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1. London hit with FLASH FLOODS as torrential rain turns roads into rivers in UK capital (VIDEOS), 25 [−]

Londoners have seen streets flooded by torrential streams and a tube station being submerged under water as a heatwave in the UK capital was replaced by heavy rains. Some people even had to abandon cars stranded in flooded roads.

Earlier this week, the British capital saw some of the hottest days of the year as the temperatures rose over 30 degrees Celsius. Now, the heat seems to be the least of the Londoners’ problems as some parts of the city were submerged in water and resembled the alarming images from the massive flooding which hit Germany and Belgium earlier this month.

Photos and videos posted to social media on Sunday showed cars ploughing through flooded streets while some roads looked more like turbulent rivers. Some car owners had to abandon their vehicles that were caught in the streams and almost fully submerged.

Others were stuck in their cars and emergency services used boats to rescue them as happened to one unfortunate motorist, who got stranded under a bridge in Worcester Park, Sutton.

Some witnesses reported seeing improvised “geysers” as the storm water systems apparently got overwhelmed with the torrential floods.

Clapham and Camberwell, as well as Kingston in southwest London, were among the areas hit by the floods. The UK capital’s eastern parts, including Leyton and Walthamstow, were also affected. The London Fire Brigade said they had received over 300 flooding-related calls.

Eight London tube stations were closed because of the foul weather, including Covent Garden, Edgware Road’s Circle line station and Pudding Mill Lane.

A shocking video posted on Twitter shows the Pudding Mill station of the Docklands Light Railway in Stratford coming fully under water.

In Hackney a burst manhole sent sewage flooding out onto the streets.

Another video showed a person rowing a kayak through flooded gardens.

Some Londoners shared their accounts of what they described as the worst flooding they have seen in the UK capital.

Amber warnings for thunderstorms were issued by the Met Office. Meteorologists said that heavy rains and thunderstorms would continue in the UK’s southeast, adding that the amber warning would stay in place until at least Sunday evening.

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2. UK Labour Party losing 250 members a day since Keir Starmer became leader media, 25 [−]

The UK Labour Party has lost 120,000 members or a rate of 250 members per day since Keir Starmer was elected leader last year, sending the party into a financial crisis, according to a new report.

The Labour Party now has just 430,000 members – a huge drop from the 550,000 who were in the party under former leader Jeremy Corbyn – after numbers started to drop when Starmer was elected leader in April 2020, the Times has learned.

According to the article, Labour has lost up to £500,000 per month from the exodus.

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Because of the drop in members, as well as other costs such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the millions of pounds that Labour has spent in legal costs during its campaign against anti-Semitism, Labour Party General Secretary David Evans reportedly announced to party staffers this week that there was only one month’s worth of employee pay left in Labour’s reserves and that jobs would have to be cut.

It is estimated that the amount left in Labour’s reserves is just £1.5 million, leaving the party desperate for donors.

Despite Labour’s loss of members and its subsequent financial crisis, the Times noted that the party has been “attracting wealthy backers” under Starmer, including Sir Trevor Chinn, the president of the Movement for Reform Judaism and a financial supporter of the Labour Friends of Israel.

Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party has been defined by its more centrist turn following the socialist leadership of Corbyn and an attempt to crackdown on perceived cases of anti-Semitism in the party.

In October 2020 – just months after he stood down as leader of the party following its 2019 election defeat – Corbyn was suspended from Labour. Though Corbyn was reinstated to the party the following month after protests by members, left-wing politicians, and former US presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein, Starmer did not return the Labour whip to him.

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3. I sincerely apologise: UK health secretary deletes tweet telling Brits not to cower from Covid-19 after sparking uproar, 25 [−]

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid has apologised for writing a controversial tweet in which he boasted about fully recovering from Covid-19 and advised Brits not to cower from the virus.

Javid – who tested positive for Covid-19 one week ago on July 17 – took to social media on Saturday to announce his “full recovery” and promote vaccination.

“Symptoms were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines. Please – if you haven’t yet – get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus,” he declared, angering many who considered his advice to lack empathy.

On Sunday, however, Javid apologised for the now-deleted tweet, saying “it was a poor choice of words” and claiming he was just trying to express “gratitude that the vaccines help us fight back as a society.”

“I sincerely apologise,” he wrote, adding, “Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimise its impact.”

Javid’s initial tweet sparked uproar among Brits on social media, who accused him of insulting people who had lost loved ones to the virus.

Actress Lorelei King posted a photo of her husband’s grave, noting that he “‘cowered’ from nothing in life,” but Covid-19 still “killed him.”

Another woman shared a photo of her mother, who she said had “paid the ultimate price” after being infected with the virus.

“Turns out she was just not as strong as big bad Sajid!” she wrote, while a disabled man tweeted, “Due to the gov’s appalling handling of covid, 60% of the UK’s Covid deaths are disabled people like me. We’ve been fighting for our lives, ‘not cowering’.”

Angela Rayner, the Labour Party's deputy leader – and many others – had called on Javid to apologise on Saturday, arguing that “Many lost their lives because the government failed to keep them safe.”

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Javid – a former home secretary and chancellor of the exchequer who was made health secretary by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in June following the resignation of Matt Hancock – is no stranger to controversy and his positive Covid-19 test last week led to Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak becoming engulfed in their own scandal after the two revealed they would not self-isolate despite their contact with the infectious Javid.

Johnson and Sunak soon backtracked following heavy public backlash and accusations of hypocrisy and ultimately decided to self-isolate like other Brits who have had recent contact with a Covid-19 positive person.

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4. Freedom Rally: Thousands protest Covid passports in London as anti-vax speaker threatens doctors with Nuremberg trials, 25 [−]

Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination activists rallied in multiple British cities against the vaccine passport initiative. In London, one of the speakers triggered a major controversy by likening NHS staff to Nazi doctors.

Thousands of people gathered at Trafalgar Square in London on Saturday for the ‘Freedom Rally’, to protest the restrictive measures introduced amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Demonstrators flooded almost the entire square, holding placards and banners reading: “No to forced testing” and “No to forced vaccination.”

Many activists went as far as accusing the government of “crimes against humanity,” while banners seen in the crowd ranged from 5G conspiracy theories to flags reading “Trump for 2024.”

Though minor scuffles erupted on the sidelines of the event, resulting in several arrests, the rally was otherwise peaceful. The gathering was attended by controversial media personality Katie Hopkins, who just returned from Australia after her visa was canceled over a quarantine breach. Former TV presenter turned-conspiracy theorist David Icke was also present, as well as Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

One of the speakers, Kate Shemirani, a former nurse turned-anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist, triggered a major controversy, calling the vaccines “Satanic” and describing them as part of a larger surveillance scheme – while urging people to send her the names of doctors and nurses involved in the vaccination campaign.

At the Nuremberg trial the doctors and nurses stood trial, and they hung.

“If you are a doctor or a nurse, now is the time to get off that bus... and stand with us, the people,” she said, claiming that a group of lawyers is helping her collect the information.

The video of her fierce speech quickly spread on social media, prompting an angry response from London Mayor Sadiq Khan. “I have raised it directly with the Met Police,” he said, while praising the healthcare specialists as “heroes of this pandemic.”

“This is what NHS staff woke up to this morning. A rally talking about hanging doctors and nurses,” the NHS Million campaign said on Twitter, while calling on police to respond to the “hatred and violence towards our hard working NHS staff.”

Elsewhere in the UK, protesters went beyond chanting provocative slogans. In Manchester, a group of anti-vaccination activists sought to storm a local Covid-19 testing center, forcing police to deploy additional guards to the facility.

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In Leeds, protesters blocked traffic as they swarmed the streets. The disruption resulted in several local bus companies halting services on some lines.

The protests come in response to government plans to introduce vaccination passports. On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that proof of vaccination will soon be required to enter nightclubs and other venues, which have just reopened this week. The announcement was met with widespread resentment and even angered some MPs, who vowed to vote against the measures.

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5. Gay rights activist Tatchell leads Reclaim Pride march in London to protest too corporate Pride events, 25 [−]

A Reclaim Pride march led by British politician and LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell took place in London on Saturday to support gay rights in Africa and protest larger Pride events, which he says are more corporate.

The march went from Parliament Square to Downing Street and to the Uganda High Commission, where the participants protested against British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for not enacting enough pro-LGBT policies, and the Ugandan government – which has been criticized by Amnesty International for persecuting LGBT people through anti-homosexuality laws.

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Reclaim Pride’s “liberation demands” for the event included calls for a UK ban on gay conversion therapy, the development of a “safe haven” for LGBT refugees, the decriminalisation of LGBT people across the entire world, and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

In an interview with GB News on Saturday, Tatchell said that he and many other LGBT activists “were not happy with the way in which Pride in London is run” and that Pride London is “too corporate, too commercial, and it isn’t profiling LGBT+ human rights.”

“So, this is very much reclaiming Pride for the community,” he explained, adding that there are “no corporate sponsors” involved with the “grassroots” event.

Though Tatchell received praise from some Brits in the LGBT community who also consider Pride events to have become too commercial, not everyone on social media was enthusiastic about the event.

“What rights do LGBT+ people not have in this country?” questioned one person. “What do the L’s and the G’s have in common with the T’s? What rights do bisexuals think they are missing?”

Another user declared, “As a gay man I have never taken part in pride… I have never been able to understand how men minceing around in hot pants will give me anymore equal rights [than] what I already have.”

Tatchell – who unsuccessfully ran for MP as both a Labour and a Green Party candidate over the past few decades – has repeatedly made headlines for his loud LGBT activism over the years, which include trying to perform a citizen’s arrest on former Zimbabwean Prime Minister Robert Mugabe during that leader’s visits to London in both 1999 and 2001.

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6. US govt fights to keep alleged spys job details secret after she was charged with killing British teenager Harry Dunn and fled UK, 24 [−]

The United States is fighting to keep the job details of government employee Anne Sacoolas under wraps. She was charged with killing a British teen while stationed in the UK and cited diplomatic immunity to avoid facing charges.

Sacoolas was accused of killing 19-year-old Harry Dunn in a car accident near the Royal Air Force Croughton airbase in Northamptonshire in August 2019 and was subsequently charged with causing death by reckless driving. The 43-year-old woman who, along with her husband was working for the US government at the time, went on to cite diplomatic immunity, however, and returned to the US. Details of her work are now being protected by the US government.

According to reports, US government lawyers have proposed a protective order in response to Dunn’s parents filing a damages claim against Sacoolas, and are attempting to hide the details of her work for “national security” reasons.

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“Although the defendants were employees of the United States Government at the time,” the lawyers declared, “information concerning the United States Government has little to no relevance to an adjudication of any remaining issues in this case.”

They added that the “United States seeks protection” due to “the impact the disclosure of information regarding the Government in this litigation could reasonably be expected to have on national security.”

Radd Seiger, a spokesman for the Dunn family, said the proposed protective order would be “resisted strenuously,” and accused Sacoolas and her husband of bringing in the US government to “help them minimize what happened to Harry on the night he died in an attempt to prevent both the family and public at large from knowing the full truth.”

In December 2019, Sacoolas’ lawyer, Amy Jeffress, said her client would “not return voluntarily to the United Kingdom to face a potential jail sentence for what was a terrible but unintentional accident.”

Despite claiming Sacoolas was “devastated by this tragic accident” and that she sends her “deepest condolences to the family,” Jeffress argued that, since Dunn’s death was the result of “an accident,” a “criminal prosecution with a potential penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment is simply not a proportionate response.”

In February, following the news that Sacoolas and her husband may have been working as spies at the time of the car accident, Seiger called on UK Secretary of State Dominic Raab to “come forward and explain what he knew about Mrs. Sacoolas’ employment status and when he found out about it.”

The US – both under former president Donald Trump and President Joe Biden – has repeatedly refused to extradite Sacoolas to the UK to face charges.

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7. UK government plans to launch surveillance of Brits shopping & exercise habits through app in fight against obesity media, 24 [−]

A pilot scheme that will track peoples routines, such as shopping and running errands, might soon be rolled out in the UK, to award those who make healthier choices, according to reports in the British press.

The government-backed programme, which will be incentivising those who opt for a less fattening diet and walk more is set to be launched in the next six months, The Telegraph reports. A special app is in the works and companies are being signed up to participate, suggesting it might be introduced nationwide in time for the new-year new resolutions boom.

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Those who choose fruit and vegetables in the supermarket will reportedly be given “free treats,” as will those who increase their daily exercise by walking and running or taking part in special activities. The points received through the tracking app will then be able to be exchanged for event tickets, discounts, and other bonuses.

The pilot project will reportedly cost the government £6 million ($8.25 million). Business entrepreneur Sir Keith Mills — the man behind the widely used Air Miles and Nectar customer loyalty programmes, is said to have been involved in its rollout.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is believed to have greenlighted the “radical” new scheme because he is desperate to manage obesity levels in Britain, which has one of the worst records in this regard in Western Europe. The majority of UK’s adult population is overweight, and more than a million people were hospitalised last year due to obesity-related illnesses.

There is a whole team in Downing Street working on this, and the prime minister thinks that we simply cannot go on as before and that we must now tackle it head-on,” The Telegraph quoted an unnamed Whitehall source as having said. According to the official, Johnson takes the matter rather personally and is currently on a “very rigorous diet” himself.

Johnson, who suffered a severe case of Covid last year, reportedly believes the obesity issue is especially troubling amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Overweight people are considered to be more seriously affected by the virus, with a recent controversial report by the World Obesity Federation suggesting there was a correlation between being overweight and a high risk of dying from Covid that was second only to the risk posed by old age.

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In an effort to slim down the nation, a number of plans have already been put forward this year. A tax on sugar and salt was suggested in a recent expert report, which recommended a tax per kilo on those products when sold wholesale, but Johnson has reportedly said he wasn’t “attracted” to the proposal.

Another plan, aimed mainly at tackling the childhood-obesity issue and junk-food consumption, has been announced by the UK government, however. TV adverts for foods high in fat, salt or sugar will be banned before 9pm, with the measure due to come into force at the end of 2022.

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8. UK police ABANDONED investigations into over 1,000 crimes daily in 2020 with one in seven probes dumped within 24 hours - reports, 24 [−]

Police forces across the UK reportedly wrote off over 1,000 crimes a day last year. Investigations into serious crimes like threats to murder, rapes, assaults and arson were apparently closed within 24 hours during the pandemic.

Despite lower crime levels in the country during the Covid lockdowns, some forces doubled the number of crime investigations they "screened out". One in seven crimes reported last year were allegedly abandoned within a day of police opening investigations into them.

The shocking figures, revealed in freedom of information requests by the Daily Mail, showed that police probes into some 432,634 crimes were ditched within a day – or about 1,185 crimes per day last year. The paper noted that the true figure was likely at least twice that amount since less than half of the UK's police forces shared their data.

According to information provided by 17 police forces across the country, 15% of cases were closed on average without an officer meeting the victim. The worst offenders were the Police Service of Northern Ireland which screened out 38% of cases while the UK's largest force, Scotland Yard, dumped 31% of new cases inside a day.

Although crimes judged as 'lower harm' or with poor evidence are typically more likely to be dropped, the reported figures show that during the pandemic there was a spike in the numbers of serious offences going uninvestigated.

About 42,073 reported violent incidents were ditched last year – a 6% jump from 2019 and there was a 4% rise in arson cases being abandoned, with the police shelving 6,753 reports in 2020 compared to 6,483 the year before.

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Meanwhile, in a revelation that is expected to add to public outcry over police handling of women's safety, forces reported that 71 rapes and OVER 420 other sexual offences were screened out within a day last year even though there was a 7% overall drop in sex offences in England and Wales.

In its 'End-to-End Rape Review' report last month, the UK government had ordered the police to reverse the downward trend in the volume of rape cases being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) since 2016.

Among other recommendations, it called for the police to "ensure decision-making is based on evidence, rather than subjective judgements of victim credibility" and mandated a "change of practice and longer-term cultural change in the police and CPS".

The government report also stated that the data collected by the police needed to be "more consistent". The Bedfordshire police force had admitted to the Daily Mail that its data collection was "unreliable". The force had reportedly dropped as many as 6% of rapes and 13% of sex offences last year.

"It is still the case that too many victims do not have confidence in the response they will receive if they report to the police and so do not come forward," a new government policy paper on tackling violence against women notes.

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Other crimes written off by police forces include 6,350 robberies, 1,137 muggings, 423 drugs possession cases and 171 weapons possession cases. In addition, some 29,730 residential burglaries were screened out with some forces in England and Wales failing to investigate over half of such cases.

In April, a HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report had warned that some forces had "increased the number of crimes they decided not to investigate because they were unlikely to be solved" and were offering a "reduced service in some areas of police work" as a result of Covid precautions.

"If the public knew this was happening on this scale, they would be shocked and outraged. Anyone who reports a crime deserves a proper response from the police," Vera Baird, Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales, told the paper.

But a National Police Chiefs' Council spokesman responded, "In some cases, there may not be enough intelligence or data for police to act on. This does not mean that a crime is closed indefinitely or that intelligence or information is ignored."

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9. Only in UK: Shocking clips show prankster in SPIDER-MAN costume assault female staff, shoppers in London supermarket (VIDEOS), 24 [−]

Bizarre footage from London showed a man dressed as Spider-Man kicking and punching a female worker in an Asda supermarket. Police arrested five people after the brawl, as reports pointed to a group of violent pranksters.

The video, apparently filmed on Thursday night, shows a man wearing a Spider-Man outfit bursting through a door and kicking a female staff member in the chest at an Asda supermarket in Clapham, London. He then punches her in the face, leaving her sprawled out on the floor. A separate video shows a massive brawl in the supermarket, where the costumed hooligan can be seen attacking someone with a crutch.

Another short clip shows an old man lying helplessly on the floor before being helped by bystanders, apparently after getting knocked over during the violent incident.

The Daily Mail reported that the brawl started as a “stunt” organised by a group called Live Madness Replays, who record pranks and post them on Instagram and TikTok. According to the Mail, an account associated with the group live-streamed the brawl, but has since been deleted.

In a statement posted to Twitter on Friday, Wandsworth Police said that five people were arrested and remain in custody, and six were injured.

The man in the Spider-Man costume was one of several miscreants who dressed up and attacked shoppers and staff inside the supermarket. Several clips showed the group engaging in violence seemingly at random.

One of the alleged assailants has apparently posted similar videos to YouTube before, showing himself and his friends storming through supermarkets in costume to “cause some sort of mayhem.”

Wandsworth Police have asked anyone with footage of the violent incident to share it with London’s Metropolitan Police.

Commenters on Twitter reacted with shock, with one noting that “only in the UK” could “ASDA” trend alongside “Peter Parker.” Others were angrier, and condemned the “absolutely awful behaviour” on show.

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10. Real prospect' Omagh bombing was preventable, N. Irish judge says, calls for investigations into 1998 atrocity, 23 [−]

A judge in Northern Ireland has ruled that the 1998 Omagh bombing in Co Tyrone, which killed 29 people including a pregnant woman carrying twins, could have been prevented, and has urged a government investigation into the attack.

On Friday, Belfast high court judge Justice Mark Horner recommended the British government open an investigation – but not a public inquiry – into the bombing, after suggesting the incident could have been prevented. Although outside of his jurisdiction, he also urged the Irish government to do the same. Horner said, however, that he did not want to be “prescriptive” and did not order that the probe take the form of a formal inquiry.

The bombing, carried out by dissident republican group the Real IRA on August 15, 1998, was the single deadliest atrocity of the Troubles and killed 29 people.

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There was a “real prospect” that the attack could have been prevented, according to the judge, who said it was now necessary to investigate whether a more “proactive” security approach could have thwarted the republican terrorists. He added that any probe should also assess whether a “more aggressive approach towards the suspected terrorists outweighed the potential disadvantages inherent in such an approach.”

Horner was responding to a judicial review brought eight years ago by Michael Gallagher, who lost his son in the attack. Gallagher took legal action following the British government’s decision not to investigate security failings prior to the bombing.

Reacting to Horner’s ruling, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the UK government would “take time to consider the judge’s statement and all its recommendations carefully as we wait for the full judgment to be published.”

The Omagh bombing, which also injured 220, took place after the Good Friday Agreement was signed earlier that year, with the Real IRA rejecting the resulting ceasefire. No one has ever been convicted of the attack.

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11. At least 17 Brits drown trying to cool off in 30-degree-Celsius heatwave as agencies warn swimmers to stay out of water, 23 [−]

As a heatwave scorched the UK in temperatures as high as 32 degrees Celsius (nearly 90F), at least 17 people drowned while trying to cool off in the country this past week, with agencies warning Brits to avoid getting into water.

While many Brits flocked to the nearest water source in an attempt to stay cool in the high temperatures, over a dozen did not come out, with at least 17 drownings recorded in reservoirs, canals, lakes, and other bodies of water in just a few days, according to reports.

Many of the victims were teenagers, with the body of the latest – a 14-year-old boy who went missing while swimming near Steetley Pier in Hartlepool – found on Thursday, following a coastguard search.

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According to the Daily Mail newspaper, at least 17 others also drowned during the heatwave, which started late last week and continued to rise into the low 30s this week.

The majority of cases were recorded on Sunday, July 18, when temperatures in London reached 30 degrees Celsius. Seven people reportedly drowned that day, at least two of them teenagers.

On Friday, the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency warned Brits to "take care at the coast this summer" to "avoid tragic consequences," claiming that, in the past ten days, "nine people have sadly died in the UK" while visiting the seaside.

"These aren't just numbers. These tragedies have changed the lives of mums, dads, children and whole families as well as friends and colleagues. Forever," the agency declared, adding that there have been "too many tragedies already this summer."

Following several deaths at inland water sources across the UK this week, Yorkshire Water also warned Brits to stay out of reservoirs.

The company noted that reservoirs and other bodies of water may look inviting on a hot day, but there are many hidden risks involved, including strong currents, slippery banks, dangerous submerged objects, and even underwater machinery.

According to the Guardian, Yorkshire Water additionally deployed staff in high-visibility jackets to stop swimmers from entering several of its reservoirs.

The Royal Life Saving Society called the string of drownings "tragic" and "devastating," and urged Brits to "think before entering the water."

Though temperatures are now set to drop across the UK, falling into the low 20s, another 30-degree Celsius heatwave has been forecast for August and is expected to last for up to two weeks.

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12. People jabbed with PLACEBOS during vaccine trials will have same privileges as those who are fully vaxxed, UK minister says, 23 [−]

The UK government views people who were given placebos during Covid-19 vaccine trials as fully inoculated, Britains vaccines minister has said, adding that they would enjoy all the privileges granted by the NHS Covid Pass.

In remarks given before Parliament on Thursday, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi touted the country’s controversial NHS Covid Pass as having an “important role to play in slowing the spread of the virus,” and urged certain businesses and large venues to adopt the domestic health certificate in order to “keep their clients or their customers safe”. The NHS app can be used to show proof of vaccination status, negative test results or natural immunity.

But it seems the urgent need to methodically document people’s vaccination status, and use this private medical information to grant certain privileges, contains at least one loophole: individuals who have participated in vaccine trials will be viewed as “fully vaccinated” whether they received a placebo or an actual shot, Zahawi said.

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It’s unlikely that he misspoke, as he made the same declaration in two separate exchanges while answering questions from Parliament

Labour MP Rupa Huq complained to Zahawi that several of her constituents who took part in Novavax trials are “now being treated as if they are vax deniers with the texts they get from the NHS”. She also seemed to suggest they had been “grounded” due to not being considered fully vaccinated. She pointed to the case of an American who had participated in the drug trial who said he felt it was on account of “xenophobia” that he could not access events that Brits can.

“People think that they are being punished for doing the right thing. Will the Minister rectify that?” she pressed Zahawi.

According to the official transcript of their conversation, Zahawi promised the MP that those in clinical trials, including that by Novavax, would have their status on the NHS Covid app recorded as ‘fully vaccinated’, whether they received the placebo or the vaccine.

Minutes later, Labour MP Barbara Keeley echoed Huq’s concerns and asked for a solution to be found for the “wonderful volunteers” who had joined the Novavax trial.

“They now find themselves not able to travel, as they cannot get a vaccine certificate and their vaccines are not recognised in the EU,” the lawmaker said.

Zahawi repeated his previous position on the matter.

“We are working with other countries to make sure that that is recognised, but as far as the UK is concerned, they will be considered fully vaccinated, whether they have had the placebo or the vaccine,” he reassured the MP.

The vaccine developed by US-based Novavax has yet to receive emergency use authorisation in the United Kingdom. Participants in trials for the drug have complained that they have been denied an approved jab due to their involvement with the clinical tests. The Department of Health said in June that it would ensure that the volunteers weren’t disadvantaged by their participation in the trials.

Britain’s rollout of the domestic digital Covid passport has aggravated many, who see the scheme as a serious government intrusion into peoples’ ability to carry out their normal activities. Notably, Zahawi described the divisive policy as “discriminatory” while speaking about the concept in February. However, he later changed his tune. In April, he insisted that vaccine passports wouldn’t be discriminatory if they could also be used by people who had tested negative for the virus.

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13. UK govt wont search Hancocks private emails despite admitting ex-health secretary used personal account for official work, 23 [−]

The British government has ruled out a review of former health secretary Matt Hancocks private emails, amid reports that his use of a personal account hid records of much of his decision-making during the Covid crisis.

Downing Street has decided that an inspection of Hancock’s private email account was “neither necessary nor proportionate.”

However, the government has acknowledged that Hancock – who resigned last month after being caught on camera smooching with an aide, leading to allegations that he violated his marriage vows, as well as his own social distancing guidelines – had used his personal email to carry out official business.

The move comes after the Good Law Project, a public advocacy group, argued that Hancock’s emails should be reviewed, following an April court decision which ordered Downing Street to disclose documents and correspondence relating to several ministers’ knowledge of a scheme that granted PPE contracts to suppliers with political links to the Tory government.

Downing Street responded by arguing that it had already reviewed more than 1.4 million documents associated with Hancock and several other senior government officials in response to the court order, and found nothing to indicate that it would be “necessary” to review the ministers’ private emails.

Good Law Project director Jo Maugham described the government’s position as “bizarre” and suggested that Downing Street was likely afraid of what it might find if Hancock’s private emails were searched.

“We are left with the farcical situation of Government behaving like the three wise monkeys, declining even to look at what business private email accounts were used to conduct,” the charity organisation said in a separate statement.

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner was similarly outraged by the government’s “completely unacceptable” decision not to inspect Hancock’s private emails.

She told the BBC that emails sent and received by current and former ministers “must be secured” for any future public inquiry into the handling of the Covid crisis. The Cabinet Office declined to comment on the matter.

A full audit of Hancock’s personal email account would shine a light on reports alleging that the ex-health secretary was highly secretive about how he approached decisions related to the pandemic. In an explosive report from late June, the Sunday Times alleged that Hancock had relied almost exclusively on his private email for making important decisions, including negotiating PPE contracts, organising the country’s test-and-trace programme and supervising the controversial strategy to move Covid patients into care homes in the early months of the health crisis.

