TIME europe

U.N. Refugee Chief: Europe’s Response to Mediterranean Crisis Is ‘Lagging Far Behind’

Ship with large number of undocumented migrants runs aground at Rhodes
Loukas Mastis—EPA Illegal migrants arriving at Zefyros beach at Rhodes island, Greece, April 20, 2015.

António Guterres is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He is a former Prime Minister of Portugal.

"We can’t deter people fleeing for their lives. They will come. The choice we have is how well we manage their arrival, and how humanely"

The intensifying tragedy on the Mediterranean Sea poses the sternest test to Western humanitarian values in two generations. If we aren’t careful, we risk letting our most fundamental principles slip away, with consequences that could reverberate for decades.

More than 1,700 souls have already been lost at sea this year, fleeing for a safer world. This month alone, twice as many people drowned as during all of 2013. Last week, we witnessed the deadliest shipwreck my organization has recorded in the Mediterranean to date. And the spring has only just begun.

It’s time for Europeans to abandon the delusion that we can isolate ourselves from this crisis. Our region is living through the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War II, but our response is lagging far behind. It’s time to shift gears.

The first thing we must do is be more honest about what is happening. That includes recognizing that this is more than a migrant issue: Many of the people on these boats are refugees, fleeing from conflict and persecution. This means we have an unambiguous legal obligation to protect them. Seeking asylum is not only a universal human right—it’s also a political principle that has guided nations for thousands of years and is at the very foundation of the values upon which modern Europe was built.

Some people argue that letting in refugees and other foreigners poses a threat to our society’s way of life. But it is not by keeping people out that Europeans will protect their identity. On the contrary, it is by giving refugees protection and a future that we preserve what really makes us who we are. To do that, we need to steer a new course.

The conclusions of Thursday’s emergency summit in Brussels show that Europe recognizes the need for collective action to respond to the enormous tragedy that is unfolding on its borders. The E.U. must immediately restart a comprehensive search and rescue operation, along the lines of Mare Nostrum, to save people in distress at sea. The reinforcement of joint naval operations Triton and Poseidon is welcome, and we hope that many more will be rescued as a result.

But we know from experience that border surveillance alone is not an answer to a crisis that involves refugees. This stems from a simple truth: we can’t deter people fleeing for their lives. They will come. The choice we have is how well we manage their arrival, and how humanely.

Western nations must also commit to creating more legal alternatives for refugees to find protection, such as expanded resettlement and humanitarian admission schemes, enhanced family reunification, private sponsorship arrangements, and work and study visas. Without realistic alternative channels for people to reach safety, the much-needed increase in international efforts to crack down on smugglers and traffickers is unlikely to be effective.

Some of the latest E.U. responsibility-sharing proposals, such as better support for the countries receiving the most arrivals, emergency relocation of refugees between member states, and a pilot project for increased resettlement, are a starting point. But much more must be done. We need to distribute responsibility more widely within Europe, because a system in which two E.U. countries—Germany and Sweden—take the majority of all refugees, is simply not sustainable.

We can no longer meet our obligations simply by financing programs in other countries. The communities sheltering refugees in the Middle East and Africa are already overwhelmed. In Lebanon, for example, more than a quarter of the population are now refugees.

It’s clear the crisis in the Mediterranean will not end as long as the root causes pushing people to flee go unaddressed. This means a genuine commitment to solving the conflicts raging around the world, and to preventing new ones. It also requires us to rethink the way we plan and deliver development aid, and ensuring human mobility is a part of the development paradigm. Rather than simply dumping the problem on poorer transit countries such as those in North Africa, Europe must help those governments to protect refugees and others more effectively.

If Western nations continue to respond primarily by shutting their doors, we will keep driving thousands of desperate people into the hands of a growing criminal underworld, making us all less secure.

In the wake of the last crisis of this magnitude, following World War II, world leaders agreed upon a landmark system to share the responsibility of protecting those forced to flee their homes. The 1951 Refugee Convention was not born out of starry-eyed idealism. After years of conflict, and as a new Cold War descended, it was a deeply pragmatic document.

What leaders understood then was that, even in the worst of circumstances, security comes from managing a crisis, not hiding from it. That only solidarity and a genuinely collective response can stop suffering on a massive scale.

