MPs call for Theresa May to permit poll on abortion in Northern Ireland

PM believes it would be wrong for Westminster to legislate on matter in devolved administration

Theresa May was facing growing demands to allow a referendum on relaxing the abortion statutes in Northern Ireland on Sunday after signalling that she will not risk alienating her DUP allies by letting MPs resolve the issues with a parliamentary vote.

Conservative MPs and the Royal College of Midwives were among those calling for a referendum, which would give voters in Northern Ireland the chance to follow the example set by the Republic of Ireland after it backed abortion liberalisation by a astonish landslide of two to one.

Around 160 MPs have backed a letter, championed by the Labour MP Stella Creasy, saying the government should legislate to relax the abortion rules in Northern Ireland, which will now be the only place in Britain and Ireland where abortion is in most circumstances illegal. Creasy wants to force-out a vote by tabling an amendment to the forthcoming domestic violence bill.

Labour also said that, as a party, it was committed to extending the right to choose to Northern Ireland and that it would be” looking at legislative options” to try to orchestrate a vote in the Commons.

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What is the law on abortion in Northern Ireland?

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Following the Irish referendum, Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK and Ireland- and most of Europe- where terminations are outlawed apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.

The UK Abortion Act of 1967 was never extended to Northern Ireland, and abortion remains illegal unless the life or mental health of the mother is at risk. Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe; in theory, life imprisonment can be handed down to a woman undergoing an unlawful abortion.

Fatal foetal abnormalities and conceptions by rape or incest are not lawful grounds for a termination.

Most politicians in Northern Ireland- Catholic and Protestant- do not favour reform, despite the UN saying the UK was violating the rights of women in Northern Ireland by restricting their access to abortion.

In 2016 more than 700 females from Northern Ireland crossed the Irish Sea to clinics in Britain to terminate pregnancies.

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Downing Street’s initial reaction was to reject the idea of dedicating MPs a election, on the grounds that abortion is a devolved matter and one that should be decided by the power-sharing executive and the Northern Ireland assembly. A source used to say Theresa May’s focus was on getting the executive, which has been suspended for more than a year, “back up and running”.

But there were reports on Sunday of opponent even within the cabinet, with women and equalities pastor Penny Mordaunt saying on Twitter that the hope for change in Northern Ireland “must be met” amid calls for the region to have a referendum- although she did not specify how.

Obstacles to a parliamentary vote have prompted some MPs to argue for a referendum, which would allow the person or persons of Northern Ireland to take the final judgment , not London, while also bypassing the logjam created by the suspension of the executive.

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP and GP who chairs the Commons health committee, told the BBC that, while she would vote in favour of pro-choice legislation for Northern Ireland, if that proved impossible a referendum was a good second best.

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‘A monumental day for women in Ireland’, says Orla O’Connor- video

” We’d all like to see the Stormont assembly back up and running and for this decision to be made by people in Northern Ireland but if that doesn’t happen … then at the least people in Northern Ireland should be allowed a referendum that enables us gauge the strength of sentiment there ,” Wollaston told the BBC.

Maria Miller, the Conservative former culture secretary who now shall be the chairman of the Commons women and equalities committee, posted a message on Twitter saying:” No one should deny the people of Northern Ireland a referendum for the opportunity to have the same rights on abortion as the rest of the UK .”

And in Northern Ireland the Royal College of Midwives’ regional director Breedagh Hughes told no one was speaking up for the “pro-choice majority” in Northern Ireland at present and the only style to give them a voice was through a referendum.

” We have 12 Democratic Unionist MPs whose views do not reflect the majority opinion on the abortion topic ,” Hughes said.” We have Sinn Fein MPs who don’t take their seats at Westminster. We don’t have a functioning local Assembly which could take this issue on again even though in the past the DUP and others vetoed change. So, the people are voiceless on the abortion topic and we say to Theresa May- give us a referendum Prime Minister so that change can come about .”

A No 10 source told May was also opposed to the idea that parliament should legislate for a referendum in Northern Ireland on the grounds that, if there were to be a referendum, that should also be matter for the Northern Ireland executive.

Under the Sewel convention, the UK government has agreed that it will not usually legislate on matters that are the responsibility of devolved administrations without their consent.

But the government is set to ignore this for the first time in Scotland, pushing ahead with the EU withdrawal bill even though the Scottish government is resisted, and May’s stance on abortion is partly motivated by a longing not to antagonise the DUP, who offer the votes that give the Tories their majority and who are strongly opposed to liberalising Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.

May did not comment on the Irish referendum outcome until lunchtime on Sunday, nearly 24 hours after the final result was corroborated, when she posted a tweet congratulating the Irish people on their decision.

