Sunday, 31 January 2016

EU Referendum

A post to hold stuff relevant to the forthcoming EU Referendum.

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The following, from Dave Key-Pugh via Facebook:
Well, the people of Britain have spoken and 17 million of you have decided to react as so many of our politicians do nowadays - by answering a completely different question.

"Should we leave the EU?"

"Wait a minute, wait a minute. Let me speak."

"We are. We're asking should we leave the EU?"

"I want 1952 back."

"We don't have a time machine. Watch some Downton Abbey. Should we leave the EU?"

"Why are public services at breaking point?"

"You voted in the Tories (blue and yellow) in the last two elections. You asked for austerity. They told you they were going to rip up the social contract, transfer spending from the poor, sick and needy and give the cash to the rich. You said yes, please. Twice. Now, should we leave the EU?"

"But the NHS is broke and I can't afford a house."

"Stop voting in general elections based on who eats a bacon sandwich better. Should we leave the EU?"

" I have serious concerns about democracy and accountability."

"God save the Queen! But a system which rejected PR, has an unelected head of state and a second legislative chamber packed with hereditary aristocrats, religious leaders and cronies of past governments where politicians go when we vote them out or they resign in disgrace and doesn't even specify how many members it should have - that's just dandy? However, back to the subject, should we leave the EU?"

"I have serious and unprejudiced concerns over immigration."

"No you don't. Should we leave the EU?"

"No, honestly, I do."

"No. You don't. Look at the results. The areas with higher levels of immigrant population voted to stay and the areas that voted to leave most strongly have barely seen immigration since the Saxons and Vikings. Should we leave the EU?"

"You liberal elites can sneer and smear as much as you like. We can't sustain this level of immigration."

"Which is linked to the free trade area not the EU. Also, see global inequality, neo-liberslism, the rise of the corporation over the nation state.... oh and stop bombing places sandier than you and wondering why people want to live somewhere that isn't still on fire. Should we leave the EU?"

"But they're taking our jobs!"

"No. Many of our infrastructures and services are reliant on 'them' - or qualified, skilled workers. Take your pick over terminology. Personally, I'd prefer an experienced NHS Anaesthetist in Lech from Budapest than waiting another six months for my emergency op because only Steve from Basildon is left. But we're off topic again. Should we leave the EU?"

"Fine. I don't want to see so many non-white faces around me. I'm scared and I don't understand."

"Do you think Syria, Iraq and Foreignistan are in Europe? Just how Muslim do you believe Poland to be? Sorry, got sidetracked. Should we leave the EU?"

"I just hate David Cameron and want him gone."

"Job done. But... you do know he was stepping down at the next election anyway? He's a multi-millionaire who never needs to work again and was wanting to retire. Way to stick it to the man! Should we leave the EU?"

"Revolution, man, that's two fingers up to the establishment. Burn, baby, burn!"

"You think Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are anti-establishment revolutionaries? Wow. Back on planet Earth, should we leave the EU?"

"I want all that money back. Let's spend £350 million a week on the NHS."

"Yeah. It took Nigel Farage less than three hours this morning to admit what everyone who can count knew weeks ago - that that figure was a lie and there's no windfall heading the NHS's way. What about the £128 billion wiped out overnight by this vote? Anyway, should we leave the EU?"

"I don't know. I just want this to be over."

"It's only just begun..."

"I want my country back!"

"So do we. We just have different memories of what that country stood for...."

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EU Referendum result : 52% Leave  : 48% Remain

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Bathing Water Quality
A pro-Europe website comments that, regarding the Bathing Waters Directive (76/160):

"Until 1986 the UK was still arguing that there were only 27 bathing waters in the country. And, of those, nine failed European targets for keeping them clean. But, in 1987, the EU threatened to sue the UK unless it was more honest about designating bathing waters so they could be tested. At which point, the government named 389 more...We now have 632 beaches designated as used for bathing and 98.9% of them are safe to swim in thanks to EU standards...The EU also checks bathing waters at tourist spots right across Europe, making sure they don’t make you sick on your holidays."

This view is corroborated in a 1995 report from the Centre for Rural Economy at the University of Newcastle upon Type :

"Nigel Haigh of the Institute for European Environmental Policy and a leading analyst and advisor on British environmental policy recently expressed Europe's impact in the following terms: "I have no doubt whatever that the legislation on the environment developed by the EC over the last 20 years has been the single biggest driving force for improving environmental standards in the UK. One of the characteristics of EC legislation is that it sets numerical standards by deadlines in a way which you don't find in British legislation."

