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Buy to Let, Iain Duncan Smith, and the Waitrose effect

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 09:36:41 +0000

Buy to Let, Iain Duncan Smith, and the Waitrose effect

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UN urges protection for civilians in armed conflict

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 08:47:58 +0000

Civilians in conflict are not a target, top United Nations officials emphasised at a special event yesterday marking World Humanitarian Day, which honours aid workers and pays homage to those killed in service, while also drawing attention to the millions of people today living in war zones.

Civilians in conflict are not a target, top United Nations officials emphasised at a special event yesterday (18 August 2917) marking World Humanitarian Day, which honours aid workers and pays homage to those killed in service, while also drawing attention to the millions of people today living in war zones.

“For the millions of people caught in conflict, struggling to find food, water, and safe shelter; who have been driven from their homes with little hope of return; whose schools have been bombed; and who await life-saving medical care – we cannot afford to fail,” Secretary-General António Guterres said, urging each person and country to stand in solidarity with civilians in conflict.

Standing at Headquarters in New York alongside UN aid workers and staff who lost colleagues in war zones, the Secretary-General lent his support to the #NotATarget,” campaign, which highlights the need to protect civilians caught in conflict, including humanitarian and medical workers.

Joining Mr. Guterres to mark World Humanitarian Day, which is officially commemorated on 19 August, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien spoke of the challenges faced by aid workers around the word.

“Last year, 288 aid workers were targeted in 158 attacks. In the past three months alone, relief workers have been shelled and shot at, kidnapped and killed in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria,” he said. “This is blatantly unacceptable.”

Earlier in the week, the UN and partners launched the #NotATarget petition urging global leaders do more to ensure the rules of war are upheld and civilians are protected in armed conflicts.

With more than 10,500 signatures, the petitioners demand that world leaders do more to protect people trapped in conflicts, with a particular focus on those living in urban areas, children, targets of sexual violence, forcibly displaced people, humanitarian workers and health workers.

The petition will be presented to the Secretary-General during the high-level General Assembly, which opens on 12 September this year.

The UN General Assembly designated 19 August as World Humanitarian Day in 2008, selecting the date to coincide with the anniversary of the deadly 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

* Originally coined by Médecins Sans Frontières in 2015, the #NotATarget hashtag is being used in the World Humanitarian Day digital campaign this year to call for action on behalf of all civilians trapped in conflicts.

* United Nations http://www.un.org/en/index.html

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NUJ demands IPSO inquiry on press racism

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 07:30:41 +0000

The National Union of Journalists has called on the press watchdog, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, to carry out an immediate investigation into the prevalence of Islamophobia, racism and hatred espoused in the British press.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called on the press watchdog, the Independent Press Standards Organisation ( IPSO), to carry out an immediate investigation into the prevalence of Islamophobia, racism and hatred espoused in the British press.

The union call follows widespread protests by Jewish and Muslim organisations as well as over 100 cross-party MPs, at the publication of inflammatory comments by IPSO board member Trevor Kavanagh who this week referred to "The Muslim Problem" in his Sun newspaper column. Kavanagh said: "But there is one unspoken fear, gagged by political correctness, which links Britain and the rest of Europe. The common denominator, almost unsayable until last week's furore over Pakistani sex gangs, is Islam."

Chris Frost, NUJ ethics council chair, said: "Trevor Kavanagh's comments are an abuse of free speech and the press standards watchdog should accept complaints that traduce social groups in our society. Kavanagh is using the actions of a small group of individuals to place blame on a whole religion of 1.8 billion people.

"IPSO should launch an immediate investigation into the prevalence of Islamophobia, racism and hatred espoused in the press. IPSO claim to be set apart from their predecessor, the Press Complaints Commission, because they can run investigations and do monitoring - now is the time to prove it."

The NUJ's code of conduct for journalists states: "A journalist produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation."

The IPSO editors' code of practice, states: "The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability."

"Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story."

The NUJ has long campaigned for the press regulator to accept complaints based on how specific groups are represented in the media, rather than just confine its remit to comments relating to specific individuals.

