Skies clear for Gallipoli dawn service

Queenslander George Johnson has made his first trip to Gallipoli and also “probably the last” but he hopes young people will keep visiting to pay their respects to the fallen.

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The 63-year-old, from Bluff in central Queensland, was impressed with Monday’s dawn service at North Beach which went off without a hitch amidst boosted Turkish security measures.

He was one of an estimated 1200 or more Australians and New Zealanders who attended, many sleeping out overnight in front of the main stage above the Aegean Sea.

“I came to show my respect for what was done and why we’re still here,” Mr Johnson told AAP after the service.

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“I just hope the younger people keep coming back and keep it all happening. Without them it won’t happen will it?”

Mr Johnson said he was not at all deterred by security concerns following a spate of terror attacks in Turkey this year and was grateful to Turkish paramedics who tended to his “crook leg” overnight.

Australian Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan, who gave an address at the service, praised the Turkish government for doing an “outstanding job” making sure Australians and New Zealanders could commemorate Anzac Day in a safe way.

“It’s gone without incident which is very relieving for everyone.”

This year security was tightened with airport-style screening taking place, while armed Turkish police and soldiers stand guard at checkpoints into the Gallipoli sites.

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A sudden thunderstorm on Sunday night had attendees rushing for the cover of the security tent but that passed and the service went ahead under largely clear skies.

In his speech Mr Tehan said that more than 11,000 Australians and New Zealanders died in the eight-month-long ordeal that was the Gallipoli campaign.

But he highlighted the successful evacuation of more than 93,000 allied troops from the peninsula in December 1915.

“It was the task of moving a city the size of Rockhampton or Bunbury or Palmerston North from this peninsula without the enemy engaging.

“The countless lives that were saved, the untold tragedy that was avoided, has meant that Anzac didn’t end as a story that we remember bitterly,” Mr Tehan said.

New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee told the gathering that New Zealanders came to Gallipoli to remember the sacrifices made and the “terrible toll” of the campaign.

“But most of all we come because the actions of the Anzacs have become for New Zealand our coming of age as a nation.”

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Mr Brownlee said the Anzacs’ “resilience and humanity in the face of hardship remain fundamental to New Zealanders’ sense of nationhood to this day”.

“Today we are proud to stand yet again alongside our Australian cousins, with whom we share the enduring Anzac bond.”

Also at the service a Turkish army officer read out a 1934 message from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey and a key military leader at Gallipoli, urging Australian and New Zealand mothers who lost sons there to “wipe away your tears”.

Ataturk said their sons were “now lying in the soil of a friendly country” and were at peace.

“After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.”

Manly heap more woe on Knights in NRL

Manly coach Trent Barrett expects Daly Cherry-Evans to be better for the run after the Queensland and Australian playmaker returned to spark the Sea Eagles to a 26-10 victory over Newcastle at Hunter Stadium.

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Returning earlier than anticipated from a high-ankle sprain, Cherry-Evans was below his best but did enough to steer the Sea Eagles home against the inexperienced Knights.

On a day when both teams lost key players to potentially serious injuries – Jarrod Mullen (hamstring) and Peter Mata’utia (knee) for Newcastle and Brett Stewart (hamstring) and Tom Trbojevic (ankle) for Manly – Barrett was relieved to see Cherry-Evans finish the game intact.

“He got through unscathed, which was good,” said Barrett, who also hopes to welcome back hooker Matt Parcell from a hamstring injury against North Queensland at Brookvale on Saturday.

“He blew a few cobwebs out, but it’s certainly good to have Cherry back.

“We’ve just got to keep improving.”

Cherry-Evans created a try for Tom Trbojevic in the 60th minute to give Manly a 20-6 lead, capping a 15-minute period in which the Sea Eagles dominated possession and field position.

In a bizarre turnaround Newcastle scored from the restart, Tyler Randell crashing over to make in 20-10 after Jamie Lyon sloppily batted back a short Dane Gagai kick-off.

But any slight hopes of a comeback were put to bed when lock Jake Trbojevic scored a converted try in the 78th minute.

