British Gas owner Centrica to cut 4,000 jobs after ‘weak’ year

British Gas van Image copyright Centrica

Centrica, which owns British Gas, is cutting 4,000 jobs as it continues to lose customers.

The energy supplier, which has operations in North America and Ireland as well as its main UK market, said group profits fell 17% to £1.25bn.

Chief executive Iain Conn said the firm had a “weak” second half of 2017, and it was not helped by political and regulatory intervention in the UK.

The firm’s British Gas business shed 9% of its UK domestic customers in 2017.

Centrica said the job losses, which are part of an extended cost-cutting programme, would fall mainly in its UK energy supply business.

Investment in technology and the simplification of core business processes would result in cost savings of £1.25bn per year by 2020, the firm said. It expects to also create around 1,000 additional roles.

Mr Conn told the BBC the job losses were in part due to “intense” competition and partly due to customers “moving to digital”.

He said the probable introduction of a price cap in the UK was another reason for the job losses.

“There is a link between our cost efficiency programme and preparing for any price cap in the UK. We’ve got to be competitive and this measure means we’ve got to drive more efficiency.”

Government cap

Mr Conn said that the prospect of the price cap had also hit the company’s shares.

Centrica’s shares have lost more than half of their value over the past year as politicians focused on ways to limit the cost of energy to ordinary consumers.

Around 12 million UK households are charged some form of default tariff for their energy, which can cost hundreds of pounds more per year than the cheapest deals on offer. The government is planning to cap the standard variable tariffs.

Despite the fall in profits for Centrica Group as a whole, British Gas, which supplies energy to UK homes and businesses, saw profits rise 3% to £572m.

Since some UK customers have more than one account, Centrica said the loss of 750,000 customers amounted to a loss of 10% of British Gas domestic accounts. However, the company said 70% of those accounts were loss-making.

British Gas now supplies 7.8 million customers with their domestic energy.



Domestic abuse: Guidelines recommend tougher sentences

Woman with head in hands Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new guidance also explicitly recognises the growth of domestic abuse perpetrated through technology

People convicted of domestic abuse offences in England and Wales will be more likely to go to prison in future, under new sentencing guidelines.

For the first time, the guidance will say domestic offences should be treated more seriously than similar crimes not involving partners or family members.

The new guidance will also extend domestic abuse to include non-physical forms – like threats on social media.

Charity Refuge described the move as “a huge step forward”.

‘Continuing threat’

The Sentencing Council says domestic offences should be treated more seriously because they represent a “violation of trust and security” normally associated with intimate or family relationships.

There is also the potential for victims of domestic abuse and their children to suffer “lasting trauma”, and for the perpetrators to present a “continuing threat to the victims’ safety”.

The new guidelines contrast sharply with previous guidance issued 12 years ago which states that offences in a domestic context should be seen as “no less serious” than others.

They also state that:

  • Provocation will not be considered as a mitigating factor in sentencing, except in rare circumstances
  • The penalty for domestic abuse should be determined by the seriousness of the crime – not by the wishes of the victim
  • Magistrates’ and Crown Courts should take “great care” where the offender or victim requests a less severe sentence in the interests of any children

For the first time, sentencing guidelines also explicitly recognise the growth of domestic abuse perpetrated through technology – including email, text, social networking and tracking devices.

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Media captionA woman who was beaten up by her ex-boyfriend on why she shared selfies of her injuries


By Danny Shaw, BBC home affairs correspondent

These guidelines signal a significant change of emphasis in the way courts deal with domestic abuse.

Since the last guidance was issued in 2006 there’s been more awareness about the nature of a crime that was once dismissed by police as “just a domestic”.

The official cross-government definition of domestic abuse was widened in 2013 to include incidents of controlling or coercive behaviour; two years later it was made a specific offence; and the Home Office is now planning fresh legislation to strengthen existing measures.

Tougher sentences will help deliver the message that society won’t tolerate abusive relationships – but practical help is needed for victims while offenders may require more than a spell behind bars to alter their behaviour.

  • PM to oversee new domestic violence law

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, about 4.3m women and 2.4m men aged between 16 to 59 experienced some form of domestic abuse in the year to March 2017.

Sentencing Council member Jill Gramann said abuse came in many forms and included harassment, assault and sex offences.

