A mother of three has described her shock at coming across a chimpanzee outside its enclosure at Belfast Zoo.
Chantal Baxter, from Larne, said “one of the big chimpanzees just appeared from behind a bush”.
Footage posted on social media shows a chimpanzee on a path with members of the public, with several others remaining on the enclosure wall.
Belfast Zoo said the chimpanzees made an improvised ladder from a large tree branch propped up against a wall.
This is the second escape attempt by animals at Belfast Zoo in as many months.
In January, a red panda which escaped the zoo was found in a garden in Newtownabbey.
Mrs Baxter said she and her family were heading towards the zoo exit on Saturday afternoon when they met a young couple who said the chimpanzees had escaped.
When the chimpanzee showed up near them, she added, her youngest child shouted.
“I think she scared it and it did sort of make its way back up the hill,” she said.
“But there were four of them that we could see were out. There was one on the path and there were three of them sitting on the wall.
“We were a bit shocked, obviously, being approached by this big chimpanzee. The kids were shocked.
“I suppose now it’s easy to think it was funny but it was quite dangerous.”
Belfast City Council, which runs the zoo, said one chimpanzee “briefly” left its enclosure.
“Zookeepers were present as the chimpanzee quickly returned from an adjacent wall to the rest of the group inside the enclosure,” a spokeswoman said.
“Belfast Zoo would like to thank members of the public who helped raise the alarm as zookeepers moved in to return the animal to its enclosure.”
The zoo’s Alan Cairns said: “We think what has happened is that the trees in their enclosure have been weakened by the storms and so they’ve been able to break them and use them as a ladder to get out.
He said the zoo’s chimps were “quite cowardly” so went back into their enclosure themselves during the incident.
When the keepers arrived one was on the wall of the enclosure and none were out of it, he added.
“They’re intelligent primates and know they’re not supposed to be out of their enclosure, so got back in themselves,” he said.
“We like things to be natural in their enclosure, to have trees in it, but we will review it.
“We may have to remove the trees or make them a smaller level, although we don’t want to do that.”
The chimpanzees were locked into their inner enclosure afterwards.
Chimpanzees are one of four types of “great ape” – the others being bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans
Humans and chimpanzees share 95% to 98% of the same DNA
Chimpanzees walk on all fours and have longer arms than legs
Chimpanzees sometimes hunt and eat small mammals such as bushbuck or monkeys
They also eat fruit, nuts, seeds, blossoms, leaves, and many kinds of insects
A full-grown chimpanzee has five or six times the strength of a human being
“I would like you to know how very sorry I am for my part in the accident,” he wrote, on Sandringham House headed paper.
“The sun was shining low over the main road. In normal conditions I would have no difficulty in seeing traffic coming… but I can only imagine that I failed to see the car coming, and I am very contrite about the consequences.”
Ms Fairweather had previously criticised the duke for a lack of communication following the crash.
The mother-of-two told the Sunday Mirror: “I thought it was really nice that he signed off as ‘Philip’ and not the formal title. I was pleasantly surprised because of the personalised nature.”
After the crash, Royal biographer Hugo Vickers told BBC News: “Any kind of car accident at the age of 97 is likely to produce shock.
“Some years ago he gave up flying planes long before he needed to because he was scared that if something happened there would be a lot of criticism.
“You know, why was he, at the age of 55, still flying a plane when he should have retired at 48 or something like that.
“So he does listen to these things – he’s very, very sensible.”
What happens when you surrender your driving licence?
There is no legal age at which motorists must stop driving, however doctors can advise drivers to give up their entitlements.
If a motorist has a medical condition which affects their driving, it may mean they have to give up their licence until they can meet the medical standards to drive again.
If a driver decides to surrender their licence, or they are advised to do so by a doctor, they must write a letter to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), accompanied by the existing licence, or a good excuse for not enclosing it.
In 2016, the duke famously drove the Obamas when the then US president and First Lady visited Windsor.
Prince Philip retired from public life in August 2017 having spent decades supporting the Queen and attending events for his own charities and organisations.
Buckingham Palace calculated he had completed 22,219 solo engagements since 1952.
Since retiring from official solo duties, he has appeared in public alongside the Queen and other members of the Royal Family at events and church services.
Have you or a member of your family voluntarily given up a driving licence? What impact did this decision have on your life? Share your stories by emailing Contact Email, (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (email@example.com)
A “light-headed” Johanna Konta was given the option of retiring during her Fed Cup win over Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic by captain Anne Keothavong.
The exhausted British number one – playing her third three-set match is as many days – was slumped on the floor during a break after the second set.
But she recovered to win 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-2, sending GB into April’s play-offs.
“She didn’t have to continue if she felt like she couldn’t, but she wanted to,” Keothavong said.
