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    The British fraud regulatory agency completes two-year investigation.

    The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), part of the UK criminal justice system, has decided to bring a prosecution against the Japanese camera and medical equipment manufacturer Olympus and its UK subsidiary Gyrus Group for violating section 501 of the UK Companies Act of 2006.

    The decision was made following SFO’s completion of a two-year investigation.

    Earlier, SFO alleged that Olympus has provided false information in its financial accounts for Gyrus Group during the financial years 2009 and 2010.

    Citing that the potential financial impact of this prosecution on its business is unclear, Olympus in a statement, said “As it is difficult to predict the outcome of this matter or estimate the level of fines that may be imposed on Olympus and GGL.”

    Michiko Kawasaki, a spokeswoman of Olympus, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying: “We just received the notice last night and so are still going through it. We haven’t decided on the specifics on how we’ll handle it.”

    Olympus’ $1.7bn accounting fraud scandal, which was revealed by the company’s former president Tsuyoshi Kikukawa in 2011, is claimed to be one of the biggest in Japanese history. Three former executives Olympus were sent to jail over the scandal.

    Earlier in 2013, Olympus paid a penalty of 700m Japanese Yen.


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    This is a problem for CIOs.

    Growing numbers of CIOs and IT organisations are turning to the cloud to help them gain a competitive edge for the business, cut costs, and do more with less.  Nearly three quarters of the UK CIOs we surveyed in May this year agreed they were using the cloud in some capacity within their infrastructure.  One of the key benefits of doing so, the study found, was enabling truly ubiquitous access to business applications on data – anywhere, and on any device.  This is indeed the cloud’s biggest advantage over in-house IT infrastructure – but is it also its greatest weakness, as recent events have demonstrated? 

    Revelations about the US government’s PRISM surveillance programme by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, have prompted many organisations to rethink their investments in cloud.  Among the allegations Snowden made were claims that US-based technology firms colluded with the government to provide on-demand access to data held on their systems.  Many providers have subsequently denied the allegations, but the damage has been done.  All of a sudden, data sovereignty – the physical location where data is stored and the kind of organisation that is storing it – now matters to CIOs.  Keeping it in data centres in a country where the authorities could access or monitor it without consent constitutes a significant business risk.  The ability to choose where it resides – and even transfer it from one jurisdiction to another on demand – is now a prime concern.

    Policymakers in Europe have lent their voices to this concern.  German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has said: “whoever fears their communication is being intercepted in any way should use services that don't go through American servers.”  And the allegations have hit US cloud providers hard – with $21-$35bn predicted losses, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Anyone moving information from their immediate control needs to acknowledge a degree of loss of control and reliance on third parties.  However, the consideration of whether you trust your supplier must now include their government.

    Yet moving corporate applications and data back into localised clouds – or even back in house altogether – is not the answer either.  Cloud platforms do help firms become more agile, and do help foster technology innovation, even in the most risk-averse organisations.  CIOs need a way to retain those benefits in a way that also protects the organisation, and the data it holds, against being compromised in any way.

    Clearly, scrutinising cloud providers’ global network and data centre footprints, including where they are headquartered is a crucial first step.  Arguably as important is the ability to restrict or move data around on demand – to support new branch offices in new countries, for example.  This is highly challenging technically as it requires the entire network, server and storage infrastructure to be virtualised and automated to a large degree.  Delivering such enterprise cloud services to the world without touching any US-located infrastructure at all is even more difficult.  The routing of data travelling through the internet is automated, so there is no way of predicting the fastest path and there are any number of routes which data can take.

    So how does this affect "The Cloud"?  Gone are the days where you can visit a data centre and be shown the very server where your information is stored.  However, the cloud’s versatility enables data to be placed wherever the supplier wants to put it, e.g., to restrict it to one country (or several) or one data centre (or several) or even a set of servers within a data centre.  And wherever the data is put, they probably will not give you audit rights to check the implemented security.. Therefore due diligence is as important as ever when choosing a cloud provider and each business moving to the cloud will need to contemplate the following questions:

    • Is your provider headquartered in the US or does it have a US presence?
    • Does your supplier have good security credentials?
    • Can you restrict where your data is located with your supplier’s cloud?
    • Does your supplier allow you to audit them?
    • Does your supplier guarantee data destruction?
    • Is your cloud supplier experienced at handling sensitive industries such as financial institutions?

    The cloud’s appeal has mushroomed as CIOs have embraced its promises of increased flexibility and cost control. Whilst the cloud is not a guarantee against covert spying activities or indeed interception of traffic it enables flexibility and a level of security that cultivate businesses cost effective expansion across territories.  It is also a great shame that the national-security regimes in one country are now causing this compelling idea to unravel somewhat.  We hope the PRISM affair turns out to be just a temporary setback to truly mass-market adoption of cloud computing.  For now, however, CIOs must factor data sovereignty into every cloud computing decision.


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    The UK's third largest trade union expresses "considerable regret" at Miliband's planned reforms and warns of "further reductions in spending".

    No one in Labour has ever disputed that Ed Miliband's plan to reform trade union funding so that members are required to opt-in to joining the party, rather than being automatically affiliated by general secretaries, will cost it millions. But few anticipated that it would do so even before the changes have been introduced.

    The GMB, the UK's third largest union, announced this morning that it plans to reduce its affiliation fees to Labour from £1.2m to £150,000, depriving the party of 3% of its 2012 income. The union, which backed Miliband's leadership bid, currently affiliates 420,000 of its members to the party but will reduce this number to 50,000 from January. In a statement it said: 

    The GMB central executive council (CEC) has voted to reduce its current levels of affiliation to the Labour party from 420,000 to 50,000 from 2014.

    This will reduce the union's basic affiliation fee to Labour party by £1.1m per year. It is expected that there will further reductions in spending on Labour party campaigns and initiatives.

    GMB CEC expressed considerable regret about the apparent lack of understanding the proposal mooted by Ed Miliband will have on the collective nature of trade union engagement with the Labour Party.

    A further source of considerable regret to the CEC is that the party that had been formed to represent the interest of working people in this country intends to end collective engagement of trade unions in the party they helped to form.

    The CEC also decided to scale down by one third the level of its national political fund.

    It's likely that Labour would have suffered a similar loss had the GMB waited until the reforms were introduced. The union will now affiliate 12% of its members to the party, in line with the private estimate made by Labour and union officials of how many will opt-in (and the same as the number that Lord Ashcroft's Unite poll suggested would join). But the GMB's decision to slash its funding in advance, rather than seek to recruit members to the party, is a damaging vote of no confidence in Miliband's reforms and Labour's policy stance. 

    The statement also suggests that the union intends to cut back on separate donations from its political fund, promising "further reductions in spending on Labour party campaigns and initiatives." 

    The move does, however, make it harder for the Tories to claim that the unions are seeking to "buy influence" in Labour, although I'd expect them to point out that it increases the influence of Unite. 


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    The sold assets will be managed by GateHouse Media.

    News Corporation has sold the 33 publications in its Dow Jones Local Media Group to an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group for an undisclosed amount, marking the first disposal of the struggling media firm since its split in June 2013.

    Apart from daily and weekly newspapers, the Dow Jones Local Media Group operates eight daily newspapers and 15 weeklies.

    The sale will include daily newspaper titles such as the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, the Cape Cod Times in Hyannis, Massachusetts, the Pocono Record in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and the Daily Tidings in Ashland, Oregon.

    Robert Thomson, CEO of News Corporation, said: “We are confident that the papers will prosper under the new owners, but they were not strategically consistent with the emerging portfolio of the new News.”

    The sold assets of Dow Jones Local Media Group will be managed by New York-based GateHouse Media that publishes 97 dailies in 20 US states and 198 paid weeklies.

    Investment bank Waller Capital Partners advised Dow Jones on the sale.

    Christine Frank, managing director of Waller Capital, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying: “There has been a levelling of where newspapers are performing and a rationalisation of buyers’ expectations and sellers’ expectations on value. There really has been a lot of new money coming into the news industry as well as a lot of interests from existing strategic players.”

    Earlier in June, News Corporation’s shareholders have given their approval to Rupert Murdoch’s proposal to split the company into two independent, publicly traded firms.

    Global media are finding hard to manage their newspaper assets due to tough competition, and are breaking them in to smaller units for disposal.

    In April, News Corp said it was considering a sale of the community newspapers group.

    In August, the New York Times agreed to sell its Boston Globe newspaper and other New England media assets to John Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, for $70m.

    E-retailer Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos agreed to buy the Washington Post for $250m last month.


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    Welcome to the Sapphic Republic of Great Britain.

