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Environment news

8th July 2020

Environment Millbrook car testing site aims to ‘stay ahead of the game’

Environment Millbrook car testing site aims to ‘stay ahead of the game’


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The 4WD Powertrain Test System at Millbrook is at “the forefront of hybrid and electric vehicle powertrain testing”

A car testing facility is aiming to stay “ahead of the game” when it comes to developing driverless and greener cars.

Millbrook Proving Ground, in central Bedfordshire, is marking its 50th anniversary this year.

President Alex Burns said the pace of change in that time had been “extraordinary” and thanked its “incredible staff”.

Motoring journalist Andrew Frankel said the site was an “indispensable asset”.

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The track site was chosen as it was both flat and hilly

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Millbrook officially opened in 1970 where Vauxhall cars and Bedford trucks, buses and military vehicles were tested

Work started in 1968 and the track opened two years later for General Motors (GM) to test Vauxhall and Bedford vehicles.

Its rural location was paramount to the companies developing cars and using it, Mr Burns said.

The work there was “very, very secret” and the purposeful planting of 3,000 trees on its boundary meant it was “difficult to see in”, he said.

“Some of our customers will drive at night for added security.”

Episodes of Top Gear have been filmed there along with the 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale.

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Millbrook takes its name from the nearby village, where a flourishing community of mills were located around an idyllic brook

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Workers helped to lay 3,500 tonnes of granite blocks on the track when it was being built

The track has been independently owned since 2013 and £120m has been invested in global testing facilities since 2015. Some 500 staff work there.

“We are ahead of the game for testing autonomous vehicles,” Mr Burns said.

“In the past we have looked at what happens in collisions, now we are seeing how to avoid collisions.

“We are helping to reduce the impact vehicles have on the environment and improve the safety of road transport.”

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Millbrook is the Ministry of Defence’s independent military vehicle test and engineering specialist

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The track also houses a battery test facility

Mr Frankel, from DriveNation, an Instagram car magazine, said: “Millbrook was then and remains today the only place in the UK where road cars can sustain near maximum velocity, providing vital data for anyone from a chassis engineer to a road tester from a car magazine.

“When I was testing cars full-time in the 1990s, Millbrook was an indispensable asset, as vital a tool of my trade as my typewriter.”

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The circuit has a “loyal and skilled workforce” and employs 500 people, said Mr Burns

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8th July 2020

Environment Lego pulls ads on Facebook over ‘hate speech’

Environment Lego pulls ads on Facebook over ‘hate speech’


environment Lego figure in silhouetteImage copyright
Getty Images

Lego has become the latest big name to join an advertising boycott on social-media platforms, saying “urgent action” is needed to end hate speech, discrimination and misinformation.

It would pause paid advertising on all social-media platforms for at least 30 days, the Danish toy company said, and spend the money “on other channels”.

More than 400 companies have joined the Stop Hate for Profit campaign.

It wants “hate, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and violence” dealt with.

Facebook said artificial intelligence rooted out 90% of hate speech and it was teaming up with experts and civil rights groups to develop more tools.

It has also said it will start to label potentially harmful posts.

Mars, Target, Ford, Adidas, Coca Cola, Unilever and Starbucks have all joined the boycott

And some big brands have extended it to other platforms and suggested it could go on for longer than a month.

Lego’s chief marketing officer, Julia Goldin, said: “We are committed to having a positive impact on children and the world they will inherit.

“This includes contributing to a positive, inclusive digital environment free from hate speech, discrimination and misinformation.”

Lego said it would review its advertising on all social-media platforms, adding: “We are confident that solutions exist, but urgent action is needed.”

Much of the current controversy came from Facebook’s refusal to remove a post from US President Donald Trump, which said: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in reference to protests following the killing in police custody of an unarmed black man, George Floyd.

A similar post on Twitter had been labelled as inflammatory.

Lego had already paused the marketing of kits involving police figures and donated $4m (£3.2m) to combat racism, following Black Lives Matter protests.

It comes as the digital advertising industry comes under fresh scrutiny in the UK, with the Competition and Markets Authority calling on the government to introduce a tougher regime to tackle Google and Facebook’s market power.

The two companies had earned 80% of the £14bn spent on digital advertising in 2019, it said.

A week ago, Facebook might have thought it could ignore a boycott campaign, which, at first, was joined by a handful of companies known for being willing to take a stand on ethical issues.

But in the social-media era, which Facebook has played such a big part in shaping, movements can gain traction very quickly.

And a host of major companies have now decided it is better for their brands to join in the boycott than sit on the sidelines.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a meeting between a senior Facebook executive and marketing and advertising agencies on Tuesday failed to turn the tide.

From the concern over foreign interference and fake news during the 2016 US elections to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which broke in 2018, Facebook has repeatedly appeared behind the curve, promising action only after it was driven to respond by an outcry from users or advertisers.

But while this latest crisis is causing damage to its reputation, it is still not clear how much the company’s bottom line will be affected, when so much of its revenue comes from small businesses.

And many of those taking part in the boycott are also pausing their adverts on other, smaller social-media platforms.

So, ironically, anger over Facebook’s content-moderation policies could end up doing more damage to rival sites with weaker finances.

8th July 2020

Environment George Floyd death eases tensions between two communities

Environment George Floyd death eases tensions between two communities


environment Hmong protester supporting BLMImage copyright
Melody Vaaj

Youa Vang Lee was at her home in Minneapolis when her son showed her the video of George Floyd dying under a police officer’s knee. Lee, a 59-year-old Laotian immigrant who assembles medical supplies at a factory, heard Floyd cry out for his mother. It triggered a deep and familiar pain.

“Fong was probably feeling the same way, too,” she said in Hmong, her eyes filling with tears. “He was probably asking for me, too.”

