Bus bomb blast in Tel Aviv suburb

Posted by MereNews On December - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

A pipe bomb believed to have been planted by Palestinian militants exploded on board a bus in central Israel just moments after it had been evacuated, police said, in the most serious attack inside Israel in more than a year.

The explosion in a Tel Aviv suburb threatened to further poison what has become a tense and negative atmosphere between the Israelis and the Palestinians since peace talks were resumed after five year hiatus in the summer. The US-brokered negotiations have made little visible progress so far.

A police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said there were no injuries in the blast. The explosion blew windows out of the bus and charred the sides of the vehicle.

“Based on the findings at the scene by bomb disposal experts, it was a terrorist attack,” he said. “We’re continuing to search the area for suspects.”

Rosenfeld said the nature of the target and the nature of the device led authorities to determine that militants, not criminals, were behind the bombing. He declined to elaborate, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

He said the bomb was discovered in a bag on the bus. The driver ordered passengers to get off, and the bomb exploded shortly after as a bomb squad expert was inspecting it. The police sapper was not injured but was taken to a hospital to be evaluated.

It was the most serious attack inside Israel since a bomb explosion wounded more than 20 people in Tel Aviv in November 2012. At the time, Israel was involved in heavy fighting with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

A decade ago, there was a spate of Palestinian suicide bombings on buses, in restaurants and in other public spaces in Israel. More than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis died during several years of fighting.

But tensions have subsided in recent years. The neighbouring West Bank, however, has seen a recent rise in Israeli-Palestinian violence, though senior Israeli officials believe the various incidents in the Palestinian territory have not been connected to each other.

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This was the year in which television dramas escaped from the box, with House of Cards being screened on-demand only for subscribers to Netflix. But, if Netflix pioneered programmes without a TV set, it was sometimes tempting to suggest that the conventional networks had TV sets without the programmes.

In recent years, it has become common to comment on the retrograde nature of the Christmas schedules. Is it a mark of respect or creative desperation that the shows of Morecambe Wise and The Two Ronnies are still at the heart of the seasonal schedules three decades after they were made?

This time, though, there is a feeling that the deja vu of late December reflects the trend of the previous 12 months. Almost everything we were seeing had been seen – either directly or indirectly – before.

What had seemed to many to be a tiring franchise after 13 series – I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! – surprisingly achieved record ratings for the country’s main commercial channel, which had itself contributed to the backward-looking mood of the schedules by dropping the name ITV1 and returning to the plain ITV, with which it had launched 60 years ago. Bruce Forsyth, who was already 25 when the first adverts appeared on TV, took on a lighter schedule on Strictly Come Dancing, but denied rumours of retirement sparked by a newspaper interview in which he acknowledged that even a healthy 85-year-old is in the final phase of life.

In terms of the health of his talent-show programme, though, the 54-year-old Simon Cowell has more to worry about than Forsyth. Declining ratings for The X Factor did not prevent ITV offering a new contract for that show and Britain’s Got Talent until 2016, but Cowell has promised rule changes for next year, when his show will also have endured the lampooning from Harry Hill’s Cowell musical, I Can’t Sing!, which opens in London in February.

The renewed vitality of I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! seemed to be due to the inclusion of Joey Essex from the reality show The Only Way Is Essex, even though Joey’s inability to read a watch, revealed in an early episode, seemed a sign of the TV times to some.

A future chewer of Australian critter genitals in the jungle was surely revealed in Nev Wilshire, the boss of the cold-selling enterprise featured in BBC3′s reality series The Call Centre. Nev, whose belief in humour as an inspirational tool seems to be genuine rather than an elaborate David Brent tribute act, was one of the two real-life characters to emerge from the 2013 schedules. The other was Jonny Mitchell, headmaster of Thornhill Community Academy in Dewsbury, who was the star of Educating Yorkshire, the most-noticed Channel 4 series of the year, although even this was at some level a retread, as the format of a school wired with remote-controlled cameras had already been tried in Educating Essex. Unlike most reality TV, however, Educating Yorkshire managed to be both entertaining and informative.

Almost everything else was the extension of an established strand. The most original drama was provided by the sports department, who offered something never previously seen on live TV – a British man winning Wimbledon – during a three hours in which Andy Murray dramatised psychological complexities and nerve-shredding plot-twists beyond the reach of fiction.

