Well, blow me down with a feather duster. That’s basically what the government has announced today: we are going to blow Vladimir Putin down with a feather duster.
These aren’t meaningful sanctions. They are the bare minimum of what we should have done weeks ago, when Putin first announced that he did not respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. They are not a proper response to Putin’s declaration of independence for Donetsk and Luhansk and his sending in of troops. I don’t doubt that Putin is laughing his way to his dacha. His mocking sidekick Dmitry Medvedev said as much yesterday.
The Russian banks that Boris Johnson put on the sanctions list today aren’t the major players: they’re the spare change in the Russian economy. The three individuals he named have already been sanctioned in the US since 2018. So, we’re picking off the minnows but allowing the basking sharks to swim freely. Johnson didn’t even know whom we had already sanctioned, claiming that Roman Abramovich was on the list and refusing to correct the record when I asked him about it. Later in the day, his office had to own up that he was wrong. Is it too much to expect that a prime minister at a moment of international crisis would actually know some of the details?
Johnson keeps on saying that we are going to have a public register of beneficial ownership of UK property, so that shell companies owning swaths of UK property can’t hide their oligarch owners. Yet the government has been promising this for years – and Companies House still doesn’t have the power or the resources to verify information registered with it, so it’s easy to lie with impunity.
Johnson says they are closing the gold-plated tier 1 visa scheme for wealthy “investors”, but he still won’t tell us how many oligarchs were granted rights here without a proper examination of where their wealth came from. It’s difficult not to worry that the Russians who have given money to the Tories can have done so only because they were given UK nationality by the Tories. In any other country we would call that corruption.
What angers me is that this is exactly what we did when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Some useful idiots then repeated the claims that Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia. Others said it was as much part of Russia as the Isle of Wight is British. Yes, the west huffed and puffed. We introduced a few minor sanctions. But soon we lost interest.
Putin is a liar and a ruthless dictator. Human rights groups have long documented his regime’s record of repression and terror. He is a kleptocrat; consider the plunder by him and his allies of Russia’s wealth. Some estimates say he has become the richest man on the planet. He has ruthless imperial ambitions, with his hankering to construct a “greater Russia”, with echoes of the old Soviet Union. He regularly resorts to excessive use of force. Witness the 334 hostages killed at Beslan school in 2004, including 176 children, or the 130 killed in the Moscow theatre siege. He understands only force, and a feather duster isn’t going to stop him.
When he resigned as foreign secretary, Johnson said that his biggest mistake was how he dealt with Russia. Today was another lost opportunity. We appear weak, spineless and vacillating. We still don’t seem able to wean ourselves off Russian money, and government communications are so chaotic that it’s unclear whether we think Russia has invaded Ukraine yet or not.
We need much tougher, wider sanctions. We need reform of Companies House so we know the truth behind shell companies. We need a new Foreign Lobbying Act, reform to the Official Secrets Act and the immediate publication of the review into tier 1 visas.
In my book, Putin has crossed the line. MPs of all hues agree. We are keen for the UK and her allies to put on a united front – and show some real mettle
Chris Bryant is the Labour MP for Rhondda and a member of the Commons foreign affairs select committee
“I went in yesterday, and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius,'” Trump said on the podcast. “Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.”
The escalation earlier this week prompted President Joe Biden on Tuesday to announce a tranche of new sanctions against Russia and declare the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, Trump praised the Russian president’s actions as “smart.”
“I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper,” he said.
During the podcast interview, Trump also baselessly claimed that Putin waited to invade Ukraine until now when Biden is president, because the Russian president had a better relationship with Trump — an assertion that fails to acknowledge the longstanding war Russia fueled against Ukrainian forces in the Donbas throughout his time as president.
Trump also compared the rising tensions in Ukraine to conservative fear around immigration, suggesting the US should utilize military force similar to that used by Russia to assure the security of the US-Mexico border.
“We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen,” Trump said. “There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re going to keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy.”
He added: “I know him very well — very, very well.”
Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, said he was rendered speechless following Trump’s comments.
“I have no response,” Price said during a press conference on Wednesday. “In fact, I have no words.”
The former president’s controversial comments have also drawn reactions from political players beyond the State Department.
But during a televised address on Monday, Putin appeared to wear the same outfit as he denounced Ukraine’s sovereignty, argued that Ukraine was a creation of the Soviet Union, and announced military intervention in eastern Ukraine.
