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Powerleague pitches site closures with CVA plan

By Mark Kleinman, city editor

Powerleague, one of the UK's biggest operators of five-a-side football pitches, is drawing up plans to close a string of sites through a controversial insolvency arrangement after seeing its business hit by the inclement weather which gripped the country earlier this year.

Sky News has learnt that the company, which is owned by the real estate investor Patron Capital Partners, is examining a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) in an effort to secure financial concessions from creditors.

Sources said that a CVA could be launched within weeks, and would reflect the growing pressure on Powerleague's owner to secure a long-term future for the business.

The company trades from nearly 50 sites across Britain, and competes with rivals including Goals Soccer Centres, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

A property industry insider suggested on Friday that a CVA could be launched within a matter of weeks, although the details of any site closures and rent cut requests had yet to be finalised.

Deloitte is understood to have been lined up to supervise the process, according to one Powerleague landlord.

CVAs have become the most wearily familiar acronym on the British high street during a year in which the frequency of their deployment by struggling chains has simultaneously antagonised property owners and underlined the precarious state of many retail and leisure industry businesses.

Among the chains turning to CVAs to restructure their finances have been Byron, Carpetright, Homebase, Mothercare and New Look.

The exact state of Powerleague's finances are unclear, given that it is privately owned, but sources said that Patron had been attempting to find outside investment for the company in the last few months.

It is understood to have suffered a substantial hit to its earnings from the "Beast from the East", which left much of Britain in the grip of a deep freeze for several weeks earlier this year.

Patron has owned Powerleague, which has about 460 pitches, since 2009, when it was taken private in a deal worth £80m.

In addition to football, it has a multi-sport offering including basketball, dodgeball and netball.

Last year, Powerleague and Goals held extensive merger talks but failed to agree on a deal.

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Powerleague trades from more than 750 football pitches, and also owns Powerplay, a league operator across 240 UK venues.

A Patron spokesman declined to comment.

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In a ‘self-defeating and self-incriminating’ slip-up, Trump just admitted he installed Matthew Whitaker to kill the Russia probe

  • President Donald Trump indicated Wednesday that he replaced former Attorney General Jeff Sessions with former US attorney Matthew Whitaker because he wants Whitaker to hamper the Russia investigation.
  • Speaking to The Daily Caller, Trump called Whitaker "somebody that's very respected" and tacked on, As far as I'm concerned, this is an investigation that should have never been brought."
  • The statement is reminiscent of Trump's admission to NBC's Lester Holt last year that he ousted then FBI director James Comey because of the Russia investigation.
  • "What is so unusual about Trump is that he publicly forecasts his motivation in a way that is self-defeating and self-incriminating," one DOJ veteran told INSIDER.
  • Trump's interview with The Daily Caller comes following a series of bombshell developments in the Russia investigation, indicating that the president is increasingly worried about what the special counsel Robert Mueller has.

President Donald Trump on Thursday indicated during an interview that he tapped former US attorney Matthew Whitaker to replace then Attorney General Jeff Sessions in order to rein in the Russia investigation.

Speaking to The Daily Caller, Trump expanded on his thought process behind choosing Whitaker to take over as acting attorney general.

"Matthew Whitaker is a very respected man," Trump said. "He's — and he’s, very importantly, he’s respected within DOJ. I heard he got a very good decision, I haven’t seen it."

He added that he "heard it was a very strong opinion," referring to the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel's 20-page memo justifying Whitaker's appointment as acting attorney general until the Senate confirms a permanent replacement.

Reiterating that Whitaker is "somebody that's very respected," — a claim that stands in contrast to many DOJ and FBI officials' views of their new boss — Trump said he "knew him only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions."

The president then appeared to allude to the fact that he tapped Whitaker primarily to constrain the Russia investigation.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is an investigation that should have never been brought," Trump told The Daily Caller. "It should have never been had … It's an illegal investigation."

He then tacked on: "And you know, it's very interesting because when you talk about not Senate confirmed, [the special counsel Robert Mueller] is not Senate confirmed."

