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Oceania ecozone – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: August 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

The Oceania ecozone is one of the World Wildlife Fund-WWF ecozones, and is unique in not including any continental land mass. It is the smallest in land area of the WWF ecozones.

This ecozone includes the islands of the Pacific Ocean in: Micronesia, the Fijian Islands, the Hawaiian islands, and Polynesia (with the exception of New Zealand).

New Zealand, Australia, and most of Melanesia including New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia are included within the Australasia ecozone.

Oceania is geologically the youngest ecozone. While other ecozones include old continental land masses or fragments of continents, Oceania is composed mostly of volcanic high islands and coral atolls that arose from the sea in geologically recent times, many of them in the Pleistocene. They were created either by hotspot volcanism, or as island arcs pushed upward by the collision and subduction of tectonic plates. The islands range from tiny islets, sea stacks and coral atolls to large mountainous islands, like Hawaii and Fiji.

The climate of Oceania’s islands is tropical or subtropical, and range from humid to seasonally dry. Wetter parts of the islands are covered by Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, while the drier parts of the islands, including the leeward sides of the islands and many of the low coral islands, are covered by Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests and Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands. Hawaii’s high volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, are home to some rare tropical Montane grasslands and shrublands.

Since the islands of Oceania were never connected by land to a continent, the flora and fauna of the islands originally reached them from across the ocean (though at the height of the last ice age sea levels were much lower than today and many current seamounts were islands, so some now isolated islands were once less isolated). Once they reached the islands, the ancestors of Oceania’s present flora and fauna adapted to life on the islands.

Larger islands with diverse ecological niches encouraged floral and faunal adaptive radiation, whereby multiple species evolved from a common ancestor, each species adapted to a different ecological niche; the various species of Hawaiian honeycreepers (Family Drepanididae) are a classic example. Other adaptations to island ecologies include gigantism, dwarfism, and among birds, loss of flight. Oceania has a number of endemic species; Hawaii in particular is considered a global ‘center of endemism’, with its forest ecoregions having one of the highest percentages of endemic plants in the world.

Land plants disperse by several different means. Many plants, mostly ferns and mosses but also some flowering plants, disperse on the wind, relying on tiny spores or feathery seeds that can remain airborne over long distances notably Metrosideros trees from New Zealand spread on the wind across Oceania. Other plants, notably coconut palms and mangroves, produce seeds that can float in salt water over long distances, eventually washing up on distant beaches, and thus Cocos trees are ubiquitous across Oceania. Birds are also an important means of dispersal; some plants produce sticky seeds that are carried on the feet or feathers of birds, and many plants produce fruits with seeds that can pass through the digestive tracts of birds. Pandanus trees are fairly ubiquitous across Oceania.

Botanists generally agree that much of the flora of Oceania is derived from the Malesian Flora of the Malay Peninsula, Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Guinea, with some plants from Australasia and a few from the Americas, particularly in Hawaii. Easter Island has some plants from South America such as the totora reed.

Dispersal across the ocean is difficult for most land animals, and Oceania has relatively few indigenous land animals compared to other ecozones. Certain types of animals that are ecologically important on the continental ecozones, like large land predators and grazing mammals, were entirely absent from the islands of Oceania until humans brought them. Birds are relatively common, including many seabirds and some species of land birds whose ancestors may have been blown out to sea by storms. Some birds evolved into flightless species after their ancestors arrived, including several species of rails. A number of islands have indigenous lizards, including geckoes and skinks, whose ancestors probably arrived on floating rafts of vegetation washed out to sea by storms. With the exception of bats, which live on most of the island groups, there are few if any indigenous mammal species in Oceania.

Many animal and plant species have been introduced by humans in two main waves.

Malayo-Polynesian settlers brought pigs, dogs, chickens and polynesian rats to many islands; and had spread across the whole of Oceania by 1200 CE. From the seventeenth century onwards European settlers brought other animals, including cats, cattle, horses, small Asian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus), sheep, goats, and the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). These and other introduced species, in addition to overhunting and deforestation, have dramatically altered the ecology of many of Oceania’s islands, pushing many species to extinction or near-extinction, or confining them to small islets uninhabited by humans.

The absence of predator species caused many bird species to become ‘naive’, losing the instinct to flee from predators, and to lay their eggs on the ground, which makes them vulnerable to introduced predators like cats, dogs, mongooses, and rats. The arrival of humans on these island groups often resulted in disruption of the indigenous ecosystems and waves of species extinctions (see Holocene extinction event). Easter Island, the easternmost island in Polynesia, shows evidence of a human-caused ecosystem collapse several hundred years ago, which contributed (along with slave raiding and European diseases) to a 99% decline in the human population of the island. The island, once lushly forested, is now mostly windswept grasslands. More recently, Guam’s native bird and lizard species were decimated by the introduction of the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) in the 1940s.

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Oceania ecozone – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Religion and Nihilism – The African Perspective Magazine

Posted: August 29, 2016 at 7:34 am

I was going through some of my school notes today and i came across the following lecture notes id taken from a class on religion and illusions when i was still a student. Hence, I figured I introduce you guys to this very interesting topic as most of what we are tought regarding religion in the mainstream media is usually all but the same. Hope you enjoy it and find it interesting. Dont hesitate to leave your opinion at the end.

Nihilism as a philosophy seemed pass by the 1980s. Few talked about it in literature expect to declare it a dead issue. Literally, in the materialist sense, nihilism refers to a truism: from nothing, nothing comes. However, from a philosophical viewpoint, moral nihilism took on a similar connotation. One literally believed in nothing, which is somewhat of an oxymoron since to believe in nothing is to believe in something. A corner was turned in the history of nihilism once 9/11 became a reality. After this major event, religious and social science scholars began to ask whether violence could be attributed tonihilistic thinkingin other words, whether we had lost our way morally by believing in nothing, by rejecting traditional moral foundations. It was feared that an anything goes mentality and a lack of absolute moral foundations could lead to further acts of violence, as the goals forwarded by life-affirmation were being thwarted by the destructive ends of so-called violent nihilists. This position is, however, argumentative.

