Grenfell Tower disaster, Londoners interviewed


Social housing on the London Lancaster West housing estate with the destroyed Grenfell Tower behind

From the World Socialist Web Site, about London, England:

London residents on Grenfell fire: “Heads have got to roll!”

By our reporters

5 July 2017

World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke to residents of the Lancaster West housing estate near Grenfell Tower.

Jane, 16, lives with her parents at Barandon Walk on the Lancaster West housing estate. She explained that since the fire their homes had been without hot water or gas. Her family was left there for two days but is now in emergency accommodation in a nearby hotel.

“I knew a girl in the tower who went to my primary school, but she and her family sadly passed away. I knew some other people in there too, but luckily, they got out.” On the morning after the fire, Jane did her GCSE exams at a local church. “They gave us water, clothes, food. The community came together.”

Complaints about fire safety by residents at Grenfell Tower were common knowledge. “It’s horrible. If people are telling them from a very long time ago that there’s issues—the fire alarms aren’t working, there’s no sprinklers—then as a council you’re responsible. You should be the ones willing to put that in, so we are all safe. It’s like they knew this was going to happen, like they wanted it to happen. I still can’t believe it to this day—I can’t look at the building.

Rich people never liked this building. It doesn’t look good. I think they just planned it to be honest—to move us all out of the area, because it’s a rich borough. But we’re a strong community. They’re not going to be able to do it. We’ll stick together and we’ll fight.”

None of the residents WSWS reporters spoke to believe the official death toll, and Jane said the number of lives lost was likely “in the hundreds”. “The way that fire was going—all of them are dead. The fire went up so fast I don’t think anyone could have escaped. More than 80 people lost their lives. Way more.”

Jane described how fire engines had trouble gaining access to the tower when the fire broke out. “The road near Grenfell Tower is really narrow and tight, and because there were already cars parked there, the fire trucks were too big, so they couldn’t easily go through to help. The space around Grenfell Tower is very compact—there’s the park, the school, the leisure centre. It’s all very close, so there was nowhere to go.”

People waited to be rescued while the tower burned, but there was no equipment to save them. “If you’re building towers like this, you should fund the fire brigade to have equipment. But they don’t want to waste money on us. If it was rich people, they’d do it straight away. Without a doubt.”

Vanessa agreed: “To be honest, the government—I don’t think they care about us at all. What they’re trying to do is social cleansing. They don’t care about the working class. They’re not helping in any way. The only people who have actually helped is the community getting together, opening services. The government doesn’t care about us and they’re never going to care about us.

“We’re not like the rich people. They’re trying to social cleanse this entire area of the working class so that foreign buyers, whose properties cost millions, can move in. They know the working class don’t have the money to buy those properties. We need to stop that. It’s not right. Where’s everyone going to end up?”

Reporters showed Jane and Vanessa a WSWS video of a resident of the city of Flint in the United States speaking about the Grenfell fire.

This 28 June 2017 video from the USA is called Flint autoworker to London workers: “You have the right to a home!”

Flint’s population has suffered for years the devastating consequences of a scheme to build a new water pipeline. State and local officials switched the city’s water supply to the polluted Flint River, even though the city’s antiquated water treatment plant was unable to make the water safe.

Jane said, “That’s terrible. Just like she’s saying to us that we’ve got to rise up, they’ve got to rise up too.”

Davide and Federica

Davide Prevarin and Federica Silvi live on Barandon Walk, and like other residents they have been without gas and hot water since the fire.

“The advice from the local council is to go to the gym to get a shower, and it’s been nearly three weeks,” Davide said. “There’s no other support. There were some policemen today asking if we need any support—but they had absolutely no information to tell us and couldn’t help in any way, except giving us some leaflets.”

For the first two days after the fire, police prevented residents from entering their homes to pick up clothes or other basic items. “We were lucky, we stayed with friends, but I can only imagine that for people who don’t have anyone to rely on, how difficult it must have been.”

Both were home on the night of the fire. “Firefighters were rushing to the scene, and the people on the streets were shouting because they could see that there were people moving inside their flats and using their phones as flashlights to make their presence seen. You could actually hear people screaming from the tower.

“The fire was just a bit on the one side of the building, just on the right, but within half an hour it spread to the rest of the tower, and at that point it started to be really, really strong. At about two or three in the morning we decided to leave because we didn’t know if it was going to be safe, and no one was saying anything. And still when we returned we didn’t know whether it was going to collapse.”

