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Major Retailers in Britain Say No to Glitter for Christmas

This year, the holiday season in the United Kingdom will be a little less sparkly.

Three major retailers — the grocery chains Morrisons and Waitrose and the department store company John Lewis — have announced that they will not use glitter in their in-house brand, single-use Christmas products this year. That means no glittery snowflakes on Christmas cards, no sparkling snowmen on stickers, and no twinkling stars on wrapping paper.

“Glitter is made from tiny particles of plastic and is an ecological hazard if it becomes dispersed on land, rivers and oceans — where it takes hundreds of years to degrade,” Morrisons said in a statement.

It appears that no similar glitter reckoning is underway in the United States. Major retailers including Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS and Costco did not immediately respond to questions about whether they were making efforts to ban or limit glitter. The Environmental Protection Agency did not respond to questions about whether regulators or companies were taking steps to ban glitter in the United States, or how glitter bans could affect the environment.

Glitter, a pretty substance known not only for its utility in arts and crafts but also for its tenacity in sticking to clothing, carpets and car seats, is also (often) a microplastic, or a piece of plastic that is 5 millimeters or less in diameter.

The vast majority of microplastics in our environment did not start out so small; they were manufactured as larger pieces and broke down. That’s why plastic packaging is a much bigger threat to our ecosystem than glitter.

Also significant are the synthetic fabrics in many of the clothes we wear, which can introduce microplastic fibers into our water systems every time they go through a wash cycle.

So while consumer items like microbead exfoliants or glittery decorations may catch our attention and even inspire legislation, they make up a tiny fraction of the microplastics clogging our air and oceans. Banning these items is a small step in the right direction, Dr. Hale said, “but it doesn’t really solve the problem.”

Amy V. Uhrin, the chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Division, agreed that glitter was just one of many different kinds of microplastic pollutants. “It is difficult to say what impact a glitter ban would have,” she added.

Researchers are still trying to understand the reach and impact of sparkly microplastics, and Dr. Uhrin pointed to recent studies that found that glitter was abundant in some environmental samples, particularly in soils; and that significant amounts of glitter had been found in wastewater sludge.

John Lewis, Waitrose and Morrisons may have banned glitter in their holiday lineups, but they still sell products that include plastic or come in plastic packaging. Both Morrisons and John Lewis, which operates Waitrose supermarkets, said they had significantly reduced the use of plastic in packaging and inventory in recent years and had pledged to continue.

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Coronavirus UK: Britain should pursue China for £351bn virus fee – shock report | UK | News

An investigation by the Henry Jackson Society has concluded China could have mitigated the worldwide economic impact of COVID-19 and indicated there is evidence the Chinese Government breached international healthcare responsibilities. The British foreign policy think-tank estimates the spread of coronavirus, which has infected more than one million people globally, has cost the G7 group of nations including the UK, US and Japan a huge £3.2 trillion.

The report, which is published tomorrow and has been seen by the Mail on Sunday, outlined a number of possible legal avenues including going to the UN (United Nations) and International Court of Justice.

The study titled ‘Coronavirus Compensation: Assessing China’s potential culpability and avenues of legal response’ said: “The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) sought to conceal bad news at the top, and to conceal bad news from the outside world.

“Now China has responded by deploying an advanced and sophisticated disinformation campaign to convince the world that it is not to blame for the crisis, and that instead the world should be grateful for all that China is doing.

“The truth is that China is responsible for COVID-19 – and if legal claims were brought against Beijing they could amount to trillions of pounds.”

Following the report, which will be published in its entirety on Monday, up to 15 Conservative MPs are understood to have signed a letter calling for the Government to “re-think” its relationship with China.

The letter said: “Legally binding international healthcare regulations require states to provide full information on all potential pandemics.

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“It appears likely that in its early response to the outbreak, the uphold its obligations.

“This omission allowed the disease to spread throughout the world with extraordinarily serious consequences in terms of global health and the economy.

“The cost to the UK may be, as a Henry Jackson Society report now suggests, over £350 billion.”

On the future relationship with Beijing, the letter said: “Once the crisis has passed, we urge the Government to re-think our wider relationship with China.

READ MORE: UK weather forecast: Sweltering 70F heat to hit Britain TODAY

Neil Ferguson, a professor at Imperial College in London, who helped to shape coronavirus policy following a damning report into the Governments initial strategy, has said the number of deaths could rise above 20,000.

Professor Ferguson told the BBC: “We had an exponentially growing curve of infections which we interrupted at a certain time.

“We don’t have the ability right now to measure how many people have been infected, that will come with antibody tests, and so we are making statistical estimates of that and those are subject to a certain degree of uncertainty.

“We think it could be anywhere between about 7,000 or so up to a little over 20,000.”

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UK coronavirus response: What does Britain know that Europe doesn’t?

