08/05/2014 World News Today


08/05/2014

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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A dramatic development in the battle for a Syrian city sees tunnels dug

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under historic sites to stage a huge explosion.

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As the massive bomb blast rips through the Syrian city of Aleppo -

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a hotel and several other buildings are flattened.

:00:25.:00:26.

Nigeria's missing schoolgirls - the president says their abduction could

:00:27.:00:29.

mark a turning point in the fight against Islamic extremism.

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Also coming up: With most of the votes in, the ANC appears to have

:00:36.:00:39.

won a decisive victory in South Africa's general election. I am

:00:40.:00:47.

Zeinab Badawi at the results centre in Pretoria. With 83% of electoral

:00:48.:00:54.

districts declared, the ANC has 63% of the vote. I will be talking to

:00:55.:00:58.

the justice minister. Are electrical devices making birds

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lose their way? We find out why they've been ruffling the feathers

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of migratory birds. Hello and welcome. Another dramatic

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episode in Syria's bloody civil war after yesterday's mass retreat of

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rebel fighters from the city of Homs. Today rebels set off a large

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explosion in the northern city of Aleppo which has destroyed a hotel

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and several other buildings. A group called the Islamic Front has claimed

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responsibility for the attack. The blast in the city's government-held

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area struck the Carlton hotel in the Old City, next to Aleppo's medieval

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citadel. Opposition activists said that Government troops were based

:01:47.:01:50.

there and that a number had been killed. Mike Wooldridge reports.

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The massive blast sending a huge column of debris and dust into the

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air. The Carlton Hotel in Aleppo's Old City, which was being used as a

:02:06.:02:08.

base by Government forces, destroyed. And other buildings

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damaged. The rebel Islamic Front was responsible for the blast. The

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British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the

:02:18.:02:19.

violence, said fighters had placed explosives in a tunnel underneath

:02:20.:02:25.

the hotel. The rebel offensive in 2012 in Aleppo, left the Carlton and

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other nearby hotels on the front line of the conflict. Next to the

:02:30.:02:34.

city's medieval citadel, this was an area much frequented by tourists

:02:35.:02:41.

before the war. After the expulsion, soldiers searching for any

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survivors. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that there

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were wounded as well as dead among the troops who had been occupying

:02:48.:02:52.

the building. Today's huge blast, a blow to the Assad regime in the

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North, as here in the central city of Homs, Government troops are

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regaining control, after a cease-fire by the rebels.

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With me is Edgard Jallad, the TV News Editor for BBC Arabic. You were

:03:07.:03:16.

just telling the you have got a hold of some video that shows the

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preparations for this attack. Yes. It should the lead up to the

:03:22.:03:25.

operation and is about 20 minutes of video footage. It includes an

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interview with a man who is one of the leaders of this Islamic Front

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group. He was describing the work that led up to this explosion. He

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said that the work took two and a half months of working day and

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night. We can see them pulling out the

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rubble from underneath the building. He said there were 40 tonnes of

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explosives planted underneath. He also said that the tunnel is 75

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metres long. It led to this checkpoint or base used by the

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regular army. He promised that you should expect us to appear in

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Damascus, perhaps at the presidential palace, to arrest the

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president. Apart from the damage that has been

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done, this is a propaganda coup? Bexactly. It is a new tactic. We

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have not witnessed anything like this before. It is an operation

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which shows that the rebels are following different tactics and

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imposing new rules on the Government. It is not limited to the

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surface, but now we need to consider underground activity.

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We were talking about the retreat of rebel fighters from the city of is.

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You could say, the rebels appear to have scored a significant coup, but

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that would be to simplify too much, wouldn't it?

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Yes. These are different groups in different conditions. Yesterday, it

:05:18.:05:20.

was portrayed as a victory for the Government. But these rebels left

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this area to fight in another area. So, they are leaving but to go and

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fight elsewhere. This was announced even by the Syrian Council leaders.

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They said: Do not think these rebels are going home, they are going to

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fight. So, these are two different things.