“All we had was the BBC web site and the updates posted there,” Silvi said, “because there was absolutely no one from the Council around here. The police knew nothing.”

Asked about the deadly conditions in the building—no sprinklers, no central fire alarm, the installation of cheap, flammable cladding to save costs—Davide said, “That’s the typical excuse that they give. ‘Oh, it’s red tape, all these regulations—let’s get rid of the regulations to make business flourish’.

“And then you get this. These regulations are written in blood. And then after 10 or 15 years they’ll say, ‘These regulations are stopping business, we can’t develop as we want, so let’s get rid of that’… until another tragedy happens.

“You can try to elect an MP that is less conservative, and try to form all your committees, you can try all these little solutions, but the biggest problem is that until the system changes then you’ll just have to fight it with your own means, and your means are not enough.”

Eddie Andrews

Eddie Andrews, who lives near to Grenfell Tower said, “Heads have got to roll. From the council, from the government, heads have got to roll for this. Innocent people have died and someone has got to account for that.”

On the public inquiry that Prime Minister Theresa May has announced into the fire, he said, “I don’t trust the government choosing judges. I wouldn’t trust the government to pick a judge and expect the judge to give justice to what I think the people deserve. They should have independent people.”

On the fact that the local Kensington Academy school is covered in the same cladding as that on Grenfell Tower, Eddie said, “How much money did you spend on that? And you’re palming it off like you’re doing something good. If you’ve got money, spend money. That’s why it’s there. It’s there for the people, spend it. You shouldn’t differentiate between rich and poor. People are people regardless of their colour.” Walking away Eddie shouted angrily, “But heads have got to roll!”

By Robert Stevens in Britain:

Three weeks after the Grenfell inferno: Official cover-up and callous indifference

5 July 2017

Three weeks after the Grenfell Tower inferno in west London, the initial shock and horror at the huge loss of life has given way to seething anger. The intervening period has only underscored the ruling elite’s callous contempt for the traumatised survivors of the fire and the working class as a whole.

In the early hours of Wednesday, June 14, a small fire in a fourth-floor apartment in the Grenfell residential tower block rapidly became a raging inferno, engulfing the entire 24-storey building. The tower housed some 600 residents, many of whom had no chance of escape.

The building housed workers and poor people living in one of the most deprived areas of the UK, situated at the same time in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the wealthiest district in London. Nothing could more starkly sum up the colossal growth of social inequality not only in Britain, but internationally. The burnt-out husk of Grenfell stands within a stone’s throw of “ghost” homes worth many millions that have never been occupied by their owners. It is only a few miles from Buckingham Palace.

The building was a death trap. There was no sprinkler system, no central fire alarm system and just one stairwell, which quickly became filled with highly toxic fumes. The fire spread so rapidly because the building was wrapped from top to bottom in flammable cladding material, which emitted deadly hydrogen cyanide. The toxic covering had been installed to provide a more pleasant view for the rich residents nearby and keep real estate values high.

When firefighters arrived to tackle the blaze, they were unable to deal with it due to poor access to the building and inadequate equipment and manpower. The Fire Brigade nationally has suffered devastating cuts over the last decade, with 11,000 firefighter jobs lost. Former London mayor and now Tory Foreign Minister Boris Johnson bears major responsibility for Grenfell, having closed 10 fire stations, withdrawn 14 fire engines and cut 522 firefighter jobs during his tenure.

The Grenfell fire was not simply a disaster or tragedy, it was a crime.

Today, three weeks later, it is still unknown to survivors, family members and friends and the public how many people perished in the blaze. The true fatality figure is being concealed by the government out of fear of a social explosion. But the silence of the authorities can only mean that the death toll is appallingly high.

The Metropolitan Police say the 80 acknowledged to have died came mainly from 23 flats, yet there were 129 flats in the building. As of Tuesday evening, rescue teams had still not accessed the top three floors of the building, where it is understood that almost all of the occupants perished. The police say it will take well into next year before any accurate figure can be arrived at.

The survivors of the inferno and people forced to evacuate their housing in the tower’s immediate vicinity have met with inhumane treatment from the authorities. Just £5 million have been offered by the government to Grenfell survivors, with less than half of this distributed so far.

Despite Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May‘s pledge that all survivors would be temporarily rehoused in the borough within three weeks, virtually nobody has been rehoused. Instead, entire families are being forced to sleep in hotels, with some sleeping rough in cars and parks.

