All posts by Don Silas

Contact Email, (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) Or (Donsilas@chef.net)

Pakistan rolls out red carpet for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed”:


This is the Saudi crown prince’s first visit to Pakistan since assuming that role

For a country running out of foreign reserves, facing a yawning current account deficit and fighting to secure its financial future, Pakistan is putting on quite a show for Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

And it’s easy to see why: Prime Minister Imran Khan needs money, and he needs it fast.

MBS, as he’s known, has come to town promising billions.

But money is just one dimension of a relationship that goes much deeper. The two countries have a nexus of interests.

Pakistan was meant to be the first stop on an Asian tour taking in five countries but the crown prince’s trips to Indonesia and Malaysia have been postponed. He is still scheduled to visit China and India in what is being seen as a charm offensive by the controversial prince.

How lavish is the visit?

The last time a Saudi royal visit was marked with this much fanfare was in 2006, when then Saudi ruler King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz toured the nuclear-armed nation.

And security is being taken seriously – with Imran Khan making a point of saying that he is personally taking care of the arrangements. The 33-year-old Saudi’s tour comes amid heightened tensions in the region, after India blamed Pakistan for the deadliest attack on its security forces in Kashmir in decades.

JF-17 Thunder fighter jets escorted MBS’s fleet on Sunday evening as it entered Pakistani airspace – with all other flights grounded. The crown prince was greeted by Mr Khan and Pakistan’s powerful army chief on a red carpet at a military airport and given a 21-gun salute.

Imran Khan then personally drove Mohammed bin Salman to the official residence of the prime minister, where Mr Khan doesn’t actually stay but where MBS will for his two-day visit, in a first for a state guest.

Hundreds of five-star rooms in Islamabad are believed have been booked out for the 1,000-strong delegation. There are even reports that thousands of pigeons have been caught for a welcome ceremony.

Pakistan’s higher civilian honour will be conferred on the prince, who Mr Khan has praised for his “reformist ideas”.

Pakistan needs Saudi money to stave off a huge IMF bail-out – but this is not a one-way relationship

Why is Pakistan desperate for cash?

The central bank has only $8bn (£6.2bn) left in foreign reserves and faces a balance of payments crisis.

Since he was sworn in last August, former star cricketer Imran Khan has been aggressively pursuing help from friendly countries in order to reduce the size of the bail-out package that Pakistan is likely to need from the International Monetary Fund, under very strict conditions.

The country is seeking its 13th bailout since the late 1980s and Saudi Arabia has already provided a $6bn loan.

What has become of India’s and Pakistan’s economies, 70 years after partition?

The visit of MBS comes soon after Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan was in town and the United Arab Emirates has pledged to provide $6bn to support Pakistan’s battered economy.

But Saudi Arabia is taking things up a notch – with its media reporting provisional agreements worth $20bn are being signed.

The crown jewel is a new $10bn oil refinery in southern port city of Gwadar.

Gwadar is the nerve centre of China’s $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Chinese money is much valued by Pakistan’s government but analysts say it comes with strings attached – Chinese workers normally build Chinese projects. There are also concerns about Beijing having too much influence.

Funds from the Gulf countries are hence very welcome.

What’s in it for the Saudis?

While it is easy to see Pakistan as a country which is benefiting from the largesse of its allies at the cost of its sovereignty, the story is not so simple.

Saudi Arabia needs Pakistan too.

The crown prince’s tour comes at a peculiar time for the kingdom, which is currently facing a global reputational crisis of its own due to the humanitarian catastrophe of its war in Yemen and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate.

Against this backdrop, the current tour can be seen as a charm offensive by MBS, who is seeking to bolster relationships with dependable allies while doling out cash.

And it’s important not to forget that Pakistan is very important to the Saudis.

Mohammad Bin Salman - then defence minister - is welcomed by Pakistani Army General Raheel Sharif on January 10, 2016
GETTY IMAGES

MBS visited Pakistan in 2016 before he was elevated to crown prince

The two countries have a military relationship which goes back decades. When Islam’s holiest site in Mecca was attacked by militants four decades ago, it was Pakistani troops who were deployed to eliminate them.

“There has always been the assumption that Pakistan would be able to provide manpower if Saudi Arabia faced a major security crisis or a major attack,” says Shashank Joshi, a South Asia expert and defence editor of The Economist magazine.

“Saudi Arabia, like some of the other gulf countries, has lots of cash but not necessarily a particularly strong army. Pakistan has not very much cash but a very strong and powerful army.”

He adds that it has long been suspected – but never proven – that the two sides have a longstanding nuclear relationship that Saudi Arabia could draw upon if it one day needed access to the technology – for example if regional rival Iran became a nuclear-armed power.

The Saudis have a strong religious influence in mostly Sunni Muslim Pakistan and after the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s, they were able to set up a large network of religious seminaries, in part to counter Iran’s influence.

In fact, a week before MBS’s visit to Pakistan, the main avenues of Islamabad were dotted with posters and banners commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. Since then, those have been replaced with pictures of MBS.

