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Facebook squashes New York Post story about Joe Biden saying it needs to be fact checked

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facebook squashes new york post story about joe biden saying it needs to be fact checked

Facebook has sparked fury by limiting the spread of the New York Post story which claims Joe Biden met with a Ukrainian businessman while he was Vice President, saying it needs to be fact-checked first by its chosen third party before they will allow people to share it more online. 

The announcement came on Wednesday without any explanation from the social media giant and before Biden had even denied it. 

It thrusts into the spotlight again the exorbitant power Facebook has not only over the circulation of news but also over politics and the spread of information, and comes at a particularly tense moment given the Presidential election is in just three weeks.  

It also raises the question of who Facebook’s fact-checkers are and what qualifies them to arbitrate the truth.  

Andy Stone, who is a policy communications director at Facebook announced the decision on Twitter.

‘While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook’s third-party fact checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform,’ he said. 

He was inundated by critics who accused Facebook of censorship, election interference and protecting Biden, the Democratic Presidential Candidate, while allowing unflattering stories about President Trump to spread. 

Conservative media outlet The Federalist said the company was now ‘officially censoring’ the Post. 

Andy Stone, who is a policy communications director at Facebook announced the decision on Twitter on Wednesday

Andy Stone, who is a policy communications director at Facebook announced the decision on Twitter on Wednesday

Andy Stone, who is a policy communications director at Facebook announced the decision on Twitter on Wednesday 

Hunter and Joe Biden. The Post story suggests that Joe, while Vice President, had a meeting with a Ukrainian businessman after being introduced to him by Hunter, eight months before pressuring Ukrainian officials to fire a prosecutor who was investigating the businessman's firm

Hunter and Joe Biden. The Post story suggests that Joe, while Vice President, had a meeting with a Ukrainian businessman after being introduced to him by Hunter, eight months before pressuring Ukrainian officials to fire a prosecutor who was investigating the businessman's firm

Hunter and Joe Biden. The Post story suggests that Joe, while Vice President, had a meeting with a Ukrainian businessman after being introduced to him by Hunter, eight months before pressuring Ukrainian officials to fire a prosecutor who was investigating the businessman’s firm

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Facebook has not responded to inquiries about why it has reason to doubt the story or squash it.  

It is also unclear what the extent of the circulation reduction is.   

The New York Post is historically Conservative and the source for the story was Rudy Giuliani, one of President Trump’s closest aides. 

He gave the Post a trove of emails in which Ukrainian businessman Vadym Pozharskyi thanked Hunter for introducing him to his father, then the Vice President. 

Within months of the 2015 meeting that Pozharskyi refers to in the emails, Biden had successfully pressured Ukrainian officials to fire a prosecutor who was looking into Pozharskyi’s business.  

At the time, Hunter was being paid $50,000-a-month by Pozharskyi’s gas firm to act as a consultant, despite the fact he’d had no experience working in the gas industry.

After the Post story emerged on Wednesday, the Biden campaign said he had never met Vadym Pozharskyi.  

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Facebook has been accused of election interference for making the decisoin

Facebook has been accused of election interference for making the decisoin

Facebook has been accused of election interference for making the decisoin 

WHO ARE FACEBOOK’S FACT-CHECKERS

Facebook ‘partners’ with more than 30 fact checking organizations but nowhere does it provide a list of who they are or what their political leanings are.  

All it says is that they belong to the International Fact-Checking Network. 

Among them is The Daily Caller – a right-wing outlet. Snopes had been working with them but ended their partnership in 2019.  

They are tasked with returning a decision on whether or not a piece of content or article is truthful. 

After that, the company can still decide to overrule their decision and has in the past, notably in favor of outspoken Conservatives in an apparent effort not to appear as though they are favoring the Left.  

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Biden has repeatedly insisted he was never influenced by Hunter’s dealings with Ukraine when he was Vice President. 

The emails were taken from a damaged laptop which was left, mysteriously, in a Delaware tech repair shop. 

It had a Beau Biden Foundation sticker on it and the person who dropped it off – who has not been identified – never collected it again. 

The store owner looked through the computer’s hard drive and not only found the emails but also found a video of Hunter Biden, a self-confessed drug addict, smoking crack while engaging in a sex act. 

