Ryan Thomas’ fiancee Lucy Mecklenburgh pregnant with first baby

Ryan Thomas and Lucy Mecklenburgh are expecting a baby together.

The pair confirmed the happy news tonight by sharing a picture of Lucy's baby bump.

The snap showed the couple holding up a baby grow surrounded by balloons and flowers.

She wrote: "Best birthday present I’ve ever had love you @ryanthomas84 ."

Lucy's mate Lydia Bright is also pregnant with her first child and she was quick to comment on Lucy's post.

She wrote: "Wohooooooooo, we can finally scream it from the roof tops. Can’t wait for our babies to be best friends."


It's Lucy's first child, but Ryan has a daughter from his previous relationship with Tina O'Brien.

The baby news comes just weeks after the couple got engaged on holiday.

Ex Coronation Street actor Ryan, 35, popped the question to reality star Lucy, 28, on a romantic trip to Italy in June after two years of dating.

The loved-up pair currently live apart and Lucy recently admitted they have no plans to change this when they become man and wife because it's what 'works best for them.'

Lucy owns a property in London while Ryan resides in his hometown of Manchester in order to be close to his 10-year-old daughter Scarlett.

Last month Lucy and Ryan celebrated their engagement with a huge boat party on the Thames surrounded by their family and friends.

Romantic Ryan had popped the question back in July after whisking Lucy on a no expense spared trip to Italy.

Sharing details of the intimate moment with fans on social media, Ryan revealed he'd selected a private dining area in their five star Villa Treville hotel overlooking picturesque Positano .


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Jeffrey Epstein’s friend calls the billionaire’s victims ‘trollop’

Jeffrey Epstein’s best friend gives bizarre interview calling the billionaire pedophile’s underage victims ‘trollops’ who were ‘complicit’ in his lewd behavior and insists the disgraced financier had a ‘mental disorder’ that made him crave sex

  • An art collector and scientist claiming to be Jeffrey Epstein’s best friend for decades referred to the pedophile’s underage victims as ‘trollops’ 
  • Stuart Pivar, 89, claimed the girls were ‘complicit’ and that Epstein had a mental disorder called satyriasis which made him crave sex
  • Pivar claimed Epstein ‘shielded’ him from lurid behavior during their friendship and he didn’t know about it until he was informed by one of his alleged victims 
  • Maria Farmer told Pivar a ‘terrible thing’ about Epstein which he never realized 
  • Pivar said he would go to dinner parties hosted by Epstein and he would interrupt conversations by saying: ‘What does that got to do with p***y?!”
  • The scientist and author claimed he was never invited to Epstein’s ‘Isle of Babes’
  • Pivar claimed that Epstein ‘did stuff with underage girls, who knew what the hell they were doing’ and made an industry out of it
  • He also said Epstein asked him to take care of his alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell following the death of her father, describing her as a ‘basket case’ 

An art collector and scientist claiming to be Jeffrey Epstein’s best friend for decades referred to the pedophile’s underage victims as ‘trollops’ who were complicit and claimed he had a mental disorder which made him crave sex.

Stuart Pivar, 89, an industrialist based in New York, spoke in a wide-ranging and rambling interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein until he claimed he cut contact when he started to ‘notice certain things’ about his behavior.

Epstein, 66, killed himself August 10 in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan while awaiting trial next year on federal sex-trafficking charges. Numerous women in the United States have claimed they were sexually abused by Epstein.

Pivar helped establish the New York Academy of Art alongside Andy Warhol and Epstein would later serve on the academy’s board.   

Stuart Pivar, 89, an industrialist based in New York, spoke in a wide-ranging and rambling interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein until he he cut contact with him when he started to ‘notice certain things’ about his behavior

Stuart Pivar, 89, (left), who said he was best friends with Jeffrey Epstein for decades, referred to the pedophile’s underage victims as ‘trollops’ who were complicit and claimed he had a mental disorder which made him crave sex. 

