Boris Johnson is facing fresh calls to slash taxpayer aid for fossil fuels after a poll found that two in three Britons want Boris Johnson to shift subsidies away from oil and gas firms to support renewable energy instead.Labour stepped up its demands for an overhaul of government tax breaks for the North Sea as the newly released YouGov/Global Witness poll, shared exclusively with HuffPost UK, underlined public concern that not enough is being done to tackle the climate emergency.Nearly two thirds (65%) of the UK population want to see the government shifting the subsidies it currently provides to domestic oil and gas firms to instead support the expansion of renewable energy and increasing the energy efficiency of people’s homes. Less than in one in 10 (7%) opposed such a shift.More broadly, 67% want to see the UK as world leader on climate change, with majorities across all age groups, regions, genders, political parties and both sides of the Brexit vote (remain 83% and leave 56%).With the UK set to hold the next round of global climate change talks in Glasgow next year, the poll results match growing campaigns for the UK to radically change its subsidies for fossil fuels, with domestic gas in particular receiving VAT cuts that electricity – which can be renewable – lacks.The Johnson government launched a review last month of its oil and gas licensing regime, which could herald a big shift in policy since the Cameron government opted to get as much fossil fuel out of the ground as economically possible.Since 2016, the UK has operated a legally binding policy called “Maximising Economic Recovery” (MER) that compels the Oil and Gas Authority to “take all steps necessary” to ensure that the maximum value of oil is recovered from under UK waters.Climate change campaigners argue that the policy, plus a system of tax perks for the gas and petroleum industries, is incompatible with the Johnson government’s wider commitments to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.Critics say that the Oil and Gas Authority regulator is only now considering the net zero target and the government’s industrial strategy does not mention the need to retrain and redeploy oil and gas workers.A consultation into the strategy ended in July and revised version is expected to be presented to business secretary Alok Sharma this autumn.Scotland’s economy has long relied on fossil fuels, but the YouGov poll also found that three quarters of the Scottish public were unaware of UK government’s “Maximising Economic Recovery” policy, to extract as much oil and gas as is economically viable.Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of the Scottish population would like to see the Scottish government training and skills spending go towards the renewable energy sector, whilst amongst 16-24-year-old voters, the environment and the climate was the most important issue.Ken Penton, UK climate campaigner at Global Witness, said: “Off the back of a period of great political upheaval in the UK, with sharp divides, it’s welcome news that protecting the climate is one issues that unites everyone.“The simple fact is you can’t be a global climate leader if you plan to carry on maximising the amount of oil and gas you produce, rather than support the growth of the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.”Penton said that as the host of the UN Conference of Parties (COP) conference in 2021, the UK would be judged not on its rhetoric but on action on curbing the oil and gas industry.“This starts with scrapping the Maximising Economic Recovery policy that dictates the UK explore for and extract as much oil and gas as is economically viable. If the UK is to meet its own climate obligations, it cannot dig for any further fossil fuels beyond what is already in existing operational fields,” he said.Boris Johnson pledged to boost offshore wind energy in his Tory conference speech this week, though critics said he failed to commit the billions needed for a serious investment in the sector.Shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead also made clear that the polling underlined that the public agreed the current strategy needed to change.“Labour has made clear the government’s Maximising Economic Recovery strategy for oil and gas is untenable as it stands, and inconsistent with the ambition to meet net zero emissions,” he said.“We must focus instead on a just transition to a decarbonised energy sector, which recognises the different role oil and gas will play in future industry, and that creates high-skilled, green jobs.”The department of business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) refuses to describe the current tax breaks for fossil fuels as “subsidies”, even though an EU report last year found that £10bn was effectively spent shoring up the industry, compared to £9bn for renewable energy.A BEIS spokesperson said: “We want to ensure the UK has the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth and we have already cut emissions by 43% since 1990 and were the first major economy to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.“We will continue our global leadership on tackling climate change by hosting the next UN climate conference COP26 in 2021.“The UK does not have any fossil fuel subsidies, and we are exploring how to make the gas network cleaner through the Green Gas Levy and have just announced plans for even more of our electricity will be provided by clean, green wind power.”The UK has signed up to a G20 summit commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies across the globe that encourage wasteful consumption.It says that the independent Committee on Climate Change has recognised the ongoing demand for oil and natural gas, including it in all scenarios it proposed for how the UK meets its target for achieving net zero emissions by 2050.The oil and gas sector supports 270,000 jobs across the UK, but the green economy has the potential to support 2 million jobs by 2030, even on government estimates.* Total sample size was 1,704 adults, fieldwork was undertaken between 18 - 19th August 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 16+).Related... Boris Johnson To Embrace Wind Power After Years Of Saying How Rubbish It Is Petrol Car Ban And Flight Tax: How The Public Think We Should Tackle Climate Change The UK's CO2 Emissions Dropped To A Hundred-Year Low During Lockdown
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Lucy* was 10 weeks pregnant when the bleeding started. After three years of trying for a baby, the realisation she was miscarrying was utterly devastating. But if the physical and emotional toll weren’t enough, Lucy’s agony was compounded by another factor: her boss. Initially, he was sympathetic to the miscarriage, but his attitude soon changed as he realised she would probably be trying for another baby. Even while she was off sick following the loss of her pregnancy, she felt pressure to return.On her first day back at work, she was stunned by her boss’s words to her. “I’m trying to run a business here and people are trying to hit targets,” he told her. “If you’re going to sit there being sad and bring the office down, you can go.”Related... Why Chrissy Teigen Sharing Her Baby Loss Means So Much To Women Like Me Lucy’s ordeal had begun soon after she discovered she was pregnant. Longing – and trying – for a baby for several years, she had been poked and prodded with enough tests to be told it wasn’t going to happen without IVF.  So when she found out she was pregnant naturally, it was a huge shock. “I was quite emotional about the whole thing because it was the culmination of quite a few years of trying.” said the 38-year-old, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.Lucy worked for a recruitment agency and had been brought in to set up a new division. Her relationship with her boss was great. He valued her opinion and she felt very much “part of the inner circle.” However, things changed quickly after she realised she was pregnant. Suffering from terrible morning sickness, Lucy says she “looked absolutely horrendous”. One morning, her boss called her into the boardroom and asked her if she had a drinking problem.“I was so shell shocked by it because I was in this whole kind of state of feeling really fragile because I was pregnant – and I was also trying not to vomit. “I just blurted out that I was pregnant. I felt I had no choice and that the only way to defend myself was to explain the reason why I was sick all the time. Other than my husband, he was the second person to know.”Her boss, who had never had anyone pregnant working for him before, was surprised by her news, Lucy says, but initially quite positive and supportive. However, all that changed a few weeks later when Lucy miscarried at work. “I started cramping and went to the toilet and I saw that I was bleeding. It was obvious I was probably miscarrying,” she says. ”I was completely beside myself and panicked and was hysterical. I called my husband and he came to get me and I went to the hospital and they confirmed it.”When Lucy texted her boss to explain, she was signed off work. However, every day of the following week, she received work emails and text messages from him. At first she replied, feeling responsible and a sense of ownership towards her division. But it quickly became too much – and she asked if she could deal with things when she was back in the office.“I felt under enormous pressure that whole week to go back to work sooner than I was supposed to,” she tells HuffPost UK. “Something people don’t realise about miscarriage is that it’s an incredibly physically painful experience. You bleed, you’re having contractions and you have to pass a foetus.”Related... Why Parents Take Remembrance Photos After Pregnancy Loss And Stillbirth And when Lucy returned, only a week later and still emotionally reeling, it became apparent her boss’s attitude had changed. While she’d been off, he had brought on a member of staff to her team for her to train up in her role, assuming that she would be trying for another baby straight away.For her part, she just wanted to get on with her job without anyone knowing her personal issues but she soon discovered her boss had told a lot of people. The situation escalated. She began to feel ostracised and excluded. “I would be crying every single day, going in, driving to work,” she says. “It was the atmosphere and the toxic culture.”She had reached a point of no return and decided she needed to leave. But when Lucy told her boss, he exploded, saying he knew she was planning on leaving and should have told him sooner. Before resigning, she had taken advice from an employment solicitor who told her she had a case for constructive dismissal. “But to be honest, I was so worn down by the whole experience, I felt completely drained. There was just no way I felt I could do that,” she says.Instead, Lucy gave her boss a month’s notice which he threatened not to pay, telling her to go that day. She said she would but he had to pay her what she was entitled to. Eventually he did. “I just had to steady myself and hold my nerve,” Lucy says. His parting words were: “Make no mistake, I will destroy you,” she adds. “I started laughing which infuriated him more.”Advised again to pursue constructive dismissal, she decided she didn’t want to go down that route. “I knew I was going to be starting IVF a couple of months later. The thought of going through tribunal and IVF at the same time when I had already miscarried – I just couldn’t do that. I didn’t want to bring on any more stress.”Related... I Knew Miscarriage Was Lonely. Then I Lost My Pregnancy In Lockdown An Equality and Human Rights Commission report estimated that 54,000 women a year are pushed out of their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity leave. This is almost double the number identified in similar research carried out in 2005. The research showed that 77% of working mums had encountered some form of discrimination in the workplace and 44% said they earned less than they did before they had children. Figures also showed that 33% of employers said they would avoid hiring a woman of childbearing age. Doreen Reeves, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon law firm, who made a podcast featuring Lucy’s story, says having a child should be a wonderful time for a woman, but discrimination from employers can turn it into an ordeal, with many women noticing employers’ attitudes changing dramatically for the worse.