Tesco chair to get nod for CBI presidency

Tesco’s chairman will this week be nominated as the next head of Britain’s biggest employers’ group, with a mandate to help steer it through the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU).

Sky News has learnt that a meeting of the CBI’s chairs’ committee, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, is expected to formally propose John Allan as the lobbying group’s next president.

If ratified by CBI members at its annual meeting in June, Mr Allan would take over from Paul Drechsler for a two-year term expiring in the summer of 2020.

The Tesco chairman, who also chairs housebuilder Barratt Developments‎, became the CBI’s vice-president last year.

London First, the capital’s business lobbying group, is in the process of identifying Mr Allan’s successor as its chairman.

Sources said that Mr Drechsler is expected to revert to the CBI’s vice-presidency when Mr Allan takes over, re-establishing the organisation’s traditional governance structure.

Mr Drechsler is serving an unprecedented third year at the business lobby group, arranged last year as the CBI sought to ensure a degree of continuity through the first phase of the Brexit negotiations.

The CBI has consistently opposed the UK’s departure from the EU, but is not seeking a second referendum, instead focusing its efforts on avoiding a hard Brexit.

Last week, Carolyn Fairbairn, its director-general, called the transition deal agreed between Britain and the EU27 “a victory for common sense that will help protect living standards, jobs and growth”.

However, she warned that a continued willingness to compromise was essential, “as tough choices lie ahead on the route to a final deal”.

The‎ CBI, which has 190,000 members encompassing businesses of all sizes, found itself at the centre of a political storm when it lobbied strongly in favour of the Remain campaign.

Its domestic agenda is also critically important to its membership, however, with CBI executives recently urging radical reform of the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy.

The CBI declined to comment on Sunday.

Syrians flee eastern Ghouta as Assad closes in

Hundreds of Syrian rebels and civilians are fleeing another part of besieged eastern Ghouta on the edge of Damascus.

Several towns and villages are expected to return to Syrian government control after years of being under siege and weeks of heavy bombardment.

Nine days after the seventh anniversary of the Syrian war, almost 900 people were bussed out from the southernmost areas of three eastern Ghouta pockets on Sunday, according to state-affiliated al Ikhbariya TV.

President Assad’s government is giving rebels and armed civilians the choice to put down their weapons and sign up for military conscription or to leave with their families to rebel-held territories elsewhere in Syria.

This prompted rebels on Thursday to begin evacuating areas of eastern Ghouta, with some 7,000 people abandoning the town of Harasta. Many are believed to have made the journey towards the rebel-held Idlib province in northern Syria.

Syrian civilians and rebel fighters were evacuated from Eastern Ghouta on Sunday
Syrian civilians and rebel fighters were evacuated from eastern Ghouta

The departures continued on Saturday. Some 1,000 fighters, family members, and other civilians took part in a late-night evacuation, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Critics argue the government’s offer amounts to forced displacement and rewards the brutal siege tactics that have deprived hundreds of thousands of civilians of food and medicine and subjected them to years of violence.

Top UN officials have likened the tactics to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, said it needs “full and unhindered” humanitarian access to those inside and outside eastern Ghouta,

Syrian civilians gather for their evacuation from the town of Arbin in Eastern Ghouta on Sunday
Syrian civilians gather for their evacuation from the town of Arbin in eastern Ghouta

Four de-escalation zones were announced across Syria in mid-2017. These areas were marked out to provide safe spaces for civilians from attack.

The Save The Children charity found that after the zones were earmarked, civilian casualties increased by 45% across Syria.

Parents have spoken of youngsters being unable to sleep due to nightmares and panic attacks when they hear loud noises. One Syrian mother said: “The thing that scares us most is the warplanes.

“My little daughter, as soon as a plane comes, she gets a seizure. From being nervous, she gets a seizure and loses consciousness.”

In eastern Ghouta, rising food prices have seen bread cost 16 times as much as in nearby markets.

Rescuers from Syria Civil Defence pulled a baby girl from the ruins of the building in Douma, East Ghouta, on March 4 following days of heavy airstrikes.

Syria: Baby pulled alive from rubble

One aid worker said he met a boy who had never seen an apple before and was fearful of it. Another ate an unpeeled banana, while some children are known to hide bread in case they run out of food.

Almost 11 million people have been forced to leave their homes as the violence swept across the country since the government began cracking down on Arab Spring protests in 2011.

How to survive an ultra long-haul flight

Qantas launches the first ever direct Australia to London flight, but how do you survive a 17-hour plane ride?

