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Frustrated students appear to score small people-power victory against China’s draconian COVID restrictions

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Beijing — Administrators at an elite Beijing university have backed down from plans to further tighten pandemic restrictions on students as part of China’s “zero-COVID” strategy after a weekend protest at the school, according to students Tuesday. Graduate students at Peking University staged the rare but peaceful protest Sunday over the school’s decision to erect a sheet-metal wall to keep them further sequestered on campus, while allowing faculty to come and go freely.

Discontent had already been simmering over regulations prohibiting them from ordering in food or having visitors, and daily COVID-19 testing.
 
A citywide lockdown of Shanghai and expanded restrictions in Beijing in recent weeks have raised questions about the economic  and human costs of China’s strict virus controls, which the ruling Communist Party has trumpeted as a success compared to other major nations with much higher death tolls. While most people have grumbled privately or online, some Shanghai residents have clashed with police, volunteers and others trying to enforce lockdowns and take infected people to quarantine centers.


China’s “zero-COVID” policy and strict lockdowns slow economy

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Many of the Peking University students protesting Sunday outside a dormitory took cellphone videos as Chen Baojian, the deputy secretary of the university’s Communist Party committee, admonished them through a megaphone to end the protest and talk with him one-on-one.
 
“Please put down your mobile phones, protect Peking University,” he said, to which one student yelled: “Is that protection? How about our rights and interests?”
 
The crowd of about 200 clapped and cheered as a half dozen protesters broke through the sheet-metal barrier behind Chen.
 
The phone videos were quickly shared over social media, but just as quickly removed by government censors. Some supportive comments remained, though many were also taken down, while some videos remain on Twitter, which is blocked in China.
 
“Peking University students are great!” wrote one person on the popular social media platform Weibo. “Fight for rights. A single spark can start a prairie fire.”

Virus Outbreak China
A security guard checks a man entering the Wanliu Campus of Peking University near a display showing slogans part of which reads “The epidemic is the order, prevention control is the responsibility ” on May 17, 2022, in Beijing.

Ng Han Guan/AP


The Communist Party moves quickly to quash most activism and any sign of unrest, which it sees as a potential challenge to its hold on power. Peking University is among a handful of elite institutions that have played prominent roles in political movements including the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution and the student-led 1989 pro-democracy protests centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that were crushed by the army.
 
Following the protest, university leaders met with student representatives and agreed to remove the sheet-metal barrier, the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday.
 
One graduate student who took part in the protest, who did not want her name published due to possible repercussions, said the wall had been taken down a short time later, and that other concessions were made to the students, including organizing free supermarket deliveries.
 
“We achieved our goals Sunday night,” said the student, who said she had been confined to the university’s Wanliu residential compound for 7 days before the protest.
 
The compound is about 3 miles southwest of the main Peking University campus, housing young professors and graduate students. It also has a gym, a supermarket and other facilities.
 
Authorities have tightened restrictions on access to campuses and monitoring of classroom instruction and student life, making such protests extremely rare. In 2018, police detained students at schools including Peking University who had sought to form an alliance with protesting factory workers, displaying their refusal to tolerate even mild attempts at political activism.


COVID-19 outbreak in China lead to massive restrictions

02:03

As most other countries in the world have begun to ease restrictions and gradually open back up, China has stuck tenaciously to its zero-COVID policy.
 
The strict lockdowns with most public areas closed down have played havoc with employment, supply chains and the economy in general, and are becoming increasingly hard on people as the highly transmissible omicron variant proves more difficult to stop.
 
In Beijing, authorities on Tuesday restricted more residents to their homes in a now 3-week-long effort to control a small but persistent COVID-19 outbreak in the Chinese capital.
 
Seven adjoining areas in the city’s Fengtai district were designated lockdown zones for at least one week, with people ordered to stay at home in an area covering about 2.5 miles by 3 miles. The area is near a wholesale food market that was closed indefinitely on Saturday following the discovery of a cluster there.

Virus Outbreak China
Couriers pass over deliveries at one of the entrances to the main campus of Peking University, May 17, 2022, in Beijing, China.

Ng Han Guan/AP


The added restrictions come as Shanghai, China’s largest city, slowly starts to ease a citywide lockdown that has trapped most of its population for more than six weeks. 

