Man’s body discovered in Jackson County over the weekend

Homicide investigators are asking for the public’s help in identifying the body of a man found on Saturday in Jackson County.

Sheriff’s deputies were called to an area off of Colorado 125, south of Rand, where a passer-by found the body near the Trail 1226 trailhead, according to a Colorado Bureau of Investigation news release.

The discovery is being investigated as a homicide. The body is described as that of a white man with brown hair who was in his 20s or 30s, about 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds.

Investigators have searched local, state and national identification databases but have not found a match.

Anyone with information is asked to call the CBI at 303-239-4148.

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High Plains Harvest Church files lawsuit against Gov. Polis continuing to limit religious services amid pandemic

A church in Northern Colorado is suing Gov. Jared Polis and Jill Ryan, executive director of Colorado Department of Health and Environment, alleging that the state’s capacity limit on in-person gatherings discriminates against religious organizations.

The lawsuit, filed May 25 by pastor Mark Hotaling and High Plains Harvest Church in the Weld County town of Ault, claims the government has caused irreparable and undue hardship on the organization by limiting in-person gatherings to 10 people or less, and that restricting how Coloradans worship is a violation of the Constitution.

Further, it alleges religious organizations are being unfairly singled out while other businesses are able to welcome patrons.

“Plaintiffs feel as though they have stepped through the looking glass into a world where the right to shop for gardening supplies and home improvement materials is protected by the Constitution, while meeting as a body to worship God corporately has been relegated to the category of unnecessary of even superfluous,” the lawsuit reads.

Hotaling decided to sue after visiting a Lowe’s where he saw hundreds of people in line to get in, the lawsuit said.

“It is a religious liberties issue. You can go to Lowe’s or Home Depot, and hundreds of people are buying lumber and gardening supplies,” Hotaling told CBS4. “It is time for the church to have the same freedom that a big box store has.”

A spokesman for Gov. Polis said his office does not comment on pending litigation.

As the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses, schools and other communal spaces across the Centennial State in early spring, many religious institutions moved worship services, education classes and even offering plates online. But as the state gradually reopens, this lawsuit underscores the tension some feel between their religious freedom of expression and the government’s continued intervention.

In May, President Donald Trump demanded that states allow “essential places of faith” to reopen for the weekend and threatened to overrule those that defied him, according to The New York Times.

Under both Polis’ stay at home order and safer at home guidelines, religious institutions have been considered critical operations and allowed to offer services, such as funerals, to groups of up to 10 people while adhering to social distancing guidelines. That closes the door on most weekly worship services, and churches, synagogues and mosques said they are suffering financially because of those restrictions.

On Monday, Polis proposed new rules that would increase the indoor capacity for houses of worship to 50% or up to 50 people.

Colorado Muslim Society, which has about 3,000 members, closed March 12 and is figuring out logistics on how it can safely open spokeswoman Iman Jodeh said.

“Muslims pray five times a day and since we don’t sit in pews, we prostrate and sit on the carpet. We do put our forehead and nose to the carpet,” said Jodeh. “The decision [to close] for us was, were we able to disinfect and sanitize between each prayer?”

Though some Catholic churches began hosting limited, in-person services in mid-May, other Christian churches told The Denver Post they were waiting and closely following guidelines from the governor and the Centers for Disease Control closely.

Experts agree that the risk of transmission for the novel coronavirus is exceptionally higher in indoor spaces, compared to open-air — up to 19 times greater according to a recent, yet-to-be-published paper in Japan, said Shelly Miller, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder

The two biggest risk factors are population density in a building and ventilation, said John Zhai, another professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. Zhai, who specializes in building engineering, is studying the efficacy of social distancing and ventilation in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and found through his research that droplets from talking can carry the airborne illness up to nearly 10 feet. Large droplets can travel even further, up to 26 feet even without wind, Zhai said by email.

“Activities such as singing and coughing will largely increase the exhaled droplet numbers — in the order of 10 to 100 — and the transmission distance, due to the larger opening of mouth and momentum of the exhalation,” Zhai said. “If the density can be cut by half, our study shows that it may reduce infection rate by 20% to 40% during the first 30 minutes of [an] event under current ventilation practices.”

High Plains Harvest Church had asked for court order to temporarily overrule the capacity limit for houses of worship, however, the motion was withdrawn, said attorney Barry Arrington, who is representing pastor Hotaling. The lawsuit is pending.