“Although treating an employee unfavourably for being pregnant or a mother is unlawful, it is still something we see regularly,” Reeves tells HuffPost UK.“This biased behaviour can come in many forms: exclusion from important meetings or business decisions; openly ridiculed for having ‘baby brain’ to being pushed out of the business or dismissed.”Cases become more complex in situations like Lucy’s. ″Legally speaking, a woman is not classed as pregnant if she has suffered a miscarriage and if this occurs before the 24th week of pregnancy, entitlements to maternity, paternity or shared parental leave or pay will cease,” Reeves explains, adding that most people instead take compassionate leave or sick leave, if certified by a GP.“If you are signed off for a pregnancy related illness, you are then protected from pregnancy discrimination for the two weeks following the end of the pregnancy,” she adds. ″After that, if you can show you have been treated less favourably than a man who has taken sick leave, you could have a case for sex discrimination.”Joeli Brearley, who lives in York, is the founder and director of Pregnant Then Screwed, which she set up after she was sacked by voicemail from her job the day after she told her employer of her pregnancy when she was four months pregnant with her first child. Since then, she has been on a mission to raise awareness of workplace discrimination and to help other victims of it.Brearley tells HuffPost UK that Lucy’s story is not uncommon. “The key point is that her employer had absolutely no empathy for her situation – and this is something we hear a lot,” she says. “When a woman has a miscarriage and informs their employer, the employer knows their intention is to have a baby and bias and discrimination can kick in.”Women, while entitled to time off sick after a miscarriage – face a Catch-22 scenari, because by telling their employer, they are more likely to face bias, at the very least, if not full-on discrimination, but they don’t have the protection from the law that a pregnant woman would. “It is illegal to sack someone if they are pregnant or on maternity leave. But it is much more difficult to prove discrimination when you have had a miscarriage,” she says.“We have had women tell us they have been sidelined at work after having a miscarriage as their employer feels they will be distracted from their job.”Ruth Bender Atik, national director of The Miscarriage Association, tells HuffPost UK that it is really important for women to know that once they are pregnant, they have protected status by law. If a woman has a miscarriage and takes leave from the point when it happens, without a break, that is classed as pregnancy-related sickness and she cannot be discriminated against.But if a woman has a miscarriage, has time off and then returns to work, either due to pressure or her own volition, but needs further time off at a later date, it is no longer classed as pregnancy-related and is not protected in the same way.Bender Atik agrees that the other major issue is women not wanting to tell their manager or boss that they have had a miscarriage for fear it might negatively affect their job or career prospects.She says of Lucy’s experience: “From her perspective, it is an incredibly sad story, compounding the loss of her baby with discrimination and ultimately, the loss of her job and all it meant to her.“From the employer’s point of view, it is very short-termist in its thinking. The best way to get the best out of your staff is by supporting them through difficulties and then you increase their loyalty and commitment to the company. “This experience of a woman feeling forced out of her job after a miscarriage is a sad indictment on the position of women in the workplace.”Lucy has now had her happy ending, becoming a mother. She has also decided to retrain and change her career and says she is in a better place. But every time she thinks of her former workplace and what happened, it still upsets her.“I prefer to talk about motherhood discrimination rather than maternity discrimination,” says Brearley from Pregnant Then Screwed. “It is discrimination from employers that occurs because a woman has a uterus. And one of the most common forms of discrimination is bullying and harassment.”She adds: “We need to change this narrative that pregnant women and women who have children are a burden to businesses as it’s simply not true.”The Miscarriage Association has a resource hub for employers, managers, HR teams, colleagues and individuals affected by pregnancy loss at work here.Related... 'We're Still Bereaved Parents': Having A 'Rainbow Baby' Doesn't Erase Loss My Miscarriage Helped Me Build A Better Life The Miracle Baby Born After 8 Rounds Of IVF And Multiple Miscarriages
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“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little,” Billy Connolly once said.As we all face the prospect of a long cold winter trying to deal with the ongoing Coronavirus crisis and the collateral damage of economic uncertainty, we need to find ways of taking the sourest of lemons and try to find ways of turning them into lemonade. With uncertainty comes a need to think positively and with agility. So rather than just hunkering down indoors over the winter, if possible let’s turn a Covid winter of discontent into a winter of contentment. The winter of the great outdoors. I refuse to get downhearted and beaten by this virus. I will play by the rules, but I will adapt.Let’s walk together, maximise the opportunities for outdoor socialising, create winter gardens, visit outdoor cafes and pubs with heaters and rugs, drink warm cider and mulled wine. Let’s try and use the winter season to turn this mess on its head with some positive intent.I refuse to get downhearted and beaten by this virus. I will play by the rules, but I will adapt. I will continue to enjoy my life, meet my friends and family, even if it means that I meet them in the wind and rain. The virus will only defeat our spirit, if we choose to let it. So as the days get shorter and the Covid restrictions look likely to continue right through the winter, it would be easier to just stay indoors and hunker down for winter, but it’s actually the ideal time to get outside and get moving – both in an urban or rural environment.Let’s start a muddy boots campaign. Let’s explore the great outdoors. Let’s have a winter of contentment rather than a winter of discontent.Considering the likely indoor restrictions due to Covid, there should be a huge campaign to get the public exercising and socialising outdoors this winter – whatever the weather. I’m going to try and have the best winter ever. I’m going to run in the rain and walk in the mud. I’m going to get a warm and sexy raincoat and get all windswept and interesting. Let’s start a muddy boots campaign. Let’s explore the great outdoors. Let’s have a winter of contentment rather than a winter of discontent.Many people spend workdays indoors under fluorescent lights of computers during the working day and then the glow of television screens in the evening.This has been exasperated during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Going outside takes away the sedentary nature of staring at a screen, adds natural vitamin D and gets us our required levels of exercise.Also, in terms of Covid, being outside in open spaces reduces the risk of infection. Respiratory viruses get more diluted in air and get dispersed by wind, so the risk of virus transmission would be lower than indoors.Related... How To Motivate Yourself To Leave The House When It's Grim Outside Going outdoors during daylight can also do wonders for boosting our immune system and protecting us from illness. Taking time in the great outdoors activates a group of mental functions that include our ability to learn new things, to process information and to pay attention. It creates mental wellbeing through mindfulness. In a 2018 report from University of East Anglia it was revealed that “exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure”. Populations with higher levels of greenspace exposure are also more likely to report good overall health, according to global data in the report involving more than 290 million people.Alfresco living benefits all ages. According to Harvard Medical School, a study published in 2008 found that “children with ADHD scored higher on a test of concentration after a walk through a park than after a walk through a residential neighbourhood or downtown area”. So as Billy Connolly advised, get yourself a sexy raincoat, go outside and live a little. The time is now to create a winter of outdoor contentment, even in these discombobulating and worrying times. James Melville is a freelance writer.Got a unique opinion on a news story that will help cut through the noise? We want to hear from you. Find out what we’re looking for here and pitch us on [email protected] in Opinion... Opinion: Covid Has Reignited The North-South Divide With A Vengeance Opinion: Why A Covid Vaccine Won't Be A Magic Bullet Opinion: Trump And Johnson Are Wrong – It's Vital That We're Afraid Of Coronavirus Opinion: Could The Second Wave Spark Riots? We're Entering Very Dangerous Territory
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Education secretary Gavin Williamson has been accused of seeking “revenge” on teaching unions that stood up to him over school reopening after he scrapped an £11m adult education scheme run by the TUC.The Union Learning Fund (ULF), which offers union members training in maths, English and IT, was first set up by the Blair government in 1998 and trains a quarter of a million people a year.But Williamson has decided to withdraw taxpayer cash from the project at the end of this financial year.The move, which comes just a week after Boris Johnson pledged to put skills at the heart of his political mission, has prompted a cross-party backlash within Parliament, trade unions and the further education sector.One MP said that the move looked like “Gavin’s revenge” on teaching unions that had dared to question his school reopening plans earlier this summer during the coronavirus pandemic.Safety fears meant that re-openings had to be tightly restricted, despite pledges by Williamson and Johnson to ensure all primary pupils would get face time with their teachers. The education secretary has also come under heavy criticism from unions and others over the A-levels fiasco.The decision to axe the training scheme, which was slipped out in a letter to the TUC, has prompted a request for an urgent Commons statement next week with calls for the cabinet minister to rethink his plan.Former skills minister and education select committee chair Rob Halfon told HuffPost UK: “We seem to be saying as a government, just for the sake of a bit of short-sighted union bashing, let’s take this money away from 250,000 people who will potentially be affected.“The politics are pretty poor, given Frances O’Grady [TUC general secretary] supported the chancellor’s jobs scheme and stood next to him in Downing Street only recently.“I have made clear that personally I did not appreciate the behaviour of some of the unions in school re-openings. But you’ve got to separate those kinds of things from something that does good work like the ULF. It’s a grassroots-based, trusted organisation that is proved to have delivered great training. The government has got to reconsider.”Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “It takes a unique level of incompetence to scrap a policy that works for workers, businesses, and our economy, but Gavin Williamson has managed it.“Tens of thousands of people benefit from UnionLearn [the TUC organisation that now runs the ULF] every year, and the government are now denying them these opportunities with no justification. They must urgently review this short-sighted decision.”According to a report published by the Department for Education and UnionLearn in 2018-19, every £1 invested in the fund resulted in a total economic return of £12.30.The scheme has been particularly active during the pandemic, helping workers develop skills online and to gain new qualifications.Hilary Benn, who helped devise the scheme, said: “Having worked with David Blunkett to set up the Union Learning Fund, which is all about levelling up and has been such a success in helping workers to develop skills, build confidence and gain qualifications, there is no justification for getting rid of it. None whatsoever.