Woman exasperated with local council because it won’t recycle her broken recycling bin

A woman has condemned her local council after she claimed she was told she wouldn’t be able to recycle her broken recycling bin.

Harriet Jany, 29, has accused Wiltshire Council of “hypocritical rubbish” and said she was “shocked” after she was told to throw the plastic bin away.

Ms Jany said she wanted to responsibly dispose of her black waste recycling container – used for tins, paper and glass – after it cracked through wear and tear, and asked for a replacement.

But the bin collectors were unable to help.

Ms Jany, from Chippenham, Wiltshire, said: “I spoke to the council and they told me to put it in my household bin. I wasn’t happy with that – a massive bit of plastic!

“It’s the irony of it. It’s a recycling bin and we were told to put it away as a waste.”

‘Shocked’

Recycling broken bins
She said she was ‘shocked’ by the situation (Photo: SWNS)

The webs analytics consultant, who lives with her partner, raised her concerns on Twitter and over the phone after the black bin was left outside her home for nearly a week.

She tweeted Wiltshire Council on 28 August 28, saying: “Black recycling box completely replaced when only needing new lid. Told to put recycling box in my bin! How bad for the environment. Should recycle recycling boxes!”

She then posted again on 4 September to say:  “Black recycling bin still sat on drive and no one has collected it (lid broken but actual bin can be reused). After reporting no one has bothered to come back to me. Can someone deal with this please?!”

Taxpayer’s money

She added: “I thought sending me a new bin was a waste of taxpayer’s money. The bottom was fine.

“The council told me I needed to get rid of the bin. I was shocked when I rang them.

“I was later told I could use the recycling centre, but that was only after me pushing. It wasn’t what I was told originally. It’s not very good. Some people would just fly-tip.”

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said there appeared to have been some miscommunication.

He said: “If a black box recycling bin is broken it can be recycled. People can take it to their local household recycling centre where it can be placed in the rigid plastics section. Alternatively, we can also arrange for a broken bin to be collected by our team.”

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Google Earth reveals the body of a man missing for 22 years in a Florida lake

A man who disappeared 22 years ago has finally been found after somebody zoomed in on his old neighbourhood on Google Earth and spotted a car submerged in a lake.

The remains of William Moldt, who went missing in 1997 at the age of 40, were found by complete chance and curiosity, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Mr Moldt was discovered after a former resident of the Grand Isles neighborhood in Wellington, Florida, spotted what looked to be a vehicle via Google’s satellite imagery.

Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Teri Barbera said on Thursday that the former resident contacted a current homeowner, who used a drone to confirm it was a white car on the edge of the pond behind his house.

Missing for 22 years

The man called the sheriff’s office on 28 August and deputies later arrived to find the white sedan’s exterior “heavily calcified.” After they got the car out, they found Mr Moldt’s skeletal remains inside.

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System said Mr Moldt went to a nightclub in November 1997 but did not appear intoxicated as he left alone before midnight. He had called his girlfriend from the club saying he would return to their Lantana home soon.

The residential area was under construction when Moldt went missing, but the pond was already there. Barry Fay, whose home is near where the car was found, told The Palm Beach Post that he had never noticed anything from the shoreline.

“Never did I believe there would be a 22-year-old dead body,” he told the newspaper.

The Charley Project, a missing person’s database, said the “vehicle had been plainly visible on a Google Earth satellite photo of the area since 2007, but apparently no one had noticed it until 2019”.

‘Google search’

A statement from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said: “A previous resident living in Grand Isles was doing a ‘google search’ on Google Earth in the area and noticed what appeared to be a vehicle in the pond behind a residence.

“That previous resident contacted the current resident living on Moon Bay Circle and advised he noticed what appears to be a vehicle in a pond behind his home. The current resident activated his personal drone and confirmed what the previous resident saw and immediately contacted PBSO.

“Upon arrival deputies confirmed there was a vehicle in the pond. The vehicle’s exterior was heavily calcified and was obviously in the water for a significant amount of time. Upon removing the vehicle skeleton remains were found inside.

“Detectives and Crime Scene responded and assumed the investigation. The vehicle and the remains were towed to the Medical Examiner’s Office for processing.

“On 10 September 10, the remains were positively identified as William Moldt, who was reported missing on November 8, 1997.”

Mr Moldt’s family have been informed.

Additional reporting by agencies 

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Lily Allen says Warner Music record label failed to act after she reported sexual assault

Lily Allen has claimed her record label Warner Music failed to take action after she told them she was sexually assaulted by an industry figure.

The singer, 34, made the allegation in her memoir, in which she says the man assaulted her when she fell asleep in his hotel room.

Allen said the alleged incident occurred during a work trip to the Caribbean in 2016 and happened after she had attended a party with the industry figure.

Work trip

Talking to The Next Episode podcast, she said: “I had been at a party. He was in a position of responsibility. He’d got me out of this party and decided he wanted to take me back to my hotel.

“We got to my hotel. I couldn’t find my room keys. So he was like: ‘Well, why don’t you sleep in my bed while I go and get the keys?’ or whatever.

“So I passed out in his bed… The next thing I knew, I woke up and he was in my bed naked slapping my bum.”

Lily Allen
She was away at the time of the alleged assault (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Allen claimed the man was trying to have sex with her, and added: “I recoiled and I got up out of the bed and I screamed.”

She said of the alleged incident: “I’d never given any indication that I did want that.”

Allen said: “I’d made a decision that I didn’t want to go to the police, that I didn’t want to make a fuss and I wanted to keep it quiet. But I did want to protect myself.”

She told podcast host Miquita Oliver: “I do feel like my career has been fucked with as a result of talking about this stuff, for sure. I really do.”

‘Appalling’

Allen said she “went out for dinner with one of the label bosses” at Warner Music after the allegation was revealed in her book, who said “he had no idea” about the allegation until the publication of her memoir.

When asked by Oliver: “Did he say, ‘Now that we know, boy, are we going to do something about it?”‘ Allen replied: “No.”

The label said in a statement to the podcast: “These allegations from 2016 are appalling.

“We take accusations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously and investigate claims that are raised with us.”

Warner Music has been contacted for comment.

Additional reporting by PA

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Chlorinated chicken: British public being ‘softened up’ to accept lower food standards after Brexit

The British public is being “softened up” to accept chlorinated chicken and other US-produced food products despite potential dangers to public health, food policy experts have claimed.

A new briefing from the Food Research Collaboration has highlighted that a no-deal Brexit could open the door to unsafe food until the Government gives absolute assurances that food produced under US standards will not be sold in the UK,  The Guardian reports.

The experts from the University of Sussex, City University, and Cardiff University have sent their briefing to MPs ahead of party conferences.

They have also challenged a statement given by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) chief scientist, Prof Sir Ian Boyd, that consuming chlorinated chicken should be decided by “consumer choice” rather than government policy. In an interview given two weeks ago, he claimed there are “no health problems” associated with chlorinated chicken.

Lower animal welfare standards

Chlorine washing is used in the USA to disinfect not only chickens, but also other meats, fish and vegetables, and is a method banned in the EU. It is used to disinfect food that emerges from production lines with less stringent hygiene standards practised in Europe.

Together with hormone-injected beef – another US agricultural practice banned in the EU – chlorinated chicken has become a linchpin in the campaign against a controversial UK-US trade deal that appears increasingly likely as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

Boris Johnson and Donald Trump speak on the stairs (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ Pool/Getty Images)
The briefing refers to fears associated with the possible terms of a US-UK trade deal (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ Pool/Getty Images)

In the case of chlorinated foods, academics have again underlined evidence that shows that rather than preventing infections, the process merely blocks the standard test method by which the presence of such bacteria should be revealed.

Crucially, scientists say the bacteria remains present on the food and able to cause serious and sometimes fatal food poisoning.

It follows a study by Simon Dawson, senior lecturer in food science and technology at Cardiff Metropolitan University, who previously told i that chlorinating chicken is not an effective way of killing off bacteria.

Ineffective method

Erik Millstone, emeritus professor in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, said: “The whole point about consumer choice is that consumers can only choose what they actually want if they are adequately informed about the available options. US chickens are not labelled as washed in chlorine, nor is US beef labelled as hormone-injected to speed the animals’ growth.”

The briefing, shared on Friday by the University of Sussex, said the “evidence, which is acknowledged by senior officials at the Food Standards Authority, shows that rates of bacterial food poisoning in the US are far higher than in the UK, proving that foods are far less clean and safe in the US than they are in the UK”.

The policy note also argues that the overuse of antibiotics in the USA – for example, those used in cattle and swine – contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Experts have suggested their usage should be stopped.

Prof Tim Lang at the Centre for Food Policy said: “Professor Boyd’s statement may be an early sign that Westminster is trying to soften up the public for lower-standard food imports from the US.

Food standards

Animal welfare Brexit
Experts say washing chicken in chlorine is not an effective way to kill bacteria (Photo: Getty)

“They are very keen to have a ‘trophy’ trade deal post-Brexit and the lowering of UK food safety and animal welfare standards is at stake. We cannot accept what is sure to lead to an unprecedented and radical decline in food quality standards”.

The experts are calling for “robust commitments” to be made in order to protect food standards in the UK following any post-Brexit trade negotiations.

They have also urged public health, consumer and environment organisations to combine efforts to prevent the undermining of high food standards in the UK.

There are also arguments that say people are against US-imported meats due to the lower animal welfare standards in America. People have also argued it will be consumers on lower incomes who will be left without a choice.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We have been clear that any future deal with the US must work for UK consumers, farmers and companies. Without exception, imports will meet our stringent food safety standards. After EU exit, the UK will decide how we set and maintain our own standards and regulations.”