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) listening as Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock gives a COVID-19 update statement to a hybrid, socially distanced session in the House of Commons in London.  AFP / JESSICA TAYLOR / UK PARLIAMENT
Britain is broken, let down by authoritarian, lying leaders who have utter contempt for the people who elect them

According to the paper, Hancock did not even have an official email account and worked exclusively through a personal Gmail address. As a result, the government reportedly lacks a concise record of much of the ex-secretary’s decision-making that guided the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Ministers are not barred from using private accounts to conduct their work, but current guidance calls for messages to be copied to Whitehall servers if they involve “substantive discussions or decisions generated in the course of conducting government business.”

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14. Police federation says it has no confidence in Home Secretary Patel, after insult pay freeze announced, 22 [−]

The Police Federation of England and Wales has declared it has no confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel, after Patel announced a pay freeze for officers. The federation called the freeze an insult.

The federation, which represents more than 130,000 rank and file officers, announced on Thursday that it no longer has confidence in Patel, and will withdraw its support from the government’s Police Remuneration Review Body, which recommended on Wednesday that the salaries of a majority of officers not be raised. Patel confirmed the freeze in a statement to the House of Commons that same day, announcing that only those making below £24,000 per year will be given a £250 pay rise.

“This week’s pay announcement essentially amounts to a pay cut,” PFEW National Chair John Apter wrote, referring to the fact that rising inflation is set to make officers’ pay worth less. “It is an insult to the thousands of brave men and women who do so much for their communities.”

“We often hear the Home Secretary praise police officers but our members are so angry with this Government,” Apter continued. “They have been on the frontline of this pandemic for 18 months and will now see other public services given pay increases while they receive nothing.”

On the same day as the pay freeze for police was announced, the government offered NHS staff a 3% pay rise, backdated to April. However, nurses are reportedly planning on rejecting the offer, and have threatened to strike in response.

In her statement to the Commons on Wednesday, Patel insisted that a pay freeze was the fairest option for the government, “as the private sector was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of reduced hours, suppressed earnings growth and increased redundancies, whilst the public sector was largely shielded from these effects.”

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15. Tommy Robinson loses libel case brought by Syrian teenager, must hand over ?100,000 in damages, 22 [−]

Right-wing activist Tommy Robinson has been ordered to pay ?100,000 in damages to a Syrian teenager he publicly accused of attacking young English girls in his school.

In a High Court judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Matthew Nicklin ordered Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, to pay the damages and cover 18-year-old Jamal Hijazi’s legal fees.

Hijazi was filmed being attacked in the playground at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield in October 2018. In videos posted on his Facebook page after the attack, Robinson claimed Hijazi was “not innocent, and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”, that he “beat a girl black and blue” and “threatened to stab" a male classmate.

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Robinson, who defended himself in court, argued that he had “uncovered dozens of accounts of aggressive, abusive and deceitful behaviour” by Hijazi, but Nicklin ruled that evidence provided by Robinson “fell woefully short”.

Accompanying the videos he posted of the playground attack, Nicklin said Robinson had used “language calculated to inflame” and was “directly responsible” for harming Hijazi. “The defendant is responsible for this harm, some of the scars of which – particularly the impact on the claimant’s education – are likely to last for many years, if not a lifetime,” he said.

After the judgment was handed down, Robinson said he was “gobsmacked” and would be unable to cover the cost of damages. “I’ve not got any money. I’m bankrupt. I’ve struggled hugely with my own issues these last 12 months,” he said.

Once one of the most recognisable faces on the English right, Robinson has been cast into obscurity in recent years. He was jailed for contempt of court in 2019, after he filmed defendants in a grooming trial and streamed it live on Facebook, and was arrested last year for holding a rally in breach of coronavirus restrictions. He’s been banned from most social media platforms, and, with no media presence, has seen financial support from the US right dry up.

As of last summer, Robinson was attempting to move his family out of the UK, after an alleged arson attack on his wife’s property.

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16. UK govt steps in to ensure abortion services in Northern Ireland are fully implemented by end of March 2022, 22 [−]

Westminster has directed the Northern Irish authorities to implement full abortion services by the end of next March, after the region failed to do so despite a 2019 referendum that decriminalised the termination of pregnancy.

On Thursday, the UK Secretary for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, issued a formal direction to Stormont’s Department of Health, calling on it to implement full abortion services for women no later than by the end of March 2022. Lewis had said he had “no choice” but to use special measures to start the process of improving the standard and accessibility of abortion services in Northern Ireland.

Abortion was decriminalised in the region in 2019, following legislation passed by Westminster, with termination becoming legal in March 2020. Despite the changes in law, Lewis noted that women were still unable to access abortions safely in the country, over a year and a half later, however.

The secretary of state said it was his “legal and moral obligation” to ensure that access to abortion services was as straightforward and accessible as elsewhere in the UK.

“At the heart of this matter are the women and girls in Northern Ireland, who have been, and continue to be, denied the same reproductive rights as women in the rest of the UK.”

Lewis used special powers on Thursday to issue the direction Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021. The statutory instrument was passed to ensure the Northern Irish government complies with the law.

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While he acknowledged that the pandemic may have slowed down the implementation of abortion services in Northern Ireland, Lewis nevertheless said he remained “extremely disappointed” at the slow pace of change and lack of dialogue on the issue with the region’s Health Department.

There was a significant decrease in women travelling from Northern Ireland to England and Wales for an abortion in 2021, according to UK government data. Only some 371 made the journey for the purposes of an abortion in comparison to 1,014 in 2019. While the abortion law has taken effect in Northern Ireland, some medical practices refuse to carry out terminations after 10 weeks, however, resulting in women still having to travel abroad if they don’t wish to continue with a pregnancy at a later stage.

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A spokesperson for a pro-choice Northern Irish organization ‘Alliance for Choice’ praised the intervention, saying in a statement: “Finally, long overdue abortion services can take their place within healthcare in Northern Ireland.”

“We remain hopeful that people will no longer have to endure the degradation of forced travel to England or navigating a precarious and limited service,” they added.

Conservative politicians of the Democratic Unionist Party, on the other hand, did not rejoice in Lewis’ move. Carla Lockhart, a DUP Member of Parliament in Westminster, called for the legislation that decriminalised terminations to be repealed, posting on Twitter that “abortion harms the voiceless, the most vulnerable in our society.”

Northern Ireland was one of the last countries in Europe with a ban on abortion. Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the tip of southern Spain, recently voted to make abortion legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Andorra and Malta still have strict abortion laws, where it is illegal for women to terminate pregnancies even if the mother’s life is at risk.

Update: This article was corrected to reflect that abortion in Northern Ireland was decriminalised following a decree from Westminster, rather than following a referendum.

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17. UK at risk of food and fuel shortages as Covid pingdemic disrupts workforce and supply chains, 22 [−]

Britains Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has warned that the government is very concerned about potential food shortages, as supermarkets and hauliers are impacted by record numbers forced to self-isolate as Covid cases rise.

Reporting on the situation on Thursday, UK newspapers showed empty shelves in supermarkets throughout the country, as the number of individuals forced to self-isolate due to the spread of Covid begins to impact the supply chain and the ability of shops to operate.

While the business secretary urged people to avoid “panicking” about the prospect of empty shelves in shops, he admitted that the government is “very concerned about the situation” and is monitoring it closely.

England reopened on Monday, July 19, known as ‘Freedom Day,’ as Covid restrictions were lifted, with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson citing the successful vaccination programme as proof that the nation is ready to begin returning to normal.

However, despite 87% of UK adults having received one dose of a Covid jab and more than 68% having been fully vaccinated, the country is reporting record numbers of new daily infections, forcing an increasing number of people to self-isolate.

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The concerns come after the British Meat Processors’ Association warned on Wednesday that the country’s food supply chains are “right on the edge of failing” due to a shortage of labor and a rising number of people in the workforce being 'pinged' (notified of a possible infection). Separately, supermarket chain Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker, declared that a number of stores will be closed due to a shortage of staff and HGV drivers.

The latest figures from the UK government show that a record 618,903 in England and Wales were ordered to self-isolate by the NHS Track and Trace app in the week to July 14, in what’s been called a ‘pingdemic’. The increase of 16.8% on the previous week came after 259,265 people had tested positive for the virus in the past week.

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18. Teaching medieval values: Britons angry as Ofsted finds anti-gay book in Islamic schools library saying gays must be slained, 22 [−]

The findings of an Ofsted inspection of the Institute of Islamic Education private boarding school have caused outrage in the UK notably, the discovery of a book in the schools library that promotes the killing of homosexuals.

On Tuesday, Ofsted, the UK’s standards authority for education, published a report about the religious boarding school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

The report, which concerned its inspection visit in May, claimed the school did not meet the standards required of an independent school or a boarding school, but more worrying still, deemed that “fundamental British values [were being] undermined by leaders’ failings.”

During their visit, inspectors came across a library book titled ‘Islam on Homosexuality’, which contained content considered “unsuitable for pupils.”

A section of the book read: “The participants of the homosexual act should be slained (sic) whether they are married or unmarried, because in filth and mischief this act surpasses adultery.” Another section proclaimed that the “evil doers should be put to death.”

While the headteacher admitted the book should not have been stocked in the library, other leaders and trustees of the school said it should remain on the shelves.

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In response, several commenters online called for the school to be closed down.

One social media user said there was simply “no excuse” for such practices, declaring that the school management should be replaced immediately and asking why the school’s status as an educational institution hadn’t been revoked.

Others accused the school of “teaching medieval values,” while another called on people to imagine the outrage if “a Church of England school had a book recommending killing Muslims.”

“They’ll never integrate into our society – they are here to live in their own society,” one person wrote on Twitter. These are just “indoctrination centres,” another railed, adding that such schools were brainwashing the next generation of Muslims and preventing assimilation.

Several people made a comparison with an incident that happened earlier this year, when a teacher from a school in Batley, also in West Yorkshire, was forced into hiding after members of the Muslim community protested and threatened to kill him after he showed a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed to pupils during a lesson.

“Hmmm, wonder if there will be … any protests by the gay or LGTBQ community at this school demanding the book be removed?” one asked ironically, claiming that sector’s silence on the matter said a lot.

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Others made the usual doom-laden comments, claiming, “this is only the beginning!” and that you soon wouldn’t be able to get a bacon roll in Britain.

While most people condemned the school, some hit back at Ofsted. One person claimed the Bible contained exhortations that were just as extreme, and another questioned what was meant by “fundamental British values.” “Xenophobia. Murder. Colonialism. Genocide. Invasion. Exceptionalism,” one asserted.

Earlier this year, people from West Yorkshire’s Muslim community staged a protest at a school less than four miles away from Dewsbury, after a teacher showed images of the Prophet Mohammed to his class. Ministers condemned those involved in the protest and said threats made against his life were “very disturbing.” Nearly £80,000 has been raised on the Go Fund Me website for the teacher, who remains in hiding.

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19. Brexit deal wasnt something to last forever: Britain says EU is inflexible on Northern Ireland issue, 22 [−]

The UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has accused the EU of being inflexible about the prospect of re-negotiating the Northern Ireland part of the deal, claiming it was not made to last forever in the first place.

In an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, Kwarteng backed the idea of re-negotiating the agreement. The effects of the deal were hard to predict before it actually came into force, he argued, so the parties should now be permitted to work together to make it more “smooth.”

“Nobody could guarantee the effects of the Northern Ireland Protocol until we left the EU,” he stated.

The EU have been a bit inflexible on the Protocol, and we want to see if we can make it work more smoothly.

Asked by Sky News presenter Kay Burley whether the Brexit “deal’s a deal” and therefore should be respected, Kwarteng said the agreement was not designed to last ad infinitum.

A deal is a deal, but it wasn’t something that was going to last forever. It was something that was flexible, and we want to make it work more smoothly.

The UK’s Brexit minister, David Frost, has told the EU that “we cannot go on as we are” and the agreement needed a “significant change.”

While the EU expressed a readiness to look for “creative solutions” and continue working with the UK on the bilateral issues, it flatly rejected the possibility of the standing agreement being revised. The Republic of Ireland has opposed it as well, with its minister of state for European affairs, Thomas Byrne, opining that the current deal was flexible enough as it was. “We do not want to negotiate the Protocol,” he said, shortly after Frost first floated the re-negotiation idea.

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The UK’s call came just a year after the deal was reached, allowing for the transfer of goods between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland without checks. The deal has greatly complicated the flow of goods between the UK and the region, however, with some businesses in Northern Ireland saying it had damaged trade. Some pro-British groups in the region, in turn, warned that the agreement would ultimately weaken the ties between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

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20. Guitarist Eric Clapton says hell CANCEL shows at venues that discriminate by requiring vaccination, 22 [−]

Reacting to the British government requiring Covid-19 vaccine passes for access to live venues and nightclubs, musician Eric Clapton said he would cancel shows at places that discriminated against the unvaccinated.

Saying he felt “honour-bound to make an announcement of my own,” after PM Boris Johnson announced the vaccine passes on July 19, Clapton said he would “not perform on any stage where there is a discriminated audience present. Unless there is provision made for all people to attend, I reserve the right to cancel the show.”

The author of ‘Change the World’ accompanied the message with a link to ‘Stand and Deliver,’ the song opposing lockdowns he recorded with Van Morrison last year.

According to Rolling Stone, Clapton isn’t scheduled to perform in the UK until May 2022, when he has two dates booked at London’s Royal Albert Hall. He also has a “handful” of concerts in North America scheduled in September.

US reactions to Clapton’s announcement were divided along partisan lines, with the conservative Prager University praising him for fighting against “arrogant tyranny,” while liberals said they never wanted to watch him perform anyway, and denouncing him as racist over comments he made in the 1970s.

The 76-year-old has long been an outspoken critic of Covid-19 lockdowns. Earlier this year, he drew condemnation for talking about the alleged adverse effects he experienced after having received the vaccine, complaining he was in “agony” and “chronic pain” that made it impossible to play the guitar for a week and that had left his hands sensitive to heat and cold.

Clapton has sold more than 100 million records worldwide during his solo career, creating the hits ‘Layla’, ‘Tears in Heaven’, and ‘My Father’s Eyes.’

While the majority of England’s Covid-19 restrictions were lifted on July 19, Johnson’s government plans to use vaccination passes have sparked opposition in the form of petitions and street protests.

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21. We cannot go on as we are: UK Brexit minister demands new Northern Ireland deal with EU, 21 [−]

The British government has called for a new deal with the EU to resolve current trade issues between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as the UKs Brexit minister, David Frost, warned we cannot go on as we are.

Frost expressed his discontent at the current Northern Ireland Protocol element of the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement, telling Parliament on Wednesday that the deal needed a “significant change”.

The Brexit minister called for a revision of the deal to strike a “new balance”, with “the relationship between us and the EU no longer policed by the EU institutions and the [European] Court of Justice”. Instead, the new agreement would hopefully embody more of a “sense of genuine and equitable partnership”, he added, while warning that “we cannot go on as we are”.

However, Frost also said that, while there was justification for invoking Article 16 – which permits either party, London or Brussels, to suspend parts of the treaty if extremely negative circumstances arise – it would not be the best action to take at present.

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European Commission Vice President Maroš Šef?ovi? responded to Frost’s comments, stating that the bloc would continue to work with the UK and look for “creative solutions, within the framework of the Protocol, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland”. However, a renegotiation was off the cards – Šef?ovi? said “stability and predictability” were of the utmost importance to the region.

Ireland’s minister of state for European affairs, Thomas Byrne, also refuted the possibility of the current agreement being revised, stating, “We do not want to negotiate the protocol.” He said the current agreement was already flexible enough and there was room for interpretation for its implementation.

The UK and EU have struggled to find a middle ground that respects the EU’s single market without creating a hard border between Northern Ireland, which is in the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member. The Northern Ireland Protocol allows for the transfer of goods between the neighbouring countries without checks on goods.

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Several issues have arisen, however, that have highlighted the complications of trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain under the Protocol. In what was dubbed a ‘sausage war’, the UK and the EU were embroiled for months in an escalating row over an impending ban on the sale and import of British chilled meats to Northern Ireland. A three-month grace period on introducing the ban was granted by the EU, but this is due to expire in September.

Problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol have caused tensions to swell in the region, with the country’s unionists accusing Ireland of instigating a trade-based "Cold War". Back in March, the Loyalist Communities Council withdrew its support for the Good Friday Agreement – a truce that largely ended 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland – as it did not support the resolution to the Irish border situation under the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement.

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22. Rebellion in Westminster? Tory MPs say theyll defy Boris Johnson and vote against illiberal vaccine passports, 21 [−]

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hasnt just angered large swathes of the British public with his proposed vaccine passports: hes also angered his own MPs, many of whom have now pledged to vote against such a measure.

Mere hours after Britain’s nightclubs reopened on Monday, Johnson blindsided the public with an announcement that proof of vaccination will soon be needed to enter these establishments, with proof of a negative test no longer sufficient for entry. Protesters had already taken to the streets of London to demand a total end to coronavirus-related policies, and by Wednesday afternoon, more than 240,000 people had signed a petition demanding the government “take firm action to prevent 'vaccination passports' and discriminatory 'no jab, no job' policies.”

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Opposition to the so-called ‘vaccine passports’ is not just brewing in the streets, but in Westminster too. Seventy-nine Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Green MPs have signed a declaration against vaccination certificates organized by Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties organisation. The declaration has also been signed by 14 peers and nine NGOs, and was drawn up as part of a wider campaign against vaccine passports supported by Christian groups and the hospitality industry.

A number of Conservative MPs have threatened to boycott the party’s conference in October if vaccine passports are required, the Guardian reported on Wednesday. One MP told the paper he had “no doubt” vaccine passports would be required at the conference, and “as a result, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if a number of Conservative MPs and activists refuse to attend.”

Despite Big Brother Watch’s declaration attracting the support of 37 Labour MPs, as well as former party leader Jeremy Corbyn, how the party eventually votes on vaccine passports will depend largely on the decision of party leader Keir Starmer. While Starmer once vocally opposed vaccine passports, and called them “un-British,” he has not yet signalled whether he will support or oppose Johnson’s latest proposal.

Although 42 Tory MPs have signed the declaration, Labour’s support could still see vaccine passports introduced. “There is nothing I can do or Conservatives can do if Labour continue to decline to oppose the government’s illiberal policies,” Conservative MP Steve Baker told the Guardian. “This is really now all about Sir Keir, who described this policy as un-British.”

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However, should Labour oppose the measure, and should a few more Conservatives join their dissenting colleagues, Johnson may not have enough support when the House of Commons returns from recess to vote on the proposal in September.

“I don’t think the government would have the support of enough Conservatives in a parliamentary vote if the opposition decided to oppose the measures as well,” Tory MP Steve Bone told the Financial Times on Wednesday.

Baker expects opposition within his party to grow too. “Some MPs were told specifically that mandatory vaccination and Covid certification were not going to happen and on that basis they supported the government in past votes,” he said. “Of course some backbenchers are now furious that the government has now done the former and said they will do the latter.”

Johnson has refused to rule out extending the vaccine requirement to pubs and public transport as well as nightclubs, with a Downing Street spokesman saying that the government is “going to use the coming weeks to look at the evidence, particularly both in the UK and globally before making a specific decision.”

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However, some MPs reckon Johnson is using the threat of vaccine passports to push young people into getting the jab, and will drop the proposal by September if successful. “I am considering voting against the whip for the first time in my life,” one Tory backbencher told the Guardian, “but I’m also not going to worry about it too much over the summer as it does sound like No 10 using it as a stick to try and persuade young people to get jabbed.”

Another MP told the Financial Times that Johnson was modelling his approach on that of French President Emmanuel Macron, who caused outcry earlier this month when he announced that a “health pass” would be needed to enter pubs, restaurants, public transport and more. While the move triggered protests in French cities, it also led to a massive uptick in vaccination appointments.

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23. Leeds city council probes slave trade roots of parkin cake due to traditional treat being made with SUGAR media, 21 [−]

Parkin is said to be facing scrutiny in Leeds after a city council document reportedly flagged the centuries-old Yorkshire delicacy for containing sugar apparently exposing the cakes slave-trade origins.

The gingerbread cake, which dates back to the 18th century, was flagged along with other local favourites, including Yorkshire Tea, over their potentially problematic ingredients, the Telegraph reported, citing a city council document.

“Historically, some of the ingredients used to make these ‘local’ products were gained through the triangular slave trade (for example, sugar),” the eye-opening internal report observed. To be fair, 18th-century parkin likely used sugar imported from Britain’s sugar plantations in the Caribbean.

Leeds’ city council purportedly hopes to dig into parkin’s sweet but colonial origins as part of activity “in relation to Black Lives Matter.” The proposed anti-racist sleuthing aims to reveal “how local products such as Yorkshire Parkin and Yorkshire tea are, in fact, reliant on global trade.” Eventually the council’s findings may be used to create teaching material for primary school pupils in the city, the Telegraph said.

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BBC presenter claims UK gardening culture is so RACIST that racism is baked into its DNA

The council’s planned curriculum changes will highlight how, while Yorkshire delicacies put the county “on the map,” some ingredients for these items “would have been sourced from around the empire and would have involved the labour of enslaved people as well as exploitation of resources and communities around the world.” The document stressed that its criticisms of parkin reflect a “contemporary perspective” on the cake and its sugary cohorts.

The report is part of a study launched by the Labour-controlled council which seeks to identify “examples of how racism continues to be prevalent in everyday life.” It’s possible that the city’s leaders may have taken aim at cake after determining that there was a lack of problematic statues in the city ripe for removal. Unlike in cities such as Bristol – where a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled – Leeds is without memorials that honour individuals linked to the slave trade, the report concluded. However, “themes of empire and colonialism are still prominent within the city’s heritage” and much can be done to promote greater “diversity” in the municipality.

The BLM-inspired culinary research could mark a turning point in parkin’s history. As the Telegraph noted, the cake’s origins are very much in dispute, with Lancashire also claiming ownership of the treat. Notably, the county has not yet launched its own probe into the cake’s allegedly racist past.

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24. 'The sooner he goes, the better: Former top aide admits plotting to OUST Boris Johnson from office weeks after getting him there, 21 [−]

Describing Boris Johnson being PM as terrible for the country, Dominic Cummings has revealed that he and other Downing Street aides had plotted to oust him from office just weeks after their landslide December 2019 election win.

In his first TV interview since resigning as the PM's chief adviser last year, Cummings directed a series of criticisms at Johnson, who he claimed “doesn't have a plan” to run the country, “doesn’t know how to be prime minister” and was obsessed with “stupid” projects in transport and infrastructure.

During the hour-long programme, which aired Tuesday night on the BBC, Cummings admitted that he'd been looking to “hasten” the PM’s exit from Downing Street. “Certainly. The sooner he goes, the better. For sure,” he said.

He claimed to have known about Johnson's "hopeless" qualities after they’d worked together on the 'Vote Leave' campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum. But Cummings worked to get him elected to power three years later only “because we had to solve a certain problem, not because he was the right person to be running the country.”

However, "within days" of the Conservative Party's majority win in the 2019 polls on the back of a promise to "get Brexit done," Cummings claimed the “prime minister's [then] girlfriend [was] trying to get rid of [the Vote Leave staff] and appoint complete clowns to certain key jobs.”

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Members of the media surround Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings (R) as he leaves his residence in London on November 14, 2020.
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Until the victory, Cummings said, Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds had been happy to let 'Vote Leave' veterans run the campaign. But, he added, “As soon as the election was won, her view was 'Why should it be Dominic and the Vote-Leave team? Why shouldn't it be me that's pulling the strings?'”

By January 2020, he claimed, the team members began to fear for their positions. “[People] were already saying, 'By the summer, either we'll all have gone from here or we'll be in the process of trying to get rid of [Johnson] and get someone else in as prime minister'," Cummings recalled.

However, he did not detail the means by which Johnson was to be removed from office. The idea was dismissed by senior Tory MP Charles Walker, who told Times Radio that Cummings would have needed to “engineer a military coup” to remove Johnson.

His allegations about Carrie Johnson "interfering" with government appointments in an "unethical and unprofessional way" shed light on the reported power struggle and "big argument" between her and Cummings' prior to his departure from Downing Street last November.

“Carrie's view was, and is, that 'the prime minister doesn't have a plan, and he doesn't know how Whitehall works; someone is going to set the agenda: it can either be the civil service, or it can be Dominic and the Vote Leave team, or it can be me'," Cummings said.

A Downing Street spokesperson told the BBC that “political appointments are entirely made by the prime minister,” but declined to respond to Cummings’ accusations against Carrie Johnson.

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FILE PHOTO. Dominic Cummings in London.  AFP / Tolga Akmen
Boris Johnson didnt want 2nd lockdown last year because it would kill the economy to save the elderly, former top aide says

The result was, Cummings said, that his working relationship with Boris Johnson had begun to break down “by summer 2020.” The break-up was also apparently fuelled by Johnson being "fed up with the media portrayal of him being a kind of puppet for the Vote Leave team.”

“It was driving him round the bend,” Cummings claimed, adding that Johnson also “knew that I was blaming him for not having acted [to tackle Covid response issues] in September.”

Later in the interview, Cummings alleged that Johnson denied the NHS would be overwhelmed by rising Covid-19 cases last autumn and was reluctant to impose the second lockdown in November, because he did not want to “kill the economy just because of people [aged over 80] dying.”

In recent months, Cummings has been highly critical of the PM and other government officials but denied during the interview that he was motivated by a need for revenge against Johnson, who he claimed not to have spoken to since his resignation.

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25. UNESCO strips Liverpool of World Heritage status over waterfront developments, 21 [−]

UNESCO has stripped Liverpool of its World Heritage Status over irreversible loss of attributes caused by the redevelopment of the citys docklands and the construction of a waterfront football stadium.

At a meeting of its heritage body on Wednesday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization concluded that Liverpool’s waterfront had been damaged by a £5.5-billion ($7.48bn) redevelopment of the city’s derelict waterfront areas and the building of a £500-million ($680mn) stadium on the site of the old Bramley-Moore Dock.

The decision was made “due to the irreversible loss of attributes conveying the outstanding universal value of the property,” UNESCO said, in a statement posted to its website.

Liverpool called the decision to remove its status as “incomprehensible,” arguing that the “World Heritage site has never been in better condition” due to the hundreds of millions invested throughout the city.

Despite Liverpool’s protestations, UNESCO claims it had warned Liverpool in 2012 that its status was at risk of removal if it proceeded with planned waterfront developments. However, the city chose to go ahead with its building projects regardless of the risk to its World-Heritage-site title.