On a free vote, the Commons would probably vote overwhelmingly in favour of bringing Northern Ireland’s abortion laws into line with those in the rest of the UK. But the domestic violence bill, which Creasy would like to use as a vehicle for an abortion amendment, is still at the consultation phase and, even when it does come to the Commons, Downing Street thinks that the Sewel convention will ensure that Northern Ireland pertained amendments get ruled inadmissable.

Dawn Butler, the darknes minister for women and equalities, told Labour would be appearing investigating what legislative alternatives it could use to ensure MPs did get a vote on this.” No girl in the UK should be denied access to a safe, legal abortion ,” she told. But party sources would not elaborate on what those options might be.

In the past polls have revealed strong supporting in Northern Ireland for relaxing abortion statutes in at the least some circumstances, although not to the extent allowed in the rest of the UK.

Currently abortions in Northern Ireland’s hospitals are only available to women and girls where “peoples lives” or health is in grave threat; only 23 were carried out between 2013 -1 4.

The call for a referendum is opposed by some of the MPs who want to change the law in Northern Ireland. Creasy pointed out that, while a referendum was necessary in the Republic because of its constitution, that was not the case in a north. A referendum would be a move” in the wrong direction” because the law should be changed now, she said.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, told:” The legislation governing abortion is a devolved matter and it is for the Northern Ireland assembly to debate and choose such issues. Some of those who wish to circumvent the assembly’s role may be doing so simply to avoid its decision. The DUP is a pro-life party and we are still articulated our position .”

Sinn Fein, the second-largest party in Northern Ireland, supports limited change to Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. Michelle O’Neill, its leader in Northern Ireland, told ITV on Sunday that the region was ” becoming a backwater” in terms of rights because of the position taken by unionists.

A spokesperson for Unite, one of the largest unions representing employees in Northern Ireland, backed the RCM’s call for a referendum.

” As long as it does not in any way necessitate imposing direct regulation Unite would like Theresa May to consider the idea of a local referendum and explain to is why, if she objected, the people in Northern Ireland wouldn’t be granted one ,” a Unite spokesperson said.

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Support for Ireland’s abortion ban appears to have melted away

No campaign counted on rural votes but early exit poll suggest they didnt swaying their way

Ruth Shaw was one of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Irish voters who flew home or bided home, cancelled vacations or came back early, so they could cast a vote to end Ireland’s decades-old prohibition on abortion.

They supposed their votes might be needed to tip the balance. In the end, though, they joined what seems to be an unforeseen landslide of support for change.

The first exit poll, from the Irish Times/ Ipsos MRBI, showed that Dublin, as expected, had voted overwhelmingly for yes. But so too did rural areas, which the no vote had counted on to kind a bulwark of conservative is supportive of Ireland’s restrictive status quo.

” It’s great for this country, we need to step into the next century ,” said teacher Caroline Ryan, one of the first to referendum but confident even at 7am that the repeal would pass.” Every other country in Europe has access to abortion .”

The vote was a reminder, she said, of the church’s loosening grip on a country where a series of scandals, involving child abuse and mistreatment of pregnant, unmarried women and their children, have enormously undermined the clergy’s authority.” Women have been treated so badly in this country by the Catholic church ,” she added.

Voters had to help Ireland decide whether to keep a clause in its constitution, known as the 8th amendment.

Since 1983, it had set the” right to life of the unborn” on an equal status with the life of a pregnant girl, underpinning a near-total ban on abortion in Ireland, even in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality. It is one of the strictest defined of rules in the western world.

For Shaw who, along with 20 family and friends had flights lined up to go to a wedding in New York when the date was defined, there was no question about what to do.

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Irish people living abroad return home to become involved in abortion referendum- video

” We changed our flights ,” she said.” It’s really important; I’ve got two daughters .” So at 6.55 am she was waiting with nine-year-old Simi outside Our Lady’s Clonskeagh Parish secondary school, second in line to cast her vote before heading to the airport.

On a day of glorious sunshine and heightened feelings, polling stations across Ireland reported high turnouts for a ballot that politicians and campaigners concurred would determine a hugely emotional issue for at least a generation.

Polls constricted in the run-up to voting, with the outcome widely expected to depend on the one in six voters who were still undecided on the eve of the poll. Many in the no camp were convinced they had a groundswell of quiet support.

” So many no voters are shy ,” said Fidelma, 45, a Dubliner who said she was wearing a no badge for the first time and was astonished to determine more than half her office of 10 people offering her support.

She had kept her positions private until the working day of the referendum because there was so much social pressure in the capital to support a repeal.” People attain us feel like we are backwards and don’t count ,” she said.

