Green Party hold new MEP’s former council seat in Stroud by-election

Molly with Martin

New Cllr Martin Baxendale with MEP Molly Scott-Cato

The Green Party have held onto the Valley Ward seat on Stroud District Council which was formerly held by their new MEP Molly Scott-Cato.

Earlier today they announced the results on their facebook page:

Valley Ward

In May the Green Party secured 166,447 votes in the South West region (11.10% of the vote) which saw Molly Scott-Cato elected as the first ever Green MEP in the South West. This in turn sparked the by-election that was held last Thursday.

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Israel/Gaza, Leo McKinstry and his lunatic extremist violent ideology

There is nothing special about the Daily Express’ Leo McKinstry. He is one of many journalists who will go to any length to defend Israel’s actions, however brutal, disproportionate or unjustified they may be. In his latest Daily Express column, a little unpicking highlights the extremist ideology that sits behind his words that allows for such unwavering support of a massacre of innocent Palestinians.

express
This is not the first time Hynd’s Blog has taken issue with Leo McKinstry’s writing. Back in 2012 my friend and social commentator Eugene Grant wittily quipped that if there was a fit for work test for journalists, McKinstry would surely fail it for his coverage of the debate around benefit claimants.

Fast forward two years and I have once again had the misfortune of stumbling across one of his deeply misleading diatribes. This time the case in point is the Gaza/Israel conflict – a subject that lends itself all too easily to hyperbole, hatred and crass generalisations.

Within a few paragraphs McKinstry throws out a paragraph that, although must be saluted for its invariably inventive alliteration, must also be picked apart:

“In practice denouncing the Jewish state means siding with the malevolent, murderous forces of jihadism, a stance that not only represents a complete inversion of morality but a ­suicidal disdain for the interests of western civilisation.”

Three words in and we have a problem…’denouncing’. No mainstream politician in the UK has denounced Israel. In fact the opposite, politicians have gone out of their way, even when criticising Israel’s actions, to reiterate that they are ‘friends of Israel’ – whatever that actually means.

But, even if you do ‘denounce Israel’, as some people (but not the politicians McKinstry is referring to) do, then how this then leads people to inevitably ‘siding with the malevolent, murderous forces of jihadism’ is a mystery that remains sadly locked in the inner depths of the editorial room of the Daily Express.

The vast majority of human rights organisations that are then invariably are used and quoted by the politicians McKinstry is so desperate to attack, go to great lengths to highlight human rights violations by both the Israeli actors and Palestinian ones.

Criticising one side’s human rights abuses does not act to excuse the others. This complex moral concept is, I will admit, a difficult one to grasp when smashing your fingers in fury at your keyboard.

But all this is just the tip of iceberg. Next, McKinstry offers us a journalistic lesson in the importance of context stating:

“The present conflict was started by Hamas firing rockets at Israeli civilians and since the beginning of July more than 2,800 of these ­missiles have been launched.”

That’s right, he actually says that this ‘conflict was started by’. In true playground philosophising McKinstry throws out the perpetual eight year old’s defence of ‘he started it’. Some might consider the origins of this modern conflict to stem from deep rooted differences, understandings of history, claims of land, hurt and loss through generations of war dead….but nope, McKinstry assures us it was ‘started by’ Hamas firing rockets.

Now might be a good time to remember that Hamas only officially came into existence in the late 1980’s, some 20 years after the start of the military occupation of Gaza that still, technically, exists today.

This is not to say that Hamas is not partially to blame for the present conflict, far from it. All that is being addressed here is this bonkers assertion that Hamas could solely be blamed for ‘starting the conflict’ like McKinstry suggests.

Britain would not tolerate an ­aerial assault without striking back so why should Israel?

Putting aside my own pacifist leanings for one second to glance over at what most mainstream politicians and commentators are saying…we can see that most people are not saying that Israel can’t or shouldn’t defend itself, only that it should do this in line with International Humanitarian Law. This in short says things like, try not to kill civilians, don’t bomb schools and mosques etc. Not big asks, but apparently too big for the Israeli Defence Force to comply with as the list of alleged war crimes now runs longer than one McKinstry’s titillating tabloid tirades.