“She showed so much courage and determination to find a way.”
Konta’s defiant win and an earlier 6-4 6-3 victory for an in-form Katie Boulter over Ivana Jorovic clinched Saturday’s tie for Britain in Bath, sending them through to their third consecutive World Group II play-off.
Great Britain – bidding to return to the World Group for the first time since 1993 – were playing on home soil this week for the first time in 26 years and won all of their rubbers across four fixtures in four days, with Boulter and Konta winning all of their singles rubbers.
I felt ‘out of body’ – Konta
Konta, who needed to be helped to her feet at the end of her win over Krunic, was seen lying on the floor in a gangway during a comfort break between the second and third sets.
“I progressively just started feeling more and more unwell, feeling light-headed, shaky, feeling a little bit out of body,” the 27-year-old world number 39 said.
“It got the better of me at the end of the second set. I really just tried to not panic, and just assess what I could do and basically do the best that I could with that.
“I had to quickly assess what my limitations were. I tried to zone in on the ball and time it as well as I could and try to direct the ball as well as possible, and I was able to do that, which made it difficult for her to do what she wanted with the ball, which I think is what basically enabled me to come through.”
Keothavong told BBC Radio 5 live: “Going into this match, I knew fatigue could possibly be an issue. It’s been a tough week.
“Every match she has played this week has been incredibly tough.”
Asked if Konta came close to retiring after the second set, Keothavong replied: “I gave her the option.
“She said she wanted to keep going, to give herself a chance, to give herself the opportunity to win her match for the team.
“She should be really proud of herself, because we all are.”
Boulter said she was “so proud” of Konta, adding: “She worked so hard and pushed through barriers I’m sure she didn’t want to go through today.”
‘A long timeout’
Krunic said she had thought Konta had taken “a very long timeout” but that if she had health problems then she could not complain.
“It’s difficult for everybody. None of us are fresh,” the Serb said.
“If she almost fainted and she was lying on the ground, then take as long as you need to get up.
“Regarding her play, I didn’t see anything wrong with her on the court.”
What happens next?
Great Britain now await Tuesday’s draw [12:00 GMT] for the play-offs that will offer the chance of promotion to the second tier of women’s team tennis and Keothavong has one simple wish.
“A home tie,” she said.
There will be eight teams in the play-offs, including the other three winners of this week’s regional third-tier events and the four sides who lose World Group II ties this weekend.
It is at this stage that Great Britain have fallen four times in the past seven years, most recently last April when they lost the deciding doubles rubber against a Japan team that featured current world number one Naomi Osaka.
It feels as though the flying winger has spent almost his entire five-and-a-half year Real Madrid career being confronted by rumours that the club are preparing to sell him, and the build-up to Saturday’s derby at Atletico Madrid was no different.
After being sidelined by the latest in a long line of injuries during the opening weeks of 2019, the former Tottenham man has again slipped down the pecking order, relegated to the subs’ bench behind rising star Vinicius Jr and hard-working Lucas Vazquez, a personal favourite of coach Santiago Solari.
Most fans have been in no hurry to see Bale recalled: in an online poll by newspaper AS, 54% wanted the Welshman to stay on the bench despite recovering from injury, while 37% said Vazquez should not start and just 9% wanted Vinicius to be dropped. And that was even before the return of another popular wide man, Marco Asensio.
Poor displays last weekend against Alaves and in midweek at Barcelona hardly helped Bale’s cause, and former Real star Predrag Mijatovic summed up the general mood by telling the Cadena SER radio network that Bale was approaching “his last opportunity”, ominously adding: “We are all fed up with him.”
And with Eden Hazard seemingly set for a summer move to the Bernabeu to further increase the competition for places in attack, surely this latest round of reports that Bale is on his way out will finally prove to be accurate. Won’t they?
Reminder of talents… but remaining aloof
The problem for the detractors – and there are many – who would like to bring Bale’s time in Spain to an end is that, when he plays, he is often good. Very, very good.
And his ability was once again demonstrated in the 3-1 derby victory at Atletico, in which Bale came off the bench to score an exquisitely taken goal, once again forcing his doubters into thinking he could have a future at the club after all.
As expected, he was left on the bench by Solari, further suggesting that he has slipped behind Vinicius in the Bernabeu pecking order.
And Vinicius did not disappoint, with his pace and trickery providing a constant threat on the break. The teenage Brazilian particularly showcased his ability shortly before the break, winning a penalty – which Sergio Ramos converted for a 2-1 lead – by racing clear and forcing Atletico right-back Santiago Arias into a desperate challenge.
Surprisingly, though, Bale was still called into action in place of Vinicius 10 minutes into the second half, leading Spanish television pundit Axel Torres to wryly observe that the decision “doesn’t have much to do with meritocracy”.
