Science

What next for Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace?

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After the news that Robert Mugabe has resigned as Zimbabwe’s leader,  The Telegraph looks at what will happen now to him and his wife Grace. 

Will they stay in Zimbabwe?

It seems unlikely. Some in Mr Mugabe’s party have said he could stay, while military and political figures have attempted to play down the appearance of a coup. 

Nick Managwana, head of Zanu PF in London, told The Telegraph recently that Mr Mugabe would be welcome to remain, saying: “Zimbabweans are not a vengeful people”. 

However staying would leave Mr Mugabe open to criminal charges and the jubilation on the streets Harare, the capital, suggested little empathy from the public. An exile, either forced or self-imposed, is now expected.  

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David Cassidy, former teen idol and Partridge Family star, dies aged 67 after suffering organ failure

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Actor and singer David Cassidy has died, his publicist said, days after being admitted to hospital with multiple organ failure.  He was 67.

The “Partridge Family” star’s publicist JoAnn Gefeen confirmed his death in a statement on behalf of his family.

“On behalf of the entire Cassidy family, it is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our father, our uncle, and our dear brother, David Cassidy,” the statement said, according to Variety.

“David died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long. Thank you for the abundance and support you have shown him these many years.”

After being rushed to hospital in Florida at the weekend, the star was said to be in need of a liver transplant.

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The Queen was jealous of Jackie Kennedy, claims Netflix drama The Crown

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During the tour, the two women appear to bond. But days later, the Queen hears reports that Mrs Kennedy has bad-mouthed her. The Queen’s equerry, Lord Plunkett, says that he overheard the unkind comments while attending a party at the home of Lee Radziwill, Mrs Kennedy’s sister.

He reports that the First Lady dismissed the Queen as “a middle-aged woman so incurious, unintelligent and unremarkable that Britain’s new reduced place in the world was not a surprise but an inevitability”. Buckingham Palace was “second rate, dilapidated and sad, like a neglected provincial hotel”.

The Queen has tears in her eyes, before recovering herself and saying drily: “Well, we must have her again soon.”

Mrs Kennedy’s comments are not drawn from historical record – rather, they have been imagined by Peter Morgan, The Crown’s writer.

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Bali volcano: Thousands flee on tourist island as smoke from Mount Agung revives eruption fears

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Thousands living in the shadow of a rumbling volcano on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali fled Wednesday as fears grow that it could erupt for the first time in more than 50 years.

Mount Agung belched smoke as high as 700 metres (2,300 feet) above its summit late Tuesday afternoon, sparking an exodus from the settlements near the mountain.

Nearly 1,600 people died when Mt. Agung last erupted in 1963.

It stirred to life again in September, prompting about 140,000 people to leave the area. Many returned home after the volcano’s activity waned, but thousands are now fleeing again.

Some 30,000 people remain displaced, officials said.

“There are 13 of us and we’re afraid. Our neighbours have also fled,” said Nyoman Sadi, a local resident who said she was leaving with her family.

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John Lasseter taking leave of absence from Pixar over ‘missteps’ – like an ‘unwanted hug’ 

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The head of Disney animation John Lasseter is taking a leave of absence from Pixar after admitting “missteps” in the way he behaved towards employees.

Lasseter, 60,  is best known as one of the founders of Pixar and a pioneer of animated films like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Monster’s Inc. 

In 2006, after Disney purchased Pixar, Lasseter was named the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

In a memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Lasseter said he had been “falling short” in his own behaviour.

He did not go into detail, except to say that he acknowledged his actions may have made staff feel uncomfortable.

“I’ve recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me,” he wrote. 

“It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them. As a result, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the leader I am today compared to the mentor, advocate and champion I want to be.

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Dramatic video shows North Korean soldier’s escape to freedom across border as bullets fly

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North Korean border guards were merely steps behind a North Korean soldier when they opened fire at him in a desperate bid to stop him crossing the border to the South Korean side, a video has shown.

The footage also revealed that one of the North Korean soldiers chasing the defector crossed the border, the U.N. Command (UNC) in Seoul said.

The defection, subsequent surgeries and slow recovery of the soldier have riveted South Korea, but it will be a huge embarrassment for the North, which claims all defections are the result of rival Seoul kidnapping or enticing North Koreans to defect. Pyongyang has said nothing about the defection so far.