She said the new guidance would “ensure that courts have the information they need to deal with the great range of offending and help prevent further abuse occurring”.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said the charity had campaigned for crimes committed in a domestic context to be treated “as seriously, if not more seriously” than any other.

“I am glad that the courts will be encouraged to recognise that everybody has the right to feel safe in their own home,” she said.

“These sentencing guidelines better reflect the reality of domestic violence today.”

The updated guidance applies to offenders aged 16 and above, and will be in place from May.



Winter Olympics: USA beat Canada in shootout to win women’s ice hockey gold

USA women’s Ice hockey team overcome rivals Canada to win the gold medal
XXIII Olympic Winter Games
Venue: Pyeongchang, South Korea Dates: 9-25 February
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and mobile app. Full coverage times

The United States beat Canada 3-2 in a sudden-death shootout to win Winter Olympics gold in the women’s ice hockey for the first time in 20 years.

The scores were level at 2-2 after five penalty shots each, but USA’s Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored past Shannon Szabados before Maddie Rooney saved from Canada’s Meghan Agosta.

Canada won gold at the previous four Olympics, including victories over USA in the 2002, 2010 and 2014 finals.

The game had ended 2-2 after overtime.

Hillary Knight opened the scoring for USA but Haley Irwin and Marie-Philip Poulin put Canada ahead before Monique Lamoureux-Morando took the match into overtime in Pyeongchang.

USA beat Canada in the first women’s ice hockey Winter Olympic final in 1998.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scores the decisive penalty-shot past Shannon Szabados as USA win women’s ice hockey gold for a second time


BBC ice hockey commentator Seth Bennett

USA are crowned Olympic champions, the queens of ice hockey.

What an unbelievable final – it was an incredible game of ice hockey and the entertainment was first-class.

It all came down to mental strength and experience. This was great drama.



Trump endorses guns for teachers to stop shootings

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Media captionFather of Florida shooting victim to Trump: ‘I’m pissed’

US President Donald Trump has said arming teachers could prevent school shootings like that which left 17 people dead last week in Florida.

A staff member with a gun could end an attack “very quickly”, he said.

Mr Trump floated the proposal as emotional survivors of the 14 February massacre implored him to make sure something similar does not occur again.

The Republican president also backed calls for improved background checks on gun buyers.

Other survivors meanwhile lobbied Florida lawmakers on gun control.

“We’ll be very strong on background checks, very strong emphasis on the mental health of somebody,” Mr Trump told the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during Wednesday’s televised event at the White House.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Trump holds his notes at the listening session. Point five says: “I hear you”

“It’s not going to be talk like it’s been in the past,” he added.

The US president also endorsed a proposal long championed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), a powerful gun lobby group.

He pledged to look “very strongly” at calls for educators to be armed with guns.

“If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms,” he said, “they could very well end the attack very quickly.”

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Media captionSchool shooting survivor’s tearful plea

“Where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them,” he said, while acknowledging the plan was controversial, “they would go for special training and they would be there, and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.

“A gun-free zone, to a maniac, because they are all cowards, a gun-free zone is, ‘let’s go in and let’s attack.'”

A dozen US states already allow concealed handguns to be carried on college premises, according to the website Armed Campuses. The state of Florida does not.

Mr Trump denied during the 2016 election campaign that he was in favour of guns in classrooms.

Politicians feel the anger from bereaved parents

The US president listened to pleas for gun reform on Wednesday from about 40 students, teachers and families in the executive mansion’s state dining room.

Some of those at the hour-long event voiced support for Mr Trump’s idea of arming teachers.

  • After Florida, some owners give up guns
  • America’s gun culture in 10 charts

But Mark Barden – whose son Daniel was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut – said more guns was not the answer:

“Schoolteachers have more than enough responsibilities right now, than to have to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life,” he said.

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Media captionUS students walk out to demand firearms control

“Nobody wants to see a shoot-out in a school.”

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, died in last week’s attack – the second-deadliest shooting at a US public school – said: “We, as a country, failed our children.”

“I’m pissed!” he added.

Meanwhile, Florida Senator Marco Rubio also felt the articulate anger of a bereaved parent at a CNN “town hall” event.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed at Stoneman Douglas, told the senator that his comments and those of the president’s in the past week had been “pathetically weak”.

“You and I are now eye to eye,” he told Mr Rubio. “Look at me and tell me that guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in this school this week. And look at me and tell me you accept it and you will work with us to do something about guns.”

