later proceedings

Rats have always been blamed for causing bubonic plague outbreaks in Europe, but now researchers claim they’ve been unfairly maligned and that it was actually gerbils that caused repeated epidemics of the disease.The revelation comes from University of Oslo researchers who say they have compelling evidence that outbreaks of the plague, which killed millions in Europe after it arrived in the 14th century, can be traced back to great gerbils (Rhombomys opimus) from central Asia.They say that the plague-carrying fleas flourished on the rodents before making their way to Europe via the Silk Road trading route.
Rats amazing: University of Oslo researchers say they have compelling evidence that outbreaks of the plague can be traced back to great gerbils (pictured) from central AsiaStudy co-author Christian Stenseth told the BBC: ‘If were right, well have to rewrite that part of history.’Professor Stenseth and his team drew their conclusion after using tree-ring data to establish medieval weather patterns and compared these with thousands of black death records.
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They found that ideal weather patterns for the spread of the plague didn’t come from Europe, but Asia.Fifteen years after a warm weather spell in Central Asia, a plague outbreak would occur in Europe. This pattern continued for hundreds of years.Professor Stenseth said: ‘We show that wherever there were good conditions for gerbils and fleas in central Asia, some years later the bacteria shows up in harbour cities in Europe and then spreads across the continent.’Gerbils numbers would increase, he said, whenever a hot summer followed a wet spring.He added: ‘Such conditions are good for gerbils. It means a high gerbil population across huge areas and that is good for the plague. An increase in temperature of one degree will double the prevalence of plague in the gerbil population.’
The bubonic plague remains one of the most destructive pandemics in history which peaked in Europe between 1348 and 1350
Humans caught the plague from rats, but researchers say it was actually gerbils that were the original breeding ground for the diseaseThe fleas made their way to Europe in various stages. Some would have arrived via foxes that had eaten the gerbils, which then passed them onto rats, which passed them to humans.In other cases humans may have caught the disease from camels, the fleas having jumped to them from the gerbils.Filthy living conditions in 14th Britain have been blamed for allowing the Black Death to spread.It remains one of the most destructive pandemics in history which peaked in Europe between 1348 and 1350.Experts say it reduced the worlds population from an estimated 450 million to almost 350 million in 1400.In 1603 the killer plague returned and killed 38,000 Londoners.The symptoms of the Black Death were revolting with historians noting descriptions of fever, muscle spasms, coughing up blood and black blood oozing out of swelling lymph nodes.The most commonly noted symptom was the appearance of swollen lymph nodes on the groin, the neck and armpits, which often wept with pus and blood when they burst.Professor Stenseth’s study results appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The symptoms of the Black Death were revolting with historians noting descriptions of fever, muscle spasms, coughing up blood and black blood oozing out of swelling lymph nodes 
Read more:
Climate-driven introduction of the Black Death and successive plague reintroductions into Europe
BBC News – Rats not main cause of Black Death

Sachdev knocked for airways

A town councillor from Hertfordshire says a British Airways flight to Dubai was forced to return to London due to a foul odour emanating from an overflowing toilet.Hertsmere councillor Abhishek Sachdev, who represents Potters Bar Parkfield, said the seven-hour flight was aborted ‘because of a smelly poo in the toilet’.Cabin crew were unable to fix the problem and the smell became unbearable for passengers seated nearby, forcing the plane to turn around near Brussels and land at Heathrow Airport.
A British Airways captain told passengers the smell was from liquid faecal excrement in a toiletMr Sachdev, a Tory councillor, said the flight departed on time Thursday night and everything seemed fine until the captain made an announcement about 30 minutes after take-off.He told MailOnline Travel: ‘The pilot made an announcement requesting senior cabin crew, and we knew something was a bit odd.
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‘About 10 minutes later he said you may have noticed there’s a quite pungent smell coming from one of the toilets.‘He said it was liquid faecal excrement, those are the words he used. He said it’s not a technical fault with the plane, and he was very adamant about that.’
Hertsmere councillor Abhishek Sachdev said passengers were told that crew could not fix the problemThe captain informed passengers that the plane’s crew had examined the problem, but were unable to fix it.He told them that the plane would be forced to return to London for health and safety reasons.Passengers were initially told that they would board another flight in three hours, but it turned into a 15-hour delay, said Mr Sachdev, who was travelling with his pregnant wife, Rupa, and their two-year-old daughter, Shravani.He said the airline offered an apology and provided hotel accommodation and food vouchers, but claimed BA ground staff were unprepared and told the travellers to contact the Civil Aviation Authority for compensation.
Tory councillor Abhishek Sachdev was travelling with his pregnant wife and their two-year-old daughterMr Sachdev, who wasn’t seated near the toilet in question, said passengers departed for Dubai yesterday at 1pm.He said: ‘It’s obviously disappointing to lose a whole day of your trip. You might expect it on some random airline, but you wouldn’t expect it from British Airways.’After the plane landed at Heathrow, the councillor tweeted: ‘Insane! Our BA flight to Dubai returned back to Heathrow because of a smelly poo in the toilet! 15hrs until next flight/’A British Airways spokesperson told MailOnline Travel: Were very sorry for the discomfort to our customers. ​We provided them with hotel accommodation and rescheduled the flight to depart the next day.

