Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked his US counterpart Donald Trump on Sunday for the CIA's help in thwarting a plot to attack the city of Saint Petersburg, the Kremlin said. Putin spoke by phone with Trump to convey his gratitude for intelligence supplied by the CIA which allowed Russia's FSB security service to break up a "terrorist cell" that was planning attacks in Russia's second city, the Kremlin said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
Bones, teeth, skulls and a finger - Vatican issues new rules forbidding the trade of saints' relics
They range from the finger of “doubting” St Thomas to the head of St Catherine of Siena, but holy relics must on no account be traded or sold, the Vatican has decreed. The Holy See issued new guidelines for the preservation and display of saints’ relics, which once fueled a thriving trade in the Middle Ages, with bits of skin, hair, teeth and organs exchanged between abbeys and monasteries. Websites and religious artefact shops offer saintly remains, sometimes of dubious provenance, for sale to devotees. Ebay is full of such items, including an “antique brass case with the relics of three French missionaries killed in Vietnam” and an “ornate case with a relic of St Mary Magdalene dei Pazzi, an Italian nun.” Visitors admire the Holy Shroud, the 14ft-long linen revered by some as the burial cloth of Jesus, on display at the Cathedral of Turin. Credit: AP One Catholic wrote on the online auction site: “Many good, faithful Catholics are buying relics on Ebay. Unfortunately,opportunity gives way to some unscrupulous sellers who deal in fakes, forgeries and unbelievable overpricing of relics and so it is buyer beware.” Such practises must not be tolerated, the Holy See said. “The trade and sale of relics is absolutely prohibited,” the Congregation for the Causes of Saints decreed in a lengthy set of guidelines for dioceses throughout the Catholic world. Nor can relics be displayed “in unauthorised or profane places” or used in sacrilegious rituals, ruled the department, which oversees the beatification and canonisation of worthy Catholics. The dismemberment of a saint’s body is also strictly prohibited without the Vatican’s permission, the office said. Nuns place on the altar the relics of five new saints during an open-air canonization ceremony led by Pope Benedict XVI, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, in 2009. Credit: AP Churches and basilica, many of them in Italy and the Holy Land, are custodians of a range of grisly relics, including the tongue of St Anthony of Padua, the body of St Mark and blood from St Januarius, the patron saint of Naples, who was martyred in the fourth century AD. Known as San Gennaro in Italian, he is revered by many Neapolitans, with a ceremony held three times a year in which a vial of his congealed blood “miraculously” liquefies. One of the most famous relics in the world is the Shroud of Turin, a frayed length of cloth in which Christ is believed to have been buried after his crucifixion, while the purported skull of St Valentine is kept in an ancient church close to the Circus Maximus in Rome. The relics can be displayed in holy places only if they carry a certificate attesting to their authenticity, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints said.
A young British diplomat has been found murdered in the Lebanese capital Beirut after being strangled and reportedly sexually assaulted. Rebecca Dykes, 30, from London, who had been working for the Department for International Development, was killed after leaving a bar with friends on Friday night. She had been out in the Gemmayzeh area of central Beirut for the leaving party of a colleague at the British embassy and had left just after midnight. She was abducted some time after and killed. Her body was found dumped on the Metn highway several miles away. Police sources told the Telegraph the first autopsy revealed the cause of death as strangulation, however a second postmortem examination is to be carried out later. They said they did not believe the attack to be politically motivated. One friend told the Telegraph: "It's horrific. We had no idea what happened to her until we got a call today to go to the police station to give statements." Miss Dykes had been working in Beirut as the programme and policy manager for the Department for International Development since January 2017. Beirut killing She had worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 2010, previously on Libya and Iraq. She is thought to have grown up in Hong Kong, but attended Malvern St James Girls boarding school in Worcestershire before later studying anthropology at Manchester University and International Security and Global Governance from Birkbeck, University of London. In a statement her family said: "We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca. We are doing all we can to understand what happened." Hugo Shorter, the British ambassador to Lebanon, said: "The whole embassy is deeply shocked, saddened by this news. My thoughts are with Becky’s family, friends and colleagues for their tragic loss. "We're providing consular support to her family and working very closely with Lebanese authorities who are conducting police investigation." A spokesman for the Department for International Development where she worked said: "Our thoughts are with Becky's family and friends at this very upsetting time. "There is now a police investigation and the FCO (Foreign Office) is providing consular support to Becky's family and working with the local authorities." Such incidents are rare in Beirut, despite the fragile security situation in the country.
