Join the final battle for the bees

Join the final battle for the bees

Right now, billions of bees are dying. Already, there are nowhere near enough honeybees in the US to pollinate the crops, and in Europe beekeepers are losing at least 10% of their bees each year.

We’re in the middle of an environmental holocaust that threatens all of us, because without pollination by bees, our whole food chain is under threat!

Scientists are sounding the alarm about pesticides that are toxic to bees, and say we’re using way, way more pesticides on our crops than we need. And as with oil companies and climate change, big chemical companies that sell pesticides are fighting back with dubious corporate-funded science that questions the evidence, giving politicians an excuse to delay.

But this year we could finally see a crackdown on these toxins in Europe, Canada, and the United States! — and Avaaz has mapped a plan to make it happen:

  1. Turn the pesticide scientists into whistleblowers to testify to officials and Ministers;
  2. Run urgent studies to show how crops will flourish without these poisons;
  3. Launch massive public campaigns with political champions to win the bans.

Scientific studies and global public campaigns are expensive. Avaaz may be the only crowdsourced funding model in the world able to raise enough, fast enough to fund global-scale, grassroots-supported studies into how we farm without these poisons, to decisively challenge the compromised science of big pharma. The need is urgent, and if we can’t do this, it’s not clear who can. This is a final battle for the bees –Please chip in what you can at:Help Save Bees


Hong Kong Will Phase Out Ivory Trade by 2021


Yesterday, the Hong Kong Legislative Council voted 49 to 4 to phase out the sale of antique ivory. As Tiffany May at The New York Times reports, the city will ban all sale of ivory, new and antique, by 2021, closing a system that poachers have previously exploited.

 The move will help staunch a significant player in the ivory market, which drives the destruction of elephant populations. In recent years, the United Nations estimates that poachers kill up to 100 elephants each day, which has devastated their populations.

Hong Kong ivory is regulated separately from Mainland China. Previously the world’s largest ivory market, a Chinese ivory ban went into effect at the end of 2017. International trade of ivory in Hong Kong has, however, been banned since the 1989 agreement under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). But as May reports, it was still legal in Hong Kong to sell antique ivory that had been acquired before the 1970s. And under this loophole the ivory trade continued for both antique and fresh tusks.

Ivory trade began in Hong Kong 150 years ago and has continued to grow since, according to the BBC. And the market has marched on under the antique ivory loophole. In fact, last July Hong Kong authorities seized 7.2 tons of elephant tusks hidden under a shipment of frozen fish from Malaysia, the largest ivory bust.

Today is a great day for elephants.” WildAid Hong Kong Campaigner Alex Hofford says in a statement. “Hong Kong has always been the ‘heart of darkness’ of the ivory trade with a 670 tonne stockpile when international trade was banned in 1989.”

The new ban will be implemented in phases to give traders time to sell off their stocks and artisans to find new lines of work. The first phase will ban hunting trophies and ivory harvested after 1975. Later, any ivory obtained before 1975 will be banned and traders must get rid of all ivory by 2021. The new plan will also enforce harsher penalties for ivory smuggling, including a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and fines to $1.3 million, reports Jani Actman for National Geographic.

Since China’s ban was announced, the price for raw ivory has plummeted by 65 percent as ivory smuggling became increasingly difficult, May reports. Closing the market in Hong Kong may depress prices even more, which conservationists hope will help reduce poaching in Africa.

While polls show a large majority of people in Hong Kong favor the phase out, not everyone is supportive. May reports that some critics say the ivory trade has cultural and historical significance and should be preserved. Others think the government should buy out traders and place the ivory in museums. Others argue that it’s unreasonable to ask elderly artisans to change careers.

Conservationists argue that government payments for ivory would likely spur a renewed round of poaching, and that traders and artisans have been on notice for 30 years that the ivory trades was on its way out.

After Hong Kong shuts down, WildAid reports that Japan will remain a large open ivory market, and it has little in the way of regulation. Thailand also allows the ivory trade, but has recently implemented restrictions and is also contemplating a ban.

