12/02/2014 World News Today


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This is BBC World News Today with me, Philippa Thomas. The BBC


witnesses relief efforts under way in a long besieged city in Syria.


More food and medicines are brought in to the old City of Homs - more


people are getting out. The BBC's Lyse Doucet is there. The buses are


poised here, ready to go in, to take people who are desperate to leave


what has been 18 months of siege. Britain on its highest alert as


winds and torrential rain cause more flooding - with fears that some


flood water could be contaminated. Also coming up: We talk to a doctor


who favours Belgium's planned move to legalise euthanasia for


children. It is wrong, the idea of the child, who decides his own


death. The South African puppeteers who brought Warhorse to life on the


London stage are now adding their magic to a Midsummer Night's Dream.


Hello and welcome. The old city of Homs has become one of the symbols


of the brutal civil war in Syria. The last 18 months, many residents


have been trapped there without any assistance. Today, something


happened - a small aid convoy, in armoured vehicles, made its way into


rebel held areas. Meanwhile, in western Syria the government is


paired to try and drive the rebels out of their strongholds. What could


be the next strategic battle in Syria. At the lists posted a video


they say shows government jets carrying out an intensive series of


air strikes in and around a rebel held town. Revels today blocked


attempts by regime forces and their Lebanese allies Hezbollah to advance


on the town. Capturing this town is important for the government to


secure the main road from Damascus to the North and the coast and to


cut rebel supply lines from Lebanon. As the fighting went on, so too did


the relief operation to evacuate foldable civilians from the old city


of Homs where they have been trapped in terrible conditions -- vulnerable


civilians. Another large group has been allowed out but it is believed


there are more to come. Although the extended truce expires on Wednesday


night, the governor of Homs said it can go on until everybody who wants


to leave can do so. They have joined the millions who have already fled


their homes. More than 2 million have crossed borders, like these at


a refugee camp in Jordan. People here are watching the peace talks in


Geneva closely but don't see much hope. TRANSLATION: Geneva, Geneva.


We have been waiting for that conference to solve our problems but


it hasn't had any benefits for us. They didn't even do anything about


Homs. They can't send any food supplies in to help them. This was


the third day of the second round of talks in Geneva and so far all agree


they have produced very little, but they haven't yet reached a dead end.


How delegation was surprised to find them giving the floor to the other


side, this was not really on the agenda. They were not able to reach


the joint agenda. Left their own devices, it's hard to imagine them


reaching an agreement. The mediator has decided to bring the Russians


and Americans in a day earlier than planned, to try and get them to step


up pressure on their respective allies. But nobody is holding their


breath. There has been some movement in the old city of Homs where more


than 1100 people have been able to leave. But between one and 2,000 are


still believed to be trapped in very difficult conditions. Our Chief


International Correspondent Lyse Doucet has been in the Old City


today - she sent us this report about residents waiting for the aid


to get into them. A rare humanitarian truce is


underway again here. Food, trucks with armoured vehicles bearing UN


logos have gone into the area. And when the food arrives, we understand


that people will start coming out. Buses are poised here, ready to go


in, to take people who are desperate to leave what has been 18 months of


siege, with supplies becoming increasingly scarce. Workers from


the Red Crescent are here in their distinct red jackets. As one as the


United Nations. They are outside what is a reception centre, an


abandoned room which has been used for besieged people, to give them


water, food, medical assistance, even polio vaccinations to people


who have had so little help over the last nearly two years. We


understand, though, that the longer the mission goes on, the more


sensitive and dangerous it becomes. There are opponents who say this is


a means for the opposition fighters to escape. There are those among the


opposition who say that their fighters, when they come out, are


being taken in for questioning. These humanitarian missions, as


noble as they are, cannot escape this. But it is a rare glimmer of


light in an otherwise dark and destructive war. We have one other


development to bring you. Police in the UK are investigating claims that


a British man carried out a suicide bombing in Aleppo. It's thought


Abdul Waheed Majeed, who's 41, drove a truck full of explosives into the


walls of Aleppo prison, which is under the control of the Syrian


regime. If true, it would be the first documented attack carried out


by a British National for rebel forces.


