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Here, Sportsmail’s RALPH ELLIS shares 10 things he learned from the weekend’s action throughout the leagues.
Nemanja Matic is challenged by Liverpool’s Emre Can during the goalless draw at Anfield
United previously hit that mark in both the 1999-2000 season when they won the title, and again in 2011-2012 when they lost out to Manchester City on goal difference.
Only time will tell whether that makes parking the bus at Anfield a valuable point, or a missed opportunity to leave them too far behind free scoring City again.
Jose Mourinho encourages his Manchester United team from the touchline at Anfield
Some 18 months of being in and out of Antonio Conte’s starting side seems to have destroyed the confidence of Brazilian midfielder Willian.
Crystal Palace had clearly targeted the 29-year-old with two or three players putting him under pressure every time he got the ball.
Mamadou Sakho robbed him far too easily to set up Wilfried Zaha’s winner – and that was one of 14 times that Willian lost the ball in the 65 minutes before he was dragged off.
Willian lost the ball 14 times in the 65 minutes before he was dragged off at Selhurst Park
Tony Adams revealed in his autobiography that Arsene Wenger holds great store by the amount of high intensity running done by his players, especially in midfield.
The Arsenal manager wouldn’t have been impressed as Watford made over 100 more sprints than his team in the 2-1 defeat – 587 against 473.
Abdoulaye Doucoure (76), Richarlison (74) and Tom Cleverley (61) were the top workers for the Hornets. In contrast Hector Bellerin (65) and Alex Iwobi (53) were the only Arsenal players to make more than 50 sprints.
Abdoulaye Doucoure made 73 sprints for Watford during their victory over Arsenal
When Tottenham announced the club record signing of Davinson Sanchez they said that despite paying £42m the 21-year-old was being bought as an investment for the future.
It’s looking more and more as if the Colombian is actually one for the here and now, with the 1-0 win against Bournemouth his seventh full game in a row.
Sanchez adds some composure on the ball to Mauricio Pochettino’s back line – he played 104 accurate passes against the Cherries with 52 of them in the attacking half of the field.
It’s been a bad week for Wales captain Ashley Williams, who saw his hopes of going to a World Cup dashed by the Republic of Ireland and was then dropped by Everton for the trip to Brighton.
The 33-year-old was the man to make way as manager Ronald Koeman switched from the three man defence he’s played most of this season to a back four in the 1-1 draw. Ironically Koeman had said in his pre-match press conference that he wouldn’t ‘take Williams out of the firing line.’
An odd promise. Instead it was the first time that Williams has been left out of a Premier League starting line-up – other than one game he missed through suspension – since his £12.5m transfer from Swansea in August last year.
Ashley Williams has endured a difficult week with both Everton and his country Wales
Swansea boss Paul Clement made a brave call by dropping his £16.5m club record signing Sam Clucas but replacement Leon Britton more than justified the decision.
The 35-year-old provided the assist for one of the goals in the 2-0 win over Huddersfield, but also showed he understands the club’s traditions and how to make the midfield tick.
Swansea have lost only one of the last 11 games in which Britton has started, winning six and drawing the other three.
You hope that Stoke’s 18-year-old defender Tom Edwards will see the positives in his debut following the club’s 7-2 debacle at Manchester City.
Edwards, the club’s Player of the Year in the Under 18s for the last two seasons, was picked ahead of former England defender Glen Johnson by boss Mark Hughes.
He set up the second of Mame Diouf’s goals before going off with an ankle injury so can’t be blamed for the collapse that followed but even so it was a big risk by Hughes to expose the youngster to an afternoon which could have destroyed his confidence.
Stoke youngster Tom Edwards suffered an ankle injury during defeat at Manchester City
The jury is still out on most of the 14 signings made by Harry Redknapp before he got sacked by Birmingham, but there’s little doubt that striker Isaac Vassell will turn out to be an asset.
The 24-year-old, picked up from Luton for a bargain fee believed to be less than £100,000, caused Championship leaders Cardiff all sorts of problems with his strength and pace as Steve Cotterill marked his first game in charge with a vital 1-0 win.
Vassell, nephew of former Aston Villa, Manchester City and England striker Darius, is already being monitored by Premier League clubs.