Ten minutes earlier Trbojevic had to watch as his brother was helped from the field. He in turn had replaced Stewart at fullback after the former NSW and Australian custodian limped off in the 45th minute.

Barrett said Trbojevic was of more immediate concern than Stewart, though he did not expect either player would be available to back up against the Cowboys on Saturday night.

Mullen had collapsed to the ground after bursting into the clear in the 67th minute, and Knights coach Nathan Brown did not expect him or Mata’utia to be available for selection any time soon.

Mata’utia, who returned to Newcastle from the Dragons last week, lasted just 26 minutes of his homecoming game after sustaining damage to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Brown said Mata’utia could miss six to eight weeks and Mullen even longer.

Knights prop Sam Mataora was reported in the 65th minute for a possible crusher tackle.

Manly had taken a 10-6 lead to the break when prop Brenton Lawrence crashed over to score in the final seconds of the first half.

Replays showed the ball rolled loose as Newcastle defenders tried to halt Lawrence’s progress but review official Ashley Klein could not find enough evidence to overturn referee Gavin Badger’s on-field ruling of a try.

The Knights had no such luck earlier in the half when wingers Nathan Ross and Aku Uate were both denied tries by the bunker.

Negative gearing windbacks could deliver $5.3bn a year

Charis Palmer, The Conversation

Tax reform to target Australia’s distorting capital gains tax and negative gearing regimes could net the government A$5.

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3 billion in tax revenue per year, according to a new report from the Grattan Institute.

The report recommends reducing the capital gains tax discount for individuals and trusts to 25%, and phasing in limits to negative gearing over 10 years.

“The case for reform is extremely strong and we do not think that this is likely to lead to a material crash in the housing market,” said the report’s author John Daley.

Daley and report co-author Danielle Wood have modelled the impact of their recommendation on house prices, rents and the rate of new housing development, estimating house prices would be 2% lower than otherwise.

Under their suggested tax changes people would no longer be able to write off losses from passive investments like housing against unrelated wage income.

“The only developed country we have found that lets you deduct the costs of interest and allows you to deduct it from your labour income apart from us is New Zealand,” Daley said.

Curtin Law School Associate Professor Helen Hodgson said the proposals were well balanced, based on sound evidence, and would improve the efficiency and fairness of the tax system.

She said the challenge was to claw back concessions without creating further distortions. “In that respect the Grattan Institute recommendations go further than those proposed by the Australian Labor Party.

“The ALP proposals allow existing negatively geared properties to remain deductible. This would have a lock in effect similar to the pre-CGT exemption from capital gains tax. Borrowers would be reluctant to sell their property and reinvest in other, potentially more productive, forms of investment.

The Labor Party proposal would reduce the capital gains tax discount to 25% and restrict negative gearing to new properties only.

Daley said this approach was likely to create a new distortion in the housing market.

“Essentially those new houses will be higher priced than the older houses and so you’ll get a distortion as investors disproportionately show up to the auctions for new housing and owner-occupiers disproportionately show up to the auctions for old housing. I’m not sure why we’d want to encourage that.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has argued Labor’s proposal would deliver “massive shocks” to the residential housing market, removing all investors. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has said it would drive down the value of established properties, and push up the cost of rental accommodation.

But Daley said given new housing supply was significantly restricted by planning rules rather than inadequate returns, it was unlikely there would be any material impact on supply or rents.

“As Commonwealth Bank CEO Ian Narev, who sits on a loan book of $400 billion has said, what keeps him awake at night is interest rates and unemployment rates, not negative gearing.”

Data from the Australia Tax Office shows negative gearing is more popular among taxpayers on higher incomes, and the Grattan Institute argues it largely benefits the wealthy.

Reforming the system would result in more funds instead flowing into equities, businesses and bank deposits.

“The current regime pushes people into property, it encourages them into much higher leverage than they would have otherwise, and that increases the volatility of the housing market and the vulnerability of the financial system,” Daley said.