Extreme beliefs in values such as nationalism, patriotism, statism, secularism, or religion can also lead to violence, as one becomes unsettled by beliefs contrary to the reigning orthodoxy and strikes out violently to protect communal values. Therefore, believing in something can also lead to violence and suffering. To put the argument to rest, its not about whether one believes in something or nothing but howabsolutistthe position is; its the rigidity of values that causes pain and suffering, what Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen calls the illusion of singularity.Since 9/11, nihilism has become a favourite target to criticize and marginalize, yet its history and complexity actually lead to a more nuanced argument. Perhaps we should be looking at ways nihilism complements Western belief systemseven Christian doctrinerather than fear its implementation in ethical and moral discussions.

Brief History of Nihilism To understand why some forms of nihilism are still problematic, it is important to ask how it was used historically and for what motive. Nihilism was first thought synonymous with having no authentic values, no real ends, that ones whole existence is pure nothingness.In its earliest European roots, nihilism was initially used to label groups or ideas asinferior, especially if they were deemed threatening to establishedcommunal ideals. Nihilism as alabelwas its first function.

Nihilism initially functioned as apejorative labeland a term of abuse against modern trends that threatened to destroy either Christian hegemonic principles or tradition in general.During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, modernization in France meant that power shifted from the traditional feudal nobility to a central government filled with well-trained bourgeois professionals. Fearing a loss of influence, the nobility made a claim: If power shifted to responsible government, the nobility claimed that such centralization would lead to death and destructionin other words, anarchy and nothingness. Those upsetting the status quo were deemed nihilistic, a derogatory label requiring no serious burden of proof.Such labelling, however, worked both ways. The old world or tradition was deemed valueless by advocates of modernization and change who viewed the status quo as valueless; whereas, traditionalists pictured a new world, or new life form, as destructive and meaningless in its pursuit of a flawed transformation. Potential changes in power or ideology created a climate of fear, so the importance of defining ones opponent as nihilisticas nothing of valuewas as politically astute as it was reactionary. Those embracing the function of nihilism as a label are attempting to avoid scrutiny of their own values while the values of the opposition are literally annihilated.

Since those advocating communal values may feel threatened by new ideologies, it becomes imperative for the dominant power to present its political, metaphysical, or religious beliefs as eternal, universal, and objective. Typically, traditionalists have a stake in their own normative positions. This is because [t]he absoluteness of [ones] form of life makes [one]feel safe and at home. This means that [perfectionists]have a great interest in the maintenance of their form of life and its absoluteness.The existence of alternative beliefs and values, as well as a demand for intersubjective dialogue, is both a challenge and a threat to the traditionalist because [i]t shows people that their own form of life is not as absolute as they thought it was, and this makes them feel uncertain. . . . However, if one labels the Other as nihilistic without ever entering into a dialogue, one may become myopic, dismissing the relative value of other life forms one chooses not to see. This means that one cant see what they [other cultural groups]are doing, and why they are doing it, why they may be successful . . . Therefore, one misses the dynamics of cultural change.

Through the effect of labelling, the religious-oriented could claim that nihilists, and thus atheists by affiliation, would not feel bound by moral norms, and as a result would lose the sense that life has meaning and therefore tend toward despair and suicide.death of God. Christians argued that if there is no divine lawmaker, moral law would become interpretative, contested, and situational. The end result: [E]ach man will tend to become a law unto himself. If God does not exist to choose for the individual, the individual will assume the former prerogative of God and choose for himself. It was this kind of thinking that led perfectionists to assume that any challenge to the Absolute automatically meant moral indifference, moral relativism, and moral chaos. Put simply,nihilists were the enemy.

Nihilists were accused of rejecting ultimate values, embracing instead an all values are equal mentalitybasically, anything goes. And like Islam today, nihilists would become easy scapegoats.

Late 19th 20th Century;Nietzsche and the Death of God

Friedrich Nietzsche is still the most prestigious theorist of nihilism. Influenced by Christianitys dominant orthodoxy in the nineteenth century, Nietzsche believed that the Christian religion was nihilism incarnate. Since Christian theology involved a metaphysical reversal of temporal reality and a belief in God that came from nothing, the Christian God became the deification of nothingness, the will to nothingness pronounced holy. Nietzsche claimed that Christian metaphysics became an impediment to life-affirmation. Nietzsche explains: If one shifts the centre of gravity of life out of life into the Beyondinto nothingnessone has deprived life of its centre of gravity . . . So to live that there is no longer any meaning in living:that now becomes the meaning of life.What Nietzsche rejected more was the belief that one could create a totalizing system to explain all truths. In other words, he repudiated any religion or dogma that attempted to show how the entire body of knowledge [could]be derived from a small set of fundamental, self-evident propositions(i.e., stewardship). Nietzsche felt that we do not have the slightest right to posit a beyond or an it-self of things that is divine or the embodiment of morality.

Without God as a foundation for absolute values, all absolute values are deemed suspect (hence the birth of postmodernism). For Nietzsche, this literally meant that the belief in the Christian god ha[d]become unworthy of belief.This transition from the highest values to the death of God was not going to be a quick one; in fact, the comfort provided by an absolute divinity could potentially sustain its existence for millennia. Nietzsche elaborates: God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.And wewe still have to vanquish his shadow too.

We are left then with a dilemma: Either we abandon our reverences for the highest values and subsist, or we maintain our dependency on absolutes at the cost of our own non-absolutist reality. For Nietzsche, the second option was pure nothingness: So we can abolish either our reverences or ourselves. The latter constitutes nihilism. All one is left with are contested, situational value judgements, and these are resolved in the human arena.

One can still embrace pessimism, believing that without some form of an absolute, our existence in this world will take a turn for the worse. To avoid the trappings of pessimism and passivity, Nietzsche sought a solution to such nihilistic despair through the re-evaluation of the dominant, life-negating values. This makes Nietzsche an perspectivism a philosophy of resolution in the form of life-affirmation. It moves past despair toward a transformative stage in which new values are posited to replace the old table of values. As Reginster acknowledges, one should regard the affirmation of life as Nietzsches defining philosophical achievement. What this implies is a substantive demand to live according to a constant re-evaluation of values. By taking full responsibility for this task, humankind engages in the eternal recurrence, a recurrence of life-affirming values based on acceptance of becoming and the impermanence of values. Value formation is both fluid and cyclical.

