Sunday, 15 May 2016

Big Belly bins in Nottingham

Been reading up about the "Big Belly" bins that have been installed in Nottingham for a while now....

The bins have a capacity of over 500litres, but this is increased by a factor of ~6 by the built in, chain operated, solar powdered compaction mechanism. In addition, the bins sense when they are 85% full and send a wireless signal to a control station requesting that they be emptied.

This combination of compaction and "empty on demand" is claimed to reduce the number of waste collections by up to 80% and largely eliminate the problem of overflowing bins, especially by fast food outlets.


A Big Belly bin, yesterday

Nottingham is leasing 130 of the bins in a 5-yr contract. Ian Greatorex, strategic finance manager for the council, told the Nottingham Post that the savings from not having to empty the bins as often should cover the £98,748 annual cost of the agreement.

Big Belly bins have been installed in many cities in the US, UK and elsewhere.

In Philadelphia, USA, the city installed 500 general waste bins and 210 recycling units on a lease-to-buy model. The city found collection frequency was reduced from 17 times a week to 5 times a week, resulting in a 70% saving in operating cost.

The University of Georgia, USA, has given a blowing testimonial to the bins - "Bigbelly has replaced 189 open top waste stations with 30 compacting waste and recycling stations on our campus here at UGA. With its ability to compact and send alert messages, we’ve been able to go from spending 30 hours a week to spending less than three hours a week in collection..."

One downside of the bins that is often commented on is that disposal of waste requires a person to actually touch the bin (or, more specifically, the bin door handle). Understandably, many people don't want to do this (or can't easily if one hand contains the rubbish and the other hand is holding, say, some food) so waste may get left on top of the bins. The situation gets worse if the handle is visibly dirty.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Zac Goldsmiths 2016 London Mayoral Campaign

BFTF has been very disturbed by the way divisive "dog whistle" messages were used against Sadiq Khan by Zac Goldsmiths Conservative campaign for the London Mayoral elections. This kid of gutter politics damages community cohesion, prevents debate about the real issues, and discourages minorities from entering the political sphere...

An important issue - Jobs
(Heathrow Airport)

The Mail on Sunday Article
Back in 2005, the BNP used an image from the 7/7 attacks in a by-election campaign. The Leader of the Conservatives in London, Bob Neill said it was "disgraceful and sick..as contemptible an election tactic as I have ever seen in my life".

In 2016, Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith wrote an article for The Mail on Sunday asking "...are we really going to hand the world's greatest city to a Labour Party the thinks terrorists are its friends..". The articlewas illustrated with that same 7/7 image.

Zac Goldsmith says he didn't choose the image, which leaves BFTF wondering how the article submission process went. Did the Goldsmith media team submit the article and basically say - to the MAIL ON SUNDAY !!! - "use whatever image you want, I'm sure it'll be fine"?

And what's with the third paragraph :

"London’s £600billion economy would fall into the hands of a man who backed Ken Livingstone over his suspension in 2006 for anti-Semitic remarks to a Jewish reporter."
The implication is that Khan is also anti-semitic, which is ridiculous. Journalist Peter Osborne has written on Khans record thus :
"Khan is a mainstream Labour politician who has dedicated his career to advocating centrist views. He voted for same-sex marriage, thus estranging socially conservative elements in London’s Muslim communities. He loudly opposes a boycott of Israeli goods. He is a strong opponent of anti-Semitism. He has campaigned constantly against reactionary and so-called "extremist" forces within the Muslim communities."

An important issue - Community
(Surrey Street Market, Croydon)

Guilt by Brother-in-Law
The Sun ran a story "revealing" extremist links of Sadiq Khan.

The story was based on the fact that, from 1989 to 2011, Khan sister was married to a man, Makbool Javaid, who spoke at an anti-western rally in London in 2007. Khan had not had any contact with Javaid for over a decade. Javaid is now an employment laywer.

