Twenty fire engines were deployed to the fire at the warehouse in Purley Way

Croydon warehouse blaze tackled by firefighters


Up to 120 firefighters are battling a large blaze at a self-storage warehouse in south London.

Twenty fire engines were deployed to the fire at the warehouse in Purley Way, Croydon, after London Fire Brigade (LFB) were called at 19:45 GMT.

Local roads have been shut while crews from Croydon and other surrounding fire stations tackle the fire.

LFB said there had been no reports of any injuries and the cause of the blaze was currently not known.

Local roads around Purley Way have been closed while fire crews tackle the blaze

Transport for London urged drivers to use alternative routes.

Brexit: US ambassador to UK Johnson warns on trade deal

Donald Trump’s offer of a “quick, massive bilateral trade deal” won’t be possible if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is backed by Parliament, the US ambassador to the UK has warned.

Woody Johnson told Radio 4’s Today programme such a deal with the US could lead to an “exciting future” for the UK.

But that’s only if Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement does not succeed, he said.

President Trump had previously described her offer as a “great deal for the EU” .

“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.

The Queen and Donald Trump
President Trump met the Queen in July – could a state visit be on the cards for 2019?

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.

Continue reading “Brexit: US ambassador to UK Johnson warns on trade deal”

Drone to watch over New Year celebration in New York”:

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.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the drone would be “this big”

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.

Times Square ball
The Times Square “ball drop” is world famous

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.

Dino Melaye: Nigeria police don become Buhari goment toy to attack opposition – Senate president

African News


PHILIP OJISUASaraki use vex eye dey look Buhari

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.  

E say dem dey suspect di way police take enta di senator house and di timing show say dem no wan make im join do di kontri election wey go happun for February.

“Police claim say dem send letter to clerk of di senate about Dino mata, but I check for clerk office, I no see anytin like dat”na so di senate president tok.

SENATOR DINO MELAYE FACEBOOKDino Melaye

Police brutality na im make #EndSARS turn to serious mata among kontri pipo of Nigeria and e don tey wen ordinary pipo and activists dey cry out say di kontri police sabi abuse di rights of citizens.

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.



Calls to rid bacon and ham of processing nitrites

News

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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.

Should there be a tax on red meat?

How much of a cancer risk are processed meats?

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.

They point to a 2015 World Health Organization report that said chemicals involved in processing could increase the risk of colorectal cancer as well as research from Glasgow Universitythat suggested eating processed meat could increase the chance of developing breast cancer .

They also called on the government to launch a public awareness campaign, similar to the war on sugar and fattening foods, to raise awareness of the risks of nitrites.

The coalition is led by Professor Chris Elliott, the food scientist who ran the government’s investigation into the horse meat scandal, and Dr Aseem Malhotra, a leading NHS cardiologist.

Dr Malhotra said the meat industry “must act fast, (and) act now”.

But a spokesman for the British Meat Processors Association said nitrites helped to hinder microbial growth and protect against botulism, a serious form of food poisoning.

“The industry is constantly looking at the levels of nitrites and nitrates, but reductions have to be balanced against the food safety issues and minimising waste,” he said.

What is processed meat?

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Processed meat has been modified to either extend its shelf life or change the taste and the main methods are smoking, curing, or adding salt or preservatives.

Simply putting beef through a mincer does not mean the resulting mince is “processed” unless it is modified further.

Processed meat includes bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky and ham as well as canned meat and meat-based sauces.

Kilmarnock shop assistant threatened with ‘firearm’

Glasgow & West Scotland

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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.

‘Traumatic ordeal’

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.”

2face, Tiwa Savage, AY, others bond with neighbours at Haven Homes Xmas party

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.

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2face
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. 

New Year Honours 2019: Twiggy, Michael Palin and Gareth Southgate on list


Twiggy, Michael Palin and Philip Pullman are among those being honoured.
Twiggy, Michael Palin and Philip Pullman are among those being honoured.

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.

‘Ambassador for Britain’

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”.

Twiggy
Twiggy shot to fame in 1960s London

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.”

Gareth Southgate
Southgate’s squad reached the final four in Russia in July

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.”

Kayaking rescue

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 Foreign Office has announced an additional 93 honours, and there are separate lists covering the gallantry awards and for service personnel in the military .

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.

Richard Stanton (left) and John Volanthen
Richard Stanton and John Volanthen were key members of the cave rescue team

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.

Suffragist statue

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.

