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Israel set for unprecedented third election amid political gridlock



Israel is heading towards an unprecedented third election in one year after both Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival failed to form a government and were unable to agree a deal for a unity coalition.

As a midnight deadline passed, there was no last-minute deal between the two sides and MPs instead voted through a bill to send Israelis to the polls for a third time in 11 months on March 2, 2020.

By a vote of 94 in favour to none opposed, lawmakers approved a motion dissolving parliament and setting the new election date.

Mr Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue & White party, blamed each other for what has become the worst stalemate in Israeli political history.

Mr Gantz said the prime minister was dragging the country into new elections to try to win a Right-wing majority which would grant him immunity from the criminal corruption charges he faces. He denies wrongdoing. 

“It now seems that we will be going into a third election cycle today because of Netanyahu’s attempt to obtain immunity,” Mr Gantz said. 

Mr Netanyahu said Mr Gantz and his allies had never seriously entered into negotiations on a unity government.

“It’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government,” he said. 





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RNLI blames trapped tourists and beach selfies as call-outs double over festive period in four years



Tourists hunting beach selfies on perilous stretches of coast have helped fuel an almost doubling in call-outs to the RNLI over the festive period, it has been claimed. 

The lifeboat charity revealed it is now 600% busier over the Christmas break compared to 40 years ago – with launches also up from 85 in 2014 to 155 in 2018.

Rescue crews have reported the rise appears to be linked to the increasing number of people visiting the coast for a break, who are unfamiliar with the dangers they can face. 

While a common source of call-outs in the 1980s was embattled fishing vessels, lifeboats are now more likely to be deployed to tourists trapped by the tide, the charity said. 

It is believed the rise of social media may have inspired visitors to seek out beauty spots to serve as the backdrop for a family Christmas picture they can post online. 

However, although a large expanse of sand can be alluring as the setting for a festive selfie, the changing tide can leave areas of the beach impassable within minutes. 

“We believe more and more people are staying in the country in the festive period; more and more people are going to the seaside and are not aware of the dangers of the sea,” a spokesman for the RNLI told the Telegraph.

“We had a lot of wind recently and people know that the wind is dangerous, but on a calm winter’s day people think it is nice and safe, they walk around the headland and, figures reveal, there are a lot of people who are not necessarily in the water but are on a cliff edge, walking, something like that.

“With camera phones these days, people go out and want a nice Christmas Day picture, they want a nice family selfie (but find themselves in trouble). 

He added: “Even if you go back five years, cameras with selfies have since come in and then you’ve got all your Instagram and things for your best pictures – everyone has different means and motives for visiting the coast.” 

The RNLI is expecting this Christmas to be just as hectic for its volunteer crews and has launched a fundraising drive to help preserve its future.

Phil Eaglen, a volunteer for the crew in Wells, said: “The RNLI has experienced a shortfall in funds, but we are rescuing more people than ever before.”





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Stranded strike passengers can make claims for hotel costs, South Western Railway confirms



The strikes began after talks between RMT and SWR broke down last week, over whether human guards should operate the opening and closing of train doors.

As the strike got underway passengers complained of “dangerously overcrowded” carriages and “scrums” ensuing as commuters struggled to board trains.

One passenger, Rachel Lonergan, tweeted SWR to say: “The train I was on this morning was dangerously overcrowded with fare-paying passengers feeling very unwell.”

Another, IT manager Karl Lawson, who is waiting for a knee replacement operation, spoke of how he had to bring a foldout chair to aid his commute.

The 59-year-old from Basingstoke said: “It has been very difficult. I need a knee replacement and cannot stand for more than half an hour.

“I had to bring my own chair even though I paid for a seat. I used it on the platform and on the train.

“It is a scrum to get to the train. There is no such thing as politeness. We were told there would be queues but everyone was just fighting to get on the train.”

Other passengers were also asking on social media whether they would be eligible for refunds on their season tickets during the strike.

During previous walkouts, such as on the Northern Rail lines, passengers have been able to claim back a day’s worth of fares if they did not travel due to strike action. 

SWR said that any season ticket holder wanting to make a claim should contact their customer services and those claims would also be “reviewed individually”.





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Australian police find body of man in search for missing British backpacker



Australian police have found a body they believe to be that of Aslan King, a British backpacker who went missing from a campsite at the weekend.

The body has not yet been formally identified, but local authorities believe it is that of King, 25, who has been missing in the state of Victoria since Saturday.

King, an illustrator from Brighton, was last seen at a camping ground in Princetown, on the Great Ocean Road, at about 2am on Saturday. His disappearance prompted an intensive search.

King had been camping with friends near the Twelve Apostles, about three hours southwest of Melbourne, when he suffering a suspected seizure and hit his head, before suddenly running into bushland.

Fearing King – who had been on holiday in Australia – had become disorientated and lost in the bush, police deployed a helicopter, horses, motorcycle riders, specialist rescue teams and volunteers to find him.

“The body was located about 10:15 am this morning in a creek just over a kilometre from the camping ground where Aslan was last seen,” police said.





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Chinese spy says he tried to infiltrate Hong Kong universities



In another alarming claim for the island of Taiwan, Mr Wang said his Chinese handlers issued him with a fake South Korean passport to travel there to manage a “cyber army” and to support China’s campaign to infiltrate its political system and meddle in its municipal and presidential elections.

China wants to annex Taiwan, a democracy of 23 million which operates like any other country with its own government, military and currency.

Taipei has consistently accused Beijing of trying to sway its January presidential election – by poaching from its small group of remaining formal diplomatic allies and by switching off lucrative income from Chinese tourists.

Mr Wang went further, alleging that his intelligence operation was in contact with media executives as part of a systematic influence campaign to topple candidates Beijing considered hostile, including Tsai Ing-wen, the current president.

A spokeswoman for Ms Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party said that the information was a reminder of China’s interference. .

“We solemnly appeal to the Taiwanese public to face up to the fact that whether it is the Chinese internet army or the Chinese government, it is using the democratic system of Taiwan to infringe upon our democracy,” the spokeswoman, Lee Yen-jong, said.





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