China recorded 1,100 new cases on Monday, the National Health Commission said Tuesday. Of those, about 800 were in Shanghai and 52 were in Beijing. The daily number of new cases in Shanghai has declined steadily for more than two weeks, but authorities have been moving slowly to relax restrictions, frustrating residents.
 
In Beijing, the number of cases has held steady but new clusters have popped up in different parts of the city. City spokesperson Xu Hejian said that Beijing’s top priority is to screen people related to the cluster at the wholesale food market and isolate those who test positive. A second wholesale food market in Fengtai district was shut down Tuesday.
 
Most of Beijing is not locked down, but the streets are much quieter than usual with many shops closed and people working from home.



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Kay Mellor, who wrote hit TV dramas Girlfriends and The Syndicate, has died aged 71 | UK News

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Kay Mellor, who wrote hit TV dramas Fat Friends and The Syndicate, has died aged 71.

Born in Leeds, the writer, who began with plays, died on Sunday.

Other TV credits included Band of Gold and football series Playing The Field.

Mellor also worked on Coronation Street and created the award-winning children’s drama Children’s Ward.

Fat Friends, about the members of a slimming group in Leeds, starred James Corden, Ruth Jones, Alison Steadman and Mellor’s youngest daughter, Gaynor Faye, and was later turned into a musical.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce the untimely and sudden passing of our beloved friend, mentor and colleague Kay Mellor on Sunday 15th May,” said a spokesperson for her TV production company, Rollem Productions.

“We have lost a phenomenal talent and a true luminary. We ask that you please respect the privacy of the family and friends at this time.”



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Another round of free COVID-19 antigen tests available for residents

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A third round of free at-home COVID-19 tests are now available for Americans. The free tests were first introduced as part of a Biden administration push to increase testing capacity and is now a major part of the ongoing COVID-19 strategy. 

Every household in America is eligible for this third round of tests and can order them at covid.gov/tests. Each household will receive eight total rapid antigen COVID-19 tests, split into two separate shipments. The tests are completely free and will ship through the U.S Postal Service. 

Residents who are unable to access the website or are having trouble placing their household’s order can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).

Directly above view of mom using Covid-19 rapid self-test kit for her kid at home
Directly above view of mom squeezing the sample liquid on a test strip while carrying out a Covid-19 rapid self test for her kid at home.

tangmingtung@gmail.com / Getty Images


The news comes as the United States reaches the grim milestone of 1 million lives lost to COVID-19 and the country enters a “new stage” of fighting the pandemic, President Joe Biden said. 

“I continue to call on Congress here at home to take the urgent action to provide emergency COVID-19 funding that is vital to protect Americans, to make sure that we maintain our supplies of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, including next-generation vaccines that are being developed,” Biden said Thursday at the second Global COVID Summit. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 257.9 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 220.6 million of those are fully vaccinated. 





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Depp v Heard: Actress carried a make-up kit ‘at all times’ to cover bruises, court told | Ents & Arts News

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Photographs of Amber Heard with red marks, bruises and swelling on her face – the result, she alleges, of her and Johnny Depp’s final fight – have been shown in court.

It came as Heard told jurors of the “torture” of re-living “the most intimate, embarrassing, deeply humiliating and personal things” she has ever gone through.

On Monday, she concluded giving her evidence, with a third day centred on the final months of her marriage to Depp.

The trial is now in its fifth week, and jurors have seen multiple photos of Heard throughout, that purport to document the abuse she said she received during their relationship.

Several of the photos shown on Monday had not previously been seen by the jury and showed redness and swelling much more clearly than earlier photos.

But in cross examination, Depp’s lawyer, Camille Vasquez took issue with the claims and asked why no photographs were produced of one particular moment Heard said Depp hit her so hard she “thought her nose was broken”.

In answer, Heard told the court: “It’s not up to me.”

Depp is suing Heard in Fairfax County Circuit Court just outside Washington DC, for libel over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”.

‘Bruise kit’

His lawyers say he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.

Heard described to the court the make-up routine she employed to conceal the marks, as well as how she used ice and arnica (a homeopathic remedy for bruising) to “take down the swelling”.

She said she had a theatre colour correction kit which she called her “bruise kit”, which she says “I carried around with me all the time”.

