Ubisoft executive says politics in games is ‘bad for business’

Despite being a top executive at the studio responsible for Tom Clancy’s The Division, Ubisoft Massive COO Alf Condelius said during a panel at the Sweden Game Conference that “we cannot be openly political in our games,” because doing so is “bad for business.”   

“For example in The Division, it’s a dystopian future and there’s a lot of interpretations that it’s something that we see the current society moving towards, but it’s not—it’s a fantasy,” Condelius said, as reported by GamesIndustry. “It’s a universe and a world that we created for people to explore how to be a good person in a slowly decaying world. But people like to put politics into that, and we back away from those interpretations as much as we can because we don’t want to take a stance in current politics.” 

“It’s also bad for business, unfortunately, if you want the honest truth … But it is interesting and it is a discussion that we have, and it’s an ongoing discussion we have with our users, of course, because people want to put an interpretation into the universe that we create and they want to see their own reality in the fantasies that we give them, and the stories that the games are.” 

It’s an interesting stance to take, particularly for Ubisoft. Along with The Division, a game about anonymous agents of a previously secret Homeland Security unit who respond to a devastating pandemic in New York City by killing truckloads of Americans whose core crime is not wanting to starve and die, Ubi also publishes Ghost Recon Wildlands (American hit team infiltrates Third World nation to topple the government) and Far Cry 5 (Christian fundamentalist cult takes over a slice of backwater Montana and only heavily-armed locals can stop them).   

They’re all good games, and at no point do any of them flash pop-ups saying “War is Bad” or “Save the Whales.” Far Cry 5 is especially muted and mushy when compared to the impression it made when it was first revealed. But calling any of them them apolitical is a real stretch: Even if Ubisoft isn’t endorsing a particular message, it’s certainly building on one. 

Also interestingly, Condelius cited another upcoming Ubisoft project to illustrate the company’s efforts to separate politics from games: The Avatar Project, based on James Cameron’s not-exactly-subtle film about the evils of corporate imperialism.

“James Cameron’s vision with the movie is that we need to do something as humans because we’re going to destroy the world if we continue the way we are [going],” he said. “That is political, but we’re not going out and saying you should vote for that person, or you should not do this; but it’s a political statement of course, and we think that it’s important, but we’re not writing it on somebody’s nose.” 

Despite seemingly taking the opposite position, Condelius’ comments actually jibe with those of Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, who said earlier this year that Ubisoft games actually are political—but politically neutral. “We want players to listen to different opinions and to have their own opinions,” he said in June. “Our goal is to give all the tools to the player in order for them to think about the subjects, to be able to see things from far enough away.” 

Ubisoft Massive is currently working on The Division 2, set in the aftermath of the pandemic in the US capital of Washington DC, which has fallen into civil war. An early promo image features characters engaged in a firefight around the downed hulk of Air Force One.

This content was originally published here.

Owner Of Sex Shop Next To Four Seasons Total Landscaping Says Trump’s Error Has Helped Business

PA Images

The owner of Fantasy Island, the now famous adult book store next door to Four Seasons Total Landscaping, has spoken out about the attention his business has had following that disastrous press conference.

For those who’ve been living under a rock over the last week, President Donald Trump has opted against bowing out of his office with dignity. Instead, he has chosen to descend into a surreal The Thick Of It sketch that has proven more entertaining than anything on the telly.

It reached new depths of cringe with the jaw-dropping Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference, where his team addressed the nation from the humble site of a garden centre car park.

Four SeasonsPA

When Trump first announced that the press conference would be held at the Four Seasons, Philadelphia, it was widely assumed that he meant the luxurious hotel in the heart of the city.

However, it soon emerged that the event – held just as the world learned of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory – was to be held at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, situated between a crematorium and an adult book store called Fantasy Island.

This was no doubt a bruising humiliation for Trump supporters, and a gift from sitcom heaven for comedy writers. But for Fantasy Island proprietor Bernie D’Angelo, the blunder turned out to be a pretty nice little end-of-year boost for his business.

In an interview with Slate, D’Angelo said:

It’s helped me out. Matter of fact, if I knew this was coming, I would have definitely got in touch with a web designer, and also [gotten] some silkscreen-type things, to just put on a shirt because my Fantasy Island Facebook page has been blown up.

I’m past 7,000 people commenting on everything that’s been going on. I had to order some more stuff and ask the companies if they could physically pick up some stuff at my distributors or actually ask UPS if we could fast-track some of it.

People in the neighborhood forget about us because we haven’t done any major, major advertising. We could never afford advertising like this. This is worldwide. I don’t know if I’ll ever trend like this ever again.