Olivia Colman and David Tennant in Broadchurch. Photograph: Patrick Redmond

The stand-out invented drama of the period – ITV’s Broadchurch, occupying eight Mondays between March and May – continued the national obsession with crime stories, although with the twist that this deliberately slow-paced examination of the impact of crime on detectives and victims was set in Dorset rather than Scandinavia and spoken (by David Tennant, Olivia Colman and others) in English rather than a subtitled Nordic tongue. And two crime successes on BBC2 – Top of the Lake and The Fall – also had geographical, rather than generic, distinction, through taking place in New Zealand and Northern Ireland respectively.

Each featured an American actress – Elisabeth Moss and Gillian Anderson – pretending to come from somewhere else, which was probably not a coincidence as potential for American sales remains an important element for British small-screen output.

Even the obligatory annual US hit that British executives wish they had made was, in 2013, not a new show. Breaking Bad, in which a dying chemistry teacher becomes a drug baron, had been running since 2008 on the US cable network AMC and only received widespread attention here on the brink of ending, due to a sudden slew of valedictory reviews in the States describing it as the greatest TV show ever, a title previously held by The Wire or The Sopranos.

The dying days of a character who had already occupied substantial screen time were also the theme of the most talked-about moment of British drama, which underlined the sense of the medium living in the past by forming the culmination of a project that began 24 years ago. David Suchet, after filming all 70 of Agatha Christie’s stories about her punctilious Belgian detective, played a death scene in which viewers were able simultaneously to mourn a legendary character, the end of a marathon feat of great character acting, and – if you believe the more strident evangelists for Netflix – perhaps also for a way of watching television: once a week, at a time decided by the broadcasters.

If another actor set out to do a Suchet with another character now, would there even be an ITV in 24 years’ time? Or, by then, if the industry can work out a way of making such a system pay, will everyone be watching online at a time of their choice?

However, the fact that this was also the year in which the BBC abandoned its experiment with 3D television – citing a lack of viewer interest – is a reminder that television is unlike telephones: new technological possibilities are not always adopted.

• What was your favourite TV show of 2013? – open thread

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David Cameron’s attempt to neutralise the toxic political issue of airport expansion until after the next election has been thwarted by the climate change watchdog, which has announced it will report this summer on the impact of the plans on the UK’s climate commitments.

The news is a blow to politicians who hoped they could avoid taking a view on a politically fraught decision until after the 2015 election, when the Davies commission will report on Britain’s airport needs.

The government’s climate change committee said it expected to report to parliament in the summer on the environmental implications of airport expansion.

Citing figures from Howard Davies’ interim report, the committee’s chief executive, David Kennedy, also said that the cost of long-haul flights would need to rise by up to £200 to curtail demand and stay within the UK’s carbon emissions targets.

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said last week that he would not allow expansion if it breached the government’s climate change commitments.

The Davies commission interim report, published last week, referred to the previous recommendations of the climate change committee, but was opaque on how those targets could be met, expansion permitted.

Ministers are committed by law to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 compared with 2005 levels, with emissions from aviation and shipping to be included in this target. The climate change committee has said this would require aviation emissions to return to 2005 levels by 2050.

The Davies commission has said this is achievable if passenger demand growth is kept to 67% by 2050.

Kennedy told the Guardian: “We said back in 2009 that it would be possible for the government to plan for 60% demand growth, and stay inside the climate change commitments. That is the scope for demand to increase.

“We are due to report to parliament next July on the progress on meeting carbon budgets, and that would be the occasion for us to consider the report of the Davies commission.

“The expansion of Heathrow by one runway would stay within the 60% limit, depending on the extent of demand growth at other locations.”

He said it was an open question whether government targets could be met if a second runway at Heathrow was proposed or expansion was allowed at Gatwick.

The Davies commission favoured three options: a third runway north-west of Heathrow, the airport’s preferred choice; a second proposal to double the length of an existing runway at Heathrow, put forward by the unconnected Heathrow Hub group; and a second runway to the south of Gatwick.

The Davies commission itself suggested that to meet government targets, the carbon price would have to rise to £600 per tonne of CO2 by 2050, as opposed to the current price of £3 per tonne, if runway capacity was totally unconstrained, and no other fuel-efficiency measures were found. That would require the current average short-haul fare rising from £103 to £146, and the average long-haul fare rising from £397 to £602.

Kennedy explained: “The Davies commission has said if capacity is unconstrained and demand rose for example by 200%, it would be necessary for the carbon price, and cost of flights, to rise by the figures in the report to keep the increase in demand to 60%.”