 

Detainees found in ‘secret police cell’ in Philippines

Members of the government’s human rights commission, accompanied by journalists, found the men and women in an unannounced visit to the station in the heart of Manila’s slum area on Thursday evening.

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Cries of “here we are, here we are” were heard from behind a wall, according to the rights workers and journalists. The rights workers then found a hidden door behind a bookshelf, leading to the cell.

Stunned detainees came stumbling out of the room, some begging for water while others, in tears, pleaded with the rights workers not to abandon them.

The detainees said they had been held for about a week after being arrested on allegations of drug use or trafficking and that police had demanded hefty payments in exchange for their freedom.

People allegedly kept inside a hidden room at the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Manila Police Department’s Police Station 1 in the Tondo area of Manila.AFP

“They were picked up on the pretext of drugs but they had not filed any charges against them,” Gilbert Boisner, Manila director for the rights commission who led the inspection, told AFP on Friday.

Human Rights Watch said the incident was another example of widespread rights abuse under Duterte’s war on drugs, which has seen thousands of drug suspects killed either by policemen or mysterious vigilantes.

“The discovery of the secret jail is just the latest sign of how police are exploiting Duterte’s abusive anti-drug campaign for personal gain,” the group said in a statement.

Duterte briefly suspended all police from the crackdown in January after an official investigation found drug officers kidnapped a South Korean businessman and murdered him as part of an extortion scam.

‘Corrupt to the core’

Duterte described the police force then as “corrupt to the core” and vowed it would not be allowed to prosecute the drug war until its ranks had been “cleansed”.

But he redeployed police onto the drug war about a month later, without major reforms.

Rights groups have questioned his sincerity in wanting to cleanse the police force, citing his promise to pardon officers if they are found guilty of murder for killing in his drug war.

Police have reported killing 2,724 people as part of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, although authorities insist the shootings have been in self defence.

Many thousands of others have been killed by shadowy vigilantes, according to rights groups.

A Philippine lawyer on Monday filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing Duterte of mass murder, alleging his war on drugs had led to about 8,000 deaths.

Rights disdain

Global rights monitor Amnesty International released a report in February warning that the killings in the drug war may amount to a crime against humanity.

It accused police of shooting defenceless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts and stealing from those they killed.

Senator de Lima, one of Duterte’s fiercest critics who has been detained on what she says are false charges in an effort to silence her, said the “secret cell” was an expected consequence of the drug war.

“Because we let him kill our poor countrymen like animals, we can only expect more animal and inhuman treatment from his policemen,” she said in a statement.

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The station chief in charge of the “secret cell” was suspended on Friday as police vowed an investigation but conceded that improper detentions were widespread.

“We must recognise that this problem is not just in one police station but almost in all our stations region-wide,” the head of the capital’s police force, Director Oscar Albayalde, said in a statement.

The incident occurred as Duterte began welcoming Southeast Asian leaders for a summit in Manila.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Brunei’s Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, on Thursday Duterte used typically defiant language as he defended his drug war and repeated his disdain for human rights.

“You know human rights (campaigners), I am not a worker for human rights,” Duterte said, after branding The New York Times newspaper an “asshole” for criticising his drug war tactics.

Watch: Duterte said in December 2016 he ‘has killed criminals’

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Trump thought being president ‘would be easier’ than his old life

He misses driving, feels as if he is in a cocoon, and is surprised how hard his new job is.

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President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

A wealthy businessman from New York, Trump assumed public office for the first time when he entered the White House on Jan. 20 after he defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an upset.

Listen to Trump’s interview

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More than five months after his victory and two days shy of the 100-day mark of his presidency, the election is still on Trump’s mind. Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

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“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”

He had copies for each of the three Reuters reporters in the room.

Trump, who said he was accustomed to not having privacy in his “old life,” expressed surprise at how little he had now. And he made clear he was still getting used to having 24-hour Secret Service protection and its accompanying constraints.

“You’re really into your own little cocoon, because you have such massive protection that you really can’t go anywhere,” he said.

WATCH: Dateline: President Trump

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When the president leaves the White House, it is usually in a limousine or an SUV.

He said he missed being behind the wheel himself.

