Barack Obama condemns disregard for facts


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Media captionBarack Obama: “You have to believe in facts”

Barack Obama has used his first high-profile speech since stepping down as US president to take swipes at “strongman politics” and politicians’ disregard for the facts.

His comments are seen as thinly veiled criticism of the current US administration’s use of what has been described as “alternative facts”.

Here are five key points from his Nelson Mandela lecture, made to the world’s media and an audience of some 15,000 people in South Africa’s main city, Johannesburg.

  • Obama’s speech as it happened, and other African stories

1. Facts are sacred

“You have to believe in facts,” said Mr Obama, “without facts there is no basis for co-operation.

“If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it is going to be hard for us to co-operate.”

Mr Obama said that he could find common ground with people who disagreed with the Paris accord on climate change – which Donald Trump wants to pull the US out of – if they had an argument based on fact.

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The term “alternative facts” was used by a Trump aide in relation to attendance at his inauguration

But, Mr Obama added: “I can’t find common ground if someone says climate change is not happening when almost all the world’s scientists say it is. If you start saying it is an elaborate hoax, where do we start?”

Mr Trump has said he thinks climate change is not happening.

A moment later, Mr Obama told the audience: “It used to be if you caught them [politicians] lying, they said: ‘Oh man’. Now they just keep on lying.”

2. Immigration is a strength

Barack Obama said striving towards equality ensures a society can draw on the talents and the energy of all of its people.

“Just look at the French football team,” he said to wild cheers, referring to France’s World Cup win days before.

“Not all of those folks looked like Gauls to me, but they are French – they are French.”

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Fourteen of France’s 23-member squad would be eligible to play for African teams

It is a “plain fact” that racial discrimination still exists in the US and South Africa, Mr Obama said.


‘The ghost of US presidents past’

Analysis by BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher

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Barack Obama offered what some of his supporters will see as not-so-veiled references to his successor in his speech honouring Nelson Mandela’s legacy, defending democratic institutions and a free press, and condemning “strongman politics” and shameless leaders who “double down” when caught in lies.

The former president also offered a commodity he always seems to have in ready supply – hope.

“Things may go backwards for a while, but ultimately, right makes might,” Mr Obama said. “Not the other way around.”

It’s a riff on the Theodore Parker line he frequently quotes, about the arc of history being long but bending toward justice.

If Mr Obama had a message for the world – and particularly for Americans unsure about the course their nation is on – it’s that the struggle is real, but the ending is a happy one.

There are probably more than a few on the left, however, who wish Mr Obama would give more than a few speeches and carefully worded statements.

With mid-term elections that will determine control of Congress just four months away, they want him to step away from the podium and fully join the fight.

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3. Business titans are ‘isolated from ordinary people’

Barack Obama said the world’s elite were out of touch with the lives of the poor.

“In their business dealings, many titans of industry… are increasingly detached from any nation state” and they “live lives more and more isolated from ordinary people”, he said.

As a result, their decisions to “shut down a factory” were seen as simply a “rational response” to shareholders’ demands.

4. Viva democracy!

Politicians using “politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment” were rising “at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago,” Barack Obama warned.

Democracy is messy, he said, “but the efficiency of an autocrat is a false promise”.

“It is time for us to stop paying all of our attention to the world’s capitals… and focus on the world’s grassroots. That is where democracy comes from,” he added.

Warning against creeping populism and “strongman politics”, he made the case for liberal democracy, saying that he believed it offered the better future for humanity.

“I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision” for the world’s future, he said, “I believe that a world governed by such principals is possible”.

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Barack Obama shared a joke about his dancing skills with South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa before his speech

“It can achieve more peace and more cooperation in pursuit of a common good,” he added.

“I believe we have no choice but to move forward… I believe it is based on hard evidence. The fact that the world’s most prosperous and successful societies happen to be those which have most closely approximated the liberal progressive ideal that we talk about.”

Things may go backwards for a while, but – ultimately – right makes might,” Mr Obama said. “Not the other way around.”

5. Keep hope alive

“Keep believing. Keep marching. Keep building. Keep raising your voice. Every generation has the opportunity to remake the world,” Mr Obama said, ending his speech on a positive note.

