UK weather: Storm Emma to bring snow, gales and rain

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Media captionBBC Weather’s Ben Rich with the latest forecast.

Heavy snow blizzards, “biting” winds, and significant travel disruption are predicted in the UK as Storm Emma moves into the south of the country.

Meanwhile the “Beast from the East” front continues to freeze Scotland and the north, with up to 40cm of snow expected in some places.

A red warning for snow – meaning there is a potential risk to life – is in place in Scotland until 10:00 GMT.

An amber warning for Scotland and northern England will last until 18:00.

A further amber warning for snow and ice will be in place for London and the south east, south-west England, Wales and the West Midlands from midday until 08:00 on Friday.

The Met Office said there were signs the cold easterly flow was likely to last into next week and possibly into the following week.

‘Blizzard conditions’

By Thursday morning, parts of England and Wales may see widespread snow associated with Storm Emma, said Andy Page, of the Met Office,

“Parts of south west England and Wales could also see freezing rain for a time on Thursday night – a relatively rare weather phenomena in the UK,” he said.

BBC Weather’s Ben Rich predicted “blizzard conditions” by Thursday evening across the south west of England, Wales and parts of the Midlands.

He said a “biting easterly wind” will make it feel like -11C (12F) in Birmingham and Cardiff – on what is the first day of meteorological spring.

Image copyright Getty Images

The Met Office said some areas of Scotland could see up to 30cm (11.8 inches) of snow fall and possibly up to 40cm (15.7 inches) in “a few places” by mid-morning.

Up to 10cm (7.8 inches) is forecast to fall in parts of Scotland and northern England, with up to 40cm over the hills.

There is potential for up to 50cm (19.6 inches) over parts of Dartmoor and Exmoor, the Met Office added, with up to 20cm (7.8 inches) falling in southern England, Wales and the West Midlands.

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Media captionLondon’s snowfall

Rail passengers have been warned to avoid travelling to or from Scotland on Thursday while in Kent 50 stations will be closed.

Almost all train operators are expected to be affected by conditions.

Several are planning to run amended timetables, with passengers being urged to check before they travel.

Glasgow Airport has said there will be no incoming or outbound flights until 11:00.

Traffic on the M80 between Glasgow and Stirling was brought to a standstill for several hours on Wednesday and overnight into Thursday, as emergency services dealt with a series of accidents.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Police Scotland advised drivers to avoid the M80, where traffic was at a standstill

In the early hours of Thursday, drivers reported still being stuck on the M80, which is closed in both directions between Junction 8 and Junction 9, and on the M876, which is closed to northbound traffic after Junction 1.

Those stuck in their cars told of people handing out food and extra blankets to those who were stranded overnight.

Hundreds of schools will be closed across the UK. Schools in some areas of Wales will not reopen until Monday.

On Wednesday, severe snow caused the cancellation of flights. Trains and traffic ground to a halt on major roads.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Blizzard conditions are forecast for parts of the UK by Thursday evening

The worst hit areas were central Scotland – where a red alert for snow is now in place – as well as Kent, East Anglia and the North East of England.

In London, a man died after being pulled from a frozen lake.

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Africa ‘set to miss UN development goal on malnutrition’

One heat map from the study shows the percentage of children classed as moderately or severely underweight (MSU) in each pixel in 2000 Image copyright NATURE
Image caption One ‘heat map’ from the study shows the percentage of children classed as moderately or severely underweight (MSU) in each pixel in the year 2000

Exceptionally detailed maps of child growth and education across Africa suggest that no single country is set to end childhood malnutrition by 2030.

That target was set by the UN as a Sustainable Development Goal.

However, the new maps, which give detail to the level of an individual village, show that almost every nation has at least one region where children’s health is improving.

They are published in Nature.

The two studies have mapped child growth rates and educational attainment for women of reproductive age – tracking progress in both in 51 countries between 2000 and 2015. The scientists targeted these two factors in particular because they are important predictors of child mortality.

“Together, these are very useful indicators of where populations are doing well and where they’re being left behind,” explained Prof Simon Hay, a global health researcher from the University of Washington in the US.

Prof Hay and his team pieced together data from community-level surveys and produced a series of 5km by 5km scale maps, showing child growth and educational attainment across Africa over the 15-year span of the study.

