Trump son-in-law Kushner defends conduct after Senate testimony

Posted by Warren Fyfe on July 24, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionKushner: ‘Stop ridiculing Trump voters’

Donald Trump’s son-in-law has defended his conduct in last year’s presidential campaign, after giving evidence to a Senate panel investigating Russian interference in the election.

Jared Kushner said all of his “actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events” of the campaign.

Mr Kushner, 36, has also denied any collusion with Russia.

He is a senior adviser to the president and was in charge of the campaign’s digital strategy.

He is married to Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.

Speaking at the White House after a closed-door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr Kushner said he had been “fully transparent in providing all the requested information”.

“Let me be very clear – I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. I had no improper contacts,” he said.

Mr Kushner, who keeps a very low media profile, will appear before the equivalent House of Representatives committee on Tuesday.

In a statement to both congressional committees released before the Senate session on Monday, he said there were “hardly any” contacts with Russian representatives, adding later that there were “perhaps four”.

Media captionThe BBC’s Sarah Rainsford tries to get Russian pop star Emin Agalarov to comment on his links to Donald Trump.

He refers to a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June last year. She had allegedly promised damaging material on Hillary Clinton.

Mr Kushner said he arrived late at the meeting, realised little of note was being discussed and that it was “time not well-spent”.

Mr Trump Jr said former campaign chief Paul Manafort was also at the meeting and that no compromising material on Mrs Clinton was provided.

Mr Kushner on his meetings with Russians:

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  • Ambassador Sergei Kislyak (above). Brief meeting of “pleasantries” in April 2016 in Washington. Meeting at Trump Tower on 1 December. Discussed Syria and trying to improve relations. Mr Kushner insists he did not suggest a “secret back channel” for communication or discuss sanctions. Mr Kislyak’s term ended on Saturday
  • Sergei Gorkov. Mr Kushner says he met the banker on 12 December at the request of Mr Kislyak, who presented him as a man with direct links to President Vladimir Putin. Mr Kushner insists he did not discuss sanctions, business interests or specific policy issues and has had no contacts with him since
  • Guccifer400. Mr Kushner says he received a “random email” trying to extort 52 bitcoins in exchange for not publishing Mr Trump’s tax details. Mr Kushner says he ignored the email
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya. Mr Kushner said he had not spoken to the lawyer before or since the June 2016 meeting and had forgotten about it until an email exchange involving President Trump’s son, Donald Jr, came to light last month. He says: “No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted.”

In his statement, Mr Kushner accepted that he failed initially to reveal his contacts with Russians.

He says the first form, a “rough draft that still had many omissions”, was filed by an assistant in error on 18 January and that declarations on his foreign contacts, not just with Russians, were added over the next six months “in the normal course”.

Mr Trump Jr and Mr Manafort had been scheduled to appear before Congress on Wednesday to testify but that has been delayed indefinitely as lawyers negotiate on the documentation and information to be discussed.

Analysis: An exercise in caution

Anthony Zurcher, BBC North America reporter

In his Senate testimony Jared Kushner says he has nothing to hide and is “happy” to share information with those investigating possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

His written statement, however, is an exercise in caution and lawyerly discretion. He addresses only the controversies already in the public sphere, then offers his explanation for why they are no big deal.

He receives hundreds of emails a day and didn’t read his brother-in-law’s forwarded message that said the Russian government wanted to help the Trump campaign.

Reports of an effort to set up back-channel communications with Russia after the election were a halted effort to get information about Syria from Russian generals.

He met with an influential Russian banker because the Russian ambassador – whose name he couldn’t initially remember – was so persistent.

The incomplete security form was the result of a “miscommunication” with an assistant who submitted it too soon.

Beyond that, there are no new revelations; no new disclosures. If what’s already out is all there is, Mr Kushner and his lawyers have done their best to defuse the bombs. When walking in a minefield, it’s the ones you don’t know about that pose the greatest risk.

President Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia.

He continued his tirade against the investigation process on Sunday, tweeting: “As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!”

Russia has also denied any involvement.

Six months of Trump

Media captionCommander in tweets: What we can learn from Trump’s Twitter

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-40711436

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Charlie Gard: Parents pay tribute to son as legal fight ends

Posted by Warren Fyfe on July 24, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

The parents of terminally-ill baby Charlie Gard have ended their legal challenge to take him to the US for experimental treatment.

