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Amnesty: The Crisis of Rohingya refugees


Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest and most crowded nations, plans to go ahead with work to develop an isolated, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal to temporarily house tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar, officials say.

Dhaka says the Rohingya are not welcome, and has told border guards to push back those trying to enter the country illegally. But close to 125,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh in just 10 days, joining more than 400,000 others already living there in cramped makeshift camps.


The Rohingya are caught up in a deadly and desperate situation in the Rakhine State on the western coast of Myanmar (also known as Burma). Tens of thousands of people are at risk of serious rights violations and aid efforts have been shut down.


Long-standing discrimination
For decades, unrest has rocked northern Rakhine State because of a wider context of long-standing discrimination against the Rohingya in Myanmar.

The ethnic Muslim group are denied the right to a nationality, and face severe restrictions on their rights to freedom of movement, access to education, healthcare, and livelihoods, to practice their religion and participate in public life.

The situation has been coming to a head in recent days after Rohingya militants launched a series of coordinated attacks on security forces in the north of Myanmar’s Rakhine state in the early morning of 25 August.

Since then, clashes between Myanmar’s military and the Rohingya armed group have continued and security forces have engaged in a disproportionate campaign of violence against the Rohingya.

Villages burned down
We have received numerous reports of human rights violations and abuses, including security forces opening fire on civilians fleeing, and homes and villages being burned down.

According to the Myanmar government almost 400 people have been killed since the clashes as of 4 September.

Humanitarian access to northern Rakhine State has also been suspended, while in other parts of the state the Myanmar authorities are preventing humanitarian agencies from reaching communities in need. As a result, life-saving relief efforts have been halted, and vital supplies of medicine, food and water are not making their way to the tens of thousands of desperate civilians caught in the middle of this deadly feud.

According to the UN, an estimated 90,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, while the Myanmar government has evacuated over 11,000 people belonging to other ethnic minority communities. Despite the huge influx, the Bangladesh government has maintained a policy of sealing the border with Myanmar, and border guards have pushed back hundreds attempting to flee.

Dangerous escalation
The recent attacks mark a dangerous escalation in an already volatile area. Following similar (but smaller) attacks in northern Rakhine State in October 2016, the Myanmar authorities launched major security operations.

At the time we documented wide-ranging human rights violations against the Rohingya during these operations, including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, rape and other sexual violence, as well as destruction of homes and property.

People in Rakhine State, in particular the Muslim Rohingya minority, have suffered a horrific catalogue of rights abuses for decades. Through our own investigations we have concluded that the Myanmar security forces may have committed crimes against humanity.

A humanitarian disaster
Simply put, Rakhine State is now on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster.

Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director for Crisis Response, said:

‘Nothing can justify denying life-saving aid to desperate people. By blocking access for humanitarian organisations, Burma’s authorities have put tens of thousands of people at risk and shown a callous disregard for human life.’

Authorities in Myanmar must swiftly improve the human rights situation and end discrimination. In particular, they must urgently lift restrictions on movement, allow full access for humanitarian workers and media in affected regions, and review and amend the country’s discriminatory citizenship laws.

What  can be done to help the situation?
Put pressure on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Army, the person responsible for the ongoing security operations. Tweet the following at him now:

.@SGMinAungHlaing Shocking human rights violations by security forces in northern #Rakhine must end immediately. http://bit.ly/2gByLtV  

.@SGMinAungHlaing It’s time to allow unrestricted humanitarian access to all people in all areas of #Rakhine State. http://bit.ly/2gByLtV

Without concrete action by the authorities to address long-standing grievances and decades of human rights violations, people in the region will continue to be trapped in a bloody cycle of deprivation and abuse

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Nurse arrested by Utah Police freed


Alex Wubbels, a nurse, was arrested because she followed hospital procedures in not providing the taking of a suspect’s blood without a warrant.

The nurse whose arrest for refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient drew nationwide criticism said on Friday what hurt most wasn’t being manhandled by a detective, but rather that none of the other officers who watched the struggle intervened to stop the arrest and subsequent detainment.

“I was being bullied and nobody was willing to speak up for me,” she told reporters,  “That is one of the main points of this whole issue.”

This is policing Utah style – will the UK see this form of law enforcement one day – I wonder?

Spanish Terror attack victims rises to 16


The death toll from the terrorist attacks that took place on 17th August 2017 in Spain has risen to sixteen.

Spain’s civil defense agency has confirmed that a 51-year-old German woman has died following the recent terrorist attacks in Spain after being treated in a critical condition in hospital although it’s not yet known which of the twin terrorist attacks she was injured in.

Many people were injured in the first attack on 17 August, when a van drove into pedestrians crowds on the famous tourist boulevard of Las Ramblas. Nine hours later after the Barcelona attack there followed a similar attack in Cambrils, 70 miles southwest of Barcelona when  five men thought to be members of the same terrorist cell drove into pedestrians in nearby Cambrils, killing one woman and injuring six others

Authorities in Spain are continuing their investigations into the attacks, which saw 120 people sustaining serious injury, and six people currently remain in a critical condition with five other people being treated with serious injuries.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Barcelona on Saturday in an act of solidarity following the attacks last week.

In an unprecedented move, King Felipe VI also took part, along with the Spanish Prime Minister and the local mayor.

Those that assisted victims of the attack including the emergency services, taxi drivers, and shopkeepers, were at the head of the march, as the crowds stretched formed a procession that was a mile in length.

Roses of Red yellow and white the colors associated with the city of Barcelona were handed out to the crowds who also had Catalan flags that could be seen far into the distance. Banners sporting the words “we are not afraid” and “the best response is peace” were shown on banners showing the crowds defiance against the terrorist attacks.

The march in Barcelona also follows the shooting of the terrorist suspect Younes Abouyaaqoub seen fleeing the attack in Barcelona where he is believed to have hijacked a car, killing its owner, 34-year-old aid worker Pablo Perez, in order to make his getaway.

When authorities caught up with him Younes AbouyTaaqoub was shot dead and found to be wearing a suicide belt Spanish police later confirmed.

In the city of Marseilles in France, another similar incident took place and saw one woman killed and another injured, after a van crashed into two bus shelters.Police advised the public to avoid the Old Port area where the driver of the Renault Master, a 35-year-old man from Grenoble, was arrested following the attack. The man arrested has yet to be known but was known to police for minor crimes and is believed to have had psychological issues.