North Korea’s actions during the defector’s November 13 escape at Panmunjom violated the armistice agreement ending the Korean War because North Korean soldiers fired across and physically crossed the border in pursuit of the soldier, Col. Chad G. Carroll, a spokesman for the UN command, told reporters in a live TV briefing.

The video shows the soldier speeding down a tree-lined road, headlights on, past dun-coloured fields and shocked North Korean soldiers, who begin to run after him.

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Lebanon’s Saad Hariri returns to Beirut amid Saudi resignation saga

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“As you know I have resigned and we will talk about this matter in Lebanon,” Hariri said.

Lebanon’s president, Aoun, has refused to accept Hariri’s resignation, accusing the Saudis of holding him against his will. Hariri denied this.

Media reports and analysts say el-Sissi and Macron have been trying to persuade Hariri to negotiate with other Lebanese leaders on a way out of the crisis, thus preventing the country’s delicate political balance from unraveling and plunging it into a prolonged crisis that would fuel tension in the region.

News of the joint Egypt-French effort was reported by Al-Akhbar, an authoritative Beirut newspaper that takes an anti-Saudi stand. It said in its Tuesday edition that French and Egyptian officials discussed Lebanon’s future in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, on the sidelines of el-Sissi’s visit to the island nation. El-Sissi returned home from Cyprus on Tuesday afternoon.

El-Sissi, a general who has been Egypt’s president since 2014, has forged close ties with the Saudis, who are his country’s main Arab financial backer. He has, however, managed to pursue regional policies different from those of Riyadh, particularly in Syria and Yemen, without damaging relations with the Saudis.

Responding to Riyadh’s escalation against Iran and Hezbollah, el-Sissi earlier this month said the region already was so fraught with tension and instability that it did not need a new crisis. But he also renewed his pledge to come to the rescue of Gulf Arab allies and benefactors if their security was directly threatened.

 

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UK judges to get scientific guides

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Lady Justice at the Old BaileyImage copyrightCrews

A UK Supreme Court judge has launched the first of a series of scientific guides for the judiciary.

Lord Justice Hughes has overseen a project to help the judiciary deal with scientific evidence in the courtroom.

The first primers cover DNA fingerprinting and computer techniques to identify suspects from the manner of their walk.

Guides on statistics and the physics of car crashes are to come next and one on “shaken baby syndrome” is planned.

The project is run with the help of The Royal Society and The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

In a rare interview, Lord Justice Hughes said he was convinced that the legal primers would be of great benefit.

“Thanks to the link with the two Royal Societies, we have access to top notch scientists who have been prepared to give time voluntarily to answer the questions in the terms that ordinary judges are asking them,” he told BBC News.

“I would like to hope that on some occasions the primer has equipped the judge to see better whether the argument that is being advanced on both sides has a proper basis in science or not”.

Complex topics

The primers are short documents, between 30 and 60 pages long.

They give judges the answers to the questions that they themselves have asked about scientific evidence they have to deal with in the court room.

They cover complex topics but are written clearly and without any jargon to enable judges to grasp the key issues from a legal perspective.

They are produced by scientists who are the foremost experts in the topics covered by the primers. For example the DNA fingerprinting guide has one of the technique’s inventors, Prof Sir Alec Jeffreys, and Nobel Prize winner Prof Sir Paul Nurse on the editorial board.

Image copyrightDAVID PARKER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Image caption Prof Alec Jeffreys is on the editorial board of the forensics report for judges

The guides also cover the limitations of the science and possible difficulties with its interpretation in real life situations.

Accessible science

The DNA fingerprinting primer is on a field in which experts are in agreement on the science.

Its focus, therefore, is on assessing its admissibility in light of the way the material has been gathered and the weight of evidence to be placed on the results.

The assessment of walking patterns stems from an increasing use of video evidence from the crime scene where it is not possible to see the perpetrators face. Police have resorted to so-called gait analysis where the suspect is filmed walking and computer techniques are used to compare their movement with that on the crime scene footage.

The gait analysis primer concludes that there is a lack of credible research to rely on the technique on its own in court.

The study finds that there is no evidence to support the assertion that the way people walk is unique, there has been no assessment of the analysis of the methods used and there are no qualifications for those claiming that they are experts on gait analysis.

The legal primers project is the initiative of Dr Julie Maxton, executive director of the Royal Society.