Behind the crocodile tears of the government and borough council at the death and destruction at Grenfell, their real attitude was summed up last week when they banned survivors, local residents and the media from attending the first meeting of the council to be held since the fire. The since-resigned Tory council leader, Nick Paget-Brown, insisted that to allow the public entry would “likely result in disorder.”

Grenfell Tower was hardly unique. Testing on 181 tower blocks out of 600 identified as potentially covered in highly flammable material met with a 100 percent failure rate. Even after the Grenfell inferno, it is reported that the unsafe cladding may not be removed. According to the BBC, an “Independent Advisory Panel” set up by the government after the fire “said it would ask experts whether the material could stay on a building ‘under certain approved circumstances.’”

The ruling elite is perpetrating a massive cover-up. Not a single person has been charged or arrested in a supposed “criminal investigation” ongoing since June 15.

The public inquiry into the fire announced by May has already been exposed as a fraud. As with every other such inquiry held in response to a loss of life at the hands of the state, it will do nothing to establish the truth or bring the guilty to justice. The judge selected to chair it, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, let the cat out of the bag when he said the inquiry could be “limited to the cause, how it spread, and preventing a future blaze.”

Three weeks after the event, the historical and global significance of Grenfell is becoming ever more clear. It will not be forgotten. It will be seen by historians in the future as a significant turning point, fuelling the growth of anti-capitalist, socialist and revolutionary sentiment in the working class and the resurgence of class struggle.

For masses of workers in Britain and internationally, their own lives will be divided into before and after Grenfell.

The Grenfell fire is a crime of capitalism. The Socialist Equality Party insists those implicated in political and corporate circles must be immediately arrested, charged and put on trial. The mass requisitioning of accommodation must be organised to house those made homeless and denied access to their homes because of lack of heating, hot water and gas. Hundreds of billions of pounds must be allocated to strip the cladding from unsafe tower blocks, and a mass public works programme enacted to make all public buildings safe. This must be paid for through the expropriation of the billionaires and the nationalization of the building industry and the banks under workers’ control.

The protests of residents in London against Kensington and Chelsea Council and the government over Grenfell and the sympathy and solidarity this has elicited among millions internationally is indicative of the new stage in the class struggle.

Following the Grenfell Tower inferno in London on June 14, politicians and officials responsible for construction in Germany boasted that such a catastrophe could not happen here due to the strict safety guidelines and building regulations. That was a lie. Less than two weeks after the London disaster, on June 27, 72 inhabitants of an apartment building in Wuppertal in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) were forced to leave their homes in a hurry. The building was evacuated because it had a similar facade to Grenfell Tower: here.

SEP Australia public meetings. The Grenfell Tower disaster: A crime against the working class: here.

Saving South African paintbrush lilies


This video says about itself:

2 July 2010

Blood Lily bulbs, Scadoxus multiflorus, also known as Haemanthus multiflorus. When you see several of the blood lilies in flower, you almost want to eat them, they are so bright, colourful and plum-red in color – until you realize that all lilies are poisonous to eat, but that fact doesn’t diminish their magnetic beauty and charm. The blood lily bulbs are about the size of a small hen’s egg and brown in color, and the blooms appear in late spring.

From Stellenbosch University in South Africa:

Saving the paintbrush lily from extinction

July 5, 2017

Summary: Since the 1990s, the Duthie Reserve in Stellenbosch, South Africa, is home to the only remaining viable population of Haemanthus pumilio in the world. It is described as South Africa’s most endangered bulb species, and probably the world’s rarest Haemanthus. A major project is now underway to conserve the remaining 60 individuals.

Haemanthus pumilio

A major effort is underway to conserve the last remaining 60 individual paintbrush lilies (Haemanthus pumilio) in the Duthie Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch, South Africa, as well as increase the population through micropropagation.

Martin Smit, curator of the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden, says more than a thousand of the paintbrush lilies once grew in the Duthie reserve. But the reserve is now less than a third of its original size, and the lilies have all but disappeared from previously known locations including Wellington and Klapmuts.

“The main reasons for its decline are the destruction of its original habitat (rhenosterveld) and invasives like Port Jackson (Acacia saligna). But the species is also dependent on fire to induce flowering and requires very specific conditions for the seedlings to survive. For various reasons the Duthie Reserve was last burned in 2004. For this type of vegetation, it is long overdue for another controlled burn,” he says. “Apart from being fire-dependent, Haemanthus pumilio also prefer ground that is dry in summer but waterlogged and marshy in winter. That is why the Duthie Reserve still remains the most suitable habitat to ensure the survival of this rare and critically endangered plant,” he adds.

