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  1. The ongoing pandemic has upended lives and the economy with devastating effect. And the music industry has not remained untouched. According to a report in The Guardian, 150 musicians who include stalwarts like Sir Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones are seeking for the government to intervene and help music survive in Britain. The same report states that ColdPlay, Ed Sheeran among others have signed a letter intimating that if they do not receive help from the government, UK might lose its coveted place on the world’s musical stage. Consequently, they have also shared that many can lose their jobs in the process. “Live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade. But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak. Until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry,” a letter written to Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary read. Apart from this, the musicians in the joint letter have also formulated “a three-point strategy” to revive the music scene. The report details it: “a clear, conditional, timeline for reopening venues without social distancing, a comprehensive business and employment support package, and VAT exemption on ticket sales.” “It’s incredibly important for artists like myself to speak up and support the live music industry in the UK. From the very start, playing live concerts up and down the country has been a cornerstone for my own career. I am proud to have had the chance to play through all the levels … small clubs, then theatres and ballrooms and into arenas, and of course festivals in between each touring cycle. But the possibility for other emerging British artists to take the same path is in danger if the industry doesn’t receive much needed government support in the interim period before all the various venues, festivals and promoters are ready and able to operate independently again,” Dua Lipa was quoted as saying.
  2. Mercedes-Benz has announced plans to close its factory in Hambach, France, where vehicles for the Smart brand are currently produced, as part of measures to cut costs and streamline its production network - and in a move that represents a major shift in its electric production strategy. The plant in the Moselle province of France, originally known as ‘Smartville’, opened in 1997 to build cars for the Mercedes city car brand. It currently produces the electric Smart EQ Fortwo and EQ Fortwo Cabriolet. Around 1600 staff currently work at the site. In 2018, Mercedes announced a €500 million (£445m) investment into the facility to upgrade it for electric car production, with plans to build a compact Mercedes EQ model alongside the Smart line. But last year, Mercedes-Benz sold 50% of the Smart brand to Chinese firm Geely, with production of its future models switching to China as part of the agreement - and creating questions over the future of the Hambach site. The German firm said the need to invest in electrification and digitalisation of vehicles and cut CO2 emissions from production, along with the economic impact of Covid-19, meant that it needed to take measures to “sustainably improve its cost structure and become significantly more efficient”. Board member Markus Schäfer said: "An important goal for us is to secure the future of the location. Another condition: the current Smart models will continue to be produced in Hambach.” It is not clear if Mercedes intends to operate the plant until the production run of the current Smart models ends, or if that will be part of the contract for any new buyer. Mercedes has previously announced plans to build electric cars at its German plants in Bremen, Rastatt and Sindelfingen, and the production of the unnamed compact EQ model due to be built at Hambach will likely shift to one of those sites.
  3. Former marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang has been banned for four years for anti-doping rule violations. World Athletics said between April 2018 and May 2019 the 38-year-old Kenyan, twice a London Marathon winner, had missed four "whereabouts appointments". Three such failures within 12 months leads to an automatic ban. Kipsang said he missed a test in May 2019 because of a traffic accident and provided a photo of the crash, but that was found to be from August 2019. The World Athletics Disciplinary Tribunal said it had banned the Kenyan with effect from 10 January this year for "whereabouts failures and tampering by providing false evidence and witness testimony". The Athletics Integrity Unit statement said "evidence demonstrates overwhelmingly that the athlete was engaged in tampering or attempted tampering in breach of the IAAF rules". Kipsang, a bronze medallist at the 2012 London Olympics, had been provisionally suspended in January for whereabouts failures and tampering by providing false evidence. He also won the Berlin, New York and Tokyo marathons and is the sixth fastest marathon runner in history, with a personal best of two hours, three minutes and 13 seconds. The Kenyan's competitive results from 12 April 2019 to 10 January 2020 were expunged, but he has the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. In recent years, Kenya's 2008 Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop, former Boston and Chicago Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo and 2016 Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong have all been sanctioned.
