“What I’m focusing on here is something the president has also said – that is looking forward to, and hoping, that the environment will lead to the ability for the US to do a quick, very massive bilateral trade deal,” said Mr Johnson.
He added it could be “the precursor of future trade deals with other countries around the world for Great Britain that will really take you way, way into an exciting future”.
“We’re still going through the stages of deciding exactly where the country is going,” said Mr Johnson. “If it goes in a way that allows these kinds of agreements to occur then I think that will be very positive in the president’s eyes.”
Johnson said a trade deal with the US would be “positive” in Mr Trump’s eyes
Asked if that would go ahead under the current proposed Brexit deal, he replied: “It doesn’t look like it would be possible.”He said ministers – and the prime minister – had to “measure the impact of all the other trade offs” and how different trade agreements would benefit the UK.
Britain unable to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the US.
Mr Johnson did not give more details about what such a deal would entail.
However, while the UK is either in a transition period after Brexit – or in a temporary customs union – it will not be able to implement its own free trade deals, with the US or any other third country.
Mr Johnson also said he had been surprised by the “defeatism” felt in the UK over Brexit.
“All of the reporting looks back and it looks at a very static future, rather than an active British future – about solving problems, entrepreneurialism and taking advantage of opportunities and being very innovative,” said Mr Johnson.
“If you look back and try to project the past into the present and future, it’s going to be bleak.
“But you’re leaving out the great thing that Britain has to offer and that is all of the people and all of their efforts and their ability to solve problems. If you factor that in, I think the future is extremely positive, extremely bright.”
He added that it would be “great” if President Trump’s postponed state visit could take place in May, around the time of World War Two commemorations – if his schedule, and that of the Queen, allowed.
A camera-equipped drone will watch over New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York City, the NYPD has confirmed.
It is the first time the force has used a surveillance drone to monitor the annual party in Times Square.
It will be tethered to a building so that it cannot fall on to the crowd below if something goes wrong.
The force said it would also deploy “counter-drone technology” to prevent unauthorised aircraft flying over the celebration in Times Square.
It declined to elaborate on its counter-drone measures, but said visitors to the city should leave their drones at home. The drone will let police move the camera to a point of interest with “greater rapidity”, the NYPD’s John Miller said at a press conference.
However, officers declined to say how many camera drones would be deployed.
More than a million people are expected to celebrate New Year in the area surrounding Times Square, where the annual “ball drop” on top of One Times Square will take place.
In addition to the drone, the NYPD said it would deploy thousands of cameras, officers and other security measures to keep party-goers safe.
“You will see a lot of officers with a lot of gear and long guns,” said Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
He also urged the public to remember the “see something, say something” campaign, and to report anything suspicious to police.
“That’s not just a slogan… in fact, attacks have been stopped because someone said something. Lives have been saved because someone said something,” he said.
“If something doesn’t feel right, you’ve got to tell an NYPD officer.”
However, he stressed the measures were precautionary and said police had not received any credible threats of disruption.
Nigeria goment dey use police to close di mouth of di opposition pipo for di kontri and dey supress human rights, according to Senate president Bukola Saraki.
“Dis kontri no be banana kontri, police no suppose act outside di law, dem no suppose to dey abuse pipo rights”na so Saraki tok for statement e release late Saturday, to reply di way police take block di house of opposition senator Dino Melaye.
Tori be say police don declare wanted Senator Melaye wey be right hand man of Senate President Saraki sake of accuse wey concern using of thugs to attack one police officer.
For statement wey di senate president tok tok pesin Yusuph Olaniyonu sign e say di President Muhammadu Buhari goment dey use police to shut-up di mouth of opposition for Nigeria.
BREAKING: Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has described the invasion of Senator Dino Melaye’s home as another instance of the Police being used to suppress the rights of the citizens and silencing opposition voices.https://t.co/MAKOkoTZs9
SOS: The Nigerian Police @PoliceNG has just invaded Senator @dino_melaye’s house. Forceful entry was made and the gate blocked to prevent any entry or exit of civilians. The security guard I’m informed has been severly beaten.
Is this the price the opposition has to pay daily?
Saraki say dem no dey against police to do dia work, but dem no suppose begin touchlight mata wey happun since July now wey election time don reach.
Di statement say “Dem just dey charge am wit plenti allegation wey no dey necessary and dem no say im be candidate for di next election and e no fit run”.