The presence of Iran as Pakistan’s next door neighbour is another reason why the Saudis want to keep up the relationship.

“Saudi Arabia would like to ensure Pakistan remains closer to Riyadh than it does to Tehran,” says Mr Joshi.

Signs of Iranian leaders were taken down – and replaced with these

It’s true that Pakistan’s decision not to heed Saudi Arabia’s call to join its war in Yemen  four years ago damaged the relationship. But this visit – coming amid a generational shift in the Saudi leadership – “represents a turning of the page”, says Pakistani newspaper columnist Mosharraf Zaidi.

The Taliban question

What makes the timing of this tour even more significant is that it comes at a time when geo-politics in the region are shifting.

Unprecedented talks are taking place to bring an end to the war in Afghanistan – where Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, India and the US all have a stake.

The high-level talks have been held in Qatar – the Gulf country with which Saudi Arabia has an ongoing rift – and Saudi officials will want to find out exactly what has been going on from Pakistan’s army chiefs, says Shashank Joshi.

“Saudi Arabia will be keen that as the peace process continues that it is factions [of the Taliban that they are close to] who are empowered, rather than those who are close to Iran.”

Airline Flybmi ceases operations”:


Flybmi has a fleet of Embraer jets British regional airline Flybmi has cancelled all its flights and filed for administration, the airline has announced. The company said it had been badly affected by rises in fuel and carbon costs and uncertainty over Brexit. The East Midlands-based airline, which has 376 staff, operates 17 planes flying to 25 European cities. Affected passengers have been told to contact their travel agents or insurance and credit card companies. A Flybmi spokesman said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement. “The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU’s recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme. “Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe.” The airline issued the following advice to those due to fly:
  • People who booked directly with Flybmi should contact their card issuer to seek a refund.
  • Passengers who booked via a travel agent or one of Flybmi’s partner airlines should contact them to see what their options are.
  • Those with travel insurance should see if they are eligible to claim for cancelled flights.
Erica Fairs, from the Forest of Dean, has been stranded in Edinburgh by the airline’s collapse. She said: “My children are with my ex-husband and I need to be back on Monday to pick them up. “I have heard nothing from Flybmi and I’m going to have to book some flights with another airline. “What was really weird is this week I have been trying check in online for my return flight without success. It let me check-in for my outbound but not my inbound one.”

‘No warning’

British Airline Pilots’ Association general secretary Brian Strutton said: “The collapse of Flybmi is devastating news for all employees. “Regrettably Balpa had no warning or any information from the company at all.” “Our immediate steps will be to support FlyBMI pilots and explore with the directors and administrators whether their jobs can be saved.” Last year the airline ran 29,000 flights, carrying 522,000 passengers. Flying from Aberdeen, Derry, Bristol, the East Midlands, Stansted and Newcastle in the UK, its planes travelled to destinations in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland and Sweden. Travel expert Simon Calder told BBC News it had been an “extremely difficult winter” for many airlines. “Small airlines which do not have the weight of their bigger rivals are particularly vulnerable,” he said. “There are simply too many seats and not enough people.”
Are you a Flybmi customer that has been affected? Or are you a Flybmi employee? Get in touch by emailing (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (Donsilas@chef.net )

If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

Short bursts of intense exercise ‘better for weight loss’:


Sprint interval training is most effective for weight loss, researchers suggest

Bursts of high intensity interval training (Hiit) may be more effective for weight loss than longer less intense workouts, a study suggests.

The research, published in theBritish Journal of Sports Medicine , analysed results from 36 earlier studies.

Although all the participants lost weight, those doing Hiit saw a 28.5% greater weight loss.

The researchers cautioned that Hiit may not be suitable for everyone.

“Hiit might increase the risk of injury and impose higher cardiovascular stress,” they said.

What does the study say?

Researchers from the Federal University of Goias, Brazil, analysed data from 576 men and 522 women of varying levels of fitness.

Interval training was defined as cardiovascular exercise which involved repeated brief bursts of intense effort, interspersed with recovery periods. Cycling, swimming, running and boxing were included.

These workouts were compared with longer continuous moderate intensity workouts, most of which were between 30 and 45 minutes. All participants exercised for at least four weeks.

Those doing interval training lost on average 1.58kg (3.48lb) compared with the 1.13kg (2.49lb) lost by those doing lower intensity workouts.

Sprint interval training seemed to be particularly effective for weight loss, although researchers did caution that the wide variety of training programmes made it difficult to recommend one regime in particular.

The NHS currently recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as cycling or brisk walking, every week.

‘Results impressive’

Dr Niels Vollaard, a lecturer in health and exercise science at the University of Stirling, said the results were counterintuitive as most people burned more calories during longer moderate exercise.

“There are two possible explanations,” he said.

“Firstly, Hiit may lead to greater energy expenditure after exercise – metabolism may be increased for up to a day following a Hiit session.

“Secondly, after a Hiit session, you may be less hungry.

“In our research, we have shown that appetite hormones are indeed affected.