No advocates campaign from a bridge in Dublin. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/ Getty Images

At the ballot box, ultimately, there were not enough no voters to count. Two thirds of men, and an even higher propotion of women, opted for change, in agreement with the Irish Times.

Among the young in particular, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of ending the ban. Nearly nine out of 10 voters between 18 and 24 voted yes, the Irish Times exit poll found.

Riodhna Mackin, 18, voting for the first time, was one of them.” I am a young woman in Ireland and I would like to have a tell over my own body, and for my friends to have the same ,” she said after casting her ballot.

The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, poses with colleagues from his Fine Gael party in Dublin before the referendum. Photo: Niall Carson/ PA

The official vote count begins on Saturday morning, with the first indications of whether the exit poll is right expected by mid-morning.

The scale of the projected victory was so immense though that resulting no campaigners conceded defeat within minutes.

The split over abortion, which reflects deep divisions about what kind of country Ireland wants to be as it reassesses its Catholic heritage and becomes more ethnically and religiously diverse, has reached profoundly into communities and families.

Elizabeth McDonald, 58, told:” I voted no because I believe I regard it as murder. We don’t need abortion in this country .”

Her son Stephen, 33, thinks the near-ban on abortion is cruel and puts women’s health in jeopardy. It is not illegal to go abroad for an abortion, so about nine females a day travel to England trying therapy. Others order abortion pills online and take them at home, risking up to 14 years in prison.

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My budget flight to get an abortion: the story no one in Ireland wants to tell- video

” I’m her son and I voted yes ,” he said, as they left the polling station together.” Abortion do happen in Ireland and I’d rather they were in a situation where it was safer for women .”

The journeys for abortions were the reason Ian Sewell, 26, travelled back from England to vote yes.” I don’t think we are voting on whether people can have abortions; we are voting on whether poor women can have abortions, because rich people already travel to England ,” he said as he left a polling station.

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A century on, why are we forgetting the deaths of 100 million? | Martin Kettle

The 1918 Spanish flu outbreak killed more people than both world wars. Dont imagine such a thing could never happen again, says the Guardian columnist Martin Kettle

This year marks a century since some women got the vote; a century since the end of the first world war; 50 years since the 1968 rebellions; 70 since the founding of Israel and the NHS. All have been well marked. So it is striking that the centenary of one of the most devastating events in human history has been allowed to pass thus far with virtually no public reflection of any kind.

This year is the 100 th anniversary of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Calculates about the potential impact vary. But when you read that a third of the entire global population probably caught the Spanish influenza and that it killed between 50 and 100 million people in all corners of the globe- up to 5% of all human being on countries around the world at the time – you get an inkling of its scale.

By the time the pandemic ultimately ended, it had killed around 25 times more people than any other flu outbreak in history. It killed perhaps more people than the 1st and 2nd world wars put together. As Laura Spinney puts it in her new book, Pale Rider– the best modern account of the Spanish flu crisis-” the influenza resculpted human populations more radically than anything since the Black Death “. Think about that. Not the western front , not Hitler’s invasion of Russia , not Hiroshima. But the flu.

In the face of such figures, it seems unbelievable that we forget or look away. Yet we do. Perhaps that is because, unlike equality for women, a disease has no ultimate award to win and celebrate. Perhaps it is because, while wars have conquerors, pandemics leave only the vanquished, as Spinney sets it. Perhaps too, as the critic Walter Benjamin once argued, stillness about public horrors can permit human societies to cope with collective recovery and to advance. Or perhaps, as Spinney also reflects, the Spanish flu has been consigned to the footnotes because its onslaught did not occur in public but in private, behind closed- door in millions of homes.

Yet the Spanish flu epidemic was a public event too. It changed the course of the first world war( the Germans thought it robbed them of victory ). It brought Switzerland- yes, Switzerland- to the brink of civil war over the inadequacy of the official response. The route it was mishandled in colonial India devoted a major boost to the independence motion. It resulted directly to the founding of Real Madrid football club as part of a Spanish public health drive. In Britain, in a sense, it triggered a concern about public health that would result, 30 year later, to the NHS.

The flu struck the rich and the poor, the young and the old, women and men, black and white. Among the individuals who caught it but recovered were the British prime minister David Lloyd George, the US president Woodrow Wilson, the German kaiser, and King Alfonso XIII of Spain- whose country dedicated its name to the disease for no better reason than that the French, unable to learn about the scale of the infection in their own country because of wartime censorship, thought wrongly that it had started on the far side of the Pyrenees. The naming has caused offence in Spain from that day to this- and has belatedly led to greater care in the naming of subsequent strains and outbreaks that traverse borders.

