Brexit: Sidestepping agreement on Northern Ireland could put trade deal with US at risk, Johnson warned

Bypassing agreed checks on goods in the Irish Sea could mark the end of any hopes of US-UK trade deal, Boris Johnson’s government has been warned amid claims it will renege on its commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement.

The prime minister is reported to have ordered his Brexit team to find ways to “get around” agreed protocol on Northern Ireland that would see goods checked as they are transported to Great Britain following the end of the transition period.

He is expected to ask his Brexit ‘war cabinet’ to approve the plan before it is published on Thursday, according to The Sunday Times.

But Ireland’s former envoy to the European Union warned attempt to swerve the agreement could mean the premature end of Downing Street’s long-promised trade agreement between the UK and the US.

The protocol had been designed to protect both the integrity of the single market and the autonomy of the United Kingdom after Brexit – and sets out that checks cannot be carried out near the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

As a compromise, the British government agreed to carry out checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland – bypassing the need for any infrastructure on the Irish border and offering some protection for businesses that trade on the island of Ireland.

Former ambassador Bobby McDonagh tweeted: “If UK Gov were to renege on its legal obligations under Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to protect Good Friday Agreement it would have many consequences. One would the end of any prospect of a UK-US trade deal.”

Ireland and the US have maintained close relationships throughout the UK’s departure from the EU, with the Democratic party’s most senior politician Nancy Pelosi saying there would be no deal if Brexit did anything to imperil the Good Friday agreement.

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard said the UK government “must not be allowed to sidestep their responsibilities”.

“While there is no such thing as a good Brexit, the protections secured in the Irish Protocol and Withdrawal Agreement offer some protections to local communities and businesses in the north,” he added.

“It now appears the British government is planning to ride roughshod over what has already been agreed; this would be completely unacceptable.

“We need to see the EU27 and the Irish government protecting what has already been agreed on the north and working to prevent the Tories from adopting an a la carte approach to their international obligations and responsibilities.”

A UK government spokesman said: “The UK signed the Withdrawal Agreement, including the protocol, last month.

“The UK will comply with its obligations.”

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Wilder vs Fury fight live stream: Free links to watch boxing bout put millions at risk

Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury return to the ring on Saturday in a rematch that some boxing afficianados are calling the biggest heavyweight bout in decades.

WBC champion Wilder and lineal champion Fury are both set for eight-figure paydays thanks to lucrative broadcasting deals, though analysts warn it may come at a cost for punters.

The high price of the pay-per-view contest – which will set back fight fans £25 in the UK and $80 (£62) in the US – will likely force many to seek illegal streams in order to watch it online for free. As with other recent high-profile fights, hundreds of pirated streams are expected to spread across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as well as on dedicate forums on sites like Reddit.

“The much-anticipated rematch between heavyweights Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder is finally here, and online searches for links to stream the fight are set to surge, despite well-publicised cyber security concerns,” Joseph Woodruff, a threat intelligence analyst at security firm EclecticIQ, told The Independent.

“Fake streaming sites and redirects are a popular tactic used by cyber criminals, and fans searching for different ways to watch the Fury vs Wilder fight taking place in Las Vegas this weekend need to be aware of them, even if they look legitimate.”

The increasing costs of watching such events mean piracy has once again become extremely prevelent, with some analysts claiming it has never been easier to find illegal links to watch fights.

In the build up to the last Wilder vs Fury fight, illegal streaming websites ranked highly on popular search engines, while links could also be found by typing in keywords in the search bars of platforms like Twitter.

Figures from leading online piracy authority Muso revealed that nearly 10 million people illegally watched the first fight between the two undefeated fighters.

There are a number of ways that cyber criminals and hackers can take advantage of the interest surrounding the rematch, with anyone watching the fight through illicit streams putting themselves at risk.

The first fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury saw countless illegal live streams spread online, allowing fans to watch for free

Virtual private networks (VPNs) and strong antivirus protections can go some way to mitigating the dangers, though Mr Woodruff warned that the ultimate cost could be far greater than the price of the PPV.

“One way in which cyber criminals use these sites to target users is by telling them they have malware on their machine, recommending they call a support number and then installing software during the phone call that allows them to control the device,” he said.

