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Pakistan Taliban leader ‘killed by drone’ in Afghanistan

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Pakistan Taliban leader 'killed by drone' in Afghanistan

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Omar Khalid Khorasani, pictured in a photo taken from archive footage

The leader of a Pakistani Islamist militant group has been killed by a suspected US drone attack in Afghanistan, its spokesman says.

Omar Khalid Khorasani led Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban behind several high-profile bomb attacks inside Pakistan.

Nine other militants were killed alongside him in the drone strike, the group's spokesman said.

Local media report increasing numbers of drone attacks in the past week.

Nearly 40 people, many of them suspected militants, have been killed along the border.

Khorasani's death comes ahead of a visit to Pakistan by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Analysts say Islamabad has been urging Washington to target militants who attack inside Pakistan and hide over the border in Afghanistan.

Rumours

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar admitted being behind last year's Easter Sunday bombing of Christians in a park in Lahore that killed at least 70 people, including 29 children

It also said it was behind the suicide attack on a hospital in Quetta that killed at least 74 people.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Jamaat-ul-Ahrar was behind high-profile bomb attacks inside Pakistan

There were rumours in recent days that Khorasani had been injured during US drone strikes along the border, and Thursday saw his group confirm his death.

"Chief of our Jamaat-ul-Ahrar Omar Khalid Khorasani, who sustained serious injuries in a recent US drone strike in Afghanistan's Paktia province, succumbed to his injuries Wednesday evening," spokesman Asad Mansoor told AFP news agency by telephone.

"At least nine close associates of Khorasani were also killed in the strike", he added.

He confirmed the news when speaking to Reuters news agency.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014 but a year later said it had rejoined the Pakistani Taliban, which is allied to al-Qaeda.

Khorasani was seriously wounded in a Nato air strike in eastern Afghanistan in 2015 but recovered from his injuries.


Source – bbc.com

World

Catalonia crisis: Spain moves to suspend autonomy

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Catalonia crisis: Spain moves to suspend autonomy

Image copyright AFP
Image caption There are fears that the latest moves could lead to unrest in Catalonia

Spain is to start suspending Catalonia's autonomy from Saturday, as the region's leader threatens to declare independence.

The government said ministers would meet to activate Article 155 of the constitution, allowing it to take over running of the region.

Catalonia's leader said the region's parliament would vote on independence if Spain continued "repression".

Catalans voted to secede in a referendum outlawed by Spain.

Some fear the latest moves could spark further unrest after mass demonstrations before and since the ballot on 1 October.

Spain's supreme court declared the vote illegal and said it violated the constitution, which describes the country as indivisible.

Article 155 of the constitution, which cemented democratic rule three years after the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975, allows Madrid to impose direct rule in a crisis but it has never been invoked.

BBC Madrid correspondent Tom Burridge says that for Madrid this is about upholding the rule of law in Catalonia, protecting the Spanish constitution and disciplining what it sees as an unruly, disobedient devolved government.

However, the central government wants to minimise the risk of large-scale demonstrations, our correspondent says. Civil servants and government lawyers have thought long and hard about what measures to adopt and when and how they should be implemented.

  • Cases for and against independence
  • Catalan crisis in 300 words
  • Reality Check: Would Catalonia be a viable country?

A slow game

By Katya Adler, BBC Europe editor

The Catalan crisis is reaching breaking point but we have to be careful here. Nothing will happen from one day to the next.

Political rhetoric aside, both the Spanish government and Catalan regional leaders know sentiments are running so high across Spain at the moment, that millions are poised to take to the streets.

Once the shopping list of measures has been decided, the Catalan leader has the right of reply and we're told there is no legal window of opportunity for him to do so, meaning this could take days or weeks.

Finally, the Spanish Senate needs to approve the measures.

Read more from Katya

What is Madrid's position?

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had set a deadline of 10:00 local time (08:00 GMT) for Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to offer a definitive answer on the independence question, and called on him to "act sensibly".

  • The man who wants to break up Spain

When it passed, the Spanish government accused the Catalan authorities of seeking confrontation.

"The Spanish government will continue with the procedures outlined in Article 155 of the Constitution to restore legality in Catalonia's self-government," it said.

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Media captionWhy is there a Catalan crisis? The answer is in its past, as Europe correspondent Gavin Lee explains

"It denounces the attitude maintained by those in charge of the Generalitat [Catalan government] to seek, deliberately and systematically, institutional confrontation despite the serious damage that is being caused to the coexistence and the economic structure of Catalonia.

