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US confirms seizure of Iranian fuel on Venezuela-bound…

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us confirms seizure of iranian fuel on venezuela bound

The US Justice Department on Friday confirmed it had seized the fuel cargo aboard four tankers sent by Iran to crisis-wracked Venezuela, tying the shipments to Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards and stepping up the pressure on its foe.

‘With the assistance of foreign partners, this seized property is now in US custody,’ the Justice Department said, putting the total at more than one million barrels of petroleum and calling it the largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran.

The department had issued a warrant last month to seize the cargo of the tankers Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna.

Washington’s sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro’s regime have forced Venezuela, which used to refine enough oil for its own needs, to turn to allies such as Iran to alleviate a desperate gasoline shortage.

Iran sent several tankers of gasoline to Venezuela earlier this year to help ease shortages. 

Pictured: An undated photograph released by the US Department of Justice shows the Bering oil tanker. The US Justice Department on August 14, 2020, confirmed it had seized the fuel cargo aboard four tankers, including the Bering, sent by Iran to crisis-wracked Venezuela, tying the shipments to Tehran's Revolutionary Guards

Pictured: An undated photograph released by the US Department of Justice shows the Bering oil tanker. The US Justice Department on August 14, 2020, confirmed it had seized the fuel cargo aboard four tankers, including the Bering, sent by Iran to crisis-wracked Venezuela, tying the shipments to Tehran's Revolutionary Guards

Pictured: An undated photograph released by the US Department of Justice shows the Bering oil tanker. The US Justice Department on August 14, 2020, confirmed it had seized the fuel cargo aboard four tankers, including the Bering, sent by Iran to crisis-wracked Venezuela, tying the shipments to Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards

Iran's ambassador to Venezuela Hojat Soltani denied any links between Tehran and the seized tankers. Pictured: A worker of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA waves an Iranian flag along side another man carrying a Venezuelan flag, May 25 2020

Iran's ambassador to Venezuela Hojat Soltani denied any links between Tehran and the seized tankers. Pictured: A worker of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA waves an Iranian flag along side another man carrying a Venezuelan flag, May 25 2020

Iran’s ambassador to Venezuela Hojat Soltani denied any links between Tehran and the seized tankers. Pictured: A worker of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA waves an Iranian flag along side another man carrying a Venezuelan flag, May 25 2020

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing US officials, that the ships had been seized at sea and were en route to Houston.

The Justice Department did not offer details about the circumstances of the seizure.

It accused Iran of ‘forcibly’ boarding an unrelated ship after the four tankers were seized ‘in an apparent attempt to recover the seized petroleum.’

US military officials said Thursday that incident took place in the Gulf of Oman, with Iran using a helicopter and two ships to take over the vessel, a Liberian-flagged oil and chemicals tanker, for several hours.

Pictured: A handout picture of another of the oil tankers, the Bella, that was seized by the U.S., who believe the tankers were en-route to Venezuela from Iran

Pictured: A handout picture of another of the oil tankers, the Bella, that was seized by the U.S., who believe the tankers were en-route to Venezuela from Iran

Pictured: A handout picture of another of the oil tankers, the Bella, that was seized by the U.S., who believe the tankers were en-route to Venezuela from Iran

The US has accused Iranian businessman Mahmoud Madanipour, who allegedly had links to the Revolutionary Guards, of arranging oil shipments for Venezuela using offshore front companies and ship-to-ship transfers to get around sanctions on Iran.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated since 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a multinational accord that froze Iran’s nuclear program, and reimposed crippling sanctions on its economy.

The US considers the Revolutionary Guards a terror group.

Tough US sanctions have forced Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to seek help to meet his country's gasoline needs

Tough US sanctions have forced Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to seek help to meet his country's gasoline needs

Tough US sanctions have forced Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to seek help to meet his country’s gasoline needs

Iran’s ambassador to Venezuela Hojat Soltani denied any links between Tehran and the seized tankers.

‘The ships are not Iranian, and neither the owner nor its flag has anything to do with Iran,’ Soltani said on Twitter.

Venezuela is almost entirely dependent on its oil revenues, but its production has fallen to roughly a quarter of its 2008 level and its economy has been devastated by six years of recession.

