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Highway Code: £5,000 fine for driving with dogs in car

The code contains a rule that all pet owners should be aware of if they don’t want to be hit financially. The rule states that pets should be “suitably restrained” when travelling in the car to keep them safe if drivers are forced to stop quickly. Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. “A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.” So, although the image of a dog with his head out the window with its tongue out and its ears fluttering in the wind is a very enjoyable one, it can actually put you in the doghouse with the law and result in a fine of up to £5,000. To stay safe while driving and avoid the hefty fine, ensure your dog (or any other pet) is restrained appropriately so it doesn’t distract you or hurt you or itself if you suddenly come to a stop. Founder of Choose My Car, Nick Zapolski, encouraged drivers to buckle up their dogs to ensure the safety of both them and their beloved pets. “Having your dog loose in the car can cause both them and you serious harm. Not only can it be very distracting, in the event of a crash, a loose dog flying through the air could be fatal,” he said. “The safest option is to have your dog belted into the back seat, as the passenger seat airbags could also cause your pooch serious harm in the event of an accident. The belts are inexpensive to buy, and simple to use. “Most of all, they will keep you and your dog safe, while saving you from the serious implications of breaking the Highway Code.”

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Invisible struggles of lower-income Asian Americans gain spotlight

A Chicago-based organization is leading the charge on a multi-state study that spotlights the often invisible struggles and needs of low-income Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders by taking a novel approach toward collecting data. Change InSight, a coalition led by the Chinatown-based nonprofit Chinese American Service League (CASL), has been surveying communities in more Asian languages, allowing for better data. The coalition is the first national web platform to collect community-level data from low-income Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities on public health and socioeconomic indicators. Large, mainstream demographic and health surveys are almost always conducted in English and Spanish — excluding underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) with limited English proficiency, who tend to be lower-income and need the most support. Because those communities are often not included in influential national surveys, they remain invisible to policymakers and funders and don’t get the help they need. Better data is a way to raise visibility about the needs of under-resourced AAPIs, said Alex Montgomery, director for the Center for Social Impact at the Chinese American Service League. “We are drilling down into how to support them and hope to convince funders and governments to provide resources,” she said. The push for more data on vulnerable Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including in Chicago, has gained momentum in recent years after the sharp rise of anti-Asian hate attacks since the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 16, community members commemorated the third anniversary of the Atlanta spa mass shootings. Many of those victims were lower-income immigrants of Asian descent. Paul Luu, CEO of the Chinese American Service League, said anti-Asian hate has exposed a lack of support for at-risk AAPIs, yet they remain one of the least-studied and -understood groups in the U.S. Many who suffer from hate attacks do not speak up because of language barriers, cultural stigma or lack of awareness of resources, he said. Change InSight surveyed nearly 6,000 underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in five states and found that 62% live in poverty. It found 73% of respondents speak limited English and 34% have less than a high school education. The largest ethnic groups represented in the survey were Chinese, Asian Indian, Filipino, Pakistani and Korean. In a regional snapshot of Chicago and Champaign, 54% of the 2,753 surveyed live in poverty. The poverty rates were highest among Chinese and Asian Indians at 61% and 31%, respectively. Among Koreans and Pakistanis, poverty rates stood at 23% and 31%, respectively. The report found 81% spoke limited English and among the Chinese respondents, 97% had limited English proficiency — the highest rate among AAPI ethnic groups. Change InSight’s regional survey also said 38% have less than a high school education and 14% lacked adequate transportation, which further limits their economic opportunities. “CASL is working to advocate for these communities, connect them with the resources they need and track issues and solutions through our research in Change InSight and programs such as the Anti-Hate Action Center,” Luu said. Change InSight’s latest findings For this year’s report, 19 community organizations in Illinois, including Chicago and Champaign, New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Seattle surveyed 5,932 AAPIs in multiple Asian languages. It’s unclear how many languages were used but for last year’s report, surveys were conducted in English and 11 Asian languages including Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Urdu, Tagalog, Hindi, Gujarati, Nepali, Arabic, Bengali and Vietnamese. The nonprofits provide social services to low-income AAPIs. Because of their on-the-ground work, they have strong connections to vulnerable people excluded by mainstream surveys due to language, cultural and technology barriers. “You need trust. [Community-based organizations] are uniquely positioned to be the deliverer not only of services but information,” said Jessica Sarowitz, founder of the Julian Grace Foundation, at a January news conference when the report was released. Funding from the Julian Grace Foundation, based in Highland Park, supported the Chinese American Service League from 2018 and then later the broader Change InSight initiative. Economic hardship among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is significant, even if less commonly known. Poverty among Chicago’s Asian population ranks second-highest among racial groups, according to the Illinois Policy Institute. In 2022, U.S. Census Bureau data by race and ethnicity showed poverty among Asians in the city was 18.2% — more than 76% higher than the white population (10.3%). The poverty rate among the Black population was 28.7% and for Chicago’s Hispanic and Latino population it was 14.8%. Demographic surveys focusing on low-income AAPIs are relatively rare. Last week, Pew Research Center issued its first report on Asian Americans living in poverty across the country. It used Census data and a survey of 7,000 Asian American adults across the U.S. from July 2022 to January 2023. From Census data, it said about 70,000 Asians in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro area live in poverty — the fourth-largest population out of 10 U.S metro areas. Pew’s survey of 7,000 Asian American adults was in six Asian languages — and claims to be the largest nationally representative survey of its kind. This is only the second time that Pew has surveyed Asian Americans in Asian languages. Of those polled, 561 had incomes at or below 100% of the federal poverty line. In 2018, a Pew analysis found that Asians in the U.S. displaced Black people as the racial group with the largest income gap, a seminal study that shifted stereotypes of Asians as “model minorities,” who don’t face economic hardship. Why Change InSight was launched Chinese American Service League, founded in 1948, is the Midwest’s largest social service agency serving Asian Americans. In 2021, the nonprofit began planning the Change InSight initiative after success with its own community-based surveys. The organization had overhauled its own client database in 2018 that allowed better tracking and analysis of clients’ needs. For example, better data identified high rates of food insecurity and hunger among Chinese American seniors. To address that, in 2020 it launched a seniors’ meals program in Chicago. In 2022, the meal program won a $1 million federal grant and doubled its reach to 600 seniors. Further surveys revealed people across ages were food insecure. In response, they launched a full food and nutrition program that today serves 10,500 free meals per week to people of all ages. The nonprofit is now planning to hire a grant writer to help Change InSight partners apply for funding to address needs identified by data. For its first survey, Change InSight in 2022 worked with seven Chicago area community organizations including CASL to survey 2,244 AAPIs and produce its first annual report. More than two dozen community organizations across the U.S. are expected to participate in the next report. Surveys will begin mid-April and continue through mid-July. Many small nonprofits lack the resources to harness data. In 2022, the Chinese American Service League created a “starter kit” and gave free training to community groups on collecting data. Most surveys are done in person. Change InSight then collates findings from other groups to produce more comprehensive reports. Change Insight’s reports also break down findings among specific AAPI ethnic groups. Without that disaggregation, nuances are lost when data is lumped together and averaged. Yet there is little disaggregated data on AAPIs in the U.S., even though they are the country’s fastest-growing racial group and comprise more than 50 ethnicities, according to Pew Research. AAPI advocates have long pushed for data disaggregation and those demands are gaining traction. President Joe Biden’s 2021 White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders named data disaggregation as a top priority for improving equity.

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How can I help my mum if she refuses to sign an enduring power of attorney?

