Roger Federer beats Yoshihito Nishioka at US Open to reach second round

Roger Federer won the US Open five consecutive times from 2004 to 2008
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

Five-time champion Roger Federer breezed into the US Open second round with a routine victory over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka at Flushing Meadows.

Federer, 37, needed one hour and 52 minutes to win 6-2 6-2 6-4 in the night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The Swiss great hit 56 winners compared to just 17 from his 177th-ranked opponent.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner will play France’s Benoit Paire in the second round in New York.

“I’m very happy with how I played tonight. It is particularly tough for us Europeans because we don’t get this type of humidity. You are sweating so much you don’t know what has hit you,” Federer said.

“It is tough so you are happy when you survive a day like this.”

Federer looks to regain US Open dominance

Federer, playing in the US Open main draw for the 18th time, is bidding for an eighth men’s final in New York – which would equal the record set by Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl.

The Swiss dominated the tournament between 2004 and 2009, winning 41 successive matches before losing to Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro in the final nine years ago.

Since then he has only reached one final – when he lost to Novak Djokovic in 2015 – and says claiming the US Open trophy again this year is a “bigger priority”.

And the second seed started his quest by despatching Nishioka with his usual effortless grace in what was largely a straightforward win.

Federer broke his opponent’s serve in the first game of the match, then again in the fifth, while allowing Nishioka to win just seven receiving points in the first set.

The onslaught continued in the second set as Federer raced 3-0 ahead, before he clinically turned three break points for Nishioka into a hold with the help of three aces.

Understandably Nishioka’s spirit diminished further as the Australian Open champion, enjoying himself with a full repertoire of shots, continued to dominate.

After wrapping up the second set, Federer continued to be aggressive in the third and again grabbed a double break to lead 4-0.

Sloppiness surprisingly crept into his game as Nishioka saved a match point at 5-2, before Federer missed an overhead volley at deuce which was wrongly called in and not challenged by his opponent.

Federer conceded the game amid confusion among the crowd on Ashe, and then was broken for the first time in the following game when Nishioka converted his sixth break point of the set.

But he regained his composure to wrap up victory and continue his flawless first-round record at Flushing Meadows.



Sir Lenny Henry at 60: A career in pictures

British comedian, actor and television presenter Sir Lenny Henry turns 60 on Wednesday 29 August. To mark the occasion, we’re taking a look back over his career and life in pictures.

Photo composite of Sir Lenny Henry Image copyright Getty Images

Sir Lenny has been entertaining people for more than 40 years.

Born in 1958 in Dudley, West Midlands, Sir Lenny said of his childhood: “My family came to the UK at a time when blacks were just beginning to be integrated into British society.

“I was one of just three blacks in our school.”

Television exposure came to Sir Lenny at the age of 16 on the talent show New Faces, when he bunked off school to try his luck as a comedian in 1975, seen below.

Lenny Henry on New Faces in 1975 Image copyright Shutterstock
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Lenny Henry on New Faces in 1975 Image copyright Shutterstock

Sir Lenny became a regular on the Saturday morning ITV children’s show Tiswas (below), alongside its main hosts Chris Tarrant and Sally James (front).

Lenny Henry, Sylvester McCoy, Peter Tomlinson, Frank Carson, Sally James, Chris Tarrant and John Gorman on TISWAS TV show in 1978 Image copyright Shutterstock

He said: “Tiswas represented an anarchic, irreverent style of comedy and Chris Tarrant made a big impression on me.

“It was then that I began to develop my work.”

Sir Lenny’s characters on Tiswas included Algernon Winston Razamatazz, below left.

Lenny Henry on TV show TISWAS Image copyright Shutterstock

The next comedy adventure was Three of a Kind sketch show with Tracey Ullman and David Copperfield, running for three years on the BBC until 1983.

The show won accolades at the Variety Club Awards in 1984, seen below.

Comedians David Copperfield, Tracey Ullman and Lenny Henry with their awards for TV show 'Three of a Kind' at the Variety Club Awards in 1984 Image copyright Shutterstock

In 1984, Sir Lenny married fellow comedian Dawn French at St Paul’s, Covent Garden, London.

British comedians Dawn French and Lenny Henry at their wedding at St Paul's, Covent Garden, London, 21st October 1984 Image copyright Getty Images

Sir Lenny got his own sketch programme, the Lenny Henry Show in 1984, running for two series in the 1980s.

It featured Sir Lenny as the Brixton-based pirate radio DJ Delbert Wilkins, below.

Lenny Henry as Delbert Wilkins on the Lenny Henry Show

As well as DJ Delbert Wilkins were other characters, such as “Brixton’s Prince of Cool”, a style counsellor and a fashion model.