He claimed Epstein was ‘profoundly sick’ and put his sexual compulsions down to a condition called ‘satyriasis,’ suggesting that he could treat himself to sex three times a day with young girls because he had the financial means to do so.

Asked if he believed Epstein was guilty of the allegations against him, Pivar told Mother Jones: ‘Let’s put it this way. What’s the difference between the punishment which befalls a murderer and a serial murderer? It’s the same. 

‘If Jeffrey Epstein was found guilty of fooling around with one 16-year-old trollop, nobody would pay any attention. The trouble is, what he did was quantitative and not qualitative.’

‘What Jeffrey did is nothing in comparison to the rapes and the forceful things, which people did. Jeffrey had to do with a bunch of women who were totally complicit.

‘For years, they went, came there time and time and time again. And if there was only one of them who did it, no one would have noticed—except he made an industry out of it.’

Pivar claimed Epstein ‘shielded’ him from lurid behavior during their friendship and he never witnessed him assaulting young girls. 

He also said that Epstein never invited him to what he called the ‘Isle of Babes,’ an island owned by the financier just off the southeast coast of St. Thomas.

Federal authorities consider Little St. James Island to have been Epstein’s primary residence in the United States, a place where at least one alleged victim said in a court affidavit that she participated in an orgy as well as had sex with Epstein and other people.

Sources say Epstein flew girls into St. Thomas then shuttled them over to his island on a boat named after his alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of soliciting young girls on his behalf.

Pivar added: ‘I never saw him fool around with—in fact, Jeffrey was a very, very close friend of mine.

Pivar, (pictured), claimed Epstein was ‘profoundly sick’ and put his sexual compulsions down to a condition called ‘satyriasis,’ and suggested that he could treat himself to sex three times a day with young girls because he had the financial means 

Pivar claimed Epstein asked him to take care of Ghislaine Maxwell while she was profoundly depressed following the death of her father, the media mogul Robert Maxwell. Epstein is pictured together with Maxwell in 1995 

‘And he shielded me. I never saw what he did until finally I did notice certain things, and that was the end of me having to do with him. 

‘But for a very long time, for years and years and years, Jeffrey did amazing, incredible, amazing, remarkable things for science and all kinds of stuff. He was a very, very good friend to me.

‘He never invited me to the Isle of Babes, luckily. I never knew it was even there.’

In 1995, Pivar met an aspiring artist named Maria Farmer, who claims she was sexually assaulted by Epstein and Maxwell in an Ohio apartment. 

In an affidavit, she also claimed Epstein and Maxwell ‘took an interest’ in her younger sister Annie and took both of them to a movie in New York where he ‘rubbed her in a sexual manner’ without her knowledge.

She claimed in her deposition that the pair then flew Annie to a ranch in New Mexico and ‘touched her inappropriately’ on a massage table in 1996 when she was just 15, according to the affidavit. 

He recalled meeting her at a New York flea market where she told him a ‘terrible thing’ about Epstein which is when he first became aware of the other life he was leading.

Pivar claimed he attended lavish dinner parties hosted by Epstein along with scientists and other philosophical thinkers, despite he said, Epstein having ‘no knowledge whatsoever about anything’

Pivar claimed that Epstein ‘did stuff with underage girls, by the hundreds, who knew what the hell they were doing’ and made an industry out of it

‘One day at the flea market there was Maria Farmer there, and I said, “What are you doing here?.”

‘And she told me this bizarre story, and then Jeffrey shows up, and I realized oh my god something was happening after years and years, which he didn’t tell me.’

‘Jeffrey brought her there, and what he did to Maria was inexcusable, of course. He locked her up, and she couldn’t get away, and her father had to come and rescue her. That’s a story she told. 

‘And, of course, that’s the least of what she told me. Forget that, her little sister, for Christ’s sake, the guy actually brought her to his place and did those kind of things, which, of course, is inexcusable and that’s the kind of thing which satyriasists do because they can’t help themselves.’

