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Brexit Risks Half A Million More Air Pollution Deaths, MP Warns

The UK could face half a million more early deaths from air pollution after Brexit if the government fails to take robust action, an MP has warned.

Labour’s Geraint Davies says ministers’ current plans to completely phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2040 do not go far enough to mitigate leaving the EU and its commitment to improving air quality in all of its member states.

Toxic air is currently blamed for 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year – meaning about 500,000 more people are at risk if things continue as they are – and the government’s air quality strategy was branded inadequate by the High Court for the third time last month.

Davies’ call comes as four Parliamentary committees release a joint report on air quality, calling for the car industry to be made to pay towards a new clean air fund.

“Parliament’s new report was jointly produced by four committees and reached cross-party consensus in recognising air pollution as a ‘national emergency’ costing 40,000 premature deaths and £20 billion a year,” he said.

“It points the finger at government failure, having lost in court four times for illegal levels of toxic air pollution. The government must now take urgent action to curb this public health crisis and to comply with international law.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said levels had “improved significantly” since 2010, but that ministers recognise there is more to do.

“That is why we have put in place a £3.5 billion plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions,” a spokesperson said.

Car companies are under pressure to take action.

The report, commissioned by the environment and food, health, transport and environment audit select committees, says car companies must pay towards improving air quality to compensate for past problems and poor health, as well as future safeguarding.

Davies added: “The report also makes clear that Brexit should not be seen as a convenient opportunity for the government to continue to ignore the law and lower standards further.

“It demands the government adopts World Health Organisation Air Quality standards to take leadership instead continuing to make excuses for bad practices.

“The EU Withdrawal Bill purports to transfer EU laws, rights and protections into UK law but fails to safeguard public health from air pollution by excluding air quality standards and enforcement agencies.”

MPs want a proper Clean Air Bill to be implemented to improve basic quality and enshrine access to non-polluted air as a UK right. Poor air quality currently costs the country about £20 billion every year.

Conservative MP Andrew Selous, acting chair of the health committee, said: “Poor air quality has been classified as the largest environmental risk to the health of the British public.

Andrew Selous

“It is even more concerning that children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions are most at risk.

“Action must be taken to combat this national health emergency. Our report calls for the health sector to play a more vocal role in tackling air pollution at a national and local level, and for a national information campaign to provide clear messages about the risks of air pollution to the public.”

Environmental charity Friends of the Earth submitted evidence to the committee inquiry to help inform the report and said they were pleased with its “hard-hitting” findings.

Campaigner Jenny Bates said: “Friends of the Earth has long been calling for motor manufacturers, as key players in the current abysmal state of the nation’s air quality, to contribute to cleaning up our air.

“We welcome the report’s verdict that manufacturers should cover the costs of scrappage schemes to help switch consumers from the most polluting vehicles.

“While the report rightly notes that to cut air pollution the need for private vehicle use must be reduced, we also need to see the scrapping of schemes which would only increase traffic levels such as the expansion of Heathrow airport, and major road-building projects.”


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We Must Protect Our Rights From Automated Decisions

Imagine a future where algorithms or even supercharged artificial intelligence (AI) make decisions in multiple aspects of your life: your job, your education, your welfare, and even your health.

In this future, the police use algorithms and AI systems to predict where crime will be committed and automated alerts trigger police to despatch vehicles. Police vehicles are fitted with automated number plate and face recognition cameras that identify people on watch lists. Police can ‘stop and scan’ people to verify their identity, using on-the-spot fingerprint scanners to check against crime and immigration databases. Following arrests, an algorithm can assess information held about suspects and decide whether they should be kept in custody.

Meanwhile, the intelligence agencies use automated programs to sift through billions of communications intercepted from entire populations, home and abroad, every day. Their programs automatically read, listen to, and watch private conversations and web browsing, advising who to subject to more intense surveillance.

That future is here and now.

As the trend for automation takes pace, our lives and indeed our freedoms risk being increasingly governed by machines. New technologies provide great promise in a range of sectors, from science to transport to health – but when automation is used to make decisions about citizens’ basic rights, the risks are extremely grave.