Seen below, left to right, are Vas Blackwood as Winston, Sir Lenny Henry as Delbert Wilkins and Ellen Thomas as Rose, from the Lenny Henry Show.

Lenny Henry as Delbert Wilkins on the Lenny Henry Show

In 1985 Sir Lenny and Four Weddings and a Funeral director Richard Curtis co-founded Comic Relief, a British charity with the vision of creating a world free from poverty, using comedy to raise money and change lives.

Sir Lenny is seen below with Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and puppets from the satirical puppet show Spitting Image at a Comic Relief photocall in 1986.

'Light Relief' Spitting Image photocall for Comic Relief with Dawn French, Lenny Henry and Jennifer Saunders Image copyright Shutterstock

The first Red Nose Day, part of Comic Relief, took place in 1988, with more than 150 celebrities and comedians making a television appeal on the BBC to an audience of 30 million, raising £15 million. Sir Lenny spent the first Red Nose Day with children in Ethiopia.

Comic Relief continues to this day, with Sir Lenny appointed as an Honorary Life President of Comic Relief in 2017.

In 1989, Sir Lenny made a live stand-up comedy film called Lenny Henry Live and Unleashed in front of a live audience at the Hackney Empire, the first British comic to do so.

Stills from Sir Lenny’s live show are seen below, including his impersonation of Hollywood actor Eddie Murphy (below).

Lenny Henry in live stand-up comedy film Lenny Henry Live and Unleashed in 1989 Image copyright Alamy

Sir Lenny starred in Touchstone/Disney film True Identity in 1991, shot in LA and New York. He played an actor who disguises himself as a white man to escape from the mob, seen in a film poster and stills below.

Film poster for 1991 film True Identity Image copyright Alamy
Lenny Henry in film True Identity Image copyright Alamy

Sir Lenny is seen above and below left in True Identity.

Lenny Henry and Frank Langella in 1991 film True Identity Image copyright Alamy

Also in 1991, Sir Lenny made BBC drama Alive and Kicking, playing a drug dealer with Robbie Coltrane (below centre) as a drug counsellor. It also featured Paul Barber as Earl Preston, below left.

Paul Barber as Earl Preston, Robbie Coltrane as Liam Kane and Lenny Henry as Stevie Smudger Smith in Alive and Kicking

The drama earned the Monaco Red Cross and The Golden Nymph Award at the Monte Carlo Television Festival.

In the 1990s, Sir Lenny worked through his own production company Crucial Films and created a workshop for new writers in conjunction with the BBC, called Step Forward.

The workshops led to a new series called The Real McCoy; six half-hour shows that aimed to present a black perspective through humour, sketches and musical numbers. Four further series followed.

Series five of The Real McCoy featured (below, left to right) Kulwinder Ghir, Llewella Gideon, Judith Jacob, Leo Chester, Felix Dexter, Ishmael Thomas, Meera Syal and Robbie Gee.

Kulwinder Ghir, Llewella Gideon, Judith Jacob, Leo Chester, Felix Dexter, Ishmael Thomas, Meera Syal and Robbie Gee seen in a promotional photo of series five of The Real McCoy

Sir Lenny turned his hand to documentaries in 1997 with Lenny’s Big Amazon Adventure, a survival programme in the Amazon, seen below.

Lenny Henry in Lenny's Big Amazon Adventure in 1997

Sir Lenny was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Performance Award at the 2003 British Comedy Awards.

Also in 2003, Sir Lenny made his first appearance in the London West End in the one-man show So Much Things to Say (see below), co-written with Kim Fuller.

Lenny Henry in one-man show So Much Things to Say at Wyndham's Theatre, London Image copyright Shutterstock

He went on tour with the play in the UK, Australia and New Zealand in 2004.

The actor trod the boards again with his Shakespearean debut in 2009 starring as Othello at the Trafalgar Studios in London, seen below with Jessica Harris as Desdemona.

Lenny Henry as Othello and Jessica Harris as Desdemona in William Shakespeare's Othello at the Trafalgar Studios in London Image copyright Getty Images

He won the Best Newcomer Award at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards for his performance.

In 2010, Sir Lenny and Dawn French ended their 25-year marriage.

One of Sir Lenny’s most well-known impersonations is of the British newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald early in his career. In 2013 the pair were photographed together at a press night at the Duchess Theatre in London.

Sir Tevor McDonald meets actor Lenny Henry following his performance on press night of 'Fences' at the Duchess Theatre in London Image copyright Getty Images

Sir Lenny has met the Queen on unerous occasions including here in 2014 at the Dramatic Arts reception at Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth II meets guests, including Lenny Henry, during the Dramatic Arts reception at Buckingham Palace on February 17, 2014 in London Image copyright Getty Images

The following year, he received his knighthood, becoming Sir Lenny Henry, seen below at the investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.

