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Coronavirus: 'I don't regret what I did,' says Dominic Cummings - BBC News
Dominic Cummings, the UK PM’s aide, says he "behaved reasonably" as he explains his actions during lockdown.
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionDominic Cummings: "I believe that in all the circumstances, that I behaved reasonably and legally" The PM's chief adviser Dominic Cummings has said "I don't regret what I did" as he explained his actions during the coronavirus lockdown. He said he did not to tell the prime minister when he decided to drive his family 260 miles during lockdown, when his wife developed Covid-19 symptoms. He told reporters he believed he was acting "reasonably" and within the law. He said he had not considered resigning over the issue - but should have made a statement on it earlier. "I don't think I am so different and that is one rule for me and one rule for other people," he said in a statement in to reporters in the Downing Street garden. He said "I do not regret what I did" but added that "reasonable people may well disagree". The prime minister gave a statement on Sunday in support of his chief adviser in an attempt to draw a line under the row - but many people, including Conservative MPs, have continued to call for Mr Cummings' dismissal. He also revealed that his four-year-old son had been taken to hospital while he was self-isolating at his family's farm, in Durham. He was not surprised that lots of people were angry, he said, but "it was a complicated, tricky situation". He explained that he decided to take his family to Durham when his wife became ill because there were no child care options in London. He insisted they did not stop during the 260 mile journey to Durham but may have stopped on the return to London. He said he isolated in a cottage on his father's farm 50 metres from his parents' home. By BBC political correspondent Jonathan Blake Dominic Cummings has given a detailed account of what he did, when and why. So what have we learned from his side of the story? He described the fact that his London home had become a "target" which led him to fear for the safety of his family. He also admitted not telling the prime minister about his decision to decide to travel to his parent's property in Durham. He explained some of the uncertainties about his movements including what he was doing in Barnard Castle (to test his eyesight for driving) and whether he stopped on the journey from London (he didn't). But on several occasions Mr Cummings described the "exceptional circumstances" of providing care for a small child, which he believed the guidelines allow. He acknowledged that people were angry and "hated the idea of unfairness" - and admitted that he should have made a statement sooner. But this was an explanation for his actions, not an apology. It will be for people to judge whether they accept it as a justification for what many see as acting against the spirit, if not the letter of the rules.
Volkswagen loses landmark German 'dieselgate' case - BBC News
A ruling in a German court could have implications for other VW motorists seeking compensation.
Image copyrightGetty Images Germany's highest civil court has ruled that Volkswagen must pay compensation to a motorist who had bought one of its diesel minivans fitted with emissions-cheating software. The ruling sets a benchmark for about 60,000 other cases in Germany. The plaintiff, Herbert Gilbert, will be partially reimbursed for his vehicle, with depreciation taken into account. VW said it will now offer affected motorists a one-off payment, and the amount will depend on individual cases. The company has already settled a separate 830m (£743m) class action suit involving 235,000 German car owners. It has paid out more than 30bn in fines, compensation and buyback schemes worldwide since the scandal first broke in 2015. VW disclosed at the time that it had used illegal software to manipulate the results of diesel emissions tests. The company said that about 11 million cars were fitted with the "defeat device", which alerted diesel engines when they were being tested. The engine would then change its performance in order to improve the result of the test. Volkswagen has faced a flurry of legal action worldwide, including the UK. About 90,000 motorists in England and Wales have brought action against VW as well as Audi, Seat and Skoda, which are also owned by Volkswagen Group. Last month, their case cleared its first hurdle in the High Court, when a judge ruled that the software installed in the cars was indeed a "defeat device" under EU rules. The carmaker's current and former senior employees are facing criminal charges in Germany.
Nature: Bumblebees' 'clever trick' fools plants into flowering - BBC News
Scientists discover a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early.