“Once they have access to the system, further damage can be done, whether that is stealing payment details or installing ransomware. Hackers can also compromise the safety of viewers through something called ‘typo-squatted domains’, where fake URLs host sites that appear genuine.”

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Lifestyle Style

‘Treatment lottery’ for mental health putting lives at risk, experts warn

Lives are at risk because of a “treatment lottery” facing patients who have self-harmed or are suicidal, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.  

The Royal college is calling for every hospital to provide a NICE-recommended assessment for those who are found to have self-harmed. The psychosocial assessment is aimed at “identifying personal factors” that might explain an act of self-harm.

It also involves the creation of a written safety plan, made up of an agreed set of activities to support the patient, strategies to “instill hope” and people or organisations to contact for support. 

The Royal College says this assessment should be carried out each time a person presents with an episode of self-harm. 

Patients undergoing the assessment and creation of a safety plan at this time is shown to half the rate of repeating self-harm in the future. 

But research from a 2017 health committee report on suicide prevention showed just 60 per cent of people were getting the assessments, which the college says needs to be addressed as patients continue to be “let down”. 

Dr Huw Stone, chair of the Patient’s Safety Group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Self-harming patients are being let down because many of them are not receiving an assessment that is proven to dramatically reduce repeating self-harm.

“With hospital admissions for self-harming under-30s more than doubling in the last 10 years, there has never been a more important time to ensure patients are getting the care that they need,” he said. 

Hospital admissions for self-harming have increased from 4,749 in 2008-09 to 10,168 in 2018-19.

The Royal College says all frontline staff who come into contact with a patient in this position should be trained to undertake the assessment and write a suitable safety plan as a result. 

The college also wants there see closer ongoing work between hospitals and community mental health teams after treatment. 

Simon, 49, from Derbyshire, who attempted suicide, says recovery was better after making a safety plan: “I tried to take my own life on multiple occasions and ended up in hospital each time.

“I didn’t write a Safety Plan after every attempt on my life, because they weren’t always offered. But on the occasions I did, I was better able to manage the bumps in the road which are always there when you’re recovering.

“Having a meaningful plan, one that is personal and tailored to the circumstances of the individual, is vital to reducing the risk of suicide.”

Mary, from Devon, who has a history of self-harming, said: “My Safety Plan really helped me understand my repeat self-harming by stepping back to see patterns in my thinking and behaviour.

“It’s not so much about the document itself, it’s about the care, empathy and consideration that is put into creating the Safety Plan with you. It’s what it represents.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email [email protected], or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. 

For services local to you, the national mental health database – Hub of Hope – allows you to enter your postcode to search for organisations and charities who offer mental health advice and support in your area.

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Fed Flagged Coronavirus Risk at January Meeting

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged at their January meeting as the economy grew steadily, but they spent their meeting reviewing risks to the outlook — including fresh concerns about the coronavirus that had begun to take hold in China.

Minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s Jan. 28 and 29 meeting showed that officials called the new coronavirus “a new risk to the global growth outlook.” At the time, the outbreak had killed more than 100 people and sickened about 5,000. It has continued to spread since, causing more than 2,000 deaths and infecting more than 75,000 people.

Central bankers have been cautious about predicting how much the virus will affect the United States economy, though they have made it clear that they expect some spillover. Swaths of China have ground to a standstill as authorities try to contain the virus by shuttering factories and enforcing quarantines, disrupting trade and tourism. Factories across the nation are reopening, but haltingly.

The Fed is monitoring how the economic fallout in China bears on American growth and inflation.

“The question for us really is: What will be the effects on the U.S. economy? Will they be persistent, will they be material?” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, told lawmakers while testifying last week. “We know that there will be some, very likely to be some effects on the United States. I think it’s just too early to say.”

Fed officials have signaled that they plan to leave policy unchanged as they wait to see how the economy shapes up in 2020. That patient stance comes after central bankers cut interest rates three times last year in a bid to insulate the economy against fallout from President Trump’s trade war and a slowdown abroad.

While an initial trade deal with China has alleviated some uncertainty that dogged America’s economy last year, tensions are not fully resolved. Beyond that, manufacturing remains slow and business investment is still weak.