Four SeasonsPA

D’Angelo – who revealed that both Trump and Biden supporters have frequented his store – added that he had been surprised by the President’s low-key choice of venue, reasoning:

There was no reason why they would be in this area. It’s funny. I’ve stayed at the Four Seasons. I know the difference between the two Four Seasons. One’s a landscaping business, and one’s a nice hotel.

NPR journalist David Greene has also reported on the increased popularity of Fantasy Island following this unexpected political turn, tweeting:

Clerk at sex shop near Four Seasons Total Landscaping:

“I get at least 10, 15 calls a day – ‘Is Rudy here?’”

Clerk at sex shop near Four Seasons Total Landscaping:

“I get at least 10, 15 calls a day – ‘Is Rudy here?’”@WHYYNews @miles__bryan

— David Greene (@nprgreene) November 11, 2020

D’Angelo and his store now undoubtedly deserve their own page in the history books, a constant reminder of one of the daftest c*ck-ups in US electoral history.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via story@unilad.com

This content was originally published here.

Joe Biden’s brother is caught up in FBI raid of bankrupt healthcare business | Daily Mail Online

A healthcare company associated with James Biden, the younger brother of 2020 hopeful Joe Biden, was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in January. 

And now a former executive has told Politico that the younger Biden exacerbated Americore’s financial woes by trading on the ex-vice president’s name and taking out a six-figure personal loan from the company’s coffers. 

Tom Pritchard, a former Americore executive, told Politico that James Biden introduced the founder of Americore to his older brother Joe and helped the healthcare company get a bridge loan from a hedge fund. 

James Biden was accused by an executive from a healthcare company he did work for of trading on his family name and taking out a six-figure loan from the company, which he didn’t pay back 

James Biden (left) seen with Jill Biden (center left), former Vice President Dick Cheney (center right) and Joe Biden (right), the former vice president and current 2020 hopeful in January 2008. James Biden was involved with a company whose offices were raided by the FBI in January  

But at the same time, James Biden, took out the personal loan and suggested that the company take on greater financial liabilities. 

The personal loan, according to Pritchard, was never paid back.  

James Biden had promised Americore executives that he could bring in a large investment from the Middle East thanks to his political connections.  

But the cash never came, Pritchard said. 

It was all smoke and mirrors,’ Pritchard told Politico. 

Americore is currently in bankruptcy court. 

Additionally, two small medical firms that did business with James Biden have claimed in civil court that they have evidence that he may have fraudulently transferred funds from Americore ‘outside the ordinary course of business,’ Politico reported. 

There’s no indication that the FBI raid, which occurred on January at a hospital in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania has anything to do with James Biden. 

There were already mismanagement problems dogging Americore.   

But the Politico report adds more gas to the narrative that Joe Biden’s family members were trying to enrich themselves using the Biden name. 

President Trump’s impeachment revolved around a plot to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announce an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden, since Hunter Biden had sat on the board of the Ukrainian oil company, Burisma. 

The president was accused of holding up around $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to exert his will. 

Trump has continued to maintain that Hunter Biden had no business serving on the Burisma board and was only paid money because of his family name. 

Senate Republicans are continuing to pursue investigations into Hunter Biden as well.   

James Biden’s attorney did not comment to Politico. 

Joe Biden’s campaign responded by telling the news organization that Joe and James never discussed Americore and the former vice president never expressed support for his brother’s business. 

The founder of Americore, Grant White, attended a September 2017 fundraiser for the Beau Biden Foundation, which Joe Biden attended, the campaign divulged, but said interactions between the two men were limited. 

‘If the two interacted in any way, it would have been a handshake and nothing more,’ the Biden campaign official told Politico.       

Joe Biden’s brother is caught up in FBI raid of bankrupt healthcare business

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Jennifer Lopez oozes glamour as she leaves a business meeting in Hollywood | Daily Mail Online

She recently credited ‘individuality’ as the secret to her success.

And Jennifer Lopez looked every bit the megastar, while leaving a business meeting in Hollywood with two bodyguards by her side on Friday night.

The 51-year-old triple threat had her signature glamour-fueled style on display as she strutted down the stairs outside the Sunset Blvd office building.

Megastar: Jennifer Lopez looked every bit the megastar, while leaving a business meeting in Hollywood with two bodyguards by her side on Friday night

Jennifer slipped her notoriously fit frame into a pair of black ultra high-waisted trousers.

She tucked a white blouse into the waist band and layered up the look with a patterned cardigan.

Jennifer pulled her golden brown tresses into a sleek low ponytail so that her newsboy cap could rest properly atop her head. 

The classic headwear came in all black and featured a mesh face veil that stopped about an inch past the the hat’s shallow brim.

Glamour girl: The 51-year-old triple threat had her signature glamour-fueled style on display as she strutted down the stairs outside the Sunset Blvd office building

Lopez had a pair of gold hoops in her ears that were overshadowed by the blinding nature of her reusable water cup.

