UK happenings thread #2 (miscellaneous style)

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France praises nationality bid by British leader's dad

INTRO: France's government cast a favorable light Friday on a reported bid by the father of Britain's prime minister to take up French nationality, saying it shows how attached Britons are to the European Union that they're no longer part of.

Reports that Stanley Johnson, the father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is seeking to keep a foot in Europe by taking up French citizenship made headlines just as his son lead Britain's split Thursday from the EU. Britain left the European bloc’s vast single market for people, goods and services at 11 p.m. London time on New Year’s Eve.

Visiting Calais on Friday to inspect how the French port is adjusting post-Brexit, France's minister for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, described the citizenship application as emblematic of enduring British sentiment for Europe.

“If Mr. Johnson's father has a right to French nationality, wants to remain a European citizen and become a French citizen, then we will examine that,” he said. “To me, this is a wink, or a sign, that lots of British people, in different ways, still love Europe."

“There are many people in the United Kingdom for whom this is also a sad day,” Beaune added... (MORE)
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PM Johnson could lose his seat and majority at next election - poll

INTRO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on course to lose his own seat and neither of the two main political parties is likely to win an outright majority at the next general election, not due until 2024, according to a new poll.

This is the first detailed survey of the public’s perception of Johnson’s handling of the recently concluded Brexit talks and the COVID-19 pandemic after he reversed plans to allow families to meet up at Christmas in parts of southern England to combat the spread of the virus.

More than 22,000 people were surveyed in a closely watched poll constituency-by-constituency poll over a four-week period in December, which was conducted by the research data company Focaldata and published by the Sunday Times... (MORE)

Hospitals in UK start receiving doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

EXCERPTS: Batches of the newly approved coronavirus vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started arriving at UK hospitals ahead of the jab’s rollout. Some 530,000 doses of the vaccine will be available for rollout across the UK from Monday, with vulnerable groups already identified as the priority for immunisation.

[...] As it can be kept at normal fridge temperature, he said this vaccine is “much easier” to administer when compared with the jab from Pfizer and BioNTech, which needs cold storage of around minus 70C. Rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab began almost a month ago, with more than a million people having already received their first coronavirus jab.

Second doses of either vaccine will now take place within 12 weeks rather than the 21 days that was initially planned with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, following a change in guidance which aims to accelerate immunisation... (MORE - details)

Brexit: how the new rules will change your visits to Europe

INTRO: Before Brexit, UK citizens could travel, live, go on holiday and work anywhere in the EU without any special permits or visas. As of 1 January 2021 that is no longer the case. The Guardian’s Money team has spent the week poring over the many pages of documentation to explain how Brexit will affect you... (MORE)

QUESTIONS ADRESSED: What does all this mean for holidays this year – if and when they are allowed to resume? ..... I usually spend more than 90 days in the EU over a six-month period as a tourist – will I be able to with a visa? ..... Will my Ehic card still work? ..... Will I need travel insurance? ..... What about passports/immigration control? ..... And driving abroad? ..... What about mobile roaming? ..... And pet passports? ..... How much booze can I bring back with me? ..... So, compensation for flight delays … will we still get it?

OTHER TOPICS ADRESSED: Studying in the EU ..... Working in the EU ..... Living in the EU ..... I am a UK national in Europe – will I still get my UK pension? ..... So can I keep my UK bank account? ..... What does this mean for my payments in and out of the account? ..... Will £85,000 of my savings still be protected?

Will Britain’s 2020 house-price boom continue in 2021?

EXCERPTS: . . . as 2020 draws to a close, it has proved to be the best year for the UK housing market [...] in a long time. House prices hit new record highs and saw their strongest growth for years, as measured by any house-price index you cared to use ... And this isn’t just about the well-off fleeing the cities for rural properties with bigger gardens or sea views (though that has been a major feature). The boom is widespread, with transactions hitting their highest level in five years in October, according to HMRC.

What happened? Pent-up demand has helped – house moves were delayed by the outbreak, so transactions piled up towards the middle of the year. And the stamp-duty holiday introduced by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has likely brought forward sales from the future as people rush to beat the March 31 deadline. But what this year should really demonstrate once and for all, to anyone who was ever in any doubt, is that the main driver of house prices is the availability of credit...