After a quiet start, though, Bale justified the change by running onto a perfectly weighted through ball from Luka Modric and producing an emphatic finish, crunching a low, angled shot into the far corner for his 12th goal of the season – and his 100th in Real colours.
But part of Bale’s problem is that he often manages to give the impression of being an outsider, someone who is there without really being emotionally present.
On Saturday, he once again didn’t help himself in that respect by celebrating his goal with a strangely aggressive gesture and later marching straight down the tunnel when the final whistle was blown, leaving his team-mates to celebrate in the centre circle without him.
Bale’s outward unwillingness to fully engage with life in Spain – he has still only carried out one full (heavily staged) interview in Spanish – makes it easy for fans and pundits to turn against him when he struggles for form or fitness. And although his goal on Saturday will allow the pressure to abate for now, we can expect it to re-emerge once again before too long. That, unfortunately, is just the nature of the beast.
In truth, very few people really know whether he has a future at the club – probably not even Bale himself.
Morata nearly the hero on home debut
Bale’s points-clinching century strike partly overshadowed the involvement of two more players – both of whom previously played for Chelsea – who faced an interesting reception from Atletico fans inside the Wanda Metropolitano.
Firstly, there was a home debut for Alvaro Morata. His arrival at Atletico last month was controversial because he had previously progressed through Real Madrid’s youth ranks to play almost 100 games for Los Blancos, helping secure a La Liga and Champions League double in 2017.
However, it’s not quite as straightforward as that, because Morata had already performed the ‘turncoat’ act during his youth, having originally joined Atletico as a child before leaving to join nearby Getafe and only then moving again to Real at the age of 15.
And when he signed for Atletico in January, the Spain striker and his new club were quick to underline his credentials as a lifelong fan, with Morata tweeting a photo of himself as a young boy wearing a red and white replica shirt.
There was still a fairly significant element of opposition to his signature among Atletico fans, so a dream home debut against his former club would have gone a long way towards winning over the dissenters.
After initially looking like a player who has not scored a league goal since November, he showed his pedigree with a brilliant first touch and then a delicate lobbed finish, only to be ruled offside.
When Morata was replaced with 20 minutes to go, he headed to the sidelines with the vast majority of the stadium offering warm applause, and just a few Atletico fans failing to forgive his Real past by whistling him to the bench.
Most of their whistles, though, were reserved for someone else…
Courtois plaque greeted with toy rats
Real keeper Thibaut Courtois launched his career as a teenager with a three-year loan spell at Atletico, during which he became a firm fans’ favourite by playing a vital role in the team’s unexpected title triumph in 2014.
Courtois was then recalled by his parent club Chelsea without being given much say in the matter, but Atletico fans have still taken a highly unsympathetic view of his decision to return to the Spanish capital and join Real – even though it is widely known the move was motivated by personal reasons, with his children living in Madrid.
As planned, Atletico fans expressed their feelings towards their former goalkeeper by ‘decorating’ a commemorative plaque – to mark his 100 games for Atleti – with toy rats and other uncomplimentary items.
Courtois was subjected to intense whistling when he emerged for the pre-game warm-up, and that continued every time he touched the ball once the action got under way.
Courtois only had one real save to make, doing well to repel a powerful drive from Gimenez when his team led 2-1, but on the whole his hostile return to Atletico passed by a lot more comfortably than he might have feared.
Wales coach Warren Gatland says he will be happy if his side are underestimated following the scrappy win over Italy.
Gatland’s side top the Six Nations table after away wins against France and Italy and next face England in Cardiff on 23 February.
He said: “A lot of people will write us off, which is a good position to be in. Hopefully we’ll go under the radar.
“You’re not always brilliant and we weren’t today. We will be a lot better against England.”
Josh Adams and Owen Watkin scored second-half tries while Dan Biggar kicked 14 points to see off a resilient Italy side 26-15 in Rome.
“A lot of people will look to criticise us but you have to give Italy some credit for how they played,” added Gatland.
“That’s probably the best Italian performance I’ve seen since I’ve been in charge of Wales.”
Wales will achieve a record-breaking 12th successive Test win if they defeat England to beat the milestone set in 1910.
“We didn’t speak about the record at all this week but we will probably talk about it before England,” said Gatland.
“If this group of players achieve that, it’ll be something nobody can take away from them.
“We’ve got a chance, we’re at home, the stadium will be full, it’ll be some atmosphere at the Principality Stadium. So there will definitely be no lack of motivation in trying to beat England and break that record.”
Gatland said he had no regrets about making 10 changes against Italy from the side that beat France 24-19. He has used 31 players in those two victories and said the World Cup later this year was behind his decision.
