Boris Johnson's 'squeeze the brakes' news conference: what he said – and what he really meant

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What Boris Johnson said: Two weeks ago, I updated you from this podium on the progress we had made as a country against coronavirus. And in many ways that progress continues.

What he really meant: That progress does not continue.

What he said: But I have also consistently warned that this virus could come back and that we would not hesitate to take swift and decisive action as required.

What he meant: I have always delivered mixed messages.

What he said: I am afraid that in parts of Asia and Latin America the virus is now gathering pace. And our European friends are also struggling to keep the virus under control. As we see these rises around the world, we cannot fool ourselves that we are exempt.

What he meant: I have been world class in my ability to fool myself that we are exempt. Yesterday I claimed “massive success” on the day the Office for National Statistics found that England had the highest number of excess deaths in Europe.

What he said: Last night the health secretary announced new restrictions on household contact in the northwest.

What he meant: He didn’t do it very well and a lot of people are very cross with him, so you note I say “the health secretary” (that’s Matt Hancock) not “the government” (that’s me, buck stops here etcetera).

What he said: Even as we act locally, it is also my responsibility to look again at the measures we have in place nationally in light of the data we are seeing about incidence.

What he meant: Responsibility? Who wrote this bit?

What he said: You will remember that at every point I have said our plan to reopen society and the economy is conditional – that it relies on continued progress against the virus, and that we would not hesitate to put on the brakes if required.

What he meant: I definitely said it and it’s your fault if you think I said get back to work; get yourself a sandwich; here’s a tenner to paint the town red. I was very clear. I said: go to work, don’t go to work.

What he said: With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.

What he meant: I am the Lewis Hamilton of public health policy. Where’s the reverse gear?

What he said: On Saturday 1 August, you’ll remember, we had hoped to reopen in England a number of higher-risk settings that had remained closed. Today, I am afraid we are postponing these changes for at least a fortnight.

What he meant: That’s tomorrow, by the way. Tomorrow’s off.

What he said: We will, of course, study the data carefully and move forward with our intention to open up as soon as we possibly can.

What he meant: Chris Whitty says we can’t and I have to do what he says or the public inquiry will tear me to shreds.

What he said: We also said we would pause shielding nationally from 1 August – based on clinical advice, that national pause will proceed as planned, and our medical experts will be explaining more about that decision later and about shielding later today.

What he meant: The messages get so mixed at this point that it is probably best if I just hand over to someone in a metaphorical white coat.

What he said: Most people in this country are following the rules and doing their bit to control the virus. But we must keep our discipline, we must be focused and we cannot be complacent.

What he meant: Some people have been tearing the pants out of the guidance.

What he said: It means a greater police presence to ensure face coverings are being worn where this is required by law.

What he meant: I don’t believe in this and the police don’t want to do it, but I have to say it because otherwise it will look as if I’m not taking it seriously.

What he said: This is how we will avoid any return to a full national lockdown.

What he meant: If you don’t do as you’re told, you will be letting everybody else down and worst of all you will be sent back into your houses and told to stay there.

What he said: I do believe that getting our children back into school on 1 September, or 11 August in Scotland, is a good thing. That should be a national priority; that should be something that we aim to deliver.

What he meant: But is it going to happen? Don’t ask me, I’m just the prime minister.

What he said: The only real utensil we have for controlling the spread of this new virus is human behaviour.

What he meant: And if I can’t sprinkle my answers with Bjork references, what even is the point of being prime minister?

What he said [when John Stevens of the Daily Mail asked about his summer plans]: I will be working flat out as you can imagine; I may allow a brief staycation to creep on to the agenda if that’s possible.

What he meant: Remember when David Cameron had to go on holiday to Cornwall, sulked about it and then jetted off somewhere sunnier? That.

What he said: Ultimately, you know, it’s up to everybody, it’s, it’s up to the whole country to get this right and to do it together.

What he meant: How do you put this thing into reverse?

