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Government imposes new restrictions to fight Omicron as first cases found in UK

Masks made mandatory in shops and on buses and trains. New arrivals must take PCR tests

Boris Johnson has expressed aabsolute confidencea that people would enjoy a better Christmas this year than last, despite re-imposing a range of restrictions a including compulsory mask-wearing a to combat the new highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The prime minister attempted to calm fears about the prospects of another imminent lockdown on Saturday, hours after the first two cases of the new variant were reported in the UK, in Nottingham and Essex.

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Storm Arwen: three people killed after winds of almost 100mph hit UK

Tens of thousands of homes left without power with yellow weather warnings still in place for many regions

Three people have died after being hit by falling trees as Storm Arwen brought winds of almost 100mph to parts of the UK overnight.

A headteacher in Northern Ireland died after a tree fell on his car, another man was hit by a falling tree in Cumbria, and a third died after his car was hit in Aberdeenshire.

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Death in the Channel: aMy wife and children said they were getting on a boat. I didnat hear from them againa

The names and stories of 10 people who died in the Channel, including a mother and her three children

According to his friends, Harem Pirot was an excellent swimmer. In the summer of 2019 he and a neighbour Anas Muhammad set off from their home in the Iraqi Kurdistan town of Ranya to nearby Lake Dukan, a popular picnic and boating spot.

aHarem was a really good person. He could swim well in deep water,a Anas said yesterday. aOur families knew each other well. A great guy. He was 25.a

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UK officials still blocking Peter Wrightas aembarrassinga Spycatcher files

A documentary-maker has accused the Cabinet Office of defying the 30-year rule in withholding details of the MI5 exposA(c)

The Cabinet Office has been accused of adelay and deceptiona over its blocking of the release of files dating back more than three decades that reveal the inside story of the intelligence agent Peter Wright and the Spycatcher affair.

Wright revealed an inside account of how MI5 abugged and burgleda its way across London in his 1987 autobiography Spycatcher. He died aged 78 in 1995.

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Domestic abuse offenders in England a not their victims a to be moved away from the family home

Local councils are looking to minimise disruption to children but concerns remain about safety and the underfunding of refuges

Councils in England are looking for ways to provide housing for domestic abusers so their victims can stay in the family home, in response to growing calls from some charities and campaigners.

The recently passed Domestic Abuse Act requires councils to publish a strategy to provide housing support for victims and children. Some councils are now drafting plans that include housing for perpetrators along with measures for victims.

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WTA still adeeply concerneda over Peng Shuaias ability to communicate freely

Statement says Chinese playeras responses to chief of sport body were aclearlya influenced by others

The Womenas Tennis Association (WTA) has said it remains adeeply concerneda about the Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, weeks after she disappeared following her allegations against a high-ranking Chinese former politician.

The WTA said in an email statement on Saturday that its chief executive, Steve Simon, had attempted to contact Peng through avarious communication channelsa including two emails. It said it was concerned about her welfare and ability to communicate freely and that her responses were aclearlya influenced by others.

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Met police charge man, 19, with six counts of sharing extremist material

Elias Djelloul was arrested in east London on Friday and will appear in court on Monday

A 19-year-old man will appear in court next week accused of sharing extremist material.

Elias Djelloul was arrested at an address in east London on Friday, the Metropolitan policeas counter-terrorism command said.

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Border Force staff union joins fight to block to Priti Patelas pushback plans

Home secretary under pressure as own staff join challenge to high-profile policy on Channel crossings

The union representing Border Force staff has announced it is taking part in a legal challenge against a plan by Priti Patel to push back small boats in the Channel.

The news that the home secretaryas own staff are participating in a legal challenge against the high-profile policy will be a significant blow to Patel as she faces criticism from fellow Conservatives for failing to get a grip on the crisis.

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Niger: two killed and 17 injured in clash with French military convoy

Force used against protesters who blocked vehicles amid rising anger over Franceas presence in former colonies

At least two people were killed and 18 injured in western Niger on Saturday when protesters clashed with a French military convoy they blocked after it crossed the border from Burkina Faso, Nigeras government said.

The armoured vehicles and logistics trucks had crossed the border on Friday after being blocked in Burkina Faso for a week by demonstrations there against French forcesa failure to stop mounting violence by Islamist militants.

