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 91 
 on: Feb 06, 2016, 09:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
South America vows to wipe out Zika-spreading mosquito

Agence France-Presse
05 Feb 2016 at 13:03 ET                  

South American countries vowed Wednesday to eliminate the mosquitoes spreading Zika, the virus blamed for brain damage in babies, after a US patient caught it by having sex.

With health authorities warning the mosquito-borne illness could infect up to four million people, ministers from 14 countries held emergency talks in Uruguay to plot their response to the growing crisis, with fears the virus could spread worldwide.

The country worst hit, Brazil, said it was sending more than 500,000 personnel out to clean up and advise people about the disease.

The health ministers gathered in Montevideo signed a declaration vowing to “design and execute education campaigns to control the carriers” of the virus.

The fever starts with a mosquito bite and normally causes little more than a fever and rash.

But scientists suspect that when it strikes a pregnant woman, it can cause her baby to be born with microcephaly, or an abnormally small head.

Since October, Brazil has reported 404 confirmed cases of microcephaly — up from 147 in 2014 — plus 3,670 suspected cases.

It has reported 1.5 million Zika infections.

Brazil’s Health Minister Marcelo Castro told reporters his country had deployed 522,000 personnel to prevent infections — “the biggest such effort in Brazil’s history.”

Organizers of the Rio Olympics in Brazil in August have insisted Zika will not disrupt the Games.

– Sexual transmission risk –

Authorities in Texas on Tuesday said they had confirmed a case of the virus being transmitted between humans by sexual contact.

Dallas County officials said a patient was infected following sexual contact with someone who caught Zika in Venezuela.

Health authorities in Ireland urged men to wear a condom during sex for one month after returning from a country affected by Zika.

But in Mexico, one health official said more information was needed about the link between Zika and sex.

“We have to take this very cautiously. We have to wait for more scientific evidence,” said Cuitlahuac Ruiz, director of epidemiology at the Mexican health ministry.

British and Canadian authorities said returning travellers will be barred from donating blood for a month and three weeks respectively, underlining growing fears worldwide.

The South American officials gathered on Wednesday were reluctant to quantify the risk of sexual transmission.

“If that is confirmed, it will give a new dimension to the problem,” said the head of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa Etienne.

She said Zika was now present in 26 countries across the Americas.

“What worries the ministers is the speed with which Zika virus infections have spread,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the talks.

“Their response to this problem will be to fight against the mosquito that transmits the virus.”

Etienne said her organization provided $850,000 to help countries fight Zika but that 10 times that amount would be needed.

– Global Zika fears –

The World Health Organization has declared the spike in serious birth defects in South America an international emergency and launched a global Zika response unit.

Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and the US territory of Puerto Rico have all warned women not to get pregnant.

Health experts warn that Zika poses a massive threat to Asia.

Thailand confirmed that a man contracted the infection and Indonesia has also reported a domestic case — as has Cape Verde off northwest Africa.

The WHO warned European countries to act early to stop Zika spreading.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said the mosquito has “re-colonized” Madeira in Portugal and parts of southern Russia and Georgia in recent years after disappearing from the continent in the 20th century.

It has been spotted as far north as the Netherlands.

Indian drugs company Bharat Biotech said it was developing the world’s first Zika vaccine and was ready to test it on animals.

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi earlier said it had begun researching a vaccine for Zika, for which there is currently no specific treatment.

***************

Seattle expert: Brain damage is unusually severe in Zika cases

Originally published February 5, 2016 at 11:03 am Updated February 5, 2016 at 9:39 pm

Seattle Times

A Seattle expert in microcephaly, the devastating birth defect that appears linked to Zika virus infections in Brazil, said he’s seeing a pattern of cases that are unusually severe, raising worrisome questions about the outbreak.

The devastating birth defects linked to an outbreak of mosquito-borne Zika virus in Brazil may be even more severe than suspected, according to a Seattle Children’s hospital expert who’s spent decades studying and treating the condition known as microcephaly.

Babies are being born not just with unusually small heads, but with additional severe defects of the brain, said Dr. William Dobyns, a medical geneticist and pediatric neurologist at the hospital’s Center for Integrative Brain Research.

Problems include large amounts of fluid between the brain and skull, malformations in the crucial cerebral cortex and scattered calcifications that indicate severe infection.

“They have clear evidence of destruction of the brain,” said Dobyns. “It has been called ‘microcephaly’ in quotes, but it’s clear that it’s far more than that.”

Dobyns said he has reviewed a half-dozen brain scans from children in Brazil after receiving them from colleagues there. Though it’s a small sample, he said there are dismaying similarities in the images.

“I’m seeing an extremely rare, recognizable pattern,” he said.

Babies affected by the condition are showing signs that go beyond a general definition of microcephaly, which is a clinical finding of a smaller-than-normal head size. It is sometimes measured as a head circumference more than two standard deviations below the mean age for age, sex and gestation. Severe cases are often defined as a head circumference more than three standard deviations below the mean.

The brain scans Dobyns examined showed the heads of these babies are “way small, way small,” he said. The affected infants have severe cerebral palsy and epilepsy evident from birth and significant feeding problems.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed reports of serious brain defects with calcium deposits in infants in Brazil who were not tested but presumed to be infected with Zika virus.

And there may be many more of them.

Suspected cases of microcephaly have spiked in Brazil, climbing perhaps 20 times higher than normal since last spring, when the first Zika virus infections were reported.

More than 4,700 cases have been reported since October, according to Brazil health officials. But only about 400 have been confirmed, and the link between the virus and the birth defects has not been proven. More than 3,000 cases are still being investigated.

“I personally do believe something is going on here,” said Dobyns, “based on a stunning increase in the incidence of microcephaly.”

Officials in Brazil have reported evidence of Zika virus in amniotic fluid from pregnant women carrying fetuses diagnosed with microcephaly, and in spinal fluid of babies with the disorder born to Zika-affected mothers. CDC scientists have found evidence of Zika in brains of newborns who died.   

“With each passing day, the link between Zika and microcephaly becomes stronger,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, told reporters Friday.

Of course, at the start of any public-health emergency, the worst cases are detected first, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

Zika infections were reported in Brazil starting last spring and were followed by growing reports of the birth defect. The virus is spreading rapidly and has now been detected in more than 25 countries. U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa, have reported local spread, the CDC said.

