British MPs will hold a debate on February 21 on a petition signed by more than 1.6 million people calling for a planned state visit by US President Donald Trump to be cancelled to avoid embarrassing the Queen. The debate was called by the Petitions Committee of the House of Commons. On the same day,MPs will also debate a second petition calling for the state visit to go ahead, which has been signed by more than 100,000 people.

The Trump administration said 872 refugees will be allowed into the United States this week despite a presidential order suspending the US refugees programme. Kevin McAleenan, the acting head of Customs and Border Protection, said that the refugees were already travelling and stopping them would cause "undue hardship".

Thousands of men convicted under now-abolished anti-homosexuality laws in Britain have been pardoned posthumously under a law enacted on Tuesday, and many more still alive can now apply to have their criminal convictions wiped out. Announcing the new law, the Ministry of Justice said the pardons apply automatically to deceased men who were convicted for consensual same-sex relations before homosexuality was decriminalised several decades ago. Men living with convictions can apply to the government to have their names cleared. Activist Peter Tatchell, who had campaigned for 30 years for the pardons and an apology from the British Government, welcomed the new law, but said it "has connotations of forgiveness for a wrong done". The law will "remedy the grave injustices suffered by many of the estimated 50,000 to 100,000 men who were convicted under discriminatory anti-gay laws between 1885 and 2003".

Israel announced plans to build 3000 new homes in West Bank settlements, pressing forward with a construction binge. The move followed an announcement days earlier of an additional 2500 homes in the West Bank and more than 550 homes in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim both areas, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as parts of a future independent state - a position that has wide international backing.


A ferret is recovering after being fitted with a pacemaker during a rare surgery at Kansas State University. The 4-year-old ferret, named Zelda, is owned by Carl Hobi of Olathe, who took her to the Veterinary Health Centre in Manhattan, Kansas, after Christmas. Zelda had a third-degree block in her heart, which caused a low heartbeat and a lack of energy. The university said tests determined Zelda was a good candidate for a pacemaker, although it had to be special ordered because of her veins' small size. The university says Zelda was released two days after the surgery and should enjoy a normal ferret lifespan, which the school's veterinary college says generally is about 10 years.

A New York cardiologist who conspired to have another doctor attacked following a professional dispute has been sentenced to five years in prison. Prosecutors say Dr Anthony Moschetto offered an undercover officer US$5000 to have the other doctor beaten and US$20,000 to have him killed. Moschetto was recorded on video giving the officer US$500 and blank prescriptions as a deposit. Prosecutors say Moschetto also hired an intermediary to set the other doctor's office on fire. Moschetto pleaded guilty in October to arson, weapon, drug and conspiracy charges.

This image provided by Kansas State University shows a radiograph showing the implantation of a pacemaker in the abdomen of a ferret. Photo / AP
This image provided by Kansas State University shows a radiograph showing the implantation of a pacemaker in the abdomen of a ferret. Photo / AP

Greek farmers angry at income cuts demanded by the country's bailout creditors have briefly blocked a border crossing to Bulgaria, and are keeping a key crossing into Macedonia shut for a second day. About 200 farmers closed off the Promahonas crossing for nearly an hour, before freeing the road to traffic from both sides of the border. At Evzoni - the busiest of the three border crossings to Macedonia - dozens of trucks were lined up on both sides of the border as farmers kept up a blockade started yesterday. Farmers also intermittently blocked roads in other parts of Greece by parking tractors on the tarmac. Many farmers have been hit in recent weeks with higher taxes on their income, land and fuel.

The discovery of a hummingbird's nest with an egg inside is stalling upgrades on a San Francisco Bay Area bridge. KCBS reports that the backhoes are waiting and the safety barriers are ready. But work on a key part of the US$70 million Richmond-San Rafael Bridge's upgrade project has been put on hold. Hummingbirds are a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Randy Rentschler with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission says the discovery could set the project back a few weeks.

The South African state prosecutor who led the case against convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius has quit. AfriForum, a non-governmental group, said that Gerrie Nel resigned and will head the group's new private prosecuting unit, which will target state officials and politicians suspected of graft. AfriForum says it aims to protect the rights of minorities, particularly those of South Africa's white Afrikaner group. Nel's old employer, the National Prosecuting Authority, has faced allegations that some of its actions, including a fraud case against the finance minister, were politically motivated. The head of the state prosecution office denied those allegations.