    The Lesbian Apocalypse is upon us. According, that is, to the President of the Center for Marriage Policy, David R Usher. The CMP is an American right-wing Christian group and one of the many voices against marriage equality in the US. Usher has warned us, in his column for Renew America, that if same-sex marriage is legalised in all fifty states, the men of the US will be doomed to enslavement by Machiavellian lesbian sex-maniacs. These women will, according to Usher, underhandedly get pregnant by men and, in doing so, entrap them economically. Sounds like the plot of a porn film written by a heavily armed survivalist from the safety of his bunker, right? But what if Usher has a point? What if Valerie Solanas’s man-hating SCUM Manifesto was actually a Nostradamic prediction of a new world order? And since same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK this year, is a lesbian coup about to hit Britain?

    Cat flaps are being installed in the Houses of Parliament. Burly women in hardhats are replacing Big Ben with a mildly nauseating, yonic art instillation. The rainbow flag flies atop Buckingham Palace, which has been converted into a giant performance poetry and “knit your feelings” venue. Led by Jane Hill, an army of lesbian journalists have seized control of the media. The streets run with soy milk and gin. The sound of atrocious Tracy Chapman covers has become grasshopper-like background noise. Welcome to the Sapphic Republic of Great Britain; the Big Mother state.

    So, what’s on the political agenda in the SRGB? I think I can safely say that lesbians are a bunch of lefties. Granted, conservative gay women are a thing. I met one once. It was strange. But let’s say the lesbian takeover happens tomorrow. Military intervention in Syria? Yeah, right. Nationalisation of pretty much everything? You’d better believe it. Hell, we’d nationalise cake. And state produced Ms Kipling fondant fancies would be more than exceedingly good. It would be nice if we could retain a democratic system, but hey, we’re trying to install a matriarchy here and could really do without the likes of Cameron and Clegg manning shit up. So, apologies to all you ballot fanatics out there, I’m afraid we’re talking one-party state. Don’t you worry though, lesbians know how to party.

    The Sapphic State would be policed by formidable, Amazonian types who would arrest anyone found selling overheated lattes (bad coffee is offensive to lesbians), dancing non-ironically to Robin Thicke, or watching the kind of lesbian porn where women with long nails jab at one another’s fannies with cucumbers. These dissidents would be sent to Group Therapy. This is where you’re forced to sit in a “trust circle” with other enemies of lesbianism and, fuelled only by herbal tea and sesame snaps, talk about your feelings until you pray for death.  

    Now, hetero folk – fortunately for you, being straight will be legal in the SRGB. In fact, we have no problem at all with your bizarre sexual practices. Sure, a lot of us would rather you kept it between the sheets. But the SRGB won’t discriminate, except against cat-haters, perhaps (they’ll be sent to re-education centres where they watch hilarious YouTube cat videos until they crack). You know what though? We’ll even let straight people get married. What’s more, the state will provide support groups for those struggling with their love of the opposite sex. There are going to be a lot of support groups in the SRGB. You’re absolutely right, David R Usher, the lesbians are coming for you.

     


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    "If there’s one thing I want to come out of what happened to me, it’s for the phrase “don’t feed the trolls” to be scrubbed from the annals of received wisdom."

    Before I begin, I just want to warn you all, that I will be quoting some of the messages I have received. They include offensive language and references to sexual violence, which may be triggering for some.

    So I’d like to start off by giving you a bit of background into what led up to the harassment I received for over two weeks in July and August, because I think it’s important to see how little it takes to provoke this kind of abuse – it’s important to face up to how much of a problem we still have with widespread misogyny against any woman who dares to use her voice in public.

    So some of you may have heard of a campaign I ran from April to July this year, asking the Bank of England to review its decision to have an all-male line-up on banknotes. (Note to media, I really didn’t campaign for Jane Austen’s face on a banknote, please stop saying I did, thank you!) The campaign received quite a lot of media attention, and I spent much of my time rehearsing arguments about the damage a public culture saturated with white male faces does to the aspirations and achievements of women and young girls.

    As a result of this media attention, throughout the campaign I had been on the receiving end of your garden variety sexist communications. The sort that call you a bitch, a cunt, that tell you to get back to the kitchen. The sort that tell you to shut up, stop whining, stop moaning – to get a life. The sort that tell you to deal with the more important things because, after all, the Queen’s on all the notes anyway isn’t she. Only you probably wouldn’t realise that because you’re a woman and women are stupid.

    These communications hurt and irritated in equal measure. They didn’t hurt because they were overtly abusive: they hurt because it was a reminder of how far women had to go before we were treated equally – but on the other hand, they were a reminder of how important the campaign was. I was fighting for the representation of women, because I firmly believed that the paucity of women in public life entrenched sexist attitudes towards us – and here was my proof.

    But then I got a letter, sent to my mum’s house. And this was my first taste of how far some men will go to intimidate women they disapprove of. Women who stand up, speak out and say “No, this is wrong, and I’m not having it.” The letter was not in itself threatening, but it left me shaken – as it was intended to. The contents of the letter were immaterial in many ways – they were merely a conduit for a man to tell me, a woman he disliked, that he knew were I lived. That he’d gone to the trouble of seeking out my address online. That he could come round any time he wanted.

    On the advice of some friends, I called the police. They said there was nothing they could do. So, I tried to forget the letter, and I hoped I wouldn’t hear from him again.

    Not long after this, I was celebrating a campaign victory. Inundated with congratulatory messages, my phone didn’t stop buzzing all day, as the Bank of England announced that they accepted that an all-male line up on banknotes was a damaging message to be sending out, and that, as a result, they were bringing forward the introduction of the £10 note, which would have Jane Austen’s face on it. They also announced, and this was the best bit as far as I was concerned, that they would be instigating a review of how they selected historical figures on banknotes, with a view to making sure that the diversity of society was represented on them, and making sure that they were properly complying with the Public Sector Equality Duty. That was it. A victory, but in the grand scheme of discrimination against women, a minor one.

    But, minor as it was, that was all it took for some men to decide I needed shutting up in the most aggressive way possible: with a deluge of threats of sexual violence. I’m going to read some of them out now, to give you a flavour. I divide them into two categories: the ones that saw it as a game, and the ones that were more serious.

    I’ll start off with the ones that saw it as more of a game; these often came with hashtags like #rapecrew and #rapecrewforever appended to them:

    • You need a good smashing up the arse
    • Call the cops we’ll rape them too
    • Everyone jump on the rape train – à @Ccriadoperez is the conductor
    • So looking forward to titty-fucking you later tonight – I’ve got an invitation to your anus
    • Some of us, me, don’t need consent to know what a bitch needs
    • Wouldn’t mind tying this bitch to my stove
    • U wanna rape with me? – this was said to another man, including me in the tweet
    • I always whisper “surprise” well not always, but it’s implied
    • Carpet-munching cunt needs to get raped
    • All that meat mmmmmm
    • Can I rape you?
    • Im gonna rape you, be very afraid – enjoying having the media at your doorstep? Better hope there isn’t a rapist disguised as a reporter
    • Silence is golden, but ducktape is silver
    • This joke is like a rapist. It’s going to score whether you like it or not
    • RAPE RAPE RAPE RAPE over and over again in capital letters
    • Seemingly supportive message with #hopeyougetraped at the end
    • Sent me pictures of sexual assaults, of domestic violence, of men’s faces twisted into deranged expressions, with words like “ain’t no brakes where we’re going” or “There ain’t no breaks on the rape train” superimposed over them.

    And then there were the more overtly violent and graphic messages:

    • @rapehernow disgusting bitch…should have been aborted with a hanger
    • SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH…OR ILL SHUT IT FOR YOU AND CHOKE IT WITH MY DICK
    • After strangulation, which organ in the female body remains warm after death? My cock
    • Stop breathing
    • I will find you – just think, it could be someone who knows you personally
    • @rapey1 WOMEN THAT TALK TOO MUCH NEED TO GET RAPED
    • rape her nice arse
    • Raped? I’d do a lot worse things than rape you!!
    • I’ve just got out of prison and would happily do more time to see you berried!! #tenfeetunder
    • I will find you and you don’t want to know what I will do, you’re pathetic, kill yourself before I do #godie
    • I’m going to pistol whip you over and over until you lose consciousness while your children(?) watch and then burn your flesh
    • I hope you get raped and die soon after #bitch
    • You’ll never get me…you’ll only feel my cock when it’s raping you slut
    • Open that cunt wide bitch…you about to feel da pain
    • I’ll paint your face white while you beg. [look up] To be released LOL
    • I have a sniper rifle aimed directly at your head currently. Any last words you fugly piece of shit? Watch out bitch.
    • UR DEAD AND GONE TONIGHT CUNT. KISS YOUR PUSSY GOODBYE AS WE BREAK IT IRREPARABLY
    • FIRST WE WILL MUTILATE YOUR GENITALS WITH SCISSORS, THEN SET YOUR HOUSE ON FIRE WHILE YOU BEG TO DIE TONIGHT. 23.00
    • And finally, from a man who repeatedly tweeted at me about how I was a witch: Best way to rape a witch, try and drown her first, then just as she is gagging for air, that is when you enter

    And then of course there were the bomb threats, like:

    • A car bomb will go off outside your house at 11:40pm. I will be watching you to make sure it does
    • A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT EXACTLY 10:47PM ON A TIMER AND TRIGGER AND DESTROY EVERYTING
    • And even the joy of some racist abuse like: Perhaps if you keep your fucking spick bitch nose out of UK politics you wouldn’t get abuse

    And then there was the taunting about how powerless I was:

    • Blocked me other account, many more lol
    • New account up and running lol
    • It’s great to be back after 30 seconds

    There was the stalking me online, digging up details of my past, my family, my work history. Writing blogs, making videos, setting up account after account after account solely dedicated to either harassing me, or talking about me abusively and intimately.