Image copyrightHannier Pulido Scientists have discovered a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early. Researchers found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants. The damage done seems to fool the plant into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal. Writing in the journal Science, the scientists say they have struggled to replicate the bees' trick in the laboratory. With their fuzzy appearance and distinctive drone, bumblebees are hard to miss in gardens all over the world. Their dense, hairy bodies make them excellent pollinators for crops like tomatoes and blueberries. They are among the first bees to emerge each year and work a long season. Some colonies remain active through the winter in southern and urban areas of the UK. But despite their key role, bumblebees, like many other pollinators have seen their numbers tumble in recent decades. Image copyrightHannier Pulido One recent study pointed to climate change, reporting that an increasing number of hot days in Europe and North America was boosting local extinction rates. But researchers have now made a discovery about bumblebees that could have relevance to their long-term survival. Scientists in Switzerland found that when the bees were deprived of pollen, they started to nibble on the leaves of plants that hadn't yet flowered. The bees used their proboscises and mandibles (mouthparts) to cut distinctively-shaped holes in the leaves. But the creatures didn't eat the material or use it in their nests. The damaged plants responded by blooming earlier than normal - in some cases up to 30 days ahead of schedule. "I think everything that we've found is consistent with the idea that the bees are damaging the plants and that that's an adaptation that brings flowers online earlier and that benefits the bees," said Dr Mark Mescher, one of the authors from ETH Zurich, told BBC News. When the researchers tried to emulate the damage done to the plants by the bumblebees they weren't able to achieve the same results. The bee-damaged plants flowered 30 days earlier than undamaged plants and 25 days earlier than ones damaged by the scientists. The research team believes there may be something else going on here apart from nibbles. Image copyrightHannier Pulido "We really tried to replicate with the best of our ability," said Prof Consuelo De Moraes, also from ETH Zurich. "It's possible that the bees also have some cue that they are providing to the plants that is specific to the bee." "And that could be secretions that we don't know about but it's something that we plan to investigate." The researchers say the damage has a particular pattern that the scientists have learned to recognise, even in the most unlikely places. "You see these semi-circular sort of incisions, often in the leaf," said Dr Mescher. "One of the students was saying that they were eating a salad the other day, and they saw that kind of damage on the leaf that was probably from a bumblebee." The researchers say that when pollen is available the bees don't damage plants. They've also found this behaviour is in wild bees. Image copyrightHannier Pulido However the team are keeping an open mind on whether the plants might be the ones in the driving seat. It is vital for plants that depend on pollination to have their flowers on display when the pollinators are buzzing around. It could be that some plants have evolved a strategy to push out their flowers when they recognise the bee doing damage to their leaves. Ultimately, though, knowing more about the relationship between bumblebees and flowering might have implications for the resilience of these creatures in the face of a changing environment. "I think it's fascinating how much we still don't know about organisms that we think we know really well," said Prof De Moraes. "It absolutely increases our sense of wonder at the cleverness of nature in all its many forms." Follow Matt on Twitter.
Zuckerberg: Facebook in 'arms race' against electoral interference - bbc.com
Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg tells the BBC it will 'take down' coronavirus misinformation.
Coronavirus: All 50 US states move toward reopening - BBC News
As cases climb, most of the US has now taken steps to loosen guidelines, after more than two months.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Shops have started to reopen in Florida As the country's death toll surpasses 92,000, all 50 US states have partially reopened after a two-month shutdown. On Wednesday, Connecticut became the final state to lift restrictions when it gave the green light to shops and restaurants under certain conditions. But wide discrepancies remain between states in terms of infection rates and the pace of their economic restart. Many have not met the federal guidance on how to reopen, including a 14-day "downward trajectory" of cases. The District of Columbia is expected to announce its reopening next week. Countrywide, the US is seeing an overall downward trend in new cases and deaths over time. Some of the hardest-hit areas, including New York, New Jersey and Washington state are now showing the sharpest declines, while majority of states have reached plateaus. Still, states like Arizona and North Carolina continue to report increases. What are different states doing? Many like Connecticut have started with a state-wide approach, with varying degrees of restrictions. In Maryland, for example, residents must stick to outdoor recreation, including golf courses, beaches and campgrounds, while states like Oklahoma now allow residents to attend religious services, get a tattoo, and even spend an evening at a nightclub. Slower moving states - mostly concentrated in the country's North East and West Coast - have begun regional openings. In California, for example, some restaurants and retail locations will be allowed to open, but only in counties that meet standards for testing and declining infection rates. Media captionTrump says Covid cases are a 'badge of honour' Last week, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser extended the city's social distancing restrictions until at least 8 June. The guidelines may be loosened, however, if DC meets a series of reopening metrics set out by Ms Bowser, including a two-week decline in community spread of the virus. What does the new guidance say? In 60 pages of guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control this past weekend, the centre provides detailed guidance to particular sectors. In schools, for example, desks must be placed six feet apart and face the same direction, with temperature checks for all staff and students. In restaurants, the CDC advises establishments open first with limited seating to allow for social distancing, and place higher-risk workers in roles that limit their interaction with customers. Image copyrightVANO SHLAMOVImage caption Residents in Georgia are now able to get a haircut as part of the state's reopening And states are advised to ensure a decline in reports of "covid-like symptoms", documented cases and positive tests over a 14-day period. But even as confirmed cases in the US pass 1.5 million, not all states are following the guidelines as they forge ahead. Texas, for example, which has begun its reopening in earnest, reported its highest single-day jump in cases on Saturday, with 1,801 new infections. What else is happening in the US? Just one day after employees returned to work at a Ford assembly plant in Chicago, thousands were forced to leave after someone tested positive, according to BBC's US partner, CBS News. In Florida, which has taken aggressive steps to reopen, a developer who created the state's Covid-19 web portal says she was fired for refusing to manipulate data "to drum up support" for loosened restrictions. A spokeswoman for the governor said the employee, Rebekah Jones, was dismissed because she was "disruptive". As of Thursday, Florida had at least 47,471 confirmed cases.
