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Amnesty Report on Ogoni Nine’s case against Shell Oil


29 April 2019, 12:02 UTC

A Dutch court will this week (Wednesday 1 May) rule on an historic case against Shell, in which the oil giant stands accused of instigating a raft of horrifying human rights violations committed by the Nigerian government against the Ogoni people.

Esther Kiobel, Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula are suing Shell over what they say is its role in the unlawful arrest, detention and execution of their husbands by the Nigerian military, following a brutal crackdown on Ogoni protests against Shell’s devastating pollution of the region in the 1990s.

“This decision will hopefully mark an important step towards justice for the Ogoni Nine,” said Mark Dummett, Head of Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

“These women believe their husbands would still be alive today were it not for Shell’s relentless pursuit of profit, which encouraged the Nigerian government’s bloody crackdown on protesters even when it knew the human cost.

“Despite a cache of evidence against Shell, the company has managed to dodge justice for years. This ruling could have great significance for people everywhere who have been harmed by the greed and recklessness of global corporations, and have struggled to hold them to account.”

Esther Kiobel and Victoria Bera will be in attendance at The District Court of The Hague, along with representatives from Amnesty International.

Taking a powerful multinational corporation to court for harm it has caused overseas is an extremely lengthy process. Esther Kiobel first filed a case against Shell in New York in 2002, but in 2013 the US Supreme Court ruled that the US did not have jurisdiction to hear the case – meaning the US courts never got to examine the substance of the allegations against Shell.

The Ogoni Nine

Amnesty International has independently documented Shell’s role in killings, rape and torture carried out by the Nigerian government in its effort to crush protests.

Barinem Kiobel, Baribor Bera, Nordu Eawo and Paul Levula were hanged in 1995 after a blatantly unfair trial. Their widows are now demanding compensation and a public apology from Shell for the role the company played in these events. Five other men, including protest leader and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, were executed alongside them. They have become collectively known as the Ogoni Nine.

The four plaintiffs accuse Shell of being instrumental in the unlawful arrest and detention of their husbands; the violation of their husbands’ physical integrity; the violation of their right to a fair trial and to life, and their own right to a family life. Amnesty International supported Esther Kiobel to bring the case to the Netherlands in 2017, and detailed Shell’s role in the arrests and executions in a briefing, In The Dock. The plaintiffs are also calling for the court to order Shell to hand over more than 100,000 internal documents marked as confidential by the company during the US proceedings between 2002 and 2013, which are crucial to the case.

For more information about Esther Kiobel’s battle for justice, please see One Woman Vs Shell

From <https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/04/nigerianetherlandsshell-involvement-in-execution-of-ogoni-nine-to-be-decided-by-court/>

Teresa May the Poison Challice


Teresa May, PM and previous Home Secretary resigning over her failure to get a bill past her ‘baying for blood’ party and Conservative party eager only to see her go.

 

Jeremy Kyle Show Axed


 

This is Jon Culshaw’s impersonation of the “Jeremy Kyle show”, showing the protagonist in all his glory as judge and jury dealing with the lives of his guests. Some have described the show from the outset as a modern day form of live tv ‘bear baiting’. It has however consistently had a large share of afternoon television rating and was one of ITV’s most popular shows, it was the anglicised version of precursory show’s such as the US “Jerry Springer Show”, and in Britain “Trisha” (now shown on UK’s Channel 5). The Jeremy Kyle show format differed though in so far as the fact that ultimately it’s host gave his own opinion and judgement on his guest’s life situations.

What do you think do you like him or loathe him?

After 14 years on television and with guests saying the show changed their life or ruined it; the show’s final date was 10th May 2019 following the death of a guest participant, Steve Dymond who took his life due to his split with his partner following a lie detector result on the show which ITV has decided not to broadcast.

A former guest Dwayne Davison in an interview with the Guardian newspaper said following his appearance on the Jeremy Kyle Show he was labelled the most hated Jeremy Kyle guest ever.  He struggled for work and was mocked in the street as a result, and tried to kill himself after sustained public shaming.

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“It’s the worst thing that has ever happened in my life,” Davison said. “They put the spoon in and stirred around my whole life.”  Mr Davison said the show provoked participants into causing offence;  believing footage was edited in such a way to portray guests unfavourably and that attempts at aftercare belied due to the production team’s use of footage.

.I read a great article about the show a few years ago from the media section of the Guardian from an original article in the Observer on the modern day TV phenomena that is the “Jeremy Kyle Show”.

For the full article see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/sep/07/itv.television

 

 

 

 

 

CSW Defence & security focus: DSTL in the Future


Written by Gary Aitkenhead on 29 April 2019 in Interview in CSW

As the UK faces increasingly complex global threats, our defence and security organisations must work more collaboratively than ever. Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory gives an interview with CSW

What has been the biggest challenge facing your organisation in the past 12 months?

The response to the incidents in Salisbury and Amesbury – the lab moved into a 24/7 operational footing for weeks with a large number of our people involved. Throughout this we had our challenges with significant, often adverse misleading information circulating online, which impacted on our reputation, public perception and on some of our staff. Of course, our support to the incide nts also impacted on our normal operations as we still needed to meet the ongoing requirements of our customers, but the commitment from our people was fantastic and everyone worked extremely hard to ensure Dstl responded effectively to this unprecedented event. The eyes of the world were on us, and I am incredibly proud of Dstl and the response at pace from across government, both local and national police and the military and the many others involved.

How is your organisation adapting to reflect Britain’s changing place in the world?