    There was the circumventing blocking on Twitter by using ask.fm – this involved my harassers asking questions of other people on ask.fm, that included my twitter handle, which meant that when that person answered one of these questions, I got tweeted. The “questions” varied from rape threats to publishing what they thought was my home address. And the questions were asked hundreds and hundreds of times, so that they filled up my twitter mentions. And I can tell you that on the day this type of abuse was at its worst, I broke down completely, utterly overwhelmed, starting to think that it was never going to end. By this point, it had been going on for a week.

    One of the saddest things about the abuse I suffered, was the fact that it wasn’t just from men. Some women joined in on the act too – although the majority of the malicious communications I got from women were of the victim-blaming variety. Stop attention-seeking, you’re a media whore, a fame hag, bet you’re crying your way to the bank over this. If you were really bothered you would just keep quiet. You’re not silenced – look at you all over the airwaves. Why should we care about you, you’re not perfect, you’re no mother Teresa. And at its worst and most blatant: “you’re no victim”.

    In this society steeped in misogyny, celebrity and inequality, I was someone to be both envied and hated – even as the rape threats continued to come. And of course women turning on me led a man who was stalking me to crow: “Even some feminists are turning on Caroline Criado-Perez now, they can see her real motives. Could be a big backfire #assraped”. He was right though. It was feminists too.

    The impact of all this on my life has been dramatic. When it was at its height I struggled to eat, to sleep, to work. I lost about half a stone in a matter of days. I was exhausted and weighed down by carrying these vivid images, this tidal wave of hate around with me wherever I went. And I kept being asked to relive the experience for endless media interviews – when I look back at that relentless attention, I can’t quite comprehend it. It didn’t feel real then, and it doesn’t feel real now. I still can’t quite believe this has happened to me.

    The psychological fall-out is still unravelling. I feel like I’m walking around like a timer about to explode; I’m functioning at just under boiling point – and it takes so little to make me cry – or to make me scream.

    And I’m still being told not to feed the trolls.

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate that phrase. That phrase takes no account of the feelings of the victim – only of the feelings of a society that doesn’t care, that doesn’t want to hear it, that wants women to put up and shut up. It completely ignores the actions of the abuser, focusing only on the actions of the victim – because that’s what we do in this society. We police victims. We ask “why doesn’t she leave?” instead of asking “why doesn’t he stop?”

    If there’s one thing I want to come out of what happened to me, it’s for the phrase “don’t feed the trolls” to be scrubbed from the annals of received wisdom. Not feeding the trolls doesn’t magically scrub out the image in your head of being told you’ll be gang-raped till you die. What are victims meant to do with that image, the rage and the horror that it conjures up? We’re meant to internalise it until it consumes us? Well I’m sorry, but I’m not having that.

    Victims have to be allowed to stand up and shout back – they need to be allowed to ask for support, without being accused of attention-seeking. They need to be allowed to draw the attention of the world to what so many women go through on a daily basis, and make it front page news. Because, make no mistake. Not talking about this is not going to make abuse and misogyny go away. On the contrary, it will help it to thrive.

    So many women got in touch with me when the story broke to thank me for speaking out about it, for making it front page news for so long. They had been through the same, they said. And the police had not helped them. The police had told them to lock their accounts, to stop tweeting controversial things – in one case, the controversial thing being tweeted about was racism. A black woman was being told she could not tweet about racism, because there was nothing the police could do about the ensuing rape threats.

    Well, I’m not having that either.

    There is something the police can do. They can do what they finally, after a lot of media coverage and behind the scenes pushing, did for me, which is to investigate what are, after all, crimes. Hate speech is a crime. Harassment is a crime. And if the police don’t have the resources to deal with these crimes, they need to be given them – and they need to use them to properly train their forces about how to handle these cases. Because I don’t want to live in a society that just throws up its hands when women are being routinely abused and says “it’s too hard. Just live with it.”

    There is also something social media companies can do. They can make it clear that abuse is not acceptable, in order to help shape a context where abuse doesn’t thrive. They can make reporting easier – and invest in well-trained staff to deal with these reports. They can listen to their users when they tell them that certain features aren’t working – like the current blocking system on twitter that still enables harassers to stalk the timelines of their victims, and incite others to harass them too.

    But ultimately, all these actions would be treating the symptoms and not the cause. Social media doesn’t cause misogyny; the police can’t cure it. What we really need to do is sit down as a society and take a long hard look at ourselves, in order to answer the question: “why are we producing so many people who just seem to hate women?” And the answer is going to be from within an education system that barely features women at all, and that doesn’t include statutory lessons on sex and relationships. It’s going to be from within a media where only one in four experts is a woman – and which deems the two women who die every week from domestic violence as too commonplace to be newsworthy. And so it remains hidden. And so it goes on.

    As women, we need to stand up and say no to this defeatism. To this status quo that views us and our needs as expendable, the first thing to go when we need to save money. We need to start getting together, determining what the parts of our society are that foster a climate where women are seen, but not heard, abused, but not given redress, and fighting back. The internet is without doubt an enabler of misogyny – but it’s also an enabler of other voices. Women’s voices. Women are using the internet in ways that give them a platform like nothing has before. We start and we win more campaigns than men do. We support other people’s campaigns more than men do (these are actual stats, not my feminist propaganda). We need to start understanding how formidable we can be, when we stand up together, start fighting back, start making demands of our politicians, and not backing down.

    One of the things that gets repeatedly thrown in my face, is the issue of free speech. I’ve been compared to China, to the Nazis, to the NSA, for fighting for the right for women to appear in public armed with opinions, and not face threats of sexual violence as a result. But the reality is, I love free speech. I am grateful for it every day. I love how the internet and feminism have given me the permission to use my voice, in a way I didn’t dare to in the past. But this free speech I’ve discovered, the free speech of women, is under attack. And it’s under attack as much from people who tell us not to feed the trolls, to stop attention-seeking, to keep quiet and not be controversial, as it is from men who send us rape threats every time we open our mouths, or those who call us Nazis for objecting to this.

    Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing. But in its current incarnation it serves the interests of the powerful, rather than the powerless. Like so many other liberal concepts, when it exists in a society where substantive equality, as opposed to formal or legal equality, has yet to be achieved, where we have equal pay acts, but no equal pay, it can be as oppressive as it is liberating. And if we don’t question this simplistic understanding we have of free speech as a society, we will continue to live in a society where it’s ok that women don’t have a voice – politically, publicly, and socially.

    Remember that man I told you about near the beginning of this speech? The one who wrote to my mother’s house before all this started? The one the police said there was nothing they could do about? Well, he’s written again. Just last week. And there still seems to be nothing the police can do. Just like there’s nothing the police can do about the men who insist on finding new and imaginative ways to contact me – commenting on my blog, commenting about me on blogs they know I’ll read, joining in on conversations I’m having with other people on twitter, so I know they’re still there. Watching.

    This is their freedom of speech. They have a right to contact me, a private person, not an MP, not a company, any time they want. They can email me, they can tweet me, they can write to me, they can be as abusive as they want, just so long as they don’t directly threaten me. And there’s nothing I can do. Well, I say no to that too.

    We need our lawmakers and keepers of those laws to understand the myriad and complex ways in which women are menaced. We need them to understand that women don’t need men to come out and actually threaten to rape us for the threat of rape to be implied and understood. We need them to understand that this is a threat we live with every second of our lives, it’s a threat that we’re brought up to expect, it’s a threat that shapes how we dress, where we go – and what we say. And it’s a threat that I’m not prepared to live with anymore.

    I want my freedom of speech back. And if we stand together and keep shouting back, I believe we’ll get it.

    Thank you for listening.

    This speech was delivered at the Women's Aid conference on 4 September 2013, and is crossposted from Caroline's blog with her permission


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    Historically, rioting may not have been beneficial to black communities, but the easy dismissal of black rebellion allows politicians like Obama, and those to whom he appealed, to believe that stalled progress in race relations has been the result of indiscriminate eruptions of black frustration.

    In the United States, Americans recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A large crowd gathered peacefully in the nation’s capitol to hear soaring speeches and searching retrospectives that measured the historical moment, the distance the United States has traveled from the racial politics of the mid-twentieth century, and the difficulty of the road ahead.

