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UK ministers mull closing loophole on passport allowing citizens to change gender

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Ministers in the United Kingdom are considering closing what they call a “major loophole” on the country’s national passport where citizens can alter their gender identification.

In the UK, citizens are permitted to get a new passport if they change their name, gender, or their appearance if, for example, they have had plastic surgery.

For a driver’s license, all that is required for applicants to change the sex recorded on the document is a brief legal declaration verifying their new identification.

Concerned persons say the loophole creates “self-ID by the back door” and leads to a danger that single-sex spaces for women and girls could be compromised because passports and driver’s licenses are commonly used for identification in normal life.

According to a report by The Telegraph, Kemi Badenoch, equalities minister, wants to close the loophole but needs the support of other departments.

The report said Badenoch raised the issue with Suella Braverman when she was Home Secretary, and followed it up with a letter to James Cleverly, her successor.

“This is a major loophole that is made more problematic by the fact that passports and driving licences are frequently used as the evidence when applying for a gender recognition certificate,” The Telegraph quoted a government source as saying.

Between 2018 and 2022, the Passport Office approved more than 3,000 requests for people to change their “sex marker,” the report added, citing freedom of information data.

The development comes as debates in the UK about transgender rights and possible reforms to the current passport system continue to heat up.

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Brian Mulroney, former Canadian PM, dies at 84

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Brian Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister, is dead. He was 84.

Mulroney’s death was announced by Caroline, his daughter, on her X account on Thursday.

She said the 18th Canadian prime minister died “peacefully, surrounded by family”.

“On behalf of my mother and our family, it is with great sadness we announce the passing of my father, The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th Prime Minister,” the post reads.

Justin Trudeau, the incumbent prime minister, described Mulroney as “generous, tireless, and incredibly passionate”.

He also praised Mulroney’s role in “building the modern, dynamic, and prosperous country we all know today”.

“Brian Mulroney loved Canada. I’m devastated to learn of his passing. He never stopped working for Canadians, and he always sought to make this country an even better place to call home,” Trudeau wrote.

“I’ll never forget the insights he shared with me over the years – he was generous, tireless, and incredibly passionate. As we mourn his passing and keep his family and friends in our thoughts, let us also acknowledge – and celebrate – Mr. Mulroney’s role in building the modern, dynamic, and prosperous country we all know today.”

Mulroney was the prime minister of Canada from 1984 to 1993. He won an overwhelming election victory with his Progressive Conservative Party in 1984.

One of his achievements was the negotiation of the North American free trade agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, the US and Canada, which came into force in 1994.

He also strengthened relations with the US and campaigned against apartheid in South Africa.

However, he fell out of favour during his second term in office because of the ongoing recession, high unemployment, the introduction of new taxes and the failure of a constitutional reform.

The reform was aimed at integrating the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec more closely into the federation with more rights.

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US Air Force officer sets himself ablaze outside Israeli embassy in Washington

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A member of the United States’ air force set himself on fire on Sunday afternoon outside the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Ann Stefanek, US air force spokesperson, confirmed the man was an active-duty member but did not disclose his identity.

The man who filmed himself and live-streamed on Twitch, the social media platform, said his actions were in protest of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group.

In the video, the man could be heard saying “I will no longer be complicit in genocide”, while standing before the embassy gates.

“I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest,” he added, before setting his phone down to film dousing himself in a clear liquid from a metal bottle.

He then lit himself on fire while yelling “Free Palestine!” until he fell to the ground.

The video was later taken down from the social media platform and replaced with a message stating that the channel violated Twitch’s guidelines.

Vito Maggiolo, the city’s fire department spokesperson, said the airman survived the incident after officers with the US secret service extinguished the fire.

Maggiolo said he was taken to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries and remains in critical condition.

Tal Naim, spokesperson of the Israeli embassy, said no staff members were injured and all were accounted for.

In December, a person self-immolated outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta and used gasoline as an accelerant, according to Atlanta’s fire authorities.

A Palestinian flag was found at the scene, and police said the act was believed to be one of “extreme political protest”.

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ECOWAS lifts sanctions against Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has lifted some sanctions imposed on Niger Republic, Mali and Burkina Faso — member nations that are ruled by the military.

The decision to lift the sanctions was reached at the extraordinary summit of the ECOWAS held in Abuja on Saturday.

The regional bloc also lifted sanctions on the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.

The military junta in Mali took over power in August 2020 while soldiers in Burkina Faso overthrew the democratic government in September 2022.

Also, soldiers in the Niger Republic in July 2023 sacked the democratic government in the country, forcing the authority of ECOWAS to impose sanctions on the three countries.

Omar Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS commission, read the resolution taken at the summit.

He said while the political and targeted sanctions on the Niger Republic remain, the regional bloc lifted some financial and economic sanctions on Guinea-Bissau and Mali.

Touray said the decision is based on humanitarian considerations especially because of the month of Lent and the approaching Ramadan.

“Now, let me make it very clear what I have listed is not exhaustive. Political sanctions have not been lifted. Border closures have been lifted. And commercial sanctions have been lifted. But there are targeted sanctions as well as political sanctions. That remain in force,” he said.

“I think our sanctions regime should be assessed correctly. The list I have given relates mainly to Niger because all the other countries still have political sanctions on them.

“So the border closures, the commercial sanctions and all that are on leisure and that is what the leaders have decided to lift. But individual sanctions as well as political sanctions remain in place in Niger.

“Now for other countries, political sanctions remain. That is the limited ability to attend ECOWAS Summit as well as ministerial sessions.”

Earlier, President Bola Tinubu who is the chairman of ECOWAS asked for the lifting of sanctions on the three member states.

In a statement, Ajuri Ngelale, presidential spokesperson, said Tinubu also said the decision to lift the sanctions was based on humanitarian considerations.

“Everything we did was in hopes of persuading our brothers that there existed a better path, a path that would lead to genuine improvement of their people’s welfare through democratic good governance. And this was a path each of our nations had solemnly agreed with one another pursuant to formal regional treaty and protocol,” the statement quoted Tinubu as saying.

“However, the sanctions that we contemplated might help lead our brothers to the negotiating table have become a harsh stumbling block. In my mind and heart, that which is hurtful yet ineffective serves no good purpose and should be abandoned.

“ECOWAS was established for the unassailable objective of improving the lives of the people of this region through fraternal cooperation among all member states. This edifice was cemented on the strong foundation and apt conviction that, united as one, we can be the true masters of our destiny.”

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