Violence continues to threaten Afghan peace process

2020 marked the beginning of what some have hailed as “historic” peace talks between Afghanistan’s US-backed government and the Taliban. But despite the Qatar based negotiations, this week has seen renewed violence in the country. The US special envoy to Afghanistan has warned that “distressingly high” levels of violence threaten to derail ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Zalmay Khalilzad’s comments come as days of renewed fighting have plagued Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, a long-time Taliban stronghold. The US launched airstrikes in Helmand Province on 12 October. On 16 October, the Taliban agreed to halt its attacks on the condition that the US stopped…

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MPs vote to remove child refugee protections from immigration law

The government has stripped out protections for lone child refugees from immigration legislation that will end EU freedom-of-movement rules in the UK.Unaccompanied childrenMPs voted 327 votes to 264 – majority 63 – to remove an amendment made by peers which would have required the government to ensure unaccompanied children in the EU continue to be relocated with close relatives in the UK. The division list showed six Conservative MPs rebelled to try and keep the measure in the Bill, including former ministers David Davis and Tim Loughton.The amendment to continue existing arrangements had been successfully moved in the House of Lords by refugee campaigner and Labour peer lord…

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We are facing a mental health crisis and low-pay workers are being hit hardest

Coronavirus (Covid-19) has hit the mental health of the poorest workers the hardest, a study has found. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, found that lower-paid workers have borne the brunt of job and income losses during the pandemic. This has led to a larger impact on their mental health. Of people experiencing economic consequences of coronavirus, lower-paid workers were twice as likely to report depression and health anxiety. Doctor Dirk Witteveen, co-author of the study, said: The economic burden of the COVID-19 lockdown disproportionately fell on the shoulders of workers in lower prestige-ranked jobs – those with lower-pay and lower-skill. They were confronted…

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Labour NEC election: Grassroots Voice team ‘fighting for the future we need’

On Monday 19 October, Labour party members can begin voting for the candidates they want to see on the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC). The NEC is the Labour Party’s governing body, making key decisions, such as who can run as a parliamentary candidate, as well as having a key role in deciding on the party’s manifesto. Those who are standing are competing for nine seats. “Britain needs socialist policies more than ever” Six left-wing candidates standing for election have formed a slate called Grassroots Voice. This team of candidates said: “who gets to sit on [the NEC] and what their political beliefs and motivations are is extremely…

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Socialists claim major victory in Bolivia, one year after US-backed coup

Evo Morales’ party has claimed victory in Bolivia’s presidential election. Exit polls giving the Movement towards Socialism (MAS) party over 50% of the vote.To win in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50% of the vote, or 40% with a lead of at least 10 percentage points over the second-placed candidate.The election was marked by tension after Morales was deposed in a US-backed coup in November 2019. Electoral monitors reported threats and harassment from Bolivian security forces.With a private quick count of sampled polling stations favouring MAS candidate Luis Arce by a wide margin, even unelected interim president Jeanine Áñez recognised that the socialist movement looked…

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Woodland Trust plans to plant 50 million trees by 2025 to fight climate crisis

A conservation charity is pledging to plant 50 million trees by 2025 to help tackle climate change.The Woodland Trust is also urging millions of people to join its “big climate fightback” by planting trees this November to build support to sustain the biggest mass planting campaign the country has seen, in the next few years.The efforts come in the face of the impacts of Covid-19, with tree planting rates falling despite the need to increase woodland cover to store carbon and tackle the climate crisis. As part of the push, the Woodland Trust is sending more than 600,000 free trees to community groups and schools over the next…

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Marr just let Gove turn lying into a ‘new art form’

Michael Gove was on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 18 October. And its host just let him twist coronavirus (Covid-19) facts, “unchallenged”. Or as one MP put it, Gove simply ‘lied‘. Gove: turning lying into a “new art form” Cabinet Office minister Gove was talking about a range of issues. But as Green MP Caroline Lucas summed up, he turned “lies and prevarication into [a] new art form”: Michael Gove turning lies & prevarication into new art form Distorts @AndyBurnhamGM, defends failing #TestandTrace, & midrepresents EU Is he embarrassed, asks Marr? Of course not, he’s incapable of it Blame others, take no responsibility, Gove’s perfectly on message…

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Serco boss sent a letter to MPs. His brass neck is staggering.

The boss of disastrous outsourcing giant Serco has written to some MP. But he didn’t say ‘sorry’ for his company’s failings over Test and Trace. Instead, he delivered a passive-aggressive ‘STFU’ about his firm’s multimillion pound clusterfucking.Serco: profit-making clusterfuckingAs openDemocracy reported, Serco’s part in the coronavirus (Covid-19) test and trace system has been shambolic:The British government’s decision to outsource much of its flagship £12 billion test-and-trace system has been heavily criticised… rates of contact tracing have dropped and many Britons have complained about problems accessing COVID tests and testing sites. Not that Serco is worried. Because its profits are going through the roof. But still, it’s been on…

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MPs slam government for paying £7k a day to private sector Test and Trace consultants

Opposition MPs have slammed the government for paying £7k day rates to private sector consultants who’re helping the government to set up and run its testing system. Michael Gove has defended the practice. Sky News has reported that it had seen documents revealing Boston Consulting Group (BCG) was paid about £10 million for around 40 consultants to provide 4 months’ work. This was between the end of April and late August. The broadcaster said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) received a 10 to 15% discount from BCG. Its day rates for public sector work reportedly range from £2,400 to £7,360. The report comes amid ongoing criticism…

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Outsourced contact tracing service fails to contact 250,000 people, analysis says

The outsourced Test and Trace system has failed to reach nearly a quarter of a million close contacts of people who have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a new analysis.FailurePrivate firms Serco and Sitel failed to contact 245,481 contacts in England, either online or from call centres over four months. Meaning they missed nearly 40% of contacts, the figures show. Labour said the figures show Test and Trace is “on the verge of collapse”. The party also said these figures highlight the need for a short national lockdown to allow the government to fix the system. (PA Graphics)Poor contact tracing, greater restrictionsThe government defended the system, saying…

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