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Theresa May announces her resignation

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Theresa May Resigns

Theresa May has bowed to intense pressure from her own party and named 7 June as the day she will step aside as Conservative leader, drawing her turbulent three-year premiership to a close.

Speaking in Downing Street, May said it had been “the honour of my life” to serve as Britain’s second female prime minister. Her voice breaking, she said she would leave “with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love”.

The prime minister listed a series of what she said were her government’s achievements, including tackling the deficit, reducing unemployment and boosting funding for mental health.

But she admitted: “It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”

May’s announcement came after a meeting with Graham Brady, the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee – which was prepared to trigger a second no-confidence vote in her leadership if she refused to resign.

Her fate was sealed after a 10-point “new Brexit deal”, announced in a speech on Tuesday, infuriated Tory backbenchers and many of her own cabinet – while falling flat with the Labour MPs it was meant to persuade.

The leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, resigned on Wednesday, rather than present the Brexit bill to parliament.

A string of other cabinet ministers had also expressed concerns, including Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, Chris Grayling and David Mundell.

In particular, they rejected May’s promise to give MPs a vote on a second referendum as the Brexit bill passed through parliament, and implement the result – which they felt came too close to endorsing the idea.

The prime minister will remain in Downing Street, to shoulder the blame for what are expected to be dire results for her party at Thursday’s European elections – and to host Donald Trump when he visits.

The 1922 Committee will set out the terms of a leadership contest, to kick off on 7 June, which is expected to last perhaps six weeks.

The former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is the front-runner to be Britain’s next prime minister, but more than a dozen senior Tory figures are considering throwing their hats into the ring.

In the cabinet, Rory Stewart has already said he will stand, while Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Penny Mordaunt and Sajid Javid are all likely contenders.

May’s departure came after three years of wrangling with Brexiters on her own backbenches about what future relationship with the European Union they would be prepared to accept.

That became considerably more difficult when she lost her majority at the 2017 general election, after spearheading what was widely regarded as a disastrous campaign, promising “strong and stable leadership in the national interest”.

Brexit is likely to dominate the race to succeed May, with time increasingly tight for a new team to set out any new direction before the deadline of 31 October for Britain’s departure from the EU.

May’s longtime friend Damian Green, the former first secretary of state, defended her record on Friday.

He said: “All prime ministers, in the end, take responsibility for what happens on their watch, but I think that it’s undeniable that suddenly and unexpectedly becoming prime minister after the seismic shock of the Brexit referendum meant that she was dealt an extremely difficult hand to play.

And the truth is that having an election a year later, which cut the Conservative party’s majority, then [made it] impossible.”

Green told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The fact that parliament has not been able to get a Brexit deal through has led to the impatience, bordering into contempt, for the political class and the amount of hostility and borderline violence is something we have not known for a very very long time.”The Guardian

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CRIME

Jeffrey Epstein ‘takes his own life in prison’

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Jeffrey Epstein

Jeffrey Epstein has been found dead in his prison cell while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, US media report.

His body was discovered at 07:30 local time (11:30 GMT) on Saturday at the facility in New York.

The circumstances of his death are unclear. He was reportedly on suicide watch following an earlier incident.

Jeffrey Epstein, 66, had pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy charges and was being held without bail.

Last month, he was found semi-conscious in his cell with injuries to his neck. He was treated at a nearby hospital, reports say, before being returned to New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Epstein was accused of paying girls under the age of 18 to perform sex acts at his Manhattan and Florida mansions between 2002 and 2005.

He was arrested on 6 July after landing in New Jersey on his private jet.

New York-born Epstein worked as a teacher before moving into finance.

Prior to the criminal cases against him, he was best known for his wealth and high-profile connections.

He was often seen socialising with the rich and powerful, including President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and the UK’s Prince Andrew.

Reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s wealth vary, with his Virgin Islands-based firm generating no public records.BBC

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BUSINESS

General Electric Wins Bid to Build $4 Billion Zambia-Zimbabwe Hydro Plant

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Zimbabwe presidential inauguration

Zimbabwe and Zambia chose General Electric Co. and Power Construction Corp. of China to build a $4 billion hydropower project straddling their border, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said.

The 2,400-megawatt Batoka Gorge plant has been planned for years by the two southern African nations, both of which are struggling with electricity shortages after a drought curbed hydropower output. General Electric and Power China are in a consortium that was shortlisted in February to build the facility.

“Zambia and Zimbabwe have agreed on this project. We have all agreed that we give it to GE — China Power and GE together,” Mnangagwa said in an interview Wednesday in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, where he was attending a conference. “It’s critical that we move fast on that front because it’s necessary that as we industrialize that we need electricity.”

While the project will address electricity shortages, it’s on the same river — the Zambezi — that has left the Kariba hydropower dam downstream too empty to function at full capacity.

GE said in an emailed response to questions that the Zambezi River Authority, which manages power plants on the river, had said it would appoint a final developer for the project by September. As part of the consortium, GE would have a “material role in the development and execution of the project,” including the design and supply of hydropower technologies, it said.

Zambian Energy Minister Matthew Nkhuwa said he wasn’t available to comment. The project will be based on a build-operate-transfer financing model and won’t put any fiscal strain on the two nations’ governments, Nkhuwa said in February.

The $4 billion costs of the project include amounts for civil works, construction and power turbines, among other things, GE said on Thursday. The African Development Bank said in September it has begun mobilizing funds for the plant.

Other bidders that had been shortlisted included Salini Impregilo SpA of Italy and a joint venture comprising China Three Gorges Corp., China International Water & Electric Corp. and China Gezhouba Group Co., according to Nkhuwa.Bloomberg.

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INTERNATIONAL

Amnesty International suspends Zimbabwe branch after fraud probe

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Amnesty International Zimbabwe

Amnesty International on Thursday suspended its local branch in Zimbabwe after uncovering evidence of fraud, in the first ever such move by the rights advocacy group.

Amnesty issued a statement saying “an extensive forensic audit was conducted in late 2018 which uncovered evidence of fraud and serious financial mismanagement”.
It said that the Zimbabwe branch had been suspended from the global organisation and placed under administration and the Zimbabwean police had been informed of the audit findings.

“The decision has been made to take extraordinary measures… to protect the reputation, integrity and operation of the movement,” it added.

The London-based group gave no further details but said it would try to recover lost funds and that urgent measures had been introduced to ensure donor money was safe.

Amnesty has focused recent work in Zimbabwe on campaigning against the arrest of rights activists, promoting media freedom and calling for accountability for security forces after alleged abuses.

Last year the US cut funding to three Zimbabwean civil action groups citing “possible misuse” of money.

International rights groups in Zimbabwe have often been accused by state media of working on behalf of foreign countries to help the main opposition MDC party to overthrow the government.AFP

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