“Participants generally expected trade-related uncertainty to remain somewhat elevated, and they were mindful of the possibility that the tentative signs of stabilization in global growth could fade,” according to the January minutes. Against that backdrop, they saw the current policy as “likely to remain appropriate for a time.”

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

Interest rates are currently set in a range between 1.5 and 1.75 percent. That is below the Fed’s longer-run estimate of where its rate will settle, and officials believe the current stance should give the economy a slight boost.

The central bank’s next meeting will take place March 17 and 18 in Washington. Since the January gathering, Fed officials have consistently signaled that they remain comfortable leaving rates unchanged for now, unless an economic surprise knocks them off that course.

Coronavirus is not the only risk on the Fed’s radar.

Some Fed officials fretted over financial stability risks at the meeting, noting that “financial imbalances — including overvaluation and excessive indebtedness — could amplify an adverse shock to the economy.”

And “several” pointed out that “planned increases in dividend payouts by large banks and the associated decline in capital buffers might leave those banks with less capacity to weather adverse shocks.”

But the minutes also suggest a paradox for regulators, noting that relatively high capital requirements could cause “potential migration of lending activities” into the shadow banking system — loosely regulated nonbank lenders where supervisors lack oversight authority. From the way the minutes are written, it is unclear how many people shared in that concern.

Officials also discussed a longer-running problem at the January gathering: Inflation has remained below policymakers’ 2 percent annual goal even as the unemployment rate lingers near half-century lows and the economy grows steadily.

“A few participants stressed that the committee should be more explicit about the need to achieve its inflation goal on a sustained basis,” the minutes said. Several said that “mild overshooting” might help the Fed to reinforce that its goal is symmetric, meaning that officials want price increases to oscillate around 2 percent rather than hovering below that level.

If prices grow too slowly, it diminishes the central bank’s already-limited room to cut interest rates in a recession, since the federal funds rate incorporates price gains. As of December, the central bank’s preferred price index accelerated by just 1.6 percent.

While Fed officials are hopeful that inflation will rise toward its 2 percent target in 2020, they have expressed a similar optimism for years, only to repeatedly fall short.

The Fed has been reviewing how it goes about achieving maximum employment and stable inflation, and which tools it has to fight recessions. That discussion continued in January with a look at how to handle future financial stability concerns, which could include excessive risk-taking by investors and risky lending by banks.

If the Fed cuts rates to rock-bottom and keeps them there for an extended period to fight recessions, they noted, it could encourage such irresponsible behavior — and officials reviewed how that reality should potentially play into future policy setting.

Those at the meeting “generally agreed” that the status-quo approach of relying primarily on supervision and regulation to quell financial risks should continue, according to the minutes.

While “many participants remarked that the committee should not rule out the possibility of adjusting the stance of monetary policy to mitigate financial stability risks,” officials noted that it was unclear how changes in rates would actually interact with financial vulnerabilities.

As such, “monetary policy should be guided primarily by the outlook for employment and inflation,” the minutes said.

Several suggested that the Fed would need a communication strategy to convey the committee’s assessment of financial vulnerabilities and the policy implications of those views.

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Asia Pacific World

Coronavirus ‘Hits All the Hot Buttons’ for How We Misjudge Risk

Shortly after the University of Washington announced that the school’s fourth suspected case of the new coronavirus had turned out negative, two professors, one of public policy and the other of public health, held a small dinner for students and faculty members.

Like everywhere else on campus, and in much of the world, the coronavirus was all anybody could talk about.

But one of the attendees, a public health student, had had enough. Exasperated, she rattled off a set of statistics.

The virus had killed about 1,100 worldwide and infected around a dozen in the United States. Alarming, but a much more common illness, influenza, kills about 400,000 people every year, including 34,200 Americans last flu season and 61,099 the year before.

There remains deep uncertainty about the new coronavirus’ mortality rate, with the high-end estimate that it is up to 20 times that of the flu, but some estimates go as low as 0.16 percent for those affected outside of China’s overwhelmed Hubei province. About on par with the flu.

Wasn’t there something strange, the student asked, about the extreme disparity in public reactions?

