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WCC statement expresses concerns about religious diversity in Iraq

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:25:53 +0000

Meeting in Amman, Jordanr, the World Council of Churches  executive committee has  issued a statement on recent developments in Iraq affecting the prospects for sustaining religious and social diversity, and the future of the nation and its peoples.

While meeting in Amman, Jordan from 17-23 November, the World Council of Churches  (WCC) executive committee issued a statement on recent developments in Iraq affecting the prospects for sustaining religious and social diversity, and the future of the nation and its peoples.

While the recapture of the Nineveh plains, Mosul and other areas removed the extremist ‘Islamic State’ from the region, it has come at a great and tragic cost in lives, destruction of property and infrastructure, and brings new challenges for restoration of the affected communities and for promoting social and religious cohesion in Iraq, the executive committee stated.

The WCC executive committee “calls on the political leadership of the federal government of Iraq and of the Kurdistan regional government to engage in dialogue and negotiations to resolve the current crisis, and to avoid any further conflict in a region that has known far too much violence and suffering.”

The committee also “urges the Iraqi authorities to ensure that the homes and businesses of those displaced are restored to them, appeals to the international community to support urgently and generously the reconstruction of infrastructure and of communities.”

The WCC body appeals “ to the international community – particularly those countries involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq – to support urgently and generously the reconstruction of infrastructure and of communities (including through psycho-social trauma healing programmes) and initiatives to promote social and religious cohesion in Iraq, including addressing the particular vulnerabilities of religious minority communities.”

* Download the WCC statement here

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches


New NAFTA talks 'threaten family farms, health and environment'

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:13:50 +0000

The fifth round of secret negotiations on a new North American Free Trade Agreement has begun in Mexico. Farm policy will be a  central topic of discussion among negotiators from Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

The fifth round of secret negotiations on a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has begun in Mexico. Farm policy will be a central topic of discussion among negotiators from Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

Bill Waren, senior trade analyst at Friends of the Earth, made the following statement, "Environmentalists and family farm advocates in the US., Canada, and Mexico are sounding the alarm about the potential threat to sustainable family farms and the planet of a new NAFTA, negotiated in secret and written to the specifications of multinational agribusiness giants.

"NAFTA has entrenched the worst impacts of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture, controlled by an increasingly consolidated and more powerful set of corporations. Trump’s rewrite of NAFTA is likely to compound the harms of this system imposed on family farmers, workers, consumers, animal welfare and the environment. If Trump and these mega-corporations get their way, we can expect decreased regulation to lead to greater harms to our health from pesticides and unsafe food and further depletion and degradation of North America’s soil, water, climate and biodiversity.  

"We need to abandon the current approach to trade policy and agriculture that puts the bottom lines of corporations like Monsanto ahead of the public interest. Instead, we must support trade deals that put the well-being of family farmers, food chain workers, consumers, rural communities, animals and the environment first."

* For more information read Seven ways Trump’s NAFTA threatens family farmers, animal welfare, our health and the environment here

* Friends of the Earth


Bereaved families lobby Prime Minister for decriminalisation and regulation of drugs

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:04:26 +0000

Parents who have lost children to illegal drugs are calling for the government to take control of the drugs market through legal regulation.

On United Nations’ Universal Children’s Day, ( 20 November 2017) ‘Anyone’s Child – Families for Safer Drug Control’ will hand in a letter to 10 Downing Street to call for the legal regulation of drugs.

More people are dying in the UK from illegal drugs than ever before. Families who have lost a loved one as a result of criminalisation will take a powerful message to Parliament,  “Failed UK and UN drug policy killed our children, and the government should take control of the drugs market to protect others.

"We are a group of ordinary families who joined together because we share the grief and sorrow from having loved ones who have been hurt by our failing drug laws. Our group has now expanded internationally including families in Kenya, Afghanistan, Mexico, Canada and Belgium. We are uniting to demonstrate that the drug war causes untold misery in every corner of the world."

