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Brexit: Senior Tory suggests vote could be delayed

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Media captionNewsnight: Sir Graham Brady 'would welcome' Brexit vote being deferred

A senior Tory MP says he would welcome a delay in next week's Commons Brexit vote, if it would help address concerns over the controversial backstop.

But Tory backbench chairman Sir Graham Brady said getting "clarity" on the issue was more important than "timing".

It comes after reports that Theresa May was being urged to postpone the vote, which she is widely expected to lose.

Dismissing those reports, a No 10 spokesman said: "The vote will take place on Tuesday as planned."

The withdrawal deal negotiated between the UK and EU has been endorsed by EU leaders but must also be backed by the UK Parliament if it is to come into force.

  • Parliament Live: Text updates as MPs debate Brexit
  • May 'looking at MPs' role' over backstop
  • Laura Kuenssberg: Tinkering to win?

MPs will decide whether to accept it next Tuesday, but dozens of Tory MPs are expected to reject it, as are the DUP MPs, whose support keeps Mrs May's government in power.

Many MPs have expressed concerns about the backstop mechanism, which is designed to stop the return of a physical border on the island of Ireland.

It would mean Northern Ireland staying aligned to some EU rules, which many MPs say is unacceptable. The UK would also not be able to leave the backstop without EU agreement.

On Thursday, Mrs May suggested MPs could be "given a role" in deciding whether to activate the backstop – but told the BBC there could be no deal with the EU without it.

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Media captionThe PM tells Radio 4's Today programme that the backstop would be part of any deal

But the Telegraph reported that she was being urged to delay the vote by ministers.

Asked if the PM should delay the vote, Sir Graham, who chairs the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, told the BBC's Newsnight: "I think the most important thing is to have clarity about how we might remove ourselves from a backstop, Northern Ireland protocol situation if we were to enter into one in the future.

"It's having the answer to that question of substance that is most important, not the timing.

"So if that question can be answered in the course of the next few days, then all well and good.

"If it can't then I certainly would welcome the vote being deferred until such time as we can answer that question."

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Media captionRemainer Tory warns over US-style 'partisan bitterness' if deal rejected

On Thursday, the Labour former prime minister Tony Blair, speaking at a journalists' lunch in Parliament, said the prime minister was facing the prospect of "hitting a brick wall at speed" on Tuesday.

Asked if she should pull the 11 December vote, Mr Blair said: "Personally, I don't see what the point is in going down to a huge defeat."

The government is considering an amendment to next Tuesday's vote motion that would give Parliament more say over the backstop.

One possible option would see Parliament having a role in deciding whether to extend the transition period or enter the backstop arrangement, if no trade deal has been reached by the end of December 2020.

Will May's suggestion win over any Brexiteers?

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Media captionBrexit: Can Theresa May win over MPs

By Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor

What Theresa May sketched out on Thursday was the idea of allowing MPs to choose when and if they want to go into the controversial backstop – the insurance policy against a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Clearly, to try to get some angry Brexiteers to change their minds, the PM is trying to give a sense that they might have more of a say.

They could, as the agreement already suggests, just extend the "transition period", giving the two sides longer to come up with a free trade deal that would mean the dreaded backstop is never used.

It's not surprising that MPs would have a vote on that. But No 10 clearly hopes it will give some grumpy MPs a sense that they will have more of a say, introducing another layer of decision-making so that the backstop can be avoided.

Read more from Laura here

The prime minister's suggestion that changes could be made to the backstop to give MPs a role were rejected by Tory MPs on both sides of the debate, who said it was "cosmetic" and unlikely to be effective.

The PM did gain one supporter, however, when Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd announced he was quitting the Liberal Democrat group in the Commons to vote for her deal.

  • Lloyd quits Lib Dem MPs' group over Brexit

Conservative Sir Nicholas Soames has also spoken up for the PM's deal, on the third day of debate about it in the Commons, which is focusing on the economic impact.

Ministers are arguing that Mrs May's deal creates a unique partnership with the EU, while Labour insists it will make people poorer.

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Putin wants Kremlin to back rap music and youth culture

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Media captionWhy are Russian rappers getting arrested?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked the government to "take charge" of rap music after a number of concerts were cancelled across the country.

Efforts to ban rap were "impossible" and so the state should play a greater role in controlling it, he said.

The Ministry of Culture would find the best way to "navigate" youth concerts, he added.

His comments come after Russian rapper Husky was arrested after several of his concerts were cancelled.

In December, authorities in the southern city of Krasnodar called off his planned performance for "extremism".

The musician – real name Dmitry Kuznetsov – was then jailed for 12 days after performing for fans on the roof of a car.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption A number of Russian rap concerts have been cancelled recently

Speaking at a meeting of the presidential Council for Culture and Art in St Petersburg, President Putin said the problem should be approached "with great caution".