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Banking giant Investec will slash 210 jobs from its London HQ

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banking giant investec will slash 210 jobs from its london hq

Banking giant Investec has confirmed plans to axe 210 jobs from its London headquarters amid a ‘challenging economic backdrop’.

The firm said it will slash around 13 per cent of roles in the capital in order to help ‘simplify and focus the business’ amid the pandemic. 

Investec added its performance in the five months to August 31 was impacted by lower average interest rates, reduced client activity and a 22 per cent depreciation of the South African rand against the pound.   

Fani Titi, chief executive of Investec, said severe contractions in GDP and volatile international markets pressed down on revenues during this turbulent period.

However, he added that the business had ‘proved resilient’ despite the impact of lockdown in the first quarter before economies slowly started to reopen.

A spokesman added: ‘The strategy was set prior to Covid-19 but the crisis has also increased the focus on containing and reducing costs.’ 

Elsewhere, Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways in North Wales today announced it will cut 90 jobs as part of a ‘survival plan’ after annual profits fell by £5million. 

Banking giant Investec has confirmed plans to axe 210 jobs from its London headquarters (pictured) amid a 'challenging economic backdrop' due to the coronavirus crisis

Banking giant Investec has confirmed plans to axe 210 jobs from its London headquarters (pictured) amid a 'challenging economic backdrop' due to the coronavirus crisis

Banking giant Investec has confirmed plans to axe 210 jobs from its London headquarters (pictured) amid a ‘challenging economic backdrop’ due to the coronavirus crisis

The latest cuts bring the total number of Britons who have lost their jobs or are at risk of being made redundant since the coronavirus crisis began to almost 193,000.

Lloyds Bank announced plans to shed hundreds of jobs earlier this month mainly in its insurance, wealth and retail teams.

The 865 cuts will lead to a net reduction of 639 in Lloyds’ headcount as the bank has also created 226 jobs.

Lloyds had earlier indicated the job losses included 780 cuts that were announced in February but put on hold because of the pandemic.

It has now clarified the new reductions are on top of the 780 already planned.

Investec today said funding under management has recently increased by 14.1 per cent to £51.4billion, while its net inflows were positive at £391million.   

Meanwhile, its core loans and advances declined by 1.3 per cent to £24.6billion for the period.

Fani Titi (pictured), chief executive of Investec, said severe contractions in GDP and volatile international markets pressed down on revenues during this turbulent period

Fani Titi (pictured), chief executive of Investec, said severe contractions in GDP and volatile international markets pressed down on revenues during this turbulent period

Fani Titi (pictured), chief executive of Investec, said severe contractions in GDP and volatile international markets pressed down on revenues during this turbulent period

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways in North Wales today announced it will cut 90 jobs as part of a 'survival plan' after annual profits fell by £5million. Pictured: Porthmadog, Wales

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways in North Wales today announced it will cut 90 jobs as part of a 'survival plan' after annual profits fell by £5million. Pictured: Porthmadog, Wales

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways in North Wales today announced it will cut 90 jobs as part of a ‘survival plan’ after annual profits fell by £5million. Pictured: Porthmadog, Wales

The firm told investors it had reduced its operating costs amid the pandemic as management aimed to tighten its ‘controllable costs’.

It also said it now expects net asset value per share to increase to between 422p and 428p by the end of September, up from 414.3p at the end of the previous financial year.

However, it warned that expected credit losses are to remain elevated as it said it does not anticipate paying out an interim dividend.

Mr Titi said: ‘Capital and liquidity ratios remain robust and are expected to be stable.

‘The business is well positioned to support its clients through this challenging environment.

‘We will continue to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our people and the integrity of our balance sheet.’ 

Unite union national officer Rob MacGregor previously said he is worried about the prospects for workers who are being let go in a chaotic jobs market.

Lloyds Bank announced plans to shed hundreds of jobs earlier this month mainly in its insurance, wealth and retail teams

Lloyds Bank announced plans to shed hundreds of jobs earlier this month mainly in its insurance, wealth and retail teams

Lloyds Bank announced plans to shed hundreds of jobs earlier this month mainly in its insurance, wealth and retail teams

New data released this week shows more than 300,000 jobs were put at risk of redundancy in June and July - nearly seven times higher than last year's levels

New data released this week shows more than 300,000 jobs were put at risk of redundancy in June and July - nearly seven times higher than last year's levels

 New data released this week shows more than 300,000 jobs were put at risk of redundancy in June and July – nearly seven times higher than last year’s levels

New data released this week shows more than 300,000 jobs were put at risk of redundancy in June and July – nearly seven times higher than last year’s levels. 

