Baby Boxes Aim To Reduce Cot Deaths 

The baby box programme launched at University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) will provide free baby boxes for infants to sleep in.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Jimmy Woulfe, Mid-West Correspondent

A Scandinavian baby care concept which has dramatically reduced infant mortalities such as cot deaths in Finland was introduced to Irish mothers-to-be yesterday.

Made from durable cardboard, the box can be used as a baby’s bed for the first eight months of life. The box prevents babies from rolling onto their tummies, which experts say can contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The baby boxes come with a foam mattress, waterproof mattress cover and cotton sheet.

Education material with advice from healthcare professionals on reducing risks to babies, is also included in the baby box pack.

The use of baby boxes has been credited with helping reduce infant mortality rates in Finland from 65 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1938 to 2.26 per 1,000 births in 2015.

Ireland’s infant mortality rate is 3.7 per 1,000 births.

The concept already adapted in Britain, Canada and the US was introduced to this country yesterday at UMHL, the first Irish maternity hospital to embrace the idea.

As well as the baby boxes, new mothers will be presented with clothing and educational materials.

Dr Mendinaro Imcha, consultant gynaecologist/obstetrician UMHL, said:

“The baby box programme is a proactive approach to improving the health and safety of the newborn child and parents. We are combining tradition with current technology and supporting the newborn child’s family with online education material covering a broad range of essential topics and postnatal care.”

Margaret Gleeson, chief director of nursing and midwifery at the UL hospitals group, said up to 5,000 baby boxes will be distributed to new mothers who give birth at UMHL over the coming year.

Ms Gleeson said: “The baby boxes are a thing of beauty and there is the invaluable education element of this initiative which makes this truly patient-centre.”

Tipperary-based tattoo artist, and expectant mother, Karen Smith did the artistic designs which decorate the UMHL baby boxes.

She said: “The whole meaning behind my design is rebirth. I thought the butterfly was the perfect symbol for the baby box. It is a symbolic creature in many cultures and lends itself to all manner of colourful and fanciful adaptations, in this case our beautiful baby box.”

Jennifer Clery, chief executive of the US-based The Baby Box Co, said: “We are delighted to expand our baby box programme to Ireland and look forward to this new collaboration here in Limerick at the University Maternity Hospital. The baby box is an innovative integrated programme to support parents and improve maternal and infant healthcare outcomes globally.”

UMHL is the second largest maternity hospital in the country, outside Dublin and cares from women from Limerick, Clare, Tipperary, North Kerry, North Cork and areas of Offaly.

Source: Baby boxes aim to reduce cot deaths | Irish Examiner


British PM ‘Wants Syrian Airstrikes Within Two Weeks’

David Cameron’s new push for support from MPs comes as the Chancellor unveils plans to buy 138 stealth fighter jets for £12bn.

David Cameron is launching a final attempt to win backing for airstrikes in Syria – with MPs expected to vote in the Commons within the next fortnight.

The first bombing raids against Islamic State would begin within hours of a “yes” vote, The Sunday Times has reported.

Mr Cameron is to start privately warning MPs that the UK needs to act like “Churchill not Chamberlain” if it wishes to defeat terrorism.

Downing Street sources told the newspaper that Mr Cameron is preparing a seven-point plan for military intervention, including a blueprint for Syria’s future.

This report would be in response to the findings of the influential Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which warned against military involvement until there was an international strategy in place to end the conflict.

The Prime Minister’s push for airstrikes comes as the Chancellor plans to announce that Britain is purchasing 138 stealth fighter jets in a £12bn deal.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, George Osborne said the investment will ensure the UK has the world’s second most potent carrier strike force after the United States, with the resources to tackle IS and other extremist groups for a generation.

The purchase, which goes far beyond what military experts expected, is reportedly the centre piece of the Government’s strategic defence review, to be published on Monday.

However, the Navy is likely to suffer considerable scale-backs. Two existing warships are to be pulled off front line duty, and plans to field a fleet of 13 brand-new frigates are being watered down on cost grounds, according to the newspaper.

On Monday, David Cameron is meeting French President Francois Hollande for talks on how to tackle IS in Iraq and Syria.

This gathering follows the unanimous UN backing of France’s call to redouble action against the extremist group following the Paris attacks – however, the resolution passed does not provide any legal basis for an intervention.

A ComRes poll performed for the Sunday Mirror and The Independent On Sunday suggested that 46% of Britons believe the UK should participate in airstrikes against IS – with or without UN approval. However, 32% of those surveyed disagree.

In a speech to activists in Bristol on Saturday, Jeremy Corbyn appeared to rule out military intervention in Syria – but MPs within his own party have warned it would be “deplorable” if Labour failed to back in the Government in a Commons vote.

Source: PM ‘Wants Syrian Airstrikes Within Two Weeks’

Resources squandered on UK war machine could save 100s of millions from starvation

Daniel Jakopovich 11 July 2015. Posted in

Look at what could be done with the £37 billion Britain spends annually on its military and foreign wars.


