Advocates lobby on Vic euthanasia bill

An assisted-dying scheme will protect the rights of terminally ill Victorians by creating important regulation, euthanasia advocate Andrew Denton says, but some doctors argue families will use the laws to kill off sick relatives.

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Victorian MPs will debate from Tuesday a government bill to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill adults ahead of a conscience vote.

Those for and against the proposal descended on parliament on Monday to publicly plead their cases.

Television personality and Go Gentle founder Andrew Denton says people currently die in painful circumstances that are not regulated, including by starvation and dehydration, drug-induced comas and suicide.

“What is not legal is to end your suffering quickly and painlessly at a time of your choosing with the support of your family and a medical team,” he told a Go Gentle event on Monday.

“In this unregulated system no questions are raised about threats to vulnerable people, no one is examining or vouching for doctors’ actions and yet we are told this is safer than a system which outlines strict regulations and is held accountable by law.

“It’s an argument that defies logic.”

Mr Denton was joined by Health Minister Jill Hennessy and the opposition’s Edward O’Donohue, who chaired a committee investigating the scheme.

Earlier a group of geriatricians, palliative care specialists, an oncologist and a GP gathered to publicly urge MPs to vote against the scheme.

They warned it was dangerous, penalties could not be enforced, and people could end up killing ill relatives.

“It’s not possible (to make a safe scheme) because of coercion, that is a major reason,” GP John Daffy told reporters.

“‘We’re going on holidays, mum’s there, what do you think – you don’t need to go through this dad’,” he added, by way of example.

Geriatrician Associate Professor Mark Yates said laws failed to protect elderly people from financial and emotional abuse, so they would not be protected under an assisted-dying scheme either.

The group again pushed for increased palliative care funding.

Willett did not want to play golf after 2016 U.S. Masters title

Adding to his season of woe, a persistent back injury affected his performance or forced him out of tournaments and he lost his PGA Tour card.

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“At the end of 2016 I was in contention in the Race to Dubai and I just didn’t want to play golf. It’s utterly ridiculous,” he wrote in a blog on the European Tour website (苏州美睫培训,europeantour南京夜生活,).

“I had entered the HSBC Champions in China, Turkey, Nedbank and Dubai – four of the biggest tournaments of the year – and I didn’t want to play. I just didn’t feel good enough to compete.

Willett’s back trouble had got to a point where it was “taking over his game”, he said.

“When I swing good, I feel good mentally and physically… when I was swinging badly, I was putting strain on my back and it became an issue.

“It was annoying as working out didn’t hurt it, drills didn’t hurt it but firing into the ball at full speed and just being a little off could cause a lot of pain.

“I’d be taking painkillers in the morning … getting an hour of physio before each round, playing the round with a swing that hurt, then needing an hour of physio after the round. I was just knackered.”

Willett sought suggestions from friends to improve his form and took solace from the fact that his possession of the famous green jacket would forever give him a place among the biggest names in the game.

“The Champions Dinner was an eye opener,” he said.

“Sitting around a table full of these legends of the game, all telling stories of Arnold Palmer and Augusta, it inspired me and gave me the boost I needed to look for help.

“I look back on that dinner and tell myself there was a reason I had a name card and a place at that table. I had earned an invitation and I often find myself remembering that meal.”

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney)

The best and worst cities for women to live

The Thomson Reuters Foundation survey asked experts in women’s issues in 19 megacities how well women are protected from sexual violence, from harmful cultural practices, and if they have access to good healthcare, finance and education.

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Cairo, the capital of the Arab world’s most populous country, fared worst globally, followed by Karachi in Pakistan, Kinshasa in Democratic Republic of the Congo, then the Indian capital New Delhi.

London was ranked as the most woman-friendly, then Tokyo and Paris.

Women’s rights campaigners in Cairo said traditions dating back centuries made it a tough city, with discrimination rife.

“We’re still operating under a conservative country and it’s hard to take any radical progressive steps in the area of women and women’s laws,” said Omaima Abou-Bakr, co-founder of the Cairo-based campaign group Women and Memory Forum.

“Everything about the city is difficult for women. We see women struggling in all aspects. Even a simple walk on the street, and they are subjected to harassment, whether verbal or even physical,” said high-profile Egyptian journalist and women’s rights campaigner Shahira Amin.