Senator Dino Melaye bin tok say police wan arrest and inject am to death, but police deny am, few days later police use force enta di senator house to arrest am and dem say dem go tanda for dia till im surrender to dem.
Meanwhile oga Melaye don tell police wen him don ready, e go surrender himsef give police.
Saraki and Buhari no dey see eye to eye since August wen di senate president port from ruling All Progressive Congress APC join opposition People’s Democratic Party PDP wia im don become director general of opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar campaign organisation.
Leading scientists and a cross-party group of politicians are calling for chemicals called nitrites to be removed from processed meats like bacon.
Cancer specialists and politicians are among those backing the campaign to take out nitrites.
They say nitrite-free alternatives are safer and should be more widely used.
The British Meat Processors Association said nitrites are used in curing meats to help preserve them and add flavour and they are authorised additives.
They said the European Food Safety Authority found consumer exposure to nitrites and nitrates as food additives was within safe levels for all population groups, except for a slight exceedance in children whose diet is high in foods containing the chemicals.
MPs and doctors said there was a “consensus of scientific opinion” that, when cooked and eaten, nitrites produce nitrosamines – chemicals which can cause cancer.
They said producers of Parma ham had not used nitrites for 25 years and more recently Nestle in France and Finnebrogue in the UK had produced mass-market products such as bacon and ham that did not use chemical additives.
The robbery happened at the Heather Store in Holehouse Road
A shop assistant was threatened with what appeared to be a firearm during a robbery at a store in Kilmarnock.
The 49-year-old man was working in Heather Store in Holehouse Road at about 09:40 on Saturday when a man came into the shop, threatened him and demanded money.
The man then left the shop with a small amount of cash and was last seen heading towards Grassyards Road.
Police said the shop assistant was not injured but was extremely distressed.
The suspect was described as being white, aged 45-50, 5ft 8in to 5ft 10in tall, of slim build with ginger/blond stubble on his face. He was wearing a green parker-style jacket and black skinny trousers.
Det Con Steven Grey said: “This was a very traumatic ordeal for the shop assistant and something he should not have to experience during his working day.
“It is vital that we catch the man responsible for this robbery as he could very well do this again, therefore, I urge anyone who recognises his description, or anyone who has any information at all regarding the incident, to contact police immediately.
“We know that there were a number of joggers and people walking their dogs in the area at the time the robbery took place so I especially would like to speak to them as they may be able to provide vital information.”
Residents of Richmond Gate Estate, in highbrow Lekki area of Lagos, built by leading lifestyle connoisseur, Haven Homes held their Estate Christmas party recently and it was a moment of bonding for the people. The annual event was organized by the estate’s residents to promote friendship among residents. The chairman of the Residents Association, MrAfolabiOke explained that in an estate where many residents are top celebrities and VIPs who have excelled in renowned industries, it was important to create a night of music, jokes and entertainment to crown the year. The grand event was anchored by MC Pencil and performances were led by celebrity co residents like 2face, comedian cum film maker, AY, Dr Sid, Tiwa Savage, Banky W among others.
Tiwa Savage had thrilled her neighbours’ kids at the children’s party held earlier in the day. Speaking at the event, Managing Director Haven Homes, Tayo Sonuga, disclosed that the company’ goal is to create a luxurious, peaceful and safe environment where celebs, VIPs, expatriates and other influential members of the society can live peacefully and cohabit peaceably with their neighbors. That’s what we have currently at Richmond Gate Estate. He also added that, ‘our estates are designed to give comfort that is devoid of status but is also very affordable by all who desire the serene atmosphere all round’. Sonuga further revealed that Haven Homes was the developer that pioneered the spectacular contemporary designs that have now dotted the capital’s landscape. AY, who recently moved into his second home he bought within Richmond Gate Estate noted that his heart knows no bounds seating and chatting with his neighbours in an environment that is homely without rattling and bustling after working hard all day. He enjoined more Nigerians to come join the train as they are building an inclusive environment that will impact individual and contribute to economic and social development. 2Face, aka 2Baba was also present with his lovely wife, Annie. 2Face couldn’t find words to describe his peace and joy for having found such a tranquil and friendly estate to live with his family. Banky W confirmed he has joined the growing list of celebrities finding haven at Richmond Gate Estate and he also used the occasion to enjoin the residents of the need to come out and vote with their consciences at the forthcoming general elections in 2019.
