TIME Education

J.K. Rowling Calls for an End to Orphanages

JK Rowling Hosts Fundraising Event For Charity 'Lumos'
Joanne "JK" Rowling attends a charity evening hosted by JK Rowling to raise funds for 'Lumos' a charity helping to reunite children in care with their families in Eastern Europe at Warner Bros Studios on November 9, 2013 in London, England. Danny E. Martindale—Getty Images

“The solution is not pretty murals, or comfier beds, or teddy bears. The solution is no institutions.”

Author and activist J.K. Rowling has called for the closure of the world’s orphanages.

In an op-ed in The Guardian on Thursday, the Harry Potter author called for closing the institutions that hold some 8 million children worldwide and sending the children to their parents or to other families.

According to Rowling, most children held in orphanages are not in fact orphans but have been removed from their parents, sometimes because of poverty.

“The idea of any child being taken from their family and locked away, all too often in atrocious conditions, is particularly poignant at this time of year,” wrote Rowling. “For children in institutions, life too often resembles the darkest of Grimms’ fairytales.”

The author founded the NGO Lumos in 2005 to raise awareness about orphanages, borrowing the name from a spell in her Harry Potter series that creates light. To date, she says, the organization has helped reduce the number of children in institutions in Bulgaria, for example, by 54% while increasing the number of foster care parents several times over. A global reduction of orphanages to zero is possible, she says, by 2050.

“The solution is not pretty murals, or comfier beds, or teddy bears. The solution is no institutions.”

[The Guardian]

TIME United Kingdom

British Tycoon Involved in $30 Million Divorce Battle Falls to His Death

Property tycoon Scot Young seen in 2013.
Property tycoon Scot Young seen in 2013. Tim Goode—Zumapress

His death is not being treated as suspicious

Scot Young, previously one of the U.K.’s wealthiest men, fell 60 feet to his death on Monday evening. He was 52.

His body was found impaled on the iron railings outside his $4.7 million rented home, reports London’s Evening Standard.

Young shared the home with his girlfriend, Ladies of London star Noelle Reno.

“I am distraught by the sudden loss of my best friend and ask that you give me the respect and privacy I need to grieve in peace,” American-born Reno, 31, said in a statement, according to The Telegraph.

Young’s death comes on the heels of a bitter divorce battle with his ex-wife, Michelle Young, 49, which was dragged through the British courts for almost seven years.

In 2009, three years after the couple split, Michelle offered to settle for $470 million, claiming that her ex was worth “a few billion at least.”

But he insisted he was “penniless and bankrupt” – the victim of a “financial meltdown.”

The property and technology entrepreneur was sentenced to six months in prison in January 2013 for refusing to disclose the full details of his fortune and later that year he was ordered to pay his ex $31 million, after a judge ruled that he had “hidden” his wealth from the court. But in March, Michelle’s lawyer said that she had yet to see a penny from the settlement.

In May last year Michelle told the Evening Standard that her ex had attempted suicide and sought treatment when they’d split in 2006.

Young’s death is not being treated as suspicious, a spokesman for Scotland Yard told The Guardian.

Young leaves behind daughters Scarlet, 21, and Sasha, 19.

“We have been to hell and back,” Michelle told the Evening Standard. “I just have to look after my children and make sure they are okay. It is a very difficult time for us all.”

This article originally appeared on people.com

TIME society

Muhammad Becomes Britain’s Most Popular Name for a Baby Boy

The website BabyCentre also reveals that parents have been heavily influenced by celebrity name choices

The website BabyCentre UK has revealed that, rising 27 places from last year, the name Muhammad has topped the list of the top 100 boys’ names of 2014 (when alternate spellings such as Mohammed are included).

It is closely followed by Oliver and Jack, but royal names have fallen in popularity, with George actually declining in popularity since the birth of Prince George to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last year.

Sarah Redshaw, managing editor of BabyCentre, told The Times: “Kate and William have a lot of attention and parents don’t want to always be asked if they named their baby after Prince George.”

Data shows a rising trend in Arabic names, with Omar, Ali, and Ibrahim appearing in the chart, and Nur jumping straight to number 29 in the girls’ top 100. But Biblical names such as Jacob, Noah and Gabriel for boys, and Abigail, Elizabeth and Eve for girls continue to endure in popularity.

The influence of popular culture on parents’ choices is also clear: Game of Thrones is likely responsible for Emilia entering the charts at 53, while Frozen‘s Elsa makes an appearance in the top 100. Breaking Bad‘s Skyler, Jesse and Walter have also soared up the charts since the series ended last September.

 

TIME United Kingdom

British Prime Minister Sets Out New Migration Restrictions

Sir William Dugdale funeral
Prime Minister David Cameron arrives for the funeral of his uncle Sir William Dugdale at The Church of Our Lady in Merevale, Warwickshire on Nov. 28, 2014. Joe Giddens—PA/AP

David Cameron hopes his proposals will reverse the increase in migrants from European countries

David Cameron gave a long-awaited speech on immigration within the European Union (E.U.) on Friday, proposing new limits on welfare benefits and tax credits for migrants.

He outlined his objective as “to make our immigration system fairer and reduce the current exceptionally high level of migration from within the E.U. into the U.K.”

Under his plans, migrants who want to claim certain benefits from the U.K. would have to wait four years.