But, Israel’s actions are justified by the morally bankrupt McKinstry as he implies that if Israel didn’t kill civilians, keep an entire population under a harsh military occupation and repeatedly commit war crimes then a global Islamic jihad would come and impact us all…

Instead of traducing Israel western politicians and the media should face up to the terrifying global threat of fundamentalist Islam, of which Hamas is a key part. We see that threat all over the world from the turmoil in Libya to the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria, from the stoning of women in Afghanistan to the savage persecution of Christians in Iraq.

Some really concerning issues he raises, but once again, in McKinstry’s eyes we only have 2 choices to address these issues:

  • traducing Israel western politicians or
  • facing up to the terrifying global threat of fundamentalist Islam

Remember, there is no either or here. It is one or the other. You choose.

And once again, let’s not get bogged down in the specific geo-political circumstances that might have given rise to very different factions of radical Islam that now manifest themselves in violence in different parts of world…why would we want to do that…let’s instead use a term that I honestly don’t think McKinstry knows the meaning of ‘Jihad’ and suggest they are all the same.

Of course, there is an irony here. These violent forms of radical Islam are, at least in part, a reaction of blinkered extremists and reactionaries who are unable to deal with the multicultural societies the modern era has ushered in. It doesn’t take much to spot that this description fits comfortably with someone else this blog post addresses…

But that’s unfair I hear you cry, many Islamists are violent in their small minded idiocy. Well, stick with me, we haven’t got to McKinstry’s finale yet…

In a comically dire reinforcement of his extremist ideology used throughout his article that justifies any action, however brutal, by Israel, McKinstry goes onto say:

“Only by defeating terrorists can peace be achieved.”

Violence you see dear reader, is the only solution to violence. We must go to war to prevent war.

The logic of a lunatic fanatic that looks to justify Israel’s action no matter how horrific they are.

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Video: Highlights from Scottish Independence TV debate

With just weeks left until Scotland votes on independence, the leaders of the opposing campaigns took to our TV screens last night to debate the pros and cons of independence.

Here are the highlights from the debate:

After watching the highlights I would be interested in your views. If you had a vote, how would you use it? Do you think we are ‘Better Together’ or that Scotland should vote ‘Yes to Independence’?

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Breaking: British Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Officer resigns over government policy on Gaza

warsi
Baroness Warsi the [former] Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government has resigned over her government’s policy regarding Gaza.

Baroness Warsi was appointed Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government in September 2012. She was previously Chairman of the Conservative Party and Minister without Portfolio.

Although a relatively minor figure to resign from the cabinet, this will further highlight the diametric opposite positions of the government and the official opposition on the Israel/Gaza conflict. Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, has been vocal in his attacks on the Prime Minister highlighting his ‘inexplicable silence‘.

For more follow The Guardian’s live coverage.

UPDATE:

Seconds after publishing this, top Labour figures have started tweeting their support for Warsi and pushing the ‘inexplicable silence’ line…

UPDATE 2:

Here is a copy of Warsi’s resignation letter:

Warsi letter

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7 points on International Humanitarian Law and the Gaza/Israel conflict

ICRC logo
Before reading these 7 points on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) please remember that IHL is not ‘best practice’ in a war zone, nor a reflection of my aspirations. It is merely a set of legal minimum standards that warring parties must abide by, nothing more, nothing less. 

1. Hamas’ rockets attacks are often, by their very nature, violations of IHL.

The rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups such as the military wing of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad are often Russian-designed “Grad” rockets. These are widely considered to be so inaccurate that they are incapable of being targeted enough to distinguish between military and civilians. Combine this with the fact that they often launched toward highly populated areas means that they are often, by their very nature, violations of IHL.

2. Neither Israel nor Hamas are prohibited by IHL in fighting in Gaza but the density of the civilian population and infrastructure does impose extra responsibilities on them.

IHL demands that all parties in the conflict “take all feasible precautions” of loss of civilian life and damage to civilian objects (houses, hospitals, mosques etc – I will come onto this more later). Fighting in such an area undeniably makes it harder for the warring factions to distinguish between civilian and military targets but it does nothing to reduce the obligation of the parties to make these checks. Where there is doubt, the assumption has to be that it is civilian and thus protected.

In the Gaza/Israel example, Hamas has a responsibility to ensure that it avoids locating potential military targets in close vicinity to civilians. It also prohibits the use of human shields – something which has been seen in previous conflicts but so far there has been no confirmed evidence that this has happened in the latest fighting.