Our research is world-class in many areas and so we continue to work closely with many partner nations. We have a focus on the US, European bilateral collaborations (such as recent increasing work with Germany), and are broadening to new emerging areas with Japan and India. NATO and 5EYES (UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) remain key intelligence and collaboration partners with multiple joint cyber projects, and this is not expected to change as the UK exits the EU. We continually adapt to seek new opportunities, as demonstrated through the sharing of cyber defence experiences with Estonia, one of our NATO partners.

DSTL also continues to support Britain’s industry and academia through both research funding (approx £270m this year and expected to increase next year) to exploit their ideas, as part of the MoD’s “promote our prosperity” priority. We also licence our intellectual property to SME and large companies that attracts private funding resulting in UK exports and jobs.

What opportunities or innovations are you excited about in the coming years that will help you improve public outcomes?

Information technology is developing very quickly and defence is adapting to fully exploit these new opportunities for Information advantage, with initiatives being led by Dstl and our military customers. We are focused on protecting and exploiting both data and information to maximise their value for decision making and to sustain our advantage in future conflicts. Effort includes exploiting the best signal processing to extract more information from raw sensor data, and techniques like machine learning to exploit large information data sets.

What do you think your role will look like in 20 years’ time?

It’s always going to be a challenge for any organisation to predict the future, but this is where Dstl works best: working out where and when S&T – science and technology – is needed and at what time in the future. I would expect that in 20 years we will still be working, as we are now, to be ahead of the pace of change with S&T, with artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles being the norm and most likely quantum computing seeing real world applications.

About the author : Gary Aitkenhead is chief executive of the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) this is from an article in CSW

The Victorian Deadly “Home Sweet Home”


 The Victorian Lounge and Parlours

 

The Victorians used Arsenic in their Dye process for wallpaper in the homes of many affluent urban middle class settled in Victorian Cities. Due to the smog outside people felt at home with the windows shut and their Victorian fire places burning while slowly inhaling and ingesting the deadly poison.

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The Victorian Wardrobe

 

The Victorian woman was seen as the house maker (Dicken’s even describes the ‘angel of the home’ in Edwin Drood) and Victorian woman increasingly wore corsets that constricted and even damaged the bodies inner organs and made normal breathing confined – this mode of dress appearance soon became championed against by the Rational Dress Society whose members included Constance Wilde (wife of Oscar Wilde). Even today the look of a narrower waist line still persists in fashion.

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In the Kitchen

 

The Victorian age heralded gas lighting and gas central heating but these inventions were not always fully tested and gas piping often was prone to corrode which saw the emergence of cases of gas poisoning (the many gas companies would promote their utility as ‘natural gas’ and quite harmless, but with the advent of heating boilers and gas cookers that were not proper ventilated being sold as standalone and offering capability for heating water for steam heating these devices became pressure cookers waiting to explode. The Victorians also saw electricity first introduced into the homes – with new lighting the pinnacle of the modern Victorian technological era, but once again without proper safety many homes were destroyed by explosions caused by leaking gas and electrical ignition. It was only until 1923 that Gas Safety Regulations came into force.

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The Victorian Nursery

 

One would assume the Victorian nursery would offer safety to the children of the middle class Victorian household, after all new laws came into power over child labour in the Victorian Era and because child mortality was still high (154,000 infants under the age of one year died annually between 1880 and 1890); the children of the Victorian middle classes could surely expect to be cherished, and the new manufacturing of children’s toys and their marketing led to to the new Victorian home consumer culture offering entertainment for children of a household. Toys with any form of level of pigmented colour would often have high levels of metals to create these painted items so white items may have contained lead and many toys had high toxic levels of lead which caused nausea; disorientation and eventually over prolonged use death. Lead was a common ingredient in painted metal toys and even though known as a poisonous metal since Roman times, it was a great preserver of wood. Lead absorption caused development abnormalities in children

The use of lead was so widely used in homes for painting interior walls and wooden surfaces that even in the 1920s when European laws forbid lead use in paints – Britain only finally banned and regulated lead levels in paints in the 1970s! .

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Co-Incidentally, in the Victorian age the use of Laudanum, an opiate often combined with alcohol as a syrup provided to children of poorer families was often sold over the counter as a quieting medicine of young infants and babies who cried due to hunger. The use of such over the counter medicines disguised the growing problem of Victorian child malnourishment.

Another deadly killer arose from the Victorian attitude to modesty in breatfeeding their children and this led to the presumption that alternatives such as bottle feeding as mentioned in Mrs. Beaton’s Good Housekeeping Guide as to it’s application, what was not known in Victorian days even with the urban growth of sewerage being set up nationally was the requirement to properly sterilise bottles – these victorian ‘baby feeders’ were a magnet to bacterial growth on the porous parts of the feeding device often causing severe intestinal and respiratory infion resulting in countless infant mortalities.  

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Eluid Kipchoga completes the second fastest in London Marathon History


Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge today became the first runner to cross the finishing line of the final day (day 3) of the Virgin Money London Marathon of 26.2 miles from Blackheath to The Mall (Near Buckingham Palace).

Prince Harry made an unannounced appearance on the day to watch the Marathon.

Eliud ran the second fastest marathon in history to win the London Marathon for a fourth time,  Britain’s Mo Farah finished fifth.

Kipchoge, completed the marathon in two hours two minutes 38 seconds.

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WikiLeaks Julian Assange Arrested


LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 11: Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on April 11, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Julian Assange has been forcibly arrested and taken out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after having spent 6 years in the Embassy where he was initially granted asylum.

The WikiLeaks founder and editor shouted “This is unlawful” as Police officers took him out of the embassy.

Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case, a cast that has since been dropped.

