Displaying items by tag: Government
The Scottish government's chief legal officer has come under fire after saying that prayer vigils outside abortion clinics could be 'far more damaging' than verbal protest. Addressing the UK's supreme court about abortion clinics in Northern Ireland, Dorothy Bain KC said she believed ‘standing in judgment’ was just as psychologically damaging for women. She wants prayer vigils to be excluded from ‘buffer zones' - areas where protesting or handing out leaflets are banned - outside abortion clinics. The Catholic Church has labelled Mrs Bain's remarks as ‘absurd and alarming’, and have condemned her comments. Everyone has the right to express and offer our opinion on religious belief, and more importantly, religious practice. The Church said, ‘To be told they can't stand silently in prayer, in this case, outside an abortion clinic or a hospital that carries out abortions is really, frankly, chilling and extremely worrying.’
Thousands of defiant protesters flooded Tehran streets on the ninth day after the suspicious death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while held in custody for not properly wearing the hijab headscarf. The regime cracked down with force, killing at least 41 and shutting down the web and social media for 80 million citizens, but outrage over Amini’s death has only expanded. Officials claim Mahsa died due to underlying health issues; her family says that is not true. Women defiantly burn their hijabs and headscarves and cut their hair. The USA announced it will expand Iranian internet services to support free-flowing information.The internet is needed when protesters want to organise themselves and share footage of what is happening with the outside world. Also billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is giving the country Starlink, a satellite constellation providing internet access to 40 countries - a true game-changer.
Scotland has been marked by the devastating impact of drug and alcohol addiction in many ways. Today, the nation is at the forefront of addiction related issues and deaths in Europe, with health, economic, and educational repercussions, and social challenges for families and communities in urban and rural environments. The widening mental health crisis, socio-economic challenges, and limited clinical support exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic have led to the highest increase in addiction issues in over ten years. But we are a nation with hope. For decades, Christian organisations have invested tremendously in the building of in-person and online spaces for drug addiction recovery. Within the last decade, over 2,300 individuals have been directly treated and successfully recovered from their addictions through faith-based recovery programmes, with thousands more impacted in some way. The Scottish government has appointed a minister for drugs policy and increased funding to reduce addiction.
UK businesses, hospitals, schools and charities will have their energy bills cut by half their predicted level under a support package that fixes wholesale gas and electricity prices for six months from 1 October, shielding businesses from crippling costs. The scheme will be reviewed after three months and possibly extended for vulnerable businesses. Government officials have not said how much the package will cost taxpayers: Cornwall Insight estimates £25bn. Energy-intensive industries, like steel manufacturing, could close because of energy costs surging after Russia's invasion. Household bills would be limited to £2,500 annually until 2024 under a separate scheme. Business analyst Simon Jack said few businesses plan with only a six-month time horizon. There will be some whose plans to cut production, close premises and let staff go will not change in spite of this intervention. Retail and hospitality organisations see this as giving them a fighting chance over the commercially crucial Christmas trading period.
The Bank of England has raised interest rates to 2.25%, the highest level for 14 years. This will make it more expensive to borrow, which should - theoretically - encourage people to borrow less and spend less. It should also spur people to save more. However, there is also a risk that it can drag on growth, harming the economy. The bank's monetary policy committee, which sets rates, believes that the economy is already shrinking, which would officially push the UK into recession. The Bank of England has also warned that the government’s energy price freeze will push up inflation in the medium term. With energy bills rising less sharply, households will have more money to spend on other goods and services (although some people are already having to skip meals due to rising bills).
Since 2014 Russia has secretly funnelled $300 million to foreign political parties and candidates in at least 24 countries in Europe, Africa ,and elsewhere to shape political events beyond its borders. Putin wants to weaken democratic systems and promote global political forces aligned with Kremlin interests. A senior US official, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings, said the administration decided to declassify some of the review’s findings to counter Russia’s ability to sway political systems. ‘By shining this light on Russian covert political financing and attempts to undermine democratic processes, we are putting these foreign parties and candidates on notice that if they accept Russian money secretly, we can and we will expose it’, the official said. Countries identified included Albania, Montenegro, Madagascar, and Ecuador. An unnamed Asian presidential candidate received millions in cash. Russia also used shell companies, thinktanks and other means to influence political events, sometimes to the benefit of far-right groups.
Liz Truss is being urged to relax the limits on earthquakes caused by fracking to kickstart an energy revolution. She is poised to end the fracking freeze, to make Britain energy independent by 2040. Fracking businesses are lobbying for limits on seismic activity to be substantially increased to kickstart the industry. Currently drilling must stop if tremors of 0.5 occur. Experts say those occur naturally and are often imperceptible above ground. Cuadrilla want equality with other industries. Geothermal energy can create earthquakes of higher magnitudes than 0.5. The USA allows magnitude 4 tremors. A 2012 report said magnitude 3 tremors were ‘felt by few people’. But when Cuadrilla’s Lancashire test caused a 2.9 tremor, homes shook and objects fell off of shelves. A petroleum geologist at Newcastle University said fracking had thus far not been a major source of earthquakes; coal mining had caused many times more.
A new review from the Children's Commissioner has shown that 23% of UK families are lone-parent - 10% higher than Europe’s average. The communities minister highlighted the need for better government policies that support families. The head of public policy said, ‘What is required is not just laws but wholesale culture changes. We need to value marriage (between a man and a woman) as a sacred, lifelong bond, and promote marriage as the best and most stable and successful structure for bringing up children.’ There are no policy recommendations in Part 1 of the review, but Part 2 will look at the impact of its policies on families. Sadly, for too long, the Government has done little or nothing to promote or support families. In fact, it has done the opposite, finding time in the coronavirus crisis to pass legislation for ‘no-fault divorce’. This means potentially enabling one partner to unilaterally destroy the family.
Ofgem says a typical household gas and electricity bill will rise to £3,549 a year from October. Save the Children warned the rise could put young people's health at risk, with families unable to afford to heat their homes. Money expert Martin Lewis predicted grave consequences without more state help. Liz Truss has ‘ruled out’ further direct support for everybody to help cover the costs of surging energy bills, and was not considering further support like the £400 payment that all households will receive this winter. Rishi Sunak says the government must provide some direct support to everyone. Ovo Energy has proposed a ten-point plan for the Government to subsidise soaring gas and electricity bills so that the poorest households get the most support. A key proposal is for energy firms to borrow from a government-backed fund to subsidise bills.
The UK chancellor Nadhim Zahawi visited the USA for cost-of-living talks during what could be his final week in the job. The two candidates for PM have signalled they will offer more help when elected, though neither has given details. Mr Zahawi insists he has been working tirelessly to come up with proposals for either leadership candidate to bring in more support. The chancellor met banking chiefs in New York to discuss co-operating on financial services, before heading to Washington DC to discuss support for Ukraine, the global economic outlook, and energy security. He said that global pressures must be overcome through global efforts.