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Film-maker Bong Joon-ho's interpreter gets award for improving South Korea's national image

Academy-award winning director Bong Joon-ho’s interpreter is getting her own share of accolades, Korea Herald reported.

Bong’s trusted interpreter, Choi Sung-jae, received an annual diplomacy award in Seoul on Wednesday (July 1) for her role in enhancing South Korea’s national image, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Choi won this year’s YoungSan Diplomat Award, given by the non-profit Seoul Forum for International Affairs to a civilian each year for their contribution to improving the country’s image and diplomatic interests.

One of Bong’s best known-quotes, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” was a particularly good translation by Choi.

In an interview with Jimmy Fallon on his Tonight Show, she translated Bong’s answer with an apt metaphor. When Fallon asked Bong to describe the film, Choi’s translation of Bong’s answer was “I’d like to say as little as possible here, because the film is best when you go into it cold.”

The 25-year-old Korean-American is also a film-maker with no professional experience in interpretation.

The YoungSan Diplomat Award was also given to Kang Hyung-sik, head of the Foreign Ministry’s international safety management bureau. He played an important role in helping South Korean citizens from severely virus-hit countries return home safely.

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Indian city ravaged by coronavirus sees deaths due to other causes spike

AHMEDABAD, INDIA (REUTERS) – A large Indian city badly hit by the coronavirus has recorded a sharp rise in deaths not attributed to the outbreak, according to official data and burial records, highlighting how the pandemic has affected general healthcare.

The spike in deaths in Ahmedabad, the most populous city in western Gujarat state, is due to patients with serious illnesses either not being able to go to hospitals or being afraid to visit them because of the virus, doctors said.

The numbers contain “ominous signals” for the rest of the country, said Dr Rajib Dasgupta, a professor of community health at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

India has the world’s fourth-biggest outbreak of the Covid-19 disease caused by the virus, with over 600,000 confirmed cases and 17,800 deaths, and some of its largest cities are still reeling from rising infections.

Authorities say over 1,400 people have died because of the coronavirus so far in Ahmedabad, one of India’s worst-hit cities with more than 20,000 confirmed cases.

But the indirect death toll may be even higher.

Twenty-four Hindu crematoriums and four of the largest Muslim graveyards in the city have reported 3,558 deaths in April and 7,150 deaths in May – a spike compared to 2,784 and 2,706 deaths reported by them in April and May last year, respectively.

State government data for Ahmedabad district, which includes the city limits, shows 839 deaths because of Covid-19 during April and May this year.

Ms Jayanti Ravi, the health secretary of Gujarat state, however said she wasn’t aware of any significant rise in deaths in the city of more than 5.6 million people.

“We have collected the data related to actual births and deaths registered across the state and it is not showing such a big deviation,” she told Reuters when asked about the spike.

India’s federal health ministry and Ahmedabad’s municipal commissioner did not respond to questions from Reuters.

Dr Mona Desai, president of the Ahmedabad Medical Association that represents over 9,000 doctors, said some of those who died may have been Covid-19 positive.

But more fatalities were likely to have occurred because patients did not seek timely treatment, fearing they might become infected by the virus, she said.

“Many patients went to hospital only when their condition deteriorated, but then it was too late to do anything,” Dr Desai said.

LOCKDOWN CLOSES PRIVATE CLINICS

Doctors also said that a closure of some private health facilities during a weeks-long lockdown that began in late March made it difficult for many patients to seek treatment.

Dr Dasgupta, from Jawaharlal Nehru University, said: “Excess deaths during the Covid surge phase has been in evidence in other countries too on account of the inability to access medical care for other time-sensitive emergencies.”

There was growing evidence that routine healthcare had been disrupted in India also, he said, adding that mortality data from high-incidence areas would provide more details.

Data from the Hindu crematoriums in Ahmedabad shows that the number of bodies cremated rose by 19 per cent in April and 145 per cent in May compared to the same months last year, with the first half of June also registering a marked increase.

The data was provided by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation under a right to information application.

Ahmedabad’s Muslim graveyards have seen an even sharper rise – data from four of the largest graveyards shows that the number of bodies buried increased by 131 per cent in April and 396 per cent in May, compared to the same months last year.

“People are scared of getting hospitalised because of the coronavirus outbreak,” said Mr Rizwan Kadri, chairman of Ahmedabad Sunni Muslim Wakf Committee, which oversees five burial grounds.

