07/05/2014 World News Today


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


Syrian rebel fighters leave the city they once called the capital of


their revolution. The fighters head out of the Syrian


city of Homs on UN buses after an internationally brokered truce with


President Assad's forces - a retreat, though they say their war


is not over. Is President Putin changing his tune


on Ukraine? He urges rebels to shelve their local referendum plans,


and backs Ukraine's scheduled national elections.


Also coming up: how enthusiastic have voters in South Africa proved


about today's elections? I am at a polling station just an hour before


voting ends in the first elections since the death of Nelson Mandela.


And is this how it all began? We'll show you NASA's stunning recreation


of the story of the universe - condensing billions of years into


just a few minutes. Hello and welcome.


It was far from their vision of Syria's future, but after three


years of fighting President Assad's forces, rebel fighters and their


families have begun to leave Homs on UN buses, having torched what was


left of their bases. Syria's third largest city was once at the centre


of the uprising against President Assad. But now fighters are


withdrawing from the Old City, which lies largely in ruins. One more


district of Homs is still holding out - al-Wair - seen here. But we


understand fighters there have also accepted a cease-fire and they will


leave too, as soon as arrangements are made. Now, as the first group of


evacuated fighters has arrived in the rebel-held towns of Talbisah and


Dar al-Kabrira, the Old City is coming back under government


control. Paul Wood reports. The uprising in Homs is over. Smoke


hangs over the old city, signifying defeat for the rebels. They'd set


fire to the buildings before they left them for the last time. The


rebel fighters moved out, demoralised and hungry after two


years of siege. Officers in President Assad's army called it


"surrender or starve". This is not, though, capitulation. Each fighter


took a backpack and a rifle. They leave the countryside ready to


continue the armed struggle. TRANSLATION: This is a victory for


the rebels. We thank God for this. We are leaving with dignity but we


will be back to Homs, and God willing we will liberate Homs.


Alongside the bravado, there is bitterness. The rebels say they feel


betrayed by the international community, by their own political


leadership in Turkey, by other rebels who did not come to their


aid. The opposition called Homs the capital of the revolution. As we saw


in the siege of another enclave, Baba Amr, the government tried to


crush resistance in Homs from the start. The shelling is constant now.


We are hearing an impact every few seconds. And in reply you can also


hear a little bit of Kalashnikov fire. It's a pretty futile gesture.


Now they have finished the job in the Old City. It is a symbolic and


strategic victory for President Assad. In places, the rebels are


making gains, in Aleppo and Idlib over in the North, for example. This


is not a simple picture. But President Assad is winning more than


he is losing, and perhaps the real significance of Homs lies in what it


tells you about the rebels' morale. For some, three years of blood and


sacrifice, with little to show for it, is enough.


With me is our Chief International Correspondent, Lyse Doucet, who's


been to Homs several times. It has been a desperate situation over the


past few months? I was there a few weeks ago, I have never had so much


intense mortar fire. We could hear small arms fire through the night.


It was clear there were fierce battles going on. They were battle


hardened fighters who did not want to leave, and there were others who


were starved of weapons and food. Many of the civilians had left, and


many ad stayed. For a lot of the fighters who left, it was


bittersweet. They are exhausted, hungry. As we saw in the report,


they have not given up. They are moving to the countryside and so the


fighting will shift there. Where do you think the rebels stand now? The


military strikes that the UN threatened against President Assad


did not happen. We talk about the war in Syria and we talk about the


rebels and the government side. In many places the war is being fought


the village to village, city to city, Road to Lord, there are


different rebel groups. Every day that patterns, there are different


rebel groups developing. -- that passes. There were complex


negotiations, but by and large the rebel movement is all fractured now,


you have to top around what is happening around Homs and Damascus.


Although today was a very important and symbolic victory for President


Assad's forces, there is still intense fighting going on in the


north. So the war itself is not over, it is still ruled by road,


city by city. President Assad's forces are gaining ground. Thank


you. President Putin has urged


pro-Russian activists in southeastern Ukraine to call off a


series of independence referendums planned for this weekend, in what


looks like an attempt to calm the growing tension in Ukraine. The


Russian president also claims to have pulled back his troops from the


Ukrainian border, though both NATO and the White House have said they


can see no sign of this. Daniel Sandford reports from Moscow.


