Man wins equal pension rights for husband at supreme court | Society | The Guardian

A gay former cavalry officer has won a legal battle to provide his husband with equal pension rights in a landmark discrimination case at the supreme court.

The unanimous judgment, which could benefit thousands of couples, will ensure that should John Walker die first, his partner will have access to an income of about £45,000 a year for life. It may also impose unexpected liabilities on pension funds.

Lawyers for the human rights organisation Liberty, which represented Walker, argued that a same-sex husband should enjoy the same pension rights as a widow. Under current law, Walker’s husband would receive only about £1,000 a year.

Read more: The Guardian

Like it or not, Rwanda is Africa’s future | News | Africa | M&G

Must Africa’s future be a trade-off between “development/prosperity” and democracy/human rights?

You probably don’t know much about Rwanda. Gorillas. Genocide. Don Cheadle. Maybe you’ve heard of Paul Kagame, the president. Maybe you’ve come across the phrase “Africa’s Singapore”, although what exactly that looks like, or what it means, is a mystery.

You need to know more about Rwanda.

In the grand scheme of African development, Rwanda is an experiment, a trial run, a test case for a new type of society. And the experiment is about to be repeated in a country near you.

Rwanda is your future, whether you like it or not.

Read more: M&G

Mark Zuckerberg touts universal basic income as a bipartisan idea

Mark Zuckerberg has the attention of 2 billion people, so he doesn’t really need any help from us when he wants to spread the word about something. But it’s worth pointing out that the billionaire Facebook chief is really into the idea of the government giving everyone free money—or at least giving them money back. In a Facebook post from Homer, Alaska, yesterday, Zuck pointed out that the Last Frontier has its own form of universal basic income, one that allocates oil revenue for a fund that is divided up and returned to residents. It’s called the Permanent Fund Dividend, and Zuckerberg thinks it’s a concept worth paying attention to.

“This is a novel approach to basic income in a few ways. First, it’s funded by natural resources rather than raising taxes. Second, it comes from conservative principles of smaller government, rather than progressive principles of a larger safety net. This shows basic income is a bipartisan idea.”

Source: Mark Zuckerberg touts universal basic income as a bipartisan idea

Book Review: Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen by Guy Standing | LSE Review of Books

Drawing on thirty years experience researching, testing, designing and advocating for basic income schemes, Guy Standing offers a concise and well-organised overview of their history, development, definition and implications in Basic Income: And How We Can Make it Happen. While the adoption of basic income by governments will ultimately depend on the results of pilots and emerging data, writes Christine Sweeney, this book effectively prepares readers to participate in the growing discussion surrounding this increasingly debated policy.

“Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen. Guy Standing. Pelican. 2017”

Full review at: LSE Review of Books

Lifestyle audits on the cards for ANC members | News | Politics | M&G

Lifestyle audits, restrictions on Cabinet deployment, empowering the integrity commission and reining in members with extravagant wealth are among the interventions the ANC is considering to get its house in order.

The party’s head of organising, Fikile Mbalula, on Sunday confirmed a range of proposals that included restrictions and amendments to its own constitution. These formed part of debates by delegates attending its policy conference, underway in Soweto at the Nasrec Expo centre.

More at M&G

“ANC policy papers point to a party in a panic about losing power”


The documents released ahead of the upcoming policy conference of South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) expose a panicking party that sees enemies everywhere. While previous policy conferences addressed real policy issues, all energies are now focused on retaining state power as the leadership faces damning claims of capture by a kleptocratic elite.

The discussion documents show a party that professes a desire for self-correction and renewal. But, it seems to have neither the guts, nor the necessary internal balance of forces to do so.

At the same time the documents point to deepening paranoia and an increasingly authoritarian tendency. In combination, they seem to emanate from a parallel universe where the party’s interests have become elevated above those of the South African society at large.

Full report: The Conversation

 Same-sex marriage: Germany, Malta – Australia? – and more.

2017 is shaping up to be a major year for the continuing global advance of marriage equality. In February this year, Slovenia celebrated its first gay wedding, after legislation was passed in 2016.. Since then, same-sex marriage has come to the Caribbean and to Asia – in Bermuda and Taiwan, both by court orders, and to the Faroe Islands, where legislation was passed last year, but needed final approval by Denmark before it could take effect, That has now been done. There’s more on the horizon.

Germany is the big one – a little unexpectedly. For years, Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Party has blocked any path to marriage equality, but that has suddenly changed, ahead of forthcoming federal elections. Merkel has now announced that the CDP will allow a conscience vote on the issue – and that has now been scheduled for Friday of this week. With all the other main parties in support, and public opinion solidly in favour, the measure should pass.

In Malta, gay marriage featured heavily in the recent election campaign, with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat strongly in favour. After his re-election, news reports state that a same-sex marriage bill will be the first item on the agenda for the new parliament  when it meets on Monday.

Even Australia may finally be coming aboard: some Liberal Party MP’s are said to be planning to defy the party’s official opposition, and support a gay marriage bill. (But Australian hopes have been raised, then dashed, so many times already, it may be wiser not to bet too heavily on the prospect, just yet).

Pride in Mental Health: Education | Psychology Today

For the season of Pride, Psychology Today addresses mental health for LGBTQ communities:

This week I had the privilege of speaking with experts, activists, and advocates about the various mental health needs we have in the LGBTQ communities, at an event hosted by Crisis Text Line.  We all agreed that a supportive and continuous, therapeutic relationship is key, for everyone really.  But for those of us who face constant discrimination it can be a matter of life and death.  The trouble is that psychotherapy is stigmatized; not enough clinicians are competent, curious, or empathetic enough to make a connection with LGBTQ clients; and too many people simply can’t afford therapy, or their insurance won’t cover it (if they even have insurance).  The experts I spoke to all fight tirelessly against these obstacles, in order to connect people to the safe, loving, and supportive relationships they need and deserve.

