Markle Picks Simple, Sleek Dress by Givenchy Designer

Meghan Markle picked a sleek sculpted dress by the British designer of couture house Givenchy for her wedding to Prince Harry on Saturday, worn with a five-meter long veil and a sparkling diamond tiara lent by Queen Elizabeth.

The pure white long-sleeved gown with a boat neck had been eagerly anticipated by royal fans around the world, with speculation over which designer would be chosen starting soon after the couple announced their engagement in November.

As the bride stepped out of her classic Rolls-Royce, Kensington Palace announced that Clare Waight Keller, who became the first female artistic director at famed French house Givenchy last year, had secured the coveted role of making the dress.

Focus on neckline

The 47-year-old, previously at Pringle of Scotland and Chloe, met Markle earlier this year and the two worked together on the design, which “epitomizes a timeless minimal elegance,” Kensington Palace said.

“The focus of the dress is the graphic open bateau neckline that gracefully frames the shoulders and emphasizes the slender sculpted waist,” the palace said in a statement.

“The lines of the dress extend towards the back where the train flows in soft round folds cushioned by an underskirt in triple silk organza. The slim three-quarter sleeves add a note of refined modernity.”

The double bonded gown made of cady silk with a sweeping train was simple in style, which won praise from fashionistas.

Reaction

Edward Enninful, the editor of British Vogue, called the dress “beautiful” while bridal designer Raishma said the gown was “an example of couture design at its most classic and timeless.”

On social media, fans mainly showered the bride, who wore her hair up, with compliments, some even posting an image of Cinderella. Outside the wedding venue in Windsor, well-wishers were divided over its simplicity.

“It was simple and elegant,” 23-year-old Emily Devaney from New Zealand said. “It’s probably hard to dress for a royal wedding — you probably don’t have much you can go with but I thought she looked beautiful.”

Nursing student Linda O’Dwyer said it was “very modern and classy” and she preferred it to the lace-embroidered gown Kate Middleton wore at her 2011 wedding to Prince William.

“It was like (Megan) didn’t want it to be too over the top with lots of embroidery. It really suited her style,” she said.

However spectator Jennifer Hill, 69, described it as “very plain.” “I’m not surprised but slightly disappointed,” she said. “I thought it might be a little more flamboyant but it was very simplistic. I prefer her hair down.”

​Commonwealth tribute

The well-kept secret over who would design the dress had kept royal fans and fashionistas guessing for months. Among those cited as contenders were labels Ralph & Russo and Burberry as well as designer Stella McCartney.

Waight Keller, whose name has now been catapulted into the global spotlight, described the chance to work on the historic occasion as “an honor.”

“We wanted to create a timeless piece that would emphasize the iconic codes of Givenchy throughout its history, as well as convey modernity through sleek lines and sharp cuts,” she was quoted by British Vogue as saying on the magazine’s website.

Meghan’s long veil, made of silk tulle, was decorated with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers in silk threads and organza, the palace said, and paid tribute to the 53 countries of the Commonwealth.

“Ms. Waight Keller designed a veil representing the distinctive flora of each Commonwealth country united in one spectacular floral composition,” the palace said.

Prince Harry last month was appointed a Commonwealth youth ambassador.

Queen Elizabeth lent the 36-year-old bride a historic tiara for the occasion. Made in 1932 for Queen Mary, the sparkling diamond and platinum bandeau has a center brooch dating from 1893.

Meghan, now to be called the Duchess of Sussex, also wore Cartier earrings and bracelet, and silk duchess satin shoes.

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Report: Europe, China, Russia Discussing New Iran Deal

Diplomats from Europe, China and Russia are discussing a new accord to offer Iran financial aid to curb its ballistic missile development and meddling in the region, in the hope of salvaging its 2015 nuclear deal, a German newspaper reported Sunday.

The officials will meet in Vienna in the coming week under the leadership of senior European Union diplomat Helga Schmid to discuss next steps after the May 8 decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to pull out of a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper said, citing senior EU sources.

No US participation

Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China would participate in the meeting, but the United States would not, it said. It was not immediately clear if Iran, which has resisted calls to curb its ballistic missile program in the past, would take part.

Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of most Western sanctions. One of the main complaints of the Trump administration was that the accord did not cover Iran’s missile program or its support for armed groups in the Middle East, which the West considers terrorists.

Concluding a new agreement that would maintain the nuclear provisions and curb ballistic missile development efforts and Tehran’s activities in the region could help convince Trump to lift sanctions against Iran, the paper said.

“We have to get away from the name ‘Vienna nuclear agreement’ and add in a few additional elements. Only that will convince President Trump to agree and lift sanctions again,” the paper quoted a senior EU diplomat as saying.

No immediate comment was available from the German foreign ministry.

Reassurances to Iran

The EU’s energy chief sought to reassure Iran on Saturday that the 28-member bloc remained committed to salvaging the nuclear deal and strengthening trade with Tehran.

Officials from the EU, Germany and other countries that remain committed to the deal have said it would disastrous if EU efforts fail to preserve it.

Iran has struggled to achieve financial benefits from the deal, partly because remaining unilateral U.S. sanctions over its missile program deterred major Western investors from doing business with Tehran.

The officials are looking for a new approach given an understanding that it would be difficult for European firms to work around new U.S. sanctions, the newspaper reported.

It said the new deal could include billions of dollars of financial aid for Iran, in line with an EU deal that provided billions in aid to Turkey for taking in millions of migrants and closing its borders, which helped end a 2015 migrant crisis.

Iran and European powers have made a good start in talks over how to salvage the 2015 deal but much depends on what happens in the next few weeks, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said last week.

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Somali Refugee Makes History in Britain

He is a former refugee, a Muslim, and now the first Somali-British mayor, the youngest ever Lord Mayor for Sheffield city in the United Kingdom.

The 28-year-old Magid Magid has also become the first Green Party mayor. He was sworn in Friday.

“This really was a victory for the Somalis and other Muslim communities in Sheffield,” Kaltum Osman, a young Somali woman who also won a seat at Sheffield’s City Council, told VOA Somali. “This was a victory for the young men and women of Sheffield. It was a clear message for every person that’s been told they have limits on their dreams.”

Magid was born in Burao, a town in the northern breakaway region of Somaliland.

Osman said Magid came to Sheffield when he was five years old, after spending six months in a refugee camp in Ethiopia with his mother and five siblings.

“He came here at a young age, grew up and as young man he was very ambitious and thought that there was nothing that could prevent him from being what he wanted to be,” Osman said.

Speaking during his inaugural ceremony, Magid said he remembered little about his early childhood in Somalia and that he had never returned to his country of birth.

“I remember just being happy, playing around as you do as a kid, but in reality it was a completely different story,” he said.

But Magid said he remembered well the difficulties his family experienced as refugees, especially when they arrived in Sheffield’s Burngreave area, where his family set up home.

“Life was difficult when my family arrived. We were struggling with learning the language and adapting to a new way of life. My mother worked as a cleaner to take care of me and siblings,” he said.

Magid studied aquatic zoology at the University of Hull, developed an interest in politics while at university, and in 2016 was elected as Green councilor for Broomhill and Sharrow Vale ward in Sheffield.

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Worlds Away from Windsor, People Celebrate Harry and Meghan’s Big Day

From the windswept Falkland Islands, battered by the South Atlantic and home to colonies of penguins, to the heat of Kenya, India and Australia, people around the world celebrated Britain’s glittering royal wedding Saturday.

The scenes of pageantry and romance in Windsor, where Prince Harry married his American bride Meghan Markle, were beamed to locations across continents where people dressed up, raised their glasses and enjoyed the fun of a uniquely British event.

“We are very fond of our royal family and it’s lovely to celebrate an event like this,” said Falkland Islander Leona Roberts, a member of the local assembly and one of the organizers of a wedding party in the tiny capital, Port Stanley.

Children dressed up as princes and princesses for the party, where they received special gifts.

Argentina disputes Britain’s sovereignty over the Falklands, which lie 300 miles (500 km) from the Argentine coast, and the two countries fought a war in 1982 over the islands. Many islanders are fiercely patriotic about Britain.

“As a Falkland Islander, I definitely feel a bond with the royal family as a symbol of Britishness. I am a staunch royalist,” said Arlette Betts, at her home on the waterfront in Port Stanley, home to most of the archipelago’s 4,000 inhabitants.