We need to heed their lesson. The moment has arrived for us all to step up to the plate, not just those on the front lines. We need to put our values into practice. Because values which we relinquish when the going gets tough are no values at all.

It is for times like these that we created the humanitarian system. We must not abandon it at precisely the moment when it is needed most.

Read next: One Migrant’s Harrowing Journey From Senegal to Italy

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.

TIME Nigeria

Inside the Search for the Chibok Schoolgirls Abducted by Boko Haram

After more than a year the Nigerian army could be closing in on the forest where the schoolgirls are believed to be held

Nigerian activist and “Bring Back Our Girls” co-founder Obiageli Ezekwesili left a room full of the most influential people in the world speechless this week, in an emotional speech saying they could not possibly move on while 219 schoolgirls were still crying to be rescued. It has been just over a year since Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, in northern Nigeria, and while 57 have escaped, not one of them has done so because of military efforts.

Speaking at Tuesday’s TIME 100 Gala in New York City, Ezekwesili, a former Federal Minister of Education of Nigeria and Vice President of the the African division of the World Bank, took the opportunity to continue her work canvassing for the rescue of the Chibok girls. She called upon President Barack Obama to push for action, saying: “If he could get Osama bin Laden, he could get our girls.”

In the last year there has been much talk about the girls but little success. Below is the story of the search so far. The girls are being held, it is believed, in dense forest in the northeast of Nigeria. Nigerian forces entered the forest in the last week supported by intelligence and surveillance provided by U.S. and other Western states.

April 14-15, 2014 : Boko Haram fighters break into the Government Secondary School in the predominantly Christian town of Chibok in Borno State. They kidnap 276 schoolgirls: several of them jump off trucks carrying them away from the school.

April 23: Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi is the first to use the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag in a tweet during a UNESCO address given by Ezekwesili, who goes on to lead the Bring Back Our Girls campaign.

April 30: The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag gains traction, trending in Nigeria with over 100,000 mentions in a single day. It spreads internationally, attracting support from celebrities and prominent public figures, including Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, American actress and comedian Amy Poehler, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and singer Mary J Blige.

May 2: By now, more than 50 of the schoolgirls have escaped in separate groups.

May 4: Nearly three weeks after the kidnapping and after much criticism over his silence, President Goodluck Jonathan makes his first public statement on national television acknowledging what happened and vows to find the girls.

May 5: Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader, releases a video claiming responsibility for the abduction and promises to sell the girls as slaves.

May 7: Just after #BringBackOurGirls reaches 1 million tweets, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama tweets a photo of herself with a sign reading #BringBackOurGirls. Four days later, she delivers the presidential address rather than her husband, saying they are both “outraged and heartbroken” about the abduction.

Early May onwards: Teams of military advisors, negotiators and counsellors from the U.S., U.K. and France start providing help with the search efforts. China, Israel, Canada, Iran, and the E.U. all pledge assistance too.

The U.S. has at least 26 officials specifically tasked to the Boko Haram abduction, including three FBI officials and at least 16 military personnel. The U.K. deployed Sentinel and Tornado GR4 aircraft with surveillance capabilities to help in the search, and it continues to provide commercial satellite imagery to the Intelligence Fusion Cell in Abuja, where UK personnel are working alongside Nigerian, US and French colleagues. Ned Price, the Assistant Press Secretary of the National Security Council, says on Thursday: “The U.S. Government has maintained an interdisciplinary team in Abuja consisting of specialists on temporary assignment and personnel assigned to our Embassy in Abuja. Given the regional component to Boko Haram, there are also individuals in other locations including U.S. Embassies in neighboring countries that are part of this effort.”

Nigeria turns off cell phone coverage in the North East area where Boko Haram are operating making it more difficult for militants to coordinate attacks, according to sources. However, it also makes intelligence gathering from phone calls impossible. The Nigerian military strategy also focuses on forcing Boko Haram out of urban areas into forests, further hindering intelligence gathering.

Later that summer, Nigeria requests to purchase American Cobra helicopters for the search but the U.S. declines as Nigeria does not have the infrastructure in place to fly and maintain a fleet of Cobras, which would take several years to develop.

May 12: Boko Haram releases a new video appearing to show about 100 of the missing girls. They boast the girls have converted to Islam and refuse to release them unless the government releases Boko Haram militants from prison.

