Isn't it about time we legalised marijuana?

An excellent piece as ever by Matthew Norman on the inability of any UK government to peep over the parapet of its paranoia to take note of a change of approach in other countries regarding cannabis, a naturally occurring plant that has been in use around the world for untold centuries – even in parts of Trump’s US for heaven’s sake! 

Humans (and some animals) have always had a propensity for ingesting mind altering substances – gosh, maybe they just like the effect.

With news of yet more tragic and untimely deaths from unregulated artificial drugs and chemical substitutes, like backstreet MDMA and the erstwhile “legal highs”, where is the problem with the one that has probably never directly killed anyone, and why is this debate still grinding on? 

We can’t expect any change in policy from this government, who will no doubt continue to dismiss any voice of reason stating the bleeding obvious, even from their own appointed experts. 

An example is the case of David Nutt’s dismissal from his post as government advisor in 2009, apparently for “crossing the line between science and policy” in the words of Alan Johnson, then home secretary; surely not a direct invitation to massage factual findings to match the party line! 

I love Matthew’s point that Britain is the world’s largest exporter of medical cannabis, whilst officially refusing to believe it does any good; is the obverse of this the profitable sale of advanced weapons to some unsavoury regimes, whilst officially refusing to believe they’ll do any harm? 

Oh the sweet smoky puff of hypocrisy, weed or cordite flavoured depending.

Rick Biddulph
Address supplied

Why is our money treated as so dispensable?

To hear this morning that the government has just lost the country £2bn by selling some of its stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland makes me sick! 

Like the £1bn given to the Northern Irish government to secure the DUP’s support for the Conservatives, our politicians seem only too happy to be profligate with the nation’s money for political reasons! 

They are happy to give everyone’s hard earned cash away without regard to the individuals who have to pay for it, just so that the rich get richer and those same politicians can retain their hold on power!

It surely is high time that small and medium sized businesses ,as well as the poor and middle earners, who fund the lifestyles of the richest through providing the bulk of our taxes, should call our politicians to account and we should be governed for the common good of all, not the benefit of the few.

There are so many pressing needs; the NHS, care of the elderly, a just welfare system for everyone, infrastructure, climate change – and we are snowed under with many other problems outside of the Brexit issue. 

High time to think again and build a just future for the next generations?

Jenny Rorrison
Address supplied

Despite new technology, we are less connected than ever

As nearly every month a new and even more spectacular mobile phone is announced on the market, aren’t we getting less connected and more alone?

When you’re sitting in a coffee shop watching the world go by – aren’t  you walking with them? The world seems to have been taken over by machines. Perhaps we should try to be more in tune with each other.

The coffee shop is like a community centre where people meet their friends or make new acquaintances. You can spend ten minutes over a cup of coffee or an hour over lunch. We are more and more missing this interaction because of the computer revolution.

Now we can contact each other in a matter of seconds, to the other side of the planet, so cheaply and in so many different ways. There’s the mobile phone which almost everyone has, with which we can access our bank accounts, apart from many other things. 

The internet in general, and social media in particular, have had a big impact on society. But as we reach a person or thing so rapidly, are we not leaving something of ourselves behind?

We have become addicted to these devices, and tend to become alone, not wanting to get out of the house. More and more people have become isolated, not contacting their families and friends, who are not that far away.

The internet can solve some practical problems, the results of which are becoming more and more mind boggling, such as whole documents being sent or deleted by the press of a button, driverless cars coming to the fore and being able to pay for a bus fare with a watch. But I think that we have gone too far, whereby now you can ask a gadget a question and it will give you an answer in an instant!

Haven’t we become less human – some might say like zombies? We are saving so much time with these computers, that we’re spending less time with ourselves and those around us.

Robert D Dangoor
London SW7

Michael Gove would make an awful prime minister

If I was the hedge fund manager Crispin Odey, I would be hoping my clients had not read your entertaining article in The Independent.