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Feds extend coronavirus rent relief program for businesses

OTTAWA — The government announced on Friday that the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program has been extended once again, and will now cover a portion of August’s rent for businesses that qualify.

To get the rent assistance, businesses will not have to prove a 70 per cent decline in sales for July or August, but will have to show a 70 per cent revenue shortfall that qualified them for CECRA in April, May and June.

Read more: Coronavirus: Trudeau announces plans for end of CERB, transition to EI

The program’s low adoption rate was previously criticized by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which cited the onus on landlords and stringent requirements.

But on Friday, the government said that thousands of new applications are being regularly submitted, “demonstrating a strong interest in CECRA from property owners and small business tenants.”

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About $613 million has been paid out to 63,000 tenants as of Thursday, the government said.

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© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Democrats are warned that hackers are after their Facebook accounts, report says – CNET


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Angela Lang/CNET

The Democratic National Committee reportedly warned campaigns on Thursday that hackers are after their Facebook accounts. 

An alert from the committee’s security team, reported by CNN, said emails designed to look as if they’re from Facebook tell users that their pages have been deactivated because of a term violation. The email then directs those users to a fake Facebook website, where they’re told to provide personal information to appeal the deactivation. 

Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, told CNN that he wasn’t familiar with the attempted attack noted in the committee’s warning, but that it aligns with other general phishing attacks. 

The committee’s warning follows the massive Twitter hack earlier this month that hit Elon Musk, former President Barack Obama, Kanye West, Bill Gates and others with a bitcoin scam. The Twitter hack also involved a phishing attack. 

Neither the DNC nor Facebook immediately responded to a request for comment. 

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Lorry driver detained at Channel Tunnel with 150 kg of cannabis in cargo

Police have seized an estimated £1.5m-worth of cannabis from a Scottish lorry driver at the UK-France border.

Border Force officers discovered around 150kg of the plant, along with £2,000 in cash, stashed in the lorry’s cargo.

NCA officers and Police Scotland have since searched properties in Motherwell, Bellshill and Shotts, and the suspect has been released under investigation.

“This is a significant drug seizure involving NCA teams in Scotland and England working together with partners including Border Force and Police Scotland,” said NCA Scotland branch operations manager John McGowan.

“Together we are determined to do all we can to stem the supply of illicit drugs to Scotland, where they can do so much damage to our communities.”

“This is just one example of the crucial work that Border Force officers do every day to help keep the UK safe,” added minister for immigration compliance and the courts, Chris Philp.

“Detections of harmful drugs and illicit cash such as this are testament to their dedication and expertise.”

This week, 26-year-old chronic pain sufferer, Kayleigh Compston, became the first person to receive a prescription in Scotland, as part of a European trial led by Westminster’s former chief drug adviser, David Nutt.

Despite its use being largely criminalised or inaccessible in the UK, a UN study in 2018 found Britain to be the world’s largest producer of legal cannabis, with the 2.1 tonnes exported in 2016 accounting for roughly 70 per cent of the world’s total that year.

Thursday’s seizure, however, puts a meagre dent in the profits of the UK’s illicit drugs trade, which was estimated to sit at £9.4bn per year in Dame Carol Black’s landmark review in February.

The cost to society is more than double that figure, at £19bn a year – 86 per cent of which is inflicted by heroin and crack cocaine, Dame Carol found.

The government-commissioned report also concluded that the trade has “never caused greater harm to society”, with law enforcement efforts not only failing to stem supply but often fuelling increased violence in the market, by creating gaps for competitors to exploit and dangerously fuelling mistrust.

It called for police to instead target dealing gangs’ cash as it is laundered across borders, suggesting that even with optimal funding for all relevant agencies, “it is not clear that they would be able to bring about a sustained reduction in drug supply”.

In August last year, Durham’s late police and crime commissioner Ron Hogg, told The Independent: “I have lost count on the number of large scale early morning raids that I have participated in.

“Yet, the simple truth is that these activities – which take months, sometimes years in the planning – do no more than disrupt the supply market for the very shortest of periods.

