co-op wm logo

Phil Beardmore sends information about the Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative, launched on Friday 27th June, the first day of Co-operative Congress:

student housing coop house

“The launch event, held at the Co-op’s first home in Selly Park, was attended by representatives from across the Co-operative movement.

“Guest speaker was Dame Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative. Attendees also heard from Sean Farmelo on behalf of the student co-operative about their journey from having a good idea to being able to take on the lease of the house and begin recruiting tenants. It is the first new housing co-operative in Birmingham for more than two decades”.

student housing coop opening

The nine bedroom property was purchased by the Phone Co-op and  leased to the members of the housing co-op, where they will be able to make democratic decisions about their living space without a landlord.

Phil adds that housing management services will be provided by BCHS, an agency providing services to housing co-ops in the West Midlands which has developed more than 50 housing co-ops and community controlled housing projects since 1997. Read more about BCHS here.

Volunteers sought

Belatedly we report that there is still much work to be done on the house. As well as decorating all the rooms, we need to put up a partition wall in the living room to make the 8th bedroom.  Over the summer, members of the Birmingham Students Housing Co-operative would appreciate the assistance of anyone who has some free time and wants to come and visit.

Read more on http://www.students.coop/.

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mark rogersBirmingham’s chief executive Mark Rogers asks: “Can we stop asking Westminster for a devolved settlement and start asking for a delegated one?” He continues:

“Much as I love City/Growth Deals, Better Care Funds and all the other bastard offspring of devolution, each remains characterised and constrained by the ongoing and firm attachment of Central Government’s apron strings. What Local Government actually needs is the decentralisation and delegation of relevant policy areas and funding streams – for economic purposes, for health and social care purposes, indeed for everything else too!

“Having worked in Solihull for eight years and now getting to grips with Birmingham it is clear to me that that maximising health, well-being and prosperity for our citizens relies not on superiority complexes or hierarchical relationships but, as with Central Government, in true and sophisticated partnerships of equals utilising a wide range of interdependent geographies”.

BUT Mr Rogers, as Barbara Hayes points out in her petition to David Cameron, no revised structures will achieve these ends if the same power and money hungry people are in place.

cameron corruption

David Cameron deplores corruption, not because it affects people’s health, well-being and prosperity but because it adversely affects economic growth. Again he prescribes structural change: greater transparency, fair tax systems and freer trade. He should read Barbara Hayes’ analysis:

“People talk of voter apathy but in fact many voters are frustrated & dismayed by a political elite that appears self serving or serving vested interests. Decisions are made based on ideology, vested interest and the power of the lobby rather than on the interests of the people affected.

“The expenses scandal, bribes for questions, the possibility of a cover up of child abuse and other instances repeatedly bring politics into disrepute so it’s not surprising that people don’t trust politicians and don’t see the point of voting. We need to change the whole ethos of our democracy.

Politicians need to be regularly reminded that they are elected to serve the people rather than just to pursue a political career. Read more here.

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 To read her petition, follow the link here.

 

*Now a freelance consultant, Barbara Hayes worked as an industrial chaplain for twenty years, with people of every faith and none, in all sizes of organisations in the public and private sectors. 

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ttip logoTheresa forwarded news of an appeal to publicise the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and the USA, which is being negotiated in secret with the EU by the White House.

America is also attempting to introduce another trade treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Asia (TPP). Together, these treaties would encompass most of the rich world – currently excluding China and Russia.

They fear that – if agreed – TTIP would downgrade rights and regulations to US levels and allow companies to sue governments over policy changes, making it far more difficult for the UK government to reverse NHS privatisation and ban fracking.

Who is involved?

Wealthy multinational companies and organisations lobbying governments on the subject include Toyota , General Motors , the pharmaceutical industry, Business Europe, IBM, Food and Drink Europe, EuropaBio and the powerful US Chamber of Commerce.

Less well-heeled analysts assert that powers would be removed from elected domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, establishing further legal powers and commercial opportunities for corporations.

Hard evidence

wikileaks graphicA draft chapter of the TTIP, which concerns issues relating to food safety and animal and plant health, was ‘wiki-leaked’ recently. The text supports no requirement for port of entry food inspections and testing – the U.S. approach – meaning that food contamination outbreaks will be harder to trace to their origin, and liability harder to assess. Such a trade agreement could make it more difficult to restrict imports from countries with animal or plant diseases, such as BSE or plant fungus outbreaks.

A proposal for a legal mechanism to protect corporate investors against citizens and national governments

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership proposals include a mechanism called the investor-state dispute settlement. When included in trade agreements, this mechanism (see ICSID precedent) has allowed corporations to sue governments before arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers, which bypass domestic courts and override the will of parliaments.

Christopher Caldwell, an American journalist who regularly contributes to the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, reports that these negotiations are failing on both fronts.