Ann Bostrom, the dinner’s public policy co-host, laughed when she recounted the evening. The student was right about the viruses, but not about people, said Dr. Bostrom, who is an expert on the psychology of how humans evaluate risk.

While the metrics of public health might put the flu alongside or even ahead of the new coronavirus for sheer deadliness, she said, the mind has its own ways of measuring danger. And the new coronavirus disease, named COVID-19 hits nearly every cognitive trigger we have.

That explains the global wave of anxiety.

Of course, it is far from irrational to feel some fear about the coronavirus outbreak tearing through China and beyond.

But there is a lesson, psychologists and public health experts say, in the near-terror that the virus induces, even as serious threats like the flu receive little more than a shrug. It illustrates the unconscious biases in how human beings think about risk, as well as the impulses that often guide our responses — sometimes with serious consequences.

Experts used to believe that people gauged risk like actuaries, parsing out cost-benefit analyses every time a merging car came too close or local crime rates spiked. But a wave of psychological experiments in the 1980s upended this thinking.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

Researchers found that people use a set of mental shortcuts for measuring danger. And they tend to do it unconsciously, meaning that instinct can play a much larger role than they realize.

The world is full of risks, big and small. Ideally, these shortcuts help people figure out which ones to worry about and which to disregard. But they can be imperfect.

The coronavirus may be a case in point.

“This hits all the hot buttons that lead to heightened risk perception,” said Paul Slovic, a University of Oregon psychologist who helped pioneer modern risk psychology.

When you encounter a potential risk, your brain does a quick search for past experiences with it. If it can easily pull up multiple alarming memories, then your brain concludes the danger is high. But it often fails to assess whether those memories are truly representative.

A classic example is airplane crashes.

If two happen in quick succession, flying suddenly feels scarier — even if your conscious mind knows that those crashes are a statistical aberration with little bearing on the safety of your next flight. But if you then take a few flights and nothing goes wrong, your brain will most likely start telling you again that flying is safe.

When it comes to the coronavirus, Dr. Slovic said, it’s as if people are experiencing one report after another of planes crashing.

“We’re hearing about the fatalities,” he said. “We’re not hearing about the 98 or so percent of people who are recovering from it and may have had mild cases.”

That tendency can cut in both directions, leading not to undue alarm but undue complacency. Though flu kills tens of thousands of Americans every year, most peoples’ experiences with it are relatively mundane.

Being told how dangerous flu is does little to change this, studies find. The brain’s risk assessment approach simply overwhelms rational calculation — a source of endless consternation to health officials trying to raise flu vaccination rates.

“We’re conditioned by our experiences,” Dr. Slovic said. “But experience can mislead us to be too comfortable with things.”

The coronavirus also taps into other psychological shortcuts for assessing risk.

One involves novelty: We are conditioned to focus heavily on new threats, looking for any cause for alarm. This can lead us to obsess over the scariest reports and worst-case scenarios, making the danger seem bigger still.

Maybe the most powerful shortcut of all is emotion.

Assessing the danger posed by the coronavirus is extraordinarily difficult; even scientists are unsure. But our brains act as if they have an easier way: They translate gut emotional reactions into what we believe are reasoned conclusions, even if hard data tells us otherwise.

“The world in our heads is not a precise replica of reality,” Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, wrote in a 2011 book. “Our expectations about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed.”

In extreme cases, this can lead to a “crowding-out effect,” Dr. Bostrom said, as our emotional impulses overwhelm our cognitive faculties. The coronavirus hits a number of those triggers, often quite hard.

One is dread.

If a risk seems especially painful or disturbing, people tend to raise their estimate of how likely it is to happen to them. Reports on the coronavirus often feature upsetting imagery: unhygienic food markets, city-scale lockdowns and overcrowded hospitals.

Another trigger is a threat that is not fully understood. The less known it is, the more people may fear it, and overestimate its threat.

Threats that feel out of control, like a runaway disease outbreak, prompt a similar response, leading people to seek ways to reimpose control, for instance by hoarding supplies.

Risks that we take on voluntarily, or that at least feel voluntary, are often seen as less dangerous than they really are. One study found that people will raise their threshold for the amount of danger they are willing to take on by a factor of one thousand if they see the risk as voluntary.