After Facebook’s announcement on Wednesday, many asked if the company – which is notoriously left-leaning – would have applied the same type of scrutiny to the New York Times or any other Democrat-friendly media outlets. 

Earlier this year, when the Times published an expose about Trump only paying $750 in federal income tax for two years, the story spread like wildfire on social media. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg routinely resists sharing his political leanings. 

In recent years, he has been attacked on both sides of the aisle for occupying too much of the tech industry and market while resisting oversight boards.  

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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German Pfizer vaccine could be ready before Oxford-AstraZeneca

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Britain believes that the vaccine, which Pfizer is co-developing with Germany's BioNTech SE, could be ready to distribute before Christmas

Britain believes that the vaccine, which Pfizer is co-developing with Germany's BioNTech SE, could be ready to distribute before Christmas

Britain believes that the vaccine, which Pfizer is co-developing with Germany’s BioNTech SE, could be ready to distribute before Christmas

Officials  in the British government expect that a verdict on whether Pfizer Inc-backed COVID-19 vaccine works will be available before the results are in on AstraZeneca Plc’s competing vaccine, it has been reported.

Britain believes that the vaccine, which Pfizer is co-developing with Germany’s BioNTech SE, could be ready to distribute before Christmas, the Times said.

Pfizer’s Chief Executive Albert Bourla has previously said the company could release data on whether or not the vaccine works as early as this month.

The U.S. drugmaker said this week if trials are successful the company expects to file for emergency authorization of the vaccine candidate from U.S. regulators shortly after it has enough safety data in late November.

Britain has agreed supply deals for six vaccine candidates including frontrunners from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.   

However, the hopes of ending the Covid-19 pandemic with a vaccine were dealt a blow today as a senior British health chief warned the first approved jabs may not work.

Kate Bingham, head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, has already warned there is only a ‘slim’ chance scientists will have a jab before Christmas.

And now she has dampened hopes even further, warning that the first generation of vaccines — which are all still in human trials — are ‘likely to be imperfect’.

In a commentary published in medical journal The Lancet, Ms Bingham said: ‘We should be prepared they might not prevent infection but rather reduce symptoms, and, even then, might not work for everyone or for long.’

And she added ‘we do not know that we will ever have a vaccine at all’, cautioning that ‘many, and possibly all’ of the vaccines currently being investigated could fail. 

Ms Bingham was appointed chair of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce for Covid-19 in May and reports directly to the Prime Minister on the progress of a coronavirus vaccine, which experts say is key to controlling the pandemic.

The taskforce, which Ms Bingham says was the ‘brainchild of Sir Patrick Vallance’ — Number 10’s chief scientific adviser, is at the forefront of putting plans in place to get the UK population vaccinated. 

‘However, we do not know that we will ever have a vaccine at all. It is important to guard against complacency and over-optimism,’ Ms Bingham said.

‘The first generation of vaccines is likely to be imperfect, and we should be prepared that they might not prevent infection but rather reduce symptoms, and, even then, might not work for everyone or for long.’

COVID-19 VACCINE ‘MAY NOT PREVENT SEVERE ILLNESS OR DEATH’ 

Covid-19 vaccines may not prevent people from getting severely sick or dying, Professor Peter Doshi, the associate editor of the British Medical Journal, has warned. 

Trials of hundreds of thousands of volunteers are investigating whether experimental Covid-19 jabs stop a person from picking up the infection.

But Professor Doshi commented in a piece published last week that scientists are not waiting to see whether volunteers are protected from severe disease or death if they do catch it — which would only be the case if the vaccine didn’t work very well — before they are rolled out. 

This is a particular concern for the elderly, who are the most at risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes, because the vaccine may not be as effective at protecting them from catching the coronavirus in the first place.

Vaccines typically do not work as well  for those over the age of 60 because they have an aged immune system.  

Professor Doshi, of the University of Maryland, also revealed that the studies will not prove transmission between people can be curbed. Scientists are not measuring if those who catch it pass it on to friends and family, regardless of whether they get sick themselves. 

None of the front-runners — Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sinopharm, or Sinovac — are measuring if their vaccines will save lives in their final stage trials.