* NUJ https://www.nuj.org.uk/home/

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UK MPs call for an end to Pakistan's blasphemy laws

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 07:14:54 +0000

Twenty four British MPs have written to the Pakistani government urging it to repeal its blasphemy laws.

As Pakistan celebrates its 70th anniversary as an independent state, 24 British politicians, led by Labour MP Siobhan McDonagh, have written to the Pakistani government urging it to repeal its blasphemy laws, which have been used to persecute humanists and religious minorities. Humanists UK, which is part of the End Blasphemy Laws coalition, has welcomed the letter.  

Siobhan McDonagh, also chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ahmadiyya Muslims, stated that the Pakistani government has consistently committed discriminatory acts against minority religious groups, including ‘denying religious freedom, harassing, violently persecuting’, and sometimes, carrying out death sentences. The letter also states that the current use of these laws stands in ‘painful contrast’ to the vision of Pakistan’s founders.

Blasphemy laws were first introduced into what is now modern-day Pakistan in 1860 by the British, during the period of colonial rule in India. They continued to form part of Pakistan’s law after the creation of the country in 1947 following the partition of India, which was marked by widespread religious violence. Under the military government of General Zia-ul Haq in the 1980s these laws were expanded, culminating in 1986 when the death penalty was introduced as a punishment for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Recent years have seen many humanists and others persecuted under the laws. Taimoor Raza was handed a death sentence in June for a Facebook post. In April, humanist Mashal Khan was murdered by a mob of fellow University students for alleged blasphemy. And in January, five bloggers were abducted by security services, only to reappear weeks later following accusations of torture.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Laws against blasphemy are a denial of freedom of religion and belief and of freedom of speech and expression. For far too long, humanists and others have faced severe persecution in Pakistan, and we are delighted to see these politicians take a stand to try to force change.’

* Humanists UK https://humanism.org.uk/

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Irish student enters fifth year of Egyptian detention

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 19:28:04 +0000

A student from Dublin has entered his fifth year of detention in Egypt. Ibrahim Halawa, who was a juvenile when he was arrested, faces the death penalty.

A student from Dublin has entered his fifth year of detention in Egypt. Ibrahim Halawa, who was a juvenile when he was arrested, faces the death penalty.

Ibrahim was arrested in August 2013 as part of a crackdown on protests against the new government of Abdelfattah al Sisi. Ibrahim and hundreds of others were arrested, and jointly accused of responsibility for violence. Though he was just 17 – a juvenile – at the time of his arrest, Ibrahim faced the death penalty in a mass trial of 494 people. The trial at Wadi Natrun prison, expected to reconvene on Sunday (20 August 2017), has been postponed more than 30 times.

Thousands of people have been sentenced to death since President Sisi took power in 2013, and the government’s system of mass trials has faced criticism for failing to meet international standards. Defendants in Ibrahim’s trial have faced frequent delays and lack of access to lawyers, and many – including Ibrahim – have reported regular torture in prison. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23020)

International human rights organisation Reprieve – which is assisting Ibrahim – has raised concerns over a European Union project that has seen approximately EUR10 million in training and support given to the Egyptian justice system.

Commenting, Director of Reprieve Maya Foa said: “A trial of hundreds of people at once is patently illegal under international law. Yet, four years on from Ibrahim’s arrest, he and nearly five hundred others are still stuck in a mass trial, facing the death penalty and exposed to torture in prison. It’s shameful that the EU is still providing assistance to Egypt’s judiciary while a European juvenile like Ibrahim is allowed to languish in hellish conditions. This assistance should be made conditional upon the release of Ibrahim – and now more than ever, the entire international community must urge the Egyptian government to end the abuses perpetrated against Ibrahim and many others.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

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Christian Aid launches appeal for Sierra Leone mudslide survivors

