Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Save the Children in Yemen

Rising food prices and the falling value of the Yemeni currency as a result of the conflict are putting more families at risk of food insecurity.

Save the Children has warned an extra one million children now risk falling into famine - total of 5.2 million children in Yemen now face famine.
"Millions of children don't know when or if their next meal will come," the chief executive of Save the Children International, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said. "In one hospital I visited in north Yemen, the babies were too weak to cry, their bodies exhausted by hunger. She added, "This war risks killing an entire generation of Yemen's children who face multiple threats, from bombs to hunger to preventable diseases like cholera,"

Food prices  are 68% more expensive than when the war began. The Yemeni Riyal has lost almost 180% of its value over the same period. Earlier this month, the currency reached its lowest value in history.

The war has led to severe delays in paying the salaries of teachers and public servants, with some people receiving no wages for almost two years.

Fears also remain of potential damage to or a blockade of Hudaydah's port as a result of the fighting. The basic supplies that pass through it are needed to prevent famine and a recurrence of a cholera epidemic that affected a million people last year.

Earlier this month, Save the Children said it had treated almost 400,000 children under the age of five for severe malnutrition so far in 2018, warning that more than 36,000 children could die before the end of the year.

A Migrant Hell

One of Europe’s main solutions to migration — Greece’s overcrowded, unsanitary Moria migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos — has suicidal children and conditions that a psychiatrist  Alessandro Barbero of Doctors without Borders said Moria was as grim as “an old-fashioned mental asylum, not seen in parts of Europe since the mid-twentieth century.”

Raw sewage flows out the main entrance in Moria, garbage piles up outside the containers where migrants sleep. 

Luca Fontana, who works for Doctors without Borders in Lesbos, said a quarter of the minors there had either attempted suicide, had suicidal thoughts or were harming themselves.
“Only last week had to suture the wrists of a couple of unaccompanied minors, they tried to cut their veins inside Moria camp,” he said.

Trying to tackle the enormous problem at Moria, Greece on Tuesday agreed to transfer 2,000 asylum-seekers from the camp on Lesbos to the mainland this month. The move that can’t come soon enough for the migrants there. Ali Sajjad Faizy, a 19-year-old from Afghanistan, said conditions at Moria have steadily worsened and residents must stand in line “for four or five” hours just to get food. “It’s completely full,” he said.

In another heavily criticized solution to immigration, imprisoned men and women have been shuttled away from one gunbattle only to end up incarcerated on the front line of another, vulnerable to both trafficking and new abuse.

The overcrowded Moria camp and the dangerous migrant detention centers in Libya serve as a sober reminder to European leaders that their statistical success in curbing migration into the continent has spawned what the U.N. and others condemn as massive humanitarian failures. 

Migrant sea arrivals to Europe have plummeted this year, but each journey now carries increased risks of death or indefinite detention in squalid conditions. More than 1,700 people have already died on Mediterranean crossings this year.

In the central Mediterranean, Europe has effectively outsourced sea rescues of migrants to the Libyan coast guard, whose boats have returned 13,000 migrants to Libyan detention centers this year. In some of those centers around the Libyan capital of Tripoli, migrants ended up on the front lines of gun battles as militias fought for control of the city. At one point in the fighting, detainees abandoned by their jailers for days broke out of at least one center but ended up caught in a gun battle. A half-dozen people were shot, according to Ibrahim Younis, head of the Libya mission for the aid group Doctors without Borders.  Food for the detainees there is dwindling. Libyan officials complain that both they and the migrants have been largely abandoned by Europe. 

In the Janzour detention center, around 900 people were crammed into a space intended for half that many. “We have difficulties in providing subsistence, difficulties in providing food, and difficulties in sheltering them,” said 1st Lt. Jamal Hussain. The government, which runs the facility, refused to allow an Associated Press journalist to speak to detainees.

The official number of asylum-seekers and refugees in detention in Libya is around 5,000, but thousands more are believed to be captive in warehouses and other buildings, where there have been widespread reports of slavery, sexual abuse and other atrocities.

This month the U.N. broke its silence over Europe’s policy of allowing the Libyan coast guard to intercept migrants, saying it was untenable and putting thousands of people at risk of being jailed indefinitely in inhumane conditions. Detailing allegations of torture, sexual abuse, violence and “nightmarish” conditions, the U.N. refugee agency said Libya doesn’t remotely meet the criteria “as a place of safety.”

