Ukip should be taken seriously. But it may not like the experience

It’s time for fewer TV images of Nigel down the pub and a lot more questions about what he would do with power

In politics, as sometimes in life, there can be nothing more disappointing than a dream that comes true. It was the decades-long yearning of Lib Dems that Britain’s traditional two-horse race would give way to a pluralistic, multi-party politics. The grip on power of the big two would be broken and supplanted by a rainbow of choices. Now that Lib Dem wish appears to be close to fulfilment. The old blue-red duopoly is fragmenting under the multiple and interwoven pressures of austerity, insecurity, anger with traditional politics and questions of identity. The combined polling share of Labour and the Tories has rarely been so low. The Nationalists are on a roll in Scotland. The Greens are enjoying a surge. Ukip has just bagged its second byelection victory. Multi-party politics has arrived with a bang. And who is that lying on the floor? Why, it is the Lib Dems. We’ve got the multi-party politics they dreamt of, but it has come in a form that is nightmarish for them.

The past masters of the sensational byelection upset have just suffered the worst ever byelection result for a major party. If “major party” is still an appropriate description for the Lib Dems when they now languish in fifth place in some national polls. They achieved less than 1% of the vote in Rochester and Strood and suffered their 11th lost deposit of this parliament.

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Lauren Laverne: ‘It might be gauche to love Christmas, but I’m afraid I just do’

Is it cool to hate yule? If you get over yourself and give in to the fantasy, you’ll find the day is everything you wished for

It’s the Observer Magazine Christmas shopping special. GOD BLESS US, EVERY ONE! MERRY CHRISTMAS, YOU WONDERFUL OLD BUILDING AND LOAN!! LOOK, FRANK, IT’S A TOASTER!!! I quote these classic Christmas movies* so that the many, many people who peg their status as uniquely perceptive truthsayers by hating Christmas and pointing out what a ripoff it is will know what they’re in for in the pages to come. A hall-decking, jolly-being orgy of food, merrymaking and (yes) gift-giving that involves shopping, in shops. It might be gauche to love Christmas, but I’m afraid I just do. And while I know I’m supposed to abhor the commercial excesses of the season, I’m afraid I just don’t.

Christmas pushes my buttons like a touch-typist on uppers. It’s because I am by nature horribly sentimental. I’m also an optimist and a child of the 80s consumer boom. Christmas-wise this is a lethal combination. Each year I am seized by the conviction that a) Christmas can be perfect; b) It must be perfect for the people I care about; c) It is my job to ensure this happens; and d) The best way is to follow the instructions on adverts. The rational part of my brain can see the problems here. But in December the rational part of my brain likes to kick back with an eggnog and let the Christmas part of my brain take over. That’s an area by the hippocampus made of mincemeat and tinsel, which lights up when I hear East 17’s “Stay Another Day” and believes that if I watch Love Actually yet again, Laura Linney will not answer the sodding phone, and get off with the French guy instead.

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Obama’s immigration plan may give him the upper hand for now (+video)

Republicans in Congress are mad as heck about President Obama’s executive order deferring deportation for millions of immigrants in the US illegally. But aside from sharp rhetoric, they haven’t yet figured out what to do about it.

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Tunisia to vote in historic presidential poll

Election billed as first free and fair vote since independence pits new generation of politicians against old guard.

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​‘Plague on our pavements’: Chewing gum manufacturers asked to foot street clean-up bill

Reuters / Luke MacGregor

The Local Government Association (LGA), which speaks for almost 400 councils in England and Wales, says that it costs 50 times more to clean up the gum from the streets than it costs to purchase it, as the process requires special cleaning equipment.

“A plague on the country's pavements,” is costing the councils £1.50 on average to remove a chewing gum spot, most of which never biodegrade. The LGA has also asked gum manufacturers to switch to production of biodegradable gum to make cleanup efforts easier.

“Chewing gum is a blight which costs councils a fortune to clean up and takes hours of hard work to remove. It’s ugly, it’s unsightly and it’s unacceptable,” LGA Peter Box said in a press release.

The association says gum on the pavements is reaching critical proportions in the center of towns and cities. Basing their conclusions on 3 case studies conducted in Westminister, Manchester and Milton Keyes, LGA lays the blame for dirty street paths on the manufacturers.