Speaking outside the High Court in London, Chris Gard broke down as he paid tribute to his “warrior” son.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40709280

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Charlie Gard parents end legal fight as time runs out for ‘beautiful’ baby

Posted by Warren Fyfe on July 24, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionChris Gard: “We are so sorry we could not save you”

The parents of terminally ill baby Charlie Gard have ended their legal challenge to take him to the US for experimental treatment.

A lawyer representing Chris Gard and Connie Yates told the High Court “time had run out” for the baby.

Mr Gard said it meant his “sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy” will not reach his first birthday on 4 August.

“To let our beautiful little Charlie go” is “the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do”, his mother said.

Charlie’s parents said they made the decision because a US doctor had told them it was now too late to give Charlie nucleoside therapy.

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Charlie has a rare genetic condition and would not live to see his first birthday, his father said

“We only wanted to give him a chance of life,” Ms Yates told the court in a statement.

“A whole lot of time has been wasted,” she added.

“We are sorry we could not save you.”

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Charlie Gard’s medical case explained

Their lawyer Grant Armstrong said the parents’ worst fears had been confirmed.

‘Absolute warrior’

He told judge Mr Justice Francis US neurologist Dr Michio Hirano had said he was no longer willing to offer the baby experimental therapy after he saw the results of a new MRI scan last week.

He added Mr Gard and Ms Yates, from Bedfont, west London, now hoped to establish a foundation to ensure Charlie’s voice “continues to be heard”.

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Several supporters of Charlie’s parents’ campaign gathered outside the court

In a statement outside court, Mr Gard said Charlie was an “absolute warrior” and they “could not be prouder of him.”

“Charlie has had a greater impact on and touched more people in this world in his 11 months than many people do in a lifetime.

“We could not have more love and pride for our beautiful boy.

“We are now going to spend our last precious moments with our son Charlie, who unfortunately won’t make his first birthday in just under two weeks’ time.”

They had raised £1.3m in donations to take their son abroad for treatment.

Charlie has encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. He has brain damage and cannot move his arms or legs.

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Some supporters shouted after hearing the news from inside the court

Katie Gollop, the lawyer representing Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) where Charlie has been treated since October, said the hearts of each person at the hospital “go out to Charlie, his mother and father”.

The hospital paid tribute to the “bravery” of the decision made by Charlie’s parents.

In a statement, it said: “Over the weekend, they communicated their desire to spend all the time they can with Charlie whilst working with the hospital to formulate the best possible plan for his end of life care.

“The agony, desolation and bravery of their decision command GOSH’s utmost respect and humble all who work there.”

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Mr Justice Francis paid tribute to Charlie’s parents and said no-one could comprehend their agony and no parents could have done more.

In his judgement, the judge said last week’s MRI scans had shown “Charlie has no muscle at all” on parts of his body and was “beyond help”.

He said Mr Gard and Ms Yates were now prepared to accept Charlie should be moved to palliative care and be allowed to die with dignity.

He also decried the “absurd notion which has appeared in recent days that Charlie has been a prisoner of the National Health Service,” calling it “the antithesis of the truth”.

“In this country children have rights independent of their parents,” he said.

Occasionally there were circumstances when a hospital and the parents were unable to agree what course of action was in the best interest of the child patient, in that instance the decision is referred to an independent judge, he continued.

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Charlie has been in intensive care at GOSH since October

Outside court, Charlie’s Army campaigners reacted angrily and chanted, “shame on you judge” and “shame on GOSH”.

Falling to the ground, one female supporter said: “He had a chance and you took it away.”