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Liverpool was granted the coveted status in 2004 in recognition of its history as a trading hub during the British empire, and for its architectural landmarks. When awarding the city its title, UNESCO specifically referenced the docklands, which had played a significant role throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

The decision to delist Liverpool makes it the third city to lose its status, alongside the Elbe Valley in Dresden, following the construction of a four-lane bridge across the landscape, and the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman, after it reduced the size of its protected area by 90%.

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26. Seek safety in the EU: UK minister sends message to asylum seekers amid new migrant crisis, 21 [−]

A British MP has said the government needs to send a clear message to those seeking refuge in the UK, encouraging them to apply for asylum in the European Union, rather than travelling through safe countries to reach Britain.

Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said it was clear that people arriving on British shores to claim asylum had passed up the opportunity to apply for asylum in other safe countries, notably in the EU.

Atkins stated that migrants should be applying for asylum in the first safe country they came to, adding that the movement patterns the Home Office had observed didn’t show this happening.

“That’s the message we’ve really got to land with people. That, if you’re landing in the EU, it’s a safe set of countries – of course it is. So, please, that is where you should be seeking asylum.

She added that the government needed to work harder to spread the message that you cannot come the UK illegally, noting that it was not fair on those applying through legal routes. Illegal migrants could face up to four years in prison for entering the UK illegally under the planned reforms currently being considered by Parliament.

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British Border Force staff bring migrants into Dover harbour, in Dover, Britain, (FILE PHOTO)  REUTERS/Paul Childs
Britons shocked by new migrant crisis as 430 arrive on English shores in 1 day, a new record

The minister reinforced the government’s commitment to reforming the immigration system in a way that is both “firm” and “fair”. She stated that the reforms, many of which are included in the Nationality and Borders Bill, would help create “safe routes for people to come legally” as well as “crack down on these criminal gangs that are exploiting people’s wishes to come to this country.”

Under government plans, asylum seekers could be sent to a third nation to be processed.

On Monday, the UK saw 430 people cross the English Channel from France and Belgium to seek a new life in Britain. The figure is a new daily record for migrant crossings in a single day and takes the total number of crossings to date in 2021 to nearly 8,000, almost surpassing the number registered in the entirety of 2020. The figure is also around four times more than what was seen in all of 2019.

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27. Britons shocked by new migrant crisis as 430 arrive on English shores in 1 day, a new record, 20 [−]

Many Britons have questioned why the country is facing another migrant crisis after 430 asylum seekers landed on British shores on Monday, just months after the UK finally took back control of its borders from the EU.

The Home Office has said that at least 430 migrants crossed the English Channel from France on Monday with Britain’s heatwave providing ideal crossing conditions.

The figure marks a new daily record for migrant crossings in a single day and sees the total number of crossings this year nearly surpass the number registered in the entirety of 2020. The near 8,000 crossings so far in 2021 are around four times more than what was seen in all of 2019.

Continuing its tough rhetoric on Channel crossings, the Home Office told the BBC it was taking “substantial steps to tackle the unacceptable problem of illegal migration.”

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FILE PHOTO. Border Patrol agents bring migrants into Dover harbour on a boat, after they tried to cross the channel, in Dover, Britain.  REUTERS/Matthew Childs
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Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to make illegal migration a thing of the past. The Nationality and Borders Bill, which has completed its second reading in the House of Commons, seeks to make illegal entry to the UK a crime punishable with four years in prison.

Government plans could also see asylum seekers sent to third countries to be processed. Denmark has already announced similar plans, with Rwanda being a potential processing location.

In late 2020 and earlier this year, the UK Home Office came under intense scrutiny after reports in the media about plans to send asylum seekers to far-flung British territories, including Ascension Island and even disused oil rigs.

However, Britain’s plans to take back its borders, a slogan and policy enabled by Brexit, is yet to come to fruition, angering many in the UK. Some took to Twitter to register their dismay at the number of dinghies landing on British shores on Monday.

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“For all those looking to immigrate to the UK. It is a lot cheaper and faster to simply cross the channel,” one person wrote ironically on Twitter, adding that they could bypass NHS fees and other requirements for migration.

Another person asked why the government was ‘taking away her freedom’ with the introduction of vaccine passports, but these migrants could illegally enter Britain with “impunity.”

However, not everyone was angry, some pointed out that the UK had the capacity to care for these people while another said she felt sorry for them, coming all the way to the UK to find they’re “treated like animals.”

Speaking on Monday evening during his first-ever show on GB News, Brexiteer Nigel Farage said that migrant crossings would once again become the biggest non-coronavirus story in the news this summer.

Farage struck a foreboding tone, warning once again about the costs and risks of illegal migration to the UK and the need for reform in the asylum system.

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28. Over a million children in England missed school over Covid on July 15, Department of Education reveals, 20 [−]

Data released by the UK government has revealed more than one million children in England were absent from school on July 15 due to coronavirus-related reasons the highest number reported since pupils returned in March.

The Department of Education published findings on Tuesday which show that 1.05 million children – approximately one in four pupils – in state-funded schools were absent on July 15.

The absence rates from mid-July are the highest ever reported since schools welcomed children back in March 2021. The figures showed a 3% increase of pupils off of school from the previous week and an almost 6% increase since July 1. On June 24 one in 20 pupils – approximately 375,000 children – were absent from school in England, marking a stark contrast to the number of pupils off just three weeks later.

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FILE PHOTO. Students listen to a teacher during a lesson at Heath Mount school as schools reopen in England, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Watton at Stone, Hertfordshire, Britain.  Reuters / Andrew Couldridge
Covid-related absences from schools in England hit 375,000 on one day in June, Department of Education figures show

However, coronavirus infections themselves are not the main culprit for the record number of pupils missing school, as less than 50,000 children were off due to having a confirmed case of the illness. In contrast, the bulk of students (almost 774,000) were missing time in the classroom because of needing to self-isolate after coming into contact with a classmate with coronavirus.

The findings coincide with the government’s scrapping of the school bubble system from July 19 onwards as part of the wider easing of measures on ‘Freedom Day’. Under the previous guidelines, whole classrooms could be mandated to isolate if a peer in the class tested positive for coronavirus. Other restriction relaxations include under-18s no longer being required to self-isolate after coming into contact with a case from August 16. Instead, minors will just need to take a PCR test.

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While the previous system disrupted the learning of hundreds of thousands across the country, several scientists penned a letter to the government published in the Lancet medical journal on July 7, insisting that isolation was the lesser of two evils. The 120 signatories of the missive insisted that high transmission rates in schools are more dangerous and disruptive than isolation, especially to vulnerable children, as the UK has not yet approved a wide vaccination campaign for its under-18s.

Although many countries across the globe have approved coronavirus vaccines for minors, the UK has been much more hesitant. Sajid Javid announced on Monday that only children who are over 12 and clinically vulnerable, or live with someone who is, are eligible for the vaccine. Adolescents a few months shy of their 18th birthday will be able to get jabbed soon.

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29. Well sail where intl law allows: UK to permanently deploy naval vessels to South China Sea amid regional tensions, 20 [−]

The United Kingdom has announced plans to permanently deploy a fleet of naval vessels to Japan, sailing through the South China Sea, as Western countries increase engagement in the Pacific region.

The UK announced on Tuesday that it will be permanently deploying two naval vessels to waters surrounding Japan later this year ahead of the HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’-led aircraft carrier strike group’s arrival in Japan.

“Following on from the strike group’s inaugural deployment, the United Kingdom will permanently assign two ships in the region from later this year,” UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace said in Tokyo at a joint press conference with his Japanese counterpart, Nobuo Kishi.

We will respect China and we hope that China respects us. We will sail where international law allows.

Wallace stated that the British vessels will not be specifically based at a Japanese port but will patrol the surrounding waters.

Japan is a strategic partner of the UK and the US, participating in joint military drills and hosting the largest concentration of American troops outside of its own 50 states.

The Royal Navy’s largest warship, the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ aircraft carrier, alongside its UK strike group, is due to arrive in Japan in September to participate in joint exercises with Tokyo’s Self-Defense Forces. The move, presented by Kishi and Wallace on Tuesday, is designed to counter China’s territorial activities in the region.

The ‘Queen Elizabeth’ is currently escorted by Royal Navy destroyers, frigates and support vessels, as well as US and Dutch vessels. It’s not yet known if those nations will join the UK in a permanent deployment to the region.

The South China Sea and nearby waters have been the site of heightened tensions between Beijing, neighboring countries and Western nations.

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China has remained firm that it has territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea, accusing the West of engaging in “extremely irresponsible” behavior and seeking to “deliberately provoke controversy.” Western countries have claimed China’s ‘nine-dash line’ territorial argument is “unlawful” and argued they are protecting “international law of the ocean.”

The UK’s newly announced deployment through the South China Sea marks the second time in recent months that the nation has stoked tensions by claiming it is sailing through territorial waters “in accordance with international law.” Back in June, the Russian Ministry of Defense fired warning shots at the Royal Navy’s HMS ‘Defender’ after it sailed into the Black Sea on a similar mission. While the UK argued its entry was justified, Russia called it a “flagrant violation of international norms” and warned it could “provoke a serious conflict.”

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30. Boris Johnson didnt want 2nd lockdown last year because it would kill the economy to save the elderly, former top aide says, 20 [−]

Dominic Cummings has claimed that the British PM denied the NHS would be overwhelmed by rising Covid-19 cases last year and was reluctant to impose a second lockdown, as he did not want to kill the economy to save the elderly.

The former top Downing Street adviser made the bombshell revelations in his first TV interview since leaving office. During the conversation with the BBC, Cummings said Boris Johnson “put his own political interests ahead of people’s lives, for sure.”

In the lead-up to the second lockdown in November, Cummings said Johnson’s attitude was a “weird mix” of “partly ‘it’s all nonsense and lockdowns don’t work anyway,’ and partly ‘well, this is terrible but the people who are dying are essentially all over 80, and we can’t kill the economy just because of people dying over 80.’”

According to WhatsApp messages leaked by Cummings to the public broadcaster, the PM had joked that people could “get Covid and live longer,” since most deaths were of those who were “above [average] life expectancy.”

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Former special advisor to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, is seen outside of his house, in London, Britain, May 4, 2021.  REUTERS/Toby Melville
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In messages sent to aides in mid-October, Johnson reportedly described himself as being “slightly rocked by some of the data on Covid fatalities,” which he then reasoned “shows we don’t go for nationwide lockdown.”

Noting that the “median age” for Covid deaths was between 81 and 82 for men and 85 for women, and that “there are max [three million people]” aged over 80 in the UK, he allegedly wrote there was a “need to recalibrate” public health thinking around lockdowns.

“Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital ... and of those virtually all survive. And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff,” Johnson apparently wrote.

The revelations cast additional doubt over the PM’s actions last autumn – a period in which, Cummings claimed, Johnson had continued to ignore recommendations made by his scientific and medical advisers to bring in tougher restrictions.

“When you get to the week of around about 15 to 19 September, by that point the data was clear about what was happening,” Cummings said, adding that Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty had told Johnson to “consider hitting it hard and early.”

In response, Cummings claimed, the PM said, “No, no no, no, no, I’m not doing it.”

Alleging that Johnson was concerned about the potential reaction of his “real boss” in right-wing news media and the Conservative Party, Cummings said the PM told his advisers that he should not have agreed to the first lockdown earlier in the year.

“He then basically reverted and said, actually the whole thing was a disaster, we should never have done it, I was right in February, we should basically just ignore it and just let the thing wash through the country and not destroy the economy and move on,” Cummings said.

Cummings also claimed that Johnson had wanted to meet Queen Elizabeth in person in March 2020, when Downing Street staff were already falling ill and after the PM had told the public to avoid all unnecessary contact, particularly with the elderly.

“You obviously can’t go … I just said if you, if you give her coronavirus and she dies what, what are you gonna, you can’t do that, you can’t risk that, that’s completely insane. And he said, he basically just hadn’t thought it through, he said, yeah, ‘holy shit, I can’t go.’”

A Downing Street spokesperson denied that this incident took place, while Buckingham Palace has declined to comment.

When asked during the interview for proof to back up his version of events, Cummings stated that many of his allegations would be corroborated by a public inquiry. Since falling out with Johnson last year, he has repeatedly blamed the government for thousands of avoidable Covid-19 deaths.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the prime minister had taken “the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice” since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party echoed Cummings’ call for a public inquiry and said the revelations were “further evidence that the prime minister has made the wrong calls time and again at the expense of public health.”

The full interview will be broadcast on Tuesday.

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31. 100,000+ Britons sign petition to outlaw discrimination against unvaccinated as govt moves forward with Covid vaccine passports, 20 [−]

More than 100,000 people have called on the British government to review plans to bring in vaccine passports and prevent discriminatory policies against people who have refused to be part of the national inoculation programme.

A petition which started in February has gathered pace on Tuesday, with thousands add their names to the growing list of people calling for the government to do more to prevent legalised ‘discrimination’ against people who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19.

“The Government must specifically outlaw discrimination based on vaccine status, this includes access to private businesses, jobs and public life. No individual should ever feel coerced into having a vaccine,” the petition states.

Tens of thousands of people signed the petition on Tuesday morning, following a day of unrest in the capital in which hundreds of angry protesters clashed with police, having called for the arrest of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Links to the petition have been widely shared across Twitter, with English band Right Said Fred receiving more than 1,200 retweets on their call for people to sign.

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FILE PHOTO: Nadhim Zahawi speaks during a media briefing at Downing Street in London, Britain, June 23, 2021  Reuters / Tom Nicholson
Booster shots coming, vaccines will be MANDATORY for nightclubs, UK govt announces

Others vented their anger in other ways on Twitter, calling once again for the prime minister to be arrested. Many went as far as comparing the Covid-19 restrictions to Adolf Hitler’s Germany, with ‘Nazi’ trending on the social media platform.

On Monday, people gathered outside the Palace of Westminster to protest measures aimed at preventing the continued spread of Covid-19 virus. While Monday, termed ‘Freedom Day’, saw the last of the major restrictions lifted, the government has laid out plans to mandate the use of vaccination certificates at crowded venues in England.

Despite having one of the world’s highest vaccination rates against Covid-19, many young people have elected not to get jabbed. Under the government’s current plans, unvaccinated individuals will be prohibited from entering venues such as nightclubs from September. Johnson’s government had previously ruled out the idea of making entry to venues dependent on vaccination status.

The government’s U-turn came just hours after nightclubs were allowed to open for the first time in 16 months. Amid the condemnation of the Johnson’s plans, some have suggested that mandatory vaccination passports will help provide peace of mind to some Covid-wary clubbers and others attending large gatherings.

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32. Booster shots coming, vaccines will be MANDATORY for nightclubs, UK govt announces, 19 [−]

Amid England's reopening, UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has revealed that proof of full inoculation against Covid will soon be needed to enter clubs and big venues, and a booster shot programme is in the works.

Monday marked the long-anticipated reopening of England’s bars and clubs, and the dropping of most of the coronavirus restrictions that had been in place since last year. However, the government will soon make vaccination mandatory to enter these establishments, Zahawi announced on Monday.

“Vaccination holds the key for doing the things we love,” he told Parliament. “We plan to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient.”

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By September, Zahawi stated, every adult in the UK will have been given the opportunity to get fully vaccinated.

Zahawi had a different opinion on so-called ‘vaccine passports’ only a few months ago. Back in February he called such passes “discriminatory,” and told the BBC: “That's not how we do things. We do them by consent.”

In a BBC appearance shortly after Zahawi’s speech, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the vaccination-only policy official, repeating the minister’s words verbatim.

With the efficacy of vaccines against the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus being questioned in some countries, Zahawi also told lawmakers that the government is drawing up plans to administer vaccine booster shots. Trials for such shots are already underway, and before his resignation last month, then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that a nationwide programme of booster jabs will likely be rolled out in autumn.

For the moment, children will be exempt from vaccination unless they suffer from pre-existing conditions, Zahawi said on Monday.

“We will be offering even more vulnerable people the protection that a vaccine brings and we will all be safer as a result,” he said, after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation released new guidance stating that only children with severe neurodisabilities, Down's syndrome, immunosuppression, and profound and multiple learning disabilities will be given the jab.

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33. Concern after UK govt site suggests shortage of lateral flow Covid tests as England unlocks, ministry says glitch to blame, 19 [−]

Britons eager to obtain lateral flow Covid-19 tests through the UK government website were met with a message on Monday saying that no more could be ordered online or by phone, in what health officials later said was a glitch.

On the same day England ditched its Covid restrictions, many people applying to have free kits sent out to them via the government scheme were instead greeted with a message telling them to “please try again tomorrow when more tests will be available.”

“No more rapid lateral flow tests can be ordered online or through the call centre today,” the automated message read.

People who were attempting to access the home testing kits shared their concerns and frustrations on Twitter after receiving the “try again tomorrow” message.

However, hours after the concerns were shared online, the Department of Health and Social Care posted a statement on Twitter saying that “there was a temporary technical glitch with the website earlier which has now been rectified,” and that lateral flow tests were still available.

On Monday, England ditched all of its compulsory coronavirus restrictions, with masks no longer mandated and social-distancing limits becoming a thing of the past. Dropping the measures has been met with staunch criticism from scientists and doctors alike, particularly as Health Secretary Sajid Javid recently theorised that Covid cases could soar up to 100,000 a day later this summer. Javid himself tested positive for Covid at the weekend.

The UK government had previously stressed the importance of readily available tests, expressing that “alongside vaccine rollout, regular testing is at the heart of plans to reopen society and the economy, helping to suppress and control the spread of variants” in a statement on April 9, when a scheme of twice-weekly rapid testing was made available to everyone in England.

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FILE PHOTO. Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak speak during a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London, Britain.  Reuters / Matt Dunham
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Lateral flow tests are designed to confirm Covid viral status within half an hour and can be performed at home, making them more accessible and rapid than PCR tests. However, people who are suffering coronavirus symptoms are advised to seek PCR testing and not lateral flow.

The UK is currently grappling with its highest daily caseloads since the second pandemic wave in January, recording over 50,000 cases on each of July 16 and 17. The prevalence of the virus is also much higher, with every one person per 95 in England suspected of being infected with the virus on Friday.

Since the start of the pandemic, the UK has recorded almost 5.5 million cases and almost 130,000 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, with the country ranking as the seventh highest globally for total fatalities.

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34. Suspended GB News presenter Guto Harri reportedly quits broadcaster over it becoming an absurd parody, 19 [−]

Welsh journalist Guto Harri has reportedly resigned as a presenter at GB News, a day after accusing the station of becoming an absurd parody and pandering to the far right over his suspension for taking the knee while on air.

Defending himself in the Sunday Times newspaper, Harri blasted his former employer for “rapidly becoming an absurd parody of what it proclaimed to be” after he was suspended for breaching its editorial standards by taking the knee live on air.

Rather than defending free speech and confronting cancel culture, [GB News] has set out to replicate it on the far right.

Despite GB News publicly scolding Harri for an “unacceptable breach” of the organisation’s editorial standards, the presenter claimed that he had informed producers ahead of time that he would take the knee and had been told to “do it to camera three.”

After he took the knee, Harri was suspended from presenting duties for the summer by GB News. Prior to his making the gesture, Harri had been discussing the issue of racist abuse directed towards England’s black football players after the team lost in the Euro final.

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Guto Harri speaks at the Cutting Through The Spin - Bremner, Blunkett, Fox and Kennedy talk #GE2015 seminar during Advertising Week Europe on March 25, 2015 in London, England.  Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Advertising Week
Free speech news channel GB News cancels host for taking BLM knee live on air reports

In his Sunday Times piece, Harri said GB News initially “proudly cascaded” his taking the knee “through social media”, adding that the station only issued an apology and criticised him for the incident after “a tsunami of disappointment, resentment and hate.” The journalist's resignation letter was reported by British media on Monday, who cited seeing the document.

When GB News launched in June 2021, it presented itself as a space where free speech thrives but the outlet has since faced criticism for pandering to a right-wing base and engaging in a culture war, while it tries to carve a place in the UK media landscape.

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35. J.K. Rowling doubles down in trans toilet use debate as troll hopes she receives pipe bomb in the mail, 19 [−]

Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, who has previously been accused of being transphobic after her 2020 essay, has doubled down on her rejection of toilet sharing with trans people amid a flurry of abuse and threats.

In a series of tweets on Monday, Rowling hit back at her haters and doubled down on earlier comments about the rights of transgender individuals to use women’s toilets and changing rooms.

In an ironically worded tweet, she said that her views about allowing transgender people to use women’s facilities had been further strengthened by the torrent of abuse and threats she had received from people backing the trans movement.

Responding to one individual who had messaged, “I wish you a very nice pipebomb in the mailbox,” the author claimed her critics were getting desperate.

“To be fair, when you can’t get a woman sacked, arrested or dropped by her publisher, and cancelling her only made her book sales go up, there’s really only one place to go,” she wrote.

Last year, Rowling caused a furor after she published an essay sharing her opposition to Scottish plans to relax gender laws, a move effectively allowing people to change their birth gender more easily and quickly, and without a medical diagnosis. Rowling voiced her concerns about allowing transgender people in women’s spaces, including changing rooms and toilets, linking her perspective with her own experience of sexual assault.

She claimed the Scottish reform will “in effect mean that all a man needs to ‘become a woman’ is to say he’s one.”

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The author faced a volley of abuse by transgender campaigners that was exacerbated when Rowling dared to suggest that a person who menstruates is, in fact, a woman. Scottish police even got involved, investigating a number of insults and threats, including rape, made towards the author.

While Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill was paused due to the pandemic, it was unlikely to have made a considerable difference to trans access to women’s facilities. The UK’s 2010 Equality Act protects trans people from being discriminated against when it comes to accessing single-sex spaces.

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36. Unity Is Freedom: Anti-lockdown protesters rally in London as Covid-19 restrictions lifted in England (VIDEOS), 19 [−]

Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination activists rallied in London on Monday, despite nearly all coronavirus-related restrictions having been lifted the very same day.

Thousands gathered outside the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the country’s parliament, carrying signs reading “Unity Is Freedom” and “It’s Not a Pandemic, It’s an IQ Test.”

Protesters chanted, “Shame on Police” and demanded that Prime Minister Boris Johnson be arrested.

READ MORE: Revellers line up at London clubs to celebrate #FreedomDay as England lifts most Covid-19 restrictions at midnight

Though the rally was largely peaceful, there were tense moments when groups of demonstrators argued with police and some bottles were thrown at the officers.

The Metropolitan Police said they were working to defuse tensions when the crowd blocked traffic.

Monday was dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ online as restrictions on social gatherings and the mask mandate ended in England.

In a Twitter video, Johnson said the vaccination programme has “very severely weakened the link between infection and hospitalization, and between infection and serious illness.” He urged everyone to stay cautious during England’s reopening.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, meanwhile, argued that it was reckless to lift many restrictions at once, and by doing so the UK risks “a summer of chaos.”

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37. UK investigation turns up no evidence of espionage or compromise of classified defence papers found at bus stop, 19 [−]

UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace has claimed that there was no evidence of espionage behind the discovery last month of a soggy heap of classified papers at a bus stop. The blunder has been pinned on an unidentified individual.

Almost 50 pages of Ministry of Defence (MoD) documents were found by a member of the public at a bus stop in Kent in June. When launching a probe into the incident, Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin had said that a lone civil servant was likely behind the major security breach.

On Monday, Wallace confirmed that assumption in a statement to Parliament to announce the findings of that investigation – which “found no evidence of espionage” and “concluded there has been no compromise of the papers by our adversaries.”

“The investigation has independently confirmed the circumstances of the loss, including the management of the papers within the Department, the location at which the papers were lost and the manner in which that occurred. These are consistent with the events self-reported by the individual,” Wallace noted.

Expressing confidence that “all the SECRET papers” were recovered, Wallace told MPs that the “individual concerned has been removed from sensitive work and has already had their security clearance suspended pending a full review.”

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Most of the misplaced documents were classified as 'official sensitive', but Quin had admitted that one of the papers was marked 'Secret: UK Eyes Only' – one of the UK’s highest security classifications. The cache also included emails and PowerPoint presentations, and is understood to have originated in the office of a senior MoD official.

Among the documents was a dossier revealing British military considerations of Moscow’s potential reaction to the passage of the warship HMS Defender off the coast of Crimea. The papers also reportedly detailed US-UK deliberations over the future of British troops stationed in Afghanistan once NATO operations in that country come to an end.

The BBC, which was apparently given the documents by the person who found them, had said it had decided against reporting some of the details of this portion of the dossier so as not to “endanger the security of British and other personnel in Afghanistan.”

In reference to HMS Defender’s mission near Crimea – dubbed ‘Op Ditroite’, the MoD reportedly described it as an “innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters.”

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According to the documents, British military planners were of the opinion that they had a “strong, legitimate narrative” for sailing through the area, and reasoned that having journalists embedded aboard the warship would “provide an option for independent verification” of the vessel’s actions.

As it transpired, Russian forces on June 23 demanded the Defender leave waters off Cape Fiolent, near the Crimean city of Sevastopol, before the Russian coastguard fired warning shots at the vessel. But the MoD claimed these shots were part of a pre-planned gunnery exercise.

However, a video disproved that claim the next day after it showed Russian forces repeatedly demand the ship leave their waters and, after several warnings, fire warning shots at the intruder.

Russia summoned the British ambassador and the UK’s military attache in Moscow to protest over the incident.

The UK claims Crimea belongs to Ukraine, despite the majority-Russian region returning to Moscow’s administration after a 2014 referendum.

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38. UK Labour shadow minister sparks uproar after quoting American conservative hero Ayn Rand, 19 [−]

Karen Buck, Labours shadow minister for social security and an MP for Westminster North, caused an uproar among the UKs left-wingers after she posted a quote from American free-market conservative icon Ayn Rand.

“We are fast approaching the stage of ultimate inversion: the stage where government is free to do as it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission,” read the quote, which Buck posted to Twitter on Sunday along with the caption, “There’s always an Ayn Rand quote.”

While the quote appeared to be a jab at Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak – who sparked controversy on Sunday for trying to worm out of self-isolation after coming into contact with the coronavirus-positive Health Minister Sajid Javid – many Labour Party members and other left-wing Brits were furious at Buck’s post.

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“God help our country!” wrote journalist Aaron Bastani. “Labour’s shadow DWP minister approvingly quoting someone whose entire politics is based on the idea the state is evil and welfare provision is immoral.”

“Wow. I am genuinely appalled. I do not want to be in a party with Randyans,” declared one Brit, while another joked, “Labour and the working class icon Ayn Rand. Always a perfect match.”

John Smith, son of the Labour Party activist and late author Harry Leslie Smith, commented, “You can either be a Labour MP that believes in public healthcare, state infrastructure, welfare benefits that provide a dignified existence to the recipient, or a fan of Ayn Rand, you can’t be both.”

Buck’s seeming endorsement of Rand even shocked social media users from across the Atlantic.

Rand, author of the controversial novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’, died in New York City in 1982 and was one of the most notorious opponents of government and welfare. She proposed a system based on radical self-interest, laissez-faire capitalism, and minimal government involvement.