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Jolie King and Mark Firkin: Australian and British bloggers detained in Iran prison named

Two Australian citizens who have been detained in Iran have been identified as Jolie King and Mark Firkin.

Ms King, who also holds a UK passport, and Mr Firkin were reportedly arrested 10 weeks ago near Tehran.

News of the arrests, which happened several months after another British-Australian woman was detained – and subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison – only surfaced on Wednesday. The woman, who is reportedly an academic from Melbourne, has not been named.

Blogging about travels

Ms King and Mr Firkin, from Perth, were said to have been blogging about their adventures in the Middle East when they were arrested.

They are understood to have been detained after allegedly camping in a military area outside of Jajrood, in Tehran province.

Manoto TV, a Persian-language broadcaster in London, reported the couple were arrested for flying a drone near Tehran. The couple use a drone to make videos of their travels which they post on social media.

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The two British-Australian women are said to be incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin jail, where 41-year-old Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother of one, has been held on spying charges since 2016.

Australia said it had repeatedly raised the cases with Iran, including in a meeting between officials last week, in order to assist its citizens.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne told the BBC she has lobbied on their behalf in a meeting with her Iranian counterpart.

On Thursday, Ms Payne described the detentions as “a matter of deep concern” and confirmed help had been given to the families of those involved.

“Since they were detained, the Australian government has been pressing at the Iranian government for their release,” she said.

“The government has been making efforts to ensure they are treated fairly, humanely and in accordance with international norms,” she added.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to say whether he intends to raise the issue with his Iranian counterpart.

“Engaging in public commentary about process on consular cases is never in the interests of those who are caught up in these issues,” Morrison told reporters.

Family statement

“[We] hope to see Mark and Jolie safely home as soon as possible,” their families have said.

The blogger and her boyfriend had been documenting their travels on YouTube and Instagram, with their followers having become concerned in the past several weeks by the absence of any new posts.

The cases of the two women are believed to be the first imprisonments in Iran of British passport holders who do not also have Iranian nationality.

Their arrests come amid a downturn in relations between Britain and Iran, sparked by issues including the seizure by the Royal Marines in July of an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has agreed to their Australian counterparts handling the case.

Additional reporting by agencies

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Radcliffe baby death: Man, 22, arrested as 11-month-old boy dies after being rescued from River Irwell in Greater Manchester

A baby boy who was rescued from a river in Manchester has died in hospital.

Greater Manchester Police said a 22-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in custody for questioning.

The boy, thought to be 11 months old and named locally as Zakari Bennet, was retrieved by firefighters from the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, after emergency services responded to reports that a child was in the water shortly before 4.25pm on Wednesday.

Zakari was rushed to hospital from the scene near Blackburn Street in the town centre but died a short time later.

Murder investigation

Forensic officers in Peel Street, Radcliffe
Forensic officers in Peel Street, Radcliffe, Greater Manchester (Photo: Kim Pilling/PA Wire)

Police have not said how the boy came to be in the water, but the Manchester Evening News reported the child was thrown into the River Irwell from a bridge.

It is understood police are treating the matter as a domestic incident.

Detective Inspector Wes Knights, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “This is an incredibly tragic incident which has taken the life of a baby boy, who we believe is only around 11-months-old.

“His family have understandably been left devastated by what has happened and we have specially trained officers providing them with support at this difficult time.

“We currently have a suspect in custody who will be questioned by detectives later today.

“However, our investigation does not stop there and we need anybody with information to come forward and help us get answers for this little boy’s loved ones.

Call for witnesses

“We know that there were a significant number of witnesses to what happened and I want to urge those people to come forward and provide us with as much detail as they can.

“It’s also possible that other people may have information about the circumstances leading up to the incident, as we know the baby had been in the area for a number of hours beforehand.

“Given the time this happened and the large number of witnesses present, we know that some of the incident was captured in images or on video so I want ask people to provide these to the investigation team.”

Police said a post-mortem examination of the child will take place on Friday as inquires continue.

A number of cordons remain in place near the river, including in Peel Street and River Street.

‘Let me grieve for my child’

Floral tributes are left on a bridge in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester
Floral tributes are left on a bridge in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester (Photo: Kim Pilling/PA Wire)

The boy’s mother, Emma Blood, said she was unaware anything had happened to her son until 7pm on Wednesday and did not know he had died until she reached the hospital.

Writing on her Facebook page, she told how she sat with him “for hours”, held him and kissed him.

She added: “Let me grieve for my child, my whole world and so much more.”

Tearful mourners, many who were mothers with young children, have left flowers, soft toys and candles on the bridge.

Among the tributes was a large cuddly bear with a card that read: “To a beautiful little boy. Sleep tight little man. Our thoughts are with your family. From all of us at Lidl Radcliffe.”

One card with flowers read: “Goodnight and God Bless beautiful innocent boy. Fly high Angel.”

The boy’s grandfather was too upset to comment as he visited the bridge. He left a card that read: “To my beautiful grandson. We love you so much RIP.”

A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called at 4.28pm to a rescue of a person in water in Pilkington Way, Radcliffe.

“Fire engines from Whitefield, Farnworth and Eccles attended the incident along with a water incident unit from Eccles.

“Crews rescued one casualty who was then handed over to NWAS (North West Ambulance Service).”

Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 8797 or 101 quoting incident number 1930 of 11/09/2019, or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Additional reporting by PA

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Parachutists in near miss with 350mph US fighter jets in Cambridgeshire

Two skydivers almost collided mid-air with two US fighter jets travelling at nearly 350mph over Cambridgeshire, a report has revealed.

The freefalling parachutists recorded the US aircraft flying under them on a Go-Pro helmet camera as they plummeted at 120mph towards the ground.

The report from safety authority the UK Airprox Board stated that pilots from RAF Lakenheath should have been informed by air traffic control that the parachute site in Cambridgeshire was active.

The incident happened at Chatteris airfield on 17 April. The US Air Force base has since been re-briefing crews over the issue.

Second-highest danger category

A United States Air Force (USAF) F-15 fighter jet travels at low altitude through the 'Mach Loop' series of valleys near Dolgellau, north Wales
The two F-15s were flying at nearly 350mph (Photo: Oli SCARFF / AFP)

It is not known precisely how close the two skydivers came to colliding with the US fighter planes, but the incident was classified in the second-highest danger category.

“The Board was shown Go-Pro footage filmed from the helmet of one of the parachutists and could clearly see the F15s passing beneath, although it was difficult to assess the actual distance because of lack of information,” the report stated.

“Once the parachutists had seen the F15s there was very little they could do to avoid the situation, having no control over their speed or direction whilst in free-fall, although some members wondered whether if it had been a particularly close encounter then the parachutists may well have been prompted to open their parachutes early to arrest their descent.”

Airprox said the pilots “should have known” about parachuting activities and either avoided the airspace or questioned air traffic control before entering to become aware of any potential hazards.

Contact with air traffic control

The report said the jets turned shortly to avoid a refuelling tanker and were then handed over from air traffic controllers at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to those at Lakenheath in Suffolk. The latter is home to the US Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing.

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The pilot said in the report “he took avoiding action from a KC135 [the refuelling plane] that was on a collision course with the formation and climbed from FL100 to FL110 [to higher airspace].

“He was not aware that Chatteris were active and this was not mentioned by air traffic control.”

Operators from Chatteris airfield, home to numerous skydiving clubs, contact nearby air traffic controllers every morning to tell them about any planned jumps and the planes carrying parachutists also make contact.

The Airprox board said there was “very little more that Chatteris could have done”.

The parachutists said they assessed the situation as “medium” after spotting the two planes fly directly beneath them while falling.

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A family have been left temporarily homeless after their house collapsed in the middle of the night

A family have been left temporarily homeless after their house fell down just hours after builders had been working on the property next door.

The terraced house, in Rugby, Warwickshire, partly collapsed early on Wednesday morning, leaving two rooms entirely exposed and debris all over the street. Emergency services were called at around 2am.

The family, including children, were fortunately away at the time and nobody was injured. They have now been placed in a hotel while a new home is found.

Two of the children’s bedrooms and the kitchen were destroyed as a result of the collapse and their possessions were left strewn across the road.

‘Like a bomb had gone off’

House fell down Rugby
Their belongings were scattered across the road (Photo: SWNS)

Residents said it “sounded like a bomb going off”. Neighbour Laura Evans, 33, said: “I just heard this almighty bang, like a bomb going off and could see dust rising into the air. It was pretty scary.”

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service and Warwickshire Police attended the scene to secure the area and put road closures in place.

Structural engineers also attended to examine the property after Rugby Borough Council launched an investigation.

One family member, who did not wish to be named, said: “It was a shocking experience and no one is accepting liability.

“Our landlord is confused what is covered by his building insurance and the contractor doesn’t want to accept liability.”

A fundraising page has been launched for the family by a friend. They wrote: “The children only have their uniforms and school bag with them.

In shock

House fell down Rugby
Builders had been working nearby (Photo: SWNS)

“Imagine their shock coming from home from school seeing their house in ruins. They are renting and do not have content insurance, not many people who rent think of this.

“Araial and Mel are close friends and have at some point they have helped us when we are in need. I always say that one of their greatest traits is to make everyone they come across feel that they are friends and family. I personally know them for half of my life and consider them as my extended family. Knowing them, I am certain their faith in our God will see them through this crisis in their lives.

“Let us rally support for them and their family at a time of their greatest need. God bless you all and thank you for your generosity.”