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Charlie Gard: Timeline of parents’ legal battle

  • 3 March 2017: Mr Justice Francis starts to analyse the case at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
  • 11 April: Mr Justice Francis says doctors can stop providing life-support treatment.
  • 3 May: Charlie’s parents ask Court of Appeal judges to consider the case.
  • 23 May: Three Court of Appeal judges analyse the case.
  • 25 May: Court of Appeal judges dismiss the couple’s appeal.
  • 8 June: Charlie’s parents lose fight in the Supreme Court.
  • 20 June: Judges in the European Court of Human Rights start to analyse the case after lawyers representing Charlie’s parents make written submissions.
  • 27 June: Judges in the European Court of Human Rights refuse to intervene.
  • 3 July: The Pope and US President Donald Trump offer to intervene.
  • 7 July: Great Ormond Street Hospital applies for a fresh hearing at the High Court.
  • 24 July: Charlie’s parents end their legal fight to take him to the US for treatment.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-40708343

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First class could be cut on busy trains, says Grayling

Posted by Warren Fyfe on July 22, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Train firms could be forced to reduce first class seats on busy commuter lines to ease overcrowding, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said.

He said people will see “less first class in the future” with busy suburban trains having “one class” instead.

Mr Grayling suggested operators may be forced to scrap first class areas when franchises are awarded in the future.

Rail Delivery Group – which represents train operators – said it would work to increase seat numbers on key lines.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Grayling said he was “absolutely” committed to scrapping first class carriages on shorter, commuter routes, at busy times of the day, and wanted train operators to take action if passengers demanded it.

“I absolutely understand what a total pain it is if you are standing on a train for 20 to 30 minutes on the way to work,” he told the paper.

“I don’t really see a case for a non-long distance journey for there to be any division between first and second class. There should just be one class on the train.”

“People will see less first class in the future as we start to say that on busy suburban trains you can’t start segregating,” he added.

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The Department for Transport issues contracts to run rail franchises in England, and can include conditions such as whether first class seating should be provided.

In March, ahead of contract negotiations to run the Southeastern franchise, passengers were asked if they wanted to remove first class seats at busy times.

The contract to run the line – which serves south-east London, Kent and parts of East Sussex – expires next year.

Other franchises to be renewed in the next 12 months include the West Coast Main Line from April 2019, and the East Midlands regional contract, which has three firms bidding to run the contract from March 2018.

However, some are not due for renewal for several years, with the Northern and East Anglia franchises currently not due for renewal until 2025.

Longer trains

David Sidebottom, director of Transport Focus – which represents passengers – said it was important train users have a choice, “as long as that choice is not to the extreme detriment of everyone else”.

“A balance needs to be achieved between the number of standard and first class carriages a train has,” he added.

“However, it is clear that where passengers are being squeezed into standard class carriages while there are plenty of empty seats in first class, this balance is not being achieved.

“In the long-term we need a big increase in capacity. This means continued investment in new and longer trains to meet existing demand.”

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group – which represents train operators – said firms were prepared to work with the government over the issue.

“We understand passengers’ frustration when they can’t get a seat which is why rail companies are working together to invest and improve journeys with thousands of new carriages and 6,400 extra train services a week by 2021,” he said.

“We will continue to work with governments to increase seats on key routes to boost communities, businesses and the economy.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40690621

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Boots apologises for morning-after pill response

Posted by Warren Fyfe on July 22, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media caption“Boots spectacularly misjudged public opinion,” says Clare Murphy of the BPAS

Boots has said it is “truly sorry” for its response to calls to cut the cost of one of its morning-after pills.

The pharmaceutical company was criticised after telling the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) it was avoiding “incentivising inappropriate use”.

It now says it is looking for cheaper alternatives to the Levonelle brand.

The firm said it “sincerely” apologised for its “poor choice of words” over the emergency contraception pricing.

The progestogen-based drug Levonelle costs £28.25 in Boots, with a non-branded equivalent priced at £26.75.

The branded drug costs £13.50 at Tesco and a generic version is £13.49 in Superdrug.

European comparison

Claire Murphy from the BPAS welcomed the move by Boots but said it would keep up the pressure on the chain.

“Women struggle to access emergency contraception and the cost is a key barrier,” she said.

“It’s been wonderful to hear the women, and the men, of this country stand up and really make their voices heard in response to the position Boots originally took.”

But Laura Perrins from the blog Conservative Women said condemning a pharmacy for setting a price on a particular drug was itself a “form of moralising”.

She said Boots should not be forced to reduce the cost, saying Levonelle “is a drug that is unlike others and is a drug that can be given to under-age girls without parental consent”.

The BPAS has lobbied Boots to reduce the cost of the pill to make it more accessible for women having difficulty getting the drug quickly on the NHS.