    There was common agreement that significant progress in racial politics had been secured by the non-violent protests of the Civil Rights marchers. The corollary to this was a casual disregard for black rebellion. Peaceful protest was admired, but outright rebellion was dismissed as rioting. “If we're honest with ourselves,” said President Barack Obama, “we'll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us claiming to push for change lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots. Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior.”

    If Obama wanted to cite reasons for a stalled civil rights agenda, he would have been more accurate to condemn discriminatory housing markets, opposition to school integration, the dismantling of social safety nets, the mushrooming prison industry, and the general promotion of personal responsibility for society’s lower classes while offering publicly financed safety nets to too-big-to-fail banks and corporations.

    Rioting may not have been beneficial to black communities, but the easy dismissal of black rebellion allows politicians like Obama, and those to whom he appealed, to believe that stalled progress in race relations has been the result of indiscriminate eruptions of black frustration. But had the “rioters” really “lost their way,” or had they merely run out of options? Were these “riots” — uncontrolled, chaotic, and irrational — or rebellions with clear intentions, regardless of their ultimate outcome?

    How we characterise such outbursts is important, because it is possible the “rioters” knew something that is difficult for most of us to admit. Subsequent years have shown that the gains of the Civil Right years made it possible for the emergence of a broad and thriving black middle class — and allowed a black man educated in Ivy League universities to achieve the highest office in land — but did little to eradicate racial disparities in life chances. There was no social revolution to raise the living standards of the working classes. And the system of incarceration, the largest in the rich world, consumes black men now as never before. It may be that rebellion was the only avenue available for protesting the most fundamental social problems that would not be resolved by “civil” means. In that case, the “rioters” were similar in kind to the violent protesters of the French Revolution or those of other common people throughout history.

    Obama’s speech participated in a long tradition of singling out black outbursts as explosions of disorder without justification or clear intention. For example, while some understood the frustration with repressive policing and economic exclusion that lay behind the uprisings in Brixton and Toxteth in 1981, many more people were astounded and resentful, demanding police crackdowns and expanded incarcerations. The same angry confusion has marked the reaction to similar disturbances in America, following the Rodney King verdict in 1992, or in the late 1960s following the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Such reactions reach even further back, into the nineteenth century and the reaction to the insurrection scares of the American Civil War or 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica. These episodes too were commonly seen as “riots.” Yet contrary to popular belief, many black uprisings have resulted from careful strategy and tactics in response to genuine grievances.

    An emerging alliance between historians and mapmakers promises to enlighten public perceptions of black insurrection. We can look as far back as the mid-eighteenth century, when a major slave revolt in Jamaica attacked the heart of the British Empire. In 1760, more than fifteen hundred enslaved black men and women staged a massive uprising in Jamaica, which began on Easter Sunday in April and continued until October of the next year. As with more recent disturbances, people at the time debated whether the rebellion was a spontaneous eruption or a carefully planned affair. Historians still debate the question, their task made more difficult by the lack of written records produced by the insurgents. With the help of cartographers, historians have analyzed this slave revolt by plotting its movements on thematic maps that reveal the political strategies of the rebels. Drawn from cartographic evidence, a new map of the 1760-1761 slave insurrection in Jamaica developed in collaboration with Axis Maps shows that the rebellion was in fact a well-planned affair that posed a genuine strategic threat, not an indiscriminate outburst.

    Descriptions of black freedom struggles as riots and rampages provide a handy justification for denying legitimate claims to political participation and rights. Perhaps we can dispel these misconceptions by applying new methods of research. If historians and cartographers can find new explanations for uprisings that happened more than 250 years ago, it should be much easier to understand more recent events, with our newfound access to geo-coded data and mapping software. By tracing the movements of crowds in revolt we might discern their political designs. There may be many uprisings that have no strategic intent, offer no vision of a better society, and encompass no legitimate grievance. However, easy dismissals of black “riots” leave no clear understanding of the frustrations, aims, and aspiration of those in rebellion.

    Mapping uprisings can help us to better understand the politics of such events. It will make it easier to distinguish riots from rebellions. And most importantly, understanding black rebellions will make it easier to recognize and address the conditions that compel people to go to war against their own societies.

    Vincent Brown is Charles Warren Professor of History and Professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University, where he directs the History Design Studio. He is the principal investigator and curator for the animated thematic map Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761.

     


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    After an SNP poll put the Yes campaign ahead, a new TNS BRMB survey puts backing for independence at just 25% with 47% opposed.

    After being cheered by Monday's (unreliable) SNP/Panelbase poll on Scottish independence, which put the Yes campaign ahead for the first time since August 2011, Scottish nationalists have woken up to the grim news that support for separation has fallen to its lowest level this year.

    A new TNS BRMB poll shows that just 25% would vote for independence compared to 47% who would vote against it. The survey is further evidence of why the SNP poll should be treated with scepticism. Those polled were first asked whether they thought Scotland could be "a successful, independent country" and whether they trusted the Scottish government or Westminster to take "the best decisions for Scotland". It's likely that both questions nudged people towards supporting independence in the final question.

    Every other poll in the last two years has shown the No campaign ahead by a convincing margin and the TNS BRMB survey and last week's YouGov poll (which put the No camp ahead by 59-29) suggest that trend will continue. 

    If there is any consolation for the Yes campaign, it's that 28% of voters are undecided, up from 15% in February, but it would need to win over 79% of them to close the gap with the No camp. At present, even if, as Alex Salmond recently told the NS, "This is the phoney war. This is not the campaign. I went into an election [for the Scottish Parliament] in 2011 20 points behind in the polls and ended up 15 in front. The real game hasn’t even started. We are just clearing the ground", that is looking like a near impossible task. 


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    It is obscene and absurd — but Martin Cloake can't stop watching.

    We have all gone completely out of our minds.

    On English football’s transfer deadline day, a record £630m was spent by the 20 Premier League clubs, up 29 per cent on the previous year. The day's transactions included a world record £85m for a single player, Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur, who was bought by Real Madrid. Spurs were the biggest spenders, laying out £103.7m on new players. But, helped by Bale’s bumper fee, the club recouped £106.7m. On the final day of the transfer window alone, £140m was spent.

    The figures are extraordinary. It’s as if the recession was just a figment of our imagination. But what’s even more extraordinary is that watching the trading of fantastic amounts of money as player brands are moved to club franchises is becoming as big a draw as watching the game itself. The BBC’s live transfer web page was read by two million browsers and, as BBC Sport’s Stuart Rowson revealed:

    Audiences are so big that every major media brand has to have live coverage running. Here, all journalistic caution is thrown to the wind – just get the names in, pick up the rumours, create the churn. If a rumour doesn’t turn out to be true, no matter, the story is that the original story was not a story. Keeping the names in the frame is what counts. 

    The big daddy of them all is Sky Sports News’s Deadline Day coverage. It’s The Day Today on acid. All day, presenter Jim White bounces excitably in his seat while linking to live to-camera reports from reporters standing outside training grounds where something might be going on. The reporters’ job is to suck in as much information as possible before spewing it into the camera while standing in front of over-excited groups of fans making sure they don’t flick wanker signs at the camera.

    Back in the studio, White regularly turns lustfully to a big screen and asks a colleague how big the total wodge of dosh that’s been spent is, encouraging us to wallow in the sheer spending power on display. 

    It is compelling, obscene and absurd. All through the month-long transfer window, and long after the deals have been done behind closed doors, the pantomime is played out as clubs and players and agents and media select heroes and villains for their own ends. The Bale deal, for instance, was done months ago. Since then a complex PR battle has been fought as the parties involved sought position and commercial advantage. Veteran journalist Norman Giller called the Bale deal early and correctly– and received a barrage of abuse for his trouble. Because while fans lap it all up, they don’t trust the media who they see as stoking the deals – another example of the public despising the media for delivering what they demand. 

    Now, with the window closed, come the debates, the agonising, the retrospectives – this blog. There’s talk of winners and losers before any of these players have kicked a ball. Fans complain their club has spent too much or too little, everyone wants a shiny new toy while simultaneously bemoaning the bastard footballers who don’t stick around to wear the shirt. The conversation will move into the more serious slots, where people will ask how many hospitals could be built for the price of a Bale. I’ve always found such arguments odd – it’s not as if Arsenal was going to pump £42m into a Keynesian stimulus intiative but decided to buy Mesut Özil instead. 

    There’s dark comedy too. The advertorial masquerading as a news story in the Telegraph written by Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett is a masterpiece of zero self-awareness. Barnett, let’s not forget, was the agent who helped Ashley Cole move after Arsenal’s offer of a £55,000 week contract nearly, according to Cole, “made me crash my car in disgust”. 

    On the day Bale’s £85m transfer was confirmed, non-league Kettering Town went out of business with debts of £58,000. See? You switch the 5 and the 8 around and knock off some noughts – see? But the story is not the neat juxtaposition; not even, as some seem to have inferred, that the Bale transfer is directly responsible for Kettering’s plight. The story is the great lie that wealth trickles down, that there is a national game that is linked from top to bottom. But telling that doesn’t provide the buzz that the big brands and the big names and the big deals do – and anyway, my £40m midfielder is bigger than your £40m midfielder. And so’s his dad. So there. Ya wanker.