If that number sounds high, consider that driving, a danger most take on voluntarily, kills over 40,000 Americans every year. But terrorism, a threat imposed on us, kills fewer than 100.

There are countless rational reasons that terrorism provokes a sharper response than traffic deaths. The same goes for a fast-spreading and little-understood outbreak versus the familiar flu.

And that is exactly the point, psychologists say.

“All of these things play on our feelings,” Dr. Slovic said. “And that’s the representation of threat for us. Not the statistics of risk, but the feelings of risk.”

All those emotions can have real consequences.

Consider the response to the partial meltdown of the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island, in Pennsylvania, in 1979. Though the incident caused no deaths, it led to public demand to turn from nuclear power to fossil fuels whose impact on air quality, alone, is thought to cause thousands of premature deaths every year.

That calculus confounded old-school economists, who saw it as irrational. One leading nuclear power expert called it “insane.”

But it also helped give rise to new psychological models for how people measure risk.

“Our feelings don’t do arithmetic very well,” Dr. Slovic said.

That can be especially true when judging low-probability, high-risk threats like nuclear war, terrorism — or dying from the coronavirus or the flu.

Our minds tend to either “round down” the probability to “basically zero” and we underreact, Dr. Slovic said. Or we focus on the worst-case outcome, he said, which “gives us a strong feeling, so we overreact.”

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Europe World

U.S. Warns of Sexual Assault Risk in Spain

MADRID — The United States Embassy in Madrid has warned Americans visiting Spain to take extra precautions because of “a steady increase in the number of sexual assaults” over the last five years in the country.

Embassy officials said they were unaware of any similar alerts for a European nation.

The security alert, issued on Monday, came as the Spanish authorities are investigating a rape accusation filed by three American sisters against three Afghan men over events on New Year’s Eve in Murcia, in southeastern Spain. It also warned of the challenges that those who experience sexual assault face when seeking justice in the Spanish legal system.

The embassy said its alert was a response to an increase in sex attacks “against young U.S. citizen visitors and students throughout Spain.” It cited data from Spain’s interior ministry, noting that the embassy in Madrid had dealt with six reported cases of sex attacks in January, which followed from 34 such reports last year.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper ABC, Benjamin G. Ziff, the deputy chief of the United States mission in Madrid, said “the issue is not only about data of sexual attacks and harassment, but the treatment that North American citizens get after the attack.”

In response to the alert, a spokesman for the Spanish interior ministry acknowledged on Wednesday that Spain had seen an increase in the number of reports of sexual assault, but said that Spain still had one of the lowest sex crime rates in Europe.

He also suggested that the rise in reported crimes in part reflected a greater readiness by victims to come forward and was in line with the trend in other Western countries.

Spain had just under three reported rape cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017, according to Eurostat, the statistics agency of the European Union. That was lower than in many other European countries, including in Sweden, where the incidence of rape reached almost 70 that year.

However, Eurostat noted, its data does not necessarily reflect actual levels of rape, since it only records attacks against victims who reported the crime to the police.

The United States has issued travel warnings for Spain and other European countries over the risk of terrorism, notably after a van attack on Barcelona’s most famous promenade killed 16 people in 2017. That warning was updated last October after a secessionist conflict in the Catalonia region spiraled into several nights of violence in Barcelona and other northeastern cities.

The embassy also issued a specific warning in September against a Seville-based tour operator who was accused of assaulting American students.

Spain is a highly popular destination for tourists around the globe, with a record 83.7 million visitors last year, according to data released on Monday by its national statistics office. That included over three million Americans, a 13 percent increase from the previous year.

Yet Spain has faced stinging criticism over its handling of several high-profile sexual assault cases in recent years, with women’s rights activists charging that the country’s judiciary is dominated by men who judge cases based on faulty ideas about issues like what constitutes consent. Several verdicts have prompted street protests, including some of the world’s largest marches on International Women’s Day.

One of the most contentious cases came to the spotlight in 2018, when a court sentenced five men to prison for the “continuous sexual abuse” of an 18-year-old woman during the Pamplona bull-running festival, but cleared them of the more serious charge of rape, which under Spanish law must involve violence or intimidation.