European law provides us with the vital right not to be subjected to automated decisions. However, our Government is abandoning this vital right in the Data Protection Bill currently going through parliament – opening the door to employers, authorities and even the police using machines to make life-altering decisions about us.

Is it right to rely on machines to decide who is eligible for a job; who is entitled to welfare; or even, who is innocent or guilty?

Unsurprisingly, automated computer programs don’t tend to deliver humane solutions.

An automated benefits system in the US resulted in a million benefits applications being denied over a three year period – a 54% increase from the three years before. It often blamed its own mistakes on claimants’ “failure to co-operate”. One such claimant was a woman suffering ovarian cancer. Without welfare, she lost the ability to pay for her medication, her transport to medical appointments, and even her rent. She died the day before she won her appeal against the system.

There are rapid advances in the use of automated systems in the jobs market – but beware that Google’s job advertisement algorithm shows prestigious, high-paying jobs to men more often than to women. Algorithms are common at the hiring stage, searching for keywords in CVs and cover letters, while some even include ‘chatbots’. Many applicants are rejected by this automated system before they even come into contact with a human.

Some algorithms purport to be able to track and rate an employee’s performance, even making firing decisions, supposedly beneficial because they “eliminate human emotional volatility.

The automation of these processes and the online nous required to navigate their blunt interface don’t make it easy for the older jobseeker, nor anyone whose job doesn’t require a digital skillset.

Perhaps even more chilling than being hired and fired by machines is the very real prospect of being policed by machines.

Automated identity checkpoints have recently crept onto our streets, with the controversial introduction of automated facial recognition cameras. The Metropolitan Police and South Wales Police are currently using the technology with watch lists of people they want to keep an eye on – whether it’s petty criminals or people with mental health problems. The Met has used facial recognition cameras for the last two years at Notting Hill Carnival – despite similar technology showing a disturbing likelihood to misidentify black faces.

The Met now even uses predictive policing and has experimented with a commercial product called PredPol, as have forces in Kent, Greater Manchester, West Midlands, and West Yorkshire. The algorithm predicts crime hotspots and alerts police to despatch resources. However, multiple studies have found that PredPol can reinforce biased policing – typically in areas with high numbers of racial minorities. This occurs where crime statistics that represent over-policing are used to predict where crime will occur in the future, resulting in self-fulfilling – and discriminatory – prophecies.

Durham Police has taken an ever greater leap towards automation, using artificial intelligence to decide whether to keep suspects in custody. Their algorithm assesses information about suspects and estimates their risk of reoffending. A similar program used by US authorities was found to incorrectly over-estimate the risk of black defendants more often than whites – despite data on race not even being used. Durham Police recently removed one of the postcode fields in their tool, acknowledging that they risked discriminating against the poor.

We mustn’t ignore the great potential of new technologies to improve our society – but nor must we turn a blind eye to the risks they pose. By automating important decisions about people’s lives, we risk encoding discrimination in place of human fairness and shielding bad decisions with a veil of ‘objectivity’.

Substituting human decision-makers for unaccountable machines allows us to avoid the pressing moral and political dilemmas our society faces.

Automated processing may well support our decisions, but where the stakes are high, they should never replace human decisions.

That is why we’re calling on MPs to change the Data Protection Bill to uphold the vital EU right of citizens not to be subject to automated decisions, where our fundamental rights are at stake. The advent of new technologies forces us to ask some existential questions about our relationship to machines, and on one thing we’re clear – our human rights must always be protected by human decisions.


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Britain First Banned From Facebook

Britain First’s Facebook page and the pages of its two leaders have been removed “with immediate effect”, the social media giant has announced.

In a statement, Facebook said the far-right group’s three pages, including leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen’s, had “repeatedly posted content designed to incite animosity and hatred against minority groups”.

Facebook said it recently gave the page admins a written final warning, but added “they have continued to post content that violates our community standards”.

“As a result, in accordance with our policies, we have now removed the official Britain First Facebook Page and the Pages of the two leaders with immediate effect. We do not do this lightly, but they have repeatedly posted content designed to incite animosity and hatred against minority groups, which disqualifies the Pages from our service.”

The statement also said: “We are an open platform for all ideas and political speech goes to the heart of free expression. But political views can and should be expressed without hate. People can express robust and controversial opinions without needing to denigrate others on the basis of who they are.”

