Manchester City: Inside the deal on the day City became the richest club in the world

Manchester City: Inside the deal on the day City became the richest club in the world

Manchester City were almost out of business – former chief executive It was the deal that changed Manchester City, the Premier League and the football landscape forever.

On 1 September 2008, Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s Abu Dhabi United Group agreed a deal to take over City.

Ten years earlier they had been in the third tier of English football. With that deal, City became the richest club in the world and had the money to buy the very best footballing talent on the planet. A decade on they have spent more than £1.4bn on players, won three Premier League titles and become established as one of Europe’s superpowers.

This is the story, from those who were there, of the most significant summer in English football… Summer 2008 – ‘Chaos’

In August 2008, after his wife Pojaman’s conviction for fraud, Thaksin Shinawatra jumped bail in his native Thailand and fled to Britain. At the time it was estimated Shinawatra had £1bn-worth of assets frozen, plunging his ownership of Manchester City into chaos. City had finished the previous season with an 8-1 defeat at Middlesbrough, with manager Sven-Goran Eriksson replaced by Mark Hughes. Chief executive Garry Cook led the search for a solution.

Garry Cook, who was appointed chief executive in May 2008: "There was chaos. Everybody was clinging to the wreckage. There wasn’t a lot of hope and it was born out of the fact that financially, we were almost out of business.

"We couldn’t pay the bills. We couldn’t pay the wages. Money was frozen. It was a desperate situation and faced with that, you borrow money from wherever you can. We were borrowing from board members. It was not a plan to run a football club. It was one of survival.

"Finding partial investment was not an option. Someone had to take over the club 100%. Good fortune is always a major factor in situations like these and Abu Dhabi United Group were in the market for a football club.

"The dream we sold to them was more than just buying 24 footballers. It was about buying the opportunity to create something rather special.

"We didn’t realise, as a group, the gravity of what was about to happen and the levels it would go to." Kompany with Hughes in 2008 Belgium international Vincent Kompany signs from Hamburg, originally joining as a midfielder, he has gone on to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s greatest defenders and to this day he remains the club’s captain.

Vincent Kompany: " I wasn’t aware [of the planned takeover when I joined]. Like every player who signs for a new club I was told about big plans and big projects and them needing me to complete the project. You listen and you never believe. I was lucky, the guys came in, took over the club and held onto every single promise." Manchester City’s Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra (L) stands with new chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak Abu Dhabi United Group agree a deal to buy City from Shinawatra and the takeover was officially completed on 23 September.

Cook: "The feeling we had when we knew there was a deal was one of complete relief. Relief that we were going to go through change, relief that we wouldn’t have to look back to where we were, relief that we were going to be able to maintain our financial well-being.

"At that stage, the agreement was all on one piece of paper. The irony was that as part of it we took a loan from the prospective owners to allow us to buy a single player in order to state the ambition of what was coming. That was Robinho."

Former defender Nedum Onuoha : "The takeover was a shock in itself, it was insane. Out of nowhere, we were getting called the richest club in football. It was a shock not just to the players, but the whole football world, it was such a big statement at that time."

Kompany: "There were a lot of east Asian people at the club. From one day to another, no-one was there anymore. You wonder who is going to be running the club. Next thing it is transfer deadline day, talk of transfers and Robinho coming in. Before you know it, he is sat next to us in the dressing room. Then we knew ‘this is serious’. 1 September 2008 – ‘I couldn’t believe Robinho was my new team-mate’

Robinho joined for a British transfer record of £32.5m City are linked to Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov, but he joins Manchester United. But in the final hours of deadline day on 1 September, City break the British transfer record by signing Brazilian forward Robinho from Real Madrid for £32.5m.

Cook: "We had the capital to go out and get a player, but we only had 24 hours. We had to really go through this ridiculous facade because if we didn’t get the player, the ownership might not take over. It was all very precarious. All a little bit storybook.

"We were making offers for players that were outrageous, unbelievable and made no sense. But we had to try and fulfil the obligation of the incoming owner, which was, get me a marquee player. Robinho was that guy.

"One thing I do remember about that day was the reaction of the fans. It was like they had this weight lifted off their shoulders."

Onuoha: "I will never forget being in my house watching deadline day on TV and there was breaking news that Robinho had signed for City – it felt like an out of body experience. I looked at it and thought ‘there is no way Robinho has signed’ and then I realised ‘I play for City and Robinho is a new team-mate’.