Scientists wait for a number of people to catch the coronavirus so they can compare whether the infection rates are higher in those who received the experimental Covid-19 jab, or in the placebo group.

If cases are higher in the placebo group, it would suggest that the vaccine protects against catching the coronavirus, in theory.  

None of the phase three trials are waiting for endpoints of severe disease or deaths before stopping the trial, which would confirm the vaccine is indeed ‘life-saving’. 

But in response to Professor Doshi’s paper, scientists say there are ‘excellent’ reasons for running the trials, the main one being to speed up finding a vaccine which could otherwise take years because so few Covid-19 patients become severely ill.  

Dr Andrew Preston, a reader in microbial pathogenesis who works in vaccines, University of Bath, told MailOnline: ‘Covering every manifestation of Covid disease would require trials so large, that run for such long times, that they are very likely to be impossible to run and fund, and would delay the data so long that we’d be living without any vaccine-mediated intervention for years to come.’

Commenting on the BMJ editorial, Dr Preston argued there were ‘excellent and sensible reasons for running the trials as they are’. 

‘To test vaccines in the very vulnerable would require vaccinating vulnerable people and then asking them to put themselves in situations in which they might be exposed to the virus.

‘The ethics of this would be highly questionable, so it makes sense to test whether the vaccine shows any effect in people who, if they did become infected, the consequences are far less severe.’

However, he agreed that it is important for there to be clarity on what vaccine trials will and will not show. 

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Experts say it is highly unlikely that any vaccine approved for the coronavirus will ever completely proven to work before it is rolled out. 

The World Health Organization admits ‘no vaccine is 100 per cent effective’. For example, the measles jab, which has been doled out for decades, works 98 per cent of the time. 

But if a jab prevents the large majority of people from catching the coronavirus, and potentially reduces the severity of the illness, then it will be hailed as game-changing.   

The aims of coronavirus vaccine trials, which use tens of thousands of volunteers worldwide, is to see if the jab prevents SARS-CoV-2 infection.

But they will not reveal if the vaccines stop the chain of transmission, or prevent someone from getting severely sick or dying. 

It would take several years to assess if a vaccine actually saves lives, which is why scientists have cut corners in order to develop one that at least reduces the risk of catching it.  

Another obstacle in vaccinating the population is a lack of manufacturing capacity for the billions of doses required, Ms Bingham warned.

The Taskforce anticipates that most vaccines will require two doses to work, and possibly annual booster shots.

On top of that, ‘the UK is committed to ensuring that everyone at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, anywhere in the world, has access to a safe and effective vaccine’. 

Ms Bingham wrote: ‘A major challenge is that the global manufacturing capacity for vaccines is vastly inadequate for the billions of doses that are needed, and the UK manufacturing capability to date has been equally scarce.

‘There will not be one successful vaccine, or one single country, that is able to supply the world. 

‘We urgently need international cooperation to pool risks and costs, address barriers to access, and scale up the manufacturing capacity to produce sufficient doses to protect everyone at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection globally.’

Ms Bingham revealed there are already ‘deployment plans’ for when a Covid-19 vaccine is ready because there will be huge logistical challenges in roll-out. These have been made for the NHS, GP surgeries, pharmacies, care home and pop-up sites.

She confirmed ‘adults older than 50 years, health-care and social-care workers on the front line, and adults with underlying comorbidities’ will be first in line.

A vaccine is considered key to ending the Covid-19 pandemic which has already killed 1.1million people worldwide. 

It’s not the first time Ms Bingham has attempted to dispel hopes of a Covid-19 vaccine ending the pandemic.

She said earlier this month that not everyone – potentially only half – of the British population would be vaccinated if a jab was proven effective against the coronavirus.

If any vaccine was proven to be 95 per cent effective, which is thought to be unlikely given the short time frame scientists have been working in, it may be given to a larger number of people.  

Number 10 has already ordered 340million doses of seven different experimental jabs in a spread-betting approach that banks on one of them being proven to work.

Among them are three jabs created by Oxford University, Pfizer and Janssen – owner of Johnson & Johnson – which are all in the final stages of testing. But even if there was one ready by 2021, it would only be given to the most at-risk groups first, such as the elderly and NHS workers.