To loud cheers, he called on young people listening to him to get “fired up”.

“We don’t just need one leader… what we badly need is that collective spirit,” he added.

“Mandela said young people are capable when aroused of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom,” he said. “Now is a good time to be aroused.”

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Around 15,000 people are reported to have attended this year’s Nelson Mandela lecture

Barack Obama’s speech was part of events to mark 100 years since the birth of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013 aged 95.

Both men were the first black presidents of their countries.

Mr Obama has said he was “one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life”.

Mandela led the fight against white minority rule in South Africa. He was imprisoned for 27 years before he became the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994.

As a student, Mr Obama called the fight against apartheid “a struggle that touches each and every one of us”, and encouraged his university to drop its investments in South Africa.

Since its beginning in 2003, global leaders have used the lecture to speak about issues affecting South Africa, the continent and the world.

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Barack Obama visited family in Kenya before delivering the annual Nelson Mandela lecture in South Africa

New Labour anti-Semitism code faces criticism


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Jeremy Corbyn has previously said he is “sincerely sorry” for the pain caused by “pockets of anti-Semitism” in the Labour Party

Labour’s ruling National Executive has approved a new code of conduct on anti-Semitism, which has been criticised by Jewish leaders and some of its own MPs.

The document was drawn up after protests by Jewish groups against Labour’s handling of the issue.

It states “anti-Semitism is racism. It is unacceptable in our party and in wider society”.

But it does not fully repeat the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.

On Monday evening, the Parliamentary Labour Party – MPs and peers – voted overwhelmingly for the full IHRA definition to be adopted.

Labour’s code, which was approved by a sub-committee of its National Executive Committee (NEC) earlier this month, was drawn up following the 2016 Chakrabarti inquiry into anti-Semitism.

The NEC rubber-stamped the new code when it met on Tuesday.

But a Labour spokesperson added: “In recognition of the serious concerns expressed, the NEC agreed to re-open the development of the code, in consultation with Jewish community organisations and groups, in order to better reflect their views.”

The code does endorse the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and includes behaviours it lists as likely to be regarded as anti-Semitic – but critics point out that it leaves out four examples from that definition:

  • Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
  • Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
  • Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
  • Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis

The chief rabbi said Labour would be “on the wrong side” of the fight against racism unless it toughened up its stance.

Labour MP Wes Streeting, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews, said the message the new code sends to Britain’s Jewish community was “utterly contemptible”.

“The damage it will inflict on our credibility as an anti-racist political party is the leadership’s responsibility – and theirs alone,” he added.

He said he would be “meeting urgently with our friends in the Jewish Labour Movement to discuss next steps, as this decision cannot go unchallenged”.

Holidaymakers hit with £1bn of card fees


Spanish beachImage copyright
Reuters

UK holidaymakers are being collectively charged £1bn a year by their banks for paying by credit or debit card while they are abroad.

Standard credit and debit cards slap fees of nearly 3% on all spending, plus extra costs for using cash machines.

Customers are being encouraged to apply for cards with zero charges to make their holiday money go further.

But banks say using cards overseas is a safe, flexible and cost-effective way of paying.

  • Tourists warned over exchange rate costs
  • Staycation trend cuts use of cards abroad

Holidaymakers we spoke to in Malaga were shocked to be told about the billion pound figure, which has been calculated exclusively for BBC News.

“That is outrageous! They are surcharging us for going on our holidays,” said Val Pollard who was sunning herself on the beach.

“You are likely to be spending €500-€800 a week. 3% of that is a lot of money.”

For those using a standard credit card, the average “non-sterling transaction fee” is 2.8%, added to the amount you have spent, with some banks charging 2.99%.

The average fee on standard debit cards is nearly as much.

And there are multiple charges if you use a debit card to withdraw cash: an average of 2.5% on the whole amount, plus an extra fee of £1.39 on average just for using a foreign cash machine.

The charges appear on your bank statements when you return home.

‘Rip off’

Alan and Marie Carman from King’s Lynn, taking Malaga’s open-top bus tour, told me that banks are “on to a winner” because people use their cards without thinking.