 

 

DWP announces cuts to 800 civil service jobs


The Department for Work and Pensions has announced plans to cut at least 800 jobs as part of its office closures programme, an increase from the 750 redundancies confirmed in July.

As part of its office closures programme – under which 130 Jobcentres and back-office sites were initially earmarked for closure – the department proposes to make 800 people redundant as soon as February 2017.

Staff will be offered voluntary redundancy at first, but the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union warned that compulsory redundancies are likely to follow.

RELATED CONTENT
•DWP unveils plans to shut 130-plus offices​
•DWP staff step up industrial action over Sheffield jobcentre closure​
•Compulsory redundancy warning as DWP confirms 750 jobs to go in Jobcentre closures

In July, DWP revealed its updated plans for rationalising its estate, which include merging 68 Jobcentres into nearby sites, co-locating 40 Jobcentres with local authorities, and relocating regional services to up to seven hubs around the country.

The department estimates that the reorganisation will save more than £140m a year for the next 10 years.

The July announcement said that the department expected to see 750 job losses, with most staff remaining in their current offices or moving to nearby DWP sites.

But PCS said on Friday that DWP had entered into formal consultation with the union on at least 800 potential redundancies.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said the government is forcing through “unprecedented cuts on the civil service”, and that the union will intensify its campaign against office closures and job cuts.

He said: “At a time when workloads in DWP are at record highs, DWP should be recruiting new staff, not forcing loyal and experienced staff onto the dole.

“PCS will continue to campaign against these redundancies using every means at our disposal.”

There have already been strikes against office closures in Whitley Bay and Sheffield – with a fourth week of industrial action starting today in Sheffield, where 70 staff members are affected – and other areas are considering action, the public sector union said.

Following a judicial review that ruled unlawful the changes made in 2016 to the civil service redundancy scheme, DWP has been forced to offer voluntary redundancy under 2010 terms, which are more generous.

HMRC halted its redundancy process earlier this month, while the government considers appealing the High Court ruling.

The 2010 scheme offers one month’s pay for every year of service, capped at 21 months for staff below pension age. The now-suspended 2016 scheme offered only three weeks’ pay for every year, capped at 18 months.

About the author

Tamsin Rutter is senior reporter for Civil Service World and tweets as @TamsinRutter

Debbie Abrahams re-examines Pensions in Corby


20882898_1569207366433820_7313971429905566976_nDEBBIE ABRAHAMS VISITS CORBY COUNCILS ‘CUBE’ BUILDING TO DISCUSS “DIGNITY AND SECURITY IN OLDER AGE: THE STATE PENSION” 

The event took place on 17th August 2017 hosted by the Constituency Labour Party with an introduction by Cllr Tom Beattie on the discussion of the increase of the pension age to 67 years to those born in the 1950’s and State Pension Age increase in years to come.

As Debbie Abrahams wrote recently

“Older people have been badly let down by the Tories. During this year’s General Election they failed to provide transitional protection to women born in the 1950s who have had the increase in their State Pension Age (SPa) accelerated; in addition, they failed to guarantee they would protect the State Pension ‘triple lock’ and Winter Fuel Allowance. Most recently the Government announced that they will be accelerating the increase in the SPa to 68 at the same time it was announced that increases in life expectancy had ‘ground to a halt’.

This contrasts to the Labour Party’s manifesto pledge to retain the triple lock and winter fuel allowance, as well as provide support for the 1950s born women through pensions credit and further transitional protections. Labour has also rejected the accelerated increase in the SPa to 68 and is examining options for a flexible retirement age.

As part of the Labour Party’s commitment to ensuring dignity and security in older age, we are launching a national conversation with communities across the country to discuss what this means in relation to the State Pension.”

The visit to Corby Cube was part of the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions national tour gaining public ideas and proposals in re-examining the State Pension and incentivising Private Pensions.

 

 

Uganda lead on South Sudan Crisis


19-07-16southsudanOn a visit to Uganda, author and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador pays tribute to the country’s “compassionate” refugee policy, as one millionth South Sudanese refugee crosses the border.  By Khaled Hosseini in Uganda   |  17 August 2017

 

When I arrived in Uganda earlier this year, to visit refugees fleeing the brutality of the spiraling South Sudanese civil war, I expected to find something familiar: sprawling tent cities, bordered by fencing, clogged with tens of thousands of refugees, isolated from local communities, police regulating traffic in and out. In most camps I’ve visited, refugees don’t have freedom of movement, let alone a plot of land, or reasonable prospects for self-sufficiency. Lives are spent in limbo, weighed down by the crushing boredom of camp life.

When I arrived in Uganda earlier this year, to visit refugees fleeing the brutality of the spiraling South Sudanese civil war, I expected to find something familiar: sprawling tent cities, bordered by fencing, clogged with tens of thousands of refugees, isolated from local communities, police regulating traffic in and out. In most camps I’ve visited, refugees don’t have freedom of movement, let alone a plot of land, or reasonable prospects for self-sufficiency. Lives are spent in limbo, weighed down by the crushing boredom of camp life. Yet there are no camps in Uganda. Instead, refugees settle in villages, living on land allocated to them by the local government within days of crossing the border. They move about without restriction. They are free to cultivate the land, access healthcare and schools, find employment, and start businesses.

Yet there are no camps in Uganda. Instead, refugees settle in villages, living on land allocated to them by the local government within days of crossing the border. They move about without restriction. They are free to cultivate the land, access healthcare and schools, find employment, and start businesses.

Last September, all 193 UN member states signed a commitment to include refugees in local systems and to share responsibility for refugees. Uganda is holding true to the spirit of the New York Declaration. Uganda is trailblazing.

The country’s startlingly compassionate and progressive refugee policy struck me as all the more remarkable considering nearly 7 million Ugandans live in absolute poverty and another 14.7 million are at risk of falling back into poverty. And yet, Uganda has not only kept its borders open, it has welcomed refugees with open arms and open hearts.