Monty Python star Michael Palin has been knighted and model Twiggy made a dame in a New Year Honours list that also recognises the achievements of England manager Gareth Southgate.
Southgate becomes an OBE after guiding the Three Lions to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia – and the same honour goes to another sporting hero from 2018, Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas.
Former England cricket captain Alastair Cook and His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman are among the other new knights, while Handmaid’s Tale novelist Margaret Atwood joins the elite Companions of Honour.
There are honours and bravery medals for seven members of the team of British divers which rescued 12 young footballers from a Thai cave in July.
And 43 people – including medics and police officers – have been recognised for their response to the terror attacks in Manchester and London in 2017.
Sir Michael’s honour means he is the first member of the Monty Python comedy group to be knighted.
But the 75-year-old, who became a CBE in 2000 for his TV work, is being recognised for services to travel, culture and geography following his career as a writer and presenter of documentaries that have taken him all over the world, most recently to North Korea.
He said to mark his latest achievement, he may “just have a quiet celebration, just myself and a glass of Horlicks and then go to bed”.
The damehood for Twiggy – born Lesley Hornby – is for services to fashion, to the arts and to charity.
She shot to fame as a face of 1960s London, and referring to her new title, said: “I’m a very proud Brit, I feel I’m an ambassador for Britain, I always have.
“My only sadness with this is my mum and dad aren’t here to know. They’d have been so proud.”
Southgate, whose World Cup run came less than two years after he took over as England manager, said: “I hope that everybody that has supported me throughout my career feels pride in the fact that I’ve received this honour because I wouldn’t be in this position without that help and guidance.”
Overall, 1,148 people are on the main honours list . Some 70% of recipients are recognised for work in their community and 47% of the total are women.
The dramatic rescue of a boys’ football team stranded in a cave in Thailand captivated the world in July. Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, the first divers to reach the teenagers, have been given the George Medal,the second highest civilian gallantry award.
Seven firefighters who saved elderly residents from a blaze at a care home in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, in 2017, receive Queen’s Gallantry Medals.
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Joe Rowlands, from Cheshire, who saved his father from drowning in a kayaking incident off Anglesey, receives a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.
Among those honoured after the 2017 terror attacks is Detective Chief Inspector Teresa Lam, family liaison lead for Greater Manchester Police, who receives a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to policing and the community.
Colin Kelsey, who led the NHS response to the Manchester Arena bombing, Dr Malik Ramadhan, who was in charge of A&E at the Royal London hospital after the London Bridge attack, and Paul Woodrow, operations director at the London Ambulance Service, all become OBEs.
From the arts world, there are CBEs for violinist Nicola Benedetti, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan, and actress Sophie Okonedo.
Children’s book author Julia Donaldson – creator of the Gruffalo, Zog and many other much-loved characters – also receives a CBE.
Conservationist and broadcaster Chris Packham is made a CBE alongside three artists – Tacita Dean, Yinka Shonibare and Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing. The latter’s statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in Parliament Square in April.
Actors Jim Carter, who plays butler Charles Carson in Downton Abbey, and Thandie Newton, seen recently in Westworld and Line of Duty, have been made OBEs.
Mike Peters, the frontman of rock band the Alarm, has been made an MBE for services to charity. He has raised thousands for cancer care projects after recovering from the disease himself.
The sporting honours include an MBE for England skipper Harry Kane, who won the World Cup’s golden boot after scoring six goals at the tournament.
There is a knighthood for Bill Beaumont, former England rugby union captain, a CBE for outgoing Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore, and an OBE for jump jockey Richard Johnson.
England netball star Geva Mentor, who was part of the team’s Commonwealth Games gold medal victory, becomes a CBE.
Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg, 86, who survived the Munich air disaster in 1958, becomes an OBE for services to football, and there is an MBE for Rangers and Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley.
There are MBEs for former Fulham and West Ham player Leroy Rosenior, now vice-president of Show Racism the Red Card, for services to tackling discrimination in sport, and Women’s Sport Trust co-founder Joanna Bostock for services to gender equality.
The same honour goes to former world darts champion John Lowe, Welsh triathlete Helen Jenkins and three-time Olympic rowing silver medallist Frances Houghton.
From the world of business, former Virgin Money boss Jayne-Anne Gadhia is made a dame for her contribution to financial services and women in the industry. Ann Gloag, co-founder of Stagecoach, who set up a healthcare charity for women in Africa, is recognised with a damehood for services to business and philanthropy.