In 2006, Lee’s 19-year-old son Fong – who was born in a refugee camp in Thailand – was shot eight times by Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen. The officer remains on the force to this day, a fact that the Lees were not aware of until told by the BBC. The officer was terminated twice, but has apparently since been rehired.

Although security footage showed Lee was running away at the time, Andersen claimed the teenager had a gun. A grand jury declined to indict him and the police department ruled the shooting justified. The family sued in civil court claiming excessive force and brought evidence the gun found beside Fong’s body was planted. An all-white jury found against them.

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Youa Vang Lee

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Fong Lee

Youa hadn’t spoken publicly about her son in over a decade, not since the family came to the end of their legal road with nothing to show for it. But after Lee saw Floyd’s death, she began asking if anyone knew of marches she could attend.

“I have to be there,” she said.

Although no one directly discouraged her, some members of her community questioned the decision. The Twin Cities, as Minneapolis and St Paul are known, are home to the largest urban population of Hmong in the US, many of whom came to the area as refugees in the 1980s and 90s.

The Hmong are an ethnic group from South-East Asia, with their own language, mainly drawn from southern China, Vietnam and Laos.

Within that community, there has been heated debate about how to respond to the Black Lives Matter and Justice for George Floyd movements, which are demanding systemic change to policing.

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A show of support for Black Lives Matter

For Youa Lee, however, there was no debate. She wanted to get involved for one reason – when Fong died in 2006, the first people to show up in support of her family came from the black activist community.

“They were the loudest voices for us,” recalled Shoua Lee, Fong’s older sister. “Even before we asked for help from other communities, they had come to us and offered their help.”

Although four officers have been charged with the murder of George Floyd on 25 May, the viral video of the incident only captures two of them – former officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, and former officer Tou Thao, who kept the crowd back, rather than going to Floyd’s aid.

“Don’t do drugs, guys,” Thao said at one point to distressed onlookers.

Thao, an 11-year veteran of the department, has been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. He is also Hmong.

As soon as Boonmee Yang, a fourth-grade public school teacher in St Paul, saw the video, he knew things were going to get complicated in the Hmong community.

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Media captionKimberly Jones explains her viral Monopoly analogy: “How can you win when you’ve been stripped of everything?”

“Oftentimes, it’s always been black victims at the hands of white officers. But now that someone else who looked like me was also involved in this, it made me really concerned,” he said.

As a Hmong activist, Yang said that it hasn’t always been easy to publicly express solidarity with the black community. He said some suffer what he calls “sheltered Asian syndrome”, meaning they rarely interact with others from outside the Hmong community, and that their knee jerk response was to defend Thao’s actions.

There is also a history of conflict between the two communities, particularly in the early days of resettlement, according to hip-hop artist and activist Tou SaiKo Lee. Refugee families often wound up in the Frogtown neighbourhood of St Paul and in East St Paul, areas that have historically had large African American populations.

“There was conflict between youth. Fights between new immigrants, new refugees and those that are currently living in the neighborhood – I was a part of that,” he recalled. “There’s some that still hold that tension.”

Unlike the more broadly defined “Asian American” demographic, the Hmong community has a much shorter history in the US. Almost half of the Laotian Hmong fled their country in 1975, after the fall of Saigon in the Vietnam War. For 15 years, the CIA recruited thousands of Hmong soldiers to fight a so-called “secret war” against the North Vietnamese, but after the US pulled out without providing an evacuation plan for their allies, those who cooperated with the Americans, or were perceived to have, fled. Some were killed by the communists, thousands wound up in Thai refugee camps.

Tens of thousands were resettled in Minnesota, an overwhelmingly white state with few resources for the new immigrant population. Without the ability to speak the language, many could not find work. Today, the Hmong population in the US actually has much in common with the African-American population in terms of socioeconomic and other quality of life factors.

According to figures from the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, one in four Hmong Americans lives below the poverty line. While 50% of the broader category “Asian Americans” have graduated university, only 17% of Hmong Americans have a college degree. And while 72% of white families own a home, less than half of Hmong Americans and African Americans do.

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Getty Images

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Families like this one at a refugee camp in Thailand were resettled to the US in 2004

The Hmong community has also long struggled with interactions with police. Initially, there was no Hmong representation among its ranks. Officers struggled to understand and to serve the new population. In an infamous 1989 case, a police officer shot two sixth-grade Hmong boys in the back as they ran away from a stolen car. The officer was never charged.

Tou SaiKo said he was often racially profiled by Minneapolis police as a teenager, at one point spending two nights in jail after an officer found a fishing knife in his trunk. He said he was never charged, but he remembered getting pulled over many times and asked “What gang do you affiliate with?”

“I’d say, ‘I’m a college student,'” he recalled.

Still, those common struggles between the black and Hmong communities did not prevent old tensions from leaping to the fore in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, particularly as looting and property damage hit Asian-owned businesses in the Midway neighbourhood of St Paul.

“Tou Thao” is a very common Hmong name, and many who share it with the indicted officer faced online threats and harassment.

And as young Hmong activists – in particular women and members of the LGBTQ community – attempted to express support of Black Lives Matter, they faced condemnation and vitriol from within their own community, even threats.

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Melody Vaaj

Annie Moua, a recent high school graduate, saw plenty of comments online within her Asian American political groups that she calls “anti-black”, saying things like “all lives matter” and asking, “They never helped us during our protest – why do we need to help them?”

“During that week I lost a lot of friends,” she said.

It was during the worst of that online fighting that Yang got a Facebook invite from a friend to join a group called “Hmong 4 Black Lives.” There were only three members at the time. “I was on it,” he said.

He saw that a large Black Lives Matter demonstration was planned at the Minnesota State Capitol the next day, and created an event page for the nascent group. By morning, there were 300 members of Hmong 4 Black Lives (as of this writing there are now over 2,000).

By afternoon the next day, a group of about 100 Hmong activists had gathered at the capitol, carrying signs that read, “I’m a Thao and I stand with Black Lives Matter” and “I am Hmong and for BLM – period”.