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 07:35:10 +0000

Christian Aid has launched a public appeal for emergency funds to support its relief operation for families devastated by the flooding and mudslide disaster in Sierra Leone. Christian Aid has launched a public appeal for emergency funds to support its relief operation for families devastated by the flooding and mudslide disaster in Sierra Leone.Some 3,000 people lost their homes after seasonal rains caused a landslide that submerged entire communities in Regent and its environs – a mountainous area on the outskirts of the capital city, Freetown.To date, nearly 350 people are known to have died, including more than 120 children. A further 600 individuals remain unaccounted for, while over 100 people are severely injured. The number of fatalities is expected to rise as the rescue efforts continue.Using emergency funds, Christian Aid will work through its local partners in Freetown to reach 1,000 survivors of the disaster. They will distribute relief items such as food, clean drinking water, clothing, mosquito nets, kitchen utensils and hygiene supplies – including sanitary kits for women and girls.Speaking from Freetown, Christian Aid’s country manager for Sierra Leone, Jeanne Kamara, said: “Early on Monday morning a heavy downpour in Freetown triggered a deluge of devastation, as rocks, earth and mud fell on houses and buried several communities: it was like a mini volcano.“We Sierra Leoneans are resilient people and this week our resilience has been cruelly tested, yet again. As a resident of Freetown, it breaks my heart that another tragedy is unfolding here, while we’re still recovering from the deep-rooted impacts of the Ebola epidemic. We are going from emergency to emergency, and this is wreaking untold emotional, physical and psychological damage.“The mood here this week is sombre and sober, and as I speak the rains are threatening again. Communities, faith groups, aid agencies and government agencies are working hard, but there are still a lot of gaps: a lot of people are using inappropriate make-shift shelters.  “We sent out a team to assess the situation and register those who need help: what we’ve seen are lots of people who are homeless, who are confused, distressed and traumatised, and who will need lots of psycho-social support."Mrs Kamara continued: “I spoke to a group of women who said they and their surviving family members have no clothes, no underwear, no sanitary kits: everything that they owned has gone. People have nothing, not even a pair of slippers on their feet to make their way to some of the local registration centres.“They are now extremely vulnerable, especially women and children. School resumes in about a month’s time and many surviving children have lost all their uniforms and school materials. That’s why we are working around the clock, with our partners here in Freetown, to make sure help gets to those who need it most. "In our initial response, our partners here will be distributing food and other essential items, such as malaria nets and basic household items. Our partners will, as always, work alongside community leaders, faith leaders and traditional leaders, so we can capitalise on their local knowledge and experience of their communities.”Homeless families are currently sheltering in schools, community halls, churches, mosques and other public buildings. The government is expected to announce long-term plans to house displaced families.Christian Aid’s relief programme will focus on locations in Freetown that are expected to receive less support from state bodies and aid organisations. In addition to launching today’s appeal, it has also applied for funds from other donors such as the START Network. It hopes to use this additional funding to, among other things, help displaced women and girls at risk of violence.[...]



More than half self-employed not earning decent living, says NEF

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 07:16:40 +0000

More than half of all self-employed people are failing to earn a decent living, according to new research by the New Economics Foundation.

More than half of all self-employed people are failing to earn a decent living, according to new research by the New Economics Foundation.

The research, based on data from the ONS Labour Force Survey and the DWP Family Resources Survey, shows that two in every five people employed in the UK last year were in ‘bad jobs,’ defined as jobs which do not provide a secure, living wage. That figure rises to 54 per cent for the self-employed.

In 2011, 63 per cent of the labour force were in ‘good jobs.’ But by 2016, that figure had dropped to 61 per cent – suggesting that the quality of jobs in the UK labour market is flatlining or getting worse over time.

Whilst the latest unemployment figures are likely to be the lowest seen in decades, the reality is less optimistic. Employment figures are being propped up by increasing numbers of self-employed people. While many choose self-employment in order to benefit from flexibility and independent working conditions, this research shows how many fail to earn a decent living. This is combined with record numbers of people on zero hours contracts – which have increased fivefold since 2011.

Hanna Wheatley, Researcher at the New Economics Foundation, said: “The overall unemployment figures paint a far more rosy picture of the labour market than what we know to be the reality – an underpaid and insecure workforce stretched to the limits.

