John Stones: Manchester City in talks with Everton over England defender

Manchester City are in talks with Everton over the possible signing of England defender John Stones.

A deal is yet to be agreed but it is thought the two Premier League clubs are not far apart in their valuations.

It is thought Everton want £50m for the 22-year-old former Barnsley player, who came close to joining Chelsea last summer.


John Stones

He made his debut for Barnsley in March 2012, 10 months before joining Everton for £3m.

City boss Pep Guardiola has identified the Yorkshireman as the kind of central defender who fits his approach to the game.

“Normally central defenders are strong in the air and aggressive,” said Guardiola on Wednesday.

“But we need to have a good build-up to create easy passes in the midfield so they can create good passes for the strikers. I believe when the ball goes from the central defender to the striker as quickly as possible, it comes as quickly as possible back.

“That is why the players in that area need quality. By 31 August we will have the right squad to play how we want.”

Guardiola used midfielders Javier Mascherano and Javi Martinez as central defenders while managing Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively.

And the Spaniard has identified a City midfielder who could step into the back four if required.

“Fernandinho can play in 10 positions,” he said.

“He is quick, fast, intelligent, aggressive. He is strong in the air and has the quality to play good build-up, can go right or left and can pass long.”


NHS consultant paid £375,000 in overtime

Growing pressures are leading UK hospitals increasingly to rely on premium overtime pay to get consultants to do extra work.

Spending on high-cost overtime has risen by more than a third in the past two years, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act suggest.

One doctor made an extra £375,000 last year on top of their salary.

Hospitals blamed a consultants shortage amid rising demand, but ministers said the way doctors were paid must change.

Payments of about £600 in overtime for a four-hour shift are common – three to four times what consultants get normally – but there was some evidence of payments around the £1,000 mark.

It is up to individual hospitals to negotiate payments. The BBC found examples of hospitals that did not pay any high rates and others that had managed to negotiate much lower rates for shifts relating to urgent and emergency work.

Overtime: Top three highest paid consultants in 2015-16 (overtime only)

Counting moneyImage copyrightNASTCO

1.£374,999: Unnamed consultant at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

2.£205,408: Unnamed consultant at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust

3.£183,204: Unnamed consultant at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Source: BBC investigation

The BBC investigated the issue using FoI and follow-up interviews with hospitals and doctors.

Some 140 trusts and health boards out of 186 asked provided information, although not all of them were able to answer all of the questions.

The investigation just focused on overtime paid at higher rates. It did not capture extra shifts done for normal pay.

It found:

  • Spending on high-cost overtime rose by a third – responses from 114 NHS trusts and boards show £168m was spent last year, up from £125m in 2013-14
  • Two in three trusts paid at least one consultant more than £50,000 last year, with one in four paying £100,000 or more
  • The average amount paid in high-cost overtime was £13,356 per consultant
  • The most likely to get high-cost overtime were radiologists, surgeons, urologists, anaesthetists and gastroenterologists
  • Only half of trusts and boards provided data on the numbers getting high-cost overtime, but this suggests up to half of the consultant workforce may have got them
  • The average salary for a consultant is £89,000, which equates to £171 per four-hour shift

Hospitals said that originally consultants had been able to negotiate higher rates for routine work because their contracts allowed them to opt-out of such work at weekends.

But they said the rising cost seen in recent years was down to shortages of consultants and rising demand.

Did Simon Cowell ignore Liam Payne from One Direction on purpose?

It may just have been a slip of the tongue, but Simon Cowell missed out mentioning Liam Payne while talking about the One Direction solo albums.

Simon Cowell

Speaking at an America’s Got Talent press conference, he was asked what he thought about Louis’ songs.

“We’re in touch with them,” he said.

“The great thing about all these boys – well not all of them but most of them – they are incredibly loyal and you don’t always expect that. Niall, Harry, Louis – amazing.”

Simon missed Liam’s name out while talking about Louis’ transition from pop star to judge on America’s Got Talent.

He’s also revealed that he’s in talks with the other band members to appear on the show.

“Louis is great,” he said. “It was so funny and so, kind of odd, because he had auditioned for me five years ago and now he’s sitting where I’m sitting, judging other people and doing it well.

“I was really happy for him. He loved doing it.”

One of the reasons Simon may have left Liam out of his statement could be that he’s signed with a label other than his.

UK economic growth sped up ahead of Brexit vote

The UK economy grew by 0.6% in the three months to the end of June, as economic growth accelerated in the run-up to the vote to leave the EU.


Workers at Nissan car factory

Second-quarter gross domestic product grew faster than expected, up from 0.4% growth in the previous quarter, the Office for National Statistics said.