Mr Rubio was repeatedly booed throughout his response. He acknowledged that guns were “absolutely” responsible for the death of Mr Guttenberg’s daughter, but reaffirmed his position that “gun laws alone” were not the solution.

He later said banning semi-automatic weapons was “a position well outside the mainstream”

‘Where the bullets go both ways’

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC North America correspondent

That Donald Trump spoke enthusiastically about arming schoolteachers to protect against armed assailants should not come as much of a surprise. Throughout his presidential campaign he endorsed the idea of an armed citizenry as a defence against attacks.

“Where the bullets go both ways, not just in one direction, you wouldn’t have had the kind of carnage that you had,” then-candidate Trump said regarding the December 2015 San Bernardino and November 2015 Paris attacks.

The president’s comments on licensing guns in schools – a topic on which the public is sharply divided and a majority of the group at the White House on Wednesday seemed resistant to – largely overshadowed an otherwise powerful “listening session”.

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Media captionWhat has Donald Trump said about guns and gun control?

The audience represented a diversity of views, and Mr Trump allowed those touched by gun violence to share their stories.

It was reminiscent of the free-ranging meeting the president had with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on immigration in January. Of course, that public display – where the president pledged to support any legislation backed by Congress – gave way to hardline demands from the White House and threatened vetoes.

This president has pledged action in response to Parkland. And his actions will speak louder than his words.

Hundreds of teenagers from the Washington DC suburbs rallied outside the White House before Mr Trump’s meeting.

Meanwhile, survivors of the shooting poured into the Florida state capital to demand lawmakers restrict sales of assault rifles.

“We want gun reform. We want common sense gun laws,” said Delaney Tarr in Tallahassee.

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Media captionFlorida shooting survivor mistaken for the gunman

It was the first organised protest of the youth-led anti-gun movement that has swept the US since the attack in Parkland, Florida.

Other students in Chicago, Illinois; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Phoenix, Arizona walked out of classes in solidarity.

Some lawmakers in Florida’s state legislature said they would consider raising the minimum age to buy assault rifles – like the one police say was used in last week’s massacre – from 18 to 21.

However, the legislators rejected a proposal on Tuesday to even debate banning such weapons.

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Media captionAround 100 students made the bus journey of more than seven hours to reach Florida’s capital

Mr Trump’s listening session came a day after he directed his administration to take steps to ban gun “bump stocks”.

The accessories – which enable a rifle to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute – were used by a gunman who killed 58 concert-goers in Las Vegas last October.

That was the deadliest attack by a lone gunman in US history.

The NRA – which contributed an estimated $30m (£21m) to help elect Mr Trump – opposes a total ban on bump stocks but supports some regulation of the devices and some changes to background check legislation.



Winter Olympics: Michelle Gisin wins combined gold as Lindsey Vonn fails to finish

Lindsey Vonn took bronze in the women’s downhill on Wednesday
XXIII Olympic Winter Games
Venue: Pyeongchang, South Korea Dates: 9-25 February
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and mobile app. Full coverage times

Lindsey Vonn failed to finish her final Olympic race as Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin took gold in the women’s alpine combined.

American Vonn, 33, had the fastest downhill time but did not complete her slalom run in Pyeongchang.

Gisin, 24, won in two minutes 20.90 seconds, while American Mikaela Shiffrin, 0.97secs back, added silver to the gold she won in giant slalom.

Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener won bronze after claiming silver in the slalom.

Vonn was quickest in her favoured downhill, in which she won gold in 2010 and bronze earlier this week, so was last to go in the slalom.

Shiffrin went in front of Holdener with five skiers to go, only to be pushed down three runs later by Gisin, whose older sister Dominique shared the downhill gold in 2014.

Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel just missed out on a third medal of these Games as she came fourth, 0.29secs behind Holdener.

And Vonn failed to finish as her Olympic career, which started as a 17-year-old at Salt Lake City in 2002, came to a disappointing conclusion.



Reality Check: How much do we spend on fried chicken?

The logo of KFC displayed outside of a branch closed due to a chicken shortage Image copyright Getty Images

KFC outlets across the UK have closed temporarily this week as delivery problems led to a shortage of chicken.

The fried chicken chain switched its delivery contract last week to DHL, which blamed “operational issues” for the disruption.

Nearly half of the restaurant’s 900 outlets were closed on Tuesday night – down from 575 on Monday.