Kennedy stressed other environmental factors would be in play, but were not his committee’s responsibility. He said: “If the climate change targets are being met, then the remaining issues become cost, and local impacts relating to the economy, air quality, noise and traffic congestion, but these are issues for which the climate change committee does not have responsibility.”

He expressed confidence that the commission will not ignore the climate change implications of expansion. He said: “We wrote to the Davies commission and they seem to be taking commitments under the Climate Change Act seriously.

“The higher the level of aviation emissions, the deeper the emissions cuts required in other sectors to meet the economy-wide targets”.

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A suicide car bomb attack on a military checkpoint on the outskirts of Benghazi, Libya, has killed at least 14 people.

“The perfidious terrorist attack left 13 martyrs from our best sons including brave soldiers and security men,” a government statement said, confirming Sunday’s attack. It said three other soldiers were wounded, without drawing a distinction between civilian and military casualties.

Car bombs and assassinations of army and police officers are common in Benghazi, where troops have clashed regularly with militants from the hardline Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia.

But a suicide bombing would mark a shift in tactics, and fits a pattern common in other Islamist struggles in the Middle East, but not in Libya either during or since the uprising toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

The attacker blew himself up in front of the military base in Barsis, 30 miles outside Benghazi.

“A Toyota truck approached the checkpoint and parked there. There was a young man driving, but when the army troops went to check it out, the vehicle exploded,” said Aymen al-Abdlay, a Benghazi army officer.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack. But last month Ansar al-Sharia fought with soldiers who drove Islamists from Benghazi. Most countries have closed their consulates in the city and some foreign airlines have stopped flying there. Ansar al-Sharia are blamed for the attack in September 2012 on the US consulate in which the ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Western diplomats worry that the violence in the and around the city will spill over to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, which last month saw the worst fighting in months between militias.

Much of Libya’s oil wealth is located in the east where many demand autonomy from the Tripoli government. Protesters in the east have taken over key ports, blockading much of the north African country’s oil exports for months.

The prime minister, Ali Zeidan, and his government are struggling to control militias and tribesmen which helped topple Gaddafi in a Nato-backed uprising in 2011 but kept their guns and often resort to force to make political demands.

The government announced three days of mourning for those killed in Sunday’s bombing and postponed the country’s independence celebrations, previously set for Tuesday.

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South Sudan rebels seize key town as violence grows

Posted by MereNews On December - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

South Sudan‘s government has lost control of the capital of a key oil-producing state as an international operation to evacuate expatriates took on new urgency.

The UK foreign secretary, William Hague, advised Britons to leave the increasingly “dangerous” African state.

He said he remained “very concerned” about the growing violence in the country and on Sunday talked to his South Sudanese counterpart, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, to push for a political solution. World leaders have looked on with growing anxiety as violent clashes between rebel forces loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar and the government army threatens to draw the world’s newest country into civil war.

Colonel Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese military spokesman, announced on Sunday that Bentiu, the capital of oil-rich Unity state, had fallen to rebel forces. “Bentiu is in the hands of a commander who has declared support for Machar,” he said. “Bentiu is not in our hands.”

British military transport planes have been used to bring home two groups of British nationals and officials in recent days. A final plane is being sent to the capital city of Juba on Monday and officials have warned the government would struggle to help anyone who chose to stay behind.

Hague said: “I remain very concerned at the situation in South Sudan. Increased political polarisation and inter-communal tensions are fuelling a dangerous situation. It is vital that all leaders urge restraint on their supporters and commit to a political resolution of their differences.South Sudan has a legitimate, democratically elected government. Resorting to military means to further political rivalries is a betrayal of the hopes on which the new state of South Sudan was founded.

“I have underlined my concerns with the South Sudanese foreign minister today and urged his government to work for political reconciliation on the basis of the proposals put forward by regional foreign ministers during their visit to Juba on 20-21 December. He has reassured me of the government’s openness to dialogue without preconditions.

“I thanked minister Marial Benjamin for the assistance that the South Sudanese authorities and he personally have given to ensure the smooth turnaround of our evacuation flights this week. I encourage any remaining British nationals to take advantage of the third flight that we are making available on 23 December.”

On Saturday, three US military aircraft attempting to airlift American citizens from Bor, the capital of the state of Jonglei, came under fire, injuring four American service personnel and forcing the US military to abort the mission. Elsewhere in the same state, which has suffered the brunt of the week-long violence, a UN helicopter was shot down.