Sexual Harassment

Delhi and Sao Paulo emerged as the worst cities when respondents were asked if women could live there without the risk of sexual violence, including rape, attacks or harassment.

The fatal gang rape of a woman on a Delhi bus in 2012 led to a wave of public protests and jolted many in the world’s second most populous country out of apathy over the treatment of women, forcing the government to toughen penalties for sex crimes.

Since then a spike in media reports, government campaigns and civil society programmes, have increased public awareness of women’s rights and emboldened victims to register abuses.

Authorities recorded four rapes every hour in India in 2015.

“Even after the Delhi gang rape, we are seeing rising cases of sexual violence. All the measures taken so far are welcome, but they are not enough,” said lawyer Rishi Kant from Shakti Vahini, a charity that supports rape victims.

“These rapists act because they know they won’t get caught. So strengthening the police and courts to effectively investigate, prosecute, convict and punish is key.”

In Sao Paulo, women are increasingly using social media to denounce sexual violence, including writer Clara Averbuck, who launched an online campaign in August after she was sexually assaulted by a taxi driver.

A poll conducted by Datafolha for the Brazilian Forum of Public Security this year found one in three Brazilian women aged 16 or over had suffered physical, verbal or psychological violence in the previous year but 52 percent did not report it.

“I’ve never been so violated as in Brazil,” Averbuck told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “I‘m not speaking only about physical rape. In London, in New York, I feel very comfortable because they treat me like a human being. Here they treat you less than a human being.”

London Best, Tokyo Safest

Lima in Peru came out worst when participants were asked if women had good access to healthcare, including control over reproductive health. Abortion is illegal in Peru except to save the life of the mother and the teenage pregnancy rate is high.

Conflict-ridden Kinshasa, where growing violence has sparked fears of a repeat of civil wars two decades ago in which millions died, was the worst city in terms of female access to education, ownership of land and obtaining financial services.

At the other end of the scale, London was named the best city, buoyed by Britain’s free and universal National Health Service, as well as coming top for economic opportunities.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said women were now leading at every level of society in London – in public service, the arts, politics, science and business – but there was more to do.

“The progress we’re making as a city is not happening fast enough,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We must redouble our efforts to remove any barriers to women’s success and to unlock their full potential.”

Tokyo was ranked as the safest city in terms of sexual violence and harassment, though some women’s rights campaigners said sexual violence remained a hidden problem.

Moscow outperformed New York on a range of measures, and was named the most female-friendly city judged solely on cultural practice, perhaps a nod to its avowedly egalitarian Soviet past.

Urban Jungles

The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s seventh annual perception poll was conducted as cities grow rapidly and the future looks increasingly urban, with 66 percent of people expected to live in urban areas by 2050, up from 54 percent currently.

The United Nations says the number of megacities has tripled since 1990 to 31, including six in China and five in India, and forecast this will rise to 41 by 2030. The poll was only conducted in the largest city in each country.

Campaigners said understanding and preparing for key trends in urbanisation in coming years is crucial to meet the U.N.’s latest set of global goals to end poverty and inequality by 2030. The poll was designed around U.N. targets.

Billy Cobbett, director of the Cities Alliance, a global partnership for urban poverty reduction that promotes the role of cities in sustainable development, said the success of Agenda 2030 would be substantially dependent on the role played by women in cities of all sizes.

“The opportunity for women to play a full and leading role cannot be taken for granted, but requires reliable data, sound policy and decisive actions by city leaders,” Cobbett told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The poll of 380 people was conducted online and by phone between June 1 and July 28 with 20 experts questioned in each of the 19 cities with a response rate of 93 percent. The results were based on a minimum of 15 experts in each city.

Respondents included aid professionals, academics, healthcare staff, non-government organisation workers, policy-makers, development specialists and social commentators.

Assange, Putin, Fox, saw Clinton Trumped

Hillary Clinton has branded WikiLeaks’ Australian founder Julian Assange a “nihilistic opportunist” who worked with Russia to damage her chance of becoming US president.

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The defeated Democrat candidate also took aim at Australian-American Rupert Murdoch’s conservative news empire Fox and warned Republican billionaire Donald Trump is the most dangerous president in history.

Assange and WikiLeaks are under investigation by the US Justice Department over the publication of top secret documents and thousands of emails from Democratic National Committee officials that undermined Mrs Clinton’s presidential campaign last year.