Moscow has been in military mood this week preparing to celebrate 69


years since it defeated Nazi Germany. And all against the


backdrop of Russia annexing Crimea less than two months ago and the


fighting in eastern Ukraine. But in the Kremlin today, President Putin


showed his first sign of wanting to de-escalate the tensions in Ukraine.


In a meeting with the President of Switzerland, he insisted Russia had


pulled back its troops from the border and then he called on the


armed pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine to delay their


controversial referendum. TRANSLATION: We call on the


representatives of south-east Ukraine. On the supporters of the


federisation of the country, to postpone the referendum scheduled


for May 11th. It could be a significant


breakthrough, though a source close to President Putin told me Russia


would only support presidential elections in Ukraine this month, if


the government in Kiev engaged in serious talks with the East. And the


key question, as Mr Putin left the room, was whether the pro-Russia


activists will do as he asks. It was a dramatic move by President Putin


wrong-footing everyone just four days before the referendum was due


to be held. So with the situation in Ukraine deteriorating by the day,


President Putin may just have blinked, but if so, why? One answer


could be the Russian economy. People's lives have been transformed


in the last 15 years as oil money has paid for Western consumer goods.


But it could all be put at risk by further sanctions. TRANSLATION: --


The consequences could be dire. I would say that if Russia breaks


down, it will break up, or it may break up. Spring is just arriving in


Moscow, but it has been overshadowed by the fighting over the border.


President Putin may have calculated that it is now time to consolidate


his gains, rather than risk everything by going for broke in


Ukraine. Let's go live to Daniel in Moscow.


You said the big question there is why, I know the European Union


governments have been discussing a possible expansion of sanctions.


There is no doubt that Russia was about to enter into some difficult


country. Russia was likely to be suffering some economic problems


before this Ukrainian crisis and certainly sanctions will drive


Russia further into recession. That is one factor. Another is that


President Putin is watching the situation carefully and he will be


trying to work out what will happen. If you take what he said today on


face value, he has pull the rug from those in eastern Ukraine. The


interesting thing will be whether tomorrow the agree with what he has


asked them to do whether in fact they say, we do not listen to


Moscow, and they carry on. If they listen to what he said, that would


be a sign they have put some pressure on them, then Russia has


decided it is time to head to the endgame. Remind us about the plans


for the weekend. It was not one referendum, it was meant to be a


series in the East? Different regions were talking about the


possibility of holding referendums. The key one was the Donetsk region.


That is the place where there have been the most number of buildings


taken over and where they were most advanced in trying to organise a


referendum. It did not look as if they would be all to use normal


polling stations to stage the referendum. This was a referendum to


effectively create much greater autonomy in Eastern Europe rain. It


was seen as a route to them joining rush-hour. -- eastern Ukraine.


South Africans have been voting today - with the governing ANC


widely tipped for another victory - as the country marks 20 years since


the end of apartheid. Let's join Zeinab Badawi again in Johannesburg,


how has the turnout looked from there? How has that looked? In just


under now hour now before voting ends in this election. This is just


one of 22,000 polling stations up and down the country. The


Independent electoral commission has said it is satisfied with the


product of the voting situation saying it has been very smooth. This


is in an affluent part of Johannesburg. Most people have been


coming in in flashy cars, which those you one phase of South Africa.


There is a great deal of wealth in the country, but the growing level


of inequality has been a key issue in this campaign. My colleague has


been looking at how there is growing frustration with the ruling ANC at


its failure at delivering prosperity for all.


