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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.

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.
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:


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.”




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 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.


“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


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 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.”

Afghanistan National Mourning following Taliban killing of Afgan soldiers

ashraf_ghani_newThe Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani declared a national day of mourning after scores of soldiers were killed by Taliban fighters disguised as fellow soldiers, in the deadliest attack of its kind on an Afghan military base.

The defence ministry has said more than 100 died or were injured in the Friday attack in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, although no exact numbers have yet been released.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters news agency that at least 140 soldiers were killed with many others wounded and some officials stating that the figure may be even higher.

The attack starkly highlighted the difficulty of the long struggle by the Afghan government and its international backers to defeat the Taliban insurgency.

After arriving in Mazar-i-Sharif to visit the base on Saturday, Ghani ordered that flags be flown at half mast on Sunday in memory of the troops who died. President Ghani has called for a “serious” investigation into the attack.  In a statement online, he condemned the attack as “cowardly” and the work of “infidels”.

As many as 10 Taliban fighters, dressed in Afghan army uniforms and driving military vehicles, made their way into the base and opened fire on mostly unarmed soldiers eating and leaving a mosque after Friday prayers, according to officials.

They used rocket-propelled grenades and rifles, and several detonated suicide vests packed with explosives, officials said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Saturday the attack on the base was retribution for the recent killing of several senior Taliban leaders in northern Afghanistan.

The U.S. military command in Kabul said an American air strike had killed a commander, Quari Tayib, and eight other Taliban on April 17.

Westminster Terror Attack – Four dead including the Knife Attacker

A suspected terrorist attack occurred today at outside the Palace of Westminster  on Westminster Bridge, in Parliament Square in central London. A vehicle was driven into a crowd of people near the palace gates, and an attacker stabbed people, at least one of them being a police officer. Four people are confirmed to be dead including a armed police officer guarding the Palace of Westminster and Parliament square, a woman mowed down on Westminster Bridge, and a third victim, and the unknown knife attacker who was shot by armed police who quickly attended the scene. 20 people are confirmed injured from the bridge attack.

Parliament; Westminster Hall, Portcullis House and both Norman Shaw South and North buildings are currently in lockdown with many MPs and their staff waiting for safety clearance. Parliamentary business is suspended until tomorrow.

The attack happened at around 14:40 on 22 March 2017, a grey Hyundai  on Westminster Bridge ran into approximately 10 individuals, before crashing into railings. Following that, a man wearing black clothes was seen stabbing a police officer with a knife in Old Palace Yard. After he was warned, two plainclothes police officers shot the individual three or four times.

The Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism unit at New Scotland Yard have asked people to come forward with information and have closed most of the bridges in central London including Lambeth Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Tower Bridge.

Shortly after the incident, additional armed police arrived. An air ambulance attended the scene and emergency services attempted to resuscitate the assailant. Injured members of the public were taken to St Thomas’ Hospital, which is located around 200 metres south of Westminster Bridge. Tobias Ellwood MP attempted to provide resuscitation and stem the bleeding of an injured police officer.

After the incident, Parliament was suspended and MPs were locked into the Commons debating chamber as a precaution, and other Parliamentary staff were told to remain in their offices. All were later evacuated to Westminster Abbey.

Prime Minister Theresa May was evacuated to 10 Downing Street.

Westminster tube station was closed and buses diverted as a precaution. The River Thames was shut between Vauxhall Bridge and the Embankment immediately after the attack. The London Eye was placed in lock-down. The incidents are being treated by the Metropolitan Police as a terrorist attack and asked the public to avoid the area including Parliament Square, Whitehall, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, Victoria Street up to the junction with Broadway and Victoria Embankment up to Embankment Tube station.

The UK government’s emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBRA) committee will meet later today.

Channel 4 news last night named a possible suspect however it was understood that the man they alleged carried out the attack is in prison. However its been announced that police now believe that attacker to be Khalid Masood (52) who is believed to have not been under surveillance by the security service.


Government Housing Benefit rules for 18-21 year olds spells 9,000 more homeless warns Charity

Removing housing benefit from young people could see 9,000 left unable to access accommodation and placed at risk of homelessness, a charity has estimated.

On Friday, the government unveiled regulations which will remove the housing benefit element of Universal Credit from those aged between 18 and 21.