New losses in the financial sector follow the Co-operative Bank’s decision to axe around 350 jobs from up and down the country and close 18 branches after falling victim to Britain’s coronavirus jobs bloodbath.   

And last month Natwest Group announced it too was cutting 550 jobs in branches across the UK and closing one of its remaining offices in London.

The bank, formerly known as RBS, said the cuts would be made through voluntary redundancies and there would be no branch closures.

Mr MacGregor said: ‘While the creation of 220 jobs is to be welcomed, this will be no comfort to those members of staff who will from today face an uncertain future.’

He asked bosses at Lloyds to ensure everyone who is hit by the cuts is given the option to get a new job at the bank.

‘Unite is adamant that it is totally unacceptable that LBG persists in putting undue pressure on those who remain working for the bank by making hundreds more of their fellow workers redundant on a regular basis,’ Mr MacGregor said.

‘The pandemic has demonstrated the amazing resilience and flexibility of this workforce.

‘The employer should not focus solely on cutting jobs and costs but instead the bank should invest in a workforce that has only shown loyalty, dedication and hard work through the good times and the bad.’ 

Job losses were also today announced by Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways in North Wales, which has started a redundancy consultation with 90 staff after its annual income plummeted from £6million to £1million.

The narrow gauge railway drew up a ‘survival plan’ after it was forced to close to visitors when travel restrictions were introduced in March.   

Director Paul Lewin said: ‘It is vitally important to the local economy that the railway survives the coming winter and is able to open again for the 2021 season.

‘A large number of jobs in the area are reliant on the income generated by the railway, not only our own employees but those in the supplier base, accommodation providers, retail and dining.’

The railway contributes £25million a year to the local economy when running at full steam.

It reopened its doors when restrictions were eased but with reduced passenger numbers for social distancing.

A fundraising appeal to members has already raised over £500,000 to help keep the attraction open.

The railway has also received support from the National Lottery Heritage Emergency Fund and a Welsh Government grant.         

How more than 190,000 jobs have now been lost or are at risk amid the coronavirus pandemic

Here is a list of some of the major British employers that have announced major job cuts since the start of the lockdown. 

