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The body of an Indian magician who drowned when his Houdini-like escape stunt went wrong has been recovered from the River Ganges.

Chanchal Lahiri, also known as Jadugar Mandrake, was tied up with ropes and steel chains for a magic trick and was lowered into the river on Sunday while his friends and family watched from the river bank.

Rescue services launched a frantic search for the stuntman after he failed to reappear.

 Indian stuntman prepared for being lowered into the Ganges river
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The Indian stuntman was tied up with ropes and steel chains

The magician’s body was discovered on Monday night, according to Syed Waquar Raza, deputy commissioner of the port division of Kolkata police.

Before being lowered into the river, the 40-year-old magician reportedly told the crowd: “If I can open it up, then it will be magic, but if I can’t, it will be tragic”.

The Indian escape artist performed a similar act 21 years ago by locking himself inside a bulletproof box while he was tied with chains and locks.

He was dropped down from a bridge into the same river and managed to escape in 29 seconds, according to reports.

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Can Boris Johnson really ‘Get Brexit Done’ by end of 2020? | Politics News

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The election message was a pledge to “Get Brexit Done”. Repeated on posters, adverts, aprons, T-shirts. Printed wherever there was a space.

The challenge now is to fulfill that promise, or perhaps even to define it. What counts as Brexit? Is it simply leaving the European Union, come what may, on the last day of the year, or is it about achieving a comprehensive trade deal?

What sort of relationship does Mr Johnson want with Europe, and what sort of compromises is he prepared to make?

Mr Johnson wants a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on 23 December 2019
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Mr Johnson wants a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on 23 December 2019

You might have thought those questions would have been answered during the campaign but – emphatically – they weren’t.

Mr Johnson, for instance, insists there will be no checks or tariffs on goods crossing the Irish Sea from Britain to Northern Ireland.

Many think that promise is simply impossible to keep, even if a trade deal is signed.

If Britain were to leave without a trade deal, it is even harder to work out how Mr Johnson can live up to his promise.

And that is a prospect that many take realistically in Brussels.

At the moment, Britain doesn’t have a structure for negotiating a trade deal – no specialised teams up and running yet, no guarantee of who will be in charge of each different bit, or how power will be devolved and then used.









Moment Conservatives won the election

The EU, on the other hand, has a department ready and willing, under the auspices of Michel Barnier, the highly experienced French politician who led the first phase of Brexit negotiations.

What’s more, the European Commissioner in charge of trade is Ireland’s Phil Hogan, who brings his own deep knowledge of cross-border trade.

Stacked up behind them is the machine of the European Commission which, love it or hate it, has huge experience in framing trade deals.

The UK is up against a formidable team of negotiators, and Mr Barnier has already talked of it being unrealistic to sign a fully-formed deal by the end of 2020.

But there are plenty of others across Europe who think a deal of some kind can be reached, even if it isn’t the sort of deal that many really want.

The UK is set to leave the EU on 31 January 2020
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The UK is set to leave the EU on 31 January 2020

Instead, as I first reported on Sky News a couple of months ago, the momentum is swinging towards a “pared-down” sort of agreement that would allow a basic flow of trade but would, at least in its first iteration, inevitably leave holes.

It would be the bare minimum required to establish some sort of trade agreement, but comes with a couple of big problems.

The first thing is whether it can be achieved in the time left. Despite the cheery confidence of some leaders arriving at the European Summit this week (“you can do an awful lot in 11 months,” smiled Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel), no deal of this sort has ever been signed off in such a short period of time.

The flip side is that a deal between the UK and the EU should be a lot more straightforward than one between, say, Europe and Canada.

You start from the position where both sides already share the same regulatory structures, and neither wants to diverge hugely from them.

You also have acceptance, on both sides, that it’s in nobody’s interest to rip-up existing agreements on, for instance, airplane travel or security information.

Multiple well-placed sources have told me that these things will be fiddly, but achievable, in some form, by the end of the year.

The sticking point will be something called Level Playing Field regulations – in other words, the requirement that the UK should align itself to regulations laid down by the EU.

The Europeans don’t want to back down, fearing that the UK will reduce its standards in order to obtain a competitive advantage.

That flexibility, though, is precisely the sort of thing that Brexiteers have desired from day one.

The transition period is set to beggon on 1 February 2020
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The transition period is set to beggon on 1 February 2020

Compromise won’t come easily, but one model being considered is the idea of drawing a line in the sand now – and having both sides promising not to regress from present-day regulatory standards.

