Theresa May survives attempt to allow early no-confidence vote

Brexiters wanted to make it possible to oust PM within weeks but failed to win backing

Theresa May has survived an attempt to change Tory party rules to make it possible to oust her within weeks – but backbenchers have urged her to set out a clearer timetable for her departure, if her Brexit deal fails to pass.

Brexit-backing members of the executive of the powerful backbench 1922 Committee were keen to change the rules that insulate the prime minister from a fresh challenge until December.

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Benefits system set up for cruelty not efficiency | Letters

Respond respond to the tragic death of Stephen Smith, a man with debilitating illnesses deemed fit for work by the DWP

Frances Ryan asks “when do we start to care” about “the mass abuse by the state towards its disabled and sick citizens” (Stephen Smith has died. The cruelty of the system lives on, 23 April)? Research by Glasgow University Media Unit compared articles about people with disabilities in selected newspapers in 2004-5 and in 2010-11. Given the increased use of pejorative words and emphasis on “cheats”, it was not surprising that the later focus groups estimated benefit fraud at between 10% and 70%. Even those with concerns about the benefit system find it difficult to comprehend that a government department could behave outside the realm of natural justice.

Accompanying a friend in her 60s with serious mental illness and chronic physical disabilities, who had been summoned to the jobcentre by a standard letter with no reason given for the interview, but threatening sanctions if she did not attend, it was shocking to hear the interviewer’s accusation of potential fraud in the year 2014-15 when my friend became too ill to work and was advised to claim ESA (employment and support allowance). No evidence was produced from the DWP’s records to support this accusation. The interviewer agreed her earnings for that year were just over £1,000 but said that unless she could provide a document proving that she did not claim ESA before she stopped work, she could be sanctioned or have to repay the benefits for that year. A lawyer friend, unfamiliar with the DWP, expressed disbelief. Once we decide that some people in our society are not worthy of human dignity and respect, our government can do no end of bad things, and get away with it.
Jean Goodrick
Cambridge

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Scientists create decoder to turn brain activity into speech

Technology could in effect give voice back to people with conditions such as Parkinson’s

Scientists have developed a decoder that can translate brain activity directly into speech.

In future the brain-machine interface could restore speech to people who have lost their voice through paralysis and conditions such as throat cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease.

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Man admits murder of Glasgow woman Tracey Wylde in 1997

Takeaway worker Zhi Min Chen pleads guilty over killing of 21-year-old found dead in her flat

A man has admitted murdering a young woman in Glasgow 22 years ago, bringing to a conclusion one of the 1990s’ most publicised unsolved cases.

The discovery of Tracey Wylde’s body at her flat in Barmulloch, north-east Glasgow, in November 1997 fuelled fears that a serial killer was targeting sex workers in the city.

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Sri Lankan suicide bomber with UK ties is identified

Abdul Mohamed believed to have attended university in England then Australia

One of the attackers who carried out the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, and was said by Sri Lanka’s defence minister to have studied in the UK and Australia, has been identified as Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed.

British counter-terrorism investigators said they believed Mohamed attended a university in south-east England from 2006-07 and were searching for any associates or signs of extremist activity during his time in the UK.

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Lyra McKee funeral: politicians urged to seize the moment

Clerics and relatives hope politicians present will convert shock into moment of change for Northern Ireland

Mourners at the funeral of Lyra McKee have implored politicians to turn the journalist’s murder into a turning point for Northern Ireland.

Clerics, friends and relatives of McKee issued blunt, impassioned appeals to Theresa May and other party leaders who attended the service in Belfast’s St Anne’s Cathedral on Wednesday, urging them to convert the shock at her killing into a transformative moment.

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Sri Lanka: the worshipper who blocked bomber prevented further bloodshed

Ramesh Raju prevented further bloodshed at Zion church at the cost of his own life

Ramesh Raju was standing with his family near the entrance to Zion church in Batticaloa on Sri Lanka’s east coast, waiting for the Easter service to start, when he spotted the man who had come to attack their community.

Wearing casual clothes, walking alone and carrying a large backpack, the man stuck out from a crowd dressed in their Sunday best for one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar, and gathered in excited groups of family and friends.

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Scrap UK visa fees for Commonwealth veterans, MPs urge

Cross-party group asks Home Office to act as family of four face paying almost £10,000

MPs have demanded that the Home Office abolish visa fees for Commonwealth soldiers who have served in the British armed forces, who can end up paying almost £10,000 in fees for a family of four to settle in the UK.