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

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Wembley sister killings: Man charged with park murders

An 18-year-old has been charged with murdering two sisters who were stabbed to death in a park in Wembley, north London.

Danyal Hussein is accused of killing Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, in the early hours of 6 June.

The women were in Fryent Country Park with others on 5 June to celebrate Bibaa’s birthday.

Their bodies were discovered in the park two days later.

A post-mortem revealed the siblings both died from stab wounds.

The Metropolitan Police said Hussein, from Blackheath in southeast London, had been charged with two counts of murder, and a further count of possession of an offensive weapon.

He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

Commander Roy Smith said: “I would like to thank the local community for their support, both with the investigation and the police activity at and around the scene.

“I know that colleagues from across the Met have been working tirelessly on this investigation.

“My officers will remain on patrol in the local area, providing continued reassurance – please do stop and speak with them if you have any questions or concerns.”

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Eurozone crisis: EU alarm bells as ‘hardest still to come’ for teetering currency

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The European Central Bank President said eurozone leaders had not yet witnessed the “hardest” impacts from shutting down their economies to curb the spread of the deadly disease. Speaking at a United Nations event, she said: “The worst is behind us and the hardest is yet to come.” Ms Lagarde added the recovery is going to be “as uncertain and as uneven as the shock was decisive across the board”.

Europe faces its deepest recession since the end of the Second World War, according to the ECB’s forecasts.

The Frankfurt-based central bank has already boosted its stimulus three times this year, offering unprecedented levels of support for an economy that could shrink by close to a tenth in 2020 and take another two years to reach pre-crisis levels.

The ECB extended its emergency bond purchases until June 2021, and could possibly could expand the programme again in the future.

Its chief economist Philip Lane said: “We’ve done a lot. We have essentially this one-year horizon.

“That one-year horizon reflects that, before we really know how able the European economy will be to recover from this shock.”

He added that the ECB’s intervention, including €1 trillion euros worth of loans to banks, had somewhat stabilised the markets.

Meanwhile German Chancellor Angela Merkel has placed added empthasis on the need for the EU’s economic survival.

She has previously warned the entire bloc could collapse without financial stability.

The veteran leader, who yesterday took over the EU’s rotating presidency, has thrown her diplomatic weight behind plans for a €750 billion bailout fund.

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The recovery fund, which will create a joint EU debt in order to distribute €500 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans to pandemic-stricken regions and industries, is highly controversial amongst member states.

Mrs Merkel said: “The recovery fund cannot solve all of Europe’s problems. But not having it would make all our problems worse.

“Europe’s economic health can influence so many things. Very high unemployment in a country can become politically explosive and thereby increase the threat to democracy.

“For Europe to survive, its economy needs to survive.”

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EU leaders will hold their first face-to-face summit, since the pandemic exploded onto the Continent, in Brussels later this month.

European Council President Charles Michel yesterday met with senior diplomats from the EU27 to discuss his plans for the showdown.

He tabled a so-called “negotiating box” that he hopes leaders will be able to work from in order to broker a compromise.

But critics have claimed his blueprints lack proper solutions, saying the chief eurocrat is waiting for Mrs Merkel to come to the rescue.

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What are they planning? China practices STORMING ISLAND in worrying military drill

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Maritime officers from China’s Hainan province confirmed the wargames were taking place around the disputed Paracel Islands and banned all other shipping in the area until July 5. Security analysts said the drills were designed to send a clear message that Beijing has the capability to stamp out any threats to its sovereignty over the vast, strategically important trade route.

It looks like what they’re going to do is practice some island seizure or island security exercises

Bryan Clark

Bryan Clark, a senior fellow and naval expert at the Washington-based Hudson Institute, said: “It looks like what they’re going to do is practice some island seizure or island security exercises, which could be a way of demonstrating to other Southeast Asian nations that China can come in and kick them off their islands.”

Mr Clark, who has reviewed real-time satellite imagery of China’s main military base at Woody Island, said the exercises were not about simulating an attack on another military force but using the military to suppress potential civilian unrest.

He told Radio Free Asia: “The way it appears they’re setting up their forces for the exercise, it seems like it’s more of a civilian action than it is a military force-on-force engagement.”

Woody Island is China’s largest occupied feature and main administrative centre in the Paracels, an archipelago of rocks and reefs claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan and China.

Satellite imagery showed a Type 071 landing helicopter dock in Woody Island’s harbour last Saturday alongside three smaller ships.

