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Russia and Iran obtain voter information ahead of US election, officials say
Russia and Iran have obtained US voting registration information and are aiming to interfere in the presidential election, the government’s national intelligence director said. John Ratcliffe, the intelligence director, and FBI Director Chris Wray told a news conference the US will impose costs on any foreign countries interfering in the 2020 US election.

“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” Mr Ratliffe said.

Appearing alongside him, FBI director Christopher Wray said: “You should be confident that your vote counts. Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”

The announcement came after Democratic voters in at least four battleground states including Florida and Pennsylvania received threatening emails, falsely purporting to be from the far-right group Proud Boys.

The messages warned “we will come after you” if the recipients did not vote for Donald Trump.

The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers.

Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation.

The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the November 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.

Speaking at a rally in North Carolina, Mr Trump made no reference to the intelligence announcement but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection.

He promised that if he wins another term he will reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.

“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” he said.

“The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”

Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of the voter information being accessed, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.

“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted on Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.

Published: 22/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Five-month undercover county lines drug sting leads to 53 arrests
Fifty-three people have been arrested after a five-month undercover investigation into a drug dealing network thought to be responsible for 33 county lines. Metropolitan Police officers held 47 men and six women, aged 16 to 48, during raids carried out over six weeks, including warrants in Greenwich and Bexley, south-east London, as well as Kent and the Thames Valley.

A total of £63,000 in cash, about 320 grams of crack cocaine, 150 grams of heroin and a quantity of cannabis were seized, along with various weapons including four guns, knuckledusters and knives.

Rolex watches worth £40,000 and two cars with a combined value of £45,000 were also found.

The suspects arrested were held on suspicion of various offences including possession of firearms and ammunition; possession of offensive weapons; possession of criminal property; possession with intent to supply class A and B drugs, and supply of class A and B drugs.

Two young people who are believed to have been exploited by the gang have been safeguarded as a result of the investigation.

Detective Inspector Jo Gresham said: “Operations like this one, which disrupt county lines drug supply and dealing and target the criminal exploitation of vulnerable people, are vital because we know that this type of criminality drives a high proportion of violent crime in London.”

County lines are phone lines run by drug dealers, predominantly in urban areas, who use young and vulnerable people as couriers to take illegal substances to customers in more rural parts of the country.

Published: 22/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Chancellor expected to announce more business support for Tier 2
The Chancellor is set to announce a new support package for businesses affected by Tier 2 restrictions, according to reports. Rishi Sunak will unveil a new plan to help firms, particularly pubs and restaurants, who have seen their trade drop as a result of the social restrictions in the “high” Covid-19 category.

Currently businesses in Tier 2 areas such as London and Birmingham do not benefit from the same Government aid as those in Tier 3, including business grants and higher wage subsidies, because they can remain open.

Mr Sunak will make a statement to the Commons on Thursday morning and the Telegraph reported he will unveil financial measures to help Tier 2 firms following complaints from industry leaders and MPs that thousands of jobs were at risk ahead of Christmas.

The Chancellor’s spokesperson told the PA news agency: “The Chancellor is due to update the House of Commons on the economic situation, in particular, and so far as it relates to the new restrictions.

“And, what we have always said is that our package of support is always flexible and always up for review to make sure that it is dealing with the situation as it evolves.”

In Tier 3, social mixing is banned both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars must close unless they can operate as a restaurant.

For businesses in this band that are unable to legally operate due to Covid-19 restrictions, the government will pay employees 66% of their wage, with the employer still contributing to pensions and National Insurance.

Meanwhile, companies in Tier 2 can only claim on a scheme where employers have to pay around 55% of staff wages with a smaller subsidy from Government, while still being subject to bans on household mixing indoors.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he would be “looking closely” at the announcement, after he was embroiled in debates with ministers for days over what support businesses in his region should get for their move into the Tier 3.

He said: “Greater Manchester has been in ‘high’ alert for three months but our hospitality businesses haven’t had any emergency support.

“We asked for this to be taken into account in Tier 3 negotiations. The Government refused.”

It comes as talks with local leaders in South Yorkshire were branded a “charade” as the area was confirmed to move up to Tier 3 this weekend.

Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore said it was clear Downing Street officials and ministers were “going through the motions” in 10 days of negotiations just to “try and prove they were listening”.

Ms Dore was speaking after Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis, who led the discussions, admitted he could not have secured any more cash, saying he “moved heaven and earth to secure the maximum amount of resource that we could”.

Ms Dore told the PA news agency: “I can assure you that Dan has been fighting vociferously for the people of Sheffield and South Yorkshire, just like I have been, because we genuinely thought we were in proper discussions and negotiations.”