"One in three people on zero hours contracts say they don’t have enough hours to provide for themselves.And while some benefit from the flexibility of being self-employed, many don’t. The rise in self-employment is hardly a cause for celebration when over half don’t earn enough to live a decent life.

"It seems that good jobs were the sacrifice made to avoid the worst effects of unemployment during the recession. But the situation for many is reaching crisis point.

"At the New Economics Foundation we are supporting people to take control of their working lives. It is vital that the voices of workers are at the forefront of the debate about the future of work.”

Good jobs are defined by NEF as secure jobs that pay at least the Living Wage. A secure job provides either a permanent employment contract, or a temporary employment contract where the reason for having a temporary contract is cited as ‘did not want a permanent contract.’ Because there is no measure of whether self-employed people feel secure in their work, we assume all self-employed are in secure work. The number of self-employed not meeting the ‘good job’ standard is therefore likely to be far greater than indicated here.

The Living Wage is independently calculated each year by the Living Wage Foundation, based on what employees and their families need to live.

* New Economics Foundation http://neweconomics.org/

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Kalahari Bushmen appeal to Dalai Lama

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 06:51:33 +0000

The Bushmen of Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve have written a moving appeal to the Dalai Lama, who is scheduled to visit Botswana this month, criticising their country’s government for its brutal policies and urging him to speak out.

The Bushmen of Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve have written a moving appeal to the Dalai Lama, who is scheduled to visit Botswana this month, criticising their country’s government for its brutal policies and urging him to speak out.

In the letter, Bushman spokesman Jumanda Gakelebone said: “We still cannot live on our lands freely. The government makes it so that children must apply for permits to visit their parents when they become adults. We worry what the government will do when those parents pass away.

“The government still forbids us from hunting and has introduced a shoot-on-sight policy against poachers. Last year a group of Bushmen out hunting were shot at from a police helicopter. Some of them were stripped naked and beaten.

“People praise President Khama [Botswana’s President] as a conservation hero when he ignores our struggle and our country’s own courts. Yet his government is happy for mining to take place on our ancestral land.

“We are the first people of the Kalahari. We are the ones who have protected this land and the animals that live there. Why has 'conservation' brought us so much suffering?”

Hundreds of Bushmen families were illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of conservation and moved into government eviction camps between 1997 and 2002, following the discovery of diamonds in the Kalahari.

Although the Bushmen won the right to return to the reserve in a historic court case in 2006, the country still has not respected its own high court’s ruling. Most Bushmen are denied access to their land by a brutal permit scheme. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19117)

They are also accused of poaching because they hunt to feed their families, facing arrest and beatings, torture and death under a nationwide hunting ban.

Survival International, the movement for the rights of tribal people, led the global campaign for Bushmen rights and is urging the Botswana government to allow them to determine their own futures.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Botswana’s President has been violating his country’s High Court ruling and trampling on Bushmen rights for over a decade now. No independent observer believes the Bushmen pose any kind of risk to the country’s wildlife, but they’re still prevented from hunting, and still being forced to get permits just to see their relatives. It’s a terrible stain on the country’s reputation that won’t be erased until they’re treated humanely, and with respect.”

* Read the Bushmen's letter to the Dalai Lama here

* Survival International http://www.survivalinternational.org/

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Employment boom improving job quality but not pay

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 06:31:19 +0000

A tightening UK labour market, with employment at a new record high of 75.1 per cent and a significant slow down in the growth of EU workers, is raising job quality but not pay packets, the Resolution Foundation said in response to yesterday’s Labour Market data release.

A tightening UK labour market, with employment at a new record high of 75.1 per cent and a significant slow down in the growth of EU workers, is raising job quality but not pay packets, the Resolution Foundation said in response to yesterday’s Labour Market data release (16 August 2017).

With unemployment at 4.4 per cent, the lowest since 1975, and the annual growth in EU workers falling to just two per cent, the lowest since 2010 and contrasting with growth of 14 per cent last year, the UK labour market is tightening.

