The Baltimore Orioles-Chicago White Sox game at Camden Yards on Wednesday will be played under the rarest of circumstances — in front of an entirely empty stadium. Due to public unrest in Baltimore after the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died this month while in police custody, Orioles officials decided Tuesday to close the game to fans.Wednesday’s game appears to be a first. According to Baseball-Reference.com’s database, no major league game since 1914 has been staged in an empty stadium. The sport’s official historian, John Thorn, tweeted that the previous record for the lowest attendance at a major league game was six — a mark set all the way back in 1882.In other sports, however, empty stadiums are a bit more common. For instance, the authors Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim note in their book “Scorecasting” that in Italy alone, more than 20 soccer matches have been held before empty stadiums. The authors use those games, and the research of Swedish economists Per Pettersson-Lidbom and Mikael Priks, to support their case that home-field advantage (across various sports) is mostly driven by referee bias favoring the home team.The findings from empty-stadium games suggest that fans do influence the refs. In their original paper, Pettersson-Lidbom and Priks found the typical officiating advantage home teams enjoy (at least in terms of foul calls) to be substantially reduced when fans were removed, even after controlling for the specific teams and referees involved.Research about home-field advantage in baseball has demonstrated that while umpires do show bias toward the home team in terms of strike-zone calls, it doesn’t have much of an effect on who wins. But a later study showed that umpires’ tendencies to vary the shape of the strike zone in favor of the home team became heightened as the leverage index of the game situation increased.In other words, if it’s the case that baseball umpires are influenced by pressure of the crowd around them — particularly in big moments — the Orioles will be playing under unusually neutral conditions for a game at Camden Yards.It goes without saying that one game, however crowdless, isn’t much of a sample in baseball. But the effect it will have on the umpires is an additional wrinkle to keep an eye on during Wednesday’s unique matchup.UPDATE(April 29, 11:55 a.m.): After reaching out to Baseball-Reference’s Sean Forman, we learned that the attendance number we quoted for a 1930 Giants-Reds game, 10, may be incorrect due to a clerical error in Retrosheet.org‘s data. The reference to that game has been removed.
Green Bay Packers’ rookie Eddie Lacy is the first to admit he’s a big guy. But maybe he is bigger than he thinks.A photo surfaced online of the running back turning back to look for a ball during a recent training camp practice, and he looked out of shape.Circulation of the photo went viral and by late Monday, Lacy caught wind of all the fat jokes that were being made at his expense.Listed at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, Lacy brushed off the jokes, saying his coaches have no issues with his weight or conditioning.“I’m at a weight where I’m comfortable at and the coaching staff feels as though they’re comfortable where I’m at,” Lacy said after Tuesday’s practice, which was his best of camp so far. “So as far as that’s concerned, we’re all on the same page.”Coach Mike McCarthy didn’t seem worried about Lacy’s size.“If we had any concerns about any of our guys conditioning-wise, they wouldn’t be on the field,” said McCarthy.
In other Black quarterback news, Michael Vick has been relieved of his starting duties with the New York Jets in favor of Geno Smith. The real news is that Vick’s days as a consistently productive NFL QB appear to be done.Face it: If he cannot hold the position over Geno Smith, who has has his moments but has been mostly deplorable in his 1 1/2 years in the league, then Vick cannot beat out anyone else. Which means perhaps he should let this season be his last, and depart with some dignity. Last thing he needs is another year or two subbing for injured quarterbacks or wearing a cap and holding a clipboard while feigning to be interested.And if he cannot beat out Smith, after having had a fair chance to do so, why would another team consider Vick a viable option?His aforementioned dignity, by the way, was regained in how humbly and remorsefully he comported himself after the dog-fighting scandal that landed him in prison. He could have been outwardly angry for the over-the-top punishment he received. He could have been surly. He could have been shut down.Instead, he became an advocate for animal safety and opened up about his demons and his flaws and worked on them. On the field with the Philadelphia Eagles, he at times was brilliant. He earned a second $100-million contract, the ultimate mark of his ascension.But he’s played 12 years, taken some vicious hits and just no longer has the sharpness in his reads or bounce in his step. His accuracy always was an issue, and it has not gotten better. Last week, the Jets lost to the Buffalo Bills 38-3. Vick threw for 79 yards. Enough said.When Jets coach Rex Ryan deems Smith as a stronger alternative, well, enough said.“The main factor is you want to give your guys a chance to win the game,” Ryan said. “That’s the No. 1 factor you look into. But that’s what we did. We feel good. . . As an organization, all of our decisions are organizational driven. We just want to get Geno another opportunity to show what he can do. Obviously we like the way he finished last season. We’ve had some bumps in the road this year. We sat him down for a few weeks and we’ll see how he responds.”At the same time, the Jets sit down Vick, perhaps for the last time. If so, he had a memorable career. Some flashes of spectacular early with the Falcons, and less frequent flashes along the way–with a prison stint in between.If this does mark the end for Vick, he can be proud that he stayed around for a dozen seasons, even if they were not what he or anyone projected them to be when he joined the NFL.Vick went 1-2 as the starter. He played turnover-free football in his first two starts, steadying the offense with his veteran leadership. But he was terrible on Monday night, completing only 7 of 19 passes for 76 yards and an interception. Smith replaced him in the third quarter. QB rating of 22.2. Not good.
