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British IS schoolgirl ‘wants to return home’:


Ms Begum was 15 when she left the UK in 2015

One of three schoolgirls who left east London in 2015 to join the Islamic State group says she has no regrets, but wants to return to the UK.

In an interview with the Times, Shamima Begum, now 19, talked about seeing “beheaded heads” in bins – but said that it “did not faze her”.

Speaking from a camp in Syria, she said she was nine months pregnant and wanted to come home for the sake of her baby.

She said she’d had two other children who had both died.

She also described how one of her two school friends that had left the UK with her had died in a bombing. The fate of the third girl is unclear.

‘It was like a normal life’

Bethnal Green Academy pupils Ms Begum and Amira Abase, were both 15, while Kadiza Sultana was 16, when they left the UK in February 2015.

They flew from Gatwick Airport to Turkey after telling their parents they were going out for the day. They later crossed the border into Syria.

After arriving in Raqqa, she stayed at a house with other newly arrived brides-to-be, she told the Times.

“I applied to marry an English-speaking fighter between 20 and 25 years old,” she said.

Ten days later she married a 27-year-old Dutch man who had converted to Islam.

She has been with him since then, and the couple escaped from Baghuz – the group’s last territory in eastern Syria – two weeks ago.

Her husband surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters as they left, and she is now one of 39,000 people in a camp in northern Syria.

Asked by Times journalist Anthony Loyd whether her experiences of living in the one-time IS stronghold of Raqqa had lived up to her aspirations, Ms Begum said: “Yes, it did. It was like a normal life. The life that they show on the propaganda videos – it’s a normal life.

“Every now and then there are bombs and stuff. But other than that…”

“I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago,” she told Mr Loyd.

“I don’t regret coming here.”

‘I always thought we’d die together’

But Ms Begum said the “oppression” had come as a “shock” and said she felt the IS “caliphate” was at an end.

“I don’t have high hopes. They are just getting smaller and smaller,” she said. “And there is so much oppression and corruption going on that I don’t really think they deserve victory.”

She referred to her husband having been held in a prison where men were tortured.

Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum
Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum (l-r) in photos issued by police

A lawyer for the family of Kadiza Sultana said in 2016 that she was believed to have been killed in a Russian air strike.

Ms Begum told the Times her friend had died in a bombing on a house where there was “some secret stuff going on” underground.

She added: “I never thought it would happen. At first I was in denial. Because I always thought if we got killed, we’d get killed together.”

‘Scared this baby is going to get sick’

Ms Begum said losing two children “came as a shock. It just came out of nowhere, it was so hard”.

Her first child, a girl, died at the age of one year and nine months, and was buried in Baghuz a month ago.

Her second child – the first to die – died three months ago at the age of eight months, of an illness that was compounded by malnutrition, the Times reports.

She told the paper she took him to a hospital. “There were no drugs available, and not enough medical staff,” she said.

As a result she said she was “really overprotective” of her unborn child.

“I’m scared that this baby is going to get sick in this camp,” she said. “That’s why I really want to get back to Britain because I know it will be taken care of – health-wise, at least.”

She said she should be giving birth “any day now”.

“I’ll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child.”

IS has lost control of most of the territory it overran, including its strongholds of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

However, fighting continues in north-eastern Syria, where the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) say they captured dozens of foreign fighters in recent weeks.

Pangolins: Rare insight into world’s most trafficked mammal”:


A study is being conducted by conservationists from Chester Zoo

The secret life of the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin, has been caught on camera in Africa.

Footage gives a rare insight into the behaviour of the giant pangolin, the largest of all the scaly animals.

Observed by remote-operated cameras, a baby takes a ride on its mother’s back, while an adult climbs a tree.

Scientists are releasing the footage to highlight the plight of the animals, which are being pushed to extinction by illegal hunting for scales and meat.

Large numbers of their scales have been seized this month alone, including Malaysia’s biggest-ever interception of smuggled pangolin products.