To be sure, there is an element of reciprocity inherent in this policy. Ugandans have not forgotten their own days as refugees. I sat under a tree with Yahaya, a 51-year-old Ugandan farmer who has donated a plot of land to the family of a South Sudanese refugee named Mike. Yahaya remembers when his own family fled to Sudan in the 1980s, and how warmly Mike’s father received and helped them. Now, more than thirty years later, Yahaya is returning the favor.  “I understand his situation. He is like a brother to me,” Yahaya says of Mike.

Uganda’s approach is also a smart vision for how to support refugees in a sustainable way. It doesn’t view refugees through a purely humanitarian lens. It treats them as empowered agents of growth and development that can benefit both refugee and local communities.

Yahaya told me, for instance, that before the refugee influx his youngest three children were missing out on an education because the nearest school was too many miles away. Now they attend a primary school built in the Bidibidi refugee settlement, home to some 272,000 refugees.

In a global climate of growing negativity toward refugees, we have a lot to learn from the Ugandan experience and to be inspired by, as individuals, as communities, as countries. But Uganda’s inspirational model is being severely challenged.

This week, the UN Refugee Agency has reported the sobering news. The number of South Sudanese refugees that have crossed the border into Uganda since war broke out has reached a depressing milestone –  one million. The well-being of those one million individuals – most of whom are women and children – hinges on funding that, unfortunately, has failed to keep pace with the growing scale of this crisis.

In June, a Solidarity Summit was held in Entebbe. Uganda showcased its forward looking refugee policy in an effort to inspire other nations to adopt a similar approach and to ask wealthier nations to give funds as part of that commitment to burden sharing made in New York last September. The pledges made fall far short of what is needed just to cover the emergency response in Uganda. Uganda’s ability to realize a model that allows refugees, and its own people, to thrive is now surely in jeopardy.

I think the millionth refugee arriving at the border: exhausted, bewildered, in shock. Statistically, it will most likely be a child. A child who has lost everything. I don’t believe that any of us want to turn our back on that child. I hope the world takes notice.

 

Malala Yousafzai – the advocate for worldwide education for Women


Malala_Yousafzai_2015Malala Yousafzai (Malālah Yūsafzay: Urdu: ملالہ یوسفزئی‎; Pashto: ملاله یوسفزۍ‎ [məˈlaːlə jusəf ˈzəj];[1] born 12 July 1997) is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. She is known for human rights advocacy, especially the education of women in her native Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. Her advocacy has since grown into an international movement.

Yousafzai was born in Mingora, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Her family came to run a chain of schools in the region. Considering Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto as her role-models, she was particularly inspired by her father’s thoughts and humanitarian work. In early 2009, when she was 11–12, she wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu detailing her life during the Taliban occupation of Swat. The following summer, journalist Adam B. Ellick made a New York Times documentary about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. She rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by activist Desmond Tutu.

In afternoon of 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was injured after a Taliban gunman attempted to murder her. Yousafzai remained unconscious, in critical condition at the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK. The murder attempt sparked a national and international outpouring of support for Yousafzai. Deutsche Welle wrote in January 2013 that she may have become “the most famous teenager in the world.” Weeks after her murder attempt, a group of fifty leading Muslim clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her.

Since recovering, Yousafzai became a prominent education activist. Based out of Birmingham, she founded the Malala Fund, a non-profit organization and in 2013 co-authored I am Malala, an international bestseller. In 2015, Yousafzai was a subject of the Oscar-shortlisted documentary “He Named Me Malala”. 2013; 2014 and 2015 issues of Time magazine featured her as one of the most Influential people globally.

What is the Council of Europe


Author: Arabella Lang on behalf of Commons Library Service.

COE NEWThis Commons Library briefing gives a short introduction to the 47-member Council of Europe, which is a human rights and democracy organisation, entirely separate from the EU. Its best-known products are the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights that oversees how the Convention is implemented.

 

The Council of Europe (CoE) is a human rights and democracy organisation, entirely separate from the EU. Its best-known products are the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights that oversees how the Convention is implemented. But the CoE also promotes human rights through many other international conventions, and its independent expert bodies monitor member states’ progress and make recommendations.

The CoE has 47 Member States, which include the 28 members of the European Union as well as Russia and Turkey, for instance. The UK was instrumental in establishing the Council of Europe in 1949 and drafting the European Convention on Human Rights.

The head of the CoE is its Secretary General, who leads and represents the organisation. The current Secretary General is Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Prime Minister of Norway.

The Committee of Ministers (CM) – made up of the foreign ministers of each of the Member States or their deputies – is the CoE’s decision-making body. It also supervises the execution of Court judgments.

The CoE’s parliamentary assembly (PACE) is one of the oldest international parliamentary assemblies in the world. It holds governments to account, provides a forum for debate and has wide powers of election – including the judges of the European Court of Human Rights. It’s 324 members (and 324 alternates) are elected or appointed by each Member State’s parliament from among its members as a ‘fair representation’ of the political parties or groups there. PACE meets four times a year in plenary, but much of its work is done through its nine general committees. It has recently changed its rules to allow for the dismissal of its President, following a recent motion of no confidence in the current President, Pedro Agramunt.

The CoE’s assembly for local politicians, the Congress of Regional and Local Authorities, has 648 members appointed for a two-year term and monitors compliance with its European Charter of Local Self-Government.

Civil society is also represented in the CoE’s Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg oversees Member States’ implementation of the CoE’s European Convention on Human Rights. Individuals may bring complaints that a public authority has violated their Convention Rights, and the Member States must abide by a final judgment against them. One judge is elected by PACE from each Member State, and judges sit in panels of up to 17.

The UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 allows anyone in the UK to rely on Convention rights before domestic courts, requires all public bodies to comply with the Convention, and requires UK courts to ‘take account’ of rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (though those rulings cannot directly overrule or change national laws). The UK intends to derogate from the Convention in future armed conflicts.

The Convention rights are reflected in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which also includes more progressive social and economic rights and currently binds the UK as a matter EU law. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill would not bring the Charter or its case law into UK domestic law after Brexit. However, the UK courts will continue to be bound by Convention obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Government will continue to be bound by the Convention itself, at least for the remainder of this Parliament.

The Council of Europe’s budget for 2017 is €454 million, financed by fixed amounts from the Member States as well as voluntary contributions. Around 15% of the budget funds the Court.

 

Facebook CEO Demands better pay for Women


Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg has made a US Mother’s Day call for the government to do more for working women.

