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Thursday, 15 November


#JusticiaParaImelda: the difficult battle for womens rights in Central America openDemocracy

Whilst we await the postponed trial of Imelda Cortez for the 17th of December, the battle to tear down legal barriers that stand in the way of gender equality looks set to continue for Central American women. Espaol

The case of Imelda Cortez, a young woman from El Salvador accused of attempting an abortion when in fact she had an unforeseen pregnancy, was reported to the authorities after going to hospital due to a haemorrhage.

She was turned over to the police by those who were caring for her, showing how absurd the negation of basic human rights to women in Central America has become. 

With only 18 years of age, Imelda became pregnant after being raped by her elderly stepfather, a tragic occurrence that dates back to when she was only 12, a tragedy that is sadly nothing new in El Salvador.

Imelda suffered an unexpected birth in the toilet pan of her bathroom and consequentially was accused of attempted homicide.

This week, the trial against her was due to commence, with the likely outcome being a sentence of 20 years in prison, however it has been postponed until December due to the judge reporting herself as unwell.

This delay only serves to further violate the basic human rights of Imelda who currently finds herself in pre-trial custody. Her right to freedom is being systematically violated by the state of El Salvador. 

This terrifying story exemplifies the extent to which violations of the rights of women can reach in Central America, where poverty, inequality, violence and social exclusion combine with a culture that is tremendously patriarchal and machista.

The fight to guarantee the rights of women, such as the depenalisation of abortion, is still a tough battle in the region. 

The issue of abortion 

Imelda is a tragic reflection of what occurs in one of the regions that most restricts abortion in the world. Dozens of women are accused and deprived of their freedom, even for miscarriages.

El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua continue penali...


Hubris and Nemesis The Fall of the Co-operative Bank Slugger O'Toole

In ancient Greek mythology, the sin of hubris excessive self-praise and over-weaning pride was punished by Nemesis, the goddess of indignation. It is a metaphor sometimes used to describe how the giants of the banking industry were destroyed by market forces in the great recession that began in 2008. Their inflated egos allowed banks to lose the run of themselves, investing in assets that were vastly over-valued and which the bankers often didnt even understand.

It would be nice to report that it was different at The Co-operative Bank, the so-called ethical bank. Sadly, the story was just the same. It was managed by people who were not up to the job, overseen by a board that were sometimes kept in the dark and who were often too consumed by inflated ambitions to apply common sense.

Readers of national newspapers could be forgiven for believing the Banks problems were entirely the result of the strange behaviour of its chair, the Reverend Paul Flowers Christened by the tabloid press as the crystal Methodist. His penchant for drugs and his liaisons with teenage male prostitutes certainly damaged the Banks brand, but it was not the cause of its crisis.

In fact, the cause of the near sinking of the Bank dates from when it took over the Britannia Building Society in 2009. This was before Flowers became chair of the Bank. And the board were not even informed of the merger discussions by management of the Bank and its owners, the Co-operative Group (the new name of the old Co-operative Wholesale Society). When the negotiations were complete the board were told this was a great arrangement, which would take the merged organisation to new heights, with much greater economies of scale. The management seem to have believed their own hype.

Regulators, however, had a different perspective. They regarded the Britannia as a weak institution, which was being rescued by The Co-operative Bank. Yet they did not share their view with the boards of either the Bank or the Group. Bizarrely, the chief executive of the failing institution was appointed chief executive of the merged body. And although the regulator had its reservations, it did not block the arrangement.

While the regulator was aware of the weakness of Britannia, The Co-operative Bank should also have been aware. In any major business transaction, the buyer undertakes what is called due diligence. This involves close scrutiny of the books and assets of the business to be acquired. Except in the case of The Co-operative Banks takeover of Britannia, there was only limited due diligence. Crucially the bits of Britannia that were later found to have been greatly over-valued and the cause of the Banks near collapse were the parts that were not subject to proper due diligence. This failure of process, some years later, led to the professional disgrace of one of the Banks senior executives, who had to pay substantial penalties.

If the Britannia merger w...