It is understood talks to move parts of the North East into Tier 3 have been put on hold, but Coventry will be moved from up from the “medium” Tier 1 restrictions this weekend, joining other Midlands neighbours in Tier 2 after a rise in cases.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street said the new rules will present a “serious economic challenge” and called on central Government to update their support.

He tweeted: “Currently, there’s no extra financial support available for our hospitality sector in Tier 2 which cannot possibly be right.

“I will continue to press Govt on this & I’m confident we will get a breakthrough soon.”

Meanwhile, the University of Oxford has said a trial of its vaccine developed with AstraZeneca will continue in Brazil after the death of a volunteer.

The institution said it has investigated the case but found “no concerns about safety” around the vaccine.

Wednesday saw the UK report its highest daily rise in lab-confirmed coronavirus cases since the outbreak began.

The Government announced a further 26,688 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK, taking the total number to 789,229, a jump of more than 5,000 on the 21,330 positive cases confirmed on Tuesday, while a further 191 people died within 28 days of a positive test, meaning the death toll reached 44,158.

Amid the continuing increase in cases, a Sage scientist warned that the UK can expect thousands of deaths from the second wave of the disease.

Professor John Edmunds told MPs: “We’ll see peaks around Christmas, in the new year of very severe numbers of cases throughout the UK.”

Published: 22/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

More areas of England are to be placed under Tier 3 restrictions
As from Saturday, Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster will move to the highest tier
South Yorkshire will be the latest region placed into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions as Boris Johnson came under renewed pressure to increase financial help for areas under the toughest curbs.

The region will receive a £41 million package of funding, but Sheffield City Council’s leader Julie Dore pleaded with ministers to “do the right thing” and offer extra support to all Tier 3 areas.

The deal with South Yorkshire comes after bitter wrangling over money with Greater Manchester led to the highest level of restrictions being imposed from Whitehall without an agreement.

Published: 21/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

End of Eat Out to Help Out scheme pushes UK inflation higher
UK inflation was pushed higher last month as the end of the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out saw restaurant and cafe prices bounce back, according to official figures. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation rose to 0.5% in September from 0.2% in August.

It came as the Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme finished at the end of August, which had helped push inflation to its lowest level for nearly five years.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: “The official end to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme meant prices for dining out rose during September, partially offsetting the sharp fall in inflation for August.

“Air fares would normally fall substantially at this time due to the end of the school holidays, but with prices subdued this year, as fewer people have been travelling abroad, the price drop has been less significant.

“Meanwhile, as some consumers look for alternatives to using public transport, there was an increased demand for used cars, which saw their prices rise.”

The September figure is used to decide the annual increase in business rates.

While retail, leisure and hospitality firms have been given a one-year business rates holiday, this is set to end on March 31 just before the new rate kicks in on April 1.

September’s CPI is also used in the calculation for state pensions, although the triple-lock rule means the payout will be the highest figure out of CPI, earnings growth for the year to July, or 2.5%.

State benefits are likewise decided by the September inflation figure, meaning payments will rise 0.5% next April, which is far less than this year’s 1.7% increase.

Published: 21/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

What are the Tier 3 rules as Greater Manchester moves to highest alert category?
Greater Manchester is set to join Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region in the Tier 3 coronavirus category, with millions more people to be subject to the toughest restrictions. New measures will be imposed in the region from Friday after talks aimed at reaching an agreement on the restrictions and financial support collapsed between the Government and local leaders.

Since October 12, England has been operating under a three-tier system of local restrictions which divides areas into different categories, labelled as medium, also known as Tier 1, high, also known as Tier 2, or very high risk, which is referred to as Tier 3.

But what are the differences between the tiers and how has the country been carved up?

– What happens if your area is in Tier 3?

Around 2.8 million people in Greater Manchester will join some 3.1 million in Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region under the most severe restrictions and as the only three areas of England under Tier 3.

In these areas, social mixing is banned both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars must close unless they can operate as a restaurant.

The rule of six applies in some outdoor settings such as parks, public gardens and sports courts.

Local leaders help the Government to determine whether other venues should be closed, such as gyms or casinos.

In Greater Manchester, the new measures could lead to the closure of more than 1,800 pubs and 140 wine bars, as well as 277 betting shops and 12 casinos, according to the real estate adviser Altus Group.

In the Liverpool City Region, indoor gyms and fitness studios were forced to shut, alongside sports facilities, leisure centres, betting shops, adult gaming centres and casinos.

Gyms are allowed to stay open in Lancashire but the adult gaming industry, casinos, bingo halls, bookmakers and betting shops, and soft play areas were made to shut.

Gyms have not been mentioned by the Government as being one of the venues that will have to close in Greater Manchester when it moves into Tier 3.

Shops and places of worship can remain open, as can schools and colleges, while universities must reflect wider restrictions with the option to move to greater online provision.

