May’s speech rewrote history

A front page from the Daily Mail, with the headline "Europe's war on British justice"So, last Friday Theresa May, the British prime minister, gave a speech in Florence (full text here) in which she told us what sort of Brexit she hoped she could achieve, notably rejecting both the “Norway model” in which the UK would be a full member of the Single Market without a seat at the table when EU policies are made, and the “Canadian model”, the latter being a straightforward free trade agreement. One section of her speech that has caused a lot of upset was this:

The strength of feeling that the British people have about this need for control and the direct accountability of their politicians is one reason why, throughout its membership, the United Kingdom has never totally felt at home being in the European Union. And perhaps because of our history and geography, the European Union never felt to us like an integral part of our national story in the way it does to so many elsewhere in Europe.

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Who’s celebrating Uber’s eviction from London?

A hand holding a Samsung phone with an Uber logo on display, in front of a Ford steering wheelEarlier this week the minicab firm Uber, which allows people to hire cabs using an app which calculates the fare to their destination, lost its licence to operate in London and will have to cease operations here as of the end of the month unless it appeals (which it probably will) in which case it could continue to operate into next month. This will mean getting a cab ride in London will become either more complicated or more expensive, as minicabs have to be booked in advance and cannot be flagged down in the street, while taxis or black cabs, which can be, are expensive to ride even short distances. The cancellation of its licence by Transport for London, the transport authority overseen by the mayor, was because it was not “fit and proper” to hold a private hire licence on public safety grounds; the decision has been criticised by a lot of women who said it was the only way they could rely on getting home at night, as well as by black and Asian people who said that problems with minicabs and black cabs, whose drivers often refused to stop for them, made Uber the only way they could get a cab at all.

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Anti-Zionism versus Anti-Semitism

A boy riding a suspension mountain bike with a bright blue frame in front of the Israeli concrete wall which is about three times his height. A graffito "Peace 4 Palestine" appears to his left.I’m a Muslim and an anti-Zionist. The latter means I support the right of the Palestinian Arabs to their country: all of it. Right now, part of it is a settler state that allows some remnant of the former Palestinian population to remain as citizens, part of it is occupied by that same settler state, and parts of it are under a form of limited self-rule, mostly without access to their external borders and subject to incursions, curfews and other impediments to normal daily life at the will of the Israeli army. These facts are the reason there is a well-established movement to boycott the state which oppresses the native people of Palestine and the settler state of Israel, and to bring an end to the oppression as has been done with similar régimes, ‘democracies’ which exclude a large proportion from any say in their own lives or how the country they lived in was run, in southern Africa. The settler state, however, has powerful friends in the West which denounces this movement as inherently racist and accuse it of desiring to see genocide against the Jews, effectively another Holocaust. Both these accusations are groundless.

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Justice for LB: Southern Health pleads guilty

Part of the frontage of Banbury Court House, a two-storey yellow stone building.In another chapter of the ongoing battle to bring to book those responsible for the death of Connor Sparrowhawk (known as Laughing Boy or LB) in a bath in an NHS learning disability facility in Oxford in 2013, today the NHS trust responsible, Southern Health, pled guilty at Banbury magistrates’ court, Oxfordshire, to breaching section 3 of the Health and Safety Act, namely failing to ensure the safety of people other than employees. Sentencing was meant to take place on 12th October at Oxford Crown Court (the magistrate can only levy a very inadequate £5,000 fine) but the trust are in court on charges brought by the Care Quality Commission that day, so it is likely to be delayed until the new year. The management has changed somewhat since Connor’s death, with the then CEO Katrina Percy resigning in October 2016 (after having served in an ‘advisory’ role since nominally stepping down as CEO in August 2016) and all the non-executive directors resigning in March 2017; Connor’s mother, Dr Sara Ryan, tweeted that they “were dragged to the guilty plea by meticulous work by the HSE” and that Katrina Percy was still sitting on a £200,000 payout.