The other new dames include former athlete Louise Martin, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, and Glenda Bailey, editor of the US edition of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, for services to journalism and the GREAT Britain campaign.
Christopher Bailey-Woods, president of Burberry, and Whitbread’s chief executive Alison Brittain receive CBEs.
The unexpected knighthood last month for MP John Hayes prompted speculation Downing Street would seek to use honours as an incentive to persuade politicians to back the PM’s Brexit deal.
However, decisions on awards for political service are made by an independent committee and the Cabinet Office stressed Theresa May’s “strategic steer” for this honours list had been that it supported those working to help children and tackle discrimination.
Youth magazine founder Saeed Atcha, 22, is the youngest person on the main list. His MBE is for services to young people and the community in Greater Manchester.
The oldest person is 100-year-old Robert Lingwood, a World War Two veteran whose receives a British Empire Medal for services to the community in County Tyrone.
John Clough, whose daughter Jane was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Blackpool, gets an MBE for his campaigning on behalf of domestic abuse victims, while Mark Prince, whose 15-year-old son Kiyan was killed outside a London school in 2006, has been made an OBE for tackling gang crime.
An explosion at an electrical power station in New York City on Thursday evening lit up the sky with an eerie blue light – and triggered a flurry of speculation on social media.
Some wondered if aliens had landed.
Others thought something supernatural might be to blame for the ghostly glow.
Others wondered if the hand of God was at work over New York, heralding perhaps a new Pope, or the moment when Evangelicals say true believers will be swept up, or “raptured”, to heaven.
The New York Police Department took to Twitter to reassure the public that the strange light was caused by something much more down to earth – a transformer explosion at a Con Edison power station in the Astoria neighbourhood of the borough of Queens.
And Con Edison shed more light on the cause of the excitement.
Meanwhile, the power cut hit New York’s LaGuardia Airport, which warned travellers to be prepared for delays.
The blue colour comes from the way electricity passes though air, correspondents say.
Electrical energy will knock electrons off atoms in the gases that make up the air.
When these electrons recombine with the excited atoms, returning them to their starting energy state, light is emitted.
The colour of the light emitted depends on the type of atoms involved.
A blue colour is associated with oxygen atoms; pink/purple colours are associated with nitrogen atoms. Oxygen and nitrogen are the gases that dominate the air we breathe.
Militants seize town of Baga, near Chad, in show of force before presidential election
Boko Haram has launched a series of attacks in north-east Nigeria, hoisting its flags over several towns and overrunning a multinational military base. Militants from Islamic State West Africa Province, a faction of Boko Haram that split off in 2016, have taken over the former commercial town of Baga near the border with Chad, and seized the nearby multinational joint taskforce base (MNJTF), in a show of force less than two months before Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari
Hundreds of people fled Baga for Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, which has been the centre of the Boko Haram crisis during the past decade. Escapees said gunshots heralded the arrival of uniformed, turbaned men, who quickly took control of the town. Some said they led prayers in the town on Friday. The army chief of training and operations, however, said the fight was ongoing.
“We are having a ding-dong situation in Baga right now,” he said. “We are not in full control, but Boko Haram have not taken control either.”
Several communities surrounding Baga also fell to the insurgents, according to residents. “Boko Haram are now occupying the MNJTF and positioned their gun truck strategically in Shuwari town,” said Mala Musa, a youth volunteer living in Baga.
Hassan Mahmud, a resident of Kukawa, said they arrived just as he was starting dinner. “Boko Haram has taken over Cross Kauwa, Kukawa and Baga,” he said. “Presently Boko Haram (members) have hoisted their flag in Baga town and are in full control.
“I’d bet my life that Boko Haram are strongly and forcefully retaking the north of Borno state, because they easily sweep the area. No soldiers are in these areas as I speak, and most of our civilian populace have run out of the town.”
Mahmud managed to flee Kukawa, taking most of his family members with him. Arriving into Maiduguri at 9am on Friday morning, he sipped some tea as he recounted the ordeal that led to their 200km journey.
He said the militants headed straight for the military bases, trying to reassure civilians that they would be safe. “Boko Haram were even telling us: ‘Don’t worry, we are not here for you. Stay where you are and don’t panic.’ But can we trust them? Definitely not.”