"No-one doubts that the Spanish government will do all it can to restore the constitutional order."

What happens now?

Mr Rajoy is currently attending an EU summit in Brussels.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, says there is no space for any international mediation or EU action on the Catalan crisis – though he did say there was "no hiding that the situation in Spain is concerning".

On Saturday the government will be expected to draw up a list of specific measures under Article 155 of the constitution, launching the transfer of powers from Catalonia to Madrid.

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Media captionCatalonia independence and some of Europe's border changes

The article says: "If a self-governing community does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain, the government… may… take all measures necessary to compel the community to meet said obligations, or to protect the above-mentioned general interest."

It is thought the measures implemented could range from taking control of the regional police and finances to calling a snap election.

Spain's Senate, controlled by Mr Rajoy's conservative Popular Party (PP) and its allies, would then have to approve the list.

Analysts say Article 155 does not give the government the power to fully suspend autonomy, and it will not be able to deviate from the list of measures.

And Xavier Arbós, a constitutional expert at the University of Barcelona, said the situation was moving into "uncharted territory".

He told the BBC: "We simply do not know what measures the Spanish government could enact. We do not know how the powers of the Catalan government could be affected."

Where does this leave the Catalan leader?

Mr Puigdemont said in a letter to Mr Rajoy on Thursday morning that the independence declaration remained suspended but this could change.

"If the government continues to impede dialogue and continues with the repression, the Catalan parliament could proceed, if it is considered opportune, to vote on a formal declaration of independence."

But he faces an uphill struggle – it is likely that senior figures in charge of internal security in Catalonia could be dismissed, and control of the region's police force could pass to Madrid.

The regional parliament could also be dissolved.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Tough choices: How will Carles Puigdemont (L) answer Mariano Rajoy's ultimatum?

One Spanish newspaper has reported that Mr Puigdemont might nominally remain in his job but Madrid would aim to take control of many of his duties and powers.

Ultimately the process could end in regional elections but the Spanish constitution does not impose any time limit.


Source – bbc.com

World

Anger over Mogadishu bomb attack boils over into streets

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Anger over Mogadishu bomb attack boils over into streets

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Media captionThe BBC's Alastair Leithead at the scene of Somalia's bomb attack

A red bandana has become the new symbol of protest in Mogadishu as anger over the city's most destructive bomb attack is boiling over on to the streets.

Men and women in the city, security officers, even government officials – all are wearing a piece of red cloth around their foreheads to show unity and solidarity for the hundreds of people killed and injured in Saturday's massive truck bombing.

"It represents the blood of my people who have been killed in the explosion," said one girl pressed up against the fence at the national stadium for a demonstration organised by the city.

"If the Somali people unite they can defeat everything," another said, red cloth wrapped around her hijab.

The crowd chanted anti-al-Shabab slogans as they waited for the mayor of Mogadishu, the prime minister and the president to arrive.

Thousands came. It was something never seen before in the aftermath of a bomb attack.

There have been small protests in the past but people have been afraid of being targeted by the Islamist group.

This demonstration, and the rioting in the streets at the scene of Saturday's blast, betrayed a real change of atmosphere in Mogadishu – from fear to anger.

Image copyright AFP
Image copyright Reuters

And that's why this bomb attack is different – why this could be a turning point.

"Al-Shabab started to kill 10 people, we kept silent, then they killed 20, and next they killed 100," said Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed. "Now, they killed 300 innocent Somali civilians.

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  • Who are al-Shabab?

"We are telling [al-Shabab] that from now on, we are all soldiers and will come to you. We will no longer tolerate a Somali boy being killed and a Somali girl being killed. And we'll defend this flag."

But the crack of gunfire near the scene of the blast at K5 – the Kilometre Five junction – was perhaps a stronger indication of public feeling.

Image copyright Reuters

Stones were thrown, guns fired, people killed – for no reason other than the crowd was angry and had only a few security officers to channel that anger against.

That anger needs to be handled carefully and directed well – against al-Shabab, not the government or security forces for not doing enough to stop these attacks.

Al-Shabab have not said they carried out this attack, perhaps because of the number of civilians killed.