Birmingham striker Isaac Vassell is already attracting of the interest of Premier League clubs
Gavin Massey is making the most of his good fortune after being rescued from the debacle at Leyton Orient which saw the London club drop out of the Football League.
Watford-born Massey, 25, was picked up by Wigan on a free transfer and is flourishing under the guidance of Paul Cook.
Midfielder Massey, who has been used by Cook in an attacking role, is one of only three players who have appeared in every one of the 13 games that has taken the club to the top of League One.
Congo international Amine Linganzi was hugely disappointed when after playing a decent role in Portsmouth’s promotion season he didn’t then get the chance to stay on the South Coast and play in League One.
The 27-year-old, who was instead shipped out on a free transfer to Swindon, could earn himself another chance though.
He scored his first goal for the club in the 3-1 win at Mansfield that saw David Flitcroft’s team move to within a point of the League Two play-off places.
A consistently funny RPG with a strong combat system to match.
By a wide margin, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is the funniest roleplaying game since South Park: The Stick of Truth came out three years ago. This one’s gags are focused more on parodying the superhero movie franchise craze than RPG mechanics, which makes it feel a little less novel, but this time its turn-based tactical combat is also deep enough to stand on its own.
Like The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole looks and sounds so much like the show that at a glance it could easily be mistaken for a 20-hour episode when you’re not in combat. The emulation of the crude animation style is spot-on, the voice acting is all completely authentic, and the writing quality is up to the high expectations. Exploring its expanded map of South Park and its densely-packed references to the show is a treat for fans, even though it’s quite similar to what we saw in The Stick of Truth. And sure, there’s some significant irony in the Memberberries appearing in a game so heavily based on callbacks to South Park’s 20-year history, especially now being a reference to a year-old joke themselves, but I’m going to let that slide.
The story starts somewhat slowly, with your custom-made New Kid and the boys transitioning abruptly from the final moments of The Stick of Truth’s fantasy-themed battles to a superhero-themed quest to find a missing cat for a $100 reward. It’s a cynical take on childhood roleplaying, of course, because Cartman plans to use that cash to jumpstart the equivalent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe based around his Batman-like Coon character and become rich off the movie and merchandising rights. But after a few hours it spirals into signature South Park absurdity, and you’re fighting everything from Professor Chaos’ minions to Crab People. Granted, The Fractured But Whole makes few new jokes of its own, preferring instead to riff off of fan-pleasing material as it’s adapted to game form, but it does it well – it even makes killing Kenny funny again.
It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s all in the kids’ collective imagination.
Especially in the opening hours, it’s hard to tell what’s supposed to be real and what’s all in the kids’ collective imagination – and The Fractured But Whole delights in blurring that line. With the exception of Professor Chaos’ anime super-move intro, we always see their costumes as makeshift cosplay cobbled together from tinfoil, Tupperware, and cardboard, but their powers are shown with brightly colored energy blasts and feats of superhuman strength and speed. You’ll have kids shooting lasers out of kites and teleporting one moment, then pausing the fight to let a car go by the next. Then adults get involved, and you have to start wondering what’s really happening. This is South Park, so it’s not exactly constrained by realism, so it’s a bemusing question that’s constantly raised.
While it’s mostly absurd, the kids’ superhero fantasy is actually a little touching in places. Jimmy, who walks with crutches, has super-speed powers, and the developmentally disabled Timmy’s Professor X-like mental abilities make him so overpowered you can’t play as him in battle. It’s nice that there’s some positivity there among the obliviously racist (The Coon, The Human Kite) and sexual jokes, and much of it is genuinely hilarious. There were just a handful of times where a throwaway racial stereotype joke didn’t quite feel clever enough to justify the sensitive subject matter.
For pure shock-value firepower, nothing in The Fractured But Whole had me reeling quite as much as The Stick of Truth’s zombie Nazi fetuses. That said, it still delivers its share of the “Wow, they went there” moments that have kept South Park relevant. A scene with fourth graders in a strip club (gross for largely non-sexual reasons, surprisingly), a priest self-flagellating with a rosary made from anal beads, and some more-racist-than-racist cops stand out.
