France’s Fillon rejects new revelations

“I won’t say another word about these things,” the conservative contender said on French television, condemning “successive revelations, carefully disseminated by state services.

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The revelation comes as France gears up for the first balloting in the two-stage presidential race on April 23.

Fillon, once the race’s frontrunner and who denies any wrongdoing, was charged with abuse of public funds last month in a scandal that he has blamed on the outgoing Socialist government.

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The 63-year-old is accused of giving fake jobs to his Welsh-born wife Penelope that earned her 680,000 euros (AUD$961,000) in salary payments between 1986 and 2013.

Mediapart said late Monday that “Penelope Fillon in fact benefited from public funds from the first parliamentary mandate of her husband through contracts for studies or projects that he commissioned.”

Watch: French election campaign offically begins

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Fillon, first elected to represent the central Sarthe region in 1981, went on to become prime minister under president Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012.

Other accusations of financial impropriety have piled up since the claims first broke in January, including that Fillon failed to declare an interest-free loan and that he accepted gifts of bespoke suits from a wealthy friend.

Fillon has seen his poll numbers decline since the scandal broke to around 17-19 points, neck-and-neck with far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and behind centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Tuesday broke with his country’s official neutrality on Tuesday by expressing a preference for Macron over Fillon, saying the conservative’s response to the scandals had “not been very encouraging”.

“Don’t put me in a difficult spot, you know who my political family is,” Schaeuble told a debate organised by the Spiegel weekly, in reference to his conservative CDU party which is affiliated in Europe with Fillon’s Republicans.

But Schaeuble added: “If I was French, if I was able to vote… I would probably vote for Macron.”

French presidential election candidates Francois Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Marine Le Pen, and Benoit Hamon.AAP

Why now? lawyer asks 

Fillon’s lawyer Antonin Levy confirmed that investigators seized “contracts for studies” during a raid of the candidate’s parliamentary offices in late January but said they were of “no interest” to the probe which he said reaches back only to 1997.

“The real question is why the financial prosecutor, which has known of these documents for weeks, has not spoken of them and why this information is coming out two weeks before the first round,” Levy told AFP.

Fillon was the surprise winner of the rightwing Republicans party’s November primary after campaigning on his squeaky clean image.

His two leading rivals, Sarkozy and former prime minister Alain Juppe, were both tainted by legal woes.

Fillon has said that incumbent President Francois Hollande, who decided in December not to run for re-election, headed a “secret cabinet” responsible for the explosive fake jobs revelations.

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Green holds Storm tip session at Manly

Former Melbourne five-eighth Blake Green held a tip session with Manly teammates aimed at helping them in Saturday’s NRL clash.

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Green faces his old club for the first time since switching to the Sea Eagles after playing a pivotal role in Melbourne’s grand final appearance last year.

“I had a chat yesterday actually to a few of the members of our team after training, just to give them a heads up on what’s coming,” Green said on Wednesday.

“I’ve got a fair idea of how they’re going to play, especially on the back of a loss, they’ll be quite determined to carry the ball strong, complete their sets and kick well.”

But while the seasoned playmaker is willing to divulge as many secrets as he can from his two years at the club, he just isn’t sure how much of an advantage it will be on game day.

Melbourne went undefeated over the opening five rounds before falling short against Cronulla in a grand final re-match last week.

But they could get big names Cameron Munster and Jesse Bromwich back on deck this week.

“I think everyone in the competition is well aware of what they’re going to do and how they’re going to play, but being able to stop it is a different thing,” Green said.

“They’ve obviously got some really classy players in there, the ‘big three’ as everyone refers to. Along with Jesse Bromwich, they’re a pretty handy outfit. It’s going to be a tough job for us.”

Green also said he was shocked by former halves partner Cooper Cronk’s decision to announce his intention to leave Melbourne at the end of the year and move to Sydney.

He is adamant he couldn’t imagine the Australian halfback playing for another club, but was unsure whether he would retire, either.