Ms Bingham said only vaccines that have the potential for approval by regulators and delivery as early as the end of 2020 or, at the latest, in the second half of 2021, have been considered.

One of the most advanced vaccines, developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, is tipped as the most likely to ready first. 

Those created by Novavax – which Ms Bingham has received in trial – GSK and Sanofi, and Valneva ‘will not be available until late in 2021’, she said.

WHICH VACCINES HAVE THE UK SECURED DEALS FOR? 

1. GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur: 60million doses 

The Government revealed on July 29 it had signed a deal with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur

If the vaccine proves successful, the UK could begin to vaccinate priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased risk from coronavirus, as early as the first half of next year, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said. 

Human clinical studies of the vaccine will begin in September followed by a phase 3 study in December. 

The vaccine is based on the existing technology used to produce Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccine. Genetic material from the surface protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is inserted into insect cells – the basis of Sanofi’s influenza product – and then injected to provoke an immune response in a human patient.  

2. AstraZeneca (manufacturing University of Oxford’s): 100million

AstraZeneca, which is working in partnership with Oxford University, is already manufacturing the experimental vaccine after a deal was struck on May 17.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is leading the Oxford team, is confident the jab could be ready for the most vulnerable people by the end of the year.

Her comments came after the results from the first phase, published in The Lancet on July 20, showed promise.

The team have genetically engineered a virus to look like the coronavirus – to have the same spike proteins on the outside – but be unable to cause any infection inside a person. This virus, weakened by genetic engineering, is a type of virus called an adenovirus, the same as those which cause common colds, that has been taken from chimpanzees. 

3.  BioNTech/Pfizer: 30million 

US drug giant Pfizer – most famous for making Viagra – and German firm BioNTech were revealed to have secured a deal with the UK Government on July 20.

It reported positive results from the ongoing phase 2/3 clinical trial of one called BNT162b1 on July 1.  The company is still running phase 2 trials at the moment.

Pfizer’s vaccine is one called an mRNA vaccine, which do not directly inject bits of the virus into the body but send genetic material.

mRNA vaccines programme the body to produce parts of the virus itself by injecting the body with a molecule that tells disease-fighting cells what to build. The immune system then learns how to fight it.

4. Valneva: 60million 

The Government has given Valneva — whose vaccine is understood to be in the preclinical stages of development — an undisclosed amount of money to expand its factory in Livingston, Scotland. 

While the Government revealed a 60million dose deal on July 20, the company said it had reached agreement in principle with the UK government to provide up to 100million doses. 

Valneva’s jab is an inactivated whole virus vaccine, meaning it injects a damaged version of the coronavirus itself into the body.

The virus has been destroyed in a way that makes it unable to cause infection, but the body still recognises it as a dangerous intruder and therefore mounts an immune response which it can remember in case of a real Covid-19 infection. 

5. Janssen (Johnson & Johnson): 30million

The Government has agreed to buy 30million doses of a vaccine made by Janssen if it works.

Officials have agreed to help the company in its development of the jab by part-funding a global clinical trial. The first in-human trials of Janssen’s jab began in mid-July and are being done on adults over the age of 18 in the US and Belgium.

The jab is named Ad26.COV2-S, recombinant, and is a type of jab called a viral vector recombinant vaccine.

Proteins that appear on the outside of the coronavirus are reproduced in a lab and then injected into the body to stimulate an immune reaction.

The ‘Ad’ part of the vaccine’s name means it works using an adenovirus – a virus best known for causing the common cold – as a vehicle to transport the coronavirus genetics into the body.

6. Novavax: 60million

Britain has ordered 60million doses of a vaccine being developed by the US-based company Novavax. It will help to fund late-stage clinical trials in the UK and also boost plans to manufacture the vaccine in Britain.

Novavax’s jab, named NVX-CoV2373, showed positive results in early clinical trials.

It produced an immune response in 100 per cent of people who received it, the company said, and was safe and ‘generally well-tolerated’. 

Novavax’s candidate is also a recombinant vaccine and transports the spike proteins found on the outside of the coronavirus into the body in order to provoke the immune system. 