The fast food giant expects disruption to its restaurants to continue for the rest of the week.

Customers have been sharing their dismay on social media – and this got Reality Check thinking about the UK’s eating habits.

How much money do we spend on fried chicken in the UK and who is spending it?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nearly half of KFC’s outlets were closed on Tuesday night

In 2017, UK customers spent an estimated £2.2bn in chicken restaurants such as KFC, BIRD or Chick ‘n’ Sours.

According to retail researchers Mintel, the value of sales could rise to £2.6bn in 2022.

Nearly half of Britons (43%) had bought a takeaway from a chicken restaurant between April and June 2017, according to a survey of 2,000 adults by Mintel.

It’s 16 to 34-year-olds, students and parents of under-16s who are the most likely to visit chicken outlets.

But burgers are more popular with UK customers – 60% of Britons had eaten at a burger restaurant in the three months to June 2017, 17% more than at chicken restaurants.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Child obesity rates in London are reportedly higher than in the rest of the country

The number of fast-food takeaways in the UK has seen a huge increase in recent years, according to research published by the University of Cambridge.

Cambridge’s Centre for Diet and Activity Research (Cedar) found that the number of takeaway restaurants had increased by 45% from 1990 to 2008.

The number of outlets per 10,000 people increased from 2.6 to 3.8 over that period.

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The study focused on the county of Norfolk. As the area shares many population characteristics with the rest of the country, researchers said the results could be extrapolated to apply to the country as a whole.

According to new figures provided to Reality Check by Cedar:

  • There were 57,872 takeaways in England in September 2017
  • Birmingham and Leeds are the local authorities with the highest number of takeaways – over 1,100 each
  • Manchester, Sheffield and Bradford also feature in the top five, with 929, 765 and 749 takeaways in their areas
  • A high concentration of fast-food outlets is found in London – with 600 takeaways in Westminster alone.

Data is from the food environment assessment tool by Cedar, which uses data from the Ordnance Survey.

Obesity problems

In 2017, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced a new planning strategy, saying that fast-food outlets should not be allowed to open within 400m of schools.

The announcement came as part of his plan to tackle childhood obesity in London. According to Trust for London, a charity that focuses on poverty in London, 23% of the city’s 11-year-olds were obese in 2015-16, in comparison with 20% across the rest of England.

In 2016, the BBC Good Food Nation Survey found that one in six 16 to 20-year-olds ate fast food up to twice a day.

The study of 5,000 people also found that consumption decreased with age, with just one in eight 21 to 34-year-olds eating as much fast food.

The government’s national childhood obesity plan called for the introduction of a soft drinks levy, creating a healthy rating scheme for primary schools and for clearer food labelling.

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Winter Olympics: Anna Gasser wins women’s big air final with last jump

Gasser snatches big air gold with superb last jump
XXIII Olympic Winter Games
Venue: Pyeongchang, South Korea Dates: 9-25 February
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and mobile app. Full coverage times

Austria’s Anna Gasser produced the best score with the last jump to snatch Winter Olympic gold from Jamie Anderson in the women’s big air in Pyeongchang.

American Anderson, who won slopestyle gold, scored 90.00 on her first run and still led after run two.

But Gasser, 26, then posted 96.00 to take gold, with 16-year-old New Zealander Zoi Sadowski-Synnott third.

The two best scores of three runs were taken for the final total, with Gasser scoring 185.00 and Anderson 177.25.

“I was standing up there and I knew I had the silver and I was like ‘no, I’m going to go full risk,'” Gasser said.

“I thought, ‘if it works out, then I deserve this medal’. Thankfully it worked out and it’s a dream come true.”

Anderson, 27, started well, while Sadowski-Synnott managed only 65.50 in her first run at the Phoenix Snow Park.

But Sadowski-Synnott jumped 92.00 – the best score of run two – to move into bronze-medal position, and may have challenged for gold had she landed her ambitious third attempt.



Sergej Milinkovic-Savic: Lazio’s Serbian midfielder has Europe’s elite excited

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has scored seven Serie A goals this season

In August, Lazio owner Claudio Lotito rejected the notion that the Rome side are a selling club.

His defence was pretty convincing. “I turned down 70m euros [£61.7m] for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic,” Lotito argued.

And it’s just as well he did. A fortnight earlier Paris St-Germain signed Neymar for 222m euros (£200m) and the transfer market changed forever. All of a sudden deals like the one Liverpool struck with Roma to bring in Mohamed Salah for £34m in June started to look cheap.