Flanked by the country’s chief scientific and medical advisers, the Prime Minister announced that his government was moving to the “delay” phase of its plan to tackle the outbreak, and warned Britons that they were facing their “worst public health crisis for a generation” and should be prepared “to lose loved ones before their time.”

And yet, faced with such grave prospects, would the UK be taking the same stringent precautions as other affected countries? No, was the answer. At least not for now.

The British government has repeatedly said it does not believe that banning large-scale gatherings and closing schools — like Italy, France, Germany and Spain have done — would be effective in preventing the spread of the disease.

This comes despite the fact that parts of the British Isles, including the Republic of Ireland and Scotland (which is in the UK but has a separate healthcare system), are now emulating their continental neighbors.

However, with Johnson under pressure to do the same, the government said late on Friday it was planning to publish emergency legislation to ban large events.

“Ministers are working with the chief scientific adviser and chief medical officer on our plan to stop various types of public event, including mass gatherings, beginning next week,” a Whitehall source told PA Media.

“We are also talking to businesses and other bodies about the timing of moving towards much more widespread working from home.

“We have drafted emergency legislation to give the government the powers it needs to deal with coronavirus, including powers to stop mass gatherings and compensate organizations.”

The reason the UK has held off stricter “social distancing” measures appears to be rooted in the government’s prediction that the outbreak may not peak until 14 weeks from now — and that people will not be willing to drastically alter their ways of life and stick to the new rules for over three months, so there’s little point imposing more restrictions just yet.

The latest recommendation for Britons is to self-isolate for seven days if they begin to experience a persistent cough or high temperature, and to continue with rigorous hygiene like frequently washing their hands and disinfecting surfaces.

Government ministers claim their decisions are being led purely by science. That science, they say, currently suggests that it would be beneficial for the country to build up some sort of herd immunity to the novel coronavirus strain in the long run. In short, authorities do want some Britons to get the bug, especially since for many, its symptoms will not be particularly debilitating.

The approach has divided opinion in the medical community. Some experts have accused Johnson of failing to grasp the severity of the situation, while others have praised the government for refusing to bow to continent-wide pressure to clamp down on the public’s movements.

As of Friday, the number of confirmed cases in the UK stood at 798, with 10 deaths. However, the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance has admitted it was possible that 5,000 to 10,000 people may already be infected. And with testing capacity now about to be ramped up to 10,000 people a day, numbers will surely rise.

Medics warn of complacency

Government scientists said they have noticed that the virus typically results in a mild infection initially for patients with no underlying health conditions, which lasts about five days, but for the elderly or infirm, the pathogen enters a second phase thereafter, prompting an immune response that causes much of the damage that kills.

The experts’ hope is that the UK’s new plan will push the disease’s peak past the traditional end of the flu season in April and into the summer, when the country’s hospitals will be under less strain.

Our connected world made coronavirus spread. It may also be what saves us from it

But many prominent members of the medical community are unconvinced by the government’s approach. Doctors on the front line of intensive care units have warned about the potential lack of respirators, as seen in Italy and China when cases peaked there, and said that if staff become sick themselves, access to experienced labor could become a problem.

The editor-in-chief of the influential journal The Lancet criticized the UK’s response to the crisis. “To avoid an unmanageable catastrophe in the UK, we need to be honest about what seems likely to happen in coming weeks. We need urgent surge capacity in intensive care. The NHS is not prepared,” Richard Horton tweeted Thursday.

“I am not being alarmist. What is happening in Italy is real and taking place now. Our government is not preparing us for that reality. We need immediate and assertive social distancing and closure policies. We need to prepare the NHS. This is a serious plea.”

For a country that until fairly recently routinely imposed quarantines on family pets, it’s ironic that Johnson’s “island mentality” — made famous by his enthusiastic support for leaving the European Union — seems not to stretch to public health, for ministers dismissed the suggestion Britain could shut its borders as US President Donald Trump ordered this week.

‘He’s not doing a Trump’

Some scientists did offer words of support for the UK’s measures.

“I am the first to admit that I’m not Boris Johnson’s biggest fan. But I’m relatively impressed that unlike other political leaders, who’ve kind of bowed to the pressure of each other and their populations to implement school closures — which we don’t have enough evidence to know if it will make a difference or not — Johnson is listening to the current evidence that’s out there,” Dr. Clare Wenham, assistant professor of global health policy at the London School of Economics, told CNN.

“He’s not doing a Trump and shutting down borders, which we know will have no effect. He’s taking a rather measured approach now — but yes, it’s a gamble.”

Putin and Xi are using the coronavirus crisis to extend their control. Across the world, Trump struggles to keep up

Wenham added that she believed the government’s priority was to avoid panic, and ensure the public’s cooperation with prevention measures.

“It’s a political gamble if they get it wrong. If all the countries that implemented school closures and mass travel and mass gatherings see reductions in rates, and the rates in the UK are soaring — that’s a gamble,” she said.

