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Congress agrees on how much to spend — but not on how to spend it

Lawmakers are racing to beat fast-approaching government shutdown deadlines in March, but deep policy divisions may slow them down on everything from passenger rail funding to Internal Revenue Service resources to support for the World Health Organization. Get a curated selection of 10 of our best stories in your inbox every weekend.ArrowRight The big questions about total spending are settled already: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) reached a $1.66 trillion government funding deal in January, in line with a framework President Biden and then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) agreed to last spring. Late last month, negotiators also agreed to allocate spending limits for all 12 appropriations bills, or year-long spending legislation, for the rest of the 2024 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

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Sa Pobla police chief – “Integration of immigrants has always been very good”

Antoni Borràs is chief of police in Sa Pobla, a municipality with a high immigrant population and where the total number of residents has risen more than had been expected. Sa Pobla’s agriculture is far more extensive than the potatoes for which it is famed, and theft from farms is a regular problem for the police. The population stands at just under 14,200, the increase over the past ten years having been around 1,400. Sa Pobla therefore isn’t a large municipality, but its police numbers could always do with being greater. Chief Officer Borràs explains that there are currently fourteen officers. “In 2024 I imagine that four more will be added, but there is a problem in all the municipalities in the Balearics – the bureaucracy of the selection process. It can take a year to enter our force.” This is a municipality where crime is said to be linked to immigrants, but he stresses that, in terms of crime, “we are average”. “This can be corroborated by the official data supplied by the Guardia Civil headquarters. Integration of immigrants has always been very good and the relationship with the local police is pretty good. We constantly communicate with the mosque and those in charge.” For him, the greatest concern is the increase in population. “It’s not only Sa Pobla, but we are certainly growing faster than had been expected. Town halls have to adapt citizen security in order to be able to control this excessive growth – both residents and the temporary tourist population.” On theft from farms, the chief of police says that the post of a rural officer was created three years ago. The main function for this officer is communication with the rural area. “The most important thing is to have daily communication with the farmers, to find out about their problems, not just theft.” Cooperation with other forces is vital in the day-to-day policing of Sa Pobla. This is particularly close with Inca police and the Guardia Civil, with whom there is a “good relationship”. “In the 25 years that I have been in the force it has always been good.”

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New pair of Sri Lankan leopards arrive to a nature park on Spain’s Costa del Sol

A PAIR of Sri Lankan leopards called Uda and Okanda(pictured above) have a new home at Bioparc Fuengirola after transferring there from French zoos. The Sri Lankan leopard originates from the island of the same name and is in danger of becoming extinct, with less than 800 left in the jungle. Numbers have fallen due to poaching and the destruction of their natural habitat, namely rainforests. The Bioparc has hosted several pairs of Sri Lankan leopards since 2001, the last ones being Toñi- an elderly female who died of kidney disease two years ago- and a male called Tissa who has a new home at Bratislava zoo. The new male Uda comes from Cerza zoo in France, and at almost three years old is about to reach maturity. He is in good condition to start mating with Okanda who has arrived from Maubeuge zoo. Although shyer than the male, Okanda is beginning to interact with Uda according to their caregivers. The arrival of any new member at the Bioparc means a process of adaptation and training to ensure that animals do not suffer any stress and that the whole process is successful. This adaptation period involves their familiarisation with the indoor and outdoor facilities, diets and, their new team of caregivers. Antonio Garrucho, head of Zoology at Bioparc Fuengirola: “With the female, we are working on basic management, movements between rest areas and her outdoor patio, in order to train her in her daily handling of exiting and entering her new facility.” “The next step will be to let her know the outside and to interact with the male,” he added. Over the last few days, visitors have been able to see the young leopards exploring their outdoor facilities and even playing ‘hide and seek’ with each other.

