Leonardo DiCaprio had the smallest sign at the climate march, lol

The sign is just so small it's funny.

Look, let me start by saying Leonardo DiCaprio has done a lot to combat climate change.

He produced a climate change documentary titled Before the Flood that dropped in 2016. He has a foundation “dedicated to the long-term health and wellbeing of all Earths inhabitants.” The foundation has given $61 million to causes that align with that mission statement. He talks about climate change all the time. And, also, he was among the ~200,000 people in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to protest a White House that very much does not share his (scientifically valid) concern for the damage people are doing to the climate.

It’s just kind of funny that the man who has done all of the above couldn’t get a sign for the protest that was bigger than a piece of computer paper.

Like, at what point did DiCaprio realize he wanted a sign? Did he wake up in a hotel and say, “Shit, I forgot people were going to write things on posters and walk around with them at this thing I’m going to today,” and then he went to the nearest Staples, a Staples with markers but without posterboard? Did the hotel have a green and a red marker and a file folder somewhere? Does he keep these things in a bag?

Anyway, it’s just funny.

WATCH: Giant icebergs are a big tourist draw in Newfoundland, and a warning sign

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/04/29/leonardo-dicaprio-climate-march-sign-file-folder/

Triple-lock: Call for pensions policy to be revamped – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images

One of the key figures behind the introduction of the triple-lock pension policy is calling for its revamp.

Steve Webb, pension minister from 2010 to 2015 and now a director at mutual insurer Royal London, has proposed a “middle way” on state pension policy.

Under triple lock, the state pension rises each April to match the highest of inflation, earnings, or 2.5%.

However, it is becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and some have called for it to be scrapped.

A recent review by former CBI director-general John Cridland, who was appointed as the government’s independent reviewer of state pension age last year, recommended that the triple lock be withdrawn in the next Parliament.

The Conservatives have not committed to maintaining it.

The Labour Party has said it will keep the policy in place through the next parliament.

How much does the triple-lock cost?

Labour pledges to keep the triple-lock

In his report for Royal London, Mr Webb proposed that the government retained the triple-lock for pensioners who retired before 6 April 2016.

Those retiring after that date would have their pension increases linked to earnings only. The report said the move would save almost 3bn per year by 2028.

It also said that, as newly retired pensioners are on average 100 per week better off than those aged over 75, the policy would increasingly target money on the older, poorer group.

“There’s a big difference between pensioners who retired 20 years ago… for whom the state pension really matters, and someone who just retired,” Mr Webb said.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionAngus Robertson: “Will the PM give a clear and unambiguous commitment to maintaining the triple lock on the state pension?”

Mr Webb says his proposals would control costs and give pension increases to those most in need.

“This is the first time that someone has said anything other than scrap it or keep it,” Mr Webb told the BBC.

He said the triple lock had delivered “big improvements” to pensioner incomes since 2010, but political parties would be concerned about the long-term cost implications of the policy “on top of increased spending on health and social care associated with an ageing population”.

But Tom McPhail, pensions expert at stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown, said the plan added a layer of complexity to pension policy.

“It would be better to review the triple-lock; the level of the state pension, which was set too low; and state pension ages as a complete package,” he said.

He added: “The challenge has always been how and when to move away from the triple-lock without upsetting a key constituency of voters.”

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Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39748174

Climate marches draw hundreds of thousands on Donald Trumps 100th day in office

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched in cities around the country marking President Donald Trumps 100th day in office with protests against his environmental policies.

In Washington, organizers of the climate march estimated some 200,000 people showed up to march, clogging the streets and snarling traffic on a sweltering day where temperatures threatened to break records.

The marches occurred as a slew of executive orders and policy moves from the Trump Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (along with the proposed budget for the EPA) reveal a disregard for climate science (and science in general), while pursuing a pro-business agenda that even some conservative pundits say poses health hazards for the US.

In an editorial forThe Atlantic(its worth reading the whole thing),Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA Secretary under President George W. Bush writes:

There are a number of health risks inherent to the proposed budget cuts, thanks in part to Trumps promises to leave only a little bit of federal regulations. For example, the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention runs a program that screens and tests endocrine disruptors, which are harmful chemicals that pose a threat to reproductive health and childrens growth and development. Under the Trump budget, funding for this program would be cut from $7.5 million to $445,000rendering the program inoperable and ineffective. Trump also wants to significantly cut the federal radon program to the tune of 80 percent. Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is believed to cause lung cancer and is linked to 21,000 deaths annually. An estimated one in 15 homes has high levels of the gas, and this small program promotes radon testing in homes.

