UK responds to EU legal action over NI Protocol – but does not budge.


Ex-Tory David Smith, who lobbied for gender-neutral toliets charged with child sex abuse

David Smith, a conservative town councillor in Middlesbrough

An English town councillor who hopes to make government-owned facilities gender-neutral has been charged with nine counts of sexually touching a child.

David Smith, 30, represents Coulby Newham, a suburb of Middlesbrough, in the Yorkshire town’s local government, or council. Since his arrest, he has resigned from membership in the Conservative Party, but not from his position.

According to the BBC, Smith is due in court on August 7. He denies the charges.

“I completely reject these spurious allegations and removing myself from the party will ensure I can focus all my efforts on fighting to clear my name,” he said.

Smith also called the accusations “damaging lies.”\

According to the local news website Teesside Live, last month Smith asked the mayor of Middlesbrough to introduce gender-neutral washrooms in the Middlesbrough Council buildings. Last month he produced a statement announcing his meeting with the mayor and reminding readers that the issue of “gender neutral toilets” was part of his campaign.

“On Tuesday June 18, I am meeting Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston and one of the issues I will be bringing up is one that I included in my local election campaign — gender neutral toilets,” he stated.

Smith explained that his interest in toilets stemmed from interactions with “transgender and non-binary people” in the area.

“Through my time interacting with local transgender and non-binary people, I’ve seen firsthand the difficulties faced by these individuals when accessing public toilets and changing rooms,” he said.

“The feeling of humiliation is an experience that most of us don’t go through when visiting a public toilet and, in 2019, that is simply unacceptable.”

Smith stated that throughout England, pubs, shopping centres, universities, and schools are “becoming gender neutral” so that “our transgender and non-binary family and friends feel safe when using the facilities.”

He hoped the Middlesbrough Council would become a trailblazer for other local governments and make all of its facilities gender-neutral. The councillor acknowledged that some people might have “concerns” but that the “risk does not increase once public toilets become gender neutral.”

Smith did not specify what was at risk when women-only spaces are frequented by males. He hinted, however, that if a man wanted to hurt a woman or girl in a public washroom, he would do so whether it was a woman-only space or not, saying, “In fact, if anyone has any intention in committing a crime at present, they will do so.”

“This is about creating a much more safer [sic] environment for transgender and non-binary people,” he emphasized.

After charges of child sex assault were laid against him, Smith released a statement describing the work he had done as a Middlesbrough councillor, making special mention of his LGBT advocacy.

“I have worked hard to ensure I serve the people of Coulby Newham to the best of my ability,” he wrote.

“From tackling the issue of potholes, ordering bollards to be installed to ensure the public stop parking on a resident’s property, highlighting the ever increasing issue of drug use and being a very proud advocate of the local LGBTQ community,” he continued.

“This is who I am as a person and a community activist.”

Smith was elected in May this year. Councillors are considered volunteers, not salaried employees, therefore they receive an allowance instead of a salary. According to Teesside Live, the basic allowance given to all councillors in Middlesbrough is £6,378 ($7,978).

With many thanks to: LifeSiteNews and Dorothy Cummings for the original story 

Tory posturing over soldier’s crimes could worsen violence in the North of Ireland

As more shocking details emerge from the Ballymurphy inquiry, memories are being stirredand Tory MPs are being deeply irresponsible.

Families of those murdered in the Ballymurphy Massacre outside the Inquiry, 8th May 2019| Liam MC Burney/PA Images

This week the Ballymurphy Inquiry, currently underway in Belfast, heard shocking evidence that a former paratrooper stationed in Northern Ireland used the skull of Henry Thornton, a man killed in the area, as an ashtray.

Other soldiers have testified that their former colleagues ran sweepstakes and awarded winnings based on the number of civilians a person killed, about crude language and jokes made about those shot, and of a general attitude that anyone walking around in certain areas (always working class) could be presumed to have IRA involvement, and so was fair game to kill.