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PSNI appeal for information after man with gun threatens takeaway staff during robbery in Gilnahirk Road area of Belfast

The robbery took place on Friday 9 February. Detective Sergeant McGearty said: “A report was made shortly after 10.30pm that a man armed with a gun entered takeaway premises in the Gilnahirk Road area, pointing the weapon at a member of staff.“The suspect was described as being around 5’ 7” tall and wearing a visibly-dirty grey fleece and a black snood. He made off on foot in the direction of Kingsway Avenue with a sum of cash.“Thankfully, there were no reports of any injuries but staff members were left shaken by the ordeal.“Enquiries remain ongoing and we are keeping an open mind as to whether this is linked to any other reports.“We are keen to speak to anyone who was in the area at the time and saw anything, or who may have CCTV, dashcam or other video footage.“The number to call is 101, quoting reference 1923 of 09/02/24.”Alternatively, readers can submit a report online using the PSNI non-emergency reporting form via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/.Ot they can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at http://crimestoppers-uk.org

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Indonesia scraps controversial plan to buy Mirage fighter jets from Qatar – The Frontier Post

JAKARTA (Reuters): Indonesia has ditched a controversial plan to buy $790 million (733 million euros) worth of Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets previously used by Qatar, the defense ministry spokesperson said late on Saturday. “There is no purchase of Mirage jets. Even though it was planned, it has been cancelled … meaning there is no active contract,” spokesperson Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak said in a statement, but did not elaborate. Last month, the ministry said the deal to purchase the 12 fighter jets was delayed due to fiscal constraints and that the military would order a retrofit for its existing Sukhoi and F-16 aircraft in-stead. The planned purchase garnered controversy when it was announced last year, as lawmakers said the secondhand jets were old. Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, the frontrunner to win Indonesia’s presidential election on February 14, has been criticized about the deal by rival candidates during campaigning. But he defended the purchase during one of the presidential debates, saying the secondhand jets were still good for another 15 years and were needed while the country waits for its new jets to arrive. Prabowo has overseen the military’s efforts to modernize its ageing fleet, which include purchases of Rafale fighter jets, drones from Turkish Aerospace and fighter jets and transport helicopters from US companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

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King Charles thanks well-wishers after cancer diagnosis – The Frontier Post

LONDON (AFP): Britain’s King Charles III on Saturday expressed his “heartfelt thanks” to well-wishers, in his first statement since being diagnosed with cancer. In a message to the public, the 75-year-old monarch added that it was “equally heartening” to hear how sharing his diagnosis has helped promote understanding of the condition. “I would like to express my most heartfelt thanks for the many messages of support and good wishes I have received in recent days,” Charles wrote. “As all those who have been affected by cancer will know, such kind thoughts are the greatest comfort and encouragement.” The note was published on the monarch’s website and the royal family’s official page on social media platform X. “It is equally heartening to hear how sharing my own diagnosis has helped promote public understanding and shine a light on the work of all those organisations which support cancer patients and their families across the UK and wider world.” “My lifelong admiration for their tireless care and dedication is all the greater as a result of my own personal experience,” the king added, signing the letter “Charles R.” Buckingham Palace announced on Monday that Charles had been diagnosed with cancer and has begun treatment and taken a break from public duties. It has not specified the type of cancer, although it is understood not to be prostate cancer. The diagnosis comes just 17 months into Charles’s reign following the death of his 96-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8, 2022.

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Philippines, US hold third joint patrol in South China Sea, amid tensions with China – The Frontier Post

MANILA: The Philippines and US held their third joint patrol in the South China Sea in less than three months as the defense partners bolster their interoperability amid tensions with Beijing. The Philippines’ and US navies on Friday conducted “maritime cooperative activity” where allied forces sailed together and participated in advanced planning and maritime communication operations, the US Navy said in a statement. Combat and patrol ships as well as helicopters were deployed for the exercise, it added. The activity reflects the growing military engagements between the Philippines and US under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is seeking to assert Manila’s claims in the South China Sea, where Beijing has laid sweeping claims. Tensions flared last year as ships from the Philippines and China faced off in the disputed waters. The allies held similar maritime exercises early this year and in late November, which marked the resumption of their joint patrols after they were suspended during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. “The continuous maritime cooperative activity manifests the enduring partnership between the Philippines and the US militaries,” Philippine military chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. said on Friday. Courtesy: Bloomberg

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CAPFs constable exam to be conducted in 13 regional languages for the first time: Centre

