Science

Nicola Sturgeon urged to rethink income tax hike after Budget windfall

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Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to abandon her plans to hike income tax and match the Chancellor’s help for first-time buyers in England after being handed an extra £2 billion in his Budget.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, warned there “is a growing tax gap between people in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK” and demanded the First Minister step back from plans to increase income tax for workers earning more than £31,500.

Ms Sturgeon published a paper earlier this month that outlined plans to raise up to £255 million more in income tax next year, but the Budget gave her government around £183 million extra for public services over the same period.

Scots earning more than £43,000 already pay £400 more income tax after she froze the salary threshold for the 40p higher rate band. The gap could widen even further in April after the Chancellor announced it will increase to £46,350 in England.

Philip Hammond presented her SNP administration with another political headache ahead next month’s Scottish Budget at Holyrood by scrapping stamp duty for all first-time buyers in England on purchases up to £300,000.

Young couples in Scotland have to pay £2,100 Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) – the SNP’s version of stamp duty – buying a £250,000 home and Ms Davidson tweeted that it would make a “massive difference” if the SNP matched the Chancellor.

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Grace and Robert Mugabe ‘to remain in Zimbabwe’ under government deal

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Welshman Ncube, a barrister, constitutional lawyer, and long time opposition leader said: “Mugabe is a complex character. He would have told the military, ‘make me a martyr but I am going nowhere’. Given the vitriol and hatred towards Grace Mugabe, I suspect she will move in and out but spend more time out of Zimbabwe.

He added: “Remember however much we want a new Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa was, from the beginning,  an enforcer for Mugabe, as were the generals. I would so like to be wrong, but this is not about a new Zimbabwe, it is still about Zanu-PF which has always been a party of coercion.”

Other allies of Mrs Mugabe from the G40, the faction of Zanu-PF that supported her, may not be so lucky. 

Phelekezela Mphoko, Zimbabwe’s second vice president who was in Japan at the time of the coup, is believed to have flown to Zambia.

Savior Kasukawere, a local government minister, and Jonathan Moyo, the tertiary education minister, are understood to have fled to South Africa. 

Mr Moyo said on Twitter earlier this week that about 50 other senior Zanu-PF figures had also left the country. 

Human rights groups have expressed concern about the whereabouts of Ignatius Chombo, the finance minister, who has not been seen since the night of the coup on November 14. 

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Children should have time on smartphones and TV limited to 90 minutes to prevent obesity, researchers claim 

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Children’s time spent staring at the television, smartphones and tablets should be limited to 90 minutes a day to stop them from becoming obese, researchers believe.

A group of European child health experts have found a strong link between obesity and prolonged exposure to media and technology during their formative years.

In a wide-ranging study, they found that 97 percent of European households have at least one television, 72 percent possess a computer, and 91 percent have access to mobile phones.

As a result, today’s toddlers spend an hour a day watching television, rising “dramatically” to  7.25 hours by the time they reach nine, as they become more engrossed in “other types of media”

According to the study, published in the journal Acta Paediatrica, these trends have contributed to childhood obesity levels surging at an “alarming rate” over the last 25 years.

It is now thought that 19 percent of European children and adolescents are overweight.

To address the problem, the researchers claim that parents needed to develop a greater understanding of the impact that social media and dietary habits have on their children’s long-term health.

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Ann Maguire murder: Parents should be made to sign contracts with Facebook and monitor children’s accounts, says coroner 

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The teenager told 10 pupils of his intention to kill Mrs Maguire and other members of staff, and showed four of them the 34-inch knife he later used in her brutal murder.

Despite his litany of threats, none of the pupils reported the outbursts to the school.

Their conversations with Cornick only surfaced in pre-inquest hearings, and it later emerged that they had never been questioned about them by police officers or teaching staff after her murder.

In statements following Mrs Maguire’s murder, Cornick’s parents claimed they had no prior knowledge of their son’s intentions.

Commenting on the disclosures, Mr McLoughlin said that Cornick’s online threats had been “sinister and grotesque”, adding that he believed that “parents have a responsibility to protect children”.

In order to do this, he said that they should be given “access to supervise content”, adding: “any parent’s responsibility transcends any teenager’s entitlement to privacy.”

A Facebook spokesman said: “We want everyone to feel safe when using Facebook. We work closely with online safety experts including the UK Safer Internet Centre and Childnet International to make sure that young people and their parents know how technology works and what they need to think about before sharing online.”

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New Scottish Tory MPs celebrate Budget ‘wins’ after Philip Hammond admits they ‘bent’ his ear

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He also announced that oil companies will be allowed to pass on their tax history to new buyers when they sell their UK oil and gas fields. This means that tax relief can be transferred to the new owner, encouraging investment and new entrants into the industry.

Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, welcomed the freeze in duty for spirits, saying that a second hike in 2017 would have hurt the industry and consumers.

But she added: “Tax on Scotch is still very high – £4 in every £5 spent on Scotch goes to the Treasury, and we believe this is a missed opportunity.”

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of Police Scotland said: “The VAT issue has been a significant financial burden since the creation of Police Scotland so I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement.”

David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, said: “From support for city deals and some of our finest charities to landmark tax measures on oil and gas and whisky, this Budget backs Scotland’s great industries.”

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US gymnastics doctor at London 2012 Olympics pleads guilty to abusing athletes

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The US gymnastic team’s doctor during the London 2012 Olympics has pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual assault after claims he abused young athletes. 

Lawrence Nassar, who has since stepped down from the role, said he was “horribly sorry” for his crimes during a court appearance on Wednesday. 

Three of America’s ‘Fierce Five’ gymnastics squad that won team gold in the 2012 Olympics in the UK have publicly claimed they were abused by Nassar. 

McKayla Maroney, one of the five, said last month: “It started when I was 13 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn’t end until I left the sport.

