• RISE Conference returns to Hong Kong for five consecutive years

    The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) and Web Summit announced that RISE, "one of the world's most influential tech events", will return to Hong Kong in March 2022, as an in-person event. This highlights Hong Kong's thriving start-up economy, leading position in innovation and technology, as well as its status as The World's Meeting Place for business events to tap tremendous opportunities in the region.

    RISE was launched in Hong Kong in 2015 and has already hosted five successful events, becoming Asia's largest tech event, according to CNBC.

  • Royal Piano Restorer & Conservator to The Queen to Sell His Personal Collection of Rare Pianos

    Dreweatts auctioneers is to thrilled to offer the private collection of David Winston, Restorer and Conservator of Pianos to HM the Queen. The collection includes 26 exceptionally rare and important pianos dating from the 18th century to present day. This landmark sale will take place on Thursday, September 23rd, 2021.

    Amongst those expected to achieve the highest bids is a rare 1925 Pleyel grand piano fitted with an original ‘Auto Pleyela’ self-playing mechanism, in a spectacular Chinoiserie Louis XV case (estimate £40,000-£60,000) and a remarkable double piano from Pleyel, which is one of only 50 ever made. This model, which has a guide price of £40,000-£60,000, was once owned by the concert pianist wife of French writer and minister of culture André Malraux. 

  • Royal wedding of Yusuf Buhari and Zahra brings glitz and glamour to Nigeria

    Private jets filled the runway of the airport in the northern Nigerian city of Kano as members of Nigeria's elite and West African dignitaries flew in for the wedding of the president's son and the daughter of a prominent religious and traditional leader.

    The marriage of Yusuf Buhari to Zahra Nasir Bayero is one of Nigeria's biggest celebrity events of the year. Thousands attended the event at the palace of the Emir of Bichi, a town in Kano state.

  • Safe Festivities Announced For 2021 Edition of St. John Celebration

    The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism’s Division of Festivals will feature two events for this year’s St. John Celebration on July 3 and 4, 2021.

  • San Lucas Island becomes Costa Rica’s 30th national park

    Costa Rica has recently welcomed its 30th national park: San Lucas Island, located off the Pacific coast of the Gulf of Nicoya. The purpose of the new park is to develop sustainable tourism as well as contributing to the socio-economic development of the area. Costa Rica’s protected areas now encompass more than 28% of its land mass.

    Previously a Wildlife Refuge, San Lucas Island National Park is made up of both land and coastal areas and covers 1.8 square miles. Howler monkeys, spiders, snakes, deer and pheasants are some of the wildlife that can be found on the island.

    With an investment of over £224,000, the new national park now features new trails, toilets, water and electricity systems and 24-hour surveillance. Over 50 tourist guides have been trained to show the historical island, which served as a prison until 1991.

    San Lucas Island is easily accessible by a 40-minute boat ride from the city of Puntarenas, located 60 miles away from San José, Costa Rica’s capital city.

    A joint effort between the public and private sectors, San Lucas Island National Park is part of the objectives of the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) of developing new tourism products to encourage visitors to discover the country’s hidden gems.

    Gustavo Segura Sancho, Costa Rica’s Tourism Minister, said: “San Lucas Island is part of Costa Rica’s history and heritage, so we are very pleased to re-open it as the country’s 30th national park. It will greatly surprise visitors looking for quieter spots when on holiday”.

    San Lucas Island is the second national park in the region of Puntarenas - the first being Coco Island National Park. The last protected area that was declared a national park was in July 2019, when Miravalles Volcano National Park-Jorge Manuel Dengo became Costa Rica’s 29th national park.


  • SCALA Consulting partners with FareShare to help feed the nation

    International supply chain and logistics consultancy SCALA has partnered with food redistribution charity FareShare to assist the organisation with its logistics strategy.  

    Through the partnership, SCALA has supported FareShare on a wide range of complex issues, such as how the charity could manage the major increase in received food volumes over the past year as well as how the not-for-profit can manage the volumes that are anticipated to grow in the future. FareShare’s team of 2000 volunteers has distributed the equivalent of 132 million meals with a value to the charities it serves of £18 million in the last year.  

    FareShare is the UK’s largest food redistribution charity, with more than 30 warehouses across the UK. The charity takes food from the food industry that cannot be sold in shops because of packaging errors, short shelf life, or overproduction and redistributes it through a network of over 11,000 frontline organisations, including homeless hostels, school breakfast clubs, domestic violence refuges, older people’s lunch clubs, food banks, and hospices.  

    SCALA has assisted FareShare by analysing the efficiency of the organisation’s entire supply chain strategy.

