Oxfam sex scandal: Director promises justice for victims

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 16, 2018 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionOxfam head: ‘I know we have a problem’

Oxfam says it will set up a commission to investigate past and present allegations of exploitation by staff.

Oxfam International’s executive director Winnie Byanyima said it would “do justice” and “atone for the past”.

She invited victims to come forward “for justice to be done” for them, saying she was “here for all the women who have been abused”.

The British charity has faced criticism over the way it handled claims staff hired prostitutes in Haiti in 2011.

She said the organisation was “hurt”, but added: “There is no way this organisation can die… the world needs it.”

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Ms Byanyima, the most senior Oxfam executive to speak on the issue, said she first heard of the controversy after news reports last week.

In an interview with the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale, she switched to speaking in the Ugandan language of Runyankore to make an apology: “From the bottom of my heart forgive us, forgive Oxfam.”

She admitted she could not guarantee there were not sex offenders currently working at the organisation but vowed Oxfam would “build a new culture that doesn’t tolerate that behaviour”.

Charity reform

She said the reforms at Oxfam would include:

  • setting up a high-level independent commission that will look into culture and practices at the organisation, with a mandate to investigate past and current claims of sexual exploitation
  • more than tripling the budget for the charity’s safeguarding team, and doubling the number of staff working in the department
  • setting up a global database of accredited referees to ensure sex offenders cannot falsify references and reoffend at other charities
  • making the organisation’s “whistleblowing mechanism” external, safe and confidential

Earlier this month, news reports said that during a humanitarian mission in Haiti in 2011, the charity’s country director Roland van Hauwermeiren hired prostitutes at a villa paid for by Oxfam.

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Roland Van Hauwermeiren worked in Chad from 2006-09 before going to Haiti in 2010

Mr Van Hauwermeiren, who left Oxfam in 2011 amid a sexual misconduct inquiry, has denied hiring prostitutes but said he had “intimate relations” with a woman who was “not a prostitute”.

Oxfam had staff working in Haiti following the earthquake in the country which killed about 200,000 people in 2010.

As a result of the revelation, the charity has faced severe criticism from the British government and the Haitian president.

Media captionWhat do Haitians think of the foreign charities operating in their country?

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has threatened to cut the charity’s government funding, which was £32m last year.

The charity has also lost a number of celebrity ambassadors including Good Will Hunting actress Minnie Driver, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Ms Byanyima said she was sad to lose ambassadors she “respects so much”, but added: “What hurts me most is out there in Haiti, there are poor women who have been abused and have not received justice.”

The UK’s Charity Commission is to launch a full inquiry into Oxfam, saying the organisation may not have “full and frankly disclosed material details” about the Haiti sex scandal.

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Archbishop Tutu is “deeply disappointed” over alleged misconduct at Oxfam

On Thursday a new allegation came to light that a worker fired by Oxfam over sexual misconduct allegations in Haiti was rehired later the same year by the charity.

Oxfam said its decision to rehire the man in Ethiopia was a “serious error”.

Oxfam has almost 10,000 staff working in more than 90 countries across the globe.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43080330

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Florida school shooting: Nikolas Cruz confesses to police

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 16, 2018 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionFred Guttenberg said he couldn’t remember if he had told his daughter Jaime that he loved her

The teenager accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school on Wednesday has confessed to the shooting, police say.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, said he arrived on campus and began shooting students before abandoning his weapon and escaping, according to a court document.

He has appeared in court charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

The FBI has admitted it received a tip-off about him last year.

The attack, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is the deadliest US school shooting since 2012.

Cruz stated that he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with a AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds,” according to the court document.

He said he was carrying extra ammunition in a black duffel bag and backpack, it said.

Mr Cruz then discarded his weapon in an attempt to blend in and escape, the documents showed.

He was reportedly able to flee the scene undetected before entering a Walmart and then a McDonald’s, and was eventually spotted by police and arrested one hour after the attack.

What do we know about the suspect?

Mr Cruz had been expelled from the school he has confessed to attacking and some students said they had joked “he’s the one to shoot up the school”.

Media captionInside the classroom: ‘We watched gunman shoot our friends’

One former schoolmate, Chad Reuters, told Reuters Mr Cruz was an “outcast” who was “crazy about guns”.

His interest in weapons was apparent on his social media profiles, which Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said were “very, very disturbing”.

