Saturday, 10 January 2015

Heroes

Brave, brave people standing up to extremism....

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Kenyan Muslims shield Christians in Mandera bus attack
Article here
"A group of Kenyan Muslims travelling on a bus ambushed by Islamist gunmen protected Christian passengers by refusing to be split into groups, according to eyewitnesses....The militants decided to leave after the passengers' show of unity"
Location : Mandera County, North East Kenya, bordering Somalia.

Another article quotes an eyewitness as saying that some of the Muslim passengers gave Christians head scarfs to try and conceal their identities.


(Image via Wikipedia)

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Lassana Bathily
Article here
"A Muslim shop assistant [Lassana Bathily] has been hailed a hero after saving at least six people by hiding them in a walk-in freezer at the Jewish grocery store where an Islamist gunmen made his final stand."

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Mr. Muhammad Ishaq
Article here)
"The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are deeply saddened by the killing of Mr. Muhammad Ishaq, a local community worker who was part of the polio eradication initiative in Pakistan.

Mr. Ishaq was shot and killed in the Gadap town area of Karachi on Friday evening.

Polio immunization activities were suspended in this area of Karachi earlier this week after a shooting incident injured two WHO staff members who were supporting the implementation and monitoring of a vaccination campaign.

Until activities were suspended, Mr. Ishaq had worked with the national polio eradication effort as a Union Council Polio Worker for several months, helping to plan and implement vaccination campaigns to protect the most underserved and vulnerable children against this debilitating disease.

Because of the dedication of heroes like Mr. Ishaq, Pakistan is this year closer than ever to the eradication of polio. He was known for his dedication and diligence to immunize all children against polio.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that can cause permanent paralysis in a matter of hours. There is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines. Polio can be eradicated if every child is immunized until transmission stops worldwide."

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Malala Yousafzai
Main Blog Post here
Malala Yousafzai is a school-girl who lived in the Swat region of Pakistan who actively tried to improve the availability of schooling for girls in the area. Malala's efforts were recognised within Pakistan, with awards of the National Youth Peace Prize and the National Peace Award for Youth. By 2012 she was planning to organize the Malala Education Foundation, which would help poor girls go to school.

On 9 October 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus. She was hit with one bullet, which went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder. Two other girls were also wounded in the shooting.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, with an article reporting Sirajuddin Ahmad, a spokesman of Swat Taliban as saying :“We had no intentions to kill her but were forced when she would not stop (speaking against us).."

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Salaman Taseer
Main Blog Post here
Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated in Pakistan on 4th Jan 2013. The governor had campaigned against the abuse of the country's Blasphemy Laws which are often abused to settle scores and persecute minorities. Taseer had been campaigning for the release of Asia Bibi who had been accused of blasphemy after an argument with a group of women while harvesting berries.

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Aitzaz Hasan
Article here "Aitzaz Hasan, 15, was with friends outside school when they spotted a man wearing a suicide vest. Despite the pleas of his fellow students, he decided to confront and capture the bomber who then detonated his vest, his cousin told the BBC."

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Asma Jahangir has "championed battered wives, rescued teenagers from death row, defended people accused of blasphemy, and sought justice for the victims of honour killings.[read more]

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PFI

To BFTF's complete surprise, there has never been a post on PFI finance on this blog - let's sort that our right now.

PFI deals, which have been promoted by both Labour and Conservative Governments in recent years, have allowed public buildings to be built with private money. However, there have been many concerns that the contracts are inflexible and offer poor value for money, locking in taxpayer repayments for, literally, decades.

PFI debacle No1 : Notts Riverside Police Station
The Nottingham Post reported back in 2011 on the story and explains how Notts Police signed a 25-yr contract for the new station in 2001, The contract specified payments to the contractor of £960,000 a year for the next 25 years (much of this payment comes from central government).

The building is about half the size of a football pitch hat FOI requests had revealed that the the station is costing taxpayers

So Notts Police Authority signed a 25-year contract for Riverside under which, on top of staffing costs, it pays £80,000 a month – or £960,000 a year.

The building was constructed on a three-acre site and covers a space of 27,000 square feet – less than half the size of a football pitch.

But today, with redundancies and cutbacks being forced on all departments, the station costs are a severe strain on Police finances.

Phil Matthews, chairman of Notts Police Federation, comments that "We are [now] trying to shoe-horn people into the station just to make the most of it. This contract has become an albatross round our neck."

While the TaxPayers' Alliance, says that "Too many PFI deals were badly negotiated and now public bodies are stuck with huge monthly bills...that taxpayers are struggling to pay for".

Friday, 2 January 2015

Housing

As a parent of three children, BFTF is VERY concerned about the cost of housing; the lack of house building; and the rise of BTL squeezing out first time buyers.

And that's without the issue of the next generation of young adults starting out life with a 27k university dept around their necks.