While Smit has developed a management plan for the Duthie Reserve, two biologists from Stellenbosch University have obtained funding to employ tissue culture as a means of exponentially increasing the population.

Plant biotechnologist Dr Paul Hills and botanist Dr Gary Stafford have already collected leaf samples and seed from the existing paintbrush lily population in the Duthie Reserve, as well as from seven individuals from a now extinct population from Newton Commanage, Wellington, currently under the care of the Botanical Garden.

“Firstly, we are following a non-destructive strategy to mass propagate individuals from a variety of genotypes to allow for potential repopulation of dwindling populations in the Duthie Reserve and elsewhere,” Dr Hills explains.

At the same time, BSc Honours student Dominique West will use phylogenetic analysis to determine the genetic diversity within and between populations. This will allow for informed decisions to be made with regard to the use of genetic lines derived from micropropagation when it comes to repopulating and conserving the plants.

While the tissue culture samples and several seeds have already started growing in the tissue culture lab, the first seedlings will only be viable by the end of 2018.

“Because it so rare, Haemanthus pumileo is highly sought after by plant collectors locally and internationally. If we can get a viable population going, these will be spread to other botanical gardens and then some plants might be sold,” Smit adds.

French Macron, nuclear war president?


This video from Britain says about itself:

Emmanuel Macron on EU Referendum and Hinkley PointBBC News

17 April 2016

The French government is “completely committed” to constructing the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, the French economy minister has told the BBC. Emmanuel Macron [told] the BBC’s Andrew Marr the £18bn project in Somerset was “very important” for France and EDF, which is 85% owned by the French state. Mr Macron said work still needed to be finalised but he hoped something would be signed with UK officials this week.

That was over a year ago, when Macron was still minister, not president. Then, the talk was about ‘peaceful’ nuclear energy (how ‘peaceful’ is Fukushima?) But now …

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

France: Macron tries his hand at fighting nuclear war

Wednesday 5th July 2017

FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron took part in a simulated nuclear missile launch aboard a submarine yesterday after vowing to continue overseas wars.

After visiting a nuclear weapons plant, he spent several hours aboard the submarine Terrible in the Atlantic.

On Monday evening, Mr Macron told parliament he would lift the current state of emergency, which has been in place since the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, but will make some security measures permanent.

And he said military interventions in Africa’s Sahel region, Syria and Iraq would continue.

Mr Macron also said he was determined to cut the number of parliamentary seats — 577 in the National Assembly and 348 in the Senate — by a third.

The French Communist Party and Jean-Luc Melenchon’s France Unbowed boycotted the speech in protest against what they called Mr Macron’s “presidential monarchy”.

THE United Nations is expected to pass a new convention banning nuclear weapons on Friday after the final draft was released on Monday. The third and final draft circulated at the three-week conference at the UN headquarters in New York stated that the only way to guarantee the tools of mass destruction are never used again was to “completely eliminate” them: here.

Dutchman saves Norwegian sea eagle from drowning


This 1 July 2017 video shows how Dutchman Ron Nederpelt, on holiday in Norway, helps a sea eagle dry its wings. Rob de Blois made this video. The eagle had fallen into the sea after a fight, and might have drowned as its wings had become wet.

Ron Nederpelt got the eagle out of the water, and helped it until it could fly again. The eagle was not aggressive to Ron.

Dutch politician Wilders demonstrates together with Hitler fans against Moroccans


Le Pen, Wilders, Petry, cartoon by Rytis Daukantas

This 2016 cartoon shows European Donald Trump fans; from left to right, Marine Le Pen, leader of the French neo-fascist National Front party; Geert Wilders, a good friend of Ms Le Pen and leader of the xenophobic PVV party; and Frauke Petry. Frauke Petry was leader of the German extreme right AfD party, but has meanwhile been kicked out as the party thought even she was not racist enough.

Recently, a committee of all political parties represented in the local council of Arnhem city in the Netherlands decided that they wanted ex-MP Ahmed Marcouch as new mayor.

Mr Marcouch is of Moroccan ancestry.

Dutch NOS TV reports that today, xenophobic MP Geert Wilders demonstrated in Arnhem against Marcouch becoming mayor. Wilders hates Moroccans.

Among the participants in Wilders‘ demonstration were members of the Nederlandse Volks-Unie (NVU). This neonazi party commemorates Adolf Hitler’s failed 1923 Munich beer hall putsch. They lay flowers on the grave of Peter Ton, a Dutch nazi paramilitary thug, killed in 1940 when Hitler occupied the Netherlands. They lay flowers on the grave of Mrs Florentine Rost van Tonningen, the widow of the leader in parliament of the Dutch NSB nazis, and herself a neonazi until her death.