The make up wheel Amber Heard says she used to cover up her bruises from Johnny Depp. Picture shown in court in Fairfax, Virginia
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The make-up wheel Amber Heard says she used to cover up her bruises

Heard explained: “The idea is that you want to counteract whatever colour is on the bruise.”

She described the different colours bruises turn over time, saying: “The immediate is red, red shows up straight away so you want to go on the opposite on the colour wheel, by dabbing on a bit of the green… After a day or two you get more purple, so you want to go with redder tones.”

Depp says he never struck Heard and that she is concocting claims she was abused.

‘Happy f****** birthday’

But in one moment of testimony, Heard described her 30th birthday in April 2016 and a fight she says she and Depp had on that evening after her party.

During it she said Depp “chest bumped me”, “pushed me to the ground” and “grabbed me by the pubic area”. She said he would often grab her there, and ask her if she thought she was “tough, like a man”.

She said Depp left, then returned and screamed ‘Happy f****** birthday’.

Other points from today in court:
• Heard strongly denied an accusation from Depp she left human faecal matter in the couple’s bed after a fight
• Heard had pledged to give her $7m divorce settlement to charity and began doing so by instalments but said when Depp sued her in Mach 2019 for $50m she stopped
• The court is told a lawyer was called in to look over the Washington Post Op-Ed

Read more:
Depp v Heard: Who is really telling the truth?

Speaking about the court process, Heard said: “Every time I look [at the statements] which is every day, I am set back, I have to re-live it… I have to re-live the worst most painful things I’ve ever gone through – and narrowly survived at times.”

She went on: “Over and over again the most intimate, embarrassing deeply humiliating and personal things I’ve survived are used against me.

Actor Amber Heard testifies in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., Monday, May 16, 2022.
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Heard broke down during her evidence on Monday

“It’s torture, I’m in so much pain emotionally.

“Why would you do that? I want to move on with my life. I have a baby I want to move on, I want Johnny to move on too. Come on leave me alone.”

Earlier on she also told the court she was “losing hair, weight, getting sick”.

However, in challenging her statements, an appearance in December 2015 when Heard appeared on The Late Late Show with James Corden, was brought up.

The night before Heard has alleged Depp violently attacked her, injuring her face and lip.

But Depp’s lawyer Ms Vasquez showed the court photos and a short video of Heard’s appearance on the show, and again highlighted the lack of visible damage to her face.



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Dame Deborah James ’embracing the feeling of rain on her face’ after moving to hospice care | Ents & Arts News

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Dame Deborah James has said she is “embracing the feeling of the rain on her face” in a poignant Instagram story – because it might be the “last time” she feels it.

It comes days after the cancer campaigner revealed she has moved to hospice care with her family after battling stage four bowel cancer since 2016.

On Monday, the You, Me And The Big C host shared a clip of her family’s garden with the message: “A late friend once told me to embrace the rain, because you never knew when the last time you might feel the rain on your face is… so am embracing it! Albeit with blankets.”

Dame Deborah James
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The cancer campaigner said she was embracing the feeling of rain on her face in an Instagram story

Known online as Bowel Babe, the former headteacher was made a dame on Friday, after The Duke of Cambridge visited her at her parents’ home in Woking, Surrey, to personally hand over the honour.

She said she was “utterly honoured” that Prince William had joined her family for afternoon tea, but admitted her “cleaning antics and preparation went off the scale” as she got ready for the royal visit.

Prince William and Kate had previously donated to her fund and thanked the campaigner for her “tireless efforts”.

Dame Deborah’s Bowel Babe fund, launched last week to raise money for Cancer Research UK, has already received more than £6m in donations after exceeding the original goal of £250,000.

After surpassing the £5m mark, the 40-year-old said: “We’re completely lost for words. This is all just beyond anything we could have ever imagined.”

She added: “The last 5 days have been surreal. Thank you for putting a huge smile on my face, and helping us to launch a legacy to hopefully impact a lifetime cutting edge cancer care. Thanks to an incredibly generous donation earlier today, and to every single person who’s donated to the @bowelbabefund, we’ve just reached the unbelievable total of £5m.”

‘Some pure joy to cling on to’

In 2018, Dame Deborah launched the You Me And The Big C podcast in 2018 with Rachel Bland and Lauren Mahon – all former or current cancer patients.

