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  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Five tips for spotting a bargain

    Black Friday window signImage copyrightREUTERS

    Black Friday is now one of the UK's busiest shopping days.

    Retailers offer up a dizzying array of special offers and big discounts, with more deals added online on Cyber Monday.

    But how can you spot a genuine bargain?

    1 Check the size of the discount

    Before you buy, it is always worth checking if the same product is cheaper somewhere else, experts say.

    Some specialist sites can tell you if the product has been discounted more heavily before.

    For example, Camelcamelcamel.com shows the price history of Amazon products - allowing shoppers to see if they have been offered more cheaply in the past.

    Amazon screen grabCamelcamelcamel pageImage captionCamelcamelcamel.com shows the other prices the Kindle Fire has been sold at on Amazon's UK site

    When consumer group Which? looked back on retailers' offers last year, it found only 90 out of 178 deals were cheapest on Black Friday.

    Danny Munday, general manager of HotUKDeals, a deal-sharing website, said retailers sometimes increase the price of an item before a sales event to make the discount look deeper.

    Members in online forums will share their knowledge of sale prices and recommended retail prices, he added.

    2 Look for price match

    With competition fierce, retailers are starting to match the deals being offered by their rivals.

    John Lewis is one of the main companies that does this, but Currys and Amazon also have in the past, said Gary Caffell, deal editor at MoneySavingExpert.

    "When people are price matching each other, look at other factors like warranty and delivery fees," he said.

    Electrical goods purchased from John Lewis often have longer warranties, compared with the standard one year.

    That includes five years on televisions, three years on many own-brand electrical goods and two years on other electrical items.

    Mr Caffell adds what all the experts agreed with: "Don't get sucked in by the hype and buy something you don't need or can't afford."

    Black Friday discount signImage copyrightPA

    3 All-store discounts can offer better value

    Retailers often have deals "up to" a big headline percentage, but only some stock will be available at that discount.

    "The stronger deals are those which are available across the whole store," Mr Caffell said.

    For example, Gap is offering a 40% discount on full-price items and the Disney Store has 20% off.

    One thing to be aware of with big Black Friday discounts on certain items is that sometimes they are unwanted stock which is of poor quality, Mr Munday said.

    It is also worth looking out for extra discount codes on companies' Facebook pages or mailing lists, for example on delivery charges, they said.

    4 Know your rights

    Experts also cautioned that some Black Friday bargains might be non-refundable.

    "Online you've got the right to change your mind and take it back, but that's not necessarily the case in-store," Mr Caffell said.

    ShoppersImage copyrightREUTERS

    Research by Which? indicates only 29% of shoppers know that they have more protection when returning goods bought online than in-store.

    "It's important to do your research so you know your shopping rights before you buy, just in case you change your mind," said Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home and legal.

    Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, said customers are increasingly thinking about the shopping experience and aftercare, not just price.

    "If you're having to take things back and it's difficult, that's hardly a bargain," she said.

    5 Brace for website crashes

    Once you've found a bargain online, though, you do not want to lose it because the website or app crashes.

    Sites including John Lewis, Argos and Tesco Direct have struggled with the traffic in previous years.

    404 errorImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

    In some cases the websites have crashed but are still available on mobile or tablet, Mr Caffell said.

    By having a page open across multiple devices, you are better protected from crashes, he said. It also gives you an extra place in online queues, which can be very long.

    "The busiest time for people logging on is going to be around midnight and then 08:00 or 09:00 in the morning," Mr Caffell said.

    Read more »
  • Fidel Castro death: Cuba plunged into mourning for ex-leader

    Candles and flowers around a picture of Fidel Castro in Havana. Photo: 26 November 2016Image copyrightAPImage captionThe nine-day mourning period will last until 4 December

    Cuba is mourning its revolutionary leader and former President Fidel Castro, whose death was announced late on Friday and has plunged the country into nine days of mourning.

    The body of the 90-year-old was due to be cremated at a private ceremony in Havana on Saturday.