"I thought ‘wow I will go into work tomorrow and someone who I just watched play for Real Madrid, is now going to be put on the blue of Manchester City and that is incredible.’

"That transfer took the club to a whole new level that they had not been at in Premier League history. This is someone who has now made the step from Real to come to the Premier League, at this club. It was totally surreal, the first sort of big statement.

"Of course he is just a human being, but he was the first real Galactico at the club, as much as didn’t want to, we looked at him differently to everybody else. Not know which direction the club was going in, but knew if people like him were at the front, it would be a very serious place to be.

"The atmosphere and vibe completely changed in the team. It had always been a good place to be, but now it became exciting. The squad had a jewel added to it, that you’d never thought you’d see."

Kompany: "It was surreal because it was so out of proportion. A superstar was landing at a club where they didn’t see a superstar at their prime for a long time. It hit home to everyone that the pressure was on to do well and succeed."

Groundsman Lee Jackson: "Someone came knocking on my office door and said we had bid £30m for Berbatov, I thought hold on, we have just paid £6m for Vincent Kompany, we have not got £30m. All of a sudden Garry Cook is in Madrid signing someone called Robinho, being a City fan, I had no knowledge of European football for obvious reasons, so I had to look up who he was." A Manchester City supporter dons a traditional Middle Eastern headress to celebrate the buyout of the club by the Abu Dhabi United Group ‘I wonder if Kaka has any regrets?’

In January 2009, the first transfer window after the takeover, City failed in a £100m move for Brazil and AC Milan star Kaka. But later that year they would sign Carlos Tevez from Manchester United. City erected a blue ‘Welcome to Manchester’ sign featuring Tevez , which prompted Ferguson to brand them United’s ‘noisy neighbour.’ The summer after they signed Yaya Toure and David Silva and in 2011 Sergio Aguero arrived.

Cook: "All of a sudden, people were paying attention to Manchester City. Everybody wanted to hear about it. We weren’t used to that. Initially, we were voicing our intentions a bit too loudly. We needed to calm ourselves down.

"But there is a pace at which you should normally proceed and we did not have that luxury. The ambition that needed to be executed quickly. We wanted the best football team on the pitch and executive team off it. We wanted the best facilities and infrastructure.

"[In January 2009], we went for Kaka, which was another declaration of our ambition. But our audacity made people sit up and think ‘that’s not right’. We started to be used as a tool players could use to renegotiate their own contracts. I wonder if Kaka took the time back, whether he would look at the situation differently and joined Manchester City?

"Robinho was a moment. Carlos Tevez was a moment. But we changed the face of the football club when we signed David Silva and Yaya Toure in 2010." A decade later – ‘Kids wear City shirts with pride’

City, boasting some of the world’s best players, have won three Premier League titles, the FA Cup and three League Cups and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. In 2017-18, Pep Guardiola’s side set a Premier League record number of goals, point and wins. A £200m state-of-the-art academy has been built and the owners have invested millions in the surrounding areas of the stadium.

Cook: "There is pride in the knowledge we never forgot where we came from. As Ferguson said, we were a little noisy in our ambition. But we were a club rooted in our community.

"The employees were rooted in the football club. Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell and Francis Lee were ambassadors. You want to take the history and heritage of 100 years, keep it, cherish it and hold on to it. But you also want to look forward and make change with the aim of being successful and sustainable over the long term.

"The thing is, there is no finish line in football club ownership. Ten years ago, kids wouldn’t wear the City shirt amongst their peers because they didn’t feel proud. Now people around the world wear the City shirt with a lot of pride."

Kompany: "It is easy to track it [the differences from before the takeover] with the programme and the infrastructure. We already had a state-of-the-art stadium. It was a club with a lot of history – it was a big club already, but it did not have a big club mentality. It had lost it somewhere along the road.

"The progress […]

London plastic campaigner to paddle the Hudson River

London plastic campaigner to paddle the Hudson River

Lizzie Carr, from Croydon, will be collecting water samples so micro plastic levels in the river can be analysed A woman from London is to travel the whole length of the Hudson River in the US on a stand-up paddle board to raise awareness of plastic pollution.

Lizzie Carr will be collecting water samples so microplastic levels in the river can be analysed.

The environmentalist from Croydon said she chose the US for her trip because it was "one of the world’s biggest consumers of single use plastic".

She plans to cover 170 miles over eight days starting on Thursday. Lizzie Carr says paddle boards are more practical to collect water samples and plastic waste, compared to boats The majority of plastic in the US is "only used once before it’s thrown away", she said.