The pace of the gags only really slows down while you’re walking from place to place, chasing down the many main story and sidequest objectives. There’s a fast-travel system courtesy of super-speedster Fastpass (AKA Jimmy), but those travel points rarely seemed to be near enough to where a quest wanted me to go to make getting there less of a hassle, which led to a significant amount of hoofing it through the streets. It’s pleasant enough to stroll through this quiet mountain town and taking in the ambient dialogue and signage jokes, though I couldn’t help but notice that the frame rate takes a hit sometimes, dropping perceptively when you’re passing by a busy background like the gentlemen’s club and its flashing neon.
My big gripe is the complete lack of navigation indicators.
My big gripe, though, is the complete lack of navigation indicators. Sure, this keeps the screen clean and maintains the look of the show, but the cost is that I constantly had to pop open the map to figure out where I was supposed to go and which of the nearly identical houses contained my objective. Holding the left bumper/L1 brings up a quick map, but it’s too small to really be useful. It seems like it would’ve been much better to just pop up arrows pointing to objectives with that button instead. For that matter, a lot of the text on screen is a little small to comfortably read from the couch – I had to lean forward and squint at my 52-inch screen from about eight feet away to read all the Coonstagram (Instagram, but named after The Coon for some reason) messages that popped up after interacting with people.
Combat gets much more interesting in the second half as the scenarios become more ambitious.
Of course, this being an RPG, the primary interaction you have in The Fractured But Whole is combat. The grid-based battle scenarios start easy – even on the highest “Mastermind” difficulty, it was around 10 hours in before I had to try anything other than a boss battle twice. But unlike The Stick of Truth, which only got easier as it went on, The Fracture But Whole gets much more interesting in the second half as the scenarios become more ambitious and give us more things to deal with: telegraphed attacks, area denial, summoned-in enemies, and real-time timers that force you to move quickly or be hit, among others. There are special battles where you’re forced to keep moving or to move enemies into specific spots, others where you have to target one enemy among many, and other conditions that keep things from getting stale. That’s on top of the nuances of the basic system: because positioning matters and everybody’s ability set works differently for range, direction, knockback, and other special effects, there’s a fair amount of depth to it.
And, by the end, you have more than a dozen distinct characters to choose from. Each has three abilities and an ultimate power (which uses a charge that’s shared by the whole team), and that gives you a wide range of options for any given fight. Token is a great tank who can swap places with an endangered ally and shield himself to take the hit, while Kyle plays better by maintaining distance and healing and shielding allies. Kenny, of course, has a much more suicidal playstyle.
There are some excellent touches, like each member of the party having specific lines of banter dialogue for each other potential member of the party. That’s something you rarely see outside of a BioWare game. It also has numerous unique animations to pick up on, such as when Token fills his Tupperware helmet with vomit when he’s grossed out (aka poisoned).
In the menus, The Fractured But Whole takes an interesting approach to character development. You start with one superhero archetype but later can freely mix and match your four-power loadout with abilities from other classes. Instead of a straight level-up system, you slot in gathered artifact items to increase your power level and stats. It creates some interesting scenarios where I wanted to keep some lower-level items slotted in order to maintain a big bonus to knockback damage or ultimate ability recharge rate. More importantly, it makes the New Kid a Swiss army knife who can adapt as needed to support the other three heroes on your team. He gradually felt less like my character as Cartman grudgingly unlocked more powers, but being able to freely customize his look with gathered costume pieces helped. You can even change your gender, courtesy of Mr. Mackey’s aggressively awkward counseling sessions.
You can’t just sit back and watch the enemy’s turn play out.
Keeping the New Kid alive in a fight is a huge priority because of his unique ability to bend time with flatulence, letting you periodically steal an enemy’s turn. That adds another bit of real-time flavor to the combat – you can’t just sit back and watch the enemy’s turn play out without missing some major opportunities to turn the tide. That said, some of the other active elements get repetitive. There are only three timing minigames that are repeated across nearly all the abilities you cast: either tap the button really fast, tap it once, or tap it in a sequence as prompts flash on the screen. Then you tap to block or to recover some health after taking a hit. It’s something to keep you from putting the controller down during attack animations and enemy turns, but not much more than that.
