Wikileaks founder said to be frail, labours to confirm name and date of birth

An emotional and clean-shaven Julian Assange has appeared in court to request more time and resources to prepare his defence against extradition to from the UK to the US on espionage charges.

Assange said today he was unable to properly prepare his defence at the case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, in London, which was held to check on his pre-trial progress.

Uncle Sam requested his extradition to face 18 separate charges under the banner of espionage, related to assisting Chelsea Manning exfiltrate classified information. Being found guilty of these could theoretically and cumulatively result in a 170-year prison sentence for the WikiLeaks founder.

Mark Summers QC, acting for Assange, told the court the defence counsel needed three more months to prepare, but this was refused.

So the full hearing will go ahead starting on 25 February and will be heard in HM Prison Belmarsh. Newswire AP described Assange as looking healthy but thinner than at earlier hearings and said he acknowledged the public gallery stuffed with his supporters. He was described as being frail and struggled to give his name and date of birth, and said he was struggling to think.

His defence still relies on legal rights granted to journalists but lawyers also want the court to rule on two new issues.

Politics

Firstly they claim the charges against Assange are political in nature – political offences are specifically excluded from the 2003 Extradition Act under which Assange is being tried.

His defence also wants the court to consider ongoing legal battles in Spain where charges have been brought against the security company responsible for monitoring Assange while he was in the Ecuadorean embassy.

UC Global SL – based in Jerez de Frontera – is accused of spying on him, including snooping on conversations held with his legal representatives and handing information it collected to the US intelligence services.

Spanish police have seized documents and computer hardware from the firm and one of its directors was arrested and released on bail. The director has had his accounts frozen, his passport seized and must report to a local court every two weeks. More from El Pais’ English edition.

Defence lawyers also claim that a variety of issues are preventing Assange from being able to properly prepare his defence, including lacking access to necessary documents and that inadequate care is endangering his health.

Assange’s brief released this statement.

Following the hearing, Assange was returned to Belmarsh. ®

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Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers have been compromised by apps modified to spy on users after being approved by the technology companies.

Berlin-based Security Research Labs (SRL) built the eight “smart spies”, which were promoted as a way to deliver horoscopes and generate random numbers.

Once approved, the researchers updated the Echo Skills and Home Actions to eavesdrop and steal passwords.

They then alerted the US companies, which blocked the software.

“Smart spies undermine the assumption that voice apps are only active as long as they are in dialogue with the user,” Karsten Nohl, SRL’s chief scientist, told BBC News.

Creating them had been a fairly easy process that required relatively little programming experience, he said.

They were activated when a user said something like: “Alexa, turn on my horoscopes,” or: “OK Google, ask My Lucky Horoscope to give me the horoscope for Taurus.”

When the user tried to turn off the app, they heard a “Goodbye” message but the software carried on running for several more seconds rather than deactivating immediately.

If, in that time, the person said a phrase including the word “I” or other chosen terms, their speech was transcribed and sent back to SRL.

One giveaway something was not right was the smart-speaker light remained turned on, indicating it was still listening, according to Mr Nohl.

And, he suggested, this should be something smart-speaker owners kept an eye on.

A variation of the attack involved the app saying: “An important security update is available for your device. Please say, ‘Start update,’ followed by your password.”

Anything the user said after the word “Start” was then sent back to the developer.

“Users should be very suspicious when any smart speaker asks for a password, which no regular app is supposed to do,” Mr Nohl added.

David Emm, a security analyst at Kaspersky Lab, said people needed to remember some of the apps offered for Amazon Echo and Google Home devices were made by third parties.

“We all need to aware of the capabilities of these devices,” he said.

“They’re ‘smart listeners’, not just smart speakers. Their capabilities extend to apps that we use with them.”

Google said it had removed SRL’s Actions.

“We are putting additional mechanisms in place to prevent these issues from occurring in the future,” the company added.

Amazon said: “Customer trust is important to us and we conduct security reviews as part of the skill certification process.

“We quickly blocked the Skill in question and put mitigations in place to prevent and detect this type of Skill behaviour and reject or take them down when identified.”

Cathy Murphy has worked for Asda for the last 44 years and says it has been an “absolutely amazing employer”.