Rand inspired a large proportion of the modern American conservative movement, including former Republican house speaker Paul Ryan, former president Ronald Reagan and the late conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, the Mirror newspaper reported that the Labour Party and its centrist leader Keir Starmer were planning to expel as many as 1,000 party members who belonged to several left-wing activist groups which have criticised the party’s current direction.

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39. Revellers line up at London clubs to celebrate #FreedomDay as England lifts most Covid-19 restrictions at midnight, 19 [−]

Partygoers all across England flocked to newly reopened nightclubs to mark what has become known as Freedom Day, as the bulk of Covid-19 restrictions were lifted at the stroke of midnight.

Footage shared on social media showed long queues forming outside London’s nightclub venues on Sunday ahead of the much-anticipated reopening at midnight, when most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions, including mask mandates and social distancing, became moot.

A clip from inside the iconic Heaven club in central London shows visitors counting down the seconds until the new rules come in effect. As the clock strikes midnight, balloons begin raining down on ecstatic revellers and music blaring.

While some cheered at yet another sign of life returning to normal, with many clubs opening their doors for the first time since March 2020, others sounded the alarm about parties becoming potential “superspreaders events”.

“New London club called the 4th wave opening soon,” one commenter quipped.

With about 50,000 infections being reported in the UK daily, the opposition blasted PM Boris Johnson’s decision to phase out the restrictions as “reckless.”

“We are against opening up without any precautions in place,” Jonathan Ashworth, Labour party’s health spokesman told BBC.

Johnson defended the decision, pointing out that the vaccine rollout was successful in breaking the link between an infection and illness.

“There is no doubt at all... the massive vaccination programme – has very severely weakened the link between infection and hospitalisation, and between infection and serious illness and death,” Johnson said on Sunday. Some 68% of the adult Brits are fully vaccinated against the virus.

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The PM still urged the public to stay vigilant in light of the Delta variant, considered to be far more contagious than previous mutations. He argued that summer was the best time to lift the restrictions since “the virus has the advantage of the cold weather” in winter and autumn.

While England has said goodbye to most of its coronavirus-related restrictions, they are yet to be lifted in the rest of the UK. Northern Ireland is expected to follow suit, easing most of its restrictions on July 26. Scotland relaxed some of the Covid-19 rules on Monday, but kept the mask mandate as well as caps on indoor gatherings, hoping to get rid of most of the measures on August 9. In Wales, which boasts the lowest infection rate in the UK, most restrictions are expected to be lifted on August 7.

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40. UK says it sees Guaido as Venezuelas only legitimate president ahead of appeal hearing in battle for blocked gold, 19 [−]

The British Foreign Office has backed Venezuelas opposition figurehead Juan Guaido in his battle for the countrys gold reserves. A court ruled earlier that London may have recognized President Nicolas Maduro as de facto leader.

While the European Union no longer formally recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president after he was ousted as head of parliament last year, the British government continues to throw its weight behind the opposition politician even after the UK Court of Appeals ruled back in October that such a stance may not reflect the reality on the ground.

Guaido, who vies for access to Venezuela’s $1 billion worth of gold reserves held up at the Bank of England, challenged the ruling, and the UK Supreme Court is set to hear the case on Monday.

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In a statement to the court, the British Foreign Office said London sees Guaido as “the only individual recognized to have the authority to act on behalf of Venezuela as its head of state,” while endorsing regime change and calling for “a peaceful transition to democracy.”

The UK government is clear that Juan Guaido has been recognised by Her Majesty’s Government since February 2019 as the only legitimate President of Venezuela

In what was seen as a blow to Guaido and his supporters’ aspirations to get hold of the gold reserves, the UK Court of Appeals said in October that the case should be reconsidered after a lower court had ruled in favor of Guaido. While not awarding control over the reserves to either of the parties, the appeals court called Guaido’s recognition by London “at any rate less than unequivocal” and argued that it “leaves open the possibility that HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] may impliedly recognise Mr Maduro as the de facto President of Venezuela’’ as opposed to Guaido being the de jure leader.

The Venezuelan central bank (BCV), loyal to Caracas, has long argued that the Bank of England’s failure to release the funds has imperiled the sanctions-hit nation’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. In March, Maduro said Caracas would like to use some of the billions of the country’s funds blocked in foreign bank accounts, including in the UK, to purchase vaccines through the World Health Organization-led COVAX mechanism, but was unable to do so.

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In January, lawyers representing BCV claimed Guaido shut down a proposal for his alternative “Ad Hoc” board of the national bank to pool efforts with Caracas in the fight against the virus and transfer some $120 million in funds held in Britain to the Gavi Alliance Covax Facility to secure the jabs.

While Guaido’s representatives rejected the claim as “false,” a letter allegedly drafted by Guaido’s legal team stated that he “cannot consent” to the proposal.

“Our clients will not lend their support to arrangements which ultimately leave it to the Maduro regime to decide who gets vaccinated,” the letter, allegedly penned by Guaido’s legal counsel Arnold & Porter in December and shared on social media, read.

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41. UK PM Boris Johnson & Chancellor Sunak now WILL self-isolate after backlash over initial decision not to, 18 [−]

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have announced that they will now self-isolate after coming into contact with a person the health minister who has tested positive for Covid-19.

Johnson and Sunak sparked anger on Sunday after it was revealed that they would not self-isolate, despite having come into contact with Health Minister Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid-19 this weekend.

Though the government’s own NHS Test and Trace program requires Brits who have come into contact with a Covid-positive person to self-isolate for 10 days, Johnson and Sunak initially claimed that they would engage in a test pilot program and be tested every day instead – an alternative not available to other Brits.
Following an outcry, however, both Johnson and Sunak will now self-isolate and conduct their work from quarantine.

A government spokesperson said on Sunday morning that Johnson “was at Chequers” – the prime minister’s scenic country manor house – when he was “contacted by Test and Trace and will remain there to isolate.”

“He will not be taking part in the testing pilot. He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely,” the spokesperson revealed, adding that Sunak “has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot.”

Sunak confirmed the news on Twitter, writing, “Whilst the test and trace pilot is fairly restrictive, allowing only essential government business, I recognise that even the sense that the rules aren’t the same for everyone is wrong.”

“To that end I’ll be self isolating as normal and not taking part in the pilot,” he said.

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42. UK PM Johnson & Chancellor Sunak wont self-isolate despite having had contact with infected health minister, 18 [−]

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his finance minister, Rishi Sunak, shall work from their offices but not go into full self-isolation, despite having been in close contact with somebody with a confirmed Covid-19 infection.

Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace “as contacts of someone who has tested positive” for Covid-19, No. 10 confirmed on Sunday. But they will not observe full self-isolation protocols in response.

Instead, the top officials “will be participating in the daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street,” the statement said.

They will be conducting only essential government business during this period.

Typically, contacts of an identified Covid-19 carrier would have to self-isolate for 10 days. The government says Johnson and Sunak will be participating in a pilot study looking at how a less restrictive set of rules would work. The scheme is reportedly being tested in 20 workplaces, while eligibility for it is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Confronted on Sky News over the bad optics of having top cabinet members receive preferential treatment under the pilot scheme, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he could appreciate the frustration that the public may feel about it, but rejected the notion of privilege.

“Hundreds, if not thousands, of public sector staff … will be able to use this pilot, will be learning from it. And of course, if it’s possible to roll it out more broadly because it’s proven to be safe and successful, then we will do,” he promised.

Johnson and Sunak were flagged by the tracing system after Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive for Covid-19. His infection was confirmed by two subsequent tests on Saturday. Javid announced his diagnosis in a video address on Twitter, saying he was self-isolating at home with his family.

The Johnson cabinet doesn’t have a particularly stellar record for observing its own Covid-19 rules – the latest example being Matt Hancock, Javid’s predecessor as health secretary, who was accused of breaching social distancing measures in pursuit of an affair with his aide. Hancock resigned last month after his amorous adventures were exposed by the press.

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43. Britain plans to launch covert special forces operations against Russia & China, military chief tells media, 17 [−]

The UK Special Forces are about to concentrate on some new covert counter-state tasks with a focus on Russia and China, Royal Marines Brigadier Mark Totten revealed to the Times.

The British Royal Marines are to take over some of the “traditional” roles of the nation’s special forces units – the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) – as they are preparing for some new “higher risk” counter-state tasks, Totten said.

The brigadier himself is in command of a 4,000-strong “future commando force” that is about to share the burden of the special forces such as in maritime counterterrorist missions or some “partnered operations” that involve some “higher risks.”

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The SAS and SBS will apparently hurl all effort into countering “big state adversaries” – Moscow and Beijing, the military official told the paper.

“What we will be able to do is allow [the special forces] to focus on more difficult, more complex, counter-Russia, counter-China [tasks]. It takes real specialist expertise, so we will allow them to have more time and people to address those and we can conduct some of the tasks,” Totten said.

The brigadier did not exactly elaborate on the nature of such future operations. The Times reported, citing some army sources, that the missions might involve some “politically treacherous” tasks like training the navies of the nations in the South China Sea region to make them better prepared to repel what the UK newspaper called “Chinese hostility.”

The nature of the UK Special Forces’ potential operations against Russia remains unclear, but the Times claims that they could involve surveillance of Russian intelligence and military units in cooperation with British MI6 intelligence.

Earlier, the Guardian reported that the most secretive parts of the British military are likely to get a new focus and a new remit that would involve countering Russia and other state actors through secret missions.

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The paper said that the director of the special forces has drawn up a new ‘Special Operations Concept’ based on the pretense that the nature of modern warfare is changing and unconventional subtle military operations are becoming increasingly common.

The Guardian also cited the Chief of the General Staff General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith who said that peace and war were “two increasingly redundant states,” while accusing “authoritarian regimes” of “exploiting the hybrid space that exists in between.”

Still, Totten’s comments were a rare instance of a British military official openly admitting that London plans to deploy the UK Special Forces on covert missions specifically targeting Russia and China.

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44. British health secretary Javid tests positive for Covid-19, says hes glad he was vaccinated, 17 [−]

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid is self-isolating at home with his family after a lateral flow test for Covid-19 came back positive. He said he was grateful he had received two jabs of the vaccine and that his symptoms were mild.

The news came from the health secretary himself in a video statement which he tweeted out on Saturday. Javid, who took office three weeks ago after the ignominious resignation of Matt Hancock over a scandal involving his female aide, said he decided to take a test after feeling “groggy” on Friday. He is now waiting for a PCR test result to confirm his suspected infection.

“I am grateful that I’ve had two jabs of the vaccine, and so far symptoms are very mild,” the secretary said, adding that he wanted to use the opportunity to hail Britain’s national vaccination campaign.

Javid was vaccinated in May, when he was a backbencher MP, using the domestically developed Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, he reported at the time.

The UK has vaccinated two-thirds of its adult population, but it has not yet authorized the vaccination of children.

No vaccines against Covid-19 claim 100% efficacy. However, manufacturers, together with medical experts, suggest that getting a jab significantly reduces one’s chances of hospitalisation or a lethal outcome from the virus.

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45. Accuracy at any cost? Gamer leaks British military secrets to company founded in Russia to prove its tank model is wrong, 17 [−]

A gamer believed to be a Challenger 2 commander has apparently decided that preserving British state secrets is less important than proving to a game company that its digital model of his country's main battle tank is inaccurate.

A funny and potentially criminal episode unfolded this week on the forums of ‘War Thunder’, a popular competitive video game in which players take control of various real-life military vehicles. Projects like this one attract the attention of accuracy nerds, who push designers to get every little detail right.

It seems one such person may have breached the UK Official Secrets Act, by leaking a portion of the still-classified manual for the Challenger 2 main battle tank. On Wednesday, the user posted on the forum a link to excerpts from a Challenger 2 AESP (Army Equipment Support Publication) as he argued his point to developers.

The alleged leak was reported by the UK Defence Journal on Friday. The military-focused website said the poster identifies as a Challenger 2 commander and may be stationed at the Royal Tank Regiment in Tidworth, England.

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Forum moderators took issue with the link. The British MoD confirmed to them the classified status of the manual, prompting the link’s removal and a warning that disseminating the excerpts “can carry up to a 14-year prison sentence if prosecuted.” Some users said they hoped the in-game model of the vehicle would still be fixed, but others pointed out that the game’s designers refuse to use reference materials that are not legally available to the public.

Adding to the irony of the situation is the fact that ‘War Thunder’ is developed and published by a company called Gaijin Entertainment, which has distinct Russian origins. It is headquartered in Budapest, but it was launched in Moscow in 2002 and has Russian nationals among its key executives.

‘War Thunder’ was first released in 2012. The studio is also known for its contribution to the ‘IL-2 Sturmovik’ series of combat flight simulation games, having developed the 2009 instalment subtitled ‘Birds of Prey’.

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While passion for game accuracy is understandable, pursuing it too hard may result in quite serious consequences. Oleg Tishchenko was tried in the US in 2019 for attempting to purchase F-16 flight manuals on eBay, which he said he needed to make his product, ‘Digital Combat Simulator’, better. The US had him extradited from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, after he flew there for a dancing festival.

Tishchenko pleaded guilty to two of the five counts brought against him and was sentenced by a federal court in Utah to one year and one day in prison. By the time of the ruling, he had spent more than 12 months in federal custody, so the judge ordered his immediate deportation to Russia.

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46. Unusual winter vomiting bug outbreaks on rise in England, public health agency finds, as Covid-19 restrictions are eased, 16 [−]

As the UK government prepares to drop Covid restrictions in England, people there are now facing another disease a diarrhoea-causing norovirus also known as the winter vomiting bug, Public Health England has warned.

A “routine surveillance” across the health system has revealed an “unusual” increase in the number of “out-of-season” disease outbreaks caused by the vomiting bug over the last five weeks, Public Health England (PHE) said in a statement on Friday.

A total of 154 outbreaks have been reported between late May and July, PHE said, adding for comparison that England saw 53 such outbreaks over the same period on average for the previous five years.

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Norovirus is a highly contagious infectious agent that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It is easily transmitted through contact with infected persons or contaminated surfaces. Though the illness usually passes in a couple of days, it can lead to complications – particularly among children and the elderly – if its symptoms are ignored.

So far, the increase in norovirus-related disease outbreaks has been mostly reported in educational facilities, including nurseries and childcare centres, PHE said. The health agency added, though, that “far more incidents” were reported to it “than would be expected in the summer months.”

The number of cases fell to a lower-than-usual level during the Covid-19 pandemic since measures introduced to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus impacted the transmission of norovirus as well. However, as the government gradually eases restrictions in England, the norovirus infection rate is coming back to levels seen before the pandemic across all age groups, PHE noted.

“Symptoms include sudden onset of nausea, projectile vomiting and diarrhoea, but can also include a high temperature, abdominal pain and aching limbs,” said Professor Saheer Gharbia, the Deputy Director of the National Infection Service at PHE. Gharbia also said that anyone experiencing such symptoms needs to stay at home and avoid sending kids to school or nursery until 48 hours after the symptoms have cleared.

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Any affected person is also advised to stay away from cooking or helping out in the kitchen as norovirus can easily contaminate food. Those with symptoms should avoid visiting a GP or hospital, so as not to pass the illness further, but are advised instead to contact a doctor by phone if needed.

PHE also expects a potential further increase in norovirus disease cases in the coming months, amid the further easing of Covid-19 curbs. Some medics are now worried that norovirus could reach hospitals and put an additional strain on a healthcare system still reeling from pandemic.

“We are now just days away from the lifting of the remaining restrictions in England and our NHS is under great strain,” Dr Nick Scriven, an immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, told journalists, adding that the news about norovirus does not sound particularly reassuring.

“Considering the impact this has when it makes its way into hospitals – bed closures, infecting seriously unwell people and staff absence – it is frankly very worrying,” he added.

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Other medics have called the norovirus outbreaks a sign of things to come. Professor Paul Hunter from the Norwich School of Medicine at the University of East Anglia, said that the “unusual” rise in cases reflects the fact that people have reduced immunity to it, as they have not been exposed to the virus during the lockdowns.

"We have already started to see cases rising for some of the other respiratory viruses and this reminds us that, as we come out of lockdown, we are likely to start seeing many other infections rising that may cause problems for public health and the NHS,” he told the BBC.

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47. Whats the point? Scots divided as govt launches consultation paper in effort to keep Scottish Gaelic language alive, 16 [−]

Some Scots are hitting out at the SNP government after it launched a consultation to further the teaching and use of Gaelic, claiming the move was an unacceptable waste of money.

On Thursday, the government published a consultation paper for its plan to enhance the teaching and use of Gaelic in Scotland over the next five years. The document asserts the need for a “concerted effort” – and additional funding – to promote the language and thereby ensure it has a “sustainable future”.

The language, which was once one of many tongues spoken in the historic region encompassing modern-day Scotland, has seen its usage drop over the decades as speakers die and its use declines. It is now in a “fragile” state, the government said, with the 2011 census showing that only 1.7% of the population aged three and over could speak Gaelic. The number of people who could speak, read, write and understand it was only 0.6%.

The paper’s publishing has triggered renewed debate about the role of the state in funding the support of a language that is naturally decreasing in usage. Many on social media criticised the government for focusing so much time and effort on a policy they said was unimportant, given the impact of the current pandemic, widespread use of foodbanks and an epidemic of drug and substance abuse across Scotland.

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“Hungry children can wait,” one person jibed on Twitter, adding, “Forget child poverty and food banks. Let’s keep a dying language alive that hardly anyone speaks.”

One commenter questioned why, if it was so important, people didn’t learn it by themselves at home. “It’s not up to the government to keep a dead language limping along,” they added.

A number of people online claimed the government had spent nearly £600 million on funding Gaelic despite only a minuscule portion of the population still speaking it. While the exact figure is uncertain, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, a quango responsible for promoting Gaelic development, has an annual budget of £5.2 million a year. Funds are also allocated in other ways, including to Gaelic broadcaster BBC Alba.

“Is the taxpayer getting good value for money?” one person enquired, suggesting it was a waste of public funds, while another bluntly asked, “Is there any point?”

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Nonetheless, others were less quick to knock the government’s Gaelic plans.

“Languages are important in their own right. If we lose Gaelic, we lose our understanding of a whole culture,” one person argued.

Another agreed, saying they weren’t going to have their “heritage defunded” just because other people didn’t use the language.

One person said the wrongs of Scottish history had to be symbolically “corrected” by pushing Gaelic, rather than letting English entirely take over. “It was the language of a free Scotland before the Act of Union,” he said.

One commenter argued that it was useful for children to learn other languages, and that was why it was important to keep teaching Scottish Gaelic – though her statement was quickly rebuffed by some who recommended that there were more useful languages to learn.

The government said it was looking forward to reviewing the responses to its consultancy and that it was seeking to ensure the language would be “used more often, by more people and in a wider range of situations,” rather than merely by a minority and as a sub-text on road and traffic signs.

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48. Google Maps sends climbers up a potentially fatal route on UKs tallest mountain and OVER A CLIFF on one Scottish peak, 16 [−]

Scottish mountaineering groups have warned that hikers using Google Maps to climb some of the UKs highest mountains are being set up for potentially fatal falls. One such route on the app apparently directs people off a cliff.

In a statement, the John Muir Trust and Mountaineering Scotland have cautioned climbing enthusiasts about the dangers of relying on technology to navigate on mountains. The trust helps to protect and conserve the summit of the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, which stands at 1,345 metres.

The group said that a number of searches for routes up the mountain leads people to the car park nearest to the summit “as the crow flies” and then directs them to a dotted walking route that was “highly dangerous, even for experienced climbers.”

“The problem is that Google Maps directs some visitors to the Upper Falls car park, presumably because it is the closest car park to the summit,” Nathan Berrie, Nevis conservation officer for the trust, told the UK press association.

“But this is not the correct route and we often come across groups of inexperienced walkers heading towards Steall Falls or up the south slopes of Ben Nevis believing it is the route to the summit,” Berrie said, adding that the correct route actually begins at the visitors’ centre at the mountain’s base.

The trust said it has put signage back to the centre from the Steall Falls car park, but noted that this has often been overlooked.

Even the “most experienced mountaineer” would have difficulty following the route mapped out by Google, Heather Morning, safety adviser for Mountaineering Scotland said.

“The line goes through very steep, rocky, and pathless terrain where even in good visibility it would be challenging to find a safe line. Add in low cloud and rain and the suggested Google line is potentially fatal,” she said.

The groups said Google was also leading unwary users into “life-threatening terrain” on other popular Munros – mountains with an elevation of more than 3,000 feet (914 metres). For instance, a walking route suggested by the app for the An Teallach mountain in the northwest Highlands would send people over a cliff.

While it would seem “perfectly logical” for novice hillwalkers to check out Google Maps for the easiest routes and assume that the information is correct, Morning said, there had been a “number of incidents recently where following routes downloaded off the internet have resulted in injury or worse”.

Modern navigation technology brings some amazing advantages for hill walkers, but this example is clearly not one of them.

Responding to the groups’ appeal to consult with them in order to remove the route suggestions, Google said that it “built Google Maps with safety and reliability in mind, and are working quickly to investigate the routing issue on Ben Nevis”.

“In addition to using authoritative data and high-definition imagery to update the map, we encourage local organisations to provide geographic information about roads and routes through our Geo Data Upload tool,” a spokeswoman said.

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49. Free speech news channel GB News cancels host for taking BLM knee live on air reports, 16 [−]

GB News, a free-speech-centred UK news channel that launched just last month, has reportedly taken one of its hosts off air indefinitely for taking a knee rejecting racism on his show.

According to The Guardian, which spoke to unnamed sources at GB News, presenter Guto Harri has been “indefinitely taken off air” after he upset many viewers of the news channel by controversially taking the knee on Tuesday.

Harri’s decision to take the knee caused such a storm that a subsequent boycott resulted in some GB News shows receiving zero viewers this week. Because of this, GB News management “felt the need to cut Harri loose,” The Guardian reported.

Unnamed friends of the television host told the newspaper that GB News is “becoming an absurd parody of what it proclaimed to be” by “not defending free speech and combatting cancel culture,” and instead “replicating it on the far right.”

They argued that Harri did not breach any editorial standards and instead was “sacked for offending the lynch mob.”

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GB News – which is chaired by former BBC presenter Andrew Neil – issued a statement on the kneeling incident on Thursday, claiming that though it’s “against racism in all its forms” and does not have “a company line on taking the knee,” Harri’s gesture “was an unacceptable breach of our standards.”

“We let both sides of the argument down by oversimplifying a very complex issue,” the channel concluded.

Harri, however, defended himself by claiming that GB News “is – above all – about free speech” and “having the debates others won’t.”

“English footballers have made it clear that when they take the knee they are making a clear statement about rejecting racism (not endorsing the narrow divisive aims of BLM). I support them,” he declared.

GB News boasts in its editorial charter that the channel stands for “putting facts first,” having “respect for opinions and those expressing them,” and the “right of every individual to form and share their views.”

Social media users reacted to the news that Harri had been taken off air with confusion on Friday.

The i newspaper’s political editor Hugo Gye called GB News an “interesting idea which deserved a chance to succeed,” but noted that starting “a channel to promote free speech and oppose cancel culture, then suspending a presenter for taking a knee, is incredibly bizarre.”

ITV News reporter Gary Burgess tweeted, “I think it’s evident where the audience is. Trying to please everyone pleases nobody.”

Since its launch on June 13, GB News has struggled to take on its larger UK television news competitors, gaining an audience reach of around 2.7 million in its first week before dropping to under 1.4 million in its third. For comparison, the BBC reaches 7.5 million people on average while Sky News reaches around 4.5 million.

However, GB News has experienced no shortage of funding, having secured £60 million before its launch from investors around the world, including a Dubai-based private investment firm and American television company Discovery, Inc.

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50. Englands Covid-19 prevalence rises sharply to 1 in 95 as govt prepares to drop restrictions, 16 [−]

Britains Office for National Statistics has said that Covid-19 prevalence in England has reached one in 95 people, as the government prepares to drop statutory restrictions on Monday.

On Friday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the prevalence of Covid-19 continues to grow week on week in England, as the Delta variant spreads and restrictions are gradually reduced.

“We estimate that 577,700 people within the community population in England had Covid-19 [in the week ending 10 July 2021] ... equating to around 1 in 95 people,” the body stated. The latest figures are a sharp increase on the previous week, when the prevalence was estimated to be 1 in 160 people.

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The ONS said positivity rates were highest among young adult and teenagers, many of whom are yet to be fully vaccinated. Prevalence in older generations is also increasing, albeit less sharply.

While Covid-19 rates are lower in England than in Northern Ireland and Wales, Scotland remains the most afflicted part of the UK, as it has been throughout much of the pandemic.

The new data comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to reopen the remaining parts of the economy on Monday, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow suit.

Although the virus continues its resurgence apace, a large percentage of the population has been inoculated against the disease. Official data shows 87.5% of British adults have received at least one shot.

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51. Save our NHS!: Some in alcohol & obesity-ridden Britain fear Tory bill just passed by MPs could privatise the health service, 16 [−]

Many Britons have taken to social media to register their anger at the governments Health and Care Bill after MPs passed a contentious motion on its second reading, with some claiming it will lead to further NHS privatisation.

On Wednesday evening, the governments Health and Care Bill passed through the House of Commons by 356 votes to 219. While the bill’s future impact on the National Health Service (NHS) is disputed, the movement from paying publicly owned trusts to private companies to provide services has stoked fears that the Tory government may further privatise the NHS.

Following the vote, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas called on her supporters to join their campaign to scrap the bill, which she claimed “entrenches privatisation & does nothing to address the social care crisis.”

Lucas was backed up by Labour MP and Corbynite Zarah Sultana, who said the Tory privatisation would “open the floodgates to cronyism, & incentivises cuts & closures.” She vowed to keep fighting against what she termed an “NHS Corporate Takeover Bill.”

With #SaveourNHS trending on Twitter, many commenters jumped to slam Boris Johnson’s government. One person said they didn’t realise there could be a more “destructive” government than that of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who oversaw widespread privatisation, adding “Johnson’s government are evil, terrifyingly so. #ScrapNHSBill”

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While many criticised the government, others highlighted the nation’s hypocrisy, as the UK, one of Europe’s fattest and most alcoholic states, suffers immensely under the strain of alcohol- and obesity-induced illness. The government estimates that it spent over £6 billion on treating obesity related illness in 2014-2015, with around two-thirds of the UK’s adult population considered overweight or obese. In 2020, more than one million people in the UK were hospitalised due to obesity-related illnesses.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that the effect of UK alcohol consumption costs the NHS around £3.5 billion each year, marking a huge increase from the decade before when the spend was around £2.7 billion a year.

One person noted that while people were locked down to “save the NHS,” it’d be equally effective if people looked after themselves to stop them being unnecessarily hospitalised for being fat.