“I like to drive,” he said. “I can’t drive any more.”

Many things about Trump have not changed from the wheeler-dealer executive and former celebrity reality show host who ran his empire from the 26th floor of Trump Tower in New York and worked the phones incessantly.

He frequently turns to outside friends and former business colleagues for advice and positive reinforcement. Senior aides say they are resigned to it.

The president has been at loggerheads with many news organizations since his election campaign and decided not to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington on Saturday because he felt he had been treated unfairly by the media.

“I would come next year, absolutely,” Trump said when asked whether he would attend in the future.

The dinner is organised by the White House Correspondents’ Association. Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason is its president.

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Giants pip Bulldogs in AFL thriller

Greater Western Sydney have served the Western Bulldogs some cold preliminary final revenge, writing the latest thrilling chapter of the two club’s burgeoning AFL rivalry with a two-point win.

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With the temperature plummeting to five degrees, the heat was on at UNSW Canberra Oval.

The Giants came from behind to win 11.9 (75) to 9.19 (73) in front of a crowd of 14,048 who were treated to another classic encounter.

The GWS forward line fired, with Jeremy Cameron kicking four goals while Jonathon Patton and Toby Greene booted three apiece – including crucial last-quarter majors.

Patton’s monster set shot from the boundary put the Giants back in front 14 minutes in to the last quarter, while Greene threaded a goal four minutes later to extend the lead to 10.

Jake Stringer’s third goal gave the Bulldogs hope, cutting the deficit to three, but Toby McLean narrowly missed a shot at goal in the dying moments and the Giants held on for a memorable victory.

“We put up on the board to beat the Bulldogs you need to play for 120 minutes,” Giants coach Leon Cameron said.

“In the end it came down to the last 10 seconds.”

The Bulldogs were left to rue their missed opportunities after taking a nine-point lead to half-time despite dominating the second quarter.

While two goals each to Stringer and Marcus Bontempelli shifted the momentum of the game after quarter time, a slew of missed shots gave the Giants a chance to regroup at the main break.

“It was just pleasing to get off the canvas at half-time because they should have been up by four or five goals,” Cameron said.

From there an arm-wrestle ensued in a game that was hard, fast and skilful.

Luke Dahlhaus racked up 27 touches for the Dogs, while Jason Johannisen had 21 possessions and seven rebounds off defensive 50.

Easton Wood was superb in defence but gave away a crucial 50-metre penalty early in the last quarter to give Patton an easy shot that he converted for his second goal.

Dylan Shiel and Callan Ward were influential around the contest for the Giants, while Zac Williams was impressive and Heath Shaw accumulated kicks off half-back.

The Giants are likely to be without Greene next week after he was reported for striking Caleb Daniel in a marking contest during the third quarter.

Dogs midfielder Tom Liberatore’s night ended in the last quarter when he was concussed in a heavy tackle by Shane Mumford, who was outstanding with 52 hit-outs against the Bulldogs makeshift ruck duo of Tom Boyd and Josh Dunkley.

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said his side was beginning to get closer to the form which won them last year’s premiership.

“There was a few things to like but overall it’s just frustrating,” Beveridge said.

“Even though our intensity was good, we just gave it back to them in close and they went forward.

“But I don’t think our intensity really dropped off at all so that’s a step in the right direction.”

Green hoping Kangaroos won’t risk Thurston

North Queensland coach Paul Green is confident Kangaroos medical staff won’t take any unnecessary risks when it comes to the health of his star playmaker Johnathan Thurston.

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Thurston was a last minute scratching for the Cowboys before their loss to Parramatta on Friday, casting a major shadow over his involvement in this week’s Test match against New Zealand in Canberra,

Green and Australian coach Mal Meninga shared differing views this week on Thurston’s availability for the clash, but the Cowboys mentor said he was comfortable to the national team’s medical staff would make the right call.

“That will depend on how he goes this week, it’s not my call it’s the medical staff’s but if he’s not 100 per cent fit he shouldn’t be playing because he probably risks being out for longer,” Green said.