"However, what I really agree with is that if it is impossible to stop it, it should be taken over and navigated in a particular way," he said.

  • The unexpected facts about music in Russia
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The president expressed particular concern about drug abuse among young people.

"Rap and other modern [forms of art] are rested upon three pillars – sex, drugs and protest," he said. "I am most worried about drugs. This is the way towards the degradation of a nation."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption President Putin believes rap should be controlled, not banned

Mr Putin also said he was worried about bad language in rap, saying he had spoken to a linguist about it.

While she had explained to him that swearing is "a part of our language", Mr Putin compared it to the human body, joking that "we have all sorts of body parts, and it's not like we put them on display all the time".

The Russian government has long had a complicated relationship with music.

Feminist protest band Pussy Riot claims Russia's intelligence service poisoned member Pyotr Verzilov earlier this year.

  • The BBC DJ who 'brought down the USSR'
  • Recording music onto X-rays to beat the censors

Under the Soviet Union meanwhile, most Western pop and rock music was frowned on and some Russian rock musicians faced persecution.

Even classical musicians clashed with the state. Composer Dmitri Shostakovich was denounced twice under the leadership of Joseph Stalin.

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Media captionSofia Gubaidulina is one of three composers whose works were outlawed by the Soviet regime

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Pete Davidson ‘safe’ after suicide concerns

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Police have checked in on Pete Davidson after the comedian posted a worrying message on Instagram.

Fans raised concerns about the 25-year-old following a now-deleted post in which he's widely reported as saying he didn't "want to be on this earth anymore".

New York City police told Radio 1 Newsbeat that Pete, who has borderline personality disorder, is safe.

Pete split from ex-fiance Ariana Grande earlier this year.

It's reported that he wrote: "I really don't want to be on this earth anymore.

"I'm doing my best to stay here for you but I actually don't know how much longer I can last.

"All I've ever tried to do was help people. Just remember I told you so."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pete speaks openly about living with borderline personality disorder

The Saturday Night Live star appears to have since deleted his entire Instagram account.

Hours after the post, Pete appeared in a sketch on the comedy show and introduced guest Miley Cyrus.

Fans and celebrities posted their support for him on social media.

Skip Twitter post by @jadapsmith

Pete Davidson … hang in there. There is a lot of help out here. Surrender to some love some where around you … today! Right now! And then … let in the help that will become available. I’m praying for you Pete. I’ve been there. It gets better.

— Jada Pinkett Smith (@jadapsmith) December 15, 2018


End of Twitter post by @jadapsmith

Skip Twitter post by @NICKIMINAJ

We can be so insensitive. God bless Kanye & Pete. Being flippant about mental illness speaks more about you than them. Stop saying the word love & live it. Love is an action.

— QUEEN (@NICKIMINAJ) December 15, 2018


End of Twitter post by @NICKIMINAJ

Skip Twitter post by @tanamongeau

prayers for Pete Davidson. not cause it’s a Twitter trend. not cause you do or don’t “stan” him. because he’s a human with a heart who’s hurting and has to do it in front of millions of people- which can truly be the loneliest place. you’re valued Pete. we want you here.

— Tana Mongeau (@tanamongeau) December 16, 2018


End of Twitter post by @tanamongeau

Pete spoke about his borderline personality disorder, which affects mood and how you interact with others, earlier this month.

He wrote on Instagram: "I've spoken about BPD and being suicidal publicly only in the hopes that it will help bring awareness and help to kids like myself who don't want to be on this earth.

"No matter how hard the internet or anyone tries to make me kill myself. I won't. I'm upset I even have to say this."

Symptoms of BPD can be grouped into four areas, according to the NHS: emotional instability, disturbed patterns of thinking, impulsive behaviour, and intense but unstable relationships.

Pete's ex-fiance Ariana Grande appears to have sent a message of support to the comedian in now-deleted tweets.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ariana and Pete broke up earlier this year

It appears she went to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, where Saturday Night Live is filmed, to support him.

"I'm downstairs and I'm not going anywhere if you need anyone or anything. I know you have everyone you need and that's not me, but I'm here too," she wrote.

Ariana's ex-boyfriend, the rapper Mac Miller, was found dead at his home in September after an accidental overdose involving cocaine, alcohol and an opioid drug called fentanyl.

Pete and Ariana started dating in May and got engaged in June, but split up in October.

Following their break-up, the native New Yorker said he'd been getting "online bullied and in public by people for nine months".

Newsbeat has contacted NBC for comment.

If you're struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, you can visit the BBC advice pages.

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 every weekday on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra – if you miss us you can listen back here.

