Gathered mainly from international media sources December 2020 - March 2021
For recent entries click "INTERESTING ITEMS OF NEWS / OPINIONS (2)" |
These are news/opinion items which caught my eye.
Click on the link below:
31 Mar 2021 "Price of Gold"
24 Mar 2021 "UK to consider sending asylum seekers abroad" "Suez Canal blocked by large container ship"
22 Mar 2021 "Ban on leaving England"
21 Mar 2021 "Eastern Vaccine" "Oral Covid-19 vaccine is being developed"
19 Mar 2021 "The happiest countries in the world" "US immigration problems on Mexican border"
17 Mar 2021 "The cave of horrors" "The big gamble"
26 Feb 2021 "Shamima Begum: Supreme Court to rule on her fate"
25 Feb 2021 "The Killing of Jamal Khashoggi"
24 Feb 2021 "COVID 19 virus can survive 72 hours on clothing"
22 Feb 2021 "Iran to stop 'snap' nuclear checks, IAEA confirms" "Almost 1,000 UK homeless deaths recorded in 2020" "Tweens conceived weeks apart"
21 Feb 2021 "Vaccinating Palestinians" "Brit surgeons in children’s heart transplant breakthrough"
19 Feb 2021 "Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum" "The Landing on Mars"
18 Feb 2021 "Facebook Australia"
16 Feb 2021 "Hostage' ordeal of Dubai ruler's daughter revealed"
15 Feb 2021 "Harry and Meghan are expecting second child."
14 Feb 2021 "Not Guilty. Senate falls short of majority needed to convict"
9 Feb 2021 "IDF intelligence: Iran at least two years from nuclear bomb"
8 Feb 2021 "UK entry restrictions (planned)"
4 Feb 2021 "US to end support for Saudi offensive operations in Yemen"
30 Jan 2021 "Vaccines War in Europe"
29 Jan 2021 "UK visas to Hong Kong citizens"
28 Jan 2021 "The 'enemy within'."
27 Jan 2021 "Federal judge blocks 100-day moratorium on deportations"
26 Jan 2021 "US-Iranian dual national detained in Iran " "Riots in Delhi" "UK death toll surpasses 100,000"
24 Jan 2021 "Biden reverses ban on transgenders serving in US military"
23 Jan 2021 "EU vaccine procurement under international fire" "Larry King - The Death of a Legend"
21 Jan 2021 "Joe Biden's Inaugural Speech in Full "
20 Jan 2021 "Tearful Joe Biden honours late son Beau" "Israel to supply anti-tank rockets and drones to Hungary."
19 Jan 2021 "Biden to reverse several Trump policies in first days" "The Duchess and the press"
18 Jan 2021 "Migrants headed to U.S. border in early challenge to Biden"
14 Jan 2021 "Hidden Wars - Syria"
12 Jan 2021 "An interview with David Reaboi by a Hungarian journalist"
11 Jan 2021 "Crisis in UK National Health Service "
10 Jan 2021 "Snow blizzards hit Spain"
4 Jan 2021 "Julian Assange" "Iran seizes South Korean tanker" "The fate of Beirut"
2 Jan 2021 "US$ vs Gold"
29 Dec 2020 "Covid-19 - Extreme concern in UK"
"Spain to keep registry of those who refuse the vaccine"
27 Dec 2020 "The death of a spy"
24 Dec 2020 "Two cases of another new strain of Covid-19 in UK"
23 Dec 2020 "Tesco puts buying caps on several products"
"WHAT'S IN THE NEW $900B CORONAVIRUS RELIEF PACKAGE?"
22 Dec 2020 "The new variant of coronavirus - Is it more deadly?"
"UK-France border blockage"
"More than 40 countries ban visitors from UK"
"39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in lorry trailer in Essex"