“It is, however, not easy to study whether energy intake is reduced as a result of this in the longer term when following a Hiit routine, so at the moment we are still unsure exactly what the reason is”:

GETTY IMAGES

Interval training at the gym

Michael Mosley, who was introduced to Hiit seven years ago while making the BBC Horizon documentary The Truth about Exercise, said: “In 2012, I tested three lots of 20-second high intensity workouts on an exercise bike, three times a week.

“My insulin sensitivity improved by 24%.

“In the programme, we again saw very impressive results with younger, unfit people.

“The biggest problem with exercise is compensatory eating and relaxing afterwards.

“People go on a treadmill for 30 minutes, burn around 120 calories, then lie around and reward themselves with a muffin.

“The theory with Hiit seems to be that it suppresses your appetite and targets the visceral fat in your gut.

“It’s not the calories you burn that matter – it’s what you do next.”

Ryan Adams accused of sexual misconduct by several women”:


Ryan Adams found fame with albums like Gold and songs such as New York, New York in the early 2000s

Several women have accused alternative rock star Ryan Adams of emotional and verbal abuse and offering career opportunities as a pretext for sex.

A report in the New York Timesoutlines a pattern of manipulative behaviour, including accusations of psychological abuse from his ex-wife, Mandy Moore.

Another woman said Adams sent explicit texts and exposed himself during a Skype call when she was a teenager.

The star, who rose to fame in the early 2000s, has denied the allegations.

“I am not a perfect man and I have made many mistakes,” he said in a statement posted on social media.

“To anyone I have ever hurt, however unintentionally, I apologise deeply and unreservedly.

“But the picture that this article paints is upsettingly inaccurate. Some of its details are misrepresented; some are exaggerated; some are outright false. I would never have inappropriate interactions with someone I thought was underage. Period.”

Acclaimed indie artist Phoebe Bridgers was among the seven women and dozens of associates who were interviewed for the New York Times article.

She said that Adams reached out to her when she was 20, offering to release her songs on his record label. Their relationship turned romantic, but Adams became obsessive and manipulative, she claimed, demanding to know her whereabouts and threatening suicide if she did not reply to his texts immediately.

When she broke off their relationship, Adams “became evasive about releasing the music they had recorded together and rescinded the offer to open his upcoming concerts,” the New York Times reported.

Through his lawyer, Adams rejected Bridgers’ account, describing their relationship as “a brief, consensual fling,” and denying he had threatened to withhold her songs.

This Is Us actress Mandy Moore also described a pattern of abuse, describing instances of “destructive, manic sort of back and forth behaviour” during their six-year marriage.

“Music was a point of control for him,” she added, saying the star had belittled her own musical career.

“He would always tell me, ‘You’re not a real musician, because you don’t play an instrument.'”

GETTY IMAGES

Moore, who is now a successful actress, says her musical career stalled because of Adams’ behaviour

Another woman, identified only by her middle name, Ava, told the paper her relationship with Adams started in 2013, when she was a teenage bass player.

Although they never met, she shared 3,217 text messages she had exchanged with Adams over a nine-month period when she was 15 and 16, describing how their correspondence became sexually explicit.

In one text he wrote to her: “I would get in trouble if someone knew we talked like this”.

The newspaper reported that Adams, then 40, “fretted about Ava’s age” and repeatedly asked for reassurances that she was over 18.

“If people knew they would say I was like R Kelley lol,” he wrote in one message, referring to the R&B singer, who has faced allegations of inappropriate relationships with teenagers, which he denies”:

Adams’ lawyer said the star “did not recall having online communications with anyone related to anything outside of music,” adding that “if, in fact, this woman was underage, Mr Adams was unaware”.

Familiar behaviour

After the report was published on Wednesday, dozens of female artists came forward to say they had been through similar experiences in the music industry.

“None of this is surprising to female artists,” wrote country musician Caroline Rose on Twitter .

“This is an important article,”added singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton . “This also cracks the door on more like him in our industry. There are more. We’re all fed up.”

“Literally find me a woman in the music industry who hasn’t had a some dude pull that Ryan Adams ‘I wanna help you’ with strings attached [expletive]?” wrote music journalist Jessica Hopper .

“And like in this story, these are some of the reasons women abandon careers, keep their dreams private, record in their bedrooms alone.”

“Having to perpetually question if a potential collaborator is interested in you musically or personally is an enormous and unspoken barrier for women in music,” said Tamara Lindeman, of Canadian folk band The Weather Station .

“Every gatekeeper is a man. And so you have to ask yourself.”

 If you have a story suggestion emailing Your Stories, (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) Or (Donsilas@chef.net)

Valentine’s Day: India college row over ‘virgin tree’ worship”:


Some women students say the celebration is anti-women

A Valentine’s Day celebration at a prestigious college in the Indian capital, Delhi, where students worship a “virgin tree” every year has run into trouble with some female students who say it’s “patriarchal” and “misogynistic” and must be shelved.

For decades now, male students of the Hindu College have been hosting a puja (ritualistic worship) at the tree, and balloons, colourful ribbons and condoms filled with water would be hung from its branches.

