Why is age discrimination in housing allowed?

Someone holding up a poster featuring phrases commonly found in house/flat rental ads, including 'No DSS', 'DSS welcomed', 'Friendly warm house', 'Non-Smoker', 'No fix, no fee! Affordable rates' and many others in large and small lettering.This blog entry is by a friend of mine who is being evicted from her father’s flat where she has been living for some time. She has long-running mental health problems and is a wheelchair user and was told in December to find a new place to live within three months. She has appealed on Twitter for help finding accessible places to live which will take Housing Benefit in the London area but, despite the tweets being retweeted hundreds of times, has received no leads to suitable places, much less offers; she has also found none on the websites which specialise in accessible and DSS-accepting properties. It’s painful to read of this struggle as there are in fact plenty of suitable properties, but they are reserved for older people.

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Blair not the man to lead Brexit fightback

Picture of Tony Blair wearing a dark suit with a pinkish/purple tie with a microphone attached, standing in front of a blue backgroundThe former British prime minister, Tony Blair, today gave a speech in the City of London in which he declared that Brexit could be defeated if the people who opposed it “rise up” (the BBC have a video of part of the speech here). In the speech, hosted by Open Britain (the successor to Britain Stronger In Europe), in keeping with his previous positions on the subject, he is expected to say that “the people voted without knowledge of the true terms of Brexit” and while “the will of the people” should be respected, that opinion might change when the true costs of leaving the EU become clear:

Our challenge is to expose relentlessly the actual cost, to show how this decision was based on imperfect knowledge which will now become informed knowledge, to calculate in easy-to-understand ways how proceeding will cause real damage to the country and its citizens and to build support for finding a way out from the present rush over the cliff’s edge.

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On the “Muslim Luther” fallacy that won’t die

TV still of Graeme Wood facing from the side, with the words "Many have called for a 'reformation in Islam'" at the bottom, and the BBC Newsnight logo in the top leftLast night on BBC’s Newsnight, there was a two-minute slot by a Canadian journalist called Graeme Wood, who claimed that the rise of the “Islamic State” was equivalent to the Christian Reformation spearheaded by Martin Luther. There is meant to be a counter-argument from Tariq Ramadan on tonight’s programme (BBC2, 10:30pm). He says:

It’s part of a convulsion within Islam no smaller than the Reformation was in Christianity. When historians write about what happened, they won’t see it as a narrow local movement but as a global intellectual movement that remade the Muslim world. In the 16th Century, Martin Luther’s Reformation harnessed the power of the printing press and rising literacy. He told Christians to read and interpret scriptures for themselves, without the mediation of a priestly class that was obedient to Rome. Today’s radical Islamic movements are telling their followers to read the Qur’an for themselves and to ignore the voices of mainstream clergy. The result is a movement of power to the people.

For these Islamic Protestants, the power of liberation is not the printing press but the Internet. They follow their new authorities on YouTube. These new authorities are less, not more, inclined to live harmoniously in the modern world. This isn’t new. Remember, Martin Luther was radical too and the Reformation he started was a bloodbath. Many have called for a “Reformation in Islam”, hoping to make it more compatible with Western norms. But these calls are at least a decade too late. The reformation is already here and it’s called the rise of the Islamic State.

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How prevalent is FGM in the UK really?

A poster showing a young white girl with a black sweatshirt with a red and orange triangle badge, saying "Wear the Red Triangle, Help End FGM. We are the generation to end FGM, Forced Marriage, Dishonour Based Violence".Last Monday was apparently FGM Awareness Day, and that means there were a lot of FGM stories in the media with vain attempts to interpret figures in a new way to make a story out of them despite their lack of statistical significance. This year it was the ‘news’ that a charity revealed that FGM victims present to the medical services every hour, or rather that a case of FGM was either discovered or needed treatment 8,656 times between April 2015 and March 2016. The BBC headlined this as “FGM victims need medical attention ‘every hour’ says charity”, when in fact the figures do not indicate that at all. The BBC mentions that no successful prosecutions for FGM have ever occurred in the UK, which the Home Affairs Select Committee (a parliamentary committee) has called “a national disgrace” in a report last October, but nobody appears to be considering why this might be the case.

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Who are ‘Liberty GB’ anyway?

