Weather: England records its coldest night this winter

Walkers on a snow-covered Beachy Head near Eastbourne

Walkers on a snow-covered Beachy Head near Eastbourne. Photograph: Ed Brown/Alamy

England has seen its coldest night of the winter so far as temperatures tumbled across the UK. A low of -10.9C (12.4F) was recorded at Chillingham Barns in Northumberland in the early hours of Sunday morning, the Met Office said.

In Scotland a low of -12.6C (9.3F) was seen at Braemar in the Highlands, although it was a few degrees off the -15.4C seen there on Thursday. Elsewhere on Sunday morning the coldest spot in Wales was at Swyddffynnon in Dyfed, where -6.5C (20.3F) was seen, while in Northern Ireland the lowest temperature recorded was -2.6C (27.3F) in Katesbridge, Co Down.

Forecasters earlier said there was the potential for a low of minus 16C (3.2F) to be seen in eastern Scotland overnight following a blast of cold weather than brought severe disruption to large parts of the country.

Several weather warnings have been issued for Sunday and Monday mornings, although some respite is expected with milder conditions moving in at the start of the week. Icy stretches will continue to be a hazard in parts of southern England and East Anglia into Sunday morning and a yellow warning is in place until 11am. A warning remained in place for snow and ice for a swathe of western Scotland reaching from Inverness in the north to the outskirts of Glasgow in the south.

“Much of the UK’s dry, but across the north-west and west of Scotland there are some snow showers,” Met Office meteorologist Greg Dewhurst said. “There is a weather warning that will be in place from 7am onward as that band pushes eastwards.

“It will be a cold, frosty start for many and then there is the risk of some more rain, sleet and snow coming into western Scotland by the end of the night into Monday morning.”

After snow left travellers stranded in many parts of Britain, people across the country struggled to get back to normal on Saturday with drivers returning to collect cars they had been forced to abandon at the roadside during the snowfall – up to 14cm deep in some places – while workmen were clearing roads of ice, snow and debris.

Dozens of football, rugby and hockey matches were postponed as a result of snow and icy grounds, with Accrington Stanley’s League One game against Blackpool the most high-profile casualty.

At the Jamaica Inn, off the A30 near Launceston in Cornwall, where 140 people had camped out on mattresses on Thursday night, staff made preparations in case Sunday night brought more disruption.

Sammy Wheeler, the general manager of the inn, said: “We’ve still got the beds out and we’ve told the Highways Agency we’re on standby, ready if they need us. But, thankfully, last night all the roads seemed to be moving.”

A toboggan steers down Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, on Saturday.
A toboggan steers down Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, on Saturday. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Workers from the Highways Agency and local authorities had cleared all main roads by mid-morning on Saturday, but there were still big clear-up efforts in some places.

In Walderslade, Kent, workers used diggers to remove branches and trees that had fallen due to the weight of snow. Kent police said it had been an “incredibly busy night … trying our hardest to move stranded vehicles”.

Several police forces were dealing with the aftermath of collisions. In Thornaby, Teesside, a car smashed through the front wall of a house after skidding off the road on Friday night.

The M3 had been blocked when three lorries came to a halt, and on Saturday snowploughs and gritters cleared snow from all lanes.

Coastal areas saw sleet and rain, with snow showers further inland on Saturday morning, but by the afternoon most of the country was bathed in frosty sunshine.

On Monday there will be more snow and ice in much of Scotland, the Met Office has said.


Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future

Futuristic city on water

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

“A digital twin is a virtual representation of physical buildings and assets but connected to all the data and information around those assets, so that machine learning and AI algorithms can be applied to them to help them operate more efficiently,” explains Michael Jansen, chief executive of Cityzenith, the firm behind the Smart World Pro simulation platform.

Take Singapore as an example.

View of Singapore across the bayImage copyrightNRF SINGAPORE
Image captionThe real Singapore has been faithfully recreated in virtual form
Virtual view across the bayImage copyrightNRF SINGAPORE
Image captionPlanners now have a data-rich simulation of the city to interact with

This island state, sitting at the foot of the Malaysian peninsula with a population of six million people, has developed a virtual digital twin of the entire city using software developed by French firm Dassault Systemes.