[...] What about 2021? So what happens next? The experience of previous stamp-duty holidays suggests that sales will slow once it ends (assuming that it isn’t extended, of course). And the exodus from the cities that might have added a bit of feverish fuel to the fire this year is unlikely to be as marked as vaccines are rolled out. Working from home is likely to be a permanent feature of many employees’ lives, but others may find that commuting is still a necessity – or at least more important than it might have seemed during lockdown.

There are other factors that could slow things down a little... (MORE - details)

Man Scandalized by "Obscene" Tweet About Tampons in 2021

EXCERPTS: We are mere hours into 2021, but have no fear: a man on the internet already has opinions! [...] Adam Garrie has taken to Twitter to call out an obscene image. Is it gratuitous violence? No. Is it pornography? Guess again. Is it (gasp) a nipple?! Perish the thought. Nope, the image that Garrie took umbrage with was a tampon. And not even a real tampon, an illustration of one! A singular white unused tampon was enough to send Mr. Garrie calling for the censors...

Garrie was responding to a tweet from the UK government’s treasury, which celebrates the abolishment of the tampon tax. It’s a political movement gaining steam around the world, as men are slowly coming to the realization that menstrual products are essential items, not luxury purchases. Ah yes, the luxury of not bleeding through your pants for 5 days every month. The opulence of shoving a dry wad of cotton up your vagina! What a lavish treat! Oh how we women are spoiled.

[...] In a bizarre online rant, Garrie exclaimed that the image was obscene due to the “implication of bodily fluids” and the “particular curvature” of said tampon. Hmm, I wonder if he’d have the same objections to an image of toilet paper? How about the poop emoji?

[...] This is why we need comprehensive sex education … and way more women in elected office. Men are clearly too emotional and unstable to handle it... (MORE - details)

Europe's MOST wanted: Prostitute killer, cocaine smuggler and mafia boss top list of fugitives being hunted by Europol

EXCERPTS: With Brexit looming, questions remain over the UK's relationship with The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, or EuroPol. [...] It's focus is primarily on cracking down on serious international organised crime and terrorism through the sharing of information across borders.

But with the UK leaving the EU, there have been warnings from UK police chiefs that the country's fight against international crime will be slowed. Cross-border investigations will have to be reorganised if the UK crashes out of the EU's security agency with the National Crime Agency saying in November that the UK makes 'extensive use' of Europol's 'significant and unique capabilities'.

[...] There are currently 50 people on Europol's most wanted list. ... The UK has two members on the list - one from England and one from Scotland - both of whom are wanted for murder.

The English man - Nathan Smith [age 27] - is believed to be on the run somewhere on the continent. [...] He is wanted by police in connection with a fatal stabbing in London's Finsbury Park on Friday, 3 January 2020, that saw the death of Takieddine Boudhane – known as Taki. ... London's Metropolitan Police is offering up to a £10,000 reward for information that could lead to the identification, arrest and prosecution for the person responsible for Taki's death. ... Smith has connections to north London, particularly the areas of Islington, Camden and Kittenish Town.

Scotland's 'most wanted man' Derek 'Deco' Ferguson [age 57] is the only other current UK member of EuroPol's most wanted list after Nathan Smith. He has been on the run since the 2007 murder of Thomas Cameron at the Auchinairn Tavern, Bishopbriggs near Glasgow, which he is wanted in connection to. The gangland enforcer has also been linked with a second murder - of a second suspect named Billy Bates, who's body was found dumped in the river Clyde in an oil drum. He was found out following a hacking operation by the National Crime Agency that uncovered thousands of encrypted text messages... (MORE - details, the rest of non-UK most wanted)

Police trying to track down ‘reckless’ party organisers and revellers in UK

INTRO: Police are trying to identify the “reckless” organiser of an unlicensed music event on New Year’s Eve during in which hundreds of revellers trashed a 500-year-old church in Essex, England. Members of the conservation group that supports All Saints Church in East Horndon – a Grade II-listed building – said they are “devastated” by the damage caused and estimate repairs could cost more than £1,000 (€1,126).