The trio candidly discussed life with cancer, as well as treatment and other topics relating to the disease.

Ms Mahon, who has been cancer-free for five years, told Good Morning Britain on Monday that her friend Dame Deborah still “shines such a big light” despite receiving end-of-life care for bowel cancer.

She added: “I’m heartbroken. We all are. Anyone who loves Deb, or is close to Deb is, people who have never met her are.

“But, what this week has done is just given us some pure joy to cling on to, and only Deb could do that in the darkest of times, shine such a big light. We’re all so proud.”

Last week, Dame Deborah told her followers she had been moved to hospice-at-home care to treat her terminal bowel, saying she did not know “how long I’ve got left” now that her body was no longer “playing ball”.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdgvKgJoPzN/
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Dame Deborah James with Prince William on Friday

She added she had left “no stone unturned” in search of treatment, but that even a “magic new breakthrough” would not make a difference.

She said she is spending this time with her family – including her two young children – at her parents’ home, adding: “We will dance through this together, sunbathing and laughing at every possible moment!”

On Saturday, the mother-of-two said she is “getting weaker and more tired” and is running on “pure adrenaline”.

“My family are being amazing and as emotional as it all is, we are finding so much to smile about in the sadness,” she said.

“I always said I wanted to slide in sideways when my time is up, with a massive smile, no regrets and a big glass of champagne! Still my intention!”





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North Korea’s Kim Jong Un blames “irresponsible” workers for apparent explosion in COVID-19 cases

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Seoul, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticized officials over slow medicine deliveries and mobilized the military to respond to a surge in suspected COVID-19 infections as his nation struggled to contain a fever that has reportedly killed dozens and sickened nearly a million others in a span of three days.
 
North Korean health authorities said Monday that eight more people died and an additional 392,920 were newly found to have feverish symptoms. That brings the death toll to 50 and illnesses to more than 1.2 million, respectively. It’s a sharp jump from the six dead and 350,000 sick reported last Friday, a day after the North said that it found that an unspecified number of people in capital Pyongyang tested positive for the now-widespread omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Kim has acknowledged that the fast-spreading fever, highly likely driven by COVID-19, is causing “great upheaval” in the country, and outside experts say the true scale of the outbreak is likely much bigger than what’s described in the state-controlled media.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wears a face mask amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, while inspecting a pharmacy in Pyongyang
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen inspecting a pharmacy in Pyongyang as his country deals with an apparent COVID-19 epidemic, in an undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2022.

KCNA/Reuters


Some suspect that North Korea has understated its fatalities or illnesses to shield Kim’s leadership from criticism. The North likely lacks test kits and other tools to detect virus carriers with no or mild symptoms, which means that several million might already have been infected.
 
“When people die, North Korean authorities will say they’ve died of overwork or from natural deaths, not because of COVID-19,” said Nam Sung-wook, a professor at Korea University in South Korea. Nam said the North is likely understating the death toll to protect “the dignity of its supreme leader.”
 
While neighboring South Korea and China have offered to send medical supplies and other help, experts say it’s too late to inoculate the North’s 26 million people, and that the only realistic outside help would be offering limited supplies of vaccines to reduce deaths among high-risk groups, including the elderly and people with preexisting conditions.
 
“With the country yet to initiate COVID-19 vaccination, there is risk that the virus may spread rapidly among the masses unless curtailed with immediate and appropriate measures,” Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the World Health Organization’s regional director for South-East Asia, said in a statement. He said the WHO was ready to provide North Korea with technical support to increase testing and with essential medicines and medical supplies.
 
It’s unclear whether or how soon Kim might accept outside offers of aid. He’s previously rallied for unity at home to guard against the pandemic without resorting to foreign help.


North Korea claims it tested new type of missile

04:53

State media didn’t specify how many of the fever cases were confirmed as COVID-19. Among the 50 fatalities, North Korea has officially identified only one as a COVID-19 case so far.
 
North Korea is believed to be mostly relying on isolating people with symptoms at shelters. Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang at South Korea’s Sejong Institute said the North’s limited number of test kits are likely mainly reserved for the ruling elite.
 