“Virtual Singapore is a 3D digital twin of Singapore built on topographical as well as real-time, dynamic data,” explains George Loh, progammes director for the city’s National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the prime minister’s office.

“It will be the country’s authoritative platform that can be used by urban planners to simulate the testing of innovative solutions in a virtual environment.”

In addition to the usual map and terrain data, the platform incorporates real-time traffic, demographic and climate information, says Mr Loh, giving planners the ability to engage in “virtual experimentation”.

“For example, we can plan barrier-free routes for disabled and elderly people,” he says.

Bernard Charles, Dassault Systemes’ chief executive, says the addition of real-time data from multiple sources facilitates joined-up, holistic thinking.

Virtual map of driverless cars around SingaporeImage copyrightNRF SINGAPORE
Image captionThe city envisages Virtual Singapore being used by citizens to locate driverless cars for hire

“The problem is that when we decide about the evolution of a city we are in some way blind. You have the urban view of it – a map – you decide to put a building here, but another agency has to think about transport, another agency has to think about commercial use and flats for people.

“The creation of one thing changes so many other things – the flow and life of citizens.”

The firm’s 3DExperience platform gives planners and designers “a global overview” they’ve never had before, explains Mr Charles.

Dassault’s software, which incorporates calculations that simulate the flow of a fluid, is used to design most F1 cars and aeroplanes, says Mr Charles, and this capability is useful for understanding wind flow around buildings, through streets and green spaces.

Laptop showing wind flow through SingaporeImage copyrightNRF
Image captionThe software can model wind flow through built up areas

“If some parts of a city are too windy and cold, no-one will like to go there,” he says.

Tracking people’s movements through a city using anonymised mobile phone and transport GPS data can help authorities spot bottlenecks and heat maps as the day progresses, hopefully leading to smarter, more integrated transport and traffic management systems.

“You can look at all ‘what if’ scenarios, so if we ask the right question we can change the city, the world,” concludes Mr Charles.

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In the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, a brand new $6.5bn “smart city” called Amaravati has been planned since 2015, but has been mired in controversy amid disagreements over the designs and criticism of its environmental impact.

But last year Foster + Partners, the global architecture and engineering firm, and Surbana Jurong, the Asian urban and infrastructure consultancy, were chosen to take on the huge task.

And Chicago-based Cityzenith is providing the single “command and control” digital platform for the entire project.

Map showing aerial view of city designImage copyrightCITYZENITH
Image captionCityzenith’s Smart World Pro platform gives a real-time simulation of the entire Amaravati city project

IoT sensors will monitor construction progress in real time, says Mr Jansen, and the software will integrate all the designs from the 30 or so design consultants already involved in the first phase of the project.

“The portal will simulate the impact of these proposed buildings before anyone even breaks ground,” he says, “and these simulations will adjust to real-time changes.”

The platform can incorporate more than a thousand datasets, says Mr Jansen, and integrate all the various design and planning tools the designers and contractors use.

The city, which will eventually be home to 3.5 million people, will be hot and humid, experiencing temperatures approaching 50C at times, so simulating how buildings will cope with the climate will be crucial, says Mr Jansen.

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One large Norwegian engineering consultancy, Norconsult, is even combining simulation software with gaming to help improve its designs.

When working on a large rail tunnel project in Norway, the firm developed a virtual reality game to involve train drivers in the design of the signalling system. The drivers operated a virtual train and “drove” it through the tunnel, flagging up any issues with the proposed position of the signals.

Screengrab from VR train cockpitImage copyrightNORCONSULT
Image captionTrain drivers “drove” a virtual train through the tunnel to test the positions of the signals

“They could change weather conditions, the speed and so on,” says Thomas Angeltveit, who worked on the project. “It feels real, so it is much easier for them to interact.”

“We had a lot of comments, so we were able to change the design and make a lot of adjustments.”

Changing the design before construction begins obviously saves money in the long-term.

Digital twin simulation software is a fast-growing business, with firms such as Siemens, Microsoft and GE joining Dassault Systemes and Cityzenith as lead practitioners.

Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2021 half of large industrial companies will use digital twins and estimates that those that do could save up to 25% in operational running costs as a result.


Trump cancels Nancy Pelosi foreign trip citing shutdown

Composite image of Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump has postponed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s upcoming trip to Brussels and Afghanistan, asking her to stay to negotiate an end to the partial US government shutdown.