Jane Slater, Project Manager of the Anyone’s Child Campaign says, “It is a tragic irony that the UN is tasked with protecting children’s rights, and yet it encourages its member states to fight a drug war that puts millions of young people in danger. Criminalising drugs puts young people in contact with extreme gang violence, and dirty drugs onto the streets, that kill. Legal regulation means taking drugs out of the hands of criminals and placing it under government control through doctors, pharmacists and licensed retailers, helping keep everyone safe. The government has previously refused to meet with us, but every day more families like us are needlessly suffering. We won’t go away until the government starts listening to our voices.”

Penny McCanny, mother of Aidan who died whilst at University from an accidental heroin overdose, says, “I believe that my son would still be alive had he taken something that was legally controlled.  If his dose of heroin had been regulated like a dose of paracetamol or if he had been able to use heroin assisted recovery, or if he hadn’t felt that he would be judged, or if I had understood a little sooner, then he might be alive. Instead my darling boy, my first child, is dead.”

Ray Lakeman, father to Jacques and Torin who died together of an accidental ecstasy overdose, said: “Criminalising users does not work as a deterrent. Punishment is ineffective, people re-offend and there are always new users. There is no doubt they are dangerous, they killed my sons, but drugs are more dangerous than they need to be because they are illegal.”

The families will hand in their letter in Downing Street at 11.30, then gather in Westminster Hall at 12:00 to tell their stories, and explain why bereaved families are leading the movement to end the failed drug war.

The UK has suffered record levels of drug-related deaths for four years in a row.

* Anyone's Child

* Transform is a UK  and Mexico based think tank campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs


Brexit poses 'severe threat' to Britain's fishing communities

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 07:49:39 +0000

Brexit will almost certainly have a negative economic impact on large parts of Britain’s fishing industry and the coastal communities which rely on it, according to analyis by the New Economics Foundation. Brexit will almost certainly have a negative economic impact on large parts of Britain’s fishing industry and the coastal communities which rely on it. That’s the key finding of a new report by the New Economics Foundation which analyses different Brexit scenarios according to their impact on different parts of the fishing fleet. The report – called Not in the Same Boat: The economic impact of Brexit across UK fishing fleets – uses five Brexit scenarios ranging from ‘No Deal’ to ‘Soft Brexit’. It finds that it is only in the highly unlikely ‘Fisheries First’ scenario (where Britain puts fisheries above all other interests in Brexit negotiations and the EU does not prioritise fisheries) that there will be benefits across the UK fleet. In the more likely scenarios, Brexit will see some fishers – mainly small boats – do far worse than others. The rest of the fishing supply chain – processors, wholesalers and retailers – is highly exposed to the risks of tariffs and non-tariff barriers. That means that under any likely Brexit scenario, coastal communities in the UK will be worse off. The report also highlights the danger of overfishing as a result of UK politicians and industry leaders promising more quota while European leaders promising not to decrease quota. An increase in overfishing would be both environmentally and economically disastrous for all concerned, as the report findings show. Griffin Carpenter, Senior Researcher at the New Economics Foundation, said, “For many of Brexit’s most passionate advocates, the fishing industry has been a totemic issue. They claim we can take back control of our waters and give more quota to struggling fishers. But in reality, the UK has always been able to decide who gets quota –and it has always been the little boats that have lost out. “Our research shows that Brexit will almost certainly make things worse for much of Britain’s fishing fleet, as well as the already struggling coastal communities which rely on fishing. Half of Britain’s fleet don’t have any quota but do export to Europe. Brexit will hit them particularly hard. “Brexit poses a severe threat to Britain’s fishing communities, as the majority of ports receive most of their landings from vessels that do not hold quota but do export to the EU market. As ministers negotiate a future fishing deal, they must be clear on the scale of this threat.” The report makes a series of recommendations aimed at securing a healthier future for the British fishing fleet through Brexit and beyond. These include: Dropping combative rhetoric in Brexit negotiations and focusing on a co-operative approach Using any increase in quota to support the smaller boats which traditionally lose out Seeking a post-Brexit transition deal for at least two years Securing access to the EU market with minimum tariffs and non-tariff barriers Empowering fishers through co-management and increased representation for the small-scale fleet Generating funding for management through a landings tax Griffin Carpenter continued, “We need a fishing policy which supports all British fishers and coastal communities, and which does not harm our marine environment. We will only get this if we seek to co-operate with our neighbours and use existing powers of quota allocation to support those fishers who traditionally lose out. “We can take control of our waters, but that doesn’t happen just by shouting about it. It happens by working with our neighbours to ensure shared stocks are fished sustainably, and barriers to trade are minimal. And it happens by empowering all fishers – large-scale or small-scale, local sellers or fish ex[...]

