Wednesday’s World News Updates: My Views

Bringing you a rounded update of the news by collating information from various publications and broadcasters, and sharing my opinion on this week’s top stories.

1. Liberal Democrat Party conference places mental health as its priority. Prior to the Labour Party Conference, Ed Miliband’s Mansion Tax Policy came under scrutiny. Prior to the Conservative Party Conference, MP Mark Reckless defected to UKIP and Vince Cable urged Theresa May to lift the cap on immigration outside of the EU. So it was inevitable that Nick Clegg would face a conundrum prior the Party conference in Glasgow. Lib Dem members vote to defeat Clegg’s decision to U-turn on airport expansion in the South East, with signs of mutiny.

Although democracy is at the core of Lib Dem beliefs, Clegg has questioned the decision made by party members. It seems he is already loosening the reins on long-standing party policies, which may be as a result of preparing for another coalition government. On The Guardian Blog, Andrew Sparrow writes: ‘Negotiations for a post-2015 coalition have already started. Officially the Lib Dems aren’t meant to be talking about “red lines”, or what they would do in coalition talks, just what policies they stand for. But in practice, even though private talks may not have started, a public negotiation has opened up with the Tories, via newspapers and broadcasting studios, with Nick Clegg starting to reveal clues as to what is and what is not on the table.’ Sparrow also writes: ‘The Lib Dems are divided over Labour. Activists would much rather see the party in coalition with Labour’, but it looks less likely than a coalition with Conservatives.

The surprise of the conference came in Clegg’s pledge to prioritise mental health illnesses; an initiative backed by the coalition government. The BBC reports: ‘waiting time targets for people with mental health problems in England are to be introduced for the first time.’ ‘People with depression should begin “talking therapy” treatments within 18 weeks, from April. Young people with psychosis for the first time will be seen within 14 days – the same target as cancer patients’. ‘Under the plan, suicidal patients get the same priority as those with suspected heart attacks’.

How will they do this? The BBC reports that the mental health pledge ‘will be funded by reallocating money from other parts of the health budget’. Clegg ‘will tell Lib Dem activists the £120m plan is the first step in reforming “Cinderella” mental health services.’ The Independent provides further insight: ‘the Deputy Prime Minister said the extra money for mental health in the next parliament would be paid for partly by raising the rate of capital gains tax from 28 per cent to between 35 and 40 per cent for taxpayers on the 40p higher rate. The amount of capital gains exempt from CGT would be cut from £10,900 to £2,500 a year.’

Ultimately, Clegg’s pledge is positive as it tackles discrimination, will bring an end to stigma and equates physical illness with mental. But will these aims be achievable and will other aspects of the NHS such as A&E, more nurses, GPs, care workers and midwives, the focus of the Labour Party, be reformed or suffer as a result? It is not that Labour’s focus is more important than the Lib Dems’ or vice versus, but begs the question why are they focusing on different parts and what is required more if all of these aspects cannot be reformed? Also, Clegg wants to ease drug laws and make addiction a health issue but surely early intervention and prevention through punishment is greater than easing laws and enabling addiction to occur and then providing treatment for it? The Independent Irish News reports: ‘Cannabis can cause mental health problems’. By easing drug laws, more people may suffer mental health problems because they won’t be penalised and will consequently need treating. This is a cycle that should not occur.

More on the Lib Dem conference (BBC News):

  • Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems wouldcut income tax for 29 million people if they were in government after the election
  • Care Minister Norman Lamb said he had not “ruled out standing for the leadership” of the party – when Nick Clegg is no longer in the role
  • Business Secretary Vince Cable called for a “rebalance” of tax and spending cuts in order to eliminate the deficit
  • Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said further devolution of powers to Scotland would “unlock the progress to federalism across the whole of the United Kingdom”
  • (The Independent): ‘Mr Clegg accused the Tories of “plagiarising” the Lib Dem plan after they said they would also raise the personal tax allowance from £10,000 to £12,500 a year by 2020’. ‘He pledged that the allowance would rise to £11,000 in April 2016 if the Lib Dems were in office, meaning a £100 tax cut for 29m people. He rejected Tory plans to help middle-income earners by raising the threshold at which the 40p rate starts to bite. Instead, the Lib Dems would raise the income level at which workers start to pay national insurance, helping those earning about £8,000 a year. Eventually, that level would be aligned with the personal allowance. But the move might have to wait until after 2020 because the Lib Dems’ first priority would be a £12,500 tax allowance.’

Latest YouGov / The Sun results 7th Oct – Conservatives 32%, Labour 34%, Liberal Democrats 8%, UKIP 15%.

