Precarious truce starts in Yemen

A shaky truce has taken hold in Yemen under a UN-backed effort to end a war that has made the country a front in Saudi Arabia’s region-wide rivalry with Iran and caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.


The war-damaged capital Sanaa spent a quiet night, witnesses said, but residents said fighting flared in the southwestern city of Taiz soon after the planned start of the cessation of hostilities at 2100 GMT on Sunday (0700 AEST Monday).

The government, which is backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, and its Iranian-allied Houthi adversaries blamed each other for the violence in Taiz, a city that has been hit hard by the war.

The government accused Houthis of using heavy artillery within moments of the start of the truce, while the Houthis said coalition warplanes staged three strikes on the city.

“People are no longer able to live because of the war that destroyed everything,” said Shawqi Abdullah, a 30-year-old taxi driver in Sanaa, which lies in the north of the country.

“We had a calm night with no planes flying or fear of bombs. And we hope the calm will continue and the war ends.”

related reading

The main southern port city of Aden, where coalition fighters expelled Houthi forces in July, was also quiet.

The halt in fighting precedes peace talks set to begin on April 18 in Kuwait under UN auspices between the government and the Houthis foes aimed at ending a conflict that has killed more than 6200 people and displaced millions.

The United Nations special envoy for Yemen said in a statement a committee of military representatives from both sides would work to make the truce hold.

“Now is the time to step back from the brink,” Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.

“This truce is in its early stages, violations may occur in the beginning, but we hope the next few hours will see more discipline towards the ceasefire,” Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abdel Malek al-Mekhlafi told pan-Arab TV channel al-Arabiya.

The conflict has caused a humanitarian disaster, with nearly half of Yemen’s 22 provinces on the verge of famine, the UN World Food Program said in March.

The UN Children’s Fund said basic services and infrastructure were on the verge of total collapse.

A Masters won as much as it was lost

A big deficit.


A collapse that was painful to watch. An Englishman in a green jacket who might not get his due.

Nick Faldo has seen this all before.

On Sunday, it was Danny Willett who hit all the right shots to win the Masters.

“We all go out there and try and play good golf, and at the end of the day, someone has got to win the golf tournament,” Willett said in Butler Cabin as Jordan Spieth, his face still awash in shock, looked on.

“And, fortunately enough, today was my day.”

Just like 20 years ago, when Faldo won at Greg Norman’s expense, this Masters might be remembered more for the way it was lost than how it was won.

Even as Willett stood on the 18th green in his green jacket, he couldn’t help but say to Jordan Spieth, “I feel very fortunate to be standing here, and you not putting the jacket on yourself again.”

This was Spieth’s to lose, and he did just that in matter of three holes – a brutal stretch which included a quadruple bogey on the 12th.

Those are the shots for which this Masters will be remembered, at least in the immediate future.

The images are not Willett clenching his fist when he made three birdies on the last six holes, but Spieth hanging his head as a five-shot lead turned into a three-shot deficit.

“It was a really tough 30 minutes for me,” Spieth said, “that hopefully I never experience again.”

Two weeks ago, Faldo was reminiscing about his six-shot comeback to beat Norman in 1996.

Everyone remembers the short putts the Shark missed, the tee shot into the water on No.12 that cost him the lead, and the 78 on his card.

Faldo thinks more about the fact he shot 67 – the same score as Willett on Sunday – that was the lowest on the weekend.

Willett had a bogey-free 67 that matched the lowest score on the weekend this year.

He started the final round only three shots behind, tied with world No.1 Jason Day and Dustin Johnson.

The other three players ahead of him, and even those behind him, couldn’t sustain the round of golf that Willett put together.

Yes, Spieth lost it. But someone had to win it.

“I just feel fortunate that I was in the position that I was able to pounce on the opportunity,” Willett said.

“If I had been 5-over par, then it wouldn’t have mattered what Jordan had done. Fortunately, I was in a position where we were in second place, playing quite nicely, and as a result of him doing what he did, we were able to stay at the lead.”

The victory was a surprise only in the way it unfolded, not the name on the trophy.

Willett goes to No.9 in the world.

Where does he go from here? For starters, home to England to see his wife and their son, born March 30.

Willett wasn’t expecting to play the Masters this year because the due date was Sunday of the Masters.

He had that date circled to become a father. That’s now the day he became a major champion. And as much as Spieth lost it, Willett earned it.

Zika ‘scarier’ than initially thought, US officials warn

Top health officials expressed heightened concern on Monday about the threat posed to the United States by the Zika virus, saying the mosquito that spreads it is now present in about 30 states and hundreds of thousands of infections could appear in Puerto Rico.