Prices have skyrocketed since and there is a sense Lazio are in a very strong negotiating position in relation to Milinkovic (as he is known in Italy), not only because they extended the 22-year-old midfielder’s contract through to 2020 last spring, but because it is a World Cup year and Serbia are back in the tournament for the first time since 2010.

Scouts from Europe’s super clubs will be at Lazio’s Europa League tie with Steaua Bucharest on Thursday to check on his progress. They follow Lazio as closely as the club’s ultras these days.

“If I were the sporting director of any top European club right now, the first player I would buy is Milinkovic,” said Leonardo, who performed that role for Paris St-Germain.

So what is it about the Serb that has got everybody so excited?

‘SMS’ latest on Genk conveyor belt

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (right) played for Scotland manager Alex McLeish at Belgian side Genk

Born in Spain, Milinkovic came through the youth set-up at FK Vojvodina in Novi Grad, Serbia’s second largest city.

“Watching him train for 10 minutes in Vojvodina’s youth academy was enough for me to understand his huge potential,” Mateja Kezman, the former Chelsea striker and now the player’s agent, said.

It was Belgian side Genk, the best talent spotters on the continent relative to their place in the European football food chain, who were the first to move for him, in no small part because of the role he played in Serbia’s Under-19 European Championship winning side of 2013.

Domestically the Belgian club’s hit-rate was already high, bringing through the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Christian Benteke and Kevin de Bruyne.

But evidently their network extends beyond tapping the rich seam of Belgium’s golden generation as it also incredibly flagged up Milinkovic, Napoli and Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly, Leicester and Nigeria midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and Bayer Leverkusen’s Jamaica U23 international winger Leon Bailey.

They signed Milinkovic in 2014 and by October, he had convinced Genk’s manager at the time, current Scotland boss Alex McLeish, to give him regular playing time. Come the summer he was the star of the Serbia side that won the Under-20 World Cup. Fiorentina invited Milinkovic to Florence, firm in the belief they could beat the competition to sign him.

But the player hesitated and they pulled out.

“We shouldn’t need to convince or beg anyone to play for Fiorentina,” sporting director Daniele Prade complained. “And besides it’s not like a 20-year-old kid can change our team.”

Two days later Milinkovic joined Lazio for 6m euros (£5.3m). Not only has he changed their fortune, he promises to make them one.

Football and basketball in the genes

Kezman has said “it’s hard to make comparisons” when it comes to the Serb. And you can see why.

How many other midfielders do you know who are 6ft 4in tall with everything you expect of a player of that size – strength, physicality, aerial prowess – but also the skill, vision and technique you associate with smaller players in that position.

It’s an unusual skillset explained in part by his genes. Milinkovic’s father Nikola spent years playing in Spain where technique is prioritised above all else.

His mother Milana was a professional basketball player and if you think Milinkovic is tall you should see his younger brother Vanja.

He’s 6ft 8in and recently hit the bar with a 35-yard free-kick for Torino in the Coppa Italia – nothing out of the ordinary you might think for a kid from Vojvodina, a city whose other famous sons include Sinisa Mihajlovic.

Except Vanja is the Italian club’s back-up goalkeeper. Manchester United fans may remember the name from his short spell at the club in 2015.

A failure to obtain a work permit meant he moved to Lechia Gdansk without making any appearances for United.

Incidentally both Milinkovic boys are fan favourites at Lazio for a very simple reason. Sergej helped Lazio knock Roma out the cup last year. Vanja did it this year with Torino. Stick to the right parts of the Eternal City and they never have to buy a cappuccino again.

‘Mr 100 million’

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has only scored one goal fewer this season than Paul Pogba managed for Juventus the season before his £89m to Manchester United

If Milinkovic’s combination of talents defies easy comparison, that hasn’t stopped the Italian papers from trying.

“Lotito has his Pogba,” La Repubblica trumpeted last month.

Milinkovic is considered the closest thing Serie A still has to the former Juventus midfield player. And not just because La Gazzetta dello Sport are talking about Milinkovic as “Mr 100 million” – evoking memories of Pogba’s then world record 100m euro move to Manchester United.

They play in the same area of the pitch, on the left side of midfield, and the presence of a wing-back nearby and a midfield organiser behind gives Milinkovic much the same platform Pogba enjoyed in Turin to go and express himself fully.