Here's the key part of the article:
"In 2007 Mr Khan admitted that he was related to four other men through evil Javaid who were members of Hizb ut-Tarir"
Read that again, it doesn't say that Khan knew the four men directly, or had any dealing with them - it was enough for this smear that he was related to them via his brother-in-law. Pure guilt by association, a textbook example of the genre in fact.

Sad that conservative MP Andrew Bridgen was happy to supply a quote that "Yet again, Khan is showing terrible judgement on who he associates with. He’s clearly experimented with the wrong company."

A very different view of the story can be read in this politics.co.uk interview with Javaid in which Javaid points out that the footage of the rally has been on the Internet for several years and that both he and Khan knew it would become a story at some point. Javaid claims that Khan was so keen to put distance between them that he didn't attend the weddings of his [Khan's] nieces.

Owen Jones comments that:
"[Goldsmith] exploited and incited prejudice and hate. He undermined community cohesion. He indicated to young Muslims that there was no point engaging in the democratic process, because even the most progressive Muslim would be treated as aiding and abetting extremists...If Goldsmith does not suffer these consequences, politicians may wage these campaigns of fear over and over again."
On the other hand, George Osborne has defended the campaign, saying:
" Politics is a robust thing in a democracy and in elections there's a lot of rough and tumble...You are asked who are you, who do you associate with, what are your ideas. But if you can answer those questions, and clearly Sadiq Khan did answer those questions to the satisfaction of London voters, you get yourself elected."

An important issue - Housing
(Ampthill Square, Camden)

The Anti-IS IS Imam
David Cameron said, in the House of Commons, that "Suliman Gani - the honourable member for Tooting has appeared on a platform with him 9 times. This man supports IS."

According to a Daily Mirror article Goldsmith concurred "To share a platform nine times with Suliman Gani, one of the most repellent figures in this country, you don’t do it by accident."

Peter Osbourne, again in the Middle East Monitor, writes an open letter to Downing Street, which concludes:

"In the light of the prime minister’s intervention at PMQs I interviewed Mr Gani. He told me that he condemns IS and has campaigned against IS. He also showed me citations, press articles and other materials showing that he has worked alongside a local synagogue and with local churches. This is not the behavior of someone who supports IS.

To sum up, the prime minister has made a very serious charge against a British citizen – namely that that he supports IS, the most notorious terror group in the world. Neither he nor his spokespeople (ie you and your colleagues, Ms Allen) have been able to provide a scintilla of evidence to support this claim. Since he is unable to provide the evidence, I believe the prime minister must urgently withdraw his false and profoundly damaging assertion about Mr Gani.

Could I remind you of paragraph 1.2.c of the Ministerial Code. It states that: “It is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation.” The prime minister will be familiar with the contents of the Ministerial Code, since he wrote a foreword to it..."

...It would be utterly discreditable – indeed damnable - if the prime minister’s slur against Mr Gani were to remain on the record. He must either substantiate it, which I am certain he cannot do - or withdraw it, with a full apology."

An important issue - Air Quality
(Low Emission Zone)

The brains behind the campaign
The media team behind the Goldsmith campaign is described in this article by Simon Hatterstone, in which he comment on how a meeting with Goldsmith finds the candidate accompanied by a media advisor who works for the company co-founded by campaign strategist Lynton Crosby. Another co-founder, Mark Fullbrook was in charge of the Goldsmith campaign but, according to Hatterstone, "..you don’t need Crosby at the helm for a campaign to bear all his hallmarks..."

Crosby is famed for use of the "wedge strategy" which aims to select and campaign on an issue that will cause dissent in the opposition party - focussing on simple messages that are sent out repeatedly.