K5 was probably not the target. Security sources say the truck had travelled through a number of lighter checkpoints, with its cargo of homemade and some military grade explosives disguised with sacks of rice. When it reached Kilometre Six, suspicions were raised and the security forces called ahead.

The driver detonated his explosives before he could be stopped. It seems to have been a coincidence that he did so next to a petrol tanker, upping the death toll.

At one of Mogadishu's busiest junctions at one of the busiest times of the week, the blast tore through the traffic-jammed streets and crowded pavements.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The bomb mangled buildings

Security sources disagree over the intended target.

In the past, "complex" al-Shabab attacks involved a first, smaller bomb at a security gate allowing a second, larger bomb to get through and cause greater damage.

In this case a second, smaller car bomb was intercepted and the driver arrested just before it exploded – killing and injuring a number of people. The driver is accused of taking part in a previous large-scale attack in Mogadishu and is believed to be a member of al-Shabab.

The vehicles were travelling along different routes but they appeared to be moving towards the airport – the "green zone" of Mogadishu where the UN and many international embassies are based. This may have been the target or maybe the foreign ministry or a new Turkish military base.

A third explosion further out of town has not been widely reported but it happened around the same time as the second blast, so could have been part of a botched plan.

The security forces are expected to release more information about the blast and about the efforts being made to stop al-Shabab from striking again.

Amid the anger and determination among those wearing red bandanas was a man who also gave a realistic picture of the fight against al-Shabab.

"We can't stop these people – they live among us – only God can stop them," he said.


Source – bbc.com

World

French cinema legend Danielle Darrieux dies aged 100

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French cinema legend Danielle Darrieux dies aged 100

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Darrieux in the 1930s

French actress and singer Danielle Darrieux has died aged 100 in her home in Bois-le-Roi, France.

She became unwell "after a little fall", her partner Jacques Jenvrin told AFP news agency.

Fondly referred to as the "grande dame" of French cinema, Darrieux had about a 140 films to her name in a career over eight decades.

But her decision to continue working during the Nazi occupation of France saw her branded as a collaborationist.

Born in Bordeaux in 1917, Darrieux started in comedy with a film role on Le Bal at just 14.

She went on take more dramatic roles in films such as Mayerling by Anatole Litvak in 1936 where she stared opposite Charles Boyer – for which she won a National Board of Review Best Actress prize.

Image copyright STF
Image caption Darrieux on stage of the movie En haut des marches

During the Nazi occupation, she continued to work and even travelled to Berlin in 1942.

She was visiting her then-husband, Porfirio Rubirosa, who had been arrested by the Germans on suspicion of espionage.

After the war, her career picked up again with such notable films as La Ronde in 1950 and The Earrings of Madame de… in 1953.

Lingering doubts about her wartime activities were quashed by her performance as Marie Octobre in the 1959 thriller about the survivors of a French resistance network and their quest to find the person who had betrayed their murdered leader.

In 1967, she starred and sang in Jacques Demy's classic Les Demoiselles De Rochefort, a move which gave her career a new lease of life, and she would later find work in Hollywood and Broadway.

Image caption Darrieux performing on stage in the play Oscar et la dame en rose

"I went to the studio as one went to school, I was lazy and I remain so," Darrieux once said but she continued working until she was 99, lending her voice in the 2007 animated hit Persepolis.

Darrieux joins a list of French icons who have all passed away in recent months, including Jean Rochefort, Mireille Darc, Jeanne Moreau and Emmanuelle Riva.

French television stations are rescheduling their programming to include some of Darrieux's work this week.


Source – bbc.com

World

Gitanjali Rao: Girl of 11 takes US young scientist prize

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Gitanjali Rao: Girl of 11 takes US young scientist prize

Image copyright Discovery Education
Image caption Gitanjali Rao's device could make testing water for lead contamination quicker and cheaper

A schoolgirl aged 11 has been honoured as "America's top young scientist" for inventing a quick, low-cost test to detect lead-contaminated water.

Gitanjali Rao was selected from 10 finalists who had spent three months collaborating with scientists to develop their ideas.

Her device uses carbon nanotubes to detect the presence of lead.

Thousands of US water systems are reportedly contaminated by lead.

Gitanjali's invention was inspired by the scandal in Flint, Michigan, where officials are facing charges including manslaughter over water contamination in 2014-15, she told Business Insider.

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Media captionFlint resident Melissa Mays: 'Our hair fell out'

Until now, testing reliably for lead was expensive and meant sending away samples for analysis.