Mrs Clinton said the material was stolen as part of a concerted operation between Russia, WikiLeaks and people in the US, who she said wanted to “weaponise that information” by denigrating her campaign against Mr Trump.

“I think Assange has become a nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator,” Mrs Clinton told ABC TV’s Four Corners.

“He’s a tool of Russian intelligence.

“If he’s such a martyr of free speech, why doesn’t WikiLeaks ever publish anything coming out of Russia?”

US intelligence officials have blamed Russia for stealing the Democrats’ emails and documents as part of a deliberate effort to wreck Mrs Clinton’s chances of becoming president.

They claim that WikiLeaks acted with Russian intelligence in publishing the documents.

Mr Assange has denied the Russian government as the source.

Mrs Clinton said the decision to leak the documents was linked to Mr Putin’s desire to destabilise democracy and undermine the US, as well as the relationship America has with it allies including Australia.

She also believed that Mr Assange’s personal dislike of her was a factor.

“I had a lot of history with him because I was secretary of state when WikiLeaks published a lot of very sensitive information from our State Department and our Defence Department,” Mrs Clinton said.

Mr Assange has spent five years seeking refuge inside the Ecuador embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer sexual assault charges.

While the charges were recently dropped, Mr Assange has remained in the embassy amid fears he could be extradited to the US.

Mrs Clinton also criticised Fox News, often decried for supporting the Republican party, for its “bad influence on our politics”.

“They’re an advocacy outfit; they’re not journalism anymore,” she said.

President Trump’s Twitter diplomacy makes him a danger to the entire world, including Australia, Mrs Clinton said.

“He is impulsive, he lacks self-control, he is totally consumed by how he is viewed and what people think of him,” she said.

“I think the whole world should be concerned and I think western democracies need to learn lessons.”

Mrs Clinton believes the president is “being played” as he tough-talks North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

With no strategy for dealing with the rogue state’s nuclear program, Mrs Clinton says she just hopes Mr Trump’s support staff will help prevent a pre-emptive nuclear strike.

Her new book, she said, was designed to sound alarm bells in Australia and Europe before they follow the US leadership trajectory.

Austria moves to right after elections

Austrians have shifted to the right in parliamentary elections, giving the far-right Freedom Party a mandate to enter coalition talks with young conservative victor Sebastian Kurz, who fell short of a parliamentary majority.

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People’s Party (OVP) chief Kurz, who is just 31, is on track to become one of the world’s youngest leaders after securing victory on around 32 per cent by taking a hard line on immigration that blurred lines with the Freedom Party (FPO).

Austria was a gateway into Germany for more than 1 million people during the migration crisis that began in 2015 and took in roughly 1 per cent of its population in asylum seekers in 2015.

Many voters said their country was overrun and the crisis helped buoy right wing parties.

The results put current Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats (SPO) in second place but they could be dislodged by a record number of postal ballots.

Third place would weaken them in coalition talks.

Kurz’s party will probably need a coalition partner. An alliance with the FPO is the most likely option, although Kurz has kept his options open.

“Neither a coalition with the FPO nor one with the SPO has been agreed,” Kurz told broadcaster ORF when pressed on his plans. “We have to wait for the result”

Any coalition between two of the top three parties is possible since the SPO has lifted a self-imposed ban on coalitions with the FPO. But if the Social Democrats come third it is unlikely to form an alliance with the FPO that would make its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, chancellor.

The FPO, which was founded by former Nazis but said it has left its past behind, has had to throw out party officials on a regular basis in Nazi-related scandals. Its sister parties are France’s Front National and Germany’s AfD.

Lisa Wilkinson quits Nine’s Today Show, joins Network Ten

Lisa Wilkinson confirmed the news on Monday night saying she had appeared on the morning TV show for the final time.

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“I have some news. I’m sad to say that today was my last day on The Today show,” she said on Twitter.

I have some news. I’m sad to say that today was my last day on @the today show. The following statement is from Channel Nine… pic南京夜生活,/B3IVDAfkSm

— Lisa Wilkinson (@Lisa_Wilkinson) October 16, 2017

Her confirmation came with a statement from Nine, expressing their disappointment Ms Wilkinson had not signed on for a further period.

“Nine today confirmed we have been unable to meet the expectation of Lisa Wilkinson and her manager on a contract renewal for a further period,” the statement read.

“We express our gratitude to Lisa for her Ten years with the Today Show and are disappointed we find ourselves in this position.” 