“I was looking at the bigger picture,” said Gatland, whose contract with Wales ends after the tournament in Japan.
“For us as coaches, in our last year, we want to have as good a World Cup as we can. That was the plan all along. There’s no regret.
“If it was a normal year, on reflection, maybe we wouldn’t have made so many changes. We wanted to give everyone in the 31 an opportunity to be involved in the first two games.
“We’ll put this game behind us and the most satisfying thing was coming away with a win.”
The paradox of the Bill Clinton impeachment saga was that it made it easier for Donald Trump to become president and harder for his wife, Hillary. Twenty years after his acquittal, it’s clearer to see how that seismic event shaped American politics and culture today.
In a quarter century of covering US politics, I only have ever got round to framing two newspaper front pages. The first was when President Bill Clinton was impeached in December 1998. The second was when he was acquitted at the conclusion of his Senate trial the following February.
Washington in the late-1990s was my first foreign posting. The Monica Lewinsky scandal, as we inaccurately labelled it, was my first big American story. The picture framing was partly a vanity project to mark this personal milestone. But this also felt like a once-in-a-lifetime story.
Clinton was the first US president to be impeached since 1868, when Andrew Johnson also managed to avoid conviction in the Senate after being indicted by the House. Evidently, more seasoned Washington colleagues shared this view. As I came to discover over the following months, the same framed black and white newsprint, with the same banner headlines “Clinton Impeached” followed by “Clinton Acquitted”, also adorned their study and toilet walls.
Veterans of the impeachment saga soon found themselves reporting on an epic tumble of events. The 2000 presidential election, with its disputed Florida recount. The attacks of September 11th. The Iraq war and its troubled aftermath. The financial crash, and the Great Recession that followed. The election of America’s first black president, who handed over power to the country’s first reality TV star president. Once-in-a-lifetime stories seemed to come along every few years.
Two decades on, the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton nonetheless feels like a big bang moment in the American story.
Post-truth politics. The poisoning of the Washington hothouse. The delegitimisation of modern-day presidents. The corrosive impact of the internet. The rise of polarised news. The Jerry Springerisation of national life.
All were evident in that Clinton melodrama, which saw the Washington Post and New York Times ploughing the same furrows as the National Enquirer, and genre-busting news stories in which quotes from constitutional law experts interpreting what the Founding Fathers meant by high crimes and misdemeanours were interspersed with the most salacious and suggestive snippets of the sex scandal – the snap of Monica Lewinsky’s thong, the soiled blue dress, the gift from the president to his intern of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, the same anthology of poetry he had once given to Hillary Clinton.
As well as being a constitutional showdown, this was a tabloid scandal for what Vanity Fair had aptly labelled the tabloid decade.
It provided a fitting coda to an era of sensationalism that had already brought us the OJ Simpson trial, Tonya Harding, the William Kennedy Smith trial, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s sex tapes, the arrest of Pee-Wee Herman, the first accusations against Michael Jackson, the Mike Tyson rape conviction, John Wayne Bobbitt and his penis-severing wife Lorena, and the divorce of Donald and Ivana Trump.
Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky brought this luridness to the nation’s capital, where scandal has always been the highest – and often the basest – form of entertainment.
Washington was at fever pitch. So much so that whenever I am asked today whether Donald Trump will survive until the end of his term in office, I find myself recalling the early days of the Bill Clinton scandal when it was by no means certain the president would last until the end of the week.
Events moved at such a hurtling pace, and information came at you with such dizzying speed, it was hard back then to step back and take in the panoramic picture. Hindsight offers some clarity.
The culture wars unleashed
Even before Bill Clinton had laid eyes on the 22-year-old White House intern, his Republican opponents questioned his legitimacy as president and looked for ways to drive him from office.
Not since Woodrow Wilson in 1912 had a candidate reached the White House with such a small share of the national vote, a measly 43%. Republicans also felt aggrieved that the eccentric third party candidacy of Ross Perot had stolen the election from President George Herbert Walker Bush, even though polling data suggests the Texan billionaire syphoned off just as many votes from the Democrats as the GOP.
For conservative cultural warriors, the Clintons personified the worst excesses of the Sixties. In Bill Clinton, they saw a philandering draft dodger. In Hillary Rodham Clinton, they saw a sneering feminist who looked down upon women who had not pursued careers of their own.
Political fear also stoked their antipathy. Before 1992, the Republicans had held the presidency for 20 of the previous 24 years. William Jefferson Clinton threatened to end that hegemony.
Here, after all, was an articulate young politician from the south, the region that had produced the last two Democratic presidents, who promised to fuse Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal with Ronald Reagan’s free market ideology.