Others concurred, one said the country is too soft on fat, claiming “obesity is crippling our NHS.” Another suggested the NHS stop treating fat people and save billions.

“How long before obese people are called selfish for putting a strain on the NHS?” one commenter asked, stating that the country should move from the Covid-19 track-and-trace system to fitness trackers.

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We “don’t need 107 new hospitals”, wrote one Twitter user, responding to a Labour MP who proposed new investments in the NHS, adding that the country should focus on preventing the UK from “being the most obese country in Europe.”

Another person admitted to being a “big lad” and said it was his fault and he should foot the bill. “Obese people shouldn't get anything from the NHS if they need it, They should be made to pay for it,” he wrote.

The NHS has been at the centre of many policy discussions in recent months, following a year in which it was tested extensively by Covid-19. In June the government passed a new law that would ban the advertising of unhealthy food before 9am, although it won’t come into effect until the end of 2022. The law hopes to stamp out childhood obesity, which is also rife in the UK.

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52. 20% jump in alcohol-related deaths in England as many turn to drinking at home during pandemic govt, 15 [−]

England has seen an unprecedented yearly increase in deaths due to alcohol during the Covid-19 pandemic, driven by excessive alcohol consumption at home, Public Health England (PHE) has said, in a fresh report.

Almost 7,000 people died from alcohol-specific diseases in 2020, the UK government said on Thursday, citing new data published by the PHE. The annual number of such deaths skyrocketed by more than 1,100 – or 20% – in the last year, compared to the previous year, in one of the biggest annual increases, it added.

Alcoholic liver disease was the most widespread cause among all of the alcohol-related deaths in England last year, accounting for over 80% of such cases. However, fatalities from mental and behavioural disorders caused by alcohol consumption also rose by more than 10% over the same period, and deaths from alcohol poisoning increased by over 15% between 2019 and 2020.

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“Liver disease is currently the second leading cause of premature death in people of working age and this is only set to get worse if the COVID-19 pandemic results in a long-term increase in drinking,” Rosanna O’Connor, the Director of Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco and Justice at PHE, said.

Repeated lockdowns forced pubs, clubs and restaurants across England to stay closed for some 31 weeks between March 2020 and March 2021, the UK government said, noting that this did not lead to a drop in alcohol consumption.

In fact, some people in England started drinking even more during the pandemic.

Shops and supermarkets sold more than 12.6 million extra litres of alcohol in the financial year between 2020 and 2021. That amounted to a more-than-24% increase on the previous financial year, the government’s press release said, citing figures from a consumer purchasing panel.

Those who usually bought most alcohol before the Covid-19 crisis were also the ones who drastically increased their alcohol purchases during the epidemic, the data also suggested.

“Our research suggests that lockdown has affected heavy drinkers the most and that they are drinking more,” O’Connor said. Those in the heaviest buying group – which comprises roughly one-fifth of all those buying alcohol in England – bought 5.3 million more litres of alcohol in 2020 than in 2019.

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Between March 2020 and March 2021, the number of people admitting they have been drinking at higher-risk levels rose by nearly 60%.

“We all know someone who is at risk of becoming one of these statistics – more than 1 in 5 adults in the UK drink alcohol in a way that could harm their liver,” Pamela Healy, the CEO of the British Liver Trust, said.

“Stress, loneliness and the lack of access to alcohol support services have resulted in many people drinking more alcohol and putting their livers at risk,” Healy added, pointing to the fact that those “from the most deprived areas of the country” are “disproportionately” affected. The PHE statistics shows that around one third of all alcohol-related deaths occurred among the most deprived 20% of the population.

British health authorities consider drinking 50 UK alcohol units per week to be a dangerous level for men, and 35 for women. That roughly equals 0.5 litres or 17 US fluid ounces of pure alcohol per week for men and 0.35 litres or 11.9 US fluid ounces for women. One unit is “around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour,” according to the UK’s National Health Service.

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53. Two properties raided amid UK probe into CCTV footage leak that exposed Matt Hancocks affair & led to resignation, 15 [−]

A series of raids have been carried out in the UK amid an investigation into a security footage leak that prompted a sex scandal which caused the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock to step down due to a Covid rules breach.

Agents from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) seized computers and other electronic devices from two houses in southern England on Thursday. The raids were conducted as part of an investigation into the violation of the Data Protection Act.

“It’s vital that all people, which includes the employees of government departments and members of the public who interact with them, have trust and confidence in the protection of their personal data,” ICO’s director of investigations, Steve Eckersley, said in a statement to the media.

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EMCOR Group, a firm that provides CCTV services to the British government, reported that the compromising footage of Hancock had been taken from the CCTV system without consent.

Hancock, who led the rollout of the country’s Covid-19 campaign, resigned last month after the Sun newspaper published a video of him hugging and kissing aide Gina Colangelo inside a government office, in violation of Covid social distancing rules. Hancock and Colandelo were married to other people at the time.

The Telegraph cited documents submitted to the government saying that the security camera that caught Hancock in the act was designed to monitor a balcony and should have been pointing in the opposite direction.

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54. Streaming saved music industry from piracy only to plunder creators revenues UK Parliament committee, 15 [−]

UK MPs say the government should look into possible anti-competitive practices in the music streaming industry, where powerful big companies thrive while music creators struggle to stay afloat.

The music streaming model may have saved the industry from being wiped out by piracy, but it is unfavorable to the very people whose creativity makes the music scene flourish: musicians, songwriters and others. That’s the warning coming from the parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which released a scolding report on the state of the streaming business on Thursday.

Since the maturing of the new business model, “major music companies have experienced historic profit margins” and are consolidating even more power. Meanwhile, “performers, songwriters and composers receive only a small portion of revenue.” Some have been struggling to make ends meet since the Covid-19 pandemic denied them revenue from live events.

The report was released after an eight-month-long inquiry into music streaming, which allows users to consume as much content as they want via the internet in exchange for either paying a monthly subscription fee or hearing ads chosen by the hosting platform. The approach emerged in the second half of the 2000s and has since become the dominant distribution format, obliterating the share of physical copies and pushing aside digital downloads, both legal and illegal.

In the UK, streaming currently makes up over 70% of recorded music revenues. The market is dominated by a handful of platforms, including YouTube, Spotify, Amazon and Apple, with Google’s ads-driven service in the lead. A whopping 45% of British streamed music consumers tune in to YouTube at least once a week. Meanwhile, Spotify has the lion’s share of around 44% of all premium subscription accounts in the UK, tailed by Amazon and Apple with a 25% share each.

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The platforms only get an estimated 30% to 34% of the revenue, with the rest going to rights holders. That pot is split between master rights holders, i.e. record labels and publishers, and song rights holders, i.e. artists, composers and songwriters, who claim approximately 78.5% and 21.5%, respectively.

The disparity was inherited from times when music distribution involved manufacturing and shipping actual physical copies. Many creators believe common recording deals have often not been fair, even in the old times, and amounts to exploitation today, in the age of streaming.

A survey cited by the report showed that in 2020 roughly half of performers in the UK received no revenue whatsoever from streaming, while over 35% received no more than €1,000 ($1,180). Just 1.13% received more than €10,000.

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Many artists consider the streaming of their music as a form of promotion for the main source of their income: live concerts. Covid-19 threw a wrench into that arrangement. Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, one of the witnesses interviewed by the committee, said some of the music engineers he knows had to become “Amazon drivers” after losing touring income.

The record industry is dominated by the ‘Big Three’ – Warner, Sony and Universal – which have a lot of leverage to preserve the status quo. Their licensing arrangements with the streaming giants are notoriously opaque, shielded by non-disclosure agreements from the public and creators.

“We don’t even know what a stream is worth. Does anyone?” Nile Rodgers wondered. The songwriter, producer and artist was another witness for the report.

Can anyone tell me what a stream is actually worth? You can’t and there is no way you could even find it.

Meanwhile, the streaming companies have a lot of influence on how the content they host is served to customers. Spotify, for example, creates various editorial playlists. Getting onto one often results in a large boost to a song’s prominence among the audience.

One performer told MPs that they were offered promotion by some playlist curators in exchange for a fee. It was essentially a pay-for-play ‘payola’ arrangement, which is illegal in the UK, the report noted. Questions over possible manipulation were raised about algorithmic content curation.

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The report suggests a number of legislative measures that would make remuneration more fair to music creators. It also suggests that the industry should be probed by the Competition and Markets Authority for possible anti-competition practices and by the Advertising Standards Authority for possible unethical content curation.

There is also an issue of ‘safe harbor’, a legal protection from criminal liability that hosting platforms enjoy in relation to user-uploaded illegal content. The provision gives social media leeway in policing what people publish on their platforms, as long as they react to copyright infringement claims in a speedy manner. MPs said it may give unfair advantage to ads-driven streamers compared to subscription-based services.

“Streaming has undoubtedly helped save the music industry following two decades of digital piracy but it is clear that what has been saved does not work for everyone,” the report said. But now the model exacerbates “structural problems within the recorded music industry. Streaming needs a complete reset.”

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55. Disgraced ex-BBC journalist who said Hitler was right ripped after blaming pro-Israel mob for her sacking, 15 [−]

A former BBC journalist who was sacked earlier this year after historic anti-Semitic content was found in her Twitter feed, has been condemned on social media for blaming the pro-Israel mob for her firing.

On Wednesday, Tala Halawa, a Palestinian journalist who was unceremoniously let go from the BBC in June, blasted the British broadcaster for her sacking and accused it of giving into the “pro-Israel mob.”
Halawa, who has set her Twitter location as Palestine, worked as a digital journalist at BBC Monitoring from 2017, according to the Times of Israel, citing her now-deleted LinkedIn page.

In a statement shared on Twitter, Halawa apologised for comments made in 2014 – seemingly a reference to her now-infamous ‘Hitler was right’ tweet – but caveated her apology by saying her remarks were made during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

She slammed the BBC for not allowing her to apologize and move on, but instead opting for “trial by social media.” Halawa claims the broadcaster’s actions “amplified troll voices,” and blamed her dismissal on the “pro-Israel mob.”

The journalist, who is credited for having contributed to stories such as ‘Israel-Gaza violence: The children who have died in the conflict’, was outed in May after a historic tweet posted in 2014 in which she stated, “Israel is more Nazi than Hitler! Oh, #hitlerwasright. IDF (Israel Defense Forces) go to hell” was found on her feed.

Perhaps understandably, the response to her statement on Twitter appears to be fairly one-sided, with most users condemning Halawa for failing to truly back down from her anti-Semitic remarks.

“Maybe one day she’ll wake up and stop spewing her Nazi garbage,” wrote Mark Halawa, a Palestinian living in Kuwait, who, as an adult, found out he was actually Jewish. He added that he had “unfortunately” also latterly learnt that he was related to the disgraced journalist.

Another account concurred, labeling her statement and apology “troubling.” “In a tweet that claimed she was not given an opportunity for reflection and reconciliation, #TalaHalawa spewed hate and vitriol mixed with antisemitic tropes.” The poster added that, in their view, the BBC had clearly made the right decision to get rid of Halawa.

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One person stated that, as an apparent anti-Semite, Halawa should never be allowed to work for a mainstream news agency again, while one commenter claimed that her only regret seemed to be having been caught out. One tweet asserted that Halawa’s journalistic integrity had been further compromised by her decision to “gaslight” Jews rather than take responsibility for her actions.

“An apology at the time would have sufficed,” another wrote, adding that the repercussions from the BBC would have been many times worse if the offending tweet had been posted by a white man.

Despite the apparent lack of support for Halawa in either tweets or comments, her statement was shared more than 500 times and has received more than 1,300 likes.

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Political campaigner Jackie Walker, who is Jewish, responded to the statement by noting: “This is the truth of our media and the Israeli lobby.” Another person wrote “deep pockets” and said the fault was Ramses II’s, referring to the Egyptian pharaoh who is believed to have been ruler when Moses led the enslaved Jews to freedom in the book of Exodus.

While Halawa is no longer associated with the BBC, the scandal has further challenged the broadcaster’s integrity and highlighted the organisation’s apparent lack of background checks for new hires.

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56. Drugmakers fined ?260mn for overcharging NHS as price of life-saving medicine rose over 10,000% British regulator, 15 [−]

The UKs Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has fined several drugmakers for overcharging its health service. The body said the fines, linked to the sale of hydrocortisone tablets, should serve as warning to others.

On Thursday, the regulator said drug companies would be forced to pay a total of £260 million ($360 million) in fines for engaging in prohibited practices.

Firms, including Accord Healthcare, Allergan Plc, Intas Pharmaceuticals, and Waymade Plc, were deemed to have contravened market rules, taking part in activities including paying off their competition, increasing the price of drugs when acting as the sole provider, and buying potential rivals to keep them out of the market.

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The case relates to the supply of hydrocortisone tablets to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). The CMA said the price of the life-saving hydrocortisone tablets, which treat adrenal insufficiency, including life-threatening conditions such as Addison’s disease, had risen by over 10,000%. The watchdog said the prices charged to the NHS were “excessively high.”

CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli said it was one of the most serious abuses identified in recent years. “Our fine serves as a warning to any other drug firm planning to exploit the NHS,” Coscelli said in a statement, adding that the extortionate prices reduced the money available for patient care.

The CMA wrote that, in one case, the NHS was being charged over £80 for a single pack of tablets that had previously cost less than £1. The case relates to practices undertaken between 2008 and 2018.

The firms fined have yet to comment on the matter.

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57. UK race equality think tank draws criticism on social media for stoking divisions after claiming racism is systemic in England, 14 [−]

Social media users have accused a UK race relations think tank of promoting bigotry after it warned that racism is systemic in England with ethnic minorities facing disparities in various areas, including education and health.

In its new report on race equality, Runnymede Trust said legislation, institutional practices and societal customs continue to harm ethnic groups – who are “consistently more likely to live in poverty, to be in low-paid precarious work and to die of Covid-19.”

Noting that these inequities are “sustained across the areas of health, housing, criminal justice system, education, employment, immigration and political participation,” the group said the situation has “worsened” since the UK’s last periodic report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination five years ago.

Over that period, the report contends, the UK government has “failed to address” the issue and “is in breach” of its obligations under the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

The report, compiled by the Runnymede Trust in consultation with over 150 civil society organisations, claims that the government’s approach to issues of equality will “fail to improve these outcomes for BME (black and minority ethnic) communities and may in fact worsen them”.

It said this approach was exemplified by the government’s controversial ‘Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ (CRED) report released earlier this year. The document concluded that the UK was not “deliberately rigged” against ethnic minorities and cautioned against overstating the problem of “institutional racism”.

Noting that this conclusion “misrepresents the scale and complexity of the issues and stands in stark contrast to the evidence” the trust received from civil society and race equality organisations, the Runnymede report accused the government of being “frustratingly slow” in implementing policies even in instances where “evidence of racism and discrimination in public institutions” has been highlighted.

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In recent years, a number of official reviews have made recommendations on such race-related issues as police custodial deaths, workplace discrimination, the treatment of BME individuals in the criminal justice system and how BME groups are treated by public service bodies.

The report also takes aim at several proposed laws that “pose a threat to the rights of BME groups”, including the upcoming Electoral Integrity Bill, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and the government’s New Immigration Plan.

“There are very clear signs that things are much worse in certain areas than they were before, and also upcoming legislative choices that are being put forward have real implications in each of these areas in terms of the rights of BME groups,” the report’s lead author Alba Kapoor told the Daily Mail.

However, an unnamed government spokeswoman told the paper that the report “contains many errors and is too simplistic in saying that structural or systemic racism is driving all the disparities outlined in their report.”

Stating that the CRED report recommendations would form the government’s action plan to tackle inequalities, she said, “We have made significant progress and in fact have gone far beyond our commitments to the ICERD since our last report in 2015 and will provide an update in due course.”

The report drew a mostly critical response from social media users with many people commenting that the trust “seems determined to stoke division in Britain”. Others said the group needed the report to have a “convenient conclusion” in order to justify its continued “relevance”.

However, some called the report timely given the tide of racial abuse directed at black footballers in the national team following its defeat in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday. One person said it was “time to listen”.

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58. Brighton mosque leader whose sons joined al-Qaeda arrested on terrorism charges after being flagged for spreading toxic ideology, 14 [−]

A religious leader in Brighton whose sons were killed while fighting for an al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria has been charged with inciting acts of terrorism, following an investigation by British counterterrorism officials.

Abubakr Deghayes, who lives in Saltdean, a coastal village approximately five miles east of central Brighton, was detained on Tuesday and later charged under suspicion of encouraging the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. The suspect is still reportedly the leader of the al-Quds mosque in Brighton.

The 53-year-old was taken into custody following a probe carried out by counterterrorism officers and police. In a statement, Sussex Police said that the operation demonstrated that local law enforcement and counterterrorism investigators “take seriously reports of all forms of toxic ideology which has the potential to divide our communities and threaten the safety of our people.”

Rachel Swinney, the police force’s superintendent, stressed that there is no reason to believe that there is an immediate threat to the local community, and urged residents to refrain from speculation.

“However, we understand that operations like this can often cause concern therefore we, along with our partners, will be in the community over the coming days to answer any questions or concerns,” she added.

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FILE PHOTO: An armed police officer stands outside the Houses of Parliament, central London November 26, 2014  Reuters / Paul Hackett.
Report reveals 1 in 8 terror suspects in Britain last year were CHILDREN

The official did not elaborate on what prompted Deghayes’ arrest. However, she thanked members of the community “who support and assist officers” with such investigations, and said that by the reporting of information as soon as possible, authorities can take swift action.

Two of Deghayes’ sons, who were just 17 and 18 years old at the time, died in Syria after enlisting with Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda offshoot. According to the UK government, al-Nusra is indistinguishable from al-Qaeda, which is a designated terrorist organisation in the country.

Terrorism-related arrests in the UK are irregular but not unheard of. Shockingly, many such cases involve minors. Of the 168 terrorism suspects arrested in the country last year, one in eight was a child. However, in most cases the charges fail to stick: Of the 168 people arrested in total, 13 have been convicted of terror offences and two of non-terror offences. 24 are awaiting prosecution.

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59. Social media sites will be slapped with fines if they do not remove racist abuse online, UK prime minister pledges, 14 [−]

In an attempt to combat racist attacks online, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that social media sites will be fined 10% of their global revenue if they fail to remove abusive posts.

Johnson announced the move on Wednesday when addressing parliament, calling on major social media sites to do more to remove racist abuse or face sanctions.

Last night I met representatives of Facebook, of Twitter, of TikTok, of Snapchat, of Instagram and I made it absolutely clear to them that we will legislate to address this problem in the Online Harms Bill and unless they get hate and racism off their platforms, they will face fines amounting to 10% of their global revenues.

The decision comes following a slew of racist attacks on English footballers Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford after the three players missed penalties resulting in their country’s loss in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday. Johnson fervently condemned the subsequent racism, instead praising the England team as national “heroes.”

In the wake of the abuse, Facebook and Twitter took a proactive stance and removed racist tweets, pledging that they would continue to do so. Twitter released a statement that read: “We have swiftly removed over 1,000 Tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts for violating our rules – the vast majority of which we detected ourselves proactively using technology.”

Instagram, on the other hand, came under fire for not doing enough to remove derogatory comments by people who posted monkey emojis under players’ posts and other racial slurs.

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Bukayo Saka was among those abused for missing a penalty for England.  Reuters
Monkey emojis to black England stars probably not against community guidelines says Instagram in responses to furious fans

The Online Harms Bill was proposed by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May. The legislation aims to hold social media sites accountable for controlling content, or face being fined £18 million ($25 million) or 10% of their global turnover.

Twitter amassed revenue of $3.7 billion in 2020. Instagram made $20 billion from advertisements alone, while its parent company, Facebook, generated a whopping $86 billion. Relatively new Chinese social media site, TikTok, made revenue of $34.3 billion.

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Football didn't come home, but it did expose some ugly issues for England to deal with.  Reuters / Twitter
Beatings, racism and political point-scoring: Euro 2020 laid bare much of Englands festering underbelly

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60. Some Britons angry as govt quietly passes bill to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for care home staff in England, 14 [−]

Some Britons have slammed the government after the UK parliament voted on Tuesday to make vaccines compulsory for care home staff in England unless they have medical exemption. There are others that back the move.

On Tuesday the British parliament voted by 319 votes to 246 to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for those working in England's care homes. As a result, from October, anyone who works in a Care Quality Commission-registered care home in England must prove they have been jabbed twice in order to retain their job. Some people will be medically exempt.

While the bill was criticised in the house by Tory MPs, as there had been no impact assessment published before the vote, its passing was also slammed by some on social media.

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On Wednesday, references to the Nuremberg Code – a post-WWII convention that seeks to protect people from cruelty and exploitation, including non-voluntary medical procedures – trended on Twitter, as exasperated Britons claimed the UK government has contravened the more than 70-year-old principle by making vaccines compulsory for work.

“The UK is now a medical fascist state” wrote politician David Kurten, leader of the Heritage Party, blasting the vote to make what he termed “experimental injections” compulsory. He added that “those who did not vote against are responsible for breaking the Nuremberg Code.”

One person claimed that the British MPs must either be “stupid or paid off,” while another asserted that they were now guilty of committing crimes against humanity, adding the hashtag #nuremburg2, a reference to the convention and the historic Nazi war crimes trials.

However, these opinions were not held by everyone, and a number of people were keen to point out the need for workers in care homes to be vaccinated, reiterating anger from earlier in the year when it emerged that care workers, many of them from non-white backgrounds, had a certain hesitancy in taking the Covid-19 vaccine.

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A nurse is reflected in a mirror of a supply room in a Covid-19 ward at Milton Keynes University Hospital, Britain,(FILE PHOTO)  REUTERS/Toby Melville
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“On the one hand, obviously staff should be vaccinated as they are caring for societies most vulnerable,” one lady wrote, adding that her mother, a care home resident, may now lose seven “valuable carers that are sadly victims of vaccine misinformation.”

This sentiment was reinforced by Dr Rohin Francis, a cardiologist and Youtuber who ran a poll on Twitter, asking “Should healthcare workers, including care home staff, have mandatory covid vaccination?” Around 9% of the 941 people who voted answered "no."

Meanwhile, human rights barrister Adam Wagner sought to dispel the myth that “the Covid-19 vaccines are experimental,” also sharing a document which outlined why mandating Covid shots is not in conflict with the Nuremberg Code. It’s “difficult policies to protect vulnerable people which involve trade-offs in personal autonomy,” he wrote in a tweet.

In June, the government said that 78%, or 1.2 million, care home staff had received the vaccine, despite vaccinations being open to care home staff for seven months.

Analysis from February suggests that frontline healthcare staff were showing a degree of scepticism in taking the jab. While many white staff had been inoculated, only 37% of black staff were jabbed.

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61. Britain willing to come to terms with Taliban and work with enemy for sake of peace if it behaves, UK defence secretary says, 14 [−]

Despite fighting the group for two decades, Britain will engage with the Taliban should it come into power in Afghanistan, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said, provided it adheres to certain international norms.

In Washington for a visit with his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, Wallace said the lessons of the past 20 years “will not have been lost on the Taliban”, and acknowledged that the UK would likely have to work with the group.

Last week, the Taliban claimed to control 85% of the country’s territory. However, the Afghan leadership has dismissed this assertion as part of a propaganda campaign.

“Whatever the government of the day is, provided it adheres to certain international norms, the UK government will engage with it,” Wallace told The Telegraph. He warned that the “relationship” would be reviewed “if they behave in a way that is seriously against human rights”.

Last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised that Britain would remain committed to Afghanistan despite the end of its military campaign in the country.

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While recognising that the prospect of the UK working with the Taliban would be controversial, given the deaths of 457 British military personnel during the conflict, Wallace said “all peace processes require you to come to terms with the enemy”.

Claiming that the Taliban “desperately want” international recognition, Wallace said they cannot “unlock financing and support [for] nation-building” with a “terrorist balaclava on”.

“You have to be a partner for peace, otherwise you risk isolation. Isolation led them to where they were last time,” he said, adding, “The poverty of their own people is an important issue to be dealt with, and you cannot deal with that on your own in isolation.”

Wallace also called on both the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to “show leadership” and work together to bring stability to the country after two decades of conflict.

Senior Afghan leadership representatives are scheduled to fly to Doha this week for talks with the Taliban, which has reclaimed several key areas in the country as the departure of American forces continues. The US withdrawal is expected to conclude on August 31.

“But in the end, if there is a government, and it is a government of both [existing groups and the Taliban], and we have committed to a diplomatic relationship, then that’s exactly what it will be,” Wallace said.

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General Austin "Scott" Miller, commander of U.S. forces and NATO's Resolute Support Mission, hands over his command to U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, during a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan July 12, 2021.  Reuters/High Council for National Reconciliation Press Office
As Taliban runs riot in Afghanistan, new commander of withdrawing US & NATO troops vows to support abandoned Afghan forces

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62. UK radio host says strip 'racists' of bank accounts, passports and ability to 'have a life' after Euro 2020 racism row, 13 [−]

British radio host Mike Graham, whos no stranger to being accused of racism himself, has called for condemning racists to non-personhood by taking away their bank accounts, passports, public benefits and other resources.

Graham ranted on his talk show on Tuesday morning, decrying the racist social media messages that were posted after England lost to Italy in Sunday’s Euro 2020 championship game.

“There are people in our society who are worth less than the dirt in the road,” he said, adding that “these are the people who make us all feel ashamed that they call themselves British, and they make us all feel embarrassed that they think of themselves as England fans.”

Graham went on to call for racists to be hunted down and stripped of their rights. “I’ve got a plan,” he said. “The time has come to not only find these people, not only to prosecute them for their lawless behaviour, but also basically to excommunicate them from our society.”

The 60-year-old London native added that the UK doesn’t need people who are “nasty, ugly, ghastly creatures” who hate others based on the colour of their skin.

So forget about locking them up, forget about throwing away the key, forget about banning them from football stadiums, right. I’ve got a better idea. Instead, let’s make it impossible for them to actually have a life – no bank account, no ability to travel, no passport, no benefits, nothing.

The radio host offered no details on how racism might be adjudicated before alleged offenders are banished.

Ironically, Graham himself has been accused of racism on multiple occasions, and in at least one of those cases, the allegation was erroneous. For instance, in January 2019, when he said “I hate polls,” referring to election surveys, a caller accused him on air of being a racist because he thought Graham had said “I hate Poles,” as in Polish people.

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In April 2020, Graham was accused of anti-Irish racism and “weaponizing child abuse,” the Glasgow Times reported, after he repeatedly referred to an Irish man as “Paddy” during a Twitter spat and posting a tweet saying, “Celtic. The paedo’s football club.”

An anti-racism group named Call it Out said of the commentator, “His display of anti-Irish racism is potentially a criminal offence. It is most definitely an example of the kind of racist, hate-filled discourse which makes minority communities feel unsafe and silences them in the public space.”