    There are, of course, many fans who take a more considered view. My writing colleague Adam Powley’s piece for fan site The Fighting Cock is a terrific read– an insightful and considered take that knocks much of the mainstream media bluster into a cockerelled hat. And there’s plenty out there, in the independent football media and in corners of the mainstream too, that probes and questions. 

    It’s easy to conclude that too many care too much about something too inconsequential – transfer window madness as a symbol of the final debauched days of a crumbling empire is too easy an angle to pass up. But it’s not the caring that’s the problem – it’s the embrace of not caring we should worry about. 

    Yesterday, one of the blokes I sit with at Spurs, who I’ve known since college and followed the club all over Europe with, said to me: “Forget what you were brought up with – the game is not about glory, it’s about hard-nosed capitalism. No one except old romantics actually cares about trophies or history or team. It’s all about the kerching kerching.” He’s not a former fan, he’s still got his season ticket. 

    I do not understand what he thinks the attraction is. 

    On this site, I’ve said that “as the lines between sport and business become ever more blurred, sport risks losing the qualities that make it attractive to business”. Maybe I just want to think that. Maybe the mass spectator sport of the modern age will be the watching of the wheels of commerce as they crush the soul and spirit of everything they touch.

    Maybe we have all gone completely out of our minds.

    Martin Cloake’s new ebook, Sound of the crowd: Spurs fan culture and the fight for future football, is now out, priced £2.99.


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  • 09/04/13--02:47: Mark Carney: time lord?
  • Is the bank of England Governor messing with the very fabric of time?

    Time isn’t a very interesting idea to a physicist. There is the unchangeable past and the unpredictable future. “Now” isn’t a definable concept. It’s not even fixed – you can bend it. Time is a sort of illusionary bi-product spit out as the universe goes from a state of order to one of chaos. Why politicians and central bankers would want to start messing with it is a mystery.

    Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, and the Monetary Policy Committee have been lured into the time game. They expect one of their trigger points, unemployment, to drop below 7 percent in 2016 at which point they’ll have a look at what they might - or might not do. In the world of the Bank of England this constitutes "delivering a measure of certainty". The previous governor, Sir Mervyn King, just used to say "I don’t know" when faced with demands for definiteness.

    With unemployment currently at 7.8 per cent three years seems a long and unambitious timescale to set yourself such a meager target. Carney says that to achieve the 7 per cent unemployment rate a million jobs will have to be created – 750,000 new ones and 250,000 to compensate for planned reductions in public jobs and that is what will take the time.  Markets disagree and have pumped up their rate increase expectation to as early as next summer. Somebody is wrong.

    Perversely, if you were Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, or a Conservative Party election campaign organizer, you might be pretty happy with the idea that unemployment wasn’t going to fall any time soon. The reason is simple – over the years the multiple of house prices to earnings has risen for about 3.5 to 6.5 for England as a whole (your main electoral battle ground) and the electorate has become twice as sensitive to interest rate movements today as they were twenty years ago (see graph). Get interest rate policy wrong and it could have electoral consequences.

    By mapping where house prices are highest relative to earnings it’s easy to show that above average interest rate sensitivity lies almost exclusively in Conservative-held boundaries; the East, South East and South West (see second graph).  London is the exception but suffers the double whammy of being both the most leveraged part of the country AND dominated by Labour. You’ll get no votes from Londoners for increasing interest rates too soon.

    Also the higher house price-to-earnings regions are associated with areas with higher salaries which already carry the highest level of taxation. Those earning up to £50,000 a year now have total deductions (National Insurance and Income Tax) of about 20 per cent whilst if you earn between £50,000 – 100,000 this rises to 32 per cent. In the £100,000 to 200,000 bracket your annual deductions bill averages 40 per cent of gross salary. By linking housing costs (i.e. an interest only mortgage) to where you are on the income scales it can be shown that for every 0.5 per cent interest rate increase could lead an equivalent of between 2 per cent and 4 per cent increase income tax. Increasing interest rates in that sense hits traditional Conservative voters harder than potential converts from the Liberal Democrats of even Labour.

    None of this should come as a surprise to people but the extent of the apparent hyper-sensitivity of the electorate to interest movements is going to be more economically and politically important at the next general election than it has ever been before. The MPC will have to be doubly sure they have a self-sustaining economic cycle, embedded in a stable global background, before increasing interest rates. It may even be why they have set their earliest revue date to beyond the next general election. In that sense Mark Carney has been right to dampen the enthusiasm the markets have shown for marginally stronger UK data recently whilst if you were Conservative Party Chairman you would be praying that not too many jobs are created too quickly especially before the General Election in 2015.  

     

            

    Source: HM Land Registry

                                     


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    Where will it end?

    The Syria Question: It’s stolen the headlines and public debate this summer as Congress and Parliament come to loggerheads. But how can you have an answer if you don’t know what the Question is? Here’s a simple explanation from one K N Al-Sabah in a letter to the FT:

    Sir, Iran is backing Assad. Gulf states are against Assad!

    Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sisi.

    But Gulf states are pro Sisi! Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood!

    Iran is pro Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood!

    Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the US!

    Gulf states are pro US. But Turkey is with Gulf states against Assad; yet Turkey is pro Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi. And General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf states!

    Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.

    K N Al-Sabah, London EC4, UK

    Comprende? If not, don’t worry, the letter’s recent trending on Twitter inspired some uncomplicated visual graphics, most notably @TheBigPharaoh’s "The Complete Idiot’s Chart to Understanding The Middle East", as picked up by the Washington Post. One glance at the chart and its blue, red and green arrows depicting who "supports", "hates" and "has no clue" of who, and you will probably also have "no clue" about what is really going on in the fast changing region.

    Perhaps this is overcomplicating things, especially for the American public, half of whom could not find Syria on a map, as surveyed by the Pew Research Centre"only 50 per cent of respondents correctly identified the shaded country as Syria. Almost one in five (19 per cent) thought it was Turkey, 11 per cent said it was Saudi Arabia, and 5 per cent said it was Egypt".

    This inspired the New York Times columnist Nick Kristof to Tweet "Now members of Congress will have to consult maps and figure out where Syria is".

    Perhaps this was meant as a joke, but then on Tuesday, General Jack Keane, a former vice chief of staff of the US Army told the BBC"many of our politicians are not educated on what is really going on in Syria". Just as well, then, the UK has renounced intervening alongside the US.

    The public – who have no say in the Syria Question – might not need to know who "supports" or "has no clue", who is "pro" or "backing", or who "hates" or is "against" who, or even, for that matter, know where Syria is. But if the Syria Question is so complicated that it confuddles the politicians, then a longer debate and strategy is surely needed. Perhaps Commons or Congress should invite Mr K N Al-Sabah to read out his letter to them, complete with the updated allegiances of the UK and US. Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.


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    Admins reverted last week's move, arguing that it lacked consensus.

    The Wikipedia page for Wikileaks leaker Chelsea Manning has been reverted back to its original location under the headline "Bradley Manning", following continued protest from a collection of editors on the site after last week's redirection.

    Last week we reported on what went on behind the scenes on the site, but since then, a panel of administers decided to revert the move, arguing that there was "a clear absence of consensus for the page to be moved".

    The admins are keen to stress that the reversion is not, technically, moving the page back to "Bradley Manning" so much as it is undoing the move from "Bradley Manning". The difference is ostensibly that the former would require consensus that Bradley Manning is a better title than Chelsea Manning, while the latter merely requires a lack of consensus that Chelsea Manning is a better title than Bradley Manning. In addition, the article itself still refers to Manning as "Chelsea" and uses the female pronoun.

    That distinction hasn't gone down particularly well in the wider world, where fact that a group of people held a vote on whether or not to call a trans woman by her preferred name, and then lost that vote, is seen as yet more evidence of a painful lack of diversity of experience amongst active Wikipedia editors. In 2010, a survey found that 13 per cent of contributors worldwide were female (another 0.6 per cent gave their gender as "other"). A second survey in 2011 found that fewer than 1 per cent of editors in self-identified as trans, but this may well be skewed by a number of trans editors identifying as male or female for the purposes of the survey.

    Sue Gardner, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the charity which runs Wikipedia, wrote (in her capacity as a Wikipedia editor) comparing the reversion to the collective ability of editors to defer to the experts when Pluto was declared to be not a planet. In that case, there were few if any saying that "common sense" dictates that Pluto should be called a planet until every other media organisation started calling it a dwarf planet.

