Women in politics: Lack of diversity a massive step back for Wales

A lack of female candidates in winnable seats for the Welsh Parliament is a “worrying step backwards” for equality, a charity has warned.

Wales became the first county in the world in 2003 to have an equal number of men and women in parliament.

However, polls suggest just 34% of female candidates for May’s Senedd election are in “winnable” seats.

Gender equality charity Chwarae Teg said the next Welsh Parliament was likely to be less diverse.

After the 2016 election, 42% of the Welsh Parliament, as it is now known, were women.

But that has risen to more than 48% after Delyth Jewell, Mandy Jones, Laura Anne-Jones, and Helen Mary-Jones were sworn in – with the current Senedd gender split 29 women to 31 men.

Ahead of May’s upcoming Senedd elections, 50% of Labour candidates are women, compared to 41% for Plaid Cymru, 34% for Conservatives and 29% for Liberal Democrats.

However, according to projections made by political consultancy Deryn, based on recent polling data and a 10% margin, the number of women in winnable seats is much lower.

Polling suggests that of the 29 women standing for Labour, 16 are in seats classed as winnable.

Meanwhile, nine of the 19 female Plaid candidates, and three of the 16 women standing for the Conservatives are in seats considered as winnable.

Polling suggests the Liberal Democrats have no women in seats thought to be winnable – of the 11 standing.

A number of key female figures in Welsh politics are due to stand down at May’s election, including the only current Welsh Liberal Democrat MS Kirsty Williams, the education secretary.

Chwarae Teg chief executive Cerys Furlong said some of the parties had become complacent, while others had taken no action to improve representation.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the next Senedd is likely to be taking a very serious and worrying step backwards,” she said.

Former MS Nerys Evans, now director at Deryn, said having an equal parliament helped to change the kind of policies and laws passed.

“Because of that increased representation we have seen ground breaking legislation and policy being passed in terms of caring, mental health and domestic abuse,” she said.

“These things just wouldn’t have had the priority and the dominance without women’s voices in the Senedd and in the Welsh Government making the case.”

Conservative MS Suzy Davies said she was disappointed new women coming into politics were not being given as much of a chance as men.

Ms Davies, who ran against Paul Davies to lead the Tories in Cardiff Bay in 2018, faces losing her seat after young male candidates were chosen to top the party’s names on the regional list.

“It’s very hard when you have a very localised system to ask a local association to make a strategic decision for a party,” she said.

“I do recognise that, but that’s something that the hierarchy of the party can do to help local associations understand better.”

Ms Davies, who is the director of Women 2 Win, a campaign to encourage more women to stand for the Welsh Conservatives, said she was disappointed so few women were in winnable seats.

“I would have loved to have seen that and I look again to our processes to ask why that’s been so difficult when actually we have new men coming through and they’re getting more viable seats,” she said.

Plaid Cymru’s Bethan Sayed, who is due to step down at the May elections to spend more time with her family, said more needed to be done to support women entering politics.

She said: “We live in an unequal society. If women weren’t in so many caring roles, if women weren’t on so many zero hours contracts, if they weren’t suffering maternity discrimination I would say, yes, let’s have meritocracy.

“Until we get to a system where we all equal, we will need things like quotas and we will need measures like jobshares.”

You can see more on this story on on Politics Wales on BBC One Wales on Sunday at 10:00 GMT or catch up again on iPlayer.

Man, 38, arrested after cars and bus crash at Hopkinstown

A 38-year-old man has been arrested after a crash involving a bus and two other vehicles in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

The collision happened at Hopkinstown, near Pontypridd, on Saturday at about 12.30 GMT.

The man from Graig has been arrested on suspicion of taking a vehicle without consent and driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs.

He was taken to Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales after being injured in the crash.

No-one else was hurt, according to South Wales Police.

Stagecoach South Wales said some of its services were being diverted, causing delays delays across the network as a result.

Storm prompted wall collapse at Henry VIIIs Hurst Castle

Until a storm last week, there were “no signs of any major structural problems” before a wall collapsed at a castle originally built by Henry VIII, owner English Heritage has said.

