International: British Pupils Spend Less Time on Music, Art and Drama

English secondary school students are spending less time on music, art and drama courses than in 2011, new government data has found.

An analysis by Tes of the Department for Education showed that as pupils reach year 10 and 11, time being spent on teaching art, music and drama falls significantly. Art is down 20 percent while music and drama dip 12 percent and 26 percent respectively.

More time is now devoted to English, maths and science, which collectively account for 51 percent of teaching time to GCSE candidates. This represents a growth from 44.5 percent in 2011.

“We believe schools should be making their own curriculum decisions that are in the best interests of the young people in their school,” said Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

“However, the reality is that performance measures are what schools are judged on, so this puts an undue amount of pressure on leaders, governors and trusts.”

Co-director of the Cultural Learning Alliance Sam Cairns said the decline in art lessons at schools is a “social justice issue” that affects poorer students negatively. “The middle classes continue to provide their children with access to arts, if they are no longer provided in school,” said Cairns. “So they continue to enjoy the benefits while the kids whose parents can’t pay don’t get the same boost.”

A spokesperson for the Department said £500 million was to be invested in music and arts education programs between 2016 and 2020 to boost music education and help “talented pupils from all backgrounds attend prestigious arts institutions, such as the Royal Ballet School in London and Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.”

International: Cambridge Analytica Suspends Alexander Nix following Election Staging Brags

Data mining company Cambridge Analytica has suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix after he was caught bragging about manipulating elections in a tape.

In a hidden camera footage set by UK’s Channel 4 News, the firm’s executives were seen pitching tactics to entrap political opponents and boasting about running election campaigns across the world, including in Kenya in 2013 and 2017.

To a reporter who posed as a fixer for candidates in Sri Lanka, the executives talked about the way the company operated, including offering bribes, spreading false information about the opponents, and sending “some girls around to the candidate’s house”.

Mark Turnbull, managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, also spoke about the firm’s role in Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign in the last two of Kenya’s elections, including providing research, rebranding the party and writing manifesto and speeches.

“We’d stage the whole thing,” Turnbull said in the video.

Cambridge Analytica continues to receive heavy scrutiny, following the revelation by whistleblower Chris Wylie this week that the firm tapped personal information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts without permission for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The firm, which is partly owned by conservative hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, said Channel 4’s report “edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent the nature of those conversations and how the company conducts its business.”

However, the company’s board said Nix will still be suspended effective immediately pending a full independent investigation.

“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation,” the statement read.

“We have asked Julian Malins QC to lead this investigation, the findings of which the Board will share publicly in due course.”

Nix’s suspension came as a British parliamentary summoned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to testify about how the social media giant allowed the company to access user data. More US politicians also call for Zuckerberg to testify before the congress.

International: The Queen’s Baton Visits Sydney for 2018 Commonwealth Games

The Queen’s Baton is visiting Sydney today as a part of its Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games journey.

Swimmer Ian Thorpe, cricketer Glenn McGrath and Australian rugby union player Shannon Parry are among the baton’s bearer in the city. The relay will begin at Government House from 3pm to go through the Opera House, CBD, King’s Wharf and the Australian Maritime Museum.

The baton will continue its journey to other NSW cities for the next three days, including Penrith, Wollongong, Kiama and Batemans Bay.

Since leaving the Buckingham Palace in March last year, the baton has travelled through about 70 Commonwealth countries and territories.

The baton will reach its final destination on the Gold Coast on April 4, where the Queen or a representative will read the message within to officially open the Games.

International: Australia’s Healthcare One of the Best in the Developed World, Study Finds

Australian healthcare system has been ranked as one of the best in the developed world while the US’ is the worst, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by American thinktank Commonwealth Fund, found that the United Kingdom has the healthcare system out of 11 developed countries, while Australia ranked second, the Netherlands third and the US last.

The researchers found that the US performed poorly in terms of access, equity and healthcare outcomes, despite having the biggest spending in healthcare. It not only had “the poorest performance of all countries on the affordability subdomain”, but also on “population health outcomes such as infant mortality and life expectancy at age 60”.

The report concluded by encouraging the US to take important lessons from the top three nations on universal health insurance coverage. “All three provide universal coverage and access, but do so in different ways, suggesting that high performance can be achieved through a variety of payment and organizational approaches,” the report said.