Failing to slow the virus could have dire consequences for North Korea, considering its broken health care system and that its people are believed to be unvaccinated. There’s also malnourishment and chronic poverty.
 
North Korea imposed what it described as maximum preventive measures that restricted travel between cities and counties, and Kim ordered public health officials, teachers and others to identify people with fevers so they could be quarantined. As of Sunday, more than 564,860 people were in quarantine, North Korea’s state media reported.
 
The explosive growth in fever cases may underscore how fast omicron could travel across an unvaccinated population without access to proper health tools, and fatalities will surely jump in coming weeks considering time lags between infections and deaths, said Jung Jae-hun, a professor of preventive medicine at South Korea’s Gachon University.

TOPSHOT-NKOREA-HEALTH-VIRUS
Employees spray disinfectant as part of preventative measures against the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Pyongyang Children’s Department Store in Pyongyang, March 18, 2022.

KIM WON JIN/AFP/Getty


While it’s clear COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming speed, there are questions about the accuracy of North Korea’s fever tally. Jung said it’s unlikely that North Korean health workers are able to make reliable daily updates, considering the lack of tests and other resources, and are possibly adding multiple days of cases into their single-day counts following delays.
 
Cho Han Bum, an analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification, said North Korea’s fever totals seemed an “outright lie.”
 
“North Korea says about 390,000 more fell ill but only eight died in the past day, while South Korea (on Sunday) reported 25,000 new cases and 48 deaths,” he said.
 
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, said that the real number of COVID-19 infections in North Korea is likely at least three times larger than North Korea’s tally of fever patients because of underreporting, the bad health care system and poorly computerized administrative networks.
 
Kim during a ruling party Politburo meeting on Sunday criticized government and health officials over what he portrayed as a botched pandemic response, saying medicine supplies aren’t being distributed to pharmacies in time because of their “irresponsible work attitude” and lack of organization.
 
The Politburo had issued an emergency order to immediately release and quickly distribute state medicine reserves and for pharmacies to open for 24-hour shifts, but Kim said such steps weren’t being properly implemented. Kim ordered the medical units of his military to get involved in stabilizing the supply of medicine in Pyongyang, KCNA said.

North Korea’s previous claim of a perfect record in keeping out the virus for 2 1/2 years was widely doubted. But its extremely strict border closure, large-scale quarantines and propaganda that stressed anti-virus controls as a matter of “national existence” may have staved off a huge outbreak until now.
 
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol told the National Assembly on Monday that the South was willing to send vaccines, medicine, equipment and health personnel to the North if it’s willing to accept.
 
South Korean officials say Pyongyang so far has made no request for Seoul’s help. The North also shunned millions of vaccine doses offered by the U.N.-backed COVAX distribution program, likely because they carried international monitoring requirements.
 
Kim still stressed the country’s economic goals should be met, which likely means huge groups will continue to gather at agricultural, industrial and construction sites.



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Johnny Depp v Amber Heard: Watch trial live | Ents & Arts News

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WARNING: May contain swearing, description of drug taking and domestic violence. This feed is provided to Sky News by Court TV. Sky has no control over its content and quality.



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Wagatha Christie trial: Rooney admits Vardy trolling after infamous post was ‘disgusting’ | Ents & Arts News

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Coleen Rooney has admitted trolling directed at Rebekah Vardy after her ‘Wagatha Christie’ post was “disgusting”.

In a viral social media post in October 2019, Mrs Rooney said she had carried out a “sting operation” and accused Mrs Vardy of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press – prompting her to be dubbed “Wagatha Christie”.

Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denies leaking stories to the media and is suing her fellow footballer’s wife for libel.

Mrs Rooney is defending the claim on the basis her post was “substantially true”.

Shortly after the bombshell reveal was posted, Mrs Rooney says she was contacted by Mrs Vardy who demanded “WTF (what the f*ck) – what is this?”

To which Mrs Rooney replied: “You know what it is.”

“I’ve got no idea,” came Mrs Vardy’s response.

Read more:
The Wagatha Christie case explained

Mrs Rooney told Mrs Vardy’s barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC at the latest day of hearings at the High Court on Monday that she had “zero interest in what is going on in her life”.

The barrister said: “She makes it clear to you that it wasn’t her, doesn’t she?”