Two separate Instagram accounts, now deleted, purport to show Mr Cruz posing with guns and knives.

What were the warnings?

After seeing a comment on a YouTube post last year by Mr Cruz, user Ben Bennight contacted the FBI and spoke to representatives for about 20 minutes.

Mr Bennight said the FBI contacted him again following the school shooting in Parkland.

Media captionFlorida shooting suspect appears in court

The FBI confirmed on Thursday that they were made aware of the comment, adding that they had conducted “checks” but were unable to identify the person behind it.

Meanwhile, maths teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald that school authorities had emailed teachers about Mr Cruz’s behavioural problems.

“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” he said.

Media captionFootage posted on social media captures the moment Nikolas Cruz opened fire

Who were the victims?

Three staff members and 14 students died in the attack.

The school’s assistant football coach, Aaron Feis, was shot after jumping in front of students to shield them from bullets. His team tweeted that he had “died a hero”.

Image Copyright @MSDEagles

Image Copyright @MSDEagles

Chris Hixon, who was the athletic director at the school, was also confirmed dead by local media. In 2007 Mr Hixon, 49, served as a US Naval Reservist in Iraq.

Teacher Scott Beigel died while trying to lock the door, a student told Good Morning America.

The students who died were:

  • Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
  • Martin Duque, 14
  • Alaina Petty, 14
  • Alex Schachter, 14
  • Jaime Guttenberg, 14
  • Cara Loughran, 14
  • Gina Montalto, 14
  • Luke Hoyer, 15
  • Peter Wang, 15
  • Carmen Schentrup, 16
  • Nicholas Dworet, 17
  • Joaquin Oliver, 17
  • Helen Ramsey, 17
  • Meadow Pollack, 18

On Thursday, thousands of people attended a candlelit vigil to honour the victims. There were chants of “no more guns” as speakers demanded tougher gun laws.

  • What the survivors saw

What’s the reaction been?

In the wake of the shooting, politicians across the ideological spectrum were quick to offer their condolences. But the conversation soon turned to gun control.

Democrats, many of whom expressed frustration at the levels of gun violence in the US, proposed increased regulation of firearms.

Florida’s Democratic Senator Bill Nelson asked what it would take “for enough to be enough”.

Image Copyright @ChrisMurphyCT

Image Copyright @ChrisMurphyCT

In an emotional interview on CNN, the mother of one of the victims called on President Trump to respond with policy.

“Do something. Action, we need it now. These kids need safety now,” she said.

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Thousands of people attended a candlelit vigil to honour the victims

But many Republicans refused to be drawn into the debate.

In his address to the nation on Thursday, Donald Trump didn’t mention the word “gun” or “firearm” once.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that it was too soon to debate whether tighter gun laws could have stopped it.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz accused Democrats of politicising the shooting.

“They immediately start calling that we’ve got to take away the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. That’s not the right answer,” he told Fox News.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-43081361

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Ultra-processed foods ‘linked to cancer’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 15, 2018 in Warren Fyfe Site

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A link between highly processed foods and cancer has been suggested by French researchers.

They classified foods including cakes, chicken nuggets and mass-produced bread as “ultra-processed”.

A study of 105,000 people hinted the more of such foods people ate, the greater their risk of cancer.

A lot of caution is being expressed about the study, but experts said a healthy diet is best.

What counts as ultra-processed

  • Mass-produced packaged breads and buns
  • Sweet or savoury packaged snacks including crisps
  • Chocolate bars and sweets
  • Sodas and sweetened drinks
  • Meatballs, poultry and fish nuggets
  • Instant noodles and soups
  • Frozen or shelf-life ready meals
  • Foods made mostly or entirely from sugar, oils and fats

Diet is already known to affect the risk of cancer.

Being overweight is the biggest preventable cause of the disease after smoking and the World Health Organization says processed meat does slightly increase the risk of cancer.

But what about ultra-processed foods?

The team – at Universite Sorbonne Paris Cite – used food surveys on two days to work out what people were eating.

Those on the study, who were mostly middle-aged women, were followed for an average of five years.

The results, in the British Medical Journal, showed that if the proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet increased by 10%, then the number of cancers detected increased by 12%.

During the study:

  • On average, 18% of people’s diet was ultra-processed
  • On average, there were 79 cancers per 10,000 people each year
  • Upping the proportion of processed food by 10% would lead to nine extra cancers per 10,000 people per year

The researchers concluded: “These results suggest that the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decades.”