Manc City Council aims to fell nearly 3,000 mature trees to make way for the buildings

Manchester Councillors To Debate The Future Of Nutsford Vale

9 January 2018

On Thursday (11 January) Manchester City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee will consider the planning application to build a school on open space at Nutsford Vale. This is a council-owned park on the borders of Longsight, Levenshulme and Gorton, in south-east Manchester.

The planning application, from the council’s education department, is for a school building, sports hall, car-park and other facilities. The development, occupying about 5.5 hectares, would destroy nearly half the total area of the park.

We have opposed the plan, along with our member, the Friends of Nutsford Vale. There are 162 objectors, including the Manchester and Salford Ramblers, and Greater Manchester Pedestrian Society.

The proposal would also involve the felling of nearly 3,000 mature trees to make way for the buildings. The trees are important in fending off pollution and flooding.

The report to the committee, from Sue Wills on behalf of the Head of Planning, Building Control and Licensing, recommends approval of the application subject to a long list of conditions. The final decision will be made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

There is clearly immense local opposition to this proposal because of its devastating effect on the lovely open space at Nutsford Vale.

Although the council claims that there will be mitigating provision of sports facilities, that is entirely different from the informal recreation opportunities which exist at present. Currently people may walk here in peace and quiet, and the site is of immense value to local people in an area where there is little green space for public enjoyment.

We hope that the councillors will listen to local people and to ourselves and reject this scheme which will destroy one of the greatest assets of this area.

City traders getting away with abuse of markets: Insider deals by white-collar criminals ignored

 The Times.

white-collar criminals are acting with impunity, with fewer than ten prosecutions for insider trading in the past five years, an investigation has found.

A freedom of information request to the chief City watchdog revealed how little was being done to stop stock market abuse despite research by The Timessuggesting the system was being exploited.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has prosecuted eight cases of insider trading in the past five years and secured 12 convictions. By comparison, the Department for Work and Pensions prosecuted or penalised more than 10,000 benefit fraudsters last year. Yet large numbers of investors appear to be receiving and benefiting from confidential information from inside FTSE-listed companies.


Demand UK government increases funding for alternative research instead of testing on animals!

130,000 GOAL

Last year in the UK 4.1 million innocent animals were used for testing. According to an animal charity less than 3% of funding goes towards finding and improving other alternatives.

Many animals are sadly used for testing, but the most common being: Fish, Mice, Rats, Guineapigs, cats, dogs and Monkeys.

These animals all feel immense pain, loneliness, psychological disorders and conditions along with the illness they’ve been infected with. Just like us they have motives to play and love, start a family and avoid pain and sickness, instead they receive pain, loneliness, suffering and a painful undignified death. To me, that’s inexcusable, I believe in a fairer and kinder world than these poor creatures have to bear every day. Even if animals by some miracle did not suffer, there is still the question that animals are NOT ours to use. They are beings, they have an equal right to life just as you or I.

It is currently illegal to test on animals when there is an alternative. However, although there are many alternatives, because of lack of funding they have not been advanced enough to replace animals. Therefore, we are stuck. We need more funding now to replace this cruelty or we will carry on in a cycle of torture.

As a highly developed country with amazing advancements in science, I strongly urge the UK government to dramatically increase funding for researching new alternatives and advancement in pre-existing ones. I also call for the UK government to do more in convincing, enforcing and regulating private companies, universities and charities to fund more alternatives. For a brighter, safer, cruelty free future for both humans and animals.

Experiments on animals are carried out for many different purposes:

  • Developing and testing medicines and vaccines for humans or animals.
  • Studying how animals’ and humans’ bodies function.
  • Assessing the safety of chemicals, such as pesticides, for their possible effects on human health or the environment.

Some alternatives include:

  • *the use of human volunteers.
  • *Epidemiology
  • *Human cell lines
  • *Ex vivo or primary human tissues or cells
  • *Microorganisms
  • *Plants
  • *Human sub-cellular components in vitro
  • *Biophysical and biochemical analytical techniques or computer technology.

If you don’t necessarily “mind” that animals are subjected then it’s been widely proven that alternative methods are also far cheaper and SAFER for humans. Because they have to use less of the drug, no spending on “looking after the animals” and are well, related to humans!

Here is just a little taste sample of why animal testing does not always help us, in fact can be dangerous to us:

Never managed and didn’t apply: Why did the FA make Phil Neville the England Women’s coach?