Posters of the latest avatar of the goddess Damdami Mai – generally a top Bollywood actress or a model chosen by the students – would be unveiled in the morning and pinned to the tree.

A male student dressed as a Hindu priest would perform religious rituals, hundreds of students would sing a hymn in praise of the “generally curvaceous goddess”, prasad (food offering made to her) would be distributed among the students who would dance and celebrate.

Over the years, a legend has grown that worshipping at the tree would help a student lose his virginity within six months.

In a largely conservative country like India where pre-marital sex is still taboo, many young adults believe nothing less than divine intervention will help them hook up.

HINDU BOYS’ HOSTEL UNION

Posters of Bollywood actors Jacqueline Fernandez and Ranveer Singh were put up at last year’s event

Teli Venkatesh, the 19-year-old president of the boys’ hostel union which is organising the event, told the BBC that the virgin tree pujawas an old tradition at the college and that hundreds of students, including women, participated in it every year.

Describing it as “some harmless fun”, he said it had started “because people wanted to celebrate love”.

Some female students, however, say the event “sexualises and objectifies” women and has no place in a “secular, intellectual” space like their college.

“The male students pick an actress who is attractive enough to be labelled Damdami Mai and the puja reeks of Brahminical ritual practices of caste pride,” Aashi Datta, a 20-year-old undergrad student at the college, told the BBC.

Ms Datta – a member of the Pinjra Tod (or Break the Cage) movement that’s campaigning for equal rights for women on college campuses and also part of the Women Development Cell of the Hindu College – says the event is held in a “hyper masculine, aggressive environment” and that in past years, women’s participation was “not even 5%”.

FACEBOOK/HINDU COLLEGE HOSTE

On Thursday morning, she will be near the tree along with “some 20 other students, including a few men” to hold a protest, demanding a “complete stop” to this “offensive” puja .

Mr Venkatesh accuses Ms Datta of trying to “politicise” a college event and says that students who “enthusiastically participate” in the celebrations come from different states and belong to different religions and castes.

He also lists the changes they have incorporated this time to make the event more inclusive.

“Since this is about celebrating love, we are selecting a couple who are in a long-lasting relationship. To address the criticism that we are not just about heterosexual love, we are putting up pride flags and placards to celebrate the LGBT community. And we are hanging condoms to promote safe sex, bring awareness about sexually transmitted diseases and end taboos about sex.”

He also said that they would use a fully clothed photograph of the actress chosen as this year’s goddess and that the hymn lyrics had been rewritten to make it less descriptive of the female body.

Ms Datta and the other protesters, however, say nothing short of completely stopping this event will do.

“Legacy and tradition are not good enough reasons to continue with a festival. It’s a liberal college, we need to choose which traditions to follow and which ones to drop,” she insists.

On Tuesday, the two warring sides met, along with some professors, to find a way out, but the stalemate remains.

WOMEN’S DEVELOPMENT CELL, HINDU COLLEGE

A meeting held on Tuesday to sort out the differences over the controversial event ended in a stalemate

Prof PK Vijayan, who was invited by the female students to speak at the meeting, was a student at Hindu in the late 1980s when the virgin tree puja began.

“It started with courting couples sitting around the tree and so it came to be known as the lovers’ tree,” he says. “In those days, there was little awareness about Valentine’s Day in India. But over the years, the celebrations became more structured and the tree was festooned with condoms and posters of women regarded as beautiful.

“And then students began believing that eating the prasad would help them lose their virginity and the boys lined up for it and so did some girls.”

Prof Vijayan agrees that women’s participation in the festival is very low and says he’s heard some women say that they are uncomfortable with the way it is conducted.

But he says he’s not comfortable with “any type of puritanical ideas” and suggests that they continue with the puja but modify it.

“I think the female students should be more flexible and instead of demanding a ban, they should take it over and redesign it the way they want to.

“Unfortunately, at the moment it is done as a celebration of machismo. It should be made more inclusive so that women could participate as those who also desire, and not just as the desired.”

The fashion models struggling with a life of debt


Hundreds of models travel to the major fashion weeks in the hope of work

As fashion weeks follow hot on each other’s heels in New York, London, Milan and Paris, hundreds of models are travelling to the four fashion capitals in the hope of getting work.

But many will go home financially worse off than when they arrived.

Anna (not her real name) has worked as a model since she was 17, appearing on the catwalk for Prada, Mulberry, Comme des Garcons and many others.

But after three years, she still hasn’t managed to pay off all the £10,000 she owes to her modelling agencies.

“My debt situation started right away when I started modelling,” she tells the BBC.

GETTY IMAGES

Models have to pay their agencies back for the travel fees and other upfront expenses

The first agency Anna signed with, in her European home country, advanced her £350 for taking test photographs, a cost that was added to an account in her name.

Later she was flown to London for a casting, and that cost was also added to her account, including accommodation and living expenses. The amount she owed mounted.

“They would ask me if I wanted a driver, without being clear that this is very expensive, and that I have to pay for it,” she says.