When the Montreal Canadiens dealt P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber last offseason, it was one of the NHL’s biggest challenge trades in years. Both players play defense, though each represents a different philosophy of how the position should be played — Weber is big and strong and tough and represents more of the old guard of NHL defensemen, while Subban is fast, slick and immensely skilled with the puck, the perfect prototype of the modern NHL defenseman.As the two blueliners prepare for Thursday’s game, their first head-to-head matchup since the trade, it might be tempting to think Montreal has gotten the better end of the deal. The Habs have a better record and goal differential than the Preds so far in 2016-17, and Weber has provided more individual production than Subban as well.But although Montreal might have the better hockey team, the Subban-Weber swap still probably made the Habs slightly worse in the long run. Although Weber is very, very good at hockey, a closer look at the numbers shows that Subban is better.To be clear, Weber isn’t a traffic cone. He has finished in the top five in voting for the James Norris Memorial Trophy, which is given to the league’s best defenseman, five times in his career, and he hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since his second full NHL season in 2007-08. By any metric, Weber is among the best backliners of his generation. In fact, he’d probably sit at the head of the table at a “Best Defensemen to Never Win a Norris” banquet.Weber is also having a very productive first season with his new club. He has notched 37 points in 64 games, good for 0.58 points per game — tying his career average. Subban, on the other hand, was injured in mid-December (the nebulous “upper-body injury”) and missed 16 games, so he trails Weber in total points. But Subban’s 30 points in 47 games are good for a pace of 0.64 points per game, also matching his career average. On a rate basis, then, Subban still looks better right now, and that’s without looking at what the two defensemen will be doing two or three (or even six) years down the line.What will those seasons look like? Major League Baseball has PECOTA1PECOTA was developed by FiveThirtyEight’s editor-in-chief, Nate Silver. to project a player’s future performance, but the NHL doesn’t have much in the way of similar projection tools.2The guys at Hockey Prospectus have developed an analogous model called VUKOTA, but it’s proprietary. It’s difficult, therefore, to predict when a player might be in his prime seasons. But a study published in 2014 by University of British Columbia professor James Brander examined the effects of age on scoring and plus-minus, concluding that an NHL defenseman peaks at age 29 and generally plays at 90 percent or better of his peak productivity from age 24 to 34.Subban and Weber’s careers have overlapped for seven full seasons, counting this one.3Subban’s NHL career technically began during the 2009-10 season, but he only played two games, so according to NHL policy, his rookie season was officially 2010-11. (For what it’s worth, Subban dished out two assists in those first two games.) Subban was 21 when that stretch began and is 27 now; Weber was 25 at the beginning of the 2010-11 season and is 31 now. If Brander’s assumptions are correct, Subban has not yet reached his peak, while Weber is on the downslope.According to Brander’s study, Weber has been either at or near his peak for the entire time his career has overlapped with Subban’s, and yet Subban still tops Weber in a number of advanced metrics. For starters, the numbers suggest that Subban is a better possession driver than Weber: During the years they overlapped, Subban’s Corsi for percentage (the proportion of total shot attempts — including misses and blocks — that a team amasses in its games) at 5-on-5 is 52.6 to Weber’s 50.3, according to Corsica Hockey. Relative to teammates at 5-on-5, Subban’s Corsi for percentage is 3.8 points higher than his team’s is when he sits; Weber’s is only 0.1 better. In an era when possession matters as much as it ever has, Subban looks to be the more valuable player.What’s driving those Corsi numbers? Subban’s teams have taken more shots while he’s on the ice in the past seven seasons than Weber’s teams have; at even strength, Subban-led squads have taken nearly 33 shots for every 60 minutes he’s on the ice while Weber’s teams have taken approximately 31. And despite Weber’s billing as the more conventional, defensive-minded blueliner, Subban’s teams have also allowed fewer even-strength shots per 60 minutes while he’s on the ice than Weber’s have: 29.7 vs. 30. In other words, Subban’s even beating Weber at his own game.Beyond possession metrics, Subban has a slight edge in points per game over the same stretch, 0.64 to Weber’s 0.62, an advantage that is likely to increase over the next few seasons. Weber is a better shooter than Subban — his career shooting percentage of 8.2 far outpaces Subban’s lifetime mark of 5.9 — and the Montreal defenseman is averaging more time on ice than his Nashville counterpart this season, but these are the only two metrics that could be weaponized against Subban evangelists.At 31, Weber still passes the eye test as a top defenseman (because he is) and he gives the Canadiens those mythic “tough minutes.” But Subban beats Weber in possession, points and team shooting rates. Subban likely has not peaked, but Weber probably has. On the ice, Nashville remains the clear winner in this trade.Now, there is one scenario where Nashville ends up the loser in this trade: if Weber retires before the end of his contract.4Contracts like Weber’s, which is heavily front-loaded and was signed back in 2012, are now illegal under the NHL’s revised salary-cap rules. Should Weber choose to hang up his skates before the last year of his deal, the Preds would be on the hook for a “cap recapture” fee to the tune of $24.5 million. That represents roughly a third of each team’s entire salary cap this season — needless to say, it would not be great for Nashville. The penalties are less severe if Weber retires earlier, between the ages of 32 and 39, but Nashville will still be crossing its fingers that Weber will stay on the roster till the end of his deal (he’ll be 40 the next time he becomes an unrestricted free agent).There’s no evidence to suggest that Weber will not play through the end of his deal, though. It’s not uncommon for an NHL defenseman to play till he’s 40, and in Weber’s eleven full seasons, he’s never played less than 54 games.5He played in all 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season. Bad things can happen and bodies do break down, but Weber has been an ironman to this point. Even though he doesn’t play for them anymore, Nashville will hope that trend continues.At the end of the day, both Nashville and Montreal wound up with two of the 10 best defensemen in the NHL. Subban, though, has won a Norris — Weber is still waiting for his first. He might get it under new Habs coach Claude Julien, whose defense-first style of coaching suits Weber’s style of play. But history suggests that as he ages past his prime, Weber’s prestige will fade, even if only slightly. Meanwhile, Subban is probably still getting better. That means the Predators will likely come out ahead in the long run, even if Montreal has the better record so far this season.
Although Major League Baseball’s audience is old enough to give golf a run for its erectile-dysfunction ad dollars, its player pool is skewing younger each year. Research suggests that players are peaking — and declining — more quickly, placing them in their primes ever earlier. It’s no coincidence that young stars such as Bryce Harper and Carlos Correa seem emboldened this spring, openly advocating a more demonstrative style of play. This is their game; modern MLB is no sport for old men.As the game has gotten younger, it has also picked up the pace — and not just between pitches. The average (four-seam) fastball has sped up by about two miles per hour over the last decade, incinerating countless chyrons along the way. In the eight full seasons for which we have complete PITCHf/x data, the proportion of MLB fastballs topping 93 mph has increased by almost 50 percent, with the percentage breaking 95 mph nearly doubling and the share above 97 mph nearly quadrupling.In a recent edition of his newsletter, Sports Illustrated contributor and Baseball Prospectus co-founder Joe Sheehan drew a connection between these two trends, speculating that faster pitches are forcing older hitters into early retirement.