“I don’t think they should do that charge,” says Marie, “I don’t think they should rip people off, because nowadays everybody uses cards.”

Even the proprietor of the Shakespeare Pub, a British outpost in the centre of Malaga, believes he is affected.

“It has a knock-on effect on me,” explained Peter Edgerton, “The customer is less likely to spend here if they know they’re likely to be charged 3% every time they use their card.”

The most recent figures from the banks themselves show that UK holidaymakers are spending a total of more than £32bn a year on their cards while overseas.

The charges on that spending are having a “huge impact on consumers’ pockets”, according to the foreign exchange specialists, FairFX, which analysed the charges for BBC News.

“When we’re on holiday it’s easy to turn a blind eye to what we think is just a few quid,” said Ian Strafford-Taylor, FairFX’s chief executive.

Cards do have advantages. A spokeswoman for UK Finance, the body which represents banks, describes them as an “extremely safe, flexible and cost-effective way to pay”.

“If you do not get what you paid for, if the goods or services turn out to be faulty or you are a victim of card fraud, you will get your money back”.

UK Finance points out that some banks offer alternative credit cards which have no fees when you spend overseas.

Among them are cards from Halifax, Santander, Nationwide and Barclays, though there is no guarantee that you will be accepted for one of these if you apply.

Savings

You can also buy pre-paid currency cards which have zero charges, though the exchange rates they use can vary.

Joanna Styles, who runs a tourist website guidetomalaga.com, wants banks to be forced to text customers whenever they levy a foreign currency charge, to encourage them to shop around.

“I know for a fact that in Malaga you could have several good meals out for the amount that you have effectively given to the bank,” she said.

Most people do not shop around. They obtain their credit cards from the bank which handles their current accounts.

So FairFX also looked at what annual charges would be if all customers at least switched to the lowest-cost card which their own bank had on offer.

The result? Charges for foreign spending would be lower, by nearly £300m. But the total would still add up to £738m a year.

Food Writing in the #MeToo Era


In between stories about cooking and cultural trends, I now spend my days reporting about sexism, sexual abuse and harassment in the food world.

The Spotted Pig, a New York City restaurant whose owner, Ken Friedman, has been accused of sexual harassment.CreditPablo Enriquez for The New York Times
Kim Severson

Times Insider delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how news, features and opinion come together at The New York Times.

Traci Des Jardins, a Northern California chef with six restaurants who once beat Mario Batali on “Iron Chef America,” first told me the frog story in 2005 when I was interviewing her for an article in The Times.

She was 19 and working at Troisgros, a temple of nouvelle cuisine in Loire, France, where she had landed an apprenticeship. She was young, a woman and an American with Mexican roots, as helpful in the strict and often brutal hierarchy of the French brigade de cuisine as a package of raw steaks might be in a tiger’s cage.

A farmer had brought in dozens of live frogs. A cook called her over. She knew it was a setup, but she walked to the prep table anyway. You don’t say no in a professional kitchen.

A couple of cooks were cutting the frogs in half, amused by the way they squirmed and bled. She was handed a pair of shears.

Instead, she grabbed a frog, looked one of the cooks directly in the eye and whacked it on the table. It was, she thought, the most humane way to do it. But she also wanted to make a point. She then continued to prepare each frog so its legs could be served for dinner.

“You just have to adapt,” she told me, “but not give in.”

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The Northern California chef and restaurant owner Traci Des Jardins, shown here in 2005 (the same year she beat Mario Batali on “Iron Chef America”), had a frog story to tell.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times
Ms. Des Jardins on “Top Chef Masters” in 2011.CreditNicole Wilder/Bravo

At the time, I saw it as a tale of exceptionalism, of how agile and tough she — and all women chefs, really — had to be to walk the long road to success.

Now, in the #MeToo era and with an increasing number of restaurants rooting out physical and sexual harassment at all levels of their organizations, I view the story as a blatant example of bullying and sexism.

Like a lot of people’s, my lens changed. And so has what qualifies as news for food writers.