The problem for fashion models is that while their agencies will typically pay for their flights, accommodation and expenses up front, it is standard industry practice that they want the money back.

So if a model travels to the latest London Fashion Week, which starts on Friday, and doesn’t get work, they will be in debt to their agency for the amount it spent getting her or him there.

Anna had this problem, when aged 18 she flew to the US for castings at New York Fashion Week, but ultimately couldn’t attend any due to falling sick.

For two years she says she received next to no pay, as her agencies in Paris, London and New York directed her fees to pay off all the money she owed.

Ekaterina Ozhiganova says it’s time to address the hidden problem of debt that models rack up as they try to make a career in one of the most precarious professions in the world.

AURÉLIEN NOBÉCOURT-ARRAS

Ekaterina Ozhiganova says that models don’t like to talk about how much money they earn

A Russian model working in Paris, she co-founded Model Law, the first French association working to protect models’ rights.

“It used to be that sexual violence was taboo,” she says.

“Now everyone is shouting on every corner about sexual exploitation, but no-one wants to talk about money. Everyone is shutting their mouths about it.”

Because success in the industry is partly measured by the amount you earn, working models rarely want to speak out about the problem.

But behind the scenes, Ms Ozhiganova says Model Law is helping models better understand their finances.

“The lack of information is the main problem” she says. “The models don’t know what they are supposed to receive.”

While models from all countries can get into financial difficulties, those from poorer nations can be more vulnerable.

“It’s like any worker who comes from abroad to a more prosperous economy,” says Ms Ozhiganova.

“There’s a big difficulty in language, they can’t read the paperwork, the contract. They are jumping into a void.”

Compounding the problem, the pool of aspiring models is so large that work is spread thinly and pay can be very low.

Some jobs in magazines, for example, are unpaid. Otherwise fees can range from £50 a day, to £1,000 or more for a taking part in a show during a fashion week or tens of thousands for featuring in a brand’s campaign.

However, model debt is not debt in any ordinary sense of the term, says John Horner, director of the British Fashion Models Association, representing UK agencies.

AARON J HURLEY

John Horner, director of the British Fashion Models Association, says that if a model leaves the industry her or his debt is simply written off

If a young model fails to make it and leaves the industry, she isn’t pursued for the money she “owes” he says. Instead the agency writes off the investment.

“It is not hanging round the models like [UK payday loan provider] Wonga,” he says. “We carry the debt.”

He says the London-based agency he runs, Models 1, has £60,000 of models’ debt sitting on its books, which may never be paid off, if the models’ careers don’t take off.

He says agencies are obliged to give models monthly itemised bills listing the charges to their accounts, but he’s not sure they always get read.

Most successful models soon pay off the initial investment and start earning on their own account, he says.

Esther Kinnear-Derungs is the co-founder of Linden Staub, a small agency set up in London three years ago to pioneer ways to treat models better.

She says that advancing and recouping costs is the “nature of the business”.

JAKUB KOZIEL

Esther Kinnear-Derungs (right) says the industry has a duty to better educate models about their finances

The problem is the girls are seen as “disposable” by many agencies, she says, and it’s an open secret that at fashion weeks some big agencies take the approach that hundreds of girls can be “thrown against the wall to see what sticks”.

She says it’s often girls from eastern Europe who are most vulnerable.

Their parents are happy to send them abroad, believing it’s their “big break”, and they don’t ask enough questions. The girls themselves have no experience at managing their own finances or careers.

“We believe we have a responsibility to educate the model from day one, whether she was scouted in Siberia, Africa or London,” says Ms Kinnear-Derungs.

Candice [also not her real name], is a French model of east African descent. She says she had no idea when she started out that she was being charged for travel and expenses.

“When you get your first job, that’s how you realise it wasn’t free.

“You go and ask about your pay and they say, you don’t have money because you’re in debt. Then you understand,” she says.

She says even if agencies are ultimately carrying the financial risk, there’s a psychological burden on the models.

“It always feels like a gamble to make the journey to fashion week with the risk you’ll go home owing more than when you arrived,” she says.

“Maybe 40%, maybe more, go home with zero. That is why it is so stressful.”

Frozen 2: Five questions from the trailer we just can’t let go.


Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) in the Frozen 2 trailer

The first trailer for Disney’s Frozen 2 has arrived.

The film, which will be released in November, is a sequel to 2013’s Frozen, which became the highest-grossing animated movie of all time.

The original told the story of sisters Anna and Elsa and was loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen.

Disney aren’t giving much away about the plot in the trailer, which clocks in at just under two minutes long.

Disney announced they would be making a sequel in 2015 and work began on it in September 2017.

The first trailer appeared online on Wednesday.

It’s left us with a lot of burning questions.

1. What’s with the dark new tone?

Frozen 2
The cold never bothered them anyway

It’s a beautiful autumn in the kingdom of Arendelle, but ominous music signals that all is not well.

Kristen Bell’s Anna tries to cross dangerous looking rocks, and her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel) uses her icy powers to try to cross a stormy sea.