Picture of Barbara Ntumy, a Black lady with long, braided red hair extensions wearing a shirt showing large white flowers on an orange backgroundYesterday Channel 4 News broadcast a conversation involving Jack Buckby, the “outreach officer” and former parliamentary candidate for ‘Liberty GB’, and Barbara Ntumy, deputy president of the London Metropolitan University students’ union and a member of the NUS’s Black students’ campaign, in which Buckby handed Ntumy an application form for resettling a Syrian refugee and told her, “put your money where your mouth is … take in a Syrian refugee; I hope you don’t get raped”. The suggestion stunned her into silence for a few seconds before she told him she lived in a one-bedroom house and didn’t have the financial means to do so, but he probably did. But the question remains: what was he doing there?

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Citizenship is not just a visa

A picture of Simon Danczuk, a middle-aged, balding white man wearing a white shirt, dark blue tie and grey jacket with his lips turned down, standing in front of some old brick housesToday three members of the notorious ‘grooming gangs’ who raped and sexually abused girls in the Rochdale area lost an appeal against deportation to Pakistan. Two of the men, who were jailed in 2012, have been released on licence after serving part of their sentences; a third received a 22-year sentence and will remain in prison. All were born in Pakistan and were naturalised as British citizens; one of them came to the UK in 1967, aged 14, and has four children (presumably adults given his age) in the UK. His appeal includes the claim that his conviction is unsound because it was a “conspiracy” of all involved, that the jury was all white and that it was “fashionable to blame everything on Muslims these days”, a defence that was unsurprisingly rejected. The local MP, Simon Danczuk, has demanded that “foreign-born criminals should not be able to hide behind human rights laws to avoid deportation”.

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Trump has no business in any parliament

A protest at an airport, with a woman holding a sign saying 'USA: Refugees Welcome'The speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, has made himself unpopular (again) with a number of Tory MPs for announcing that he will not allow Donald Trump to address the Commons if and when he makes a state visit to the UK later this year. That he is has been invited as soon as he took office is a scandal; previous US presidents who made state visits did so after years in office. But Tory MPs insist that he has broken with convention by taking a ‘partisan’ view rather than maintaining neutrality or (as where there is a tie) voting with the government, and that maintaining relations with the “democratically elected leader of our closest ally” is vital.

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Trump’s election is no ‘rejection of elites’

Picture of Donald Trump with an angry look on his face, raising his middle fingerIn yesterday’s Observer, there is a piece by one John Daniel Davidson, identified as “a senior correspondent for the Federalist” who lives in Austin, Texas, defending Donald Trump from claims that he is a fascist and offering the standard defence that his election represents “a rejection of the elites” and that the real divide in America today is not between “fascists and Democrats” but between “the elites and everybody else”. He claims that Trump’s supporters cheer at such actions as ripping up trade deals, threatening Mexico with invasion and withdrawing from a deal to accept refugees Australia refuses, alleges that “For years, millions of voters have felt left behind by an economic recovery that largely excluded them, a culture that scoffed at their beliefs and a government that promised change but failed to deliver”, and alleges that the protesters and the “elites” do not understand why Trump and his policies are popular. It’s a familiar argument, also articulated on this side of the Atlantic by the Daily Telegraph columnist Charles Moore who claimed on the BBC Radio 4 Media Show the other week that BBC news programming is characterised by ‘groupthink’ on issues such as climate change (!) and immigration which blinded it to the popularity of Trump and Brexit and the reasons behind it, and a staple of the Right going back at least as far as the Bush years, and it’s wrong.

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Time for Europhiles to divide and rule

Black and white picture of Jeremy Corbyn taken from the right, standing in front of a lectern with a microphone, with a camera pointing towards the audience from his left.So, in the last few weeks Jeremy Corbyn has shown his true Euro-Sceptic colours, issuing a three-line whip to order his MPs to vote in favour of the government’s bill to trigger Article 50 (which, of course, he knows a large section of his MPs will simply ignore) while a number of Labour MPs and Labour-associated columnists (most recently Mark Seddon in the Guardian) running scared of the working-class Brexit vote in the North, which in places voted heavily for leaving the EU (he cites Easington, County Durham, which voted 57.5% to leave), which it fears could turn towards UKIP, much as working-class Americans voted for Trump even as their leaders (e.g. union shop stewards) advised them to vote for Hilary Clinton. He puts this down to yet another campaign to undermine and remove Corbyn. I’m not convinced.

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Life isn’t fair?