The admission is reminiscent of when Trump told NBC's Lester Holt last year that he ousted then FBI director James Comey because of the Russia investigation.

Trump's statement to Holt now makes up one of the central threads of Mueller's investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice in the inquiry, and legal experts told INSIDER his admission to The Daily Caller could add another piece to Mueller's probe.

"What is so unusual about Trump is that he publicly forecasts his motivation in a way that is self-defeating and self-incriminating," Elie Honig, a former prosecutor from the Southern District of New York who specialized in organized-crime cases, told INSIDER.

The most difficult thing for investigators to prove in an obstruction-of-justice case is corrupt intent on the part of the defendant.

"Sometimes you get lucky and get emails or wiretapped phone calls … where the subject might secretly or privately admit intent," Honig said. "Other times the prosecutor simply must argue intent to the jury based on circumstantial evidence. With Trump, however, we have a subject who openly and publicly and unapologetically announces why he takes certain steps, even when those reasons might give rise to criminal liability."

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 08: Robert S. Mueller III, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), speaks at the International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) on August 8, 2013 in New York City. The ICCS, which is co-hosted by Fordham University and the FBI, is held every 18 months; more than 25 countries are represented at this year's conference. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Trump lashes out as Mueller's quiet period comes to an end

Whitaker has a long history of making controversial remarks about the Mueller investigation and has publicly mused about gutting the probe. Though he submitted to a DOJ ethics inquiry into whether he should recuse himself, Whitaker told Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday that he would not be stepping back from the investigation.

"He says he will be following regular order," Graham told The Washington Post.

Trump has made conflicting remarks about his history with Whitaker. Before telling The Daily Caller he knows Whitaker "as it pertains to" Sessions, he told reporters last week that he did not know the acting attorney general in any capacity. But last month, the president told Fox & Friends Whitaker was "a great guy," adding, "I mean, I know Matt Whitaker."

Meanwhile, after being uncharacteristically subdued leading up to the November midterms, Trump took to Twitter Thursday, just hours after his Daily Caller interview, to lay into Mueller, accusing the special counsel of "screaming and shouting at people" and "horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want."

"The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess," Trump tweeted. "They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts … A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!"

Trump's unusually specific claims that the special counsel was "screaming" and "horribly threatening" people to talk came as he and his lawyers were preparing to send over their answers to a set of written questions from Mueller about potential collusion with Russia.

The tweetstorm also came after the longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone and the far-right conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi indicated that they expect to be indicted soon.

And earlier this week, Mueller's office asked a federal court in Washington, DC, for an extension on the sentencing of former Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates until January, a sign that Gates still has a significant amount of information for prosecutors.

That Trump's admission about Whitaker to The Daily Caller and his tweetstorm came after this series of developments on the Russia front could indicate that the president is growing increasingly worried about what Mueller has.

In the meantime, Trump's lawyers have repeatedly warned him not to criticize Mueller and the Russia probe on Twitter or in the media, though Trump frequently ignores their advice. Rudy Giuliani, Trump's lead defense lawyer, has tried to mitigate the damage from his public comments by claiming one cannot obstruct justice in public.

But Honig said that argument can only go so far.

"In fact, people do sometimes commit crimes openly and flagrantly," he said, "particularly if they believe they will not be held accountable or are beyond the reach of the law."

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There’s one frustrating plot hole in ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ that makes no sense

Warning: There are spoilers ahead for "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald."

Now that "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" is out in theaters, we need to discuss one of the biggest cameos in the film that appears to serve little purpose.

And I'm not talking about the teacher who pops up at Hogwarts.

This is your last chance to head back before spoilers.

Albus Dumbledore offers Newt (Eddie Redmayne) a safe house to visit if he finds himself in a pickle. Naturally, he does and finds himself at the doorstep of none other than legendary alchemist, Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky).