20 Dec 2020 "The World is living beyond its means !"
19 Dec 2020 "Air leak on ISS, crew safe but for how long?"
18 Dec 2020 "Hacking attacks linked to Russia "
"28 Symptoms of Long Covid"
"Charlie Hebdo killers sentenced"
"A dog's life at the North Pole"
"Flynn advocates 'Martial Law'"
"Freedom of speech includes the right to offend"
"Coronavirus: Swiss count cost of surge in deaths"
"Charlie Hebdo hearings in Paris, France"
"Manchester police failed to record 80,000 crimes last year"
"Sweden's Covid-19 strategy failed"
"Slovakia goes into shutdown"
"The changing face of Europe"
17 Dec 2020 "France's President tested positive for Covid-19"
"Lockerbie bombmaker to be charged"
16 Dec 2020 "No more Arab-Israeli peace deals if Biden mollifies Iran"
"Ossoff: ICE should make illegal immigrants paid minimum wage"
15/12/20 "Netherlands in Lockdown"
13 Dec 2020 "British espionage writer John le Carré has died aged 89,"
12 Dec 2020 "What next with Iran?"
"First black American nominated as defence secretary"
11 Dec 2020 "California School Districts removes 5 classic books ..."
"Covid: Genes hold clues to why some people get severely ill"
"Referendum for the state of Texas to secede from the U.S. ?"
"Covid-19 More single day dead than in 9/11 terror attack"
"Covid-19: France moves to night-time curfew from 15 December"
"Elon Musk has launched the latest prototype of Starship "
"Covid-19 - $600 direct payment to most Americans?"
"Hunter Biden under federal investigation"
"Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine data gets positive FDA review"
For earlier entries drill down the list
10 Dec 2020 - Covid: Genes hold clues to why some people get severely ill
10 Dec 2020 - Referendum for the state of Texas to secede from the U.S. ?
10 Dec 2020 - Covid-19: More single day dead than in 9/11 terror attack or on D-Day landing
10 Dec 2020 - Covid-19: France moves to night-time curfew from 15 December
10 Dec 2020 - Elon Musk has launched the latest prototype of his Starship vehicle from Texas.
9 Dec 2020 - Covid-19 - $600 direct payment to most Americans?
9 Dec 2020 - Hunter Biden under federal investigation
9 Dec 2020 - Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine data gets positive FDA review
9 Dec 2020 - Is BIG TECH censoring different ideas about COVID-19?
9 Dec 2020 - Clashes in Portland
9 Dec 2020 - UK is investigating two possible allergic reactions to Pfizer coronavirus shot
9 Dec 2020 - Open letter by the Prime Minister of Hungary to the European Union
9 Dec 2020 - VACCINE OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM
9 Dec 2020 - UK EXIT FROM THE EU (Last supper?)
8 Dec 2020 - ROALD DAHL AND A WOKE APOLOGY
|Assisted dying inquiry essential, leading brain surgeon says
Henry Marsh, a retired neurosurgeon and bestselling author, received his diagnosis six months ago.
He has supported a call by politicians for the government to hold an inquiry.
The Care Not Killing alliance, which opposes assisted dying, said the law protected the vulnerable "from being pressured into ending their lives".
Mr Marsh is backing a group of more than 50 MPs and peers who have written a joint letter to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, arguing the UK's laws on assisted dying have fallen behind the rest of the world.
Currently, assisting a suicide is a crime in England and Wales and is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
Intentionally helping another person to kill themselves is known as assisted suicide - this can include buying someone a ticket to Switzerland - where assisted suicide is legal - to end their life.
Signatories of the letter include politicians who previously voted against changing the law.
The letter was organised by Humanists UK, which Mr Marsh is an advocate of, and campaign group My Death, My Decision, of which he is a patron.
Assisted dying travel allowed during lockdown
'He wanted to die - then mum said she did too'
New Zealand votes to legalise euthanasia
Legalising assisted dying 'a risk to vulnerable'
Speaking publicly for the first time about his own cancer diagnosis, Mr Marsh said he felt "deeply shocked and terribly frightened and upset" as it "gradually dawned on him how serious the situation was".
The surgeon said in the past he had in "theory" been an advocate of assisted dying in "one form or another" but said he hadn't thought it might one day apply to him.
"It is extraordinarily difficult to think about your own death," he said.
The 71-year-old, who is due to start radiotherapy treatment in a few months' time, believes "something should be done to change the law in this country".
"My own suspicion as to why the opponents to assisted dying oppose a public inquiry is they fear that actually the evidence is so strong that their hypothetical arguments against it don't hold water, that they will lose the debate," he said.
'Ability to choose'
Humanists UK's chief executive Andrew Copson said he was "deeply sorry" to hear about Mr Marsh's diagnosis.