‘Stark disparities’

This revealed that most African countries, especially much of sub-Saharan Africa and eastern and southern regions, show improvement in malnutrition.

They also showed large disparities within individual countries. But by mapping these in such detail, scientists say policymakers will have the evidence to direct their resources.

Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former secretary general of the UN, endorsed this aim in an article he wrote in response to the maps’ publication. “Without good data,” he wrote, “we’re flying blind. If you can’t see it, you can’t solve it.”

Image copyright Victoria Gill
Image caption While progress has been “astonishing” the maps showed disparities within individual countries

While highlighting what he called “stark disparities” in progress, particularly in conflict-affected areas, Mr Annan said the progress in Africa that these maps painted was “astonishing”.

“Especially for me,” he said, “an African accustomed to international headlines depicting a continent consumed by war, famine and hunger. The Africa shown in these maps tells a different story – one of measurable, steady progress on issues long thought intractable.

“[But] there are villages where all children are too short for their age. Across most of the Sahel, a semi-arid swath of land from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, high rates of stunting persist, with no hint of improvement.

“Such fine-grained insight brings tremendous responsibility to act.”

Lessons to learn

Progress in Africa has never before been mapped in this level of detail and Prof Hay said that making the data openly available and providing “the best information we can” would help to direct resources towards the populations most in need.

“We can look at those communities that are doing particularly well and ask if there are lessons we can learn and apply elsewhere,” he told BBC News.

In a study that is considered to have been the birth of modern epidemiology in the 19th Century, the London physician John Snow mapped cholera cases in London – revealing in a world-changing map how cases in the city were clustered around one water pump in Broad Street. This led to the revelation that the disease was spread through contaminated water.

Mr Annan concluded that these maps could be as powerful in the long battle against hunger.

“They are another tool in our arsenal,” he said. “Alone, they won’t eradicate malnutrition but they will enable Africa’s leaders to act strategically.”



Acid listed as ‘highly dangerous weapon’ in new sentencing guidance

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Media captionResham Khan pities the man who threw acid on her

People caught with acid or other corrosive substances in public could face up to six months in jail under new guidelines for England and Wales.

It is the first time the Sentencing Council’s guidelines for judges and magistrates have explicitly listed acid as a potentially dangerous weapon.

The advice also covers possession of knives and other weapons.

Assaults involving corrosive substances have more than doubled in England since 2012.

Justice Minister Rory Stewart said: “Those caught with any offensive weapon must feel the full force of the law.”

The new advice states: “An offensive weapon is defined in legislation as ‘any article made or adapted for use for causing injury’.

“A highly dangerous weapon is, therefore, a weapon, including a corrosive substance (such as acid), whose dangerous nature must be substantially above and beyond this.”

Image caption The injuries of Darren Pidgeon, victim of an acid attack in Thundersley, Essex

The guidance says that an adult caught carrying acid twice or using it to threaten should receive a mandatory six-month prison sentence. Those under 18 would receive a four months’ detention and training order.

The guidelines do not cover situations where the weapon is used to harm somebody – those instances would be covered by guidance on assault, attempted murder or murder.

Acid or other corrosive chemicals have been used as weapons in a range of crimes, including revenge, so-called “honour crimes”, gang violence and theft from delivery drivers.

In one of the most serious recent cases, a man who threw acid in a packed London nightclub, injuring 22 people, was jailed for 20 years.

Assaults involving corrosive substances have more than doubled in England since 2012 to 504 in 2016-17, according to a Freedom of Information request to police forces by the BBC.

In January, some of the UK’s largest retailers agreed to voluntarily stop sales of acids to customers under 18 years old.

The Home Office said it will shortly announce its response to last year’s consultation on new legislation banning sales of corrosives to under 18s and introducing a new offence for possessing corrosive products in a public space.

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Media captionWhat should you do in case of a chemical burn?

The guidance also says that under-18s who film their crimes to post them on social media could face tougher punishments.

Courts will also be encouraged to consider in greater detail the age, maturity, background and circumstances of young offenders when sentencing.

The Sentencing Council said the new guidance will ensure those convicted of offences involving knives or particularly dangerous weapons, as well as those who repeatedly offend, will receive the highest sentences.

