Dec reveals he’s going to be a dad for the first time

Declan Donnelly has announced that he and his wife Ali Astall are to become parents for the first time.

The presenter confirmed the news on Twitter after a report appeared in The Sun on Sunday.

Skip Twitter post by @antanddec

Just wanted to say thank you for all the lovely messages. The news has sneaked out a little earlier than we had hoped but Ali and I are delighted to be expecting our first child. Thanks for all the love, we really appreciate it ❤️ D x

— antanddec (@antanddec) March 25, 2018


End of Twitter post by @antanddec

He said the couple were “delighted” but “the news had sneaked out a little earlier than we had hoped”.

Donnelly is currently preparing to host ITV’s Saturday Night Takeaway solo, after his co-presenter Ant McPartlin was charged with drink driving.

He will appear in court after being charged with drink driving on 4 April.

In a statement regarding the remaining episodes of Takeaway, ITV said: “ITV can confirm that Saturday Night Takeaway, presented by Declan Donnelly, will return on March 31, and the series finale will be taking place at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida a week later.”

Meanwhile Dec posted a message about taking the stage without his lifelong presenting partner.

“Whilst I never thought I’d be in this position, after much discussion and careful consideration we’ve decided that the remaining two shows of this series of Saturday Night Takeaway will go ahead,” he said.

“We made a promise to take hundreds of deserving winners to Florida to watch the series finale, and we will honour that. Everyone at ITV and the Takeaway team feels we owe it to the audience to complete the series.”

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Lana Del Rey and Radiohead ‘settle copyright dispute’

Lana Del Rey says her copyright dispute with Radiohead is over.

Earlier this year, Del Rey said the British band were suing her over similarities between her song, Get Free, and their breakthrough hit Creep.

Radiohead had rejected her offer of 40% of the song’s royalties, she claimed, and were demanding 100% percent.

The band’s publishers subsequently denied taking legal action, but confirmed they had asked for a writing credit to be added to the song.

Del Rey appeared to confirm the dispute had been settled during her set at the Lollapalooza festival in Sao Paolo, Brazil over the weekend.

After performing Get Free in her encore, Del Rey lit a cigarette and told fans: “Now that my lawsuit’s over, I guess I can sing that song any time I want, right?”

At the time of writing, the writing credits for Get Free have not been updated on the database of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).

The BBC has contacted Lana Del Rey and Radiohead’s publishers to confirm the singer’s comments.

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Simon Cowell’s Syco to produce its first show for the BBC

Simon Cowell’s entertainment company is teaming up with the BBC for the first time for a new dance contest.

Saturday night talent show The Greatest Dancer is being produced by Syco, which is behind ITV hits The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, and Thames.

It will see dancers from all different genres compete for the title of the best dancer in the UK.

The show could see former X Factor judge Cheryl return to prime-time TV after taking part in the pilot.

Alesha Dixon, who is a judge on Britain’s Got Talent, and Jordan Banjo, from dance group Diversity, could also be involved in the BBC One series after hosting the run-through last month.

‘Unsung heroes’

Kate Phillips, the BBC’s entertainment commissioner, said: “The BBC is undoubtedly the home of dance.

“By launching The Greatest Dancer we want to give the vast array of dance talent across the UK the chance to shine.

“I can’t wait to work with Syco and Thames to uncover the talent out there and let our audience critique and celebrate the nation’s unsung dance heroes.”

The BBC has commissioned eight episodes of the show, which is open to dancers from every discipline, including ballet, jazz, hip hop and Bollywood.

As well as Cheryl, the coaching panel could also include Glee star Matthew Morrison and Strictly Come Dancing professional Oti Mabuse, as they took part in the pilot.

The presenting and coaching line-up is yet to be confirmed by the BBC.

Nigel Hall, global head of television for Syco Entertainment, told the BBC: “The auditions for the pilot episode saw some of the most jaw-dropping, heartfelt and moving auditions I’ve ever seen on a dance show.

