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Un automobiliste met en place une tournée officielle emmenant les touristes dans les plus gros nids-de-poule qui affligent ses routes locales

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Un automobiliste en a tellement marre des nids-de-poule dans sa région qu’il a mis en place une tournée officielle emmenant les touristes autour des plus grands cratères de ses routes locales – avec un pique-nique.

Steve Bell, 55 ans, facture 80 £ aux habitants pour la visite des nids-de-poule autour de Bromley, au sud-est de Londres, y compris un favori personnel qu’il a nommé “la Grande Ourse”.

Le père de deux enfants a eu l’idée après avoir constamment dû “esquiver et contourner les nids-de-poule” dans son véhicule, qu’il utilise beaucoup pour sa famille en tant que soignant à plein temps.

M. Bell a déclaré qu’il donnerait aux habitants et aux touristes des informations privilégiées sur l’état des routes de l’arrondissement, emportant même une règle avec lui pour mesurer leur profondeur.

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Steve Bell, 55 ans, propose d'emmener les gens visiter les nids-de-poule à Bromley, dans le sud de Londres, pour 80 £ plus le déjeuner

Steve Bell, 55 ans, propose d'emmener les gens visiter les nids-de-poule à Bromley, dans le sud de Londres, pour 80 £ plus le déjeuner

Steve Bell, 55 ans, propose d’emmener les gens visiter les nids-de-poule à Bromley, dans le sud de Londres, pour 80 £ plus le déjeuner

Le père de deux enfants a eu l'idée ingénieuse de mettre en place des `` visites guidées de Bromley Potholes '' pour donner aux habitants et aux touristes des informations privilégiées sur l'état des routes de l'arrondissement.

Le père de deux enfants a eu l'idée ingénieuse de mettre en place des `` visites guidées de Bromley Potholes '' pour donner aux habitants et aux touristes des informations privilégiées sur l'état des routes de l'arrondissement.

Le père de deux enfants a eu l’idée ingénieuse de mettre en place des “ visites guidées de Bromley Potholes ” pour donner aux habitants et aux touristes des informations privilégiées sur l’état des routes de l’arrondissement.

Cela survient alors que le conseil de Bromley a admis qu’il avait du mal à suivre le nombre de réparations nécessaires, avec 70 par jour actuellement en cours.

La visite présentera la pièce de résistance de Bromley – un énorme cratère sur une route non goudronnée qui est si large qu’il peut accueillir trois voitures et est rempli d’eau en permanence.

D’autres trous incluent son préféré, surnommé la Grande Ourse, qui se trouve près de sa propre maison.

Un nombre croissant d’énormes cratères sont apparus à Birtain ces derniers mois, les habitants inventant des surnoms similaires.

Un nid-de-poule dans un village du Lincolnshire, qui mesure 26 pieds de large et 50 pieds de long, a été surnommé «le lac» par des villageois frustrés par sa taille croissante.

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Un nombre croissant d’énormes cratères sont apparus à Birtain ces derniers mois, les habitants leur donnant des surnoms.

Un nid-de-poule dans un village du Lincolnshire, qui mesure 26 pieds de large et 50 pieds de long, a été surnommé «le lac» par des villageois frustrés par sa taille croissante.

‘Tenez-vous bien pendant que nous découvrons la ‘Grande Ourse’ quelque part sur la Westmoreland Road.

“À la fin de la visite, vous êtes assuré de réfléchir avec perplexité et de vous exclamer” où va notre taxe d’habitation ?

“Si votre suspension et vos jantes survivent sans dommage, vous recevrez un certificat unique pour commémorer l’occasion.”

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Il a ajouté une photo de la “Grande Ourse” près de chez lui, en la sous-titrant “Ci-dessous – la majestueuse” Grande Ourse “vue au coucher du soleil”.

«C’est vraiment dangereux et il y a plus de risque d’accident.

«J’ai vu des gens ralentir pour ces nids-de-poule et leurs voitures y disparaissent.

“C’est mauvais alors j’ai pensé organiser une tournée officielle.”

Une publication Facebook officielle lançant l'entreprise de visites guidées, présentant son nid-de-poule préféré, surnommé la Grande Ourse, qui se trouve près de sa propre maison

Une publication Facebook officielle lançant l'entreprise de visites guidées, présentant son nid-de-poule préféré, surnommé la Grande Ourse, qui se trouve près de sa propre maison

Une publication Facebook officielle lançant l’entreprise de visites guidées, présentant son nid-de-poule préféré, surnommé la Grande Ourse, qui se trouve près de sa propre maison

M. Bell prend même une règle avec lui pour mesurer la profondeur des nids de poule

M. Bell prend même une règle avec lui pour mesurer la profondeur des nids de poule

M. Bell prend même une règle avec lui pour mesurer la profondeur des nids de poule

Le père de deux enfants avec un nid-de-poule de sept pouces sur Westmoreland Road

Le père de deux enfants avec un nid-de-poule de sept pouces sur Westmoreland Road

Le père de deux enfants avec un nid-de-poule de sept pouces sur Westmoreland Road

M. Bell avec un énorme cratère sur Downs Bridge Road

M. Bell avec un énorme cratère sur Downs Bridge Road

M. Bell avec un énorme cratère sur Downs Bridge Road

M. Bell, qui est un soignant à temps plein, a déclaré qu'il utilisait beaucoup son véhicule pour sa famille et qu'il

M. Bell, qui est un soignant à temps plein, a déclaré qu'il utilisait beaucoup son véhicule pour sa famille et qu'il

M. Bell, qui est un soignant à temps plein, a déclaré qu’il utilisait beaucoup son véhicule pour sa famille et qu’il “devait constamment esquiver et contourner les nids-de-poule”.

Un résident s’est récemment cassé la cheville après avoir dérapé sur des cailloux projetés par l’un des nids-de-poule de Bromley.

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Ailleurs, une rue résidentielle du Dorset est considérée comme la pire route de Grande-Bretagne pour les nids-de-poule, car elle comporte 21 cratères routiers sur un seul tronçon de 220 mètres.

La conseillère Alison Stammers a déclaré que Bromley était “assaillie” par de nombreux nids-de-poule, ajoutant: “Je comprends que de tels débris ont récemment contribué à la fracture d’une cheville par un résident environ deux semaines après le signalement des débris.”

Elle a demandé au conseiller conservateur Nicholas Bennett, titulaire du portefeuille des transports, ce que le conseil ferait pour combler les nids-de-poule et nettoyer les débris plus régulièrement dans l’arrondissement.

Dans sa réponse, M. Bennett s’est excusé pour l’état des routes dans l’arrondissement et a déclaré que les intempéries hivernales étaient à l’origine du problème, l’entrepreneur du conseil travaillant aussi dur que possible sur un arriéré de réparations.

Il a ajouté: “Nous avons 13 équipes dédiées à la réparation des nids-de-poule et environ 70 ou plus sont traitées chaque jour et celles-ci sont traitées de manière systématique, les nids-de-poule les plus graves étant traités en premier.”

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“J’ai convenu que les équipes devraient continuer tout au long des mois d’été.”

Les gens ont trouvé l’idée de tournée de Steve hilarante.

L’un d’eux a déclaré: “J’ai l’impression de connaître si bien les nids-de-poule maintenant”, tandis qu’un autre a ajouté: “J’appelle les nids-de-poule les prés concrets de l’âme.”

Un autre a demandé: “Combien coûte la tournée?” Mieux vaut les connaître à l’avance que deviner en conduisant.

Une personne a demandé si le conseil avait “investi dans Kwik Fit?” et a ajouté: “Cela aurait du sens!”.

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Mr Hill mesurant un nid-de-poule sur Highland Road

Mr Hill mesurant un nid-de-poule sur Highland Road

Mr Hill mesurant un nid-de-poule sur Highland Road

Mr Hill avec un nid-de-poule fixe sur Station Road

Mr Hill avec un nid-de-poule fixe sur Station Road

Mr Hill avec un nid-de-poule fixe sur Station Road

M. Hill avec des nids de poule sur Westmoreland Road qui doivent être réparés par Bromley Council

M. Hill avec des nids de poule sur Westmoreland Road qui doivent être réparés par Bromley Council

M. Hill avec des nids de poule sur Westmoreland Road qui doivent être réparés par Bromley Council

Le conseil a admis qu'il avait du mal à suivre le nombre de réparations nécessaires, 70 par jour étant actuellement en cours.

Le conseil a admis qu'il avait du mal à suivre le nombre de réparations nécessaires, 70 par jour étant actuellement en cours.

Le conseil a admis qu’il avait du mal à suivre le nombre de réparations nécessaires, 70 par jour étant actuellement en cours.

Mr Hill avec de nombreux nids de poule sur Beckenham Lane

Mr Hill avec de nombreux nids de poule sur Beckenham Lane

Mr Hill avec de nombreux nids de poule sur Beckenham Lane

Un autre a dit: ‘Puis-je obtenir le certificat pour celui de Highland Road? Je l’ai revu il y a quelques semaines dans la nuit.