RHI and price to be paid for our inability to punish poor policy, poor government and poor politicians Slugger O'Toole

Three points I would make

  • The major issue most clearly identified is the lack of accountability within the post-St Andrews Agreement system. The fact Mrs Foster didnt read legislation is embarrassing (as a solicitor), but how did the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 make it into law without any of these flaws being spotted in the first place?
  • Ironically it was Timothy Johnson who said that they as Spads had got far too comfortable in their own unassailable (and unaccountable) positions of power over elected holders of the ministerial office. That Sinn Fein, in its own particular way also subjected their own elected officials (such as the former Minister of Finance) to the power of party appointees underlines a joint drift from democratic norms.
  • Thirdly, a word for the civil servants (who in fact get off lightly in the piece). Jim Allister argues (correctly) that we should expect better from public servants than to pander to the pampered (and anti-democratic) instincts of the DUP/SF regime. But since St Andrews removed the likelihood that they would ever serve under anyone else, whats a boy/girl to do but to give them everything they want?

Ive maintained from the start, that the real truth of the story will lie in the detail. That will come from Coghlin himself. Spotlight shows the price to be paid for our inability to punish poor policy, poor government and poor politicians after we binned the electorates right to kick the bums out.



Over 80% of the UK and US think their countrys divided: our new podcast considers why openDemocracy

When did you last change your mind? We ask leaders what they changed they mind on, why and what they learned. This week, pollster Deborah Mattinson.

Alex Chesterfield interviewing Deborah Mattinson Alex Chesterfield interviewing Deborah Mattinson. Image: The Depolarization Project. All rights reserved.

Most people believe our divisions are getting worse not better. It has never felt more important to dig into whats going on in our minds when our beliefs are challenged, to shine a light on what people experience when they do make a fundamental shift in position.

Deborah Mattinson is one of the UK's respect pollsters  founder of Britain Thinks and and previously adviser to former prime minister Gordon Brown. She talks to us about why people find it so hard to change their mind, and why she found it so difficult to think of a time when she had done so herself.

Changed My Mind is openDemocracy's new podcast, launched jointly with The Depolarization Project. Each week the podcast asks leaders from academia, business, politics and the arts about when they have changed their mind on a substantive policy, social or personal issue, why they did that and what they learned.

Hosting are mobilisation expert Ali Goldsworthy, behavioural scientist Alex Chesterfield and corporate affairs adviser Laura Osborne. Between them, they have 40 years experience of looking at what motivates people to take a stand, back a cause, become an advocate or change their behaviour.

You can also listen to Changed My Mind on:

Listen to Changed My Mind on Apple Podcast


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Wednesday, 14 November


Did the US and Britain collude in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi? openDemocracy

With Khashoggis murder, many secrets that both the Kingdom and its western allies wanted buried, will stay that way.

Pictures of Jamal Khashoggi during the demonstration in front of Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, 25 October 2018. Picture by Depo Photos/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.The brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, has sent shockwaves around the world and highlighted the mendacity of the Kingdom he once called home.

The liberal press has painted Khashoggi as a pioneering reformer and uncompromising dissident who was killed for cutting too close to the bone in his criticisms of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In response, some US right-wing outlets have described Khashoggi as an Islamist, an al-Qaeda sympathiser and a secret Muslim Brotherhood operative, killed because MBS saw him as an extremist threat. The characterisation fits neatly into the Saudi Kingdoms own narrative. In a phone call with the White House, Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman described Khashoggi as a dangerous Islamist and Brotherhood member.

Meanwhile, the US and UK governments have engaged in the obligatory moral denunciations while also hang-wringing about what to do. The Saudi war on Yemen continues apace with US and British-backing, and despite some hot rhetoric, no steps have been taken to punish the Saudi regime.

Both sides are wrong. The conservative media has cherry-picked Khashoggis background to depict him as a militant Islamist, a picture which simply goes too far. But equally, the liberal portrait of him as a reformist democrat is one-sided, misleading and self-serving.

The truth about Khashoggi is more complex.

Me and Khashoggi

Just over a decade ago, I was in discussion with Jamal Khashoggi to explore t...


Mays stable as it can be text could just be the end of the beginning Slugger O'Toole

Well, as the former DUP SpAd Richard Bullick noted last night, whilst we have an agreed text (as stable as it can be), this is likely only to be round one of getting anything through parliament at Westminster.

The DUP has signalled clearly that since its blood red lines have been breached, its not biting. So there goes the governments majority. Its own 40 plus rebels dont look like they will bite either.

Politically, it is almost impossible for the Labour Party to touch it at this stage either. For remainers, the transparent loss of agency is by far the poorer option to remaining inside the EU

And Boriss shrill Prince Hal yet herein will I imitate the sun impersonation, may make it hard for Labour Brexiteers to limit the appeal of Spitefires and Churchill for their own wayward bases.

Few politicians in Leinster House believe this is all heading towards to a no deal. Yet several have publicly voiced concern that getting the deal may require the surrender of their Christmas holidays.