Pivar claimed he attended lavish dinner parties hosted by Epstein along with scientists and other philosophical thinkers, despite he said, Epstein having ‘no knowledge whatsoever about anything.’

He recalled having a conversation at one point about gravity and Epstein interjected with the expression: ‘What has that go to do with p***y.?’

Pivar said that Epstein never invited him to what he called the  ‘Isle of Babes,’ an island owned by the financier just off the southeast coast of St. Thomas

Sources say Epstein flew girls into St. Thomas then shuttled them over to his island on a boat named after his alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of soliciting young girls on his behalf

Pivar claimed: ‘While everybody was watching, we began to realize he didn’t know what he was talking about. 

‘Then after a couple of minutes—Jeffrey had no attention span whatsoever—he would interrupt the conversation and change it and say things like, “What does that got to do with p***y?!.”

‘That was his favorite expression. It was a subject changer. And it revealed what was really in his mind. 

‘Of course, that was the only thing that was going on in his mind. The poor guy had—it’s hard to, you can’t describe Jeffrey. 

‘And because he had dough, he was able to realize the weirdest situations, which he would convoke by bringing brilliant people together and proposing silly ideas at dinner, and everyone would listen because he was handing out dough.

‘And it was an indescribable situation—trying to create some kind of a mini university of thought while he himself knew zero.’

Pivar claimed Epstein asked him to take care of Ghislaine Maxwell while she was depressed following the death of her father, the media mogul Robert Maxwell.

Pivar described Ghislaine Maxwell as a ‘basketcase’ and he had helped her following the death of her father Robert 

Asked if this happened when he first met Epstein, he claimed: ‘No, that was much later. I knew Jeffrey a long time before that. But when she arrived, after her father jumped off the boat or whatever happened, she was a total wreck.

‘And my job was to amuse her, take her to dinner and lunch and what have you until she finally came around, and then was okay.

‘When I watched this happen, I had no idea what the hell it was all about. And the idea that no one has recognized that Jeffrey was profoundly sick, with a male counterpart of nymphomania, which he could not control.’

Pivar claimed that Epstein ‘did stuff with underage girls’, by the hundreds, who ‘knew what the hell they were doing’ and made an industry out of it.

‘If he only did one, no one would pay attention. Nor, on the other hand, did he actually rape any of them or anything like that, which happens, you know. 

‘If you want to make a list of, let us say, in the past several years, of the kind of stuff going on of sexual abuse of children and what the hell not—you want to compare that with what Jeffrey did?.

‘What Jeffrey did in comparison with the kind of stuff which gets exposed every day of people who are abusing children left and right and all kinds of institutions? Jeffrey never did anything like that. Everything he had to do with these girls was complicit.’

Pivar recalled bringing Epstein to a prominent art dealer to buy furniture along with an assistant who was a ‘very attractive young girl.’ 

He claimed Epstein grabbed her from behind and squeezed her as he interjected and said: “Jeffrey put her down! What are you doing?.”

‘And the three or four of us who were watching were horrified, and he put her down. He was out of control. Have you ever seen anyone do a thing like that?.’

He claimed Epstein would rely on him to help him furnish him with art at his numerous residences , adding that it amused him to ‘have fake art in his house.’

Maria Farmer claimed she and her sister, Annie, (pictured), were both sexually exploited by Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.  Maria claimed in her deposition that the pair flew Annie to a ranch in New Mexico and ‘touched her inappropriately’ on a massage table in 1996

During the interview, Pivar apparently referred to Virginia Roberts Giuffre as a ‘trollop’. She alleged that she was trafficked by  Maxwell and Epstein to have sex with and provide erotic massages for politicians and affluent businessmen.

‘Jeffrey had a collection of underage Rodins, for example, because what difference does it make if it’s real or not real? And if the real one costs nothing and the expensive one—it doesn’t make a difference. 