Major potential job losses announced since March 23: 192,684

  • September 18 – Investec – 210 
  • September 18 – Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways – 90 
  • September 9 – Pizza Hut – 450 at risk 
  • September 9 – Lloyds Bank – 865 
  • September 3 – Virgin Atlantic – 1,000
  • September 3 – Costa – 1,650 
  • September 2 – Heathrow – 1,200 
  • August 25 – Co-operative bank – 350 
  • August 20 – Alexander Dennis – 650 
  • August 18 –  Bombardier – 95
  • August 18 – M&S – 7,000
  • August 17 – easyJet – 670 
  • August 17 – Jet2 – 102 
  • August 16 – Debenhams – 14,000 at risk 
  • August 14 – John Lewis – 399 at risk 
  • August 14 – Yo! Sushi – 250
  • August 14 – River Island – 350
  • August 12 – NatWest – 550
  • August 11 – InterContinental Hotels – 650 worldwide
  • August 11 – Debenhams – 2,500
  • August 7 – Evening Standard – 115
  • August 6 – Travelex – 1,300
  • August 6 – Wetherspoons – 110 to 130
  • August 5 – M&Co – 380
  • August 5 – Arsenal FC – 55
  • August 5 – WH Smith – 1,500
  • August 4 – Dixons Carphone – 800
  • August 4 – Pizza Express – 1,100 at risk
  • August 3 – Hays Travel – up to 878
  • August 3 – DW Sports – 1,700 at risk
  • July 31 – Byron – 651
  • July 30 – Pendragon – 1,800
  • July 29 – Waterstones – unknown number of head office roles
  • July 28 – Selfridges – 450
  • July 27 – Oak Furnitureland – 163 at risk
  • July 23 – Dyson – 600 in UK, 300 overseas
  • July 22 – Mears – fewer than 200
  • July 20 – Marks & Spencer – 950 at risk
  • July 17 – Azzurri Group (owns Zizzi and Ask Italian) – up to 1,200
  • July 16 – Genting – 1,642 at risk
  • July 16 – Burberry – 150 in UK, 350 overseas
  • July 15 – Banks Mining – 250 at risk
  • July 15 – Buzz Bingo – 573 at risk
  • July 14 – Vertu – 345
  • July 14 – DFS – up to 200 at risk
  • July 9 – General Electric – 369
  • July 9 – Eurostar – unknown number
  • July 9 – Boots – 4,000
  • July 9 – John Lewis – 1,300 at risk
  • July 9 – Burger King – 1,600 at risk
  • July 7 – Reach (owns Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers) – 550
  • July 6 – Pret a Manger – 1,000 at risk
  • July 2 – Casual Dining Group (owns Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge) – 1,909
  • July 1 – SSP (owns Upper Crust) – 5,000 at risk
  • July 1 – Arcadia (owns TopShop) – 500
  • July 1 – Harrods – 700
  • July 1 – Virgin Money – 300
  • June 30 – Airbus – 1,700
  • June 30 – TM Lewin – 600
  • June 30 – Smiths Group – ‘some job losses’
  • June 25 – Royal Mail – 2,000
  • June 24 – Jet2 – 102
  • June 24 – Swissport – 4,556
  • June 24 – Crest Nicholson – 130
  • June 23 – Shoe Zone – unknown number of jobs in head office
  • June 19 – Aer Lingus – 500
  • June 17 – HSBC – unknown number of jobs in UK, 35,000 worldwide
  • June 15 – Jaguar Land Rover – 1,100
  • June 15 – Travis Perkins – 2,500
  • June 12 – Le Pain Quotidien – 200 
  • June 11 – Bombardier – 600
  • June 11 – Johnson Matthey – 2,500
  • June 11 – Centrica – 5,000
  • June 10 – Quiz – 93
  • June 10 – The Restaurant Group (owns Frankie and Benny’s) – 3,000
  • June 10 – Monsoon Accessorise – 545
  • June 10 – Everest Windows – 188
  • June 8 – BP – 10,000 worldwide
  • June 8 – Mulberry – 375
  • June 5 – Victoria’s Secret – 800 at risk
  • June 5 – Bentley – 1,000
  • June 4 – Aston Martin – 500
  • June 4 – Lookers – 1,500
  • May 29 – Belfast International Airport – 45
  • May 28 – Debenhams (in second announcement) – ‘hundreds’ of jobs
  • May 28 – EasyJet – 4,500 worldwide
  • May 26 – McLaren – 1,200
  • May 22 – Carluccio’s – 1,000
  • May 21 – Clarks – 900
  • May 20 – Rolls-Royce – 9,000
  • May 20 – Bovis Homes – unknown number
  • May 19 – Ovo Energy – 2,600
  • May 19 – Antler – 164
  • May 15 – JCB – 950 at risk
  • May 13 – Tui – 8,000 worldwide
  • May 12 – Carnival UK (owns P&O Cruises and Cunard) – 450
  • May 11 – P&O Ferries – 1,100 worldwide
  • May 5 – Virgin Atlantic – 3,150
  • May 1 – Ryanair – 3,000 worldwide
  • April 30 – Oasis Warehouse – 1,800
  • April 29 – WPP – unknown number
  • April 28 – British Airways – 12,000
  • April 23 – Safran Seats – 400
  • April 23 – Meggitt – 1,800 worldwide
  • April 21 – Cath Kidston – 900
  • April 17 – Debenhams – 422
  • March 31 – Laura Ashley – 268
  • March 30 – BrightHouse – 2,400 at risk
  • March 27 – Chiquito – 1,500 at risk.
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JK Rowling is accused of Islamophobia after passage of book is shared online

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jk rowling is accused of islamophobia after passage of book is shared online

JK Rowling has been accused of Islamophobia after an extract of her 2014 crime novel The Silkworm was shared to Twitter.

The Edinburgh-based author, 55, who writes the Cormoran Strike books under the male pseudonym Robert Galbraith, wrote a passage in the second book of the series where detectives suggest that a ‘woman in a burqa’ fed a murder victim ‘halal takeaway’ before death.

The passage continued: ‘Can you think of another way of totally concealing your face and body that wouldn’t make people challenge you?’ 