 The Guardian

what an amusing inevitability to learn that Phil Neville is the frontrunner for the job of managing the England women’s side. I very much enjoyed my colleague Louise Taylor’s report into the matter, which stated: “It is understood the 40-year-old’s name was initially suggested to the Football Association in a lighthearted manner by a well-known broadcaster at a drinks reception last month.”

This is my favourite How Job Applications Work story since George Osborne’s friends asked the former chancellor for his advice on their pitches for the Evening Standard editorship. Sorry, guys – he had a look at your proposals, but in the end the opportunity was just too good to pass up. A failed candidate for the Times’s graduate trainee scheme back in the day, he proceeded straight to newspaper editor.

Indeed, the latter tale was my favourite How Job Applications Work story since George’s pal Michael Gove decided to knife their other pal Boris Johnson during the post-referendum Tory leadership contest, justifying it thus: “I compare it to a group of people standing outside a collapsing building, wondering who is going to rescue a child inside. I thought: well, I don’t think I’ve got either the strength or the speed for this, but as I looked around, I thought, God, I’m at least as strong and at least as fast as the others. I’ve got to try to save the child.” To which the response turned out to be: police have arrested a 49-year-old west London man on suspicion of blowing up a building he later claimed to be rescuing a child from.

Anyway, back to the Neville appointment, reportedly almost a done deal. I suppose it’s one form of positive discrimination – the FA has refused to let Neville be held back by the fact he has never managed a football team, or by the fact he didn’t apply for the job.

Even so, plenty of people are wondering quite why he seems the best option for an FA supposedly committed to being less brutally self-parodic in 2018. In December, Baroness Sue Campbell – the head of women’s football – was acknowledging a problem with the lack of female applicants for the position: “It’s not about neglect,” she judged, “it’s more that we haven’t proactively gone out and tried to address the big issues. Now we are doing this.”

Alas, it looks like they haven’t quite done it in time not to have to parachute in a man who hasn’t managed before. Still, you have to admire the FA’s belief that the poor optics are worth it, so very soon after its handling of the Eni Aluko and Mark Sampson cases, which secured it that calamitous select committee appearance in October.

Anyone who cares about England football will wish Neville every success but let’s hope the FA devotes serious time to analysing why it has reportedly been rejected by the more qualified candidates it shortlisted. Fear of scrutiny is believed to be the main reason but should not have been insurmountable. If it has turned out to be, as seems the case, then that is a failing on the FA’s part. This is a great job. England are ranked No 1 in Europe and No 3 in the world, and after reaching both the last World Cup and Euro semi-finals will be regarded as having a good chance of winning the World Cup next year.

Furthermore, Sampson’s salary was said to fall between £100,000 and £150,000 a year, which – while a fraction of that paid to a series of underachieving coaches of the men’s side – isn’t too bad for a part-time job. I am sure Neville can see the opportunities of the position (just as I am sure he won’t be on a mere £150,000).

Perhaps the most controversial thing about the process of appointing the England manager, though, is that it is being managed by indestructible FA technical director Dan Ashworth. Inevitably, it is Ashworth who is said to have personally approached Neville.

Can it really be less than three months ago that people were describing Ashworth’s position as untenable, with Dame Heather Rabbatts rightly predicting nothing would change if he stayed in charge? And here we are. To imagine Ashworth’s position as untenable was always to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of British public life. Whole strata of it are full of chaps who have risen without trace and are seemingly unsinkable. They were being satirised by Anthony Powell in the character of Kenneth Widmerpool in 1951, being a recognisable character type even then.

Ashworth looks just this stripe of overpromoted middle-manager, whose wanly spreadsheeted demeanour belies the fact he would likely survive a nuclear apocalypse. After he has tired of the FA, you can absolutely imagine Dan being brought in at boggling cost to solve some vast and intractable problem of the British state – the housing crisis, say. There is a rich tradition of it – think of his spiritual predecessor John Birt, who was once simultaneously thinking of blue-sky solutions to violent crime and a transport crisis, as well as revolutionising the NHS.