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Why ‘platooning’ is a bad thing

Two articulated lorries with DAF XF tractor units bearing Dutch number plates, painted in a blue and white striped livery with "EcoTwin" and "European Truck Platooning" logos on bothI’m a truck driver and for the most part I enjoy my job. I get to see different parts of the country every day and much of what I see apart from roads (and industrial parks, service stations etc) consists of green fields, hills and valleys and pretty villages and small towns. Most of the jobs I do are low-pressure, varied, not banal and do not require me to be in close proximity to others (strangers) for long periods in the day. It can be tedious, motorway driving especially, but I can listen to the radio or stock up on podcasts and audio-books to listen to on the way. A lot of driving jobs, however, consist of the same trip every day, often from a pallet freight depot somewhere to a ‘hub’ somewhere in the Midlands in the evening and returning in the early morning. Every night the motorways are filled with these lorries, mostly ‘double-deckers’ about 16 feet high, usually about three of them from each of about five companies in each postcode area. In the USA, they are already testing a system they call ‘platooning’, or running three trucks together with only one ‘active’ driver, the others controlled by computers connected to the truck at the front, and tests of these set-ups are shortly to take place here. I think this is a bad idea.

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Persecution of the Rohingya is nothing new

A bicycle abandoned in the grass in front of a burning building in a Burmese Muslim villageThe persecution of the Rohingya in Burma (Myanmar in the main native language) has picked up in the last few weeks, with obvious signs of genocide or as the UN has called it “classic ethnic cleansing”, the burnings of villages and half-hearted attempt to disguise the burnings as the Muslims (Rohingya) burning their own homes. The ‘provocation’ was some attacks on Burmese police and military by a new Rohingya militant force and this is being used to justify attacks on civilians by Burmese forces. Aung San Suu Kyi, long-time leader of the National League for Democracy who won elections in 1988 but was prevented from taking power by a military coup and is now foreign minister, has mouthed the military-dominated government’s line and been condemned by many of her former liberal allies in the West. There have been calls for her Nobel Peace Prize to be rescinded, although there is no mechanism for this to happen.

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Home schooling is vital

A picture of a mother and son doing schoolwork togetherHot on the heels of the Tower Hamlets Muslim foster care hoax, the Times today printed a story (behind firewall) claiming that home schooling was part of “a breeding ground for extremists and future terrorists”, a claim made by Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu at a police superintendents’ conference in Stratford upon Avon:

Unregulated education including home schooling and the segregation of some communities are helping to create extremists and future terrorists, the national police counterterrorism co-ordinator warned.

Neil Basu, a deputy assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, said that some “disenfranchised” members of society feel that the government fails to understand their religion and see “no future in the West”. He added: “Segregated, isolated communities, unregulated education and home schooling are a breeding ground for extremists and future terrorists.”

Mr Basu told the police superintendents’ conference in Stratford-upon-Avon that the homegrown threat was from a “more extreme second generation” of jihadists and warned of the influence of social media.

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Snooping round our door

Picture of Martin Narey, a clean-shaven middle-aged white man with greying hair wearing a white shirt and a blue and silver striped tie.Earlier today I heard an interview with Sir Martin Narey, a former director-general of the prisons service and later chief executive of the Natoinal Offender Management Service, then CEO of Barnardo’s and more recently an advisor to Michael Gove on children’s social care when he was Secretary of State for education, on Radio 5 Live in which he spelled out what was wrong with the Times’s Tower Hamlets foster care story last Monday. When the presenter, Adrian Chiles, asked him if Andrew Norfolk, the ‘investigator’ who uncovered the ‘scandal’, or the Times’s motive for publishing it was racist, he said absolutely not and praised Andrew Norfolk for his previous ‘brave’ reporting on the Rochdale grooming affair. (The interview is near the beginning of the show.) Also last night, I saw a series of tweets from Murad Ahmed, a Muslim journalist who used to work at the Times and now works for the Financial Times on “sport, hotels, sport, gambling, other fun stuff” and previously about technology (the tweets start here). He also cannot accept that there is any Islamophobia at the paper; he says it’s a “great paper” and that the author was a “fantastic journalist”, that his Rochdale story was “high class”.

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Why did they lie?

A front page of the "Times" newspaper, with the headline "Christian child forced into Muslim foster care"Earlier today I saw an article on Medium titled “Why did Andrew Norfolk lie?”. Andrew Norfolk is the investigative reporter who wrote the story about the “Christian” girl being fostered with the Muslim foster family in east London that appeared last Monday. The article was written by Abdul-Azim Ahmed, editor of the On Religion magazine (not sure if he means the print magazine or the website). He writes:

Andrew Norfolk, in writing these words, knew they amounted to lies. The girl’s racial and religious background is mixed according to court documents, with foreign-born Muslim grandparents (though the mother disputes the religious identity).