    Some world leaders have been paying tribute to the 20th century icon.

    US President-elect Donald Trump, however, described Fidel Castro as a "brutal dictator".

    Castro came to power in 1959 and ushered in a Communist revolution, defying the US for decades.

    His supporters viewed him as a man who stood up to America during the Cold War and returned Cuba to the people. His critics, however, called him a dictator.

    A hero and a tyrant - obituary

    His life in pictures

    A revolutionary at home and abroad

    Flags are flying at half-mast on government buildings across the island, as many ordinary Cubans are feeling grief at the loss of someone who was a part of their lives for decades.

    In Miami, a US city with a large Cuban community, there were celebrations shortly after Castro's death was announced, with people banging pots and cheering.

     

    The US cut ties with Cuba in 1961 amid rising Cold War tensions and imposed a strict economic embargo which remains in place more than half a century on.

    Under President Barack Obama, the relationship warmed and diplomatic ties were restored in 2015.

    Mr Obama said history would "record and judge the enormous impact" of Castro. America was extending "a hand of friendship to the Cuban people" at this time, he added.

    Reaction as it happened

    A mourning period began on Saturday and will be observed in Cuba until the urn with Castro's ashes is taken to the south-eastern city of Santiago de Cuba to be laid to rest there on 4 December.

    Before that, a series of memorials will be held in Havana and Castro's ashes will travel along the route of the Caravan of Freedom that took place in January 1959.

    Many in Havana were in tears on Saturday, genuinely moved by the loss of a man they consider to have freed their country from Washington's grasp, the BBC's Will Grant reports.

    Castro was the longest serving non-royal leader of the 20th Century. He had been retired from political life for several years, after handing power to his brother Raul in 2006 because of illness.

    Reacting to news of Castro's death one woman, a government employee, said: "I always said it couldn't be. Even though they said it now, I say it can't be."

    But Cuban dissident group Ladies in White, which was founded by wives of jailed dissidents, tweeted: "May God forgive him, I won't".

    Loved and loathed: Castro's death online

    Cubans abroad: 'Mixed emotions'

    Divisive legacy captivates world media


    How Castro defied the US

    Throughout the Cold War, Fidel Castro was a thorn in Washington's side.

    An accomplished tactician on the battlefield, he and his small army of guerrillas overthrew the military leader Fulgencio Batista in 1959 to widespread popular support.

    Within two years of taking power, he declared the revolution to be Marxist-Leninist in nature and allied Cuba firmly to the Soviet Union - a move that led to the missile crisis in 1962, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war before the Soviet Union abandoned its plan to put missiles on Cuban soil.

    Castro lights a cigar with Che GuevaraImage copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionCastro in the mid-1950s with another leading revolutionary - Che GuevaraPope John Paul II shakes hands with Fidel CastroImage copyrightAPImage captionYears later he would meet Pope John Paul II, despite declaring Cuba an atheist state

    Despite the constant threat of a US invasion as well as the long-standing economic embargo on the island, Castro managed to maintain a communist revolution in a nation just 90 miles (145km) off the coast of Florida.

    Despised by his critics as much as he was revered by his followers, he maintained his rule through 10 US presidents and survived scores of attempts on his life by the CIA.

    He established a one-party state, with hundreds of supporters of the Batista government executed. Political opponents have been imprisoned, the independent media suppressed. Thousands of Cubans have fled into exile.

    Graphic

    How has the world reacted?

    Many world leaders have paid tribute to Castro. Russian President Vladimir Putin described him as a "reliable and sincere friend" of Russia, while Chinese President Xi Jinping said his people had "lost a good and true comrade".

    The Soviet Union's last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, said: "Fidel stood up and strengthened his country during the harshest American blockade, when there was colossal pressure on him."

    Data pic

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged advances in education, literary and health under Castro, but said he hoped Cuba would "continue to advance on a path of reform, greater prosperity and human rights".

    Pope Francis, who met Castro, an atheist, when he visited Cuba in 2015, called his death "sad news".

