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Queen Elizabeth II paid tribute to the victims of the Manchester terror attack and the Grenfell Tower fire in London during her annual Christmas Day message Monday.

Speaking from Buckingham Palace, she told of the “privilege” of meeting those injured in the Manchester attack that killed 22 people attending an Ariana Grande concert.

She also commended the country’s emergency services, which have endured a difficult year with a series of terror attacks in London.

The Queen also spoke about those who lost family members in the Grenfell Tower fire in which 71 people perished.

“For many, the idea of ‘home’ reaches beyond a physical building — to a hometown or city,” she said in her televised address.

“This Christmas, I think of London and Manchester, whose powerful identities shone through over the past 12 months in the face of appalling attacks. In Manchester, those targeted included children who had gone to see their favorite singer. A few days after the bombing, I had the privilege of meeting some of the young survivors and their parents.

“I describe that hospital visit as a privilege because the patients I met were an example to us all, showing extraordinary bravery and resilience. Indeed, many of those who survived the attack came together just days later for a benefit concert. It was a powerful reclaiming of the ground, and of the city those young people call home.”

Difficult year

The UK has been hit by a number of terror attacks over the past year with three of those targeting London.

In March, a terrorist plowed his vehicle into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four people, before stabbing a police officer to death outside Parliament.

In June, a vehicle and knife attack left eight people dead in the London Bridge area of the capital.

Later that month, one man died and nine people were hospitalized after a terrorist attack targeting London’s Muslim community.

In Manchester, 22 were killed and 60 injured during May’s suicide bomb attack on the city’s concert hall.

The Queen also spoke of her pain of the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, as well as those who lost their homes and loved ones in Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Read: After the horror, anger flares in west London

“We expect our homes to be a place of safety — sanctuary even — which makes it all the more shocking when the comfort they provide is shattered,” she said.

“A few weeks ago, the Prince of Wales visited the Caribbean in the aftermath of hurricanes that destroyed entire communities. And here in London, who can forget the sheer awfulness of the Grenfell Tower fire?

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who died and those who lost so much; and we are indebted to members of the emergency services who risked their own lives, this past year, saving others. Many of them, of course, will not be at home today because they are working, to protect us.”

70th anniversary

The Queen also took the opportunity to speak of her 70 years of marriage to Prince Philip, and his decision to retire from public engagements.

She said that events of the past year made her “grateful for the blessings of home and family, and in particular for 70 years of marriage.”

And she hinted at the arrival of new family members, with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry planning to marry in May, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge expecting their third child in April.

“I don’t know that anyone had invented the term ‘platinum’ for a 70th wedding anniversary when I was born,” she said.

“You weren’t expected to be around that long. Even Prince Philip has decided it’s time to slow down a little — having, as he economically put it, ‘done his bit.’

“But I know his support and unique sense of humor will remain as strong as ever, as we enjoy spending time this Christmas with our family and look forward to welcoming new members into it next year.”

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Windsor council calls for removal of homeless people before royal wedding

Council’s Tory leader Simon Dudley is demanding police use legal powers to clear the area of homeless people by 19 May

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Powered by article titled “Windsor council leader calls for removal of homeless before royal wedding” was written by Harriet Sherwood, for The Guardian on Wednesday 3rd January 2018 18.12 UTC

The leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, home to Windsor Castle, Eton College and Ascot racecourse, has demanded police use legal powers to clear the area of homeless people before the royal wedding in May.

Simon Dudley, the council’s Conservative leader, wrote to Thames Valley police this week seeking action against “aggressive begging and intimidation” and “bags and detritus” accumulating on the streets.

The letter, seen by the Guardian, follows a series of tweets sent by Dudley while on a skiing holiday in Wyoming over Christmas, in which he referred to “an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy in Windsor” and said “residents have had enough of this exploitation of residents and 6 million tourists pa [per annum]”.

He tweeted that he would write to Thames Valley police “asking them to focus on dealing with this before the #RoyalWedding”.

Tens of thousands of wellwishers and tourists are expected to descend on the picturesque town on the banks of the River Thames for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on 19 May in St George’s chapel at Windsor Castle.

The castle, founded in the 11th century, is one of the royal family’s main residences and where the Queen spends most weekends. It is open to the public, attracting 1.36 million visitors each year, with a family ticket costing £53.

Dudley’s letter, dated 2 January and addressed to Anthony Stansfeld, the police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley, thanks the police for protecting the community and lists the council’s support services for vulnerable residents, including an emergency night shelter, a drug and alcohol support service, and a severe weather emergency protocol.