The service also found the pills can cost up to five times more in the UK than in some parts of Europe.

Previously, Boots had defended its pricing plan for the pill, saying it was often contacted by individuals who criticise the company for providing the service.

It also said it “would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product”.

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Science Photo Library

The response led to some Labour MPs saying Boots had taken an “unacceptable” moral position, while health campaigners talked of a “sexist surcharge”.

The company later issued another statement, stating regret that its previous response had “caused offence and misunderstanding”.

It added: “The pricing of [emergency hormonal contraception] is determined by the cost of the medicine and the cost of the pharmacy consultation.

“We are committed to looking at the sourcing of less expensive EHC medicines, for example generics, to enable us to continue to make a privately-funded EHC service even more accessible in the future.

“In addition the NHS EHC service where it is locally commissioned, is provided for free in over 1,700 of our pharmacies, and we continue to urge the NHS to extend this free service more widely.”

Questions from pharmacists

The morning-after pill can be taken in the days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.

In England, Levonelle and EllaOne are free of charge from most sexual health clinics, most GP surgeries and most NHS walk-in centres or urgent care centres, but they are free only to women in certain age groups from pharmacies in some parts of the country.

In Scotland and Wales, the emergency contraceptive pill is available free of charge on the NHS from pharmacies, GPs and sexual health clinics.

In Northern Ireland, some pharmacies allow it to be bought on the NHS, and it is available free of charge from sexual health clinics and GPs.

Sandra Gidley, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said the original stance taken by Boots was a “little uncomfortable”.

She said: “They seemed to be saying women would be irresponsible and that can’t be the case because pharmacists have to ask a set number of questions so if women are regularly trying to use the morning after pill as a method of contraception they’re simply not allowed to have it.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40689763

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Tour de France 2017: Chris Froome set to clinch fourth yellow jersey

Posted by Warren Fyfe on July 22, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Froome was the last to leave the Velodrome – starting his 22.5km time trial at 16:04 BST

Chris Froome effectively clinched his fourth Tour de France title after finishing third on the penultimate stage of the race in Marseille.

Briton Froome finished six seconds behind stage winner Maciej Bodnar.

The 32-year-old took time out of all his major yellow jersey rivals on a 22.5km individual time trial.

The Team Sky rider will not have his lead attacked on Sunday’s processional final stage into Paris and will win the race for the third successive year.

“It just was just an amazing feeling to finish in this atmosphere in this stadium,” Froome told ITV4 afterwards.

“Three weeks of racing are almost at an end – we’ve still got to get to Paris but this is an amazing feeling.”

Earlier on Saturday, the women’s race – La Course by Le Tour – was won by Dutch cyclist Annmiek van Vleuten.

In an unusual pursuit format, she managed to hold off a group of three riders that included Britain’s Lizzie Deignan to ensure that she won both of the two stages of the race. Deignan outsprinted Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini to claim second.

Desperate battle for a podium spot

Froome might have extended his overnight lead from 23 to 54 seconds, but there was an almighty battle for the other two podium spots.

French favourite Romain Bardet trailed Froome by 23 seconds overnight while Colombian Rigoberto Uran was 29 seconds behind the leader.


Bardet cut a shattered and distraught figure at the end of the time trial

But Froome’s Sky team-mate Mikel Landa had been in superb form during the Tour and, starting the time trial one minute 36 seconds behind the leader, went down the ramp knowing that a strong ride could see him claw his way into the top three.

Uran got a corner wrong as he prepared to enter the Stade de Velodrome at the end of his ride and Bardet was almost caught by Froome after attacking too hard on the climb up to Notre Dame de la Grande.

In the end, Bardet slipped to second, losing that spot to Uran, and clung onto a podium spot by the tightest of margins – finishing one second ahead of the unfortunate Landa.

TV pictures showed Bardet looking shattered and distraught after his ride but at least he held onto third.

Never in doubt for ice cool Froome

Froome had admitted prior to Saturday’s time trial that the race was his to lose – and maintaining his lead never really looked in doubt as he executed a controlled ride that almost saw him catch Bardet, who had set off two minutes ahead of him.