"The strength of European environmental policy has not been lost on the public at large; public opinion surveys repeatedly show that a clear majority of British people favour action at the European level to protect the environment rather than leaving decisions to the UK Government"

The report describes what happened when very strict designation criteria resulted in the UK claiming to only have 27 bathing waters - less than Luxembourg.

"This initial list... drew derision from influential commentators and the Government's independent advisers (Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, 1984). The European Commission issued a Reasoned Opinion that the Government had failed to take all the necessary steps to comply with the Directive and threatened infringement procedures. This move, combined with the public and political outcry over the designations, forced the Government to widen its definition...The Government announced in February 1987 that an additional 362 bathing waters had been identified for the purpose of the Directive, and additional waters have subsequently been designated. "

The report also describes how it was difficult for environmental organisations to campaign for improved standards until the arrival of the Directive:

" The results of the water quality monitoring required by the Directive provide the basis for a widely used and well regarded bathing water classification system produced by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). Implementation of the Directive means that the MCS can now denounce 'failed' beaches in a way that earlier environmental campaigns, such as that mounted by the Coastal Anti-Pollution League, previously could not. Until the Directive's standards were in place, there was no statutory yardstick against which such coastal pollution could be judged. "

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Article on environmental regulations
An article in the Independent describes how EU regulations (some of which have been driven by the UK) have been responsible for improving water quality at beaches; conserving fish stocks; improving air quality; reducing energy useage (e.g. via efficient home lighting); and reducing the effects of climate change via targets to reduce CO2 emissions.

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Leave Campaign doctors Turkish Parliament Video

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Monday, 25 January 2016

NHS funding

Interesting article by The Kings Fund comparing Health Service Funding over time and across countries. BFTF has charted the data of some of the countries alongside the data for the UK:

Source : OECD 

John Pilger

All of John Pilgers films are available here:

http://johnpilger.com/filmography

That is all.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Mosques, kittens, indifference and stairs

Read two stories recently, having a bit of trouble reconciling them....

Story 1 : Kittens at a Mosque
Imam Mustafa Efe recently started welcoming local stray cats into the Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi mosque in Istanbul, a story which has been covered widely across the world (for example, see here)

Imam and kitten

Story 2 : Treatment of infirm women at a Mosque
Rabia Chaudry describes how, when visiting the Sultan Ayyoub Ansari mosque and shrine in Istambul, she was shooed away from the small womens section in the main prayer hall and told to go upstairs to the balcony section, overlooking the main prayer hall. The stairs were narrow, cramped steep and circular - in short, difficult to climb. Whilst on the balcony section Rabia happened to look back as the stairs. This is what she saw :

"..I looked over and saw a woman emerge out of the stairway door. Except she wasn't standing up. She was crawling. She was the first of a number of very elderly women who crawled up those awful stairs on their hands and knees. One of them dragged her cane with her. They would get to the top, then have to be helped to stand up and wobble over to a place on the carpet to pray. That pretty much broke me. I can't remember the last time I wept, really wept. I had already been shooed away from a number of mosque doors that were the domain of men only, but this really broke me. What has happened to our men? Where is the mercy and compassion of our Prophet (saw)? How many would send their own elderly mothers up such stairs to sit away from...from what? From prayer?..."

Rabia goes on to comment that:

"....I watched my daughter play with one of the elderly women, who gave her candies. Another, seeing me cry for quite a bit, came and gave me sweets and a gift of prayer beads. I felt better knowing that the unkindness of the men didn't strip the kindness from the hearts of the women...."

This woman must have been at least 70 years old,
came up on her hands with her face literally on the steps

Action
Sent an email to the The Presidency of Religious Affairs at diyanet@diyanet.gov.tr but zero expectation of it actually being read by anyone. Email says:

"The way elderly and infirm women are forced to climb the steep stairs at the Eyüp Sultan Mosque is heartless. They should be welcomed on the ground floor."

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Interview : Louise Cooke from the Sharewear Clothing Scheme

BFTF has been a fan of the Sharewear Clothing Scheme in Nottingham for some time, so was keen to take advantage of a recent opportunity to interview Louise Cooke, who kickstarted the project a few years ago. Sharewear provides emergency clothing, shoes and bedding to people in Nottingham who are currently in crisis. The organisation operates a strict referral system and is self funded.