  4. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has tendered his resignation after heading President Emmanuel Macron's government for three years. The president swiftly named centre-right mayor Jean Castex to lead a new team of ministers after a reshuffle. Although Mr Philippe was considered more popular than the president, the ruling party had poor local election results at the weekend. President Macron promised a "new path" in an interview published on Friday. Mr Philippe met the president early in the morning and they agreed the government would resign. A reshuffle has been expected for some time, and it is common practice for a French president to replace a prime minister during the five-year term in office known as the "quinquennat". The Elysée palace said in a statement that Edouard Philippe had "today handed in the government's resignation to the president of the republic, who accepted it", adding that he would stay in place until a new government was appointed. Who is Jean Castex? Mr Castex, 55, is little known in France, but he is a senior civil servant and has played a key role in the government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. He has picked up the nickname "Mr Deconfinement", after Mr Philippe chose the Republicans party mayor from Prades in the Pyrenees to co-ordinate France's strategy of lifting the lockdown. He attended the same elite university as Mr Macron and Mr Philippe and, like Mr Philippe, was previously a member of the right-wing Republicans party. Mr Castex is due to give a TV interview later on Friday. Why Macron is changing his team Mr Macron came to power three years ago but now faces an economic crisis after the coronavirus pandemic. In the interview with regional newspapers, he spoke of a "very tough" recovery for France, and focused on the immediate priority of saving jobs, as well as economic, social and environmental reconstruction. A removal van and cardboard boxes were seen arriving at his Matignon residence on Friday indicating he was preparing to move out. Amid the chaos of coronavirus, President Macron talked of "reinvention" and a "new path". Few here doubted that it would mean a new government. Edouard Philippe was a good fit for Mr Macron during this crisis: a technocrat from the centre right who was seen as a steady pair of hands during the coronavirus epidemic, but he had started to outshine the president - a dangerous place to be at any time, let alone a time that calls for change. Mr Macron is facing a complex set of demands. On one hand, he wants to "reinvent" himself for the last two years of his mandate, and has been projecting a softer version of himself; more open to listening and admitting mistakes, more focused on green issues and social justice. On the other hand, centre-right votes are likely to be key to any re-election bid and, after several years of pushing hard for his liberal economic reforms, a blatant change of tack at this stage could look less like reinvention and more like confusion. Having already promised massive investment in France's health service, committed to pursuing pension reforms - at least in some form, and facing the worst recession in France since World War Two, Mr Macron needs someone he can rely on, someone who can take the flak if needed. That's what prime ministers are meant to do. Edouard Philippe broke the rules. As he heads towards the next presidential race, Mr Macron won't want to be outshone again. "For three years he's been by my side... we've carried out important, historic reform often in very difficult circumstances. We have a relationship of trust that's in a way unique in terms of the French Republic," the president said of Mr Philippe in his newspaper interview. Under France's constitution, the prime minister is appointed by the president to run the government and co-ordinate its actions under policies set out by the head of state. The new prime minister may be relatively unknown but he has plenty of experience in national government. Seen as a social conservative in the Republicans party, he was part of President Nicolas Sarkozy's team at the Elysée palace and served as deputy to the health minister. Why France is looking for change Mr Macron's young LREM party has struggled to maintain the initial support it won from voters after his presidential victory in 2017. Dogged by ministerial resignations, it has also seen a number of defections in the National Assembly, losing its outright majority in May. The party failed to win any major city in Sunday's local elections, in which Green candidates and their left-wing allies made significant gains. An opinion poll for Le Figaro and France Info on Thursday suggested three quarters of French voters were looking for political change from the president. Although many of those surveyed wanted greater focus on social and environmental change, 59% were happy for Mr Philippe to stay in his job.
  5. The Danish Cup final was suspended for 14 minutes as a group of ultras refused to obey social distancing. Aalborg and SonderjyskE were both given 725 tickets each for fans at the final at the neutral Esbjerg Stadium, so long as they sat 1m apart. But just before the 30-minute mark, a group of Aalborg - also known as AaB - fans grouped together and refused to move despite pleas from the club's coaches and other fans. They were kicked out of the ground. Their team went on to lose 2-0 with Anders Jacobsen scoring twice against his old club. It is the first major trophy in SonderjyskE's history.
