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Grenfell Tower disaster and British Conservative Boris Johnson


This video from England says about itself:

Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury FestivalGrenfell Tower Fire Raises Question’s About Inequality

24 June 2017

Jeremy Corbyn addressing the Glastonbury Festival crowd talks about how the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy raises questions about inequality in Britain.

By Julie Hyland in Britain:

Boris Johnson and the Grenfell Tower inferno

24 June 2017

When the list is drawn up of those criminally responsible for the Grenfell Tower fire in London, Boris Johnson’s name should be at the top.

The former mayor of London (2008-2016) recently condemned what he described as “political game-playing” over the inferno in west London that claimed the lives of at least 79 people. Suggestions that “this tragedy was somehow caused by fire service cuts” were “unbelievable,” he declared.

Johnson spoke as a video clip from 2013 became widely viewed on YouTube. In it he is seen telling a Labour Party London Assembly member to “get stuffed” when he accuses Johnson of lying over the scale and consequences of cuts to the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

Now foreign secretary, Johnson styles himself as the enfant-terrible of the Conservative Party. His famed outbursts, however, have nothing to do with unorthodoxy or “plain speaking.”

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, as he is more properly known, epitomises the class arrogance and social privilege of Britain’s upper-middle class. This is a man whose experience with the “lower classes” extends only to giving orders.

If Johnson is reacting so defensively, it is because in his capacity as mayor he forced through massive cuts in the LFB budget despite repeated warnings they would cost lives.

The London fire service is the fifth largest in the world and covers a metropolitan area of nearly 14 million people—the most populous in the European Union. In addition to firefighting, it responds to emergency situations, including traffic accidents and terror incidents, of which there have been three in the capital in the last four months.

Johnson took a sledgehammer to this vital provision. In 2012, he brought forward proposed cuts of £65 million, amounting to a 15 percent reduction in the LFB’s £448 million annual budget. In words that should be branded on his forehead, he justified this on the grounds of “the declining number of fire deaths.”

Due to opposition on the London Assembly, Johnson ordered the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), which consists of 17 mayoral appointees, to begin consultations on the plan. Ninety-four percent of those consulted opposed the cuts, but their views were rejected as supposedly unrepresentative of the views of all Londoners. Instead, the number of stations and engines to be lost was reduced slightly, to 10 and 14, respectively, while the number of fire-fighter job cuts was increased to 522.

Using powers introduced by the Labour Party, which enable the mayor to overrule and “direct” the authority to carry out his instructions, Johnson decreed that the cuts should go ahead. In a statement at the time he said he was “not minded to provide additional funding” to the LFEPA for 2014-15.

He was supported by then-London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson, who had drawn up the cuts package under the grotesquely misnamed “London Safety Plan 5.” Only two years before, in November 2011, Dobson was allowed to retire from his £200,000 position, aged 52, in order to gain access to his pension entitlements, some £133,000 a year, ­before being immediately reemployed in the same post.

Johnson’s decision was challenged at the High Court by seven London councils—Tower Hamlets, Camden, Greenwich, Hackney, Islington, Lewisham and Southwark. They argued that it “ignores the fire risks posed by a concentration of potential terrorist targets, tourist attractions, social and student housing and high-rise buildings in the affected boroughs.”

The eighth claimant was Ms. Ingrid Richardson, who lived with her husband on the seventh floor of a south London 15-storey tower block. She suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and could move only with the help of a walking frame, while her husband had Alzheimer’s disease. Her claim was added to highlight the increased fire risks facing older and disabled residents.

Mr. Justice Foskett ruled that the closure decision was lawful, as the mayor was entitled to make use of his powers….

Dobson stated arrogantly at the time that “fire stations and fire engines do not stop fires happening—proactive prevention work does.” Except that there was no “proactive fire prevention” at Grenfell Tower or many other residences. Quite the opposite.

Official advice to “stay put” in a fire applies only to high-rise buildings that are fitted with fire-proofed doors. But not all the doors in Grenfell Tower were fire-proofed. Under conditions in which external cladding that was known to be combustible had been added across the entire exterior of the building as a cheap means of prettifying it, Grenfell Tower was a death trap.