The same goes for the ultimate ability animations, which are awesome and hilarious the first few times but long and unskippable later on. Watching Cartman fantasize about Coon movie posters and being on Inside The Actor’s Studio before shredding enemies or Kyle fire up a massive power drill takes about 10 seconds each time, which doesn’t sound like a lot but gets annoying when you’re trying to finish off some sixth graders. Getting variety here is some incentive to change out your four-person team and your character’s powers every so often.
There’s also a crafting system for some reasons, but it feels almost entirely superfluous. If you’re gathering stuff – and you will be gathering a lot of it – you’ll always have enough of the basic ingredients you’ll need to craft whatever healing items you like. For half of the campaign, I was maxed out at 999 of the basic materials. The exception is the rare key ingredients, such as tortillas for healing burritos and quesadillas, which I usually had to buy from vendors like Morgan Freeman. So why not just buy the healing items instead?
They’re full of mostly simple puzzles that are a matter of pushing a button.
Between fights you’re free to explore the South Park streets, and in addition to all the gags and easily avoided fights with gangs of roaming enemies, they’re full of mostly simple puzzles that are a matter of pushing a button once you unlock the right friend with the right tool. (Most of these involve things coming out of and/or going into your butt.) They got annoyingly repetitive, though admittedly part of that is my own fault – as soon as I unlocked a new one I’d remember all the places I saw the cue for that ability, such as scanning a pinwheel on a roof to call in the Human Kite to sail you to out-of-reach places, and sought a bunch of them out in succession. Some of them did lead me to interesting, unexpected places. But they’re at their best during sections of the main story missions where you’re using a variety of these abilities in custom-built puzzle sequences, and in those cases it takes some thought and feels more rewarding to solve them.
On the technical glitch side, I did hit several instances where the game became unresponsive after returning from suspend and I had to force-quit and restart it, but negligible progress was lost.
The friend of Natalia Borisovna Borodina – who died hanging out of the window of a moving vehicle – has been cleared of drink driving charges by a Dominican Republic court.
Natalia, a 35-year-old mother from Moscow, was killed as she hung out of the window of a moving vehicle. Horrifying footage showed how she hit her head on a road sign, before later dying in hospital.
Her friend, Ivanna Boirachuk, 32, who filmed the tragedy on her mobile phone as she drove the car, was arrested by police on suspicion of drink driving, according to Russian media reports, but has been cleared, reports the Daily Star.
The Ukrainian woman returned to her hotel after her court hearing, but it is unclear if she has left the holiday island, according to Elina Sergacheva, a Russian journalist based on the island.
The journalist said that in the wake of Borodina’s death, Ms Boiarchuk was held by police while investigations were conducted and an emergency court session held.
As a driver, she did not commit unlawful acts. Her friend died by her own negligence.
Ukraine’s honorary consul Andrea Biamonti confirmed the not-guilty verdict:
Ivanna was found not guilty. She is free and can leave the country at any time.
Local police have now identified the road sign which caused Natalia’s fatal injuries while she was on holiday in the Dominican Republic and are investigating further.
The shocking video was filmed on a highway near Punta Cana and before the tragedy unfolded, Ivanna filmed a topless Natalia playfully sticking her finger in her mouth and sticking her upper body outside the window.
Tyre marks at the scene evidently show where the dented red Kia Picanto butted the yellow kerb at the moment of the tragic accident.
Natalia’s grieving family, including her 11-year-old son, have announced they cannot afford the £15,000 cost of repatriating her body for burial in Russia and have admitted Natalia did not have travel insurance when she embarked on her holiday.
Family friend Anzhelika Kling said:
Natalia has a sister, Yulia, who lives in Chelyabinsk region, as does her 80 years old mother. Yulia is raising her own son and she also took care of Natalia’s son when she was away.
We got to know about the tragedy from Internet. Then the investigator called the family and confirmed it.
We don’t know what to do with the body now? There is no money for transportation. She may have to be cremated there.
Locals papers, including Moskovsky Komsomolets, have condemned Natalia’s actions and cited tourism experts as saying 95 per cent of Russian deaths abroad are due to tourists’ ‘own stupidity’ and not the result of terrorism or natural disasters.
Moskovsky Komsomolets reported:
The woman was having fun demonstrating her naked breasts while her companion drove the car.
Natalia’s friend Elena Korolyova defended Borodina:
She helped her poor family with everything. Nobody else worked, only Natalia.