For a coach of his relatively limited experience, Simone Inzaghi deserves great credit for identifying exactly how and where to get the most out of him. As we’ve seen with Jose Mourinho and Pogba, that is not as easy as it looks.

Nine goals and four assists this season do not tell the whole story with Milinkovic. He takes over matches.

Against Atalanta, he single-handedly brought Lazio back into the game from 2-0 down. He then snatched a dramatic victory with another double away to Sampdoria and left people stunned with his first-half performance at Napoli two weeks ago.

How Serbia have yet to cap him in a competitive game is a mystery.

He was already raising eyebrows a year ago. Aware of the hype gathering around him, Lazio reportedly bought out the 50% sell-on clause in the terms they agreed with Genk for 9m euros (£7.9m) last September.

Taken as a whole it is a remarkable piece of business. And what is clear is Lazio didn’t simply get lucky; their recruitment, as conducted by former Albania international Igli Tare, has been outstanding.

Whether it is finding the likes of Albanian keeper Thomas Strakosha, Brazilian midfielder Felipe Anderson, and Keita Balde Diao – now with Monaco – before that, and getting there first with Dutch defender Stefan de Vrij before the last World Cup, or turning scrap metal into gold in the case of former Liverpool midfielder Luis Alberto, rebooting another former Red Lucas Leiva and picking up strikers like Miroslav Klose and current Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile on the cheap, Lazio are shrewd operators.

On Monday they overtook Inter in Serie A to move into the fourth and final Champions League spot. Qualifying for that competition brings more money and will make it easier for Lazio to put the case to Milinkovic that he should stay another year.

But the interest in him is longstanding, serious and high in profile. The phone at Lazio won’t stop ringing. Europe’s super clubs have got the message. They want SMS.



Fear of war looms over Syria neighbours, Iran says

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Media captionMr Araqchi said Iran was working to reduce tension in the Syrian rebel-held area of the Eastern Ghouta

Iran’s deputy foreign minister says the situation in its ally Syria is “very complicated” amid growing concern a wider regional war could erupt.

“Fear of war is everywhere in our region,” Abbas Araqchi told the BBC.

It comes after Israel targeted Iranian sites in Syria earlier this month.

Mr Araqchi told the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet in London that Iran’s presence in Syria was not aimed at creating a new front against Israel, but to fight terrorism.

“Just imagine if we were not there. Now you would have Daesh [the Islamic State group] in Damascus, and maybe in Beirut and other places,” the minister said.

He deplored the suffering in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta where Syrian bombing in the past few days has killed scores of civilians.

War of drones

Mr Araqchi added that Iran-backed militia such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah – which has also fought in Syria on the side of the Syrian government – existed to confront Israel.

Mr Araqchi also refused to confirm that Iran had sent a drone into Israeli airspace from Syria earlier this month. He said the drone belonged to the Syrian army.

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Media captionMr Netanyahu said Iran was falsely denying that it sent a drone into Israeli territory last week

An Israeli warplane targeting Iranian sites in retaliation was shot down by Syrian air defences.

This week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brandished what he said was part of the drone at a security conference in Munich and said Iran was the “greatest threat to our world”.

But Mr Araqchi said Israel was flying drones over Syria and other neighbouring countries.

“They shouldn’t be angry when they are faced with something that they are doing against others on a daily basis,” he said.

Nuclear deal at ‘critical’ moment

Mr Araqchi also said that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was at a “critical moment” following US threats that sanctions on Iran could be re-imposed.

Last month President Donald Trump said the deal’s “terrible flaws” had to be fixed.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister said he did not believe the deal could survive without the US.

The landmark accord between six global powers and Iran obliges Iran to agree to reduce uranium enrichment activity, dispose of enriched uranium stocks and modify a heavy water facility in return for sanctions to be lifted.

However the White House wants EU signatories to agree permanent restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment. Under the current deal they are set to expire in 2025. Mr Trump also wants Iran’s ballistic missile programme to be addressed.

But Mr Araqchi said the US had to fulfil its side of the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) before other issues could be discussed.

“Another deal on any other issue depends on how successful is the deal that we have already made, and we have remained fully compliant to that, and the other side has not fully complied,” he said.

“If the JCPOA becomes a successful experience for Iran, then they are allowed to ask us for any other issues to negotiate this,” he added.