Pollution poses an undeniable threat to public health, as the Supreme Court has validated. A 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study reported that roughly 19,000 more people die prematurely from automobile pollution each year than die in car accidents. The same year, Harvard University researchers found that pregnant women living in areas with elevated levels of air pollution were up to twice as likely to have an autistic child, compared with women in low-pollution locations. And a new study released in January found that air pollution increases the risk and expedites the onset of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.

Just yesterday the EPA removed pages related to climate change research from its website. In a statement explaining the changes, the EPA said that the website was being updated to reflect outdated language.

Much of that outdated language reflects the consensus of what can best be described as a supermajority of scientists, according to a December 2016 study by an energy professor from the University of Houston.

Speaking at a rally in Pennsylvania this evening, Trump said that there would be an announcement on the Administrations continued participation in the Paris Accords in the next two weeks.

Rallies werent limited to Washington as thousands of protestors also marched in Boston;


and Seattle.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/29/climate-marches-draw-hundreds-of-thousands-on-donald-trumps-100th-day-in-office/

Teenager dropped by football club loses post-traumatic stress claim

Sen Cookes father says his sons dream of playing in the UK was harmed when he was denied the opportunity to play in front of talent scouts

An Irish teenager has lost a case taken against his former football club, where he claimed he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after he was dropped from the team as a 13-year-old.

Sen Cooke, 18, sued Carrigaline United over alleged ill treatment by coaches at the club. Cooke told Judge Sen ODonnabhain at Cork circuit court that he was a good player who hoped to play professionally in Britain, but was not given the chance to play in front of talent scouts after he was allegedly dropped.

His father, Declan Cooke, brought a vote of no confidence against the clubs coaches in the 2012-2013 season, the Irish Independent reports. He lost by a vote of 9 to 2.

Tim Mawe, who succeeded Declan Cooke as manager of the club in 2011, said everything possible was done to accommodate Sen.

Mawe said Sen played regularly during the successful 2011-2012 season, but he was told by other parents that there was non-stop complaining about the clubs management from his father.

The court heard Mawe was very hurt when Cooke brought the vote of no confidence against him, but rejected suggestions from barrister Matthew Maguire that he took any bad feelings out on Sen. We were volunteers. We were doing a great job. It was hurtful. There was no appreciation. He was the same as any player. We picked on merit.

Mawe said Sen was injured in the summer of 2012, missed a lot of pre-season training as a result and had to come off the pitch one time because he was injured.

Sen Cooke told the court that before a game in 2012 Mawe pulled him aside and said that he was not good enough to play. Mawe denied this, saying Sen Cookes mother arrived at the match and once she realised her son was not playing there was a huge commotion.

Maguire told the court that Cooke was not allowed to play during a match which was attended by a talent scout from the English club Aston Villa.

The judge said it was an emotional and difficult case and that Declan Cooke was undoubtedly a caring parent but was not over-blessed with insight.

In dismissing the case ODonnabhain said Mawe appeared to be conscientious and truthful.

In a statement published on Twitter, Sen Cooke said he had no regrets in taking the case. We wanted justice to be served, he wrote.

Cooke added that he had to leave the club I played for and loved since the age of six as a result of being dropped from the team.

Im very proud of my parents for taking the stand for me and sticking up for what was the right thing to do … We feel justice has been served as this case has now been exposed and we can move on from these traumatic years and leave this case behind us.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/30/teenager-dropped-by-football-club-loses-post-traumatic-stress-claim

Trump rallies his base on his 100th day

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump hit on some of the biggest issues he has tried to tackle during his first 100 days in office at a rally Saturday in Pennsylvania, where he struck a consistently divisive and determined tone.