Clinton sought to shatter the Nixon and Reagan coalitions that had enabled the Republicans to dominate presidential elections and was well placed to forge a new winning Democratic coalition, incorporating white working class voters who had become “Reagan Democrats”. Their fears were well placed. Since 1992, Democrats have won the popular vote in five out of six presidential elections.
So after the Whitewater investigation, the Troopergate affair and Travelgate scandal failed to produce evidence of potentially impeachable offences, Clinton’s enemies, abetted by the independent counsel Kenneth Starr, seized upon the affair with Monica Lewinsky as their gotcha moment.
Clinton’s recklessness, and his mendacious efforts to cover it up, handed his opponents a pretext to demonstrate his unworthiness to occupy the White House. Not even Richard Nixon, whose crimes and abuses of power were far more egregious, had been stalked so aggressively.
The pursuit of Bill Clinton marked a paradigm shift in presidential politics. Since then, it has become routine for every occupant of the White House to be assailed as illegitimate by zealous adversaries.
George W. Bush for the assist he received from the conservative-leaning US Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in his favour to end the Florida recount. Barack Obama, for the untruthful claim he was born in Kenya, which, if factual, would have disqualified him from the presidency. Donald Trump for losing the popular vote by more than three million votes.
US politics has reached such a nadir that many Americans no longer accept the outcome of presidential elections, and thus deny the winners any electoral mandate. Not since the election of George Herbert Walker Bush thirty years ago has a president entered the Oval Office without his right of occupancy being brought into question.
A corollary of the delegitimisation of modern-day presidents has been the legitimisation of the politics of no, an oppositional approach whereby constitutional checks and balances have come to be used as vetoes and blockades.
This again can be traced back to the Clinton years. Bob Dole, the Republican’s leader in the Senate, deployed the filibuster more frequently than his predecessors to stymie Bill Clinton’s legislative agenda. Newt Gingrich, the first Republican House speaker since the early-1950s, used government shutdowns as a political weapon.
Bill Clinton might never have spent time alone with Monica Lewinsky had it not been for the 1995 government shutdown, which meant this inexperienced intern was granted more West Wing access because of the absence of furloughed staff.
The Clinton scandal heightened political tensions by unleashing a cultural war in the heart of Washington. Here was another opportunity to litigate the Sixties, one that pitted the modern-day puritans of the right against the permissive peaceniks of the left.
For the religious right especially, whose grip on the Republican Party tightened under Ronald Reagan, here was the chance to mount a moral crusade and increase its hold on the GOP. More moderate Republicans, the sort of business-oriented pragmatists who had once dominated the party, were already becoming an endangered breed.
Certainly, the partisan mood in Washington in the late-Nineties was wholly different from the early-Seventies, when Congress started impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, albeit for more serious felonies.
Back then some of Nixon’s most dogged tormentors came from within his own party. It was Howard Baker, a Republican Senator from Tennessee, who posed that legendary Watergate question: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
It was Republican elders, such as the party’s former presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, who journeyed from Capitol Hill to the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House to urge Nixon to resign. When the House decided to start an impeachment inquiry against the president, the vote in February 1974 received near unanimous bipartisan vote, with 410 in favour and just four against.
‘The lie saved me’
Post-truth politics also received a boost from the Clinton scandal. His early lies, including his finger-jabbing falsehood “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” worked to his advantage.
In the explosive first days of the scandal, when senior White House correspondents such as ABC’s legendary Sam Donaldson predicted he might be forced to resign “perhaps this week”, the lies bought Clinton time. They helped him weather the initial squall, shore up Democratic support and push back against his accusers.
“The lie saved me”, the president confided to a close friend, according to the journalist John Harris’s book The Survivor, the finest book on the Clinton presidency.
The Clintons also sought to alter the question at the heart of the national debate from “Who do you believe?” to “Whose side are you on?” Was that not the rationale behind Hillary Clinton’s famed interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, in which she accused investigators of being part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”?
From early on, the White House framed this as a partisan battle rather than a moment of personal reckoning. “We just have to win,” Clinton told his political strategist Dick Morris, who cynically had conducted secret polling to test whether Clinton should lie or tell the truth.
As the journalist Susan Glasser told a Politico roundtable marking the 20th anniversary of the scandal: “It was political genius how he handled it by lying. Lying was proven to work in some way that has enabled further the cynical and divisive political culture of Washington.”
Not until the summer of 1998, when we learnt Monica Lewinsky had preserved the famed blue dress, did he grudgingly concede the truth.
After his lies were exposed, Clinton requested airtime from the networks for a televised confessional. “Indeed I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate”, he admitted. But then he carpet-bombed his accusers for mounting a “politically-inspired” investigation led by Kenneth Starr: “This has gone on too long, cost too much, and hurt too many innocent people.”
