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Japan has chosen the kanji character for "disaster" as its defining symbol of the year, after being hit by a devastating earthquake, typhoon, heatwaves and flooding in 2018. Following a public vote, television stations broadcast the announcement live as the master of an ancient temple in Kyoto wrote the winning term on a white panel. The symbol, which can be pronounced “sai”, won almost 21,000 votes. Kanji are used widely in Japanese and other alphabets.

Photo: Jiji Press/EPA


Search and rescue ship Aquarius, which has saved tens of thousands of migrants from drowning, has been forced to end its operations this month. Médecins Sans Frontières, the charity that runs the ship, said it was forced to terminate operations because of a “smear campaign” by European governments. In November, Italian magistrates accused MSF of illegally dumping toxic waste at ports in southern Italy. The charity denied any wrongdoing and accused Italy of seeking to criminalise humanitarian search-and-rescue missions. Aquarius was the last charity ship operating off of Libya since 2016. According to the UN, more than 2,000 people fleeing war and poverty have drowned this year while trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Photos: Nicoló Lanfranchi + Jean-Paul Pélissier/Reuters


Adverts showing a woman struggling to park a car or a man refusing to do housework while his wife cooks dinner will be banned from next year as part of an industry-wide crackdown on sexist stereotypes. Under the new rules, British companies won't be able to create promotions depicting men and women engaged in gender-stereotypical activities. The rules will also ban adverts that suggest that transforming your body will make you romantically successful, while also clarifying rules on the sexualisation of young women. People will be able to report adverts to the regulator if they feel they breach the code. Ella Smillie from the Advertising Standards Authority said: “We don’t see ourselves as social engineers, we’re reflecting the changing standards in society. We know advertising can reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, which can limit people’s choices or potential in life.”


24 large blocks of centuries-old ice harvested from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland are currently melting outside the Tate Modern in London. Ice Watch London, an art installation by artist Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing, are trying to bring the effects of climate change closer to home by letting people touch, smell and even lick the icebergs. They want to highlight the chilling fact that 10,000 blocks of ice such as the ones on display in London are falling from the ice sheet every single second.

Photos: David Levene + EPA + Daniel Leal-Olivas


@djdaisyjohnson became the youngest person to be shortlisted for the Man Booker prize with her debut novel Everything Under. She speaks to @imaniamrani about women as protagonists in literature and shares tips on the best ways to deal with a first draft. Tap the link in bio to watch the full interview.


We're interrupting our Brexit coverage to bring you a story about chaos and the chocolate factory. This street in a western German town got a repaving worthy of Willy Wonka when a tonne of chocolate flowed out of a factory and solidified on the pavement. About 25 firefighters armed with hot water and shovels had to clean the scene up. They also used hot water and torches to remove remaining bits from cracks and holes.

Photo: Reuters


Time magazine has paid tribute to journalists who have risked their lives in pursuit of the truth. More than two months since Khashoggi’s disappearance, Saudi Arabia is still facing international condemnation over his brutal murder and alleged dismemberment at the hands of a Saudi hit team. Maria Ressa helped found Rappler, a Philippines news site known for reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s extrajudicial killings. The Capital Gazette team in Annapolis, Maryland was targeted by a gunman leaving five of their colleagues dead. The shooting made the US the fourth deadliest country in the world to be a journalist in 2018, tied with Mexico. Finally, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are currently imprisoned in Myanmar for investigating crimes committed against Rohingya Muslims; their wives feature on the cover.


48 Conservative MPs – representing 15% of the parliamentary party – have backed a confidence vote in Theresa May in an attempt to trigger a leadership contest. The vote will take place this evening between 6-8pm. 158 MPs would need to vote against her for this to work. If she defeats her critics, they would need to wait another year before they can challenge her again. It's going to be a long day, so if you're keen to stay on top of developments follow the link in bio for our live blog.


The ancient Japanese ritual of sumo is in crisis. Years of controversy and scandal, coupled with the country's declining population, have impacted the sport's ability to attract new talent. We visited Tokyo's Ryōgoku district, the birthplace of sumo, to see how this iconic institution is adapting to life in the 21st century. Tap the link in bio for the full film.


In response to the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests, President Emmanuel Macron has addressed the people of France on primetime television. While promising an increase in the minimum wage and cancelling a planned tax on pensions, he also said he understood the protesters’ anger and indignation, which he said was “deep and in many ways legitimate”. But Macron also added “no anger justifies attacking a police officer, a gendarme, or damaging a shop or public building. When violence is unleashed, freedom ends.” Despite Macron's speech, the protests have continued across France. Many demonstrators say the president's concessions are not enough to calm their anger and sense of social injustice. Further demonstrations are expected in Paris on Saturday.
Photos: Zakaria Abdelkafi/Reuters + Stéphane Mahé/Reuters + Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images


The latest Brexit chaos explained: After listening to MPs' concerns about her Brexit deal, Theresa May realised too many of them objected to proposals for the insurance policy to prevent a hard Irish border. So May delayed the vote on the deal and said she would seek changes from the EU to please MPs. Critics, however, will argue she is mainly delaying it in the hope that something will come up and save her from a defeat that could end her career. Labour leader @JeremyCorbyn said the government had “lost control of events and is in complete disarray”. He's come under pressure from the Scottish National Party and some of his own MPs to press ahead with a no-confidence motion in the prime minister and push for a second EU referendum. A Labour statement said the party planned a no-confidence motion “when we judge it most likely to be successful”, seemingly when May presents her plan to the Commons again.


We've launched a six-month investigative series exploring who the new populists are, what factors brought them to power and what they're doing once they're in office. Follow the link in bio to find out more.