This 21 March 2020 video from London, England says about itself:
CORONAVIRUS-WHITECHAPEL FRONTLINE (2)
Coronavirus and homeless people in Washington DC, USA: here.
This 2019 video from Britain says about itself:
Grenfell Tower cladding ‘more flammable than a match to petrol’ – 5 News
A lawyer representing bereaved families and survivors of the Grenfell fire says the tower was wrapped in cladding that could go up in flames “more quickly than dropping a match into a barrel of petrol”. Stephanie Barwise QC was speaking at the public inquiry into the tragedy which is now focusing on the cause and spread of the blaze.
RBKC or the TMO were guilty of “institutional racism”, said a lawyer representing survivors and bereaved families.
By Charles Hixson in Britain:
Grenfell fire inquiry reveals more criminality by firms involved in refurbishment
14 March 2020
March 10 marked 1,000 days since the Grenfell fire. With the reopening of the inquiry on March 2, witnesses from the companies and entities responsible for the tragedy provided further revelations of wanton criminality.
Phase two of proceedings were halted on January 29, shortly after opening, pending a decision by the Attorney General’s office granting immunity from prosecution to witnesses in relation to anything they tell the inquiry. The reopened hearings focused on three witnesses from Studio E Architects—designers of the 2014–16 Grenfell Tower refurbishment. These included Andrzej Kuszell, founder, senior architect and a director; Bruce Sounes, another senior architect; and Neil Crawford, who had responsibility for day-to-day management of the project.
It emerged that Studio E had been chosen to oversee the refurbishment of the tower without any competitive process, interview, or other competence check. Counsel to the Inquiry, Richard Millett QC, noted that their selection after designing neighbouring Kensington Aldridge academy was “cheap, convenient, quick, even though Grenfell Tower was a completely different kind of project with different challenges.”
Kuszell admitted that if the project had been contested, Studio E would not have been chosen.
The company had no experience with such a project. The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO)—which managed Grenfell Tower on behalf of the Conservative-run Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea—“knew exactly what our skill set was”. He confirmed his team “was not experienced in overcladding a residential tower block.” The designers confessed they were so “green on process and technicality”, they would have to learn rapidly.
Project manager Neil Crawford was not fully qualified as an architect. Bruce Sounes had never worked on a high-rise project or with polyethylene composite materials. Internal emails showed the architects’ concern that the early budgets and fee of £99,000 were too low to cover the needed work. As for the KCTMO, Sounes had described its early design idea changes as “headless chickens, a chaotic mess”, warning Kuszell that the project was being treated like a “poor relative”.
Sounes admitted he never read cladding fire regulations, requiring external walls can adequately resist the spread of fire. He never viewed a diagram showing how buildings of different heights needed to meet specific safety regulations. He did not know aluminium panels could melt and spread flames, had no idea that cladding had caused fires on other buildings, confessed “no knowledge” of the rapid spread of fire in such circumstances, and had no experience designing cavity barriers.
For all these protestations, for Sounes and Studio what mattered above all was the bottom line. Sounes admitted that Studio E, at the request of KCTMO, manipulated its fees to stop the contract from being put to open tender. He deferred charging some fees, and by December 2012 stopped invoicing entirely when it approached the cost threshold of £174,000. This limit was set at the time by the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), under the European procurement rules.
Documents from the time clearly indicate that both parties were far more concerned with costs than safety. Writing a note for a July 24, 2012 meeting, Sounes observed that “the TMO would like … the total fee up until stage D not exceeding £174k which is the OJEU threshold for requiring work to be tendered. This will probably mean deferring some fees.”
Engineers had agreed to “massage” fire safety at Grenfell to allow it to pass checks. In August 2012, Cate Cooney, a senior consultant engineer at Exova, a firm of fire engineers, emailed a colleague after a conversation with Sounes: “Basically I have told him that we can massage the proposal to something acceptable with separation, lobbies, etc., but there are approval risks in the project on the ff [firefighting] shaft/ MOE [means of escape] front… They are making an existing crap situation [in Grenfell Tower] worse …”
Sounes said the Exova email “raised a level of concern I was not aware of.” After two hours of questioning on his third day of testimony, he became ill, and was unable to continue after the recess before the afternoon session.
By March 9, the inquiry heard about the misrepresentation of its foam insulation marketed by cladding manufacturer Celotex. Architect Neil Crawford explained, “It’s deliberately misleading. It’s masquerading horse meat as beef lasagne and people bought it.”