Baga, previously a bustling town home to 300,000 people, was the site of what Buhari, then in opposition, called “an unspeakable massacre” in 2015. Up to 2,000 people are thought to have died then, but, as one resident said: No one stayed back to count the bodies
Over 100 police officers who were being trained in counter-terrorism were sacked this week after they absconded to avoid having to fight Boko Haram, Nigerian media has reported
Nigerian soldiers frequently complain of being poorly equipped to fight a group that has killed tens of thousands of people, raped and kidnapped many more, and displaced millions.
“The morale of our military personnel is going lower every day because our strength is daily weakened by the number of casualties.. due to lack of or obsolete equipment,” said an officer who asked for anonymity.
Buhari’s campaign for a second term rests partly on his security record – last week he claimed that “people in the north-east know that we have recorded remarkable improvement in the fight against Boko Haram”.
His administration has Sent thousands of displaced people back to the areas they fled to try to further this perception, despite the fact that many of them remain unsafe. The spate of attacks over Christmas could undo this carefully crafted perception.
Paul McGowan, executive chairman of HMV and its owner Hilco Capital, said: “Even an exceptionally well-run and much-loved business such as HMV cannot withstand the tsunami of challenges facing UK retailers over the last 12 months on top of such a dramatic change in consumer behaviour in the entertainment market.”
He pointed out HMV sold 31% of all physical music in the UK in 2018 and 23% of all DVD and Blu-ray, with its market share growing month by month throughout the year.
But he added that the industry consensus is that the market will fall by another 17% during 2019 and therefore it would not be possible to continue to trade the business.
Holders of gift vouchers are being advised to consider spending them sooner rather than later.
BBC Money Box presenter and financial journalist Paul Lewis has advised people to use any HMV gift cards immediately.
Their role is to “try and save the company”, and in doing so, they “may take the decision not to accept returns”.
‘Sand not rocks’
Hilco’s ownership saw HMV host live events in store, with musicians including Kylie Minogue, Stormzy and The Darkness.
Digital music revenue overtook sales of physical formats like CDs and records for the first time in 2012.
Since then, online shopping, downloads and streaming provided by platforms such as Amazon, Spotify and Netflix, have continued to eat into sales of physical music.
Julie Palmer, partner at business consultancy Begbies Traynor, said the fall of HMV had been “coming for many years”.
She added: “It has been revealed that the business turnaround has been built on a bed of sand rather than rocks.”
Analysis by Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent
With video and music still its main sources of revenue, HMV was always likely to be one of the retailers struggling to make it through the Christmas holidays.
But this is about more than a struggle to adapt to changing consumer habits.
HMV faced the same pressures of low consumer confidence, high rents and a lacklustre Christmas that have put other high street names in danger.
And don’t be surprised if this is not the end of the story.
The Entertainment Retailers Association points out that when you tot up music, video and games there is still a market of nearly £2bn worth of physical products.
Big releases such as The Greatest Showman, Ed Sheeran and Adele have still attracted millions who want to own a physical copy.
So maybe there is another turnaround specialist out there to keep the HMV name alive into its second century.
Richard Lim, Chief Executive, Retail Economics, said HMV’s situation came amid a weak retailing climate: “Poor Christmas trading has claimed its first victim.”
But the chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association, Kim Bayley, said there was hope: “What is clear is that following its first move into administration in 2013, HMV has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround and it is conceivable that this will happen again.
“The fact is the physical entertainment market is still worth up to £2bn a year so there is plenty of business there.”
While Christmas is normally a time of higher revenues for retailers, the number of shoppers hitting the post-Christmas sales dipped this year .
Britain’s shops have also faced uncertainty over Brexit, which sparked a fall in the pound and therefore raised the price of imported goods, as well as rising labour costs, higher business property taxes and unseasonably warm weather.
HMV, known for its iconic logo featuring the “dog and trumpet “, is Britain’s last surviving national music retailer.
It was launched by English composer Edward Elgar in 1921, selling gramophones, radios and popular music hall recordings.
Officials on both sides of the Channel have warned of the dangers of crossing what is the world’s busiest shipping lane in a small boat. Police have likened the journey to trying to “cross the M25 at rush-hour on foot”.
In a statement, the Home Office said Mr Javid had “taken control of the response” to the situation.
He will now receive daily updates from the Home Office, and has spoken to Border Force officials, Immigration Enforcement and the National Crime Agency in a conference call.
The Home Office added: “The home secretary has also asked for an urgent call with his French counterpart over the weekend to reaffirm the continuing need for the UK and France to work closely together to tackle the problem.