The social media giant’s chief operating officer called for a higher minimum wage, paid family leave and affordable childcare.

Some 40% of US households with children rely on a woman as the key breadwinner, she said in a Facebook post.

“It’s time for our public policies to catch up with what our families deserve and what our values demand,” she said.

Ms Sandberg, an influential voice in corporate America, is one of the wealthiest American women with a net worth estimated at $1.38bn.

She wrote on Sunday that the US government and employers must do more to help parents, especially single mothers, who are struggling to provide for their children while assuring their safety and well-being.

The widowed mother of two said: “We all have a responsibility to help mothers as well as fathers balance their responsibilities at work and home.”

One of the most important actions the government could take is to help millions of families living near the poverty line by raising the federal minimum wage, she said.

“Childcare for two children exceeds the median annual rent in all 50 states. How are parents supposed to work if they don’t have a safe and affordable place to leave their kids?”

Lean In

She continued: “We need paid leave. The United States is one of the only developed countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid family leave – and we’re the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave.

“That means many moms are forced to return to work right after giving birth to keep their jobs.”

She concluded: “I hope we can also use this day to commit to do more for all the mothers who have given so much and deserve even more.”

Ms Sandberg’s message was accompanied by a picture of her with her mother and mother-in-law on the day of her wedding to former SurveyMonkey chief executive Dave Goldberg, who died in 2015.

In her book Lean In, she encouraged women to be more ambitious in the workplace. Following Mr Goldberg’s death, she co-wrote the book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy that was published this year.

President Donald Trump’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump has publicly stated her support for paid maternity leave. However, Republicans have resisted proposals to raise such benefits, including increasing the national minimum wage.

Quantum 45-Qubit Record Simulation at NERSC


nersc-cray-cori-supercomputerTwo Ph.D. students from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) have successfully simulated a 45-qubit quantum circuit, inching us closer to quantum supremacy — the point at which quantum computers could outperform any extant classical computer estimated to require 49 qubits.

Thomas Häner and Damien Steiger also successfully simulated 30-, 36- and 42-qubit quantum circuits during their time at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The students used 8,192 of the 9,688 Intel Xeon Phi processors on Cori, NERSC’s newest supercomputer, for the largest of their simulations. Unfortunately, they could not run an even larger simulation using all of the supercomputer’s nodes as that would risk the system collapsing.

THE QUANTUM REVOLUTION
Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize the entire world by increasing the processing power of computers by orders of magnitude. However, two questions have thus far stumped quantum computer creators: how to create machines with sufficient processing power and how to scale those machines for mass production.
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Super-materials like graphene have been suggested as an answer to the first problem, but researchers will want to calibrate and optimize their designs before sinking precious money and time into their endeavors. That’s where simulations become essential, according to a paper Häner and Steiger presented at SC16:

While large-scale quantum computers are not yet available, their performance can be inferred using quantum compilation frameworks and estimates of potential hardware specifications. However, without testing and debugging quantum programs on small scale problems, their correctness cannot be taken for granted. Simulators and emulators … are essential to address this need.

The potential uses for quantum computers once they are developed are seemingly infinite. While most center on complex data analysis, which classical computers can only perform very slowly or not at all, others have considered even more innovative uses for quantum systems.

Kindred has hypothesized that a robotic exoskeleton capable of managing the work of four people could be powered using a quantum computer. A molecule has been modeled successfully using one, paving the way to computing entire chemical systems, and Google has considered using quantum computing to enable their autonomous vehicle to distinguish cars from other objects more effectively. Truly, the era of the quantum computer is just on the horizon, and once we reach it, every computer system we use will have the potential to become faster and more powerful.

Quantum Computing.gif

Writer: Tom Ward Source: https://futurism.com/

 

Finsbury Park Mosque Attack


 

The driver of the rented van that purposely collided into worshipers leaving a mosque in Finsbury Park, North London that left one man dead and eight people severely injured in a suspected anti-Islamic terror attack has been named as Darren Osbourne (47) from Cardiff. 

Darren Osborne, 47,  has been named as the driver of the van was initially apprehended and detained by members of public immediately at the scene and then formally arrested by police in connection with the incident. Mr. Osborne was taken to hospital as a precaution and will be taken into custody once discharged and also be subject to an assessment as to his mental health the police confirmed.

Scotland Yard said armed police were at the scene within minutes and Police responded according to witnesses almost immediately. Police have said an investigation will be carried out by Counter Terrorism Command and extra officers deployed to reassure Muslims during Ramadan.

One witnessed described seeing the incident and said she heard people yelling and screeching
“Everybody was shouting: ‘A van’s hit people, a van’s hit people’.

“There was this white van stopped outside Finsbury Park mosque that seemed to have hit people who were coming out after prayers had finished.”

Passers-by said a crowd had gathered to help an elderly man who collapsed on the pavement and was already undergoing CPR when the vehicle approached. The local Iman, now whose actions are being described as heroic, urged the crowds gathered who had cornered the driver, Darren Osborne to remain calm whilst apprehending him. Most people just kept asking ‘why? Are you killing people’  One woman was thrown from a wheelchair as people fled from the careering van. People described bodies and blood on the pavement.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said officers were called to a “major incident” at 12.20am.

The chair of the Ramadhan Foundation said earlier of the attack that it’s timing (following holy prayers over the period of Ramadan for Muslims) and its location outside the Muslim Welfare House and  Finsbury Park Mosque pointed to it being a “deliberate attack against innocent Muslims, and if that’s confirmed by authorities it should be classed as a terror attack, no doubt about that.”
The London Ambulance Service’s special response teams and an advanced trauma crew were sent to the scene.  “Our priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries and ensure those in the most need are treated first and taken to hospital,” he added.

Grenfell Requires Answers!