A section of Hurst Castle’s 19th Century east wing, near Milford-on-Sea, Lymington, fell on Friday.

English Heritage said it was already aware of the serious issues affecting the foundations of the east wing.

Work had been due to begin next week to stabilise the foundations, it added.

The charity carried out £750,000 worth of work in 2019 to stabilise the foundations of the west wing and to reinforce its sea defences.

A spokesperson said: “At the west wing, deterioration had occurred at a very slow rate and we were using that as a guide.”

The organisation was aware of the “very serious issues” affecting the foundations of the castle’s east wing, the spokesperson said, but “until the storm of 23 February, there was no signs of any major structural problems”.

They added: “However the storm damage exacerbated the underlying issues, prompting the rapid collapse of the relevant section of the wall, days before our protective works were due to commence.”

Engineers are now assessing the damage and planning remedial works, English Heritage said.

The site was closed to the public at the time of the collapse and there have been no reports of any injuries.

Local historian, Brice Stratford, said erosion at the castle has been a known issue for decades.

He told the BBC English Heritage had “dismissed the warnings and concerns” of people working at the castle site and of heritage campaigners.

Hurst Castle was originally built by Tudor king Henry VIII between 1541 and 1544 to guard Needles Passage, which is the narrow western entrance between the Isle of Wight and the mainland.

From 1860, the large east and west wing batteries were added as part of a defence programme.

The castle was also used for searchlights and guns during World War One and World War Two.

Pedestrian dies in road collision after stabbing in street

A pedestrian has died after being hit by a car within 30 minutes of a man being stabbed on the same street.

West Midlands Police said the man was struck by a car on St Marks Road, Tipton, at about 13:45 on Saturday and the driver did not stop.

At 14:15 officers were called to a disturbance outside shops and found a man had been stabbed.

The force said it was too soon to know if the two incidents were linked.

The victim of the stabbing, a man, has been taken to hospital in a serious condition.

The police later recovered what they believed to be the hit-and-run vehicle, a silver car, two miles away in Griffiths Street, Tipton.

A cyclist was also hit by the car but was not seriously hurt.

Pokémon 25: Woman with most memorabilia says brand is great escape

As Pokémon celebrates its 25th anniversary, a woman with the world’s largest collection of memorabilia says the brand still provides her with “a great escape”.

Lisa Courtney, from Hertfordshire, claimed the Guinness World Record in 2016 with 17,127 items of Pokémon memorabilia.

Her collection has since increased to more than 21,000 items.

On 27 February 1996, the games Pokémon Red and Blue were released in Japan.

Since then, the brand has ventured into trading cards, television, manga, films and toys – with Miss Courtney eager to experience it all.

The 33-year-old first discovered Pokémon when she read about a preview of its Japan release in a Nintendo magazine.

“I fell in love with it there and then,” she said.

Miss Courtney said she was “over the moon” when she heard it was coming to the UK.

“For me it provided, and still does provide, a great escape,” she said.

“I was bullied at school and being able to come home and just sort of go into the world of Pokémon by playing the video games and reading the manga really helped me a lot.”

Miss Courtney said she had been collecting memorabilia for about 24 years.

She has a vast range of items including plush toys, action figures, posters, books and even toilet paper.

Miss Courtney gained the Guinness World Record after reading about the size of the previous holder’s collection.

“I thought I probably had more than that,” she said.

After spending three weeks counting and photographing every unique item in her collection, the world record was approved.

“I had approximately double the amount of items as the previous record holder,” she said.

Miss Courtney said Pokémon had helped her become a more social person.

“I’ve met some of my best friends through it,” she said.

“I’m not really on social media and I’m an introvert but Pokémon has helped me come out of my shell.”

The super-fan also credits Pokémon for broadening her horizons.

“I visited Japan which was great,” she said.

“I did go over just to buy Pokémon but the country was incredible; everyone was so nice and the culture was fantastic.

“I’m now trying to learn Japanese while also studying computer game programming.”

Miss Courtney said she was looking forward to special merchandise being released for the 25th anniversary and believes there are many more years left for the brand the thrive.