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Met Office weather forecast: How weather ENDS as UK cools for June – Latest maps

Met Office weather forecasters have released long-range weather predictions for much of June, with more sunshine on the cards but less heat. A marked dip in temperatures will pursue for at least the first two weeks of June, as a northerly airflow moves in.

The forecasters have revealed hot weather has “come to an end” for the time being, as the sky-high temperatures of May have given way to a distinct chill.

Temperatures in much of the country now dangle around the mid-teens, with highs of 17C in London today.

Forecasters believe the run of worse weather could continue for the next two weeks, with an “unsettled” outlook for the country.

A run of cool wind and spells of rain will likely remain until mid-June before the country sees temperatures return to the average for the time of year.

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Speaking to Express.co.uk, Met Office forecaster Bonnie Diamond said the country’s hot weather has “come to an end”.

She added the area of high pressure which had caused the unseasonably warm temperatures had now lifted off, and northerly winds had taken its place.

As the country heads into the first weekend of June temperatures will remain “cool”, as unsettled conditions persist.

According to long-range forecasts, which have limited accuracy so early on in the month, the weather may remain the same until the end of the month.

The long-range forecast, which covers June 17 to July 1, the Met Office states conditions will remain “changeable”.

As the country moves into July longer, drier periods will take hold, and the weather will bounce back slightly.

Below-average temperatures should recover to the “average” for the month.

UK monthly averages for July 2019 set around roughly 16C, and despite record-breaking temperatures, ended up being a washout for some regions.

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Over the month, Cheshire saw more than double its average annual rainfall for July, with 219 percent more than usual.

Several other counties saw a similar picture, with Lancashire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire also under one-and-a-half times more rain.

As people looked west, the image shifted, as Pembrokeshire received just 31 percent of its July average.

During the first two months of summer, the area saw just 53 percent.

Temperatures during the period notably hit the highest on record during July last year.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden recorded the country’s highest temperature on July 29, which saw sweltering highs of 38.7C.

Staff tweeted at the time saying they had “all felt as if we’d melted.”

The figure exceeded the previous national average of 38.5C by .2C, which was set in Kent 16 years prior.

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Church leaders rubuke Trump for use of tear gas on George Floyd protesters for ‘photo-op’

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Donald Trump used the religious backdrop to take photos while protests were taking place in opposition to police brutality against Black Americans, following the death of George Floyd. Mr Floyd died last week after then Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck while detaining him.

The protests started in Minneapolis, and quickly spread to Chicago and New York, and many other cities across the US over the weekend.

Trump’s visit to a religious shrine came the morning after he made a very public trek from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which caught on fire during riots on Sunday.

In order for the president to get to the church, he had to cross Lafayette Square, which was full of demonstrators peacefully protesting outside the White House gates.

Before the president left the mansion, police were ordered to disperse the group of protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, creating a clear path for him to get to the church.

However, bishops in charge of the St John’s Episcopal Church were not made aware of the visit and many were outraged at the police violence towards protesters fuelled by his visit.

Around 20 bishops and volunteers, who were giving out snacks and refreshments to protesters, were told the leave the church so that Mr Trump could have his picture taken.

Reverend Gini Gerbasi, from a nearby church in Georgetown, told Religious News Service that when she left briefly to get supplies, armed police began to set off tear gas to expel protesters.

“I was suddenly coughing from the tear gas.

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“We heard those explosions and people would drop to the ground because you weren’t sure what it was,” Ms Gerbasi said.

“They turned holy ground into a battleground.”

The next day, as Washington, D.C. cleaned up Tuesday morning, Trump took first lady Melania on a trip to the national shrine to Pope John Paul II – a second religious visit in two days.

This has caused church leaders to speak out against the president’s actions.

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“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” Archbishop Wilton Gregory said in a statement just before Trump’s visit to the national shrine

Gregory is the nation’s highest-ranking African-American bishop and has led the Archdiocese of Washington for just over a year.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, head of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., said Donald Trump’s actions in posing for photos at religious sites are “reprehensible”

In the statement, the Archbishop pointed to the late Pope John Paul Il’s defense of human rights in condemning “the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

Although he did not use the president’s name once in the statement, it was titled “Archbishop Wilton Gregory Issues Statement on Planned Presidential Visit,” and claimed that Trump’s actions Monday and Tuesday were all for the photo-op.

During the visit to the shrine, Trump appeared to tell the first lady, Melania Trump, to smile.