Crosby's signature move is the “the dead cat”, which has been described by Boris Johnson thus :

"There is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point...is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”

What the campaign should have been about - Education
(Blizard Building, London School of Dentisty and Medicine, Tower Hamlets)

Completely unrelatedly
Simultaneous to the London Mayoral campaign there were council elections around the country. In the run up to these allegations of "anti-semitism" were levelled at some Labour councillors, evidenced with a Facebook image they had forwarded several years ago. The image suggested that Israel should be relocated to the US. Norman Finkelstein comments on these accusations here very comprehensively.

Actions
Sent email to local (Labour) MP asking for David Cameron to back up or retract his remarks regarding Mr Gani and that BFTF was shocked by the tactics used by the Conservative team, and for assurance that Labour would never do anything similar. Also pointing out that this will discourage Muslim from entering the public sphere.

Sent email to local Conservative party asking for David Cameron to back up or retract his remarks regarding Mr Gani and that BFTF was shocked by the tactics used by the Conservative team, and for assurance that this would never happen again. Also pointing out that this will discourage Muslim from entering the public sphere.

Sent emails to some local Imams pointing out that this week it was Mr Gani, but next week it could be them who is smeared and thrown to the wolves.

Image Sources
Russell Square, Heathrow, Low Emission Zone, Surrey Street Market, Blizard Building, Ampthill Square

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Energy

We live in interesting times from an energy supply point of view, this post aims to hold various items of relevant content.

******************************
Apr2016 : Energy Trends article
A Bloomberg article describes how recent solar and wind auctions have been won by companies promising to deliver the lowest cost energy - even when compared to other sources.

This has been driven by falling solar costs (not 1/150th of its 1970s price) and is seeing the amount of installed solar capacity double seven time since 2000. Even wind has doubled four times over this timeframe.

Analyts keep getting caught out - since 2000 the International Energy Agency has raised its long-term solar forecast 14 times and its wind forecast five times. Every time global wind power doubles, there's a 19 percent drop in cost and every time solar power doubles, costs fall 24 percent.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Talk : The Crisis in Post-16 Education

Interesting Cafe Sci talk recently by Alan Barker from the University and College Union (UCU). Alan is a teacher of A-Level Mathematics and is involved in a number of projects to make teaching of this subject as effective as possible (see here and here)

Alan's talk was on "The Crisis in Post-16 Education" and was fascinating. The post below below is based on the talk, with some added bloggage and linkage thrown in....

The talk began by mentioning the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act, which allowed polytechnics to become universities; removed FE establishments from LEA control; introduced competition for funding and learners between institutions; and allowed institutions to set their own terms and conditions for staff.

An interesting look at the background and effects of these reforms can be found in this paper by Michael Hammond.

Alan commented on how the changed funding regime had resulted in cuts in the number of courses offered, with one head telling Alan that the situation was now so bad that "there is nothing left to cut" except core courses. Pay was also an issue post-1992, with increases being higher for senior managers than for teaching staff. Data on FE pay in 2012 can be found on P19 of this report , which puts medial senior manager pay at ~£62k and teaching staff at ~£29k.

On the other hand, this article in FE Week quotes the UCE saying "as college staff were being offered a measly pay rise of 0.7 per cent in 2012/13, some of the top earning college leaders were enjoying pay rises of more than 30 per cent." and listing salaries well in excess of 100K for many college principals.

Alan commented on a number of occasions on how, far from being more efficient, the current structure of FE has many mismatches between education rhetoric and actual funding. One example being a Darlington college which had a large number of classes for hairdressing, not because of local need, but because that was where the funding was [although a news (article) suggests it was more to do with pushing girls towards hairdressing as an "easy" option}.

There is a government push towards merging FE colleges in large towns and cities (a process that is happening right now in Nottingham), although Alan stated that there was "no evidence base" that larger establishments were more more financially stable and that a similar policy in Scotland had resulted in a significant drop in drop in student numbers. When the plans were announced, the Scottish Government claimed there would be £50million of efficiency savings each year from 2015/16 and that outcomes for students would improve.