“We recently interviewed two recovering addicts who had been arrested after an undercover policing operation which had lasted six months, cost over £0.5m and we arrested over 30 people involved in the supply of class A drugs. When we asked how long we had strangled the supply of heroin, one estimated four hours, and the other two.”

However, crackdowns on the drugs trade have been bolstered during the coronavirus lockdown, which former Met superintendent Leroy Logan, told The Independent left county lines dealers “stick[ing] out like a sore thumb”.

And in May, the Home Office touted the first of a series of raids backed by £25m of government funding, which it said led to the seizure of £3m of drugs, the closure of nearly 140 trade lines and more than 650 arrests.

This was soon overshadowed by the discovery of top-tier criminals’ former messaging platform, EncroChat, which led to the arrest of more than 700 suspects in the UK, including previously “untouchable” kingpins who have evaded justice for decades.

Additional reporting by PA

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Nature’s show: Thunderstorms light up Vancouver Island skies

Residents on Vancouver Island were treated to nature’s light show overnight Thursday.

Global BC meteorologist Mark Madryga said due to the hot air and higher humidity from the south, thunderstorms broke out in line through central Vancouver Island and onto the Sunshine Coast.

More than 400 lightning strikes were recorded, starting around 2:30 a.m., he said.

A risk of thunderstorms remained for the South Coast on Friday with more expected in the Interior later in the day.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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The best coffee grinder for 2020: Oxo, Baratza, Breville and more – CNET

To brew an excellent cup of coffee doesn’t just require an outstanding coffee maker, and fresh beans. A quality coffee grinder is essential too. A bad grinder mistreats beans, grinding them inconsistently. And ground coffee with widely different particle sizes translates to uneven extraction while brewing. Sadly that’ll ultimately lead to an awful cup of joe, or at least one far from as good it could have been.

Avoid this scenario by getting the best coffee grinder that delivers the goods, cup by cup. I’ve chosen my three favorites below, followed by a list of the other electric grinders that I’ve put through their paces. The ultimate coffee grinding machines deliver a consistent grind (be it fine or coarse depending on the grind setting), powerful motors to grind, useful grinding features and settings, and they’re easy to use and easy to clean. 

Yes, this buyer’s guide list starts at $99, which is by no means cheap, but that’s because I personally tested all of these coffee grinders, and I just didn’t like the results from the budget set. (See the testing details below, along with their pros and cons and a full list of other models that didn’t make the cut.) I’ll follow up to see if any other bargain grinding machine is worth the trade-off in the future and update the story accordingly.

Also, be sure to read our guide to the best home espresso machines for sale right now.  

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you’re a coffee drinker who needs a solid, all-purpose (relatively) inexpensive coffee grinding machine, I recommend the $100 Oxo Brew Conical Burr Grinder as the best coffee grinder overall. In terms of grind consistency, the Oxo Conical Burr Coffee Grinder placed second within my test group. That’s behind the $200 Breville Smart Grinder Pro, which ranked first in grinding but also costs twice as much. The Oxo Brew Conical Burr Grinder, however, can grind beans faster. And while it has fewer coarse grind settings, Oxo’s stainless steel machine is more versatile. The Oxo burr coffee grinder can grind fine enough to be used as an espresso grinder in a pinch. The stainless steel Oxo coffee grinding machine can also produce coffee grounds coarse enough for brewing a cup of siphon, French press and cold brew. Other pros are that the Oxo Brew is easy to clean and creates less of a mess when grinding than other grinders. $100 might sound like a lot, but keep in mind a quality coffee and espresso grinder should grind for a long time.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You can’t get much simpler than Baratza’s $149 Encore. The Encore Conical Burr Grinder has just one control: a switch that turns the grinder on and off. That’s not just easy — that’s easy easy. Continually pressing a button on the Encore’s front activates the grind, too. Grounds from the machine were relatively consistent in particle size. The machine is also simple to clean and less noisy when grinding than many other coffee grinders we’ve tested. Read our Baratza Encore review.

