News Ireland daily BLOG byDonie

Thursday 17th December 2015

EU parliament demanding the release of Irish citizen Halawa from an Egyptian prison

EU parliament seeks Irish man’s immediate release and cites breach of human rights

   

EU parliament resolution demanding that death penalty be ruled out if Ibrahim Halawa is convicted passed yesterday by 566 votes to 11.

The European Parliament has called for the immediate release of Irish manIbrahim Halawa, who has been detained in Egypt for more than two years.

Mr Halawa, who turned 20 last Sunday, has been in prison since August 2013. He was arrested at the Fateh mosque in Cairo during protests against the ousting of then-president Mohamed Morsi. He and 419 others are awaiting a mass trial, which was adjourned for the 10th time this week.

In a resolution passed by 566 votes to 11, with 46 abstentions, the parliament demanded Egypt “categorically rule out the threat of the death penalty if Ibrahim Halawa is convicted, given that he was arrested as a juvenile”. It said that as Mr Halawa was 17 when he was arrested, Egypt was bound by international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The text called on the European External Action Service, through the EU delegation in Cairo and “EU member states, notably Ireland”, to monitor all hearings in his trial and that of his co-defendants and to continue providing full legal, consular and other forms of support.

The resolution was supported by Irish MEPs from Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin. Fianna Fáil’s Brian Crowley did not vote. The text expresses “deep concern” about the “unacceptable breach of basic human rights arising from the arbitrary detention” of Mr Halawa and calls for his immediate and unconditional release to the Irish authorities on foot of a presidential decree issued in November 2014 under Egyptian law 140.

It voices “extreme concern” about the “failure . . . to provide a fair trial” for Mr Halawa and his co-defendants, in particular the lack of opportunity to review or challenge their continued detention and the charges against them, “repeated denial of access to lawyers” and the “excessive pre-trial detention period”, which the parliament said violated Egypt’s domestic and international obligations.

The resolution noted Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan had expressed disappointment about the continuous adjournment of the case and that Irish officials had attended all hearings and paid 48 consular visits to Mr Halawa. This underlined the importance the Government attached to the case, it stated.

Mr Halawa’s lawyers have appealed for his release and repatriation under the presidential decree, but the Government says Egypt has indicated to it that it will only be willing to consider applying the decree when the trial is formally concluded.

Charges against the 420 accused, reduced from 494, range from murder and attempted murder to taking part in a banned protest. Mr Halawa is charged with the latter.

Smoking in cars with children to be banned from 1st Jan 2016 in Ireland

   

A ban on smoking in vehicles when children are present will come into effect in the Republic of Ireland on New Year’s Day, 1 January 2016.

Anyone caught smoking in a vehicle in front of a child or youth under the age of 18 will be fined 100 euros (£73).

Failure to pay the fine, or to stop a vehicle and give personal details to the police could lead to a prosecution and 1,000 euros (£727) penalty.

A similar ban is being considered by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Earlier this month, Stormont Health Minister Simon Hamilton announced an amendment to a bill currently going through the assembly, which if passed, would now mean smoking in cars with children would be illegal anywhere on the island of Ireland.

‘Enclosed spaces’

The Irish government signed its ban into law this week, under the Protection of Children’s Health (Tobacco Smoke in Mechanically Propelled Vehicles) Act.

The details were announced by Minister for Children Dr James Reilly and Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

Image copyrightIrish Govenment News ServiceImage captionHealth Minister Leo Varadkar (L) and Minister for Children James Reilly (R) posed with five-year-old Millie Sunderland and 11-year-old Fionn O’Callaghan to publicise the forthcoming ban

Mr Reilly said it was a central part of his government’s “Tobacco Free Ireland” policy.

“The Irish Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Study 2014 found that nearly one in every five children between the ages of 10 and 17 years are exposed to toxic, carcinogenic smoke in cars,” he said.

“Even if windows of the car are open the young person is not protected from the harmful effect of second-hand smoke.”

Mr Varadkar said: “Children are more susceptible to the effects of second-hand smoke and may not be able to avoid exposure.

“Second hand smoke is particularly harmful to children in enclosed spaces, such as cars.”

Under the new law, drivers and passengers will be banned from smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes when they are inside a vehicle with someone under the age of 18.

Drivers will also be held responsible if they allow their passengers to smoke in front of children.

The legislation does not apply to electronic cigarettes, which are exempt from the ban.

In Great Britain, a law banning smoking in vehicles carrying children came into force in England and Wales in October.

The Scotland government is planning to legislate on the issue next year.

A 400% increase in people seeking help from Threshold

    

There has been a 400% increase in the number of people seeking help from Threshold because of rent increases.

The latest annual report for the national homeless charity shows 1,516 people sought advice over rent reviews during 2014 – up from 372 the previous year.

The first figures for the newly set up Tenancy Protection Service show it has helped nearly 3,000 people since starting in June 2014, and has kept 344 families in their homes by negotiating with landlords.

The service is run by Threshold in Dublin and Cork.

The Chief Executive of Threshold, Bob Jordan, has said there is been a huge increase in tenants facing rent hikes: “People at the lower end of the private rented market facing 20-30% rent increases due to the shortage of accommodation in urban sectors.

“In terms of numbers we had a 400% increase of people coming to us with that problem, who wanted us to talk to their landlord or get them increased rent supplement in order to keep them in their homes, so really the focus of thresholds work in 2014 and into 2015 has been preventing people from becoming homeless.”

