UK’s Duchess of Sussex Meghan is pregnant, Kensington Palace says

Britain’s Prince Harry, center right, and his wife Meghan, center left, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, approach a car at an airport in Sydney, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan arrived in Sydney on Monday, a day before they officially start a 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.(Australian Pool via AP)
Updated 15 October 2018
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UK’s Duchess of Sussex Meghan is pregnant, Kensington Palace says

  • The couple married in May this year in a wedding that was televised around the world
  • The news comes as the two embark on a two week tour of Australia

CANBERRA, Australia: Prince Harry and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, are expecting their first child in the spring, Kensington Palace said Monday.
The announcement came hours after Harry and the former Meghan Markle arrived in Sydney at the start of a 16-day visit to Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand. Hundreds of people gathered to catch a glimpse of the couple after they landed.
“Their royal highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public,” the palace said in a statement.
After their arrival in Sydney, the prince and the former American actress held hands and walked out an airport rear entrance and into a car. Meghan, wearing skinny black pants and a black, burgundy trimmed coat, was smiling and clutching folders, while Harry gave a thumbs up to bystanders.
The announcement of the pregnancy confirms weeks of speculation from royal watchers about why Meghan was not joining Harry on his Sydney Harbor Bridge climb set for Friday.
Harry and Meghan — along with Prince William and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge — have stepped to the fore in the last year as Queen Elizabeth II, 92, slightly reduces her public schedule.
Monday’s announcement is welcome news in Britain, where Meghan has won many hearts since her engagement to Harry was announced last December.
British Prime Minister Theresa May offered her “warmest congratulations” on the news, which provided a bit of relief from concerns about the stalled Brexit negotiations. “Wishing them all the best,” May tweeted.
The royal couple started dating in July 2016 after they were introduced by friends, and Harry courted Meghan on a trip to Africa shortly afterward. They kept their relationship secret for several months but word eventually leaked to the British press.
They were married in May in a spectacular ceremony on the grounds of Windsor Castle that drew tens of thousands of people to Windsor and was watched by a global TV audience.
Harry has become immensely popular in Britain, in part because of his military service and tireless work on behalf of wounded soldiers, and he has spoken often in recent years of his desire to settle down and start a family.
Meghan, with her American roots and successful acting career, has been seen as a modernizing influence on the sometimes stodgy royal family, and she is credited by many for bringing happiness to Harry, who has long struggled to cope with the early death of his mother, Princess Diana.
Harry has broken new ground by talking openly about his mental health issues related to the death of his mother when he was only 12, and that candidness, which is part of a royal campaign to raise awareness about mental illness and end the stigma surrounding it, has brought the royals increased public backing.
The royal couple’s trip Down Under is their only international tour since they were married, apart from a two-day visit to Ireland.
Days after watching Harry’s cousin Princess Eugenie tie the knot in a lavish ceremony in Windsor, the couple touched down in Sydney on an overcast morning after a regular Qantas Airways flight from London with a brief stopover in Singapore.
Sydney’s weather is expected to be drizzly and cool on Tuesday, with showers forecast for most of the week.
It won’t be the first time Harry has had to brave the rain in Sydney. Last year, he made a whirlwind visit to cast his eye over the Invictus Games preparations, where he charmed his fans during torrential rain.
The couple’s current tour coincides with the games, which start in Sydney on Saturday. The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball.
Harry and Meghan will attend the games’ opening and closing ceremonies. In all, they have 76 engagements scheduled over 16 days in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.
In Australia, they will pet a koala in a Sydney zoo, visit the drought-stricken Outback town of Dubbo and meet indigenous leaders on Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, in northeastern Queensland state.
The royal couple were driven from the airport to Admiralty House, the official Sydney residence of Governor General Peter Cosgrove, who represents Australia’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, Harry’s grandmother. The couple had no official functions on Monday following the 17,140-kilometer (10,650-mile) flight that Qantas says takes 22 hours and 20 minutes.
Hundreds of well-wishers gathered with umbrellas outside the airport and Admiralty House in the hope of catching a glimpse of Harry and Meghan. The crowd cheered as the waving couple was driven through the gates of the harbor-side mansion.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who plans to climb with Harry to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, told Parliament on Monday that he commended the prince for coming to Sydney for the Invictus Games and welcomed the couple.
“I want to ... commend Prince Harry for his tremendous initiative in lifting the spirits of every single service man and woman all around the globe,” Morrison said.
After the announcement that Harry and Meghan are expecting a baby, Morrison tweeted: “What fantastic news! Australia is thrilled for you both. Looking forward to sharing in the joy during your stay down under.”
President Donald Trump’s representative in Britain, US Ambassador Woody Johnson, tweeted: “Happy news to wake up to on a Monday morning — congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex!!“
The royal couple’s visit comes six months after Harry’s father, Prince Charles, made his 16th official visit to Australia, primarily to open the 21st Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast city in Queensland.