But Gitanjali's portable invention – named Tethys, after the Greek goddess for fresh water – allows a sensor linked to a mobile app to give an accurate, almost immediate analysis via a mobile app.

"If you take a shower in contaminated water, you do get rashes and that can easily be studied by an epidemiologist," she told Business Insider. "And if somebody drinks lead in their water, their children might have small, minor defects."

Gitanjali said she wanted to further refine the device so it could eventually go on the market.

She said she wanted to be either a geneticist or epidemiologist when she grew up.

Gitanjali won a $25,000 (£19,000) prize for scooping the top award at the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

The innovations developed by the remaining nine finalists include:

  • The identification of a molecule that could potentially be used to treat Alzheimer's disease
  • A robot that helps reduce water wastage during lawn maintenance
  • A biodegradable material made from pomegranate husks and orange peel for cleaning up oil spills.


Source – bbc.com

World

Love, Barack: Obama’s letters to college girlfriend unveiled

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Love, Barack: Obama's letters to college girlfriend unveiled

Image copyright Emory
Image caption The letters are affectionate, but mostly deal with Mr Obama's life as a young graduate

Angst-ridden letters from a young Barack Obama to his girlfriend reveal a 20-something plagued by insecurities about race, class and money.

The handwritten letters are between a young Mr Obama and Alexandra McNear, who he met in California as a student.

Some show the future president's early struggles, working a job he cares little for just to get by.

Acquired by Emory University's Rose Library in 2014, they have only now been published.

"They are quite beautifully composed and reveal the search of a young man for meaning and identity," library director Rosemary Magee said.

"They show the same kind of yearnings and issues that our own students face – and that students everywhere encounter."

Long distance

The letters were written between 1982 and 1984, five years before Mr Obama's first date with his eventual wife Michelle.

In one of the earliest letters, he wrote: "I trust you know that I miss you, that my concern for you is as wide as the air, my confidence in you as deep as the sea, my love rich and plentiful."

It was signed: "Love, Barack."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Obama – pictured here in 2004 – wrote the letters while in a long-distance relationship

But the long-distance relationship did not last. By 1983, he tells her: "I think of you often, though I stay confused about my feelings."

"It seems we will ever want what we cannot have; that's what binds us; that's what keeps us apart."

Finding his path

In one letter, a young Obama writes about his friends preparing to settle down or take over the family business.

But born in Hawaii, to a father from Kenya, and spending much of his early years in Indonesia, he felt different.

"I must admit large dollops of envy," he wrote.

"Caught without a class, a structure, or a tradition to support me, in a sense the choice to take a different path is made for me."

"The only way to assuage my feelings of isolation are to absorb all the traditions, classes, make them mine, me theirs."

Image copyright Emory
Image caption The nine letters run to about 30 pages of thoughts and affections

But it was not so easy.

As a graduate in 1983, returning to Indonesia where he grew up, he found that he no longer belonged there. "I can't speak the language well anymore," he said.

"I'm treated with a mixture of puzzlement, deference and scorn because I'm American – my money and my plane ticket back to the US overriding my blackness."

"I see old dim roads, rickety homes winding back towards the fields, old routes of mine, routes I no longer have access to."

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Portrait of the president as a young man

The young graduate knew he wanted to work in the kind of community projects he would later champion as president – but, like many young people, had to be practical.

"One week I can't pay postage to mail a resume and writing sample, the next I have to bounce a cheque to rent a typewriter," he wrote in 1983.

"Salaries in the community organisations are too low to survive on right now, so I hope to work in some more conventional capacity for a year, allowing me to store up enough nuts to pursue those interests next."

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Media captionMore than 30 years later, Mr Obama paid tribute to his wife as he ended his term of office

Taking a job at publishing house Business International, he said he became "one of the 'promising young men'… with everyone slapping my back and praising my work".

But he worried the corporate job might have "dulled my senses or done irreparable damage to my values" and left shortly afterwards.

And there were other signs in his writing of who he might become. In a 1984 letter to Alexandra, he pondered what he could do with more influence.

"My ideas aren't as crystallised as they were while in school, but they have an immediacy and weight that may be more useful if and when I'm less observer and more participant," he said.


Source – bbc.com

World

Trump sends family $25,000 after claim of broken promise

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Trump sends family $25,000 after claim of broken promise

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Cpl Dillon Baldridge was killed over the summer by a rogue Afghan commander he had been training

The White House says President Donald Trump has sent a personal cheque to a dead soldier's family after they said he had not kept his promise to do so.