The Pentagon has acknowledged funding a secret multi-million dollar program to investigate sightings of UFOs. The shadowy program ended in 2012, according to the Defense Department, but the New York Times reported that it is still up and running -- with officials continuing to study incidents brought to their attention by US military service members while performing their regular duties at the Pentagon. The so-called Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program operated from 2007 to 2012 and had $22 million a year in funding tucked away in the Pentagon's gargantuan budget, the Times said, quoting program participants and records.
Argentina dismissed its naval chief on Saturday, the most high-profile officer to be fired a month after a submarine went missing with 44 crew members on board. "The defense minister asked him to retire. It's a political decision," a navy officer told AFP on condition of anonymity about the decision to remove Admiral Marcelo Srur during an ongoing investigation into the sub's disappearance. Srur is the fifth senior officer to have been relieved of his functions so far over the ARA San Juan's disappearance. Military sources say President Mauricio Macri is willing to retire most of the naval leadership. The government is also creating an internal investigative commission that will be headed by retired captain Jorge Bergallo, father of the ARA San Juan's second commander, Jorge Ignacio Bergallo, government sources told state news agency Telam. Friends and family of missing submarine crew members place a flag on the fence of the naval base in Mar de Plata, Argentina An international search operation has so far failed to locate the vessel. The 43 men and one woman who were aboard are believed to have died in the tragedy. But families of the missing have pressed the government to continue the search, which has not yet been officially closed. Some relatives claim the navy has been hiding information, and have called for a parliamentary investigation. On Friday, they protested in Mar del Plata, where the submarine was based, and Buenos Aires. Relatives have focused their anger on the condition of the three-decade-old sub, which had undergone a seven-year refit to extend its service, and the navy's guardedness since the start of the search operation. The navy has a poor reputation in Argentina. During the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, some navy units served as detention and torture centers, and an estimated 30,000 people disappeared.
Back in September, Prince Harry and Barack Obama sat down for a one-on-one radio interview, and it's finally seeing the light of day later this month. SEE ALSO: Oh god, here's Barack Obama playing Santa Claus One of the roal family's Twitter accounts posted a little preview of the chat between the prince and the United States' 44th president, and it looks like the two had a lot of fun together. The interview will be coming out on BBC 4's Today on Dec. 27. Here is a sneak preview of when @BarackObama met Prince Harry for the interview. Listen to the full interview on 27th December on @BBCr4today. pic.twitter.com/p5I1dUdyhx — Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 17, 2017 In the preview (which appears to be before they start recording the official interview), Obama asks Prince Harry if he needs to speak a little faster than usual or use a British accent. Prince Harry then lets Obama know that if the former president starts taking long pauses between answers, the prince will give him a stern, speed-it-up face. The two seem like they have a really good chemistry together, and have jokingly (and very publicly) ribbed each other before over sports rivalries. The interview is a part of Prince Harry's guest editor spot with BBC Radio, and was recorded in September during the 2017 Invictus Games, at which Obama and Prince Harry were seen sharing a whole bunch of laughs together. According to the Kensington Palace Twitter account, during the interview the two talk about Obama's departure from the presidency, his life plans, and the Obama foundation. The conversation with @BarackObama includes his memories of the day he left office and his hopes for his post-presidential life, including his plans to focus on cultivating the next generation of leadership through the @ObamaFoundation. — Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 17, 2017 In the preview, Prince Harry mentions that the interview will be cut to 20 minutes, but a longer version will be available as a podcast as well. WATCH: Obama's official White House photographer is Insta-trolling Trump
LGTB group criticises proposals by Trump administration officials to ban the word 'transgender'
An LGBTQ group has criticised reports that Donald Trump's administration will ban health agencies from using the word “transgender” in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget. The president's administration is said to have told agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to avoid using a number of words. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was reportedly given a list which included “transgender” and “diversity”.
Doug Jones will take his seat in the US Senate shortly. Doug Jones, the Democrat who won a shock victory in the Alabama Senate election, said on Sunday he did not think Donald Trump should resign as president in light of sexual misconduct allegations against him. It was time, Jones said, to “get on with the real issues that are facing the people of this country right now”.
A woman has been arrested in Florida after authorities found three dead dogs in her freezer. While checking the home of the woman and her small child, sheriff’s deputies also saw heaps of trash inside and were overwhelmed by the odour of urine and feces. The deputies' lower pant legs were covered in fleas when they entered the home.
At least 26 people were killed while several residents were missing in an island province in central Philippines after tropical storm Kai-tak brought heavy rains that triggered landslides, local authorities and media said on Sunday. Kai-tak cut power supplies in many areas, forced the cancellation of several flights, stranded more than 15,000 people in various ports in the region and prompted nearly 88,000 people to seek shelter in evacuation centers. The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Biliran island said 26 residents had died, but the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has yet to make any official announcement about fatalities.