On the other side of the world, in India, a group of Mumbai’s famed dabbawalas, or lunch delivery men, chose a traditional sari dress and kurta jacket as wedding gifts for Harry and his bride, while at the Gurukul School of Art children painted posters of the royal couple and Queen Elizabeth.

In Australia, where the British monarch remains the head of state, some pubs held wedding parties, while a cinema chain screened the wedding live across its network. Viewers dressed in finery, with prizes for the most creative outfits.

At the Royal Hotel in Sydney, guests celebrated with a fancy banquet and burst into a spontaneous chorus of “Stand by Me” when a gospel choir sang the Ben E. King hit during the ceremony in Windsor.

“I just think the monarchy as such brings everyone together,” said retiree Bernie Dennis, one of those attending the banquet. “It’s like a family wedding.”

In Melbourne, fashion designer Nadia Foti attended an “English high tea” where guests wore plastic crowns and enjoyed traditional British treats such as scones and the popular summer drink Pimm’s.

“It’s exciting for the fashion and the spectacular,” said Foti. “It’s a joyous occasion and I’ve made a plum cake to celebrate in classic English style.”

There were lavish celebrations at the Windsor Golf and Country Club on the outskirts of Nairobi, where guests had shelled out 1 million shillings ($10,000) to view the wedding on a giant screen, enjoy a seven-course banquet and fly to Mount Kenya by helicopter for breakfast the following morning.

Trainee lawyer Odette Ndaruzi, who is preparing for her own wedding later in the year, said she wanted to pick up some tips.

“I’m excited to see how the maidens in England are dressed, the jewelry and colors they are wearing,” she said.

The event drew criticism from some Kenyan media, however, due to the hefty price tag in a country where millions live in slums.

But perhaps the greatest interest in the royal wedding, outside of Britain, was in the bride’s home country, the United States.

In New York, revelers headed to Harry’s Bar to watch the ceremony on TV, surrounded by U.S. and British flags. Many posed for photos alongside cardboard cutouts of the bride and groom.

In Los Angeles, a lively crowd at the English-style Cat and Fiddle pub in Hollywood enjoyed pints of beer, royal-themed cocktails and British staples like sausage rolls and scones.

Popular tipples included the “Bloody Harry,” billed as a modern take on the Bloody Mary, but with added ginger as a cheeky nod to the prince’s red hair.

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A Royal Reception Feast for 600: Langoustines, Quail Eggs and Rhubarb Tartlets

Guests of Prince Harry and his new wife, Meghan, were set to tuck into dishes including Scottish langoustines, grilled asparagus and rhubarb crumble tartlets at a lunchtime reception for the newlyweds.

Some of the 600 or so guests arrived hours before the beginning of the ceremony at noon, and were likely to be eager to sample the sumptuous foods on offer.

Canapes being served include poached free-range chicken in a lightly spiced yogurt with roasted apricot, croquettes of confit Windsor lamb and garden-pea panna cotta with quail eggs and lemon verbena.

There were also bowl foods such as pea and mint risotto with pea shoots, truffle oil and parmesan crisps, and 10-hour slow roasted Windsor pork belly, all washed down with champagne, wines and a range of soft drinks.

The wedding cake included elderflower syrup, made at the Queen’s residence in Sandringham from the estate’s own trees, with an Amalfi lemon curd filling and elderflower buttercream.

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Progress in Struggle to Save Animals From Extinction

Conservationists around the world are making great strides in rescuing animal species from the brink of extinction. Despite the recent death of the last male white rhinoceros, there is hope that science can bring the species back. In Europe, scientists are raising bison almost a century after they vanished from the wild, and California’s population of sea otters has rebounded from only 50 specimens in the 1930s. VOA’s George Putic has more.

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US Embassy Move to Jerusalem Aggravates US-Turkish Tensions

Turkey is furious over the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and Israel’s use of live ammunition against Palestinian protesters in Gaza, and it has recalled its ambassadors from the United States and Israel. Tensions between Ankara and Washington were already simmering over the fate of an American pastor imprisoned in Turkey and the sentencing of a Turkish banker in the United States. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from the State Department.