Of number or then

Changes to pension rules could result in a flood of spam texts and calls from fraudsters to savers, the privacy watchdog warned last night.The Information Commissioners Office warned that pension scams could be the next PPI with rogue firms bombarding the public with messages in an effort to get them to sign up to dubious schemes.Yesterday Pensions Minister Steve Webb, architect of the reforms, said anyone cold called by a firm offering them a free pensions review should put the phone down. 
There is already growing evidence that scammers are gearing up for the April 6 pension liberation day
In three weeks Britain will undergo a pensions revolution allowing older workers to cash in their pension pots and spend the money as they wish, rather than having to buy an annuityYou can spend years saving into a pension only to find yourself tricked out of your money in the blink of an eye, he warned. In three weeks Britain will undergo a pensions revolution allowing older workers to cash in their pension pots and spend the money as they wish, rather than having to buy an annuity.But the ICO fears it could be a bonanza for sharks and snake oil salesmen targeting older people with texts and cold calls to try to get their hands on their pension pots.
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Anyone who hands over their investment as a result of scam messages could be left penniless – and still facing a huge tax bill. Criminals are urging pension savers to invest in scams ranging from dubious wealth funds to overseas homes that do not even exist.There is already growing evidence that scammers are gearing up for the April 6 pension liberation day. Tricks include luring pensioners with the promise of impartial advice.The number of spam calls and texts related to pensions reported to the watchdog rose by 66 per cent in February.Pensions Minister Mr Webb has in recent months admitted he himself was cold called and sent spam texts about pensions.
Yesterday Pensions Minister Steve Webb, architect of the reforms, said anyone cold called by a firm offering them a free pensions review should put the phone downLast month he told a conference he had received a text saying: If you have a frozen pension prior to 55 you are entitled to a free review. Please call back.Yesterday the ICO served a legal notice on a company in Swansea, Help Direct UK, for sending nearly 190,000 spam texts including many thousands about pensions.One message said: As you have over 10k in your pension, your pension has lost £3,219.43 over the last few years, to get back & find out your payout reply REVIEW.The message was identified by the ICO as being both deeply misleading and sent to those who had not signed up for direct marketing, as the law requires.They fear claims farmers are using the promise of free advice or a windfall investment to gather thousands of pensioner details to sell on in the wake of the reforms. The ICO said Help Direct UK told a web of lies about how it obtained the recipients contact details.The enforcement notice requires the firm to stop its activities or it could face court action. New rules which come into force on the same day as the pensions reforms will allow the ICO to impose fines of up to half a million pounds on cold call and nuisance text firms.Andy Curry of the ICO said: There is clearly the potential for a huge spike in the number of these scam texts and calls. It has the potential to be the next PPI. The Pensions Regulator added its voice to the warnings. Chief executive Lesley Titcomb said: The people behind pension scams are often agile, sophisticated and organised. We expect the scams to continue to evolve. Martin Wheatley, chief executive of another regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, said he was seeing an accelerating trend in activity by fraudsters.The reforms were widely welcomed last year as a response to concerns that annuities had become poor value for money.Retirement pots can be used like a bank account, with many restrictions abolished. There have been concerns, however, that some pensioners might squander their savings on cars or holidays.    How crooks will target youPromised pension freedoms herald a bright new dawn for millions of savers. Unfortunately, they will also act as a clarion call for crooks to target millions of pounds about to be unlocked by the trusting and the unwary.The danger lies in scammers ability to contact you by phone, text or email – and their persistence to wear you down.Their first approach is usually the most enticing. A text might typically offer a free pension review, one-off investment opportunity or promise of upfront cash.But the minute you respond to the cold-caller, theyll begin to crank up the pressure. Their prize is your pension pot – and they need you to agree to sign a funds transfer form to get their hands on it.So the promises will come thick and fast. They might suggest juicy returns of 8 per cent or more, talk authoritatively about locking away cash in overseas investments or dangle cashback payments.To soothe fears, they may also claim to be a Government adviser or say theyve been endorsed by officials. And while there will be talk of you, at 55, having plenty of time to lock your money away, there will be no mention of the imminent tax bill youll need to pay. The fee theyll charge, perhaps as high as 30 per cent, will be glossed over.It might take a dozen or so emails and phone calls – or even ten times that – but once youre hooked, theyll then push you to sign a transfer form as soon as possible.This may be sent to you by email as a form to fill in online or even couriered over to your front door. Youll be convinced its a simple final matter of filling in the details of your existing pension scheme – usually its name and number.Legally, your original pension provider – usually an insurer – can only agree to transfer the money on the condition it will go straight to another registered pension plan.However, the scammers – acting as the broker – do no such thing. Theyll take the money and then release only a chunk of it to you as a loan or cash sum.And once your funds are released from your insurer and into a new account – often overseas and outside UK jurisdiction or the arm of the regulator – then your chances of ever seeing the cash again will vanish.You may find the scammer picks up the phone the first time you call to check up on your investment – but they wont be there the next time.As well as the hefty fee, HMRC will then slap you with a tax charge of up to 55 per cent because youve taken out an unauthorised payment from your pension.Always check the credentials of the company and any advisers, who should be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority at fca.org.uk. If you think a company is trying to get you to liberate your pension, report the company to Action Fraud or call it on 0300 123 2040. It can prosecute companies found breaking the law.