Cameron’s speech comes after months of negotiations within the British parliament and also with other European leaders, notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

MORE: Study says European migrants contribute $32 billion to the U.K.’s economy

His package of proposals will require signifiant changes to the current treaties that govern the European Union. The plans will go ahead only if Cameron is re-elected after May’s general elections.

A spokeswoman from the European Commissions has responded by saying the ideas are “part of the debate” and need to be “examined without drama.”

[BBC]

Read more: Pope urges ‘aged and weary’ Europe to accept migrants and reject hunger

 

TIME Social Media

Flintstones to Lance Armstrong: 8 of the Best Letters to the Editor

People can get really mad and mildly amusing

Reading a letters page in a British newspaper will quickly reveal that you can never predict what will get a reader’s stiff upper lip quivering. In no particular order, here’s TIME’s pick of the best letters to the editor ever.

It’s not all bad though, whatever Harry says. Here’s how Dinah used to put world events in context.

Phil writes in to highlight the pitfalls of modern technology.

Jasmin reminds us all of the powerful effects of home schooling.

Joey emails in to complain about sports commentators overdoing it.

Another reader remains pretty impressed with Lance Armstrong’s achievements.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Britain without someone getting angry over the correct use of the English language.

But it’s not just Brits who write in. Here’s our favorite example from the Washington Post, from one reader who was concerned with defending the reputation of The Flintstones.

TIME United Kingdom

Scotland to Be Handed ‘Biggest Transfer of Powers’ in a Historic Move

Commission set up after the independence referendum urges the biggest transfer of power in Scotland's history

The Scottish Parliament is set to be given new powers over tax and welfare as part of a deal following September’s referendum, when the country voted against independence.

The Smith Commission, after a month of talks between British political parties, has recommended that Scotland be given further powers. Speaking on Thursday, Lord Smith of Kelvin, head of the Commission, urged for Scotland to have responsibility for an estimated £14 billion of income tax and welfare benefits, the Guardian reports.

The British government welcomed the report, but Scottish ministers said it was disappointing and fell far short of promises made during the referendum campaign.

More constitutional change in the United Kingdom is expected over the coming years, allowing for more devolution within England and Wales.

MORE: Scotland’s vote signals big change for U.K. and the rest of Europe

[Guardian]

TIME United Kingdom

Ferguson Protests Spread to Britain

People gather outside the US embassy in Central London,
People gather outside the US embassy in Central London, supporting the protests in Ferguson on Nov. 26, 2014. Andrea Baldo—LightRocket/Getty Images

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. embassy in London on Wednesday night.

Several hundred people marched in London in solidarity with protestors in the U.S., condemning the decision not to charge police officer Darren Wilson with the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Demonstrators held candles and placards outside the U.S. embassy and observed a minute’s silence before marching across central London to the Houses of Parliament, BBC reports. Many held their hands up and chanted the slogan of American campaigners: “Hands up, don’t shoot.” The protest was peaceful and no arrests were made.

The protest was attended by relatives of Mark Duggan, a young black man shot dead by a police officer in London in 2011 and Sean Rigg, a black musician who died in police custody in 2008.

MORE: The one battle Michael Brown’s family will win

Carole Duggan, Mark’s aunt, told the crowd: “We know the pain of losing somebody at the hands of the police. We stand in solidarity with the community of Ferguson. I feel they are very strong and brave people.”

[BBC]

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 United Kingdom

Save the Children Staff Call Tony Blair’s Award ‘Morally Reprehensible’

Former British prime minister Tony Blair attends the 2nd annual Save The Children Illumination Gala at the Plaza in New York, Nov. 19, 2014.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair attends the 2nd annual Save The Children Illumination Gala at the Plaza in New York, Nov. 19, 2014. Erik Pendzich—Demotix/Corbis

The charity faces major backlash for its decision to give an award to former British prime minister

A week after the U.S. branch of Save the Children (STC) presented Tony Blair with a “global legacy award” in New York, almost 200 staff at the charity have signed an internal letter saying the award is “inappropriate and a betrayal to Save the Children’s founding principles and values.”

The letter says that U.K. management were not consulted about the award and want it to be withdrawn since it was not only “morally reprehensible, but also endangers our credibility globally.”

The American arm of STC presented Blair with the award at a gala at the Plaza Hotel in New York on Nov. 19 for his “leadership on international development”, citing his debt relief work and the Make Poverty History campaign.

A separate online petition calling for STC to revoke the award says Blair’s “legacy in Iraq overshadows his achievements in Africa”, adding that many see him “as the cause of the deaths of countless children in the Middle East.” The petition had gathered more than 97,000 signatures by Tuesday morning.

[Guardian]

TIME United Kingdom

UK’s First ‘Poo Bus’ Rides on Human Waste Fuel

Wessex Water/GENeco

It runs from Bristol Airport to Bath City Center

Talk about a gas guzzler: a new bus in Britain runs on biomethane fuel produced by humans sewage and food waste.

The Bio-Bus—or as it’s more affectionately known, “the poo bus”—can travel up to 186 miles on one tank of gas, which takes the annual waste of about five people to produce, the BBC reports. A single passenger’s annual food and sewage waste can fuel the Bio-Bus for 37 miles.

The bus, which emits up to 30% less carbon dioxide than conventional diesel vehicles, will shuttle people between Bristol Airport and Bath.

GENeco general manager Mohammed Saddiq said, “Gas-powered vehicles have an important role to play in improving air quality in UK cities but the Bio-Bus goes further than that and is actually powered by people living in the local area, including quite possibly those on the bus itself.”

[BBC]

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