This time, the strategy backfired, with senior Democrats such as Senator Dianne Feinstein expressing dismay. Senator Joe Lieberman, an orthodox Jew who had long seen himself as a moral elder, condemned him on the floor of the Senate. Many were appalled by Clinton’s behaviour.
In the House, 31 Democrats voted to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. Yet no senior Democrat publicly called for the president to resign, partly because they did not want to hand victory to the Republicans. Even Lieberman, Clinton’s most prominent Democratic critic, said impeachment would be “unjust and unwise”.
So strong was party loyalty that in the immediate aftermath of being impeached by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Bill Clinton even held a pep rally on the South Lawn of the White House, with Democratic lawmakers ranked behind him. That partisan tableau featured on the front page of the Washington Post hanging on my wall.
Hillary, the long-term loser
Partly because Clinton was so adept at portraying his Republican opponents as over-reaching zealots, and partly because they did not regard his sins as impeachable, Democratic voters also remained loyal. After his acquittal in 1999, his approval rating amongst Democrats hit 92 per cent. When he left office, he enjoyed the highest approval among all voters of any departing president.
Clinton had outsmarted his opponents, and the only politicians to lose their jobs during the impeachment crisis were Republicans.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the first casualty. Clinton’s Baby Boomer nemesis resigned after the GOP lost seats in the 1998 congressional mid-terms, which Gingrich had turned into a national referendum on the president’s behaviour.
His successor Bob Livingstone also had to fall on his sword. On the very morning of Clinton’s impeachment, the Louisianan was forced to resign after Larry Flynt’s Hustler magazine exposed his own extramarital affair. (A ghastly irony is that the Speakership passed to Dennis Hastert, a former teacher and wrestling coach, who was then seen as an irreproachable figure. In 2016, Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison following a hush money case that revealed he had been accused of abusing young boys during his years as a teacher).
Though Clinton suffered the ignominy of becoming only the second president to be impeached, by far the biggest Democratic casualty was his wife, Hillary, because of its collateral impact on her presidential run in 2016.
When the email imbroglio broke, voters questioned whether they wanted to live through another scandal-prone presidency, fuelling Clinton fatigue. The lies from that era embroidered the narrative the Clintons were evasive and untrustworthy.
Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Donald Trump’s misogyny, and her ability to capitalise on the notorious Access Hollywood tape, were also compromised by her husband’s affairs.
She was accused of enabling his behaviour and of showing little sympathy towards his female accusers. Tellingly, one of Donald Trump’s first lines of defence was to claim he had heard Bill Clinton say worse things about women on the golf course, an accusation which, even if not true, seemed plausible.
The billionaire even paraded some of Clinton’s accusers, including Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick ahead of the first presidential debate, a stunt that many commentators considered exploitative but for others raised entirely legitimate questions about her husband’s sexual history.
Hillary Clinton, in her 2017 campaign memoir What Happened?, slammed Donald Trump’s pre-debate press conference. “He was just using them,” she wrote. But those women were accusing her husband of far worse. Juanita Broaddrick claimed Clinton had raped her in 1978, an allegation he has long denied. Trump ended up winning a higher share of white female voters than Hillary Clinton, a key factor in her defeat.
In performing this act of political jujitsu, the billionaire adopted the Clinton playbook. Like Bill Clinton, he turned his grudging televised confessional after the Access Hollywood tape emerged into a partisan rallying cry: “Whose side are you on?” As with Clinton, it won him time, mobilised his base and preserved his political viability.
Here, Trump also benefited from another part of Bill Clinton’s legacy: the redefinition of what behaviour was disqualifying for presidential candidates.
In 1988, the Democratic frontrunner Gary Hart was forced from the race after the Miami Herald published details about his affair with Donna Rice. Four years later Clinton survived the Gennifer Flowers scandal, and also allegations of draft dodging – two accusations, among scores of others, that Donald Trump survived. Clinton normalised errant behaviour and helped desensitise the electorate to philandering politicians.
The paradox of the Clinton impeachment saga, then, was that it made it easier for Donald Trump to become president and harder for his wife. Hillary Clinton became a repeat victim of his infidelities.
The first internet moment
Though those framed front pages, now slightly yellowed with age, captured the historical moment, they hardly depicted the media zeitgeist.
For the Clinton scandal completely changed the metabolism of news, speeding the shift from print to digital, and fuelling the growth of talk radio and cable news channels. Public reality, which traditionally had been shaped by the major TV networks and prominent newspapers, now was also being moulded by new media start-ups. The internet started to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of information.
This was the all-caps headline in the fledgling Drudge Report on January 17th, 1998, an obscure website relatively few people had heard of in what the BBC called at the time “the wilds of cyberspace.”