However, even if Hamas is keeping weapons within civilian areas or buildings, this does not remove any of the obligations imposed on Israel under IHL to take into account the risk to civilians when seeking out these otherwise legitimate military targets.

3. Although Israel normally sends warnings while Hamas doesn’t, this doesn’t impact on their responsibilities to civilian populations.

Israel has widely publicised in this latest round of fighting that it sends ‘knock on the roof’ explosions as warnings that larger attacks are soon to be happening while Hamas rarely if ever sends warning of rocket fire.

IHL requires that warring parties give “effective advance warning” of attacks that may effect civilian populations. Because of the density of the civilian population in Gaza this means in practice that virtually all attacks should have such warnings. The idea is that the warnings would allow for civilians populations to leave the area.

However, if the civilian population refuses to leave, they are still protected persons under IHL. In short, even after delivering an effective warning, Israel must still take all measures to ensure civilian life is protected.

4. It is not just people who are protected but also civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and yes, even the homes of Hamas officials.

Israel has openly stated that in this latest round of fighting they have targeted the homes of Hamas officials. While IHL allows for the targeting of military leaders who are ‘in action’ it does not allow for the targeting of leaders at any time. Attacking the home of a Hamas official who was not present at the time would be an unlawful attack on a civilian object that if carried out intentionally would constitute a war crime.

Something similar applies for schools or religious buildings such as Mosques. However, if any of the above are being used for military purposes, such as a military headquarters or an arms store, then they become legitimate military targets.

The exception to this simple ‘it’s civilian unless you show it is being used for a military purpose’ rule are medical facilities that hold a special place status under IHL.

Like all the above they are considered civilian targets unless they are used for a military purpose. However, Israel then has a further obligation of showing that they were being used to cause them actual harm before they can become a legitimate target.

5. Collective punishment is a war crime

Undertaking actions that aim to punish a population as a whole for things that they have not personally done is a war crime.

6. Why the is no Israeli or Palestinian being dragged to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for these violations of IHL?

The ICC has a mandate to investigate, charge, and try people suspected of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed after July 1, 2002.

Quite a few Israelis and Palestinians fit this description. However, the court can only exercise jurisdiction over these crimes if: The crimes occurred in the territory of a state that is a party to the ICC treaty; The person accused of the crimes is a citizen of a state that is a party to the ICC treaty; A country that is not a state to the ICC treaty accepts the court’s authority for the crimes in question by submitting a formal declaration to the court; or The UN Security Council refers the situation to the ICC prosecutor.

At the time of writing neither Israel nor Palestine are a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the ICC. Israel has signed the statute but not ratified it. Palestine submitted a declaration in 2009 to accept the courts mandate but this was rejected at the time over the ambiguous nature of whether or not it was/is a state. Since then, Palestine has been voted in to the UN has a non-voting member state (confirming in the eyes of the international community that it is a state). However, since that has happened Palestine has not sought the court’s jurisdiction or signed and ratified the Rome Statute.

Thus, in short, the court’s jurisdiction does not cover Israel/Gaza.

7. There are lots of people and organisations who have written, researched and published on this issue that are a lot better sources than me. 

And I suggest you read them. For more on IHL, human rights and the Gaza/Israel conflict:

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Breaking: Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law null and void after Constitutional Court ruling

Breaking news: Uganda’s Constitutional Court has decided that the anti-homosexuality law is ‘null and void’.

The Constitutional Court found that the speaker of parliament acted illegally by moving ahead with a vote on the law despite at least three lawmakers objecting to a lack of quorum.

Despite this ruling, homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda as it does it most other African countries. Section 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code, which remains in force, continues to criminalize “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”. The harsher penalties that were introduced under the 2014 legislation though such as life-imprisonment for ‘repeat offences’ no longer apply.

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Children in war zones – how do we respond?

I co-authored an article for the International Children’s edition of ehospice looking at the impact that war has on children and what the response should be from the palliative care community. I thought I would share it here as it explores some interesting subjects around how the medical community responds to disasters…

“Jon Snow of Channel 4 news appeals to everyone to raise their voices against the war raging in Gaza and talks about the adverse effect this war is having on children and young people. This article asks what the palliative care response should be to the increasing death toll of children in war zones around the world.

In recent days reports have emerged from Gaza of the growing child death rate and the devastating impact this is having on families, friends and the community in the Gaza strip. One such report was that of Channel 4’s Jon Snow. His impassioned account of what he has witnessed during his recent trip to Gaza makes for difficult viewing.