The numbers at Westminster dictate that there is still a fair bit of play in this yet


Why Ukraine needs an investigation into the murder of activist Kateryna Handzyuk openDemocracy

Handzyuk's death has led Ukraines parliament to create a temporary commission to investigate violent attacks on civic activists. RU

Kateryna Handzyuk. Source: Wikipedia. Public domain.Ukrainian civil society organisations are calling for an effective investigation into the death of Kherson-based anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk, who was the target of a contract killing in July 2018. She was doused with sulphuric acid and, despite all efforts to save her, died on 4 November.

The Ukrainian parliament has now set up an interim investigative commission to monitor the work of the police in the case, but its creation has turned into a political scandal.

Contract hooliganism

She was murdered, this is what activists and people who knew Kateryna Handzyuk stated publicly after the Kherson campaigner died in Kyiv City Hospital 2 on 4 November. The official reason for Handzyuks death was multi-organ failure and chemical burns over 40% of her body, the result of an acid attack on 31 July. She was moved from Kherson, in southern Ukraine, to Kyiv for treatment and underwent 11 operations, but doctors didnt manage to save her life.

The case of Kateryna Handzyuk has become a litmus test for the Ukrainian authorities response to attacks and killings of civic activists, of which there have been over 50 in the past two years. The figures are beginning to mount up in towns and cities far from the front line, and each new attack becomes possible due to the lack of investigation of the attack that preceded it. And all this is taking place on the eve of the fifth anniversary of EuroMaidan, whose participants counted observance of the law among their demands.



Russian anti-fascist reveals violence, humiliation and threats in pre-trial detention openDemocracy

In Russia, the security services have arrested 11 anarchists and anti-fascists on terrorism charges. Yuly Boyarshinov, a defendant, describes the conditions in pre-trial detention where prisoners beat, bully and humiliate others in league with investigators.

Investigative prison, Penza. Source: OVD-Info.Since October 2017, 11 people have been arrested as part of the Network case a terrorism investigation led by the Russian security services into anti-fascists and anarchists. According to investigators, these men were allegedly members of an organisation that planned to destabilise the political climate in the country during the Russian presidential elections and Football World Cup via explosions and riots. Cells of the organisation were allegedly operating in Moscow, St Petersburg, Penza and Belarus.

Several of the men detained have reported that the FSB tortured them into confessing to the charges against them. For example, software engineer Viktor Filinkov, who was abducted from St Petersburg Pulkovo airport in January 2018, has described in detail how he was tortured with electric shocks into learning a false confession in a minivan on the outskirts of the city. Arman Sagynbayev, who previously ran a vegan food business, has stated that he underwent similar torture in November 2017 in St Petersburg. Other people detained as suspects and witnesses in this case have also reported brutal torture.

Yuly Boyarshinov, an antifascist, industrial climber and free market organiser from St Petersburg, was arrested on 21 January 2018. Boyarshinov later stated that city police...


Adopting a child is a revolutionary act openDemocracy

Both policy reforms and face-to-face caring are fundamental components of a just society.

Children on Holi Day in India. Credit: Pixabay/shekharchopra85. CC0 Public Domain.

The gravity of the situation of Indias most vulnerable children escapes attention because its an under-reported topic in the media and hasnt been prioritised by government, thus leading to a lack of awareness among the general public as a whole. But there are approximately 30 million orphaned and abandoned children in the country according to UNICEF.

These children make up four per cent of the countrys child population, and they are struggling to survive in the most vulnerable conditions, prone to exploitation since they are so far off the governments radar screen. According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development only 470,000 of these children were living in institutionalised care as of 2017. This figure actually fell to 260,000 in 2018 so clearly these are unreliable statistics.

But even if we stick to the higher end of the official numbers only a tiny fraction of children in care are placed for adoption, and are eventually adopted. Adoption is a much better option for a child's overall development because children thrive in a loving and supportive environment that gives them more space and opportunities to realise themselves. However, adoption levels have always been low in India due to lack of awareness and social prejudices.  

Between April 2017 and March 2018, for example, there were only 3,276 in-country adoptions in India according to the Central Adoption and Resource Authoritys statistics, with a mere 20,000 parents waiting to adopt. These are abysmal figures for a country with the worlds second l...