«Il était moins profond que le cratère qui s’y trouve maintenant, mais mon cœur a encore raté un battement. Je pense qu’ils essaient de faire un raccourci vers l’Australie à ce stade.

Un utilisateur a ajouté: “C’est un cauchemar!” J’ai l’impression que le sol va s’ouvrir et nous engloutir !

Une autre personne a déclaré: «Il y a un parcours du combattant à mi-hauteur de la colline sur Westmoreland Rd. Esquivez-vous à gauche ? Esquivez à droite et remuez simplement le volant et espérez le meilleur!

Un autre a ajouté: “Je pense que la stratégie est que si vous les laissez assez longtemps, la route n’aura pas besoin d’être refaite car ce ne sera qu’un nid-de-poule géant” auquel un autre a répondu: “On dirait qu’il se dirige dans cette direction, c’est comme si le conseil attendait pour que les nids de poule se rejoignent.

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International

Eagles post emotional seven-minute tribute to Jason Kelce including behind the scenes footage, tear-jerking speeches and best moments of his career: ‘You are exactly what an athlete should be in Philadelphia’

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The Philadelphia Eagles have shared an emotional video paying tribute to Jason Kelce after he announced his retirement from football.

An emotional Kelce broke down in tears at a press conference on Monday as he hung up his cleats after a sensational 13 years in the NFL.

With his brother Travis, wife Kylie and parents Ed and Donna watching on, Kelce took 45 minutes to recall his career and thank those who had helped him reach football’s summit.

The center was drafted by Andy Reid and the Eagles in 2011 and spent his entire career in Philadelphia, winning the Super Bowl with them in 2018.

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After his announcement on Monday, the franchise posted a moving video – that is almost seven minutes in length – on social media to honor his legendary career.

The Philadelphia Eagles have posted an emotional tribute to Jason Kelce after his retirement

The Philadelphia Eagles have posted an emotional tribute to Jason Kelce after his retirement

The Philadelphia Eagles have posted an emotional tribute to Jason Kelce after his retirement

It includes footage of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie hailing Kelce's personality and leadership

It includes footage of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie hailing Kelce's personality and leadership

It includes footage of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie hailing Kelce’s personality and leadership

There is a clip of Kelce's famous parade speech dressed as one of Philadelphia's Mummers

There is a clip of Kelce's famous parade speech dressed as one of Philadelphia's Mummers

There is a clip of Kelce’s famous parade speech dressed as one of Philadelphia’s Mummers

He also broke down in tears when being interviewed after the Eagles on the Super Bowl

He also broke down in tears when being interviewed after the Eagles on the Super Bowl

He also broke down in tears when being interviewed after the Eagles on the Super Bowl

It includes sideline footage of Andy Reid, who drafted Kelce, talking to the center in one game

It includes sideline footage of Andy Reid, who drafted Kelce, talking to the center in one game

It includes sideline footage of Andy Reid, who drafted Kelce, talking to the center in one game

There are plenty of clips of Kelce delivering motivational speeches to his Eagles teammates

There are plenty of clips of Kelce delivering motivational speeches to his Eagles teammates

There are plenty of clips of Kelce delivering motivational speeches to his Eagles teammates

It begins with footage of Kelce’s final snap in the NFL – in their wild card round defeat by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the playoffs before cutting to his first after being drafted in 2011.

The tribute features plenty of motivational lines from Kelce from his famous team speeches throughout his career.

There is footage of arguably the greatest day in Kelce’s career: the Eagles’ Super Bowl win. 

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It includes the iconic ‘Philly Special’ play that allowed Nick Foles to score a touchdown and then cuts to Kelce’s famous parade speech dressed as one of Philadelphia’s Mummers. 

Footage of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie paying tribute to Kelce is also in there. In it he says: ‘This guy Jason represents everything that’s great about the Philadelphia Eagles.

‘He’s an unbelievable leader, teammate, proven winner, fan favorite but also like no other athlete we’ve had or rarely seen in the city: someone who really captures the essence of what it’s like to be a Philadelphian.

‘Everyone at the Eagles not only loves you but to me you are exactly what an athlete should be in Philadelphia.’

The clip also features Eagles owner Lurie hailing Kelce for his charitable work off the field

The clip also features Eagles owner Lurie hailing Kelce for his charitable work off the field

The clip also features Eagles owner Lurie hailing Kelce for his charitable work off the field

He can be seen kissing wife Kylie on the field after one game and telling her: 'I love you'

He can be seen kissing wife Kylie on the field after one game and telling her: 'I love you'

He can be seen kissing wife Kylie on the field after one game and telling her: ‘I love you’

Brother Travis plants a kiss on Jason's face after one of their many battles during their careers

Brother Travis plants a kiss on Jason's face after one of their many battles during their careers

Brother Travis plants a kiss on Jason’s face after one of their many battles during their careers

Kelce hugs one of his daughters as he records his hit New Heights podcast with brother Travis

Kelce hugs one of his daughters as he records his hit New Heights podcast with brother Travis

Kelce hugs one of his daughters as he records his hit New Heights podcast with brother Travis

It also praises Kelce’s work off the field and his charitable work around the city of Philadelphia, particularly with the Eagles Autism Foundation.   

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There is more footage of Kelce talking about the coaches he has played for before it cuts to more of his inspirational speeches from before games and during games.

It then shows Kelce as a husband, father and brother. He’s seen kissing wife Kylie, playing with his young daughters and then embracing Travis on the field after one of their games.

The moving video ends with Kelce saying: ‘I didn’t look back then and be like “I’m going to play this long” but I think perseverance is something that you have to have and then outside of that I’ve just been lucky and fortunate to play good enough and stay healthy enough to play for a long time.’

Kelce burst into tears before he even started speaking and then finally ended months of speculation as he ended his career on Monday after 13 years in the NFL.

He needed 45 minutes to recount his career from his childhood in Ohio to his final days with the Eagles through tears, laughter and many thanks to his biggest influences before he finally announced he was retiring.

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‘I have been the underdog my entire career,’ he said. ‘And I mean this when I say it, I still wish I was.’

Kelce announced his retirement from football in an emotional press conference on Monday

Kelce announced his retirement from football in an emotional press conference on Monday

Kelce announced his retirement from football in an emotional press conference on Monday

Kelce had to pause his speech for deep breaths as he struggled to control his emotions

Kelce had to pause his speech for deep breaths as he struggled to control his emotions

Kelce had to pause his speech for deep breaths as he struggled to control his emotions

Travis was brought to tears as he watched his brother speak, sat alongside their parents

An emotional Kelce struggled to get his words out – regularly pausing for long periods and his voice breaking as he tried to hold back the tears.

Speculation first emerged that Kelce would hang up his cleats when the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January. 

However, he refused to announce a definitive decision on his future in the weeks that followed, instead supporting brother Travis throughout the postseason as the Kansas City Chiefs eventually won the Super Bowl.

Kelce came close to retiring this time last year but decided to stay on for another season after struggling to walk away – a process that was captured on film in his hit Amazon Prime documentary.

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Kelce ended his career by making 156 straight starts, and he earned six All-Pro Team selections. He played 193 regular-season games for the Eagles.

‘It has always been a goal of mine to play my whole career in one city,’ Kelce said. ‘I couldn’t have dreamt a better one if I tried.’

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EU Parliament and Council agree to ban products made with forced labour

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The European Union Council and the European Parliament on Tuesday reached a provisional agreement to ban the entry of products made with forced labour into the European single market. 

Issued on:

1 min

The agreement clarifies the different responsibilities the EU Commission and the member states have in identifying the companies exploiting forced workers and banning their products.

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The deal intends to break these companies’ business model, Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Belgium’s Economy and Labour Minister said in a statement.

“With this regulation we want to make sure that there is no place for their products on our single market, whether they are manufactured in Europe or abroad,” he said. Belgium currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

The bans would be enforced on goods made outside the EU by forced labour and on products manufactured in the EU with parts made abroad by forced labour.

The provisional agreement still needs to be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council to be enforced.

(Reuters) 

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Get ready for an autumn election: Trade minister Greg Hands says there is ‘not a sniff’ of a chance Rishi Sunak calling a vote in the spring

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A senior minister appeared to dash any remaining chance of a spring general election today as he said there was not a ‘sniff’ of it happening.

Greg Hands gave a blunt assessment of the chances of a vote within the next three months in an interview this morning.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed there will be a vote this year and has dropped several hints that it is likely to be in the autumn. But he has so far not totally blocked off the route to going ‘early’.

Labour says it is planning for a spring election and some commentators have claimed he could call a general election to coincide with the local and mayoral elections on May 2.

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However, Mr Hands was asked on Times Radio this morning whether there was ‘any sniff of actually there being a general election in May’.

He simply replied: ‘No’. 

