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Operation Croissant(LONDON) — A group of friends from France traveled to London on Wednesday on a mission to hand out hundreds of freshly baked croissants in an effort to convince British people to stay in the European Union.

A record 46.5 million people are expected to head to the polls Thursday to vote in a referendum on whether or not Britain should remain in the E.U.

“It was conceived as an act of friendship, proximity and goodwill” organizers of the event said in a statement, dubbing the event “Operation Croissant.”

However, the group was not allowed to go forward with its plan so organizers gave out 500 postcards with messages written by fellow Europeans instead.

“It has been very touching to receive the messages for the postcards,” organizers said. “It made us realize that many people have wanted to speak about this issue, and were looking for a simple and anonymous way to do so.”

One message was written by a British pastry chef currently living in Paris. She explained the difference between straight croissants, which are made from butter, and curved ones, which are made from margarine.

“I know because as an English girl — and E.U. citizen — I was allowed to go to pastry school for free, like the French kids. I learned how to layer butter and dough to make these flaky creatures,” said Frances, who didn’t include her last name on the postcard.

“All this to say, I am grateful for open borders, for the right to travel and work elsewhere. For cultural and culinary exchange. Bon appétit et très bonne journée,” Frances added.

Marie Houzelle, a writer living in a suburb of Paris, wrote on her card: “We like you: your language, your music, your radio, your fiction—your difference.”

Gérard, a lawyer from Paris, wrote: “Relationship status: it’s complicated, but it’s easier to bring you breakfast in bed if you stay. There are not enough croissants in France to express how much we love you guys.”

Many of the messages praised British cultural exports. Sabine from Paris wrote: “In the words of one of your very best exports, Sir John Lennon: ‘The French make rock and roll like the English make wine.’ Luckily we can have both together.”

While no croissants were distributed, the organizers did manage to bring a batch from France and dropped them off at a homeless shelter in London.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims slumped last week, decreasing by 18,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending June 18, the number of people filing for benefits fell from an unrevised level of 277,000 the previous week to 259,000, marking the 68th consecutive week initial jobless claims came in below 300,000. It’s the longest streak since 1973, the Labor Department says.

The Labor Department said there were no “special factors” impacting that week’s figures.

The four-week moving average decreased by 2,250 to 267,000.

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(NORFOLK, England) — Prince William and Princess Kate enjoyed a five-course meal prepared by Michelin-star chefs at a gala dinner Wednesday night. The gala supported East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), a charity of which Kate is a patron.

The royal couple used the occasion to joke about Kate’s cooking skills.

Kate, 34, told the guests, “William has to put up with my cooking most of the time.”

Prince William responded by joking of Kate’s cooking, “It’s the reason I’m so skinny.”

The gala took place at Houghton Hall, an opulent, stately manor house near William and Kate’s home Anmer Hall in Norfolk. EACH is a charity that provides hospice services supporting families and cares for children and young people with life-threatening illnesses across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.

The charity was one of the first Kate became a patron of after her 2011 marriage to Prince William.

Kate recycled a $5,000, pale-pink beaded Jenny Packham gown that she last wore over five years ago. She paired the gown with nude, suede L.K. Bennett stiletto sandals, a Prada clutch and a stunning diamond bracelet.

The benefit, which included a champagne reception, raised about $150,000 for the charity. Guests reportedly paid upward of $15,000 a ticket to dine with the future king and queen of England.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg day launched “Together Women Can,” a new public awareness campaign to encourage women to be mentors and powerful allies for other women at work.

Sandberg announced the initiative in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Amy Robach that aired Thursday on Good Morning America. During the interview the Facebook COO also talked about how she’s coping following the unexpected death last year of her husband, Dave Goldberg, telling Robach that Goldberg’s death was “still a struggle.”

‘Together Women Can’

“Together Women Can” is the latest initiative from Sandberg’s organization LeanIn.Org. The organization developed from Sandberg’s 2013 book “Lean In,” whose goal is to “empower all women to achieve their ambitions.”

Asked about how she came up with the idea for “Together Women Can,” Sandberg replied: “We see all the time women supporting other women. And I think there’s a myth out there that women don’t, and it’s not true.”

She added that there were “small, everyday things” that women could do to help other women in the workplace to make a big difference.

“We know that women get interrupted more than men. And if you’re getting interrupted, of course you should be able to say, ‘Hey, I haven’t finished,’ but that can be hard. Another woman sitting next to you can say, ‘Hey, I’d really like to hear what Amy was about to say,’” she said.

Another way is to acknowledge the work of female colleagues.

“We know men get credit more easily for their ideas than women. So coming to the table and saying, ‘This was a great project and this was based on Amy’s idea,’ is another way we can celebrate each other,” Sandberg said, adding that such “strong moves” in the workplace benefit all women.

She also encouraged parents to teach their daughters to have strong voices.