Late-20th Century 21st Century;The Pessimism of the Post-9/11 Era

Since the events of September 11, 2001, nihilism has returned with a vengeance to scholarly literature; however, it is being discussed in almost exclusively negative terms. The labelling origin of nihilism has taken on new life in a context of suicide bombings, Islamophobia, and neoconservative rhetoric. For instance, Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff described different shades of negative nihilismtragic, cynical, and fanaticalin his bookThe Lesser Evil.Tragic nihilism begins from a foundation of noble, political intentions, but eventually this ethic of restraint spirals toward violence as the only end(i.e., Vietnam). Two sides of an armed struggle may begin with high ideals and place limitations on their means to achieve viable political goals, but such noble ends eventually become lost in all the carnage. Agents of a democratic state may find themselves driven by the horror of terror to torture, to assassinate, to kill innocent civilians, all in the name of rights and democracy. As Ignateiff states, they slip from the lesser evil [legitimate use of force]to the greater [violence as an end in itself].

However,cynical nihilism is even more narcissistic. In this case, violence does not begin as a means to noble goals. Instead, [i]t is used, from the beginning, in the service of cynical or self-serving [ends]. The term denotes narcissistic prejudice because it justifies the commission of violence for the sake of personal aggrandizement, immortality, fame, or power rather than as a means to a genuinely political end, like revolution [for social justice]or the liberation of a people.Cynical nihilists were never threatened in any legitimate way. Their own vanity, ego, greed, or need to control others drove them to commit violence against innocent civilians (e.g., Saddam Hussein in Kuwait or Bush in Iraq).

Finally,fanatical nihilism does not suffer from a belief in nothing. In actuality, this type of nihilism is dangerous because one believes in too much. What fanatical nihilism does involve is a form of conviction so intense, a devotion so blind, that it becomes impossible to see that violence necessarily betrays the ends that conviction seeks to achieve. The fanatical use of ideology to justify atrocity negates any consideration of the human cost of such fundamentalism. As a result, nihilism becomes willed indifference to the human agents sacrificed on the alter of principle. . . . Here nihilism is not a belief in nothing at all; it is, rather, the belief that nothing about particular groups of human beings matters enough to require minimizing harm to them.Fanatical nihilism is also important to understand because many of the justifications are religious. States Ignatieff:

From a human rights standpoint, the claim that such inhumanity can be divinely inspired is a piece of nihilism, an inhuman devaluation of the respect owed to all persons, and moreover a piece of hubris, since, by definition, human beings have no access to divine intentions, whatever they may be.

Positive Nihilism In the twenty-first century, humankind is searching for a philosophy to counter destructive, non-pragmatic forms of nihilism. As a middle path,positive nihilism accentuates life-affirmation through a widening of dialogue. Positively stated: [The Philosopher] . . ., having rejected the currently dominant values, must raise other values, by virtue of which life and the universe cannot only be justified but also become endearing and valuable. Rejecting any unworkable table of values, humankind now erects another table with a new ranking of values and new ideals of humanity, society, and state.Positive nihilismin both its rejection of absolute truths and its acceptance of contextual truthsis life-affirming since small-t truths are the best mere mortals can hope to accomplish. Human beings can reach for higher truths; they just do not have the totalizing knowledge required for Absolute Truth. In other words, we are not God, but we are still attempting to be God on a good day. We still need valuesin other words, we are not moral nihilists or absolutistsbut we realize that the human condition is malleable. Values come and go, and we have to be ready to bend them in the right direction in the moment moral courage requires it.

Nihilism does not have to be a dangerous or negative philosophy; it can be a philosophy of freedom. Basically, the entire purpose of positive nihilism is to transform values that no longer work and replace them with values that do. By aiding in a process that finds meaningful values through negotiation,positive nihilism prevents the exclusionary effect of perfectionism, the deceit of nihilistic labelling, as well as the senseless violence of fanatical nihilism. It is at this point that nihilism can enter its life-affirming stage and become a compliment to pluralism, multiculturalism, and the roots of religion, those being love, charity, and compassion.

Source; Professor Stuart Chambers.

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Religion and Nihilism – The African Perspective Magazine

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Seychelles | history – geography | Britannica.com

Posted: August 27, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Alternate Title: Republic of Seychelles

Seychelles

National anthem of Seychelles

Seychelles, island republic in the western Indian Ocean, comprising about 115 islands. The islands are home to lush tropical vegetation, beautiful beaches, and a wide variety of marine life. Situated between latitudes 4 and 11 S and longitudes 46 and 56 E, the major islands of Seychelles are located about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) east of Kenya and about 700 miles (1,100 km) northeast of Madagascar. The capital, Victoria, is situated on the island of Mah.

Seychelles, one of the worlds smallest countries, is composed of two main island groups: the Mah group of more than 40 central, mountainous granitic islands and a second group of more than 70 outer, flat, coralline islands. The islands of the Mah group are rocky and typically have a narrow coastal strip and a central range of hills. The overall aspect of those islands, with their lush tropical vegetation, is that of high hanging gardens overlooking silver-white beaches and clear lagoons. The highest point in Seychelles, Morne Seychellois (2,969 feet [905 metres]), situated on Mah, is located within this mountainous island group. The coralline islands, rising only a few feet above sea level, are flat with elevated coral reefs at different stages of formation. These islands are largely waterless, and very few have a resident population.

The climate is tropical oceanic, with little temperature variation during the year. Daily temperatures rise to the mid-80s F (low 30s C) in the afternoon and fall to the low 70s F (low 20s C) at night. Precipitation levels vary greatly from island to island; on Mah, annual precipitation ranges from 90 inches (2,300 mm) at sea level to 140 inches (3,560 mm) on the mountain slopes. Humidity is persistently high but is ameliorated somewhat in locations windward of the prevailing southeast trade winds.

Of the roughly 200 plant species found in Seychelles, some 80 are unique to the islands, including screw pines (see pandanus), several varieties of jellyfish trees, latanier palms, the bois rouge, the bois de fer, Wrights gardenia, and the most famous, the coco de mer. The coco de merwhich is found on only two islandsproduces a fruit that is one of the largest and heaviest known and is valued by a number of Asian cultures for believed aphrodisiac, medicinal, mystic, and other properties. The Seychellois government closely monitors the quantity and status of the trees, and, although commerce is regulated to prevent overharvesting, poaching is a concern.