Microcephaly can produce a spectrum of milder to severe disabilities. Babies can have problems ranging from intellectual limits and learning disabilities to constant seizures.

But the expertise of Dobyns, who estimates he has reviewed or treated 700 to 800 cases of microcephaly during the past 20 to 30 years, is valuable, Schaffner added.

Dobyns said he has asked Brazilian colleagues to pull together and share more case reports and brain scans from affected children.

About 25,000 microcephaly cases are reported in the U.S. each year. The Zika virus has not yet spread in the United States, but local transmission is expected, particularly in the South, where the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes that transmit the virus are found.

Those types don’t live in Washington state, which means there’s virtually no risk of local Zika virus transmission here, said Liz Dykstra, an entomologist with the Department of Health.

“Those are the two species that everyone has their eyes on,” she said. “We do not have and we’ve never detected either of those species in Washington.”

But when widespread local Zika transmission does start in U.S. states — and it will, Dobyns said — it brings with it the risk of the microcephaly cases now seen in Brazil.

“This is a severe and complex form of microcephaly with significant brain damage,” he said. “What we don’t know is what percentage of affected children have this condition.”

 92 
 on: Feb 06, 2016, 09:04 AM 
Started by SpeakNow - Last post by Rad
Hi SpeakNow

"To be sure I'm understanding this correctly...let's say Pisces and Virgo are intercepted, I look to Neptune (ruler of Pisces) and Venus (ruler of Virgo)...or a stacked 12th or 6th house...to see if they are heavily aspected or not. If they *are* heavily aspected, this most likely means that the soul has thoroughly developed these areas prior to this life, am I correct?"

*********

First, Mercury rules Virgo, not Venus. Yes in terms of the question you asked which is specific the interceptions in general.

God Bless, Rad

 93 
 on: Feb 06, 2016, 08:50 AM 
Started by SpeakNow - Last post by SpeakNow
Thank you both so much.

To be sure I'm understanding this correctly...let's say Pisces and Virgo are intercepted, I look to Neptune (ruler of Pisces) and Venus (ruler of Virgo)...or a stacked 12th or 6th house...to see if they are heavily aspected or not. If they *are* heavily aspected, this most likely means that the soul has thoroughly developed these areas prior to this life, am I correct?

 94 
 on: Feb 06, 2016, 08:05 AM 
Started by SpeakNow - Last post by Rad
Hi Speak Now,

When the Lunar Nodal Axis is intercepted there are no special EA rules that apply. As in any signs that are intercepted in a house those signs are coming through another sign that is on the cusp. That sign has it's own planetary ruler which is located somewhere, and has aspects to it which the Soul uses to actualize the evolutionary intentions and reasons for it being there. Thus, the intercepted Nodal Axis incorporates within itself, it's own sign of the Lunar Nodes, and the location of there planetary rulers, the aspects made to them, those additional dynamics as defined by the sign on the house cusp, and the location of it's planetary ruler with aspects to it. Of course the evolutionary and karmic question the EA astrologer must ask is WHY ? Why has the Soul intended to do this for it's own ongoing evolutionary and karmic reasons.

God Bless, Rad

 95 
 on: Feb 06, 2016, 07:57 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
This Talking Bird Is Disappearing From the Wild: Why is the beloved African Grey Parrot almost gone from the forests of West and central Africa?

Officials rescued these African Grey parrots from an illegal trader at the Ugandan border in 2011. A new study shows that the birds have almost disappeared in Ghana, where they once flourished.

Photograph by James Akena, REUTERS
By Paul Steyn
PUBLISHED Fri Feb 05 10:19:41 EST 2016

Flocks of chattering African Grey parrots, more than a thousand flashes of red and white on grey at a time, were a common site in the deep forests of Ghana in the 1990s. But a 2016 study published in the journal Ibis reveals that these birds, in high demand around the world as pets, and once abundant in forests all over West and central Africa, have almost disappeared from Ghana.

According to the study, the pet trade and forest loss—particularly the felling of large trees where the parrots breed—are major factors contributing to the decline.

Uncannily good at mimicking human speech, the African Grey (and the similar but lesser-known Timneh parrot) is a prized companion in homes around the world. Research has shown that greys are as smart as a two-five year-old human child—capable of developing a limited vocabulary and even forming simple sentences.

Google the term “African Grey talking,” and you’ll find hundreds of videos—including Einstein the talking parrot’s TED presentation—showing the birds whistling and mimicking words and phrases.

The grey parrot has a wide historic range across West and central Africa—1.1 million square miles (nearly three million square kilometers)—from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana in West Africa, through Nigeria and Cameroon and the Congo forests, to Uganda and western Kenya. Ghana accounts for more than 30,000 square miles (75,000 square kilometers) of that range, but losses of greys there have been some of the most devastating.

“Grey parrot populations in Ghana have declined catastrophically, and the species is now very rare across the country,” said Nigel Collar, of BirdLife International, a global partnership dedicated to conserving birds and their habitat. Collar was one of the authors of the paper, which notes that since 1992 Ghana has lost 90-99 percent of its African greys.

“Dedicated searching, including visits to roosts, which had as many as 1,200 individuals 20 years ago, yielded just a handful of grey parrot sightings,” said Nathaniel Annorbah, a Ghanaian graduate student at Manchester Metropolitan University, in England, who was the study’s lead author.

The “African Silence”

“I’m not surprised that African Greys are disappearing from Ghana,” said Steve Boyes, an African parrot specialist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer.“

We’re also seeing local extinctions happening in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and throughout their range. We’re calling it the ‘African Silence.’”

The African Grey parrot is the single most heavily traded wild bird as recorded by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the body that regulates wildlife trade globally.

There have been 800,000 legal recorded imports of the parrots from range countries since 1980. But this figure doesn’t account for the total number of parrots taken from forests. Wild grey parrots are particularly susceptible to death in captivity, and it's been estimated that 45 to 65 percent of greys perish before reaching export markets. And, according to BirdLife International, if you factor in domestic and international trades that go unreported, the number of birds snatched from central and West Africa in the past 20 years is probably more than one million.

In 1992, the United States banned the import of wild African Grey parrots. The EU followed in 2007. But a thriving captive-bred trade persists and is likely contributing to declines in the wild.