The gaudy cup was completely covered in gold and silver Swarovski crystals that created the illusion that liquid was dripping down the sides of it.

Aside form her glitzy water cup, Jennifer also had her laptop and black designer purse in her hands.

Vintage vibes: The classic headwear came in all black and featured a mesh face veil that stopped about an inch past the the hat’s shallow brim

Bejeweled: Lopez had a pair of gold hoops in her ears that were overshadowed by the blinding nature of her reusable water cup

To complete her business ensemble, the On The Floor songstress threw on a pair of black patent platform shoes.  

Jennifer has been hard at work the past few weeks following the release of her hit tracks Pa’Ti and Lonely with Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma, 26.

To accompany the bilingual songs, Lopez and Maluma, born Juan Luis Londoño Arias, premiered two sultry visuals on YouTube.

The musically inclined pair sat down with Billboard for the magazine’s October issue to discuss their collaborations, as well as the importance of Latin American representation in music and film.

Hitmakers: Jennifer has been hard at work the past few weeks following the release of her hit tracks Pa’Ti and Lonely with Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma, 26

‘Everybody knows that I’m a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx. It’s not something I ever tried to hide — or ever thought that I should hide — so I can get ahead,’ began Lopez.

She added: ‘I always felt that individuality is what made me different from every other actress that was out there when I first started. I feel it’s the secret to my success.’

Maluma emphasized that his ‘essence is singing in Spanish’ and that he does not plan to ‘start singing in English.’

Opening up: The musically inclined pair sat down with Billboard for the magazine’s October issue to discuss their collaborations, as well as the importance of Latin American representation in music and film

Not hiding: ‘Everybody knows that I’m a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx. It’s not something I ever tried to hide — or ever thought that I should hide — so I can get ahead,’ began Lopez; Maluma and Jennifer pictured in July

‘Why am I going to do it if I’m doing concerts in Romania, Israel, Morocco, the States, and they’re singing in Spanish? I want to bring my essence around the world,’ he said.

Jennifer and Maluma also took a moment to promote their upcoming romantic-comedy film Marry Me, which is set to hit theaters on Valentine’s Day 2021. 

In Marry Me, the Maid In Manhattan actress plays a pop star who learns during one of her concerts that her musician boyfriend, played by Maluma, has been unfaithful.

In an attempt to exact revenge on her cheating beau, Lopez’s character ‘decides to take a fan holding a “marry me” sign, played by Owen Wilson, up on his offer,’ as per Billboard’s description.

Co-stars: Jennifer and Maluma also took a moment to promote their upcoming romantic-comedy film Marry Me, which is set to hit theaters on Valentine’s Day 2021; Maluma and Jennifer pictured in July

Jennifer Lopez oozes glamour as she leaves a business meeting in Hollywood

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Norway’s £750bn UK investment is proof we’re a great place to do business due to our skills, competitive taxes and innovation

THE Norwegians are a responsible bunch.

While the UK has spent every penny of its revenues from North Sea oil and gas, like a sailor splashing the cash on their first night back in port, our cousins across the sea have been saving their pennies.

Unlike the scaremongers chucking out doom and gloom for ­retweets and laughs, Norway are serious investors
Unlike the scaremongers chucking out doom and gloom for ­retweets and laughs, Norway are serious investors
AFP or licensors

For more than 20 years, Oslo has been putting aside a chunk of that cash and investing it for a rainy day.

The result is staggering: A £750billion pot — that’s more than £140,000 for every single Norwegian.

That’ll buy you a lot of helmets with horns on — and it has helped the ­country avoid a budget deficit, even when times were tough during the ­financial crisis.

In other words, Norway is not stupid with money.

Having taken the wise decision to save up some of the North Sea windfall, they have worked hard to make it pay.

SERIOUS CASH

Their national wealth fund is one of the world’s biggest investors and owns shares in 9,158 companies spread across 73 ­different countries.

So it’s great news that the latest ­decision taken by the fund’s managers is to increase its investment right here, in the UK.

The fund has already put ­serious cash into this country.

It owns half of the Meadowhall ­shopping centre in Sheffield, and chunks of Regent Street and Oxford Street in ­London. It is a shareholder in hundreds of ­companies, from Greggs and ­Wetherspoons through to Superdry and Moneysupermarket.

The UK is already the third-largest destination for this Norwegian investment, and now they’re putting in more.

It seems almost surprising, given the endless choruses of woe about Brexit and the pathetic state of our political class in Westminster. Who would want to bet on a country where the job of economic cheerleader is held by Philip Hammond, and the ­alternative is an out-and-out Marxist like John McDonnell?

The answer is that the Norwegians can see what we sometimes miss about our own country: The UK is a fantastic place to do business.

