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National Trust warns of threat from ‘ideological campaign’ waged against it



National Trust

National Trust warns of threat from ‘ideological campaign’ waged against it

The National Trust has warned of the damage it faces from what it calls an ideological campaign waged against it by self-styled “anti-woke” insurgents whom the charity has accused of seeking to stoke divisions.

It was prompted to speak out as members raised concerns about a range of “extreme” positions taken by individuals involved in a group called Restore Trust, which is backing a slate of candidates in elections for the NT’s governing council.

The group, which has been heavily promoted in the pages of the rightwing press after its foundation and has spoken of building up a “fighting fund” of tens of thousands of pounds, is also now using paid-for social media adverts to try to influence the election.

The trust – one of Britain’s biggest land owners – also fears for its carbon neutral policies in the face of the challenge by the Restore Trust (RT), which it says is waging a culture war on a number of fronts.

RT’s directors include a financier who has backed a leading climate-sceptic lobby group and currently chairs another.

Members of the charity have also expressed particular concern about RT’s endorsement of Stephen Green, the leader of a Christian fundamentalist lobby group, for one of six vacant positions on the trust’s governing council.

Green, who accuses the NT leadership of being “obsessed with LGBT issues”, has lobbied against the criminalisation of marital rape and defended overseas laws proposing the execution of some gay people.

“Our founders set out to protect and promote places of historic interest and natural beauty for the benefit of the nation. That means we are for everyone. Whether you’re black or white, straight or gay, right or leftwing,” an NT spokesperson told the Guardian.

“We have always debated openly and freely to overcome differences of opinion, and paid-for campaigns that back candidates with ideologies opposed to our values are new and would be concerning for any charity.”

They also addressed one of the original flashpoints for why RT said it had been set up – the notion that there was widespread anger among members about a report the charity published last year showing connections between 93 of its historic places and colonialism and slavery.

Properties include Winston Churchill’s country estate Chartwell, because of his political roles and opposition to self-governance in India, and Lundy in Devon, where convicts were forced into unpaid labour.

“It’s right that we are open to public scrutiny. Our national institutions need healthy and respectful debate if they’re going to thrive and be handed on to serve future generations, as they have served so many in the past and present. They must not be used as a punchbag, to divide people, or led by extreme views.”

RT’s directors include Neil Bennett, the chief executive of RT2021, a company handling what he said was “the significant and growing amount of donations that have been provided to Restore Trust”.

“I agreed to take the role since I, like others, believe the National Trust’s management has lost its way and is failing in its duty to protect Britain’s heritage and present it properly,” he said, adding that he was concerned that the NT was undemocratic and prevented members from having a proper say in its affairs.

Supported by Sir John Hayes, the chair of the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs – which has sought to push the government in a more hardline direction on a range of “culture war” issues – RT has used hashtags such as #empirestrikesback and presents itself as a grassroots movement of more than 6,100 current and former NT members.

There are more than 5.5 million members overall, though only 0.5% typically vote at AGMs. The National Trust will hold this year’s AGM on 30 October.

As well as Bennett, RT’s “Meet the Team” page lists Neil Record, a City currency manager and past Tory donor who has given money to a climate denier lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation. He is chair of Net Zero Watch, a new campaign group which was launched this month and which seeks to “highlight the serious economic and societal implications of expensive and poorly considered climate and energy policies”.

By contrast, the National Trust has a range of policies designed to reduce carbon emissions and has been putting pressure on the government by supporting the Climate Coalition, a group of 100 organisations asking members to sign a petition demanding immediate government action.

Record told the Guardian that he had joined RT out of concern with the direction of the National Trust, as a lifelong member.

On climate change, he said that he became concerned a decade ago about what he described as “the shrill and intolerant quality of the debate” and that legitimate questions in respect of climate science were not being addressed.

“Instead, a new orthodoxy began to make any debate impermissible. I regard this an a very dangerous route for a democracy to take,” he said.

Green said he had no connection with Restore Trust but was grateful for their support. He referred to his statement to NT voters, in which he referenced the backlash among some members against a film by the National Trust which revealed that Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, who bequeathed Felbrigg Hall to the nation, was gay. Green said he was committed to ensuring “that future donors feel safe from the Trust poring over their past and inventing salacious details of an imagined private life”.

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage



UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom



Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.


PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances



Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

A motion seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives in the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court, over issues bordering on welfare and working conditions suffered a setback on Thursday.

While the House called for a general review of salaries and allowances of all political office holders and public servants, the members were divided over which committees should handle the task.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, had moved a motion to seek the intervention of the chamber in the crisis rocking the apex court and better welfare package for judicial officers across the courts.

Luke, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need to Address the Deteriorating Working Conditions of Judicial Officers,’ prayed the House to urge the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers in line with present economic realities.

The lawmaker prayed the House to urge the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation of the judiciary for the upcoming fiscal year and provide special intervention funds for the development of the arm

He further prayed the House to mandate the Committee on Judiciary to ensure compliance and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

While the lawmakers were making amendments to the prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, called for an upward review of the welfare package of all public office holders.

Wase, who stated that he appreciated the memo from the Justices to the CJN, noted that only the RMAFC had the responsibility to review remuneration of government officials.

The Deputy Speaker made reference to a part of the motion that read, ‘The remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the RMAFC when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1, whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.’

Wase partly said, “I think this particular element does not affect just judicial officers, maybe because they cried out now. I don’t think it is right that we have to wait every time until people write letters of complaints and there is protest before we begin to do the right thing.”

Rephrasing Wase’s proposed amendment, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “The DSP’s amendment is that we should not isolate the Judiciary and all those enumerated constitutional bodies and public office holders. They should be reviewed; a comprehensive review based on all the things that Hon Luke said – the exchange rates and this and that.”

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