According to Odey, Michael Gove is the only suitable government minister that campaigned for Brexit at the referendum who is still a minister. He clearly believes this confers some great badge of ability upon him, without considering the reality that he is being hugged close by the PM, just as are Boris Johnston, Liam Fox and David Davis.

Odey goes on to say that Gove has many attributes that make him a non-traditional Tory. 

Some unkind people might suggest that today’s Tory government is full of non-traditional Tories, since their economic dogma has taken them so far away from supporting law and order and defence of the realm. 

They are also collecting increasing opposition from the business community due to their legitimate concerns for the very negative likely impact of even a “successful” Brexit, regardless of whether May or Gove is the PM.

Just what happened to traditional Toryism? At least you knew who they supported, and what their values were.

David Curran

Building safety measures

Towers have a remarkable fire-safety record if windows are separated by a yard of inorganic material, or by a balcony. This barrier delays fire spread and gives time to fight the fire. This barrier almost ensures that nobody can die in a fire unless they are in the flat where it starts. This foolproof prescription was law in London until 1984, but not since then.

Pressure from the industry resulted in a change to guidance after April 2007 to permit materials of limited combustibility. Hundreds of towers were then covered with materials that were designed to meet this standard, despite having significant organic content.

As any organic material will burn in a hot enough fire, this change fatally undermined the “stay put” policy and a disaster like Grenfell became possible. A government review has taken a year to conclude the guidance is safe, so this recipe for disaster is still in force.

Steve Murray, architect

Lee Ridley’s t-shirt slogans

I’m delighted that Lee Ridley won Britain’s Got Talent. However, I’m not at all sure about the slogans on the t-shirts he wore.

Today with many genuinely disabled people suffering far more abuse than ever before, I really don’t think “I’m only in it for the parking” and ”I was disabled before it was popular” helps with addressing that very serious issue.

Sadly, with the mentality of many, slogans like these are very likely to elicit more abuse for disabled people like himself.

Judi Martin

Response to your article on UNAIDS sexual assault claims

We, the undersigned women from the UNAIDS secretariat, write in response to your article of 31 May 2018, “Government urged to consider stopping funding for ‘boys club’ UN agency hit by sexual assault claims”, which quotes a UNAIDS staff member as having said that the organisation had allowed a “sexist culture where women are more window dressing than actually recognised for their performance”.

We categorically reject this portrayal as it does not represent our experience of working at UNAIDS. To suggest that we are “window dressing” diminishes and discredits us as professionals and our many years of dedicated service.

We strongly believe that no one person can speak to our individual experiences or our values – especially without our collaboration and consent. We represent a diversity of culture, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, HIV status and expertise. We are united by our commitment to the Aids response, women’s empowerment and the right to live free from violence and harassment.

We support and stand by all people who have experienced sexual harassment. We are active and committed participants in the process of change at UNAIDS to ensure an inclusive environment with zero tolerance for all forms of harassment.

We stand in solidarity with the Aids response – one of the most remarkable responses to an epidemic in modern history. We are proud to work for UNAIDS and the people we serve through our work, bringing hope, dignity and health to millions around the world.

Signed by Andrea Vidarte and 147 others
Address supplied

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Rise of dog flu strains could increase risk of next human pandemic, scientists warn

Man’s best friend may be the unwitting delivery system for the next flu pandemic among humans, leading scientists have warned on publication of a new study that found an increase in dog flu strains that could potentially infect people.

Researchers found the virus is now capable of jumping from pigs, one of a handful of species that carries flu, to dogs. They, in turn, can infect humans.

It also found that flu strains were becoming more diverse in canines, in a pattern “very reminiscent” of the events that led to the global swine flu outbreak a decade ago, they said. 

The virus has yet to make the jump from dogs to people, but the study’s authors suggested governments should make preparations for controlling the spread of flu in canines, which would increase the risk of a mutant strain crossing the species boundary.

