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Bitesized Blighty: January 6, 2017

Immy Ransom

Unfortunately, as we finish out the sixth day of the year, we already have some bad news for 2017 in London. By law, hourly levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide must not be more than 200 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) more than 18 times in a whole year, but late last night, London breached its annual air pollution limits just five days into 2017. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has pledged new measures and to double funding to £875m over five years to tackle the problem.

As the date of the US president-elect’s inauguration draws near, Theresa May has announced plans to visit Trump soon after. Mrs. May took the unusual step last week of issuing a statement distancing Britain from a speech made by the outgoing US secretary of state, John Kerry, about Israel and gave a wholehearted message of support to Trump, unlike the limited welcome given by Angela Merkel. With ties fraying with the EU, Mrs. May can ill-afford to see Britain’s other big strategic relationship come under strain following Mr. Trump’s election.

The UK's Investigatory Powers Act is now in effect as of December 30, 2016. The law includes a large set of new powers – including the ability to collect the browsing records of everyone in the country and have them read by authorities as diverse as the Food Standards Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions. The government has argued that the powers introduced in the bill are necessary to allow intelligence agencies and police to stop modern crime and prosecute the people involved in it. Bella Sankey, Amnesty’s policy director, said "This new law is world-leading – but only as a beacon for despots everywhere.” The law has been opposed by tens of thousands of people in a public petition, but most of it only started after the bill was quietly passed into law by MPs, meaning that it was unlikely to have any effect. 

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