Our culture is one that still prizes innovation and hard work, despite the best efforts of some Chancellors over the years.


Mark Wallace

Our legal system is respected around the world for its fairness and is viewed as a “gold standard” under which to sign contracts and do deals.

Our corporate taxes are competitive, and are set to fall further. Our location and time zone help to make us a good bridge into markets around the world.

Our language is spoken by billions of people, and is the chosen tongue of global business.

Our culture is one that still prizes innovation and hard work, despite the best efforts of some Chancellors over the years.

And most of all, our people — our greatest asset — are skilled and creative, as employers, inventors and workers alike.

It doesn’t come naturally for us to blow our own trumpets and talk ourselves up, so sometimes it feels a bit awkward to ­consider the many things we have going for us.

And we all love a good moan, to the degree that it’s essentially a national sport. But we should be careful that we don’t go too far and start to talk ­ourselves down.

There’s a difference between being modest and acting like Eeyore with a hangover. Brexit in particular seems to have driven some people a bit loopy, so that you hear some who were once quite ­sensible now ranting about “destroying the country” or “falling off a cliff edge”.

Norwegians can’t afford (or afjord) to miss out on Britain’s economy, skills and fairness
Getty – Contributor

To hear them, you would think we are a repellent disaster zone, about to slip beneath the waves never to be seen again, like Atlantis crossed with Towie.

This is obviously ridiculous. Of course it’s possible that the process of leaving the EU will be difficult.

Thanks to politicians who are still ­incapable of honouring their promises and agreeing a clear way forward, the uncertainty about our future ­relationship with our European neighbours has been allowed to drag on for far too long.

But it isn’t Brussels, or even Westminster, that made this country wealthy and successful. It is an enterprising approach to life, combining imagination and hard work, that got us this far.

BRIGHT FUTURE

Businesspeople and workers, not ­politicians, created the UK’s success.

That won’t go away just because we aren’t paying Jean-Claude Juncker’s lunch expenses any more.

And once we escape Brussels’ control, we will be free to be even more ­innovative and nimble in response to all the challenges and opportunities the modern age throws at us.

The people entrusted with Norway’s £750billion national wealth fund can see that. And they aren’t alone.

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In the latest available data, the UK was Europe’s top destination for foreign investment.

Unlike the blowhards and scaremongers chucking out doom and gloom for ­retweets and laughs, these are serious investors, putting their money where their mouth is and betting that our country has a bright future.

I know who I’d believe.

Our culture is one that still prizes innovation and hard work, despite the best efforts of some Chancellors over the years
Our culture is one that still prizes innovation and hard work, despite the best efforts of some Chancellors over the years
AFP or licensors
The UK’s success won’t go away just because we aren’t paying Jean-Claude Juncker’s lunch expenses any more
Reuters

And here’s some they invested in earlier…

Norway fund has holdings in:

  • London’s Regent Street
  • Sheffield’s Meadowhall shops
  • Moneysupermarket
  • Superdry
  • Greggs

  • Mark Wallace is executive editor of the website ­Conservative Home.

This content was originally published here.

Lennox Lewis wants boxing comeback aged 55 as he has ‘unfinished business’ with old heavyweight rival Riddick Bowe

LENNOX LEWIS admitted he could stage a sensational boxing comeback as he has ‘unfinished business’ with his old heavyweight rival Riddick Bowe.

After Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr – with a combined age of 105 – drew in an eight-round exhibition on Saturday night, former world champ Lewis hinted he could be next to return to the ring.

Getty Images – Getty

Lennox Lewis could follow Mike Tyson back into the ring[/caption]

AP:Associated Press

Lewis said there was ‘unfinished business’ with Olympic foe Riddick Bowe[/caption]

The British-born star, 55, told BT Sport: “Sure! I mean, it seems like a lot of fun.

“You have to look at Mike Tyson; Mike has been doing a lot of different things like wrestling, he’s been doing acting and he even had his own one-man band show.

“So he knows how to entertain people, he knows what to do in these situations.”

Lewis KO’d Iron Mike in Memphis in 2002 and retired soon after his TKO win over Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko the following year.

The Lion battered American Bowe, 53, in the 1988 Olympic final and won gold for Canada – where he moved aged 12 – in Seoul.

But the duo never got it on in the professional arena despite Lewis becoming the WBC’s mandatory challenger while Bowe was undisputed heavyweight champ in 1992.

Bowe famously dumped the belt into the bin at press conference as he refused to be intimidated by the governing body to fight Lewis and the match-up was one that got away in the 90s.

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Lewis added: “When I was commentating for HBO, they had me put in there right in the action.

“It was maybe to make me feel like I could come back for HBO whatever. But I just never caught it, it never happened.

“I looked at the history of why boxers come back and most boxers come back because they have nothing else to do.