Sir Lenny Henry after receiving a Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II during an Investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle on December 4, 2015 in Windsor, England Image copyright Getty Images

Some of Sir Lenny’s most recent television work includes the BBC drama series The Syndicate in 2015, seen being filmed below, which explored the life-changing repercussions of a group of people winning the lottery.

Lenny Henry filming The Syndicate

Sir Lenny also played greengrocer Ed in ITV crime thriller series Broadchurch in 2017, seen below.

Sarah Parish as Cath and Lenny Henry as Ed Image copyright Shutterstock

As Sir Lenny approached his 60th birthday he revealed changes to his diet for health reasons, including cutting out sugar and reducing alcohol intake, leading to dramatic weight loss.

Despite his new strict eating regime, he recently told the One Show that he still intended to let himself have a good time for his big day.

Sir Lenny is seen below at a screening of the film Blackkklansman in London, the week before his 60th birthday.

Sir Lenny Henry attends the Blackkklansman Special Screening at Ham Yard Hotel on August 21, 2018 in London Image copyright Getty Images
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Theresa May to visit Nigeria as Brexit trade mission continues

Theresa May speaks to business leaders at the offices of First National Bank in Cape Town, Image copyright EPA
Image caption Theresa May spoke to business leaders in Cape Town on Tuesday, on the first day of her tour

Theresa May will visit Nigeria later on the second day of her trade mission to boost ties with Africa after Brexit.

Mrs May will discuss security, trade and people trafficking with President Muhammadu Buhari before meeting victims of modern slavery in Lagos.

The prime minister already announced £4bn of extra British support for African economies during the first leg of her trip on Tuesday.

She also insisted her “sensible” Brexit plans will deliver a “good” deal.

Mrs May will travel to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria – Britain’s second largest trading partner in Africa – for talks with President Buhari.

She is expected to announce a new UK and French project to help Nigeria and Niger strengthen their borders to crack down on trafficking.

The prime minister will also pledge to support victims of modern slavery who have suffered “enormous trauma”.

Speaking ahead of her visit, she said the UK is a “world leader” in trying to end modern slavery.

The three-day whistle-stop trip is aiming to deepen economic and trade ties with growing African economies ahead of Britain leaving the EU in 2019.

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Media captionTheresa May was all smiles as she joined school children for a dance

Arriving in South Africa on Tuesday, Mrs May – who is accompanied by a team of business delegates – said she wanted the UK to overtake the US to become the G7’s biggest investor in Africa by 2022.

She struck Britain’s first post-Brexit trade pact with Mozambique and the Southern African Customs Union, made up of six African nations. The EU currently has an economic partnership with this union, and the UK will now continue working with it after Brexit.

And Mrs May also pledged a “fundamental shift” in aid spending to focus on long-term economic and security challenges rather than short-term poverty reduction.

On Thursday, she will finish her tour in Kenya, where she will hold talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta and attend a state dinner, visit a business school and meet British troops.

Brexit ‘still on timetable’

While in South Africa, the prime minster also faced questions from journalists on Brexit.

She told the BBC’s Ben Wright that the UK is “still operating to the timetable” as it is originally set out in the Brexit negotiations.

It comes after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier indicated last week that a deal may be pushed back to early November.

She played down warnings from Chancellor Philip Hammond – who said last week that a no-deal Brexit could damage the economy.

She said the comments were based on analysis first released in January that were, at the time, a “work in progress”.

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Media captionMay: ‘Common sense’ to prepare for Brexit no deal

Mrs May then cited comments by the head of the World Trade Organisation, who said Brexit “won’t be a walk in the park, but won’t be end of the world either”.

“We are working for a good deal, we have put forward our proposal for a good deal,” she said. “I believe that deal is to the benefit, not only of the UK, but the EU.

“What the government is doing is putting in place the preparations to make sure we can make a success whatever our future relationship is with the EU and whatever the outcome of the negotiations.”

Talking to journalists on board RAF Voyager on Tuesday morning, Mrs May reiterated that she believed a no-deal Brexit was still better than a bad deal.

Nigeria: May’s trade mission

By BBC Africa business editor Larry Madowo

Nigeria is Britain’s second largest trading partner in Africa, but should the country be so focused on the UK?

Tunji Andrews, an economist based in Nigeria’s commercial hub Lagos, believes Nigeria should concentrate more on its relationship with the European Union.

“The diversity of demand of the EU market makes it slightly more attractive.

“I think it’s impossible not to look at the British market at this point, but I’ll also say that while Britain remains a viable trade partner, it just doesn’t hold the same value to Africa as China and to a lesser extent, the US.”

