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HMS Queen Elizabeth captain flown off ship in ‘company car’ row

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Nick Cooke-PriestImage copyright
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Cdre Cooke-Priest has been in command of the HMS Queen Elizabeth since October last year

The captain of the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier has been removed from the ship amid claims he misused an MoD car.

Commodore Nick Cooke-Priest was flown off the ship as it was anchored in the Firth of Forth.

The Navy said it was a “precautionary measure” in an “ongoing investigation”.

It had earlier said Cdre Cooke-Priest was being “reassigned” duties, but would sail on HMS Queen Elizabeth from Rosyth to Portsmouth as planned.

Despite being removed from the ship, it is understood he remains officially in charge and will formally hand over to a new commanding officer of the £3bn carrier later this month.

‘Unaccounted miles’

Cdre Cooke-Priest, who joined the Royal Navy in 1990, has been in command of the HMS Queen Elizabeth since October last year.

Last week it was revealed the Navy was investigating reports he had used his Ministry of Defence car – a Ford Galaxy – for his own personal trips.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth sits in the Firth of Forth on 22 May

Anyone who has use of an MoD vehicle can only use it for official business, with each mile needing to be recorded.

But the BBC has been told that thousands of miles on the clock of Cdre Cooke-Priest’s vehicle have not been accounted for.

In a statement a Navy spokesman said: “In light of the ongoing investigation, as a precautionary measure, to protect the individual and the ship’s company, the Royal Navy has decided that Captain Cooke-Priest will not be at sea with HMS Queen Elizabeth.”

The Royal Navy has already been accused of handling this affair badly -and its latest actions may make matters worse.

Removing a commanding officer from his ship while still at sea is nothing short of brutal, particularly when many have already spoken out in his support.

But it’s a sign that Cdre Cooke-Priest had already lost the trust of his superiors – and at least some of his crew.

Not a mutiny, but certainly a question of confidence.

The offence of using a work car for personal trips may appear to be relatively minor. But to the top brass it was more serious.

Navy sources have told the BBC he had repeatedly ignored warnings.

It wasn’t just about breaking rules. It was seen as a sign of “arrogance and sense of entitlement”.

Friends of Cdre Cooke-Priest still plead that he was ignorant of the rules. But it is hard to see how his career will recover.

What was at first described as “administrative” action might now turn into more serious disciplinary proceedings.

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South Korea to test all church members at center of coronavirus outbreak

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SEOUL (Reuters) – The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea rose to 893 on Tuesday, as health authorities said they plan to test potentially more than 200,000 members of a church at the epicenter of the outbreak.

Employees from a disinfection service company sanitize the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, February 25, 2020. Yonhap via REUTERS

Of the new 60 cases reported on Tuesday, 16 were in the southeastern city of Daegu, where the church is located, and 33 from nearby North Gyeongsang Province, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

South Korea also reported its ninth death from the virus, a patient from a hospital in North Gyeongsang Province.

On Tuesday, the leader of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus said it had agreed to provide authorities with the names of all its members in South Korea, estimated by media at about 215,000 people.

The government plans to conduct coronavirus tests on all of the members “as soon as possible” once it has the information, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

“We have constantly requested the list based on our assessment that it is essential to test all of the church members in order to contain the spread of the virus and relieve public anxiety,” the statement said.

The church, which has faced public criticism of its handling of the outbreak, asked the government to ensure the personal details in the lists do not become public.

“We have been actively cooperating with the government to prevent the spread of the virus and overcome the outbreak,” church founder and self-proclaimed messiah Lee Man-hee said in a letter posted online. Besides its members, the church would also check the people in training programs to become full members, he added.

“All of these will be implemented on the premise that the government takes steps to protect their personal information,” Lee said.

Around 60 percent of cases in South Korea have been linked to the outbreak at the church, where the first case was reported in a 61-year-old woman who contacted the virus from a still-unknown source.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, raised its warning level for South Korea and recommended Americans avoid all nonessential travel to the country, citing the “widespread, ongoing outbreak” of the coronavirus.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries said they were considering scaling back joint training due, in one of the first concrete signs of the virus’ fallout on global U.S. military activities.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Lincoln Feast.

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China’s Hubei sees rise in new coronavirus cases as infections slow in other provinces

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Volunteers in protective suits disinfect a residential compound in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei province, China February 22, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) – China reported a rise in new coronavirus cases in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, on Tuesday while the rest of the country saw a fourth-straight day of declines.

Hubei had 499 new confirmed cases on Feb. 24, the National Health Commission said, up from 398 a day earlier and driven mainly by new infections in the provincial capital of Wuhan.

Mainland China in total had 508 new confirmed cases, up from 409 on Feb. 23, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 77,658.

Excluding the latest cases in Hubei, the rest of China had just nine new infections on Feb. 24, the lowest number of cases since Jan. 20 when the national health authority began publishing nationwide data on the coronavirus infections.

The overall death toll in mainland China had reached 2,663 as of the end of Monday, up by 71 from the previous day.

Hubei reported 68 new deaths, while in Wuhan, 56 people died.