Greg Hands gave a blunt assessment of the chances of a vote within the next three months in an interview with morning.

Greg Hands gave a blunt assessment of the chances of a vote within the next three months in an interview with morning.

Greg Hands gave a blunt assessment of the chances of a vote within the next three months in an interview with morning.

It comes as Mr Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt put the finishing touches to a Budget to be unveiled tomorrow that they hope will rejuvenate Tory election hopes.

It comes as Mr Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt put the finishing touches to a Budget to be unveiled tomorrow that they hope will rejuvenate Tory election hopes.

It comes as Mr Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt put the finishing touches to a Budget to be unveiled tomorrow that they hope will rejuvenate Tory election hopes.

The latest Ipsos poll for the Standard found the Tories were on 20 per cent support - down from 27 per cent last month, and lower than at any point since 1978

The latest Ipsos poll for the Standard found the Tories were on 20 per cent support - down from 27 per cent last month, and lower than at any point since 1978

The latest Ipsos poll for the Standard found the Tories were on 20 per cent support – down from 27 per cent last month, and lower than at any point since 1978

However, Labour continues to insist the PM will go to the polls in May. Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News today: ‘It is definitely coming in May, the Conservatives are planning for May. My challenge to Rishi Sunak today is name that date, because businesses investing in our economy need certainty. Name the date, Rishi Sunak.’

It comes as Mr Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt put the finishing touches to a Budget to be unveiled tomorrow that they hope will rejuvenate Tory election hopes. 

Whitehall sources told the Mail that the Chancellor will protect motorists in tomorrow’s Budget in a bid to show the Government is on the side of ordinary motorists.

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In a £5billion package for drivers, fuel duty will be frozen for the 14th consecutive year and a ‘temporary’ 5p cut in the rate will be extended for another year.

Last night Mr Hunt and Rishi Sunak were still working to agree the details of a Budget which was derailed last week when the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) ruled that the Chancellor’s tax-cutting proposals were ‘unaffordable’.

He is expected to confirm a 2p cut in personal taxes to demonstrate that the Conservatives are serious about reducing a tax burden that has risen to a peacetime record in the wake of the pandemic and energy crisis.

Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Hands denied public services have suffered under the Conservative Government.

The trade minister said: ‘I think we are seeing economic better times coming up and I think the Budget will reflect that.’

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On being told that the UK fell into a recession at the end of last year, Mr Hands said: ‘Right, but look at the recovery we’re making this year and the projection going forward.’

When it was put to him that many people would say public services have suffered under his Government, the minister said: ‘Well, I disagree. And I think the evidence, actually, is there. We have record numbers of police officers, we pledged in 2019 to recruit an extra 20,000… on nurses – we have a record number of nurses.

‘Obviously there are vacancies, we want to fill those, but look at what we have delivered so far.’

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Northern Lights light up skies across the UK for the second night in a row – and the Met Office says they could be visible again tonight

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Skygazers had yet another chance to tick off one of the greatest natural sights from their bucket list last night – the Northern Lights.

For the second night running, the spectacular light display was visible in the UK after dusk. 

Viewers have been posting their photos to X (formerly Twitter), including one based in Moffat in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, who called the display ‘stunning’. 

Another viewer on west coast of Lewis in the Scottish Highlands posted: ‘It happened again!’ with the aurora shining purple and green. 

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If you missed the stunning display, there’s good news as the Met Office says there’s a chance the Northern Lights will be visible again tonight.  

This photo was posted to X by user @moffat_wigwams showing the aurora as seen from Moffat in Dumfriesshire, Scotland

This photo was posted to X by user @moffat_wigwams showing the aurora as seen from Moffat in Dumfriesshire, Scotland

This photo was posted to X by user @moffat_wigwams showing the aurora as seen from Moffat in Dumfriesshire, Scotland

The Northern Lights: A stunning natural light display  

The Northern and Southern Lights (auroras) are natural light spectacles.

The displays light up when electrically charged particles from the sun enter Earth’s atmosphere. 

Usually the particles are deflected by Earth’s magnetic field, but during stronger storms they enter the atmosphere and collide with gas particles such as hydrogen and helium.

These collisions emit light in many amazing colours, although pale green and pink are common. 

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An aurora is created by disturbances in Earth’s magnetosphere due to a flow of particles from the sun and is usually centred around the Earth’s magnetic poles. 

The charged particles are expelled from the sun at top speeds before interacting with Earth’s magnetic field.

The colour display depends in part on what molecules the charged particles interact with.

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Red and green colours tend to be hallmarks of oxygen, pink and red the signs of nitrogen with blue and purple being the results of hydrogen and helium.

According to the Met Office, this week’s aurora stems from a coronal mass ejection (CME) – a massive expulsion of plasma from the sun’s corona, its outermost layer. 

It’s possible the display could be visible yet again tonight due to the violent expulsion event although the further north you are the better. 

A Met Office animation shows the auroral oval around the northern hemisphere, which marks where exactly the best chance of seeing the light display is until Friday.

‘A coronal mass ejection (CME) has a chance to affect Earth on Thursday 7th March,’ the Met Office says in a new statement. 

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‘There is a chance that aurora could become visible from Scotland and similar geomagnetic latitudes. 

‘Similar enhancements to the auroral oval are slightly more likely to occur on Friday night.’ 

Pictured, the auroral oval around the northern hemisphere, which marks where exactly the best chance of seeing the light display is

Pictured, the auroral oval around the northern hemisphere, which marks where exactly the best chance of seeing the light display is

Pictured, the auroral oval around the northern hemisphere, which marks where exactly the best chance of seeing the light display is

Twitter user @KmunityOfEquals shared this photo of the aurora from Cornwall on Sunday night

Twitter user @KmunityOfEquals shared this photo of the aurora from Cornwall on Sunday night

Twitter user @KmunityOfEquals shared this photo of the aurora from Cornwall on Sunday night

A F-35B Lightning jet is parked at a flight deck of HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy, under the northern lights near the coast of Norway, Sunday, March 3, 2024

A F-35B Lightning jet is parked at a flight deck of HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy, under the northern lights near the coast of Norway, Sunday, March 3, 2024

A F-35B Lightning jet is parked at a flight deck of HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy, under the northern lights near the coast of Norway, Sunday, March 3, 2024

Members of the public have already shared photos from Sunday night when the Northern Lights was visible in Wiltshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and even Cornwall. 

According to the Met Office, people with a decent camera should be able to capture decent shots of the aurora further south even when it’s not visible with the naked eye.

‘Cameras help as the long exposure allows loads of light in and enhances the colours more than the human eye can see,’ a spokesperson said. 

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‘That is why you see pictures as far south as Cornwall sometimes though you’re unlikely to ever be able to see it with the naked eye that far south.’

The Northern Lights have fascinated scientists and skygazers for centuries, but the science behind it has not always been well understood.

Earth has an invisible forcefield, the magnetosphere, that protects us from dangerous charged particles from the Sun, controlled by the magnetic field.

Expert Marty Jopson explains: ‘Whilst it shelters us, it also creates one of the most impressive phenomena on Earth – the Northern Lights.’

Stonehenge in Wiltshire with the Northern Lights on Sunday March 3, the first big show of the aurora of 2024 in the UK

Stonehenge in Wiltshire with the Northern Lights on Sunday March 3, the first big show of the aurora of 2024 in the UK

Stonehenge in Wiltshire with the Northern Lights on Sunday March 3, the first big show of the aurora of 2024 in the UK

The Northern Lights is most commonly seen over places closer to the Arctic Circle such as Scandinavia and Alaska , so any sighting over the UK is a treat for skygazers. Pictured, Naworth Castle in Cumbria, March 3, 2024

The Northern Lights is most commonly seen over places closer to the Arctic Circle such as Scandinavia and Alaska , so any sighting over the UK is a treat for skygazers. Pictured, Naworth Castle in Cumbria, March 3, 2024

The Northern Lights is most commonly seen over places closer to the Arctic Circle such as Scandinavia and Alaska , so any sighting over the UK is a treat for skygazers. Pictured, Naworth Castle in Cumbria, March 3, 2024

This one of the aurora on Sunday night over the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland was posted to Twitter by John O'Neill

This one of the aurora on Sunday night over the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland was posted to Twitter by John O'Neill

This one of the aurora on Sunday night over the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland was posted to Twitter by John O’Neill 

Stunning: The aurora borealis at Rhossili Bay, Gower, Wales, taken on Sunday March 3, 2024

Stunning: The aurora borealis at Rhossili Bay, Gower, Wales, taken on Sunday March 3, 2024

Stunning: The aurora borealis at Rhossili Bay, Gower, Wales, taken on Sunday March 3, 2024

‘When the deadly solar winds meet Earth’s magnetosphere, some of the charged particles get trapped, and are propelled down the Earth’s magnetic field lines straight towards the poles.

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‘And when they reach Earth, they strike atoms and molecules in our atmosphere, releasing energy in the form of light.’