If you watched all of the teasers and trailers, this wasn't a big surprise. Flamel popped up in a trailer for the movie.

nicolas flamel fantastic beasts

"Harry Potter" fans know him as the creator of the Philosopher's Stone, the very one which becomes an important item in J.K. Rowling's first book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Eagle-eyed fans will notice the stone itself makes a minor appearance, too, in a cupboard.

It's cool to see the character make his debut film appearance on screen, but it feels incredibly wasted. For a moment, it looks as if Flamel will play a really crucial role in the sequel and then nothing happens.

When Newt and Jacob leave his safehouse, Flamel sees a vision of death and destruction at Grindelwald's hands. He hurries off to presumably warn others and get there first. When the event finally occurs though, Flamel's nowhere to be found. Instead, he conveniently shows up after the many auror and wizard deaths happen.

What was Flamel doing all that time?

jacob flamel fantastic beasts cog

As I was walking out of my screening, filled with both critics and fans, at least one person asked a question aloud that was on my mind: "In a world where everyone can teleport, he shows up late."

He's not wrong. It's one of the most frustrating parts of the entire movie. What took Flamel so long to show up at the tombs when he not only was able to foresee the death and destruction that was going to happen there, but when he also left ahead of everyone else to get there?

Did he get sidetracked elsewhere? Is he secretly aligned with Grindelwald and didn't want to help out? Was something cut out of the film? It makes absolutely zero sense that he wouldn't have tried to warn others about the impending deaths of countless aurors. He should have apparated there instantly.

Hopefully, Flamel's appearance wasn't a random Easter egg and Rowling, who wrote the film's screenplay, has a larger role for him to play in the next three films. My guess? He's going to help Dumbledore find a way to get around the blood pact he made with Grindelwald so the two can fight in the eventual duel the franchise is building toward.

You can read our review of "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" here and follow along with our coverage here.

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North Korea claims to have ‘successfully’ tested a new ‘high-tech tactical weapon’

  • North Korea's propaganda outlet claimed on Friday that its country successfully carried out a test of a new "high-tech tactical weapon" that met "all superior and powerful designing indicators."
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was said to have visited a test site and to have inspected the purported weapon.
  • High-ranking officials were also said to have attended the event, include Jung Cheon Park, an artillery commissioner.

North Korea's propaganda outlet claimed on Friday that its country successfully carried out tests of a new "high-tech tactical weapon" that met "all superior and powerful designing indicators."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was said to have visited a test site to inspect the purported weapon, according to a Korean Central News Agency statement first reported by South Korean news organization Yonhap News.

"The state-of-the-art weapon that has been long developed under the leadership of our party's dynamic leadership has a meaning of completely safeguarding our territory and significantly improving the combat power of our people's army," KCNA said.

If true, it would be North Korea's first weapons test since Kim and the President Donald Trump met during a joint summit in Singapore this summer.

North Korea's media reportedly did not mention any specifics about the weapon itself, but did state it had been in development since his father, Kim Jong Il, was in power. High-ranking officials were also said to have attended the event, include Jung Cheon Park, an artillery commissioner.

Signs of an underground nuclear test, such as seismic activity, were not reported, according to North Korea monitoring organization NK News.

Read more: Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet for the first time in historic Singapore summit

The purported weapons test comes shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was supposed to have met with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, in New York earlier in November. The talks were scrapped abruptly by the North Koreans, according to the State Department. The government agency says the discussions are ongoing.

Word of the weapons test comes amid the reaffirmation of a potential second summit between Trump and Kim. On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump plans to meet Kim next year, the second such meeting after the two met in Singapore in June.

"The plans are ongoing," Pence said. "We believe that the summit will likely occur after the first of the year, but the when and the where of that is still being worked out."

Pence added that the meeting would not be predicated on the US' previous demand that North Korea disclose a full list of nuclear arms, but he stressed that the leaders must "come away with a plan for identifying all of the weapons in question."

SEE ALSO: 3 South Korean firms will plead guilty to rigging fuel prices at US military bases, says DOJ

DON'T MISS: Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet for the first time in historic Singapore summit

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Black Friday workers share the most outrageous things they’ve seen on the job

  • Black Friday can bring out the worst in some people.
  • Retail workers Business Insider surveyed shared some of their most cringe-worthy stories.
  • We also scoured Reddit for workers' horrifying accounts of Black Friday mayhem.