A report by Insurers RSA into an August 2016 fire at the Shepherd Court tower block, also in West London, had found 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.” The report added, “This allows extensive and violent fire to spread, and makes firefighting almost impossible.” [emphasis added]

Fire chiefs wrote to the local authorities to warn them, but no action was taken.

On Friday, police confirmed that preliminary tests on insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower “combusted soon after the tests started.” They continued, “The initial test on the cladding tiles also failed the safety tests.”

Yet during the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, when the cladding was installed, the building was inspected 16 times between 2014 and 2016 by Kensington and Chelsea Council, which signed off on the work.

During the horrific fire, it became clear that the LFB (and presumably many other fire services across the country) is manned with hoses that can reach only to the 12th floor of any building. The fire service had to “borrow” a larger platform that could reach to 42 metres—still only the 15th floor—from Surrey, nearly two hours away.

Like many other high-rises in the UK, Grenfell Tower had only a single stairwell. As the flames spread, it would have become quickly apparent that those in flats above the 15th floor had no means to escape the toxic fumes given off, much less the fire, and no means of rescue.

They waited to die.

Residents of North Kensington have praised the courage and commitment of the firefighters who attended Grenfell Tower and fought to save those inside, against almost insurmountable odds. They did so above and beyond the call of duty, in some instances over a 19-hour shift.

In total, some 200 fire fighters and officers attended the call-out, with 40 fire engines. Fire fighters have told how they could not get past the 15th floor and how they had to choose whom they should try to save.

Why did the fire fighters have to work such long hours under such conditions? Why do most accounts describe fire crews from Whitechapel being first to enter the building—a station in east London, more than 40 minutes drive away? What happened to the “fire prevention” measures Johnson claimed meant the LFB could be cut?

The answer is clear. Small wonder that firefighters and local residents who witnessed the events broke down in tears of sorrow and fury.

Last year, a report by Lancaster University statistician Dr. Benjamin Taylor found that Johnson’s cuts had led to deaths. Analysing response-time data to 24,000 house fire call-outs between 2012 and 2015, Taylor found that the average time in some areas before the fire stations were shut was “well under five minutes,” whereas some stations afterwards were taking up to 10 minutes to respond.

The London’s Burning report said firefighters were unable to respond to the six-minute target time in more than half of the fires studies. A least eight deaths were attributable to these delays.

In November 2015, Johnson and Dobson axed a further 13 engines in London, just two weeks after a man had jumped to his death from a burning housing block in Camden. The man, Choi Yip, was forced to jump after it took fire fighters more than 13 minutes to reach the blaze at the sheltered housing block.

The 13 fire engines had already been removed from service in preparation to break a strike by firefighters against the attack on their pensions, and were due to be returned. But a review ordered by Johnson decided they were surplus to requirements. This left the LFB with 142 engines, down by one-quarter of its strength from the end of 2013.

Facebook censoring feminism


British Matchwomen's Festival

After Facebook banning a famous Vietnam war atrocity photobanning women’s reproductive rights information … etc. Meanwhile, eg, the Dutch Nederlandse Volks-Unie neonazis are free to spout racism, sexism, marches promoting that, etc. on their Facebook page.

By Ben Chacko in Britain:

Facebook censoring feminism with ban on mentioning women, say activists

Friday 23rd June 2017

Bid to promote the Matchwomen’s festival falls foul of bizarre social media post guidelines

FACEBOOK stands accused of censoring feminist content after one of London’s most popular left festivals was barred from promoting its page on the site.

The annual Matchwomen’s festival commemorates the 1888 strike by women and girls at the Bryant & May match factory. This week it tried to boost the page inviting people to attend this year’s event, which takes place on July 1 in Camden — only to be refused.

Bewildered organiser Louise Raw was told Facebook would not promote pages that contain “profanity, harassment, or references to your audience’s personal characteristics (such as gender, race, age or name)” — and the page’s repeated use of the term “women” fell foul of the condition, even though it makes clear that men and children are equally welcome to attend.