For this segment of my Pride in Mental Health Series, I talk with Becca Mui, EducationManager at GLSEN (which aims to create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, genderidentity, or gender expression), and Thomas Krever, CEO of The Hetrick-Martin Institute, (which creates a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 and their families, and offers a comprehensive package of direct services and referrals), about the role of education in LGBTQ mental health. Ross Schwartz, Director of Communications and Public Relations at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, joins us as well.

Source: Pride in Mental Health: Education | Psychology Today

Six graphs showing the state of the UK economy a year after Brexit referendum

It has been a year since British voters went to the polls and voted by a narrow margin to leave the European Union. The Brexit referendum triggered a heated debate about the potential economic effects of Brexit. But what has actually happened to the UK economy in the year since the Brexit vote? These six graphs help explain.

GDP growth

Overall, the UK economy performed relatively well in terms of GDP growth during the second half of 2016 following the referendum. However, more recently there have been indications of a slowdown in economic activity in the UK.

The pound

The British currency was one of the economic variables that was most affected by the decision of the British electorate to leave the EU. Sterling has depreciated by a significant amount, around 15%, since last year as international markets reacted to the announcement of Brexit. A standard explanation is that markets expect lower volumes for future UK-EU international trade and also that longer term projections for future UK growth could be revised downwards.


The depreciation of the pound has contributed to a significant rise in the price of imports into the UK. British consumers are now having to pay a much higher price for foreign products. As a result, inflation increased from 0.5% in June 2016 to 1% in September and 2.9% in May 2017, the highest in four years. This is likely to affect both businesses that import products, and consumers.

The rise in inflation also raises challenging questions for members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), which sets UK interest rates, and has a target to keep inflation below 2%. The MPC could tighten monetary policy by raising interest rates in order to reduce inflation, but this will probably hurt households and potentially GDP growth. Alternatively, it could decide to ignore inflation for the moment and lower interest rates even further. Or do nothing. In June 2017, members of the MPC remained divided over whether it is the right time to raise interest rates.

Average earnings

In the labour market, the most notable change has been a drop in real weekly earnings since the end of 2016. Average weekly wages (excluding bonuses) fell from £461 in June 2016 to £459 in December 2016 and £458 in April 2017. This is the result of weak nominal wage growth (closely related to the UK’s productivity puzzle), combined with the steady rise of inflation. Real wages have fallen in the UK and people are beginning to feel the pinch.

Household savings

The drop in average earnings could have serious consequences for future UK GDP growth. This is both because household savings have steadily depleted in recent years, and recent UK GDP growth was driven by consumer spending. If consumers have less in their pay packet each month, the economy could slow further.

The households savings ratio attempts to present a picture of how much money households save as part of their income. When the savings ratio is very small, it implies that households have fewer savings relative to their disposable income. In 2016, the ratio was at 5.2%, its lowest level since records began in 1963.

Trade balance

One potential positive effect of the pound’s devaluation could have been an improvement in the UK’s trade balance – but that has not yet materialised. Standard economic theory predicts that currency devaluation will reduce a country’s imports (which become relatively more expensive), increase exports (relatively cheaper) and so improve the trade balance.

The UK’s trade deficit was around £175 billion at the time of the referendum in June 2016. Since then, although exports have risen by 12%, imports have risen at the slightly faster pace of 12.7%. As a result, the UK’s trade deficit had worsened to £197 billion by the end of March 2017.

A trade deficit is not a problem per se, but a devaluation could have brought a sizeable increase in the export sector and helped to boost employment and wages. There are a number of reasons for why this did not happen, with one being that UK exporters have not reduced the prices of goods sold abroad in foreign currency, and so just increased their profits per unit sold.

The UK economy performed relatively well until the end of 2016, but there are signs that 2017 is going to be a challenging year. There is some evidence – although early – that the economy is slowing down. Bloomberg’s Brexit Barometer, an index tracking the impact of Brexit on the economy, has fallen in recent months, but does not put the economy in a “worse state” than before the referendum.

Of particular interest is going to be how households will react to the rise of inflation and the erosion of their real income given that their savings are at historically low levels. And don’t forget the increasing uncertainty that Brexit negotiations and tactics will bring to the economies of both the UK and EU.

Source: The Conversation

The youth vote could topple the ANC | News24

Comment on the youth vote by Melanie Verwoerd – formerly an ANC MP and Ambassador to Ireland:

On Friday, at an event organised for Youth Day, President Zuma addressed a big crowd in Ventersdorp. Of course, none of his handlers wanted a repeat of the May Day fiasco, where he was booed and eventually had to leave without addressing the crowds.

From the TV visuals it was clear that the organisers were taking no chances and brought in hundreds of children in school uniforms.
The children looked utterly bored as the president read a prepared speech in his usual halting manner – until a group of students started chanting: “Zuma must go; Zuma must go”. Now you have to pity the man. They “rent a crowd” and STILL he gets booed. He must really feel he can’t win.

On a more serious note, there was a sad irony in the image of young people being roughly escorted out by bodyguards of the president for protesting against the current political regime on the day that we commemorated the events of June 16. Source:  News24