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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

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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.

att272_cover_150

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

 

“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

 

 

 

 

Harry and Meghan’s Royal Wedding 2018


harry

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?

Earth Day 2018


What is Earth Day, and what is it meant to accomplish?
A message from Earth Day’s president, Kathleen Rogers

“Close to 48 years ago, on 22 April 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the US and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly. In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

One billion people
Earth Day is now a global event each year, and we believe that more than 1 billion people in 192 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

It is a day of political action and civic participation. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders, including Pope Francis, connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on.

Earth Day Network, the organization that leads Earth Day worldwide, today announced that Earth Day 2018 will focus on mobilizing the world to End Plastic Pollution, including creating support for a global effort to eliminate single-use plastics along with global regulation for the disposal of plastics. EDN will educate millions of people about the health and other risks associated with the use and disposal of plastics, including pollution of our oceans, water, and wildlife, and about the growing body of evidence that decomposing plastics are creating serious global problems.

From poisoning and injuring marine life to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food to disrupting human hormones and causing major life-threatening diseases and early puberty, the exponential growth of plastics is threatening our planet’s survival. EDN has built a multi-year campaign to End Plastic Pollution. Our goals include ending single-use plastics, promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, promoting 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability and changing human behavior concerning plastics.

EDN’s End Plastic Pollution campaign includes four major components:

Leading a grassroots movement to support the adoption of a global framework to regulate plastic pollution;
Educating, mobilizing and activating citizens across the globe to demand that governments and corporations control and clean up plastic pollution;
Educating people worldwide to take personal responsibility for plastic pollution by choosing to reject, reduce, reuse and recycle plastics, and promoting local government regulatory and other efforts to tackle plastic pollution.

Earth Day Network will leverage the platform of Earth Day and the growing interest in the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day in 2020 as a catalyst for global action.

Spanish Terror attack victims rises to 16


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Debbie Abrahams re-examines Pensions in Corby


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

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

As Debbie Abrahams wrote recently

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BRITAIN-POLITICS-LONDON-MAYOR

 

London Bridge and Borough Market Incident


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

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

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

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

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

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

Several witnesses have also reported hearing gunshots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Westminster Terror Attack – Four dead including the Knife Attacker


As

 

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.
Response

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.

 

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.

Questions

  • 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”.

Timeline

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.

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)

The Usual Suspects – UK Leadership


CmJFZTzWQAI1fF_It seems the outcome of the European Referendum has caused political mayhem for both party’s , Labour and Conservative, in the likely event of leadership contests.

The likely candidates for the conservative leadership being Michael Gove v Boris Johnson; and today political shenanigans appear to have started in both parties as its discovered that an email from Sarah Vine (Michael Gove’s wife) expressed concerns over a Boris Johnson winning candidature as Conservative Leader. Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn is fighting his own corner in expressing the public support he has from the electorate in challenging the vote of a no-confidence in a Parliamentary Labour Party vote today which he lost.

It’s obviously not been a good week for Jeremy Corbyn; mass resigning of his cabinet over the sacking of Hilary Benn, many of opposed the leadership anyway; and a disastrous public new shadow cabinet press conference where suddenly after asking the cameras be switched off a ‘game of musical chairs’ took place without Tom Watson appearing near Mr Corbyn (Watson is believed to have rallied opposition to Jeremy Corbyn from safe distance of Glastonbury during this weekends Glastonbury Festival).

Mr Corbyn has held a public address today   outside the School of African and Oriental Studies. A Public Rally had been set to have been held outside Bloomsbury in London but was cancelled earlier today by Momentum because of “overwhelming demand’.

Mr Corbyn mainly had applause for standing his position as leader but there was some levels of heckling from some in the crowd assembled.

Manchester Tram Hate Crime Incident


 

Youths use racist abuse towards a passenger who asks them to stop swearing during a busy morning Manchester tram journey. 

This is the moment when three youths hurled racist abuse towards a passenger who asked that they refrain from swearing on a tram travelling between Shudehill and Market Street in Central Manchester at 07.40am this morning. It was captured on film and immediately uploaded to social media sites (including twitter) in order for people to witness the behaviour of these individuals.