“What many people will not know,” said Rowan Martin, Director of the World Parrot Trust, a conservation organization based in the U.S., “is that the captive breeding industry in some parts of the world—especially South Africa and the Middle East—relies heavily on wild birds as breeding stocks.”

“It’s cheaper for aviculturists to purchase wild caught birds and breed from them rather than from their own stock, because captive birds may take several years before they reach maturity,” Martin said.

This loophole can be exploited by traders in countries with weak regulations, such as South Africa, Bahrain, Pakistan, and Mozambique. South Africa, for instance, is the leading exporter of captive-bred African Greys—more than 40,000 a year. The country is also the leading importer, so there’s a reasonable likelihood that a captive-bred grey from South Africa had wild parents.

Well-meaning pet owners may therefore inadvertently support the trade in wild-caught parrots by buying chicks bred from wild hens.

Eliminating Trade

A CITES proposal is now circulating among all African Grey parrot range states calling for a total ban on all trade of wild-caught parrots.

Most countries have already implemented bans, but Cameroon still has a CITES export quota of 1,600 parrots. The final proposal will be voted on at the next CITES Conference of the Parties, in Johannesburg, South Africa, later this year.

“If no country is permitted to trade wild birds of this species, it will be the most important action that can be implemented to help save the species in the wild,” Martin said. “Illegal trade will persist, but it’s likely that the scale will be much reduced.”

Eliminating demand for wild birds in consumer countries is part of the solution, particularly in emerging markets like Singapore, Bahrain, and Pakistan, where some local people believe in parrots’ spiritual powers and use their heads and feathers as fetish and ritual objects.

Should You Buy an African Grey?

“If someone is thinking of buying an African Grey parrot,” said Steve Boyes, “they should be 100 percent sure of where it came from. Make sure that the parrot was captive-bred and hand-raised. Ask for paperwork.”

In addition, he said, people need to be aware that these birds can live for up to 65 years and that in the wild they’re very social, flying in large flocks and covering several miles a day. They’re highly interactive, forming close bonds with each other and within their social groups.

“We call them singles clubs,” said Boyes, “where they’re meeting other birds and finding a partner that they’ll keep for the rest of their life.”

They use all the tools of communication—the ability to mimic sounds and make unique calls—which are essential for life in the wild.

“That’s a very special thing for us to protect and appreciate,” he said. “If they get caught in a trap, and put in captivity, they become heartbroken. That’s what happens to these birds when they lose their freedom.”

Paul Steyn is a freelance journalist in South Africa who focuses on science and the environment. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

 96 
 on: Feb 06, 2016, 07:52 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Exclusive: Hard Numbers Reveal Scale of America’s Trophy-Hunting Habit

A new analysis from the Humane Society finds American hunters import more than 126,000 animal trophies a year.
Picture of a hunter in his trophy room

Photograph by Robert Clark, National Geographic
By Rachael Bale
PUBLISHED Sat Feb 06 07:00:00 EST 2016

This week sport hunters placed bids on at least 600 permits at Safari Club International’s annual convention, or, as it’s also called, “the ultimate hunter’s market.” The auction drew sharp criticism, but those 600 permits are only a sliver of American hunters’ involvement in the sport hunting industry.

Sport hunters, those who kill animals for recreation rather than out of necessity, imported more than 1.26 million trophies to the U.S. in the decade from 2005 through 2014, according to a new analysis of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s import data by Humane Society International and the Humane Society of United States. That’s an average of 126,000 trophy imports a year, or 345 a day.

“What we hope the report accomplishes is that we shed light on the scale of the role we play in killing some of the world’s vulnerable and endangered species,” said Masha Kalinina, an international trade policy specialist at Humane Society International.

Sport hunters say their activities support conservation by boosting local economies and providing incentives for the preservation of land and wildlife for high-paying hunters.

Conservationists, animal welfare advocates, and many scientists, however, say sport hunting puts pressure on vulnerable populations, disrupts social networks, and doesn’t pump up local economies as much as hunters argue. Many also argue that destroying wildlife for pleasure is unethical.

It may surprise some that the biggest source of trophy imports is Canada. But it’s close and easy to get to for Americans, and it offers iconic North American species such as black bears, grizzly bears, moose, and wolves.

For similar reasons, Mexico is also a big destination for sport hunters. Its hunting industry is valued at about $200 million, according to the Humane Society, with nearly 4,000 hunting ranches in operation.

“Mexico really incentivizes U.S. hunters to come over,” Kalinina said. “The affordability of that type of hunt is really what appeals to U.S. hunters.”

The Big Five African species are especially coveted—lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, and leopards. Not only are they some of Africa’s most iconic species, but they’re also some of the most dangerous to hunt, which ups the prestige of the kill. 

In the decade from 2005 through 2014, American trophy hunters imported nearly 32,500 lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, and leopards.

Lions: Lion hunting is particularly controversial, especially after Cecil. For Americans, canned hunting in South Africa—where lions are bred on ranches to be shot by hunters within a fenced area—is especially popular. More than 1,500 captive lions were imported to the U.S. as trophies from 2005 through 2014, out of a total of 5,587 lion trophies. But the tide is turning against canned hunting—South Africa’s hunting association recently voted to distance itself from the practice.

Lions recently gained new protections from American trophy hunters. As of January 22, all lions are listed as “endangered” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, meaning anyone wanting to import a lion trophy must get a permit. Getting a permit requires proving that the hunt enhances the survival of wild lions, and that’s a bar few hunts are likely to meet, the Humane Society says.

Elephants: Elephant trophies too have recently been restricted. In 2014, the U.S. suspended elephant trophy imports from Tanzania and Zimbabwe over concerns about sustainability. The poaching crisis played a big role in that decision. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which regulates trophy imports, also found that there was no clear evidence that trophy hunting money was actually benefiting elephants by supporting conservation efforts. It cited widespread corruption and mismanagement of hunting programs.

Leopards: Leopard trophy imports are also restricted. The U.S. lists southern Africa’s leopards as threatened, and all others as endangered. Just recently, South Africa effectively banned trophy hunting of leopards because no one’s sure how many the country has. The government singled out trophy hunting mismanagement and the illegal trade in leopard skins as the biggest threats.

Rhinos: Black rhinos are critically endangered and almost never hunted, with a small number of very high-profile exceptions. Southern white rhinos are somewhat more common, though they’re still considered near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an international body that sets the conservation status of species. But southern white rhinos face a major threat from poachers supplying the rhino horn trade, with at least 1,305 killed illegally in 2015. Home to about 80 percent of the world’s rhinos, South Africa is one of the main sources of U.S.-imported rhino trophies.

