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

Where the Mexico City Policy matters the most

(CNN)

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

‘I know he is alive’: wife of Taiwan activist seized by China pleads for release

Lee Ming-che has been detained by Beijing authorities amid a targeting of activists, dissidents and scholars based abroad

The wife of a Taiwanese human rights activist detained in China for over a month without charge has vowed to take her fight for justice to the US and European Union, urging them to pressure Beijing to release him.

It has now been 40 days since Lee Ching-yus partner, best friend and confidante suddenly disappeared while travelling to visit friends in Guangzhou, southern China.

Beijing, which views democratic Taiwan as a renegade province, admitted only after 10 days that Lee Ming-che, 42, a community college worker known for supporting human rights, had been detained for allegedly threatening national security.

He is feared to be the latest victim of an escalation in Chinas repression of rights and free speech.

It is only through international support that we can force a country that encroaches on human rights to stop this action, Lee Ching-yu told The Guardian in her first interview with the British press. She intends to seek help in Washington DC and Brussels next month.

Under standard Chinese criminal law, Lees husband should have been charged or released on Monday, after 37 days in custody.

Instead, her hopes of a speedy resolution were shattered on Wednesday when Chinas Taiwan affairs office announced that Lee was still under investigation, that his health was good, and that he has clearly explained the relevant situation to his family in a letter.

The letter, which contained scant information, was delivered in early April by an unofficial middleman Lee Ching-yu did not know whether to trust.

It was my husbands handwriting but he made no connection with me, she said. He did not write that letter voluntarily.

Lee, also 42, has struggled largely alone, with the support of a few local activists, to uncover the truth.

With little government support, she has fended off unidentified brokers offering help through unofficial channels.

One suggested her silence and inaction might buy her husbands freedom, or at least spare him the humiliation of a video confession. But Lee has refused to strike a backroom deal.

She is defiant but the strain of her ordeal has made her visibly more gaunt and she frequently fights back tears. I have to keep a strong face in front of the media, but when I see my husbands photo I get very emotional, she said.

The couple met at college 20 years ago and were drawn to each other through a shared passion for human rights.

Lee Ching-yu became a researcher at the Shin Ming-te foundation, studying the history of Taiwans own dark period of martial law, when thousands were disappeared. Her work both gives her strength and haunts her. I can imagine what my husband might have gone through, she said.

Lee Ming-che kept his human rights work low key. Supporters believe he may have been targeted after speaking openly on Chinese messaging service WeChat about Taiwanese democracy.

The values and beliefs that my husband holds and spreads would not be charged in any democratic or civilised country, said Lee.

She broke down describing how he had tried to help the poverty-stricken families of Chinese activists, imprisoned for their beliefs.

At least I know my husband is alive, she said. Others who disappear dont receive the same media attention and they might be in more danger. When I realise how severe the situation in China is, its hard to stay calm.

Lee has approached the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances for help.

Her husbands case has been complicated by Taiwans lack of international clout and by frozen diplomatic ties between Taipei and Beijing over Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wens refusal to endorse Chinas view that the self-governed island and mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.

Taiwans government maintains it is working behind the scenes to resolve Lees case, but local NGOs argue they could do more.

Mrs Lee is already standing so strongwe need support from the government, not only to just keep it low key, said E-Ling Chiu, head of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

Many fear Lee may have fallen foul of a harsh new Chinese law to monitor and control foreign-funded NGOs, enforced earlier this year as part of a crackdown on civil society.

The environment for foreign and domestic human rights NGOs had become treacherous, said Maya Wang an Asia researcher with Human Rights Watch.

The case of Mr Lee fits within the greater pattern of a new trend of the Chinese government targeting activists, dissidents, or even scholars based abroad, she said. All of these cases deserve equal press and attention.

However, Lee may also have become a pawn in internal Chinese politics by factions opposed to President Xi Jinpings perceived mild approach to Taiwan, ventured Michael Cole, a Taipei-based political analyst.

It would be difficult for Xi to back down while demonstrating strength over Taiwan, he said. Equally, Tsai had to tread cautiously.