A second tragedy has befallen London in the last few days. We all woke on Wednesday to see the most distressing scenes of a towering inferno in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Lancaster West area of London.
Although the extent of such a tragedy was difficult to comprehend it was by many residents a disaster almost waiting to happen, and even followed a report by Housing regulation inspectors into the blocks refurbishment following  concerns of the safety of the building that saw gas pipes in communal areas bare, a complete lack of fire sprinklers and the use a lower grade of building cladding provided to the exterior of the building.
Of course, you may be as shocked as I was at the fire, and it’s ferocity and we as a country share deepest sympathy and grief for all either who perished and their families and also for the survivors who are rebuilding their lives after such a disaster.
My question goes out to KCTMO the landlord involved and concerned with this particular housing disaster, why did they sign the refurbishment as satisfactory when important safety requirements were not met? Why after 72 hours did the Prime Minister only first start to address residents and the local community about the disaster and does she really expect that the £5 million will be adequate to the survivors (we do not know yet the numbers who perished and those who survived) who now must rehouse themselves and rebuild their lives? Why did Kensington and Chelsea Housing Chiefs today not address the local community or provide any assistance in knowing the estimated number of tenants involved?
Below are the scenes we have witnessed over the last couple of days that will haunt people and which now demand a total long-awaited overhaul of  Housing Safety.
David Lammy MP for Tottenham who lost a close friend he described who perished in the disaster was a “young person with a beautiful life ahead”.  Paying tribute to his friend Khadija Saye, he continued: “She was a young black woman making her way in this country. […] She’d done amazing things — gone to university, the best in her life — but she’s died, with her mother, on the 22nd floor of the building. And it breaks my heart, that it’s happening in Britain in 2017.”

He added the stark warning for those who profit from the misery of social injustice:“This is a tale of two cities. This is what Dickens was writing about in the century before last, and it’s still here in 2017.”

“Giving the poorest and most vulnerable ‘somewhere decent to live’ was a noble idea that is falling apart around our eyes”

 

On Sunday 18th June 2017 the current Government announced a payment relief of only £5,500 for all families living in the Grenfell Tower this will be paid as a £500 cash emergency payment and the remainder expected to be paid by the Department for Work and Pensions into survivor’s back accounts to cover the immediate cost of food; emergency housing associated costs, burial costs and getting clothes and possibly furniture and living requirements. This payment is thought to be made payable immediately to the family members who have survived, but is only this blog calculates a small figure of the £5 million promised initially (calculating and taking into consideration the 127 flats in Grenfell would see this as only a payment of 680,000 towards the figure of £5 million the PM originally said would be set apart towards the residents, thus this blog sees that £5,500 is actually quite poor to help these families.)

Sadiq Khan – Those acts are not ‘the Islam I know’


Source: Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London,  wrote in the London Evening Standard.
“As the Mayor of London, it’s difficult to adequately describe the grief and anger that we Londoners are feeling following the attack on our city on Saturday evening. Three sick and twisted individuals indiscriminately murdered innocent people as they enjoyed a night out in the heart of our great capital.

The emergency services, as they always do, responded heroically and I thank them all on behalf of our city. The first armed police were on the scene within minutes and bravely brought the terrible attack to an end swiftly after their arrival. Some suffered injuries in the line of duty. The London Ambulance Service and NHS staff worked throughout the night to treat the injured. And once again, brave bystanders confronted the terrorists and helped the victims.

It’s still early days but our police and security services are doing everything in their power to investigate this attack. They are also working to prevent an incident such as this happening again. The national security level remains at severe — meaning an attack on us is highly likely. I am in constant contact with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and other senior officers and attended the Government’s emergency Cobra security meetings yesterday and today.

It is just over two months since the terrible attack on Westminster Bridge and only two weeks since the horrific attack at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester. The police and security services have foiled five other attempted attacks since March alone. This shows the scale of the threat we face and why we must always remain vigilant and prepared against the terrorist threat and report anything suspicious to the authorities.

Keeping our city safe is my greatest responsibility and is the part of the job that keeps me awake at night. You will see an increased police presence on London’s streets over the coming days — including more armed officers. They are there to keep you safe.

Over the coming weeks and months, we must do everything possible to stop an attack like this ever happening again in our City. We must defeat this threat. Our values must prevail. We should not jump to knee-jerk conclusions, but failing to act is simply not an option.  We need to look seriously at whether the police have the resources they need to prevent these incidents — and whether additional police working more effectively within our communities, building confidence and improving the information they can obtain would make these attacks less likely.

We need to work with communities, the Government and others to tackle extremism in our midst. This perverse ideology is overwhelmingly despised by every community across London — of all faiths and none. By working together we must deprive extremism of its oxygen and not exaggerate its support or alienate communities in the process. The Government must now urgently act — and I am keen to work with them to build on what we have learnt.

We have to make it harder for extremists to radicalise young people online. It is too easy for people to access extremist propaganda on the Internet — with websites and videos glorifying their evil ideology just a click away. After every terrorist attack, we rightly say that the Internet providers and social media companies need to act and restrict access to these poisonous materials. But it has not happened. This is not a simple task — and must be done by working together with the companies — but now it simply must happen.

This is the holiest time of the year for millions of Britain’s Muslims. Ramadan is a period of peace and contemplation for the suffering of others. Followers of a perverse ideology who murder innocent Londoners and visitors are an utter desecration of Ramadan and a rejection of the true values of Islam.

Along with the overwhelming majority of the Muslim population, I am disgusted by this act. I want to send a crystal-clear message around the world: the sick and wicked ideology of these evil extremists is no form of Islam that I recognise. I unequivocally denounce them and their twisted beliefs.

We cannot allow these evil terrorists to change our way of life. That’s not to say that we don’t feel angry or heartbroken — of course, we do. But the terrorists commit these horrific acts because they want to scare us into submission.
They cannot win if we don’t let them. Instead, we must carry on enjoying the freedoms and way of life that they hate so much. That’s why Thursday’s general election will go ahead as planned because to postpone it would be to play into the hands of those who want to undermine our democracy.

My thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of everyone affected. Every life lost and injury suffered is a heartbreaking tragedy for a family and a community.

As a city, we must now come together to grieve and pay our respects to the victims of this dreadful attack. We will hold a vigil in Potters Fields Park — a short distance from the horrific attack and next to City Hall — this evening at 6 pm for all Londoners and visitors to join us. We will show the world that we remain as defiant and unbowed as ever.

The way our city pulled together in the aftermath of the attack on Westminster Bridge inspired the world. Londoners know that our anger must be directed at the extremists and terrorists. We know that the strength of our communities and our tolerant and liberal values make us more resilient against the terrorists.

London has always been resilient in the past in the face of threats. It’s something we are renowned for the world over. Let’s continue with that resilience and show the terrorists we will never be beaten.”