Fighting has spread through the newly formed East African state, which gained its independence in 2011, following a reported coup attempt in the capital last weekend. The United Nations has estimated that up to 500 people have been killed in the ensuing violence.

The archbishop of canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Vatican called for the nation’s weak and poor to be “spared the trauma of conflict”.

IAny Britons in South Sudan wanting to leave on the flight on Monday should contact the FCO as soon as possible on +44 207 008 1500 or by email at crisisfco.gsi.gov.uk.

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Swansea City v Everton – as it happened | Daniel Harris

Posted by MereNews On December - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Preamble Little things can have a big effect; that time you accidentally commented on someone’s attire and ended up with a knife in your leg, for example, or that other time you took a wrong turn and ended up meeting your wife. Little things can have a big effect. 

In January 2003, Roberto Martinez left Walsall to sign a short-term contract with Swansea; a little thing, doing a little thing, that would have a big effect on four English clubs. He ended up staying in Wales for three years, nipped across to Chester for one more, then, when the manager who released him was sacked, came back as his replacement. 

Martinez revolutionised Swansea, leading them to the League 1 title in his first full season, before leaving for Wigan. He proceeded to keep them in the top division for three years, fashioning a new side each time as players were sold, then motivated and organised a team that fully deserved its Cup Final victory over Manchester City; an eternal achievement worth far more than another season of Premier League struggling.

In the meantime, Brendan Rodgers, his successor at Swansea, adopted his proforma to win a further promotion that he consolidated well enough to earn the manager’s job at Liverpool. So in came Michael Laudrup, who modified sterile into virile domination, won a trophy, and then qualified for the Europa League knockout stages. 

Overlooked in favour of Rodgers for the Liverpool job,when David Moyes left for Manchester United, Martinez went to Everton, and his impact was immediate. Despite recent revisionism, Everton played some decent football under Moyes – but their liberation since his departure has been remarkable, the treble up, the bass down, the lights on and the window open.

Or, put another way, hanks to Roberto Martinez, this should be a very good game; without him, it wouldn’t even be happening. Little things can have a big effect. 

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The five members of the White House review panel on data surveillance by the National Security Agency will appear before the Senate judiciary committee in January as pressure builds on the Obama administration to rein in the activities of its spying branch.

The committee’s Democratic chairman, Patrick Leahy, announced on Sunday that a special session would be convened on 14 January to discuss the 46 recommendations made by the handpicked panel last week. The hearing, the judiciary committee’s first of the New Year, promises to put data surveillance at the top of the political agenda when Congress returns to work in 2014.

Leahy said in a statement: “The recommendations from the President’s Review Group make clear that it is time to recalibrate our government’s surveillance programs. Momentum is building for real reform.”

The announcement suggests that political steam is intensifying for some concrete measure of reform of NSA activities, with most debate focusing around the agency’s collection of billions of Americans’ phone records, which the Guardian disclosed in June. Last week the practice was denounced by a federal judge who branded it unconstitutional and “almost Orwellian” in scope.

The review panel’s 300-page report recommended that phone metadata, which the NSA currently collects, should in future be held at arm’s length from the spying agency, with phone companies possibly retaining the records but with the NSA able to access it in certain controlled circumstances. The panel’s findings underlined the need for changes to the existing system, though its proposed reforms fell short of some campaigners’ wishes.

Two of the five members of the panel appeared on Sunday TV talk shows, giving notably different read-outs of their collective work. Richard Clarke, a former US cybersecurity official, told ABC’s This Week that “we think the so-called metadata telephony programme has not been essential, has not contributed significantly to prevention of terrorist attacks at home and abroad.”

He added that the panel was critical of current arrangements whereby the NSA could spy on foreign leaders, even of allied countries such as Germany, and not have to seek senior-level approval in advance. “Most of the time there’s absolutely no reason to engage in wiretapping of our friends,” he said.

Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, put a much more NSA-friendly spin on the review panel’s findings on CBS’s Face the Nation. “I think one of the misperceptions out there at the moment is that the review group did not see value in this programme,” Morell said, referring to the mass collection of phone records.

However, he went on, the data remained important in the fight against terrorism. “It’s important for the government to continue to be able to query this data.”

Morell said that there “is a view that the NSA was out there on its own doing all these things. Not the case. The agency was doing exactly what the government asked it to do. There was no abuse here.”

The January hearing of the senate judiciary committee will keep the issue of NSA reform on President Obama’s desk. At a press conference on Friday he gave no firm details of any moves he intended to initiate, but he did indicate that he might be open to the idea of phone records being held by private companies rather than by the NSA directly.