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Wildlife includes a remarkably diverse array of marine life, including more than 900 identified species of fish; green sea turtles and giant tortoises also inhabit the islands. Endemic species include birds such as Seychelles bulbuls and cave-dwelling Seychelles swiftlets; several species of local tree frogs, snails, and wormlike caecilians; Seychelles wolf snakes and house snakes; tiger chameleons; and others. Endemic mammals are few; both fruit bats (Pteropus seychellensis) and Seychelles sheath-tailed bats (Coleura seychellensis) are endemic to the islands. Indian mynahs, barn owls, and tenrecs (small shrewlike or hedgehoglike mammals introduced from Madagascar) are also found.

Considerable efforts have been made to preserve the islands marked biodiversity. Seychelles government has established several nature preserves and marine parks, including the Aldabra Islands and Valle de Mai National Park, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Aldabra Islands, a large atoll, are the site of a preserve inhabited by tens of thousands of giant tortoises, the worlds oldest living creatures, which government conservation efforts have helped rescue from the brink of extinction. Valle de Mai National Park is the only place where all six of the palm species endemic to Seychelles, including the coco de mer, may be found together. Cousin Island is home to a sanctuary for land birds, many endemic to the islands, including the Seychelles sunbird (a type of hummingbird) and the Seychelles brush warbler. The nearby Cousine Island is part private resort and part nature preserve, noted for its sea turtles, giant tortoises, and assorted land birds. Bird Island is the breeding ground for millions of terns, turtle doves, shearwaters, frigate birds, and other seabirds that flock there each year.

The original French colonists on the previously uninhabited islands, along with their black slaves, were joined in the 19th century by deportees from France. Asians from China, India, and Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) arrived later in smaller numbers. Widespread intermarriage has resulted in a population of mixed descent.

Creole, also called Seselwa, is the mother tongue of most Seychellois. Under the constitution, Creole, English, and French are recognized as national languages.

More than four-fifths of the population are Roman Catholics. There are also Anglicans, Christians of other denominations, Hindus, and Muslims.

More than four-fifths of the population live on Mah, many of them in the capital city, Victoria. The birth and death rates, as well as the annual population growth rate, are below the global average. Some one-fourth of the population are younger than age 15, and about one-half are under age 30. Life expectancy for both men and women is significantly higher than the global average.

Seychelles has a mixed, developing economy that is heavily dependent upon the service sector in general and the tourism industry in particular. Despite continued visible trade deficits, the economy has experienced steady growth. The gross domestic product (GDP) is growing more rapidly than the population. The gross national income (GNI) per capita is significantly higher than those found in most nearby continental African countries.

Agriculture accounts for only a fraction of the GDP and employs an equally modest proportion of the workforce. Arable land is limited and the soil is generally poorand the country remains dependent upon imported foodstuffsbut copra (from coconuts), cinnamon bark, vanilla, tea, limes, and essential oils are exported. Seychelles has a modern fishing industry that supplies both domestic and foreign markets; canned tuna is a particularly important product. The extraction of guano for export is also an established economic activity.

The countrys growing manufacturing sectorwhich has expanded to account for almost one-sixth of the total GDPis composed largely of food-processing plants; production of alcoholic beverages and of soft drinks is particularly significant. Animal feed, paint, and other goods are also produced.

Seychelles sizable trade deficit is offset by income from the tourism industry and from aid and investment. Although the countrys relative prosperity has not made it a preferred aid recipient, it does receive assistance from the World Bank, the European Union, the African Development Bank, and a variety of contributing countries, and aid obtained per capita is relatively high. The Central Bank of Seychelles, located in Victoria, issues the official currency, the Seychelles rupee.

Seychelles main imports are petroleum products, machinery, and foodstuffs. Canned tuna, copra, frozen fish, and cinnamon are the most important exports, together with the reexport of petroleum products. Significant trade partners include France, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Germany.

The service sector accounts for nearly four-fifths of the GDP and employs the largest proportion of the workforce, almost three-fourths of all labourers. After the opening of an international airport on Mah in 1971, the tourism industry grew rapidly, and at the beginning of the 21st century it provided almost one-fourth of the total GDP. Each year Seychelles draws thousands of tourists, many attracted by the islands magnificent venues for scuba diving, surfing, windsurfing, fishing, swimming, and sunbathing. The warm southeasterly trade winds offer ideal conditions for sailing, and the waters around Mah and the other islands are afloat with small boats.

The majority of Seychelles roadways are paved, most of which are on the islands of Mah and Praslin; there are no railroads. Ferry services operate between the islandsfor example, linking Victoria with destinations that include Praslin and La Digue. Air service is centred on Seychelles International Airport, located near Victoria on Mah, and the smaller airports and airstrips found on several islands. Seychelles has air connections with a number of foreign cities and direct flights to major centres that include London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, and Bangkok. Scheduled domestic flights, provided by Air Seychelles, chiefly offer service between Mah and Praslin, although chartered flights elsewhere are also available. The tsunami that reached Seychelles in 2004 damaged portions of the transportation infrastructure, including the road linking Victoria with the international airport.

Telecommunications infrastructure in Seychelles is quite developed. The country has a high rate of cellular telephone useamong the highest in sub-Saharan Africaand, at the beginning of the 21st century, the use of personal computers in Seychelles was several times the average for the region.

Under the 1993 constitution, Seychelles is a republic. The head of state and government is the president, who is directly elected by popular vote and may hold office for up to three consecutive five-year terms. Members of the National Assembly serve five-year terms. A majority of the available National Assembly seats are filled by direct election; a smaller portion are distributed on a proportional basis to those parties that win a minimum of one-tenth of the vote. The president appoints a Council of Ministers, which acts as an advisory body. The country is divided into more than 20 administrative divisions.

The Seychellois judiciary includes a Court of Appeal, a Supreme Court, and Magistrates Courts; the Constitutional Court is a branch of the Supreme Court.

Suffrage is universal; Seychellois are eligible to vote at age 17. Women participate actively in the government of the country and have held numerous posts, including positions in the cabinet and a proportion of seats in the National Assembly.

The Peoples Party (formerly the Seychelles Peoples Progressive Front) was the sole legal party from 1978 until 1991. It is still the countrys primary political party, but other parties are also active in Seychellois politics, including the New Democratic Party (formerly the Seychelles Democratic Party), the Seychelles National Party, and the Seychelles Movement for Democracy.

