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The Riot on New Zealand’s Front Lawn

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/04/2022 - 11:00pm in

Ardern’s words might have comforted those New Zealanders taken aback by the protest, but it fails to seriously engage with the complexity of the occupation, which intermingled transnational far-right tactics with homegrown white supremacy, wellness misinformation, and indigenous disenfranchisement. The protest, and Ardern’s response, has wide implications for parsing both local and transnational politics....

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Conservative Succession: The Failures of Liz Truss

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/01/2022 - 3:33am in

Conservative SuccessionThe Failures of Liz Truss

Sam Bright examines the record of the Foreign Secretary, as she eyes-up Boris Johnson’s throne

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A war of succession has started in the Conservative Party, as MP and ministers begin to imagine the end of Boris Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister.

Polls throughout the Christmas period showed a comfortable Labour lead over the Conservatives, with Johnson embroiled in a series of scandals involving sleaze and COVID rule-breaking. After winning an 80-seat majority in December 2019, the chances of a coup against Johnson before the next election seem increasingly likely.

One person hoping to benefit from Johnson’s demise is Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who has barely concealed her political ambitions in recent months – summoning the style and spirit of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in an attempt to court support among Conservative members.

Her plan seems to be working. The latest ConservativeHome survey of party members, released on 28 December, showed that Truss had the highest approval rating of any Cabinet minister – +73.5 – a position that she has retained for months. Johnson, by contrast, logged the lowest approval rating in the Cabinet, of -33.8.

A former Liberal Democrat who backed the Remain campaign in 2016, Truss has reformed her image in the Johnson era – adopting the Brexit cause and blending it with a vocal ‘free market’ ethos, building close relationships with the libertarian think tanks that occupy Tufton Street.

In her role as International Trade Secretary, which she held from July 2019 to September 2021, Truss was the embodiment of Brexit – the person tasked with negotiating and signing the trade deals that supposedly underpin Johnson’s ‘Global Britain’ project.

However, beneath the political perceptions, how effective has Truss been in her various roles in Government?

Truss has gained plaudits among Vote Leave advocates for her post-Brexit optimism, but the fruits of her labour don’t match the rhetoric. This, to some extent, is down to the innate flaws of Brexit.

Truss and her predecessors were forced to sign roll-over agreements with countries that previously traded with the UK under EU deals. Roughly 70 of these agreements have been signed, and in effect they add nothing to UK trade – as they merely replicate conditions that we previously enjoyed within the EU. In fact, according to trade experts at the University of Sussex, these agreements are not perfect replicas and so have damaged trade slightly.


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Indeed, former Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry notably exposed Truss’ deceptive rhetoric over the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with Japan. Truss claimed that the UK-Japan deal goes “far beyond” the pre-existing agreement between the EU and Japan, yet the Government’s own forecasts predicted that the EU-Japan deal had more economic benefits for the UK than the UK-Japan deal. The EU deal was projected to increase UK GDP by £2.6 billion, whereas the new deal is only projected to increase GDP by £1.5 billion over the same period.

“There hasn’t been a huge vision of how we will do things differently to the EU,” trade expert David Henig told Euro News, in reference to the Japan agreement.

Thus, Truss was tasked with signing brand new trade deals that were previously unavailable to the UK under the strictures of the EU. The two most prominent have been agreed with Australia and New Zealand, yet their impact on the UK economy is not expected to be transformative.

The Government estimates that the two agreements will increase GDP by between £200 million and £500 million annually – by 0.01% to 0.02% – or between £3 and £7 per head. These benefits will also only be seen after 15 years, when the agreements have been integrated into business practices and the functioning of the economy.

Meanwhile, a trade deal with the US is nowhere near being achieved – and Truss has refused to guarantee that the UK will strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the US by 2030. This is despite the Government – under the direction of Truss – publishing its negotiating objectives for a US deal in March 2020, following bold claims during the referendum and after that the UK would be able to sign extensive free trade agreements with the world’s largest economies.

“The sad answer is that the Government is happy to accept, on our behalf, the economic losses from Brexit in return for political benefits (sovereignty), and trade agreements with other countries are merely making the best of a bad job from an economic perspective,” observe trade academics L. Alan Winters and Guillermo Larbalestier.

Under her leadership, some MPs took to labelling the Department for International Trade as the ‘Department for Instagramming Truss,’ due to its focus on promoting the International Trade Secretary rather than achieving tangible results, according to Politico.

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Austerity and Ideology

This did not, however, prevent Liz Truss from achieving a promotion in Boris Johnson’s latest Cabinet reshuffle.