    In Venezuela, Cuba's main regional ally, President Nicolas Maduro said "revolutionaries of the world must follow his legacy".


    Fidel Castro's key dates

     
     
    • 1926: Born in the south-eastern Oriente Province of Cuba
    • 1953: Imprisoned after leading an unsuccessful rising against Batista's regime
    • 1955: Released from prison under an amnesty deal
    • 1956: With Che Guevara, begins a guerrilla war against the government
    • 1959: Defeats Batista, sworn in as prime minister of Cuba
    • 1961: Fights off CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles
    • 1962: Sparks Cuban missile crisis by agreeing that USSR can deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba
    • 1976: Elected president by Cuba's National Assembly
    • 1992: Reaches an agreement with US over Cuban refugees
    • 2006: Hands over reins to brother Raul due to health issues, stands down as president two years later
    Read more »
  • Fidel Castro, Cuba's leader of revolution, dies at 90

    James Robbins looks back at Fidel Castro's life

    Cuba's former president Fidel Castro, one of the world's longest-serving and most iconic leaders, has died aged 90.

    His younger brother and successor as president Raul Castro announced the news on state television.

    Castro toppled the government in 1959, introducing a Communist revolution. He defied the US for decades, surviving many assassination plots.

    His supporters said he had given Cuba back to the people. Critics saw him as a dictator.

    Live updates

    A hero and a tyrant - obituary

    His life in pictures

    A revolutionary at home and abroad

    Ashen and grave, President Castro told the nation in an unexpected late night broadcast on state television that Fidel Castro had died and would be cremated later on Saturday.

    "The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening (03:29 GMT Saturday)," he said. "Towards victory, always!" he added, using a revolutionary slogan.

    A period of official mourning has been declared on the island until 4 December, when his ashes will be laid to rest in the south-eastern city of Santiago.

     
     

    Media captionRaul Castro announced the death of his brother on state television

    Barring the occasional newspaper column, Fidel Castro had essentially been retired from political life for several years.

    In April, Fidel Castro gave a rare speech on the final day of the country's Communist Party congress.

    "I'll soon be 90," the former president said, adding that this was "something I'd never imagined".

    "Soon I'll be like all the others," Fidel Castro said, suggesting his "turn" to pass away was coming.

    Castro was the longest serving non-royal leader of the 20th Century.

    He temporarily handed over power to his brother in 2006 as he was recovering from an acute intestinal ailment. Raul Castro officially became president two years later.

    News of his death left some in Havana stunned.

    "I always said it couldn't be," said one woman, a government employee. "Even though they said it now, I say it can't be."

    How he defied the US

    Throughout the Cold War, Fidel Castro was a thorn in Washington's side.

    An accomplished tactician on the battlefield, he and his small army of guerrillas overthrew the military leader Fulgencio Batista in 1959 to widespread popular support.

    Within two years of taking power, he declared the revolution to be Marxist-Leninist in nature and allied the island nation firmly to the Soviet Union.

    Castro lights a cigar with Che GuevaraImage copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionCastro in the mid-1950s with another leading revolutionary - Che GuevaraPope John Paul II shakes hands with Fidel CastroImage copyrightAPImage captionYears on he would meet Pope John Paul II, despite declaring Cuba an atheist state

    Despite the constant threat of a US invasion as well as the long-standing economic embargo on the island, Castro managed to maintain a communist revolution in a nation just 90 miles (145km) off the coast of Florida.

    Despised by his critics as much as he was revered by his followers, he maintained his rule through 10 US presidents and survived scores of attempts on his life by the CIA.

    He established a one-party state, with hundreds of supporters of the Batista government executed. Political opponents have been imprisoned, the independent media suppressed. Thousands of Cubans have fled into exile.

    How has the world reacted?

    Latin American leaders have been quick to pay tribute.

    Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said Castro was a "great friend" of Mexico, while to El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren he was an "eternal companion".