But Audit Scotland found that, although there were savings from reducing teaching staff, "total student numbers were now 36 per cent lower than 2008/09, teaching staff had been cut by 9.2 per cent in the last two years alone and budgets were down £69m between 2011/12 and 2015/16".

On the other hand, Alan also commented on the duplication or courses and lack of co-ordination that occurred in the past when there were several FE colleges in the city. Alan described another way of organising FE establishments, one in which local people, local government, staff and students were more involved; where there was a proper education policy and where there was a move away from a very narrow "skills agenda".

Another remarkable story mentioned in the talk was some comments from Vince Cable that, in 2010, Government officials wanted to cut all FE funding, claiming that "no-one will really notice". In then end, the FE budget was cut by 40% - and student fees went up from £3,375 to £9,000 year to compensate.

According to Alan, the direction of travel for government policy had three arms:

Apprenticeships - A-Levels in schools only - No adult provision for education

In short, you get one shot at education, if you miss out, for whatever reason, you are toast. Alan commented on how this was in conflict for a wish for "lifelong learning" and for people to retrain during their careers.

Q&A
One of the most interesting features of Cafe Sci events is the long Q&A session. Alan's talk was no exception.

One question asked how people could hold local FE providers to account (e.g. relating to finances or student outcomes). Alan's response was there was no way of holding local FE to account. There was no ombudsman, they were not part of local government. In short "you have no control over the education system in your city"

Another person asked whether there were positives in the potential merger of Nottingham FE colleges in terms of offering courses that were not otherwise viable, or more flexible timetables. Alan responded that this was possible and that many educators had some support for the scheme. The questioner also pointed out they had wanted to get some local community organisers onto a course about fuel poverty - something that was desperately relevant to the communities they lived in - but found that the course was £800 (for just three days) - it seemed that there was a failure to look at where the NEEDS were, in favour of looking at where the FUNDING was.

Then, right at the end of the event, there was a remarkable discussion. It centered about the fact that the alumni of FE colleges are invisible, yet we interact with them everyday. But we do not recognise it because the badge on the back of the heating engineers van doesn't say "Central College Nottingham" - it says "Corgi" or "City and Guilds".

The digital designer; the hotel sales executive; the award winning film-maker; the plumber, the famous animator; the Transmission and Asset Manager for National Grid; the award winning fashion designer; the gardener; the IT support technician; the TEDxDerby organiser; the hospital healthcare support workers; the hairdresser; the biomedical scientist, the nurse; the sports coach; the car mechanic and technician - all of them a product of Further Education Colleges.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Critical Thinking : Rothschilds own all the banks

A short video about the Rothschilds appeared on BFTF's Facebook timeline a while back...

The Rothschild conspiracy explained in 4 minutes

...It did at least have the virture of being short..

The central bank in your country is owned
and controlled by the Rothschild family, apparently

Not true. The Bank of England is an independent public organisation, wholly owned by the Treasury Solicitor on behalf of the government, with independence in setting monetary policy.

The run the central bank of every country
 in the entire world (except three) apparently

...Except, according to the video, for North Korea, Iran and Cuba - presumably this means that, for example, the Central Bank of China is under Rothschild control - something that is difficult to imagine, given the one party state in place there...

There isn't actually any evidence of Rothschilds controlling ANY central banks, much less virtually ALL of them.

Unless, of course, a Facebook video with no references for its assertions is "evidence".

Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Libya

...The video alleges that there were four other countries who had independent central banks in 2000 (Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Libya) and that the Rothschild family the US to gain control of the Afghanistan and Iraqi central banks by invading, and used the UN to gain control of the Sudanese and Libyan central banks. It further alleges that the thaw in relations between the US and Cuba/Iran is to allow their central banks to be taken over too. Oh, and it'll be the war thing for North Korea soon....

BFTF notes that these kinds of conspiracies always refer to the Rothschilds family, never to any of the other major banking families around the world, such as Barenburgs, Coutts, Fuggers, Goldman-Sachs, Rockefellers, Morgans or Warburgs.