She wanted to get everything, she was hoping for a better future.
And anyone can make a mistake, why should we judge her by just one video? Are we all saints?
This tragic accident is just the latest in a string of deaths caught on camera during live video streams.
The horror shows no sign of stopping, as we spend increasing amounts of our lives being filmed for online social media, distracted by the camera lens and engaging with the back of an iPhone, rather than the world around us.
Our thoughts are with Natalia’s family and friends at this devastating time.
Donald #Trump’s eventual impeachment may come from an unlikely source. #Larry #Flynt, who you know as the founder and publisher of Hustler, took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post today to make an offer I sincerely hope is too good to pass up: $10 #million American dollars to anyone who can finally provide the goods that’ll get the lumpen dry rot out of office.
Flynt begins by acknowledging that the ad may be interpreted as “a sour grapes plot by Democrats to overturn a legitimate election,” before going on to parse vote counts and the ways in which the Electoral College is bad for the country. It’s an unpleasant trip down memory lane, but luckily, the ad’s second half is more to the point.
“Of course, this skullduggery alone does not make the absolute moral or legal case for impeachment,” he writes, enumerating the litany of impeachable offenses the president has committed, including everything from his gross violation of nepotism laws to his handling of the far-right rally in Charlottesville to his apparent total willingness to engage in thermonuclear war.
In case potential whistleblowers need an extra nudge, Flynt has some ideas about the type of #information that could prove useful.
“Buried in Trump’s top-secret tax returns or in other records from his far-flung financial investments there may be a smoking gun. Did he make some financial quid pro quo with the Russians? Has the business of the United States been compromised to protect the business of the Trump empire? We need to flush everything out into the open.”
The ad offers a toll-free number (1-800-251-2714) and email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for any tips., and the Post notes that it will staffed weekdays from 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. PT for the next two weeks. And hey—it’s worked before. Flynt has dropped similar ads in the past in pursuit of incriminating information on politicians, one of which reportedly spurred the resignation of Republican Congressman Bob Livingston in 1998.
But those previous offers amounted to just $1 million each. This time, the stakes are much higher.
“Impeachment would be a messy, contentious affair,” Flynt writes, “but the alternative—three more years of destabilizing dysfunction—is worse.”
I agree, Larry Flynt. I never thought I’d write those words, but in these apocalyptic times, maybe a porn king is the knight America deserves.
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale breaks down the Dodgers’ walk-off win in Game 2 and sizes up the ALCS going to the Bronx.
USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — Breaking down Game 2 of the NL Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium:
Dodgers 4, Cubs 1: Dodgers lead the series, 2-0.
The game: Justin Turner’s walk-off three-run homer off John Lackey in the bottom of the ninth broke a 1-1 tie to end a closely fought Game 2 in Los Angeles.
Turner’s home run came on the 29th anniversary of the Dodgers’ last walk-off postseason home run – Kirk Gibson’s legendary blast off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The Dodgers are two wins away from returning to the Series for the first time since that championship season.
Veteran lefties Rich Hill and Jon Lester took very different routes to very similar results through the first five innings. Hill looked sharp, using his trademark curveball to induce ugly swings and weak contact from the struggling Cubs’ lineup. He allowed a home run to Addison Russell to open the fifth, but finished the inning strong and left the game after five innings of three-hit, one-run ball with eight strikeouts and one walk.
Lester was far shakier, yielding a slew of hard-hit balls that happened to find Cubs’ gloves and walking five batters — matching his regular-season high — and striking out only two in 4 2/3 innings of work. But Lester managed to work his way out of multiple jams in the contest and left with the score tied at 1-1 in the fifth.
A Cubs bullpen that has looked shaky for much of the postseason saw much more encouraging results on Sunday, when Carl Edwards Jr. relieved Lester and struck out three of four batters he faced in 1 1/3 perfect innings. Pedro Strop followed Edwards with a scoreless inning on his own. Lefty Brian Duensing worked into and out of a jam in the eighth.
On the Dodgers’ side, Brandon Morrow tossed two spotless frames in relief of Hill before righty Josh Fields and lefty Tony Watson combined for a perfect eighth.