For this was a disease that scorned all human frontiers. It killed from Alaska to Zanzibar. Groucho Marx caught the flu in New York and Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad. The future Mustafa Kemal Ataturk went down with it in Vienna. Haile Selassie fell ill in Addis Ababa. TS Eliot got the flu in London- he wrote The Waste Land as he recovered. Other victims who recovered included Franklin Roosevelt, Lillian Gish, Franz Kafka, DH Lawrence, Bela Bartok, Walt Disney, Ezra Pound and the aviator Amelia Earhart. In Colorado, Katherine Anne Porter’s black hair fell out as a result of flu. When it grew back her hair was white and Porter went on to write a memoir, Pale Horse, Pale Rider about the pandemic.

The list of those who died of the influenza is less storied than those who recovered from it. It is headed by the painter Egon Schiele and his wife. The Parisian poet Guillaume Apollinaire succumbed too, as did one of Lenin’s right-hand men, Yakov Sverdlov. So did Lawrence of Arabia’s father, Arthur Conan Doyle’s son and Donald Trump’s grandfather. A celebrated British casualty was the diplomat Mark Sykes– now famous( or infamous) for the secret Sykes-Picot agreement he struck over spheres of western influence in the Middle East.

Ten years ago, in 2008, Sykes’s coffin, lead-lined because of the virulence of the disease, was disinterred from his grave in Yorkshire. The intent was to enable researchers to take samples, from his remains, of the H1N1 virus strain that caused the Spanish influenza. Such samples , now under high-security lock and key in Atlanta, have been examined for clues as to why this stres was so potent and how a future pandemic might be contained.

For there will be another Spanish flu pandemic one day. The 1918 outbreak resulted because the viral stres acquired the ability to infect humans and then to become transmissible among humen. Other strains have that potential too. Global warming may empower the strongest ones still further. The world of 2018 is infinitely more interconnected than that of 1918. The possibilities for blaming particular social groups for pandemics is vast.

Last week the Ebola virus spread from a remote rural part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the busy river port town of Mbandaka. A few hundred kilometres downstream from Mbandaka lies DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, a mega-city of some 11 million people. Unlike flu, which is airborne, Ebola is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids. That is threat enough in war-torn cities without proper sewerage.

So far, the DRC outbreak seems controllable. Yet more than 11,000 people died in west Africa from an Ebola outbreak in 2014. And imagine if Ebola manages one day to become airborne, as flu did. If something like that happened in the modern world, we would rapidly find we were living in a fools’ paradise. And our present habit of forget and seeming in the other direction would seem a catastrophic act of global folly.

* Martin Kettle is a Guardian columnist

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Irish pro-choice campaigners recount #HomeToVote journeys online

Hashtag has been used by Irish voters travelling home to referendum yes in the abortion referendum

Whether it is boarding 13 -hour flights or thanking the strangers that have funded their journeys, Irish citizens are sharing their tales on social media as they travel home from all over the world to cast their vote in the country’s historic referendum on abortion. The hashtag #HomeToVote has been used across social media channels by those in favour of repealing the 8th amendment as they converge in Ireland to cast their votes.

Many were visibly displaying their supporting through clothing and badges, and noticed is supportive of the campaign on the way. One advocate, who flew home to canvass and vote, tweeted that his flight attendant wore a’ Ta’- the Irish for yes- badge on his flight.

IO for Yes // May 25 th (@ iarlaoh)

The flight attendant checking my ticket on the plane #hometovote this morning was wearing a “Ta” badge. 🙂

May 20, 2018

Not everyone found that fellow travellers understood the significance of their journey, however, and “ve felt it” reverberate the experience of the women who have to travel abroad for abortions under the present constitution.

” Boarding a 13 -hour flight from Buenos Aires to London. London to Dublin tomorrow. No one at airport knows what my repeal jumper means. No one here knows why I’m travelling. If this feels isolating for me, can’t imagine how lonely it must be 4 her, travelling 2 the UK ,” tweeted Ciaran Gaffney. He also posted an image of himself in his repeal jumper in Buenos Aires

The 13 hour flight I’m about to take hasn’t got a patch on the 1hr flight that your sister, your friend, the girl on your street, your mom, your employer, your colleague, individual employees, your girlfriend or any of the women of Ireland might have to take today, or had to take yesterday, or have had to take in the past 35 years. Let’s stop saying that cowardly act of exporting this issue to our neighbouring countries, and let’s #repealthe8th!