This is particularly important in areas where there are large stray populations and in parts of Asia where they are farmed for meat, they said.

“What we have found is another set of viruses that come from swine that are originally avian in origin, and now they are jumping into dogs and have been reassorted with other viruses in dogs,” said Professor Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute.

“The diversity in dogs has increased so much now that the type of combinations of viruses that can be created in dogs represent potential risk for a virus to jump to a dog into a human.”

As new flu strains pass into other species they can swap genes with other infectious diseases native to their host and this increases the virus’s ability to reproduce and cause harm.

In the event that these new strains infect humans they can be very serious as our immune systems haven’t previously encountered them and are slow to fight off the infection.

Advice during bird and swine flu pandemics has been to avoid close contact with the affected animals, although many people are much closer with their dogs than farm animals.

Based at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, Professor Garcia-Sastre heads up one of five leading centres of excellence in flu research in the US.

He said the “new virus” identified in dogs is H1N1 – the same strain as the 2008 swine flu pandemic.

This strain began in birds, and passed into pigs, but the “antigen” markings on its outer coat – which our immune system uses to spot invaders – are different from the 2008 outbreak.

“We now have H1N1, H3N2 and H3N8 in dogs,” Professor Garcia-Sastre added. “They are starting to interact with each other. This is very reminiscent of what happened in swine 10 years before the H1N1 pandemic.”

For the research, published in the mBio journal of the American Microbiological Society, the researchers analysed the genetics of 16 influenza viruses found in dogs in China’s southern Guangxi region.

Most of these dogs were pets who had been brought to the vet with respiratory conditions, but the large population of street dogs and the dog meat trade makes the spread of infection more likely than in other countries.

They said that governments should begin to consider ways to avert or control any future spread of canine flu. In the UK and US bird flu outbreaks are controlled by culling infected and exposed animals, but doctors are working on a vaccine alternative for swine flu.

“There are attempts to restrict influenza virus in pigs through vaccination and one could consider vaccination for dogs,” Dr Garcia-Sastre said.

A 2015 outbreak of canine flu caused the deaths of at least six dogs in the US and infected thousands.

Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, who was not involved with the research, said it was unlikely we could second guess the next outbreak but a dog source wasn’t impossible.

“Humans have lots of interaction with dogs, and we know that dogs can be infected with influenza,” he added. “What this study provides is evidence that dogs can be naturally infected with multiple strains of viruses, most notably viruses from pigs, which are a known reservoir of influenza viruses that can infect us.

“This increases the potential threat of dogs acting as mixing vessels for the production of new strains of virus that might, just might, in the future spill over into humans.”

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Nathan Larson, the self-described incel paedophile, is running for Congress. This is how he groomed vulnerable young men

The corruption of what used to be a support movement into a hate group means that young lonely men seeking a community are at risk of misogynistic radicalisation and recruitment into communities that glorify rape and paedophilia. In order to understand how this is happening, you need to understand Nathan Larson.

It’s 2018, which means it’s unsurprising that a self-described white supremacist and paedophile is running for Congress in Virginia. Nathan Larson wants to legalise child pornography and incestuous marriage, and repeal the Violence Against Women Act so that women can be classified “as property, initially of their fathers and later of their husbands”. He also established a number of forums on which he posted under the pseudonyms “Lysander” and “Leucosticte”, advocating for the rape of women and graphically describing child pornography.

Larson was recruiting from the incel community, which was brought to prominence following an incident earlier this year in which one of their number is alleged to have driven a van along a pavement in Toronto, killing 10 people and wounding more than a dozen others.

Incel, which stands for “involuntarily celibate”, is nominally a label adopted by men who want to have sex or a relationship but are unable to find one, but in practice it describes a set of toxic communities in which lonely, vulnerable young men who need support find nothing but misogyny, self-loathing and nihilism.

A typical post on an incel community sees users attributing their misfortune to inalterable aspects of appearance. Any attempts at self-improvement are mocked as “copes”.