Sutton Trust calls for restoration of student maintenance grants

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 07:13:11 +0000

The Sutton Trust is calling on the Chancellor to support a £3.2 billion reform to student funding – means-testing tuition fees and restoring maintenance grants – in this week’s Budget, in a new report that includes detailed projections of their potential costs and benefits. The Sutton Trust is calling on the Chancellor to support a £3.2 billion reform to student funding – means-testing tuition fees and restoring maintenance grants – in this week’s Budget, in a new report that includes detailed projections of their potential costs and benefits. Fairer Fees finds that plans to raise the threshold at which graduates start paying back their student loan from £21,000 to £25,000 will mean that 45 per cent of student debt will never be paid back, up from 28 per cent when the threshold was set at £21,000, and four fifths of graduates won’t repay their loans in full. The analysis by London Economics for the Trust finds that while the reforms announced by the Prime Minister in October will save graduates an average of £8,000 over their lifetime.  However, they will increase the long-term costs to the Exchequer by £2.9 billion for each student cohort. Students in the UK pay some of the highest fees in the world. The typical graduate of an English university will leave with debts of around £46,000, with young people from households in the lowest 40 per cent of earners taking on the biggest burden and average debts of £52,000. This is almost double the level of debt with which American graduates leave university. October’s announcements mean that four-fifths (81 per cent) of graduates will never repay their debt in full, up from 72 per cent when the threshold was set at £21,000. The Trust is concerned that the current system has substantial adverse consequences for students, graduates and the Exchequer. To address this, the Trust is calling on the government to introduce a system of means-tested fees and restored maintenance grants. Analysis in the report finds that introducing a means tested system – where students from households with an income of under £25,000 would pay no tuition fees and those from the very richest would pay £12,500 a year – with a sliding scale in between – would cut average student debt by a third (from £46,000 to £29,500). Reintroducing maintenance grants at the same time would cut debt even further, to £23,000, at a total net cost to the Treasury of £3.2 billion per year – broadly the same cost as raising the threshold to £25,000. Most importantly, it would slash debt among the 40 per cent poorest students by 75 per cent, from £51,600 to £12,700. Under the current regime – where maintenance support is provided in the form of additional loans – the poorest graduates leave university with debts over a third higher than those from better-off homes (£51,600 to £38,400). The changes would also reduce the proportion of graduates never repaying their full loans from 81 per cent to 56 per cent and the proportion of debt not paid back would fall to 35 per cent. With changes to the repayment threshold in October, the average graduate currently repays £54,900 over their lifetime in cash terms (£25,200 at 2017 prices) compared with £69,500 (£33,200) before the threshold changes. This would change to £30,200 (£15,400 at 2017 prices) under the proposed new system, though the poorest 40 per cent of graduates would likely repay about four times less than the richest fifth. Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation said, “It’s an absolute scandal that the poorest students graduate with the highest debt.  A typical graduate will leave university with whopping debts of £46,000 while young people from households in the lowest 40 per cent of earners will graduate with debts of nearly £52,000.  These de[...]

Have we lost faith in faith?

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 19:24:31 +0000

Have we lost faith in faith?

read more

UN warns that famine may be unfolding 'right now' in Yemen

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 08:13:09 +0000

The United Nations relief wing warned of famine-like conditions unfolding in Yemen, as a blockade on aid and other essential goods by a Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels there entered its twelfth day.

The United Nations relief wing warned of famine-like conditions unfolding in Yemen, as a blockade on aid and other essential goods by a Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels there entered its twelfth day.

Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), sounded the alarm during the regular bi-weekly news briefing in Geneva on 17 November 2017.

He was responding to a question from a journalist who asked him to clarify a warning from UN aid chiefs that the closure of air, sea and land ports in Yemen threatened millions of vulnerable children and families.

“It means that these are the number of people in areas where there's an IPC4 – Integrated Phase Classification 4 – which is the last step before obviously 5, which is famine […] But you are correct, there may be as we speak right now, famine happening, and we hear children are dying. I mean, there's excess mortality as a cause and consequence of undernourishment.”

Yemen imports up to 90 per cent of its daily needs, including fuel. Crisis levels have now been reached and reserves are in such short supply that three Yemeni cities have been unable to pump clean water to residents in recent days, according to UN partner the Red Cross.

This has left one million people at risk of a renewed cholera outbreak, just as the country emerges from the worst epidemic in modern times.

Other diseases are also a threat, including diphtheria, a serious infection of the nose and throat, which is easily prevented by a vaccine. It is reported to be “spreading fast” and has already claimed 14 lives, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which said that a vaccination campaign is planned in nine days' time.

In addition to water and sewage problems in Hodeida, Sa'ada and Taiz, the Red Cross warned that the capital Sana'a and other cities “will find themselves in the same situation” in two weeks - unless imports of essential goods resume immediately.

Also at the briefing, Alessandra Vellucci, for the UN Information Service (UNIS) recalled the previous day's statement in New York from Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General regarding a letter the UN chief sent to the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations.

In the letter, the Secretary-General said that the blockade imposed by the coalition since 6 November is already reversing the impact of humanitarian efforts. While he welcomed the reopening of Aden port, the Secretary-General noted that “this alone will not meet the needs of 28 million Yemenis.”

The Secretary-General called on the Saudi-led coalition to enable the resumption of UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights to Sana'a and Aden airports, and the reopening of Hodeida and Saleef ports so that fuel, food and medical supplies could enter Yemen.

* United Nations


Councils and workers delivering social care seek key role in Green Paper discussions

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 07:16:41 +0000

Councils and workers say people responsible for delivering adult social care must be at the heart of discussions which will shape the future of the system.  Responding to the announcement from the Government that it will publish a green paper on adult social care next summer, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said, “Despite the best of intentions, we have seen too many failed attempts over the years to deliver a sustainable adult social care system. Governments of all colours, along with several notable independent commissions and reviews have attempted to bring about change but for various reasons, these have not succeeded. This is why cross-party consensus on the way forward is so essential. “If we are to finally succeed, it is also vital that councils, which have responsibility for adult social care services and delivery of the requirements of the Care Act, are at the heart of all discussions and given a key role in defining and shaping the future of social care. “The crisis facing adult social care was quite rightly a major issue during the general election campaign, and reflects how deeply concerned the public are about how we care for older and disabled people. “Fundamental changes to the way we fund adult social care are needed if we are to deliver a long-term sustainable system that works for everyone in society and meets their needs with safe and high-quality services. “Difficult, brave and possibly even controversial decision-making will be required to secure the long-term future of care and support, not just of older people, but adults of all ages, such as those with learning disabilities, and provide support for carers. “But while planning for the future, and to pave the way for long-term reform, we must address more immediate short-term pressures, such as the fragility of the care provider market. “Social care faces an annual funding gap of £2.3 billion by 2020. Government needs to follow up today’s encouraging words with action in the Budget, and inject further much-needed funding into social care.” Meanwhile Unison, the trade union which represents many workers in social care, said government will not get to grips with the huge problems affecting the sector if the work to shape the green paper fails to involve the views of the UK’s million strong workforce. Unison national care officer Matt Egan said, “Everyone wants to see a system that’s well funded, that can give the best possible care to all those who need help, and that means people with disabilities, as well as older people. That care system also needs a highly trained, well-treated workforce. “But the failure to include a union or any other kind of organisation representing care workers in shaping the green paper is a huge mistake – especially as ministers plan to seek the views of care company bosses. “The government must consult with experts, but if it doesn’t listen to the dedicated care staff keeping the system going, it will be missing out on the chance to hear solutions from those that know the care sector better than most.” * Local Government Association * Unison [Ekk/6] [...]