The images and video clips of giant pangolins, one of four species in Africa, were taken at Uganda’s Ziwa sanctuary, where the animals live alongside protected rhinos and are safe from poaching.

Stuart Nixon of Chester Zoo’s Africa Field Programme said much of their behaviour has never been recorded before.

“We know so little about this species, almost everything we’re picking up on camera traps this year as a behaviour is a new thing,” he told BBC News.

The giant pangolin: The largest of the eight pangolin species
The giant pangolin: The largest of the eight species
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Pangolins

  • Sometimes called scaly anteaters, they are the only mammals in the world to be covered in protective scales
  • Their scales are made of keratin, the same material found in human fingernails
  • Pangolins lap up ants and termites with their long sticky tongues
  • There are four species in Africa -the African white-bellied pangolin, giant ground pangolin, ground pangolin and black-bellied pangolin
  • The giant pangolin, found in the rainforests and grasslands of equatorial Africa, is the biggest, measuring up to 1.8m long and weighing up to 75lbs.
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The pangolin is said to be the most widely trafficked mammal in the world.

Its scales are in high demand in Asia for use in traditional Chinese medicine, despite there being no medical benefit for their use, while its meat is considered a delicacy in some countries.

This week, authorities in Malaysia seized more than 27 tonnes of pangolins and their scales – believed to be worth at least £1.6m – on Borneo, in the biggest such haul in the country.

Pangolins are regarded as a delicacy in some countries
They are regarded as a delicacy in some countries

The wildlife monitoring group Traffic said police had discovered two big pangolin-processing facilities stocked with thousands of boxes of meat in the eastern state of Sabah.

“It is hoped that comprehensive investigations can lead to unmasking the syndicate and networks operating from the state and beyond,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Traffic’s director in Southeast Asia.

The discovery comes just days after 10 tonnes of scales were intercepted in Vietnam, Hong Kong and Uganda.

Scientists say the plight of the animals looks bleak, and they have no idea how many are left in the wild.

Pangolin scales intercepted on Borneo
Pangolin scales intercepted on Borneo

Stuart Nixon, who is working in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Rhino Fund Uganda on the project, said they are encountered so rarely in the wild that there is not enough data to allow a decent estimate.

A study is under way to survey and monitor giant pangolins at the site as the first step towards identifying their strongholds.

“This species is literally being wiped out, it’s being obliterated across central Africa, there’s no doubt about that,” he added. “Trying to get people engaged and to care about pangolins is really the key step.”

Sam Mwandha of the Uganda Wildlife Authority added: “These rare glimpses into the lives of giant pangolins are very exciting for those of us dedicated to protecting Uganda’s rich wildlife and challenges us to ensure that we protect and conserve this highly threatened species for future generations.”

Six California officers shot man as he woke in his car”:


Willie McCoy (right) in an image shared by his cousin David Harrison (centre)

California police have said a 20-year-old black man who was shot and killed in his car by six officers last week had reached for a gun first.

But Willie McCoy’s family has pushed back, saying the aspiring rapper was not a threat to the officers as he was just waking up.

Vallejo police had been called for a wellness check when a driver was spotted slumped over in his vehicle.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene on 9 February.

“Any loss of life is a tragedy,” police chief Andrew Bidou said in an updated report of the incident on Tuesday.

The police report does not name Mr McCoy as the driver, citing the ongoing investigation, but local media identified him after speaking with family members.

Vallejo is a city near San Francisco that has been the site of several alleged cases of police brutality against black residents.

What do Vallejo police say?

According to the police department, officers received a call from employees at a Taco Bell fast food restaurant on Saturday night, requesting a check-up on a driver in the parking lot.

When they arrived on scene, they saw Mr McCoy unresponsive in his vehicle with a semi-automatic handgun on his lap. More officers were called while Mr McCoy slept.