US forces in Afghanistan have strongly criticised President


Karzai's government for planning to release what they call 65 "dangerous


insurgents" from a prison on the Bagram air base - perhaps as early


as this week. The US says that it has evidence that the men were


responsible for carrying out attacks on international troops. It says


their release is a major step backward for the rule of law in


Afghanistan. Here's David Loyn in Kabul.


It is difficult to describe how a grey -- angry the US are about the


potential release of the 65 men, they describe them as dangerous


insurgents in what is one of the most strongly worded attacks on the


Afghan administration I have seen coming out of the American military.


They are really worried that these men, who they have taken off the


battlefield, and returned to the fray. They say other men released


from Bagram in the past have gone back to fighting and the evidence


they have given the Afghan authorities on these 65 include


weapons that were taken off them, sawn off shotgun, a Kalashnikov,


grenade launchers, bomb-making equipment taken off them. One of the


men, who is potentially about to be released, was captured in an attack


on Afghan forces. The fear is that these individuals, about half of


whom were taken in Helmand, could return straight back to the


battlefield. With me is Xenia Dormandy from the


British foreign policy think tank The Royal Institute of International


Affairs based at Chatham House. She's worked at both the US National


Security Council and the US State Department. What do you think is the


message that President cars I is sending here? What is going on is he


is about to step down, there is an election in a few months, and he is


protecting his back. This is about Karzai, you can see that because


most of the opposition, most of the principal candidates running for


president have said they would support a stronger role for the US,


they would sign the bilateral security agreement. This is Karzai


trying to show his independence from the US. But is this a popular move,


disabling will let fighters out of prison? It is a good question. It is


what he leaves the Afghan people want. They clearly want to be


independent, like most nations, they want to show their sovereignty and


independence from the US. What he has done is he has taken it much


further than most Afghans would take it, and you can say this in many of


the votes that have been called in recent elections, the principal


elite, the members of the people who are running to be the new


presidents, they have all said they would sign the bilateral agreement,


continue to work closely with the US. So this is really about Karzai


trying to step away from the perception that he is a pawn of the


US. When you talk about the elite behind in being concerned, do you


think they are worried about loss of aid as well? We have heard from


Republican senators, saying this is a real hammer blow to their


relationship. Absolutely, this is where there is a lot of concern in


the US, this is all about Karzai, not the country. Because the


consequences of not engaging in a productive way with the US, whether


it said this issue, insurgents who are going to be released, or whether


it is signing the bilateral security agreement, the consequences of that


are significant for Afghan security, development and their economy in


terms of international investment. Whoever follows hammered Karzai, do


you think the Taliban are going to somehow get back into power?


Afghanistan has three major challenges. It is to conclude some


kind of political agreement that includes the Taliban, they are a


part of Afghanistan. It has two up with some solution on security, and


it needs to drive forward its economy. Those things are intimately


connected, but what is clear is the Taliban are a part of Afghan society


and therefore need to be brought into the process.


Hurricane force winds are hitting Britain - with forecasters warning


that a month's worth of rain could fall in the next few days - on land


that is already water logged after some of the worst flooding in


decades. The south and west are getting the brunt of the bad weather


- but it's been treated by the government as a matter of national


urgency - and a potential health risk. Here's our Environment


Correspondent Claire Marshall. The new landscape of southern


England. Ground water levels are at record highs row, it could be like


this for months. Look closely, what is in this floodwater? We brought a


microbiologist to once re-home. The Thames is running through this


house. It is a small absorbent pad, that is being soaked in membrane


sulphate... This testing kit has been used in disaster areas all over


the world. It shows a high level of bacteria, ultimately, if you can


avoid it, don't go near it and make sure you take sensible precautions.


It is not just the physical dangers of the floods, it's the mental


pressures. Darren has just heard things might get worse. His street


may be flooded to save another larger area of Chertsey. The last


news we had was that the army were considering putting a complete


sandbag wall down the centre of the road, and flooding these houses even


more, talking one metre, to save others. I can understand that, but


it's not nice to hear when you are fighting day and night. Difficult


decisions are being taken in other parts of the country. In Winchester,


the sandbags will block the river. It will save 100 homes but send


millions of gallons of floodwater elsewhere. In Bewdley, ?10 million


has been spent on defences. They have in built up and are holding for


the moment. Now a look at some of the day's other news. The first


plane carrying supplies to the Central African Republic has arrived


in Bangui. An initial load of 82 tonnes of rice has been brought by


the World Food Programme from neighbouring Cameroon. The fighting


in the country has made it difficult to bring supplies in by road.


