International News March 16th

Russia withdraws from Syria

The first Russian warplanes left Syria yesterday a day after Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will be withdrawing from the conflict in Syria. Russia will however continue its air strikes.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is set to visit Russia next week to discuss the situation in Syria, a nation that now faces its sixth year of civil war. Mr. Kerry said the UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva in addition to Russia’s withdrawal may be the best opportunity to end the conflict that has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people and displaced more than 6 million people with no end in sight for the nearly 18 million people that are left behind.

LSE merges with Deutsche Börse

The London Stock Exchange is set to merge with Deutsche Börse in Frankfurt in a £20 bn deal. This is done to ward off a potential rival bid from the US, costs are expected to be cut by £354m a year. Deutsche Börse shareholders will own 54.4% of the new company with LSE shareholders owning the remainder.

Trump vs. Clinton?

Hillary Clinton is one step closer to become the US presidential candidate for the Democratic party after defeating Bernie Sanders in the Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri primaries last night.  Meanwhile Donald Trump defeated Republican rival Ted Cruz in the Missouri primaries but lost to John Kasich in Kasich’s home state of Ohio. Marco Rubio conceded his defeat last night to supporters in Miami, leaving only Cruz and Kasich in Trump’s way to become the Republican candidate for the US presidency.

Local News March 16th

Edinburgh flat prices

The introduction of the second-home tax next month are making investors and landlords snap up flats in Edinburgh. While new figures show an overall drop in flat prices across Scotland, prices in Edinburgh have skyrocketed over the last three months.

Most congested city

A8 through Corstorphine has been named most congested road in the UK outside London. A new study suggests that drivers using a 5 mile stretch of road between Princes Street and Maybury Road waste on average 43 hours a year in gridlock. 5pm on Tuesdays has been specified as the peak of congestion. Liberal-Democrat councillor Paul Edie says plans for major housing developments in the west of the city means more traffic for the A8.

Oxgangs primary school closed again

Oxgangs primary school, where a part of the wall blew off during Storm Gertrude in January, has been closed again. Edinburgh City Council said the decision was taken following a safety inspection. The school is set to reopen after the Easter holidays on Monday 11 April.

23rd Edition of the Italian Film Festival

by Giulia Maccagli and Koldo Sandoval

edinburgh_filmhouse_home_of_the_edinburgh_international_film_festival_620_414_80_s

The 23rd edition of the Italian Film Festival comes at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, this year.

The Festival, running from the 4th until the 17th of March, has venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and Inverness.

At the Festival, there is the best of the “cinema italiano”, currently on a high with the global and awarded success of Paolo Sorrentino, “Youth”.

Alongside established directors’ names, such as Sergio Castellitto, Cristina Comencini, and Gabriele Salvatores, there are also new film directors, as Edoardo Falcone and Laura Bispuri.

The Festival will see on its screen renown Italian  actors, as Valeria Golino, Elio Germano, and Jasmine Trinca.

This year the Festival has a special focus on Luchino Visconti, an Italian theater, opera, cinema director, and screen-writer, in the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his death.

The 23rd edition of the Italian Film Festival is also welcomed by the Italian Government’s new support to the film industry with an investment of £300 million a year.

 

“A number of issues” found with collapsed primary school wall

Investigation into a collapsed wall at Oxgangs primary school has found “a number of issues” that led to it collapsing during Storm Gertrude.

Engineers are currently probing for a definitive cause and have yet to deliver their final report to Edinburgh council.

The school was closed for three days earlier this month after hundreds of bricks were ripped from a wall leaving masonry scattered across school grounds.

This story will be updated.

Body found in search for missing Edinburgh teen

Jasmine Macquaker

14 year old Jasmine Macquaker. Photo: Police Scotland

By Rebekah Sawyers & Abbey Fleming

Police Scotland has confirmed that a body was found on the North Queensferry coastline this morning. The body was found in a search operation for missing Edinburgh teenager Jasmine Macquaker.

Formal identification has yet to be carried out on the body that was found by a member of the public shortly after 7am this morning.

The death is at the moment treated as unexplained.

Jasmine, 14, was last seen on Sunday night.