“I understand it’s Australia, it’s a great honour and I’m sure all things considered the right decision will be made.”

Green’s stressed that player safety was paramount to any decision and also took heart from the fact that physiotherapist Steve Sartori and doctor Chris Ball hold positions on both the Cowboys and Kangaroos medical staff.

“The doctors will make the right decision regardless of whether they are with our club or not,” he said.

“It’s about what’s best for the player and if a guy’s not fit you’re taking a massive risk going in to a big game like a Test match.”

Thurston will travel to Canberra on Sunday and will be assessed by Kangaroos medical staff, with Sharks playmaker James Maloney in the squad as cover for the Maroons maestro.

Thurston’s absence added to a Cowboys injury ward that already includes Lachlan Coote, Matt Scott and Jake Granville and their experience was sorely missed as the Eels punished North Queensland at 1300SMILES Stadium.

Heading in to this weekend’s representative round on the back of two straight losses is far from an ideal situation for the Cowboys and Green wants his team to use the week off to address some worrying signs.

“When you’re disappointed with your result sometimes next week can’t come quick enough,” he said.

“Hopefully the fire will be in the belly for us to make amends because we are pretty disappointed with tonight’s (Friday) efforts.

“We’ve got the break next we’ll use it for that.

“Parramatta deserved to win, they played well, but we were probably a little bit off in a few areas that recently when we have been at our best have been our strengths.

“We need to do some hard work, see where we can improve and it will help getting some players back on deck.”

Starting hooker Granville and experienced custodian Lachlan Coote should be fit and firing in time for the Cowboys’ round 10 clash with the Bulldogs in Sydney.

Nadal joins Murray in Barcelona semi-finals

The unseeded Chung, 20, went 3-1 up against the 14-time Grand Slam champion in the first set on the newly renamed Rafa Nadal Court at the Real Tennis Club and forced a tie-break, which the Spaniard eventually won with little trouble.

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The newly crowned Monte Carlo Masters champion made light work of the second set, rounding off a 7-6(1) 6-2 victory in the Barcelona sunshine with an ace to set up a semi-final on Saturday against Argentine Horacio Zeballos, who beat Russia’s Karen Khachanov 6-4 6-1.

“I have to be honest, I had hardly seen him play, all I had to go on were videos which I watched yesterday,” Nadal said of the little-known Chung.

“These young players have a lot of character so I took to the court with respect, perhaps too much, but in the second set I started dominating.”

Nadal has won every semi-final he has played in the Barcelona Open, where he is chasing a 10th title.

World number one Andy Murray also made the semi-finals but had to dig deep to overcome Albert Ramos-Vinolas 2-6 6-4 7-6(4), avenging his defeat by the Spaniard in the Monte Carlo Masters last week.

Briton Murray was overpowered by Ramos-Vinolas in the first set and had to save three break points in the ninth game of the second before tying the match. He then lost his first service game in the third set.

Ramos-Vinolas, who took a few minutes’ rest in the final set to shake off muscle discomfort, was again unable to seize the chance to see off the number one seed, who came out stronger to win the tiebreak.

“It was obviously a very tough match. It was kind of the opposite of the match we had last week, where probably today he deserved to win, he created a lot more chances, he served for the match and couldn’t quite get it,” Murray told reporters.

“Last week I had 4-0, I felt like I had all of the chances and sometimes on clay matches happen this way so I’m very happy to get through.

“I started coming to the net more and volleying, I felt like I started to dictate more of the points and that was a big difference.”

Murray will play Dominic Thiem on Saturday after the Austrian booked his place in the last four earlier on Friday by easing past Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-1 6-2.

(Editing by Ken Ferris, John Stonestreet and Clare Fallon)

United Ireland to be automatic EU member

European Union leaders at a Brexit summit will give a formal undertaking to embrace the British province of Northern Ireland in the EU if a referendum unites the island, diplomats said.

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Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has asked fellow members of the bloc to acknowledge that Northern Ireland would, like East Germany in 1990, automatically enter the EU in the event of unification with existing member state, the Irish Republic.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement to end violence in the north foresees the holding of referendums on both sides of the Irish border on uniting the island if London and Dublin see public support for such a change.