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Good to talk to you. Thank you. There's been an earthquake in

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Mexico. The epicentre of the 6.8 magnitude quake was on the pacific

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coast. The nearest town was Tecpan which is just north of Acapulco. The

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tremor was felt in Mexico City, several hundred kilometres away. A

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number of office buildings were temporarily evacuated, but so far

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there have been no reports of any serious damage or injuries in the

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Mexican capital. The Nigerian President, Goodluck

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Jonathan, has said terrorism is the greatest threat facing his country.

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The president has been talking to the BBC - claiming that with

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international help, he'll be able to bring terrorism to an end and find

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the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted last month by Islamist

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militants. Our world affairs editor John Simpson reports from the

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capital Abuja. Gradually, and even now with a

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surprising degree of slowness, the Nigerian authorities are starting to

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deal with a crime that has shocked the world. At Chibok, the missing

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girls' relatives are still in shock but at least the Government is

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making an effort. In the capital, Abuja, one of the

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daily protest gatherings is taking place. Quietly, peacefully but with

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real determination, the organisers of the Bring Back Our Girls movement

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are keeping up the pressure. It's the sustained advocacy and

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effort by everybody around the world, the way everyone has said

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that this is not acceptable - ignoring an abduction of over 200

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girls - I think, that is primarily the pressure making the Nigerian

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Government rethink the fact they ignored this issue initially.

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In fact, until just a few days ago, no real effort seemed to be being

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made at all. It was only earlier this week that a reward was offered

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for information about the girls' whereabouts. Now though, the whole

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situation seems to be changing. Today should have been a memorable

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one for Nigeria. At this hotel in Abuja, the World Economic Forum is

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taking place. Instead, everyone even here was thinking about the missing

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girls. The forum started with a minute's silence for them. Has

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President Goodluck Jonathan been too preoccupied with economics to pay

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sufficient attention to the crime? When he spoke to the BBC, he showed

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he was clearly taking the problem a lot more seriously.

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I believe with the assistance and investment we are making now, we are

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able to bring terror to an end in Nigeria.

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For days now, relatives of the missing girls have been revisiting

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the school they were taken from. If so many girls hadn't been kidnapped,

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maybe it would not have stirred up this worldwide response.

:08:44.:08:58.

Pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine have said they plan to push

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ahead with votes on independence this weekend. The Russian President,

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Vladimir Putin, yesterday called for the vote to be postponed. But one

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separatist leader has said the rebels are sticking to their plans

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because they represent the will of pro-Russian Ukrainians. The

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Government in Kiev meanwhile says any such poll will be illegal. On

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the streets here in Donetsk, the regional capital, there are already

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unofficial advertisements for the referendum. It is being portrayed as

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a vote to save the region from fascism. At a packed news conference

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in the city, the separatist rebels appeared before the world's media to

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make their crucial announcement. And it was that all the leaders at the

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self-declared people to Donetsk that the referendum should go ahead as

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planned. They have decided to ignore President Putin's call for a delay

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in the boat. By holding this referendum on Sunday, the fear is

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that this will exacerbate tensions and potentially lead to a full-blown

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civil war in Ukraine. I asked the man responsible for organising the

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referendum what he thought would happen now. He denied that a vote in

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favour of independence for this region would lead to civil war.

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Because, he said, there was already a civil War in Eastern Ukraine.

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Government forces have deployed in large numbers in this region. To try

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to push the pro-Russian separatists out of their strongholds. This

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operation may well intensify now he for the rebels can hold their fault

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to break away from Ukraine, potentially becoming part of Russia.

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Meanwhile in Russia President Vladimir Putin has overseen military

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exercises including the test launch of several ballistic missiles. Mr

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Putin said the exercises simulated a retaliatory nuclear strike in

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response to an enemy attack, and that Russia's nuclear defence

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capabilities remained on constant alert. He said the military drills

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were planned in November, making no mention of tensions over Ukraine.