The websites Larson created have been taken down after a campaign from the activist group r/IncelTears and, but Larson is already looking for alternative hosting. As with the white supremacist sites Stormfront and Daily Stormer, it’s likely he’ll be able to acquire it, even if it is on the dark web. He’s found no shortage of support from forums like, the main incel community since they were banned from reddit in November last year for inciting violence.

While the story of an admitted paedophile running for Congress might seem warped enough, the bigger issue here is this. Young men turning to forums for support and finding themselves radicalised into misogynist extremists, advocating for the sexual enslavement of women. But moreover, men like Larson (who is not involuntarily celibate by any stretch of the imagination, given that he has been married twice and has a daughter who is out of his custody) make accounts on these forums specifically in order to recruit people they think will be sympathetic to their cause. In the words of one reddit user, “the incelocalypse owner is only part of the incel community because he sees it as a place where being a child molester isn’t considered a non-starter. It’s a great recruitment spot for him.”

Unfortunately, they’re right. Incel forums, which began as support groups in the late 1990s, now ubiquitously accept the concept of the “blackpill, which says that a man’s life chances are fundamentally determined by his attractiveness, and nothing they can do will change their fate. The only options left to them, then, are living in misery or taking violent action against themselves and others. They feel wronged by the world and they blame women, whom they hold responsible for not giving them the affection they believe they are entitled to.

Many of them advocate the rape or enslavement of women, or for the state to “allocate” women to them as property. Some of them want to lower the age of consent or abolish it entirely. It’s unsurprising, then, that in this community a paedophile like Nathan Larson might find common cause. In this barely regulated environment where the most extreme opinions are given the most credence, he is barely saying anything new. That means that people like him are getting a free platform to access vulnerable men and expose them to 3,000 word essays on “How to psyche yourself up to feel entitled to rape”.

It might seem like there’s not much that can be done to prevent this. White supremacist sites seem to find new homes whenever they’re brought down. But it’s worth noting that every time a community like Incelocalypse is shut down, it loses members. The old incels subreddit had more than 40,000 subscribers, its successor has just over half that, and has just 6,000 registered members. As these sites are driven further and further from the accessible surface of the internet, they become harder for potential new recruits to stumble upon.

Their location in grotty corners of the dark web or on slow servers hosted by Chinese domain registrars makes them seem less credible and more like the extremist fringe groups they are. If lonely men looking for support find only the incels, then recovery, self-acceptance and self-improvement become vanishingly unlikely. But if they find genuine support groups – and they are out there – then there’s hope for them. The only way to prevent the radicalisation of more men into world views that dehumanise women is to make sure that one kind of group is far more visible, welcoming and accessible than the other.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD researcher, into online communities, at the University of Edinburgh

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The Lexicon of Love Island, from muggy to melt

With the return of Love Island comes the return of a niche lexicon.

Perhaps it is the bringing together of various dialects that results in a somewhat unique vocabulary being used, perhaps it’s just the confinements of the villa prompting its inhabitants to get creative with their lingo.

But along with questionable tans, brutal recouplings and impossibly toned, taut bodies comes a unique language.

It remains to be seen what new gems will emerge this season, but we can count on the return of many from series gone by.

Here’s the Love Island glossary you need to see you through the next eight weeks:


Disrespectful – adjective

Made famous by last year’s contestant ‘Muggy Mike’. 

See also ‘to mug someone off’ – for example, by stealing their partner.

“I can’t believe you did that, that was well muggy.”

To crack on

To try and make someone fancy you – verb

If someone in the villa is single and there is an imminent recoupling, they may crack on with someone else.

“I left Olivia for five minutes and he was cracking on with her!”

Total melt

A wimp, soppy person or idiot

Last year’s winner Kem popularised the catchphrase ‘you total melt’.

“You’re acting like a total melt over her.”