  6. Unidentified human remains have been discovered in the search for a soldier who disappeared from her Texas base in April, according to the US Army. Private First Class Vanessa Guillen, 20, was last seen on 22 April in a car park where she worked in Fort Hood. Army spokesman Chris Grey said the partial remains were found in an "area of interest" agents had returned to in the search for Ms Guillen. Her disappearance prompted rallies in Fort Hood and her native Houston. An attorney for Ms Guillen's family told CBS News that investigators informed them the remains may belong to the soldier, but forensic experts have not yet confirmed it. "No confirmation as to the identity of the remains has been made at this point and we ask for the media and public's understanding that the identification process can take time," Mr Grey said. Agents from the US Army Criminal Investigation Command, Texas Rangers, FBI and local police revisited the site, near the Leon River about 30 miles (48km) from Fort Hood due to a tip. "After receiving additional information, agents have discovered what has been described as partial human remains after analysis from a forensic anthropologist." The remains were found in a shallow grave. Ms Guillen, a small-arms repairer with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, is originally from Houston, Texas - about 200 miles (320km) from Fort Hood. After her disappearance around noon on 22 April, Ms Guillen's car and barracks keys, ID card and wallet were found in the armoury room where she had been earlier that day. A Texas state lawmaker who has been working with Ms Guillen's family told reporters last week Army officials suspected "foul play" in the case. "The question is who, what and when," congresswoman Sylvia Garcia said. "And we've been reassured that they're going to do everything they can, they will leave no stone unturned until they find Vanessa." The Army Criminal Investigation Command had increased the reward for information concerning her disappearance to $25,000 (£20,000) earlier this month. Ms Guillen's family has alleged that she had been harassed by someone within her unit, but officials have said they have no information to indicate she was sexually assaulted. The 3rd Cavalry Regiment has launched a separate investigation regarding those claims.
  7. The Premier League has "contingency" plans for staging Leicester's home fixture with Crystal Palace given the enforced local lockdown in the city. Leicester are scheduled to host Palace on Saturday but a spike in coronavirus cases has seen stricter lockdown measures imposed in the city. Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said the game could be moved or postponed to a later date if needed. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the game will go ahead. But he did not state where and Masters said the Premier League must be "cautious and careful" in light of the UK's first local lockdown. Masters said: "If what is happening in Leicester, we are waiting to hear, does affect the club's ability to host home games, either this Saturday against Crystal Palace or subsequent matches, then we have contingency to put those matches elsewhere or postpone them until a date when it is safe to do so. "Of course contingency plans are discussed and part of our overall planning. "I am yet to understand what the impact of the partial lockdown in Leicester is going to have on the club but clearly it demonstrates the fragile project we have on here. We cannot take it for granted." Leicester, third in the Premier League, travel to Everton on Wednesday before the visit of Palace. Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti has said he has "no concerns" over the visit of the Foxes to Goodison Park. "Premier League protocol gives us the confidence that everything will be OK," the Italian said on Tuesday. "I'm not happy for the city of Leicester, it's in lockdown, but we don't have concerns for [the match]." Speaking about the coronavirus spike in the city, Hancock said Leicester had "10% of all positive cases in the country over the past week". Non-essential shops have shut, and schools will close for most pupils on Thursday. The loosening of restrictions for pubs and restaurants in England on Saturday will also not be taking place in the city. On Monday, the Premier League announced there was one positive result for coronavirus from 2,250 tests in its latest round of testing at clubs. Racing goes ahead in Leicester Racing was also cleared to go ahead in Leicester on Tuesday despite the stricter lockdown measures. An evening meeting with nine races was scheduled to take place behind closed doors from 16:40 BST. The racecourse is about three miles from the city centre, in Oadby - which is one of the suburbs covered by the new restrictions. The British Horseracing Authority said: "Following confirmation from local health authorities that the race meeting should go ahead, the fixture at Leicester will take place today. "The fixture will be held behind closed doors and with the existing strict health screening and social distancing measures in place."