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Joining me from Brussels is an analyst at the European Policy

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Centre. Thank you for joining us. It had been thought that President

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Putin was executing a masterly strategy, stirring up tensions in

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Eastern Ukraine, to strike back against the pro-Westerners in Kiev.

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But how do you think the situation looks today?

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Nothing much will really change. It is very difficult to guess President

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Putin's calculations and thoughts, but in practice not much has

:12:03.:12:05.

changed. On the ground in Ukraine, what has changed is the position of

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the member States of the European Union. As a result of President

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Putin's speech. This change and apparent U-turn has eased Drescher

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on Russia. Russia looked like a constructive actor and one that does

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not control the separatist forces. And we also see negotiations in

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Brussels with member States talking about changing the legal framework

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regarding sanctions. They have included the possibility to add

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companies, but only from Crimea and not Russia. Part of these changes

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are due to the speech given by President Putin yesterday.

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Could the rebels be a spontaneous local or regional uprising, as they

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have always claimed? They are clearly involved in local

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grievances in that part of Ukraine, so that plays a major role in this.

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We have seen evidence that Russian agents at present there and at

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organising themselves. This is not difficult to believe, just months

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ago we had one region of Ukraine having its own separatists,

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spontaneously. They were supported by Russia.

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Briefly, how much of this is just an economic story? The impact of

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sanctions hitting those close to President Putin?

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Sanctions to play a role in the calculation is being made in the

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Kremlin. Again, in practice, nothing much has changed and President Putin

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knows that. He knows that the situation on the ground will not

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change if he gives a speech saying he does not want the referendum to

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take place. It changes the position of the EU member States. And maybe

:14:35.:14:40.

it changes the position of the United dates. President -- United

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States. President Putin... Thank you for joining us. One of the

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world's biggest banks, Barclays, has announced that it's cutting 19,000

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jobs worldwide over the next three years. The biggest cutbacks are in

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the investment banking division. Barclays will also set up a so

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called "bad bank" where it will park some of its riskiest investments,

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including some commodities and emerging markets products.

:15:16.:15:18.

Venezuelan security forces have broken up four protest camps in the

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capital Caracas and rounded up hundreds of student activists in an

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early morning raid. The students set up the tented camps more than a

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month ago as part of protests against President Nicolas Maduro.

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The authorities said they'd seized drugs and weapons and accused the

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students of using the camps to stage violent protests in other parts of

:15:35.:15:38.

the city, but one of the student leaders denied this. Oscar

:15:39.:15:45.

Pistorius' defence team continued to present a picture of a man who was

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heartbroken after he killed his girlfriend in what he says was a

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tragic accident. On day 28 of the murder trial, the defence called a

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social worker and probation officer who visited Pistorius in a police

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cell a day after he fatally shot Reeva Steenkamp, to testify. The

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social worker said she observed an emotionally devastated Pistorius.

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South Africa's governing African National Congress has taken a

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commanding lead in the country's national elections. With more than

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two thirds of the votes counted, the ANC has 63%, giving them a strong

:16:14.:16:17.

mandate to try to tackle South Africa's many economic challenges.

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Zeinab Badawi reports from the National Results Centre in Pretoria.

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Thank you. Well just a few minutes ago you can't see him, but president

:16:39.:16:43.

Jacob Zuma arrived at the result sceptre. So quite a lot of people

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around here. -- results centre. 83% of districts have declared. So you

:16:54.:16:56.

can say with confidence that the picture is going to remain by and

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large as it is. Were still waiting for the two most populist provinces

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in South Africa to declare. One has Johannesburg and Pretoria there. So

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the big us -- figures could adjust. I'm joined by the justice minister

:17:23.:17:30.

in the ANC Government. 63%. You could say respectable, but it is

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lower than the last election and the election before that. You're seeing

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your vote diminish? No, if you take into account under the presidency of

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Nelson Mandela we had 62%. So it is not diminishing. If you look at the

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actual numbers of people who have voted for the ANC you realise that

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the number is even larger than in the previous elections. I don't want

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to get too pointy heady about it. 62% is right in 1994, but the