    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said "revolutionaries of the world must follow his legacy".

     
     

    Media captionLittle Havana celebrates Fidel Castro's death

    The Soviet Union's last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, said: "Fidel stood up and strengthened his country during the harshest American blockade, when there was colossal pressure on him".

    Russian President Vladimir Putin described him as a "reliable and sincere friend" of Russia, while Chinese President Xi Jinping said "Comrade Castro will live forever".

    For French President Francois Hollande, Castro embodied Cuba's revolution in both its "hopes" and its later "disappointments".

    In Miami, where there is a large Cuban community, there have been celebrations in some parts of the city, with people banging pots and cheering.

    A Cuban exile group, the Cuban Democratic Directorate, said Castro left "legacy of intolerance" and had set up a "vicious totalitarian regime".


    What happens next? Will Grant, BBC News, Cuba

    Although the announcement of Fidel Castro's death caught many Cubans unawares, it can't be said that they weren't partly expecting it. In a sense, they have been preparing for this moment, a post-Fidel Cuba, for several years now as he retired from public life and largely disappeared from view.

    But now that it has actually arrived, some are asking whether it will make any political different to Cuba's trajectory.

    Cubans gather in front of a portrait of Fidel CastroImage copyrightAPImage captionCuba began economic reforms when Castro was still alive

    It's unlikely to, mainly because Raul Castro has already been implementing economic changes intended to attract foreign direct investment and ease the tight restrictions on ordinary Cubans. Plus, of course, there is the new rapprochement with Washington.

    While it's still not clear what a Trump presidency will mean in that regard, those changes are unlikely to be reversed because of Castro's death. Nor will Cuba change its one-party political system in his absence.

    Politically, his legacy lives on.


    Fidel Castro's key dates

     

    Fidel Castro (1926-2016)

    The former Cuban president has died aged 90 - his dramatic life makes his longevity all the more surprising

     
    • 80 rebels landed with him on Cuba to launch the revolution

    • 32 was his age when he came to power, toppling Fulgencio Batista

    • 49 years as Cuban president, a record for a non-royal leader

    • 638 assassination attempts he reportedly survived

    •  

    Reuters
    • 1926: Born in the south-eastern Oriente Province of Cuba
    • 1953: Imprisoned after leading an unsuccessful rising against Batista's regime
    • 1955: Released from prison under an amnesty deal
    • 1956: With Che Guevara, begins a guerrilla war against the government
    • 1959: Defeats Batista, sworn in as prime minister of Cuba
    • 1961: Fights off CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles
    • 1962: Sparks Cuban missile crisis by agreeing that USSR can deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba
    • 1976: Elected president by Cuba's National Assembly
    • 1992: Reaches an agreement with US over Cuban refugees
    • 2006: Hands over reins to brother Raul due to health issues, stands down as president two years later

    Cuba's revolutionary leader

    Read more »
  • Cuba: Crowds pay last respects to Fidel Castro in Santiago

    Cuban President Raul Castro has led final tributes to his brother Fidel at an event in the city of Santiago.

    Tens of thousands of Cubans attended the ceremony, as well as world leaders.

    Raul Castro vowed to honour the socialist principles and goals of the revolution led by Fidel, who died on 25 November aged 90.

    He also announced that Cuba would ban naming any monuments or roads after Fidel Castro, at the request of the late leader.

    "The leader of the revolution strongly opposed any manifestation of cult of personality," said Raul Castro.

    No statues or busts of Fidel will be erected in Cuba, he said.

    The urn with his ashes will be interred on Sunday in Santiago, known as the birthplace as the Cuban Revolution.

    It arrived on Saturday in Santiago, after a four-day journey from the capital, Havana.

    Large crowds shouting 'Long live Fidel!" and "I am Fidel!" greeted his funeral cortege through the streets of Santiago.

    'A father to us'

    The leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have attended the ceremony.

