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Handforth Council Zoom meeting was worse than the viral original

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By Rob Picheta, CNN
Updated 9:41 AM ET, Thu February 18, 2021

London (CNN) — When members of an English town’s local government committee met to discuss planning matters before Christmas, they had little idea that their Zoom call would become the cinematic event of the decade.

But on Wednesday, still recovering from their reluctant brush with fame, members of Handforth Parish Council convened again to give the people what they wanted: A sequel.
The group’s first meeting went viral around the world earlier this month thanks to its enthralling dysfunction, petty disagreements and Machiavellian maneuvers, as councilors vied for power and senior officials were dramatically ousted to the virtual waiting room.
Their follow-up meeting was widely anticipated. And, if possible, it unraveled into deeper chaos still, as members of the public butted in and the main characters reckoned with their newfound celebrity.
    But it was notably missing the lead character from the original — Jackie Weaver, an adviser to local councils, who won plaudits for rebuffing the abuse of some members, booting the council’s chairman Brian Tolver from the discussion and claiming the moniker “Britney Spears” for herself in the process.
    And, if the original call was “The Godfather” of Zoom debacles, the follow-up felt more like “Grease 2” or “Jaws 3-D,” largely absent of the organic humor of the first iteration thanks to the frequent interjections of members of the public desperately trying and failing to land a joke.
    Weaver told CNN on Thursday she was “saddened” by the public’s interruptions. But her verdict on some of the officials was equally tough.
    “I fear that at least one of the councilors not present last night remains unrepentant and Councilor Tolver did not seem to accept any responsibility for the events of that evening in December,” she said.
    CNN has contacted Tolver for comment. He told PA Media after the first meeting that Weaver “had no status to speak other than when invited,” adding: “I have reason to be angry.”
    “I have not experienced similar behavior in other councils,” Weaver told CNN, reflecting on the first meeting — “although in local democracy, debate can get quite heated.”

    What you need to know about the World’s Worst Zoom Call: Part Two

    Tolver, the chairman whose ejection by Weaver prompted the meltdown in the original meeting, opened Wednesday’s discussion by noting it was “scheduled to take up to half an hour, we hope.”
    What followed was three hours of disarray, watched via live stream by thousands of people on YouTube — undoubtedly the biggest audience a council meeting in Handforth has ever received. A few members of the public joined the Zoom call itself — some dressed in bucket hats, others in front of whimsical backgrounds.
    Viewers were treated first to some exposition, as councilors caught the audience up on their off-screen story arcs (Alan Murdoch’s starting to get some nice weather in his garden, and chairman Tolver’s voice has dried up because he’s been “answering the phone to an awful lot of people”).
    But participants quickly addressed the elephant in the Zoom. “There’s a lot of interest in this meeting because of recent viral events,” Tolver said, warning his fellow councilors. “It may well be seen by a very wide audience. Various TV stations are taking note.”
    “You probably don’t want to appear in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, playing the part of Julie’s iPad,” he joked to an unmoved audience. Lloyd Webber, the musical legend who created a number of popular shows, performed “a song for Jackie Weaver” earlier this month.
    “One member of the public used a brief Anglo-Saxon phrase and thus earned immortality in the pages of The Times newspaper,” Tolver went on, a reference to one of many quotable lines from the prior discussion. “You can avoid this by clicking your mute button.”
    Unfortunately, Tolver failed to realize that he could also mute members of the public who had joined. He and his colleagues spent much of the call batting back jokes from those participants, who quoted back at them lines from the first meeting.
    There were intentional disruptions, plus technological interruptions. When one participant failed to mute his computer, Tolver jokingly warned: “You’ll be banned to Peru if you’re not careful.”

    Jackie Weaver’s verdict

    The first meeting dominated the internet and hooked obsessed viewers (at least until an attorney addressed a Texas court while trapped inside a cat filter).
    And the biggest star to come from the call was undoubtedly Weaver, whose no-nonsense response to the significant amount of nonsense unfolding in front of her won her praise and spots on national broadcasters.
    She told CNN on Thursday that her instant celebrity status had been “surreal,” adding that she’s enjoyed mixing with people she admired — like Anton du Beke, a TV dancer who met Weaver virtually. “And on the other (hand) I have been privileged to have so many people reaching out to me to find out more about local democracy.”
    But her response to Wednesday’s meeting was mixed. She continued her widely-watched fued with Tolver, criticizing him for failing to take responsibility for the December fiasco. “However, we did see that the other councilors continue to quietly try to move forward on issues for the local community,” she said.
    Weaver was less pleased with members of the public who hijacked the call, with repeated attempts at humor that ultimately did little besides prevent the councilors from doing their job.
    “I was saddened by that,” she told CNN. “By all means get interested in your local council meeting, but it is not a bull pit,” Weaver added.
      Weaver wasn’t present at the second meeting, as the council has now reinstated its clerk, but she said she will continue to assist the group in the future.
      And the viewing audience will surely hope she does — so that the unanswered plot lines of the first call finally get the resolution they deserve.