"The ability to choose how, where, and when we die is a fundamental freedom, which cuts across party political and ideological lines," he added.
"In coming together to demand an inquiry, Henry and the lawmakers who have signed this letter have put the voices of the terminally ill and incurably suffering at the centre of the debate."
GOLD PRICES headed for the first quarterly loss in 10 in London on Wednesday, losing 10.8% in Dollar terms by end-March from the end of December after industrial commodities, global stock markets, the US currency and long-term interest rates made a steep rise in 2021 so far.
|Egypt's Suez Canal blocked by large container ship
Egypt's Suez Canal has been blocked by a large container ship that ran aground after losing control, causing a traffic jam of cargo vessels in the region.
Tug boats were deployed to help shift the 400m-long (1312ft) and 59m-wide ship - the Ever Given - but there are fears it could remain trapped for days.
The incident occurred just north of the port of Suez early on Tuesday.
The waterway connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, providing the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.
The Ever Given, registered in Panama, was bound for the port city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands from China and was passing northwards through the canal on its way to the Mediterranean.
It became trapped at about 07:40 local time (05:40 GMT) on Tuesday due in part to a technical failure, local media report.
The ship, built in 2018 and operated by transport company Evergreen Marine, ran aground blocking the path of several other container vessels which are now trapped in lines in both directions.
Dr Sal Mercogliano, a maritime historian based in the US state of North Carolina, told the BBC that incidents such as this were rare, and could have "huge ramifications for global trade".
"This is the largest vessel ever to go aground in the Suez Canal," he said, adding that the ship got lodged in the embankment after losing power and steering.
"If they are unable to pull her free... in a high tide, they are going to have to start removing cargo."
The operation to move the Ever Given, which could include removing large amounts of sand from around the areas where the vessel is grounded, may take days, Cairo24 news reported, citing the Suez Canal Authority.
People who enter the UK illegally to claim asylum will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally, under new immigration plans.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said those who arrive legally will immediately be given the right to remain in the UK indefinitely.
But she said it was "fair" that it would be more difficult for people to stay if they came via an illegal route.
Ms Patel will set out more details later on her New Plan for Immigration, described by the government as "the biggest overhaul of the UK's asylum system in decades".
There were 35,099 asylum claims made in the UK during the year ending March 2020, with Iran, Albania and Iraq providing the most applicants.
UK to consider sending asylum seekers abroad
Asylum seekers could be processed on old ferries
What happens to migrants who reach the UK?
The Home Office said that "for the first time" the question of whether asylum seekers enter the UK illegally - via another "safe" country, such as France - would "have an impact" on how it dealt with claims.
The government would seek the "rapid removal from the UK" of rejected applicants, with appeals "reformed to speed up" the process, it added.
Ms Patel said: "If people arrive illegally, they will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally, and it will be harder for them to stay."
But asylum seekers fleeing persecution or violence and coming to the UK via the "legal resettlement" route from countries such as Syria and Iran would straight away get permission to remain in the UK indefinitely, the Home Office said.
Currently they have to wait for five years after being granted refugee status to apply for this.
Under the new plans, anyone who pays criminal gangs to bring them to the UK will only ever receive temporary permission to remain and they will be regularly assessed for removal from the UK.
BBC home and legal correspondent Dominic Casciani said it was not clear how this would work in practice as the UK was no longer part of an EU scheme for sending failed asylum seekers back to other states.
Other proposals include bringing in "rigorous" age checks to stop adults entering the country by pretending to be children.
Ms Patel said asylum applicants with criminal records who returned to the UK after being deported would receive a jail sentence of up to five years. The current maximum is six months.
And people smugglers - responsible for shipping many of the 8,500 people who crossed the English Channel in small boats last year - could get life sentences, she warned.
"Profiteering from illegal migration to Britain will no longer be worth the risk," the home secretary said.
|A ban on leaving England without a reasonable excuse is included in new Covid laws coming into force in England next week until at least early May.
The legislation for restrictions over the coming months was published on Monday, as the government sets out its roadmap for coming out of lockdown.
From March 29, leaving the UK is banned unless a person has "a reasonable excuse".
Another change the legislation sets out is to allow protests to once again be permitted under certain circumstances.
The rules will be up for review in 35 days, taking the travel ban through until at least 3 May.
|An Israeli-American pharmaceutical company is preparing to launch a Phase I clinical trial for what could become the world’s first oral COVID-19 vaccine.