The Ministry of Home Affairs Sunday announced that for the first time, the constable recruitment examination in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) will be conducted in 13 regional languages in addition to Hindi and English, to increase the participation of local youth in the force. The Examination will be conducted from February 20 to March 7 for around 48 lakh candidates in 128 cities across the country. “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and guidance of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had decided to conduct the Constable (General Duty) examination for recruitment in CAPFs in 13 regional languages in addition to Hindi and English from January 1 this year. This historic decision has been taken on the initiative of Shah to increase the participation of local youth in the CAPFs and to promote regional languages,” according to an official statement. Last year, political leaders in southern states had objected to only Hindi and English being the language options for the recruitment test. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin had shot off a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah and said the exclusion of Tamil from the CAPF exam was “discriminatory” and “unilateral.” He had also sought a revised notification for the exam, with the state languages option included. The CAPFs comprise the CRPF, the Border Security Force (BSF), the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the National Security Guard (NSG). “Question papers of Constable (General Duty) examination will now be prepared in the 13 regional languages: Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Odia, Urdu, Punjabi, Manipuri, and Konkani. Constable GD Examination is one of the flagship examinations conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) attracting lakhs of youths from across the country. Therefore, MHA and SSC have signed an MoU to facilitate conduct of the examination in the 13 regional languages. Accordingly, SSC has issued notification to conduct the Constable (GD) Examination, 2024 in 13 other regional languages in addition to English and Hindi,” it said, adding that the youth across the country have bot a golden opportunity to participate examination and make a career in the service of the Nation. “The decision will result in lakhs of youth taking part in the examination in their mother tongue/regional language and improve their selection prospects. As a result, the reach of this examination will increase among the candidates in the entire country and everyone will get an equal opportunity for employment,” it added.

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Bipasha Basu shares video featuring daughter Devi and her swirly hairstyles. Watch

Actor Bipasha Basu often shares lovely moments of her daughter Devi with her fans on social media. On Sunday, the actor took to Instagram to share an adorable video of Devi flaunting her swirly hairstyle. She wrote, “Our Heart outside our body.” In the video, the toddler is seen with cute short hair and a variety of vivid hair clips, with each scene featuring a different hue. Meanwhile, Bipasha recently celebrated her birthday in the Maldives with her husband, Karan Singh Grover and daughter Devi. Basu posted an adorable picture of her along with Karan and Devi against a beautiful backdrop of the ocean, expressing her heartfelt gratitude to her followers. She wrote in the caption, “Love is all that I can feel. So grateful to all who love me and are sending me the sweetest wishes. Just a Lucky Girl” View this post on Instagram A post shared by Bipasha Basu (@bipashabasu) Bipasha and Karan first met on the set of Bhushan Patel’s film ‘Alone’ in 2015, which marked their first on-screen collaboration and they tied the knot after one year of dating in April 2016. Bipasha and Karan welcomed Devi on November 12, 2022. Taking to Instagram, Bipasha shared a post through which she announced the name of her baby. The picture read, “12.11.2022. Devi Basu Singh Grover. The physical manifestation of our love and blessings of Ma is here now and she is divine.” View this post on Instagram A post shared by Bipasha Basu (@bipashabasu) On the work front, after making her debut with ‘Ajnabee’, Bipasha Basu rose to fame for her performance in Vikram Bhatt’s horror thriller ‘Raaz’ in 2002, which was a smash hit and spawned multiple sequels. She also earned her first nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress for her role in the movie. The actor has since appeared in several hit films, including ‘Jism’, ‘No Entry’, ‘Dhoom 2’, ‘Corporate’, ‘Phir Hera Pheri’, ‘Creature 3D’, ‘Alone’, among others.

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Patients at overwhelmed Gaza hospital are often ‘dying or doomed to die’