There were 37,443 knife crime offences in the 12 months ending in September 2017, a 21% increase on the previous year and the highest number since 2011, the earliest point for which comparable data is available.

  • Nine charts on the rise of knife crime

Sentencing Council member Rosina Cottage said: “Too many people in our society are carrying knives.

“If someone has a knife on them, it only takes a moment of anger or drunkenness for it to be taken out and for others to be injured or killed.

“These new guidelines give courts comprehensive guidance to ensure that sentences reflect the seriousness of offending.”

The guidelines come into force in England and Wales from 1 June.



Trump: Lawmakers ‘afraid’ of NRA gun lobby group

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Media captionTrump: ‘You’re afraid of the NRA’

US President Donald Trump has told a group of lawmakers not to be so “petrified” of the powerful gun lobby the National Rifle Association (NRA).

In a break from his party’s stance on gun control, President Trump urged lawmakers to come up with a comprehensive bill on gun reform.

He suggested expanding background checks for gun buyers and raising the legal age to buy rifles to 21 from 18.

He held the meeting in the wake of a school shooting that left 17 dead.

Mr Trump’s change of tack on gun control has taken many lawmakers and commentators by surprise. The New York Times said the president had “stunned lawmakers”, while CNN reported that Republicans were “a bit unsettled” by his remarks.

The Republican party supports the right of individuals to own guns, seeing most restrictions as an infringement of the second amendment to the US constitution.

  • Major retailers announce new restrictions on gun sales
  • ‘Spike in school threats’ after gun rampage

“They have great power over you people,” the president said of the NRA to his fellow Republicans on Wednesday. “They have less power over me.”

“Some of you are petrified of the NRA,” he added during the televised bipartisan summit on gun safety.

During the meeting, the president seemed to back:

  • an expansion of background checks before people can buy guns
  • allowing police to confiscate guns from people thought to be dangerous, without a court order
  • raising the minimum age for buying assault rifles from 18 to 21
  • arming teachers

Mr Trump’s statements on gun control have changed before – in the 1990s and early 2000s he expressed support for a ban on so-called assault weapons, but as he approached the nomination of the Republican party as its candidate for presidency, he fell more within the fold of the party’s views.

He was endorsed by the NRA in his 2016 presidential campaign.

  • How Trump turned against gun control

He met NRA leaders over the weekend after speaking to students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where an alleged gunman used an AR-15 rifle to kill 17 people two weeks ago.

Wednesday’s meeting came as students at the Florida school returned to classes.

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Media caption“Those 17 people aren’t going to be there” – Florida student reflects on first day back in class

“You won’t have to worry about bump stocks,” he said. Earlier this month the president signed an order pushing for a ban on bump stocks, which can enable rifles to shoot hundreds of rounds per minute.

Seventeen Democrats and Republicans, some who want more gun restrictions and others who are against it, were invited by the president to the hour-long summit about potential ways to address school safety.

  • US gun lobby ‘doesn’t back any ban’
  • America’s gun culture in 10 charts

“It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everybody can support, as opposed to – you know – 15 bills, everybody’s got their own bill,” Mr Trump said on Wednesday.

We’ve seen this film before

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

The man who suggested that if his opponent had been elected “you’d be handing in your rifles” endorsed taking guns away from people of questionable mental fitness and worrying about due process later.

The man who received $30m in support from the National Rifle Association during his presidential campaign scorned Washington politicians for being afraid of the NRA and said it had “less power” over him.

After a bipartisan meeting with congressional legislators, Donald Trump left heads spinning. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, a fierce gun-control advocate, clapped in joy, while some gun-rights Republicans wondered whose side the president was on.

“We’re not ditching any Constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them,” Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse said.

Of course, we’ve seen this film before. In a January meeting with a similar group of congressional leaders, Mr Trump expressed support for any comprehensive bipartisan agreement on immigration. In the following days and weeks, his administration did everything it could to undermine the most popular compromise bill.

Gun-control supporters may feel they made progress in Wednesday’s White House meeting, but the NRA surely will have another chance at the president’s ear.

Mr Trump also accused Senators Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin, who have worked on a bill to strengthen background checks for gun purchases, of being too “afraid” to stand up to the NRA.

