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PayPal urged to block essay firm cheats

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The education secretary is calling on payments firms such as PayPal to block transactions for essay writing firms, in a bid to beat university cheats.

Damian Hinds says it is “unethical for these companies to profit from this dishonest business”.

He also suggests UK universities should consider US-style “honour codes” where students promise not to cheat.

A PayPal spokesman says an “internal review is already under way” into essay-writing services.

‘Unscrupulous’

Such firms might say they are offering legitimate help for students, but the higher education watchdog, the Quality Assurance Agency, has warned they can be “unscrupulous services that damage reputations and lives”.

“Companies that try to entice students to buy so-called plagiarism-free essays pose a real threat to the academic integrity of our higher education,” said Douglas Blackstock, head of the QAA.

“These unscrupulous operators, increasingly and falsely marketing themselves as providing legitimate study aids, must be stopped in their tracks.”

Mr Blackstock also warned of students being blackmailed by essay-writing firms, with demands for money under the threat of exposing the previous cheating.

The QAA wrote to PayPal in November calling on the firm “to close down the payment facilities for the essay-writing companies that encourage students to cheat”.

But the university standards watchdog says there has not been any indication of any change in policy.

A PayPal spokesman said: “We carefully review accounts that are flagged to us for possible violations of our policies, as well as UK laws and regulations.

“An internal review is already under way looking at the implications of essay writing services.

“We would be happy to talk to the Department of Education about their concerns.”

‘Black market’

The education secretary wants payment service companies to take action to stop such “essay mills” – and says their “corporate reputation” should matter to them.

He said the QAA identified 17,000 academic offences in 2016 – but it was impossible to know how many cases had gone undetected.

“Sadly there have always been some people who opt for the easy way and the internet has seen a black market in essay writing services spring up.”

Mr Hinds added that such firms are “exploiting young people and it is time to stamp them out”.

“I am determined to beat the cheats who threaten the integrity of our system and am calling on online giants, such as PayPal, to block payments or end the advertisement of these services – it is their moral duty to do so,” said Mr Hinds.

He also suggested that universities should adopt “honour codes”, in which students formally commit to not cheating, and also recognise the consequences facing students who are subsequently caught.

There has been research from the US showing that such honour codes can act as a deterrent and reduce levels of cheating.

Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said: “Cheating should be tackled and the problem should not be allowed to fester any longer.

“Legislation is needed to outlaw this abominable practice, but this is a valuable first step.”

The education secretary’s call for a tougher line on essay writing services was backed by Chris Hale of Universities UK.

He said the university organisation wanted “essay mills to be made illegal and we continue to work together with government, the Quality Assurance Agency and other higher education bodies to tackle their use”.

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Valerie Graves: Murder-accused Cristian Sabou appears in court

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A man accused of murdering a woman found bludgeoned to death in her bed almost six years ago has appeared in court.

Valerie Graves, 55, was found dead at a property in Smugglers Lane, Bosham, West Sussex, on 30 December 2013.

Cristian Sabou, 27, was charged with her murder after being extradited from Dej, north-west Romania, last week.

He did not enter a plea and was remanded in custody after a hearing at Lewes Crown Court.

Ms Graves, an artist, was house-sitting with her mother at the £1.6m seaside property when she was killed.

A post-mortem examination found she had died from severe head injuries after being hit with a claw hammer.

Mr Sabou is next due to appear at Lewes Crown Court on 30 September.

Judge Katherine Laing QC scheduled a provisional trial date of 6 January and told Mr Sabou he would be expected to enter a plea at his next hearing.

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Murder charge after woman found strangled in Bexhill flat

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A man has been charged with murdering a woman who was found strangled in a flat in East Sussex.

Kayleigh Hanks, 29, was found after police were called to a disturbance at a flat in London Road, Bexhill at about 00:30 BST on Sunday.

Ian Paton, 36, of Snowdrop Rise, St Leonards, has been charged with her murder and is due to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court later.

Both people were known to each other, a Sussex Police spokesman said.

A post-mortem examination carried out on Monday confirmed Ms Hanks had died as a result of strangulation.

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Heatwave: How to keep cool and carry on in 35C

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With a heatwave predicted to bring temperatures above 35C to parts of the UK over the next few days, how can the nation keep cool and carry on?

Do I have to work during a heatwave?

For those hoping to be given a day off, unfortunately, there are currently no laws in the UK about when it is too hot to work.

Employers should provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace.

But the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says a limit cannot be introduced because some industries have to work in high temperatures.

It can, however, be too cold to work. Government guidance recommends a minimum working temperature of 16C (61F), or 13C, if employees are doing physical work.

As avoiding work in the heat isn’t an option, then there’s the inevitable dilemma of what to wear.

But can you wear flip-flops to work? Read what the experts have to say.

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How do you sleep?

That’s the million dollar question. On sticky nights, drifting off can seem impossible.

A big part of the problem is humidity, which makes it hard for sweat to evaporate.

To try and keep your bedroom as cool as possible, shut your blinds or curtains during the day – although doing so with metallic blinds and dark curtains could make the room hotter.

You could also open windows on the shady side of your home and close them on the sunny side – and then open all the windows before going to bed to get a through breeze.

That’s not an option open to everyone, so an electric fan can be a handy substitute.

A fan will help move the air around your body and increase the chance of sweat evaporating.

Other recommendations include:

  • Putting reflective material or shades outside bedroom windows
  • Having a lukewarm shower before bed
  • Using thin cotton sheets
  • Wearing lightweight materials for bed as they can keep you cooler – as can sleeping naked and avoiding sharing space with partners
  • Putting your sheets in the freezer for a spell before you go to bed

When it comes to children, the NHS says a cool bath before bedtime can help.

