Saturday, 7 Dec 2019

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Brexit divorce deal text agreed by EU and Britain as opponents cry foul

Britain struck a draft divorce deal with the European Union after more than a year of talks, thrusting Prime Minister Theresa May into a perilous battle over Brexit that could shape her country’s prosperity for generations to come.

While Brussels choreographs the first withdrawal of a sovereign state from the EU, May, a far from secure leader hemmed in by opponents in government and her own Conservative party, must now try to get the deal approved by her cabinet and, in the toughest test of all, by parliament.

Brexiteers in May’s party accused her of surrendering to the EU and said they would vote the deal down while the Northern Irish party which props up her minority government questioned whether she would be able to get parliamentary approval.

“The trick will be for Theresa May, can she satisfy everyone?” said Nigel Dodds, the deputy leader of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party which keeps her government in power. “It is going to be a very, very hard sell, I would have thought, but let’s wait and see the actual detail.”


Trump may oust national security deputy over feud with Melania

President Donald Trump is moving to replace his deputy national security adviser after she feuded with first lady Melania Trump, two sources familiar with the matter said, with a spokeswoman for the first lady leaving no doubt about where she stood on the matter.

The first lady complained to the president that she was unhappy with how she was being treated by Mira Ricardel, a former Boeing executive who worked on the Trump presidential campaign and was picked by National Security Adviser John Bolton to be his deputy earlier this year, two sources told Reuters.

Asked about the reports, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham issued a extraordinarily frank statement: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honour of serving in this White House,” Grisham said.


More heatwaves, fewer babies? Climate change may zap male fertility

Would-be fathers have long been advised to wear boxer shorts and avoid hot tubs, to avoid too much heat damaging their reproductive chances.

Now it turns out the same effect – but caused by stronger heatwaves driven by climate change – may be behind huge declines in insect numbers, scientists said, in a study published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

They found that male red flour beetles exposed to a heatwave in the lab had half the expected number of offspring, and that exposure to a second heatwave, 10 days later, virtually sterilised the males.


Rare diamond fetches $70 million in price-per-carat record

The “Pink Legacy”, a diamond weighing just under 19 carats, fetched a record 50.375 million Swiss francs (S$69 million) as it outshone all other auction lots at Christie’s in Geneva.

Graded “vivid”, the highest rating for a pink diamond’s colour, the gem is internally pure with a rectangular cut, and mounted on a platinum ring.

Once owned by the Oppenheimer Family, who built De Beers into the world’s biggest diamond trader, the diamond had a pre-sale estimate of US$30 million to US$50 million (S$40 million to S$70 million).


Final season of Game Of Thrones to premiere in April, says new trailer

HBO’s hit Emmy-winning drama Game Of Thrones will debut its eighth and final season starting in April, the network announced in a trailer released online.

The video featured footage from previous seasons of the costly battles that preceded the coming showdown for control of the fictional kingdom of Westeros.

The network did not reveal a specific date for the final season’s premiere, which will run for six episodes.


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