Police had planned on opening the car door and retrieving the weapon before engaging Mr McCoy, but were unable to do so as the doors were locked.

Mr McCoy then woke up and looked at the officers, who commanded him to keep his hands visible. Police then say he did not comply and “quickly moved his hands downward for the firearm”.

“Fearing for their safety, six officers fired their duty weapons at the driver,” the news release stated. Multiple rounds were fired in a span of four seconds.

“Officers continued to yell commands at the driver and ultimately reached through the broken glass of the driver’s window to unlock the vehicle.”

Police attempted medical assistance but the driver died at the scene. An official post-mortem examination is still under way.

A preliminary investigation found that the gun had been reported stolen in Oregon.

The officers have not been named and have been placed on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.

Photo of Willie McCoy and his cousin David Harrison
Willie McCoy (left) and his cousin David Harrison

What does the family say?

Mr McCoy’s family has disputed this police account.

During a vigil on Sunday, Mr McCoy’s older brother Mark said police had surprised Mr McCoy and fired too quickly.

“My little brother was just shot for no reason,” he said, according to CBS News.

“If I wake you up… if I knock on your front door and, ‘Bang bang bang!’ you’re going to jump off the bed,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you be safe while you wake him up and then [say] ‘Driver, exit the car’?”

David Harrison, Mr McCoy’s cousin, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that Mr McCoy was raised by relatives after his parents passed away when he was a child.

He said his cousin had finished up a session in a recording studio before he drove to the Taco Bell.

In an emotional Facebook video, Mr Harrison pleaded with other young people to listen to their parents and keep away from cops.

“I want no other parents, no other kid’s parents, to go through this ever again,” Mr Harrison said. “They can’t just keep killing us in the street like this. My little cousin was asleep in the car.”

Mr McCoy’s family has hired civil rights attorney John Burris – who recently took on a case where a homeless man sleeping in Oakland was killed by police – to represent them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

FBI releases serial killer Samuel Little’s drawings of victims”:


The FBI released Samuel Little’s drawings in the hope that the victims could be identified.

The FBI has released the portraits a serial killer drew of his victims in the hope that they can be identified.

Samuel Little, 78, confessed to killing 90 people over three decades last year, while already serving three life sentences for murder.

The killings took place across the US between 1970 and 2005.

Investigators say he targeted “marginalised and vulnerable women”, and that some of their bodies went unidentified and deaths uninvestigated.

Having heard all of his confessions, they believe he could be one of the most prolific serial killers in US history.

Victim drawing
Los Angeles, California: ‘White female between 23-25 years old killed in 1996’
Victim drawing
White female killed in 1984. Met victim in Columbus, Ohio. Body disposed of somewhere in Northern Kentucky’

Little, a former competitive boxer, would knock his victims out with punches before strangling them – meaning that there were not always “obvious signs” that the person had been killed.

Now, they are hoping that Little’s drawings can help them to finally find out who the victims were so that their families can be notified.

“With no stab marks or bullet wounds, many of these deaths were not classified as homicides but attributed to drug overdoses, accidents, or natural causes,” the FBI said in its initial report in November last year.

Victim drawing
White female between 20-25 years old killed in 1972. Victim possibly from Massachusetts’
Victim drawing
‘Black female, age 26, killed between 1976 and 1979. Met victim in St. Louis, Missouri. Victim possibly called Jo’

‘One of the most prolific serial killers in US history’

Although Little has been convicted of three murders, the FBI believes that he is responsible for many more.

Little was first caught in 2012 when he was arrested on a drugs charge in a homeless shelter in Kentucky, and extradited to California.

Once he was in police custody in Los Angeles, officers carried out DNA testing on him.

The results linked him to three unsolved murders from 1987 and 1989, which were all in Los Angeles County.

He pleaded not guilty at trial, but was eventually convicted and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, with no chance of parole.