“Which players are best equipped to see and hit velocity?” Sheehan asked. “The youngest ones with the sharpest eyes and quickest reflexes. It’s not the hitter pool that is changing, whether through substance usage or otherwise. It’s that the skills of pitchers have changed in a way that hurts older players more than younger ones.”Sheehan’s proposal sounds plausible. Reaction time is known to decrease from a peak at approximately age 24. Faster pitches leave hitters less time to react. It seems intuitive, then, that older hitters would have a tougher time adjusting to baseball’s current hard-throwing conditions.Sheehan did, however, acknowledge that this is only a theory. “To prove it, what we need is a look at whether young players do better at hitting high-velocity pitches than older ones do,” he wrote. “On servers somewhere there’s enough information to see what players of every age do against pitches of every velocity. That’s where the answer lies.”That’s where we come in. We’ve accessed that server, but it looks as if the data — unlike the latest radar-gun readings — is saying “not so fast.”The chart below displays the average offensive performance — as measured by run expectancy added per pitch — against four-seam fastballs1Pitch classifications and data come from Pitch Info. above and below 93 mph, broken down by batter age:The green “against high velocity” line is consistently lower than its orange counterpart, which tells us that faster pitches are generally harder to hit, regardless of the batter’s age. (No surprise there.) But the gap between the two lines stays constant as a batter gets older, suggesting that age doesn’t necessarily make it harder to catch up to fast pitches. If old hitters are at a greater disadvantage against gas, it’s not showing up here.Of course, there are other ways to test Sheehan’s hypothesis. We can also create an aging curve using the delta method, which measures the typical change in a player’s performance over time by grouping players of each age and isolating their performances in consecutive seasons. If rising pitch speeds are responsible for hitters’ declining earlier, we would expect to see the performance gap against faster and slower heaters grow as players get further from their physical peaks. (In this case, a negative number on the y-axis indicates that players got worse at hitting harder fastballs, relative to softer fastballs.)Instead of a widening gap, we again see essentially no change as a player passes out of his prime. Although we know that, on the whole, hitters get worse as they age, their declines don’t seem to be steeper against eliteheat.2The aging curves against fastballs above 95 and 97 mph, respectively, do show slight drop-offs, but they don’t come until a hitter’s late 30s, long after most bats begin to fade. The same is true of the 95-mph trend line even with sinkers and cutters included.We can even try to corroborate the theory in indirect ways. If aging batters were “cheating” against good fastballs, for instance, starting their swings early to mask delayed reactions, we would expect them to be more vulnerable to pitchers who are adept at changing speeds — yet hitters don’t decline any more quickly against pitchers with especially large speed separations between their fastballs and nonfastballs. Similarly, if veterans couldn’t catch up to good fastballs, we would expect pitchers to exploit that weakness by throwing more of them to older hitters than younger ones — but batters barely experience an uptick in the percentage of 93+ mph pitches they see over time.More anecdotally, many of baseball’s best fastball hitters aren’t exactly spring chickens. Last year’s 10 best hitters against fastballs topping 95 mph3Among players who saw at least 1,000 fastballs of any speed. had an average age of 31.2 and included Mark Teixeira (age 35), Jose Bautista (34) and Carlos Beltran (38); only 24-year-old Nolan Arenado checked in at or under the aforementioned peak age for response time.So why wouldn’t older hitters be burned most severely as pitchers turn up the temperature? Although slowing response speed probably contributes to age-related hitting declines, it likely affects performance against all pitches. (It’s not as if any major league offerings were easy to hit.) In addition, the same study that pegged peak response time at 24 noted that older competitors can compensate for a loss in response speed with strategies born of experience. For instance, older hitters could be better at anticipating fastballs, which would help them offset slowing bat speed. And while decrepitude eventually comes for all players, the ability to catch up to good fastballs may not be the first (or the worst) thing to go. Declines in durability, stamina and muscle mass may combine to claim careers before hard-throwing pitchers start to take a higher toll.Admittedly, we may also be missing something. It’s almost impossible to eliminate selection bias from aging studies in sports, because players who decline quickly disappear from the sample. In this case, though, we believe that bias would be slight, in part because we’re focusing not on overall performance against fastballs — which does a lot to determine whether a hitter’s career continues — but on the difference in performance against fastballs of certain speeds.It’s indisputable that hitters are aging less gracefully than they did two decades ago, so if we can’t blame better fastballs, we need another culprit. It could be that baseball’s anti-PED policies have (mostly) removed an unnatural advantage that was propping up older players, although that presumes the unprovable — that veterans were disproportionately using (and benefiting from) steroids and/or amphetamines before the bans. It could be that teams have gotten smarter about evaluating defense, which tends to decline quickly, or that year-round amateur play and improvements in professional player development have better prepared young players to displace their predecessors. (Or even that skyrocketing salaries have made it more common for players — cough, Adam LaRoche — to walk away before they’re forced out.)Or maybe our perspective is skewed by one anomalous era. Although the current percentage of wins above replacement4As calculated by Baseball-Reference. produced by hitters over 30 looks extremely low compared with its 1998 peak, it’s roughly in line with the same proportion from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, when the typical fastball was far slower:So, sorry, Joe: for better or worse, access to servers can’t confirm this appealing hypothesis. Some sports mysteries still resist the neat narrative, no matter how many stats we have on our side.
FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions currently give the Carolina Panthers a less than 1 percent chance of making the playoffs. In the video above, Reuben Fischer-Baum walks us through the unlikely scenario that would allow the 6-8 Panthers to squeak into the playoffs as an NFC wild-card team. Share on Facebook
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to make an appearance during the July match at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Courtesy of TNSA different kind of football is set to come to Ohio Stadium this summer.An international exhibition match scheduled for July 27 at the ’Shoe between two of Europe’s premier clubs, Spain’s Real Madrid and French club Paris Saint-Germain, was officially announced Tuesday morning. The match, which is a part of the International Champions Cup, a soccer series that has been pairing together the world’s top clubs for summer friendlies since 2013, could bring some of the sport’s biggest names to Columbus, headlined by Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid. “We’re very excited to work with The Ohio State University to bring this match here,” said Kwame Bryan, the vice president of stadium partnerships for Relevant Sports, the New York-based firm that hosts the ICC, at a press conference Tuesday. “We’ve been working for countless months to bring a game here,” he said. Tickets for the match, which is set to be the first international soccer match ever to be played at Ohio Stadium, go on sale to the general public April 5 through Ticketmaster. Exclusive presale tickets are available beginning 10 a.m. on March 29. Fans can sign up for a chance to obtain presale tickets via the ICC’s website, but Bryan told The Lantern the OSU community — students, staff and faculty — will have access to them. Final ticket details are still being ironed out, Bryan said, though he added they will likely start at $35.“We hope there is a price point for everyone,” he said. The match is another extension of the university’s push in recent years to bring events to the ’Shoe beyond football games, OSU Vice President and Athletic Director Gene Smith said.To date, that has primarily meant concerts, but Smith said the soccer match allows the school — and Columbus — to showcase itself to the global audience that the sport has. “We feel very comfortable that that particular day, July 27, we’ll have an opportunity to showcase two of the greatest, most valuable teams in this world right here in the ’Shoe,” he said. Both Columbus Crew SC President Andy Loughnane and OSU men’s soccer coach John Bluem praised the match’s capacity to highlight Columbus’ passion for the world’s most popular sport.Loughnane said it is a “landmark match for the city of Columbus.” It will be the first professional soccer match in the ’Shoe since Sept. 30, 1998, when Crew SC played its final game there before moving to its own stadium for the 1999 season. A mere 10,966 fans were on hand for it. The number of fans anticipated for the July exhibition could dwarf that figure.Although Smith and Bryan were hesitant to make an attendance projection, both said they expect it to be more than 100,000. The stadium’s attendance record is 108,975, which was set on Nov. 21 when the Buckeyes played Michigan State. The largest crowd at a soccer game in America was also an ICC match. In that game, 109,318 fans packed in the University of Michigan’s stadium to watch Manchester United take on Real Madrid on Aug. 2, 2014.Smith laughed after being asked if the university was out to top its archrival. “We don’t look at it that way,” he said. “We’re not competing with anyone. Our focus is to make sure that these professionals — and these are the best of the best — have a quality experience. So we want make sure we have a packed house for them, regardless of where our number falls relative to anyone else in the world.” Real Madrid, according to Forbes, is the most valuable sports franchise in the world. Its roster is littered with elite talent, headlined by Ronaldo and James Rodriguez. The Royal Whites have captured the La Liga title 32 times, while also winning 10 European Cup competitions — the most of any club. PSG has won its league title each of the past three seasons and is currently on pace to take the crown again this year. The club is anchored by Thiago Silva and Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, though the latter is rumored to be exploring transfer options. In addition to the match at Ohio Stadium, there are currently seven other ICC matches set to take place in the United States this summer. But for one day, the soccer world will turn its attention to Ohio’s capital city.“Soccer is the world’s sport … so on July 27, all eyes, literally around the world, will be tuned in to Columbus,” Loughnane said. “No matter what time a day it is in Europe, or elsewhere throughout the world, Columbus will be the focus.”