A spokesman for Rugby Borough Council said: “Officers from Warwick Building Control arrived on site at a property in Claremont Road at around 7pm yesterday (Tuesday) after receiving a report a two-storey extension on a terraced property had collapsed.

“Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, and Warwickshire Police attended the scene. The area was secured and a partial road closure put in place.

Investigation

House fell down Rugby

“At 2am this morning, the gable end of the property collapsed. The property was empty throughout and nobody was injured.

“Officers from Warwick Building Control have launched an investigation into the cause of the collapse and have a site meeting with a structural engineer this morning to assess the property.”

A spokesperson for Warwickshire County Council said: “We can confirm that the only road closure currently in place is that of Claremont Road, between the junction of Wells Street and Tom Brown Street.”

“At this time we are unable to confirm the length of the closure. We will however be liaising with building control officers until such time the property is deemed safe. In addition to the above, we are also arranging additional Traffic Management including heras fencing to improve the cordon around the collapse.”

A spokesperson for Warwickshire Police spokesperson confirmed they attended the scene but added: “We don’t believe there was anything suspicious about the incident.”

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In Italy, the underpopulated region of Molise will pay you €700 per month to move in

In the Molise region of southern Italy, newcomers are being offered €700 per month to live in one of the region’s underpopulated villages.

Rural parts of the country, particularly in the south, have suffered in a challenging economic period, which has led to many young people turning to cities in the north in search of work, leaving many towns and villages sparsely populated.

Donato Toma, the president of Molise, said anyone willing to live in a village with fewer than 2,000 residents will be offered €700 per month for three years.

The money isn’t entirely without caveat: anyone who takes the plunge will need to pledge to open a business in the hope of stimulating the local economy.

Ageing population

Molise Italy
New residents will be able to open any kind of business they desire, from a restaurant to a stationary shop (Photo: Getty)

“If we had offered funding, it would have been yet another charity gesture,” Mr Toma told The Guardian.

“We wanted to do more; we wanted people to invest here. They can open any sort of activity: a bread shop, a stationery shop, a restaurant, anything. It’s a way to breathe life into our towns while also increasing the population.”

Toma also announced that each town with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants would receive €10,000 (£9,000) per month, which it would be required to use to build infrastructure and promote cultural activities.

He said while increasing the population is important, people also need a reason to stay.

Wider problem

Molise is among the Italian regions most affected by a telling decline. According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat), 9,000 people have left Molise since 2014, and just 305,000 remain.

The Guardian reported that last year more than 2,800 inhabitants died or moved to another area, nearly 1,000 more than in 2017. And not a single birth was registered in nine of its towns.

Pope Francis visits the Basilica Santuario di Maria Santissima Addolorata Castelpetroso, as part of his one day visit in the Molise region (Photo: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Molise isn’t alone. Italy, like Japan, is suffering from an ageing population. Today, the number of Italian citizens has plummeted to just 55 million, the lowest it’s been in 90 years.

Anyone willing to move to Molise, Italy’s second smallest region, will be met by sunshine and postcard-ready landscapes. It sits to the east of Naples, has a coast facing the Adriatic sea, and, like most areas of Italy, is best known for its local cuisine.

Molisani food

Molisani food is as classically peasant as anywhere in Italy, reflecting frugality and tradition. Those who manage to make a living won’t have to part with much of their profits to eat well.

Unlike in the north of the country, where pasta is usually enriched with egg yolks, Molisani pasta relies only on semolina flour and water, but doesn’t suffer for it.

Cavatelli (small shells) and fusilli both originated in Molise. The latter is most commonly served with lamb ragu – lamb and goat meat are the predominant proteins away from the sea, where cuttlefish is cooked in hearty stews rich with tomato and paprika.

Otherwise, pecorino cheese – thanks to a significant number of sheep – is common, and chilli and salumi are all go-to ingredients and foods.

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Store closures: Retailers call for action with high street stores closing at a record rate

Britain’s high street shops are continuing to struggle as analysts recorded the highest net closure rate since records began.

New data shows 1,234 chain retailers closed in the first half of 2019, accountancy firm PwC and the Local Data Company (LDC) said, which is more than any other period since monitoring started 2010. A total of 2,868 stores closed over the period; 1,634 stores opened.

Only chicken shops, pet shops, and gyms have bucked the trend, with fried food, animals and exercise apparently the only increasingly popular high street enterprises.

As a result, retailers and unions are calling for urgent government action as more sites than ever become empty and unused.

Action needed

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the shopworkers union Usdaw, said to the Guardian: “The government must address the growing crisis on our high streets.”

Usdaw has since launched a Save our Shops petition in the hope of igniting action. The union said: “The retail sector is facing serious difficulties with shops closing and retail workers experiencing job insecurity, low pay and insecure hours.

“Shops are an essential part of our local community. Government must take urgent action to Save Our Shops.”

High street closures
Shops are closing at a rapid rate (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Our insatiable appetite for online shopping also meant more clothes and fashion shops shut down than any other category, PwC and LDC said.

During the same period, several retailers sought to close stores or reduce rents through insolvency processes known as company voluntary agreements (CVAs), including retail giants Arcadia and Debenhams.

Other retailers, such as LK Bennett, Pretty Green and Coast, went bust. While many of Britain’s high streets become emptier, some sites are being snapped up.

Chicken shops

Researchers uncovered that takeaways, and chicken shops in particular, have been opening in significant numbers, with independent businessmen and women keen to fill vacant high street space.

Kien Tan, a research director at PwC, said: “Even if big chains aren’t opening, local businesses are. Local entrepreneurs know their local market and know where the demand is. That’s why they are willing to take that risk.”

He also pointed out that although it would appear that chains are opening, the vast majority of these are operated by franchisees.

Zelf Hussain, retail restructuring partner at PwC, added: “A number of high profile business administrations have contributed to the record net decline in high street store numbers.

Chicken shops near schools have been criticised for undermining the battle against child obesity (Photo: Getty)

“This reinforces our view that any business restructuring needs to happen alongside a wider programme of change.”

Regionally, London was hardest hit, with the biggest number of net closures, with the East Midlands, North East, South East and Yorkshire and the Humber the only regions to see a fall in net closures compared with the final six months of 2018.

There were some signs of growth, with the number of units opening – 1,634 – beating the 1,569 in the first half of 2018, with the LDC suggesting this is a sign of cyclical change rather than long-term decline.

Not all bad

Lucy Stainton, head of retail at the LDC, said: “The reality is that UK retail space will continue to look very different over the coming years, and this is demonstrated by the sheer number of stores opening and closing on an ongoing basis.”

The biggest number of closures by category were fashion retailers, pubs and bars, restaurants, estate agents and charity shops, while the largest number of openings were fashion retailers, charity shops, convenience grocery stores and takeaways.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, added: “The good news is that there are green shoots, as new entrants are entering even embattled sectors such as fashion.

“Our research tells us that consumers still want to spend their money in well located and invested stores and leisure venues on the high street.”

Additional reporting by PA 

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Iran latest: Two British-Australian women arrested and detained in Tehran

Three British-Australian people have been arrested in Iran in two separate incidents, diplomats have confirmed.

Reports say Australian officials are assisting the families of a British-Australian blogger and her Australian boyfriend who were arrested 10 weeks ago for allegedly camping in a military area outside of Jajrood, in Tehran province.

Another British-Australian woman, who works as an academic at an Australian university, was arrested several months ago and sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to agencies.

The two women are reportedly incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin jail, where 41-year-old Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother of one, has been held on spying charges since 2016.

Increasing tensions

The 40-year-old was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport while travelling with her young daughter in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison after being accused of spying, a charge she vehemently denies. Successive British Foreign Secretaries, including Boris Johnson, have failed to secure her release.

A protest calling for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe outside teh Iranian embassy in London (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
A protest calling for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe outside teh Iranian embassy in London (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

The latest arrests come as tensions in the Gulf intensify.

The Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed on Wednesday it was lending consular assistance to the families of the three people who were more recently arrested, but whose names have not been made public.

“[DFAT] is providing consular assistance to the families of three Australians detained in Iran. Due to our privacy obligations, we will not comment further,” the department said in a statement provided to the PA news agency.

While the charges against the second woman, a Cambridge-educated academic, remain unclear, 10-year terms are often handed down in Iran for spying charges.

Warning to travellers

The blogger and her boyfriend had been documenting their travels on YouTube and Instagram, with their followers having become concerned in the past several weeks by the absence of any new posts.

Read more:

‘Sanctions-busting’ Iranian oil tanker could still reach Syria amid doubts over its destination

Britain joins US-led security mission to protect oil tankers in the Gulf from Iran aggression

Iran warns Boris Johnson over rising tensions in Gulf, as MPs demand release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

The cases of the two women are believed to be the first imprisonments in Iran of British passport holders who do not also have Iranian nationality.

Their arrests come amid a downturn in relations between Britain and Iran, sparked by issues including the seizure by the Royal Marines in July of an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has agreed to their Australian counterparts handling the case.

DFAT on Monday updated its travel advice for Iran. It remains at a level of “reconsider your need to travel”, with the highest level (“Do not travel”) applying in some parts of the country.

“There is a risk that foreigners, including Australians, could be arbitrarily detained, or arrested,” the advice notice says.

“You may be at greater risk if you have a profile that can be seen adversely by Iranian authorities, or if you undertake certain activities which could attract the attention of Iranian authorities.”

Additional reporting by PA 

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Schoolboy suspended from class on first day of the year for having ‘extreme haircut’

A mum has accused her son’s school of discrimination after teachers excluded him from class for having a mohican haircut.