The police had objects thrown at them and were threatened as they dealt with the incident at the disused church, which led to three people being arrested on suspicion of drugs and public order offences. Another new year celebration which had to be shut down saw police break up a crowd that had gathered at an industrial building in Wates Way, Brentwood.

Two people were arrested on suspicion of drink-driving and for failing to provide details. Officers are trying to track down the organisers of both events, and UK chief inspector Richard Melton said they would receive the maximum penalty for these “blatant breaches” of coronavirus regulations.... (MORE)
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Scotland won't allow golf trip for Trump on Biden's inauguration

INTRO: Scotland's leader Nicola Sturgeon has poured cold water on rumours that Donald Trump was set to visit, saying even the US president was subject to coronavirus travel restrictions. "We are not allowing people to come into Scotland without an essential purpose right now, and that would apply to him just as it would apply to anybody else," she said. "And coming to play golf is not what I would consider to be an essential purpose."

Speculation has grown that Trump, who is still refusing to concede his election defeat to Joe Biden, might skip his rival's January 20 inauguration and travel to his Turnberry golf resort in western Scotland... (MORE)

Lockdown travel: What are the new rules for home and abroad during national shutdown?

INTRO: The UK is entering another lockdown. In a bid to reduce the rate of new infections, severe restrictions have been imposed on travel and activities, similar to those that were in place nationwide last March. While the four nations of the UK have slight differences in timing and rules, the basic principles are very similar. The move will have a massive impact on prospective holidaymakers, business travellers and the industry. These are the key issues, starting with travel within the UK... ([url=]MORE[/url])

QUESTIONS ADDRESSED: How far can I travel? ..... Will trains and buses continue to run? ..... I have a second home. Can I go there to sit out lockdown? ..... Will there be pre-departure testing for UK-bound travellers? ..... May I travel abroad? ..... What happens to people on holiday right now? ..... I have a holiday booked. What are my rights? ..... Will airlines still fly? ..... What are travel businesses saying?

How the UK lost control of Covid-19 again: in numbers

INTRO: On Monday night (4 January) the UK government finally accepted the inevitable and ordered England into a third national lockdown. Restrictions are broadly similar to those the country lived under in March, with a few exceptions – support bubbles continue, as do acts of worship, and people can meet one other friend outside for exercise. The move was neither unexpected nor for the most part opposed. Calls from scientists and public support for tougher rules had both been growing, making a government U-turn inevitable.

In fact, the only real question based on the Covid-19 data is why the decision came so late. Analysis of the figures shows a worrying increase in case rates, hospitals struggling to cope with a surge in patients and a death toll that is set to rise for weeks to come. And that’s even before the effects of household mixing over Christmas are felt.

It is apparent that the tier system of localised restrictions has failed to control the new variant of the virus, compelling the government to pull the remaining levers at its disposal in an attempt to stop the spread... (MORE)

Why isn’t the UK government talking about airborne transmission of Covid-19?

INTRO: Even now, ministers appear reluctant to admit past mistakes and explain to the public how risky meeting indoors really is... (MORE)

UK hospitals stagger as new virus variant takes huge toll

INTRO: Britain is facing a long, bleak winter as cold, wet weather and a more contagious variant of the coronavirus put unprecedented strain on the nation's hospitals and force record numbers of patients to wait 12 hours or more, sometimes on ambulance gurneys, before receiving treatment. That picture made Prime Minister Boris Johnson order a third national lockdown that started Tuesday and requires everyone in England to stay at home for at least the next six weeks except for exercise, medical appointments, essential shopping and a few other limited exceptions.

“It’s not hyperbole to say that the (National Health Service) is going through probably the toughest time in living memory,″ said Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst of the King’s Fund, a U.K. think tank that focuses on health and social care. “I was speaking to an emergency care physician from London last week, and she was saying that half of her shift was spent delivering care in ambulances because they couldn’t get the patients into the emergency department.″

England's previous nationwide lockdown ran from Nov. 5 to Dec. 5. In announcing the new stay-at-home order, Johnson said it won’t be reviewed for lifting until at least mid-February. By that time, the government hopes to have given one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to about 13 million people who are most at risk, potentially allowing some relaxation of the restrictions.