Seychelles defense forces are made up of an army, a coast guard (including naval and airborne wings), and a national guard. There is no conscription; military service is voluntary, and individuals are generally eligible at age 18 (although younger individuals may serve with parental consent).

In general, homes play a highly visible part in maintaining traditional Seychellois life. Many old colonial houses are well preserved, although corrugated iron roofs have generally replaced the indigenous palm thatch. Groups tend to gather on the verandahs of their houses, which are generally recognized as social centres.

The basis of the school system is a free, compulsory, 10-year public school education. Education standards have risen steadily, and nearly all children of primary-school age attend school. The countrys first university, the University of Seychelles, began accepting students in 2009. The literacy rate in Seychelles is significantly higher than the regional and global averages for both men and women.

Seychellois culture has been shaped by a combination of European, African, and Asian influences. The main European influence is French, recognizable in Seselwa, the Creole language that is the lingua franca of the islands, and in Seychellois food and religion; the French introduced Roman Catholicism, the religion of the majority of the islanders. African influence is revealed in local music and dance as well as in Seselwa. Asian elements are evident in the islands cuisine but are particularly dominant in business and trade.

Holidays observed in Seychelles include Liberation Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the 1977 coup, on June 5; National Day, June 18; Independence Day, June 29; the Feast of the Assumption, August 15; All Saints Day, November 1; the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8; and Christmas, December 25.

Because of the exorbitant expense of the large and lavish wedding receptions that are part of Seychellois tradition, many couples never marry; instead, they may choose to live en mnage, achieving a de facto union by cohabitating without marriage. There is little or no social stigma related to living en mnage, and the arrangement is recognized by the couples family and friends. The instance of couples living en mnage increases particularly among lower income groups.

Dance plays an important role in Seychellois society. Both the sga and the moutya, two of the most famous dances performed in Seychelles, mirror traditional African customs. The sensual dances blend religion and social relations, two elements central to African life. The complicated and compelling dance movements were traditionally carried out under moonlight to the beat of African drums. Dances were once regular events in village halls, but these have largely died out in recent years; now dances take place in modern nightclubs.

Seychellois enjoy participating in and watching several team sports. The national stadium, located in Victoria, offers a year-round program of events. Mens and womens volleyball are popular, and several Seychellois players and referees participate at the international level. Football (soccer) is also a favourite, and Seychellois teams frequently travel to East Africa and India to play in exhibition matches and tournaments. The Seychelles national Olympic committee was established in 1979 and was recognized that year by the International Olympic Committee. The country made its official Olympic debut at the 1980 Moscow Games, but its first Olympic athlete was Henri Dauban de Silhouette, who competed for Great Britain in the javelin throw at the 1924 Paris Games.

Much of the countrys radio, television, and print media is under government control. There are several independent publications, including Seychelles Weekly and Vizyon.

The islands were known by traders from the Persian Gulf centuries ago, but the first recorded landing on the uninhabited Seychelles was made in 1609 by an expedition of the British East India Company. The archipelago was explored by the Frenchman Lazare Picault in 1742 and 1744 and was formally annexed to France in 1756. The archipelago was named Schelles, later changed by the British to Seychelles. War between France and Britain led to the surrender of the archipelago to the British in 1810, and it was formally ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. The abolition of slavery in the 1830s deprived the islands European colonists of their labour force and compelled them to switch from raising cotton and grains to cultivating less-labour-intensive crops such as coconut, vanilla, and cinnamon. In 1903 Seychellesuntil that time administered as a dependency of Mauritiusbecame a separate British crown colony. A Legislative Council with elected members was introduced in 1948.

In 1963 the United States leased an area on the main island, Mah, and built an air force satellite tracking station there; this brought regular air travel to Seychelles for the first time, in the form of a weekly seaplane shuttle that operated from Mombasa, Kenya.

In 1970 Seychelles obtained a new constitution, universal adult suffrage, and a governing council with an elected majority. Self-government was granted in 1975 and independence in 1976, within the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1975 a coalition government was formed with James R. Mancham as president and France-Albert Ren as prime minister. In 1977, while Mancham was abroad, Ren became president in a coup dtat led by the Seychelles Peoples United Party (later restyled the Seychelles Peoples Progressive Front [SPPF], from 2009 the Peoples Party [Parti Lepep]).

In 1979 a new constitution transformed Seychelles into a one-party socialist state, with Rens SPPF designated the only legal party. This change was not popular with many Seychellois, and during the 1980s there were several coup attempts. Faced with mounting pressure from the countrys primary sources of foreign aid, Rens administration began moving toward more democratic rule in the early 1990s, with the return of multiparty politics and the promulgation of a new constitution. The country also gradually abandoned its socialist economy and began to follow market-based economic strategies by privatizing most parastatal companies, encouraging foreign investment, and focusing efforts on marketing Seychelles as an offshore business and financial hub. As Seychelles entered the 21st century, the SPPF continued to dominate the political scene. After the return of multiparty elections, Ren was reelected three times before eventually resigning in April 2004 to allow Vice Pres. James Michel to succeed him as president.

In late 2004 some of the islands were hit by a tsunami, which severely damaged the environment and the countrys economy. The economy was an important topic in the campaigning leading up to the presidential election of 2006, in which Michel emerged with a narrow victory to win his first elected term. He was reelected in 2011. One of Michels ongoing concerns was piracy in the Indian Ocean, which had surged since 2009 and threatened the countrys fishing and tourism industries. To that end, the Seychellois government worked with several other countries and international organizations to curb the illegal activity.

In October 2015 Michel called for an early presidential election, rather than wait until it was due in 2016. Michel was standing for his third term, again representing the Peoples Party. The election was held December 35, 2015. For the first time since the return of multiparty politics in 1993, the Peoples Partys candidate did not win outright in the first round of voting. Michel garnered 47.76 percent of the vote; his nearest challenger was Wavel Ramkalawan of the Seychelles National Party (SNP), who took 33.93 percent. Ramkalawan was an Anglican priest who was the leader of the SNP and had run for president in previous elections. The runoff election was held December 1618. On December 19 Michel was declared the winner by a very narrow margin, taking 50.15 percent of the vote, with only 193 votes between him and Ramkalawan. Michel was quickly sworn in the next day for his third term. Ramkalawan voiced allegations of voting irregularities and asked for a recount.