Mr Toomey’s spokesman Steve Kelly said in a statement the senator “has not received a dime from the NRA since joining the Senate.

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Media captionTrump: ‘How is it possible my son is watching this?’

He also suggested the alleged Florida gunman, who police say raised several red flags before the tragedy struck, should have had his guns taken away, regardless of law.

“I think they should have taken them away, whether they had the right or not,” the president said.

He added: “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

Many Republican lawmakers later distanced themselves from Mr Trump’s comments.

“We have the Second Amendment and due process of law for a reason,” said Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who was not at the meeting.

“We’re not ditching any constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them.”

Mr Trump also warned lawmakers against proposing a bill that included concealed carry reciprocity among states, a provision Republicans and the NRA have aimed to include in any gun legislation.

  • Florida shooting: Who are the victims?
  • #WhatIf hashtag used to debate gun control

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, where the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre occurred, told the president that previous efforts to pass bills requiring strong background checks have been met with opposition because of the NRA.

“The reason that nothing’s gotten done here is because the gun lobby has had a veto power over any legislation that comes before Congress,” Mr Murphy said.

Mr Trump deflected the warning and said he had previously told NRA officials: “It’s time. We’ve got to stop this nonsense. It’s time.”



Newspaper headlines: ‘Hands off our borders’ and ‘whiteout Britain’

The Metro
Image caption Many of the papers feature reaction to the EU’s proposal of a “common regulatory area” after Brexit on the island of Ireland, if no other solution is found. “Hands Off Our Borders”, says the Metro, reporting on the reaction of Theresa May, who accused Brussels of trying to break up the UK. Like most of the other papers it carries picture of snow and the “Fab Four” – Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Cambridge – at their first joint engagement.
The Daily Telegraph
Image caption The Daily Telegraph reports on comments from Boris Johnson, who it says believes the Irish border is being used by Remainers to fight a “proxy war” to thwart Brexit. The foreign secretary fears “ultra-Remainers” in Westminster are taking part in the conspiracy, the newspaper reports.
The Guardian
Image caption The Guardian says Theresa May is facing pressure to detail how she will avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. The paper reports that the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said it was unacceptable for UK politicians to dismiss the proposals from the EU.
The Financial Times
Image caption But Theresa May has said that no UK prime minister could “ever” accept EU plans that would keep Northern Ireland under the bloc’s rules, the Financial Times reports. The paper also reports on a “brutal winter” for Britain’s consumer economy, with thousands of retail jobs at risk in the wake of the collapse of the UK arm of Toys R Us and Maplin electronics failing to reach a rescue deal.
Daily Mirror
Image caption The Daily Mirror calls it “Heartbreak On The High Street”, saying that Toys R Us and Maplin’s potential closures have put 5,700 staff at risk. “The industry is in crisis,” the paper quotes the Centre for Retail Research as saying.
The i
Image caption A snowy scene is featured on the front of the i, with the headline “Whiteout Britain”. It reports that Storm Emma is set to bring more disruption to the UK, as Scotland has a red weather alert – meaning there is a potential risk to life – for the first time.
The Daily Mail
Image caption The Daily Mail says police are examining whether ex-Formula 1 boss Max Mosley committed perjury in a 2008 High Court trial by denying knowledge of a racist leaflet. The paper says the leaflet was published by him. Mr Mosley told the paper he still did not recognise the 1961 pamphlet, which he called “offensive and divisive” and “not something I would have ever wished to be associated with”.
The Sun
Image caption The Sun reports on the same police investigation looking into whether Max Mosley, now a privacy campaigner, committed perjury during a High Court case. Mr Mosley has said he does not tolerate racism and does not recall the leaflet.

Allies of Boris Johnson tell the Daily Telegraph the issue of the Irish border is being used by “ultra-Remainers” in Westminster to thwart Brexit.

The foreign secretary is said to believe that several interventions in the last week – by figures including Sir John Major and Jeremy Corbyn – have been coordinated, as part of a plot to overshadow a key speech by Theresa May tomorrow.

The prime minister’s former adviser Nick Timothy – in his Telegraph column – accuses Brussels of “playing with fire” by risking the Northern Ireland peace process.