Any uncertainty ahead of last month’s referendum seemed “limited”, ONS said.

However, by far the strongest growth was in April, followed by a sharp easing off in May and June.

On a yearly basis the economy grew by a healthy 2.2%.

The pick-up in economic activity was boosted by the biggest upturn in industrial output since 1999, particularly from car factories and pharmaceutical firms.

‘Position of strength’

ONS chief economist Joe Grice said that as well as the industrial gains, there was also “strong growth across the services sector, particularly retailing”.

“Any uncertainties in the run-up to the referendum seem to have had a limited effect,” he said. “Very few respondents to ONS surveys cited such uncertainties as negatively impacting their businesses.”

Economists, including those at the Bank of England, had estimated second-quarter growth would be about 0.5%.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said the better-than-expected figures showed the fundamentals of the UK economy were “strong”.

“It is clear we enter our negotiations to leave the EU from a position of economic strength,” Mr Hammond said.

But he also told the BBC’s economics editor Kamal Ahmed it was “far too early to say how the economy is responding” to the referendum result.

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said the figures bore little relation to the economic position of workers.

“Today’s GDP figures provide a stark contrast with the grim news on real earnings which remain 10% below their 2007 level,” he said.

“The Tories’ failed austerity policy has produced a lost decade for earnings with ordinary households experiencing the worst decline in living standards in living memory.”

US election: Trump ‘encourages Russia to hack Clinton emails’

Donald Trump has “actively encouraged” foreign powers to hack his presidential rival Hillary Clinton, her camp says.

Mrs Clinton did not hand over 30,000 emails as part of an investigation into her private email server as they contained private details.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr Trump said on Wednesday.

“I think you’ll be rewarded mightily by our press.”

The emails would contain some “beauties”, he said. Soon after, he wrote on Twitter that if anyone had the emails, they should hand them over to the FBI.

His appeal comes as Russia stands accused of hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for Mr Trump’s benefit. Both Russia and Mr Trump deny the allegation.

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Jake Sullivan, Mrs Clinton’s senior policy adviser, said.

“This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

In a statement released within an hour of Mr Trump’s comments, his vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence said there would be “serious consequences” if the FBI could prove Russia was attempting to interfere with the election.

The emails were leaked to the Wikileaks organisation and published on Friday.

The FBI is continuing its investigation into the leak, which included emails that showed DNC officials, who are supposed to remain neutral, favoured Mrs Clinton, and derided her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders.

Mrs Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, said Russia carried out the hack to weaken the Democrats and help Mr Trump.

In an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, President Obama – whose own government has been accused of carrying out hacks on other governments – refused to rule out the possibility Russia was responsible, adding: “What we do know is that the Russians hack our systems. Not just government systems, but private systems.”

What has been the response?

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that President Putin “more than once has said that Russia would never interfere and does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, especially in the electoral process”.

When challenged by the press to condemn foreign powers that may be trying to intervene in the US election, Mr Trump replied: “No, it gives me no pause.

“If Russia or China or any of those country gets those emails, I’ve got to be honest with you, I’d love to see them.”

In a news conference in Florida, Mr Trump said he had “nothing to do with Russia”.

When asked by reporters if Russian President Vladimir Putin might favour a win for Mr Trump, the billionaire said he had “never met Putin, I don’t know who Putin is”.

“Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Paul Ryan, the Republican House Speaker. “Putin should stay out of this election.”

What does this have to do with the Clinton email investigation?

Out of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
Media caption Clinton, her emails and the FBI

The two issues have been brought together by Mr Trump but, on the surface, have nothing to do with each other.

Shortly before she was sworn in as secretary of state in 2009, Hillary Clinton set up an email server at her home in Chappaqua, New York. She then relied on this server, home to the email address, for all her electronic correspondence – both work-related and personal – during her four years in office.

It was 30,000 of the emails sent here that Mr Trump was encouraging hackers to find.

An FBI investigation concluded that Mrs Clinton should not face charges, but said she and her aides had been “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information.

Outdoor learning ‘boosts children’s development’

Outdoor learning can have a positive impact on children’s development but it needs to be formally adopted, a report suggests.

Childhoods were dramatically changing, with fewer opportunities to spend time outdoors, researchers observed.

The loss of exposure to the natural environment would have negative long-term consequences, they warned.

Establishing an “outdoor learning hub” would help teachers, and help shape policies and strategy, they suggested.

Long-term risks

The report highlighted previous studies that showed that busier family lives, combined with an increased sense of fear in society, children were having fewer opportunities to explore their surrounding natural environment.