The threat from North Korea, getting a health care bill passed and possibly renegotiating the Paris climate accord were among the big talking points of Trump’s nearly one-hour speech on his 100th day as President, which he delivered to a crowd in Harrisburg.
“I’ll be making a big decision on the Paris accord over the next two weeks, and we will see what happens,” Trump said on the same day that protesters backing action on climate change took to the streets in Washington and other cities across the country as part of the “People’s Climate March.”
    While Trump’s raucous rally was straight out of his campaign playbook, he also did something he rarely does — call out, by name, US congressmen from Pennsylvania who were in attendance.
    “We’re going to give Americans the freedom to purchase the health care plans they want, not the health care forced on them by the government,” Trump said. “And I’ll be so angry at Congressman (Mike) Kelly and Congressman (Tom) Marino and all of our congressmen in this room if we don’t get that damn thing passed quickly.”
    Trump, who found his stride in front of large, cheering crowds across the country in states where his populist message resonates, took the stage Saturday night alongside Vice President Mike Pence.
    “There is no place I’d rather be than right here in Pennsylvania to celebrate our 100-day milestone, to reflect on an incredible journey together,” Trump said.
    In addition to speaking at the rally, Trump signed two executive orders in Harrisburg, one directing a review all US trade agreements and the second establishing the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy.
    Among the crowd favorites at Trump rallies are the President’s attacks on the press, and this especially rang true at Saturday’s event because many members of the press are celebrating at the White House Correspondents’ dinner in what Trump calls the “swamp” of Washington — setting up a prime-time duel with what has become his No. 1 foe, the media.
    “A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now,” Trump told the crowd. “They are gathered together for the White House Correspondents’ dinner — without the President. And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp, spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people.”
    Trump held that divisive tone throughout the speech, prompting former presidential adviser and senior CNN political analyst David Gergen to call the remarks “deeply disturbing” in a special prime-time edition of “CNN Newsroom” with John Berman and Poppy Harlow.
    “This was the most divisive speech I have ever heard from a sitting American president,” Gergen said. “Others may disagree about that. He played to his base and he treated his other listeners, the rest of the people who have been disturbed about him or opposed him, he treated them basically as, ‘I don’t give a damn what you think because you’re frankly like the enemy.’ I thought it was a deeply disturbing speech.”
    This marks the first time in 36 years that a sitting president has not attended and spoken at the dinner. President Ronald Reagan missed the dinner while recovering in the hospital from an assassination attempt, but he still made remarks by phone. Richard Nixon was the last president to skip the dinner completely.
    The last time Trump attended the dinner was in 2011, when he was a New York real estate mogul and reality TV star who had just jumped into politics by getting involved in the “birther” movement, calling for President Barack Obama to release his birth certificate. Trump ended up being the butt of the jokes that night from comedian Seth Meyers and Obama himself.
    But no matter where he was, the spotlight was on Trump on Saturday since the day also marked a significant milestone in the career of a president. After serving as commander in chief for 100 days, his achievements, as well as shortfalls, were being closely scrutinized.
    On paper, Trump lacks a major legislative achievement, has the lowest approval ratings of any new commander in chief since World War II, has seen several key immigration goals held up by the courts and has failed to deliver the health care overhaul he promised again and again on the campaign trail.
    Trump’s sole big win has been the successful nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court — something a president hasn’t done in his first 100 days since James Garfield appointed a justice within that time frame 136 years ago.
    Trump, a longtime critic of the number of Obama’s executive orders, issued more executive orders in his first 100 days than any other president aside from Harry Truman.
    It’s also been 100 days plagued with controversy, from appointing his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner to key White House posts to dealing with allegations of possible ties between some of his campaign aides and Russia.
    His campaign promises on such major items as repealing and replacing Obamacare and overhauling the tax code — things he rallied crowds with for months all over the country — have yet to be enacted. Even his promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico is caught up in a spending debate, with no support from Democrats and little to no progress being made.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/29/politics/donald-trump-100-days-rally/index.html

    Green heating system accused of causing ‘fuel poverty’ – BBC News

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption District heating is seen as a new cleaner, cheaper way to keep homes warm, but some residents say its not working as well as it should.

    A heating system meant to reduce bills is leaving people in fuel poverty, according to campaigners and residents.

    The government wants millions of us to get heat and hot water from “district heating networks” to help meet carbon reduction targets.

    But residents on some networks say they are more expensive than traditional heating and have been beset with problems.

    Providers are working to tackle issues and say some schemes work brilliantly.

    Instead of having a gas boiler in every home, heat networks send heat and hot water to numerous properties along a system of underground pipes from one central communal heat source.

    This could be a mini-power station in the middle of a housing estate, or waste heat from a recycling plant or a factory.

    Image caption Uzoamaka Okafor says the heating provided by the submarine power station has been beset with problems.

    Those living on the Myatt’s Field North Oval Quarter estate get heat from a small power station in a building known as the submarine. The system, run by E.on, was installed when the estate was redeveloped.

    Uzoamaka Okafor, chair of the residents’ association, said the problems were causing a lot of distress, particularly to elderly and vulnerable residents.

    She said some smart meters did not work, which meant people were being sent high estimated bills, including some who were being asked for hundreds of pounds a month.