Nigeria’s top export to the UK is crude oil and its largest import is refined oil, a structural inefficiency that leads to regular fuel shortages as the populous West African nation lacks a properly functioning refinery.

Read more



Puerto Rico increases Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975

A man rides his bicycle through a damaged road in Toa Alta, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption The US territory has asked Congress for $139bn in recovery funds

Officials in Puerto Rico now say 2,975 people died following Hurricane Maria – a devastating storm that struck the US island territory in September 2017.

The revised death toll is nearly 50 times the previous estimate of 64.

Governor Ricardo Rossello “accepted” the findings in a long-awaited independent investigation.

Puerto Rico has struggled to repair its infrastructure and power grid since the storm, and is asking US Congress for $139bn (£108bn) in recovery funds.

“I’m giving an order to update the official number of deaths to 2,975,” Governor Ricardo Rossello said at a press conference on Tuesday. “Although this is an estimate, it has a scientific basis.”

In a statement, the White House said the federal government supported the governor’s efforts to “ensure a full accountability and transparency of fatalities” in last year’s hurricane.

President Donald Trump was criticised for praising the federal response to the hurricane-ravaged island in the weeks following the storm. Critics accused him of showing more concern for residents in Texas and Florida after they were hit by hurricanes.

Why the change in numbers?

The authorities have faced nearly a year of criticism for underreporting the true toll of Maria – the most powerful storm to hit the region in nearly 90 years.

Until now, the official figure was 64 – even though the island had previously acknowledged the death toll was probably much higher. In the wake of the disaster, some experts estimated as many as 4,600 deaths.

The government’s initial number was arrived at by counting those crushed by collapsing structures, drowned and hit by flying debris.

The latest findings – accepted by the island’s authorities – were made in a report by experts from George Washington University, which the governor commissioned.

“This shows the magnitude of the catastrophe,” Governor Rossello told newspaper El Nuevo Dia.

When asked why his government was unable to recognise a higher death toll, he replied: “I am not perfect. I make mistakes. Now, hindsight tends to be 20-20.”

He echoed one finding in the report – that doctors “lacked awareness” on how to appropriately certify deaths attributed to natural disasters.

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Media captionMonths after Maria, many on this US island still suffered in the dark

“The responsibility for adjudicating the cause of deaths rested with the doctors,” Mr Rossello told the island’s most circulated paper. “But unfortunately there was no formal process to prepare them for this kind of devastation.

“At that moment, that was the number [of deceased] that we had and today we have the evidence which indicates the number was definitely higher.”

What does the report say?

Researchers tracked the number of deaths using death certificates and other mortality data between mid-September 2017 to mid-February of this year.

Many people died as a result of poor healthcare provision and a lack of electricity and clean water. Repeated power outages also led to an increased number of deaths from diabetes and sepsis.

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Media captionHurricane Maria in Puerto Rico wasn’t a “real catastrophe like Katrina”, Trump told officials in the US territory last year

The Caribbean island is home to 3.3 million US citizens, some 8% of which have since left the island, the study said.

It also said that those from poorer backgrounds in Puerto Rico were 45% more likely to have been killed in the aftermath of the hurricane.

The governor said he would sign an executive order to create a committee to examine and put into practice the report’s recommendations.

Is this controversial?

Puerto Rico has been reeling ever since this devastating storm hit its shores – with residents still suffering blackouts, broken infrastructure and a lack of services.

Hurricane Maria caused the largest blackout in US history, according to research consultancy the Rhodium Group.

It is ranked as the third most financially costly cyclone in US history since 1900, yet its death toll is a third higher than the costliest – Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with an estimated 1,833.

The new study raises questions about US President Donald Trump’s response to the disaster.

During a visit in October, Mr Trump had suggested officials should be “proud” the death toll – at the time only 16 – was not as high as “a real catastrophe” like Katrina.

Official recognition moves recovery forward

Gary O’Donoghue, BBC Washington correspondent

For close to a year, Puerto Rico’s government has clung to the idea that 64 people died as a result of Maria.

That figure was always risible – particularly when you consider that the 150 mph (241 kmh) winds caused around $90bn worth of damage and left households for, on average, 84 days without electricity; 64 days without water and 41 days without cellular telephone coverage.

But now the governor, Ricardo Rossello, has bowed to the inevitable and ordered the official toll to be updated more than forty-fold.

In truth, the new official number is still an estimate – based on mortality data and taking into account historical data on migration patterns.

But the official recognition will allow the island to move on and focus fully on rebuilding its infrastructure and extracting the tens of billions of dollars needed from Congress to give the three million inhabitants of this already bankrupt territory something of a future.