“People keep coming up to them and saying to them, ‘Hey, when is your next fight? Who are you going to fight?’

“But it doesn’t do better for them, it makes them look bad. So I always elected to stay away from that.

“But, if it is right, I may come back. There’s been talk of Riddick Bowe wants to fight me still so there is still some unfinished business there.”

This content was originally published here.

Rudiger ‘keen on Tottenham loan’ but Chelsea owner Abramovich must end his refusal to do transfer business with Spurs

ANTONIO RUDIGER hopes to join Tottenham on loan according to reports, but a move is looking likely to be blocked by Chelsea. 

The wantaway centre-back is keen on a North London switch ahead of transfer deadline day.

Rex Features

Frank Lampard is thought to be reluctant to allow Antonio Rudiger to move to Tottenham[/caption]

AFP or licensors

Abramovich has let just one of his players join Tottenham in nearly two decades[/caption]

However, it would mean Blues owner Roman Abramovich breaking his own personal stance of refusing to do business with Tottenham.

Former Chelsea striker Carlton Cole recently revealed that the Russian would refuse to sell his players to their London rivals.

The only Chelsea player in the Abramovich era – which started in 2003 – to join Tottenham is Carlo Cudicini, with the reserve keeper allowed to leave on a free transfer in 2009.

RUDIGER RELEGATED

Rudiger, 27, has fallen down Frank Lampard’s pecking order and has not featured in any of the manager’s matchday squads since being an unused sub in Chelsea’s win at Brighton. 

The German international was left out of the Chelsea team playing Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The defender’s lack of appearances has led to mounting speculation of a possible Stamford Bridge exit before the transfer deadline on Monday. 


CHELSEA NEWS LIVE: Click here for the latest Blues news


And The Athletic claim Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham is his preferred option.

This is despite the racial abuse complaint he brought against the club following claims of monkey noises made against him during Chelsea’s 2-0 win there last December. 

Rudiger suggested ‘racism won’ after no evidence was found to back-up his accusation.

But it is thought the incident will not deter the star from seeking a loan spell with the Blues’ rivals. 

This week SunSport reported the Germany centre-back is among seven Stamford Bridge stars who could be headed for the club’s exit before the transfer deadline. 

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Team boss Frank Lampard is thought to be keen on reducing the side wage bill having spent £200million on new summer signings.

Kepa Arrizabalaga, Jorginho and Marcos Alonso are reportedly among the players Chelsea are eager to flog. 

Last weekend Alonso is thought to have had a huge bust-up with Lampard following his team’s 3-3 draw away to West Brom.

This content was originally published here.

Elderly British expats arrested in Spain and police warn ‘you have 15 days to leave’ in crackdown | London Business News | Londonlovesbusiness.com

Spanish police have warned British expats who live in Spain that they will be forced to leave the country within 15 days if they do not have the correct “residency.”

Many have lived in Spain for years and own homes and businesses and have desperately tried to apply for residency.

Spanish police in a crackdown on British expats have warned all people unless they have the correct official documentation they will be kicked out without a TIE card.

A police spokesman told Oliver Press, “All residency applications from every gestor in the province will be investigated in case of possible connections.

“The outcome of any appeal will be either ‘you have residency’ or ‘you have 15 days to leave Spain’.”

Some elderly British expats have been arrested by Spanish police and accused of fraudulent practices and been humiliated.

They have been humiliated by the Spanish police and treated like common criminals despite having registered the correct documentation.

Jay Elliott, 66, and Lily Higgins, 71, claimed they had submitted the correct paperwork and were arrested by the police.

Elliott told the Olice Press, “We were wrongly arrested for submitting fake padrons, even though we put the correct ones in with our paperwork residencia.”

Higgins added, “I’ve never been in trouble before but here I am, being treated like a common criminal.

“It’s humiliating.”

Another couple who went to collect their TIE cards were detained by police and were questioned.

The couple said, “We were taken into a room, read our rights and told to explain why our old 2021 padron had been doctored to show a 2020 date, it was hell.”

Anne Hernandez warned, “This case of fraudulent padrons being submitted is shocking, but it’s by no means isolated,” and British expats are being left vulnerable to certain gestors.

Newly enforced post-Brexit rules now means that Brits can only stay in Spain for a maximum of 90 days within every 180 days.

Leon Fernando Del Canto, the founder of London-based international tax set Del Canto Chambers, wrote in The Times, “British homeowners in Spain must now comply with rules that mean that non-EU nationals can stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days in every 180.

“They face potential deportation or a ban from the country should they outstay their welcome.

“There is zero leeway for emergencies, whether family crises, attending to property issues or any other urgent matter. Border control data systems mean nobody will go unnoticed.”

