This 14 June 2017 video from London, England says about itself:
Grenfell Tower survivor Mahad Egal with an import message of community unity in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
By Margot Miller and Robert Stevens in England:
UK’s Daily Mail tries to scapegoat resident for Grenfell Tower inferno
21 June 2017
Amid protests and growing demands for justice to be meted out to the political and corporate figures responsible for the dozens of deaths in the Grenfell Tower fire, the Daily Mail attempted to scapegoat a resident.
Stooping to new lows, on June 16, just two days after the fire, the Mail named the occupant of the flat where the horrific inferno that gutted the tower on the Lancaster West estate London allegedly began.
As well as naming Behailu Kebede, a father of one, originally from Ethiopia and employed as a taxi driver, the newspaper published five photos. One of the captions on a photo of Kebede stated that his ‘faulty fridge started the Grenfell Tower inferno. …”
The Mail tracked down Kebede, who they reported was in “emergency accommodation close to the scene of the disaster.”
An indication of the impact of the Mail reporters’ intrusive behaviour is given by the quotes from Kabedi: “‘I am very upset’. Asked whether the fire started in his flat, he replied: ‘I’m busy, I’m busy. Goodbye’.”
According to all reports, after the fire began, Kebede immediately raised the alarm and tried to alert as many people as possible. One of Kebede’s neighbours is even reported by the Mail, in the same article in which it disclosed his identity, as stating, “‘He knocked on the door, and he said there was a fire in his flat. It was exactly 12.50 am because I was sleeping and it woke me up. ‘The fire was small in the kitchen. I could see it because the flat door was open. There was no alarm’.”
Kebede cannot be blamed in any way for the fact that Grenfell was turned into a towering inferno within minutes in the early hours of June 14. Citing BBC Panorama, on Monday, the Mail, as part of an effort to distance itself from its earlier report, wrote, “Firefighters who successfully tackled the fridge fire that started the Grenfell Tower thought their job was done and began to leave—only realising how quickly it had spread when they stepped outside. Units were called to what they believed to be a standard fridge fire at the doomed high-rise, and within minutes told residents the fire was out in the flat.
“The crew was leaving the building when firefighters outside spotted flames rising up the side of the building. …”
The only reason for the Mail to disclose Kebede’s identity was to deflect the growing anger of the population in London and nationally, who are demanding the real culprits be held responsible, towards a single individual.
Kebede’s ethnic background is a not-insignificant aspect of his treatment by the Mail, given that we are dealing with a hate sheet that regularly churns out a torrent of anti-immigrant bile.
No one should accept the claim that the fire was even caused by a faulty fridge. The Mail report makes no mention of the warning made by the Grenfell Action Group, who posted in a blog last November: “The Grenfell Action Group believe that the KCTMO [Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation—who ran the block on behalf of the local council], narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring.”
Such was the opposition to its article scapegoating Kabede that the Mail was forced to issue through gritted teeth a statement just hours after it was published, stating: “For the record MailOnline believes that, while much is still unclear, the blame for this tragedy lies squarely with those responsible for managing and renovating the tower and the authorities in charge of the policies and safety regulations within which they were operating.”
The Mail’s report met with such a groundswell of public hostility that its comments section solicited the following responses, from among 544 who overwhelmingly opposed the newspaper:
- “This is not his fault. In these tower blocks a fire is meant to be containable not spread in 15 minutes. He went to his neighbours and started banging on [t]heir doors to make them aware of what was happening.”
- “Not his fault. Faulty manufacturer of fridge and faulty construction of tower. That fire should never have spread the way it did. Most flat fires rarely spread beyond a floor or two. The only ones to blame are the ones who decided to save a couple pennies by slapping that cheap covering on the building.”
- “I feel so sorry for this man. He, like everyone else in that tower block didn’t know they were living in a death trap. The blame lies elsewhere.”
- “He didn’t cause the deaths. … Remember there were no sprinkler system, inadequate fire escapes, poor building compl[i]ance & bad advice for the situation. Stop holding him up as the villain in this story.”
- “It was the building that was faulty because fires don’t spread that fast unless there is something very flammable there.”
These comments reflect a growing oppositional mood within the population to the ruling elite.
The Mail article prompted about 1,300 complaints to the press watchdog, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso). The Guardian reported that the complaints in their majority related “to privacy and harassment clauses in the editors’ code. A number of complaints focus on intrusion into grief and shock.” It added, “The article ranks among the top five most complained-about to Ipso.”
The response to the Mail is public recognition that Kebede, like all residents of Grenfell Tower, is a victim of successive government policies that have aided and abetted corporate mass murder.
