Bruce Springsteen DWI: Singer charged with drink-driving

Bruce Springsteen was arrested in New Jersey three months ago and charged with driving while intoxicated and reckless driving, officials have said.

The rock veteran was also cited for consuming alcohol in a closed area of a national park on the same day, 14 November.

He is due to appear in court “in the next few weeks”, TMZ reported.

A National Park Service spokeswoman said Springsteen, 71, was “cooperative throughout the process”.

The Gateway National Recreation Area is a park that connects Sandy Hook, a New Jersey strip of beach just south of New York City, with part of the oceanfront section of New York’s Staten Island and Jamaica Bay.

Springsteen, often called “The Boss”, has had a career spanning more than five decades, with many of his songs describing his home state of New Jersey.

His arrest came a few weeks after the release of his 20th studio album, “Letter to You”.

Springsteen also made a recent appearance in an advert for Jeep played during the Super Bowl, the annual championship American football game. In the video, titled “The Middle”, he spoke about reuniting a divided US.

The video appears to have since been removed from Jeep’s YouTube page.

KPMG boss steps aside after stop moaning comments

The UK boss of KPMG will step aside while the accountancy giant investigates offensive comments he allegedly made at a meeting on Monday.

Bill Michael reportedly told consultants to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on people’s lives, and to stop “playing the victim card”.

He later apologised, saying the comments did not reflect his beliefs.

But KPMG said an “independent investigation” had begun.

“Mr Michael has decided to step aside from his duties as chair while the investigation is underway,” a spokeswoman said.

“We take this matter very seriously and will not comment further while the investigation is ongoing.”

According to the Financial Times, which first reported the story, staff complained about Mr Michael’s comments on an app used to post comments anonymously during the virtual meeting.

Some were reportedly angry that he had dismissed their concerns about potential cuts to staff bonuses, pay and pensions.

They were also said to have complained about the internal ranking of team members’ performances.

On Tuesday Mr Michael said: “I am sorry for the words I used, which did not reflect what I believe in, and I have apologised to my colleagues.

“Looking after the wellbeing of our people and creating a culture where everyone can thrive is of critical importance to me and is at the heart of everything we do as a firm.”

Mr Michael has presided over a rocky period at KPMG, which has faced scrutiny over its audit of the now defunct government contractor Carillion.

There have also been claims from some staff of a toxic work culture.

Last week the company’s UK business revealed that Mr Michael was paid £1.7m in 2020, down from £1.98m in 2019.

Sales for the year slumped 4% to £2.3bn as the company’s clients cut back expenses amid the pandemic.

Cladding: Extra £3.5bn for unsafe buildings too little, too late

Campaigners have said the government’s promise of £3.5bn of extra funding to remove unsafe cladding from England’s high-rises is “too little, too late”.

The government said flammable materials would be removed from buildings over 18m high “at no cost to residents”.

But Labour said the “arbitrary” height limit could result in financial ruin for many in lower blocks, who would be offered loans to make their home safe.

After 2017’s Grenfell disaster, many tower blocks were found to be unsafe.

This meant many thousands of flat-owners have since faced huge bills for fire-safety improvements, brought in after the devastating tower block fire when flames spread via combustible cladding, killing 72 people.

The Grenfell United campaign group said the latest measures were “too little, too late”, and it needed the mess dealt with “once and for all”.

“Residents living in unsafe homes will go to bed tonight worrying if their building will qualify or be left out once again. And bereaved and survivors of Grenfell will lay awake fearful that what happened to us could still happen again,” the group said.

In the Commons, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick also announced:

The £3.5bn comes on top of £1.6bn in funding that was announced for the removal of unsafe cladding last year.

Ministers have come under growing pressure to increase the pot as leaseholders have been hit by building improvement costs and soaring insurance costs.

Some say they have effectively become trapped in their own homes – unable to sell until the work is carried out, yet in danger of bankrupting themselves to meet the costs.

Stephen Squires, who lives in a 22-storey block in Manchester, told the PA Media news agency he and others were “still stuck in limbo”, even after the announcement.

The government had consistently failed to acknowledge the issues were far wider reaching than cladding, he said, and they still did not know whether fire safety defects would be covered by the funding.

Mr Jenrick told MPs that leaseholders in high-rise buildings above 18m, or with six storeys or more, would face no costs for cladding works.

He said the risk was “significantly lower” for lower-rise blocks of flats.

However, for anyone living with dangerous cladding in such flats, a loan scheme would be set up to protect leaseholders so none of them would pay more than £50 a month for the removal of unsafe cladding.