7. Imperial College London: Unknown quantity

Imperial College London scientists are working on Britain’s second home-grown hope for a jab. The candidate is slightly behind Oxford’s vaccine in terms of its progress through clinical trials, but is still a major player.

The UK Government is understood to have agreed to buy the vaccine if it works but details of a deal have not yet been publicised. 

Imperial’s jab is currently in second-phase human trials after early tests showed it appeared to be safe. 

Imperial College London will try to deliver genetic material (RNA) from the coronavirus which programs cells inside the patient’s body to recreate the spike proteins. It will transport the RNA inside liquid droplets injected into the bloodstream. 

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Britain’s biscuits explored in a jam-packed book about our favourite teatime nibble 

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Gordon Brown often struck a forlorn figure as Prime Minister. But it was the dithering over what was his favourite biscuit that did the damage and best defined his short-lived premiership, after he was asked no fewer than 12 times by the Mumsnet website to reveal whether he was a Bourbon man, a Lemon Puff connoisseur or a down-to-earth digestive fan.

All he had to do was come up with a name. Any one would do. Instead, his decisive qualities were reduced to crumbs and Biscuitgate was up and running, until, 24 hours later — with, presumably, his spin doctors reaching for the hard stuff — Brown finally confessed to a despairing nation that he liked, well, ‘chocolate ones’.

Oh, dear. Within hours, his rivals were circling the cookie jar, with the then slick Tory leader David Cameron announcing that he was partial to oatcakes and know-it-all Lib Dem Nick Clegg saying he liked Rich Tea if they were dunked and Hobnobs if not.

British people devour more biscuits than any other nation on the planet and everyone has their favourite

British people devour more biscuits than any other nation on the planet and everyone has their favourite

British people devour more biscuits than any other nation on the planet and everyone has their favourite

These things are clearly important in a country whose people devour more biscuits than any other nation on the planet. Only two weeks ago, a broadsheet newspaper described it as a ‘national tragedy’ that after 250 years United Biscuits was ceasing production of the Bath Oliver.

How dare they? Surely there should be a referendum on such matters. Would the Sovereign not step in if ever such a fate were to befall the custard cream or, heaven help us, the ginger nut?

And in what other country would a 320-page book about biscuits be taken quite so seriously? Perhaps the answer lies with its title. 

The Biscuit: The History Of A Very British Indulgence, released today, in which the author, Lizzie Collingham (once a Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, no less), explores the genesis of our national obsession and chronicles how, with the help of the Empire’s trade tentacles, we took biscuits to every corner of the globe.

Indeed, as biscuit-maker Crawford’s once pointed out, the afternoon pause for ‘tea-time of a hot drink and something sweet is the one meal which the English have created and given to the world’.

Biscuits have seen us through good times and bad — especially the bad if the grisly Covid summer of 2020 is anything to go by.

Biscuits have seen us through good times and bad — especially the bad if the grisly Covid summer of 2020 is anything to go by

Biscuits have seen us through good times and bad — especially the bad if the grisly Covid summer of 2020 is anything to go by

Biscuits have seen us through good times and bad — especially the bad if the grisly Covid summer of 2020 is anything to go by

According to the market research firm Kantar, in the three months leading up to July 12 we spent an extra £19 million on biscuits. And, now, as various restrictions sweep across the country once again, the timing of Collingham’s tome could not be better.

Throw in a new series of The Great British Bake Off, with biccies inevitably bringing joy to some, tears to others, and it’s tempting to suggest that the humble biscuit has never had it so good.

It’s been a long history, possibly going back as far as the Neolithic era but certainly to the Romans, whose ‘panis biscoctus’ comprised bread baked twice to make it crisp and longer lasting — and biscuits do last a long time.

The earliest surviving example dates back to 1784 and is a ‘ship’s biscuit’, so named because they were given as rations to British sailors 200 or so years earlier during the Spanish Armada.

Trouble was they were renowned for their inedibility and were so indestructible that some sailors used them as postcards.

Sailors used to soak their biscuits in beer as a base for a stew called lobscouse, something that caught on among the poor in the Liverpool docks and is the reason Liverpudlians are known as Scousers. In similar vein, a slush fund originally referred to any extra cash a ship’s chef used to make from selling the fat, or ‘slush’, from the lobscouse.