    The challenges that SCALA had to take into consideration for this strategy included, the difficulties for FareShare in forecasting volumes; the need to be extremely responsive and agile and dealing with the variety of products the charity distributes including frozen, ambient and chilled goods. Furthermore, the business also had to take into account the need to minimise any food waste within the FareShare network, by rapidly moving donations to charities right across the country.

    FareShare has more than doubled its work since the pandemic, providing the equivalent of more than two million meals a week to people who struggle to get enough to eat. 

    Dave Howorth, executive director at SCALA said: “FareShare operates in a highly challenging logistics environment, particularly with the many unknowns around supply and the need for extreme responsiveness to minimise food waste and maximise the availability of food to those in need. 

    “We have been able to work alongside FareShare over the past few months and have supported the organisation in navigating some of these challenges. It’s been great to support FareShare in helping further the organisations’ mission to get food to those that need it across the UK.” 

    Head of food at FareShare Jo Dyson,  said: “We are delighted to be working with SCALA and really appreciate their support for FareShare. They have really taken the time to understand us, both as a charity with scarce resources and in terms of the additional challenges that come from managing surplus products where the supply chain is so much harder to predict. They have provided us with independent expertise and good insights as to how we should progress, and they are continuing to help us on our mission.” 

  • Scenic launches two new tours with the release of its Canada, Alaska and United States 2022/23 collection

    Luxury land journey operator, Scenic, has today unveiled two new itineraries with the release of its Canada, Alaska and United States 2022/23 collection. The 23-day America’s National Parks and Rockies to the Red Rocks land tour will take guests on a dream journey from Calgary to Denver. While the 32-day Majestic Rockies & the Colours of Eastern Canada travels from Calgary to Boston, taking in lakes, mountains and cosmopolitan cities along the way.

  • Scientists discover possible explanation for mysterious Takotsubo syndrome

    Two molecules linked to increased stress levels play a key role in the development of Takotsubo syndrome, sometimes known as broken heart syndrome, according to research funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and published in Cardiovascular Research.Researchers from Imperial College London found that increased levels of microRNAs -16 and -26a (small molecules that regulate how your genes are decoded) increase the chance of suffering from Takotsubo syndrome. 

    These molecules have been previously detected in the blood of Takotsubo syndrome patients, but it was not known until now if they were involved in development of the disease. Takotsubo syndrome is a sudden form of acute heart failure which is estimated to affect around 2,500 people in the UK each year, and is mainly seen in post-menopausal women. It can cause the same symptoms as a heart attack, and although the coronary arteries are not blocked, the risk of complications is similar to those of an actual heart attack.

    It’s not yet fully understood what causes Takotsubo syndrome, but it is usually brought on by emotional or physical stress such as the loss of a loved one – hence being also known as broken heart syndrome. Sharp rises in adrenaline caused by an acute stress like bereavement are known to be the trigger for a loss of movement in part of the heart wall, which then causes the acute heart failure. There are currently no treatments to prevent a repeat attack, which can occur in these patients.

    The researchers looked at both human and rat heart cells, measuring how they respond to adrenaline after exposure to the two molecules. When researchers looked at heart cells that had been treated with the microRNAs, they saw that the cells were more sensitive to adrenaline and more likely then to develop loss of contraction.

    Takotsubo-like changes were therefore seen at lower levels of adrenaline.

    MicroRNAs -16 and -26a are linked to depression, anxiety and increased stress levels. These new findings could provide a link between long term stress and the dramatic Takotsubo response to a sudden shock.

    In the future, a blood test measuring levels of these molecules could be developed for use in identifying those at risk of an episode of Takotsubo syndrome. The microRNAs could also be used as a potential drug target. 

    Professor Sian Harding, Professor of Cardiac Pharmacology at Imperial College London said: “Takotsubo syndrome is a serious condition, but until now the way it occurs has remained a mystery.

    “We don’t understand why some people respond in this way to a sudden emotional shock while many do not. This study confirms that prior stress, and the microRNAs associated with it, can predispose a person to developing takotsubo syndrome in situations of future stress. 

    “Stress comes in many forms and we need further research to understand these chronic stress processes.”

    Associate Medical Director at British Heart Foundation Professor Metin Avkiran, said: “Takotsubo syndrome is a sudden and potentially catastrophic heart problem but our knowledge about what causes it remains limited. As such, it is vital that we learn more about this neglected condition and develop new ways of preventing and treating it.