It “cannot be right the costs fall solely on tax payers”, he said, adding that the government would develop a levy targeted at developers seeking to build certain high-rise buildings in England.

He also said a new tax for the UK residential property sector would be introduced from next year, to raise £2bn over a decade and help pay for the removal of cladding.

Mr Jenrick described the action as an “unprecedented intervention” without which building owners would simply pass on the costs of remediation work to leaseholders.

“That would risk punishing those who have worked hard, who have bought their own home, but through no fault of their own have found themselves caught in an absolutely invidious situation,” he said.

The Home Builders Federation, a trade association for private sector homebuilders, said it supported “sensible” solutions for recouping costs and was looking forward to working with the government on an “equitable” tax that did not “threaten housing supply”.

Matt Browne and Lizzie Bennett are among thousands of flat-owners who discovered in the last year they lived in a dangerous block.

Their Birmingham city centre building measures 18.2 metres – so just qualifies for the funding promised today.

Matt, a 26-year-old video producer, says although he is relieved, he feels “incredibly sorry” for those whose homes don’t meet that threshold.

“[That] could have been ours if our building was one brick lower. That’s literally the difference we’re talking about,” he says.

He says leaseholders feel “betrayed” because the government has said “multiple times” they should not pay.

“Then all of a sudden today it’s like, ‘right, leaseholders are going to pay £50 a month,'” he says.

The couple say they have been hit with a £50,000 bill after their block failed an external wall fire review.

That covers not only the removal of unsafe cladding, but also works relating to other things found in the review like missing fire cavity barriers.

Matt is now concerned the government fund only covers the cladding removal. “There are still costs in there which are going to cost thousands and thousands of pounds, which is money we don’t have,” he says.

Around 100 miles away in east London, solicitor Peter Tolson lives in a building that also qualifies for the extra cash, but says the announcement “doesn’t make a huge amount of difference” to him and his fellow residents.

He helps run his block’s management company, and says they began the initial process to prove their eligibility for the fund last spring. But they haven’t received funds, he says.

“We’re just trying to pass every barrier and get access to the funds, which we’re finding harder and harder,” he adds.

Conservative MP Stephen McPartland, a critic of the government’s handling of the cladding crisis, said Mr Jenrick’s announcement did not go far enough and the issue was much bigger than the matter of cladding.

“The support he has offered does not help most people because people who’ve got excessive insurance premiums, fire safety defects – that’s where the real costs are,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

“Leaseholders are the innocent parties in this. Many people were in primary school when these buildings were constructed and they’re now being hit with bills that will be bankrupting them.”

Labour’s shadow housing secretary, Thangam Debbonaire, called the proposals “an injustice” that would “pile financial misery” on homeowners.

She said there were many questions left unanswered, including on “skyrocketing” insurance costs, homes potentially remaining “unsellable”, and the amount leaseholders would be expected to pay.

The “arbitrary 18m-height limit” could “mean the difference between a safe home and financial ruin”, she said.

Labour wants an independent taskforce to be established to take the matter out of politicians’ hands and ensure funds are distributed fairly.

By Sarah Corker, BBC consumer affairs correspondent

The question of who should pay to fix fire safety faults – government, developers, building owners or leaseholders – is at the heart of resolving this crisis.

While cladding campaigners have welcomed the extra government funding, they say an additional £3.5bn is not enough given the scale of the problems.

To force the building industry to contribute, the government will introduce a levy on developers which build future high-rises. A move broadly welcomed, but it will take years to build up a pot of money.

What started as a cladding scandal has become a much wider building safety crisis.

In the wake of the Grenfell tower tragedy, safety inspections on thousands of high rise blocks have exposed not just dangerous cladding but other fire safety problems including defective insulation, missing fire breaks and timber balconies.

Currently there is no government money to fix non-cladding faults.

Rebecca Fairclough, from Manchester Cladiators, which represents 70 tower blocks with fire safety issues in the Greater Manchester area, said funding was needed to cover all building safety issues, not just cladding.

She said she was disappointed loans were the only solution on offer to those in buildings under 18m high.

“Millions of residents continue to live in dangerous buildings, facing impossible bills and with their mental health deteriorating daily,” she said.

Natasha Letchford, a campaigner for the End Our Cladding Scandal group, said the funding was far short of the estimated £15bn bill to fix all the issues.

She said as long as there were outstanding bills on properties, they would be worthless and people simply would not want to buy them.

The government said the spending funded by the UK-wide tax would be subject to the Barnett formula. This means Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also receive extra funding, which can be spent as the devolved administrations see fit, including on building safety.