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De Blasio to NYPD: stop arresting New Yorkers smoking marijuana on street

Mayor tells police to issue summons instead as figures show in Manhattan black people are 15 times more likely to be arrested for public pot smoking

Bill De Blasio often boasts of being the mayor that stopped people get arrested for low-level marijuana possession. Yet there were 17,880 apprehends last year for personal marijuana consumption, nearly all of them for smoking in public rather than for having with marijuana on their person. The number is considerably lower than under Michael Bloomberg, the previous mayor, but the racial disparity of those arrested is shocking: 86% of those arrested were people of colour. In Manhattan, the figures has become even more stark: a New York Times investigation discoveredblack people were 15 times more likely to be arrested for possession than white people.

Those figures have pushed De Blasio to go further, informing the NYPD to stop arresting people caught smoking in public, and to issue a summons instead.

De Blasio is not able to instantly change NYPD policy, but his statement is likely to influence an review of marijuana procedures currently taking place. It also arrives just days after the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance announced he would be ending prosecution in all marijuana possession and smoking instances after 1 August.

The move seems like another step towards New York legalising marijuana for recreational use. De Blasio is putting together a taskforce to prepare the city for outright legalisation, Governor Andrew Cuomo has set up his own” marijuana legalization taskforce” and Democratic senator Chuck Schumer has backed a bill for federal legalisation.

It goes during a year when many local and state-level lawmakers have been in conflict with the White House and federal drugs policy. While marijuana is legal for recreational use in nations like California and Alaska, and decriminalised in a further 13, the prosecutor general Jeff Sessions has attempted to end a policy of federal non-interference in nations with marijuanas friendly statutes- although he has found a lack of support in Congress.

Gubernatorial primary nominee Cynthia Nixon has said New York is still moving too slowly and stimulated the racial inequality in marijuana apprehends a central part of her campaign. She said:” For white people, the use of marijuana has effectively been legal, for a long time. Isn’t it time we decriminalize for everyone else ?”

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Welcome to cycle heaven: why we moved our family to the Netherlands

When Kylie van Dam went in search of a cycle-friendly city she found the nearly car-free suburbium of Houten. Its a model more cities could copy, she writes

Before I’m out of bed, our 15 -year-old slams the door and leaps on her bike, heading for school and session friends along the way.

Last week, our eight and 13 -year-olds attended four parties between them. They scoffed the obligatory birthday sugar, went bowling, shooting lasers, played mini-golf and patted sheep- travelling to and from all of these activities by motorcycle. There wasn’t a helmet or scrap of hi-vis between them.

This is daily life in Houten, a suburbium of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Spend any time here and you’ll soon find hordes of children riding their motorcycles to gym lessons, parties, after-school care or sports activities through breeze, rain or shine. One of my favourite Dutch express is Jij bent niet van suiker gemaakt “ (” You’re not made of sugar “), meaning you won’t dissolve in the rain- so get on your bike.

This lifestyle drew us to the Netherlands from Britain. After 15 years of dreaming- via Sydney, London and Norwich- we ran in search of a more cycle-friendly city.

To move between neighbourhoods in Houten, vehicles must take the figure 8-shaped ring road. This leaves interior streets largely the conserve of pedestrians and cyclists.

Now we’re Houtenaars, citizens of a world-renowned cycling suburbium studied by future town planners around the globe. Houten has been on the map since Roman days, but modern development began in the late 1960 s as an overspill for fast-growing Utrecht.

Architect Rob Derks designed Houten to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over motorists. A ring road circles the suburb, and residential districts within are only accessible to autoes through these roads on the leading edge of township. Instead, there is an extensive network of routes and cycle lanes connecting these areas.
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Sharp bends and low speed limits mean roads are intentionally difficult to navigate by motor vehicle: in Houten, vehicles are somewhat unwelcome guests. Unlike drivers, cyclists and walkers can travel direct, making a two-minute stroll or ride a 10 -minute trip by vehicle, for example.

It works: an estimated 98% of Houten households own at least one bike, with an average of 3.4 motorcycles per household. While many work journeys are made by car- especially journeys out of the city- cycling is by far the most popular mode of transport. A report by the ITDP received 53% of residents travel to the grocery shop by motorcycle or on foot. This rises to 79% for errands like visiting the bank or get a haircut, and for visiting friends and family in Houten.

A cycle route and a footpath in a residential area of Houten. Photograph: Alamy

Residents do own vehicles- although rarely more than one, and some prefer to use a car-share company. Children ride bikes as soon as they can walk, people with disabilities move freely and independently, elderly people cycle everywhere and if they start to feel unsafe on two wheels, they swap them for three. Immigrants who’ve never had a bicycle are taught to ride.

Every now and again we get a strange sense of guilt about loving this perfectly schemed life. We watch guests’ first anxious sense that they’ve fallen into the Truman Show rapidly disappear as they realise just how upside-down their perception of a “normal” city is.