At times clearly moved by what he has experienced, Snow reports on the impact that the bombing is having on children saying:

“Those people who live in Gaza are young. The average age is 17. That means that a quarter of a million is under the age of 10 years,”

He goes on to explain that when a densely populated area such as that of Gaza is targeted, it is inevitable that some of the civilians killed will be children. In the most recent upsurge of violence Snow’s report estimates that 1310 children have been wounded and 166 killed, with these numbers rising every day.

The long-term and short impact this is having on children and their families is almost impossible to quantify.

It is of course not just in Gaza that children are suffering.

From Ukraine to Syria, from the Central African Republic to South Sudan we are increasingly seeing how children are being affected by war. Not only in the death statistics but also through the exposure to the brutality of war we can see the devastating impact on children’s lives that will be felt for a generation to come.

The palliative care response
“How do we respond as a palliative care community to these distressing reports?” asks Joan Marston, CEO of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network. “Where there is so much suffering, what are we as the “experts” on death and dying doing to help those in regions that are difficult to reach; and how do we provide and justify palliative care when there are so many other conflicting needs that must be met?”….

Read the full article on ehospice

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The NHS and the blaming of rape victims

 

This poster was produced in 2006 and serves as one of many examples of institutionalized forms of ‘victim blaming’.

victim blaming

I was slightly horrified to see this poster re-circulating on social media this morning. It is yet another example of ‘victim blaming’ – the suggestion that a victim of rape was somehow at fault because of her behaviour. 

This poster becomes that bit more shocking when you spot that it is produced, published and distributed by our own government.

‘Victim blaming’ is one of those myths that I spend so much of my time trying to counter. Simply, a rape is never the victims fault – the blame always ultimately rests with those who put their penis inside someone without that other persons consent. 

Simple.

Or, in the words of the NHS (in a separate campaign to the ‘Know your limits’ campaign):

“If you have been sexually assaulted, remember that it wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, where you were or whether you had been drinking. A sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator.”

If the NHS did want to draw some connections between alcohol consumption and sexual assault though without slipping down this dangerous road of victim blaming, they could have made the exact same poster with the words:

“approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol.”

One study on alcohol and sexual assault concluded it’s literature review saying:

“Depending on the sample studied and the measures used, the estimates for alcohol use among perpetrators have ranged from 34 to 74 percent”. 

The same study estimates that at least 20 percent of American men report having perpetrated sexual assault and 5 percent report having committed rape. The obvious conclusion to this is that 10% of American men have committed sexual assault after they have been drinking.

This issue is a serious one that involves facing up to taboos as well as a very well funded drinks industry. Our safety, not just of girls, but all of us depends on tackling this. I don’t think it is hyperbole to say we are in midst of an unspoken epidemic.

Sadly this contribution from the NHS to the debate adds little but does reinforce an incredibly negative persistent perception that the victim is somehow to blame for being raped.

 

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Finally, Miliband gets his makeover

Miliband
In May this year Hynd’s Blog reported on the start of the ‘great Miliband makeover’. The crux of that report was the news that Obama’s election guru David Axelrod had been paid a very large sum of money to get rid of his ‘image problem’.

I’ve been holding my breath for just over 2 months now but at last here it is – the promised Miliband makeover.

This makeover comes in the form of what Mark Ferguson refers to as the ‘hanging lantern’ makeover. In short, the idea is to shine a light on to your supposed weakness and turn it into a strength. The classic example of this approach is Ronald Reagan (old) being turned to his advantage (‘experience’).

As I wrote before, Miliband’s image problem was around being seen as weird, awkward and frankly not leadership material.  And so, with David Axelrod’s guiding hand, Miliband today looked to turn those perceived weaknesses into strengths.

This is what he had to say:

This is the key section with my comments in italics:

“I am not from central casting. You can find people who are more square-jawed, more chiselled, look less like Wallace [reference to the fact he looks like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit – a cartoon, a joke, accident prone etc]. You could probably even find people who look better eating a bacon sandwich [reference to the viral bacon sandwich photo that spread like wildfire on the logic ‘if he can’t eat a bacon sandwich, can he really run a country’?]. If you want the politician from central casting, it’s just not me, it’s the other guy [‘the other guy’ – clever, puts the idea out there that he is not one of these identikit politicians’]. If you want a politician who thinks that a good photo is the most important thing, then don’t vote for me. 