“It is a shameful decision and I’m sure there will be a big campaign to get the Government to change its mind.”Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Thousands of people have benefited from the work provided by the Union Learning Fund over many years, so it is disappointing that the government is proposing to cease funding.“Any substitute will struggle to match it for expertise and value for money. We urge government to think again.”A TUC spokesperson said: “The TUC is seeking urgent meetings with ministers about UnionLearn funding.“UnionLearn provides learning and skills opportunities to a quarter of a million working people each year.“The prime minister has been clear on the importance of skills to rebuilding the economy. UnionLearn should be recognised by ministers as a valuable national asset, with particular importance now for the nation’s plans to build back better.”Bob Harrison, chair of governors at Northern College and another key figure in the setting up of the fund, said it was “bizarre” that the PM could promote skills and then decide to end ULF funding.“The impending rise in unemployment makes the work of the UnionLearn representatives promoting learning in the workplace critical.”A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have taken the decision not to continue to provide grant funding to UnionLearn in the next financial year.“We will instead be investing the money to directly support further education colleges, other training providers and our new £2.5bn National Skills Fund to help more people learn new skills and prepare for the jobs of the future.“The prime minister also recently announced a new ‘lifetime skills guarantee’ offering adults without an A-level or equivalent qualification a fully-funded course.”Related... Exclusive: Use Sugar Tax Cash To Expand Free School Meals, Ministers Urged Unis May End Lectures Early To Get Students Home For Christmas Teachers Could Sue Gavin Williamson Over Test And Trace Failures
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Jimmy Kimmel dinged Donald Trump Jr. on Wednesday, claiming President Donald Trump’s eldest son had just said “one of the saddest things I’ve heard on Fox News.”Trump Jr. — who Kimmel has feuded with on multiple previous occasions — told the conservative network’s “Fox & Friends” show that his father, during his hospitalisation for the coronavirus, was “literally rushing to get me off the phone because he had calls he had to make and work he had to do for the American people.”“It’s sort of amazing, some things never change,” Trump Jr. added. “He’s always been that way for his entire life.”Kimmel doubted Trump Jr.’s spin on the short call.“Oh, Don Jr. That’s not why he was rushing you off the phone,” said the comedian, before singing the chorus of the Harry Chapin song “Cat’s In The Cradle.”“That is one of the saddest things I’ve heard on Fox News,” he added.Elsewhere in Kimmel’s monologue, the late night host came up with a terrifying new role for the fly that landed on Vice President Mike Pence’s face during Wednesday’s debate with Democratic vice presidential nominee senator Kamala Harris.He also exposed Trump’s meaningless boasts since March that a vaccine for Covid-19 would be available “very, very soon” with a cutting supercut. Check out Kimmel’s monologue here:Related... "No Country In The World" Is Going To Take Covid Lessons From Trump: Welsh Politicians Hit Back At US President Donald Trump Calls His Coronavirus Diagnosis: 'Blessing From God' It's Four Years Since Trump's 'Grab 'Em By The Pussy' Tape Leaked. Here's What's Changed Since Also on HuffPost
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“The Donald” it is not.On Friday, Netflix will premiere Deaf U, a coming-of-age documentary series that follows a tight-knit group of deaf students at Gallaudet University, the renowned private college for the deaf and hard of hearing located in Washington, D.C.The show — which is co-executive produced by Deaf model and activist Nyle DiMarco — promises an “unprecedented, unfiltered, and often unexpected look inside the Deaf community,” according to a press release. And a promo clip Netflix dropped for the show on Thursday seems to deliver on those goods. In the clip, the main cast breaks down a little Deaf culture for the audience by explaining sign names ― the special signs that are used to identify specific individuals in American Sign Language.“Instead of spelling the names out,” one cast member signs, “we use sign names based on our traits.”Several cast members then tell the stories behind their own sign names, which vary from having very blue eyes to being obsessed with candy.Lydia Callis, a nationally certified sign language interpreter, advocate and child of a deaf parent, explained in a 2015 HuffPost blog post that sign names can’t be chosen by the individual and are given to them by a member of the Deaf community.Your sign name is a “major part of your deaf identity” according to Callis, and because you can’t simply change your own sign name, “these names carry a history and personality all their own.”“While it might seem like a novelty to hearing people, having an ASL name is very meaningful for those in the deaf community, and it could even be considered an honour,” Callis wrote. “These names aren’t just given out to anyone — they are a [rite] of passage into the deaf community.”She concluded: “To have a name sign means you are officially part of the Deaf world.”So President Donald Trump should definitely not be offended whatsoever by his sign name — which the Deaf U cast members explain looks like this: Or, ya know, a comb-over flapping in the wind.“You can tell if someone’s a Trump supporter — they will spell out his name: T-R-U-M-P,” one cast member explains. “But if you don’t like the man, you’re gonna go like this …” (see above).He added: “’Cause we all know that man has a toupee.”It seems like this sign name is generally accepted in the Deaf community. The Washington Post reported in 2016 that if someone wanted to sign Trump’s name in ASL, they should “emulate what might happen if a stiff wind came in contact with Trump’s hair.”“Deaf people gave Trump a sign name so he should feel honored,” a cast member says in the “Deaf U” clip.Hey, whether he likes it or not, it does echo his signature look.Watch the trailer for Deaf U below.
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Ministers are under pressure to use “sugar tax” cash to pay for food schemes for poorer families as the Covid-19 economic fallout takes hold. A letter signed by 108 health and children’s experts, seen by HuffPost UK, calls on chancellor Rishi Sunak to target the soft drinks industry and spend the money on healthy food for youngsters. It warns the Covid-19 pandemic will hit deprived areas harder, with 2.3 million UK children now thought to be at risk of food insecurity. Four in five children are not getting their five-a-day, the letter adds. Signed by 29 councils’ public health directors, many of which cover “red wall” constituency areas in the north and Midlands, as well as charities and mayors, the plea to the government follows high-profile free school meals campaigning by Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford.It calls on Sunak, health secretary Matt Hancock and education secretary Gavin Williamson to back five key policy changes.  As well as the sugar tax investment, it calls for an expansion of free school meals and holiday hunger programmes to all youngsters whose families receive Universal Credit (UC) and the extension of fruit and veg schemes to all primary school age children. The group also want the government to raise the value of the “healthy start” vouchers in line with inflation to £4.25, and for ministers to guarantee that pregnant women and families with a baby who claim UC are eligible. Vera Zakharov, coordinator for Sustain, the charity which has been the driving force behind the appeal, said: “Local leaders have spoken, and children’s food access needs to be a front and centre priority for policymakers.“Government has a unique opportunity this year to show leadership on safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the next generation by championing fiscal policies that provide a nutritional safety net to some of the most vulnerable children and families.“We are urging ministers to spend public money wisely by investing in children’s health.” The call is backed by community leaders in cities and regions experiencing some of the worst rates of child poverty, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield and Manchester. Elected mayors from Bristol and Middlesbrough are also backing the calls, alongside food poverty groups across the country.The Covid-19 crisis has put food insecurity and health inequalities in the spotlight.Research by the Food Foundation earlier this year found 14% of adults living with children reported experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity in the last six months. It is estimated some 2.3 million children live in these households.Sustain adds that studies have shown that four in five children are not reaching their five-a-day requirement for fruit and vegetables. Andrea Fallon, director of public health for Rochdale Council, said: “Covid has shone a light on the impact of long-term inequalities in health particularly in the north of England and Greater Manchester and these inequalities are highly likely to get worse. “We urge government to take action now to ensure that children and families have access to good food as this is a key foundation for good health and wellbeing and as such an essential part of getting a good start in life.”Mark Adams, public health director for South Tees, who signed the letter, said: “These policies will add much needed national support to our local priorities of tackling obesity, particularly amongst children. They are also essential in narrowing the health inequalities that we face between South Tees and the England average, and also between communities within our area.”Sunak has temporarily boosted Universal Credit by £20 as the lockdown sparked a huge rise in claims and unemployment. The sugar tax was forecast to raise £520m in its first year but that figure was revised down to £275m as companies adjusted products to avoid the levy. The government was also forced to extend free school meals over the summer holidays amid fears many children could go hungry.The chancellor is set to hold a comprehensive spending review this year, but a date has yet to be confirmed. Related... 13 U-Turns Boris Johnson's Government Has Been Forced To Make During The Pandemic Marcus Rashford Hits Back At Tory MP Over Child Hunger Tweet What It's Like To Have To U-Turn In Government