The Foundation notes that this jobs boom is seeing some improvements in job security as employers compete to attract workers. Today’s figures show:

  • Though still high overall, the number of workers on a zero-hours contract fell by 20,000 (two per cent), compared to a growth of 100,000 (10 per cent) last year.
  • Self-employment grew by less than one per cent over the past year, compared to six per cent the year before.
  • All of the net growth in employment over the past year came from full time work, with part time work falling.

But this good news on the nature of work is failing to feed through into higher pay. Real growth pay fell by 0.5 per cent. Pay growth is now also negative in 80 per cent of sectors.

Stephen Clarke, Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “It’s good news that employers are having to up the security of the jobs they are offering, and that workers can be more picky in turning down insecure work than they could have been a few years ago thanks to a tightening labour market.

“But there is no sign of the jobs boom feeding through into badly needed pay rises. Real pay is now falling across 80 per cent of the sectors of our economy squeezing living standards right across the country.”

* Resolution Foundation http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/

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Five million people want more or better work in UK cities

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:13:59 +0000

Over five million people in UK cities are missing out because they can't get work or are trapped in low paid insecure jobs.

Over five million people want to work, want more hours, or are trapped in low paid and insecure work across the UK’s 12 biggest cities, according to a new report. The report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) comes as new metro mayors, elected in May, complete their 100th day in office and the monthly employment figures are published.

Although the employment rate is the highest on record, the analysis of official statistics shows the scale of the challenge facing city leaders and national government to ensure everyone has the opportunity to get a good job.

In total, the analysis shows there are 5.3 million people missing out because of a ‘more and better jobs gap’ across the UK’s 12 major city region areas.

The gap is the number of people who are unemployed, underemployed or inactive because of barriers such as caring or disability, but who would want to work if jobs were available (the more jobs gap); and workers earning less than the living wage and those on insecure contracts who would prefer permanent contracts (the better jobs gap).

The report found:

  • In Manchester and Birmingham, where metro mayors were elected in May, more than half a million people are seeking more and better paid work.
  • In Birmingham, 356,000 people are either not working but want to work, or are working but want more hours.
  • In Manchester, one in five people who are in the workforce – 291,000 – are in low pay or insecure work.
  • In Liverpool and Sheffield, two fifths of the workforce are not working but would like to, want more hours, or are trapped in low pay or insecure work. This amounts to 303,000 people in Liverpool and 391,000 people in Sheffield.

JRF is calling on city leaders to work with the Government on devising local industrial strategies that prioritise creating more and better jobs. The Government’s forthcoming report to Parliament on its progress to full employment should consider the disparities in employment rates between places and the quality of jobs on offer.

Dave Innes, economist at JRF, said, “Britain has enjoyed a jobs miracle and the national picture on jobs is good – more people are in work than ever before. But these figures show millions of people across our big cities are missing out on this success and there is still a long way to go.

“The priority for city leaders and the government is to use the industrial strategy to create the conditions for more and better jobs, and ensure people who have been left behind can find work.”

* Download the report, Job creation for inclusive growth in cities here 

* Joseph Rowntree Foundation https://www.jrf.org.uk/

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Charlottesville churches unite to show the power of love over hate