“I’m not sure what he’s got planned. He could do anything. I don’t think anyone knows what he’s going to do. I don’t know if he’s made his mind up on anything,” he said.

Sean Spicer apologises for ‘insensitive’ Hitler remark

Spicer suggested Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people, momentarily forgetting the Holocaust and prompting renewed calls for his resignation.

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During a White House briefing Spicer sought to intensify criticism of Bashar al-Assad, painting the Syrian leader’s suspected use of sarin nerve agent against civilians last week as historically evil.

“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said, comparing Assad unfavorably.

His comments — during the Jewish festival of Passover, prompted anti-defamation groups and Democrats to call for the already embattled press secretary’s resignation.

Watch: Sean Spicer White House Media Conference Gaffe

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Spicer later took to CNN to apologise for the comments.

“Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive comment about the Holocaust and there is no comparison,” 

“For that I apologise. It was a mistake to do that.”

Top Congressional Democrat Nancy Pelosi is calling for Spicer’s resignation.

“Sean Spicer must be fired, and the President must immediately disavow his spokesman’s statements,” said 

“Either he is speaking for the President, or the President should have known better than to hire him.”

Spicer — the most public face of the Donald Trump’s administration after the president himself — has is a frequent target of ire and satirists for his angry denunciations press coverage and sometimes loose grasp of the facts.

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He was pilloried for his first appearance in the press briefing room in January, when he browbeat journalists and falsely insisted Trump had the biggest inaugural audience ever.

He later caused an international incident by claiming British signals intelligence agency GCHQ helped former president Barack Obama spy on Trump.

Furious British spies described the claim as “nonsense” and “utterly ridiculous,” forcing Spicer to explain his comments to the British ambassador.

But his latest claim brought anger from across the political spectrum and looks of astonishment from the assembled White House press corps, who offered Spicer a chance to clarify.

“I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Spicer said, returning to the subject.

As journalists shouted “what about the Holocaust?” Spicer continued, “I think there is clearly… I understand the point, thank you, thank you I appreciate that.”

Hitler “brought them into the Holocaust centers, I understand that. But I’m saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down, to innocent — into the middle of towns, it was brought… so the use of it, I appreciate the clarification, that was not the intent.”

Steven Goldstein, head of the Anne Frank Center, described Spicer’s comments as an “evil slur” and said he now “lacks the integrity to serve.”

In a further written clarification, Spicer said he was “in no way… trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust.”

“I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable,” he said.

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis later offered a hint at what Spicer may have meant, saying that “even in World War II, chemical weapons were not used on battlefields. 

“Since World War I, there has been an international convention on this.”

Richard Price, professor of political science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and author of The Chemical Weapons Taboo told AFP Hitler  in fact came very close to using chemical weapons on civilian areas.

“Hitler used gas widely in the concentration camps, but they never used them against soldiers nor against cities,” he said.

“Albert Speer, munitions minister, said that during the trials of Nuremberg that Hitler gave the order to use them in the last months of the war, but his generals refused, because they knew the war was over, there was no point.”

Syria briefing 

Tuesday incident was not the first time this week that Spicer has found himself in rhetorical difficulty over Syria.

On Monday, he suggested that Trump could take military action if Assad were to drop more barrel bombs — a regular occurrence in Syria’s brutal war and a red line that would almost immediately be breeched, making US military action all but certain.

The White House privately walked back his comments.

Later in Tuesday’s briefing, Spicer also raised eyebrows when he declared Iran a failed state.

Trump’s pared-back approach to staffing has resulted in many of the apparatus around Spicer from being removed.

There are around half the number of National Security Council’s communications staff, whose job is — in part — to brief the press secretary on international developments.

The State Department does not have a spokesperson and has stopped holding daily briefings, which often serve as an early warning system for the White House about questions and issues headed their way.

More newsWATCH: No place for Assad in Syria, Tillerson says

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Census raises question: Is Australia losing its religion?

Is Australia, as a nation, losing its religion?

The 2016 census suggests a trend in that direction.

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The latest census shows one in three Australians identify with no religion.