    She said: “It’s been riddled with issues, from intermittent hot water and heating, a number of outages, to concerns around high estimates bills, customer service and technical faults.

    “There are lots of residents that do not put their heating on at all; they go to bed early. I’ve bought one resident blankets, because she’s so distressed about bills she doesn’t want to put the heating on.”

    Residents said some people were having to choose between heating and eating.

    No food

    A report about the problems on the estate, written by Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action and Stuart Hodkinson from the University of Leeds, said there had been heat outages on 48 days in four years.

    It detailed individual cases of vulnerable people left without heat for weeks and months on end.

    It also details the case of Edward Connell, an elderly man thought to have been suffering with a form of dementia who told people he was struggling with high bills. He died of heart failure in October. The report said there was no food in his flat when he died.

    In February, after a meeting with E.on about problems on the estate, residents were sent a letter of apology by the head of the company’s heat division, Jeremy Bungey.

    A spokesman told the BBC E.on did not agree with all of the points raised in the report, but acknowledged there had been issues.

    He said many had been resolved some time ago. He urged anyone with problems with their smart meter to get in touch.

    In relation to Mr Connell, he said: “This is clearly a very sad case, but we have no insight into the wider circumstances of his death and the factors which may have led to it.”

    He said the company had spoken to Mr Connell a number of times when he moved into the property in 2015 and that in June, after providing a manual meter reading, he was found to be in credit.

    ‘Potential to reduce costs’

    At the moment, 200,000 people rely on district heating, but the government is championing the system and has put up 320m in seed funding to encourage more heat networks to be built in towns and cities across England and Wales.

    It wants 18-20% of heat to come from district heating by 2050, in a bid to help meet carbon reduction targets.

    According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy website, heat networks “have the potential to reduce heating costs, in some cases by more than 30%“.

    But some customers say they have not seen the promised savings, and a traditional gas boiler would be much cheaper for them.

    Charles Montlake, who lives in New Capital Quay, Greenwich, has district heating in his flat which is also provided by E.on.

    He was given 669 in an out-of-court settlement with the energy giant after he lodged papers with the small claims court saying he had been overcharged for his heating for a year.

    E.on says it believes it offers Mr Montlake value for money.

    80-year contracts

    Unlike traditional energy customers, people like Mr Montlake on district heating cannot go to Ofgem to complain about bills, because district heating is currently largely unregulated.

    Customers can go to the energy ombudsman and a body set up by a number of providers called the Heat Trust, but their powers are limited.

    And while traditional power users can switch suppliers if they are not happy with pricing or customer service, those on district heating are locked into long contracts.

    Mr Montlake told 5 live Investigates: “Our contract is for 25 years, so our current alternatives are move or don’t use heat.”

    Ms London said she had come across contracts locking customers in for 40 and even 80 years, and estates where those who owned their own homes were moving house because they could not afford the mortgage and the heat bills.

    She said the problem was particularly acute for people on low incomes, like some of those living on the Myatt’s Field North Oval Quarter estate.

    She said: “It’s some of the worst fuel poverty we’ve seen.

    “We’re afraid the same thing is going to happen to heating systems all over the UK, where people are actually not able to cover their heating costs and they’re going cold and potentially even losing their lives, as well as their health, as a result.

    “The industry has to be regulated, it is absolutely not acceptable that it should be a wild-west situation where companies can do what they like.”

    ‘Tackled these issues’

    Tim Rotheray, director of the Association of Decentralised Energy, said: “Across the country, these schemes have been lifting people out of fuel poverty and making cold homes warm.

    “But any evidence of unhappy customers is a serious concern.

    “A good experience for customers is not only vital for them, but also for the future of the industry.

    “We recognise the new and changing nature of this industry means that sometimes quality and customer service standards are not good enough. The industry has tackled these issues head on.

    “In March we launched a new task force, attended by consumer groups, investors, developers and observed by government and Ofgem.

    “The group is examining both industry and regulatory options to ensure all aspects of consumer protection can be an integral part of enabling new investment.”

    To hear more about this story, tune into 5 live Investigates on Sunday April 30 at 11am or listen to the podcast.

    Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39736010

    ‘First 100 Days’: Trump declares ‘ObamaCare is dead,’ predicts replacement deal soon

    President Trump voiced confidence Friday about a new health care overhaul coming together as early as next week, declaring in an interview with Fox News Martha MacCallum that despite Republicans failure to pass a replacement in his first 100 days, ObamaCare is dead.