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Suicides linked to HMRC cash demands in aloan chargea tax bills

Self-employed and contractors including nurses and social workers hit over adisguised remuneration schemesa

Ministers are facing renewed calls to rethink the controversial aloan chargea imposed on tens of thousands of workers, after it emerged that there had been eight cases of suicide among those facing demands for payments under the scheme.

A cross-party group of MPs has already raised concerns over the charge, which has seen the self-employed and contractors including nurses and social workers facing large bills from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). While the UKas tax authority has ruled that they avoided tax through adisguised remuneration schemesa, those facing bills say that they are victims of misselling, and that they used the schemes in good faith after professional advice.

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Successionas plot twist prompts surge of interest in leaving money in wills to Greenpeace

When Cousin Greg was disinherited by his grandfather in favour of the environmental group, inquiries about such legacies soared

In one bewildering and painful scene in the hit TV drama Succession, Cousin Greg sees his future of ease and wealth turn to dust. His grandfather, Ewan, announces he is giving away his entire fortune to Greenpeace, depriving Greg of his inheritance.

Now Greenpeace is hoping to benefit in real life as well as in the fictional world of the media conglomerate Waystar Royco. Thousands of people have looked into leaving money to the environmental group since the darkly comic storyline about Cousin Greg losing his inheritance and then threatening to sue the organisation was broadcast. More than 22,000 people have accessed online advice about making donations in their wills to Greenpeace. The groupas legacy webpage has also seen a tenfold surge in traffic since the episode was first broadcast earlier this month.

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Inside Dunkirkas desperate refugee camps: aThey take risks because they feel they have no choicea

Among the makeshift tents near the French beaches, we ask what drives people to make the perilous journey in small boats and what could prevent more deaths

There was a time when, if you googled the phrase aDunkirk, small boatsa, reports of one of Britainas finest hours would stack up in the results. Not last week. The beaches near Dunkirk have now become synonymous not with the embarkation point of dramatic rescue but of despairing tragedy.

Details of the 27 people, among them seven women and three children, who drowned in the Channel on Wednesday have been very slow to emerge, their anonymity itself an indication of their desperation. The first to be named was a Kurdish woman from northern Iraq, Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, a newly engaged student, who was WhatsApp messaging her fiance, who lives in the UK, when the groupas dinghy started deflating. The 24-year-old had travelled through Germany and France to join Mohammed Karzan in the UK, paying people smugglers thousands of euros to get across the Channel in the absence of other possible routes. Karzan said that he had been in continuous contact with his fiancee and was tracking her GPS coordinates. aAfter four hours and 18 minutes from the moment she went into that boat,a he said, athen I lost her.a

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The James Webb space telescope: in search of the secrets of the Milky Way

Billions of dollars over budget and years late, the most expensive, complex telescope to be sent into space will launch next month. What will it learn?

In a few weeks, the most ambitious, costly robot probe ever built, the APS6.8bn James Webb space telescope, will be blasted into space on top of a giant European Ariane 5 rocket. The launch of the observatory a which has been plagued by decades of delays and massive cost overruns a promises to be the most nervously watched liftoff in the history of unmanned space exploration.

The observatory a built by Nasa with European and Canadian space agency collaboration a has been designed to revolutionise our study of the early universe and to pinpoint possible life-supporting planets inside our galaxy. However, its planning and construction have taken more than 30 years, with the project suffering cancellation threats, political controversies and further tribulations. In the process, several other scientific projects had to be cancelled to meet the massive, swelling price tag of the observatory. As the journal Nature put it, this is athe telescope that ate astronomya.

