TIME Retail

How Black Friday Invaded the U.K.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s U.K. Asda Supermarket Entices Shoppers With Black Friday Deals
Customers push loaded shopping carts through crowded aisles as they look for bargains during a Black Friday discount sale inside an Asda supermarket in Wembley, London, U.K., on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. Simon Dawson—Bloomberg / Getty Images

Black Friday, long an American tradition, is becoming a British one, too

Four years ago, Black Friday was considered a distinctly American tradition, as exotic to non-Americans as the running of the bulls to non-Spaniards. “It was never even on our radar,” says Elizabetta Camilleri, CEO of SalesGossip, a web service that tracks discounts at 1,400 fashion labels across Europe.

Three years ago, Camilleri’s team first spotted a handful of Black Friday sales cropping up in London. This year, they’re witnessing a veritable American invasion.

“We’re seeing promotions from 250 branded retailers,” says Camilleri. “It literally doubled over last year.” And the deals keep coming. “We’re getting all of these retailers phoning us, saying, ‘We’ve just realized we’re doing a big promotion next week. Can we get on your home page?'”

So nearly 400 years after the Mayflower made it to Plymouth, Black Friday has taken the return trip and officially landed in the Old World. Some 65% of U.K. retailers plan to hold Black Friday sales this year, according to a survey by Barclays. Giants such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s have jumped in with aggressive, half-off discounts, while high-end boutiques, such as the clothing store Duchamp London, have shaved off 25% for the holiday.

Black Friday’s British invasion might seem odd, given that the sales revolve around an American holiday. Indeed, American retailers have considered the day so essential to their business that in the midst of the Great Depression, they lobbied to give Thanksgiving Day a little nudge on the calendar to prolong the shopping season. So how did Black Friday make the leap across the pond?

Amazon takes credit for introducing the tradition to the U.K. in 2010, though inklings of Black Friday sales could be found along one of London’s main shopping thoroughfares — Oxford Circus — as far back as seven years ago. Dan Taylor, retail manager for Duchamp London, recalls seeing Oxford Street closed to traffic and pedestrians pouring in for an embryonic version of a Black Friday sale. “It was packaged as something quite different,” Taylor says, “as ‘Christmas Comes Early.'”

Black Friday has further seeped into the U.K.’s public consciousness through a blend of media events from across the pond, global trade and plain old competition. “Everyone knows that it happens,” says Taylor. “Everyone then expects it to happen.”

This year, the shopping day got a boost from unseasonably warm fall weather. Sales of autumn apparel slackened over previous years. With fall boots and jackets taking up valuable shelf space and winter merchandise rapidly approaching, retailers had to find a way to move product fast.

“Black Friday became this holy grail of, ‘It’s going to solve all of our problems,” says Camilleri, who warns that the sales could undercut profits in the U.K. After all, Britain has already conditioned shoppers for its own version of Black Friday: Boxing Day, which falls on December 26. If retailers bookend the shopping season with steep discounts, some say, shoppers may steer clear of stores in the intervening period.

Still, there are signs that Black Friday’s spread may end at Britain’s shoreline. Retailers in continental Europe have — so far — proven immune to its charms.

“We’ve seen no sign of it happening in France or Spain,” says Camilleri. A strict regulatory environment prevents retailers in some EU nations from dropping prices outside of designated windows. But Camilleri notes a deeper instinct to resist. When she asked a German retailer if they might consider a Black Friday sale, the retailer simply replied, “We are not Americans.”

TIME europe

German Chancellor Says Russia’s Actions Are Unjustifiable

Chancellor Angela Merkel in the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Nov. 26, 2014.
Chancellor Angela Merkel in the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Nov. 26, 2014. Stefanie Loos—Reuters

Angela Merkel appears to be taking a tougher stance against Vladimir Putin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday suggested she is prepared for a drawn-out confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine crisis

“We need patience and staying power to overcome the crisis,” Merkel told German lawmakers in a speech to Berlin’s parliament. She added that economic sanctions on Russia “remain unavoidable” as long as government forces continue to battle pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Bloomberg reports.