Just as well?

sierra ttip contents

Readers are asked to contact their local papers to focus attention on the subject. Those who would like to learn more may go to the Sierra Club’s report – contents above.

 

Kurdistan has been divided between Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Russia. With a distinct language and culture, they form the largest nationality in the world that does not have its own homeland. The northern, oil-rich part of Iraq has the largest concentration of Kurds.

A large crowd of Kurds living in Birmingham – men, women and children – gathered in Victoria Square today. This followed a demonstration in London yesterday (below).

kurdish demo london yesterday

Professor Malcolm Dick records that Kurdish refugees in Handsworth include individuals forcibly deported from their homes in Iraq, survivors of the Halabja chemical bombing and those who experienced imprisonment and torture.

The Birmingham speakers called for aid for more than 500,000 men, women and children who have fled Mosul and other cities in the north-west in recent days.These families are exposed to searing heat, often without anything to eat or drink. And the region to which they are heading is already hosting refugees who have escaped from the civil war in Syria and settled in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Corinne Fatah, who worked for over ten years at the Refugee Council, helping successive waves of Kurdish asylum seekers and visits the region frequently, said:

“Don’t miss the boat: aid is urgently required. Speed is essential, work with the Kurdish regional government as the central government is still in turmoil”.

kurdish flagKurds left the country in fear in 1976 after violent oppression by the Shah of Iran (the US’ client).In the 80s others fled, fearing reprisals after uprisings in response to destruction of villages, the killing of thousands of Kurds living in rural areas and attacks using chemical weapons. Many more left after 1991 during Saddam Hussein’s regime and in 2003, following attacks by the US-led coalition during the 2nd Gulf War.

When will news of humanitarian provision hit the headlines which currently focus on military aid?

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Fluoride was recently reclassified as a developmental neurotoxin by American medical authorities

Some readers have reacted strongly on reading the council’s eulogy of fluoridation – one was a doctor who has done research on this issue in the city.

He recalls that senior dental academics and public health professionals were ‘hard-sold’ fluoridation during a visit to the USA in the mid 1950s. They introduced it in Birmingham and rather half-heartedly on Tyneside and encouraged the introduction of fluoride at huge concentrations into toothpaste and other dental toiletries.

rotherham council logoFluoridation of the water supply has been rejected by many other cities, states and countries. One which comes to mind is Rotherham council’s long-term rejection, reaffirmed in their latest water fluoridation review which may be read in full here.

rotherham water fluo review 07 text

Ontario’s Windsor City Council approved the following recommendation (Council Resolution CR18/2013):

windsor ontario council header

windsor ontario fluoridation text

In a study published in the Lancet  (March 2014 issue) Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity, fluoride was reclassified as a developmental neurotoxin by medical authorities.

The authors, Dr. Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine found that an analysis of 27 cross-sectional studies of children exposed to fluoride in drinking water, suggests an average IQ decrement of about seven points in children exposed to raised fluoride concentrations.”

In a review of a 2012 study published by Harvard’s School of Public Health, Grandjean said “Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons that cause chemical brain drain. The effect of each toxicant may seem small, but the combined damage on a population scale can be serious, especially because the brain power of the next generation is crucial to all of us.”

The doctor’s final comment by email:

“It would be great if the council did something useful and honest and stopped mass-medication, providing instead pure unpolluted water. The history of fluoridation in Britain is nearly over. It will end with the careers of those senior officials and academics who nailed the fluoridation banner to their masts 50 years ago, and now dare not admit an error. They were party to the 2000 review, and they know that no further fluoridation schemes will be introduced in this country.

“Whilst alert for rearguard actions, I am content to minimise my own fluoride consumption – which is easily done – and allow those who were misled, and then misled us all, to retire from the scene with a little dignity”.

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In his paean to the city there was not one word about the decaying suburbs, the neglected buildings and the thousands of unemployed young people who have no hope for the future.

albert bore

Heartless triumphalism!

As parasitical financiers and speculators who produce no real wealth enjoy canal-side restaurants, the despised ‘low-skills economy built on metal-bashing’,which he projects as long gone, is actually thriving. A surprising number of SMEs around the city are prospering and employing people who are helping to make useful products.

Read about Sertec, MWA Technology, J8 Precision, Fracino, Beer Geek, Hills Numberplates and companies working in other sectors, many assisted by loans from a non-profit revolving fund, the Aston Reinvestment Trust.

A parable

A local broadcaster told his listeners how much he was looking forward to taking relatives from Australia to see the newly developed canalside region in Broad Street.

The following day he was downcast and ashamed: the areas they visited had been strewn with litter and graffiti had been painted on the new buildings.

If you and other council leaders, Sir Albert, had put even half of taxpayers’ money into the poorer areas of the city, creating employment – because there is manifestly work to be done there – youngsters might not have been resentfully employed in defacing those areas in which you take such pride.