In between stories about cooking and cultural trends, I now spend my days reporting about sexism, sexual abuse and harassment in the food world.

The emotions involved are stronger than any I have come across since I started writing about food full time 20 years ago.

The story of a culture coming to terms with pervasive sexual harassment weaves through issues of class and race, sexual orientation and gender. Victims’ voices rightfully have new power. And debates ensue over whether men are speaking loudly enough against it, and whether they should be speaking at all.

There are practical questions: Should home cooks throw out the cookbooks from chefs exposed for regularly grabbing and propositioning women? What if the chef is facing sexual assault charges?

Should you make a reservation at a restaurant where blatant sexual harassment or assault allegedly occurred? Should chefs who have committed harassing behavior that might be considered low-level piggishness be allowed to continue their careers? Or are they as bad as chefs accused of rape?

Is reformation, whether for a high-profile chef or a low-level bar manager, even an option?

And when does the sexualized camaraderie that many people in the restaurant business enjoy cross over into harassment?

The answers to some of those questions, I’ve found, change with generations.

Three women who say Mr. Friedman treated them abusively when they worked at the Spotted Pig: from left, Natalie Saibel, a former server; Jamie Seet, a former general manager; and Trish Nelson, a former server.CreditCeleste Sloman for The New York Times

Earlier this year, I moderated a panel of women chefs in New York at the Cherry Bombe Jubilee, a conference presented by the people who produce media focused on women in the food business.

I asked the crowd of 800, most of them women, if anyone had not experienced sexual harassment. It was a rhetorical question.

From my perch on the stage, I saw only one hand go up. It was Mimi Sheraton, the very opinionated former restaurant critic and reporter for The Times, who is 92.

I’ve spoken with other women of her generation who said they hadn’t been sexually harassed, either. Some told me that a woman whose boss pressures her for sex should simply leave the job, that getting drunk and sitting on a famous chef’s lap invites unwanted sexual behavior. Much of #MeToo, in their opinion, is overblown.

On the other side of the spectrum are young women (and quite a few men) who believe that a woman should not have to leave a good job because a cook continues to hit on her, that she should be able to lie down drunk at the feet of anyone she likes and not be assaulted.

In the middle are women like Ms. Des Jardins, who knew enduring harassment was the price of success and developed ways to get men to knock it off.

It wasn’t ideal, but it was what it was.

“We’re not past it by any means,” she said when I called her to talk about the frog story recently, “but it’s time to focus on the people who are doing it right. And there are plenty of them.”

Join the conversation tonight at 7 p.m. in San Francisco, where Kim Severson will moderate “The View From the Kitchen: Restaurant Culture in California,” a discussion with three leading California chefs: Dominique Crenn, chef and co-owner of Atelier Crenn; Tanya Holland, chef and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen; and Reem Assil, owner and founder of Reem’s California. Get tickets and more information here.

Brexit vote: Government defeats EU customs union bid


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The government has survived an attempt by pro-EU Conservative MPs to change its post-Brexit trade strategy.

The MPs wanted the UK to join a customs union if it does not agree a free-trade deal with the EU.

But the government, which says being part of a customs union will prevent it from striking international trade deals, won the vote by 307 to 301.

It did, however, lose a separate vote on its Trade Bill on the regulation of medicines after Brexit.

MPs backed an amendment that would keep the UK in the European medicines regulatory network.

  • Live updates from the Commons

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 but the two sides have yet to agree how their final trading relationship will work.

The Commons has been debating two pieces of legislation – on customs and trade – and there have been several attempts to change them by both pro-Brexit and pro-EU MPs.

The latest key vote was on customs, with a debate sparked by Tory MP Stephen Hammond’s amendment to the Trade Bill.

It stated that if a free trade area had not been negotiated by 21 January, ministers must change tack and start discussions on joining a customs union.

Is heading a football bad for your health?


England vs Sweden in the World CupImage copyright
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England tackled Sweden in their World Cup quarter-final

Headed goals by Harry Kane and Harry Maguire were among those which propelled England to their best World Cup performance since 1990.

But can repetitive heading cause damage to the brain and lead to long-term health problems?