When Ohio State’s Tyler Moeller tore his left pectoral muscle in the Buckeyes’ win over Illinois on Oct. 2, it was hard to tell exactly what OSU lost: a defensive back or linebacker? The truth is, the Buckeyes lost a combination of the two. Moeller played the “star” position — a hybrid defensive back/linebacker who lines up over the slot receiver as the Buckeyes’ nickelback, or fifth defensive back, when teams present three- or four-receiver sets. “You’re called on to fill in on the run, be more physical and things like that, as other nickelbacks probably do a lot of covering,” said senior safety Jermale Hines, who started at the star position for OSU in 2008 and 2009. “A lot more blitzing and things like that, so you have to be tough.” The position is ideal for players like Moeller and Hines. Both players were recruited to OSU as undersized linebackers and were eventually converted to safeties. The star position lets the Buckeye defense effectively match up with opponents who use the spread offense. Should the opposing offense attempt a pass, the star has safety skills to drop back into coverage with a receiver. If the offense runs the ball, OSU has a third linebacker on the field. OSU coach Jim Tressel said the Buckeyes’ defense is designed to stop teams that run either spread or traditional offenses. “You have to be ready to go against the whole gamut,” Tressel said. “That’s why we try to give them as much of that whole gamut as we can.” The star also tends to blitz more often than a traditional nickelback would, evidenced by Moeller’s blindside sack and subsequent forced fumble on Marshall quarterback Brian Anderson in OSU’s season-opening win. With Moeller out for the season, the OSU coaching staff made true freshman Christian Bryant the first-string star until he was sidelined with a foot infection. Tressel said Bryant will miss another month. At 5-feet-9-inches and 178 pounds, Bryant is more of a traditional nickelback than either Moeller or Hines. However, his hard-hitting style and his high-school experience as safety make him a natural fit for the position. Hines said he welcomed the move back to the position he played for the previous two seasons. “I definitely embrace it,” Hines said. “I’m willing to do anything for the team. No matter what my role is, I’m willing to do it.”
With the Big Ten becoming bigger and better, one might expect the victors of the Big Ten Championship to receive a trophy that reflects the opulent pride — bordering on arrogance — that comes with besting 11 other teams. It seems that despite the recent addition of Nebraska to the burgeoning Big Ten, though, those in charge of the trophy design have opted for a delightfully-understated, yet cutting edge aesthetic that channels a classy and simplistic piece of art in lieu of the oversized embodiments of hubris seen in other conferences. Perhaps it’s the downtrodden economy cutting frivolous spending money from the Big Ten budget, but the conference has crafted a product that, without the football topper, could easily be found in upscale Hollywood homes as an accent piece or in highbrow museums where it would be lauded as a bold statement in modern beauty. No matter the reason, it is nice to see a trophy that is not impressive just because someone managed to fix an LCD TV to it, but impressive because it is a sophisticated symbol of decades of rich history and hundreds of hours of hard work for deserving athletes.
Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison (left) and Willie Cauley-Stein (15) celebrate at the end in a 68-66 win against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite 8 on March 28 in Cleveland. Credit: Courtesy of TNSEveryone loves a Cinderella story, but underdogs running through March Madness to win the NCAA basketball title are bad for the game.That’s why I’m glad Michigan State — a seven seed — was the lowest ranked team in this year’s Elite Eight. That’s why I’m glad Georgia State and UAB were knocked out after moments of glory, and, most of all, that’s why I’m glad 38-0 Kentucky is writing its very own version of a Cinderella story.Was it hard for Shabazz Napier to lead seventh-seeded Connecticut to a title last season? Sure, and it was fun to watch.But that has nothing on what it takes to run the table with 40 straight wins.Kentucky starts identical twins at guard and two freshmen at forward and has a Naismith Award candidate at center who doesn’t even average 10 points per game. Coach John Calipari, regardless of questionable activities at past stops in his career, has built perhaps the best team in college basketball history.Now with the Final Four just around the corner, two more Wildcat wins would be best for the sport.After tossing Hampton out of the tournament with ease, dispatching Cincinnati and embarrassing West Virginia, Kentucky got its first true test of the tournament. Once again, the Wildcats came out on top, this time against Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.A date with Wisconsin is the only thing in the way of a return trip to the title game for the Wildcats, but the story this year is much more of a Cinderella than what it was for the then-eighth-seeded men in blue.I couldn’t care less what their ratings were in high school or how many scholarship offers they had — to take a roster of 15 players and win 40 games in a row would be the most impressive feat in basketball history since UCLA’s 88-game run.And to an extent, one clean slate with such a young roster under the watchful eye of the nation’s media could be even more impressive.It’s hard to win a basketball game. It’s even harder to win two. And to keep doing that even after undefeated predictions were coming down before the season started is truly incredible, regardless of who the players are.Kentucky is the best team this year. That’s not a question, but regardless of how good you are, 40-win seasons don’t come around very often. And by not very often, I mean it has never happened before.No matter your opinion of Calipari and his recruiting tactics, the Wildcats deserve the title, and will probably get it.If that projection comes true, it’ll be the best-case scenario for college basketball.And if you’re still stuck on hoping for a Cinderella story, just remember that there have been the same number of 40-win teams as 16-seeds that won a tournament game.
Ohio State redshirt junior quarterback Joe Burrow (10) prepares to throw the ball during the first quarter of the 2018 Spring Game at Ohio Stadium on April 14. Gray beat Scarlet 37-14. Credit: Ris Twigg | Assistant Photo EditorThe same three players were competing against one another for the second straight spring. This time there’s more at risk, especially for one player. Entering the fourth spring game of his career, Ohio State redshirt junior Joe Burrow finally had something beyond the backup position to play for.J.T. Barrett’s college career has ended and one of the three quarterbacks — Burrow, Dwayne Haskins or Tate Martell — will begin his own in 2018. Burrow believes he has taken the steps necessary to becoming the next starting quarterback for the Buckeyes in what he called his best offseason yet.”Burrow felt he had taken a big step in proving his ability to become the next starting quarterback during what he called the best offseason he has had since arriving in Columbus. “I think, this spring, I have played just about as well as I could,” Burrow said after the Spring Game. “I put everything I had into it.” Now, head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff have a decision to make. For Burrow, this could determine not only his depth chart position but also his future at Ohio State. The past three semesters, Burrow said he has loaded up his class schedule, allowing him to graduate in May and have the option to transfer and play immediately. Ohio State redshirt junior quarterback Joe Burrow (10) throws a pass in the 2018 Spring Game in Ohio Stadium on April 14. Gray beat Scarlet 37-14. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Lantern PhotographerCapping off his spring by completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns in the Spring Game, Burrow said everything is on the table regarding his future. “I came here to play,” Burrow said. “I didn’t come here to sit on the bench for four years and I know I’m a pretty darn good quarterback and I want to play somewhere.” For Burrow, the transfer rumors are nothing new. “I’ve heard for three years that I am never going to play here,” Burrow said. “I’m going to end up transferring. I’m not good enough to play here. I just sit back, put my nose to the grindstone and work and that’s what I have done for three years and I’ve come a long way.” Burrow, admittedly, felt apprehensive heading into the spring about his chances of earning the starting quarterback role after injuring his hand and watching Haskins take the backup job. With the Spring Game behind him and the 2018 season ahead, Burrow must decide whether to stay or transfer — even if Meyer is not yet ready to make a quarterback decision. He said the next step will be evaluating his status with the coaching staff. “You have to step back and evaluate everything with your coaches and see what they are thinking, what you are thinking and you have to, kind of, meet in the middle,” Burrow said. Meyer said he saw progress from Burrow not just throughout the spring, but also from the first day he stepped on campus. “He has to be one of the more improved quarterbacks as far as delivery speed and arm,” Meyer said. “He’s always been a very smart, tough guy and a very good leader, but his improvement is very notable over the past couple years.” With spring practices complete, Burrow said he will not stress about his future. “Now, you can kind of sit back and relax,” Burrow said. “You know the body of work that you had and I know I played very well and I took a step as a leader this spring as well. You kind of just have to take a step back and see how it plays out.”