Quarter of 14-year-old girls in UK ‘self-harm’

Teenage girl being bullied Image copyright Getty Images

Nearly a quarter of 14-year-old girls in the UK said they had self-harmed, a report suggests.

A survey of 11,000 children found 22% of the girls and 9% of the boys said they had hurt themselves on purpose in the year prior to the questionnaire.

Rates of self-harm were worst (46%) among those who were attracted to people of the same or both genders.

The Children’s Society report said gender stereotypes and worries about looks were contributing to unhappiness.

The self-harm statistics are included in the charity’s annual Good Childhood Report, which examines the state of children’s wellbeing in the UK.

Based on the figures, The Children’s Society estimates that 109,000 children aged 14 may have self-harmed across the UK during the 12-month period in 2015 – 76,000 girls and 33,000 boys.

The data on self-harm was analysed by The Children’s Society after being collected in 2015 in the Millennium Cohort Study, a continuing research project following the lives of 19,000 children born in the UK between 2000 and 2001.

It follows NHS data released this month that showed the number of admissions to hospital of girls aged 18 and under for self-harm had almost doubled in two decades, from 7,327 in 1997 to 13,463 in 2017.

The NSPCC says common reasons for self-harming include:

  • depression
  • bullying
  • pressure at school
  • emotional abuse
  • grieving
  • having relationship problems with family or friends

Matthew Reed, chief executive at The Children’s Society, said: “It is deeply worrying that so many children are unhappy to the extent that they are self-harming.

“Worries about how they look are a big issue, especially for girls, but this report shows other factors such as how they feel about their sexuality and gender stereotypes may be linked to their unhappiness.”

‘It became an obsession’

Image copyright Getty Images

An 18-year-old woman who used to self-harm said she had started aged 12 in an attempt to deal with painful or overwhelming feelings.

She said: “It quickly became an obsession.

“My self-harm problem caused me to lie to those who cared about me, time and time again, as I pushed away the people around me.”

Self-harm was often “romanticised” on social media, which drew in the most vulnerable people, she said.

But professional support had helped her to stop and develop healthy ways of coping with her problems.

“Recovery has changed my life. I am a person I never thought I could be with a bright future ahead of me – yet I know others who haven’t received the help I did and are still battling.

“To those struggling, please talk to people you can trust – you can and will get through this.”

Gender stereotypes

A separate survey of 10- to 17-year-olds and their parents across 2,000 households, also included in The Children’s Society report, found the children were unhappiest with school and their appearance.

This research also suggests that boys and girls are often harmed by gender stereotypes.

Those who felt boys should be tough and girls should have nice clothes were least happy with life.

The report also suggests happy family relationships are the biggest positive influence on children’s wellbeing.

The Children’s Society called on the government to make it a requirement for all secondary schools to offer access to a counsellor and have their mental health services assessed in Ofsted inspections.

The Department of Health said it is investing an extra £300m to provide more mental health help in schools – including trained staff.

A spokesperson said: “We’ve extended our pilot scheme to deliver training in 20 more areas of the country this year to improve links between 1,200 schools and their mental health services.”

The government added it will announce more on how it can improve mental health as part of its long-term plan for the NHS later this year.

Emma Thomas, chief executive of Young Minds, said: “Difficult experiences in childhood, like growing up in poverty or experiencing discrimination, can have a huge impact on mental health – but there are also new pressures that have emerged in recent years.

“The education system now places a greater emphasis than ever on exam results, while the rise of social media can make problems like bullying or body image issues more intense than they were in the past.”

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said mental health was “one of the biggest health epidemics of our time” and strongly linked to social disadvantage.

A spokesman added: “This country’s mental health crisis is not going to go away overnight but with appropriate action from government there is hope that fewer children will have mental health worries and be happier with their life as a result.”

What adults can do to help a child who is self-harming

  • Show you understand
  • Talk it over
  • Discover the triggers
  • Build their confidence
  • Show you trust them
  • Choose who you tell carefully
  • Help them find new ways to cope

How to spot warning signs

Look for physical signs such as cuts, bruises, burns and bald patches from pulling out hair. These are commonly on the head, wrists, arms, thighs and chest.

The emotional signs are harder to spot:

  • depression
  • tearfulness and low motivation
  • becoming withdrawn and isolated, for example wanting to be alone in their bedroom for long periods
  • sudden weight loss or gain
  • low self-esteem and self-blame
  • drinking or taking drugs

Source: NSPCC

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Pension transfers ‘too generous’, says regulator

Pensioners Image copyright Getty Images

Pension schemes have been asked to consider whether they are being too generous when offering lump sums to people thinking about cashing out of “defined benefit” retirement schemes.

It comes amid concern that overly generous payouts could damage the remaining funds.

The Pensions Regulator wrote to 14 schemes earlier this year, encouraging them to consider making reductions.