    The president gave himself high marks as he reflected on the unofficial end of that honeymoon period in office. While calling the 100 days measure artificial, he touted progress in courting China to counter the North Korean threat, confirming a Supreme Court justice and making headway on his big-ticket agenda items like health care.

    The president acknowledged in the interview with The First 100 Days that hes disappointed with how congressional Republicans handled legislation like the ObamaCare replacement, an initial version of which was pulled from the House floor last month amid flagging support.

    I was disappointed that they didn’t have more in line by the time I walked in, Trump said.

    But he said he understands the challenge for lawmakers trying to navigate what he called a very tough system, running up against Democratic obstructionists.

    He noted ObamaCare itself took 17 months of brutality to get approved and, further, suggested Congress may not have a choice about approving a replacement.

    ObamaCare is exploding. ObamaCare is dead — essentially, ObamaCare is dead, it’s not going to make it, he said, citing states like Tennessee where insurance companies are fleeing the exchange programs set up under ObamaCare.  

    Since the March meltdown on the initial bill, House Republicans have come back to the table with a new version that has garnered support from the conservative Freedom Caucus. They were unable to bring it to a vote before the end of Trumps first 100 days on Saturday, with the necessary votes still being sought, but Trump said, I believe they’re going to get it done.

    He added, I think maybe next week sometime. They’re really coming together.

    Trump said House Speaker Paul Ryan is trying very, very hard, and he has confidence in the various factions of the party coming together.

    He also voiced confidence about moving forward with his newly unveiled blueprint for tax reform. We’re going to lower taxes, he said, and the biggest beneficiaries are the small companies, and the biggest of all beneficiaries are middle-income people who have really been hurt.

    He also said he wants to get GDP growth to 4 percent or higher.

    As for his presidency to date, Trump said hes created great foundations in terms of relationships with China and with Japan and with many, many other countries and praised China specifically for putting a lot of pressure on North Korea.

    Shortly after the interview, it was confirmed that North Korea test-launched another ballistic missile. Fox News is told it broke up in flight over the Korean Peninsula and has been deemed a failure. One White House official told Fox News they were not surprised by the test, or that it failed.

    Trump said he cant say whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will be able to pull it off in pressuring North Korea to change its behavior.

    We’ll see what happens, he said.

    Trump pointed as well to the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as a highlight, saying, I think hell be a great one.

    I could have others and we’ll see what happens, but getting Justice Gorsuch was, to me, a very big thing. And it will be a very big thing in the future, he said.

    The appointment of Gorsuch had conservatives cheering, though other recent policy stances like backing off his criticism of NATO, declining to label China a currency manipulator and even launching missile strikes on a Syrian government airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack have left observers guessing as to what the Trump doctrine truly is.

    Trump told MacCallum hes not really an ideologue. He described himself as a person of common sense, noting he used to be a Democrat.

    I get things done. I’ve always been a closer, Trump said.

    He griped about archaic rules in the Senate, like those pertaining to the filibuster. Republicans effectively eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in order to push through Gorsuch, but for now senators can still filibuster legislation meaning they demand a 60-vote threshold.

    Maybe at some point we’re going to have to take those rules on, Trump said, before naming the filibuster as a problem.

    Congressional Democrats put the blame squarely on Trump for shortcomings in the first 100 days. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., recently described it as a disastrous parade of broken promises to working people.

    Trump has not yet notched any major legislative victories since taking office but he pushed back on such critiques in the Fox News interview.

    That’s really wrong. First of all, we had 28 bills, he said.

    Trump also reacted to the developing controversy behind his fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom House lawmakers say may have violated policies against taking foreign money without permission after he left the Obama administration. Trump suggested it was the Obama administration, not his transition team, that erred in vetting him.

    I do feel badly for [Flynn]. He served the country. He was a general. But just remember, he was approved by the Obama administration at the highest level, Trump said. And when they say we didnt vet, well Obama I guess didnt vet, because he was approved at the highest level of security by the Obama administration. So when he came into our administration, for a short period of time, he came in, he was already approved by the Obama administration. 

    As for his personal and family life, Trump acknowledged hes now in a cocoon protected by the Secret Service at all times, lamenting that he cant drive anymore.

    But he said he plans to visit New York again, something he hasnt done yet since taking the oath of office, and is glad his wife Melania and son Barron are joining him in Washington.

    Asked whether one term might be enough for him, Trump said hell see.