“She says she has zero interest in what’s going on in my life, which I believe is totally untrue,” Mrs Rooney replied. “She talks about me a lot… so that was a lie,” she added.

‘Trolling is terrible’

But, when asked about the abuse Mrs Vardy received on social media after the reveal post, Mrs Rooney had some sympathy.

She told the court: “It is disgusting. I would never ever wish that upon anyone.

“I was getting trolled as well but obviously Mrs Vardy’s was disgusting, the things they were saying… the world we live in today and the trolling is terrible.”

Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney
Image:
Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney

‘Evil and uncalled for’

Mrs Rooney then discussed WhatsApp messages the court had heard between Mrs Vardy and her agent Caroline Watt – where Mrs Rooney was discussed.

She said she had never met or spoken to Ms Watt, commenting on the agent’s exchanges with Mrs Vardy: “The messages that went on between them were just evil and uncalled for.”

“There’s no need for it, I’ve never done anything to them,” Mrs Rooney added.

More from today in court:

• Coleen Rooney admitted she was inundated with pictures, screenshots and memes after her ‘Wagatha’ post and said “obviously people didn’t realise how serious what was behind it was”
• In private correspondence with a member of her PR team, the court heard Mrs Rooney had described Mrs Vardy as “fame hungry”
• Wayne Rooney, Coleen’s husband, did not know about the “sting”, the court hears. Asked why, Mrs Rooney said: “One thing I don’t do is put my troubles and my worries on anybody else”

The baby sex story

Earlier on Monday, Mrs Rooney said she wanted a “totally untrue” story about a so-called gender selection procedure to be published as “evidence” for her sting operation to discover the source of leaked stories.

One of the Instagram stories used in the “sting” was posted on 8 April 2019, with Mrs Rooney claiming she was travelling to Mexico to look into a procedure to determine a baby’s sex.

“Let’s go and see what this gender selection is all about,” Mrs Rooney posted, accompanied with a number of heart emojis and what appeared to be a grimacing face emoji.

Around four months later, The Sun published a story online on 15 August 2019 with the headline “Col’s baby girl bid”, marked as an exclusive, detailing Mrs Rooney’s alleged “desperate bid to have a baby girl”.

Asked about this post by Mr Tomlinson, Mrs Rooney said: “I wanted the story to run so I had evidence.”



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What U.S. women can learn from Poland’s recent abortion restrictions

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WARSAW, Poland — Americans fearing the worst if the Supreme Court repeals Roe v. Wade could look to the Poles for tips about how to fight for abortion rights and find ways around harsh government-imposed restrictions.

Poland, along with Malta, has the strictest abortion restrictions in Europe. It is allowed only in cases of rape, which are difficult to document, or when the life of the woman is endangered. And anyone helping a woman get the procedure for any other reason, including by prescribing pregnancy-terminating medication, could be charged with a crime — similar to what’s already happening in Texas, said Venny Ala-Siurua of Women on Web, an international online abortion service that has been helping women around the world, including thousands in Poland.

“If Roe is abolished, many American women will have to do what Polish women are already doing to get safe abortions,” Ala-Siurua said.

The Poles have a long history of resisting their rulers, including those they have elected, like the conservative Law and Justice party, which was swept into power in 2015.

“It may be difficult to get abortions in Poland, but we have our ways,” one of Poland’s leading feminists, Krystyna Kacpura, head of the Warsaw-based Federation for Women and Family Planning, said in a series of interviews.

U.S. women can learn from strategies Polish women have deployed, said Giselle Carino of Fòs Feminista, an activist organization that fights for women’s rights around the world.

“The regression of abortion rights is always linked to a regression of democratic rights,” she said. “And in the United States in recent years, we have seen that happening, as well.”

One thing people did in Poland when their reproductive rights came under fire was to mobilize the masses.

Kacpura helped organize the massive “Black Monday” street demonstrations across Poland six years ago, which forced the Law and Justice government to back off on plans to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape, which its allies in the powerful Roman Catholic Church had been pushing for. 

Next, Kacpura and groups like hers forged alliances with feminist groups abroad so Polish women could safely consult legitimate doctors online and either schedule procedures or get prescriptions for the “morning-after pill,” which is then mailed to their homes.

Women living in conservative states like Texas or Idaho would likely be forced to do the same by seeking abortion services in states with far fewer restrictions, advocates have said. But that can be costly.