A record £21bn flowed out of defined schemes in the year to March.

Defined benefit schemes promise people a certain level of income when they retire, such as final salary pensions, and are often described as “gold-plated”.

However, in recent years firms have been offering people large cash sums to transfer out, as it gets more expensive to cover their obligations.

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The letter was obtained by Royal London, one of the UK’s largest pension fund managers, following a freedom of information request.

Sir Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London, said people were routinely offered 25 to 30 times their annual pension as a lump sum transfer value – but it could be as much as 40 times.

This could mean that for a £10,000-per-year pension, someone could be offered anywhere between £250,000 and £400,000.

The former pensions minister said such generous payouts might pose a risk if the pension scheme was in deficit, or if the employer faced financial difficulties.

Image copyright Getty Images

If large numbers of workers transferred out, he said, it could worsen the scheme’s funding position and put other member’s pots in jeopardy.

“I would hope that well-run pension schemes would be taking expert advice when deciding how much to offer to members wishing to transfer out,” Sir Steve said.

“But the regulator’s letter is a helpful reminder to all schemes that they need to be fair not only to those transferring out but also those left behind, especially where the scheme in question is in deficit.”

In its letter, the Pensions Regulator said that transfers presented “certain risks” to members as they did not promise a guaranteed stream of income.

It also told the schemes, which have not been named, that it was in the “best financial interests” of most members to stick with their defined benefit schemes.

‘Primary concern’

The costs of defined benefit schemes have risen as people live longer, and companies now tend to offer employees less generous defined contribution schemes.

However, large numbers of current and former workers still rely on them.

A spokesman for the Pensions Regulator said: “Our primary concern is that defined benefit scheme members requesting a cash equivalent transfer value have all the information they need to make an informed decision about what is in their best interests.

“This includes understanding the fees that are charged under any new pension arrangement as these can make a significant difference to the value of the fund.

“As a result, we are working closely with the Financial Conduct Authority and The Pensions Advisory Service to provide an increased level of support to trustees and scheme members where there is uncertainty around the future of a defined benefit pension scheme.

“This includes providing letters for trustees to send members alerting them to the risks of transferring and giving practical information.”



Teenagers who smoke and drink suffer ill effects by age of 17

Teenagers smoking and drinking Image copyright Getty Images

Teenagers who smoke and drink alcohol are causing visible damage to their arteries by the age of 17, a study has revealed.

Tests showed stiffening of the arteries had begun by this relatively young age.

These physical changes have been linked with an increased risk of heart and blood vessel problems, such as stroke and heart attack, in later life.

But the study also found that the arteries of teenagers who stopped smoking or drinking returned to normal.

The researchers studied data between 2004 and 2008 from 1,266 youngsters taking part in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which charts the health of 14,500 families in the Bristol area.

The study has been published in the European Heart Journal.

The participants detailed their smoking and drinking habits at the ages of 13, 15 and 17 and tests were then done to discover if there had been any stiffening of their arteries.

They had to report facts including:

  • how many cigarettes they had smoked in their lifetime
  • the age at which they started to drink alcohol

Those who had smoked more than 100 cigarettes or tended to binge drink had a higher incidence of stiffened arteries than those who had smoked fewer than 20 cigarettes or had fewer than two drinks per day.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Teenagers who took part in the study preferred to drink beer rather than wine or spirits

The report’s senior author, Prof John Deanfield, from the UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science, said: “We found that in this large contemporary British cohort, drinking and smoking in adolescence, even at lower levels compared to those reported in adult studies, is associated with arterial stiffening and atherosclerosis progression.

“However, we also found that if teenagers stopped smoking and drinking during adolescence, their arteries returned to normal – suggesting that there are opportunities to preserve arterial health from a young age.”

Dr Marietta Charakida, who carried out the research at the UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science, said: “Injury to the blood vessels occurs very early in life as a result of smoking and drinking and the two together are even more damaging.

“Although studies have shown teenagers are smoking less in recent years, our findings indicated approximately one in five teenagers were smoking by the age of 17.

“In families where parents were smokers, teenagers were more likely to smoke.”

Prof Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, told the BBC that the fact damage could be reversed was an “encouraging indication”.

He said: “It’s never too late to make changes that may literally end up saving your life.

“This study suggests that the damage to arteries can occur even in the young, leading to serious trouble later on in life.

“Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to protect your heart.

“If you do drink, try to ensure that it’s not to excess and within the recommended guidelines.”



Goats ‘drawn to happy human faces’

Goat Image copyright Christian Nawroth
Image caption The study was carried out at a goat sanctuary in the UK

Scientists have found that goats are drawn to humans with happy facial expressions.

The result suggests a wider range of animals can read people’s moods than was previously thought.

