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#UK: #Christmas shopping frenzy moves online for #CyberMonday

After Black Friday, home shoppers are expected to spend £650m online on Cyber Monday – but they will still have to queue.

UK web retailers expect to receive 125 million hits on Cyber Monday. Photograph: AlamyUK web retailers expect to receive 125 million hits on Cyber Monday. Photograph: Alamy.

Zoe Wood and Sarah Butler, The Observer.

After Black Friday’s pitched supermarket battles over discounted TVs and domestic gadgets, the retail frenzy moves online to a day the industry has christened Cyber Monday, with nearly £650m expected to be spent with the click of a mouse.

Retailers have turned this weekend into a multibillion-pound shopping marathon as promotions target pre-Christmas pay packets. “Black Friday now marks the start of the online shopping season,” said Tina Spooner, chief information officer at online retail trade body IMRG, who said it could be another record-breaking Christmas for online retailers as shopping habits change.

The Christmas shopping season started with a bang on Friday with police being called to Tesco supermarkets around the country after store staff were overwhelmed by mobs of shoppers trying to bag discounted TVs and appliances when sales started at midnight.

Shopping centres reported huge increases in shopper numbers as high street anchors including John Lewis, House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer waded in, offering discounts on winter clothing and gadgets such as iPads.

Argos’s chief operating officer, David Robinson, said the whole weekend was going to be a huge sales event as it, along with other retailers, ran deals over several days to appeal to shoppers who had just been paid. “There is a reason for Black Friday in the States – because it is the day after Thanksgiving,” he said. “Here it is because it is around the last pay day before Christmas.”

While many Britons are expected to start their Christmas shopping by visiting stores, a growing number will shop from their sofas, with about £1.5bn expected to be spent online over the weekend. Late on Thursday evening and on Friday the virtual high street was showing signs of strain as shopper numbers forced retailers including Tesco, Argos and Currys to lock browsers out of their sites until the tens of thousands of people already shopping had logged off. In some instances potential customers were asked to wait in online queues for more than an hour just to start browsing. IT experts said that tomorrow, when 125m website hits in 24 hours are predicted, could be another flashpoint for frustrated consumers and retailers who risk losing sales.

Amazon reported that Friday was the busiest day ever on its UK website, with more than 5.5 million items ordered at a rate of 64 items a second, beating its previous record on Cyber Monday 2013 of 4.1 million items.

Michael Allen of internet experts Dynatrace said retailers’ websites were vulnerable because they often relied on the same third-party computer servers around the country to host content such as images. “These websites are incredibly complex beasts,” he said. “When you get these unprecedented increases in traffic, these third parties get hammered as well. If these third parties fail, the retailers fail.” Some analysts think discounting is already more prevalent on the high street this year. Fashion retailers are trying to coax Britons into buying winter coats and jackets, despite the recent mild weather.

PwC, the accountants, said 59 out of 100 stores it regularly monitors were having sales or advertising promotions in shop windows, compared with 55 last year. The average discount on offer was just shy of 40%.

“The current level of promotional activity shows the impact the very mild weather in September and October has had on clothing retailers,” said David Oliver, retail partner at PwC. “This is a big factor influencing retailers’ promotional decisions, outweighing the fact that consumers have a little more money in their pockets. It remains to be seen what influence Black Friday and Cyber Monday may have, but we expect the traditional annual game of ‘chicken’ between consumers and retailers to go all the way to the wire.”

The Observer.

#UK: Police close A1 after blast heard near army base

Junctions 51 to 56 closed in North Yorkshire as police investigate reports of explosion near Catterick Garrison at 3am.

A road sign at Catterick GarrisonA sign at Catterick Garrison, near the A1 in North Yorkshire. Photo: Don McPhee for the Guardian.

Chris Johnston, The Guardian.

The A1 in North Yorkshire has been closed in both directions after an explosion was heard near the army’s largest training centre in the Catterick area at about 3am on Saturday.

North Yorkshire police said the decision to close both slip roads to Catterick was a precautionary measure while enquiries were being carried out. There are no reported injuries.

The force said on Saturday morning that traffic in the area was heavily congested and motorists were advised to avoid the area.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said the road was expected to remain closed until about 3pm.

Some Newcastle United fans travelling to the 3pm match with West Ham at the east London football team’s ground in Upton Park were expected to be affected by the closure. Newcastle officials had notified their West Ham counterparts.

Catterick Garrison, which comprises 20,000 acres of land, is close to the A1 and includes Marne barracks – formerly RAF Catterick – near Catterick village. The facility provides a base for Headquarters 4th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters North East.

A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said the closure affected a 6-mile stretch of road between junction 51 at Leeming Bar, past Catterick and Scotch Corner to junction 56 at Barton.

The agency advised northbound traffic to exit at junction 49 and use the A168 and A19. Southbound drivers should use the A19 and rejoin the A1 at junction 49.

The Guardian.