African buffalo: African buffalo are the most common, and commonly imported, of the Big Five. There are nearly 900,000, with about three-quarters in protected areas, according to the IUCN. African buffalo have gone extinct in Gambia and Eritrea, but they’ve been reintroduced successfully in Swaziland and South Africa, from where Americans imported more than 4,200 trophies in the decade since 2005.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

 97 
 on: Feb 06, 2016, 07:41 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Faiza Ahmed: how one woman’s cries for help were missed by every authority

On Thursday, she called the police. On Friday, she alerted the jobcentre, and later called an ambulance. And then it was too late. How Faiza Ahmed was let down by the system

Simon Hattenstone
Saturday 6 February 2016 10.00 GMT
Press Association

It was just after 8am on 6 November 2014 when Faiza Hassan Ahmed knocked on her neighbour’s door. Violet Nantayiro did not know her, but Faiza was obviously distressed. She let her in and tried to comfort her. Faiza said a man had attempted to rape her, and asked Nantayiro if she would ring the police on her behalf.

Nantayiro did know that 31-year-old Faiza had been up much of the night. She had heard people chatting and music playing until 3am in the flat upstairs. Faiza told Nantayiro that she had been drinking with her boyfriend and his friend until the early hours. She said her boyfriend had recently gone to work, and she had gone to bed, where she was sexually assaulted by his friend.

A few minutes later, police officers arrived at the address in Limehouse, east London. By 9.30am the officers had left, after a tense encounter, without taking a statement. One day later, Faiza Ahmed was dead.

***

Mohammed Ahmed, 33, meets me at the offices of Women Against Rape, a campaign group that has supported Faiza’s family’s quest for justice. The inquest into his sister’s death is due to start in a couple of weeks, and he is worried it is going to be a whitewash; a verdict of suicide with no contributory factors, meaning that nothing could have been done to save Faiza’s life. The family strongly believe this is not the case.

Mo was always close to his sister. They were born in Somalia and moved to London when they were toddlers. There were six sisters and one brother, but Mo and Faiza had a special bond.

First there was the age – Mo was just a year older than Faiza. Then there was their attitude to life. Their sisters were well-behaved, conscientious children, but Mo and Faiza were a handful: strong, sparky and opinionated. Faiza was expelled from a number of schools. Sometimes they ran into trouble with the police, who, they said, were racist and stereotyped them as aggressive.

“We were so similar, our stories were almost identical,” Mo says. “Both of us were confident in ourselves. When we had an idea, nothing would stop us. We were brought up devout Muslims, but both of us went off the rails. So we were on the outside, compared with the rest of the family. We were thick as thieves, and would always cover for each other.”

Faiza, who was also known as Sophie, had her first run-in with the police when she was 14, and it changed her life in a way she could never have anticipated. But first Mo wants to tell me why he calls her Sophie. He smiles: “There was a teacher at school who couldn’t pronounce her name, and somehow it came out as Sophie. And that stuck!” Mo still knows her best as Sophie.

He can’t remember what Faiza was arrested for at 14. But he remembers their father going to the police station to collect her. As he walked there, a car ran him over, and a week later he died. Faiza always blamed herself for his death, though she never talked about it. (Mo only learned this from psychiatric reports after her death.) It also made her more hostile to the police.

Mo, a talented athlete, joined a football academy in Leyton, east London, at 16, but didn’t progress. At 21, he joined the army. He found the experience depressing, again encountering racism, and began to drink too much. “I joined as a devout Muslim. While I’d been in trouble with the police, I wasn’t a confrontational, aggressive person. The army made me a very aggressive, tough, robust person.”

One night he got in a fight and was convicted of actual bodily harm. He was kicked out of the army in 2004, and sentenced to six months in prison, of which he served two. This also proved a life-changer – but in a positive way. Mo told himself that he would never get into trouble again, and that he would make something of his life. Today, he works as a firefighter for the London Fire Brigade, has a nine-year-old daughter, and is getting married to his partner Wendy in July.

A year before Mo was convicted, Faiza had been sent to prison for the same offence. At the age of 20, she was convicted of actual bodily harm for assaulting a police officer, and sentenced to four months, of which she served two.

Faiza was also determined to make a new start when she came out of prison. But while Mo got ahead in the fire service, she struggled to find work. In 2012, she got a job as a team leader for the London 2012 Olympics and adored it. “London 2012 gave people like my sister an opportunity,” Mo says. “It was the best four weeks of her life. We’d never seen her so happy. If she had been given an opportunity, I have no doubt she’d be alive today. But after London 2012, it was back to the cycle of struggling, and the jobcentre trying to push her into jobs she had no interest in.”

After Faiza died, Mo discovered from her psychiatric reports that he had been her role model. “I went to prison and rebuilt my life, and she went to prison and was trying to rebuild hers. When bad things kept happening to her, she kept saying to herself, ‘If Mo can do it, I can do it.’” Now he blames himself for not being there enough, even though he saw her virtually every week right up to her death.

He tells me that when he was in prison, he became suicidal, and it was Faiza who convinced him there was so much to live for. This is why he is determined to get justice for Faiza.

***

St Pancras coroner’s court is a claustrophobic building at the edge of a park in north London. There is a room for the jury, a tiny room for the bereaved family, two toilets, and that’s it. It’s so small that everybody has to squash together in the hallway before being allowed into court: Mo, his mother, his sister Ferdus, the barrister for the family, barristers for the police and London Ambulance Service, police officers, ambulance workers, solicitors, and campaigners supporting the family.

Last year the coroner ruled that there would be a regular inquest (two days, without a jury); but the family went to the high court to argue for an article 2 inquest, to examine whether any act or omission by a state agency had contributed to Faiza’s death. These last longer, are more detailed, involve legal teams and are usually held in front of a jury. If the jury rules that the state contributed to the death, the family can go on to make a claim in court that there was a breach of the right to life under article 2 of the Human Rights Act.