Oramed Pharmaceuticals Inc., a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company based on technology developed by Hadassah-University Medical Center, announced over the weekend a joint venture with Premas Biotech to develop a novel oral vaccine. Together they formed the company Oravax Medical Inc. The vaccine is based on Oramed’s “POD” oral delivery technology and Premas’s vaccine technology.
Oramed’s technology can be used to orally administer a number of protein-based therapies, which would otherwise be delivered by injection. Oramed is in the midst of a Phase III clinical trial through the US Food and Drug Administration of an oral insulin capsule for type I and type II diabetics.
Premas has been working on developing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus since March.
The companies connected earlier this year, according to Oramed CEO Nadav Kidron, and quickly realized that they could revolutionize the marketplace.
“An oral COVID-19 vaccine would eliminate several barriers to rapid, wide-scale distribution, potentially enabling people to take the vaccine themselves at home,” Kidron said. “While ease of administration is critical today to accelerate inoculation rates, an oral vaccine could become even more valuable in the case that a COVID-19 vaccine may be recommended annually like the standard flu shot.”
The company completed a pilot animal study and found that the vaccine promoted the development of Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies and Immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA is necessary for longer-term immunity.
The new Oravax vaccine candidate targets three structural proteins of the novel coronavirus, Kidron explained, as opposed to the single spike protein targeted via the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. As such, “this vaccine should be much more resistant to COVID-19 variants,” Kidron claimed.
In addition, it is a yeast-based vaccine, making the time and cost of production much cheaper than its already-approved competitors.
The advantages of an oral vaccine go beyond safety and efficacy, Kidron continued. He said that oral medications tend to have fewer side effects; around 10% of people who are inoculated by Pfizer or Moderna report having some adverse effects.
In addition, the vaccine can be shipped at refrigerator temperatures and even stored at room temperature, “making it logistically easier to get it anywhere around the world,” Kidron said.
Finally, an oral vaccine would not require professional administration.
Oravax anticipates commencing a clinical study during the second quarter of 2021. Kidron said that it is applying for trials in multiple countries, including the United States, Israel, Europe and Mexico. It hopes to also target Africa, where such an oral vaccine could prove essential.
Kidron said he expects Phase I human trial data to be available within three months.
In February 2020, shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, another Israeli team began development on what they hoped would be an oral coronavirus vaccine. Scientists from the Galilee Research Institute’s biotechnology group who had been developing a vaccine against avian coronavirus, which had been proven effective in preclinical trials and they believed would translate to a human vaccine, said that they were primed to develop their vaccine within a few short months.
|President Joe Biden's 'big problem' at the US border
When Joe Biden took the presidential oath of office in January, he faced two massive, related crises - the coronavirus pandemic and its resulting economic fallout.
Those were challenges as obvious as they were anticipated. Now, however, the president is confronting his first political and policy crisis from a different direction - on immigration, as the US-Mexico border experiences yet another surge in undocumented entries.
The nature of the crisis is hardly novel, as most recent presidents have grappled with some kind of immigration-related challenge during their time in office. For Biden, however, it comes at a moment when he would prefer to focus elsewhere.
Politics doesn't care what politicians would prefer, however. The immigration situation has the potential to derail Biden's other best-laid plans, as he is squeezed by criticism from Republican foes and some within his own party.
A 'big problem'
Speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room on Monday, press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that the current situation on the US-Mexico border has become a "big problem".
The overall number of undocumented migrants encountered on the US border is higher than at the same point in any of the previous three years - and growing at a faster pace toward the traditional peak entry time in late spring.
In particular, the figures for unaccompanied minors at the border have sharply increased in the past few months.
About 15,000 unaccompanied youth migrants have been detained at the border in January and February. The total for all of last year was 37,000. In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic slowed migrant movement, it was 75,000. At this pace, that mark will be easily surpassed.
As of Sunday, US Customs and Border Protection were housing 4,200 children in detention facilities along the border and admitting an average of 565 children - most between the ages of seven and 13 - a day.
Some of this is the result of decisions made by Joe Biden early in his presidency. He reversed a Trump administration policy of turning away unaccompanied children at the border, instead opting to process them and place them with sponsoring families in the US.