Froome was booed by some of the patriotic home crowd as he made his way down the ramp, the last man to roll out of the Velodrome.

But by the time he reached the first time check at Palais du Pharo after 10.2km he was the second fastest, trailing team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski. That meant he had extended his lead over key general classification rivals Bardet and Uran, and it was obvious that barring an unforeseen problem victory would be his.

The only question would be whether he went on to win the stage – something that had eluded him in the race so far.

But he could not match the time of Bora-Hansgrohe rider Bodnar, who in the end finished one second ahead of Kwiatkowski to claim the most famous stage win of his career.

Bodnar, who had been 52nd of the 167 remaining competitors down the ramp, had been caught 200m from the line in Pau at the end of stage 11 after a solo breakaway of 200km.

Yates seals white jersey


Yates went round the course in 29 minutes, 49 seconds – the exact same time as his rival for the white jersey

Most of the other jerseys had been long wrapped up before the start of Saturday’s stage.

We knew that Australian Michael Matthews would roll into Paris wearing green as the race’s top sprinter and Frenchmen Warren Barguil in the polka dot jersey as the King of the Mountains.

But Britain’s Simon Yates was seventh – just one place ahead of South African Louis Meintjes in the white jersey competition for the best rider under the age of 25.

The gap between them was two minutes six seconds overnight – and that was exactly how it finished at the end of Saturday’s stage.

The end of the road is nigh


Back in Dusseldorf on 1 July 198 riders from 22 teams set off on the long road to Paris.

After 3,521kms it is almost time for the 167 remaining riders to end their Tour with Sunday’s 103km procession from Montgeron to Paris.

The 21st and final stage of the race starts at 15:40 BST and is scheduled to finish at approximately 18:30 BST.

Racing will only really start for real when the riders get to Paris – and the remaining sprinters in the contest battle it out for one final stage win.

Stage 20 result:

1. Maciej Bodnar (Pol/Bora-Hansgrohe) 28mins 15secs

2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol/Team Sky) +1sec

3. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +6secs

4. Tony Martin (Ger/Katusha-Alpecin) +14secs

5. Daryl Impey (SA/Orica-Scott) +20secs

6. Alberto Contador (Spa/Trek-Segafredo) +21secs

7. Nikias Arndt (Ger/Team Sunweb) +28secs

8. Rigoberto Uran (Col/Cannondale-Drapac) +31secs

9. Stefan Kung (Swi/BMC) +34secs

10. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra/Direct Energie) +37secs

General classification after stage 20:

1. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 83hrs 55mins 16secs

2. Rigoberto Uran (Col/Cannondale-Drapac) +54secs

3. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale) +2mins 20secs

4. Mikel Landa (Spa/Team Sky) +2mins 21secs

5. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana) +3mins 05secs

6. Dan Martin (Ire/Quick-Step Floors) +4mins 42secs

7. Simon Yates (GB/Orica-Scott) +6mins 14secs

8. Louis Meintjes (SA/Team UAE Emirates) +8mins 20secs

9. Alberto Contador (Spa/Trek-Segafredo) +8mins 49secs

10. Warren Barguil (Fra/Team Sunweb) +9mins 25secs

More to follow.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/40691623

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Largest crime rise in England and Wales for 10 years

Posted by Warren Fyfe on July 20, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Getty Images

Crime in England and Wales has seen its largest annual rise in a decade, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The total number of crimes reported to and recorded by the police rose by 10% between April 2016 and March 2017 to almost five million.

Violent crime was up by 18%, robbery by 16% and sex offences by 14%.

Yet the Crime Survey of England and Wales, based on people’s experiences of crime, showed a 7% drop.

The Crime Survey is always published on the same day as the ONS figures. Its results are based on a face-to-face survey of 38,000 adults and children in which they are asked about their experiences of crime in the previous year, which means it includes crimes that are never reported to the police.

‘High harm offences’

In the ONS statistics, nearly five million crimes were recorded by the police in the last year – 458,021 more than the previous year.

The number of offences of violence against a person went up to 175,060 offences.

Theft was up 7%, with 118,774 crimes recorded, and public order offences rose 39% to 78,697.

There were 723 homicides in the past year – made up of murders, manslaughter and infanticide cases.