But they said the findings need to “be confirmed by other large-scale” studies and research was needed to establish what could be behind the link.

A ‘warning signal’

This study is far from the definitive take on ultra-processed foods and cancer.

It cannot say ultra-processed foods are a cause of cancer.

There are also factors that muddy the waters as people who ate a lot of ultra-processed foods had other behaviours that have been linked to cancer.

They were much more likely to smoke, were less active, consumed more calories overall and were more likely to be taking the oral contraceptive.

While the researchers did adjust their analysis for this they say their impact “cannot be entirely excluded”.

Prof Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “It’s already known that eating a lot of these foods can lead to weight gain, and being overweight or obese can also increase your risk of cancer, so it’s hard to disentangle the effects of diet and weight.”

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Overall she said the study was a “warning signal to us to have a healthy diet” but people should not worry about eating a bit of processed food “here and there” as long as they were getting plenty of fruit, vegetables and fibre.

Dr Ian Johnson, from the Quadram Institute in Norwich, said the study had “identified some rather weak associations”.

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Does the type of bread you eat make a difference to your cancer risk?

But he criticised the vagueness of the term ultra-processed.

He said: “The problem is that the definition of ultra-processed foods they have used is so broad and poorly defined that it is impossible to decide exactly what, if any, causal connections have been observed.”

For Prof Tom Sanders at King’s College London, the definition of ultra-processed foods throws up too many quirks.

He said mass-produced bread would be classed as ultra-processed, but a home-made loaf or bread from a posh local bakery would not.

“This classification seems arbitrary and based on the premise that food produced industrially has a different nutritional and chemical composition from that produced in the home or by artisans. This is not the case,” Prof Sanders said.

Even the accompanying commentary in the British Medical Journal warned against jumping to conclusions.

Martin Lajous and Adriana Monge from the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, warned “we are a long way from understanding the full implications of food processing for health and well-being”.

They said the study was simply “an initial insight”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43064290

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‘This happens nowhere else,’ says US senator

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 15, 2018 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-43067114

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Florida shooting: At least 17 dead in high school attack

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 15, 2018 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionStudents describe fleeing school as shots rang out

At least 17 people are dead after a 19-year-old man opened fire at a high school campus in Parkland, Florida.

The suspect was Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school who had been expelled. He escaped with fleeing students but is now in police custody.

As the attack unfolded students were forced to hide as police swooped in on the building.

It is the deadliest school shooting since 26 people were killed at Connecticut school Sandy Hook in 2012.

It is the sixth school shooting incident this year so far that has either wounded or killed students.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters Mr Cruz killed three people outside the school, before entering the building and killing another 12.

Two people later died after being taken to hospital.

“It’s catastrophic. There really are no words,” Sheriff Israel tweeted later.

Media captionHow US mass shootings are getting worse

Three people remain in a critical condition and three others are in stable condition, health officials said.

The victims are still being identified. Sheriff Israel said a football coach was among the dead but no names have been released.

How the attack unfolded

The attack began at 14:30 local time (19:30 GMT) on Wednesday at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, about an hour north of Miami.

The local public school district tweeted that “students and staff heard what sounded like gunfire” just before the end of the day.

Witnesses said that the suspect set off a fire alarm before he began shooting.

Police and Swat team members swarmed the campus and began clearing students from the school, as parents and ambulances converged on the scene.

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Video footage from the scene showed students being evacuated in small groups

Mr Cruz, who had been expelled for “disciplinary reasons”, was taken into custody without incident in the nearby town of Coral Springs about an hour after he left the high school, according to police.

Officials gave no details of the reasons for his expulsion but student Victoria Olvera, 17, told the Associated Press it was because of a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend.

She also said he had been abusive towards the ex-girlfriend.

Local media report that Mr Cruz bought his gun, an AR-15, legally and kept it locked away in the house of the family he was staying with, following his adoptive mother’s death in November.

Neighbours and friends said Mr Cruz was known to shoot at chickens, and talk about shooting lizards, squirrels and frogs.

“We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on and some of the things… are very, very disturbing,” Sheriff Israel said.

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Mr Cruz had posted many pictures of himself with weapons on his now-deleted Instagram account

‘Worst nightmare’

The school has nearly 3,000 students. Classes are cancelled for the rest of this week.

Many students said they thought it was a drill because a fire alarm practice had taken place shortly before the shooting.

