Thursday, 22 December 2016

Nepal failing to protect women? 15-year-old dies in 'menstruation hut'

Deep in the Himalayas, the night rolled in and a girl in a tiny hut lit a fire to keep warm.
As she slept, the 15-year-old died of smoke inhalation. She was alone, separated from her community because of a biological function that half the world's population will experience.
    The girl, from Gajra village in western Nepal's Achham district, was taking part in chhaupadi, a common practice in the far west of the country in which women, considered unclean during menstruation, are banished for the extent of their periods.
    Her death was the second in under a month, according to Achham district police inspector Badri Prasad Dhakal, who added that 10 girls have died in similar huts in the district over the past nine years.
    "Deaths are usually caused by smoke inhalation, snake bites (and) lack of basic health care during menstruation," he said.


    Chhaupadi dates back centuries and has its roots in Hindu taboos over menstruation.
    As well as being isolated in tiny "menstruation huts" -- small, ramshackle buildings with small doors and often no windows and poor sanitation and ventilation -- women and girls are forbidden from touching other people, cattle, green vegetables and plants, and fruits, according to a 2011 United Nations report.
    They are also not allowed to drink milk or eat milk products and their access to water taps and wells is limited.
    "Some in the Far West still believe that a God or Goddess may be angered if the practice is violated, which could result in a shorter life, the death of livestock or destruction of crops," the report said.
    "It is believed by some that if a woman touches fruits, they will fall before they are ripe. If she fetches water, the well will dry up."
    In some areas, the restrictions extend to girls reading, writing or touching books during menstruation out of fear of angering Saraswati, the goddess of education.
    Gajra village was declared a "chhaupadi-free zone" in 2015, but Achham women's development officer Bhagwati Aryal said that more than 70% of the 138,000 women in the district still perform the practice.
    "Our law has banned this practice, but there is no provision in the law which states punishment for those involved," she said. "Until and unless we have a stricter law with punishment for the culprits, changes will come very slow."
    Around 1,500 people live in Gajra, according to government statistics. Birendra Niraula, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, said the "chhaupadi-free zone" categorization was achieved when 90% of the houses in any village had dropped the practice.
    "Local shamans started telling parents that any bad luck that has befallen the village was due to girls and women breaking the chhaupadi tradition," she said. "So parents in some villages started to get their daughters and wives back to following the practice again."
    While the 15-year-old's death was "very tragic," Niraula said such incidents were "very rare these days, which is a good sign."


    While some success has been made in stamping out chhaupadi, the practice is a symptom of wider gender-discrimination in Nepal.
    According to UNESCO, around 45% of women and girls in Nepal are illiterate, almost double the rate for men.

    Sam Allardyce to talk to Crystal Palace after Alan Pardew sacking

    Sam Allardyce is being lined up as Crystal Palace's new manager following the dismissal of Alan Pardew, Sky Sports News HQ understands.
    The former West Ham and England boss' representatives will meet for talks with Palace chairman Steve Parish in the next 24 hours.
    We understand there is no agreement in place yet between Parish and Allardyce, and while 'Big Sam' is favourite to replace Pardew, a deal is still some way off.
     Allardyce wants to find out how much he will have to spend in the forthcoming transfer window.He is also keen to learn more about the management structures at Selhurst Park and how he will work with Parish and the American majority shareholders Josh Harris and David Blitzer.
    The former England manager has made it clear he is keen to return to football management in the near future.
    Pardew was sacked by Palace on Thursday afternoon, the Selhurst Park club having suffered eight defeats in their last 10 Premier League games.
    Allardyce lost the England job in September after just one match in charge.He was filmed discussing FA rules on third-party ownership of players with undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph.
    He confirmed last Friday that he was ready to return to the game, telling beIN Sports: "I think I will return probably in the new year if not before, depending on who approaches me.
    "I don't think I can leave it where it ended. That is behind me now. That is a very difficult, dark period of my time but, moving on, adversity makes you stronger.
    "I'm looking forward to the right place for me, whether that is in England or abroad.
    "The Premier League has been a great challenge for me over many, many years and one I think I've managed to meet."