    Gardner writes:

    The same is true for transgender issues. A number of editors have made truly ignorant comments over the past week or so, comparing Chelsea Manning to someone who woke up one morning believing herself to be a dog, a cat, a Vulcan, Jesus Christ, a golden retriever, a genius, a black person, a Martian, a dolphin, Minnie Mouse, a broomstick or a banana. In saying those things, they revealed themselves to be people who’ve never thought seriously about trans issues — who have never read a single first-person account of growing up transgendered, or a scholarly study or medical text, or maybe even the Wikipedia article itself. That in itself is perfectly okay: different things are interesting to different people, and I for one know nothing about trigonometry or antisemitism in the 19th century or how a planet is determined to actually be a planet. But I don’t deny that there is stuff on those topics worth knowing, nor do I mock the knowledge of others, nor accuse them of bias and POV-pushing.

    One of the most uncomfortable views held by many in the Wikipedia community is the idea that people who actually are trans not only have no greater expertise in discussing trans issues, but are actually "biased" as a result. Indeed, private correspondence I received after previous pieces on the issue even resulted in one editor attempting to out two others as trans in order to discredit them (thankfully, both the editors concerned were already out, making the emailer not just a transphobe, but a stupid transphobe).

    The panel of admins set a 30 day hold on the page, but after that there is the chance that it will be moved for good if the total mass of sources – including sources published before Manning's name change – reflects her new name. In the meantime, however, the article has been referred to the site's Arbitration Committee, which acts as a sort of Supreme Court for Wikipedia. That's no magic bullet: even if "ArbCom" does decide to take the case, it will be a month before they report back. But it's the best chance yet for Wikipedia's editing community to take some time for the introspection it apparently needs.


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    You can't have that. You're far too fat.

    Soon, it seems, we will no longer be able to do anything that's bad for us. A hospital chief in Cambridgeshire has said that he would like to ban fast food from the hospital site, but is currently "contractually shackled" to provide it. Once free of the contract however (not until 2024), the hospitals will remove anything deemed too "unhealthy" despite a high level of customer demand.

    At the moment the hospital offers a number of healthy food options to staff, visitors and patients using the food court and currently people are able to choose from a wide range of food options, from various reports it seems that the hospital’s Burger King outlet is the most popular of food choices available.

    The hospital boss Dr McNeil has said that he wants to send a clear message on healthy lifestyle and healthy eating, and has said the hospital is in discussions to remove the Burger King from the food court.

    While we have gotten used to the idea of being told whether or not we can smoke in public it seems we need to get used to being told what we can and cannot be allow to eat in certain public places as well. Could this be the first step in "unhealthy" foods (arguably any food eaten in excess) being banned from general accessibility for the public?

    While this may prove healthier for patients it reinforces the already well-established fear that we are becoming a society that finds it easier to ban things than educate people of their detrimental effects, ultimately removing their right to a freedom of choice in what they eat.

    We need to look past the short term effects if the ban to how it will affect our society. No one wants to live in a country in which people have decisions made for them and are not given the trust and freedom to make the choice themselves.

    The key point here is that forcing people to be healthy won’t make them healthy. Removing just one option which is perceived to be worse than others will only encourage the take up of faux-healthy options which the hospital will never be able to remove entirely, while still leaving people ignorant of the health risks associated with certain foods and lifestyles.

    As is always the way, prohibition is never the answer and will only leave people ignorant of the facts and how to look after themselves, ever more dependant on the state making decisions for them. Health through education and improved long term results should be the looked to over impulse banning and the instant gratification that accompanies it. 


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    "Well known? Check. Wears suits which fit? Check. Conservative?"

    Boris Johnson has been named as GQ's Politician of the Year for 2013:

    That's the same Boris Johnson who was the magazine's Politician of the Year in 2012:

    And in 2008:

    He's not the only politician to have won the accolade multiple times. George Osborne won in 2009:

    And then he won again in 2011 (when he famously called the magazine's readers "wankers"):

    Between them, Boris and George have won five of the six Politician of the Year awards GQ has ever given.

    But guess who the only other politician to have won is? It won't take you long:

    That table of winners in full:

    Year Winner Party
    2008 Boris Johnson Conservatives
    2009 George Osborne Conservatives
    2010 David Cameron Conservatives
    2011 George Osborne Conservatives
    2012 Boris Johnson Conservatives
    2013 Boris Johnson Conservatives

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    Jesse suffers a crisis of confidence - he's not the only one.

    WARNING: This blog is for people currently watching Breaking Bad series 5, part 2. It contains spoilers.

    There are only four episodes of Breaking Bad left. The first four episodes of series 5, part two, have been so densely saturated with Things Happening, there has been little room to breathe. Unlike the first couple of series, there has been little time spared for characterisation, for dialogue without an instrumental or episodic purpose. Although I'm sure calamity is headed Walt’s way, he has avoided it so many times, in such spectacular fashion, my suspension of disbelief has been stretched to the limit.

    Watching each episode run hot and cold in three perfect chunks (unlike HBO, AMC runs adverts), the show’s epic moral vision appears to have fallen short in certain ways. Perhaps it’s because I’m taking notes and watching Talking Bad to supplement my habit, but I feel as though I’m with the writing team as they run through a list of edgy adventures for Walter White and Co. There is little introspection, or psychology left: Walter Jr is no longer the stroppy teen with friends he's desperate to impress, but a puppy-dog-eyed emotional sponge who wobbles his lip and makes the pretence of tears. Saul is a clown. We know that Scarface is our end point, and my eyes are still riveted to the screen, but to really make the last four episodes count I hope they provoke us a little, turn down the melodrama (stop focusing on “winning” and “losing”), and when a deeper sense of chaos is in place, let rip.

    When Walt and others die, and die they shall, I still want to care about it.

    Walt and Walter Jr share a moment by the hotel pool. Image: Ursula Coyote/AMC.

    The Albuquerque sun has thawed Walter’s gun. He has become an intruder in his own home (again), and discovers that Jesse has drenched the living room in gasoline and fled. After hiding the pistol he pulls a coke-smothered disc from Saul’s car - note the number plate: LWYRUP - and tells Huell to call by Walter Jr’s school and the car wash to find his former partner.

    On the phone he tells Jesse he’d like to “talk”, explaining that he wants to “fix things”, and signs off by saying “Be safe”. Everything he says sounds like a gangster metaphor, something Skyler later comments on: “Just to be clear, these are just euphemisms?” But Walter appears to be speaking sincerely. He seems - remarkably - shocked that anyone could think that way of him. He chastises Saul bitterly, not just for his suggestion that Jesse might be an “Old Yeller type situation”, but for his fruity language. Eeesh, such a materialist. But by the end of the episode when Jesse believes a very Heisenbergy-looking Walter has hired a goon to kill him at the shopping plaza, we begin to wonder ourselves. He hadn’t, it turns out, but you never know.

    "I'm coming for you - next time I'm gonna get you where you really live". Image: Ursula Coyote/AMC.

    Marie, it turns out, has been researching poisons on the internet. She blubs to her psychiatrist, and is frustrated when he becomes interested in the details of her story. Meanwhile her sister has also taken to violent thinking, telling Walter: “We’ve come this far, for us, what’s one more?” after he argues that Jesse can be reasoned with. Over at Hank’s house - I notice Hank is a Deadwood fan, nice - two unlikely partners are united by a common enemy. Jesse tells them everything, but they still lack physical evidence. When Hank and Gomie suggest Jesse tries to get Walter to confess on tape by wearing a wire, he spits back that they don’t understand, and that Walter is “the devil”, an idea I like very much.

    Hank is furious when Jesse fails, deciding instead to call Walt and threaten him, “I’m coming for you - next time I’m gonna get you where you really live”. But Jesse has a plan. He has decided there is a better way, but then, so has Walter. The episode closes with Walt calling Todd, and telling him: “I think I might have another job for your uncle”.

    Halfway through “Rapid Dog” Walt nonchalantly burns two of the show’s longest-serving characters. In the car with a bandaged Saul Goodman (“I never should have let my dojo membership run out”) and henchman Kuby, Walt suggests they look for his friends, “Beaver and whatsisname”. That’s Badger and Skinny Pete, Mr White. And they’ve been busy, as Kuby reveals: “For three hours, all he talked about was something called Babylon 5.”

    Next up: “To’hajiilee”.


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    Are migrants really “costing the taxpayer billions of pounds per year” or is there more to it than that? Carlos Vargas-Silva, Senior Researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, looks at the data.

    This article was originally published on The Conversation, where it forms part of Hard Hard Evidence, a series of articles that looks at some of the trickiest public policy questions we face. Academic experts delve into available research evidence to provide informed analysis you won’t get from politicians or vested interests.

    Recent data released by the Department for Work and Pensions under the Freedom of Information Act revealed the number of people claiming working age benefits who were non-British nationals when they first registered for a National Insurance Number.

    One of the figures from the new dataset that caught the attention of several newspapers was the increase in claims from those who were nationals of EU accession countries (i.e. the new EU members states that have joined since 2004). This number increased from 12,610 in 2008, to 49,720 in 2012. This fact led to statements such as this one from the Daily Mail:

    Number of foreigners claiming UK benefits leaps 41% in 5 years … rise has been fuelled by a four-fold increase in benefit claims by Eastern Europeans.