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How a Paris designer built a family home in an old mirror factory

By combining warm colours and reclaimed materials, a Parisian workshop is now a contemporary home

The interior designer DorothA(c)e Delaye spent two years searching for what she calls aa village life in Parisa. She and her family a husband FranASSois and children Faustine, 11, and Jules, nine a had outgrown their apartment in the central Marais district. aI really wanted to have a garden a that was my priority,a says Delaye. aA place where my children could have their friends over to play. I also wanted a large entertaining space where my husband and I could gather with friends.a

For Delaye, a chance for avillage lifea showed up a few kilometres east in the 12th arrondissement, at the back of a courtyard that once housed a mirror factory. aI immediately fell in love with its volume and its factory elements,a says Delaye of the cavernous, open-plan workshop. aIt was such an unusual space a the perfect challenge for a designer.a

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aI have an outsideras perspectivea: why Will Sharpe is the A-Listas new favourite director

The actor-director won a Bafta for his performance in Giri/Haji. Hailed as a star in the making by Olivia Colmana and others, he discusses the true stories that inspired his new projects behind the camera

Will Sharpe has only been surfing a couple of times, but he really loved it. aSo Iam not a surfer, Iam not very good at it, Iave been twice,a clarifies the 35-year-old English-Japanese actor, writer and director. aBut thereas something about being in this huge, loud, aothera force and I never feel calmer than when Iam underwater in the sea. I just really took to it.a

Sharpe sees parallels with his work, which has so far included the surreal, darkly funny sitcom Flowers starring Julian Barratt and Olivia Colman that he created for Channel 4, and a magnetic performance as sarcastic, self-destructive Rodney in the BBC drama Giri/Haji, which earned him a Bafta in 2020 for best supporting actor. aWhen I came back to writing, having been surfing, I found myself reflecting on how there are certain similarities: you have to get everything technically right, but youare still at the mercy of this much greater power,a he says. aAnd how 95% of the time you are getting the shit kicked out of you, but the 5% of the time that it works, itas so exhilarating you just want to do it again straight away.a

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Northern Ireland is huge in TV, but post-Brexit reality is far less glitzy

Northern Ireland faces economic problems similar to those of rest of the UK, with some extras all of its own. Now what it has achieved is threatened by a looming trade war

Bars are full, restaurants are turning away customers who donat have reservations and, judging by the people laden with bags, the Christmas shopping season is already under way. Belfast has known plenty of crises down the decades but this doesnat feel like one of them.

Instead, on a Thursday evening in November, Northern Irelandas capital has the air of any other big provincial UK city, with a thriving hospitality sector and plenty of money changing hands. Were it not for the accents, it could be Leeds or Manchester.

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How a writer found himself in a missing person story

While working on a book about missing persons, Francisco Garcia received a message that turned his life upside down. Here he reflects on love, loss and the enduring promise of reunion

Despite the cold, it had been a decent day. Late March is sometimes like that in London. More winter than spring, the grass often still frozen half solid underfoot. Itas rarely a time that speaks too loudly of renewal. This year wasnat any different, as far as I can remember. The occasion that afternoon was a friendas 30th birthday party, if thatas what youad call a few faintly desultory beers in a barren Peckham Rye Park.

Back at home, my partner and I had settled down to watch a florid period drama. About half an hour in, thatas when it happened: the moment my life changed. My phone lit up with an unfamiliar name on Facebook Messenger. aHello Francisco, this might be a shock. Itas your fatheras family in Spain. Twenty years may have passed, but we have always remembered you.a

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Priti Patel blames aevila gangs for Channel crossings but the reality is far more complicated

Analysis: The UK governmentas own experts say many journeys are actually organised directly by desperate families

The government repeatedly insists that sophisticated criminal networks are driving the Channel crossings by people seeking asylum in Britain. Of all the contested claims advanced by the home secretary on the issue, it remains among the most pervasive.

True to form, in the aftermath of Wednesdayas drownings, Priti Patel wasted little time reiterating her determination to asmash the criminal gangsa behind such crossings.

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aEveryoneas gagging for ita a how Britain got high on nitrous oxide

Laughing gas was the lockdown high of choice for many young people. Now empty canisters are everywhere, and dealers are hitting the streets with card readers. Will a government crackdown burst the balloon?

Barry Smith spent this summer clinking as he walked. The 26-year-old painter from Devon sold nitrous oxide at four UK festivals. Before each event, he loaded his van with 20 boxes containing 480 canisters, bought online at 25p each, and hundreds of balloons. (This is considered small-time in the nitrous oxide racket.) His pricing is flexible: a balloon base rate of two for APS5 (a markup of 1,000%) or five for APS10. But prices can plummet to zero for mates or skyrocket for strangers once heas running low.