May 22: The U.S. deploys 80 troops and an unmanned aerial vehicle to Chad to help regional efforts to rescue the schoolgirls.

May 26: Chief of Defense Staff Alex Badeh, Nigeria’s highest ranking military officer, says the army has located the girls but refuses to give any details of their whereabouts, causing doubts about the veracity of the reports. He says the army would not make an attempt to rescue them by force: “We can’t kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back.”

May 27: Reports emerge that Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo has met with people close to Boko Haram to broker a deal to release the girls.

July 15: Nigerian police say they arrested Zakaria Mohammed, a high-level Boko Haram member, who was fleeing military operations around the Balmo Forest. It is not clear if he provided any information on the whereabouts of the schoolgirls.

October 17: The Nigerian army announces a ceasefire deal between government forces and Boko Haram, following negotiations mediated in Saudi Arabia by Chadian President Idriss Déby and Cameroonian officials. The announcement raises hopes that the remaining girls might be released, but Mike Omeri, Nigeria’s chief security spokesman, says no deal is in place.

2015

February: After being awarded scholarships, 21 of the Chibok girls who managed to escape are now studying at the American University of Nigeria, in Yola, the capital of neighboring Adamawa state.

March 6: Work begins to rebuild the girls’ school in Chibok, which has been closed since they were abducted.

March 19: Nigeria’s army chief Lieutenant General Kenneth Minimah admits there is “no news for now” about the girls’ fate, despite military successes in recapturing towns held by Boko Haram.

March 25: A 56-year-old woman abducted by Boko Haram in July 2014 is released after 8 months. She tells the International Centre for Investigative Reporting in Nigeria that she was being held in the same house as the Chibok girls in the town of Gwoza in Borno State, under 24-hour-security by armed guards – although she never actually saw the girls herself.

March 27: The town of Gwoza is recaptured by the Nigerian army but, despite earlier reports suggesting otherwise, the kidnapped girls are not found.

April 18: President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, who will take office on May 29, writes in the Times that his government will do everything in its power to bring the girls home, but says his administration will begin with a honest assessment as to whether the Chibok girls can be rescued: “Currently their whereabouts remain unknown. We do not know the state of their health or welfare, or whether they are even still together or alive. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them.”

April 19: Nigerian ground troops move into the Sambisa forest hoping to find and rescue the Chibok girls after sustained air strikes carried out by the Nigerian Air Force over the past eight weeks.

April 21: Obiageli Ezekwesili tells the Time 100 Gala “If he (President Obama) could get Osama bin Laden, he could get our girls.”

Additional reporting by Aryn Baker and Maya Rhodan

Read next: Boko Haram has fled but no one knows the fate of the Chibok girls one year on

TIME europe

These 5 Facts Explain Europe’s Deadly Migrants Crisis

Ship with large number of undocumented migrants runs aground at Rhodes
Loukas Mastis—EPA Illegal migrants arriving at Zefyros beach at Rhodes island, Greece, April 20, 2015.

Over 1,500 migrants have died trying to reach Europe—and the numbers are only likely to increase unless the EU takes real action

On April 19, more than 600 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean when their boat capsized on its way from Africa to Italy. On April 12, about 400 people died in a separate shipwreck. So far in 2015, 1,600 migrants have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean, and authorities fear that the number will surge as the weather warms. These five stats explain the rising tide of migration problems for Europe and for the desperate migrants of Africa and the Middle East.

1. Political Refugees Fleeing to Europe

EU member states received 216,300 applications for asylum last year. A large number of these asylum seekers are fleeing from Syria (civil war), Eritrea (dictatorship) and Mali (another civil war). Many of them are officially recognized as “refugees” by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a status that affords certain legal protections. But navigating the red tape takes time. Rather than waiting for a reluctant host country to take them in, many of these refugees entrust their fates to smugglers. As we’ve seen time and again, this can lead to tragic results.

(UNHCR, VOX)

2. Trouble on the Rise

75% of migrant deaths worldwide occur in the Mediterranean Sea. Europe has already seen a 43% increase in migrants through the first two months of 2015, and peak migration season (typically May through September) hasn’t yet begun. In 2014, the top countries of origin of people attempting to enter Europe by sea were Syria (67,000), Eritrea (34,000), Afghanistan (13,000) and Mali (10,000). Currently, an estimated 600,000 people are waiting in Libya to emigrate, according to Vox. These people represent three years worth of migration to Europe at the present rate.