At least backstop squared has been dropped. But May has accepted temporarily different regimes for Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Are you alarmed? Really? Slugger O'Toole

The dam has burst. . Suddenly, against the background of a mass rally for a second referendum,  the technical agreement of the withdrawal deal has been sprung as a leak. In 600 pages its an all-UK customs backstop in the short term. But a form of Northern Ireland backstop survives, fragmented, scaled down from the joint report and appended in annexes were told  but present. Hardly anybody has seen it but a cascade of critical comment has poured out regardless.

Key cabinet ministers are being briefed this evening and the whole lot  get it to read it one by one in full before tomorrows meeting to ratify it. (Good luck with that. Why do they put up with it? Is it because theyre glad not to take full responsibility?)

The main conduit of what is in fact the briefest of summaries, a mere taster, seems to be Tony Connelly of RTE a situation attacked by Jacob Rees Mogg not even leaked to the  British Broadcasting Corporation- a disgrace to the nation most affected!

Two well-placed sources have confirmed that the text was as stable as it can be,   but they say it would not be correct to say that the negotiations have concluded.

According to both sources, there will be one backstop to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

One of the sources said the government wanted to give the UK cabinet time and space to analyse the text before making any detailed response

The backstop will come in the form of a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement, with specific provisions for Northern Ireland, which go deeper on the issue of customs and alignment on the rules of the single market than for the rest of the UK

It is understood the text has an agreed review mechanism

RTE News understands that while the main backstop focuses on a UK-wide customs arrangement, there will be specific provisions within the text and within annexes for Northern Ireland, should the UK-wide arrangement not prove sufficient to avoid a hard border.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach has said that the Government has not been officially informed that a deal had been reached in Brussels.

They said it was a fast moving situation and the Government was aware that the discussions had been developing in the last number of hours.

At the moment there is nothing confirmed as far as I am aware there are still a number of matters outstanding in the Withdrawal Agreement, the spokesperson said.

The Irish Times reports..

Close attention will be paid to the terms on which the UK would be able to leave the customs union, with the deal b...


ALDE Resolution on Saudi Arabia Jonathan Fryer

This is the text of the Saudi Arabia resolution, drafted by Prof. Paul Reynolds, which I successfully moved on behalf of the UK Liberal Democrats at the ALDE Party Congress in Madrid at the weekend:

Jamal Khashoggi

On Saudi Arabia

The Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Party convening in Madrid, Spain, on 8-10 of November 2018:
Having regard to:
the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the 1966
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the UN Convention
against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment; the Arab Charter on Human Rights, ratified by Saudi
Arabia in 2009.
the continuing air attacks by Saudi Arabia that included the use of
banned cluster munitions and apparently unlawful strikes that killed
the role of Saudi Arabia in supporting barbaric militias in Syria and Iraq;
and the Saudi led blockade of Qatar;
authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious
international concerns have repeatedly been raised about access to
justice, womens rights, and restrictions on freedom of expression,
freedom of assembly, and freed...


The cabinet line holds but the DUP are poised to vote against the government Slugger O'Toole

For the cabinet, crunch time hasnt been formally reached but it all seems over bar the shouting. Significant resignations are unlikely. After a progress report to the cabinet this morning, the old Remainer David Lidington says agreement is within touching distance while the younger Leaver Brexit secretary Dominic Raaab repeats the mantra of good progress. Raab had been reported as a possible cabinet quitter. Boris for once, sounds plausible:    No one is fooled by this theatre. Delay after stage managed delay. Meanwhile the government are facing defeat in the Commons this afternoon over a vote to force them to break precedent and publish the Attorney Generals full advice on the PMs withdrawal proposals.  The DUP  are said to be ready to oppose them for the first time on a Brexit vote, but the government may avoid a vote, back down and publish and be damned.

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, is opening the debate for Labour. Nigel Doddsthe DUP leader at Westminster, asks Starmer to confirm that paragaph 50 of that report said there should be no new regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain without the approval of the Northern Ireland assembly. Starmer accepts that.

Starmer says this issue remains unresolved. He is not pretending it is easy, he says. But he says we keep being told a deal is near, only to be told it is not ready.

UTVs Tracey Magee tweets that DUP sources say their MPs will vote in support of todays Labour motion calling for the publication of the legal advice on Brexit including the backstop. The party has previously called for the advice to be made public.

Kate Hooey, reared at Mallusk on a pig farm just beyond the northern edge of Belfast, a passionate unionist and yet a Labour MP, has written a diatribe against the EU and the Irish government which has fascinating details about a fishing dispute  in it. Experts will know all about it but why has she left it so late to make the overall case? It all goes to show that the devil is in the detail. While for me, its always been clear than any deal will be worse than what we have now, there was plenty wrong with EU regulations and the common fisheries policy was one of them. Better though to have fought for change inside the EU house  than shouting over the wall outside. It would be wrong to elevate fishing as another  breakpoint in the  negotiations. Michael Gove, a Scottish fish processors son, is using fishing rights reform to try to make Brexit more appealing in pro- Remain Scotland.