Far more important than where the fire actually began is why it was able to rapidly spread and sweep up the outside of the building in minutes, engulfing other flats and creating such a conflagration. This is because last year the building was covered in a combustible cladding that served to channel the fire upwards in a chimney effect. It is already established that the flammable cladding material was chosen by those companies overseeing the “refurbishment” of the tower because it was £2-per-square-metre cheaper than a fire-resistant alternative. The savings made amounted to just £5,000.
Grenfell Tower lacked any essential fire safety standards and was a death trap. There was no central fire alarm system, no sprinkler system and only one stairwell for escape.
In addition, some witnesses who escaped and local residents reported seeing blue flames as the tower set alight, which is consistent with the escape of gas. Recent work on the flats involved the gas supply. A number of residents and the Grenfell Action Group previously reported their concern to the KCTMO and Fire Brigade about exposed gas pipes.
The Financial Times reported that only in March, just three months before the fire broke out, the “Grenfell Tower’s leaseholders association wrote to the London Fire Brigade complaining about the still-exposed gas pipe and its location in the stairwell. … The pipe, the letter says ‘has put our life in danger and we don’t feel secure in the building any more’.”
This 22 June 2017 video from London, England is called Survivors of UK’s Grenfell Tower Block Fire Demand Accountability for the Victims.
A 20 June 2017 video from London, England used to say about itself:
A Grenfell Tower support worker speaks out about the problems Grenfell Tower survivors and other local residents evacuated from their homes have in accessing emergency support.
By Conrad Landin in Britain:
More tragedy fears as Tories lower fire standards in schools
Wednesday 21st June 2017
FIREFIGHTERS and teachers joined forces yesterday to warn that new building regulations “significantly increase the fire risk in schools.”
Last summer the government announced that it would not, as expected, require new schools to fit sprinkler systems. The decision was met with protests from the National Union of Teachers and the Fire Brigades Union.
The government’s Building Bulletin guidelines also increased the permitted size of compartmented areas in all schools, which are designed to stop fires from spreading.
The bulletin no longer requires each floor to be compartmented in unsprinklered schools and does not include sections from the original 2007 Bulletin discouraging the use of combustible materials for cladding buildings.
Following last week’s horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, which did not have sprinklers fitted, three union leaders have raised concerns over the government’s refusal to recognise the risks of its new policy.
Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary Mary Bousted said: “It is shocking that the government continues to ignore the recommendations on fire safety in schools. The government, now more than ever, needs to make assurances that they will prioritise the health and safety of pupils and staff in school buildings and implement the changes required to keep them safe.”
It is thought that the cladding of Grenfell Tower allowed the fire to spread to engulf the entire building.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “It is staggering we still have to have this debate with the government in the current circumstances.
It highlights the endless problems we have faced when raising fire safety issues over several years.”
The unions spoke out as Labour demanded answers from the government after leaked letters appeared to show that ministers had been repeatedly warned that fire regulations were not keeping people safe at blocks such as Grenfell.
The 12 letters, sent by the all-party parliamentary fire safety and rescue group in the aftermath of a 2009 fatal fire at Lakanal House, south London, show that ministers were warned that people living in high rises were at risk and warned the government “could not afford to wait for another tragedy,” according to the BBC’s Panorama.
This 16 June 2017 video says about itself:
Fire Safety Test On Grenfell Tower Type Cladding
TV channel conducts fire safety test on cladding used in the Grenfell Tower as opposed to fire retardant cladding.
By Julie Hyland in Britain:
UK government deregulation led to Grenfell Tower inferno
21 June 2017
The Grenfell Tower inferno reveals the appalling human cost of the UK’s “light touch” regulation celebrated by successive Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat governments.
For almost 40 years, the assault on health and safety regulations has gone hand in glove with Margaret Thatcher’s notorious dictum that there is “no such thing as society.”
One of Thatcher’s first acts was to prevent local authorities from building homes on the grounds that the “market” would provide. This cleared the way for the huge growth in land and housing prices—and rampant speculation—that has turned London into the world’s fifth most expensive city.
Accompanying this has been the dismantling of housing and planning regulations to reduce the cost “burden” to business.
In 1986, the Thatcher government scrapped the London Building Acts. This originated out of the Great Fire of London in 1666, which destroyed 80 percent of the city. Fully 70,000 of London’s then 80,000 inhabitants lost their homes or premises. The exact loss of life is unknown.
According to the Telegraph, the Acts stipulated that “external walls must have at least one hour of fire resistance to prevent flames from spreading between flats or entering inside.” But “those rules were replaced by the National Buildings Regulations and the crucial time stipulation was scrapped.”
Grenfell Tower was completed in 1974 so its design was unaffected by this change. Significantly, however, the new regulations specified that external building materials would now only have to meet “Class O” regulations, and most crucially did not have to be non-combustible.