At a White House briefing, they stepped up pressure on the Republican-led Congress to pass approximately $1.9 billion in emergency funding for Zika preparedness that the Obama administration requested in February.

“Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, a deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“And so while we absolutely hope we don’t see widespread local transmission in the continental U.S., we need the states to be ready for that,” Schuchat added.

Zika, linked to numerous cases of the birth defect micocephaly in Brazil, is spreading rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought”

The White House said last week in the absence of the emergency funds it will redirect $589 million, mostly from money already provided by Congress to tackle the Ebola virus, to prepare for Zika before it begins to emerge in the continental United States as the weather warms.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said if Congress does not provide emergency Zika funding, U.S. officials likely would be forced to redirect money currently dedicated for research into malaria, tuberculosis and a universal flu vaccine.

“I don’t have what I need right now,” Fauci said.

“I don’t have what I need right now.” —@NIH’s Dr. Fauci on why Congress must fund the U.S. response to #Zika virus. 苏州美甲培训学校,长沙SPA,/jWy19UQOI8

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 11, 2016

Hopefully the funding crimp will never reach a point where the stopgap money runs out, but if it does, he said, “we’ll have to start raiding other accounts, and very important research in other diseases is going to suffer, and suffer badly.”

Schuchat said Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species that primarily transmits the virus, is present in about 30 states, rather than 12 as previously thought. In the U.S. territory Puerto Rico, there may be hundreds of thousands of Zika infections and perhaps hundreds of affected babies, she added.

Fauci said it appears the first Zika vaccine candidate is on target to enter initial clinical trials in September.

Schuchat declined to forecast the number of Zika infections that could occur in the United States. While she said she did not expect large outbreaks in the continental United States, “we can’t assume we’re not going to have a big problem.”

Schuchat said Zika is likely to be a problem during much of a pregnancy, not just not just during the first trimester as previously believed.

As Brazil prepares to host the Olympic games in August, the CDC has recommended that pregnant women avoid traveling to the country.

“We also want people to know that travel to the area may lead to ‘silent’ infections or infections with symptoms, and that following infections, it’s very important to take precautions during sex not to spread the virus,” Schuchat said.

The World Health Organization has said there is a strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small heads that can result in developmental problems, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis, though proof may take months or years.

Brazil said last week it has confirmed more than 1,046 cases of microcephaly, and considers most to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.  

Cameron fast-tracking new tax evasion law

British Prime Minister David Cameron will try to repair trust in his leadership by speeding legislation to make companies criminally liable for employees who aid tax evasion.


After a week of questions over his personal wealth and his late father’s connection to an offshore fund, Cameron has moved to defuse criticism over his handing of the fallout from the Panama Papers by publishing his own tax records.

He will tell parliament on Monday that he will introduce legislation this year making it a criminal offence for companies if they fail to stop employees from instructing clients on ways of evading tax.

But with opposition MPs saying Cameron had not done enough to silence concerns about his wealth and members of his Conservative Party critical over his role in leading the campaign to stay in the European Union at a June referendum, the move is unlikely to calm the storm over the Panama Papers.

“This government has done more than any other to take action against corruption in all its forms, but we will go further,” Cameron will tell parliament, according to advance excerpts of his statement circulated by his Downing Street office.

“That is why we will legislate this year to hold companies who fail to stop their employees facilitating tax evasion criminally liable.”

The plan was announced by Finance Minister George Osborne in March 2015, but previously the commitment was to introduce the legislation by 2020, Downing Street said.

Accountants said the move could force companies to be punished for “rogue employees” and may increase the risk burden on firms doing business in Britain, which has already seen lower levels of investment because of uncertainty over whether the country will stay in the European Union at the June 23 vote.

“First let’s not have knee-jerk reactions to Panama Leaks and the UK PM’s personal issues,” said Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of tax at ACCA, a global accounting body based in London.

“We need to be proportionate and realistic in any new legislation being introduced,” he told Reuters.

Cameron has faced accusations of hypocrisy for going after tax evaders when his father had set up an offshore fund.

On Thursday he said he had profited from selling his shares in the fund in 2010 and on Sunday he published a summary of his tax records for the past six years.

But local media have zeroed in on a gift of STG200,000 ($A375,000) Cameron received from his mother in 2011.

Some reports suggested it may have been a way of avoiding inheritance tax, though the Financial Times quoted tax experts as saying that was not the case.