The entire story, from headline to closing to paragraph, was a series of lies and lies by omission. Others have detailed this, the shoddy basis of the story, and the wider context of poor reporting on Muslims.

According to Islam it’s enough that a man repeats everything he hears that one may call him a liar. In British law the definition is more exacting: it’s libel to call someone a liar unless you can prove they knew at the time that what they were saying was false (I’ve been threatened with a libel suit in the past for calling Shiv Malik a liar on this blog). I don’t know how much Andrew Norfolk or his editor knew about the facts behind the story they were given but I can lay a fairly safe bet on why they published a story that anyone with any knowledge of issues surrounding fostering could have told them might be at least partly untrue, and which fell apart so dramatically within days: an agenda to demonise and stigmatise Islam and Muslims in this country.

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So, it was all a lie

A stock picture of a six-storey red-brick block of flats, with grey skyscrapers in the background, one of them bearing an HSBC logo. In the foreground is the car park for the block of flats.The truth about the young girl fostered with a Muslim family in east London that appeared in the Times on Monday was revealed yesterday in an anonymised court judgement (PDF). The Times’ story was rubbish, based wholly on spurious claims either sourced from a third party, maybe friends of the family or maybe rogue employees of social services in Tower Hamlets, or maybe just made up by the newspaper. It turns out that the girl was not a “white Christian” at all; her grandparents were Muslims, albeit non-practising. The foster family is in fact mixed race and they do speak English. Not only had an independent guardian found no fault with the foster family but the mother offered no objections to her daughter being with the foster carers at all, nor it seems to her parents taking her daughter back to their home country. Tom Pride has published a breakdown of the claims and the facts here. Some other blog responses are worth reading:

Shane Ridge case: Shurely shome mishtake

Picture of Shane Ridge, a young white man with short blond hair and a slight beard wearing a dark blue boiler suit standing in a room with white painted breeze-block walls with a whiteboard behind him, holding a letter in his hands headed 'Immigration Enforcement'Update: The Home Office has apologised after it established that Shane Ridge was indeed automatically a British citizen.

I’ve filed this under “Immigration” even though the ‘immigrant’ in question, Shane Ridge from Colne, Lancashire, was born in the UK and both his parents are British nationals, but he has been told to prepare for deportation to Australia, where his mother was born during a family holiday although she has always lived in the UK. The ‘stumbling block’ is that his mother was not married to his British father at the time of his birth, and it is only since 2006 that a British father can transmit British nationality to his children if he is not married to their mother at the time of their birth (it has only been since 1983 that a British mother can pass her nationality onto a child born overseas). Still, I wonder why, as an illegitimate son of a British mother, he is not automatically a British national even if he may also be an Australian national. It sounds like a bureaucratic mix-up to me; according to the government’s own website:

You’re automatically a British citizen if you were born in the UK after 1 January 1983 and 1 of your parents was a British citizen or settled here at that time. You don’t need to register.

Shane Ridge is 21, so must have been born in 1996 or 1997. Also according to their website, one can register as a British citizen if born before 2006 out of wedlock to a British father and “would have become a British citizen automatically if your parents had been married”. I fail to see why this route is not open to Shane Ridge if he is not automatically British, as he appears to be.

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Muslim foster story is naked hate

A picture of a Muslim woman in a black robe and face covering and a white girl with long blonde hair, wearing a white T-shirt and black trousers or skirt. The girl's hair is blurred.The Murdoch Times has a front-page story today exposing a ‘scandal’ in which a young “white, Christian” girl was placed by Tower Hamlets council’s social services into the care of a Muslim foster family in which the wife wears the niqaab (which they explain is indicative of “Wahhabi” beliefs, which is not true) and which has not allowed her to wear a cross on a chain around her neck or eat pork in the house and encouraged her to learn Arabic; the current foster carer supposedly wears a “burka” (a term nobody uses here, and the garments known as burkas abroad are not worn here) which covers her whole face when outside. The Times’s version of the story is paywalled, but the Daily Mirror has published a paraphrase of the story which, like the Times’s version, takes the family’s and the anonymous “supervisor’s” tales at face value; we may consider the possibility that they are not telling the whole truth (as is often the case with aggrieved families that run media campaigns against social workers, something that journalists should be aware of in the light of the Ellie Butler case) or that neither the girl nor the foster family actually exist. The girl has apparently spent a total of six months in two separate Muslim foster homes in the second of which the mother wears a so-called burka which covers her whole face when outside. (More: Transparency Project.)