In all, around 56,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are registered with the U.N. in Libya and neighboring Niger, which has accepted millions of euros in exchange for European promises to evaluate a portion for resettlement. But, critics say, resettlement simply isn’t happening. A total of 657 people had left for resettlement in Europe as of last week, out of 3,886 slots promised over a year ago in 11 European countries and Canada. Meanwhile, the Libyan and Greek detention centers continue to fill, with migrants and refugees waiting a year or more for a decision in their cases. That, however, suits many anti-immigrant populists in Europe just fine.

As of last week, 73,696 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea this year along with over 11,000 land arrivals, compared with 128,993 sea arrivals in 2017 and 298,663 in 2016.

Paolo Campana, who has studied the smuggling networks that lead through Libya, believes a solution is only possible if legal migration into Europe opens up at the same time as peace, stability, and prosperity emerge in violence-plagued nations like Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. “We need to be humanitarian and to be pragmatic,” he said.

Unethical Super-Rich

Only one in every five of the UK’s super-rich have even a tiny fraction of their assets held in sustainable investments, according to research.

Research by UBS Global Wealth Management found that just 20% of British high net worth individuals (HNWIs) – classed as those with more than $1m (£760,000) in investable assets – hold at least 1% of their fortunes in sustainable investments.

Just 12% of wealthy people in the US had more than 1% of their fortunes held in sustainable investments – a broad term which includes renewable energy and companies which have committed to pay employees fairly.

This compared with an average of 39% of HNWIs across the world. 60% of Chinese HNWIs had at least 1% of their assets held in sustainable funds, followed by Brazilians and people from the United Arab Emirates.

Fact of the Day

James McCune Smith, an emancipated slave, graduated in medicine from the University of Glasgow in 1837, and, in so doing, became the first African-American in the world to graduate in medicine.

Smith came to study at the University of Glasgow for this degree as he was barred from doing so in the United States because of his colour.

ICC to investigate Myanmar crimes

The international criminal court’s chief prosecutor announced on Tuesday that she is launching a preliminary investigation into deportations of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar into Bangladesh.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that she has begun an inquiry formally known as a preliminary examination to establish if there is enough evidence to merit a full-blown investigation.
Bensouda said she will look at reports of “a number of alleged coercive acts having resulted in the forced displacement of the Rohingya people, including deprivation of fundamental rights, killing, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, destruction and looting.”
Bensouda’s announcement came less than two weeks after judges at the court gave her authorization to investigate the deportations despite Myanmar not being a member state of the court. Judges said in their landmark ruling that because part of the alleged crime of deportation happened on the territory of Bangladesh — which is a member of the court — Bensouda has jurisdiction. Judges urged her to conclude her preliminary examination “within a reasonable time.”
The ICC is a court of last resort, which steps in only when national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute alleged crimes. Bensouda said prosecutors “will be engaging with the national authorities concerned with a view to discussing and assessing any relevant investigation and prosecution at the national level.”

The Blinkered

The richest 10% own nearly half of British wealth, and the bottom 50% own less than 10%

 Yet only 15% “agree strongly” that ordinary people do not get their fair share of the national wealth.

“Business as usual”