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Football didn't come home, but it did expose some ugly issues for England to deal with.  Reuters / Twitter
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Just a few months ago, Graham gloated over a controversial report that he said showed “Britain is now officially not a racist country.” He accused activists and “racism professionals” of being upset over the country’s non-racist status.

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63. UK lobbying watchdog clears oil sector post for ex-minister despite alleged conflicts of interest reports, 13 [−]

Despite scrutiny of the revolving door between political office and the corporate sector, a former UK foreign minister has been allowed to accept a senior post at an oil firm to which he reportedly had links while in service.

Alan Duncan, a former Tory member of Parliament who held British minister of state positions between 2010 and 2019, was cleared in May by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) to take up the role of business development director at Dutch company Vitol, one of the world’s largest oil traders.

In its advice letter to Duncan, ACOBA, which oversees all applications for private sector employment from former ministers and senior bureaucrats within two years of leaving public service, approved his move on the grounds that he not “draw on any privileged information available to [him] from [his] time in Ministerial office.”

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FILE PHOTO. The British Government Treasury building in central London.  Getty Images / Peter Macdiarmid; (inset) David Cameron.  Reuters / Simon Dawson
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Duncan was also barred from lobbying the UK government on behalf of Vitol or advising the company on any bid or contract relating directly to the work of the government for two years dating from his last day in office.

The letter also mentioned that the former minister had told the committee he “did not meet with Vitol” during his time in office and that “there was no relationship” between his former department and the company.

However, news outlet Declassified UK has reported that Duncan had a number of social meetings with Vitol’s former chief executive Ian Taylor while he was in office and even lobbied two prime ministers for a knighthood for Taylor while he was a minister.

Citing Duncan’s recently-released diaries, titled ‘In The Thick of It’, the outlet noted that the former minister had five social meetings with Taylor, who died in June 2020, and added that Duncan and Taylor had been friends for nearly 40 years. It also reported that Duncan’s new position was “lined up” within four months of leaving office in July 2019.

However, Duncan told the outlet he did not lobby for Taylor “at his request” and said his meetings with Taylor were “entirely personal”.

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According to the report, this information has been in the public domain since April, but did not feature in ACOBA’s approval letter. A representative of the watchdog body told the outlet that “not all of the points [raised in the report] relate to the consideration that the Committee is required to make under the government’s Rules.”

In recent months, ACOBA has raised the alarm about an apparent lack of “boundaries” between Whitehall and the private sector, but has also drawn criticism for being toothless.

In April, news emerged that former government procurement officer Bill Crothers had been cleared by the Cabinet Office to join Greensill Capital – the now-failed financial company at the centre of the ongoing lobbying scandal involving former PM David Cameron – as an adviser in 2015 while still working as a civil servant.

Following the revelations, ACOBA chair Eric Pickles told a parliamentary committee that the episode highlighted a “number of anomalies with the system that require... immediate address”, adding that a “revolving door” of officials landing lucrative corporate positions had created a sense among officials they they’ll be “looked after” by their successors.

Pickles also revealed that ACOBA had only scrutinised 108 appointments out of some 34,000 people who left public service over the past year. That admission reignited long-running criticism of the watchdog body as being “ineffectual”.

In 2018, a report by the Public Accounts and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) concluded that ACOBA was “part of an ineffectual system for regulating the ‘revolving door’ between the public and private sector” and admonished the government for not taking the matter seriously.

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64. 550k Brits sign petition for verified ID from social-media users as public debates whether itll curb racist abuse of footballers, 13 [−]

A petition to make verified ID a legal requirement for opening social media accounts has received more than half a million signatures, reigniting debate around social media censorship after racist abuse towards England players.

An official petition, started by former glamour model and TV star Katie Price in March 2021, went viral on Monday, as thousands of Britons signed and shared the online appeal calling for anonymity to be forbidden when opening social media accounts. The 43-year-old cites her disabled son, Harvey, and her first-hand experience of the horrific abuse he’d received as the catalyst for starting the petition.

Price’s petition says it should be mandatory for a social media firm to require verified ID for those opening an account on their platform, and that under-18s would need the ID of a parent or guardian.

In May, the government responded to the petition, stating User ID verification could “disproportionately impact vulnerable users and interfere with freedom of expression.” The government added that such a law could increase risks and harm to whistle-blowers and journalists alike while adding that, also, as many as 3.5 million Britons don’t have access to ID. However, new signatures to Price’s petition flooded in this week following a vile spate of abuse, some of it racist, levelled at England’s football team, who narrowly lost the Euro 2020 cup final on penalties with Italy, on Sunday evening.

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England manager Gareth Southgate consoled Bukayo Saka after his penalty miss.  Reuters
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Resharing her petition on Monday, Price said it’s “more important than ever” to make a change.

The post and petition went viral on Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms, shared by many notable and 'blue ticked' individuals. Online personality Joe Weller called on his 1.4 million Twitter followers to “SIGN THIS. HELP MAKE THE CHANGE.”

While infamous Manchester United fan and youtuber Mark Goldbridge wrote “Social media is lawless and damages lives. Sign the petition and demand change.”

Others further amplified the call, with football club Bemerton Heath Harlequins FC claiming there are “far too many keyboard warriors out there.”

Some people said they couldn't believe this wasn't already a law, citing the "sickening" online abuse directed at England players following the Euro 2020 game on Sunday. Podcaster and businessman Steve Bartlett agreed, claiming that ID verification would solve the racism problem.

However, many people, perhaps understandably, weren't keen on the proposed law, slamming the notion of censorship and the limiting of freedoms. Some were shocked that people would willingly subject themselves to more “self-censorship.”

“The UK police already track down and ruin the lives of people for things they say on twitter – no matter how tame it is,” one person wrote, adding that people will be too afraid to speak out against the dominant narrative for fear of repercussions. In May, police arrested 12 men in England and Wales after a Tottenham footballer received a barrage of racist abuse from anonymous accounts on Twitter.

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WATCH: England fans clash with police in London following Euro 2020 victory over Ukraine

Another user also pointed out the hypocrisy of the petition’s proposed move, noting that people will “hate on China and the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) but in the same breath sign a petition for mandatory ID on social media.”

Others said they would never hand over their personal information to social media firms as they didn't know what they would be doing with all their data. One person slammed the “reactionary” nature of British society, while another questioned how such a move could challenge the “structural racism” that allegedly exists in the UK.

The idea was also labelled a "well-intentioned but unenforceable and dangerous idea" by columnist Adam Crafton.

The spate of abuse stemming from England’s Euro 2020 loss, and notably the racist abuse levelled against three black players who missed penalties, has been accompanied by concerning reports of ethnically motivated attacks in the UK.

The online abuse comes after a year of hard-fought campaigning to introduce anti-racism and the association with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The movement, which also saw football players take the knee before games, mirroring acts originating in the US, while broadly supported, aggravated many in the country who have rejected the incorporation of politics into sport. Reports on social media accounts, while still unconfirmed, suggest black people have been targeted since England’s football defeat.

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65. UK medical body slams irresponsible decision to unlock England on July 19 as cases rise, 13 [−]

The British Medical Association (BMA) has condemned the governments decision to ditch Covid-19 measures such as masks and social distancing in England in under a week, stating that it was irresponsible, given rising infections.

The association’s chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, criticized England’s plan to go ahead with removing all coronavirus restrictions on July 19, heralded by some as ‘Freedom Day’, saying it was “irresponsible” and made no sense to be “knowingly increasing infection”. The comments were made during an interview with the BBC Breakfast programme on Tuesday.

Nagpaul’s comments echo a press release by the BMA on Monday that warned unlocking would be “frankly perilous”. It was published on the same day that Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the government’s move to ease all restrictions next week. The BMA implored ministers to re-evaluate their decision and follow scientific evidence that supports the extension of social distancing, the mandatory usage of masks, and the opting of meeting outside rather than inside to lower transmission.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, known as SAGE, which the government has been consulting throughout the pandemic, similarly warned that the decision to remove all lockdown measures abruptly could lead to 1,000 to 2,000 hospital admissions a day and overwhelm the UK’s healthcare system. The predicted figures are similar to January’s hospital admissions, albeit with half the number of deaths.

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More than 200 medical professionals and scientists co-signed an open letter citing concerns that data showing it was not safe to unlock fully was being ignored by Johnson and his cabinet. Published in the Lancet medical journal on July 7, it expressed the fear that vaccination alone could not entirely protect people against the dangers of Covid, given that many young people were not yet fully vaccinated or were ineligible as they were under the age of 18.

Recent studies have demonstrated that one dose of Pfizer’s or AstraZeneca’s vaccine provides little to no protection (10%) against the Delta variant of Covid-19, which is 60% more transmissible and is now the dominant strain in the UK, according to Public Health England.

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Government figures from 12 July show that 87% of England’s population have received their first coronavirus vaccine, but only two-thirds are fully vaccinated.

Coronavirus cases have risen in the UK exponentially, with infection rates soaring past the 30,000 mark since July 7 – the highest figures since the winter wave at the beginning of 2021. The recent sharp increase in infections has taken the overall record to five million recorded cases since the outbreak of the pandemic. The UK ranks seventh in the world for coronavirus deaths, having amassed one of the highest death tolls in Europe, surpassing Italy and France.

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66. Torrential downpour FLOODS London as water gushes into Tube stations, strands motorists (VIDEOS), 12 [−]

Heavy rainfall has shut down parts of London, with video footage showing water cascading through the streets and into Tube stations in the UK capital. With some streets impassable, cars were submerged in the flood.

The heavens opened up on London on Monday afternoon, after the Met Office warned of “heavy downpours” in the south of England. Streets were soon turned into rivers, as water lapped into stores and forced pedestrians to slog through knee-high floods to get home.

Video footage showed vehicles nearly submerged in the floodwaters, as traffic slowed to a crawl on waterlogged thoroughfares.

Those relying on public transport were out of luck too, as some London Underground services were reportedly halted by the downpour. Video footage shot in one Tube station showed water pouring down to platform level.

Amid the disruption, London Fire Brigade said it had received more than a thousand calls by 8pm. The fire service advised Londoners to “only call us if there is a genuine emergency,” and to “avoid walking or driving through flood waters.”

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67. Microsoft's anti-competitive software resale practices lead to ?270 million lawsuit, UK vendor claims, 12 [−]

Microsoft has been accused of violating EU and UK competition law by attempting to kill the market for the resale of perpetual licence products like its Office suite in a lawsuit filed by a vendor claiming ?270 million in damages.

In its case in the High Court of Justice in London, British reseller ValueLicensing (VL) has said that the tech giant’s general licensing terms and conditions for its business-to-business software products infringe on the UK’s Competition Act (1998), the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the European Economic Area agreement.

According to the particulars of VL’s claim, the company alleges that Microsoft is abusing its dominant position in the “desktop operating system” and “office productivity suite” markets to persuade customers to exchange licences in return for heavily discounted subscription-based models.

Microsoft has effectively been paying those customers (via those discounts) to protect Microsoft from competition, by restricting the supply of pre-owned licences to Microsoft’s competitors like VL.

This conversion from licensee to subscriber has cut out intermediaries like VL, whose business model involves purchasing and reselling such secondhand licences from companies that have “either migrated to cloud services”, downsized or gone out of business.

Additionally, VL alleges that Microsoft “recently shortened the support period for its perpetually licensed products” as part of a “sustained – and ongoing – campaign to stifle the sale of pre-owned licences for Microsoft software in the UK and EEA.”

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It cited as an example of such restrictive practices the recently announced five-year support period for Office 2021 as opposed to the seven-year period of total support offered to Office 2019 consumers. Historically, the company’s policy was to offer 10 years of support, with bug fixes, security updates and tech support.

It also noted the increasing complexity of Microsoft’s licensing terms and conditions, which “until February 2021 were regularly published as a single document; the last English version ran toover 75,000 words.” These conditions are now spread over a number of webpages on its site.

Although filed in April, details of VL’s lawsuit only came into the public domain after Microsoft Corporation in the US and its two co-defendant subsidiaries UK-based Microsoft Ltd. and Microsoft Ireland Operations Ltd. acknowledged receiving legal notice earlier this month.

“Once a licence is placed onto the market in Europe, it is protected from the vendor effectively, they have exhausted their rights once it is placed onto the market,” VL managing director Jon Horley told news portal The Register.

While Microsoft has not commented on the case, it has reportedly signalled its intent to contest the lawsuit. The software giant is preparing a jurisdictional challenge to contest the London High Court’s standing to hear the case. This is likely to be heard only early next year, according to the outlet.

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Lawsuit seeks to declare Google a PUBLIC UTILITY, threatening the tech giant with state regulation

Although VL estimates it is suffering damages to the tune of £87,000 daily (roughly $121,000) in addition to the overall loss of some £270 million (about $375 million) in revenue, Horley said there were “many different ways” for his company to “stay in the game.”

“I’ve stayed in the game for 17 to 18 years. However long this takes, I’ll stay in the game as far as this part is concerned,” he told the site.

If the contracts are struck down and voided, it would have far-reaching repercussions across Europe and the UK for Microsoft’s licensing and sales divisions.

A victory for VL, Horley stated, would effectively mean that “almost every single organisation, and then any organisation that has signed up to [Microsoft’s alleged anti-competitive] terms, is effectively party to an [allegedly] anti-competitive agreement. And that includes governments, for example, in the UK with a digital transformation arrangement,” as cited by The Register.

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68. UK Treasury admits to wiping data from over 100 department phones after officials made mistakes entering PIN codes, 12 [−]

Sensitive data from over 100 UK Treasury phones, including text messages related to the Greensill lobbying scandal involving former Prime Minister David Cameron, was deleted after officials apparently entered incorrect pins.

The department’s IT team had to reset some 117 of its roughly 2,100 government-issued mobile phones last year – including the work phone of its Permanent Secretary Tom Scholar, according to the Treasury’s response to a Freedom of Information request from the PA news agency.

The revelations are expected to add to criticism of the government’s transparency mechanisms, which have been attacked in recent weeks after it emerged that senior officials may have used personal email accounts to conduct government business.

Last week, the information commissioner launched an investigation into all private correspondence accounts used by ministers after concerns were raised about Junior Health Minister James Bethell’s use of personal emails for official work. Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock is also alleged to have done the same.

Scholar’s phone records gained prominence after it emerged that between March and June last year Cameron had messaged ministers, including Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, and government officials to lobby for the now-defunct financial company Greensill Capital.

The former PM, who was employed by the company, disclosed that he had sent nine WhatsApp messages to Sunak, and 12 texts to Scholar and other Cabinet and Treasury ministers, to allow Greensill access to the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) government scheme set up to help businesses offset pandemic losses.

Although its proposal was eventually rejected, questions were raised about what had been said between Cameron and officials.

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In May, Scholar told a parliamentary committee that he was unable to divulge communications he had with Cameron – under whom he had served as chief of staff at Downing Street prior to taking the Treasury post – because his phone had been wiped during a reset in June 2020.

“It had to be reset because, under government security as applies to mobile phones, if the password is incorrectly entered more than a few times, the phone is locked, and the only way to unlock it is to reset it,” Scholar said at the hearing.

“Resetting it means that the data on it is lost. I knew that when it happened last June, and I am certainly not the only person to whom that has happened,” he added.

Scholar also referred to two exchanges with Cameron: one about a “possible leak of the Greensill approach to the Treasury,” and another where “Cameron told me that they had a specific proposal to put to us.”

In each case, he claimed to have “made sure that anything that needed to be recorded for the official record was recorded, and that was not lost when the phone was reset.”

After a committee member said there was a “public interest” in publishing his replies, Scholar noted that if Cameron had copies of his responses, disclosure of these would be “governed by the Freedom of Information Act,” since these messages were “official government business” as they were “generated by me on an official government device” in the course of his work.

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Another parliamentary inquiry into the lobbying scandal had questioned whether Scholar’s previous ties with Cameron were why he and the Treasury had spent so much time discussing what one committee member referred to as a “Ponzi scheme.”

Appearing before a House of Commons public accounts committee in April, Scholar said it was “quite natural” to talk to a “former minister I’ve worked with.” Describing Cameron as “persistent,” Scholar said he had met the ex-PM two or three times since he had stepped down from office, but “never to discuss Government business.”

He also claimed not to have had a “substantive discussion” of Greensill’s proposal with Cameron over the phone and to not have known Cameron worked for the company before receiving a letter from them about the proposal in March 2020.

“In terms of the actual discussions with the company over their application to the CCFF ... I just joined one phone call – I think it was less than half an hour – and that was the entirety of my involvement in it,” Scholar said, adding that he had “no further engagement” with Cameron after April 2020.

The public accounts committee is currently accepting evidence for the inquiry, which is scheduled to hold its next meeting on July 22. Scholar and other Treasury officials are again expected to attend.

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69. UK Labour Party to vote against Freedom of Speech bill, claiming it will embolden hate speech, 11 [−]

The British Labour Party will oppose a Tory-sponsored bill that would allow deplatformed political speakers to sue universities. Labour leader Keir Starmer claims the bill will enable Holocaust deniers and anti-vaxxers.

The bill, proposed by the Conservative government and headed for a second reading in the House of Commons this week, would amend existing laws safeguarding free speech on university campuses by allowing guest speakers to sue the universities if they are denied a platform over political views. It would also mandate the appointment of a “Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom” within the government’s Office for Students, and allow university staff to take legal action if they felt they had been passed over for a job due to their views.

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The Labour Party isn’t on board. In a statement on Saturday, the party said that its MPs would vote against this “hate speech bill.” Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said that if passed, it could give “people harmful to public interest the opportunity to sue their way to a platform at universities.”

As for who Labour considers “harmful to the public interest,” Green listed “Holocaust deniers” and “anti-vaxxers” as two examples. Labour Leader Keir Starmer echoed Green’s words on Sunday, calling it “shocking” that the Conservatives would hypothetically support these people’s speech rights.

The UK’s universities are on Starmer’s side. Universities UK, which represents 140 higher education institutes, claims that “this bill could make it easier for those who promote conspiracy theories or ‘alternative facts’ to speak on university campuses,” while court cases over free speech could inflict “significant cost, time and reputational damage to universities.”

Supporters of the bill, however, argue that universities are supposed to be places where facts and opinions – even the most controversial ones – can be debated.

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70. London borough apologises for having actor in bare-bottomed monkey costume with mock genitalia encourage kids to read more books, 11 [−]

Officials in London's Redbridge borough were left red-faced after a library event designed to promote reading among kids featured a monkey character in a costume that included dangling fake genitalia and exposed buttocks.

The costume and the actor wearing it came from Mandinga Arts, a troupe of street performers based in Clapham South that has "a distinctive style bringing together live music, carnival, street costume, puppetry and dance, drawing on diverse influences from Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa," according to its website. The well-endowed monkey was part of one of the group’s walkabout acts.

Whether this particular style of costume was appropriate for an audience of minors is debatable. Many people complaining on social media believe the answer was a definitive "No."

Redbridge Libraries acknowledged the lapse in judgement and apologized for hosting the performance, but shifted the blame onto the charity Vision. It was they, rather than the borough council, who were responsible for organizing the event, the statement said.

The mischievous rainbow-coloured creature was promoting the Summer Reading Challenge, a campaign encouraging literacy and reading during the summer holidays among children aged between four and 11 years.

"Upon receiving complaints passed on by the Leader and Deputy Leader, we ceased the performance and are truly apologetic for the distress caused to residents. This will never happen again," the officials pledged.

Council leader Jas Athwal called the situation "disgusting" and said the charity had confirmed to him that all scheduled events were cancelled, but he likewise distanced himself from the controversy.

The Mandinga Arts troupe has a record of working with Redbridge Libraries in the past. For instance, they participated in the Day of the Dead celebration earlier this year, and also in previous years.

Some of the online ire over the episode was directed at the Labour Party, which dominates Redbridge Council. One popular tweet claimed that the party members "commissioned" the monkey and then acted dismissive towards people complaining about it. Athwal, a Labour politician, said in response that he would not "take lectures from a Johnny come lately."

Last year Redbridge Libraries had drag artist Mama G hosting a week of "inclusive Story Time for LGBT+ History Month" on its YouTube channel.

This does not, however, appear to have anything to do with party politics. This year Mama G promoted the Summer Reading Challenge for Kent Libraries. Kent Borough Council is firmly Conservative.

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71. Billionaires Gates & Soros reportedly step in to cover fraction of foreign aid cut by UK, but some question their intentions, 11 [−]

In an apparent attempt to shame Boris Johnsons government for its decision to cut Britains foreign aid, the who's who of the world of billionaire philanthropy are said to have pledged to cover a small part of the diverted money.

A group of international charities this week pledged to invest £93.5 million ($130m) into causes that will be missing money from the UK this year. The temporary funding will go to poor countries including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. It will be spent on programs including ones that treat neglected diseases and offer contraception.

The move, first reported by the Times on Sunday, is meant to shame the British government over the decision it took last year to reduce foreign aid. Previously, London allocated around 0.7% of the UK Gross National Income (GNI) to foreign assistance programs, but the Johnson cabinet cut this to 0.5%.

The 0.7% GNI benchmark was adopted as a target in the 1970s, when it was recommended by the UN, and made into law under the David Cameron government in 2015. Johnson’s reduction is estimated to amount to £4 billion ($5.56b) in 2021.

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The aid cut, which was announced last November, was opposed by some members of Conservative Party, including former prime minister Theresa May who refused to make such cuts during her tenure. Then-foreign office minister Baroness Sugg resigned in protest when the measure was announced.

While many critics argue that denying struggling people funding for lifesaving assistance is contrary to Britain’s moral values, some politicians framed their opposition as a geopolitical calculation.

“When Britain withdraws, others step in. By cutting our aid, we have given states such as China and Russia an opportunity to expand their influence at Britain’s expense,” argued Tom Tugendhat, the Tory MP who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee. “In fragile and conflict-affected states, UK cuts to humanitarian crises give space for our rivals to convince our friends we don’t matter.”

There has been a push in Parliament to put the reduction of aid to a vote, which the Johnson cabinet has so far successfully resisted. The government tried to appease detractors, saying the measure was temporary and was necessary to invest more into domestic spending.

Philanthropists and some legislators may be vocally objecting to the aid cut, but the measure was quite popular among the British public. A YouGov poll taken at the time it was announced showed that 66% of Britons were in favor. Giving away 0.7% of the GNI made Britain among the most generous countries in the world under the metric. Critics have long doubted that the British taxpayers' money was doing as good a job as it should have.

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Unsurprisingly, this week’s shaming attempt was met with some pushback, especially considering the personalities behind the participating charities. Microsoft founder – and “self-appointed world health tsar,” according to critics – Bill Gates led the charge through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The list of backers also includes the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, created by billionaire hedge fund manager Chris Hohn, the quiet philanthropy heavyweight ELMA Group of Foundations, the brainchild of South African-born British record magnate Clive Calder, and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

Critics brushed the initiative aside as a failing self-promotion attempt and the latest example of billionaires trying to privatize public policy.

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72. Police charge 15-yo boy with murder of 15-yo Tamim Ian Habimana amid spate of teenage stabbings in London, 10 [−]

The Metropolitan Police have arrested two teenagers and charged one of them with the murder of Tamim Ian Habimana. The 15-year-old was stabbed to death on Monday evening in southern London.

The suspect, identified as ‘A’, and a 14-year-old boy, ‘B’, were arrested in connection with the murder on Friday. Both remain in custody at a police station, the Met said in a statement. ‘A’ is scheduled to appear at Bromley Magistrates' Court later on Saturday.

“I hope this reassures both Tamim’s family and the wider community of our dedication to bringing justice for his murder,” said Detective Chief Inspector Richard Leonard, the lead investigator in the horrific case.

Police were called to Woolwich New Road on Monday, where they found Tamim with a single stab wound. Attempts to stabilise him failed, and he was proclaimed dead at the scene by the London Ambulance Service.

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According to the BBC, 21 teenagers have been killed in London this year. The British capital may record its worst year in terms of teenage homicide if the current rate continues.

Tamim is not the latest addition to the harrowing list. Keane Flynn-Harling, 16, was stabbed to death in Oval Place in south London hours after him in a separate crime. A 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of that murder on Thursday.

On Friday, the Met arrested a fourth suspect in the murder of Camron Smith, 16, who was stabbed to death in Croydon in London on July 1.

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73. Post-Brexit 11th Night celebrations in Northern Ireland turn political with MONSTER BONFIRE lit by loyalists, 10 [−]

A towering structure made of wooden pallets has been set ablaze in the Northern Irish town of Portadown to mark the Eleventh Night, with a political agenda igniting this years Protestant celebrations amid post-Brexit tensions.

Bonfires are traditionally built in Northern Ireland every July, as part of events commemorating the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II in the late 17th century. Dozens are built across the country, but this year some particularly big ones have sprung up carrying a political message.

The massive bonfire built by Portadown loyalist residents was adorned with an Irish flag and political banners, including one reading ‘Boycott All Irish Republic Goods. Remove the Northern Ireland Protocol’. Defiance has increased amid post-Brexit tensions, in particular regarding the aforementioned agreement with the EU.

Residents with torches gathered by the Portadown fire, and the structure was then burning, while firefighters were extinguishing the flames, as seen in the footage by RT’s video agency, Ruptly.

Building bonfires on the Eleventh Night is “part of the culture and history,” a local standing by the huge structure made of pallets told Ruptly.

However, efforts to turn the tradition into a protest have been condemned by some local politicians, who said the move was “disgraceful.”

Officials have warned that huge bonfires might endanger other community members. Locals also expressed their concerns on social media, apparently worried by the structure that was not protected by any barriers and was built in a residential area.

Local loyalists say their bonfire is a message of opposition to the withdrawal trade agreement, which allows Northern Ireland to stay in the EU single market, as they believe it threatens their land’s status in the UK. “It was specified that it [Brexit referendum] was a UK-wide vote … We were told it is all in, or all out … The European Union talk wholeheartedly about democracy. But our democracy has been failed, because the EU won’t let us leave the European Union as a full United Kingdom,” the local said.

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74. Pfizer & AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines highly effective in vulnerable people in UK, study of 1 million jab recipients finds, 09 [−]

The Covid-19 vaccines made by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech are just as effective in people with underlying conditions as the rest of the population, a UK study of one million participants has shown.

Last year the British government advised clinically extremely vulnerable people to stay at home – known as “shielding” – to protect themselves from the virus, before dropping its recommendation last month

Conditions including diabetes, severe asthma, and diseases that weaken the immune system – like blood cancer – have all been linked to an increased risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid-19.

On Friday, the government said a Public Health England (PHE) study had shown that people with such conditions are protected against symptomatic infection by two doses of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines – the UK’s most widely used Covid jabs.

The report, published in preprint format without being peer-reviewed, showed an efficacy of 60% among at-risk groups for either vaccine after one dose.

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After a second dose, this rises to 81% for AstraZeneca among the ‘at risk’ 16-64 age cohort, PHE said in a statement.