 

BRITAIN-POLITICS-LONDON-MAYOR

 

London Bridge and Borough Market Incident


ldnbr2British police have within the last couple of hours rushed to an incident on London Bridge on Saturday after witnesses said a van ploughed into pedestrians and one witness has said a knife attack has taken and that she saw people who may have had their throats cut.

British Transport Police said casualties were reported after an incident that may have involved 3 men getting out of a van that struck people and then conducting a  knife attack. The London Ambulance Service said it was sending multiple resources to the incident.

Police said armed officers were also responding to an incident in the nearby Borough Market area of the city.  Police have said a witness confirmed a stabbing incident.

The Prime Minister is aware of the incident and will receive updates of the attacks that have just taken place in the three locations; the van attack that took place 10.15pm at #LondonBridge, then the attack at #BoroughMarket and reports are now also coming in of an attack at Vauxhall and the police are clearing people from these areas and have put a security alert in the #Vauxhall area.  Vauxhall Underground station just re-opened.

One witness told Reuters that she saw what appeared to be three people with knife wounds and possibly their throats cut at London Bridge. Reuters was unable to immediately verify her account.

Another witness told the BBC she saw a speeding white van veering into pedestrians. That witness said the van hit five to six people. Reuters television pictures showed dozens of emergency vehicles in the area around London Bridge.

Several witnesses have also reported hearing gunshots.

London’s transport authority said London Bridge rail station had been closed at the request of the police.

Police confirmed at 00.20am this morning as that the incidents at London Bridge and Borough Market as a terrorist attack’ ; it follows the recent terrorist attack in Manchester where 22 people were killed, and is also worrying close to Thursday’s General Election on 8th May.

A security guard who oversees a number of pubs in the area told the BBC he saw four people stabbed by three attackers.

The man, was deeply shocked and asked not to be identified, said a colleague had informed him that there was a stabbing at the Borough Bistro pub nearby. As he went towards the pub he witnessed people running and said there was screaming he witnessed he three attackers and brandishing a long knife and stabbing people, including a girl in her early 20s.

One eye witness described how he believed to be a man with a knife and strapped to his body he believed to be canisters – he was however quite distressed following the incident.

Teresa May will hold an emergency security meeting later on Sunday morning.

Abedi Family given exile after serving in Libyan Islamic Fighting Group


manchester-7

Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, and his father traveled to Libya in 2011 to fight against the Gaddafi government with the approval of the British security establishment.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was at that time Interior Minister with direct responsibility for MI5 and the rest of the UK’s internal security apparatus. Abedi’s father, who has since been arrested along with a younger son in connection with the attack, was one of a large group of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) members who had been allowed to settle in the UK.

Britain’s MI5 assisted members of the LIFG to travel to Libya to join the fight against Gaddafi. In addition, the young Abedi also went to fight in Syria, a conflict in which Britain sides with the jihadists fighting against Assad’s government. Indeed, it seems that young Abedi was such a clearly dangerous individual that he was reported by members of the Libyan exile community to the authorities at least five times as an obvious extremist threat.

An article on the Middle East Eye news site states that:

The British government operated an “open door” policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders.

The article is topped by a picture of a mural in Tripoli, Libya that praises the Manchester Fighters in both English and Arabic.

The UK Telegraph informs us that several members of the LIFG lived near Abedi in Manchester:

Among them was Abd al-Baset Azzouz, a father-of-four from Manchester, who left Britain to run a terrorist network in Libya overseen by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of al-Qaeda.

The Telegraph also noted that Azzouz was an expert bomb-maker.

The UK and US has a history of “stocking up” on these extremist types to be later used against governments that they wish to regime change. Such people are welcomed as asylum seekers while worthy refugees, like Christians fleeing Iraq and Syria, are often denied.

As pointed out in an article by Neil Clark, The UK Telegraph had praised Libya in 2010 as one of the top six cruise destinations but today Libya is acknowledged as being a Daesh stronghold. Seifeddine Rezgui trained at a Daesh base in Libya for his attack in Kantaoui, Tunisia in June 2015 that killed 38 tourists, 30 of them British. Recent attacks in France have also involved persons who had traveled to Libya and Syria, with the authorities turning a blind eye, perhaps because these known extremists were considered useful in achieving their government’s regime change objectives.

Common sense would suggest that if the UK knowingly harbors people who commit atrocities in the Middle East it is likely that some of those people will also commit atrocities against British targets. While the authorities declare their shock and outrage at the attack, British citizens should be asking themselves if this was not an inevitable side effect of elements of their government playing with jihadi fire that resulted in UK citizens getting burned.

In a country that prides itself on having the Mother of Parliaments, it will be interesting to see if voters exercise their democratic right and duty to punish errant politicians by rejecting them at the polls. Prime Minister May’s role in creating and coddling the jihadi Frankenstein that resulted in the Manchester tragedy may well prove to be her downfall. On the other hand, voters may choose to ignore her bad judgment; in which case it is likely that the current dangerously irresponsible policy will continue, with predictably tragic results .

Source: the Dissident website.

Read other articles by Othello.

Hong Kong’s ‘Handsome’ Hero


pakistani-policeman-turned-to-hong-kong-hero-1489568382-4863A 20-year-old Hong Kong policeman has swept to fame online after he talked a suicidal Pakistani man out of killing himself – in fluent Urdu.

The man had climbed a 20-metre-high (65ft) crane at a construction site, and police were called to the scene.

Ifzal Zaffar, who is of Pakistani descent, duly climbed up too and addressed him in their shared language.

The man agreed to come down, and was taken to hospital.

Constable Zaffer, who also speaks fluent Cantonese, English and Urdu said he was simply following his training.

“I used the techniques we learned at the academy … I think he felt safer knowing that I could talk to him in his own language.”  The young man joined the force just under a year ago, and is said to be the only officer of Pakistani origin in the district.

Government Departments at Risk of Ramsomware Attacks


Author: Rebecca Hill Source: Civil Service World 

The former head of the civil service Bob Kerslake has said that all government departments need to look “very seriously” at increased cyber protection, in the wake of last week’s mass ransomware attack that crippled NHS trusts and took down businesses across the world.