In September 2021, she was appointed Foreign Secretary – taking over from Dominic Raab, who was roundly criticised for his laboured response to the fall of Kabul in August last year. However, in her first few months in the role, Truss has endorsed decisions that will hamstring her department and its overseas work.

In her first week, Truss signed off drastic foreign aid cuts to war-torn states, while reducing funding on the environment and gender equality. Syria will receive £48 million in overseas aid this year, compared to £154 million last year. Yemen, still suffering from a civil war that began in 2014, will see its budget cut from £221 million to £82.4 million. It has been estimated that more than 80% of Yemenis now live below the poverty line and that half of the population face a clear and present danger of imminent famine.

In total, overseas aid to Commonwealth countries has been slashed by £500 million, despite claims made during the Brexit campaign that leaving the EU would strengthen our ties with its 53 member states. Indeed, in October 2019, Truss herself told Commonwealth ministers and high commissioners that “we can and must seize the opportunity Brexit presents to take advantage of new partnerships with some of our oldest allies across the Commonwealth”.

Truss also appears to be comfortable with austerity being applied within her new department. The Foreign Office is set to reduce its staff numbers by 20% in four years – which former Foreign Office Permanent Secretary Lord Ricketts has called “completely incompatible” with the Government’s rhetoric about ‘Global Britain’.


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This mirrors Truss’s approach to public spending cuts in 2015 when, as Environment Secretary, she was one of the first ministers to accept the reduction in departmental funding proposed by then Chancellor George Osborne. Her department faced funding cuts of between 25% and 40%, but Truss insisted that it was “a big opportunity”. At the time, Guardian writer and environmental journalist George Monbiot described Truss as “impervious to argument, facts or experience”.

“I’m probably one of the more ideological among my colleagues… that’s what motivates me,” Truss told Politico last year, perhaps justifying Monbiot’s analysis.

What’s more, it doesn’t seem that Truss is immune to the sleaze stories that have plagued Johnson’s administration in recent times. It was revealed over the weekend that Truss insisted on hosting an official event at 5 Hertford Street, a private members’ club owned by a Conservative donor, against the advice of civil servants.

The event was held in June 2021, when Truss was International Trade Secretary. The venue agreed to reduce its bill from £3,000 to £1,400, on the condition of immediate payment – which could only be facilitated by an emergency process.

5 Hertford Street is owned by Robin Birley, a donor to Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign and the half-brother of Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith. The club is renowned as a meeting place for elite Brexiters and has even played host to receptions organised by Truss, in preparation for a possible leadership bid, according to The Sunday Times.

The Department for International Trade was also forced to correct the expenses that had been spent by Truss and three of her staff on a four-night trip to Singapore and Vietnam in December 2020. Originally, the department said that no expenses had been logged, before admitting £4,000 worth of expenses and £1,600 of additional accommodation costs.

Posting on Twitter, Emily Thornberry said that she has never received an explanation for these additional costs. “Some will say it doesn’t matter,” she said. “But this is about character, and if Truss’s natural instinct is to hide the truth and hope no one asks questions when it comes to small things, don’t be surprised when she does it about big things.”

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The post Conservative Succession: The Failures of Liz Truss appeared first on Byline Times.

Brexit Trade Deals Failing to Deliver a Dividend, Report Says

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/12/2021 - 11:03am in

Brexit Trade DealsFailing to Deliver a DividendReport Says

The reality of ‘Global Britain’ is failing to match the rhetoric, reports David Hencke

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The UK’s much-vaunted post-Brexit trade deals will only increase the country’s GDP by a minuscule amount over the next 15 years, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) reveals today.

The report, by the independent spending watchdog, examines all the deals agreed by the Government – largely by former International Trade Secretary Liz Truss – including the deals that replicate the agreements negotiated by the EU and three of the largest new deals covering Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

The new trade deal with Australia will only add between 0.01 and 0.02% to GDP and increase British exports by up to 0.03% by 2036, the report says. The deal is likely to increase GDP by between £200 million and £500 million.

The New Zealand deal is expected to have no impact on GDP at all, while increasing exports by just 0.1%. The Japanese deal is anticipated to have the greatest impact – increasing GDP by 0.07% – £1.5 billion – and exports by 0.6%.

The NAO also does not expect such a significant GDP boost from any prospective trade agreement with the United States, or by joining the 11-member Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.

A deal with the US would likely boost GDP by between 0.07% and 0.16% – between £1.6 and £3.4 billion – and could increase UK exports by up to 1.3%.


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This contrasts with Truss’s speech to the right-wing Policy Exchange think-tank on 21 September, when she compared her new trade deals to the decision of Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel to repeal the protectionist Corn Laws in 1846, which she claimed resulted in the UK trebling its GDP during the 19th Century.