In footage taken of the visit to the shrine on Tuesday, the president was filmed briefly uttering something to Ms Trump, before smiling for the photographers, who were documenting their visit.

He then appeared to notice that she was not smiling, and spoke to her again before Ms Trump then forced a smile.

About five hours after making the visit to the shrine, Melania released four photos from the short trip to her official @FLOTUS Twitter page and shared a message where she reasserted her husband’s “passion for religious freedom.”

@POTUS & I honoured the life & legacy of Saint John Paul II at @JP2Shrine today,’ the first lady posted.

“His passion & dedication for religious freedom is a legacy that we must protect for people around the world.”

One of the images is of the first couple from behind kneeling in front of the altar in the shrine’s chapel.

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George Floyd death: Six officers charged after dragging students from car during Atlanta protests

Six police officers have been charged after bodycam footage showed two students screaming as they were pulled from a car during protests in Atlanta over the death of George Floyd.

Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner were sacked after the video captured them dragging Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim from their vehicle in Downtown Atlanta on Saturday night.

They have now been charged with aggravated assault, along with two of their colleagues, who have not been named.

Another unnamed officer has been accused of aggravated battery, and others in the group have been charged with criminal damage to property and pointing or aiming a gun, Fulton Country District Attorney Paul Howard said.

Driver Mr Young said he and his girlfriend were attacked while they waited in traffic on 30 May.

He said at a news conference: “I feel a little safer now that these monsters are off the street and no longer able to terrorise anyone else.”

The bodycam footage shows his car being surrounded by more than a dozen officers, before one forces the driver’s door open and another smashes the window on the passenger’s side.

The couple scream in horror, with Mr Young heard shouting “I’m not dying today” as he urges the officers to let him go.

One officer uses a stun gun on Miss Pilgrim, before her boyfriend is tasered and taken away in handcuffs.

She told CBS46 on Monday that the incident was “the worst of her life” and “truly traumatising”.

She added: “I’m so happy that they’re being held accountable for their actions.”

The college student was released without charge, while her boyfriend was charged with attempting to elude police and driving with a suspended licence, but he was later released.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is calling for both charges to be dropped.

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Donors promise Yemen $1.35 billion, falling short of U.N. target to save aid operations

DUBAI (Reuters) – International donors raised $1.35 billion in humanitarian aid for Yemen on Tuesday but the amount fell short of the United Nations’ target of $2.4 billion needed to save the world’s biggest aid operation from severe cutbacks.

The conflict between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group has left 80% of Yemen’s population reliant on aid. The country now faces the spread of the novel coronavirus among an acutely malnourished people.

Saudi Arabia, leader of the coalition fighting the Houthis since 2015 in a stalemated war, hosted a virtual U.N. conference to help counter funding shortages for aid operations in Yemen.

In total, donors pledged $1.35 billion to help aid agencies, U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock told the conference.

Saudi Arabia has already pledged $500 million, including $25 million to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohammed al-Jabir told Reuters.

Saudi has faced criticism from international rights groups for its condcut in the war, particularly a campaign of air strikes that has led to many civilian deaths and destroyed infrastructure.

Britain – which sells weapons to coalition members – and Germany announced respectively $201 million and $140 million. They called on the warring parties to immediately end the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people, mostly civilians.

The United States, which also backs the coalition, said last month it would extend $225 million in emergency aid for food.

Lowcock, asked about Saudi Arabia co-hosting the event, said Riyadh was a large donor and the United Nations would continue to call out warring parties on actions “they should not be doing”.

“Saudi Arabia keeps trying to whitewash its coalition’s role in the deepening humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, but cohosting the funding event won’t fool anyone,” Afrah Nasser, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Lise Grande, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, told Reuters before the conference the operation would face “catastrophic cutbacks” if the donations fell short of $1.6 billion.

“We won’t be able to provide the food people need to survive, or the health care they need or the water or sanitation or the nutrition support which helps to keep 2 million malnourished children from dying,” she said.

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Yemen has been mired in violence since the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene a few months later.

Donors had cut funding to Houthi-held areas over concerns the group is hindering aid delivery, a charge it denies.

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Exclusive: Mexico probes Libre Abordo's oil-for-food pact with Venezuela

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The Mexican government’s financial crime department is investigating Libre Abordo, a Mexico-based firm that received millions of barrels of Venezuelan crude under an oil-for-food pact, in a probe coordinated with U.S. agencies, the department’s chief, Santiago Nieto, told Reuters.