Later, Elsa and magical snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) are surrounded by flames. Anna’s fiance Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) races through the forest on his reindeer Sven, flanked by other reindeer.

In the final shot, Anna grabs Kristoff’s sword and lunges at the audience.

Who or what is threatening the kingdom? The trailer doesn’t show us, but the internet is excited anyway.

2. Is climate change causing trouble in Arendelle?

A still from the Frozen 2 trailer

The trailer opens with a 40 second sequence of Elsa trying to cross a raging sea.

All those wild waves have spawned some an even wilder theory amongst some Frozen fans that the sequel is actually about… climate change!

3. Could one of these new characters be Elsa’s girlfriend?

A still from the Frozen 2 trailer

Two new characters were fleetingly revealed in the trailer, prompting a lot of speculationabout their identities.

They are a woman with red hair, and a blond figure who emerges, floating from a pile of leaves. One of these characters may be voiced by Westworld actress Evan Rachel Wood, who is attached to the film in an unknown role.

Perhaps these new characters could be the villains of the piece, but some fans are hoping otherwise.

Frozen’s writer and co-director Jennifer Lee has reportedly been considering giving Elsa a female love interest.

Elsa’s sexuality was not made clear in the first film, but many fans signed a petition calling for her to come out as gay.

Lee has previously said there have been “tons of conversations” about whether Elsa will become the first Disney princess to have a girlfriend.

So perhaps one of these characters could be a love interest for our heroine?

4. What’s the significance of the floating diamonds?

A still from the Frozen 2 trailer

Strange floating diamonds are seen hovering outside the castle, as Anna watches, in a short section of the trailer, prompting speculation.

Sharp-eyed fans have also noticed that the newly-released poster for the film features connecting diamonds which all contain different patterns.

The Frozen 2 poster

Can we assume the diamonds are going to play a major part in the film? It certainly looks that way.

5. Why have Anna and Elsa changed their looks?

A still from the Frozen 2 trailer
Elsa pictured wondering how much merch she can sell

Actually, this one is probably easy to guess. Dolls based on the Frozen sisters have been flying off the shelves since the original film’s release.

Anna and Elsa both sported new outfits in the previous Frozen short animations released after the original film, Frozen Fever and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, and merchandise featured the new outfits.

With that in mind, perhaps it’s no surprise that Elsa is sporting a new icy blue ensemble and Anna has ditched her trademark braids for a new half-up, half-down hairdo.

We’ll have to wait until the film is released in November to find out if Frozen 2 will be as successful as its predecessor.

If you have a story suggestion email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) Or (Donsilas@chef.net)

Sri Lanka begins recruitment drive for “moral” hangmen”:


Inmates at Colombo jail – nearly 1,300 prisoners are on death row in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has begun a search for two executioners with “strong moral character” as part of a crackdown on drug smuggling.

The job, advertised in the state-run Daily News paper, pays 36,310 rupees ($158; $203) a month.

Capital punishment is legal in Sri Lanka but no executions have taken place since 1976.

The country has struggled to find a permanent executioner after its last hangman resigned five years ago.

The dedicated role is open to any Sri Lankan males aged 18-45 who possess “mental strength.”

The last hangman resigned in 2014 after seeing the gallows for the first time and going into shock. Another was hired last year but never turned up for work.

Sri Lanka has nearly 1,300 people currently on death row, 48 for drug-related offences.

The country’s constitution recognises the freedom of individuals to engage in “any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise”.

Since 2004 rape, drug trafficking and murder have been considered capital crimes but punishments have only extended to life imprisonment.

hangman's noose - file photo
Sri Lanka has struggled to find a hangman since its one of its recruits resigned in 2014, going into shock after being shown the gallows for the first time.

On 7 February, President Maithripala Sirisena told parliament that he would authorise the death penalty “within the next two months” for those jailed on drugs charges.

During a visit to the Philippines in January, President Sirisena praised President Rodrigo Duterte, for his campaign against drugs, calling it “an example to the world.”

More than 5,000 drug dealers or users have been killed, according to Filipino police, since Mr Duterte launched his anti-narcotics campaign in 2016.

President Sirisena announced in July 2018 that hangings would resume for drug offenders, citing a rise in arrests for drugs offences in the country.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe has criticised the move.

According to the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB), drug-related arrests have risen steadily since 2013.

Cannabis and heroin are the most widely-used drugs in Sri Lanka, and authorities have expressed concerns that the island nation could become a major transit point for traffickers in Asia.

Police have arrested more than 50 people on trafficking charges since the middle of last year.

John Henry Newman: Second miracle approved as sainthood looms”:


John Henry Newman, who was born in 1801, was ordained as a priest in 1847 after converting to Catholicism

Cardinal John Henry Newman is closer to being canonised after a second miracle in his name was confirmed by the Pope.

Two authenticated miracles are required before sainthood and Newman, who was already attributed with curing a man’s spinal disease, is now said to have healed a woman’s unstoppable bleeding.

The Birmingham Oratory announced Pope Francis’ decree with “great joy”.

Newman, born in the city in 1801, would become the first English saint to have lived since the Reformation.

Beatification of John Henry Newman in Birmingham in 2010
Pope Benedict beatified John Henry Newman in Birmingham in 2010

The first miracle the Catholic convert is said by the Vatican to have performed was curing a deacon from Boston, Massachusetts, of a crippling spinal disease.

Pope Francis has since decreed a second miracle, with Newman said to have healed a pregnant woman “suffering from unstoppable internal bleeding”.

Newman was beatified in 2010 by Pope Benedict  before tens of thousands of people in his home city of Birmingham after the first miracle was recognised.

Portrait of John Henry Newman
Newman founded the Birmingham Oratory in Edgbaston which is still in use today

During his life, Newman was a respected religious scholar, who spent much of his time helping the poor and sick.

The last English canonisations were in 1970 of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, a group of Catholics who were executed between 1535 and 1679 under laws enacted during the English Reformation.

Presentational grey line

Four steps to sainthood:

The process cannot begin until at least five years after the candidate’s death and involves scrutinising evidence of his or her holiness and work.

  • First, the individual is declared a “servant of God”
  • He or she is then called “venerable”
  • Beatification: an individual is declared blessed after a miracle is attributed to him or her
  • Canonisation: The candidate becomes a saint after a further Vatican-authenticated miracle
Presentational grey line

The UK’s leading Catholic, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said Newman was “deeply admired”, particularly by the people of Birmingham who “lined the streets” when he died.

The former Archbishop of Birmingham added that the announcement of Newman’s pending canonisation was “wonderful news”.

Birmingham Oratory, the community founded by Newman in 1849, said the confirmation of his “heroic sanctity will be welcomed by Catholics and Anglicans alike”.

Plastic pollution: One town smothered by 17,000 tonnes of rubbish”:


Meet the people who fought back against foreign plastic waste

Malaysia has become one of the world’s biggest plastic importers, taking in rubbish the rest of the world doesn’t want. But one small town is paying the price for this – and it is now smothered in 17,000 tonnes of waste.

It began last summer. Every night, after the clock struck midnight, Daniel Tay knew exactly what was coming.

He would shut his doors, seal his windows and wait for the inevitable. Soon his room would be filled with an acrid smell, like rubber being burned. Coughing, his lungs would tighten.

Over the next few months, the strange smell would return every night, like clockwork.

It was only later that he found the source of the smell – illegal recycling factories that were secretly burning plastic.

Nowhere else to go

Plastic waste in Kuala Langat
The town of Jenjarom has now become synonymous with plastic waste

At that point he had no idea that in 2017 China had decided to ban the import of foreign plastic waste. In that year alone it had taken in seven million tonnes of plastic scrap and many environmental campaigners considered it a victory when China clamped down.

But with nowhere to go, the bulk of the plastic waste – most of it from the UK, the US and Japan – just went somewhere else and that was to Malaysia.

It could have been any town but Jenjarom’s proximity to Port Klang – Malaysia’s largest port and the entry point for most of the country’s plastic imports – made it the ideal location.

From January to July 2018 alone, some 754,000 tonnes of plastic waste was imported into Malaysia.

Map

What the council describes as illegal plastic recycling factories began cropping up, hoping to make a quick profit from the burgeoning plastic recycling industry, worth over RM3bn ($734m, £561m).

According to the State Council, there were soon 33 illegal factories in Kuala Langat – the district Jenjarom is located in. Some sprang up near dense palm oil plantations, others were closer to town.

But it would be months before residents learned of their existence – and then only after the symptoms started appearing.

‘Slowly poisoning them’

“The smells started a while ago but got really bad around August this year,” said Mr Tay.

“I started to feel unwell and I would keep coughing. I was really angry when I found out it was because of the factories.”

Daniel Tay
Daniel Tay says he is angry at the damage the factories caused

Plastic waste is typically recycled into pellets, which can then be used to manufacture other types of plastic.

Not all plastic can be recycled, so legal recycling plants should send unrecyclable plastics to waste centres – something which costs money.

But many illegal recyling plants instead choose to dispose of it in free but unsanitary ways, either burying it or more commonly – burning.

Ngoo Kwi Hong says the fumes from the burning sparked a cough so violent she even coughed up a blood clot.

“I couldn’t sleep at night because it was so smelly. I became like a zombie, I was so tired,” said Ms Ngoo.

“It was only later I found out there were factories surrounding my house – north, south, east, west.”

Those who lived nearest to the factories were affected the most.

Belle Tan, who found out there was an illegal factory just 1km from her house, spoke of the impact on her 11-year-old son.

“He got a really bad rash around his stomach, neck, legs and arms. His skin would keep peeling, even when we touched him it hurt. I was angry and scared for his health but what could I do? The smell was everywhere in the air.”

Belle Tan and her son
Belle Tan says her son’s stomach has been plagued with rashes

It’s unclear if these ailments can be directly linked to air pollution, but one expert said inhaling burnt plastic fumes was likely to have had an impact on their respiratory health.