(Guardian, BBC, Economist, VOX)

3. The Insufficient European Response

Even for those migrants who safely reach European shores, their troubles are far from over. The EU requires that asylum petitions be processed by the country in which migrants first arrive. As a result, southern countries such as Malta, Italy and Greece have found themselves overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of incoming migrants, while richer northern countries receive relatively few. Until last year, Italy had a program in place to find and rescue migrant ships, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Italy had to spend $9.7 million a month to fund the program, and so turned to the rest of Europe for help. The United Kingdom and others made it clear that they would not offer support for rescue operations, for fear doing so would encourage more people to attempt to make the dangerous sea crossing. This past fall, the EU’s border patrol agency Frontex took over responsibility from Italian authorities—with a budget that is about a seventh of what Italy was spending on its own.

(FiveThirtyEight, VOX, Economist)

4. Turkey Stands Apart

While Italy and the rest of the EU struggle, neighboring Turkey has been busy hosting 1.6 million displaced Syrians within its borders, or about half the people who have fled that country since the fighting began there nearly four years ago. Taking in refugees is not cheap; the total cost to Turkey is estimated to be $4.5 billion and rising. Turkey has introduced new regulations to give the Syrians a more robust legal status in the country, which includes access to basic services like health care and education. But Istanbul has stopped short of granting these migrants official refugee status, which would provide them with additional social services.

(New York Times, World Bulletin)

5. Rise in Xenophobia

The cost of taking in migrants is not measured only in dollars or euros. As Europe’s economy has struggled to rebound, anti-immigrant attitudes have risen across the continent. In a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2014, a median of 55% of Europeans surveyed wanted to limit immigration. The percentages were much higher in struggling countries like Greece (86%) and Italy (80%). The rise in xenophobia has propelled new far-right parties to the political forefront, and older parties like Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France are looking to play a much larger role in their countries’ politics in years to come. As long as high-unemployment persists in the Euro region, rising xenophobia in EU countries will be an important driver in shaping EU migrant policy.

(New York Times, Pew Research Center)

TIME Switzerland

This Country Has the World’s Happiest People

530021581
Dale Reubin—Getty Images/Cultura RF View of mountains and lakeside village, Switzerland

Life expectancy, social connections, personal freedom and the economy all play a role in happiness

The happiest people in the world live in Switzerland, a new study found.

The third World Happiness Report, released by the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network on Thursday, ranked 158 countries based on Gallup surveys from 2012-15 and analyzed the key factors contributing to happiness levels.

Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada were the top five happiest countries, while the West African nation of Togo was the least happy.

The report aims to provide policymakers around the world with new metrics that place a higher emphasis on subjective well-being. While income appeared to play a significant role in boosting happiness—the GDP per capita is 25 times higher in the 10 happiest countries than in the 10 least happy—it was far from the only factor. Life expectancy, social connections, personal freedom, generosity and corruption levels also helped explain the happiness scores, according to the report.

The U.S., for example, ranked 15th in the world, one below Mexico and three below Costa Rica, where per capita GDP is roughly a fifth of that in the U.S.

“This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being,” Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, said in a statement. “It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health.”

But sharp economic changes in a country can play a role in people’s happiness, the report found. Greece, where the global recession triggered prolonged economic turmoil, saw its happiness levels fall the most since 2005-07, compared to 125 other countries where data was available.

Still, the report warned policymakers against overemphasizing income levels.

“When countries pursue GDP in a lopsided manner, forgetting about social and environmental objectives, the results can be adverse for human well-being,” the report said. “Many countries in recent years have achieved economic growth at the cost of the sharply rising inequalities of income and grave damage to the natural environment.”

TIME Google

Take a Google Tour of Nelson Mandela’s Island Prison

Google

See the place Mandela was held for nearly two decades

All online tourists are welcome: Google has launched a virtual tour of the island prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years.

As part of Google’s tour of Robben Island prison colony off the coast of Cape Town, online visitors can roam the cells and explore guard towers from a computer or smartphone, Mashable reports.

Robben Island, which has served over time as a leper colony, a mental hospital, and a maximum security prison built to hold civil dissidents like Mandela, is now a United Nations World Heritage site. Mandela spent 18 years there for opposing Apartheid.

