Up to 117 migrants feared dead after boat capsizes off Libya

Up to 117 migrants might have died when a rubber dinghy capsized in the Mediterranean off Libya, survivors said.

Flavio Di Giacomo, of the International Organisation for Migration, said three survivors were plucked to safety by an Italian navy helicopter on Friday, and they said 120 were aboard when the dinghy left Libya.

The navy said its plane launched life rafts after it spotted the sinking dinghy with about 20 people on board. It was not clear if some migrants had already fallen off.

The Italian Coast Guard said Libya asked a nearby cargo ship to search for survivors but no one was found.

The Italian news agency ANSA quoted Libyan authorities as saying a Libyan coastguard boat turned back after mechanical problems.

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Teens arrested and charged after pills make 10 pupils ill at Dunfermline High School

Four of those who required treatment from paramedics were taken to hospital after the alarm was raised just after lunchtime on Friday at Dunfermline High School in Fife.

The Scottish Ambulance Service said six of the pupils were treated at the scene after they took the unknown substance, which is believed to have been consumed outside the school grounds.

Police have charged a boy and a girl, both 13, in connection with the incident, which will also be referred to the Children’s Reporter.

Emergency services have released few details about what happened, with a Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman only confirming that it had been called to the school.

“We received a call at 1.23pm to attend an incident at Dunfermline High School,” they said on Friday.

“We dispatched five ambulance crews, a special operations unit and a rapid response vehicle. We treated six patients at the scene and transported four to Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.”

While police continue to investigate, Fife Council has urged parents to speak to their children and seek medical advice if they think they have taken tablets.

Phil Black, head of education and children’s services at the council, said: “After lunchtime, we were made aware that a small number of our pupils may have taken tablets outwith school grounds during lunchtime.

“We called emergency services immediately and have worked with them to identify and support pupils who may have been affected.”

Dunfermline Press reported that the school sent a letter home to parents alerting them to the incident, which also stressed the need to seek medical advice if their child had taken tablets.

According to the letter, the school held two assemblies with police and paramedics in a bid to find out what happened.

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Spanish rescuers start drilling to reach boy trapped in well

TOTALAN, Spain (Reuters) – Rescuers in southern Spain began drilling on Saturday in hopes of rescuing a two-year-old boy trapped in a deep well for six days.

The mission to save the child has triggered an outpouring of public support as rescuers struggle with the challenge of bringing heavy equipment up steep access roads and reaching the toddler safely.

“”We are incredibly motivated to reach him as soon as possible. We’re not bothered by the hours, the tiredness or the lack of sleep,” Angel Vidal, the lead engineer overseeing the rescue, said on Saturday.

“We are hopeful that we will reach him as soon as possible and bring him back to his parents,” he added.

The boy, Julen, fell into the borehole, which is just 25 cm (10 inches) wide and 100 meters (yards) deep, as his family walked through a private estate in Totalan, Malaga.

Officials have been unable to find signs of life but say they are working on the basis that the child is still alive. Video footage shot by firefighters and released by Spanish broadcaster Canal Sur shows a blockage around 70 meters into the well which has prevented rescue services from sending food or water to the child.

Trucks brought drilling equipment and giant pipes to the site on Friday. Drilling of the first of two tunnels that will be made to reach the boy began at around 3 p.m. local time and will take around 15 hours, officials said.

Once the first tunnel is completed, rescuers will begin working by hand to construct a second shorter tunnel to reach the area where the boy is trapped, which will take a further 20 hours.

Residents of the town have held vigils for Julen and in support of his family.

Spanish media say the boy’s parents suffered another tragedy in 2017 when their three-year-old son died suddenly of health problems while walking along a beach.

“Be strong, Julen. Totalan is with you,” read a handmade banner hung on the roadside near the rescue site.

“We are living some incredibly difficult hours for relatives, friends and neighbors (of the family) and we want to send them our support in this moment,” government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa said on Friday in a news conference.

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Trump says deal 'could very well happen' with China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday there has been progress toward a trade deal with China, but denied that he was considering lifting tariffs on Chinese imports.

“Things are going very well with China and with trade,” he told reporters at the White House, adding that he had seen some “false reports” indicating that U.S. tariffs on Chinese products would be lifted.

“If we make a deal certainly we would not have sanctions and if we don’t make a deal we will,” Trump said. “We’ve really had a very extraordinary number of meetings and a deal could very well happen with China. It’s going well. I would say about as well as it could possibly go.”