Up to 15 guests are allowed at weddings and 30 people can attend funerals, with 15 allowed at wakes, but wedding receptions are not permitted.

People living in Tier 3 areas are advised against overnight stays in other parts of the UK and should avoid travel where possible in and out of the area, unless it is for work, education or caring responsibilities.

Number 10 confirmed that, under Tier 2 and 3 rules on household mixing, people can still meet up for work meetings indoors under certain circumstances.

– What happens in Tier 2 and where is affected?

Areas categorised as high risk will see household mixing banned indoors while the rule of six will continue to apply outdoors.

People must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless they live with them or have formed a support bubble with them.

Up to 15 guests will be allowed at weddings and up to 30 people allowed at funerals, with 15 allowed at receptions and wakes.

Shops, gyms, all education settings, and places of worship will remain open, with overnight stays permitted.

Travel advice for those living in Tier 2 areas is to reduce the number of journeys they take where possible and avoid travel into very high Tier 3 areas.

Areas in Tier 2 include Cheshire, Derbyshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Tees Valley, West Midlands, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

London, Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield and Erewash moved to Tier 2 on Saturday.

While First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford confirmed a two-week “firebreak” lockdown in the country from October 23 until November 9, those living under Tiers 2 and 3 in England were already banned from travelling across the Welsh border from Friday last week.

– What restrictions are placed on areas in Tier 1?

Areas classed as medium risk, those in Tier 1, will be subject to the same national measures which currently apply across the whole country.

These include the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.

Up to 15 guests will be allowed at weddings and up to 30 people allowed at funerals, with 15 allowed at receptions and wakes.

Shops, gyms, all education settings, and places of worship will remain open, with overnight stays permitted and no travel restrictions within the area, although people are advised to avoid travel into Tier 3 areas where possible.

Published: 21/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Netflix shares trailer for Chadwick Boseman’s final film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chadwick Boseman stars as an ambitious trumpeter in the trailer for his final film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Boseman, who died in August aged 43 following a four-year battle with colon cancer, stars in the drama alongside Oscar-winner Viola Davis.

He worked on the movie while receiving treatment for cancer. Netflix has shared the trailer for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which is set in 1920s Chicago and explores issues of race, music and the exploitation of black artists.

Davis is seen in the title role as the fiery blues singer Ma Rainey – known as the “mother of the blues” – as she clashes with her white manager.

Boseman’s Levee is out to make his own name in the industry. At one point, he is offered a deal with a white music industry figure, who says of his songs: “I’ll take them off your hands for you.”

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is Black Panther star Boseman’s second film of the year, after he previously played a fallen Vietnam war soldier in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods.

That performance was highly acclaimed.

If Boseman earned a pair of Academy Award nominations, he would be the first actor with two posthumous nods.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is set to launch on Netflix on December 18.

Published: 20/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Co-op Bank appoints finance chief as sixth boss in a decade
The Co-operative Bank has named chief financial officer Nick Slape as its new boss after chief executive Andrew Bester announced plans to quit just two years after taking on the role. Mr Slape will become the bank’s chief executive on October 31 – and its sixth boss in a decade.

He joined the bank as chief financial officer in October 2018 from Lloyds Banking Group, where he was finance boss of the commercial division for five years.

His appointment comes after Mr Bester announced his shock departure earlier this month, saying his job with the company was done and that fresh blood could take the five-year plan forward.

He only took on the role in July 2018 – at the time marking the bank’s fifth boss in just seven years.

Mr Bester was seen as a safe pair of hands when he was appointed, with a mission to steady the ship after five years of turmoil.

On announcing his plans to leave, he said he had achieved much of what he set out to do in that time, putting it on the path to become a digital ethical bank.

Co-operative Bank chairman Bob Dench said Mr Slape has “played a leading role in shaping and delivering key elements of the turnaround plan” alongside Mr Bester.

He added: “As a result of robust succession planning, he is the natural choice to lead the bank as we move towards achieving sustainable profitability.

“We have made good progress in recent years and key to this success has been Nick’s sound financial management.”

Mr Slape has a career spanning more than 37 years in financial services in the UK and overseas.

He has previously worked at a number of investment banking giants, including Lehman Bros, Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch.

He said: “Our franchise is proving resilient in these challenging times, and the steps made in completing major components of the transformation means we have a platform for growth.

“The next few years will continue to be key for the Co-operative Bank as we look to build on the progress to date and complete our turnaround plan.”

The Co-op Bank has been in recovery mode in recent years after enduring some of the toughest times in its near-150-year history, punctuated by missing cash and a drugs scandal.

In 2013, it was forced to pull out of a deal to buy hundreds of Lloyds branches from its larger rival.