    The work coach from the jobcentre is asked why he didn’t call the police. ‘I don’t know. It eludes me’

Today, coroner Mary Hassell explains to the jury why this is a special inquest: that they are here to rule how Faiza died and whether there were any contributory factors. The jury hears that Faiza had expressed suicidal thoughts in the past: in 2010, she was diagnosed with a personality disorder; in 2011, she was sectioned by the Metropolitan police under the Mental Health Act; in 2013, she had again disclosed suicidal thoughts and tried to cut her wrists; and, in 2014, she had talked to her GP about being tearful, struggling to get a job, smoking weed and having intermittent thoughts of suicide but no plan to act on them. Faiza last saw her GP three months before she died, in August 2014, and said she was drinking large amounts of alcohol and not eating properly; she did add that she had a supportive partner.

Hassell reads out a letter that was left by Faiza: “This is to my family, including you Wifey… I have had enough. I just want to sleep forever! Please forgive me for exiting the world the way I did. Thank you Wife for loving me! Mum I’m sorry. The pain of feelin’ alone got too much!”

There are mutterings in the court. Counsel for the family, Taimour Lay, explains that Faiza was fond of slang, and Wifey refers to her boyfriend. But the boyfriend, who was reluctant to give evidence, is not in court.

Ferdus Ahmed, Faiza’s sister, takes to the witness stand to give a moving statement about her sister. “Faiza was kind and intelligent,” she says. “Very intelligent, actually, but she lacked confidence. She was very good with children. She adored her niece.” Ferdus momentarily breaks down, and is passed tissues. “She was a bright individual, but never got a break. She did a childcare course, but she had a criminal record and she found it difficult to get work. Faiza did suffer with depression. One day she’d be happy, the next really down. I felt cannabis was one of the things that really affected her behaviour, made her hallucinate. But I think she was trying to give it up.”

The coroner asks Ferdus what she would like to learn from the inquest. She talks about the missed opportunities to help Faiza. Hassell asks what would have happened if somebody had called her on 7 November and said, “Your sister is upset, and needs support.”

“I would have got in my car and gone to her house straight away,” Ferdus says. “We weren’t aware of anything that happened. We never got that chance.”

Mo provides a written statement about Faiza. “My sister’s a trailblazer, the most creative person in our family,” he writes. “She had her faults, but each fault would be complemented by kinder, more caring qualities.” He mentioned the negative relationship she had with both the police and the jobcentre. “She was sanctioned by the jobcentre for turning up late, missing appointments. She lived with the constant fear of being sanctioned. She commented that they never really believed her when she told them about her depression.”

***

When Faiza knocked on Violet Nantayiro’s door on 6 November, she was beside herself. Evidence emerged in court that she had been in a bad way all week, and that the alleged sexual assault had tipped her over the edge. Nantayiro tells the jury that she has worked in a psychiatric hospital, and that Faiza appeared “hysterical, a bit incoherent. She kept repeating how evil it was that a friend could do this to you. She was emotionally distraught, crying.” Nantayiro says Faiza was acting as if she had taken drugs. “It was not the behaviour of someone in their right mind. She was shouting at the top of her voice.”

Did Nantayiro feel threatened, the coroner asks. “No,” she says. She is a small, slight woman. “You wouldn’t have genuine concern of her… she was just a bit bigger than me.”

Four police officers attended the address that morning, and were buzzed in. The first two officers to arrive, both male, dealt with Faiza. The second pair dealt with the suspect, who was still upstairs in Faiza’s flat. One of the officers sent upstairs was female.

Nantayiro is asked about the demeanour of the police. “They were trying to calm her down, explain to her that they have to do their job.” They were very matter-of-fact, Nantayiro says. She pauses. “I thought they would be much softer. I guess they have to be professional.” Nantayiro says she was surprised by how persistent the police were in demanding intimate details of the assault, which made Faiza more hostile.

Much of the police evidence about Faiza is consistent with Nantayiro’s: she had been drinking, she was shouting. But there are significant differences. The officers say they found Faiza’s behaviour threatening. They say she refused to give essential information, and that she would not hand over her clothes or bedding for examination. The officers insist that, although she was aggressive, they did not believe she was suffering from mental health problems. (If they had, they would have been obliged to refer her to mental health services and ensure she was safe in the immediate future.)

PC Steven Pardoe tells the court: “She just seemed to be anti-police. At no point did I think mental health was an issue. I believe we dealt with it professionally. Tried to do everything to reassure her. We were there for the best part of an hour and a half, pleading with her, explaining why we need to take a statement. Unfortunately, it was not something she wished to do.”

Unlike in a criminal court, witnesses are allowed to hear each other’s evidence because, as Hassell points out, this is purely a fact-finding mission. The Ahmed family are not pleased when they hear this. They believe they are more likely to get to the truth of what happened if witnesses give their versions of what happened without having heard their colleagues. And yet inconsistencies do gradually emerge in the officers’ evidence. PC Neil Reynolds, who attended with Pardoe, admits that Faiza was not entirely hostile and that, rather than failing to tell them what had happened, she gave them the four facts considered vital in reporting a sexual assault within 20-30 minutes: what happened, where, when and to whom.

The female officer, PC Kelly Cloughton, who attended a few minutes after Pardoe and Reynolds, describes how she and a fourth colleague interviewed the suspect (who was arrested and later released). The coroner asks if it would have been more appropriate for her to talk to Faiza, rather than the male officers. “She might have engaged more,” Cloughton replies. “But because we arrived later, there was no chance of that.” If she had gone upstairs to the suspect, then returned to Faiza, there would have been a danger of cross-contaminating the suspect’s and victim’s evidence.

The officers agree that the more they asked for specific details, the more abusive Faiza became; they all state that she told them she hoped they were raped. Reading from his statement, PC Pardoe says: “She said, ‘You lot don’t want to know. You are heavyweight bullies. He won’t go to prison. Fuck off. I hope you get raped. You can’t do anything.’”

***

At around 9.30am, Faiza stopped cooperating and insisted on returning to her flat – the scene of the alleged crime. The officers say they could do nothing to stop her, and left.

It was at this point that the Metropolitan police made a crucial decision. When a sexual assault has been reported, policy at the time stated that an officer who specialises in sexual offences had to be dispatched within an hour. It makes sense: after all, officers talk about “the golden hour”, during which they can gather the best DNA. This protocol has now been changed, following recognition that the target was routinely being missed: last year, the mandatory time requirement was removed altogether.

