electoral chief, Mr Yakubu, said: “Our decision was entirely taken by the commission. It has nothing to do with security, nothing to do with political influence.”

He said the delay was down to problems with the transportation of electoral materials – ballot papers and results sheets – to some parts of the country.

He had earlier said the decision was made because of a “determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections”.

In the past two weeks several Inec offices have been set alight, with thousands of electronic smart card readers and voter cards destroyed.

Nigeria has seen violence in the run-up to the elections and on Saturday 11 people were killed in an attack by Boko Haram militants south of Maiduguri.

Recriminations mixed with patience

By Fergal Keane, BBC Africa editor, Abuja

Suspicions of skulduggery, rampant rumour-mongering – and a pre-disposition to suspect the worst based on past experience – are hallmarks of Nigeria’s election season. It is not surprising that some voters expressed their fears that a fix was being organised.

The election commission chairman has denied this, citing bad weather and the challenge of getting the necessary resources to the right areas. But as recently as last Wednesday he was assuring Nigerians that the commission was ready for the elections.

Recriminations began soon after the announcement. The opposition claimed there was a government plan to create a low turnout that would harm its candidate.

But there have been no calls for street protests from the opposition, which is prepared to wait for the polls next Saturday. Importantly, the two main contenders have appealed to their supporters to remain calm.

What happens next?

The presidential and parliamentary votes have been rescheduled for Saturday 23 February.

Governorship, state assembly and federal area council elections have been rescheduled until Saturday 9 March.

The contest between the two main presidential contenders is expected to be tight.

Presidential elections in 2011 and 2015 were also delayed.

How important is this poll?

The future of Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy is at stake.

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Media captionNigeria election 2019: Father and daughter discuss the poll

Whoever wins will have to address power shortages, corruption, security problems and a sluggish economy.

There are 73 registered candidates in the presidential election, but campaigning has been dominated by President Buhari, 76, and Atiku Abubakar, 72.

Mr Buhari says he has built a strong foundation for prosperity, but his rival says Nigeria is not functioning.

Both men are from the mainly Muslim north of the country. While both are in their 70s, more than half of Nigeria’s 84 million registered voters are under 35.

Karl Marx monument vandalised again

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Karl Marx’s memorial in Highgate Cemetery has been vandalised for the second time in two weeks

Karl Marx’s memorial in north London has been vandalised for the second time in two weeks.

The words “Doctrine of Hate” and “Architect of Genocide” are scrawled in red on the Grade I-listed grave in Highgate Cemetery.

This latest incident follows a “deliberate and sustained” hammer attack on 4 February that left the memorial badly damaged.

There have been no arrests in connection with either attack.

Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust said the German philosopher’s memorial would “never be the same again” following the previous attack.

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The words “Doctrine of Hate”, “Architect of Genocide” and “Memorial to Bolshevik holocaust” were painted in red on the memorial

Maxwell Blowfield, from the British Museum, said he was “quite shocked” to see the most recent act of vandalism when he visited the cemetery earlier with his mother.

The 31-year-old said it was particularly sad because tourists regularly visited the site.

“It’s a highlight of the cemetery”.

“It’s a shame. The red paint will disappear, I assume, but to see that kind of level of damage and to see it happen twice, it’s not good,” he continued.

“I am just surprised that somebody in 2019 feels they need to [go] and do something like that.”

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Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust

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The marble plaque on the memorial was attacked with a hammer on 4 February

In 1970 a pipe bomb blew up part of the plaque’s marble face, that was first used for Marx’s wife Jenny von Westphalen in 1881.

The plaque was subsequently moved when both Marx and his wife were exhumed and moved to a more prominent location within the cemetery in 1954.

It has also been covered in Swastikas and emulsion paint has been thrown at it, in the past.

In pictures: India mourns Kashmir dead

Rapid Action Force soldiers and a child from one of their families hold candles as they pay tribute to personnel during a candlelight vigil in BhopalImage copyright

Thousands of mourners have been attending funerals across India for some of the security force personnel killed by a suicide bomber in Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday.

At least 40 paramilitary police died in the attack near Srinagar.

The militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad said it carried out the attack.

India has imposed a swathe of economic measures on Pakistan after the attack, including revoking Most Favoured Nation trading status and raising customs duty to 200%.

Although Jaish-e-Mohammad is based in Pakistan, Islamabad has denied any role in the attack.

Both India and Pakistan claim all of Muslim-majority Kashmir but control only parts of it.

Relatives of Central Reserve Police Force soldier Sukhjinder Singh mourn near his coffin before his cremation ceremony at village Gandiwind in Tarn Taran districtImage copyright

Relatives of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldier Sukhjinder Singh mourn as his coffin is taken to his cremation ceremony at the village of Gandiwind in the Tarn Taran district of India’s Punjab state.