It would not serve Mr Lees interests if she came out guns blazing. Ultimately his case is part of something thats much bigger.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/28/wife-of-taiwan-activist-seized-china-pleads-for-release-lee-ming-che

Plain cigarette packaging could drive 300,000 Britons to quit smoking

Review by research organisation Cochrane suggests impact of UKs ban on branded packs could echo results seen in Australia

Plain cigarette cartons featuring large, graphic health warnings could persuade 300,000 people in the UK to quit smoking if the measure has the effect it had in Australia, scientists say.

Standardised cigarette packaging will be compulsory in the UK from 20 May. A new review from the independent health research organisation Cochrane on the impact of plain packaging around the world has found that it does affect the behaviour of smokers.

In the UK, the tobacco industry has become increasingly innovative in the design of cigarette packets as other controls on sales and advertising have taken hold, according to Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction at Kings College London. The tobacco industry has been focusing its efforts on the tobacco packs, she said.

Among those that will be banned are vibrant pink packets, targeted at young women, and gimmicky cartons that slide rather than flip open. The rules that come into force next month require all packs to look alike, with graphic health warnings across 65% of their surface.

The Cochrane reviewers found 51 studies that looked at standardised packaging and its impact on smokers, but only one country had implemented the rule fully at the time. Australia brought in plain packs in 2012.

Analysing the evidence from Australia, the team found a reduction in smoking of 0.5% up to one year after the policy was introduced. According to the Australian government, that translates to 100,000 people no longer smoking. The decline was attributable specifically to plain packaging, after taking into account the continuing drop in the numbers of smokers caused by other tobacco control measures.

Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce of the Cochrane tobacco addiction group at Oxford Universitys Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences said: We are not able to say for sure what the impact would be in the UK, but if the same magnitude of decrease was seen in the UK as was observed in Australia, this would translate to roughly 300,000 fewer smokers following the implementation of standardised packaging.

The review found signs that more people were trying to quit smoking as a result of plain cartons, rising from 20.2% before to 26.6% after introduction. There was also evidence that standardised packs were less attractive to those who did not smoke, making it less likely that they would start.

However, the researchers say variations in the way countries are introducing standardised packs may affect the outcomes. Some allow different colours, slightly different carton shapes and the use of descriptive words such as gold or smooth.

Cancer Research UK backs plain packaging. Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK every year, so we support any effective measure which can help reduce this devastating impact. The evidence shows that standardised packaging works and helps to reduce smoking rates, said George Butterworth, the charitys tobacco policy manager.

Its too soon to see the impact in the UK, as the new legislation will only be fully implemented in May, but we hope to see similar positive results as the UK strives towards a day when no child smokes tobacco. Cancer Research UK is continuing to evaluate the impact of standardised packaging in the UK and will share the lessons with other countries who are considering introducing them.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers group Forest, said the idea that plain packaging would have an impact on the number of smokers in the UK was based on hope and anecdotal evidence.

Since plain packaging was introduced in Australia, smoking rates have fallen, but only in line with historical trends, he said. Its grasping at straws to credit plain packaging with the continued reduction in smoking rates, because the most significant anti-smoking measure in recent years in Australia has been a massive increase in tobacco taxation. Like graphic health warnings, the novelty of plain packaging quickly wears off.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/27/plain-cigarette-packaging-could-drive-300000-britons-to-quit-smoking

People whose ‘brain age’ is older than their real age more likely to die early

Scientists at Imperial College London used MRI scans and algorithms to produce computer-generated brain age and spot risk of dying young

Doctors may be able to warn patients if they are at risk of early death by analysing their brains, British scientists have discovered.

Those whose brains appeared older than their true age were more likely to die early and to be in worse physical and mental health, a study by Imperial College London found.

The research found a way of predicting someones brain age that could help to spot those at risk of dying young.

The study, piloted in Scotland, suggests using MRI scans to estimate a persons brain age compared with their real age could also help to spot who might be at increased risk of poor health as they grow older.

By combining MRI scans with machine learning algorithms, a team of neuroscientists trained computers to predict the age of a persons brain based on their volume of brain tissue.

When the technique was tested on a group of older adults in Scotland, they found that the greater the difference between the computer-generated brain age and the persons actual age, the higher their risk of poor mental and physical health and the more likely they were to die before they turned 80.

