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Military experts clash over move to lift fighting ban

A military historian has spoken out against the MoD's recommendation to lift the ban on female soldiers fighting on the front line.

Colonel Mike Dewar, who served in Cyprus, Borneo, and Northern Ireland, told the BBC that senior generals he has spoken to think the move is "complete and utter and total madness" and is "politically driven."

The senior military sources cited by Mr Dewar also insist that "99.9% of women do not have the upper body strength to pass the infantry physical examination or carry an injured soldier from the battlefield."

However, a war photographer who served with the RAF in Iraq and Afghanistan said that gender does not matter in a firefight.

Alison Baskerville, who is also a reservist photographer with the British Army, and is writing a book about women in the armed forces, described the decision as "a step forward" which could be "the start of a new era for British infantry".

Profumo affair witness Mandy Rice-Davies dies aged 70

Mandy Rice-Davies, pictured aged 18 Credit: PA

Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair, has died aged 70 after a short battle with cancer, her publicist said today.

It is with deep sadness that the family of Marilyn Foreman, also known as Mandy Rice-Davies, have confirmed that she passed away yesterday evening after a short battle with cancer. They have asked for their privacy to be respected and no further comment will be made.

– Hackford Jones PR spokesman

The former model and showgirl was a friend of Christine Keeler, whose affair with former government minister John Profumo in the early 1960s almost brought down the then-ruling Conservative government.

Rice-Davies, who was born near Llanelli and grew up in Solihull, became famous for a comment she made at the trial of Stephen Ward, who was accused of living off her and Keeler's "immoral earnings."

When prosecutors told her that Lord Astor denied an affair with her, she replied, "He would, wouldn't he?" - often misquoted as "Well he would say that, wouldn't he?".


Petrol price fall 'one of biggest in 25 years'

Petrol pump prices have experienced the third biggest fall in 25 years, new AA figures suggest.

The AA said the drop would help consumers spend more on other goods. Credit: PA Wire

The AA said that between mid-November and mid-December UK average petrol prices fell 6.6p to 116.32p a litre.

The drop does not include the latest 2p-a-litre reduction by the four biggest supermarkets, which took effect on Wednesday.

Only the October-November 2008 fall of 11.5p a litre and the August-September 2006 dip of 7.9p have been greater than the most recent decline.

Average diesel prices have also fallen 5.27p a litre to 122.16p over the mid-November to mid-December 2014 period, the AA said.

But experts have warned that the rapidly falling prices "carry a warning from the ghost of Christmas past" due to the parallels with the 2008 oil price crash.

Pakistani army kill 67 militants near Afghan border

Pakistani jets and ground forces killed 67 militants in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said, days after the Taliban killed 148 people - mostly children - in a school massacre.

The Pakistani army, pictured going into the school on December 17. Credit: Reuters

The mass attack on children has stunned the country and brought cries for retribution.

In the past few days the military have struck a number of targets in the Khyber region, and approved the death penalty for six convicted terrorists.

Khyber borders Peshawar, where the massacre took place, and militants traditionally attacked the city before fleeing into the tribal area where they cannot be chased.

The government is appearing to demonstrate its commitment to fighting terrorism, but this was somewhat undermined by the decision to grant bail to the main suspect in the Mumbai terror attacks, Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi. The government said it is trying to cancel the bail.

Indian protests commemorate Pakistani terror victims

Students sit with placards for the victims of the Taliban attack in Karachi. Credit: Reuters

A number of protests and ceremonies for have been taking place across India in memory of the victims of a Taliban gun attack on school in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Women attend a candlelight prayer ceremony for the victims in an elderly home in Ahmedebad. Credit: Reuters

Labour welcomes move to let women fight on front line

Labour has welcomed the Government's recommendation to end a ban on allowing women to fight on the front line, pending further research.

The party's shadow armed forces minister Kevan Jones pointed out that many of the British Army's front line medics, engineers, intelligence officers, fighter pilots and submariners are women.

We should be proud of the role played by women in our armed forces.

Many of them already serve on the front line as medics, engineers, intelligence officers, fighter pilots and submariners.

Labour had called for the ban on women serving in combat roles to be examined with a view to it being ended, and any moves towards that are welcome.

– Labour MP Kevan Jones
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