Ms Carr, who became the first person to paddle board the length of England solo and unsupported in 2016 after surviving cancer a year earlier, added: "This is a man-made problem.

"80% of marine debris starts from inland sources, including rivers like the Hudson, before it eventually flows out to the ocean.

"I want my journey along the Hudson to motivate people to take action, so together, we can make a real difference to resolve the global problem of plastics choking out seas." Ms Carr wants to motivate people to take action over our increasingly polluted waterways The water samples will be analysed afterwards by the Hudson River Park Trust.

Ms Carr’s board will be fitted with a "smart" fin that will measure the water temperature – a move she said would help interpret the impact of global warming.

The data will be collected by a chip in the fin and transmitted to an oceanographic research institute. ‘Shame and anger’ at plastic ocean pollution

Microplastic threat to ocean giants

Plastic in Pacific Ocean ‘growing rapidly’

Ms Carr, who became the first woman to paddle board solo across the English Channel in 2017, will also be logging plastic waste she sees along the way by geo-tagging it on an an app run by her charity Plastic Patrol.

The adventurer set up the charity earlier this year to encourage people to clean up Britain’s waterways. The cancer survivor has organised numerous paddle board-led water clean-ups in the UK as part of her charity Plastic Patrol So far, more than 50,000 plastic hotspots have been logged in 14 countries on the app via crowdsourcing.

Nauru refugees: The island where children have given up on life

Nauru refugees: The island where children have given up on life

Two-year-old George is one of hundreds of asylum seekers living on Nauru Suicide attempts and horrifying acts of self-harm are drawing fresh attention to the suffering of refugee children on Nauru, in what is being described as a "mental health crisis".

The tiny island nation, site of Australia’s controversial offshore processing centre, has long been plagued with allegations of human rights abuses.

But a series of damning media reports recently has also highlighted a rapidly deteriorating situation for young people.

"We are starting to see suicidal behaviour in children as young as eight and 10 years old," says Louise Newman, professor of psychiatry at the University of Melbourne who works with families and children on the island.

"It’s absolutely a crisis." A loss of hope

Australia intercepts all asylum seekers and refugees who try to reach its shores by boat. It insists they will never be able to resettle in Australia, so over the years has sent many to privately run "processing centres" it funds on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea.

Groups working with families on Nauru paint a brutal picture of life for children on the island. Many have lived most of their life in detention, with no idea of what their future will be.

The trauma they have endured, coupled with poor – and often dangerous conditions – contribute to a sense of hopelessness. Australia ‘must move children off Nauru’

Abuse and trauma reports leaked

Nauru cuts asylum seekers’ right to appeal

Natasha Blucher, detention advocacy manager at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), was unable to share details of specific cases with the BBC due to privacy and safety concerns.

But she said ASRC works with about 15 children who have either made repeated suicide attempts or are regularly self-harming.

She also believes the problem has reached crisis point. Australia has been repeatedly criticised for its tough policy on refugees and asylum seekers ASRC, like most advocates and medical professionals, assist families on Nauru remotely as access to the island is heavily restricted.

It estimates at least 30 children are suffering from traumatic withdrawal syndrome – also known as resignation syndrome. It’s a rare psychiatric condition where sufferers, as a response to severe trauma, effectively withdraw from life.

The condition can be life-threatening as victims become unable to eat and drink.

"Around three months ago we were seeing a smattering of this… then over that period it seems to have proliferated," Ms Blucher told the BBC. What is traumatic withdrawal syndrome?

It is a progressive, deteriorating condition most commonly seen in children and that can be life threatening.

Begins with disengagement from enjoyable activities such as playing or drawing and progressively worsens. Sufferers may begin to refuse food and drink.

In the worst cases a sufferer will become unresponsive, unable to speak and their body will begin to shut down.

Treatment, which can take months, requires access to paediatric intensive care.

A large outbreak was observed in group of asylum seekers in Sweden.

Children ‘attempting suicide’ at Greek refugee camp Children feel ‘unsafe’

Prof Newman, a former advisor to the Australian government on the mental health of asylum seekers, says the outbreak of this very serious condition is particularly concerning.

"In many ways it’s not surprising… they are exposed to a lot of trauma there [and] a sense of hopelessness and abandonment. They feel very unsafe".

Another physician assisting with children’s cases is GP Barri Phatarfod. Her organisation Doctors 4 Refugees has not been allowed to visit Nauru but receives referrals from advocates for assessment and advice. She says of the 60 cases referred to her organisation, every child has some mental health impairment.