    “This research is not only a crucial step towards better understanding of this mysterious disease but also could provide new ways to identify and treat those at risk of Takotsubo. We now need further research determine if drugs that block these microRNAs could be the key to avoiding broken hearts.”

  • Secretary-General will attend CARICOM summit in Barbados to spur speedy climate action

    The Secretary-General will reassure Caribbean leaders that the Commonwealth will keep fighting for bold climate action on the global stage.

    She will attend the inter-sessional conference of heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Barbados this week as a special guest. Of 15 CARICOM members, 12 are in the Commonwealth.

    Secretary-General Patricia Scotland will highlight that despite ambitious pledges, countries are receiving limited funds to improve response to climate change.

    She will also focus on how the climate crisis is destabilising economic growth leading to food insecurity, stressed resources and impaired livelihoods across the Commonwealth.

    As of February 2019, less than a quarter of the $26 billion deposited for climate action has been disbursed, according to Climate Funds Update.

    Patricia Scotland will brief Caribbean leaders on the current Commonwealth initiatives helping the region tackle the effects of climate change and external shocks such as disasters and financial crises. Examples are:

    • The Commonwealth has helped five Caribbean countries access more than $27 million in funds to deal with climate change;
    • All Caribbean member countries use the Commonwealth debt management software to manage their public and publicly guaranteed debt;
    • The Commonwealth supported The Bahamas and Barbados to seek $550,000 each from UN-India fund. The Bahamian project will promote long-term public debt sustainability, which is crucial to achieving development goals. The Barbadian project will help more local suppliers engage with the supply of goods and services
    • A forthcoming Commonwealth portal gives small states 24-hour access to information on key financing options such as loans to better manage the impacts of disasters; and
    • A proposed Universal Vulnerability Index to build a global consensus on defining and assessing countries’ net vulnerability to economic and environmental shocks.

    She said: “The Caribbean is increasingly bearing the brunt of frequent, long-lasting and intense weather patterns. This means that business-as-usual is no longer an option if the region’s beautiful islands and vibrant communities are to flourish and prosper for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.”

    Last October, the Secretary-General visited The Bahamas after a category five storm Hurricane Dorian devastated many of the nation’s islands. The storm claimed 73 lives and caused $3.4 billion in damage.

    She added: “In Abaco, I met life-loving people who once had so much to look forward to yet had little left but debris.

    “We owe it to these people forced to flee their homes and those who lost their entire life savings in a matter of seconds. We cannot afford to wait any longer to tackle the climate crisis.

    “We will use every platform at every occasion to galvanise support for our small island developing states. We must step up urgent global action around the world to keep global warming under 1.5°C. The future of the region relies on this collective action.”

    During her visit, Patricia Scotland will listen to Caribbean leaders and strategise with them as to how the Commonwealth can mobilise more tailored and practical assistance to the region.

    She said: “The Commonwealth has been engaged with CARICOM from the beginning. Our partnership spans over 46 years working together on socio-economic issues and delivering initiatives to advance development in member countries.”

    Secretary-General Scotland will also meet with Caribbean leaders, high commissioners and envoys of the international community.

  • Senator suggests Tinubu as best man to succeed Buhari

    The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has been described as the best candidate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2003. The former Minister of State for Works and Chairman of Southwest Agenda 23 (SWAGA 23) Senator Dayo Adeyeye, stated this on Sunday, when the group paid a courtesy visit to the Palace of the Akarigbo and Paramount Ruler of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi.

    The group paid similar visit to the Asoludero Court, Sagamu residence of the former governor in Ogun state, Gbenga Daniel. Adeyeye, who said the political support group was in the Akarigbo’s Palace to seek his royal blessing towards the official inauguration of the group in Ogun, noted that Tinubu remained the best shot from the south for presidency come 2023.

    Accompanied on the visit by Senators Gbenga Obadara, Soji Akanbi, former Commissioner for Information in Oyo State, Bosun Oladele, secretary of the group, the immediate past Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Suraj Adekunbi, former House of Reps member from Ogun state, Ishiaq Abiodun Akinlade and host of other APC stalwarts across the southwest states, Adeyeye explained the group was formed to garner support for Tinubu’s presidential ambition, not only in the southwest but throughout the country.

    According to him, if the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would follow agreement and zone presidency to the south in 2023, the APC national leader should be put forward and supported by the southeast and south-south. “Tinubu is a good product that doesn’t need any advertisement and he has contributed greatly to the growth and development of the nation. He is consummate democrat and progressive.