Ethan Lewis was pulled out of class on the first day of term and made to take all his lessons under the supervision of his form tutor after he went back to school after the summer holidays with the haircut.

His mother, Romaine Coonghe, claimed Strood Academy in Rochester is not being sensitive to Ethan’s ethnicity and criticised the decision.

“We live in Medway and it’s not the most diverse place,” she said. “There aren’t many kids with afros around here.

“I feel this is discriminatory as Ethan has partly Afro-Caribbean hair and partly European hair.

“The school doesn’t seem to understand how difficult it is to keep his hair neat so we try to keep it as short and tight as possible.”

Timid and shy

Boy suspended from school because of mohican
His mum said the school doesn’t understand (Photo: SWNS)

When he arrived at school last week, Ms Coonghe said Ethan was told that he had flouted uniform rules. She said her son won’t be allowed back into lessons with his classmates “for the foreseeable future”.

“The headmistress told me that they wanted to make an example out of Ethan, to show other kids what not to do,” said Ms Coonghe.

“I did not think that was very appropriate at all. It is absolutely outrageous, especially when a child has learning difficulties.

“He’s a very timid and shy boy, so it was humiliating for this to happen to him.”

Ms Coonghe said Ethan has sensory problems, which means he gets distressed when he goes to have his hair cut. As a result, his dad, Russell Lewis, cuts his hair at home.

Ms Coonghe added: “It is so unfair that he has been humiliated and made an example of. It is almost like he is being treated as a criminal – it is too severe.

“He didn’t even want a haircut, and it was our mistake for cutting it too short. I understand that rules are rules but what difference does 0.5 centimetres of hair make?”

Ms Coonghe also said Ethan occasionally does child modelling, and said his signature mohican has helped him get jobs in the past.

‘It’s about standards’

Boy suspended from school because of mohican
Ms Coonghe said she thinks the punishment is too severe (Photo: SWNS)

“He’s had this haircut since he was seven and it was never a problem in primary school, though he was pulled up on it once in January,” she explained.

“People know him for his mohican.”

Strood Academy’s principal Kim Gunn defended her decision to pull Ethan out of class.

She said: “For us it’s about standards. At the end of the school year we sent out a letter to parents and then again during the holidays.

“We detailed exactly what the pupils should be wearing, including uniform, jewellery and hair. We have said no extreme haircuts and the head teacher has the final say.

“I can understand there may be extenuating circumstances but it is a basic ground rule – if pupils think they can get away with haircuts then they will think the teachers won’t mind if they start misbehaving.

“If other pupils see their peers with different haircuts, they will want one too, so all pupils breaking the rules have been removed from their classes.

“They are not missing any learning, they are working with their form tutors.”

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Fukushima: Japan says it will have to dump radioactive water from nuclear disaster site into Pacific

The owner of the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant will likely have to dump tonnes of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean as it runs out of storage space, Japan’s environment minister has said.

Tokyo Electric Power, or Tepco, has collected more than one million tonnes of contaminated water from the cooling pipes used to keep fuel cores from melting since the plant was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Japan‘s environment minister said on Tuesday that the only way to cope with the waste water is to drain it into the sea.

“The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,” Yoshiaki Harada told a news briefing in Tokyo.

“The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.”

Harada did not say how much water would need to be dumped into the ocean.

One million tonnes

Fukushima sea waste
The disaster devastated Japan (Photo: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

More than one million tonnes of contaminated water has accumulated at Fukushima since a tsunami triggered a triple meltdown eight years ago.

The water is being held in almost 1,000 tanks at the site, but officials at the plant have warned it will run out of storage space by summer 2022.

The government is awaiting a report from an expert panel before making a final decision on how to dispose of the radioactive water.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, in a separate press briefing, described Harada’s comments as “his personal opinion”.

Tepco was not in a position to decide what to do but would follow the policy once the government made a decision, a spokesman for the utility said.

Sensitive issue

Fukushima sea waste
Tanks are filling up (Photo: JAPAN POOL/AFP/Getty Images)

Any green light from the government to dump the waste into the sea would anger neighbours such as South Korea, which summoned a senior Japanese embassy official last month to explain how the Fukushima water would be dealt with.

“We’re just hoping to hear more details of the discussions that are under way in Tokyo so that there won’t be a surprise announcement,” a South Korean diplomat, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement said it had asked Japan “to take a wise and prudent decision on the issue”.

Relations between the East Asian nations are already frosty following a dispute over compensation for Koreans forced to work in Japanese factories in World War Two.

Coastal nuclear plants commonly dump into the ocean water that contains tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate and is considered to be relatively harmless.

Tepco, which also faces opposition from fishermen, admitted last year that the water in its tanks still contained contaminants beside tritium.

“The government must commit to the only environmentally acceptable option for managing this water crisis which is long term storage and processing to remove radioactivity, including tritium,” Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, said in an email.

Additional reporting by Reuters 

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Avoiding ‘climate apartheid’ would cost trillions – but less than cost of inaction

Humanity isn’t ready for the inevitable and potentially devastating effects of the immediate climate crisis, according to a new report.

The world’s lack of preparation has been hailed as “gravely insufficient” by global leaders, who say poverty, water shortages, and rising levels of migration will take an “irrefutable toll on human life”.

The study, by the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), said trillion-dollar investment is needed to avert “climate apartheid”, which would see the rich escape and the poor of the world left to suffer.

But the GCA, convened by 18 nations, the UK included, also said money isn’t the biggest obstacle to readying the world for higher temperatures – political passiveness is. And researchers insisted such expenditure would be far smaller than the eventual cost of doing nothing anyway.

The climate crisis is ‘here, now’

Climate apartheid
The world is at a tipping point (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The study, first reported by the Guardian, suggested the most urgent action needed would be to develop crops that can withstand droughts, restoring natural sea barriers such as mangrove swamps to protect people living on the coast, and implementing more proficient and high-tech early warning systems to alert people to natural disasters.

The GCA group saw contributions from the likes of former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, politicians, environment activists, and financiers.

The foreword to the report, which was co-written by World Bank chief executive Kristalina Georgieva, said: “The climate crisis is here, now: massive wildfires ravage fragile habitats, city taps run dry, droughts scorch the land and massive floods destroy people’s homes and livelihoods. So far the response has been gravely insufficient.”

Mr Ki-moon highlighted US President Donald Trump’s inaction as a telling worry.

Lack of vision

“I am really concerned about the lack of vision of political leaders,” he said. “They are much more interested in getting elected and re-elected, and climate issues are not in their priorities. We are seeing this in the US with President Trump.”

The report said the effects of the climate crisis could be so severe that 100 million people could be driven into poverty by 2030.

If nothing is done to prepare for water shortages, rising seas and warmer weather, mass migration and conflict will come about as a result of water and food shortages, as well as storms and floods.

Patrick Verkooijen, the chief executive of the Global Center on Adaptation, said: “What we truly see is the risk of a climate apartheid, where the wealthy pay to escape and the rest are left to suffer. That is a very profound moral injustice.”

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Londonderry bomb: Device found in Creggan ‘was New IRA attempt to kill police officers’

A bomb discovered in a parked vehicle in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, was intended to be used to attack a police patrol, according to detectives.

Police said the device was operated using a command wire and was found to be an improvised explosive belonging to the dissident republican New IRA grouping.

Assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton said: “The bomb would have killed or maimed anyone near it when it detonated.”

The explosive was made safe by Army bomb disposal experts at about 4am, but officers have remained on the scene while a “full terrorist investigation” gets underway.

Police were attacked with missiles by members of a crowd of 60-100 people on Monday night as they carried out searches targeting dissidents. Around 40 petrol bombs were thrown during Monday evening’s disorder.

Families evacuated

Northern Ireland car bomb
Police remain on the scene (Photo: Aoife Moore/PA Wire)

Officers found the viable explosive device while looking for New IRA bomb-making equipment in the Creggan Heights area of the city.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) later said 15 families who were evacuated could return to their dwellings.

At least two young people engaged in the disorder in Derry’s Creggan estate sustained burn injuries during the violence, the PSNI said.

Mr Hamilton said: “By bringing a viable bomb into the community they have again proved that have no regard for the lives of anyone living in Creggan.

“Once again they exploited some of the young people in the community to attack police and have brought disruption and misery to families.”

Search launched after mortar bomb discovery

The police searches were launched after a dissident republican mortar bomb was recovered in Strabane, Co Tyrone, on Saturday.

The mortar, which was positioned close to a family home, was aimed at the town’s police station. It was the seventh attempted murder bid against the security forces in Northern Ireland this year.

Journalist Lyra McKee, 29, was murdered by the New IRA in the same Creggan Heights area in April as she observed dissident rioting.

Mr Hamilton described the operation as “complex” as he condemned those indulging in disorder.

“The focus of this operation is ensuring the people of Creggan are safe. However, it is concerning to see significant numbers of young people on the streets, late into the night, throwing petrol bombs and other missiles at officers in the area,” he said late on Monday night.

“The reality is this type of disorder contributes to the complexity of the policing operation and presents a real risk of injury to those involved.”

Additional reporting by PA 

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Hurricane Dorian: Bahamas completely devastated by tropical storm that left 43 dead

Rescue workers in the Bahamas have been searching for bodies and survivors after Hurricane Dorian struck this month.

Emergency personnel, clad in white hazard suits, have been operating now for more than a week, sifting through debris, shattered homes and flooded roads.

An estimated 43 people died – though officials say the figure is expected to dramatically rise – when Dorian ravaged the Caribbean islands on 1 September, flattening buildings and tossing cars into the air.