One paratrooper broke down in tears as he described how many fellow soldiers were honest, professional and did the right thing, but some were “psychopaths and dangerous to be around”, boasting after shootings that “the army would give them cover for whatever they had done”.

Comments made in recent weeks suggest several high-profile Tories are inclined to do just that. Last week, Johnny Mercer announced on Twitter that he would stop voting with the government on non-Brexit issues until May promised to end “the macabre spectacle of elderly veterans being dragged back to Northern Ireland to face those who seek to re-fight that conflict through other means.”

Johnny Mercer

Back in March, when the Public Prosecution Service announced it would prosecute the man known as Soldier F for involvement in the Bloody Sunday massacre that occured a few months after the Ballymurphy massacre, Mercer said in an interview on Channel 4 that the inquiry probably hadn’t been fair – but couldn’t offer any explanation as to how.

And a few hours after the PPS’s decision, Gavin Williamson penned a statement promising that the state would fund Soldier F’s legal costs, and decrying the unfair treatment of the armed services.

Previous inquiries have already found that Soldier F had perjured himself, and that he admitted to having killed 4 civilians, including Patrick Doherty, shot in the back as he crawled away, and Barney McGuigan, who witnesses report died waving a white flag.

Karen Bradley, not to be outdone, provoked an outraged response from victim’s families in the same week, when she stood in the House of Commons and called the actions of soldiers in Northern Ireland “dignified and appropriate”.

References to fairness and being “dragged back to Northern Ireland” appear to deliberately evoke images of elderly, low level soldiers being dealt shadowy justice by armed paramilitaries, simply for the crime of doing their job.

In reality, a legitimate legal process has shown that several individuals behaved in a deeply disturbing way while stationed in Northern Ireland, acting with disregard for the lives of the people of the people who lived there.

The protest comes as Parachute Regiment flags and banners backing former troops have appeared in loyalist areas in recent weeks. And goes to prove there was collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British Crown Forces

Such behaviour shames army members who acted properly, and it is deeply worrying that any politician should seek to defend it.

It is also worth remembering that lots of what happened during the Troubles was unfair and disquieting, but still legal.

My mum was a child living in the Bogside area of Derry during the 1970s, she remembers how it was normal for soldiers looking for scraps of information to ransack houses and hold men in prison overnight.

She remembers regular instances when: “Soldiers would come to the house, break down the door, break a random few plates, turn over a few beds, break a window, hold my brother (who was 10) up against a wall and pretend to shoot him, then go outside and pretend to shoot a dog.”

Male relatives would vanish for days at a time, held under dubious pretexts, and people lived in a constant climate of fear. This was all legal, and for the sake of the Peace Process Northern Irish people have had to let go of resentment over being treated like this.

The price of peace has been a collective swallowing of pride over such harassment, but the murder of civilians is another matter.

Recent inquests into Bloody Sunday, and now the Ballymurphy Massacre, have dealt in specifics: the impossibility of a soldier’s statement when his bullets were found in a body; the things people were said to have been doing, and the positions in which their bodies were found; bodies in morgues wearing clothes they had never worn in life; and guns held in dead hands in strange, unlikely positions.

The collective memory is more general: caked blood, an overwhelming funeral with 13 coffins, and the sense of unfairness at a civil rights march turned into something far more violent.

In the weeks leading up to Bloody Sunday, rising tensions between the local community and the army had led to the Bogside having been sealed off “in a kind of ghetto”, as my mum describes it, with people unable to access schools or hospitals, and forced to smuggle in food from across the border in Donegal.

A few days before the march, the army broke into the community and “bombarded everyone living there, kids and everything, with tear gas.”

Locals sensed it wouldn’t be safe to have young children there and she was sent to Donegal for the day itself but, 45 years later, she remembers the aftermath vividly: “I remember passing all the hardened blood in the street.

Seeing it all there. There hadn’t been rubbish collection for weeks because we’d been barricaded in for so long, so it was rubbish covered in blood. People put flowers on the street, and nearly every place you walked had blood somewhere.”