In the video the youths target a particular man who asked them to refrain from using the offensive language during the ride and as can be seen in the video their abusive behaviour was upsetting passengers. Many of the passengers who later took to social media said that the incident was distressing and the youths aggressive behaviour frightening to everyone on the tram ride. The youths are seen taunting passenger and in particular the passenger of unknown descent to get off the train and the youths threatened to ‘batter’ passengers who left the train.  The passenger who challenged them is also heard on the video asking there age “how old are you 18 or 19? I have been here [in the UK] longer than you. You are extremely  ignorant and unintelligent”.

Greater Manchester Police have now confirmed that all three of the youths in the video have been arrested over their racist comments and will charged with hate crime.

London Gay Pride : “Will You Marry Me?”


Record number of people attended todays London Gay Pride and it is was estimated it would attract over a million people attending especially following the tragic mass shooting that left 49 people dead and 53 people severely injured in PULSE the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The march also has also allowed both Gay and straight Muslims a chance to march and show their solidarity following the shooting by an Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.

Obviously there was heightened security on all marched across the world where Pride is being held this year and  dozens of cities are donning the colours of the rainbow this weekend. Today’s marches and celebrations were in  London;  and New York and Chicago. But they will be being held in world wide over the 2016 summertime.

A number of photos have hit social media including heart-warming  photographs showing the moment a couple of police officers became engaged at London Pride and posted by the Metropolitan Police LGBT network.  In both photographs both proposals were accepted.

One of the pictures tweeted by the Met’s LGBT network, shows a photo of a uniformed officer proposing to his boyfriend in the audience. The total number of Met Officers who took part in todays London Pride and joining the march was around 80, and the march also included other UK Police forces, the London Ambulance Service and London Fire Brigade in the carnival procession.

The LGBT Metropolitan Police Network aims to create a more knowledgeable workforce that can respond to crimes and issues affecting the LGBT community sensitively and began through a conversation over coffee in Berlin at the European Gay Police Association conference in 2014.

The following was tweeted on their Twitter page.

ICYMI: Amazing to see all the love for the newly engaged couple flooding our notifications!https://t.co/IUSjjIzGJo

                               — Pride in London (@LondonLGBTPride) June 25, 2016

He said yes too @LondonLGBTPride @MetLGBTNetwork @LGBTpoliceuk#ByYouSide #OrlandoShooting

— MET LGBT Network (@MetLGBTNetwork) June 25, 2016

Also attending the Pride Carnival March and Rally in London were over 300 charities, businesses and organisations who marched through the West End. The whole of the area has been transformed into a sea of bright colours in honour of the LGBT community and London Mayor Mayor Sadiq Khan recently stressed it was ‘more important than ever’  to support the LGBT community in the festival following the Orlando mass shooting.

pride_police_1_fin (1)

 

pride_police_2_fin.jpg

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                   (Picture Sources: London Evening Standard & Met LGBT Network )

Bamba Sentenced for War Crimes


Jean-Pierre Bemba the ex-rebel leader of DR Congo Army has received a jail sentence of 18 years following a landmark conviction at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for his activity in war crimes and including sexual violence. He had been convicted earlier in March for crimes committed in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002-2003 and also for failing to stop his rebel troops from carrying out crimes of rape and killing in that area. His Lawyers are planning to launch an appeal on his behalf against his conviction.

Judges announced sentences of between 16 and 18 years with the jail terms running concurrently over five counts of rape,  murder and pillaging. Jean-Pierre Bemba has already spent 8 years in custody and this will be deducted from the sentence handed out to him. 

It is a landmark ruling as it’s thought to be one of the first times the ICC had focused on rape as a weapon of war, and the first time a suspect had been convicted for crimes committed by others under his command.

Judge Sylvia Steiner passing her sentence at the Haugue said Bemba had failed to exercise control over his private militia sent into Central African Republic (CAR) where she described their actions in raping and pillaging as sadistic and cruel.

Two key issues remain however where Bemba will serve his sentence and what compensation compensation will be awarded to his victims.

Bemba was “extremely disappointed” with the sentence, his lawyer, Kate Gibson, told AFP news agency.

“Today’s sentence is by no means the end of the road for Mr Bemba, it merely signals that we are now moving to the next phase of the process which is the appeal,” she said.

In 2002 Bemba had sent more than 1,000 fighters to the CAR to help then president Ange Felix Patasse put down an attempted coup.

The court heard that his troops committed acts of extreme violence against civilians – crimes which the judge said Bemba was made aware of but did nothing to stop.