Horrific accounts of murders, rapes, torture and indiscriminate shelling allegedly committed by the Burmese army against the Rohingya people and other minority groups have been laid out by UN investigators in an extensive new report detailing evidence for their accusation of genocide. Rape and sexual violence were a “particularly egregious and recurrent feature” of the Tatmadaw’s conduct, the report said. It cited eyewitness accounts of Rohingya people who claim to have seen naked women and girls running through forests “in visible distress” and villages scattered with dead bodies with “large amounts of blood … visible between their legs”
The report from the fact-finding mission, presented to the UN human rights council (UNHRC) on Tuesday, said Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, had committed “the gravest crimes under international law”.
“I have never been confronted by crimes as horrendous and on such a scale as these,” said Marzuki Darusman, the chair of the mission.
The full 440-page report includes accounts of women tied by their hair or hands to trees then raped; young children trying to flee burning houses but forced back inside; widespread use of torture with bamboo sticks, cigarettes and hot wax; and landmines placed at the escape routes from villages, killing people as they fled army crackdowns. Satellite imagery included in the report showed nearly 400 “whole villages literally wiped off the map”, investigators said. 
The three-person panel said the Tatmadaw had developed a “toxic command climate” in which widespread human rights abuses had become the norm. It called for senior Burmese military leaders, including the commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, to be prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It gave a “conservative” estimate that at least 10,000 Rohingya people had been killed in the two months after the army crackdown commenced in August last year, including at least 750 people in the village of Min Gyi, known to the Rohingya as Tula Toli.
“Any engagement in any form with the Tatmadaw, its current leadership, and its businesses is indefensible,” the report said. “The human rights catastrophe of 2017 was planned, foreseeable and inevitable,” the report said. It sharply criticised the UN presence in Myanmar, finding that top officials were loth to pursue a human rights agenda, preferring a “business as usual” approach that prioritised development goals and maintaining access for humanitarian groups. Some of those who tried to push human rights issues told investigators they were “ignored, criticised, sidelined or blocked in these efforts”, the report said.
Bangladesh and Myanmar have both agreed in principle that the Rohingya refugees sheltering in Cox’s Bazar should return, but the report said repatriation in the current circumstances was out of the question.
“The security forces who perpetrated gross human rights violations, with impunity, would be responsible for ensuring the security of returnees,” it said. “Repatriation in such condition is inconceivable.”
Facebook was also singled out by investigators for the ease with which its open platform allowed hate speech and misinformation to spread. A post in which a human rights activist was accused of cooperating with the fact-finding mission and labelled a “national traitor”. One comment under the post read: “If this animal is still around, find him and kill him.” The panel was told the post did not contravene Facebook guidelines. 

Mexico's Repression of Migrants

While the media is focusse on the  US deportations of refugees and immigrants and the detention of children, Mexico is already deporting more Central Americans than the US. 

Further, between 2016 and 2017, nearly 60,000 Central American children were detained here in migration prisons (officially dubbed “stations”).

 The US and Mexico are cooperating in patrolling Mexico’s southern border, implementing a security plan that has seen 85% of immigrants deported without any solid revision of their case. The US has designated well over US$100 million to be used on the Mexican-Guatemalan border, with former US president Barack Obama having allocated some US$2.3 – $3.5 billion annually to Plan Merida (an agreement between Mexico, Central American countries, and the US, to supposedly counter drug trafficking, crime, and money laundering in the region). These funds have gone towards spy technology, intelligence gathering, 24 Blackhawk helicopters, 2,200 Humvee vehicles, and more. 

Central American migrants being forced to walk for weeks in order to avoid border officials and gangs who regularly abuse migrants.

The 80 or more safe-haven refuges around Mexico are nowhere near enough to provide shelter and rest for them during their journeys. 

Mexico’s president-elect, Andres Lopez Obrador (known by his initials as AMLO) has made it clear that when he swears in on December 1, Mexico will continue to collaborate with the US to guard its southern borders and being the US’s accomplice in filtering out Central Americans seeking refuge or work in the US.

In southern Mexico, security officials patrol the roads, check cars and buses, and conduct operations in bars, parks and squares where migrants are known to hang out. Records of abuse conducted by such officials are obviously slim, but the country’s Human Rights commission, in 2009 noted 9,758 kidnappings of migrants in a space of five months, and migrants themselves have described disappearances, clandestine graves, beatings, and mass kidnappings. Seventy percent of women passing through Mexico are raped or sexually abused.

The massive wealth and living standards disparities between rich countries like the US and poorer countries like Mexico are rooted in centuries of  ongoing economic exploitation. Putting the differences in the cost of living aside, a Mexican in the bottom 10% here earns in a year what some people earn in the US in a day or two ($667.95). Not everyone has trouble getting into Mexico. People from the US, for example, can enter the country for six months on a tourist visa applied for when entering the country.

Beyond protecting the human rights of those forced to travel overland, it has been proven over and again that open borders are better for all parties: for the receiving countries, the countries people are leaving, and of course, for the migrants themselves. Further, a rigorous Danish study conducted over 17 years found that borders open to large influxes of refugees tend to see an increase in low-skilled wages and employment for residents of the receiving country. Economist Michael Clemens also calculated that opening the world’s borders would double global GDP. Allowing workers to move where global and regional economies need them increases their productivity, and also sees workers sending money back to their country of origin as remittances in quantities that are much higher than the tokenistic, patronizing, and controlling “aid” rich countries send. 