    “We have three geo-political zones in the South, and all of them have the right to contest for the presidency. South West is interested to contest for the presidency in 2023. The person who can help us win this ticket is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

    “He has done a lot for Nigerians irrespective of religion and tribe. He has built bridges across the country. We gathered together to start campaigning for him. If we can hold our house together, we will have the presidency back in the southwest, Adeyeye stated. He said the group which had earlier been inaugurated in Oyo and Osun states, will be launched in Ogun, adding ” SWAGA 23 will also be inuagurated in Kogi and Akwa Ibom states soon”.

    Responding, Oba Ajayi pledged his support for the group and offered prayers for the success of Tinubu’s presidential aspiration in 2023. According to him, the entire Remoland will key into the project of ensuring a true and patriotic Nigerian in the calibre of Tinubu to succeed Buhari in 2023.

    On his part, former governor Daniel, noted that for the southwest to move forward as one, there should be unity of purpose. He advised SWAGA 23 not to lose focus and mobilise support beyond the southwest, charging the group to collaborate with similar groups in order to actualise its ambition.

    Daniel further urged the group to be strategic in propagating Tinubu, who according to him has the capacity to lead Nigeria.

  • Serbia’s EXIT Festival the first major European festival to open its gates and reunite with 42,000 visitors on the first day

    Novi Sad based EXIT is the first major festival in Europe to take place this summer, opening its gates on 8 July. This year, the multiple winner of the ‘Best European Major Festival’ award will also celebrate its 20th anniversary. But besides looking back, the organisers are also looking forward to a bright future. A total of 42,000 fans from over 70 countries enjoyed the first night, proving a strong point for the festival industry that they can take place safely and be part of our lives once again in the same way as large sporting events.

    The Serbian event is no stranger to leading the way, being in the frontline of bringing peace and freedom in Serbia and the Balkans two decades ago and is accustomed to organising a festival in difficult circumstances. Thanks to the country’s mass vaccination campaign EXIT (and with it the concept of safe major festivals) once again became a reality last night.

    Dusan Kovacevic, EXIT Founder & CEO said: “I believe this is our destiny. 20 years ago, after all the misery that happened in the Balkans during the 90's, EXIT was a symbol of returning to normal life for the region. And in 2021 EXIT festival is again a sign of normal life after the pandemic, but this time on a global level.”

    “The energy created in the fortress when thousands of us were united again, elevated us to the highest possible level and opened a new dimension of the festival experience. I believe that each of us had to rub our eyes to make sure we’re not dreaming.”

    It was a day of great emotions at the famous Petrovaradin Fortress, as music fans reunited and danced together once again to celebrate life and the return to normality. EXIT’s crowd is as colourful as it gets with over 50% of the 4-day ticket holders coming from abroad, representing more than 70 countries.

    One of the headliners of the first day, Belgian star DJ Charlotte de Witte said: “Reuniting with tens of thousands of fans from all over the world is an emotional occasion. EXIT's mts Dance Arena is one of the most incredible open-air stages in the world and has such an atmosphere, especially in the early hours of the morning, when the sun is rising over the fortress walls. It is truly magical"

    It was her first show in front of a large audience since the pandemic began, as she returned to the fortress after her performance in last year’s EXIT Life Stream. Back then with a restricted capacity of 500 people, now in a full capacity mts Dance Arena.

    In a symbolic moment DJ Snake exclaimed during his headline set on the Main Stage:

    “We are back!”

    Proving the huge need for events like this one, EXIT 4-day tickets were sold out almost 1 week before the event started. The event will have 3 more days to go, finishing tomorrow  (Sunday, July 11).

    Brief summary of Day 1 programs

    This year's EXIT program kicked off with performances from international and regional stars, including DJ Snake (FR) who headlined the Main Stage alongside legendary drum and bass artist Roni Size (GB), the first international headliner of EXIT from 2001, performing with MC Dynamite (GB). Regional artists warmed up the crowd, including Hladno Pivo (HR) and Senidah (SL).

    The mighty mts Dance Arena is considered by many in the e-music world as the best dancefloor on the globe, so once again it was filled with tens of thousands of electronic music worshipers, waiting for the legendary sunrise over the fortress walls which is truly breathtaking. This year did not disappoint with headline sets from Charlotte de Witte (BE) and Amelie Lens (BE) and local stars Tijana T (RS) and Ilija Djokovic (RS).

    The underground sounds of electronic music were showcased on the No Sleep Stage with the likes of Eelke Kleijn (NL), Agents of Time (IT) and Patrice Baumel (DE) with the Fusion stage hosting the best local and regional bands including Fran Palermo (HU), Marko Louis (RS), HEMI award nominees Sajzerbiterlemon (RS) and Helem Nejse (BA).