He calls on his former boss to remember her fall-back position: no deal is better than a bad deal.

The Daily Mail devotes a further 11 pages to its investigation into the former formula one chief Max Mosley.

It leads on the opening of a police investigation into whether whether Mr Mosley committed perjury when – while suing the News of the World – he denied in court publishing a racist campaign leaflet in the 1960s.

Mr Mosley has said he doesn’t recall the leaflet and is not a racist.

Scenes from snowy Britain are pictured across the papers – from commuters braving a whiteout in London, to a gritting lorry stuck in a ditch in County Durham.

The Sun juxtaposes a polar bear in Yorkshire Wildlife Park seemingly enjoying the weather, with a satellite image of the country engulfed in snow storms.

The Daily Mirror forecasts the arrival of even more exotic weather as Storm Emma meets the so-called “Beast from the East” – freezing rain, which solidifies on contact with hard surfaces, and “thundersnow”.

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The Daily Express reports on a mutiny among Marks and Spencer customers, after the retailer made an unheralded alteration to one of its most popular products.

Its line of oversized cotton knickers – made famous by the celluloid singleton Bridget Jones – was subject to a barrage of complaints, the Express says, when the seam was moved from the front to the side.

The objections have reached such a pitch – including a mention on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme – that the Express says M&S bosses have promised to bring the old pants back, later this year.



How do you keep warm? Tips from cold countries

We asked people from cold Russia, Serbia, Canada, Austria and… Newcastle, England, for their tips on how to stay warm.



Dyson creates 300 new electric car jobs

Sir James Dyson Image copyright Heathcliff O’Malley
Image caption Sir James Dyson accused the mainstream car industry of polluting the world with diesel emissions

Dyson is seeking an extra 300 engineers in a push to build its first electric car by 2020.

Best known for its vacuum cleaners and hand dryers, the firm caused a stir when it announced plans for a battery powered vehicle.

Dyson already has a 400-strong team working on the project and has doubled the number of scientists working on its battery programmes over the past year.

The jobs news came as it revealed 2017 underlying earnings rose 27% to £801m.

Dyson to make electric cars from 2020

Dyson settles legal dispute with ex-chief

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dyson is better known for its vacuum cleaners than its cars

Dyson said the electric car team – which up until now has been based in its Malmesbury headquarters in the Cotswolds – would shortly move to its new research and development base in Hullavington in Wiltshire.

The privately-owned firm is yet to decide where its electric cars – once they have been designed – will be manufactured.

The UK is reported to be in contention for the work, along with Singapore, Malaysia and China.

‘Asia enthusiasm’

High demand in Asia was the biggest drivers of last year’s performance, with Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea together accounting for almost three quarters of 2017 sales.

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Media captionThe skills shortage pushing Dyson to Asia

Billionaire founder James Dyson said people in Asia had “an extraordinary enthusiasm for technology that works”.

Sir James also said the firm had “moved on” from its dispute with former Dyson chief executive Max Conze over the alleged disclosure of confidential information.

The allegations were vehemently denied by Mr Conze, and Dyson settled out of court in December.

Mr Conze worked for the company for six years before being replaced in October by chief operating officer Jim Rowan.



Hope Hicks: Close Trump aide and White House communications chief resigns

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the US Capitol after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting in Washington, February 27, 2018 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ms Hicks has been one of President Trump’s closest aides

Hope Hicks, one of President Trump’s longest-serving advisers, is to step down as White House communications director, is to step down.

The 29-year-old former model and ex-Trump Organization employee has been by Mr Trump’s side for years.

She is reported to have told colleagues she felt she had accomplished all she could in the White House.

She is the fourth person to serve as communications chief for this administration.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders – who described Ms Hicks as “in a league of her own” – said it remained unclear when she would leave the administration.

Ms Sanders said the resignation was not connected to testimony Ms Hicks gave to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

  • From model to Trump’s media director
  • White House aide ‘admits white lies’

Ms Hicks is reported to have admitted to the panel that she had occasionally told what amounted to “white lies” for President Trump.

But she denied lying about anything relevant to the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, US media reported.