That verdict against the five men — who had filmed the assault using a cellphone and who dubbed themselves the “wolf pack” — was overruled in June by Spain’s Supreme Court, which found them guilty of rape and increased their prison sentences on the main charge to 15 years, from nine.

Yet in October, a case involving the sexual assault of an unconscious 14-year-old girl also resulted in the conviction of five men on a charge of sexual abuse rather than rape, when that Spanish court ruled that they had not used violence.

That type of distinction is part of what led the American Embassy to issue its caution this week, warning that “U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault in Spain can find it very difficult to navigate the local criminal justice system, which differs significantly from the U.S. system.”

In the interview with the Spanish newspaper, Mr. Ziff, the United States diplomat in Madrid, also cited other problems with the institutional response to sex attacks in Spain, ranging from how women were treated when reporting to a hospital to how they were questioned by police, including about the clothing they were wearing and their alcohol consumption, as well as whether they had an insurance policy to cover a possible sexual assault.

In the court case involving the three American sisters who are accusing three Afghans of raping them on New Year’s Eve, the lawyer of the defendants has cited the fact that the sisters were insured against such an attack as evidence that they fabricated their rape accusations.

Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Washington.

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Ikea to close first large UK store, putting 350 jobs at risk

Ikea is to close its Coventry store with the loss of up to 352 jobs. It is the first time the Swedish flat-pack furniture chain has closed one of its large stores in the UK since launching here 33 years ago.

Ikea said the site – one of the company’s first to be built in a city centre – was too expensive to keep operating, partly because it is set over seven floors.

Customers are also increasingly favouring large retail parks or online shopping, resulting in “substantially lower” visitor numbers than expected, which are continuing to decrease.

“These factors have led to the store making consistent losses,” Ikea added in a statement on Tuesday.

The Usdaw union said the news was “devastating” for staff, while local shoppers expressed dismay at Ikea’s decision.

Ikea has held up well until now in the face of competition from online rivals but its latest move shows it is not immune from changing consumer habits.

The company said it tried a number of initiatives to keep the store open but the location and the format of the store meant these were not successful.

Ikea is seeking to continue its recent push into more convenient city centre locations, but they are likely to be much smaller than the Coventry site. It opened its first smaller format store on Tottenham Court Road last year, with another planned for Hammersmith, West Llondon, in Spring 2021.

The company will enter a consultation over the future of staff in the Coventry store and said it hoped to retain people where possible.

Peter Jelkeby, country retail manager and chief sustainability officer for Ikea UK and Ireland said: “Although this isn’t an easy decision, this is the right decision for the long-term success of Ikea in the UK.”

Dave Gill, national officer for the Usdaw union, said the news was “devastating” for staff.

“We will now enter into meaningful consultation talks with the company to interrogate the business case for this proposed closure.

“Our priorities are to seek redeployment opportunities, minimise compulsory redundancies and secure the best deal we can for our members.”

Ikea has 22 UK branches, most of which are large and sited out of town – an approach that has shielded to some extent from the sharp decline in fortunes of Britain’s high streets.

Retailers are seeking changes to the tax system, arguing that it currently favours online-focused multinationals and penalises bricks-and-mortar stores.

The government is to cut business rates for thousands of pubs and small shops from April but industry groups are calling for a full review of the system for all premises. 

Chancellor Sajid Javid has promised to hold a review, without providing details of its timing or scope.

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UK’s ability to track suspected terrorists and major criminals is at risk because of Brexit, Raab admits

The UK’s ability to track suspected terrorists and major criminals is at risk because of Brexit, Dominic Raab has admitted for the first time.

Full access to vital EU crime-fighting measures – sharing alerts, passenger name records, and fingerprint, DNA and vehicle registration data – could be lost, the foreign secretary told MPs.

The warning came in answer to a question from Theresa May, who had made security co-operation a key aim of her Brexit negotiations. She warned the measures “keep us safe”.

In the Commons, the former prime minister urged Mr Raab to be “much clearer” about intentions for a security partnership, which has been all-but ignored in the fears about lost trade.

She pointed to passenger name record (PNR) data, the Prüm Convention and the upgraded Schengen Information System (SIS II), all of which the UK enjoyed access to as an EU member.

But Mr Raab warned of “difficulties” with Brussels, saying: “They claim that some access to some of the instruments is conditional on accepting free movement.”