The UK government has committed itself to a 2 per cent of GDP military spending target for the next five years on the basis of demands for more foreign military interventions.

In each of the last 100 years Britain has been involved in military conflict somewhere on Earth. It is a habitual invader of other countries. Intense Anglo-American imperialist violence has played a key role in creating the current vicious and expanding cycle of conflict in the Middle East, North Africa and other parts of the Third World.

The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere have been a colossal waste of resources and of lives. A million people (as well as millions of animals) have been killed in the Second Iraq War and, according to a recent study, as many as 2 million people may have died as a result of the global terroristic “war on terror”.

Apart from continuing to cause extreme and mass suffering, these conflicts create immense bitterness against the West, Britain and the US in particular. More than a decade of savage war has shown that violence only breeds more violence and that hatred and bombing cannot bring peace. More interventions will only add fuel to this inferno of hatred and inhumanity.

War constitutes the sunset of civilisation. It should be obvious that money should instead be used to generously invest in re-building these wretched, war-stricken countries, to invest in education and human development, and to build bridges instead of creating more enemies for the West.

Britain’s military spending is already much higher than that of other European countries. Furthermore, the political elite is planning to squander £100 billion of public money on the new generation of Trident nuclear weapons. Military spending increased by 19 per cent in real terms between 1998 and 2008. More than 37 billion pounds are spent each year on the military and on foreign wars (the full figure is much higher and includes the increasing budget given to the security services, the cost of healthcare for veterans, etc.).

A recent report stated that the global cost of war last year alone was US$14 trillion. By comparison, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN claims that $30 billion a year would be sufficient to eradicate world hunger, which affects hundreds of millions of people. Professor Jean Ziegler (the UN’s former Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food) stated that around 36 million people are dying as a result of hunger and malnutrition every year. According to these figures, around half of the UK annual military budget would be sufficient to save the lives of tens of millions of starving people each year. The resources squandered on the UK military budget could therefore save the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the space of a single decade. We are living under an evil, grotesquely anti-human system.

Increased military spending is particularly wrong at a time when the Conservative government is implementing severe cuts in the budgets for healthcare, education and welfare. These are core public services which are essential for creating and sustaining civilised public life.

Instead of enriching private military corporations and the rest of the military establishment, resources should be channelled towards improving the education system, building a greener economy, housing the homeless, feeding the poor, and providing the best possible medical care for Britain’s population. Hundreds of thousands of people are facing homelessness in Britain, each year tens of thousands of people die of hypothermia because they cannot afford heating, thousands of people are facing long delays for cancer treatment and thousands of poor children are left to suffer and die each year due to a lack of funds for potentially life-saving cancer treatment. Real existential threats which affect a large segment of the British population are being callously disregarded while the causes and the extent of the terrorist threat are being intentionally misrepresented. One report found that more US citizens die each year due to being crushed by their own furniture than have died as a result of Islamist terrorism since 9/11. Besides, it is the brutal and cynical Anglo-American policy of permanent war and imperialist control which is fomenting extremism and violence. True human security is being sacrificed at the altar of the militarist Moloch. What are we actually defending when we’re shutting down hospitals and fire stations?

The peace movement needs to continually reveal the links between the British establishment’s commitment to perpetual war abroad and permanent structural violence at home. As Tony Benn wrote in 2005: “The Stop the War movement might even be regarded as a Start the Peace movement dedicated to challenging the capitalist concept of globalisation involving exploitation and bloodshed by offering a perspective of internationalism, cooperation and solidarity”.

Militarism and neoliberal austerity are inextricably linked, which is why the anti-war and anti-austerity movements have to work closely together. It is not possible to truly challenge either without challenging both at the same time. Stop the War Coalition is committed to maintaining its vital role in this united struggle for peace and social justice.

Daniel Jakopovich is a writer and a national organiser of the Stop the War Coalition.

Things you can do:

Petition in your workplace/college against the increase in the military budget
Join Stop the War
Get involved in your local Stop the War group or set one up
•Get your trade union branch/trades council/community group to affiliate to Stop the War

Source: Stop the War Coalition

Workers have become the prey: now a natural balance needs to be restored

Britain’s flexible labour market has denied workers the security and purchasing power necessary to keep the economy healthy

  • The Observer, Sunday 18 May 2014


    In his book Why Most Things Fail, the economist Paul Ormerod tells the story of the struggle between the arctic hare and its predator, the lynx. Statisticians in Canada found that when the population of hares was big and growing, the lynx thrived because there was plentiful prey. The population of lynx went up and they killed more and more hares. Eventually, there were too few hares left and the lynx starved. The population of lynx went down and the number of hares started to rise again.