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The government has been accused of wasting “huge amounts of money” after reportedly spending millions settling a lawsuit over a Lighthouse Lab contract. The BBC reported on Thursday that the government had agreed a settlement amounting to some £2m following a lawsuit over how it chose who should be awarded an IT contract for the new Covid laboratories. Diagnostics AI, a British company, claimed that it had been swept aside by officials in favour of UgenTec, a European company, despite allegedly spotting some of the positive Covid-19 cases its rival missed.The company went on to sue the government, describing the procurement process as “unfair and unlawful”. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has vehemently denied any claims of wrongdoing, and is in the process of settling the case – which means their selection process won’t be publicly scrutinised in the courtroom. It also added that the final figure of the settlement remains subject to agreement. Some have criticised the government for the decision to settle, raising concerns regarding the transparency of the government’s expensive private contracts paid for with public money during the crisis. Shadow cabinet minister Rachel Reeves told HuffPost UK: “No public transparency, and plenty of money wasted: seems like that’s just how this Tory government likes it these days. “This government’s incompetent way of handing out contracts like these not only wastes huge amounts of money while local public services crumble - but more efficient and experienced British businesses also miss out while massive companies take the spoils with little transparency or accountability.”The government has repeatedly been accused of maintaining secrecy around its coronavirus spending, with a major HuffPost UK investigation published in August revealing “scandalous and shocking” revelations about the way taxpayers’ money was handed out. In the wake of the Diagnostics AI case, Steve Goodrich of Transparency International UK told HuffPost UK that months into the pandemic the government should be working to open up its tendering processes once more. He said: “Earlier this year, government was under immense pressure to expedite the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including shortcutting usual procurement processes.“Whilst uncompetitive tendering sped-up supply chains, it has also raised valid questions as to who was awarded what contract, when and for how much.“Now eight months into the pandemic, it’s time the public sector returned to open and competitive tendering to avoid further damage to trust and possible litigation.”According to the BBC the contract Diagnostics AI missed out on was worth in excess of £1m, with settlement costs coming to an estimated £2m. The company had hoped that their software would be used in thee Lighthouse Labs – which were set up around the country in response to the pandemic – in order to determine whether the graphs produced following analysis of Covid testing swabs showed a positive or negative result. During a trial run of 2,000 samples, Diagnostics AI claimed there were issues with UgenTec’s analysis – alleging it had found negative results when they were positive or inconclusive. Diagnostics AI said it had taken legal action over the matter as they believed it was “significant public importance to highlight the serious and harmful consequences of a biased procurement process for the British public’s health.”A spokesperson added: “NHS experts including leading virologists confirmed our findings - that the system the Lighthouse Labs chose was flawed and produced incorrect results. This gives rise to serious questions about the accuracy of the testing process.“Diagnostics.ai provide the only system for accurate PCR result analysis that has been independently peer-reviewed and publicly validated by the NHS. “We hope that the issues raised in this claim will make the UK government reflect carefully on how vital it is to have an impartial, rigorous and comprehensively validated procurement process for the provision of all such crucial services”.DHSC have slammed the company’s claims as “inaccurate”, with a department spokesperson saying: “We completely refute this inaccurate claim about the accuracy of results - the tests are reliable and effective, the laboratories that undertake them have been reviewed and assessed by experts and the percentage of false negatives or positives is tiny.“This was a commercial dispute over a software contract where a number of factors were considered before it was awarded, which is still subject to final agreement over costs.”Diagnostics AI also sued two non-profit companies owned and financed by the government, UK Biocentre and Medicines Delivery Catapult (MDC), which were in charge of the process to decide which company to use for the Lighthouse contracts. The BBC reported that Diagnostics AI had repeatedly asked for information about what services were required by government and how their bid would be evaluated. According to the company, that information never came – though they say claim UgenTech were provided with the details they needed. In the situation of a national emergency, as declared by the PM, the government can have the power to procure services without going through the usual tendering process.But Diagnostics AI claim that because the company had been recommended to UK Biocentre alongside UgenTec they were therefore both being considered – and so say the ensuing process was unfair. HuffPost UK has contacted both the UK Biocentre and MDC – who strongly refuted Diagnostic AI’s allegations in statements to the BBC – for comment. Related... Revealed: Who Profited From The Government’s Coronavirus Spending Boom Revealed: Government Secrecy Over Nightingale Hospital Costs And Private Firms That Built Them
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You’re reading Sex Diaries, a HuffPost UK Personal series about how we are (or aren’t) having sex. To share your story, get in touch on [email protected] single at 50 after 23 years of marriage was the most disorienting experience of my life – more unsettling than any challenges I had shared with my then-husband, like navigating dirt tracks around Africa or bringing home a new baby.But like any major transition, life after divorce meant I could open doors I’d never considered knocking on. I decided being single was not a problem to be fixed but an opportunity to be enjoyed, much like finding myself at an ice cream buffet with a spoon and no sampling limit. I vowed to be curious. As I was entering menopause, I was suddenly less interested in appearances and more so on my own happiness. Midlife felt like puberty with wrinkles – I’d occasionally snarl at everyone in my orbit, but my life possibilities felt vast. Unlike puberty, with a seemingly infinite amount of time ahead, the other side of 40 lent new urgency and focus to my pursuits. I began doing work I loved and living more simply. I also began prioritising my sexual pleasure and discovered how much I didn’t know after decades with one partner. I gave myself permission to date without an agenda and chose men who were most unlike myself.I gave myself permission to date without an agenda and chose men who were most unlike myself. These men – foreign academics, a tantric therapist, unemployed artists – offered new insight into the pleasures of sex. Saying yes to those pleasures, saying yes to my sex life, quickly became a midlife mantra. With a variety of partners, I learned more about my body’s likes and dislikes: that spanking didn’t feel good though it did throw me into a fit of giggles; that sex with multiple people was more distracting than exciting (but still fascinating). My libido surged for several years during the perimenopause, not uncommon as the end of a woman’s fertility approaches. But as I moved through menopause – and my frenetic dating agenda – I gradually lost my desire for casual sex. Three years after divorce, I wanted to cultivate a long-term partnership again. But this search did not resist moving quickly to the bedroom. I think we can understand much about a person by the way they relate to us sexually. If a man was more interested in his own orgasm than in mine, I found him to be self-centred in many other ways. I looked for a lover to be generous and curious in bed, to laugh easily if our bodies made funny noises. These qualities usually extended to the way he approached life and relationships.Midlife sex and love is vastly different from what I was looking for as a young woman.I have also learned that timing is critical when looking for midlife love. Someone newly out of a long-term relationship is very often, as I was, ‘tapping the herd’ – that is, enjoying a variety of other partners, discovering how love might be different after first marriages flounder and the kids have been raised. The first few years of dating at midlife, I couldn’t offer a man monogamy, and when I tried it often ended in tears. When I myself dated newly-separated or divorced men at the point I was ready for a relationship, I was the one pounding my fists in frustration – until I accepted that these men also needed to go through their own post-divorce reckonings.Midlife sex and love is vastly different from what I was looking for as a young woman. I’m a romantic realist now, more clear-eyed over the compromises required of a partnership. And the relationships I’ve had in middle age have been sexually thrilling and emotionally deep. I forgive more easily but also quickly walk away from bad behaviour. Sex reflects who we are as partners and I’m glad I’ve rejected feeling of shame around experimenting with many people. And though I still haven’t found the person I want to grow (even) older with, the journey has become less disorienting and more valuable than I ever imagined. Rather like exploring dirt tracks in a foreign country – now with my own compass.Karin Jones writes the monthly column, ‘Savvy Love’ for Erotic Review magazine, and is writing a memoir about menopause and midlife datingHave a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on [email protected] HuffPost UK Personal Sex Diaries I’m 53, And Sleeping With An 83-Year-Old. Here's The Truth About ‘Geriatric Sex’ I’m Thinking About Casual Sex For The First Time Since Coronavirus. This Is How It’s Going Sex After Miscarriage Is Hard. This Is How We Got Back Into The Swing
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Boris Johnson wasn’t lying at this week’s Conservative party conference when he said he’d “had enough” of Covid-19. You and us both, prime minister.The coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of ending soon. The knowledge that a second national lockdown is likely, that social distancing and masks may be our reality for months to come, and that Covid-19 cases continue to climb, (even as the race for a vaccine quickens pace), can feel pretty overwhelming.As one Twitter user wrote: “I’ve always *intellectually* known that the pandemic and the restrictions were going to go on for a long time, but I think it’s only this last week that it’s sunken in as a reality. I seem to be back to the lockdown listlessness and occasional panic of March/April.”It was April when we first asked HuffPost readers the question: how are you feeling? We wanted to know how the country was experiencing this crisis, the different stages of emotion, reaction and resilience to the pandemic. As HuffPost UK editor in chief, Jess Brammar, wrote at the time: “They will tell us a story just as important as the statistics and political rhetoric.”And you told us – in your hundreds – sharing your honest emotions that ranged from apathy to anger, and which varied day to day, week to week.Thank you to everyone who got in touch. Prompted by your responses, we’ve spoken to experts in fields from grief and anxiety, to work and financial wellbeing, seeking advice on dealing with the ongoing mental and physical toil of the pandemic – and we continue to do so, gathering those resources here.Now, ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10, we’re once again inviting readers to use this Google form to share how you are feeling. When we first asked the question, we were six weeks into lockdown. Now, six months on and with tightened restrictions looming, some people are experiencing a strong sense of déjà vu. For many more, the precarity of work, finances, family or home life is having a serious impact on mental health.After a spring cooped up at home, “social bubbles” and summer’s lockdown easing offered some respite – even as the vulnerable continued to shield. Then came local lockdowns, the return to school and university, and the new rule of six. Now we’re in autumn and facing down the long winter. Lockdown fatigue, both emotional and – in the case of long Covid – physical, is rife. It’s a lot, which is why you can update us regularly or send a one-off message – whatever you feel comfortable sharing. We know the mental health toil is more serious for some than others. Good and bad days take us all by surprise. So, tell us, how are you feeling?Related... Your Self-Care Toolkit For Dealing With The Tough Months Ahead Racism Is A Mental Health Crisis. We Need To Support Each Other – Here’s How Here’s How To Cope With Lockdown Déjà Vu Useful websites and helplinesMind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email [email protected] Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.