Whatever specific policy proposals emerge from the White House in the New Year, there is certain to be political discord before any real changes are made. The Republican chair of the House intelligence committee, Mike Rogers, made it clear on ABC’s This Week that there was considerable conservative opposition to anything that would reduce the NSA’s surveillance activities.

He derided Obama’s handpicked review panel, scoffing that it was “dominated by law professors”. He also disputed the idea that by transferring phone data from the NSA to the private phone companies, privacy would be safeguarded.

“I’m reluctant, because it opens it up to more privacy violations when the companies hold it. They don’t have somebody directly controlling the information, that’s not their job,” Rogers said.

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Al-Qaida’s wing in Yemen has blamed a renegade fighter for targeting medical staff and patients in a military hospital during its attack on the defence ministry compound in Sanaa earlier this month, it said in a statement released on Saturday.

“We do not fight in this way, and this not what we call on people to do, and this is not our approach,” it said in the statement, adding it had warned its fighters not to attack the hospital.

The killing of unarmed medics and patients, captured on closed-circuit television footage and broadcast by state media, caused widespread outrage in Yemen, where al-Qaida has portrayed itself as fighting for ordinary people against foreign drone strikes.

Al-Qaida’s offshoot Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) claimed responsibility earlier this month for the assault on 5 December in which at least 52 people were killed, the worst such attack in Yemen for 18 months.

It said it attacked the compound because it believed it housed an operations room for drone attacks carried out by the United States against Islamist militants, which have also led to civilian deaths.

Many of those killed died inside the compound’s hospital, where staff said they had seen foreign doctors and nurses executed by attackers.

The footage released on state television showed uniformed figures wandering around the hospital’s corridors and wards shooting medics and patients.

One attacker was shown walking up to a group of cowering patients and calmly tossing a hand grenade into their midst before ducking behind a wall.

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The 2013 news quiz of the year

Posted by MereNews On December - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

1 Joey Essex was hot favourite to win I’m A Celebrity, but went out early. Lady Gaga made her silver-screen debut in Machete Kills (no, me neither). Robert Galbraith wrote a book. Whose is not a pseudonym?

2 “I was Hannah Montana’s mother… Where did I go wrong?” So said which actor, not without her share of controversy in her younger years, and with a certain amount of tongue poking cheek?

3 “Nolle timere” were poet Seamus Heaney’s final words, via text message, to his wife. What do they mean?

4 Supermodel Cara Delevingne made her sort-of screen debut in which bestselling video game?

5 Breaking Bad ended after five fantabulous seasons. Fans would go into rapturesas the opening titles rolled, with their credits rendered into chemical symbols. What two elements were highlighted in the series’ title?

The model of the moment: Cara Delevingne. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

6 “I was the Justin Bieber of the 70s. Really. Ask your mother.” Which beschnozzed global treasure?

7 In April the Boston Marathon was bombed, killing three people. A week later, an 80-storey building collapsed in Savar Upazila, killing 1,129. In which country?

8 What is Cicada 3301? a) Lidl’s new tablet, b) an internet puzzle or c) the JCB model on which the company is pinning its hopes in Uttoxeter?

9 The first was Legal Steps, the 4,000th was Mountain Tunes. What?

10 “Well, plenty more to come from here. Of course, none of it news, because that will come from Buckingham Palace. But that won’t stop us. We’ll see you later.” That was during the royal birth: later, this broadcasting delight would take to the BBC’s screens clutching a ream of photocopying paper, having “mistakenly” carried it on set instead of his iPad. Who?

Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. A clue to which question? Photograph: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for MTV

11 Whose accoutrement led to its own spoof Twitter feed – Paxman’s beard, or (dear God) Dimbleby’s tattoo (left)?

12 There’s a new Pope, the delightful Francis, who embarked on a no-frills pontiffship to the extent that he drives a 1984 Renault 4 (which surely says a lot about, if nothing else, the power of prayer). Three days after his election, he personally lifted the phone to Buenos Aires to apologetically cancel his daily delivery of what?

13 The asteroid which exploded over Chelyabinsk was the largest natural object to have entered the Earth’s atmosphere since the “Tunguska event” in the same country. In which decade?

14 Who was the UK’s representative at Eurovision?

15 Who brought the “onesie” fad to an abrupt end, at least among all right-thinking souls, by tweeting the fact that he owned one?