For 18-year-old Moua, it was her very first protest, and after the amount of turmoil she’d witnessed online, she was scared. “I was very, very nervous,” she said. “I did not know what was going to go down.”

Among the marchers was a small, elegant woman in a face mask and a baseball cap – Fong Lee’s mother, Youa.

After fleeing their farm in Laos, and four years of waiting in a refugee camp in Thailand, Youa and her husband dreamed of giving their children a brighter future in the US.

America was supposed to be a refuge. She never dreamed her middle son would wind up dead at the hands of a police officer.

“I feel like it was a mistake to bring my children here,” she said in Hmong, translated by her daughter Shoua. “Now my son is gone.”

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Youa Vang Lee

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Youa Vang Lee with daughter Shoua

Fong Lee was 19 years old when he went for a bike ride on 22 July, 2006. He was with a group of his friends in the parking lot of Cityview Elementary, a school in North Minneapolis, when officer Jason Andersen and a state trooper pulled up in a squad car.

The boys took off running, with Andersen following Fong. A security camera from the school captured the final moments of the chase – Fong runs from the parking lot around the corner of the school, and Andersen is seen close behind with his gun pointed at Fong. Though blurry, the security footage does not clearly show a gun in Fong’s hands, a fact that Andersen acknowledged at trial.

In the final frame, Fong is seen lying on his back, bloodied and unmoving. He was hit four times in the back.

Almost as soon as the news broke, Al Flowers, a longtime Minneapolis activist who has sued the police department multiple times over charges of brutality, started showing up to protests – at the school, at the courthouse. The Lees always saw him and another activist, the late Darryl Robinson of Communities United Against Police Brutality. They didn’t ask to show up, Shoua Lee said, they just showed up.

For his part, Flowers said that after years of fighting for justice in the killings of black men and women, he believed that because Fong was Asian, there was a greater possibility that the officer would be convicted.

“We felt like he was treated like we was always treated,” Flowers recalled. “[We thought] he’s going to get justice. And then he didn’t. So we were shocked.”

Mike Padden, the Lee’s family attorney in the civil case, said losing the case even with surveillance camera footage and the strange history of the gun recovered at the scene has always troubled him.

“In 2009, the environment for suing cops was way different than it is now,” he said. “It bothers me. It was probably the most disappointing case in my career.”

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Media caption“Keep pushing”: Washington DC protesters on keeping the momentum going

An old, Russian-made Baikal .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun was found about three feet from Fong’s left hand, free of fingerprints or blood.

In 2004, a man reported his gun stolen in a burglary. He was later told by Minneapolis police that his gun had been recovered in a snowbank and it would be in police custody until an investigation had concluded. The gun matched the serial number on the Baikal .380 caliber found by Fong Lee’s body.

When that was pointed out at trial by Padden, the police provided an explanation — the gun found in the snowbank was not the Baikal .380. There had been a mix-up with the identification and the paperwork, and the Baikal had never been in their custody.

The Minneapolis Police Department did not respond to questions from the BBC about the case.

Andersen was back on the street two days after Fong’s death. The Minneapolis police chief later awarded him the department’s “medal of valour” for his actions that day.

The Minneapolis Police Department tried to fire Andersen twice after that – once after he was arrested for domestic violence, and once after he was indicted by federal investigators for kicking a teenager in the head during an arrest. The domestic violence case was dropped due to lack of evidence, and a jury acquitted Andersen in the assault on the teenager, despite the fact that other officers had reported his actions that day as excessive. Minneapolis’ powerful police union helped get Andersen rehired.

The union is often cited as the reason why it is so difficult to fire officers with problematic records. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, the city of Minneapolis is trying to take on the union by withdrawing from negotiations.

Andersen is still an employee of the Minneapolis Police Department, and serves as the chaplain coordinator. Social media posts show him handing out donations, like car seats, bed sets and kitchen supplies to needy families in Minneapolis.

In a brief phone call with the BBC, Andersen confirmed that he is the same officer from the Lee shooting and referred all questions to the department’s media spokesperson.

“It’s something that’s been put in the past and I know that was very, very hard for them because they lost their son,” he said of the Lees. “I care for the family a lot and they went through something traumatic.

“Both of us had to live through this so when this gets dug back up, it’s probably – it’s something they never want to hear about again.”

It was Tou SaiKo Lee who asked Youa if she’d like to come to the state capitol, march with Hmong 4 Black Lives and speak about her son. It’d been almost 10 years, and Tou was also worried that bringing the case back up might be too traumatic.

But her answer was instantly, yes.

That day, as they walked towards the capitol steps to join the larger Black Lives Matter group, Youa was in front, walking silently as the younger Hmong participants chanted around her.

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Maichoua Yang

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Youa Vang Lee at protest

At some point, someone handed her the microphone. Even though she couldn’t do it in English, she spoke passionately about supporting George Floyd’s family and the movement that was born in his name. She promised to do anything she could for the Floyd family.

“We have to join hands with them,” she told the crowd. “We come here to beg for justice and righteousness.”

She wept openly, bringing many gathered around to tears as well, even those who could not understand her.

“Without Fong Lee’s family it would just be Hmong people bickering back and forth,” said Tou SaiKo. “Many people see their own mother in Fong Lee’s mother, many Hmong people, and so to see her in that emotional state, with those empowering words calling for solidarity, I thought that was a breath of fresh air.”

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Tou Saiko Lee

When told that Fong’s mother had joined the George Floyd protests, Flowers was pleased.

“I’m proud that she’s out there supporting,” he said. “My memory is watching her have to go through that and not understanding the law, not understanding what was really happening in the United States – that this could happen.

“We as African Americans, we knew what was the possibility and we knew that could happen. That was sad because we lost another case. That was another case we lost.”

