Spain’s supreme court is preparing to announce its verdict in the landmark trial of 12 Catalan leaders accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over their roles in the failed push for regional independence two years ago. How has the independence movement evolved over recent years and why have some of its key figures ended up in the dock? Why do some Catalans want independence? There has been a growing clamour in the past decade for independence from those Catalans who believe their wealthy region has a moral, cultural and political right to self-determination, and that it has long put more into Spain economically than it has received in return. But even though successive pro-independence Catalan governments have purported to speak for all Catalans, polls have consistently shown the region is evenly split on the independence issue. Pro-independence parties have never managed to take 50% of the vote in regional elections. Meanwhile, popular support for seceding … [Read more...] about What is the story of Catalan independence – and what happens next?
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What exactly happened in Catalonia on Sunday? As promised, the region’s pro-independence majority government staged a unilateral referendum on separating from Spain. In doing so, it defied the Spanish constitutional court and the Madrid government. The Spanish government had made it very clear that it would not tolerate such a direct challenge to the unity of Spain or the constitution itself. More than 800 people were injured as police stormed polling stations, seized ballot boxes and dragged away voters. What was the result of the vote? According to the Catalan government, preliminary results showed that 90% of people cast their ballots in favour of independence. A total of 2.26 million Catalans – 42% of the region’s 5.3 million eligible voters – are said to have taken part in the referendum. Is the result legally binding? The Catalan government, which passed legislation last month to begin creating an independent state, says it is. The Spanish government says … [Read more...] about After the Catalan referendum: what happens next?
For most it would bring back terrible memories of the scene from Jaws when the immortal line 'you're going to need a bigger boat' was uttered. But when a team of divers spotted the largest great white shark on the planet they only hesitated to grab their cameras before they jumped into the sea. The enormous predator named Deep Blue is up to 50 years old, weights 2.5 tons and measures 20ft long. It was drawn to the water around Hawaii for what one diver described as an 'all you can eat buffet' - to feed on a dead sperm whale. Deep Blue was last spotted in Mexico in 2013 where it was fitted with a tracker which is how divers were able to identify it this time. Conservation photographer Juan Oliphant was one of the divers who took the plunge along with with marine biologist Ocean Ramsey Ocean Ramsey swimming with Deep Blue in photos shot by Juan Oliphant after it was spotted in the water off … [Read more...] about Great danger: Divers spot the world’s largest ever recorded great white shark – 2.5 ton ‘Deep Blue’ – feasting on a dead whale in Hawaii and JUMP IN to take photos
Who is in control in north-eastern Syria? The region makes up more than a quarter of the entire country and is the largest area outside of the control of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and his allies. Until Turkey launched its latest offensive there on 9 October, it was controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which comprises militia groups representing a range of ethnicities, though its backbone is Kurdish. The Kurds are an ethnic group of about 30 million people spread across the Middle East who have been fighting for their own state for more than a century. Since the Turkish incursion, the SDF has lost much of its territory and appears to be losing its grip on key cities such as Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. On 13 October, Kurdish leaders agreed to allow Syrian army forces to enter the cities of Manbij and Kobane to protect them from being captured by Turkey and its allies. The deal effectively hands over control of huge swathes of the region to Damascus. That leaves … [Read more...] about What is the situation in north-eastern Syria?
Why does it matter what medicines cost? If you are lucky enough to live in a country with comprehensive state-funded healthcare, such as the UK, you probably have no idea how much medicines really cost. But it can be a lot. Some drugs that have been around for ages are very cheap – aspirin, for instance, costs pence. It’s been out of patent and made by numerous companies competing to undercut each other’s price for decades. But new medicines, protected by 20-year patents, can cost hundreds of pounds a packet and sometimes thousands. The new breast cancer drug Kadcyla weighed in at a starting price of £90,000 per patient per year in the UK in 2015, though the manufacturer has now agreed a hefty discount for the NHS. It is an increasing pressure on all health systems around the world. In 2017, NHS England put its annual drugs bill at £16bn, £9bn of which is GPs prescribing, and said it was rising at 7% a year – faster than the overall NHS budget. … [Read more...] about Why do new medicines cost so much, and what can we do about it?