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by Euro Reporter
2012-01-04 10:57:42
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Britain invites the world in 2012

New Year is for many of us a time of reflection; a time to mark the passing of the old and the coming of the new. Turning the page that brings in the new year can offer an opportunity to look forward with hope and confidence. And in Britain we have plenty of reasons to do so. Whatever else it brings, 2012 will be an historic year for my country. Perhaps most importantly, we will commemorate sixty years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Diamond Jubilee will bring with it a profound sense of the extraordinary service that the Queen has rendered this country over the years of her reign; and a chance to reflect on the progress that humanity has made during that time.

Most of us in the United Kingdom have known no other monarch; and the Queen has been a source of strength and stability during times of real change. The celebrations that accompany Her Majesty's Jubilee next summer will be heartfelt. And then, of course, the world's most extraordinary show will arrive in London for the third time. Hosting an Olympic and Paralympic Games is a signal honour, and we are proud to welcome the world to London to join the spectacle. This is though, not simply a celebration of and by London; in the days and weeks before the Games, people across Britain will welcome new friends from across the globe to the heart of their communities as the world's athletes settle into their training camps across the country. At the heart of this is what the long term legacy of the Games can bring: connections and friendships between our towns and cities and the nations we welcome.

2012 will also be the opportunity to celebrate the richness and diversity of our cultural experience as the London 2012 Festival, the finale to the Cultural Olympiad, comes to the capital. Artists from across the world will join our biggest nationwide festival - twelve weeks of dance, music, theatre and more. We will also honour the achievements of two of our greatest literary figures, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, whose works have connected people around the world. As we enter the New Year, I would like to invite you to join us in looking forward and discovering the many things that have made the UK a great place to live, work, study and visit. 2012 will offer an opportunity to explore our history and heritage, our countryside and cities, against a backdrop of cultural performances and world-class sport. Come and find out why we have four of the top ten universities in the world, and research facilities that have helped us win more than 80 Nobel prizes for science and technology alone. Come and find out why the UK is the easiest country in Europe in which to set up a business. Or simply come and enjoy the spectacle. It will be quite a year.


Urgent review of faulty breast implants

Britain's Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, on Saturday ordered an urgent review of faulty silicone breast implants given to more than 40,000 women, after an investigation showed the rupture rate could be seven times higher than British regulators previously believed. The evidence was supplied privately to the Department of Health on Friday by Transform, Britain's biggest cosmetic surgery chain said. It prompted the government to question the official figures supplied to the regulator by private cosmetic surgery companies. Lansley was "very concerned" and "unhappy" that firms had not given the regulator full information about the failure rate.

The review could lead to the government advising women to have the implants, made from industrial grade silicone - rather than medical grade - by Poly Implants Protheses (PIP), a French company, removed with the taxpayer footing the bill, which is estimated to be as high as $233 million. Lansley said that evidence from around the world did not suggest a need for women to worry, but he promised that the government would act swiftly as information emerges. At least 3,000 National Health Service patients - most recovering from breast cancer - were given the faulty implants as part of reconstructive surgery; Surgeons in Britain warned against the use of the PIP implants in 2006 and 2007, but it took regulators a further four years to ban them.

About 400 British women are planning to bring legal cases against about 20 private cosmetic surgery companies for giving them the implants. Transform has told the Sunday Telegraph that the company's own internal figures show that one in 14 implants made by PIP have ruptured since 2006. The rupture rate of seven per cent - if replicated across the industry - is seven times higher than the one per cent official figure the British regulator was sticking to last week in its attempt to reassure tens of thousands of women. Health officials will want to know urgently if Transform's rupture rate is symptomatic of the whole industry.


Britain puts out the "pets welcome" sign

After a 7.6 earthquake struck Indonesia in 2009, a British search-and-rescue dog named Darcy travelled with her handler to search for survivors in a remote Sumatran village. When she returned to the U.K., instead of a hero's welcome, the perky border collie faced six months in a 3x6.5-foot concrete pen — a prisoner of the U.K.'s strict quarantine rules for pets coming into the country. It's a bad memory for Darcy's handler, John Ball of the U.K. International Search and Rescue team. "No rescue dog should have to go through the trauma of being locked away simply because they've been part of a rescue effort in a foreign country," says Ball. But come Jan. 1, no dog will ever face Darcy's quarantine ordeal again. After almost two decades of campaigning by animal lovers, the U.K. is easing its notoriously strict rules for pets coming into the country by abolishing quarantine and slashing waiting times for the furry friends scratching at Britain's door.

Pet owners hoping to enter the British Isles have long argued that the U.K.'s quarantine laws — introduced in 1897, before vaccines were invented, to protect from the threat of rabies – are unnecessary and cruel. According to the U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, there has been only one recorded case of rabies in British quarantine kennels since the 1970s. Finally, it seems, the British government has agreed. "The U.K.'s quarantine system was designed to combat the threat of rabies in the 19th century and has now been left far behind scientific advances," environment secretary Caroline Spelman acknowledged in a statement announcing the less stringent rulesover the summer. "It's time we changed these outdated rules which have caused hardship to generations of pets and pet owners."

The change is the second of two hard-won victories for pets visiting, returning to or re-locating to the U.K. The first was the abolition, in 2000, of mandatory six-month quarantine upon arrival for dogs, cats and ferrets. Robbed of exercise and contact with their owners, many quarantined animals suffered and several died in conditions their owners likened to "jail" and "solitary confinement." When her healthy 7-year-old beagle Bertie passed away shortly after emerging from his six months, Lady Mary Fretwell — the wife of the then British ambassador to France — launched a campaign in 1994 called Passports for Pets. She attracted fervent supporters in the highest echelons of British society, including the late Harold Harmsworth aka Viscount Rothermere. As owner of the The Daily Mail, Harmsworth offered to throw his influential tabloid's support behind a young candidate for Prime Minister, Tony Blair, if he would change the rules so that Harmsworth could travel with his beloved pup.

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