It comes following accusations of transphobia against the Harry Potter writer after she slammed an article that used the term ‘people who menstruate’ instead of ‘women’.

The row worsened after her new book Troubled Blood was released on Tuesday, which tells the tale of a man who dresses as a woman to kill his victims – a trope in literature that’s been criticised by activists for perpetuating negative stereotypes about transgender people. 

The author, 55, who writes the Cormoran Strike books under the male pseudonym Robert Galbraith, wrote a passage in the second series of the book where detectives suggest a 'woman in a burqa' fed a murder victim 'halal takeaway' before death.

The author, 55, who writes the Cormoran Strike books under the male pseudonym Robert Galbraith, wrote a passage in the second series of the book where detectives suggest a 'woman in a burqa' fed a murder victim 'halal takeaway' before death.

JK Rowling has been accused of Islamophobia after an extract of her 2014 crime novel The Silkworm was shared to Twitter.

JK Rowling has been accused of Islamophobia after an extract of her 2014 crime novel The Silkworm was shared to Twitter.

JK Rowling has been accused of Islamophobia after an extract of her 2014 crime novel The Silkworm was shared to Twitter. The author, 55, who writes the Cormoran Strike books under the male pseudonym Robert Galbraith, wrote a passage in the second series of the book where detectives suggest a ‘woman in a burqa’ fed a murder victim ‘halal takeaway’ before death.

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Now, she has come under fire again over her 2014 book, which has been accused of playing into both Islamophobic and transphobic prejudices, after British writer Laurie Charles posted an extract of the novel on Twitter.

The novel tells the tale of Cormoran Strike and his young assistant, Robin Ellacott who are trying to solve the murder of novelist Owen Quine who has written a poison pen book about almost everyone he knows.

The ‘Islamophobic’ extract written by JK Rowling in her 2014 novel The Silkworm

A young woman wearing a hijab was watching them talk from an opposite seat. She had large, sweet, liquidbrown eyes.

‘Assuming somebody really did enter the house on the fourth, I’ve got to say a burqa’s a bloody good way of getting in and out without being recognised. Can you think of another way of totally concealing your face and body that wouldn’t make people challenge you?’

‘And they were carrying a halal takeaway?’

‘Allegedly. Was his last meal halal? Is that why the killer removed the guts?’

‘And this woman—’

‘Could’ve been a man…’ ‘—was seen leaving the house an hour later?’ 

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In the extract, Strike and Robin are discussing the case on the tube, opposite a hijab-wearing woman who is described to have ‘liquid brown eyes’. 

Strike tells Robin that two witnesses saw a woman in a burqa enter the building where the murder victim lived.

She then writes the woman wearing a burqa ‘could have been a man’ and that she was seen ‘carrying halal takeaway’.

The detectives ponder if the killer removed the victim’s stomach after his murder to hide the fact he had eaten halal food.

Meat is granted halal status when the animal is blessed before being slaughtered, but livestock is raised no differently than non-halal food, meaning there would be no way for forensic teams to tell if the contents of a corpse’s stomach was halal.  

‘JK Rowling made her f***** up attacks against trans people and threatened to sue anyone who called her transphobic because she’d already sent her manuscript off to the publisher and wanted to preempt the inevitable criticism of this,’ Laurie wrote.

It comes following accusations of transphobia by the Harry Potter writer after she slammed an article that used the term 'people who menstruate' instead of 'women'. The row worsened after her new book Troubled Blood was released on Tuesday, which tells the tale of a man who dresses as a woman to kill his victims - a trope in literature that's been criticised by activists for perpetuating negative stereotypes about trans people.

It comes following accusations of transphobia by the Harry Potter writer after she slammed an article that used the term 'people who menstruate' instead of 'women'. The row worsened after her new book Troubled Blood was released on Tuesday, which tells the tale of a man who dresses as a woman to kill his victims - a trope in literature that's been criticised by activists for perpetuating negative stereotypes about trans people.

It comes following accusations of transphobia by the Harry Potter writer after she slammed an article that used the term ‘people who menstruate’ instead of ‘women’. The row worsened after her new book Troubled Blood was released on Tuesday, which tells the tale of a man who dresses as a woman to kill his victims – a trope in literature that’s been criticised by activists for perpetuating negative stereotypes about trans people.

The post quickly racked up more than 1,300 retweets with many accusing the writer of racism.