    Maybe it takes a little bit longer, but I think we’re doing tremendously well. I don’t think anybody has ever done this much in a hundred days, he said. But I’ve always said it’s going to be eight years, not four years.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/28/first-100-days-trump-declares-obamacare-is-dead-predicts-replacement-deal-soon.html

    ‘I have dark thoughts about my children’s autism’ – BBC News

    Image copyright Getty Images

    Some parents of disabled children can appear unwaveringly positive. But one mother says her children’s autism has left her with “dark thoughts” and she wishes their impairments would disappear.

    “It just stops everything dead,” she says, the moment she tells anyone all three children have autism.

    Christine, not her real name, loves and is proud of her children, but she says she cannot abide the pressure she feels to be “relentlessly positive” about their condition because of the restrictions it puts on all of them.

    She says parents are often depicted cheerfully talking about the “breakthrough moments” and slight improvements their children make which they seem fulfilled by – but which she can’t grasp.

    “I often feel there’s not really space in the autism world for a mother to say ‘I really wish this wasn’t happening, I don’t feel blessed, I don’t feel strong, I don’t feel like it’s all happening for a reason’.

    “I get riled when people say well-meaning things like ‘you must be a really strong person because you wouldn’t be given more than what you can deal with’ – this just doesn’t feel like a reward, actually.”

    Find out more

    Listen to Christine speaking to BBC Radio 4’s iPM programme on the podcast page.

    You can also hear the mother’s account in audio here.

    Christine is a single mum and works as a psychiatric nurse.

    Her son, 19, was diagnosed with autism aged six followed by dyspraxia and a mood disorder; her 17-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism and ADHD in 2015; and her 14-year-old daughter was diagnosed when she was eight.

    “For me, the diagnosis of my middle child was earth-shatteringly awful because I think, on reflection, I always had this notion that ‘one of them’s going to be alright’ and I found that crushing.”

    Image copyright Woodland Animations

    She says she has not spoken out about her thoughts before, and has changed her name to speak to the BBC for fear of the reaction she may receive from other parents who feel differently.

    “There’s a celebratory notion that this is a fantastic thing,” she says, and feels that the community won’t let people be anything other than relentlessly positive.

    “I love my children and I’m so proud of what they can do – but if I could take away the difficulties that they’ve got and give them different lives, then I would.”

    Journalist Michael Blastland has a 22-year-old son, Joe, who lives in a residential unit with “pretty profound” autism and limited communication.

    He says Joe has “character and spirit” and a “deep obsession” for Postman Pat – so much so, there are three VCRs stashed in the attic for when one breaks down.

    Image copyright Michael Blastland

    Blastland recognises what Christine means about feeling uncomfortable with the uptalk, but says: “I still try and hang on to these little extraordinary facets of Joe’s character and ability.”

    He says the “autism pride movement” can be problematic for those who don’t assign to it – and there are also those with autism who take pride in their difference, which is “perfectly legitimate in many ways”.

    But, he also says, “you cannot say that all people with autism are fine [self-sufficient]”, and as much as he loves Joe, he admits “if I could wave the wand, I’d take it away in a stroke.

    “I just wish that I could say that without leaving the other people who have the same label feeling threatened.”

    One person who struggles to understand Christine’s point of view is Jo Lewis, whose 12-year-old daughter Holly has autism.

    It manifests itself through separation anxiety, distress at loud noises, social struggles and taking idioms like “it’s raining cats and dogs” literally.

    “I saw the diagnosis as opening the door to support, but we’ve had moments of despair, we’ve cried and screamed and argued about it,” she says.

    Image copyright Jo Lewis

    “You have a bad moment – and then I’ll glance at the piano which she plays beautifully, and she wouldn’t be who she was if she didn’t have autism.

    “Sometimes I feel guilty because other people struggle, but I would not take autism away from Holly; autism is what people make of it.”

    Christine, too, recognises that as much as she despairs at the expectation of positivity, she doesn’t wish to upset others who focus on it.

    “Perhaps it looks a little uncaring or a little selfish, because you’re not just selflessly embracing everything around your children,” she says, but as her children grow and their needs become more complex, the joy continues to recede.

    For years, Christine’s children attended mainstream school – but it caused great distress.

    They recognised they were different to their peers, which “hurt and damaged them”; her son asked for an invisibility cloak and one daughter talked of suicide. All three have since been placed in special schools.

    Image copyright Reuters
    Image caption Can you spot him?

    She says despite working as a psychiatric nurse, which gave her “inside knowledge” into the system, she worries how their adult lives will pan out.