 There has been a 400% increase in the number of people seeking help from Threshold because of rent increases.

The latest annual report for the national homeless charity shows 1,516 people sought advice over rent reviews during 2014 – up from 372 the previous year.

The first figures for the newly set up Tenancy Protection Service show it has helped nearly 3,000 people since starting in June 2014, and has kept 344 families in their homes by negotiating with landlords.

The service is run by Threshold in Dublin and Cork.

The Chief Executive of Threshold, Bob Jordan, has said there is been a huge increase in tenants facing rent hikes: “People at the lower end of the private rented market facing 20-30% rent increases due to the shortage of accommodation in urban sectors.

“In terms of numbers we had a 400% increase of people coming to us with that problem, who wanted us to talk to their landlord or get them increased rent supplement in order to keep them in their homes, so really the focus of thresholds work in 2014 and into 2015 has been preventing people from becoming homeless.”

Lettuce is worse than meat for our environment????

A study says

    

Which is worse for the environment: lettuce or bacon?

A study published last month in the scholarly journal Environment Systems and Decisions appears to contradict mounting evidence that meat farming is worse for the environment than growing fruits and vegetables.

According to new research from a team of Carnegie Mellon University scientists, “following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie.”

In other words, the study says that following a mostly vegetarian diet has a more profound impact on climate change eating meat.

“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon, in a press release. “Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”

The research team looked at the entire food supply chain–from growing, to processing and transporting food, food sales and service, household storage and use—to determine what impact each step took on resources in the form of energy use, water use and GHG emissions.

Eating the so-called “recommended healthier foods”—a mix of mostly vegetables fruits, dairy and seafood—increased the environmental impact in all three categories, with energy use shooting up by 38 percent, water use increasing by 10 percent and GHG emissions increased by 6 percent.

Though many outlets were quick to decry vegetarian diets as worse than a standard omnivorous diet—flying in the fact of pro-veg celebrities like Morrissey and, more recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger—the study’s author admitted there were a few caveats to make.

“We looked at what Americans eat — we’re not trying to change people’s preferences — we looked at the USDA guidelines and assumed people would look at them and eat more of what they like,” Fischbeck told Business Insider.

The study didn’t compare a traditional American diet with a pure vegetarian one. It compared a a 3,800 calorie per day diet (that’s what the average American consumes) that meets the USDA’s guidelines for adding fruits, veggies, and fish to a healthier one—one that restricted the number of calories—but also met the agency’s recommendations.

As per the lettuce comment, Fishbeck says it’s important to note the per calorie context.

Eating 100 calories of lettuce would amount to multiple heads, which, yes take more resources and amount to more greenhouse gas emissions than eating 100 calories of bacon—which would be about two small slices. But there are plenty of protein and calorie rich vegan foods that have a lower environmental impact than bacon.

“Absolutely beans and nuts and grains are good,” Fischbeck said.

But the biggest takeaway from the study should be that eating  a “healthier” diet, which resulted in greater weight control, had a positive impact on the environment and reduced energy use, water use and GHG emissions from the food supply chain by about 9 percent. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s average minimum daily requirement is 1,800—an amount which the average American far exceeds.

Tim Peake tweets first pictures back to Earth from space

Major Peake also tweeted Sir Elton John from space, quoting his hit song Rocket Man

   

Tim Peake tweets his first picture from the International Space Station. 

British astronaut Tim Peake has sent his first picture from the International Space Station – and tweeted the Queen from space.

Major Peake, who arrived at the ISS on Tuesday for his six-month mission, sent the image of the Soyuz rocket that transported him.

Buckingham Palace’s Twitter account posted a good luck letter from the Queen to Major Peake as he blasted into orbit on board the Soyuz rocket on Tuesday.

After spending his first full day on the International Space Station (ISS), Major Peake has tweeted back, saying: “Thank you, Your Majesty. I am honoured that you were watching, Ma’am. #Principia”.

In her letter, the Queen said: “We hope that Major Peake’s work on the Space Station will serve as an inspiration to a new generation of scientists and engineers.

Tim Peake is arrives on the ISS  Photo: ESA Operations

“The thoughts and prayers of the whole country are with him and the crew, especially at this time of year.

“We join with his friends and family in wishing him a productive mission and a safe return to Earth.”

Earlier on Thursday, Major Peake tweeted Sir Elton John from space, quoting his hit song Rocket Man.

Sir Elton had tweeted a good luck message to the astronaut on Tuesday: “From one Rocket Man to another, good luck @astro-timpeake with your launch and mission! #Principia #spacerocks.”

Catching up on his Twitter correspondence for the first time since arriving in space, Major Peake responded: “Thank you! Sorry for late reply. Was already in spacecraft when your message came in (zero hour 9 am). #spacerocks”

“Zero hour 9am” is the second line from Sir Elton’s song Rocket Man, which tells the story of a lonely astronaut in space who is thinking about his family.

The Queen sent a Good Luck message to Tim Peake  Photo: Twitter/@BritishMonarchy

Major Peake will be separated from his wife Rebecca and sons Thomas, six, and Oliver, four, for nearly six months during the Principia mission.

He is tasked with completing dozens of experiments for researchers on Earth as he orbits the planet at 28,800km per hour.

Major Peake is due to speak to members of the press for the first time since docking with the ISS via a live link to the European Astronaut Centre near Cologne, Germany, on Friday.

The question and answer session, between 11am and 2pm, will be streamed live on the European Space Agency’s website.

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