Trump ‘understood’

During the election campaign, Ms Hicks served as press secretary. She took over as the head of the White House communications team last August, after the abrupt firing of Anthony Scaramucci.

Mr Scaramucci, speaking on Fox News, described her as “a wonderful person”.

“She’s one of the least malicious people I’ve ever met in my life. She’s dedicated, she’s charming, she’s thoughtful, at the end of the day she’s going to have an unbelievable career,” he said.

A former campaign official quoted by Politico magazine said Ms Hicks’s departure left the White House without an expert “Trump translator”

“She knew what the president wanted and could explain it to the communications [team],” the official said.

Before Mr Scaramucci, Sean Spicer and Mike Dubke both served in the role – which involves overseeing a busy press department.

But Ms Hicks has kept a remarkably low profile in the job.

“Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years. She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person,” Mr Trump said in a statement.

“I will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future.”

Out of the White House but likely not the spotlight

Analysis by the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher in Washington

Image copyright Mark Wallheiser

Hope Hicks had been there since the beginning; since before the beginning. When the Trump campaign was just a ragtag band of political neophytes, she was the one distributing press releases and answering media requests.

Where others had stumbled or been pushed out of Donald Trump’s orbit, Hicks quietly persevered – and rode the train all the way to one of the most powerful White House jobs.

Now she too is gone. She lasted nearly as long as the preceding three White House communications directors combined, but the position continues to be cursed.

Administration sources insist that it was a planned exit, that she was simply waiting for the right time. It’s hard, however, to imagine timing worse than this. It comes just a day after her eight hours of testimony before a congressional committee investigating possible Trump campaign ties to Russia, where she reportedly admitted to telling “white lies” in defence of the president.

Although she may be exiting the White House, it’s unlikely she escapes the spotlight so easily. She had a ringside seat to many of the controversies that have swirled around the Trump campaign and presidency – and subsequent revelations could put her name in the headlines again.

Ms Hicks is seen as a key witness in the ongoing inquiry into whether the Trump team colluded with Russia.

During the nine-hour hearing on Tuesday, she reportedly stonewalled lawmakers about a 2016 meeting between members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee investigating Russian meddling, said that she now needed to testify.

“She has no right to claim executive privilege. She has no claim to refuse to come before the judiciary committee now she’s stepped down. She should be a witness before the judiciary committee,” he said.

Earlier this month her actions were scrutinised amid a scandal involving White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who quit amid domestic abuse allegations. She was, at the time, reported to have been dating Mr Porter.

Ms Hicks helped draft an initial statement defending Mr Porter and her handling of the controversy reportedly displeased Mr Trump.

Who is Hope Hicks?

Image copyright EPA
  • Brought up in Greenwich, Connecticut, and was a talented lacrosse player at high school and college
  • Took up modelling as a teenager and once appeared in an ad for Ralph Lauren
  • Previously worked for a public relations company that handled Ivanka Trump’s fashion business and the Trump Organization’s property brand
  • Joined the Trump Organization in 2014 and Donald Trump brought her on to his campaign team a year later, despite her lack of political experience
  • Nicknamed “Hopester” by Mr Trump, she is said to be one of his most trusted aides and among the few who could challenge him to change his views



Five things to know on school offer day

school pupils walking up stairs Image copyright Getty Images

Each year on 1 March, pupils across England find out which secondary schools are offering them places for the following September.

Ahead of this year’s “national offer day”, the Good Schools Guide has warned that about 100,000 of almost 600,000 pupils involved will not be offered a place at their first choice of school.

1. There are more secondary school-age children

A baby boom in the 2000s created a “population bulge”.

Primary schools have been feeling the effects of this for years. Now, secondary applications are beginning to rise as children born during this population boom move up through the school system.

2. More children aren’t being offered any of their top choices

Parents and guardians can list up to six schools in order of preference, depending on the area in which they live. Some will be allowed fewer choices.

The increase in demand for school places has meant fewer pupils across England are being offered their first or any of their top choice schools – last year the proportion (83.5%) was the lowest since 2010.

And more are being offered a school that they didn’t choose at all.

However, the proportion of pupils not being offered any of their choices is still below the rate seen a decade ago.