The police decided to call off the specialist officer when Pardoe reported back that Faiza was being difficult and aggressive. Hassell reads a statement from Detective Sergeant Ian Valentine explaining why the specialist officer was taken off the job: “I got a call… saying she was no longer cooperating. Research showed that she was violent when intoxicated, and it was no longer appropriate for her the specialist officer to attend without body armour.” He cancelled the deployment of DC Maxine Durrant and arranged for another officer to attend the address the next day with a colleague and safety equipment.

    The specialist officers left Faiza’s flats without seeing her. The ambulance crew decided she was at no risk to herself

Giving evidence, Durrant says her role is dealing with aftercare. “I am like the personal officer for the victim,” she explains. Durrant might have technically been Faiza’s personal officer, but she never met her and didn’t even open a log on her. The coroner asks Durrant why she didn’t attend later that day. “In my experience,” Durrant says, “when someone is that upset, irate, uncooperative, more often than not they need more than a couple of hours to calm down.”

Many sharp intakes of breath come from the family as they hear Durrant’s evidence. In the break, Mo asks how it can make sense. First, if it was felt the rape specialist would not be able to work with Faiza, how could the Met expect untrained officers to successfully take a statement? Second, if the specialist officer did not attend in the mandatory hour, how could the Met collect evidence while still fresh? Finally, if the Met had cancelled the visit because Faiza was difficult, would they not have to cancel a huge proportion of visits to traumatised victims of sexual assault?

***

The police gave Faiza more than a couple of hours to calm down. Nobody knows what happened to her later that day or the next morning. There were no visits from specialist officers, and she did not make contact with her family. Evidence reveals she drank during that time, but how much is impossible to say. The postmortem showed 231mg per decilitre of alcohol in her blood (the legal limit for driving is 80mg per decilitre). There is a blank until she attended the jobcentre between 2pm and 3pm on Friday 7 November, the day she died.

Clarence Whyte, the work coach at the jobcentre, is a quietly spoken man in a starched white shirt, tie and navy pullover. He tells the jury he asked Faiza why she was three days late to sign on, and she explained she had been sick. He said she would have to fill in a JSA28 form to explain her absence. “She wrote on the form, ‘I was busy trying to kill myself, drinking non-stop,’” Whyte says. He goes on to explain that there is a space for the date when you started being unwell (Faiza put 4 November) and another space for when you think you will be well again (Faiza put 7 November). Whyte says she handed him the report and, as he was reading it, disappeared without him noticing. That was the last he saw of her.

The coroner looks shocked.

“How did she seem?” she asks.

“Calm.”

“Dishevelled?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Did she look upset?”

“No, she seemed perfectly calm. Sometimes we see people categorised as potentially violent, and we wonder why they are categorised as such because they seem perfectly calm.”

Whyte told his team leader what happened. They completed a “six-point plan” (which they are obliged to do if they believe a client is going to self-harm) as best they could, decided not to sanction her, and continued with their work.

Whyte is asked how seriously he took Faiza’s statement. “I had to take it as a serious issue, but it wasn’t unusual.”

Did he think of ringing the police or ambulance service? “No. From my perspective, she wasn’t at the point where she was going to commit suicide.”

“I appreciate she did not say, ‘I’m going to kill myself now’,” Hassell says, “but ‘I was busy trying to kill myself’ is quite a stark statement. If I came into contact with a statement like that, I would be worried. I’d feel frightened for them.”

Whyte: “Yes.”

Hassell: “If you were frightened, why didn’t that prompt a call to the police?”

Whyte: “I don’t know. It eludes me why I didn’t do that.”

Lay asks Whyte why he was so convinced Faiza was no longer suicidal. “The impression I got was the sickness was in the past, because she was well enough to fill in the form. The impression I got was that she’d put the 7th to cover herself for dates she should have signed on.” In other words, Faiza was not in danger because she had said she would be well again on 7 November – the same day. “She filled in the form to say she was better,” he repeats.

What if somebody has mental health problems, Lay asks. When should they say they will be better? Whyte does not know how to answer. He was, after all, just doing his job, which involves coming across many vulnerable people, and is unqualified to make mental health assessments. The Department for Work and Pensions has not sent a barrister to represent Whyte, or Jobcentre Plus. He is left to fend for himself.

Five days after Faiza’s visit, however, somebody at the jobcentre decided her statement was sufficiently disturbing to make an urgent referral to the community mental health team. But by then it was too late.

Lay asks Whyte if he now thinks he should have made a referral immediately. “Based on the information I had, no. I didn’t think it was necessary.” Would he do the same thing again? “If exactly the same circumstances occurred, I don’t think I would have done anything differently.”

***

One day, as we are squeezed together in the entrance, an elderly woman arrives at the coroner’s court. She is dressed eccentrically; a Manchester United woolly hat, Unite trade union lanyard hanging around her neck, and a coat covered in badges dedicated to issues of justice.

“Hi, I’m here for Faiza,” she says. “I’m a supporter.”

A man with a crew cut and wearing a suit stares. “What are you supporting?” he asks. “Man United?” He grins at the police officer standing next to him, then walks over to the coroner’s officer, who worked in the Met for 27 years. “What does it mean, she’s a supporter?” he asks. “A supporter of what? Isn’t that a bit weird?” The coroner’s officer tells him that some people are here to support the family.

Later that day, I find myself sitting next to the man with the crew cut in court. He observes me making notes. “Who are you reporting for?” he asks. I tell him I’m from the Guardian, and ask where he’s from.

“DPS,” he says tersely and turns away.

The DPS is the Directorate of Professional Standards, the police body responsible for investigating complaints against the professional conduct of officers. In this case, the DPS will have investigated all the officers who were assigned to Faiza in the final two days of her life.

I tell the DPS officer my name and ask him his. He gives me the same withering look he gave the elderly lady. “I’m not daft enough to give you my name,” he says. “I don’t want to end up in the papers.”

The inquest is scheduled for seven days, but ends up lasting eight. Witness after witness recounts what they know about Faiza Ahmed’s final two days. It seems there were many opportunities to save her life. She felt suicidal, but that does not necessarily mean she wanted to die. If she had really intended to kill herself later that day, why would she have turned up at the jobcentre to make sure she wasn’t sanctioned?

***

After Faiza left the jobcentre, she was in a bad way. At around 4pm, she called the London Ambulance Service and said she wanted help. The jury hears the transcript of the conversation. It is hard to listen to – literally, a cry for help.