“Homelessness is completely unacceptable in a caring, compassionate community such as ours,” he says.

However, he goes on to say that the council has evidence that “a large number of adults that are begging in Windsor are not in fact homeless, and if they are homeless they are choosing to reject all support services … In the case of homelessness amongst this group, it is therefore a voluntary choice.”

Dudley also raised concerns about “the quantities of bags and detritus that those begging are accumulating and leaving on our pavements, at times unattended … this is a significant security concern, especially given the national importance of Windsor.

“Obviously, the level of tourist interest is set to multiply with the royal wedding in May 2018, and there are increased concerns from our residents about their safety. The whole situation also presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavourable light.”

He suggests that Thames Valley police use their powers under existing laws – citing the 1824 Vagrancy Act and the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act – “including implementing criminal behaviour orders for the numerous offenders”. The Vagrancy Act criminalises rough sleeping and begging.

Stansfeld said he was surprised that Dudley’s letter had been “released publicly but not yet been sent directly to me”. The letter is copied to Theresa May, who is the MP for Maidenhead, and the home secretary, Amber Rudd.

Murphy James of the Windsor Homelessness Project, which has been operating since 2009, said there had been an increase in both visible and hidden homelessness in the town over the past year.

But the 1824 Vagrancy Act was “the most inappropriate way of dealing with the problem. It means treating people like they’re committing a crime, whereas there is nothing villainous in what they are doing,” he said.

The project had 50-60 people on its books and on a typical day helped 20-26 people, according to James.

He rejected Dudley’s suggestion that people were homeless or begging from choice. “For someone to ask for loose change, your self-esteem is at its lowest. No one does this from choice. We shouldn’t be demonising these people but asking them what we can do to help.”

He said that Dudley’s claim that the council runs an emergency night shelter 365 days a year was inaccurate. “People have to register in advance, it’s not emergency accommodation.”

The council needed to overhaul its care and support policies to cater for individual needs, he said. “I know it costs money, but if we help people we’ll save money in the long run in NHS and policing costs, and we’ll live in a happier town.”

Wisdom Da Costa, an independent councillor, said he disagreed with Dudley’s approach. “I don’t believe banging them [homeless people] up is the right thing to do,” he said. “What we need is a multi-agency approach, and that means putting money behind an effort to get people off the streets and dealing with the issues.”

Da Costa said homelessness had become “more visible and more persistent” in the town centre over the past year, but said he had not encountered harassment. “I’ve been delighted by the response of hundreds of people in Windsor, who have provided food and blankets, who care about these people and want decent solutions,” he said. Windsor was “a beautiful place, but there is poverty here, areas of deprivation. We are one people and we need to work together.”

Sam White, 18, who has lived in Windsor all his life, said he got to know most of the homeless people in the town centre over the past six months since starting work in the box office of the Theatre Royal. “There are quite a few now. If you walk down the high street, you might see six or seven, but there are obviously more hidden away,” he said.

“They don’t cause a threat to anyone. I’ve never seen any of them being aggressive. Obviously some have issues like drug addiction, but they’re nice people at the absolutely lowest point in their lives.”

White, who doesn’t give money but buys food and essentials for homeless people, said some did not receive help from the authorities. Some, but not all, asked passing members of the public for cash donations, he said, “but they’ve got nothing”.

He objected to the idea of a police drive to clear people out for the royal wedding, saying: “I’m sure if the council offered homeless people food and shelter for the day, they would agree to take themselves off the streets.”

The homeless charity Crisis has said that legal measures should only be used against homeless people as a last resort for genuinely anti-social behaviour.

“People shouldn’t be targeted simply for sleeping on the street. In fact, homeless people are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators, and rough sleepers are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence compared to the general public. They deserve better than to be treated as criminals simply because they have nowhere to live,” said the charity’s chief executive, Jon Sparkes, earlier this year.

A spokesperson for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead said Dudley was away and unavailable to comment on his letter.

In a statement, Stansfeld said he would investigate the issues raised in Dudley’s letter once he had received it. He added that supporting the vulnerable, including the homeless, was a priority for Thames Valley police, and officers “work day in and day out to keep people safe from harm and make the Thames Valley a safe place to live, work and visit”. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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‘Is that a terrorist?’ Prince Philip’s ‘joke’ about bearded bystander

Duke of Edinburgh allegedly made comment about man with long ginger beard while attending church at Sandringham

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Powered by article titled “‘Is that a terrorist?’ Prince Philip makes joke about bearded bystander” was written by Mattha Busby, for The Guardian on Monday 1st January 2018 09.08 UTC

Prince Philip has been accused of making a gaffe on a walkabout at Sandringham on Sunday after he reportedly pointed at a bearded member of the public and asked: “Is that a terrorist?”