“He has also commissioned detailed options from Border Force about the provision of additional vessels in the Channel, including another Border Force cutter, and whether this is likely to encourage more people to try and make the crossing rather than act as a deterrence.”
Bridget Chapman, from the charity Kent Refugee Action Network, said the situation was in part a result of UK measures to “beef up the security around Calais”.
“We’ve put a big fence up to prevent people from accessing trains and lorries and people are resorting to other methods to get here,” she told the BBC.
“It’s winter, but the weather has been quite good. And I expect people traffickers are exploiting people, saying, ‘You know, things are going to tighten up after Brexit, you need to go now.'”
More than five million Syrians have left their country since its civil war started in 2011, and in the past two years, Iranian citizens have made more UK asylum applications than any other nationality according to Home Office figures.
British and French authorities have both said the rise in crossings is the result of “organised criminality” and “mafia networks”.
Earlier, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said the number of incidents over recent days was “deeply concerning” and crossing the water in a dinghy was “extremely dangerous”.
She is due to visit Border Force officers in Dover on Saturday to discuss the situation.
The MP for Folkestone in Kent, Damian Collins, questioned why the UK was not doing more to stop the boats leaving France in the first place.
He said: “We need to make it really clear to the migrants and the gangs that if you try and do this you will be detected early, either as you’re preparing to leave or as soon as you’re in the water, and you’ll be returned to France.”
Charlie Elphicke – MP for Dover and Deal – suggested more patrol vessels may be needed.
“One is simply not enough and I think we need to ask questions, what are the two patrol craft doing in the Mediterranean – would they be better placed in the English Channel?”
Responding to the suggestion that bringing rescued migrants to the UK could encourage people to attempt the journey, Steve Valdez-Symonds, from Amnesty International, said that was “nonsense”.
“If people are in danger of their lives then they need to be saved,” he told the BBC. “This is exactly the sort of nonsense we’ve heard in response to the desperate circumstances where thousands of people have drowned in the Mediterranean. When search and rescue has been withdrawn, more people die.”
The people found off the Kent coast since November:
11 December – Six people, thought to be from Iran were rescued from a small boat off the Kent coast. A second boat with eight men, all saying they were Iranian were picked up later the same day off Dover
When it wasn’t seen for 15 years, the Madagascar pochard was believed to have been wiped out completely. Then a tiny group of the birds was rediscovered in 2006 at one remote lake.
These were the last 25 Madagascar pochards on the planet.
Wetland habitats in the country have been so polluted and damaged that these few remaining birds had been forced into this last untouched area.
But, as Rob Shaw, head of conservation programmes at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) explained to BBC News, they were only “clinging on to existence in a place not really suited to them”.
Their last pristine refuge was too deep and too cold for the pochards to thrive.
“The threats that they face across the rest of Madagascar – and why they’ve been wiped out so extensively – are vast,” explained Rob Shaw.
“They range from sedimentation, invasive species, pollution, poor agricultural practises – a whole suite of problems that create the perfect storm making it very difficult for a species like the Madagascar pochard to survive.”
In a painstaking effort – it has taken more than a decade of work. The international team, which included WWT, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Peregrine Fund and the Government of Madagascar, rescued a clutch of pochard eggs and raised them in captivity.
They then scoured Madagascar for the best site to bring the captive-bred birds back to the wild, settling on Lake Sofia in the north of the country.
The team has worked closely with the local communities around the lake that rely on its water, fish and plants, as WWT’s Nigel Jarrett explained: “It takes a village to raise a child, so the old African proverb goes – but in this case it has taken a village to raise a duck. We have been preparing for this moment for over a decade.
“Working with local communities to solve the issues which were driving this bird to extinction has been essential to giving the pochard a chance of survival.”
The team hopes that making this reintroduction a success – and bringing back a bird that was on the very brink of extinction – will provide a powerful example, not just for how to save the most threatened species but how communities can support both people and wildlife in such valuable habitats, even in areas of significant poverty.
Mr Davies said: “We’ve started to tally [the cost] up now and it’s way over £1,500 already.
“As you can appreciate, it’s not the monetary value, it’s the fact that it’s less than 24 hours before Christmas and everybody had worked hard all year to provide these presents – really thought about what they were going to buy.
“And that’s the really disappointing thing – how can people do that to you on Christmas Eve?”
The family said they had been amazed by the support of their neighbours who had given them presents and money.