"It’s impossible not to," she says. "They witness suicide attempts almost daily as well as sexual harassment and physical and sexual abuse and there is no prospect of release." Nauru is roughly about 3,000 km (1,800 miles) north-east of Australia At present most cases involve children from Iran, as well as kids from Iraq, Lebanon and Rohinyga.

Dr Phatarfod adds that children as young as three are "displaying inappropriately sexualised behaviour – behaviour that typically only comes from having this acted upon themselves". A divisive policy

Australia asylum: Why is it controversial?

UN criticises ‘cruel’ conditions on Nauru

First refugees leave Manus Island for US

One key proponent of the policy was the country’s new prime minister, Scott Morrison, who rose to national prominence as a hardline immigration minister. Mr Morrison was one of the toughest enforcers of the divisive "Stop the Boats" policy and years later, becomes leader as unease over the treatment of asylum seekers hasn’t abated. Scott Morrison: the conservative pragmatist

Supporters argue the policy has been highly effective, resulting in a dramatic drop in illegal boat arrivals. The government said a vessel that made land this week was the first boat carrying illegal asylum seekers to reach Australia since 2014.

But critics point to the huge physical and mental toll exacted on the people placed in offshore detention facilities. A World Vision image shows two-year-old Roze, who lives on Nauru. In 2015, the site on Nauru became an "open centre," meaning residents can come and go as they please.

But this has done little to improve life for children on the island. The tiny Pacific island is just 21 sq km (8 sq miles) and covered with phosphate rocks. It was mined heavily and has few trees or animals. Advocates say even though the camp is technically open, there are few places for people to go. Access to care

As the children’s health crisis worsens, a coalition of human rights groups has demanded the Australian government remove the 119 asylum seeker children off Nauru and resettled them elsewhere.

In a statement, the Australian government said it "takes seriously its role in supporting the Government of Nauru to ensure that children are protected from abuse, neglect or exploitation".

"A range of care, welfare and support arrangements are in place to provide for the needs of children and young people," it said.

Medical services including a hospital are available on Nauru but experts say they are inadequate. If a person needs more complex treatment, a referral must be made to the Nauruan government to have them transferred overseas for care.

"When a person cannot receive appropriate treatment for a significant health condition in Nauru, the person is offered treatment in Taiwan, Papua New Guinea or Australia. Those cases are referred to the Department by the person’s treating clinician," the Australian government said. The latest figures from the Refugee Council of Australia estimate around 1,500 asylum seekers are living on Nauru and Manus Island Still, many argue the system of referrals is failing children on Nauru. Advocates say the process is too slow, and they are overwhelmed by the volume of children experiencing mental health problems.

Jennifer Kanis, head of the social justice practice at law firm Maurice Blackburn, is leading several cases to bring urgent medical care to young people on the island. She believes that even though these children have never entered Australian territory, the Australian government has a duty of care.

"It devastating… that we have to take legal action to get proper medical care for these kids," Ms Kanis says.

"The government is more concerned with their policy of keeping this cohort of people seeking asylum off Australia than they are with their health."

The Village Voice, iconic New York City paper, shuts down

The Village Voice, iconic New York City paper, shuts down

Here We Go Again: Mamma Mia! The Party is coming to London – for real this time End of an era | Photo: Wikimedia/Alex Lozupone The iconic New York City paper The Village Voice is officially shutting its doors.

The paper’s owner, Peter Barbey, announced the news on Friday (31 August). This move follows last year’s decision to cease its print publication, not unlike other outlets focusing on their online output in a digital world.

Barbey puchased the paper from Voice Media Group in 2015.

In the Big Apple, The Village Voice was one of the choice papers in news boxes with free issues.

Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher, and Norman Mailer founded the paper in 1955. It was the first alternative publication in the United States, known for its focus on culture and creative communities.

Over the course of its run, it won three Pulitzer Prizes, the National Press Foundation Award, and the George Polk Award. The history of its relationship with LGBTI rights

Now, The Village Voice is known for its more liberal leanings and support of LGBTI rights. They also published a Gay Pride issue every June in recent years.

That wasn’t always the case, however.

When the Stonewall Riots in 1969 happened, Walter Troy Spencer called it ‘The Great Faggot Rebellion’ for the paper. Other writers also used terms like ‘faggot’ and ‘dyke’ in articles around the time.