Merkel continued that while the crisis may have been triggered by Russia’s concerns over the impact of Ukraine’s free trade agreement with the European Union, “none of this justifies or excuses Russia’s annexation of Crimea.”

Russia’s actions, she said, interrupt “the peaceful international order and breach international law.”

MORE: Russia wants a “100% guarantee” that Ukraine won’t join NATO

The German chancellor’s speech to parliament follows an address Merkel made in Australia Monday, during which more openly critical of Putin than in the past, suggesting her patience with Putin is running out after months of negotiations. Merkel and Putin met during the G20 conference, but that reportedly did not go well for either leader.

[Bloomberg]

TIME europe

Pope Urges ‘Aged and Weary’ Europe to Accept Migrants and Reject Hunger

Pope Francis delivers his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Nov. 25, 2014.
Pope Francis delivers his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 25, 2014 Remy De La Mauviniere—AFP/Getty Images

The Pontiff uses address to the European Parliament to argue that migrants need "acceptance and assistance"

At many times in Europe’s turbulent history religious leaders have turned a blind eye to violence and discrimination. At other times faith itself has set the battleground. This awareness heightened both the strangeness and the poignancy of the Nov. 25 speech by Pope Francis to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The Pontiff wasn’t the most obvious person to deliver hard truths to elected politicians about the rising threats to the democracies they serve, or, as head of the Catholic Church, to convey a blast against global corporations that undermine the democratic process by co-opting institutions, as he resonantly expressed it, to “the service of unseen empires.” Yet standing at the lectern at the center of the plenary chamber, peering through wire-rimmed reading glasses at his script, he did these things and more. The leader of a religion that has created its share of fractures made an eloquent plea for the European Union to rediscover its founding principles of “bridging divisions and fostering peace and fellowship.”

Many factors gave urgency to his words. Europe is grappling with soaring unemployment in the midst of global economic instability and the relentless problems of the euro zone. There is a war within its own borders while brutal conflicts on other continents affect the security of European nations and citizens. The interlocking challenges are compounded by voters’ dwindling trust in the political classes. In speaking to members of these classes, the Pope aimed, he said, “as a pastor to deliver a message of hope” to “a Europe that gives the impression of feeling aged and weary.” A glance around the chamber — built as a hemicycle to encourage members of the Parliament from different political groupings to see each other not as opponents but colleagues — reinforced just how timely that papal message was and the extent to which politicians have become, like the Catholic Church in its darker periods, part of the problem as well as its solution.

Pope Francis emphasized the centrality of human dignity and the equal value of every life. He did so to an assembly of 751 MEPs and other European officials that severely underrepresents the diversity of European populations — only 36.75% of lawmakers are women and only about 5% are from ethnic minorities — while substantially representing views that the Pope singled out for criticism. “One of the most common diseases in Europe, if you ask me, today is the loneliness of those who have no connection to others,” he said. This phenomenon could be observed among the isolated old and the alienated young, the poor and “in the lost gaze of the migrants who have come here in search of a better future.”

“Unity doesn’t mean uniformity,” the guest speaker told an audience overwhelmingly composed of middle-aged white men in suits. “In point of fact all real unity draws from the diversities that make it up.” To that audience he set out a list of priorities. It was, he ventured, “intolerable that people are dying each day of hunger while tons of food are thrown away each day from our tables.” He won a round of applause with a call “to promote policies that create employment but above all it is time to restore dignity to work by restoring proper working conditions.” He also highlighted Europe’s failure to achieve “a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast graveyard. The boats landing daily on Europe’s shores are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.”