Under the latest lockdown, schools and outdoor sports facilities are closed along with bars, restaurants, hair salons, gyms, theaters and most shops... (MORE)
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UK nuclear spacecraft could halve time of journey to Mars

INTRO: British spacecraft could travel to Mars in half the time it now takes by using nuclear propulsion engines built by Rolls-Royce under a new deal with the UK Space Agency.

The aerospace company hopes nuclear-powered engines could help astronauts make it to Mars in three to four months, twice as fast as the most powerful chemical engines, and unlock deeper space exploration in the decades to come.

The partnership between Rolls-Royce and the UK Space Agency will bring together planetary scientists to explore how nuclear energy could be used to “revolutionise space travel”, according to the government.

Dr Graham Turnock, the chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said using nuclear power in space was “a gamechanging concept that could unlock future deep-space missions that take us to Mars and beyond”. (MORE)
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Cawww blimey! Is this the sign we're all doomed?

EXCERPTS: Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse... Merlina, the 14-year-old Queen raven of the Tower of London is missing, presumed dead and, according to myth and legend, the presence of these birds is vital to the survival of the kingdom.

She flew off one night shortly before Christmas for her evening constitutional and, to the shock and dismay of Christopher Skaife, Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster at the Tower of London, she never came back. 'She just disappeared! We've been looking and looking. I'm always looking. It's been weeks now,' he says in a choked voice.

[...] If confirmed, Merlina's death would bring the number of ravens at the Tower to seven. As legend has it, any fewer than six and, well, everything will turn to dust... (MORE - details)

UK passes 100,000 COVID-19 deaths

INTRO: Deaths from COVID-19 in Britain have passed the 100,000 mark, according to analysis from government and statistical agencies, counting cases where the virus was noted on the death certificate. The grim milestone was reached with the 1,564 deaths recoded on Wednesday—the highest daily death toll yet during the pandemic—for a total of 101,160. Yesterday another 1,248 deaths and 48,682 new infections were announced. Total infections are now well over 3.2 million in Britain.

The Conservative government only counts fatalities within 28 days of a positive COVID test, but even by this criterion 84,767 lives have been lost. The Guardian reported, “Almost one in every 660 people in the UK have died from Covid or Covid-related causes so far during the pandemic—or about one-in-six of all deaths. The UK has one of the worst coronavirus mortality rates in the world, at 151 per 100,000 people.” (MORE)

Big Tech are very afraid of this woman

INTRO: When figures in power decide what we are allowed to know or consider, question and discuss, it truly is time to worry. The cancel culture ‘movement’ which began with ‘no-platforming’, banning and sacking academics for whatever unremarkable comment offence was taken at, went up a whole new gear in 2020.

For the last few years (until the era of Covid) what we mainly saw was the punishment of thinkers such as Tim Hunt, Germaine Greer, J K Rowling, Jordan Peterson and David Starkey for challenging woke orthodoxy, whether consciously or unconsciously, and for causing ‘offence’. Hunt observed that women scientists cried. Greer was ‘no platformed’ for rejecting trans ideology. Rowling’s actor stars disavowed her for similar honesty, Peterson had his Cambridge visiting fellowship offer withdrawn for being Peterson, I think. Starkey was stripped of his fellowships, honorary and otherwise. For one careless word. They were all put into the public pillory of shame.

We may look back to those halcyon days when only reputations, honour and careers were at stake. Over the last year a whole new order of censorship dictated by Big Tech has come into being that would limit our very knowledge and freedom to think. Sceptics and dissenters are now demonised not simply as reactionary, racist or Right-wing, but as conspiracy theorists or wacko.