    The common narrative was one of growing concern, given the new wave of Eastern European migration that the UK may experience with the relaxation of border controls on Romanian and Bulgarian workers in 2014.

    Preliminary number-crunching

    It would be tempting to dismiss these new numbers from DWP for three reasons, but these reasons can all be countered convincingly.

    1) The data are for those who were non-British nationals when they first registered for a NINO and many of those could now be British nationals.

    But this is unlikely to play a big role for nationals of EU accession countries as there is little incentive to become British nationals.

    2) The increase in the annual number of nationals of EU accession countries claiming working-age benefits was only 37,000, much smaller than the equivalent increase for British nationals (588,000).

    True, but the 2008-2013 percentage increase in the annual number of EU accession country nationals claiming DWP working age benefits was almost 300%, far greater than any other group. The increase was 12% for British nationals.

    3) The number of nationals of EU accession countries living in the UK has been increasing over the past few years. Therefore, we should expect the number of nationals of EU accession countries claiming benefits to also increase.

    Again this is true, but according to Office for National Statistics there were 497,000 Polish nationals living in the UK during 2008. This compares to 646,000 Polish nationals living in the UK during 2012, representing a 30% increase for the five year period. This increase in the population is much smaller than the increase in nationals of EU accession countries among benefit claimants (close to 300%). Even if you include other major groups of nationals of the accession countries in the UK such as Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Czech Republic and Hungary the percentage increase in the population is just 54%.

    So the problem is not with the figures, per se. The problem is that some sectors of the media used the data to suggest that migrants (particularly nationals of EU accession countries) drain UK public coffers. The Daily Mail’s conclusion was:

    They are costing taxpayers billions of pounds a year.                                    

    The fiscal impact of migration

    In order to find out whether the Daily Mail was correct in its conclusion, it is necessary to look at two factors: the taxes and other contributions migrants make to public finances and the costs of the public benefits and services they receive. Subtract the second from the first and you get the answer. If the difference is positive, migrants are net-contributors; if the difference is negative, migrants are a burden for the state.

    The academic literature on the fiscal impacts of migration suggests that migrants doing highly paid jobs are the ones more likely to make a positive contribution to public finances. These migrants pay more taxes and are less likely to claim benefits. It is well known that nationals of the EU accession countries in the UK tend to do low-paid jobs. Does this mean that they have a negative fiscal impact?

    It may come as a surprise that the only study which comprehensively analyses the fiscal impact of migration from the EU accession countries, in their case nationals from the A8 countries (the eight countries that joined the EU in May 2004 – excepting Cyprus and Malta), found that in the four fiscal years after they joined the EU, migrants to the UK from A8 countries made a positive contribution to public finances.

    The finding that A8 workers make a positive contribution to UK public finances contrasts with the fact that most A8 workers concentrate in the low-wage sector. However, as shown in Figure 1, A8 workers have one the highest employment rates in the UK, a fact which offsets the effect of their lower wages.

     

    Figure 1 – Employment rates of British, Old EU, A8 and non-EU nationals Note: these are ONS estimates from the UK Labour Force Survey

    The result that migration has a net positive fiscal impact is not limited to nationals of the A8 countries. The OECD recently estimated that on average, households headed by migrants in the UK contributed about €3,000 more than they received in benefits in 2007-2009.

    Netting the benefits

    Has there been a significant increase in the number of nationals of the EU accession countries claiming DWP working age benefits? Yes.

    Has the positive fiscal impact of migrants from the EU accession countries changed since 2008-2009? This is less clear.

    Establishing whether the increase in the proportion of nationals of the EU accession countries claiming benefits has been offset by their increase in the working population or increased wages in that group is not possible to know without further study.

    The only thing we can say for certain is that the concept that they are “costing the taxpayer billions of pounds per year” is pure speculation and is not supported by the data.

    Carlos Vargas-Silva does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

    The ConversationThis article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.


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    The Labour leader sought to spin last week's vote in his favour but a contemptuous Cameron accused him of pursuing division.

    It was at the end of David Cameron and Ed Miliband's exchanges at today's PMQs that the key moment came as both sought to spin last week's Syria vote in their favour. Miliband declared that the vote "was not about Britain shirking its global responsibilities, it was about preventing a rush to war", casting himself as a responsible figure who, while refusing to rule out military action, acted as a brake on a reckless Prime Minister (he tweeted the line immediately afterwards). But Cameron, who struggled to bring himself to even look at Miliband, replied: "I don't think it was necessary to divide the House on a vote that could have led to a vote but he took the decision that it was", framing Miliband as an irresponsible figure who put party interests before the national interest. 

    Until that point, in view of the grave nature of the subject, both leaders sought to strike a respecful and consensual tone, but the role of Iran emerged as the major dividing line. Miliband suggested that the government should seek Iranian participation in the Syrian contact group or as part of the Geneva peace process but an obviously sceptical Cameron replied: "let's not forget what Iran has done to our embassy and our country". A similar question was subsequently asked by Jack Straw (and several other Labour backbenchers), suggesting that the party views this as an important diplomatic proposal. But Miliband and Douglas Alexander should remember that while President Rouhani is a far more moderate and flexible figure than Ahmadinejad, ultimate power continues to lie with the Ayatollahs. 

    Compared to the pre-recess PMQs, the session was largely free of fireworks, but Cameron unwisely responded to a reasonable question from Margaret Beckett on why so many organisations (including, she noted, ConservativeHome) oppose the government's lobbying bill with another crude attack on the trade unions.  

    Another notable moment came when Labour MP Jim Hood smartly asked Cameron how he could oppose a mansion tax on the grounds that many who would be hit are "capital rich and cash poor", while supporting the bedroom tax, which hurts many for the same reason. Fixing his glare at the Labour frontbench, Cameron replied: "You've ranted and raved about the spare room subsidy - are you going to reverse it? No? Absolutely nothing to say." The hope among Labour MPs is that Miliband will use his conference speech to confirm that Labour would repeal the policy, a pledge that, as I recently reported, the party will make at some point before 2015.  


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    If Labour can hold its nerve, Miliband's plan could finally get big money out of British politics.

    The GMB’s decision to slash its affiliation fees to Labour – by top-down decision rather than by asking their members – certainly might seem to support George Eaton’s fears about Ed Miliband’s proposed changes to the union link. Eaton fears the Tories and Lib Dems may even impose statutory change on us. A different view would be that Miliband has started a process which, if we can hold our nerve, could finally get 'big money' out of British politics.

    Every attempt to reform party funding has been blocked by two golden rules. First, change must be agreed, not unilaterally imposed by the governing party. Labour observed this scrupulously during its long years of huge majorities. Second, no one party would weaken its own position without getting concessions from the others. Between them, Paul Kenny and Ed Miliband have torn up the second rule.  It’s this which opens the door to change.

    Contrary to briefings from Nick Clegg’s office, the recent cross-party talks did not fail, let alone collapse due to Labour intransigence. Texts of a possible draft agreement on principles were still being exchanged when Clegg unilaterally ended the talks. His dishonest decision to switch attention to union funding is a political tactic which suits both the Lib Dems and the Tories. And it may well be that they will try to use the Lobbying Bill to impose changes on Labour’s relations with the unions.

    But consider Labour’s current position. Labour is committed to getting big money out of politics. (So, according to the Coalition Agreement, are the Tories and the Lib Dems). Trade union money has very different origins to that of wealthy individuals but discretionary union donations must be seen as big money. Today’s events have surely driven home that union leaders are among the few hundred powerful individuals who effectively determine how much money British political parties get and what they get it for. With his recent initiative, Ed Miliband has said he wants members of union political funds to positively affirm that they want their money to go to Labour. But for over a year he has been also saying he is willing to limit discretionary donations from union general secretaries or political committees – as part of an overall agreement to limit donations from individuals, companies and unions to £5,000 per annum. In other words, Labour has a tough and credible position which really would take big money out of politics.

    This leaves the Tories defending, in principle, big private donations as the best way of funding democracy. Their idea of a limit is £50,000 per annum, or £250,000 per individual every Parliament, which only goes to show that the Tory idea of what constitutes big money is completely out of touch with the average voter. And most voters find the Tories' immersion in the vested interests of private donors far more offensive than Labour’s public and historic union links. While Labour’s union link is at root political and will survive whatever the financial links, Conservative dependence on private finance goes to the core of how its supporters see power and influence operating in government. Labour should ruthlessly expose this central weakness in the Tories’ DNA.

    It’s always been assumed - in the Hayden Phillips negotiations, the Kelly Report and the cross-party talks – that donations could only be capped if large sums of public money came in to compensate. The unpopularity of that idea has been the reason parties have used to keep things as they are.

    We now have a chance to change that logic and campaign straight forwardly for an unconditional £5,000 donation limit. To win the politics, the risk has to be taken that we give up big money and make do with much less. This logjam has blocked reform for too long and Ed Miliband’s initiative has changed the rules of the game. Maybe the public would be more open to support finance for a functioning democracy if they first knew we were determined to wean ourselves off big money and all it represents.