Listening to him were members of mainstream parties who have contributed to that failure and representatives of fringe parties — now achieving such electoral success that they may not for much longer remain on the fringes — who are arguing for the dissolution of the European Union and the turning away of migrants. It seems unlikely that members of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), or France’s hard-right National Front party will have been swayed by his words any more than Ian Paisley, at the time the apparently implacable voice of Northern Irish Protestant loyalism, could be persuaded to give a fair hearing to Pope John Paul II’s 1988 speech to the European Parliament, the last such address by a Pontiff to the body until Francis took the floor.

Eventually, however, Paisley did learn to stop bellowing and to prize peace above division, at least to some extent. European history is full of such encouraging examples alongside its gloomier lessons. Pope Francis reminded Europe of its capacity for good. In so doing, he continues to reassert the capacity of his office to do the same.

TIME European Union

Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane? No, It’s Captain Euro

But is he in time to save the European Union and the world?

You might think there were enough cartoon characters in politics already. Apparently not. Enter Captain Euro, flexing his pectorals and multilingual skills as he battles to save the European Union.

The self-styled leader of Europe, the Captain sees himself as the first point of contact for any U.S. President seeking to speak to Europe.

But the Captain isn’t a superhero. He’s just drawn that way (though he and his team of ardent Europhiles in matching blue and gold outfits might also be mistaken for the flight crew on a European no-frills airline.)

The son of Brand EU, an initiative that tries to do exactly what the name suggests, itself the brainchild of a think tank called Gold Mercury, the Captain first strode to the rescue of Europe in 1995 but fell into obscurity until desperate times and rising euroskepsis—boosted, of course, by the flailings of the Captain’s namesake currency—necessitated his recall. So since Nov. 18 he’s been back in action, deploying his sole special power: the power of persuasion.”Together we are one of the world’s strongest powers. Separately, we amount to far less in this newly globalized world, where size is everything,” says Nicolas de Santis, President of Gold Mercury and thus the Captain’s real daddy. “Armed with this knowledge, Captain Euro will continue on his heroic mission to promote the values of a united EU which we all share: peace, solidarity and sustainability.”

To the Captain and his creator, the baddies are evil-minded euroskeptics dressed in UKIP purple who threaten that vision. Their leader is called Dr D Vider (see what they did there?).

And this is where our hero gets a little confused and confusing. His backstory is puzzling. Called Adam Andros, he’s not a David standing up to goliath globalized corporations. We are told he inherited his own giant corporation, Sustania. An avatar of vested interests, he seeks to rally to his cause some of the real-life leaders than some Europeans might see as part of the problem rather than the cure.

In real-life Jean-Claude Juncker, who has just embarked on a five-year term as President of the European Commission, already faces a motion of censure in the European Parliament after allegations that during his previous incarnations as Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Luxembourg, he helped global corporations to minimize their European tax payments. In a Captain Euro strip, Juncker is a unifying figure working to persuade Prime Minister David Cameron to keep Britain in the E.U..

The coalition of anti-Europe, anti-immigration parties seeking to censure Juncker includes a fair sprinkling of cartoonish characters, but they are successfully positioning themselves as the good guys to a broadening swathe of European voters. If Captain Euro really wants to counteract the misinformation such parties spread, he’ll need to recognize the parts of their message that resonate. The time is ripe for a hero who is pro-Europe but not identified with the European elite. Before Captain Euro can redraw the continent’s fracturing politics, he may have to redraw himself.

All cartoons courtesy of Nicolas de Santis/ Gold Mercury International.

TIME russia

Putin’s Loss of German Trust Seals the West’s Isolation of Russia

President Putin gives press conference following G20 Summit
Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on at a press conference following the G20 Leaders' Summit in Brisbane, Australia. Klimentyev Mikhail—EPA

After a night spent debating the Ukraine crisis with the Russian President, German Chancellor Angela Merkel came out more determined than ever to push the Kremlin out of Eastern Europe

Vladimir Putin has long had a soft spot for Germany. As an officer of the KGB in the late 1980s, he was stationed in the East German city of Dresden, where he developed a love of the language and, according to his memoirs, for the enormous steins of pilsner he drank at a beer hall in the town of Radeberg with friends.