The NAO adds that the Government will miss its target, set for the end of this month, of bringing 80% of all UK trade within free trade agreements. The figure currently stands at 64%.

Moreover, the NAO says that the Government should spend more time helping businesses to exploit current agreements, rather than chasing new ones. It found that nearly a-third of all eligible businesses had been unable to exploit the reduced tariffs offered by the deal with Japan because they were not aware of the changes.

“The UK needs to ensure that the deals it is pursuing deliver real benefits to businesses, consumers and the UK economy,” says Gareth Davies, head of the NAO. “It should provide greater transparency of objectives, make best use of stakeholder views, and ensure there is enough focus on implementing the deals already secured.”

A detailed analysis of the deal also reveals that the areas of the UK earmarked for Boris Johnson’s ‘levelling up’ agenda are expected to benefit the least. The growth benefits from the Japan trade deal are likely to be three times greater in London and the east midlands than in the north-east of England, the north west and the west midlands.

Meanwhile, Byline Times has recently shown that the UK has seen a reduction in exports to our top European trading partners equivalent to £515 million a-week, from July 2020 to July 2021.

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The post Brexit Trade Deals Failing to Deliver a Dividend, Report Says appeared first on Byline Times.

The Library Where the ‘Books’ Are Human Beings

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/11/2021 - 7:00pm in

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is the kind of advice most people forget when they meet Joel Hartgrove. Maori tattoos cover his neck, ears and his shaved skull, and written across his forehead are the Joker-esque letters HAHAHA. “A lot of people actively avoid me,” the Indigenous Australian says. “Families with children will grab their kids and push them away from me.”

Until a few years ago, he was a proud, untattooed soldier, but after an injury left him with chronic pain and depression, he began getting tattoos “as a mechanism to deter people from me.” Now he is training to become a first responder, and the tattoos impact his life “greatly on a daily basis.” He wants to laser them away so he doesn’t scare his patients. 

Hartgrove is an open book. You can borrow him for 20 minutes, talk to him about his time in the Australian army, his Indigenous roots, his tattoos, anything you’d like. You’ll find you’re speaking with a deep thinker who answers nosy questions with humor and heart — a common trait among the “books” available for loan in Ronni Abergel’s library. “They are stigmatized,” Abergel says of his collection, “maybe because of their weight, their looks, their profession, their religious, sexual or political orientation, or because they survived abuse and traumas. We can’t just judge someone on face value.”

Abergel, 48, is the director of the biggest and most beautiful library in the world: the Human Library, where you borrow people instead of books and speak with them about their lives.

The Danish journalist and activist started the Human Library 21 years ago when the Danish Roskilde music festival asked him to organize interactive encounters with strangers. “What if we invited some of the most unpopular people to tell us their story so we could understand them better and give them a chance to move out of the box we put them in?” he asked his friends in Copenhagen. “Like a library?“ one of his friends replied. It was an epiphany for Abergel. “A library is one of the few institutions in our culture that really embraces, or at least accommodates, everyone and treats everyone as equal,” he says. “You can be old or young, able or disabled, blind or deaf, you can be whatever you want to be.” 

His library rules are simple: Treat the books respectfully; bring them back on time and in the same shape you borrowed them; don’t take them home. “They will answer any question you have the courage to ask,” Abergel promises.

The Human Library is now active in 80 countries, with branches in Texas and Tokyo, Bangladesh and Berlin. Every reader who visits, virtually or in-person, chooses two or three topics that interest them: rugby, depression, refugees, sex work, cancer, grief. The choices are nearly endless. “There is a great book hidden in all of us, and most of us would be bestsellers,” Abergel believes. “Take the bodybuilder, the Roma, the Muslim, the Jew, the hippie, the street artist… Everybody has a unique story.”

The library rules are simple: Treat the books respectfully; bring them back on time and in the same shape you borrowed them; don’t take them home. Credit: Human Library

To be honest, I was skeptical. As a reporter, I speak with fascinating people almost every day. But right away, my first human book was a page-turner: Alma Faham, a warm, witty architect and abstract artist who lives in Connecticut. Born in Kuwait to a Syrian father and a Jordanian mother, Faham moved to Syria during the first Gulf War, then to Greece. It was hard to choose which aspect of her life was the most fascinating: her expressive art, her religion, her world travels. She answered all of my questions without hesitation, including about her personal reasons for participating in the library. “The problem was always the pre-judgment,” she shares. “Once you say you’re from the Middle East, people put you in a certain category. The sad part is that I am considered a foreigner in my own hometown because I have lived elsewhere for so long.”

My second book, a gay Canadian who identifies as being on the spectrum and has a rare blood disorder, was also heartbreakingly open. This is what makes these encounters unique: they’re not interviews, but intimate, honest, private conversations. The books invite you with an unusual openness: “Ask me anything!” 