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      Nigeria crashed aircraft was on rescue mission for kidnapped schoolchildren

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      By Nimi Princewill, CNN
      Updated 10:13 AM ET, Mon February 22, 2021

      Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — Nigeria’s airforce has said its plane, which crashed shortly after take-off from Abuja airport on Sunday morning — killing everyone on board — was on a mission to rescue the schoolchildren kidnapped last week.

      A spokesman told CNN the aircraft was on surveillance operations in Niger State as part of efforts to rescue at least 42 schoolchildren and staff members taken by gunmen from the Government Science School Kagara last Wednesday. One student died during the attack.
      Air Vice-Marshal Ibikunle Daramola told CNN on Monday afternoon that the air force had donated the military plane to a joint task force coordinating the rescue operation in Kagara.
      “The rescue effort is being coordinated by a multi-agency team… the crashed aircraft was part of the air force’s contribution to the rescue mission,” he added.
        Daramola told CNN that the airforce would continue to support the rescue operation.
          He added that all families of the personnel have been informed, and an investigation launched.
          The ongoing rescue efforts followed a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to the armed forces and police to ensure all captives are rescued.

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          Protests in Haiti as political standoff continues

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          By Caitlin Hu and Etant Dupain, CNN
          Updated 7:44 PM ET, Sun February 21, 2021

          (CNN) — Large crowds of Haitians took to the streets again on Sunday, as a standoff between President Jovenel Moise and the country’s opposition movement stretched into its third week.

          “Those of us fighting, who want another Haiti, a Haiti pearl of the Antilles, say no to the dictatorship,” one protester told Reuters in capital city Port-au-Prince, where Haitian opposition and civil society groups had called the demonstration. Another criticized the United States and international organizations for supporting the President.
          At the heart of protests is a dispute over the President’s term limit: Moise has served only four years of the usual five, and says his term ends in 2022 — a stance backed by the United States, United Nations and Organization of American States.
          Protesters, however, say he should have stepped down February 7, citing a constitutional provision that starts the clock once a president is elected, rather than when he takes office.
            “We want the international community (to) understand that the Haiti people won’t back down on their demands. Jovenel Moise must leave the national palace for a peaceful transition that can lead us to the elections,” opposition leader André Michel told CNN on Sunday.
            This month’s protests also reflect years of increasing bitterness in Haiti over the country’s economic pain and violent crime. Killings and a wave of hundreds of kidnappings in particular have driven public outrage, according to a recent United Nations report, which recorded a monthly average of 84 demonstrations in the second half of 2020.
            Moise has blamed his administration’s poor record in dealing with such fundamental issues on the country’s system of governance, and on complications and lack of clarity in the constitution itself. “Since the beginning of my term, the country has never known stability,” he acknowledged in a February 12 tweet.
            With an eye toward empowering the office of the president for the future, he has vowed to hold a referendum on changes to the constitution in April. This will be his legacy project, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, told CNN.
            However, critics are skeptical of the legitimacy of any constitutional changes made in the current political climate and without institutional checks and balances in place. General elections are expected to follow in the fall.
              In a speech last Sunday, amid celebrations for Carnival, which he celebrated with large crowds of supporters and revelers, Moise expressed his determination to see the country through another year.
              “Haiti is for me, for my kids, for the people here dancing. The people who don’t want me to do the people’s work will stop, or I will make them stop. I was elected to do a job, and I will do it,” he said.

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              Oil spill leads Israel to close beaches as it faces ‘severe ecological disaster’

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              By Sharif Paget
              Updated 1:41 PM ET, Mon February 22, 2021

              (CNN) — Israeli authorities are trying to locate the source of a suspected oil spill that has been described as one of the most severe ecological disasters to hit the country, threatening wildlife, forcing beaches to close and prompting a mass cleanup.