Students told US media they hid under desks, in closets or barricaded doors as loud shots rang out.

One student, Bailey Vosberg, said: “I heard what sounded like fireworks and I looked at my friend and he asked me if I heard that.”

“Immediately, I knew. I didn’t say anything to him, I just hopped over the fence and I went straight to the road that our school is located on – and as I got there there was just Swat cars and police units, police vehicles just flying by, helicopters over the top of us.”

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Students were reunited with parents at a nearby “staging area” in Coral Springs

Caesar Figueroa, a parent, told CBS News his daughter was hiding in a closet when she called him.

He told the news outlet earlier that he told her not to call him because he did not want the gunman to hear her voice.

“It’s the worst nightmare not hearing from my daughter for 20 minutes, it was the longest 20 minutes of my life,” Mr Figeuroa said.

A teacher told WSVN that she hid in a closet with 19 students for 40 minutes – and that the school underwent training for such a situation six weeks ago.

What’s the reaction been?

Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that the shooting was “designed executed to maximize loss of life”.

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But he said that it was too soon to debate whether tighter gun laws could have stopped it.

“You should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law that you claim could have prevented it,” he told Fox News.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said the shooting was “pure evil”, but also refused to be drawn into a discussion about gun control.

“There’s a time to continue to have these conversations about how through law enforcement… we make sure people are safe,” he said.

President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences.

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Congressman Ted Deutch, the district’s representative, tweeted: “I’m sick about this news from home. Just spoke with the sheriff. This is devastating.”

Media captionSandy Hook Senator: ‘This happens nowhere else’

How do previous school shootings compare?

Wednesday’s attack is at least the 18th shooting in the US this year on or around school premises, according to research by Everytown for Gun Safety.

Media captionA guide to the weapons available in the US and the rate at which they fire

Since 2013, there have been 291 reported school shootings in America, which averages out to about one per week.

This is the worst shooting since 2012, when gunman Adam Lanza attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

He shot dead 20 young children and six adults before killing himself.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-43066226

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Tenants should have ‘default right’ to pets

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 14, 2018 in Warren Fyfe Site

Labour wants to strengthen the rights of tenants to keep a pet in their properties as part of a package of proposed animal welfare measures.

Some rental agreements drawn up by landlords insist on no animals.

Tenants can seek permission to keep pets but Labour wants a default right for them to do so unless there is evidence their pet will be a nuisance.

Other Labour ideas include a ban on foie gras imports and an end to the export of live animals for slaughter.

The Conservatives said Labour were “belatedly playing catch-up” with their own recent announcements on animal welfare and some of its proposals would not be possible if the UK adhered to EU rules after Brexit.

In recent months, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has proposed increasing maximum sentences for serious animal cruelty to five years in jail and said a ban on pet shops and other third parties selling puppies should be explored as part of a crackdown on unscrupulous breeders.

He has also published draft legislation which would commit the government to treat animals as “sentient beings” when it makes future laws, following a political row over the issue at the end of last year.

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Despite the flurry of activity from the government, Labour is insisting it remains “the party of animal welfare”, citing its backing for the 2005 hunting ban and past steps to tighten the rules on the transport of live animals.

The party is now proposing to go further by prohibiting the live export of animals for slaughter or fattening and requiring all slaughterhouses to have CCTV installed.

The 50-point draft policy document – entitled Animal Welfare for the Many not the Few – also proposes:

  • ending the badger cull
  • closing “loopholes” which permit illegal fox hunting
  • creating a new zoo inspectorate to draw up revised standards
  • expanding affordable vet care for owners on low incomes
  • reviewing animal testing to focus on minimising suffering and ending avoidable tests
  • obliging motorists to report incidents where animals are injured
  • phasing in a ban on all fur imports
  • banning intensive rearing of game birds for shooting
  • protecting the marine environment around the UK through “blue belt” zone

Among the most eye-catching proposals is a plan to strengthen the right of tenants to have pets in their homes, which Labour said was a recognition of the growing number of people having to rent well into their 30s.

Under the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, a landlord can only refuse permission if it is reasonable to do so, for instance on grounds of the animal’s size, the damage it could cause and its impact on future rental prospects.

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Labour is looking at ways of reducing vets’ bills for the lower-paid

Under Labour’s plans, which it says it wants to discuss with landlords and tenant bodies, there would need to be evidence that the animal was a nuisance for permission to be refused.