And although not everyone in the crowd for the first ever Hmong 4 Black Lives march could understand her, according to Annie Moua, the person who took the microphone immediately after Youa summed it up perfectly.

“You don’t need to understand [Hmong] to know what this pain feels like.”

8th July 2020

Environment TikTok makes moves into education market

Environment TikTok makes moves into education market


environment Rachel Riley

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Rachel Riley will be among the contributors to the education initiative

Social media giant TikTok has announced plans to commission hundreds of experts and institutions to produce educational content for the platform.

Universities and charities are among those who will be paid to create bespoke content for the social media giant.

The new focus could appeal to the trend for micro-learning, said one expert.

TikTok has been downloaded more than two billion times on iOS and Android since it was launched globally in 2017. It allows users to make videos up to 15 seconds long, with music in the background.

With its success built on user-generated entertainment videos, the move to incorporate professionally produced learning content marks a significant shift, as the company attempts to diversify its content.

At launch, videos will include British actor Sean Sagar sharing tips on preparing for auditions, and TV presenter and mathematician Rachel Riley helping to develop maths skills.

Speaking exclusively to BBC Click, Rich Waterworth, TikTok’s general manager for Europe, said the platform had noticed users’ interest in educational videos, with more than seven billion views of the hashtag #LearnOnTikTok.

“Going forward, LearnOnTikTok is about us investing in partners and content creators with a breadth of professional content… We think this is about applying the power of TikTok to learning: the effects, the audio, the transitions, the tools that make it so engaging and fun, to make people enjoy learning.”

Environment Disney boss

Martin Jefferies, social media manager at English Heritage, a charity that manages over 400 historical sites in the UK, believes access to TikTok’s younger audience provides opportunities to explore different types of content.

“We think that TikTok is a safe space to explore stories that matter most to young people, so things like black history, LGBTQ stories from some of our sites, women’s history as well – it feels like a very safe, welcoming environment.”

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TikTok is the first Chinese social media platform to become a global phenomenon

With professionally produced videos now being introduced alongside user-generated content, Jamie MacEwan, a research analyst at Enders Analysis, suggests that Disney’s former head of streaming taking the helm at TikTok, could signal a new direction for the platform.

“TikTok really wants to broaden its appeal and we are going to see more structured, more premium content going forward. This ties into the new CEO, Kevin Mayer, coming from Disney. We know him as a deal-maker for content and we’re sure to see more partnerships going forward.”

At Disney, Mr Mayer oversaw the successful launch of the firm’s streaming service, Disney Plus, in November 2019. It now has more than 50 million subscribers. He was also considered a key figure in the company’s acquisitions of Lucasfilm, Pixar and Marvel.

With the app centred around short-form content, Dr Elizabeth Hidson, a senior lecturer in education at the University of Sunderland, points out that the platform will be following an already existing trend in online learning.

“Most of us will be familiar with the idea of going online to find instructional videos,” she said. “This idea of small units of learning is already well established in online education – we call it micro-learning.”

8th July 2020

Environment Mark Wood column: Life in England’s ‘sci-fi movie’

Environment Mark Wood column: Life in England’s ‘sci-fi movie’


environment Mark Wood

The bio-secure environment in Southampton, where we are preparing for the Test series against West Indies, feels a bit like a sci-fi movie.

When we first turned up, there was a huge tent outside the hotel, where we had to pass through to get our temperature scanned. We dropped our bags off so they could be sprayed before they were taken in.

Inside, there are no room keys – you open doors with an app on your phone. There is hand sanitiser at every turn, and on the floor there are arrows, lines and footprints to show the way to go. We fill in a health questionnaire each morning and take our own temperature before we go to breakfast.

When we use the lift, we press buttons with our elbows, and only four people can get in at once. In the lift, everyone turns out to face a different wall, which makes it quite difficult to have a conversation.

We have to wear our accreditation any time we are not in our rooms or on the training pitch. The accreditation has a chip that tracks your movements, so if anyone does get ill, we will know who they have been in contact with. Similarly, we wear face masks any time we are not in our rooms or outdoors.

At meal times, it is just like being back at school. We queue up (socially distanced, of course), and take a tray and cutlery that is wrapped in a bag. You move around and ask to be served the food you would like, then take it to sit at your own individual desk, looking at the back of the person in front.

If it sounds like I am painting a grim picture, that is not the intention, because I know we are very lucky to be here and we have all been looking forward to the chance to play cricket again.

To me, all the procedures we are going through are an extension to two of three pillars that the England team is built on: unity and respect.

Unity because we are all in this together, and respect because we take the precautions not just to keep ourselves safe, but also everyone else in the bubble.

Stokes loses his Formula 1 crown

Training days, which come two or three at a time, are busy. One half of the day is spent in the nets or on cricket skills, while the other half is in the gym.

It is the days off, or the evenings, that can be tough to fill. For that reason, we are lucky enough to have been given plenty of options for keeping entertained.

The nearby golf course is taking a battering. I am not much of a golfer – I usually only play once a year – but I have played three times in the past week alone.

I have tried to get the golf bug, but I think I am getting worse. I went for a ramble with Ben Stokes, and he gave me some tips that I was pleased with, only for my next round to be terrible. I just can’t get my head around how a professional athlete can hit one decent shot, then follow it with one that scuttles along the ground.

Away from the golf course, we have a pool table, a dart board and table tennis. We play a lot of cards, which gets quite competitive. Joe Denly is the scorer and usually the winner. Work that one out.

The thing attracting the most attention is the Formula 1 simulator, which is lifelike down to the seat, steering wheel and pedals.

You might remember that Stokesy was involved in a race during lockdown, so he knows how to set it up to make the car go faster. He put his lap time up as the one to beat, but he has now been topped by the Overton brothers. From my experience, driving an F1 car in a face mask can get a bit heated.

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What will an England Test match look like?

