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Exit polls on Ireland’s abortion referendum show more than two thirds of voters want to change the country’s strict law.

Two polls on behalf of national broadcaster RTE and the Irish Times suggest a landslide victory for those campaigning to liberalise the law and open up access to abortion.

The RTE/Behaviour and Attitudes poll showed 69.4% are in favour, while the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll put the figure just slightly lower at 68%.

The Irish Times poll surveyed 4,000 voters at 160 polling stations in every constituency in Ireland, while the RTE surveyed 3,800 people at 175 stations across the country.

The official result is due tomorrow – with the count beginning in the morning – and if similar to the exit poll it will be a historic victory.

Ireland abortion referendum - Irish Times exit poll
RTE exit poll - Ireland abortion

Sky’s senior Ireland correspondent David Blevins said it was a wider margin than many people in the Catholic country had expected.

Turnout could be higher than for the vote on same-sex marriage three years ago, said Irish national broadcaster RTE.

Prime minister Leo Varadkar, who supported the campaign to liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws, said: “It’s looking like we will make history tomorrow.”

UK Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt said it was a “historic & great day for Ireland, & a hopeful one for Northern Ireland”.

She tweeted: “That hope must be met. #HomeToVote stories are a powerful and moving testimony as to why this had to happen and that understanding & empathy exists between generations. #trustwomen”.

If the victory is officially confirmed, Ireland’s government says it is committed to introducing unrestricted access to abortion for women up to 12 weeks pregnant.

After that, abortions will only be allowed until the 24th week of pregnancy if there is a risk to a woman’s life, or a risk of serious harm to the physical or mental health of a woman.

Under the current law, an unborn child has the same right to life as the mother.

The maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion is 14 years in prison.

People will vote on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment and end a constitutional ban on abortion
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The No campaign says unborn babies have equal rights with their mother

There have been six referendums on the matter of abortion in the past 35 years in Ireland, and the issue has long divided the country.

:: Ireland’s abortion dilemma: A nation divided

Many Irish women seeking an abortion are forced to travel abroad, often to the UK.

‘Home to vote’ campaigns had gained momentum in recent weeks, bringing hundreds of young people back to exercise their democratic right.

Others made the journey to “Save the Eighth” – the 1983 amendment to the constitution that equates the life of the unborn child with the life of the mother.



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Parents urge change in abortion law

The effective prohibition on abortion in Ireland was partially lifted in 2013 for cases when a mother’s life was in danger.

The referendum on the issue rose towards the top of the political agenda after the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012.

The 31-year-old was miscarrying her first baby and was refused a termination at a hospital in Galway. She died of blood poisoning.

However, campaign group Save The 8th says politicians are “effectively seeking a licence to kill pre-born babies, and to introduce an abortion model that is in many ways even more extreme than the British regime”.

More from Republic of Ireland

It says the current law protects the mother as much as the baby, and denies the rules have ever stopped doctors giving a woman life-saving treatment.

Some also fear that prenatal screening teamed with legal abortion could lead to the eradication of people with Down’s syndrome if the Irish constitution is changed.

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Joe Biden opposes guarded border between Ireland and Northern Ireland | US News

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Joe Biden has said he does not want to see a guarded border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Speaking to reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, the US President-elect said he had discussed the issue with Boris Johnson and other European leaders.

“We do not want a guarded border,” he said on Tuesday. “We want to make sure we work hard to get Ireland worked out.

“I’ve talked with the British prime minister; I’ve talked with the Taoiseach; I’ve talked with others and I’ve talked with the French.

“The idea of having the border north and south once again being closed, it’s just not right. We’ve just got to keep the border open.”

Mr Biden has previously intervened in the Brexit debate on borders, warning a breach of the Good Friday Agreement would threaten the prospect of a future US-UK trade deal.

He said in September: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.

“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

Mr Biden is known to have a close connection to Ireland, with his roots traced back to Ballina in County Mayo.

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Joe Biden appoints first-ever US climate envoy

Also on Tuesday, Mr Biden also said he was yet to begin receiving the president’s daily intelligence reports, but confirmed he had been offered them.

The bulletin, called the president’s daily brief, consists of a collection of classified intelligence reports prepared every day to give the US leader updates on major security threats around the world.

It comes as another sign Donald Trump is backing away from contesting the transition of power to Mr Biden – and is a day after he told his team to co-operate with the incoming administration.

He said on Monday that he had given the green light to the head of the General Services Administration (GSA) to proceed with the changeover.

The GSA is responsible for many of the basic services that allow the US government to function, from buildings and transport management to IT, financial services, supply chains and human resources.

Despite this turnaround, however, the incumbent has still vowed to keep up the fight against the election, having repeatedly refused to concede that he lost.

Mr Trump has claimed widespread voter fraud skewed the final result earlier this month but has failed to produce evidence.

Earlier on Tuesday, the president-elect began announcing the first of his cabinet picks, including several firsts for America.

Avril Haines was introduced as the first woman to hold the position of director of national intelligence, while Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-American, will be the first Latino and immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier on Tuesday, the president-elect began announcing the first of his cabinet picks, including several firsts for America.

Avril Haines was introduced as the first woman to hold the position of director of national intelligence, while Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-American, will be the first Latino and immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

John Kerry, the former secretary of state, has been appointed the country’s first ever climate envoy – a role focused solely on tackling climate change.