Trustpilot condemns legal action against reviewer

Trustpilot has warned users after a business sued a man for leaving a negative review on the platform.

“We strongly oppose the use of legal action to silence consumers’ freedom of speech,” says a message on the website.

The warning comes after a man was ordered to pay £25,000 in libel damages to solicitors who sued, on the basis the review was false and defamatory.

London-based Summerfield Browne said the decision to sue gave it “no pleasure” and was not taken lightly.

New reviews have been temporarily suspended on the law firm’s business page on Trustpilot after publicity about the case led to more reviews.

After seeking legal advice through the company online, Philip James Waymouth left a review on the website accusing the firm of being “another scam solicitor”, court documents said.

A banner at the top of Summerfield Browne’s profile on Trustpilot reads: “Please be aware that this business has taken legal action against a consumer for a review left on this profile.

“We strongly oppose the use of legal action to silence consumers’ freedom of speech. As a public, open, review platform we believe strongly in consumers having the ability to leave feedback – good or bad – about a business at any time, without interference.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a business taking such extreme measures against a consumer voicing their genuine opinion. The vast majority of businesses on Trustpilot engage with their consumers or use our flagging tools to report content and resolve their issues.”

Following the court decision, several reviews were left on Trustpilot referencing the case and writing in support of Mr Waymouth.

The Trustpilot warning continues: “The business’s actions have resulted in media attention and this profile has seen a significant increase in reviews that don’t reflect an experience with the business.

“Due to this, this profile has been temporarily closed for new reviews.”

Trustpilot told the BBC it was never contacted by Summerfield Browne, nor was the review flagged to the website.

It said it was not party to the case but “in the event that we are served with an order, we intend to challenge it”.

The platform added: “We believe there are a number of errors within the judgement and it raises significant concerns around freedom of speech.

“If consumers are left fearful of leaving negative reviews, this could result in consumers being misled about the quality of a business and businesses being deprived of the valuable feedback from which they can learn, improve and grow.

“It is much better for businesses to engage, respond and improve upon the feedback they receive, rather than using legal action to silence consumers.”

Summerfield Browne said in a statement: “As a family firm, the decision to pursue legal action was not one we took lightly and doing so gave us no pleasure.”

Murder inquiry in Tilehurst, Reading: Tributes paid to Raheem Hanif

The father of a 26-year-old who was fatally stabbed in the street has made a heartfelt tribute to his “beautiful” son.

Raheem Hanif, 26, died from his injuries in Dulnan Close in the Tilehurst area of Reading on Saturday.

Speaking to the BBC, his father Naeem Hanif said he was devastated by the loss of his son.

He said: “He was a beautiful kid. Respected everybody. The whole community is devastated.”

Mr Hanif, a self-employed mobile tyre fitter, died just metres from his home, his family said.

Thames Valley Police said a post-mortem examination by a Home Office pathologist concluded his cause of death was due to a stab wound to the upper chest.

His father said: “He always had a smile on his face. His family loved him.

“His aunties, uncles and cousin are devastated.

“My son dying in my arms – I’ve got to live with for the rest of my life.”

Jamil Butt, describing his nephew, said: “He was definitely the heart and soul of the family.

“He was such a lovely child. He was so respectful to everybody.

“I can’t put this in words to be honest.”

A 16-year-old has appeared in court accused of his murder and grievous bodily harm.

He is due back in court on 12 March and has been remanded in youth custody.

Earlier, Thames Valley Police said a 21-year-old man from Reading had become the eighth person to be arrested on suspicion of murder following the death.

Two 25-year-old men and a 22-year-old man previously held have now been released on conditional police bail.

A 16-year-old boy, a 17-year-old boy and a 23-year-old man remain in police custody.

PM Boris Johnson wrongly says Bridgend will be battery centre

The prime minister misspoke when he claimed Bridgend was to be a great centre of battery manufacturing, the UK government has confirmed.

Boris Johnson has been asked to apologise for his comments in the Commons on Wednesday.

Labour’s Nia Griffith said it was “deeply unfair” when the town was “reeling from the closure of Ford”.

The UK government said it is working with investors on battery manufacturing plans across the United Kingdom.

Plaid Cymru called for a retraction for the comments, made in response to a question from Plaid’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts.

No plans have been announced for a battery factory in Bridgend.

In December, it was announced that a Britishvolt electric car battery factory that would create 3,000 jobs was going to be built near Blyth, Northumberland, rather than St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan as had been previously planned.

That announcement came days after a decision from another company, Ineos, to build its 4×4 vehicle in France rather than Bridgend – just 13 miles away from St Athan.