It marks a huge change from the 1960s, when as many as 88 per cent identified as Christians.

The shifting of the category “no religion” to the top of the list of options on the census form and a campaign by the Atheism Association of Australia may have contributed.

Association president Kylie Sturgess explains.

“The census ‘no religion’ campaign was encouraging people to intellectually engage with the census. If you’re a Muslim, go right ahead, you put it down. Christian? Not a problem. But if you’re someone who feels like you’ve fallen through the gaps, that you are no longer someone who is being recognised by an established religion, then maybe ‘no religion,’ which was a non-compulsory question, is the answer for you.”

The data shows, while the numbers identifying with Christianity had an overall decline, it remains the top religion across all denominations.

More than half of all Australians still identify as Christian, and religious leaders say it does not necessarily mean people are losing faith.

The dean of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, sees reasons to believe otherwise.

“Sixty per cent of people say they identify with some religion. More than 50 per cent say that’s Christianity. Which means, I think, that religion is important to a lot of people … I think we could get very distorted impressions. Most people don’t necessarily say a lot about their religion, and that might make you think, ‘Oh, well, people aren’t religious.’ But if you ask them, you find (it’s) something that’s personally important to them.”

Other faiths besides Christianity are growing.

After Christianity, the top religions were:

Islam, which has grown from 2.1 per cent to 2.6 over 10 years.

Buddhism, which increased from 2.1 to 2.4 per cent .

And Hinduism, which grew from 0.7 to 1.9 per cent.

Social researcher Ashley Fell says Hinduism showed the most marked gain.

“While Islam has overtaken Buddhism as Australia’s second most popular religion, we are seeing that Hinduism is Australia’s fastest-growing religion. And, of course, that is because we are seeing an increase in the number of migrants moving to Australia from India.”

Australia’s increasing diversity can also be seen in the languages spoken in the country’s homes.

Mandarin has consolidated its position as the second most commonly spoken language in Australia after English.

Arabic came in third.

And Vietnamese and Cantonese speakers have overtaken Italian speakers in numbers.

 

 

 

 

Google fined a record A$3.5 billion

Hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager said Google had “abused its market dominance” as the world’s most popular search engine to give illegal advantage to its own shopping service.

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“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate,” Vestager said in a statement.

“And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”

The fine broke the previous EU record for a monopoly case against US chipmaker Intel of 1.06 billion euros.

The decision comes less than a year after Vestager shocked the world and Washington with an order that iPhone manufacturer Apple repay 13 billion euros in back taxes in Ireland.

Crucially for Google, Brussels has demanded that the US tech giant change the business model for Google Shopping to meet the EU’s concerns.

While an EU record, the amount is below the maximum possible of about 8.0 billion euros or 10 percent of Google’s total revenue last year.

Brussels accuses Google of giving its own online service, Google Shopping, too much priority in search results to the detriment of other price comparison services, such as TripAdvisor and Expedia.

The case, launched in 2010, is one of three against Google and of several against blockbuster US companies including Starbucks, Apple, Amazon and McDonalds.

Google maintains it’s trying to package its search results in a way that makes it easier for consumers to find what they want.

PNG election: Vote suspended in capital as three returning officers are detained

All voting in the Papua New Guinea capital due to start on Tuesday has been suspended, and three returning officers detained after allegedly being caught smuggling ballot boxes and carrying a quantity of cash.

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The one day of voting allocated to Port Moresby has now been deferred to Friday.

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The country’s election Commission took to Twitter to amke the announcement:

“Please put out an urgent public announcement advising voters in the nation’s capital that polling for all the three electorates for NCD now deferred to Friday 30 June due to issues with camping (sic) allowances for polling officials,” the Election Commission said in an email at 937 this morning.

0:00 Chaos in the Papua New Guinea election has caused voting in the capital to be postponed. SBS correspondent Stefan Armbruster reports from Port Moresby. Share Chaos in the Papua New Guinea election has caused voting in the capital to be postponed. SBS correspondent Stefan Armbruster reports from Port Moresby.