The president was able to halt the trip by denying the use of military aircraft to Mrs Pelosi and a delegation.

On Wednesday Mrs Pelosi had urged Mr Trump to postpone his State of the Union address, amid political deadlock.

Mr Trump’s move came on the 27th day of the US’s longest-ever federal shutdown.

The Republican president wants $5.7bn (£4.4bn) of congressional funding to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, but Democrats have refused.

Mr Trump’s cancellation of the trip emerged less than an hour before the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives was scheduled to leave on Thursday afternoon, US media say.

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White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders shared the president’s letter in a tweet.

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“I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown,” Mr Trump wrote.

The president added that Mrs Pelosi could proceed with the trip – which he described as a “public relations event” – using a commercial airline.

Later on Thursday the White House announced it would not send a US delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland later this month, over the shutdown.

“Out of consideration for the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay and to ensure his team can assist as needed, President Trump has cancelled his delegation’s trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,” Mrs Sanders said in a statement.

Mr Trump had previously said he would not attend, and on Tuesday announced a scaled-back delegation, which was to be led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Media captionJust why has the US government partially shut down?

Drew Hammill, Mrs Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, said her travel to Afghanistan had required a stop in Brussels to allow pilots to rest, as well as to meet top Nato commanders “to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment” to the alliance.

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Mr Hammill said the plans did not include a visit to Egypt, and noted that Mr Trump and Republicans have travelled during a shutdown.

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Mrs Pelosi’s travel had not been announced before Mr Trump’s letter.

Some commentators expressed dismay that the president would reveal plans about a trip to a war zone by a congresswoman who is third in line to the presidency.

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The zero-sum battle drags on

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News

The shutdown chess match between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi has turned into a game of checkers.

The House speaker threatens to take away his State of the Union Address? The president erases her congressional trip to Afghanistan.

Jump-jump-jump. Your move.

The White House had reportedly been caught flat-footed by Ms Pelosi’s State of the Union announcement on Wednesday and was searching for ways to circumvent the speaker’s threatened roadblock.

There’s still no obvious solution for them, but that hasn’t kept the president from firing back.

How the American public perceives this tit-for-tat is an open question.

At least so far, the president appears to be shouldering the lion’s share of the blame for the government shutdown.

At some point, however, the governmental dysfunction could drag everyone down.

Meanwhile, 800,000 federal employees continue to work – or sit at home – without pay.

Government websites crash, services grind to a halt and the economic toll begins to mount.

This has become a zero-sum battle where the costs of continuing to fight are matched only by the political price to be paid if a side backs down.

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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Mr Trump’s action “demeans the presidency” while Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called Mrs Pelosi’s threat to cancel the state of the union address “irresponsible” and Mr Trump’s response “also inappropriate”.

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A White House aide told US media that the trip “would have guaranteed” that federal workers would miss their second paycheque “because [Mrs Pelosi] would not have been here to negotiate any kind of deal”.

However, Mr Trump has not banned Mrs Pelosi from going – just from using military aircraft.

Fox News also reports that members of Congress who were due to join the trip have been left sitting on a US Air Force bus at Capitol Hill as staff at the Capitol, State, Pentagon and White House scramble to handle the situation.

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In her own letter to Mr Trump on Wednesday, Mrs Pelosi called on him to reschedule his annual address to Congress since “the extraordinary demands presented” by the event could not be met during the shutdown.

Mr Trump has not yet directly responded to the request to move his speech, but in an email to campaign supporters, he said he was “disinvited” from his address to the American people.

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Earlier on Thursday, Ms Pelosi told reporters that the Democrats did not want security officers working unpaid.

“Maybe he thinks it’s okay not to pay people who work,” Ms Pelosi said. “I don’t.”

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Democrats in the House passed another bill to re-open parts of the government, but like past attempts, it is expected to fail in the Republican-led Senate.

The new stopgap bill proposes to re-open the government through 28 February.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to take up any legislation that does not have the president’s approval, and has accused Democrats of wasting time.


How Do Rummy Tutorials on KhelplayRummy Help Online Players?

If you wish to enjoy rummy games today without bothering anyone else, your best option is to go online and enjoy the game on Khelplay Rummy app or website. The site is known among rummy players because it is user-friendly. It allows the gamers to play rummy for free and enjoy the fun of the game. You need to make a paid account only if you wish to play with real cash or participate in tournaments.

