Booker expects Tesco takeover deal to complete by 2018

Wholesaler Booker said on Thursday it expected its £3.7bn pound takeover by Tesco to complete early next year, as it reported a 9 per cent rise in first-half profit.

The agreed deal is currently being investigated by regulator the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and provisional findings are expected by the end of the month, ahead of a final report by the end of the year.

“It is expected that the merger will complete in early 2018, subject to, amongst other things, the necessary shareholder approvals,” Booker said.

The group supplies the Budgens, Londis, Happy Shopper and Premier convenience chains, catering firms such as Wagamama and Carluccio‘s, and also operates cash and carry business Makro.

Booker said it made a pretax profit of £88m in the 24 weeks to September, up from £81m in the same period last year. Total sales rose 2.5 per cent to £2.6bn with progress in both the catering and retail sides of the business.

It said non-tobacco revenue in the first four weeks of its new financial year is ahead of last year.

Booker said it will not be making forward looking statements for the duration of the Tesco offer period.

Shares in Booker, up 21 per cent over the last year, closed at 205.3 pence on Wednesday, valuing the business at £3.66bn.

For each Booker share Tesco is offering 0.861 new Tesco shares and 42.6 pence in cash.


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Woman whose rapist was granted joint custody of child speaks out

The woman whose rapist was given joint custody of the child conceived in the attack has spoken out about the “crazy” decision.

A judge in Michigan signed an order allowing twice-convicted rapist Christopher Mirasolo joint custody of the boy – which he had not requested – without the mother’s knowledge after she applied for state benefits.

The woman was 12 when Mirasolo raped her in 2008. A plea deal meant he served less than a year behind bars for third-degree criminal sexual assault, according to US media.

The woman’s lawyer said the order, now put on hold, was “insane”. Rebecca Kiessling told Detroit News: “The judge also restricted the child’s domicile and residence, disclosed the rape victim’s home address to her rapist, and ordered his name on the birth certificate – all without the mother’s consent or any opportunity to be heard.”

Now the victim has spoken of the ordeal. She told CBS News: “I don’t understand why they thought they needed to give him joint legal custody. He was my rapist.

“I was kidnapped for two days. I didn’t know if I was ever going to go home. He threatened to kill me and my best friend if we told anyone.

“I have been taking care of [my son] for eight years. I gave up high school, I gave up prom, I gave up my friends to raise a baby and go to work.”

She suffers flashbacks when she hears Mirasolo’s name, she said.

Ms Kiessling said Michigan had “no policy” regarding such cases.

“I’ve had rape victims who were cut off from state aid because they couldn’t name the rapist, because they were abducted by a stranger or because a sex trafficker kidnapped them and raped them,” she said.

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Alphabet's Waymo demands $1bn from Uber and public apology to settle trade secret lawsuit

Alphabet’s Waymo sought at least $1bn in damages and a public apology from Uber as conditions for settling its high-profile trade secret lawsuit against the ride-services company, sources familiar with the proposal told Reuters.

The Waymo self-driving car unit also asked that an independent monitor be appointed to ensure Uber does not use Waymo technology in the future, the sources said.

Uber rejected those terms as non-starters, said the sources, who were not authorised to publicly discuss settlement talks. The precise dollar amount requested by Waymo and the exact time the offer was made could not be learned.

Waymo’s tough negotiating stance, which has not been previously reported, reflects the company’s confidence in its legal position after months of pretrial victories in a case which may help to determine who emerges in the forefront of the fast-growing field of self-driving cars.

The aggressive settlement demands also suggest that Waymo is not in a hurry to resolve the lawsuit, in part because of its value as a distraction for Uber leadership, said Elizabeth Rowe, a trade secret expert at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Waymo recently persuaded a San Francisco federal judge to delay a trial to decide the dispute from October to early December, citing the need to investigate evidence Uber had not disclosed earlier.

No further settlement talks are currently scheduled, the sources said. The judge overseeing the case mandated that the companies enter mediation with a court-appointed magistrate.

Amy Candido, a Waymo attorney, declined to comment on any settlement talks, but said the company’s reasons for suing Uber are “pretty clear.”

“Waymo had one goal: to stop Uber from using its trade secrets,” she said. “That remains its goal.”

An Uber spokesperson declined to comment.


Waymo sued Uber in February, claiming that former engineer Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up a self-driving truck company, called Otto, which Uber acquired soon after.

Uber denied using any of Waymo’s trade secrets.

Waymo’s lawsuit has been disruptive for Uber. US District Judge William Alsup granted Waymo’s request for a pretrial injunction in May, which prohibited Mr Levandowski from working on Lidar, a key sensor technology for self-driving cars that is the crux of the current litigation.