    4 days of music:

    The complete 4-day program from July 8 to 11 features over 20 stages and zones with an all-star line-up led by David Guetta, DJ Snake, Sabaton, Charlotte de Witte, Paul Kalkbrenner, Solomon, Amelie Lens, Maceo Plex, Robin Schulz, Asaf Avidan, Satori, Boris Brejcha, Honey Dijon, Hot Since 82, Meduza, Paul van Dyk, DJ Topic, Artbat, Sheck Wes and many others.  Live streams can be watched at EXIT’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

    EXIT History:

    The festival was founded in 2000 in the University Park as a student movement, fighting for democracy and freedom in Serbia and the Balkans. After the downfall of the Milosevic regime, EXIT moved to the Petrovaradin Fortress in 2001. Social responsibility is still the key aspect of the festival activities, with the main focus on environmental and humanitarian involvement, the creative industries’ development, as well as regional cooperation. EXIT has been praised by the leading international media as one of the best music festivals in the world. During its 20 years history, EXIT has hosted internationally acclaimed music stars such as The Cure, The Killers, Guns N’ Roses, Franz Ferdinand, Motörhead, Iggy Pop, David Guetta, Massive Attack, Liam Gallagher, Fatboy Slim, Cypress Hill, Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang Clan, The Prodigy, Migos, Sex Pistols, Moby, Arctic Monkeys, Chemical Brothers, Faith No More, LCD Soundsystem, Nick Cave, Jamiroquai, Slayer, Ellie Goulding, Hardwell, Carl Cox, Avicii, Nina Kraviz and many others.

    More info on the festival and the full schedule by day can be found on the festival's official website:https://www.exitfest.org/en/

  • Shocking pictures warn West Midlands of low animal welfare standards in Australia ahead of trade deal

    The RSPCA and its sister charity - RSPCA Australia - have joined forces to warn Brits about the country’s low animal welfare standards.

    As many expect a deal to be signed ahead of the G7 summit this week, chief executive of the Australian charity, Richard Mussell said that standards in Australia ‘fall below’ those in England and were ‘basic at best’. Shockingly, he said the country still uses methods long outlawed in England and that the standards set in the country are rarely audited and are not mandatory.

    New Defra figures reveal that over 26 million livestock animals are based in the West Midlands region - including 677,000 cattle (including 80,000 beef herd cattle) and almost 2.4 million sheep, with the RSPCA particularly concerned about the import of beef and lamb products. A zero-tariff deal with Australia could mean the higher welfare standards of animals farmed in the region and farmers’ livelihoods could be undermined - as it risks sending a signal we are willing to accept cheaper, lower welfare imports from across the globe.

    RSPCA Australia CEO Richard said: “Unfortunately, animal welfare standards in Australia are basic at best. In 2021, we still do not have Australia-wide laws that ban the use of sow stalls in pig production, barren battery cages in egg production or require pain relief for very painful procedures like dehorning of calves and mulesing of lambs.

    “Standards are rarely audited and, unless implemented into law, which few are, they are only voluntary. The lack of national leadership on animal welfare in Australia needs to be addressed urgently if the lives of farm animals are going to be significantly improved.”

    RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: "The West Midlands has a proud farm animal welfare record - with thousands of farms rearing millions of livestock to higher legal English standards, and many going above and beyond that. 

    "But we fear this is all set to be undermined by the signing of a quick trade deal with Australia, which could open the doors in the West Midlands to low welfare imports that undermine our high domestic standards - with beef and lamb a particular concern to us, given Australia's far lower standards. People across the West Midlands will be alarmed to know that local supermarket shelves could soon be stocked with agricultural produce reared to lower standards - including mutilations to sheep and growth hormone treatment for beef.

    "This could lead to a lopsided and unlevel playing field for the agricultural community in the West Midlands, and clearly puts farms and hard-won welfare standards at risk." UK Ministers are being urged to ensure tariff or non-tariff safeguards are included in any FTA with Australia - so only products produced to higher animal welfare standards enter the UK.

    Australian farming involves a number of practices which are outlawed in the UK.

  • Sikh community mark Vaisakhi with online celebrations festivals

    Celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs to mark the beginning of the Hindu solar New Year, people around the world marked Vaisakhi - sometimes called Baisakhi, Vaishakhi, or Vasakhi - and takes place each year in April and is celebrated across the world.

    This year, as before, the festival which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community, the Khalsa, marked the holiest day in the Sikh calendar.

    An ancient festival of Punjabis, it marks the Solar New Year and is also a harvest festival marking the creation of the community of initiated Sikhs. This year, however, religious worships moved online and the practice of offering food was taken out to the community, as people self-isolated and stayed at home.