Both videos were filmed with Putin apparently sitting in the same spot, at the same table, wearing the same outfit: A black blazer with a white dress shirt and a maroon tie.
The similar attire and location prompted speculation that the declaration of a military assault against Ukraine was taped earlier.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, delivered a searing response to Putin’s action at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council late on Wednesday night.
“About 48 minutes ago, your president declared war on Ukraine,” Kyslytsya said to Russia’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya.
Hours after Putin’s declaration on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said that the country was being targeted by airstrikes.
Addressing Boris Johnson during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Labour MP Imran Hussain referenced the situation, and remarked on Johnson’s own controversial comments – in which he has previously compared Muslim women to “letterboxes and “bankrobbers”.
“The member for Sherwood [Mark Spencer] is currently under investigation for Islamophobia following accusations he told a fellow MP that her being a Muslim MP was making colleagues uncomfortable,” Hussain said.
“How did the government punish this behaviour? With a promotion that puts the accused member in charge of the complaints procedure.
“And, of course, Mr Speaker – we know the prime minister himself is no stranger to derogatory comments remarks about Muslim women.”
However, as Hussain began to ask a question, Hoyle stopped him, saying: “This is not the appropriate place to be raising that”.
The Speaker then moved on to another MP amid jeers of approval from Tory MPs. The prime minister did not have to respond to the question.
An outraged Hussain said after the incident: “Today I raised the serious issue of Islamophobia at the top of the Conservative Party.
“I was silenced in Parliament, but they can’t stop me speaking out against this Government’s disgusting racism – so I ask here: If you can’t call out Islamophobia at #PMQs then where can you?”
Ghani made the initial allegations in January, telling the Sunday Times: “At the post-reshuffle meeting with the whips I asked what the thinking was behind the decision to fire me… I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street ‘Muslimness’ was raised as an ‘issue’.”
A spokesperson for the prime minister at the time said Ghani had flagged the issue and had not subsequently begun a formal complaints process. Shortly after, Number 10 announced they would investigate the allegation.
Spencer, who was chief Conservative whip during the time Ghani claimed the incident happened, has fiercely denied the claims, saying: “I have never used those words attributed to me.”
In February the prime minister promoted Spencer to Leader of the House of Commons.
The exchange follows an investigation into the Conservative Party on Islamophobia after reports of multiple incidents in the party, as as well as Johnson’s own comments about Muslim women.
Senior Muslim Conservative politician Sayeeda Warsi said in May last year after the report was published: “The findings of this report show clearly that the Conservative Party is institutionally racist”.
Johnson has previously said he is “sorry for offence taken” for his own remarks, but stopped short of apologising claiming they were a feature of journalism.
“I do know that offence has been taken at things I’ve said, that people expect a person in my position to get things right, but in journalism you need to use language freely,” he said.
“I am obviously sorry for any offence taken.”
Tell Mama, which tracks anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK, say incidents jumped by 375% following the prime minister’s remarks.
When asked whether Hoyle’s decision to cut Hussain off was appropriate, and whether Muslim MPs have the right to challenge the prime minister on the issue in the House of Commons, a spokesperson for Labour said: “It is legitimate question to ask about Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. Whether the Prime Minister’s question time was the right place to do it… that’s a matter for the Speaker to put on what’s appropriate in the House of Commons.”
A House of Commons spokesperson said: “Members should not make accusations about the conduct of other Members as a ‘sideswipe’ as part of a question. In other words, any accusation about a Member’s conduct should only be done in the form of a substantive motion, and not just in passing’.”
He added that Russia does not have a goal to occupy Ukraine, but said the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian “regime”.
Mr Putin also warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson replied saying that Putin had “chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction” with his attack on Ukraine and that the UK and its allies would respond “decisively”.
Boris Johnson has responded strongly to Putin’s actions (PA)
What are Russia’s nuclear weapon capabilities?
Due to Putin‘s threats the talk of nuclear weapons has once again arisen.
Russia has the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons with a 6257-strong fleet which include 527 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers.
ICBMs can get up to a top speed of four miles per second in about ten minutes after launch, meaning the weapons could potentially reach the UK from Russia within 20 minutes.
According to The Express army veteran and nuclear war researcher Christopher Witman previously claimed that if Russia sent for the UK, it would aim for six Royal Air Force (RAF) bases.