Uber later fired Mr Levandowski, regarded as a visionary in autonomous technology, after he refused to return Waymo documents at the heart of the case. Mr Levandowski has asserted his constitutional right against self-incrimination and declined to answer questions from Waymo lawyers.

Meanwhile, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick stepped down as chief executive in June after allegations of widespread misconduct at the company became public. Kalanick has since become embroiled in a boardroom fight with fellow Uber investor Benchmark Capital.

Benchmark cited Waymo’s allegations of trade secret theft in separate litigation aimed at forcing Mr Kalanick off Uber’s board. A Delaware judge put that lawsuit on hold and sent it to private arbitration.

On Sunday 1 October, the day before Mr Kalanick was scheduled to give a deposition in the Waymo case, Mr Kalanick’s lawyers called Waymo and asked to postpone the deposition, lawyers for both companies said in court last week.

Mr Kalanick’s lawyers said he was in the middle of a fight to appoint new board members and was therefore too busy, Waymo attorneys said in court. Waymo refused the request, forcing Kalanick to attend the deposition.


Causing such distractions for a competitor are a clear benefit to Waymo, Rowe said. Uber has hired three law firms to litigate the case and devoted thousands of hours to probe Uber servers for Waymo confidential information.

“I‘m counting all those as good reasons to keep the lawsuit going,” Rowe said.

Waymo has estimated damages in the case at about $1.9bn, according to court filings, which Uber disputes. Despite that figure and the big settlement demands, Waymo views winning a permanent injunction against Uber using any Waymo intellectual property as the main priority, another source familiar with the company’s thinking said.

Much of the technical evidence in the case has been filed under seal, making it impossible for outside observers to independently assess the strength of each side’s arguments. In court last week, Alsup said Uber’s product was “dissimilar” from Waymo‘s.

Even if a jury finds that Uber stole Waymo trade secrets, Uber says in court filings that its engineers have designed around the Waymo technology at issue in the case. If that is true, that would lessen the impact on Uber in the event of a defeat in court.

Waymo is sceptical of Uber’s claim, however. In a court filing on Monday, it requested an order forcing Uber to disclose its source code, or underlying software, for its Lidar products.

The Alphabet subsidiary said in the filing that it recently learned that former employees took Waymo source code when they went to work at Uber, “including software related to the ‘brains’ of the vehicle that determines how the car moves.”


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James Van Der Beek relates harassment experience in support of Weinstein accusers

James Van Der Beek has recounted his own personal experience with sexual harassment following the mounting allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

In support of all the women who have made claims that the they were sexually assaulted or harassed by the film producer, Van Der Beek shared his story on Twitter Wednesday evening (11 October) condemning Weinstein’s behaviour.

“I’ve had my ass grabbed by older, powerful men,” the actor wrote. “I’ve had them corner me in inappropriate sexual conversations when I was much younger…”

The actor called Weinstein’s behaviour “criminal” and “unacceptable,” and adding that he applauds everybody speaking out.

Upon sharing an article of a woman relating her experience of harassment, Van Der Beek wrote: “For anyone judging the women who stayed silent, read this for perspective.“

He went on to applaud the growing list of Weinstein’s accusers – including Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cara Delevingne – for speaking out.

“I understand the unwarranted shame, powerlessness & inability to blow the whistle,” he wrote. “There’s a power dynamic that’s impossible to overcome.”

Van Der Beek played the lead role in teen drama Dawson’s Creek from 1998 to 2003 when he was just 21. His film credits include Varsity Blues (1999) and The Rules of Attraction (2002).

Two separate investigations into the decades-worth of allegations faced by Weinstein surfaced in The New York Times and The New Yorker over the past week inspiring numerous Hollywood stars – including Angelina Jolie and Lea Seydoux – to come forward with their unsettling experiences with the producer.

The latter exposé features three accusations of rape.

Actors ranging from Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep to Mark Ruffalo and Jessica Chastain have criticised Weinstein both for his alleged behaviour and his statement in response to the allegations. 

Bizarrely, Mean Girls actor Lindsay Lohan leaped to his defence posted a series of Instagram videos in which she described Weinstein’s condemnation as “very wrong.”

The producer – whose wife Georgina Chapman announced today (11 October) she is to separate from him – was fired from his position at the Weinstein Company in the wake of the allegations.   

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Ben Stokes loses £200,000 per year sponsor New Balance over behaviour that 'does not match brand culture'

Ben Stokes has had his contract with New Balance terminated as the fallout from the scandal at the heart of English cricket continues.

The sports equipment manufacturer said it “does not condone behaviour… that does not match our brand culture and values” in ending its relationship with the England all-rounder, understood to be worth some £200,000 per year.

New Balance’s decision was announced hours after Stokes apologised to Katie Price and her disabled son Harvey after a video emerged of the Durham player impersonating the pair.

The video came to light shortly after Stokes was placed under investigation by police after being arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub last month.