The father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan said Mr Trump offered $25,000 (£19,000) of his own money during a June phone call.

The White House said it was "disgusting" that the media would exploit the issue.

The dispute came as Mr Trump denied being insensitive to a war widow.

  • Five reasons Trump's war widow story stings

On Wednesday, the president rejected a claim that he had told the wife of a soldier killed in Niger this month her husband knew what he signed up for.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Proud father Chris Baldridge with his son, Dillon (R)

Later that day, the Washington Post reported on a phone call that bereaved father Chris Baldridge said he had received from the president.

His 22-year-old son Cpl Dillon Baldridge was killed over the summer by a rogue Afghan commander he had been training.

Mr Baldridge said that during the call he vented frustration to Mr Trump about a US military survivor benefits programme.

To his surprise, he said, the president offered to send a personal cheque and set up an online fundraiser.

But the family told the Post they are still waiting for the money.

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Media captionCongresswoman Frederica Wilson: "How insensitive can you be?"

"I was just floored," said Mr Baldridge, of Zebulon, North Carolina.

"I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this.

"He said, 'No other president has ever done something like this,' but he said, 'I'm going to do it.'"

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told US media hours later: "The cheque has been sent.

"It's disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognised as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media's biased agenda."

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Media captionGold Star Mother Christina Ayube: "We don't need to be reminded of that on the way to receiving the body"

Jessie Baldridge, stepmother of the slain soldier, told local media the family feels no resentment towards Mr Trump over the delay.

"We just thought he was saying something nice," she told WTVD, a local TV station, in North Carolina.

"We got a condolence letter from him and there was no cheque, and we kind of joked about it."

A White House official said the payment "has been in the pipeline since the President's initial call with the father".

"There is a substantial process that can involve multiple agencies anytime the President interacts with the public, especially when transmitting personal funds", the official said.

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Media captionTrump denigrates Obama over false fallen soldier claim

"The President has personally followed up several times to ensure that the cheque was being sent. As stated earlier, the check has been sent."

Mr Trump is not the first president to be accused of breaking his word to a grieving family.

In 2016, President Barack Obama was prodded into sending a donation by cheque to a foundation set up by the family of slain US hostage Kayla Mueller.

The White House acted after an ABC News report that the private presidential promise was unkept.


Source – bbc.com

World

Afghan army base destroyed by Taliban suicide bombers

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Afghan army base destroyed by Taliban suicide bombers

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A soldier at a checkpoint leading to the Maiwind district of Kandahar, where this attack took place

At least 43 Afghan soldiers have been killed and nine wounded after two suicide bombers in Humvee armoured vehicles destroyed a military base in the southern province of Kandahar.

Six are still missing and 10 militants are also said to have died.

Separately, two members of the security forces died in a siege of police headquarters in the eastern province of Ghazni.

The Taliban said they were behind the early morning bloodshed.

The attacks are the third and fourth major assaults on Afghan security forces this week.

Only two soldiers are known to have survived the Kandahar attack without injuries, AFP news agency reports.

"Unfortunately there is nothing left inside the camp," defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said. "They have burned down everything they found inside."

It happened in the Chashmo area of Maiwand district.

  • Who are the Taliban?
  • Four days behind the Taliban front line
  • The new 'Great Game' in Afghanistan

Afghanistan's army and police suffered heavy casualties this year at the hands of the Taliban, who want to re-impose their strict version of Islamic law in the country. This week, more than 100 people died in four attacks.

On Tuesday, Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen killed at least 41 people when they stormed a police training centre in the eastern Afghan city of Gardez.

About 150 people were injured in the violence. The local hospital, in Paktia province, said it was "overwhelmed" and issued an urgent appeal for blood donors.

The same day, at least 30 more people died in car bombings in Ghazni province. Armoured Humvee vehicles filled with explosives were detonated near the provincial governor's office before gunmen moved in.


Source – bbc.com

World

Xi Jinping: China’s president ‘to get own political theory’

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Xi Jinping: China's president 'to get own political theory'

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Media captionBBC China editor Carrie Gracie has a look at the Communist Party messages all over Beijing

Chinese president Xi Jinping is to be given his own political theory, according to state news agency Xinhua.