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 07:28:55 +0000

On Saturday, 12 August 2917 in Charlottesville, Virginia, one woman died and 19 others were injured when a man who, after rallying with white supremacist groups, rammed his car into a crowd. Earlier in the day, two law enforcement officers lost their lives when their helicopter crashed as they patrolled the gathering crowds. On Saturday, 12 August 2917 in Charlottesville, Virginia, one woman died and 19 others were injured when a man who, after rallying with white supremacist groups, rammed his car into a crowd. Earlier in the day, two law enforcement officers lost their lives when their helicopter crashed as they patrolled the gathering crowds. On Friday, the movement 'Congregate Charlottesville' gathered pastors in a direct, nonviolent action, stating, “Charlottesville has recently become a hotspot for national white supremacist organisations and demonstrations.” Religious leaders have united across faith lines, states and nations with clear message: they will not ignore racist extremism. They will not do nothing. The disagreement, in the most simple terms, was sparked over the planned removal of a controversial statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. But many regard Charlottesville as a testing point of how the nation will – or will not – confront white supremacy, a history of racism, and the growing inability to participate in civil discourse. World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, expressed his condolences to people who are grieving, and called for an end to violence. “Terror and violence against peaceful people seeking justice in Charlottesville must be condemned by all”, he said. “We are proud of moral leadership by clergy and lay people standing against this promotion of racism and white supremacy”. Tveit added “We stand in solidarity with those who continue to use nonviolent means to work against racism and extremism.” On Saturday night, the Rev Brenda Brown-Grooms was praying: “My heart aches for those who lost their lives and their families who grieve them; for those traumatised at the scene of the hit and run. I am praying for the runaway teen whose family travelled to Charlottesville, hoping to find him among the radicalised alt-right, and persuade him to come home.” Brown-Grooms, pastor at the New Beginnings Christian Community in Charlottesville, says she comes from people who were enslaved in the state of Virginia. “In order to survive, God gave those who did not succumb to total, utter despair, the ability to see more than their eyes saw; to hear more than their ears heard; and hearts to hope past all hope.” As pastors came to the pulpit on Sunday, she believed they would allow God to remind God’s people, that "weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” The pilgrimage of justice and peace takes courage: As the chaos unfolded, the Rev Alvin J. Horton, senior pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville, found himself in a role of emergency responder. “First United Methodist Church opened its doors and hearts to those who sought refuge from the mayhem, offering prayers, water, bandages, and counselling to more than a few terrified people who simply wanted to stand up to those who seek to divide”, he said. “Clergy from many faith traditions were united in their opposition to the violence and hatred that were being visited upon our community. Their fearless response to the intimidation of flag-waving, baseball bat-wielding hate-mongers is a strong witness to the fact that love will not yield to hate.” What sparks hope? Perhaps more important, what keeps that hope moving, travelling along[...]



Equality Commission calls for reduction of pay gaps in Scotland

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 07:09:14 +0000

All jobs should be advertised as available for flexible working, and greater effort placed on ending bias in recruitment, promotion and reward in a shake-up of culture and working practices to reduce pay gaps, the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland said yesterday. All jobs should be advertised as available for flexible working, and greater effort placed on ending bias in recruitment, promotion and reward in a shake-up of culture and working practices to reduce pay gaps, the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland said yesterday.( 15 August 2017) The call comes as the Commission releases a comprehensive strategy for tackling gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps is released. Fair opportunities for all: a strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain makes six recommendations outlining the action needed by government, in society and in our businesses to improve equality in earnings for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people. Dr Lesley Sawers, Scotland Commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “The pay gaps issue sits right at the heart of our society and is a symbol of what needs to be done to achieve equality for all. Subject choices and stereotypes in education can send children on set paths which often reflect the limited expectations of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people. "These stereotypes are then reinforced in recruitment, pay and progression practices leading to a 'that’s just the way it is' attitude. It isn’t – all it reflects is how we value people and peoples work. "For this to change, we need to overhaul our culture and make flexible working the norm; looking beyond women as the primary carers and having tough conversations about the bias that is rife in our society.” Pay gaps today remain stark: women are paid on average 15 per cent less than men in Scotland ethnic minorities are paid 5.7 per cent less than white people disabled people are paid 13.6 per cent less than non-disabled people The strategy is supported by the most detailed and comprehensive analysis to date of pay gap data and the drivers behind them. It highlights the complex causes of pay gaps, often missed out of debates that focus only on the headline figures. The research reports some startling figures and surprising differences within groups, including: Half of Bangladeshi and Pakistani men earn less than the living wage compared to less than a fifth of white men Men who experience depression have a 30 per cent pay gap compared to their non-disabled peers, and men with epilepsy have a 40 per cent pay gap The gender pay gap in Greater Glasgow is 18p an hour less than in the rest of Scotland Dr Sawers continued: "The Scottish Parliament's recent enquiry into equal pay in Scotland, 'No small change', echoes many of the findings we have released today and we share the Committee's concerns about the low value placed on our care staff. We also fully endorse the Committee's recommendation that public bodies use procurement to reqire bidders to submit their pay gap as part of the bidding process in the same way the Government has used it to require them to pay the living wage" "We have been talking about equal pay for years but the pace of change is glacial. Pay practices need to catch up with modern Scottish life – women, ethnic minorities and disabled people simply shouldn’t have to accept second class pay. What message does this send to young Scots – that no matter how hard you try, your gender, race, or disability defines your worth?" "With pay gap reporting becoming mandatory for large employers next year, many companies know they can manipulate their figures * Read[...]