“We call our little girls ‘bossy.’ We don’t call little boys ‘bossy,’ because we expect them to lead. We should look at our daughters and say, ‘You’re not bossy, you have executive leadership skills and I’m going to support and encourage that,'” she said.

A PSA for the campaign features Kerry Washington, Serena Williams, Lena Dunham, Megyn Kelly and other women at the top of their respective fields describing how other women have helped their careers.

“We’re hoping everyone will join us. Post a picture or a story of a woman who helped them with [the hashtag] #LeanInTogether, and we want people to really see what’s happening there, which is that we are moving to equality,” she said. “Women are going to have half of the top jobs. Women are going to reach for any dream. We’re not going to be told we can’t. And we’re going to tell each other we can.”

Sandberg credits Facebook’s Lori Goler and The Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington, as being strong influences in her life.

Huffington “has been for a very long time a source of great career advice for me, but also a personal shoulder to cry on, which I needed,” she said.

Sandberg wrote the 2013 bestselling book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead in 2013 and founded the related nonprofit foundation, LeanIn.org, to help women achieve their goals through education, community and “Lean In” circles, a network of small groups where women meet to practice new skills and support each other.

‘I Miss Dave Still’

Sandberg told Robach that is was the “Lean In” community which helped her cope after her husband died.

The 46-year-old mother of two said she was doing better but added: “It’s still a struggle. You know, I miss Dave still. But I know I don’t have any choice other than to keep going. And I keep going because I look deep and find a resilience inside myself … But also because I’m surrounded by the support of a lot of people, a lot of women who have really supported me.”

Sandberg said she had to “dig deep” and “and find the belief in myself that I could keep going, that I could — you know, do function as a single mother, that I would be able to do my job and take care of my children.

“You know, I have resources others don’t have, and I’m aware of that. And I’m grateful for that,” she added. “And I think we need to do a much better job supporting single mothers. Because there are so many out there who need our help and often the people who need us the most as a society, we abandon. And we need to change that.”

Sandberg said her greatest hope for the new campaign was that people recognize that women are already supporting each other.

“We will celebrate the women who are helping us. We will get rid of the myth that women are other women’s worst enemies, because they’re not. And we will start celebrating leadership in women and little girls everywhere,” she said

More information about the “Together Women Can” campaign can be found on LeanIn.org/together.

Sheryl Sandberg is a member of the board of The Walt Disney Company, the parent company of ABC News.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — Britain’s biggest banks, including many American banks based in London, are getting ready to pull an all-nighter as the UK heads to the pollS to decide whether the country should remain or leave the E.U.

Results of the referendum are not expected before 1 a.m. EST on the 24th — with first indications expected around 6:30 p.m. EST on the 23rd, but bankers and traders are preparing for volatility on financial markets whatever the outcome.

“Whatever the result, it’s going to be a sleepless night for our traders as the results come in slowly on Friday morning,” Joe Rundle, Head of Trading at ETX Capital a UK based financial company said in a statement.

“There could be some potentially wild gyrations in prices, particularly in sterling. Some banks are warning that they might fail to execute orders on their electronic trading platforms,” Rundle added.

Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, and Citibank are among those drafting in extra staff to man a 24-hour trading desk and help clients manage their risks.

“At present the pound is on the up as investors bet on a Remain win,” Rundle said, adding: “at the same time the cost of insuring against massive moves in sterling has skyrocketed.”

According to the financial markets expert, the pound has already surged, reaching a level it had not seen since the financial crisis of 2008.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for traders to make big bets on the fortunes of the pound and other markets affected by the referendum such as the FTSE,” Rundle added.

The European Central Bank’s Chief said they are preparing for “all possible contingencies” in the event of a vote for the UK to leave the E.U.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — Polls opened Thursday morning for millions of Britons planning to vote in a historic referendum, which could determine if the United Kingdom remains in the European Union.

The vote, referred to as the Brexit, could have a wide-ranging impact on the global economy as well as the internal politics of the U.K.

Here is everything you need to know about Thursday’s vote:

What Is the European Union?

It is an economic and political union that has its roots in the European Coal and Steel Community, which was established in 1951 and consisted of just six countries. Today the EU has 28 members.

It can impose laws on member countries, but it is up to individual nations to implement them.

In 1973 the U.K. joined what was then called the European Community. The U.K. is not part of the eurozone and thus has its own currency (the pound) rather than the euro, which was adopted across much of the continent. It is also not part of Schengen Area, meaning it has kept a greater amount of sovereignty over its border controls.

How Will the UK Referendum Work?

U.K. and commonwealth citizens age 18 or older and living in the U.K. are eligible to vote. Those who have been living overseas for no longer than 15 years are also eligible.

Results will be declared in 382 voting offices around the U.K., and the final nationwide result will be announced in Manchester on June 24.