Taras Berezovets: Stop the military #coup. #Ukraine

Conscripts of the National Guard, which is a part of police troops, demand demobilization during an Oct. 13 protest by the president's office. Taras Berezovets says the rally was a rehearsal of a coup instigated by Russia.Conscripts of the National Guard, which is a part of police troops, demand demobilization during an Oct. 13 protest by the president’s office. Taras Berezovets says the rally was a rehearsal of a coup instigated by Russia. © Pavlo Podufalov

Taras Berezovets.

After realizing that it’s impossible to create Novorossiya, the Kremlin will move to a new tactic for destabilization of Ukraine. It will bribe the military officers, special services and police with the aim of organizing a military coup to remove the legally elected government in Ukraine.

Simultaneous protests of servicemen of the National Guard (the special police unit) on Oct. 13 and at the same time in two different capitals, the capital of independent Ukraine Kyiv and the Soviet-era capital, Kharkiv, and another attempt at a protest in Chernihiv is a rehearsal by the Russian special forces before organizing a military coup in Ukraine.

The rehearsal of an attack on the Verkhovna Rada on Oct. 14 that followed, belongs to the same category. All political forces that took part in that day’s celebrations (of creation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the UPA), denied any involvement in the attack.

Chief commander of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko shares this view. He said that the meeting of draftees from the National Guard outside of the presidential administration was a provocation of foreign special services.

“It was a pity to watch adult men who fell for a provocation of the foreign special services and took part in this not-so-numerous action and attempt to discredit the Ukrainian army,” Poroshenko was quoted by lb.ua as saying in Zaporizhya.

He is spot on in this case. The Kremlin suffered a serious military fiasco in its war in Donbas. Creation of a Novorossiya in the form that Vladimir Putin envisaged, is impossible. And this fact cannot be covered by any amount of brainwashing in Russia by the Kremlin propaganda.

If you think that Ukraine has lost everything and sincerely believe that the West has betrayed us, here is what an authoritative Russian expert says about it.

The best representatives of the special services of the airborne troops and special forces of the army, were “ground outside of the Donetsk airport,” according to independent Russian journalist Stepan Demura.

He also says that NATO will soon be in Kharkiv as a result of a poorly planned military operation in Donbas.

There is also a difficult winter looming, which for the Kremlin can become very problematic in terms of trade of its main commodities that make much of the Russian gross domestic product, oil and gas. Even the primary school children (in Ukraine) know that oil price has been sliding.

Moreover, there is a really complex problem to solve of providing for 2.5 million Crimean residents in the winter, and the occupying military force on the peninsula. As a Crimean native, I will have to disappoint those who believe that the Kerch ferries will suffice for that.

In reality, during the half year of occupation, Russia has not made even a half-hearted attempt to make physical improvements at the crossing, even by buying several large ferries. The Greek ferry Dorius, which arrived in July, only fits 600 people and has been under repairs more than it has been carrying passengers. Moreover, the Black Sea storms that rage around the crossing, have always paralyzed the work of ferries in the winter. So, you can forget about the stable work of the crossing.

In these circumstances there are few options left for Putin. One is to start a full-scale attack with the aim of creating a corridor to Crimea through Donetsk, Zaporizhya and Kherson regions. Two is to start humiliating negotiations with Poroshenko to either allow Russian caravans through Ukraine’s territory, or ask Ukraine to renew supplies of its goods to Crimea.

But what about food sanctions, you might ask. It seems that the whole of Russia, choking on its gag reflex, will live on a diet of Ryazan swedes and Voronezh turnips, washing it down with powdered milk, while Crimea will be eating good quality Ukrainian food.

But what else has Kremlin got to do if the Potemkin-style bridge over the Kerch straigh has remained a public relations stint, while the hunger is real?

This is why the Kremlin has taken up the tried-and-tested Soviet technology of organizing a military coup. It has worked in Afghanistan and other republics, and is described well in the Wikipedia article about the removal of President Hafizullah Amin in Afghanistan.

In the hard times of trials the impact of a person with a gun is bigger than ever. If you top that with the network of agents developed under President Viktor Yanukovych, and then offer material interest for the uniformed people, you can achieve your goal.

This is why I am convinced that the Oct. 13 events in Kyiv and Kharkiv that featured representatives of the National Guard were a test of Kyiv’s reaction to a potential military coup in the conditions of war. If there are no criminal cases started in the next few days for leaving the place of permanent deployment, disobeying orders and participation in illegal protests, this would mean that the military prosecutors are not worth their pay.
Kyiv Post+ offers special coverage of Russia's war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.Kyiv Post+ offers special coverage of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.

Soldiers are the people who have given an oath. They cannot, like simple mortals, just come out and strike. They simply don’t have this right, especially in the times of war. How could they have simply locked the officers in the store rooms and go to Kyiv, like they say they did? Are there people who actually believe this farce?

Moreover, unlike the privates who do not carry weapons all the time, officers are always armed. How could one possibly disarm a trained officer?

In any case, suppressing an embryo of a coup is always easier than dealing with its aftermaths, which the Kremlin will continue attempting to organize as the protest sentiments grow in Ukraine.

According to the publicly available information, the protest actions of the National Guard in Kyiv and Kharkiv were coordinated by the same administrator in Kherson through the Russian social network Vkontakte.