They began queueing here even before dawn. Many still loyal and grateful


to the party that helped liberate South Africa and has been in power


ever since. Got freedom of speech, better roads, better facilities, and


we are no longer treated like slaves, like they did treat us like


slaves not long ago. So you will be voting today for? For the legacy of


the old man. Of Nelson Mandela? For the ANC? No doubt about it. Which


explains why President Jacob Zuma, voting here, will almost certainly


keep his job, despite being accused of corruption. But the ANC is


starting to lose ground, the Army brought in to this impoverished


township after riots yesterday. In troubled communities like this one,


the optimism of 20 years ago has evaporated to be replaced by


cynicism, frustration and increasingly, by violence. These


teenagers say they took part in yesterday's protests. Over half of


all yougg South Africans, the so-called born frees, are struggling


to find work. -- young South Africans. Since President Zuma, our


new leader, he has done nothing but corruption. He spent a lot of money


on upgrading his house and upgrading the lives of South Africans. So I do


not think ANC should lead any longer. A new party should be given


a chance to lead us. And there are plenty of parties vying for power,


splitting the opposition vote. Some promise an end to corruption, others


complain that too much of the economy remains in white hands. In


this queue, we found plenty of frustrated ANC supporters who were


considering a protest vote today. Me, by not voting for them today, I


am sending a sign to them that I am your supporter, but the thing is, I


am a bit frustrated with what you are doing to our people. And that's


a common view here, that the ANC is losing its way, but may not be


beyond redemption. What have you been hearing from the born frees,


who did not go through the struggle for democracy? A great deal has been


made of this generation who can vote for the first time. That they might


be encumbered with ties of loyalty to the ANC as a party of liberation.


They do not remember the years before the party. Only 12% of the


born frees registered to vote, and we don't know how many of them even


bother to turn out. I have been looking at the demographics in the


queues for the polling stations and there were not many born frees in


those queues as far as I could see. And what do you see is the biggest


challenge in government again for the ANC? The ANC will get the most


seats. As one leading commentators said, it has been a dictatorship of


no alternative. And that is the point. The opposition is very


splintered in South Africa with more than 20 parties standing in the


selection and the official opposition only got 17% of the votes


in 2009, the ANC got 66%. But, the ANC has experienced a wake-up call


in this campaign with the kind of frustration that you heard in that


report by Andrew. So, it cannot afford to say to people any more,


look, it is only 20 years since we have been in power, you have got to


be patient, wait a little bit more. People are saying that it is time


that we did have a share in the wealth of this country, and I think


that the ANC after this election is going to be discussing, what do we


do with the next five years in office to try to ensure that there


is a greater, and Sarah distribution of the country's well. -- fear


distribution -- fairer. Several hundred people are now thought to


have been killed in another Islamist attack in north-east Nigeria. The


news has come through as Nigeria's government offered a reward of


?175,000 to help find more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram.


The Government is calling on both American and British military advice


to help in the search for the girls. Here's our security correspondent,


Gordon Corera. It is a campaign spreading around the world, of deep


and growing concern to the fate of 200 but did Nigerian schoolgirls. --


kidnapped schoolgirls. Campaigners, celebrities, Nigerians, on the


streets and social media drawing attention to the plight of the girls


and calling for them to be released. When asked about Nigeria today the


Prime Minister said he shared the outrage. I am the father of two


young daughters and five reaction is the same as every father or mother


in this land. This is an act of pure evil, it has


united people across the planet to stand with Nigeria to find them. The


foreign office has been offering assistance and the Prime Minister


called the Nigerian president. He accepted a small team of British


officials could come out to help. It may include members of the military


and intelligence services. The girls were taken by the violent Islamist


group Boko Haram, whose leader said he intended to sell them. They were


taken from the school three weeks ago, only three soldiers were


guarding them despite warnings. A few of the girls escaped. A


campaigner in touch with them told the BBC about their experiences.


They went through a horrifying experience, they were terrorised,


they were made to believe their family members would be killed, and


they would not be returned back. Protesters are out on the street


criticising the Government for doing too little, too late. The Nigerians


did accept help from an American team and today offered a reward for


information. Celebrity campaigners have also been joining in the cause


for action. If the world does nothing and they get away with this


we set a horrible precedent so it is extremely important something is


done immediately to try to find these girls, bring them home, and


God forbid we can't, we have two still bring these men to justice.