However, recently the supermarket chain told Ms Murphy she will be fired unless she signs up to a new contract that will strip her of her long-service benefits, paid tea breaks and Bank Holidays off.

She is one of thousands of employees who have been told to sign the new contract before 2 November or leave the business. But Ms Murphy describes it as “just not fair”.

The GMB union says up to 12,000 workers face a choice between signing the new contracts – which increase wages to £9 an hour but scrap many other perks – or being sacked in the run up to Christmas.

But Asda told the BBC: “This contract is an investment of more than £80m and increases real pay for over 100,000 colleagues.”

Despite this, Ms Murphy worries for night shift staff who will have their pay cut, as well as people with caring responsibilities who may struggle with the new contracts.

Ms Murphy works in the fruit and vegetable section at Asda’s Parkhead Forge store in Glasgow.

As a union representative, she has been aware of the contract changes since the spring. However, her colleagues at the store only found out through meetings with managers over the summer.

Workers were given a document, which said they would have private meetings – or one-to-ones (121s) – with management.

“As part of the 121 process we hope that you agree to move to the new contract,” Asda said in the document. “If you still don’t want to sign up to the new contract at your final 121 we will issue you notice to terminate your employment.”

It said staff who had not signed the new contract would “leave the business” at the end of their notice period.

Then, earlier this month, Asda bosses handed out a leaflet with tips on getting a new job.

It suggested staff use their local job centre, get an an email address and offered advice on CV writing. Ms Murphy called the leaflets “condescending”.

It is not the first time that Asda has tried to move staff onto flexible contracts.

‘Highly competitive industry’

In 2017, the supermarket chain offered workers a salary increase in exchange for voluntarily switching to a new contract that introduced unpaid breaks and a requirement to work over Bank Holidays.

But over the summer, those changes were made compulsory.

The GMB union has written to the supermarket chain, which is owned by US retail giant Walmart, asking it to delay the introduction of the new contracts.

“On November 2nd, we understand up to 12,000 of your loyal Asda workers will be given the sack – just before Christmas,” it said in a letter sent over the weekend. “That can not be right.”

But Asda says the vast majority of staff have signed up to the new contract.

“We have been clear that we don’t want any of our colleagues to leave us,” a spokesman said, explaining that the changes would help the chain “adapt to the demands of the highly competitive retail industry”.

Ms Murphy thinks the chain will go through with its threat to fire the rest but she says it is unfair after giving more than four decades to the supermarket chain.

“I’m coming to the end of my working life,” she says. “And for this to happen [now], it’s just not fair.

“It’s not fair at all.”

A team of researchers has built a prototype phone case that mimics human skin.

A video released by team members shows them using it to control a handset by pinching, squeezing and prodding it to zoom in or out, and carry out other functions.

It could also be used in the future to interact with a virtual avatar.

Project leader Marc Teyssier said he understood why some people found it creepy.

“I do think it’s creepy – I get it,” he told the BBC.

“We are not used to human touch on objects. This project has made people reflect on what technology is and why this is creepy.”

Tickling the skin on the back of the phone could release a laughing emoji in a message, for example, while a pinch could result in an expression of anger.

Writing on the project website, Mr Teyssier said the “cold interface” of a smartphone “doesn’t allow natural interaction and input”.

The skin consists of two different forms of silicone layers, and electrodes attached to a hardware controller.

Mr Teyssier told New Scientist that getting the right balance of materials was difficult.

“The constraint was to develop something that was stretchable and that can also detect touch,” he said.

He also said that make-up or paint could be used in order to “increase anthropomorphism”.

There are no plans to market the case, although Mr Teyssier has published how it was made.

“Anyone can reproduce it,” he said.

The materials are mass-produced and each unit would cost less than £5 to build, he estimated.

The team also adapted it to fit other portable electronics, such as a smart watch, companion robot, and laptop launchpad.

On social media it has been greeted with a degree of fascination and horror, with many agreeing that the Skin-On case was decidedly “creepy”.

“This is profoundly wrong and I want one immediately,” tweeted lecturer Belinda Barnet.

The research paper on “Skin-On interfaces” has been published at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, taking place in Louisiana.

League of Legends is facing a backlash after players discovered its online chat system censored the term “Uighur”.

Uighurs are a Muslim ethnic minority who claim they have faced human rights abuses from the Chinese government.