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Not Every Briton Caught Up in Royal Wedding

With the round-the-clock British media coverage of the royal family in the days leading up to the big day for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it would be hard not to conclude that this year’s wedding of weddings is a source of delight for every Briton.

But not everyone in Britain remains as excited as the thousands already crowding into Windsor to claim a spot that will allow them to grab a glimpse of the wedding couple and the pomp and circumstance. Social media was littered with all kinds of memes deriding the wedding ceremony.

 

Oscar-winning British actress Emma Thompson chimed in, telling a TV interviewer: “There’s not a single thought about it in my head to share with you.”

And some viewers are expressing frustration with the incessant focus on the wedding — on the preparations, who’s coming and not, what the couple will wear and what they will eat. The BBC Breakfast show incurred the wrath of some for its all-consuming focus on the royal wedding and its constant and breathless updates.

On Twitter some viewers grumbled: “Non-stop coverage of the #RoyalWedding on @BBCBreakfast this morning. Thankfully, there’s no other news happening at all,” one wrote. Another remarked: “REPORT SOME ACTUAL BL***Y NEWS #bbcbreakfast #RoyalWedding.”

The activist anti-monarchy group Republic, which wants the monarchy abolished and replaced with an elected head of state, demanded on its website Friday that the BBC and other British channels stop celebrating the royal wedding and report in a balanced way.

“The monarchy is a contentious issue. It provides us with a head of state and lies at the heart of our constitution. This issue must be treated by broadcasters as politics, not entertainment,” said Graham Smith of Republic. “The BBC has willfully ignored a string of stories that might put a different complexion on the wedding story. They continue to celebrate and promote the monarchy, not simply report on it.”

Republic said BBC News had largely ignored stories about the removal of homeless people from streets in Windsor and “widespread criticism” of how much money the British taxpayer will have to pay for the wedding. It pointed to a poll conducted by YouGov this week that suggested nearly a third of the British public would like to see the monarchy abolished.

The poll showed the Scottish as the least likely to like the queen or care about the future of the monarchy, with key findings showing that north of the border with England fewer than half of Scots approve of the queen and most believe that Britain’s lawmakers should swear allegiance to the country and not the monarch. Three-quarters of Scots told the pollsters they were not interested in Saturday’s wedding. 

Royal critics have highlighted the bad news for the monarchy in the poll. But overall the royal family and the institution of the nonarchy remains popular, with 68 percent of the British public believing the institution is good for the country.

The poll coincided with an important landmark for the queen, who is now the longest-serving monarch in British history, overtaking Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years, seven months and two days.

Despite the mounting criticism during the week of the public costs of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day, the royal family tried to disarm possible criticism early by announcing that they would meet the costs of the wedding itself. But because they also receive money from taxpayers, it was unclear how much of their private money would defray the costs.

And British taxpayers will still have to foot a huge bill to cover the security and municipal costs. Thames Valley police will be providing most of the security in Windsor. The last royal wedding in 2011 between Prince William and Kate Middleton cost nearly $8.7 million, according to Britain’s Press Association.

Some commentators said the costs should be lower this time because the wedding is being held outside London, reducing logistical challenges. British minsters declined to comment on spending related to the royal wedding, saying no information would be released before the event.

But Britain’s Independent newspaper reported Friday that the cost of the big event would be much higher than previously thought. Wedding planning service Bridebook said the wedding itself would most likely cost $43 million. And some security analysts estimated the security bill at $40 million — a big jump from the 2011 royal wedding because of heightened threat levels in Britain following a string of terror attacks over the past 18 months.

British ministers say any public money used for the wedding is money well spent, arguing the event will encourage more tourists — especially Americans — to visit Britain. But no evidence was supplied by the government to show that that was the case in 2011.

“These royal weddings epitomize the British monarchy’s fondness for reverse Robin Hood economics, whereby wealth is redistributed from ordinary people, via their taxes, to a fabulously rich family that on such occasions appears not very modern, at all; in fact, it all feels rather feudal,” said Patrick Basham, the founding director of the Democracy Institute, a Washington- and London-based libertarian think tank.

He told VOA: “A royal family savvier about the optics would have refused, for example, taxpayers footing the vast security bill. Instead, wedding sponsorship would have been procured from the British fashion, music and tourism industries, which would serve to get taxpayers off the hook — a huge PR win — and provide significant global branding opportunities for leading domestic companies and entrepreneurs.”