There are many reasons why it is always better to learn the game of rummy from online rummy tutorials rather than ask someone for assistance or help. Here we have listed out how rummy tutorials on Khelplay Rummy help online players:

They Help You Grasp the Basics of the Game

The toughest part while learning any game is to understand the basic rules of the game. Once you grasp these, the rest of the journey becomes very easy. These rules do not change in case of Indian rummy either. So, the video tutorials make it easy for you to understand the basic rules governing the game. If you do not understand anything that is explained in the game, you just have to rewind and hear it again. This way you will grasp the whole game without depending on others.

They Teach You Many Different Variations of Rummy Games

When you learn rummy offline from one of your friends, they will teach you just the variation they know or usually play. This is not the case with online rummy tutorials. These tutorials cover many diverse variations of the game and it is up to you to choose the exact variant you wish to learn. You may also sit and learn multiple variations of the game without bothering anyone.

They Help You Learn the Game Without Asking your Friends

In the past, people relied on their friends or loved ones to understand rummy. Today, the easiest way to learn rummy is to watch tutorials online. You do not have to rely on anyone. These tutorials are completely free. You do not have any time restriction. When you learn from a friend, you must look for a time that is convenient to your friends and dear ones as well. This is not the case when you learn from an online tutorial. All that matters are your free time. You can switch the video to play and watch the tutorial without disturbing others even in the middle of the night.

They Help You Understand How to Play Rummy Online

Your friends can teach you the game of rummy. However, few can actually tell you how to play the game online. On the contrary, sites like Khelplay Rummy come up with interesting online tutorials that help you learn to play rummy online using the app or the website.

You Can Watch Video Tutorials at Your Pace Pausing at Intervals

When you learn rummy from a friend or loved one, you need to adjust to their pace. Many times, you may have queries and doubts. You may not want to disturb the flow and so avoid asking the queries. This approach prevents you from understanding the greater details of rummy. You may then learn these details only over a period of years as you play the games with others.

This is not the case when you watch a video tutorial. Here you have the freedom to pause the video multiple times and understand each word of the video. No one is disturbed or affected if you rewind or pause the video multiple times. This makes online video tutorials a convenient way to learn the game of rummy.

Once you have grasped all aspects of rummy, you may go ahead and play the games with friends and dear ones. You may also check out and be a part of rummy sites like Khelplay Rummy where multiple variants of your favourite game is uploaded. You may then participate in online rummy tournaments and win a few cash prizes. Video tutorials are the best way to start learning online gaming for rummy. Start now and enjoy rummy on KhelplayRummy.

Aishwarya slips and almost falls at Deepika-Ranveer reception. Shweta comes to her rescue

(L-R) Shweta Bachchan Nanda, Jaya Bachchan and Aishwraya Rai Bachchan. Photo: Yogen Shah

Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s Mumbai reception on December 1 night was a starry, starry affair. The who’s who of Bollywood turned up dressed in the best of their attires and made sure the party was a night to remember. Newlyweds Deepika and Ranveer partied with their Hindi film industry colleagues till the wee hours of the morning.

Deepika and Ranveer hosted the third of their receptions last night and it was a full house (except for a few who were not invited to the party).

The Bachchans arrived at the party and posed for photos in front of the lenses.

Amitabh Bachchan, along with wife Jaya, daughter Shweta Bachchan Nanda and daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan attended the event last evening. Abhishek Bachchan was not at the event.

While it was a mostly uneventful an evening, while entering the photo-op area, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan stumbled and nearly fell. Sister-in-law Shweta caught Aishwarya’s hand and rescued her from the awkward situation.


Could social media emerge as a new critical infrastructure sector?

Social media has become an important conduit for official and emergency government communications with the public. With such communications having the power to critically affect national security, social networks have become a hacker’s paradise and need to be taken more seriously.

US President Donald Trump’s official Twitter account is one example of how social media is now a popular channel for engaging with the public in realtime. At the more extreme end of the scale, recent events in Hawaii and Japan saw false missile alerts sent due to human error, causing populations to spiral into turmoil. These incidents highlight how social media accounts are becoming part of the critical infrastructure that governs our day-to-day lives.