“The main thing about [these plastic fumes] is that they are carcinogenic. Carcinogens [are involved] in causing cancer,” Tong Yen Wah, a professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS)’s Department of Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering, told the BBC.

“It also depends a lot on the types of plastics being burnt and the exposure to it. If you have short term exposure at a high level you might have difficulty breathing… [or it might] trigger some effects in your lungs. But if it’s long term exposure… that’s where the carcinogenic effects come in.”

But many in the town remain completely unaware or indifferent to the potential effects of the burning.

“Many people here are just trying to make a simple living,” said Mr Tay. “They’ll just say its smelly and get on with their lives, they don’t understand that it is something that could be slowly poisoning them.”

The BBC spoke to several residents, many of whom said they had smelt the fumes, but hadn’t given it much thought.

“You keep smelling it and your body gets used to it,” joked one resident. “Maybe it could even be good for you.”

A makeshift landfill

The Malaysian government has now shut down 33 factories it says were illegal in Jenjarom, and for the most part, the fumes are gone.

But the 17,000 tonnes of rubbish left by these factories is still there – and not insignificant for a town of 30,000. Most of this waste has been repossessed by the authorities, but a staggering 4,000 tonnes of waste plastic still sits on a single site – open to anyone who might walk by.

Graphic

A mountain of rubbish greets you the minute you arrive at what was once an unused piece of land, but is now a makeshift landfill.

A quick walk around the site reveals that a staggering amount of plastic waste comes from foreign countries, with a huge portion of it from Japan and the UK – brands like Asda, Co-op and Fairy can be seen strewn around.

Some of the plastics from different countries found in Jenjarom
Most of the plastic found at the dump site are from the large developed nations

“We are trying to identify who is the owner of the land, we are still investigating this,” Minister of Housing and Local Government Zuraida Kamaruddin told the BBC.

The state that Jenjarom sits in – Selangor – has tried to auction it off but to no avail.

Jenjarom's 4000 metric tonnes of waste
4,000 tonnes of waste sits in a single site

“No one wants it because it is so contaminated,” Yeo Bee Yin, Minister of Energy, Technology, Science, Environment and Climate Change, acknowledged.

Ms Yeo reveals that there are several options available – the most viable of which would be sending the rubbish to a cement plant, which would burn the plastic to generate heat for their boiler. But this solution would come at a high cost to the government.

A dumpsite in Jenjarom
It’s just metres away from a palm tree plantation

“[We estimate that it] will cost around RM2.5m just to transport that pile [to the plant],” Ms Yeo revealed. “[But we recognise that] we have to get rid of that pile first.”

From one town…

But Jenjarom is just one town in Malaysia – the problem of illegal plastic recycling doesn’t end there.

“Many of these [illegal factory operators] rent the land from local Malaysian landowners and set up very [basic] factories,” Ng Sze Han, a local councillor in Selangor, told the BBC.

“When we [catch the illegal factory operators], they just hit and run – we shut them down there, they move to another part of Malaysia.”

And it’s no surprise that they are able to find landowners to rent from so easily.

A plastic recycling factory in Kuala Langat
An abandoned recycling factory in Kuala Langat

One landowner the BBC spoke to reveals he rented his land out for RM50,000 (about $12,260, £9,500) a month to a Chinese national. He says he wasn’t aware of what they were doing, but was essentially only concerned with collecting rent. It’s not an inconsiderable sum when you learn that the average monthly income for a Malaysian family in 2016 was RM5228.

Mr Ng reveals he’s already had calls from officials in Johor and Negeri Sembilan – other states in Malaysia – saying illegal factories had begun popping up in their patches.

He says the problem of illegal plastic recycling is unlikely to be solved effectively without a total ban on plastic.

But this is unlikely to happen.

Ms Kamaruddin says the government had initially considered banning plastic, but “after we studied, we realised it [had a lot of] business potential for Malaysia”.

Instead, she says, stricter rules are being placed on plastic importers – they’ll now have to adhere to newly imposed criteria before being able to gain an Approval Permit (AP) to import plastic waste.

Only companies with a recognised AP will be allowed to import plastic waste into Malaysia.

“If you nip it at the source and customs control it well, I think it will be effective in reducing a lot,” Ms Yeo adds.

Garbage
Decomposing waste sits in moss covered water at one illegal plastic recycling factory

To the rest of the world

There’s a bigger problem here – and what Jenjarom reveals is that there is a huge flaw in the plastic recycling system.

Plastic waste and scrap has its own international trade code – HS3915.

But what this code fails to take into account is whether the waste being imported is of good quality or contaminated – there’s no way to know unless someone manually goes through it.

A report by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2017 recognised that it was common for mixed plastic waste to be concealed “as clean plastic scrap”.

What is needed, says Ms Yeo, is a proper labelling system that will be able to take this distinction into account.

“At the end of the day, [what we need is a] systemic standardisation for waste,” she said.

Otherwise, it seems only a matter of time before other towns in Malaysia – or even the rest of the world – become the next Jenjarom.