‘He was amused to put one over on the world by having fake art. He thought that he was seeing through the fallacy.’ 

The conversation between Pivar and Mother Jones reporter Leland Nally took place and was posted on its website.

He concluded by saying: ‘I had no idea of what the hell Jeffrey was doing in all the years I knew him until it became clear, and then I divorced myself from having anything to do with him. 

‘But before that happened, for years and years and years, I watched Jeffrey do all kinds of interesting and amazing things, scientifically and so on.’

The reporter also claimed that Pivar apparently referred to Virginia Roberts Giuffre, now 33, as a ‘trollop.’

Giuffre accused the pair of keeping her as a ‘sex slave’ in the early 2000s when she was underage, after meeting Maxwell in Mar-a-Lago where she had a summer job.

She alleged in a May 3, 2016 deposition that she was trafficked by the pair to have sex with and provide erotic massages for politicians and affluent businessmen. 

He claimed: ‘That trollop, who, for months, or whatever the hell she did. What the hell was she doing all this time? And she has made an industry for herself out of inventing calumnies against all of these respectable people.’

 

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Real Madrid vs Valladolid: Live stream, TV channel, kick-off time and team news for La Liga – The Sun

REAL MADRID host Valladolid as they look to make it two wins from two in La Liga.

Zinedine Zidane's side kicked off their campaign with a comprehensive 3-1 win at Celta Vigo, but the visitors will be buoyed by their own winning start against Betis.

After Barcelona slipped up on opening weekend, Zidane will be keen for another three points as Los Blancos look to forget a difficult summer.

What time is kick-off?

THIS La Liga clash is set for TONIGHT, August 24.

Kick-off is at 6pm BST.

When Valladolid came here last season, Real cruised to a 2-0 victory.

If the visitors can take the three points, it would be their first win at the Bernabeu since 2000.

Which TV channel and live stream can I watch Real Madrid vs Valladolid on?

SADLY this game isn't being shown live on TV in the UK.

Currently there is no lead broadcaster for La Liga matches on these shores after Eleven Sports gave up the rights last season.

ITV are showing one Spanish top-flight game a week up until the international break.

This week features coverage of Barcelona's clash against Real Betis at 8pm on Sunday, August 25.

What is the team news?

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Bullfighter Gored In the Crotch In Spain, Graphic Photos

When ya mess with bull, ya get the horns … right in the balls.

That’s the lesson decorated matador Paco Urena learned when he stepped into the Vista Alegre bullfighting arena this week at the Semana Grande Fair in Bilbao, Spain … where he ended up with a crotch full of horn.

OLE!!!!!!

Unclear how badly Urena was injured in the incident — but it seems like his man-junk survived because there are photos showing Paco proudly showing off the bull’s ears as trophies.

As you probably know … the bulls are mercilessly tortured and killed during the fights. As you can see, Urena was wielding a sword during the fight, with the intention of stabbing the bull through the heart so it can die fast. But, that rarely happens because the bull doesn’t want to die!

So, what ends up happening is a bloody, painful, torturous exhibition in front of thousands of screaming blood-thirsty fans … but hey, TRADITION RIGHT?!?

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Stephanie Frappart first woman to officiate UEFA Super Cup

The 35-year-old French referee to take charge of Liverpool v Chelsea clash in Istanbul on August 14.

    France’s Stephanie Frappart will become the first female official to take charge of a major UEFA competition match when Liverpool face Chelsea in the Super Cup in Istanbul on August 14, European football’s governing body has said.

    The 35-year-old officiated the women’s World Cup final last month, which saw the United States beat the Netherlands.

    She was the first female referee to officiate a French Ligue 1 match when she took charge of Amiens against Strasbourg in April and also became the first woman to be named in the pool of referees in France’s top league for next season.

    “The potential for women’s football has no limits and I am delighted that Stephanie Frappart has been appointed to officiate at this year’s UEFA Super Cup,” UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement on Friday.