With more than three weeks having passed since these girls were taken,


even though the international campaign is now growing, hopes for


their imminent release of fading. -- are fading. Thailand's prime


minister Yingluck Shinawatra has had to resign, after being found guilty


of abusing her power by the country's Constitutional Court. It


said she had acted illegally when she transferred a senior civil


servant to another job, to free up a post for one of her relatives. Nine


out of ten people living in cities around the world are breathing air


that fails to meet levels deemed safe by the World Health


Organisation. Asia comes out the worst in the WHO's latest report,


which is based on data recorded in 1,600 cities. Vietnamese naval ships


and Chinese vessels have collided in the South China Sea. The incident


happened as the Vietnamese navy was trying to prevent the Chinese from


setting up an oil rig in an area that's claimed by both nations. A


German art hoarder - whose collection of priceless works


triggered an investigation into Nazi-looted art - has left his


collection of paintings to a gallery in Switzerland. The Bern Art Museum


now inherits more than 1,000 pictures hidden for decades by


Cornelius Gurlitt, who died on Tuesday. From the food we eat to the


toys children play with. How much those being part of the EU affect


our daily lives? In two weeks' time, voters across the EU, including in


Britain, will get the chance to choose their Euro MP. Matthew Price


left Brussels for the day, and headed here to find out how EU rules


affect us all in Europe. Out of Brussels, but not out of the EU.


Welcome to Banbury, where European laws govern daily life. It anywhere


on the high street, I chose number 21, and a fry up. Enjoy. Everything


you see on this plate is affected by EU rules. The pigs that produced the


Bacon, the way that they are reared, to the meat content in the sausage,


to the seeds used to grow the crops in the first place, EU legislation


regulates how many hours the people who picked vegetables can work, in


the fields. Quite often, British standards are higher than Brussels


standards. With eggs, most of those bought in this country will be of a


superior food safety quality. The EU has affected the people who serve


us, like the Polish chef here, but not the currency we use. What about


our children? Do you think that EU rules would have any impact on a


place like this? No, I do not think so. You would be wrong. All toys in


Britain have to meet EU safety standards. And carry this mark. I do


not think you realise what would the the impact if it was the UK, Europe,


it is entrusted with health and safety for your child, for food


standards, for everything else. British women can have more


maternity leave of than the minimum time set by Brussels. Outside town


on this industrial estate, this company must comply with EU rules so


that it can sell is metal detectors in European markets. We can trade


easily in the EU, we can exhibit products there, but the downside is


the costs associated with complying to some of the legislation that


comes out of there, some of the red tape. Back to Brussels, where


British MEPs and ministers help create EU laws, laws that affect


everyone across this land. It's a view of the heavens as never seen


before. NASA scientists have just released a stunning recreation of


the evolution of the universe, from the formation of the first atoms, to


the birth of stars and galaxies. It's based on the latest


mathematical model, as our Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh explains.


This computer simulation compresses 14 billion years into two-and-a-half


minutes. Watch how the universe unravels. First, strands of


mysterious material in blue, called "dark matter", sprawl across the


emptiness of space, like branches of a cosmic tree. Fast forward a couple


of billion years and the pink glows show the seeds from which galaxies


will one day form. Billions more years pass and there are cataclysmic


explosions, from which, a little bit later, the universe as we know it


begins to emerge. And around now, the Earth and our own Solar System


begins to form. This simulation essentially tells us how the


universe evolves in front of our own eyes and what we can see here is how


gas and stars and eventually planets and us form in this universe. And


the amazing thing about the simulation is that is really


strikingly close to the real universe. This is a picture of the


universe taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Now, compare it with the


universe created in a computer, published in the journal Nature. It


is hard to tell the difference. For hundreds of years, astronomers have


used telescopes to see distant stars and galaxies. From what they saw,


they developed their ideas of how the universe began and how it


evolved. Now, for the first time, they are able to re-create the


universe in a computer. That means they can test out new theories and


really get to grips with how the cosmos works. It's a big step


forward. It is going to be incredibly helpful to cosmologists


like me to figure out fundamental properties of the universe. This


simulation is the best estimate yet of how the universe evolved and how


it may develop in the future. Extraordinary pictures. You can get


in touch with us on Twitter about any of those stories. Thank you very


much for being with us. Good evening. The are not that many


places that managed to stay dry today. Tomorrow, we have to talk


about some rain in the forecast. It can be a little bit different from


one day to the next. Most of tomorrow's rain comes from this


weather system coming in from the Atlantic. The rain itself will be a


little bit patchy and hit and miss but not many places will miss it,


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