Two children, a girl with a white cloth draped over her head representing the Virgin Mary, holding a doll, and a bigger child of indeterminate gender with a large fake beard and a beige Middle Eastern-style headscarf representing Joseph, standing over a straw crib filled with what looks like cotton wool, in a school nativity playThe other day I came across a discussion on the forum MumsNet about a boy at primary school who had been, for the umpteenth time, given a trivial role in his school play while the same children who always got major roles got them. The boy was obviously upset and the mother was asking whether to pull him out of the play altogether, as he got the impression that it was not worth trying. Other parents commented that this is how it always is at schools, in their experience — nepotism rules, merit means little. Others argued that minor roles should not be dismissed as trivial as the play depends on them as much as on the big players, that the teachers may have been picking the children who showed the most talent, while others gave variations of the “life isn’t fair” theme, that the mother shouldn’t pull his son out as he had to learn that he couldn’t get his way all the time and that if he really wanted to be in plays, he ought to join a theatre group out of school hours. (The thread has been removed as it was “causing the OP [original poster] some real-life problems”.)

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Why couldn’t Dean Saunders get a secure hospital place?

Picture of Dean Saunders, a young white man with a short beard and moustache, wearing a two-tone grey sweatshirt, holding a young childLast Friday an inquest jury gave its verdict in the case of Dean Saunders, who killed himself in Chelmsford Prison in January 2016 having been remanded there having injured his father who tried to stop him self-harming during a mental health crisis in December 2015. The charity Inquest has published the full verdict on its website including statements from the family and their lawyers. The jury concluded that he took his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed and that his death was contributed to by neglect. The jury criticised the police, the prison service and the private contractor (Care UK) which provided mental health care at the prison. The inquest heard much evidence, and found, that decisions made about Saunders’ care were made with a view to minimising cost, a claim strenuously denied by the head of healthcare.

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Treaty rights versus legal rights

The emblem of the United Nations, showing a map of the world centred on the North Pole (i.e. a polar azimuth projection), with olive branches around itA couple of days ago there was a demonstration in Dublin to pressure the government there to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), which Ireland has signed but not yet ratified (Britain has ratified the Convention and the Optional Protocol). At the UN’s site you will find a map of which countries have signed or ratified the convention and protocol; you might notice that they include a large number of countries where disabled people are still held in institutions for much of their lives and otherwise denied what most of us consider essential rights including the right to life itself. A mother of a son with Asperger’s syndrome, and some unrelated physical impairments, made a blog post and some tweets claiming that “people with intellectual disabilities are not allowed a sexual relationship apparently”. Her son believes this, so someone must have told him. It is misinformation.

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How to make sure wheelchair users can ride the bus

Doug Paulley, with part of a Transport for All banner behind him‘Wheelchair v buggy’: Disabled man wins Supreme Court case — BBC News

Today the Supreme Court gave its ruling on whether FirstBus, a major provider of bus services throughout the UK, discriminated against a man who was unable to travel on one of its buses in West Yorkshire because a mother with a sleeping baby refused to fold her buggy, claiming it wouldn’t fold. The man, Doug Paulley, originally won his case but the company appealed; the Court of Appeal supported the company, while the Supreme Court has delivered what disability campaigners are calling a partial victory, finding that drivers must do more than just ask a parent to fold their buggy, stopping short of insisting that they eject the parent from the bus. It therefore doesn’t amount to a guarantee that disabled travellers will be able to travel on what is often the only form of transport available to them. (More: Doug Paulley.) 

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Stonehenge, and the A303, really need that tunnel

A picture of Stonehenge, a collection of standing stones, some with stone lintels on top, on a plain with a path leading behind it to a car park.Stonehenge Tunnel plan finalised by government — BBC News

So, the government have finally agreed on plans to build a tunnel to the south of the ancient stone circle, Stonehenge, outside Amesbury in Wiltshire. The site is currently one of several bottlenecks on a major route from London to the south west of England, a two-lane stretch in between two sections of good-quality dual carriageway, one of which links to the M3 motorway from London; however, a lot of the delays are caused by people slowing down to look at the stones as they drive past. The scheme will also include a by-pass around the village of Winterbourne Stoke, also affected by the slow and heavy traffic along the A303.