The National Union of Teachers has said: “Population changes are not a new phenomenon and local authorities, who are responsible for providing sufficient school places, have traditionally been able to plan to meet rising and falling demand.”

Since the Education Act 2011 came into force, local authorities lost the power to plan and build new maintained schools, because the government said any new school had to be a free school.

This relies on private individuals or organisations to apply to set up a school.

Partly because of this, new free schools are not always opened in the areas they are most needed.

Previously, local authorities had both the statutory obligation to provide enough school places for their population and the power to build new schools to meet demand.

Now, they still have a duty to provide enough places, but they can only encourage, not make, academies add new classes.

The Department for Education says it has created 735,000 new school places since 2010.

3. How likely you are to get your first choice school varies across the country

Pupils are considerably less likely to be offered a place at their first choice of school in London than in the North East or South West – the regions with the joint highest proportion of pupils getting a place at their preferred school.

But this is arguably mainly because there are far more schools to choose from in more urban areas.

If there are two schools in an area and everyone picks the same one as their first choice, half of those pupils will get their first choice.

In the same scenario in an area with lots of schools, the most popular ones will be heavily over-subscribed and so more families may be disappointed.

There are also wide variations in the availability of good and outstanding schools – in London, 33% of schools in the poorest areas are considered outstanding, compared with 5% in the North East and 0% in the South West, according to research by Teach First.

4. Pupils’ social backgrounds can be linked to what sort of school they go to

Comprehensive schools are open to all, regardless of background or ability.

One way of looking at the social mix of a school is how many of its pupils are eligible for free school meals.

Free school meals are available to children whose parents claim one of a range of income-based benefits.

Using this measure, it seems the top performing 500 comprehensive schools by GCSE results in the country (out of a total of about 3,500) take about half as many of the poorest children as the average.

Analysis by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust found that at the top performing 500 schools, 9.4% of pupils were eligible for free school meals compared with an average of 17.2% across all comprehensive schools.

At grammar schools, which select by ability and also send out their offers on 1 March, only about 3% of pupils receive free school meals.

The Sutton Trust says that this partly because living in the catchment area of a top comprehensive school is associated with a “house price ‘premium’ of around 20%”.

The average house price in the catchment area of a top 500 comprehensive is £45,700 more than the average house in the same local authority, the charity says.

5. Secondary-age pupils travel further to school

As children move up to secondary school, they typically travel further to get to school.

Despite growing competition for schools though, the average distance travelled to get to school by secondary pupils has remained fairly stable over the past decade.

As you might expect, children in rural areas travel much farther to get to school – seven miles on average from rural villages compared with less than three miles in urban areas.



‘My husband can no longer remember my name’

Veronica and Christopher Devas
Image caption Christopher’s ability to communicate verbally may have declined, but his interaction and feeling hasn’t gone away, Veronica says

Three years ago, the Victoria Derbyshire programme asked three people with dementia to document their lives for a month. What has changed since?

Christopher’s story

Christopher Devas was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2008.

When we first met him and his wife Veronica three years ago, he had difficulty remembering certain words, but was able to speak in full sentences and convey his emotions verbally.

Now, the condition means he cannot remember his wife’s name.

“This is one of the things that is particularly sad,” says Veronica as she records herself asking her husband what she is called, to no avail. “I don’t have a name.”

When first asked Christopher simply murmurs the word “oh”, as he struggles to think.

“I can’t remember,” he then replies.

Image copyright Mr and Mrs Devas
Image caption Christopher used to build boats, and loved going on sailing holidays

“Everything’s changed,” explains Veronica, speaking directly to her husband. “It’s sad, very sad, but you mustn’t dwell on that because otherwise you’d be like that all the time.

“And I mustn’t be sad for you, because you’re positive.”

Veronica says she leads a full life, taking Christopher to meet friends, to choir practice and for long walks along the Dorset coast. He still tells her he feels happy.

But at times she feels isolated – unable to communicate with her husband as she once did.

“It’s lonely, yes, it is quite lonely,” she says. “But then he doesn’t realise that, so it’s not as though you’re living with somebody who is doing something to make you feel like that.”

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Media captionChristopher struggles to remember Veronica’s name

Christopher – a former magistrate – has now been given a disabled parking badge, which Veronica says makes life a lot less stressful.