    With two different elements to Vaisakhi - firstly it refers to the harvest festival in the Punjab region of India, and secondly, it marks the day that Sikhism was born as a collective faith in 1699 – the day is also observed by the farming community of Punjab as a day of giving thanks and paying tribute to God for their abundant harvest and praying for future prosperity.

    Vaisakhi is all about community, progression and celebration and is marked around the world with processions known as a nagar kirtan.

    People often visit temples or gurdwaras on Vaisakhi, were special services take place. The Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, is usually raised on a platform leading parade, to signify its importance.

    In the UK, large-scale events usually take place across the country including performances and gatherings, but due to Covid-19, for a second year running. Events would also usually include performances by Sikh artists, dances, food stalls and more, with smaller community fairs often taking place around the country.

    Some of the commonly prepared dishes during Vaisakhi include:

    ·         Traditional kadhi with besan pakodas dunked in a thick gravy of yogurt

    ·         Meethe Peeley Chawal – basmati rice, cashew nuts, saffron and cinnamon

    ·         Kesar Phirni – a sweet rice pudding with saffron, cardamom, sugar, milk and almonds,

    ·         Mango Lassi – mango, honey, ice and plain yoghurt

    ·         Kada Prasad (Atta Halwa) – wholewheat flour, ghee, sugar and water

    With festivals cancelled amid pandemic, half a million British-Sikhs prepared to mark the Vaisakhi festival under coronavirus lockdown restrictions for the second year running.

  • Slovenia leads in Europe on the 2020 Global Youth Development Index

    Slovenia ranks the highest in Europe on the 2020 Youth Development Index which assesses the state of young people between 2010 and 2018.

    In the top five scoring countries from Europe, Slovenia is followed by Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. The index further reveals that the conditions of young people have improved around the world by 3.1 per cent between 2010 and 2018, but progress remains slow.

  • Social Care students visit China on fact-finding mission

    Seventeen social care students from the University of Wolverhampton were on a trip of a lifetime to China to learn about and experience a range of social care settings in China.

    The students, on Social Care, Public Health, Social Work and Health and Psychology courses, were hosted by Beijing Union University (BUU) as they found out about Chinese culture from an historical and contemporary context and the legal and policy context of social care there, in comparison with the UK.

    Whilst there, they also visited sites including the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

    Senior Lecturer in Social Care, at the University, Dr Martin Partridge, said: “This study tour to Beijing was very successful. Beijing Union University (BUU) was our host University where students experienced mixing with Chinese students while staying in student accommodation.

    “Students were able to gain an understanding of the culture while learning about many aspects of social care and health. Both the lectures and the tour visits were enjoyed by all and evening activities such as KTV-karaoke was a chance to relax and have a bit of fun.”

  • South Africa on the brink of a radical re-think about the future of its wildlife?

    International wildlife charity, the Born Free Foundation, believes Report on lions, rhinos, elephants and leopards signals the end of globally condemned practice of canned lion hunting.

    This weekend, South Africa’s Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, spelled out a new direction for the country and its efforts to conserve some of the world’s most iconic species. Based on the conclusions of the 600 page High Level Panel Report which took on board wide stakeholder evidence and the views of national and international experts, including Born Free, who participated in the 2018 Parliamentary Colloquium on lion farming, the Ministerial Statement sets out a road map for change in the years ahead.

    “South Africa may be standing on the verge of a new, more wildlife-friendly future” comments Will Travers OBE, co-founder and Executive President at Born Free. Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones added “We applaud the Panel and the Minister for seeking to draw a line under an issue that has for so long blighted South Africa’s reputation.”

    There are an estimated 300 lion-breeding facilities in South Africa holding perhaps 10,000 captive-bred lions. Minister Creecy stated: “The High-Level Panel identified that the captive lion breeding industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism, which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly, the negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry, and the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and illegal trade”.

    The use of leopard skins for religious and cultural purposes makes leopard hunting a complex matter to resolve. Restricting the killing of leopards to problem animals, as has been previously proposed, leaves the process open to interpretation and ongoing abuse. Born Free believes that the hunting of leopards, even if it is more narrowly defined, should be halted. Only animals that represent a direct and verifiable threat to human life should be subject to human intervention, with lethal intervention being the last resort.

    Rhino horn trade will undoubtedly dominate the work of the proposed Rhino Committee of Inquiry. However, the issues are clear. Rhino ranchers who wish to sell rhino horn are currently only able to do so legally at national level and this has proved far less lucrative than they had hoped. International rhino horn trade is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endanger Species of Fauna and Flora - and every time proposals have been brought forward to seek approval for limited trade they have, quite rightly, been soundly defeated.