New research suggests pesticides risk bumblebee extinction

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 08:38:29 +0000

Calls for Michael Gove to support a ban as new research suggests that use of neonicotinoid pesticides could lead to the extinction of bumblebees. 

There are renewed calls for the government  to permanently ban neonicotinoid pesticides, as new research suggests their use poses a risk of bumblebee extinction.

Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Guelph found that exposure to thiamethoxam, a common pesticide, reduced the chances of a bumblebee queen starting a new colony by 26 per cent. "Modelling the impacts of a 26 per cent reduction in colony founding on population dynamics dramatically increased the likelihood of population extinction." The research was published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution yesterday (14 August 2017).

Friends of the Earth is urging the UK government to back moves in the EU to permanently extend current neonicotinoid restrictions to all crops – and commit to keeping any ban post-Brexit. They cite previous research which has shown the threat posed to bees by these pesticides.

In June 2017 a pan-European field study was published providing evidence that neonicotinoids harm honeybees and wild bees. Covering a crop area equivalent to 3,000 football pitches, it was the biggest real-world study of these pesticides to date. Undertaken in the UK, Germany and Hungary, the experiment found : Increasing levels of neonicotinoid residues in the nests of wild bee species was linked with lower reproductive success across all three countries; Exposure to treated crops reduced overwintering success of honeybee colonies – a key measure of year-to-year viability – in the UK and Hungary.  

Another study this year, carried out on corn farms in Canada, found crops were not the main source of neonicotinoids to which bees were exposed. Instead, the contaminated pollen came from wildflowers, as has also been shown in the UK. Nadia Tsvetkov, at York University in Canada who led the research said that, “This indicates that neonicotinoids, which are water soluble, spill over from fields into the surrounding environment, where they are taken up by other plants that are very attractive to bees”.

Responding to the latest research, Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth nature campaigner, said, “It is clear that use of these chemicals on any crop poses a risk to bees and other wildlife. The Government has repeatedly said it will follow the science – how much more science does it need before it acts to protect our precious bees?

“Michael Gove must put his support behind a comprehensive ban on neonicotinoid pesticides across the EU and continue the ban in the UK post-Brexit”

Read the new research Pesticide reduces bumblebee colony initiation and increases probability of population extinction here  

* Friends of the Earth https://www.foe.co.uk/

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'Unprecedented' famine crisis puts 20 million at risk, warns UN

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 07:28:27 +0000

Twenty million people risk dying of hunger in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and the north-east of Nigeria, including 1.4 million children suffering from severe malnutrition, the United Nations food relief agency said yesterday, spotlighting its worldwide campaign to fight famine.

Twenty million people risk dying of hunger in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and the north-east of Nigeria, including 1.4 million children suffering from severe malnutrition, the United Nations food relief agency said yesterday (14 August 2017), spotlighting its worldwide campaign to fight famine.

“Famine is declared when there is evidence of extreme conditions regarding food access, child malnutrition and an increase in the death rate,” stated the UN World Food Programme (WFP), while launching in Spain a global Fighting Famine campaign in Spain to warn about this unprecedented food crisis.

Commending “the intense response mounted by the humanitarian community,” WFP said the famine declared in two counties of South Sudan in February had been overcome and, to date, Somalia, Yemen and northeast Nigeria have averted it.

“Nonetheless,” the agency cautioned, “the situation is still critical.”