It took Gay Liberation Front petitioning the paper to get them to allow the words ‘gay’ and ‘homosexual’ and not view them as derogatory.

As attitudes changed, the Village Voice evolved and become a pro-LGBTI publication.

In 1982, they become the second-known organization in the US to offer extended domestic partner benefits .

Plus, it also gets a shout-out in the song La Vie Boheme in Rent. ‘A place for dreamers’

People on Twitter are bemoaning the loss of the paper. A free and fair press is essential to our democracy. The @VillageVoice is an icon. This paper has told important stories and launched countless careers. Today’s a sad day for New Yorkers — and anyone who cares about good shoe leather journalism. — Tish James (@TishJames) August 31, 2018 I was 17 and had just arrived in New York to start my adult life. The world felt wide open and exciting, and sitting in a cafe on Bleecker reading the @villagevoice made me feel like I had found a way into the life of the city. Its closure is very sad news. — Audrey Ewell (@AudreyEwell) August 31, 2018 People are wondering about what its loss will mean on local news. In the last few years, New York City—a city of 12 million people—has seen the Times and the WSJ more or less give up on local coverage, the wholesale gutting of the Daily News, and now the death of the Village Voice. Who’s left to cover what’s happening in this city? — Jon Tayler, Smiling Politely (@JATayler) August 31, 2018 Others remembered their own dreams of writing for them. I remember walking past the Village Voice offices shortly after I moved to NYC, thinking, "I will work there." Two years later, I started as an editorial assistant on the arts desk. A year after that, I published my first cover story. The Village Voice was a place for dreamers. — Eric Sundermann (@ericsundy) August 31, 2018 I read the Village Voice religiously as a kid growing up in NYC. It showed me the kind stories I wanted to tell — stories with grit and heart and humor and balls. What a loss. — Marissa J. Lang (@Marissa_Jae) August 31, 2018 More from Gay Star News

Indie Spotlight: ‘Ruined’ Is An LGBT Hipster Ghost Story That Will Make You Appreciate Your Neighbors

Indie Spotlight: ‘Ruined’ Is An LGBT Hipster Ghost Story That Will Make You Appreciate Your Neighbors

We receive a ton of tips every day from independent creators, unaffiliated with any major motion picture studios, television networks, new media studios, or other well-funded online video entities. The Indie Spotlight is where we shout out a select few of them and bring you up to speed on the attention-grabbing films and series you probably haven’t heard about. Read previous installments here .

Billed as an “LGBT hipster ghost story,” Ruined is a YouTube -first comedy web series that follows the residents (both living and dead) of a hospital-turned-apartment building in Hackney, East London.

Creator Lily Smith tells Tubefilter she made the series to “address my dual anxieties about the rise of neo-Nazism, and not being cool enough to live in Hackney.”

Six episodes have been released so far, with each episode running under 10 minutes. Ruined is for fans of clever, self-aware horror films like Patchwork and The Babysitter , with a good ol’ dose of British wit. It’s also apparent the series has an excellent production team, which includes Smith and co-director Sam Heasman .

Smith also appears in the series,with fellow stars Chris Polick and Laurens Whittingham .

OTHER UNDER-THE-RADAR FILMS AND SERIES TO CHECK OUT Dead De La Crème . This free, hourlong film inspired by movies like My Dinner With Andre is about a polyamorous triad who think they’re living in a post-zombie apocalypse world — but their island is the only locale that has been affected.

Like Animals . From the creator of the web series God Particles , this short film is making the rounds on the festival circuit, and is about three siblings struggling to move on after the death of their mother.

Got something you’d like to see for eatured in the Indie Spotlight ? Be sure to contact us here . For best coverage, please include the full film or a full episode in your e-mail.

Myanmar’s LGBT community find freedom at spirit festival

Myanmar's LGBT community find freedom at spirit festival

LGBT community finds freedom at Spirit Festival 02:33 Taung Byone, Myanmar (CNN)Gyrating dancers passed through the crowds, bowing to men in silk dresses with orchids in their hair, as the normally sleepy village of Taung Byone marked the start of the annual Spirit Festival with a flamboyant opening ceremony.

Every summer, this part of central Myanmar hosts the cross between a traditional religious gathering and gay pride festival, which has become a key event for the LGBT community in a country where those who do not conform to traditional gender ideas are often shunned and "homosexual acts" remain illegal.

This year, as many as 5,000 people from across Myanmar traveled to the festival, many drawn by the promise of meeting with the event’s famed Nat Kadaws, mediums whose name translates as "spirit wives."