The official figure included the 96 Hillsborough deaths for the first time, following the verdict at the end of the inquest in April 2016 that the victims had been unlawfully killed 27 years earlier.

  • Reality Check: Is crime up or down under Tories?
  • Case closed: Most thefts ‘never solved’

However, even without this number, there was still a 9% rise in homicide.

There was also a 23% increase in firearms offences – equalling a further 1,200 crimes – and a 20% increase in knife crime – meaning 5,800 more offences.

John Flatley from the ONS said some of the big increases in its figures could be explained by changes in how the police recorded crime, but this was only in some categories.

He added: “Some of the increases recorded by the police are in the low volume, but high harm – offences such as homicide and knife crime that the Crime Survey is not designed to measure.”

“If the increases in burglary and vehicle theft recorded by the police continue, we would expect these to show up in the [Crime Survey] survey in due course.”

Analysis: Which crime figure to trust?

By Danny Shaw, BBC News home affairs correspondent

We are now seeing the first sustained and genuine increase in crime since police overhauled their recording practices 15 years ago.

The figures paint a picture of rising levels of the most serious violence, as well as crimes involving weapons.

For example, cases of murder and manslaughter, which are not prone to changes in recording methods, have been rising year-on-year since 2014.

Police are even reporting a spike in “traditional” crimes, such as burglary and car theft. They had been in long-term decline for around 20 years.

The Crime Survey continues to show a reduction. But it’s increasingly clear that the survey, with a relatively limited sample, is not good at gauging emerging crime trends and offences which are small in number but great in impact, such as knife crime and robbery.

For now, the police statistics are a more useful guide as to what’s really going on.

Nick Hurd, minister for policing and the fire service, said although the rise in the ONS figures was partly because of “better recording by forces”, the fact that “some of the increases may be genuine” means that “clearly there is more we must do to tackle the violent crimes which blight communities”.

He added: “We recognise that crime is changing and we are determined to get ahead of new and emerging threats.”

Mr Hurd outlined the latest government action, which includes:

  • An urgent plan to tackle the rise of acid attacks
  • A proposal to strengthen the laws on knife crime
  • A Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, which aims to provide victims with both support and justice, backed by £100m of funding

‘Wake-up call’

Rachel Almeida, head of policy at charity Victim Support, said the rise, especially in violent crime, was a “great cause for concern”.

“These types of crime in particular can cause deep emotional, physical and psychological effects on victims,” she added.

The Police Federation said in a statement that the ONS figures show forces are trying to meet demand with the fewest number of police officers since 1985.

Steve White, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “What more of a wake-up call does the government need?

“Government need to start to invest now in backing the police service so that it can carry out its primary responsibility, which is the safety and security of citizens. These figures demonstrate that this has not happened.”

Have you been a recent victim of violent crime? Are you affected by the issues in this story? Email

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40665733

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AlphaBay and Hansa dark web markets shut down

Posted by Warren Fyfe on July 20, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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US Department of Justice

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AlphaBay went offline earlier this month

Two of the largest dark web marketplaces have been shut down following a “landmark” international law enforcement investigation.

The AlphaBay and Hansa sites had been associated with the trade in illicit items such as drugs, weapons, malware and stolen data.

According to Europol, there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay.

Hansa was seized and covertly monitored for a month before being deactivated.

The agency said it believed the bust would lead to hundreds of new investigations in Europe.

“The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today,” said Europol’s executive director Rob Wainwright.

It was a “landmark” operation, according to US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Andrew McCabe.

AlphaBay has been offline since early July, fuelling suspicions among users that a law enforcement crackdown had taken place.

‘You cannot hide’

“We know of several Americans who were killed by drugs on AlphaBay,” said US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“One victim was just 18 years old when in February she overdosed on a powerful synthetic opioid which she had bought on AlphaBay.”

He also cautioned criminals from thinking that they could evade prosecution by using the dark web: “You cannot hide,” he added, “We will find you.”

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said that illegal drugs listed for sale on AlphaBay included heroin and fentanyl.

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Getty Images

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US Attorney General Jeff Sessions highlighted the significant quantities of illegal drugs traded via the dark web

Investigations were led by the FBI, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police.

Police in other countries, including the UK, France and Lithuania, also contributed.