    “I hope the skill and devotion that Stephanie has shown throughout her career to reach this level will provide inspiration to millions of girls and women around Europe and show them there should be no barriers in order to reach one’s dream.”

    UEFA Chief Refereeing Officer Roberto Rosetti said Frappart “fully deserves” the opportunity to officiate the Super Cup, an annual match played between the winners of the Champions League and the Europa League.

    Frappart’s assistants from the World Cup final in Lyon – Manuela Nicolosi and Michelle O’Neal – will be on the team of officials for the Super Cup.

    Switzerland’s Nicole Petignat was the first female referee to officiate in UEFA matches when she was put in charge of three UEFA Cup qualifying round games between 2004 and 2009.

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    NASA astronaut accused of accessing wife’s bank account from space

    NASA investigates the first allegation of criminal activity in SPACE: Astronaut is accused of accessing her wife’s bank account from the International Space Station during their messy divorce

    • Astronaut Anne McClain was accused of accessing her estranged wife Summer Worden’s bank account while she was in space 
    • Worden filed an identity theft complaint with the FTC against McClain
    • Her parents also filed a complaint with NASA’s Inspector General
    • McClain said that she was just checking up on Worden’s finances
    • Worden’s parents claim that McClain’s actions were part of a custody battle over her son, who she gave birth to a year before the couple were married

    NASA is looking into claims that an astronaut accessed her estranged wife’s bank account from space during a six-month stint on the International Space Station. 

    Decorated astronaut and  US Army lieutenant colonel Anne McClain has been accused of improperly gaining access to Summer Worden’s online bank account using NASA computers, the New York Times reported. 

    McClain allegedly accessed the bank account as part of a ‘highly calculated and manipulated campaign’ to obtain custody of Worden’s son, who she had given birth to about a year before the couple got married.  

    Worden, a former Air Force intelligence officer, brought a complaint against McClain with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that McClain had committed identity theft, even though none of Worden’s funds had been tampered with. 

    Astronaut Anne McClain has been accused of improperly accessing her estrange spouse’s financial information while on the International Space Station earlier this year

    She told the Times that she discovered McClain’s actions after becoming curious about how McClain knew details about the way she’d been spending her money, even though they were separated and McClain was orbiting the earth.  

    Worden’s parents went a step further, filing a complaint against McClain with NASA’s Office of Inspector General, alleging identity theft and improper access to Worden’s private financial records. 

    Last week, McClain, who is back on terra firma, sat down for an under-oath interview with the inspector general, during which she was said to have admitted that she did access Worden’s banking information. 

    However, McClain apparently claimed that she was just doing something she had always done while she and Worden were still a couple – checking in on Worden’s finances to make sure that there was enough money to support Worden’s child, who they had been raising together. 

    McClain’s (left) estranged spouse, Summer Worden (right), filed an identity theft complaint with the FTC over the incident, while Worden’s parents lobbed a complaint to NASA’s Inspector General, claiming it’s part of McClain’s efforts to gain custody of Worden’s child (center) 


    McClain claimed that claimed that she checked on Worden’s bank account to make sure there were enough funds for the care of Worden’s son, who they raised together while married

    Worden’s parents said that McClain’s actions were part of her efforts to gain custody of Worden’s son (pictured with McClain), who she had a year prior to the couple’s marriage 

    McClain was on the International Space Station when Worden discovered that McClain had been accessing her accounts (file) 

    McClain claimed that she was using the same password that she had always used during their relationship and that she had not been told to stop accessing Worden’s bank account. 

    McClain and Worden married in 2014, with Worden filing for divorce in 2018 after McClain accused her of assault, a claim which Worden denies and said was part of McClain’s efforts at gaining custody of her son. The assault case was eventually dismissed. 

    Worden had previously denied McClain’s attempts to adopt the boy even after they’d gotten married. 