To graft

To put the work in with someone to get them to like you – verb

Grafting typically occurs after cracking on with someone.

“He’s barely been talking to me so needs to get grafting really.”

My type on paper

Your ideal man or woman who ticks all your boxes – noun

Usually used in the context of physical appearance.

“Adam is 100 per cent my type on paper.”


Angry – adjective

To behave in a salty manner or to behave angrily towards someone.

“Stop being so salty with me!”

To stick it on

To flirt – verb

Similar to cracking on and grafting, sticking it on someone is when you flirt in a blatant and very forward manner.

“She was sticking it on him about five minutes after meeting!”

To pie off

To reject – verb

If you’ve been pied off, you’ve been rejected or shot down.

“I stuck it on her but she totally pied me off, it was so embarrassing.”

The ick

The sudden and overwhelming feeling of being repulsed by someone – noun

If you’re coupled up with someone you fancy but all of a sudden find you can’t bear them, you’ve got the ick.

“I don’t know what happened but I don’t want to kiss him at all any more – I think I’ve got the ick.”

The Independent’s Millennial Love group is the best place to discuss to the highs and lows of modern dating and relationships. Join the conversation here.​

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Air Force won’t buy refrigerators worth $24M for Air Force One

June 5 (UPI) — Air Force One will not be outfitted with two refrigerators worth $24 million, the Air Force said in a letter to Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney.

In a letter dated May 29, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the Air Force and the White House Military Office decided to “terminate the effort” to replace the refrigerators.

“While the VC-25A chiller replacement requirement still exists, the progress on the VC-25B program weighed against the cost of the chiller effort makes termination the most prudent fiscal sense for the government,” Wilson wrote in the letter.

Wilson noted there are other steps available to ensure “food security.”

“The Air Force has notified Boeing of the government’s intention to cancel the subject contract,” Wilson wrote

Boeing was awarded a $23.7 million contract to replace two of the five refrigerators aboard Air Force One in December. The refrigerators were part of the original commercial equipment delivered with the aircraft in 1990.

“Clearly, the Air Force is making the right decision to cancel the previously announced sole-source contract and hit restart on this process,” Courtney, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Even with the understanding that the Air Force One mission brings with it unique requirements and challenges, a $24 million sole-source contract just didn’t pass the smell test.”

“I commend the Air Force for reversing this decision and look forward to working with them to ensure the next-generation Air Force One program stays on schedule.”

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Telescopes reveal glut of massive stars in starburst galaxies

June 5 (UPI) — New surveys suggest starburst galaxies, both nearby and in the distant universe, host a greater number of a massive stars than more peaceful galaxies, challenging popular theories about galactic evolution.

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and Very Large Telescope, astronomers observed several starburst galaxies in the distant universes, or early universe. The images revealed galaxies as they were shortly after the Big Bang.

To determine the ratio of massive stars found in the faraway galaxies, scientists compared the ratios of two carbon monoxide isotopes found in each. Certain carbon monoxide ratios are only produced by large stars. The isotope ratios measured using ALMA and VLT showed the distant galaxies hosted a surprisingly large amount of massive stars.

Massive stars burn hotter and brighter, but live shorter lives. Their prevalence alters the chemical makeup of a galaxy, affecting the elements available for future star generations and planet formation.

While scientists were surprised to find so many large stars in the early universe, the latest findings — detailed in a pair of newly published papers — suggest continuity between the distant universe and the local universe.

A recent survey of the star-forming region 30 Doradus in the Large Magellanic Cloud revealed a surprisingly large population of massive stars.

“We found around 30 percent more stars with masses more than 30 times that of the sun than expected, and about 70 percent more than expected above 60 solar masses,” Fabian Schneider, astronomer at the University of Oxford, said in a news release. “Our results challenge the previously predicted 150 solar mass limit for the maximum birth mass of stars and even suggest that stars could have birth masses up to 300 solar masses.”

