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Richard Gere boards migrant ship stuck in the Mediterranean | World News

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Actor Richard Gere joined a humanitarian ship off the Mediterranean coast as its crew continues to wait for a safe port to accept the migrants they rescued.

The Spanish ship, Open Arms, has been stuck off Italy’s southernmost island of Lampedusa for eight days because no European country has offered to take in the 121 migrants on board.

Gere, 69, is reported to have boarded the ship some 31 miles from the island.

The US actor helped bring food and supplies to the boat and asked for support for the ship, whose passengers include nine-month-old Ethiopian twins.

“Everyone is doing okay now,” Gere said in a video released by Open Arms.

“There were two boats in the middle of the ocean. One of the boats was turned back and taken by the Libyan navy. We don’t know what happened to them.”

Actor Richard Gere on board the ship carrying 121 migrants who no European country is offering to accept
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Actor Richard Gere on board the ship carrying 121 migrants who no European country is offering to accept

In photos posted online, Gere can be seen sharing food with the migrants and also speaking to a man holding a young child.

The actor pointed to pictures of his six-month-old son on his phone and said: “This is mine. The same age.”

American actor Richard Gere sharing a meal with migrants aboard a ship that has rescued 121 people from the sea
Courtesy: Open Arms Facebook page
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The US actor shared a meal with the migrants. Pic: Open Arms Facebook page

Open Arms, a non-profit NGO, posted the video on its Facebook page, saying: “Being a father does not understand colours or borders.”

The organisation says the 121 people on board are victims of abuse, rape and torture.

The ship is closest to Italy, but interior minister Matteo Salvini is popular for his hardline stance against migrant arrivals.

The EU Commission said it had not yet received any requests by a national government to intervene, as it typically requires.

But spokeswoman Annika Breidhardt said it was reaching out to member states “to show solidarity”.

She said the solution depended on “the willingness” of EU countries to step up.

Earlier on Friday, Open Arms posted a video of the rescued migrants sleeping on the ship’s deck, saying: “What a shame Europe is not able to give a port for these people in eight days.”



The man was picked up by a private tug boat. Pic: Sea-Watch







Lone migrant swimming at sea rescued

Such stand-offs have persisted in the last 14 months since Italy’s populist government took office and Mr Salvini became interior minister.

He says the EU and other member states have left Italy alone to manage migrant arrivals for too long.

Mr Salvini has likened humanitarian rescue ships to migrant taxi services and this week won parliamentary approval for a new security decree that increased fines on ships entering Italian waters without permission to €1m (£920,000) from €50,000 (£46,500).

Data from the UN Refugee Agency shows nearly 4,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea so far this year – most of them from neighbouring Tunisia.

That is a considerable reduction compared with last year when 23,370 migrants arrived the same way.

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Hong Kong police fire tear gas in new protests over surveillance fears | World News

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Police in Hong Kong have used tear gas for the first time in about 10 days to try to break up fresh anti-government protests.

The latest demonstrations took place in the Kwun Tong industrial district of the Chinese-ruled city on Saturday.

Protesters took to the streets to demand the removal of smart lampposts over fears they could contain high-tech cameras and facial recognition software used for surveillance by Chinese authorities.

Police fire tear gas
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Police fire tear gas against activists in the Kwun Tong district of Hong Kong
Hong Kong protests
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Some activists carried umbrellas, which have become a symbol of passive resistance against the authorities

Activists, carrying umbrellas in the sweltering heat, filled a main road in the Kowloon peninsula, calling for the government to answer their demands.

Some protesters set up makeshift barricades on a road outside a police station, as they faced off with police in riot gear.

“Hong Kong people’s private information is already being extradited to China. We have to be very concerned,” said march organiser Ventus Lau.

Umbrellas have become a symbol of passive resistance against the authorities.

The Umbrella Movement is a political group which emerged during the Hong Kong democracy protests of 2014.

The latest wave of demonstrations began almost three months ago over a now-suspended bill which would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China.

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The protests are also fuelled by concerns about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula that was put in place after the territory returned from UK to Chinese rule in 1997.

Simon Cheng Man-Kit reportedly failed to return to Hong Hong from Shenzhen in China 10 days ago
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Simon Cheng Man-Kit has been released after 15 days in detention

Meanwhile, a British consulate employee has been released after 15 days of detention in mainland China.

Police in Shenzhen said Simon Cheng Man-kit was released as scheduled on Saturday, having been detained for violating public security management regulations.

The Global Times, a Communist Party-owned newspaper, said he had been detained for “soliciting prostitutes”.

China often uses such charges against political targets.

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Hong Kong: Police fire tear gas to try to disperse new anti-government protests | World News

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Police in Hong Kong have used tear gas for the first time in about 10 days to try to break up fresh anti-government protests.

The latest demonstrations took place in the Kwun Tong industrial district of the Chinese-ruled city.

Protesters took to the streets to demand the removal of smart lampposts over fears they could contain high-tech cameras and facial recognition software used for surveillance by Chinese authorities.

Activists, carrying umbrellas in the sweltering heat, filled a main road in the Kowloon peninsula, calling for the government to answer their demands.

Some protesters set up makeshift barricades on a road outside a police station, facing off with police in riot gear.

“Hong Kong people’s private information is already being extradited to China. We have to be very concerned,” said march organiser Ventus Lau.

More follows…

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Vaping-related death in the US amid ‘alarming’ rise in serious illnesses | US News

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A person who contracted a serious lung disease after using a vaping device has died in Illinois.

It is being treated as the first death in the US that has been linked to the smoking alternative, which is especially popular with teenagers and young adults.

Illinois Department of Public Health said the patient, who was between 17 and 38 years old, had been taken to hospital when they fell ill after vaping.

Their name, hometown and the date they died have not been disclosed.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 149 people nationwide had contracted a severe respiratory illness after vaping, but no deaths have been reported.

In Illinois, the number of people who have contracted a respiratory illness after vaping has doubled in the past week to 22.

Dr Ngozi Ezike, from the Illinois Department of Public Health, said: “We requested a team from the CDC to help us investigate these cases and they arrived in Illinois on Tuesday.

“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous.”

All of the illnesses reported were in teens or adults who had used an electronic cigarette or some other kind of vaping device.

Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury, with the lungs apparently reacting to a caustic substance.

Health officials around the country have been reporting patients getting sick after vaping, including two in Connecticut, four in Iowa and six in Ohio.

They are asking doctors and hospitals to tell state health officials about any possible vaping-related lung disease cases they encounter.

In the UK, Public Health England says on its website: “While not without some risk, when compared to smoking e-cigarettes are far less harmful [than smoking cigarettes].

“E-cigarette vapour does not contain tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke. It does contain some chemicals also found in tobacco smoke, but at much lower levels.”

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