Speaking on the BBC’s Westminster Hour programme on 14 May, Kerslake said that “pretty much every government department is at risk”, although he added that he suspected that the defence and security agencies would be well protected.

“The sums involved in protecting against cyber crime and cyber attacks are pretty eye watering, but I think we’re going to have to look at that very seriously,”  Kerslake said.

He added that one of the main issues was to do with the training and understanding of users of IT systems, saying that malware used IT users “against themselves”.

NHS cyber attack a ‘wake-up call’ for government
NHS hack: Lessons for the civil service from WanaCrypt0r cyber attack

The attack, which affected organisations in more than 70 countries, saw a strain of malware, called WannaCry, encrypt computer files and ask for $300 in Bitcoin to unencrypt them.

Although it is clear that the virus spread through connected systems – such as those relied upon by the healthcare service to provide joined-up care – by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft’s SMB file-sharing services, it is not yet known how it infected ‘patient zero’ in each organisation.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme yesterday (16 May), IBM’s vice-president for security Caleb Barlow, said that the question was a “head scratcher”.

Ransomware attacks are often preceded by phishing emails, he said, but added that an analysis of more than 1 billion spam and phishing emails identified by IBM between March and the present day, “showed no evidence of a single spam or phishing email associated with this attack”.

Asked whether the attack was directly targeted at the organisations it hit, Barlow said that experts didn’t know, but that he would “feel a lot more comfortable” if it was clear how the virus got into the computer systems initially.

Similarly, NHS Digital said in an FAQ factsheet for organisations that the investigations into the attack vector continue – but that they had “uncovered no indication NHSmail has been compromised or is the method of attack”.

It said that NHSmail “has several levels of filtering in place, including safe testing of suspicious files. Any emails with known bad URLs or IP addresses are also filtered out at site”.

Meanwhile, there are continuing attempts from politicians, tech experts, campaigners and companies to assign blame for the incident.

After it became clear the US National Security Agency knew about the vulnerability months ago – Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith criticised governments for “stockpiling vulnerabilities” to exploit them, rather than reporting them to suppliers.

But The Register has today reported that Microsoft itself had been stockpiling critical security patches for its legacy systems, despite being aware that the existence of the SMB vulnerability had been leaked.

According to the publication, the patches that Microsoft released for the systems it no longer supports – including XP, which much of the NHS still uses – were prepared in February but not released to the public until last Friday.

The government, meanwhile, has been criticised for a lack of funding for NHS IT systems, and for only taking out an extension for Microsoft support for XP for a year after the company’ support ended in 2014 – and NHS trusts have come under fire for their continued reliance on Windows XP.

However, NHS Digital has countered that the “vast majority are running contemporary systems”, saying that the number of devices reportedly using XP has fallen to 4.7%.

“This may be because some expensive hardware (such as MRI scanners) cannot be updated immediately, and in such instances organisations will take steps to mitigate any risk, such as by isolating the device from the main network,” the organisation said in a statement.

About the author

Rebecca Hill is the online editor of PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared

Do you trust Donald Trump?


tdy_peter_trump_170510.nbcnews-ux-1240-700Everyone is actually reeling from the news that Donald Trump has fired Director of the FBI James Comey. People are asking why after initially praising Mr. Comey’s work as head of the FBI (during the election presidential campaign when the FBI were investigating emails sent from a private server from Hilary Clinton) has the president now with the advice arising from memos from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which recommended getting rid of him.

Now Senior US lawmakers have called on President Donald Trump to turn over any recordings of conversations with fired FBI director James Comey and the President.

We all want to know the following …

  • Is the president saying he was secretly recording his conversations with the FBI director — at a time when his actions are already being compared to Nixon’s during Watergate? Why would he do that?

Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer has said that destroying any tapes would break the law. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the White House needed to “clear the air” about whether tapes existed. The comments come after Mr Trump tweeted what appeared to be a thinly veiled threat to the former FBI chief.

A senior law professor Allan Lichtman, claims the firing of Comey could lead to a impeachment of Donald Trump as President and is  “more serious than Watergate”.

“He arguably could be impeached now,” Mr Lichtman toldNewsweek. “Arguably he’s already obstructed justice and already violated the emoluments clause [regarding receiving gifts from foreign governments]. I’m not saying we should impeach him now, I’m calling for an impeachment investigation.”

 

 

 

Eternal Blue was a NSA tool


Source: BBC News 

The huge cyber-attack affecting organisations around the world, including some UK hospitals, can be traced back to the US National Security Agency (NSA) – raising questions over the US government’s decision to keep such flaws a secret.

Elements of the malicious software used in Friday’s attacks were part of a treasure trove of cyber-attack tools leaked by hacking group the Shadow Brokers in April.

One of the tools contained in the Shadow Brokers leak, codenamed EternalBlue, proved to be “the most significant factor” in the spread of Friday’s global attack, according to cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab.

The tool was said to have been created by the NSA – though, as is typical, the agency has neither confirmed nor denied this.

EternalBlue was made public on 14 April, and while Microsoft had fixed the problem a month prior to its leak, it appeared many high-profile targets had not updated their systems to stay secure.

Friday’s attack has reignited the debate over whether or not governments should disclose vulnerabilities they have discovered or bought on the black market.

“It would be deeply troubling if the NSA knew about this vulnerability but failed to disclose it to Microsoft until after it was stolen,” said Patrick Toomey, a lawyer working for the American Civil Liberties Union.

“These attacks underscore the fact that vulnerabilities will be exploited not just by our security agencies, but by hackers and criminals around the world.

“Patching security holes immediately, not stockpiling them, is the best way to make everyone’s digital life safer.”

Edward Snowden, who famously leaked many internal NSA files in June 2013, criticised the NSA on Friday in a series of tweets.

“In light of today’s attack, Congress needs to be asking [the NSA] if it knows of any other vulnerabilities in software used in our hospitals,” he wrote.

“If [the NSA] had privately disclosed the flaw used to attack hospitals when they found it, not when they lost it, this may not have happened.”

Outdated systems

However, others focused the blame at institutions for being too slow in updating their systems, given that this attack happened almost two months after a (free) fix was made available by Microsoft.

“Say what you want to say about the NSA or disclosure process,” said Zeynep Tufeki, a professor at the University of North Carolina.

“But this is one in which what’s broken is the system by which we fix.”