This is enough entry data for a clever person. The case should now be taken over by the professionals from the special services. And the patriots, in the meantime, should make sure the government does not forget the crimes against national security that we have seen in the past few days.

(Taras Berezovets is a political consultant and owner of Berta consultancy).

Kyiv Post.

#Mexico finds more graves at student massacre site

Arrest of new suspects in Guerrero state leads to information on disappearance of dozens of students, prosecutor says.

Thousands of protesters marched across Mexico on Wednesday to demand action from federal governmentThousands of protesters marched across Mexico on Wednesday to demand action from federal government. [AFP]

Mexican authorities have found four more clandestine graves containing charred human remains at a site in the restive south-west of the country, where officials fear missing students were massacred by gang members and police.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo said on Thursday the motive behind the apparent massacre of dozens of student teachers, who went missing after clashing with police in Iguala in the volatile, gang-ridden state of Guerrero on September 26, was not yet clear.

Al Jazeera’s Rachel Levin, reporting from Mexico City, said that federal authorities were investigating the new leads on Thursday, as President Enrique Pena Nieto tried to deflect criticism of government inaction in finding the 43 students.

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of people held protests across Mexico to demand the return of the missing students, amid fears a police-backed gang executed them.

The young students disappeared after municipal police officers working with a gang shot at buses seized by the aspiring teachers in the Guerrero city of Iguala, and took several of them away in patrol cars.

A mass grave containing 28 unidentified bodies was discovered on the outskirts of Iguala last weekend, in the same location where two hit-men from the Guerreros Unidos gang confessed to executing 17 students.

Authorities said it would take at least two weeks to confirm the identities of the bodies.

The government of President Pena Nieto has faced US and UN calls to solve the disappearance and investigate why gang-linked police attacked the students.

Pena Nieto deployed hundreds of federal forces to take over security in Iguala on Monday and disarm the local police. About 30 investigators from the prosecutor’s office have also traveled to Iguala.

The mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de Los Angeles Pineda Villa, have been suspected of having links to the disappearnce of the students. Both have gone missing.

Pena Nieto took office two years ago pledging to end a wave of violence that has killed about 100,000 people since the start of 2007. Though homicides have fallen on his watch, other crimes have increased, including extortion and kidnapping.

Guerrero, which is also home to the resort of Acapulco, has been one of the most lawless states in Mexico for years.

Al Jazeera English.

BBC News – Japan volcano: Search suspended as toll rises | #BBCNews #Japan #MountOntake #Volcano

Survivors filmed the eruption at close quarters and described volcanic rock falling “like hailstones”, as Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports

Rescue teams searching Japan’s Mount Ontake for missing climbers suspended operations as the volcano continued to shoot gas, rocks and ash into the air.

At least 36 people are believed to have died when Mt Ontake erupted unexpectedly on Saturday.

Hundreds of hikers were on the volcano when it erupted. Most walked down to safety but others were trapped.

Dozens of people were injured in the incident on the mountain, which is about 200km (125 miles) west of Tokyo.

Mount Ontake eruption

Early on Monday helicopters began searching, as smoke rose from the peak.

Hundreds of firefighters, police and troops were involved in the operation, which later had to be halted because of the adverse conditions.

Twelve bodies have been recovered so far. Another 24 are reported to be on the mountain, after five more were located during the course of the day.

Monday's search centred on a mountain lodge on Mount OntakeMonday’s search centred on a mountain lodge on Mount Ontake.Eventually toxic gases and ash forced the search teams to suspend their operationEventually toxic gases and ash forced the search teams to suspend their operation.

Some of the bodies were found in a lodge near the summit and others were buried in ash up to 50cm (20in) deep, Japanese media reported.

Hikers who made it down the mountain told how a rolling cloud of volcanic debris had swept down its flanks, smothering everything in its path.

“Some people were buried in ash up to their knees and the two in front of me seemed to be dead,” a woman hiker told the broadcaster Asahi.

The bodies of some of the victims were brought down from the volcano on SundayThe bodies of some of the victims were brought down from the volcano on Sunday.The volcano erupted unexpectedly on Saturday leaving many hikers trappedThe volcano erupted unexpectedly on Saturday leaving many hikers trapped.

Another told how she had heard the last moments of a victim hit by a cascade of rocks.

“There was someone lying outside the hut after being hit in the back,” she said.

“He was saying ‘It hurts, it hurts’, but after about half an hour he went quiet.”

Another survivor told the Yomiuri newspaper he had seen a boy shouting “It’s hot” and “I can’t breathe” near the peak, before ash clouds turned everything black and silent.

Relatives of those still missing are facing an anxious wait for news at a nearby elementary school.

One tearful father clutched a photograph of his son and the young man’s girlfriend, neither of whom have been heard of since the eruption.

An elderly woman told the Asahi network that her son had called her just after the eruption.

“He told me it erupted. He said ‘It’s over. I’m dying now’ and then the line was cut off,” she said.

Japan’s meteorological agency has forecast further eruptions and warned that volcanic debris may settle within 4km (2.5 miles) of the peak.

BBC News.


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