During a supposed refurbishment of the block in 2016, external cladding was added to improve the building’s appearance when viewed from nearby luxury housing. A fire-resistant cladding option was rejected on the grounds of cost—a measly £5,000 difference. Moreover, it is reported that this combustible material was laid over the top of gas pipes.
Claims of ignorance as to the dangers posed do not wash. As far back as 1999, under Tony Blair’s Labour government, parliament was informed of the potential risks of fire spreading via external cladding systems.
After the deaths of six people in the Lakanal House tower block fire in Camberwell, south London in 2009, the coroner, Judge Frances Kirkham, wrote to then-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles with recommendations including the installation of sprinkler systems. An estimated 4,000 tower blocks nationally were said to be at risk, with non-fire-resistant external panelling cited as a factor in the spread of fire.
Despite repeated assurances by former housing minister Gavin Barwell, now Theresa May’s chief of staff, nothing was done. In 2014 then-Housing Minister Brandon Lewis rejected forcing construction companies to fit sprinkler systems, arguing, “The cost of fitting a fire sprinkler system may affect house building—something we want to encourage.”
Only last year, fire chiefs wrote to local councils following an investigation into a fire at the Shepherd Court tower block, also in West London, in August. This had uncovered that external cladding helped the fire to spread. In its report into the blaze, Insurers RSA stated that flammable material in insulation panels “melts and ignites relatively easily” and can cause “extremely rapid fire spread and the release of large volumes of toxic smoke… This allows extensive and violent fire to spread, and makes firefighting almost impossible.”
No action was taken.
This is not the result of “mistakes” and oversight. It is a deliberate policy. Consider the fact that only last year, the government junked the “expectation” that all new school buildings should be fitted with sprinklers. The expectation, which had been in force for only nine years, was not compulsory and was not retroactive, meaning that schools built before 2007 were exempt. Just 30 percent of new school buildings had actually obliged.
Sprinkler systems account for less than two percent of total construction costs. According to the Association of British Insurers, there had been 1,500 fires in schools and educational premises over that year. But even this was considered an unwelcome regulatory burden on corporations.
The dismantling of health and safety regulation was stepped up in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, which was used as an opportunity to further liberate big business from its regulatory shackles. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition of 2010 pledged a “one-in, one-out” rule, whereby no new regulation could be brought in unless another was junked.
Prime Minister David Cameron pledged, “I will kill off safety culture.” Declaring “war” on the “excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British businesses,” he said, “We need to realise, collectively, that we cannot eliminate risk and that some accidents are inevitable.”
Liberal Democrat Business Secretary in the coalition, Vince Cable, introduced a Cabinet “Star Chamber” charged with bringing “an end to the excessive regulation that is stifling business growth.”
No less than two reviews were commissioned in two years to decide what regulations should be jettisoned, under Lord Young and Professor Löfstedt.
Cameron wrote to ministers in April 2011, “I want us to be the first government in modern history to leave office having reduced the overall burden of regulation, rather than increasing it.”
The 21,000 statutory rules and regulations in force were to be slashed in half. All existing regulations were published on-line, sector-by-sector, with the invitation to “the public and interested parties” to say which should be scrapped.
Whereas in the past the assumption had been regulations should remain unless there was a “good case for getting rid of them,” the government was changing “that presumption; we are changing the default setting,” Cameron wrote.
Ministerial teams were held “personally accountable for the number of regulations contained within and coming out of departments, and the burden they impose… they must go, once and for all.”
Cameron determined that “businesses will no longer have to report minor accidents; up to a million self-employed workers will be exempted from health and safety regulation completely; a new panel will give firms the right to challenge controversial inspection decisions; and from this month, the Health and Safety Executive begins the task of abolishing or consolidating up to half of existing regulations.”
Corporations were no longer held to account automatically in the event of an accident, and insurers were instructed not to try to enforce “insane levels of compliance” on them.
In 2012, the “one in, one out” rule on deregulation became “one in, two out”. By 2015, the government was celebrating that it had cut house-building regulations by 90 percent.
Following the Leave vote in last year’s Brexit referendum, the financial oligarchy was salivating over the prospect of a “bonfire” of European Union regulation. The Telegraph celebrated Brexit as a “golden opportunity” “to get rid of as many regulations as possible.”
“Free trade, competition and a state that sets light but well enforced rules: these are the best ways to ensure not only a healthy market but also a fair one,” it pontificated.
Conservative ministers John Whittingdale and Michael Gove encouraged the Confederation of British Industry to draw up a list of regulations they wanted abolished or reformed.
May’s so-called Brexit “Great Repeal Bill”—the transfer of EU-derived laws to UK bodies or ministers, provides for “Henry VIII clauses.” These parliamentary procedures date back to the 16th century, when King Henry VIII effectively gave himself the powers to rule by decree. It enables ministers and civil servants to decide what regulations should be kept, amended or discarded without recourse to parliament.