A court in Pakistan has ordered the government to reveal the whereabouts


of a campaigner against drone attacks. Kareem Khan disappeared


just days before he was due to testify before European


parliamentarians about drone aircraft strikes on Pakistan.


Activists say he was last seen leaving his house with men wearing


police uniform. The Penguin publishing company has


decided to recall and destroy all remaining copies of a book on


Hinduism. Wendy Doniger's book "The Hindus: An Alternative History" had


been the subject of a legal challenge claiming the text was


offensive to Hindus. The move has heightened concerns over freedom of


speech in India. The far right party of France seems


to be gaining popularity. A study of a thousand French voters has found


that a third say they agree with the ideas of Front Nationale. That total


is up 12% since 2011 - the year Marine Le Pen became the party's


leader. Belgium may soon decide to extend


the right to euthanasia for the very ill -- to children. The Belgian


House of Representatives is due to vote on the issue of mercy killing


on Thursday. The upper house the Senate has already agreed that death


should be an option for children in the advanced stages of terminal


illness, suffering unbearable pain, if they understand what that means


and if they have parental consent. They have been emotional


demonstrations outside Parliament, urging a no vote, with campaigners


arguing that such a law would open the door that no one would be able


to close. If the bill is passed, it will go to the King to sign into


law. That is wrong for any child to


decide upon its own debt. A six-year-old child does not have the


knowledge to do that. It is wrong because of that.


Joining me from Brussels is Jutte van der Werff Ten Bosch, professor


of paediatric oncology at Brussels University Hospital.


Welcome to World News Today. I understand you support this bill,


why is that? And of course, as a paediatric oncologist I am facing


children who are dying irregularly. Fortunately they can sure most of


the children we treat but unfortunately we cannot and


sometimes these children go through extreme phases of pain and suffering


before they die. We cannot always treat that as we would like to. From


that point of view, I can imagine the point of view of the child that


says I do not want to do this, this is too much for me. I choose to die


in a more comfortable way, which has been made possible by euthanasia.


How sure can you be that very young children understand what it means?


Of course, the older the child, the more certain it will be and the


easier it is to be certain of that. Even in younger children, we have a


team with experts in it and among them they are psychiatrists and


psychologists who have been trained to talk to these children to


communicate and, well, I think the community can be certain that we


know that when we draw the conclusion that this children they


once this, then that is what the child really wants. Of course, I can


understand this is difficult to understand for people who have not


worked with this group of children, with children who have cancer,


children who are dying. It is a very specific type of job but we can do


that, we can talk to them. I understand you are looking for the


best possible situation for the children, but some critics argue


that it is very expensive to look after children who have advanced


terminal illnesses and that the pressure of resources on the might


push the wrong decision to be made. I am not making the decision, it is


the patients who are asking for the Tunisia and we are listening to


them. We are therefore the patients and it is not the other way around.


The discussion about resources is much more broad than euthanasia and


children and it is important as well, but it would not concern me in


making my decision. I am listening to the patient and what they want. I


understand that Belgium would not be the first to pass this law, there is


a similar blog in the Netherlands? That is true. What is your


experience or what have you learned from that fact?


We have learned that the law in the Netherlands is not the best law that


there is because there is in a summit of 12 years. That means that


children under the age of 12, they are still not allowed to ask


forgiveness -- euthanasia which I believe is a weakness. We know by


experience that they are not many children asking for euthanasia. It


is uncommon but it has happened in about five cases. Even if it is a


small amount of patients who benefit from this law, for them it is


important that we have this law. Jutte van der Werff Ten Bosch, thank


you for joining us from Brussels. Thank you.


The castaway who says he spent 13 months adrift in a boat is back in


his home country, El Salvador. Jose Alvarenga was found two weeks ago in


the Marshall Islands. He said he got lost in a storm while fishing off


the coast of Mexico in December 2012. Miranda Hurst has the story.