    Former Brazilian Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were greeted by Raul Castro in Revolution Square.Image copyrightREUTERSImage captionRaul Castro (right) welcomed ex-Brazilian Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to the ceremonyFidel Castro in July 2006Image copyrightEPAImage captionFidel Castro stepped down in 2006School girl cries in Fidel Castro's funeral cortegeImage copyrightAPImage caption"I am Fidel," chanted many Cubans as the funeral cortege went through the streets of SantiagoThe ashes of Cuban leader Fidel Castro upon arrival in Santiago, Cuba,Image copyrightAFPImage captionFidel Castro's ashes will be interred in Santiago on Sunday

    "All of us who love Fidel, who is a father to us. He cleared a path for us and the people will follow him," Tania Maria Jimenez told Reuters.

    She was among thousands of Cubans watching as the urn with Mr Castro's ashes was driven past the historic Moncada barracks in Santiago.

    Fidel Castro was part of the small group of revolutionaries who launched an attack on the barracks on 26 July 1953.

    The attacked failed, but it was considered the first act of the revolution that would depose the US-backed government of Fulgencio Batista on 1 January 1959.

    Opinion on Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century, remains divided.

    Supporters say he returned Cuba to the people and praise him for some of his social programmes, such as public health and education.

    But critics call him a dictator, who led a government that did not tolerate opposition and dissent.

    Raul Castro took over when his brother's health deteriorated in 2006.

    Fidel Castro's ashes will be placed in the Ifigenia Cemetery, where Cuban independence hero Jose Marti is buried.

    Read more »
  • Huge glacier retreat triggered in 1940s

    The melting Antarctic glacier that now contributes more to sea-level rise than any other ice stream on the planet began its big decline in the 1940s.

    This is when warm ocean water likely first got under Pine Island Glacier (PIG) to loosen the secure footing it had enjoyed up until that point.

    Researchers figured out the timing by dating the sediments beneath the PIG.

    It puts the glacier’s current changes in their proper historical context, the scientists tell Nature magazine.

    These changes can now be regarded as unprecedented in thousands of years.

    Not only is the glacier going backwards, it is also thinning fast - losing more than 2m in elevation every year.

    Other field studies and computer models suggest a runaway collapse might even be possible. The PIG on its own could add up to 10mm to sea levels over the next couple of decades.

    "This glacier used to be pinned to a ridge and once it moved away from that ridge, it started to retreat rapidly; and without other pinning points it could continue to retreat rapidly inland, contributing significantly to global sea level," Dr James Smith from the British Antarctic Survey told BBC News.

     
    The PIG is a colossal feature that drains a region of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet some two-thirds the size of the UK.

    It is a marine-terminating glacier, which means its front flows off the land and pushes out into the ocean along the seafloor until its mass begins to lift up and float. Eventually, the buoyant section breaks up to form icebergs.

    Currently, the PIG is dumping about 130 billion tonnes of ice in the ocean every year.

    Image copyrightT.STANTONImage captionA hot water drill punched a hole through the overlying ice shelf to give access to the ridge

    Submersible surveys under its floating front - its "ice shelf" - had revealed the contact point with the seabed once draped over a large ridge.

    Having a "grounding line" in such a position would have helped anchor and constrain the whole glacier.

    Some of the earliest satellite imagery indicated the PIG must have broken free completely of this pinning bump in the 1970s, but when exactly it started to disengage was far less certain.

    It could have been many decades previously; several centuries or even millennia ago.

    Now, Dr Smith and colleagues look to have solved this problem.

    They drilled through the ice shelf to sample, analyse and date the muddy sediments that cover the ridge. And their investigation reveals that warm water is likely to have started to melt a cavity in the grounded glacier behind the pinch point in about the mid-1940s.

    One of the reasons they can be sure of the timing is because of where plutonium traces start to appear in the sediment layers.

    This radioisotope is a tell-tale signature for the atomic bomb tests that began in earnest after WWII and which peaked in the 1960s.

    It leaves open the question of why the unpinning of the PIG occurred when it did, but the team point to the strong warming the region would have experienced following a big El Nino event between 1939 and 1942.