The team showed goats pairs of photos of the same person, one of them featuring an angry expression, and the other a happy demeanour.

The goats in the study made a beeline for the happy faces, the researchers report in the journal Open Science.

The result implies that the ability of animals to perceive human facial cues is not limited to those with a long history of working as human companions, such as dogs and horses.

Instead, it seems, animals domesticated for food production, such as goats, can also decipher human facial cues.

The study was carried out at the Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in Kent, UK.

Co-author Dr Alan McElligott, from Queen Mary, University of London, and colleagues set up pairs of black-and-white photos about 1.3m apart on one wall in their test area.

Then, a goat would be let loose to explore the set-up.

Doe eyes

The researchers found that the goats strongly preferred the smiling faces, approaching the happy faces before acknowledging the angry photos. They also spent more time examining the smiling faces with their snouts.

But the effect was only significant when the happy-faced photo was placed on the right-hand side.

When the happy photos were placed on the left, the goats showed no significant preference either way.

The researchers think this is because the goats are using one side of their brain to process the information – something that’s seen in other animals.

It could either be that the left side of the brain processes positive emotions, or that the right side of the brain is involved in avoidance of angry faces.

Dr McElligott, who is now based at the University of Roehampton, said: “The study has important implications for how we interact with livestock and other species, because the abilities of animals to perceive human emotions might be widespread and not just limited to pets.”

Co-author Natalia Albuquerque, from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, said: “The study of emotion perception has already shown very complex abilities in dogs and horses.

“However, to date, there was no evidence that animals such as goats were capable of reading human facial expressions. Our results open new paths to understanding the emotional lives of all domestic animals.”

The study could also have implications for animal welfare, helping change perceptions of these livestock animals by highlighting their sentience.



Who says toys are just for kids?

Nick Bright, from Brighton Bricks
Image caption Nick Bright (right) says he has returned to the Lego he loved as a child

At one end of the table, one enthusiast is meticulously laying out Lego pieces ready to construct a James Bond car.

At the other end, a game is being played where each participant adds another block to create a funny-looking figure.

Little is unusual about this imaginative play – except that everyone taking part is middle-aged.

They are members of Brighton Bricks, a group of adult Lego fans who meet up to talk, play and swap collections every month in a pub on the south coast.

“There is nothing wrong with simply playing with it. It is a toy. As an adult, it is still quite a bit of fun setting off the ejector seat on the Bond car,” says Nick Bright, the group’s 43-year-old leader.

“As a kid I was a massive fan of Lego, then I fell out of it. As an adult, the collection of mini-figures returned me to it.”

Image caption Jon Derbyshire says building blocks can help build confidence

Manufacturers and retailers are tuning in to the trend of adults buying games, toys and puzzles. Out of every £9 of toy spending, £1 is spent by adults buying something for themselves, research by analysts NPD has found.

Toy spending by adults, for adults, has risen by 8% year-on-year, and has increased by £30m since 2016.

There is a marketing word for these people – kidults, although that seems rather harsh. Some are building spectacular, and technical, displays with these toys.

Frederique Tutt, global industry analyst at NPD, says toys have become more sophisticated, from board games to drones, and collectable toys have expanded from traditional dolls and action figures into pop culture.

Yet one major reason for the popularity of toys among adults is that we all just need a break.

“Rather than a nostalgic trend, I’d say much of this is providing an escape from the stresses and strains of modern-day living, fulfilling our need to find downtime,” she says.

That theory holds some water at Brighton Bricks, where some of its members have found building Lego helps reduce or ward off anxiety.

“I will sit at home, stick a film on and build a Lego model of an evening. It is a nice way of occupying myself,” says engineer Jon Derbyshire, 49.

Fellow member Lizzy Dingemans, 50, says the hobby makes her much calmer. It helps too with her dyspraxia – a disorder that affects co-ordination and movement.

They are fans, but Lego is not exempt from their criticism.

Traditional Lego figures had a neutral body image and the basic blocks allowed imagination to flourish. Lizzy and Jon bemoan the move to figures that – like so many toys – portray a certain look which young people feel pressure to aspire to.

In numbers: The British toy market in 2017

  • More than 26,000 new toys launched
  • Collectable sales up 17% – the big hit of the year
  • £339 spent on toys for the typical child aged up to nine
  • £9.70 – the average price of a toy
  • Online sales account for 37% of the market
  • Fourth-largest market in world after US, China, and Japan

Source: British Toy and Hobby Association and analysts NPD

Building sets, such as Lego, are the most popular toys for adults as a whole.

At the upper end of the age range – among grandparents, rather than parents – there is a more popular pastime.

Train sets, radio-controlled vehicles and racing circuits like Scalextric top the spending list.