Jim Carter, Sophie Okonedo
Actors Jim Carter and Sophie Okonedo are recognised

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.

Clockwise from top left: Alastair Cook, Geva Mentor, Richard Johnson, Frances Houghton
The knighthood for Alastair Cook (top left) heads the sporting honours and there is recognition for Geva Mentor, Richard Johnson and Frances Houghton

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.

MPs knighted

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.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Glenda Bailey
Jayne-Anne Gadhia and Glenda Bailey are among the new dames

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.

Three MPs have been given knighthoods for political service – Labour’s Alan Campbell, and Conservatives John Redwood and Gary Streeter.

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.

Melissa Mead with son William
Melissa Mead has been recognised for her campaign work on sepsis following the death of her son, William

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.

Melissa Mead, from Penryn, Cornwall, whose son William died in 2014 of blood poisoning,becomes an MBE after campaigning to raise awareness of sepsis.

The same honour goes to Colin Crooks, from social enterprise Tree Shepherd, who has helped disadvantaged communities in London since the 1980s.

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The honours system

CBE, OBE and MBE medals

Commonly awarded ranks:

  • Companion of honour – Limited to 65 people. Recipients wear the initials CH after their name
  • Knight or Dame
  • CBE – Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • OBE – Officer of the Order of the British Empire
  • MBE – Member of the Order of the British Empire
  • BEM – British Empire Medal
  • Guide to the honours
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More on this story

Guide to the Honours01 August 2016




New York awe-struck as sky over Queens turns blue


The New York skyline had residents scratching their heads
The New York skyline had residents scratching their heads

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 launches series of attacks in north-east Nigeria

​By abekunle best

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.”

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari
 President Muhammadu Buhari, who is seeking reelection. Photograph: Sunday Alamba/AP

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.

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HMV calls in administrators for second time in six years

Business


The Darkness performing at HMV's Oxford Street store
The Darkness performing at HMV’s Oxford Street store in 2017

Music retailer HMV confirmed it has called in KPMG as administrators.

The move, the second in six years, involves 2,200 staff at 125 stores.

Owners Hilco, which took the company out of its first administration in 2013, blamed a “tsunami” of retail challenges, including business rate levels and the move to digital.

It said the stores would continue to trade while negotiations were held with major suppliers and it looked for buyers.

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.

Gift vouchers

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.

According to consumer publication Which?, whether vouchers and returns will be accepted following administration depends on the administrators .

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.”

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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.

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Weak retailing

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 shop, Oxford Street, London in 1949.
HMV shop, Oxford Street, London in 1949.

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.

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Channel migrants: Home secretary declares major incident

News

Border Force officials detained 12 adult migrants on Friday
Border Force officials detained 12 adult migrants on Friday

The rising number of migrants attempting to cross the Channel in small boats has been declared a “major incident” by the UK home secretary.

Sajid Javid has asked for an urgent call with his French counterpart about the situation.

The Home Office said there was “concern that it is only a matter of time before people lose their lives”.

It comes after at least 221 migrants have attempted to cross the Channel to England since the start of November.

Most recently, 12 people were detained off the coast of Dover in the early hours of Friday morning.ADVERTISEMENT

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.

More Dover Migrants Cross The Channel And Are Escorted By Border Force
The 12 detained on Friday were brought to shore and given a medical assessment in Dover before being transferred to immigration officials

More Dover Migrants Cross The Channel And Are Escorted By Border Force
The latest detention comes after 40 migrants were rescued from the Channel on Christmas Day

Mr Javid has been appointed “gold commander”, meaning he has ultimate responsibility for the handling and outcome of the incident and sets out a strategy of how to deal with it.

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.'”

‘Organised criminality’

Many of the migrants are Iranian or Syrian.

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.

BBC South East investigation last monthfound that people smugglers were telling migrants they must enter before “the borders shut properly” after Brexit.

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.

A migrant rescue off the coast of Dover in November 2018

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:

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Madagascar pochard: World’s rarest bird gets new home

By Victoria GillScience reporter, BBC News

Science & Environment


Conservationists hope to save a species of duck called the Madagascar pochard from extinction.
Conservationists hope to save a species of duck called the Madagascar pochard from extinction.

The rarest bird in the world – a species of duck called the Madagascar pochard – has been given a new home in time for the new year.

An international team of researchers released 21 of the birds at a lake in the north of Madagascar.

