You’ll have to spend $2,500 to visit this store Santa

Harrods, the famously high-end department store in London, is putting a 1% twist on the holiday tradition of the in-store Santa: Only families that have spent at least $ 2,500 at the retailer this year will be granted access to Santa’s lap.

To be sure, the tradition of store Santas is deeply entrenched in capitalism. It’s unclear when the first store Santa appeared — by some accounts it was in a Boston store in 1890, although Macy’s also claims first dibs on the idea — yet the attraction was clearly designed to not only delight children but get their parents to open their wallets. 

Harrods said its store Santa will appear in a “Christmas Grotto” decorated by crystal company Swarovski, promising “a snow-covered woodland filled with sparkling surprises” and inhabited by Father Christmas. But the store’s site notes that only Harrods Rewards members at the Green 2 level, which is reached by spending at least £2000 ($ 2,567), would be allowed to visit “in recognition of their loyal custom,” or patronage.

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That’s striking some shoppers as downright Grinch-like. 

“They have lost the true meaning of Christmas,” James Browne, 40, told The Guardian. He said he’d taken his four children to visit the Harrods’ Santa in previous years. “Visiting Father Christmas shouldn’t be reserved for those that are fortunate enough to frequent the store and spend thousands of pounds.”

Man dressed as Father Christmas poses for photographers outside Harrods
A man dressed as Father Christmas poses for photographers outside Harrods, in central London in August 2008. Luke MacGregor / REUTERS

According to The Guardian, Harrods said it will allow 160 families who haven’t spent $ 2,500 at the store to visit the Christmas Grotto, representing about 3.6% of the expected visitors. 

In addition to spending at least $ 2,500 at Harrods to gain entry to the Christmas Grotto, visitors will also have to buy tickets at about $ 25 a pop, according to the department store website. 

Still, even if you splurged on a shopping spree at Harrods before the Grotto opens on November 15, you’re not likely to gain entry: Harrods said the Grotto is now fully booked.

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Trump’s Vuitton visit stirs discord at the brand as designer hits out

PARIS (Reuters) – Louis Vuitton designer Nicolas Ghesquiere has hit out at Donald Trump after the U.S. president inaugurated one of the brand’s factories last week, distancing himself from a visit that was attended by top executives from parent group LVMH (PA:).

Accompanied by his daughter Ivanka and flanked by LVMH’s controlling shareholder, French billionaire Bernard Arnault, Trump cut the ribbon at the plant in Alvarado, Texas, on Friday, where workers will produce some of the brand’s famed handbags.

Vuitton bosses including chief executive Michael Burke were also present.

But the event appeared to cause some discomfort inside Vuitton, with Ghesquiere – who has designed its women’s collections since 2013 and whose creations are often worn by Brigitte Macron, the wife of the French president – decrying the visit.

“Standing against any political action. I am a fashion designer refusing this association,” Ghesquiere said in a post on Instagram over the weekend, adding the hashtags #trumpisajoke and #homophobia, without elaborating.

Vuitton declined to comment. LVMH had no immediate comment to Ghesquiere’s comments, which marked a rare moment of public discord within the group.

LVMH’s Arnault, who is France’s richest man, had already met with Trump shortly after his election in early 2017, visiting him in New York and stating at the time that Vuitton had plans for a new U.S. factory.

The Texas plant, which adds to Vuitton’s two existing U.S. manufacturing hubs in California, will create 1,000 jobs, the brand said.

Vuitton produces the bulk of its luxury goods in its home country, trading off the cachet of its “Made in France” credentials. But its U.S. presence is seen as a having advantages at a time of growing global trade tensions.

Some anti-Trump campaigners seized on the Vuitton visit. ‘Grab Your Wallet’ is a U.S.-based campaign that calls on shoppers to boycott brands linked to Trump in some capacity. It includes Vuitton on its list, as well as other LVMH brands like Christian Dior and Givenchy.

Arnault, 70, who had endorsed Emmanuel Macron when he was running for the French presidency in 2017, steered clear of policy talk at the factory inauguration, and highlighted Vuitton’s commitment to the United States.

“Louis Vuitton, a name I know well – cost me a lot of money over the years,” Trump said during the visit.