‘So apparently Rowling is just racist as well. What a surprise, transphobes tend to be obsessive bigots, huh,’ said one.

‘Not just transphobic but Islamophobic too… I regret ever spending money on Harry Potter,’ added another. 

‘Ewwwww how does she manage to be racist and transphobic in one paragraph?’ wrote a third.

Many also shared their confusion over the use of ‘halal takeaway’ in the script. 

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The tweet quickly racked up more than 1300 retweets with many accusing the writer of racism.

The tweet quickly racked up more than 1300 retweets with many accusing the writer of racism.

The tweet quickly racked up more than 1300 retweets with many accusing the writer of racism.

‘”Halal takeaway” – true sign of someone who’s never eaten a meal without boiled potatoes in or let ‘foreign’ spices pass their lips,’ said one

‘The halal and the removal of (murder victim’s) guts??? I’m so confused,’ added another. 

‘Holy f***, I mean I’m less concerned about the transphobia in that passage than I am about the blatant Islamophobia…’ commented one.

A representative for JK Rowling refused to comment when contacted by FEMAIL. 

In June, the Harry Potter author hit the headlines after she mocked an online article using the words ‘people who menstruate’ instead of ‘women’.

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Journalist and Current Affairs Editor of Pink News, Nick Duffy  started a fresh row about Rowling and shared an extract of her book in which she is 'transliterating' the character Janice

Journalist and Current Affairs Editor of Pink News, Nick Duffy  started a fresh row about Rowling and shared an extract of her book in which she is 'transliterating' the character Janice

Journalist and Current Affairs Editor of Pink News, Nick Duffy  started a fresh row about Rowling and shared an extract of her book in which she is ‘transliterating’ the character Janice 

She was hit by what she described as ‘relentless attacks’ after she wrote: ‘I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?’

The novelist then penned a deeply personal essay to address the controversy, revealing she was sexually assaulted in her 20s and saying she still feels the scars of ‘domestic violence’ in her first marriage.

Rowling’s remarks sparked backlash from a range of stars including Ron actor Rupert Grint, Emma Watson who played Hermione in the film franchise, Daniel Radcliffe who played Harry and Eddie Redmayne, who stars in her Fantastic Beasts films.

Little, Brown Book Group are owned by Hachette, one of several publishers involved in Miss Rowling’s children’s book The Ickabog.

In June, several of those involved in The Ickabog, are said to have staged their own rebellion during a heated meeting where staff had announced they were no longer prepared to work on the book.

Rowling's remarks sparked backlash from a range of stars JK Rowling pictured with Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in 2001

Rowling's remarks sparked backlash from a range of stars JK Rowling pictured with Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in 2001

Rowling’s remarks sparked backlash from a range of stars JK Rowling pictured with Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in 2001

Rowling has also been accused of classism after another extract of her new book was shared, after readers brand the author ‘patronising and deeply snobbish’ for writing a working class character’s dialogue differently

Troubled Blood, also written under Rowling’s pseudonym Robert Galbraith, was released Tuesday and sees detective Cormoran Strike work out what happened to missing GP Margot Bamborough.

The book originally came under fire for featuring a ‘transvestite serial killer’ called Dennis Creed, who murders his victims while wearing female clothing and a wig, sparking furious backlash online, amid accusations of transphobia against the author. 

Earlier this week, journalist and Current Affairs Editor of Pink News, Nick Duffy has started a fresh row  about Rowling, , using a working class dialect, spelled differently,  to reflect the accent of one of her characters. 

An extract shared on Twitter by Nick revealed that a line in the book from a character called Janice reads: ‘Well, ‘e ‘ad these ‘ead pains and ‘e was def’nitley nervous. Depressed maybe,’ said Janice.’ 

Furious Twitter users quickly branded the Edinburgh-based writer ‘patronising’ and ‘deeply snobbish’. 

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Frozen poo knife among the highlights of spoof Nobel awards

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frozen poo knife among the highlights of spoof nobel awards

Frozen knives made out of faeces, vibrating worms and narcissistic eyebrows were among the bizarre scientific studies featured in this year’s Ig Nobel awards. 

Harvard University’s annual spoof on the Nobel Prize awards rewards weird, amusing and often gruesome scientific discoveries.   

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday’s 30th annual Ig Nobel ceremony was a 75-minute pre-recorded virtual event instead of the usual live event at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. 