The Dutch National Police took over the Hansa marketplace on 20 June after two men in Germany were arrested and servers in Germany, The Netherlands and Lithuania were seized.

This allowed for “the covert monitoring of criminal activities on the platform” until it was eventually shut down a month later.

Ever since AlphaBay went offline earlier in July, users of the site had discussed potential alternative dark web marketplaces on online forums.

Hansa was frequently mentioned, meaning that the authorities may well have been able to detect new criminal activity on Hansa as users migrated to it from AlphaBay.

Media captionTechnology explained: What is the dark web?

An alleged administrator of AlphaBay, 26-year-old Canadian Alexandre Cazes, was arrested in Thailand on 5 July following a joint operation between US, Canadian and Thai authorities.

Police also seized millions of dollars in assets, three properties and four Lamborghini cars.

But Cazes was later found dead in a Bangkok jail cell.

The DoJ said that he apparently took his own life.

A previous dark web marketplace, Silk Road, was shut down by the FBI in 2013 and a successor – Silk Road 2.0 – was deactivated the following year.

However, in its press release today the DoJ said that AlphaBay had more than 350,000 listings for illicit items of various kinds – Silk Road only had 14,000 when it was seized in 2013.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40670010

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Brexit: UK and EU at odds over ‘exit bill’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on July 20, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Image caption

David Davis, left, and Michel Barnier

The UK and EU are still at odds over citizens’ rights and the amount the UK will pay to leave the bloc, at the end of the second week of Brexit talks.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK had not been clear enough about where it stands on these issues and that was hampering progress.

UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said the negotiations on the so-called divorce bill had been “robust”.

He said progress had been made but both sides needed to show “flexibility”.

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Mr Barnier said: “We require this clarification on the financial settlement, on citizens’ rights, on Ireland – with the two key points of the common travel area and the Good Friday Agreement – and the other separation issues where this week’s experience has quite simply shown we make better progress where our respective positions are clear.”

He said there had been some areas of agreement about how Britons living abroad and EU nationals living in the UK should be treated after Brexit.

But he said Brussels believed citizens’ rights should be backed by the European Court of Justice – something Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out.

There was also disagreement over “the rights of future family members” – meaning children born in the future to EU citizens in the UK – and “the exports of certain social benefits”, he added.

Mr Davis said the UK had published its approach to citizens’ rights since the first round of negotiations, which he described as “both a fair and serious offer” and had now published a joint paper setting out areas of agreement, and issues for further talks.

Sticking points included the rights of employees of EU-based companies to work for extended periods in other countries and the right of EU citizens to vote in UK local elections.

Mr Davis also rejected the idea that there was a lack of clarity from his team on Northern Ireland, saying the two sides had discussed ways of “achieving a flexible and imaginative solution to address the unique circumstances around the border” and preserve the common travel area.

Mr Barnier said: “I know one has to compromise in negotiations but we are not there yet. When I say, and I think I was very clear and transparent about that, that there are things that are inseparable from others. That’s the financial settlement.

“Let’s be very clear. We want clarity on that because we need to be able work more until we come to areas of compromise.”

Media captionThe EU Brexit negotiator calls for legal certainty’ over citizens’ rights

Mr Davis said: “We both recognise the importance of sorting out the obligations we have to one another, both legally and in a spirit of mutual cooperation.”

And he added: “We have had robust but constructive talks this week. Clearly there’s a lot left to talk about and further work before we can resolve this. Ultimately, getting to a solution will require flexibility from both sides.”

Mr Davis also told the news conference in Brussels that Britain could “make it work” if it had to walk away from a “punishment” trade deal with the EU, but added: “Nobody expects a punishment deal. Michel and I are going for a good deal.”

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said the EU can “go whistle” if it demands an “extortionate” payment but other ministers have struck a more conciliatory tone. Sources have suggested to the BBC the bill could be between 30 and 50 billion euros.

Media captionDavid Davis said he was ‘encouraged by progress’ in Brexit talks

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer the “lack of progress” on issues such as the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Europe was “deeply concerning” and would cause “anxiety for millions of families”.

He questioned whether phase two of the talks could get under way in October as planned, something that would “trigger deep concern for businesses and communities across the UK”.