Those with a brain age older than their real age also had weaker grip, lower lung capacity and slower walking speed.

Researchers say that if the initial findings could be applied to a screening programme, the technique could be used to inform doctors, showing whether or not a patient had a healthy brain age or was above or below the line, similar to how body mass index (BMI) is used. They could then advise patients to change their lifestyle or start a course of treatment.

James Cole, a research associate who led the study, said: People use the age of an organ all the time to talk about health. Smokers are said to have lungs that are 20 years older than they should be, you can even answer online questionnaires about exercise and diet and get a heart age. This technique could eventually be like that.

However, it would need more fine-tuning for accuracy before it could be used in this way, Cole said. At present it has a margin of error of about five years. MRI scans are also currently too expensive to be used as a widespread screening tool but researchers hope that costs will come down in the future.

In the long run it would be great if we could do this accurately enough so that we could do it at an individual level, he said. However, at the moment, its not sufficiently accurate to be used at that sort of individual level.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/26/people-whose-brain-age-is-older-than-their-real-age-more-likely-to-die-early

Elton John cancels Las Vegas shows due to ‘potentially deadly’ infection

The singer announced he was pulling out of several shows after contracting a bacterial infection in South America that led to two nights in intensive care

Sir Elton John has pulled out of a series of concerts in Las Vegas due to an unusual bacterial infection he contracted in South America, which left him in intensive care.

The singer announced he was pulling out of the shows on Monday in a statement that explained that he spent two nights in intensive care and was released on 22 April after becoming ill on a flight to the UK from Chile.

During a recent, successful tour of South America, Elton contracted a harmful and unusual bacterial infection, the statement read.

During his return flight home from Santiago, Chile he became violently ill. Upon returning to the UK, Eltons doctors admitted him to hospital, where he underwent immediate treatment to remove the infection. After spending two nights in intensive care followed by an extended stay in hospital, Elton was released from hospital.

It added that the infection was rare and potentially deadly but that the stars medical team identified it quickly and that he is expected to make a full and complete recovery.

Elton John also added: I am so fortunate to have the most incredible and loyal fans and apologise for disappointing them. I am extremely grateful to the medical team for their excellence in looking after me so well.

The affected shows were part of the Million Dollar Piano show and were due to take place at Caesars Palace in April and May, while another gig in Bakersfield, California, on 6 May was also cancelled.

The singer is expected to return for his scheduled gigs at Twickenham, in London on 3 June.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/apr/24/elton-john-cancels-concerts-las-vegas-bacteria-infection

Frozen hash brown recall due to possible ‘extraneous golf ball materials’

(CNN)You have an early-morning golf match. You make coffee and contemplate the optimal breakfast to help you hit the ball straighter and calm those first-tee jitters.

For now, skip frozen hash browns sold in nine states under the Harris Teeter and Roundy’s brands. The potatoes may contain pieces of golf balls, according to the hash brown maker.
McCain Foods USA’s recall notice on the US Food & Drug Administration site says the hash browns could be “contaminated with extraneous golf ball materials” that “may have been inadvertently harvested with potatoes used to make this product.”
    “Consumption of these products may pose a choking hazard or other physical injury to the mouth,” says the notice of the voluntary recall.
    The have been no reported injuries, according to the company.
    McCain Foods is recalling 2-pound bags of Roundy’s Brand Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns from Marianos, Metro Market, and Pick ‘n Save supermarkets in Illinois and Wisconsin.
    It is also recalling 2-pound bags of Harris Teeter Brand Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns sold in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia and Maryland.
    The production code on the back of the packaging is B170119, the company says.
    The contaminated products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.
    McCain Foods has not responded to a request for further comment.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/22/health/hash-brown-recall/index.html

    The Queen is 91 and to mark it the Royal Family are tweeting lovely old photos

    Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

    Turning 91 years old is certainly something to be celebrated no matter who you are.

    Queen Elizabeth II is 91 today and to mark the occasion, the Royal Family is tweeting black and white photographs of Elizabeth at special moments in her life.

    If you visit the Royal Family’s official Twitter account today you’ll be showered with animated balloons in celebration of her big day.

    One of the photos the Royal Family have shared shows the Queen at the tender age of one month old at her christening, with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother).