The problem is disruption to our magnetic field creates solar storms that can affect satellites in orbit, navigation systems, terrestrial power grids and data and communication networks.

‘Harmful space weather has affected Earth before, but as we become increasingly reliant on systems and technologies vulnerable to the Sun’s outbursts, future solar impacts could be even more disruptive,’ says the European Space Agency (ESA).

WHAT ARE AURORAS AND WHAT TRIGGERS THE STUNNING NATURAL DISPLAYS?

The Northern and Southern Lights are natural light spectacles triggered in our atmosphere that are also known as the ‘Auroras’.

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There are two types of Aurora – Aurora Borealis, which means ‘dawn of the north’, and Aurora Australis, ‘dawn of the south.’

The displays light up when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere. 

There are two types of Aurora - Aurora Borealis (file photo), which means 'dawn of the north', and Aurora Australis, 'dawn of the south.' The displays light up when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere

There are two types of Aurora - Aurora Borealis (file photo), which means 'dawn of the north', and Aurora Australis, 'dawn of the south.' The displays light up when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere

There are two types of Aurora – Aurora Borealis (file photo), which means ‘dawn of the north’, and Aurora Australis, ‘dawn of the south.’ The displays light up when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere

Usually the particles, sometimes referred to as a solar storm, are deflected by Earth’s magnetic field.

But during stronger storms they enter the atmosphere and collide with gas particles, including hydrogen and helium.

These collisions emit light. Auroral displays appear in many colours although pale green and pink are common.

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BUSINESS LIVE: Greggs eyes further growth; US rival to buy Spirent; IWG profits soar

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The FTSE 100 is down 0.4 per cent in early trading. Among the companies with reports and trading updates today are Greggs, Spirent Communications, IWG, Foxtons and Travis Perkins. Read the 5 March February Business Live blog below.

> If you are using our app or a third-party site click here to read Business Live 

Petrol prices record biggest jump in five months

The average price of petrol jumped by 4p a litre in February while diesel shot up by nearly 5p, making for the biggest monthly rise in five months, the RAC says.

A combination of oil rising above $80 dollars and the pound being worth just $1.26 (with oil traded in dollars) pushed wholesale costs higher for UK fuel retailers – costs that have been quickly passed to drivers with higher pump prices.

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Spirent Communications agrees £1bn takeover by US-based Viavi

Spirent Communications shares skyrocketed on Tuesday after the FTSE 250 firm agreed to be bought by US-based communications equipment firm Viavi Solutions.

The takeover will be worth £1billion for the UK telecom testing business with Spirent shareholders receiving 175p per share, reflecting a 61.4 per cent premium to the firm’s closing share price on Monday.

Greggs on course to double sales by 2026 as revenues soar to £1.8bn

Greggs has said it is on track to double turnover under an ongoing five-year strategy after achieving its strongest-ever performance in 2023.

The bakery chain, famous for its sausage rolls, reported total revenue rose by almost £300million to £1.8billion last year, with like-for-like sales in company-managed sites increasing by 13.7 per cent.

From Paris to Milan, our rivals are cashing in as the UK flounders

Hot on the heels of London Fashion Week, our rivals in Paris are wrapping up their own designer showcase.

The battle between iconic British and French fashion brands has a long history.

M&S leads calls to scrap the tourist tax at this week’s budget

Business leaders are making a last-ditch bid to persuade Jeremy Hunt to scrap the tourist tax in his Budget this week.

As the Chancellor puts the finishing touches to tomorrow’s statement, the boss of Marks & Spencer joined a leading London jeweller and an executive at the O2 music arena to call for VAT-free shopping for foreign visitors to be restored.

Scrap tourist tax to boost retail and hospitality, says ALEX BRUMMER

By now we should all have had our fill of possible tax changes to be outlined in tomorrow’s Spring Budget.

The Tories find themselves in a last chance saloon and the main economic escape route is tax giveaways.

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Greggs ups spending on growth plans

Mamta Valechha, equity research analyst at Quilter Cheviot:

‘Greggs reported strong profit numbers this morning, with profit before tax up 13% for the year, just slightly ahead of consensus. This follows its Q4 update provided in January where Q4 like for like sales also came in ahead of consensus at 9.4%.

‘This growth has been supported by market share gains from key strategic drivers including store openings, improved app participation, more stores opening into the evening, and delivery which is benefitting from the group’s partnerships with Uber Eats and Just Eat. With the balance sheet having been rapidly rebuilt, Greggs also announced a 40p special dividend today.

‘Greggs has had a strong start to 2024, with like for like sales up over 8% for the first nine weeks of the year. Cost inflation has come down and is expected to be between 4-5%, with 80% of energy requirement fixed for the year, and management has four months of forward cover on food and packaged goods.

‘The group also plans to increase manufacturing capacity at two of its sites in the Midlands, aiming to be operational by 2026/2027. As a result, capital expenditure is expected to be higher in 2024, and this will likely continue until 2026.’

Market open: FTSE 100 down 0.4%; FTSE 250 off 0.1%

The FTSE 100 has fallen to a near-three week low at the open, dragged down by Ashtead Group and commodity-linked shares, while telecommunications testing firm Spirent has surged nearly 60 per cent following a buyout deal.

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Shares of commodity majors such as BP, Shell and Glencore are down by about 1 per cent each as oil and metal prices dip on pledges by China to transform its economy amid stuttering growth since the pandemic failed to impress investors.

Ashtead has dropped 6.1 per cent to become the biggest loser in the FTSE 100, after the British equipment rental firm forecast full-year group rental revenue at the lower end of its 11 to 13 per cent growth range.

Shares of Spirent Communications jumped after US-based communications equipment firm Viavi Solutions Inc agreed to buy the British firm in a deal valued at about £1billion.

Inchcape is down 7.6 per cent after the car distributor said it expects’ moderated growth’ in the short term.

MARKET REPORT: EU fine wipes £70bn off the value of Apple

Nearly £70billion was wiped off the value of Apple after the US tech giant was fined £1.5billion by European regulators for violating laws on music streaming.

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The iPhone maker was accused of stopping streaming apps like Spotify from telling customers they can subscribe for cheaper if they do not use Apple’s App Store.

Can the Budget help keep Britain’s pubs open?

As Jeremy Hunt prepares to deliver what could be his final budget as Chancellor this week, Britain’s pub industry remains in tremendous peril.

Closures continue to blight the sector; about 3,000 pubs have shut in the past six years, including 509 in 2023, according to the British Beer & Pub Association.

New HIV drug Cabotegravir that can be taken as little as three times a year boosts GSK

The battle against HIV received a boost after GSK reported data showing one of its drugs can be taken as little as three times a year.

ViiV Healthcare, the company’s HIV medicine arm, said a clinical trial of a new formulation of its long-acting treatment Cabotegravir had shown it could be taken ‘at least’ once every four months to provide protection against infection.

This is in stark contrast to most HIV prevention treatments, which require users to take tablets every day to protect themselves from the virus.

Hiscox profits hit record high

Lloyd’s of London insurer Hiscox posted a record annual profit, as rising interest rates and strength in its commercial business helped offset claims inflation and the effect of currency swings.

The London-listed company, which underwrites a range of risks from natural catastrophes to cyber attacks to kidnappings and art theft, said on Tuesday profit before tax for 2023 rose to $625.9million from $275.6 million a year earlier.

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Net insurance contract written premium for 2023 climbed 10.7 per cent to $3.56 billion.

Hiscox said retail outlook for 2024 was positive.

‘Greggs continues to show why it’s the UK’s leading food-to-go brand’

Matt Britzman, equity analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown:

‘Greggs continues to show why it’s the UK’s leading food-to-go brand (YouGov’s Brand Index). This is a business intent on growing, aiming to surpass 3,000 UK shops while enhancing its multi-channel approach for better service.

‘Digital channels are booming, with delivery sales up 23.6% last year following partnerships with Just Eat and Uber Eats. Greggs is extending hours to capture more of the evening market and bolstering its brand to both deepen loyalty and attract new customers.

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‘Greggs is far more than just a treat, and its value offering puts it in a sweet spot with consumers still battling higher living costs. Maintaining that price point is key, and with cost inflation easing Greggs is making sure customers feel the benefit too. That’s likely to be a small drag on sales growth this year compared to last, but there are plenty of other growth avenues to target.

‘Investors don’t have to sit and wait while the growth strategy plays out. Greggs already boast a modest 2.6% forward yield and today’s special dividend is further evidence that the board’s keen to pay investors while it expands.’

IWG profits soar on office demand rebound

Global office rental firm IWG’s annual core profits rocketed 34 per cent last year, buoyed by increased demand for its flexible working spaces and pricing strength.

The London-listed owner of the Spaces and Regus brands said core profit came in at £403million for the year to 31 December, beating market expectations of a £398million return.

‘We enter 2024 continuing our momentum from 2023 as we continue to grow our customer base, our global partnerships and our best-in-class network.