It is a step towards the recovery of a species that just over a decade ago was thought to be extinct.

Rescuing the species could also be a first step in protecting Madagascar’s threatened wetlands .

Why is this species under such threat?

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.

Pochard in captivity
The captive-bred pochards are now settling in to their new home

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.”

How has the species been rescued?

Madagascar pochard ducklings
Breeding the ducks in captivity has been key

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.

Lake Sofia and floating aviaries (c) WWT
Floating aviaries have been installed at Lake Sofia to protect the ducks

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.

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Caerphilly family’s presents stolen on Christmas Eve

Wales


Carl Davies
Carl Davies said that they have received support from their neighbours

A family whose presents were stolen on Christmas Eve have described the loss as “heartbreaking”.

Carl Davies, from Rhymney, Caerphilly, said they were alerted when their neighbour shouted up the stairs that their door was open.

The family later noticed that their BMW had been stolen alongside the gifts, and the car was then found burnt out.

Gwent Police said they were investigating, although there had been no arrests.

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 BMW was later found burnt out
The BMW was later found burnt out

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.”

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Musk seeks to dismiss ‘pedo’ defamation claim

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.

Angry response

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.

Composite image of Vernon Unsworth and Elon Musk
Image captionMr Musk (R) alleged that British diver Mr Unsworth (L) had a “child bride”

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.

Presentational grey line

How defamation works in the US

Gavel

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.

Outcry as Instagram tries horizontal scrolling


Instagram regulars did not react positively to the horizontal scrolling test

Instagram has apologised after a test feature was accidentally rolled out to millions of people using its app.

The change meant moving through a feed had to be done by swiping horizontally rather than vertically.

Almost as soon as the change was made, users took to Twitter to complain and demand the return of the familiar up-and-down scrolling method.

The unwelcome update – which was likened to Tinder – was live for about an hour before it was rolled back.

In a tweet, Instagram’s head of product Adam Mosseri said: “Sorry about that, this was supposed to be a very small test but we went broader than we anticipated.”

The change trended under the #instagramupdate hashtag on Twitter, accompanied by mostly negative comments.

Many asked who had thought changing the scrolling direction would be a good idea. Several called on co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger – who quit earlier this year – to return.

Some wondered if it was a way to stop people just scrolling endlessly through updates by making them tap and examine posts before moving on.

Instagram user Elise Michelle called it: “By far the worst update in Instagram history.”

Soon after the backlash, Mr Mosseri tweetedthat the change had been “rolled back”.

He added: “If you’re still seeing it you can simply restart your app and you should be good to go.”


Trump in Iraq: Seals, secrets, selfies, squabbles

News

US President Donald Trump: ‘We’re no longer the suckers, folks’

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.”

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet members of the US military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26, 2018
President Trump and his wife met military personnel at the al-Asad airbase, west of Baghdad

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.

It appears that those in the video include an elite US Navy Seal team, according to Newsweek. A team, the magazine pointed out, which would usually have their identities protected.

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.”

Was Trump right to say IS is beaten?

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.

Mr Trump was apparently very happy, regaling reporters with tales of how they had travelled with the windows closed and lights off so as not to attract any attention.

But unfortunately, when you are in arguably the world’s most recognisable aircraft, the chance of being spotted is always high.

And on this occasion, Alan Meloy captured a perfect image of the plane soaring over Sheffield, UK, on Boxing Day.

From there, Twitter sleuths and plane enthusiasts began to track the aircraft as it made its way across Europe and to Iraq, with a number of people guessing where it was headed.

Mr Trump is, of course, not the only president to travel on Air Force One on a secret visit to a warzone. His predecessors have done so.

However, the fact it was quite so easy to follow what the president was doing had more than a few people concerned.

“Sources telling me Trump’s on his way to visit troops – possibly in Iraq. Better late than never,” tweeted Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“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.

Mr Trump said he was concerned for Melania during their Iraq visit

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”.

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Sydney Opal Tower: Residents forced to leave for second time


An exterior view of the Opal Tower (C, back) at Sydney Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia, 24 December 2018.
A crack in the building’s wall caused residents to evacuate on Monday.

Hundreds of people have been told to leave a Sydney tower block for a second time, after a crack appeared in its walls on Monday.

Many residents of the 38-storey Opal Tower had moved back in, after the alarm was first raised when loud noises were heard and a crack was discovered.

The company that built the tower said it remained “structurally sound” and the relocation was just a precaution.