Here, good public space and architecture is for everyone. There’s a large amount of social housing in Houten but you’d be hard-pressed to pick it out because there’s little written into these builds to declare who has money and who doesn’t. The shared architecture and wonderful functionality frees people to be who they are. Far from being claustrophobic, it’s liberating.

My family were lucky- we had the Dutch passport my father-in-law handed down to his Australian-born children when his own family left post-war Holland.

Our daughters were old enough to know what they were leaving behind in Norwich. They may have hated us the day we fell them into a local Dutch school with no language, but they survived. They missed their friends at first but now they love their freedom, the clean air and Houten’s close community. On visits to family in London and Australia, all three kids are astounded at how much day they have to expend in the car, how noisy everything is and how dependent children are on their parents.

Not everyone has the chance to stimulate the choices we did. But none of what Houten stands for is radical or alternative. This Dutch city’s selection to move away from the car, to clear the air, to invest in healthy someones, is not an unreachable ideal.

Houten is the future many of us trapped in car-focused societies dream of, but it’s happening here and now. Nothing is stopping other cities from building the same decisions.

Kylie van Dam lives in Houten with her family, and teaches English through music .

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Embrace Mediterranean or Nordic diets to cut disease, WHO says

Major study indicates Britain could lower its rates of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease by promoting the diets

Britain could lower its rates of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease by embracing Mediterranean- or Nordic-style diets, a major examine into the benefits of healthy feeing suggests.

A review by the World Health Organization determined obligating evidence that both diets reduce the risk of the common cancers, but noted that merely 15 out of 53 countries in its European region had measures in place to promote the diets.

The authors of the report compiled evidence on the health the health effects of the two diets from academic periodicals, meeting papers and books, then reviewed government and health ministry websites for national policies and guidelines on healthy eating.

Eight countries including Ireland, Spain and Greece promoted the added benefit of the Mediterranean-style diet, while seven including Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland recommended people adopt a Nordic-style diet to remain healthy.

” Both of these diets are really good in terms of impact on health. That is not in doubt ,” said Joao Breda from the WHO’s European office for prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.” We wanted to know whether countries were have them to inform healthy feeing policies .”

In England, the government recommends people eat five portions of fruit and veggies per day on the back of evidence that such a diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. But ministers have been accused of doing too little to discourage unhealthy eating, despite a rise in childhood obesity rates to 10 %.

The traditional Mediterranean diet is rich in fruit, veggies, nuts, cereals and olive oil, includes a moderate amount of fish and poultry, and has very little dairy, red meat, processed meat and sweets. The Nordic diet is similar, focusing on vegetables, berries, pulsings, whole grain cereals and fatty fish such as herring, mackerel and salmon. Instead of olive oil, the Nordic diet prefers rapeseed oil.

According to the report, both diets helped to reduce cases of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Many of the conditions are driven by obesity. According to Cancer Research UK, more than one in 20 cancers are linked to being overweight or obese. The number of adults and older teens with diabetes has doubled in the past 20 years on the back of rising obesity rates, with 3.7 million people aged 17 or older now living with the disease.

” All countries need to do more in terms of promoting good diets, because we have an emergency here ,” Breda said.” We are not recommending any particular diet, but when countries think about the improvements they want to make, they might be inspired by these diets. If you adopt them, you save the health system fund. There are lots of advantages .”

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Think it’s funny that China is cracking down on Peppa Pig? Think again | Phoebe-Jane Boyd

The censorship of childrens amusement for adult aims is an old story, and everyone is at it including us, says freelance journalist Phoebe-Jane Boyd

A girl-piglet and a boy-piglet, a mummy and daddy swine , no LGBTQ characters or focus on race or religion; Peppa Pig isn’t an obvious target for controversy or counterculture adore. At first glance, it could be a pretty solid adult selection for boredom or sleep. Yet the Douyin video platform in China deems its influence to be a potentially harmful one, due to its growing popularity among the country’s shehuiren . That’s anti-establishment” gangster” internet users to some, or people who like memes and get tattoos of asinine cartoon characters because it’s a bit funny to others.

Like people who expend a lot of day on Tumblr, Reddit, or 4chan, ironic Peppa Pig fans likely aren’t a danger to the continuation of humanity as we know it. They might need tattoo-removal services at some phase, but a government forbid on the cartoons they like, as well as their associated hashtags, is a bit much. For many here in the UK, the ban in China has been taken as bizarre and hilarious. Peppa as a figurehead for” unruly slackers”, a cult-like hero calling society’s disaffected to rebel? The cartoon ? It’s always been a pedestrian watch, probably even for the generation of children it was designed for. To kids watching who come from single-parent households, have two mums, or are living in foster homes, Peppa Pig’s cosily conservative household set-up may be as otherworldly as talking animals and rabbits.