John Longworth, former CBI director general urged the formation of another “Star Chamber” to oversee this process that is “not frightened to think the unthinkable.”
As an indication of what is intended:
In January parliament voted down the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill. The Bill, which only applied to private households, sought to update 1957 legislation that required properties with an annual rent below £80 in London and £52 elsewhere to be fit for human habitation. The 1957 legislation was enforced against the background of notorious and ruthless slum landlord profiteers, such as Peter Rachman, who operated in the Notting Hill area, in which Grenfell Tower is located.
No homes in London now fall below that rental value. Still the Bill was rejected by a majority of 93, 72 of whom were private landlords, on the grounds that it would place “a huge burden” on landlords.
In February, the government celebrated the fruits of its anti-Red Tape challenge. Boasting that more than 2,400 pieces of regulation had been scrapped since the initiative began, it highlighted, “Businesses with good records have had fire safety inspections reduced from six hours to 45 minutes, allowing managers to quickly get back to their day job.”
This 21 June 2017 video from London, England says about itself:
John McDonnell in an ad lib doorstop interview has committed the Labour Party to installing sprinkler systems in all public housing blocks as well as fixing them to be up to modern fire standards.
By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:
Mayor tells May what he expects from inquiry
Wednesday 21st June 2017
PEOPLE directly affected by the devastating Grenfell Tower fire should be integral to any inquiry, Sadiq Khan told the Prime Minister yesterday.
In a letter to Theresa May, Labour’s London mayor made strong recommendations on the scope of an inquiry.
He said that those affected by the fire in the high-rise block — for which the death toll stands at 79 — should be granted “core participant” status, allowing them access to evidence and to make representations in the hearing or suggest lines of inquiry.
Evidence should also be preserved by police using powers of seizure, he added.
He urged Ms May to appoint a senior judge to lead the process and said the Prime Minister should not meet the chairman “to avoid questions over the integrity and independence of the inquiry.”
He also said that legal fees should be covered to make sure that the concerns of the Grenfell community are not drowned out by the financial backing of other parties involved.
Mr Khan advised that the inquiry be split into two halves, the first of which would deal with the cause of the fire, how it spread, the recent refurbishment, the management of the block, whether safety warnings were ignored, the handling of the fire and co-ordination of support and to those affected.
A second stage would would examine the lessons to be learned from the tragedy including whether previous advice had been absorbed, whether a re-examination of building and fire-prevention regulation is needed and if the regime for checking fire safety is adequate, and an audit of “wider resilience arrangements”.
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Tuesday 11th July 2017
posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain
Campaigners call for advertising embargo
ANTI-RACISTS are calling on Marks and Spencer to stop advertising in the Daily Mail at the department store’s annual general meeting today.
Campaign groups Global Justice Now and Sum Of Us will picket the meeting, handing attendees an open letter in solidarity with migrants.
It reads: “M&S’s financial support for the Daily Mail is actively contributing to the growing tide of harassment and violence that migrants (including asylum-seekers and refugees), Muslims and people of colour are facing on the streets of the UK.”
Over the course of the day a mobile billboard will drive to various M&S stores in London urging the retailers to stop supporting hate and racism through the Daily Mail.
A recent United Nations report singled out the British media as being “uniquely aggressive in its campaigns against refugees and migrants.”
Campaign group Stop Funding Hate has been putting pressure on companies that advertise in newspapers like the Daily Mail.
It says the right-wing media demonises people who are likely to be “their family, friends and neighbours.”
Last November, Lego announced it was ending its promotional deals with the Daily Mail over its coverage of migration and refugees.
And more recently 935 companies have withdrawn advertising from the far-right website Breitbart.
Almost 16,000 people have written to M&S CEO Steve Rowe asking him to drop Daily Mail advertising, while over 44,000 people have signed a petition urging the same.
Global Justice Now spokeswoman Aisha Dodwell said: “The tidal wave of hatred and mistrust of migrants and refugees in the UK is being stoked and encouraged by purposefully selective and insinuating reporting from newspapers like the Daily Mail.
“People are increasingly recognising the responsibility that newspapers like the Daily Mail have for the toxic and hate-fuelled atmosphere around the migration debate in the UK, and they are using their consumer power to put pressure on companies like M&S that are financially supporting them to do it.”
Sum Of Us spokeswoman Sondhya Gupta said: “Papers like the Daily Mail publish hate-filled and misinformed pieces that cause real harm to real people.”
M&S had not responded to requests for comment by time the Star went to press.
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Cleaners at UK Daily Mail strike
Cleaners employed by contractor MITIE at the Daily Mail newspaper are on strike for the London Living Wage of £10.20 an hour. They currently earn £7.50 an hour.
The paper sent MITIE a letter threatening to sack all the striking cleaners. They are members of the United Voice of the World union.
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