It says this will allow engineers and investigators to work around the clock.

The builder, Icon, said that no residents were in danger, but this would help them repair the site in the quickest time possible without further disruption to residents.

The investigation was expected to take up to 10 days and Icon said it would provide all accommodation.

Resident questions Icon director outside the Opal Tower
Some residents complained about having to leave their apartments for a second time

Angry residents complained about being forced to leave their apartments.

“I think no one can trust [them] because they forced people to go back to their property and today they’re standing in front of us [to] say everyone has to leave the building,” said one.

Another said: “We’re a bit frustrated. We were planning on spending the New Year here with family and friends. That’s actually one of the reasons why we moved into this building three months ago.”

Police talk with evacuated residents from the Opal Tower on Monday
All tower inhabitants have been told to leave

Authorities had previously said 51 of the tower’s 392 units were affected and the newly completed building in Sydney Olympic Park was declared safe for a majority of residents to return.

As many as 3,000 people were evacuated on Monday , after an internal support wall failed on the 10th floor of the building, according to police.

Icon confirmed that a pre-cast concrete panel had cracked in the building.

A team of engineers from Icon and the building’s developer Ecove have been assessing the building, which was only completed earlier this year.

On Wednesday, the New South Wales government said it was also investigating the building’s structural integrity and that of neighbouring residential towers.

Local news outlets have published pictures of the building damage, showing loose plaster and crumbling walls.

Engineers earlier said the high-rise tower had moved up to 2mm.

However, Ecove has defended the building’s “high quality”, which it said was above the industry standard.

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Climate change: Huge costs of warming impacts in 2018

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent.

Science & Environment


heatwave
Heat waves in Europe in 2018 saw big impacts on agriculture

Extreme weather events linked to climate change cost thousands of lives and caused huge damage throughout the world in 2018, say Christian Aid.

The charity’s report identified ten events that cost more than $1bn each, with four costing more than $7bn each.

Scientists have shown that the chances of heat waves in Europe were influenced directly by human-related warming.

Other events, say the authors, are due to shifts in weather patterns, said to be a consequence of climate change.

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.

Research published at the time showed that the rains accompanying Hurricane Florence were made 50% worse than they would have been without human influenced warming.

With Hurricane Michael, experts say that human activities drove the emissions that made the water warmer, adding fuel and speed to the storm.

In Japan, 2018 was the summer of extremes with flooding and heatwaves causing huge impacts.

floods
Flooding persisted for weeks after Hurricane Florence hit South Carolina

The floods killed at least 230 people and caused $7bn worth of damage, which were then followed by Typhoon Jebi, the most powerful storm to hit the country for 25 years.

Europe also saw record heatwaves – withresearchers showing that climate change likely doubled the chances of the events happening.

separate study from the Met Office looking at the UK suggested that the extreme heat was made 30 times more likely because of rising temperatures.

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.

flames
Wildfires in California were the worst seen in the US in a century

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.

Their State of the Climate report , published in November, said that 20 of the warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years.

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.

Arron Hough: British cruise entertainer missing overboard

Arron Hough: British cruise entertainer missing overboard

UK


A 20-year-old British cruise ship entertainer is missing after going overboard on Christmas Day, operator Royal Caribbean has said.

The US Coast Guard has been searching through the night for Arron Hough after he went missing from the Harmony of the Seas.

The vessel was 267 miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, at the time.

The alarm was raised when Mr Hough, from Sunderland, failed to report for work on Tuesday.

His talent agency Russell Smith Associates tweeted that it was shocked and saddened by the news.

London drama school Urdang Academy, which Mr Hough attended, said staff were praying for the entertainer and his family.

A Royal Caribbean spokesman confirmed a member of the entertainment team had not reported to work as scheduled on Tuesday, with the ship en route to Philipsburg, St Maarten.

“We are saddened to report that after a review of the ship’s closed-circuit camera footage he was observed entering an area on Deck 5 at around 4am and was not seen again,” the spokesman said.

“Local authorities were notified and a ship-wide search for the crew member was conducted.

“Our care team is providing support to the family and friends of our colleague, and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.”

The US Coast Guard said: “Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a notification from the cruise ship stating a crew member went overboard Tuesday.”

Russell Smith Associates tweeted in July that Mr Hough would be joining the cast of Grease The Musical.

Harmony Of The Seas is on a seven-night tour that departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 23 December, calling at St Maarten, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Haiti.

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