But the invisible nature of Alzheimer’s can cause problems.

Recently the couple were stopped getting into their car by someone who told them they did not look “ill enough” for the blue badge.

“‘You’re not disabled’, this man said, as we were parked. So I said to him, ‘You change spaces with me for 24 hours’.”

Christopher’s memory and speech may have declined, but Veronica says his “interaction and feeling hasn’t gone… even though he may not be able to put it into words”.

He claps as he sees himself on television from his first appearance on the Victoria Derbyshire programme.

He smiles affectionately as Veronica tells him: “I love you”.

Wendy’s story

“I used to love York. I thought it was my forever home,” explains Wendy Mitchell, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2013, aged just 57.

“But it became a very confusing place and I needed more silence – so that’s why I moved to the village I’m in now.”

Over the last three years, Wendy’s dementia has meant she has had to give up work and move home to live near one of her daughters.

Her new house has a picture of a forget-me-not either side of the door, so Wendy can recognise it.

“When I first moved all the houses looked the same, and I got confused as to which one I lived at. I would constantly walk up my neighbour’s path,” she explains.

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Media captionWendy keeps a picture of a forget-me-not by the door so she can remember her home

Getting used to the inside of the new house also became a challenge.

“The kitchen used to have two doors [exiting from it], and I could never remember where each door led. I’d end up going round and round in circles,” she says.

By 2050, 1.3 million people will be living at home with dementia in the UK, according to new research from the Alzheimer’s Society.

The figure currently stands at just over half a million.

Wendy enjoys living by herself and is keen to retain her independence, but she has also had to adapt other parts of her life to the condition.

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Media captionIn her video diary three years ago, Wendy relived the moment of her first significant memory loss

She now speaks more slowly than she used to, taking longer to remember words and what it is she wants to say.

“I stopped answering the phone because when I do people can’t see me,” she explains.

“They can’t see me thinking, which means they then interrupt me and I just get totally confused.”

Wendy prefers email or text. She can type words more quickly than she can speak and even had her memoirs published earlier this year.

She questions why so many services – like hospitals – require patients to call in order to discuss treatment or change appointments.

Image copyright Wendy Mitchell
Image caption Wendy with her daughter

But Wendy says life with the condition “can still be filled with laughter and adventures and almost a new way of living”.

She thinks too often it is the very final stages of dementia that are shown in the media.

In May 2017, she took her first flight in a glider plane, bought for her by her daughter as a birthday present.

“It was the most amazing experience, because I have no fear any more,” she says.

“I always think that I faced my biggest fear by facing dementia.”

Keith’s story

“I still am positive, I am still a driven person I would say,” former head teacher Keith Oliver explains looking back over the last three years.

“But I’m less confident now than I was then. I am more fragile. I have a thinner skin.”

Keith was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010.

“Some days are foggy,” he explains. “The fog comes down and then the fog lifts. It’s patchy. And that’s what dementia is often like.

“Even today I’m experiencing that. Some of my clarity of thinking is coming and going,” he adds, before pausing.

“I’ve lost my train of thought Jim,” he tells me. “You’re going to have to ask me your question again.”

Image caption Keith says books have become an increasingly important part of his life

Since being diagnosed Keith says he has experienced depression for the first time.

He thinks it exacerbates his dementia, making him feel isolated, lonely and frustrated.

But he is keen to enjoy life and give himself time to think, often going on walks along the Channel coast in Kent.

Watching the boats sway from side to side in the water, he says, reminds him “of how some days it is for me, when walking or standing and trying to keep my balance”.

Image copyright Keith Oliver
Image caption Keith was a primary school teacher for more than 30 years

As a former teacher, books have always held an important place in his life.

“Here’s one I read a couple of years ago, about something very close to my heart – Nottingham Forest,” he says, taking it from his overflowing bookcase. “Reading the books bring back those memories of happy days.”

He still reads a lot but says it is becoming more difficult, as he remembers “very little”.

“There are times now where I go into the bookshop, and sometimes I’ve brought the book home and realised I’ve read it before.”

Asked if he will remember our conversation, he replies: “I’ll remember how this conversation made me feel. But the actual subject matter that we talked about, no I won’t.”

Watch the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.