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday he was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court on bail.

He now faces US federal conspiracy charges related to one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets. The UK will now decide whether to extradite Assange, in response to allegations by the Department for Justice that he conspired with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download four classified databases. If found guilty by the US courts he faces  up to five years in prison in the US on the charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

One of the Swedish women who made the 2010 allegations against Assange, whose rape case was closed by Swedish prosecutors in 2017, told the Guardian she was opposed to his extradition to the United States.

“I would be very surprised and sad if Julian is handed over to the US,” she said via email, asking for her name not to be used.

“For me this was never about anything else than his misconduct against me and other women, and his refusal to take responsibility for this. Too bad my case could never be investigated properly, but the arrest will not change this, the case cannot be opened. I am prepared to testify if the other case opens up again.

At Westminster Magistrates Court

While Assange waited for his legal team to arrive he sat in the dock reading Gore Vidal’s “history of the national security state”. He also waved and gave a thumbs up to a supporter in the public gallery clad in a yellow vest.

Assange shouted “this is unlawful” as police officers struggled to drag him from the Ecuadorian embassy this morning, the court heard. “This is unlawful, I’m not leaving,” he said.

In a tweet, Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, said: “We strongly condemn the detention of Julian Assange and the violation of freedom of speech. Our solidarity with this brother who is persecuted by the US government for revealing its human rights violations, murders of civilians and diplomatic espionage.”

Julian Assange Arrested Today in London (Video Source: BBC News)

Call for 1% to help end poverty


Source : Global Citizen

It’s 2018 — yet 767 million people continue to live in extreme poverty, struggling to survive on less than $1.90 per day. Every day, too many children wake up not knowing whether they will have food to eat, school to attend, or clean water and sanitation — and women and girls often suffer the most. Meanwhile, 42 individuals hold as much money as the poorest 50% of the globe. This can’t be right. 

The good news? The number of people living in extreme poverty has halved since 1990 — and we have a plan to reach zero. In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end extreme poverty, fight inequality, and stop climate change by 2030. But we need another $300-$400 billion every year to achieve this. 

Sounds crazy? What if we told you that there are 2,208 billionaires in the world — and between them, they possess a total of USD $9.1 trillion? Their wealth increases daily. They have the power to help achieve the SDGs, and end extreme poverty. 

If every billionaire committed to donate just 1% of their wealth towards achieving the SDGs, it’s estimated this would help save the lives of 6 million children every single year, strengthen the healthcare systems of over 70 countries, secure an education for over 200 million children, and provide clean water and sanitation for millions more.

This inequality cannot go on. Add your name to our petition calling on the world’s richest people to help end extreme poverty — then, send a tweet to the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, and top footballer Kylian Mbappé, calling on them to #BetheGeneration to end extreme poverty!

10 of the most politically explosive countries in the world


 

1. Syria

Probaly the  the most dangerous place on Earth right now is Syria. Almost completely under the control of the ISIS caliphate, Syria is a terrifying war zone that you best avoid. Once a land full of beauty and historical significance now a terror state with no end in sight for the fighting. [1]

2. Yemen

A country that has been embroiled in political unrest, and from a poor country that has a past of being a grest example of middle eastern culture and being quite picturesque in the Arab countries it is now being bombed by Saudi Arabia,

3. Saudi Arabia

Potential travellers that wish to visit Saudi Arabia require a local resident to sponsor their trip. This makes getting there pretty hard unless you have some family or friends. Getting a sponsor doesn’t even qualify you for a visa as it may still get rejected by the stringent process they follow. [3] The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is will known to Amnesty International over the years for it’s brutality of it’s executions and imprisonment of those who fall foul to it’s laws.

4. South Sudan

If the internal political rivalries, murders, and political unrest weren’t enough to stop you in your tracks, South Sudan is also one of the most famine affected state in Africa. The harsh weather, lack of proper drinking and sanitation facilities kill more people than are murdered each year. [1] South Sudan has hat political and civil unrest through the religious fighting between Christian and Muslem sudanese. It’s current situation reports of brutal sexual assaults on women in the Bentiu area,

 

5. North Korea

With the recent friendship with South Korea blossoming North Korea may lift the travel embargo. However, its leader Kim Joung Un is extremely unpredictable and you may never know what you could do to offend their military police. Stay away from this place for a while. [3]

6. The Central African Republic

Many African nations including the Central African Republic are considered too dangerous to travel in. Especially for tourists. Apart from the gang wars you also have to keep an eye out for thieves rapists and murderers. [2]

7. Afghanistan

While the situation might look better as the years progress it will still be a while before Afghanistan can be considered safe to travel to. It still has a large number of foreign troops guarding its land and they’re slowly starting to turn things over to the locals. [1]

8. Somalia

While the thought of modern pirates may sound exciting, it truly isn’t. Somalian pirates are vicious and out for blood. If you still want to get on land, you’ll still need someone to sponsor your visa? Have many friends in Somalia? [3]

9. El Salvador

While this South American country may seem like a backpackers paradise it’s actually quite dangerous to visit. El Salvador has the highest murder rate in the world. While the global murder average is 6.2 people for every 100,000 El Salvador’s murder rate is 91 killings. Just something to think about. [1]

10. Libya

The African theme runs strong here in the 10 countries to avoid while traveling. Libya is just another shining example of what happens when people fail to get along and internal wars bust out. Avoid this place like the plague because chances are also if you don’t get shot or butchered, you’ll come back home with malaria.