Celotex marketing claimed their RS5000 cladding product that caused the devastating Grenfell blaze was “acceptable” for use in buildings above 18 metres in height and had passed a fire safety test. But the test used cladding panels less combustible than the plastic-filled products proposed for Grenfell. Crawford claimed he had not known that Celotex’s claims related to a test on less dangerous materials. He also argued he had relied on expert knowledge from fire engineers at Exova, which he said was “fairly emphatic” that the new insulation was appropriate.
In 2012, Studio E nearly sacked Exova for failing to agree to fire strategies for both Grenfell and the nearby Kensington Aldridge Academy. On October 10, 2012 Colin Chiles, executive at building contractor Leadbitter, complained about Exova’s response to the concerns of the Grenfell Action Group (GAG): “I am not willing to commence the works until I receive demonstration that the fire safety of the estate has been considered on the design … Should I issue this to GAG it would further exacerbate an already high-risk project.”
The following year Exova claimed “the proposed changes will have no adverse effect in the building” regarding regulations about external spread of fire. It said that “this will be confirmed by an analysis in a future issue of this report.” This never happened.
The Grenfell Action Group warned for years about the dire consequences of cost-cutting, finally warning, in November 2016—seven months before the fire—“only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord.”
Tuesday’s hearing revealed more of the obsession of cost over safety by the corporations involved. E-mail discussions between subcontractor Harley Facades, lead contractor Rydon, and Studio E observed that upgrading flame-resisting cavity barriers from the minimum requirement of 30 minutes to 120 minutes would cost an extra £12,000. Architect Crawford agreed there had been pressure to avoid recommending the upgrade.
An expert report to phase one of the inquiry by Dr. Barbara Lane in 2018 found “missing and defective cavity barriers” and that horizontal barriers had been incorrectly installed vertically in the refurbishment. After claiming that the sub-contractor had been at fault, Studio E’s Crawford opined, “Unfortunately, the industry only reacts to the regulations that are in place, therefore you need to have regulations in place that are fit for purpose.”
What is revealed in everything coming out of the inquiry is that the drive for cost savings at Grenfell, at the expense of public safety, was endemic and epitomised what corporations are allowed to get away with in Britain and internationally in highly de-regulated economies.
Former employee of Studio E, Tomas Rek, gave evidence Wednesday about a meeting with cladding subcontractor Harley Facades on September 27, 2013 at London’s Hay’s Galleria. Rek believed the meeting was “more to do with the appearance and price of the various materials and not their fire performance or fire rating.”
Sounes later sent an email to Harley Facades saying the cladding costs were over budget. The following month Harley emailed Rek saying from a “Harley selfish point of view our preference would be to use ACM [aluminium composite material]. Rek said he was unaware of fire safety requirements but emphasized that RBKC had been putting Studio E “under some kind of pressure” to switch to the cheaper materials.
Sounes sought to withhold vital information from the London Fire Brigade service regarding the Grenfell project. On Thursday, the inquiry found that when he emailed the KCTMO in April 2014 regarding the provisional fire safety plans drawn up by Exova, Sounes advised, “I would not show this to the LFB [London Fire Brigade].”
He feared the plans would support a “severe interpretation of the regulations.” He claimed they had not been finalised, so “thought it best to be sure what we were proposing before we did so.”
There can be no doubt that such practises, compromising safety, were, and are standard throughout the construction industry.
This week’s testimony shows exactly why the individuals involved demanded immunity. Their immunity from personal responsibility is being used to conceal corporate responsibility. If those personally involved in events that led to the fire cannot ultimately be prosecuted, then neither can the corporations they represented.
The Grenfell community and their supporters, who were given only a brief moment to air their opinions in Phase 1, are now being forced to sit and watch while representatives of the corporations and RBKC recount their detailed attempts to subvert safety regulations for profit, all the while knowing they are evading prosecution. The entire Grenfell community must demand that the inquiry is halted and that their legal teams withdraw co-operation. Prosecutions against the guilty parties must proceed without further delay.
From daily News Line in Britain, 3 March 2020:
‘SHUT down the inquiry, it’s a disgrace!’ protesters shouted outside the Grenfell inquiry yesterday, on the first day it resumed after the Attorney General had ruled in favour of the cladding companies.
The new [Conservative] Attorney General, Suella Braverman, ruled that anything said in the inquiry cannot be used in a court of law.