In December last year Fransen and Golding were also suspended from Twitter, amid the social media platform’s crackdown on ‘hateful conduct’.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Check back for the fullest version. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.


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Creating ‘Immersive Art’ at Juku New York’s Subterranean Cocktail Bar

“Coming down here you’ll feel one level removed from reality,” explains contemporary artist Jonah Freeman of the new cocktail lounge beneath Japanese restaurant Juku at 32 Mulberry Street in Manhattan.
Freeman and his creative partner Justin Lowe have transformed the intimate space into a trippy work of experiential art that begins after the stark concrete entry hall of the bi-level restaurant, which opened in Chinatown in the fall and offers a casual Izakaya menu as well as the traditional chef-selected Omakase dining experience.
A fluorescent pink curtain of PVC plastic strips marks the cellar bar’s entryway — a brightly fluorescent-lit set of stairs, which Freeman and Lowe have crafted to look like a “strange wellness spa” complete with fake pharmaceuticals and advertisements with actors dressed as zombies doing yoga and shilling health products.
“The idea is to prepare you for one thing and then once you come in, it’s wholly different,” continues Freeman. “The flow from room to room is always considered. We often think of it like a cinematic cut where you jump in time and space with either a hard cut or a soft fade. [This space] is a hard cut — a smash cut, really.”
This garishly lit stairway leads into

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‘A uniform for intellectuals’: the fashion legacy of Marimekko

Designed in the 1950s to bring colour to a postwar world, Finnish design brand Marimekko is enjoying a fashion moment – with a bright and breezy Uniqlo collaboration

‘I really don’t sell clothes, I sell a way of living.” No, these aren’t the words of fashion’s current tastemakers, the likes of outgoing Céline designer Phoebe Philo or, say, Gucci’s alchemist Alessandro Michele. Actually, they were spoken way back in 1963 by Armi Ratia, the founder of Marimekko. The Finnish design house has been brightening up ways of living with bold artistic prints since 1951, when Ratia transformed her husband’s oilcloth company into one producing cheerful, bold but elegant printed designs.

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Stephen Hawking Dead: Eddie Redmayne Leads Tributes To The ‘Astonishing’ Man He Played In ‘The Theory Of Everything’

Eddie Redmayne has paid tribute to Stephen Hawking following the death of the British scientist at the age of 76.

Eddie won the Best Actor Oscar in 2015 for his portrayal of the professor in ‘The Theory Of Everything‘.

He described him as having a “truly beautiful mind” and added that he was “the funniest man I have ever met.”

Actor Eddie Redmayne has paid tribute to Stephen Hawking. Eddie played the professor in the 2014 film, The Theory of Everything.

— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) March 14, 2018

In a statement shared on social media, he said: “We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet. My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family.”

The death of renowned British physicist at his home in Cambridge was announced by a family spokesman in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

In a statement, his children Lucy, Robert and Tim said: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.

“His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”

‘The Theory of Everything’ (2014) charted the onset of his illness and his early life as the brilliant student grappling with black holes and the concept of time.

Other stars also paid their respects on Twitter…

Goodbye #StephenHawking Thank you for being – amongst everything else – a great laugh.

— David Walliams (@davidwalliams) March 14, 2018

What a privilege it was to know Stephen Hawking. His work elevated us to the extra-ordinary; his life pushed down a terrible, limiting disease so that he could enjoy the full joy of the ordinary. In both, he was a triumph of what can we, as humans, can achieve.

— Dara Ó Briain (@daraobriain) March 14, 2018

Saddened to hear that professor Stephen Hawking has passed away. A genius in the true sense of the world and a quite extraordinary man. #ripstephenhawking

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 14, 2018


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Brexit Didn’t Cause The Pressures On The NHS, But It Will Make Them More Difficult

Forget the red bus, with its claims about what leaving the EU would mean for the health service. In reality, the potential impact of Brexit on the NHS was hardly discussed during the EU referendum campaign.

The Leave camp specialised in vague pledges of extra funding. And, for their part, the Remainers managed to come up with only one healthcare benefit of EU membership in their campaign leaflet: the fact UK citizens have the right to access free or cheap healthcare abroad.