Police in the Port Moresby National Capital District detained several election officials and seized ballot papers from their vehicles outside a polling station this morning, and they are now being held at the Boroko police station.

The election commissioner is due to give a press conference later on Tuesday.

Delayed voting in the capital comes after only one of four Highlands provinces started their one day of allocated voting on Monday – in what was supposed to be the beginning of two weeks of widespread national polling.

Disputes over the electoral role and the controversy over the numbers of ballot papers issued saw voting deferred until Tuesday at the earliest in Chimbu, Hela and Western Highlands.

Sporadic voting occurred in the Eastern Highlands but some polling stations were only open for a couple of hours.

Goroka University vice-chancellor and thousands of students in the Eastern Highlands capital complained they had been left off the electoral roll despite applying to be registered. 

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All polling in #PNG capital Port Moresby suspended until Friday: Election Commission. Follows Highlands chaos on Monday @SBSNews #democracy pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/Y1luNE0zWc

— Stefan Armbruster (@StefArmbruster) June 27, 2017

Poor bone health costing Australia billions, report finds

A failure to prevent fractures as a result of poor bone health is costing the nation billions of dollars each year, according to a new report.

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Analysis released by Osteoporosis Australia estimates the brittle bones of Australians aged 50 and over is expected to cost $3.1 billion in 2017, this will climb to $21.9 billion by 2022.

Osteoporosis Australia Medical Director Professor Peter Ebeling AO says hospitals are becoming “revolving doors” for fracture patients because of a failure to detect or test for osteoporosis.

“Four-out-of-five Australians treated for an osteoporotic fracture are not tested for osteoporosis, and therefore, are not offered treatment for osteoporosis,” said Professor Ebeling.

There is a significant gap in osteoporosis care, he says, and greater awareness is needed to reduce the burden.

Osteoporosis is a disease that leads to reduced bone strength through a loss of density and quality, weakening the skeleton.

It affects 1.2 million Australians and is estimated to result in a bone being broken every 3.3 minutes.

Not only does osteoporosis have a burden on the hospital system, it has a human toll too.

A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) last year showed one in 20 deaths in 2013 were directly caused by, or contributed to, by musculoskeletal conditions.

Osteoporosis made the greatest contribution to mortality – contributing to more than 1600 deaths.

The SOS Fracture Alliance, to be launched on Tuesday, will seek to increase national recognition of undiagnosed osteoporosis.

It’s aim is to make the first break in a osteoporosis patient their last.

“A broken bone is usually a sign that we need to take action to prevent more bone loss, as each fracture significantly raises the risk of a further fracture,” said Prof Ebeling.

‘We need to make Australia work again’: Abbott calls for halt to migration in new manifesto

A day after citing disloyalty and bad blood in federal Liberal Party ranks, Tony Abbott insists he isn’t going anywhere.

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The former prime minister, in an address to the Institute of Public Affairs in Brisbane on Tuesday, outlined his fresh battle lines and noted the despondency in politics here and around the world.

“We need to make Australia work again, because our country plainly is not working as it should,” Mr Abbott said.

“We are letting ourselves down. We are not what we should be; and we know it. That’s why most of the attempted pep talks sound so hollow.”

‘No intention to leave public life’

Mr Abbott argued Australia had an abundance of energy resources, yet some of the highest power prices in the world.

Despite billions being poured into education recent schooling results placed Australia behind Kazakhstan.

Mr Abbott assured his audience he would not disappear from the limelight.

“I’m in no hurry to leave public life because we need strong liberal conservative voices now, more than ever,” he said.

In what appeared to be a dig at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Abbott cited a John Howard maxim: while compromise was necessary in politics, conviction was the foundation of success.

He renewed his call for a freeze of the renewable energy target, but added a moratorium on new wind farms.

Call to halt migration 

Mr Abbott again pushed the need for a slowdown in immigration, claiming it would address rising house prices and slow wages growth.

“It would give harder-to-assimilate recent migrants more time to integrate with the wider Australian community before many more came in,” he said.