Standing largely in one spot, holding a nitrous dispenser, or acrackera, that resembles a coffee flask, Barry (not his real name) handed balloon after balloon to revellers attracted by a high-pitched hissing noise. He used the cracker to dispense the gas into latex balloons, while his girlfriend handled the payments, either in cash or by using a card machine borrowed from a friendas ice-cream company. aItas like a family business,a he jokes. Trade is brisk. aPeople just swarm at you a everyoneas gagging for it.a

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Covid live: UK to bring in new measures after Omicron variant detected; Israel bans oversea visitors

Masks to be mandatory in shops and on public transport in Britain; Israel closes border initially for 14 days

The UK should cut the gap between the second dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and the booster jab from six to five months, the Labour party said on Saturday, Reuters reports.

As the new Omicron variant sparked concern around the world, Alex Norris, Labouras junior health spokesperson, said:

This new variant is a wake-up call.

The pandemic is not over. We need to urgently bolster our defences to keep the virus at bay.

If you look at where most of the mutations are, they are similar to regions of the spike protein that have been seen with other variants so far and that tells you that despite mutations existing in other variants, the vaccines have continued to prevent very severe disease as weave moved through Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.

At least from a speculative point of view we have some optimism that the vaccine should still work against this variant for severe disease but really we need to wait several weeks to have that confirmed.

The processes of how one goes about developing a new vaccine are increasingly well oiled.

So if itas needed that is something that could be moved very rapidly.

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Omicronas full impact will be felt in countries where fewer are vaccinated

Analysis: the new coronavirus variant seems highly transmissible, but the big question is whether it causes severe disease. Either way, poorer nations will be hit hardest

In early August Gideon Schreiber and a team of virologists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel began playing around with the spike protein of the Sars-CoV-2 virus a the protein that allows the virus to enter our cells a to see if they could predict future mutations that could yield dangerous new variants of Covid-19.

At the time, Schreiber noted with concern that there were a variety of ways in which the spike protein could evolve. If all of these mutations occurred at once, it could yield a variant that was both extremely transmissible and potentially capable of evading some of the bodyas immune defences, blunting the efficacy of the vaccines.

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Biden and Harris briefed as US braces for arrival of Omicron Covid variant

US imposes travel restrictions from southern Africa as Anthony Fauci says he would not be surprised if variant were already in US

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been briefed on the latest situation regarding the new Omicron coronavirus variant, the White House said on Saturday, as Britain, Germany and Italy reported detecting cases.

Biden, who was spending Thanksgiving with family in Nantucket, Massachusetts, told reporters on Friday: aWe donat know a lot about the variant except that it is of great concern [and] seems to spread rapidly.a

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Early action against Omicron is imperative to avoid devastating consequences | Ewan Birney

Scientists have sprung into action to identify the new Covid variant. We donat yet know if it is a major threat - but we should not take any chances

It was only a matter of time before a new Sars-CoV-2 variant of concern emerged, requiring an urgent global response. It would seem that the Omicron variant, identified by scientists across Africa, including the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), poses the next major threat in the course of the pandemic. Early evidence from their genomic surveillance suggests that this new variant is a serious cause for concern and it is imperative that we act fast in response to this new information.

The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong, and will undoubtedly continue to arise in other territories in the coming days; travel-related cases have appeared in Belgium and Israel. Two cases of the new variant have been detected in the UK at the time of writing.

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Ralf Rangnickas arrival signals shift from messiah fix to modern vision of the game | Jonathan Wilson

The idea of manager as a charismatic leader steeped in a clubas DNA is no way to run a football club a unless youare Barcelona

As Manchester United go to Chelsea on Sunday, there may be regrets for roads not travelled. Six months after United appointed Ole Gunnar SolskjA|r as manager, Chelsea also turned to one of their own. But they were far more ruthless and, despite the affection in which Frank Lampard was held by fans, they sacked him in January. The improvement under Thomas Tuchel was immediate and, 10 months on, Chelsea are European champions and top of the Premier League.

Would United be in a similar position had they turned to Tuchel earlier in the year? Probably not. The job Tuchel has done has been remarkable, but he is building on solid foundations: Chelsea are well-run and have recruited sensibly, in part funded by an academy that is now producing first-team players.