    International law-makers and most conservation experts agree that any easing of the current restrictions is likely to stimulate demand and result in increased poaching pressure on wild rhino populations across Africa and Asia. Born Free hopes that the Rhino Committee of Inquiry will conclude that international trade should not be contemplated, that national sales should once more be prohibited through the introduction of a carefully constructed moratorium which will withstand legal challenge, and that a comprehensive package of financial support should be offered to conservancies with wild rhino to help offset their significant security costs.

    South Africa has consistently aligned itself with the minority of African elephant range countries who seek to relax current rules which prohibit the international sale of ivory. However, that may be about to change with the High Level Panel signalling that South Africa may, at least, wish to significantly pause in its pursuit of ivory sales. The majority of African Elephant Range States, as represented by the African Elephant Coalition, together with wildlife organisations such as Born Free, have long argued that sporadic ‘one off’ ivory sales, or even talk of such sales, fuels speculative poaching which, according to some, accounts for one elephant being poached every 15 minutes.

    At the same time, many destination/consumer countries, including the USA, China, the UK and others, have tightened or all but eliminated domestic sales of ivory, while increasing their law enforcement efforts. It really is time to take speculation about a future, legal, international ivory trade off the table.

    However, it is on lions that the Minister has been most progressive, perhaps in response to not only national but international pressure, informed by films such as the multi-award-winning Blood Lions. The evidence provided by Born Free, amongst others, has made the despicable practice of breeding lions in captivity by the thousand for exploitation and inevitable execution, as part of the canned hunting industry, a truly toxic activity.

    Dr Mark Jones, Born Free’s Head of Policy, stated: “For many years we have called for an end to South Africa’s cruel and cynical predator breeding industry, which breeds thousands of lions and other predators for the sole purpose of generating profits through bogus tourist activities, canned hunting, and the export of lion bones and other products.

    “Our award-winning animation The Bitter Bond, seen by over 11 million people worldwide, helped bring lion breeding and canned hunting to international attention, and resulted in nearly a quarter of a million people signing our petition calling on the South African authorities to bring a humane end to the industry. It seems the authorities have listened to us and the many others who have campaigned on this issue. We applaud the Panel and the Minister for seeking to draw a line under an issue that has for so long blighted South Africa’s reputation.”

    Will Travers, Born Free’s co-founder and Executive President, concluded: “While the issue of trophy hunting remains highly contentious, Minister Creecy has made some brave decisions, but it is important that she is not alone.

    “Born Free and others, with decades of experience in captive animal care and international wildlife trade, stand ready to engage with her directly to offer advice and insights as to how to take matters forward and, in particular, bring the dreadful canned lion hunting industry to a compassionate and humane end. South Africa may be standing on the verge of a new, more wildlife-friendly future.”

  • South Africa President under self-quarantines


    South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa is self-quarantining after a guest at a dinner he attended later tested positive for Covid-19.


    The president is not showing symptoms and will perform his duties remotely, his office said in a statement.


    Mr Ramaphosa is the latest world leader forced to self-quarantine.

    US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are among leaders who have contracted Covid-19.


    South Africa has reported about 720,000 Covd-19 cases and 19,000 fatalities, the highest in Africa. In March, Mr Ramaphosa had imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world to curb the spread of the virus, but later eased restrictions.


    He would be tested "should symptoms manifest", and was currently in self-quarantine, his office said. The president attended a fundraising dinner hosted by the Adopt-a-School Foundation at a hotel in the commercial hub of Johannesburg on Saturday.


    Mr Ramaphosa set up the foundation in 2002 to improve schooling for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. His office said the dinner was attended by 35 guests - one of whom showed symptoms the following day and test results received on Tuesday confirmed he had Covid-19.


    "The event adhered stringently to Covid-19 protocols and directives on screening, social distancing and the wearing of masks. The president himself removed his mask only when dining and addressing the guests," the president's office said.


    The statement did not say where Mr Ramaphosa is quarantining, but South Africans are required to do so at home for 14 days. A maximum of 250 people are currently allowed to gather indoors, but the number must not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue.


    On Tuesday, Mr Ramaphosa said he would update the nation next week after studying the latest reports from health experts. He ruled out the possibility of a return to a hard lockdown, but said he was concerned about people becoming "super spreaders" of the virus because of a lack of adherence to guidelines.