My mum has dementia, I believe. We have an assessment next month. She has refused to go to solicitor regarding an POA/EPOA as she says she is fine. I am her only child. What happens if she’s too late to sign anything? What do I do? Can I get her into a home or get home help without one? Can I do anything myself or talk to anyone, as I have a young child who is getting scared of my mum and I need to protect him? Ms CB We are all reluctant to give up our independence. It’s hardly surprising. Much of our upbringing and education is geared to readying us for independent living but that doesn’t mean we should not make provision against the possibility that we may need help one day. That is precisely what an enduring power of attorney (EPOA) allows for. The critical thing to realise is that drawing up an enduring power of attorney cedes no control whatsoever over your affairs. All it does is provide a backstop in case one is needed. Importantly, it gives you, the person drawing up the power of attorney, control over who should make decisions on your behalf if that time comes and some control over the type of decisions they can make for you. If you remain alert, able and mentally capable to make your own decisions until you die, then the power of attorney simply languishes unused. You retain full control over all aspects of your life. In your mum’s words, if you are “fine”, it simply does not come into play. And it becomes redundant once you are dead so the powers and people within it have no impact on managing the affairs of your estate – that falls to the executor(s) you have named in your will. Those might be the same people or might not be; that is your choice. To come into effect a doctor – almost always your GP – will have to agree that you are no longer capable of making decisions for yourself. And if that is the case, you certainly would want someone you have handpicked and trust who knows your likes and dislikes to be making decisions on your behalf or helping you to make those decisions. This is why I am surprised at some people’s visceral reluctance to even consider drawing up an enduring power of attorney. To me, it seems a no-brainer in terms of living your life as you want to even if you no longer have the awareness to consciously make the decisions for yourself. Understandably, the most important thing in drawing up an enduring power of attorney in the first place is confirmation that you know what you are doing. Both a doctor and a solicitor are required to state that you understand the process, are acting independently and have the mental capacity to do so. That means, in your case, assuming you are correct about your mum’s diagnosis, it is already too late to worry about an enduring power of attorney. Your upcoming medical assessment will hopefully confirm it one way or the other. On that basis, there is no point pressing the case with your mum. It could distress her or make her more resistant to being guided by you, neither of which is productive for either of you in the circumstances. However, that does not mean you can do nothing. And certainly no one wants a situation where a grandchild is afraid of his own grandmother. In the (very recent) old days, where there was no co-operation from the person needing care, family or friends would be forced to go through a cumbersome, expensive and often unsatisfying ward of court process. This could be combative and deeply distressing for all those involved, most particularly in this case, your mother. In the meantime, if she was unable to manage her affairs, she could have found them frozen. Under the ward of court system the president of the High Court would seek two medical opinions on the fitness of a proposed ward to manage their own affairs. Where they were found to need support, the court would then appoint both a “committee” of one or more people to look after the personal and financial affairs of the person being made a ward of court and a case officer for liaison with the court. There was nothing to say that any of these people should be people known to the person being made a ward of court. The reason for this is that pretty much every decision involving the ward – from paying bills to receiving medical treatment or even being granted permission to go abroad on holiday – required the specific approval of the court. And of course all this cost money which would generally come from the assets of the ward of court. Their bank accounts would generally have been closed when the wardship application was granted with the court taking control of the funds. They would also take control of any incoming payments, such as pensions or other welfare payments. And they could sell the person’s home if the court decided they needed to go into residential care. Although the purpose was the care of the ward, it could be a very impersonal process and one that at times failed to take account of the different levels of capability of the wards. The personal could get caught up in the bureaucracy. The good news is that wards of court are no more – at least, no more people are being made wards of court and those that are already in that position are having their cases reviewed. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 was signed into law in December of that year but only came into force in April last year. It covers all sorts of situations where a person needs support in making decisions, including things like enduring powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives where people can outline their preferences for care and, more importantly, instructions about things they do not want like, for instance, being resuscitated if you stop breathing. The Act established a Decision Support Service, which oversees all the different types of agreement that can be made. Only agreements put together in the correct format and registered or notified to the service have any legal authority. In your circumstances, there are three levels of decision-making assistance that your mother can avail of, depending on her level of disability or capability. The new Act works on the basis that we all have some capability and that, to the fullest extent possible, we should retain as much control over decisions as we can. The lowest level of support is where your mum agrees to appoint someone they know and trust as a decision-making assistant in areas where she feels she is having difficulties making decisions on her own. The agreement allows her to set down those decisions where she feels she needs help – whether it is one or more areas of personal care and welfare, or in relation to money matters or property … whatever. The person she appoints as her assistant helps her gather the information necessary to make decisions in the areas outlined, explain it to her and help her weigh up the pros and cons before coming to a decision. These agreements can last for up to three years and can be renewed. She can have more than one agreement covering different decisions and more than one assistant on each. Next comes the co-decision making agreement, where, rather than simply having difficulty making certain decisions, your mum feels she is unable to make some decisions. Again, she gets to choose who is going to help her and what decisions they will be involved in. The difference here is that where a decision-making assistant guides her to making her own decision, under a co-decision making agreement, the decisions in the areas covered must be made jointly – by your mum and her co-decision maker. With this level of support, your mum’s capacity will need to be assessed by a doctor, who will have to confirm she is able to enter such an agreement. Spouses and adult children must be informed of the existence of such an agreement and provided with a copy of it. While a person can have more than one co-decision making agreement, they can have no more than one person helping make decisions under each one. Finally, you can apply for the appointment of a decision-making representative to manage your mum’s affairs. Like a ward of court, this is a decision that will have to be confirmed by the court on foot of the application and medical reports. Application for a decision-making representative can be made by a number of people, including your mother, a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant, any adult child, someone already acting under one of the agreements above to support your mother in making decisions or the Decision Support Service itself. It could even be a non-relative such as a friend, although they would need court approval to make the application in the first place. This is a legal process and both the applicant – most likely you in this case – and the “relevant person”, ie your mum can choose to have legal representation. It is an open process and all the people entitled to bring such an application must also be informed where such an application has been made by someone else. The first thing the court will do is assess your mum’s capacity to make decisions on the back of medical evidence. It will then decide whether to appoint a decision making representative and what decisions such a person will be making on your mum’s account. The emphasis throughout is on taking into account the wishes of your mum and on the court order been as limited in scale as possible in terms of what decisions it covers. The court will need to be satisfied that other avenues have been considered, which would be less invasive of a person’s personal affairs – notably the two less intrusive agreement options listed above. Where possible, the court will appoint someone known to your mum as decision-making representative, in this case quite likely yourself, presuming it is satisfied you have the skills and capacity to carry out the role. If no one is willing or able to act in the role, the court will appoint a representative from a panel compiled by the Decision Support Service. In this case, they would be paid from your mum’s resources for carrying out the functions of the role. The court could decide to appoint more than one person to the role, in which case it will determine whether they can act independently of each other or whether they must make each decision together. Either way, whoever is appointed will be limited to acting only in those areas set down in the court order. Despite the new arrangements under the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, there is no doubt that going down the route of securing necessary support for your mum can be contentious where she is adamant that it is not required and even where there is no such refusal it can be distressing and stressful for family. However, it is definitely an improvement on the ward of court process, with the new arrangements offering more options and keeping, at its heart, a commitment to promote the rights and interests of people who may need support with decision-making, with a default position that everyone has some capacity to decide for themselves or have a role in such decisions. Assuming your suspected diagnosis is confirmed, you should look at triggering one or other of the agreement options. Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street Dublin 2, or by email to dominic.coyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice Sign up for Business push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phoneFind The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to dateOur Inside Business podcast is published weekly – Find the latest episode here

