LGBTQ advocacy group declares state of emergency in United States

“I’m not going to sugarcoat this: For the first time in HRC’s nearly half-century history, we’re declaring a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the largest LGBTQ advocacy organisation in the United States. They have made this declaration in response to the ever-increasing anti-LGBTQ legislation in statehouses across the country. More than 70 anti-LGBTQ bills were passed this legislative session, double last year’s numbers. Some 525 bills were introduced, almost all by Republicans, including more than 220 affecting transgender people. Texas, Tennessee and Florida, for instance, are banning teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ matters and from teaching Black history, and are banning gender-affirming and abortion care. But there are positive developments in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Minnesota and “for every villain, there are countless heroes fighting back even as our opponents threaten democracy to punish them”

Saudi woman sentenced to 30 years over tweets

The UK has for many years been an ally and trade partner with the Saudis, prioritising profit and ignoring injustice and brutality. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visited Saudi Arabia earlier this year and “reaffirmed the UK’s enduring commitment to work with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with discussion of how to enhance the bilateral relationship yet further in support of regional stability and security.” I doubt they discussed human rights violations, torture, executions, the deportation of migrant workers, religious discrimination, the clamp down on both free speech and the right to protest, and the devastating conflict in Yemen. Meanwhile a young Saudi woman has been sentenced to more than 30 years’ imprisonment because she posted some anonymous tweets about political prisoners, the rights of women and unemployment. Others have received prison sentences and travel bans for tweets and retweets since August last year. Middle East Eye (MEE) reports that the Organisation for Supporting Human Rights (ALQST) is urging the world to support those at the receiving end of these injustices: ” It is time for the world to speak up on behalf of them all and to urge for their release immediately and unconditionally.”

Fishermen collect plastic from the Med

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has revealed alarming quantities of microplastic in the sea. The Greek organisation Enaleia has been taking action to promote marine ecosystem restoration and help the regeneration and breeding of fish. Enaleia’s founder, fisherman Lefteris Arapakis, has trained and motivated fishermen to remove considerable quantities of plastic from the sea. The plastic bottles collected are recycled into clothes, and old fishing nets and other items of nylon waste are upcycled into new products. This initiative has led to a major shift in behaviour from Greek and Italian fishermen. Enaleia has grown 17-fold in five years. If this expansion continues, it could be removing 114,000 tonnes of plastic every year in five years’ time. According to Lefteris: “If a young person from a fishing family of Keratsini can motivate thousands of fishermen in the Mediterranean Sea to collect plastic from the sea, then everyone can motivate their own communities.”

France bans short-haul flights: The UK reduces taxes on domestic flights

France has recently introduced a relatively limited, but significant, measure aimed at addressing the impact of the aviation industry’s emissions. There is now a ban on domestic flights on short routes if the distance can be travelled by train in less than two-and-a-half hours. This move will mainly affect routes from Paris to airports such as Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux. French legislation contrasts sharply with our Prime Minister’s support for the aviation industry, although there are strong arguments for increasing taxes. In fact we have cut passenger duty fees on domestic flights. A recent headline in read: “Why is the UK ramping up domestic air travel when other European countries are banning it?”

Corridor care is normal practice – NHS delays

The i newspaper reported again last week on the parlous state of the NHS in England. A new record has been set with 7.4 million people now waiting for routine NHS treatment. Meanwhile, caring for patients in the corridor is now “normal practice”. The Nursing Times has previously drawn attention to this scandal and commented in January this year: “Corridor care in the NHS is now so prevalent that hospital corridors are being clumsily adapted for clinical equipment and nurses are specifically being booked to work shifts in these areas.” Patients, and their relatives, in these circumstances find they are not treated with dignity and the conditions are stressful and distressing for nursing staff. Some staff have been asked to buy Ikea hooks to use to attach drips to the wall. Patients can be left sitting or lying on plastic chairs for hours and have no privacy.