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‘While 2023 was a record year for both revenue and network size, we continue to see significant growth potential. With 1.2 billion white-collar workers globally and a potential audience valued at more than $2 trillion, there is substantial room for growth and as a company, we have a laser-like focus on capturing more of this market over the coming months and years.’

Bitcoin and gold race towards record highs as investors bet on interest rate cuts

Bitcoin and gold raced towards record highs as investors bet on interest rate cuts this summer.

US rival to buy Spirent for £1bn

US-based communications equipment firm Viavi Solutions has agreed to buy British telecommunications testing firm Spirent Communications in a deal valued at about £1billion.

Spirent shareholders will get 175p per share, reflecting a 61.4 per cent premium to the firm’s closing share price on Monday.

Eric Updyke, Spirent CEO, said:

‘Spirent has undergone a period of significant transformation and growth over recent years and I am proud of the significant progress we have made, thanks to the efforts and commitment of our people. We have evolved our offering and routes to market to focus more on high-quality, high-growth, software-centric solutions and have become a mission critical partner to our customers in a more complex and digitised world.

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‘More recently, however, we have endured significant challenges due to the macro backdrop and the impact of this on our core end markets. These conditions are likely to continue for some time.

‘Combining with the Viavi Group brings together a highly complementary product offering which can be marketed globally. It will enable Spirent to build on the strategic progress we have made to date, with a partner that has the scale and resources to capitalise on the long-term growth opportunities ahead. The combination of the Viavi Group and the Spirent Group creates a stronger business that will be better able to compete in what remains a challenging market environment and we are confident in the opportunities this will bring for many of our stakeholders.’

KPMG fined £1.5m over ‘basic failings’ in its audit of advertising firm M&C Saatchi

KPMG has been fined £1.5million over ‘basic failings’ in its audit of advertising firm M&C Saatchi that emerged following an accounting fiasco in 2019.

Adrian Wilcox, a KPMG partner, was also fined £48,750 as a result of an investigation by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), which regulates the accounting industry.

Greggs eyes further growth as profits jump 13%

Greggs expects further earnings growth in 2024 after underlying pre-tax profits came in 13 per cent higher at £168million for last year, lifted by extending its opening hours into the evening and expanding in food delivery.

The group famed for its sausage rolls posted underlying sales growth of 13.7 per cent for the year, and said a five year plan to double sales by 2026 was on track and it continued to target 3,000 outlets.

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It opened 220 new stores in 2023 bringing its estate to 2,473.

‘Reflecting on another year of rapid growth, I am so proud of how our teams have risen to the challenge of serving more customers through more channels.

‘Whether in our shops, our manufacturing sites, our distribution network, or in Greggs House, our teams stepped up to make sure that we kept pace with the increased customer demand as we delivered on our strategic growth plan.

‘We are very much on track to deliver our bold five-year growth plan to double sales by 2026 and to have significantly more than 3,000 shops in the UK over the longer term.’

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The UK’s rainiest seaside destinations revealed: Aultbea in Scotland is No.1 while Cardiff, Blackpool and Cornwall also feature in the top 20 ranking

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Some Britons will head to the beach come rain or shine.

But those who only venture to the seaside during moments of ‘shine’ should pay close attention to Met Office rainfall data that reveals the nation’s 20 rainiest seaside destinations. And taking the top spot? It’s Aultbea.

The fishing village, in the Scottish Highlands, has an average of 121mm of rainfall every month, with more than half the year – 209 days – seeing more than 1mm of daily rainfall.

Overall, five seaside spots in Scotland appear in the ranking as well as seven in Wales, three in Northern Ireland and five in England. Among them is Blackpool plus two popular beach towns in Devon and Cornwall.

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The ranking was drawn up from former BBC weather presenter Owain Wyn Evans’ analysis of the Met Office data in partnership with Sykes Holiday Cottages.

Analysis of Met Office data reveals that Aultbea, above, is the UK's rainiest coastal destination

Analysis of Met Office data reveals that Aultbea, above, is the UK's rainiest coastal destination

Analysis of Met Office data reveals that Aultbea, above, is the UK’s rainiest coastal destination

The Isle of Tiree (pictured) is second in the ranking, with 106mm of monthly average rainfall

The Isle of Tiree (pictured) is second in the ranking, with 106mm of monthly average rainfall

The Isle of Tiree (pictured) is second in the ranking, with 106mm of monthly average rainfall

Scotland takes all three spots of the undesirable winners’ podium, with the Isle of Tiree, Inner Hebrides, in second (106mm monthly average rainfall) and Lochboisdale, Outer Hebrides, in third (100mm).

The Scottish streak continues with Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute (137mm), in fourth, followed by Portrush in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in fifth (81mm).

Rounding off the top ten is Fair Isle, Shetland, Scotland (sixth, 77mm); St Bees, Cumbria, England (seventh, 92mm); Cardiff, South Glamorgan, Wales (eighth, 100mm); Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales (ninth, 95mm); and Milford Haven, also in Pembrokeshire (tenth, 90mm).

Scotland's Lochboisdale in the Outer Hebrides takes the bronze, with an average monthly rainfall of 100mm

Scotland's Lochboisdale in the Outer Hebrides takes the bronze, with an average monthly rainfall of 100mm

Scotland’s Lochboisdale in the Outer Hebrides takes the bronze, with an average monthly rainfall of 100mm

Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute ranks fourth with 137mm of average monthly rainfall

Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute ranks fourth with 137mm of average monthly rainfall

Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute ranks fourth with 137mm of average monthly rainfall

Those planning a UK beach getaway might also want to steer clear of Cornwall’s popular seaside town of Bude.

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While Visit Cornwall says it’s ‘well known for its great beaches’ and ‘unique townscape’, it has an average monthly rainfall of 75mm, which puts it 17th in the ranking.

Other popular beach destinations on the list are England’s Slapton, Devon (19th, 93mm) and Blackpool, Lancashire (20th, 73mm).

Tenby in Pembrokeshire, Wales, is ninth with an average 95mm of rainfall each month

Tenby in Pembrokeshire, Wales, is ninth with an average 95mm of rainfall each month

Tenby in Pembrokeshire, Wales, is ninth with an average 95mm of rainfall each month

Cornwall's popular seaside town of Bude is 17th in the ranking

Cornwall's popular seaside town of Bude is 17th in the ranking

Cornwall’s popular seaside town of Bude is 17th in the ranking

On a sunnier note, the analysis shows that seaside towns are drier overall than the rest of the UK, getting an average 75mm of rainfall a month, compared to 97mm for the rest of the nation.

Moreover, separate research of 2,000 UK adults found that 72 per cent don’t let typical wet British weather get in the way of a good staycation.

And 61 per cent don’t think it would be a British holiday if it didn’t rain, with sightseeing (53 per cent), strolls along the pier (37 per cent), and tucking into fish and chips on the seafront (30 per cent) among the activities they would do regardless, according to the survey.

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Blackpool ranks 20th on the list, receiving an average 73mm of rainfall per month

Blackpool ranks 20th on the list, receiving an average 73mm of rainfall per month

Blackpool ranks 20th on the list, receiving an average 73mm of rainfall per month

Commenting on the findings, Evans, who is now a BBC Radio 2 DJ, said: ‘I love that even in the rain, holidaymakers will still embrace a Great British staycation.

‘Us Brits won’t let a bit of wet weather keep us indoors, and I’d argue some activities can even be better with a few raindrops.

‘Despite my experience as a weather presenter, the exact detail on rain, especially showers, can be hard to predict, so hopefully this analysis will give Brits some idea of what to expect and plan for if they’re heading to a seaside location this year.’

THE RAINIEST SEASIDE SPOTS IN THE UK 

1. Aultbea, Scottish Highlands: 121mm average rainfall per month

2. Tiree, Inner Hebrides: 106mm

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3. Lochboisdale, Outer Hebrides: 100mm

4. Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute: 137mm

5. Portrush, County Antrim: 81mm

6. Fair Isle, Shetland: 77mm

7. St Bees, Cumbria: 92mm

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8. Cardiff, South Glamorgan: 100mm

9. Tenby, Pembrokeshire: 95mm

10. Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire: 90mm 

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11. Killowen, County Down: 88mm

12. Morecambe, Lancashire: 88mm

13. St-Athan, The Vale of Glamorgan: 87mm

14. Mumbles Head, Swansea: 85mm

15. Helens Bay, County Down: 81mm

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16. Aberporth, Ceredigion: 77mm

17. Bude, Cornwall: 75mm

18. Slapton, Devon: 93mm

19. Aberdaron, Gwynedd: 76mm

20. Blackpool, Lancashire: 73mm 

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Source: Met Office / Sykes Holiday Cottages

 

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Iran executed ‘staggering total’ of 834 people last year, say rights groups

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Iran executed a “staggering” total of at least 834 people last year, the highest number since 2015 as capital punishment surged in the Islamic republic, two rights groups said Tuesday.