Nat Kadaws are believed by their followers to communicate with spirits on behalf of worshippers, transmitting their wishes and questions to spirits, before relaying the spirit’s guidance or advice to believers, to solve their problem. Nat Kadaws also perform dances to celebrate the spirits and spread luck, usually in elaborate costumes and makeup. "People might have different difficulties, such as physiological needs, like food, clothes and shelter, their business, or relationships," one of Myanmar’s most eminent spirit mediums, U Win Hlaing, told CNN. "I discuss with supernatural beings how to solve their problems."

The medium — who has performed in nine countries including Thailand, Singapore, France and Japan — is a superstar among "Nat," or spirit, believers.

Hlaing has more than 100 assistants, including a masseuse, security guards and cooks, who prepare food for both Hlaing and fans, as well as the medium’s ever-full red wine dispenser.

Hlaing has also earned an award from the government, for a $300,000 donation and other contributions to Buddhism. Photos: How transgender spirit mediums escape stigma in Myanmar and Thailand Photos: How transgender spirit mediums escape stigma in Myanmar and Thailand Photos: How transgender spirit mediums escape stigma in Myanmar and Thailand Photos: How transgender spirit mediums escape stigma in Myanmar and Thailand Photos: How transgender spirit mediums escape stigma in Myanmar and Thailand Photos: How transgender spirit mediums escape stigma in Myanmar and Thailand Photos: How transgender spirit mediums escape stigma in Myanmar and Thailand Photos: How transgender spirit mediums escape stigma in Myanmar and Thailand Hlaing is one of many outsiders who have found a home at the Spirit Festival. "Culturally, it is a long-time tradition that straight and gay people come together at this festival," Hlaing said. "It’s not just for gays, it’s for everyone."

Spirit Wives, Hlaing added, "can be male or female, gay or straight," adding "as long as they are professional, their gender identity does not matter," after expertly applying a double set of false lashes. While not widely enforced, LGBT people in Myanmar face a greater frequency of arrests, as well as other discrimination, and many suffer domestic abuse, according to Colors Rainbow, an NGO dedicated to advancing LGBT rights in Myanmar.

Raised as a boy, but identifying as female, Aung left home and joined the Nat Kadaws at 14, eventually meeting the man she now regards as her husband at a Spirit Festival eight years ago. While Myanmar does not allow same-sex marriage, under local customs, communities may recognize a relationship as legitimate if seven houses to the east and west accept it.

Aung’s family came around to both her identity and her relationship, recently calling her home for a reunion and welcoming her husband.

Despite identifying as a woman, Aung describes herself as gay, rather than transgender — a less common identity in Myanmar due partially to the lack of access to gender confirmation surgery in the country. Only those who can afford to are able to get the expensive procedures, mostly performed in neighboring Thailand.

Social prejudice against transgender people also add to the challenges they face, on top of those experienced by other members of the LGBT community in Myanmar.

"Once they identify themselves as trans people, it is the hardest part," said Hla Myat Htun, deputy director of Colors Rainbow.

"If you are (a) gay guy or lesbian woman, and you are … not really expressing yourself in the workplace, you are fine," he said.

Those who outwardly express a noncomformist identity face "a lot of discrimination, or different kinds of mistreatment," Htun added, particularly from colleagues or supervisors. As Myanmar’s economy continues to open up, attitudes to its LGBT community are continuing to change. More than 250 local companies have signed up to the UN Global Compact, which includes adhering to global human rights standards. This does not apply to many local firms, however, said Htun. While many openly gay, lesbian and transgender people in Myanmar struggle to find work, spiritual problem-solving can be a lucrative business, with some Nat Kadaws earning up to $7,000 in four days.

"In their whole life, when they are young… they were looked down on because of their identity," said Htun. As Nat Kadaws though, "they are worshiped" without discrimination and stigma.

"We didn’t get married, but we lived together secretly," he said. "Now nobody says anything, and we can stay at both parents’ homes."

While Pyae’s father was a maritime pilot, and his mother wanted him to become one too, he insisted on pursuing the Nat Kadaw path, beginning as a dancer, a move which initially cost his parents’ support for him going to college. After an hour of beautifying, the medium was ready for the thousands of heaving fans waiting in the packed temple. Screams worthy of a rock star erupted as Hlaing entered, with festival-goers clamoring over one another and punch-ups erupting between those vying to get near him.