EU leaders, who will be meeting in Brussels on Sunday to endorse a negotiating plan for Britain’s withdrawal, will give a political endorsement to what Irish and EU legal experts say is the position in international law of such territorial changes.

“The European Council acknowledges that the Good Friday Agreement expressly provides for an agreed mechanism whereby a united Ireland may be brought about through peaceful and democratic means; and, in this regard, the European Council acknowledges that, in accordance with international law, the entire territory of such a united Ireland would thus be part of the European Union,” a draft text of the declaration reads.

One EU source said the text, to be entered into the formal minutes of the meeting, was a statement of “the obvious” and, along with Irish officials, he stressed the summit was not taking a view on unification or launching any talks on unity.

“Irish unity is not part of the Brexit negotiations but given the importance of the Good Friday Agreement it will be suitable for that to be acknowledged by the European Council,” a senior Irish official in Brussels said.

“This is not about starting a process but it is important that there be clear acknowledgement that this is the case.”

Brexit talks must settle ‘people, money, Ireland’ first: Tusk

In a letter to the other 27 European Union leaders ahead of a key summit on Saturday, Tusk said that “before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past”.

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The EU 27 are set to adopt guidelines for the negotiations on Brexit at the summit, following British Prime Minister Theresa May’s formal triggering of the two-year divorce process last month.

Former Polish premier Tusk said the “only possible approach” was phased talks, in which Britain must make “sufficient progress” on the divorce issues before negotiations on future ties.

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“This is not only a matter of tactics, but – given the limited time frame we have to conclude the talks – it is the only possible approach,” Tusk wrote to the leaders.

“I would like us to unite around this key principle during the upcoming summit, so that it is clear that progress on people, money and Ireland must come first,” he wrote.

“And we have to be ready to defend this logic during the upcoming negotiations.”

May wants to discuss the divorce settlement and a trade deal at the same time ahead of Britain’s exit from the bloc in March 2019.

‘Commitment to unity’

The EU says the key issues are the fate of three million EU citizens living in Britain and one million Britons resident in the EU as well as Britain’s exit bill estimated at around 60 billion euros ($65 million).

Tusk also called for action to avoid a “hard border” between the Republic of Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

A senior EU official said a key part of Saturday’s summit would involve defining what “sufficient progress” means, with some states wanting to move on to the trade talks phase more quickly than others.

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Leaders will also discuss the relocation of two EU agencies currently based in Britain – the European Banking Authority and European Medicines Agency – which several EU states are bidding to host.

Tusk’s comments come a day after a war of words between British premier May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the two years of negotiations.

Merkel said Britain should not have any “illusions” about getting favourable treatment. But May hit back by accusing the EU 27 of planning to “line up to oppose us”.

EU officials have repeatedly stressed the 27’s united front on the Brexit issue, after years of divisions over issues ranging from the euro to migration.

May “should not underestimate the commitment to unity,” one European diplomat said.

Watch: Merkel expects demanding Brexit negotiations 0:00 Share

This was especially true on the sensitive issue of Britain’s exit bill, the senior EU official said, adding: “I have never seen net payers and net contributors working so closely”.

The leaders are also expected to back automatic membership for Northern Ireland after Brexit if it ever reunifies with Ireland, at Ireland’s request, an EU Council source said.

“The European Council acknowledges that, in accordance with international law, the entire territory of such a united Ireland would thus be part of the European Union,” says a clause in the draft summit minutes seen by AFP.

“This is speculation,” a British government spokesman said when asked about the plan.

Britons voted to leave the EU in a closely-fought referendum in June 2016.

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Anti-abortion leader given senior position in Trump administration

The White House says President Donald Trump is appointing the former president of a leading anti-abortion organisation to a senior position at the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Charmaine Yoest, who actively supported Trump in his campaign, will serve as assistant secretary of public affairs at HHS. From 2008 until February 2016, she was president of Americans United for Life, which campaigned at the federal and state level for tough restrictions on abortion.