It provided a list of exemptions, including where it would be “inappropriate” for the young person to live at home.

But in a note seen by Inside Housing, homelessness charity Centrepoint warned these exemptions were not exhaustive enough and would make it difficult for under 21s to find a landlord.

It said: “There is no simple or reliable way to put together a comprehensive list of exemptions which protect young people who cannot return to the family home.

“The youth homelessness sector estimate that the policy, as it currently stands, would mean that 9,000 young people will be unable to access accommodation and could be at risk of homelessness.”

It said the cost of increased homelessness to councils would wipe out virtually all of the planned £95m saving to the benefit bill outlined when the policy was first suggested.

The charity warned that even where a young person would qualify for housing benefit through the “inappropriate to live at home” measure, they would need proof of a tenancy before they can claim benefits under current rules.

But this would create a catch-22 situation, the charity warned, as landlords would be unwilling to let to them because they could not provide proof of income.

It also warned that proving it was inappropriate to live at home, a status which will have to be renewed every 12 months to continue claiming benefit, would be an extremely difficult burden for young people.

A survey by the Residential Landlords Association found 76% of private landlords out of a sample of 1,000 would be unlikely to rent to under 21s following the cut to housing benefit.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “The government is delivering on its commitment to ensure young people in the benefit system face the same choices as young people who work but may not be able to afford to leave home.

“We know that personal circumstances will differ so we have worked closely with charities and the housing sector to develop a fair and robust set of exemptions to protect the most vulnerable young people.”


Source: “Inside Housing”

Dido Elizabeth Belle – a pioneer of Britain

dido_elizabeth_belle_aloneDido Elizabeth Belle (1761–1804) was born into slavery as the natural daughter of Maria Belle, she married John Davinier from 1793–1804; until her death.

Dido Elizabeth Belle was an enslaved African woman in the West Indies, and Sir John Lindsay, a British career naval officer who was stationed there. He was later knighted and promoted to admiral.[2] Lindsay took Belle with him when he returned to England in 1765, entrusting her raising to his uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, and his wife Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Mansfield. The Murrays educated Belle, bringing her up as a free gentlewoman at their Kenwood House, together with their niece, Lady Elizabeth Murray, whose mother had died. Belle lived there for 30 years. In his will of 1793, Lord Mansfield confirmed her freedom and provided an outright sum and an annuity to her, making her an heiress.

In these years, her great-uncle, in his capacity as Lord Chief Justice, ruled in two significant slavery cases, finding in 1772 that slavery had no precedent in common law in England, and had never been authorized under positive law. This was taken as the formal end of slavery in Britain. In the Zong massacre, a case related to the slave trade, he narrowly ruled that the owners of the ship were not due insurance payments for the loss of slaves they had thrown overboard during a voyage, as their killing appeared to be related to errors by the officers.

What follows is the closing title them to “Belle” by Rachel Portman

House of Lords launch Future Nuclear Power inquiry

25 January 2017

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee launches an inquiry into the priorities for nuclear research and technologies.

In 2011 the Committee investigated whether the UK’s research and development (R&D) capabilities were sufficient to meet our nuclear energy needs in the future, ensuring a safe and secure supply of nuclear energy up to 2050.

This inquiry will now revisit some of the conclusions and recommendations of that report and investigate whether the Government’s actions in response have improved the UK’s nuclear R&D capabilities. It will also explore what more needs to be done to ensure the UK can meet its future nuclear energy requirements.

The Committee will look specifically at the upcoming decision by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on a small modular reactor (SMR) design for the UK; whether the roles and remit of the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) are appropriate; and if the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB) was successful.

The Committee invites submissions, with practical examples where possible, on topics including those mentioned below.