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Jill Saward, the Press and civil liberties

Last week Jill Saward (pronounced Say-ward), best known for having been the victim of the notorious “Ealing Vicarage” rape attack in 1986 in which she was raped and subjected to other sexual assaults and her father and boyfriend were beaten up and suffered head injuries during a burglary, died of a brain haemorrhage. In the 31 years since the attack she had become known as a campaigner on issues surrounding rape, at one point supporting the introduction of a kind of second-degree rape as found in the USA and perhaps other places, more recently for better education of jurors in rape trials. In the early 90s she testified about the intrusion her family had suffered from the press after the attack; more recently, she stood in a by-election in Yorkshire, in which the sitting MP had resigned in protest at extended detention for terrorist suspects; her platform was in favour of all of these things and of making the national DNA database universal; however, she made very little impact and lost her deposit.

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Watership Down: the significance of Cowslip

A yellowish book cover with the words "Watership Down" and the author's name "Richard Adams" on it, with a drawing of two rabbits among some bushes.In today’s Guardian, there is a piece by Giles Fraser about what might be the significance of the book Watership Down, whose author Richard Adams died earlier this week. Focusing on the part of the story where the migrant rabbits are briefly taken into Cowslip’s warren, where the rabbits had ready supply of vegetables (flayrah), are uninterested in the old stories of El-Ahrairah, the “prince of a thousand enemies”, that they knew and regularly were caught in snares, Fraser cites an American theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, who opined that story “contained an important message about the relationship between stories and moral values; that Adams’ rabbits – like human beings – are shaped into a community by the power of the stories they tell each other. And these stories are the bearers of our moral values”. This leads me to wonder how closely he or Fraser read the book.

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On Black Lives Matter and Muslim participation

Picture of Hamza YusufOn Friday evening a well-known western Muslim scholar, in an interview with the British journalist Mehdi Hasan at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) 2016 conference in Toronto, made some offensive and inaccurate remarks about racism both in American society and within the Muslim community. This has caused outrage online, with African-American Muslims particularly hurt and his traditional supporters closing ranks, claiming he said nothing wrong, disimissing it as social media gossip and emphasising his greatness compared to those criticising him. Although the video was initially deleted from the RIS website, two eight-minute clips of his interview were eventually posted on YouTube and there is no getting away from the offensive nature of some of his comments.

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CyanogenMod knocked on head

A screenshot of an Android phone, showing an analogue clock and various app iconsUpdate 26th Dec: Cyanogen, Inc. turned off CyanogenMod’s web servers yesterday, likely in response to a final blog post from the team. The download site remains up until the end of the month.

As if 2016 couldn’t get any worse, I read today that the Android distribution CyanogenMod was being closed down; the parent company, whose founder (and founder of CyanogenMod) has left, will be turning off the servers at the end of the month. The developers have renamed the project Lineage and are currently being hosted at GitHub, but that currently doesn’t appear to include binaries that you can install on a phone. This isn’t the disaster that losing Alan Rickman or Leonard Cohen was, but is a pretty sad development, as CyanogenMod brought a lot of old phones to life, especially those whose manufacturers refused to provide further Android updates for them.

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Regarding Brandon Reid

A still from a video of Brandon Reid, a young white boy with dark hair with a black waistcoat and trousers and a yellow T-shirt with black writing on underneath, beign escorted down the hallway out of his house by two male police officers.Brandon Reid is a 16-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome whose family home is in Sheffield. He was in the news in November when a local paper and then the Daily Mail reported that the local police had turned up and used excessive force to remove him from his home and force him to go back to his care home in Stoke on Trent after he refused to go back after a family visit. A campaign has been launched to “get Brandon home for Christmas” as well as a petition and a Facebook page in which they encourage supporters to email the head of Sheffield children’s services, but the local authorities concerned are refusing to allow him a Christmas trip home, apparently insisting that his mother come to see him instead and stay in a hotel (perhaps because they fear he will refuse to come back, with similar results to what happened in November). However, there are inconsistencies in the family’s story as represented by the two articles about the case that have appeared in the media.

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Some thoughts on the Berlin truck atrocity

A black Scania R-type tractor unit with the owner's name 'Ariel Suraski' on its headboard, and a broken windowOn Monday evening, someone hijacked a 40-tonne Scania articulated lorry, murdered the driver, and then drove it into the Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people. Police arrested a suspect, an asylum seeker from Pakistan, but have since released him, having found no forensic evidence linking him to the truck; latest news is that the police are seeking a Tunisian they have named only as “Anis A”. The truck, which was carrying steel girders on its trailer, is owned by a Polish haulier and the owner’s cousin was the murdered driver. The so-called Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh) claimed responsibility and both they and al-Qa’ida have encouraged Muslims to carry out similar attacks.

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