A cross-party group of more than 130 MPs, coordinated by the Conservative Richard Graham and Labour’s Madeleine Moon, have written to the home secretary, Sajid Javid, calling for the fees to be scrapped.

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The Dig review – a hole lot of buried rage

An Irish bog consumes two men seeking revenge and redemption, in Ryan and Andy Tohill’s tense thriller

Twins Ryan and Andy Tohill’s distinctive homecoming parable, further proof of Irish cinema’s resurgent boldness and versatility, finds a striking visual metaphor for the emotional labours required to find peace of mind nowadays. In the prologue’s teachable example of show-don’t-tell film-making, rough-hewn, edgy Ronan (Moe Dunford) returns to the boarded-up farmhouse he once called home with an apparent eye to starting afresh. An obstacle to the quiet life soon emerges, in the form of a crumpled older man, Sean (Lorcan Cranitch), observed digging up the adjoining peat bog. Why his quest agitates the prodigal farmhand is but gradually revealed; yet with admirable economy the Tohills and screenwriter Stuart Drennan establish a stand-off between men in small, dark holes who have sublimated all feeling into obsessive, possibly futile activity.

Certain shots framing these worker ants against the horizon reminded this viewer of Philip Haas’s underseen film of Paul Auster’s The Music of Chance, which set two disparate drifters to assembling a stone wall on an eccentric recluse’s estate. Yet the Tohills’ antagonists aren’t building but excavating, dragging themselves towards early or shallow graves; the idea of a long-buried past resurfacing in the Irish present carries a renewed resonance. Below the film’s mournful top layer, there lurks a simmering, suppressed violence. We fear relations between this pair will only deteriorate if either party finds what they’re looking for; and while Sean’s daughter Roberta initially holds out some prospect of escaping these ruts, tending Ronan’s calluses and keeping a lid on his rage, Emily Taaffe’s portrayal gives even this prospective peacemaker her own flinty secrets.

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Iran will continue to defy US oil sanctions, says Tehran

Foreign minister says US should ‘prepare for consequences’ if it tries to stop Iranian oil sales

The Iranian foreign minister, Javed Zarif, said Tehran would continue to defy US sanctions by finding buyers for its oil and warned that Washington should “be prepared for the consequences” if it tried to stop it.

The US announced the sanctions in November but some countries got temporary waivers that allowed them to import Iranian oil. Washington now says those waivers – which mainly affect China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey – will expire on 2 May.

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Lyra McKee wrote of Derry’s lost ‘ceasefire babies’. We owe it to her to help them | Séamas O’Reilly

The city is united in revulsion over the journalist’s murder. The violence won’t end unless we listen to young people

On Wednesday in Belfast, the funeral of journalist Lyra McKee took place, following her murder in Derry last week. She was a steadfast activist and writer who had, at just 29, been doing award-winning, hard-hitting and empathetic journalism for many years. She captured the experiences of LGBTI people in Northern Ireland, her own included, and portrayed the struggles of all people in the province regardless of age, class, orientation or politics. She had only recently moved to Derry to live with her partner, a native of the city. Responsibility for her death was claimed by the New IRA, a dissident paramilitary grouping mostly considered a fringe movement of dissolute men, now held in contempt by all but the most craven extremists. On Monday, it released a statement “apologising” for the killing, itself such a repulsive piece of self-serving cowardice that no further mention of its contents is warranted here.

As someone born and bred in Derry, I can scarcely remember the city being more united in revulsion. To see the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, applauded on stage at a vigil for McKee in the staunchly nationalist Creggan estate, is testament to that.

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Mummified remains of 35 ancient Egyptians found in Aswan

Artefacts including statues and masks were also in tomb dating from Greco-Roman period

A team of archaeologists led by an Italian professor have discovered the mummified remains of dozens of ancient Egyptians in a tomb in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan.

The tomb dates back to the Greco-Roman period, between 332BC and AD395, and contains the remains of 35 men, women and children. Archaeologists discovered a small room with four mummies before finding 31 others in a room with items used in the funerary trade, including vases containing bitumen, and an intact stretcher made from palm wood and linen.

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Philippine president to ‘declare war’ on Canada in waste dispute

Rodrigo Duterte ramps up the rhetoric in row over containers languishing in Philippine ports

The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, has said he is ready to “declare war” against Canada over scores of containers holding Canadian household rubbish and electronic waste that have been sitting in his country’s ports for more than six years.

More than 100 containers of waste were shipped in batches from Canada to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014. Most of the containers remain in local ports, sparking protests from environmental activists. Philippine officials say they were falsely declared by a private firm as recyclable plastic scraps and have asked Canada to take the rubbish back.

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