According to the market research firm Kantar, in the three months leading up to July 12 we spent an extra £19 million on biscuits

According to the market research firm Kantar, in the three months leading up to July 12 we spent an extra £19 million on biscuits

According to the market research firm Kantar, in the three months leading up to July 12 we spent an extra £19 million on biscuits

It wasn’t until the 19th century that sweetened biscuits became a staple for the British upper and middle classes, their names often associated with international nobility or celebrity — Bourbon after a French royal household; Marie after a Russian duchess; Garibaldi (two thin layers of dough with currants sandwiched between them like dead flies) after the Italian general and Albert after Queen Victoria’s husband.

Victoria herself loved biscuits, but she drew the line when a company wanted to name a biscuit after her. Instead, the palace suggested that it should be called Osborne after her home on the Isle of Wight.

Lizzie Collingham has filled in plenty of gaps in my knowledge. Digestives, for instance, were invented by McVitie’s to cure disordered stomachs and reduce flatulence, or ‘windy colic’.

And just in case anyone might be tempted to think I have a nerdish fascination with biscuits, it’s worth pointing out in mitigation that I grew up with them. There was no getting away from biscuits, biscuit tins, discussions about biscuits — and we ate a lot of them, too.

My father spent all of his working life at Huntley & Palmers — as did my grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather and great-great-uncle, George Palmer, who in 1841 went into business with his Quaker cousin, Thomas Huntley.

Huntley took care of the baking, while Palmer developed the first continuously running machine for biscuit manufacturing. Mind you, his first effort resulted in a massive explosion that nearly killed him and several other employees.

Garibaldi biscuits (two thin layers of dough with currants sandwiched between them like dead flies) were named after the Italian general and Albert after Queen Victoria's husband

Garibaldi biscuits (two thin layers of dough with currants sandwiched between them like dead flies) were named after the Italian general and Albert after Queen Victoria's husband

Garibaldi biscuits (two thin layers of dough with currants sandwiched between them like dead flies) were named after the Italian general and Albert after Queen Victoria’s husband

By the beginning of World War I, H&P, as it was affectionately known, was the largest and most famous biscuit company on earth.

The Reading factory employed more than 6,000 people — over a quarter of the working population of the town — and was exporting to 134 countries. It held the Royal Warrant of every royal household in the world.

It was the ‘number one in biscuits and second-to-none in cakes’ — at least, that was what the advertising slogan said, and no one seemed to disagree. ‘Huntley & Palmers make ’em like biscuits ought to be’ was the television commercial I remember the best.

Collingham devotes a chapter to biscuit tins. They almost warrant a book of their own, such were their exquisite beauty, fashioned into handbags, suitcases, books, buses, postboxes and the like. Some are now collector’s items.

Sir Henry Stanley took H&P biscuits on his trek across Africa in search of Dr Livingstone and is supposed to have made peace with a potentially violent tribe in Tanzania by offering them a few smart-looking tins.

In 1890, two tins were discovered being used as ornaments on an altar in a Catholic church in Ceylon, while a Mongolian chieftainess was said to have kept one in which she grew garlic heads as a ‘visible sign of her high position’.

In Uganda, Bibles were kept safe from destructive white ants in two pound tins and, in 1904, the first Europeans to visit the holy city of Lhasa, in Tibet, were welcomed by a stack of biscuit tins to assure them that they were still in touch with civilisation.

Captain Scott took Huntley & Palmers biscuits with him to the South Pole and even sent a letter of recommendation from Antarctica dated October 20, 1911, which must have seemed like a marketing dream for the directors back in Reading.

He wrote: ‘I am of the opinion that no better biscuits could be made for travelling purposes. I consider that they especially meet the requirements of Polar work in their hardness, food value and palatability.’

A packet of biscuits was found alongside Scott’s frozen body a few weeks later and, in 1999, one of those biscuits, wrapped in greaseproof paper, fetched £4,000 at a Christie’s auction.

Most people born after 1960 have never heard of Huntley & Palmers (the company was gobbled up by Nabisco in 1984 and is now no more), but the biscuit lives on and, unlike Gordon Brown, we all have our favourites. And what I like about this peculiarly British indulgence is that no one pretends biscuits are healthy.