The vote is not legally binding. If the “leave” side wins, it will still be up to Parliament to repeal the 1972 act that authorized the U.K. to join the bloc.

Why Is the Referendum Being Held?

David Cameron, as the head of Conservative Party, promised to hold a referendum while campaigning for re-election in the 2015 general election, in response to growing Euroskeptic pressure in his party and across the country.

What Will Happen If the UK Leaves the EU?

The immediate impact of a Brexit is unclear because the U.K. will have to negotiate a deal with the EU. That will take about two years. During that time, the U.K. will remain in the EU but will not be able to participate in any decision-making.

Scotland — which held a referendum of its own in September 2014 on whether to leave the U.K., with 55 percent voting against independence — is largely pro-EU. A Brexit could result in Scots revisiting the independence question.

Why Leave the EU?

Immigration is cited as a big concern for many who are against EU membership. According to the “leave” camp, some 250,000 migrants from other EU countries enter the U.K. each year.

Brexit proponents also argue that 350 million pounds a week is sent to the EU and that only 5 percent of businesses in the U.K. export to Europe but 100 percent are burdened by EU-imposed regulations.

Sovereignty is another factor, with those in favor of a Brexit saying they want to take charge of borders and be able to control migration flows.

Why Remain in the EU?

Those who want the U.K. to stay in the EU argue that the benefit of being in the single market — the world’s largest free-trade zone — is worth $127.7 billion annually.

It has been estimated that more than 3 million U.K. jobs are linked to trade with the EU and that some 950,000 positions could be lost by leaving.

Being a part of the EU results in other benefits such as cheaper and easier travel, say those in favor of remaining, as well as provides continentwide solutions to crime fighting and strengthens labor and environmental protection laws.

Pro-Europe voices have suggested that Britain has a stronger voice on the world stage by remaining in the EU. Moreover, the bloc has succeeded in its most important task since being formed in the shadows of World War II: securing peace.

What Do the Experts Say?

Most experts say that the outcome of leaving would depend on the agreement that U.K. negotiates with the EU. “It depends if we keep the free movement of labor,” said Ian Preston, an economics professor at University College London. “If we leave the economic area and get [World Trade Organization]–type agreements instead, that is the most damaging economically. We will see a decrease in trade and foreign direct investments. That means lower GDP, which means lower tax receipts and an increase in taxes or borrowing.”

What Do the Polls Say?

An early lead for the “in” campaign has turned in recent weeks, with the “leave” camp now ahead, according to some surveys. But many are suspicious about British polls.

The latest BMG Research poll found that 62 percent of voters will “definitely” cast a ballot.

Is It Really Just About the EU?

“It’s not just about the EU. It’s also driven by domestic politics in the U.K.,” said Tim Oliver, a Dahrendorf fellow for Europe–North American relations at the London School of Economics. “It’s about kicking the government, it’s about Britain’s identity, it’s about globalization fears, about party politics, about London versus the rest of the U.K. and about the political and economic elite versus people who feel disenfranchised.”

The U.K. has often been dubbed the awkward partner of Europe. “The U.K. is historically a Euroskeptic country,” Matt Goodwin, a politics professor at the University of Kent, told ABC News. “There’s no doubt that there will be a strong ‘leave’ vote, and that will ensure hostility to Brussels and Westminster elite will continue. There is almost no chance to find unity, at least in the current generation, about the European question.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — Heavy rain, lightening and floods have hit large parts of the United Kingdom as residents head to the polls to vote on whether to remain or leave the European Union.

Overnight, London’s Fire Brigade received up to 300 calls in three hours, the same amount it usually receives in a day.

300 ‘999’ calls as we attend floods & lightning strikes in #londonstorm https://t.co/wtHRVVOOhG pic @globalsnewsroom pic.twitter.com/aYjMhhqf6H

— London Fire Brigade (@LondonFire) June 23, 2016

“Our control staff and firefighters have been working tirelessly through the night and into this morning to deal with the huge volume of weather related calls that we have received,” the brigade said in a statement.

Among 46.5 million people voting in the referendum, scores could be affected by the weather conditions. Travel chaos is expected throughout the day with disruption already affecting rail and subway networks, especially in London.

I just had to be carried into a flooded polling station. It’s something biblical… #remain pic.twitter.com/T8qeGC3zEd

— Helen Joanna Youngs (@hjyoungs) June 23, 2016

“Thundery showers easing in the south-east, before re-developing this afternoon,” the MET –the UK’s official weather forecaster said in a statement, adding that they had issued “Severe Weather Warnings” in southeastern parts of the country.

Picture of the heavy flooding currently blocking the lines at #ManorPark pic.twitter.com/TdxHApMJPT

— Greater Anglia (@greateranglia) June 23, 2016

“It will then be a muggy day, with warm sunny spells, before further heavy and thundery downpours spread north during the afternoon,” the MET said about London.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — You’ve probably heard by now that a Brexit (Britain voting to “leave” the EU) could be very bad — and possibly devastating to the world economy.