These include Flyingdales in Yorkshire, Alconbury near Huntingdon, and Lakenheath and Mildenhall, both in Suffolk.
Other RAF bases that could be targeted in the event of a nuclear attack include Croughton in Northamptonshire and Barford St John in Oxfordshire.
More potential targets could include three Royal Navy bases – HNMB Clyde in Scotland, HNMB Devonport in Plymouth, and HNMB Portsmouth.
Russia also did recently launch two military ballistic missiles in tests ordered by Mr Putin.
Laura Gallagher Cox remembers the moment as if it was yesterday. She was 15, competing at a national trampolining meet, and putting the final touches to the routine she would perform minutes later.
Out of nowhere, as she landed from a jump, she wet herself.
“It completely destroyed my warm-up,” reflects the Briton, 32. “I felt embarrassed. I went to the loo and sorted myself out and changed my leotard. People probably knew what had happened.”
Unknown to her at the time, it was Gallagher Cox’s first real experience of stress incontinence, the accidental loss of urine through physical exertion.
In female athletes, the problem commonly occurs when the pelvic floor – a group of muscles and ligaments with important functions, such as pelvic-organ support – is damaged over time. It commonly occurs in athletes from high-impact sports that involve running, or jumping as in netball or gymnastics, where constant and excessive downward pressure is placed on the pelvic floor to the extent it becomes too tight.
The issue is particularly endemic in trampolining, where research has shown incontinence to be prevalent in as many as 80 per cent of female athletes.
“When we land from a jump, we put about 16 times our body weight through the trampoline,” explains Gallagher Cox. “In terms of peeing, the worst time for it seems to be the younger girls just coming into puberty. I’ve been at competitions where I’ve seen girls pee as they take off – when they do a double back somersault you’ll genuinely see urine flying through the air.”
Gallagher Cox, who represented Great Britain at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, counts herself as one of the lucky ones – incontinence never became a real problem during her senior career. But the humiliation of leaking as a junior has left a psychological impact that verges on unhealthy.
“I go to the loo about five times per session,” she says. “I don’t drink very much during training, so when I get advice from the nutritionist and you have to drink X amount or this type of drink and you’re like, I just can’t do that.”
Her British team-mate Izzy Songhurst started experiencing incontinence issues aged 13. More than a decade later, she still wears pads in her leotard, and can go through as many as four in a session. “If you’re having a bad day, you do worry about whether your pad is showing through the back of your leotard or if it’s coming out the side,” says Songhurst, a former European and world junior champion. “It causes a bit of uncomfortableness and anxiety, which can obviously be distracting and can throw you off.”
Urinary incontinence is often talked about in the context of pregnancy and childbirth, which can weaken a woman’s pelvic floor. But, such is the taboo around leaking, it is rarely discussed in the context of elite sport, let alone in wider society.
When a photographer captured France’s 2004 Olympic gymnastics champion Emilie Le Pennec urinating during the World Championships in 2005, the images ended up plastered across porn and fetish websites. The same fate happened to Ecuadorian weightlifter Maria Alexandra Escobar Guerrero, who leaked while attempting a lift at the London 2012 Olympics. Instead of prompting a frank and open discussion about sportswomen being at risk of incontinence, both were ridiculed in the media.
A decade on and the subject continues to be seen as a taboo. Several major sporting governing bodies declined or ignored repeated requests from Telegraph Sport to discuss the extent to which their athletes were prone to stress incontinence, including any measures they were taking to help those impacted.
“Women are supposed to have a menstrual cycle – blood is supposed to come out of them once a month,” says Baz Moffat, a women’s health coach at The Well HQ who specialises in pelvic-floor education.
“You’re not supposed to wet yourself. You’re not supposed to leak urine, especially if you’ve not had a baby.”
Research has shown that pelvic-floor dysfunction and incontinence should not be solely viewed “as mums’ issues”, as Moffat puts it. Female athletes are, in fact, at a 177 per cent higher risk of presenting with urinary incontinence symptoms than sedentary women, with those involved in high-impact sports such as volleyball, athletics, basketball, rugby, football, cross-country, skiing and running all affected.
“The assumption is that you leak because you have a weak pelvic floor,” adds Moffat. “There’s this ‘keep doing your pelvic-floor exercises’ message but, actually, for many sportspeople, it’s about relaxing the pelvic floor and the down training, which sportspeople are pretty bad at.”