He said Mr Trump’s derogatory remarks about the deal were undermining it and this was preventing Iran’s economy from improving.

This in turn had contributed to anti-government protests in Iran last month, Mr Araqchi said.

“Peoples’ expectations from the JCPOA are not met, it’s a fact,” he said.

“Most of it is because of this atmosphere of uncertainty which President Trump has created out, around JCPOA, which prevents all big companies and banks to work with Iran, it’s a fact, and it’s a violation by the United States.”

  • Why are there protests in Iran?
  • Six charts that explain Iran protests



News Daily: Trump on arming teachers, and May’s Brexit summit

Hello. Here’s your morning briefing:

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Trump: We should arm teachers

It’s just over a week since 17 people were shot dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida – one of many attacks on US schools over the past few years. How can such bloodshed be stopped? Campaigners have long argued for stronger gun controls. In a meeting at the White House, Donald Trump promised to improve background checks on firearms owners. But he put forward another idea: armed teachers.

“If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms,” the president said, “they could very well end the attack very quickly.” This would also serve as a deterrent, argued Mr Trump, who described armed attackers as “cowards”.

But Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, said teachers should not be given “the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life”. He added: “Nobody wants to see a shoot-out in a school.” The BBC’s Joel Gunter looks at the feasibility of teachers carrying guns

Meanwhile, some people in Florida say they are giving up their weapons following last week’s attack. And, here’s a look at America’s gun culture in 10 charts.

May heads to Chequers for Brexit talks

Theresa May and her senior cabinet colleagues are meeting to work out a deal on the government’s approach to Brexit. The get-together at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, comes after ministers have been at odds over how closely the EU and UK should align after exit day in March 2019. So, what can be achieved? Read BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg’s take.

Anti-depressants work, suggests major study

More than 60 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were given out in England in 2016. But a debate has long raged within the medical profession as to how effective they are at reducing the symptoms of acute depression. A report, published in the Lancet, suggests they do work. Patients who take anti-depressants fare significantly better than those given dummy pills, it says – but some drugs are better than others.

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Stormzy has night to remember at Brits

Grime superstar Stormzy had a great night at the Brit Awards, taking the prizes for best British male and best British album. He used a freestyle between songs at the end of the show to criticise the prime minister’s handling of the Grenfell Tower fire. “Yo, Theresa May, where’s that money for Grenfell?” he rapped. “What, you thought we just forgot about Grenfell?” In other awards, singer-songwriter Dua Lipa was named best British female artist and the Gorillaz were best group. It was comedian Jack Whitehall’s first time as Brits host – here are his best one-liners. And take a look at our selection of the best pictures from the night.

Six things Billy Graham believed

“Christianity is not a white man’s religion and don’t let anyone tell you it’s white or black,” Graham told an audience in South Africa in 1973. “Christ belongs to all people.” He was also a close friend of Martin Luther King Jr, and once paid his bail when King was arrested at a demonstration in 1960. Critics, however, argue that Graham did not push for legislative action, but for voluntary change, and that his support of Southern Baptist ministers could be interpreted as an endorsement of segregation.

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What the papers say

Metro and the i lead on the legal victory of two of serial sex attacker John Worboys’s victims in a case which means victims of serious crime may now be able to hold police liable for failures in investigations. Meanwhile, the Times focuses on the research suggesting that anti-depressants do work. “Pop more happy pills” is the Sun’s headline. And the Daily Star warns of an “Arctic blast” hitting the UK.

Daily digest

London stabbings Stop using knives, begs mother who lost two sons

Lecturers’ walkout Universities braced for 14 days of strikes over pensions

‘Most exciting day’ US radio presenter gives birth on air

Katie’s story Broken dreams of GB Olympic snowboarding hopeful

If you see one thing today

Image copyright Reuters

Farming the old-fashioned way

If you listen to one thing today

How will Brexit affect Gibraltar?

If you read one thing today

Image copyright Penguin

Why my family had to disappear


11:00 The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall present the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for higher and further education, in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

12:05 The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, gives a speech in Brussels titled “Europe: Back on track”.

On this day

1997 Scientists in Scotland announce the birth of the world’s first successfully cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep.

From elsewhere

The daring plan to save a religious minority from Isis (New Yorker)

How fried chicken ate the High Street (Daily Mail)

Where is Tonya Harding now? (Marie Claire)

The UK’s 10 best beaches (Independent)