“It would reassure Australians that our country is in our own hands and is being run in our best interests.”

Mr Abbott outlined his plans for a shake-up of how the Senate works, something he labelled the “mother of all reforms”.

He wants a referendum to reform the upper house, warning it has become a house of rejection, not review.

“All that can readily be passed today is legislation that a grab-bag of political competitors can be bought off to support,” he said.

0:00 Not interested in fake news: PM Turnbull Share Not interested in fake news: PM Turnbull

Spanish artist Dali’s body to be exhumed for love child paternity test

A Spanish judge has ordered the remains of artist Salvador Dali be exhumed to settle a paternity suit, despite opposition from the state-run foundation that manages the artist’s estate.

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Dali, considered one of the fathers of surrealist art, died in 1989 and is buried in his museum in the northeastern town of Figueres.

Pilar Abel, a tarot-card reader from the nearby city of Girona who was born in 1956, says she is the offspring of an affair between Dali and her mother, Antonia.

At the time of the alleged affair, Dali was married to his muse, Gala, who died seven years before the painter. Gala had a daughter from an earlier marriage but the couple had no children of their own. Upon his death, at age 84, Dali bestowed his estate to the Spanish state.

On Monday, a Madrid court statement said that tests with DNA from Dali’s embalmed body were necessary because there were no other existing biological remains with which to make a genetic comparison.

Abel’s court litigation started in 2015 when she sued the Ministry of Finance, as the trustee of Dali’s estate, and the Gala Dali Foundation that was created to administer it.

“What she wants is to have a result of the tests with full guarantee in order to finish with this as soon as possible,” Abel’s lawyer Enrique Blanquez told The Associated Press.

If there’s a match, Abel could use Dali as her surname and pursue further legal action to claim her rights over the artist’s work and property, which according to regional laws could amount to 25 percent of all of the estate.

The Gala Dali Foundation will appeal Monday’s decision, foundation spokeswoman Imma Parada said in an e-mailed statement.

But according to Blanquez, the appeal could not immediately stop the exhuming of Dali’s remains.

What the ATO is targeting this tax time

Mark Aliprandi has been an Uber driver in Sydney for nearly three years.

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“It’s a pleasant way to earn a living and it fits in with anything else you’re doing with your career, you can slide it in whenever you need to find the money for something that you’ve got, something you’ve got to fund.”

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Anything Mark earns is considered income and needs to be declared to the tax office.

“I’m going to collate all my expenses, I’m going to use my accountant because they know how to deal with things like income – depreciation is a thing I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about.”

Assistant Tax Commissioner, Kath Anderson says, the ATO will be focusing its efforts on the rising popularity of the sharing economy this tax time.

“We are looking at people who are Uber drivers, all the way through to people who might be providing accommodation at their house or might be doing a task for someone through something like Airtasker.”

With more cars on the road and investment properties built, the ATO is taking even more notice and has these three golden rules for deductions.

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Accountant at 5ways Group Paul Meissner says ‘a record’ doesn’t always have to mean receipt.

“If you don’t have a receipt don’t always think that’s the end, sometimes if you review bank statements or your credit card statements in certain circumstances that can have enough information to still claim a deduction.”

The ATO’s Kath Andersons says there are some common misconceptions though – like claiming a standard deduction.

“You can’t claim a standard deduction, so for some reason people seem to confuse the fact that if your deduction is under a certain amount, you might not have to provide as much evidence of your spending, but the rule still stands that you can’t claim it if you didn’t actually pay for it. So that’s another misconception,” she said.

“Another misconception is that you can claim everyday work clothes like black pants and a white shirt, something like that, you can’t claim it unless it is a uniform or protective clothing or distinctive type of clothing like chefs pants.”

Paul Meissner says that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask your accountant to maximise your return.

“The biggest mistake I see for individuals is not asking your accountant whether something is deductible, you can’t claim everything you don’t at least inquire about.

“Small business the biggest mistake I see is not checking their personal bank statements, often times there is a business deduction or a business expense that they paid for personally, you don’t want to miss out on those deductions.”