Mourners gather to watch the cremation at the funeral for Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper Kaushal Kumar Rawat in AgraImage copyright

The cremation is held for CRPF trooper Kaushal Kumar Rawat in Agra.

Central Reserve Police Force and Rapid Action Force soldiers and their family members hold candles as they pay tribute to personnel during a candlelight vigil in BhopalImage copyright

CRPF and Rapid Action Force soldiers hold candles in tribute to dead colleagues during a vigil in Bhopal.

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers bow to pay tribute next to a coffin containing the remains of their colleague Bablu Santra in Howrah, West BengalImage copyright

An elderly woman cries as she hugs Bonomala Santra (R), mother of Bablu Santra, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper killed on Thursday, at Bauria village in Howrah district, West BengalImage copyright

CRPF officers bow in tribute (top) to colleague Bablu Santra in Howrah, West Bengal, as his mother (above right) mourns him in the village of Bauria.

Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel stand as a guard of honour for colleagues Sudip Biswas and Bablu Santra at Kolkata airportImage copyright

CRPF personnel stand guard over the coffins of Sudip Biswas and Bablu Santra at Kolkata airport.

People attend a vigil in front of India Gate war memorial in Delhi, for personnel killed on ThursdayImage copyright

People attend a vigil in front of the India Gate war memorial in Delhi.

Mourners touch the coffin as they take part in the funeral procession for Indian Central Reserve Police Force trooper Mahesh Kumar Meena at Meja village, near AllahabadImage copyright

A large number of mourners gather on the bank of the Ganges river to attend the funeral procession for trooper Mahesh Kumar Meena near AllahabadImage copyright

The coffin of Mahesh Kumar Meena arrives near Allahabad (top) and hundreds gather on the bank of the Ganges for his funeral procession.

Villagers gather in large numbers as body of slain Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldier Tilak Raj arrives at his home in village Dhewa Jandroh, some 90km from DharamsalaImage copyright

Dozens more gather for the return of the body of CRPF member Tilak Raj at his home in the village of Dhewa Jandroh, 90km (55 miles) from Dharamsala.

An Indian army soldier looks from the vehicle as they carry out a flag march during curfew in JammuImage copyright

Tension remains high in Jammu, Indian-administered Kashmir, amid a curfew.

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Airline Flybmi ceases operations

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BMI Regional

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Flybmi has a fleet of Embraer jets

British regional airline Flybmi has cancelled all its flights and filed for administration, the airline has announced.

The company said it had been badly affected by rises in fuel and carbon costs and uncertainty over Brexit.

The East Midlands-based airline, which has 376 staff, operates 17 planes flying to 25 European cities.

Affected passengers have been told to contact their travel agents or insurance and credit card companies.

A Flybmi spokesman said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement.

“The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU’s recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

“Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe.”

The airline issued the following advice to those due to fly:

  • People who booked directly with Flybmi should contact their card issuer to seek a refund.
  • Passengers who booked via a travel agent or one of Flybmi’s partner airlines should contact them to see what their options are.
  • Those with travel insurance should see if they are eligible to claim for cancelled flights.

The Civil Aviation Authority also published advice for travellers.

Richard Edwards, from West Sussex, on a skiing holiday in Austria with his wife and three children, told how they had experienced problems with their scheduled flight out to Munich.

He said: “We had gone through security at Bristol Airport when there was an announcement saying our flight had been cancelled.

“They laid on taxis to Heathrow and booked us on a Lufthansa flight to Munich.

“I don’t know how we will get back yet. I’m not confident Flybmi will be able to sort it.”

Durham University student Mary Ward found out her flight could be affected when her mother showed her a news alert.

Shortly afterwards Mary received a text from the airline: “URGENT: Important message for Flybmi customers. All flights are cancelled. Please go to for further details. Thank you.”

She had been due to fly from Belgium to Newcastle but is not sure what she will do now.

“I paid £130 for my flight which it doesn’t seem I’m going to get back – I don’t know how I am going to get back to Durham,” she said.

“I can’t afford any of the flights or the Eurostar.”

The UK regional airline Flybe tweeted to reassure some passengers who had confused the airline with the similar-sounding Flybmi.

British Airline Pilots’ Association general secretary Brian Strutton said: “The collapse of Flybmi is devastating news for all employees.

“Regrettably Balpa had no warning or any information from the company at all.”

“Our immediate steps will be to support Flybmi pilots and explore with the directors and administrators whether their jobs can be saved.”

Last year the airline ran 29,000 flights, carrying 522,000 passengers.

Flying from Aberdeen, Derry, Bristol, the East Midlands, Stansted and Newcastle in the UK, its planes travelled to destinations in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland and Sweden.