Like many Democrats, Biden has been critical of Donald Trump's since-rescinded decision in 2018 to separate the children of undocumented migrants from their parents - and the former president's draconian immigration enforcement policies in general.
"Securing our borders does not require us to ignore the humanity of those who seek to cross them," Biden wrote in an executive order reversing the unaccompanied minor policy and announcing an overall review of federal immigration procedures.
But with such moves come complications. Migrants travelling from Central America have told the BBC that they are doing so because they believe the Biden administration will give them amnesty. The president's attempts to discourage the journey have, so far, had no appreciable effect.
In her press conference, Psaki also pointed her finger squarely at Trump.
"The last administration left us a dismantled and unworkable system, and like any other problem, we are going to do everything we can to solve it. So our focus here is on solutions… The president's very focused on expediting what's happening at the border at every step in the process."
Blaming the previous guy for a current problem is an age-old political manoeuvre - and it's one that tends to have a limited shelf life. If the situation on the border doesn't improve, the "big problem" will be squarely in Biden's lap.
Republicans sense an opening
The president's political adversaries on the right appear to be relishing the chance to use the situation on the border to their advantage.
While Biden and top administration officials have criss-crossed the US to tout the benefits of the recently passed $1.9tn (£1.4tn) Covid relief package, Republican officeholders have been travelling to the Mexican border - and blaming Biden for what they see as an overburdened system and presidential actions that are encouraging more illegal entries.
"The sad part about that is this didn't have to happen," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at a press event in Texas. "This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration."
After Democrats attacked Trump for "children in cages" - a result of his family separation policy - Republicans are returning the favour, accusing Biden of implementing policies that put unaccompanied minors in similarly harsh situations.
Immigration and border security were the lynchpin of Donald Trump's successful presidential bid in 2016, and some Republicans may see it as a pathway back to power in future elections, including the 2022 mid-term congressional elections. The former president himself has joined in the chorus, although he glossed over the fact that recent immigration trends began when he was still president.
"When I was president, our southern border was in great shape — stronger, safer, and more secure than ever before," he said in a statement issued last week. "Our country is being destroyed at the southern border, a terrible thing to see!"
For conservatives, immigration is the quintessential "wedge" issue - engaging their base and exacerbating divisions within the Democratic Party.
Activists growing impatient
Those Democratic Party divisions have been on display in recent days, as Biden's more liberal supporters have grown restless over the Trump-era policies and provisions that have yet to be rolled back by the new administration.
For now, the US border with Mexico remains largely closed. And while unaccompanied children have been permitted entry into the US, most others have been turned away - and their asylum requests delayed. While the Trump-era ban on entry from certain majority Muslim nations has been lifted, the visa-approval process for foreign workers is still suspended because of Covid restrictions, and temporary visas for students are facing significant backlogs.
Patience among some on the left is wearing thin.
"The longer we sort of slow-walk that restoration of normalcy and how we would address the issues at the border with migrants - whether they're adults or children - the [worse] the problem gets," Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota - herself a former refugee - told Politico this week.
"Once we think of the humans at the border as humans ... we will have policies that are just, humane, and give them dignity."
Meanwhile, Democratic moderates - like Congressman Henry Cuellar, who represents an area along the Mexican district - said the Biden team needs to do more to discourage migrants from travelling to the US and falling prey to human traffickers.
"They're trying to be different from Trump, which I agree with," he told Newsweek. "They need to be different; we don't separate kids. But [Biden's] 'humane' approach, is actually feeding the narrative that the bad guys are twisting to get people over; no ifs, no buts."
Biden has unveiled comprehensive immigration legislation, but the prospects for passage in Congress - at least as long as the Senate rule requiring 60 out of 100 votes to approve most bills endures - is dim.
His administration is still not fully staffed, with delays caused by the lack of transition co-operation from the Trump administration and the Senate impeachment trial in February preventing top presidential nominees - who then select staff for their agencies and departments - from being confirmed quickly.
Over the course of four years, Trump officials dramatically altered the way the federal government handles immigration in the US. Liberals want those changes reversed as quickly as possible, but Biden - with multiple demands on his time and political capital - will be challenged to keep them satisfied.