Bristol motorway journey for huge Boeing jet

A massive private jet has taken to the motorway rather than skies for its journey to a new home in Bristol.

The Boeing 727 was loaded on to a lorry at Cotswold Airport, Gloucestershire, on Saturday for its unusual drive down the M5, M4 and M32.

The plane – 40m (131ft) in length – is being “up-cycled” to provide office space for a media and tech firm.

Company owner Johnny Palmer said: “It was a £50m-plus aircraft.

“But the general state of airworthiness meant we got a slight discount from that price.”

The decommissioned jet left the airport at about 09:00 GMT.

Measuring 5m (16ft) wide and 4m (13ft) high, it had to straddle two lanes as it crept down the motorway at 20mph behind a police escort.

Once at its new base in Brislington, the craft is set to be lifted with a 60m (200ft) crane on to shipping containers “painted to look like clouds” so it “appears as though it is flying”.

Mr Palmer, said his company, Pytch, “needed more space” and the plane would be the “centrepiece of the hub”, adding: “The aircraft was in the right place at the right time to be up-cycled.

“So rather than do resource and carbon-intensive construction, we decided to re-purpose the icon of unsustainable hyper-consumption – the airliner private jet.”

The plane originally flew in 1968 with Japan Airlines as a passenger airliner but some time in the 1970s it was converted into a VIP private aircraft.

It took its final flight to Filton Airfield in 2012, before being transported to Gloucestershire to be salvaged.

“This is by far the most expensive office space that has ever been installed in Bristol,” said Mr Palmer.

“Or at least it would if the aircraft could fly.”

LeBron vs Zlatan: Who won the politics bout?

Basketball superstar LeBron James has come out fighting after Swedish football legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic told him to stay out of politics.

Ibrahimovic said in a TV interview sports figures like James should not get involved as “it doesn’t look good”.

James fired back: “I will never shut up about things that are wrong.”

Pointing out Ibrahimovic’s own past complaints about racism in Sweden, James said: “I’m kinda the wrong guy to actually go at… I do my homework.”

The two are megastars in their respective sports.

Ibrahimovic, in an interview with UEFA and Discovery+ in Sweden, criticised the political activism of sports stars.

“Do what you’re good at. Do the category that you do. I play football because I’m the best at playing football, I’m no politician. If I’d been a politician, I would be doing politics.

“This is the first mistake famous people do when they become famous and come into a certain status. For me it is better to avoid certain topics and do what you’re best at doing, because otherwise it doesn’t look good.”

James’s response after his LA Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night was unequivocal.

“I would never shut up about things that are wrong,” he said.

“I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression, things that go on in our community.

“There’s no way I would ever just stick to sports, because I understand how powerful this platform and my voice is.”

James also appeared confused at Ibrahimovic’s statements, as the football star has regularly spoken out against racism.

James said: “He’s the guy who said in Sweden, he was talking about the same things, because his last name wasn’t a [traditional Swedish] last name, he felt like there was some racism going on when he was out on the pitch.”

Ibrahimovic did indeed in 2018 tell French broadcaster Canal+ he did not receive the same treatment as other Swedish athletes, saying: “This is about racism. I don’t say there is racism, but I say there is undercover racism.”

He was similarly outspoken talking to the BBC in December:

But he has also had to defend himself, particularly after certain comments to Romelu Lukaku in a heated exchange in January’s derby with Inter Milan.

For his part James has faced criticism for his political activism before.

He clashed with then President Donald Trump over the act of kneeling to protest against systemic racism.

Fox News journalist Laura Ingraham told him to “shut up and dribble”.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 39, is an ex-Sweden international who has played in the top division of seven countries in a career that started more than two decades ago.

He has won more than 30 trophies, scored more than 500 career goals and is still going strong in the top leagues at 39 – now back with AC Milan.

Before that he was with the Galaxy in Los Angeles – James’s current home town.

LeBron James, 36, is widely considered one of the greatest players in NBA history.

He has won the NBA title with three different franchises – the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers – and has been the finals MVP for all of them.