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political landscape was different, because the Zulu vote went to the

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Freedom Party and that has changed. Having said that, the last three

:18:20.:18:25.

elections after that, you're seeing your vote diminish. That would

:18:26.:18:29.

suggest that you're doing something wrong? No f you look at 2009, even

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the percentage was about 65%, but in actual numbers of people in 2009

:18:36.:18:40.

there were a million more people who voted for the ANC than in other

:18:41.:18:45.

previous election. In real numbers the ANC is growing. If you look at

:18:46.:18:50.

the membership and supporters when Mandela was president, we had

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150,000 members. Now we have 1.2 million South Africans who are

:18:58.:19:03.

card-carrying members. What about the economic freedom fighters in

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Johannesburg, they're eroding your vote. You have got just over 50% so

:19:10.:19:16.

far in the count. That is the reflection of our democracy. We

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don't have a system of winner takes all. Our system is based on

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proportional representation and those members are former members of

:19:27.:19:30.

the ANC who for one reason or the other have left the ANC. Jobs, a big

:19:31.:19:37.

thing in your fifth term, will that be it? Indeed. Our vision national

:19:38.:19:44.

development plan, the topic in town is jobs, fighting unemployment,

:19:45.:19:48.

fighting poverty and fighting in quality in our country. So that we

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grow this economy to create the jobs that we require. Thank you. There

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you have an idea of what a fifth term of an ANC going is going to

:20:00.:20:07.

focus on. Back to you. Thank you. There's a new weapon in the war

:20:08.:20:10.

against Colombia's rebels and drug traffickers. The authorities there

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have begun deploying British-made combat hovercraft in one of the most

:20:14.:20:16.

troubled provinces to deal with country's rebel insurgency. Even

:20:17.:20:18.

though talks have taken place between the Colombian government and

:20:19.:20:21.

the main rebel group, the FARC, about ending rebel involvement in

:20:22.:20:24.

the drugs trade, there's no ceasefire in place and the fighting

:20:25.:20:28.

goes on. Frank Gardner has been to the remote Amazon settlement of

:20:29.:20:30.

Puerto Leguizamo, with the Colombian navy as it tries to tackle the

:20:31.:20:33.

traffickers. Deep in the jungle of Columbia there is something new on

:20:34.:20:39.

the river. They're fast, heavily armed and can reach places ordinary

:20:40.:20:46.

boats can't get to. These British-built hover craft have been

:20:47.:20:50.

been brought from Southampton and the Columbian navy hopes it will

:20:51.:20:55.

give them an advantage in chasing drug smugglers and insurgents in the

:20:56.:20:59.

heart of the world's cocaine industry. We watched them practice a

:21:00.:21:06.

river-borne assault. They are operating where the Jungles is --

:21:07.:21:15.

where the jungle is held by the FARC movement. Both sides have committed

:21:16.:21:22.

human rights abuses. TRANSLATION: They will change the whole dynamics

:21:23.:21:29.

of war with FARC. Until now, we have only been able to operate for half

:21:30.:21:32.

of the year. From October to January we can't move, because the river

:21:33.:21:37.

levels drop so far, our boats hit the rocks. But these hover craft

:21:38.:21:44.

don't need high water and we can cut off the rebel supply lines. Peace

:21:45.:21:52.

talks are under way, but there is no deal. We should expect as we have

:21:53.:21:57.

seen in the past that some crimes and some criminal gangs might pop

:21:58.:22:01.

up, may appear in some areas, trying to keep the kind of business. The

:22:02.:22:06.

new hover craft are unlike will I to stop that happening. But they may

:22:07.:22:12.

just hasten the end of Latin America's longest-running

:22:13.:22:18.

insurgency. Radio stations could be causing migratory birds such as

:22:19.:22:22.

robins to lose their way - that's according to a new study. Low

:22:23.:22:25.

frequency waves produced by equipment such as AM radio signals

:22:26.:22:27.

apparently interfere with the animals' internal compass.

:22:28.:22:32.