    A photo of Princess Elizabeth on her 21st birthday was also shared via the Royal Family’s official Twitter account.

    @ClarenceHouse the official Twitter account for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall shared a touching photo of the Queen in 1952 with a 4-year-old Prince Charles.

    The Royal Family also shared a photo of the Queen on the phone, pointing out that she was born on the same year as the first ever transatlantic phone call.

    @KensingtonRoyal the official Twitter account for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry also tweeted a photo of the Queen and Prince Philip in an open top car, with the younger generation of royals in a car behind her.

    Happy birthday Your Majesty!

    WATCH: Lady Gaga FaceTimed with Prince William to discuss a very important issue

    Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/04/21/queen-elizabeth-91-birthday/

    Is Bangkok really banning street food?

    (CNN)When news broke this week that Bangkok was reportedly planning to clear the streets of its beloved street food vendors, outrage broke out among fans of the city’s famously cheap eats as the story racked up global headlines.

    Cue the backtracking.
    Government officials now say that while some areas will be cleared of street vendors in the name of public safety, they’ll impose stricter rules on cleanliness and hygiene in other popular street food areas like Khao San Road and Yaowarat (Chinatown).
      Should fans of Bangkok street food be worried?
      Leela Punyaratabandhu, author of new book “Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand” explains why the issue is so complicated.

      Is the clampdown on street food as bad as it seems?

      I wouldn’t worry too much about it at this point. Nobody really knows how it will pan out.
      We’re not sure which areas will be affected; it could apply only to the main streets leaving the alleyways the way they are.

      Why do some people want street vendors gone?

      Not all Bangkokians have warm and fuzzy feelings about the carts and stalls that have occupied public spaces and sidewalks — day and night — for decades (which isn’t exactly legal).
      In addition to food carts, there are also tables and stalls selling, as the Thai expression goes, “everything from toothpicks to battleships,” meaning all sorts of ware imaginable.
      Bangkok sidewalks are often narrow and walking on one that’s lined with these street carts isn’t easy.
      The tight space often forces people to walk in a single file, and the moment someone stops to buy something, they immediately block the already tight walking space.
      So to avoid that — and the smoke from grilled food and the splattering and smell of hot frying oil and the puddles from all sorts of washing and cooking activities — pedestrians often have to get off the sidewalk and walk in the street instead.
      Sometimes, street carts occupy so much space at a bus stop that commuters need to wait for their buses in the street as well.
      This presents danger to both the pedestrians themselves and the motorists becomes part of what makes the city’s traffic worse than it already is.
      You can’t blame Bangkokians for wanting to have sidewalks that can actually be walked on.
      There’s also concern about cleanliness and the environment.
      When you run a food business on a sidewalk, you’re not equipped with the infrastructure that promotes cleanliness, hygiene and environmentally friendly waste disposal.
      The dumping of used frying oil right into the street drains? The washing of used dishes and utensils in a bucket of soapy water and the emptying of said bucket right onto the street?
      These things happen all the time and they contribute to environmental and health problems.

      Wouldn’t this be the end of all things good about the food of Bangkok?

      No — not even if the ban is citywide and will be strictly enforced for years to come.
      Let’s put things in perspective here.
      Street carts are the most visible, the most approachable, the most affordable, and — as some would say — the most fun food operators in Bangkok.
      So naturally, they get the most laudatory write-ups among international travel/food writers who often have little access to restaurants with a Thai menu or people’s homes.
      The food reportage is often skewed.
      Actually, apart from the longstanding and reputable street carts — and there are quite a few — the vast majority of them are far from representative of Bangkok food at its finest.
      Most exist mainly to meet the needs for affordable food within a walking distance.
      Bangkokians know this, and they set their expectations accordingly.
      The blind, indiscriminate glorification of sidewalk food is the failure to see the food of Bangkok the way the locals really see it.
      So, no. The ban does present some problems, but the end of Bangkok’s gastronomic culture as we know it isn’t even close to being one of them.
      The city has so many more low to moderately priced options to offer.
      Most shophouse eateries do not block traffic and have access to things that enhance hygiene such as refrigeration and running water.
      And their food is nearly always more superior to that from an average food cart without being much more expensive, if at all.
      In fact, if you look at the history of some of these shophouse establishments, you’ll see many of them started out as itinerant vendors who made such great food and were so successful that they could afford a permanent place inside a building.

