Season's greetings hope you're all enjoying some well-earned time off with your pets and thinking up some New Year's Resolutions - and if I may suggest one - adopt a rescue pet! Sure, puppies and kittens (which incidentally can also be found in rescue) maybe more cute, but older animals need loving homes too...
An eerie calm descends over Al Waer, an outer suburb of Homs, as we enter an area that is home to some 400,000 people caught in the middle of on-going conflict. I am part of a joint mission, including UNICEF, WFP, OCHA, UNDSS, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, here to access the humanitarian situation.
Yesterday's headlines, about removing benefits for those under 25, add to the mounting evidence that welfare will be on the front line of the 2015 election - a key issue for parties to show that Britain can do better than this, or that they're on the side of hard working people. Stepping back from the detail of this latest worrying announcement, we're left with a bigger question: why is welfare on a thirty year popularity losing streak? And what role have its supporters - myself included - played in it?
The past three months of my life have been engaged in managing and shaping a fascinating project called films4peace, which reaches its fruition this weekend on the UN's International Day of Peace on 21 September. It's an unusual beast: the brainchild of the highly creative South African curator and art historian Mark Coetzee...
It's time we admit that people who are renting in the UK, through choice or necessity, are being treated as second class citizens and widespread action is needed. At present, rarely a day passes without a story in the news about the non-existent rights of renters and the plethora of ways private landlords and letting agents have of exploiting this.
With home ownership fast becoming a distant dream for many young people entering the workplace, what I envisioned my life to be in my twenties is not what it turned out to be. Now at the age of 33, I find myself thinking of dishes, and how many I would need to wash in order to keep up with the rent on my in South London flat.
We desperately need housing to be a national priority to deliver a huge increase in new homes. Our continued failure to tackle this problem head on hits millions of families hard, denies people the opportunity to buy their own home, traps increasing numbers of working people in benefit dependency at huge cost to the public purse and acts as a real brake on economic growth.