London Grenfell disaster, Conservative government whitewash

This video from Britain says bout itself:

Grenfell Tower: Minute By Minute Documentary

28 March 2018

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire share their personal accounts of the blaze that killed 72 people, revealing the decisions that saved their lives, some of which were in defiance of official advice, and remembering the friends, neighbours and loved ones who did not make it out of the building.

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Friday, May 18, 2018

Grenfell report ‘a betrayal’ of victims, say Labour MPs

THE GOVERNMENT was forced into an embarrassing U-turn today after Grenfell justice campaigners branded a review into the circumstances surrounding the devastating fire a “betrayal.”

Labour MPs led a furious backlash into Dame Judith Hackitt’s report on reforming building regulations in the wake of the June 14 disaster that left at least 71 people dead as it failed to recommend banning combustible cladding and “desktop studies” — approving the use of materials without real-life safety tests.

Housing and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire announced hours after the review was published that they would consult on banning combustible materials.

But MPs, campaigners from Grenfell United, the Local Government Association, Shelter housing charity and the Equality and Human Rights Commission said there was no need to consult over it, with Kensington Labour MP Emma Dent Coad saying the ban on combustible cladding was an “absolute 100 per cent no-brainer.”

Labour MP and Grenfell campaigner David Lammy branded Ms Hackitt’s report “a betrayal and a whitewash.”

He added: “It is unthinkable and unacceptable that so many people can die in a disaster like Grenfell and one year on flammable cladding has not been banned.

“I will continue to stand with the Grenfell families and will continue to call for an outright ban on any combustible materials.”

And Ms Dent Coad told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “I don’t understand what they are consulting upon — are they going to say: ‘Would you like combustible cladding around your building or not?’

“… This is not an abstract issue. It is impacting on people’s mental health all over the country, people are not able to sleep because they have cladding and they are not sure whether it is safe, they have got fire marshals outside their doors.

“They need reassurance now and the government must act.”

Shelter chief executive officer Polly Neate said the charity was “deeply concerned” that less than 4 per cent of 189 social housing blocks with Grenfell-style cladding have had the material entirely removed.

Grenfell United chairman Shahin Sadafi said that the campaign group had specifically asked Ms Hackitt to ban combustible cladding at a meeting.

He added: “We are disappointed and saddened that she didn’t listen to us and she didn’t listen to other experts.

The cladding on the Grenfell Tower was deemed to be limited combustibility, but it cost 72 lives. It must be banned.

“We need to hear from government a clear promise that these dangerous materials will never be used on homes again.”

Mr Brokenshire said new laws would be introduced that delivered “meaningful and lasting” change to the building safety system.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said it “beggars belief” that the report “continues to give a green light” to combustible materials on high-rise blocks.

He added: “I say to the Secretary of State: Don’t consult on it — do it.”

In her review, Ms Hackitt found that indifference and ignorance had led to a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices and set out a series of proposals to make high-rise flats safer to live in.

She said a ban would “not address the root causes” of the “broken system” of building regulations.

But, responding to criticism of her report, she said she was open to seeing combustible cladding banned in the future.

Ms Hackitt, who told reporters she was “not an expert on Grenfell”, called for tougher penalties for those who breach regulations, arguing that the cladding on the tower would not have got through her proposed system.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety has evoked widespread outrage for failing to recommend that the type of highly flammable cladding installed on Grenfell Tower—and many other public and private buildings around the UK—should be banned: here.


British Grenfell disaster and Conservative government

People hold placards at a Grenfell justice protest outside the British parliament on May 14 2018. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Housing: Avoiding a repeat of Grenfell means challenging property rights

THERESA MAY’S promise yesterday that the government will fund replacement of dangerous cladding at 158 tower blocks has been forced out of her.

Relentless campaigning by survivors of last year’s deadly Grenfell Tower blaze and the families of those who perished has kept up pressure on a government that has sought at every stage to sweep this atrocity under the carpet.

It took a 150,000-strong petition and the prospect of a parliamentary debate to force the Prime Minister to reverse her earlier refusal to allow an independent panel to sit alongside the government-appointed judge who will preside over the Grenfell inquiry — and even now that merely consists of just two members sitting in on phase two of the inquiry only.