Victim drawing
‘Black female between 28-29 years old killed in 1984. Victim picked up in Memphis, Tennessee’
Victim drawing
Houston, Texas: ‘Black female between 25-28 years old killed between 1976 and 1979 or in 1993’

His three known victims were beaten and strangled, before their bodies were dumped in alleyways or bins.

Before being convicted of murder Little had already built up an extensive criminal record, with offences from armed robbery to rape in a number of different states across the US.

Little’s case was passed on to the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Programme (ViCAP), which analyses people who serially commit violent and and sexual crimes. They then share their findings with local law enforcement in different areas, in order to check them against any unsolved crimes.

ViCAP, tasked with doing a full background check on Little, noticed that the three LA killings were very similar to a number of unsolved deaths dating back to the 1970s.

Victim drawing
‘Black female between 35-45 years old killed in 1977. Met the victim in Gulfport, Mississippi. Victim possibly from Pascagoula. Victim possibly worked at Ingalls Shipyard.’
Victim drawing
‘Black female killed in 1976 or 1977. Body disposed of somewhere outside Wichita Falls (city unspecified).’

Crime analyst Christina Palazzolo writes on the FBI website that they “found a case out of Odessa, Texas, that sounded very much like him, and we could place him passing through the area around the same time”.

In spring last year, investigators set up an interview with Little, hoping to find out more information. Knowing that he wanted to move prisons, they struck a deal – he could move prisons if he talked.

Then, during the interview, Ms Palazzolo says “he went through city and state and gave [us] the number of people he killed in each place”. Once he was done, he had confessed to 90 killings. The FBI says it has so far been able to verify 34 of these.

Many of Little’s victims were sex workers, people with substance abuse issues and trans women, whose deaths may not have been investigated or would have been ruled to be accidental at the time.

His memory of the killings was mostly precise, as he could give details about where they happened and what car he was driving. But he was unable to remember specific dates – which, investigators say, has caused further issues with identifying the victims.

Agents are continuing to question Little and collect drawings of his victims.

Other images are described as:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada: ‘Black female, age 40, killed in 1993’
  • Monroe, Louisiana: ‘Black female, age 24, killed between 1987 and the early 1990s’
  • ‘Phoenix, Arizona: ‘White female killed in 1997. Victim possibly called Ann’
  • White female, age 26, killed in 1983 or 1984. Victim possibly from Griffith, Georgia’
  • Atlanta, Georgia: ‘Black female between 23-25 years old killed in 1984. Victim possibly a college student’
  • ‘Hispanic female in her 40s. Killed in 1988 or 1996. Victim possibly from Phoenix’
  • Atlanta, Georgia: ‘Black female between 35-40 years old killed in 1981’
  • Miami, Florida: ‘Black [trans female], age 18, killed in 1971 or 1972. Victim possibly called Mary Ann or Marianne’

Ex-US Air Force officer Monica Witt charged with spying for Iran”:


Monica Witt (pictured) allegedly underwent an “ideological” shift before defecting to Iran.

US prosecutors have accused a former US Air Force officer of spying for Iran in an elaborate operation that targeted her fellow intelligence officers.

Monica Witt, who allegedly defected to Iran in 2013, had previously worked as a US counterintelligence officer.

Four Iranian citizens have also been charged with attempting to install spy software on computers belonging to Ms Witt’s colleagues.

According to the FBI, Ms Witt was last seen in southwest Asia in July 2013.

Prosecutors say Ms Witt had been granted the highest level of US security clearance and worked in the US Air Force from 1997 to 2008.

The US Department of Treasury has also sanctioned two Iranian companies – New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company – for their role in the plot.

“It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country, said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the head of the justice department’s national security division.

What are the charges?

Ms Witt is accused of sharing US government secrets, including the name of agents and specifics of operations, with Iran as early as January 2012.

In a charging document, investigators say the 39-year-old was deployed by the US to locations in the Middle East to conduct classified counterintelligence operations.