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The strangest Easter traditions from around the world – from whipping people to giant omelettes…

While Brits are hiding chocolate bunnies, making Spring-themed bonnets or putting their feet up and enjoying a buttered hot cross bun, countries from around the world are celebrating Easter with their own strange traditions. From hiding cigarettes near churches to making a giant omelette and whipping family friends, each country has a unique spin on hour to celebrate Easter and some traditions might surprise you. France In the French town of Bessières in the southwest of France, locals celebrates Easter by cooking up a giant omelette. Around 15,000 eggs are used to create the huge feast which is cooked in a single pot by around 50 volunteers and served to 2,000 people. It all started in 1973 to mark the occasion of Napoleon Bonaparte visiting a small inn and enjoying a delicious omellette – he is said to have enjoyed it so much he ordered a giant one for his army. Czech Republic In the Czech Republic, instead of tucking into a chocolate bunny with friends and family, relatives wish each other good health – by gently whipping each other with a stick decorated with ribbons. Called a pomlázka, the word comes from pomladit, which means to make younger. Finland While we might associate witches with Halloween, in Finland, children dress up as the spooky spectres and roam the streets, going from door to door asking for treats and offering blessings. Dressed in witches’ hats and cloaks and carrying twigs decorated with coloured paper and fabric, they promise to ward off evil spirits. Papua New Guinea In Papua New Guinea, people have adapted to the heat and instead of hiding chocolate eggs, people hide cigarettes in trees near churches. After the traditional Easter service, worshippers go out and search for the packets. While it might not be the healthiest treat it no doubt increases attendance. Russia and Slovenia In Russia and Slovenia instead of enjoying a chocolate animal, these countries make a butter version. As a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus, people carve a lamb out of butter. They decorate it using peppercorns or dried cloves for eyes and a red ribbon around the neck to symbolise the blood of Christ. Norway In a tradition that seems to have almost nothing to do with Easter, Norwegians thoroughly enjoy a crime drama. It started in 1923 with a front-page advert in a national newspaper for a book entitled ‘The Bergen Train Was Robbed in the Night’. Many thought it was a real robbery and book sales soared. Now, every Easter, publishers and TV producers cash in on the tradition of Påskekrim, or Easter crime, and release new crime fiction. Poland You might be advised to take an umbrella with you if you visit Poland during Easter as children are encouraged to soak passers-by with buckets, water pistols and hoses. The tradition dates back to pagan fertility festivals where women who were soaked could expect to convceive but now it’s open to everyone.