The Type 071 is meant for amphibious warfare operations and the three smaller vesels are thought to be minesweepers.

Armed China Coast Guard vessels are also taking part in the drills, according to vessel tracking data and satellite imagery.

China has recently passed new laws upgrading the the coast guard to a branch of the armed forces alongside the navy.

Mr Clarke said: “Tying the coastguard to the People’s Armed Police makes them an extension of the part of the Chinese security apparatus that’s focused on tamping down on internal unrest.

“One part of this exercise might be to demonstrate to put forces onto an island where the local population is getting restless.

“It’s clearly to demonstrate a capability that would be exported elsewhere, and I think the use of a combination of civilian and military forces is also intended to convey a message, that, ‘We’re looking at this as more than just a military operation, and it’s intended to deal with civilian populations that may be partly Chinese and partly expatriate’.

“And then it’s a way to demonstrate to people outside the immediate area that this is the kind of thing that we can do in your area. Whether it’s Taiwan, the Senkakus, or in the Spratlys.”

China, Taiwan and four members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei – all have territorial claims in the Spratly chain.

Earlier this week, defence experts have warned the US Congress the constant presence of China Coast Guard and civilian vessels in the South China Sea helps Beijing assert its expansive maritime claims to the region.

Greg Poling, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee: “China wants the South China Sea to be a Chinese lake.

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“Xi Jinping has put this issue, among a few others, at the heart of his China Dream.

“It underpins his claim to legitimacy. So certainly we are going to continue to see China push and push and push the envelope here because Xi has linked his political future to it.”

Washington has beefed up its military presence in the South China Sea in recent years and carries out regular freedom of navigation exercises in the disputed waters.

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BBC backlash: Heseltine accused of ‘kowtowing’ to China after dodging Hong Kong criticism

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Lord Michael Heseltine refused to condemn China after Beijing imposed a new national security law that many claim violates Hong Kong’s freedoms. The former senior Tory politician sparked a furious backlash for his remarks on the BBC Today Programme, as he urged Britain to “wait and see” and said there is “nothing we can do about it”. Boris Johnson took a strong line against China during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, offering up to three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.

The Prime Minister said Hong Kong’s freedoms were being violated by the new security law and those affected would be offered a “route” out of the former UK colony.

Under this scheme, about 350,000 UK passport holders, and 2.6 million others eligible, will be able to come to the UK for five years.

He condemned Tuesday’s passing of the law as a “clear and serious breach” of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration.

This was a legally binding agreement which guaranteed that freedoms would be protected for the 50 years after China assumed sovereignty in 1997.

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In response to Mr Johnson’s offer, China has scolded the UK for “interfering” in Hong Kong’s affairs.

During the interview on the BBC this morning, Today host Justin Webb said: “You have wanted closer business links.

“Do you accept now that this is a repressive state that we can’t properly do business with?”

Lord Heseltine responded: “China is the emerging world power, there is nothing you can do to stop it.

“You have to find ways of living with it, while not supporting policies of which you disapprove.

“I’m deeply disappointed by what is happening in Hong Kong.

“I was a member of the cabinet committee in 1984 that negotiated the handover arrangements.”

Webb followed up: “Has the handover pact been breached now?

“I feel like the introduction of the law is intended to introduce domestic controls that would be unacceptable in the spirit and legality of the original agreement.

“But, let us wait and see. They are taking steps that may break it but on the other hand, China is not going away.”

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Listeners reacted furiously to the remarks, with many criticising that Mr Heseltine for “too much kowtowing” to China.

One person tweeted: “Lord Heseltine flailing and in discomfort on the BBC when asked whether China has breached the 1984 Hong Kong handover agreement which he played a role in. He can’t quite bring himself to say ‘yes’.”

Another added: “Heseltine wouldn’t even come out and condemn the Chinese over the new HK laws. Hedging to not offend them. It’s because of people like him China feel able to do this stuff.”

A human rights activist from Anti-Slavery International responded: “Lord Heseltine says China is the emerging world power and ‘there’s nothing we can do about it’. But of course, there is. The question is whether we and the global community are willing to weather the consequences.”

Lord Heseltine also drew ire on social media for blaming Brexit when he was questioned about how the coronavirus lockdown had led to an employment crisis in the UK.

One listener said: “Lord Heseltine made a lot of sense, talking about regenerating the economy; then destroyed his credibility by saying Brexit was equally to blame, with coronavirus.”