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About five years ago, when I was living in Manchester for uni, I was about to be outed as transgender to my family back home in Birmingham. For my safety, I wanted to stay away.After being essentially homeless for a short while, I ended up living in a halfway house. Going into this place ready for a relatively long stay and thinking this would my home for however long I needed, I thought well, I don’t want to lie about who I really am. But when I would introduce myself to people and tell them my name and my gender identity, I could immediately tell things were going to be difficult. When things turned violent with other residents, I was told I should ‘tone down’ the whole gender thing.They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do. But this was just the first time I faced housing discrimination because of of my gender identity.When I have tried to find places to live since then, if my race wasn’t already a hindrance if not a dealbreaker, I feel like I can’t tell landlords or potential housemates about my gender identity or my sexuality because it might be ‘too much’.Landlords often assumed our relationship wasn’t as strong or based in love as the straight couples looking at the same places.It’s horrible to say now, but I always felt like I needed to hide parts of myself. I would justify it by thinking that maybe it’s fair enough if people can’t handle all these intersections, maybe it my fault for having all these different parts of my identity. I would tell myself that maybe I did need to tone it down after all.Years later, when I was trying to move in with a female partner, landlords often assumed our relationship wasn’t as strong or based in love as the straight couples looking at the same places. I’m sure every landlord has concerns about what would happen if a couple breaks up, but for us it was always such an issue it became embarrassing. My name, Robyn, is something of blank slate, where people fill in their own idea of my gender and race. Sometimes when I meet a landlord I can almost see the cogs turning in the head as they think ‘this isn’t what I signed up for’.My partner, who was white, made it very clear that this kind of thing never happened before they met me – not to blame me but to let me know I wasn’t imagining what was happening. I would regularly be asked rude things about my gender identity, about my past, about my relationship, about whether my partner and I wanted to get married... It got to the point where flat viewings became more like therapy sessions.And it’s not just me. I hear nightmare stories constantly about the way friends and the LGBTQ+ community are treated – whether they’re moving in as couples and not seen as legitimate like we were, or whether they’re treated as if they’re “just friends”. Many friends feel like they have no option but to live with other queer people when perhaps they want to live in a different area or different city entirely. They feel like anything other than living with other queer people would be dangerous. And lot of us will take a place on offer because it’s their only choice, rather than stay with abusive or homophobic family members.Having limited options for housing has a knock-on effect for every aspect of my life.I’ve thought the same too – I live alone now and often think I should move into somewhere with other people like me just to feel safe. I’m disconnected, none of my friends live near me, nobody I know lives around me, and to see anyone I do usually have to travel quite a bit. Having limited options for housing has a knock-on effect for every aspect of my life. Considerations have to be made for what employment I could potentially reach safely and regularly, which supermarkets I’m able to get to for groceries, which doctors surgery catchment I fall under and what public transport links are nearby. These are all things most would consider when moving home but in my situation these feel less like considerations and more like taking what I can get and having to make it work somehow.I’m more comfortable with my identity now, and I feel like I’m at the point where if you can’t handle me being myself. I’m alright moving on from whatever opportunity it is. But there’s a definite fear of going through the whole process of finding a house again. Last time, I had my partner but now, living alone, I know that going through estate agents, looking for housing is a process that is daunting, even terrifying right now. I know I would still need to think twice about what I wear when I meet landlords for the first time, as if I’m going to a job interview and need to dress more masc than I normally would, so they won’t ‘suspect’ anything about my identity.I think a lot of people might have this idea that these concerns are quite trivial. But when you’re LGBTQ+ or a person of colour, or both, these are the sort of things you have to think about – not just in housing but in all our everyday interactions. Discrimination has such far-reaching implications that a single comment or incident is never just that. Those implications have rarely felt more exemplified than in the fight for fair, safe and stable housing as a trans person of colour in Britain.Robyn is a writer, activist and ambassador for akt, the LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity. Follow them on Twitter at @spacekidrobynMore from HuffPost UK Personal I'm Trans, Autistic, And More Common Than You'd Think Non-Binary People Like Me Won’t Fit In Until We Change Our Exclusionary Language What Being A Fat Sex Worker Taught Me About Men And Desire
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As the days shorten, the mercury drops, and the leaves turn different shades before falling to the ground, it becomes increasingly hard to motivate yourself to leave the house. We’ve all been there. The cold and rainy weather can be all kinds of off-putting, not to mention the fact your window of opportunity to get out in daylight is shrinking: mornings are dark, evenings are darker still. So that leaves... lunchtime.Those working from home might even go a whole week without stepping foot outside. Sadly, this isn’t great news for our health – especially at a time that’s already emotionally and physically draining.“There’s a lot of research about the change of seasons and how our mood is affected by this,” Grace Warwick, a psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member, tells HuffPost UK. “And then, of course, we’ve got everything that’s going on with lockdown.” Simply going outside can raise a lot of questions for us right now, she adds – “The whole contrast between out there and in here is getting greater.”Related... 6 Hacks For Socialising Outside, Even In The Cold Weather There are many reasons why you may not be heading outside as much. Routine is an important factor in getting us out and about, but working from home can mean your routine shifts drastically. But there’s also so much to think (and worry) about with Covid, that we’re no longer prioritising our own wellbeing.In short: everything is hard. But going outside is important. So, is it possible to train your mindset so you actually want to go out each day? Yes – but it very much depends on what drives you personally. Know the benefits it’ll bring to your whole day.One of the biggest benefits of being outside is the light exposure. “We know – and this is really important at the current time – that will help you get your daily dose of vitamin D,” says Warwick, “and vitamin D will help your mood.” (Just don’t forget your sunscreen.)As the season changes – and the light changes – it affects the circadian rhythm (your body’s natural rhythm). “A good thing to do is to walk early morning, within about an hour of waking, because that gets the light into your system at the right time,” says Warwick. “Strangely, that will help you sleep better in the evening. It gets you back into nature’s rhythm, if you like. And improved sleep will obviously improve many things for you, like your mood.”Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant, often recommends people working from home tweak the structure of their day to get that natural light. As winter approaches, he advises going on a walk mid-morning or in the afternoon, and adding that hour of time you’ve taken out onto the end of the day when it’s getting dark.If we don’t take advantage of daylight, we can experience a rise in melatonin, which makes us sleepy. Our serotonin also drops, says Warwick, which makes us more inclined to depression. This can create a vicious circle where we don’t leave the house, we don’t get enough daylight, and we feel worse the longer we stay indoors. “Light, as simple as that seems, has a very powerful impact on lots of different things,” says Warwick.There are other benefits, too. “It reduces our stress levels, produces endorphins and that’ll help regulate our mood. We can genuinely feel more energised just from the nuts and bolts of being out there and getting fresh air,” she says. A Mental Health Foundation survey found getting outside was a major way for people to deal with the stress of the pandemic. The most popular ways to ease stress included walking (59% said this helped them cope) and visiting green spaces, such as parks (50% said it helped).Related... Your Self-Care Toolkit For Dealing With The Tough Months Ahead Retrain your brain. Warwick advises people to think about their ‘push’ and ‘pull’ motivations. Push motivations are you saying: ‘I’m going to make myself do this and I’m going to think about the benefits of doing it’. This is a good one for those who find it hard to stay motivated. It’s about giving you that literal *push* to leave the house – you think about the benefits, you make a decision, you stick to it.Pull motivations are about breaking the rut you’re in and actually *wanting* to make a change, rather than forcing it, says Warwick. And one way to do this is by thinking about how getting outside can be really quite joyful.Reframing how you think of winter and the colder months might be a good place to start. Brits can be quite negative about winter, seeing it as a dark and challenging time, says Chambers, whereas countries like Scandinavia see it as lots of fun. “It’s a good opportunity for people to get their comfy gloves, scarves, woolly hats, and a nice warm coat and explore a bit,” he says.“Sometimes it’s about reframing winter wear as being really comfy – if you invest in a nice hat, nice scarf and gloves it’s a pretty nice feeling when you’re tucked up and that icy airs hits your face – it gives you motivation and that cognitive wake-up.”Enjoy the beauty of nature.Remembering there’s still a natural – and beautiful – world out there can help us get outside of our own bubble of working from home, dealing with childcare, and worrying about a million other things.Connecting with the world “can be calming for the mind and the soul,” says Warwick. Rather than thinking: “I should probably go for a walk on my lunch break”, remind yourself: “I actually want to go outside and connect with nature.”Warwick, who is also a mindfulness teacher, recommends taking mindful walks that take note of the changing seasons – pick a tree on your route and track how it changes every time you walk past. “It can be nice to extend that by taking photographs, so you track your walk,” she says. “There’s something extremely grounding and calming about that.”Related... Birdsong And Blossoms: We've Never Appreciated Nature More Than We Do Now Be playful.There’s a potential for playfulness when we go outside which we lose sight of as we grow up. Think of the muddy puddles, the welly walks, the snowball fights. Shift your attitude and make it fun.“We forget playfulness in all of this – we used to go out to play, when we were little. I would encourage people to think about that [playfulness], if they don’t want the calming effect,” says Walker. Chambers agrees and urges people to “be a child”. He explains: “The beauty of winter is going outside and being curious. And that’s so important. That curiosity is what gets us out of our comfort zone, experiencing new things.”Tick it off.If your life is ruled by to-do lists, then simply scheduling in some time to go on a walk can be really helpful – and it also gives you the satisfaction of getting to tick it off afterwards (basically, the best feeling ever).Not into jotting down? Schedule a calendar notification or an alarm so you get a reminder that it’s time to go outdoors.Use your outdoor time to be proactive.If none of these solutions appeal, perhaps you need to consider being proactive when you’re out – could you visit the bank, run an errand, or join forces with others in the community to do a lunchtime litter-pick? This could also help with those in need of more social connection.Those who hate spending time alone might be more reluctant to go out on a solo walk. Is there anyone in your neighbourhood who might want to go on a stroll at the same time? Perhaps a friend would be up for driving to yours so you can go to a park on your lunch break – or vice versa?“Start to get things in your diary that you’re looking forward to – that excitement and anticipation bolsters you,” says Chambers. This, in turn, makes you want to go out a bit more rather than sitting in all the time.Related... Yes, You Can Buy A CBD-Infused Face Mask. It Was Only A Matter Of Time Stacey Solomon: ‘My Whole Life, I’ve Had To Prove I’m Not An Idiot’ The Difference Between Stress And Burnout (And How To Tell Which You Have)