But despite Peppa being so safe- almost antiquated, even- all the sniggering about its ban from China’s media platforms is what’s truly bizarre. Because it shouldn’t be surprising at all. A group of adults use the establishment or censorship of children’s entertainment to further their own political and moral values isn’t unheard of; it’s almost de rigueur, everywhere.

Photograph: Alex Segre/ Alamy

There have been understandable examples of censure, such as the episode of the 90 s cartoon Gargoyles on gun crime, which was subsequently cut to remove the blood. Even though blood usually happens after a gunshot. And gunshots tend to happen in television episodes that have been commissioned to focus on handguns. An episode of TaleSpin was also taken off air, in this case because of its terrorism topic. Yes; the adults who made it animated Baloo to fight against terrorism. In a children’s Tv show. Running further back, there’s 1818 -4 7′ s The History of the Fairchild Family’s subsequent fall out of regular circulation … because it included a gibbet-side lesson where small children is shown the hanged corpse of war criminals. Adults of the time wanted infants to know that criminals deserved to be hanged.

If the adults in charge aren’t stealthily dripping their own politics into children’s amusement, they’re banning it afterwards when it includes politics they don’t agree with. This is what media for children is, because it’s generated, and censored, by adults for the adults they want to see in the future. It’s gentle( sometimes not so gentle) social conditioning, and always has been. Politics but, ya know, for children.

The reporting of this ban with its undercurrent of” isn’t China weird and funny compared to us- how ridiculous” ignores all this; how politics are used during the creation of entertainment for children, and afterwards by legislators themselves. This isn’t even Peppa’s first foray into the world of politics; she was part of the promotion of the Labour government’s Sure Startprogramme back in 2010. One episode of the display was banned by the Australian Broadcasting Company for dread it would encourage children to interact with dangerous spiders. The columnist Piers Akerman even accused the programme of pushing” a weird feminist line “. So China’s outlaw is not unprecedented , nor ridiculous. Not even when it involves innocent little Peppa and her brother George.

The innocuous fictional world of Peppa Pig might seem too far removed from our own to become a symbol of unrest, or moral decay in society, but like much media before it, we create it, we consume it, we use it, and we ban it. What is children’s entertainment but a means to prepare our children for the world? And what is the world but a messed-up mire of warring politics created by angry grown-ups? Children need to be ready for this wherever they live- therefore welcomed adulthood, children.

  • Phoebe-Jane Boyd is a freelance journalist who writes on politics and pop culture

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‘McStrike’: McDonalds workers walk out over zero-hours contracts

Staff from branches in England take action for minimum 10 -an-hour living wage

McDonald’s workers in Britain are striking in a dispute over zero-hours contracts and working conditions that is being closely observed by the fast food the enterprises and trade unions.

Staff from branches in Manchester and Watford will join colleagues in Crayford and Cambridge as part of a “McStrike” as employees demand a minimum PS10-an-hour living wage.

Members of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union are also asking for a choice of fixed-hour contracts, the end of unequal pay for young employees, and union recognition.

Employees at UK branches attracted worldwide attention in September by striking for the first time. Britain is one of McDonald’s strongest marketplaces, reporting 12 years of quarterly growth.

While the numbers of employees taking strike action on Tuesday is small- simply 11 are officially involved- one academic said the move was significant.

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Tony Royle, a professor of employment relations at the University of York, said the dispute was symbolic of the growing income gap, an increase in precarious run and a decline in independent trade union activities representation.

” McDonald’s is a multibillion-dollar firm which continues to pay its senior executives sky-high salaries while paying low wages for the vast majority of its two million employees.

” Young employees including with regard to have felt the brunt of the’ flexible’ labour market and austerity government policies and are increasingly frustrated, angry and ready to fight for a more merely workplace.

” It’s now 40 years since McDonald’s entered the UK market. Today’s strike and the strike in September 2017, despite McDonald’s’ attempts to play down and undermine[ the action ], could be the beginning of a shift in UK employment relations .”

McDonalds’ employees won their biggest pay rise in 10 years in January, but it was banded by stance, region, and age. Merely company-owned McDonald’s restaurants- about a quarter of branches in Britain- were affected.

Annalise Peters, construction workers at a McDonald’s in Cambridge told:” The populace and the labour motion have given us so much support and encouragement .”

Striking fast-food employees also plan to demonstrate in Watford, the hometown of McDonald’s chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, as part of the industrial action.