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States on Jan. 30 and 31 for the next round of trade negotiations with Washington.

That follows lower-level negotiations held in Beijing last week to resolve the bitter dispute between the world’s two largest economies by March 2, when the Trump administration is scheduled to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

According to sources briefed on the ongoing negotiations, cited exclusively by Reuters on Friday, the United States is pushing for regular reviews of China’s progress on pledged trade reforms as a condition for a trade deal – and could again resort to tariffs if it deems Beijing has violated the agreement.

“The threat of tariffs is not going away, even if there is a deal,” said one of three sources briefed on the talks who spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Chinese negotiators were not keen on the idea of regular compliance checks, the source said, but the U.S. proposal “didn’t derail negotiations.”

A Chinese source said the United States wants “periodic assessments” but it was not yet clear how often.

“It looks like humiliation,” the source said. “But perhaps the two sides could find a way to save face for the Chinese government.”

The Trump administration has imposed import tariffs on Chinese goods to put pressure on Beijing to meet a long list of demands that would rewrite the terms of trade between the two countries.

The demands include changes to China’s policies on intellectual property protection, technology transfers, industrial subsidies and other trade barriers.

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U.S. Senator Graham: a rash U.S. pullout from Syria will create 'Iraq on steroids'

ANKARA (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said on Saturday he hoped President Donald Trump would slow the U.S. withdrawal from Syria until Islamic State is destroyed, warning that, if not thought through, the pullout can create an “Iraq on steroids”.

Speaking in Ankara, Graham also said he believed U.S. Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford was working on a plan with Turkey to move Kurdish YPG elements away from the Turkish border.

Trump announced last month that Islamic State had been defeated in Syria and he would pull U.S. forces out of the country.

The decision injected new uncertainty into the eight-year-long Syrian war and spurred a flurry of contacts over how a resulting security vacuum will be filled across northern and eastern Syria where the U.S. forces are stationed.

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, nine years after the 2003 U.S-led invasion, left space for the rise of Islamic State militants, prompting the United States to intervene again.

A bomb attack this week claimed by the militant group killed two U.S. troops and two civilians working for the U.S. military in northern Syria, along with other civilians.

The attack in Manbij appeared to be the deadliest on U.S. forces in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015. The town is controlled by a militia allied to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.

It remains unclear when U.S. forces will leave northern Syria, where both Turkey and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad are ready to fill the vacuum. The YPG militia allied to the fighters holding Manbij last month invited Assad into the area around the town to forestall a potential Turkish assault.

Erdogan said last week he had discussed a safe zone with Trump, which Turkey would set up inside Syria along their border.

“Here’s the good news: General Dunford, I think, has a plan that he’s working on with the Turkish military that can accomplish these objectives and they are to move the YPG elements away from Turkey,” said Graham, adding heavy armaments should be taken from the Kurdish groups.

Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Graham also said the political arm of the YPG was interlinked and interconnected with the PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

“A withdrawal that does not outline the points I have made will not end the war against ISIS (Islamic State), it will start a new war,” he said.

“This war will be a necessity by Turkey, to go into Syria and clear out armed elements that Turkey believes poses a threat to its sovereignty.”

A Turkish official told Reuters that the United States should consider Turkey’s priorities, not those of the YPG.

“After (Graham’s) meetings in Turkey, (with) Erdogan and other officials, we hope the U.S. will understand more the situation,” the official said.

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Africa Top10 Lifestyle & Travel News

1WurlD: Nigeria’s Most Inspired Star?

Get to know the Nigerian singer, WurlD, whose smooth rhythms are putting him at the top of Afropolitans’ playlists.

SOURCES: Okayafrica

2“This Is America” Choreographer Sherrie Silver is Just Getting Started

She’s been trotting the globe and innovating dance wherever she goes.  Meet Sherrie Silver, the Rwandan refugee turned dance sensation thanks to her choreography for Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America.’

SOURCES: InStyle

3Fashion Designer Rich Mnisi Creates Furniture Inspired by His Great-Grandmother

Top South African fashion designer, Rich Mnisi, turns his creativity toward the home with a new line of leather and steel furniture inspired by a strong woman – his great grandmother.

SOURCES: Dezeen

46 of South Africa’s Best Up-and-Coming Illustrators

Check out the punchy and thought-provoking work of these 6 South African illustrators, whose artistry will be on display at the upcoming Design Indaba.

SOURCES: Design Indaba

5John Boyega to Produce South African Crime Thriller ‘God is Good’

Best known for his work in Star Wars, John Boyega, is turning his attention to producing a film in South Africa in an effort to showcase the country’s talent.