Read more: Trusty reusable coffee cups to keep your coffee hot and wallet full

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you want a cup of espresso, here’s an espresso maker to look at. You’ll pay a little more for grinding with the $200 brushed stainless steel Smart Grinder Pro. But if you’ve got your heart set on pulling espresso shots at home, the Smart Grinder Pro is the best coffee grinder for espresso, cup after cup. This Smart Grinder with stainless steel burrs can produce extremely fine coffee grounds, the sort necessary for brewing quality espresso or Turkish coffee. The machine also created the most consistently sized grounds of all the machines I tested. The Breville boasts 60 settings, and it comes with adapters for espresso machine portafilters. If you like brewing siphon, French press or cold brew though, consider looking elsewhere. Even at its most coarse, this coffee bean grinder’s grounds are too fine for those methods. Read our Breville Smart Grinder Pro review.

So, how exactly do we test coffee grinders?

An ideal coffee grinder produces ground particles that are of a consistent and correct size. By that, we mean that the size of ground coffee particles should match its grinder’s coarseness setting, fine or not. The size of grounds produced should also be fit for the intended brewing method, as outlined within the product manual.

To test each grinder for our coffee grinder reviews, we first hand-wash and dry all parts recommended by the manufacturer. We then set each machine to the appropriate level for grinding drip coffee or automatic coffee brewers (again, as indicated by the manual). Sometimes the manual lacks specific directions. In this case, we select the middle coarse setting for grinding coffee, then bump it up by one more coarse level (from fine grind, such as an espresso grind, to coarse grind). For example, if a grinder has 16 total coarse grind settings (assuming 16 is its most coarse grinding option and 1 is fine), we’ll set it for coarse level 9.

Now playing: Watch this: Five things to know before buying a coffee grinder


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Next we weigh out 10 grams of whole coffee beans to grind. By default our test beans are Kirkland Colombian roast (from Costco). It’s the same beans we use for our coffee maker tests. (No judgments, please.) When you grind as much coffee and espresso as we do, it pays to be frugal.

Then we run our sample beans through the grinder. We also make note of how long the grinder takes to grind coffee beans. Next, we carefully collect the grounds, then sift them with a two-screen sieve for 60 seconds. For that we use the Kruve Sifter Two. It comes with two mesh screens of different aperture sizes (800 and 400 microns). This step lets us measure the grind size and grind consistency of our sample.

Read more: High-end drip coffee makers for brewing right at home

We used a Kruve coffee sieve system to confirm grind size consistency. 

Brian Bennett/CNET

A superior electric coffee grinder or hand grinder will produce grounds, preferably with stainless steel blades, that are mostly between 400 and 800 microns in particle size (at our chosen grind setting). Finally, we weigh the grounds that collect between the two screens (800 microns top, 400 microns bottom).

A bad grinder will grind particles of varying sizes, from large to small. Blade grinders are notorious for this issue. Unlike a blade coffee grinder, a coffee grinder with steel or ceramic burrs typically yields grounds that are much more uniform in size.

Additionally, we grind at least two more times. From there, we can record an average optimal yield for each grinder.

Want more? Whether you prefer a cup of espresso, coffee or Turkish coffee, here’s a list of coffee grinders I’ve put through their paces for this evaluation, in addition to the ones above. And below that, you’ll find a chart that displays their grinding pros and cons and how well they stack up against each other. Now enjoy a cup!

Coffee grinders compared

Baratza Encore Bodum Bistro coffee grinder Breville Smart Grinder Pro Capresso Infinity Conical Burr grinder Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill Krups GX5000 Mr. Coffee Electric 12-cup coffee grinder Oxo Brew Conical Burr coffee grinder
Average optimal yield (grams) 2.6 3.9 6.5 2.9 1.8 1.9 1.8 3.2
Percent optimal yield 26.3% 38.7% 64.7% 28.7% 18.0% 19.0% 18.3% 32.3%
Average grind time (seconds) 26 9 10 10 33 19 12 7
Price $139 $90 $192 $99 $36 $49 $19 $99

Originally published last year and updated periodically.