The Qantas Dreamliner 787 is now flying direct between Perth and London, taking about 17-hours. Pic: Qantas
The Qantas Dreamliner 787 is now flying direct between Perth and London, taking about 17 hours. Pic: Qantas

The first-ever direct Australia to London flight landed on Sunday morning – here are some tips to surviving 17-hours on a plane.

:: Australia-UK: First direct flight takes 17 hours

George Alagiah: Better screening 'may have caught cancer'

George Alagiah

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Alagiah after returning from his treatment in 2015

BBC news presenter George Alagiah says his bowel cancer could have been caught earlier if the screening programme in England was the same as in Scotland.

The 62-year-old was first treated in April 2014 and returned to screen after 18 months, but he confirmed the stage four cancer had come back in 2017.

Screening is automatically offered from the age of 50 in Scotland, but only from 60 in England.

Over 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK every year.

Chances of survival for at least five years with stage four bowel cancer are less than 10%, while for stage one it is nearly 100%.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Alagiah, who lives in London, said the system in Scotland saw screening take place every two years.

“Had I been screened, I could have been picked up,” he said.

“Had they had screening at 50, like they do in Scotland… I would have been screened at least three times and possibly four by the time I was 58 and this would have been caught at the stage of a little polyp: snip, snip.”

The presenter is now supporting a campaign by Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer to make cancer screening available to everyone in England from the age of 50.

“We know that if you catch bowel cancer early, survival rates are tremendous,” he said.

“I have thought, why have the Scots got it and we don’t?”

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

  • Bleeding from the bottom
  • A change in your bowel habits lasting more than three weeks
  • Abdominal pain, especially if severe
  • A lump in your tummy
  • Weight loss and tiredness

SOURCE: Beating Bowel Cancer

Alagiah found out he had bowel cancer in 2014 after complaining of blood in his stools.

He then underwent 17 rounds of chemotherapy and five operations to treat the disease in 2014, which had spread to his liver and lymph nodes.

He is now undergoing treatment again, having just had another round of chemotherapy and preparing in case doctors want to operate.

“If the surgeon has to go into me for a sixth time, he knows this is a guy who has been on the exercise bike, who has done his weights, who has eaten well, who has got himself into shape, so that they have the best chance,” Alagiah added.

“That is my job.”

Trump Won’t Hire 2 Lawyers Whose Appointments Were Announced Days Ago


Victoria Toensing and her husband, Joseph diGenova, will not join President Trump’s legal team.

Jamie Rose for The New York Times

President Trump has decided not to hire two lawyers who were announced last week as new additions to his legal team, leaving him with a shrinking stable of lawyers as the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, enters an intense phase.

“The president is disappointed that conflicts prevent Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing from joining the president’s special counsel legal team,” Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement on Sunday morning. “However, those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the president in other legal matters. The president looks forward to working with them.”

The upheaval on the legal team comes at a critical time for Mr. Trump. The president’s former lead lawyer, John Dowd, quit the team on Thursday, just as Mr. Trump is deciding whether to sit with Mr. Mueller for an interview.

While Mr. Trump’s lawyers, including Mr. Dowd, had told the president that the investigation would be over by this point, it seems to be accelerating, as Mr. Mueller appears to be looking into a wide range of matters related to Mr. Trump’s corporate activities, his 2016 campaign, his associates and his time in office.

The president met with Mr. diGenova and Ms. Toensing, who are married, in recent days to discuss the possibility that they would join his legal team in the Mueller case. According to two people told of details about the meeting, the president did not believe he had personal chemistry with Mr. diGenova and Ms. Toensing.

But beyond that, Ms. Toensing is representing Mark Corallo, who was the spokesman for Mr. Trump’s legal team in 2017 before they parted ways.

Mr. Corallo has told investigators he was concerned that a close aide to Mr. Trump, Hope Hicks, may have been planning to obstruct justice during the drafting of a statement about a meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. during the campaign.

Continue reading the main story

March For Our Lives: Six key takeaways from the US gun control rallies

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Media caption‘Our message to the world is…’

It was the biggest gun control protest in a generation. Hundreds of rallies were staged across the US and beyond as marchers filled the streets calling for the implementation of tighter measures following the deadly mass shooting at a Florida school in February.

That incident not only ignited the #NeverAgain movement, but also Saturday’s mass demonstrations, which took place under the banner of March For Our Lives and were led by a rally in Washington DC attended by some 200,000 demonstrators, according to CBS News.