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Alternative Medicine | Glaucoma Research Foundation

Posted: August 21, 2016 at 11:12 am

Alternative medicine may be defined as non-standard, unconventional treatments for glaucoma.

Use of alternative medicine continues to increase, although it must be noted that some of these treatment alternatives have no proven clinical effect.

Regular exercise and relaxation techniques can be beneficial for lowering eye pressure and may have a positive impact on your overall health and other glaucoma risk factors including high blood pressure.

Always talk to your doctor before starting any alternative therapies.

Proponents of homeopathic medicine believe that symptoms represent the bodys attack against disease, and that substances which induce the symptoms of a particular disease or diseases can help the body ward off illness.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not tested homeopathic remedies for safety or effectiveness. There is no guarantee that they contain consistent ingredients, or that dosage recommendations are accurate. It would be a mistake to use homeopathic remedies and dismiss valid therapies, delaying proven treatment for serious conditions.

Holistic medicine is a system of health care designed to assist individuals in harmonizing mind, body, and spirit. Some of the more popular therapies include good nutrition, physical exercise, and self-regulation techniques including meditation, biofeedback and relaxation training. While holistic treatments can be part of a good physical regimen, there is no proof of their usefulness in glaucoma therapy.

No conclusive studies prove a connection between specific foods and glaucoma, but it is reasonable to assume that what you eat and drink and your general health have an effect on the disease.

Some studies have shown that significant caffeine intake over a short time can slightly elevate intraocular eye pressure (IOP) for one to three hours. However, other studies indicate that caffeine has no meaningful impact on IOP. To be safe, people with glaucoma are advised to limit their caffeine intake to moderate levels.

Studies have also shown that as many as 80% of people with glaucoma who consume an entire quart of water over the course of twenty minutes experience elevated IOP, as compared to only 20% of people who dont have glaucoma. Since many commercial diet programs stress the importance of drinking at least eight glasses of water each day, to be safe, people with glaucoma are encouraged to consume water in small amounts throughout the day.

The ideal way to ensure a proper supply of essential vitamins and minerals is by eating a balanced diet. If you are concerned about your own diet, you may want to consult with your doctor about taking a mulitvitamin or multimineral nutritional supplement.

Some of the vitamins and minerals important to the eye include zinc and copper, antioxidant vitamins C, E, and A (as beta carotene), and selenium, an antioxidant mineral.

An extract of the European blueberry, bilberry is available through the mail and in some health food stores. It is most often advertised as an antioxidant eye health supplement that advocates claim can protect and strengthen the capillary walls of the eyes, and thus is especially effective in protecting against glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration. There is some data indicating that bilberry may improve night vision and recovery time from glare, but there is no evidence that it is effective in the treatment or prevention of glaucoma.

There is some evidence suggesting that regular exercise can reduce eye pressure on its own, and can also have a positive impact on other glaucoma risk factors including diabetes and high blood pressure.

In a recent study, people with glaucoma who exercised regularly for three months reduced their IOPs an average of 20%. These people rode stationary bikes 4 times per week for 40 minutes. Measurable improvements in eye pressure and physical conditioning were seen at the end of three months. These beneficial effects were maintained by continuing to exercise at least three times per week; lowered IOP was lost if exercise was stopped for more than two weeks.

In an ongoing study, glaucoma patients who walked briskly 4 times per week for 40 minutes were able to lower their IOP enough to eliminate the need for beta blockers. Final results are not available, but there is hope that glaucoma patients with extremely high IOP who maintain an exercise schedule and continue beta-blocker therapy could significantly reduce their IOP.

Regular exercise may be a useful addition to the prevention of visual loss from glaucoma, but only your eye doctor can assess the effects of exercise on your eye pressure. Some forms of glaucoma (such as closed-angle) are not responsive to the effects of exercise, and other forms of glaucoma (for example, pigmentary glaucoma) may actually develop a temporary increase in IOP after vigorous exercise. And remember — exercise cannot replace medications or doctor visits!

The long-term effects of repeatedly assuming a head-down or inverted position on the optic nerve head (the nerve that carries visual images to the brain) have not been adequately demonstrated, but due to the potential for increased IOP, people with glaucoma should be careful about these kinds of exercises.

Glaucoma patients should let their doctors know if yoga shoulder and headstands or any other recreational body inversion exercises that result in head-down or inverted postures over extended periods of time are part of their exercise routines.

The results of studies regarding changes in IOP following relaxation and biofeedback sessions have generated some optimism in controlling selected cases of open-angle glaucoma, but further research is needed.

However, findings that reduced blood pressure and heart rate can be achieved with relaxation and biofeedback techniques show promise that non-medicinal and non-surgical techniques may be effective methods of treating and controlling open-angle glaucoma.

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UK offshore becoming safer, report finds – Offshore

Posted: August 12, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Offshore staff

LONDON There were no reported fatalities on the UK continental shelf (UKCS) last year, according to the 2016 Oil & Gas UK Health & Safety Report.

Reportable injury rates for the offshore oil and gas industry were also lower than other industries such as manufacturing, construction, retail and education, while the lost time injury frequency rate on the UKCS was below the European average and lower than in Norway, Denmark, and Ireland.

Also down was the number of dangerous occurrences, including fires or explosions, dropped objects and weather damage, with incidents down by 30% between 2013 and 2015.

One exception was oil and gas releases which rose slightly – the majority were minor, while major releases remained the same.

The increase in minor releases may be down to the fact that operators are increasingly using technology that helps detect the smallest of escapes. In addition, new reporting criteria came into effect during the second half of 2015 that included releases not deemed reportable under previous legislation.

The report said the industry has worked hard to reverse the increase in its safety-critical maintenance backlog.

Mick Borwell, health, safety and environment policy director at Oil & Gas UK, said: This is a testing time for the industry and our commitment to safety has at times been questioned. However, our report demonstrates that safe operations continue to be intrinsic to how we go about our activities on the UK continental shelf, regardless of the oil price.

It shows that the UK sector is focusing in the right areas and overall is heading in the right direction. The report is also a reminder that there is no place for compromise or complacency and that safety must remain at the top of our agenda.

08/08/2016

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Life Extension – Page 1 – Health Food Emporium

Posted: at 2:38 pm

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The Life Extension Foundation was the first organization to defy the FDA by promoting the use of antioxidant vitamins to maintain health.