TUC says May must agree stronger workers’ rights to restore lost trust

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 08:03:14 +0000

The TUC has called on Theresa May to sign up to stronger protections for workers at the EU Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth that she is attending in Gothenburg.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called on Theresa May to sign up to stronger protections for workers at the EU Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth that she is attending in Gothenburg.

Soon after taking office, the Prime Minister told the 2016 Conservative Party Conference “Let me be absolutely clear: existing workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law – and they will be guaranteed as long as I am Prime Minister.  And in fact, as we announced yesterday, under this Government, we’re going see workers’ rights not eroded, and not just protected, but enhanced under this Government.”

EU leaders are being asked by the social summit host, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, to sign up to enhanced rights for workers.

The European Pillar of Social Rights includes new guaranteed rights to paid parental leave, and new protections for gig economy and zero-hours contract workers. It also commits to principles focused on fair working conditions, including adequate minimum wages, work-life balance, and the right for workers to have a say in decisions that affect their employment.

The TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Theresa May broke her promise to working people this week when she instructed her MPs to vote against protections for workers’ rights after we leave the EU.

“The Prime Minister must now take steps to win back workers’ trust by signing up to stronger rights for UK workers at the summit in Gothenburg. She must reassure working people that a level playing field for workers’ rights will be written into the Brexit deal. Britain’s workers must not be left to fall behind the rest of Europe when future improvements are made.”

* More on the European Pillar of Social Rights here



Electoral Commission calls for more transparency in political finance

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 07:49:45 +0000

The Electoral Commission has called for changes to the law to further improve transparency and strengthen confidence in the UK’s political finance rules.

The Electoral Commission has called for changes to the law to further improve transparency and strengthen confidence in the UK’s political finance rules, in a report on political finance regulation at the general election. It has also published the campaign expenditure returns of political parties and registered non-party campaigners that spent £250,000 or less campaigning at the 2017 UK Parliamentary general election and details of candidates’ spending and donations.

The Commission reports that most candidates, political parties and non-party campaigners have complied with the rules on campaigning at the UK parliamentary general election.

Candidates, political parties and non-party campaigners made significant use of digital campaigning in this election, providing new opportunities for campaigners to engage voters, but the report also identifies risks to transparency. Commission recommendations include:

  • Online campaign material produced by political parties and non-party campaigners should – like its printed equivalent – be required to include an imprint stating who has published it. This would enable voters to identify who is spending money trying to influence them at elections.
  • Campaigners should be required to report more detailed breakdowns of spending, including different types of advertising such as online and social media promotion.

The Commission also continues to recommend that its investigative and sanctioning powers at major elections should be extended to include offences relating to candidate spending and donations.

Sir John Holmes, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said, “Most candidates, parties and campaigners comply with the rules. However, failures to comply can reduce transparency and damage voters’ confidence in elections, which is why breaches must be dealt with effectively. We want to work with the UK’s governments and legislatures to ensure further transparency about spending on digital and online campaigns, and to reassure voters accordingly. These changes should be in place ahead of the next scheduled national elections.”

Read the report Political finance regulation at the June 2017 UK general election here

* The Electoral Commission


Trump made millions from project used to launder drug money, says Global Witness.