“The reality is that we have a government that is unprepared, divided and incapable of securing a good deal for Britain. We urgently need a fresh approach,” he added.

The EU has said talks won’t move on to the subject of future trading arrangements until it judges there’s been adequate progress on the separation issues.

The two sides are meeting for four days each month, with this week’s talks aimed at scoping out points of difference and common ground in those areas that have been identified as requiring urgent attention.

Meanwhile, the UK government has announced that MPs are set to debate the repeal bill – a key piece of Brexit legislation that will transform EU laws into British laws – for two days from 7 September.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40662740

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Justine Damond: Minneapolis police ‘heard loud sound’ before shooting

Posted by Warren Fyfe on July 19, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionAustralian PM Malcolm Turnbull: ‘We’re seeking answers’

A Minneapolis police officer whose partner shot an Australian woman was “startled by a loud sound” just before the incident, investigators say.

Justine Damond, originally from Sydney, was gunned down after calling police to report a possible crime.

On a police radio recording, an officer mentions fireworks being let off near where the shooting happened.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he wants answers from the US over the killing.

“It is a shocking killing, and yes, we are demanding answers on behalf of her family,” he told Australian TV.

Media captionJustine Damond’s family held a silent dawn vigil on Sydney’s Freshwater Beach

The shooting occurred as 40-year-old Ms Damond, dressed in her pyjamas, approached the driver’s side door to talk to the officer at the wheel after police arrived.

Officer Mohamed Noor, who was sitting in the passenger seat, fired his weapon across his partner and through the driver’s side window, striking Ms Damond, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) said.

Officer Noor has refused to speak to investigators and US authorities say they cannot compel him to give a statement.

But the BCA said that Officer Matthew Harrity, who was driving the car, had told investigators that Ms Damond had come towards the car immediately after he heard a loud sound.

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After the shooting, the officers are heard on the police radio recording telling dispatchers they are performing CPR and that “no suspects are at large”.

State investigators say the officers failed to activate their body or dashboard cameras and both officers have been placed on administrative leave.

Why weren’t the cameras on?

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman have both raised this question.

Minneapolis police are required to switch on their body cameras only during certain encounters, unlike in Los Angeles or Washington DC, where cameras must be switched on for any response to a call for service.

Instead, there are more than a dozen situations in which cameras should be used, according to the police manual, which adds that failure to use the camera could result in job termination.

“If a BWC [body-worn camera] is not activated prior to a use of force, it shall be activated as soon as it is safe to do so,” reads the manual.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau has described Ms Damond’s death as “tragic” and called for a quick investigation to provide “transparency”.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has said he will personally decide whether to charge Officer Mohamed Noor, rather than put the question to a grand jury.

Officer Noor, who has been described by local media as a Somali-American, has been with the police force for two years.

A statement from his lawyer said he had arrived in the US “at a young age” and described him as “a caring person with a family he loves and he empathised with the loss others are experiencing”.

Media caption“Justine should be here. This shouldn’t have happened”

Ms Damond, born Justine Ruszczyk, studied to be a veterinarian before relocating from Sydney to the US, where she is believed to have been for at least the last three years.

According to her website, she was a “qualified yoga instructor, a personal health and life coach and meditation teacher”.

Speaking in Sydney, her father John Ruszczyk said: “Justine was a beacon to all of us, we only ask that the light of justice shine down on the circumstances of her death.”

Two victims in the Twin Cities

Image copyright

Ms Damond’s death comes a year after Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile, a black man, during a traffic stop in St Paul – the twin city of Minneapolis – in an incident live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend.

Mr Castile had told the officer that he was licensed to carry a concealed weapon and was reaching for his wallet to get his driving licence out when he was shot, his girlfriend said on the video.

Officer Yanez was found not guilty of manslaughter last month – a verdict that Mr Castile’s mother said showed the system “continued to fail black people”.

On Wednesday morning, hundreds of people gathered for a dawn vigil at a Sydney beach to honour Ms Damond.

In silence, attendees including her family and friends lit candles and released pink flowers into the ocean.

“We are here to come together as a community around our beautiful Justine, to honour her life, share our love and mourn her death,” Ms Damond’s family said in a statement ahead of the vigil.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-40651470

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