Developer Riot Games acknowledged the fault, and blamed its filtering system for “banning words it shouldn’t”.

However, player complaints on official forums were blocked, and it is alleged a variety of other sensitive words like “freedom” are also being censored.

Users initially raised the issue on League of Legends’ official forums, but due to rules stating that discussions about “ethnicity and race” are banned, their complaints were ignored.

Frustrated gamers then voiced their concerns on Reddit, which led Ryan Rigney, communications lead at Riot Games, to address the controversy in a series of Tweets:

“Just saw a thread on Reddit about our text-filtering system banning words it shouldn’t. It would be ridiculous and absurd to hide the name of any ethnic group,” he wrote.

Mr Rigney added that the company has fixed the issue, and will be spending “the next few weeks” reviewing and updating its banned words and phrases list.

The BBC has contacted developer Riot Games and publisher Tencent for comment.

Uighurs are mostly based in China’s Xinjiang province, where they make up around 45% of the population. Xinjiang is officially designated as an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, submitted reports to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this year, documenting claims of mass imprisonment in camps, where inmates are forced to swear loyalty to China’s President Xi Jinping.

The World Uighur Congress said in a recent report that detainees are held indefinitely without charge, and forced to shout Communist Party slogans.

It’s the latest in a series of complaints from League of Legends users this year, after players in Iran reported being blocked from playing the game due to US sanctions against the country.

Gamers shared their experiences in League of Legends’ online forums, pleading with the US government to rethink extending its trade sanctions to gamers.

When a little girl wrote her name in hieroglyphics in a front cover, she didn’t realise it would reunite her with the book decades later.

As children in Reading, England, Zoe Andrews and her sister Hannah read the English classic The Secret Garden, annotating the front cover with Hannah’s name.

Eventually they outgrew the story and gave it to a local Oxfam charity shop.

Last week, when browsing in the second-hand book store of a Reading museum, Zoe, now 35, opened a copy of The Secret Garden and saw the same hieroglyphics.

The Museum of English Rural Life had recently purchased Hannah’s childhood book, in order to re-sell in their own shop.

The story has sparked delight on social media, as people marvel at how the book was returned to its original owner.

“Completely bizarre and unexpected. But it feels right to have it back,” Zoe said after finding the book, which she re-purchased for 50p.

“I wonder how many other kids read it over the years? I couldn’t believe it when I opened it up.”

“I think when things work their way back to you, they were never meant to leave you in the first place.”

Danielle Eade, who works at the museum, commented: “Zoe almost didn’t tell us the story behind it. When she did, I couldn’t let her leave without finding out more and asking her for a photo. It was such a lovely and heart-warming tale.”

Others have shared their own stories of precious objects lost and found.

“A few years ago my girlfriend and I strolled into an antiques store while our husbands took a walk.

“Imagine my amazement when I spotted a wedding photo of my parents on the wall! It had belonged to my grandparents and my uncle disposed of “unwanted” family photos when Grandma died,” wrote Twitter user Narelle Hahn-Smith.

Zoe Laura King also commented on Twitter: “I had a favourite board game as a child where you went to tube stations. My friend owned it. We decided it wasn’t hard enough so we wrote new game cards.

“Home from university, off to babysit, I bought the game from a charity shop. I discovered cards in my 10 year old writing.”

US Republican Senator Mitt Romney has revealed he uses a secret Twitter account under the name Pierre Delecto.

In an interview with The Atlantic magazine on Sunday, the former presidential candidate admitted he had a “lurker” Twitter handle to follow the US political conversation anonymously.

While he did not reveal its name, US news site Slate posted an article speculating it could be Pierre Delecto, @qaws9876.

Asked to confirm by a journalist, Mr Romney said, “C’est moi” (“It’s me”).

The Utah senator and former governor of Massachusetts is an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican. It is unknown why he chose the account name, Pierre Delecto.

How was his secret exposed?

News first broke of the secret Twitter account in a profile piece written by McKay Coppins in The Atlantic.

Coppins asked the senator about President Trump’s prolific tweeting – including attacks on Mr Romney himself – and prompted the revelation that he “uses a secret Twitter account – ‘What do they call me, a lurker?’ – to keep tabs on the political conversation”.

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The senator did not give away the name, but listed some of the roughly 700 accounts he follows – including journalists, athletes and comedians.