The National Landlords Association said its members should have the right to refuse tenants with pets as long as they justified their actions, including in cases where properties were simply not geared up for animals.

But the group’s chief executive Richard Lambert added that “tenants who keep pets do tend to stay for longer periods of time, and there are a few simple steps that landlords can take in order to mitigate the perceived increased risks” – including insisting on larger deposits.

Shelter said that while it was often difficult for landlords to enforce conditions relating to pets, tenants were at greater risk of eviction if they were in breach of tenancy agreements.

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Labour also envisages creating a new post of animal welfare commissioner, to ensure government policy is continually abreast of the latest scientific evidence. This would also mean animal welfare is taken into consideration in trade deals after Brexit, and in the UK’s dealings with international bodies.

‘World leader’

After the UK leaves the EU, Labour says future farming subsidies must reflect the need to outlaw bad environmental practice and move away from intensive rearing techniques.

“With new trade deals on the horizon and the UK no longer subject to EU-wide rules on animal welfare, we want to ensure there is a comprehensive legislative agenda in place so that the UK becomes a world leader on animal rights,” said the party’s shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman.

“Our vision is one where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and we continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding”.

Responding for the Conservatives, MP Steve Double said “from introducing mandatory CCTV into slaughter houses to increasing the maximum sentence for animal cruelty ten-fold, the Conservatives will continue taking the action needed to ensure animals receive the proper protection they deserve.”

It emerged earlier this month that the government is considering its own ban on the export of live animals for slaughter, and will launch a consultation in the spring.

Theresa May, meanwhile, has ruled out a Commons vote on repealing the ban on hunting with dogs during the current Parliament, reversing a manifesto commitment for a free vote.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43045552

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Minnie Driver quits Oxfam over Haiti sex claims

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 14, 2018 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Actress Minnie Driver has stood down from her role as a celebrity ambassador for Oxfam.

This follows claims that staff for the charity in Haiti and other countries paid vulnerable people for sex.

In a statement Ms Driver said she was “nothing short of horrified” by the allegations.

Oxfam said it was “grateful” for Ms Driver’s commitment and that it was “more committed now than ever to learn from our mistakes”.

The British charity is accused of concealing the findings of an inquiry into claims staff used prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti in 2011.

The actress, best known for the films Good Will Hunting, Grosse Point Blank and Hope Springs, said although she could not continue her 20 years of involvement with Oxfam, she would work against “social and economic injustice”.

She added: “I certainly will not let the abhorrent mistakes of a troubling organisation stop me or anyone else from working with good people in this space to support a population of human beings around the world that needs our help.”

The actress later said on Twitter that she was “devastated by the response” of Oxfam which she had been “raising awareness for since I was nine years old”.

Ms Driver had been to countries including Cambodia and Thailand in her role as a celebrity ambassador, and also performed at a fundraising concert for Oxfam.

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The Charity Commission has launched a statutory inquiry into Oxfam – which denies a cover-up – but details of its scope have not yet been released.

The commission is also looking into claims that Roland van Hauwermeiren – the charity worker at the centre of the sexual misconduct scandal in Haiti – was employed by Oxfam two years after he left another aid agency, because of concerns about his behaviour.

A former colleague has told the IRIN website that van Hauwermeiren was investigated by British health charity Merlin after it was alleged that he used prostitutes in Liberia in 2004.

Merlin later merged with Save The Children, which says it does not have access to Merlin’s records.

“We have immediately contacted Save The Children to establish whether they have any knowledge of and/or hold any records about these reports either at the time of the merger or subsequently and if so to ask them to urgently disclose this information to us,” a Charity Commission spokesperson said.

The commission said its own records did not go back to 2004.

Oxfam said that with 10,000 NGOs working in Haiti alone in 2011, “it was unfortunately not possible for Oxfam to ensure that those found guilty of sexual misconduct were not re-employed in the sector”.

Funding ultimatum

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt will give a speech on Wednesday where she will threaten to cut government funding to charities that fail to put robust safeguarding measures in place.

She is attending an event in Stockholm to find ways to end violence against children but is expected to use the opportunity to speak about the Oxfam scandal and say: “Unless you safeguard everyone your organisation comes into contact with, including beneficiaries, staff and volunteers – we will not fund you.

“And unless you report every serious incident or allegation, no matter how damaging to your reputation – we cannot be partners.”