They are largely made of sugar and butter; their nutritional value falling foul of the food police. But they are undeniably good for the soul — and not for a second should we be ashamed of guzzling them in vast numbers.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Millionaire boss of Papa John’s pizza franchise is suspected of Eat Out to Help Out scam

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millionaire boss of papa johns pizza franchise is suspected of eat out to help out scam

A takeaway pizza boss under investigation for a suspected massive Eat Out to Help Out scam has suddenly added extra seating in his stores.

Millionaire Raheel Choudhary, who owns 61 UK Papa John’s franchises, made the changes after the Mail exposed how he claimed taxpayers’ cash on thousands of eat-in meals despite most of his stores being collection and delivery only.

He has also switched Google review searches to say ‘dining in’ is available in most of his stores. Previously, this was listed as forbidden in all but one of his franchises.

Last night Papa John’s head office, which had told him not to take part in Eat Out to Help Out and has launched an investigation into the Mail’s findings, said any attempt to ‘distort or obstruct the truth’ would be unacceptable.

Under the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which ran Mondays to Wednesdays from August 3rd – 31st, diners got up to half their meal free up to £10 per customer if they ate at participating restaurants. Takeaways and deliveries were excluded.

Takeaway pizza boss Raheel Choudhary (above with his Lamborghini), under investigation for a suspected Eat Out to Help Out scam, has suddenly added extra seating in his stores. The millionaire, who owns 61 UK Papa John's franchises, made the changes after the Mail exposed how he claimed taxpayers' cash on thousands of eat-in meals despite most of his stores being collection and delivery only

Takeaway pizza boss Raheel Choudhary (above with his Lamborghini), under investigation for a suspected Eat Out to Help Out scam, has suddenly added extra seating in his stores. The millionaire, who owns 61 UK Papa John's franchises, made the changes after the Mail exposed how he claimed taxpayers' cash on thousands of eat-in meals despite most of his stores being collection and delivery only

Takeaway pizza boss Raheel Choudhary (above with his Lamborghini), under investigation for a suspected Eat Out to Help Out scam, has suddenly added extra seating in his stores. The millionaire, who owns 61 UK Papa John’s franchises, made the changes after the Mail exposed how he claimed taxpayers’ cash on thousands of eat-in meals despite most of his stores being collection and delivery only

Before: This was how Mr Choudhary's branch in Norbury, South London, used to look - a single chair and a small table

Before: This was how Mr Choudhary's branch in Norbury, South London, used to look - a single chair and a small table

Before: This was how Mr Choudhary’s branch in Norbury, South London, used to look – a single chair and a small table

After: In Norbury now, there are five extra chairs. Mr Choudhary has also switched Google review searches to say 'dining in' is available in most of his stores. Previously, this was listed as forbidden in all but one of his franchises

After: In Norbury now, there are five extra chairs. Mr Choudhary has also switched Google review searches to say 'dining in' is available in most of his stores. Previously, this was listed as forbidden in all but one of his franchises

After: In Norbury now, there are five extra chairs. Mr Choudhary has also switched Google review searches to say ‘dining in’ is available in most of his stores. Previously, this was listed as forbidden in all but one of his franchises

This is how the Walton-on-Thames branch, in Surrey,  looked before the chairs were added. Last night Papa John's head office, which had told Mr Choudhary not to take part in Eat Out to Help Out and has launched an investigation into the Mail's findings, said any attempt to 'distort or obstruct the truth' would be unacceptable

This is how the Walton-on-Thames branch, in Surrey,  looked before the chairs were added. Last night Papa John's head office, which had told Mr Choudhary not to take part in Eat Out to Help Out and has launched an investigation into the Mail's findings, said any attempt to 'distort or obstruct the truth' would be unacceptable

This is how the Walton-on-Thames branch, in Surrey,  looked before the chairs were added. Last night Papa John’s head office, which had told Mr Choudhary not to take part in Eat Out to Help Out and has launched an investigation into the Mail’s findings, said any attempt to ‘distort or obstruct the truth’ would be unacceptable

Now: In Walton-On-Thames in Surrey, where there was just a narrow bench against a wall for customers to wait for collections, there are four additional chairs facing each other

Now: In Walton-On-Thames in Surrey, where there was just a narrow bench against a wall for customers to wait for collections, there are four additional chairs facing each other

Now: In Walton-On-Thames in Surrey, where there was just a narrow bench against a wall for customers to wait for collections, there are four additional chairs facing each other

Mr Choudhary has confirmed he claimed £185,000 in the offer, but says all were from customers who ate in at 40 of his stores that took part in it.