More coffee coverage  

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Riots 'worse than 2011' could hit UK amid rising tensions over policing and coronavirus, Sage experts warn

The Independent employs reporters around the world to bring you truly independent journalism. To support us, please consider a contribution.

Riots could sweep the UK if authorities do not reduce tensions over local coronavirus lockdowns, policing tactics, Black Lives Matter and political polarisation, scientific advisers have warned.

“A serious deterioration of public order could overwhelm all attempts to control contagion, overwhelm hospitals, the criminal justice system and hinder revival of the economy,” said a paper that was considered by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) earlier this month.

“Tensions resulting from the pandemic and lockdown have become inextricably bound with structural inequalities and international events. While widespread urban disorder is not inevitable, currently, the situation in the UK is precariously balanced.”

It said the “potential disorder could be comparable or bigger in scale to the rioting of August 2011, but police capacities and capability has diminished”.

Experts indirectly accused the government of contributing to tensions with unclear messaging, saying the situation was worsened by a “lack of clear, consistent, message for all to adhere to regarding who can go where, when, with whom and with what precautions”.

The report, which was written before Thursday’s northern lockdown announcement, warned that local lockdowns could inflame racial and religious tensions.

It said the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which took place on Friday, would be “potentially problematic if occurring in the context of a localised lockdown”.

Experts said localised restrictions could increase grievances and drive the “scapegoating of various communities, including East Asians”.

“These issues cannot be ignored as they represent key threats to public health and the delivery of a coherent recovery strategy,” the document said.

“They are also known to be associated with the development of riots.”

Following the international reaction to the killing of George Floyd, it said that the “smallest error in policing”, either inside or outside Britain, could “unleash a dynamic which will make the management of Covid-19 all but impossible”.

The paper, written by Sage’s SPI-B policing and security sub-group, was considered on 2 July but not published until Friday.

It called the current situation in Britain “volatile and highly complex”, citing concerns including protests, illegal raves, resumed football matches and the reopening of pubs.

Experts warned that the legitimacy of policing was being affected by the disproportionate lockdown fines handed to black and Asian people, increasing stop and search, wrongful coronavirus prosecutions and long-term disparities highlighted by Black Lives Matter protests.

At the same time, they said extreme right-wing groups had been “coalescing and mobilising at a scale not witnessed” for a decade to “defend statues”.

“Increased polarisation of political discourse makes conflict and protest more likely, and this may mutate into new and more violent forms,” the paper warned. “There are clear and evident racist undertones to the emerging tensions.”

The document said there were perceptions among black communities that large gatherings of predominantly white people, including those on beaches, had seen no police intervention whereas smaller gatherings in ethnic minority communities had been treated harshly.

It said the UK’s first local lockdown, in Leicester, had provoked “extensive racist commentary” because of the area’s Asian population, adding: “Some media narratives are reinforcing claims that Asian and black people in areas of local lockdown are potentially responsible for disproportionately spreading the virus.”

Riot police clash with ravers at illegal event in north London

As the report was published on Friday, the pattern was repeating for the northern lockdown, which was announced on the eve of the Muslim religious festival Eid al-Adha.

Experts warned that if riots did break out, the police would be in a “far weaker position in terms of capacity to deal with these threats than in 2011” following years of austerity hitting officer numbers and facilities.

To mitigate the risk of disorder, the paper urged police to maintain public trust, act impartially, explain their actions and act swiftly on misconduct.

It said that officers “experienced in de-escalation” should be used at illegal gatherings and that riot gear should not be worn until necessary.

At a government level, the paper said “issues of local, generational, racial, ethnic and class inequality need to be acknowledged and addressed”.

In the longer term, it said rising unemployment could create fertile ground for disorder.

A report written by the same committee in February concluded that “large scale rioting is unlikely” but urged the government to provide “clear and transparent reasons for different strategies” to avoid it.