Scientists believe the effects are strongest when the birds fly over

:22:33.:22:36.

urban areas. And the report says the birds are forced to switch to their

:22:37.:22:39.

backup navigational systems, using the sun and stars instead. Joining

:22:40.:22:47.

me from Essen in Germany is Professor Henrik Mouritsen. He's the

:22:48.:22:49.

lead researcher from the University of Oldenburg. Thank you for joining

:22:50.:22:57.

us, tell us more about your discovery. What are the worst

:22:58.:23:02.

culprits from the birds' point of view? Well basically it is radio

:23:03.:23:10.

frequency noise in a frequency... I think you're breaking up a bit. We

:23:11.:23:22.

will continue. Those... Comes... Basically... I think we are going to

:23:23.:23:26.

have to leave that. I'm so sorry to leave you there. But we are having

:23:27.:23:31.

problems with the line. So we will just move on and leave you wondering

:23:32.:23:36.

about the Robins and they're migration. - and their migration.

:23:37.:23:42.

The space scientist Colin Pillinger - who's best known for leading a

:23:43.:23:46.

mission to try to land a British spacecraft on Mars - has died at the

:23:47.:23:51.

age of 70. He began his career with NASA, before becoming the driving

:23:52.:23:54.

force behind the Beagle 2 mission. The Royal Astronomical Society said

:23:55.:23:57.

he wasn't afraid to challenge the establishment and get things done.

:23:58.:23:59.

Our Science Editor David Shukman looks back now at his life. With his

:24:00.:24:06.

trade mark whiskers and a sharp eye for publicity, Colin Pillinger was

:24:07.:24:12.

no ordinary scientist. Who else would wheel a replica of his space

:24:13.:24:19.

craft in a shopping trolley. To say I was part of a mission that went to

:24:20.:24:24.

Mars and even if it found life on Mars, that would be even more

:24:25.:24:29.

phenomenal. Against all the odds, using humour and determination,

:24:30.:24:34.

Colin Pillinger raised the money for the mission. He started his career

:24:35.:24:42.

studying moon rocks. The launch was flawless, but harder would be

:24:43.:24:46.

achieving a landing on Mars. The tiny craft was named Beagle Two

:24:47.:24:51.

after the ship that carried Charles Darwin. The risks were high, but it

:24:52.:24:58.

was about British daring. We are only the country that would send a

:24:59.:25:03.

man to climb the highest mountain in a tweed suit. So I have all the

:25:04.:25:09.

confidence. Alex James of Blur, one of many stars enthused by Colin

:25:10.:25:15.

Pillinger. I joined him on a visit to the radio telescope. He was a

:25:16.:25:22.

very passionate man. He listened to a degree, but he was keen to get his

:25:23.:25:26.

point of view across as well. And with that came a certain I would say

:25:27.:25:33.

glint in his eye. Sadly, the mission to Mars failed. You could see the

:25:34.:25:38.

agony on Colin Pillinger's face. But his technology live on in other

:25:39.:25:42.

space craft. He will be remembered as a pioneer and as someone who

:25:43.:25:47.

brought home the excitement of space exploration. The life of Colin

:25:48.:25:54.

Pillinger. Now some extraordinary images from a television show in

:25:55.:25:58.

Jordan. Nothing out of the ordinary it seeps, just two -- seem, just two

:25:59.:26:04.

guests debating. The presenter tried to moderate with little success.

:26:05.:26:10.

They're talking about the crisis in Syria and they have a difference of

:26:11.:26:15.

opinion and ended up picking up huge parts of set, before having to be

:26:16.:26:21.

torn apart by staff. I am glad to say guests here do tend to be more

:26:22.:26:26.

restrained and our sets are more rigid. Now our main news: A huge

:26:27.:26:32.

bomb has destroyed a hotel in Aleppo that was being used as a base by

:26:33.:26:43.

Government forces. Thank you for being us with here on Word News

:26:44.:26:46.

Today. It was a wet day across much of the

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country. The showery rain continues tonight. By dawn another crop

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