“There are some spectacular moments and we are beyond thrilled to have secured this commission over fierce competition.

“We look forward to working with the BBC team on something just a little bit special.”

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NHS: Over 3,000 more midwifery training places offered

More than 3,000 places on midwifery training courses are to be created over the next four years in England as part of plans to meet NHS staffing demands.

The government has announced a 25% boost in training places, which it said amounted to the “largest ever” increase in NHS midwives and maternity staff.

It follows a similar plan for nurses which was announced last year.

The Royal College of Midwives welcomed the move but said training more midwives was only half of the problem.

The plan needs investment and time to make it work, the RCM added.

Shorter treatment ‘will help tackle’ drug-resistant TB

New international guidelines aim to halve the cost and time for treating multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

The advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) should reduce treatment to around nine months.

Currently, it can take as long as two years – and many patients fail to complete what can be a burdensome course.

Doctors urged countries to implement the guidelines quickly.

Conventional treatment can involve thousands of pills and daily injections. Deafness is one of the main side-effects.

Cure rates are as low as 50% because patients abandon treatment, leading to further problems with resistance.

The WHO is also recommending a faster test for MDR-TB, which gives results within two days – compared with the current three months.

It hailed the guidelines as a “critical step forward”. Around 5% of TB cases are thought to have resistance to the two most effective drugs.

This translates into 480,000 cases worldwide – and 190,000 deaths from this form of TB every year. Many patients are not being identified.

The shorter treatment plan costs less than $1,000 per patient – compared with conventional treatment which costs $2,400 for the medicines alone.

The International Union against TB and Lung Disease and Medecins Sans Frontieres have been involved in trials of the new treatment method in Bangladesh and nine African countries, which have influenced the WHO’s decision.

The Union hailed today’s advice as “an historic moment”.

Cases ‘driven underground’

Its senior vice president, Dr I D Rusen, told me: “When we first saw evidence about the shorter regimen, back in 2007, it was almost too good to be true.

“Then further results which were consistent were presented at our conference late last year. Next year we’ll have more evidence from a head-to-head trial comparing the two treatment methods.

“The shorter treatment plan uses different doses of existing drugs which were previously used for leprosy.

“So we hope there will be time for production to scale up, while countries get systems in place for the new guidelines, although it’s possible there could be some supply issues.”

David Lister, an MSF TB Doctor working in Uzbekistan, co-ordinated one of the studies and described the huge difference it made.

He said: “The prospect of two years of TB treatment drives parents to hide their children from treatment, teenagers to abandon their ambitions and adults to decide between providing for their family or getting healthy.

“The fear of relentless suffering due to side-effects manages to outweigh any hopes of cure and returning to a normal life.

“But when I say, ‘it’s only nine months’ they say, ‘I can do that’.”

European Space Agency teams with ICEYE Finnish start-up

The European Space Agency is to work with Finnish start-up ICEYE on ways to exploit its novel radar satellites.

ICEYE-X1 was launched in January – the first of multiple spacecraft that will go up in the coming years.

About the size of a suitcase, these are the world’s smallest synthetic aperture radar satellites and cost a fraction of traditional platforms.

The Esa/ICEYE cooperation will focus on technology development and uses for the forthcoming constellation.

It will see future satellites – in particular, their radar antenna design – being tested at the agency’s technical centre (ESTEC) at Noordwijk, Netherlands.

Esa’s Earth observation headquarters (ESRIN) at Frascati, Italy, will also assist with calibration and validation of the ICEYE data.

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    The agency is keen to see how radar images from the mini-satellites can be drawn into the European Union’s Copernicus programme, the broad system of services that depend on space data.

    Areas of interest are likely to include maritime applications such as ship monitoring, and oil-spill and iceberg detection.

    “This is how we can best help so-called ‘New Space’ companies,” said Esa’s director of Earth observation, Josef Aschbacher.