  • Where the responsibility should lie for ensuring the UK has a coherent and consistent long term policy for civil nuclear activities
  • Potential benefits, disadvantages and risks from the deployment of SMRs in the UK and more widely
  • Whether the Government is doing enough to fund research and development on SMRs, and in motivating others to do so
  • If the NNL is fulfilling its remit appropriately and whether it can deliver the required research to support the UK’s future nuclear energy policies
  • How the NNL compares to equivalent organisations in other countries
  • How successful NIRAB was in carrying out its role and whether a permanent successor body to NIRAB is required

Chairman’s comments

Chair of the Committee, Lord Selborne, said:

“It has been over 5 years since the Committee’s report into the future of nuclear energy which found that the Government was too complacent about the UK’s nuclear R&D capabilities.
Since its publication, the Government has accepted and acted on a number of the recommendations of the Committee, which saw the creation of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board.
This inquiry gives the Committee the opportunity to assess who should have responsibility for ensuring the UK has a coherent and consistent long term policy for civil nuclear activities.
We are keen to hear from people or organisations who can inform the Committee on the role and remit of the National Nuclear Laboratory or offer insight into how SMR’s will benefit the UK and what is needed to support the civil nuclear sector”.


The Committee is inviting written evidence on the issue, to be received by Friday 24 February 2017, and will start taking oral evidence on the inquiry in February.

Current UK Position on Yemen Humanitarian Crisis

  • 26 January 2017      10.35 am

    (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Yemen, from a humanitarian perspective and on diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.

The UK supports the Saudi Arabian-led coalition military intervention, which came at the request of the legitimate President Hadi. We are clear, however, that military gains by the coalition and the Government of Yemen must be used to drive forward the political process. A political solution is the best way to bring long-term stability to Yemen and end the conflict.

The UK has played a leading role in diplomatic efforts, including bringing together key international actors to try to find a peaceful solution. This is known as the quad and involves the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Other Gulf Co-operation Council countries and the UN have also been involved. The first meeting was held in London in July 2016; it was one of the first acts of the Foreign Secretary. The last quad meeting was held in Riyadh on 18 December, and I attended. I last spoke to President Hadi on 15 January to discuss the importance of taking measures to prevent economic collapse.

We continue to strongly support the tireless efforts of the UN special envoy, Ismail Ahmed, to achieve a political settlement. We are providing over £1 million to his office to bolster the UN’s capacity to facilitate the peace process. He is due to brief the Security Council today in New York on the latest developments and the UN’s plan. Our ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, met him yesterday.

We share a deep concern for the humanitarian suffering of the people of Yemen, which we all have an obligation to alleviate. The UK is the fourth-largest donor to Yemen, committing more than £100 million this year. Last year we helped more than 1.3 million Yemenis. Through the conflict, stability and security fund, we are funding: £700,000 for demining and clearing the explosive remnants of war; £400,000 for UN Women to support bringing women into the peace process and political dialogue; and £140,000 for other track II activities in support of the UN-led peace process.

Yemen is historically reliant on imports for more than 90% of its food and fuel needs. The Department for International Development is providing £1.4 million for the UN verification and inspection mechanism to speed up the clearance process for ships, so that food and fuel can get into the country more easily.

It is critical that all parties to the conflict renew their commitment to the cessation of hostilities, for the sake of the people of Yemen. All parties must engage constructively with the De-escalation and Co-ordination Committee, a mechanism created by the UN so that when incidents of concern are raised, they can be addressed effectively to reduce the likelihood of escalation.

I am grateful to the Minister for that statement. When the UN Security Council meets this afternoon, it will do so against a backdrop of heavy fighting in the Red sea ports of Mocha and Al Hudaydah and an increasingly dire humanitarian situation across the country. There are already 7 million people starving in Yemen. If those ports are destroyed or besieged, the delivery of vital aid that is required to avert famine in Yemen will become even more difficult.

The only way to prevent this unfolding humanitarian disaster deteriorating even further is to agree an immediate ceasefire. Today’s meeting of the Security Council provides a key opportunity to bring that closer. The Scottish National party believes that the UK is in a unique position to be able to show positive international leadership in order to bring about a ceasefire. It is vital to the lives of millions of Yemenis that we do so.

I ask the Minister, therefore, will the UK Government commit to use today’s meeting of the Security Council to back a ceasefire and urge all conflict parties to protect women, boys, men and girls from all forms of conflict-related abuse and violence; to ensure that all conflict parties allow civilians safe and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance; to strongly condemn all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Yemen; and to call for the establishment of an international, independent and impartial commission of inquiry to investigate them; and finally, to ask the Government to think once again on their own position and listen to Members across this House; and please consider halting all sales of arms to Saudi now, and in doing so, urge all Governments to follow suit.