“I can appreciate that Facebook would want to ban white supremacist events, but their ruling that ads must not mention gender, race or age means that Women of Colour would not be able to promote self-contained events, nor women who want a female-only safe space event for example for victims of abuse or rape,” she pointed out.

“It would presumably rule out the WASPI women’s pension campaign if they wanted to promote something relevant to the women affected.

“Meanwhile I can find no evidence that Facebook has an issue with events with all male or all-white panels.”

Academic and activist Dana Mills said it was “troubling” that Facebook was censoring left events “under the guise of anti-sectarianism.

“This merely furthers injustice and consolidates the Establishment narrative. What a shame that an event celebrating a successful strike that has made life better for women and men ever since is perceived as threatening and provokes censorship.”

And NUT executive member Kiri Tunks was appalled by the social media giant’s stance.

“How can minority or oppressed groups self-organise if they are barred from naming the basis of their oppression?” she asked.

“This event is about educating people on the amazing role played by women in establishing the labour movement, and we can’t talk about that?

“Young women rose up, took on a patriarchal system and won, and now women are being written out of history.

“Would they apply the same principle to the ‘personal characteristic’ of race? Would they agree with the critics who snipe that the Black Lives Matter movement should rename itself All Lives Matter, though that fails to recognise the particular oppression black people face and therefore prevents them from challenging it?”

Facebook had not responded to a request for comment by the time the Morning Star went to press.

US Trump administration stops monitoring anti-Semitism


This video from the USA says about itself:

Trump’s America: Anti-Semitism is Back, and It’s Not Going Away

10 November 2016

Donald Trump being elected President of the United States has legitimized the voice of the alt-right in this country and the ant-Semitic rhetoric that comes along with it.

From the Times of Israel:

State Department clearing out anti-Semitism monitor, drawing unease

With envoy post unfilled, 2 remaining staffers to be reassigned, though Foggy Bottom says it’s still committed to combating hatred; ADL, others call for special envoy to be reinstated

By Ron Kampeas

June 23, 2017, 7:57 am

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The US State Department’s office to monitor and combat anti-Semitism will be unstaffed as of July 1, despite concerns from Jewish officials over the downgrading of the congressionally mandated post.

A source familiar with the office’s workings told JTA that its remaining two staffers, each working half-time or less, would be reassigned as of that date.

The Trump administration, which has yet to name an envoy to head the office, would not comment on the staffing change. At full staffing, the office employs a full-time envoy and the equivalent of three full-time staffers.

The State Department told JTA in a statement that it remained committed to combating anti-Semitism – and cited as evidence the tools, including the department’s annual reports on human rights and religious freedom, that existed before Congress mandated the creation of the envoy office in 2004. …

“The idea of having a dedicated envoy who can travel around the world to raise awareness on this issue is critical,” the Anti-Defamation League CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, told JTA in an interview.

… “But if the administration is truly committed” to combating anti-Semitism, “maintaining the special envoy for anti-Semitism seems like a no-brainer.” …

Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s director of government and international affairs, said the position was essential.

“It’s not as though the need for a special envoy has diminished,” he told JTA in an interview. “If anything it has increased.”

Little ringed plover video


This is a little ringed plover video from the Netherlands.

British authorities neglect Grenfell Tower firefighters


This video from London, England says about itself:

Family Evacuated After Grenfell Tower Fire Faces Uncertain Future

23 June 2017

A family evacuated from a nearby building after the Grenfell Tower fire faces an uncertain future not knowing where they may end up living.

By Will Stone in Britain:

GRENFELL HEROES ARE ABANDONED TO THEIR NIGHTMARES

Saturday 24th June 2017

Leading firefighter hits out at loss of mental healthcare as tower horror stories mount

A FIREFIGHTER has demanded more protection for the mental health of crews after colleagues who were sent in to tackle the devastating Grenfell Tower fire were faced with “dozens” of dead and screaming children.

The harrowing experiences of those who entered the inferno that broke out last Wednesday were revealed by Fire Brigade Union (FBU) London regional official and Chelsea brigade firefighter Lucy Masoud.

Fire services have been “savaged” by cuts with fire inspectors being the first to get the axe, and 17 full-time counsellors for the fire service have been replaced with just four part-timers to take care of thousands of firefighters and staff, she said.