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 07:28:35 +0000

President Donald Trump has made millions from selling his name to a Panama development used to launder money from Latin American drug cartels, a Global Witness investigation claims. President Donald Trump has made millions from selling his name to a Panama development used to launder money from Latin American drug cartels, a Global Witness investigation claims. After licensing his name to the Trump Ocean Club in 2006, Trump appears to have turned a blind eye to the source of the buyers’ funds and the background of some of the individual brokers. The investigation, Narco-a-Lago: Money Laundering at the Trump Ocean Club, Panama provides powerful evidence that profits from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club. Trump was one of the beneficiaries, since he received a cut of all sales. Trump’s Presidential disclosures show he was still making money from a management contract for the Trump Ocean Club when he took office in 2017.    “This must be investigated. Donald Trump has made millions from a project used by Latin American drug cartels to launder money. The warning signs were there for a responsible businessperson, but it seems Trump didn’t want to know,” said Eryn Schornick, Senior Policy Advisor at Global Witness. The Trump Ocean Club in Panama was one of Trump’s most lucrative licensing deals: initial projections indicate that he was set to make $75.4 million by 2010. Sources close to the development described it as “Ivanka’s baby”, and confirmed that Trump’s daughter was in overall charge of the licensing venture for the Trump Organisation. The report highlights several warning signs for money laundering in the project, which should have raised the alarm for a responsible businessperson looking to avoid being associated with dirty money. Panama was a major hub for money laundering when Trump signed the licensing and management deal with the Trump Ocean Club in 2006. Global Witness’ sources indicate that many units were bought in bulk, some sales were made with bearer shares, and secretly owned companies were often used, hiding the identities of the buyers. The investigation also shines a light on several dubious characters that bought units or brokered transactions at the Trump Ocean Club. Those involved include: David Murcia Guzmán, released from US federal prison after serving a sentence of nine years for laundering millions of dollars' worth of illicit funds, including narcotics proceeds, through secret companies and real estate. Murcia Guzmán’s business associate, Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who claims to have brokered nearly a third of all 666 pre-construction unit sales at the Trump Ocean Club. Ventura Nogueira, who has faced accusations of criminal activity including fraud, was critical to ensuring the project’s lift-off and hence Trump’s ability to earn tens of millions of dollars.  Ventura Nogueira assembled a team of agents and brokers to market Trump Ocean Club units, often targeting buyers of Russian and Eastern European origin. Some of these agents have faced serious accusations of criminal activity. Although the extent of Trump’s knowledge of these brokers and buyers is unknown, it is highly likely that the Trump Organisation had the right to receive sales reports and demand information on the buyers. Buying high-end real estate through secretly-owned companies is a well-known way for criminals to stash the cash they make through crime and launder it to spend without scrutiny. It’s a tried and trusted method used by organised crime, drug cartels and human traffickers. “Now that Donald Trump is president, his business is the nation’s bu[...]

Liverpool FC becomes a Stonewall Diversity Champion

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 07:16:31 +0000

Liverpool FC is the first Premier League Club to become a Stonewall Diversity Champion, committing to LGBT equality in football.

Liverpool FC has signed up to be a Stonewall Diversity Champion, becoming the first Premier League Club to join the programme.

Stonewall, Europe’s leading charity for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality, works with more than 750 organisations to help them create workplaces that are inclusive and welcoming of LGBT people.

As a Diversity Champion, Liverpool FC will receive expert consultation and advice from one of Stonewall’s Client Account Managers. Together they will review current polices, practices and staff training and work on changes needed to ensure the club is somewhere that everyone can be themselves.

Stonewall research shows that LGBT people who are comfortable being out in the workplace are 67 per cent more likely to be satisfied at work.

The news of Liverpool FC joining the programme comes just weeks before Stonewall hosts what promises to be the biggest show of support for LGBT equality in sport ever seen.

From 24 November – 3 December 2017, sport across the UK will turn rainbow. For an entire week fans, players and sports officials and organisations will be proudly demonstrating their commitment to LGBT equality by taking part in Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.

Last week the Premier League also announced that they are joining the programme, and embarking on a three-year strategic partnership with Stonewall to help tackle homophobia in football.

Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s Chief Executive, said, "It’s so important for organisations to actively work towards making sport everyone’s game. Many LGBT people want to take part in sport, either as players or fans, but at the moment not everyone feels welcome. We also know that most sports fans want a better, more inclusive game. To make this happen, we need individuals and organisations to step up to show their support for LGBT people and that’s what Liverpool FC have done today. We’re excited they’ve joined us as a Diversity Champion and we look forward to working with them to help further LGBT equality in football."

Peter Moore, CEO at Liverpool Football Club, said, "Liverpool FC has long been committed to equality and to ensuring that it is embedded in all areas across the club.