Mr Ellwood

Yet again, it is a tribute to this House that we discuss these important matters. There are so many challenges in the middle east and north Africa at the moment and Yemen sometimes tends to get buried or overshadowed by some of the other challenges that we face, so I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising this matter, on which we also had a thorough debate last week.

The hon. Lady is right to draw attention to the work that is taking place at the United Nations Security Council today, where the UN envoy, Ismail Ahmed, will lay out his plans for what we expect and hope to achieve in 2017. We ended the year in a better place: the Houthis were minded to support the road map—although they have yet to come to the table—and President Hadi was looking more favourably on providing support in order to rejoin talks in Kuwait in the very near future. Key aspects of the road map still need to be ratified. Once that is done, we are in a process that will lead to that important cessation of hostilities.

I understand the hon. Lady’s desire to call for a ceasefire—a cessation of hostilities—immediately. We will see what comes out of today’s meeting and comes out from the United Nations, but I am absolutely in agreement with her that that is what we want to happen. Calling for it needs to work in conjunction with the art of the possible; otherwise it is just words. In order for us to ensure that any ceasefire will hold, we need to be able to say what happens if either side breaches the cessation of hostilities, which means there need to be some prior agreements in place. There need to be some confidence-building measures as the build-up to the call for a ceasefire.

I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady’s concerns about safe access. Humanitarian access to the country has been extremely limited, not least in respect of use of the ports, which we have discussed on many occasions. She yet again repeats her call for a UN independent commission of inquiry into some of the allegations on humanitarian and human rights law. In our previous debate on this matter, I stressed that it is the protocol for any country to conduct its own activities. I have said that if I feel that the reports that are due to come—and are slowly coming from a country that has never had to be pressed to write a report before—are deemed to be unworthy, unsuitable or miss the purpose for which they are being written, yes I will join with her and say that this should be moved to an independent examiner, possibly the United Nations, as well. But until we reach that point, I will continue to back Saudi Arabia conducting its own inquiries, in the same way as we do ourselves, and America does itself, not least when it hit the hospital in the north of Afghanistan.

The hon. Lady mentions arms sales. We have one of the most robust sales processes in the world. Each sale is conducted and scrutinised on its own basis. As we have said in the past, where we see ourselves at the moment is that we fully support the continued sales of arms to Saudi Arabia.

Animal Welfare after Brexit

Animal welfare standards in farming after the UK leaves the EU

Published  Thursday, January 19, 2017
This pack has been prepared ahead of the debate on Animal Welfare Standards in Farming after the UK leaves the EU (Brexit), to be held in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 24 January 2017 430-530pm. The Member in charge of this debate is the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP.
Jump to full report >>

Animal welfare is a devolved issue. The welfare of animals involved in commercial operations (i.e. those animals that are farmed) is subject to a substantial body of EU regulation; the RSPCA estimates that around 80 per cent of UK animal welfare laws originate from the EU. The terms of the Brexit negotiations will have a significant impact upon what animal welfare protections are adopted, amended or discarded.

EU farm animal welfare regulations

Currently, the EU legislates on issues affecting the operation of the internal market and the free movement of animals. Council Directive 98/58/EC on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes provides general rules for the protection of animals. This EU legislation sets down minimum standards; national governments may adopt more stringent rules than this. The EU rules are based on the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes, and they reflect the so-called ‘Five Freedoms’:
•Freedom from hunger and thirst
•Freedom from discomfort
•Freedom from pain, injury and disease
•Freedom to express normal behaviour
•Freedom from fear and distress.

Similar legislation implementing EU animal welfare regulations exists in England and all of the devolved assembles. Accompanying the legislation in each country are codes of practice, which provide welfare recommendations for those involved in the farming industry.

Live animal exports

EU rules to protect live animals during transport and related operations were agreed in 2004, and implemented in the UK in 2007, though there have still been a number of campaigns against such exports on welfare grounds. These regulations only apply to animals transported for commercial operations. The Council Regulation was implemented in the England by the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006, and by parallel legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There have been a number of campaigns seeking to either ban live animal transport altogether, or to limit how far (and long) an animal can be transported on welfare grounds. Some of these campaigns have focussed on live animal exports through the Ports of Ramsgate and Dover, and specific events in 2012 when 40 sheep were euthanised on welfare grounds at the Port of Ramsgate. The National Farmers Union (NFU) is broadly supportive of live animal exports.

