January 20, 2020
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Tories Split On HS2 Amid Warning That Costs Could Spiral To £106bn
Tory splits over the HS2 high speed rail link have burst open after a leaked government-commissioned review warned it could cost up to £106bn.
A group of 30 pro-HS2 Tory MPs from the north and Midlands, including senior ministers, have put their name to a private letter to Boris Johnson underlining their support for the project.
It came in response to reports that more than a dozen Tories, including from the new intake who seized so-called “red wall” northern and Midlands seats from Labour, were prepared to meet the prime minister to urge him to cancel HS2.
The split adds to the dilemma Johnson faces as he prioritises infrastructure investment as part of his efforts to close the north-south divide and serve voters who backed the Tories at the election. 
The review led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Doug Oakervee, leaked to the Financial Times, found there is “considerable risk” that the high-speed rail project’s cost will rise by up to 20% from between £81bn and £88bn.
It was initially allocated far less – £56bn – in 2015.
The review also recommended that the second stage of the project, to take the line beyond the initial London-Birmingham link onwards to Manchester and Leeds, should be paused to probe whether it would be better to downgrade it to a mix of high-speed and conventional lines. 
But Kevin Hollinrake, who is organising the pro-HS2 letter alongside Crewe and Nantwich’s new Tory MP Kieran Mullan, told HuffPost UK: “If we have a change of heart now, you are still going to deliver HS2 to Birmingham.
“What’s the rest of the country going to think of that?
“The north is left out again – it would look very bad.”Worst of all worlds would be HS2 only reaching as far as Birmingham, which is the most likely outcome if Phase 2 (The North) is suspended. https://t.co/WNhHmMbRCO— Kevin Hollinrake MP (@kevinhollinrake) January 20, 2020Hollinrake welcomed the “robust challenge” from Tory colleagues but said they were wrong to portray the decision as an “either/or” choice between HS2 and boosting transport within the north.
The MP for Thirsk and Malton, in North Yorkshire, is a supporter of the proposed northern powerhouse rail (NPR) link between Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds and Newcastle. 
But he said: “It is the wrong thing to superconnect the north into one geographic region and then not connect it to the rest of the country.”
Half the infrastructure for NPR will be also be shared with HS2, which will be built first, Hollinrake said.
He is keeping his letter private as a number of ministers have signed it and need their views to be kept private, including “very senior people”.
The MP said he has also had “very positive” conversations about HS2 in the past with “senior treasury ministers”.
His impression is that the government is currently “on the fence”, adding: “I think if you’re on the fence on something like this, at a time like this, I think you should come down on the side of investment.”
On the other side of the Tory party, Dehenna Davison said the project would not give value for money and called for transport between northern towns and cities to be prioritised.
Davison, who in December won Bishop Auckland in County Durham for the Tories for the first time ever, said: “I’m all in favour of investment in infrastructure. 
“However, with the ballooning costs of the HS2 project, I find it difficult to believe it will provide value for money for taxpayers. 
“I also believe that our infrastructure agenda should prioritise the north, and focus on connecting our northern communities, rather than entering around the journey times to London. 
“To guarantee we spread opportunity across the country we must ensure that we have effective transport links to and from our great cities and towns in the north.”Transport investment alone will not ‘rebalance’ the UK economyThe Oakervee review concluded that the government should “on balance” continue with the 250mph railway but that this was subject to “a number of qualifications”.
It said “further work” is needed to assess HS2′s impact on regional growth, and warned that it is “hard” to say what economic benefits will result from building it.
“Transport investment alone will not ‘rebalance’ the UK economy,” the review adds.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham described the leak as “quite worrying” and claimed that using conventional lines in the north would be a “second-class option”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s the same old story. London and the south gets whatever it wants, and it’s all about penny-pinching in the north.”
Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “It is time to bring the damaging speculation around HS2 to an end with the prompt publication of the Oakervee review and an unambiguous government commitment to deliver the project in full.”
Several construction bosses also claimed scrapping the project would cause “irreparable damage” to the industry and suggested it could cost jobs.
The chief executives of Balfour Beatty, Skanska and Morgan Sindall were among the signatories to a letter to Johnson, seen by the Times, which urged him to approve the scheme and noted it would take “many years to get an equivalent pipeline of work in place” if HS2 were cancelled.
A decision on whether to go ahead with the project will be made in “weeks rather than months”, transport secretary Grant Shapps said.
£8bn has already been spent on the project.Related... Exclusive: Labour Membership Surges By More Than 100,000 Ahead Of Leadership Vote No.10 Casts Doubt On Jeremy Corbyn's Move To Get John Bercow A Peerage Labour MP Zarah Sultana Slams 'Crushing' Student Debt, Brandishing Loan Statement In Commons
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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