Despite this, the show managed to maintain some of the event’s traditions, including flying paper aeroplanes and real Nobel Prize laureates handing out the awards.

The night’s most memorable award was given to a US-based researcher for concluding that ‘knives manufactured from frozen human faeces do not work’. 

This year’s winners also included a team of Dutch and Belgian researchers who looked at why the sound of chewing drives people mad.

Another international team were rewarded for documenting how a Chinese alligator’s vocalisations change in a chamber filled with helium-enriched air. 

The Ig Nobel award winning researcher concluded last year that 'knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work'

The Ig Nobel award winning researcher concluded last year that 'knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work'

The Ig Nobel award winning researcher concluded last year that ‘knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work’

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Just like previous Ig Nobel awards, the winners are given a budget trophy and a defunct $10 trillion Zimbabwean note. 

Ig Nobel organisers mailed each winner a document that they could print out and assemble into this year’s cube-shaped trophy.   

Much like the Nobel Awards, the Ig Nobels winners are awarded under several categories.  

Under the Materials Science category this year, Metin Eren, an assistant professor of anthropology at Kent State University in Ohio, was awarded for fashioning a knife out of frozen human faeces.

Eren and his team aimed to recreate the story of an Inuit man in Canada who fashioned a knife out of his own excrement to butcher a dog. 

They used real human faeces, frozen to -50°C, and filed it to a sharp edge before trying to cut meat with it – without much success. 

Marc Abrahams (top left), the master of ceremonies, presenting the awards to Richard S. Vetter (bottom right), a former research associate in the Department of Entomology at the University of California

Marc Abrahams (top left), the master of ceremonies, presenting the awards to Richard S. Vetter (bottom right), a former research associate in the Department of Entomology at the University of California

Marc Abrahams (top left), the master of ceremonies, presenting the awards to Richard S. Vetter (bottom right), a former research associate in the Department of Entomology at the University of California

When they tried to slice meat, the knife-edge ‘simply melted upon contact, leaving streaks of faecal matter’.  

‘The poop knives failed miserably,’ Eren said. ‘There’s not a lot of basis empirically for this fantastic story.

‘The point of this was to show that evidence and fact checking are vital,’ he said of his research, which was published in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports last year.

Eren attended the Ig Nobel ceremony in 2003 when he was an undergraduate student at Harvard, so he was thrilled to finally win an award of his own.

‘To be honest, it was a dream come true,’ he said. 

In the Entomology category, Rchard Vetter won an Ig Nobel for his paper looking at why people who spend their lives studying insects are creeped out by spiders.

His paper, ‘Arachnophobic Entomologists: When Two More Legs Makes a Big Difference,’ appeared in the the journal American Entomologist in 2013.

Vetter, a retired research associate and spider specialist who worked in the entomology department at the University of California Riverside for 32 years, found during the course of his work that many insect lovers hate spiders.

‘It always struck me as funny that when I talked to entomologists about spiders, they would say something along the lines of “oh, I hate spiders!”‘ he said.

Many bug lovers have had a negative experience with a spider, including bites and nightmares, he claimed. 

In Physics, two Russian researchers were awarded for determining what happens to the shape of a living earthworm when it is subjected to high-frequency vibrations. 

Researchers replicated their experiments for the show using worm chew sweets

Researchers replicated their experiments for the show using worm chew sweets

Researchers replicated their experiments for the show using worm chew sweets

Their study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, tested four common species of earthworm ‘to demonstrate that vertical vibration of living worms lying horizontally on a flat solid surface’. 

‘The body starts to wobble and we used light and a photodetector to measure the vibration,’ said Ivan Maksymov at the University of Swinburne, Australia.  

‘We had a difficult time trying to understand what these results might be good for,’ added co-author Andriy Pototsky, also at Swinburne.  

This year’s Ig Nobel prize for Medical Education was shared by a group of world leaders including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin for their attitudes to the current pandemic.

‘These are all individuals who realised that their judgement is better than the judgement of people who have been studying this their entire lives, and were more insistent about it,’ said Marc Abrahams, Ig Nobel creator, organiser and master of ceremonies.

Abrahams made efforts to reach out to the world leaders to accept their awards, with no luck. 