Issued on: Modified:

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The number of executions, which Iran has carried out by hanging in recent years, was up some 43 percent on 2022.

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It marked only the second time in two decades that over 800 executions were recorded in a year, after 972 executions in 2015, Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) and Paris-based Together Against the Death Penalty said in the joint report.

The groups accused Iran of using the death penalty to spread fear throughout society in the wake of the protests sparked by the September 2022 death in police custody of Mahsa Amini that shook the authorities.

“Instilling societal fear is the regime’s only way to hold on to power, and the death penalty is its most important instrument,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam in the report, which described the figure of 834 as a “staggering total”.

Iran has executed nine men in cases linked to attacks on security forces during the 2022 protests — two in 2022, six in 2023 and one so far in 2024 — according to the rights groups.

But executions have been stepped up on other charges, notably in drug-related cases, which had until recent years seen a fall.

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“Of particular concern is the dramatic escalation in the number of drug-related executions in 2023, which rose to 471 people, more than 18 times higher than the figures recorded in 2020,” said the report.

Members of ethnic minorities, notably the Sunni Baluch from the southeast of Iran, are “grossly overrepresented amongst those executed” on drug-related charges, it said.

At least 167 members of the Baluch minority were executed in total, accounting for 20 percent of the total executions in 2023, even though the minority accounts for only around five percent of Iran’s population.

Read moreIran’s Baloch population leads anti-regime protests six months after Mahsa Amini’s death

ECPM director Raphael Chenuil-Hazan said the “lack of reaction” by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was sending “the wrong signal to the Iranian authorities”.

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Most hangings in Iran are carried out within the confines of prison but the report said that in 2023 the number of hangings carried out in public in Iran tripled from 2022, with seven people hanged in public spaces.

At least 22 women were executed, marking the highest number in the past decade, the report said.

Fifteen of them were hanged on murder charges and NGOs have long warned that women who kill an abusive partner or relative risk being hanged.

In 2023, only 15 percent of the recorded executions were announced by official Iranian media, with IHR confirming the other executions with its own sources.

Amiry-Moghaddam expressed concern that a lack of international outrage at the executions, in particular with attention focused on the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, was only encouraging the Islamic republic to carry out more hangings.

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“The inconsistency in the international community’s reaction to the executions in Iran is unfortunate and sends the wrong signal to the authorities,” he said.

(AFP) 

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Inside the UK’s battle with pregabalin: How addiction fears over opioids and benzos left country sleepwalking towards unfolding fiasco with ‘Valium on steroids’ – as map reveals areas where up to one in 25 residents are given powerful anti-anxiety pills

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Mounting fears over opioids and benzodiazepines have seen doctors increasingly dole out a supposedly ‘safer’ painkiller to Brits battling anxiety, epilepsy and nerve pain.

Yet evidence now suggests pregabalin, widely thought to be less addictive than its alternatives, may be just as dangerous.

Tens of thousands of Brits take the prescription-only drug, nicknamed ‘Valium on steroids’ and the ‘new Xanax’ by doctors aware of its powerful effects. 

NHS chiefs themselves acknowledge it can make users feel like a ‘zombie’. 

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Amid rising prescription rates, MailOnline analysis shows that one in 25 residents in parts of the country are now taking gabapentinoids — a family of pain medications that includes pregabalin.

This is despite campaigners calling for guidelines of ‘GABAs’ to be changed so their usage is restricted because of their addictive nature, just like with benzos. 

Drugs like Valium, one of the most recognised types of benzo, already have similar safety nets because of their widely-established risks and dependency fears.

Last week, Peaky Blinders star Paul Anderson (pictured), 48, was fined after pleading guilty to possession of drugs, including pregabalin

Last week, Peaky Blinders star Paul Anderson (pictured), 48, was fined after pleading guilty to possession of drugs, including pregabalin

Last week, Peaky Blinders star Paul Anderson (pictured), 48, was fined after pleading guilty to possession of drugs, including pregabalin

Paul, who played Arthur Shelby (pictured), pleaded guilty to drug possession after spending Boxing Day at a pub in Hampstead, north London, when officers found crack cocaine, a wrap of brown powder found to be amphetamines plus diazepam and pregabalin, prosecutor Kevin Kendridge said

Paul, who played Arthur Shelby (pictured), pleaded guilty to drug possession after spending Boxing Day at a pub in Hampstead, north London, when officers found crack cocaine, a wrap of brown powder found to be amphetamines plus diazepam and pregabalin, prosecutor Kevin Kendridge said

Paul, who played Arthur Shelby (pictured), pleaded guilty to drug possession after spending Boxing Day at a pub in Hampstead, north London, when officers found crack cocaine, a wrap of brown powder found to be amphetamines plus diazepam and pregabalin, prosecutor Kevin Kendridge said 

Concerns over benzos and similar medicines, such as opioids and Z-drugs, have pushed GPs into prescribing GABAs.

Such warnings concern the drugs’ use for pyschiatric disorders, not for nerve pain and epilepsy. Critics claim there’s no good evidence to support the use of the drugs in the long-term to treat anxiety. 

The drugs can cause unpleasant side effects, including weight gain and memory problems. 

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They are reported to cause significant withdrawal symptoms including nerve pain, anxiety, sleep problems, nausea and excessive sweating. Renowned psychiatrists claim valium is ‘easier to get off’. 

Deaths linked to the drug have also soared 100-fold in a decade amid its increasing usage — a bigger rise than any other substance, including cocaine, heroin and even cannabis. 

Pregabalin, sold under the brand names Lyrica, Alzain and Axalid, has been linked to nearly 3,400 deaths in Britain in the last five years.

This includes 779 fatalities in 2022 — up from just nine a decade earlier in 2012. 

Users of the drug have told MailOnline it has led to erratic behaviour, blurred vision, mood swings and suicidal thoughts.

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Many are now desperate to lower their dosage or come off the medication that has ‘robbed them of their lives’ altogether.

Health experts, however, urge users not to abruptly stop taking the medication over fears of withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, an increased heart rate and even seizures. 

The NHS acknowledges GABAs can be addictive and that patients must be weaned off gradually to avoid such symptoms. 

Last week, Peaky Blinders star Paul Anderson, 48, was fined after pleading guilty to possession of drugs, including pregabalin. 

Paul, who played Arthur Shelby, pleaded guilty to drug possession after spending Boxing Day at a pub in Hampstead, north London, when officers found crack cocaine, a wrap of brown powder found to be amphetamines plus diazepam and pregabalin, prosecutor Kevin Kendridge said.

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Following warnings from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, pregabalin was made a class C drug in 2019.

The ruling made its sale and possession without a prescription illegal. 

Officials feared ‘pregabs’ sold on the black market were being abused by heroin and other opioid addicts to enhance highs.

Data shows GPs now dish out more than £23million worth of pregabalin — which costs £2.70 per item — annually in England. 

In total, there were 16million courses of GABAs dished out in England in 2022/23.

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More than half of these are thought to have been pregabalin. 

GABA rates have increased by 56 per cent since NHS Business Services Authority records began in 2015/16.

At the same time, figures for benzodiazepines and Z drugs have fallen. 

Experts have previously said this is due to the worrying shift towards GABA drugs, which affect the brain chemical GABA. In effect, they calm down over-excited nerve cells. They take a few weeks to kick in.

Pregabalin was first licensed in 2004 as a medicine to stop epilepsy seizures, and then for neuropathic or nerve pain because it blocks pain signals in the brain.

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Patients taking it also reported feeling calmer, sparking doctors to start offering it for anxiety.

Pregabalin, sold under the brand names Lyrica, Alzain and Axalid, has been linked to nearly 3,400 deaths in Britain in the last five years. This includes 779 fatalities in 2022 ¿ up from just nine a decade earlier in 2012

Pregabalin, sold under the brand names Lyrica, Alzain and Axalid, has been linked to nearly 3,400 deaths in Britain in the last five years. This includes 779 fatalities in 2022 ¿ up from just nine a decade earlier in 2012

Pregabalin, sold under the brand names Lyrica, Alzain and Axalid, has been linked to nearly 3,400 deaths in Britain in the last five years. This includes 779 fatalities in 2022 — up from just nine a decade earlier in 2012

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Yet pregabalin and gabapentin, thought of as its milder sibling, can also be given ‘off-label’ (to treat a condition for which they’re not licensed) for things such as lower back pain — and for which there is little or no evidence that they work.

As well as the shift in prescribing, the increase coincides with soaring numbers of Brits being diagnosed with mental health issues. 

Ian Hamilton, associate professor of addiction at the University of York, told MailOnline: ‘Part of the problem with pregabalin medication is that it is prescribed for long term conditions such as epilepsy and anxiety.

‘Given that these health problems can persist for years, taking pregabalin over this period increases the risk of physical and psychological dependency.

‘The dramatic rise in prescriptions for pregabalin have happened in part due to the increase in people with mental health problems such as anxiety. 