Mr Trump was not among them. Mr Romney said in the interview the president “tweets so much”, comparing him to his niece on Instagram. “I love her, but it’s like, Ah, it’s too much.”

Who is Pierre Delecto?

All this was not enough for Slate journalist Ashley Feinberg, who launched an investigation into what possible account the senator could be using.

Scouring Mr Romney’s grandchildren’s Twitter accounts revealed Twitter user @qaws9876, known as Pierre Delecto. The account has since been made private.

It first opened on the social media site in July 2011, one month after Mr Romney announced plans to run for the presidency. Pierre Delecto follows a number of Mr Romney’s family members and former aides.

The account has only tweeted a handful of times, all in reply to other tweets.

Coppins, who wrote the Atlantic piece, then called Mr Romney to see if the speculation was accurate.

Asked if he was indeed Pierre Delecto, Mr Romney gave his brief reply in French. The senator had learnt the language while doing missionary work in France as a young man.

Who is Mitt Romney?

Mr Romney ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2012, losing to incumbent Barack Obama.

Since January 2019, he has served as the junior US senator from Utah.

He has publicly questioned Donald Trump’s fitness for office, writing in the Washington Post that the president had not “risen to the mantle” of his office.

Mr Trump has attacked the senator several times, most recently calling for his impeachment on Twitter.

Who else has used fake names?

Mr Romney is not the only US politician to use a pseudonym:

  • Former FBI Director James Comey – who was sacked by President Trump in May 2017 – tweeted under the name of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Reporter Ashley Feinberg again was behind speculation it was him before he confirmed his use of the account in October 2017

Could moving three generations of the same family into a specially-adapted home be a solution to the UK’s housing crisis? The Victoria Derbyshire programme met a family who have been taking part in an experiment in Kent.

“It’s really nice, because we’ve got quite a small family, so it’s nice to see each other all the time,” says trainee chef Dan Cotter.

The 18-year-old lives with his mum, her partner, his sister, niece and uncle in a specially-converted home in the seaside town of Margate.

It is an unusual set-up, pioneered by Kent County Council – which bought the run-down former hotel for £150,000 – and Thanet District Council, as part of a regeneration scheme in one of the most socially-deprived areas in the UK.

Almost £1m was spent converting it into a home appropriate for multi-generational living. Situated over five floors, it has three kitchens, five bathrooms and seven bedrooms.

The Cotters previously lived in three separate homes around the town.

Hospital sister Lizi lived with her fiance Richard, a chef, and Dan. Andrew, who works in a greenhouse nursery, lived on his own, while single mum Charli, who works in a supermarket, lived in another home with her six-year-old daughter Poppy.

Saving money

Lizi spotted an advert for the experiment after her landlord said he was selling up. She fell in love with the house as soon as she saw it and persuaded the family to move in together.

“We had to go through an interview process with the university, the council, the letting agents and the people in charge of the regeneration project,” she explains. “So it was quite a long interview.”

The family are privately renting the house from Kent County Council for around £1,750 a month, plus bills – and say living together has helped them save money.

“We’re not all paying rents,” Richard Warrington, whose previous property cost £1,200 per month, explains.

“We’re not all paying separate electricity bills, gas bills, water bills, council tax and everything else. So we’re all now paying one lump sum for the house.”

The house was also designed to ensure it met high environmental standards.

For example, water from the washing machine is recycled for use in the toilet, which means a household of six people uses the equivalent of a two-person household.

Academics are monitoring how warm the house is, how much fresh air it has and how much condensation there is.

Childcare help

The impact of the family living together on care costs is also part of the study.

When they lived on their own, Charli used to struggle juggling child care for Poppy while she worked shifts. But now the family live together, she has more help.

“My hours do change, sometimes from week to week, so it does make it a little bit difficult with school runs. But with a little bit of help on hand now it’s nice she’s still being picked up by a family member,” she says.

Andrew, who has learning difficulties, is also feeling the benefits.

Lizi explains he has always lived an independent life, but had struggled to look after himself.

“He’s always been a bit of a loner, and quite happy in his own company, which is good, but he really alienated himself from the family and kept himself very secluded,” she explains.

But for Andrew, joining the rest of the family in the house was an easy decision.