"We believe that all sport should be inclusive and that nobody should miss out simply because of who they are. From our club charity’s inclusive community sports programmes to achieving the Premier League’s Advanced Equality Standard this year, we are proud to keep striving to make sport for everyone."

* Stonewall


Draft Russian legislation 'would further undermine media freedom'

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 07:07:08 +0000

Draft legislation pending in the Russian parliament to impose restrictions on foreign media would further undermine media freedom in Russia, says Human Rights Watch. Draft legislation pending in the Russian parliament to impose restrictions on foreign media would further undermine media freedom in Russia, says Human Rights Watch. Parliament should reject the law as incompatible with fundamental standards on free speech, which are at the heart of a democratic society. On 15 November, 2017, the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, adopted, with record speed, a draft law that stipulates that the government may designate any media organisation or information distributors of foreign origin that receive any funding from foreign sources as “foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent.” The State Duma chairman, Viacheslav Volodin, stated bluntly that the bill aims to retaliate against a US Department of Justice September request that the Russian state-funded television channel, RT, comply with registration requirements under the US Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). “The US government’s misguided decision to request for RT to register under FARA gave the Kremlin a platform to retaliate, and they have done so with a full throttle attack on media freedom,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But sadly, the bill will not simply hurt foreign media, but worse, unjustifiably limit Russian citizens’ right to access information and ideas.” The November amendments define the term 'media outlets' broadly to include any foreign entity that distributes “to unlimited audience, print, audio, audiovisual and other messages and materials.” The definition appears to be broad enough in theory to be applied to a wide range of groups and people, not just media outlets or individual bloggers, but academic or nongovernmental organisations and social media platforms. On November 15, the draft was sent for approval to the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament. The bill further stipulates that should a foreign media outlet be designated a foreign agent, it must comply with the requirements of Russia’s 'foreign agents’ law'. The draft however, fails to explain the basis on which the Russian government will choose which foreign media it designates foreign agents, nor does it describe the registration procedure. The law also fails to identify which government agency would be tasked with overseeing its implementation.  While a motivation behind the amendments may be the application of FARA to RT, the November bill imposes asymmetrical measures. RT is not the first, nor only, media outlet connected to a foreign government subject to US registration requirements – Chinese, Japanese, and Korean media entities are also current registrants. FARA, first enacted in 1938 and reformed in the 1960s to identify and regulate lobbyists working for foreign governments, applies to organisations and individuals that operate under direction and control of a foreign principal. But the US law does not equate receiving foreign funding, in part or in whole, with being under the direction and control of a foreign principal. On 15 November, following the adoption of the draft law by the State Duma, Russia’s Ministry of Justice sent notices to several US-government-funded media operating in Russia under Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, such as the television network Nastoyashee Vremya (Current Time) and Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty, the Russian language service of RFE/RL), informing them that the authorities might designate them 'fore[...]