CPAG Response to UN Report on Britain’s Poverty


by Louisa McGeehan CPAG
Director of Policy, Rights and Advocacy

You may have seen reports of the recent visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. At the end of his ten-day visit around the country, Professor Philip Alston found that the poverty he had observed was unjust and, in his opinion, contrary to British values. He described the UK’s high child poverty rate as “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one”.

Amongst the large number of people that he and his team met who were struggling to make ends meet, Professor Alston reported people dependent on food banks, homeless people and children without a safe place to sleep, children growing up in poverty unsure of their future and young people turning to gangs as a way out of destitution.

He also spoke of the tremendous resilience, strength and generosity he came across, with neighbours supporting one another, councils seeking creative solutions, and charities stepping in to fill holes in government services.

Warning of the harm poverty has caused to British society, Professor Alston argued that British compassion has been replaced by a “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach …”

The Rapporteur’s findings should be a wake-up call for the Government. He took issue with Government for remaining “determinedly in a state of denial” but pointed to the positive news, highlighted frequently by CPAG, that poverty is not inevitable, and that many problems could be fixed if the Government were to acknowledge the problems and consider some of the recommendations put forward.

You can read the full UN report of   Professor Alston’s findings here

Lord Heywood ex-Cabinet Secretary recent death


Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill and prime minister Theresa May have led tributes from across government to Lord Heywood after it was announced that the former cabinet secretary and head of the civil service died yesterday.

Heywood, who retired on 24 October following treatment for cancer, made an “an immense contribution to public life”, Sedwill, his successor as cabinet secretary, said in a statement.

“He joined the civil service in 1983, advising and supporting governments through some of the most challenging episodes of the last 30 years. Jeremy was the exemplary public servant. We will miss him more than we can say, and will be the poorer without his advice, leadership and extraordinary insight,” he said.

Heywood “set the highest standards and challenged us to meet them,” Sedwill, who had been acting cabinet secretary after Heywood took a leave of absence in June until his retirement last month.

“Jeremy was always looking to move difficult problems forward, restlessly confident to deliver a better way. He was a champion of innovation and embraced change while consolidating and protecting the best of history. He promoted a diverse and inclusive civil service, fit to meet the digital, commercial and policy challenges of the future,” Sedwill added.

“Jeremy also considered it a privilege to lead the hundreds of thousands of civil servants up and down the country, and across the world, who work day after day to make people’s lives better. We offer our condolences and best wishes to Jeremy’s wife Suzanne, his three children, the rest of his family and their friends.”

May, who is the fourth prime minister Heywood advised, said the many retirement tributes paid to Jeremy from across the political spectrum in recent weeks demonstrated his extraordinary talent supporting and advising prime ministers and ministers, and leading the civil service with distinction.

“I will always be grateful for the support which he gave me personally and will remember his achievements across his career as we regret that he did not have the chance to offer his talents for longer in retirement,” she added. “Jeremy will be sorely missed and I send my deepest condolences to Suzanne and the children and to all his family and many friends.”

Suzanne Heywood said that her husband had “crammed a huge amount into his 56 years”.

In a statement, she said: “He loved his work as a civil servant and was hugely proud of his colleagues while always believing that they – and he – could and should do more, that there had to be a better way, a new way of looking at things or a fresh approach which would bring differing sides together. Those who worked with him found it a challenging, inspiring and rewarding experience.

“He saw it as a huge privilege to work so closely with four prime ministers and two chancellors and was unwavering in his efforts to help each of them reach their goals. He was always conscious of the need for civil servants to see the world through ministers’ eyes while at the same time respecting the boundaries between politicians and civil servants.”

She said there would be a small private funeral in the coming weeks and a memorial service open to all at a later date.

“A brilliant civil servant and dedicated to our country”

Among the others to offer tributes to Heywood were former prime ministers David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, all of whom Heywood worked with at Number 10 as either cabinet secretary, permanent secretary at Number 10 or principal private secretary.

Cameron said it was “desperately sad news”

He added: “He was an amazing man, brilliant civil servant and dedicated to our country.  It was a privilege to work with him. All our thoughts and love are with Suzanne and the children.”

Brown said that the country had lost a leader of exceptional ability, unquestioned integrity and remarkable courage

“Jeremy Heywood was a unique civil servant who may not always have agreed with ministers’ proposals but always offered a positive and often better alternative. He will be sorely missed for the remarkable contribution he has made to Britain,” he said, while Blair said Heywood had been “a quite outstanding public servant and someone I came to have enormous respect for both as a professional and as a person”. He said Heywood had been “dedicated, smart, and with a rare small ‘p’ political skill which made him such a formidable Whitehall operator.”

Heywood’s predecessor Sir Gus O’Donnell said Heywood was “a great, dedicated civil servant who worked tirelessly for his country, his political masters and his colleagues”.

Gus O’Donnell@Gus_ODonnell

So sad to hear of the death of Jeremy Heywood, my successor. He was a great, dedicated civil servant who worked tirelessly for his country, his political masters and his colleagues. My thoughts are with his family who have supported him so well.

Among the colleagues to offer tributes was Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs perm sec Clare Moriarty, who called him a “civil servant and public servant extraordinaire”.

Clare Moriarty@ClareMoriarty

RIP Sir Jeremy Heywood, civil servant and public servant extraordinaire. As @HeadUKCivServ he held the civil service through exceptionally challenging times and set a path that it will be our honour and privilege to follow. We will miss him greatly @UKCivilService @DefraGovUK

“He held the civil service through exceptionally challenging times and set a path that it will be our honour and privilege to follow. We will miss him greatly,” she tweeted.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government perm sec Melanie Dawes said Heywood’s contribution was immense. “His leadership and friendship were a privilege and we will continue to follow his example.”