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Theresa May has savaged Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings’ housebuilding reforms, warning they make a mockery of their claim to be “levelling up” the north and south of England.In a Commons debate, the former prime minister ridiculed her successor’s proposals to replace local planning controls with an algorithm that will “distribute” an annual 337,000 homes across the country.The scheme, reportedly the brainchild of the PM’s chief advisor Cummings, could deliver an additional five million homes across England in the next 15 years, with nearly a third in rural counties.May was joined by 31 Tory MPs, including six of her former cabinet ministers such as Jeremy Hunt and Damian Green, as they unanimously passed a motion demanding that the project be paused until after parliament has voted on it.The PM has been bullish in recent days as the Tory rebellion has grown, but backbencher Bob Seely warned him that the government reforms represented “not levelling up but concreting out” many areas.The Sunday Times reported this summer that Cummings had been working with communities secretary Robert Jenrick devise the radical planning changes, which are based on US-style zonal developments.A petition opposing the move has already attracted nearly 150,000 signatures.One Tory MP told HuffPost UK: “This is government by spad [special advisor] and proves that people like Dominic Cummings have no idea how to implement policy.“This could have a longer impact on the government than Covid. If they go ahead, it won’t be us they have to deal with, it will be the electorate in the local elections next year and the year after that and after that.”The criticism came as Cummings. who has set up a new Nasa-style ‘command centre’ to better coordinate No.10′s oversight of Whitehall, is facing fresh scrutiny from parliament over his role.The Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee on Thursday launched a new inquiry into “the role and status of the prime minister’s office”.May, who has already criticised Johnson over his plan to break international law on Brexit, was withering in her criticism of the “ill-conceived” reforms.She said: “The problem with these proposals, the problem with this algorithm on housing numbers, is that it doesn’t guarantee a single extra home being built and, far from levelling up, it forces more investment into London and the south.”In a pointed reference to this year’s A-level fiasco, the former premier said: “I would have thought that the Government might have abandoned algorithms by now.”“What this new algorithm does, as regards to levelling up, is flies in the face of the government’s flagship policy. The government needs to think again and come back with a comprehensive proposal to this House for a proper debate and, dare I say it, a meaningful vote,” she said.Seely earlier warned the reforms could “hollow out our cities” and “urbanise our suburbs”.“I support levelling up 100% but, broadly speaking, the danger in these new targets in the way they’ve been shaped is that the biggest housing increases will be to rural shires and suburbs, and the biggest falls are in the urban north and Midlands.“The worst of all worlds would be to hollow out our cities, to urbanise our suburbs and suburbanise the countryside and yet I fear that is what we may accidentally be achieving. That is not levelling up but is concreting out.”Hunt said: “The argument for building new houses has been won but what is on the table risks eroding local democracy, reducing affordable housing and encroaching on our beautiful countryside.”May’s former deputy Damian Green added: “We are in danger of turning the Garden of England into a patio.”Conservative former cabinet minister Chris Grayling told the government he could not support the housing algorithm, claiming the approach is “wrong”.“The reality is if we go ahead with a housing approach of the kind the government is setting out in this algorithm, what it will do is it will continue to suck economic growth, the brightest and best people in our society and opportunity into the south-east of England – exactly the opposite to what this country actually needs to achieve,” he said.Consultation on the government’s White Paper on the reforms is due to end this month and MPs think legislation is likely in the new year.Housing minister Chris Pincher assured MPs that their concerns would be reflected on “very carefully”.“I am especially mindful that honourable members are concerned about geographic imbalance – concerns about too many homes in the south and not enough in the Midlands and the north,” he said.“Equally, I recognise anxieties about what these changes might mean for our countryside in contrast to our urban areas.”“I want to reassure the House that through this consultation process we are committed to addressing any supposed imbalances.”The prime minister’s official spokesperson said he had not heard May’s remarks but said: “Unnecessary delays to the planning system are stopping us from building a better Britain.“We must reform the planning system to cut red tape and make the system faster while ensuring councils and local people can decide where developments should and shouldn’t go.”Related... Dominic Cummings Set Bad Example For People In Locked Down North-East, Tory MP Says The Top Gear Hosts Couldn't Resist A Dig At Dominic Cummings As They Kicked Off New Series Test And Trace Hits New Low With Worst 'Contact Tracing' Rate Ever
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John McDonnell has called for a “severe” national lockdown to allow the government to sort out the deep problems in its NHS Test and Trace service.The Labour former shadow chancellor told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast that he “can’t see any other route” through the recent spike in coronavirus infections.“I know it’s unpopular,” the first senior Labour MP to call for a lockdown said.“Someone put it to me the other day about the economic effects, and people will lose their jobs and the companies being hit, that will have health effects.“But you can revive the economy over time, you can’t resurrect the dead.”It came as MPs were shown unpublished official data by chief medical officer Chris Whitty – leaked to HuffPost UK – suggesting more than 32% of Covid-19 “exposure” was in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants.In a briefing with northern and Midlands MPs, health minister Edward Argar however insisted the government had still not made a decision on whether hospitality venues in locally locked down areas should be ordered to close to curb infections.The approach to local lockdowns has sparked anger among northern leaders, who feel they have not been consulted and are concerned that economically devastating restrictions are not even bringing down the number of infections.McDonnell said people are “totally confused” about the patchwork of rules, which are “very difficult to enforce”, and called for “absolute simplicity” via a national lockdown, including stay at home orders, a ban on households mixing and the closure of pubsThe Hayes and Harlington MP said he had daughters in Pendle and Burnley and a cousin in Liverpool and pointed out that London infection rates are worse than they were in many northern areas when they were placed into lockdown.“I can’t see any other route through – to have some form of quite severe lockdown for a limited period while we get test and trace up and running effectively, and in that way I think we’ll preserve lives,” he said.“I just think there’s a clarity, an absolute clarity about what the rules are wherever you are, that’s quite important.”Acknowledging his views were “hardline”, McDonnell added: “I’m really worried that we face the nightmare situation that we were worried about four months ago, that we now go into the normal flu pandemic situation and that the coronavirus spike happens at the same time.”But he acknowledged that the idea of a two-week circuit break could work.“The government were talking about that two-week contact break, I want to see a break based upon the ability to deliver an effective test and trace system,” McDonnell said.“Because unless we get that up and running, and if that takes a couple of weeks let’s do it, unless we get that up and running I don’t know how we can manage this situation.”The senior Labour MP also praised Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who this week banned the sale of alcohol indoors at pubs, restaurants  and cafes for more than two weeks.“I think the way that she’s approached it is the route that I would go down, I might be a bit more severe in some cases,” he said.It came as 149 MPs were called into a briefing with health minister Argar and chief medical officer Whitty.Slides leaked to HuffPost UK from the meeting illustrated the government’s concerns about Covid spreading in pubs and restaurants.The MPs were also shown slides outlining hospitalisations from coronavirus rising, particularly in Yorkshire, the north-east and the north-west.But Argar batted away questions about reports that hospitality venues across the north and Midlands could be ordered to close from Monday under a new three-tier local lockdown system, insisting ministers were still taking decisions.One MP suggested ministers have worked out what restrictions will apply in the lower two tiers but not what should form the basis of the harshest local lockdowns in “tier-3”.One told HuffPost UK: “(Argar) was asked about the possibility of a circuit break lockdown of two to three weeks and it wasn’t really answered.“He passed it over to Chris Whitty to answer without touching the policy, just going on the science.“I think we might be going into tier-3 lockdown but nobody knows what tier-3 is and I haven’t heard that officially.“They said it was a decision for ministers and they were working hard to get clarity.”Related... Test And Trace Hits New Low With Worst 'Contact Tracing' Rate Ever 10pm Curfew To Stay As Labour Says It Will NOT Vote Against It Next Week Northern Leaders Rage At 'Disastrous' Covid Measures That Will Deepen North-South Divide