“The problem is that many Polish women cannot afford to travel to another country, and in the poorer parts of the country many don’t have access to the internet,” Kacpura said.

So they have to rely on black market morning-after pills, “which are not so much dangerous as ineffective,” Kacpura said. “Or they have to find a doctor in Poland who will perform an abortion, which can be done but is very difficult.”

In Poland, a country of nearly 40 million people, only several hundred doctors are left who are still willing to perform abortions.

“A lot of doctors have families and understandably do not want to take the risk,” said a Warsaw gynecologist who asked to not be identified.

Those who do, however, stretch the “risk of life to the pregnant woman” clause in the Polish law to justify abortions or simply say the fetuses died as a result of miscarriages, a member of Poland’s abortion underground told NBC News.

Very few abortions due to rape are approved, because the Polish government has set up so many legal roadblocks that by the time the procedure gets the green light, it’s too late, the members said. As a result, many rape victims go straight to local advocacy groups, which steer them to doctors willing to help.

Kacpura said the same network that helps Polish women was mobilized to help Ukrainian refugees who began pouring over the border into Poland after Russia invaded. The group included a number of women who said they had been raped by Russian soldiers, she said.

“I can’t go into too much detail. That is top secret,” Kacpura said. “But there is a whole network of gynecologists in Poland who have volunteered to help the Ukrainian women and who have even been able to provide them with morning-after pills that are only available with a prescription.”

The Polish government is aware that is happening, the members said, but it often turns a blind eye, because there is a shortage of doctors, and it fears a backlash from women both at home and around the world.

“While Poland is 90 percent Catholic, most Poles support less restrictions on abortions,” Kacpura said. “Those that want a complete ban are a minority, but they are the reliable voters Law and Justice needs to stay in power.”

Just as in the U.S., the battle in Poland over abortion “is a huge ideological war between a democratic side and a fundamentalist side that wants to keep the patriarchy in place, that resents the advances women have made,” Kacpura said.

“It wasn’t so long ago that abortion was legal in Poland and women from Western European countries were coming here for their procedures,” she said.

Kacpura’s advice to U.S. women is to hit the streets and “stay there for as long as you can while you find ways to support each other in the face of reproductive injustice.”

“If you don’t, many women will suffer. Many will die,” she said.

Lauren Egan reported from Poland and Corky Siemaszko from New York City.



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Fox execs say ‘absolutely no regrets’ in casting Rudy Giuliani on ‘The Masked Singer’

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Fox execs finally addressed the controversy surrounding Rudy Giuliani being cast on “The Masked Singer,” and according to Rob Wade, the president of alternative entertainment & specials at Fox Entertainment, the company has “no regrets.”

The network brass was asked about Giuliani’s casting on Monday morning during a conference call announcing the network’s new fall lineup.

“Yeah, absolutely no regrets,” Wade said. “The marketing is all about delivering jaw dropping moments, which is exactly what the casting accomplished. And whether it was on set or with the viewers at home I suppose my only regret or surprise was obviously the reveal was spoiled [by the press], but kudos to you guys. Just please don’t do it again. Thanks a lot.”

On this season’s episode 7, which aired April 20, the disgraced former attorney showed up, sang an off-key and off-putting version of “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers and then was unmasked as the Jack in the Box.

The episode teased the Giuliani reveal as “the biggest event in ‘Masked Singer’ history.”

Panelist Ken Jeong was not pleased as reported: “No, that’s not Robert Duvall” (one of the top guesses), he said, arms folded and clearly appalled at the casting.

At the very end of the episode, Jeong is shown saying, “I’m done,” and leaving the set. But the show’s producers exhibited a surprising bit of restraint in not milking his response, and also didn’t show fellow judge Robin Thicke going after him, as had been previously reported.

Said Thicke: “This is definitely something I never would have guessed.”

When news leaked earlier this year about Giuliani, “The Masked Singer” faced a heavy dose of backlash, as some in the media (including Variety) questioned whether bringing on such a figure would ruin the show’s reputation for being lighthearted, escapist fare.

After all, Giuliani has been involved in various schemes in recent years — most notably, his attempts to help overturn the 2020 election results via baseless allegations of fraud.



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