Google also features historical exhibits like the theater where Abraham Lincoln was shot, Aushwitz concentration camp, and the site of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

[Mashable]

TIME France

France Has Foiled Five Terrorist Attacks as Security Tightens

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls makes a statement following the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 22, 2015.
Christian Liewig—Corbis French Prime Minister Manuel Valls makes a statement following the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 22, 2015.

This week French police arrested a man, who is believed to have planned to attack churches in Paris, after he shot himself by accident

French authorities have halted five terrorist attacks in recent months, the country’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday.

The latest was an attack on churches in Villejuif outside Paris, which stalled when an Algerian man was arrested on Saturday after apparently shooting himself accidentally in the leg.

“The threat has never been so high,” Valls told France Inter radio. “We have never had to face this kind of terrorism in our history.”

Following January’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket in which 17 people died, France is stepping up security. More than 1,500 French citizens or residents have been tied to “terror networks,” including 442 believed to be in Syria.

[BBC]

TIME Behind the Photos

The Story Behind the Photos of a Migrant’s Brutal Killing in South Africa

“I don't have any regrets about taking the pictures.”

Twenty-eight seconds. James Oatway checked the time stamps of the series of pictures he captured of an attack that took place in South Africa’s Alexandra Township last weekend.

It took only 28 seconds for a group of “neighborhood thugs,” the photographer says, to fatally injure Emmanuel Sithole, a Mozambican migrant who ran a small business in Alexandra. Sithole was the seventh person to die in a wave of anti-foreigner violence sparked by controversial remarks made by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in which he suggested that foreigners were taking South Africans’ jobs and that they should “pack their belongings and go back to their countries.

The unrest echoes the brutal xenophobic attacks of 2008, which led to the death of 60 foreigners around Johannesburg.

In the early hours of Saturday, Oatway, a nine-year veteran photojournalist of South Africa’s Sunday Times, teamed up with reporter Beauregard Tromp to monitor the looting that had happened overnight in and around the township. The streets were calm, Oatway recalls, although traces of the previous night’s violence were still evident rubbish and burned debris still littered the streets.

After photographing in a looted foreign-owned shop, Oatway saw Sithole walking along a street when several men surrounded him. Using wrenches and knives, the men started beating and stabbing Sithole.

“They were intent on killing him,” Oatway tells TIME. “You could tell by the expression on their faces. They look so angry. They weren’t going to stop.”

At first, the attackers weren’t aware of the photographer’s presence. But then one man alerted them and the group ran off.

Oatway and Tromp rushed Sithole to a nearby clinic but they couldn’t find the doctor who was supposed to be on duty. Oatway learned later that this particular doctor was also a foreigner; he had stayed away from work out of fear of becoming a victim himself.

The photographer and reporter brought Sithole to another hospital but it was too late. The man succumbed to a stab wound that had pierced his heart.

The Sunday Times ran one of Oatway’s shocking photographs on its front page, stirring controversy in a country reeling with the realization that such violence can no longer be attributed to the legacy of Apartheid rule and that there are fundamental problems within society that must be addressed.

Unexpectedly, both the photographer and the Sunday Times became the target of criticism, with some accusing the photographer of failing to help Sithole, and the newspaper of callously publishing a graphic image on its front page.

“I don’t have any regrets about taking the pictures,” Oatway tells TIME. “I don’t have any regrets that the picture was on the front page. I really don’t think I could have intervened successfully in that attack. I think my presence there distracted them and did discourage them. If I hadn’t been there, there would have really been some brutal damages and [they] probably [would have] killed him right there, in a far more brutal manner.”

While Oatway’s photographs are gruesome, the photographer believes they are necessary. “I understand that a lot of people have this view of photographers being vultures, preying on other people’s misfortune,” he says. “But why not direct the anger at the people committing the crime, the people brutally murdering Emmanuel, instead of me just happened to be there and recorded it?”

Following their publication, the photographs led to the arrest of all four men involved in Sithole’s murder.

Oatway remains tormented by the fact that he was not able to bring Sithole to a doctor in time. “Ten minutes would have made a difference,” he says. “That’s playing on my nerves. That’s my main regret.”