The British are enthusiastic about this; the Europeans much less so. That may be the key obstacle to getting even a “pared-down” agreement.

But a fully-fledged trade deal? Talk about that, and that’s when people start to shrug their shoulders, and whistle through their teeth.

These are complex deals that require huge scrutiny in every member state and, right now, few believe such an agreement can be reached by the end of the year.

The EU is already suggesting that it would like an extension, so talks could stretch on into 2021, or even 2022. Mr Johnson says that won’t happen; that the UK will leave, come what may, at the end of 2020.

But it’s worth noting that, even if the prime minister changed his mind and decided to extend trade talks beyond the end of next year, it can’t – in theory – be done at the last minute.

The deadline for an EU trade deal is the end of 2020
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The deadline for an EU trade deal is the end of 2020

A request for an extension would require a change to the treaty, and would have to come before 1 July.

Most European deadlines are flexible, but rewriting a treaty would require plenty of time, and also goodwill from across the EU. And there are lots of countries where patience with the UK is running thin.

So if the government does decide to give itself more time to “Get Brexit Done”, it will have to make that call within the first half of the year.

For some of Mr Johnson’s supporters, that will surely feel like a backtrack. Whatever happens in the coming year, getting Brexit done won’t be easy.

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‘Fraught with danger’: Ex-MI6 officer behind Russia dossier warns about discussing sources | US News

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Former intelligence officer Christopher Steele has warned about the danger of discussing sources.

It comes after a US investigation published details about people who it said contributed to a dossier that he compiled on alleged Russian links to Donald Trump’s election campaign.

The long-serving veteran of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) also hit back at the findings of the investigation by the US Department of Justice’s inspector general, which were released on Monday.

The top complaint was on claims in the report about a “primary sub-source” that was allegedly relied upon by Mr Steele in his compilation of the so-called Trump dossier.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz – who was looking into the origins of an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into the Russia suspicions – set out how the FBI had interviewed who they believed to be Mr Steele’s “primary sub-source” in January, March and May 2017.

His report claimed these interviews “raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting”.

US Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz
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US Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz

It continued: “During the FBI’s January interview, the primary sub-source told the FBI that he/she had not seen Steele’s reports until they became public that month, and that he/she made statements indicating that Steele misstated or exaggerated the Primary Sub-source’s statements in multiple sections of the reporting.”

Mr Steele and Orbis Business Intelligence – his private intelligence company – said in a statement that they were never given the opportunity to respond to these claims.

“Public discussions about a source are always fraught with danger for the source and the source’s sub-sources,” said the statement, released by their lawyers.

“Had Orbis been given the opportunity to respond in a private session, the statements by the ‘primary sub-source’ would be put in a very different light. The ‘primary sub-source’s’ debriefings by Orbis were meticulously documented and recorded”.

While the report concluded President Trump hasn't committed a crime, it does not exonerate him of obstructing justice.
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The Mueller report said no one linked with the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia

The former intelligence officer and his company also described how they had cooperated “voluntarily and fully” with Mr Horowitz’s during his inquiry.

“Orbis also provided the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) team unprecedented access to Orbis internal company documentation, including contemporaneous memoranda of meetings with the FBI,” they said in the statement.

They added that Mr Horowitz’s team did give Orbis redacted portions of a draft version of the report to review and offer comment on in advance of publication.

“Those portions contained numerous inaccurate and misleading statements as to which Orbis submitted suggested corrections and clarifications,” said the statement.

“Some of Orbis’s suggestions appear to be reflected in the final report.”

Mr Steele and his company then said that “at the twelfth hour late on Sunday evening” – they were told that previously redacted material had been unredacted and contained negative material about Mr Steele.

“Orbis was given no opportunity to review, much less comment, on this material,” they said.

“The result is that the OIG Report contains several serious errors and misstatements that require this response.”

In other criticisms of the report, Mr Steele and Orbis also denied a claim that he had been a Confidential Human Source (CHS) to the FBI during a relationship that started in 2010 and became a more formal contractual relationship between 2013 and 2016.

During that time Mr Steele, a Russia expert, provided information that helped the FBI in other Russia-linked investigations, including work on FIFA and athletics doping.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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New Zealand volcano: Risky mission under way to recover bodies from White Island | World News

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New Zealand’s military and police have begun a high-risk operation to recover the bodies of at least eight people killed on White Island after a volcanic eruption on Monday.

Authorities have faced growing pressure from families of the victims and the local community to bring back those who died as soon as possible.

New Zealand Police had previously refused to go in due to safety risks, as experts warn the island remains highly volatile.

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