Nine said it will be going in “another direction” and will consider “options in the coming weeks and months.” 

Ms Wilkinson will be joining Ten’s flagship program, The Project saying she is “absolutely thrilled” by the opportunity. 

In a statement Network Ten said “Lisa will join the team of Ten’s award-winning news and current affairs program, The Project, in a hosting role.” 

“She will work alongside hosts Carrie Bickmore, Waleed Aly and Peter Helliar, as well as hosting The Sunday Project. 

“Further collaborations between Lisa and Network Ten will be announced in the coming months.”

Thanks so much to everyone for all your lovely messages. I have some more news. This statement is from @channelten. I’m absolutely thrilled. pic南京夜生活,/7bN9s9TUHn

— Lisa Wilkinson (@Lisa_Wilkinson) October 16, 2017

The shock announcement has garnered a string of reactions on Twitter from many in the industry.

. @Lisa_Wilkinson has been a steady, consistent, highly competent, warm and delightful presence on @TheTodayShow – huge loss for them.

— Leigh Sales (@leighsales) October 16, 2017What a huge loss for CH9. I’d say for the country as well but the brilliant @Lisa_Wilkinson will surely be back on our screens in no time. 苏州美睫培训,南京SPA,/Ejtv9qUyVF

— Jamila Rizvi (@JamilaRizvi) October 16, 2017Oh no! What is 9 thinking?

— Juanita Phillips (@Juanita_Phillip) October 16, 2017

People power could reduce bills, says ACCC chairman amid report

A new report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission shows power prices have risen in real terms by 63 per cent over the past decade.

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About 40 per cent of the rise has been due to the higher costs of poles and wires, with a quarter due to retail costs and margins, 20 per cent higher generation costs and one-sixth due to green costs.

Federal cabinet is on Monday expected to consider a national energy policy, which would be presented to the coalition party room in Canberra on Tuesday.

However, ACCC chairman Rod Sims says the key to better prices is people-power.

“If there’s one thing people can do most immediately, it’s call their electricity retailer as soon as possible, say to them, ‘I want a better deal. If I don’t get a better deal, I’m going to move my retailer’,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Mr Sims suggested lowering gas prices, helping businesses self-supply gas, and greater use of demand management such as turning down air-conditioners at peak times would also help.

The clean energy target would address only one of three elements of the power problem – carbon emissions – and not affordability and reliability, he said.

Asked whether the states should go it alone on energy policy, Mr Sims said he had no problem with states subsidising renewable energy such as solar, which in Queensland had saved some consumers $90 a year.

While the lack of a federal policy was causing uncertainty among some investors, there was still very strong interest in rolling out renewable energy and battery storage, he said.

0:00 Bill Shorten criticises PM on energy Share Bill Shorten criticises PM on energy

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the government needed to back in a clean energy target, which Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg had previously stated could cut power prices by 10 per cent.

“We haven’t changed our commitment to lower household energy prices, to lower energy prices for business and to take real action on climate change,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Canberra.

However, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Labor shouldn’t lock itself into support for a clean energy target without knowing the government’s final decision.

“I think that (opposition energy spokesman) Mark Butler was particularly reckless yesterday, locking himself and the Labor Party into a position in relation to something that he hasn’t seen yet,” Senator Cormann said.

“Let’s just wait and see what the reform proposal is that the government puts on the table and then let’s have the conversation.” Mr Shorten said Mr Turnbull should show some leadership and not listen to the “knuckle-draggers of the Right”, such as former leader Tony Abbott who is advocating subsidies for coal-fired power.

Mogadishu truck bomb ‘deadliest attack ever’ to hit Somalia as death toll rises above 300

Desperate residents of the capital searched for news of missing relatives after the monster explosion on Saturday afternoon destroyed several nearby buildings, leaving victims burned beyond recognition.

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“Somalia Federal government confirmed that 276 people were killed in the blast… and 300 wounded were admitted at the different hospitals in Mogadishu,” the country’s ministry of information said earlier today. 

The head of the ambulance service has since revised the death toll to more than 300. 

“There is still a national rescue operation” under way, the ministry said in a statement, adding that there would be “national mourning and prayers for the victims” in the coming days.

Police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP that many of the victims were “burned beyond recognition” in what he described as “the deadliest attack ever.”

The government statement said an emergency centre had been set up in the capital for people to seek information abut their loved ones.