Reporting by Ryan Woo, Yilei Sun and Lusha Zhang; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Stephen Coates

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Cardiff woman wins £400k in DWP race discrimination row

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Headshot of Anne Giwa-Amu , wearing a lime green jacketImage copyright
Anne Giwa-Amu

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Anne Giwa-Amu, who is Nigerian and Welsh, won her claim against the government department

The Department for Work and Pensions has been ordered to pay out nearly £400,000 after a Cardiff woman won her claim for race and age discrimination.

Anne Giwa-Amu told the BBC the department was “promoting a culture of racism”.

The judge in her tribunal case said she had been a victim of deliberate and intended harassment by DWP staff.

The department said racism is unacceptable and it takes the judgment “very seriously”.

Warning: This report includes racist and offensive language

Anne Giwa-Amu, 59, who is mixed Nigerian and Welsh, joined the DWP branch in Caerphilly as a full-time administrative officer in 2017, after trying without success to start a small business.

She was the only non-white recruit and only trainee over the age of 50 in her cohort, according to documents from Cardiff Magistrates’ Court seen by BBC News.

Judge Howden-Evans said DWP staff had deliberately created a “hostile environment” for Ms Giwa-Amu and has ordered the department to pay out more than £386,000 in compensation.

This includes £42,800 for injury to feelings, which is awarded in the “most serious” cases where there has been a lengthy campaign of harassment.

“It comes as a relief after what has been a harrowing experience for three years,” Ms Giwa-Amu told the BBC.

“I’ve had to experience real financial hardship and the perpetrators were promoted despite how they had treated me.”

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Anne Giwa-Amu

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Ms Giwa-Amu was based in the branch of the DWP at Caerphilly in south-east Wales

A DWP official had violated her dignity by using racist language such as “Paki-lover” in her presence, the court found.

Another had further humiliated and discriminated against Ms Giwa-Amu by loudly laughing and telling her cohort he had “touched her bum”.

Officials had also repeatedly accused Ms Giwa-Amu of stealing ice-cream, sprayed body-spray on themselves while next to her, and breached her confidence after she reported feeling “bullied”.

Ms Giwa-Amu went on sick leave in March 2017 and was unlawfully dismissed in October that year for being unable to return to work, the court found.

She had been living off £55 a week and later had no money for food after her final pay cheque was withheld.

‘Appalling’

Ms Giwa-Amu told the BBC she has since been living with “immense stress and anxiety”.

“Management at the DWP are paying lip service to the equality legislation,” she said. “By protecting offenders, they are promoting a culture of racism.”

The DWP has been ordered to contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission for diversity awareness training and its permanent secretary, Peter Schofield, must directly review her case.

Ms Giwa-Amu’s solicitor, Lawrence Davies from Equal Justice, said DWP staff had “set out to destroy the confidence and wellbeing of a black employee with their appalling conduct”.

“None of the white DWP staff have been disciplined and some have been promoted,” he said.

“Given that the DWP serves a high level of ethnic minority claimants, the presence of prejudice in the state benefits system is of grave concern.”

In a statement, the DWP said: “Racism is totally unacceptable and action will be taken against any staff found to be expressing such views.

“We take the judgment and the circumstances of this case very seriously.”

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Newspaper headlines: Harvey Weinstein ‘locked up at last’

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Newspaper headlines: Harvey Weinstein ‘locked up at last’


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Harvey Weinstein dominates Tuesday’s front pages, after the disgraced Hollywood mogul was found guilty of sexual assault on Monday. The Daily Telegraph opted for a striking close-up of the producer, who was convicted in New York of third-degree rape and first-degree criminal sexual act. Meanwhile, the paper’s lead says Britons returning from coronavirus-hit parts of Italy will be told to “self-isolate” by health officials.

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The Guardian reports Weinstein faces up to 25 years in prison following the two convictions. The producer – who denied all charges – was cleared of the most serious count of predatory sexual assault.

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“Guilty Weinstein is Locked Up at Last” is the Metro’s headline after the jury reached their verdict on Monday morning. At least 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct stretching back decades.

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The i newspaper calls the verdict a vindication for the #MeToo movement against harassment, which inspired women to go public with misconduct allegations against powerful men.

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And the Daily Mail says Weinstein expected to be cleared of sex crimes, which its headline calls the “Arrogance of a Monster”. The newspaper leads on a murder investigation in Somerset. It reports that a woman was shot dead on the prime minister’s family estate on Saturday.

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Elsewhere, there are further details on the coronavirus outbreak. The Times says a World Health Organization warning that the Covid-19 virus had “pandemic potential” has wiped £62bn off the value of the UK’s largest companies. It adds that the government is likely to advise anyone who has visited Italy in the past two weeks to stay at home if they have flu-like symptoms, as the country has the highest number of cases in Europe.

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The Financial Times reports global markets fell sharply on Monday following a surge of coronavirus cases outside China. The broadsheet says UK stocks had their worst day in five years, with airlines and tour operators among the worst hit.

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The Daily Mirror carries a claim by a source that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s security costs could increase to £20m per year, following their split from the Royal Family. A statement on the royal couple’s website previously said it was agreed that they “will continue to require effective security to protect them and their son”.

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The Daily Express front page says Prime Minister Boris Johnson is aiming for a “clean break” from the EU in upcoming trade talks.

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Finally, the Daily Star reports Happy Mondays singer Shaun Ryder is feeling “magnificently sexy” after undergoing treatment for hair loss.

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Open letter to Bheki Cele, Rica victim

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