Matt Drudge, its iconoclastic founder, became the first journalist to publish the name Monica Lewinsky, after catching wind that Newsweek, which had explosive details of her affair with the president, had hesitated before publishing.
Hurrying to play catch up, respected White House reporters, such as Peter Baker who was then with the Washington Post, raced to put out the first online stories, even though many of their newsroom colleagues did not at the time have permission to access the internet. Newsweek posted a piece by its investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, the author of the suppressed scope, on its America Online site, rather than wait for its next magazine issue to hit the newsstands.
When the Starr Report was published on the fateful date of September 11th 1998, it became America’s first internet moment.
Downloads of its lurid details that day accounted for a quarter of all America’s internet traffic. With CNN getting 300,000 clicks a minute, which in those days seemed unimaginable, it became a ‘clickbait’ sensation. Not only was the digital version easier to obtain than printed copies, but the 445-page report doubled as porn. It mentioned oral sex 85 times.
The story was endlessly riveting. So perhaps we should look upon the Clinton saga as the gateway drug to our modern-day real-time information addiction, and the outbreak of the screen-time epidemic for news junkies especially. It was just that the delivery systems back then were not particularly efficient – dial-up internet, PCs and bulky laptops – and the most powerful stimulants, Twitter and Facebook, were not yet on the market.
Just as the early online news sites experienced a surge in traffic, cable news channels enjoyed a ratings bonanza.
Before the Clinton scandal, Fox News, which launched two years earlier, was something of a niche broadcaster available in just 10 million homes. By 2000, partly because of its blanket coverage of the impeachment saga, that figure had mushroomed to 56 million homes. MSNBC, which also launched in 1996, also became a significant player, not least as a progressive counterpoint to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News.
To sustain their 24/7 blanket coverage of the scandal, continuous news channels smudged the lines between reporting on events and commenting on them. Partisan pundits trading in shrill sound-bites helped fill airtime, and quickly realised the more outspoken their comments, the more they would be invited back. The disagreement culture of modern-day cable news, which tended to generate more heat than light, was born.
Talk radio relied on a more one-sided formula: polemical monologues delivered by presenters whose views were usually affirmed and amplified by listeners calling in.
The repeal during the Reagan years of the Fairness Doctrine, a regulation enforced by the Federal Communications Commission demanding the airing of both sides of an argument, had already fuelled the rise of right-wing talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh. The impeachment drama elevated their status as tribunes of the right, and underscored how local radio stations especially came to be a conservative echo chamber.
This had a circular effect on politics, and heightened the doctrinaire streak among Republicans especially. Polls suggested the push for impeachment was damaging the GOP. The 1998 mid-term elections offered incontrovertible proof of this self-sabotage. Yet despite various exit ramps being available to Republican leaders, they kept on pressing on down the road even though it was unlikely to end in Clinton’s dethronement.
Impeachment was not just a transformational moment. For contemporary politicians it has become a teachable one.
What the Senate trial of Bill Clinton underscored was the difficulty in removing a sitting president. Procedurally speaking, impeachment itself is relatively straightforward – a simple majority of the House of Representatives is required to approve an article of impeachment, which serves in effect as an indictment.
Achieving a guilty verdict in the upper chamber, by contrast, is challenging. Deliberately, the framers of the Constitution set the bar high, requiring two-thirds of the Senate to vote for removal. Today, that would require 67 Senators, a fiendishly difficult number to attain.
Back in 1998, not even all 55 Republican Senators delivered guilty verdicts at the end of the trial presided over the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist. Nor did a single Democrat break ranks. In the present Senate, 22 Republican Senators would have to turn on Donald Trump to remove him from office, assuming all the Democrats voted guilty.
Aside from giving us a tutorial in constitutional mechanics, the impeachment saga offered a political lesson: that the pursuit of a president, through this seldom-used process, comes with enormous risks. Certainly it boomeranged for Newt Gingrich.
That’s why the new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doing her damnedest to tamp down talk of impeachment now that the Democrats once again command a majority in the lower chamber. Understandably, she fears a voter backlash, and also handing Donald Trump the kind of martyrdom that would help him win a second term.
So here is the double paradox of the Bill Clinton scandal and the impeachment proceedings it set in motion. Not only did it end up easing Donald Trump’s path to the White House, it diminishes the chances of Congress trying to remove him from office.
…Describes FG’s action as last kicks of a dying horse
By Dirisu Yakubu
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has described the last minute denial of the use of the Old Parade Ground, Abuja for its Presidential mega rally allegedly by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration as the last kicks of a dying horse, saying regardless of the position of government, the rally would take place before Saturday February 16 election.