    Saturday, 3 December 2016

    Cuba: Crowds pay last respects to Fidel Castro in Santiago

    Cuban President Raul Castro has led final tributes to his brother Fidel at an event in the city of Santiago.
    Tens of thousands of Cubans attended the ceremony, as well as world leaders.
    Raul Castro vowed to honour the socialist principles and goals of the revolution led by Fidel, who died on 25 November aged 90.
    He also announced that Cuba would ban naming any monuments or roads after Fidel Castro, at the request of the late leader.
    "The leader of the revolution strongly opposed any manifestation of cult of personality," said Raul Castro.
    No statues or busts of Fidel will be erected in Cuba, he said.
    The urn with his ashes will be interred on Sunday in Santiago, known as the birthplace as the Cuban Revolution.
    It arrived on Saturday in Santiago, after a four-day journey from the capital, Havana.
    Large crowds shouting 'Long live Fidel!" and "I am Fidel!" greeted his funeral cortege through the streets of Santiago.

    'A father to us'

    The leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have attended the ceremony.
    "All of us who love Fidel, who is a father to us. He cleared a path for us and the people will follow him," Tania Maria Jimenez told Reuters.
    She was among thousands of Cubans watching as the urn with Mr Castro's ashes was driven past the historic Moncada barracks in Santiago.
    Fidel Castro was part of the small group of revolutionaries who launched an attack on the barracks on 26 July 1953.
    The attacked failed, but it was considered the first act of the revolution that would depose the US-backed government of Fulgencio Batista on 1 January 1959.
    Opinion on Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century, remains divided.
    Supporters say he returned Cuba to the people and praise him for some of his social programmes, such as public health and education.
    But critics call him a dictator, who led a government that did not tolerate opposition and dissent.
    Raul Castro took over when his brother's health deteriorated in 2006.
    Fidel Castro's ashes will be placed in the Ifigenia Cemetery, where Cuban independence hero Jose Marti is buried.

    Former Brazilian Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were greeted by Raul Castro in Revolution Square.

    Friday, 2 December 2016

    Trump names Gen James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as defence secretary

    US President-elect Donald Trump has named Gen James Mattis, a former marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as his defence secretary.
    "He's our best," Mr Trump said, as he announced his pick in a speech in Ohio.
    Gen Mattis, who is known as "Mad Dog", was an outspoken critic of the Obama administration's Middle East policy, particularly on Iran.
    He has referred to Iran as "the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East".Mr Trump made the announcement in Cincinnati at the start of a "USA Thank You Tour 2016" for his supporters.
    "We are going to appoint 'Mad Dog' Mattis as our secretary of defence," he told the crowd.
    "They say he's the closest thing to General George Patton [World War Two commander] that we have.''
    This was billed as the first stop on President-elect Donald Trump's "thank you" tour of states he flipped from Democrat to Republican in the 2016 election.
    It ended up being more like an extended end zone dance, an "in your face" primal scream at all his critics and naysayers.
    He took swipes at Hillary Clinton, to a chorus of "lock her up" chants from the crowd. He bemoaned the lack of support he received from his own party. And, as always, he fired invective at the media, as the boos rained down on the reporters typing away in their cordoned-off pen.
    The one bit of news he did reveal - that he had picked retired General James Mattis to be defence secretary - was seemingly impromptu. "Don't let it out of this room, promise," he said, to cheers.
    It was Campaign Trump in top form. He clearly had a script - unveiling his "action plan" for his presidency - but he enthusiastically deviated from it, much to the crowd's delight.
    "Should I go on just a little bit longer?" he asked. The crowd roared.
    During his speech he said a divided America must come together, but it seems unlikely any Democrats watching felt like sharing a group hug.
    Mr Trump has previously described Gen Mattis, 66, as "a true general's general".
    The retired Marine Corps officer led an assault battalion during the first Gulf war in 1991 and commanded a task force into southern Afghanistan in 2001.
    He also took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and played a key role a year later in the battle of Fallujah against Iraqi insurgents.
    Gen Mattis retired in 2013 after serving as the commander of the US Central Command.
    Correspondents say his nomination will be popular among US forces.
    He also received the backing of Senator John McCain, chairman of the armed services committee, who will conduct his confirmation hearing.
    "He is without a doubt one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops," Senator McCain said in a statement.
    "America will be fortunate to have General Mattis in its service once again."
    However, a legal hurdle must be overcome before he can be appointed.
    Under US law, a retired officer must be out of uniform for at least seven years before he or she can serve as defence secretary.
    Republican-controlled Congress will have to approve legislation bypassing the requirement so he can take up the role.