The move almost destroyed Co-op Bank after staff found a £1.5 billion hole in its balance sheet, and the wider Co-operative Group was forced to slash its stake in the business as part of a rescue deal.

A few years later, in 2017, the Co-op sold its last shares in its former banking division.

It was not the only scandal to hit the bank during a tumultuous 2013 for the group.

In November that year, the Mail on Sunday published a video of former Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers apparently buying cocaine.

Just three days before the recording, the Methodist preacher, who had stepped down as the bank’s chairman months earlier, gave evidence to MPs looking into the collapse of the Lloyds deal.

Published: 20/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Manchester United tackle PSG without Maguire, Greenwood and Cavani
Manchester United will have to cope with the absence of several star names when they return to Champions League action against Paris St Germain. Harry Maguire, Mason Greenwood and new signing Edinson Cavani, who will not make his United bow against his former club, are all absent along with Eric Bailly and Jesse Lingard.

The game at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday will be the Red Devils’ first at Europe’s top table since they bowed out in the quarter-finals against Barcelona in April 2019.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side made it that far thanks to a jaw-dropping comeback at PSG in the previous round, with United digging deep to secure a remarkable 3-1 triumph in the French capital without a string of first-team players.

Solskjaer will hope for the same outcome, and the Norwegian said: “We’re a little bit depleted but we have got more than enough players.

“We hope the players won’t be away for too long. Edinson needs a few more days training before maybe we can think about the weekend. Hopefully Harry, Eric and Mason as well but we’re not sure about that.”

New boy Cavani is PSG’s all-time top scorer but his absence is understandable given he only trained with his new team-mates for the first time on Sunday following a period of quarantine.

Maguire said he was “disappointed” to be missing the Group H opener and “working hard to get back fit ASAP” – with the captain’s absence meaning influential January arrival Bruno Fernandes will wear the armband instead.

“We hope Harry will be fit for the weekend (against Chelsea in the Premier League),” Solskjaer said.

“We’re not sure but we hope so and the captain sits next to me – Bruno will captain the team (on Tuesday).”

That news came as a surprise to Fernandes, who raised his eyebrows and smiled when Solskjaer announced the news in the pre-match press conference.

“I was not expecting this,” the Portugal midfielder said. “I know the same time as you.

“For me, it’s an honour that I will be captain first of all for my team-mates and of course being captain of Manchester United is an important achievement for me.

“But I think the captain is everyone – everyone needs to help, everyone needs to be a leader in their way.”

There has been a certain amount of mystery surrounding the absence of Greenwood, but Solskjaer said: “It’s just a niggle and, as young as he is, we don’t want to take any chances with him so hopefully the weekend he’ll be fine again.”

Published: 20/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Labour to trigger vote on free school meals
The Labour Party says it will force a parliamentary vote on the extension of free school meals to eligible children after the Government refused to prolong the scheme through the October half-term break. Labour on Saturday gave the Government 72 hours to extend the initiative – the subject of a campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford – or face a vote.

With Downing Street having signalled it will not be prolonging the programme through the holidays, Labour said it would trigger a vote in Parliament on Wednesday, led by MP Angela Rayner.

Labour will table a motion calling on the Government to continue directly funding free school meals over the holidays until Easter 2021 to “prevent over a million children going hungry during the coronavirus crisis”.

The party said in a statement MP Tulip Siddiq, the shadow minister for children and early years, wrote to all Conservative backbench MPs asking them to support Labour’s proposals.

“Over a million children are at risk of going hungry over the holidays without access to free school meals. It is essential the Government provides this support urgently,” Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said.

“We gave the Prime Minister the chance to change course, but he refused to do so. Now his MPs must decide if they want to vote for their constituents to get this vital support or if they will leave families struggling to put food on the table.”

The Welsh Labour Government has pledged to provide free school meals during the holidays until Easter next year.

And a parliamentary petition started by Rashford, calling for food to be provided during all holidays and for free school meals to be expanded to all households on Universal Credit, has garnered more than 293,000 signatures since being launched late last week.

Rashford, who has been made an MBE for his services to vulnerable children, forced a Government U-turn on free school meal vouchers for eligible pupils over the summer holidays.

The fact his petition attracted more than 100,000 signatures means it must now be considered for debate by MPs, under Parliamentary petition guidelines.

However, Downing Street has shown reluctance to extend the scheme, with a spokesman indicating on Thursday that ministers would not provide free school meals to children in England during the Christmas break.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays.”

Labour said more than 1.44 million children who were eligible for free school meals would benefit if the scheme was extended.

The push to extend the scheme has been supported by education unions, with Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton last week saying: “The Government must show that it is committed to social justice by extending free school meal provision to school holiday periods during this time of national emergency in which many families are experiencing great hardship.”

Published: 20/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub


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