“But I believe that people would quite like somebody to stand up and say there is more to politics than the photo op. If politics is going to respond to the distrust people have, it has to begin to respond to talking about you.

“The current Prime Minister might take a good picture [referencing the hug a huskie turn ‘get rid of all that green crap’ perception of Cameron only being interested in image]. but he can’t build a country that works for you. It is not what interests him. And it is not who he stands up for.

Essentially this was Milband (or Axelrod – you can interchange as you see fit) trying to re-define what it means to be a ‘good leader’.

Of course, there is the possibility that all the media will focus on is Miliband repeating their lines – that he can’t eat a bacon sandwich, but this is a bold (you might even say American) attempt to rebrand himself.

Only time will tell if the Miliband makeover has worked or not. But through shameless electoral engineering need we appear to have a political leader saying there is more to politics than shameless electioneering need…I think that’s a good thing.

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Only the USA voted against launching UN investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza

US No vote

Only the United States of America voted against launching an investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza at the United Nations Human Rights Council yesterday. 

Twenty-nine of the council’s 47 members voted for a resolution calling for the creation of a commission of inquiry to look at “all violations” of international law.

17 members, including large parts of the EU (including the UK) abstained on the motion. 

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights had commented that, “there seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,”

Read more in the New York TimesGuardian, and Haaretz

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Lib Dem MP says he would fire rockets at Israel if he lived in Gaza Strip

David Ward
Somewhere in Westminster the Head of Communications for the Liberal Democrats head has just hit his desk. “Why oh why” he will be asking anyone who will listen, “does David Ward MP keep tweeting?”

This is his latest contribution:

Wow. Put another way, he is saying that he would undertake committing a war crime. Why? Because these rockets fired by Hamas and other armed militant groups in Gaza do not have capability to distinguish between civilian and military targets.

Or, put another way, this is a MP saying that he would perpetuate a climate of fear in Israel that is, at least in part, responsible for the on-going conflict. This would be a badly thought out comment from an average Joe on the internet, but coming from a MP…just wow!

Of course, David Ward has a history with his twitter account and the Israel/Palestine conflict. Back in January 2013 Hynd’s Blog reported on his comments on “the Jews” and how they “should learn from the holocaust”.

Just like in 2013, the Liberal Democrats have had to distance themselves from him and his comments. A spokesperson for the party was quoted by the BBC as saying:

We utterly condemn David Ward’s comments, they are not representative of the Liberal Democrats. “The party takes this matter very seriously and will treat it as a disciplinary issue.”

Quite right as well.

Apart from the fact that comments like these distract from the atrocities being committed in the Gaza Strip at the moment, it also highlights a minority of the public who sympathise with such badly thought out views (although it is also noteworthy that most responses on and off twitter are condemning his comments). That said, his comments clearly struck a chord with some people:

Finally, it is also worth remembering that Ward is not the first elected politician to express such sentiment. Remember one Ehud Barak saying, “If I were a Palestinian I would have joined a terrorist organisation.”?

UPDATE:

From The Guardian:

This morning Ward told Radio 5 Live that he was not condoning the Hamas missile attacks on Israel; he was trying to understand why they happen.

The comment was about understanding why people are firing rockets. I am not condoning that. In fact, yesterday in the House of Commons I condemned it. I’m saying I understand why people are so desperate that they are doing it ….

Why are they firing the rockets? When the rockets are fired, they’re done by people who know what is going to happen, the repercussions of that, this horrendous military force that Israel have will result in further Palestinian [casualties]. Why are they doing that? The answer is they are so desperate to retaliate for what is happening to them …

This is supposedly about the security of Israel. Why is it insecure? Why is it under threat? It’s because of the occupation. So what do we do? We have a ceasefire, a so-called ceasefire, where there isn’t rockets being fired out of Gaza, and then what? We go back to a situation where there’s a brutal oppression of the Palestinians and we call that peace.

I have always maintained that the occupation and associated human rights abuses act as a partial explanation to crimes committed by Palestinians but cannot act as a justification. Equally, I reiterate that it can only act as a partial explanation otherwise you patronizingly remove all agency from Palestinian actors who chose to take to arms as well as those who don’t!