Pyjamas and bedclothes should be kept to a minimum, and if a baby kicks off its bedcovers during the night then they could sleep in just a nappy – babies sleep most comfortably when their room is between 16C (61F) and 20C (68F).

What should you wear?

Dressing for the weather may sound obvious, but clothes can make a real difference to how our bodies handle heat.

As tempting as it might be to strip off, you may be at greater risk of sunburn which can affect your body’s ability to cool itself.

It’s best to choose light colours over dark – which can attract and retain heat – and loose garments that can allow air to get in.

Hats with ventilation will also help and fabric choice is key – materials like cotton and linen are more breathable, absorbing sweat and encouraging ventilation.

Any advice on what to eat and drink?

Hydration is key. Our bodies sweat more in hot weather, so it is really important to restock lost water levels.

Don’t rely on your physical thirst to judge how dehydrated you are as it’s not a very good indicator (urine colour is better), so you should try to drink plenty before you feel parched.

And try not to consume too much alcohol. The NHS says good drink options include water, lower-fat milks and tea and coffee.

Foods with high water content such as strawberries, cucumber, courgette, lettuce, celery and melon can also help you stay hydrated.

Try to avoid large, heavy meals laden with carbohydrates and protein because they take more digesting, which in turn produces more body heat.

Although it may not be what you fancy on sweaty days, scientific research suggests spicy and hot foods can actually help cool you down.

How do you keep babies cool?

As if you don’t have enough to think about with a baby, a heatwave brings an added risk of dehydration, sunburn and sunstroke.

The NHS recommends keeping all babies under six months out of direct sunlight, and older infants should be kept out of the sun as much as possible, particularly between 11:00 and 15:00.

They should be kept in the shade or under a sunshade if they’re in a buggy or pushchair.

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Sun cream with a high sun protection factor should be applied regularly – particularly if children are in water.

All children should be given plenty of fluids and the NHS says babies who are being breastfed may want to feed more than usual, but will not need water as well as breast milk.

If they are bottle feeding, babies can be given cooled boiled water as well as their usual milk feeds.

What about pets?

Dogs in particular struggle in the hot weather because they are not able to cool down through sweating, as humans do, and those breeds with long coats are especially prone to overheating.

The RSPCA has a series of tips for keeping animals safe and comfortable during the heatwave.

These include avoiding leaving animals in hot cars, conservatories, outbuildings or caravans, which, even just for a short while, can be fatal due to rising temperatures.

It also says it is best to walk a dog early in the morning or late in the evening when it is cooler, as paws can burn on a hot pavement. Exercise can also increase the risk of heatstroke.

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For those pets kept in cages, hutches, fish tanks or other enclosures, they should be kept out of direct sunlight.

And it’s not just humans who need sun cream, it might also be beneficial to apply some to your pet.

Animals’ exposed spots, such as ears and noses, are vulnerable to sunburn and – just like people – sun damage can lead to skin cancer.

The Blue Cross say white cats are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer from sunlight exposure than others.

What are symptoms of heatstroke?

Most people in the UK aren’t used to such extreme temperatures, which can cause heat exhaustion and, more seriously, heatstroke.

Signs of heat exhaustion can include tiredness or weakness, feeling faint or dizzy, having muscle cramps or feeling sick. If left untreated, the more serious symptoms of heatstroke can develop, including confusion, disorientation and even a loss of consciousness.

Those suffering the signs of heat exhaustion should go to a cool place with air conditioning or shade, use a cool, wet sponge or flannel and drink fluids – ideally water, fruit juice or a rehydration drink, such as a sports drink.

Those most vulnerable include the elderly, people with conditions such as diabetes, young children and people working or exercising outdoors.

Can I exercise during a heatwave?

If you choose to exercise, listen to your body – it will be under greater strain than in usual conditions so your usual limits may be different.

Aim to do it when the weather is at its coolest: early or late in the day.

If you do intensive exercise, drink lots of water. Isotonic sports drinks can also help ensure you are rehydrating properly.

Cold showers and blotting with damp, cold materials can also work wonders.

In general, stay in the shade or in air-conditioned places as much as possible, especially at the hottest part of the day.

How long does it take to burn?

The risk of sunburn depends on how sensitive your skin is, and how strong the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are.

The UV index will vary, depending on where you are in the world, the time of year, what the weather is like, the time of day, and how high up you are compared to sea level.

During the UK’s summer months, the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 11:00 and 15:00.

Cancer Research UK suggests using a simple “shadow rule” to estimate the strength of the sun.

It suggests that if your shadow is shorter than your height, the sun’s UV rays are strong – and you are therefore more likely to burn.

How often should you reapply sun cream?

There are lots of “extended wear” sunscreens on the market that advertise themselves as being for use “once a day”, or claiming to last for eight hours.

But dermatologists recommend that these products should still be applied at least every two hours, like any other sunscreen, since the risk that you may have missed a spot – or that it will rub or wash off in that time – are too high.

The British Association of Dermatologists says sunscreen with SPF 30 is a “satisfactory form of sun protection in addition to protective shade and clothing” and that it should be reapplied at least every two hours, no matter what SPF it is.

There are lots of places that rate sunscreen brands, including consumer website Which?.

However, the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) says in general you should look for two ratings on bottles of sun creams.

The sun emits two types of ultraviolet rays – UVA (most commonly responsible for premature ageing and wrinkles) and UVB (which causes most sunburn).

The BAD says you need to be protected from both.

The sun protection factor (SPF) offers guidance on a cream’s protection against UVB rays, while a star system indicates the level of protection against UVA rays.

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