Bowling bouncers at my team-mates

On the field, we have gradually built up the intensity towards the three-day practice match, which starts on Wednesday.

On the one hand, it will be strange trying to get up for an internal match in an empty ground, but, on the other, there are 30 players vying for a spot in that Test side.

As a fast bowler, part of my armoury is being aggressive, trying to rough up the opposition. Would I be comfortable trying to do that to my England team-mates in this situation? Probably not, but if the captain or coach asks me to, then that is what I will have to do.

I would rather look at it as an opportunity to experiment with the skills that I have been learning during lockdown, but I have also got to remember that there are Test spots up for grabs and I want to give the best account of myself. If I get hit for a couple of fours, I am sure the competitive juices will flow.

There has been a lot of talk about Stokesy being captain in the first Test, with Joe Root missing out to be at the birth of his second child.

I am one of the few people who have actually played under Stokesy, back in our days on the Durham academy.

He was a good skipper back then, leading from the front, just like he does now. As the years have gone on, he has matured into a senior player, setting the example and dragging people along with him.

He has a good cricket brain and, even though he does not have much captaincy experience, he will have seasoned players like James Anderson and Stuart Broad around to bounce ideas off.

Stokesy won’t not just tell people what to do. He knows that players are individuals, so he will treat them as such. That said, he is also very honest, so he won’t be afraid to tell it straight if someone is not pulling their weight or sticking to a plan.

He will do a brilliant job.

Mark Wood was talking to BBC Sport’s Stephan Shemilt.

8th July 2020

Environment Old Trafford could safely hold crowds of ‘six or seven thousand’, says Lancashire CEO

Environment Old Trafford could safely hold crowds of ‘six or seven thousand’, says Lancashire CEO


environment Old Trafford

Old Trafford is hosting three international matches in July, including the second Test between England and West Indies

Test venues such as Old Trafford would be able to welcome crowds of “six or seven thousand” in a safe, distanced environment, says Lancashire chief executive Daniel Gidney.

England return with a behind-closed-doors three-Test series against the West Indies starting on 8 July.

But crowds are not expected at elite games until at least September.

“We can manage social distancing,” Gidney told BBC Sport.

“I think it depends on if we get to one metre, one and a half or two metres [required distancing], but at the very least I think we could be looking at six or seven thousand [people] based on current guidelines, with quite a bit of room to manoeuvre.”

The World Health Organisation recommends a one-metre gap between people, although many countries – including the UK – have greater distancing rules.

In addition, being outdoors, while still requiring distancing and safety protocols in place, is considered less of a risk than being in an enclosed space.

Old Trafford, with a 26,000 capacity and Test standard facilities, is well placed to cope with the required alterations.

“There are a number of things we can do,” added Gidney. “There are one-way systems, we can put perspex coverings on food and beverage counters, and provide personal protective equipment for staff.”

Gidney is confident Lancashire would have the infrastructure already in place to host a T20 game behind closed doors even under current safety guidelines.

While there is acceptance that public confidence needs to be built, there is also hope that the restrictions will be lifted, in time, to allow clubs to host spectators in a safe manner.

“If you are inside then a lot of it is about ventilation,” continued Gidney. “People not being in close contact, not being opposite somebody else for more than 15 minutes.

“That’s the very high risk element, but outside if people are sitting side to side and a bit away from each other that should be safe to do, but I do understand a lot of people’s nervousness from previous major events.

“But I think we can do a ‘slowly, slowly’ approach and get small numbers of people back in on a reduced capacity basis.”

8th July 2020

Environment Sheffield Council apologises for coronavirus pub tweet

Environment Sheffield Council apologises for coronavirus pub tweet


environment A woman cleaning wine glasses behind a barImage copyright

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Pubs in England have been closed since March to slow the spread of Covid-19

A council has apologised for telling people that coronavirus will be “waiting for you” at the pub when they reopen this weekend.

Sheffield City Council said Covid-19 would be “happiest” about rule changes which come into force on Saturday.

A number of landlords responded angrily to the social media post, which has since been deleted.

The council said the post was “badly worded but was done with the best intentions”.

On Thursday, the council tweeted: “The virus loves crowded places and thrives on close contact.

“It won’t be queuing to get inside the pub – it will already be there waiting for you.”

The post also included a short video warning people: “Don’t put yourself at risk for the sake of a pint.”

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The post has since been deleted

John Harrison, co-owner of the Beer House, said: “I was shocked to see the tweet after we’d spent weeks working tirelessly to make sure our business is a safe environment, going above and beyond the government guidelines.

“It felt like a real kick in the gut for the hospitality industry in Sheffield that is on its knees.”

Liz Aspden, landlady at The Harlequin, said the tweet was “very damaging to a trade which is just trying to get back on its feet and made no recognition of the fact that we’ll be doing our utmost to create a safe environment”.

“Publicans have been spending long hours – and significant amounts of money – planning to re-open their pubs safely within the guidelines set out by the government,” she said.

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment, apologised for the message.

“We are in a difficult situation, we want to support our local pubs and venues but we must also remember that we are still in the middle of a serious pandemic,” he said.

“We want people to enjoy themselves this weekend, visit your favourite pub, cafe or restaurant, but to do so in a safe and measured way.”

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6th July 2020

Environment Apple faces two EU anti-competition probes

Environment Apple faces two EU anti-competition probes


environment Apple logoImage copyright
Getty Images

Apple faces two European Commission probes into whether it has broken competition rules.

One investigation centres on iPad and iPhones being limited to installing apps from Apple’s own App Store, among other restrictions imposed on third-party developers.

The other involves Apple Pay, with one issue being that other services cannot use the iPhone’s tap-and-go facility.

Apple said it was “disappointing” the EU was “advancing baseless complaints”.

And it accused companies that had raised allegations against it of wanting a “free ride”.

“Our goal is simple: for our customers to have access to the best app or service of their choice, in a safe and secure environment.”