Anas Sarwar wins Scottish Labour leadership race

Anas Sarwar has been announced as the new Scottish Labour leader.

Glasgow MSP Mr Sarwar defeated Monica Lennon, the only other candidate in the race.

The contest was triggered after Richard Leonard resigned as leader, saying it was in the best interests of the party for him to stand down.

Mr Sarwar takes charge of the party ahead of the Scottish Parliament election, which is scheduled to be held on 6 May.

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Lady Gagas dogs found safe after gunpoint robbery

Lady Gaga’s two stolen French bulldogs have been found safe and handed in to police, according to officials.

The two dogs, stolen in an armed robbery, have been “reunited” with the singer’s representatives, police said.

Lady Gaga’s dog walker, Ryan Fischer, was shot by two men who abducted the dogs in Hollywood, Los Angeles, on Wednesday.

He is in hospital and his family said on Friday that he was expected to make a full recovery.

Details of how the dogs were recovered are unclear. The Associated Press said a woman had brought them to the Olympic Community Police Station in LA and the singer’s representatives had confirmed they were hers. The woman appeared to be “uninvolved and unassociated” with the robbery, a police spokesman said.

Lady Gaga had offered $500,000 (£359,000) for their safe return but it is not clear if the reward has been claimed.

The star – whose real name is Stefani Germanotta – is currently in Rome working on a new Ridley Scott film, Gucci.In her first public reaction to the attack, Gaga tweeted on Friday: “My heart is sick.”

“I am praying my family will be whole again with an act of kindness. I will pay $500,000 for their safe return.”

And in another Twitter post, the singer wrote: “I continue to love you Ryan Fischer, you risked your life to fight for our family. You’re forever a hero.”

Gaga is known to be extremely protective of her dogs, who have accompanied her to the American Music Awards and her 2017 Super Bowl Halftime show.

Footage has emerged showing one of the suspects firing at Mr Fischer before making off with the dogs, Koji and Gustav.

A third bulldog, named Miss Asia, ran away and was later recovered by police.

The dog walker was shot in the chest, according to reports in US media.

His family released a statement on Friday praising the medical staff who had been caring for him and saying they were confident for his full recovery, accord to US media.

“We cannot possibly say enough to thank all of the first responders, nurses and doctors who have worked so tirelessly to care for Ryan,” the statement said.

“Of course, we also want to thank Lady Gaga who has shown nothing but non-stop love and concern for Ryan and our family right from the outset. Ryan loves Gustavo and Koji as much as Lady Gaga does; so we join in her plea for their safe return.”

Police said the attack happened at about 21:40 local time on 24 February, in the area of Sierra Bonita Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.

“The suspects approached the victim in a white Nissan Altima four door. Two suspects exited the vehicle and demanded the victim turn over the dogs at gunpoint,” the LAPD said in an updated statement on Friday.

“The victim struggled with the suspects and was shot once by one of the suspects. The suspects took two of the three dogs and fled the scene in the suspect vehicle.”

The statement said “the victim is in stable condition”, and the two suspects are described as black males aged 20-25.

It is not clear whether Lady Gaga’s dogs were specifically targeted in the attack.

No arrests have been made.

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Bitcoin energy use bigger than most countries

We’ve all heard the stories of Bitcoin millionaires.

Elon Musk is the latest.

His electric car company Tesla made a paper profit of more than $900m (£646m) after buying $1.5bn (£1bn) -worth of the cryptocurrency in early February.

Its high profile support helped pushed the price of a single Bitcoin to more than $58,000.

But it isn’t just the digital asset’s price that has hit an all-time high. So has its energy footprint.

And that’s caused blowback for Mr Musk, as the scale of the currency’s environmental impact becomes clearer.

It also helped prompt a series of high profile critics to slate the digital currency this week, including US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

President Biden’s top economic adviser described Bitcoin as “an extremely inefficient way to conduct transactions,” saying “the amount of energy consumed in processing those transactions is staggering”.