Dorian, a Category 5 storm, was one of the most powerful on record, with winds of 200 miles per hour (320 kph). It rampaged over the Bahamas for nearly two days and has been recorded as the worst disaster in the nation’s history.

Shelters struggling to cope

Hurricane Dorian
Houses were toppled (Photo: Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)
Hurricane Dorian
The disaster is the worst in the country’s history (Photo: Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)

Read more:

Is it safe to travel to Florida? The latest travel advice with Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the US

The aftermath is grim. As relief agencies work to deliver supplies, food and safe water, thousands of people have been searching for shelter.

Many have poured into the capital, Nassau, where a week after the storm hit shelters are straining to house evacuees.

The National Emergency Management Agency said late Sunday that 2,500 people had been evacuated from the archipelago’s several islands, most of them from Abaco.

Hundreds more have fled to the United States in search of safety and resources.

Hurricane Dorian
Agencies are trying to get food and drink to locals (Photo: Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)
Hurricane Dorian
Many have sought safety in America (Photo: Saul Martinez/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, nearly 1,500 evacuees arrived in Palm Beach, Florida, on board the Grand Celebration humanitarian cruise ship, according to CNN.

The US news channel said US Customs had informed reporters that all those travelling from the Bahamas were properly documented to enter the country.

Needy ‘denied help’

But on Sunday, as a new wave of evacuees sought safe passage on another vessel, CNN said they were told to disembark.

“This is the height of cruelty – denying help to those who need it most,” Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said on Twitter.

Back in the Bahamas, shelters are, as of Monday 9 September, housing about 1,100 people. Many more are staying with friends and relatives.

Hurricane Dorian
Thousands have been left homeless (Photo: Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)
Hurricane Dorian
Winds reached 185mph (Photo: Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)

Some 90 per cent of the homes, buildings and infrastructure in Marsh Harbour, the worst hit area, were damaged, the World Food Programme said.

Some 70,000 people were left in need of food and shelter, the WFP estimated. Private forecasters estimated that some $3 billion in insured property was destroyed or damaged in the Caribbean.

The risk of outbreaks of diarrhoea and waterborne diseases was high as drinking water may be tainted with sewage, according to the Pan American Health Organisation.

Additional reporting by Reuters 

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Parliament will be prorogued today – after Boris Johnson makes one last effort to call an election

Parliament will be prorogued at the close of business on Monday – after Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes one more effort to secure a general election.

Downing Street today confirmed Parliament will be prorogued at the end of the day in Parliament, meaning all MPs are expected to return to their constituencies until 14 October, just two weeks before the UK is set to leave the EU.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly said he will seek to move the motion for prorogation, despite strong opposition from MPs.

Today, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman also confirmed that the cross-party legislation to block a no-deal Brexit, which passed through parliament last week, would get royal assent today, allaying fears that the government could veto it.

Proroguing Parliament
After agreeing to prorogue Parliament, Elizabeth II will now give the Queen’s speech on 14 October (AFP/Getty Images)

“The Prime Minister is not going to seek an extension,” the spokesman said. “If MPs want to resolve this there is an easy way – vote for an election today and let the public decide.”

Opposition leaders agreed not to back Boris Johnson’s bid to secure a general election, Labour has said.

A party spokeswoman said: “Jeremy Corbyn hosted a meeting with opposition party leaders this morning. They agreed to work together today to hold the Government to account in Parliament.

“All leaders agreed that they would not support Boris Johnson’s ploy to deny the people their decision by crashing us out of the EU with no deal during a general election campaign.”

Mr Johnson’s prorogation has led to legal challenges across the UK and caused a number of senior Conservative MPs to quick in protest.

The Lords have also moved to block it, with Lord Newby, the Lib Dem leader in the Lords, saying: “These are the activities of a banana republic, not the mother of parliaments. We should do everything we can, however strange, to try to stop it.”

More than 60 protests also happened since Mr Johnson announced his intentions, including a march on Buckingham Palace after the Queen approved the decision.

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Badger culling failed to cut down the number of cattle herds with bovine TB, expert says

A former government adviser appointed to assess badger culling trials has said the action has not reduced TB in cattle.

Professor Ranald Munro has written to Natural England to say the policy is causing “huge suffering”, and said in one area in which badger culling has been undertaken reports of cows suffering from the disease has actually increased.

Prof Munro, the former chair of an independent expert group tasked with analysing the culls, says in his letter that up to 9,000 badgers are likely to have experienced “immense pain”.

“We are unconvinced that the culling of large numbers continues to be justified in the view of recent data showing zero disease control benefits after six years of culling of badgers in Gloucestershire,” the letter reads.

Culls ‘inhumane’

Badger cull
Many oppose the culls (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Badger culls began in 2012 after farmers said their livelihoods were being consistently damaged by the spread of TB. Critics have said farmers should be doing more themselves to eradicate TB.

Initial plans set out as many as 32 designated culling areas, chiefly in the west of England, over a four-year period.

Culling has been allowed to continue beyond the original time-frame in some parts of the country, despite campaigners claiming it to be inhumane.

Prof Munro’s independent expert group found that up 23 per cent of badgers took more than five minutes to die after they were shot, according to BBC News.

The figures have led to the group to conclude the culls were inhumane in its report compiled for the government. Prof Munro’s team was later disbanded by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which said the work had been completed.

Badgers ‘suffered immense pain’

Badgers
The badger cull has led to thousands of the animals being killed (Photo: Pixabay)

However, some experts involved claimed ministers had “wilfully” ignored scientific advice. More recently, a group of vets has accused the Government of “issuing barefaced lies” over claims the badger cull is helping to reduce the number of outbreaks of bovine TB in England.

As new culling areas have now been announced for 2019, Prof Munro said he estimates as many as 40,000 badgers have been culled so far, many of whom died slowly, and at huge cost.

“The numbers are huge, they really are,” he said. “If you look at the likelihood of not dying within five minutes of being shot, you are looking at 3,000 badgers having suffered immense pain at a minimum. It could be as high as 9,000. There is a huge issue of suffering in these badgers.”

A Natural England spokesperson said: “We help to implement the badger culling policy under the direction of Defra and in line with decisions taken by ministers. We are in the process of reviewing the badger cull applications for 2019 made under that policy and will communicate decisions in due course.

“One of our roles is to independently consider licence applications to cull or vaccinate badgers, and we take policy advice from Defra when deciding if the activity will deliver effective disease control. Licensing is not done lightly and those involved in the cull – farmers, contractors and Natural England staff – take the welfare of badgers very seriously.”

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Quality Street tins are shrinking yet again – but you might get more Green Triangles

Nestle has again reduced the size of its Quality Street tubs, taking 70g off the weight for Christmas 2019.

Quality Street tins and tubs carried 720g of chocolate in 2018, but this year the offering has been brought down to 650g.

The chocolatier has also switched up the assortment this season, with more chocolate but less toffee. In May, Nestle announced it would be axing the Toffee Deluxe.

A social media storm had seen the variety reinstated after it was first removed in 2016. This year, Quality Street will instead include the new Chocolate Caramel Brownie.

Ellie Worley, Quality Street’s senior brand manager, said: “2019 is a huge year for Quality Street. We’ve got a new sweet, a new (packaging) design, and are developing the brand ahead of the Christmas season.

Quality Street shrunk
Chocolate ratio is up (Photo: Quality Street)

“As ever, we have Quality Street available in lots of different formats, shapes and sizes this year including the 650g tub and much larger tins for those who want even more to share with friends and family.”

Right now, Nestle’s factories are producing 12m chocolates a day in preparation for the festive season, and packing 85 tins and tubs every minute.

As well as the 650g tub, there will also be a 1kg Quality Street tub on sale, as well as a limited edition 800g gold tin at Tesco supermarkets. Budget retailer Coctgo will be stocking special 2kg tins too.

A cynic might suppose such elaborate new products might be designed to serve as distractions. The ‘shrinkflation‘ phenomenon has beleaguered the chocolate world for some time now, with major manufacturers downsizing bars and products, but retaining original prices.

More chocolate

While the standard Quality Street tub weight has been again decreased, customers might be soothed to learn that this year will see a higher proportion of chocolate.

Nestle said feedback from shoppers suggested a keenness for a higher ratio of chocolate, so while more expensive to make, the company has upped its number of chocolate sweets from 35 to 46 per cent per tub.

It remains to be seen whether there will be more Green Triangles and Purple Ones as a result of the changes. But it appears a possibility.

Last year, i exclusively revealed how Quality Street products are packed. Not all sweets are considered equal, and are instead divided into categories.

The manufacturer said it takes “cost, weight and nutrition” into account during the production process, which is “why there is little variation from product to product”.

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Wetherspoons cuts beer prices by 20p to show ‘benefits’ of no-deal Brexit, but Tim Martin admits he’s just cutting his own profits to do it

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin has cut the price of a pint by an average of 20p in nearly 700 of his pubs in his latest pro-Brexit demonstration.

More than 600 branches of Wetherspoons are now serving a pint of Ruddles, brewed by Greene King, for £1.69, while a further 160 will be offering a pint for £1.59 or below. In 36 pubs, Ruddles will be as low as £1.39.

The remaining pubs will serve a pint between £1.99 and £2.89, depending on the individual pub’s location.

Mr Martin said the “symbolic move” illustrates the point that customers are spending too much on alcohol and claimed the UK leaving the EU may help cut costs.

The pub boss conceded the new prices will cost him money, but that it was a worthwhile endeavour.

Wetherspoons beer prices cut Brexit
Wetherspoons’ Tim Martin and politician Jacob Rees-Mogg have hinted at cheaper food and drink post-no deal (Photo: Getty)

“This is a symbolic move, there are no tariffs on beer,” he told i. “There’s been no import tax reduction yet.