Apple is also under scrutiny in the US where the House Judiciary Committee is reported to have asked for its chief executive Tim Cook to appear alongside other tech leaders to answer questions about anti-trust concerns.

Amazon has said that its chief executive Jeff Bezos is willing to testify, so long as Mr Cook and his counterparts at Facebook and Google also give evidence.

The latest development comes days before Apple holds its annual developers conference.

Environment App sales

The investigation into Apple’s App Store stems from a complaint raised by the music streaming service Spotify.

Image copyright

Image caption

Unlike Android, iOS does not offer a way to easily “sideload” apps that are not distributed via the official store

Last year, it raised two specific concerns:

  • the only way developers can sell content and/or subscriptions directly within an iOS app is via Apple’s own system
  • publishers cannot tell users within their apps that the same items can be bought elsewhere – for example via the service’s own website

Apple typically charges apps a 30% cut of any sales, although that rate falls to 15% for the second and later years of any subscription.

Publishers often sell media and other digital goods at a lower price when bought outside of their apps, but consumers can be unaware of the fact.

Since Apple only allows apps to be downloaded from its own store, and has repeatedly updated its mobile operating system to prevent “jailbreaks” that circumvent this rule, it is argued that third-parties have little option but to comply with its conditions.

The only alternative is to offer their products as web-based services, which can limit their functionality.

The Financial Times has reported that Rakuten’s online bookstore Kobo recently contacted the European Commission with similar concerns.

“Apple’s anti-competitive behaviour has intentionally disadvantaged competitors, created an unlevel playing field, and deprived consumers of meaningful choice for far too long,” said Spotify in response to the latest development.

“We welcome the European Commission’s decision to formally investigate Apple, and hope they’ll act with urgency to ensure fair competition on the iOS platform for all participants in the digital economy.”

Environment Mobile payments

The Apple Pay investigation centres on a technology that allows iPhones and Apple Watches to make tap-and-go payments. It also lets users buy goods via an app or website without having to give their payment card details to the seller.

Image copyright
Getty Images

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Apple Pay allows iPhone owners to transfer funds from their bank to a store without using a physical card

The European Commission has concerns about the conditions imposed on services that have added the facility.

It also has reservations that alternative payment tech cannot make use of the near field communication (NFC) chips in Apple’s products to work with contactless payment terminals.

By contrast, Samsung phones – for example – let their NFC chips be used for both Samsung Pay and Google Pay.

“It is important that Apple’s measures do not deny consumers the benefit of new payment technologies, including better choice, quality, innovation and competitive prices,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Competition Commissioner and Executive Vice President.

The commissioner added that she had not set a deadline for the investigations to be completed.

What today’s move is about is the huge power over prices and innovation that control of a platform gives to a tech giant.

Ever tried to buy a Kindle book via Amazon’s iPhone apps? You can’t because Amazon doesn’t want to see Apple walk away with a 30% cut of the purchase price.

App developers big and small have protested over the years about what they see as Apple’s abuse of its position as a gatekeeper to its iOS platform.

Similarly, the tech giant’s strict controls on the way NFC works on its phones has sparked complaints that Apple Pay has huge advantages over what could be more innovative payment systems.

Complaints about this behaviour aren’t limited to Europe, but once again Margrethe Vestager has shown that she wants to set the pace in pushing back against the power of the big tech platforms.

And another American behemoth may be about to feel the heat – all the signs are that Ms Vestager is about to determine the outcome of an existing probe into how Amazon controls its online retailing platform.

The twin inquiries follow an earlier case in which Brussels ordered Apple to pay 13bn euros ($14.4bn; £11.4bn) after claims that Ireland had given the company illegal state aid by failing to tax it properly. The Irish government and Apple have appealed the ruling.

The latest probes are likely to cast a shadow over the firm’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which begins on Monday.

Image copyright

Image caption

Apple is holding a virtual event for WWDC this year because of the coronavirus pandemic

Apple has already claimed its app ecosystem generated more than half a trillion dollars in sales and other billings last year, saying the vast majority of that was not subject to it taking a commission.

But its relationships with some developers have become strained.

In recent days, one has called on Apple to reduce its standard cut from 30% to 20% while another has accused the firm of operating a “capricious and inconsistent review process” that can cause delays to the release of even minor app updates.

In an interview pegged to last year’s WWDC, Mr Cook said that he thought that scrutiny of the firm was fair but added that regulators should bear in mind it does not have a monopoly of any market.

6th July 2020

Environment Serial winner and national figurehead – how Bale became a Wales icon

Environment Serial winner and national figurehead – how Bale became a Wales icon


environment Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale has scored 33 goals for Wales – more than anyone else – in his 83 appearances

On what would have been the opening weekend of Euro 2020 and as the La Liga season resumes, BBC Sport reflects on the success of Real Madrid and Wales superstar Gareth Bale.

Some players can bring a game to life; special ones can inspire a team or light up a tournament. Then there are those whose greatness can elevate an entire nation to new heights. Gareth Bale is one.

After scoring the decisive goal in Real Madrid’s 2014 Champions League final victory, his first thought at the final whistle was to grab the nearest Wales flag and give the red dragon what was arguably its largest ever global audience.

Real triumphed again in 2016, 2017 and 2018, when Bale scored with a jaw-dropping overhead kick to defeat Liverpool. Once more he left the pitch with his country’s flag draped around his shoulders.

For most players, winning club football’s most coveted trophy four times – and scoring one of the most spectacular goals in European Cup final history – would represent an unsurpassable career high.

But Bale is different. For him, playing for Wales means more. He says so himself.

Already his country’s all-time leading goalscorer, the 30-year-old has carried his team through lean spells and repeatedly come to Wales’ rescue in their hour of need.

And as Wales dragged themselves up the world rankings and a nation started to believe, it was Bale who led the charge to qualify for a first major tournament in 58 years.