Antimicrobial resistance in farm animals

In the past, it was normal practice for antimicrobials to be added to animal feed across the world in order to stimulate livestock growth and so maximise productivity. A ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters was implemented first in the UK and then in other European countries and Canada. The practice continued unchanged, however, in the United States and also continued to some extent in Europe, but with agents that were not used therapeutically in humans. An EU-wide ban on the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters came into force on 1 January 2006. The addition of antimicrobials to animal feed for medical purposes (either as prophylactics or as treatment for existing disease) is not affected by this ban. On 10 September 2014, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation on veterinary medicinal products.

Brexit and farm animal welfare: the same protections, stronger or weaker?

Currently, national governments may adopt more stringent rules than the EU animal welfare legislation—which sets down minimum standards. However, the UK Government has been resistant to ‘gold-plating’ EU regulations in the past over fears that this would weaken UK competiveness. In October, Defra’s Secretary of State stated that the UK’s unique selling point after we leave the EU “should be the highest standards of animal welfare, and the highest standards of food traceability.”

It is currently expected that leaving the EU will result in alternative trade and support arrangements for UK agriculture. The terms of Brexit negotiations and trade deals will go a long way towards determining what animal welfare protections are adopted, amended or discarded. This may lead to the same, stronger or weaker regulations than those currently in force.

The Government has already committed to bringing forward a ‘Great Repeal Bill’ which will convert all existing EU law into domestic law “wherever practical”. However, there has been some concern that trading arrangements made with non-EU countries may result in a reduction in UK standards or in the standards of imported products. In order to operate on a ‘level playing-field’, farmers may call for the removal of welfare regulations which would allow them to compete with producers in countries with lower animal welfare standards.
Commons Debate packs CDP-2017-002

Download the full report
Animal Welfare after Brexit   (  PDF, 263.8 KB)

No more war.

Syria Aleppo Dec 2016

Syria Aleppo Dec 2016

Yemens Starving December 2016

Yemens Starving December 2016

As we approach 2017 will we see a change in the world that we do not ever have to witness this again?

Aleppo has just seen a complete military takeover by Assad’s troops many disappearing and killed – on Twitter people of Aleppo sending goodbye messages. Meanwhile in Yemen 2/3rds of the population are starving due to Saudi attacks and civil war. DEC (disaster emergency charity) are calling this a forgotten humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

Human Rights Day 10th December 2016

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […]

Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Many of us are fearful about the way the world is heading. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Conflicts and deprivation are forcing families from their homes. Climate change darkens our horizons – and everywhere, it seems, anxieties are deepening. Humane values are under attack, and we feel overwhelmed – unsure what to do or where to turn.

Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears. They are spread by people who seek power, deploying twisted logic and false promises, and fabricating outright lies. Their narratives speak to selfishness, separatism – a distorting, narrow view of the world. Little by little, this toxic tide of hatred is rising around us, and the deep and vital principles that safeguard peaceful societies risk being swept away.

We must draw the line – and we can. There is another way.  It starts with all of us taking practical steps to reaffirm our common humanity.

The UN Human Rights Office upholds values that are the roots of peace and inclusion. We advocate practical solutions to fear and injustice, so governments protect the rights of all their people in line with international law.  We monitor their policies and call them out if they fall short. We stand for greater freedoms. Stronger respect. More compassion.

Join us. Help break the toxic patterns of a fearful world and embark on a more peaceful, more sustainable future. We don’t have to stand by while the haters drive wedges of hostility between communities – we can build bridges.  Wherever we are, we can make a real difference. In the street, in school, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media, at home and on the sports field.

Wherever there is discrimination, we can step forward to help safeguard someone’s right to live free from fear and abuse. We can raise our voices for decent values. We can join others to publicly lobby for better leadership, better laws and greater respect for human dignity.

The time for this is now. “We the peoples” can take a stand for rights. Let us know what you’re doing, and we will gather your stories, and amplify your voice. Local actions can add up to a global movement. And together, we can take a stand for more humanity.

It starts with each of us.

Stand up for someone’s rights today.

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