“But it shows prices can be low. Pubs are synonymous with beer – it’s the most important thing. At the moment it’s much cheaper to buy it in the supermarket.

“These prices illustrate what might happen when we leave. People are very grateful if they can afford to go out when they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.”

Mr Martin said the reductions would have been subsidised by the money Wetherspoons is saving having switched to wines and spirits from outside the EU.

‘Ending tariffs will reduce prices’

Last year, the company replaced some of its champagnes with sparkling wine from New Zealand, Jägermeister with an alternative liquor called Striker, and a brandy from Australia.

Mr Martin said: “We have saved on these. It’s 10p per drink cheaper to buy Striker than Jäger, for example. But we’ve cut drinks prices by 10p – we’ve passed the savings onto customers. So we’re losing a bit on the beer.”

But Mr Martin said he thinks more money might be saved in Westherspoons pubs were the UK to leave the Customs Union.

“At the current time customers and businesses pay tariffs on thousands of products which are imported from outside the EU,” he said in a separate statement.

“ These tariffs are collected by the UK government and sent to Brussels. Provided we leave the Customs Union on 31st October, the government can end these protectionist tariffs, which will reduce prices in supermarkets and pubs.

“In order to illustrate this point, Wetherspoon has decided to reduce the price of Ruddles bitter, brewed by Greene King.

“A lot of politicians have misled the public by suggesting leaving the Customs Union would be a ‘cliff edge’ or ‘disaster’.

“This is the reverse of the truth. Ending tariffs will reduce prices.”

In August, Mr Martin pledged to cut the cost of beer if the UK leaves the EU “properly” by 31 October. He said he would cut beer prices to an “unbelievable low” after Brexit to celebrate Britain’s exit.

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Robert Mugabe: Former Zimbabwe president dead at the age of 95

Former Zimbabwean prime minister Robert Mugabe, whose rule was dominated by accusations of human rights abuses and stifling corruption, has died at the age of 95.

Mr Mugabe held onto power in Zimbabwe for 40 years but his leadership of the former British colony was mired in bloodshed, persecution of political opponents, and vote-rigging scandals.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mr Mugabe in 2017 after a coup d’état, confirmed the death on Friday and called his predecessor a “pan-Africanist” who worked for freedom.

Mr Mnangagwa said: “Comrade Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people.

“His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

Mugabe death
Mugabe was accused of vote rigging on a huge scale (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The South African Government said on its official Twitter account: “We send condolences to the Government and the people of the Zimbabwe following the passing on of their founding leader and former President Robert Mugabe.

“The fearless pan-Africanist liberation fighter died in a hospital in Singapore. He was 95.”

Born in then-Rhodesia, Mr Mugabe co-founded the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in 1963, a resistance movement against British colonial rule.

He became prime minister in 1980 of the new Republic of Zimbabwe and assumed the role of president seven years later.

In 2000 he led a campaign to evict white farmers from their land, which was given to black Zimbabweans, and led to famine.

Mugabe retained a strong grip on power, through controversial elections, until he was forced to resign in November 2017, at age 93.

Honking horns and people cheering

A letter from Mr Mugabe read out in Zimbabwe’s parliament said: “My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire for a smooth, non-violent transfer of power.”

Cars began honking horns and people cheered in the streets of Harare as the news spread.

Mr Mugabe, who had been the world’s oldest head of state at 93, was replaced by Mr Mnangagwa, who had recently been fired as Mr Mugabe’s vice-president.

Speaking at the time, then-foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the end of Mr Mugabe’s reign appeared to be a “moment of hope” for the people of Zimbabwe, and should not be allowed to mark “the transition from one despotic rule to another”.

Mr Johnson – speaking about Mr Mnangagwa when he was tipped to take over the office – said: “I think it’s very important at the moment that we don’t focus too much on the personalities, let’s concentrate on the potential, the hope for Zimbabwe – an incredible country, a beautiful country blessed with extraordinary physical and human potential.

“What we need to see now is free, fair, democratic elections and above all not a transition from one despotic rule to another.”

Reporting by PA 

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BrewDog releases ‘protest beer’ complaining about ‘unelected’ Boris Johnson – before realising he now wants a general election

BrewDog, the so-called “punk” beer brand that is no stranger to questionable PR gimmicks and controversy, has been left in an awkward position after its latest stunt failed to hit the mark.

The Scottish brewery is known for making “protest beers”, and its latest challenges the premiership of Boris Johnson.

The beverage, called Hello My Name Is (Unelected) Boris, is a “liquid protest against our second consecutive unelected leader in the UK at such an uncertain and perilous chapter in our nation’s history”, said BrewDog.

“A beer to defend our right to democratically elect our leader.”

‘Politics has become too crazy’

Except the drink has arrived too late. As the throws of Brexit split and enrage Parliament and the country, Mr Johnson has called for a general election in the hope of solidifying his position.

We may not yet get one any time soon, but the fact the Prime Minister – who, in fairness to BrewDog, was elected only by Conservative Party members rather than the nation, and that’s what prompted the move – has now gone out on a limb, the protest beer seems a little pointless and out of date.

BrewDog has itself conceded its failure. In an announcement, the brand said: “The problem, however, is that politics has become too crazy even for BrewDog protest beers meaning we cannot ferment beers and design labels quick enough to keep up with the chaos.”

BrewDog launched the 5.2 per cent IPA last week. The brewery invited MPs to drink the beer in its bars for free in order to “give them somewhere to go” while Parliament was “bizarrely closed”.

“Away to keep them busy while democracy is out of action, no expenses necessary,” said BrewDog.

Disruptive strategy

But, as the team pointed out: “Now it looks like we are careering towards a snap general election.”

It wouldn’t be beyond BrewDog to have done all this deliberately. Its marketing strategy has always been disruptive, but it doesn’t always attract the right sort of attention.

Last year, BrewDog pulled plans to partner with a US beer brand that allegedly offered free drinks to Trump supporters.

Probably its most controversial move came earlier in 2018 when it released a beer with pink packaging, supposedly ironically marketed towards women. The stunt didn’t go down well.

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Dairy giant Arla to scrap use-by dates and encourage shoppers to ‘sniff test’ milk instead

Dairy co-operative Arla, which is behind supermarket brands such as Cravendale, BOB, and Lactofree, is to scrap use-by dates for its products and encourage customers to use the “sniff test” on milk instead.

The Danish group said it wants to reduce food waste and said shoppers can instead check the freshness of products by smelling them.

Citing research by sustainability campaign group Wrap, which suggested as much as seven per cent of all milk produced in the UK is poured away, Arla said it hopes to bring that figure down by removing use-by dates.

Arla said it will introduce new labelling on its branded fresh milk by the end of the year. Products will, however, retain their best before dates to ensure safe sale in supermarkets. Current Food Standards Authority rules say one or the other must be displayed.

No ‘immediate danger’

Arla milk sniff test
Milk use-by dates support food waste, Arla said (Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Fran Ball, the co-op’s director of quality, environmental health, and safety, said the dairy sector has “created a system where we are telling consumers there is an immediate danger to their health by consuming milk after the use-by-date.”

She told The Grocer: “This is simply not true, and a best before label is more appropriate in that it tells people the date until which they can expect the food to maintain its best quality,” she added.

“If moving to best-before encourages us all to sniff or taste test to see if the milk is still good for a few further days rather than throw it away, then it’s the right thing to be doing.”

‘More flexibility’ around food

Wrap has welcomed the move and said label changes can have a real impact on reducing food waste.

The charity’s head of business collaboration David Moon said: “Our industry guidance on the choice and application of date labels favours products carrying a best before label, wherever food safety is not compromised.

“These labels gave people more flexibility around food as they were a quality indicator, not a safety marker.”

In June, i reported a poll of 2,000 adults found British people will comfortably consume cheese 10 days after its best before date, devour bread five days past its best, and feast on fish three days after its freshest.

It also emerged Brits will cook raw meat three days past its use by date and consume butter as many as 10 days later.

Fruit and vegetables are regularly enjoyed nine days past their recommended shelf-life, while fruit juice is considered “good” for seven extra days.

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A coffee shop has launched the UK’s first vegan bacon sandwich, and claims it’s a better hangover cure than meat

A London coffee chain has become the first in the UK to add a vegan bacon sandwich to its permanent menu.

Coco di Mama, which last made headlines after it launched a black croissant made with charcoal, will launch the plant-based bacon baguettes on 11 September in all 23 of its branches.

The company is using a meat alternative made by THIS, a US vegan producer that also developed pea protein chicken breasts used in burgers at Lewis Hamilton’s new plant-based fast food chain.

THIS claims its plant-based product “sizzles like actual bacon when cooked, mimicking the real thing in taste, texture, appearance and smell”. It’s made from soya beans and peas, with flavourings, canola oil, and potato starch.

“Launching the UK’s first vegan bacon sandwich with Coco di Mama is exciting new territory for us,” said co-founder Andy Shovel, who also went on claim his plant-based bacon is a better option when battling a hangover.

This Isn't Bacon
Vegan bacon, which is made from peas and soya (Photo: Coco di Mama)

“The THIS Isn’t Bacon sandwich is nutritionally proven to be better for hangovers and we’re glad that we can be there for the nation in their times of hungover. And we’re pretty sure they won’t tell the difference.”

It was Dr Magda Robinson, a doctor from the UK quoted by Coco di Mama, who gave her backing to the claim. A degree of skepticism might be required.