    In Worden’s parents’ complaint, they said that McClain’s actions were part of a ‘highly calculated and manipulative campaign’ to obtain custody of Worden’s son, who she had given birth to about a year before the couple got married.  

    McClain’s lawyer told the Times that McClain ‘she strenuously denies that she did anything improper’ and cooperating with the investigation. 

    Worden told the New York Times that the FTC had not yet responded to her identity theft claims, but that investigators were accessing her family’s complaint to NASA.  

    NASA officials declined to comment on its Office of the Inspector General’s actions regarding the claims against McClain.

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    Man Utd brutally troll Chelsea in reminder of opening-day 4-0 battering – The Sun

    MANCHESTER UNITED have cheekily trolled Chelsea with a reminder of their opening-day battering of the Blues.

    In Frank Lampard's first game since returning to the club as manager, he watched on as Marcus Rashford scored twice, with Anthony Martial and Dan James also netting.


    Today, Manchester United are back at Old Trafford as they welcome Crystal Palace for their third Prem game of the season.

    The club's Twitter account tweeted out: "Sunny Saturday afternoons at Old Trafford. Talk to us, Reds: how are you feeling?"

    But instead of adding the hash-tag "MUNCRY" they put "MUNCHE".

    That of course would be Manchester United vs Chelsea.

    But to cleverly correct themselves, the club then posted a quick response.

    They wrote: "*#MUNCRY. Wish we were playing Chelsea again, though…"

    RIVALRY RENEWED

    United take on Palace as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to make it seven points from their first three games.

    Paul Pogba was talk of the town and not for the right reasons after the Red Devils were held to a 1-1 draw at Wolves.

    The Frenchman stepped up to take a penalty with the scores level, and missed, after Rashford had netted from the spot the previous week.

    And the United squad are now believed to have demanded that Rashford is returned to spot kick duties.

    Crystal Palace meanwhile have yet to score a goal this season, drawing 0-0 at home to Everton and losing 1-0 at Sheffield United.

    All eyes for Eagles fans will be on the performance of talisman Wilfried Zaha after he handed in a transfer request but failed to gain a summer move.

    Fascinatingly, Zaha will go up against his old Palace team-mate, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, after the latter's £50m move this summer.

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    Girl, 13, arrested after four boys stabbed at fireworks display in Bournemouth

    A GIRL aged 13 has been arrested after four boys were stabbed at a fireworks display in Bournemouth.

    Emergency crews were scrambled to the packed firework display at 10.25pm last night as thousands began to make their way home.

    The knife frenzy on Friday night left three boys aged 17 with stab wounds and a 15-year-old lad with a cut to the head.

    They were rushed to hospital but their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

    Cops arrested four girls aged 13 and 15 on suspicion of conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm with intent.

    A 14-year-old boy was held on suspicion of assault and is being quizzed by police.

    Detective Sergeant Richard Winn, of Dorset Police, said: “There were a lot of people in the area during that time and I am appealing for witnesses and anyone with information, who has not yet spoken to police, to contact us.

    “We are aware that an incident in such a public place causes concern to our residents and visitors.

    “There will be enhanced patrols throughout the bank holiday weekend, which should not alarm anyone, but will hopefully serve as a reassurance.”

    A Section 60 order is now in place from 6pm today until 7am tomorrow giving police greater powers to stop and search people in the area.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police at www.dorset.police.uk, via email [email protected] or by calling 101, quoting occurrence number 55190132583.

    More to follow…

    For the latest news on this story keep checking back at Sun Online.

    Thesun.co.uk is your go to destination for the best celebrity news, football news, real-life stories, jaw-dropping pictures and must-see video.

    Download our fantastic, new and improved free App for the best ever Sun Online experience. For iPhone click here, for Android click here. 

    Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thesun and follow us from our main Twitter account at @TheSun.

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    Daily Picks M Magazine August 25 – Thursday

    THURSDAY, AUGUST 29

    Riviera.Credit:Des Willie

    RIVIERA ★★★½

    Double episode series return, 8.30pm, SBS

    The romantic location at first threatens to outshine the glamorous characters and curly storylines as this dynasty thriller endeavours to maintain the intrigue of its debut season. Having crossed a moral line, Julia Stiles' disillusioned art dealer, Georgina Clios, is jumping at shadows. Ravens bearing cryptic scrolls and maps marked with an X might seem signs of desperate plotting measures, but all is not as it seems in this lap of luxury. A revelation is afoot.

    My Room TelethonCredit:

    MY ROOM TELETHON 

    7.30pm, Nine

    You've gotta love a telethon, and not just for altruistic reasons. It's a justifiable excuse to let the talent loose in the studio for a bit of unscripted chaos. Expect to see everyone who's anyone at the Nine Network manning the phones for this fundraiser for children's cancer charity, My Room. So far, confirmed participants include Rebecca Maddern and Shane Crawford, with Eddie McGuire hosting.

    NRLCredit:

    NRL – COWBOYS VS BULLDOGS

    7.30pm, Nine

    It's Round 24 of the National Rugby League, with the North Queensland Cowboys taking on the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at the 1300Smiles Stadium in Townsville. All eyes will be on star players Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan, Will Hopoate and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. In the commentary box are Paul Vautin, Andrew Johns, Mat Thompson, Billy Slater and mates. James Bracey hosts.

    Run, sisters, run … The Bachelor.Credit:

    THE BACHELOR ★★

    7.30pm, Ten

    Seriously? Women competing for a man by dangling from a hanging cloth? Why not just install some poles and a mirror ball and be done with it? That's the lengths to which the bachelorettes must go to impress Matt Agnew tonight. Either they catch his eye with a circus trick or risk being left on the shelf of singleton shame. The winner of this challenge gets to jump off a building. Literally.

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    'We are hostages': Two years on, Rohingya still in Myanmar trapped by new war

    YANGON (Reuters) – When Myanmar officials toured refugee camps in Bangladesh last month, inviting Rohingya Muslims who fled the country to return, they brought with them pamphlets adorned with cartoons showing hijab-wearing women passing through checkpoints and happily grasping identity cards.

    They did not mention the new war being waged at home.

    While the majority of Rohingya residents of northwestern Myanmar were driven out by a military campaign that began in August 2017, a scattered community of some 200,000 remained behind in Rakhine state, in villages that were spared the violence. Two years on, many of them are now trapped by a new conflict.

    Since late last year, government troops have been battling the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group that recruits from the mostly Buddhist Rakhine, who make up the majority in the region.

    The worsening fighting has left Rohingya caught in the middle and facing threats from both sides, a dozen villagers told Reuters, making returns ever more unlikely.

    “We are stuck in the middle of their fight,” said Tin Shwe, a villager from Buthidaung township, where clashes have been intense. “There has been no improvement of our lives over the past two years, only degradation. Only trouble.”

    More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine to Bangladesh after Myanmar’s armed forces launched a crackdown following attacks on security posts on Aug. 25, 2017.

    United Nations’ investigators have said the army campaign included mass killings and gang-rapes and was carried out with “genocidal intent”. The military denies almost all the allegations made by refugees during what it said was a legitimate counterterrorism operation.

    On Thursday, a third attempt to begin the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya cleared by the authorities to return to Myanmar failed when the refugees refused to go back.

    Min Thein, director of Myanmar’s social welfare ministry, said security measurements were in place for returning refugees. “The Myanmar police force will guard them,” he said.

    A military spokesman did not answer phone calls seeking comment.

    INFORMATION BLACKOUT

    Authorities have shut northern Rakhine off from journalists and most humanitarian agencies, and imposed an internet blackout since late June, citing the need to avert unrest.

    The restrictions make information difficult to verify, but Reuters spoke to a dozen Rohingya still in central and northern Rakhine and refugees in Bangladesh with relatives who stayed behind.

    Some described landmine blasts and shells falling in Muslim villages, as well as intimidation from combatants on both sides of the conflict.

    Two told Reuters they would flee to Bangladesh if they could, but routes out of the country used during the previous exodus have been rendered unsafe by the violence.

    More than 1,000 Rohingya have arrived in the camps in Bangladesh since January, according to the United Nations refugee agency, a figure that also includes arrivals from India, which has in recent months been cracking down on what it says are illegal Rohingya immigrants.

    Those from Myanmar cited violence linked to fighting between Arakan Army insurgents and the military as well as poor living conditions, spokeswoman Louise Donovan said.

    Many refugees living in the crowded Bangladesh camps say they want to return home, but under specific conditions, including guarantees of citizenship and security and improvements in the lives of Rohingya still in Myanmar.

    Denigrated as illegal immigrants, although many can trace their ancestry in Myanmar back centuries, the Rohingya there are mostly denied citizenship and subject to tight restrictions on movement that keep them confined to camps and villages.

    CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE

    The Arakan Army has been fighting for greater autonomy for Rakhine, a region that was an independent kingdom for centuries.

    In its calls for an armed “revolution”, the group draws on deep-seated historical resentment felt by some Rakhines toward the ethnic Bamar majority that dominates the central government.

    Rohingya still living in the area say they have been caught in the middle of the conflict.

    Government troops battling the insurgents have set up camp in Muslim villages in parts of northern Rakhine, five villagers told Reuters. Soldiers ask Muslim residents to bring them food and firewood, or to show them the roads, villagers said, putting them in danger of retribution from the Arakan Army.

    “If they say they will stay, we have to accept it,” said one Rohingya living in Rathedaung township, who like others asked not to be named for safety reasons.

    Another in Buthidaung township said soldiers had asked him to guide troops, as he was a proficient Burmese speaker. Some of the Muslim population, particularly from poorer communities, speak only the Rohingya dialect.

    Afterwards, the villager said, he got a call from an unknown number, warning that anyone who helped the military would face consequences. He said the speaker told him: “We will kill you. We will burn your village.”

    Two Rohingya were shot dead in Rathedaung township’s Sin Khone Taing village in early August after escorting troops, five locals told Reuters. Officials from the village could not be reached for comment.

    “We are hostages, stuck between two groups,” said one Muslim who fled the village. “We are not safe. It has been three times already that we have fled from the village since June … The government cannot control this area.”

    Arakan Army spokesman Khine Thu Ka denied the organization had killed civilians, blaming Myanmar forces for the deaths.

    “We don’t kill our civilians like that,” he said. “As we heard, the Burmese military took them and eliminated like them … There are too many cases like that.”

    AID SHORTAGES

    Many Rohingya in Myanmar have been reliant on international non-profit organizations for medical care and deliveries of food since a previous bout of violence in 2012 that forced many into camps.

    Since the start of the Arakan Army conflict, little has been getting through.

    In Rathedaung’s Sin Khone Taing village, Rohingya said they last received a delivery of food in May. “People are living off rice porridge,” said one villager.

    Kyaw Win, executive director of Burma Human Rights Network, which monitors the Rohingya crisis, said it had received reports of landmines and improved explosive devices placed on the roads near the exits of Rohingya villages.

    In a joint statement last week, 61 NGOs including Save the Children and Oxfam said there had been “no meaningful progress on freedom of movement or human rights” for the Rohingya still in Myanmar, while the recent “upsurge in violence has worsened the already precarious humanitarian situation in central and northern Rakhine state”.

    Across the border, in the sprawling Bangladesh camps, refugees keep in touch with their relatives in Myanmar via phone, now that the internet connection has been cut. Nobody is urging them to come home.

    “All of the people want to flee as there is no security,” Tin Shwe said. “The government cannot help the few Rohingya left behind. So how could anyone believe they could help hundreds of thousands?”

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