Read next: South Africa Deploys Its Army to Halt the Killings of Foreigners

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME India

India Bans al-Jazeera for 5 Days for Showing ‘Incorrect’ Maps of Kashmir

Protesters Demand Freedom For Jailed Journalists In Cairo
Adam Berry—Getty Images A logo is seen at the Al Jazeera bureau in Berlin on Feb. 27, 2014

Three wars have been fought between India and Pakistan over the historically contentious territory

Al-Jazeera English has had its broadcasts in India suspended for five days after the Indian government ruled that the Qatar-based international news channel had previously shown maps that misrepresented the disputed border region of Kashmir.

A blue screen reading, “As instructed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, this channel will not be available,” greeted al-Jazeera’s Indian viewers on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

An official told AFP the ban was ordered earlier this month after the channel was found to have used maps showing sections of Kashmir as part of neighboring Pakistan and China. “The ban has been imposed for five days and it was done on instructions of an inter-ministerial committee, who took cognizance of an incorrect map of India in which the channel showed parts of Kashmir in Pakistan and China,” he said.

The depiction of Kashmir, a historically contentious territory claimed by both India and Pakistan, is a highly sensitive issue for the oft-feuding South Asian neighbors.

The Surveyor General of India, to whom the matter was subsequently referred, found that the channel also failed to show the Indian islands of Andaman and Lakshadweep, the Times of India reported.

Al-Jazeera English issued a statement in response to the ban, condemning what it deemed “censorship” by the New Delhi government.

According to the statement, the suspension of its broadcast concerns maps of Pakistan used in 2013 and 2014 that did not demarcate the part of Kashmir under Pakistani control (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or PoK) as a separate territory. Once notified by Indian authorities, the channel said it ensured all maps from Sept. 22, 2014, onward used dotted lines and unique shading for the disputed portions.

“This ban is a disproportionate response to an issue that we fixed promptly after it was pointed out,” said Al Antsey, Managing Director of al-Jazeera English. “It needlessly deprives Indian viewers of our global news and programs.”

Representatives from the channel have reportedly reached out to India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to resolve the issue.

TIME Bizarre

A Stinking 11-Ton Megalith of Congealed Fat Has Been Removed From a London Sewer

It’s called a fatberg and it’s terrifying

Londoners have been advised to stop flushing cooking oil and pre-moistened towelettes down sinks after authorities successfully removed a mammoth 11-ton piece of congealed fat, caked with compacted wet wipes, from one of the city’s sewers.

The “fatberg” was reportedly the size of one of the British capital’s famed double-decker buses and inflicted more than a half-million dollars of damage to the sewer pipes under West London’s plush Chelsea neighborhood.

“The original sewer has been so badly abused by fat being chucked down the plughole we’ve had to opt for the time-consuming and disruptive option of replacing many meters of pipe,” Stephen Hunt, a maintenance supervisor at Thames Water charged with overseeing the removal of fatberg, told the Guardian.

West London is home to a high-concentration of restaurants and food-related enterprises that produce approximately 32 million to 44 million liters of used cooking oil, much of which is then flushed down the drains, annually.

“I’d urge people to consider what lurks beneath their feet,” pleaded Hunt. “When it comes to getting rid of fat, ‘bin it – don’t block it.’”

The same, naturally, goes for wet wipes.

[Guardian]

TIME Britian

Chairman of U.K.’s Ruling Party Denies Editing His Wiki Entry and Those of Rivals

Grant Shapps speech
Hannah McKay — AP Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps gives a speech on free trade at the Institute of Directors in London on Feb. 12, 2015

He blames a “smear campaign” ahead of elections next month

U.K. Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps was in an all-out denial mode on Wednesday, after a story broke in the Guardian this week claiming he had edited his own Wikipedia page and those of rival politicians.

The British daily reported that Wikipedia had blocked an account that it alleged was being used by Shapps “or someone acting on his behalf.”

“It is the most bonkers story I’ve seen in this election campaign so far,” Shapps told the BBC on Wednesday.

During the interview with the broadcaster, the politician claimed that his diary proved that he was “elsewhere” when the edits by Wiki user Contribsx were made.

He then went on label the accusations that he was tied to Contribsx as a possible “Labour/Guardian smear campaign” ahead of general elections next month.

The chairman was caught editing his Wikipedia page without revealing his identity in 2012, but claims to have learned from the experience.

“It turns out you should never correct your Wikipedia page,” Shapps told the BBC. “And that’s why I’ve never gone near it since.”

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