South Western Railway Strike Set to Affect Christmas Travel

Do you have travel plans to see your friends and family the Saturday before Christmas? Well, get ready for a bit of a hassle.

South Western Railway has warned passengers of disruptions on 22 December across South London and North Surrey, including areas like Kingston, Weybridge, Esher and Thames Ditton, due to a union leaders strike against driver only trains, organised by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).

This will be a 24 hour action, and union members were instructed not to book shifts on this specific day until 11:59pm.

According to British Transport Police data, there have been more than double the amount of alcohol-caused violent offences at Britain’s railway stations over the winter holiday period in the past two years.

This follows the case of a policeman, who was stabbed outside a railway station in East London on 23 November.

South Western Railway said it would do everything possible to provide the best service for passengers during the strike, and claims the industrial action is “totally unnecessary”.

Will you be travelling with South Western Railway on 22 December? If so, what do you think about this situation? Leave a comment down below to let us know what you think!

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California Wildfires Continue to Displace Families Amidst Aftermath

This November, California witnessed their biggest fire season in recent years. Over the course of three weeks, the golden state fought against three major fires that tore through the northern and southern regions.

The horrifying three weeks started on Thursday 8 November, in Northern California with the “Camp Fire”. It is considered the deadliest fire in United States’ history – with the death toll currently at 88 people.

The prolific fire started in Butte County and then made its way to the town of Paradise.

Paradise has suffered the most destruction, with a majority of it being consumed by the blaze. Over 153,336 acres were demolished.

Down in southern California, the Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire also ignited on 8 November. Collectively, the fires burned through 250,285 acres of land and have caused three deaths.

Brandon Rista of Newbury Park, California, discussed the life-threatening experience he endured during the height of the Woolsey and Hill Fire.

“My family was evacuated for a night at an evacuation centre because all of the hotels in town were booked,” Rista said. “All of the freeways were blocked off, so it felt like we were trapped in our town for the night. My neighbourhood ended up being fine in the end, but there were people I knew who weren’t so lucky.”

The fires have destroyed more 20,297 buildings including residences, commercial buildings and structures.

Many citizens of Paradise, Malibu, Thousand Oaks and surrounding areas are homeless, including some of Hollywood’s most beloved household names. Miley Cyrus, Gerald Butler, and Robin Thicke are just a few of the many to have lost their homes to the out-of-control carnage.

Currently, the fires are 100% contained, but the aftermath has left an undeniable mark throughout the golden state.

Hazardous waste clean-up will be starting within these upcoming days, with Paradise, California seeing treatment first.

Along with a state-wide clean up, over 1,000 breweries across the U.S., including Sierra Nevada Brewing, have come together to brew and sell a special beer named “Resilience Butte County Proud IPA” in efforts to raise funds to assist in helping the “Camp Fire” victims and cities.

The Christmas Spirit Comes to Southbank

If you’re looking to really get your Christmas spirit on this holiday season, then make your way to the Underbelly’s Christmas Market in Southbank, London.

The Underbelly is known for throwing exciting and fun events that bring in thousands of people each year, such as their Summer Holiday festival that takes place in the same Southbank venue over the summer.

Those of you who are properly Christmas obsessed will truly love everything this market has to offer: mulled wine, handmade items, delicious warm food, and even a Christmas themed ferris wheel. The Underbelly’s Christmas Market is one of the funnest–and certainly one of the cosiest– within London.

The market runs until 6 January, so there’s still plenty of time to make your way over and indulge in the Christmas spirit.

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Armenian Family Seeks Asylum From Inside Dutch Church

A refugee family from Armenia are narrowly avoiding deportation from the Netherlands, thanks to a church that has been holding non-stop services since midday on 26 October, 2018.

Bethel Church, which is located in The Hague, is taking advantage of Dutch law that specifies that authorities cannot enter a church while it is holding worship.

This means that as long as Bethel continues to hold worship services on their current marathon schedule, the family—the Tamrazyans—will be safe.