Ms Driver is the first of Oxfam’s celebrity supporters to publicly address the scandal. But some companies have spoken about their relationship with the charity.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award said in light of the allegations, it would “be reviewing our association with Oxfam as a participant volunteering provider”. Teenagers can volunteer in Oxfam charity shops through the award.

The programme said it had not received notification of any safeguarding incidents involving DofE participants volunteering in Oxfam stores.

Since the allegations came to light, Oxfam’s deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, has resigned over the charity’s handling of the misconduct.

In a separate blow for the charity, Oxfam’s international chairman, Juan Alberto Fuentes, was arrested in Guatemala as part of a corruption investigation relating to his time as the country’s finance minister.

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Boris Johnson: Brexit is a reason for hope not fear

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 14, 2018 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Boris Johnson is to attempt to reassure voters who are angry and alienated by Brexit that the UK’s split from the EU is a cause for “hope not fear”.

The foreign secretary will use a speech to try to build bridges with those who voted to remain in the EU, saying their belief in European solidarity is based on “noble sentiments”.

“It is not good enough to say ‘you lost, get over it’,” he will say.

But he will also insist those who want to stop Brexit cannot prevail.

In the speech in London, he will say that that holding another referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU would be a “disastrous mistake that would lead to permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal”.

He will also say the UK must regain control of its regulations and tariffs – and that continuing to be bound by EU directives would be “intolerable” and “undemocratic”.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who supports the Open Britain campaign “against a hard, destructive Brexit”, said Mr Johnson was “totally unqualified to preach about the perils of fear and betrayal”, having “engaged in disgraceful scaremongering” during the EU referendum.

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Mr Johnson’s speech is the first in a series of speeches by Theresa May and her ministers on the “road to Brexit”.

The prime minister is expected to address the UK’s future relations with the EU in a speech in Munich on Saturday, the day after she holds talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

In what has been billed as his most substantial speech on Brexit for more than a year, Mr Johnson – a leading figure in the Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum – is expected to make the “liberal case” for the UK’s withdrawal and argue it will allow the country to play a greater role on the world stage.

Excerpts released in advance of the speech suggest Mr Johnson will appeal to both sides to move on from the divisions of the past and unite around a shared goal of seeing an outward-facing and global nation succeed.

“We must accept that many [Remainers] are actuated by entirely noble sentiments, a real sense of solidarity with our European neighbours and a desire for the UK to succeed,” he will say.

“If we are to carry this project through to national success – as we must – then we must also reach out to those who still have anxieties.

“I want to try to anatomise at least some of those fears and to show to the best of my ability that they are unfounded and that the very opposite is usually true: that Brexit is not grounds for fear but hope.”

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by Ben Wright, political correspondent, BBC News

It’s a conciliatory tone we haven’t heard much from Cabinet ministers.

And it’s a recognition of the deep divisions Brexit has opened. Boris Johnson will use his Valentine’s Day speech to try to woo despairing Remain supporters who think Brexit is a disaster.

There’s no crumb of comfort for people who would like to see Brexit stopped. Mr Johnson insists it must happen.

Furthermore, he will say the UK must take back full control of regulations and tariff schedules.

It’s no secret the Cabinet is divided on how closely the UK and EU should align after Brexit.

Last month the Chancellor Philip Hammond said he wanted the two economies to move apart only “very modestly”, a statement that enraged Brexiteers.

Boris Johnson’s speech shows again that he is not in the close alignment camp.

His speech was approved by Number 10 and will be scoured for clues about how Theresa May’s divided Cabinet plans to find common ground around the deal it hopes to strike with the EU.

Continuing the conciliatory tone in an article for the Sun, Mr Johnson writes: “To those who worry that we are somehow going to become more insular, the exact reverse is true.

“We do not want to haul up the drawbridge and we certainly don’t want to deter the international students who make a huge contribution to our economy.”

Mr Johnson is expected to focus on the potential for extending British influence in the rest of the world, exploiting Britain’s traditional strengths in trade, diplomacy, soft power, development and human rights.

The foreign secretary, who returned on Tuesday from a visit to Myanmar and Thailand, told the Guardian last month he would like to see the UK “taking advantage” of the people’s decision to leave to get the “best economic result from that decision, and do the best we can do”.

Ministers are under pressure to spell out how they can square their desire for frictionless trade after Brexit with the UK’s exit from the single market and customs union, which EU officials say will create trade barriers.