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Many objective observers see the need for radical change to address the city’s acres of dereliction, unemployment blackspots and poor levels of health and childcare, all contrasting strongly with the expenditure lavished on the city centre.

northfield manor fire

As one valued landmark after another is neglected, destroyed or scheduled for destruction, the burning of Manor Farm – renamed The Manor House by Birmingham University, who bought it in 1953 – has prompted this question.

Below is a map showing the levels of unemployment in the city’s ward. Though dated 2010 it is substantially correct. By comparing the undecipherable names on this full-sized version with the clearly named boundaries on the council’s map of ethnic distribution we can see that the worst affected are Washwood Heath, Nechells, Sparkbrook, Lozells, Handsworth, Soho, Aston and Hodge Hill.

city unemployment by ward 2010 map

 A dream team to address the city’s problems? 

Combine Dr Dick Atkinson’s early concept of returning the city’s administration to its ten original villages with Localise West Midlands’ data in their full Mainstreaming Community Economic Development report, and enlist the highly experienced and successful Bournville Village Trust to oversee and guide the setting up of ten such village trusts with appropriate capital and income – not just a Neighbourhood Community Budget – leaving a reduced council staff to co-ordinate services such as refuse collection and transport.

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In 2008 the Mail reported a promise by council officers: ‘the council will restore (the Grade II listed statue of Thomas Attwood) to its former glory before deciding where in the city it can be re-sited’. Earlier this year we focussed on the Spectator’s archived material about the statue.

chartism blog header

In March this year, Stephen Roberts* wrote ‘The Disappearance of Thomas Attwood’ on his blog about the Chartists, which opened:

attwood statue john thomas“In June 2013 I had a letter published in the Literary Review. It was in response to a comment in the previous month’s issue by the Oxford historian Boyd Hilton that Thomas Attwood ‘died unacknowledged, even in Birmingham’.

“Unacknowledged, I thought … no, he wasn’t. They erected a huge statue of him in the middle of the town. For the rest of the century the political leaders of Victorian Birmingham subscribed to a man to the idea that Attwood’s Birmingham Political Union more or less brought about the 1832 Reform Act. And they hadn’t forgotten that it was Attwood, one Friday evening in July 1839, who urged MPs to consider the first great Chartist petition. So I wrote a letter to the Literary Review about all of this.

“The statue of Attwood was unveiled on 7 June 1859 in front of several thousand Brummies. They’d got a top man in to do the job – John Thomas, whose work adorned the Houses of Parliament. Nine feet high, the marble statue depicted Attwood in full flow. (With its base, the statue reached a towering 22 feet). Attwood’s old colleague George Edmunds made the speech & local writer J.A. Langford added a poetic eulogy . . .

“Later on a band turned up to play ‘Rule Britannia’ & ‘Auld Lang Syne’ & a really good day was had by all.

“When Attwood’s bank collapsed in 1865, there were calls for the statue to be moved; but those who had subscribed the £800 to get the job done in the first place made their feelings about that idea pretty clear. And so Attwood stayed put … & stayed put for a very long time. He eventually found himself in Calthorpe Park in Birmingham. A park is perhaps not the best place to put a Victorian statue. Attwood got covered in spray paint.

“When I was invited recently to give a talk on Thomas Attwood at the Library of Birmingham, I was asked where the statue was now. He certainly wasn’t in Calthorpe Park. I had to confess I didn’t know. So I consulted my old friend Professor Carl Chinn. And I learned that Attwood wasn’t now in any park. The city council had put him into storage and that is where he is likely to remain. Carl, in association with Honorary Alderman Matt Redmond, had pressed for the statue to restored to a public place, but had drawn a blank.

“Now this is the fate that befell John Bright, the famous Victorian radical who represented Birmingham from 1859 until 1889. Bright was spending his days in a cage in Rowley Regis until Tory MP Bill Cash engineered his rescue.

“Who knows where the Attwood statue is now. Of course, we have the modern statue of him reclining over the steps in Chamberlain Square. But the Victorian statue has disappeared. It’s a crying shame. One wonders if this would happen in London to a statue of one of their most famous political sons …”

 

*Stephen Roberts is Visiting Research Fellow in Victorian History at Newman University in Birmingham. He has written or edited a number of well-known books on Chartism and related subjects.

 

A Surrey reader sent a statement by the Muslim Council of Britain, whose members include over 500 organisations, mosques, charities and schools. MCB is a broad-based organisation with both Sunni and Shia traditions represented and has always spoken out consistently and loudly against extremism and sectarianism, advocating positive integration of all communities. A summary follows.

The Muslim Council of Britain responds to Peter Clarke’s report on the “Trojan Horse” letter: 23rd July press release

The Muslim of Council of Britain welcomes the Education Secretary Nicola Morgan’s assurance that the government supports ‘the right of Muslim parents to be involved in their children’s schools and their commitment to take leading roles in public life.’ The Education Secretary was responding to the latest report issued by Peter Clarke, who was asked to investigate Birmingham schools following the so-called “Trojan Horse” letter.