But what would the move mean for U.S. stocks, and our economy?

We’d be heading into uncharted territory.

The most immediate impact would likely be a selloff in stock markets worldwide, and here in the U.S. Investors hate uncertainty, and a vote by Britain to exit the EU would pose great uncertainty about the near-term future of the global economy.

Longer-term, as Fed Chair Janet Yellen said last week in her press conference, the vote “could have consequences for economic and financial conditions in global financial markets,” which could, in turn, affect U.S. markets.

It can hurt our economy, and if the fallout is substantial, it could delay a rate hike even longer.

So how significant might the fallout be?

The U.S. is the largest single investor in Britain, with $588 billion invested and $56 billion in exports to Britain last year. U.S. businesses employ more than a million people there. Most importantly, Britain is our portal to free trade with the rest of Europe.

If there’s a Brexit, those trade deals go away, and have to be renegotiated, a process that could take years and would likely stall growth in multi-national companies, like Caterpillar, the farm equipment maker based in Peoria, Illinois. While the company’s headquarters are here in the U.S., it also has 16 plants in Britain with 9,000 employees. Caterpillar executives have said that Britain staying in the EU is “fundamental” to their business, which derives about a quarter of their sales from Europe.

Slower growth in Europe, or even recession, brought on by a Brexit vote and the uncertainty would likely also have a spillover effect here, which is why it’s not surprising a number of U.S. companies with European exposure are urging British employees to vote to remain in the EU.

Ultimately, if the vote is for a Brexit, how new trade deals get settled, the time it takes to hammer them out, and whether or not they can be renegotiated, will all impact U.S. businesses, and multi-national businesses in particular. But the degree of impact will depend on how long the uncertainty lasts, and what the new deals ultimately are.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Wall Street closed lower on Wednesday as investors await this week’s Brexit vote.

The Dow fell 48.90 (-0.27 percent) to close at 17,780.83.

The Nasdaq dropped 10.44 (-0.22 percent) to finish at 4,833.32, while the S&P lost 3.45 (-0.17 percent) to close at 2,085.45.

Crude oil gained .20 percent with prices sticking at almost $49 a barrel.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Requests for abortion pills have increased significantly in seven Latin American countries after Zika-related health warnings were issued there, according to a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

After the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued a health alert in November 2015 about the potential risk of Zika-related birth defects, several Latin American countries issued national emergency declarations urging women to avoid pregnancy. In countries with these advisories, including Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela, the number of women requesting abortions has almost doubled compared to before the alert, according to the study.

There was no increase in requests in countries without such health advisories.

The researchers — from the University of Texas, Austin and other universities around the world — collected data on abortion requests from the website Women on Web (WoW). Women can submit abortion requests via WoW, and the site puts them in touch with physicians to meet their needs. WoW is one of the options for women in many Latin American countries where abortions are illegal, restricted, or unsafe, according to the study authors.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt, noted that the increased abortion requests highlight a “disconnect” between Zika-related pregnancy warnings and available resources for women to avoid pregnancies.

“Although advisories, recommendations, advice have been given in many of these countries that women delay their pregnancies, the tragic disconnect was that services enabling couples to prevent pregnancies were not often provided,” Schaffner told ABC news.

Because WoW requests do not capture information on women pursuing abortions through other means — like black market pills or underground providers — the authors noted that their results may underestimate the number of abortion requests in these countries.

While the study draws a link between the timing of the Zika-related advisories and these increased abortion requests, no causal connection can be conclusively determined.

“Just because abortion levels rise in areas with Zika, it does not mean it is directly because of Zika,” Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease physician at University Hospital at Case Medical Center in Cleveland, told ABC News.

However, the authors did ask some women if Zika played a role in their decision to request abortions, and many said that it did.

“It does not surprise me that in a situation where the risks may be high, and fear and anxiety even higher, women are making very difficult reproductive health decisions,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, an obstetrician/gynecologist who is the ABC News Chief Women’s Health Correspondent.

The World Health Organization predicts about 4 million people in the Americas will contract Zika virus infection through 2017–and that number will include pregnant women in the United States. Even though abortion laws are different in the U.S. than in many Latin American countries, Dr. Christine L. Curry, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami, foresees similar challenges.

“Legality, access, and affordability are three different things,” she said. “Many women have problem with access to care even if abortion is legal.”

Curry mentioned that two of the states where Zika virus may hit hardest — Florida and Texas — have some of the strictest abortion laws in the U.S.

Schaffner stressed that one key message for Americans is that prevention is essential.

“The issue is pregnancy prevention,” he said. “If there’s any hazard of acquiring Zika sexually or via mosquito pregnancy prevention is first and foremost way to prevent it from occurring.”

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