    Five fantastic places to buy a second home abroad

    With your name on the deed in some sunny location across the ocean, there’s always a getaway waiting for you. That’s the kind of thought that can lift a cloudy Tuesday afternoon: knowing that your own piece of paradise is waiting any time you decide to drop everything for the weekend - or the week, or even the month.
    Owning a second home abroad is a dreamy prospect. But where to start? Property hunters looking to buy a second home abroad have the whole world to choose from. This may seem daunting - but that’s also the fun part. Now is the time to let the imagination run wild, whether it goes to images of late night flamenco dancing in Spain, early morning wilderness hikes in Peru, or idle afternoons well spent in a French vineyard.
    Here are five fantastic places to get your imagination running ahead of buying a second home abroad.
    They call it the Land of Smiles, and Thailand is certainly a popular choice for its fantastic beaches and bustling cities. Others will be drawn to Thailand for the amazing food. Spicy grilled meats, fragrant broths and slippery noodles are served in heaped piles at every hour of the day - all at bargain prices, too. For foreigners, the cost of everything from sustenance to health care is very good value in Thailand, and this extends also to the property prices. A thriving expat community means you’ll have no trouble finding fellow English-speakers, so it’s easy to make friends.
    Getting lost in the narrow backstreets of the Marrakesh souk is part of the Moroccan experience, right up there with the smell of untanned leather and fresh mint tea. The North African country offers a tantalising mix of influences: a bit of France, some Spain, plenty of old Arabia alongside the Berber traditions. For some foreign house hunters, perfection will be a hideaway to watch the waves crash into old Essaouira harbour, while others will be drawn to Morocco for its proximity to Europe - the old world is right on the doorstep.
    Costa Rica
    It’s very easy to love Costa Rica - after all, this is the place known as the Greenest Country in the World. If you’re looking to buy, you’ll be reassured to know that Costa Rica is on the ball when it comes to environmental practices, meaning your new vacation home should still be looking idyllic when it’s time to pass it on to the kids. In the meantime, Costa Rica boasts gorgeous scenery and dreamy beach living, and all at excellent good value for money too.
    Whether you want the quintessential seaside holiday experience of the Algarve, or you prefer touring the port wine lodges in the north, there’s a lot to get excited about with Portugal. Explore historic city centres in smaller seaside towns like Cascais, or take a contemplative walk through the many churches of Braga. Although no one will blame you if you just stay in Lisbon, and marvel at how such a small country once became one of the biggest maritime powers in the world.
    Colombia’s old reputation would almost certainly keep the country off the family holiday shortlist, but this has long since changed - and not just for adventure travel junkies. The economy is growing, the arts and literary scene is booming, the architecture is fabulous, and the weather is very pleasant. When it comes to setting up a home away from home in Colombia, we recommend you head for Medellin. The area has been on the up for years, making this a great investment choice. Medellin’s great museums are a surprise treat for many visitors - make sure to check out the eye-catching ‘Boterismo’ style. Lush, green coffee plants grow in the hills around Medellin, making this a perfect place to lounge in the city’s many coffee houses while making friends with the locals.
    Then, once you have decided where on the map to stick that pin, make sure the international adventure isn’t soured by the dreariness of bureaucracy. Talking to local property experts is key to maneuvering local laws and customs, while currency specialists will be vital aides for taking sting out of foreign exchange transfers.
    CNN Money Transfers provides a bespoke service, meaning no anonymous call centres, but instead a dedicated personal manager who takes the time to understand your personal requirements. This includes tools to protect you against the shock of negative currency movements, meaning a favourable rate today can be secured for up to two years into the future. 