    When her eldest son turned 18, he lost his mental health support – and Christine’s “absolute fear” is that he will “just disappear”, as he does not have the ability to contact services himself.

    “No one would know if he got poorly,” she says.

    “He would lie in his bed and just stop eating and drinking; he wouldn’t move and nobody would know.”

    Christine says she finds it very difficult to find the positives here, but there are glimmers of joy she hangs on to.

    “My eldest was very withdrawn as a youngster, he wouldn’t tolerate physical touch, there was no recognition from him that you were someone he knew.

    “He ran up to the man dressed as Santa Clause and, referring to me, he said: ‘Santa Clause, that’s my Mummy’.

    “It was so rare to think that he even knew who I was that I carry that in my heart.”

    Produced by Beth Rose

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    Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability-39732511

    Where the Mexico City Policy matters the most


    She has five children and works as a farmer in Budadiri, Uganda, east Africa.
    “I want to look after my children,” Mudua says. “But I am a woman alone, and any time a man could force me into sex and I could get pregnant.”
    Women like Mudua, thousands of miles away from Washington and the White House, are the ones starting to feel the reverberations of US President Donald Trump’s Mexico City Policy, reintroduced in January amid a slew of executive orders from the newly inaugurated President.
    Mudua currently receives her contraception from Marie Stopes Uganda, a non-profit that provides family planning advice and sexual health services across the country.
    “I’m going to be OK because I will not have to give birth to a child I don’t want on my own,” she says.
    But for Mudua and others like her, things are about to change.
    Named after the venue of the conference where it was first announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the Mexico City Policy, also known as the “global gag rule” withholds American aid (USAID) from any international non-governmental organizations that offer women advice on abortion.
    Marie Stopes Uganda says that 94% of its outreach work, which aims to bring contraception to women in rural and remote areas, is funded by USAID.
    It estimates that these funds will start to dry up around September, which over the next three years could result in an extra 1.1 million unwanted pregnancies in Uganda alone.

    ‘US funds never used for abortions’

    Any criticism leveled at the President for the manner in which he signed the order (surrounded by a group of white men) or the potential impact on global health services was drowned out by the widespread condemnation and confusion that met Trump’s controversial travel ban announced three days later.
    Meanwhile, governments, NGOs and health organizations on the ground have been coming to grips with the far-reaching consequences of the policy, which experts say will have little to no impact on the number of abortive procedures.
    “United States government funds have never been used for abortions,” says Tewodros Melesse, director general of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
    “Even during the Obama administration or Clinton administration, it was not possible to use US funds for abortion.”
    NGOs that performed the procedure could receive US funding for other programs, though, including those related to contraception and sexual health.
    Now organizations that offer abortions as part of their family planning services — or even refer patients to other clinics that can perform abortions — will be prevented from receiving any assistance at all from the US Agency for International Development, one of the largest contributors to international development assistance.
    Melesse says it’s going to have a huge impact. “We’re going to be losing around 100 million US dollars over the next three to four years.”

    ‘Unequivocal’ evidence

    Major reproductive care NGO Marie Stopes International says complying and removing safe abortion from its services isn’t an option.
    The evidence is “unequivocal,” says Marjorie Newman-Williams, Marie Stopes’ vice president and director of international operations, that doing so would expose women to increased potential dangers.
    According to the latest WHO data, 21.6 million women annually are so desperate that they gamble with the risk of life-threatening injuries or even death to have unsafe abortions. Every year 47,000 women die from complications.
    “Agreeing to the Mexico City Policy would mean accepting their fate and turning our backs on the very women who need us most,” says Newman-Williams.
    In 2003, shortly after the policy was last introduced by George W. Bush, the Center for Reproductive Rights published a report highlighting horror stories from women who’d sought out surgery from the wrong practitioners.
    In one example, a poor 17-year-old house help wanted to terminate her pregnancy.
    The person she went to see “did not know the anus from the vagina,” one Kenyan NGO reported. “He destroyed her anus, rectum, uterus and some of the small intestine.”

    Contraception conundrum

    Newman-Williams says that laws attempting to stop women from having abortions don’t work because they don’t stop the need for women to have abortions in the first place.
    And, paradoxically, as NGOs lose funding and are less able to provide contraception, the number of unwanted pregnancies is only likely to increase, which drives up the demand for abortions.