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NATO history

Posted: July 31, 2016 at 5:44 am

It is often said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union. This is only partially true. In fact, the Alliances creation was part of a broader effort to serve three purposes: deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration. Read the full story

A series of 6 lectures on the history of the Atlantic Alliance by Dr. Jamie P. Shea. Take a history lesson

Since the 1950’s these posters, cards, and calendars have adorned the walls and the desks inside the Headquarters. Historical posters

American general Dwight David Eisenhower was named Supreme Commander Allied Forces Europe (SACEUR) in December 1950. Eisenhower had lead the Allied armies in the Second World War and several of his key subordinate commanders served under him once again. In NATOs earliest days, those who had won the war were given the task of securing the peace. Eisenhower stepped down as SACEUR on 31 May 1952, to launch his successful campaign for the American Presidency.

Interesting anecdotes about NATO

Use your mouse to scroll through the decades and click on a NATO star to find out more about an event including links to photos and documents.

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Space Travel and Exploration

Posted: July 25, 2016 at 3:56 pm

NASA Establishes Institute to Explore New Ways to Protect Astronauts 20 New Countries to Invest in Space Programs by 2025 NASA, USAID Open Environmental Monitoring Hub in West Africa Russia, US Discuss Lunar Station for Mars Mission Dark Matter Particle Remains Elusive NASA Seeks Picometer Accuracy For Webb Telescope Return to the underwater Space Station .. A decade of plant biology in space On this day 10 years ago, Space Shuttle Discovery was launched to the International Space Station carrying ESA’s European Modular Cultivation System – a miniature greenhouse to probe how plants grow … more .. Mathematical framework prioritizes key patterns to accelerate scientific discovery Networks are mathematical representations to explore and understand diverse, complex systems-everything from military logistics and global finance to air traffic, social media, and the biological pr … more .. Exploring inner space for outer space An international team of six astronauts from China, Japan, USA, Spain and Russia have descended into the caves of Sardinia, Italy, to explore the depths and train for life in outer space. One of the … more .. Quantum technologies to revolutionize 21st century Is quantum technology the future of the 21st century? On the occasion of the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, this is the key question to be explored today in a panel discussion with the Nobel La … more .. Blue Origin has fourth successful rocket booster landing US space firm Blue Origin conducted a successful fourth test Sunday of its reusable New Shepard rocket, which dropped back to Earth for a flawless upright landing seen on a live webcast. … more .. TED Talks aim for wider global reach TED Talks, known for “ideas worth spreading,” are aiming for a wider global audience with a new mobile application that can be used in two dozen languages. … more .. Disney brings its brand to Shanghai with new theme park Entertainment giant Disney brings the ultimate American cultural concept to Communist-ruled China on Thursday, opening a massive theme park in Shanghai catering to a rising middle class. … more .. Tech, beauty intersect in Silicon Valley The beauty industry has long relied on creating a sense of mystery, magic even, around its creams, powders and potions. But now it has something else up its sleeve: high technology. … more

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U.S. Mission to NATO

Posted: July 21, 2016 at 2:09 am

11 July | Key Documents, NATO Summits

Warsaw Declaration on Transatlantic Security Warsaw Summit Communiqu NATO-EU Joint Declaration Commitment to Enhance Resilience Cyber Defense Pledge NATO Policy for the Protection of Civilians

10 July | Fact Sheets, U.S. & NATO

FACT SHEET: U.S. and NATO Efforts in Support of NATO Partners, including Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova From The White House The United States strongly

10 July | Fact Sheets, U.S. & NATO

FACT SHEET: U.S. Contributions to Enhancing Allied Resilience From The White House At the NATO Warsaw Summit, heads of state and government will commit their

9 July | NATO Summits, President Barack Obama, Speeches, Transcripts

Remarks by President Obama at Press Conference After NATO Summit July 9,2016 PRESIDENT OBAMA:Good evening, everybody. Once again, I want to thank the government and

9 July | Key Documents, NATO Summits

Joint statement of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the Level of Heads of State and Government We, the Heads of State and Government of the

9 July | Key Documents, NATO Summits

The Warsaw Declaration on Transatlantic Security Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Warsaw

9 July | Key Documents, NATO Summits

Endorsed by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Warsaw 8-9 July 2016 I. INTRODUCTION 1.

9 July | Key Documents, NATO Summits

Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Warsaw 8-9 July 2016 1. We, the

9 July | Fact Sheets

FACT SHEET: NATOs Enduring Commitment to Afghanistan From The White House NATOs mission in Afghanistan has been the Alliances largest and one of its

9 July | NATO Summits, Speeches

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Opening Remarks Following the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the Level of Heads of State and Government in

9 July | Key Documents, NATO Summits

Issued by the Heads of State and Government of Afghanistan and Alliesand their Resolute Support Operational Partners We, the Heads of State and Government of

8 July | Key Documents, NATO Summits

Cyber Defence Pledge 1. In recognition of the new realities of security threats to NATO, we, the Allied Heads of State and Government, pledge to

8 July | Key Documents, NATO Summits

Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Warsaw, 8-9 July 2016 We, the Heads

8 July | Key Documents, NATO Summits

Joint statement of the NATO-Georgia Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers We, Allied Foreign Ministers and the Foreign Minister of Georgia, met today in

8 July | NATO Summits, Speeches, Transcripts

Press Statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Signing Ceremony of the EU-NATO Joint Declaration Followed by Statements by President Tuskand PresidentJuncker July

8 July | NATO Summits, President Barack Obama, Speeches

Remarks by President Obama, President Tusk of the European Council, and President Juncker of the European Commission After U.S.-EU Meeting July 8, 2016 PRESIDENT OBAMA:

8 July | Cooperative Security, Fact Sheets, U.S. & NATO

FACT SHEET: U.S. Assurance and Deterrence Efforts in Support of NATO Allies From The White House In the last 18 months, the United States

8 July | Key Documents, NATO Summits

Joint Declaration by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

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Liberal Democrat Voice

Posted: July 14, 2016 at 4:35 pm

There is a smell of defeatism in the air, a widespread view that the people have spoken and that we must respect them and accept their verdict. What nonsense! There is nothing sacred about a referendum vote, any more than the result of a General Election. We Lib Dems cannot accept Brexit because it would be a calamity that would undo everything we have always fought for. Furthermore reversing Brexit is not a hopeless cause.