Hlaing danced for the spirits, before blessing thick wads of bank notes worth roughly 40 cents each and tossing them into the frenzied, sweating crowd.

The show was spectacular. But for Myanmar’s LGBT community — swinging between widespread discrimination and occasional celebration — when the music stops, the fight for everyday equality, dignity and respect goes on.

Aretha Franklin: Stars and fans say goodbye at emotional, seven-hour funeral

Aretha Franklin: Stars and fans say goodbye at emotional, seven-hour funeral

‘Thank you, Lord, for Aretha’ Musicians, family, friends and fans have said a final goodbye to Aretha Franklin at her funeral in Detroit.

Lasting over seven hours, the memorial was both mournful and celebratory, with the crowd breaking into a spontaneous dance of praise at one point.

Focusing on Franklin’s gospel roots, the service featured music from Ariana Grande and Chaka Khan, with Stevie Wonder delivering an emotional finale.

Franklin died earlier this month of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. The funeral as it happened

Aretha Franklin’s funeral in quotes

Pictures from the funeral

Her final send-off involved 100 pink Cadillacs, a gold-plated coffin, three presidential tributes and eulogies by more than a dozen preachers.

They remembered her not just as the Queen of Soul, but as an aunt, grandmother, friend, civil rights activist and icon of black womanhood. Stevie Wonder: "I look forward to that time, if I’m so blessed, to be with her again." "The reason that we are here today is because of love. Because of how much we love this woman," said Stevie Wonder, who led the congregation in a rendition of his song As, which carries the refrain: "I’ll be loving you always".

"One of my longest friends has gone home," added Motown star Smokey Robinson, who grew up with Franklin in Detroit.

"You’re going to be one of the future voices in the choir of angels," he added, before breaking into an a capella rendition of his ballad Really Gonna Miss You. The singer’s hits included Respect, Chain Of Fools and Dr Feelgood "Aretha will be influencing others literally for centuries to come," said record label boss Clive Davis, who praised her "once-in-a-lifetime voice".

Pop star Ariana Grande sang one Franklin’s signature songs (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman but elsewhere, the service was like a Who’s Who of gospel with powerful and uplifting performances from The Williams Brothers, Vanessa Bell Armstrong and The Clark Sisters.

Jennifer Hudson’s stirring rendition of Amazing Grace; and Gladys Knight’s version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, in particular, drew mourners to their feet, with others raising their arms in praise.

Franklin’s son Edward also sang Marvin Gaye’s Mercy, Mercy Me; while her niece Cristal remembered the aunt who "taught me bad shopping habits" and "chartered a bus so our family could go to President Obama’s inauguration". Smokey Robinson addressed his comments directly to Aretha Ariana Grande performed (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman Obama was unable to attend the funeral, but sent a speech to be read to the mourners.

"Through her voice, her own voice, Aretha lifted those of millions empowering and inspiring the vulnerable, the downtrodden, and everyone who may have just needed a little love," read his message.

George W Bush also sent a letter to Franklin’s family; while Bill Clinton spoke from the pulpit, describing himself as an "Aretha Franklin groupie" and praising the star’s work ethic.

"Yeah, she had the voice of a generation, maybe the voice of the century… but she also worked for years when nobody was paying particular attention."

"She lived with courage – not without fear but overcoming her fears.

"She lived with faith – not without failure but overcoming her failures.

"She lived with power – not without weakness, but overcoming her weaknesses.

"I just loved her." Jennifer Hudson delivered a passionate rendition of Amazing Grace Aretha Franklin, pictured in 2015, died from pancreatic cancer earlier this month Franklin’s contribution to the civil rights movement – both spiritual and financial – was honoured by Rev. Al Sharpton, who said: "She represented the best in our community and she fought for our community until the end.

"She gave us pride and she gave us a regal bar to reach. And that’s why we’re all here. We don’t all agree on everything but we agree on Aretha."

He went on to criticise President Trump, whose initial tribute to Franklin two weeks ago said, "she worked for me on numerous occasions".

"No, she used to perform for you," scolded the pastor. "Aretha never took orders from nobody but God." At the funeral: Nada Tawfik, BBC North America reporter

Outside of the Greater Grace Temple, there is an outpouring of love for the Queen of Soul. Aretha Franklin fans lined up hours before sunrise to get one of the 1,000 seats open to the public for her star-studded funeral.

Many said that they never met her, but knew her intimately through her songs.

Her music continues to move this city, people on the street, in their cars and in their homes have been playing and singing her songs loudly.