The Tamrazyans had fled to the Netherlands to avoid further politically-charged death threats that the father had received in Armenia, and have lived in the Netherlands for nine years.

Attempts at claiming further asylum in the country, including an emergency pardon, have been unsuccessful thus far. The family requested help from nearby churches, and the Protestant-aligned Bethel Church was the first to offer protection.

Reverend Axel Wicke told Time Magazine that Bethel has received “massive support,” and says that the Tamrazyans are “literally living in a protective house built by prayers and worship.”

“The Protestant Church of The Hague respects court orders,” the Bethel website says, “but finds itself confronted with a dilemma: the choice between respecting the government and ptotecting the rights of a child.”

As of now, the church is requesting that visitors stop by the church—at least two people must be worshipping in order for the church to be considered ‘in worship’—and has their banking information listed here for donations.

Kingston University Student Debuts Film on Amazon Prime

A Kingston University student celebrated the launch of his short film on Amazon Prime at the movie premiere held in Blakes Hotel, Kensington on 16 November.

The short film Vent explores the life of Rose and Parker, a couple forced to live inside their flat due to a widespread radiation leak which happened three years ago. Fed up with the mundane conditions they are living in, Rose decides to take matters in her own hands and go outside, despite her controlling boyfriend’s attempts to stop her.

Mayuren Naidoo, Vent’s director and producer, said his inspiration for the film was controlling domestic relationships.

“I wanted to show this relationship in a film with a different setting, the idea that there has been a radiation leak and therefore it is only safe to go outside using a gas mask,” Naidoo said. “It also resonates with the multitude of women in similar situations in real life, as the idea that one individual can control the other and deny them of their basic freedom.”

The protagonists of the movie, Rose and Parker, are played by Vala Norén and Harrison Osterfield. Nolen is the younger sister of Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, who was in films like Prometheus and the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Osterfield is known for his role in George Clooney’s upcoming Hulu drama series Catch-22 and for assisting his drama school colleague, Tom Holland, on the set of The Avengers and Spider-Man films.

Naidoo is currently doing a Film Studies master at Kingston University. In addition to his studies and his independent projects, he also recently founded his own production company, Complete Field Films.

This is not Naidoo’s debut in directing, as he previously wrote and directed his first film in 2016, Midnight Sonder, which won the Best Produced Screenplay award at the Creation International Film Festival in Ottawa, Canada and the Bronze Award at the FAMEUS International Film Festival in Los Angeles, California.

The 18-minute film can be watched in high definition here, and is available both for rent and purchase at £0.99.

Backlash and Resignation Over Brexit Deal

Opposition from MPs and the resignations of Dominic Raab and Esther McVey are putting pressure on Theresa May, as she’s fighting to defend the Brexit deal reached with the EU.

The Prime Minister faced opposition and backlash from a number of MPs during the Prime Minister’s Question session on Wednesday, 14 November, as many members from all political parties are sceptical or hostile to the 585-pages draft.

The resignation of Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, in protest of the deal arranged by the Prime Minister and the EU, further emphasised the instability of the UK current political environment.

Even pro-Brexit Cabinet members, such as Andrea Leadsom, argued there’s still room for improvement in terms of the deal.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who wrote Article 50 which was used to trigger the UK’s exit from the European Union, said it is wrong to think leaving would result in a richer country.

“It is working against the British Government now and the reason for that is because the British Government did not decide, when it started the process, where it wanted to end,” Kerr said. “The Prime Minister has managed to keep her cabinet by not declaring what is the final relation that we are going to have with EU in her views.”

With all the criticism Mrs May has been dealing with, many believe her position as PM is under threat, as MPs, such as Steve Baker, sent letters of no confidence in Theresa May to the 1922 Committee.

If 15% of the party’s MPs hand in letters, this could trigger a formal confidence vote against the Prime Minister and her post as leader of the Conservative party. Currently, only 25 letter announcements have been made public.

Theresa May is set to visit Brussels this week to finalise her Brexit plan with the EU leaders.