When the time is right, there is every justification for a new referendum. A referendum must offer a clear choice, which the last did not. When Theresa May says Brexit means Brexit, what does Brexit mean? Some Leavers want no more free movement of labour, which means no access to the single market. Others want access, which means the free movement of labour must stay. Indeed with only a very tiny margin in favour of Leave, far more votes were cast for Remain than for each of these two incompatible objectives of the Leave Camps.

A re-run is especially justified if there is a dramatic change in circumstances, such as a massive shift in public opinion. This is very likely. Most economists and every independent expert organization, the IMF, the IFS and the Bank of England, predict a serious recession. Leavers promised a future in the sunny uplands, and lots of new money for the NHS, not more austerity and severe cuts in spending. Now they may be ringing their bells, but soon they will be wringing their hands.

Finally the report from The Committee of Climate Change on fracking has been released and produced some interesting results, raising concerns of the effect of fracking on the UKs climate change targets.

Shale gas production of the UK is not going to be the answer to our energy needs when it comes to meeting our climate change targets. It is now obvious the UK has missed the boat on this payday unless development is done on a huge scale, industrializing vast areas of rural England. The recommended regulations in the report to facilitate the size of expansion needed will never be in place.

The regulations needed to mitigate fugitive emissions are also not financially viable, making the cost of fracking even more expensive. There will always be methane leaks, the industry cannot stop it. The industrys own figures of 2% to 5% expected leakage of methane from exploration, production and the supporting infrastructure needed, will put the UKs climate change targets in jeopardy.

The report states that UK shale gas production must displace imported gas rather than increasing domestic consumption. Allowing unabated consumption above these levels would not be consistent with the decarbonisation required under the Climate Change Act. Each alternative has an almost identical climate change footprint and the imports are likely to be cheaper. If the government commits to use domestic fracked gas this will drive up energy prices and eventually hit the poorest families in the pocket!

The report does not consider the ongoing technical issues such waste disposal, water pollution, set back distances, community disruption, seismic concerns, industrialisation, etc. etc. etc! It is time for the government to stop bending over for the gas and oil lobbyists and realise they are backing the wrong horse.

A familiar face heads back to Lib Dem HQ. Phil Reilly, the man who wrote Nick Cleggs brilliant resignation speech which inspired 20,000 people to join the party, has been appointed interim Head of Communications following the departure of James Holt to pastures new. Phil has been working for Nick since then including helping Nick with his new book which is coming out in September.

Since the election, hes shared some funny stories on his blog, Blimey OReilly.

The most recent involves his old colleague Mr Holt, who had a bit of a brainwave at the Eastleigh by-election to get Nick Clegg out of the campaign HQ without being harassed by a throng of journalists. I wonder if Boris might consider using the same technique when he leaves home every day although I doubt the same personnel would be as willing to help him.

The entrance to the building was an enormous roll-up, corrugated metal affair, like a huge garage door or the sort of thing you would use to protect a massive off license after hours. The press pack were all expecting the DPM to come out through the smaller front door, built into the roll-up wall, into an open car park, where they could pounce on him like jaguars on a gazelle. So, Holty arranged dozens of activists, some gripping placards and bright orange diamonds, inside the building facing the entrance, like infantry preparing to march into battle.

Behind the advanced guard was Nick Clegg flanked by dozens more activists and, rather conspicuously, a couple of the Metropolitan Polices finest close protection officers.

Mark Easton presented some interesting Brexit expectations polling by ComRes for the BBC last night on the Ten Oclock News. Here are a couple of highlights:

Most Britons think that maintaining access to the single market should be the priority for the Government when negotiating the UKs withdrawal from the EU (66%), while just a third say this of restricting freedom of movement (31%).

The new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, has already helpfully set out his Brexit negotiating positions in a speech to the Institute of Chartered Engineers in March (carried in full on his website). He has also more recently written a detailed article on the subject on Conservative Home.

The Federal Policy Committee is traditionally very busy in the immediate run-up to the summer holiday. That is because of conference deadlines and the need to get everything concluded before August when a lot of people are away.

The most recent meeting of the committee, which came hot on the heels of the last one, was on 13th July 2016. It also happened to be the day that Labour plunged further into disarray following the revelation that Jeremy Corbyn will appear on the ballot paper in their leadership election and, of course, the country had a new Prime Minister foisted upon it.

As we were going through the meeting, government announcements were being about new Cabinet members. We paused several time for a collective intake of breath.

There was a lot to discuss. We did not finish until some time after 9pm.

Gareth Epps has resigned from the committee because he has taken a job that is politically restricted. Gareth has been a very active member of FPC for a long time and he will certainly be missed from the committee. We were, however, delighted to welcome Antony Hook as his replacement.

The committee agreed the chairs, membership, and remits of three new working groups. Each of those groups was recommended by the Agenda 2020 exercise.

The first of these was education. The remit requires the group to identify proposals for new policy in Education in England. The group is particularly to be directed to identify policies which could be strong campaigning issues within education, reinforcing our overall liberal vision of creating opportunity for everyone regardless of background. The group is also expected to consider and address Liberal Democrat principles on diversity and equalities in developing their proposals. It will deal with the overall principles of education, Early Years, funding, structures, academies, governors, standards and inspections, quality, teacher recruitment, closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students, school and the world of work, Further Education and adult education. It will not deal with Higher Education.

The chair is to be Lucy Nethsingha. The membership of the group was appointed. It is fair to say that there was very strong competition for places. In fact, we had over 830 applications for the working groups.

It does seem that the news over the past fortnight or so has been dominated by people saying goodbye to spend more time with their families or whatever. In some cases, they will be more missed than in others, and, on this occasion, it is time to mark the retirement from the House of Lords of our longtime spokesperson on Universities, Baroness (Margaret) Sharp of Guildford, who has decided to take up the option to retire at the still relatively spritely age of 77.

Margaret is another of those whose work over many years led to a triumph celebrated by others, in that it was her success in reducing the Conservative majority in Guildford from over 20,000 to a rather more slender 4,500 that helped Sue Doughty to her famous success in 2001.

An economist of some regard, Margaret taught at the London School of Economics, as well as working in the National Economic Development Office in the 1970s, before becoming politically active with the onset of the Social Democrats.

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Liberal Democrat Voice

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