In her 1985 hit single, "Freeway of Love," Aretha Franklin sang about cruising around in a pink Cadillac.

In her honour, the streets here were filled with more than 140 pink Cadillacs that will be part of the funeral procession.

Dignitaries and legends may be attending her funeral, but it is the overwhelming admiration and gratitude of the public that underlines her impact on America. Earlier this week, Franklin’s body lay in state at the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History – where she was dressed in a new outfit every day.

For the funeral, she was clad in a sparkling full-length gold dress with sequined heels.

Her body arrived at the Greater Grace Temple on Friday morning in the same white Cadillac that carried her father, Rev. CL Franklin in 1984; as well as civil rights activist Rosa Parks in 2005.


The singer will be buried in a 24-carat, gold-plated casket made of solid bronze.

The interior is finished with champagne velvet, and stitched with her name and her title, "Queen of Soul", in gold metallic thread.

The funeral followed a tribute concert , starring The Four Tops, Angie Stone and Regina Belle on Thursday evening.

Speaking during the memorial service, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced the concert’s riverside venue, Chene Park, would be renamed Aretha Franklin Park, so that "performers from generations to come" would be "reminded they are performing at the home of the Queen of Soul". Stars have marked the life of Aretha Franklin in a tribute concert in Detroit In a musical career spanning seven decades, Franklin won 18 Grammys, and had 17 Top Ten US chart hits.

She gave her final performance last November at a gala in New York held in aid of the Elton John Aids Foundation.

In his speech, Robinson said the star would never be forgotten.

"The world is celebrating you," he said. "The world is mourning you. The world is going to miss you." Follow us on Facebook , on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts , or on Instagram at bbcnewsents . If you have a story suggestion email . More on Aretha Franklin More on Aretha Franklin

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Newspaper headlines: Cancer treatment ‘revolution’ and baby joy

Newspaper headlines: Cancer treatment 'revolution' and baby joy

A "cancer treatment revolution" is on its way, according to the front of the i’s weekend edition. The paper says doctors will use artificial intelligence to "outwit" the disease and predict how it spreads. The breakthrough, it claims, will transform care for millions of people and boost survival chances. The Daily Express runs the same story, celebrating the technology that was designed in Britain by a team at the Institute of Cancer research in London. The paper says the new technique could be in use in cancer clinics within a few years. The Sun reports that the parents of Alfie Evans are celebrating the birth of a new baby boy. Tom Evans and Kate James hit the headlines over their court battle with doctors who wanted to stop providing life support for their toddler. The 23-month-old died in April. The paper says their new son was born in August and is believed to be named Thomas after his dad. An investigation by the Times claims tax avoiders are being blocked from getting knighthoods and other honours. The paper says it has seen a document from the HMRC rating people on their tax behaviour with a traffic light system, which is then sent to the Cabinet Office honours committee and the prime minister via secure email. The Financial Times leads with the announcement that Coca-Cola is buying Costa Coffee in a £3.9bn deal. The US drinks firm will take over the coffee chain from its UK owner Whitbread, making it the world’s largest drinks group. The resignation of Frank Field from Labour over anti-Semitism must be a "catalyst for seismic change" in the party, David Blunkett has told the Daily Telegraph. Writing for the paper, he says Labour will risk falling into "decline and irrelevance" if not, and there needs to be a fundamental rethink about the "Corbyn project" – describing the leader’s response to the issue as a "shambles". The Daily Mirror leads on a 19-year-old who has avoided jail after appearing in court for the third time on a violent charge. Aarron Peet was given a suspended sentence after his involvement in a race hate assault in Durham. The paper says the lack of jail time has "sparked accusations of soft justice". Up to 14 children are competing over each place at the country’s top primary schools, according to the front of the Daily Mail. The paper claims catchment areas for the schools "stretch barely 100m from the main gates", meaning children living on the same street are being rejected. Schools, this time those at secondary level, are also the subject of the main front-page story in the Guardian, which leads on an investigation into the rates of fixed-term exclusions from secondary schools. The paper says dozens of schools are suspending at least one in five pupils, and the Outwood Academy Ormesby, in Middlesbrough, has excluded as many as 41% of its pupils. The Daily Star’s headline is: "One giant leak for mankind". The paper tells the story of how an astronaut used his finger to plug a leak in the International Space station after it was hit by a meteorite. It reports that Alexander Gerst "did the job" until his crewmates patched the hole with tape. Get news from the BBC in your inbox, each weekday morning