The Irish poet Seamus Heaney dies this year. What were his last words to his wife? Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Observer

16 “You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?” Which lorry driver’s son from Dundee bested Boris in March?

17 The Boston Marathon bombing, Cleveland kidnappings and George Zimmerman trial all took second place in 2013 on Bing, a search engine most popular in America, to which far-more crucial overseas event?

18 3-D printers are now available on eBay for under £1,000. But in which decade did the first fully working version of this apparent cutting-edge technology actually appear?

19 David Bowie had not only a show at the VA but also a new album, greeted in critical circles by pieces of drooling hagiography. What intimately links him to William Shatner?

20 Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud set a new record for a single art sale. Which painting had previously held the same record?

21 On 1 July, which country became the 28th member of the EU, but, far more importantly, was subsequently beaten by Scotland in what’s normally referred to as “the football”?

22 Who is Dr Kristi Funk, and what’s her link to Jon Voight?

23 Who demonstrated this year outside the offices of the Observer? Was it: a) UKIP, angry that it was getting a “bad press”, b) foodies, annoyed at the shock inclusion in OFM of a vaguely non-sustainable fish, or c) trans- and cisgendered folk, irate over a “transphobic” article?

24 The president of which “axis of evil” (© GW Bush) country tweeted the following: “@Barack Obama I express my gratitude for your #hospitality and your phone call. Have a good day Mr President”?

25 Anfield-born model Hollie May Saker demonstrated, if not quite her sisterhood for the cause, then a spiffing right hand when she punched a topless feminist protester during the Tuileries show for which designer?

26 The Chatsworth Estate came to a lamented end. How? (Clue: it’s very much not to do with Downton.)

27 Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Croatia, Morocco: not the past five Eurovision winners, but the chief shooting locations for which HBO mega-series?

28 Which Devon resort saw thousands flocking to its undercliff, following the runaway success of Broadchurch?

29 Peter Capaldi was named as the 12th Doctor. Or maybe the 13th. Which one was John Hurt again? Never mind: who was roughly halfway there; who was the sixth Doctor?

30 “If you’re not getting a call from a – –, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” So said South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on the uproar over surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency. What, roughly, were the missing words?

31 Which soap star’s “bucket list” has so far involved releasing 99 red balloons, riding a Harley-Davidson and dancing at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom?

32 In October the marvellous Frances Quinn “stole” the Bake-Off crown from Ruby Tandoh with a wedding cake themed on which Shakespeare play?

33 And, talking patisserie, of what is a “cronut” a hybrid?

34 Which white boy wrote “Free Nelson Mandela”? And who sang it in the original Coventry band?

35 Which of the 14 British Overseas Territories features, on Trip advisor, just one – one – entry under “nightlife travellers recommend”? The entry reads, incidentally: “OK for a quick lunch”. (Clue: the territory was tangentially in the news this year.)

36 What deed did Poirot accomplish in his final case that he had never done before – besides die?

37 “Sandals Resorts is disappointed that Ms… was not happy with her stay, and as a gesture of goodwill is willing to offer her a refund – on condition that she does not choose our resorts for any future weddings.” A statement possibly unrivalled this year for its passive-aggressive simpering cattery – but which model-turned-author did Sandals expect, by inference, to have many future weddings?

38 667 Govan Road. Whose early address? (Clue: his autobiography became, on publication, the fastest selling on record.)

39 What, this year, came in pink, white, black, blue or green, and vibrated electronically when the user was eating too fast, or too much, and filled this writer at least with existential despondency for western “values”?

40 Who said: “I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship, is recorded”?

41 Which professional boxer drove to the Sheffield home of a highly abusive Twitter follower, to himself tweet, with a picture of the street: “right Jimbob im here !!!!! someone tell me what number he lives at, or do I have to knock on every door #itsshowtime”?

42 In an extract from her 2013 autobiography, Cleo Rocos recalled the night when she, Kenny Everett and Freddie Mercury smuggled who into a gay bar in south London, dressed as a male model?

43 How many sets did it take Andy Murray to win the Wimbledon men’s final?

44 A certain boy band member, much in the news this year, not least for having a shoe thrown at him while on stage in Glasgow, got straight on to Twitter this April to tweet “RIP Baroness Thatcher. x”. It says something about her legacy, although perhaps more just about the generation gap, to learn that the first four responses to his epistle were: “Is he your friend?”, “May he rest in peace. Amen”, “It’s market thatcher something to do with our queen” and “Who?” Who was that floppy-haired young “singer” dude?