A summary of the interview can be found below ! :

History of the scheme
Louise described how, in November 2012, Louise had visited the City of Sao Paulo in Brazil as part of the CAFOD "Connect2 programme" which aims to build links between cities in the developed and developing worlds. During the visit Louise was able to see the work CAFOD partners were doing in the favelas of the city...

"I came back all fired up by the community organising that I'd seen in Brazil and realised that in Nottingham there is great need and deprivation and I wanted to set something up in Nottingham that would tap into that need and help support people through it."

Louise went to recount how, soon after, she had been diagnosed with breastcancer and so had to put these plans on hold whilst undergoing treatment.

Whilst undergoing treatment, Louise's son, Matthew had been volunteering at Bullwell and Bestwood foodbank and mentioned to Louise that families were coming to the Foodbank asking for clothes and that there was nowhere in Nottingham the people in dire economic circumstances could go for free, as-new, good quality clothing and that "you should set it up Mum".

When Louise's treatment was completed and she had fully recovered, Louise approached Joe Tucker and other members of a local "Faith in Action" group at the Our Lady church in Bulwell to help get the scheme off the ground. Father Gerry Murphy at the Infant of Prague Church [backstory to that name here] kindly allowed some space at the front of the church to be used. Louise comments that "and two years on, things have gone crazy!"

Some of Sharewear's stock (by kind permission)

Why are people having to use the Sharewear clothing programme?

Louise described how the number of referral agencies has increased from about a dozen to around seventy and adds that:

"Initially most of our users were people who'd had benefits sanctioned and were trying desperately to get into work and were in a vicious cycle of not being able to do that because they didn't have decent clothes but because they had been sanctioned they couldn't afford to buy decent clothes...

...over the last 8-12 months, we now see a lot of victims of crime; a lot of recovering addicts of every kind; ex-offenders trying to rebuild their lives; and increasingly, recently, working families where both partners are working on zero hours contracts, low income contracts, and simply have to choose between sending their children to school in proper clothes or feeding them or paying bills or whatever it may be..."

..also, right from the outset, we have also helped refugees and asylum seekers, we have been supplying the Women's Culture Exchange at the Refugee Forum with clothing for nearly two years now- and also working with HOST, Arimathea Trust and the Refugee Forum themselves. And recently we have got involved with the co-ordinated response to the Syrian refugees who that are being placed in Nottingham by working with Gedling Borough Council and Nottingham City Council support workers...

A pre-sorted Sharewear pack of essentials,
ready to be provided to someone in need

The Special Question
Everyone who kindly agrees to an interview from BFTF is asked, at the end, a simple question that aims to recognise some of the blessings we have in this country. The question is "What do you think is the best thing about living in the UK?":

"Based on my trip to Sao Paolo in 2012 to the favelas and based on some of my experiences now as someone who works for the charity CAFOD part time, I would say one of the best things about living in the UK is that no matter how poor we are; no matter how austerity kicks in there are always support networks around to help us and also, most importantly, we've always got access to clean safe water and sanitation."

You can find out more about CAFOD here.

Beautiful art at the Infant of Prague Church

Related Content
Post about Arimathea Trust
The True Cost of Austerity
The Himmah Foodbank

Monday, 11 January 2016

Assalamu alaikum (Peace be upon you)

Assalamu alaikum (Peace be upon you) is a very common Islamic greeting. Across the UK it is said millions of times a day, children returning home from school; by husbands and wives coming home from work; by people meeting friends and acquaintances in the street.

It is ubiquitous.

But you will very rarely here it on TV drama containing Muslim characters, except in one specific set of circumstances - we'll come back to that in a moment.

So, anyway, BFTF was sitting idly at home next to Mrs BFTF, who was watching Silent Witness on BBC iPlayer ("Flight", Pt1, first aired 9pm 11 Jan 2016).

BFTF wasn't really paying attention until he heard the phrase "Assalamu alaikum" being spoken by one of the Muslim characters in a scene where someone had died.

"Assalamu alaikum"

BFTF: "How did that guy die?"

Mrs BFTF : "Stabbed"

BFTF : "Anything to do with terrorism?

Mrs BFTF :"No"

BFTF : "That's unusual"

BFTF then went back to scanning through Facebook on his phone until, literally WITHIN SIX MINUTES, he heard the gravelly voice of Detective Chief Inspector Michael Waite from the Counter Terrorism Unit appear on the detective show.
Det. Chief Insp. Waite arrives

Det Insp Waite was was soon launching into a monologue with all the usual catchphrases.

radicalised, Raqqa, Al-Britani, Jihadist, Falluja, Social media, recruiting sargent......