The Mexican Financial Intelligence Unit is also separately investigating several other companies, which Nieto declined to name, accused of speculating with food shipments to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, he said. That probe is being assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Treasury’s Office for Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), Nieto said.

Libre Abordo and an affiliated Mexican company, Schlager Business Group, are among firms that have been under investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Treasury and State departments for possible violations of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, four sources familiar with the probe told Reuters last month.

“We have an open investigation (into Libre Abordo). It has not been completed so I cannot give more information,” Nieto, whose unit reports to Mexico’s finance ministry, told Reuters in an interview last week at his Mexico City office.

The two companies have repeatedly denied any violations, saying their oil-for-food agreement with Venezuela, which was suspended by Maduro in May, was permitted under humanitarian waivers and the contract was with a government entity not included in the U.S. list of sanctioned entities.

Libre Abordo announced on Sunday it was bankrupt and said Venezuela had terminated its oil-for-food agreement under pressure from the United States.

On Monday, Nieto told Reuters the investigation would continue.

Libre Abordo told Reuters in a statement on Tuesday that it was unaware of any investigations in Mexico into its operations, but any such probe would “surely confirm the legality and transparency” of its activities.

WATER TRUCKS

The companies provided Venezuela with hundreds of water trucks in exchange for about 30 million barrels of Venezuelan crude and fuel through May, according to Venezuelan state-run oil firm PDVSA’s internal documents and information provided by the firms.

The deal threw a lifeline to Maduro, whose administration is struggling to pay for imports of everything from food to medicine amid an economic crisis.

Washington has imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s government and PDVSA in a bid to oust Maduro. U.S. authorities said in April they were investigating whether Mexican companies had violated those sanctions.

PDVSA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

CLAP BOXES

Nieto’s unit is separately investigating a group of 25 people and companies from Mexico and Venezuela accused of speculating with food shipments under a program administered by Maduro’s government, known as CLAP, Nieto said.

The program – intended to tackle scarcity and hyperinflation – distributes subsidized food, most of it imported, to registered citizens across Venezuela.

Nieto’s unit has submitted three cases related to the probe to Mexico’s Attorney General’s office, while freezing the bank accounts of 19 companies allegedly linked to “laundering of Venezuelan money in Mexico,” he said.

He declined to name any of the individuals or companies involved.

Elliott Abrams, U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, told Reuters on Friday “there has been vast corruption involved in the (Maduro) regime’s purchase of food in Mexico.” He cited U.S. sanctions imposed in 2019 on several people, including members of Maduro’s family, for alleged fraud in the CLAP program.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Maduro’s government has repeatedly denied accusations of corruption, overpricing and poor quality of produce in the CLAP program.

An investigation into the CLAP shipments was launched in 2018 by former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration, which closed the case after imposing fines on the companies involved.

The reopened probe is being coordinated with the DEA and OFAC, which oversees the implementation of U.S. sanctions, Santiago Nieto said.

He said the scheme began with the creation of a company in Hong Kong – which he declined to name – owned by the Venezuelan government. This company then opened subsidiaries in Mexico, which bought poor-quality products to be sold at higher prices to the OPEC-member country.

“From our point of view, there was corruption at the attorney general’s office during the previous administration,” said Nieto, a 47-year old lawyer, explaining why the probe had been reopened. He did not provide further details.

Reuters was unable to reach former officials at the attorney general’s office for comment.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December 2018, has made fighting corruption one of his administration’s priorities. His predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, has rejected accusations of wrongdoing during his time in office.

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UK weather forecast: ‘Intense rainfall’ to lash Britain – 50mm to strike in 3-hour blitz

Much of the UK has basked in scorching sunshine over the past few days with thermometers in some parts nudging towards 26C. However, the country is expecting a massive change in the weather as rain sinks southwards across the whole country – with the risk of “localised downpours” and “thunderstorms” across southern England on Wednesday. Temperatures are also expected to take a huge hit – with highs of 26C in London on Tuesday, falling towards 16C by Friday, BBC Weather claim.

Grahame Madge, Senior Press Officer at the Met Office, warned the “rain could be quite heavy” over the coming days, and although no warnings are currently in place he said, “it is possible there could be a warning or two in place for rain”.

The Met Office spokesman added there could be as much as 50mm of rainfall in central England in a three-hour period as the front sweeps southwards on Wednesday.

