07/05/2014 World News Today


07/05/2014

The latest national and international news, exploring the day's events from a global perspective.


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

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

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their revolution. The fighters head out of the Syrian

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

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

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is not over. Is President Putin changing his tune

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

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and backs Ukraine's scheduled national elections.

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

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

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

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

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

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just a few minutes. Hello and welcome.

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

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

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

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

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of the uprising against President Assad. But now fighters are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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rebel fighters moved out, demoralised and hungry after two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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betrayed by the international community, by their own political

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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military strikes that the UN threatened against President Assad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Although today was a very important and symbolic victory for President

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

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

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

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you. President Putin has urged

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pro-Russian activists in southeastern Ukraine to call off a

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series of independence referendums planned for this weekend, in what

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

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

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

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

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

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years since it defeated Nazi Germany. And all against the

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

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

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

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

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

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armed pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine to delay their

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controversial referendum. TRANSLATION: We call on the

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

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federisation of the country, to postpone the referendum scheduled

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for May 11th. It could be a significant

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

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would only support presidential elections in Ukraine this month, if

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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governments have been discussing a possible expansion of sanctions.

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

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country. Russia was likely to be suffering some economic problems

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before this Ukrainian crisis and certainly sanctions will drive

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

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President Putin is watching the situation carefully and he will be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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series in the East? Different regions were talking about the

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

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

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

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

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

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effectively create much greater autonomy in Eastern Europe rain. It

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

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South Africans have been voting today - with the governing ANC

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

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

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

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

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

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Independent electoral commission has said it is satisfied with the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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its failure at delivering prosperity for all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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cynicism, frustration and increasingly, by violence. These

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Government is calling on both American and British military advice

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

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

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

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kidnapped schoolgirls. Campaigners, celebrities, Nigerians, on the

:18:30.:18:31.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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foreign office has been offering assistance and the Prime Minister

:18:53.:18:54.

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

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

:18:59.:19:04.

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

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

:19:08.:19:11.

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

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

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

:19:18.:19:23.

They went through a horrifying experience, they were terrorised,

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

:19:26.:19:32.

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

:19:33.:19:35.

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

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

:19:42.:19:44.

information. Celebrity campaigners have also been joining in the cause

:19:45.:19:55.

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

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

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

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

:20:06.:20:13.

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

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even though the international campaign is now growing, hopes for

:20:16.:20:19.

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

:20:20.:20:24.

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

:20:25.:20:27.

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

:20:28.:20:30.

said she had acted illegally when she transferred a senior civil

:20:31.:20:34.

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

:20:35.:20:39.

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

:20:40.:20:42.

that fails to meet levels deemed safe by the World Health

:20:43.:20:45.

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

:20:46.:20:48.

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

:20:49.:20:52.

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

:20:53.:20:56.

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

:20:57.:21:00.

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

:21:01.:21:08.

German art hoarder - whose collection of priceless works

:21:09.:21:10.

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

:21:11.:21:13.

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

:21:14.:21:17.

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

:21:18.:21:20.

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

:21:21.:21:28.

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

:21:29.:21:33.

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

:21:34.:21:37.

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

:21:38.:21:41.

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

:21:42.:21:48.

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

:21:49.:21:55.

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

:21:56.:22:01.

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

:22:02.:22:10.

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

:22:11.:22:16.

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

:22:17.:22:20.

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

:22:21.:22:25.

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

:22:26.:22:31.

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

:22:32.:22:35.

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

:22:36.:22:42.

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

:22:43.:22:46.

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

:22:47.:22:57.

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

:22:58.:23:02.

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

:23:03.:23:08.

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

:23:09.:23:17.

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

:23:18.:23:24.

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

:23:25.:23:28.

standards, for everything else. British women can have more

:23:29.:23:32.

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

:23:33.:23:36.

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

:23:37.:23:42.

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

:23:43.:23:49.

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

:23:50.:23:53.

the costs associated with complying to some of the legislation that

:23:54.:23:57.

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

:23:58.:24:03.

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

:24:04.:24:15.

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

:24:16.:24:20.

before. NASA scientists have just released a stunning recreation of

:24:21.:24:23.

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

:24:24.:24:27.

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

:24:28.:24:29.

mathematical model, as our Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh explains.

:24:30.:24:32.

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

:24:33.:24:36.

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

:24:37.:24:49.

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

:24:50.:24:52.

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

:24:53.:24:56.

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

:24:57.:24:59.

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

:25:00.:25:03.

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

:25:04.:25:08.

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

:25:09.:25:17.

begins to form. This simulation essentially tells us how the

:25:18.:25:21.

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

:25:22.:25:25.

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

:25:26.:25:30.

the amazing thing about the simulation is that is really

:25:31.:25:33.

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

:25:34.:25:37.

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

:25:38.:25:41.

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

:25:42.:25:48.

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

:25:49.:25:51.

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

:25:52.:25:59.

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

:26:00.:26:02.

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

:26:03.:26:06.

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

:26:07.:26:09.

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

:26:10.:26:16.

forward. It is going to be incredibly helpful to cosmologists

:26:17.:26:19.

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

:26:20.:26:22.

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

:26:23.:26:33.

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

:26:34.:26:41.

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

:26:42.:26:43.

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

:26:44.:27:00.

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

:27:01.:27:07.

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

:27:08.:27:12.

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

:27:13.:27:15.

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

:27:16.:27:22.

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

:27:23.:27:23.

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