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Magnus Carlsen embraces chaos in gripping draw with Ian Nepomniachtchi

Magnus Carlsen diced with danger in an entertaining second game of the world chess championships in Dubai before recovering to secure a 58-move draw. It leaves his 14-game match with Ian Nepomniachtchi level at 1-1 going into Sundayas third encounter.

It was a seesawing struggle, with Carlsen surprising his opponent early before missing a move that left him considerably worse off. However, his Russian opponent failed to find his wave through the thicket of variations and the game ended with a handshake, and a long post-mortem, as the players tried to fathom what happened. aThe game was crazy, I had no idea what was going on,a said Nepomniachtchi. aDuring the game I thought: aWe both are playing not so wella. But now I start thinking it was just very interesting and very chaotic.a

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Millie Bright looking imperious and undroppable as Englandas anchor | Suzanne Wrack

In the absence of Steph Houghton the centre-back and acting captain was on inspired form again against Austria

When Millie Bright lashed the ball goalwards from 25 yards in the first half, it flew wide of Manuela Zinsbergeras net. It was inconsequential, an unremarkable moment in a comfortable win in uncomfortable conditions, but it spoke to the confidence of the centre-back, who has flourished as anchor at the base of Englandas spine.

Steph Houghton, Englandas captain, has not played a minute of international football since Team GBas heartbreaking 4-3 extra-time defeat to Australia at the Olympics. An ankle injury has limited her to just four games this season with Manchester City.

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Creevy and Simmons upset Harlequins to edge London Irish to victory

This was London Irishas second win of the season, but you would never have known it. To claim it at the home of their local rivals, the champions of England, will have gratified still further. A game in which both sides tried to outdo each other on the missed-opportunity front ended in a win for the side less profligate. Irish started among four sides level on 17 points, from which deadlock they now emerge to nestle in behind the top six in the customarily tight mid-table. Quins remain second, but their old obsession with extravagance haunted them on a bitterly cold day that could have favoured something more prosaic.

This was not quite the exhilarating affair we might have expected from last seasonas kings of the comeback against this seasonas, but Irish did recover from a half-time deficit, so their status on that front remains intact. Most of their fightbacks this season have ended in draws, three of them to be precise, hence that place in mid-table with only two wins. aIt was an emotional game for us,a said Les Kiss, the Exilesa head coach. aTo get away from a draw is very welcome.a

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Going back to drawing board sparked Lewis Hamiltonas late F1 title charge | Giles Richards

Mastering a adivaa of a car demanded fresh application a and the battle with Max Verstappen is the most enthralling in years

For Lewis Hamilton the 2021 Formula One title race has been like no other. As it enters the final decisive phase, the world champion is in position to pull off perhaps the greatest achievement of his career. His fight with Max Verstappen has been an unmissable affair, but what has caught the eye is how Hamilton has fought to drag this mighty tussle into an enthralling endgame.

Two races remain, with the first 20 yielding no clear advantage for either driver. A season that has ebbed and flowed between them, punctuated by brilliance, bad luck, conflict and drama, has seen the lead change hands five times.

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Max Malins: aIf youare in an England shirt, you canat be too disappointeda

The Saracens star sees himself as a natural full-back but is happy to use his instincts where needed for England

As the unflappable Max Malins has been demonstrating all year, rugby can still be a game for languid piano players as well as piano shifters. Of course it matters who hits hardest and contests the most breakdowns but the most prized currency at elite level is time. Players capable of making a frenziedly physical sport look deceptively easy are growing rarer by the year.

There was an era a think David Gower in cricket, Matt Le Tissier in football or Stefan Edberg on a tennis court a when such a lightness of touch could be found across the majority of sports. English rugby, though, has often been suspicious of the genre: the richly gifted Alex Goode, Danny Cipriani and James Simpson-Daniel were entrusted with a mere 25 England starts between them.

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Barbarians deny ashamblesa of Covid call-off was their fault or RFUas

The Barbarians have claimed a decision by Public Health England led to their fixture against Samoa at Twickenham being called off 90 minutes before kick-off despite their having enough players who had returned negative tests.

A statement released by the Rugby Football Union revealed that four players and two members of staff from the invitational side had tested positive for Covid-19. The scrapping of the game followed last yearas fixture against England being called off after 13 players broke the Covid protocols, leading to widespread condemnation of the playersa behaviour.

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