    The Brexit Effect on Property

    Britain’s unexpected decision to leave the European Union, following the referendum in June, has meant the world’s fifth largest economy has essentially filed for divorce from the other 27 member states; a process that will begin in earnest once the incumbent government triggers Article 50 — the two-year notice period the UK must give to leave the EU, during which a withdrawal agreement will be negotiated.
    The result created fresh volatility in the foreign exchange market and will continue to have a significant impact for the foreseeable future, as heightened political and economic uncertainty takes hold. And, depending which side of the pond you are on, the ramifications of this historic decision will be felt by anyone looking to purchase property overseas during these volatile times.
    Buying a property in Europe
    For any Brits harbouring dreams of owning a home in a sun-kissed corner of the Eurozone, sterling’s rapid descent in value against the euro has driven up property prices, putting a serious dent in budget and affordability. Now, more than ever, a competitive exchange rate is vital when buying a home abroad. In July 2015, when the pound hit a seven-year high of 1.44 against the euro, a €250,000 property in the Eurozone was priced at around £174,000. Fast-forward one year and the pound is currently close to a a 31-year-low at 1.1800 in the wake of the shock referendum result, making the same property cost £211,800 - an increase of £37,800 simply due to market volatility.
    For Americans interested in buying property in the Eurozone or Britain, Brexit has had a more favorable effect on their wallets. As news filtered through on July 24th that the Leave camp had secured an unexpected 51.9% majority, the USD/GBP pair surged from 0.6660 on polling day to 0.75 just twenty four hours later. Consequently, a £500,000 property in the UK would have decreased in value by around $84,000 overnight, courtesy of fluctuating exchange rates. This volatility has led to a period of strength for the U.S. dollar, against both the pound and euro, reducing the cost of property in both the UK and Eurozone for prospective American buyers.
    Securing the best exchange rate 
    If you’re thinking of buying property overseas during this turbulent time, one priority is to secure the most competitive exchange rate. A common mistake most people make is relying solely on their banks to make international money transfers. A foreign exchange specialist like CNN Money Transfers may give you a better exchange rate, typically 3-4% more than banks, and offers free online transfers. That’s a considerable saving if you are moving a large sum overseas: it could make an $8,000 difference on a $200,000 transaction. That could be enough to cover your legal fees or even pay for renovations to your new home.
    And the best part? With CNN Money Transfers, you can use a forward contract* to fix an exchange rate for up to two years ahead. So, if you’re happy with the prevailing USD/EUR or USD/ GBP rate - as well you might be in light of recent events - you could secure it and avoid any subsequent fluctuations. This could go a long way towards giving you peace of mind and allow you to budget ahead with certainty.
    Navigating the new post-Brexit economy can be daunting, but with a little help from a foreign exchange market specialist like CNN Money Transfers, there’s no reason why you should put off your dream of owning your own house in the sun.

    What sent Kanye West to the hospital? Here are the theories

    With Kanye West finally out of the hospital after more than a week of treatment, the speculative drumbeats around “why did he snap?” and “what’s going on?” were still going strong. 
    First the news: Word that the rapper had checked out of UCLA Medical Centerwas confirmed by The Times on Wednesday.
    He got out Tuesday night after doctors determined he had stabilized and was well enough to go home, a source told BuzzFeed News. West is home with wife Kim Kardashian and their kids, and was under the care of his personal physician, TMZ said. 
    West and his people have maintained radio silence since a 911 call on Nov. 21 kicked off the rapper’s health drama — but the gossip-sphere abhors a vacuum, and unnamed sources have been more than willing to talk.
    So here are some of the tidbits that are circulating about what’s up with Yeezy and his family, and what might have sent him into treatment for exhaustion, sleep deprivation and possibly a few other things

