Buzzfeed to buy Huffington Post

Online news and lifestyle site Buzzfeed is buying the Huffington Post in a deal that will bring together two of the most high-profile digital media firms.

Seller Verizon Media will take a minority stake in Buzzfeed as part of the deal and invest in the combined company.

The two firms will also work together to share content, a partnership they said would “create new revenue opportunities”.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Buzzfeed chief executive Jonah Peretti will lead the combined business. He co-founded Huffington Post in 2005 with publisher Arianna Huffington, and started Buzzfeed a year later.

“While considering opportunities to work together, naturally, Jonah and I also discussed the property he co-founded, HuffPost,” said Verizon Media boss Guru Gowrappan.

“We quickly realised BuzzFeed’s strategy would complement HuffPost’s roadmap, injecting it with new energy and growing the brand into the future.

“We are deeply invested in the continued success of HuffPost and I couldn’t think of a better partner to take HuffPost to the next level.”

Inquiry found Priti Patel broke behaviour rules

A draft report concluded in the summer that Home Secretary Priti Patel had broken rules on ministers’ behaviour, sources familiar with the contents say.

The Cabinet Office began an inquiry into her conduct after Sir Philip Rutnam, the most senior Home Office official, resigned in February.

Sir Philip – who is suing for unfair dismissal – alleged that staff felt Ms Patel “created fear” in the department.

Ms Patel has always strongly denied allegations of bullying.

The report, carried out by the government’s independent adviser on standards, Sir Alex Allan, has not been published.

But one source said it had concluded that the “home secretary had not met the requirements of the ministerial code to treat civil servants with consideration and respect”.

They added that the investigation had found evidence of bullying, even if it had not been intentional.

Another source who saw the report called it “unambiguous in stating that Priti Patel broke the ministerial code and that the prime minister buried it”.

A spokesman for the home secretary said she had always denied the allegations and that there had never been any formal complaints made against her.

It’s a government document setting out “expected standards” of behaviour in office, which include “consideration and respect” for civil servants and other colleagues.

The code says “harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour” will not be tolerated.

It adds that ministers are “personally responsible” for how they act – and that they can stay in office “for so long as they retain the confidence of the prime minister”.

The code is not legally binding but, according to the Institute for Government think tank, there is growing pressure for it to become so.

A different government source has suggested that the report also paints an unflattering picture of how she was sometimes treated.

The report is understood to have looked at Ms Patel’s behaviour at three different government departments – the Home Office, the Treasury and International Development.

The evidence gathering was completed several months ago, but Downing Street has delayed giving a verdict.

The prime minister is the ultimate arbiter of the ministerial code, and there is no requirement on the government to publish Sir Alex’s report.

The BBC understands there have been conversations in government this week about how to manage the situation, with suggestions that Ms Patel may be given a reprimand, or be asked to apologise, but keep her job.

It is possible Boris Johnson’s decision could be revealed as early as Friday.

Normally if a minister breaches the code they are expected to resign. But earlier this week former Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill suggested there could be a “wider range of sanctions”, telling MPs: “I don’t think it should be binary between let off or sacked.”

He confirmed then that the report was already “with” Mr Johnson.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA senior civil servants’ union, said “thousands” of civil servants would be asking what “message” it would send if the government suggested Ms Patel did not have to resign over a “little bit of bullying”.

He described the system as not “fit for purpose”, adding: “We need an independent process that’s not relying upon a prime minister making a political judgement rather than judging based on the evidence.”

A government spokesperson said: “The process is ongoing and the prime minister will make any decision on the matter public once the process has concluded.”

Jeremy Corbyns lawyers challenge Labour over MP suspension

The BBC has been told Jeremy Corbyn’s solicitors have written to the Labour Party calling for his suspension to be lifted.

The former leader was readmitted as a party member on Tuesday, after a short suspension for his reaction to a report into anti-Semitism in Labour.

But his successor, Sir Keir Starmer, has refused to let him sit as a Labour MP, saying his remarks had “undermined trust” with the Jewish community.

The decision will remain under review.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson understands the letter from Mr Corbyn’s lawyers questions whether procedures had been properly applied when the decision was taken.

Our correspondent understands supporters of the former leader who sit on Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, will release a statement too, saying the disciplinary processes of the party had been undermined by Sir Keir’s actions.

But many MPs and Jewish groups stand by the decision taken by the new leader.

The parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, MP Margaret Hodge, said the move by Sir Keir had stopped her from resigning from the party.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “[Mr Corbyn] is not a victim. We have been the victim of the anti-Semitism.”

The Labour Party has been contacted for a response.

The uneasy truce between the current leadership and the supporters of the former leader ended yesterday when Sir Keir Starmer refused to readmit Jeremy Corbyn to the Parliamentary Labour Party.

And today, a battle has begun.

Another former Labour leader and ex-prime minister, Gordon Brown, has called for Mr Corbyn to apologise for the comments which led to his suspension – saying the the scale of anti Semitism had been dramatically overstated.

But Mr Corbyn shows no signs of doing so.

In the coming week, Sir Keir will want to focus on the government’s handling of the pandemic and on the spending review.

But, like Labour leaders before him, he is now facing a serious conflict in his own ranks.

Mr Corbyn was suspended at the end of October after a damning report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations during his tenure as leader.