Man of the moment: Turner, obviously. After John Lackey, working in relief, looked flummoxed trying to get on the same page with catcher Willson Contreras during Chris Taylor’s walk, Turner jumped all over a 1-0 fastball and drove it out to center field to end the game.
Manager’s special: When the Dodgers left shortstop Corey Seager off their NLCS roster due to a back injury, Dave Roberts turned not to Enrique Hernandez or Chris Taylor — both of whom spent time at short for the Dodgers this season — but to journeyman Charlie Culberson. Culberson, who had only two hits in 13 at-bats in the regular season, rewarded his manager’s faith on Sunday by ripping a double off Lester and scoring Los Angeles’ first run. He also laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Yasiel Puig to second base in the bottom of the ninth.
Needing a mulligan: With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to Duensing for a second inning, then brought in John Lackey instead of closer Wade Davis with the game on the line.
Maddon said after the game that Davis was only good for one inning, and he’d prefer it come once the Cubs grabbed a lead and Davis could lock down a save.
What you missed on TV: Handsome actor Rob Lowe took the field to introduce the game with Vin Scully’s famous call, “It’s time for Dodger baseball.” But Lowe punctuated his appearance by calling out Bill Murray, one of the world’s most visible (and most awesome) Cubs fans.
State of the series: The clubs take a day off on Monday before the series moves to Chicago for Game 3 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday at 9:01 p.m. ET. Yu Darvish will start for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs.
Gallery: Best of the 2017 LCS
Luminant isn’t shy about the reasons for the decisions, which will unfortunately lead to roughly 950 people losing their jobs. It blames an “oversupplied” renewable energy market, but it also points to low prices for both natural gas and wholesale electricity. These coal plants haven’t been money-makers for a while, and there was nothing to suggest the market was about to turn around.
These latest closures illustrate the problems the White House faces with its plans to challenge the “war on coal” (as EPA head Scott Pruitt called it) by removing Obama-era regulations and policies. The decision to scrap the Clean Power Plan may have reduced pressure to lower carbon emissions, but that doesn’t matter if it’s no longer financially viable to run a given coal plant regardless of its emission levels. Simply put, the recent trend suggests that coal may be on an irreversible slide, and that clean energy tech like solar is still the future.
Gerard Butler has been rushed to hospital after a motorbike crash in Los Angeles, according to reports.
The Scottish 300 star was run off the road in LA by a car, according to a TMZ report.
One source told the website:
He was riding his motorcycle in LA when he got cut off by a car, causing him to crash.
Someone called 911, paramedics came and took Gerard to a nearby hospital where he was treated for his injuries.
Lucky for him no broken bones just cuts and bruises.
The 46-year-old, who is known for his action roles in films like 300, Law Abiding Citizen and Olympus Has Fallen is a known motorbike enthusiast.
Gerard isn’t seriously banged up, and reports suggest he’ll still be available to promote his latest film Geostorm, a film about a series of disasters.
In the film, Butler plays a satellite designer who tries to save the world from a storm caused by malfunctioning satellites.
Gerard was recently seen on Late Night with Seth Meyers to discuss the upcoming film.
The official synopsis reads:
After an unprecedented series of natural disasters threatened the planet, the world’s leaders came together to create an intricate network of satellites to control the global climate and keep everyone safe.
But now, something has gone wrong: the system built to protect Earth is attacking it, and it becomes a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything and everyone along with it.
More to follow.
A growing number of outlets selling food and drink in the UK are taking action to ditch plastic amid deepening concern about its effect on the environment, with drinking straws and bottles among items being phased out.
Pret A Manger has become the latest to take action, announcing that it has installed taps dispensing free filtered water and started selling empty glass bottles in its three vegetarian stores. The scheme is due to be rolled out to branches in Manchester from the end of October.
The move follows a flurry of schemes introduced by businesses and charities, from pub chain Wetherspoons to the Zoological Society of London, to curb plastic waste amid rising concern over the vast tide of containers, bottles and other paraphernalia washing up around the world.
While plastic bottles of water will still be available at the Pret stores, the company says the goal is to explore whether customers will take up the plastic-free option.
“We’ve been really surprised and encouraged by the hugely positive response on social media – we’ve even sold quite a few glass bottles already,” said Caroline Cromar, the brand director of Pret. “We’ll be listening carefully to feedback from our customers and shop teams before we decide on the next stage.”