              Blobs of sticky tar started washing up on the country’s Mediterranean shores last week. Images posted on official government accounts showed sea birds and turtles covered in tar and sticky oil.
              “The enormous amounts of tar emitted in recent days to the shores of Israel from south to north caused one of the most severe ecological disasters to hit Israel,” the country’s Nature and Parks Authority said Sunday.
              The extent of the pollution is so bad, Israel’s Ministry of Interior issued an advisory Sunday urging people to stay away from the country’s beaches.
                A massive cleanup is underway but the Nature and Parks Authority said it would take a long time to make the marine area safe again. It has established a registration and information center for volunteers who wish to help.
                “I was very impressed by the exemplary voluntarism of the citizens who came to clean up the beaches. We must maintain our beaches, our country and the environment,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office.
                “I have just spoken with the Egyptian Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister who has come to us, and we proposed that every ship that you see here be powered by natural gas instead of polluting fuel, as happened here,” he continued.
                Gamliel said it was their “moral obligation to the public is to locate those responsible for the event,” according to the statement.
                  “We have the possibility of suing the insurance company of the ship that is responsible for the pollution and we will do everything to locate it,” she said.
                  In a separate statement posted to her Twitter account, Gamliel said, “We are making every effort to find those responsible for the disaster, and we will bring to the government’s approval tomorrow a proposal for resolutions to rehabilitate the environment.”

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                  Seven dead in Nigerian military plane crash

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                  Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) Seven people were killed when a Nigerian military plane crashed on approach to Abuja airport on Sunday, a spokesman for Nigeria’s Air Force said.

                  “All 7 personnel on board died in the crash,” Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola said on Twitter.
                  He added that the Chief of the Air Staff has ordered an immediate investigation into the incident.
                  “A military aircraft King Air 350 has just crashed short of our Abuja runway after reporting engine failure enroute [to] Minna. It appears to be fatal,” said the country’s aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, confirming the incident in a statement.
                   

                  AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT

                  This is to confirm that a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft crashed while returning to the Abuja Airport after reporting engine failure enroute Minna. First responders are at the scene. Sadly, all 7 personnel on board died in the crash

                  — Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola (@KunleDaramola3) February 21, 2021

                   
                  In a follow-up communication Sunday afternoon, a spokesman at the Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, said the “aircraft reported engine failure at time 10:39 and crashed landed on the final approach path of Abuja Runway 22 at time 10:48UTC.”
                  Odaudu said fire fighters have been deployed to the scene to put out a raging blaze that had engulfed the airplane.
                  An aviation worker who asked not to be named — citing lack of official clearance to talk to the press — told CNN that he witnessed the crash.
                  “The crash occurred not very far from the runway. The pilot had tried returning to the runway after taking off,” he said.
                  The worker said the pilot swerved the plane to its crash site which is in a desolate area. He said the aircraft narrowly avoided warehouses and makeshift settlements around the Nnamdi Azikwe International airport.

                   

                   
                   
                   
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                  Why Britain’s anti-immigration politicians are opening the doors to thousands of Hong Kongers

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                  By Tara John, CNN
                  Updated 7:29 PM ET, Sat February 20, 2021

                  (CNN) — Eighteen months ago, Malcolm was at the vanguard of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

                  Full of bravado and often clad in black, the 21-year-old oversaw a group of 60 combative front-liners who embraced confrontational tactics against the police while demanding greater democracy in the former British colony.
                  Today, he is applying for asylum in the United Kingdom, and separated from his family in Hong Kong where he feels he can longer visit. Malcom believes if he returns to the Chinese city he could be arrested under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong last June, which scaled up penalties against dissent to include punishments as severe as life imprisonment.
                  Since then, nearly 100 activists have been arrested under the new law. When Hong Kong police apprehended a protester friend of Malcolm’s in October, he booked a red-eye flight to London. Malcolm asked CNN not to use his real name, for fear that his family — who remain in Hong Kong — could face repercussions.
                    The British government has called the security law a clear violation of the “one country, two systems” policy meant to ensure Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing until 2047. In its wake, the UK has opened a six-year pathway to British citizenship for holders of British National (Overseas) passports (BN(O)), a special visa category created for Hong Kong nationals before the 1997 transfer of power.
                    Sze has settled into London life: She already has strong opinions on the snail’s pace of London buses and is counting the days to when lockdown ends and she can go shopping on Oxford Street.
                    While it can be hard to find the authentic Cantonese cuisine she grew up eating in Hong Kong, Sze marvels at how much cheaper food is at British supermarkets.
                    “The food quality is better, the price is cheaper and the rent is cheaper,” she told CNN.
                    Sze cannot get a job until her BN(O) visa is approved, but she is optimistic that the UK’s coronavirus-induced economic slump will not get in the way of her finding work. “I am open to any [job] option — it really depends on how much savings I have,” she said.
                      But her biggest concern is the fate of fellow dissidents going through the asylum process, and whether her compatriots who move to the UK will give up the fight for independence back home.
                      “Hong Kongers should never give up, no matter if they’ve left Hong Kong or not,” she said.

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