    “They don’t need us to build their radar instrument or their satellites; they’re doing that themselves, and I would say faster than if we were involved. But there is a lot of engineering expertise here at Esa that is based on radar missions of more than 20 years,” he told BBC News.

    “We want to help ICEYE grow the market by testing and evaluating their value for Copernicus which is potentially a huge customer for them.”

    Esa’s own radar missions currently in service include the Sentinel 1a and 1b spacecraft.

    • In this preliminary flood analysis exercise image, ICEYE has combined and processed Esa’s Sentinel-1 satellite data with ICEYE-X1 satellite data to visualise potential change detection capabilities. The image features the River Seine as it ran past Paris-Orly airport in France at the start of the year when water levels were extremely high.

      ICEYE-X1’s bus, or chassis, which contains the radar instrument and spacecraft sub-systems, measures 80cm by 60cm by 50cm. Its radar antenna, after being unfolded in orbit, is 3.5m in length.

      These dimensions are much smaller than those of past radar missions.

      Like all New Space companies, the Helsinki-based outfit is exploiting the use of cheap electronics normally found in consumer products to reduce both the size and cost of its designs.

      The first satellite has now taken hundreds of images from an altitude of 505km.

      ICEYE is exploring how these pictures, and the analysis of them, could best benefit commercial partners.

      Radar’s great advantage is that it senses the ground in all weathers and at night.

      ICEYE wants to couple this vision with high temporal resolution, meaning a single spot on the Earth’s surface would be surveyed several times a day. Algorithms will scour the data to detect significant changes.

      High-repeat requires a network of satellites, and ICEYE envisages perhaps 30 platforms in orbit.

      Such a constellation could observe London or Paris, say, 15 times a day.

      Spatial resolution is important, too. ICEYE-X1 has been returning 10m-resolution pictures, meaning they see any features bigger than that. But iterations of the instrument and the radar antenna are expected to bring the resolution down to 3m.

      “ICEYE-X1 has far exceeded our expectations,” said Rafal Modrzewski, CEO and co-founder of ICEYE.

      “We did expect it to perform well, obviously; but for a first spacecraft from a start-up to perform so well – it’s been a great mission and a really exciting period for us,” he told BBC News.

      ICEYE-X2 is scheduled to go up in August and ICEYE-X3 is aiming for a November launch.

      ICEYE is working with a Polish company to part-manufacture ICEYE-X2.

      For ICEYE-X3, the entire bus will come from York Space Systems, a Colorado, US, concern.

      Mr Modrzewski said his company was trying to establish how much in-house building to do versus external sourcing.

      “We’re also looking into at least one more satellite because the sooner we get our constellation up and running, the sooner it will be providing our customers and partners with the capability. But we have to be careful. We don’t want to launch too fast and then fail.” and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos

Stephen Hawking’s final interview: A beautiful Universe

Last October I invited Prof Stephen Hawking to comment on the detection of gravitational waves from the collision of two neutron stars. It turned out to be his final broadcast interview.

The collision was a really big story for many reasons, not least because within minutes of the detection the world’s telescopes were trained on what was an incredible cosmic event.

This meant that as well as detecting the ripples in space-time from the merger, astronomers could see also for the first time what happens when two incredibly massive objects come together in a process that may be the only way of creating gold and platinum in the Universe.

It was definitely one for Prof Hawking to explain.

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    In recent years, he made comments about climate change, space travel and artificial intelligence. His interviews always captivated audiences. I was lucky enough to have interviewed him many times and for me he was at his most enthralling when he was on ‘home turf’ – talking about the physics he so loved and bending our minds with the implications of new discoveries. And I was so touched and honoured to hear from his staff that he had always enjoyed our encounters.

    I was only able to use one answer in my news report and so the rest of his interview was not broadcast or published. Here it is now in full. He leaves us with his trademark, awe-inspiring take on a cosmos that, as we look through his eyes, we should view as both beautiful and mysterious.