As President, Putin’s foreign and economic policies have always looked to Germany as a pivotal ally, a vital partner in trade and a sympathetic ear for Russian interests. He seemed to feel that no matter what political headwinds came his way, the German sense of pragmatism would prevail in keeping Berlin on his side. That illusion has just been shattered.

During a speech on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel predicted a drawn-out confrontation with Moscow. Breaking from her normally subdued political style, she even invoked the worst years of the 20th century in describing the West’s conflict with Russia over Ukraine. “After the horrors of two world wars and the end of the Cold War, this challenges the peaceful order in Europe,” she said, referring to what she called Putin’s “old-thinking” view of Eastern Europe as Russia’s stomping ground. “I am convinced this won’t succeed,” she said. In the end, the West would win out against the challenge emanating from Russia, “even if the path will be long and hard and full of setbacks,” Merkel told a conference in Brisbane, Australia.

It was in many ways the low point for Putin’s deepening estrangement from the West. During the G20 summit of world leaders held in Brisbane over the weekend, the Russian leader was broadly ostracized by the most powerful figures at the table, and some of them were far less diplomatic toward Putin than Merkel has been. In greeting Putin on Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly said, “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.”

Later that day, Merkel came to the Hilton Hotel in central Brisbane for an unscheduled meeting with Putin that reportedly lasted almost six hours, running well into Sunday morning. The subject was the conflict in Ukraine, and according to the Kremlin, Putin did his best to “clarify in detail the Russian approach to this situation.” But his efforts to win Merkel’s sympathy – or at least her understanding – appear to have done the opposite. He emerged from their encounter apparently so exhausted that he decided to leave the summit early, saying he needed to get some sleep.

The letdown seemed all the more painful considering his recent attempt to reach out to the German public. A few days before the G20 summit began, Putin decided to give a rare one-on-one interview to the national German television network ARD, whose correspondent grilled him on Russia’s support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Putin tried to sound conciliatory. “Of course we expect the situation to change for the better,” he said. “Of course we expect the Ukrainian crisis to end. Of course we want to have normal relations with our partners, including in the United States and Europe.”

Particularly for Germany, he argued, it is important to work things out with Russia, because their economies are so closely intertwined. Trade with Russia accounts for as many as 300,000 German jobs, Putin said, and by going along with the sanctions that the West has imposed on Russia, Berlin risks hurting its own economic growth. “Sooner or later,” he said, “it will begin to affect you as much as us.”

The warning, more plaintive than defiant in its tone, was aimed as much at the political elites in Germany as its powerful business interests, which rely on Russia for natural resources and a huge consumer market. Last year the trade between the two countries was worth more than $100 billion, compared to less than $40 billion between the U.S. and Russia. To fuel its energy-intensive industrial base, Germany also gets a third of its oil and gas from Russia, and 14% of everything that Russia imports is made in Germany.

But Putin, for all his appeals to German pragmatism, was wrong to hope that Russia’s isolation could boomerang back on the German economy, or on Merkel’s popularity. Even as the sanctions war choked off trade between Russia and the West, Germany’s total exports reached an all-time high in September. At the same time, Russia’s reputation among the German public has been scraping bottom. In a nationwide survey conducted in August, a German pollster reportedly found that 82% of Germans do not believe that Russia can be trusted, while 70% called for tougher sanctions against the Russian economy.

“So it seems clear that Putin has miscalculated,” says Joerg Forbrig, an expert on Eastern Europe at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “Certainly when it comes to Germany.”

This is a costly mistake. In trying to sway Berlin, Putin pursued his best, and perhaps only, chance of breaking the West’s resolve against him. The business lobby in Germany is both more powerful and more sympathetic toward Russia than any major European state, and the German electorate has generally favored a neutral stance on foreign policy.