    El Ninos are associated with the development of particular wind patterns and warm water movements in the Central Pacific, but the impacts affect weather globally.

    "It's an amazing teleconnection that far-field changes can really have a profound impact on the Antarctic ice sheet," said Dr Smith.

    Significantly, however, El Nino conditions have waxed and waned over the decades since, but the PIG now continues its relentless retreat.

    Dr Anna Hogg from Leeds University, UK, monitors Pine Island Glacier on a daily basis using Europe's Cryosat and Sentinel satellites.

    These spacecraft can measure from orbit the velocity and thickness of the ice stream.

    She commented: "We know from satellite observations that the PIG has sped up and retreated episodically since the late 1970s, so it’s interesting to see that the sediments beneath the glacier record similar periods of variability dating back to the 1940s.

    "This erratic past behaviour suggests that we should not expect these colossal glaciers to respond in a steady way in the future, making continuous monitoring increasingly important."

    Read more »
  • Trump dismisses Wisconsin recount drive as 'scam'

    Donald Trump. Photo: 1 November 2016Image copyrightAPImage captionDonald Trump: "The people have spoken and the election is over."

    Trump elected

    Republican President-elect Donald Trump has described an impending recount of votes in Wisconsin as a "scam".

    Mr Trump, who narrowly won the state, said the results "should be respected instead of being challenged or abused".

    Green Party candidate Jill Stein had initiated the recount. She also wants recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania, citing "statistical anomalies".

    Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign has said it would participate in Wisconsin's recount.

    Results would need to be overturned in all three states to alter the outcome of the 8 November presidential election.

    Is US system a 'disaster for democracy'?

    Why US fears Russia is hacking election

    US election results

    In a statement released by his transition team on Saturday, Mr Trump accused Dr Stein of trying to "fill her coffers with money" on the pretext of asking for donations towards a recount.

    "The people have spoken and the election is over," the statement said.

    Dr Stein defended her recount initiative, telling CNN that "the point to drive home here is that having a secure elections process benefits us all".

    She also suggested that she was open to looking at recounts in other states - not just Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

    Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign's general counsel, Marc Elias, said the camp and outside experts had been "conducting an extensive review of election results, searching for any signs that the voting process had been tampered with".

    He said there was no evidence to conclude the election had been sabotaged, but "we have an obligation to the more than 64 million Americans who cast ballots for Hillary Clinton to participate in ongoing proceedings to ensure that an accurate vote count will be reported".

    Clinton camp joins in

    Mr Elias noted that the number of votes separating Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton in the closest of the three states - Michigan - "well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount".

    However, he said the campaign would join in "on principle" in the Midwestern states if Dr Stein followed through on her promise.

    The Green Party nominee reportedly wants to be sure computer hackers did not skew the poll in favour of Mr Trump.

    Hillary Clinton. Photo: 16 November 2016Image copyrightAPImage captionHillary Clinton has conceded defeat in the presidential elections

    Concerns over possible Russian interference had been expressed in the run-up to the vote.

    The US government has said Russian state actors were behind hacks on the Democratic National Committee, a claim denied by Moscow.

    The Wisconsin Elections Commission said it had received recount petitions, and the process would begin after Dr Stein's campaign had paid the fee, which the commission was still calculating.

    Dr Stein's campaign needs to raise millions of dollars to cover the fees for the vote recount in all three states.

    Her website says nearly $6m (£4.8m; €5.6m) has already been raised toward a $7m target. It says this is enough to fund the recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

    The deadline for the petition for the recount in Wisconsin was Friday, while Pennsylvania's deadline is Monday, and Michigan's is Wednesday.

    Michigan is yet to declare its final results.

    Wisconsin provides only 10 votes in the crucial electoral college that gave Mr Trump victory in the 8 November election.

    Wins there for Mrs Clinton, as well as in Michigan (16 electoral votes) and Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), would have clinched the presidency for the Democrat.

    Read more »
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