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Aldis Hodge first experienced racism aged eight. “I grew up in New Jersey, around the KKK and all that,” he tells HuffPost UK. “At a very young age I realised the world treated me as ‘less than.’ People would often say, ‘oh you wanna grow up to be a rapper or basketball player?’“That pissed me off at eight years old. There’s nothing wrong with those careers, those are fine careers, but you’re only saying that because I’m Black. If that’s the only option you want to give me and my people, as opposed to presuming that I can be a doctor or a scientist... “I was insulted because you put a cap on my intellectual potential based off of your ignorance and negligence of my culture.”It was during this period that Aldis decided he “wanted to be anything with engineering in the title,” in a defiant attempt to deconstruct toxic stereotypes about people of colour.And the actor, known for his roles in period drama Underground, biopic Brian Banks and the Oscar-hyped Clemency, managed to do just that. Alongside his acting credentials the words “horological engineer” appear on his Instagram profile: that’s engineering speak for watch designer. It’s forgivable to find it a tad unusual for an actor to also have a penchant for designing watches, rather than posing wearing them in expensive-looking ads, but Aldis sees all of his work - from on screen to behind his watch-making counter - as sharing a similar purpose.“People like to separate the two but really they’re not,” the 33-year-old explains down the phone from Los Angeles. “For all intents and purposes, art is my language, that’s how I connect and communicate with the world, that’s how I understand the world.”A familiar sight on TV, Aldis is experiencing a new rush of attention after Clemency, the film offering a fresh perspective on life on Death Row, premiered at Sundance last year and won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. The Prize has a reputation as a possible precursor to Oscar noms, although for Clemency that wasn’t the case. View this post on InstagramA post shared by Clemency (@clemencythefilm) on Mar 17, 2020 at 10:58am PDTWith Clemency, Aldis says he has achieved activism. The film presents the story of life on Death Row from the perspective of one worker whose day-to-day is ending people’s lives. It’s threaded with the idea that some of these people may not have committed the crimes they have been imprisoned for, such as Aldis’ character Anthony Woods, and asks the broader question about the case for and against capital punishment.“I’ve only seen the film three times, I think that’s about as much as I can take,” reflects Aldis. “I think it’s a great film, but it is emotionally taxing in the best way possible. You’ve got to temper yourself. Oftentimes we’re afforded the luxury of being able to ignore on a daily basis, but this is real - some people can’t ignore it.”Another recent project is The Sunshine Cake, a podcast for children and families released in support of the GEANCO charity, raising money to support the Covid-19 relief effort in Nigeria. Aldis’s podcast is one in a series which includes editions read by Thandie Newton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Megalyn Echikunwoke.“I love kids, man,” he says of the podcast. “I enjoy making kids smile and educating kids. That is my greatest joy.” Many of the children in the podcast have a disability but the story is about finding positive perspectives. “I thought it was really teachable for a lot of kids, to shape up their mindset to think about ways to reframe the positive in a situation,” he says.Despite the Clemency hype, Aldis describes himself as “nowhere near yet accomplished.” He’s open minded about which roles will further his career, from commercial roles to issues-focussed ones such as Clemency and Brian Banks, about a high school footballer falsely accused of rape. That said, broadly he hopes to make that eight-year-old frustrated New Jersey boy proud.“I want a career of work that serves a couple of agendas,” he says. “One, educate people on my culture; we’re still so very far regressed in our cultural understanding and acceptance. And beyond that I want to have a career that is a part of creating a change, the necessary change that needs to be seen as it relates to this industry for opportunity. “I want to be a part of the reason people normalise seeing Black people in positions of regularity, normalcy, commonly accepted just as human beings as opposed to being a specified subject.” He gives an example of a clichéd Black role. “I’m here because I’m Black, I’m this and this, and because I’m Black it has to be explained.” Thoughts of those childhood memories of adults asking about a career in basketball resound.  View this post on InstagramA post shared by Aldis Hodge (@aldis_hodge) on Jul 21, 2020 at 6:58pm PDT“We’re tired of that, we’ve been tired of that, it’s exhausting,” he says. In response, in the hours spent away from filming and watch-making, Aldis spends his time reading. Either as many scripts as he can, or wider research that will inspire his agenda-setting work.Another way Aldis works to educate people on Black culture is through the recent Black Lives Matter protests, which he has spent time at. Attending, whether to publish a photo on Instagram or for the purpose of real change, is a good thing, he says, although he fears that progress and assumed progress are two different things: the protests may have made the news, but are people wrongly assuming that institutional racism will be eradicated because of the work of a few hard months? “We’ve been here before with protests in the ’60s, we’ve been here in the ’90s, in the 1800s,” says Aldis. “People can’t get comfortable in thinking there’s change happening, no. Why?“Because we’ve been here before. We are on the precipice of change, but we have to maintain our work to maintain the change. True change is not momentary, it doesn’t happen in one year, it doesn’t happen in one particular month, it doesn’t happen with a few policies changing, true change happens through consistency. “This has to be a new set of changes that live out a lifetime - that’s real change. So can we keep this consistent? I don’t know if I’ll see change today, tomorrow, the next year, the next two years. I will know that change has been applied in the next ten, fifteen, twenty years.”It’s easy to read the headlines, hear the diversity conversations and to have hope - but to believe we have broken the systemic practices of racism in the US and around the world is a privileged perspective on an issue which pervades the lives of people of colour for a lifetime - not only a brief few months following a murder, like that of George Floyd. “We live this every single day,” Aldis says. “We’re always looking for means of trying to create a better life and better opportunities for ourselves so it’s regular life for us, it’s not simply a taboo subject matter or a hot subject of the moment, this is just everyday life.”“I see the inklings of change, but we should not get comfortable with believing that change has come already, we should get comfortable with believing that we are actively working for change and we still have to keep that work up to maintain the change. Don’t get lazy, don’t get comfortable.”This is integral work - but Aldis doesn’t necessarily define himself as an activist because his work isn’t always what he describes as on the “front line”. His activism hinges around the art he has grown up expressing himself through: be it painting, acting, watch-making or writing for screen, which he says has taken a back seat to watches of late.He’s yet to sell a script to a studio but his passion for doing so reflects the actor’s warmth for humankind. “I’ve always written and I’ve always wanted to push out stories because I want to be in a position of creating and supplying jobs to people,” he urges. “I want to be able to help someone else build the career of their dreams.” More than that, he wonders whether if all the time he’d spent on watches was spent writing scripts, he may have sold ten massive shows by this point, but he circles back to how everything in his professional sphere is unified, how art is his superpower. He reminds me how chilled he is with whichever piece of work he’s doing. “It doesn’t matter,” he says, “because my purpose is all the same.”READ MORE 'I Don’t Know How Anyone Is Not Saying Or Doing More': Megalyn Echikunwoke On The Extent Of Her Activism I May Destroy You's Paapa Essiedu On The Many Different Faces Of Kwame Trump Repeats False Claim About Black Lives Matter Origins
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Not a single Covid marshal has been recruited in the six areas of England with the highest levels of coronavirus. In September, Boris Johnson announced that a force of “Covid-secure” marshals would be introduced to ensure social distancing rules were being followed in town and city centres. But more than a month on, and amid surging levels of Covid-19, councils in the very hardest hit areas have said that a delay in government funds has tied their hands when it comes to recruiting the marshals. Areas with the highest rates of Covid-19* Manchester – 504.5 cases per 100,000 population Knowsley – 488.7 cases per 100,000 population Liverpool – 464.0 cases per 100,000 population Newcastle upon Tyne – 427.4 cases per 100,000 population Nottingham – 380.6 cases per 100,000 population Leeds – 311.5 cases per 100,000 population *Summary data from September 27 to October 3 It was only on Thursday – a full month after the prime minister’s speech – that the government announced £30 million to help cash-strapped councils to cover the cost of the new roles. Manchester City Council, Leeds City Council and Nottingham City Council are among the local authorities that told HuffPost UK they had been unable to recruit marshals due to the hold-up in funding and lack of any guidance from central government. “We do not have dedicated Covid marshals,” a spokesperson for Manchester City Council said ahead of the funding announcement. “The reason why is one that’s been well documented across other local authority areas – the government has not made any money available to do so.“That isn’t to say that we would never be able to get them in place, but until we are given the resources it’s an unlikely prospect.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Leeds City Council said they had been unable to hire marshals due to the “current financial challenges”.Also speaking before the government’s cash pledge, they said: “We do have a range of enforcement resources across the council and within West Yorkshire Police. “With no additional funding provided by the government for Covid marshals, this is not something we need or are able to implement at the current time.”It’s not just local authorities in the very-hardest hit areas that have yet to employ marshals, either.A wider investigation by Politics Home revealed that just four councils among the top 100 with high coronavirus infection rates had recruited people for the job.Councils told HuffPost UK they had instead been relying on existing staff to carry out enforcement duties. While Manchester said it had been depending on police and its own compliance officers, Leeds said it had a “range of enforcement resources across the council and within West Yorkshire Police”. A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council said it would not be hiring any marshals because its work with police and other partners to enforce the measures “goes above and beyond the role of the marshals mentioned by the prime minister”. “We have qualified environmental health, trading standards and licensing officers actively patrolling the city day and night,” they said. The local authority in Knowsley, which had the second highest coronavirus infection rate in the country between September 27 and October 3, said that while it currently did not have any Covid marshals it “would consider this type of role”. According to the government, Covid marshals have successfully been rolled out by a number of other councils in England – including Charnwood Borough Council, Blackpool Council and Northamptonshire County Council. On Thursday, local government secretary Robert Jenrick announced the £30 million would “support their [councils’] work on compliance and enforcement in their communities”. He also announced £30 million for police forces.Local authorities will be able to spend the money on Covid marshals, staff training and sharing Covid-19 guidance, the government said. The funding has been welcomed by the Local Government Association (LGA), which said it was “helpful” that councils would be able to determine how best to spend the money. The LGA’s Nesil Caliskan said: “It is good that government has recognised the pressures on council enforcement officers and will provide additional funding for councils to support the enforcement of Covid-19 laws.”She added: “The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing pressures on councils’ regulatory services, which in many places are now at tipping point.“As local authorities continue to lead local work to tackle Covid-19, the government needs to use the Spending Review to ensure councils have enough funding to maintain vital trading standards and environmental health services over the next six months and beyond.”Related... Covid Has Killed 122 Times More People Than The Flu In England And Wales Northern Mayors React With Fury To Prospect Of Pub Closures And Further Restrictions Alcohol Banned Indoors In Scottish Pubs And Restaurants For Two Weeks