      If these street carts are so problematic, why doesn’t the city get rid of all of them?

      This is where things aren’t as clear cut as they seem.
      It’s also where empathy is needed from both the opponents and the supporters of the ban.
      Bangkok is a crowded home to over 8 million people, many of whom have relocated from economically disadvantaged provinces to look for work opportunities.
      Selling food has become a default livelihood for many of these people.
      Setting up a stall or a cart on the sidewalk requires little money, and, if they stick with easy food that doesn’t require any specialized skill –and this is often the case these days — starting a business is easy.
      No registration. No health inspection.
      According to a 2012 study from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s Division of Policy and Planning, this is actually a good thing, because it alleviates the problem of unskilled labor in the city (those who claim that street food represents the best food of Bangkok and that street vendors are the best cooks in the city, take notice!).
      In addition, with such low start-up and daily operational costs, street carts are able to provide inexpensive food for the people in every nook and cranny of the city who need it most without them having to travel for it.
      These street carts are also vital in keeping the overall prices of prepared food in the city from rising so rapidly that some people can’t catch up.
      In terms of tourism, regardless of how the locals feel about street carts, it’s undeniable that they greatly appeal to foreign visitors in the age of gastro-tourism.
      Bangkok has been hailed as one of the best food destinations in the world and we should do everything we can to continue to earn that reputation.

      Are there any solutions?

      This issue has a long history, and it needs to be carefully considered.
      Finding practical solutions and compromises that benefit all involved is harder than talking about the problem.
      Arguments from an emotional standpoint or terse, dismissive comments berating those who hold the opposing view aren’t helpful.
      We need to figure out a way to restore law and order, to keep the city clean and orderly, and to free up the sidewalks for pedestrians — especially the elderly and those with disabilities.
      Rules and regulations that are already in place need to be enforced consistently and impartially.
      We need to recognize the contribution of these street vendors and make sure these economically disadvantaged members of our society are able to live and work and eat in this increasingly less affordable city.
      We need to provide them with infrastructure to promote a more hygienic practice and to minimize the environmental damage that comes from unregulated food operation.
      We need to help these vendors get to the point where they can operate in such a way that Bangkokians come to see them as they really are: a contribution and not a nuisance.
      We need to figure all these issues out, keeping in mind that what has worked for other cities in the world may not work — or may need serious tweaking for it to work — in Bangkok.
      Maybe there are some compromises and workarounds we haven’t considered. There’s got to be a way to create a win-win situation for everybody.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/20/foodanddrink/bangkok-street-food-ban/index.html

      Arkansas set to execute first inmate since 2005

      (CNN)Prison authorities are expected to proceed with the execution of an inmate on Thursday evening after the Arkansas Supreme Court earlier denied his request for a stay and struck down a temporary restraining order on one of the drugs used in the lethal injection process.

      Ledell Lee, who was convicted in 1995 in the murder of Debra Reese, is scheduled to be executed at 8 p.m. ET. If he is put to death, his killing will be Arkansas’ first execution since 2005. The state had earlier planned to execute eight inmates over 10 days starting April 17.
      The Arkansas Department of Correction reported that Lee requested Holy Communion as his last meal.
        Stacey Johnson, who was also slated to be executed on Thursday, was granted a stay from the same court on Wednesday after requesting further testing of DNA evidence in his case. Johnson was convicted of the 1994 murder of Carol Heath.
        Like Johnson, Lee had requested a stay for additional DNA testing, but the court denied the request.
        The Arkansas Supreme Court also reversed a restraining order on the state’s use of vecuronium bromide, one of the three drugs used in lethal injections. A Pulaski County Circuit Court judge issued the order on Wednesday, putting all eight executions on hold.
        Multiple last-minute legal challenges have derailed the state’s execution plans, which has been characterized as unprecedented.
        The schedule has been attributed to the expiration date of Arkansas’ supply of midazolam, the first drug administered in the three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections. The state’s supply of the drug expires at the end of April.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/20/us/arkansas-execution-ledell-lee/index.html