Prosecutors allege that shortly after defecting to Iran, she handed over information on her colleagues in order to cause “serious damage” to the United States.

According to officials, she sent a message to her Iranian contact in 2012 saying: “I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.”

Investigators allege Ms Witt was recruited after attending two conferences hosted by New Horizon Organization, which was working on behalf of the Iranian National Guard’s Quds Force to collect intelligence on attendees.

Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Several conferences sponsored by the New Horizon Organization have taken place in Iran and Iraq in recent years, according to US officials.

The conferences often included an “anti-Western” sentiment and “propagate anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories including Holocaust denial”.

At least one of those New Horizon conferences was organised by Iranian-American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by US officials in January as a material witness in a federal criminal case, according to the Tehran Times.

The Department of Treasury accuses Net Peygard Samavat Company of being “involved in a malicious cyber campaign to gain access to and implant malware on the computer systems of current and former counterintelligence agents”.

Monica Witt in Air Force uniform
Monica Witt was last heard from while travelling in southwest Asia.

Who is Monica Witt?

Monica Elfriede Witt, a former Texas resident, left the US military in 2008 after more than a decade of service.

A previously issued FBI missing persons poster said she was working as an English teacher in either Afghanistan or Tajikistan, and had lived overseas for more than a year before vanishing.

While in Iran, she also allegedly converted to Islam during a television segment after identifying herself as a US veteran, and delivered several broadcasts in which she criticised the US.

In the weeks after defecting, she also conducted several Facebook searches of her former colleagues, and is alleged to have exposed one agent’s true identity, “thereby risking the life of this individual”.

A warrant has been issued for Ms Witt, who remains at large.

What’s the state of US-Iran relations?

Last November, US President Donald Trump re-imposed all sanctions on Iran that had been suspended due to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement.

Mr Trump has withdrawn the US from the agreement, leading to a foreign policy rift between the US and the European nations who are party to the deal.

Diplomats are expected to discuss Iran during a US-led two day summit on “peace and security” that began on Wednesday in Warsaw.

On the conference’s opening day, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave a speech in which he called for regime change in Iran.

The US and Iran do not maintain diplomatic relations, and communications between the two nations are exchanged through Swiss diplomats.

Ford exit reports ‘deeply worrying’ for Bridgend plant”:


Reports of Ford stepping up plans to move production out of the UK are “deeply worrying”, former first minister Carwyn Jones has said.

The Times newspaper claimed the car giant told Prime Minister Theresa May it was preparing sites abroad.

Ford did not comment on the claim but said a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for the UK car industry.

It has a plant in Mr Jones’ Bridgend constituency and last month union Unite said 1,000 jobs were to be cut by 2021.

Those cuts, which the union said was because of challenging market conditions, would see the site’s workforce almost halve.

Ford is looking to shake up its European operations and is the latest carmaker to warn about the risks of a no-deal Brexit ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU on 29 March.

A spokesman said: “Such a situation would be catastrophic for the UK auto industry and Ford’s manufacturing operations in the country.

“We will take whatever action is necessary to preserve the competitiveness of our European business.”

Labour’s Mr Jones expressed his concern for workers and their families in Bridgend, but blamed the impasse over the Brexit deal on a lack of leadership at UK level.

“We have no idea what Brexit will look like,” he said.

Ford workers in Bridgend
The job losses in Bridgend would be phased over the next two years

“We’re six or seven weeks away from it and companies like Ford are saying, ‘look we can’t wait any longer, we’re going to have to put in place contingency plans’ and that’s deeply worrying.

“We need to make sure that we get to an agreement and certainty as quickly as possible.”

Unite national officer Des Quinn urged MPs to “stop gambling” with the futures of UK workers and their families.

He added: “They now must do what is best for the country by taking a no deal, hard Brexit off the table and securing the tariff-free, frictionless trade with Europe through a permanent customs union on which our manufacturing success depends.”