A new study of 300 former professional players aims to answer the question.

The plan is to put the players, aged between 50 and 70, through a series of tests designed to assess their physical and cognitive capabilities.

There will be clinical examinations and data will be gathered on the players’ career in the game and lifestyle factors.

This will allow comparisons between defenders and centre forwards and other players who tend to head the ball less often.

The study will be carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Queen Mary University of London and the Institute of Occupational Medicine.

The test results will be compared with those from a general population study known as the 1946 Birth Cohort which has monitored the ageing process in a group born in that year.

Jeff Astle’s daughter: Dad’s job killed him

‘Urgent need’ for football header research

Football headers ‘linked to brain damage’

The new study will be similar to one which the Rugby Football Union embarked on in 2016 to assess the long-term impact of concussions experienced by former players in England.

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Jeff Astle’s death was linked to repeatedly heading the ball

Both are funded by the Drake Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation focusing on research on concussion injuries in sport.

Lead researcher Prof Neil Pearce, from LSHTM, said: “We know that there are increased risks of neurological disorders from head injury in sports such as boxing. However, we don’t know much about the risks from concussion in football, and we know almost nothing about the long-term effects from heading the ball repeatedly.

“This study will provide, for the first time, persuasive evidence of the long-term effects on cognitive function from professional football.”

News of the latest study follows increasing debate about the link between repetitive heading and concussion injuries and brain diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s.

In February 2017, researchers from University College London and Cardiff University published a study based on post-mortem examinations of the brains of six former players which found signs of brain injury in four cases.

Last year, former England player and BBC pundit Alan Shearer fronted a BBC documentary on the subject.

He highlighted the case of Jeff Astle who played for West Brom and England and developed dementia before dying at the age of 59 in 2002. A coroner ruled that Mr Astle’s brain had been damaged by years of heading a football.

Alan Shearer concluded that “very little has been done to investigate the effects of heading a ball. I find that staggering.”

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World Cup winner Ray Wilson died earlier this year of dementia

In November 2017, the Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association announced they were funding a study run by the University of Glasgow and the Hampden Sports Clinic looking at physical and mental health outcomes in former players, based on analysis of medical records.

The team, headed by neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart, will address the question: “Is the incidence of degenerative neuro-cognitive disease more common in ex-professional footballers than in the normal population?”

The new research is understood to be the first of its kind in the UK to involve interviews and tests on former players.

James Drake, chairman of the Drake Foundation, said: “Many people have waited many years for a study like this – the Drake Foundation is proud to be funding this work and to be a part of this important step forwards in our understanding of sports-related concussion and its long-term effects.”

Gordon Taylor, of the Professional Footballers’ Association, welcomed the announcement: “For the last two decades the issue of head impacts, head injuries, concussions and neurodegenerative disease in former players has been of much concern to all at the PFA and our duty of care to our members.”

Religious education 'vital for diversity'


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Londoners of different faiths and cultures remembered the terror attack on London Bridge

Religious education is more vital than ever in an increasingly diverse society and needs a higher status, says former home secretary Charles Clarke.

Mr Clarke is co-author of a report calling for better religious education in school and a widening of the subject to include “beliefs and values”.

The report argues that assemblies should no longer be expected to have a “broadly Christian” character.

Mr Clarke says understanding other faiths builds more “tolerant” views.

The report, co-authored by Prof Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University, says the place of religion in schools in England and Wales is still shaped by legislation from the 1940s, despite “enormous change in the religious and cultural landscape”.

‘Learning to talk’

“Our society has become massively more diverse,” says Mr Clarke, a former Labour education secretary, in a report supported by the Economic and Social Research Council.

As well as those not identifying with any religious group, there are many more “different religions and ranges of belief within religion”, he says.

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Charles Clarke says it was mistaken to think that religion would become irrelevant

“We are becoming more diverse, more individual. That’s a good thing, but children growing up need to understand that society and be able to interpret it,” says Mr Clarke.

The idea that religion would eventually be “discarded as irrelevant” has proved to be mistaken, he says.

Prof Woodhead says understanding about religions such as Islam, Hinduism or Judaism should be part of everyday life.