Ohio State now faces its second class-action lawsuit in a matter of days regarding the sexual abuse of a former Ohio State doctor after a former Ohio State athlete who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Dr. Richard Strauss filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the university. He is being represented by Sauder Schelkopf LLC and Karon LLC.Richard Strauss, a former wrestling team physician and an assistant professor of medicine, is being investigated by Ohio State on allegations of sexual misconduct. Credit: Lantern file photoThe complaint comes from a former wrestler at Ohio State from 1982 to 1984 who said he was sexually abused by Strauss while seeking medical treatment before dropping out of the university. He is listed only as John Doe in the case filing.Joseph Sauder, one of the lawyers from Sauder Schelkopf LLC representing the client in the suit, told The Lantern this is separate from the one filed by four former wrestlers on Monday. He said at this time his group has not contacted the other group.Ohio State also faces a third class-action lawsuit over allegations a former diving coach for the Ohio State Diving Club sexually abused a 16-year-old athlete.Though the lawsuit is listed as a class-action, Sauder Schelkopf is currently representing just one client in the case.“We are filing on behalf of one individual at this time, but have been in contact with others who we will likely add at a later time,” Sauder told The Lantern. He did not confirm how many additional people might be involved.The lawsuit said the nationwide class encompasses “all individuals who were examined by Richard H. Strauss, M.D. at The Ohio State University.”University spokesman Ben Johnson said Ohio State is aware of the allegations made that Ohio State ignored claims of sexual abuse in a statement made to The Lantern Tuesday.“We are also aware of the lawsuits filed today by former wrestlers and we are reviewing them as we do all litigation,” Johnson said. “The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has appointed Michael Carpenter of Carpenter Lipps & Leland to represent the university in this lawsuit.”The claims for relief listed in the lawsuit are a violation of Title IX, invasion of privacy, sexual harassment, negligence, gross negligence and/or wanton and reckless misconduct, negligent supervision, negligent hiring/retention and negligent failure to warn, train or educate.The alleged abuses suffered by the victim listed in the lawsuit were but were not limited to: “sexual harassment and inappropriate touching during examinations, including regularly touching Plaintiff’s genitals and breast area, often at the same time, regularly measuring Plaintiff’s scrotum, and taking photographs of Plaintiff.”The lawsuit claims he received care from Strauss on at least 20 occasions. It said the plaintiff was young and believed Strauss’ treatment to be “medically necessary.”According to the lawsuit, the victim is seeking appropriate relief on behalf of other individuals who experienced similar mistreatment by Strauss and Ohio State.As with the class-action suit from the four former wrestlers, this lawsuit said the plaintiff believed Ohio State coaches were aware of Strauss’ conduct yet chose to ignore it. It said the university received reports from students as early as the late 1970s, but that, despite repeated accusations from students, Ohio State kept the reports secret “to avoid negative publicity.”“This is not what you expect to happen when our children go off to college. Our client is courageously adding his voice on behalf of the many individuals who have been victimized while students at OSU. We look forward seeking compensation for our client and all individuals who were sexually assaulted by Dr. Strauss. We also will be seeking to implement changes at OSU so this never happens again,” Sauder said.Sauder Schelkopf LLC also represents current and former students from the University of Southern California who were sexually assaulted by Dr. George Tyndall, USC’s gynecologist.Johnson urged anyone with information about sexual abuse from Strauss while he was at Ohio State to contact investigators at email@example.com.Updated at 6:53 with the statement from Ben Johnson.
Ohio State head women’s volleyball coach Geoff Carlston looks on afterhis team surrendered a point during their match with Purdue on Friday, Oct. 27 at St.John Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Purdue won the match 3-0. Credit: Jeff Helfrich |Former Lantern ReporterThe Ohio State women’s volleyball team is heading into its second series of the season Friday and Saturday after kicking off the season undefeated through three games. The squad will head to Oxford, Mississippi, to play Southern Mississippi and Ole Miss on Friday and Samford in the Rebel Invitational on Saturday. “It’s a really good tournament,” head coach Geoff Carlston said. “You’re going to get three really different looks, three styles and three coaches who know what they’re doing. We won’t be in Saint John’s, so embracing that trip is something we’ve talked a lot about. We’re excited.”After the opening weekend, Southern Miss holds a 3-0 record, with Ole Miss and Samford at 2-1.Ohio State sophomore middle blocker Lauren Witte, was named co-Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday. Witte hit .636 during opening season and scored 48 points, 37 kills and 12 blocks with only one error, a number that Carlston deemed “unheard of.”“Every team was worried about her,” Carlston said. “They were focused on stopping her and she still was able to be effective. When everyone knows that it’s coming and you can still play with the maturity that she played with; I think that’s the most impressive thing. Witte said she hopes to focus on better exemplifying all of these traits throughout the season. “Being a sophomore, I’ve been here for a year and know how the team and the Big Ten works,” Witte said. “At this point, I think it’s most important for me to have a constant core presence, leadership and skill-wise, that other teams are going to notice and worry about.”The team values their “culture playbook,” a set of rules and beliefs that they are all fully behind, with Witte crediting it for her mindset this season.“‘Trust the process’ is one of my favorites,” Witte said. “It’s easy to see the end goal. Obviously we want to win a national championship, but we have to realize that each practice is progressive and if we are getting better each day small bit by small bit, in the end it will pay off.”Having just come out of the Buckeyes’ first series, there is time and room for improvement. Carlston said he aims to focus on playing around with the rotations more, and building more aggressive serving.Witte and Carlston both look forward to the ongoing transition of the four freshmen on the team, a process that they both noted has been smooth and enjoyable so far. The team will face Southern Miss on Friday at 1 p.m., Ole Miss on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Samford on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
The UK’s biggest fire brigade is urging people to stop using tumble dryers that are subject to product recall or safety notices following a huge tower block blaze.Fire investigators say the blaze in Shepherd’s Bush, London, which ripped through the 18-storey high rise and took 120 firefighters to put out, was believed to be caused by a faulty tumble dryer which was subject to “corrective action” by the manufacturer and due to be attended by an engineer. A faulty Indesit tumble dryer is believed to have caused the blaze, fire investigators said.London Fire Brigade has now called on Indesit’s parent company Whirlpool to urgently change its advice to consumers, which currently says users can continue operating their tumble dryers while waiting for a product modification.London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “If my kitchen had one of the recalled goods in it, I would unplug it straight away until it has been checked and repaired.”The speed with which the fire took hold shows how dangerous a faulty tumble dryer can be – that’s why we are calling for Whirlpool to urgently change their advice to consumers.”The flat’s occupants had a terrifying ordeal. The kitchen quickly became smoke logged and thankfully they noticed the smoke and quickly left the flat and called the Brigade.”If your appliance is subject to a safety or recall notice or you think there is something wrong with it our advice is simple – unplug it immediately and contact the manufacturer or a qualified repair technician.”Friday’s blaze started in the kitchen of a seventh-floor flat and the occupants were in at the time and using their tumble dryer.They were uninjured and escaped smoke coming from the dryer. The residents of four other flats in the block have also had to