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“Rihanna illuminati princess pushing satanic agenda”

After I posted a photo yesterday of the wonderfully obscure ‘Is Panadol made from dead people’s brains?‘ story from Uganda’s New Vision, a few people sent me through bizarre headlines they had seen from around the world.

I thought I would share my favourite of these stories.

This is the impressively odd headline that was tweeted from @TomSavoury from his time in Tanzania:

If anyone can find the text to this article please do contact me, I would love to read it.

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Is Panadol made from dead people’s brains?

The answer is of course, no. Panadol is not made from dead people’s brains.

In case there was any doubt though the New Vision, Uganda’s largest national newspaper, helped clear this up for us today. This is from page 24:

panadol
Wonderfully obscure!

A hat tip to my friend Malcolm who spotted this. 

 

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The new cabinet in full

david-cameron
Here is the complete new look cabinet. Complete with an Equalities Minister opposed to same-sex marriage, a Health Minister who thinks homeopathy works and a eurosceptic minister heading the Foreign and Commonwealth office.

Also note that after all the talk of a new look and bringing more women into the cabinet, this ‘new look’ does only involve a handful of women, 2 people who are not white, and, as far as I am aware, zero homosexuals.

It does though ensure that white, middle-class, Oxbridge educated men are still well represented. There is also a reasonable smattering of millionaires (the PM and DPM included).

Just to reiterate – these are the people who are running our country…

David Cameron – Prime Minister

Nick Clegg – Deputy Prime Minister

William Hague – First Secretary of State, Leader of the House of Commons

George Osborne – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Danny Alexander – Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Theresa May – Secretary of State for the Home Department

Michael Fallon – Secretary of State for Defence

Vince Cable – Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Iain Duncan Smith – Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Chris Grayling – Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Nicky Morgan – Secretary of State for Education, Women & Equalities Min.

Eric Pickles – Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Jeremy Hunt – Secretary of State for Health

Elizabeth Truss – Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Justine Greening – Secretary of State for International Development

Alistair Carmichael – Secretary of State for Scotland

Edward Davey – Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Patrick McLoughlin – Secretary of State for Transport

Sajid Javid – Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Theresa Villiers – Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Stephen Crabb – Secretary of State for Wales

Philip Hammond – Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Also allowed to attend Cabinet:

Michael Gove – Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury

Francis Maude – Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General

Matt Hancock – Minister of State for BIS, DECC and Portsmouth

Esther McVey - Minister of State for Employment

Oliver Letwin – Minister for Government Policy, Lord Privy Seal

David Laws – Minister of State for Cabinet Office, Schools

Grant Shapps - Minister Without Portfolio

Baroness Warsi – Senior Minister of State, Faith and Communities

Greg Clark – Minister of State for Universities and Science

Jeremy Wright – Attorney General

Baroness Stowell - Leader of the House of Lords

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New Equalities Minister voted against same sex marriage

nickymorgan
Our virtual Prime Minister tweeted to tell us the new Education Secretary will continue as Minister for Women and Equalities.

Ignoring the slightly confusing fact that Cameron is wrong as she didn’t use to hold the equalities bit of the post he refers to (that was reserved the Sajid Javid), this does confirm that we now have someone who voted against same-sex marriage as the minister responsible for equalities.

Talking to her local paper Morgan said of the issue:

“There have been plenty of little changes down the years but what’s never been changed is that the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman. I think that was one of the issues people, especially those who asked me to vote against, found hardest to accept and it also tied in with my own Christian faith too.” 

Cameron’s government….fighting for equal rights, unless you are gay!

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Former Shell employee appointed as new Environment Secretary

truss
Today’s cabinet reshuffle has seen a number of high profile changes that have gripped the Westminster bubble (and let’s be honest, no one else).

One of the smaller changes that was pushed through was the departure of Owen Patterson from the post of Environment Secretary. Hynd’s Blog has reported before about how he doesn’t ‘believe’ in man-made climate change including the time when he managed to recite 10 separate climate change myths on national radio in as many seconds.

It is with considerable pleasure then that we see the back of him as he disappears back to the backbenches.

Replacing Patterson is the Conservative MP Liz Truss. Or perhaps a better prefix to her name might be ‘former Commercial Manager for Shell’ Liz Truss.

This employment history comes from her Wikipedia page which in turn references her own website biography. Interestingly though there is no mention of Shell on biography now….I’ll let you decide why she, or a government press spinner, might have taken this bit of information down before she is announced as the new Environment Secretary.