Among the many state bills backed by the group under Yoest’s leadership were measures that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require women seeking abortions to undergo a sonogram and impose tough regulations on abortion clinics that could lead to their closure.

Abortion-rights groups hit out at the appointment.

“Charmaine Yoest has spent her whole professional life opposing access to birth control and a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood. “While President Trump claims to empower women, he is appointing government officials who believe just the opposite.”

Anti-abortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, praised Yoest as “one of the pro-life movement’s most articulate and powerful communicators.”

Dannenfelser also noted that Yoest – in a sign of the ideological shift taking place in Washington – will be replacing Kevin Griffis, who joined Planned Parenthood earlier this month as vice president of communications.

Many anti-abortion leaders, including Yoest, were initially cautious about Trump’s bid for the presidency, but became staunch supporters after he pledged to support several of their key goals. These included a federal 20-week abortion ban, a halt to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and appointment of Supreme Court justices who would be open to overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Iran presidential candidates square off in first TV debate

Televised debates are a relatively new feature of Iranian presidential elections, and are believed to have influenced the results of votes in 2009 and 2013.

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Ahead of the May 19 poll, the interior ministry had announced a ban on live television debates, triggering an outcry that prompted a reversal of its decision. Three live debates are now expected to take place.

Rouhani, who is hoping for a second term in office, and conservative rivals Ebrahim Raisi and Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf all rejected the ban.

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On Friday, during the first live debate, Ghalibaf hammered Rouhani and his confidant and first vice-president, Eshaq Jahangiri, with both sides trading accusations of “lies” and making “insincere” comments.

Ghalibaf berated Rouhani for failing to make good on a promise “to create four million jobs”, saying unemployment was Iran’s “biggest problem”.

Rouhani riposted by saying: “I never promised to create four million jobs. That’s a lie”.

Unemployment, which stands at 12.4 percent, the lack of social housing and government aid to the underprivileged were the issues that dominated Friday’s debate.

Ghalibaf also accused Rouhani and his government of “bad management” and of “repeatedly saying that the government does not have the means” to solve the Islamic republic’s problems.

He also took a poke at Jahangiri, whose candidacy was a surprise entry at the last minute, saying the vice-president threw his hat in the ring only to back up Rouhani and help him in the debates.

According to several reformists, Jahangiri is expected to pull out of the race after the three live television debates in order to support Rouhani.

Jahangiri dismissed the attacks against himself and accused Ghalibaf of running the capital “with the mentality of a military man”.

A war veteran, Ghalibaf is a former Revolutionary Guards commander and police chief. This is his third run at the presidency.

The other three candidates – Raisi, a hardline judge and close ally of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, conservative Mostafa Mirsalim and reformist Mostafa Hashemitaba – kept a low profile during the first debate.

Watch: Trump criticise Iran on nuclear deal

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Congress passes bill to avoid shutdown

The US Congress has passed stopgap legislation to avert a government shutdown and give lawmakers another week to reach a deal on federal spending through the end of the fiscal year, with contentious issues remaining to be resolved.

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The Senate passed the measure by voice vote without opposition after the House earlier approved it by a tally of 382-30. The measure now goes to President Donald Trump to sign into law.

The bill in the Republican-led Congress provides federal funding until May 5, allowing lawmakers to hammer out legislation over the next few days to keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year that ends September 30.

Congress has been tied in knots over $1 trillion in spending priorities for months. Lawmakers were supposed to have taken care of the current fiscal year appropriations bills by last October 1.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the stopgap bill “will carry us through next week so that a bipartisan agreement can be reached.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said there were still significant differences with Republicans over elements of the looming longer-term spending bill.

In the bigger spending bill to be negotiated in the coming days, it remained unclear whether Republicans would prevail in their effort to sharply boost defence spending without similar increases for other domestic programs. Trump has proposed a $30 billion spending hike for the Pentagon for the rest of this fiscal year.

House and Senate negotiators also have been struggling over funding to make a healthcare program for coal miners permanent and whether to plug a gap in Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program, the government health insurance program for the poor.