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Protesting Ethiopian soldiers given jail terms

Image copyright Walta TV
Image caption The prime minister ordered the protesting soldiers to do press-ups to defuse the tension

A military court in Ethiopia has sentenced 66 soldiers to between five and 14 years in prison for marching on the residence of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in October.

The government said the soldiers were asking for a pay rise but Mr Abiy later insisted they had wanted to kill him.

"These sentences delivered today will serve as lessons," prosecutor Cap Hailemariam Mamo told reporters.

The defendants' lawyer said he would lodge appeals for a few suspects.

One defendant was sentenced to 14 years in prison, while 65 others were given jail terms ranging from five to 13 years, for "violation of military ethics", Col Meshesha Areda, head of the military tribunals directorate, said quoted by Reuters news agency.

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The 66 were among 200 soldiers in fatigues and red berets who marched to the prime minister's office in the capital, Addis Ababa.

At the time, Mr Abiy defused the situation by ordering them to do press-ups and joining in but he later told parliament that he was very unhappy with the situation.

"The march of some members of the army to the National Palace [the prime minister's office] was not only unlawful but very dangerous, because the intention was to abort the ongoing reforms," Mr Abiy told MPs during a question-and-answer session.

"Meanwhile, after the situation was brought under control, some forces were heard saying: 'He escaped before we could kill him,'" he added.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Abiy has initiated several reforms since taking office in April

There was no word about the other soldiers who took part in the protest but Cap Hailemariam told reporters on Saturday that the sentences would serve as a lesson.

Since coming to power in April, Mr Abiy has made some dramatic changes – including freeing thousands of political prisoners, unbanning some outlawed groups and making peace with long-time foe Eritrea.

In September, Ethiopian prosecutors charged five suspects with terrorism over an attempt to kill Mr Abiy in a grenade attack at a rally in June.

He escaped uninjured and described the attack at the time as an "unsuccessful attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united".

Abiy's rapid pace of reform

Image copyright AFP
Image caption People celebrated as the land border between Ethiopia and Eritrea was reopened
  • 2 April – becomes prime minister after unexpected resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn
  • 19 April – replaces the head of the police and internal security
  • May – frees thousands of political detainees, including opposition leader Andargachew Tsege
  • 5 June – lifts state of emergency two months early
  • 5 June – agrees to accept border ruling giving disputed territory to Eritrea
  • 9 July – alongside the Eritrean president declares the end of war between the two countries
  • 11 September – reopens land border with Eritrea
  • 16 October – appoints women to half of ministerial posts

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Cambodia makes record breaking ivory haul at port

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Cambodia has seized more than 3.2 tonnes of African ivory hidden in a storage container from Mozambique, a customs official has said.

The discovery of 1,026 tusks at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port on Thursday followed a tip off from the US embassy.

The shipment arrived in the country last year and its unknown recipient did not arrive at the port to pick it up.

Demand from China and Vietnam has meant Cambodia has become a key transit point for the illicit wildlife trade.

"The elephant tusks were hidden among marble in a container that was abandoned," Sun Chhay, director of the Customs and Excise Office at the port, told the AFP news agency.

Sun Chhay said he did not know whether the shipment was intended for other countries.

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Cambodia has made a number of high-profile busts over the past five years.

The largest before this week took place in 2014, when customs officials seized about three tonnes of ivory hidden in a container of beans at the southwestern port of Sihanoukville.

  • The war on elephants – BBC News

In April of this year, 3.5 tonnes bound for Cambodia were seized at Maputo Port, Mozambique, reports the Phnom Penh Post.

In July 2017, authorities in Hong Kong said they had seized the world's biggest ever haul of ivory tusks – some 7.2 tonnes.

Wildlife campaigners believe 30,000 African elephants are killed by poachers every year.

The international trade in ivory was banned in 1990.

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Collingham fire: Boy, 5, is third family member to die

Image caption The father of the children, aged 34, remains in hospital with serious injuries following the fire

A five-year-old boy has died in hospital following a house fire in which his mother, aged 33, and his eight-year-old sister died on Saturday.

The children's father, aged 34, remains in hospital with serious injuries following the fire in Woodhill Road, Collingham, near Newark, Nottinghamshire.

The 53-year-old grandmother to the children escaped unhurt.

Churches in the area said prayers were being said for the family.

Image caption A joint fire and police investigation is taking place to establish a cause

Ch Insp Rich Stapleford said: "Tragically a boy, five, who was rescued from the house and taken to hospital has died.

"This follows the news that a girl aged eight and a woman aged 33 died following the incident.

"Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, friends and the community of Collingham at this difficult time."

East Trent Churches said there would be prayers for the victims of the fire at churches across the parish.

It also said All Saints Collingham would be open from 10:00 to 16:00 every day from now until Christmas Day for people to pray or leave messages of condolence.

A joint fire and police investigation is taking place to establish a cause.

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