“It has been more than 24 hours now and we don’t have any traces or information about the sister of my friend, we can assume she is dead with her flesh somewhere amongst the horribly burned dead bodies,” said Abdulahi Nuradin, who was helping in the search.

“We went to several hospitals to seek any information but no to avail, the family is now 99 percent convinced she is dead, I saw so many severed pieces of human flesh at the hospitals, you cannot even look at them,” he added.

Photos from the scene. In our 10 year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this. pic南京夜生活,/cNxeDD86u6

— Aamin Ambulance (@AaminAmbulance) 15 October 2017Worst attack

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Shabaab, a militant group aligned with Al-Qaeda, carries out regular suicide bombings in Mogadishu in its bid to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government.

In February a suicide car bomb in a market left 39 dead shortly after Shabaab fighters threatened a “vicious war” against the newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, widely known as Farmajo.

Saturday’s blast, the worst in Somalia’s history, came six years after Shabaab militants were pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union and Somali troops.

While they were also pushed out of major towns across southern Somalia the militants still control rural areas and launch attacks on military, government and civilian targets in Somalia, as well as terrorist raids in neighbouring Kenya.

“This is the most painful incident I can remember,” the deputy speaker of the Somali Senate Abshir Ahmed said in a Facebook post after visiting the Medina hospital where many of the victims had been taken.

Saturday’s blast was widely condemned, including by the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Turkey and the African Union.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara was sending planes “with medical supplies”, adding that the wounded would be flown to Turkey and treated there. The country is a leading donor and investor in Somalia.

0:00 Protests in Somali after deadly bombing Share Protests in Somali after deadly bombing

People gather at the scene of a massive truck bomb that collapsed a hotel building in Mogadishu. (AAP)AAP

‘Targeting innocent people’

Farmajo declared three days of mourning as he visited the attack site and then met with some of the wounded at a nearby hospital.

“Today’s incident was a horrible attack carried out by Al-Shabaab against innocent civilians that was not aimed at specific Somali government targets,” he said in a televised address to the nation.

“This shows how these violent elements are ruthlessly and indiscriminately targeting innocent people.”

Mogadishu’s mayor Tabid Abdi Mohamed also visited those wounded in the blast and said the horror of the attack was “unspeakable”.

“There is no tragedy worse than when someone comes to the dead body of their relative and cannot recognise them.”

Hundreds of people, chanting anti-violence slogans and wearing red or white bandanas around their heads in a show of grief, took to the streets of Mogadishu on Sunday to condemn the deadly attack that has shocked Somalians.

“We have seen what the terrorists can mercilessly do by shedding the blood of innocent civilians,” the mayor told the protesters after they ended their march at a square in southern Mogadishu. “We need to stand united against them”.

Activist Abukar Sheik added: “There is no house in which people are not crying today.”

The explosion occurred at a junction in Hodan, a bustling commercial district which has many shops, hotels and businesses in the city’s northwest.

The devastation caused was widespread. Muhidin Ali, a Mogadishu resident who was close by at the time said it was, “the biggest blast I have ever witnessed, it destroyed the whole area.”

Security officials said hundreds of people had been in the area at the time of the blast, with police saying it was difficult to get a precise number of victims because the bodies had been taken to different medical centres while others had been taken directly by their relatives for burial.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani wrote on Twitter that the country’s embassy had been badly damaged in the blast and one of its top officials wounded.

 

 

Spain gives Catalans till Thursday to clarify independence stance

Catalonia’s separatist leader on Monday refused to say whether he had declared independence from Spain, calling for an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to settle the country’s worst political crisis in a generation.

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Responding to a Monday morning deadline set by the central government to clarify his position, Carles Puigdemont wrote in a letter to Rajoy that “for the next two months, our main objective is to bring you to dialogue.”

He called to meet with Rajoy “as soon as possible” to discuss the crisis but stopped short of giving the definitive “yes or no” demanded by Madrid after an ambiguous independence speech last week.

“The government regrets that the president of the Catalan government has decided not to respond to the request made by the government,” Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told a news conference, adding “what was asked and what we are asking for is clarity.”

Madrid has threatened to impose direct control over the semi-autonomous region if the separatists do not abandon their independence drive.

European Union officials are keeping a close eye on developments amid fears that Catalan independence could put further strain on the bloc as it grapples with Britain’s shock decision to leave.