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What is pregabalin? 

Pregabalin is a drug that is used to treat epilepsy, anxiety and nerve pain.

In epilepsy it stops seizures by reducing abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

In anxiety it stops your brain from releasing the chemicals that make you feel anxious.

With nerve pain it affects the pain messages travelling through the brain and down the spine, effectively blocking them. 

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The drug only available in the UK by prescription and can take a couple of weeks to start working.

Commons side effects of taking pregabalin include headaches, diarrhoea, mood changes, blurred visions and memory problems.

Some people can become addicted to the drug, meaning they will suffer withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking it.

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‘Unfortunately many people are given these drugs without any psychological support such as counselling as there are long waiting lists for talking therapies. 

‘Equally up to a third of people who are prescribed other medications for anxiety and depression will not experience any benefit from them, this means that doctors will prescribe pregabalin medication as an alternative.’ 

He added: ‘What is really concerning is that this appears to be happening in poorer areas where access to these therapies is difficult, leaving GPs with little choice but to prescribe pregabalin as a way of ensuring at least some treatment.

‘We have also seen a significant rise in non-medical use of pregabalin drugs where people source these drugs without seeing a doctor. 

‘This is due to the effect pregabalin has physically and psychologically, it can create feelings of euphoria and relaxation.

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‘As pregabalin is already regulated as a class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act it is unlikely that there would be any benefit from increasing penalties for misuse, as the current restrictions have had little impact.

‘What would clearly make a difference would be ensuring timely access to specialist mental health support but that requires investment and there is no sign that the government will reverse its squeeze on public services.’

Latest NHS statistics reveal almost 105,000 patients were prescribed GABAs in 22/23 across Cheshire and Merseyside.

This equated to around 3.9 per cent of residents being given gabapentinoids, population figures analysed by MailOnline suggest.

Similar rates were seen in the NHS districts of Lincolnshire (3.8 per cent), Lancashire and South Cumbria (3.7), and Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent (3.6).

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Lee Fernandes, lead therapist for the UK Addiction Treatment Group told MailOnline: ‘Pregabalin is an incredibly strong and potentially dangerous prescribed drug because it can be extremely addictive when misused. 

‘Unfortunately we know that GPs are in between a rock and a hard place – they have a very short window to tackle a potentially big problem for patients. 

‘But whether they’re prescribing pregabalin for pain relief or to help with anxiety symptoms, we’d like to see them instead taking a more holistic approach and addressing the root cause of the pain or the anxiety, rather than tackling the problem with a pill. 

‘This is a drug that can ruin lives and should not be prescribed lightly.’

Alex Silva (pictured), who was prescribed pregabalin after a slipped disc on his neck, told MailOnline 'after two months on it, all I could think about was to kill myself'

Alex Silva (pictured), who was prescribed pregabalin after a slipped disc on his neck, told MailOnline 'after two months on it, all I could think about was to kill myself'

Alex Silva (pictured), who was prescribed pregabalin after a slipped disc on his neck, told MailOnline ‘after two months on it, all I could think about was to kill myself’

Dr Iain Brew, who has spent decades working in community drug treatment service, said: ‘There’s a woeful lack of provision in psychology and it’s easier and cheaper to chuck drugs at a patient, but drugs aren’t the answer.’

He told the Sunday Times: ‘We don’t want these drugs to be banned, we just don’t want them being abused and killing patients.

‘When barbiturate drugs first came out, doctors thought “great, a way of helping people cope with life”. They got overprescribed and a lot of people died.

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‘Then benzodiazepines came out, and everyone got prescribed them, and it became apparent there was addiction, then sleeping pills, and everyone got addicted again.

‘It’s happening again with pregabalin.’

With the rise in its use, both legal and illegal, have come social problems.

Court records show dozens of people being arrested for possession of pregabalin and charged with stealing the drug from pharmacies. 

In one case, a 37-year-old from Kingston upon Hull pleaded guilty to theft of 15 boxes of pregabalin from a medical centre. He was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail.

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Pregabalin users have also told MailOnline about the shocking impacts the drug has had on their lives. 

Alex Silva, who was prescribed pregabalin after a slipped disc on his neck, said ‘after two months on it, all I could think about was to kill myself’.

He added: ‘No doctor ever informed about suicidal thoughts. Thank God, I read about it and stopped taking it straight away. Horrible drug but the worst of all, was that no one told me about the suicidal thoughts.’

Another user who was prescribed pregabalin for lower back pain, said: ‘I went completely crazy for two months and had to wean myself off due to erratic behaviour, blurred vision, mood swings and suicidal thoughts.’

They added: ‘The doctors don’t tell you this when prescribing and when you mention concerns that’s when it seems you are given the information. I was lucky but only because my partner questioned the tablets when I was losing the plot.’ 

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In 2019, the now defunct Public Health England raised the alarm about the side effects and withdrawal symptoms and concluded more people were being prescribed pregabalin for longer. 

It called for a national helpline, regular reviews of prescriptions and alternatives to medicines.

Two years later in 2021, drugs watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence called for doctors to improve the safety measures they took when prescribing painkillers and dependency-forming drugs such as pregabalin.

Researchers at University College London (UCL), the University of Bristol and Keele University are now investigating the effects of taking pregabalin alongside an antidepressant to treat anxiety symptoms. 

Under the PETRA trial, which began last year and will involve up to 500 participants, scientists hope its results will let doctors give better advice to people with anxiety. 

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Experts, however, have long warned that when pregabalin is mixed with other drugs such as opiates or alcohol, it can also cause severe respiratory depression or in some cases even prove fatal.

Dr Franziska Denk, senior lecturer, King’s College London, said: ‘Most deaths related to pregabalin occur in combination with other drugs — usually opioids and usually when taken illegally.’

Brits who take drugs recreationally should be warned of its ‘potentially dangerous side effects, especially when combined with substances’, she added. 

She added: ‘I do not think there is much evidence to suggest that it should be banned from being legally prescribed, or indeed that it is being over-prescribed to a dangerous degree.  

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‘Epilepsy is a very dangerous, life-threatening condition, for which none of the other existing medications, besides pregabalin, are without the risk of serious side-effects.’

In January, Sean Cummings, a coroner in Bedfordshire, issued a prevention of future death report after Joy Ebanks, 59, died from an overdose of pregabalin and oxycodone.

He quoted research that questioned the effectiveness of pregabalin and highlighted that dependence on it ‘was increasingly recognised as a problem’.

It followed a similar warning by a coroner in north London in October.

It comes as official data released by the ONS in December revealed there were 4,907 drug poisoning deaths in 2022 – a rate of 84.4 deaths per million people. 

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This is the tenth consecutive annual rise, up on the 4,859 recorded in 2021 and the most since records began in 1993. 

Health experts, however, cautioned patients should not stop taking their prescribed pregabalin ‘abruptly’ over fears Brits could suffer withdrawal symptoms. 

Thorrun Govind, TV pharmacist and former chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: ‘What you should do is speak to your healthcare professional and check that it’s appropriate for you still and have a rounded discussion about your individual needs and make sure it’s suitable for you.

‘Pregabalin isn’t the first line treatment for anxiety. There are other options out there for people if they are concerned. 

‘Even for epilepsy there are other options available. But obviously, with epilepsy you will be on a medication for a long time. 

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‘We need to make sure people are really comfortable and understand the drug that they’re taking and the benefits and risks.’ 

Glyn Lewis, a professor of epidemiological psychiatry at UCL, added:  ‘There is a known problem of combining pregabalin with opiate medication. 

‘Pregabalin could be effective and helpful for many people but patients should follow the advice of their doctor and report any side effects they experience.’

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International

Coast-to-coast Super Tuesday elections set to kick off Biden and Trump rematch

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President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are poised to move much closer to winning their party’s nominations during the biggest day of the primary campaign on Tuesday, setting up a historic rematch that many voters would rather not endure.

Super Tuesday elections are being held in 16 states and one territory — from Alaska and California to Vermont and Virginia. Hundreds of delegates are at stake, the biggest haul for either party on any single day.

While much of the focus is on the presidential race, there are also important down-ballot contests. California voters will choose candidates who will compete to fill the Senate seat long held by Dianne Feinstein. The governor’s race will take shape in North Carolina, a state that both parties are fiercely contesting ahead of November. And in Los Angeles, a progressive prosecutor is attempting to fend off an intense reelection challenge in a race that could serve as a barometer of the politics of crime.

But the premier races center on Biden and Trump. And in a dramatic departure from past Super Tuesdays, both the Democratic and Republican contests are effectively sealed this year.

The two men have easily repelled challengers in the opening rounds of the campaign and are in full command of their bids — despite polls making it clear that voters don’t want this year’s general election to be identical to the 2020 race. A new AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds a majority of Americans don’t think either Biden or Trump has the necessary mental acuity for the job.