Doctor Raphaël Pitti and nurse Imane Maarifi returned to France on February 6 after a gruelling 16-day stint at the overcrowded European hospital in southern Gaza, where thousands of displaced people have joined the injured and sick, seeking shelter and safety. Their account offers rare insight into the plight of the Palestinian enclave – a mostly no-go zone for the international media – much of which has been reduced to rubble after four months of devastating bombings and ground fighting. In the opening stages of the Israel-Hamas war, Khan Younis witnessed an influx of tens of thousands of people fleeing the fighting in the enclave’s north. But in recent weeks, the southern city has itself become the focus of fierce clashes, leaving displaced Gazans at the mercy of daily bombardment. “The local population are caught in a trap, living in extremely difficult conditions,” said Pitti, an emergency physician who was part of a seven-member team of health workers sent by the NGO PalMed Europe. “People sleep out on the pavement, under makeshift shelters,” he added. “The streets are filthy and the recent rainfall has left stagnant water everywhere.” According to the medics, some 25,000 people are currently amassed around the hospital near Khan Younis and around 6,000 are crammed inside the facility. More arrive each day, hoping to find shelter or treatment. “People lack everything,” said Maarifi, 37, whose last patient, a newborn baby, died of hypothermia in her arms. She recalled trying to resuscitate a patient on the floor in a corridor and seeing children steal gloves from her pocket “to make balloons out of them”. ‘Heartbreaking choices’ Israel launched its offensive after more than 1,100 people were killed in an October 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas, the Islamist militant group that runs Gaza. Since then, more than 28,000 people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave, most of them women or children, according to health officials in the Hamas-run territory. Israel and the United States accuse Hamas of using Gaza’s population as human shields and say Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members are operating out of hospitals in the territory. The European hospital is one of the last functioning medical facilities in the enclave. In its overcrowded corridors, medical staff and volunteers try as best they can to provide care to the sick and wounded, in daunting conditions. Read moreMalnourished, sick and scared: Pregnant women in Gaza face ‘unthinkable challenges’ “You have volunteers doing the work of orderlies, nurses doing the work of doctors, and doctors standing in for surgeons,” said Maarifi, lamenting a critical shortage of medicine and equipment. “There are no sheets, sterile drapes or compresses,” the nurse added, and the dwindling supply of painkillers has to be used sparingly. Her voice choking up, she recalled having to make “heartbreaking choices” between “a child hit by shrapnel” and another “whose leg had been torn off”. In addition to the injured, the hospital is overwhelmed by patients suffering from chronic diseases, respiratory problems or illnesses linked to poor living conditions. “We can no longer do any dialysis or chemotherapy. Patients who need treatment are either dying or doomed to die,” said Maarifi. She cited the case of a pregnant 24-year-old patient with diabetes who developed complications due to the shortage of insulin, lost her baby and died the next day. ‘Collapse of public health’ “We are heading for a collapse of public health in Gaza,” said Lucile Marbeau, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which works in partnership with the Egyptian Red Crescent (which is in charge of coordinating international aid to Gaza) and its Palestinian counterpart. “The war-wounded are amputated on a daily basis, the chronically ill can no longer receive treatment, and living conditions are stoking fears of a resurgence of diseases such as polio, cholera and chickenpox, which we won’t be able to treat,” Marbeau added. She pointed to the worsening situation in nearby Rafah, on the border with Egypt, where desperate Gazans are gathering as Israel’s offensive pushes further south. The city of around 270,000 inhabitants has seen its population increase sixfold since the start of the war, and is now home to more than 1.3 million people. Like Khan Younis, it has become a sprawling camp for displaced people crammed into tents and makeshift shelters. Marbeau spoke of “deplorable hygiene conditions”, noting that water treatment plants have stopped working, depriving the population of toilets. “Access to drinking water is also very difficult and people are not getting enough to eat because the prices of the few foodstuffs available have soared,” she added. Humanitarian aid ‘a drop in the ocean’ On December 22, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on all sides in the conflict to allow “safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale” into the enclave. But more than a month later, NGOs on the ground say only a trickle of the required aid has reached the people of Gaza. “It’s a drop in the ocean,” said Marbeau, who also flagged the need for specific equipment to carry out repairs to basic infrastructure, such as plumbing work to improve access to drinking water. The UN resolution also urged all parties to guarantee the “protection of humanitarian workers” and their “freedom of movement” throughout the enclave – conditions that are far from being met. “Access to the north of Gaza is still impossible because of the security conditions there,” said Marbeau, whose team has been unable to visit northern parts of the enclave since the beginning of November. “It is now the most deprived area and we are unable to help vulnerable people there,” she added. Expectations of an imminent Israeli ground offensive on Rafah have raised further alarm – particularly given that the border city is also the entry point for critically needed humanitarian aid from Egypt. “A ground offensive in such a densely populated area would have dramatic consequences for the civilian population,” Marbeau warned. “We must, at all costs, show greater respect for humanitarian law in this conflict if civilians are to be spared.”

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