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Two characters make returns to Coronation Street weeks after quitting

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video Up Next Sean Tully (Antony Cotton) gets quite the surprise in Coronation Street soon as son Dylan Wilson (Liam McCheyne) and Violet (Jenny Platt) return – and they’ve only been gone a few weeks! Violet made her way back to Weatherfield recently after being told about Dylan’s involvement in a gang of bullies. After processing the fact Dylan was one of the teenagers who drove Liam Connor (Charlie Wrenshall) to experience suicidal thoughts, Violet concluded Sean wasn’t a good enough parent to look after their son, and decided to take him back to London. In this new video, Dylan and Violet have returned to Manchester ahead of his appearance in court and as we can see, Violet has no intention of getting comfortable back in Weatherfield. It’s been quite the few weeks for Dylan (Picture: ITV) Violet made a return after learning about Dylan’s bullying (Picture: ITV) In the Bistro, Dylan is surprised when classmate Bella arrives. She invites Dylan to the precinct for ice cream, and tells Violet they won’t be long because she has a swimming lesson. Violet allows Dylan to hang out with Bella but when the teenager leaves the restaurant, her ulterior motives are revealed. On the phone, Bella tells someone that Dylan is going to the precinct, and also wonders how long they’ll be. More TrendingMajor Coronation Street character makes surprise return – but someone’s gutted to see themCorrie child star completely unrecognisable in major new TV roleHelen Flanagan diagnosed with psychosis after struggling with split from partnerCoronation Street favourite upset as she faces the sackRead More Stories Follow Metro Soaps on WhatsApp to get all the latest spoilers first Want to be the first to hear shocking EastEnders spoilers? Who’s leaving Coronation Street? The latest gossip from Emmerdale? Metro.co.uk is now on WhatsApp sending all the latest updates and trending stories straight to your phone so you never miss a storyline again. Follow us to receive updates from Metro Soaps on WhatsApp (Picture: Getty Images) Join the Metro Soaps WhatsApp community to get access to spoiler galleries, must-watch videos, and exclusive interviews. Simply click on this link, select ‘Join Chat’ and you’re in! Don’t forget to turn on notifications so you can see when we’ve just dropped the latest spoilers! The person on the other end of the line will turn out to be Mason, leaving us with the conclusion it was all just a huge setup. Mason is currently facing court himself after Dylan told the police that Mason had been driving the car that hurt Eliza Woodrow (Savannah Kunyo). Mason was subsequently charged with driving offences and faces jail. Clearly he hasn’t lured Dylan to the precinct just for a friendly chat. How much danger is Dylan in?

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Emmerdale – Chris Bisson warns Jai may kill as his dark side is back