May’s reluctant concessions fall far short of the £1 billion fire safety fund called for by Labour which would both replace inflammatory cladding and retrofit sprinklers in high-rise council and housing association blocks.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey’s letter to his Tory counterpart James Brokenshire is right to demand a “complete overhaul” of a building safety checks and controls regime designed to minimise hassle for business rather than protect the public.

The David Cameron government vowed to “kill off the health and safety culture for good” and tore up thousands of regulations.

Current Home Secretary Sajid Javid headed up the Cutting Red Tape initiative which bragged, six months before Grenfell, that fire safety inspections had been cut from six hours to just 45 minutes in duration to allow “managers to quickly get back to their day job.”

Among Labour’s proposals the requirement for full public disclosure of the location, testing status and — crucially — ownership of all high-rise blocks is key, especially when combined with “a presumption that private block owners are responsible for paying to replace dangerous cladding.”

Establishing legal and corporate responsibility for the predicted and preventable conflagration that killed 80 people in Grenfell Tower has involved navigating a labyrinth of outsourced services and third-party suppliers.

A crystal-clear presumption of responsibility devolving on the owner — private, municipal or otherwise — is essential to ensuring this is not the case in the future.

So too are “more robust sanctions” where buildings are found to be unsafe. Giving councils the right to confiscate privately owned tower blocks as Labour suggests would be positive and form part of the party’s wider approach to reviving local democracy, which has been hollowed out over years in which councils have become little more than distributors of ever more limited central government funding.

But clearer criminal sanctions for those whose carelessness or greed result in the deaths of human beings are also required.

Tottenham MP David Lammy was right last year to call out the “corporate manslaughter” at Grenfell, yet almost a year on the only people jailed have been a couple of minor fraudsters who sought to profit from the confusion and a man who shared inappropriate photographs — not one of the councillors or members of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation who were responsible for the tragedy in the first place.

Grenfell was no accident.

The Grenfell Action Group’s warning, seven months beforehand, that “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord”, is applicable to hundreds of other towers — as the government’s funding for refitting them proves.

The fire was the consequence of years of Conservative policy aimed at eliminating social housing and cutting regulation of all kinds.

Whatever May might promise when backed into a corner, those policies have not altered. Justice for Grenfell means electing a Corbyn-led government prepared to face down business interests and deliver real change.

Grenfell families shouldn’t have to fight for justice. The granting of a panel for the Grenfell inquiry is a step forward, but why has it taken so long, so much effort, and why is its role so limited, asks RICHARD BURGON.

Confiscate ‘death trap’ properties from bad landlords, says Labour: here.

London Grenfell disaster survivors demand justice

Protesters outside parliament in London, England yesterday on behalf of Grenfell tenants who died in the inferno

From daily News Line in Britain:


MARKING eleven months since the tragic Grenfell Tower fire disaster, which claimed the lives of so many men, women and children, the community turned out for a silent march demanding justice for the survivors and their families and the truth.

Since the fire the truth has started to emerge. Recently evidence came to light which shows that Chelsea and Kensington council opted for a cheaper refurbishment. This meant that flammable cladding was installed, misfitting windows and foam insulation which let off poisonous cyanide gas when burned.

The firefighters union, the FBU, states that the same poisonous foam insulation was banned from use in furniture after years of campaigning. On 8th May 1979, toxic fumes from plastic foam-filled furniture killed 10 people and left 47 injured in the Woolworths store in Manchester city centre.

Vigorous campaigning by the FBU and other fire safety experts, including enlightened chief fire officers, paved the way for vital safety changes as the death toll from toxic plastic fumes continued to mount in the 1980s. But it took nearly nine years after the Woolworth’s fire and the deaths of 17 more children, killed by toxic fumes in their own homes, for the government to act.

Mike Fordham retired from the FBU 12 years ago, after a lifetime campaigning for improved fire safety. As he watched the live TV footage of flames shooting up the sides of Grenfell Tower, his thoughts turned immediately to earlier fire tragedies. ‘They’ve put the stuff we got banned from the inside of buildings on the outside of tower blocks … we got foam furniture banned for giving off horrendous toxic fumes and they went and lined the outside of tower blocks with similar stuff’, he said.

