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22 May

Pivotal deadline arrives for Britain’s EU departure

UNITED KINGDOM (WNF) - The date is the next key deadline in the Brexit saga. If the British Parliament has not agreed to a deal for its exit from the European Union by this time, Britain will have to contest the European Parliamentary election on the following day. For so-called Brexiteers, that participation is an anathema.
Britain was meant to leave the bloc on Mar 29, but was granted an extension to Apr 12 because the British Parliament failed to agree on an exit deal. When it became clear that the April deadline would arrive without parliamentary agreement, May approached EU leaders with a request for a new extension, and was granted an Oct 31 deadline. It is a flexible date, and Britain will be free to leave before then if she can win a deal at home.

Analysts do not appear to be optimistic about her chance of surviving the Brexit mess as prime minister if Britain is not out of the bloc by May 22 because of increased lobbying by hardline Brexit supporters for her resignation. The mooted possibilities for the next stage in the drama include a Tory leadership contest and snap election. #23074 Published: 04/11/2019

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23 May

Bid for constitutionally-enshrined indigenous voice well timed?

AUSTRALIA (WNF) - The second anniversary of the summit in central Australia of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders falls in an election year, a potential boost in their quest for a constitutionally-enshrined indigenous voice. The opposition Labor Party, at least, appears to be listening.
The summit at Uluru, previously known as Ayers Rock, marked the 50th anniversary of the first referendum on Aboriginal rights. That vote removed language in the constitution deemed derogatory. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were given equal voting rights in 1983.

The Uluru summit voted to set up a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreements between indigenous groups and the government, as well as a truth and justice commission that would operate at the same time. “In 1967 we were counted; in 2017 we seek to be heard,” said the summit declaration.

Britain’s Guardian reports that Labor leader Bill Shorten said in Feb 2018 that Labor will begin work on legislating an indigenous voice in parliament without government support, saying that bipartisanship on issues of constitutional change “cannot mean agreement to do nothing.” He added that the goals outlined at Uluru, rejected as “not desirable” by then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2017, were a necessary part of achieving the self-determination and indigenous leadership necessary to achieve Closing the Gap targets. Shorten has promised to call for a constitutional referendum to give a greater voice to First Australians if he is elected prime minister in May.

The targets refer to a government strategy that aims to reduce disadvantages among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with respect to life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, educational achievement and employment outcomes.

Some of the delay in arriving at any kind of settlement between the government and indigenous Australians has been deciding on its overall goals. The debate can’t avoid revisiting the question of appropriate restitution for indigenous communities driven off their traditional lands by settlers, and then subjected to the government’s Aboriginal assimilation policies. It must also take in the mainly dire conditions in today’s Aboriginal communities.

In the 21st Century, Aboriginal squalor is among Australia’s “dirtiest secrets,” according to film-maker John Pilger. An Australian, he describes the poverty of Aboriginal communities in his film Utopia as “an enduring shock.” #22846 Published: 11/26/2018

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23 May

2019 European Parliament election to reshape European identity?

EUROPEAN UNION (WNF) - Voters elect the ninth European Parliament in a poll that appears likely to see centrist domination of the 751-seat body eroded by a tide of euroskepticism and far-right sentiment.
The euroskepticism might account for growing disinterest in the election. Since the vote for the parliament opened to EU citizens in 1979, according to the EU Observer, voter turnout has only decreased – from 62 per cent then to just 43 per cent in 2014.

The European People’s Party (EPP) dominates the 8th Parliament, followed by the European Socialist & Democratic Party (S&D). The other major groups are the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and the European Free Alliance Greens (Verts/ALE). The right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) and Euroskeptic Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD also hold seats. observes that even if the EPP remains the leading force, as is widely expected, it is unlikely to enjoy the same sway it does now.

The parliament groups are different from national parties as they consist of members from several different parties from several member states.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) party is a first-time participant in the election, and the overall impact of its arrival depends on whether Macron attempts to build a new political group at the European level or whether he joins up with ALDE. Euractiv reported in April that he is keeping everyone guessing.

The publication also reported that his LREM wants to turn the EU elections into a duel with Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally), formerly Le Front National (National Front). Le Pen renamed the National Front in a bid to appeal to a broader range of voters in May.

The far-right cohort goes into the May vote energized by their showing in recent elections in France and Italy.

The turmoil in Britain over Brexit appears likely to swell the Euroskeptic cohort. Britain failed to exit the bloc on the due date of Mar 29, and will have to hold a vote for its 73 EP seats. The chaos has energized the pro-Brexit camp. Nigel Farage, who shocked Westminster by leading his Euroskeptic UKIP to victory over the Conservatives and Labour Party in the EP election in 2014, quit UKIP and launched the Brexit Party to contest the EP vote. UKIP, defining itself as a “radical, populist” party, according to a BBC report, will also contest the vote. #22640 Updated: 04/16/2019 UPDATED APR 16 WITH BREXIT DEVELOPMENTS

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23 May

CoP18 continues fight to protect endangered species – and rhinos get a break

SRI LANKA (WNF) - Colombo hosts CoP18, the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), with news from China about rhino horn and an outcry over South Africa’s plan to export more lion skeletons likely to move onto the agenda.
The organization’s new Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, a Panamanian, will chair the meeting.

Reuters reports that China has postponed the lifting of a ban on the trade of rhino horn and tiger parts for medicine and other uses, after a storm of protest from conservation groups over a plan to water down the decades-old prohibition.

Elephants also appear to be getting a break. The analysis prepared by the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) program shows that the poaching trend of African elephant has now dropped for six consecutive years, since its peak in 2011.