His ability to do so, however, could determine how successful he is in keeping together the coalition of disparate interests that made his presidential victory last year possible.
|Finland ranked happiest country in the world - again
Finland has been named the happiest place in the world for a fourth year running, in an annual UN-sponsored report.
The World Happiness Report saw Denmark in second place, then Switzerland, Iceland and the Netherlands.
New Zealand was again the only non-European nation in the top 10. The UK fell from 13th to 17th place.
Data from analytics researcher Gallup asked people in 149 countries to rate their own happiness.
Measures including social support, personal freedom, gross domestic product (GDP) and levels of corruption were also factored in.
The country deemed the most unhappy in the world was Afghanistan, followed by Lesotho, Botswana, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.
There was a "significantly higher frequency of negative emotions" in just over a third of the countries, the report authors said, likely pointing to the effects of the pandemic.
However, things got better for 22 countries. Several Asian countries fared better than they had in last year's rankings, while China moved to 84th place from 94th.
"Surprisingly there was not, on average, a decline in well-being when measured by people's own evaluation of their lives," John Helliwell, one of the report's authors, said in a statement.
"One possible explanation is that people see Covid-19 as a common, outside threat affecting everybody and that this has generated a greater sense of solidarity and fellow-feeling."
Finland "ranked very high on the measures of mutual trust that have helped to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic", the authors said.
The Scandinavian nation of 5.5 million people has managed far better than the majority of Europe during the pandemic, with just over 70,000 cases and 805 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
According to the report, the ten happiest countries are:
|Patrick Foster hit rock bottom in March 2018. The teacher had racked up huge gambling debts and could not see a way forward.
Looking back on his life, the 33-year-old recalled placing his first bet at university. It was just a bit of fun with his friends.
But his taste for gambling became an addiction when his career as a cricketer ended abruptly and he started working in the City.
Things only got worse when he left to be a teacher, borrowing money from his students' parents and lying to his colleagues.
He decided he could win it all back with one final bet and staked £50,000 on a single horse. When it lost, he accepted his life was over.
Here, in his own words, is the story of how he got his life back on track.
I had one dream in life and that was to become a professional cricketer.
I managed to achieve this after accepting a sports scholarship to Oundle School in Northamptonshire, one of the top schools in the country.
When I left at 18, I signed a two-year professional contract with Northamptonshire County Cricket Club. That summer things went incredibly well for me and I got called up to the England under-19s squad.
I decided to get a degree so that I had something to fall back on and got in to Durham University.
One Saturday morning, shortly after fresher's week, I got a knock on my door and a few lads said they were going to the bookies. I didn't really know what I was letting myself in for.
I watched a guy playing on a roulette machine and I was transfixed. He stormed out and I jumped his chair. I had £2 in my pocket and decided to put it on green zero. It came in and my life changed forever.
I walked out that night with £250. I thought: "Do you know what? I can make loads of money from this." And it gave me an unbelievable rush.
'My dream was over and it hit me really hard'
Unfortunately, I injured my ankle and couldn't play cricket. I started to gamble more and more.
When I got fit again, I had this distraction. I used to be the first into training and the last out. Now I wanted to get out of training as soon as possible to get to the bookies and it started to affect my performance.
At the end of that year, I got called in by the head coach and I was released. My dream was over and it hit me really hard.
It was the first time in my life that I was told I wasn't good enough at something. I didn't like it and I didn't know how to respond to it. My way of dealing with it was to run away.
I graduated with a 2:1 and moved with four mates to London, where we earned huge graduate salaries in the City.
I continued to gamble but I was excelling at work and I thought I didn't have a problem. I was offered a promotion and a pay rise with a big bonus.
'I won £35,000 and lost it within weeks'
Two nights later, I arranged to meet my friends in a bar to celebrate. I was feeling pleased with myself and put £500 on a football accumulator. I won £34,988.
The feeling it gave me was like nothing else. It totally changed my relationship with gambling. Every time I placed a bet, I thought I would win £35,000. If I didn't, I thought I would win it again at some point.
The worst thing was that smaller wins didn't give me the same buzz anymore. So I started putting £2,000 on a horse to try and get that feeling.
I lost that money in five weeks. When it had gone, I wanted it back. I started to chase it and I told myself I would stop gambling if I won it again, but I never came close.
By this stage, I had taken out two bank loans, maximised my overdraft and missed my last month's rent. I realised things were spiralling out of control.