With events not just in the US but as far afield as London, Paris, Mauritius, Tokyo, Stockholm, Sydney, Geneva and Berlin, the day was made up of powerful messages delivered by articulate students and children, most of whom have already in some way experienced gun violence.

  • In pictures: Marches across the US and worldwide

Here are six key moments from some of the biggest US rallies since the Vietnam War era.

1. Survivor shows the power of silence

One of the most emotionally charged moments came when Emma Gonzalez, one of the student survivors of the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, took to the podium in Washington DC.

Ms Gonzalez, who has been at the forefront of the recent student-led protests, delivered a powerful speech in which she listed the 17 people killed at her school before she fell silent for several minutes.

When an alarm beeped, she switched it off and noted that six minutes and 20 seconds had passed since she first took the stage, saying they represented the exact time it took the gunman to kill her classmates.

The crowd erupted into chants of “Emma, Emma” as she left the stage.

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Media captionEmma Gonzalez demonstrated the power of silence during her speech

2. MLK’s granddaughter also has a dream

The nine-year-old granddaughter of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr, Yolanda Renee King, touched the large crowds as she shared her “dream” in a surprise appearance.

“I have a dream that enough is enough,” she said, referencing her grandfather’s famous I Have a Dream speech on ending racism, which was delivered in 1963 close to where she now stood.

“That this should be a gun-free world – period,” she added.

  • As it happened: March For Our Lives
  • Why marching is important

She then told those gathered to “spread the word all across the nation” as they roared in support.

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Media captionYolanda Renee King: “I have a dream that enough is enough”

3. Girl, 11, inspires America

She may only be 11, but Naomi Wadler’s strong voice at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington DC is still reverberating across the US.

The fifth grader from Alexandria, Virginia, said she represented African-American girls ignored by the media and suffering from gun violence.

“I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper or lead on the evening news,” she said.

She added that she represented those who are “simply statistics” instead of “vibrant, beautiful girls who are full of potential”.

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Media caption“I represent African-American women who are simply statistics”

4. Sandy Hook survivors say ‘thank you’

They were children when a gunman opened fire at their primary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in 2012.

But on Saturday, the survivors of the school massacre that claimed the lives of 27 people, arrived on the streets of Washington DC as teenagers to join the Parkland survivors.

“America, I am pleading with you to realise this is not OK,” said Matthew Soto, whose sister was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook. “Show those that say our lives are not more important than a gun that we are important,” he added.

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Media captionSandy Hook survivors march with Parkland survivors

Speaking before the march, Sandy Hook survivor Dalton Milgram said: “It’s happening so often.”

His sister, Lauran, added that such incidents should never happen, saying they were “just too consistent” and “needed to stop”.

Their parents, Erin and Eric Milgram, said: “To the Parkland kids, thank you for not letting anyone silence you.”

  • The teenagers taking on the US gun lobby

5. Celebrities lend their support

For those in need of help, for those in need of somebody, Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney was on hand at the march in New York, Manhattan, to make a stand for what he said was a personal stake in the gun control debate.

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Sir Paul McCartney joined the rally in New York City

“One of my best friends was shot not far from here,” he said, referring to John Lennon, who was gunned down near the park in 1980.

Kim Kardashian West and her husband, rapper Kanye West, flew into Washington DC to join the main demonstration.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, and Demi Lovato were among a number of entertainers to perform at the DC rally.

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Miley Cyrus sings The Climb at the rally in Washington DC

Jennifer Hudson, whose mother, brother and seven-year-old nephew were all shot dead in 2008, performed a cover version of the Bob Dylan song The Times They Are a-Changin’.

Others present at the march in DC included the actor George Clooney, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, director Steven Spielberg, author Stephen King, TV host Ellen DeGeneres, late-night show host Jimmy Fallon and singer Cher.

6. Signs that grabbed attention

Signs carried by protesters included strong messages criticising lawmakers who oppose tougher laws, with many also attacking the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful US gun lobby.

Others included powerful statements that highlighted the need for a rethink on current gun control laws and the sort of devastation that certain types of automatic weapons can inflict.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

A number of students wore targets on their chests asking: “Am I next?”

There were also signs that carried humour and impact in equal measure.

  • ‘It feels like the world is on our side’
  • Student’s chilling encounter with gunman

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Getty Images

Image caption

A message about learning statistics as opposed to becoming one

'Beast of Wombwell' Peter Pickering found dead

Peter PickeringImage copyright
West Yorkshire Police

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Pickering had been detained under a hospital order since he admitted killing Shirley Boldy

A convicted child killer dubbed the “Beast of Wombwell” has died in a psychiatric hospital.