 Putting up obstacles to that only makes things harder for them. In Mexico, immigrants who stay without formal permission can’t legally work or exercise other rights, and they become part of a super-exploited class. Like getting an abortion, people who need to migrate, will.

Who are the anti-semitic threats?

Three leading Jewish newspapers in the UK jointly declared that there was a “crisis of anti-Semitism” in the British Labour Party and that Corbyn was “an existential threat to Jewish life in the UK.”

Israeli human rights activist and lawyer, Eitay Mack, explains:
“Israel is claiming that Corbyn and the Labour Party are putting British Jews at risk. But the bottom line is that the Netanyahu government itself is actually enlarging the risk for the Jewish people around the world, because they are not dealing with real problems, just the artificial problems. They are not concerned with real anti-Semitism, they only want to fulfill their political agenda of taking the issue of the Palestinian people off the world stage.” He continues, “Israel is strengthening its relationships in Eastern Europe, with countries like Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, where they have problems with anti-Semitism. On the other hand, you see the Israeli government making their political struggle with Jeremy Corbyn a main issue.”

There are growing numbers of “real anti-Semites” in Europe who may not be a threat to Netanyahu, but most certainly are to Jews living outside of Israel.

A study by historian David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Birkbeck College, found that the overwhelming majority of charges against Labour Party members concerned statements about Israel, not Jews.

Stephen Oryszcuk, foreign affairs editor of the leading Jewish newspaper, Jewish News, said that criticizing Israel “was not anti-Semitism.” 

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a cable from Israel’s London embassy complaining that the Ministry of Strategic Affairs was breaking British law by encouraging political activities by Jewish charity groups.  In 2017, Al Jazeera uncovered a direct liaison between diplomat Shai Masot of London’s Israeli embassy and organizations like Labour Friends of Israel.  According to Al Jazeera, up to 1 million pounds were made available to fuel the campaign.

Don't Forget the Yemen War

Saudi and Emirati warplanes officially have killed—and it’s considered a conservative estimate—6,475 civilians and wounded more than 10,000 others since 2015. Targets struck have included farms, homes, marketplaces, hospitals, schools, and mosques, as well as ancient historic sites in Sana’a. And such incidents haven’t been one-off attacks. They have happened repeatedly.

By April 2018, the Saudi-led coalition had conducted 17,243 airstrikes across Yemen, hitting 386 farms, 212 schools, 183 markets, and 44 mosques. 

Such statistics make laughable the repeated claims of the Saudis and their allies that such “incidents” should be chalked up to understandable errors and that they take every reasonable precaution to protect innocents. 

Nearly 18 million Yemenis now rely on emergency food aid to survive: that’s an unbelievable 80% of the population. According to the World Bank, “8.4 million more are on the brink of famine.” 

According to a World Health Organization report, between April 2017 and July 2018, there were more than 1.1 million cholera cases there. At least 2,310 people died from the disease, most of them children. It is believed to be the worst cholera outbreak since statistics began to be compiled in 1949. At 800,000 cases between 2010 and 2017, Haiti held the previous record, one that the Yemenis surpassed within half a year of the first cases appearing.

As the fifth anniversary of this appalling war approaches, American-made arms and logistical aid remain essential to it.

Saudi Arabian warplanes rely on U.S. Air Force tankers for mid-air refueling (88 million pounds of fuel as of this January according to a Central Command spokeswoman), while the Saudi military has received regular intelligence information and targeting advice from the Pentagon since the war began. The full-scale American backing for the Saudi-led intervention started in the Obama years. Even as his administration denounced Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter of Syrian civilians, his officials seemed unmoved by the suffering war was inflicting on Yemenis. In fact, the Obama administration offered $115 billion worth of weaponry to Riyadh, including a $1.15 billion package finalized in August 2016, when the scale of Yemen’s catastrophe was already all too obvious.

 There were 154 drone strikes in Yemen during the Obama years according to the most reliable high-end estimates, and civilian casualties ranged between 83 and 101. Under Trump, they soared quickly, from 21 in 2016 to 131 in 2017.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

One child dying every five seconds

6.3 million children below age 15 worldwide died last year from preventable diseases,  a lack of clean water, malnutrition and during birth. One child dying every five seconds who needn't.