The protesters shouted: ‘No immunity from prosecution! Prosecute now!’ and ‘Grenfell Inquiry! Whitewash!’
Inside the inquiry, chair Martin Moore-Bick began by confirming that witnesses have been guaranteed by Braverman that any answers to the inquiry will not be used against them in any future criminal prosecution.
He said: ‘No one is able to justify refusing to answer questions on the grounds that to do so would or might expose himself or herself personally to a risk of prosecution.’
As Andrzej Kuszell, the director of Studio E the architecture firm that worked on the disastrous refurbishment, began giving evidence in the first few minutes of the session, WRP members Scott Dore and Jonty Leff stood up and shouted: ‘This is a disgrace! The firefighters weren’t given immunity from prosecution! This is a whitewash! Shut this inquiry down and move straight to the prosecutions!’
The proceedings stopped and security was called. The two were approached by Stuart Cundy, the lead officer in the Metropolitan Police investigation into the disaster and both were forced to leave.
Other members of the public were heard saying: ‘What’s the point?’ ‘Why don’t you ask the corporates to leave?’ ‘It’s a disgrace!’
Joe Delaney, who lived in the block next to Grenfell Tower and is a core participant in the inquiry, also shouted: ‘You sold your soul, Sir Martin. The public inquiry isn’t about an inquiry. It’s a cover-up!’
Studio E Architects were appointed by [Conservative] Kensington and Chelsea council.
In the inquiry, they admitted that, prior to Grenfell, they had not worked on over-cladding a high-rise residential building, and had ‘never before worked on the refurbishment of a large tower block.’
Kuszell, speaking on behalf of Studio E, was shown emails between colleagues who discussed council fears that the tower was its ‘worst property asset’ and would be a ‘poor cousin’ to the new school next door, also designed by Studio E Architects.
He refused to be drawn on whether he considered the block an ‘eyesore’, but told the hearing: ‘This was an upgrade of a very large swath of that part of Kensington.
‘You could see why the council might be thinking it’s a good idea to upgrade the tower. I clearly could see it would be a good idea to upgrade the tower if it was a good time to do it.’
Kuszell said he remembered the cladding of the tower being ‘as much to do with the thermal performance … as to do with improving the appearance of the building.’
PLANS for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment focused more on the “appearance and price” of cladding than its fire safety, the inquiry into the disaster heard today. Architect Tomas Rek, a former employee of the firm in charge of the refurbishments, said that budget concerns appeared to bring about the switch from the proposed zinc to the cheaper and more flammable aluminium composite material (ACM) panels. The inquiry heard that combustible ACM panels were chosen in 2014 by architects Studio E in a bid to save £454,000 on the refit: here.
From daily News Line in Britain:
Grenfell Inquiry – No Prosecutions
27th February 2020
THE Attorney General ruled yesterday that contractors can give evidence to the Grenfell inquiry without fear of prosecution over the 72 deaths.
Grenfell United, the survivors and bereaved families group, said: ‘It’s a sad day when bereaved and survivors are asked to weigh up the need for truth and need for justice.
‘The past few weeks have been very difficult and this decision still makes us nervous. We can’t help but worry about how this will impact prosecutions later. It is clear that corporate lawyers are playing every trick in the book.
‘The inquiry is about getting to the truth so that lessons are learnt and the government can make changes. We take part to make sure there will never be another Grenfell and people are safe in their homes.
‘But truth at the inquiry must not come at the expense of justice and prosecutions. For our continued participation the government must make sure the inquiry process does not undermine prosecutions. If prosecutions are affected by this decision we will hold the Government accountable.
‘Grenfell was a tragedy but it was not an accident. The people responsible for knowingly encasing our families in a death trap and the people that allowed them to do it must face the full force of the law. We expect criminal prosecutions at the end of this and will not settle for anything less.’
The chairman of the inquiry backed the request earlier this month but had needed approval from the Attorney General.
Braverman’s office said she had concluded the guarantee was needed to ‘enable the inquiry to continue to hear vital evidence about the circumstances and causes of the fire’.
Without it, she concluded that some witnesses would be likely to decline to give evidence, her office added, by claiming the legal right of privilege against self-incrimination.
In a statement, Braverman said: ‘The undertaking I am providing to the inquiry means it can continue to take evidence from witnesses who otherwise would likely refuse to answer questions.
‘These questions are important to finding out the truth about the circumstances of the fire. The undertaking will not jeopardise the police investigation or prospects of a future criminal prosecution.’