“We know for example that shutting schools works for influenza because children are super-spreaders. We don’t know if that’s true for coronavirus yet. But I think the government is saying ‘look, we don’t yet know if kids are super-spreaders. So, why cause all the havoc of disrupting people’s lives?'”

Keith Neal, emeritus professor in the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, also said he backed moves to contain the outbreak.

“The plans are sensible, it is very easy to say more needs to be done, but there is little evidence to make any decision,” he told PA Media.

But former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC that many people “will be surprised and concerned” by the lack of action in controlling movements. “I think it is surprising and concerning that we’re not doing any of it at all when we have just four weeks before we get to the stage that Italy is at.

“You would have thought that every single thing we do in that four weeks would be designed to slow the spread of people catching the virus.”

‘Spray, pay and pray’

Where the government has been more comfortable making decisive moves is on the economy.

New Chancellor Rishi Sunak this week put emergency funds on the table in his maiden budget — not just to shore up the UK’s National Health Service at a time of emergency, but also to shield small- to medium-sized businesses and the “gig economy,” replete with freelancers, from the effects of having staff off sick or working from home in isolation.

In a coordinated approach, the Bank of England also cut rates and announced stimulus.

The strategy was dubbed “Spray, pay and pray” by the Financial Times’ Lex column.

And therein lies the clue: Downing Street seems to think the panic caused by the new strain of the virus — or Covid-19 as it has become known — could be more dangerous in the long run than the actual illness itself.

Whether the gamble of “keeping calm and carrying on” in the face of the coronavirus is the appropriate approach, only time will tell.

Tara John contributed to this report.

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Britain heralds end of ‘cheap labour from Europe’ with #Brexit immigration system

Britain will prioritize access for high-skilled workers from around the world in its post-Brexit points-based immigration system, the government said on Tuesday (18 February), setting out its plans to put an end to a reliance on “cheap labour from Europe”, writes Kylie MacLellan.

Concern over the impact of high levels of immigration from the European Union was one of the key drivers behind Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the bloc and the government has said it plans to bring overall migration numbers down.

The new system will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and only give visas to those who have enough points. It will come into force from Jan. 1, 2021 and will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same.

“We have got a number of routes through the points-based immigration scheme that will enable people to come here with the right kind of skills that can support our country and our economy,” Interior Minister Priti Patel said.

But business groups said that many firms relied on overseas labour and cautioned there might not be enough domestic workers to tend crops, care for patients and serve food – a deficit that could undermine the world’s fifth largest economy.

EU citizens will not need a visa to enter Britain as a visitor for up to six months.

The Home Office said it would follow a recommendation made last month by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body which advises the government, to lower the minimum general salary threshold for skilled migrants to 25,600 pounds ($33,330) a year, from 30,000 pounds.

Skilled workers will need to meet criteria including specific skills and the ability to speak English, the government said, and those applying will need to have a job offer.

There will be no specific entry route for low-skilled workers, something the government hopes will help reduce the number of migrants.

“We need to shift the focus of our economy away from reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust,” the government said in a policy document setting out its plans.

The MAC estimated the impact of the government’s planned salary and skills thresholds would mean around 70% of European Economic Area citizens who have arrived in Britain since 2004 would not have been eligible for a visa.

Students will be covered by the points-based system, the government said, while there will be separate initiatives for scientists, graduates, National Health Service workers and those in the agricultural sector.


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UK weather forecast: 121mph winds to destroy Britain as heavy floods cause travel misery | Weather | News

The Met Office issued a statement telling commuters that an overfall of water on roads will make journey times longer and tumultuous. There is currently a yellow warning in place as more than 1,000 properties were left without power. “Flooding of homes and businesses is likely,” they added.

Flights have been canceled at both Gatwick and Edinburgh airports, adding to the ongoing travel nightmare.

The warnings come after images were shared across social media of a roof being blown off a block of flats in Slough went viral.

The roof is pictured strewn across the high street and people have been warned to avoid the area.

The road is now closed and emergency services are at the scene, though Thames Valley Police said no-one was believed to be injured.

A taxi driver who narrowly missed being hit by the debris said it was “a miracle no-one was killed”.

Taxi driver Haris Baig, 30, from Slough, said his car was only metres away from being hit by the falling roof.

“At first I thought it was scaffolding, but then I realised the whole roof had come down,” he said.

“There was a massive amount of noise.

READ MORE: Solar storm warning: Space weather is ‘the greatest hazard to humanity

“I was about 15 metres away and slammed on my brakes. I got out to see if everyone was alright.

“That was my first reaction, but at the same time I was thinking is this even safe?”

“It was a disaster. It was a miracle no-one was killed,” he added.

The gale-force winds have also caused delays on the railway lines, with National Rail says it will be enforcing speed restrictions in the worst affected parts of the country.