If you ask the people who work in retail, Black Friday is rarely described in the most flattering of ways.

"Being retired now, Black Friday is a nightmare of the past," a former retail worker told Business Insider. "In my many years in retail, each one seemed to get worse."

This isn't to say all Black Friday shoppers are horrible people.

As one retail worker told Business Insider, "For the most part, people have always been very nice and patient. They can see it's busy and I'm doing my best to get everybody taken care of." They said it's usually the customers who are never satisfied — "we can spot them a mile away" — that are more likely to make a scene.

In honor of the "wild and hectic" day when everyone is "tired and cranky" — their words — Business Insider asked more than 40 Black Friday workers to share some of the most outrageous things they've seen working Black Friday.

We also scoured Reddit for horror stories told by former Black Friday workers.

SEE ALSO: 14 things Black Friday workers wish shoppers would stop doing

DON'T MISS: Black Friday workers confess 9 things they'd love to tell shoppers but can't

"Black Friday is like Hunger Games. The tributes are released, and everyone thinks they are extra special, so they should be allowed to just open pallets and take whatever they want well before the sale."

"I once saw a fight between strangers because someone changed lines. They did not cut in line, they just got behind the other line. And someone in front of that person — so no way they were being affected — decided to verbally attack this person …

"… the person fought back. Nasty things were said, and both these individuals had kids with them to witness this.'"

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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The DOJ is reportedly preparing to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

  • The DOJ reportedly plans to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
  • The exact charges prosecutors would bring are unclear, but they are likely to include some related to the Espionage Act.
  • Assange and WikiLeaks are at the center of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
  • Washington has been buzzing with speculation in recent days that Mueller will soon drop an indictment related to WikiLeaks' activities during the 2016 election.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is preparing to bring charges against Julian Assange, the founder of the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Over the past year, prosecutors are said to have discussed a variety of charges they could bring against Assange and are reportedly optimistic that they could get Assange, who is currently seeking asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, into a US court.

The US' push comes as Assange's relationship with Ecuador is in decline, and as the South American country is looking to bolster its relationship with the US.

The DOJ has been investigating Assange since 2010, and according to The Journal, while the exact charges prosecutors want to bring against him are unclear, they may involve the Espionage Act.

Assange and WikiLeaks are at the center of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 US election.

In an indictment charging 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking into the Democratic National Committee and disseminating stolen emails, Mueller's office mentioned WikiLeaks — though not by name — as the Russians' conduit to release hacked documents via the hacker Guccifer 2.0, who is believed to be a front for Russian military intelligence.

WikiLeaks touts itself as an independent organization, but US intelligence believes the group to be a propaganda tool for the Kremlin. Former CIA director Mike Pompeo also characterized WikiLeaks as a "non-state hostile intelligence service."

The Journal reported that prosecutors are weighing whether to publicly charge Assange, like they did with the Russian nationals who have so far been indicted as part of the Russia probe, to force the Ecuadorean embassy to turn him over to the US.

The last indictment Mueller's office issued was against the 12 Russian military intelligence officers in July. The special counsel's office has been quiet over the last month or so, likely adhering to DOJ guidelines that bar prosecutors from taking any overt action that could influence the outcome of an election like the recent November midterms.

But Washington is currently buzzing with anticipation that Mueller will drop something big soon, whether it's in the form of an indictment or a report in his ongoing obstruction investigation against the president.

In recent days, speculation has mounted that he will charge certain individuals in connection with WikiLeaks' activities during the election, including the longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone and the far-right conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.

Assange's lawyer told The Journal they hadn't heard anything about a potential DOJ case against the WikiLeaks founder.

"We have heard nothing from authorities suggesting that a criminal case against Mr. Assange is imminent," the attorney Barry Pollack said. "Prosecuting someone for publishing truthful information would set a terrible and dangerous precedent."

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