    "We've been reading about reports of how groups of people have gone to various manifestations, it could be meetings, it could be parties, where infections have been reported, where people having gathered together have become super spreaders," Mr Ramaphosa said.


  • South Sudan and IFAD to boost productivity, food security and resilience of small-scale farmers faced with climate change

    A new US$19.9 million project will bring much needed help to 38,800 rural households facing the impacts of poverty, food insecurity and climate change.

  • Spicemas Continues Strong Positive Growth in Arrivals with 7.7% Increase Recorded for 2019

    On the heels of a phenomenal 24.9% growth in arrivals for the 2018 Carnival Season, Grenada records a 7.7% increase in arrivals for the 2019 festival of 13,327 compared to 12,379. This figure is a measure of the visitors and diaspora arriving in the destination, prior to Carnival Monday. Of the 13,327 stayover visitors, 10,505 were tourists and 2,822 were Grenadians residing abroad. Part of this growth is attributed to additional airlift including 3 extra flights from LIAT, increased marketing and the global recognition of Grenada’s artistes, culture and music.

    The best performing markets for Spicemas 2019 were:

    • United States, 21%, a total of 6,818 visitors
    • Trinidad & Tobago, 7%, with a total of 1,973 visitors

    Grenada’s soca, groovy and calypso music coupled with its authentic and distinctly unique offerings of Jab Jab and Monday Night Mas, served to wow visitors and highlight what sets Spicemas apart from other Carnivals. 2019 also saw a marked increase in participation with twelve (12) bands parading for the Monday Night Mas street party. The masqueraders reveled to the rhythms of carnival and lit up the night sky with a plethora of colourfully branded t-shirts, lighted hats and wands. Fancy Mas on Carnival Monday and Tuesday also saw increased participation from bands (11) and masqueraders with bejeweled costumes, pageantry and storytelling.

    Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Hon. Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen thanked all the contributors to Spicemas 2019 including the artists, bandleaders and service providers. She said, “The numbers speak to the growing interest in Spicemas as one of the best Carnivals to visit in the Caribbean. Our people make the experience memorable and enjoyable with their warm hospitality and visible pride in their music and culture. Grenada for Spicemas 2020 promises to be a spectacular event, I encourage you to book early.”

    Grenada’s Spicemas Carnival 2020 is carded for August 10 and 11.

  • Sri Lanka set to ban burka and other face coverings

    Sri Lanka has taken a significant step towards banning the burka and other face coverings in public, on grounds of national security. Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara has said that he had signed a cabinet order which now needs parliamentary approval.

    Officials say they expect the ban to be implemented very soon. The move comes nearly two years after a wave of co-ordinated attacks on hotels and churches on Easter Sunday.

    Suicide bombers targeted Catholic churches and tourist hotels, killing more than 250 people in April 2019. The Islamic State militant group said it had carried out the attacks. As the authorities tracked down the militants, an emergency short-term ban on face coverings was implemented in the majority-Buddhist nation. Now the government is moving to re-introduce it on a permanent basis.

    Mr Weerasekara told reporters that the burka was "a sign of religious extremism that came about recently". He added that it was "affecting national security" and that a permanent ban was overdue. "So I have signed that and it will be implemented very soon," he said.

    He also also said the government planned to ban more than 1,000 madrassa Islamic schools which he said were flouting national education policy. "Nobody can open a school and teach whatever you want to the children,” he said.

    “It must be as per the government laid down education policy. Most of unregistered schools teach only the Arabic language and the Koran, so that is bad", he said. Hilmi Ahmed, vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, said that if officials have problems identifying people in burkas "there would not be any objection from anyone to remove the face cover for identity purposes".

    He said everyone had a right to wear a face covering regardless of their faith:"That has to be seen from a rights point of view, and not just a religious point of view." On the question of madrassas, Mr Ahmed stressed that the vast majority of Muslim schools were registered with the government. He said: "There may be... about 5% which have not adhered to the regulations and of course action can be taken against them."

    The government's planned moves follow an order last year making the cremation of Covid-19 victims mandatory, in line with the practice of the majority Buddhists, but against the wishes of Muslims, who bury their dead. This ban was lifted earlier this year after criticism from the US and international rights groups.

    Last month, the United National Human Rights Council session considered a new resolution on mounting rights concerns in Sri Lanka, including over the treatment of Muslims. Sri Lanka is being called to hold human rights abusers to account and to deliver justice to victims of its 26-year-old civil war.

    The 1983-2009 conflict killed at least 100,000 people, mostly civilians from the minority Tamil community. Sri Lanka has strongly denied the allegations and has asked member countries not to support the resolution.