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UK & World

Government wants to wait before deciding on future of civil partnerships

May 14 2018

Ministers want to wait until next year before consulting on the future of civil partnerships.Government lawyers told the Supreme Court the wait was “justified” so four whole years of data could be gathered following the introduction of same-sex marriage.The court is hearing the case of Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41, who want a civil partnership but are prevented by legislation which says only same-sex couples are eligible.The academics, who live in Hammersmith, west London, suffered defeat at the Court of Appeal in February last year, but were given the go-ahead in August for a Supreme Court hearing.A panel of five Supreme Court justices, including the court’s president Lady Hale, began considering the couple’s appeal on Monday. James Eadie QC, representing the equalities minister, told the court the Government wants to wait until September next year before it considers what to do and would launch a public consultation.He said civil partnerships are “essentially identical” to civil marriage and were created to give legal recognition to same-sex unions at a time “when society was not felt ready” to recognise such relationships as marriages.Mr Eadie told the judges it is accepted Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan have a “genuinely held” objection to marriage, but the Government’s decision to “take some time” before deciding on the future of civil partnerships is “justified”.He said: “These are highly sensitive social (and indeed political) issues in which the Government and Parliament are currently, actively and seriously engaged on a defined timescale and process.“The process has taken some time – a fact that is in part due to an understandable and legitimate concern to gauge the reaction over a period of time to the introduction of the Marriage Act 2013.”He later added: “The future of civil partnerships raises difficult questions of social policy for which there is no obvious answer and Parliament has a Bill before it with different options to deal with those difficulties.”Mr Eadie told the court the number of civil partnerships formed in England and Wales fell by 85% in the first two years after the introduction of same-sex marriage. Karon Monaghan QC, representing Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan, argued the delay was unacceptable as they were “instantly” discriminated against from the moment the Marriage Act came into force.She told the judges the couple are in a “long-term and committed heterosexual relationship”.She added: “They share a profound and serious objection to the institution of marriage.“Whilst the appellants wish to formalise their relationship, their conscience does not permit them to do so through marriage.“Rather, they wish to enter into a civil partnership with one another.”In a statement outside court before the hearing, Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan called on the Government to “stop making excuses” and give everyone the choice to enter a civil partnership.The couple, who have two daughters aged eight months and two years, claim the Government’s position is “incompatible with equality law”.The Court of Appeal agreed the couple had established a potential violation of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to discrimination, taken with Article 8, which refers to respect for private and family life.But, by a majority of two to one, the judges said the interference was justified by the Government’s policy of “wait and evaluate”.They heard the couple have deep-rooted and genuine ideological objections to marriage and wish to enter into a legally regulated relationship which does not carry “patriarchal baggage”.The Government said it was decided, after public consultations and debate in Parliament, not to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, abolish them or phase them out at that stage.The aim was to see how extending marriage to same-sex couples impacted on civil partnerships before making a final decision which, if reversed in a few years, would be disruptive, unnecessary and extremely expensive.The hearing is expected to last two days.

UK & World

Pilot pleads not guilty over Shoreham Airshow manslaughter charges

May 15 2018

A pilot whose plane crashed during the 2015 Shoreham Airshow, killing 11 men, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.Andrew Hill, 54, faces trial on 11 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence and one of recklessly or negligently endangering an aircraft under air navigation laws.The defendant, who is on bail, pleaded not guilty to all the charges relating to the crash on August 22, 2015.He wore a grey suit and blue tie for his appearance at the Old Bailey before Judge Richard Marks QC.The judge set a trial for January 14 2019 and confirmed the case would be heard by a High Court judge.The trial is expected to go on for up to seven weeks.The victims were Maurice Rex Abrahams, Dylan Archer, Anthony David Brightwell, Matthew James Grimstone, Matthew Wesley Jones, James Graham Mallinson, Mark Alexander Reeves, Jacob Henry Schilt, Richard Jonathan Smith, Mark James Trussler and Daniele Gaetano Polito.Hill, of Sandon, Hertfordshire, is accused of “recklessly or negligently” endangering a Hawker Hunter G-BXFI or any person on that aircraft contrary to Article 137 of the Air Navigation Order 2009.Judge Marks ordered a pre-trial review at the Old Bailey on a date to be arranged at the end of October.Hill remains on unconditional bail.