The Tories have demonstrably failed when it comes to the NHS. John Major’s introduction of PFI, fully embraced by the Blair administrations, has cost the service billions. Tories tell lies and are believed; David Cameron assured the country that the NHS was safe, and Boris Johnson and other ‘leave’ campaigners fooled many in the country into believing that £350 million a week would become available for the health service. We have witnessed the decline of the state funded NHS as privatisation grows. The chances of a Starmer government remedying the situation are nil.

Military recruitment – signing up minors is out of step with Europe

We do not recognise young people under the age of 18 as adults. They cannot vote or, in most cases, sign contracts. They are barred from buying certain violent films and video games, alcohol, cigarettes, fireworks, solvents, butane lighter refills, weapons such as knives, air guns and crossbows. But we recruit minors into the armed forces. No other country in Europe recruits youngsters under 18 years of age. Parental consent is required, but anyone who signs on when they are 16 or 17 is legally bound to stay in the forces for five or six years, although they are not sent to the ‘front line’ until they are 18. Are these young people making an informed choice? The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Parliament’s own Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Society of Friends and children’s charities are among groups who have criticised the recruitment of minors. The recruitment process has been criticised as unbalanced, with its assurances that recruits will find a sense of belonging and promises of “sports, expeditions, outdoor adventure.. survival skills, the Duke of Edinburgh Award and handling weapons”.

High Court rejects grounds for appeal to prevent Assange extradition

“Having considered each of the proposed grounds of appeal, I do not consider any raises any properly arguable case.” Justice Jonathan Swift recently issued this damning statement in the Royal Courts of Justice and dismissed all eight grounds for Julian Assange’s appeal. Swift was previously a lawyer for the British Government. It is shocking that the injustice that has characterised the treatment of Julian Assange has been so lamely reported in our mainstream media, especially as this case directly affects the freedom of the press. In contrast to our MSM, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has Assange’s plight as its main feature: “Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is deeply concerned by the UK High Court’s decision rejecting WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s appeal against his extradition order, bringing him dangerously close to being extradited to the United States, where he could face the rest of his life in prison for publishing leaked classified documents in 2010.” Julian’s health has been seriously undermined by his treatment, which amounts to slow torture. Now he is closer than ever to being extradited to the United States where it is quite likely he would not survive. He has been persecuted by the British justice system for doing the work all good reporters should be doing, telling the truth.

Looking Back In Time – June 1832 – did the Great Reform Act set us on the road to democracy?

One hundred and ninety one years ago this month the Great Reform Act was passed. There was a long struggle to achieve the passing of the Act, both inside and outside Parliament, as there was a significant element of popular demand for change. Many historians see 1832 as an important milestone on the route to a more democratic electoral system. The electorate grew in number from approximately 366,000 to 650,000, about 18% of the adult male population. However, the Act did nothing at all for women or the working classes. Their exclusion led to the Chartist movement which started in London in 1836 and was followed by subsequent campaigns. These and the changes in the law are well documented. In 1928 women over 21 were given the right to vote. The Representation of the People Act of 1969 lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Popular protest was integral to these achievements and politicians today, hell-bent on curtailing our rights, would do well to note this.

Today the UK has the outward appearance of democracy; the electorate has the choice of candidates representing different political parties, though the two main parties have become almost indistinguishable. But corporations and billionaires can get the better of the electorate, and the wealthy can directly affect the decisions of cabinet ministers. Unelected special advisers are taken more seriously than the views of the people. Electoral spending limits are breached, lies are told by politicians and false promises made during election campaigns. The Electoral Commission, which is supposed to be a regulatory body, often looks ineffectual. The media can be heavily biased in favour of a particular party and wields considerable influence in shaping public opinion, so that many voters are not well-informed. And of course our Government can take our country to war despite opposition from many members of the public and clear advice that such a measure would be against international law. I doubt many of us feel as if we are governed according to the will of the people.

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