But it was the former leader’s response to the report – saying the scale of anti-Jewish abuse had been “dramatically overstated” by his political opponents – that led to the decision by Labour’s general secretary David Evans to suspend him after 54-years of membership.

A panel of the party’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, decided on Tuesday to readmit Mr Corbyn as a member, but this did not mean he would automatically be reinstated as a Labour MP.

On Wednesday, Sir Keir decided not to allow his predecessor to represent Labour in the Commons – known as stripping him of the party whip – meaning while Mr Corbyn remains an MP, he will sit as an independent.

Ian Ogle murder: Ten people facing prosecution

Ten people are facing prosecution in connection with the murder of Belfast community worker Ian Ogle.

Charges have been brought against nine men and one woman, it was confirmed in court today.

Five of them have been accused of involvement in the killing.

But a hearing to decide if they should all be sent for trial was put on hold to the New Year so defence teams have time to examine all the evidence in the case.

A judge at Belfast Magistrates’ Court was told eight files of material were served on them last week.

Solicitor Pearse MacDermott, who represents one of the accused, said: “There’s quite a bit of reading to be done.”

Mr Ogle, 45, was beaten and stabbed to death near his home at Cluan Place in the east of the city in January 2019.

The attack was said to have lasted for around 30 seconds.

Previous courts were told he is believed to have been targeted in response to an altercation earlier the same night.

A number of men arrived at the scene, allegedly launched the fatal assault and then fled.

Three men were originally charged with the murder. They are 41-year-old Mark Sewell, Jonathan Brown, 35, and 34-year-old Glenn Rainey.

The trio, all from Belfast, are on bail, but their addresses cannot be disclosed due to suspected paramilitary death threats.

Another two men, aged 37 and 39, are to face prosecution for murder following a review of the case.

The Public Prosecution Service has also decided that a further four men and a woman should be charged with associated offences, including assisting offenders, withholding information and perverting the course of justice.

None of those suspects are being named at this stage because summons papers for them to appear were not before the court.

District Judge Peter Magill was informed the case cannot get underway at this stage.

Adjourning proceedings to January 14, he said a date for preliminary enquiry will be fixed at that stage.

Peacocks and Jaeger collapse puts 4,700 jobs at risk

Fashion chains Peacocks and Jaeger have fallen into administration, putting more than 4,700 jobs and almost 500 shops at risk.

It comes after owner Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group failed to find a buyer for both businesses.

No redundancies have been announced yet and no stores closed.

Tony Wright, joint administrator of the business from FRP Advisory, said talks with potential buyers were still going on.

“Jaeger and Peacocks are attractive brands that have suffered the well-known challenges that many retailers face at present,” he said.

“We are in advanced discussions with a number of parties and working hard to secure a future for both businesses.”

In a statement, Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group said: “In recent weeks we have had constructive discussions with a number of potential buyers for Peacocks and Jaeger.

“But the continuing deterioration of the retail sector due to the impact of the pandemic and second lockdown have made this process longer and more complex than we would have hoped.”

It said that a “standstill agreement” secured with the High Court that temporarily put off administration had now expired.

“Therefore as directors we taken the desperately difficult decision to place Peacocks and Jaeger into administration while those talks continue,” it said.

It comes two weeks after Edinburgh Woollen Mill called in administrators for its eponymous clothing chain and its homeware brand Ponden Home, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

Jaeger is a London-based fashion business with 76 stores and concessions and employs 347 staff. Cardiff-based Peacocks operates 423 stores with 4,369 staff.

Wirecard scandal: German MPs question ex-boss Braun

The former head of the disgraced payments firm Wirecard, Markus Braun, has appeared before German MPs investigating the biggest corporate scandal in post-war Germany.

He has been charged with fraud and embezzlement, and was escorted to Berlin from pre-trial detention in Munich. He denies wrongdoing.

Wirecard collapsed in June after admitting that €1.9bn (£1.7bn; $2.2bn) was missing from its accounts.

Mr Braun did not answer MPs’ questions.

The former board chairman said he had seen no evidence or indication that any public officials had behaved improperly in connection with Wirecard, and added that he would speak next to the state prosecutors. He refused to comment further on the scandal.

“In the end, independent judges will decide who bears legal responsibility for the collapse of the Wirecard AG business,” Mr Braun said.

He had been in charge of the German fin-tech firm since 2002.

Police are searching for another ex-senior manager at Wirecard, Jan Marsalek, a prime suspect in the collapse and wanted by Interpol. Both he and Mr Braun are Austrian.

In the UK, payment cards and foreign currency cards linked to Wirecard were blocked when the scandal broke.

The scandal has sent shockwaves through German politics: there are allegations that both financial regulators and the government failed to do proper checks on Wirecard.

The parliamentary inquiry is headed by opposition politicians. Germany’s DPA news agency says they are expected to call Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz to testify.

Thousands of shareholders are seeking more than €12bn in compensation – far more than is likely to be recovered by the bankruptcy regulators.

When Wirecard joined Germany’s blue-chip Dax 30 share index two years ago it was valued at €24bn. But this summer the company’s shares crashed more than 80% when the scandal broke.

The scandal emerged after a series of articles in the Financial Times last year focusing on alleged accounting irregularities in Wirecard’s Asian operations.

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