One of Flybmi’s domestic routes, linking Derry and Stansted, was subsidised by the government to boost trade and travel between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Several people use the flights for work and Derry Strabane Council said it was in emergency talks with the Department of Transport to seek a replacement airline on that route.

Travel expert Simon Calder told BBC News it had been an “extremely difficult winter” for many airlines.

“Small airlines which do not have the weight of their bigger rivals are particularly vulnerable,” he said. “There are simply too many seats and not enough people.”

Are you a Flybmi customer that has been affected? Or are you a Flybmi employee? Get in touch by emailing

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Sala funeral under way in Argentina

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Sala’s father Horacio was seen crying at the vigil for his son

Mourners have been paying their final respects to Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala in his native Argentina.

The 28-year-old died when the plane he was in with pilot David Ibbotson crashed in the English Channel en route from Nantes to Cardiff on 21 January.

A wake was held at the club Sala played for as a youth in his hometown of Progreso before the funeral started later on Saturday.

Among those who attended was Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock.

“I would like to find a responsible person…someone who says to me: ‘this happened’; but, well, it seems this was just an accident,” said Sala’s aunt Mirta Taffarel.

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Media captionCardiff City manager Neil Warnock: “Sala was my player”

Sala was killed when a single-engine light aircraft, flown by pilot Mr Ibbotson, crashed near Alderney just two days after he became Cardiff City’s record transfer.

His body, which was recovered from the wreckage following a privately-funded search last week, was repatriated to Argentina on Friday.

It was then driven from Buenos Aires to the Sante Fe province, where Sala grew up.

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Media captionMourners applauded in tribute as the footballer’s coffin was carried in his hometown of Progreso

Outside the wake, fans draped a banner reading ‘Emi, nunca caminaras solo’ or ‘Emi, You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

“It’s as if he was a member of my family,” said a sobbing Lucia Torres, who lives nearby.

“It’s something I can’t understand nor accept because it hurts so much. The town has been in darkness since 21 January.”

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Emiliano Sala is known affectionately as Emi in his hometown

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Sala’s aunt Mirta Taffarel as she left the wake on Saturday morning

“He represented a lot for us,” said Daniel Ribero, president of Sala’s boyhood club San Martin de Progreso.

“We’re a small village and Emi was a celebrity, the only player to turn professional.”

Ahead of the service, the club posted a message on social media saying: “We are waiting for you … like the first day you left but this time to stay with us forever. Eternally in our hearts.”

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Daniel Ribero, president of Sala’s boyhood club San Martin de Progreso, said the footballer was a “celebrity” in the town

The wake got under way at the sports hall in San Martin de Progreso at 07:00 local time (10:00 GMT), and the funeral started at 14:00 (17:00 GMT).

As well as Cardiff’s delegation of Warnock and chief executive Ken Choo, Sala’s former club FC Nantes has been represented by defender Nicolas Pallois and its general secretary.

Warnock said: “He’s my player. He signed for me I think he was going to be very instrumental in what we were looking to do and I feel it’s the only good thing you can do.

“Family puts it in perspective. Family is so important, everything here today has shown how important it is…it seems like the whole village has got together.”

Mr Choo added: “We feel very sad and the whole club feels very sad.”

“Today I think it’s good for the family to have some closure.”

Sala’s mother Mercedes and sister Romina, who travelled to Europe after his disappearance, have returned to Progreso.

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Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock travelled to Argentina for the funeral

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Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock is due to attend the funeral on Saturday

His father Horacio also attended the funeral.

Meanwhile, a campaign to raise funds to find the body of Mr Ibbotson has reached £240,000.

The family of the 59-year-old, who is feared dead, are hoping to raise £300,000.

US planes arrive with Venezuelan aid

Food and medicine aid for Venezuela is unloaded from a US Air Force C-17 aircraft at Camilo Daza International Airport in Cucuta, Colombia in the border with Venezuela on February 16, 2019.Image copyright

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The first of several US military transport planes carrying humanitarian aid arrived in Cucuta on the Colombian border with Venezuela

US military planes carrying humanitarian aid for Venezuela have arrived in the Colombian border town of Cucuta.

The aid is being stockpiled at the request of the Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim president last month.

President Nicolás Maduro has alleged the aid is part of a US plot.

Mr Guaidó says Venezuelan volunteers will carry it across the border on 23 February.

Speaking at a news conference in Cucuta, a USAID administrator, Mark Green, said the aid had been requested by Mr Guaidó because Venezuela was in the grip of a growing humanitarian crisis.

“Children are going hungry, and nearly every hospital in Venezuela is experiencing serious medicine shortages.”

He said the crisis had reached regional proportions, with three million Venezuelans migrating to neighbouring countries in search of food and medicine.

“Today we are standing on the frontlines of one of the largest displacements of people in the history of Latin America.”