The party said having paid for the venue; it was shocking that government could resort to play petty by prevailing on the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA to grant the use of the same facility to the All Progressives Congress, APC, Federal Capital Territory chapter on the same day.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja yesterday, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan described government’s action as a sign of what he called the growing frustration in the camp of President Buhari ahead of the election.
He said, “For us in the PDP Presidential campaign organization, this is part of the last kicks of a dying horse, which the Buhari Presidency now represents. It is part of the plot by the frustrated President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC to drag the PDP and the people’s candidate to their low level of frustration in order to enmesh the coming election into crisis so as to achieve their self-succession bid.”
It also called on the global community to note that “this latest assault against the people’s candidate is also borne out of direct ill-will and hatred against him by President Muhammadu Buhari as well as his handlers, who have sought all ways to drag him down, since they realized that Nigerians have reached a consensus on Atiku Abubakar, as the next President of our country.
“Atiku Abubakar, being a true democrat and statesman has decided to go with the people in their collective quest to rescue our nation from the vengeful, divisive, violent prone, insensitive, completely incompetent and inherently corrupt Buhari administration.”
The party however vowed to resist moves to clamp down on its activities, saying “any further attack on our campaign will therefore attract very dire response from Nigerians who look up to Atiku Abubakar to salvage our dear nation from the social, economic and political despondency, which President Buhari has plunged her into.”
The statement continued: “From reports reaching us, it is not also out of place for the Presidency and the APC to use this measure to test the will of Nigerians as precursor to their rigging plots.
“We want to place on record, once again that any attempt to rig the February 16 election will be vehemently resisted by Nigerians, across board, who have reached a consensus to rescue their nation from the stranglehold of the Buhari Presidency.
“In any case, let it be known to President Buhari and the APC that the PDP and the people’s candidate will definitely hold our Presidential mega rally in Abuja irrespective of any further encumbrance they may attempt to foist.”
Fielding questions on the sideline of the press conference, the publicity scribe said the erection of a broom statue at the entrance into the Abuja city centre is an indication of how low incumbent administration thinks.
“That broom statue is all the Buhari government has been able to achieve in the past three and a half years,” he noted, adding however that the PDP government would have to spend money again to bring down the structure upon its assumption in power.
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Since the war, in which millions of civilians and combatants died, reunified Vietnam has rebuilt relations with America while remaining a communist state.
North Korea isolated itself from the outside world after the Korean War ended in 1953, and only began to mend ties with US-backed South Korea in recent years.
South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said this week that Vietnam was the best choice of host for the next summit because it and America used to “point a gun and knife at each other”, Reuters news agency reports.
Vietnam is also seen as a model of economic and political reform for the North to follow.
The post-war trajectory of relations between America and Vietnam was, the official added, a hopeful model for potential warmer relations between the US and North Korea.
What preparations are being made?
US envoy Stephen Biegun spent three days in discussions on the Korean peninsula.
In the Northern capital Pyongyang, he met his counterpart Kim Hyok-chol and discussed the “Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearisation”, a US state department statement says.
The two envoys will meet again before the summit. Mr Biegun warned of “some hard work to do with the DPRK [North Korea] between now and then”.
In South Korea, the US envoy briefed Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.
“I am confident that if both sides stay committed, we can make real progress,” he told reporters.
President Trump tweeted that North Korea could become an economic “rocket”.
Is optimism premature?
Experts caution that despite Mr Trump’s assertion that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, the country has never said it would give up its nuclear weapons programme without similar concessions from the US.
The US wants North Korea to make a full declaration of all its nuclear weapons facilities and commit to destroying them, under international supervision.
In a speech at Stanford University last week Mr Biegun said the US would not agree to lift sanctions until this happens but he indicated it could provide assistance in other ways, saying: “We did not say we will not do anything until you do everything.”
He also said Kim Jong-un had previously committed to “the dismantlement and destruction” of all North Korea’s plutonium and uranium facilities, which provide the material for nuclear weapons.
The UN has warned that North Korea is continuing its nuclear programme and breaking sanctions.
A confidential report to the Security Council earlier this week said actions including the illegal transfer of banned goods at sea could make sanctions – the international community’s main way of putting pressure on North Korea – “ineffective”.
The report said there had been a “massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal”, where material is moved from non-North Korean ships out at sea to evade monitoring.
The international sanctions against North Korea are designed to severely limit its import and export abilities, with the aim of putting pressure on the country to give up its nuclear ambitions.
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Mr Trump’s body mass index (BMI) indicates he is overweight but not obese.
The president’s health has attracted attention before. During his campaign he produced a letter that said he would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”. But the doctor named as its author later said, Mr Trump had written the letter himself.
And last year, Dr Ronny Jackson said the president had “incredible genes” and it was not a matter of concern that he only slept for four or five hours a night because this was “just his nature”.