For people in at-risk groups aged 65 and over, the efficacy is 89% for Pfizer and 80% with AstraZeneca.

For people with weakened immune systems, the efficacy for either jab after a first dose is only 4%, although this rises substantially to 74% after a second dose.

“This real-world data shows for the first time that most people who are clinically vulnerable to Covid-19 still receive high levels of protection after two doses of vaccine,” Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said.

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The study’s authors addressed the relatively low protection of 4% that one dose of the vaccines offers immunosuppressed people.

The result “stands out,” they said, but they added that once people with weakened immune systems get a second dose they would only see a “minor reduction in vaccine effectiveness” compared to people who aren’t clinically vulnerable.

In the UK, more than 86% of people have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 65% have received a second dose, according to the latest data from Thursday.

The government reduced the interval between doses for clinically vulnerable people from 12 to 8 weeks in May, and it now says everyone in this group should have been offered a second dose.

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75. We dont recognise that figure: London & Brussels at odds over UKs liabilities under Brexit divorce agreement, 09 [−]

The UK has rejected the EUs estimate of the Brexit settlement cost included in the blocs latest accounts report, which amounts to over 47 billion. It does not reflect the money the EU owes the UK, London argues.

The sum Brussels expects to receive from London as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has recently been made public. First revealed in the EU’s annual accounts report for 2020, it was picked up by Irish broadcaster RTE on Thursday.

According to EU officials, the UK owes the bloc €47.5 billion ($56.2 billion). The sum mostly comprises the UK’s share of EU spending commitments taken before December 31, 2020. London owes the EU 12.6% of its spending commitments to that date under Article 140 of the Withdrawal Agreement.

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Another article says that London must also cover the cost of 12.6 percent of salaries and pensions for EU officials, MEPs, and commissioners owed by the EU as of the end of 2020.

The figure has not sat well with UK officials, who predicted back in 2019 that the settlement bill would be £35-39 billion (€40.8-45.5 billion). In 2018, the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said it would likely amount to €41.4 billion.

“We don't recognise that figure,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman told media, referring to the EU’s latest estimate. “It's an estimate produced by the EU for its own internal accounting purposes. For example, it doesn't reflect all the money owed back to the UK, which reduces the amount we pay.”

The EU’s report only mentions €2.1 billion the bloc owes to the UK, related to various fines imposed by the EU that are returned to member states.

Europe also apparently does not plan to give up easily. “All the calculations have been carried out in line with the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement,” an EU spokesperson said, responding to the British criticism. “The report is final.”

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76. Police watchdog investigating UK cops from several forces over Sarah Everard's murderer, 09 [−]

A dozen UK cops are under investigation in relation to the conduct of the officer who murdered Sarah Everard earlier this year, the police watchdog for England and Wales has revealed.

Former Metropolitan Police Service firearms officer Wayne Couzens, 48, pleaded guilty to the murder of 33-year-old Everard at London’s Old Bailey court on Friday.

The officer, who served in the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection command, abducted Everard on March 3 as she walked home from a friend’s house in London, before raping and strangling her.

Following Couzens’ guilty plea, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said in a statement it had served 12 gross misconduct or misconduct notices to officers in relation to his actions.

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Two Met officers are being investigated for misconduct over two allegations of indecent exposure linked to Couzens in London in February of this year.

The IOPC is also looking into “alleged Kent Police failures to investigate an indecent exposure incident linked to PC Couzens in Kent in 2015.”

Couzens lived in Kent, where he served in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary force before his diplomatic role.

Everard’s body was found in a bag near land owned by Couzens in a woodland area of the Kent town of Ashford.

Three officers have also been served gross misconduct notices after a probationary Met constable shared an “inappropriate graphic” with colleagues on social media.

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The officer later manned a cordon at the scene of the search for Everard, the IOPC said.

Another notice for gross misconduct and a further six notices for misconduct were served to other officers who allegedly “breached standards of professional behaviour” by sharing details related to Couzens’ prosecution in private messages.

Nine conduct referrals related to Couzens were also made by the Met to the IOPC, which it asked to be investigated by local forces.

“Two of these were in relation to the kidnap, murder and rape of Sarah Everard and another concerned allegations of indecent exposure,” the IOPC said.

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77. London cop Wayne Couzens pleads guilty to murdering Sarah Everard, will be sentenced on September 29, 09 [−]

London police officer Wayne Couzens has pleaded guilty to killing Sarah Everard in March. He faces life in prison and will be sentenced in late September.

Couzens admitted to murdering Everard in a London court on Friday, Carolyn Oakley of the Crown Prosecution Service has said. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping Everard at a hearing last month.

A defence lawyer, Jim Sturman, was quoted by UK media as saying that Couzens was remorseful for his actions and “will bear the burden for the rest of his life – his words: ‘as I deserve.’” The defendant faces a mandatory life prison sentence.

Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, vanished on March 3 when walking home after visiting a friend in South London. Her body was discovered a week later in woodland near Ashford in Kent. The post-mortem examination found that she had died from compression of the neck.

Couzens was serving with the police’s elite parliamentary and diplomatic protection unit when he abducted Everard. He initially claimed to have handed the woman over to an Eastern European gang that supposedly wanted retribution from Couzens for underpaying a sex worker they controlled.

Prosecutor Tom Little said that Couzens and Everard were “total strangers to each other.” The defendant will be sentenced on September 29, the judge in the case has said.

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Everard’s murder sparked massive outrage in the UK and led to discussions about women’s safety.

Vigils were held in Everard’s memory, including an event in Clapham Common, London that was broken up by police for violating Covid-19 restrictions. The rough treatment of vigil attendees, many of whom were women, led to criticism of the Metropolitan Police and calls for the resignation of its chief, Cressida Dick.

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78. Northern Irish loyalists slam neighbouring Ireland for inflicting trade Cold War, 09 [−]

Northern Irelands Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) has accused the Republic of Ireland of starting a trade Cold War, demanding answers from the UK government and the European Commission (EC) on how to handle its neighbour.

The LCC launched a number of inflammatory blows at Ireland, proclaiming that the country has been using Brexit to reduce trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, which the group said it will not tolerate. The council struck out at the Irish government with accusations that it “has effectively instigated a state of Cold War against Northern Ireland and its people,” with the group also directly calling out the country’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, accusing him of being guilty of starting the conflict over trade.

The council further implored that it “requires urgently to know how HM government and the European Commission will deal with this errant government” in regards to the turbulent relations.

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The Republic of Ireland and the UK have been locked in a trade dispute, known as the “sausage war,” over chilled meats from the mainland not being able to enter Northern Ireland due to Brexit regulations, as the Northern Ireland Protocol would stop the imports.

The LCC has fervently opposed the Withdrawal Agreement proposed by the UK that would allow Northern Ireland to stay in the European Union’s single market, a move that the loyalist group says negatively impacts trade between Britain and puts Northern Ireland’s status in the UK under threat.

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In response to an unsatisfactory resolution to the Irish border question, the LCC withdrew its support for the Good Friday Agreement in March 2021. The agreement was signed in 1998 to conclude The Troubles – a 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland – that amassed over 3,500 deaths, mainly civilians, as violence spread across the Republic of Ireland, England and Europe.

The Northern Irish LCC is a body that represents parliamentary loyalists – those who side with Northern Ireland remaining in the UK. The council has representatives from militant groups from the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association.

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79. Economist poll claims 40% of Britons want mask mandate FOREVER, regardless of Covid-19, 09 [−]

As Boris Johnsons government plans to lift all Covid-19 restrictions on July 19, some groups are campaigning against the move, while a new poll shows that a significant number of Britons want some measures to stay permanently.

A poll by the market research firm Ipsos MORI, published by the Economist on Thursday, reveals that overwhelming majorities of Britons support most of the current restrictions past the July 19 deadline and even “until Covid-19 is under control globally.”

Moreover, a significant minority said they would like some measures to remain in place “permanently, regardless of the risk” from the coronavirus.

Around a third of respondents favoured permanent social distancing in pubs and theatres, 10-day quarantines for those returning from abroad and contract-tracing check-ins at restaurants. A full 40% were in favour of indefinite face mask mandates in shops and on public transport, and even more approved of foreign travel only with proof of vaccination.

The popularity of the 10pm curfew remained under 30% in all cases, but 19% still supported extending it permanently.

The results prompted the Economist’s Matthew Holehouse to wonder if Britons were really so different in character than the “half of Europe” who lived under “repression but also some consent” 50 years ago.

While one might quibble about the poll’s results and methodology, there is no denying the existence of pushback against Johnson’s bid to reopen England come July 19. On Monday, the Blood Cancer UK charity tweeted that for many of their members this would be “the day that it feels like freedoms are being taken away from them,” because they would no longer feel safe among the unmasked.

On Tuesday, the Guardian ran a story declaring the ‘day of freedom’ will instead be a “day of fear” for many. One 34-year-old disabled woman said she felt “hopeless” because others would not wear masks. A 39-year-old office worker said masks should be worn for “just three more months” so all the adults could get vaccinated and everyone could get “be as safe as it’s possible to be” from the virus, including “Long Covid” and new variants.

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Johnson’s reopening is “dangerous and premature” as well as “unethical and illogical,” argued over 100 scientists and doctors in a ‘Memorandum Against Mass Infection’, published on Wednesday in the correspondence section of The Lancet medical journal.

“Many scientists are sincerely concerned that with sub-optimal double-vaccination numbers and rapidly rising transmission rates, we are at a very dangerous moment in the pandemic,” said the letter.

However, a number of journalists have suggested that at least some of the anti-reopening campaign might be inauthentic. Several Twitter accounts have posted an identical message, claiming to “speak for all UK citizens” in demanding the continuation of the mask mandate beyond July 19.

The UK hit 5 million total Covid-19 cases on Thursday, putting it in seventh place globally after the US, India, Brazil, Russia, France and Turkey. There was also a single-day increase of 32,551 new infections and 35 fatalities.

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80. UK tops 5 million total Covid cases, as Delta variant continues to spread across country, 08 [−]

The UK hit a Covid milestone on Thursday, surpassing five million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, as officials reported a new single-day increase of 32,551 infections, along with a further 35 fatalities.

The latest Covid figures, released by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care, showed that infections are continuing to rise, as the Delta variant fuels the spread of the disease despite the nation’s fast-paced vaccination programme.

Data from the UK’s Test and Trace service revealed that Covid cases across England increased by 71% in the week ending June 30, marking the highest rise since the week ending February 3.

The UK currently has the world's seventh highest total of Covid cases, trailing the US, India, Brazil, Russia, France and Turkey. Despite rising infections, the British government recently announced that all pandemic-related restrictions in England will be lifted on July 19.

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With 45 million people in the UK having received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by now and 34 million fully inoculated, the government has pushed forward with plans to open up domestically and internationally, including making it easier for people to travel abroad.

The Delta variant, which was first detected in India last October, reached the UK earlier this year and is now thought to be responsible for 98% of the country’s Covid cases due to its higher level of transmissibility.

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81. Over 100 medics and scientists pen warning letter on UK govts premature unlocking of England on July 19, 08 [−]

More than 100 scientists and doctors have written a letter slamming the UK governments decision to lift all Covid restrictions in England on July 19 as unethical, with cases rising and vaccines not yet giving herd immunity.

The letter, entitled “Memorandum Against Mass Infection” and signed by over 100 scientists and doctors, was published on Wednesday in the correspondence section of The Lancet medical journal.

The medical and scientific experts warned that unlocking on July 19 is “premature”, given that the UK is currently grappling with an influx of cases. Over 32,500 infections were recorded on July 7 across the UK – the country’s highest figure since January. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to unlock is both “dangerous and premature”, the letter said, as well as “unethical and illogical”.

The missive follows a statement from the recently appointed UK Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, who commented just days prior that summer infections could reach 100,000 daily.

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The letter also warned that although a large proportion of the population has been inoculated, with 86.4% having received their first dose and almost 65% fully vaccinated, vaccine immunity has not yet been reached, and will not by July 19. The letter also stressed the dangers of ‘long Covid’ that patients can suffer with after the virus. Long Covid is a condition that some coronavirus patients experience in the wake of the original infection and can manifest as trouble breathing, lack of smell and taste, and exhaustion.

The letter outlines five key areas the medics urge the government to reconsider as they move towards lifting the last of England’s restrictions, chief among those areas being the safety of young people and the risk of further Covid mutations in a quasi-vaccinated population.

As schoolchildren and young people in the UK are ineligible for Covid jabs due to current age restrictions, this still leaves millions of the country’s youth at risk of catching the illness and suffering from its side effects. The letter warns that educational institutions could become a hotbed for infection, given that the ‘bubble’ system has been scrapped and pupils will no longer have to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone carrying the virus, under the government’s plans.

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The authors also expressed alarm that the government’s approach to unlocking “provides fertile ground for the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants”.

Other issues of concern raised were an inevitable rise in hospital admissions and how poorer parts of the country could suffer the brunt of the virus circulating most heavily in their localities “as deprived communities are more exposed to and more at risk from COVID-19”.

After revealing England’s lockdown lift plan, Johnson was criticised by opposition leader Keir Starmer, who warned that the UK is in for “a summer of chaos and confusion” as the scheme to unlock is neither “careful”, nor “controlled”.

Coronavirus measures set to be eased from July 19 in England include the reopening of nightclubs, the removal of the six people per table limit inside, as well as no caps on the number of attendees at gatherings, as well as the removal of the one metre social distance rule. Masks will also be scrapped.

Amidst the grand plans to unlock for mid-July, the Delta variant has wreaked havoc across the UK. The strain is about 60% more transmissible than other coronavirus variants and is now responsible for almost all Covid infections in the country, according to Public Health England.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UK has reported more than 5 million cases and just over 128,000 deaths.

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82. Transgender youth charity Mermaids fined ?25K for exposing personal info of trans children & parents online, 08 [−]

Mermaids, a controversial UK charity which helps transgender youth, has been fined ?25,000 after it unknowingly exposed nearly 800 pages of personal emails containing the private information of trans children and their parents.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined Mermaids £25,000 (nearly $35,000) for failing to “implement an appropriate level of organisational and technical security to its internal email systems.” The failure, it said, led to emails and documents containing personal information about children and other vulnerable people “being searchable and viewable online by third parties through internet search engine results” – a violation of GDPR laws.

According to the ICO’s penalty notice, the security flaw was discovered in 2019 after a Sunday Times journalist informed one of the parents who had been in contact with Mermaids that their child's current name, birth name, date of birth, and health details, along with the child’s mother's name, telephone number, and employer’s address were freely available online.

Four exposed emails contained details about transgender children under the age of 13 at the time.

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The ICO claimed that the leaked data was particularly “sensitive in its context” as “groups supporting transgender rights and people experiencing gender incongruence may be at a higher risk of experiencing prejudice, harassment, physical abuse or hate crime.”

“If someone had accessed the email group online there would have been sufficient available identifying data to potentially ‘out’ the data subject, removing any choice and infringing their privacy,” the penalty notice explained.

The ICO admitted that it was unsure whether any third parties had accessed the data other than the Sunday Times journalist who broke the story.

ICO Director of Investigations Steve Eckersley said in a statement that the “very nature of Mermaids’ work should have compelled the charity to impose stringent safeguards to protect the often vulnerable people it works with,” and that “its failure to do so subjected the very people it was trying to help to potential damage and distress.”

He added that, though charities like Mermaids do “important work,” they should know the importance of safeguarding personal information and “cannot be exempt from the law.”

Responding to the fine, Mermaids said it took “full responsibility” for the data breach and thanked the ICO for “balancing the size of its fine against our need to continue supporting service users.” The charity’s chair of trustees Dr. Belinda Bell said in a statement that it fully accepts “that an honest but significant mistake was made” and that the privacy of its service users is “paramount.”

“We are determined to ensure that Mermaids continues to fulfil its obligations regarding safe data management with the utmost diligence,” Bell said.

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83. Most UK troops on NATO mission now out of Afghanistan, rest are returning home PM Johnson, 08 [−]

The majority of the UKs armed forces personnel assigned to NATOs mission in Afghanistan have left that country and the rest are returning home, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

The withdrawal comes 20 years after the US, with British support, launched the so-called “war on terror” against the Taliban in Afghanistan and other groups in response to the 9/11 attacks in America. NATO troops entered the country in 2003.

The PM’s announcement was made just days after the Pentagon said 90% of US troops and equipment have now been withdrawn from Afghanistan, with the full pull-out scheduled to conclude by September.

Johnson told MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday that around 750 UK troops had remained in Afghanistan under NATO’s mission to “train and assist” the country’s security forces.

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However, most British personnel assigned to the mission have now left and the rest would be returning home, the PM said, providing no further details.

He said the international military presence in Afghanistan was never intended to be permanent.

“We and our NATO allies were always going to withdraw our forces, the only question was and there could never be a perfect moment,” he added.

In April, the US confirmed it had started pulling its troops out of Afghanistan, and the NATO allies agreed to start their withdrawal from May, which, the Alliance said, should be complete in a matter of months.

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In the wake of the withdrawal of western forces, the Taliban has been making territorial gains across Afghanistan’s northern provinces in recent weeks.

The Islamist movement has apparently been emboldened, especially by the US pulling out of its Bagram Air Base, north of the capital Kabul, which reportedly was done in the middle of the night, and without Washington informing Afghan government forces.

The Taliban briefly took over the city of Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Badghis province, on Wednesday, seizing its police headquarters and breaking into a prison.

On Thursday, a defense ministry spokesman said Afghan government troops have fully regained control in the city but were still conducting operations against Taliban fighters nearby.

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84. Were all vaxxed! Teletubbies announce Covid vaccination, bewildering fans and angering anti-jab activists, 08 [−]

Childrens television stars the Teletubbies announced on Wednesday that they had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 drawing mixed reactions from current and former fans of the show.

“We’re all vaxxed! Just in time for a Tubby hot summer,” announced the Teletubbies on their official Twitter account on Wednesday, along with four photos showing the vaccination cards of the four characters: Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po.

All four received their first dose on July 1 and their second dose on July 22, according to the cards, despite July 22 still being two weeks away. Tinky-Winky and Laa-Laa received “Noo-nson & Noo-nson” vaccines – a play on Johnson & Johnson – while Dipsy and Po received “AstraTubbica.”

Though the announcement received a lot of fanfare, with more than 225,000 likes and 46,000 retweets, many fans of the show were also bewildered by the stunt.

Several social media users questioned why the vaccination cards showed the Teletubbies as having been born six years after their show debuted, while others asked why Tinky-Winky and Laa-Laa had received two doses of a vaccine based on Johnson & Johnson – which fully vaccinates with just one shot.

One person was particularly disturbed that the announcement confirms the Teletubbies is set on Earth and that the characters are "susceptible to disease."

The post also received criticism for seemingly promoting the vaccination of children, when medical professionals are still debating whether vaccinating minors against Covid-19 has more benefits than risks. Opponents of the vaccine in general questioned whether the four fictional characters would receive some of the side effects recorded from Covid-19 vaccines, including blood clots, Bell’s palsy, and myocarditis.

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85. Overwhelmed Scottish hospitals declare code black status amid pressure of Covid-19 surge, 08 [−]

A further two hospitals in Scotland have declared code black status due to an influx of cases amid a new Covid-19 surge. Code black means a hospital is at full capacity with no more beds available and that patients are at risk.

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin, Moray have both cancelled non-urgent elective operations, NHS Grampian said on Wednesday.

The move comes after NHS Highland said Raigmore Hospital in Inverness reached capacity on Tuesday and also declared “code black” status. The designation is the country’s most severe tier of healthcare pressure.

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NHS Grampian said it took its decision in light of a rise in the number of cases in the northeast of the country.

In recent days, Scottish hospitals have been hit by an increasing number of people requiring treatment and staff shortages caused by people self-isolating after contact with someone infected with Covid-19.

Scotland recorded a further 3,799 Covid-19 cases on Wednesday.

The country is set to move to ‘level zero’ of its Covid-19 lockdown plan on July 19, when all social-distancing measures are to be removed. Almost all health curbs are set to be dropped on August 9, according to the government’s current timetable.

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday the government is looking at proceeding with easing lockdown with “care and caution.” She told the PA news agency that the level of infection in the country is “higher than we want them to be right now and higher than we should be comfortable with.”

Currently four of the country’s health boards are in the top 10 areas in Europe for the high rate of Covid infection over the last 14 days, according to the latest World Health Organization data.

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86. UK schools are overtly politicising classes on sex & gender issues, despite laws mandating neutrality, Ofsted warns, 07 [−]

British education watchdog Ofsted has warned that schools are using overtly political materials to instruct students on sex, sexual orientation and gender reassignment due to increasing political sensitivities in these areas.

Recent research by Ofsted into how gender issues are taught in schools found that staff sometimes “inadvertently” include political material in their classes.

Summarising the findings, Ofsted corporate strategy director Chris Jones identified one such instance in which schools and parents did not “see eye-to-eye” on the “content and age-appropriateness” of materials used to teach primary school children about same-sex relationships.

Given the absence of a “detailed central curriculum” schools are “given space” to choose what they teach and what they believe is age-appropriate for ‘Relationships and Sex Education’ – a situation that has apparently led to some confusion since the latest rules came into force in September 2020.

Even before that, some schools were coming under fire from faith and parents’ groups over how they dealt with such content. One school in Birmingham had come under fire for developing an LGBT-inclusive curriculum – and, in recent months, the same school made headlines for its decision to ban “sexist” phrases, including “boys and girls”.

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UK head teacher prompts outrage, heated debate after revealing her school ban on sexist expressions like boys and girls

After the LGBT group Stonewall advised schools to describe students as “learners” last month, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said it was important to talk about children in “natural language”.

The latest Ofsted report said “increasing political sensitivities” on gender issues are making it harder for schools to handle the subject, but it was clear that staff wanted to promote a “culture of respect” for “moral” rather than simply legal reasons.

The Equality Act 2010 enshrined in law a number of “protected characteristics” such as age, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, sex, sexual orientation, religion and belief, and gender reassignment status.

Jones noted that the act had been “contentious from the outset for certain groups”, especially when it came to issues around sexual orientation and gender reassignment, where schools and parents often have different ideas about appropriateness.

He admitted that “grey areas” stemming from the lack of a central curriculum were adding to the confusion. An alleged “lack of support” from the Department for Education and “perceived contradictions” were also causing problems, he said.

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In the 2020 guidance, the department said schools must comply with political impartiality under the 1996 Education Act and consider where political views could slip into teaching. Schools were also told to be “mindful” of their responsibilities under the Human Rights Act (1998) to respect parents’ rights and their “religious and philosophical convictions.”

While schools were also told to engage fully with parents on these decisions, there have been instances of major decisions being taken without parental knowledge.

In May, the Daily Mail found some schools were allowing teenage female students who identified as male to use a different name in the classroom, on the register and in other school communications without informing their parents. Some activists said schools were being advised by “transgender school toolkits” and fearful of being accused of “transphobia”.

While schools have plenty of choice when it comes to using external training and resources, they are often unsure of using it because of concerns about the content and its alignment with law.

Jones noted that one headteacher surveyed by Ofsted was “very nervous of other providers” looking to fill the gap, in the absence of a “national standard”. Some, the teacher said, adopted a “completely inappropriate tone”.

“These people crop up and get funding from wherever...emailing schools the whole time.”

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87. Roger Waters: Assange movement growing, but mainstream media cowed by the ruling class, 06 [−]

As WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned 50 in prison, his longtime friend and supporter, Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, hammered the despicable mainstream media for ignoring the growing movement to free him.

Assange turned 50 on Friday, sitting in London’s Belmarsh Prison. The US government is seeking to extradite Assange and try him on espionage charges, relating to his publication of documents alleging US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, although a British judge ruled in January that he could not be extradited to the United States due to concerns over US prison conditions, he has not been granted bail.

“I’ve sort of run out of expletives for these a**holes who have imprisoned Julian Assange,” Waters told RT on Tuesday. Waters has been a vocal advocate for Assange’s release since the WikiLeaks founder first took refuge in London’s Ecuadorian embassy in 2012, but admitted that the protests he’s led and spoken at haven’t moved politicians on either side of the Atlantic to release Assange.

“Julian Assange is a publisher who has committed no crime,” Waters said, remarking that “the powers that be have deaf ears to his predicament,” and seem happy to keep him “under lock and key until he dies, which they seem intent on doing.”

As Assange marked his birthday, protesters in the UK and US took to the streets demanding his release. Demonstrators in London sailed a boat past the Houses of Parliament, while a group in Washington, DC gathered outside the Department of Justice, which has charged Assange with a litany of espionage offences that could see him spend 175 years behind bars if convicted.

Waters told RT that, even though the pro-Assange movement has gained more and more public support in recent years, politicians and the mainstream media are continuing to look the other way. The Pink Floyd frontman recalled a protest in London last year in which “we marched from the Australian embassy to Parliament Square and we made our fine speeches and we made all the points that we’ve all made again and again… and the government took absolutely no notice.”

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“Where are all the journalists who should be in the streets demonstrating?” he asked, after recounting a number of baseless stories published about Assange that portrayed him as a misogynist, a rapist, and a vandal. “Nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, the mainstream media is cowed by the ruling class and the powers that be.”

“All those of us who care about human rights and who actually care about freedom… find it very difficult in the face of a mainstream media that’s bought and paid for by the ruling class, and keeps its effing mouth shut.”

That same media mostly ignored news last week that a key witness in the US case against Assange recently admitted to lying. The witness, an Icelandic WikiLeaks volunteer turned FBI informant, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, told an Icelandic newspaper that Assange never instructed him to carry out any computer hacking, despite earlier testimony to the contrary.

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Waters is undeterred by resistance from the government and media. “We are strong and we are not going away,” he declared.

“I think I’ll start a campaign now,” Waters said in closing. “I want a statue of Julian Assange in Parliament Square, waggling his finger at the Houses of Parliament, because that’s where he belongs. He is a great hero of our times.”

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88. Rock legend Richard Ashcroft pulls out of vaccine-restricted festival, says he wont take part in government experiment, 06 [−]

Singer Richard Ashcroft has pulled out of an upcoming festival in Sheffield, due to its vaccination requirement and participation in government coronavirus research. Ashcroft is one of several Covid-skeptic Britpop icons.

The former Verve frontman announced on Monday that he was pulling out of the Tramlines festival in Sheffield later this month, telling fans on Instagram that he “wouldn’t be playing concerts with restrictions.” Ashcroft said that he made the decision once he learned that Tramlines would be “part of a government testing programme.”

Under its Events Research Programme, the British government will allow a full capacity audience to attend the festival without masks and social distancing, and will study any transmission of Covid-19 that occurs over the weekend. Attendees will still need to show either proof of full vaccination or a negative lateral flow test to gain entry.

“It must be an age thing but the words Government Experiment and Festival…” Ashcroft quipped, posting laughing emojis and the hashtag “theydontownme”.