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Inspectors from the Organisation of American States examined the aid on its arrival in Cucuta

A representative for Mr Guaidó said more collection points for aid were being opened up in Brazil and the Caribbean.

He said meetings would take place with the Brazilian government this week to organise details of storage facilities in the Brazilian state of Roraima on the border with Venezuela.

He added that aid was being stockpiled in Miami to be flown to the Dutch territory of Curaçao early next week.

It remains unclear if the aid will be allowed to enter Venezuela.

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Media captionVenezuela’s President Maduro to BBC: US aid trucks are a charade

President Nicolas Maduro has called the operation a US-orchestrated show and denies there is any crisis.

On Friday he ordered the military to remain on high alert against what he described as US “war plans”.

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How the story unfolded

Mr Guaidó, who has been recognised by the US and most Western governments as interim president of Venezuela, said hundreds of thousands of volunteers had signed up to create brigades to help get the aid into the country.

He repeated his call to the Venezuelan military to allow the aid to go through, but it is unclear if they will do so.

“The message we have to get through to the armed forces is that they have one week to do the right thing.”

He has set 23 February as the date for the humanitarian aid to get moving.

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A second transport plane carrying aid arrived shortly after the first, with officials saying more would be landing in the coming days

Officials in Cucuta said additional aid flights would be arriving in Colombia over the coming hours and days.

A statement said medical supplies and pharmaceuticals meant for use in hospitals will arrive early next week.

A road bridge between Venezuela and Colombia remains blocked on the Venezuelan side by shipping containers.

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Media captionWhy Venezuela matters to the US… and vice versa

British billionaire Richard Branson is organising a pop concert on 22 February in Cucuta to be live-streamed over the internet to raise funds for more aid.

Catalan separatists stage mass protest

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It’s thought around 200,000 Catalan separatists were at the protest

Demonstrators have marched en masse through Barcelona in protest at the trial of Catalan separatist leaders.

Some 200,000 people took to the streets, waving Catalan flags and shouting pro-separatist slogans in support of the 12 leaders on trial.

The trial, at Madrid’s Supreme Court, follows Catalonia’s independence referendum and failed attempt to secede from Spain in October 2017.

If convicted, some of the leaders could face up to 25 years in prison.

The Catalonia crisis is thought to be the most serious to hit Spain since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, and the country’s transition to democracy.

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A banner reading “self-determination is not a crime” is waved by protesters

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Protesters also waved the Catalan flag

Soon after the referendum, Spanish authorities had declared that it was illegal, and the national government imposed direct rule over the semi-autonomous region.

Prosecutor Fidel Cadena told the court that the separatists were promoting “subversion and rupture of the constitutional order”. Spain’s 1978 constitution speaks of “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”.

But the separatist leaders’ lawyer, Andreu Van Den Eynde, said the trial was about “the right to self-determination and the democratic principle”.

“There is no international or European Union law that prevents the secession of a sub-state entity,” he added. “It does not exist.”

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The separatist leaders could be jailed for 25 years if found guilty

The supporters of those on trial appear to agree.

One banner, carried by a protester at the front of the march, read “freedom for political prisoners”, another “self-determination is not a crime”.

Speaking at the trial, key defendant Oriol Junqueras rejected claims they were violent.

“If you read, listen and observe our actions, no-one could have the least doubt that we reject violence,” he told the court on Thursday.

Poliovirus detected from sewage in 10 cities during January – The Express Tribune



ISLAMABAD: The fight against polio suffers another setback as the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme has detected poliovirus in the sewage of 10 cities during the last month. According to results shared by the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), the extensive environmental surveillance has detected the presence of poliovirus in sewage samples collected from Faisalabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Sukkur, Killa Abdullah, Quetta, Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar and South Waziristan during January.

Considering the associated risks, the country programme has urged parents to ensure immunization of all children under the age of five years during the polio campaigns.

“Polio eradication is a delicate time race between us (parents and health-care workers) and a deadly poliovirus. We have to collectively ensure that we reach all children with multiple doses of vaccination before the virus reach unprotected children,” remarked NEOC Coordinator Dr Rana Safdar.

In a first, govt to give polio drops to children up to 10-year-old

He said that winter months provide the best chance to tackle the disease as it provides the advantage of being the low transmission season. “The programme is focusing on children who miss vaccination because of any reason and let the virus survive no longer,” Dr Safdar added.

Pakistan has already had confirmed cases of the virus in the new year, with a 3-month old baby in Hangu paralysed due to poliovirus in the sewage of South Waziristan, while another infant contracted the virus in Lahore.

“It is a reminder to everyone that presence of poliovirus in the sewage of these towns can cause life-long paralysis, especially if the child is not repeatedly vaccinated, in the same town or in a distant town due to the frequent population movement. I can’t emphasize enough how critically important it is to ensure that each and every child is vaccinated,” said Babar Atta, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication

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