With the Panama Papers leak having given fresh impetus to criticism that the government favours Britain’s elite over ordinary voters, the wealth of other leading Conservative politicians has also come under scrutiny.

A source close to Finance Minister George Osborne, an ally of Cameron, said he was “always happy to consider ways to offer even more transparency”, but “had never had any offshore shareholdings or other interests”.

The leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, called for all MPs to publish their tax records.

Cameron has cast himself as championing a crackdown on tax evasion and will host an international summit next month to tackle corruption.

The government says it has brought in more than STG2 billion from offshore tax evaders since 2010 and has established a registry of company beneficial ownership information due to become public in June.

What’s new about the UN’s leadership selection process?

The move marks a distinct change in the UN’s 70-year history, which has previously always chosen its next candidate behind closed doors.


In the interests of transparency, the United Nations has announced a new process for the selection of its Secretary-General.

Once they’ve been nominated by their country, a candidate’s nominating letters and resumes are being posted on the UN’s website.

They will then be subjected to several rounds of scrutiny, including hours of questioning by member states, and participation in public debates.

The most recent applicant is former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, who announced her candidacy via video.

“I’m Helen Clark, and I’m honoured to be nominated by my government for the position of United Nations Secretary-General. I’m running because I believe my style of leadership is needed and will help the United Nations face the serious challenges ahead. Kia ora (be well) and thank you for your support.”

Ms Clark’s application means there are now equal numbers of male and female candidates, including the former head of the UN’s refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, ex-assistant UN secretary-general and former Slovenian president (mr) Danilo Turk, and several former foreign ministers.

Traditionally the job has rotated around world regions, with Eastern Europe the only region to have never produced a Secretary-General, and which three of the current candidates call home.

However a resolution encouraging better geographical and gender balance adopted last September could ruin this competitive advantage.

It has also ignited hopes of the UN choosing a woman, with at least 53 countries lobbying for a female head.

One high-profile campaigner is Croatian candidate, Dr Vesna Pusic, speaking here at a recent International Peace Institute event.

“I am not a gender-neutral candidate, I can’t say that. I think that some things, considering the way the world today is, the way our societies are, some things, in order to evaluate you actually need to look only at the position of women. If women are terrorised, prevented from getting an education, prevented from getting jobs, it’s not a good society. And I think, under current circumstances you could use women as a universal litmus test of whether a society is functioning well and going in a good direction or not.”

The job description for the world’s top diplomatic post is vague, with the UN Charter itself calling the qualifications “subject to debate”.

Another explanation on its website calls the role “equal parts diplomat and advocate, civil servant and CEO ⦠a symbol of United Nations ideals and a spokesperson for the interests of the world’s peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable.”

President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, says the successful candidate will have the right mix of diplomatic and leadership skills.

“The quality we need is the authority to call on the Security Council and the general assembly at the right time, with the right proposals, to deal with peace and security, contain or prevent conflicts. A person who also has, through her or his contact with the global public opinion, an authority to call to the major and minor powers, to act timely, and I hope that the world and the world powers are ready to accept that the Secretary-General from the outset should be a strong, independent personality.”

Despite the changes, some processes remain the same, with the 15-member Security Council set to begin deliberations over its recommendation to the General Assembly in July.

The council’s five permanent members – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – have the power to veto this choice.

The current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is due to step down at the end of 2016.



Lady Linda, wife of singer Tom Jones, dies

The wife of singer Tom Jones, Melinda Rose Woodward, has died aged 75 after a “short but fierce” battle with cancer.


She died at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on Sunday, surrounded by her husband and loved ones, a statement said on Monday.

The former Voice coach and Lady Linda, as she was nicknamed, were childhood sweethearts and had been married since 1957.

He recently cancelled several tour dates in Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

A statement said it was due to “serious illness in his immediate family”, adding: “He extends his deepest apologies to both the organisers and the fans, who he is most sad to disappoint.”

The two had known each other since they were 12, and were both the children of coalminers in South Wales.

They started dating at the age of 15, and married a year later when they were both 16 in 1957.

That same year, their son Mark was born.

In his 2015 autobiography titled Over The Top And Back, Jones revealed they wanted more children, but a miscarriage had left Lady Linda infertile.

While promoting the book last year, the What’s New Pussycat singer addressed criticism about not including anything on his alleged affairs in the book.

He told American TV host Larry King: “I don’t think it’s important. It’s not what has made me. I’ve always looked at entertainers as, ‘Why is that person where he or she is’?

“What’s the talent? That’s the main thing. The rest of it is part of life. It’s not what got you there. It’s not what is the real person.”