“These are children in your classroom or your neighbours, we’re all part of the same society and we have to learn to talk to each other more intelligently,” she says.

But the report argues the place of religious education in school needs to be updated and strengthened to stop a decline which has seen it treated as a “second-class subject”.

It calls for a national syllabus that would be taught in all state schools and that it should be known as “religion, belief and values”.

Act of worship

The report argues in favour of keeping a daily “act of collective worship” but that it should no longer be expected to be of a Christian character, but could reflect the “values and ethos” of the school.

The study says faith schools should continue and that parents should be able to choose to send their children to schools of their own religion.

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Ceremony in London: the overlapping of beliefs and cultures make RE even more important, says the study

Mr Clarke argues that, rather than driving segregation, good quality religious education can protect against extreme interpretations of beliefs that can be “divisive and dangerous”.

“The best defence against that is to have children who are well-educated, well-informed and understanding about religions in our society,” he says.

“Teaching about religious education generally builds a more tolerant society, a stronger society, a more resilient society to deal with the pressures that can otherwise lead to segregation in communities up and down the country.”

‘Disappointment’

But the proposed way of reforming the subject has been opposed by the Catholic Education Service.

The Bishop of Leeds, Marcus Stock, said it would not be acceptable for the state to “dictate what the church is required to teach in Catholic schools”.

He said there needed to be a choice for schools in whether religion should be taught as a theological rather than “sociological” subject.

The National Secular Society rejected the proposals as “a real disappointment”.

“The proposals represent baby steps in the right direction, but the report generally appears to be an admission that necessary reforms are not possible without the approval of religious bodies.

“That is a worrying state of affairs for a modern education system,” said the group which campaigns for a separation of religion and state.

Election interference to be sniffed out by early-alert system


Joe BidenImage copyright
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Joe Biden joined the organisation developing the election-monitoring tool in May

An early warning system to spot attempts to subvert elections is being developed by an organisation backed by former US Vice-President Joe Biden.

The not-for-profit Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity was created to combat efforts to skew election debate.

Its software scours social media and other parts of the net to hunt out attempts to seed subversive content.

But experts warn nation states may answer with more sophisticated tactics.

Compelling picture

“We’re trying to create high reliability and easy-to-use tools for civil organisations to use and see what’s happening in real time so they can counter it,” said Fabrice Pothier, a spokesman for the commission.

The need for such tools became apparent after the 2016 US election, which was subject to widespread interference by Russia, said Mr Pothier.

Examples of the kinds of activity the software will watch out for include:

  • the use of fake accounts to spread messages on social networks
  • the passing of damaging information about politicians, stolen or fake, to opposition groups
  • the development of malware designed to spy on political figures’ communications
  • the hacking of election computer systems

Too often, Mr Pothier said, knowledge about interference came only after votes had been cast and politicians had taken office.

“After an election, we put the picture together and can say there’s been multi-dimensional interference,” he said.

“One goal is to fix that analytical part by having a more systematic handle on how elections are influenced.

“It’s a tool that gives us a real-time scan during a campaign of how certain groups inject information, how much is injected into social media, their interference and how it evolves and what effect it has.”

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Reuters

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President Trump has said he does not see a reason to believe allegations that Russia meddled in his election

The ability of the warning system to spot campaigns had been demonstrated during the recent Mexican presidential elections, said Mr Pothier, when it had detected subversion activity by Russian hackers and Iranian proxies working on their behalf.

No action had been taken during that election but, said Mr Pothier, the software had given a “very compelling” picture of the interference.

The software, which is being created by an unnamed company in London, is expected to get a formal launch in the summer.

Soon after it will be used to safeguard the upcoming referendum in Macedonia and elections in many European nations.

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Reuters

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Bots have helped to dilute all election chat and make debate impossible

The tool would give nation states information about the entry points through which fake news and other disinformation was inserted on to the web, said Mr Pothier.

Action had to be taken to combat activity around these “dark” sources, he said.

“From there it goes into Twitter and Facebook – and once it gets there it can be too late to counter it,” he said.