Extracts from Kate Hooeys article  

The Irish government, in cahoots with the EU, h...

Tuesday, 13 November


Expanding the map: how funders can ensure quality work for all openDemocracy

Philanthropy can have blind spots and red lines. We must resist the temptation to sidestep difficult issues when it comes to workers rights. 

Wood factory in Viet Nam. Aaron Santos for ILO/Flickr. (cc by-nc-nd)

On 8 October 2018 we published the BTS Round Table on the Future of Work, in which 12 experts explain recent changes to the nature of work and offer new ideas in labour policy, organising, and activism. This piece has been written in response.

As a funder working at the intersection of human trafficking and workers rights, I greatly value the landscape analysis and call for collaboration found the new report Quality Work Worldwide, recently released by the Ford Foundation and SAGE Fund. As another funder recently reflected, it is especially helpful as a directional map which identifies specific sites for improving the quality of work globally. Equally importantly, it also includes an analysis of specific barriers which can be anticipated, such as investors short horizon on profits and lack of global governance, when it comes to changing the direction of our global economy.

While both funders and NGOs can benefit greatly from this map, there are still some uncharted areas.  In this piece, I identify two additional themes that merit further consideration:

Recognise sex work in the analysis

When we talk about informal work, we too often leave out the sex industry. Like many within society, funders can turn away from sex workers. Because of criminalisation and stigma, even labour rights funders often forget about this large sector, or gravitate towards more palatable causes.

Sex workers have been in conditions of precarity long before recent shifts in the economy made headlines. Operating in a hostile environment and without any of the benefits attached to legal employment, sex workers have nevertheless...


Funding the future of work means addressing gaps in the present of work openDemocracy

Investing in frontline communities builds resilience and increases opportunities for non-exploitative work.

Rug-making in Mongolia. Byamba-ochir Byambasuren for ILO/Flickr. (cc by-nc-nd)

On 8 October 2018 we published the BTS Round Table on the Future of Work, in which 12 experts explain recent changes to the nature of work and offer new ideas in labour policy, organising, and activism. This piece has been written in response.

Our economic globalisation has raised hundreds of millions out of abject poverty. It has also left far too many with far too little. The global labour market teems with workers seeking employment to lift their lives beyond subsistence, yet the contexts in which they search for work make them highly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The predatory and pernicious side of economic globalisation thrives on an endless supply of fragmented, marginalised and invisible labour. No sector is immune to this reality because it is a hallmark of our market system. Its a design feature of the global economy, but it need not be.

The statement by the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundation and Sage Fund properly underscores the challenges presented by our current economic paradigm and draws attention to the various levers that drive and reinforce inequalities. Helpfully, the statement also articulates opportunity areas that are primed to address the design feature mentioned above.

The Freedom Fund supports work across these opportunity areas. Working towards our mission to end modern slavery, we have a front-row seat to the emergence of powerful solutions for ensuring fairness, equity, and justice for all workers.

In Thailand, we work in the seafood sector where labour abuses, including forced and bonded labour, are rife. Migrant workers in the seafood sector scour the seas on fishing vessels for weeks at a time, catching the seafood served in restaurants and sold by retailers across the world. These workers have no bargain...


#Remembrance in Ireland: we dont need meaningless gestures from the restlessly unwilling Slugger O'Toole

Perhaps its just me, but I dont detect as much of a poppy controversy as in previous years. That may be that because being the 100th anniversary, a significant emphasis this year has been where perhaps it always should have, ie the wars end.

Widen the lens and youll see that the poppy was the invention of an American woman inspired by a Canadian soldiers poem. Her idea was for the artificial poppies to be manufactured in France by women, for the benefit of children.

Still, 100 years after the end of that war, and 96 after partition, Remembrance is complicated in Ireland. But at the weekend, the historian Diarmaid Ferriter had an educated crack at untangling some of its primary threads

Thousands of Irish family histories are haunted by the war and it continues to provoke strong sentiment because of its horrendous scale and the ways it is memorialised, but there is also a greater appreciation now that the memory and sense of it is ill-served by the reduction of a multitude of personal experiences into neat parcels of affiliation or motivation.