The Queen’s husband, 96, was attending St Magdalene church, close to the royal family home in north Norfolk, on New Year’s Eve along with his daughter Anne, the Princess Royal, when he allegedly made the remark.

Philip spotted a tall man with a long ginger beard and made the comment to his minders, according to an unnamed witness quoted by the Daily Mail and Sun, who said the man in question found the apparent joke hilarious.

“The man appeared to be his with wife and child,” the Sun reported the witness as saying. “Philip was wishing lots of people a happy new year and then he spotted this guy with his distinctive beard. He pointed at him in a funny way and turned to one of his royal bodyguards, saying: ‘Is that a terrorist?’

“He was obviously having a little joke, but he said it within earshot of the man who burst out laughing and appeared to find the whole thing hilarious. I think Philip knew he was going to be overheard.”

The royal also joked with Alison Leggett, 54, of Hunstanton, Norfolk, after seeing her 18-month-old fox red labrador lounging on soggy grass, telling her: “I hope he hasn’t got rising damp.”

The congregation, which also included the Queen, then entered the church and sang a variety of Christmas carols including It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, As With Gladness Men of Old and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

The duke stepped away from public life this year but has seemingly not lost his notorious penchant for provocative remarks.

Buckingham Palace has been contacted for comment. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Prince Harry Interviews President Barack Obama



Obama warns over divisive social media use in Prince Harry interview

27 DEC 17 05:51 ET

(CNN) — Former US President Barack Obama has urged people in leadership positions not to use social media in a way that fosters division.

In a BBC interview conducted by Britain’s Prince Harry, Obama warned that the internet risked reinforcing people’s prejudices and leading to a fractured society.

“All of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the internet,” Obama said. “One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases,” he said.

Obama did not mention US President Donald Trump by name during the interview, which he said was his first since leaving office.

However, Trump’s campaign and presidency have been characterized by his outspoken use of Twitter.

Obama, who was interviewed for an edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today program guest edited by Prince Harry and broadcast Wednesday, said it was a challenge to make the most of the opportunities provided by social media.

“The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a Balkanization of society and allows ways of finding common ground,” he said in the interview, which was taped in September during the Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada.

Obama said it was important for people to get offline and meet others in their communities, “because the truth is that on the internet everything is simplified and when you meet people face to face it turns out they are complicated,” he said.

“One of things we want to do I think is as we’re working with young people to build up platforms for social change,” he said. “Make sure that they don’t think that just sending out a hashtag in and of itself is bringing about change. It can be a powerful way to raise awareness but then you have to get on the ground and actually do something.”

‘Work still undone’

Asked how he felt on the day he left office in January this year, Obama described mixed feelings.

“The sense that there was a completion, and that we had done the work in a way that preserved our integrity and left us whole and that we hadn’t fundamentally changed, I think was a satisfying feeling,” he said.

“That was mixed with all the work that was still undone and concerns about how the country moves forward. But overall there was a serenity there, more than I would have expected.”

Obama also paid tribute to former First Lady Michelle Obama, describing her as a “spectacular, funny, warm person” who despite not being politically inclined herself had supported him throughout the process and been “as good of a First Lady as there has ever been.”

Asked by Harry what was the biggest change for him after his eight years in office, Obama reflected on a slowed pace of life and the new freedom he had to decide how to focus his activities.

“The things that are important to me haven’t changed, I still care about about making the United States and the world a place where kids get an education, where people who are willing to work hard are able to find a job that pays a living wage, that we are conserving the amazing resources of our planet so that future generations can enjoy the beauty of this place like we did,” he said.

Obama said he now had to “rely more on persuasion than legislation” but that he enjoyed being able to focus his energies on the causes that mattered most to him.

Recounting what he missed about the presidency, Obama mentioned his team, the rewarding nature and intensity of the work they did — and being able to travel without getting stuck in traffic.

Royal wedding invitation?

Questioned live on air after the pre-taped interview was broadcast, Prince Harry said the guest list has not yet been put together for his wedding to US actress Meghan Markle next May.

Asked if he got along well enough with the former President to invite him to the event, the Prince laughed off the question.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” he said. “We haven’t put the invites or the guest list together yet so who knows whether he’s going to be invited or not. I wouldn’t want to ruin that surprise.”

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