South Africa’s doubling of lion bone exports promises to draw condemnation at the meeting. Already in decline throughout Africa, lions face a new threat: growing demand for their body parts. In July 2018 South Africa announced that it would nearly double the number of lion skeletons that may be exported from captive breeding facilities to 1,500. National Geographic, which reported the plan, notes that the bones are sought for use in traditional medicines and trinkets, mostly in Southeast Asia.

Dr. Paul Funston, a director of the Pantheras Lion Program, warns that the legislation of a trade in lion bones would stimulate the market and endanger both captive and wild lion populations. Other conservation organizations also criticize the plan.

Other issues for the meeting include the illegal trade in European eels and prized rosewood.

CITES stresses that wildlife crime is serious, but that assessing its scale is very difficult because it remains outside mainstream criminality. The organization regulates international trade in over 36,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, to ensure their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment. The CITES permit system seeks to ensure that international trade in listed species is sustainable, legal and traceable.

CITES was signed in Washington DC on Mar 3, 1973, and entered into force on Jul 1, 1975. #22823 Published: 11/13/2018

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24 May

New exhibition marks bicentenary of the birth of Queen Victoria

UNITED KINGDOM (GN) - A major new exhibition at Queen Victoria’s childhood home at London’s Kensington Palace will mark the 200th anniversary of her birth on May 24, 1819.
Among the items on show will be a scrapbook of mementos created by Victoria’s German governess, Baroness Lehzen, displayed in public for the first time. Rare surviving pieces of Victoria’s clothing, including a simple cotton petticoat from around the time of her marriage and a fashionable pair of silver boots, will also be on show.

As the only daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George III, Victoria had little expectation of becoming Queen. But her father died shortly after her birth and three uncles ahead of her in the succession had no surviving legitimate children. When her uncle William IV died in 1837, she became Queen at the age of 18.

In 1940 she married her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg Gotha, with whom she had nine children. Together Victoria and Albert are associated with Britain’s great age of industrial expansion, economic progress and rapidly expanding empire. Albert took an active interest in the arts, science, trade and industry, and encouraged his wife to do likewise. Victoria was the first reigning monarch to travel by train, making her first train journey in 1842.

Victoria was devoted to her husband and was distraught when he died, aged 42, in 1861. For the rest of her reign she wore black.

Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, on January 22, 1901, after a reign which lasted almost 64 years, the longest in British history until Queen Elizabeth II overtook her record in 2015. #22999 Published: 04/18/2019

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26 May

President Trump visits Japan to congratulate new emperor and talk trade

JAPAN (WNF) - President Donald Trump makes a state visit to Japan to congratulate Emperor Naruhito on his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, then hunkers down with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for trade talks. U.S.-Japan relations are mainly sound, but Trump’s preoccupation with trade imbalances is reported to be making Tokyo nervous.
The South China Morning Post and Politico report that Trump is expected to attend the final day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo on May 26, and may be granted the honor of awarding the Emperor’s Cup to the victorious wrestler.

Kyodo notes that there is uncertainty about the bilateral ties as Trump enters his third year as president.

Reuters reports that Trump has made clear he is unhappy with Japan’s US $69 billion trade surplus with the United States – mainly from auto exports - and wants a two-way agreement to address it. The present arrangement protects Japanese automakers from further tariffs while the talks are under way. The penalties are seen as a major threat to the export-dependent economy.

North Korea's nuclear development will also be on the two leaders’ agenda.

Naruhito succeeds his ailing father, Akihito, 85, whose abdication on Apr 30 is the first in 200 years. #23054 Published: 03/21/2019

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26 May

French Open 2019 holding out on rule change that prevents tennis marathons

FRANCE (WNF) - Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep won’t have the benefit of the tie-break rule change introduced recently at other Grand Slam tournaments when they defend their tennis singles crowns at the 2019 French Open in Paris – where no player will be wearing a catsuit.
A win for Nadal, who defeated Dominic Thiem for the 2018 French title, would extend his record to a 12th for the tournament. The potential barrier to that record is the resurgent Novak Djokovic, who demolished Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in Jan 2019 to win the Australian Open.

Halep will want to recreate the performance that helped her defeat Sloane Stephens at Roland Garros in 2018. That win was Halep’s first Grand Slam title.

Before the rule change at the other Grand Slam tournaments, the final set in a match could continue until a player reached a two-game advantage over their opponent. The rule is aimed at preventing matches like the 11-hour-5-minute epic played over three days at Wimbledon in 2010, when John Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut in their first round match, the longest in tennis history.

Isner’s battle against Kevin Anderson in the men's semifinals at Wimbledon 2018 set the record for the second-longest match, which lasted 6 hours, 35 minutes. Wimbledon plans to introduce the rule change for the 2019 tournament.

The black catsuit Serena Williams wore at the 2018 tournament at Roland Garros, which she said made her feel like a superhero, caused a stir and the tournament has instituted a dress code for 2019. #22957 Published: 01/13/2019

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NEW GRAPHIC NEWS - a new website for a new era.

28 years ago — April 2, 1991 — the original Graphic News launched using a precursor to today’s websites that used email technology. These enabled infographics to be delivered electronically around the world over telephone lines. What was possible was very limited - It took 10 minutes for a 100K file to download.

Since then delivery speeds and website technology have moved on. The new website will offer the best online experience possible now, adding many new features (and offering new opportunities for the future), but still enabling existing users to select and download infographics and enjoy the distinct brand of visual journalism that is Graphic News.

Over the coming weeks I will give further information. Please contact me if you have any questions. Fiona Roberts, froberts @