“The Muslim Council of Britain unequivocally condemns all terrorism and extremism and we have not seen any evidence to date of such activities in Birmingham schools”.

Other points made:

  • The document proved to be a fake, but accusations of an extremist plot still persists.
  • Mr Clarke says in his report that “I have seen no evidence to suggest that there is a problem with governance generally” (10.1).
  • However, there are issues of poor governance as outlined in this and previous reports by OFSTED, and last week, by Ian Kershaw who was commissioned by Birmingham City Council.
  • The evidence of social media conversations exhibiting inappropriate behaviour are indeed very disturbing and may constitute grounds for disciplinary, procedural and legal action.
  • We call for stronger guidance from OFSTED to ensure parents can continue to be encouraged to be strong members of the governing council, empowered to be effective in those roles.
  • As we have stated time and again, the causes of terrorism are complex, but there is scant evidence that the education system or the Muslim community are the reasons why people turn to terrorism.

Contrary to fundamental requirement of fairness, Mr Clarke has not invited the MCB to explain its position. This is a serious failure on the part of Mr Clarke’s investigation, particularly considering the questions raised about his appointment for this task. The MCB continues:

“We take issue with Mr Clarke’s approach that chooses to ascribe guilt by association, and by conflating conservative Muslim practices to a supposed ideology and agenda to ‘Islamise’ secular schools. Without ever approaching the Muslim Council of Britain during his investigation, Mr Clarke nevertheless chooses to describe the MCB as part of a movement that aims to ‘to increase the role of Islam in education’ and ‘Islamise’ the provision of educational services.

”We agree with point 187 of Ian Kershaw’s report which states that the MCB guidance offers practical guidelines and should not be interpreted as a prescriptive code. And while schools are encouraged to accommodate Muslim parents, they should be read alongside statutory government guidance and toolkits, for example the DfE Guidance on the Equality Act 2010 and the “Public Sector Equality Duty Guidance for Schools” published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.”

Empowering and Achieving

”The primary responsibility of schools is to prepare children for life, assisting them to acquire skills and help them to be successful citizens and professionals. Educational attainment built on academic rigour and critical thinking is at the heart of that task.

”The schools investigated as part of the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ affair had made great strides over the years with some moving from single figure pass rates to some of the best results across the country. The government needs to appreciate that this was possible due to determination and commitment of parents, pupils, teachers and governors.

“Unfounded and malicious allegations threaten the life chances of a generation of our young people, the onus is clearly on OFSTED and Department for Education to monitor the progress of academies and not be side-tracked by culture wars initiated by divisive commentators”.

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The full statement may be seen here: http://www.mcb.org.uk/the-muslim-council-of-britain-responds-to-peter-clarkes-trojan-horse-letter-report/

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American Quaker Viola Purvis once spoke about the media clampdown before the first Iraq war “no other reports of opposition to this military action”:

“Many demonstrated in the Winter Park city (Florida) but we thought we were alone as there were no other reports of opposition to this military action and we gave up. It was only much later that we found that hundreds of thousands of Americans had demonstrated in many cities.

“ If only we had known the truth we would have continued . . .”

Belatedly – thanks to The Brummie aggregator – the writer saw the Mail’s report about more than a thousand protesters gathering in Birmingham city centre on Friday to demand an end to the bloodshed in the Middle-East. Stop The War Coalition had organised the gathering in High Street near the Bullring shopping centre.

gaza demo brum

But did the average reader realise that similar demonstrations were taking place in other British cities – and around the world?

demo london israel

The BBC’s 10pm news bulletin made absolutely no reference to the gathering of 15000 people in London last Saturday (above). 21 British newspaper websites were searched. So many people, so little front-page coverage in this country’s press and elsewhere, with honourable exceptions. The usually outspoken Huffington Post had published and then buried this article.

There was poor international coverage of worldwide demonstrations against Israel’s actions – 34 sites searched

Even less known is the treatment of Israeli Jews who dare to speak out against the slaughter publicly.

An honourable exception: handsome coverage by Israel’s i24, banned in Israel.

i24 logoA find! i24News, based in Jaffa and broadcast worldwide in English, French, and Arabic, is not available in Israel by Hot’s cable network or by satellite broadcaster DBS Satellite Services (1998) Ltd. The protests were covered well, see more here. Despite its apparently objective stance, PM Benjamin Netanyahu has refused a request by owner Patrick Drahi to permit the Israeli public to see this station.

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A review of searing account of Israel’s systematic forced evictions in Palestine: Professor Penny Green, ISCI (School of Law, Kings College) and Amelia Smith, Middle East Monitor, with link, may be read here.

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