News

Boat trips along the Tay between Perth and Dundee launched

May 12 2018

The first in a summer series of boat trips along the River Tay was officially launched on Friday. The return journeys between Perth and Broughty have been launched in a collaboration between Perth and Kinross Council and the Tay and Earn Trust. Bosses say the Tay is "the jewel in Perth's crown" and the venture is an exciting new way to make the most of one of the city's greatest assets. It follows the success of similar trips last year. The schedule has now been extended from May to July, offering passengers a fresh way to view Elcho Castle, Kinnoull Hill and other landmarks from the river. Shorter voyages, from the Fergusson Pontoon to Kinnoull Hill are also on offer, taking people under the Friarton Bridge and past the Willowgate Activity Centre before returning to Perth. The council and the trust are working in partnership with David Anderson Marine who will be providing the Broughty Ferry trips and Tay Maritime Action (Taymara). Perth and Kinross Council's environment, enterprise and infrastructure convener, councillor Angus Forbes, said the team were delighted to be able to offer the service this summer. "Qualified crews will provide safe access to the exciting River Tay marine environment, providing a memorable experience for all," he added. Perth and Kinross Provost Dennis Melloy said: “The Tay is an important and unique asset for Perth and improving access to it by offering boat trips is a great way to attract visitors to the area. “It is important that we continue to develop opportunities on the river. Having the pontoons in place is an important stage in continuing the delivery of the infrastructure to support this. “I hope that visitors and residents of Perth and Kinross will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity." Simon Clarke, chairman of the Tay and Earn Trust said: “This year's visitors will not only be able to explore the Activity Centre but also be able to sample the home made cakes at Willowgate Café. “The Willowgate destination continues to grow and is proud to be working with Perth and Kinross Council in introducing and re-introducing people to the jewel in Perth’s crown that is the River Tay." Due to the tidal nature of the river, the trip will run at different times throughout the day. Tickets start at £9 per adult and can be found at perthcity.co.uk/boating-on-the-tay.

UK & World

Man due to enter plea over barmaid murder at Christmas

May 17 2018

A man accused of attacking and killing a barmaid in a park over the Christmas holidays is due to enter a plea on Thursday.Kasim Lewis, 31, allegedly murdered 22-year-old Iuliana Tudos between December 24 and December 27.Ms Tudos, known as Julie, went missing last Christmas Eve and was found dead in Finsbury Park, near her north London home, on December 27.The victim of Russian and Greek origin was last seen by friends at around 8pm on Christmas Eve when she headed for a bus home from Camden.She was due to meet them at another friend’s home in Enfield, north London, later that evening before spending Christmas Day there but never arrived.Police said CCTV footage showed her on the periphery of the park shortly after 8.20pm.Her body was found three days later in a disused building located in the north-eastern area of the park.A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as a stab wound to the abdomen and a head injury.Lewis will appear at the Old Bailey to enter his plea before Judge Richard Marks QC.Members of Ms Tudos’s family are expected to attend the hearing.