    This story has a bearing on the way the UK economy works. For the past 30 years, one of the big aims of policy has been to make the labour market more flexible. Trade unions have been curbed, industries have been privatised, welfare reformed and employment protection reduced. The balance of power between labour and capital has been tilted decisively in favour of the latter.

    The evidence of this is all around. There are 1.3m jobs on zero-hour contracts; wages can barely keep pace with price increases, even with unemployment coming down at a fair lick. Around 80% of the jobs created in the past year have been for the self-employed, with the suspicion that many of those “running their own business” are doing so involuntarily.

    This is the flexible labour market in action. It is what has distinguished the UK economy from some of the more heavily regulated economies in the rest of Europe. Supporters of the reforms of the past three decades say the flexible labour market is the reason the jobless rate is around half the average for the eurozone. Critics say that the smashing of organised labour and the triumph of management is bad for workers, bad for growth and ultimately bad for employers.

    Vince Cable can now be added to the list of those who wonder whether the labour market has become too flexible. The business secretary is right to pose the question because there are three big downsides to the way it works now.

    The first is that the taxpayer ends up subsidising low pay through the tax credits and benefits system. There are now more people in poverty who are working than are jobless.

    The second problem is that the loss of labour’s bargaining power has meant the share of national income taken by wages has fallen. That has created a problem of weak demand, which in the buildup to the financial crisis was solved by households taking on more debt. It was a period of rising house prices and equity withdrawal.

    When the crisis broke, individuals became more debt-averse. They started to pay off some of what they had borrowed and were reluctant to take out new loans. What needed to happen was for real wages to grow, since that would have allowed living standards to rise while indebtedness fell. Instead, real wages have fallen by 8%, and ultra-low interest rates have been required to get people borrowing again. Household debt is on the way back up again.

    The final problem is that the surfeit of cheap, insecure labour discourages investment. There is little inducement for firms to buy expensive new kit when demand rises, because they can always hire inexpensive labour that can be summarily dismissed later.

    What does all this mean? It means that in the long term there is a clear choice. Either the power of labour will be increased by full employment, stronger trade unions and collective bargaining or the flexible labour market will arrive at its ultimate destination: a form of capitalism that cannot function without excessive debt; is marked by low wages, low investment and low productivity; and which eventually ends up eating itself.

    Britain is well advanced down that road. As with the lynx, there is a price to be paid for slaughtering too many hares.

    Pay battle hots up

    As the weather gets warmer, so does the temperature at the annual shareholder meetings that take place at this time of year. Last week, investors at Hiscox, BG and ITV joined their peers at Pearson, Standard Chartered and AstraZeneca in registering their concerns about big bonuses. But a serious blow had yet to be landed.

    And then it finally happened. Vince Cable’s binding vote on remuneration policies claimed its first victim: the FTSE 250 engineering company Kentz. Based in Jersey, Kentz was not only the first to have its remuneration policy opposed but also have its remuneration report voted down at the same time.

    The significance? The vote on the remuneration report is one that has been in place for 10 years and covers pay that was handed out in the past. It is advisory. Companies can ignore it – but at their peril, as they risk a bad run with shareholders in the future. The vote on the remuneration policy is binding: it cannot be ignored and was introduced by the business secretary in October to cover the pay plans for the coming three years.

    For Kentz, which had managed to avoid putting its pay deals to a vote until this year by exploiting a loophole created by its registration in Jersey, it was a moment of shame.

    But it is one that has been narrowly avoided by others. The Lloyd’s of London insurer Hiscox, for instance, had a 42% vote against its remuneration policy. Standard Chartered had suffered a rebellion on a similar scale the week before.

    Little wonder, then, that HSBC took steps to head off a full-scale row over proposals to hand its chairman Douglas Flint up to £2.2m in shares at this week’s shareholder gathering.

    HSBC said Flint would be more likely get a smaller sum and only as a “one-off”: a valiant attempt to show it is listening to concerns. But shareholders may still ask if any bank chairman should be handed a bonus – as is being proposed here – for working to improve relationships with regulators. The HSBC vote will be one to watch.

    Engineering a manufacturing boom

    Celebrations to mark 175 years of train building in Derby were held last week at Bombardier’s factory, which is Britain’s oldest surviving rail plant.

    With his thoughts on the 2015 election, transport secretary and member for Derbyshire Dales Patrick McLoughlin pointed to the renewed optimism around Bombardier as a sign that the economy is now back on track.

    Yet the important contracts that have kept Bombardier’s historic Litchurch Lane works afloat did not come from the private sector, and were not the export orders that George Osborne craves. They were government-backed contracts. Had McLoughlin not signed off a £1bn deal to build trains for Crossrail back in February, it could have been 175 and out for Derby.

    This economy wasn’t sustained by Osborneomics but by the Keynesian stimulus of a public infrastructure scheme: digging the giant Crossrail tunnels under London. Good news for Derby, and the supply chain, but a long way from evidence of a sustainable manufacturing-led recovery.