It will be known as "Xi Jinping Thought" and has 14 principles, the agency says.

The theory is likely to be incorporated into the constitution of the ruling Communist Party, which would strengthen Xi Jinping's position at the top.

He would be the first leader to lend his name to a political theory since Deng Xiaoping, who retired in 1989.

The only other leader to do so was Mao Zedong.

Profile: China's President Xi Jinping

Xinhua says the Communist Party of China has created "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era".

The report appeared in English but has yet to be confirmed in Chinese-language state media.

It quotes senior party officials such as Zhang Dejiang who said "the thought is the biggest highlight of the 19th National Congress" and a "historic contribution to the Party's development".

The BBC's China Editor Carrie Gracie says it is very unlikely that they would make these comments, or that these comments would be reported in Xinhua, without representing the authoritative view of the party.

But the remote possibility does still exist that Xi Jinping Thought will not be in the constitutional amendments, our correspondent adds.

Symbolism over substance?

By Michael Bristow, BBC News

As yet, we have only have a vague sense of what "Xi Jinping Thought" is all about.

Xinhua describes it as socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era: a nice slogan but hard to pin down.

In some respects, the fundamentals of the new theory are unimportant. Attaching Xi Jinping's name to a political philosophy is as much about symbolism as substance.

The two previous Chinese leaders had their theories – Hu Jintao was known for his "scientific outlook on development" and Jiang Zemin had "the theory of three represents".

It would have been odd if Xi Jinping had not got his own.

But Mr Xi appears to have gone further than his two immediate predecessors. Neither Mr Hu nor Mr Jiang had their names linked to their theories.

That privilege has previously gone only to Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, communist China's two most revered leaders. Does this mean Mr Xi's power now rivals theirs?

Formally, "Xi Jinping Thought" still needs to be approved at the Communist Party congress before it is incorporated into the party's constitution.

The congress, which takes place once every five years, will finish on Tuesday. More than 2,000 delegates are attending the event, which is taking place under tight security.


Source – bbc.com

World

Venezuela swears in governors amid opposition boycott

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Venezuela swears in governors amid opposition boycott

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Eighteen newly elected governors out of 23 were sworn in

In Venezuela, 18 newly elected socialist governors have been sworn in by the constituent assembly.

Five governors from the opposition Roundtable for Democracy (MUD) coalition boycotted the event.

They said they refused to bow to the constituent assembly, which they consider illegitimate.

The boycott is the latest stand-off between the opposition and the governing socialist party amid a grave economic and political crisis.

The swearing-in ceremony followed disputed regional elections on Sunday.

  • Socialists win disputed polls
  • Elections neither 'free nor fair' – US

The opposition expected to win in a majority of states following months of anti-government protests and amid widespread discontent about sky-high inflation and wide-spread shortages of basic goods.

But according to the National Electoral Council, the Socialist Unity Party (PSUV) of President Nicolás Maduro won in 18 of Venezuela's 23 states.

The outcome came as a surprise to pollsters who had predicted that a majority of states would go to the opposition.

The MUD has alleged that they were robbed of victory through a campaign of dirty tricks.

They have published what they say is evidence of fraud in the state of Bolívar, where the government candidate was declared the winner after a two-day delay.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Opposition candidate Andrés Velásquez (holding a micropohone) says he has won the election in Bolívar

They also say that the National Electoral Council, dominated by government loyalists, cannot be trusted.

But some opposition candidates, including the former governor of Lara state, Henri Falcón, have accepted their defeat at the polls and blamed it on the demoralised state of their supporters.

President Maduro has described the results as a victory. "Chavismo is alive, in the street, and triumphant," he said, referring to the name given to his party's brand of socialism.

Stand-off

The result has again heightened tension between the opposition and the government.

President Maduro said that governors who refused to be sworn in by the constituent assembly would not be allowed to take up office.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Maduro says the election has been a resounding success

"It is my opinion as head of state that all elected governors have to subordinate themselves to the constituent power or face being deposed immediately," he said.

The constituent assembly was convened by President Maduro but has been controversial from the start as his critics see it as a way to increase his power.

Critics of Mr Maduro say the fact that the constituent assembly is a "superbody" which can overrule the legislative and executive shows their fears were warranted.

They say they refuse to recognise the body and will only obey the constitution and the wish of the people.

The MUD said it would meet later on Thursday to discuss how to proceed further.


Source – bbc.com