UN appeals for £2.2bn for Gaza to help Palestinians in desperate need of food and other aid


THE United Nations has appealed for $2.8 billion (£2.2bn) to provide desperately needed aid to three million Palestinians, stressing that tackling looming famine in the devastated Gaza Strip requires not only food but sanitation, water and health facilities.

Andrea De Domenico, the head of the UN humanitarian office for Gaza and the West Bank, told reporters on Tuesday night that massive operations are required to restore those services and meet minimum standards — and this can’t be done during military operations.

He pointed to the destruction of hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, homes, roads and schools by Israeli forces, adding that “there is not a single university that is standing in Gaza.”

Mr De Domenico said Israel’s recently ended so-called military operation at Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest medical facility, was so destructive the facility has been forced to shut down.


Continue ReadingUN appeals for £2.2bn for Gaza to help Palestinians in desperate need of food and other aid

Scotland to ditch key climate change target


Scotland was aiming to cut emissions by 75% by the end of the decade

The Scottish government is to ditch its flagship target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030.

The final goal of reaching “net-zero” by 2045 will remain, but BBC Scotland News understands the government’s annual climate targets could also go.

Ministers have missed eight of the last 12 annual targets and have been told that reaching the 75% milestone by the end of the decade is unachievable.

A statement is expected at Holyrood on Thursday afternoon.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) – which provides independent advice to ministers – warned back in 2022 that Scotland had lost its lead over the rest of the UK in tackling the issue.

Last year ministers failed to publish a plan it promised – required under the act – detailing how they were going to meet the targets.


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Drug shortages, now normal in UK, made worse by Brexit, report warns


Brexit laid bare the fragility of the country’s medicines supply network, the report said. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

Drug shortages are a “new normal” in the UK and are being exacerbated by Brexit, a report by the Nuffield Trust health thinktank has warned. A dramatic recent spike in the number of drugs that are unavailable has created serious problems for doctors, pharmacists, the NHS and patients, it found.

The number of warnings drug companies have issued about impending supply problems for certain products has more than doubled from 648 in 2020 to 1,634 last year.

Mark Dayan, the report’s lead author and the Nuffield Trust’s Brexit programme lead, said: “The rise in shortages of vital medicines from rare to commonplace has been a shocking development that few would have expected a decade ago.”

The UK has been struggling since last year with major shortages of drugs to treat ADHD, type 2 diabetes and epilepsy. Three ADHD drugs that were in short supply were meant to be back in normal circulation by the end of 2023 but remain hard to obtain.

Some medicine shortages are so serious that they are imperilling the health and even lives of patients with serious illnesses, pharmacy bosses warned.

Health charities have seen a sharp rise in calls from patients unable to obtain their usual medication. Nicola Swanborough, head of external affairs at the Epilepsy Society, said: “Our helpline has been inundated with calls from desperate people who are having to travel miles, often visiting multiple pharmacies to try and access their medication.”


Continue ReadingDrug shortages, now normal in UK, made worse by Brexit, report warns

Supreme Court rules in favour of care worker victimised for taking strike action


The Supreme Court building, Parliament Square, London

A CARE worker victimised at work for taking strike action has humiliated the government in the Supreme Court today.

In a case brought by public-sector union Unison, Britain’s highest court ordered the government to outlaw the victimisation of workers for striking as part of a landmark ruling today.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said the case was the “most important industrial action case for decades” while the TUC hailed it as “monumental.”

The judgement is a slap in the face for former business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who had ordered an appeal against a previous court decision upholding the worker’s claim.

It is also a victory for millions of workers who will be protected from victimisation by vengeful bosses if they take strike action in the future.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “This is a monumental victory for Unison and the whole union movement.

“And it represents yet another crushing legal defeat for the Conservative government’s oppressive strike laws.


Continue ReadingSupreme Court rules in favour of care worker victimised for taking strike action

Tory MP loses whip after claims he used party funds to pay ‘bad people’

[dizzy: Quite a bizarre story but nothing is really surprising with the Conservatives.]


Mark Menzies strongly disputes the allegations that were put to him by the Times. Photograph: Richard Townshend/UK Parliament/PA

A Conservative MP has lost the party whip after an investigation was launched following claims that he misused campaign funds.

Mark Menzies, 52, also faced allegations that he made a late-night call to a 78-year-old aide asking for help because he had been locked up by “bad people” demanding thousands of pounds for his release.

The Fylde MP disputes the allegations reported by the Times, but the Conservative party is looking into the claims and taking them seriously. A spokesperson for the chief whip, Simon Hart, said on Wednesday night: “Following a call with the chief whip, Mark Menzies has agreed to relinquish the Conservative whip, pending the outcome of an investigation.”

According to the newspaper, £14,000 given by donors for use in Tory campaign activities was transferred to Menzies’ personal bank accounts and used for private medical expenses.

The MP, who is one of Rishi Sunak’s trade envoys, is also said to have called his 78-year-old former campaign manager at 3.15am in December, claiming he was locked in a flat and needed £5,000 as a matter of “life and death”.


Continue ReadingTory MP loses whip after claims he used party funds to pay ‘bad people’