Poetry on Grenfell disaster and Scottish women

This video from Britain says about itself:

12 May 2018

Amidst new claims of Tory social cleansing in one of Britain’s richest neighbourhoods – activist poet Potent Whisper performs from his new book “The Rhyming Guide to Grenfell Britain“!

By Andy Croft in Britain:

Monday, May 14, 2018

21st century poetry with Andy Croft

Grenfell: a potent whisper of all that’s wrong in Britain

POTENT WHISPER is a Brixton-based rapper and political grime artist. His first book The Rhyming Guide to Grenfell Britain (Dog Section Press, £7) includes his Rhyming Guide to NHS Privatisation, a spoken-word video which has received over 170,000 views since it was released by Momentum.

This poetry video is called The Rhyming Guide to NHS Privatisation by Potent Whisper.

For the writer, the Grenfell Tower fire was not an accident. “The deaths at Grenfell were forewarned, preventable and, he argues, deliberate, which makes each death “an emblematic embodiment” of all that is wrong with Britain:

“What happened at Grenfell, that was an act of war/The murder of innocent people who died because they’re poor/Hundreds of deaths and you can bet that there’s be more/So if you think that you survived it, I wouldn’t be so sure…”

Written in loose rhyming couplets, sometimes conversational, sometimes hectoring, the book takes issue with the brazen dishonesty of so much contemporary political “common sense”, including austerity (“How can people work so hard and still not be surviving?”), nuclear deterrence (“Try and invest money into lives instead of Trident/Try jobs, try housing, try education/Try welfare, not warfare… Put Trident on trial and try choosing a future.”)

He declares: ”The more I see the more it seems we need a revolution” In The Rhyming Guide to Voting:

“I always said that, I wouldn’t vote if they paid me/That’s what I said before Corbyn said he’d pay me/£10 per hour, when I’m at work. Minimum…/Many on the left would say that he’s the best we’ve had/That he’s the best we’ve got now, that he’s the best we’ll have/He murked the game and worked his way further than ever expected/And now he’s an inch from getting elected…’

Although Gerda Stevenson is a hugely distinguished actor, director, musician and playwright, her poetry is less well-known. Her second collection Quines: Poems in Tribute to Women of Scotland (Luath, £9.99) will surely change that.

It’s a book of huge ambition and radical purpose, a kind of history of Scotland told through the lives of almost 70 women, from the Gaelic warrior princess Sgathach to Tessa Ransford, the founder of the Scottish Poetry Library in the 21st century.

It’s a collection of snapshots and historical vignettes, scenes from great lives — some famous, some forgotten — and all are extraordinary. Artists, doctors, missionaries, politicians, writers and scientists, as well as the team that beat England in 1881 in the first recorded women’s international football match (“The wind was against us — but wasn’t it ever?”), all speak to us in their own voices.

Among them are Jennie Lee, Moira Shearer, the Duchess of Atholl, novelist Nan Shepherd, the first woman to appear on a Scottish banknote, film-maker Margaret Tait, Williamina Fleming, who discovered the Horsehead Nebula, and Jane Haining, the only Scot to be honoured for giving her life for Jews during the Holocaust.

And there is a long sequence about Helen Crawfurd, suffragette, pacifist and foundation member of the Communist Party.

“The toil of oil and soot-black shipbuilders,/traipsing home at dusk to bow-legged bairns … the whole world is theirs by right … Here in the Second City of the Empire,/where a fanfared judge steps from his carriage/at the High Court, our ranks are ready for his bailiffs …’

And this is Helen Macfarlane, who first translated The Communist Manifesto into English.

“I’ve always seen Red … Red raw my sisters’ eyes — how they cried/when the mills went down … Red the robin’s breast on a winter branch … And red, red my thoughts that flow with His tidings,/onto page after page: how can we leave a single soul to die/by inches in squalid lanes and gutters, making slop shirts/at tuppence apiece, while another is swathed in silk?”

Oak processionary caterpillars in London

This 2015 video from London, England is called Oak Processionary Moth caterpillars cluster together in Richmond Park.

By Susan Milius and Aimee Cunningham, 8:00am, May 11, 2018:

These caterpillars march. They fluff. They scare London.