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Indian policemen arrested over custody deaths of father and son

CHENNAI (REUTERS) – India has arrested five policemen over the deaths of a father and son in custody, a senior investigating official said on Thursday (July 2), following outrage that drew comparisons to the death of Mr George Floyd in the United States.

Last week the men, Mr J Jayaraj, 59, and Mr Bennicks Immanuel, 31, were allegedly subjected to a brutal thrashing that resulted in rectal bleeding and eventual death, according to a letter to government officials written by Mr Jayaraj’s wife J Selvarani.

“All important police personnel involved in the incident have been arrested,” Mr K Shankar, Inspector General of Police, Crime Branch Central Investigation Department in the southern state of Tamil Nadu told Reuters.

“The investigation continues,” Mr Shankar said, adding that a murder case has been filed on the arrested policemen, who include two sub-inspectors, two constables and the police station’s inspector.

Hundreds of thousands of tweets were sent out using the hashtag #JusticeforJayarajandBennix, that was among the top Twitter topics trending in India last Friday and among the top 30 trending globally, with many comparing the deaths to that of Mr George Floyd.

Mr Bennicks died on Monday after complaining of breathlessness and Mr Jayaraj died Tuesday, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who oversees the police in the state, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Police in Sathankulam, a town located 50km south of the port city of Thoothukudi in southern Tamil Nadu state, said the duo were picked up for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules.

Nearly 15 cases of custodial violence and torture were reported daily on average, according to India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The NHRC said in its report that some custodial deaths were reported after considerable delay or not reported at all, adding violence in custody was so rampant “that it has become almost routine”.

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Hong Kong police stabbing suspect arrested at airport after security law protests

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested a 24-year-old man at the city’s airport in the early hours of Thursday on suspicion of attacking and wounding an officer during protests against a new national security law Beijing imposed on the financial hub.

Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people on Wednesday as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the sweeping security legislation introduced by China to snuff out dissent.

On Wednesday, police posted pictures on Twitter of an officer with a bleeding arm saying he was stabbed by “rioters holding sharp objects”. The suspects fled while bystanders offered no help, police said.

A police spokesman told Reuters the arrested man was surnamed Wong but could not confirm if he was leaving Hong Kong or working at the airport.

Local newspaper Apple Daily, citing unnamed sources, said the suspect was onboard a Cathay Pacific flight to London due to depart just before midnight.

A witness said “around 10 minutes before take-off, three police vehicles drove towards No. 64 gate, outside the Cathay Pacific plane” and around 10 riot police ran up the bridge to the aircraft.

Local television Cable TV, citing a police source, said police received an anonymous call at 11.43 pm, 12 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart, that the suspect was on his way to London. He bought a one-way ticket about two hours after the stabbing, the only purchase for that flight made on Wednesday, and arrived at the airport without luggage.

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He held an expired British National Overseas passport, a special status created under British law in 1987 that specifically relates to Hong Kong and provides a route to citizenship, the source told Cable TV.

Cathay Pacific did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying posted on Facebook on Wednesday that a bounty of HK$500,000 ($64,513) would be offered to anyone helping catch the fugitive and that confidentiality would be ensured.

The money would come via 803.hk, a website linked to Leung, which offers “crowdfunded” rewards for information leading to the prosecution of some anti-government protesters. The name of the site refers to an incident on Aug. 3, 2019, when a Chinese national flag was thrown into the sea during a protest.

Police said on Wednesday they had made around 370 arrests for illegal assembly and other offences, with 10 involving violations of the new security law.

The law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. It will also see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allows extradition to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

China’s parliament adopted the law in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Beijing denies the accusation.

Chinese state media on Thursday praised the passage of the law, saying it would bring “prosperity and stability.”

“We must face up to the fact that the existence of legal loopholes in safeguarding national security has already made Hong Kong society pay a heavy price,” a commentary in People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, read.

($1 = 7.7504 Hong Kong dollars)

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Breakingviews – Ping An untangles one knot in its leadership

HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) – One knot is better than two. Ping An founder Ma Mingzhe has given up his role as chief executive but will remain chairman of the $187 billion Chinese insurer. The split is welcome, but quirky governance endures with three other co-CEOs below him. Multiple bosses can be effective when responsibilities are clearly divided. Luckily, Ping An mostly appears to have ticked that box.