For Gaza grooms, crippling debt overshadows marital bliss

Updated 23 May 2019
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For Gaza grooms, crippling debt overshadows marital bliss

  • Wedding lenders have filled an important need in Gaza’s conservative society
  • But their number has dropped to five as business has withered up due to the blockade

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Two years ago, Gaza resident Saleh Abu Serdanah took out a small loan in order to get married and start a family. These days, the 31-year-old construction worker is on the run, hiding from police in a tiny rental apartment and unable to repay the money he borrowed.
Abu Serdanah is among hundreds of young men who have turned to Gaza’s small industry of wedding lenders for help, only to fall onto hard times because of crushing debt and lack of jobs in the impoverished territory. Many have been forced to renegotiate their debts, and others have gone into hiding. Some have even ended up in jail.
“I have never been into a police station and have never made troubles. Now I’m like a fugitive crook,” Abu Serdanah said.
Wedding lenders have filled an important need in Gaza’s conservative society, where young men and women are typically expected to marry in their late teens or early 20s. Facing a nearly 60 percent unemployment rate, many young Gazan men have been forced to put off their dreams of marriage because they cannot afford it.
Over a decade ago, a number of wealthy people launched charities to help young couples to pay for their weddings and settle post-marriage debts. The initiative was promoted through ceremonial mass weddings that thrived after Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Hamas militant group took power in 2007.
These charitable efforts, which still continue, paved the way for a profitable private industry to emerge, offering more substantial packages that included things like bridal dresses, invitations, bedroom furniture and meals for guests.
Allured by the idea, Abu Serdanah signed up for an offer of $2,500 through Farha Project, one of those companies, in 2017. He acknowledges that he would never have been able to marry without Farha. The November 2017 wedding included a bachelor’s party with a live band and a separate women’s ceremony the following day. The company threw in invitations, catering for 60 people and a suit and dress for the couple.
Abu Serdanah agreed to repay the money in monthly payments over two years, but managed to pay only for five months. Today, he regrets his decision.
“I was committed to paying on time for a while, but things have changed and made me unable to,” said Abu Serdanah, sitting on a mat outside the apartment he shares with his wife as a candle faintly lit the dark stairway. “There is no work, so where should I get money from?”
The blockade, aimed at weakening Hamas, has ravaged the economy. The skyrocketing unemployment rates, combined with foreign aid cuts and Hamas’ mismanagement, has left thousands of families dependent on food aid and social welfare.
Economic sanctions by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, ousted by Hamas in 2007, have worsened the situation. The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority says its measures, which include salary cuts to tens of thousands of former public servants, are aimed at pressuring the militant Hamas group into ceding control.
Hamas, however, remains in firm control, even as the World Bank says Gaza’s economy is in “free fall.”
A plasterer who earns 50 shekels, or about $15, a day, Abu Serdanah was certain that he would be able to manage the payments to Farha.
But due to the weak economy, there have been few workdays and he was unable to pay back his debt. Trying to save himself from prison, he asked the company to reduce his monthly installment by 50 percent, but its lawyer refused. Eventually, a police summons was delivered to his family’s home. He decided not to respond.
“I don’t want to stall for time, but I really can’t pay for now,” he said.
The Hamas-run Economy Ministry says at their peak, 20 such companies were registered in Gaza. But their number has dropped to five as business has withered up. The Hamas-run prosecutor’s office, the judiciary council and the police refused requests to interview people jailed for failing to pay their marriage debts, or even reveal their number.
But an official at Gaza’s general prosecution department, speaking in condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said that as of last year, courts have investigated 3,000 such cases.
This explains why the business is no longer thriving. Salama Al-Awadi, manager of Farha Project, says only 7 percent of his clients managed to pay the monthly installments fully this year and 40 percent could not pay back at all. The others pay less than the agreed amount.
“We see with our eyes that the situation is hard, so we try all possible ways before resorting to the courts,” Al-Awadi said, noting that his company has fallen into debt because of its customers’ struggles. Unable to collect payments, Farha owes money to service providers like carpenters and caterers.
With economic recession in Gaza, the number of clients is also dwindling. In 2018, the average monthly number of grooms signing up for contracts at Farha was 20. The year before, it was 35.
“This year would be way less,” Al-Awadi said. “I canceled many contracts and our plan for 2019 is to get by with the minimum. If it remains like this, I will have no choice but to shut down.”
One of Al-Awadi’s clients is 29-year-old Yehiya Taleb, whose four brothers, all married, believed it was problematic by Gaza’s standards to reach that age and still be single.
Taleb got a job working as a waiter at a cafe earning about $180 a month but that amount is not enough to cover wedding expenses. Anxious to fulfil the wish of their ailing mother, the brothers resorted to Farha Project and took out a $2,000 package.
After getting married early in May, Taleb and his wife now share a rental house in the Shati refugee camp with another brother’s family. Afraid of “failure,” he is already stressed out over how to repay the loan. He hopes to make ends meet with some help from his brothers.
“My salary can’t cover my demands. With installments, you can cover a little part of them,” he said.