Editorial's finished! Part 2

Here are the final four images from the project, completing the set!

Illegal wildlife trade is far more terrifying than snakes on a plane!

Last week, an Iranian man was stopped by customs officials trying to smuggle 50 live snakes on to a plane in Bangkok, hidden in rolled-up socks in his hand luggage. The "snakes on a plane" headlines have once again focused attention on Thailand as an international hub for the illegal trade in wildlife, a trade worth a staggering £6bn a year.

The arrest is the latest in a number of high-profile detentions at the Thai airport. However, local environmental organisations have expressed frustration that police enforcement remains inadequate to tackle a trade that is decimating local ecosystems, hastening the extinction of scores of endangered animals and plundering the resources of developing countries for profits abroad.

In May, a passenger bound for Dubai was found to have a gibbon, an Asiatic black bear cub, a marmoset and four baby leopards in his carry-on baggage. Having got through the security checks he was reportedly only stopped after one of the leopards made a "muffled cry" at the departure gate. Other recent seizures also include a drugged tiger cub hidden among stuffed toy animals and three suitcases full of 200 live animals – containing everything from endangered tortoises to pythons, boa constrictors and a parrot.

While superficially promising, these headline arrests actually reveal a deeper problem with law enforcement. The smugglers involved in these cases had not engaged in shadowy criminal networks to procure their animals, they had simply gone shopping in Bangkok's sprawling outdoor Chatuchak market. One local environmental organisation is so frustrated by this state of affairs that it has published an open letter questioning how "wildlife can be openly sold every weekend" just down the road from the offices of the Thai authorities who regulate the illegal trade.

With rare native creatures, a large international airport and long land borders with its south-east Asian neighbours, Thailand is an attractive hub for both the import and export of rare animals. Live lizards, snakes and big mammals are increasingly in demand in the Middle East as exotic pets, while tiger bones and bear gall bladders are exported to China, Hong Kong and Singapore for use in Chinese medicine. Acres, which campaigns to stop the illegal wildlife trade, recently ran an undercover operation in Singapore which found tiger parts for sale at just under half of all jewellery and antiques shops visited. The organisation runs public awareness campaigns to challenge such cultural traditions – something that is essential in tackling the demand side of the trade.

Thailand has also become a major importer in the illegal ivory trade, mostly from Africa. Ivory from domestic Thai elephants can be sold legally – so illegal ivory is taken to Thailand to be "laundered" into the legal domestic market. Thai customs have seized over 8.5 tons of ivory since 2009 – equating to more than 1,000 elephant tusks. Traffic, the global wildlife trade monitoring network, explains that Thailand now hosts the world's largest unregulated domestic ivory market, and argues that "Thailand needs to close [this] domestic ivory loophole once and for all".

Corruption and insufficient sentencing deterrents also create regulation difficulties. Freeland Foundation, an international conservation and human rights organisation based in Bangkok, has described official corruption as the biggest problem that it faces in tackling the trade. A recent example is the Dubai-bound passenger arrested with the four baby leopards. Immediately after his detention the police reported they had been politically pressured to not charge him. The smuggler's client was allegedly a Dubai prince with connections to influential Thai politicians. He was released on bail and promptly escaped the country.

Freeland Foundation director Steven Galster remarked: "Over the past six years we've seen only one trafficker go to prison. And that was because the prosecutor [...] happened to be an animal lover." While police may make low-level arrests, those ultimately controlling the trade have repeatedly gone unpunished.

A draft law to increase trafficking sentences was proposed eight years ago – but has still not passed. The Thai politician and human rights and environment activist Kraisak Choonhavan admits that previously, with "so many urgent laws to consider, something like [a new] wildlife law just never saw the light of day". However, with the recent elections providing a large democratic mandate and signalling an end to the political instability of recent years, there is real potential for a new political emphasis on tackling the illegal trade in wildlife. Without this political will, Thailand and south-east Asia risk a massive and irreversible loss of biodiversity as natural resources continue to be plundered overseas.

The Meatball Shop.

Twelve-year-olds aren't the only ones who giggle when ordering a plate of balls at a restaurant. We can all do it at Meatball Shop, a restaurant devoted to... Meatballs! Diners get a dry erase menu and marker and can pick and choose from an array of meatballs and sauces. I suggest ordering a handful of different meatball sliders -- my favorite are beef with spicy meat sauce. (I'm boring I know.) You can also order sides and desserts with your balls. There are two Meatball Shop locations -- one on the Lower East Side at 84 Stanton Street and another new location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at 170 Bedford Avenue. Be prepared for a wait. It's worth it.

84 Stanton Street 10002-1420
+1212 982-8895
Google map: bit.ly/oRaGpb

Santa comes early to London's Oxford Street.

Oxford Street on a 25C July dog day is hot enough to make Rudolph wilt and shorten the fuse of even the jolliest of Santas.

Fortunately, fans of the Lapland climate – and people afflicted by an extreme approach to shopping – can now seek sanctuary in the air-conditioned bowels of Selfridges.

Down the escalator, past the talking hamsters and the remote-control helicopters, the cookbooks and the Mulberry bags, lurks the ghost ofChristmas-yet-to-come.

A mere 149 days before the some of the planet celebrates the birth of Christ, the department store opened its "white-themed Christmas shop", offering everything from union flag baubles (£11.95) to polar bear hats (£40).

Not everything was quite as tasteful. Away from the minimalist silver and white baubles – "white trees are … expected to rival traditional green for the first time" – were tiny elves covered in blizzards of silver glitter and a Christmas chihuahua which convulsed and shook its plastic maracas to the strains of La Bamba at the squeeze of a paw.

Fresh from the till were a couple from Bavaria. Despite being slightly bemused by such an early Advent, Claudia Beer had bought a small wooden Father Christmas to take home to Munich.

"It's a present for me – for my collection," she said. "I think it's crazy, but I've bought something as a kind of souvenir."

Her husband, Klaus, was more laconic: "In Germany, they start selling things in November. After Halloween."

Inspecting the goods on offer, from the white bears imprisoned in snowglobes to the stockings and fluorescent reindeer, was Neil O'Leary, a 39-year-old engineer from Welwyn Garden City.

"A few things have caught my eye," he said. "It's slightly early but I can understand it in some ways; sometimes they bring things out in December and then there's a rush and it all disappears."

There seemed little danger of that in the Christmas store on Thursday morning, where staff – who outnumbered customers – patiently explained that, despite looking like a kangaroo, the Ritchie Valens impersonator was actually a diminutive Mexican dog.

Nearby stood a middle-aged American couple, who didn't want to be named but who admitted being so keen on the yuletide season that they have been to a Christmas market in Germany four times.

"I'm surprised to see this so early, but we've been coming here for 10 or 11 years and we've noticed that it's all sold out by November," said the wife.

"I think we're just enjoying the display because I don't think we do anything this elaborate in the US. But we love Christmas, so we love coming to see this."

However, when the Guardian wished her a happy Christmas, it was met with a smile and a raised eyebrow.

"Now that is a little early," she said.

• This article was amended on 29 July 2011. The original picture caption referred to Selfridges employee Rosanna Harris. This has been corrected.

Should the US develop a new manned space programme?

After the final space shuttle flight touched down this week, would the US government fund a new manned space flight programme? (poll)

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