By leaving the customs union, the UK has said it will have freedom to negotiate trade deals of its own during the transition period, while reducing tariffs on imports from developing countries.

Mr Johnson is one of the most enthusiastic Brexiteers in the cabinet but his decision to deliver a Brexit speech shortly before Mrs May’s Florence speech in October, plus his recent plea for more money to be spent on the NHS after Brexit, has seen him face criticism from some in his party.

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, who was a founding member of Vote Leave, said Mr Johnson was aiming his speech at those who felt “alienated and angry” about the referendum result.

“We want to try and carry as many people with us,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

“It was a narrow outcome, it was a 48/52 vote that means we should try and find a consensus that both sides can at least live with.”

‘Immense challenge’

Meanwhile, a report by the Commons Home Affairs Committee has said the UK is ill-equipped to cope with changes to the immigration system after Brexit due to a lack of resources.

The government has yet to set out in detail what type of immigration model it wants to set up outside the EU, when it will no longer be bound by freedom of movement rules from Brussels.

The MPs warned this posed an “immense bureaucratic challenge” and that “rushed and under-resourced changes will put border security at risk”.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the committee, said the government was “kicking the can down the road” with a promised white paper setting out plans yet to be published.

She said this was putting border staff in an “impossible position”.

The Home Office said preparations for Brexit were well advanced and more staff were being recruited.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43045553

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Island tax haven firms own 23,000 UK properties

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 13, 2018 in Warren Fyfe Site

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The British Virgin Islands are home to 11,700 firms owning UK property

A quarter of property in England and Wales owned by overseas firms is held by entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, BBC analysis has found.

The Caribbean archipelago is the official home of companies that own 23,000 properties – more than any other country.

They are owned by 11,700 firms registered in the overseas territory.

The finding emerged from BBC analysis conducted of Land Registry data on overseas property ownership.

The research found there are around 97,000 properties in England and Wales held by overseas firms, as of January 2018.

It adds to concerns that companies registered in British-controlled tax havens have been used to avoid tax.

Sorry, your browser cannot display this map

Map built by Carto. If you can’t see the map, please click here to open the same story on the BBC News website.

Note: Property locations are approximate based on the centre point of the postcode they fall into. As such they have been removed when the map is zoomed to the most detailed levels. Ownership information like the company name and country refer to the ultimate owner of the property, not necessarily the person or company that may rent or occupy the property.

Close behind the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which has a population of just 30,600, are Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Of the properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales, two thirds are registered to firms in the British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Many foreign UK property owners are also officially headquartered in Hong Kong, Panama and Ireland.

The analysis provides a new picture of ownership of property by overseas companies in England and Wales following a decision last November to make the database public and free to access.

It found:

  • Close to half (44%) of all properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are located in London
  • More than one in ten (11,500) properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are located in the City of Westminster
  • More than 6,000 properties owned by foreign companies are in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The government of the British Virgin Islands said it was incorrect to label the country as a tax haven.

It said that there were many practical reasons why UK properties might be owned by companies incorporated in the BVI.

It argued that BVI companies can bring together multiple investors and owners, which is useful for big commercial property deals that have investors in more than one country.

The BVI also said that it shared “necessary information” including ownership details with relevant authorities.

Among those entries in the database that disclosed a price, the most expensive was the former headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard, at 8-10 Broadway.

The site was purchased by the Abu Dhabi Financial Group in 2014 for £370m from the Mayor of London’s office. But it is officially owned by a Jersey-based company called BL Development.

The 1967 multi-storey block has now been demolished to make way for “a luxury collection of one to five bedroom apartments across six architecturally striking towers”. These range in price from £1.5m to more than £10m.

The leasehold of Admiralty Arch, the former government building off Trafalgar Squar that straddles one end of The Mall, was sold to hotel developer Prime Investments for £141m. It is registered to a Guernsey-based entity, Admiralty Arch Hotels Ltd.

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New Scotland Yard

While the most expensive buildings are commercial properties such as hotels and office blocks in prime central London locations, many are residential properties rather than business premises.

Take Green Street, London W1 – a residential street of highly-desirable four-storey redbrick Victorian terraces, fronted by smart wrought-iron railings.

Walking east to west you’ll pass one terraced residence owned, according to the latest records, from the Turks and Caicos Islands by a company called Alliance Property Ltd. Next door is another residence owned by Lily Holding Finance Inc, registered in BVI.