45 Which British newspaper appointed the UK’s first-ever female sports editor?

46 Which singer closed down Disneyland, California, commandeered the area in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle and bedecked the place with 15,000 flowers and 10,000 crystals to renew her wedding vows – for the fifth time?

47 Cameraphone footage emerged of a woman who’d forced an aircraft into an emergency landing in Kansas after she refused to stop singing a Whitney Houston song. Which one (the song, not the aircraft)?

48 How many of the HS2 report’s 50,000 pages managed to contain references to footnotes, codicils, further studies and – oh, I just can’t be bothered with this question. Life’s too short and I’m an atheist. Most boring non-story of this or any subsequent year.

49 Which supermarket boss branded the horsemeat scandal a “storm in a teacup”?

50 Which 2013 film claimed to have the greatest cast alive but was panned as the worst film of all time (© everyone)?

51 Which West End hit was greeted, in the pages of the Sunday Telegraph, with the words: “It’s hilarious. God have mercy upon my soul”?

52 Which former soldier’s Wikipedia entry was altered in August to respect his wishes for a gender change? (Either Christian name will suffice.)

53 Charles Saatchi said he was wiping cocaine from his wife’s nose. Nigella said she didn’t have a drug problem, she had a life problem. Among the more quotable elements of the Divorce of the Year was the revelation that Charles Saatchi kept a “huge wodge of cash” – where?

54 “You better watch your back… I’m gonna rape your ass at 8pm and put the video all over the internet.” Which female MP received this Twitter threat, and for standing up for what cause?

55 What links Silvio Berlusconi to Alphonse Capone?

56 Which woman – gasp – became the first conductor of the Last Night of the Proms?

57 “Selfie” was the Oxford Dictionaries’ new “word of the year” and has already led to the further delights of the “belfie”, “drelfie” and “welfie”. What are they?

58 “I wanna do a concert in space” and “Worst birthday ever” were among the fascinating tweets shared by which superstar?

59 Try as they might, the government could not get us to stop calling it the bedroom tax. What is its official title in the Welfare Reform Act?

60 The Carl Froch vs George Groves fight was mired in controversy after the referee stopped it early, angering both fans of The Saint and The Cobra. Which is which?

61 Eve Ensler, creator of the One Billion Rising women’s movement, rose to prominence as playwright of which one-woman show?

62 What did the Guardian describe as “a broken society’s towering achievement”?

63 What sporting event links the birthplaces of Napoleon (2013) and Geoffrey Boycott (2014)?

64 Which self-proclaimed revolutionary can perform the Eka Pada Rajakapotasane?

65 Whose “firsts” this year included visits to the Everest Base Camp, the Ceremonial South Pole, the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan in Mongolia and Chichen Itza in Yucatan?

66 Only Connect: how does the husband of Victoria Coren (as was) link to the Wachowski Brothers?

67 Who wrote the new Jeeves and Wooster? And “prose retellings” of which respective Shakespeare plays are to be undertaken by Margaret Atwood and Howard Jacobson?

68 The cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon will forever be associated with who, who died this year?

69 The White House had a particularly bad year, being blown up by terrorists not once but twice. Name either Hollywood blockbuster.

70 “You know, they call me ‘that Polish woman’,” said the half-French Ingrid Loyau-Kennett in October. “They’ve never liked me ever since I moved in. I’ve had eggs and stones thrown at the house.” She’s been beleaguered repeatedly on her Cornish housing estate – but under what tabloid monicker did the people of Britain take her to their hearts in May, after an incident in southeast London?

71 Which city, founded by the British in 1899 as a simple rail depot on the railroad from Mombasa to Uganda, turned ugly in September?

72 The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers is better known today as what?

73 Rory McIlroy’s miserable 2013, which included missing the cut at Muirfield, was widely ascribed to his having changed choice of clubs to Nike. From which brand?

74 The Huffington Post ran the following headline: “Penis-headed Prince William forces apology from –” who?

75 The government’s environment secretary Owen Paterson blamed the badgers. What memorable if physiologically unlikely phrase did he allege of them?