It called for officials to “explain clearly why certain actions are being taken”, set clear expectations on how the response will develop, and “promote a sense the government is following a plan”.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for public order, Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington, said officers could “mobilise where needed”.

“The public order response to recent events has shown the way we are able to respond proportionately and effectively to varied incidents,” he added.

“Throughout the response to the pandemic police forces have engaged with communities to understand the issues affecting them and to keep them safe.”

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Alberta Parks warns emergency crews becoming ‘overwhelmed’ with increase in rescue calls

As the long weekend approaches and people throughout Alberta prepare to go camping or hiking, officials are warning visitors to Alberta parks to come prepared, saying rescue crews have seen a dramatic spike in the volume of emergency calls they’ve received this summer.

Speaking to Global News Morning Calgary on Friday, Matt Mueller with Alberta Parks said there so far there has been a 20 per cent increase in park rescues this year over last.

Mueller, a public safety specialist for the Kananaskis region, said the increased number of calls is putting a strain on emergency services.

“We’re quick to deal with most of the calls – it’s the volume that gets us and also the time of day. Things tend to roll in at about the same time so we become overwhelmed,” Mueller explained.

He said he believes the current “COVID-19 era” is at least partially to blame for the spike.

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“Most people are keen to get out, they’re motivated,” he said, adding that “quite a few” of the visitors to Alberta parks lately seem to be new users.

Read more: Calgary man dies while hiking in Canmore area as 2 others injured in separate incidents

Earlier this month, a 30-year-old Calgary man died while in Kananaskis Country near Canmore after falling about 20 feet while hiking near Mount Yamnuska.

Just two hours later, first responders were called to Canmore again when a 24-year-old man fell from a slope and injured his head, and a third time — three hours after the second call — when a hiker suffered a fracture.

Mueller said the most common injuries they’ve seen are ankle injuries or knee injuries.

“Also lots of lower leg injuries, hands, elbows, wrists,” he added.

Most common mistakes visitors to Alberta parks are making

Mueller warned hikers need to make sure they aren’t biting off more than they can chew, warning many of the emergency calls they deal with are people who embarked on a more advanced trail than they had tried in the past.

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“Have a reasonable objective in mind,” Mueller advised. “If you feel like all of a sudden things are going sideways and you’re in over your head … Just turn around. It’s easier to go back the way you came than to push it.”

“We find people go a little too far and frequently they require help. Typically on the descent for some reason.”

Additionally, Mueller said some campers and hikers haven’t packed for a safe trip.

“We see a lot of people walk around and they hike with no pack at all – they literally carry nothing – and that’s troubling,” he said. “We like to see people carry enough gear to be self-sufficient.”

Mueller advised bringing lots of food and water, extra clothing and to be prepared for rain, cold temperatures and wind.

Ticked Off: How to keep yourself safe from ticks and Lyme disease

Ticked Off: How to keep yourself safe from ticks and Lyme disease

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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GM and EVgo will bring over 2,700 new fast chargers to national network – Roadshow


Coming to a neighborhood near you.

EVgo

Automakers plan to roll out numerous new electric cars over the course of this decade, but they won’t do much good if drivers don’t have consistent access to a plug. General Motors and EVgo will diminish that exact fear.

On Friday, the automaker and charging station operator said both will buddy up to build over 2,700 new fast charging plugs across the US. The construction will take place over the next five years, but the plan will see access expand to new areas to help boost EV adoption.

Suburbanites may have never seen a charging station in their lives, but GM said the suburbs will be target areas for this expansion. A fair share of the new fast charging plugs will crop up in multi-unit homes like apartments or in other places where drivers typically rent rather than own a home. 

Now playing: Watch this: The end of the beginning of the electric car


17:10

Outside of dwellings, both companies also plan to target retail outlets, grocery stores and high-traffic areas where drivers typically spend 15 to 30 minutes. While they go about their errands, an EVgo fast charger can juice up an electric car. Expect rates of 100 to 350 kilowatts to future proof the stations for more powerful EV batteries to come. The two companies added these new stations will be able to charge at least four vehicles at a time, too, and power will come from renewable energy sources.