“It’s really really humbling and renews your faith in mankind after something like that happens,” said Mr Davies.
“If there’s anything positive to come out of it, it’s the support we feel from the neighbours.”
Vern Unsworth (R) helped bring top international cave rescuers to the mission, including Rob Harper (L)
Elon Musk is seeking to dismiss a defamation claim by saying that “over-the-top” paedophilia claims he tweeted should not be taken seriously.
He is being sued by Vern Unsworth, who aided the rescue of 12 boys from Thailand’s Tham Luang caves.
The two clashed over how to free the boys in an exchange that led to Tesla’s chief calling Mr Unsworth “pedo guy”.
Mr Musk’s lawyers said the “insult” had been made in response to Mr Unsworth’s own disparaging remarks.
Mr Unsworth is from St Albans, Hertfordshire, but now lives near Chiang Rai in Thailand.
The “vituperative” exchange between Mr Musk and Mr Unsworth took place during frantic attempts to rescue the 12 boys and their coach from deep within the partially flooded caves in July 2018. Mr Unsworth helped recruit experienced UK cave divers, who were instrumental in freeing the boys.
Mr Musk mobilised a group of Tesla engineers to help with the rescue effort and left behind a specially designed mini-submarine that he claimed could help transport the children out of the caves. The submarine was never used to free the boys.
In an interview on CNN, Mr Unsworth ridiculed the submarine calling it a “PR stunt”.
Responding in a series of tweets, Mr Musk gave more details about how the submarine might work and posted the “pedo” comment.
When quizzed for his response, Mr Unsworth said he was considering legal action.
Soon after, Mr Musk apologised and deleted the offending tweets saying he had acted “in anger”.
He added: “His actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologise.”
But the row escalated after Mr Musk referenced his initial insult in a separate Twitter exchange.
In this, he said it was “strange” that Mr Unsworth had not sued him over the allegation despite being offered free legal advice.
Soon after, Mr Unsworth’s lawyers posted a series of tweets criticising Mr Musk and his characterisation of their client.
Documents prepared by Mr Musk’s attorney said he responded to this via “off the record” emails to Buzzfeed journalists seeking comment in which he issued further “insults”, some of which alleged Mr Unsworth had a “child bride”.
Despite being labelled as “off the record”, the emails were published and led to the lodging of the defamation claim in a California court.
Mr Musk wants the court to throw out the defamation claim because, his lawyers say, his comments were “non-actionable opinion”.
The legal team said the Tesla chief had never met Mr Unsworth so his comments had no “factual basis”.
Instead, the words were “over-top-insults not driven by first-hand knowledge”.
Mr Musk’s lawyers argue at length that because the “schoolyard spat” blew up on Twitter, which they say is “infamous for invective and hyperbole”, no-one could reasonably believe the comments were truthful.
The fact that they were on social media served to underline how different they were from a proper press expose or criminal complaint, the lawyers add.
Neither Mr Unsworth nor his own legal team have responded to requests for comment by the BBC.
How defamation works in the US
By Clive Coleman, BBC legal correspondent
The first amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects free speech, makes defamation a challenging legal action to bring.
A plaintiff – the person bringing the case – has to prove the statement made about them is false and that it has caused them material harm.
However, the toughest hurdle is that if the person bringing the case is regarded as a public figure – and “public figure” is given a pretty wide interpretation – it has to be proved that the defendant acted maliciously.
In other words, that the person making the statement knew it to be false and went on to make it.
Another way of putting it would be that it must be proved that the defendant knowingly lied with the intention of harming the plaintiff.
Donald Trump’s unannounced Christmas visit to US troops in Iraq succeeded as a morale-boosting exercise, judging from the standing ovation the president got. Equally, and perhaps predictably, the trip had its controversial moments – and his legendary attachment to social media had something to do with it.
Recognition: ‘We’re no longer the suckers’
Mr Trump travelled to al-Asad airbase, west of Baghdad, to thank armed forces personnel for what they had achieved in Iraq against Islamic State (IS), the Sunni Muslim militant group, during his tenure as commander-in-chief:
“Two years ago when I became president they were a very dominant group, today they’re not so dominant any more. Great job.”
“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” he said. “We’re respected again as a nation.”
Mr Trump was accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump on the first trip of his presidency to a war zone. The couple walked amid troops, posing for selfies and signing autographs.
More than 5,000 US troops remain in Iraq to train and advise local forces, who are fighting what remains of IS following a string a victories last year.