“When Lizi said, ‘Oh, do you want to move in with us?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure’. Because when I was on my own and I was working quite a lot, I didn’t get to see much of them.”

Hannah Swift, one of the academics who has been studying the family, said the factors which would make multi-generational living a success, vary from family to family.

“So the family that is living here has very specific care needs,” she says. “Other families will have different care needs. And the building itself will have to lend itself to that.”

Like all families, there are fallouts from time-to-time.

“As for domestic quarrels in the house, yes they do happen. But we all have our own space,” Richard explains.

Nick Dermott, heritage adviser for Thanet District Council, which contributed £74,000 to the refurbishment, says he believes it was a good use of taxpayers’ money.

“It’s an exemplar to other authorities as to what they can do with their historic housing stock, which is so often blamed as being the cause of the social ills in those areas. And if that stops buildings being demolished – which I hope it will – that has saved the entire country money.”

Dr Swift says that while the house has worked for this family, it might not work for everyone.

“Not everybody gets on with their own family, of course,” she says. “But I think it’s a solution that many people are looking for, and would like to have in the future.”

The family, which have lived there for a year, have had their contract extended for a further 12 months. But Lizi hopes it will be their home for many years to come.

“We’ve talked about the future quite often. They’ve given us an almost-guarantee that this would be a long-term thing,” she says. “And it would be lovely that this would be our forever home.”

Follow the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on Facebook and Twitter – and see more of our stories here.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is “acceptable” and the country should push ahead with it, leading banker Sir Ian Cheshire has said.

Sir Ian, chairman of Barclays’ UK operations, told the BBC that business leaders wanted to see certainty.

He added that it was “extremely unlikely” further negotiations with the EU would produce a different outcome.

However, some UK business groups were more sceptical, with one calling it “a step backwards for frictionless trade”.

Confidence suffering

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Sir Ian said: “No deal is perfect, but this deal is actually doable,

“It is, I think, very frustrating to see what appears to be a protracted process when most business leaders would like to see some certainty and get on.

“The chances of yet another round of negotiations are extremely unlikely to yield anything significantly different and now the delay is beginning to affect consumer confidence, particularly investment confidence, and I think we have to push ahead and make the best of what we’ve got coming down the track.”

However, Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, questioned Mr Johnson’s deal.

He told the BBC: “What our members want most of all is the chance to scrutinise it. You wouldn’t buy a house having only one week’s notice of what the terms look like. You’d want a survey, you’d want to send in the experts, you’d want to know what the structure was and we think that’s important now.

“We want to see the government’s economic impacts and then we’ll make a proper judgement.”

‘Inferior’ deal

Mr Wright also expressed reservations about the impact of the deal on Northern Ireland.

“Many of my members already think that the changes in Northern Ireland will make it too expensive for them to do business between Great Britain and Northern Ireland under the terms that may come,” he said.

“And the political declaration has all sorts in it which is aspirational, but we need to know what we’re going to look at in terms of trade deals and in terms of regulatory alignment and we’re worried on both those counts.”

The chief executive of manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, Stephen Phipson, said Mr Johnson’s deal was “inferior in many respects to the deal we had with Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement”.

“This problem of uncertainty is really quite critical now,” he told the BBC.

“We’re seeing about 70% of manufacturers in the country not investing at the moment and critically, those European customers not coming to us for new orders.”

The comments from business leaders came as the pound fluctuated in the first trading session since Saturday’s vote by MPs to delay approval of the Brexit deal.

Sterling fell by 0.6% against the dollar at first, but then recovered to hit a five-and-a-half-month high as it climbed above $1.30.

Currency analysts say they expect the next strong movement in the pound to be when the Brexit deal is voted on in Parliament.

However, after Saturday’s vote, many believe a no-deal Brexit is now less likely. US investment bank Goldman Sachs, which issues regular updates to its clients, now thinks there is a 5% chance of a no-deal Brexit, down from 10% previously.

A device which allows the audience to have their own mixing desk at a concert is being used at Elton John’s final tour.

Individual instrument tracks from backstage are transmitted via radio signals to the device and then synchronised with the sound being sent – meaning there is no delay.

Audience members can then mix the music on their smartphones in real time, allowing certain instruments or vocals to be made louder than others.

BBC Click’s Omar Mehtab finds out more.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick