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Illusionist Siegfried Fischbacher dies aged 81

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Siegfried Fischbacher, the surviving member of the magic duo Siegfried & Roy who entertained millions with illusions using rare animals, has died in Las Vegas aged 81, his publicist has said.

Mr Fischbacher died at his home on Wednesday from pancreatic cancer, Dave Kirvin of Kirvin Doak Communications said on Thursday.

Mr Fischbacher’s long-time showbusiness partner, Roy Horn, died last year of complications from Covid-19 at a Las Vegas hospital. He was 75.

Illusionists Siegfried Fischbacher, left, and Roy Horn (Neil Jacobs/AP)

The duo astonished millions with their extraordinary magic tricks until Mr Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act’s famed white tigers.

In a statement announcing Mr Horn’s death in May, Mr Fischbacher said: “From the moment we met, I knew Roy and I, together, would change the world. There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried.”

He later told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that his best friend would always stay by his side.

“For dinner, I will continue to have the table set for him, too. Like it always was the case. I’m not alone,” dpa quoted Mr Fischbacher as saying.

For years, Siegfried & Roy was an institution in Las Vegas, where Mr Fischbacher and Mr Horn’s magic and artistry consistently attracted sellout crowds. The pair performed six shows a week, 44 weeks a year.

Siegfried & Roy’s compound was home to dozens of rare animals over the years (John Locher/AP)

Mr Horn and Mr Fischbacher, both from Germany, first teamed up in 1957 and made their Las Vegas debut a decade later. Siegfried & Roy began performing at the Mirage in 1990.

The pair gained international recognition for helping to save rare white tigers and white lions from extinction. Their 10 million US dollar compound was home to dozens of rare animals over the years.

The white lions and white tigers were the result of a preservation programme that began in the 1980s.

The Siegfried & Roy show incorporated animal antics and magic tricks, featuring 20 white tigers and lions, the number varying depending on the night. The show also had other exotic animals, including an elephant.

When they signed a lifetime contract with the Mirage in 2001, it was estimated they had performed 5,000 shows at the casino for 10 million fans since 1990 and had grossed more than one billion US dollars.

“Throughout the history of Las Vegas, no artists have meant more to the development of Las Vegas’ global reputation as the entertainment capital of the world than Siegfried and Roy,” Terry Lanni, chairman of MGM Mirage, the casino’s parent company, said after the 2003 attack that injured Mr Horn.

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Welsh health minister heard calling colleague’s question ‘ridiculous’ over Zoom

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Wales’s health minister was caught dismissing a colleague’s question as “ridiculous” during a virtual Welsh Parliament committee meeting.

Vaughan Gething’s remarks in response to fellow Welsh Labour MS David Rees were picked up by a microphone and come after he was overheard swearing about Labour’s Jenny Rathbone during a virtual sitting of the Senedd last April.

On Wednesday, Health, Social Care and Sport Committee chairman and Plaid Cymru MS Dai Lloyd started the Zoom session by warning participants that microphones are “being controlled behind the scenes, as it were, and they will be managed automatically, hopefully”.

But technology seemingly caught Mr Gething out for a second time after Mr Rees asked how many care homes in Wales are currently allowing visits for relatives due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Rees asked: “How many care homes across Wales are you aware of that are allowing visits, and how many are not? Do you have those numbers?”

Mr Gething was seen raising his eyebrows and shaking his head before muttering: “Ridiculous question.”

The question was answered by deputy health minister Julie Morgan, who told Mr Rees: “No, we don’t have those numbers.”

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, claimed the remarks showed that Mr Gething and the Welsh Government want to stamp down on scrutiny.

Dismissing

Mr Davies told the PA news agency: “This is not the first time that the health minister has been caught dismissing serious questions and concerns from his Labour colleagues.

“It’s not a ‘ridiculous question’ to ask Vaughan Gething for specific numbers on those care homes allowing visits – far from it. These policies are a light at the end of the tunnel for residents and their families.

“The Welsh Labour Government’s arrogance and consistent attempts to shut down scrutiny has to stop. Wales is not a dictatorship.”

Wales is not a dictatorship

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said: “The care home crisis has been well documented.

“We’re talking about the most vulnerable of people, extremely concerned friends and relatives, and under-pressure care workers, and yet here we have the health minister, on record, dismissing legitimate concerns.

“Apart from being just plain rude, the health minister appears all too often to be keen to evade scrutiny on very important matters.”

In April, first minister Mark Drakeford dismissed calls to sack Mr Gething after he accidentally left his microphone on and swore during a virtual Senedd session.

Following a question from Cardiff Central MS Ms Rathbone, Mr Gething was heard saying to an unknown person: “What the f*** is the matter with her?”

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Envoy urges setting up a joint bank between Iran, Kazakhstan

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Envoy urges setting up a joint bank between Iran, Kazakhstan

Speaking in a Conference of Economic Diplomacy between Iran and EAEU on Wed., Askhat Orazbay stated that unjust and unilateral sanctions imposed against Iran should be lifted.

Setting up a joint bank between Iran and Kazakhstan as well as launching a bartering system between the two countries is mandatory, he added.

As long as sanctions are not lifted, the two countries should focus on the products that are not subject to sanctions, the envoy stipulated.

Turning to the adverse effects of sanctions, he said that sanctions have reduced volume of trade and business between the two countries extremely, he said, adding, “Under such circumstances, customs duties o the products that are not subject to sanctions should first be reduced and secondly, a bilateral trade agreement should be inked between the two countries regarding free trade zone, so that Kazakhstan welcomes the two options wholeheartedly.”

He lashed out at the lack of a banking system between Iran and Kazakhstan and reiterated, “Lack of an integrated banking system was one of the main problems between the two countries, so that it is proposed to set up a joint bank between Iran and Kazakhstan.”

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European aviation agency clears Boeing 737 Max to fly again

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A modified version of the Boeing 737 Max, incorporating multiple safety upgrades, has been approved to resume flights in Europe, the European aviation safety agency said.

The decision follows nearly two years of reviews after the aircraft was involved in two deadly crashes that saw the planes grounded worldwide.

Changes mandated by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) include a package of software upgrades, a reworking of the electrical system, maintenance checks, operations manual updates and new crew training.

“We have reached a significant milestone on a long road,” said EASA executive director Patrick Ky.

“Following extensive analysis by EASA, we have determined that the 737 MAX can safely return to service. This assessment was carried out in full independence of Boeing or the Federal Aviation Administration and without any economic or political pressure – we asked difficult questions until we got answers and pushed for solutions which satisfied our exacting safety requirements.

“We carried out our own flight tests and simulator sessions and did not rely on others to do this for us.”

The planes were grounded in March 2019 following the crashes of a Lion Air flight near Jakarta on October 29 2018, and an Ethiopian Airlines flight on March 10 2019, killing a total of 346 people.

Investigators determined that the cause of the crashes was a faulty computer system that pushed the plane’s nose downward in flight and could not be overridden by pilots.

Changes mandated by the EASA, based in Cologne, Germany, include a recertification of the plane’s flight-control system, which was not a part of previous 737 models.

Mr Ky said the EASA will continue to monitor 737 Max operations closely as the aircraft resumes service.

“Let me be quite clear that this journey does not end here,” he said.

The planes were grounded in March 2019 (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

Despite the green-light from the EASA, the actual return of the aircraft to the skies of Europe may still take some time.

Airlines will still need to ensure their pilots have received the training needed to fly the plane, and that the maintenance and changes necessary have been carried out after the long grounding.

Some EU states will have to lift their own individual grounding notices as well.

The pandemic, meanwhile, has caused severe travel restrictions. Many airlines are flying a fraction of their usual routes, which the EASA said could affect the pace of the aircraft’s return to commercial operations.

The 737 Max returned to the skies in the United States last month, after the Federal Aviation Administration approved changes that Boeing made to the automated flight control system.

It has also been allowed by Brazil to resume flights, and has been cleared by Transport Canada.

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