“It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my silver [in vault in London].”

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5×5 bulletin for Wednesday 22 November: Listen to today’s essential news from the Telegraph 

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In the Telegraph’s Five by Five briefing for today, Wednesday 22 November, the Chancellor Philip Hammond has unveiled his Budget – promising to abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers on properties worth up to £300,000, Britain’s fiscal watchdog revised down its predictions for the UK economy’s growth ahead of Brexit, and Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn clashed over Brexit at Prime Minister’s Questions.  

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High-energy ‘ghost particles’ absorbed by Earth

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IceCubeImage copyrightJamie Yang / IceCube
Image caption Artwork: IceCube consists of an array of sensors embedded in very clear ice near the South Pole

Neutrinos are known as “ghost particles”, because they are known to travel through solid objects with ease.

But a new study demonstrates that some of these sub-atomic particles are stopped in their tracks when they encounter our planet.

Neutrinos interact so weakly with matter that a single one can pass through a light-year (10 trillion km) of lead without hitting an atom.

The results come from the IceCube experiment, located in Antarctica.

It’s an important measurement that’s consistent with the Standard Model – the theory that describes the behaviour of fundamental forces and particles, such as neutrinos.

The neutrinos seen by the IceCube detector had very high energies. This was a critical factor since the higher the energy, the more likely the neutrinos are to interact with matter and therefore be absorbed by the Earth.

Image copyrightJeffrey Donenfeld, NSF
Image caption The IceCube laboratory is located at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica

IceCube consists of an array of 5,160 basketball-sized optical sensors called Digital Optical Modules (DOMs) that are encased within a cubic kilometre of very clear Antarctic ice near the South Pole.

The experiment’s sensors do not directly observe neutrinos, but instead measure flashes of blue light known as Cherenkov radiation. These flashes are emitted by other particles such as muons, which are produced when neutrinos interact with the ice.

By measuring the light patterns from these interactions in or near the detector array, IceCube can estimate the neutrinos’ directions and energies.

The team found there were fewer energetic neutrinos making it all the way through Earth to the IceCube detector than those that reached it from less obstructed paths – such as near-horizontal trajectories.

“Understanding how neutrinos interact is key to the operation of IceCube,” said Francis Halzen, chief scientist for IceCube and a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Image copyrightMark Krasberg, IceCube/NSF
Image caption A digital optical module (DOM) is lowered into the ice during construction of IceCube

The results will allow team members to calculate something called the neutrino “cross-section” with a high degree of accuracy. The cross-section describes the probability that neutrinos of a given energy will interact with matter.

“We were of course hoping for some new physics to appear, but we unfortunately find that the Standard Model, as usual, withstands the test,” said Prof Halzen.

The finding, published in Nature journal, provides the first cross-section measurements for a neutrino energy range that is up to 1,000 times higher than previous measurements at particle accelerators.

Most of the neutrinos selected for this study were more than a million times more energetic than those produced by more familiar sources, such as the Sun or nuclear power plants.

The analysis could also be of interest to geophysicists who would like to use neutrinos to image the Earth’s interior, though this will require more data than was used in the current study.

Most of the neutrinos used in the study were generated in the Earth’s atmosphere, through a process initiated by cosmic rays. But the results also include a small number of “astrophysical neutrinos”, which are produced by unknown sources beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

Another neutrino experiment, known as the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (Dune), is currently in development, and is due to switch on in the 2020s.

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Mumbai attack ‘mastermind’ to be freed as he eyes move to mainstream Pakistani politics

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A Pakistani court on Wednesday ordered the release from house arrest of Hafiz Saeed, a notorious jihadi with a $10m US bounty on his head. 

The move was seen as part of a military campaign to bully the civilian government.

Mr Saeed, who was detained nine months ago, allegedly masterminded the 2008 Mumbai massacre in which 166 people were killed. The court rejected a request by the government to extend his arrest, citing a lack of evidence. On Friday, Mr Saeed is expected to walk free.

When at liberty, his ability to travel the country and hold large, blood-and-thunder rallies has exasperated allies who believe Pakistan is too soft on terrorism.

Mr Saeed held a major rally in Rawalpindi, right next to army headquarters, in 2016, and was present at long series of rallies in 2011. 

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity led by Mr Saeed which the UN considers a front for terrorism, told the Telegraph it was a triumph for their cause.

“This is a victory for the people of Pakistan who support Hafiz Saeed and the Kashmir struggle,” a spokesman said. Close relations with Pakistan’s army have historically helped to shield Mr Saeed. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant organisation he founded in the 1980s, has never carried out an attack in the country, focusing instead on India, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

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Nearly three million diesel car drivers hit by new ‘green’ taxes 

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Nearly three million diesel car drivers will be hit with new “green taxes” from next year under new measures to phase out the vehicles in yesterday’s Budget.  

The new higher taxes will affect around 800,000 drivers of diesel company cars and 2 million buyers of new diesel cars from April next year, the Treasury said.

It is an extension of the Government’s plan to improve air quality by discouraging people from buying diesel cars which pollute the air with harmful fumes. 

Drivers who choose to buy new diesel cars which do not meet the latest emissions standards will be charged a one-off levy through being forced into a higher vehicle exercise duty band.   

Under the change the VED rate they pay in the first year after purchase will be calculated as if they were in the VED band above. It means they will pay an extra one-off amount which is anywhere between £10 and £500 more than they would owe under the current system. 

So, for example, someone buying a Ford Fiesta today will pay £120 VED in their first year, but if they bought it in April 2018 they would pay £140.

The Treasury estimates that the move will affect around 2 million drivers over the next five years, lining its coffers with around £125m in the first year, with revenues falling in later years as people buy fewer polluting diesels. 

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