ATTORNEY General Suella Braverman’s undertaking that evidence given by contractors at the Grenfell Inquiry will not be used to prosecute them constitutes ‘One rule for them and another for us,’ firefighters union the FBU insisted yesterday: here.
From daily News Line in Britain today:
A THOUSAND school youth walked out of classes yesterday to join the mass protest in Parliament Square, furious at how capitalism is destroying the environment, as part of a global youth strike with young people coming out in countries around the world.
Around the UK, school students came out, with a mass march through Brighton. There were over 1,200 youth with home-made placards and whistles and drums.
In London, the masses assembled in Parliament Square, before marching around central London to Downing Street.
‘The climate crisis is creating a crisis for capitalism.
‘We need a change of government because workers are under attack with zero-hours contracts and anti-strike laws.
‘We need a socialist government.’
Student Joey Butcher said: ‘The government’s proposals to cut carbon emissions by 2050 is just not enough.
‘They allow the big corporations to get away with avoiding paying tax. That money should be used for the public good.’
17-year-old Eva Battson said: ‘It’s no good just worrying about the situation. We have to make a revolution to change things.’
Another school youth, Louisa Smith from Hertfordshire, said: ‘I’m here because it’s our future that is being decided.
‘It’s necessary to stand up for what we believe because the people in power don’t seem to care about it.’
‘When she was my age she was depressed about what was happening to the planet, so she decided she had to do the job of adults.’
King’s College university student Ciara Connolly said: ‘I’m angry that the government is more worried about their economy and don’t see that climate change will affect people’s lives in the future. We have to change the system.’
By Marcus Barnett in London, England:
Friday, February 7, 2020
However the British Museum has publicly stated that it is “proud” to receive money from them.
The group of 15 protesters inside the horse planned to stay in the museum’s forecourt overnight, ahead of a mass demonstration planned for 1pm on Saturday outside the gates.
“This is our 40th performance intervention at the British Museum. For eight years our peaceful creative protests have been dismissed and the museum has continued to back BP.
From daily News Line in Britain:
‘No immunity for Grenfell companies’ – demands FBU member Lucy Masoud
7th February 2020
‘NO ONE should be immune from prosecution. The firefighters certainly weren’t and the manufacturers of the cladding definitely should not be,’ Lucy Masoud FBU member and Grenfell campaigner said yesterday.
She was responding to the news that Martin Moore-Bick, chairman of the inquiry into the Grenfell disaster, yesterday said he would be writing to the Attorney General for an undertaking that any evidence given by a selection of corporate witnesses would not be used to pursue criminal charges against them.
Masoud continued: ‘They should be made to give evidence and if that evidence leads to a criminal prosecution then there must be no immunity.
‘As firefighters were called to the inquiry, we gave evidence without question.
‘Firefighters were scrutinised, they were questioned, they were criticised and in some case they received abuse afterwards.
‘The London Fire Brigades Commissioner Dany Cotton was forced to resign.
‘Yet somehow these people, who were actually responsible for the refurbishment are to be treated with kid gloves.
‘We want justice for the 72 people. No one in this situation should be granted immunity, and definitely not the manufacturers of the cladding.
‘It is not good enough that the companies are demanding that they should be immune from prosecution. What does this tell you about possible culpability?’
Joe Delaney from the Grenfell Action Group said: ‘This has disgusted me. The point of the inquiry was to produce truth and justice. Now it appears that we will only get truth at the expense of justice.
‘We should shut the inquiry down until criminal proceedings are done. I don’t see any point in the inquiry now. What is the point of it?
‘What good is finding the truth if there are no repercussions for wrongdoing.
‘I think that there should have been criminal proceedings by now, there is really no excuse.
‘We were told that there were not going to be prosecutions until the inquiry was done so that we knew everything that was needed to know.
‘Moore-Bick’s phase one report said that the cladding was non-compliant … there is your criminal case there.
‘While he was Mayor he closed ten fire stations, axed 552 firefighters’ jobs, and withdrew 14 fire engines from service. The council is also to blame.
‘If that council was anything but Tory it would have been in special measures two and half years ago. It needs to be put in special measures, gut the thing and start from scratch, root and branch reform.
‘Part of justice isn’t just rehabilitation, it is about punishment and deterrents and that includes jail.’
UK: Grenfell fire inquiry finalises moves to grant corporations immunity from prosecution: here.