“Our findings lead us to question our understanding of cosmic history,” said researcher Rob Ivison. “Astronomers building models of the universe must now go back to the drawing board, with yet more sophistication required.”

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‘Younger’ renewed ahead of Season 5 premiere

June 5 (UPI) — Popular comedy-drama Younger has been renewed ahead of its Season 5 premiere.

TV Land announced at a premiere party Monday in New York that it picked up the series, starring Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff, for a sixth season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Younger exemplifies romantic comedy at its best and each season the show hits new creative and ratings heights,” TV Land president Kevin Kay said.

“We are honored to continue to work with the brilliant Darren Star and this amazing cast, led by the multitalented Sutton Foster,” he added. “The new season is outstanding and we are thrilled for what’s to come for these beloved characters.”

Season 5 will premiere Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET. Younger confirmed its Season 6 renewal on its official Twitter account Monday.


Younger follows Liza Miller (Foster), a 40-year-old divorced mother who lies about her age to land a job in the publishing industry. The series co-stars Duff, Debi Mazar, Miriam Shor, Nico Tortorella and Peter hermann.

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Danny DeVito returns teen’s cardboard cutout prom gesture

June 5 (UPI) — A Pennsylvania teen who took a cardboard cutout of Danny DeVito to her prom saw the favor returned this week when the actor sported a cardboard cutout of her.

Allison Cross made headlines last month when she took a life-sized DeVito cutout as her date to the Carlisle High School prom in Pennsylvania.

Rob Mcelhenney, one of DeVito’s costars on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, posted a photo to Instagram on Monday showing DeVito with a cardboard cutout of Cross on the set of the TV series.

“Hey Allison — I heard you took cardboard Danny to prom. What a coincidence. He took cardboard Allison to Paddy’s,” Mcelhenney wrote.

Cross responded to the photo on Twitter, writing: “I am shooketh.”

“Thank you SO, SO MUCH @RMcElhenney and @DannyDeVito for fulfilling my dream of visiting Paddy’s Pub from @alwayssunny!!” she tweeted.

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Woman wins $1 million lottery jackpot on way to church

June 5 (UPI) — A South Carolina woman who won a $1 million lottery jackpot on her way to church said the windfall was “a miracle.”

The Inman woman told South Carolina Education Lottery officials she stopped at a local Circle K store on her way to a Sunday service at her church and bought a $10 Extreme Millions scratch-off ticket.

The ticket, which was the last of its kind in the store, ended up winning the woman the last available $1 million top prize in the game.

The woman said she went to church after scratching off the lucky ticket.

“It’s a miracle,” the winner said.

“I feel overwhelmed,” she said. “This is life changing for me and my family.”

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Reese Witherspoon goes bowling with ‘Big Little Lies’ co-stars

June 5 (UPI) — Big Little Lies star Reese Witherspoon went bowling with her co-stars Sunday.

The 42-year-old actress enjoyed an outing with Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Meryl Streep amid production on Season 2 of the HBO series.

Witherspoon, who plays Madeline Mackenzie on the show, shared a photo Monday on Instagram of herself, Kidman, Woodley and Streep taking to the lanes.

“We work and we play! Bowl-a-Rama party with the ladies of #BigLittleLies! @nicolekidman #MerylStreep @shailenewoodley,” she captioned the picture.

Witherspoon also posted photo booth snapshots with Woodley and co-star Zoe Kravitz on Instagram Stories.

“We had fun!” she wrote, adding tears of laughter emojis.

The Big Little Lies cast started filming Season 2 in March. The show, which is based on the Liane Moriarty book, was originally envisioned as a miniseries, but was renewed for a second season in December.

Witherspoon, Kravitz and co-star Laura Dern also came together Saturday to see Woodley’s movie Adrift.

“WHAT TRUE SUPPORT AND SISTERHOOD LOOKS LIKE. i feel so shown up for. #adrift @adriftmovie,” Woodley captioned a photo with her co-stars.

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