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If you’re planning to head abroad or already have a UK holiday booked during the half term break, you may be wondering whether it will go ahead.It’s been widely reported that the government is considering a “circuit break” – or mini two-week lockdown – to limit the spread of coronavirus in the UK.Members of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told the Financial Times if this goes ahead, it’s likely to coincide with half term to limit the impact on education.  It’s unlikely this kind of lockdown would be as dramatic as the measures introduced in March, but it’s expected hospitality venues may have to close early – or completely. There’s also the possibility that households will be told not to mix and people will be discouraged from non-essential travel. READ MORE: How A 'Circuit Break' Lockdown Works The government is yet to confirm if the circuit break will happen, so should you cancel anyway? It really depends on how important a holiday is to you and how quickly you’d need a refund if it can’t go ahead.  If you’re considering cancelling now, the first step is to check the cancellation policy on your holiday to decide whether it’s worth pulling the plug now, or leaving it until the last minute. Some Airbnbs and hotels, for example, allow you to cancel up to 48 hours before your check-in with no fees.Your other option is to wait for a government announcement that will potentially ban your holiday from taking place. In this scenario, you’d then have to contact your holiday provider or your insurer for a refund, but beware this may not be processed quickly, as you’ll likely be joining a queue with thousands of others. Malcolm​ Tarling from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says “it’s a tricky time” if you have a half term holiday booked. In the event that your holiday can’t go ahead, he says you’ll need to contact your accommodation provider or airline for a refund first, before trying your insurer. READ MORE: Here's What The Coronavirus R Rate Means “The reason travel insurance policies require you to try other refund sources first is that travel insurance is primarily designed and priced to cover the risk of needing emergency medical treatment while overseas,” Tarling tells HuffPost UK.“Where people have first tried to get travel refunds from other sources, and then turn to their travel insurer, then (provided it is covered) insurers will deal with the claim as quickly as possible.”However, you’ll need to check if your travel insurance policy covers you for travel disruption – because not all policies do.“If the policy does cover them, this will usually kick in if the customer has tried and not been able to get refund/s from any other source, such as the air carrier, tour operator or credit card provider,” Tarling says, reiterating that you might need to be patient. “It is worth bearing in mind that travel insurers expect to pay £275 million in travel cancelation claims – a record amount in cancellation payments so far from a single event.”It’s difficult to make a decision, as there’s so much uncertainty right now. Your best bet might be to look into what might happen if you cancel – even if you’re hoping it goes ahead – so you can be prepared if lockdown measures do come in. READ MORE: Yes, We've Been On Holiday In The Pandemic – Don't Shame Us Herd Immunity Is Back On The Agenda – And Raising Big Questions I Took My 4-Year-Old For A Covid Test. Here's What Parents Need To Know.
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Listen to our weekly podcast Am I Making You Uncomfortable? about women’s health, bodies and private lives. Available on Spotify, Apple, Audioboom and wherever you listen to your podcasts.The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has apologised for posting a Slimming World advert on its Facebook page, after a mum of three complained that it would put “pressure” on new mums to lose weight. The post featured a photo of a mum with her baby, alongside the text: “Faye lost 2st with Slimming World.” It added a quote from Faye, saying: “After welcoming my little boy, I returned to group – and with their support I got back to my target.” Elaine Duff, 40, from Edinburgh, spotted the post on Facebook and says her initial response was “utter confusion and disbelief.”“I had my three boys in 2009, 2011 and 2013, but I remember the ridiculous pressure to ‘get my figure back’ – and I am not having it!” Duff tells HuffPost UK.“Who at the Royal College of Midwives could possibly have thought this was an appropriate partnership to enter into, or supportive messaging to endorse? I suspect that the campaign is a symptom of the systemic misogyny that is rife in our maternity services, and we have a responsibility to call it out.”The advert posted by RCM has since been deleted, but another version still features on the Slimming World Facebook page at time of writing. The second post uses the same image, but the caption text adds that Faye joined Slimming World “after receiving hurtful comments at a birthday party”. Duff questions why the company would want to celebrate someone being shamed into losing weight, adding that the wording “really isn’t consistent with the happy, positive story the imagery tells”. The partnership between Slimming World and RCM is longstanding – the two groups have worked together since 2012. They claim the collaboration is designed to “raise awareness in supporting pregnant women and breastfeeding mums in managing their weight”. Caryl Richards, Slimming World’s CEO, previously insisted that the group doesn’t “encourage weight loss or ‘dieting’ during pregnancy”. But Duff is frustrated that weight loss messages are being targeted at post-natal women, too.“I struggle to believe that any responsible healthcare professional would suggest that weight loss should be a priority for women in the months after giving birth, but that’s exactly what this post seems to recommend,” she says.  “We are letting new parents down every day in this country – between under-funded, overstretched maternity services, a lack of basic support, dignity and autonomy in childbirth, and all but absent breastfeeding support. The RCM should be focusing their resources in these areas, rather than targeting vulnerable (and probably exhausted and overwhelmed) new parents with diet culture.” In response to the complaint, RCM stood by the Slimming World partnership,  calling the company “fantastic supporters of our Caring for You programme for members”.“Their advice and support for pregnant women on healthy weight management during pregnancy is an important and useful tool for midwives and maternity support workers, who are only too aware of the risks to pregnancy and maternal health brought about by a raised BMI,” RCM said in a statement. “We shared a post that did not reflect this, for which we apologise. We remain committed to working with Slimming World on their pregnancy weight management programme.”Duff says she is glad the post has been deleted, but expresses frustration that the wider partnership between RCM and Slimming World is ongoing.“I still think there are questions to be asked about why this was thought to be an appropriate campaign, and why Slimming World – an organisation that profits directly from the appalling demands we put on women to take up as little space as possible – was considered to be a suitable partner,”  she says.HuffPost UK has contacted Slimming World for comment and will update this article when we receive a response.READ MORE: 'Traumatic': Maternity Services Are Still Restricted. This Is The Impact. I've Delivered Babies For 10 Years. But Giving Birth Myself Was Surreal Pantone Launches 'Period' Shade – And People Are Unconvinced
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Francesca Hause has always loved drawing, but it wasn’t until she became a mother that she turned her hobby into a full-blown comic. Hause is the artist behind “Litterbox Comics” ― a hilarious series focused on the ups and downs of life with small children. She told HuffPost she felt inspired to launch the comic in May 2018 after a particular afternoon watching “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” with her two sons. “I’d seen the episode a million times, so I was amusing myself thinking how funny it would be if something ‘real’ suddenly happened ― Mom Tiger losing her cool or Daniel dropping the F-bomb,” she said. “I wished I could watch a show like that. Then it hit me; I couldn’t make a show, but I could make a comic!”Hause had been writing “all the weird stuff” her kids do in a notebook, so she had lots of material to get started. More than two years later, she’s created hundreds of funny strips on topics ranging from parenting message boards to paediatrician visits. She continues to find inspiration from her boys, who are now six and three. “Their comic counterparts are very much based on them,” she said. “The eldest can be difficult, but he’s dangerously smart and lovable. The youngest is a little bumbling ray of sunshine ― until he isn’t. The 6-year-old is fascinated by the comics, although things have become more awkward now that he can actually read them!”Hause, who is English but moved to Austin, Texas, 10 years ago, bounces ideas around with her husband, a fellow artist with a sense of humor. He’s also the basis of the character Dad Cat.“People often ask, ‘Why cats?’” she noted. “In my first draft they were actually tigers, but I quickly realized drawing all those stripes would drive me mad! I considered other animals, but kept coming back to cats. There’s a lot of inner turmoil with parenting, and I love that cats let me show this visually with shirking pupils, bristling fur and tails! I’m not really sure why, but I’ve never enjoyed drawing humans.”Hause hopes parents who read “Litterbox Comics” get “solidarity and a smile” from the relatable scenarios and funny illustrations. “Motherhood hit me like a ton of bricks, and the only way I survived that first year was thanks to humor,” she said. “Parenthood can be a dark and lonely place, especially in 2020. I want people to feel seen and find relief in laughing at some of this nonsense.”At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hause wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with the “Litterverse” as she adjusted to life with remote learning and the “general 2020 despair” that began fogging up her brain. “Eventually I decided the best thing I could do for the world (and my own mental health!) would be to focus on the funny,” she said. “I purposely keep my comics current affairs free, because although what’s been happening is important, it’s also important to take breaks and laugh.”Keep scrolling and check out “Litterbox Comics” on Facebook and Instagram for more funny parenting art.Litterbox Comics/Francesca HauseLitterbox Comics/Francesca HauseLitterbox Comics/Francesca HauseLitterbox Comics/Francesca HauseLitterbox Comics/Francesca HauseLitterbox Comics/Francesca HauseLitterbox Comics/Francesca HauseLitterbox Comics/Francesca HauseLitterbox Comics/Francesca HauseLitterbox Comics/Francesca HauseRelated... I Took One Of My Kids On A 'Love Bombing' Trip. Here's Why. Pride + Prejudice: Think We’re Living In A Post-Homophobic Society? You’re Wrong I Let My 8-Year-Old Cook Us A 3-Course Meal. Here's How It Went.
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