He also slammed Spain and accused the Spanish government of showing a “lack of reciprocity” as the UK allows EU residents to stay for up to six months with no visas.

Del Canto said that British expats would have to become permanent residents in the country, but this comes with costs of more than £1,600 in consulate fees to get hold of the documents.

He added that “it is imperative that the Spanish government resolves this problem.”

A Downing Street spokesman said, “The rights of UK nationals to continue living, working and studying in their EU Member State are protected by law. Anyone legally resident before January 1, 2021, can stay but should register their residence.

“The UK Government has been running a public information campaign across Europe to inform UK nationals about the actions they may need to take to secure their rights and access to services.

“This includes outreach events, adverts on social media and in newspapers, and support through our network of Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has explained: “On July 6 2020, the Spanish government introduced a new residence document for UK nationals living in Spain who have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement – the Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE).

“This biometric card explicitly states that it has been issued to the holder under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

“All UK nationals legally resident in Spain before January 1 2021 have the right to request this card.

“If you register as resident after July 6 2020 but were living in Spain before January 1 2021, you must follow a two-step process to obtain your TIE.

“If you meet the requirements and your application is approved you will be issued with the TIE.”

This content was originally published here.

Inside Britain’s biggest legal cannabis farm and why business is booming for medicinal marijuana

The luscious green plants stretch as far as the eye can see. Row after row, lovingly tended in a glasshouse that’s roughly the same size as 34 football pitches.

Thought to be one of the UK’s largest glasshouses, the 45-acre glasshouse in Wissington, Norfolk, sits in an area known for the growing of crops, vegetables and fruit, from peas and beans to tomatoes and strawberries.

But this crop is slightly different. Once filled with tomato plants, the glasshouse owned by British Sugar is now home to hundreds of thousands of cannabis plants grown for the pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceutical.

Carefully cultivated at GW’s research facility in Kent, the plants are reared on an industrial scale in Wissington with high levels of cannabidiol – or CBD – and very little THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive element commonly associated with marijuana. It makes them perfect for approved and regulated epilepsy drugs.

Chris Tovey GW Pharmaceuticals Chief Operating Officer Provided by GWPR@fticonsulting.com
Chris Tovey, chief operating officer at GW Pharmaceuticals

Identical plants

Look closely and you may think every plant looks the same – their height, the density of leaves and flowers. It’s not your eyes playing tricks on you. To ensure they produce the right qualities for the medicines they help make, these plants are grown in a way that ensures they are all virtually identical.

Cuttings taken from “parent” plants identified for their high CBD content are planted into pots and carefully tended in the glasshouse with the perfect amount of water, light and fertiliser to guarantee high yields before they are harvested and processed.

“It’s not quite a Del Monte moment but we know when the plants are ready,” says GW’s chief operating officer, Chris Tovey. “It looks amazing and the aromas are amazing. Not every cannabis plant smells the same, so a crop here smells distinctly different to a hemp crop or a crop expressing a different profile of cannabidiol.”

The scale of the facility reflects the size of the global cannabis industry and its rapid growth to cater for a rising demand in cannabis-based medicines as well as a consumer-focused CBD market.

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Britain’s cannabis farms

In 2018 a United Nations report revealed that Britain was the world’s largest producer of legal cannabis, producing 95 tons of marijuana in 2016 for medicinal and scientific use – 44.9 per cent of the world’s total. It was also the largest exporter of the drug, exporting 70 per cent of the world’s total.

As well as Wissington and its research facility at Kent Science Park, GW has other sites across the UK and it isn’t the only large producer. Other companies include Sativa Investments, whose own headquarters is in Somerset. In 2019 it announced it was planning a £10m, 7.5-acre greenhouse in rural Wiltshire.

Elsewhere in Europe, companies have invested in cannabis farms and processing facilities in countries including Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Germany.

The growth in cannabis farms is a direct response to a swelling market for cannabis products. The emergence of approved and regulated drugs to treat conditions such as epilepsy, along with a gradual relaxing of legislation around both medicinal use – including in the UK in November 2018 – and recreational use in various countries around the world, has contributed to a growing demand for high quality, carefully grown cannabis plants.

They that are significantly different from their distant relatives such as hemp or high-THC plants.

GW Pharmaceuticals? medicines undergo extensive clinical trials before being manufactured to GMP standards in state of the art facilities Provided by GWPR@fticonsulting.com
GW’s medicines undergo extensive clinical trials before being manufactured to GMP standards (Photo: Tim Platt)

The cannabis business

It is big business. London-based analysts Prohibition Partners estimated that the European cannabis market will be worth £106bn by 2028, while according to the publication Health Europa, the global medical cannabis market was worth $13.4bn (£10bn) in 2018 and is projected to grow to $148bn by 2026.