Exposure: Did smiling Navy Seals know the whole world would see their faces?
Shortly after he left Iraqi airspace, Mr Trump proudly shared a video of what he’d been up to during the visit.
But it didn’t take long for eagle-eyed watchers to point out something it seemed Mr Trump and his team might have missed.
Malcolm Nance, a former US Navy intelligence specialist, told the magazine it would be a very unusual decision to picture them so clearly while on duty because, if any of them were captured, “there would be no denying who you are and what you do”.
Mr Trump also took a selfie with US Navy Lt Cmdr Kyu Lee, who told him he was with Seal Team Five – a fact later reported by the pool of reporters travelling with the president.
The White House has not commented on why they decided against taking such precautions, as some of his predecessors did.
Fiction: What was the pay rise figure?
The president also announced that he had secured a sizable pay increase for troops.
Some of his advisers had suggested 2, 3 or 4%, he said, adding that he had made clear that this was not enough: “I said: ‘No. Make it 10%. Make it more than 10%.’ Because it’s been a long time, it’s been more than 10 years.”
But as a number of US commentators noted, armed forces personnel have in fact received a pay rise in each of the past 10 years.
The increase for 2019, approved by Congress and signed by the president in August, will be 2.6%.
It is the largest rise for troops since 2010, but not significantly more than last year’s 2.4%.
Secret’s out: Trump’s plane tracked
Any trip by a US president has to be planned down to the last detail, to make sure there are no holes in the security arrangements.
A trip to an active war zone has to be planned with special care – and secretly.
“But also a bit troubling that so many folks seem to already know about this if it hasn’t happened already. #OpSec anyone?”
Friction: Iraqi host not too pleased
President Trump was due to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi during the trip but the talks were cancelled over what Mr Mahdi’s office called “disagreements” over organisation.
Iraqi MPs told Reuters news agency that Mr Trump had asked for the meeting to take place at the al-Asad military base, an offer declined by the prime minister.
When asked if he had had concerns about the visit, Mr Trump told reporters: “Absolutely. I had concerns for the institution of the presidency – not for myself, personally. I had concerns for the first lady, I will tell you.”
Mr Mahdi’s office said US officials had given Iraq advance notice of the presidential visit, but powerful local figures clearly took umbrage.
Sabah al-Saadi, who leads the Shia Muslim parliamentary bloc Islah, called it a “blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty”.
Qais al-Khazali, commander of Asaib Ahl al-Haqq, Iraq’s most powerful Shia Muslim militia, also objected to the trip. He warned in a tweet that parliament would respond to the visit by “forcing the US troops to leave Iraq”.
According to the report the most financially costly disasters linked to rising temperatures were Hurricanes Florence and Michael, with costs said to be around $17bn for the former, and $15bn for the latter.
The Christian Aid study says even where scientists have not done attribution studies linking events to climate change, they believe that warming is driving shifts in weather patterns that make droughts and wildfires more likely.
“Climate change is something still often talked about as a future problem, not least because we know the consequences of the warming climate are so devastating and don’t want to face up to what is already happening,” said Dr Kat Kramer from Christian Aid.
“This report shows that for many people, climate change is having devastating impacts on their lives and livelihoods right now. The great injustice of climate breakdown is that the people that suffer first and worst, are the world’s poor that have done the least to contribute to the crisis.”
The report says that while the headline events had immediate impacts on lives and economies throughout 2018, in many developing countries there are slow-moving disasters connected to climate change such as droughts and sea encroachment that are progressively hitting millions of people.
Commenting on the Christian Aid report, Dr Michael Mann from Penn State University said the impacts of climate change were no longer subtle.
“The unprecedented floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires and super storms we’ve seen in recent years – they are the face of climate change. The world’s weather is becoming more extreme before our eyes – the only thing that can stop this destructive trend from escalating is a rapid fall in carbon emissions.”
According to the World Meteorological Organisation’s initial observations, 2018 is likely to be the fourth warmest on record with the Earth’s average temperature hovering close to 1C above the levels recorded in 1850-1900.
With a high likelihood of a new El Niño forming early in 2019, the coming 12 months is expected to push the current record close, with the UKMet Office predicting that the global average temperature for 2019 will likely be 1.10C, above the pre-industrial average period from 1850-1900.
Since 1850, 2016 is the warmest year on record with a central estimate of 1.15 °C above the same baseline.