Northern Irish people are British citizens, and Tory MPs should represent their interests before soldiers found guilty of murder but, in a way, it is understandable that those like Johnny Mercer, Gavin Williamson and Karen Bradley feel no affinity with the working-class communities most impacted by The Troubles.

Mercer, now 37, was a 17-year-old at private school in Surrey the year the Good Friday Agreement was signed, Gavin Williamson was at University in Bradford and Karen Bradley was working as a senior tax advisor in London; all a world away from the violence and terror in Northern Ireland at the time.

Careless statements made by Tory politicians have charged the already polarised atmosphere in Northern Ireland by fostering an “us and them” narrative of British soldiers and Nationalist paramilitaries with nothing in between.

You can’t condemn the army, the argument seems to go, since then the paramilitaries get off scot free. Actually you can, and should, condemn both.

Sara Canning with Arlene Foster

Sara Canning, the partner of the young journalist Lyra McKee, who was murdered by a sectarian gang, gave a masterclass in doing so in an interview several weeks after losing the love of her life, saying, “Soldiers who indiscriminately opened fire in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday are no different to the thug that opened fire on Creggan on Holy Thursday and shot Lyra.

They shot a gun indiscriminately towards a crowd. There is no difference.” Why is it that some MPs are unable to present a similar critique review without resorting to point-scoring bias?

Expose the ‘dark money’ bankrolling our politics
US Christian ‘fundamentalists’, some linked to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, have poured at least $50m of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the past decade.

With many thanks to: Open Democracy and Rachel Connolly for the original story

The latest multi-billion pound move in NHS privatisation – is the endgame in sight?

Private healthcare firms have just been offered a substantial say in deciding how billions of pounds of NHS mental health money is spent.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock outside Downing Street | Jonathan Brady/PA Images

“No privatisation of the NHS on my watch,” said Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, shortly after taking up his post. But this week the Health

Services Journal (HSJ) revealed that “Providers offered control of NHSE budgets worth billions” (paywall).

The article is explicit that the private healthcare sector is central among those now being offered control of at least £2billion of mental health cash.

We’ve got used to privatisation of a lot of NHS services in recent years – everything from ambulances to cataract ops. The latest move – giving private companies responsibility not just for providing NHS services, but decision-making powers over commissioning budgets worth £billions as well – takes privatisation to a whole new level.

‘Commissioning’ means deciding who gets the money to provide NHS services – NHS Trusts, charities or private companies. It means deciding what services those organisations have to provide, who will be allowed to access them and what standards they have to be delivered to.

The HSJ reports that “NHS England has invited providers to take on specialised commissioning powers across the country, in a major expansion of its mental health new care models programme.” There is a “new target for setting up “provider collaboratives” – which are expected to take on the responsibilities and budgets – across the whole of England by 2022, and in 75 per cent of areas by 2020. They will have a lead provider which will coordinate services. It will involve substantial input from private organisations which are major providers of inpatient mental health and learning disabilities beds”.

So it seems important to ask at this point, what kind of role the private sector is already playing in the delivery of mental healthcare for the NHS – and what kind of standards of quality and access has it demonstrated so far?

Often not very good ones, it would seem.

Mental healthcare and private providers
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) issued a report on mental health rehabilitation in March 2018. They found that placements of NHS patients in the private sector were nearly twice as long as similar placements in the NHS. They were more than three times as far away from patients homes and social support – and twice as expensive. And managers at private providers were half as likely as NHS providers to know who was going to be responsible for after-care, post-discharge.

There have been scandals and indeed calls for private providers to lose their NHS contracts after episodes of unacceptably poor care. In one case a 17-year-old girl committed suicide.

The coroner who ruled on the case said her anxiety had been exacerbated by her unacceptably prolonged stay at The Priory one hundred miles from her home in Scunthorpe.

Mental health is not given the priority that it needs regardless of promises from all parties to give it parity of esteem with physical health. All mental health patients, regardless of age, risk being sent long distances from home for in-patient treatment. The majority of locked rehabilitation centres are provided by the private sector.