be rehoused following the blaze.Manufacturers Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda are in the process of fixing an estimated 4.3 million faulty tumble dryers across the UK after their parent company, Whirlpool, notified customers of a widespread safety defect last October.Faulty tumble dryers, in which excess fluff can catch the heating element in the machine and cause a fire, have been linked to a number of recent blazes in British homes.Since October, Whirlpool has replaced or fixed around 750,000 tumble dryers. A spokesperson for Whirlpool said: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this incident. The cause of the fire is currently unknown and we will assist London Fire Brigade in any way we can as they investigate. We are looking into the circumstances surrounding the fire as a matter of urgency. As investigations are currently ongoing, we are unable to comment further at this time.” Friday’s blaze started in the kitchen of a seventh-floor flat Credit: LFB / SWNS.com Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Mr Kemp said all the taxi drivers have been “rigorously checked” by SCAS, the NHS and the local authority, including undergoing Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks like ambulance staff.He added: “I can see how it would make people nervous but if they access it the same way as an ambulance and it is following a specialist assessment, then it will work.”We see all patients as our responsibility and we will be checking on how the pilot is going.”South Central Ambulance Service provides ambulance services to Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire, and a Care Quality Commission report in May this year rated the service as “good” despite it missing response time targets.All ambulances in the UK are supposed to respond to at least 75 per cent of Red 1 calls – when someone becomes unresponsive and has a life-threatening condition like a cardiac arrest – within eight minutes.The same target is set for Red 2 calls – when a person has a potentially life-threatening condition such as a stroke.SCAS responded to just 73.67 per cent of Red 1 calls within eight minutes and only 71.53 per cent of Red 2 calls in May 2016.MPs in the area and patient groups raised concerns about the project.Conservative Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond, 54, said: “Taxi drivers aren’t trained paramedics.”I do have concerns about this and would like to see some more details.”A fixed budget has not been set aside for the project as SCAS is unsure of the number of patients who will fit into the category of being suitable for the taxi service.Fareham MP Suella Fernandes said the scheme could ease ensure those who really need an ambulance get one. She said: “People who require urgent care or A&E but are not in a life-threatening condition should seek alternative ways to getting to A&E.”Using taxis may help to ease pressure on SCAS, ensuring those in genuine medical emergencies get the best possible response and treatment.”John O’Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “When times are hard, everything must be done to keep costs down and authorities must find the most efficient way of transporting patients.”The use of taxis may well ease the pressure on the ambulance services so it isn’t an inherently bad idea, but hard-pressed taxpayers will want to know that savings actually have been made.” One of Britain’s biggest ambulance services has started using taxis to take patients to hospital due to a shortage of emergency vehicles.The new pilot scheme will see South Central Ambulance Service booking and paying for cars instead in a bid to ease the pressure on ambulance call outs over the winter.Officials said the project aimed to free up emergency vehicles for patients with more serious conditions, and those with minor injuries can instead travel by taxi for treatment.But the service has come in for immediate criticism, with MPs pointing out that cab drivers are not paramedics, and would not know what to do if a patient deteriorated. South Central Ambulance Service is rolling out the taxi replacement scheme in Portsmouth, Hampshire. The trust states that only people who request an ambulance for a minor injury which requires hospital treatment, such as a dislocated finger, will have a taxi booked and paid for.Rob Kemp, head of operations for south-east Hampshire at SCAS, said: “This project is about using a taxi service for very well patients who we sometimes have to convey to hospital for minor injuries.”We are bringing in the pilot from today to help ease the pressure in the winter period. Demand has already started to increase.”We have this terrible position where poorly patients are waiting while our resources are with other people. We can free up these resources with this taxi service.”Our obligations are to make sure we have the resources for our poorly patients. They are our priority.”A decision could be made when a patient calls 999 and tells the call-handler why they need an ambulance, and if it is thought to be minor, a taxi will be sent.Or, if a paramedic arrives and deems the injury to be slight and an ambulance is not needed, a taxi will be ordered.Mr Kemp added: “A decision would be made only if it is entirely appropriate.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Taxi drivers are not paramedics, one MP notedCredit:PA MPs raised concerns that taxi drivers would not know what to do if a patient’s condition worsened
The assault in June 2015 was the deadliest terrorist attack on British citizens since the London Tube bombings in 2005.The court, which was packed with relatives of the dead, was shown a detailed computer recreation of Rezgui’s rampage as he stalked first its beachfront, then poolside and offices.Samantha Leek QC, counsel to the inquest, said a report by Tunisian Judge Akremi had identified failings by local units which could have stopped the massacre before other police eventually arrived and shot Rezgui dead.She said an unnamed interior minister had told the judge some Tunisian security officers nearby had consciously slowed down their arrival. Tunisian hotel gunman Seifeddine RezguiCredit:SITE Intelligence Group Tunisian security forces deliberately stalled responding to a terrorist massacre of holidaymakers in which 38 tourists were killed, an inquest has heard.A hearing into the shooting rampage that killed 30 Britons among the victims was told a local investigation criticised some police for stalling as they made their way to the scene of the killings at a Sousse resort.Seifeddine Rezgui walked through the Imperial Marhaba hotel systematically shooting dead innocent holidaymakers who were only there for enjoyment and relaxation, the first day of the inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice was told Tunisia attack victims’ relatives arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice for the inquestCredit:Nick Ansell/PA Ms Leek said: “On the 26th of June 2015, 38 tourists became victims of a terrorist attack at the Imperial Marhaba hotel in Sousse.“On that day a gunman entered the hotel from its beach, carrying an automatic weapon and a number of explosives.“He systematically took the lives of 38 people who had travelled to Tunisia for relaxation and enjoyment. Thirty eight people who needlessly lost their lives.” Rezgui’s murderous path from the beach, then through the hotel grounds, past its pool and to reception and administration buildings at the front was digitally recreated, with pictures marking the locations where victims fell.Footage shown to the inquest included the shooting of 72-year-old grandfather Bruce Wilkinson, from Goole, East Yorkshire. A woman, believed to be a family member, left the room before it was shownTwenty people were shot dead on the beach, eight inside the hotel and another 10 in the hotel grounds. The court heard the gunman was dropped off in a street north of the hotel by an unidentified man driving a white Peugeot van.CCTV footage showed him calmly walk south along the beach’s shoreline carrying a white parasol concealing his automatic weapon.When he reached the hotel’s sun loungers on the beach at the rear of the hotel, he opened fire.As he shot indiscriminately, other footage showed tourists frantically running down the beach away from the onslaught. Some of the 38 people who died in the Tunisia terror attack Ms Leek said: “He said the units that should have intervened in the events deliberately and unjustifiably slowed down to delay their arrival at the hotel.”They had the ability to put an end to the attack before the police arrived but wasted a considerable amount of time in getting to the hotel.”The court did not hear why police might have delayed their response. Last year six Tunisian policemen were charged with “poor reactivity” after the attack. Tourists pass a plaque dedicated to victims on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort Credit:Zohra Bensemra/Reuters Tunisia’s special forces secure the beach after the June 2015 attackCredit:ZOHRA BENSEMRA/Reuters Each of the victims’ names was read out and a minute’s silence was held for the dead before the hearing began.Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said the inquest, expected to last seven weeks, would examine the events of the day, but also the security advice given by the Foreign Office and travel agents to holiday makers at the time.The hearing will also look at the security arrangements put in place at the hotel after terrorists had killed 21 people, mainly tourists, three months earlier at the Bardo Museum in Tunis. Rezgui then returned to the beach and was finally shot dead as he ran down an alleyway at the side of the hotel.A senior Foreign Office official told the inquest the Government had “no prior knowledge” of the attack.Jane Marriott, then a director for the Middle East and North Africa desk said before the attack the Government was aware Islamic State had put out “generalised threats pertaining to Tunisia on open source” such as online and on social media.After the Bardo attack, the Foreign Office travel advice was not upgraded after the March attack to “advising against travel”, but stronger wording of “further attacks possible” was inserted.The inquest continues. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Personalised number plates have soared in value in recent yearswith the most sought after registrations being snapped up by wealthy celebrities, sports stars and business people for hundreds of thousands of pounds.West Mercia’s AB1 plate had traditionally been used on the Chief Constable’s car, but was removed six years ago for security reasons. If they were trying to raise money for the force they have not done a very good jobAlan Hebbs, who works for a plate dealer “I know the significance of the number plate to the people of Worcestershire and have pledged that it will not be sold in my lifetime. What happens after that will obviously be something for my family to decide at that time.”But Peter McDonald, the Labour leader on Worcestershire County Council said the sale had been handled “disgracefully”, adding that Mr Campion had some serious questions to answer.He said: “Withdrawing the plate from an auction sale to sell privately to a former Chief Constable does not demonstrate the sort of openness and transparency that we would expect.”If you are going to sell the family jewels it is important you achieve the best price available. We may well have missed out on hundreds of thousands of pounds of much needed money to help make up for cuts in manpower and equipment.”You can’t blame Paul West for buying it, but the PCC has some serious questions to answer about how this sale was handled.”However defending the sale, Mr Campion said: “In 2017 I think the public would rightly expect me to use the assets at my disposal, such as AB1, to help support their police service, rather than just providing a status symbol for senior officers, which they cannot use anyway for security reasons. “I will be putting the plate on my car and it will be seen around Worcestershire in the not too distant future. I hope it will put a smile on people’s faces when they see it. A police boss has been accused of short changing his force after he sold off a rare number plate for hundreds of thousands of pounds less than its market value to a former chief constable.John Campion, who was elected Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Mercia force last year, put the AB1 plate – which had adorned police vehicles in the region since 1904 – up for sale in a bid to raise funds for his cash-strapped force.It was bought for £160,000 by West Mercia’s former Chief Constable, Paul West, who made a private bid rather than go through an authorised dealer.But questions have been raised over the sale after it emerged that the rare plate could actually be worth in excess of £500,000.Local politicians have now accused Mr Campion of selling off the “family jewels for a knock down price” and securing a terrible deal for local taxpayers. He told the Telegraph: “I was not in favour of the decision to sell the number plate in the first place and I would never have agreed to it being sold in my time in office, but after a number of people told me that they had seen it being advertised I sat down with my family and we discussed making an offer.”I had the AB1 plate on my official Police Authority owned car for eight years when I was Chief Constable, and so have a very personal connection to it.”As it happens, I have owned personalised number plates for over 25 years and so I understand how the business works. The plate was advertised on the open market for sale through a dealer, who obviously would have taken a significant commission for the sale.”I decided to make a direct offer to ensure that if the offer was accepted, all of my money would go to West Mercia for the purposes of policing and none would be wasted in commission for a straightforward transaction that involves nothing more than a signature on a document.”The only figure that was being talked about in the media at the time I made my offer was £175,000. Whilst I am not willing to divulge what I paid, I am quite happy to say that the offer I made was for more than West Mercia Police would have received if AB1 had been sold for £175,000 minus any dealer’s commission. Following Mr Campion’s election as the Conservative PCC last May, he decided to put the plate up for sale, ignoring complaints from many serving and retired police officers that it was part of the force’s proud history and was not his to sell.Despite being advertised with a guide price of £175,000, Mr Campion accepted a lower offer after cutting out the dealer.But the final price has sparked widespread anger after it emerged that the plate could have actually fetched more than three times as much.Alan Hebbs, who works for the plate dealer, Mark Hunt, said: “If they were trying to raise money for the force they have not done a very good job as they have done themselves out of a couple of hundred thousand pounds.“The AB1 plate is as rare as you can get and it is like owning a piece of fine art or a valuable antique. The AG1 plate is on sale at the moment for £500,000 that is arguably not as desirable as this one.“It will only increase in value and in a couple of years it could be worth as much as £700,000.”Last night Mr West, who was Chief Constable of West Mercia Police between 2003 and 2011, insisted he had purchased the plate because he did not want to see its connection to the force lost forever. “I am confident that proper process was followed regarding the sale. The registration was advertised openly and the highest offer was accepted.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
“When we visited Worboys in jail in 2013 he was clearly a very manipulative and dangerous individual.“We are concerned he may have fooled the board into believing he is no longer a threat.“For many years after he was convicted he continued to deny even the offences for which he was found guilty. Sir Keir is facing criticism for failing to press ahead with more charges against Worboys at the time. “The Parole Board must now reveal publicly whether Worboys has finally admitted his crimes and shown any remorse whatsoever.“If he still denies his crimes, then he clearly poses a continuing risk to women. If he now admits that he deliberately and systematically drugged and raped women, then the police need to look at whether there are any crimes that he was not convicted of and seek justice for those victims.”The Parole Board’s decision to release Worboys – having decided he did not pose a risk to the public – has caused widespread astonishment. The board had declined to release details of the decision and any evidence presented to it over Worboys’s case.Bob Neill, the Conservative MP and chairman of the Justice Committee, said: “What has happened here is very disturbing. It is vital that the public has confidence in Parole Board decisions.”He added: “We will also want to ask about how the parole system can be made much more transparent, something Nick Hardwick himself has rightly called for. “In my view, it is ridiculous that the current rules prevent the board making public the reasons for their decisions. Professor Hardwick has called for MPs to back ‘opening the process up’ and we will give him the opportunity to make precisely that case.”Meanwhile, 58 MPs have signed a letter written to Justice Secretary David Lidington by Labour’s Stella Creasy, demanding to know whether Worboys’s victims were given an opportunity to make representations to the board before it authorised his release.”The decision to release Mr Worboys, even on strict licensing conditions, cannot be considered to have been made with a full and complete understanding of the impact of his many crimes without such information,” the letter said.The letter also raised the prospect of further prosecutions being brought against Worboys, asking whether women who came forward with additional allegations following the original investigation had been contacted “given their reasonable expectation of a longer sentence”.Signatories from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru include Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable and Labour MP Ms Cooper. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Worboys’s cab Police are under pressure to re-open a criminal investigation into John Worboys over dozens of alleged rapes that never came to trial.Worboys – dubbed the ‘black cab rapist’ – is to be freed before the end of the month, despite being one of the most prolific sex offenders in history. He is believed to have committed more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults, preying on female passengers.But when he was jailed for a minimum of eight years in 2009, he was only ever convicted of one rape and five sexual assaults.The Metropolitan Police, which missed opportunities to catch Worboys sooner, is now being urged to review dozens of complaints by women with a view to bringing fresh charges. That could allow authorities to charge Worboys for other crimes and lead to him being kept in jail.It has emerged that the Parole Board chairman, Prof Nick Hardwick, is to be summoned before the House of Commons Justice Committee to explain how the decision to free Worboys was reached and why victims were not informed of his impending release.The director of public prosecutions at the time of Worboys’s conviction, Sir Keir Starmer, urged victims to contact the police.Sir Keir, now the shadow Brexit secretary, said: “First and foremost, it’s very important that if there are any allegations that anybody thinks have not been looked into, sufficiently or at all, they go to the police and make those allegations so they can be looked into.” Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer with law firm Slater Gordon, who represents 11 of Worboys’s victims, said: “I don’t see why police cannot reopen these cases. Of my clients, Worboys was charged with offences against three of them while eight have not been heard in court.”Mr Scorer added: “Our clients have been left devastated by the shocking news that a man who mercilessly raped scores of women, denied his heinous crimes and then forced them to endure the torment of a criminal trial is to be released.” John Worboys was a stripper and had appeared in adult films But he said: “I think these decisions were nine years ago and it’s very important you go to the Crown Prosecution Service and get an accurate read-out of the decisions that were made, particularly if further allegations have been made now.”The CPS said on Thursday that it was looking at the history of the case to examine whether all evidence was passed to it by the Metropolitan Police.Lord Macdonald, Sir Keir’s predecessor as DPP, said: “There is nothing to stop police examining the cases at any time and where they think there is sufficient evidence to submit it to the CPS for charging. There is no statute of limitation.” Mr Scorer, who brought civil claims against Worboys, went on: “For victims not be told that he is to be freed by the Parole Board adds insult to injury. What has happened here is very disturbing. It is vital that the public has confidence in Parole Board decisionsBob Neill
No one in H&M’s ‘brand integrity’ department said maybe this ad is problematic?— 🌹 Ferrari Sheppard (@stopbeingfamous) January 8, 2018 What’s interesting about this @hm ad is that not only did his parents have to approve the photo, the stylist approved the fit, the creative director chose the photo & then the photo had to be retouched. & through the entire process no one was like, “Ehh, we should rethink this.”— AYOAYO (@ayomari) January 8, 2018 woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. i’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore… pic.twitter.com/P3023iYzAb— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) January 8, 2018 A high street fashion chain has apologised after its website featured a black child model wearing a “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie. H&M faced criticism online from people accusing it of being “inappropriate”, “disgusting” and “negligent”.The image of the model wearing the green monkey sweater has been removed from its website, while two others featuring different designs in the same category and modelled by white children remain.One bears the words “Mangrove jungle” or “Official survival expert”, while the other has outlines of various animals including giraffes and tigers.Referring to the green top, Labour MP Kate Osamor tweeted: “I was totally shocked, dismayed to say the very least to find this online imagine. @hm do you think this imagery is an appropriate representation of a young black boy?” The Weeknd, a Canadian R’n’Bstar who has produced menswear collections with the chain, said he was cutting ties with the company.Alex Medina, who works in brand design, said it was negligent to place a black child in a top with such a slogan, while white children wore others.He tweeted: “In the year 2018 there’s no way brands/art directors can be this negligent and lack awareness. If look at other sweaters in same category they have white kids. We have to do better.” They said: “So the black kid gets to wear the H&M sweater with ‘Coolest monkey in the jungle’ and the white kid with ‘Survival expert’. This is beyond disgusting.”It’s a projection of your neocolonial thinking. You won’t see me anywhere near your shops these days @hm.”A spokeswoman for the retailer said: “This image has now been removed from all H&M channels and we apologise to anyone this may have offended.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. A person tweeting under the handle @vulkaanrots said they would boycott the store.
A Chelsea Flower Show garden will be given to the NHS to help people with mental health problems, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has said.The RHS has joined forces with the health service as it celebrates its 70th anniversary to promote gardening, gardens and green spaces as good for health, happiness and well-being.The campaign involves a contest to relocate the RHS “Feel Good” garden, focusing on health and well-being, to one of England’s NHS mental health trusts after it has featured in the Chelsea Flower Show.The garden is designed by the twice-winner of the RHS/BBC people’s choice award at the world famous show, Matt Keightley, to provide a contemporary and therapeutic space focusing on health and well-being.English NHS mental health trusts are being invited to enter a competition to win the garden, and Mr Keightley will redesign it after the show to best suit the space and needs of the winning trust and provide a space for staff and patients to garden, relax and get closer to nature. Visitors flocked to the Chelsea Flower Show last year Credit:Christopher Pledger for the Telegraph Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. To raise awareness of the positive impact horticulture can have on mental health and promote how gardens can be relaxing and rehabilitative spaces, the RHS will also be providing advice and toolkits to NHS organisations and staff.TV gardener Monty Don said: “I know from personal experience how gardening helps heal mental and physical ills.”When you are sad a garden comforts. When you are humiliated or defeated a garden consoles.”When you are consumed by anxiety it will soothe you, and when the world is a dark and bleak place it shines a light to guide you on.”A Kings Fund report on gardens and health, funded by the National Garden Scheme, found that the mental health benefits of gardening were broad and diverse, with reductions in depression and anxiety and improved social functioning, emotional well-being and physical health.RHS director-general Sue Biggs said: “Gardeners have known about mindfulness for generations and, with increased pressures through things like social media, now more than ever we need to get outside, moving and loving nature to calm us, get exercise and be kind to ourselves.”Tim Kendall, national clinical director for mental health at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “Gardening provides physical exercise and can foster social connections making it an effective way that can potentially help people who are suffering with mental illness, are depressed or stressed.”This incredible gift by the RHS of this fantastic garden will be an early birthday present for one of our mental health trusts, their patients and staff.”