For the UK’s National Health Service, the problem is perhaps more acute.

Security firms have continually raised alarms about the NHS’s reliance on Windows XP, an operating system that is no longer supported by Microsoft.

Meanwhile ….

Blogger tells BBC how he ‘accidentally’ halted the Ransomeware by discovering a “kill switch” inside the Malware.

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“A UK security researcher has told the BBC how he “accidentally” halted the spread of the malicious ransomware that has affected hundreds of organisations, including the UK’s NHS.

The 22-year-old man, known by the pseudonym MalwareTech, had taken a week off work, but decided to investigate the ransomware after hearing about the global cyber-attack.

He managed to bring the spread to a halt when he found what appeared to be a “kill switch” in the rogue software’s code.

“It was actually partly accidental,” he told the BBC, after spending the night investigating. “I have not slept a wink.”

Although his discovery did not repair the damage done by the ransomware, it did stop it spreading to new computers, and he has been hailed an “accidental hero”.

“I would say that’s correct,” he told the BBC.

 

 

ISC Recent Statement


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INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY COMMITTEE OF PARLIAMENT Chairman: The Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament 35 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BQ Tel: +44 (0)20 7276 1215 http://isc.independent.gov.uk/ This information is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and may be subject to exemption under the Data Protection Act 1998 and to restrictions on disclosure under the Justice and Security Act 2013. Page 1 of 3 The Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP, Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, has today issued the following statement: “The current Intelligence and Security Committee was constituted in September 2015, just over 18 months ago. Therefore much of the work of the Committee over this period has been spent conducting Inquiries which are still underway, and have yet to report. Notably, our Annual Report for 2016–17 – which we had completed last week – will not now be published this session, as we had intended. This is disappointing: the Report is a comprehensive look at the work being done across the intelligence community against the various national security threats, and a detailed consideration of the budget, staffing and administration of the seven organisations which the Committee oversees. I hope that our successors will publish this Report when they are appointed. However in the meantime I wish to place on record a summary of the work that the Committee has been conducting since the publication of our last Annual Report in July 2016. The Committee has held 21 full committee meetings and 19 formal evidence sessions with, amongst others, the Foreign and Home Secretaries, the former National Security Adviser, the three intelligence Agencies, Defence Intelligence, the Office for Security and CounterTerrorism, and the Joint Intelligence Committee; held 20 other meetings; visited the Agencies and other parts of the intelligence community for briefings on six occasions; held bilateral discussions with those in the American, Canadian and French intelligence communities; and hosted delegations from Australia, Canada, Jordan, Pakistan and the US. In our last Annual Report we detailed our work on the Investigatory Powers Bill, which built on our earlier reports ‘Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework’ and ‘Report on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill’. The Bill was introduced to Parliament in March 2016 and the Committee tabled a significant number of amendments, starting with 21 individual amendments at Report stage in the House of Commons. In the House of Lords we tabled nine amendments at Committee stage and three at Report stage. The Government accepted a significant number of our amendments. Chief amongst these were: the inclusion of a general privacy safeguard in Section 1 of the Act, and a requirement that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner keep under review the operation of safeguards to protect privacy; greater independent oversight of warrants which allow intrusive action against a group of people, as opposed to named individuals (known as “thematic warrants”); and disallowing the use of a class Bulk Personal Dataset warrant where the dataset contains a substantial proportion of sensitive personal data. We also worked closely with a former Member of the Committee, Lord Butler of Brockwell, when he proposed amendments to make the abuse of bulk powers an offence under the Act (in the absence of an overarching offence). The Investigatory Powers Act achieved Royal Assent on 29 November 2016, following what amounted to a year’s sustained engagement from the Committee to improve the original proposals. The Act represents a significant step forward in the transparency and governance of the Agencies’ intrusive powers. Page 2 of 3 We have also spent a very substantial amount of time since October 2015 investigating the possible involvement of the UK Government and Security and Intelligence Agencies in detainee mistreatment and rendition. We have to date considered over 40,000 documents and heard around 60 hours of oral evidence: we are grateful to all those who have given their time to help us with our Inquiry thus far. We have reached the point in the Inquiry where it only remains to take evidence from certain individuals who were ‘on the ground’ at the time. It is deeply disappointing that we have not had access to those individuals in sufficient time to conclude our Inquiry prior to the Election. We regard it as essential that our successors continue this work. A further significant strand of work has been considering the diversity of the UK security and intelligence community. We have reported previously on the demographics of the Agencies, concluding that at senior levels, in particular, they are not gender-balanced and do not fully reflect the ethnic make-up of modern Britain. We have called for greater efforts to be made to ensure more diverse and inclusive workforces: not only should the Agencies reflect the diversity of the UK as a matter of principle, but the Committee is confident that increased diversity will lead to better responses to the range of threats that we face to our national security. There are significant business and operational benefits to be gained from a broader range of backgrounds and views being represented within any organisation and the security and intelligence community are no exception. Greater diversity not only provides a competitive advantage (increasing innovation and creativity amongst employees, and improving staff motivation and efficiency), but it also provides greater operational capability. In addition, if all staff are from similar backgrounds with similar characteristics, they may share ‘unconscious biases’ that circumscribe both the definition of problems and the search for solutions – heightening the risk of ‘groupthink’. The Agencies have made genuine progress on diversity and inclusion issues over the last few years, but there is still further to go, particularly in relation to the collection of robust data against which to measure their progress. Over the past nine months the Rt. Hon. Fiona Mactaggart MP has, on behalf of the full Committee, been considering diversity and inclusion in detail within each of the organisations that fall within our remit. It is regrettable that the early election has meant that she was unable to conclude this important piece of work, but we hope that our successors will publish a full report in due course. The Committee has been supported in its work by a team of seven core staff and seven Detainee Inquiry staff. These staff have an immensely difficult job to do. They act independently in support of the Committee and this is not always easy or popular with those who do not understand the importance of robust independent oversight. We have made clear that the Committee’s staff will continue in post while Parliament is dissolved and before our successors are appointed, during which time they will progress the work outlined above in readiness for the new Committee. Finally, we urge all political parties to prioritise the appointment of members to the Intelligence and Security Committee following the General Election: it is not in the public interest for oversight of the intelligence community to be left unattended for any period of time.”

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