 

 

Former Rangers footballer shot dead

Peralta

Fans have expressed deep sadness on social media sites after the news broke. Photo/Twitter

By Ari Brynjolfsson

Former Rangers footballer Arnold Peralta has been shot dead in his Honduran hometown.

The 26-year-old defensive midfielder was killed in a drive-by shooting in the car park of the Uniplaza shopping mall in La Ceiba in the Central American nation while on holiday.

No arrests have been made and police have ruled out robbery as a motive as his belongings were not stolen. Honduran authorities refuse to reveal when the incident occurred.

Peralta played 24 games for Rangers across two seasons and left the club last January, he scored his only goal against Stranraer in April 2014. While with Rangers he won the Scottish League One title in the 2013/2014 season. His current team was FC Deportivo Olimpia.

Rangers Supporters Club said the news was terrible and that they still considered him family.

The Club said in a statement to the press: ‘We join all our fans in sending our condolences to the family of our former player.’

His death was confirmed by his father, Carlos Peralta at a news conference: ‘This is terribe. They killed my exemplary son. I can’t say more because of the pain I feel.’

Peralta was the Honduran Under-20 captain before playing 26 games for the national team, including the 2014 World Cup. He was due to play for his country next week in an international friendly against Cuba.

Honduras is plagued by gang violence and has the highest murder rates worldwide, topping United Nations crime reports since 2011 with more than 90 murders per 100,000 people.

Human Rights Watch organization said in their 2014 world report that perpetrators of killings and other violent crimes in Honduras were rarely brought to justice, the report said: ‘Honduras suffers from rampant crime and impunity for human rights abuses.’

The Honduran government however vows to bring Peralta’s killers to justice: ‘We won’t rest until those responsible for this act are identified and detained so that they can face justice.’

Unusual Christmas Markets on Sunday

By Ari Brynjolfsson.

Three ‘quirky’ Christmas markets will open this Sunday (13th December) in Edinburgh, according to events magazine Time Out.

In addition to the regular festive market, Edinburgh Printmakers will have a Christmas Market at their shop on Union Street, near Leith Walk.

The half-centennial fine art shop will offer a  variety of jewellery in addition to prints, books and textiles from local artisans.

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair, Britain’s largest vintage fair, will host their Christmas Market in the Assembly Rooms on George Street.

In addition to vintage fashion, they also offer accessories, menswear, home wares and beauty products.

A spokesperson from the vintage shop said: ‘We’re going all out, bringing even more affordable vintage traders from our troupe to get you stocked-up with vintage. Traders will be showcasing some of their best new season stock.’

The Summerhall Christmas Market, to be set up near The Meadows, has promised more stalls than ever before.

In addition to gifts and treats, there will be food from guest vendors, traditional mulled wine from the venue’s bar and Zoom club activities for children. The Summerhall Singers will provide live entertainment with festive songs.

 

 

Adele’s Glasgow show sold out in two minutes

Adele_2009

Adele during a live performance in 2009. Photo/Wikimedia commons

Tickets for Adele’s two concerts in Glasgow’s SSE Hydro in March sold out in two minutes, according to promoters.

 

Fans have experienced long online queues as tickets for Adele’s tour next year are selling out fast.

This is her first tour in four years as she has been suffering from severe stage fright.

Her tour starts in February in Belfast, tickets for her Manchester and London performances will go on sale on Monday.

Pedro Cameron, 26, said: “I didn’t get Adele tickets. I was in the presale queue for 3 hours online before being kicked out. I am exasperated. I think it was to be expected – literally most of the nation wants to go so it’s a bit of a lottery.”

Adele’s latest album, 25, was released on the 25th of November and became the fastest selling album in the UK, selling 800,000 copies in the first week.

 

Islamic extremists hold 170 hostages in Malaise capital

Ari Brynjólfsson

Gunmen have taken 170 hostages in a hotel in Mali.

According to AFP sources, the gunmen are Islamic militants.

Some 140 guests and 30 staff at the Radisson hotel in the centre of Mali’s capital city, Bamako, were taken hostage at 8am this morning by gunmen.

According to the Malaise security ministry, three hostages have been killed.