Britishvolt had previously signed a memorandum of understanding with the Welsh Government in July 2020 to build the plant in St Athan, Vale of Glamorgan.

Speaking at Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson had said Bridgend was “going to be the one of the great centres of battery manufacturing in this country if not the world”.

A video of Mr Johnson’s comments was later tweeted by the Welsh Secretary Simon Hart.

The UK government later confirmed to BBC Wales that Mr Johnson had misspoken when he made the comments.

Speaking later, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts said: “Whether intentional or negligent, the Prime Minister’s answer misled the people of Wales, while the Secretary of State for Wales threw his support behind him.”

“We are inured to his abuse of facts. But for Mr Hart to broadcast false information about investment in his own country – the interests of which he has a duty to defend – is reprehensible. I expect a retraction and apology.”

Shadow Welsh Secretary Ms Griffiths said: “It is deeply unfair for the prime minister to be so loose with his words when Bridgend has faced so many set backs on his watch. The community is still reeling from the closure of Ford and the loss of the Ineos project to France.”

Peter Hughes, Unite Wales Regional Secretary said: “The Prime Minister’s comments today regarding Bridgend are news to everyone in Wales.”

A UK government spokeswoman said they would “continue to work with investors” to progress plans for UK battery manufacturing.

“We are investing heavily to expand the UK’s supply chain for cleaner vehicles, while working with our auto industry to ensure it remains competitive for years to come.

“As part of the prime minister’s Ten Point Plan, we recently announced nearly £500m funding – as part of a wider commitment of up to £1 billion – to support the electrification of vehicles and their supply chains, including developing Gigafactories across all parts of the UK.

“We will continue to work with investors to progress plans to mass manufacture the batteries needed for the next generation of electric vehicles.”

TikToks Oracle-Walmart deal could be off

A deal to sell TikTok’s US business to Oracle and Walmart could be postponed or even scrapped, reports suggest.

The original executive order from former President Trump demanded owner ByteDance divest its US operations because of national security concerns.

He gave a 12 November deadline, which has already been extended twice.

The firms have not commented but any postponement could signal a softer approach towards Chinese tech giants from the new Biden administration.

Oracle and Walmart had been in talks with TikTok since September to finalise a deal in which the Chinese video app’s US assets would be shifted into a new entity to avoid a blanket ban in the country.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Reuters are reporting that the deal could be shelved, although none of the companies involved has commented.

Reuters reports that the new Biden administration will conduct a wide-ranging review of Trump’s China policy, which could take months.

Industry watchers think that it may ultimately adopt a softer tone towards China and could overturn the decision to sell off the viral video platform in the US.

“In this game of high-stakes poker it’s very possible that the TikTok sale ultimately never happens, depending on US policy in what would be a seminal shift for the US towards China on technology policy, and send an ‘olive branch’ signal to Beijing,” said Dan Ives, from investment analyst firm WedBush.

However, he suggested it might still make sense for TikTok to pursue the deal.

“ByteDance and its board may decide to go ahead with this deal once it goes through a White House and [Committee on Foreign Investment in the US] review and eliminate any lingering security concerns around the TikTok platform going forward.”

The firm has always denied that Beijing could force it to provide access to its US data, saying it is stored in the US and Singapore.

TikTok currently has more than 800 million users worldwide, 100 million of whom are in the US.

Cladding: Urgent clarification sought in Wales over £3.5bn cash

“Urgent clarification” is being sought on an extra £3.5bn announced by the UK government to remove unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the cash was for buildings over 18m high in England.

The Welsh Government will get a share too due to the funding formula used but it says it is not clear how much money will come to Wales.

Without help, residents say they will struggle to pay for improvements.

Many thousands of flat-owners around the UK face huge bills for fire-safety improvements, brought in after 2017’s Grenfell Tower fire when flames spread via combustible cladding, killing 72 people.

The UK government said the funding it was its “largest ever investment” in building safety.

But the Welsh Government has written to it for clarity on “a range of details”, including what the level of consequential funding would mean for Wales.

Cerys Owen, 28, said she was unable to move after fire safety issues came to light at the Victoria Wharf development where she lived in Cardiff Bay.

“We can see there is support in England, but it is significantly more than what we are getting in Wales,” she said.

Ms Owen said it is understood there are internal and external problems at her block of flats, including cladding issues, which will cost £20m – at an average of £58,500 per leaseholder.

“We’re all in a difficult position,” she said.

“There is no chance I would be able to pay that and nobody else is in a position to pay that.”

She said that if there is “no intervention” from the Welsh Government, this fee would fall on residents.

Ms Owen said that she would like to see ministers “commit” to putting any consequential funding that comes its way into a fund for residents “for the purpose it is intended”.