    Washington-based Impassioned Advocates for Girls and Women reports that after the last reinstatement of the policy in 2001, shipments of US-donated condoms and contraceptives completely stopped to 16 developing countries — mainly in Africa.
    Family planning providers in another 16 countries (also mainly in Africa) lost access to condoms and contraceptives because they refused to accept the conditions of the Mexico City Policy.
    One healthcare worker on the ground in Uganda told CNN she currently issues contraceptive injections to between 30 and 50 women a month.
    “Women will walk for many miles to a health clinic and find that they cannot provide the services,” says Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) volunteer Akiiki Jemimah Mutooro. RHU anticipates it will lose $420,000 in funding.
    “If we are unable to continue this service, many women will lose out.”
    The reduction in access to contraception will also have a profound impact on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including the battle with HIV, according to IPPF.
    “All the effort the United States has made over the years to support funding for HIV Aids initiatives is going to be affected by telling organizations who have received funding … that they cannot inform the patient about abortion,” says Melesse.

    She decides?

    Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be one of the hardest-hit regions, says Marie Stopes International’s director of strategy, Maaike van Min.
    It’s the largest recipient of American aid and already has more abortion-related deaths than any other continent.
    She says a lot of work is being done on domestic financing, but social welfare systems are still in their infancy across much of the developing world and there are competing priorities for scarce resources. “It will be a challenge to try to meet the funding gap,” she says.
    In February, dozens of governments and private philanthropists pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to a global fundraising initiative called She Decides, launched by Dutch Development Minister Lilianne Ploumen.
    In 2002, the European Commission came forward and said it wanted to make up the shortfall after Bush’s reinstatement of the policy. This was an important move, says Melesse, because it proved “the US cannot tell the world how women’s health and sexual reproductive health should be handled.”
    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says President Trump has always made it very clear that he’s pro-life and he’s staying true to his pre-election promises.
    “He wants to stand up for all Americans, including the unborn, and I think the reinstatement of this policy is not just something that echoes that value, but respects taxpayer funding as well,” Spicer said in a press briefing at the time.
    In January, Republican Congressman Chris Smith, chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, lauded the move in a press release.
    “Organizations like Marie Stopes International and the International Planned Parenthood Federation have reported performing over 1 million abortions annually,” Smith said, citing a January 2017 poll where 83% of American respondents said they opposed US tax dollars being used to support abortion abroad — but omitting that in the same poll 52% of Americans also said they were pro-choice.
    The deprivation of this choice for women in less-privileged circumstances is what jars with Melesse the most.
    “This government is coming and telling the rest of the world: you cannot have the democracy that the United States has,” he says. “That’s really the most critical part.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/28/africa/mexico-city-policy-impact/index.html

    Tapper: These Americans have had a rougher 100 days than Trump

    (CNN)“Many Americans” had a tougher past 100 days — coinciding with the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency — than the President himself, CNN’s Jake Tapper said on “The Lead” Friday.

    Tapper responded: “The notion that President Trump thought the job of President of the United States of America would be easier than hosting ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and running the Trump business empire is pretty stunning.”
    Tapper then went on to name a handful of Americans who have had a difficult past few months — many of them as a result of Trump’s policies.
      “There’s Kraig Moss, who lost his son Rob in the opioid crisis in 2014 and believed Trump when he said he would do something about the crisis. In fact, Kraig supported Trump so strongly he traveled the country to Trump rallies singing the candidate’s praises. After the health care bill, Moss says he will never vote for Trump again,” Tapper said.
      The White House attempted to revive a health care reform package ahead of the President’s 100 days in office, but that has not come into fruition.
      Tapper then mentioned Emmanuel Ayala Frutos, one of the so-called DREAMers — people brought to this country illegally by their parents. The President has said he feels sympathy for DREAMers in the past.
      “Frutos was brought here when he was 6. Recently, he was held in detention for 18 days. He and other DREAMers live in constant fear as the President cracks down on illegal immigration and they don’t know what’s going to happen to them,” Tapper continued.
      Then there’s cancer patient Melissa Nance, who’s worried about losing her health insurance.
      “She’s covered by Obamacare now, but insurers are pulling out of her state of Tennessee. Trump said he would take care of this, he said he would fix it, he said it would be easy. but Congress has passed nothing,” Tapper said.
      “I could go on and on,” Tapper continued, “The factory workers who were told by the President that he would bring their jobs back though he has not introduced a jobs bill yet. The troops in harms way wondering if the President has any actual foreign policy strategy or if he’s just winging it with them on the front lines.”
      “These Americans are depending on you, Mr. President,” Tapper said, “These are the people who have had a rough 100 days.”

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/28/politics/jake-tapper-worse-days-than-trump-cnntv/index.html