Remember, the digital world has made it easier for the ATO to cross check claims, so it’s best to get it right.

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Australians urged to move to Queensland

According to the latest census data many have already done so.

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Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt travelled to Sydney to launch an advertising campaign targeting “skilled and innovative individuals” as well as families, citing the state’s lower cost of living and business incentives.

“We will be showcasing Queensland’s extensive list of advantages when compared to our interstate counterparts,” Mr Pitt said.

“Queensland is much more than mining, tourism and agriculture — we are nation- leaders in a diverse range of fields, have the country’s most innovative and dynamic trading economy, and are open for business.”

The campaign comes as the latest census data shows Brisbane’s population has increased by almost 10 per cent over the last fiveyears.

The data, released on Tuesday, shows Brisbane’s population grew from 2.07 million in 2011 to 2.27 million in 2016, an increase of 9.9 per cent.

Queensland overall saw an 8.6 per cent increase in population over the same period, with fully half of the state’s estimated 4,883,739 residents living in the capital.

Mr Pitt said the campaign would focus on all of Queensland, with an emphasis on getting people to move to regional centres, not just Brisbane and the southeast.

The Treasurer said before the end of the year Queensland’s population was estimated to hit five million, with interstate migration a large factor.

“We are keen for this to continue. Strong population growth supports growing markets that in turn give business the confidence to invest and employ new workers.”

May pays out £1b for ‘grubby deal’ with DUP

The deal reached with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was slammed by opposition parties as political bribery, amid concerns about its impact on the province’s delicate peace process.

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It comes after May lost her parliamentary majority in the general election on June 8, which she had called to boost her support ahead of Brexit talks on Britain’s divorce from the European Union.

“I welcome this agreement which will enable us to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom,” May said in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Northern Ireland will receive an extra £1.0 billion (1.1 billion euros, $1.3 billion) from the state over two years.

0:00 Who are the DUP? Share Who are the DUP?

The DUP said it would back the government in any confidence votes and to pass budgets, as well as supporting it on Brexit-related legislation.

For any other parliamentary votes, the DUP – which has 10 MPs – said its support would be given on a case-by-case basis.

‘Not in national interest’

The pact’s first test in parliament will come with a post-election confidence vote expected on Thursday.

There was consternation from the opposition at the alliance, which has also attracted concern from some Conservatives over the DUP’s hardline stance on social issues.

“This Tory-DUP deal has not been done in the national interest but in the interest of @Theresa_May and the @Conservatives’ own political survival,” Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted.

Gerry Adams, leader of the republican party Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, said the deal “provides a blank cheque for a Tory Brexit which threatens the Good Friday Agreement”.

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That agreement in 1998 helped end decades of bloodshed between Northern Ireland’s Protestant and Catholic communities. Cooperation between Britain and EU member Ireland lies at its heart.

On Twitter, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said “any sense of fairness sacrificed on the altar of grubby DUP deal to let PM cling to power”.

The DUP supported Brexit but has emphasised the need to keep the border with the Irish republic open, and its leader Arlene Foster said the deal would back a Brexit process “that supports all parts of the United Kingdom”.

‘Hell of a mess’

The DUP was founded by the late Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley, who for decades brooked no compromise with Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority before entering into an unlikely power-sharing deal with Sinn Fein.

The DUP opposes gay marriage and abortion. Some representatives have been criticised for homophobic comments and for denying climate change.

There is particular concern over the peace process. London’s neutrality is key to the fragile balance in Northern Ireland.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was in Belfast Monday as part of negotiations aimed at restoring a power-sharing alliance between the DUP and Sinn Fein nearly four months after local elections in Northern Ireland.

If the parties cannot come to an agreement by Thursday, Northern Ireland may be returned to direct rule from London.

Coveney said May’s deal with the DUP was a matter for those parties, but stressed that a restored local government was Northern Ireland’s best bet to ensure its “unique circumstances” are recognised at Westminster.

The Conservatives have 317 seats in the 650-seat parliament after the June 8 election and need the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs to be able to govern.