It’s unclear exactly how much energy Bitcoin uses. Cryptocurrencies are – by design – hard to track. But the consensus is that Bitcoin mining is a very energy-intensive business.

The University of Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) studies the burgeoning business of cryptocurrencies.

It calculates that Bitcoin’s total energy consumption is somewhere between 40 and 445 annualised terawatt hours (TWh), with a central estimate of about 130 terawatt hours.

The UK’s electricity consumption is a little over 300 TWh a year, while Argentina uses around the same amount of power as the CCAF’s best guess for Bitcoin.

And the electricity the Bitcoin miners use overwhelmingly comes from polluting sources.

The CCAF team surveys the people who manage the Bitcoin network around the world on their energy use and found that about two-thirds of it is from fossil fuels.

Huge computing power – and therefore energy use – is built into the way the blockchain technology that underpins the cryptocurrency has been designed.

It relies on a vast decentralised network of computers.

These are the so-called Bitcoin “miners” who enable new Bitcoins to be created, but also independently verify and record every transaction made in the currency.

In fact, the Bitcoins are the reward miners get for maintaining this record accurately.

It works like a lottery that runs every 10 minutes, explains Gina Pieters, an economics professor at the University of Chicago and a research fellow with the CCAF team.

Data processing centres around the world race to compile and submit this record of transactions in a way that is acceptable to the system.

They also have to guess a random number.

The first to submit the record and the correct number wins the prize – this becomes the next block in the blockchain.

At the moment, they are rewarded with six-and-a-quarter Bitcoins, valued at about $50,000 each.

As soon as one lottery is over, a new number is generated, and the whole process starts again.

The higher the price, says Prof Pieters, the more miners want to get into the game.

“They want to get that revenue,” she tells me, “and that’s what’s going to encourage them to introduce more and more powerful machines in order to guess this random number, and therefore you will see an increase in energy consumption,” she says.

And there is another factor that drives Bitcoin’s increasing energy consumption.

The software ensures it always takes 10 minutes for the puzzle to be solved, so if the number of miners is increasing, the puzzle gets harder and the more computing power needs to be thrown at it.

Bitcoin is therefore actually designed to encourage increased computing effort.

The idea is that the more computers that compete to maintain the blockchain, the safer it becomes, because anyone who might want to try and undermine the currency must control and operate at least as much computing power as the rest of the miners put together.

What this means is that, as Bitcoin gets more valuable, the computing effort expended on creating and maintaining it – and therefore the energy consumed – inevitably increases.

We can track how much effort miners are making to create the currency.

They are currently reckoned to be making 160 quintillion calculations every second – that’s 160,000,000,000,000,000,000, in case you were wondering.

And this vast computational effort is the cryptocurrency’s Achilles heel, says Alex de Vries, the founder of the Digiconomy website and an expert on Bitcoin.

All the millions of trillions of calculations it takes to keep the system running aren’t really doing any useful work.

“They’re computations that serve no other purpose,” says de Vries, “they’re just immediately discarded again. Right now we’re using a whole lot of energy to produce those calculations, but also the majority of that is sourced from fossil energy.”

The vast effort it requires also makes Bitcoin inherently difficult to scale, he argues.

“If Bitcoin were to be adopted as a global reserve currency,” he speculates, “the Bitcoin price will probably be in the millions, and those miners will have more money than the entire [US] Federal budget to spend on electricity.”

“We’d have to double our global energy production,” he says with a laugh. “For Bitcoin.”

He says it also limits the number of transactions the system can process to about five per second.

This doesn’t make for a useful currency, he argues.

And that view is echoed by many eminent figures in finance and economics.

The two essential features of a successful currency are that it is an effective form of exchange and a stable store of value, says Ken Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

He says Bitcoin is neither.

“The fact is, it’s not really used much in the legal economy now. Yes, one rich person sells it to another, but that’s not a final use. And without that it really doesn’t have a long-term future.”

What he is saying is that Bitcoin exists almost exclusively as a vehicle for speculation.

So, I want to know: is the bubble about to burst?

“That’s my guess,” says Prof Rogoff and pauses.

“But I really couldn’t tell you when.”

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