UK & World

Seattle backs ‘head tax’ on large companies like Amazon to help homeless

May 15 2018

Officials in Seattle have unanimously approved a tax on large businesses such as Amazon and Starbucks to fund the fight against homelessness after weeks of heated debate and raucous hearings.The city council backed a compromise plan that will charge large businesses about 275 US dollars per full-time worker each year less than the 500 US dollars per worker initially proposed.The so-called head tax would raise about 48 million dollars a year to pay for affordable housing and homeless services.The debate over who should pay to solve a housing crisis exacerbated by Seattle’s rapid economic growth comes amid rocketing housing prices and rising homelessness.The Seattle region had the third-highest number of homeless people in the US and saw 169 homeless deaths last year.Council members who sponsored the initial proposal said 48 million dollars a year was not enough to address the city’s urgent housing needs but conceded they could not get the six votes needed for a larger tax and to override a potential veto by the mayor, who favoured a lower rate and faced intense pressure from businesses.Amazon raised the stakes this month when it halted construction planning on a 17-storey tower near its hometown headquarters as it awaited a vote. It also was rethinking filling office space in another leased building. The two office spaces would accommodate about 7,000 new Amazon jobs.Amazon vice president Drew Herdener said in an emailed statement that the company was disappointed by the council’s decision to introduce “a tax on jobs”.While Amazon has resumed construction planning on the downtown building, he said the company is “apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here”. He noted that Seattle revenue has grown dramatically and that the city “does not have a revenue problem – it has a spending efficiency problem”.Businesses and others who say the tax is misguided and potentially harmful question whether the city is effectively using the tens of millions of dollars it already spends on homelessness each year.Supporters insist that Amazon and others that have benefited from Seattle’s prosperity and contributed to growing income inequality should pay.Council member Lisa Herbold, one of the tax’s sponsors, said she grappled with the compromise package, given how many people are struggling, but that it was the “strongest proposal” they could bring forward.“People are dying on the doorsteps of prosperity. This is the richest city in the state and in a state that has the most regressive tax system in the country,” said council member Teresa Mosqueda, who supported a larger tax but called the plan “a down payment” to build housing the city needs.They voted as people packed the meeting, holding signs saying “People before profits” and chanting “Housing is a human right”.Other cities have implemented similar taxes, but critics say Seattle’s tax could threaten the booming local economy and drive away jobs.Nearly 600 large for-profit employers – about 3% – making at least 20 million dollars in gross revenue would pay the tax, which would begin in 2019.Amazon, the city’s largest employer with 45,000 workers, would take the biggest hit.The tax would end after five years with a review in the last year to determine whether or not it should continue.The company’s threat to pause its growth in Seattle comes as 20 cities vie to lure the company’s second headquarters and as it expands its workforce in Boston and Vancouver, British Columbia.Proponents say people are dying on the streets, and, while city-funded programmes found homes for 3,400 people last year, the problem deepens.Shannon Brown, 55, who has been living in a tiny home at a south Seattle homeless encampment, said there is simply not enough housing for the city’s poorest people.“I live in a little shed, but it’s better than living in a tent or in a sleeping bag on the street,” she said as she queued for an hour before Monday’s meeting began.“There’s no way I can afford to live in Seattle. I don’t understand why businesses think it’s wrong to help.”John Boufford with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades said he did not understand rhetoric against Amazon, which he noted provides good jobs for thousands of people.“They’re driving this economic engine,” he said. “I’m confused about why the city of Seattle is fostering an adversarial relationship with businesses in this city.”The city spent 68 million dollars on homelessness last year, and some said they wanted to see the city prioritise its money better.

Road tests

Grand touring with Maserati

May 16 2018

Few cars turn heads like a Maserati GranTurismo. Even a decade on from its launch, the Pininfarina styled lines have lost none of their power to enthrall. The GranTurismo is a four-seat grand tourer designed to cover large distances in comfort and style. It has been refreshed for 2018, with a restyled exterior and interior and some new technology. The old 4.2 litre engine has been replaced by a more powerful 4.7 litre V8 which, as before, is sourced from Ferrari. The range has been simplified, with just two models – “entry level” Sport and top spec MC. The sport will set you back around £93,000 and the MC model I drove had a price tag £80 shy of £110,000. That’s not cheap, and nor will the car break 20mpg. Such an outlay does buy a lot more exclusivity that other sports cars available for similar money, such as the Audi R8 and Porsche 911, however. The engine produces a healthy 454bhp, which will take the GranTurismo from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 185mph. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9CTROQYwZE It does so with a magnificent yowl that can’t fail to put a smile on your face. There is traction control but it’s still easy to get the GranTurismo out of shape if you’re not careful. On a wet A82 beside Loch Lomond I managed to accidentally fishtail the rear end. On drier roads the grip is prodigious and you would need a track to explore the car’s limits. The suspension is softer than hardcore sports cars, however. The Maserati has two jobs to do : to thrill drivers and transport them in comfort. Unlike one of its most direct rivals, the BMW 6 Series, which has rear seats suitable only for small children, the GranTurismo is a proper four seater with room for adults in the back. Boot space is a modest 260 litres though, so if you do travel with four people they’ll need to keep luggage to a minimum. The inside of the GranTurismo is, as you’d expect, quite a special place. Virtually every inch is covered with soft leather or fine wood. An 8.4 inch touchscreen has been added in the 2018 version of the car, as has a high end Harman Kardon stereo. Cruising along the shores of Loch Lomond and then Loch Long it was all too easy to drift into a fantasy where I was a millionaire on my way to my luxury retreat in the highlands. Sadly, an hour or two later I had to hand the keys back and return to reality  

Fife

VIDEO: St Andrews professor Clara Ponsati and lawyer address Catalonia supporters outside court