2. 4 men arrested on terrorism charges. The four men were allegedly in the early stages of plotting an attack in North Kensington, West London, and have been arrested following early intervention by police. The Evening Standard reports: ‘Police dramatically thwarted Britain’s first alleged IS-linked terror plot on the streets on London in raids which saw four men arrested and one tasered.’ ‘The early-morning raids were launched amid fears British jihadists returning from Syria could be plotting beheadings in the capital. ‘At least one of the group behind the alleged plot is thought to have recently travelled to Syria and is alleged to have links to Islamic State fanatics.’ ITV News reports: ‘One of four men arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences has been named as 21-year-old Tarik Hassane.’ ‘Hassane and three other men, aged between 20 and 21, were arrested on suspicion of preparing acts of terror as part of an ongoing investigation into Islamist related terrorism, the Met Police said. The group remain in police custody.’

It is good to see that the police are intervening at the early stages of any suspected terrorist acts rather than being fearful of seeming racist, as with the Rotherham child abuse. Although this has been reported, we must be aware that a series of arrests have occurred in the last few weeks and months, and many of the suspects have been released without charge. But, it is always better to be safe than be sorry, and early intervention shows we are not afraid and will fight against the threat and act of terrorism.

3. Ebola Outbreak in Spain. The Washington Post reports: ‘Ramos became infected when she was treating Manuel Garcia Viejo, a priest who contracted the virus in West Africa. She entered Viejo’s room only twice, once to change his diaper, and a second time to remove his belongings after he died on Sept. 25. She began experiencing symptoms of Ebola on Sept. 30, but was only admitted to the hospital Sunday. Tests confirmed Monday that she had contracted Ebola.’

‘Maria Teresa Romero Ramos, a Spanish sanitary technician who became the first case of Ebola transmission outside of Africa, said she followed all the appropriate protocols when entering the room of an Ebola patient at Carlos III Hospital.’ ‘But on Wednesday, German Ramirez, a doctor treating her at Carlos III Hospital, said Ramos recalled that she might have had contact with her face after leaving an Ebola patient’s isolation room.’

ITV News reports that a criminal investigation has been launched into how she caught Ebola, and indeed the European Union questioned Spain. ‘The Prime Minister will chair a COBRA meeting today to discuss the ongoing epidemic of Ebola in West Africa.’

Authorities are questioning whether to put down Maria’s Excalibur dog, and people in Spain have been protesting to save him. The Telegraph states: ‘Eric Leroy, who studied Ebola transmission between dogs and humans in Gabon in 2001, said that dogs could catch the disease but not show any symptoms. And he said that their study of 439 dogs lead them to believe most dogs caught the virus through eating other infected animals – although it was possible, but difficult, to catch it from contact with humans.’ Both Excalibur and Maria’s husband Javier are in quarantine.

 4. The Battle of the Ages. The retirement age is set to increase by 6 months every year. This means young people will be working until the age of 90. However, it also means that people will be in work longer, which means young people getting on the employment ladder will find it harder as they will be competing with somebody who has more experience and has been doing the job for a lot longer. If young people are battling with elder people for jobs, they will find it harder to get experience, get a job and this will consequently have a strain on the benefits system. Also, people in manual professionals will need to be fit enough to work more years. A poll by Kantar of 1,187 showed that reducing unemployment remains the top public priority for the British public.

5. Shrien Dewani Honemoon Trial Begins. His wife was murdered in Cape Town and Shrien is on trial for arranging the murder of Anni Dewani. A hitman has told the court he was paid to kill Anni while the pair were on their honeymoon. Shrien has pleaded ‘not guilty’.

6. “Women don’t need short skirts to succeed.” According to The Guardian a contestant on the new series of the BBC1 show The Apprentice ‘suggested her team-mates wear “short skirts and loads of makeup” to win their challenge.’ Judge on the show and super businesswoman Karren Brady commented that ‘it is ‘“antiquated” to suggest women need to wear short skirts and makeup to succeed in business.’ ‘“It’s a very old-fashioned attitude that you have to wear short skirts and a lot of makeup to get on in life.’ The comment was made by ‘The Apprentice contestant Sarah Dales, a former PA and hypnotherapist in the opening episode of the new series which returns to BBC1 on 14 October.’

In some regards, Sarah’s statement is true that women who wear lots of makeup and short skirts inevitably gain more attention. In Grayson Perry’s article written in the Newstatesman today, he argues that that we are living in a white and male dominated society, so women are the ‘other’. On the other hand, it is frightful that a woman feels she can get further in her career by using just her looks rather than intellect too. By all means, women can be both beautiful and serious intellectuals. But when using looks over devising a business strategy, you know there is a big problem – a problem that not only rests with the society in which we live but in Sarah Dale’s conformance to a norm that is being challenged by men and women everyday so that we gain at least equality in the field of intellect.

Recommended read of the day: www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/10/grayson-perry-rise-and-fall-default-man.

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