Many of the major players investing in facilities in Europe are US and Canadian companies. They include Canadian giant Aurora Cannabis and its Danish subsidiary, Aurora Nordic, as well as Cronos Group, a Canadian producer and distributor of medical cannabis that also operates in Germany, Israel, and Australia. Canopy Growth is also Canada-based but has operations in eight countries across five continents.

With more than 20 years in the sector, GW puts itself among some of the more experienced players. “When GW moved to Kent Science Park site over 20 years ago the first building was the research glasshouse,” says Tovey. “A handful of people learned how to grow cannabis and learned how to grow it consistently.”

That handful of people has grown into a huge operation, with around 400 people based at the facility now – a mixture of welly-wearing horticulturists who get their hands dirty and white-coat-wearing technical teams that analyse the plants to ensure they have the right genetic make-up for the task at hand.

GW Pharmaceuticals? cannabis plants are grown in high-tech glasshouses which allow the whole growing environment to be strictly controlled, ensuring standardisation across the crop and therefore GW?s final medicines Provided by GWPR@fticonsulting.com
GW’s cannabis plants are grown in the controlled environment of high-tech glasshouses , allowing standardisation across the crop

Nurturing the crop

It all sounds very hi-tech, but the way the plants are controlled isn’t that different from growing roses to ensure you have the best blooms possible, says Tovey.

“All of the plants we use are a result of really old-fashioned Mendelian techniques,” he says. He is referring to Gregor Mendel’s discovery of the principles of inheritance and genetic traits through experiments with pea plants.

“You grow the plants and look at different phenotypes and select the ones with the right composition. You then have a number of plants that form the ‘parents’ for every subsequent generation.”

Those parents are then used to create “clones” grown on an industrial scale in the glasshouse at Wissington. Cuttings taken from them and put into small pots are bathed in light to accelerate the growing process then moved into the main glasshouse and provided with all the water and nutrients they need.

The cycle of growth

After a few weeks in natural light, it’s time for the exciting part. “The whole of the glasshouse ceiling has blinds that can be pulled across to create near-total darkness,” says Tovey.

“These plants are pre-attuned to daylight length so what we effectively do is create a long night so the cannabis plant thinks it should flower.”

Once that has worked, the flowers – the part of the plants with the high CBD content that’s so valuable – are ready to be harvested. At that point a small army of 30 to 40 seasonal workers join the team of horticulturists and managers at Wissington to help harvest the plants.

The stems are cut and they are allowed to dry naturally before being processed and put through a machine that strips the flowers, removes the stems and leaves and prepares them to be dried and formed into pellets ready to be shipped away. And then it starts all over again.

With three crops a year, that means one cycle needs to be started before the next is finished, ensuring the highest yield.

The wellness market

Tovey is keen to point out the difference between these plants and other relatives within the same plant family with different properties and uses.

Like any plant, the Cannabis Sativa L plant has a range of species, some higher in CBD and others – often grown illegally – bred for high levels of THC. While CBD is being manufactured into regulated medicines by some companies such as GW, in lower doses it has also cornered an area of the wellness market.

From oils, pills and vapes to gummies, shots, dog treats and even gym wear, the products are generally affordable and are available on the high street or online. They are claimed to have benefits ranging from pain relief to help with stress or anxiety.

Earlier this year, Savills estimated that the UK CBD market was worth £300m and is expected to more than triple in the next five years – taking it to a potential £1bn market by 2025.

Cannabis farms

  • A new 11,000 sq metre cannabis farm is due to open in Langholm, Dumfries and Galloway in March 2021. Its owners, Hilltop Leaf Ltd, say it aims to supply oils and medicinal products to the UK and Europe. It will be the first legal cannabis farm in Scotland.
  • Somerset-based Sativa Investments, which sells CBD products for the wellness markets, is planning a 300 sq ft cannabis greenhouse in rural Wiltshire. The farm would be used to grow cannabis higher in THC for use in medicinal products. It is estimated it will consume equivalent power to a town the size of Frome.
  • Cannabis producer Bridge Farm was bought by a US-based equity fund in a £66m deal earlier this year. The firm has a two million sq ft glasshouse in Spalding, Lincolnshire, where it grows hemp for CBD oil and higher-THC plants for medicines.
  • Indoor-grown marijuana is among the most energy-hungry plants to farm. A US study in 2016 revealed it accounted for 1 per cent of all US energy use.

Medicinal cannabis

These consumer products are subject to less regulation that their medical cousins – something Tovey is also keen to stress. “Our medicines have to go through exactly the same process as an oncology drug, a haematology drug or an antibiotic. They’ve gone through that full experimental, evidence, testing, assessment process,” he says.