Urinary tract infections are another sign that the pelvic floor is too tight due to its inability to let go of urine, which stays in the urethra.
“The pelvic floor is a dynamic muscle which should move with your breathing,” adds Moffat. “Every muscle needs to have a range of movement that it works through and if all you’ve done is tighten and tighten your muscles, that’s not a healthy state for your connective tissue to be in.”
The issue is widespread in gymnastics. One academic paper revealed that the entire French gymnastics team experienced leakage during the 2016 Rio Olympics, while a 2021 study published in the International Urogynecology Journal found that out of 319 gymnasts and cheerleaders surveyed, two thirds suffered urinary incontinence.
Moffat knows of parents whose gymnast daughters have even started wetting the bed, their pelvic floor overtrained and overtight through the consistent core work, while the stigma around incontinence has been intensified by sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the sport.
Larry Nassar, the convicted paedophile doctor for the United States gymnastics team, twice shut down police probes into his sexual abuse after claiming his assaults on victims were medically legitimate “pelvic-floor therapy”. This type of treatment uses internal vaginal soft tissue manipulation, or massage, to relieve pelvic pain by accessing muscles that cannot be accessed any other way, and gave Nassar an easy cover story that allowed him to become a predatory abuser.
In other sports, the scale of stress incontinence and the prevalence of tight pelvic floors is only just starting to be understood – and in the case of Wales Rugby – tackled. After conducting a player questionnaire among the Wales women’s squad during the first Covid-19 lockdown, Jo Perkins, the team’s head physio, discovered incontinence was leading to huge performance implications.
“When I started working with the team in 2019, it was more chats of, ‘Oh, well, I pee myself’ or ‘I have horrendous abdominal pain when I reach my maximum speed’, or ‘It’s painful putting tampons in’. These all come under the umbrella term of pelvic-floor dysfunction,” says Perkins.
“If you’ve got pain or you’re leaking, all that pressure is going the wrong way, so you won’t be able to push as hard in the scrum or tackle and jump effectively. Our stats showed that, actually, the girls were leaking more through jumping, rather than tackling.”
After launching its first set of professional full-time contracts this year, the Welsh Rugby Union began a pioneering partnership with “fem tech” brand Elvie to improve players’ pelvic-floor knowledge. Every player has a smart kegel trainer, a device that is vaginally inserted and helps with pelvic-floor training. It links with an app, and players can monitor their pelvic-floor strength as it contracts and releases.
“The app is really good at telling players whether they are squeezing effectively and how much they are squeezing,” explains Perkins. “It gives you real time feedback. What we’re finding with a lot of the girls is that it’s the release that’s really difficult.”
With the rise of fem tech – the umbrella term for software, services and products focusing on women’s health – expected to exceed £40 billion within the next decade, there are an increasing number of products to help sportswomen deal with incontinence. But, according to Moffat, who conducts pelvic-floor health workshops, there is not an off-the-shelf one-fits-all solution.
“My approach to women and their bodies is they need to know what they need to be doing,” she says. “Just doing a set of pelvic-floor exercises at home will work for some people brilliantly. Nothing is perfect for everybody.
“My recommendation would always be to just go simple first of all and try doing pelvic-floor exercises on your own. Women have no clue how to do pelvic-floor exercises – they’ve never been taught properly – so that’s a challenge. If that’s the case, I would go and find a women’s health physio first who can teach you how to do them properly and also teach you what exercises you need to be doing.”
Having seen specialists for her own pelvic-floor problems, Songhurst has found breathing techniques to relax her core which have helped, but she has reached a point where she is simply managing her leakage. “I kind of accept it’s going to be a thing for the rest of my career,” says Songhurst, who is targeting the Paris 2024 Olympics. “I’m open to trying things if someone suggests how to help.”
By simply talking about urinary stress incontinence, she and Gallagher Cox are making a major contribution to breaking the taboo. “It’s so normalised after pregnancy,” adds Songhurst, “but why isn’t it normalised in sport?”
Putin announced his military action during a televised address early on Thursday morning, saying the move was a response to threats from Ukraine.
He made the speech at the same time a UN meeting was held to avoid a war.
Zelensky urged world leaders to provide defence assistance and help protect the country’s airspace from Russia as his nation is under attack.
In an address to the nation, Zelensky said any Ukrainian who wants weapons will be supplied with them.
He also people to come forward to donate blood for soldiers who have already been wounded in the course of the attack.
