Queen and Prince Philip mark 73rd wedding anniversary with new photo

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh have marked their 73rd wedding anniversary by releasing a photograph showing them opening a card from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s children.

The homemade gift was created by Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis and is emblazoned with 73.

The photograph was taken earlier this week in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle.

The Queen, 94, was a 21-year-old princess when she married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten on 20 November 1947.

Their enduring relationship has lasted the longest of any British sovereign.

The Queen and the duke, 99, who has retired from public duties, are spending the lockdown at Windsor Castle in England and anniversary celebrations are expected to be low key.

There is no traditional gift, jewel or colour associated with 73rd wedding anniversaries in the UK.

In the new photograph, the Queen is wearing a pale blue double wool crepe dress by Stewart Parvin and a chrysanthemum brooch made from sapphires and diamonds set in platinum.

The couple are seated beside one another reading the colourful card from Prince William and Catherine’s three children. They also have five other great-grandchildren. including one-year-old Archie, son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who now live in California.

Earlier this month, the monarch was seen wearing a face mask for the first time in public when she made a private pilgrimage to the grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

She subsequently led the nation in marking Remembrance Sunday, with commemorations scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid: Judge allows legal challenge into care home deaths

A woman whose father died with Covid has has won the first stage of a legal challenge over measures taken to protect those living in care homes.

Dr Cathy Gardner, from Sidmouth in Devon, claims there was a failure to implement “adequate” measures to protect residents.

It follows the death of her father in an Oxfordshire care home in April.

The government and health bodies oppose Dr Gardner’s challenge and asked the judge to dismiss the case.

Dr Gardner said: “This is for the thousands of families affected by the loss of loved ones in care homes since March.”

At a remote hearing on Thursday, Mr Justice Linden granted Dr Gardner permission for a full hearing of her challenge.

He said: “I consider it in the interests of justice for the claim to be heard.”

Dr Gardner, who is bringing her case alongside Fay Harris, argues certain key policies and decisions led to a “shocking death toll” of care home residents.

These include an alleged policy of discharging patients from hospital into care homes without testing and suitable isolation arrangements.

The legal action is being brought against the Department for Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England.

Dr Gardner, who has a PhD in virology, said her legal team would ask “to see the evidence behind the decisions that they took, how those decisions were taken, who was involved in discussions, why they decided to discharge people from hospital without testing and why they didn’t commence any sort of real protection of people in care homes”.

Sir James Eadie QC, barrister for the government and PHE, said the challenge was “unarguable”.

In court documents, he said: “The government was faced with unprecedented challenges and fast-evolving scientific advice.

“Throughout the period in issue it considered how best to protect older people both within and outside care homes.

“That involved making a series of judgments based on expert scientific advice, in an area in which the science was uncertain and evolving.

“There is no arguable basis on which to conclude that those judgments fell outside the range of reasonable responses to the pandemic as it, and understanding of it, developed.”

Buzzfeed to take over Huffington Post

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

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

The two firms will also join up for advertising and sharing content, a partnership they said would “create new revenue opportunities”.

The price was 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.

Huffington Post rose to prominence during the George W Bush presidency as a site for liberal bloggers, many of whom contributed for free.

Buzzfeed made its name creating content like listicles and quizzes, which drew young audiences. It also brought on reporters for its news site.

But digital media firms have struggled to draw online advertising dollars away from tech giants such as Facebook and Google. In recent years, Buzzfeed and Huffington Post have both shed staff. In May, Buzzfeed closed its newsrooms in the UK and Australia and slashed staff pay.

Mr Peretti said the new deal would increase Buzzfeed’s heft, by adding Huffington Post readers to its audience and allowing it to tap into Verizon’s ad network.

Huffington Post is expected to remain a standalone brand, alongside other Buzzfeed sites, including Tasty and Buzzfeed News.

A spokeswoman for Buzzfeed declined to comment on the possibility of job losses triggered by the tie-up.

Verizon Media is part of a US telecom giant, which is known primarily for its pay-TV and mobile phone service. It acquired Huffington Post in 2015 when it bought AOL for $4.4bn (£3.32bn), later combining it with Yahoo.

Just a few years later, it wrote down the value of the properties by nearly $5bn.

“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.”

A few years ago companies like BuzzFeed and HuffPost were growing fast.

The business model was simple. Produce viral content aimed at younger, online savvy audiences and cash in on online advertising revenue.

That hasn’t been as lucrative as they would have hoped.

Ads on digital news stories can actually be quite a clunky way to advertise – less focussed than many advertisers would like.

So Facebook and Google, which offer incredibly bespoke targeting, mop up a massive percentage of online advertising. More than half of all the money spent on online advertising is with these two companies.

Many smaller digital media companies were laying off staff even before the pandemic. Covid-19 has inflamed these problems. People, stuck at home, are clicking more, but advertisers have been cautious.

That’s left companies that were seen as revolutionary only a few years ago trying to work out how to survive.

This takeover should be seen in this context – the latest attempt to find a better way of making digital media work financially.