Sad that real issues of loss of sovereignty such as TTIP or groups combating global financial injustice such as the Jubilee Dept Campaign do not get this kind of airtime.

Related Content
Critical Thinking

Monday, 28 March 2016

Academisation of schools

Recent proposals to force all schools to become academies have caused BFTF to pay attention to this issue.

Whilst it does not affect BFTF directly (Little No3 Son is well on this way through secondary education at a school that is already an academy), BFTF cares about the quality of education in England, and that the structures delivering it are accountable, well run and effective. Lets look at each of these in turn.

Accountable
BFTF was disturbed to read a report recently on what happened when a local journalist tried to find out about proposals for Halewood Academy to close its Sixth Form.

The school would not comment, and directed the reporter to their website (where the consultation letter and proposal could be found)

The council would not comment, saying that academies were the responsibility of central government.

With parent anger growing, the reporter tried to speak to someone at the school again - to no avail.

The council then directed the reporter to the "regional schools commissioner", who was responsible for overseeing academies on the governments behalf.

The commisioner told the reporter to talk to the Department of Education.

And the Department of Education had already told parents that "the government and Parliament aren't responsible!

Well Run - Assets
BFTF hears a lot of concerns about land and buildings that were previously publically owned being gifted to private companies on academisation. DoE advice sdescribes how schools becoming academies should " transfer your school’s land to the academy trust."

PFI continues to be a be a big issue. A CoE secondary school, built via PFI, and which wished to become part of a Multi-Academy-Trust is described in a public service article thus:

"The PFI agreement includes a series of facilities management contracts lasting up to 25 years and costing more than £1m a year. At a time of budget reductions, this commitment puts the long-term financial security of the school at risk. The school’s governors are fully aware of this and are deeply concerned about the future viability of the school. They hoped that academy ‘freedoms’ would give them the opportunity to renegotiate the PFI contract, but this appears to be legally impossible.

The diocese is reluctant to take on such an open-ended financial burden, which must be a disincentive to any potential sponsor. Its independent auditors concluded that the PFI contract did not meet the school’s needs, did not function effectively and did not provide value for money. For the diocese, voluntary aided status might offer the best of both worlds. It would increase its influence on the governing body and would give it more control over the land and assets of the school, without having to take on the same financial risks that it would if the school were an academy."

On the other hand, an article at the right-wing Policy Exchange site describes how government policy aims to separate the procurement and management of schools, so that there is no conflict of interest between the two roles.

Well Run - Management
Disturbing to read that the current oversight system did not spot the severe financial irregularities of the Perry Beeches Academy chain, and took six months (!) to respond to warnings raised by a whistleblower.

Effective
In 2015, the Chair of the Education Committee commented that :

"Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children. It is clear though that academisation has led to greater competition, challenging many maintained schools to improve and incentivising local authorities to develop speedier and more effective interventions in underperforming schools."


BFTF notes that academies do not have to follow the national curriculum or employ trained teachers. That does not sound like a recipe for success, but it does sound like a recipe for cost cutting. What is the point of a national curriculum if no school has to follow it? How can one compare schools (excpt via GCSE results) if there is no benchmark?

A number is not an "increase"

Dear NASUWT (nasuwt@mail.nasuwt.org.uk)

Just read a BBC report which said :

"Increasing numbers of pupils are coming to school hungry, anxious and unable to concentrate because of family financial pressures, a teachers' union has said. The NASUWT union said growing numbers of teachers and schools were providing food, equipment and clothes for pupils."

Link : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35873541

But I can see no actual data supporting the assertion that numbers are increasing.Is this data available and, if so, where can one find it?

[To pick two examples "Almost three-quarters of the teachers had seen pupils coming to school hungry" and "Over a quarter had given food to hungry pupils" were mentioned, but neither say whether these levels are higher, the same, or lower than previous years. Seen this kind of thing before on BBC reporting]

[Also complained similarly to the BBC]

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