The move, according to Pret, comes from a growing desire to tackle the impact of plastic waste on the environment.
A Guardian investigation this year discovered that a million plastic bottles are bought worldwide every minute, while recent research has revealed that of the 6.3bn tons of plastic waste produced between 1950 and 2015, almost 80% has ended up in landfill or in the environment – including the oceans. Plastic contamination is now found in everything from tap water to sea salt.
Pret is not alone is attempting to wean consumers off plastic. Last month Wetherspoons announced that it would stop using plastic drinking straws from 2018, while Borough Market in London promised this summer that it would end sales of single-use plastic bottles and install public drinking fountains.
Meanwhile Selfridges, which announced in 2015 that it would stop selling single-use plastic water bottles, has now gone a step further. A spokesperson said that it, too, recently phased out the use of plastic straws in its eateries and restaurants, adding that a permanent water fountain will be installed in its London store in 2018.
It is not only high-street retailers that are taking action. The media company Sky recently revealed that it is removing disposable plastic – including bottles of water and cups – from its canteen.
UK visitor attractions are also tackling the issue. “Obviously as a conservation charity the subject of plastic in the ocean is very close to our hearts,” said Kathryn England, the head of commercial at ZSL, which runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire.
Since the summer of 2016 ZSL has no longer sold single-use plastic bottles of water at its London and Whipsnade sites, instead installing water fountains and embracing alternative packaging.
The move, said England, was not without difficulties. “There is not that much out there that isn’t plastic at the moment,” she said. “One of the big challenges that we have as a zoo is that we can’t have glass on site for safely reasons.”
In the end, ZSL opted for cardboard cartons of plain and flavoured water with polyethylene terephthalate (PET)-free caps, as well as resealable cans of both still and sparkling water.
The transition, England said, not only stacked up commercially, but has gone down well with the 2m visitors that visit the zoos every year. “We’ve not had a single element of pushback since we rolled [the scheme] out,” she said, adding that ZSL had taken steps to explain the reasoning behind the move to visitors.
With its mission accomplished, England says ZSL is now going further. “By the end of the year, our entire drinks range across our two zoos will be 100% single-use plastic bottle free,” she said, adding that finding healthy and non-carbonated drinks with plastic-free packaging was no mean feat.
But not everyone is following suit. A spokesperson for Costa Coffee responded to Pret’s move by pointing out that free water was already available in its stores. “Our baristas are more than happy to provide glasses of tap water to our customers on request,” they said.
However, while a recent survey found that 61% of people “wouldn’t pay for bottled water if tap water was available”, 37% said they would be embarrassed to ask for free tap water – even if they were buying items at the same time.
England said she welcomed the announcement from Pret, but added that manufacturers and those in the field of waste management needed to facilitate the use of plastic-free options, including compostable corn-starch containers.
“I think the more brands like this can come on board, the more pressure that puts on the big manufacturers to actually switch over and start creating and developing innovation that is going to come up with an alternative solution to plastic that will work for everybody,” she said.
Country music star Chris Young got surprise on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, when Vince Gill invited him to become a member, Aug. 29, 2018.
Cindy Watts/The Tennessean
Two days before his 21st birthday, Chris Young sat on the couch in a barren dressing room backstage at the Grand Ole Opry House and wondered about his future in country music. It was June 10, 2006, and Young was about to make his Grand Ole Opry debut — part of the prize package he received for winning the televised singing competition “Nashville Star.”
“What if this is all I ever do?” he asked, his hands folded in his lap. “Then at least I can say I played the Grand Ole Opry,” he answered.
Young will be inducted as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday. In the 11 years and 78 Opry performances since his debut, the Murfreesboro native has racked up nine No. 1 songs and is preparing to release his seventh album, “Losing Sleep,” on Oct. 20.
The singer envisioned a similar career path for himself 11 years ago and hoped for the best. But he didn’t expect it to happen. He started to say he didn’t think any artist would have that foresight, but then turned the observation inward.
“I never imagined, a decade later, I would be becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry … getting ready to go out next year and tour my butt off and being able to do everything that I want to do right now with music,” Young said from a leather armchair in his manager’s office near Music Row. “I have stuff completely blindside me that I never expected. That’s really special.”