Or to put it a slightly different way it is not Britain that Remembrance means in Ireland, but men and women who believed they were fighting for Ireland as it was in 1914. That inveterate bridge builder, Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan who commissioned the Irish poppy  has said:

there was no conscription on the island of Ireland, so all those soldiers chose to fight, around one in seven men of service age enlisted voluntarily.

The thousands of Irish people who fought and died in World War I were shop workers, farm labourers, brothers, sons and daughters. They came from every city, town, village and townland across the island of Ireland.

Soldiers signed up for different reasons, including financial necessity, out of a sense of adventure, or importantly in an effort to secure the long-awaited Home Rule Bill for Ireland.

As Ferriter notes, there was not the enmity in the 1920s that is often imagined between WWI veterans and those of the Irish revolution

Many nationalists in the 1920s, for example, did not object to remembrance but what they regarded as its hijacking. In 1927, leading figures in the new Fianna Fil party spoke at a protest at College Green in Dublin to object to what Sen Lemass referred to as remembrance gatherings that...


Could integration help Ukraines Roma? openDemocracy

In Ukraine, civil society campaigners are trying to stop discrimination against Roma communities by helping them organise and integrate. RU

Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.Since the beginning of 2018, there have been five attacks on temporary Roma settlements in Ukraine. After people arrived in Kyiv, Ternopil and Lviv areas for seasonal work from other areas of the country, mostly Zakarpattya in the southwest, nationalist extremist groups evicted Roma from their camps, setting fire to tents and household goods. These far-right groups were angered by the fact that Roma set up camp in parks and wooded areas, while the police did nothing about it.

In most cases, the attackers were charged merely with hooliganism, although the additional charge of infringement of the equal rights of citizens in connection with their racial or ethnic origin or religious identity was added in relation to attacks in Kyiv and Lviv after pressure from activists. In the most recent attack, in the Lviv area, a 24-year-old man, David Pap, was murdered, and four more were injured.

Civil society remained unsatisfied with Ukrainian law enforcements reaction on the attacks against Roma settlements. Attacks on Roma arent only offences under the criminal charges of hooliganism, murder and infringement of equality. This kind of persecution contravenes Article 24 of Ukraines Constitution, which states that there can be no privileges or restrictions on grounds of race, colour of skin, political, religious or other principles, gender, ethnic or social background, material position, place of residence, language or any other factor.

Its not, however, easy to investigate attacks on Roma as racially-motivated offences. While the government and law enforcement have no particular position on th...


Theresa is still stuck at deadlock with the cabinet Slugger O'Toole

If the Tory press is to be believed, Theresa May is now refusing to be bounced into the early deal the EU has almost ready and waiting for her to sign apart from the finicky wee detail of the backstop. Sunday night and Mondays mornings late negotiating session in Brussels  failed to clinch it. Its politics not policy now thats holding it up, meaning the massed ranks of her critics from left and right including the DUP. Even so, having got so far from a position of almost unique weakness has been a stunning exercise of prime ministerial pull.  Another way of putting it is that the divided cabinet is still failing the bite the bullet or fire it at her. After huffing and puffing before the cameras, the sceptics will acquiesce by the end of the week. Or else quit? Probably not, they may calculate.  Blame that on the EU negotiators or the Commons vote on the withdrawal deal. And then the dam may burst. Laura Kuennesbergs assessment is well-informed:

  Why does Number 10 believe there could suddenly be a better answer to the same set of problems? As one former minister said, two plus two is not suddenly going to equal five.

And at the top table there seems to be growing appetite for a change of approach. Three different members of the Cabinet have told the BBC that the PM has to ditch her plan. Carrying on like this, they suggest, is simply banging their collective heads against the same brick wall, because it will never get through Parliament.

Some of them are even suggesting that the prime minister should consider walking away from the talks. One of them told me: The raw truth is there is a gap between what we can accept and what the EU is offering.

She needs to change the dynamic and only the prime minister can do that. That might mean walking away, or saying this is our best and final offer.

Another said: She needs to say that there wont be a deal in order for them to move she needs to play hardball.

Another senior minister said there is no political logic in carrying on with something that has a cats chance in hell of getting through Parliament, calling for her to pivot.

Is it realistic to imagine that she might change tack?

Well, certainly its not straightforward after more than two years of deliberations.

Is it likely? Theresa May is not the kind of politician who does much on impulse.

And a senior member of the government told me recently it was crazy to think the prime minister could change tack at this late stage.

William Hague ex- foreign secretary asks in his Telegraph column...

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