Booker Prize 2020: Douglas Stuarts novel Shuggie Bain wins

Douglas Stuart has won this year’s Booker Prize for Shuggie Bain, his debut novel about a boy in 80s Glasgow trying to support his mother as she struggles with addiction and poverty.

Chair of judges Margaret Busby said the judges’ decision was unanimous and they “took an hour to decide”.

The book is “challenging, intimate and gripping… anyone who reads it will never feel the same” she said.

Stuart, 44, said he was “absolutely stunned” to win.

He dedicated his book and his prize to his mother, who died of alcoholism when he was 16.

The novel follows the life of Agnes Bain, who is descending into despair and struggling with alcohol after the breakdown of her marriage.

All but one of her children have been driven away by her deterioration, and that child, Shuggie, struggles to help Agnes while suffering huge personal problems of his own.

The novel is “destined to be a classic” and is “full of such emotional rage, book that can make you laugh as well as make you cry”, Busby said.

“It’s dealing with tough subject matter, dealing with characters not having an easy time – some of the things that happen will make you smile but some may not, it’s not one where everyone lives happily ever after.

“It’s not a book that’s a pleasant read, but it’s a hopeful read, challenging, intimate, gripping.”

Stuart, who grew up in Glasgow and lives in New York, is the second Scot to win the prize, following James Kelman in 1994 for How Late it Was, How Late. Stuart has said the book changed his life because it was one of the first times he had seen his people and dialect on the page.

The writer, who made New York his home to start a career in fashion design, told the BBC Shuggie Bain was “a love story looking at that unconditional, often tested love that children can have for flawed parents”.

“I’m sorry if I make it sound like a bleak book, it’s actually very funny, it’s tender and there’s a lot of intimacy and love. I think that’s the Glaswegian spirit. Growing up in Glasgow was, I think probably one of the greatest inspirations of my life,” he said.

“Part of the reason Shuggie is queer is because I am queer and I grew up in Glasgow. I also liked the balance Shuggie offered to Agnes because it’s really about how these two are receding from the world, and how they cling to each other and rely on each other,” he added.

The ceremony, broadcast from London’s Roundhouse, included contributions from the Duchess of Cornwall and former US President Barack Obama.

Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, who won the 1989 Booker for The Remains of the Day, was also part of the socially distanced proceedings, along with last year’s joint winners Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo.

Gaby Wood, the literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said the judges were under strict instructions not to have more than one winner for this year’s £50,000 prize.

She added that under new guidelines, if they could not agree on a winner, a majority vote would be honoured.

By Rebecca Jones, BBC arts correspondent

Hurrah! The Booker Judges do not always get it right, but this year they are spot on. For me, Shuggie Bain was undoubtedly the best novel on this year’s shortlist.

Be warned though. It is not an easy read. A haunting story of poverty and addiction in 1980s Scotland, it can be grim and upsetting. Douglas Stuart has said it made him feel “quite sad” writing it. I admit, there was only so much I could read at a time.

But it is also a novel that is full of love and compassion. Shuggie is a sweet, gentle soul who is “no right”, longs to be normal and will do anything for his mother, despite their chaotic life.

And while Agnes is selfish and self-destructive, she can be warm and funny too. You root for both of them, hoping they find happiness.

Both characters get under your skin. Agnes and Shuggie became part of my life and I still think about them, long after I finished the novel. That is a real achievement, especially for a debut novel.

Douglas Stuart said he grew up in a house with no books. Now he has won the biggest prize in publishing. He deserves it.

The duchess said: “While Covid deprived us of so many cultural pleasures – we have, at least, been able to read. And as long as we can read, we can travel, we can escape, we can explore, we can laugh, we can cry and we can grapple with life’s mysteries.”

Mr Obama added: ‘I’ve always turned to writing to make sense of our world … And at their best, Booker Prize-listed books remind me of fiction’s power to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, understand their struggles, and imagine new ways to tackle complex problems and effect change.”

Sir Kazuo said the award is best at “shining a light on a career of a writer who’s been writing very brilliantly but far from the limelight”.

The Booker prize is open to any novel written in English by an author of any nationality and four of this year’s nominated books were written by debut novelists. All of this year’s nominees are based outside the UK.

The other nominated novels were:

The event was livestreamed on BBC iPlayer and BBC Arts, with further coverage on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.

Tocilizumab: Arthritis drug may treat severe Covid

The rheumatoid arthritis drugs tocilizumab appears to treat people who are critically ill with Covid-19, early trial data shows.

The researchers in the UK and the Netherlands said it was “an absolutely amazing result”.

The drug is no longer being trialled as the researchers are so confident in the data, but the precise effect on survival is still being calculated.

Other experts have urged caution until the full data is released.

Tocilizumab targets the immune system, which goes into overdrive in some patients with coronavirus. It is this reaction, rather than the virus itself, which can be deadly.

The trial was run by Imperial College London, the UK’s Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre, and Utrecht University. It focused on the most severely ill patients, who needed to be put on a ventilator.