Zelensky said: “Anyone who has military experience, who can join the defence of Ukraine, has to come to the military offices of the ministry of internal affairs… please, keep yourself updated on the information. We have wounded soldiers that require blood donations, please join and donate blood.”
In the Russian-annexed Crimea, camera footage showed Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine, amid reports that troops have breached Ukrainian borders in at least four regions.
Russia’s military said it had targeted Ukrainian air bases and other military assets and had not targeted populated areas.
In a chilling threat, Putin said Moscow’s response would be “instant” if anyone tried to target Russia as a result of their actions.
He said Russia does not have a goal to occupy Ukraine, but the responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian “regime”.
He also warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.
Zelensky issued his own statement filmed from his home, declaring martial law on the streets of Ukraine.
He told Ukrainians: “Don’t panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine.”
The severity if the situation cannot be understated.
Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Anton Herashchenko said: ‘Starting today, the world has a new geopolitical reality. Either Ukraine and the world will stop the new Hitler now, or there will be a Third World War.’
There are mixed reports of those killed and injured during the unrest so far.
Ukraine’s military said it had destroyed four Russian tanks on a road near the eastern city of Kharkiv, killed 50 troops near a town in Luhansk region and downed a sixth Russian aircraft, also in the country’s east.
However, Russia has denied reports that its aircraft or armoured vehicles have been destroyed.
Ukraine’s border guard service said that three of its servicemen had been killed in the southern Kherson region and that several more were wounded.
Boris Johnson will be addressing the situation in a televised address at 11am GMT.
He described the situation as a “is a catastrophe for our continent”
The PM added: “I will make an address to the nation this morning on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I will also speak to fellow G7 leaders and I am calling for an urgent meeting of all NATO leaders as soon as possible.”
Putin has accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining Nato and offer Moscow security guarantees.
He said the Russian military operation aims to ensure a “demilitarisation” of Ukraine, adding that all Ukrainian servicemen who lay down arms will be able to safely leave the zone of combat.
Explosions could be heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv shortly after Putin’s address, while explosions were also reported in the cities of Odesa and Kharkiv.
A British-Ukrainian student living in Kyiv said she woke up to the sounds of explosions on Thursday morning.
Valentina Butenko is studying politics at University College London, but returned to Ukraine a few weeks ago to offer help with the security crisis there.
“I woke up this morning to the sound of an explosion,” the 19-year-old, who has a British mother but was raised in Ukraine, said.
“I live on the outskirts of Kyiv so I expect it must have been pretty huge for me to hear it.
“Have been hearing explosions intermittently since 5am … the sky has lit up a few times although it seems to have calmed down slightly now.”
Ms Butenko said “a lot” of people are leaving the Ukrainian capital and roads out of the city are blocked, making it “impossible to get out”.
Boris Johnson is leading a crisis meeting of senior ministers and officials to consider how to respond to Vladimir Putin’s military action against Ukraine.
The Prime Minister said the Russian president has “chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction”, and is expected to announce further sanctions.
The meeting of the Cobra emergency committee follows a call between Mr Johnson and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during the night as Russia launched its assault.
The Prime Minister – whose initial package of sanctions was criticised by senior Tories and opposition figures – has promised to respond “decisively” to the Russian onslaught.
“I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to President Zelensky to discuss next steps,” he said.
“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
“The UK and our allies will respond decisively.”
A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Johnson assured Mr Zelensky the West will “not stand by as President Putin waged his campaign against the Ukrainian people”.
“The Prime Minister said he hoped Ukraine could resist, and that Ukraine and its people were in the thoughts of everyone in the United Kingdom people during this dark time,” the spokesman said.
An attraction near Dorchester is featured as the backdrop to a new season of a popular gardening TV show.
Sculpture by the Lakes, at Pallington Lakes, is featured as the backdrop to Your Garden Made Perfect on BBC 2.
In Your Garden Made Perfect designers propose ideas to create the perfect garden space for families using cutting edge technology.
The footage was filmed at Sculpture by the Lakes last summer.
Home to more than 40 sculptures, situated in 26-acres of Dorset countryside, Sculpture by the Lakes was opened to the public 10 years ago by Simon Gudgeon and his wife, Monique. Constantly being changed with new and improved sculptures since its opening, Sculpture by the Lakes poses as a haven to art lovers and collectors.