"Millions of babies and children should not still be dying every year from lack of access to water, sanitation, proper nutrition or basic health services," said Princess Simelela of the World Health Organization.
Most deaths last year - 5.4 million - were children below the age of five, according to the report, which also found that babies born in sub-Saharan African or South Asian nations were nine times more likely to die than those from richer countries.
"We have made remarkable progress to save children since 1990, but millions are still dying because of who they are and where they are born," said Laurence Chandy, director of data and research for UNICEF. "With simple solutions like medicines, clean water, electricity, and vaccines, we can change that reality for every child," he said in a statement.

The value of immigration

Migrants from the EU contribute £2,300 more to the exchequer each year in net terms than the average adult, the analysis for the government has found.
And, over their lifetimes, they pay in £78,000 more than they take out in public services and benefits - while the average UK citizen’s net lifetime contribution is zero.
“When it comes to the public finances, European migrants contribute substantially more than they cost, easing the tax burden on other taxpayers,” said Ian Mulheirn, the lead researcher.  “What’s more, this strongly positive average contribution persists over a lifetime: most migrants arrive fully educated, and many leave before the costs of retirement start to weigh on the public finances. If the UK’s new relationship with Europe involves reduced migration, this analysis suggests the tax burden on others will have to rise.” He continued, “What’s more, this strongly positive average contribution persists over a lifetime: most migrants arrive fully educated, and many leave before the costs of retirement start to weigh on the public finances. If the UK’s new relationship with Europe involves reduced migration, this analysis suggests the tax burden on others will have to rise.”
The Oxford Economics study calculated that non-European migrants will make a positive net contribution of £28,000 - £50,000 less than the £78,000 for EU arrivals – when the budget is balanced.
In total, the net benefit from the class of 2016 was expected to be £26.9bn, with £19.3bn coming from EU migrants and the remaining £7.5bn from migrants from the rest of the world.

Who is the aggressor? Israel or Iran?

 Israel confirmethat it has carried out over 200 attacks against Iranian targets in Syria over the last two years. Israel has intensified and broadened its air campaign inside Syria in recent months to target Iranian positions. These operations indicate a significant shift of Israel’s defense posture, from a limited tolerance of Iranian military presence in Syria and beyond, to zero tolerance – with far-reaching implications for regional peace and stability.

In May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his stance that “we believe that there is no place for any Iranian military presence, anywhere in Syria.”

 The strategy of opposing Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria resonates strongly with the Sunni Arab bloc in the region and can bring Israel closer to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These emerging ties, which Netanyahu calls the silver lining of the “bad” Iran deal, are very important to Israel.

 In addition to those attacks, a new report claims that Israel has secretly armed and funded at least 12 Syrian rebel groups in southern Syria since 2013. The military transfers, which ended in July of this year, included assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers and transport vehicles. Israel also provided salaries to rebel fighters, paying each one about $75 a month, and supplied additional money the groups used to buy arms on the Syrian black market.



When he was Foreign Secretary,
Our Boris liked to roam;
To deal with great affairs abroad,
Outside this island home.
But recently affairs back here, (1)
Have caused him to resign
Himself to one more wife's divorce,
For roaming out of line!

And lately State affairs have forced,
His resignation from
The Cabinet in protest at,
May's Chequers Brexit bomb!
Will he stand-up to be PM,
The Tories leading chap?
Yes, if they'll stand a leader who,
Talks loads of bleeding crap!

Of course our Boris sees himself,
As a great rational force;
His ex-wives view him more for his,
Irrational intercourse! (2)
Perhaps sly Boris needs a nip,
Of Bromide in his tea;
More expeditiously the snip,
To cure his malady!

Instead of PM, he should be,
Made a Chargé d'affaires;
To legalise and regulate,
His carnal 'laissez-faire'.
No doubt there'll be a pregnant pause,
Before more porky pies;
Whilst Boris looks for an excuse,
To further loose his flies!

(1) In 1987, Boris married Allegra Mostyn-Owen then had an
affair with Marina Wheeler. In 1993, he divorced Allegra
and married pregnant Marina. Had an affair with Petronella
Wyatt of The Spectator who became pregnant. 2004. Sacked
by Tory leader, Michael Howard, for lying about Wyatt affair.

(2) In 2006, the News of the World reported his affair with Anna
Fazackerly, journalist with Times Higher Education Supplement.
In 2010, he fathered a child with Helen MacIntyre an art consultant.
In 2018, rumours of another affair with former Tory spin doctor,
Carrie Symonds, prompted his wife to start divorce proceedings.