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Review: The State

Shakira, a black woman wearing a black gown and veil which is flipped back over her head, embraces Isaac, a young boy in a green-and-white striped T-shirt who is facing away from the camera. Dust is visible as it follows a bombing.The State is Peter Kosminsky’s four-part drama series on a group of young people from western Europe (the two central characters are British) who travel to Syria to join ISIS. It was shown on four consecutive nights at 9pm starting last Sunday night. Peter Kosminsky previously directed Britz, a mini-series from 2007 about two young British Muslims, one who kills herself after being subject to a control order and one who becomes a suicide bomber as a result. That was widely criticised for its unconvincing storyline and manipulative plot devices as well as the use of language Muslims would not use. The State, although it had its unconvincing parts and annoying details, clearly shows that Kosminsky has done quite a bit more research this time around; the two central characters are ‘believers’ in the mission of ISIS on arrival, but gradually come to understand the dark side of life in Raqqa and the corruption of its leaders; one escapes while another comes into conflict with the leadership and at the end is on the verge of imprisonment or execution.

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The authority fallacy and the “7-day NHS”

Prof Stephen Hawking with David AttenboroughEarlier today, the health minister Jeremy Hunt posted some tweets claiming that Professor Stephen Hawking was wrong in his assessment of the data regarding the “weekend effect” (the notion that people admitted to hospital over the weekend were more likely to die than those admitted during the week because fewer doctors, and in particular fewer consultants, are working). The ‘effect’ has been cited by the Tories and the right-wing press to support Hunt’s proposals for a “24-hour NHS”, while others have debunked the idea. Professor Hawking is to make a speech at the Royal Society of Medicine today criticising the plans and is accusing Jeremy Hunt of “cherry-picking” statistics to support his position. The social media response to Hunt has been to emphasise Hawking’s status as one of the world’s foremost scientists and Hunt’s as a relative nobody despite his powerful position. As obvious as it might seem that Hunt can’t argue with a famous scientist about numbers or data, it’s a classic logical fallacy, the “argument from authority”.

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Trump, Clinton and a fair voting system

An image of Donald Trump wearing a dark suit and a blue and white striped tie with an angry expression on his face with the number 62,976,636 superimposed on his chest, standing next to a painting of Hilary Clinton in a dark blue pantsuit, smiling, with the number 65,844,610 superimposed across it.There’s a claim that has been repeated a lot on social media by former Hilary Clinton supporters (the graphic on the right posted to Twitter by Victoria Brownworth being an example) that Trump won only because of the electoral college; Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes than Trump and had there been a fair voting system where every vote counted the same, rather than an electoral college that dates from the time of slavery and over-represents small and predominantly white states at the expense of urbanised states with large minority populations, Clinton would have won. On the face of it, this appears to be true. However, this overlooks the 6 or so million Americans that voted for neither Clinton nor Trump, and particularly those who voted for the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.

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Honi soit qui mal y pense

The British royal coat of arms, containing a gold shield showing emblems of all four nations of the UK, with a lion to the left, a white horse to the right, and the garter emblem around it with the slogan 'Honi soit qui mal y pense'.Outcry over sexualised hijab schoolgirl (from The Australian)

Honi soit qui mal y pense is a Norman French phrase, meaning “shame on he who thinks ill of it”. It appears on the British royal garter, which is the emblem of the Order of the Garter, an order of ‘knights’ which currently includes various royals and various pillars of the Establishment, plus various foreign rulers appointed by the Queen (I recall the appointment of the Japanese Emperor Akihito caused a rumpus a few years ago; his father Hirohito had been removed from it at the outbreak of the Second World War). One theory of the slogan’s origin is that when King Edward III was dancing with his cousin at a court function, her garter slipped down causing those present to snigger; the king then placed the garter round his own leg and used the phrase: shame on whomever thinks ill of it.

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Respect your elders, young ladies!