Melanie Dawes

@dawes_melanie

Jeremy Heywood’s contribution was immense. Relentlessly high standards, always kind to the individual. His leadership and friendship were a privilege and we will continue to follow his example @UKCivilService. My thoughts with his family on this sad day.

Department for International Trade perm sec Antonia Romeo said it was “an incredibly sad day”, calling him a mentor, inspiration, and friend. “I’m proud to have served on his permanent secretary team. We will miss him hugely,” she added.

Antonia Romeo

@AntoniaRomeoUK

Incredibly sad day. RIP Sir Jeremy Heywood. Mentor, boss, inspiration, unparalleled public servant, leader & champion of @UKCivilService, friend. Proud to have served on his Permanent Secretary team. We will miss him hugely.

Home Office perm sec Sir Philip Rutnam said Heywood was “the outstanding public servant of his generation, and a very humane and kind man”.

He added: “We have lost a great leader of UK civil service but the greatest loss of all is to his family.”

Philip Rutnam

@PhilipRutnam

Jeremy Heywood was the outstanding public servant of his generation, and a very humane and kind man. We have lost a great leader of @UKCivilService but the greatest loss of all is to his family.

Scottish Government perm sec Leslie Evans said Heywood was “a source of wisdom and support” she would miss greatly.

Leslie Evans

@PermSecScot

My thoughts are with the family of Sir Jeremy Heywood on hearing this sad news today. Jeremy was a valued colleague & a source of wisdom & support, I shall miss him greatly @HeadUKCivServ @UKCivilService @scotgov

View image on Twitter

Stewart Wood@StewartWood

Jeremy Heywood, an hour before Gordon Brown left no.10 for the final time in May 2010: on the phone, orchestrating the transition on which our constitution depends, while we were saying goodbye. Among the many privileges of working for a PM, few were greater than working with him

Stewart Wood, a No 10 special advisor under Gordon Brown

Ed Llewellyn

@EdLlewellynFCO

Jeremy Heywood was an inspiration. We worked so closely together during my 6 years in No 10; he always had time, always focused on solutions. All my thoughts with Suzanne and their children. Farewell my colleague and my friend – our country owes you more than it will ever know.

Jeremy Corbyn

@jeremycorbyn

Jeremy Heywood was an impressive and dedicated public servant. My thoughts are with his family, loved ones and colleagues at this sad time.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Philip Hammond

@PhilipHammondUK

Deeply saddened by the news of Jeremy Heywood’s death. He was a superb public servant and his wise advice and sound guidance will be greatly missed.
My deepest condolences to Suzanne and their children.

Chancellor Philip Hammond

Rupert McNeil

@CivilServiceCPO

I was very sad to hear this. A loyal and inspirational civil servant who will be missed so very much. My thoughts are with his family and friends. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46089019 

Breaking News image

Ex-civil service chief Sir Jeremy Heywood dies

Sir Jeremy Heywood, former cabinet secretary and civil service head, dies of cancer aged 56

bbc.co.uk

Private Tenants in Arrears with universal credit


Nearly two-thirds of PRS tenants claiming Universal Credit in arrears #ukhousing
The Resident Landlords Association (RLA) found that one in every six landlords (61%) with tenants claiming Universal Credit have experienced them going into arrears at some point.
In 2016, the proportion of landlords experiencing arrears from Universal Credit claimants was 27%.
Furthermore, the average owed by tenants in rent arrears grew by 49% over the past year, with the figure standing at £2,400.
The RLA also found regular delays affecting the alternative payment arrangement (APA) system, with landlords applying to have housing benefit paid directly to them waiting an average of two months for these payments to be organised.
The body, which represents private landlords, has called on the government to allow tenants to choose to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord.
David Smith, policy director at RLA, said: “Our research shows clearly that further changes are urgently needed to Universal Credit.
“We welcome the constructive engagement we have had with the government over these issues but more work is needed to give landlords the confidence they need to rent to those on Universal Credit.
“The impact of the announcements from the Autumn Budget last year remain to be seen. However, we feel a major start would be to give tenants the right to choose to have payments paid directly to their landlord. This would empower tenants to decide what is best for them rather than being told by the government.”

Theresa May Cancels Council Borrowing Caps


Theresa May has freed local councils to spark a house building revival by finally lifting the strict cap on their borrowing to fund new developments.
Town halls and housing experts have fought for the freedom for years – to weaken the grip of big private developer – but the Treasury has resisted.
In her conference speech, the prime minister insisted her government was helping councils build more homes, but she admitted: “Something is still holding many of them back.”

Theresa May declares ‘austerity is over’ after eight years of cuts
“Solving the housing crisis is the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation,” she told the audience. “It doesn’t make sense to stop councils from playing their part in solving it.
“So, today, I can announce that we are scrapping that cap. We will help you get on the housing ladder – and we will build the homes this country needs.”

L

First Same-Sex Royal Family Marriage


lord-Ivar-MountbattenLord Ivar Mountbatten, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, married James Coyle on Saturday.

It’s the first ever same-sex marriage in the extended royal family — and I think it’s safe to say we’re way more excited about it than Mountbatten’s dog, Rosie.

The wedding took place in a private chapel at his family home in Bridwell Park, Devon, according to Pink News. There were just 60 guests, including Ivar’s three daughters — all of whom were urged to donate to Regain, a charity set up to support tetraplegics to live full, normal lives.

No members of the royal family were present, but the Independent reports that there were numerous messages of congratulations, including from Prince Edward , the Queen’s youngest son.

