Transgender woman crowned Miss Universe Spain

A transgender woman has been crowned Miss Universe Spain for the first time in the country's history.

Angela Ponce, 25, is now set to represent her nation at the 67th Miss Universe Pageant in the Philippines in November.

She won't be the first transgender woman to appear in the pageant.

Jenna Talackova from Canada was the first transgender woman to compete in the pageant when in 2012.

Angela Ponce. Source: Instagram

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Cast for TV adaptation of Kiwi writer's Booker Prize winning The Luminaries named

The lead cast members in the BBC drama adaption of Eleanor Catton's Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries have been revealed, with NZ actor Marton Csokas taking a main role. 

Csokas will join play Francis Carver in the television version of the book, BBC Two has confirmed.

He will join Eva Green, who will take on the role of Lydia Wells, and Eve Hewson, who will play Anna Wetherell.

The six-part adaptation of the story - a Victorian mystery tale set during the New Zealand gold rush - was originally announced in 2016.

Catton adapted her own novel for the screenplay and the series will be directed by Australian film-maker Claire McCarthy.

The New Zealand author became the youngest ever winner of the Man Booker Prize - aged 28 - when The Luminaries won in 2013.

The 832-page book was also the longest work to win in the prize's history. 

rnz.co.nz

The Luminaries.

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British Labour Party says it’ll consider new Brexit referendum

Britain's main opposition Labour Party announced today it will reject Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May's proposed divorce deal with the European Union if it comes to a vote in Parliament and might even support a new Brexit referendum.

The party's chief Brexit spokesman accused May's government of offering the country a choice between "really bad and even worse."

If Britain and the EU agree on a deal, it must be approved by the British and European parliaments before Britain leaves. The math on the UK vote looks ominous for May's government, because it lacks an overall majority.

Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer told Labour's annual conference that the party would vote against a Brexit deal along the lines that May is proposing because it does not meet "six tests" it has set, including protecting workers' rights and retaining access to European markets.

"We do not accept that the choice is between whatever the prime minister manages to cobble together and no deal ... between really bad and even worse," Starmer said.

The comments come as the Brexit deadline gets closer, with no deal in sight. Source: Breakfast

Starmer said if the British Parliament rejected the deal, there should be a national election.

"If that is not possible, we must have other options," he said. "Our options must include campaigning for a public vote - and nobody is ruling out 'remain' as an option."

Starmer's suggestion that a new referendum could reverse Britain's 2016 decision to leave the EU - which wasn't in the advanced printed text of his speech - drew a standing ovation from many delegates in the conference hall.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has long opposed the idea of a new Brexit referendum, saying the party must respect voters' decision to leave.

Most of the party's 500,000 members voted in 2016 to remain in the EU, but many of its 257 lawmakers represent areas that supported Brexit. Brendan Chilton of the pro-Brexit group Labour Leave argued Tuesday that the party would "hemorrhage votes" if it tried to stop Britain from leaving the 28-nation bloc.

But with Britain due to leave the EU on March 29 and negotiations at an impasse, Corbyn is under intense pressure from party members to support a new public vote.

With a show of hands, conference delegates voted Tuesday to back a compromise motion leaving the option of a second Brexit referendum open, but not calling for it directly.

EU leaders last week rejected the British government's blueprint for future trade ties at a fractious summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg.

May's plan seeks to keep the UK in the EU's vast single market for goods but not for services, in order to ensure free trade with the bloc and an open border between the UK 's Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. But EU officials say that amounts to unacceptable "cherry-picking" of elements of membership in the bloc without accepting all the costs and responsibilities.

The Salzburg rebuff left May under siege from Brexit-supporting Conservatives, who want her to seek a looser relationship based on a bare-bones free trade agreement that would leave Britain free to strike new deals around the world.

But May is sticking by her proposal, saying the "hard Brexit" proposed by some Conservatives would be "a bad deal" because it would not resolve the Irish border problem.

"What we have put on the table is a good deal," she said Tuesday. "It's a deal which retains the union of the United Kingdom, our constitutional integrity, it's a deal that provides for no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, protects jobs and enables us to have a good trading relationship with Europe and also the rest of the world."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that time is tight. An EU summit next month is seen as a make-or-break moment for a Brexit deal.

Speaking in Berlin, Merkel said there were "six to eight weeks of very hard work in front of us in which we must take the political decisions."

"Of course, to a significant extent, this also depends on what Britain really wants - the discussion isn't so clear here," she said.

Ms May is sticking to her plan for cooperation with the EU, but European leaders says it won’t work. Source: Breakfast

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Watch: Will Smith marks 50th birthday with bungee jump out of helicopter into Grand Canyon

Like a scene out of a high-octane action movie that he would star in, Will Smith celebrated his 50th birthday today by successfully bungee jumping from a helicopter near the Grand Canyon.

Cameras, which captured the stunt for a livestream on YouTube , showed the actor hooked to a harness and bungee cords dangling over a gorge in northeastern Arizona.

"This is some of the most beautiful stuff I've ever seen in my life," Smith said while still swinging over the chasm.

He described the experience as going "from pure terror to absolute bliss".

The entire event had the feel of a polished episode of reality TV. Camera crews showed Smith, wife Jada Pinkett Smith and his three children being greeted by dozens of relatives and friends on a platform.

His Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star, Alfonso Ribeiro, served as a host interviewing Smith and others before and after.

The stunt was billed as a leap "in the heart of the Grand Canyon". But the jump was outside Grand Canyon National Park on the Navajo Nation. The tribe's reservation borders the east rim of the national park.

A Navajo medicine man gave Smith a blessing and thanked him for coming to the reservation.

Smith said the bungee jump was a challenge from Yes Theory, a YouTube channel that makes videos of people doing activities outside of their comfort zone.

But the event also raised money for charity through an online lottery for a chance to watch the jump in person. The proceeds will benefit access to education for children in struggling countries.

Smith used the stunt to fundraise for education for children in struggling countries. Source: Will Smith / YouTube


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Rare beluga whale sighting in the River Thames

A beluga whale was spotted in the River Thames outside the British capital today, officials said.

The unusual sighting happened in the Gravesend area about 50 kilometres east of London. It was reported to be feeding near a number of barges.

TV news helicopters filmed the whale from the air as officials asked the public not to get too close to the animal.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation group said that beluga whales are identified by distinctive white markings and are typically found farther north.

"Beluga whales inhabit cold, arctic waters off Greenland, Svalbard and in the Barents Sea," the group said in a statement. "There have only been around 20 sightings of beluga whales off the UK coast previously, but these have occurred off Northumberland, Northern Ireland and Scotland."

The RSPCA animal welfare group said that it's "working with other agencies to monitor the situation" and sent researchers to the scene.

It says it is ready to provide help to the whale if asked to do so by other agencies.

Images posted on Twitter showed a white whale in the water.

The River Thames, one of the longest rivers in England, runs through several major cities and towns, including London, Oxford and Windsor.

A beluga whale was spotted about 50 kilometres east of the city. Source: BBC