The sculpture park played host to the film crew and participants for a week whilst the crew filmed six episodes of the show.
Your Garden Made Perfect sees garden designers using virtual reality technology to transform families’ backyards into the garden of their dreams. Before choosing the right design, the homeowners can experience the visions coming to life through VR goggles.
Monique Gudgeon, head gardener at Sculpture by the Lakes, said: “As a gardener myself, I love watching Your Garden Made Perfect and getting plenty of inspiration. I spend lots of my time thinking about how I can improve on the gardens we have here at Sculpture by the Lakes. Currently we’re developing a botanical garden and the National Collection of Forsythia.”
“It was a pleasure to host the production teams and I hope that filming amongst the greenery at Sculpture by the Lakes has helped to enhance the programme even more.”
Your Garden Made Perfect is the sister show of Your Home Made Perfect and is now in its second series on BBC2.
Sculpture by the Lakes is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Entry to the sculpture park is £12.50, and tickets must be pre-booked online to manage visitor numbers.
Entry to Gallery by the Lakes, the Artisans’ Bazaar, and Café by the Lakes is free.
Workers have started dismantling the Marble Arch mound after the tourist attraction was widely deemed an outrageous waste of money.
London’s ill-fated attraction hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when it opened six months ago.
New photos show remnants of the £6 million artificial hill, which opened to the public in July unfinished, being stripped down after it failed to meet visitors’ expectations.
Within days of opening, the plants on the Mound’s grassy banks started dying and council workers were forced to pull late-night shifts to make sure it looked presentable.
Initially, the entry fee to the attraction was £8.00. Disappointed visitors complained about the exorbitant entry fee, including how the attraction failed to match the marketing hype of lush green hills with sweeping views of the city.
The venue temporarily shut to the public and re-opened in August with a reduced fee. Still, tourists were unhappy and mocked the site, dubbing it London’s ‘worst attraction’.
The New York Times wrote: “Londoners were promised a hill with a view. They got a pile of scaffolding.”
Tory-run Westminster City Council commissioned the project to boost domestic tourism, increase the footfall of the high street shoppers as covid restrictions eased and also offer views across London.
The council came under fire after it was revealed in August that the attraction, which was originally set to cost £2 million, had gone three times over budget.
The project saw a few resignations and elicited widespread fury.
One Hackney Cyclist wrote on Twitter, “The great Marble Arch mound, a modern wonder of the world.
“Westminster Council could have wasted millions on protected cycle tracks and low traffic neighbourhoods but thankfully we got some scaffolding covered in s*** for a few weeks instead.”
Marble Arch Mound closed to the public for good in January 2022. The dismantling is due to finish in May, this year.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken must be misinformed about threats facing journalists in Mexico, reacting to a message of sympathy from the U.S. official.
Five journalists have been killed so far this year in Mexico and Blinken sent a tweet Tuesday night saying, “The high number of journalists killed in Mexico this year and the ongoing threats they face are concerning.”
“I join those calling for greater accountability and protections for Mexican journalists. My heart goes out to the loved ones of those who gave their lives for the truth,” he added.
López Obrador appeared to take the comment as a criticism of Mexico’s efforts to probe such crimes and protect journalists — a group with which he has been sparring of late.
“It’s not true,” López Obrador said. “In all cases (the government) is acting. There is no impunity for state crimes.”
Later, López Obrador suggested that perhaps Blinken received bad information from other U.S. agencies, mentioning the CIA, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.
“They’re tricking him,” he said. “We don’t tolerate the impunity of anyone.”
He said he would have his foreign affairs ministry provide Blinken with information on all of the recent killings.
Late Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard shared a letter he said he sent to Blinken, noting that six people had so far been arrested in three of the recent journalist killings. He also suggested, without sharing any evidence, that weapons purchased in the United States and then smuggled into Mexico, could have been used to kill journalists.
That north-to-south weapons smuggling is one of Mexico’s top issues in the bilateral relationship. It is suing U.S. gun manufacturers in U.S. federal court.
Mexico’s undersecretary of the interior for human rights, Alejandro Encinas, has said that the impunity rate in the killings of journalists and human rights activists is above 90%.
Early in his administration López Obrador appeared to enjoy jousting with reporters in his daily briefings, but as critical reporting of his administration increased, his attacks have grown more pointed, especially against several high-profile journalists who have questioned aspects of his administration.
On Wednesday, he said journalists “lie like they breathe.”