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Police warn daredevil cliff jumpers who are ‘risking their lives for likes’

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Daredevils attempting dangerous cliff dives in a quest for likes has led to an increase in costly helicopter airlifts in California, police say.

As young people pursue the perfect selfie or video for their social media pages, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says it is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars plucking the injured and stranded from beauty spot locations.

“People have to understand: people die up in those mountains. For every rescue you see that we do, there are ones that we don’t make. They’re dead,” said Deputy Stephen Doucette.

A social media search for locations like Eaton Canyon, Hermit Falls and Malibu Creek Rock Pool reveal dozens of risky selfie videos. Two men were recently rescued after being injured while being filmed at Hermit Falls.

The sheriff’s department carried out 681 search and rescue missions last year – the highest number in five years – and most have required reaching remote locations.

In 2013, Kevin La, a 19-year-old student, died after cliff jumping with several friends in Hermit Falls.

In 2015, Oscar Fuentes died when he jumped 50ft into the Deep Creek pool in Los Angeles. He was 15.

“It is a huge response and, if you were to quantify it in dollars, you’re talking thousands and thousands. If someone were actually handed a rescue bill they might change their mind in the future,” said Mr Doucette.

Those jumping into the waters of rock pools are taking an extra risk, police say, with little way of judging its depth during the California summer.

Doucette said: “Yeah, I saw on Instagram, they were jumping off a rock formation into the pool of water. It is summer time, hey that looks cool, it must be safe, and then they go on up there and they do it and they realise ‘Wow that water wasn’t quite as deep as I thought’.”

Police say weekend daredevils should be aware they are flirting with danger when that selfie goes wrong – and that it could be their last.

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Second World War Allied bombing raids ‘shook the edge of space’, scientists say

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Shock waves from bombing raids on Germany during the Second World War were powerful enough to alter the atmosphere at the edge of space, scientists have discovered.

Cities such as Dresden and Hamsburg were reduced to rubble and ash by the devastating explosions, with new research suggesting the blasts disturbed the ionosphere hundreds of miles above Earth.

The bombing raids on Germany by the Allies had begun in 1942 and included the so-called Grand Slam, which weighed 10 tonnes.

The ionosphere, which extends from an altitude of about 50km (31 miles) to 1,000km (620 miles), is electrified by radiation from the sun and space, and its charge was significantly weakened at the height of the bombings.

US bombers over Germany preparing for a strike against the Wilhelmshaven naval base
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US bombers over Germany preparing for a strike against the Wilhelmshaven naval base

Researchers from the University of Reading discovered that the atmosphere had been altered during the conflict after comparing detailed records of the raids with data from British wartime scientists.

Between 1943 and 1945, staff at the Radio Research Centre at Ditton Park, near Slough, fired a series of shortwave radio pulses 100km (62 miles) to 300km (186 miles) into the air.

Echoes from the radio signals bouncing off the ionosphere layers revealed information about their height and electrical intensity, but the scientists had no idea the data they were recording bore a chilling hallmark of the war.

The ruins of the Tauenzien Strasse and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin
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The ruins of the Tauenzien Strasse and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin

Chris Scott, professor of space and atmospheric physics at Reading, explained: “The work at Slough was routinely analysing the height and intensity of these layers to understand how they vary, but what they didn’t realise at the time was that they actually contained the signatures of the war itself.

“The images of neighbourhoods across Europe reduced to rubble due to wartime air raids are a lasting reminder of the destruction that can be caused by man-made explosions. But the impact of these bombs way up in the atmosphere has never been realised until now.

“It is astonishing to see how the ripples caused by man-made explosions can affect the edge of space. Each raid released the energy of at least 300 lightning strikes.”

Germans board trams in the midst of ruins left by an Allied air raid on Johannstrasse, Dresden
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Germans board trams in the midst of ruins left by an Allied air raid on Johannstrasse, Dresden

Across a single raid, as many as 2,000 tonnes of explosives could be dropped by four-engine planes capable of carrying much larger devices than those used by the two-engine German Luftwaffes during the Blitz.

Scientists already knew that the ionosphere could be strongly influenced by solar activity and natural phenomena such as thunderstorms, eruptions and earthquakes, but Professor Scott said the revelation regarding the bombs provided “a real quantifiable way of assessing how much energy is required to make the ionosphere wobble”.

The electrical properties of ionosphere affects radio communications, GPS systems and radio telescopes, and so early warning radars used during the war would have been impacted by the raids.

The devastated city of Magdeburg on the Elbe after heavy Allied bombing
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The devastated city of Magdeburg on the Elbe after heavy Allied bombing

Professor Patrick Major, a historian at Reading, said: “Air crew involved in the raids reported having their aircraft damaged by the bomb shock waves, despite being above the recommended height.

“Residents under the bombs would routinely recall being thrown through the air by the pressure waves of air mines exploding, and window casements and doors would be blown off their hinges.

“The unprecedented power of these attacks has proved useful for scientists to gauge the impact such events can have hundreds of kilometres above the Earth, in addition to the devastation they caused on the ground.”

According to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey – written by a board of experts to provide an impartial assessment of the impact of the Allied bombing of Nazi Germany – almost 2.7 million tonnes of bombs were dropped over the course of the war.

It reported that 3.6 million dwelling units were destroyed or heavily damaged, with 300,000 civilians killed, 780,000 wounded, and close to 7.5 million made homeless.

The research from Reading was published in the European Geosciences Union journal Annales Geophysicae.

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