Fail and exhausted, Jose Alvarenga arrived in El Salvador late on


Tuesday. All he could mother was, "I do not know what to say." Jose


Alvarenga was found this on Encke weak two weeks ago and the Marshall


Islands. He claims to have left Mexico for one day of shark fishing


on December 2012. He said he drifted for more than one year and travelled


8000 kilometres. A friend who was with him died on board. He said he


survived by catching fish and birds with his bare hands and drinking the


blood of turtles. The 37-year-old was met in San Salvador by family


members and officials after flying from America. He has clearly been


through a lot. Given the fact that I have worked in migration for many


years, I can sure -- I can be sure that the -- he will go through a lot


more because readjusting will not be easy. The family of his companion CD


won't speak to him to find out how their son died and what happened to


his body. Jose Alvarenga will undergo further checks before being


reunited with his family on a nearby coastal fishing village.


Day five of the Winter Olympics in Sochi got off to an extraordinary


start earlier with the first gold medal of the morning being shared


between two competitors in the Women's Downhill Skiing - the first


time a gold's been shared in the history of the Winter Games.


Let's get more from Ore Oduba from the BBC's Sports Centre in Salford


near Manchester. Good evening, good evening from


Salford and Manchester. A very exciting day five of the Winter


Olympics. It was the first in alpine skiing, a joint gold and it came in


the Women's Downhill Skiing. Amongst the first medals awarded to the


however let us talk about that first. Tina Maze was the 21st rider


to come and posted the same time. She see her moment with her


Slovenian competitor. Also double celebrations for Germany, the


finished ahead of the Austrian competitors to claim victory. That


was in the luge doubles. Elsewhere a gold-medal was one for another


German. He had held a six second advantage before the ski jump before


that ten kilometre cross-country race. I could not go without


mentioning home success for the whole nation. Russia have won a gold


medal in the figure skating. That is their second of the games so far and


comes after their success in the team event. There was a Russian


first and second placed finish. There compatriots taking a silver


medal also. Thank you for that update.


A visual treat for you now, the latest production from the team


behind the international stage hit War Horse.


Now one of Britain's top directors - Tom Morris - has teamed up again


with South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company for Shakespeare's A


Midsummer Night's Dream, which will start its international tour here in


London. Lebo Diseko reports. Finally Cartama asks and jewelled


eyes reflect the Mr Li life of the woodland spirits in Shakespeare's


most popular comedy. The delicate puppets contrast with the giant


flames of Handspring's warhorses also have a magic of their own.


Something that happens when you work with puppets is that you know it is


not alive. The audience know it is not alive but they are going to get


anything out of the story they have to imagine that it is. There is a


big that the audience has to get over if they are watching a puppet


show and I believe that is a profound creation and that in that


moment the odd is give the gift of life to the stage.


It was after the success of War Horse that Tom Morris and his


Bristol company decided to team up with Handspring. This production is


going on an international tour after its run at the Barbican Centre. It


is all a far cry from the workshops in Cape Town where we found the


early days of the creation of these puppets more than one year ago. It


is here that a team of locally recruited craftworkers designed the


puppets for the international stage. As the Shakespeare puppets emerged,


War Horse designs await shipment across the globe. It has brought


them to the small South African company. It is actually quite


incredible and we are humbled by the amount of interest that has been


generated from foreigners. They are now wanting to come to our country.


We get e-mails every single day. At least two or three people telling us


that they saw our show and found out that the puppets were made in South


Africa and can be please come and see your workshop! Back at the


Barbican Centre, they get ready for the opening night. Puppeteers show


off their wonderful designs and magical spirit of the two


Shakespearean thieves, the clownish mustard seed. And the vamp -ish


cobweb. A reminder of our main news: aid


workers and Syria have evacuated more trapped residents from Homs as


well as delivering essential supplies.


The Governor of Homs says 200 people have got out of the city and nearly


200 parcels containing vegetable oil, flour and rice has gone and


took the Syrian people. At that peace talks in Geneva at the


opposition delegation without a transition plan but the government


representatives refused to discuss it.


You can Well, that's all from the programme.


Keep up-to-date on Twitter and Facebook. Next, the weather.


Goodnight. Winds of over 100 mph at the West


coast of Wales Today. We still have hearing warning for wind, meaning


dangerous conditions are likely across the North West


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