This was hampering children’s social skills as well as risking stifling their long-term physical, emotional development and wellbeing. Therefore, it was important that schools did not overlook the opportunities that outdoor learning provided to bridge this gap.

“At the moment, if outdoor learning is part of a school’s curriculum in England, it is largely because the teachers recognise the value of it,” said report co-author, Sue Waite, a reader in outdoor learning at Plymouth University, UK.

“With so much focus on academic attainment, there can be pressure on teachers to stay in the classroom which means children are missing out on so many experiences that will benefit them through their lives.”

Joined-up thinking

Ms Waite added that the report showed that although there was a significant body of research that supports outdoor learning in both formal and informal contexts, it was likely to remain on the margins of education until the benefits were recognised by policymakers and reflected in policies. The report calls for it to be adopted by national curricula.

The report made a number of recommendations, including the establishment of a “strategic policy/research hub” to “collate existing research, prioritise future research needs and help improve the alignment between research and policy”.

The report also proposed a “Framework for 21st Century Student Outcomes” that could be delivered through regular lessons in natural environments.

The outcomes were grouped into five themes:

  • A healthy and happy body and mind
  • A sociable, confident person
  • A self-directed and creative learner
  • An effective contributor
  • An active global citizen

“We need to be a little bit clearer about what forms of outdoor learning meet what purposes and aims (of curricula),” Ms Waite told BBC News.

“So rather than just being outdoors magically making things happen, activities such as residential outdoor experiences would be particularly effective for developing social skills and leadership,” she said.

“Whereas field studies would be particularly effective for greater awareness of the environment.

“What we argue in the report is for people to think about the purpose and place (of the activity), as well as the people involved, in order to construct different forms of outdoor learning that will meet certain (teaching) aims.”

Ms Waite said that the findings acknowledged that schools were under pressure to deliver results, and found increasing constraints on time, finance and other resources.

She said that linking outdoor activities to learning outcomes would allow it to become part of a curriculum so there would be “no need to find extra time” for outdoor learning.

She added: “Getting it embedded within policy gives that extra reassurance to teachers that this is something justifiable to do.”

Ms Waite’s fellow co-author Prof Karen Malone, from Western Sydney University, added: “This report maps the evidence to encourage researchers and policymakers to meet at the interface of research and policy in order to shape a positive future for our children.”

Damien Hirst formaldehyde artworks ‘posed no risk to public’

A scientific paper that claimed a 2012 exhibition of Damien Hirst works led to the release of formaldehyde fumes has been retracted by one of its authors.

The report said gas levels at the Tate Modern exhibition – which included dead animals preserved in giant tanks – were above those legally permitted.

The claims were investigated by Hirst’s Science Ltd company, which conducted more tests on his formaldehyde pieces.

The results found there was “never any risk to the public”, as was alleged.

It has led Prof Pier Giorgio Righetti – one of the authors of the paper published in April in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Analytical Methods Journal – to acknowledge his paper was “inaccurate and unreliable”.

A spokesperson for Science Ltd and Prof Righetti said the professor “regret[ted] any alarm or concern the paper may have caused”.


They added Hirst “cooperated” to conduct further tests on his works following April’s report. which all showed formaldehyde readings lower than 0.1 ppm (parts per million). The recommended maximum exposure level under legislation is 2 ppm.

“The cause of the discrepancy with the readings published in the paper was identified and it was agreed that there cannot have been formaldehyde present at the dangerously high levels originally cited,” the spokesperson said.

BBC arts editor Will Gompertz was among those to report on the claims, in an edition of Radio 4’s Today programme broadcast on 21 April.

Tate Modern’s Damien Hirst retrospective was the most-visited solo show and the second-most visited exhibition in the London gallery’s history. It included a shark suspended in formaldehyde titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living plus a bisected cow and calf in four parts called Mother and Child (Divided).

First farmers had diverse origins, DNA shows

Analysis of DNA from some of the world’s first farmers shows that they had surprisingly diverse origins.

Researchers sequenced genomes from ancient Neolithic skeletons uncovered in Iran.

The results shed light on a debate over whether farming spread out from a single source in the region, or whether multiple farmer groups spread their technology across Eurasia.

The findings by an international team appear in Science journal.

The switch from mobile hunting and gathering to the sedentary lifestyle of farming first occurred about 10,000 years ago in south-western Asia. After the last Ice Age, this new way of life spread rapidly across Eurasia, in one of the most important behavioural transitions in human history.

Analysis of DNA from ancient remains in Europe has established that farming spread via the mass migration of people, rather than adoption of new ideas by indigenous populations.

In the new study, researchers show that the DNA of early farmers who lived in the Zagros mountains of Iran was very different from that of the people who spread farming west through Turkey and into Europe.