Peter Pickering, 80, stabbed and strangled 14-year-old Shirley Boldy in Wombwell, near Barnsley, in 1972 and was suspected of murdering Wakefield schoolgirl Elsie Frost in 1965.

On Tuesday he was convicted of raping a woman just weeks before he killed Shirley and was awaiting sentencing.

He had been detained under a hospital order since admitting killing Shirley.

‘Unexpected death’

West Yorkshire Police said Pickering died on Saturday night after falling ill in a secure psychiatric accommodation in Berkshire, where he was being held, and his death was not being treated as suspicious.

Det Sup Nick Wallen said: “We can now formally confirm that Peter Pickering was the man we arrested and interviewed over the last two years as part of the renewed investigation into the murder of 14-year-old schoolgirl Elsie Frost in Wakefield in 1965.

“We strongly suspected that Peter Pickering was responsible for her murder. We had been liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service and it was our expectation that Pickering would be charged in due course.

“His unexpected death clearly means that will no longer happen.”

Facebook boss apologises in UK and US newspaper ads

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook bossImage copyright
Getty Images

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“I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time,” Mr Zuckerberg said

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has taken out full-page adverts in several UK and US Sunday newspapers to apologise for the firm’s recent data privacy scandal.

He said Facebook could have done more to stop millions of users having their data exploited by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica in 2014.

“This was a breach of trust, and I am sorry,” the back-page ads state.

It comes amid reports Facebook was warned its data protection policies were too weak back in 2011.

The full-page apology featured in broadsheets and tabloids in the UK, appearing on the back page of the Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Observer, Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express.

In the US, it was seen by readers of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

  • Facebook’s Zuckerberg speaks out over Cambridge Analytica ‘breach’
  • Facebook boss summoned over data claims

In the advert, Mr Zuckerberg said a quiz developed by a university researcher had “leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014”.

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The ad appeared in papers such as the Sunday Telegraph and New York Times

“I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the tech chief said.

It echoes comments Mr Zuckerberg made last week after reports of the leak prompted investigations in Europe and the US, and knocked billions of dollars of Facebook’s market value.

Mr Zuckerberg repeated that Facebook had already changed its rules so no such breach could happen again.

“We’re also investigating every single app that had access to large amounts of data before we fixed this. We expect there are others,” he stated.

“And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected.”

The ads contained no mention of the political consultancy accused of using the leaked data, Cambridge Analytica, which worked on US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The British firm – which has no connection with Cambridge University – has denied wrongdoing.

What is the row about?

In 2014, Facebook invited users to find out their personality type via a quiz developed by Cambridge University researcher, Dr Alexsandr Kogan called This is Your Digital Life.

About 270,000 users’ data was collected, but the app also collected some public data from users’ friends without their knowledge.

Facebook has since changed the amount of data developers can gather in this way, but a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, says the data of about 50 million people was harvested for Cambridge Analytica before the rules on user consent were tightened up.

Mr Wylie claims the data was sold to Cambridge Analytica which then used it to psychologically profile people and deliver pro-Trump material to them during the 2017 US presidential election campaign.

Facebook has said Dr Kogan passed this information on to Cambridge Analytica without its knowledge. And Cambridge Analytica has blamed Dr Kogan for any potential breach of data rules.

But Dr Kogan has said he was told by Cambridge Analytica everything they had done was legal, and that he was being made a “scapegoat” by the firm and Facebook.

Did Facebook get a warning seven years ago?

As first reported in the Sunday Telegraph, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) warned Facebook’s security policies were too weak to stop abuse in 2011, some three years before the beach took place.

Following an audit, the DPC said relying on developers to follow information rules in some cases was not good enough “to ensure security of user data”.

It also said Facebook processes to stop abuse were not strong enough to “assure users of the security of their data once they have third party apps enabled”.

Facebook said it strengthened its protections following the recommendations and was told it had addressed the DPC’s original concerns after a second audit in 2012. The tech firm also said it changed its platform entirely in 2014 with the regulator’s recommendations in mind.

David Davis says a deal with EU is 'incredibly probable'

Andrew Marr and David Davis

It is “incredibly probable” that the UK will reach a final deal with the EU, the Brexit secretary says.

David Davis defended planning for a stalemate, saying it was like having home insurance when “you don’t expect your house to burn down”.

He also hit back at Tory Eurosceptic concerns about what has been agreed so far.

Last week prominent backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg accused the government of giving away “almost everything”.

But speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Davis said the UK had succeeded in getting a transition deal for the period after March 2019 and moving talks onto trade, adding: “So I don’t think Jacob’s got a point.”

He insisted a solution could be found to avoid introducing physical border checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, saying a “whole lot of technology” was available to achieve this.

And challenged on the EU’s controversial “backstop” proposal of Northern Ireland effectively remaining in the customs union, he said the “overwhelmingly likely option” was a free trade and customs agreement which would make finding a solution to the border question “much, much easier”.

Mr Davis said the progress made in talks with Brussels meant it was now “incredibly probable, very, very highly probable” that there would be a final deal.

But he said “you can never stop making arrangements” for a potential no-deal scenario, “because that’s one of the things that guarantees the deal”.

“You don’t expect your house to burn down, it’s less than a one in 100,000 chance, but you have house insurance anyway,” he said.

‘Under our control’

Mr Davis predicted the deal would be nothing like the current arrangements between the EU and Norway. Theresa May has already ruled out this model, which gives Norway access to the single market while accepting EU laws and free movement and making annual financial commitments to Brussels.

“This will not really look like any other deal as it stands at the moment,” Mr Davis said, predicting “the most comprehensive trade deal ever”.

He also sought to reassure worries about fishing rights, saying that after the end of the transition period in 2021: “We will negotiate with our surrounding states so that we have access to their waters and theirs to ours, and markets and so on, but it will be under our control.”

Mr Rees-Mogg, meanwhile, is urging the UK to be prepared to walk out on talks and warning that rowing back on Brexit would be “the most almighty smash to the national psyche” akin to the Suez crisis, when Britain and France attempted to regain control of the Suez Canal from Egypt in 1956.

“It would be an admission of abject failure, a view of our politicians, of our leaders, of our establishment that we were not fit, that we were too craven, that we were too weak to be able to govern ourselves and that therefore we had to go crawling back to the mighty bastion of power that is Brussels,” he will say in a speech on Tuesday.

“As with the disaster of Suez it would end up being a national humiliation based on lies.”

Chronic fatigue trial results 'not robust', new study says

Woman asleep on a deskImage copyright
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Fresh analysis of a controversial study, which recommended exercise and psychological therapy for people with chronic fatigue syndrome, suggests their impact is more modest than first thought.

The PACE trial found the treatments to be “moderately effective”, leading to recovery in a fifth of patients.

But this new analysis finds “no long-term benefits at all”.

The authors of the original trial in 2007 said they stood by their findings.

That randomised trial was designed to examine the effectiveness of graded exercise therapy (GET) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME.

Its findings were positive, but patient groups like the ME Association have always been critical of the way the trial was designed and the way the results were reported.

Goalposts ‘moved’

There has also been controversy over the release of data from the trial, with some arguing it should be made available to all researchers for further analysis.

The PACE trial reported that 59% of patients who received CBT and 61% who had exercise therapy had improved overall, compared with 45% in a control group.

When the results were re-examined, after data was obtained under a Freedom of Information request, researchers found that just 20% of CBT patients and 21% of GET patients improved, along with 10% of control patients.

Figures for those who recovered were originally reported as 22% for patients in each of the CBT and GET groups, but this reduced to 8% in the latest re-analysis.

Writing in the journal BMC Psychology, lead author Dr Carolyn Wilshire, from the University of Wellington in New Zealand, said the PACE trial moved the goalposts by changing the way treatment success was measured after the trial had begun.

She added: “Until there is positive evidence to suggest otherwise, the conclusion we must draw is that PACE’s treatment effects are not sustained over the long term, not even on self-report measures.

“CBT and GET have no long-term benefits at all. Patients do just as well with good basic medical care.”

Modestly effective treatment

The ME Association, which part-funded the new study, said it was no surprise that “impressive claims for recovery following CBT and GET are not statistically reliable”.

Dr Jon Stone, consultant neurologist at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, said better treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome were needed, or more effective forms of rehabilitation.

“Until we have these, the question is whether it is better to offer a modestly effective treatment supported by data from many other trials, with a realistic discussion of its pros and cons, than none at all.”

The three authors of the original PACE trial – Prof Michael Sharpe, from the University of Oxford, and Prof Trudie Chalder and Dr Kimberley Goldsmith, from King’s College London, said the new analysis had used only part of the data from the trial.

They also said many other trials and meta-analyses had replicated the findings of the PACE trial.

“In conclusion, we find little of substance in this critique and stand by our original reports.”

NICE is currently updating its guidance on the diagnosis and management of chronic fatigue syndrome.