Thursday, 18 January 2018

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Australia has celebrated its first official same-sex weddings, following a nationwide postal vote and subsequent passing of legislation legalising the practice in 2017. 7 News reports January 9 marked the first day same-sex marriages could officially take place and for some couples, there was no waiting planned. Athletes Craig Burns and Luke Sullivan timed proceedings, so their marriage would become legal just after the stroke of midnight. Many same-sex couples were quick to lodge formal intentions to wed after the legislation passed on December 7. While some were granted exemptions to the four-week waiting period, Tuesday was the first day ceremonies could officially take place. Two couples called the process of sitting through the postal vote and the rhetoric around it "horrible", but were happy to finally have the chance to marry. Rebecca Hickson, 32, and Sarah Turnbull , 34, wed at 8am Tuesday, three years after their original commitment celebrations. "We've already had our big hoo-ha ceremony three years ago, but now we get to declare our love for each other again and have it recognised as a real union," Ms Hickson said. Ron Van Houwelingen, 50, and Antony McManus, 53, had similar sentiments, finally marrying in the theatre where they met as students 30 years ago. After several commitment ceremonies, Mr Van Houwelingen called it a "wedding planned for 30 years". "I suppose it's been a wedding planned for 30 years, but we've had really a month to get things together," he said. "It's been quite hectic, trying to organise that in such a short amount of time."
US President Donald Trump said on Monday the United States has "foolishly" handed Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years while getting nothing in return and pledged to put a stop to it. "They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. "The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools." It was not immediately clear what prompted Mr Trump's criticism of Pakistan but he has long complained that Islamabad is not doing enough to tackle Islamist militants. The New York Times reported on December 29 the Trump administration was "strongly considering" whether to withhold US$255 million in aid to Pakistan. It said US officials had sought but been denied access to a member of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network captured in Pakistan who potentially could provide information about at least one American hostage. Pakistan's foreign minister, Khawaja M Asif, wrote on Twitter: "We will respond to President Mr Trump's tweet shortly inshallah...Will let the world know the truth..difference between facts & fiction." The Trump administration said in August that it was delaying sending the US$255 million in aid to Pakistan. Last month, Mr Trump said in a speech the US government makes "massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help." Pakistan counters that it has launched military operations to push out militants from its soil and that 17,000 Pakistanis have died fighting militants or in bombings and other attacks since 2001. The Pakistan embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. The White House did not respond to requests on what prompted Mr Trump's tweet and whether a decision had been made on the aid.
wo people have died and many more have been injured after an overloaded balcony collapsed in Melbourne on Saturday night. The Australian reports that a 59-year-old Croydon woman died at the scene, and a woman aged 37 from Reservoir died in hospital on Sunday morning. More than 30 people were standing on the balcony when it collapsed about 10.30pm (local time), leaving some victims left trapped underneath. Neighbour Andrew Stone told News.com.au it was a "horrific" scene. "The group got up on to the balcony to take a group photo, which is when it fell down," he said. "People were screaming, I heard crashing. "I thought it was a brawl but it kept going. "People were walking around with blood on them...crying...it was devastating really." Detectives were reportedly investigating the scene on Sunday morning and a report will be prepared for the coroner. Last year, a balcony collapsed at a flat in Dunedin during a party on Castle Street, leaving 18 people in hospital.
The cities of New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia have sued the US Department of Defense to make it fix its system for reporting conviction records to a database used for background checks on gun buyers. The lawsuit was filed on Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia and came after the US Air Force revealed it failed to report the criminal record of the man who in November killed 26 people and wounded 20 others in a shooting at a Texas church. The complaint, announced on Tuesday, said it sought an injunction to prevent future "senseless carnage" by requiring the Defense Department to locate all records in its possession that should be reported in order to fix "deadly gaps" in the background check database. "New York City is joining Philadelphia and San Francisco to stand up to the Department of Defense and demand they comply with the law and repair their drastically flawed system," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. The three cities are led by Democrats, some of whom have advocated stricter gun controls. The Defense Department said that it did not comment on pending litigation.
The US Supreme Court has handed a victory to President Donald Trump by allowing his latest travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries to go into full effect even as legal challenges continue in lower courts. The court, with two of the nine justices dissenting, granted his administration's request to lift two injunctions imposed by lower courts that had partially blocked the ban, which is the third version of a contentious policy that Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January. The high court's action means that the ban will now go fully into effect for people seeking to enter the US from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Chad. Lower courts had previously limited the scope of the ban to people without certain family or other connections to the US. Trump's ban also covers people from North Korea and certain government officials from Venezuela, but lower courts had already allowed those provisions to go into effect. The ban was challenged in separate lawsuits by the state of Hawaii and the American Civil Liberties Union. Both sets of challengers said the latest ban, like the earlier ones, discriminates against Muslims in violation of the US Constitution and is not permissible under immigration laws.

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