In a self-penned article for the FA website, snuck out in the dead zone between Christmas and New Year, Ashworth would merely concede that “lessons have to be learned” – that classic passive formulation which deliberately avoids making himself the subject of the verb. And yet, if not by Ashworth, then by who? Answers on a postcard – though not, of course, on a successful job application.

Pankhurst Centre needs public funding, say women’s rights activists

Campaigners hope centenary of women gaining the vote might bring change of fortunes for Manchester museum dedicated to suffragette movement

Inside the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester, the birthplace of the suffragette movement
 Inside the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester, the birthplace of the suffragette movement. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

The Women’s Social and Political Union, an organisation that campaigned for woman’s suffrage in the UK, was founded in the parlour of Emmeline Pankhurst’s home in Chorlton-on-Medlock, south Manchester, in 1903.

The building currently houses a three-room museum – including the parlour – along with the charity Manchester Women’s Aid, which supports victims of domestic abuse. The museum is staffed by volunteers and receives no public funding, instead relying on donations. It opens to visitors between 10am and 4pm on Thursdays and for three hours every other Sunday.

The Representation of the People Act, which gave the vote to all men over 21 and women over 30 who met certain property qualifications, was passed into law in February 1918. As the centenary approaches, calls have been made to fund the Pankhurst Centre to make it a “major and significant museum” that tells the story of women’s suffrage and the subsequent women’s rights movement.

The writer and activist Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, said the building held symbolic significance. “This is the real building where a historical event happened that defined this pivotal change in our ideas of citizenship,” she said.

“Yet there is no other public funding for it. Is this again the perpetuation of women’s interests not being valued, not being given real power and visibility? I think the answer to that is a resounding yes.”

Gail Heath, the director of the Pankhurst Trust, said that while the Museum of London and the People’s History Museum both had displays dedicated to the suffragettes, the country should have a properly funded museum dedicated to the subject.

“The more the suffragette story is talked about the better, because it is inspirational,” she said. “A little group of women got together in that parlour downstairs. Emmeline was a single parent at the time, she had a part-time job, and they started a revolutionary movement. It’s a story that needs to be told.”

The building is owned by Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS foundation trust, which in 1979 applied for permission to demolish it. Following a campaign by the Victorian Society and other local groups, the authority agreed to lease the house to the Pankhurst Trust indefinitely in return for a symbolic payment of one suffragette sash every year. It was finally opened to the public by Barbara Castle and Helen Pankhurst in 1987.

The Pankhurst Centre merged with Manchester Women’s Aid in 2014, providing a mutually beneficial arrangement in which the museum was given more financial security and the charity had a space to run from. The building functions as a women’s centre, and has a food bank in its basement. “One of the defining things about the Pankhurst Centre is that we are not just a museum,” said Heath. “We are still active in the struggle.”

Last year the museum – with its photographs and assorted suffragette memorabilia – welcomed 2,700 visitors from across the world. “People come here because it is almost an act of pilgrimage, and even though our exhibit is a little bit tired and old and needs investment, they all feel the power of being in that room,” said Heath. The Pankhurst Centre has been unable to accept donations of key artefacts in the suffragette story because they cannot afford the insurance to look after them.

Helen Pankhurst at the Pankhurst Centre, the family home of her great-grandmother, Emmeline Pankhurst.
 Helen Pankhurst at the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester, the family home of her great-grandmother, Emmeline Pankhurst. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Though it is a Grade II listed building, the Pankhurst Centre is hemmed in on all sides by new wings of the St Mary’s hospital, making expansion more complicated. “We use every available space,” said Heath. “We will be digging out part of the cellar, because it’s full of rubble. We’re going to extend out there with a subterranean room to expand it. We are going to put corridors along the back, so you don’t have to cross space.”

A few days later it was announced that the government would help to fund a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in the city of her birth, the first of a woman to be erected in Manchester since a Queen Victoria statue was unveiled in 1901. “This is 100 years late, but still a very important and appreciated recognition by the establishment,” said Pankhurst.

“I think that in terms of the attitude of society in general, there’s a realisation now that you can’t assume that things are going to continue to get better in terms of women’s rights,” she said. “The last couple of years in particular have taught us that we have got to fight to hold on to the gains that we have made.”