This post is intended to contain some (hopefullycoherent) thoughts on the issue, but for now is just a place to hold information so that BFTF can get his head around the issues.

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Millionaire landlords Fergus and Judith Wilson begin evicting large families
"..Fergus and Judith Wilson, whose property empire extends to nearly 1,000 homes in Kent, have begun evicting families with more than two children, banned tenants on zero-hours contracts and thrown out extended families where the grandmother comes to stay."

"Like many other landlords across Britain, Wilson has also taken the decision to reject anybody who is on a zero hours contract...'“I only have experience in rejecting them as tenants,” said Wilson. “No landlord in his right mind will accept tenants who do not have a guaranteed wage. No rent insurer will accept them, so that effectively makes the landlord’s decision for them. No pay … nowhere to live. Welcome to the real world.”"

"Roger Harding, Shelter’s director of communications, policy and campaigns, said: “It beggars belief that a landlord can evict a family simply because they have three children, and the fact that this one has is yet another sign of our broken rental market.“For many families, private renting is their only option. Families now make up nearly a third of private renters and if more landlords turn them away this will make it near impossible for many to find anywhere half-decent to live. Politicians must make private rented homes a stable place to put down roots, and not somewhere you can be turned away from for no good reason.”"
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How housebuilding helped the economy recover: Britain in the 1930s
"In the early 1930s Britain recovered impressively from a double-dip recession which ended in 1932. In every year from 1933 to 1936, before rearmament could have made any difference, growth exceeded 4% per year. Growth was not driven by fiscal stimulus; indeed it blossomed at a time of fiscal consolidation. So what was the magic formula?

Houses were cheap because the supply of land for housing was very elastic, which in turn meant that there was no incentive for developers to sit on large land banks. Underpinning the availability of land for house-building was an almost complete absence of land-use planning restrictions which applied to only about 75,000 acres in 1932; the draconian provisions of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act were still to come.

Could we repeat the 1930s experience today? It would be very difficult since both mortgage availability and planning rules are very different."
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Why Labour's land banking ultimatum will not boost housebuilding
"Miliband said a Labour government would threaten developers failing to develop with a use-it-or-lose-it ultimatum that would allow councils to buy back the land or fine the developer for not building...

The first and most obvious problem is planning. Britain's bureaucratic planning system means even simple applications can take years. Berkeley Group has spent about 15 years redeveloping parts of Vauxhall in south London, and has gone back to the planning authority several times to increase the number of homes allowed. It certainly hasn't been a case of sitting on the land.

..Besides, land banks are simply not an efficient use of housebuilders' money. This was underlined recently by Barratt chief executive Mark Clare, who said his organisation aims to bank land for a "relatively short" three-and-a-half years in order to maximise the return on investment.

...A large amount of undeveloped land is owned by the public sector but two thirds of it lies in areas that aren't particularly well-off. The key here will be incentivising developers in non-affluent areas. Unlocking this land will require innovative arrangements to make the sites more attractive, such as fast-tracked planning, reduced development levies or a commitment to provide necessary infrastructure enabling communities to be created."


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One estate’s tradition of providing affordable flats is ending with the rush to cash in on the housing boom
"[Lyndsey Garratt] lives on the fringes of the City of London, on the New Era estate. Built by a charitable trust in the mid-1930s, the redbrick square has provided homes to local working people at affordable rents...At least it was until Benyon’s family firm recently moved in as part of a property consortium and snapped up the lot. The investors have made no bones about jacking up rents to match the rest of the market. Garratt was previously paying about £640 a month for the two-bed she shares with her daughter; when her contract expires in July 2016 residents expect they will be charged around £2,400 a month. For Garratt, a care co-ordinator at the local NHS trust, that is way more than her entire take-home pay."


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Parliament's failure to outlaw revenge evictions is yet another setback for renters, landlords, and democracy
"Today was set to be a landmark day for private renters in this country. The Tenancies (Reform) Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Commons, to kick start a process many hoped would lead to legislation to end retaliatory evictions. That didn’t happen. It didn’t happen primarily because Tory MPs Christopher Chope and Philip Davies filibustered so the bill could not be passed, despite having cross-party support. A sad day for democracy. A far sadder day for the 9 million of us who rent our homes with little protection in existing law."


The Statistics of Friday Prayer

Imams often complain that a significant part of the congregation for Friday Prayers turns up at the last possible moment, and thus misses out of the Imams sermon.

Leaving aside the issue that in many mosques the sermon is in Urdu/Bengali/other language, and thus inaccessible to many youngsters in those communities, BFTF thought it might be interesting to chart what actually happens in the lead up to Friday Prayers at a Nottingham mosque....

Frequency of Arrivals


Cumulative Frequency of Arrivals

Notes :
8% people already arrived before beginning of chart.