May 15 2018

St Andrews professor Clara Ponsati returned to court today to continue her fight against extradition to Spain. The ex-minister was greeted by flag-waving Catalonia supporters for the hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Gordon Jackson QC, for Prof Ponsati, said her solicitors had visited the region to meet legal experts as part of preparation for the court battle, which could cost £500,000. Outside court, her lawyer said Spain’s extradition bids show the country is facing its “greatest crisis since the dark days of General Franco”. The former Catalan minister is fighting extradition to Spain for her part in an unsanctioned independence referendum in the region last October. She is wanted by the Spanish authorities on charges of violent rebellion and misappropriation of public funds. Her legal team say the extradition is being fought on several grounds including the validity of the warrant and Prof Ponsati’s human rights. During the short procedural hearing, lawyers drew battle lines over the definition of corruption in the two legal systems. Under the rules of the European arrest warrant, a suspect can only be extradited if there are equivalent laws in both jurisdictions. After the hearing, Mr Anwar accused Spain of "abusing" the arrest warrant as a “tool of political oppression”. “The courts can never be a solution to political negotiation,” he told Prof Ponsati’s supporters. “Spain today faces its greatest crisis since the dark days of General Franco. “Without the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the withdrawal of the European arrest warrants, there will never be a resolution to this crisis.” A further procedural hearing is due to take place on June 12 and July 15, before the professor’s case is heard in full over two weeks from July 30. Prof Ponsati was head of economics at the university when she became the region’s education minister, just a few months before the referendum. She returned to Scotland in March and resumed working at the University of St Andrews in Fife ahead of the reactivation of the arrest warrant. <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/URjbgxmj-xYmBS0Bi.js"></script>

Restaurant Reviews

The Grange Inn, St Andrews (39/50)

May 12 2018

On a bright and sunny day in April, a friend and I took a drive from Dundee, over the Tay Bridge, through St Andrews, and a mere five minutes after leaving the famous town, we arrived at our destination - The Grange Inn. It did not seem possible that, in this short distance, we could have gained so much altitude as the views from the car park alone are something to behold. We stood in wonder even before we entered this cosy inn in Fife as it felt as though we could see the whole of Courier Country and beyond. It helped that the weather was clear and bright and the sea glistened in the distance. The Grange Inn is a maze of nooks and crannies and the dining room itself has a large picture window in an otherwise cosy stone room in order for guests to marvel, as we did, at the vista. There are not many tables and the atmosphere on our chosen lunchtime was quiet and calm. The lunch menu was presented to us and £20 for three courses seemed very reasonable for a place that clearly wasn't going to be serving run of the mill fare. I will say that the main courses were all fairly heavy and wintry but how was the chef to know that the weather was about to do a rapid degree shift from windy winter to sunny spring? Before our starters arrived came the bread. Oh the bread. Made in house, the bake of choice that day was walnut and sultana, which was springy on the inside with a lovely hard crust and on the cusp of being a cake rather than a bread. It was fabulous and we had to try very hard not to scoff the lot, with lashings of butter of course. My first course was the pigeon and blueberry roulade. I love the gamey flavour of pigeon but this creation had a rather more mellow flavour. It was soft and cut like butter and the blueberries lifted the dish with a zing. The vegetable garnish had been lightly pickled and overall this was a delicate and subtle starter. My friend chose the watermelon served with fresh cheese as it had been made by the chef. It was Crowdie-like in texture but without the saltiness which meant it didn't stand out as the star of the show. The watermelon was under-ripe but still added a cool freshness to the creamy Parma ham and toasted buckwheat components. I was aiming for a lighter lunch and so chose the hake which was cooked perfectly. I love hake as it has as much flavour as, say, sea bream but with a chunkier, meatier texture and these morsels were prepared simply to allow their flavour to shine. Plenty of fresh dill was clinging to the new potatoes which sat alongside the confit cherry tomatoes, butternut squash and wilted greens. The dish was completed with a balsamic and chive oil dressing which added a hint of sweetness. I thoroughly enjoyed my plate of food. It was simple and fresh and the combination really worked. Our other main course was the braised blade of beef. No knife needed for this one as the meat just melted under the slightest pressure. It had clearly been cooking for many hours in its red wine sauce, giving the whole dish the depth of flavour one would hope for. The accompanying red cabbage carried a hint of cinnamon and made a lovely contrast with the earthy root vegetables and creamy mash. A hearty and comforting dish. Even on a weekday lunchtime, we decided to push the boat out and sample desserts. As hard as I tried, I couldn't move past the clootie dumpling on the menu and not because of its familiar warming feeling but because of the description of the iced marmalade yoghurt and tea syrup that were noted as its accompaniments. I was certainly not disappointed. The dumpling itself was light but the iced yoghurt simply divine. It had the slightly sour taste that yoghurt does but with the bittersweet flavour of marmalade that would have made Paddington Bear very proud. Using frozen yoghurt instead of traditional custard or ice cream really did lift this pudding entirely and I loved it. Once we had googled Tonka beans, my friend ordered the panna cotta which had been flavoured with these sweet yet earthy pods. Not as sickly as vanilla, the beans suited the creamy jelly really well. The crunchy and oh so naughty honeycomb provided a totally different texture to the smooth dessert and this one too was a winner.   We had been served a lovely lunch by three charming and enthusiastic members of the waiting staff team. From the moment we sat down, it was clear that real time and effort had been taken in the kitchen to cook and serve the food with precision and care. The portions were not overbearing and the presentation elegant. To make bread in house is a real treat for guests but to make cheese as well shows true dedication and flair. The Grange Inn is quirky, cosy and adorable and the setting is wonderful. A lovely spot all round.     Info Price: Lunch: £17 for 2 courses and £20 for 3 courses. Value: 9/10 Menu:  7/10 Atmosphere: 7/10 Service: 8/10 Food: 8/10 Total: 39/50 Info: The Grange Inn Address: Grange Road, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LJ Tel: 01334 472670 Web:  www.thegrangeinn.com  