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Parents of U.K. teen felt “ambushed” by White House visit

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Brain-eating amoeba kills man after North Carolina water park visit

Raleigh, N.C. — A North Carolina man has died from a rare brain-eating amoeba after swimming in a manmade lake at a water park, officials said Wednesday. The state Department of Health and Human Resources said in a news release that the infection was caused by the amoeba naturally present in warm freshwater during the summer.

fantasy-lake-water-park.jpg
The man-made lake at Fantasy Lake Water Park in Hope Mills, Cumberland County, North Carolina, is pictured in a promotional image from the park’s website.  Fantasy Lake Water Park

The unnamed person became sick after swimming in Fantasy Lake Water Park in Hope Mills in Cumberland County on July 12.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed it was caused by Naegleria fowleri, a single-celled organism known as the brain-eating amoeba.

People are usually infected when contaminated water enters the body through the nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms generally start about five days after infection, with death occurring about five days later, according to the CDC. 

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The amoeba can cause severe illness up to nine days after exposure.

Health officials say the amoeba is known to have infected just 145 people in the U.S. from 1962 through 2018. Five of those cases occurred in North Carolina.

Attorney Justin Plummer of Greensboro identified the victim as Eddie Gray of Guilford County. He said in an email that he represents Gray’s wife and estate.

The amoeba also killed an Ohio college student who went underwater at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte in 2016. The family of 18-year-old Lauren Seitz of Westerville, Ohio, settled a wrongful-death complaint in April. Seitz died 11 days after being thrown overboard and going underwater at the center during a 2016 church trip.

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Asked about police visit, UK PM hopeful Johnson says people not interested

© Reuters. Britain's Conservative Party's hustings event in Birmingham © Reuters. Britain’s Conservative Party’s hustings event in Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) – Boris Johnson, the favorite to be the next British Prime Minister, said on Saturday that party members were not interested in why police were called to investigate concerns for the welfare of a female in his home.

Police were called to the flat he lives in with girlfriend Carrie Symonds in the early hours of Friday morning, but said all occupants were safe and well and there was no cause for action.

“I don’t think (audience members) want to hear about that kind of thing, unless I’m wrong,” Johnson said at a hustings event with Conservative Party members when asked about the incident, to applause from the audience.

“I think what they want to hear is what my plans are for the country and for my party.”

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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Canada moves to ratify North American trade deal ahead of visit by U.S. vice president

© Reuters. Macron and Ardern launch 'Christchurch Appeal' against terrorism in Paris © Reuters. Macron and Ardern launch ‘Christchurch Appeal’ against terrorism in Paris

By Kelsey Johnson

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The Canadian government formally presented draft legislation to ratify the new North American Trade deal to parliament on Wednesday, less than 24 hours ahead of a visit by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented the bill to the House of Commons, confirming a Reuters story from Tuesday that said the legislation would officially be offered up to parliament on Wednesday.

Canada, Mexico and the United States signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in November 2018.

However, the deal, which would replace the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has yet to be ratified by any of the three countries.

“The new NAFTA will secure access to a trading zone that accounts for more than a quarter of the global economy,” Trudeau said. “It is now time for the members of this House to ratify it.”

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Canada will press ahead with its ratification plans, in tandem with the United States.

With Canadian voters set to head to the polls in October for a national election and the U.S. presidential election in 2020, time is running short.

Pence is scheduled to meet with Trudeau on Thursday to discuss USMCA ratification and other issues. It marks the first time the vice president has traveled to Canada in an official capacity.

His visit also comes after the United States agreed to remove tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum products earlier this month, ending a year-long dispute.

Canadian officials had said Canada probably would not pass the pending trade pact until the tariffs had been lifted.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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Trump makes surprise Christmas visit to Iraq to meet with troops

Special Report: Trump visits troops in Iraq

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump have made a surprise trip to Iraq to visit U.S. troops. The trip marked Mr. Trump’s first visit to Iraq, as well as his first visit to a combat zone as commander-in-chief. 

“President Trump and the First Lady traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night to visit with our troops and Senior Military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice and to wish them a Merry Christmas,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted Wednesday.

U.S. President Trump and the First Lady greet military personnel at the dining facility during an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet military personnel at the dining facility during an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq December 26, 2018. JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

Mr. Trump had been criticized for not visiting troops during the holidays — a long-held tradition for American presidents.    

The president and first lady met with service members at the Al Asad Airbase in the outskirts of Baghdad.   

More than 5,000 American troops are deployed in Iraq — the lowest number since a U.S.-led coalition invaded the Middle Eastern country in 2003. 

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