NVU members at Wilders' Arnhem demonstration

This photo shows NVU participants of Wilders’ demonstration. Constant Kusters, their fuehrer, carries an orange-white-blue flag, which used to be the flag of the Dutch 1930s-1940s NSB nazis. On it, the letters NVU, and the slogan Voor Volk en Vaderland (For nation and country. Voor Volk en Vaderland is a line of the song of the NSB paramilitary gang WA, of which Peter Ton was a member. Volk en Vaderland was the name of the NSB weekly paper).

Pegida leader Bachmann posing as Hitler copycat

Also participating in Wilders’ anti-Moroccan demonstration were members of Pegida, an Islamophobic organisation of which the German leader Bachmann is an Adolf Hitler copycat.

Anti-Wilders demonstrators in Arnhem today

Many anti-racists were present to protest against the Wilders-NVU-Pegida rally.

The banner on the left of this photo says Wilders excludes. The sign on the right says: This smells like the 1930s … bah!

Anti-Wilders sign

Here is another photo of that sign.

Dinosaur age plants, new research


This BBC video is called David Attenborough‘s Kingdom of Plants.

From Lund University in Sweden:

Through fossil leaves, a step towards Jurassic Park

July 4, 2017

Summary: The relationships between 200-million-year-old plants have been established for the first time, based on chemical fingerprints. Using infrared spectroscopy and statistical analysis of organic molecules in fossil leaves, they are opening up new perspectives on the dinosaur era.

For the first time, researchers have succeeded in establishing the relationships between 200-million-year-old plants based on chemical fingerprints. Using infrared spectroscopy and statistical analysis of organic molecules in fossil leaves, they are opening up new perspectives on the dinosaur era.

The unique results stem from a collaboration between researchers at Lund University, the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, and Vilnius University.

“We have solved many questions regarding these extinct plants’ relationships. These are questions that science has long been seeking answers to,” says Vivi Vajda, a professor at the Department of Geology at Lund University and active at the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

The researchers have collected fossil leaves from rocks in Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and Greenland. Using molecular spectroscopy and chemical analysis, the fossil leaves were then compared with the chemical signatures from molecules in plant leaves picked at the Botanical Garden in Lund.

The use of genetic DNA analysis in modern research to determine relationships is not possible on fossil plants. The oldest DNA fragments ever found are scarcely one million-years-old. Therefore, the scientists searched for organic molecules to see what these could reveal about the plants’ evolution and relationships.

The molecules were found in the waxy membrane, which covers the leaves and these showed to differ between various species. The membrane has been preserved in the fossil leaves, some of which are 200 million-years-old.

Using infrared spectroscopy, the researchers carried out analyses in several stages. Firstly, they examined leaves from living plants that have relatives preserved in the fossil archive. The analysis showed that the biomolecular signatures were similar among plant groups, much in the same way as shown by modern genetic DNA analysis.

When the method was shown to work on modern plants, the researchers went on to analyse their extinct fossil relatives. Among others, they examined fossil leaves from conifers and several species of Ginkgo. The only living species of Ginkgo alive today is Ginkgo biloba, but this genus was far more diverse during the Jurassic.

“The results from the fossil leaves far exceeded our expectations, not only were they full of organic molecules, they also grouped according to well-established botanical relationships, based on DNA analysis of living plants i.e. Ginkgoes in one group, conifers in another,” says Vivi Vajda.

Finally, when the researchers had shown that the method gave consistent results, they analysed fossils of enigmatic extinct plants that have no living relatives to compare them with. Among others, they examined Bennettites and Nilssonia, plants that were common in the area that is now Sweden during the Triassic and Jurassic around 250-150 million years ago. The analysis showed that Bennettites and Nilssonia are closely related. On the other hand, they are not closely related to cycads, which many researchers had thought until now.

Per Uvdal, Professor of Chemical Physics at Lund University and one of the researchers who conducted the study, considers that the overall results are astounding.

“The great thing about the biomolecules in the leaves’ waxy membranes is that they are so much more stable than DNA. As they reflect, in an indirect way, a plant’s DNA can preserve information about the DNA. Therefore, the biomolecules can tell us how one plant is related in evolutionary terms to other plants,” he says.

The researchers are now going to extend their studies to more plant groups.