The study’s results came amid the Republican Party’s attempt to repeal former president Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms.

The Senate is set to vote on the legislation in a few weeks. Two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Susan Collins, have said that they will not be voting for the repeal bill.

Sources: ABC, The Hill

International: Paddington Bear Creator Michael Bond Dies at 91

Michael Bond, the creator of children literature character Paddington Bear has died at 91 years old.

Bond’s publisher HarperCollins said he died on Tuesday at his UK home after a short illness.

Bond created Paddington in 1956 after seeing a teddy bear on a shop window on his way home from work. The coat-and-hat-wearing bear first appeared in Bond’s 1958 debut book titled A Bear Called Paddington, and then went on to feature in more than 20 books, a TV show and a film.

Today, over 35 million copies have been sold around the world and translated into 40 languages. The statue of the bear also stands at the Paddington station in London.

Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher at HarperCollins Children’s Books said Paddington “touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations.”

Environment: Switzerland Votes to Ban New Nuclear Plants

Swiss voters have voted to ban new nuclear plants and allocate funds for renewable energy subsidies.

58.2 per cent of the voters agreed on the ban in a referendum on Sunday. “The results shows the population wants a new energy policy and does not want any new nuclear plants,” said Switzerland’s energy minister Doris Leuthard. “The law leads our country into a modern energy future.”

The ban does not apply to the five existing nuclear plants in the country. Currently, nuclear power accounts for a third of electricity generation in Switzerland.

This effort to exit nuclear energy mirrors other European countries such as Austria, which banned nuclear power, and Germany, which pledges to phase it out by 2022. Last week, the newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron also appointed anti-nuclear advocate Nicolas Hulot as energy minister.

International: At Least 11 Killed in Saint Petersburg Explosion

At least 11 people were killed in an explosion in Saint Petersburg metro on Monday, with dozens injured.

The blast tore apart a train carriage which was travelling between two stations around 2.40 pm.

A second explosive device was found at a nearby station and defused by authorities. No groups have claimed responsibility for the explosion.

President Vladimir Putin said the cause of the explosion was not clear yet. “We will look at all possible causes, terrorism as well as common crime,” Putin said.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said while the investigation into the event was based on an assumption of terrorism, it was also considering other possibilities.

According to state media, the bomb contained a kilogram of TNT and was hidden in a fire extinguisher. Law enforcement agencies also confirmed that the bomb was filled with shrapnel.

All St Petersburg metro stations have been closed.

International: The Face Of The Syrian War

On August 17th, 2016 scarring footage was released of a young little boy covered in blood rescued from the rubble after an airstrike in Northern Syrian city Aleppo in the midst of the country’s civil war.

The boy was identified as Omran Daqneesh. Silenced and paralysed with extreme shock, the video shows the little boy being carried outside and into an ambulance by a civil defense worker, covered in dust and the left side of his face bleeding.

Miraculously, most of Omran’s relatives survived as the boy was reunited with his family. Amongst others, 18,598 civilians were killed in Aleppo province including 4,557 children.

Source: CBS News
Source: CBS News

This haunting and heartbreaking video moved the entire nation, circulating around social media and shedding a horrific light on the Syrian War.

International: Uzbekistan President Died at 78

Uzbekistan President, Islam Karimov has died at the age of 78 from a stroke. The country’s government and parliament confirmed the death on Friday, September 2.

Karimov’s funeral will be taking place on Saturday, September 3 at his hometown, Samarkand. His potential successor, Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, will be overseeing the funeral.

Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim was the first foreign leader to issue condolences over Karimov’s death.  Russian President Vladimir Putin also expressed his condolences, describing the late leader as a statesman “who had contributed to the security and stability of Central Asia”.

Islam Karimov and Vladimir Putin
Source: kremlin.ru

Karimov was the first, and so far the only, president of Uzbekistan. Having ruled the country for 27 years, Karimov had long been criticized by the West and various organizations for human rights abuses, with the United Nation describing the use of torture under his leadership as “systematic”.

Karimov had not named any potential successor during his presidency, and analysts believe his replacement will be chosen privately behind the doors with family members and senior political figures.

Bordering Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan is the most populous country in Central Asia with over 30 million people.