Euro 2016 was Wales’ moment in the sun. Their journey to the semi-final was not only the football team’s greatest achievement, but a voyage which gave Wales, as a nation, the recognition it had never enjoyed before.

This weekend was meant to mark the start of Wales’ Euro 2020 campaign but the tournament’s postponement means they will have to wait to rekindle the euphoria of 2016.

Once that opportunity arrives next summer, in Bale they will have the ultimate figurehead, a true legend.

Gareth Bale scored twice and was named man of the match in Real Madrid’s 2018 Champions League final win over Liverpool

Bale the ‘shy and quiet’ teenager

Bale has long led Wales by his deeds on the pitch and, with captain Ashley Williams losing his place in the side lately, the Real Madrid forward often wears the armband.

His development as a leader has taken time, as has his physical progression from a boyish Wales debutant to his current muscular frame.

Bale was a 16-year-old left-back when he was first called up in May 2006, having only played his first two matches of senior football for Southampton a month earlier.

“At the beginning, he was very shy,” says Robert Earnshaw, Wales’ striker at the time.

“When you’re a young man coming into an environment with lots of senior players, you’re trying to work out what to do, what your level is, and you could tell that was the case with him.

“But at the same time, you could see him being himself, what he wanted to be in his mind.

“He was quiet but, once he played, you could see him get more and more confident.”

Bale was in Wales’ squad for an uncapped friendly against a Basque XI but, having not featured in Bilbao, he returned home to help the Under-21s beat Estonia in Wrexham.

Then, in what now seems like a symbolic transition, Bale was restored to the senior squad after Ryan Giggs was injured.

At 16 years and 315 days, Bale’s substitute appearance against Trinidad and Tobago made him Wales’ youngest international, and he marked the occasion by assisting Earnshaw for the winning goal.

Gareth Bale replaced David Vaughan to make his Wales debut against Trinidad and Tobago in Graz, Austria, in 2006

“First of all I thought ‘Well done, kid’,” Earnshaw recalls with a broad grin.

“I’d seen him a bit in training but you never know how a young player will react until you see them in a game.

“Instantly, when he picked up the ball and got his first assist for me, when he went on his dribble, you could see his ability.

“That’s when I thought ‘OK, he sees things, this is a good player’.”

Now Bale was up and running, he started to relax.

“He was joking, laughing – he’s always been one to have a laugh,” Earnshaw adds.

“At times you could see Gareth’s cheekiness. Then you could tell he was comfortable at that level.

“You see them grow as a person and a player. That’s a really special thing.”

Bale’s rapid – sometimes bumpy – rise

Bale gave a further glimpse of what was to come on his third Wales appearance in September 2006, scoring with a beautiful curling free-kick in an otherwise dismal Welsh display as they were thrashed 5-1 at home by Slovakia.

That was a snapshot of his early Wales years: moments of individual brilliance as fleeting rays of hope for a mediocre team.

At club level, Bale’s ascent was rapid but not without setbacks.

Tottenham fought off competition from Manchester United to sign him in 2007 but, after early promise, he struggled with injuries and a statistical quirk that showed he had failed to win a Premier League game over the course of two years and 24 fixtures.

Harry Redknapp, Spurs’ manager at the time, admitted he was reluctant to select Bale for fear the young left-back was cursed.

But once Bale broke that drought, he did not look back. A series of electrifying attacking displays saw him move up to the left wing, where he tormented defenders across Europe.

Brazil right-back Maicon was his most notable victim, as Bale scored three goals and provided two assists during Spurs’ two matches against Inter; confirmation of the Welshman’s arrival at the top level.

Once the legendary Luis Figo hailed Bale’s performances as “amazing”, it was no surprise when the Portuguese’s former club, Real Madrid, showed an interest.

Gareth Bale, leaving Maicon in his wake, followed up a hat-trick in a losing cause at the San Siro with an even better display as Spurs beat Champions League holders Inter in November 2010

Bale was voted PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2011 and again two years later, this time alongside the PFA Young Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year awards – making him only the second player to win all three in the same season. Cristiano Ronaldo was the other.

Real united the two in 2013, signing Bale for a then world-record fee of £85m, eclipsing the £80m they had paid for Ronaldo four years earlier.

Protracted negotiations meant Bale’s presentation to fans at the Bernabeu came close to the transfer deadline, as well as Wales’ squad meeting before their game in Macedonia.

Many, particularly in Madrid, assumed Bale would stay with his new club. Even some in Wales were concerned, casting their minds back to Giggs’ international career and his perceived prioritising of Manchester United over his country.

But Bale boarded a private jet and was soon back home in Cardiff with the rest of the Wales squad.

He was setting the tone, emphasising his commitment to his country and making the fair but firm point to his new employers, however mighty they may be, that he would not change for anybody.

Bale the under-fire icon

Bale started strongly at Real, scoring on his debut and finishing his first season with 22 goals.

Flourishing at a club of that size alongside some of the world’s leading players seemed to give him a new swagger, which was evident when he returned to Wales for a friendly match against Iceland in March 2014.

The fact he was there at all was another reminder of his determination to play for Wales, and he demonstrated how his improvement at Real might benefit his country with an extraordinary goal.

Picking up possession deep in his own half, Bale was forced off the pitch by an attempted foul but he stayed on his feet, powered forward and fired into the bottom corner.

Remarkably, he repeated the trick for Real in the Copa del Rey final against arch rivals Barcelona a month later, again starting from his own half and beating an opponent with strength and pace before applying the match-winning finish.

That was Bale’s first trophy with Real and within weeks he had his second, scoring in the Champions League final win over Atletico Madrid. Everything seemed to be going perfectly.

But like a child growing bored of a new toy, the Bernabeu crowd eventually turned.

Bale managed 18 goals in his second season and helped his team win three further Champions League titles as well as a La Liga championship in 2017.