SOURCES: Hollywood Reporter

6Tunisia on a Plate

Tunisians love to eat, but not as much as they love to feed their guests. If you’re invited to a Tunisian home for dinner, you’ll be regaled with a variety of heartwarming and palate-pleasing delights. Beautiful ceramic platters painted in colourful geometric patterns or the traditional green and yellow make the presentation of a dish as impressive as its preparation – you’ll want to dig in immediately.

SOURCES: Lonely Planet

7Explore Malawi’s Hidden Treasures

In the city of Zomba, the Mulunguzi River in the Zomba Plateau is shrouded in mystery and mysticism. Some believe that the true source of the waterfall has never been discovered, and those who were close enough to reach it have either disappeared or did not have the guts to proceed the closer and scarier it got.

SOURCES: IOL

8Africa’s Largest Waterpark Opens

Happy Island Waterworld has various exhilarating waterslides and cool pools to choose from that the whole family can enjoy, making for a fantastic day trip. The Typhoon slide, spiraling downward in the shape of a literal typhoon, is a first for African waterparks – this one is definitely not for the faint hearted.

SOURCES: Getaway

9A Pennywise Trip to Zambia

From the people to the wildlife, Zambia is one of Africa’s hidden gems. Even though it is beautiful, it can also be expensive. This list shows things to do and ways to get around Zambia on a budget.

SOURCES: AFK Travel

10Africa’s Tourism Sector has Grown Steadily for Years

Data from the World Tourism Organization now shows, African countries saw the highest growth average compared to any other region in the world. International tourist arrivals in the continent are estimated to have increased by 8.6% compared with a global average of 7%. That translated to almost 63 million visitors who brought in $37 billion to the continent in 2017.

SOURCES: Quartz Africa

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Scuffles break out as 'yellow vests' march in Paris in latest protest

PARIS (REUTERS) – Scuffles broke out on Saturday (Jan 19) as around 7,000 “yellow vest” demonstrators marched through Paris in a 10th consecutive weekend of protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful but Reuters Television reporters said they saw clashes break out late in the afternoon between police and demonstrators, some wearing masks, in Paris’ Invalides district.

Protesters threw firecrackers, bottles and stones at the police who responded with water canon and tear gas to push them back.

Officials said there were around 7,000 demonstrators in Paris and 27,000 across France.

A Reuters reporter also said there had been clashes in the southern port city of Marseille, while similar demonstrations took place in other cities across France.

“Macron, resign!” some of the protesters shouted.

Some also carried mock coffins symbolising the 10 people who have died during the protests, mainly due to accidents when demonstrators blocked roads.

The “yellow vest” protests – which make use of fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to carry in their cars – began in November over higher fuel taxes.

Those fuel taxes were subsequently scrapped, yet the movement has morphed into a broader anti-Macron protest.

December’s demonstrations wreaked some of the worst violence seen in decades in Paris, as rioters burned cars and damaged shops and businesses.

Protests this month have not witnessed the same level of trouble, although video of a former French boxing champion punching and kicking police in Paris shocked many.

Macron has launched a series of national debates to help quell public discontent and restore his standing.

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Syrian opposition sees window for political solution in Syria

RIYADH (Reuters) – Syria now has a good opportunity to reach a political solution to its devastating eight-year war as ceasefires have brought calm to many areas of the country, Syria’s chief opposition negotiator said on Saturday.

“I think now that we have an opportunity, because nearly in Syria we have a ceasefire now, in the northeast of Syria and the north of Syria, and the efforts of fighting terrorism has achieved good results,” Nasr Hariri told Reuters in an interview in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, where he is based.

Hariri, the opposition’s chief negotiator in U.N. peace talks, met with the newly appointed United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen on Friday.

“Now it is time to invest all of these developments: the ceasefire, fighting terrorism, the belief of the majority of the Syrian people that the only solution to the Syrian crisis is the political solution,” Hariri added.

In December, Russia, Iran and Turkey – supporters of the main sides in Syria’s complex civil war – failed to agree on the makeup of a U.N.-sponsored Syrian Constitutional Committee but called for it to convene early next year to kick off a viable peace process.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces have reclaimed most of Syria with Russian and Iranian support apart from the northern province of Idlib, has clung to power throughout the conflict and is widely seen as being loath to yield power after it ends.