Just a few weeks after Russia invaded and annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March, nearly half of Germans said that their government should not take sides in the conflict, while 35% urged their leaders to seek an understanding with Moscow. This core of German Russophiles now looks to have evaporated, and with it Putin loses the only Western partner that could have stopped the isolation of his country.

Many in Moscow have watched that turn in German feelings with surprise. “Even during the Cold War, we were laying [oil and gas] pipelines to Germany,” says Leonid Kalashnikov, vice chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament. “Back then nobody seemed to mind.”

Under Putin, those energy links have been vastly expanded. In 2011, he launched the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline to pump fuel from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. (In a sign of just how well-connected Putin was in Berlin at the time, Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, took a job as chairman of that pipeline project after his term as chancellor ran out in 2005.) But at the end of September, Merkel said the European Union may need to break its addiction to Russian fuel in the long term, especially if the Kremlin’s expansionist policies continue to violate “basic principles.”

But even the threat of losing the European market – disastrous as that would be for the Russian economy – is not likely to make the Kremlin yield. “There’s one thing the West just doesn’t understand,” says Kalashnikov. “They can use sanctions to coerce a small country. But Russia is not one of them. We will not get on our knees and do as we’re told.”

Thanks largely to his own anti-Western bluster, Putin’s support in Russia now relies more than ever on his defiance toward the West, and he will sooner accept the role of a pariah abroad than weakling at home. “We’re just not going to chastise him into changing his tune,” says Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Much more likely, the West’s ostracism will “foreclose” any remaining channels for swaying Putin through dialogue, adds Rojansky. But if Putin was searching for such a channel during his night of debating with Merkel, he has come up empty-handed. It’s not clear if he has anywhere else in the West to turn.

Read next: Russia to Create Its Own ‘Alternative Wikipedia’

TIME flu

The New Bird Flu Outbreak: Should You Worry?

birds
Getty Images

So far, bird flu cases in Europe have been identified as the H5N8 strain

Bird flu strain H5N8 has been identified on a duck farm in England and in chickens at a farm in the Netherlands. Should people be scared about a new pandemic? Experts say, no.

Where are the latest cases?

On November 17, bird flu was confirmed on a duck farm in East Yorkshire. About 6,000 ducks will be killed and a 6-mile surveillance zone is going up around the farm. The emergence comes just a day after bird flu was detected in the Netherlands at an egg farm. According to the BBC, the Dutch government has imposed a three-day ban on poultry and eggs transport. Officials are currently figuring out whether the two cases are connected. Earlier this month, bird flu also appeared in Germany.

Should I be afraid?

Not right now. First, it should be noted that there are several strains of bird flu, or avian influenza, and the recent strains have only so far emerged in birds, not humans. The Dutch and German governments determined their strains of the flu are both H5N8, a highly contagious virus that has never been found in humans. The British government has not yet said what strain of bird flu is circulating in the duck farm, but they have confirmed that it’s not H5N1, which can infect humans.

So what’s the big deal?

Farms with H5N8 outbreaks can face serious economic losses.

So it hasn’t affected humans before. Does that mean it won’t—ever?

Experts cannot completely rule out the possibility of human infection. “This particular strain has not been known to infect humans but, based on experience with H5N1, we know that H5 viruses have that capacity,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior associate of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Center for Health Security. “Thus far, avian influenza viruses have very limited human-to-human transmission capacity, so the general public need not panic, however poultry handlers may be at risk for infection. It will be important to understand the dynamics of this outbreak and understand the potential of H5N8 to infect humans.”

What about H5N1 makes it so much more worrying?

H5N1 is the strain that can spread to humans from birds, and it’s infected more than 600 people from 15 countries since November 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. About 60% of people who have contracted the strain have died. The majority of human cases are among people with direct or close contact with sick or dead infected poultry, and the disease does not efficiently transmit from person to person. However, if that were to change, scientists say we’d have a serious problem on our hands.