“I’m trying to slit my wrist, like. I just need some help.”

“OK, I’m just going to ask you a few questions. It won’t delay any help. Are you feeling violent to anyone else?”

“No, I’m just by myself.” Faiza says she is in her front room with a piece of glass. “I’m very scared. I had too much to drink, and I’m sorry, like. I don’t want to live no more. I just want to die. There’s nothing to live for. There’s no one with me. I just want to die. I just want to die.”

The operator tells her that an ambulance is coming and to stay on the line until it gets there. Faiza then says she doesn’t want an ambulance, apologises for wasting their time and puts down the phone.

It is at this point that there is another monumental failure to communicate. The ambulance crew is not told that Faiza is suicidal, merely that she is self-harming. Because she has said she has a piece of glass, they call the police as backup. Neither the police nor the ambulance service knows that she reported an attempted rape the previous day. Even though Faiza has been sectioned in the past, they do not know that she has made previous attempts to take her own life. The police arrive before the ambulance. Ferdus tells the court that her sister would have been “devastated” to be faced by the police when she had called the ambulance for help.

“Everything’s fine,” Faiza tells officers. “There’s been no crime. I don’t need you lot. Fuck off.” Still, she lets them in. Again, these two policemen describe Faiza as aggressive and uncooperative.

They make way for the ambulance team, but by then she doesn’t want anything to do with them, either. It is during this time, when both crews are there, that Durrant and another officer from the Met’s rape and sexual offences team finally arrive to see Faiza. They press the communal bell to get in and walk up the stairs, where they see an officer on the landing.

Durrant tells the inquest she could hear Faiza screaming (the ambulance team later say they could not recall screaming), and that she was told Faiza was trying to cut herself. After roughly five minutes, the two specialist officers decide Faiza is best left with the regular officers and the ambulance service. They leave without seeing her, even though they are the only professionals on the scene trained to talk to her about the sexual assault. It remains unclear how much the specialist officers told the Met officers already present about the attempted rape allegation.

The regular officers tell the jury that, yes, they were informed Faiza had made an allegation of sexual assault. But they didn’t know it had happened the previous day. Durrant admits that she and her colleague did not instruct the officers to tell Faiza they had called, nor did they consider staying to see if Faiza was all right. The officers made no note in their report of having told the ambulance service of Faiza’s allegation of sexual assault, though they tell the court they imagine they would have done so. Meanwhile, the ambulance crew insist they were told nothing of Faiza’s circumstances, and would have acted differently if they had. The difference in attitudes between the Metropolitan Police and the London Ambulance Service is striking. Whereas the Met appears not to admit to a single failing in court, the LAS acknowledges that there were many.

The police and ambulance service left Faiza’s home between 5pm and 5.30pm. The ambulance service had decided she was at no immediate risk to herself – there was only a tiny mark on her wrist. Crew members think they suggested she ask friends or family to come round to support her, but again there was no documentary evidence. Faiza was left alone.

About 40 minutes later, she walked to Westferry DLR station. She is seen on CCTV entering the station at 18.09. At 18.12 she steps on to the railway tracks, in front of an oncoming train. The footage shown to the jury is devastating – the quiet, deliberate way she moves towards the platform edge, puts out her hands to break her fall on to the line, the apparent indifference of nearby commuters, who continue reading their newspapers (it happened so quickly, they had no idea what she was doing); the slow, inexorable progress of the train.

Everything that could have gone wrong during the final two days of Faiza Ahmed’s life, did. The train was not driver-operated. It was travelling at only 15mph. An officer for British Transport Police is asked whether it would have made a difference if there had been a driver at the front. He says that it is unlikely, but admits he cannot answer definitively.

***

For four days, the Met did not inform the Ahmed family that Faiza had made an allegation of attempted rape the day before she died, or that police had attended her home on the day she died. (They even asked British Transport Police not to notify next of kin that they had attended.) Astonishingly, when they did tell the family, they admitted she had been accidentally logged as a suspect rather than a victim. For months after her death, the police claimed they had no record of having sectioned Faiza in 2011 – despite the fact that British Transport Police had already found documents relating to it. Although DPS officers who visited the Ahmed family soon after Faiza’s death admitted mistakes had been made, none of these failings was admitted in court.

After the coroner sums up on the penultimate day, Mo briefly loses it in court: he tells one DPS officer that he has no right to be here, that he is “scum”.

On Wednesday 20 January, the jury returns its narrative verdict: the police, the ambulance service and the jobcentre had all contributed to Faiza’s suicide. Hassell reads out the verdict and announces that the failings are so serious, she will be writing Prevention of Future Death reports to the Metropolitan police, the London Ambulance Service and the Department for Work and Pensions. In other words, all three authorities will have to act, to ensure against further deaths in similar circumstances.

Two rows in front of me, the Ahmed family sit on the hardwood benches: Mo’s partner, Wendy, has her army around him, Mo has his arm around Ferdus, and Ferdus has her arm around her mother. All four are weeping.

Outside court, Mo punches his fist in the air and tells me: this is justice. “If I had died like she did, Faiza wouldn’t have let it go. She would have fought and fought.”

• In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

 98 
 on: Feb 06, 2016, 07:24 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Ban Ki-moon calls on men across the world to campaign to end FGM

Exclusive: UN secretary general adds voice to the Guardian’s drive to end the practice ahead of launch of Nigeria media campaign

Why did you cut me? FGM survivors speak out - video: <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/society/video/2016/feb/05/mummy-why-did-you-cut-me-survivors-share-pain-fgm-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Maggie O'Kane
AFP
Saturday 6 February 2016 09.28 GMT

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has called on men worldwide to join the fight to end female genital mutilation.

Speaking to the Guardian, which has been running a campaign against the practice for almost two years, he said: “Now is the time for men all over the world to take up the fight to end FGM with real dedication.”

Ban has taken a deep personal interest in FGM, speaking on the subject across Africa, where it is still widely practiced despite bans in Nigeria and the Gambia last year, as it is in some migrant communities in Europe.

“As secretary general of the UN, ending violence against women and girls has been one of my top priorities and I will add my voice and my strength to your very noble campaign,” Ban said.

“The Guardian’s prestigious name can make a difference – it is well known and well respected. For me, this is the way journalism can make a difference. Whatever the UN can do to help the campaign, we will spare no efforts.”