Threats to trees and health aside, oak processionary moth larvae have socially redeeming qualities

Of course the guy’s wearing a full-body protective suit with face mask and goggles good and snug. He’s about to confront a nest of little fluffy caterpillars.

Insect control can get surreal in the London area’s springtime battle against the young of oak processionary moths (Thaumetopea processionea). The species, native to southern Europe, probably hitchhiked into England as eggs on live oak trees in 2005, the U.K. forestry commission says.

Adults are just harmless mate-seeking machines in city-soot tones. But when a new generation’s caterpillars finish their second molt into a sort of preteen stage, their short barbed hairs (called setae) can prick an irritating, rash-causing protein into any overconfident fool who pokes them. Even people who’d never torment, or even touch, a caterpillar can suffer as stray hairs waft on spring breezes. (More on that below.)

The caterpillars aren’t much for house cleaning. The baggy silk nest a group spins itself high in several kinds of oak trees accumulates cast-off skins still hairy with the toxic protein.

The name processionary comes from the caterpillars lining up head-to-rump. “A column of caterpillars moving together like a train,” is how evolutionary biologist Jim Costa of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., describes it. A little rearrangement can get processions trudging round and round in a circle.

England’s ongoing battle against these oak leaf–stripping caterpillars has gripped the news, but other nations have irritating processions of their own, says entomologist Terrence Fitzgerald of State University of New York at Cortland. One of the London invader’s cousin, called a pine processionary moth (T. pityocampa), may be edging northward in Europe as the climate warms. In the United States, dark and spiky caterpillars of the buck moth Hemileuca maia show up largely unremarked in pockets in the East but are a traditional vexation of spring in New Orleans.

Annoyances aside, these creatures represent part of the glorious but underappreciated social side of insects, Fitzgerald says. Ants, bees, wasps and termites have long been the social insects, but building joint nests and traveling in caravans are just some of caterpillars’ coordinated projects. If fish or birds did that, he grumbles, they’d be acclaimed as “fabulous animals.”

Inspired by this rethink, Costa published “The Other Insect Societies.” Admittedly caterpillars, too young for sex anyway, don’t have the extreme reproductive specialty of a honeybee queen with a whole caste of sterile workers. But then people don’t either, and we certainly think we’re pretty social.

Why touching these caterpillars is a bad idea

Here’s why the latest spring invasion of oak processionary caterpillars is prompting health warnings and eradication efforts across the London area.

These caterpillars can sport as many as 630,000 setae, hairlike structures just 100 to 500 micrometers long. These hairs can detach and land on skin, in soil, on clothes and wherever else the breeze carries them, retaining their power to irritate long after the caterpillars are gone.

British Conservatives forced to concede on Grenfell Tower disaster

Burnt out Grenfell Tower in Kensington, London, England

By Peter Lazenby in London, England:

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Grenfell inquiry ‘panel’ confirmed by Theresa May in U-turn

THERESA MAY today caved in to public and political pressure by agreeing to appoint a panel to oversee the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

Two people will “support” chairman Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick for phase two of his investigation, which starts hearing evidence this month.

The Prime Minister’s U-turn came after intense pressure from bereaved family members and a 156,000-strong petition.

Survivors’ groups said the inquiry risks being a whitewash without independent oversight.

Grenfell United spokesman Adel Chaoui, who lost four relatives in the inferno and co-led the petition, said survivors were “relieved,” but should not have had to campaign for it.

The petition has also guaranteed a parliamentary debate. It will take place on Monday, and Labour had warned that a vote would be forced on the issue if Ms May refuses to act.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “The decision to finally grant a panel in the Grenfell inquiry is testimony to the campaign waged by the bereaved families and the survivors — and to the overwhelming public support they attracted.

“But after everything they have been through, the bereaved families and the survivors should never have had to wage this campaign.

“The demand for a panel was always about ensuring the trust of the community in the inquiry and it should have been delivered from the start.

“For the Grenfell inquiry to deliver truth and justice, it must always have the full confidence of the bereaved families and survivors and it is essential that, going forward, all their other demands are properly met.”

According to official figures, the west London tower block fire in June last year killed at least 80 people.