The UK government said the best way to provide certainty to industry is for MPs to support the prime minister’s Brexit deal.

Monica Witt: Who the woman at the centre of the spying case?


US prosecutors have accused a former US Air Force officer of spying for Iran in an elaborate operation that targeted her fellow intelligence officers.

But who is Monica Witt?

Details of her upbringing are unclear, but a previously issued FBI missing persons poster says that she was born on 8 April 1979 in El Paso, Texas.

According a curriculum vitaeposted on jobs website Indeed, Ms Witt joined the Air Force in December 1997. Stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, she worked as a Persian-Farsi language specialist.

She later served as a Special Agent at the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) from November 2003, based at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. On its website, the AFOSI says its mission is to “identify, exploit and neutralize criminal, terrorist and intelligence threats to the Air Force, Department of Defense and U.S. Government.”

A spokesperson for the US Air Force told the BBC she was discharged in June 2008 with the rank of Technical Sergeant. She received numerous decorations including the Air Medal, awarded for “single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements.”

Ms Witt left the US military in May 2008 with the rank of Technical Sergeant. For the next seven months, she worked as a contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton in Maryland, consulting on “Iranian subject matter” and providing “language and cultural specialisation.”

From November 2008 to August 2010, she worked as a Middle East Desk Officer at another contractor, Chenega Federal Systems, in Virginia. During this role Ms Witt says she “supervised, controlled, and coordinated the execution of highly sensitive counterintelligence operations against foreign intelligence services worldwide.”

Later, from December 2010 to May 2011, Ms Witt worked in Washington with Amidest. During her time with the non-profit, she “submitted applications for 60 Iraqi Fulbright candidates to multiple U.S. universities.”

According to her CV, she holds a Bachelors degree, from the University of Maryland, a Masters from George Washington University, and a qualification in Persian-Farsi from the Defense Language Institute.

Whilst at George Washington University, she published articles on Tajik-Iranian relations andsubsidy reform in Iran .

She claims to have lived and worked within countries including Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, the UAE., Tajikistan, and Iran.

Monica Witt in Air Force uniform
Monica Witt was last heard from while travelling in southwest Asia.

After this, details of her activities and whereabouts are unclear.

In an undated missing persons declaration the FBI says Witt worked as an English teacher in either Afghanistan or Tajikistan and had out of contact since 2013.

According to her indictment, Ms Witt travelled to Iran in February 2012 to attend a conference organised by the New Horizon Organization. The Justice Department says the event is sponsored by Iran’s Revolutionary and seeks to promote “anti-American propaganda.”

Ms Witt allegedly had an “ideological” turn and defected to Iran in August 2013.

Returning to the country that month, she was provided with housing and computer equipment went on to disclose highly-classified information to Iranian officials. The information included details of her former colleagues within the US intelligence community.

While in Iran, she also allegedly converted to Islam during a television segment after identifying herself as a US veteran, and delivered several broadcasts in which she criticised the US.

In one article , published by state-run Press TV, Ms Witt attacked “a prevailing culture of tolerance for sexual harassment” within the US armed forces.

A warrant has been issued for Ms Witt, who remains at large.

Brexit: Sturgeon steps up no-deal planning”:



The Scottish government has stepped up its preparations for a no-deal Brexit as it again called on Theresa May to rule out the possibility.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she still believes no deal can be avoided.

But she said her government had a duty to plan for the possibility as best it could.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March, but MPs have so far refused to back the deal agreed by the prime minister and the EU.

ITV News has said that one of its reporters overheard the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, Olly Robbins, saying in a Brussels bar that the EU was likely to allow an extension to the Brexit process.

Mrs May has played down reports that she could force MPs to choose between backing her deal or accepting a delay to EU withdrawal.

The prime minister told the Commons that people should not rely on “what someone said to someone else, as overheard by someone else, in a bar”.