    Tell us how important is the detection of two colliding neutron stars?

    It is a genuine milestone. It is the first ever detection of a gravitational wave source with an electromagnetic counterpart. It confirms that short gamma-ray bursts occur with neutron star mergers. It gives a new way of determining distances in cosmology. And it teaches us about the behaviour of matter with incredibly high density.

    What will we learn from the electromagnetic waves emanating from the collision?

    The electromagnetic radiation gives us a precise location on the sky. It also tells us the ‘redshift’ of the event. The gravitational waves tell us the luminosity distance. Combining these measures give us a new way of measuring distances in cosmology. This is the first rung of what will become a new cosmological distance ladder. The matter inside a neutron star is much denser than anything we can produce in a laboratory. The electromagnetic signal from merging neutron stars will tell us about the behaviour of matter at such high density.

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      Will it give us insights into how black holes form?

      The fact that a black hole can form from the merger of two neutron stars was known from theory. But this event is the first test, or observation. The merger probably produces a rotating, hyper-massive neutron star which then collapses to form a black hole.

      This is very different from other ways of forming black holes, such as in a supernova or when a neutron star accretes matter from a normal star. With careful analysis of the data and theoretical modelling on supercomputers, there is vast scope for new insights to be obtained about the dynamics of black hole formation and gamma-ray bursts.

      Will gravitational wave measurements bring us a greater insight of how space-time and gravity operates and so transform our understanding of the Universe?

      Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. An independent cosmological distance ladder may provide independent confirmation of cosmological observations or it may reveal huge surprises. Gravitational wave observations let us test general relativity in situations where a gravitational field is strong and highly dynamical. Some people think that general relativity needs modifying in order to avoid introducing dark energy and dark matter. Gravitational waves are a new way to search for a signature of possible modifications of general relativity. A new observational window on the Universe typically leads to surprises that cannot yet be foreseen. We are still rubbing our eyes, or rather ears, as we have just woken up to the sound of gravitational waves.

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        Is the collision of neutron stars one of the very few ways, or possibly the only way, that gold is produced in Universe. Could this explain why it’s so rare on Earth?

        Yes, the collision of neutron stars is one way of producing gold. It can also be formed from fast neutron capture in supernovas. Gold is rare everywhere, not just on Earth. The reason it’s rare is that by nuclear-binding energy peaks at iron, making it hard to produce heavier elements in general. Also strong electromagnetic repulsion must be overcome by the nuclear force in order to form stable heavy nuclei like gold.

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Facebook boss apologises in UK and US newspaper ads

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has taken out full-page adverts in several UK and US Sunday newspapers to apologise for the firm’s recent data privacy scandal.

He said Facebook could have done more to stop millions of users having their data exploited by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica in 2014.

“This was a breach of trust, and I am sorry,” the back-page ads state.

It comes amid reports Facebook was warned its data protection policies were too weak back in 2011.

The full-page apology featured in broadsheets and tabloids in the UK, appearing on the back page of the Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Observer, Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express.

In the US, it was seen by readers of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

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    In the advert, Mr Zuckerberg said a quiz developed by a university researcher had “leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014”.

    “I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the tech chief said.

    It echoes comments Mr Zuckerberg made last week after reports of the leak prompted investigations in Europe and the US, and knocked billions of dollars of Facebook’s market value.

    Mr Zuckerberg repeated that Facebook had already changed its rules so no such breach could happen again.

    “We’re also investigating every single app that had access to large amounts of data before we fixed this. We expect there are others,” he stated.

    “And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected.”

    The ads contained no mention of the political consultancy accused of using the leaked data, Cambridge Analytica, which worked on US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

    The British firm has denied wrongdoing.

    What is the row about?

    In 2014, Facebook invited users to find out their personality type via a quiz developed by Cambridge University researcher, Dr Alexsandr Kogan called This is Your Digital Life.