In case you are wondering about my use of Wikipedia, don’t worry, I cross checked it. We know that her employment history is true as she mentions it quite openly in a 2012 interview in the New Statesman.

All this said, we know very little about her views on the environment in general. We know that she pushed for solar panels to be put on school roofs but opposed ‘solar farms’ in her own Norfolk constituency…and that is about it.

Perhaps a more pertinent question for number 10 might be, what qualifications does she have to take up this role in the first place?

But hey, as we know, actually knowing anything about a cabinet brief is a side issue. The main criteria for promotion in this reshuffle seems to be to not be posh and/or male with the focus on being what is right for the Tory 2015 election strategy not what is right for Britain.

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[Jim Lockey and the] Solemn Sun: New name, new sound, new video

The band formerly known as Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun are back with a new name, new sound and brand new video.

Re-launching as ‘Solemn Sun‘ the Cheltenham based band have released a new video with a whole new sound to their last albums ‘Atlases‘ and ‘Death‘.


My advice, for what it’s worth, is make sure you check them out live. They have two dates announced:

AUGUST
06 – BRISTOL Exchange
07 – LONDON Old Blue Last

 

 

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Gaza: a week of conflict and violations of International Humanitarian Law

Gaza*Photo: The Guardian.

The on-going Israeli military operation in Gaza is now over a week old. In this week, 172 people have been killed according to Palestinian officials. The UN estimates that 77% of those killed are civilians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge in UN facilities within the Gaza strip.

In the same time period nearly 1,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza according to Israeli sources.

It is civilians who are dying in the Gaza strip. It is also civilians who are living in near constant fear of rocket attacks across the south and west of Israel. These attacks that the last week has seen once again constitute a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) from both ‘sides’.

At the heart of IHL is the principle of distinction:

“The parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants. Attacks may only be directed against combatants. Attacks must not be directed against civilians.”

This principle of distinction not only applies to people but also property.

Throughout the last week we have seen multiple examples of the IDF openly saying that it targets the houses of activists involved in armed Palestinian groups. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem highlighted the case Kaware’a family home which was bombed on the 8th July. The bombing saw the roof collapse killing eight people, six of them children. Another 28 people were injured.

This house was owned by Ahmad Kaware’a and his sons. The oldest of which is active in the military wing of Hamas. Even if no harm came of civilians in this attack, it is still unlawful as the house does not constitute a military target.

The UN have been very clear on the subject saying:

“The targeting of civilian homes is a violation of international humanitarian law unless the homes are being used for military purposes. In case of doubt, buildings ordinarily used for civilian purposes, such as homes, are presumed not to be legitimate military targets”

The last week has also seen an increase in the number of rockets fired from within Gaza towards the south and west of Israel. Armed groups within Gaza including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have continued to fire rockets either indiscriminately or with the specific aim of targeting civilians. Although no deaths have been reported from over 1000 rockets launched, by definition these rocket attacks are a violation of the principle of the distinction.

While some violations of IHL are new, many are much older than the recent media attention. For example, Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza is one that the ICRC has described as collective punishment which is in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under IHL.

Because Gaza is considered as occupied territory under IHL, Israel has a legal obligation to ensure the basic needs of Gazans are met. The blockade does the opposite impacting on food security, health provision, education and almost every other aspect of life.

In the last couple of days Oxfam has sent out another emergency appeal as the already bleak humanitarian situation deteriorates further. As an occupying power, Israel has a clear responsibility to the citizens of Gaza that it is too often neglecting.

Once again violence in this troubled region is leaving civilians on the front line of the conflict. IHL has at its heart the intention to protect civilians at times of conflict. For this to happen, both Israel and armed Palestinian groups need to respect these very basic standards.

 

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Was the highlander’s contribution to BBC’s Question Time a ‘Better Together’ plant?

You might disagree with the sentiment of this man’s contribution to last night’s ‘Question Time’ but you have to appreciate the passion…

There is debate though about whether or not he was ‘Better Together‘ plant in the audience. Personally, I think there is about as much chance of that as this chap being a ‘Yes Scotland‘ campaign plant.

 

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Film showing in Kampala: The Last Yak Herder of Dhe

The Mountain Club of Uganda proudly presents:

TheLastYakHerderPosterYou can see a preview of the film here:

Join the film showing facebook event page here.

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