Building manager First Port previously said it was supporting residents in “seeking any funding to resolve fire issues”.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats called for the Welsh Government to pledge to remove all unsafe cladding without directly charging home owners.

Jane Dodds, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, said it was “worrying” that “so many properties in Wales are still at risk because of unsafe cladding” three and a half years on from the Grenfell fire.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government said the housing minister, Julie James, had sought “urgent confirmation” that the “UK government will work closely with us to ensure this is implemented on a suitable England – Wales basis”.

“There are aspects of today’s announcement, in particular then house builder’s tax, which is not devolved,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government also said it was “fully committed to supporting leaseholders and ensuring that buildings are made safe”, with £10m invested this year and a further £32m committed in the next financial year.

“We remain clear that we do not believe leaseholders should have to pay to rectify these issues.”

PM Boris Johnson mistakenly says Bridgend will be battery centre

The prime minister has been asked to apologise after he mistakenly claimed Bridgend was “to be one of the great centres of battery manufacturing”.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Nia Griffith said it was “deeply unfair” when the town was “reeling from the closure of Ford”.

Plaid Cymru called for a retraction. No plans have been announced for a battery factory in Bridgend.

The UK government has been asked to comment.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said he would check Mr Johnson’s comments, in response to a question from Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts, with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

In December, it was announced that a Britishvolt electric car battery factory that would create 3,000 jobs was going to be built in Blyth, Northumberland, rather than St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan as had been previously planned.

That announcement came days after a decision from another company, Ineos, to build its 4×4 vehicle in France rather than Bridgend – just 13 miles away from St Athan.

Britishvolt had previously signed a memorandum of understanding with the Welsh Government in July 2020 to build the plant in St Athan, Vale of Glamorgan.

Speaking at Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson had said Bridgend was “going to be the one of the great centres of battery manufacturing in this country if not the world”.

A video of Mr Johnson’s comments was later tweeted by the Welsh Secretary Simon Hart.

Speaking later, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts said: “Whether intentional or negligent, the Prime Minister’s answer misled the people of Wales, while the Secretary of State for Wales threw his support behind him.”

“We are inured to his abuse of facts. But for Mr Hart to broadcast false information about investment in his own country – the interests of which he has a duty to defend – is reprehensible. I expect a retraction and apology.”

Ms Griffiths said: “It is deeply unfair for the prime minister to be so loose with his words when Bridgend has faced so many set backs on his watch. The community is still reeling from the closure of Ford and the loss of the Ineos project to France. It’s simply not good enough.”

Robert Irwin: Steve Irwins son wins award for bushfire image

A dramatic drone image of a devastating bushfire in Australia, taken by TV environmentalist Steve Irwin’s son, has won a major wildlife photo award.

A Line of Fire won the Wildlife Photographer of The Year People’s Choice Award with 55,486 public votes.

Taken near the border of the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York, Queensland, it shows the split between conservation area and charred remains.

Robert Irwin, 17, said he was “incredibly excited” to win the award.

“For me, nature photography is about telling a story to make a difference for the environment and our planet,” he said.

“I feel it is particularly special for this image to be awarded, not only as a profound personal honour but also as a reminder of our effect on the natural world and our responsibility to care for it.”

Irwin revealed he only just managed to take the shot after spotting smoke and launching his drone even though it was running out of battery.

His father Steve Irwin was famous for his TV wildlife shows which regularly saw him handling crocodiles and led to him being dubbed the “Crocodile Hunter”.

Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray during a diving expedition off the Australian coast in 2006.

Around 25 images, out of 49,000 submissions to Wildlife Photographer of the Year, were chosen by the Natural History Museum, which runs the competition. The public then voted for the people’s choice award.

Natural History Museum director Doug Gurr described Irwin’s image as “stirring and symbolic”.

The bushfire image and four others emerged as favourites, and will go on display in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London when the museum reopens.

Below are the four other highly commended finalists:

Ami Vitale’s The Last Goodbye shows ranger Joseph Wachira comforting Sudan, the last male northern white rhino left on the planet, moments before he dies at Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya.

Drey Dreaming by Neil Anderson shows an Eurasian red squirrel asleep in a box the photographer had put up in one of the pine trees near his home in the Scottish Highlands.

Close Encounter by Guillermo Esteves shows a moose on the side of the road at Antelope Flats in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA, taking rather too keen an interest in a bemused-looking dog in a car.

Andy Parkinson’s wintry portrait Hare Ball shows a mountain hare curled up as it grooms in Cairngorms National Park, Scotland.

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