Two white women, one young and one old, on a fairground ride of some sort; the young woman is holding the rail in front of the seat. The old lady, who is wearing a colourful flowery scarf, has her head back and is smiling.There was an article on the Independent last week calling for younger feminists to concern themselves with the plight of the so-called WASPI women, the women born in the 50s who are being caught out by the rise in the state pension age from 60 to 65 for them and now to 67 for everyone (the term comes from their campaign group, Women Against State Pension Inequality). The feminist blogger and columnist Glosswitch accuses younger feminists of ignoring the needs of their elders because the campaign is unfashionable and reminds them of the old women they will become:

The voices raised in honour of smashing the patriarchy seem strangely muted when it comes to issues such as pensions poverty and the ongoing legacy of women having taken years out of the paid work. If we’re being honest, the WASPI campaign isn’t a very fashionable feminist campaign because it’s to do with the end stages of life, a narrowing rather than a broadening of perspectives. It’s not about sisters but mothers and grandmothers – women whom younger feminists might love, but don’t necessarily want to be. What’s more, there’s a degree to which younger women gain reassurance from deciding older women are at least partly responsible for the predicament they find themselves in.

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Ain’t got the Knowhow

A black Iveco Eurocargo truck with the Knowhow logo of a black button with rings in rainbow colours in circles around it, with the words "Knowhow, the service available at Curry's PC World".I was listening to the BBC’s You and Yours programme and heard a feature on ransomware (malware that encrypts your files and then demands money for the key to decrypt it), and having data stored in the Cloud (in this case, Knowhow Cloud, run by the Curry’s/PC World group) corrupted by said malware (which is possible as cloud drives are often accessible directly from the desktop as if it were a drive on your computer). The aggrieved customer believed that he was buying the Cloud storage with a back-up, so that his (and his customers’) data could be restored if this sort of thing happened. However, restoring from Knowhow’s backups wasn’t that easy.

Apparently, you have to individually go through the backed-up files on Knowhow’s server using their web portal and restore each one, which if you have lost thousands of files would be a long-drawn-out and laborious process. But it shouldn’t be. Every programmer uses a version control system which can restore any file, or an entire group of files, to their state at a particular time when they were ‘committed’, i.e. a save or set of saves was recorded. It records changes, not a string of different versions, so as to keep storage overheads down. Apple’s Time Machine backups work on the same principle. Setting up a repository with some of these systems is just a matter of one or two commands, though automating regular, secure backups is rather less simple.

What on earth is a major company like Knowhow doing offering a ‘backup’ solution that requires the customer to manually restore single files when software is available for free, used on major projects such as the Linux kernel and Mozilla browser, among many other things, that will restore whole directories (folders) to a specified point in time with one command? It’s pathetic. (When I bought my laptop, they insisted on sitting me down to get me to buy their cloud storage, despite my having access to two cloud storage drives already, only one of which I use. And they’re free.)

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The Lexit delusion

Picture of the chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels. Seats are arranged in a semi-circle with an aisle separating them. A lectern is at the front with a blue backing; a row of 11 seats faces the semi-circle with a high-backed seat in the middle. A small EU flag hangs on the wall at the back, and larger, furled-up flags of the member states hang on either side of it.It’s no secret that the bulk of the support for the campaign to pull the UK out of the European Union last year came from the Right — UKIP and large sections of the Tory party — but it has been part of the hard Left’s campaign for decades as well, was Labour policy in the early 1980s and has the support of a number of Labour MPs; Jeremy Corbyn’s support for remaining in was thought to be lukewarm. The other day I saw a conversation between two online friends after one of them asked if anyone she knew who had voted for Brexit could tell her why. The other responded that the EU was “neoliberal, ruled by people lacking both public support and expertise, vindictive, selfish and tyrannical”, examples being the treatment of Greece and migrants. As true as these things might be, they are all at least as much British diseases as European ones.

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The Handmaid’s Tale: speculation so white

Picture of a young white woman in a long red robe with a large white bonnet that stops her seeing other than in front of her, exiting a brick building.The Hulu TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel set in a New England taken over by a fundamentalist Christian theocratic police state that styles itself the Republic of Gilead, concluded on Channel 4 last Sunday night. The series (like the novel) follows the story of Offred, AKA June, who has been conscripted as a ‘handmaid’ to provide children to wealthy élite families in a society beset by a so-called plague of infertility which seems to be affecting other countries (such as Mexico) as well. The series has been described as not fiction but “a warning” by an Australian feminist columnist, and it seems many people are watching it despite finding it distressing, most likely because everyone is talking about it so everyone else needs to understand it. I found it a very weak and unbelievable piece of TV and its biggest weaknesses are its back-story and its handling of race, which are connected.

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