    About 270,000 users’ data was collected, but the app also collected some public data from users’ friends without their knowledge.

    Facebook has since changed the amount of data developers can gather in this way, but a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, says the data of about 50 million people was harvested for Cambridge Analytica before the rules on user consent were tightened up.

    Mr Wylie claims the data was sold to Cambridge Analytica which then used it to psychologically profile people and deliver pro-Trump material to them during the 2016 US presidential election campaign.

    Facebook has said Dr Kogan passed this information on to Cambridge Analytica without its knowledge. And Cambridge Analytica has blamed Dr Kogan for any potential breach of data rules.

    But Dr Kogan has said he was told by Cambridge Analytica everything they had done was legal, and that he was being made a “scapegoat” by the firm and Facebook.

    Did Facebook get a warning seven years ago?

    As first reported in the Sunday Telegraph, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) warned Facebook’s security policies were too weak to stop abuse in 2011, some three years before the breach took place.

    Following an audit, the DPC said relying on developers to follow information rules in some cases was not good enough “to ensure security of user data”.

    It also said Facebook processes to stop abuse were not strong enough to “assure users of the security of their data once they have third party apps enabled”.

    Facebook said it strengthened its protections following the recommendations and was told it had addressed the DPC’s original concerns after a second audit in 2012. The tech firm also said it changed its platform entirely in 2014 with the regulator’s recommendations in mind.

How a poorly puppy inspired a pet food success story

There were times when Henrietta Morrison felt like giving up when trying to get her pet food idea off the ground.

She knew the type of products she wanted to sell, but finding a factory prepared to make them her way proved far more difficult than expected.

Unlike most mass-produced pet food, Henrietta wanted to use fresh meat as well as less predictable ingredients, such as vegetables and even blueberries.

“They laughed at me – they literally thought I was mad,” she recalls after trekking to factory after factory in 2008.

But as luck would have it, her search coincided with the recession, which meant one factory had spare capacity. It agreed to make pet food using fresh ingredients, and Henrietta’s brand, Lily’s Kitchen, was born.

The idea came to her after Lily, her border terrier, became ill and refused to eat her normal food. In a last-ditch attempt to tempt Lily back to her bowl, Henrietta started cooking meals for her featuring lamb, lentils and vegetables in the kitchen of their north London home.

The trick worked, and got Henrietta thinking: “Why doesn’t pet food smell delicious and have human-grade ingredients?”

She became a “woman on a mission”, quitting in the final stages of a three-year garden design course, and remortgaging her house, in a bid to make her dream a reality.

“I know it sounds crazy, but I had this sense of urgency – I thought I had to set up a pet food company because thousands of people like me are unwittingly feeding their pets food that is making them ill.”

There were just seven products in the initial range – including chicken and turkey casserole for dogs, which remains the company’s most popular product. There are now 90, spanning both wet and dry food for cats as well as dogs, along with “treats”.

After initially selling through vets, independent retailers, and from its own website for about five years, Ocado and then Waitrose started selling Lily’s Kitchen products.

Henrietta went to a Waitrose store to see how the items looked on the shelves, only to be convinced that she had made a terrible mistake by expanding to supermarkets.

Her dog food was directly above a pack of six of bestseller Pedigree Chum – but one can of Lily’s Kitchen cost the same as the multipack from US giant Mars.

“This is not going to work – people are not going to understand the difference,” the 49-year-old remembers thinking at the time. “It did really shake my confidence.”

Those fears turned out to be misplaced – “we have done incredibly well at Waitrose” – and were followed by deals with Tesco, Morrisons, Pets at Home and Sainsbury’s.

Trishna Shah, an analyst at market research group Euromonitor International, says that London-based Lily’s Kitchen is “going from strength to strength” with double-digit growth last year, despite a declining market as pet ownership falls.