Lewis Baker, a McDonald’s worker in Crayford, said:” Every message of support builds our confidence as we stand up to this bullying company and demand a fair wage and respect on the job .”

A McDonald’s spokesman said on Tuesday afternoon that only one person had strolled out across three ten-strikes planned for the morning, while a maximum of of five people could walk out across the other two due to take place this afternoon.

” The vast majority of our employees – across all stores, franchised and company-owned – received the annual pay rise in January, and the increase referred to within your piece started back in 2015.

” Union recognition did not feature on the ballot paper, “were not receiving” suggestion this strike is calling for McDonald’s to recognise the union.

” We offered all 120,000 employees the chance to move to fixed hours contracts, more than 80% of them opted to stay on their existing contracts ,” she said.

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell has written to McDonald’s calling for a meeting to discuss the union’s demands.

McDonald’s owns or franchises more than 37,000 restaurants in 120 countries.

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‘Gene map for depression’ sparks hopes of new generation of treatments

A 200 -strong team of researchers from across the globe have mapped the genetic variants that increase the risk of depression

Scientists have raised hopes for guys more efficient treatments for depression, a condition that affects over 300 million people globally, after mapping out the genetic foundations of the mental disorder in unprecedented detail.

In the world’s largest investigation into the impact of DNA on the mental disorder, more than 200 researchers identified 44 gene variants that raise the risk of depression. Of those, 30 have never been connected to the condition before.

By tripling the number of gene regions linked to depression, scientists now hope to understand more about why the disorder strikes some but not others, even when they have similar life experiences. The run has the potential to help in the search for drugs to treat the condition which affects as many as one in four people over a lifetime.

” If you have a lower genetic burden of depression, perhaps you are more resistant to the stress we all experience in life ,” told Cathryn Lewis, professor of statistical genetics and a senior writer on the study at King’s College London.

Previous work with twins suggests that genetics explains about 40% of depression, with the rest being driven by other biological factors and life experiences. If people are ranked according to the number of genetic risk factors for depression they carry, those in the top 10% are two-and-a-half times more likely to experience depression than those in the bottom 10%, Lewis said.

While the scientists detected 44 gene variants links between depression, these are only a small fraction of the total, because many more will have had too small an effect to be discovered in the most recent analyse.” We know that thousands of genes are involved in depression with each having a very modest impact on a person’s hazard ,” told Lewis.” There is certainly no single gene for depression .”

Clinical depression is a debilitating condition the causes of which are still largely unknown. According to the World Health Organization, it is the leading cause of disability globally, costing the global economy as much as$ 1tn annually with no country on the planet immune.

Sufferers can experience a range of ” loss”- of appetite, mood, sleep, concentration, love, elation, exuberance, energy and tranquility. As many as 3% of people with major depressive disorder attempt suicide.

But there are few new therapies in the pipeline, as big pharmaceuticals companies have largely withdrawn from expensive research into the next generation of anti-depressants.

In the study, the researchers pooled seven separate datasets from the UK, the US, Iceland and Denmark, to glean genetic information on 135,000 people who reported having depression, and 345,000 mentally healthy individuals. The scientists then compared DNA across the groups to find gene variants that were more common in those with depression.

The work, published in Nature Genetics, uncovered a substantial overlap in the genetics that underpins depression and other mental disturbance such as nervousnes, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but also body mass index, where Dna that predisposes people to obesity also raises the risk of depression.

As expected, many of the genes reported in the study have a role in how neurons grow, operate and send signals around the brain, where two regions known as the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex are the most important for depression.

Gerome Breen, a co-author on the paper, said that some of the gene variants they found connected to neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which existing antidepressants work on. But other gene variants point to new biological mechanisms that the next generation of drugs might target.

” What we’ve had in recent decades is a shortage of new mechanisms that underlie depression and psychiatric disorders ,” he said.” The hope is that in new data we identify new process that can be targeted by newly developed types of drugs, which have different mechanisms of action to existing medications .”

It will take more research to confirm that the gene variants found in such studies are actually linked to depression. Many of the participants involved in the research self-reported depression, which is far less reliable than a clinical diagnosis. This means that some of the gene variants the scientists link to depression could turn out not to be involved in the disorder.

Jonathan Flint, who examines the genetics of depression at the University of California in Los Angeles said:” Our current treatments for depression are relatively ineffective- approximately speaking, only around half of patients improve- so we really need better therapies. To discover new treatments and to deliver the ones we have more effectively, we need a better understanding of what causes depression. Finding genetic danger variants is a way to do simply that- the risk variants point to genes that are involved in the disease, and thus provide clues to how depression starts .”

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