Nor was healthcare an important direct determinant of how people voted. However, since the referendum its salience has risen, not least because of severe winter crises.

Given the all-pervasive nature of Brexit in contemporary political debates the two have, unsurprisingly, been discussed in tandem to a greater extent than prior to the referendum. The trouble is, these debates have, in the main, been stubbornly superficial in nature.

Our report digs deeper and reveals some troubling findings. Let’s take just three issues: money, staff and patients.

Peter Levell and George Stoye explain some of the misconceptions about the impact of Brexit on the public finances.

In the same way that considering your headline salary isn’t a true reflection of your income, taking the UK’s gross contribution to the EU – the infamous £350million per week – is not the way to understand what money will be available to the NHS after Brexit.

Quite apart from being inaccurate, the figure is likely to lead to unrealistic expectations among the public about what effects Brexit will have on the NHS.

Taking into account the UK’s rebate and EU spending in the UK that the government has pledged to continue, the true figure available will be closer to £150million per week.

But this doesn’t take into account the hit to the economy most economists expect from Brexit over the medium to long term, or the areas where the UK might want to keep paying into the EU to take part in EU projects.

These are likely to more than wipe out any saving from the UK’s EU contributions.

For the NHS, as for all public services, this will mean fewer funds available for spending increases. The government could raise taxes, increase borrowing or divert money from other services, but Brexit is unlikely to come with a dividend for the NHS.

On staff, Tamara Hervey and Sarah McCloskey, reveal the scale of our reliance on EU nationals. Around 200,000 EU27 citizens work in the health and care sectors, including 10% of all NHS England doctors, 100,000 social care staff and 20,000 NHS England nurses.

The worry is twofold. First, that the NHS can’t hold onto the staff it already has – and there has already been a steep drop in registrations of EU nurses. And, second, that the future immigration system (whatever that turns out to be, and I’ve given up holding my breath) will be too restrictive to bring in the skills the NHS needs.

The government’s commitment to reduce low-skilled immigration could affect a whole swathe of NHS jobs if defined too broadly. For example, senior care workers and nursing assistants fall into one of the lower-skilled categories, as do security guards, launderers and cleaners. All of these could be vulnerable to restrictions, putting pressure on already understaffed organisations.

For patients, there is equal uncertainty. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is currently the basis for treating EU nationals across the EU, and it is far from certain whether the UK will be able to negotiate access to it in future, especially on current terms.

The government wants to retain the same benefits as now when outside the EU, but this may be unrealistic.

We need to be clear about the implications of not retaining the EHIC. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has estimated that the cost of treating UK citizens abroad without it will be about £160million.

Worst affected will be the elderly and those with serious conditions, for whom buying insurance to replace the EHIC will be more expensive, and potentially unaffordable. The elderly are already the biggest spenders on healthcare and losing the EHIC would exacerbate this.

Overall, the EU has limited direct competence over health policy, although it is committed to considering the health impacts of its actions in all policy areas.

Therefore, the effects of Brexit, whether positive or negative, will mostly be indirect. Changes to economic, trade and immigration policy in particular will have knock-on effects on health care provision and public health.

Understanding these effects, and the interconnections between different policy areas, is vital if Brexit is to be a success from a health perspective.

Moreover, the sheer scale of the challenge that Brexit presents makes effective action in other areas of public policy much more difficult.

Not least, its all-consuming nature means real care must be taken to avoid falling into the trap, pointed out by the House of Lords, of allowing the political cycle to take precedence over long-term planning.

We do not claim to be able to accurately predict the future, not least as the nature of Brexit itself remains stubbornly opaque.

Ensuring a well-functioning health service, and protecting public health, after Brexit is by no means impossible, but the challenges are significant. Our report represents our attempt to identify them. Forewarned is forearmed.