Pope Francis and the US president, Barack Obama, have recently called for an end to the practice.

In a statement to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM on Saturday, Ban gave a stark warning that more action was needed.

“If current trends continue, more girls will be cut every year by 2030 than today, owing to high fertility rates and youthful populations found in most communities where FGM is prevalent,” he said.

‘The only good woman is a cut woman’: the Kenyan challenging FGM stereotypes – video: <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/society/video/2015/dec/18/fgm-you-should-be-like-rebby-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

“Never before has it been more urgent or more possible to end the practice of FGM, preventing immeasurable human suffering and boosting the power of women and girls to have a positive impact.”

Yahya Jammeh, the president of the Gambia, where more than 70% of girls are cut, took the controversial step of banning FGM in the country in November. Nigeria brought in a ban in May 2015. More girls are mutilated in Nigeria, which has a population of 178 million, than any other country in the world.

Although primarily concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, FGM is a global problem. In Britain, an estimated 137,000 women and girls have undergone FGM or are at risk from it. The practice, which was first recorded in the tombs of the pharaoh princesses, can cause infection, problems in childbirth and even death.

On a visit to Ethiopia in August, Obama spoke out against the practice. “There’s no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence, there’s no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation, there’s no place in a civilised society for the early or forced marriage of children. These traditions may go back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century,” he said.

Kenyan girls join poster campaign against FGM – video: <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/society/video/2015/jan/12/kenyan-schoolgirls-poster-fgm-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Similarly, Pope Francis voiced his support to end FGM on a trip to Africa in November. “Loyalties to tribes are sometimes stronger than political ties in Africa, leading to violences like FGM,” he said.

Ban spoke to the Guardian days before women and girls are due to march in protest at the closure of the only clinic in London treating under-18s at St George’s hospital.

FGM: number of victims found to be 70 million higher than thought..Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/05/research-finds-200m-victims-female-genital-mutilation-alive-today

Commenting on the Guardian’s drive to end FGM, which launches a media campaign in Nigeria next week, Ban said: “The media is a connector between [the] UN and the public. I am ready to continue working with international media and the Guardian to break the silence.

“I raise my voice and call on others to join me in empowering communities, which themselves are eager for change. We can end FGM within a generation, bringing us closer to a world where the human rights of every woman, child and adolescent are fully respected, their health is protected and they can contribute more to our common future.”

The Guardian’s Nigeria media campaign will launch in Abuja on Tuesday alongside the country’s first national conference on FGM. It will work with more than 100 media activists across the country using local media, social media, town criers and TV to spread the news of the 2015 FGM ban.

Nigeria is the fifth country that the Guardian Global Media campaign will be working in; the others include the US, the UK, Kenya and the Gambia.

************

'The worst pain I'd ever felt': women in Somaliland on FGM – in pictures

To mark International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, ActionAid visited Somaliland, where an estimated 98% of girls endure the practice. FGM causes huge physical and psychological damage, yet – in this deeply conservative society – girls spared the procedure face a lifetime’s isolation

All photographs: Jennifer Huxta/ActionAid

Click here: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2016/feb/06/fgm-female-genital-mutilation-worst-pain-i-ever-felt-women-somaliland-speak-in-pictures

*************

The facts you should know about female genital mutilation – video

2/6/2016

As the world marks International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, UNICEF figures reveal that 70 million more women than previously thought have been cut. The UK’s leading FGM consultant Dr Comfort Momoh MBE explains what FGM is and its consequences

Click here: <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/society/video/2016/feb/05/facts-you-should-know-about-fgm-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 99 
 on: Feb 06, 2016, 07:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Swansea Bay tidal energy scheme 'must go ahead', say Lib Dems

Withdrawing government investment from the £1bn clean energy project would be ‘utter madness’, says Tim Farron

BBC
Saturday 6 February 2016 07.01 GMT

It would be “utter madness” for the government to withdraw its support at this late stage from a £1bn revolutionary tidal energy scheme at Swansea Bay, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron will tell his party’s spring conference in Cardiff on Saturday.

The planned project, awaiting a funding decision from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, would provide hundreds of jobs and much-needed low carbon power for over a century, he argues.

Farron spoke out amid mounting speculation that ministers are growing cold on the tidal lagoon project, which was included in the Conservative manifesto but has been delayed by tortuous negotiations on subsidies.

“The Swansea Bay tidal lagoon must go ahead. It will provide hundreds of jobs and supply energy for 120 years – over three times as long as a nuclear plant,” argued Farron.

“It would be utter madness for the government to pull further investment from the renewable sector which generates economic growth and jobs. We have been a world leader in this field and maintaining that status is now in jeopardy. The tidal lagoon is a litmus test for the government. Do you care about this agenda? Or was it all for show?” he asks.

The speech comes after David Cameron told a committee of MPs recently that his enthusiasm for the scheme had been “reduced” by concerns over the high subsidies needed to make the project commercial.

“The problem with tidal power, simply put, is that at the moment we have not seen any ideas come forward that can hit a strike price in terms of pounds per megawatt hour that is very attractive,” he said.

Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, also omitted the lagoon scheme from a November keynote speech on energy infrastructure.

Tidal Lagoon Power, the company that wants to build the scheme and five others around the coast of Britain, said it was still “fully confident” that it could reach a deal with the government.

But the Conservatives have been slashing subsidies to other low carbon technologies such as solar and onshore wind and talking up gas schemes as a way of keeping down household fuel bills.

Swansea Bay was supported by former Lib Dem energy secretary, Ed Davey, noted Farron in his speech in Cardiff.

“For five years we fought sceptical Tories to ensure the coalition was the greenest government ever. In the last six months this progress has been unraveling at an alarming pace.

“The huskies, shot by Cameron ages ago when their usefulness to him had run its course, will be turning in their graves. I also feel sorry for Amber Rudd who was told by the prime minister that they‘d gone to live on a farm in Devon.”

 100 
 on: Feb 06, 2016, 07:16 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Polar bear cub Nora's first 83 days at Columbus Zoo – video

2/5/2016

A young polar bear cub called Nora is captured in footage filmed over the first 83 days of her life in Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Ohio. The video, posted on the zoo’s Facebook page, shows the young cub feeding, playing, and sleeping

Click to watch: <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/world/video/2016/feb/05/polar-bear-cub-nora-first-83-days-columbus-zoo-timelapse-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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