Local media say there were 10 attackers but a statement from the hotel said there are two. One witness said the attackers shouted “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is great” in Arabic as they stormed the hotel. A BFMTV source claimed the attackers arrived in a car with diplomatic plates.

Malaise troops have surrounded the area and a Reuters security source said two hostages have been released after reciting verses from the Koran.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that they are urgently seeking information regarding the attack and added: “The Foreign Office has advised against all travel to Mali for some time.”

Mali is situated in western Africa. Rebels supported by Islamic extremists seized the north eastern part in 2012. The capital Bomoko where the attack is taking place is in the south western corner of the country. Map courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

Mali is situated in western Africa. Rebels supported by Islamic extremists seized the north eastern part in 2012. The capital Bomoko where the attack is taking place is in the south western corner of the country. Map courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

The President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita tweeted: “Bamako’s Radisson Blu hotel has been attacked this morning by armed assailants who are holding 170 people hostage.”

China’s news agency Xinhua reported that a number of guests being held are Chinese, the US embassy in Mali has advised their citizens to take shelter.

The hotel has 190 rooms and is owned by US investors, it is advertised online as a an upscale lodging with a swimming pool and a spa.

Mali has been fighting Islamic rebels since 2012. France sent ground troops to Mali in January 2013 at the behest of the Malaise government when rebels with connections to al-Qaida seized territory northern Mali and around 1,000 French troops are currently stationed in Mali.

Islamic extremists lost much of their territory during the fight but continued their activities in Mali, last August an a attack was made on a hotel in Severe in central Mali, five people were killed while four UN workers were saved.

Until now, Bamako, in the south western part of Mali, had been spared from attacks by Islamic extremists.

Mali is a former French colony in western Africa, French authorities have intervened several times in Malaise affairs since the country gained its independence in 1960.

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, more than half its citizens earn 1.25$ per day.

Some 98 per cent of the population identifies as a Muslim, a significant portion of the nation’s legislation derives from Sharia law.

A report made by the US State department characterised the Islam as is traditionally practiced in Mali as moderate, tolerant, and adapted to local conditions.

Malaise women are generally allowed to participate in social economical and political activities and do not wear veils while in public.

 

Icelandic priests defrocked if they refuse to marry gay couples

PRIESTS in Iceland face being defrocked if they refuse to marry gay couples.

The new rule was passed this week in an annual church conference where priests vote democratically on spiritual and administrative issues.

Many priests and former bishops have said the rule violates their “freedom of conscience”.

The current bishop, Agnes Sigurdardottir, declined to comment but has expressed her belief in the past that “freedom of conscience” must be respected.

Secretary to the bishop, Thorvaldur Vidisson, said: “The marriage laws in Iceland are clear on who can get married. Priests are not allowed to discriminate on the bases of sexual preferences.”

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Iceland nine years ago and homosexuality was decriminalised 76 years ago.

Priests in the country are government employees and the constitution bans both state and private enterprises to discriminate on the basis of sexuality.

A recent poll amid Icelandic priests conducted by the state radio RUV, revealed that only three out of a total 150 priests were opposed to marry a gay couple. None of the three priests were available for comment but their conscience has been a subject of controversy among their colleagues, some of whom have defended their position while others call for them to be defrocked.

Hildur Bolladottir, a priest in the town of Akureyri, said: “We are all born different, some with different sexualities. Not allowing someone to get married because of how they were born is crazy. People who discriminate have no business being a priest and should find themselves another job.”

Kristinn Sigurthorsson, a priest in the town of Borgarnes disagrees with Hildur and said: “The freedom of conscience is one of the pinnacles of our religion, to force someone to act against their beliefs is serious.”

Reverend Sigurthorsson said, however, that he was not at risk of losing his job as he had no objection to marry gay couples.

The gay marriage issue was part of a wider problem discussed in the same church conference.

The number of congregation members is at an all time low and more than 10 per cent of the 330 thousand person nation have left the church in the last ten years.

The total percentage going from 92.2 per cent in 1991 to 73.6 per cent in 2015.

Discrimination against homosexuals is one of the top reason people leave the church, according to Icelandic polls.

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