Arab states, including some that once backed rebels against Assad, are seeking to reconcile with him after decisive gains by his forces in the war, aiming to expand their influence in Syria at the expense of non-Arab Turkey and Iran.

“All the countries… Turkey, to some extent Russia and the Arab countries believe … that without a political solution, the normalization with the (Assad) regime would be impossible,” Hariri said.

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Is It Diverse If It Leaves You Out?

Please sign up here to have the Race/Related newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox.

What exactly is diversity?

On Jan. 11, CBS News announced it had expanded its political team in preparation for the 2020 presidential campaign.

The announcement included a photo of the network’s 12 new presidential campaign reporters and associate producers. There were men and women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern.

None of them were black.

The National Association of Black Journalists released a statement that said it was “very disappointed” and “disturbed.” Representative Maxine Waters of California asked for an “explanation.” The author Roxane Gay described the whole thing as a “disgrace.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York called it “unacceptable.”

I, too, was disappointed by the photo, but I could hardly say I was surprised. Many news organizations are still struggling to diversify their staffs, The New York Times included.

I’m a black woman who is an editor in a newsroom. I think it’s important that black people are represented in the editorial process, soup to nuts — editors, correspondents, producers, photographers, digital, print, you name it.

However, as the backlash to the CBS News announcement played out, a question lingered in my mind: If black reporters had been represented, but, say, Asian-Americans or Hispanic-Americans or Muslim-Americans had not, what type of furor would have occurred, if any? Why or why not?

I plan to spend more time focused on this question in 2019.

CBS News didn’t take any of this lying down, by the way. It clarified that the digital journalists and field reporters included in the photo were part of an “initial wave” of journalists who would be embedded with 2020 candidates. It also pointed out that Lorna Jones, a black woman, had been promoted to oversee much of the network’s political coverage.

It should be said that CBS is in a moment of transition. Susan Zirinsky, who will be the first woman to run CBS News, is taking over from David Rhodes in March. Les Moonves, the former chief executive, stepped down in September following multiple accusations of sexual harassment. All three executives are white.

In its statement, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, Sarah Glover, said it’s unfortunate we’re still talking about diversity and inclusion 50 years after the Kerner Commission, in which the white news media was roundly criticized for failing to report on the rampant disparities faced by African-Americans in the 1960s.

“The halls of Congress have become more diverse and more reflective of our American society,” Ms. Glover said. “It’s time for U.S. newsrooms to do the same. No excuses.”

For more coverage, see our archive and sign up here to have Race/Related delivered weekly to your inbox.

Lauretta Charlton is an editor on the National Desk and the editor of the Race/Related newsletter. She was previously a news editor at The New Yorker and a music columnist at New York magazine. @laurettaland

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Former PM Major urges May to drop Brexit red lines

LONDON (Reuters) – Former British prime minister John Major urged Theresa May on Saturday to drop her “red lines” on Brexit or allow parliament to find a way forward to avoid a damaging no-deal departure from the European Union in March.

Major said he compromised on key decisions on the Northern Irish peace process and the first Gulf War while prime minister between 1990 and 1997, and May should do the same after her Brexit plan was rejected by a huge majority in parliament.

“Her deal is dead and I don’t think honestly that tinkering with it is going to make very much difference if any difference at all,” Major, who campaigned to stay in the EU ahead of the 2016 referendum, told BBC Radio.

May is due to tell parliament on Monday how she intends to proceed on Brexit. Lawmakers may then propose alternatives to see if any could command majority support.

“If we leave in chaos and without a deal, that seems to me to be the worst of all outcomes,” Major said.

May should therefore “go around” lawmakers in her party who say they are ready to accept a no-deal Brexit and drop her opposition to key issues in the negotiations, Major – who also faced a revolt inside the Conservative Party over Europe – said.

May has ruled out staying in the EU’s single market, an option that is considered less economically damaging, because Britain would not be able to control immigration from the bloc. She has also rejected staying in a customs union with the EU.

If May cannot compromise, she should allow parliament to find a way to overcome its splits, Major said. “I think there are signs parliament might be able to reach consensus,” he said.

Failing that, Britain should have a fresh referendum on its membership of the EU.

In the meantime, delaying Brexit was wise, Major said.

Major’s comments were rejected as “Remainer elite views” by a Conservative lawmaker who said May would break her promises to voters if she considered staying in the EU’s single market or a customs union or holding a second referendum.

“Brexit would become meaningless. We wouldn’t be leaving the European Union, we would be staying in the European Union,” Suella Braverman told the BBC.

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