    You want theories? We’ve got theories

    There’s the Donda West Death Anniversary Theory of what fueled the “Life of Pablo” artist’s apparent breakdown. Kanye’s  mom, Donda, died on Nov. 10, 2007, while recovering after plastic surgery. Sources reportedly close to ’Ye, who was in London when she passed away in Los Angeles, told TMZ on Wednesday that he never properly mourned her death and had struggled each November since then.
    This year, they said, the stresses of extreme sleep deprivation, touring and dealing with Kardashian’s armed robbery plus the Nov. 20 anniversary of Donda’s funeral were enough to mentally undo the father of two. 
    Then there’s the Trouble Was Brewing at Home Theory, offered up by an Us Weekly source who said Kim and Kanye’s relationship was strained after the Paris robbery, which “made her more hesitant to do things.”
    Those things apparently included being backstage for him on his Saint Pablo Tour, so they weren’t seeing each other very often. Then, when he was home, the notoriously workaholic Kanye “would be up all night ranting about things,” the source said. 
    “They were fighting because he was impossible to live with,” said another Us source.
    Finally, there was the Wendy Williams Theory, perhaps better labeled the Wendy Williams Teleprompter-Assisted Psych Diagnosis.
    “This is way more than sleep exhaustion,” Williams said Tuesday on her talk show. “Because we've all been sleep exhausted.”
    She also said, “We could all see this coming.” 

    Where has Kim been? And where were the kids?

    Hey, let’s ask Wendy! 
    "Kim reportedly is at his side nonstop — I do believe that, I do, I do, based on her robbery,” she speculated. “If she hadn't been robbed, then maybe I would think something differently, like the family is Lamar-ing him." 
    That appeared to be a reference to Khloe Kardashian leaving estranged husband Lamar Odom’s bedside after his overdose to go out publicly with then-boyfriend James Harden. Wendy had not been cool with Khloe’s moves at all, but apparently figured it was a partners-in-pain situation with Kim. 
    “Kim does spend hours with Kanye every day,” a source “close to the family” told People on Tuesday.
    A more detailed rundown of Kim’s whereabouts, courtesy of TMZ spies, described a rigorous daily schedule that had the reality businesswoman at the hospital with her husband in the late morning and afternoon, then again in the late evening. She’s reportedly making medical decisions, dealing with the doctors and nurses and trying to keep his spirits up. 
    The rest of the time she’s with 3-year-old North and 11-month-old Saint, TMZ said, waking them up in the morning, tucking them in at night, feeding them and simply spending time with them. The kids hadn’t been to the hospital because Kim was “very worried about the kids being around Kanye,” a similarly family-adjacent source told People on Wednesday. 

    OMG, Kendall Jenner commented!

    Of course, in the very public landscape that is Kardashian land, radio silence is rarely completely silent. 
    Kanye’s supermodel half-sister-in-law Kendall Jenner dropped a few syllables for the record backstage at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Paris on Wednesday. 
    Kanye is "weak," is "drained" and — at least at the time — wasn’t ready to go home, Kendall told E! News. Kim, meanwhile, is "good," "patient" and staying by his side.  
    Kendall got a bit chattier at the show with “Entertainment Tonight,” saying, "Everyone is doing OK, just praying." She was sans family at the VS show, but said they’d been keeping her in the loop. “I've literally been texting with all of them, like, the past couple days.” 
    (Yes, the family business keeps rolling. Despite a report to the contrary, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” is “currently in production and has not been halted,” a spokesperson for the E! network told the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday.)

    Let's not forget it’s about Kanye, OK?

    Before he checked out, Kanye was allegedly trying to keep working, one Us Weekly source said, despite being admonished by his wife that he should rest. 
    “At the hospital, he requested that recording equipment be brought to the hospital so he can record in his bed,” the source said Tuesday. “And he has kept asking to see sketches of his fashion lines.”
    A “Kim confidant” told Us Weekly that before his doc called 911, Kanye hadn’t slept for “about a week” and “was having difficulty identifying what was real.”
    One dose of reality: Kanye’s father, who divorced Donda West when Kanye was 3, visited his son for about three hours on Sunday, according to X17 Online