Vince Gill invited Young to join the Grand Ole Opry in August, and Young’s upcoming induction is one of a handful of full-circle moments the singer is experiencing. “Losing Sleep” is the last album on his first recording contract — which he also won through “Nashville Star.” He recently re-signed with Sony Music Nashville, which has been his longtime label home.
“It’s definitely the start of the next chapter, but it feels like the closing for the first one and that’s cool,” Young said.
At 32 years old, the singer is still asking himself questions — just different kinds. He co-produced “Losing Sleep” with Corey Crowder and had lists of boxes to check for the project to meet his own expectations. Young was so inspired by the creativity he tapped into on his sixth album, “I’m Comin’ Over,” that he kept writing songs after the album was complete. He wrote “Losing Sleep,” the title track and debut single from the new album, immediately. When Sony Music Nashville Chairman and CEO Randy Goodman flew to Wisconsin to watch Young perform last year and was trapped on the tour bus by inclement weather, the singer had a wealth of new songs to play for him.
“It looked like a tsunami in the sky,” Goodman recalled. “The bus was actually rocking. Until that point, my time with Chris had been in these snatches. But here we were stuck on the bus … and there were two jars of peanut butter we went through, and Chris just started playing these songs.”
A few songs in, Goodman looked at Young and said, “So, this is your album?” The executive said the singer never let on he had no concrete plans for the music. But since Goodman had opened the door in such a positive way, Young just went with it.
“He sat there for a second, looked and me and said, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s right. This is the new album,’ ” Goodman said with a laugh. “We were stuck on the bus, happily eating peanut butter and crackers, listening to music and had this great musical philosophical discussion.”
Crediting Young’s classic, rich baritone and willingness to experiment with sonic boundaries, Goodman called the singer among the most underrated male vocalists in the country music format. With the CMA Awards approaching on Nov. 8, Goodman shared his frustration that Young wasn’t nominated for male vocalist of the year — but said it wasn’t for lack of trying.
“We’re all pushing and shoving and screaming and yelling and trying to make noise,” Goodman said. “His commitment to this format (is unquestionable). He’s a traditionalist, but he’s always … looking at how he can make his music sound different.”
The album’s title track, which Young co-wrote with Josh Hoge and Chris DeStefano, is a shining example. “Losing Sleep” begins with a sexy, R&B-inspired verse before exploding into a contemporary country chorus. The song is the most progressive of Young’s career. Young said once his voice is applied to anything there’s no doubt it’s a country song.
“Chris is influenced by Keith Whitley and Vince Gill but also by tons of R&B singers,” Crowder said. “To me, this album has more R&B chops vocally, which … just showcases how great of a singer he is. Sexy songs are the thing that a lot of country artists struggle to pull off, and Chris has always pulled it off better than anybody in the business.”
Young co-wrote every song on the album, which is his third in less than 24 months. In addition to “I’m Comin’ Over,” which came out in November of 2015, Young released his Christmas album, “It Must Be Christmas,” last year.
People often ask the singer if the entire new album sounds like “Losing Sleep.” His answer is a resounding no. Other tracks on the project include the classic, rip-your-heart-out piano ballad “Where I Go When I Drink,” the R&B-meets-steel guitar summer vibe “Holiday” and the stripped-down Jon Randall and Josh Hoge co-written “Blacked Out.”
“Everything has its own stylistic lane,” Young said of the album. “I think it’s a step forward and trying to walk that fine line of wanting to do some stuff that’s different … but I also want to give them some of the stuff that they’ve come to expect from me. It’s just balancing that growth with the knowledge I’ve accrued over 11 years in the studio.”
Reach Cindy Watts at email@example.com or 615-664-2227 and on Twitter @CindyNWatts.
If you go
What: Chris Young’s induction into the Grand Ole Opry
Where: The Grand Ole Opry House, 2804 Opryland Drive in Nashville
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday. There also will be a 9:30 p.m. Opry Tuesday that will include a performance from Young but not a repeat of his induction.
Tickets: $38-$105 at www.opry.com or by calling 1-800-SEE-OPRY.
More information: Other performers on the Tuesday night Opry include Dustin Lynch, Tracy Lawrence and Henry Cho.
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