‘It would have been fun for them to take part,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Stephan Reber from the University of Vienna and colleagues scooped up the Acoustics prize for research on whether reptiles could reveal clues about their body size through their vocalisations.

The two winners in the Physics category (right) with their mailed paper cube-shaped trophy and defunct $10 trillion Zimbabwean note

The two winners in the Physics category (right) with their mailed paper cube-shaped trophy and defunct $10 trillion Zimbabwean note

The two winners in the Physics category (right) with their mailed paper cube-shaped trophy and defunct $10 trillion Zimbabwean note

Mark Robertson, from St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida, who was also involved in the research, said: ‘The question was whether alligators have vocal tract resonances like human speech.

‘The key is that sound travels faster in helium this makes the air passages seem shorter making the resonances higher. 

‘So if you breathe helium and the frequency shifts upward, that shows that there are resonances.’

The team found that much like humans, alligators sound different when inhaling helium.

‘To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to show that all alligators sound strange when inhaling a party balloon,’ said Reber.  

From the UK, Chris Watkins, a psychologist at the University of Abertay in Dundee, shared the Economics prize with eight other authors involved in a study on French kissing. 

Their research, published in Scientific Reports last year, found French kissing was more common between partners in places that had high income equality.  

'The hard part is getting alligators to breathe helium', said the researchers who won the 'Acoustics' prize

'The hard part is getting alligators to breathe helium', said the researchers who won the 'Acoustics' prize

‘The hard part is getting alligators to breathe helium’, said the researchers who won the ‘Acoustics’ prize 

And Damiaan Denys and his colleagues earned the Ig Nobel in Medicine for pioneering a new psychiatric diagnosis called ‘misophonia’, which refers to getting annoyed by noises other people make.

Denys, a psychiatrist at the University of Amsterdam who specialises in patients with anxiety, compulsive and impulsive disorders, was inspired by a former patient who became so enraged by people who sneezed that she felt like killing them.

‘I had a lot of knowledge about compulsive disorder but these complaints did not meet any existing clinical picture,’ he said. 

In Psychology, a North American team were awarded devising a method to identify narcissists by examining their eyebrows, documented in Journal of Personality

They found perceptions of narcissism changed when swapping narcissists’ and non‐narcissists’ eyebrows between faces. 

Of all the Ig Nobel winners since the inaugural ceremony in 1991, one of Abrahams’ favourites is the winner of the Biology prize in 2003.

Kees Moeliker, a Dutch biologist and director of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam, was awarded for what was the first scientifically reported case of homosexual necrophilia in the Mallard duck.  

‘Everything about it is wonderful,’ Abrahams told Laboratory News in an interview last year. 

‘Reading his paper it’s clear there are only two possibilities – one is whoever wrote this is truly insane or this person is one of the subtlest and most deadpan writers who has ever lived.’  

IG NOBELS 2020: THE FULL WINNERS 

ACOUSTICS PRIZE Stephan Reber et al, for inducing a female Chinese alligator to bellow in an airtight chamber filled with helium-enriched air. 

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rule, for devising a method to identify narcissists by examining their eyebrows. 

PEACE PRIZE The governments of India and Pakistan, for having their diplomats surreptitiously ring each other’s doorbells in the middle of the night, and then run away before anyone had a chance to answer the door.

PHYSICS PRIZE Ivan Maksymov and Andriy Pototsky, for determining, experimentally, what happens to the shape of a living earthworm when one vibrates the earthworm at high frequency.

ECONOMICS PRIZE Christopher Watkins et al for trying to quantify the relationship between different countries’ national income inequality and the average amount of mouth-to-mouth kissing.

MANAGEMENT PRIZE  To a gang of five professional hitmen in Guangxi, China, who subcontracted a hit job to each other without performing the murder.

ENTOMOLOGY PRIZE Richard Vetter, for collecting evidence that many entomologists (scientists who study insects) are afraid of spiders, which are not insects.

MEDICINE PRIZE Nienke Vulink et al for diagnosing a long-unrecognised medical condition: Misophonia, the distress at hearing other people make chewing sounds.

MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Boris Johnson of the UK, Narendra Modi of India, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Donald Trump of the US, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, for using the Covid-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can.

MATERIALS SCIENCE PRIZE Metin Eren et al for showing that knives manufactured from frozen human faeces do not work well. 

More info: Ig Nobel 2020 

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