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Harry Potter author JK Rowling to be made Companion of Honour at Buckingham Palace

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Rowling, who is also marking two decades since the publication of the first book in her best-selling series, has been honoured for services to literature and philanthropy. The 52-year-old will be decorated with the rare title, befitting of one of her fantastical characters, in addition to her OBE, which she was awarded in 2001. Membership of the Order of the Companions of Honour, established in 1917 by George V, is a special award held by only 65 people at any one time, and recognises services of national importance. Rowling, whose fir... Read More »

Queen gives all 1,500 Buckingham Palace employees a Tesco Christmas pudding

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According to the official website of the Royal Family, the Queen gives each member of her staff a Christmas pudding, a tradition started by her grandfather, George V. But that is not all. In addition to a Christmas pudding, employees throughout the Palaces, in the Court Post Office, and in the Palace police, also receive a greeting card from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as well. If this all sounds a tad frugal, it turns out it's actually even more so this year. In previous years, it was reported the monarch favoured puddings fro... Read More »

Europe’s Unibail-Rodamco bids $16 billion for Westfield in global shift

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The sector is grappling with challenges from online retailers led by Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and the deal, which Westfield said was “highly compelling” for shareholders, follows world No. 2 retail real estate investment trust GGP’s (GGP.N) rejection of Brookfield Property’s (BPY.O) bid. “Unibail-Rodamco’s track record makes it the natural home for the legacy of Westfield’s brand and business,” said Westfield chairman Frank Lowy, a holocaust survivor who has become a billionaire since he co-founded the group in 1960. The deal gives the Eur... Read More »

Heavy snow disrupts road, air travel in northern Europe

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Hundreds of air passengers were stranded in Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital, as well as Britain, and many took to Twitter to complain. Some 330 flights were cancelled by 5:00 pm (1600 GMT) after heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures struck the region around Frankfurt, a spokesman for airport operator Fraport told AFP.  The airport - Germany's largest air hub and the home base for major carrier Lufthansa - had been scheduled to handle a total of 1,260 flights over the day. Elsewhere in the country, Duesseldorf airport was forced to close f... Read More »

Hamilton Crawford: UK Property Prices Slump

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Hamilton Crawford report reveals British housing prices are decreasing as political uncertainty grows. Property prices in the UK are no longer soaring and are instead falling at their quickest pace in 8 years according to a report by Hamilton Crawford which cited political uncertainty and anticipation of the recent interest rate hike by the Bank of England as the probable cause. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ benchmark property price index for the UK dropped more than anticipated to +1 last month, a level in keeping with fl... Read More »

Shopping centres sold in £3.4bn deal

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The deal will create the UK's biggest property company, worth £21bn. Intu owns the Lakeside shopping centre, in Essex. and the Trafford Centre, in Manchester, while Hammerson owns Bicester Village designer outlet and London's Brent Cross shopping centre. Shares in Intu jumped by nearly 19% on the news, while Hammerson's fell by 3%. The combined group plans to target fast growing markets in Spain and Ireland. John Strachan, chairman of Intu, said: "Intu offers high-quality retail and leisure destinations in the UK and Spain, which, w... Read More »

Biofuels plant in Hull stops production and may not reopen

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Vivergo Fuels said there was "no guarantee" production would recommence at the Hull facility. It said losses had risen due to government delays in making oil companies use 10% bioethanol in petrol. The Department for Transport said it was "on track" to double the biofuels supply by 2020. Bioethanol is a renewable transport fuel which is blended with petrol to cut carbon emissions. It is made from organic matter including sugar, maize or, in the case of Vivergo, wheat. Vivergo's managing director, Mark Chesworth, told the BBC's Today progr... Read More »

Facebook creates 800 jobs as it opens new London office

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By the end of next year about 2,300 people will work for the social media company in the UK. The office will be Facebook's biggest engineering hub outside the US, and opens during its tenth year in the UK. Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook's Europe, Middle East and Asia vice-president, said the company was "more committed than ever to the UK". She said Britain's "entrepreneurial ecosystem and engineering excellence" made it an ideal location for technology firms. The seven-floor building at Rathbone Place, near Oxford Circus in central London, wa... Read More »

Wake Up and Smell the Traffic? London Tries Coffee to Power Buses

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While the worst smogs, or “pea soupers,” have long dispersed, London still chokes on heavy pollution. Seeking to curb toxic diesel fumes, transport officials and companies are hunting for new sources of energy for the buses. The latest idea? Coffee grounds. On Monday, in a much-hyped debut, a company called Bio-bean, in partnership with the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, introduced relatively small amounts of oil produced from coffee grounds into the mix of diesel and biofuels mandated by the city authorities. The first batch of 6,000 liters, ... Read More »

Google faces mass legal action in UK over data snooping

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It focuses on allegations that Google unlawfully harvested information from 5.4 million UK users by bypassing privacy settings on their iPhones. The group taking action - Google You Owe Us - is led by ex-Which director Richard Lloyd. He estimates the users could get as much as "several hundred pounds each". The case centres on how Google used cookies - small pieces of computer text that are used to collect information from devices in order to deliver targeted ads. The complaint is that for several months in 2011 and 2012 Google placed ad-track... Read More »

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