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Just 13 months after being shown the door at Tottenham Hotspur, Mauricio Pochettino is back in football at the highest level with French billionaires Paris St-Germain.

It was only ever going to be a tempting project at a massive club that would coax the Argentine back into the footballing limelight, and in that respect PSG fit the bill perfectly.

He spoke to many clubs during his enforced sabbatical, including Benfica and Monaco, and he was certainly approached and sounded out by Barcelona and Real Madrid, although no official offer was made.

But now the timing is perfect for Pochettino to take the reins at the Parc de Princes.

No walk in the park

As a former player who enjoyed two and a half seasons at PSG, the decision to take the job may well be a no-brainer, but that’s a long way from saying it is going to be a walk in the park, as the former incumbent at the club Thomas Tuchel would no doubt tell him.

Tuchel had already told the club he wasn’t going to be staying on next season.

Tuchel is one of those modern German managers who has always understood football as a game in which the collective is far more important than the individual, whereas at a club like PSG the importance of the star is paramount, to the extent that players like Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have a direct line of communication with the president.

Unsurprisingly therefore, you sense Tuchel felt his authority was being constantly undermined.

Despite being runners-up in last year’s Champions League, he leaves with the club – French champions in seven of the previous eight seasons – in a recently unprecedented third place in Ligue 1.

They are still just a point off top spot and very much in with a chance of winning the league, but it is their worst return at this stage since the 2013-14 season.

Fourteen points from a possible 24 might be good enough at any other club, but Tuchel leaves with PSG having lost four of their first 17 games.

Last season, before the league was terminated after 27 games, they had lost just three. But the sacking had more to do with perception than numbers.

The main focus of the squad last season had been on the Champions League and they followed his instructions to the letter.

During that campaign they showed unity particularly when, after a dinner at Marco Verratti’s restaurant where they promised to work as a team, they came back from a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Borussia Dortmund to win the home game 2-0 and make their way into the quarter-finals just before the pandemic hit.

But this season it has proved impossible to recreate that spirit and the often tetchy and awkward relationship Tuchel had with director of football Leonardo meant he had to go.

Playing the waiting game

New PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino guided Tottenham to their first Champions League final, losing 2-0 to Liverpool in June 2019

Pochettino, meanwhile, has been playing the waiting game. It hasn’t been the easiest of times for him, although he knew that sooner or later an opportunity would appear.

He has been to Qatar following an invitation from the supreme committee of the World Cup, and a lot of players who see him very much as a wise counsel have been in contact in search of support.

Former players who are trying to get their coaching badges and coaches who are on a break have been in touch, aware that this is a special manager who can bring the best out of the players he has by getting into their heads and working on establishing a personal relationship.

Because of that crucial element, he spent much of his time working on finding a way of dealing with the new generation of players, which is very different to dealing with the veterans of a side.

He has been invited into chats both privately and in groups. He has had Zoom conversations with Argentine coaches, and he has also been watching a lot of football, evaluating players and coaches and coming to the conclusion that, as things stand, while the industry may be the same one, the game post-Covid most certainly isn’t.

Pochettino has no agent, no PR man organising his schedules, and the Pochettino team deal directly with both the media and the clubs that are interested in talking with them.

Since last Christmas they could have been working almost non-stop, and there has been some carefully selected media work done in the interim.

Numerous offers to do advertisements came his way, but he turned them all down, partly because he does not feel comfortable doing them and also because he is aware that in his next club there will be advertising commitments, and he wanted to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

They also take energy away from his main focus – improving his methods and his team.

A unique challenge

Conversations with PSG sped up about two weeks ago and he will now face a challenge unlike any he has encountered before in his career.

He will at least have a head start on the time he first arrived in England as far as the language is concerned.

The two and a half years he spent in Paris mean he speaks French and although it is, by all accounts, a little rusty it is certainly streets ahead of his English when he came to Southampton in 2013.

In the past he has created teams and in the process pushed their levels up. His strength has been in working with players who were hungry to improve and eager to respond to the demands of a coach like him.

He earned his reputation by playing a brand of exciting, exuberant football that gained the respect of the watching world and just as importantly, because of the financial constraints put upon him, by coaching, coaxing, cajoling and polishing the diamonds in the rough that he had at the Tottenham academy.

Pochettino will now find himself having to work with different types of players. He will also be aware of the fact that, while of course you always have to love everyone the same, that’s a long way from saying he is going to treat everyone the same way.

It won’t be easy dealing with players like Neymar who, with the permission of the president and the coach, will often choose when to play and when to rest, or with an Mbappe who knows just what he can bring to the side when he puts his mind to it, yet sometimes doesn’t respond to those demands made of him.

At clubs like PSG and also Real Madrid, where he might also have gone, they do things differently than at clubs like Southampton and Spurs.

But Pochettino and his team – and always remember when we talk about Pochettino taking a job we are talking ‘Team Pochettino’, the same coaching set-up that has been with him since his days at Espanyol – are more than prepared for the challenge that lies ahead in working with a side brimming with stars and quality.

In hiring Pochettino, PSG are primarily buying into his coaching skills, although there will almost certainly be money available, helped by the potential sale of Mbappe to Real Madrid in the summer if the Spanish club’s president Florentino Perez and manager Zinedine Zidane get their way.

Many link the decision to bring in Pochettino to the potential arrival of Lionel Messi in the summer, suggesting the player would be more comfortable with a fellow Argentine in charge. Time will tell.

What we do know for sure is Pochettino and co were only ever going to go to a club where they could build on an extremely strong foundation and where they would have a chance to coach a team with an even higher level of player than they had worked with in the past.

In that respect PSG more than pass muster.

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Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump

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“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.

The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”

But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.

On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.

Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.

The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.

Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.

Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.

A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.

But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.

The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.

Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.

A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.

Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.

The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.

Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout

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Matt Hancock has agreed to remove some of the training modules required for volunteers to sign up to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (PA)

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Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.

It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.

The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.

“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.

In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.

“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.

“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”

Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.

He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same. 

“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”

Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.

The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.

But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.

Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”

The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”

The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.

“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided. 

“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.

“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”

The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.

He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.

He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.

“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.

“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.

“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”

Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”

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How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers


Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.

The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.

After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.

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