It was announced last week that Stokes would not travel to Australia with the rest of the England squad for this winter’s Ashes series as he waits to learn whether he will face criminal charges over the Bristol incident.

The 26-year-old, England’s vice-captain, has not been ruled out of the five-Test series which starts on November 23, but the England and Wales Cricket Board will not consider him for selection until further notice as it awaits developments in the ongoing investigation by Avon & Somerset Police.

Stokes, who is also subject to internal disciplinary action, has had his central contract renewed by the ECB since his arrest. Stokes issued his apology to Price and her 15-year-old son Harvey on Wednesday, prior to New Balance’s decision being made public.

New Balance said in a statement: “New Balance does not condone behaviour by our global athletes that does not match our brand culture and values, and therefore we have ended our relationship with Ben Stokes, effective October 11, 2017. We will not provide further comment.”

Footage emerged last month of Stokes doing an impression of first Price and then Harvey. In a statement released on Twitter, Stokes said: “Earlier this year I was shown a clip of Harvey being asked on ‘Loose Women’ how he responds to internet trolls.


“I loved Harvey’s directness with his response – he said what most of us think but perhaps aren’t brave enough to say, let alone on live TV. I foolishly attempted to copy the clip after I saw it a few times. I should never have done this and I am so sorry.

“It was absolutely not my intention to offend Harvey, Katie or anybody else. I have written to both Harvey and Katie to say sorry and prior to this offered to meet in person at the end of last month with a view to also getting behind their petition about online bullying. I do hope I can put this right.”

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RT explores remnants of ISIS quasi-state in liberated Syrian village (VIDEO)

After capturing vast territories, first across Iraq and then Syria, the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group went on to establish a Sharia-Law-based form of government. Claiming military, political and religious authority over Muslims in areas under their control, the terrorist organization struggled to create institutions and a financial system that would support the proliferation of jihadism.

However, the last remnants of that system are now quickly disappearing in Syria as the army continues to drive the terrorists out. Coins minted under Islamic State are slowly becoming collector’s items among coin experts, as RT’s Murad Gazdiev found out in the village of Hatla, which was liberated from IS on Monday.

Visiting shops in Hatla village, just east of the Euphrates River, the RT crew discovered copper and silver coinage until recently used in daily transactions. Shop prices were listed in dirhams instead of the Syrian pound used across the country, and residents of this village of Deir-ez Zor province could only use them to purchase locally-produced goods, which ranged from tools and clothes to packaged foods.

The dirham was introduced by IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi who envisioned reinstating the ancient Islamic currency using gold, silver and copper coins that were minted by the treasury of the self-proclaimed caliphate.

Currency served as a form of control inside IS-held territory, especially when it came to paying taxes. And those who couldn’t pay in money had to pay in goods.

“Wheat? They took it from the people,” one of the locals told RT, adding that “they took it by force.”

Inside Hatla, RT also discovered an IS prison and police department that was used to instill fear and terrorize the locals. Offenses such as owning a SIM card, being a Syrian government worker or being an infidel carried the death penalty for the locals.

“Here are the ID cards of people ISIS arrested. Here’s a policeman. They arrested many civilians who did nothing,” RT’s guide explained.

Leftovers of the Islamic State administration are seen all over the village. However, locals believe any traces of IS will soon be gone as the army continues to score major victories. The army units in Hatla are also clearing the village from booby traps left in residential areas before the terrorists retreated.

“We are now clearing the area. And we won’t rest until all the terrorists are removed from all of Syria,” one of the soldiers told Gazdiev.

According to estimates from Moscow last week, the Syrian military has liberated over 90 percent of Syria from IS forces. Earlier this week, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said the Russian Air Force has helped destroy the “economic infrastructure” of IS in Syria and “suppressed” all illegal oil extraction and trade which served as one of the main pillars of terrorists ecomomic activity in Syria.

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Trump implies cryptic ‘calm before storm’ remark was about North Korea

In a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday, the first question that Trump was asked was whether he was thinking of North Korea when he made his enigmatic comment earlier in October. “It seems related to ‘Rocket Man’ Kim Jong-un… in terms of them [North Korea] having nuclear capability,” Hannity said. 

READ MORE: ‘Calm before the storm’: Trump baffles White House press pool

Trump essentially confirmed that he was making the remark about Kim. However, he didn’t specify the message.

“We can’t let this go on. We just can’t,” Trump said, responding to Hannity’s question.

Trump made the mysterious comment last week following his meeting with senior US military officials at the White House. When reporters arrived, the president said“This is the calm before the storm.”

“What’s the storm? On Iran? On ISIS? On what?” one of the reporters asked.

“We have the world’s great military people,” Trump replied. “Thank you all for coming.”

When asked by an NBC News reporter one more time what “storm” he had referred to, Trump said “You’ll find out.”