He told Express.co.uk: “In terms of the front coming down, it will be moving from northern Scotland and work its way down reaching all places by tomorrow, with that bringing cooler conditions.

“There will also be a temperature drop in northern England of around 10C – Manchester 25C to 15C – not that much range in South East England but could see a 7C-8C plunge.”

He added: “We are entering an unsettled spell. Rainfall could well also be pepped up by the buoyant atmosphere – that’s a typical set up – that could cause thunderstorms or intense rainfall even if it doesn’t develop, with heavy bursts.”

Mr Madge noted the huge contrast to conditions many Britons have experienced over the previous month, with Northamptonshire only seeing 1.7mm in the last month – and now some areas expecting 50mm in just a few short hours.

Asked if the UK is likely to experience stormy conditions for the coming days, Mr Madge added: “As we switch to northerly airflow we will see over the weekend winds strengthening”.

Brian Gaze of The Weather Outlook, also forecasts unsettled conditions moving in this week.

He said: “Today it will be fine and warm for many but from tomorrow all regions can expect to see showers or longer spells of rain.”

The weather forecaster warned that tonight a “band of rain spreads southeastwards” before tomorrow morning “it will be focused on Wales and northern England”.

He said: “Ahead of it there could be a few showers. Areas to the north will be colder with clear spells.”

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Rainfall could well also be pepped up by the buoyant atmosphere

Grahame Madge, Senior Press Officer at the Met Office

For Wednesday, the forecaster warned the “showery outbreaks of rain” will continue to “spread southwards”.

The Weather Outlook forecaster said: “Locally there could be thunderstorms.

“The South East and East Anglia may remain drier, although there is a risk of showers breaking out in the afternoon. Cooler generally.”

Looking further forecast, the weather forecaster warned of much cooler and showery conditions smashing into Britain.

He said: “Thursday could begin with outbreaks of rain in the South East and East Anglia.

“They clear to leave a mix of sunshine and showers. It will be cool, particularly in the north.”

The forecaster added: “Through the rest of the week northerly winds bring changeable conditions.

“Daytime temperatures remain low for June and it will be windy with a risk of gales in the north.

“In sheltered locations ground frost is possible on some nights. Showers continue and in the north there could be longer outbreaks of rain with snow over the Scottish mountains.

“The cool and showery period is now expected to continue through the the weekend and into next week.”

Look further forward towards the middle of the month, the Met Office’s long-range forecast said there “seems to be a continuation of the changeable setup with further outbreaks of rain or showers, although there is considerable uncertainty”.

But they say that “longer drier, brighter spells” could develop towards mid-June, “especially across northern and western areas”.

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Archaeology breakthrough: Historians’ amazement at ‘oldest European shipwreck’ revealed

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The British-led expedition off the coast of Oman – in the Middle East – led to the discovery of a 500-year-old wreck site of what it claims is the earliest ship ever found from Europe’s “Age of Discovery”. The Portuguese vessel was captained by an uncle of the legendary explorer Vasco da Gama. The ship was called the Esmeralda, and was one of two vessels to sink in a storm off the coast of Oman in 1503, five years after its captain discovered the first sea route linking Europe to India.

The British team undertook excavation and historical and scientific research for three years, and the archaeologists reaped the rewards in 2016 with a collection of artefacts including one of the rarest coins in the world and what may be part of a previously unknown maritime astrolabe.

David Mearns, director of West Sussex-based Blue Water Recoveries which led the expedition, told the Guardian that the major significance of the find was the date of its sinking, very early in the period when a handful of European maritime powers were racing to discover and exploit new routes to the east.

He said: “This is the earliest ship [from the period of European maritime exploration of Asia] that has been found by a long stretch.

“If you consider that the pre-colonial period started on a major basis with Columbus, in 1492, this is just a decade after that.”

The ship sank in a storm off the coast of what is now the small Omani island of Al-Hallaniyah in 1503, with the loss of all crew and of its captain Vicente Sodre, a maternal uncle of da Gama.

Because it broke up in shallow waters, very little of the ship itself has survived, but thousands of artefacts were uncovered from the sand in the shallow bay.

Among them was an extremely rare silver coin called an Indio, of which only one other is known to exist.

The coins were forged in 1499 after da Gama’s first voyage to India, which helps date the wreckage.

Stone cannonballs appearing to bear Sodre’s initials were also discovered.