Cynicism aside, Coco di Mama claimed customers couldn’t tell the difference in a culinary sense during trials. The chain also claimed the artificial bacon contains more protein then traditional pork-made produce and said it was “healthier” to boot.

Sara McCraight, head of brand, said: “We’re so excited to be the first UK brand to serve the THIS Isn’t Bacon sandwich, which not only tastes great but is also better for your hangover, better for your health and better for the environment. Adding a vegan option makes complete sense.”

Coco di Mama’s bacon sourdough baguettes will cost £2.95 and will also be available for delivery. They come in at 295 calories and contain 12 per cent of a man’s recommended daily intake of protein, more per gram, THIS said, than other food used as meat substitutes such as tempeh, seitan, and tofu.

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The world’s first cheese conveyor belt restaurant just opened in London – here’s a first look inside

More than twenty years after launching, Yo! Sushi has started doing away with its famous conveyor belts. But where mobile fish is drawing to a close, cheese is just beginning its journey.

The world’s first conveyor belt cheese restaurant launches this week in London. Pick & Cheese, at the new Kerb street food market in Covent Garden, allows diners to pluck Cornish Gouda and Renegade Monk from its milky carousel and sip interesting wine while doing so. There are 25 cheeses available at any one time, as well as a couple of hot dishes and plates of charcuterie.

The restaurant is the work of Mathew Carver, who launched the Cheese Truck, famed for its toasties at festivals around the world, in 2014. He’s also got a cheese bar in Camden, which, as well as sandwiches, sells dishes such as cheese-filled profiteroles, five-cheese macaroni, and vats of gooey fondue.

Cheese conveyor belt

Cheese conveyor belt restaurant
Cheeses come with homemade condiments (Photo: inews)

“At the Cheese Bar, customers see cheeses on the board and often want to pick and choose their own,” Carver said to i. “There’s always been demand for more options. So this is a natural progression. We want to let people pick what they want, and give them the chance to try as many different varieties as possible.”

Carver’s shtick has always been about celebrating British and Irish produce. He said too few varieties get the recognition they deserve, and Pick & Cheese will – hopefully – be educational as well as imaginative. The idea is to be accessible, too: prices start at £2.95 and generous cheese portions come on colour coded-plates; £5.25 is the most expensive.

Said Carver: “British cheeses are underrepresented. Hopefully people will discover some they might not have heard of. We’re trying to be affordable too. You could come here and spend a lot and have quite a lot of wine, but you could also pop in, try a few cheeses and a glass of wine, and not spend more than £20.”

Cheeses are paired with homemade condiments. Some of them – like bacon treacle spread and lemon meringue – might sound a little eccentric, but they work. Carver’s current favourite cheese, Fellstone, from Cumbria, comes with sherry poached cherries; Mayfield, made in East Sussex, is served with garlic-roasted onions; and Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire, found in London’s fanciest restaurants, arrives with a miniature Eccles cake, crumbly and soft.

Wines start at £3.60 a glass and 75ml tasting measures are encouraged. Most come from small producers in France and Italy. If you are only drinking one, have a Baglio Bianco from Sicily, which is orange and versatile and will set you up nicely.

More than a gimmick

Cheese conveyor belt restaurant
Cheeses start at £2.95 (Photo: inews)

Pick & Cheese, with its theatrics and truffled potatoes, will probably inspire cheese fans. It might also attract derision. Conveyor belts might be a little gimmicky, and London can be a tiring place – some might find the idea of sitting at a stool paying a fiver for a wedge of Red Leicester more tiring still. Such folk will yearn for classic wooden cheeseboards and port jelly.

“It might seem like a bit of a gimmick, but we’ve got really high-quality cheeses, wine pairings,apprec and we want people to learn about British produce,” said Carver.

“We’re confident we’ve got a great selection here and all we’re trying to do is present cheese in a new way. I think a lot of people see cheese and wine bars as a little stuffy – candlelit faux French places don’t appeal to everyone. This is a bit more fun and accessible.”

On Wednesday, the restaurant’s conveyor belt turned on for the first time, and the British countryside’s finest cheeses, snug under small glass domes, began mooching round. If the British public is bored of sushi at train stations, cheese and crackers might prove a welcome alternative.

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Indian restaurant group Dishoom donates 7m meals to hungry children since 2015

Indian restaurant group Dishoom has donated seven million meals to vulnerable children since 2015.

The London-based company, which now has seven branches – including one in Manchester and one in Edinburgh – provides money for a meal in exchange for every one sold in its restaurants.

Lunch and dinner sales at Dishoom sites help to fund food for young schoolchildren in Mumbai and the Gujarat region of India, while morning tickets contribute to the Magic Breakfast charity, which provides healthy school breakfasts to hungry and malnourished children in disadvantaged areas of the UK.

Co-founder Shamil Thakrar said what started as a one-off campaign as part of Dishoom’s Ramadan celebrations has turned into a permanent project.

A new milestone

“In 2015, we were talking about Ramadan and how to mark the occasion,” Thakrar said to i.

“I am Hindu, so asked my head chef, who is Muslim, what he thought would be fitting. We came up with the idea of giving back meals to children.

“We’ve just carried it on, and now we’ve managed to provide seven million meals. We’re all very proud. We’re delighted we’ve managed to carry it on.”

Carmel McConnell. (Photo: Magic Breakfast)
Carmel McConnell, Magic Breakfast founder (Photo: Magic Breakfast)

Mr Thakrar announced the milestone on Monday at the launch party of Dishoom’s first cookbook, From Bombay with Love.

There are no plans to stop, and with two more restaurants opening next year, Mr Thakrar said he hopes to make an even greater impact and that the project is needed now more than ever.

He said: “There is austerity here in Britain. We know society has problems and there are hungry children. We want to do what we can to help and see this as vital now and an important part of our business.

“Children cannot learn if they are hungry. Hunger is one of the greatest barrier’s to children getting a good education. Inequality is rising and Magic Breakfast does incredible work to help close the gap.

“There are issues in India too. We take our team over every year to visit the schools we donate money too. One of the biggest things is that when they provide free lunch, more girls go to school, and we know that when more women have a proper education, society improves.”

Mr Thakrar said the costs of taking on such a financial commitment are “built into the business” and have become part of Dishoom’s structure.

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Lewis Hamilton’s vegan cheeseburger tastes just like McDonald’s, and Neat Burger is coming to a city near you

If Neat Burger really is veganism’s answer to Five Guys, as prophesied by co-founder Ryan Bashti, Lewis Hamilton will be sitting on another goldmine, and one that would bear fruit long after he’s hung up his racing gloves.

The world’s major fast food chains have all been testing plant-based menu items over the last few years; some have displayed promise.

But Neat Burger has just upped the ante: it’s a ready-for-market plant-based vegan restaurant with a celebrity backer (who, by the way, was not the only A-lister keen to get behind the project).

By next year, Bashti says there’ll be 14 sites across the UK: a handful in London first, Manchester will probably follow; Bristol, Brighton, and Edinburgh are all likely. As is New York. In 2025, Bashti, who made his money in nightclubs, says there’ll be more than 100 across the world.

“We’ll be on every continent,” the entrepreneur tells me. “We’ve had interest from all over. And we’re about to sign a major partnership with a high-profile drinks brand. Expansion is going to be fast. To begin with, in the UK, we’re concentrating on major cities. You could say we’re aiming to be the vegan Five Guys, yes.”

Burger taste test

Neat Burger
Neat Burger uses a ‘bespoke’ Beyond Meat pattie (Photo: Josh Barrie / inews)

At the London launch on Monday, the kitchen team, led by chef Douglas Santi, are turning on the grills for the first time.

The food cooks quickly: diners will be sitting down with their meals within two minutes of ordering, Santi says. I try a standard cheeseburger. It is simple: a Beyond Meat pattie with Violife vegan cheese, tangy ketchup, pickles, and a squishy floury bun made by Miller’s Bakery in London.

It tastes like a 99p McDonald’s cheeseburger: soft, a hint of beef, lots of tangy acidity, and a melty slathering of what I would suppose to be cheap American cheese were I not already aware of its plant-based composition. The texture is pleasing, as are the fries, which aren’t a world away from what you get in Burger King.

Neat Burger
Co-founder Stasi Nychas and executive chef Douglas Santi (Photo: Josh Barrie / inews)

Santi is particularly pleased with the McDonald’s comparison. “That’s what I was going for,” he says. “We’re a fast food restaurant and it’s a proven favourite. Except here, all the produce is organic – the products are better for you, much healthier and lighter.

Read more:

Greggs wants to follow up its vegan sausage roll with meat-free options all across its menu

“We’ve worked hard to capture the taste of a classic burger with new, alternative ingredients. We’re not trying to convert anyone, but I don’t see the point in eating beef burgers anymore when these exist. This is a sustainable option that tastes delicious.”

Santi, from Tuscany, Italy, has worked for such gastronomic legends as Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse. Most recently he was executive chef at Restaurant Ours in London. He’s been developing the Neat Burger menu for six months and says he used the Ours kitchen to do so.

“I’ve been vegan for the past six months to get in the mindset of a plant-based lifestyle,” he tells me. “I have a burger every day. I think we’ve got something special here.”

Bespoke sales pitch

Neat Burger
The signature burger is a more complex dish (Photo: Josh Barrie / inews)
Neat Burger
Remarkably similar to a 99p McDonald’s cheeseburger (Photo: Josh Barrie / inews)

One of the early criticisms of Neat Burger is the fact it is reliant on Beyond Meat, a product now available to buy in Tesco (Neat co-founder Tommaso Chiabra was an early investor of Beyond Meat, so there are astute ties).