In all, 15 properties on the street are owned by companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, four in Jersey and one in the Isle of Man. Others have owners in Italy, Hong Kong and Singapore.

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The leasehold of Admiralty Arch is registered to a Guernsey-based entity

Accountants used to recommend using an offshore company to overseas buyers of property in the UK as a means of avoiding inheritance tax when the owner passed away.

“Until April 2017, if you weren’t resident in the UK and held a residential property via a company it was not counted as being an asset for UK-based inheritance tax purposes. So having a property through an offshore company meant you escaped inheritance tax,” says Mark Giddens, of accountants and consultants UHY Hacker Young.

However, since last year the government announced plans to close the loophole, dramatically reducing the attractions of offshore ownership of residential property.

Offshore jurisdictions such as BVI still offer buyers who wish to keep their names out of the public realm greater privacy than they would enjoy if they purchased their property as an individual.

While most tax havens have agreed to take part in automatic information exchange, allowing law enforcement agencies to discover the individuals who enjoy beneficial ownership of an offshore company, their names will not appear in the published data.

In contrast to residential properties owned by individuals, the Land Registry does not always release “price paid” figures for properties owned by companies.

Adding up the 27,835 properties whose most recent sale prices we know, the price paid was just over £55 billion.

Notes: The BBC analysed the January 2018 Overseas Companies Ownership data made public by the HM Land Registry. The data is accurate up to January 2018 and contains around 97,000 title records of freehold and leasehold property in England and Wales, registered to companies incorporated outside the UK. The map shows 71,000 of the 97,000 addresses. Those missing had incomplete data.

Data journalism by Nassos Stylianou, Ransome Mpini and Daniele Palumbo.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42666274

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South Africa: ANC ‘decides Zuma must go’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on February 13, 2018 in Warren Fyfe Site

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President Zuma’s time in office has been overshadowed by corruption allegations

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) will formally ask for President Jacob Zuma to resign after he refused to do so earlier, reports say.

The reported decision to “recall” him followed marathon talks by senior party officials that continued into the early hours of Tuesday.

If Mr Zuma, 75, still does not budge, he will face a vote of confidence in parliament that he is expected to lose.

In power since 2009, he has been dogged by corruption allegations.

The ANC has not officially confirmed its plans but party sources have described them to South African media outlets and Reuters news agency.

Mr Zuma has resisted increasing pressure to quit since December, when Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him as leader of the ANC.

It is unclear how Mr Zuma will respond to the formal request to step down, which is expected to be issued later on Tuesday.

Earlier, Mr Ramaphosa left the meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee to travel to Mr Zuma’s residence, where he is said to have told the president he would be recalled if he did not step down. He later returned to the ANC conclave.

What has Mr Zuma done wrong?

Mr Zuma’s presidency has been overshadowed by allegations of corruption which he has always vehemently denied.

Media captionThe Zuma presidency: Scandals and successes

In 2016, South Africa’s highest court ruled that Mr Zuma had violated the constitution when he failed to repay government money spent on his private home.

Last year the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that he must face 18 counts of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a 1999 arms deal.

More recently, Mr Zuma’s links to the wealthy India-born Gupta family, who are alleged to have influenced the government, have caused his popularity to plummet.

Both Mr Zuma and the Guptas deny the allegations.

How likely is Mr Zuma to quit?

Correspondents say it will be very difficult for him to resist a formal request to resign but he would not be legally obliged to do so and could technically carry on as president despite losing the faith of his party.

However, he would then be expected to face a confidence vote in parliament. This has already been scheduled for 22 February.

Mr Zuma has survived other such votes but he is not expected to pull it off again. A confidence vote would be considered a humiliating process for him and the party.

South African media are calling President Zuma’s seemingly inevitable exit “Zexit”.

His predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, resigned in 2008, also after a power struggle with his deputy.

The deputy in question was Jacob Zuma, who took over the presidency the following year.

Why is this happening now?

The ANC was badly rattled by its performance at the 2016 local elections when it won its lowest share of the vote since coming to power under the late Nelson Mandela in 1994.

It wants to project a fresh image for next year’s general election. Having served two terms in office (South African presidents are elected by parliament), Mr Zuma cannot legally return to power in any case.

On Monday, opposition parties called for an early election.

“Anyone from the ANC that wants to lead this country, must get their mandate from the people of South Africa,” Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane told reporters.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-43039928

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