As well as being different from the plants grown for the wellness market, they’re also worlds apart from those in unregulated farms. These include those found in places such as China and Eastern Europe, growing cannabis for the illegal market, or homemade “farms” set up in abandoned houses or lofts across the UK.

Last month police discovered a large, sophisticated illegal cannabis farm in a former nightclub in Coventry, whose crop had a street value of £1m.

It’s a difference that the British entrepreneur Maximilian White – who is planning his own cannabis farm in Portugal – also points out. “People have to understand the difference between cosmetic CBD and medical CBD,” he says.

The world’s largest cannabis farm

It’s the latter that White plans to grow on a 100-hectare farm in Portugal that he predicts will be the largest cannabis farm in the world.

The project, which is four years in the making, has had him enlist the help of Portuguese universities and medical experts to create a site that he says has the perfect growing conditions for these profitable plants.

With the promise of hefty financial returns, it’s unsurprising that someone in his position would invest in this sector.

“It’s obviously a very, very good entity to get involved in,” he says. But he admits that part of the draw is the added bonus of being part of an industry hailed by many as holding the key to curing a range of ailments.

Cannabis critics

Critics remain sceptical of the efficacy and safety of CBD. David Raynes, spokesman for the National Drug Prevention Alliance, points to research by Dr Albert Stuart Reece, professor of medicine at the University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University in Perth, that raises concerns over potential links between cannabis and conditions including autism and birth defects.

“The people who are pushing medical cannabis are treating it as a religion rather than in scientific terms,” he says. “Is it useful? Yes. There’s some drugs approved for certain types of childhood epilepsy and various other things. But does it cure everything? No. Because there’s all these other effects.”

Some argue that cannabis farming also comes with a toll on the environment. While outdoor growing, which uses natural sunlight and rainwater, is viewed as less harmful, large indoor production facilities come with heavy power and water consumption.

In figures released in 2018, analysts New Frontier Data estimated that legal cannabis cultivation in the US consumed 1.1 million megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity annually – enough to power 92,500 homes for a year – and forecast that to increase 162 per cent from 2017 to 2022.

Cannabis farm investment

For some, it’s a price worth paying to cultivate a crop that could have healing benefits as well as financial reward. But Raynes questions whether the large investment in cannabis farming will yield the fortunes some are predicting.

“There’s fortunes being lost in the medical cannabis world,” he says. “There’s fortunes being speculated on it and it probably isn’t going to be as big as they think. There’s a lot of money being thrown at it, but it’s hope money. It’s wish money.”

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s the importance of regulation when it comes to managing this exploding industry.

“Undoubtedly the cannabis plant and the chemicals in it is the most amazing opportunity to create new medicines,” adds Tovey.

Unfortunately that is complicated within an amazing new category that’s sprouted in the last few years and further complicated by recreational cannabis. There are different categories and they need to be regulated in different ways.”

But whatever direction the regulation of the cannabis industry takes, one thing is clear – the great glasshouse at Wissington is likely to have plenty more Del Monte moments.

This content was originally published here.

‘Can’t be business as usual’ with China after coronavirus and review into outbreak is needed, says Dominic Raab – ITV News

The UK and China “can’t have business as usual” once the coronavirus crisis has passed, Dominic Raab has said, as he looked ahead to a review into the pandemic.

The first secretary of state, speaking at the daily coronavirus press conference, said “in relation to China, I think there absolutely needs to be a very, very deep dive – after the event – review of the lessons”.

He said international partners, including cooperating countries and the World Health Organization, will need to investigate how the virus “came about”.

Asked about how the government will deal with China once the pandemic has passed, Mr Raab said: “There’s no doubt, we can’t have business as usual after this crisis.

“We’ll have to ask the hard questions about how it came about and how it could have been stopped earlier.”

He said the UK cannot “flinch” from carrying out a review into the outbreak of the virus.

But he added how there has been “very good cooperation with the Chinese” since the virus started, for example on the “return of UK nationals at the outset from Wuhan”.

“So we ought to look at all sides of this and do it in a balanced way,” he added.

Mr Raab’s comments follow those made by one of his predecessors, former foreign secretary Lord Hague, who said it would be “very good to have an international investigation” to determine the origin of coronavirus.

The Conservative peer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We need international agreement for the rigorous enforcement of the closure of wildlife markets, of live wildlife markets – that is generally thought to be the origin of this disease.”

He said this is an illustration of how the UK “needs to work with China”.

Covid-19 is thought to have originated from an illegal wildlife market in Wuhan, China.

Lord Hague added: “But denouncing China in a nationalistic sense or withdrawing from the World Health Organization is absolutely not the way to go about this, we are going to need structures, frameworks and international cooperation to solve problems like this from now on.”

Asked whether President Trump and President Xi will be able to co-operate, he said: “There’s not a great hope now but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be working on that.”

This content was originally published here.