Carlos Ghosn: US ex-Green Beret and son arrested over escape from Japan - BBC News
The former soldier and his son are detained for allegedly helping the ex-Nissan boss flee Japan.
Image copyrightReutersImage caption Carlos Ghosn fled from Japan to Lebanon in December US authorities have arrested a former special forces soldier and his son for allegedly helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan last December. Former Green Beret Michael Taylor, 59, and his son Peter, 26, were detained in Massachusetts on Wednesday. Japanese prosecutors issued warrants for their arrest in January. Mr Ghosn, who was detained in Japan on charges of financial misconduct in 2018, made a dramatic escape from house arrest last year. He denies the charges against him. Despite being monitored 24 hours a day, on 29 December he managed to fly to Beirut, Lebanon, via Turkey. Details of the Taylors' alleged involvement in the escape are unclear. But Japanese prosecutors have said the two were in Japan at the time and helped Mr Ghosn evade security checks as he left. Earlier this month prosecutors in Turkey charged seven people over the escape. The suspects - four pilots, two flight attendants, and an airline executive - are also accused of helping Mr Ghosn flee. Full details of the escape have never been fully explained. Mr Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationalities, ran Renault and Nissan as part of a three-way car alliance. He is accused of misreporting his compensation package, but has insisted he can never get a fair hearing in Japan. Since his arrival in Lebanon, he has told reporters he was a "hostage" in Japan, where he was left with a choice between dying there or running.
Roe v Wade: Woman behind US abortion ruling was paid to recant - BBC News
Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe, says she took money from evangelicals to condemn abortion.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption McCorvey spent the final years of her life campaigning against abortion access The woman behind the 1973 ruling legalising abortion in the US is seen admitting in a new documentary that her stunning change of heart on the issue in later life was "all an act". Norma McCorvey, known as Jane Roe in the US Supreme Court's decision on Roe v Wade, shocked the country in 1995 when she came out against abortion. But in new footage, McCorvey alleges she was paid to switch sides. The documentary, AKA Jane Roe, airs this Friday on the US channel FX. The programme was filmed in the last months of McCorvey's life before her death at age 69 in 2017 in Texas. In her "deathbed confession", as she calls it, a visibly ailing McCorvey says she only became an anti-abortion activist because she was paid by evangelical groups. "I was the big fish," she says. "I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they'd put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. "That's what I'd say. It was all an act. I did it well too. I am a good actress. Of course, I'm not acting now." She added: "If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that's no skin off my ass. That's why they call it choice." Media captionThe abortion battle explained in three minutes AKA Jane Roe chronicles McCorvey's troubled, impoverished youth as a sexual abuse survivor and her longstanding relationship with girlfriend Connie Gonzalez. After her mid-1990s conversion to become a born-again Christian, McCorvey disavowed Gonzalez, even as they continued to live together. The documentary touches upon another irony of McCorvey's life - that she herself never had an abortion. Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption McCorvey (right, pictured in 1989) was an abortion advocate before she became an anti-abortion campaigner She was pregnant with her third child in 1970 when she was referred to two lawyers who wanted to challenge laws in Texas banning abortions except where the mother's life was at risk. The case went all the way to the highest court in the land and ultimately changed America. The Reverend Robert Schenck, one of the evangelical pastors who worked with McCorvey after her conversion to Christianity in the mid-1990s, also features in the documentary. The minister acknowledges McCorvey was paid for her appearances on the movement's behalf. The programme says it was as much as half a million dollars. "I knew what we were doing," Mr Schenck says. "And there were times when I was sure she knew. "And I wondered: 'Is she playing us?' What I didn't have the guts to say was: 'Because I know damn well we're playing her.'" In a highly self-critical blog post on Tuesday, Mr Schenck said the documentary had made him cry and he hoped that people would watch it.
Amphan: Why Bay of Bengal is the world's hotbed of tropical cyclones - BBC News
Twenty-six of the 35 deadliest tropical cyclones recorded in history have occurred here.