    Meanwhile, if the coalition do impose change on Labour they will have set aside the first golden rule – proceed by agreement. If they do, they could hardly complain if Labour campaigned on a manifesto promise to impose a £5,000 donation limit and much tighter controls on spending. 

    John Denham is the Labour MP for Southampton Itchen and a former cabinet minister


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    How can sex education tackle porn when it doesn't even tackle real sex?

    Compared to recent headlines regarding the insidious, brain-and-life-destroying properties of online pornography, the results of this week’s NSPCC survey on the subject were lacking in pizzazz. We imagine that the Daily Telegraph, who commissioned it, was hoping for a ‘gosh, think of the children’ vibe that would ideally not only underpin their campaign for better sex education in schools, but would perhaps serve as further justification for the internet censorship that’s about to hit the country's masturbators in the groin*. Instead, what they got was basically ‘the kids are alright’.

    Although 72 per cent of the school pupils questioned said that yes, porn should be talked about in sex education classes, only 28 per cent of them actually believe that porn dictates how young people have to behave in a relationship. This is GREAT news. It shows that, contrary to the right wing media’s scaremongering, young people are actually an eminently sensible bunch who realise that walking up to a woman in a room full of flat-pack furniture and spaffing on her face uninvited is not proper sexual etiquette. Or at least most of them do. There is hope yet.

    The call for better sex education is always to be applauded, and yes, the subject should be updated to take account of the huge leaps forward in technology that this generation has seen. Let’s not forget that 28 per cent who do say porn informs their behaviour. Considering that the majority of female performers are dominated, subjugated and objectified, this obviously does not bode well for the future. The Telegraph predictably does not make any mention of the feminist arguments surrounding pornography (objectification, hello?), despite Claire Lilley of the NSPCC saying that young women feel under pressure to look and act like porn stars in order to be liked by boys. Neither does the paper acknowledge the fact that their previous stance on sex education was at times medieval- as the charity Education for Choice pointed out yesterday, three years ago they described sex education and the provision of free contraception as ‘a sexual disaster for teenagers and society’. More alarming still is this use of the phrase ‘normal and acceptable sexual behaviour.’ No one wants to spend their evenings wondering if their boner is acceptable to the Daily Telegraph.

    While teaching young people about the issues surrounding pornography is important, so is teaching them about actual sex and relationships. Ideally you would do this first, so that young people have a point of reference, but in this, the government and schools are failing massively. In order to teach kids to distinguish properly between the real and the fake, you need to teach them what’s real first, preferably as part of the national curriculum (as long as sex ed languishes in PSHE, many schools are not going to take it seriously).

    So forget porn for a moment. Here are ten depressingly basic things that they really need to start teaching in sex education classes:

    1. Where and how to get contraception

    Or maybe you could even give it to them? Despite what certain columnists may argue, schoolchildren don't actually have condoms coming out of their ears, and some of them haven't got the foggiest idea how or where to get hold of the pill. You can buy it on the internet or get it free from Brook or your GP, but not enough is being done to make sexually active teenagers aware of this. All you have to do is look at Britain's startling chlamydia and teenage pregnancy rates to know that leaving a whole generation to rely on Eurotrash alone for their info has been a major fuck up. Let's not condemn the next generation to the same.

    2. How to use that contraception

    There are 25 year olds putting condoms on inside out, people.

    3. Consent

    The simple notion that, in order to have sex, both parties need to agree. It's not a grey area. The Thicke excuse ('I know you want it') will not stand up in court. Without explaining the basic idea of consent, any attempt to explain the difference between porn, where the line is often blurred, and real sex (where, let's face it, it mostly isn't) is just a waste of everyone's time.

    4. Basic anatomy

    So that no women ever has to utter the sentence, 'um, that's my bum', again. Anyone who argues that sex education focuses too much on the 'mechanics of sex' is kidding themselves. Cosmo once claimed the pituitary gland was 'behind the anal wall.' Clearly some kind of clitoris/perineum map is needed.

    5. How to put it in

    Because every time someone shags on telly, the male seems to be in possession of some kind of homing device where all he has to do is lie on top of the lady and the penis just guides itself into the vagina like an oil-slicked baby seal. In actuality, 'the manoeuvre' is usually required.

    6. 'When a man and a woman don't love each other very much...'

    ...but really want to shag each other - that's OK. Sometimes, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman might love each other very much, and that's OK too. In fact, there are many, many circumstances and sexual combinations that are totally, 100 per cent, fucking OK. There is no normal.

    7. Sex positions

    There are only about four or five, tops. Anything else is just garnish.

    8. Orgasms

    This is what one feels like. If you're unsure as to whether or not you've had one, then you probably haven't had one. This is not your fault.

    9. The Morning After Pill and Abortion

    The facts, not the arguments. Here's where you can get the MAP. Here's where you can get it on a Sunday when your local chemist is closed. Here's why the old lady behind the counter who told you to keep your legs closed is an asshole. Here's how you can get EllaOne, which you can take up to five days after having sex. Here's some impartial information about abortion providers. Here are some women talking about their abortions. It was a big deal for some of them. For others, it wasn't.

    10. The sexual double standard

    There is nothing for you to be ashamed about, girls. You are not a slut, or a skank, or a whore because you enjoy sex, and any man with any respect for women will know that. In fact, it looks like women might actually be more sexual than men (no kidding). Oh, and the frenzied masturbating over 1D in varying naked combinations? Totally fine.


    *A small digression on this point: while initially not militantly averse to the idea of opting-in, we assumed that something as important as the potential limiting of the public’s access to media would be, you know, maybe discussed in parliament, or something? But it seems all the PM needs to do is wave his arbitrary silencing wand (this is not a euphemism for his penis - it's even more terrifying than that) and poof! the porn is gone. 


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    Maybe not.

    For the 4.6 million Lloyds TSB customers being forcibly switched to the new TSB Bank as of 9 September, the move will be a "seamless transition." So says Antonio Horta-Osorio, chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group in an interview with the BBC. According to Horta-Osorio, the only change customers will notice will be a change of name. There is a bit more to it than that.

    Ahead of the European Commission imposed carve up of Lloyds TSB, the group has a network of almost 2,000 branches. Before long, customers of the new TSB Bank will have a network of only 631 branches compared to the new Lloyds network of around 1,300 outlets. Customers of the new TSB Bank wanting to use a re-branded Lloyds branch will be treated as customers of a rival bank and pay service charges accordingly.

    Lloyds customers using a newly re-branded TSB branch or vice-versa – TSB customers using a Lloyds-branded branch – will also find that their deposits will take longer to reach their accounts. Lloyds and TSB will, after all, be totally separate banks. In all of this, it is hard to regard the customer as being on a winner but the banks will be on a "nice little earner" in the future if you dare to use the wrong brand of branch.

    The European Commission and the UK government will however pat themselves on the back and proclaim that an additional bank means more choice for the consumer so must be a good idea. Pure poppycock but the exercise has provided a windfall for IT contractors and branding consultants, among others. For Lloyds, the cost of this exercise has been massive: somewhere between £1.3bn and £1.5bn and counting.

    As for being "seamless"? Well customers of TSB – in addition to having a branch network that has shrunk by two-thirds – will need to use new bank cards and negotiate around a new website. The website is down for much of this weekend by the by but in fairness to the bank, this has been flagged up well in advance. Then there is the management of Lloyds and the new TSB. In fairness to them, the project has been a massive undertaking and the TSB launch is going ahead next week on schedule.

    For that, the management of Lloyds TSB deserves considerable credit. But by one measure – the inability to handle and assess customer complaints – Lloyds TSB is in a league of its own. The statistics released yesterday by The Financial Services Ombudsman were a shocker and shame Lloyds TSB.

    It came as no surprise to read that a whopping 43 per cent of all PPI complaints in the first half of the year related to Lloyds and its various subsidiary brands. Lloyds has form as regards PPI – it was the most successful in selling – or mis-selling PPI – and has been getting more practice than most in handling PPI complaints. One might be forgiven for thinking that they would have got the hang of it by now. Not a bit of it. In February, it was fined £4.3m for dragging its heels in delaying PPI compensation to 140,000 customers.

    Fast forward a few months and we learn that Lloyds complaints handling process is so dire that the Ombudsman found against Lloyds TSB in 90 per cent of PPI cases; as regards its Bank of Scotland business unit, the figure was not much better at 87 per cent. By contrast, the Ombudsman found against HSBC in less than one case in two (45 per cent) while Royal Bank of Scotland did even better with only 34 per cent of Ombudsman complaints relating to PPI mis-selling going against the bank.

    For the record, the figure at Nationwide Building Society was a mere 7 per cent. Customers of the new TSB may be forgiven for hoping that certain aspects of Lloyds TSB’s customer service ethos remains with the new Lloyds.


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