The first stations will go live next year, and by the time the GM partnership runs its course in 2025, EVgo will have a charging infrastructure triple the size it is today.

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Architect of UK's coronavirus lockdown Neil Ferguson says he has never met Boris Johnson

The former government adviser whose modelling is credited with finally convincing Downing Street to impose a coronavirus lockdown has revealed he has never met Boris Johnson.

Imperial College London epidemiologist and former Sage adviser Neil Ferguson became nicknamed “Professor Lockdown” after his team’s report in mid-March suggested 510,000 people could die from Covid-19 in the UK without any government intervention, and that the NHS would be overwhelmed regardless.

The dramatic modelling is widely reported to have been the catalyst for the UK’s lockdown, after crucial weeks of governmental indecision over a herd immunity strategy versus the lockdown restrictions springing up across Europe.

But despite his significant role in shaping the momentous decision, Prof Ferguson told The New Statesman: “I never met Johnson, I never had one-on-ones, it’s not the way science advice works in the UK.

“It all goes through Sage and then the scientific consensus is communicated to Johnson by Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance.”

The former government adviser added: “We did have some conversations on the margins of Sage meetings with No 10 special advisers, but that was the closest I got to any politician.”

Serious questions were raised in April after it emerged that Mr Johnson’s chief political aide, Dominic Cummings, had participated in crunch meetings of the government’s scientific advisory group, which are supposed to be politically impartial, including on 23 March – the eve of lockdown.

Meanwhile Mr Johnson attended his first Cobra meeting on coronavirus only once it had been identified in 40 UK patients, with Michael Gove admitting the prime minister missed five such meetings throughout January and February.

In May, he admitted he did not read scientific papers presented by Sage, merely a digest given to him by his advisers.

A week later, reports that Mr Johnson was to take “direct control” of the coronavirus response prompted Labour leader Keir Starmer to ask: “Who has been in direct control up until now?”

Having told MPs in June that the death toll would have been halved by entering lockdown one week earlier, given that “we knew the epidemic was doubling every three to four days before lockdown interventions were introduced”, Prof Ferguson again lamented that the UK was “too slow” to act.

“Paradoxically the government probably had a more nuanced and detailed understanding of what we knew and what we didn’t about the virus than any other government – I’ve dealt with a lot of governments in this crisis – and yet we were too slow, to be blunt,” he told the magazine.

Prof Ferguson added that his modelling results were “one of the three pieces of evidence that led Macron to locking down France, apparently”, having passed them to a colleague at the Institut Pasteur, Simon Cauchemez, who showed them directly to the French president.

“There’s some interesting reflection to be had on whether having a very nuanced, reflective, risk-adverse scientific advisory system going into policy gives you the most agile system,” he said.

“In other European countries, like France, a small group of scientists – experts on the disease – directly talked to the politicians. Here, we have this interface layer, which does stop charismatic individuals unduly influencing policy.”

Neil Ferguson: ‘We will have to maintain some level of social distancing… until we have a vaccine’

Prof Ferguson, whose modelling and increasingly vocal warnings of the dangers posed by the virus thrust him into the spotlight – and infamy on the libertarian right – long before his admitted lockdown breach and resignation saw him splashed on Britain’s front pages, conceded that “there are plenty of people in the country who would say that I’ve already influenced policy unduly”.

However, he said he “hated” the nickname of Professor Lockdown, and lamented being “bizarrely categorised as … almost a semi-official government spokesman”, adding: “I suppose I felt a need to explain it to people, communicate why it was necessary.”

He added: “If you go back to the Sage meetings, I was never sceptical about lockdown, but I was always very, very conscious of the economic and social impact it would have, and the fact that it wasn’t a long-term solution: basically, if we adopted it, we would be in this position forever.

“I concluded reluctantly it was what we had to do, but it isn’t a perfect solution by any means.”

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