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#Conservative win marks bad day for people of Britain, says #GUE/NGL

A statement by GUE/NGL Co-President Martin Schirdewan on the Conservative Party’s victory in the British general election: “Today is a sad day for people living in Britain.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the message of hope has not carried in the face of a dirty and dishonest campaign by the Conservatives.

“Voters who had voted for change, for an end to austerity, for social and tax justice, will now have to endure a government bent on social inequality, deregulation, discrimination and xenophobia.

“It is also now clear that Britain will be leaving the EU at the end of January. As the Left in the European Parliament, we will continue to hold the British government to their commitments under The Good Friday Agreement,” he added.

“Furthermore, we will protect the interests of people across the EU in the negotiations on the future relationship. We will also seek to safeguard the interests of the people in Britain, and will work with the broader labour movement and progressive forces in Britain to this end,” said Schirdewan.

Also commenting on the vote’s impact on Brexit, Martina Anderson (Sinn Féin, Ireland) said: “The people in the North of Ireland want to remain in the EU. The result of this election shows that the only way that this can happen is through Irish unity – a referendum on which is guaranteed under The Good Friday Agreement.”


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Russian billionaire tycoon, 49, living in Britain is mysteriously killed in crash

Russian billionaire tycoon, 49, living in Britain is mysteriously killed in crash involving three cars while walking his dog in Surrey

Russian media say a man knocked down and killed in Surrey is Dmitry Obretetsky, a 49-year-old tycoon

Russian media say a man knocked down and killed in Surrey is Dmitry Obretetsky, a 49-year-old tycoon

A Russian businessman who lived in Britain has reportedly been hit by a car and killed while walking his dog in Surrey.

Surrey Police say a man in his 40s was knocked down in Oxshott and later died, with Russian media naming him as Dmitry Obretetsky, a 49-year-old tycoon.

Police have appealed for information over the incident involving three cars. 

In Russian press today, Obretetsky’s friend Pavel Borovkov questioned whether he was deliberately killed.

Mr Borovkov is quoted by Russian news outlet Life as saying Obretetsky was a long-time resident of Britain but often came back to Russia on business. 

Commenting on the fatal crash, he said: ‘You know, people drive cars very carefully in (Britain)… I don’t exclude that he was specially knocked down.’

Surrey police announced a man’s death five days after the incident in Oxshott on 25 November, but have not named the man who died. Detectives have appealed for information and dash cam footage of the incident.

A force spokesman said: ‘We are continuing to investigate the circumstances around the collision. ‘

Obretetsky became an iconic hero with football fans in his homeland during Euro 2008 when he was pictured among a sea of Dutch fans waving a Russian tricolour flag

Obretetsky became an iconic hero with football fans in his homeland during Euro 2008 when he was pictured among a sea of Dutch fans waving a Russian tricolour flag

The man’s dog was also killed in the road crash. 

Media reports in Russia describe Obretetsky as a billionaire who made his fortune in Volgograd after the fall of the Soviet Union before moving to Britain with his wife and children.

He is said to have been in a coma for several days after he and his dog were struck by a vehicle.

Obretetsky, pictured with his dog

Obretetsky, pictured with his dog

Obretetsky became an iconic hero with football fans in his homeland during Euro 2008 when he was pictured among a sea of Dutch fans waving a Russian tricolour flag in a quarter final game when Russia beat Holland 3-1.

His consulting company LLC Advant said: ‘We know very little about what happened. Of course, this is a great loss and tragedy for all of us.’

He founded a household chemicals retail company and was owner of Magnat Trade Enterprise, official distributor for Mars, Nestle, Procter & Gamble in Russia. 

His friend Mr Borovkov said today that Obretetsky had created ‘one of the most civilised and European-like companies in our country’.

‘Dmitry was a man of diverse interests, he did not focus only on business.

‘We remember how at the famous quarter-final of the Euro 2008 football tournament he proudly, completely alone in a crowd of Dutch fans, held a large Russian flag with the inscription ‘Volgograd’.

‘He loved contemporary music – hard rock, was a fan of Ozzy Osbourne.’

The crash happened in the upmarket Surrey village of Oxshott in November. Police announced yesterday that the pedestrian hit had died

The crash happened in the upmarket Surrey village of Oxshott in November. Police announced yesterday that the pedestrian hit had died

He was ‘a wonderful friend and colleague, an understanding and friendly person’.

Despite living in Britain – close to several Chelsea stars, according to reports in Moscow – he often visited his homeland.

There had been criticisms of him for his employment methods and a report by Life said: ‘After his death, this business empire risks collapsing miserably, leaving thousands of ordinary residents of Volgograd unemployed.’

Obretetsky was married and his son Ilya, now believed to be 22, had attended Millfield School and is a UK citizen. He also had two daughters at school in England.


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