The answers

1 Joey Essex. Lady Gaga is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta; Robert Galbraith is JK Rowling

2 Brooke Shields

3 Be not afraid

4 Grand Theft Auto V

5 Bromine, barium

6 Barry Manilow

7 Bangladesh

8 Fiendish unsolved internet puzzle

9 Jockey AP McCoy – first and last of his 4,000 winners

10 Simon McCoy

11 Paxo’s beard

12 Newspapers

13 1908

14 Bonnie Tyler, who sang ‘Believe in Me’. They didn’t

15 Nick Clegg

16 Eddie Mair

17 The royal baba. Bless

18 1980s

19 Iman. Bowie’s married to her; Billy Shatner snogged her in Star Trek VI

20 Munch’s The Scream

21 Croatia

22 She performed a double-mastectomy on Angelina Jolie, who is Voight’s daughter

23 The transgenderists

24 Iran’s Hassan Rouhani

25 Nina Ricci

26 Shameless ended its run

27 Game of Thrones

28 Bridport

29 Colin Baker

30 Terrorist organisation or, for our American friends, organization

31 Corrie’s Hayley Cropper

32 A Midsummer Night’s Dream

33 A croissant and a doughnut

34 Jerry Dammers; Stan Campbell

35 Gibraltar

36 Killed a man

37 Katie Price, the bride formerly known as Jordan

38 Sir Alex Ferguson’s

39 The “diet fork”

40 Edward Snowden

41 Curtis Woodhouse

42 Princess Diana

43 Only three

44 Harry Styles

45 The Mail on Sunday

46 Mariah Carey (of course)

47 I Will Always Love You (better known as The Bodyguard dirge)

48 Most boring indeed – though I forgot the ongoing Plebgate row

49 Iceland’s Malcolm Walker

50 Movie 43

51 The Book of Mormon

52 Bradley/Chelsea Manning

53 In a “zippy freezer bag above the fridge”

54 Stella Creasy, for defending Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaign for a Jane Austen banknote

55 Both fell ultimately to tax fraud

56 Marin Alsop

57 A photograph of your bottom; one of you drunk; one of you working out

58 Justin Bieber

59 The “spare room subsidy”

60 Froch’s The Cobra

61 The Vagina Monologues

62 The Shard

63 The Tour de France, which started this year in Corsica; 2014′s Grand Depart is in Yorkshire

64 Russell Brand

65 Google Streetview

66 Comedian David Mitchell is married to Victoria: author David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas was successfully filmed this year

67 Sebastian Faulks; The Tempest; The Merchant of Venice

68 Graphic designer Storm Thorgerson

69 White House Down; Olympus Has Fallen

70 The Angel of Woolwich, for trying to intervene during the murder of Lee Rigby

71 Nairobi

72 The Co-op

73 Titleist

74 The BBC, which had inadvertently broadcast a clip from a barbershop group’s promo video featuring a willy drawn on to the prince’s head

75 They “moved the goalposts”

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/35187ea9/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cworld0C20A130Cdec0C220C20A130Enews0Equiz0Eof0Ethe0Eyear/story01.htm

Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators again massed at sites around Thailand’s capital on Sunday in a bid to topple prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra before an election in February the main opposition party will boycott.

Yingluck has called a snap poll for 2 February to try to cool tension and renew her mandate, but protesters reject any election until the implementation of vague reforms ostensibly aimed at weakening the influence of the Shinawatra family.

The political deadlock became more uncertain on Saturday when the opposition Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest, announced it would boycott the election, saying the democratic system had failed Thais.

The boycott adds to concern that powerful forces allied with the opposition would try to scuttle an election that is otherwise likely to return Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party to power, and perpetuate the influence of her self-exiled brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Chanting “Yingluck, get out”, thousands of whistle-blowing protesters gathered at locations around the city and set up stages in at least four places, bringing traffic to a halt at three main intersections and in two commercial districts.

Hundreds surrounded Yingluck’s house and demanded she quit. Yingluck, now caretaker premier, is not in Bangkok and has been visiting the north-east, her party’s stronghold.

The protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat heavyweight, wants democracy suspended and the installation of an appointed “people’s council”.

“I don’t know what Yingluck is thinking,” he said. “But what I know for sure now is that all civil servants, the army the police have realised all Thai people are rising up against the government,” Suthep told Blue Sky, an anti-government cable television station.
Suthep has earned a reputation for fiery rhetoric during nightly speeches in which he has told police and civil servants to report to him, promised to retire to the beach and issued deadlines to army leaders to meet him to discuss ousting Yingluck.

On Friday the Election Commission ruled out postponing the vote, having earlier said it was concerned the polls could be marred by violence.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/35184dfc/sc/39/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cworld0C20A130Cdec0C220Cthai0Eprotesters0Erenew0Eefforts0Eoust0Eyingluck/story01.htm

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