Despite the fact that both these groups inhabited the Fertile Crescent – a sickle-shaped zone stretching from the Nile Valley in the west to western Iran – they appear to have separated genetically between 46,000 and 77,000 years ago.

“Probably the biggest surprise news about this study is just how genetically different the eastern and western Fertile Crescent early farmers were,” said co-author Mark Thomas, from University College London (UCL).

Neolithic village in JordanImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK
Image captionThe transition to farming marked the beginning of a sedentary lifestyle

Co-author Dr Garrett Hellenthal, also from UCL, commented: “It had been widely assumed that these first farmers were from a single, genetically homogeneous population. However, we’ve found that there were deep genetic differences in these early farming populations, indicating very distinct ancestries.”

The DNA of the Zagros mountains farmers most closely resembled that of living people from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran – and Iranian Zoroastrians in particular. Zoroastrians are the people who practise an ancient pre-Islamic religion of present-day Iran.

The present-day population whose genomes most closely resemble the western farmers is found not in the Middle East, but on the Italian island of Sardinia.

This reveals the scale of genetic change in the Fertile Crescent since the Neolithic. After the invention of agriculture, divergent groups of Middle Eastern farmers mixed thoroughly, and the region received genetic inputs from populations residing in surrounding areas.

Mark Thomas believes the findings dovetail with an idea put forward by the Cambridge University researcher Marta Mirazón Lahr known as the Holocene Filter. This is the process by which hunting groups which were highly distinct from each other (often over relatively short geographic distances) were reshaped by migration in the last 10,000 years.

As a consequence human diversity was lost due to the differential expansion of a few populations.

Discussing what the study said about the origins of farming, Dr Thomas told BBC News: “From the archaeology we know that different species were domesticated in different locations around the Fertile Crescent with no particular centre.

Major gas store shutdown prolonged… bad news for gas house hold users in UK

Wholesale gas prices have jumped after British Gas owner Centrica said it had been forced to shut a major storage facility for the winter.

The Rough facility accounts for about 70% of all UK gas storage.

Tom Marzec-Manser, an analyst at market information provider ICIS, said the gas price “rocketed” to 12-month highs after the announcement.

“To ensure security of supply is maintained… companies are going to have to pay a premium,” he said.

They will will be “reliant on storage on the European mainland”, he added.

“Technical problems have been ongoing at Rough for a while, but the market clearly did not anticipate this.”

Centrica said it is working to return a third of the capacity to operation by November, in time for colder months when gas demand by energy companies climbs.

There have been problems at the Rough facility since March 2015, when Centrica imposed restrictions on storage levels because of an issue with its wells.

Last month following testing on the wells involved, Centrica said, it had “identified an additional issue” on one of them and Rough facility would close until 3 August for further tests.

gas cooker

Enhanced testing

Centrica issued a statement on Friday saying it had ended those tests early and had plugged the affected well.

“However, the affected well has identified potential uncertainties in the remaining untested wells,” it said.

It would continue with an “enhanced” testing programme. “We estimate completion in March to April 2017. In the meantime because of the uncertainty as a prudent and safe operator (Centrica) cannot inject or withdraw gas from Rough,” it added.

Centrica also said it was examining whether some wells could return to service in time for the coming winter.

“(Centrica) currently anticipates that at least four wells will return to service for withdrawal operations by November 1, 2016,” it said, which would make up a third of the shortfall resulting from Rough’s closure.

UK shares end higher but pound is down

(Close): UK shares finished up slightly on Friday but the pound has lost ground as investors continue to digest the Bank of England’s latest pronouncement.

On Thursday, the Bank stunned the markets by keeping interest rates on hold, following speculation that it would cut rates from 0.5% to 0.25%.

The FTSE 100 gained just 15 points, or 0.22%, to close at 6,669.24.

The FTSE 250, which is more weighted towards UK companies, closed down 60.77 points, or 0.36%, at 16,727.27.

The pound was down 1.15% against the dollar at $1.31.90. Against the euro, it was down 0.65% at €1.19.26.

Among individual shares, airlines bore the brunt in the wake of Thursday night’s Bastille Day attack in the French resort of Nice.

Easyjet and British Airways owner IAG were down 2.6% and 1% respectively.

High Street mainstays Morrisons and Marks and Spencer fell 1.4% and 1.7% respectively.

Earlier in the day other European share indexes were also down, reflecting market gloom at the French terror attack.

By the end of trading they had recovered much of the lost ground. The Cac index in Paris was down by 0.3%, with the biggest faller being hotel group Accor, down by 4%.

Frankfurt’s Dax was pretty much unchanged at the close – down just 0.01%.