Ashcroft’s headline slot was filled by British rockers Supergrass, Tramlines announced on Tuesday. However, Ashcroft is far from the only Britpop-era star unhappy with the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Stone Roses singer Ian Brown congratulated Ashcroft on pulling out of the festival, calling it a “solid decision.”

Brown stepped down in March from performing at this September’s Neighbourhood Weekender festival in Warrington, due to the likelihood that it would require proof of vaccination. Brown has railed on Twitter against vaccines and government restrictions, declaring last month that “every singer and musician who plays an event requiring ‘vaccination’ with a gmo concoction still in experimental trials… is a wretch and a collaborator who deserves to be tarred and feathered.”

Cantankerous Oasis singer and guitarist Noel Gallagher last year called face masks “pointless” and complained that “there’s too many f**king liberties being taken away from us now.”

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Though he later got vaccinated, Gallagher still lashed out at “the people who are virtue signalling, their lofty wagging their finger at people who are declining it,” adding “that’s how fascism starts.”

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89. Fully-fledged British force training Saudi troops in Yemen, report says, hinting at extent of UK involvement in civil war, 06 [−]

A shadowy unit of British troops has reportedly been providing on-site training and support to Saudi forces in Yemen, bringing fresh scrutiny to the official UK stance of not being party to the ongoing conflict in the country.

For months, some 30 soldiers have been stationed at the coalition-occupied Al-Ghaydah airport in the restive eastern province of Mahra, according to news outlet Declassified UK. A number of human-rights groups have alleged torture of detainees at a prison located in the airport.

“The tasks assigned to them so far are military training and logistical support, either for Saudi forces or Saudi-backed militia that are elements from the Southern Transitional Council (a Yemeni secessionist group),” said Hameed Zaabnoot, a tribal leader who has organised ongoing mass sit-in protests against Saudi presence in Mahra.

Relaying that British forces were located in specially designated areas of the airport, Zaabnoot told the publication that they numbered “between 20 and 30 instructors, 10 of (whom) are permanent.” He added that the soldiers arrive aboard Saudi military aircraft and are not bound by visa checks.

“Saudi forces carry out strict security measures against civilian or military personnel inside the airport,” he said, claiming that mobile phones were prohibited, which made it difficult to photograph the British troops.

According to Naser Hakem Abdullah Awidh, a local journalist embedded with Saudi forces at the airport who has seen the soldiers on site, this is no “minor” unit but a “fully-fledged force.”

The outlet said the soldiers have been there for months and reportedly even conduct tourist trips in mufti.

Claiming that it seeks a sustainable political solution,” Whitehall has repeatedly denied any active involvement – former UK minister of state for the Middle East Alistair Burt told Parliament in 2019 that it was “not a party to” the war – in the coalition, which seeks to reinstate the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi government that was toppled by the Houthi rebellion in 2015.

Despite such disavowals, the British military and its defence industries are widely understood to be key actors in sustaining the war effort. They are particularly involved in the training, advising and supplying of Saudi air force operations that bomb Houthi strongholds.

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For instance, in the five-year period of conflict between 2015 and 2020, the country’s leading arms manufacturer BAE Systems was learned to have sold £15 billion ($20.27 billion) worth of arms, training and other services to Saudi armed forces.

In 2019, however, the extent of British involvement in the conflict became public knowledge, after news emerged of elite Special Boat Service commandos being injured in an alleged gun battle in the Sa’dah area of northern Yemen.

As well, British air defence teams have been deployed to Saudi Arabia to man Giraffe radars that track Houthi drones and rockets since February 2020. Their presence comes at a £2.3-million ($3.1 million) hit to UK taxpayers thus far.

In an interview in Arabic broadcast last month by Yemen’s Al-Mahriah TV channel, UK ambassador Michael Aron did not deny that British forces were in the country.

“We support efforts of fighting terrorism and smuggling. This has been our position for a long time,” Aron said, adding that the UK has “good and deep relations with the legitimate government.”

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However, in March 2021, Mahra’s former deputy governor Sheikh Ali Salem Al-Huraizi had denied that there were terrorism threats in the area and demanded the withdrawal of all foreign forces, including UK and US troops – the presence of which was exposed during US ambassador Christopher Henzel’s visit in December 2020.

A UK Ministry of Defence spokesperson told Declassified that the UK is “not a member of the Saudi-led coalition” and has “played no role in setting Saudi-led coalition policy.”

“The UK’s defence relationship with Saudi Arabia includes training courses, advice and guidance. This supports the efforts of Saudi Arabia to protect national and regional security, as well as their military’s compliance with international humanitarian law,” the spokesperson said.

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90. Scottish school cancels To Kill a Mockingbird due to its white saviour narrative, 06 [−]

One of Scotlands top secondary schools will drop To Kill a Mockingbird from its curriculum due to its white saviour motif, and cancel Of Mice and Men because both books lead characters are not people of colour.

James Gillespie High School in Edinburgh is a highly regarded institution, and in 2015 was named Scotland’s top state secondary school by the Sunday Times. It’s also a bastion of wokeness, as the Telegraph reported on Monday.

Students there will no longer read Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ or John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men,’ Allan Crosbie, the school’s head of English, recently told a meeting of the Educational Institue of Scotland (EIS).

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“They are now taught less frequently because those novels are dated and problematical (sic) in terms of decolonising the curriculum,” he said, according to the Telegraph. “Their lead characters are not people of colour.”

"The representation of people of colour is dated, and the use of the N-word and the use of the white saviour motif in Mockingbird – these have led us as a department to decide that these really are not texts we want to be teaching third year anymore."

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‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ tells the story of a black man falsely accused of rape in a small Alabama town in the 1930s, and the white lawyer who defends him. Some schools in the US have already removed or discussed removing it from their classrooms, due to its use of period-correct racial slurs. Crosbie is apparently the first school official to single out its “white saviour motif” as grounds for a ban, however.

Set during the Great Depression in 1930s America, ‘Of Mice and Men’ depicts the racism of the age through other characters’ treatment of Crooks, a black farmhand. Crooks is subjected to frequent racial slurs, and his harsh treatment leaves him emotionally damaged.

However, instead of discussing these themes in context, students will instead study more modern books on racism. One of these, the Telegraph reported, is Angie Thomas’ ‘The Hate U Give,’ a novel inspired by police shootings that positively portrays the Black Lives Matter movement.

Crosbie’s efforts to “decolonise” the curriculum have met with some resistance, however. “We can contextualise [these books],” Calvin Robinson, a policy advisor to the Department of Education, told the Telegraph. “Teachers are not just reading the books, they are teaching English literature.”

“We can talk about the use of the N-word and why it is not appropriate for anyone to use. I think it’s ridiculous to cancel the books because of it.”

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‘Decolonisation’ is a hot term among social justice-minded academics and activists. Put simply it involves rethinking the notion that Western science, literature, and knowledge in general are superior to and deserve more focus than theories from the non-Western world, and contribute to the “oppression” experienced by minorities.

It’s been applied to history and political science, and invoked to topple statues of famous colonial figures considered offensive to modern tastes. However, it’s also been applied to some seemingly unlikely subjects. Academics have argued that classical music, mathematics and ecology are all ripe for “decolonisation,” on account of their domination by the white West.

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91. Fully vaccinated people in England wont need to self-isolate after Covid-19 contact health secretary, 06 [−]

People in England who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone who has the virus from August 16, the government has said.

The arrangement also applies to those under 18, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday as he outlined the further easing of England’s Covid-19 rules.

Javid said people would have to wait for two weeks after their second jab in order for their immunity to the virus to build up, thus allowing them to avoid self-isolating.

Under the current system, people identified by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of someone with Covid-19 are required to isolate for 10 days.

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Javid said that, as the new change comes in, the government will still advise fully vaccinated close contacts of people with the virus to take a PCR test.

Those who do test positive will still have to isolate regardless of whether they have had the jab, Javid said.

“This new approach means that we can manage the virus in a way that is proportionate to the pandemic, while maintaining the freedoms that are so important to us all,” he added.

Javid’s announcement comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday declared the end to most of England’s Covid-19 restrictions from July 19.

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The health measures set to be scrapped include the six-person limit on gatherings in private homes, as well as social distancing and the legal requirement to wear face masks in enclosed areas like public transport.

Javid said on Tuesday that as England leaves lockdown there could be as many as 100,000 new Covid-19 cases a day in the UK.

In his announcement on Monday, Johnson said: “We must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid.”

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92. Twitter bemoans snowflake generation after UK regulator re-rates violent & discriminatory films such as Rocky & Flash Gordon, 06 [−]

Classics films including Star Wars, Rocky and Flash Gordon have had their content advisory ratings ratcheted up by Britains film-screening board, in what has been described as a victory for woke culture.

In a newly-released report outlining its activities during 2020, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) explained why it issued new ratings for popular titles such as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Rocky, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and Flash Gordon.

The organisation reclassified several fan favourites from Parental Guidance (PG) to 12A, meaning no child under the age of 12 should watch without adult supervision. Films with PG ratings are considered appropriate for children around eight and up.

For example, the iconic 1976 boxing drama ‘Rocky’ was initially given a PG rating, but its 2020 theatrical re-release was slapped with a 12A label for “moderate violence, mouthed strong language and domestic abuse.”

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ was similarly “reclassified upwards” to 12A for “moderate fantasy violence,” bringing it in line with the other two films in the trilogy.

‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ was originally considered appropriate for all age groups, but was given a PG rating last year for containing moderate violence.

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Flash Gordon was among the most complained-about films to undergo review by the BBFC. Of the 93 complaints the board received last year, 27 were regarding the 1980 sci-fi musical. The film was hit with a 12A rating for sex references and “discriminatory stereotypes.” Race-conscious viewers apparently took issue with Flash Gordon's main villain, Ming the Merciless. The character allegedly plays on Asian stereotypes. Perhaps more worryingly, the villain was portrayed by non-Asian, Swedish-French actor Max von Sydow.

There were also some curious decisions that led to films receiving lighter ratings. The Fast and the Furious was given a ‘15’ rating upon its original release in 2001, but was reclassified as 12A for infrequent but strong language, sex references and moderate violence.

According to the BBFC, the slew of rating readjustments was prompted by “changing standards in society.”

Unsurprisingly, many took exception to the board’s decisions.

“Time to ban woke snowflakes,” complained one Twitter user. The UK is raising a generation that will be “afraid of their own shadows,” predicted another observer.

Several comments questioned why some films were suddenly considered safer for children, even as seemingly benign movies were singled out by the censors.

Others wondered whether the new ratings served any useful purpose, nothing that the internet seems to make such content-policing systems obsolete.

The BBFC’s report coincided with new research by American pollster Frank Luntz, who warned that deepening cultural divides could lead to never-ending ‘woke’ conflicts in Britain.

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93. HIV vaccine trial launched at University of Oxford in bid to end 40-year wait, 05 [−]

Researchers at the UKs University of Oxford have administered the first doses of a potential HIV vaccine to participants, as part of a phase-one clinical trial launched on Monday.

The trial, called HIV-CORE 0052, aims to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of the HIVconsvX vaccine, the university said. The project is part of the European Aids Vaccine Initiative, funded by the European Commission.

The jab is known as a “mosaic,” meaning it can target a broad range of HIV-1 variants and potentially become a suitable vaccine for use around the world.

Scientists will give two doses of the vaccine four weeks apart to 13 healthy, HIV-negative adults, aged between 18 and 65, who are not considered at risk of infection.

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“An effective HIV vaccine has been elusive for 40 years,” Tomas Hanke, the trial’s lead researcher and Professor of Vaccine Immunology at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, said in a statement.

“This trial is the first in a series of evaluations of this novel vaccine strategy in both HIV-negative individuals for prevention and in people living with HIV for cure.”

The Oxford solution works by stimulating the body’s immune response via T cells which kill specific pathogens, unlike most other HIV vaccine candidates, which induce antibodies created by B-cells to fight the virus.

HIV attacks the body’s immune system and can develop into life-threatening AIDS if left untreated.

In 2014, the UN announced a ‘fast-track’ target of decreasing the number of people newly infected with the virus to 500,000 by 2020. However, last year there were approximately 1.5 million new cases.

The Oxford team expects to report its results by April next year. There are also plans to start similar trials in Europe, Africa and the US.

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94. Englands legal Covid-19 restrictions to be dropped in two weeks, PM Johnson says, despite warning more deaths on way, 05 [−]

Nearly all of the remaining Covid-19 curbs in England, including all legal restrictions, will be lifted on July 19 despite an increase in cases and the expectation of more deaths from the virus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Face masks will no longer be required on public transport, nightclubs will reopen and the limit on group sizes in private homes to six people will all be scrapped, Johnson told a press conference on Monday.

Other limits on the number of people at weddings and funerals will also end, as will social distancing requirements and limiting bars and restaurants to table-service only.

Johnson said England was still seeing a rising number of Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions, warning that there could be 50,000 cases per day by July 19.

“We must reconcile ourselves sadly to more deaths from Covid,” he said, adding that the government must take a “careful and balanced” decision on restrictions.

Johnson said he expects the government will be able to lift the majority of remaining restrictions on July 19, with a review of the latest health data set for July 12.

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The national test, trace and isolate system will remain in operation from July 19, Johnson said, although the government is looking at different arrangements for fully-vaccinated people and for children. People must still self-isolate if they test positive for the virus or are ordered to quarantine by NHS Test and Trace.

The PM also indicated that restrictions could be re-introduced down the line.

"I didn't want people to feel that this is, as it were, the moment to get demob happy... it is very far from the end of dealing with this virus," Johnson said.

"Obviously, if we do find another variant that doesn't respond to the vaccines... then clearly, we will have to take whatever steps we need to do to protect the public."

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As the restrictions are lifted, the government will no longer require people to work from home and a limit on the number of people allowed to visit care homes will be dropped. An announcement is set to be made this week by the UK’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on the possible end of so-called classroom “bubbles” which are designed to protect schools from Covid outbreaks.

Johnson said the pace of the UK’s vaccine rollout would also speed up so that people under 40 years of age will be offered their second dose eight weeks after their first, as opposed to the current 12-week interval.

Speaking alongside the PM on Monday, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned of the potential pressure Covid-19 may place on the National Health Service (NHS) next winter. “This coming winter may be very difficult for the NHS, and I don’t think that’s a particularly controversial point,” he said.

On Monday the UK reported a further nine deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test, and more than 27,000 new infections. The current rate of infection is 230 per 100,000 people, and in the last seven days there has been a 50% increase in new cases compared to the previous week, according to the latest government data.

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95. Brits face never-ending woke culture wars as American-style divisions on way to take hold in UK, pollster warns, 05 [−]

Escalating culture feuds could dominate British politics much like they already do in the US, American pollster Frank Luntz has claimed, citing new research revealing deep divides in voter attitudes in the UK.

The long-time Republican Party operative began examining the top causes of concern among British voters, after joining the London-based Centre for Policy Studies in May. Having surveyed several thousand people, he found that Britain was increasingly being divided along ‘woke’ versus ‘non-woke’ lines, rather than by the traditional social and cultural tensions felt between north versus south, cities versus rural areas and even men versus women.

In his study, which was first reported on by The Times, around 81% of Tory voters agreed with the premise that the UK was a nation of “equality and freedom”, while a mere 19% said the nation was “institutionally racist and discriminatory”. Among Labour supporters, 52% saw the UK as a bastion of freedom, and 48% said the country suffered from systemic racism.

When asked specifically about cancel culture, 40% of respondents said they believed the social phenomenon served as a form of “thought and speech police”, while 25% backed it, arguing that those who say something sexist or racist should “face the consequences”. There were similar differences between Tory and Labour voters on issues concerning economic opportunity in the country. Three-quarters of Conservatives agreed that the UK gives everyone a “fair chance” to get ahead if they work hard. Labour voters, however, were less certain, with around a half saying “injustice and inequality” in the country hold many people back.

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According to Luntz, these findings are a major red flag. “When you have decided that your country is institutionally racist and discriminatory, you don’t normally go back,” Luntz said in an interview with The Times, predicting that the chasm dividing voters would only widen with time. He said it was likely that, in six months to a year, the “damage” caused by such radically different views about what the UK stands for will lead to the same vast social upheaval already occurring in the United States. As a result, Britain will see less cooperation and compromise but more negativity, the pollster warned.

“The problem with woke[ness] and with cancel culture is that it is never done. The conflict and divisions never end,” he said. “This is not what the people of the UK want – but it’s coming anyway.”

He said that, while the Labour Party was in touch with its own voter base, it had essentially alienated everyone else by creating an “unsustainable” internal conflict. The reaction from the Tories has only made things worse, Luntz suggested, noting that “woke begets woke”. In turn, he gave a warning to the Conservatives about fair representation, saying they can’t just be for their people”.

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His study found that voters believed the government’s main objective should be to help protect the poorest and most vulnerable. For the Tories, helping those in need shouldn’t just be a “slogan”, but rather a “way of life”, Luntz argued.

In the UK, both public and private institutions have increasingly embraced policies aimed at promoting social justice and equality. However, critics claim such measures have actually increased division within the country.

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96. UK to leave small number of elite troops in Afghanistan as ex-MI6 chief warns of likely civil war media, 05 [−]

The British government is poised to keep a small special forces contingent on the ground in Afghanistan, The Telegraph has reported, after the Taliban made significant ground gains amid the US withdrawal.

Days after the US and its NATO allies pulled out of the coalition's main base in the country, Afghan troops retreated and the Taliban captured swaths of territory, including a key district in Kandahar province. The UK is now reportedly considering the retention of an “advisory group” of elite special forces soldiers in the country.

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Citing a former Special Air Service (SAS) soldier, who until recently was stationed in Afghanistan, The Telegraph reported that the group would “provide training to Afghan units and deploy with them on the ground as advisers.” The deployment will be open-ended, they said, meaning the forces would stay “as long as [the government] continue to see value” in having them stationed there.

The decision whether to withdraw all the UK’s remaining 750 soldiers from the war-ravaged country for good or leave some troops behind amid the Taliban’s ongoing onslaught is yet to be made, a senior military source told the paper. UK PM Boris Johnson, who has the final say on the matter, is expected to make an announcement at the National Security Council meeting on Monday.

Earlier reports in the UK media suggested that British troops might exit Afghanistan by July 4 – a deadline seemingly timed with the US soldiers’ pullout from Bagram Air Base, the coalition’s main military hub in the country, located near Kabul.

Officials in the UK, however, were reluctant to commit to a certain timeframe, saying that London “reserves the right” to dispatch troops back to Afghanistan, either as part of a coalition or unilaterally, if parts of the country are overrun by terrorists.

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Similar concerns were raised by the former head of MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service, Alex Yanger. Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Yanger, who ran MI6 until last September, argued that the withdrawal of the US and allied forces might give rise to the resurgence of terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). Comparing the current Afghan situation with that which followed the Soviet troop withdrawal in 1989, Yanger insisted that the West should stay active in Afghanistan instead of making “an enormous mistake” by leaving it by itself and letting terrorist groups recover.

"They're on the back foot. But it would be wrong, patently, to claim that they have gone away. And they have the capacity to regenerate,” Yanger said.

The US funneled arms and money to Afghan Mujahideen guerrilla militants who were fighting the Soviet forces in the early 1980s, and who later became part of the Taliban. In April, the CIA even bragged about arming the militants who fought the Soviet army with shoulder-fired missiles, drawing scorn in return.

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Blasting former US president Donald Trump for setting a May withdrawal deadline, pushed back by the Biden administration to September, Yanger argued that the US pullout should have been conditional on the Taliban actively taking part in the political process.

While the former spy chief noted that he believes a civil war remains the most likely scenario in Afghanistan, he said that he was still “proud" of what the US-led intervention achieved there, despite leaving a power vacuum behind.

"I am proud of what we have done there when I look at the situation that existed in 2001, when I look at the extent of the terrorist infrastructure and when I consider the damage that could and would have been done if we had allowed that to continue.”

He acknowledged, however, that Western efforts to impose their version of “democracy” on Afghan society had failed bitterly, saying: “I've learnt: the idea that we can create a democracy in our image in a country like that is out of reach."

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97. Personal responsibility should replace government telling you what to do as UK learns to live with Covid-19 minister, 04 [−]

The UK is entering a new phase of its Covid-19 response in which personal judgment will replace draconian restrictions and mask mandates, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said.

Jenrick told the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday that he was confident that all coronavirus measures would be lifted on July 19 as planned, stating that the success of the country’s vaccine programme will allow for a return to normality.

While acknowledging that it was possible that cases might rise as restrictions are eased, he said that Britain would have to rethink how it deals with the disease.

"[We] now have to move into a different period where we learn to live with the virus, we take precautions and we as individuals take personal responsibility," he said.

According to Jenrick, “the data is in the right place” to support lifting mask requirements in certain settings – although he cautioned that the choice ultimately rests with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The minister predicted that people would "come to different conclusions" over masks, and that he trusted citizens "to exercise good judgement” when deciding under what circumstances it might be appropriate to don a face covering. He also signaled that those who have been fully vaccinated could be exempt from quarantine rules while traveling abroad.

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In separate comments made to Sky News, the minister said that he would choose not to wear a mask if the rules allowed.

“Some members of society will want to do so for perfectly legitimate reasons but it will be a different period where we as private citizens make these judgements rather than the government telling you what to do,” he said, stressing that once restrictions are lifted, “the state won’t be telling you what to do” anymore.

There is still a heated debate over whether it is prudent to lift restrictions or not on July 19. The so-called ‘Freedom Day’ was originally scheduled for June, but was postponed after the government argued that measures were still necessary. In recent weeks, London has seen a number of large protests against lockdowns, signaling growing frustration with the rules, many of which have been in place nearly without interruption for over a year.

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98. UKs leading retailers call for tougher laws to protect workers from shocking upsurge in violence and abuse, 04 [−]

One hundred of the UKs most popular retail chains have asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to support legislation aimed at combating violence and abuse against their workers, warning that the problem is only getting worse.

Executives from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, IKEA, Aldi, and other big-box stores wrote to Johnson urging him to back an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would tackle escalating abuse directed at retail workers. The bill is currently undergoing a review in Parliament.

The letter follows the release of a government report last week, which concluded that legislation was needed to protect shop employees from a “shocking upsurge in violence and abuse.”

Initiated by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), a trade group that represents large chains, the lobbying effort implores the prime minister and the country’s political leaders to act before the problem worsens. The letter has already received support from more than two dozen MPs.

The BRC’s most recent crime survey found that there were 455 cases of abuse against retail workers each day in 2019, representing a 7% year-on-year increase in incidents of violence. The issue has reportedly been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis, with retail workers being subjected to abuse while trying to enforce sanitary rules and other Covid-19 measures.

One business reported a 76% increase in abuse and a 10% increase in violent attacks during the pandemic. Over half of the attacks involved a weapon, according to the BRC.

The trade organisation also cited testimonials from retail workers who said they had been “coughed at or spat on” during their shifts.

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“Behind each of these statistics is a person, a family, colleagues and communities that have to cope with this trauma. No-one should go to work fearing for their safety, yet many retail workers have come to see it as part of the job – this can’t go on,” Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive, said.

Retailers have invested record amounts – £1.2 billion ($1.65 billion) in the past year alone – on bolstering security and implementing other crime-fighting measures, but these efforts appear to have fallen short.

Viral videos of altercations between customers and shop workers have become increasingly common in the UK and other parts of the world, with many of the conflicts sparked by anger over mask mandates or other Covid-19 rules.

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99. Housing trans women convicted of sexual offences in female prisons is lawful, Englands High Court rules, 02 [−]

The governments policy of housing transgender women, including those with convictions for violent or sexual offences, in female prisons in England and Wales is lawful, the High Court in London ruled on Friday.

The judge rejected claims that jailing transgender sexual or violent offenders with cisgender women was discriminatory.

A female inmate, known as FDJ, launched legal action against the Ministry of Justice after claiming she had been sexually assaulted by a trans woman at HMP Bronzefield near London in 2017.

The alleged attacker, who had a gender recognition certificate (GRC), had previous convictions including manslaughter and attempted rape.

The ministry defended its policy, saying that it was necessary for “facilitating the rights of transgender people to live in and as their acquired gender (and) protecting transgender people’s mental and physical health.”

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In his judgement on Friday, Lord Justice Holroyde said he accepted that female prisoners may suffer “fear and anxiety” if forced to share a cell with a transgender woman with male genitalia, especially one with violent convictions.

However, he said that in the existing policies, the “need to assess and manage all risks is repeatedly emphasised.”

He added that the exclusion of all trans women from women’s prisons would be to “ignore, impermissibly, the rights of transgender women to live in their chosen gender.”

The court heard that in 2019 there were 34 transgender inmates in women’s prisons who had been convicted of one or more sexual offences.

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Other data read out included that between 2016 and 2019 some 97 sexual assaults were recorded in women’s prisons, seven of which were committed by transgender prisoners without a GRC.

It is not known if there were any committed by trans women with a GRC, the judgment noted.

Women’s prisons in England and Wales can house people born male who identify as female, even if they haven’t undergone gender reassignment or do not possess a GRC.

The claimant, FDJ, said she was “disappointed” with the ruling, adding that trans women with violent convictions should not be in a situation where they can endanger women.

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100. Angela Merkel says vaccinated Brits should be able to enter Germany without quarantine in 'foreseeable future', 02 [−]

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Friday that Britons who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will likely be able to enter Germany without quarantining in the "foreseeable future."

During a joint press conference with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, following a meeting between the two at the prime minister's Chequers residence in Buckinghamshire, Merkel declared that her country is constantly reviewing its travel restrictions and thinks "that in the foreseeable future those who have received double jabs" – including those from the UK – should "be able to travel again without having to go into quarantine."

Merkel also said that though Germany "didn't have much experience" with the Delta variant of Covid-19 "at the beginning," it is now "dealing with it."

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It had been reported on Thursday that Johnson planned to "confront" Merkel during their meeting on why Germany has implemented tough restrictions for British travellers who are vaccinated against Covid-19.

Since May 23, Germany has considered the UK to be an area of concern for Covid-19, and has only admitted German citizens, residents, and those with a humanitarian reason, who are required to undergo 14 days in quarantine.

Despite Johnson's attempts to gain entry to Germany for vaccinated Brits, the UK currently has Germany on its 'Amber List.' Travellers from countries on the Amber List are required to take several Covid-19 tests and quarantine for 10 days upon arrival.

This week, some vaccinated Brits had their hopes for travel in the near future crushed, after it was reported that those who had received Indian-manufactured doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would not be able to skip quarantine in the European Union, due to it not being approved by the European Medicines Agency.

The UK is the seventh most affected country for Covid-19 in the world, with 4,845,000 cases and over 128,000 deaths. Though cases were on the decline earlier this year, the fast-spreading Delta variant has led to a sharp increase in infections, but not deaths, while around 85% of the adult population has received at least one jab.

Germany, for its part, has recorded over 3,737,000 Covid-19 cases and 91,000 deaths. 55.6% of Germans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

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