He declined to say the UK would remain in any of the data-sharing tools, saying only: “We will be looking forward to securing appropriate relations with the EU.”

The government had already accepted it will crash out of Europol and the European Arrest Warrant, but was expected to fight to retain the benefits of other crime-fighting databases.

Existing arrangements will continue in the transition period – until the end of 2020 – but Ms May protested that what happens next had only been mentioned in passing.

“Will the government make much clearer publicly its intentions for that treaty in regard to key instruments that keep us safe, such as PNR, Prüm and SIS II?” she asked.

“And what is the final date on which the treaty can be achieved such that it will become operational on January 1 2021?”

However, Mr Raab, in a statement on Boris Johnson’s negotiating aims – including a refusal to extend the transition period – ignored the second question altogether. 

PNR data helps to flag people across the EU who are involved in terrorism and serious crime, including victims of trafficking and individuals at risk of radicalisation.

The UK has stressed the importance of maintaining its current access – but other countries with agreements on PNR, such as the US, do not enjoy the same level of co-operation.

Prüm allows the fast-track exchange of fingerprint, DNA and vehicle data. UK access has been held up by its refusal to exchange DNA profiles on people arrested but not convicted of any offence.

SIS II enables police to log and view alerts on missing and wanted individuals, as well as lost and stolen objects, including clear instructions on what to do.

Answering Ms May, the foreign secretary agreed that data-sharing, extradition and Europol were “important elements of our law enforcement cooperation” – but failed to say they would be retained.

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How Chaos at Chain Pharmacies Is Putting Patients at Risk

CVS said it could not comment on the “individual concerns” of a former employee.

With nearly 10,000 pharmacies across the country, CVS is the largest chain and among the most aggressive in imposing performance metrics, pharmacists said. Both CVS and Walgreens tie bonuses to achieving them, according to company documents.

Nearly everything is tracked and scrutinized: phone calls to patients, the time it takes to fill a prescription, the number of immunizations given, the number of customers signing up for 90-day supplies of medication, to name a few.

The fact that tasks are being tracked is not the problem, pharmacists say, as customers can benefit from services like reminders for flu shots and refills. The issue is that employees are heavily evaluated on hitting targets, they say, including in areas they cannot control.

In Missouri, dozens of pharmacists said in a recent survey by the state board that the focus on metrics was a threat to patient safety and their own job security.

“Metrics put unnecessary pressure on pharmacy staff to fill prescriptions as fast as possible, resulting in errors,” one pharmacist wrote.

Of the nearly 1,000 pharmacists who took the survey, 60 percent said they “agree” or “strongly agree” that they “feel pressured or intimidated to meet standards or metrics that may interfere with safe patient care.” About 60 percent of respondents worked for retail chains, as opposed to hospitals or independent pharmacies.

Surveys in Maryland and Tennessee revealed similar concerns.

The specific goals are not made public, and can vary by store, but internal CVS documents reviewed by The Times show what was expected in some locations last year.

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Australia defends plans for island quarantine camp

Australia’s government has defended its plan to send citizens evacuated from China to a remote island which has been used as a detention centre for asylum seekers.


Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, has been used by the government in a widely condemned policy of banishing asylum seekers who attempt to arrive by boat to offshore camps.


Peter Dutton, Australia’s home affairs minister, has said the plan strikes the right balance between supporting Australians who are stuck in China and protecting the wider population from coronavirus.


“The reality is people need to be accommodated somewhere for up to 14 days,” Mr Dutton told reporters in Canberra.


“I can’t clear out a hospital in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane. I don’t have a facility otherwise that we can quickly accommodate for what might be many hundreds of people and Christmas Island is purpose-built for exactly this scenario.”


The Australian Medical Association, the nation’s leading medical advocate, has said Australians would be better quarantined on the country’s mainland.


“We feel that the repatriation to Christmas Island – to a place previously the focus of populations under enormous mental and physical trauma and anguish – is not a really appropriate solution,” Tony Bartone, the association’s president, told Nine Network.


The United Nations has condemned Australia’s indefinite banishing of asylum seekers to island camps as inhumane and argued it stokes violence and mental illness.

Source: Getty Images


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