Gertrude was the latest in a series of storms to hit the UK this winter. Winds exceeded 100mph in places, and at least 7000 homes lost power. The Met Office issued flood warnings across the UK, and a “danger to life” wind warning for Shetland, as schools closed and transport was heavily disrupted. Heavy snow fell in Scotland on Saturday in the aftermath of the storm, and more strong winds are forecast for Monday. This storm comes just days after another storm that caused blizzards in the US crossed the Atlantic and hit Britain on Tuesday, causing yet more flooding in the west of Britain. Pupils and staff at a primary school near Stirling had to be rescued by boat after they were cut off by floods.
A heterosexual couple lost their legal bid to be allowed to enter a civil partnership. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan did not want marriage, believing the institution to carry a patriarchal history, but did want their union made official. However, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 applies only to same-sex couples, giving similar legal rights to marriage at a time before gay marriage was legal. The government welcomed the verdict, saying that they wanted to wait “to see how extending marriage to same-sex couples impacts upon civil partnerships before reaching a final decision on the future of civil partnerships”. The government may decide to phase them out altogether now that same-sex couples are allowed to marry, and wanted to avoid the “costly and complex” process of legislative reform that could soon become irrelevant. However, Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan intend to appeal, and have the backing of equality campaigner Peter Tatchell and a petition signed by 36,000 people.
Broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan has died at the age of seventy-seven. Wogan, who was born in Limerick and had a career in radio and television spanning fifty years, “died today after a short but brave battle with cancer”, according to a statement from his family. Tony Hall, the director general of the BBC, said that “Terry truly was a national treasure”.
The US State Department said that twenty-two emails that went through Hillary Clinton’s personal email address were “top secret”. Controversy over Clinton’s use of an unsecured home server while secretary of state has been a stumbling block in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton’s campaign responded by calling it “over-classification run amok”, but the State Department said that information contained in the emails would be “exceptionally” damaging if released.
A key Syrian opposition group has agreed to join peace talks in Geneva. The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) is backed by Saudi Arabia and their inclusion gives a boost to the talks’ credibility, although the group will talk to the Syrian government only through a UN envoy. The talks will not be attended by the Kurdish YPG and jihadist groups such as Al-Nusra and ISIS. The news comes as the Netherlands decided to extend its anti-ISIS air campaign to include targets in Syria as well as Iraq, and Medecins Sans Frontieres announced that sixteen people had starved to death in the town of Madaya, near Damascus, which is besieged by government and allied Hezbollah forces.
Danish MPs have backed a plan to allow the police to confiscate valuables from asylum seekers, in order to pay for food and housing. The decision attracted condemnation from human rights groups and UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, whose spokesman said that “People who have suffered tremendously,… who’ve literally walked hundreds of kilometres if not more… should be treated with compassion and respect”. Defending the bill, the Danish government said that items such as wedding rings which carry sentimental value will be exempt, and that the new legislation will simply apply similar rules to immigrants as the ones already in place for unemployed Danes claiming benefits.