One firefighter was faced with having to choose between saving a mother and daughter or a family trapped on another floor, she told the Star, adding that “we should not have to make that choice. I’m hugely concerned about the mental welfare of my colleagues. They’re heartbroken, we’re talking about some firefighters with 25 years or more experience.

“We are used to dealing with deaths on a daily basis but we have seen nothing on the scale like at Grenfell.

“Many heard screaming children and others will have the image of dozens of dead children. I can honestly say I don’t know how they’re going to cope.

“Control room staff would have had absolutely the most horrific time.

“They had to deal first hand with all the calls from the victims and we know that many perished while on the phone to staff.

“You cannot predict what the long-term mental health effects of these experiences will be. What’s important is that they need proper counselling and mental health support.”

The fire was sparked by a faulty fridge-freezer just after 1am and combustible cladding on the building helped it spread at an alarming rate over 24 floors of the council housing block, Scotland Yard revealed yesterday. Locals reported hearing screams and shouts for help while the blaze went on for more than 24 hours.

The official death toll stands at 79 but hundreds more “missing” people are feared dead and survivors have been displaced. Many fatalities could have been avoided with more firefighters and equipment, said Ms Masoud, who was off duty that night.

She continued: “I don’t want to politicise this tragic event but the fact remains that over the last three years Kensington and Chelsea has had half of its fire service cut.”

Ten fire stations, 27 fire engines and 600 firefighters have been cut across London alone in the last three years.

Of these, two stations at Knightsbridge and Westminster, which could have responded to the Grenfell incident, have closed.

Firefighters who were called out to Grenfell have been asked not to speak to the press as it might interfere with investigations.

Ms Masoud along with other firefighters have been at the scene all week helping with the clean-up operation.

There was no mention of addressing the cuts to the fire service or helping firefighters after tackling major fires in the Queen’s Speech this week.

The Metropolitan Police also announced yesterday that it would be considering manslaughter charges related to the fire at Grenfell, looking in particular at whether the use of flammable cladding was illegal.

In a response statement the Radical Housing Network said: “Today’s initial verdict is beyond damning. It is also an indictment of a broken housing model — one where council housing is systematically run down and tenants are treated with contempt.

“From the council’s estate management organisation failing to respond to repeated resident complaints, to the reported delaying of a fire safety review by government ministers, it’s clear that a culture of negligence existed at all levels.

“Those responsible must be held to account.”

This video from London, England says about itself:

Camden Council Announces Evacuations From Five Tower Blocks With Same Cladding as Grenfell Tower

23 June 2017

Camden Council has announced that it will be evacuating five social housing tower blocks to remove dangerous cladding and to install fire sprinklers and an alarm system.

By Felicity Collier in Britain:

‘Similar Grenfell cladding used on many other residential blocks’

Saturday 24th June 2017

AT LEAST 11 residential tower blocks in eight local authority areas in England have been found to have flammable cladding similar to that blamed for the Grenfell Tower disaster, the government said yesterday.

Buildings in the London boroughs of Camden, Islington, Barnet, Tottenham, Hounslow and Newham, and in Manchester, Sheffield, Halifax, Portsmouth and Plymouth are at risk, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid wrote in a letter to MPs.

Hundreds more buildings are being tested, though it was confirmed that none of Scotland’s 32 local authorities used cladding of the same type as Grenfell.

In Barnet, cladding on three tower blocks was found to be potentially unsafe, although non-combustible. The material will be removed “as a matter of urgency,” Barnet Homes chairman Terry Rogers said, while 24-hour fire safety patrols have been put in place, according to the North London Press.

A demonstration organised by campaign group Axe the Housing Act will take place today in Parliament Square from noon to call for justice for the Grenfell fire’s victims and for decent, affordable homes for all. On Monday, Barnet Housing Action Group will protest and demand answers from the council.

Questions submitted by the group will be raised by Labour councillors at a housing committee meeting at Hendon Town Hall from 6pm.

The group said: “Our own [Conservative council majority] borough is renowned for showing disdain for its less wealthy residents and we need to apply pressure now to ensure the necessary action is taken without delay.”