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Putin Favors Status Quo With New Government Lineup

Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed a new government line-up on Friday at the start of his new term in office, sticking in most cases with the incumbents but elevating two newcomers with ties to the intelligence services.

Dmitry Medvedev, whom Putin had already reappointed as prime minister, proposed the new cabinet at a meeting with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi that was broadcast live on Russian state television.

“Almost all the candidates are well-known people with experience and a good track record at their previous places of work,” Putin said. “I give my approval,” he said.

The big-hitters in Putin’s team kept their jobs: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Alexander Novak, the country’s energy minister who helped mastermind a global deal to prop up crude oil prices.

Maxim Oreshkin, appointed economy minister in late 2016, will retain his job, as will trade and industry minister Denis Manturov, and Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov.

Medvedev named Yevgeny Zinichev, who served as Deputy Director of Federal Security Service (FSB), as the new emergency minister. Medvedev put forward the son of FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, Dmitry, for the job of agriculture minister.

There were no places in the cabinet for Igor Shuvalov and Arkady Dvorkovich, who were deputy prime ministers in the outgoing government. They had positioned themselves as champions of private business, though with limited practical effect.

The currency market reacted negatively to the appointments in the minutes after the lineup was unveiled.

The ruble pared gains and weakened to 62.19 versus the dollar from levels of 62.08 seen before the announcement.

Putin secured a new six-year term in office after more than 70 percent of voters backed him in a March 18 presidential election. He is now in his second consecutive term, and his fourth term overall.

Putin was sworn in for the new term in early May, and signaled he would keep faith with a policy direction that, among other things, has brought Russia into conflict with the West.

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Chilean Bishops Offer Mass Resignation to Pope Over Abuse Scandal

In an unprecedented move, 34 Chilean bishops said on Friday they had offered to resign en masse after attending a crisis meeting this week with Pope Francis about the cover-up of sexual abuse in their country.

It was not immediately clear if the pope would accept all or any of the resignations from the prelates, who hold all the top jobs in Chile’s Roman Catholic Church.

“We have put our positions in the hands of the Holy Father and will leave it to him to decide freely for each of us,” the bishops said in a joint statement read out by a spokesman for the churchmen, Bishop Fernando Ramos.

He said the bishops would stay in their roles until the pope had made his decision.

The scandal has devastated the credibility of the Church in the once staunchly Catholic country. It has also hurt the pope’s own image because this year he strongly defended a bishop accused in the alleged cover-up before reversing his position.

The Vatican declined to comment on the timing of any decision or on the resignations themselves. A Church official said it was the first time the bishops of an entire country had offered to leave their posts in such a manner.

In their statement, the bishops thanked the pope for his “brotherly correction.”

“Above all, we want to ask forgiveness for the pain caused to the victims, to the pope, to the people of God and our country for the serious errors and omissions committed by us,” the contrite statement said.

Evidence

This week’s meeting followed a Vatican investigation into Bishop Juan Barros, who was appointed by the pope in 2015 despite allegations that he had covered up sexual abuse of minors by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima.

Now 87 and living in a nursing home in Chile, Karadima has always denied the allegations. Barros has said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

However, a Vatican source confirmed on Friday a report by Chile’s T13 television that the pope had handed the bishops a document accusing them of destroying evidence of sex crimes and of failing to protect children from predator priests.

The document said the church hierarchy was collectively to blame for serious lapses in handling the abuse cases.

Friday’s sombre statement came just four months after the pope had visited Chile in a trip that raised questions over his response to abuse scandals that have repeatedly rocked the Church over the past 17 years.

During the visit, Pope Francis had staunchly defended Barros, denouncing accusations against him as “slander” until proven otherwise.

But days after returning to Rome, the pope, citing new information, sent sexual abuse investigator Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to Chile to speak to victims, witnesses and other Church members.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Vatican quoted the pope as saying the four days of meetings this week had been “frank” and had covered “painful events regarding abuses – of minors, of power and of conscience.”

The Vatican said the bishops had agreed to short, medium and long-term changes in order to restore justice and Church unity, but did not elaborate. The meeting ended with “the firm intention to repair the damage done,” the pope said.

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