  8. The White House is under pressure to explain how much the administration knew about allegations Russia offered the Taliban bounties to kill US troops. Officials have insisted that President Donald Trump was not "personally" informed of the alleged plot in Afghanistan in 2019. But reports say the president received a written briefing earlier this year. There is concern that Mr Trump might have had access to information about threats to US forces but did not act. The intelligence reportedly arrived amid US attempts to negotiate a peace deal to end the 19-year war in Afghanistan and while Mr Trump sought to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reports by The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, quoting unnamed US officials, said a Russian military intelligence unit had offered Taliban-linked militants bounties to kill US troops in Afghanistan. Twenty American troops died in Afghanistan in 2019, but the New York Times said it was not clear which deaths were under suspicion. Russia denied the initial reports, while the Taliban said it had not done any deal with Russian intelligence. The allegations come as Mr Trump seeks re-election in the November poll. Moscow maintains close links with the Taliban, as it sees the US involvement in Afghanistan winding down, the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says. He says Russia is also waging a "grey" or undeclared war against the West. Under President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has smarted from every perceived indignity suffered since the fall of the Soviet Union. It was US support for Afghan irregular fighters that contributed to Moscow's forced withdrawal from Afghanistan in the 1980s. What are the new developments? On Monday, the New York Times, citing two unnamed US officials, said the intelligence assessment had been included in the President's Daily Brief report - a written document with key government intelligence - in late February. CNN and the Associated Press have also reported that the president received the intelligence in a written briefing earlier this year, without specifying when. Mr Trump is said to largely ignore the President's Daily Brief, relying more on oral briefings by intelligence officials a few times a week. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not answer when asked by reporters whether the information had been included in the president's written briefing, saying only that Mr Trump had not been "personally briefed". Ms McEnany also said there was "no consensus within the intelligence community" about the assessment. But former intelligence officials told US media that, in previous administrations, claims of such importance would be reported to the president, even if the evidence had not been fully established. Eight Republican Congress members attended a White House briefing led by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien on Monday. Some expressed alarm about the claims, calling for action against Russia and President Putin to be taken if the intelligence reports, currently under review, were confirmed. Representatives Adam Kinzinger and Michael McCaul, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement: "If the intelligence review process verifies the reports, we strongly encourage the Administration to take swift and serious action to hold the Putin regime accountable." In a separate statement, Representatives Liz Cheney and Mac Thornberry, who is the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said: "We believe it is important to vigorously pursue any information related to Russia or any other country targeting our forces." Democrats were not included in the initial meeting, and they have been scheduled to take part in a briefing with White House officials on Tuesday. Late on Monday, the Associated Press reported that top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of the classified intelligence on the topic, and that the assessment had been included in at least one of President Trump's written daily briefings at the time. Separately, journalist Carl Bernstein reported that officials close to Mr Trump were convinced the president himself "posed a danger to the national security" given how "consistently unprepared" he was in dealing with foreign leaders. Writing on CNN, Bernstein - one of the journalists who investigated the Watergate scandal in the 1970s - said there were special concerns over "[Mr] Trump's deference to [Mr] Putin", with the US president "inordinately solicitous of [Mr] Putin's admiration" while ignoring important matters on the bilateral agenda. His report, based on unnamed sources with knowledge of hundreds of highly classified calls with foreign heads of state, echoes remarks made by former members of the Trump administration, including John Bolton, who served as national security adviser and said Mr Trump "remained stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House". In an interview to promote his book, Mr Bolton said of Mr Trump: "I think Putin thinks he can play him like a fiddle." What is the context? The unnamed officials cited by the New York Times' initial report said US intelligence agencies had concluded months ago that a unit of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency had sought to destabilise its adversaries by covertly offering bounties for successful attacks on coalition forces. What is the GRU? Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, were believed to have collected some money, the newspaper said. The officials quoted by the New York Times said the White House's National Security Council had considered how to respond, including imposing an escalating raft of sanctions against Russia. According to the Times story on Friday, President Trump was briefed on the reports in March. Mr Trump denied having been briefed, writing on Twitter on Sunday that neither he nor Vice-President Mike Pence had been told "about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians". Sergei Zhirnov, a former agent of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), told BBC Russian that the GRU's actions could be a part of a larger game between Mr Putin and Mr Trump unfolding in the global arena. "The GRU is a massive machine, which works towards making war. Putin likes to flex his muscles when there is no chance of retribution," said Mr Zhirnov. The President, the Russians and the 'personal briefings' Tara McKelvey, BBC White House correspondent Did President Trump know about the alleged bounties for the killing of US troops? Intelligence officials reportedly gave the information to the White House, but the White House press secretary said the president was not "personally briefed" on the matter. His knowledge or lack of it may be one of those Washington mysteries that remains unsolved. One thing is clear, however: he has never paid much attention to CIA findings. Unlike previous presidents, he does not receive written briefings. Instead intelligence analysts explain their findings in meetings, get-togethers that are scheduled sporadically. When it comes to the Russians, though, the president pays attention. At a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in 2018, Trump said he believed President Putin's claims that Moscow did not meddle in 2016 US elections, contrary to the findings of the US intelligence agencies. The controversy over the Russian bounties is yet another reminder that Trump's relationship with Putin has been close. For Russians, this is a joy. For many in the US, it is deeply troubling.
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