'That was the biggest mistake I ever made'
Patrick Foster and family
ived huge support from his family and credits them with saving his life
I decided to go home and speak to my parents. I had a choice that day but I was so worried about what they would think. I didn't want them to be disappointed in me so I chose not to tell them. That was the biggest mistake I ever made.
Instead, I blamed it on the London lifestyle. I told them I wanted to do something different. I said I wanted to become a teacher. I thought that would stop me gambling because it would be a completely different environment.
I got a job at a school in Oxford teaching history and Latin. But as soon as I settled in, I started to gamble again. I wasn't earning as much and I started to get into more debt, with more loans and credit cards.
Once that money had run out, things escalated to the next level. I was surrounded by very wealthy people. I started to approach them for money and I lied to them. I told them the taxman was after me, I said I had crashed my car and that I needed money on a short-term basis. I started to borrow huge amounts and gamble it all away.
'I had £250,000 of gambling debt'
At the end of 2016, I decided to move schools because I was worried I would be found out. My life was a mess but I met my girlfriend Charlotte and somehow I managed to hide everything from her.
I kept thinking about telling her the truth but I was so worried I would lose her, I thought the second I admitted it that she would leave me.
By the start of 2018, things were out of control. I had 76 different online betting accounts and 23 payday loans. I had borrowed money off 113 different people and I had £250,000 worth of gambling debt that needed to be paid back immediately.
I hit the self-destruct button and for the next two months I was gambling huge sums of money all day and all night, in the knowledge that when I got found out, that would be it.
I got called in by the head who had received complaints from colleagues and parents. I had nowhere to hide. They said they were going to open an investigation and I knew I would lose my job, and could lose my house and be taken to court for fraud.
I decided gambling was my only way out and I thought one big win would save me.
It was the start of the Cheltenham Festival and it was the perfect opportunity. I rang someone and said a family member had been in an accident and I needed £10,000 to pay off a medical bill. I managed to turn that into £50,000 by getting lucky on a horse but it wasn't enough. I needed more.
'My world came crashing down'
So what I decided to do was probably the most stupid thing you could possibly imagine. I decided to put a £50,000 bet on one horse race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
I was convinced a horse called Might Bite was going to win. I watched that horse lose by a single length and my world came crashing down.
A few days later, I resigned from my job and I picked up my car keys and drove round for three hours. I decided to end my life because I felt like there was no other option.
One thing going through my mind was: "You've got to tell someone." I decided to reach out to my little brother. I sent him a message saying what I'd been doing and what I was about to do. I asked him to say goodbye to everyone.
He tried to call me but I didn't want to pick up. My mind was made up.
Then he sent me a message - and that message saved my life.
He said: "Whatever you do, do not do this." He said he wouldn't be able to cope and neither would my girlfriend or my family. That was the moment in my life that I stopped thinking about myself and started thinking about other people.
'I've got a second go at life'
I told my family everything. The lies, the debts, the situation with my job. It is impossible to describe how tough that was but it was the moment I was able to move on with my life.
They didn't go mad. They recognised I needed help and they arranged for me to go to rehab. I thought: "I've got a second go at life."
The next month in rehab was really hard, I had to take full responsibility for what I had done.
I got engaged to my girlfriend when I came out but I had no idea what to do with my life. I contacted the Professional Cricketer's Association (PCA), who look after current and former cricketers, even if they had a short career like mine. They helped me financially and emotionally, organised more treatment and worked out a plan to start paying my debts.
I had a burning desire to share my story. I'm not proud of what I did but I recognised how easily I had fallen into this trap. I started giving talks to cricketers through the PCA, to try to stop them from making the same mistakes and I went back to give a talk at my former school in Northamptonshire.
same time, I started working for EPIC Risk Management, a consultancy that helps prevent gambling-related harm. So far, I have spoken at more than 200 schools, more than 100 sporting organisations and around 50 businesses.
I really want to get the message over to young people in particular, who have such easy access to gambling online. If I can make a difference to one person then it will all be worthwhile.
Gambling has had a huge impact on my life. I will be paying off my debts for the next 15 years.
I'm now writing a book about my life which will be published early next year and I want to carry on sharing my story. It's just a small way of giving back after taking an awful lot away.
It is my way of saying thank you to the people who have saved my life.