Before the library, a 19-year-old Abergel, his brother and two friends had initiated “Stop the Violence” in 1993, after a friend was stabbed at a nightclub in Copenhagen. The idea was to train youths to resolve conflicts peacefully. “After one is stabbed to death, the others become fearful and will also take a knife with them the next time they go out,” he says. 

Ronni Abergel. Credit: Human Library

Federal funding for Stop the Violence had ended by 2000. When the organizers of Roskilde, the largest music festival in Northern Europe, invited them to organize an interactive element, the budget was next to nothing. Abergel was worried nobody would show up to the Human Library. “Who wants to speak with a policeman or a Muslim or a transgender person?” he thought. Turns out, if the framework feels right, many do.

The very first book at Roskilde, a police officer named Erik, was immediately surrounded by three anti-fascists who had had bad experiences with the police at protests. They wanted to know why he had become a cop. Erik was delighted he finally had a chance to explain his perspective. “After an hour — because at the beginning, the readings lasted two hours — an antifa friend arrived, drunk and full of rage, to insult and verbally attack the policeman,” Abergel remembers. “And do you know who protected the cop? Before Erik could even react, the three protesters came to his aid and told their friend: ‘You don’t know this man, but we do.’ After an hour!” That was when Abergel knew: It worked.

Abergel himself is now a book. After his 37-year-old wife died unexpectedly, leaving him with two small children, “That was my Ground Zero,” he says. “The stigma was enormous. People didn’t know what to say to me, so they said nothing. It was horrible. I felt like it was my responsibility to make them feel comfortable, but I was in shambles myself.”

Like any good librarian, Abergel takes measures to ensure his books are treated well. All human books are trained to answer challenging questions, set boundaries and retreat if they become overwhelmed. Trained “librarians,” which includes 25 full-time staff and countless volunteers around the globe, speak with readers and books before a “reading” to take the temperature. A trained psychologist is on call even after hours, so a book can call anytime if a reading got under their skin. 

Often, a topic attracts readers who have a very personal interest — for instance, a mother whose daughter was diagnosed with anorexia and who now wants to ask a book with an eating disorder all the questions she does not dare ask her teenager. 

Abergel only excludes people who are aggressive, who have an agenda, or who mistake the library for psychotherapy. “If you’re on a vengeance mission and spend all the time finger-pointing and blaming others, there are 844 other platforms out there for you, but not ours.” 

“My vision is that one day we don’t need the library anymore because we have the courage again to talk to the people around us.” Credit: Human Library

This sets the tone for respectful encounters and honest exchanges about our experiences. “We don’t talk to each other anymore,” Abergel says. “My vision is that one day we don’t need the library anymore because we have the courage again to talk to the people around us. But in our daily grind, we don’t have the time and opportunity.” 

Abergel recalls the shock when all in-person events abruptly had to shut down in March 2020 and the library suddenly had to go virtual. But there was a silver lining: readership doubled, and geographic proximity became irrelevant — the plumber from Kenya is now friends with the artist from Bangladesh. Some local Human Libraries continued in person, such as in Copenhagen, where books and readers were able to meet outside in a park, with masks and space between them. And now, as the world reopens, the Human Libraries offer a safe, approachable framework for many who are finding their way back to in-person social interaction. “I feel the same way,” Abergel admits. Despite being a born communicator who astonishes his ten-year-old son with his ability “to talk to everyone everywhere,” he found that he recently had to step out of a crowded birthday party to gather himself.

A book with her readers at an event in the U.K. Credit: Human Library

All Human Library readings are free, and while hosts often pay for travel to their school or facility, the books are unpaid volunteers and the project receives no federal funding. Abergel recently started financing it by organizing readings for companies like Microsoft or Amazon. Even there, Abergel says, his mission is to bust prejudice — as his t-shirt says, Unjudge someone — and perhaps even link up his books with the corporate job market, “for people with disabilities or depression, for hippies and dreamers.”

When asked which book he remembers best, Abergel recalls an incest survivor. One of her readers was a pedophile. “I understand if you don’t want to speak with me,” the man started out, “but I want to understand how I can mitigate the suffering I have caused my own child.” The book decided to continue the reading, spoke openly about the grave physical and emotional consequences of her abuse, and helped the reader to better understand a survivor’s perspective. He had a very specific reason to visit the Human Library: “I am here because I have no one else I can ask for advice.”

The post The Library Where the ‘Books’ Are Human Beings appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Airline Creates ‘Gividends’

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Think Carefully Before Importing Kiwi Welfare Model

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Social Welfare Investment Most Attractive to Aussie Companies

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