How hard would it be to make this dish at home? Santi says the basis of his patties are made by Beyond Meat, but other ingredients have been added: “We’ve added other things to create a unique burger. It’s a secret mix, like KFC’s chicken seasoning. It’ll always be secret.”

There’s that “bespoke” sales pitch ever-present in plant-based dining. Greggs was the first.

Signature burger offering

Neat Burger
Tommaso Chiabra and Ryan Bashti say expansion will be fast (Photo: Josh Barrie / inews)

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KFC is trialling vegan nuggets and boneless wings in the US

I find the signature burger less impressive. There’s none of the vegan cheese but lots of caramelised onions, which are not unpleasant but don’t sit as comfortably on a pattie made of pea protein and coconut oil as they do a hunk of beef.

The burger sauce, another Santi creation, is much the same as any another, despite its lack of proper mayonnaise. It’s a tasty morsel, but not reminiscent of McDonald’s. It might be more Byronesque, which would make sense.

Co-founder Stasi Nychas arrived to Neat Burger from Byron, and has helped steer the concept towards higher-end, “quality” fast food. Given a burger and chips at Neat is £8, the price point is much higher than McDonald’s. Although it’s lower than Honest Burgers’ vegan dish, which also uses Beyond Meat but costs £13.50 (it is also very good).

Nychas explains: “We are a fast food brand, but at the moment our main competitors are independent restaurants in East London, which tend to have a higher-quality product and a higher price point.

“We’re obviously not the first to launch plant-based burgers. The demand is there. The difference is we’re going to scale. We are trying to do better quality, healthier fast food which will appeal to everyone.”

The chicken burger

Neat Burger
Probably the weak link in the menu (Photo: Josh Barrie / inews)

Finally, the chicken burger, which is made using a fillet by another US plant-based producer, THIS.

Bashti says it’s modelled on a McDonald’s chicken sandwich, formed only of a crispy “breast”, lettuce, and plant-based mayonnaise. Santi says the precision is in the pea protein, which can be “stretched” and made to appear “fibrous” much like meat.

Read more:

A ‘huge drugs bust’ at Gatwick Airport turned out to be ingredients for vegan cakes

The burger’s no bad thing, but it might struggle against KFC’s Imposter Burger, which is made with Quorn, something increasingly popular in the UK. The LA-style look, with notes of turquoise, privilege and whimsy, might also fail to capture the imaginations of British diners outside London.

But, most important of all, the UK doesn’t yet have is a plant-based fast food cheeseburger available everywhere, with continuity across the board, no frills or unnecessary pretence.

If Neat Burger rolls its prize asset out as quickly as proposed, we could see a lot more self-proclaimed flexitarians about. It is sure enough the easiest way to care about the planet to date.

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A ‘huge drugs bust’ at Gatwick Airport turned out to be ingredients for vegan cakes

Members of staff who work for vegan pizza restaurant Purezza were transporting ingredients in a suitcase when they were stopped by police, who had been alerted by suspicious cleaners.

Officers suspected the travellers after discovering white powder divided into separate blue bags inside a suitcase. But after checking the contents, realised the substance was not illegal.

“Officers were called to Gatwick Airport station at 1.34pm on 28 August after a suitcase was found containing 25 bags of powder,” said a police statement.

Vegan cake

“Following a number of inquiries and tests, it was determined these bags of powder were cake ingredients for a vegan bakery.

“They were soon reunited with the owner, who has promised officers and staff a slice of cake in return.”

On Twitter, British Transport Police (BTP) asked the restaurant to properly label imports and bring samples of cake in future.

The BTP tweeted: “Huge drugs bust at Gatwick Airport. In collaboration with the Home Office, powders tested and discovered to be vegan cake ingredients.

“Please label your foods and bring samples of cakes next time you visit.”

White powder

The police confirmed no arrests were made but did not specify what, exactly, the white powder had been.

After staff were allowed to leave the airport, the restaurant, which has venues in Brighton and Camden, London, tweeted: “Thanks for going easy on us guys! A slab of cake all round is in order when you’re next in Brighton.”

Purezza, which means ‘purity’, was founded in 2015, and was the first vegan pizzeria in the UK.

Chefs at the restaurant use lab-made ‘mozzarella’ constructed out of Italian brown rice, as well as nut-based cheeses and coconut cheeses in lieu of traditional ingredients.

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Morrisons is opening up all its cafes to local residents and community groups to use as free meeting spaces

Morrisons is opening up all of its cafes to local residents and community groups in need of meeting spaces, allowing groups to book hour-long time slots for free.

Morrisons said it wants to provide new parents, charities, book clubs, craft groups, and gaming communities somewhere to go, as council resources wane.

From today, organisers will be able to book a cafe space for up to 20 people between 9-11am, and 2pm to closing time on weekdays.

Morrisons said its cafes were already being used on an informal basis by shoppers and so wanted to launch a nationwide scheme in order to ensure more people benefit.

Free to use

Morrisons community centres
Morrisons said people were already using the spaces on an informal basis (Photo: Morrisons)

“We’ve seen more groups use our café spaces as meet up areas so we’re delighted to formalise the offering and make it even easier for local communities to come together over a cup of tea and great food,” said Helen Tordoff, head of cafes at Morrisons.

The initiative is designed to help people deal with the increasing cost of booking meeting spaces in local centres after supermarket research found some were spending around £20 on average booking elsewhere.

As austerity continues to bite in Britain, cuts to council budgets have forced community centres, which once provided society’s most vulnerable with spaces to socialise, learn, and exercise, to close. Since 2010, more than 500 children’s centres have closed in England, government figures show.

Somewhere to go

“We’ve seen our cafes being used by people informally, so we wanted to meet the demand our residents have – there are lots of groups springing up,” a spokeswoman said to i.

“All ages are welcome and we’re open to all groups. This is a permanent initiative. We know that some areas have fewer community spaces today.”

One established collective that has been using Morrisons as a base is the Horsforth Craft Group.

Member Rachel Taylor, from the outskirts of Leeds, said: “Some community centres can be tricky to book as costs can be quite high and there is limited availability.

“Our local Morrisons café is perfect as it is free to book and there’s always good food and drink available. We meet there regularly to create our craft masterpieces and would encourage any other clubs to consider Morrisons as an affordable and pleasant place to meet.”

Groups can email their local Morrisons Community Champion or contact their store by phone.

Endangered Spaces

Co-op
The Co-op in June launched its Endangered Spaces initiative, created to help support Britain’s declining community centres (Photo: Jon Super)

The move follows an initiative by Co-op, which in June launched its Endangered Spaces initiative, also created to help support Britain’s declining community centres.

Co-op said it aims to protect, support and improve 2,000 at-risk community spaces by 2022 and called on the public to identify locations in need of financial backing.

The supermarket said the UK is losing more than 4,000 publicly owned buildings and spaces every year, according to a company report. Co-op said a partnership between Co-op Foundation and Government has made available £2.9m of funds.

Co-op’s director of community and shared value, Rebecca Birkbeck, said: “In our Co-operate 2022 plan, we have worked with our members to focus on the things which can really help shift the wellbeing in communities, those things where co-operation will drive the change.

“We know that people need community spaces to learn together, play together and just be together. This is why we are making this commitment with Locality and why we know that our communities will be healthier, happier and safer places as a result.”

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No single ‘gay gene’ exists, study concludes

The previously theorised “gay gene” does not exist, a new study has concluded. Instead, researchers indicate homosexuality is determined by a mix of genetic and non-genetic factors which influence sexual behaviour.

A new study examined the genetics of almost a half a million individuals who self-reported on whether they had experienced same-sex sexual activities.

Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory group lead at the Institute of Molecular Medicine, Finland, found that like personality and other complex human traits, behaviour is influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental elements.

The authors analysed survey responses and performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on data from more than 477,522 people in databases UK Biobank, and 23andMe.

No meaningful patterns

They found five genetic variants were significantly associated with same-sex sexual behaviour. In total, all tested genetic variants accounted for eight per cent to 25 per cent of variation in same-sex sexual behaviour.

Gay gene does not exist
People are impacted by various factors (photo: HILDEGARD TITUS/AFP/Getty Images)

The variants only partially overlapped between males and females, and do not allow meaningful prediction of an individual’s sexual leanings, according to the study published in the Science journal.

Crucially, researchers could not find any patterns among genetic variants that could be used to meaningfully predict or identify a person’s sexual orientation.

They said: “We identified genome-wide significant loci associated with same-sex sexual behaviour and found evidence of a broader contribution of common genetic variation.

“We established that the underlying genetic architecture is highly complex, there is certainly no single genetic determinant – sometimes referred to as the ‘gay gene’ in the media.

Insights into biology

“Many loci with individually small effects, spread across the whole genome and partly overlapping in females and males, contribute to individual differences in predisposition to same-sex sexual behaviour.

The study found there is no single genetic determinant – sometimes referred to as the ‘gay gene’ in the media (photo: RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images)

“All measured common variants together explain only part of the genetic heritability at the population level and do not allow meaningful prediction of an individual’s sexual preference.”

Andrea Ganna, European Molecular Biology Laboratory group leader at the Institute of Molecular Medicine, Finland, and the other authors write: “Our findings provide insights into the biological underpinnings of same-sex sexual behaviour.

“But [they] also underscore the importance of resisting simplistic conclusions because the behavioural phenotypes are complex, because our genetic insights are rudimentary, and because there is a long history of misusing genetic results for social purposes.”

In this study, the term “same-sex sexual behaviour,” was defined as having ever had sex with someone of the same sex.

Additional reporting by PA 

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