Mountbatten, 55, was given away by his ex-wife Penelope Thompson. They divorced in 2011, but remain very close — and Mountbatten has admitted previously that his bisexuality was a persistent issue in 17 years of marriage.

“I am a lot happier now, though I am still not 100% comfortable with being gay,” he said in 2016.

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In 2016 Prince William made history by appearing on the cover of Attitude  magazine

“Being a Mountbatten was never the problem, it was the generation into which I was born. When I was growing up, it was known as ‘the love that dare not speak its name’, but what’s amazing now is how far we have all come in terms of acceptance.”

“I have struggled with my sexuality and in some ways I still do; it has been a real journey to reach this point,” he added. “Simply talking about it in public is a huge step for me. Up to this point, I have had a heterosexual lifestyle, so living with a man is really new. One step at a time.”

While Mountbatten is not in line to reach the throne, he is a part of the Queen’s extended family. Pink News reports that a same-sex marriage from within the direct royal lineage might encounter more issues, as “centuries-old protocols that govern royal life do not generally provide for same-sex spouses.”

And around the world, LGBTQ communities often find themselves unprotected and, often, systematically discriminated against. It’s illegal to be gay in 72 countries — and punishable by death in eight, according to the Guardian.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in the UK since March 13, 2014, and on July 3, 2018, the British government approved a 75-point action plan that included a ban on so-called “gay conversion therapy.”

The plan was announced with the results of the largest national survey of LGBTQ people in the world, revealing that 40% had experienced hate crime, while nearly two-thirds feared holding hands in public.

Although Mountbatten has faced his own struggles in realizing his sexuality, he has previously said that coming out has helped reach a “place I’m happy to be” — and his marriage to Coyle is the final step.

“I suppose if we had met ten years ago a civil partnership would have been nice, but now that marriage between a man and a man is legal it seems the right thing to do,” Mountbatten told the Mail Online. “I have had the whole marriage thing — and been very happy — but James hasn’t. So I see it as a validation of my love for him.”

Related LGBT News More: The UK Will Finally Ban So-Called ‘Gay Conversion’ Therapy

 

CPAG Update: National Audit Office Report on Universal Credit


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The government’s flagship benefits system has been too slow to roll out, causes hardship, and is not delivering value for money, the National Audit Office has warned.

The National Audit Office said the £1.9bn Universal Credit system could end up costing more to administer than the benefits system it is replacing.

Some claimants waited eight months for payment amid the switch to UC, which rolls six benefits into one, it adds.

The government said UC would bring a £34bn return over 10 years.

It said more people would get into work – and stay there longer – and that it had taken a “listen and learn” approach to the introduction of the programme. The move to UC has long been criticised for its delayed and flawed implementation, with about 25% (113,000) of new claims in 2017 being paid late.

Child poverty is rising in the UK. This is because of, among other things, the high cost of living, inadequate wages and an insufficient social security system. You may be facing one or more of these challenges, as many families are.

For several years, the government has been overhauling social security. The biggest change to the system has been the introduction of universal credit – which will replace six benefits and tax credits when it’s fully rolled out. You may have seen that today the National Audit Office has released a damning report about universal credit, finding that the Department for Work and Pensions hasn’t listened to the hardship faced by claimants, it can’t demonstrate the effect of universal credit on employment, and universal credit may not save the government any money. The head of the NAO questioned the commitment of the DWP to listening and responding to the evident hardship faced by people claiming universal credit, which includes a rapid increase in use of foodbanks.
Read the report
We fed into the NAO’s research, using evidence from our Early Warning System. This collects cases about how families are affected by universal credit so that we can provide evidence to the government and push for improvements. If you’d like to know more about what we’re finding out, you can sign up to hear about our Early Warning System:
Sign up here

“Cathy Come Home” to Rushden!


 

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The Full Gospel Church in Rushden held a marvelous screening of Ken Loach’s film Cathy Come Home on the 13th June 2018  Ciceros.org has an exclusive interview with Mark Lees of Rushden’s local housing and community project ENCS

The film deals with the issue of homelessness and family fracture and disintegration caused by homelessness and although initially screened in 1966 as part of the BBC Wednesday Plays it caused for a legislative overhaul and examination of homelessness and housing provision which ultimately culminated in the form of greater legislation by virtue of the Homeless Persons Act 1977. Sadly years later and even with Bob Blackwood MPs Homeless Reduction Bill things are still rather bleak as the requirement for cheaper affordable homes and more housing in various areas of the country are causing a surge in rough sleeping and organizations like Shelter and Crisis who had just formed when the film was made are still calling for the building of 500,000 more homes a year for people facing or who are considered homeless.

 

 

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The event was attended by about 60 people who had come along to show support for the work that the local churches of the East Northants Faith Group, the Gospel Church being one of the churches involved in Northamptonshire in helping homeless people by means the “Night Shelter” run by staff and volunteers by the local charity ENCS (East Northants Community Service).

Mark Lees who is the local pastor and the chair of the ENCS and who organized the event also organized a lovely meal that was cooked by a local refugee family he has been working with. The night was attended by those homeless who are in the night shelter, Mark-Lees1volunteers of the shelter, local congregation and those interested in how the local parish of Rushden is making practical and pragmatic strives in combating the homelessness and housing problems in the Northamptonshire area.

In an exclusive interview with Ciceros.org; Mark Lees, when asked about what the screening of the film hoped to highlight said: “With the passage of time, homelessness is still a major issue today than it was when it was first highlighted through this film”. He added, “If ever a film needed a modern remake this would be one to show in graphic detail the plight of homelessness today and not in the polite English of the BBC of the 1960s”.