Image copyrightGetty Images The Bay of Bengal, notes historian Sunil Amrith, is an "expanse of tropical water: still and blue in the calm of January winter, or raging and turbid at the peak of the summer rains". The largest bay in the world - 500 million people live on the coastal rim that surrounds it - is also the site of the majority of the deadliest tropical cyclones in world history. According to a list maintained by Weather Underground, 26 of the 35 deadliest tropical cyclones in recorded have occurred here. Cyclone Amphan is the latest, expected to make landfall in coastal areas of India and Bangladesh on Wednesday afternoon. India meteorological officials say it will be an "extremely intense cyclone" when it hits the coast of the bay, with wind speeds up to 195km/h (121mph) and storm surges as tall as a two-storey building. What makes the Bay of Bengal so deadly? The worst places for storm surges, say meteorologists, tend to be shallow, concave bays where water, pushed by the strong winds of a tropical cyclone, gets concentrated or funnelled as the storm moves up the bay. The Bay of Bengal is a "textbook example of this type of geography", Bob Henson, meteorologist and writer with Weather Underground, told me. What makes matters worse are high sea surface temperatures in the Bay of Bengal, which can trigger extremely strong cyclones. "It is a very warm sea," says D Mohapatra, head of India's meteorological department. Image copyrightEPAImage caption Cyclone Fani made landfall in eastern India in May 2019 There are other coastlines around the world which are vulnerable to surging storms - the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, for example - but the "north coast of the Bay of Bengal is more prone to catastrophic surges than anywhere on Earth", says Mr Henson. The highly populous coastline also exacerbates the threat: one in four people in the world live in a country that borders the bay. Why is there rising concern over Amphan? For one, it has been designated as a super cyclone where wind speeds cross 220kmph (137mph). Cyclones are "multi-hazard" occurrences: strong winds cause physical damage; and tidal waves and heavy rains cause flooding. This time round there is the coronavirus pandemic to contend with too - social distancing protocols to curb the spread of infection mean more shelters are needed, and thousands of migrant workers displaced by lockdown restrictions in India are on the move, many heading by foot to coastal villages. Only a handful of storms in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal - about one every 10 years - achieve the level of super cyclone. In November 1970, Cyclone Bhola, the deadliest storm in world history, occurred in the Bay of Bengal and killed an estimated half a million people. It brought a storm surge estimated at 10.4m (34 feet) to the coast. Dr Amrith, who teaches at Harvard University, says the frequency of intense cyclones has risen in the Bay of Bengal in recent decades. At least 140,000 people died and two million people were displaced when Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy Delta in Burma (Myanmar) in May 2008. "It seemed as if a bucket of water had been sloshed across an ink drawing; the carefully marked lines [of the delta's waterways] had been erased and the paper beneath was buckled and distorted," one journalist wrote about the calamity. The last super cyclone to hit India occurred in 1999 and caused nearly 10,000 deaths in Orissa (Odisha) state. I remember rotting corpses in ditches and smoke from funeral grounds clouding the skies as I travelled through some of the worst affected areas. That was when I first realised the untrammelled fury of a super cyclone in the Bay of Bengal.
Coronavirus: Is Putin rushing Russia out of lockdown? - BBC News
The Russian president has declared a six-week lockdown over but the infection rate is still very high.
Coronavirus: Fauci to warn Senate of 'needless suffering and death' - BBC News
The US's top infectious diseases doctor will warn senators of the risks of re-opening too soon.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Anthony Fauci (right) is due to testify to a Senate committee later on Tuesday The US's top infectious diseases doctor is to tell senators that the country will suffer "needless suffering and death" if it opens up too soon. In an email to the New York Times, Dr Anthony Fauci set out the arguments he intends to make at Tuesday's hearing. "If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to Open America Again, then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks," he told the newspaper. More than 80,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the US. Re-opening the country prematurely "will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal" said the doctor, who is a key member of the White House coronavirus task force. In his comments to the New York Times, Dr Fauci was referring to the White House's Opening Up America Again plan, which includes three 14-day phases that states should consider implementing as they allow schools and businesses to re-open. Media captionThe lost six weeks when the US failed to control the virus Some US states are beginning to lift lockdown orders. Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and South Carolina have already allowed some businesses to reopen and have issued plans that call for more rules to be relaxed. Tuesday's hearing will be Dr Fauci's first appearance before lawmakers since President Donald Trump declared a state of national emergency in March. The senior health adviser - who has become the public face of the fight against the virus in the US - was blocked from testifying to a congressional committee examining the Trump administration's response to the pandemic on May 6. The United States alone has more than 1.3 million confirmed cases according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker - almost six times as many as any other country. The number of coronavirus-related deaths has now surpassed 80,000. President Trump claimed that the US had "prevailed" in testing people for coronavirus infections in a news conference on Monday. But as of this week, the US has tested only 2.75% of its 330m population, and no state has tested 10% of residents. In a separate development, White House staff have been ordered to wear masks when entering the West Wing after two aides tested positive for coronavirus. Mr Trump said he did not need to follow the directive as he kept "far away from everyone".