However, Mr Mearns said the most exciting discovery was a metal disc bearing the Portuguese coat of arms and an image of an armillary sphere, a model of celestial globe, which was the personal emblem of the then King of Portugal.

The archaeologists speculated that it may be a component part of a type of astrolabe, a navigational device, but are not certain.

He added: “There’s no doubt it’s a very important object. It’s made of valuable material, it’s got these two iconic symbols on it, they don’t just stamp those things on to any piece of equipment on a ship.

“This was an important thing, but what was it?”

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He said he hoped other experts would now add their input to help identify the object, adding: “What’s really exciting about this discovery being so early, this may be something nobody has ever seen before, and that’s challenging for the archaeologists but also fun and exciting.”

He said the dig had been a “dream job” for the archaeologists, and that “these are people who work in England in dry suits in freezing cold water, sometimes they can see no further than their nose”.

He added: “So to come to this really beautiful island, completely remote, you have nothing there … this lovely bay, warm waters and you are visited every day by dolphins coming to play with you.

“These are the sort of exotic holidays that people would pay tens of thousands of pounds to go on.”

The findings of the expedition were published by The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

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The jig’s up! EU faces unexpected trade loss – expert reveals sign no deal Brexit incoming

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Mr Hogan, 59, is widely reported to be considering throwing his hat into the ring for the top job at the WTO to replace Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, 62, who surprisingly announced he was stepping down as director-general on August 31, a year earlier than planned in what he insisted was a “personal decision”. Ray Bassett, who has served as Ireland’s ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, said he had been “surprised” at the reports, which originally surfaced in various Irish media outlets including broadcaster RTE and the Irish Times.

Ray Bassett, who has served as Ireland’s ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, said he had been “surprised” at the reports, which originally surfaced in various Irish media outlets including broadcaster RTE and the Irish Times.

He told Express.co.uk: “He has been with the EU Commission since November 2014 in high profile positions.

“The WTO is going through a very difficult time and it would seem a bit strange to jump from a very substantial job with the EU Commission into an organisation in deep trouble.”

It may also indicate that Hogan believes that the trade talks with the UK are going nowhere and does not want to be damaged by a failure, something which would greatly hurt Ireland

Ray Bassett

Mr Bassett suggested a perceived lack of progress in the negotiations between the UK, led by David Frost, and the EU, led by Michel Barnier, aimed at thrashing out a free trade agreement, which resumed today, might also be a factor.

He added: “It may also indicate that Hogan believes that the trade talks with the UK are going nowhere and does not want to be damaged by a failure, something which would greatly hurt Ireland.”

Additionally, the reports were scarcely a ringing endorsement of Mrs von der Leyen, who appointed Mr Hogan when she came into the job on December 1.

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Mr Bassett said: “The new EU Commission has had a very poor start under Ursula von der Leyen.

“Possibly Hogan is unhappy with how it is operating.”

The speculation about his EU future was “not exactly a vote of confidence in his boss and her team”, Mr Bassett said.

Additionally, he suggested there may be domestic considerations at work – specifically, an acknowledgement current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was likely to remain in post, in the short term at least.

Mr Bassett explained: “While based in Brussels, Hogan has stayed very close to his home base in Ireland.

“Given his frequent trips back home and his media activities, there was speculation that he might want to return to Ireland, possibly as a successor to Leo Varadkar as leader of the Fine Gael Party.

“This may indicate that he has judged that Varadkar is going nowhere for the present.

“Hogan was always a very shrewd political operator.

“I imagine he has sounded out the support he would be likely to receive and decided that he would not have the numbers necessary to mount a leadership challenge, should Leo decide to resign.”

Mr Hogan himself paid tribute to Mr Azevedo after news of his decision to step down broke last month.

In a statement issued via the European Commission on May 14, he said: “Of course, the WTO is now encountering major challenges and we hear louder voices demanding reform and greater effectiveness.

“Today’s announcement by Roberto, and I agree with him, offers a good moment for us to select a new Director-General to embrace and respond to the many challenges for the organisation.

“It is essential that we quickly chart a new path ahead at this critical and uncertain time for trade.”

He added: “The trade challenges arising from the impact of COVID-19 require immediate planning for the future.

“The WTO’s role is to respond collectively to this pandemic so that we can achieve better coordination and eliminate unnecessary and associated trade barriers. Many important policy areas require immediate attention.

“A new Director-General will help the membership to play an integral part in shaping the future. We cannot waste a moment.”

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