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“Both of them failed, in my opinion, to unify this country,” said Brian Hadley, 66, of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Neither Trump nor Biden will be able to formally clinch their party’s nominations on Super Tuesday. The earliest either can become his party’s presumptive nominee is March 12 for Trump and March 19 for Biden.

The final days before Tuesday demonstrated the unique nature of this year’s campaign. Rather than barnstorming the states holding primaries, Biden and Trump held rival events last week along the U.S.-Mexico border, each seeking to gain an advantage in the increasingly fraught immigration debate.

After the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 on Monday to restore Trump to primary ballots following attempts to ban him for his role in helping spark the Capitol riot, Trump pointed to the 91 criminal counts against him to accuse Biden of weaponizing the courts. 

“Fight your fight yourself,” Trump said. “Don’t use prosecutors and judges to go after your opponent.” 

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State of the Union speech

Biden delivers the State of the Union address on Thursday, then will campaign in the key swing states of Pennsylvania and Georgia.

The president will defend policies responsible for “record job creation, the strongest economy in the world, increased wages and household wealth, and lower prescription drug and energy costs,” White House communications director Ben LaBolt said in a statement. 

That’s in contrast, LaBolt continued, to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement, which consists of “rewarding billionaires and corporations with tax breaks, taking away rights and freedoms, and undermining our democracy.”

Biden’s campaign called extra attention to Trump’s most provocative utterances on the campaign trail, like when he evoked Adolf Hitler in suggesting that immigrants were “poisoning the blood” of the U.S. and said he’d seek to serve as a dictator during his first day back in the White House. 

Trump recently told a gala for Black conservatives that he believed African Americans empathized with his four criminal indictments, drawing a sharp rebuke from the Biden campaign and top Democrats around the country for comparing personal legal struggles to the historical injustices Black people have faced in the U.S.

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Trump has nonetheless already vanquished more than a dozen major Republican challengers and now has only one left: Nikki Haley, the former president’s onetime U.N. ambassador who was also twice elected governor of her home state of South Carolina. 

Haley has hopscotched across the country, visiting at least one Super Tuesday state almost daily for more than a week and arguing that her base of support — while far smaller than Trump’s — suggests the former president will lose to Biden.

“We can do better than two 80-year-old candidates for president,” Haley said at a rally Monday in the Houston suburbs.

Haley has maintained strong fundraising and notched her first primary victory over the weekend in Washington, D.C., a Democrat-run city with few registered Republicans. Trump tried to turn that victory into a loss for the overall campaign, scoffing that she had been “crowned queen of the swamp.” 

Vulnerabilities

Though Trump has dominated the early Republican primary calendar, his victories have shown vulnerabilities with some influential voter blocs, especially in college towns like Hanover, New Hampshire, home to Dartmouth College, or Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan is located, as well as in some areas with high concentrations of independents.

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Still, Haley winning any of Super Tuesday’s contests would take an upset. And a Trump sweep would only intensify pressure on her to leave the race.

Biden has his own problems, including low approval ratings and polls suggesting that many Americans, even a majority of Democrats, don’t want to see the 81-year-old running again. The president’s easy Michigan primary win last week was spoiled slightly by an “uncommitted” campaign organized by activists who disapprove of the president’s handling of Israel’s war in Gaza.

Allies of the “uncommitted” vote are pushing similar protest votes elsewhere. One to watch is Minnesota, which has a significant population of Muslims, including in its Somali American community, and liberals disaffected with Biden. Gov. Tim Walz, a Biden ally, told The Associated Press last week that he expected some votes for “uncommitted” on Tuesday.

While Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history, his reelection campaign argues that skeptics will come around once it is clear it’ll be him or Trump in November. Trump is 77 and faces his own questions about age that have been exacerbated by flubs like over the weekend when he mistakenly suggested he was running against Barack Obama.

That hasn’t shaken Trump’s ardent supporters’ faith in him.

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“Trump would eat him up,” Ken Ballos, a retired police officer who attended a weekend Trump rally in Virginia, said of a November rematch, adding that Biden “would look like a fool up there.”

(AP)

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Meet the new Arsenal: Not too emotional like their manager, powered by the pain of last season’s collapse – and proving Gary Neville’s prophecy right. IAN LADYMAN writes on a team who nobody is laughing at now

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  • Sheffield United suffered a 6-0 thumping at the hands of a rampant Arsenal side 
  • Mikel Arteta’s players have bolstered title intentions with a series of winter wins  
  • Liverpool can’t play a weakened team that says they can’t be bothered in Europe just to be ready for Man City – It’s All Kicking Off podcast

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It was Gary Neville who said recently that Arsenal could win the Premier League by finding a way to produce last season in reverse. Nobody thought it possible. Surely Manchester City and Liverpool were just a little bit too good. But an astonishing run of seven consecutive domestic wins underpinned by an extraordinary tally of 31 goals has changed all that.

Neville’s point, made on his Stick to Football podcast, was simply that Arsenal had shown during the first half of last season just how devastating they can be when they get on a roll. In the 2022-23 campaign, Arsenal only lost one league game before the start of February. Nerves – and Pep Guardiola’s City – got them in the end but, Neville asked, where could they go this time round if a more modest autumn and winter set of results could be bolstered by something better once the clocks went forwards?

And now, suddenly, here we are. As City and Liverpool prepare to meet and therefore take points off each other at Anfield on Sunday, Arsenal’s recent uptick in form and confidence will take them to the summit of the table if they beat Brentford at home a day earlier. They already have a superior goal difference.

Monday night’s 6-0 demolition of Sheffield United at Bramall Lane was beautiful in its sheer heartlessness. We have asked before whether Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are too weak and too soft. We have asked if, like their Spanish coach, they can become too emotional. Well that’s not happening. Not now. Now here.

Arsenal were magnificent on Monday night. They scored three goals in 15 minutes, four in half an hour and five by half-time. By the time we got to full-time, it was six and they had stopped trying.

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Arsenal faltered last season towards the end of their title charge but are now in rampant form

Arsenal faltered last season towards the end of their title charge but are now in rampant form

Arsenal faltered last season towards the end of their title charge but are now in rampant form

The Gunners hit Sheffield United for six at Bramall Lane in their third league win by five or more goals in February

The Gunners hit Sheffield United for six at Bramall Lane in their third league win by five or more goals in February

The Gunners hit Sheffield United for six at Bramall Lane in their third league win by five or more goals in February

Just two points off league leaders Liverpool the north London side are facing a spell which could define their season

Just two points off league leaders Liverpool the north London side are facing a spell which could define their season

Just two points off league leaders Liverpool the north London side are facing a spell which could define their season

This, though, is a new Arsenal. It’s a development of the prototype. It had to change and grow if it was to win things. Last season taught us that and the progress in this regard is now writ large in their results ledger. 5-0, 2-1, 3-1, 6-0, 5-0, 4-1, 6-0. It reads almost like the result of a one-sided tennis match and that is how it feels watching Arsenal right now. Certainly they had too much pace, power, imagination and craft for Sheffield United on Monday night.

Having rebooted with a spell away during a winter break handed them by their January FA Cup expulsion at the hands of Liverpool, Arsenal now face a spell that could decide their season. They will face Brentford this weekend without preferred goalkeeper David Raya who is not allowed to play against the club from which he has moved to Arsenal on loan. They also have doubts over Gabriel Martinelli, who hurt his foot on Monday night, and also Bukayo Saka who left the field at half-time feeling unwell. 

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Next Tuesday, meanwhile, they have a single goal Champions League deficit to overturn at home to Porto but beyond all that comes the promise of a nineteen day break – due to their lack of involvement in the FA Cup – before an enormous game at City on March 31.

Arteta on Monday ruled out the prospect of taking his squad abroad again which is a shame given how well their January sojourn to Dubai seemed to work in January. They left having just lost at home to Liverpool and returned ready to sweep all aside who stood before them.

Instead Arsenal will be driven on now partly by their own momentum. They simply don’t look like they can lose right now. But also by the memories of last season’s late collapse.

‘It was so very painful,’ said Martin Odegaard, one of five different Arsenal scorers on Monday night.

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard is keen to erase the bad memories of last season's faulty run

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard is keen to erase the bad memories of last season's faulty run

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard is keen to erase the bad memories of last season’s faulty run

‘I think now is the time to show we have learned.’

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Words are easy to say. It feels as though Arsenal must beat City at the end of this month if they are to have a genuine say in this title race. That apart, their hardest other game between now and the season’s end is a north London derby at Tottenham on April 27 and with that in mind it does look as though there is a path available to navigate if Arteta and his players feel ready to be involved at the death this time.

Last season was too much for them and we know that. There is no shame in being run over by the City juggernaut. This time opportunity knocks again. Their key players are in form and the presence of Jorginho and the fit again Thomas Partey may release Declan Rice in to the forward positions in which he has shown he can be so effective and dangerous.

We laughed at Odegaard and his gang when they celebrated like champions after beating Liverpool on their own turf a month ago. None of it looks quite so frivolous now.

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