One of his reported long-term liaisons was with Mary Wilson of The Supremes, who published details of their tryst in her book, Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme.

Jones said last year in an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine that his wife suffered from depression.

He said: “I’ve realised she’s had depression since she was young. She’s always had a touch of it.”

The Welsh singer also told the publication that Linda had “lost her spark” and had let herself go, but added that their marriage was “rock solid” and said “all the rest was fun and games”.

In the same interview he recalled his wife once beating him up at their home in Los Angeles after the story of an affair with a Miss World hit the tabloids.

He said: “I stood there and took it. She chinned me. She punched and shouted.”

Lady Linda had suffered from emphysema and reports say she had previously had brushes with cancer.

“She’s the most important thing in my life,” Jones said. “An unbelievable woman. Linda is the love of my life and she still is, even though she doesn’t look like she did. I don’t look like I did, either, but I try my best.”

The statement from his publicist Live Nation added that Jones and his family “have asked for privacy at this difficult time and no further information is currently available”.

Kate fights wind at Indian monument

The Duchess of Cambridge almost suffered a Marilyn Monroe moment when a gust of wind blew her dress up as she paid her respects to India’s war dead at a national monument.


Kate was able to catch the hem of her gown in time and save any embarrassment as she laid a wreath with husband Prince William at India Gate, the country’s war memorial.

But she was plagued by several strong gusts that not only sent her Emilia Wickstead outfit billowing into the air, but wrapped her hair around her face.

India Gate is a 42-metre-high arch designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the heart of New Delhi, but its open plan channelled the wind, turning a strong breeze into troublesome gusts.

The duchess managed to keep her composure throughout the sombre ceremony that honoured the 70,000 Indian soldiers who died fighting for the British Army during World War I.

When the royals first arrived they walked slowly behind a large wreath made from marigolds and carried by two ceremonial soldiers. As they neared the centre of the arch, they took the floral tribute from the servicemen.

The monument and other shrines within it recognise the sacrifice of Indians who fought in the 1914-18 war, as well as other conflicts including the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.

As the Cambridges observed two minutes’ silence after three buglers had sounded the last post, the duchess clasped her hands in front of her as she held on to her dress.

Earlier the Duke of Cambridge showed off his culinary skills making a tasty Indian treat – thanks to an innovative labour-saving device.

William not only cooked a dosa – a savoury Asian snack similar to a crepe – using the automatic machine but was pleased with the results, describing his effort as delicious.

But he could not persuade wife Kate to have a nibble of the treat made by the DosaMatic machine.

The duke and duchess were given a demonstration of the device by its inventor Eshwar Vikas, 24, during a visit to The Social in Mumbai, a cafe and business centre used as a meeting place by young innovators.

William also sat behind the wheel of a racing car simulator and was left grinning by the experience, and both he and Kate put on blindfolds to use a Braille typing machine and spelled out the name of their son George.

Detained 60 Minutes crew, mother to give testimony

A Lebanese state prosecutor has extended the detention of Australian Sally Faulkner, the Nine Network 60 Minutes TV crew and others on suspicion of attempted kidnapping after assailants tried to snatch Faulkner’s children from their father’s care.


Sally Faulkner, along with four Australians, two Britons, and two Lebanese, was taken into police custody last Thursday after a botched attempt was made to seize Faulkner’s five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son as they headed for school with their paternal grandmother on Wednesday morning.

Faulkner has accused her Lebanese ex-husband, Ali el-Amien, of moving the children from Australia to Lebanon without her permission in 2015.

The detainees include star TV presenter Tara Brown and her crew from Channel Nine TV.

A reporter from the station said in an interview broadcast on Thursday that the crew was there to cover the story for 60 Minutes.

Lebanon’s state news agency reported that state prosecutor Claude Karam would move forward with his investigation after receiving the police report on Monday.

An investigative court will take testimonies from the suspects beginning on Tuesday.

They will be allowed translators and lawyers at their hearings, a judicial official said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to comment publicly, said the judiciary would explore whether Faulkner has the right to custody of the children under Australian law, which could serve as a mitigating factor in the investigation.

The children’s grandmother, Ibtisam Berri, said she and a domestic worker were taking the children to school last Wednesday when two men jumped out of a parked car and snatched the children.

She said a cameraman was filming the scene from the car.

At least one of the Britons is being held on suspicion that he planned to smuggle the children out of Lebanon on his boat, docked at a private Beirut hotel, police officials said.

The authorities returned the children to el-Amien.