By giving commissioning responsibilities to private firms there is clear potential for conflict of interest that the money will find its way into private pockets, and that contracts will be designed to suit the private companies who want to bid for them.

Essentially, there are two ways the private sector can win big from the NHS. They can win by getting government contracts and cash to provide services and facilities to NHS patients or other NHS bodies, when directly provided NHS facilities are cut or closed down.

And the private sector can also win by providing services to patients who can pay, if those services simply aren’t made available to NHS patients.

And commissioning decisions – that the private sector has just been offered a huge role in – are absolutely key in both cases.

Public cutbacks, private opportunities
Looking again at specialist rehab centres, we can see how things are already beginning to play out, even before the role of the private sector is further extended into commissioning.

In its recent report the CQC recommended that every Clinical Commissioning Group – the organisations currently responsible for buying the services the NHS needs – should provide specialist rehabilitation facilities. NHS England has responded by saying that it is implausible for them to do so.

But the NHS did used to directly provide rehabilitation services. These were cut from 130 in 2009 to 82 by 2015. The private sector has been the direct beneficiary of these cuts.

In January 2016 The Priory Group was sold for £1.3billion by the US Private Equity Firm Advent International to Acadia Healthcare of Tennessee, a substantial increase from its sale value of £289 million in 2002. Last year, Channel 4’s Dispatches programme included a senior figure at Acadia Healthcare who was explicit about some of the business opportunities offered by the NHS’s cutbacks to its mental healthcare facilities:

“What we would look forward to, or hope does occur, is that the NHS continue to close beds and have a need to outsource those patients to the private providers. We think, that or are optimistic, that if the NHS closes more beds and outsources those, we would be the big winner there.”

The US owned Priory Group is listed in the HSJ story as one of the private sector companies which will be involved in the new budget holding ‘provider collaboratives’. The others include Cygnet Healthcare, a subsidiary of Universal Health Services which is an American Fortune 500 company and one of the largest hospital management companies in the United States and Elysium Healthcare, which is backed by BC Partners, an international investment firm.

The wider context – not just mental health
Understanding the Byzantine changes that are being made to the NHS isn’t made easier by the endless changes of names given to the same processes. But the mental health announcement should be understood alongside a wider move to create Integrated Care Providers (ICPs) across the whole NHS. These are also ‘provider collaboratives’ with responsibility for commissioning as well as service provision. The plans have been of considerable concern to NHS campaigners of late, who have been warning that such moves mean the private sector will become embedded in the structure of the NHS with potentially serious consequences for the care we all receive. There have even been judicial reviews taken by campaigners on the issue, including a very high profile case involving the late Prof Stephen Hawking.

But til now, campaigners’ concerns have been met by rebuffs – and by repeated reassurances that Integrated Care contracts, giving control over billions of pounds of spending, would not be awarded to the private sector.

Move on, nothing to see here
For example, the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee’s report on integrated care (June 2018) found that the prospect of a private provider holding an ICP contract was “unlikely”. The NHS Long Term Plan also restated the “expectation that ICP Contracts would be held by public statutory providers”. Andrew Selous MP, member of the Health and Social Care Committee speaking in the NHS privatisation debate quoted Professor Chris Ham of the King’s Fund. “If you look at what is happening in the partnerships—places such as Salford, Northumbria, Wolverhampton, Yeovil and South Somerset—there is absolutely no evidence of privatisation”. And fellow Committee member Ben Bradshaw MP told his colleagues, “The other advocates of these integrated models are not just people such as Chris Ham but people we have spoken to on the ground, trying to deliver a service for their local population….. it makes it less likely that they are going to be private contracting.”

Such reassurances have been going on for some time, of course – with David Cameron insisting in a BBC interview that there would be “no privatisation of the NHS”, and Theresa May answering concerns about US private health firms involvement by telling parliament “The NHS is not for sale”.

And they continue at the highest level. Earlier this year there was a decidedly awkward moment in front of the House of Commons Health & Social Care Select Committee after Simon Stevens, the NHS England CEO, tried to deflect repeated questioning over this key issue of ‘non-NHS bodies’ running NHS budgets.