Trials of the drug were stopped two days ago as independent monitors said there was enough evidence, from the first 303 patients, to show it was working.

However, interpreting the results is complex.

They show an improvement in “outcomes”, but this is a statistical conflation of other measures such as survival rates and time in intensive care. Doctors know the drug is doing something, but it will take time to know whether it is saving lives or just speeding up recovery.

“We don’t know that yet, we are hopeful it does both,” said Prof Anthony Gordon from Imperial.

However, he said it was “very encouraging”, a “big result”, and that tocilizumab could “become the standard of care”.

It will still take weeks to properly assess the data, which has not yet been formally published.

The treatment costs between £500 and £1,000 and is given intravenously.

Steroids, including dexamethasone, are the only drugs proven to be save lives from Covid-19 and they tend to calm the whole of the immune system. Tocilizumab targets specific parts within that complex system.

The researchers hope they have found another.

Dr Lennie Derde, an intensive care consultant at the University Medical Center in Utrecht, said: “This is an absolutely amazing result.

“To have a second effective therapy for critically ill patients within months of the start of the pandemic is unprecedented.”

However, other experts have urged caution until the final results are analysed, as previous studies have given a mixed picture.

Prof Peter Horby, who was part of the team at the University of Oxford that showed dexamethasone was protective, said: “This is an encouraging result which suggests that other, more targeted, anti-inflammatory drugs may also help.

“The results so far on tocilizumab have been mixed, with four randomised controlled trials having reported results, of which two were negative and two were positive… I eagerly look forward to seeing the full results.”

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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.”

Covid: Pentre funeral for mother and sons who died with coronavirus

Mourners lined the streets to celebrate the lives of an adoring mother and her two sons who died within days of each other after contracting coronavirus.

Gladys Lewis, 74, from Pentre, and sons Dean, 44, Darren, 42, from Treorchy, Rhondda Cynon Taf, died within a week.

On Thursday people gathered outside St Peter’s Church in Pentre to listen to the funeral service through loudspeakers.

Their family urged people to “do their part” to curb the spread of the virus.

Relatives had previously described how the family had been careful to avoid catching Covid-19 because Gladys had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and Darren, who had Down’s syndrome, had been on life support with pneumonia earlier in the year.

Relatives, who were inside the church, had wanted the three funerals to be held at the same time so that they could be together.

Mourners wore masks and clapped as the three coffins were taken through the town.

Father Haydn England-Simon, who led the service, said no family “should ever go through” what the Lewises had.

Grandmother Gladys Lewis died at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital on 29 October.

The next day her eldest son Dean was found unresponsive at his home in Treorchy. He had only gone out once a week to shop for his parents.

His younger brother Darren died on 2 November after being treated in intensive care at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital.

The family were unable to be with Darren before his death, due to them testing positive for Covid-19 and having to self-isolate.

The grandmother-of-13 and great-grandmother-of-four would “fight the world and win to make sure her children and grandchildren had what they needed and deserved”.

During the service the family said Mrs Lewis had been married to husband David, 81, for 44 years after meeting him in Blackpool.

They were keen dancers and “absolutely adored” each other.

Father-of-three Dean was said to have a “heart of gold”, while Darren was a keen football fan.

Writing in the order of service, the family said: “As a family we cannot express how much your love, messages and support mean to us all.”

Covid-19: Israel and Sri Lanka added to travel corridor list

Travellers returning to England from Israel and Sri Lanka will no longer need to quarantine from Saturday.

Namibia, Rwanda, the US Virgin Islands, Uruguay, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba and the Northern Mariana Islands were also added to the travel corridor list.

However, current rules ban travel abroad unless for specific reasons.

The exemption also applies to those returning to Wales and Northern Ireland, but people returning to Scotland will need to self-isolate.

No countries have been removed from the list, which is updated weekly by the Department for Transport.

The DfT said the additions are due to “a decrease in risk from coronavirus in these countries”.

It said the new exemptions, which come into effect at 04:00 GMT on Saturday, apply to Israel and Jerusalem in their entirety. For the occupied West Bank, only people returning from East Jerusalem would not need to quarantine. The rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not covered by the lifting of the rules.

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said it had been decided not to change the country’s travel corridor list this week.

It comes as more than two million people are to be placed under Scotland’s toughest Covid lockdown restrictions from Friday.

Dr Smith said: “This approach aligns with the other home nations when they went into stricter measures several weeks ago and we will continue to closely monitor the global situation.”

Australia, New Zealand, Estonia, Hong Kong, Iceland, mainland Greece, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Singapore and South Korea are among the countries on the DfT list where returning travellers do not need to self-isolate.

But anyone arriving into the UK from most destinations must quarantine for 14 days.

In England, foreign travel is currently only permitted for work, education or if someone has another valid reason.

People can only travel in and out of Wales with a reasonable excuse, such as going to work or school.

In Northern Ireland, people are advised to only travel for necessary reasons and to “carefully consider” their holiday and travel options, in light of the pandemic.

In Scotland, people living in higher risk areas should avoid unnecessary travel to other places.

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.”

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