Poorest hit hardest by government policies, says EHRC

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 10:33:56 +0000

The poorest in society are being hit the hardest by changes to tax, social security and public spending reforms, and are set to lose 10 per cent of their income, a new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has revealed. The poorest in society are being hit the hardest by changes to tax, social security and public spending reforms, and are set to lose 10 per cent of their income, a new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has revealed. Ahead of next week’s budget, the Commission has published its independent report on the impact that changes to all tax, social security and public spending reforms from 2010 to 2017 will have on people by 2022. Whilst the poorest are set to lose nearly 10 per cent of their incomes, the richest will lose barely one per cent. Undertaken as a ‘cumulative impact assessment’, the report, which looks at the impact the reforms have had on various groups across society, suggests the decisions will also affect some groups more than others: black households will face a five per cent loss of income (more than double the loss for white households) families with a disabled adult will see a £2,500 reduction of income per year (this is £1,000 for non-disabled families) families with a disabled adult and a disabled child will face a £5,500 reduction of income per year (again, compared to £1,000 for non-disabled families) lone parents will struggle with a 15 per cent loss of income (the losses for all other family groups are between 0 and eight per cent) and women will suffer a £940 annual loss (more than double the loss for men) the biggest average losses by age group, across men and women, are experienced by the 65 to 74 age group (average losses of around £1,450 per year) and the 35 to 44 age group (average losses of around £1,250 per year) David Isaac, the Chair of the Commission, which is responsible for making recommendations to government on the compatibility of policy and legislation with equality and human rights standards, warned of a 'bleak future'. Mr Isaac said, "The Government can’t claim to be working for everyone if its policies actually make the most disadvantaged people in society financially worse off. We have encouraged the Government to carry out this work for some time, but sadly they have refused. We have shown that it is possible to carry out cumulative impact assessments and we call on them to do this ahead of the 2018 budget. "If we want a prosperous and, in line with the Prime Minister’s vision, a fair Britain that works for everyone, the Government must come clean and provide a full and cumulative impact analysis of all current and future tax and social security policies. It is not enough to look at the impact of individual policy changes. If this doesn’t happen those most in need will face an extremely bleak future." The Commission is now calling on the Government to: commit to undertaking cumulative impact assessments of all tax and social security policies ahead of the 2018 budget reconsider existing policies that are contributing to negative financial impacts for those who are most disadvantaged implement the socio-economic duty from the Equality Act 2010 so public authorities must consider how to reduce the impact of socio-economic disadvantage of people’s life chances The assessment undertaken by the Commission considered changes to income tax, national insurance contributions, indirect taxes (VAT and excise duties), means-tested and non-means-tested social security benefits, tax credits, universal credit, national minimum wage and national living[...]

Credit card companies pushing credit to people who can't pay, says CAB

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 10:08:20 +0000

Credit card holders who are not  confident they can pay their current debts are more likely to have been given extra credit for which they they have not asked, Citizens Advice warns today. People who do not  think they can pay their debts are being given thousand of pounds of credit for which they have not  askedr, Citizens Advice warns today (17 November 2017) Fresh evidence from the charity suggests that six million people have had their credit limit increased in the last year without their consent – and 32 per cent of those showing signs of struggling financially were given a rise. On average, credit card holders were given rises of £1481 without being asked, with one in 10 people (12 per cent) receiving increases of £3000 or more. This is despite 85 per cent of people thinking that credit card companies should always ask permission before increasing someone’s limit. The figures show that credit card companies are not only lending too freely, but putting individuals and the wider economy at risk if people are unable to pay down their debts. Research carried out for Citizens Advice shows that in the last 12 months, 28 per cent of credit card holders (8.4 million people) received a credit limit increase. However, only one in four (23 per cent) credit card holders who were given a rise actually asked for it – the remaining three in four limit raises were initiated by credit card companies. Worryingly, credit card holders who are not confident they can pay their current debts are more likely to have been given extra credit –32 per cent of people who are not confident they can pay back their current debts were given a rise, in comparison to 23 per cent who were. One woman came to Citizens Advice after building up £3500 of credit card debt she was unable to pay back. Initially she had a limit of £500 which she used for unexpected bills, but when she reached the limit her credit was extended. This happened multiple times. Unable to work and reliant on ESA, she is now considering a Debt Relief Order. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has agreed with credit card providers that they will start asking new customers for their consent before raising limits, and give them the option to carry on receiving uninvited increases. Existing customers will be given the option to ask their lender to require their consent. With three quarters of credit limit increases initiated by credit card companies and low demand from customers, Citizens Advice is concerned that credit card companies are not being required to ask permission from their existing customers before raising limits. The charity is urging the Chancellor to use his Budget statement next week to announce that he will protect consumers by banning unsolicited increases altogether, so people are not  put at risk of building up debts they can not pay back. Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said, “It’s clear that credit card companies are contributing to the rise in consumer debt. “Rather than credit card holders seeking to take on more debts, lenders are actively pushing it on people without enough consideration as to who can afford to pay and who can’t. “Few consumers support unsolicited increases and our research shows that they make people’s debt problems worse. The Chancellor must step in to prevent credit card companies weighing people down with unwanted debt – particularly when they are already struggling to keep their heads above water.” * Citizens Advice Bureau [Ekk/6] [...]