UCL researcher Juan Guzman, who has studied the use of bots on social media to spread disinformation, said he had seen evidence that groups looking to subvert elections were changing tactics.

Many, he said, had turned away from fake news to more subtle methods of “polarising debate”.

One involved “flooding” chat rooms with abusive messages, not to persuade readers but to frustrate anyone trying to have a reasonable discussion of politics on the internet.

“Regardless of the actual accuracy that AI [artificial intelligence] might reach on spotting and detecting fake news, current efforts to combat them are not working,” said Mr Guzman.

“This is because spreading fake news is a small part of the problem of weaponising social media for political gain – a problem in which bots play an increasingly important role.”

The anti-interference campaign is broadly supported by the Alliance of Democracies, a not-for-profit group created by Anders Fogh Rasmussen – former Prime Minister of Denmark and Nato Secretary General.

Louis Tomlinson and Robbie Williams named new judges on The X Factor


Robbie Williams, Ayda Field and Louis TomlinsonImage copyright
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L to R: Robbie Williams, Ayda Field and Louis Tomlinson

Robbie Williams is to join the X Factor judging panel when the show returns to screens this summer, ITV has announced.

The former Take That singer, 44, fills the vacancy left by long-standing judge Louis Walsh, who quit the show last month after 13 years.

Louis Tomlinson will join the panel along with Robbie’s wife Ayda Field, and long-term judge Simon Cowell.

Sharon Osbourne will also be a judge – but only on the live shows that follow the pre-filmed auditions.

The new judging panel was unveiled in central London on Tuesday ahead of the auditions, which are set to begin later this week.

One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson, 26, will take up his position after finding fame on the show in 2010.

The Back to You singer appeared as a guest judge at judges’ houses in 2015, helping Simon Cowell select which of his acts he would take through to the live shows.

Robbie’s appointment, meanwhile, sees him emulate his former Take That bandmate Gary Barlow, who was head judge on the ITV show from 2011 to 2013.

The star will be forced to miss a number of live shows because he is already double-booked with tour dates in South America.

His new role follows his contentious appearance at the World Cup opening ceremony, during which he was seen to “flip the bird” on live television.

  • Fox apologises for Williams gesture

Williams, whose hits include Angels, Millennium and Rock DJ, holds the record for the most number one albums by a British solo artist.

The new foursome have been unveiled as part of a series of changes introduced ahead of the upcoming 15th season, made in a bid to reverse falling ratings.

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The departing Louis Walsh said the show “needed a change”

Williams married Field, a US actress and model, in 2010 – she has since found fame in the UK on ITV daytime show Loose Women.

Judges’ auditions for the new series will take place at Wembley Arena in north London.

More than 30,000 contestants have already taken part in open auditions held across the country.


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South Korea's first dog: 'I'm not food'


South Korea’s “first dog” has become the furry face of a campaign to discourage the consumption of dog meat in the country.

President Moon Jae-in adopted Tori last year.

The black mongrel had been “abandoned, abused, and raised to be eaten before he was rescued”, said Park So-Youn, the president of Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE).

As part of the campaign, which CARE has organised, soft toys have been made in Tori’s likeness, bearing the message “I’m not food”.

Proceeds from sales of the toys, which cost £20, will go towards rescuing abused or abandoned dogs, CARE said.

By taking Tori in, Mr Moon was delivering on a campaign promise to boost awareness of fast-growing numbers of abandoned animals.

Soft toys have been made to spread the message
Image:
Soft toys have been made to spread the message

The campaign has been launched during a period when Koreans traditionally eat dog meat soup in the belief that it helps beat the summer heat.

As people were being encouraged to sign up for dog adoption, Ms Park said Tori had been transformed since going to live with the president.

“President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook said they are very glad and happy because Tori has totally changed,” she said.

“He looked anxious and sad when he first came to them but now he looks very happy and bright.”

Tori is the first pet from a shelter to become “first dog”.

Mr Moon also has two other animals – a Korean-breed Pungsan dog called Maru, and a former stray cat called Jjing-jing.

Dog meat is mainly eaten by older people in South Korea, and consumption is going down.