Choosing his words carefully, Stevens said “we are suggesting that the integrated care should be from public providers”. Then – impatiently – Secretary of State Matt Hancock stepped in with his bravura statement. He said: “I am going to be much more concrete. There is no privatisation of the NHS on my watch, and the integrated care contracts will go to public sector bodies to deliver the NHS in public hands.”

In the face of such insistence, even some campaigners found it difficult to understand why the private sector would be interested, especially as there have been some spectacular failures of private sector contracts. Indeed, one of the pilots for a mental health ‘provider collaborative’ for Kent, Surrey and Sussex was quietly withdrawn without explanation at the end of last year. It contained more private sector providers than any of the other planned groupings.

But they are interested – and they are being awarded a part in the contracts, because they are already an integral part of the provider network. And NHS England has made clear that it will continue on its path regardless of evidence that it’s not in the interests of patients.

‘Backroom’ services
Already these private sector companies are providing some ‘backroom’ services. The word ‘backroom’ conjures up images of clerical work of little importance but it turns out to mean, amongst other things, advising and drawing up specifications on tendering processes for contracts worth £millions. Another key player in ‘backroom’ services is Optum, subsidiary of US health giant UnitedHealth (the organisation that formerly employed NHS boss Simon Stevens himself). Optum already provide a variety of back office services to the NHS, and according to US magazine Healthdive, the company has been on an acquisition spree to position itself as a leader in Integrated Services. It is working closely with organisations like Modality, the GP Super Partnership based in the West Midlands, who’ve just been awarded ‘custodianship’ of funds for bank and ‘back office’ services for Primary Care Networks, one of the new models for GP provision.

All of this should be a hot topic in England, knocking even the loss of GPs off the top news slot and sending shockwaves through the NHS. The private sector, including US-owned companies, looks like it’s about to be embedded in greater positions of power.

How much of the NHS must be controlled or heavily influenced by private interests before backbench MPs from all sides of parliament wake up and realise they have an awful lot of explaining to do to their constituents? Or, like ‘backroom’ and ‘outsourcing’ will ‘provider collaboratives’ just become more words for ‘move on, nothing to see here?

With many thanks to: Open Democracy and Jessica Orderod and Deborah Harrington for the original story

Time for Big Pharma to stop hiding behind “R&D” to justify astronomical costs Written by: Louise Irvine

All Articles By: Louise Irvine

NHS data is a public asset. Why does Matt Hancock want to give it away?
Written by: Rosie Collington
All Articles By: Rosie Collington

Follow these links to find out more and how you can help to save our NHS: https://protectournhs.wordpress.com/

(2) – https://keepournhspublic.com/

(3) – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/04/nhs-social-care-health-service

(4) – https://b-m.facebook.com/campaigningtoprotectournhs/?_ft_=top_level_post_id.1593582490688646%3Atl_objid.1593582490688646%3Athrowback_story_fbid.1593582490688646%3Apage_id.802849449761958%3Apage_insights.%7B”802849449761958″%3A%7B”role”%3A1%2C”page_id”%3A802849449761958%2C”post_context”%3A%7B”story_fbid”%3A1593582490688646%2C”publish_time”%3A1513240517%2C”story_name”%3A”EntStatusCreationStory”%2C”object_fbtype”%3A266%7D%2C”actor_id”%3A802849449761958%2C”parent_story_name”%3A”EntStatusCreationStory”%2C”sl”%3A4%2C”targets”%3A%5B%7B”page_id”%3A802849449761958%2C”actor_id”%3A802849449761958%2C”role”%3A1%2C”post_id”%3A1593582490688646%2C”share_id”%3A0%7D%5D%7D%7D%3Athid.802849449761958%3A306061129499414%3A2%3A0%3A1514793599%3A5332500009073359719&__tn__=C-R


UK: Protect free expression online online and reject Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill 2018.