The tech-savvy group has mostly delivered for investors, earning a more than 20% total annualised return since it listed in Hong Kong in 2004, more than double that of the benchmark Hang Seng Index. But Ma has held tight control since establishing the company over three decades ago.

Splitting the top jobs will better prepare for any future leadership transition as conflicts of interest tend to arise when one person holds both. But Ping An’s remaining leadership structure is still pretty new – it only introduced the three co-CEO model in 2018. And one of the set, Lee Yuan Siong, has already left to lead rival AIA.

There is precedent. Safra Catz and Mark Hurd together oversaw software giant Oracle for five years until Hurd’s death in 2019, and the three co-CEO setup has mostly worked at South Korean conglomerate Samsung, which has been roiled more by corruption scandals than operational issues.

But there are also plenty of examples of where things turned sour, particularly on Wall Street. At Goldman Sachs, the joint leadership of co-chief executives Jon Corzine and Henry Paulson in the late 1990s devolved into an ugly power struggle. The model can go awry within divisional units, too. Paul Taubman and Colm Kelleher’s strained relationship as co-presidents of institutional securities became a source of internal conflict at Morgan Stanley a decade ago.

History suggests having multiple bosses works best when roles are clearly divided. At Ping An, Xie Yonglin runs the financial services unit, Jessica Tan is in charge of technology and innovation, while Yao Bo – named on Wednesday as Lee’s replacement – will largely be in charge of strategy and finance. The latter role will have some overlap, but for now Ping An has unravelled at least one potential leadership knot.

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Meghan Markle’s claim wedding gave £1bn tourism boost ‘doesn’t sound realistic’ – claim

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Newly-filed papers relating to her High Court privacy battle stated UK tourism experienced a windfall that “far outweighed” what taxpayer had to fork out for police and security required during the wedding. Meghan’s legal team said in submitted legal papers the estimated contribution of public funds “towards crowd security was far outweighed by the tourism ­ revenue of over one billion pounds sterling that was generated from the Royal wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex which went directly into the public purse”. 

Security at the Sussexes’ wedding cost an estimated £3.4million to taxpayers.

However, experts have argued the £1bn figure “doesn’t sound realistic at all” and said the Royal Wedding had a much lower impact on the British finances than claimed.

Brand expert Andy Barr at PR firm 10Yetis said: “£1billion total revenue for a royal wedding doesn’t sound realistic at all.

“It’s a huge sum and the stars would really have to align to get even half that. 

 “Even if you were to take into account the longer-term values from travel and tourism, it’s still a long way off.

“If I was forced to speculate, I would say a maximum of £250m.

“It certainly added value to Meghan’s own brand, however.” 

Similarly, consultants at Brand Finance estimated at the time of the wedding, which took place on May 19 2018, the nuptials would bring in some £300m through tourism alone.

The experts believed at the time the £1bn figure would be reached only if other sectors of the economy were factored in.

Retailers in London had expected a £60m sales boom from tourism spending in the days close to the wedding.

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Airbnb said people would rake in as much as £12m from renting out their properties. 

Similarly, the British Beer and Pub Association estimated a £10m sales boost.

As many as 50,000 US citizens lined up in Windsor and visited London in May 2018, Visit Britain added.

As stated by the papers filed by Meghan’s legal team, the public only covered for the creation of what was dubbed a ‘ring of steel’ around Windsor ahead of the wedding.   

The submitted papers read: “Any public costs incurred for the wedding were solely for security and crowd control to protect members of the public, as deemed necessary by Thames Valley Police and the Metropolitan Police.”

The nuptials itself were “rather personally financed by HRH The Prince of Wales”, the documents added.

The Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex may have cost nearly £32m, according to experts at Bridebook.co.uk, a wedding planning app.

Among the most expensive entries in the total budget drafted by these experts there are the venue, at £350,000, the catering for more than 4000 people costing approximately £286,000 and drinks, coming at £193,000. 

Music and flowery may also have cost eye-watering sums, the expert added, listing them respectively at £300,000 and £110,000.

Similarly, the 20 silver-plated fanfare trumpets stamped with the Royal Coat of Arms made at the same workshop used for the Cambridges’ nuptials and the London Olympics’ trumpets may have cost as much as £90,000.

The documents outlining the costs of security at the Sussexes’ wedding have been filed as part of the legal battle between Meghan and the Mail On Sunday and its publisher Associated Newspapers, sued by the Duchess of Sussex after it published extracts from a private letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle Snr.   

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