He told Al Jadeed TV that Faulkner and Australian security agencies knew he was leaving Australia with the children and denied kidnapping them from their mother.

Lebanon is not party to the Hague Convention, which provides recourse to parents who claim their children have been abducted internationally.

Gasquet, Raonic advance at Monte Carlo

Richard Gasquet converted all six of his break points as he beat Nicolas Almagro 6-4 6-0, while Milos Raonic had 13 aces in a 6-3 7-5 win against wild card Marco Cecchinato in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters.


Raonic broke in the 11th game of the second set on Monday and quickly moved 40-0 up as he served for the match.

Cecchinato saved two match points before the Italian sent a high backhand wide on the next point.

“I let myself fall into a little bit too much of a defensive pattern where I was playing a little too far back,” Raonic said.

“It didn’t allow me to use my game to dictate. I was a little bit more reactive rather than proactive.”

Although his big-serving game is more effective on quicker surfaces, the 10th-seeded Canadian thinks the slower clay still suits his game.

“It gives me time,” said Raonic.

Raonic will play either Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver or Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in the second round.

Austria’s Dominic Thiem overcame a difficult first set, where he dropped his serve twice, to beat qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 1-6 6-3 6-4.

Gael Monfils, a semi-finalist last year and seeded 13th, also advanced, beating Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 7-5 6-0.

France’s Benoit Paire rallied to beat Spaniard Inigo Cervantes 4-6 6-2 7-6 (8-6); Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4 7-6 (7-4) in an all-Spanish match and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov beat qualifier Filip Krajinovic 6-3 6-2.

British player Aljaz Bedene had eight aces in a 6-2 6-3 win against Czech Lukas Rosol and next faces fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain, who won the last of his eight straight titles here in 2012.

Alexander Zverev eased past Russian Andrey Rublev 6-1 6-3 in a match of two 18-year-olds and he next plays No.7 David Ferrer, the 2011 runner-up.

There were also wins for Spaniards Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

No.2 Andy Murray and No.3 Roger Federer are in second-round action on Tuesday.

Murray faces Herbert and Federer, who is returning from more than two months out following surgery on his left knee, takes on Garcia-Lopez.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic begins his title defence on Wednesday against either Gabashvili or Czech Jiri Vesely, who play on Tuesday.

UK’s Cameron defends financial affairs

British Prime Minister David Cameron has fought back after days of criticism over his finances, lashing out at what he called hurtful and untrue claims about his late father’s investments sparked by leaked details about the offshore accounts of the rich and famous.


Trying to restore his government’s shaken reputation, Cameron insisted on Monday that “aspiration and wealth creation are not somehow dirty words” and that Britain was acting to stop evasion in its overseas tax havens.

He has been under mounting pressure since his father, Ian Cameron, was identified as a client of a Panamanian law firm that specialises in helping the wealthy reduce their tax burdens.

The prime minister initially refused to say whether he had a stake in Blairmore Holdings, an offshore firm established by his father, before acknowledging he had sold his shares in it shortly before he was elected in 2010.

“I accept all of the criticisms for not responding more quickly to these issues last week,” Cameron told MPs in the House of Commons.

“But as I said, I was angry about the way my father’s memory was being traduced.”

Cameron said his father had set up an investment fund overseas so it could trade in dollar securities – “an entirely standard practice and it is not to avoid tax.”

He said millions of Britons had investments in such funds through their workplace pensions.

Cameron said “there have been some deeply hurtful and profoundly untrue allegations made against my father,” who died in 2010.

Revelations about the Cameron family finances – found among more than 11 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca – have overshadowed the government’s claim that it is committed to closing tax loopholes.

Cameron has championed greater financial transparency, and is due to host an international anti-corruption summit in London next month.

A law requiring British companies to disclose who really benefits from their ownership comes into force in June.

Cameron said on Monday that Britain’s Crown dependencies and overseas territories – including such tax havens as Jersey and the British Virgin Islands – had also agreed to share beneficial ownership information with UK law-enforcement bodies.

The prime minister, a former PR man with a reputation for sharp political intuition, appeared to be caught off-guard by the tax furore.

His office initially insisted that his financial arrangements were private, before acknowledging that Cameron and his wife had sold some STG30,000 ($A56,179.78) in shares in the offshore fund shortly before he became prime minister in 2010, to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

Finally, on Sunday Cameron published a summary of his tax returns since 2009, becoming the first British leader to do so.

The records appear to show that Cameron paid his full share of tax – STG75,898 on taxable income of STG200,307 in the most recent tax year.