Trump blamed his predecessors for failing to curb North Korean nuclear development.

“It [the crisis] should have been handled 25 years ago, it should have been handled 20 years ago and 10 years ago, 5 years ago. It should have been handled by numerous [presidents]. Not just [ex-US President Barack] Obama,” Trump exclaimed,” But certainly President Obama should have taken care of it.”

Trump also criticized the Agreed Framework deal between North Korea and ex-President Bill Clinton back in 1994.

“Before… the ink was dry on the contract, they were already starting again with the missiles, and with the nuclear, frankly,” he said.

The deal aimed to replace North Korea’s “graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities with light-water reactor (LWR) power plants.” 

Trump and Kim have repeatedly exchanged harsh words. On one occasion, Trump vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea if the US were attacked.
Pyongyang has responded in kind, threatening to reduce the US to “ashes and darkness” and calling for nationwide struggle against ‘war-thirsty’ Trump. 

READ MORE: Who said it: Donald Trump or Kim Jong-un? (QUIZ)

Washington is to continue military drills in the region with its long-standing allies South Korea and Japan. Earlier in October the USS ‘Ronald Reagan’, with nearly 80 aircraft on board, entered the South China Sea on its way to the shores of South Korea. The drills will likely be held around October 20.

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Sewers paved with gold? $1.8m worth of precious metals turn up in Swiss wastewater

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, known as EAWAG, its German acronym, surveyed 64 wastewater treatment plants across Switzerland and estimated that that up to 43kgs of gold passes through the country’s sewerage system each year – an amount equal to around $1.8 million.

The concentrations of precious metals are so minor that they do not present any threat to the environment.

However, in some areas, such as Ticino in the south of the country, there are amounts significant enough to warrant a recycling effort.

“At certain sites in Ticino, concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile. This can be attributed to the presence of several gold refineries in the region,” the EAWAG said in a statement.

It is thought that the 64 treatment plants also saw a total of around 3,000kgs of silver go through Swiss sewage systems – the equivalent of $1.7 million.

Overall, however, considering the amounts that could be extracted, the recovery of metals from wastewater or sludge is not said to be worthwhile in a country that refines around 70 percent of the world’s gold on average every year.

READ MORE: Diamonds could become ‘the new gold’ offering safe haven for investors

Scientists had originally feared a repeat of the critical concentrations of rare earth metals lanthanum and samarium currently found in the Rhine. However, all analysis came within safe limits, although the EAWAG have warned that little is known as yet about the potential toxicological effects of many trace elements.

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Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reach agreement in Cairo

Hamas and Fatah have reached a reconciliation agreement in Cairo, Reuters reports citing the Palestinian Information Centre. Details of the deal will be made public at a news conference scheduled later for Thursday. Palestine’s civil discord started in 2007 when Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip while the West Bank territories fell under Fatah’s control. Since then, attempts to reconcile the two groups and form a Palestinian power-sharing government have stalled.

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Floating trash bin gets to work on UK’s south coast

The brainchild of Australian surfers Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton, the Seabin was installed for the first time near the base of the Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) sailing team in Portsmouth on the UK’s south coast.

The team introduced the plastic-gathering invention as part of its bid to become “the most sustainable sailing team in the world.”

The machine, which can only be used around ports, marinas and yacht clubs, uses a submersible pump to suck waste in from the surface of the water into the bin’s inner bag.

READ MORE: Ingenious ocean-cleaning ‘bin’ from 2 Aussie surfers crowdfunds over $250k (VIDEO)

Getting through a workload of 1.5kg (3.3lbs) of waste per day, the bin can hold up to 12kg (26lbs) before needing to be emptied. This means the Seabin can collect waste amounting to more than 20,000 plastic bottles or 83,000 plastic bags per year.

“It catches everything floating in the water, plastic bottles, paper, oil, fuel and detergent,” Ceglinksi said.

The entrepreneurial pair needed to crowdfund AU$50,000 to begin production, but such was the public’s appetite for the project, they managed to raise the total amount raise a total of $267,000. They later trialled the Seabin at various marinas across Europe.

The Seabin currently costs around ASU$5,000 to buy, and Ceglinski and Turton hope to manufacture up to 360 a month when their factory in Lyon, France, is fully operational.

READ MORE: 1 ton of plastic produced for every person on planet, scientists reveal

As part of its sustainability push, the BAR team placed the Seabin alongside 1,000 oysters houses in protected cages on the team pontoon. The oysters were introduced in 2015 as part of a local conservation project.

The problem of plastic production has been raised often in recent times. In July, US scientists estimated that a total of 8.3 billion tons (metric) of plastic have been produced over the course of history, enough to cover a country the size of Argentina, and a ton of plastic for every person on the planet.

In 2016, a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicted that by 2050 there would be more plastic than fish in the sea.

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