However, increasingly frequent injuries affected his form, and even the slightest dip in performance was seized upon by the Spanish media and Real’s fans.

The attacks became personal, with some criticising his Spanish and others – even team-mates such as goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois – mocking him for playing golf and staying in rather than socialising at night.

“I remember the original Ronaldo getting stick off Real Madrid fans. I remember Cristiano getting stick early doors,” Wales manager Ryan Giggs said at the time.

“It’s that kind of club. It’s a club like no other where the white handkerchiefs come out if they don’t like you. That’s just the way it is.”

Last year, the animosity reached a stage where Real manager Zinedine Zidane said it would be “best for everyone” if Bale left.

Although Bale ignored the Bernabeu jeers and stayed in Madrid, his opportunities to play with Wales felt increasingly like an escape from the hostility – and Wales were happy to offer that haven.

While Welsh supporters loved Bale for all his glorious successes with club and country, they seemed to grow even closer to him because of this turbulent period.

Wales fans felt protective of him, one of their own.

Bale cherishes the bond he has with those he dubbed the “Red Wall”, and that was clearer than ever when he took aim at his critics this season.

When Spanish media questioned Bale’s return to training with Wales after an injury had ruled him out for Real, the club’s former striker and director of football Predrag Mijatovic claimed Bale prioritised Wales – and even his interest in golf – over his club side.

That prompted one Wales fan to print a flag, which he displayed at November’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Hungary, reading: “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.”

After Wales beat Hungary to seal qualification, Bale was handed the banner and was pictured holding it alongside his team-mates.

Gareth Bale and his Wales team-mates celebrate Euro 2020 qualification with the now infamous banner

It did not go down well. In fact, Spanish newspaper Marca’s response was the headline: “Disrespectful. Misguided. Ungrateful. In that order.”

Again Bale brushed off the criticism, pointing out it was a joke and that he was hardly going to stop celebrating after Wales had qualified for only a third major tournament in their history.

Besides, he simply did not care. As recently as last month when Real returned to training after the season was halted because of coronavirus, a group of players struck a pose for a photographer. Among them was Bale, mimicking a golf shot.

In Wales, the whole episode only enhanced his popularity.

Supporters have plenty of reasons to adore their country’s greatest player but perhaps what gives them that special sense of kinship with Bale is that they can identify with him; that they can see themselves, the Welsh fan, in him.

Bale the national hero

While Bale has produced a vast body of work to establish his legendary status, his masterpiece was Euro 2016.

He was one of the chief proponents of Wales’ motto for that campaign, ‘Together Stronger’, so there is no chance he would accept more credit than any of the team-mates he referred to as “brothers” in France.

Even when you consider the significant contributions of all players and staff, however, Bale still stands out.

Laying the foundations for this success took years. There were growing pains under John Toshack and an evolution in style under Gary Speed, whose death profoundly affected a young Wales squad but also brought them closer through a shared grief.

Chris Coleman, a friend of Speed’s, took on the project and, although he struggled initially, he knew he had one of Wales’ finest generations of players at his disposal.

With Ben Davies, Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and others by Bale’s side, Wales now had the strength in depth to allow their talisman to shine brighter.

In qualifying for Euro 2016, Bale scored seven and assisted two of Wales’ 11 goals. Three of those were winning goals, as time and again he proved his country’s saviour.

Qualifying itself was a seismic achievement for Wales, ending their 58-year absence from major tournaments and banishing a history of excruciating near misses.

Then the tournament in France gave Wales a golden summer which exceeded their most outlandish dreams.

Wales is the smallest nation by population to have a football team reach the semi-finals of a European Championship

Those in Bordeaux on 11 June 2016 will never forget the sunshine, the stirring Welsh anthem, the disbelieving faces in red shirts, pinching themselves to check that this really was happening

It was Bale who gave them the first taste of that rare ecstasy of watching your country score in a major championship; his free-kick against Slovakia sending the Red Wall in the stadium – and in fan parks up and down Wales – into raptures.

He scored with another free-kick against England and then again from open play in the 3-0 demolition of Russia under lilac skies in Toulouse, for many the single most joyous match of their lives.

Bale did not score in the knockout stages but he created the second-round winner against Northern Ireland, and he played his part in the quarter-final victory over Belgium, the greatest moment in Welsh football history.

That is what Bale has done throughout his Wales career: produce the moments which provide a nation with a lifetime’s worth of memories.

But his tournament was about more than football.

Bale emerged as the team’s statesman, speaking passionately about Welsh pride and with articulate confidence about his nation’s blossoming on this grand stage.

He will not have the chance to do so again this summer but, when Euro 2020 comes around next year, Bale will be Wales’ great ambassador once more, a national hero.

6th July 2020

Environment MLS season to resume on 8 July with tournament at Florida’s Disney World Resort

Environment MLS season to resume on 8 July with tournament at Florida’s Disney World Resort


environment Inter Miami take on D.C. United in March

The MLS season was suspended in March after just two rounds of fixtures

Major League Soccer will return to action at Florida’s Disney World Resort on 8 July with a month-long tournament.

The MLS season was suspended in March after two rounds of fixtures because of the coronavirus outbreak.

All 26 MLS clubs are set to play in the competition behind closed doors, with points from group-stage games counting towards normal league standings.

The tournament, which ends on 11 August, also offers a qualification spot for the Concacaf Champions League.

Earlier in June the NBA announced it was set to play the rest of the basketball season at the same resort in Orlando.

“The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber.

Garber also said MLS intended to address issues of racial equality following the death of George Floyd, and the Black Lives Matter protests which have since taken place around the world.

“We also recognise that the death of George Floyd and others has focused our country on issues of racial injustice, inequality and violence against black men and women,” he said.

“Together with our owners, players and staff, the league and its clubs are deeply committed to creating meaningful and impactful programmes to address these issues that have plagued our society for far too long.”

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