She insisted that the government still intends to leave the EU on 29 March with a deal in place – but Downing Street has stressed that the possibility of a no-deal Brexit “remains on the table”, saying it is an “eventuality we wish to avoid, but one we continue to plan for”.

Nicola Sturgeon at Scottish cabinet meeting
Ms Sturgeon chaired a meeting of the Scottish government’s cabinet in Glasgow

The UK government argues that the best way to avoid no deal is for MPs to back the prime minister’s proposals, which it says are “the best deal available for jobs and the economy across the whole of the UK, allowing us to honour the referendum and realise the opportunities of Brexit.”

Speaking after a meeting of the Scottish cabinet in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon told BBC Scotland that Mrs May was attempting to “run down the clock” in an attempt to “blackmail” MPs into backing her deal “at the very, very last minute”.

She added: “The prime minister can only get away with that if the House of Commons allows her to get away with that, and the longer it does the more complicit it will become in the disaster that eventually unfolds”.

Theresa May says she would need "some time" to hold further talks with the EU
Theresa May says she would need “some time” to hold further talks with the EU

Scotland’s chief economist warned that a no-deal Brexit would lead to a “major dislocation” to the country’s economy in his latestState of the Economy report , which was published on Wednesday morning.

Gary Gillespie said disruptions to logistics, supply, trade, investment, migration and market confidence could cause a “significant structural change in the economy”.

‘Reckless and negligent’

Ms Sturgeon said it was “reckless and negligent” for the UK government to refuse to rule out no-deal, adding: “But we appear to be dealing with a UK government that’s prepared to act recklessly and negligently.

“Therefore as of today we have stepped up our no-deal planning. We don’t think it should be inevitable, we’ll do everything in our power to help rule that out.

“But we would not be doing our job properly if we didn’t properly plan as best we can, because not all of the consequences will be able to be mitigated.”

MPs rejected the deal negotiated between the UK and the EU by a historic margin in January, and the prime minister saying she is now seeking legally-binding changes to the controversial “backstop” – the “insurance policy” aimed at avoiding a return to border checks between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

In her BBC Scotland interview, Ms Sturgeon also repeated that she would set out her thinking on the timing of a second independence referendum in the “coming weeks”.

When asked whether she believes Scotland will be independent in the next few years, she replied: “I’m not going to put a precise timescale on it, but I do hope and believe that Scotland will become independent.

“I hope that’s within the next few years because I think it becomes more and more urgent that we are in charge of the big decisions that shape our future and shape our destiny.”

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Apple to investigate Saudi app:


The app makes it easier for men to prevent women from travelling, human rights group claim

A Saudi Arabian app that can be used to track women and prevent them from travelling will be investigated by Apple, its chief executive has said.

In an interview with NPR, Tim Cook said he wasn’t aware of the Absher app but would look into it.

The app, which offers access to government services, has been criticised by human rights groups.

Democratic senator Ron Wyden has called for Apple and Google to remove it from their stores.

Women in Saudi Arabia need to get permission to leave the country from a male guardian, usually a father or husband.

The Absher app, which is designed for a range of government services, such as renewing driving licences, makes the process of allowing or prohibiting travel a lot easier, and it can be done via a smartphone.

Originally designed for the Ministry of Interior, the app has been in use for several years and downloaded more than a million times.

An investigation from website Insider exposed how it was being used by male guardians to register wives, sisters and daughters to either restrict or permit international travel.

The man receives a notification if a dependent woman attempts to leave the country.

Human Rights Watch told the publication: “Apps like this one can facilitate human rights abuses, including discrimination against women.”

In an open letter to both companies, in response to the report, Mr Wyden wrote: “It is hardly news that the Saudi monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government’s patriarchy.”

The app has also been used by some women to secretly change the settings on their male guardian’s phone so that it allows them to travel, the Insider reports.

Google has not responded to requests from the BBC for comment.

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.

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