He took desperate and dark action (Picture: ITV) Emmerdale’s Chris Bisson has teased a dark future for Jai Sharma after getting rid of his biological father Amit (Anil Goutam). This week, after Amit attempted to befriend Eric Pollard (Chris Chittell), he was seriously caught out when Jai spotted him speaking to a loan shark in a layby. At The Hide, Jai caught Amit in his lie and became determined to get revenge. He found Eric, explained that Amit was a ‘pathological liar’ and more than likely killed Rishi (Bhasker Patel), and he wanted to do something about it. On Thursday (March 28), Jai played Amit at his own game and pushed him down the stairs, the same way Rishi died. To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video Up Next Realising that he’d broken his leg, he made matters worse and stood on it in a bid to get Amit to explain his reasoning for Rishi’s death, before taking his phone so that he couldn’t call for help. He explained how he had begged his brother to hand over his share, which was met with him sharing some tough home truths, enough to cause him to lash out and be complicit in his death. In Friday’s episode of the ITV soap, after keeping Amit hostage, Jai told him to leave the village forever without saying goodbye. Explaining this major development for his character, Chris Bisson told us: ‘Jai has finally discovered the truth about Amit and I think this has brought out the dark side in him. He’s previously tried to suppress all his feelings and he listened to Laurel and Suni who said there was nothing to see hear, that Jai should move on and accept the death of his father and take Amit into his family. Jai learnt the truth about Amit (Picture: ITV) ‘Well that has proved to be untrue. Amit is the villain that we suspected or that Jai suspected he was. Amit has been very devious and the pain that Jai suffered over the last eight months or so since Rishi’s death has now exploded. It is like a big fireball inside him and it’s all coming out in one go.’ ‘Jai is not a murderer deep down but I think he has been pushed to his limit here’, Chris said, explaining the character had reached breaking point. ‘He wants the shares to the HOP – he wants his rightful inheritance that he should have got from Rishi. The fact that Rishi is no longer with him, means that Jai feels like he needs to avenge his death in some way.’ More TrendingEmmerdale villager shattered by final exit as soap icon bows out foreverEmmerdale confirms major death as much-loved resident is attacked in 28 picturesEmmerdale airs major exit of star in shock murder storyline with two more leavingClaire King reveals health condition that will stop her work in EmmerdaleRead More Stories Follow Metro Soaps on WhatsApp to get all the latest spoilers first Want to be the first to hear shocking EastEnders spoilers? Who’s leaving Coronation Street? The latest gossip from Emmerdale? Metro.co.uk is now on WhatsApp sending all the latest updates and trending stories straight to your phone so you never miss a storyline again. Follow us to receive updates from Metro Soaps on WhatsApp (Picture: Getty Images) Join the Metro Soaps WhatsApp community to get access to spoiler galleries, must-watch videos, and exclusive interviews. Simply click on this link, select ‘Join Chat’ and you’re in! Don’t forget to turn on notifications so you can see when we’ve just dropped the latest spoilers! Teasing the future for Jai, Chris explained: ‘It has changed something inside him and going forward the way he views life and people and relationships may well be affected. Certainly the way he treats business will probably be affected too. ‘I think he is going to become a bit more ruthless. He feels he has been taken for a bit of a fool and he feels like that is never going to happen again. So yes maybe Bad Jai is back! And do you know what I quite like bad Jai. He’s fun to play! ‘But he’s not all bad though, he’s a good dad and he has some redeeming qualities but we have seen him go down this path before – so who knows what lies ahead…’

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I was in pain every day – so I created underwear for trans women