“We are very pleased to be building on this piece of work and playing a leading role in bringing together scientists and the judiciary throughout the UK to ensure that we get the best possible scientific guidance into the courts – rigorous, accessible science matters to the justice system and society.”

The board which commissions the primers has three judges on it, each from a different court. They are Lord Justice Hughes from the Supreme Court, Lady Justice Rafferty from the Court of Appeal and His Honour Mark Wall, QC, representing criminal trials judges.

Judge Wall told BBC News he believed that the documents would make court rooms more efficient.

Image copyrightSupreme Court
Image caption Supreme Court Justice Lord Anthony Hughes convinced primers will be of “great benefit”.

“The emphasis nowadays is for courts to be more proactive to actually challenge the prosecution for example and say ‘why is this report admissible? How is it going to help you? Is it really the right report for the issues in this case?

“And the primer, I’m confident will enable a judge in advance of the hearing to read up on the science to a reliable overview of the state of the science and then ask the right questions.

“And so that evidence which is not helpful is excluded and evidence which is helpful is presented in a way which a jury will understand and which will advance the understanding of the issues in the case generally.”

Boundaries

Scientific evidence in the court room came into sharp focus during cases of so-called shaken baby syndrome. Parents and carers were accused of killing babies by shaking them. At the time, expert witnesses would testify that the babies’ injuries could only have been caused by violent shaking. But later other experts put forward alternative explanations for the trauma. The science was and still is far from settled.

Judges have asked for a primer to guide them, but according to Judge Wall it is too soon because there is as yet no consensus.

“What a primer can do is to study the body of scientific evidence in any particular area and where there is agreement as to what the limits of that science are at a particular time to define for a judge what the limits are,” he explained.

“The problem we may face if and when we come to deal with shaken baby syndrome and the science surrounding that is that the experts themselves at the moment don’t seem to be agreed as to where the boundary is to be drawn.

“I don’t think we should underestimate how difficult that is when the scientists themselves are seemingly poles apart on where the science stands.”

According to Lord Hughes, the aim of the primers is not to do away with expert evidence where there is scientific disagreement.

“The primers are about the common ground they’re not about resolving the cutting edge of the limits of science”.

The guides have been produced with the help of Prof Charles Godfray and Prof Angela McLean of Oxford University who have worked on a related project to provide evidence summaries for civil servants and ministers to help them on policy issues.

Prof Godfray said that the judges absorbed the information in the primers “like sponges”.

“We’ve found the judges are really hungry to find out more about the underlying science and being judges they have a fabulous capacity to master a brief very quickly.

“This is what judges do day in and day out; to a certain extent civil servants and ministers have the same capacity but maybe not quite as developed as in the judiciary”.

Shoeprint at scene

The need for a statistics primer is highlighted by a case in of a convicted killer, called “T”, for legal reasons.

It was heard by the court of appeal in 2010. The issue focused on the use of a mathematical technique called “Bayesian analysis”. This is a technique used by statisticians to calculate the likelihood of an event based on the probabilities of other related events.

In this case a shoeprint left at the crime scene matched a pair found in T’s house. It was a common brand of trainers but taking into account the size of the shoe, how the sole had been worn down and the damage to it it was possible to significantly increase the probability the print came from the shoe found in T’s flat.

But the judge rejected the argument on the basis that there were no accurate sales figures for the brand of shoe and so an accurate probability could not be calculated. The conviction was quashed. Moreover he ruled that Bayesian analysis should not be used in court unless the statistics were “firm”.

Statisticians, however, believe that a rough estimate is still a useful guide.

Another area of uncertainty is how much weight to place on neuroscience evidence which is being presented in courtrooms as mitigation for violent crimes.

Specifically, some defence teams have been allowed to argue that the defendant has a version of a gene, called MAOA, that is associated with psychiatric disorders, implying that their client was not able to control their actions.

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Donald Trump backs Roy Moore for Senate despite sex accusations

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President Donald Trump has discounted allegations of sexual assault against Roy Moore, the controversial Republican Senate candidate.

Six women have accused Mr Moore, who is standing in Alabama, of pursuing romantic relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was a lawyer in his 30s.

Two have accused him of assault or molestation. Mr Moore has denied the allegations.

Asked if he supported Mr Moore, Mr Trump said: “He denies it. He totally denies it. That’s all I can say.

“I can tell you one thing for sure, we don’t need a liberal democrat in that seat. We don’t need a liberal person in there.”

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