Foster said: “This agreement will operate to deliver a stable government in the United Kingdom’s national interest at this vital time.”

She said the extra money would be spent on infrastructure, health and education, benefitting the whole of Northern Ireland, after concerns voiced by Sinn Fein.

Discussions on a deal between the Conservatives and the DUP began immediately after the election, stirring up further resentment against the embattled May who was left weakened by the political setback.

Conservative grandee Chris Patten described events leading up to the power-sharing deal, including last year’s Brexit referendum called by May’s predecessor David Cameron, as “the most damaging thing that’s happened politically during my lifetime”.

“It sees us now in a situation where thanks to the pretty calamitous decisions of two Conservative prime ministers, we’re in one hell of a mess,” he told reporters.

Donald Trump hosts ‘true friend’ Modi for first one-on-one

Despite differences over issues such as immigration and climate change, Modi is expected to assure Trump that the United States has nothing to fear from India’s growing economic clout.

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After they began their afternoon talks in the Oval Office likely to center on issues such as trade and war in Afghanistan, the two leaders are expected to give a joint statement to reporters.

Trump, who described Modi as a “true friend!” on Twitter after his weekend arrival in the US, should find much in common with the Indian leader, with both men having won power by portraying themselves as establishment outsiders.

While ties with some traditional allies have been strained by Trump’s complaints that Washington has been the loser in trade agreements, Modi appears alert to his host’s sensitivities and emphasis on transactional diplomacy.

Writing in a Wall Street Journal editorial published just ahead of their meeting, Modi said that in “an uncertain global economic landscape, our two nations stand as mutually reinforcing engines of growth and innovation.”

India is currently the world’s fastest growing major economy, a status that Modi is hoping to cement by drawing in more foreign investment – in part by encouraging manufacturers to do business in Asia’s third-largest economy.

“The transformation of India presents abundant commercial and investment opportunities for American businesses,” said Modi whose government is about to implement a new nationwide tax system designed to scythe through red tape.

“The rollout of the Goods and Services Tax on July 1 will, in a single stroke, convert India into a unified, continent-sized market of 1.3 billion people,” he wrote.

Busy day of meetings

Ahead of his talks with Trump, Modi met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as India eyes the purchase of more military equipment from the US.

Although there are not expected to be any major defense announcements, the California-based contractor General Atomics said it had been given clearance by the US government to sell drones to the Indian army.

The State Department also announced that it was slapping sanctions on a senior figure in the Kashmiri separatist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.

The designation of Syed Salahuddin (also known as Mohammed Yusuf Shah) as a global terrorist marks a diplomatic victory for India which has been battling a decades-long insurgency by separatist groups in Kashmir, a Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in full by both.

Relations between India and the US were generally cool until the 1990s but they warmed under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, as India sought greater foreign investment and trade ties.

But it was not long after Trump’s election that obstacles emerged on issues such as trade and visas for Indians wanting to work in the United States.

0:00 Protests over Indian PM’s visit to US Share Protests over Indian PM’s visit to US

Then Trump accused India of seeking to profit from the Paris climate accord as he announced the US withdrawal from the deal this month – drawing sharp denials from New Delhi.

A proposed overhaul of H-1B visas – used by thousands of Indian software engineers to work in the United States – has caused concern in New Delhi.

But Indian officials have played down those differences, insisting that Modi was sensitive to his counterpart’s concerns over American jobs and trade, and there were “no major sticking points” that could sour the talks.

“If there’s one thing we want (from the talks), it’s chemistry… If the chemistry is good, then frankly everything else gets sorted,” a senior Indian official who is traveling with the prime minister told reporters in Washington.

Related readingAfghanistan on agenda

Regional security is expected to be high on the agenda as Washington considers deploying up to 5,000 extra troops in Afghanistan to help local forces fighting insurgent groups and seeks to encourage what an administration official describes as India’s “positive role” in the country.

Trump’s administration has meanwhile indicated it could take a tougher stance on Pakistan, which India has long accused of harboring militant groups.

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