“The UK gum industry is a multi-million pound business and we believe in the principle of the ‘polluter' paying. The chewing gum giants should be making a substantial contribution to help with the sterling work that councils are doing in removing it,” Box says.

In the city of Westminster Council 6 tons of gum are spit out on the streets annually, that is almost three million pieces. That accounts to 25 pieces of gum on average per meter of pavement. In Manchester, that figure stands at 800,000 pieces of gum annually.

Councils which have no legal obligation to scrape of the gum are currently doing it for the benefit of people.

“They are doing the right thing but unfortunately the manufacturers are not. We acknowledge firms are contributing to litter prevention campaigns. However, given the size of the bill faced by councils in these tough economic times, this isn't cutting the mustard,” Box said.

The call to make manufacturers pay, is receiving positive feedback from council members.

“We support the LGA's call. Dealing with the sticky mess of discarded chewing gum on our streets swallows a huge amount of resources, in terms of both money and man-hours,” said Councillor Ed Argar, Westminster Council's Cabinet Member for City Management, Transport and Infrastructure.

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N Korea furious over UN human rights ruling

UN General Assembly askes Security Council to refer North Korea to the ICC in The Hague over alleged rights abuses.

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Plant-based gel can seal bleeding wounds instantaneously (VIDEO)

Image from

Time has been of the essence in trying to save patients suffering from an open flesh wound, because if the bleeding isn’t stopped in time, the patient will die from bleeding out. And while there are various similar gels on the market, they can stop the bleeding in up to 10 minutes, while VetiGel, according the inventors, can get the job done in maximum 20 seconds.

Brooklyn based startup Suneris’s gel works on both skin and organ tissues by binding with components in blood and tissue . The plant cell wall polymers in the gel, when applied to the wound, duplicate the structure of the tissue.

By reassembling onto a wound site, VETIGEL mimics the body’s extracellular matrix and accelerates the production of fibrin, which enables the body to clot rapidly,” Suneris explains on its website.

So basically when the gel is applied part of it transforms on to the internal surface of a bleeding organ, another to broken blood vessel, and the outer part mimics the skin, eventually making the bleeding stop. The gel uses natural polymers to coordinate with the body’s natural cell clotting and accelerate hemostasis. It is applied directly to the source of bleeding and does not require manual pressure during treatment.

The gel technology, brainchild of Joe Landolina, a bio-molecular chemical engineer and a former student of the Polytechnic Institute of NYU, not only stops bleeding but has proven to be exceptionally strong. After the gel has been applied to the wound, an accompanying solidifying polymerizing agent is sprayed to form a seal barrier over the wound.

VetiGel has undergone animal testing under the supervision of a cardiovascular surgeon, and was determined to be safe enough for use for veterinarians. Landolina hopes that VetiGel will soon be used by the armed forces in the field to treat major trauma victims and prevent them from bleeding out until they get to hospital.

READ MORE: New syringe can seal gunshot wounds in 15 seconds

Although the gel technology is certainly revolutionary, it's technically not the only idea science has had for stemming bleeding: another technology being proposed for the US armed forces utlizes a syringe with micro-sponges that can fill up an open wound in 15 seconds.

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Obama golfing with Derek Jeter – but Shadow Creek may be the real star

President Obama is playing golf Saturday at Shadow Creek in North Las Vegas, one of the most exclusive courses in the world. Retired Yankee great Derek Jeter is on the links with him. 

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Jewish boy, four, victim of suspected hate crime in New Zealand

Race relations commissioner condemns Auckland attack, in which a man slapped the preschooler hard on top of the head

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Big, bad tech: how America’s digital capitalists are taking us all for a ride

The cab firm Uber is just one of many cynical internet giants in a sector that is now revealing its true nature

One useful side-effect of the revelations that a senior executive of the cyber-minicab outfit Uber was caught musing about the attractions of hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on journalists who are critical of the company is that it has lifted the veil on what we might call digital capitalism.

Uber, you may recall, is a lavishly-funded San Francisco startup whose mission is to disrupt taxi services in cities worldwide. It has already sparked protests and demonstrations in its targeted cities, including London, and begun to attract the attention of regulators and municipalities everywhere.

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