UK & World

Ministers urged to ‘stop making excuses’ over civil partnerships for all couples

May 14 2018

A heterosexual couple who want the right to have a civil partnership have called on the Government to “stop making excuses” and make them available for everyone.Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41, want a legal union through that route but are prevented because the Civil Partnership Act 2004 says only same-sex couples are eligible.The academics, who live in Hammersmith, west London, suffered defeat at the Court of Appeal in February last year, but were given the go-ahead in August for a Supreme Court hearing.A panel of five Supreme Court justices, including the court’s president Lady Hale, began considering the couple’s appeal on Monday.In a statement outside court ahead of the hearing, Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan said: “Throughout our campaign we have met hundreds of couples like us who love each other and want a civil partnership so they can celebrate their commitment and strengthen the security of their family unit.“Their reasons for not wanting to marry vary from bad personal experiences to expense to conscience – but that doesn’t matter.“All they want is the choice of marriage or a civil partnership to suit them, which is currently available only to same-sex couples.“We have a new Equalities Minister and she should take this opportunity to look afresh at the Government’s position.“It’s time for the Government to stop making excuses which play with people’s lives, and give choice to all now.”The couple, who have two daughters aged two and eight months, claim the Government’s position is “incompatible with equality law”.Their barrister Karon Monaghan QC told the court: “They have deep-rooted and genuine ideological objections to marriage. “I want to observe that they are not alone in holding those deep-rooted objections.”She said matrimony was “historically heteronormative and patriarchal” and the couple’s objections were “not frivolous”.Ms Monaghan added: “These are important issues, no small matters, and they are serious for my clients because they cannot marry conformable with their conscience and that should weigh very heavily indeed.”The Court of Appeal agreed the couple had established a potential violation of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to discrimination, taken with Article 8, which refers to respect for private and family life.But, by a majority of two to one, the judges said the interference was justified by the Government’s policy of “wait and evaluate”.They heard the couple have deep-rooted and genuine ideological objections to marriage and wish to enter into a legally regulated relationship which does not carry “patriarchal baggage”.The Government said it was decided, after public consultations and debate in Parliament, not to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, abolish them or phase them out at that stage.The aim was to see how extending marriage to same-sex couples impacted on civil partnerships before making a final decision which, if reversed in a few years’ time, would be disruptive, unnecessary and extremely expensive.Speaking before the hearing, LGBT and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “It’s time for ‘straight’ equality.“The ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships is discrimination and a violation of human rights.“It is outrageous that the Government is unwilling to legislate equality and that this couple are forced to go to court to get a basic human right – the right to be treated equally in law.“It cannot be fair that same-sex couples now have two options, civil partnerships and civil marriages, whereas opposite-sex partners have only one option, marriage.”The hearing is expected to last two days.

UK & World

Germany obtained sample of Novichok in the 1990s, reports suggest

May 17 2018

Germany’s foreign intelligence service secured a sample of the Soviet-developed nerve agent Novichok in the 1990s and passed on its knowledge to partners including Britain and the US, according to German media reports.Britain says an attack earlier this year on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was carried out using Novichok, and blames Russia. German newspapers Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit and broadcasters WDR and NDR said in a joint report on Thursday that the West’s knowledge of the substance stems largely from a sample obtained by Germany’s BND agency in the 1990s.The report, which cited unidentified people involved in the operation, said the BND obtained the sample from a Russian scientist and Germany then had it analysed at a Swedish lab.The BND refused to comment.

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