© Richard Layton

Germans receptive to more immigration

People living in Germany continue to view the country's multicultural society positively, according to a new study published by the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR). Despite refugees and immigration policy dominating the news and politician's speaking points in Germany, the study found that most people still think that life with their immigrant or non-immigrant neighbors is going well.
The "Integration Barometer 2018" is the first representative study on the matter to come out since the start of the so-called refugee crisis in 2015, which saw hundreds of thousands of people escaping war and poverty in their home countries enter Europe.
63.8 percent of local Germans — people described as not having an immigrant background — view the integration situation positively
Residents with immigrant backgrounds viewed the integration situation even more positively, rating it at 68.9 percent.
 Around 60 percent of local Germans support continuing to take in refugees, also if Germany were the only country accepting asylum-seekers in the European Union. 
The study found that areas where fewer migrants live, such as in the eastern German states, there are more reservations about immigration and integration.
The study found a particular divide between the eastern and western states, with 66 percent of western Germans satisfied with the status of immigration, while eastern Germans rated it at 55 percent.
Researchers noted that skepticism about immigrants can be overcome by having more "personal encounters."
"The everyday experiences are significantly better than what the [media] discourse would suggest," researchers wrote in the study.
The results of the latest "Integration Barometer" come after weeks of far-right protests against refugees and immigrants. Although topics focusing on migrants and refugees dominate headlines and dictate and within the German government, opinion polls suggest that concerns about pensions, housing, education and infrastructure top the list of issues people are most concerned about in Germany.

US cuts refugee's quota - again

The US says it will cap the number of refugees allowed into the country next year at a near record low of 30,000.
It compares with a 45,000-refugee limit set by President Donald Trump for 2018 and 50,000 the year before. The US is currently on track to admit only about half the maximum number of refugees allowed in 2018.
The refugee cap is the lowest since the aftermath of 9/11, when 27,131 refugees were allowed into the US in 2002.
The US refugee programme was set up in 1980.
According to the New York Times, Monday's announcement represents the lowest ceiling any president has imposed on the programme since its creation.
Eric Schwartz, president of the independent organisation Refugees International, called the new cap "appalling".

Monday, September 17, 2018

14 Million in Poverty

More than 14 million people, including 4.5 million children ( 33%, of children), are living below the breadline, with more than half trapped in poverty for years, according to a new measure aimed at providing the most sophisticated analysis yet of material disadvantage in the UK.  12% of the total UK population is in “persistent” poverty, meaning that they have spent all or most of the last four years below the breadline. Workless families, and families that contain a disabled person, are most likely to be stuck in poverty. 28% of families in London are living in poverty compared to 16.6% in the South-east

It finds poverty is especially prevalent in families with at least one disabled person, single-parent families, and households where no one works or that are dependent for income on irregular or zero-hours jobs. SMC’s analysis of official data finds those in hardship are more likely to have poor health and lack qualifications than those above the poverty line. But family relationships are equally strong either side of the poverty line, and the poor are significantly less likely than their wealthier counterparts to drink to excess or take illegal drugs.

The measure was developed by the Social Metrics Commission (SMC), an independent body bringing together poverty specialists from across the political spectrum to devise a successor to the child poverty targets abolished as an official measure in 2015.
The SMC’s most significant innovation is to build core living costs such as rent and childcare into its poverty measure. This recognises that even a relatively comfortable income is no guarantee that people can meet basic material needs if it is eaten up by unavoidable weekly outgoings. The SMC sets the poverty line at 55% of the three-year median of total household resources, as opposed to the previous threshold of 60% of median income. It says poverty is a relative concept best understood as “the extent to which people have the resources to engage adequately in a life regarded as the ‘norm’ in society”.


 Katie Hopkins, who once said poor people in debt have no one else to blame but themselves, has applied for an insolvency agreement in a bid to avoid bankruptcy following a costly libel case involving the food writer Jack Monroe.

Hopkins, who has already had to sell her Devon home, applied for an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) in May, a filing on the Individual Insolvency Register shows. Monroe told the Guardian that the agreement, which will allow Hopkins to avoid bankruptcy and manage the long-term repayment of her debts, was recently formally agreed following discussion with creditors.

Monroe warned that Hopkins could be turned into a martyr and pushed further to the extremes by the verdict.