Matt Bevington is a research assistant at The UK in a Changing Europe. The UK in a Changing Europe has released its report Brexit and the NHS today


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Good American to Expand With Maternity Jeans

MAMA MIA!: With so many pregnancies taking place in the Kardashian-Jenner family, this appears to be a natural next step.
Good American, the Los Angeles-based fashion brand offering founded by Khloé Kardashian — who is pregnant — and Emma Grede, are getting into maternity action. On Thursday, they will introduce the brand’s first maternity denim line dubbed Good Mama on
The collections, including core and fashion-forward styles, feature two flattering fits for women at all stages of their pregnancy in sizes 00-24. Prices range from $149 to $179.
One of the styles is called The Honeymoon, which is designed for the first, growing months at the beginning of pregnancy. The fit is offered in a mid- or low-rise and features two, non-restrictive elastic panels at the waistband that don’t leave marks. The second is The Home Stretch, which was designed with an ultra-soft-belly cocoon which allows coverage near the end of the pregnancy.
Good American launched in 2016 at Nordstrom with a line of premium denim. The company has since branched out into bodysuits, sweaters, skirts, sweats and accessories. The collection is manufactured in the U.S. The company has dabbled in brick-and-mortar with a temporary shop within VFiles in New York’s SoHo, and

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The Blurred Lines of Fashion and Technology

The Blurred Lines of Fashion and Technology

As technology becomes more advanced and integrated with our lives, some of the biggest names in tech – Amazon, Apple and Google – are taking steps towards fashion with their voice-controlled cameras, smartwatches, and smart jackets. Similarly, some of fashion’s giants, like Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel and Zac Posen from Marchesa are experimenting with tech in their designs. This includes the use of 3D printed pieces and cognitive dresses that change color with social media activity.

It’s clear that fashion and tech are melding, and in the near future high-tech fashion will be more than just a cute stunt. It won’t belong before native app design leads to fashion applications that do more than just let users browse product catalogs.

Thanks to the development of 3D printing, you may soon be able to print your own shoes at home having bought the design online direct from the fashion house. Fabrics woven with sensors could enhance or even replace the need for your smartphone, and your jewelry could help you manage your stress.

3D Printing Fashion

Adidas is one of the front-runners with this technology thanks to project Futurecraft, which began in 2015. Not only are they looking to be able to 3D print their sneakers on a large scale, but also the potential for customization is huge.

The plausibility for having your foot measured perfectly in store – including contours, exact pressure points and gait – would allow for designs to be tailored exactly for individuals. Customers could then purchase the tailored design and print the shoes themselves, or have the 3D prints created by Adidas and delivered within 24 hours.

Sponsored athletes already benefit from exact tailoring; 3D printing could make this available to consumers on a much wider scale when the technology becomes accessible over the coming years.

Conductive Fabrics

Google has partnered with Levi’s for project Jacquard to create a denim jacket that has 15 conductive threads woven into the sleeve, allowing wearers to activate certain functions on their smartphones. A Bluetooth cuff links the smartphone to the jacket enabling for a range of interactive functions to take place with a simple gesture: for example, brushing or touching the sleeve to play music or tell the time.

The weaving technology has numerous other possible applications, and Google is working with designers and developers to explore how the sensor-laden fabric can be used in other materials to enhance everyday life.

Smart Jewelry

For the past three years, smart jewelry has been building a following. Big brand names like Swarovski have been working alongside tech companies to create beautiful pieces that do more than just add a touch of bling to your outfit. Swarovski and Misfit’s Shine is another take on activity-tracking accessories that follow wearers’ everyday activities, and provide better understanding of sleep patterns.

Other clever designs like Senstone are unisex and can be worn as a pendant, clip, or bracelet. It records voice memos, translates them into text, then organizes them for you in an app on your smartphone. An LED light indicates it’s recording, but other that’s the only clue this fashionable piece incorporates high-tech features.

The Fashion-Tech Future

At the moment, much of the wearable tech available to consumers ultimately relies on a smartphone. Experts like Kate Sicchio, assistant professor at New York University for integrated digital media sees the future as being a ‘more embedded’ one. This refers to an age where fashion moves away from using a smartphone as the brain of the technology, and onto having small micro-controllers in our garments.

Doing so will allow our clothes to collect data more efficiently and without the need for an additional device. Once this begins to happen, a real breakthrough in fashionable tech will be close at hand. It will take an innovator who can think outside the existing fashion-tech box, and a continuing partnership between fashion and technology companies.


Author: Rae Steinbach

Article Date-Dec2017

Publish Date-Feb 2018

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