Visit the Orpington and District Model Railway Society in picturesque Pratt’s Bottom and it is easy to see why.

Image caption Paul Shallcross studies one of the club’s layouts
Image caption Some of the layouts are designed to entertain and involve youngsters

The club has nearly 60 members, with an average age of 65, each paying an annual subscription of about £80. The youngest is 44, the oldest in his 90s.

Chairman Paul Shallcross says that it would be too easy to stereotype the middle and older age men – there is only one woman – in the club which was established nearly 60 years ago.

Some are creative and artistic, others are attracted by the exact modelling – adding a tiny spike into every single sleeper – while many love the electronics that can become quite advanced in a large display. One member even has his own narrow gauge railway to transport firewood across his garden.

All of them enjoy the camaraderie.

“It is socially significant. Some of our members could have been lonely,” says Mr Shallcross, in the tea room of the club’s premises tucked alongside the village hall while his fellow members work on an exact replica of Swanley Junction.

“Everyone had a set as a kid, no computer games,” he says. “Some were brought up with steam trains.”

Image caption One of the layouts at Orpington and District Model Railway Society

Now they all work towards a public exhibition once or twice a year. This, in part, is a way to sell this traditional pastime to the young, connected generation.

“Model railways and Scalextric have moved with the times,” says Mr Shallcross, 64. “Each engine has a chip in it that is controlled from an iPad.”

The advance of 3D printing will offer more modern possibilities for traditional model layouts.

The attraction for youngsters, he says, is seeing how all this works and making their own. The soldering and the artistic skills, the safe use of hand tools, and the microelectronics are all “fantastic for the younger generation”, he says.

Most of all, he says, it is fun – and something that the youngest and oldest generations can enjoy together.

That would be music to the ears of any toy manufacturer wanting to crack the market for kids and kidults alike.



Contraception app advert banned by UK regulator

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Media caption‘I was misled by Natural Cycles app’

An advert on Facebook for an app that provides a natural alternative to contraception has been banned by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority.

Claims that it was “highly accurate” and “provided a clinically tested alternative to other birth control methods” were found to be misleading.

The Swedish firm behind the Natural Cycles app was warned “not to exaggerate” its efficacy.

In response, the firm said it respected the outcome of the investigation.

It told the BBC that it removed the ad, which ran for approximately four weeks in mid-2017, as soon as it was notified of the complaint.

“We are committed to being open and transparent in our communications to ensure our message is clear and provides women with the information they need to determine if Natural Cycles is right for them. As part of these efforts, every advertisement undergoes a strict approval process,” the firm said in a statement.

“Natural Cycles has been independently evaluated and cleared by regulators in Europe and the US based on clinical evidence demonstrating its effectiveness as a method of contraception.”

The ASA said that the Facebook ad must not appear again in its current form.

Natural Cycles requires women to take their temperatures every day using a basal body thermometer and to enter the reading into the app, which also tracks a user’s menstrual cycle.

The app uses an algorithm to determine a woman’s daily fertility based on changes in basal body temperature.

Basal thermometers are able to detect a minor rise in temperature around the time of ovulation. Women will see a “use protection” warning appear on the app during their fertile days.

Launched in 2014, the app now has more than 300,000 users who pay a monthly or annual fee for the service.

Image copyright Natural Cycles
Image caption Elina Berglund Scherwitzl, co-founder of Natural Cycles

It was invented by Swedish nuclear physicist Elina Berglund Scherwitzl and her husband.

It has previously been approved for use as a medical device by German inspection and certification organisation Tuv Sud, which means it can be used across the EU.

And it recently won approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, which described it as an effective method of contraception if “used carefully and correctly”.

At the time, Terri Cornelison, assistant director for the health of women at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said: “Women should know that no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”

In considering the complaint, which was lodged by three people, the ASA took expert advice and reviewed three published papers based on the accumulated data obtained from the app.

It found that there was a distinction between typical use of the app and the perfect-use scenario. It felt that the figures presented to users were based on the perfect user rather than typical user and, for the latter, the system could not be described as highly accurate.

It also found that presenting the statement “highly accurate” alongside the claim “clinically tested alternative to birth control methods” gave the impression “that the app was a precise and reliable method of preventing pregnancies which could be used in place of other established birth control methods”.

Natural Cycles told the ASA that the claim “clinically tested alternative to birth control methods” was a quote from the news site Business Insider.

But, it added, the claims were backed by scientific evidence, including clinical trials.

Separately the app is being investigated by Sweden’s Medical Products Agency (MPA) which told the BBC it has received approximately 60 complaints relating to unwanted pregnancies as a result of using the app.

It is due to publish its conclusions next week.

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Media captionDo pregnancy prevention apps work?