“With the passage of time, homelessness is still a major issue today than it was when it was first highlighted through this film”

Asked about what he would like to see local councils do more towards combatting homelessness and rough sleeping he said “Councils need to be more human in dealing with people” and commenting on the need to cut through bureaucratic legislation he said “they need to realize they have the ability to  cut corners as each case demands and offer help where it’s needed most and where legislation is restrictive”. He said he would like to see the Government take more of an initiative in its allocation of spending on homelessness more directly to where it’s needed “not directing money as it does presently to national quangos that purport to help the homeless but to provide local councils with budgets to allocate to local homeless projects with no strings attached”

“Councils need to be more human in dealing with people they need to realize they have the ability to cut corners as each case demands and offer help where it’s needed most and where legislation is restrictive”.

 

Mark’s vision of the future for the local housing homelessness project the “Sanctuary” night shelter in Rushden he wants to see the project short-term goal  “to move the shelter to a larger more suitable provision with better day support services”, and added on the need for the local person to “become more aware of their rights to housing provision and have agencies educate people on their legal rights with regard to housing and security of tenure”

The “Sanctuary” Night Shelter which has accommodation for six males only, is one of the main points of signposting that the local district; town and borough councils (Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough, and East Northamptonshire) within the Northamptonshire County relies heavily on for emergency housing and uses porta cabin dwellings with facilities to wash and eat. The Full Gospel also and has a purpose built kitchen and dining area for its Cornerfield Café which is a community café offering cooked breakfast for those in the local community and also a food bank, the church also offers a job club and debt advice on a weekly basis to people in the community.

For more information please visit:  encs.org.uk

 

 

 

 

Yemen Crisis – The world’s worst famine disaster


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Escalation of fighting around Yemen’s port city of Hudaydah threatens to cut off essential supplies to millions of people who are already one step away from famine, international agency Oxfam warned today.

The fighting has already forced hundreds of families to flee their homes.

Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen said: “Yemen is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and is steadily slipping towards famine. If this vital route for supplying food, fuel, and medicine is blocked, the result will be more hunger, more people without health care and more families burying their loved ones.

“There has been far too much destruction, disease, and death. The international community needs to put pressure on warring parties to end the fighting and return to peace negotiations.”

Hudaydah is one of the country’s principal ports serving the essential needs of millions of people. Approximately 90 percent of Yemen’s food has to be imported and 70 percent comes through the port. About 90 percent of the country’s fuel also has to be imported, half of which comes through Hudaydah and the port of Al-Salif, Hudaydah is also crucial for the imports of medicine and other essentials.

Three years since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, 8.4 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and are one step away from famine. More than 22 million people, close to 75 percent of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance. Last year’s cholera outbreak was the world’s worst since records began, with over 1.1 million suspected cases and over 2,200 deaths.

The conflict has fueled an economic crisis, including hikes in the cost of basic food items and non-payment of public sector salaries, which is pushing millions of people to the edge.

Oxfam has been working in the area for the past 30 years, but recently have been working since 2015 during which Yemen has witnessed one of the worst famine situations ever   have the following report on the area

The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate with fuel shortages, rising food prices and a severe lack of basic services making daily survival a painful struggle for millions.

Before this latest escalation in the conflict, more than 10 million Yemenis were already going hungry every day. Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East and poverty and inequality were increasing.

Over four million people are malnourished, including nearly half a million children who are in a life-threatening condition.

Over 20 million people – 75 percent of the population – need some sort of humanitarian aid.

Over 14 million people are lacking adequate water and sanitation facilities.

More than 17 million people in Yemen cannot be sure of having enough to eat each day.

Almost three million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the bombing and fighting.

Oxfam works in eight governorates, trucking water and providing cash for people there to buy food and has helped over 2.8 million people since July 2015.

The organisation has provided clean water and sanitation services for more than one million people, including in hard-to-reach areas of the country, through providing water by truck, repairing water systems, delivering filters and jerry cans, as well as building latrines and organising cleaning campaigns.

Oxfam is managing to provide water to more than 126,000 people inside Taiz city, and supporting over 118,000 people in the governorate with water and sanitation services and cash.

Direct support for more than 430,000 people in response to the cholera outbreak. This includes safe water, treatment and disinfection of water wells, hygiene kits and public health promotion. In Abbs district, we are providing a Cholera Treatment Unit with 8,000 litres of water each day.

Cash or cash for work assistance to over 50,000 people.

Clean water and sanitation services to more than 500,000 people, including in hard-to-reach areas of the country, through providing water by truck, repairing water systems, d

Supporting more than 11,000 families with livestock treatment and supporting more than 35,000 people with cash for work.

21 NGOs have signed an open letter to the United Nations Security Council calling on its members to take action to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, end the humanitarian crisis and support the UN Special Envoy’s efforts towards an inclusive political solution to the conflict.

Background to Yemen

Tensions remain between the north and the south, however. A southern separatist movement was defeated in a short civil war in 1994, and tensions re-emerged in 2009 when government troops and rebels, known as the Houthi, clashed in the north, killing hundreds and displacing more than a quarter of a million people.

A fresh wave of protests in 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, forced then-President Ali Abdallah Saleh to resign.

Yemen has also become a base for militant groups, like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State, adding to instability in the country. The country spiraled into civil war in 2014 and, despite peace initiatives, fighting continues.

Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi came to power in 2012, after then-President Ali Abdallah Saleh stepped down in a bid to end civil unrest. He resigned in January 2015 and fled the country after Houthis took over the capital, Sanaa. He is still supported by Saudi Arabia and loyalist forces willing to fight the Houthi rebels. He has set up a temporary capital in the city of Aden.