He had led the MLC (Congolese Liberation Movement) rebel group during DR Congo’s brutal civil war and after a 2003 peace deal he laid down his arms and joined an interim government.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the sentence offered “a measure of justice” for the victims.

Time Line of Jean-Pierre Bamba

  •  2006: Loses run-off election to President Joseph Kabila but gets most votes in western DR Congo, including Kinshasa
  • 2007: Flees to Belgium after clashes in Kinshasa
  • 2008: Arrested in Brussels and handed over to ICC
  • 2010: Trial begins
  • 2016: Found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity

Ireland to Accept Same Sex Marriage


150521202001-orig-ireland-same-sex-marriage-referendum-00000302-large-169 During a historic vote taking place it seems that the Republic of Ireland will now legalise Same Sex Marriage, with leaders from both sides of the campaign stating that early polls indicate a swing to the Yes campaign to enshrine same sex marriages into it’s constitution, in the world’s first national vote on the issue,

Politicians, activists and the Irish voters are now questioning not if it the vote will be for acceptance but by how large the vote actually was for a Yes to Equality vote..

Senior figures from the “no” campaign, who sought to prevent Ireland’s constitution from being amended to permit same-sex marriages, say the only question is how large the “yes” side’s margin of victory will be from Friday’s vote.safe_image.php

“We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world of liberty and equality. So it’s a very proud day to be Irish,” a  Cabinet minister who himself came out as gay man when The Irish Government led efforts to amend Ireland’s conservative Catholic constitution.

“There is going to be a very substantial majority for a yes vote. I’m not at all surprised by that to be honest with you,” Ronan Mullen, and Irish Senator, who rejected a change to same sex marriage entering the constitution..

.Analysts are even seeing that  “yes” majorities of voting are being reported in conservative rural districts,  suggesting  only question was how large the “yes” majority will be when the voting ends once the 4.6 million votes are counted in Ireland, which of course in the republic is predominantly Catholic.

According to sources at a Dublin ballot centre, said the Irish capital looks to have voted around 70 percent in favour of gay marriage, while most districts outside the capital also were reporting strong “yes” leads without any district reporting a “no” majority. Official results come later Saturdayireland-same-sex-marriage-referendum The “YES” campaigning has been mobilising it’s support through a creative, compelling campaign on social media sites to get young voters, tens of thousands of whom voted for the first time Friday. They also said a “no” victory was always unlikely given that all political parties and politicians are in favour of equality on same sex marriage  just five years after it’s approved civil partnerships for gay couples.

Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, whose party though traditionally Catholic in it’s membership and views campaigned for legalising gay marriage, said it “looks like an emphatic win for the yes side.” Voters in his native Cork were being recorded by observers as more than 60 percent yes.

Former MI6 chief calls for defence against Russia


Sawers One of Britain’s most senior officers in the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) told the BBC that Britain should be prepared to spend more on its defence budget to protect itself from the increasing threat of Russia’s aggressive position in support for the Pro-Russian rebel separatists in the Ukraine and it’s annexing of Crimea in the light of condemnation from authorities in Kiev; the  West, and even Russian citizens who are accusing Moscow of sending troops to support the Pro-Russian rebels in the Ukraine, although the Russian Government has always denied these reports.

NATO has also been concerned and criticised any possibility of Russia engaging it’s forces or funding the situation in Ukraine.

John Sawers, who left the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in November, added that greater dialogue should take place with Russia over it’s current stance, he said that Britain should have to have the capability to deal with the hybrid warfare that Russia is currently demonstrating in Crimea and in Donbas region of Ukraine after Pro-Russian rebels have seized territory in eastern Ukraine;  he also stressed the need for dealing with a possible cyber-warfare arising out of the conflict.

Mr Sawers said “We’re going to have to spend more on our defence and our security because the threats are greater” ; he added that “Russia keeps reminding the West about it’s nuclear weapons, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy because it isn’t.”

Last week as British forces had to scramble Typhoon fighter jets after reports of two Russian long-range Bear bombers were seen flying off the south coast of England, after a previous incident of Russian Jets seen flying in British airspace in recent  months.

The Defence Secretary,  Michael Fallon said that  President Putin could also pose a “real and present danger” to other eastern such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and NATO was ready to repel any aggression may pose against these countries.

Sky News

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