On more than one occasion, ripping off the strong adhesive would cause my skin to swell and split (Picture: Robyn Electra) Pulling on my tight black swimsuit, I looked in the mirror and admired the smoothed shape of my body. Not only did the stretchy spandex fabric feel sleek on my skin, but the hidden body shapewear gave me those feminine curves I’d always longed for. My waist was snatched. My breasts were perky. And best of all, thanks to the special gusset panty, my tuck was flawless. I am always relieved not to see a ‘bulge’ between my legs when I wear this swimsuit. There’s a special moment every time I catch my reflection when I am properly dressed in gender-affirming clothes. Even more so when I confidently dove into the public swimming pool and knew that everything would stay in place. Robyn grew up in Nigeria, where being transgender is illegal (Picture: Robyn Electra) But there was a time when this simple routine of getting dressed everyday as a transgender woman was a source of pain, discomfort and fear. Growing up in Nigeria was extremely difficult for me as a child with gender dysphoria – the feeling of distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth. I always knew I would transition one day to live my truth as a female, but being transgender in Nigeria is illegal. I spent my childhood trying to hide my gender identity. It was only in 2015 – when I was 18 and moved to London – that I finally felt safe to start expressing my femininity and dressing in the clothes that I had always wanted to wear, like bodycon or mini dresses and workout tights or leggings. I came out to my parents shortly after my move and though we have kept in touch, it is still difficult for them to understand my identity. I’m thankful to have fund a second family in the LGBTQ+ community in the UK. Robyn Electra moved to London in 2015 (Picture: Robyn Electra) Not long after moving, I started to take female hormones and I began to slowly see my transition take place. My voice softened and became more feminine, my facial and body hair grew less often and breast tissue began to develop. At the time, the only option I had was traditional underwear such as cotton thongs, high waisted briefs or lace knickers, none of which were tight enough and therefore made me feel insecure. So, I would stick adhesive tape to bind my penis and testicles down between my legs. It was an extreme and very uncomfortable option. Each time I’d begin the process I’d feel depressed and anxious as I knew that, when it came time to remove the tape, it’d be immensely painful. On more than one occasion, ripping off the strong adhesive would cause my skin to swell and split. But I felt like I needed to do it to feel safe in public. The compression would have to last so it didn’t have the lumps and bumps that attract the wrong kind of attention from people who may want to hurt me. Robyn (right) with one of her Gaff and Go models (Picture: Johnny Blackburn Photography) Unfortunately, becoming ‘untucked’ and suddenly having a lump in my bodycon dress can create a dangerous situation for me. There have been instances where I have had abuse shouted at me, like someone once remarking: ‘What’s that? It’s a bloke!’ Of course, both people who tuck and don’t tuck have every right to live a safe life, but it can feel very dangerous in our society to be trans. It was during my business studies course at university that the idea of creating my own gender affirming underwear came about. Alongside working part-time in retail, I began designing tucking underwear. I’d spend hours sketching the various products I wish I could wear – like thongs and swimwear – and researching which fabrics would work and layer well together best to achieve the perfect tuck. Gaff and Go Tucking Briefs in nude (Picture: Gaff and Go) To me, that means a flatter, more gender-affirmed look. But I still wanted the underwear to be breathable, comfortable and a little bit sexy too. It took two years to find the right fabric samples – cotton and spandex – with the qualities I was looking for, but once I did I was able to start mocking up designs properly. Together with my friends, we used our sewing machine to layer the fabrics and admittedly there was a lot of trial and error. But eventually we had our very first prototype. Slipping it on for the first time I felt a rush of excitement. Not only had all my hard work paid off and I was now wearing the finished product, but it worked! ‘Goodbye painful tucking tapes!’ I thought to myself. And I proudly strutted around on video calls to my friends showing them how it all worked. Everything about that moment was very fulfilling for me. This is how Gaff and Go came about in 2017 – it’s an alternative to the uncomfortable and unsafe bindings for transgender people, like sticky tape. And it’s exactly what I needed when I was first coming out. Gaff and Go Tucking Swimwear in Zebra (Picture: Gaff and Go) After sending the prototypes to our manufacturer, together with our sketches, we began promoting them at the Trans Night clubs in London (Wayout) and Manchester and also online on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. I also set up a website and couldn’t believe my eyes when the orders came rolling in, fast, even on launch day. Now, over 2,000 people have left glowing reviews. Hundreds of parents of young trans people have also messaged me to say thank you for giving them the tools to support their children while they are at a vulnerable time in their transitioning journey. Have you ever tried gender-affirming care products? Share your experiences below.Comment Now I am not exaggerating when I say that our undergarments – and indeed, all gender-affirming care products – save lives. Transgender people are normal and we just want to feel safe and welcome. We deserve dignity, respect and have the right to live a comfortable life. I’m proud that Gaff and Go spreads this message. I’m even prouder that we have expanded the range into sports briefs, sports bralettes and swimwear. For a long time I was using unsafe and painful industrial tapes because they were the only option I had. I have been left with scars, both mental and physical, as a result but I never wanted that for anyone else. Now, I can feel safe and go about my daily business – which I’m pleased to say is booming – without any fear or worry. And really, that’s the least us trans people deserve. Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk. Share your views in the comments below.

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Biden’s plan for Gaza pier endangers U.S. troops, experts warn

The Biden administration’s plan to install a floating pier off the Gaza coast as part of a broad international initiative to feed starving Palestinians will endanger the U.S. service members who must build, operate and defend the structure from attack, military experts say, a risk with enormous political consequences for the president should calamity strike.