ARTICLE 19 has submitted written evidence to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights, urging them to oppose the proposed Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill 2018. The Bill contains new over-broad offences that would criminalise controversial opinions about terrorist groups without intent to cause harm as well as the viewing of terrorist material. If adopted, it would seriously threaten freedom of expression and freedom of conscience, thought and religion of individuals. It would also set a dangerous precedent for broadening terrorism offences in countries such as Turkey or Russia, potentially putting human rights defenders and dissenters at risk.

ARTICLE 19 is particularly concerned about the following:

Criminalising opinions over actions: clause 1 of the Bill makes it an offence to express an “opinion or belief” that is “supportive” of a terrorist organisation which may recklessly encourage others to support such groups. ARTICLE 19 is very concerned about this provision as it criminalises “supportive” expression by individuals, though they may not intend to encourage support for terrorist groups or cause harm. The term “supportive” is not defined – meaning that it can be interpreted widely, potentially limiting debate where the legitimacy of organisations or merits of their actions are discussed. ARTICLE 19 is particularly worried about the discriminatory impact of the Bill on Muslim communities and that NGOs may get caught in the provision where they defend the rights of alleged members of terrorist organisations.
Criminalising the publication of an image of an item of clothing: clause 2 further criminalises the publication of an image of an item of clothing or other articles that arouse “reasonable suspicion” that an individual is a supporter of a terrorist organisation. The concern here is that young people who take such pictures and post them online as part of a joke could be prosecuted. We are also concerned that similar provisions could be replicated in less democratic countries, leading to human rights activists and reporters being prosecuted when documenting human rights abuses, as is currently happening in Turkey. More generally, ARTICLE 19 notes that taking a picture of oneself with an ISIS flag in the background is not necessarily proof of an intention to cause harm and commit a terrorist offence.
Criminalising the viewing of terrorist material online: The Bill would criminalise the viewing and or streaming of terrorist-related material. Clause 3 of the Bill prohibits individuals from viewing material “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism” on three or more occasions and applies whether the person is in control of the material viewed or not. ARTICLE 19 is very worried that this clause will create a chilling effect on those who seek to investigate or conduct research into the ideology of terrorist groups. ARTICLE 19 also believes that the government is misguided in its view that accessing the material three or more times establishes a “pattern of behaviour” rather than spontaneous curiosity, as there may be many reasons for why an individual accesses and views the material multiple times. ARTICLE 19 further believes that individuals should be able to access information about terrorist groups without being perceived as intending to commit a terrorist offence.
Finally, ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the potential increase in the lengths of sentences for a number of existing offences under the Terrorism Act 2000 and Terrorism Act 2006 and their knock-on effect on the new offences outlined in the Bill. In some instances, the term of imprisonment would be increased from 10 to 15 years. In ARTICLE 19’s view, these sentences are too harsh, unnecessary and disproportionate.

If adopted, ARTICLE 19 believes that the Bill would seriously threaten freedom of expression and freedom of conscience, thought and religion. For this reason, we urge the Joint Committee on Human Rights and Public Bill Committee to protect freedom of expression online and reject the Bill’s clauses highlighted above.

Read the full submission.

National security and counter terrorism Europe & Central Asia United Kingdom
Governance and funding

With many thanks to: ARTICLE 19 for the original posting.

Remembering Ireland’s Patriot Dead

THE BRAVE Men & Women Who Give Their Lives For Irish Freedom.

80 men and women travelled the Irish Sea from various parts of the UK to play their part with the Irish Volunteers in the Easter Rising some had Irish Parents,some had not.They too helped fight against the oppression and tyranny of British Government and Crown Forces in Ireland 1916

With many thanks to: Easter Rising War of Independence and Irish Civil War History.

Hagies Jelly & Ice cream Party this Wednesday

Hagies Jelly & Ice cream Party this Wednesday

    17:30 until 23:00
  •   ★▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄ •★•JELLY & ICE CREAM PARTY •★• ▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄★
    Another Party on the go at Hagies this Wednesday!!!
    Live Music from Podgie from Shebeen to get the place rocking
    Band starts 5.30
    Open at 4pm
    Free entry
    Lets do this, The conga way!!!!
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