Leading brands made by giants such as Mars and Nestle are losing share to smaller players such as Lily’s, Ms Shah adds.

“Pet owners are looking for the same quality of pet food as they would feed themselves,” says the analyst. “As a result, there has been an increased preference for small luxury brands because of their perception to be more healthy and natural.”

Supplying big supermarkets has required Lily’s Kitchen to increase production – and also improve its IT systems to ensure everything worked smoothly.

To help pay for this, and expand sales to several European markets, Henrietta secured private equity funding a couple of years ago, but she maintains a majority share in the business.

It’s a far cry from humble beginnings at her kitchen table with one employee, and having to share the phone. However, Henrietta admits that the first few years were “really gruelling”, with no idea if things would work out. “That’s why you need passion – to keep going,” she says.

Her faith was not misplaced. The business now has an annual turnover of £40m and 67 employees. Many members of staff have come from far bigger consumer goods companies, and all have a stake in the firm.

“There’s always a lot of focus on the start-up phase of a business, but it’s the growth phase I think is really difficult,” says Henrietta.

She adds: “You’re completely having to shape shift at that point – going from two employees, to five, to 10, is manageable, but 85? You need an HR team – it’s a different level.”

Henrietta realised she needed help after her workforce reached 25 people, but admits: “It’s hard to let go – it really is.” The leadership team now consists of seven people, and Henrietta says she has learned to trust their expertise and ideas.

When it comes to the wider pet food sector, Henrietta says that after going to a girls’ school and a women’s college at Cambridge, she found that the lack of women in the industry came as something of a shock.

Even now she can go to a trade function and find “the only other woman there is the person taking the coats”.

She adds: “It happens all the time. If I’m turning up for business lunches and dinners, and I’m the only woman, in this day and age I think that’s really appalling.”

Yet in Henrietta’s view, the lack of women in senior roles across all industries is partly a question of confidence.

“If I interview a senior director-level male candidate he’ll say ‘I’ll definitely be able to handle that’ even if he hasn’t done it before. But a woman will say ‘I just need you to know I’ve never done that before, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it’. It’s a question of confidence.”

At Lily’s Kitchen three quarters of the workforce are women.

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DPD improves workers’ rights after driver’s death

Delivery firm DPD, under scrutiny after work pressures were blamed for the death of one of its drivers, is offering its 9,000 drivers holiday and sick pay as part of a new contract.

DPD, which delivers for John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, says it is the first parcel carrier to offer such contracts.

In January, driver Don Lane, from Dorset, died after failing to attend hospital appointments for his diabetes.

His widow said he had become terrified of taking time off. DPD denies this.

Mr Lane, 53, from Christchurch, died on 4 January after collapsing in December.

Months earlier, DPD had fined him £150 for taking time off when he had a hospital appointment. His widow, Ruth, said her husband had missed numerous hospital appointments because of work pressures.

The parcel courier is scrapping this so-called “breach charge” as part of its changes to working practices.

DPD said it had begun the review into working practices months before Mr Lane’s death.

‘Need to improve’

Dwain McDonald, DPD’s chief executive, said: “We recognise that we need to improve the way we work with our drivers.

“While the self-employed franchise scheme has benefited thousands of drivers over the past 20 years, it hasn’t moved with the times and needs updating.”

He said he was continuing to consult DPD’s drivers and would be paying for advisers to help them make the choice between staying self-employed or moving to the new contract.

More details would come later in the spring, he said.

The company is part of the growing “gig” economy, in which workers are typically deemed self-employed.

In practice, say critics, many companies insist that people who have signed up to work for them must be available for as many hours as any full-time worker, while some impose fines for non-attendance.

Well-known firms in the gig economy include Uber, Deliveroo, and DPD’s courier rivals including Hermes, UK Mail and Yodel.

Pressure from unions and other concerned parties prompted the government to appoint Matthew Taylor, a former Labour policy adviser to look into the gig economy.