One rarely, if ever, hears "Assalamu alaikum" on Eastenders or other soaps - no matter how many times the Muslim characters meet each other - why does BFTF only hear it on dramas involvingterrorism, gang violence or wife beating?

The BBC is actively associating a phrase meaning "Peace be upon you" with terror and violence. They should be ashamed of themselves.

And it is BFTF's children who will pay the price by an increased liklihood of facing discrimination when trying to get a job.

How could BFTF had been so STUPID as to think that a programme would break these rules.

STUPID. STUPID. STUPID.

I guess nothing has changed since 2003 and 2004 and 2008

Complained to the BBC with these comments:

"This is a complaint regarding the fact Islamic phrases are only used by Muslim characters in negative contexts (terrorism, gang violence or wife beating). I was initially shocked to hear a Muslim character say "Assaalmu alaikum" at around 30mins into the programme without it being in the context of terrorism. I need not have worried, 6 minutes later Det Chief Insp Waite arrived to give the full spectrum of catchphrases "radicalised", "Raqqa", "Al-Britani", "Jihadist", "Falluja", "Social media", "recruiting sargent". Why don't I hear "Assalamu alaikum" on Eastenders or other soaps - why do I only hear it on crime dramas? Your behaviour is actively associating a phrase meaning "Peace be upon you" with terror and violence. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

Update Jan 25 2016
Received the following response (edited down to summarise) from the BBC. I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether it actually addresses the issue raised :

"We were contacted by a number of viewers who felt the terrorist storyline was inappropriate to show. To allow us to reply promptly, and use the licence fee efficiently we’re sending this response to everyone. We’re sorry we can’t reply individually, but we hope this will address most of the points raised or at least add some context behind the story....Writer, Graham Mitchell said: "The threat of Islamist terrorism isn’t something that’s explored very often at present in UK popular fiction...How have we managed to alienate some of our young people to such an extent? And how much are the actions of our governments to blame for this alienation.”... "So that’s what my story tries to do - to try, without judgement, to understand what motivates our two fictional jihadist characters and to ask some questions.”...With all this in mind we didn’t feel these programmes would be outside of most viewers’ expectations for the series, but we appreciate that you felt differently and your feedback has been circulated to the programme makers."

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"Murdered by my Father" BBC3 Tue 29 March 6pm
The title tells you all you need to know about the storyline of this drama. As the context is negative, it is not a surprise to find that, 13m 35seconds into the 75min programme, we find the (soon to be murderous) father greeting a neighbour with a friendly "Assalamu alaikum" - a greeting that, in real life, Muslims use all the time, but on TV only use when they are bad people or in the context of a negative storyline...

"Assalamu Alaikum"

Complained to the BBC again...

"This is a complaint regarding the fact Islamic phrases are only used by Muslim characters in negative storylines such terrorism, gang violence, wife beating or, in this case, honour killing. At 13m35sec seconds the soon-to-be-murderous father greets a neighbour with "Assalamu alaikum" (Peace be upon you). This is a greeting that, in real life, Muslims use all the time, but on BBC Drama only use when they are bad people or in the context of a negative storyline. Essentially the BBC is associating "Assalamu alaikum" with criminal behaviour. I do not know whether the BBC is doing this knowingly or unknowlingly but it is very disturbing and now what I expect from a national broadcaster."
Update 3rd May
Recently received this response from the BBC Complaints Dept :
"As you acknowledge “as-salaamu alaikum” is a commonly heard greeting. It follows then that it would be heard by ‘bad’ characters as well as ‘good’. We’re sorry, however, that you feel it’s only ever used by ‘bad’ characters. But, given that it is a greeting that’s used all the time, we wouldn’t agree; it’s rather that drama, by its nature, might include more ‘bad’ characters or have a particular focus on them and bad events since they tend to drive many dramatic storylines. ‘EastEnders’, for example, is just one obvious example where ‘good’ Muslim characters can be regularly heard using the greeting. Thank you again for your feedback. Please know complaints are sent to senior management and programme makers every morning and we’ve included your points in our overnight reports. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC ensuring that complaints are seen quickly by the right people."

BFTF is not at all sure that Eastenders is "...one obvious example where ‘good’ Muslim characters can be regularly heard using the greeting.""

More on this in due course.