Yemen is currently in a state of political limbo. The Houthis claim the parliament has been dissolved and replaced by a transitional revolutionary council, headed by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi. But the UN, US and Gulf Co-operation Council refuse to recognize the Houthis’ rule.

A spokesperson for Oxfam in Yemen, said: “People desperately need food and water, medicine and health services, they need aid that can reach them – ultimately they need the conflict to end so they can rebuild their lives. All those fuelling Yemen’s tragedy need to stop being arms brokers and start becoming peace brokers. “

 

Stuart Milk – Civil Rights Campaigner


Dd2uhixUwAAYohPStuart Milk (born December 26, 1960) is a global LGBT human rights activist and political speaker. The nephew of civil rights leader Harvey Milk, he is the co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation.

He has engaged in domestic and international activism, including work with LGBT movements in Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Stuart Milk has promoted his uncle’s story and addressed LGBT rights in formal major addresses on multiple continents, including before the United Kingdom House of Lords in 2012, the Italian Chamber of Deputies in 2011, the Panamanian National Assembly in 2010, and Turkish Grand Assembly in 2009. Milk is frequently quoted in international news and seen on broadcast television discussing issues of LGBT inclusion and diversity.Dd5Nn-lVAAIi_Tr

He is also a featured writer and columnist for The Huffington Post, focusing on global human rights. During the 2012 U.S. elections, Milk gave public endorsements as a surrogate for Barack Obama.

In addition to being the President of the Harvey Milk Foundation’s Board of Directors, Stuart also sits as a director on boards and advisory boards of numerous human rights, LGBT rights and youth advocacy organizations including the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), Equality California, International Conference on Disadvantaged Youth, the Coalition for Workforce Solutions, and the International Committee for Minority Justice and Equality.

Milk has been the recipient of international and national awards for his global civil rights work.

For more information and to donate to the Harvey Milk Foundation visit http://milkfoundation.org/

 

Harry and Meghan’s Royal Wedding 2018


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The first guests are arriving at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at noon today. It is expected that millions of people from around the world will watch te wedding as it is broadcast around the world. Among the guests are US television star Oprah Winfrey and actor Idris Elba. Today in Windsor Castle, thousands of excited fans gathered behind barriers. Police officers armed with semi-automatic rifles have been patrolling the streets and watching from rooftops.

Prince Henry of Wales, (better known as Prince Harry), the second son of Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales. He and Meghan Markle, an American actress have been in a relationship since June 2016.

The relationship was first acknowledged on 8 November 2016, when an official statement was released from the royal family’s communications secretary. On 27 November 2017, Clarence House announced that Prince Harry would marry Meghan Markle in the spring of 2018. They were engaged earlier the same month in London, with the Prince giving Markle a bespoke engagement ring made by Cleave and Company, consisting of a large central diamond from Botswana, with two smaller diamonds from his mother’s jewellery collection.

At the same time, it was announced that they would live at Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace following their marriage.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh expressed their delight at the news, while congratulations came in from various political leaders. After the announcement, the couple gave an exclusive interview to Mishal Husain of BBC News.

Markle will be the second American and she is the first person of mixed race heritage to marry into the British royal family. The engagement announcement prompted a lot of comment about the possible social significance of Meghan Markle becoming a proudly mixed-race royal.

The Queen consented to the marriage under the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which allows the monarch to approve or disapprove marriages of the first six persons in the line of succession. The Queen’s consent was declared to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom on 14 March 2018.

On 6 March 2018, she was baptized and confirmed into the Church of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at St. James’s Palace she had previously been a Roman Catholic.

Prince Harry made an impromptu walkabout on Friday outside the ancient walls of Windsor Castle on the eve of his wedding. Prince Harry, 33, told crowds in Windsor he was feeling “relaxed” and Ms Markle, 36, said she was feeling “wonderful”.

 

Professor Michael Sandel


Michael SandelMichael J. Sandel (born March 5, 1953) is an American political philosopher and a political philosophy professor at Harvard University. His course “Justice” is the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and on television.

It has been viewed by tens of millions of people around the world, including in China, where Sandel was named the “most influential foreign figure of the year” (China Newsweek).

He is also known for his critique of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice in his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982). He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.

Sandel was born in Minneapolis but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was thirteen. He was president of his senior class at Palisades High School (1971) and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s degree in politics (1975). He received his doctorate from Balliol College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, where he studied under philosopher Charles Taylor.

Philosophical views

Sandel subscribes to a certain version of communitarianism (although he is uncomfortable with the label), and in this vein, he is perhaps best known for his critique of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. Rawls’ argument depends on the assumption of the veil of ignorance, which he claims allows us to become “unencumbered selves”.

Sandel’s view is that we are by nature encumbered to an extent that makes it impossible even in the hypothetical to have such a veil. Some examples of such ties are those with our families, which we do not make by conscious choice but are born with, already attached. Because they are not consciously acquired, it is impossible to separate oneself from such ties. Sandel believes that only a less-restrictive, looser version of the veil of ignorance should be postulated. Criticism such as Sandel’s inspired Rawls to subsequently argue that his theory of justice was not a “metaphysical” theory but a “political” one, a basis on which an overriding consensus could be formed among individuals and groups with many different moral and political views.

Sandel has taught the famous “Justice” course at Harvard for two decades. More than 15,000 students have taken the course, making it one of the most highly attended in Harvard’s history. The fall 2007 class was the largest ever at Harvard, with a total of 1,115 students. The fall 2005 course was recorded and is offered online. An abridged form of this recording is now a 12-episode TV series, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?

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