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Feeling blue? Life’s a beach

“Today we witnessed a mass stranding on a Gold Coast beach,” writes Tony Hughes of Varsity Lakes (Qld). “Sadly, TV cameras were not there to record the creatures dying on the sand. Nor were any members of the public trying valiantly to swim the creatures back out to sea. Will nobody save the bluebottles?” “Shock, horror: a social pecking order determined by a pushbike rider’s handlebar type?” ponders Col Begg of Orange. “While flat bar riders usually greet each other with a nod, a wave or a politely raised finger, drop bar riders almost universally ignore the greeting by their flat bar peers.” As a kid, Alison Stewart of Waitara found a great use for the sample bags (C8) from the Royal Easter Show: “Those little sample-sized containers of real products were great to take home and play ‘Shop’ with family and neighbourhood children. Those were the days.” “It’s part of my wife’s family folklore that, back when the show was held at the Sydney Showground, her brother got his head stuck between the steel rails of a staircase,” writes Mickey Pragnell of Kiama. “He became quite the entertaining exhibit as it took the fire brigade to get him free.” Josephine Piper of Miranda says, “In the ’50s, every year, my mother would buy the Backhouse Gerbera of the Year from that nursery’s display at the show. Imagine her horror, when trying to be helpful, I showed her the bucket of ‘weeds’ I had pulled from the edge of the rose garden.”

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Movie review: ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ an earnest, wacky, hectic ride

Before the titan-sized title of “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” even flashes across the screen, director Adam Wingard has already delivered two impressively goopy moments courtesy of our lead characters: Kong rips a hyena-thing in half, green entrails spilling everywhere, while Godzilla squishes a bug in Rome, releasing great vats of yellow goo over the ancient city. It’s an indication of the colorfully excessive ethos that Wingard brings to this loaded monster jam, which is overflowing with titans, creatures and kaiju. Considering that much of the action takes place in the underworld known as Hollow Earth, you might even call this picture “stuffed crust.” Wingard, who directed the neon-synth fever dream that was “Godzilla vs. Kong” in 2021, comes from the world of horror films, and he brings that same approach to his blockbusters, with a penchant for gleeful experimentation and over-the-top style. He drives this vehicle like he stole it, and with co-writers Simon Barrett and Terry Rossio, seems to throw every idea he’s ever had for a monster movie at the script. It’s a lot. It’s fun, but it’s a lot. On the plus side, Wingard has arguably three of the best working actors in the game in this picture. Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry reprise their roles from “Godzilla vs. Kong,” and Wingard brings along the star of his 2014 thriller “The Guest,” Dan Stevens, who possesses a kind of radioactive charisma that’s almost too much to take in. With these three, you truly cannot go wrong, and Henry and Stevens, playing a blogger/podcaster and a wacky wild animal veterinarian, respectively, prove to be the most valuable players of the movie, after the title characters, of course. To quickly get us caught up to speed, after the events of the last film, Kong now lives in the verdant paradise of Hollow Earth, which is nice but lonely, while Godzilla remains on the surface, very cutely napping in the Colosseum in between bouts of titan fighting. These two need to be kept apart, lest they rip each other to shreds, reducing major cities to rubble. However, when a distress signal emerges from Hollow Earth, Dr. Andrews (Hall), her Iwi daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), her on-call vet Trapper (Stevens), and the fanboy blogger Bernie (Henry), along with a stern Scottish pilot Mikael (Alex Ferns), set out to find the origin of the call, and realize that maybe Godzilla and Kong need to find a way to come together to fight off other nefarious creatures. When you multiply Godzilla by Kong, what do you get? When Wingard’s doing the math, it’s an earnest, wacky, hectic ride that often feels like being thrashed about in an IMAX seat. There’s a decidedly 1980s-inspired vibe to the tone and style, from the hot pinks and greens and synth-y score by Antonio Di Iorio and Tom Holkenborg, to the narrative that follows a journey into a fantastical underworld. There’s also a heavy emphasis on crystals as both plot device and aesthetic that offers this film a retro feel. But about halfway through, one does get the nagging sensation that this has jumped the kaiju shark, as Wingard slams the gas and doesn’t let up. There are too many monsters, and as more and more are introduced, character falls away. It makes you long for the restrained elegance of “Godzilla Minus One,” but this is a different beast entirely. There’s a bit of a harried energy to “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” which is fun until it becomes instantly tiresome and deafening. Perhaps multiplication was too much — here’s hoping subtraction is next in the kaiju mathematical equation. ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ 2.5 stars (out of 4) MPA rating: PG-13 (for creature violence and action) Running time: 1:55 How to watch: In theaters Friday

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