Whether it was President Trump, America’s Frontline Doctors, or any other scientist or medic sharing information on Covid treatments such as hydroxychloroquine last year, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook took it upon themselves to ban the information altogether – or mark it as fake news. Twitter’s deletion of President Trump’s account last week was not the first time. Heaven forfend he should be allowed to say that schoolchildren do not die of Covid. Now, encouraged by Biden’s certification by Congress, the ‘Left-Liberal’ Silicon Valley, Big-Tech corporate-authoritarians have been doubling-down on the no-platforming, de-following and outright censorship as Will Jones reported yesterday.

That makes them particularly sensitive to anything that imputes them or is critical of their new role as public mind shapers and propagandists, as dictators of the parameters of debate. On this front one woman has proved very threatening. Her name is Catherine Austin Fitts. She is an American investment banker and former George H W Bush adviser whose dystopian view of Western democracy includes an unfavourable analysis of ‘the emergence post-Covid of a global elite, hell-bent on controlling and exploiting, well, everything’.

She believes they have already ‘taken over control of the money, real estate, business ownership, the freedoms defined in human rights and the US Constitution, and have succeeded in undermining the democratic process. Including stopping Trump’.

Whatever you may think of her thesis after reading it, you surely should be allowed to consider it. In my view it has more than a kernel of truth. Her idea of injectable mind control may seem a step too far but she’s totally on the money in terms of control and propaganda and Big Tech pulling lots of strings. Her background in finance, banking and politics make her a highly credible witness. Perhaps this is why YouTube last week suddenly ‘disappeared’ the major interview she’d given on these matters.

It went down in front of my eyes as I was watching it. I managed to find a less good quality recording on Vimeo and arranged to get it transcribed in case that went down too, to save it in a non-ephemeral form for posterity.

Here it is for you to judge whether you should be allowed to consider her analysis or whether it should be banned... (MORE - the interview)

How might the United Kingdom once again ‘Rule the waves?’

EXCERPT: . . . “Leaving our chrysalis…. the United Kingdom will go out into the world.” How close is the Prime Minister to achieving the launch of global Britain one year later?

The dream was for Britain to be the leader of global free trade. It would beat back the mercantilists protecting their national or regional markets. It would defeat the tariffs waved around like cudgels in foreign policy debates. It would reverse the trend of anemic trade and increasing global poverty.

Poised with top-notch trade experts and economists, the PM said that Britain would engage in “the great multi-dimensional game of chess” in which UK officials would negotiate with several governments at the same time. Westminster would “use nerves and muscles and instincts that this country has not had to use for half a century.” They would negotiate with the Commonwealth, including Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. And, they would “get going with our friends in America.”

Sovereignty is the lode star, guiding prosperity and international negotiations on trade, financial services and security policy. Thus, despite the commitment in the Greenwich speech not to seek lower standards or dump goods in the EU market, Johnson will amend UK standards to suit the role of a ‘global free trader.’ (MORE - details)
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Minister says 'too early' to explain why UK has worst COVID death rate

INTRO: Government minister Brandon Lewis said ‘we can’t answer’ the question as to why the UK’s COVID death rate is the worst in the world. The government has said it is “too early” to explain why the UK has the worst COVID-19 death rate in the world.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis refused to answer a number of questions on the issue during a heated interview with hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday.

On Monday, University of Oxford research platform Our World In Data revealed that the UK had the worst death rate in the world from coronavirus. On Tuesday, it found that, based on a rolling seven-day average, the UK had a rate of 16.7 deaths per million people, ahead of the Czech Republic on 15.7, Portugal on 15.45 and Slovakia on 13.58.

But Lewis claimed it is not yet possible to compare the death rates from different countries. He told the programme: “You can’t do a direct comparison of that type with this virus in terms of death rates. We can’t answer that question at the moment. It’s too early to draw direct comparison on something like that. The pandemic is still moving around the world.”

He suggested that different nations are at different stages of the outbreak and that there is a lag in recording deaths. The Our World In Data figures do not take into account demographic differences between countries. According to the government’s coronavirus database, there were 37,535 new cases on Monday and 599 deaths within 28 days of a positive test... (MORE)
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Italy is still doing worst than the UK, on stats that actually mean something...deaths per million of population.
The rate of deaths compared to cases depends heavily on how much testing is done.

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