Is there a treatments or vaccine for bird flu?

Not exactly. In Nov. 2013, the FDA approved a H5N1 vaccine intended for the National Stockpile and not for commercial use. The CDC has told TIME that the vaccine is not very effective and would likely require more than one dose. Researchers are working on other vaccines for bird flu and its various strains, though none are currently approved. Right now, preventing the spread of infection is the best bet for keeping cases low.

“Avian influenza will always be a major infectious disease threat. Certain avian influenza viruses—such as H5N1 and H7N9—have very high case fatality rates and are leading contenders for wider spread amongst the human population,” says Adalja.

And while the current cases of bird flu shouldn’t freak you out, it is important for the global community to pay attention to the various strains and support vaccine and drug development.

TIME Barack Obama

Obama Says He Will ‘Never Forget’ Berlin Wall Fall

While commending the reunification of Germany, the President criticized Russia's actions in Ukraine for unsettling Europe

As people around the world celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, President Barack Obama said in a tweet that he will “never forget” the scenes of people reuniting with their families and entering “the free world.”

“It was a reminder that walls of concrete and barbed wire are ultimately no match for the will of ordinary men and women who are determined to live free,” he said in the statement.

He also used the occasion to take a jab at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said has held back progress in Europe: “But as Russia’s actions against Ukraine remind us, we have more work to do to fully realize our shared vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.”

TIME europe

NATO Accuses Russian Military Aircraft of Flagrantly Violating European Airspace

Military aircrafts are seen on the tarmac during a visit of new NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg of Norway at Lask air base
Military aircraft are seen on the tarmac during a visit by the new NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of Norway at Lask Air Base, in Poland, on Oct. 6, 2014 Kacper Pempel—Reuters

The alliance claims the incursions pose a risk to civilian air traffic

NATO officials have announced that an increasingly large number of Russian military aircraft have been tracked flying unannounced into European airspace this month — behavior that threatens to escalate the already taut relations between Moscow and the West.

On Wednesday, NATO claimed to have monitored at least four groups of Russian military aircraft as they conducted “significant military maneuvers in European airspace” over the Baltic and Black Seas as well as the Atlantic Ocean this week.

According to the alliance, multiple sets of Russian strategic bombers and tanker aircraft failed to file flight plans or engage in radio contact with civilian air-traffic-control officials during their forays into European skies. The crafts also refrained from using their onboard transponders during the exercises.

“This poses a potential risk to civil aviation as civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft or ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic,” read a statement released by NATO this week. “These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace.”

In response, NATO allies scrambled their own jets to intercept and identify the Russian planes. Washington, D.C.–based think tank the Atlantic Council says the alliance has conducted more than 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft this year — a threefold increase in incursions since 2013.

Russia’s disregard for civilian procedures comes as relations with the West have hit new lows. In July, Washington accused Moscow of “creating the conditions” in eastern Ukraine that allowed separatist fighters to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with an alleged Kremlin-supplied weapons system.

Moscow has repeatedly denied having a direct hand in the felling of the flight and in turn blamed Kiev for igniting civil war in the country’s east.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 28

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Income inequality isn’t beyond our control. Smart policymaking could increase the efficiency of the U.S. economy AND narrow the income gap.

By Jason Furman in the Milken Institute Review

2. A “Paris Club” making and enforcing rules for managing Europe’s economic woes could offer stability for the long term.

By Robert Kahn at the Council on Foreign Relations

3. Fresh, community-based food offered at convenience stores and gas stations could change the way people in Detroit eat.

By Chris Hardman in Civil Eats

4. Reader as publisher? How crowdfunding journalism changes the relationship between news outlets and their audiences.

By Catalina Albeanu in Journalism.co.uk

5. Balancing privacy concerns is key to a future where learners are empowered to use data and truly take control of their networks and their futures.

By Catherine M. Casserly in Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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