It’s clear that communications, or mis-communications, of this kind have the potential to wreak havoc. But the question is: should the use of these social media accounts — like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and more — for official and emergency purposes, be regulated by legislation?

“Until these platforms are officially treated as critical infrastructure, we should consider applying the same cybersecurity practices followed by the energy, water, gas and ports industries.”

In Australia, telecommunications carriers are subject to the Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR), while other critical infrastructure falls under the recently introduced Security of Critical Infrastructure Act (2018). This act is primarily focused on major infrastructure assets like power and water, that supply essential services to more than 100,000 people.

In both the TSSR and the act, scope is given for the relevant minister to direct a provider or intermediary “to do, or not do, a specified thing that is reasonably necessary to protect networks and facilities from national security risks.”

Under the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act, the relevant minister can also nominate additional industry centres for inclusion, provided the minister is satisfied there is a risk that the assets or services could have a prejudicial effect on national security.

Top of the priority list currently are airports and data centres. It’s possible the minister will declare social media communications as subject to the act, but, at this stage, it’s unlikely.

Top-grade cybersecurity practices essential

So, what should governments be doing when it comes to securing social media accounts used for timely or sensitive communications? Until these platforms are officially treated as critical infrastructure, we should consider applying the same cybersecurity practices followed by the energy, water, gas and ports industries.

Government personnel operating social media for official or emergency purposes should undertake a review of how their accounts are managed. Hardening communication platforms should include stepping up password management practices. This will help eliminate the chance of delays to the delivery of critical information or the exploitation of accounts for nefarious purposes, such as issuing false or misleading information.

“To strengthen these platforms against both external and internal attacks by unauthorised personnel, government departments should treat their social media accounts as privileged.”

Hackers know the value and vulnerability of social media today, and are already hijacking official accounts. In 2017, a rogue Twitter employee shut down Donald Trump’s Twitter account for 11 minutes in an act of protest.

Disgruntled employees aren’t the only risk – hackers could use any one of several social engineering techniques, such as phishing, to gain access to passwords for social media. If they did so, they’d be able to issue false statements on a public social media account, potentially causing fear and panic.

Government personnel within specific departments or offices commonly share access to social media accounts. This means that potentially dozens of people throughout an agency have access, admin or editing rights on these platforms. Not least, passwords for these accounts are usually shared between team members, rarely changed, and often re-used across a number of accounts.

Any account with a shared or re-used password can be an easy target for a hacker or corrupt insider. There is also rarely a record of which team member published each post — increasing the possibility of a false alert being deliberate and untraceable.

Just two minutes after the missile alert was issued on Twitter in Hawaii, the governor was told it was a false alarm. While other government officials rushed to assure the public there was nothing to worry about, the governor did not tweet for more than 17 minutes. The cause of his silence? He forgot his username and password.

To strengthen these platforms against both external and internal attacks by unauthorised personnel, government departments should treat their social media accounts as privileged. That way, simple acts of forgetting, sharing or re-using passwords won’t cause delays, such as what happened in Hawaii.

Privileged account security tips

As best practice to properly secure and protect social media accounts, government departments should employ privileged account security, including:

  • Arrange transparent access: To make it harder for hackers to find and exploit credentials, authorised users must be able to seamlessly authenticate access to an account without having to remember passwords. This allows for immediate access in emergency situations, such as the incident in Hawaii.
  • Remove shared credentials: Use a digital vault to store passwords and remove the accountability challenges of shared logins. Users will then need to login individually for access to shared social media platforms.
  • Automate password rotations: Continuously changing privileged credentials safeguards against attackers using retired passwords. Regularly automating password changes can also update access privileges, reducing the possibility of an outsider getting their hands on valid credentials.
  • Review account activity: For visibility of individual users’ activity across social media accounts, a record of events can be created. This way, posts can be linked to authorised users, and rogue employees can be more easily identified.

Governments the world over are reviewing their critical infrastructure safeguards and national security precautions. As we continue to see in situations such as those in the US, Hawaii, and Japan, the public has developed a huge level of trust in communications distributed by government organisations.

Social media has become a credible and dependable medium for official communications, and it’s clear these platforms are neither inherently secure nor infallible. It’s critical to re-think how any medium used for official and emergency communications is treated and secured.