Puigdemont had told regional lawmakers he was ready for Catalonia to “become an independent state” following an secession referendum on October 1 that went ahead despite a court ban.

But he immediately said he was suspending proceedings to allow time for negotiations with Madrid.

Puigdemont and some separatist allies want mediation with Madrid over the fate of the 7.5 million-strong region, an idea the central government says is a non-starter.

Rajoy gave Puigdemont until 10:00 am (0800 GMT) Monday morning to clarify whether or not he had declared independence, and said the central governmen was ready to take direct control of the region unless he backs down.

The separatist leader wrote that his “suspension of the political mandate given by the polls on October 1 demonstrates our firm will to find a solution and not confrontation.

“Let’s not let the situation deteriorate further. With good will, recognising the problem and facing it head on, I am sure we can find the path to a solution,” he wrote.

In the run up to Monday’s deadline, Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said Madrid wanted a full climb-down from Puigdemont but was prepared for another indefinite response from the Catalan president.

“If that’s the case, that will show that he doesn’t want dialogue and so the Spanish government will need to take necessary measures to return to normality,” Zoido told reporters at the weekend

0:00 Spain issues Catalonia a deadline to clarify independence claim Share Spain issues Catalonia a deadline to clarify independence claim

Economy fears

Catalonia, an economic heavyweight that accounts for a fifth of Spain’s GDP, has its own language and distinct culture, but is deeply divided over independence.

Separatists argue the prosperous region is helping to prop Spain up, saying it pays more in taxes than it gets back and that a break from the rest of the country would allow it to prosper.

The Spanish government says growing uncertainty over Catalonia, which is deeply indebted to Madrid and which cannot borrow internationally, imperils Spain’s recovery from the financial crisis.

The two biggest Catalan banks have already moved their legal headquarters to other parts of Spain, while ratings agency Standard and Poor’s has warned of a recession in the region if the crisis drags on.

Puigdemont, a 54-year-old former journalist and father of two, is under intense pressure from Madrid and world leaders to back off, while being squeezed by his separatist allies to crack on with independence.

Rajoy said he is ready to invoke article 155 of Spain’s constitution, allowing him to retake full control of Catalonia — a so-called “nuclear option.”

And Puigdemont’s separatist allies have threatened mass strikes and protests in the event of a climb-down.

Adding to tensions is the expected appearance in court in Madrid of Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero. He is to be questioned on accusations of sedition for his handling of pro-independence protests and for allegedly failing to stop the October 1 vote.

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AirAsia apologises after mid-air emergency

An investigation has begun into a terrifying mid-air emergency on an AirAsia flight from Perth to Bali that prompted one passenger to contact her family because she thought she was going to die.

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AirAsia has apologised after the incident that forced the pilot to turn around and head back to Perth with 145 people on board.

Flight QZ535 reportedly plummeted 20,000 feet 25 minutes into the flight from Perth on Sunday when a technical issue caused the cabin to lose pressure.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has begun investigating the incident.

It follows an incident in June when an AirAsia from Perth to Kuala Lumpur had to return because of an engine malfunction, which the ATSB is also investigating.

Oxygen masks fell and passengers were told to get into the brace position, causing panic.

Perth woman Leah said people thought they were going to die and were saying goodbye to each other.

“I actually picked up my phone and sent a text message to my family, just hoping that they would get it,” she told reporters.

“It was horrible.”

Another boy said he was “really scared and thought he was going to die”.

Passengers said they didn’t know what was happening because most of the plane’s onboard announcements weren’t in English.

“The panic was escalated because of the behaviour of staff who were screaming, looked tearful and shocked,” Clare Askew told reporters at Perth Airport.

“Now, I get it, but we looked to them for reassurance and we didn’t get any, we were more worried because of how panicked they were.”

The Malaysian budget airline issued a statement apologising and said its engineers were examining the plane at Perth.

“The safety of our guests is our utmost priority,” the airline said.

“AirAsia Indonesia apologises for any inconvenience caused.”

An ATSB spokeswoman said it had begun examining data from the plane’s flight recorder.

The June AirAsia incident, in which the plane shook noisily and violently, prompted criticism by the Australian and International Pilots Association of the crew’s reaction.

Pilot Captain Ibrahim told everyone to pray, saying “I will be saying a prayer too”, but AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes praised him and said the Rolls-Royce made engine failure was not the airline’s fault.

In July, an AirAsia flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Brisbane after a birdstrike.