This is despite Papa John’s head office telling all its franchisees not to sign up for the offer because most stores were collection and delivery only, so ineligible.

To stop the spread of coronavirus, the company had also instructed Mr Choudhary to only allow one customer at a time to enter his stores and to make them wait outside for collections.

Mr Choudhary told the Mail he is ‘cooperating fully’ with the Papa John’s investigation, but has abruptly made a number of changes since being told of the allegations by the Mail on October 5th.

In his branch in Norbury, South London, where there was previously a single chair and small table, there are now five extra chairs.

And in Walton-On-Thames in Surrey, where there was just a narrow bench against a wall for customers to wait for collections, there are four additional chairs facing each other.

Sales records seen by the Mail show hundreds of Eat Out to Help Out deals were recorded in both stores, despite staff in both stores previously telling the Mail that dining in was banned in them. 

In his Chingford franchise, staff said all the seating had been removed during Eat Out to Help Out because of coronavirus, but it has been restored since the scandal broke.

Staff said many other of his stores have also ordered and added extra seating after Papa John’s head office began its investigation.

Until October 5th, all but one of his franchises were listed on Google as being take away and delivery only, but Mr Choudhary switched most of these between October 6th and 7th to say that dining in was also available.

Mr Choudhary runs his franchises through a series of companies, which he has registered on Companies House as 'take-away food shops and mobile food stands'. Many of the Papa John's restaurants, including this one in Southborough, Tunbridge Wells, did not even have space for customers to eat in - meaning they were not eligible for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme

Mr Choudhary runs his franchises through a series of companies, which he has registered on Companies House as 'take-away food shops and mobile food stands'. Many of the Papa John's restaurants, including this one in Southborough, Tunbridge Wells, did not even have space for customers to eat in - meaning they were not eligible for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme

Mr Choudhary runs his franchises through a series of companies, which he has registered on Companies House as ‘take-away food shops and mobile food stands’. Many of the Papa John’s restaurants, including this one in Southborough, Tunbridge Wells, did not even have space for customers to eat in – meaning they were not eligible for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme

Mr Choudhary runs his franchises through a series of companies, which he has registered on Companies House as ‘take-away food shops and mobile food stands’.

Whistleblowers have told the Mail that thousands of the claims were from fake orders recorded as voucher payments, something Mr Choudhary denies.

Videos and recordings made by a whistleblower at the time also include staff discussing how they were required to put at least £1,000 a day in some stores.

One man, said to be a branch manager, was recorded saying: ‘Everyone’s doing it. Head office is doing it from my computer, I’m doing it.’

During the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, Papa John’s head office circulated posters for franchisees to put up in all their stores advertising a staff whistleblowing hotline.

But staff said in many of Mr Choudhary’s franchises, the poster advertising the line was not put up and they did not know it existed.

Papa John’s head office is also investigating separate allegations by other franchisees that that Mr Choudhary used ‘intimidation and threats’ to try to force them to sell him their franchises at a reduced price.

This included taking their staff and encroaching into their trading areas, it is claimed. Mr Choudhary denies the allegations.

A spokesman for Mr Choudhary said: ‘Like many other similar food businesses, we have seen unprecedented demand for our pizza and as such we have placed additional seating in many of our stores.

‘We do offer “dine in” facilities and we have merely updated our online listings to ensure that this is better communicated to those people that would prefer to dine in the restaurants. 

‘Referring to the whistleblower hotline posters, he said: ‘As far as we are aware, the posters were displayed in the stores and at no time were staff discouraged from displaying them.

A spokesman for Papa John’s said: ‘We are conducting a thorough investigation into all allegations made, including these. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time, but clearly, any attempt to distort or obstruct the truth would be unacceptable.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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