WFP pointed out that apart from Yemen, the other three countries are entering the lean season – the time of year when the previous season's harvest has run out and food stocks are at their lowest. Also, the rains are making access by land difficult, and even impossible. While air transportation may sometimes be possible, it costs up to seven times more.

The severe food crisis in Yemen is caused by the consequences of armed conflict devastating the country, according to the UN agency.

WFP has implemented emergency response mechanisms that include food airdrops in remote areas in South Sudan and trucking in supplies to areas where people have fled from Boko Haram in Nigeria.

In June, agency assisted 11.8 million people in the four famine-facing countries, underscoring that “almost half of them are in Yemen, where lack of funding has meant that WFP has been forced to make the difficult decision to reduce the amount of food each person in order to stretch resources further.”

To shine a spotlight on the unprecedented food crisis, WFP is taking part in a worldwide #FightingFamine campaign.

The UN agency noted that in Spain, Mastercard and MediaCom have donated resources and advertising space so that the initiative is channeled through press, online media, digital screens and street furniture.

WFP is funded entirely by voluntary contributions, and with this campaign, it urges “the private sector and individuals to take action to help prevent a looming humanitarian disaster.”

As WFP depends on the generosity of donor governments, supporters and partners to quickly deliver food to affected people in these four countries, it urgently needs $900 million to meet immediate needs and avoid the spread of famine for the period of August to January 2018.

* More about #FightingFamine here

* United Nations http://www.un.org/en/index.html

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New play on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in running for Edinburgh Fringe award

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 07:08:47 +0000

Amnesty International has selected a new play about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a possible recipient of its International Freedom of Expression Award  at the Edinburgh Festival. Amnesty International has selected a new play about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a possible recipient of its International Freedom of Expression Award  at the Edinburgh Festival. The play - Looking for Mummy: Nazanin's Story, which is being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe during 20-27 August - tells the true story of the British charity worker's arrest while on a family holiday in Iran last year and her anguish at being sentenced to five years in jail after an unfair trial. The innovative work, by playwright Emi Howell, uses Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's own words as well as those of her husband, Richard, who has staged a high-profile campaign calling for her release. In particular, Looking for Mummy highlights the separation of Zaghari-Ratcliffe from her three-year-old daughter Gabriella. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a UK-Iranian dual national, saw her daughter taken away from her after her arrest and Gabriella is currently being looked after by her grandparents in Iran and only able to visit her mother in Evin Prison in Tehran twice a week. Earlier this month, during a visit to Iran the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt reportedly raised Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case alongside that of other UK-Iranian dual nationals detained in Iran, including Kamal Foroughi, a 77-year-old businessman. Amnesty has repeatedly called on the UK Government to insist on the immediate release of both Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Foroughi, though ministers have never publicly called for Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release and have only rarely mentioned the need for Foroughi to be freed. Richard Ratcliffe said: “Our story is the stuff of nightmares – a family holiday to visit relatives abruptly ending - in prison, isolation and crazy charges; the days become months with seemingly no way out.  “Thank you to the cast and crew of Looking for Mummy for sharing so sensitively the story of Nazanin’s todays, and for putting on a performance that helps keep her tomorrows alive. Thank you to all of you who come to see it, and who help keep her in the light.” Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland Programme Director, said: “Nazanin’s story is truly horrific which is why we are campaigning throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year to free her and fellow British-Iranian Kamal Foroughi, who is also imprisoned in Iran under very dubious circumstances.  “We want to see Nazanin and Kamal reunited with their families and will continue to campaign until this is a reality. We are delighted that Looking For Mummy: Nazanin’s Story has been longlisted for this year’s Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.” Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at a Tehran airport in April 2016 prior to boarding a plane back to Britain following a family visit to Iran. After being detained for over five months, initially in solitary confinement, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was subjected to an unfair trial and sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of “membership of an illegal group”. The charges appear to relate to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s employment at Thompson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation, as well as her past work as an administrative assistant on a BBC Media Action project to train young journalists. Amnesty believes Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a prisoner of conscience and is calling on the Iranian authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally. * Lo[...]