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Scripted inquiry answers show child-abuse ‘honest/open debate’ not on cards

Scripted inquiry answers show child-abuse ‘honest/open debate’ not on cards

This they have the nerve to call Democracy

The SKWAWKBOX

Government minister Sajid Javid has called for an ‘open and honest’ debate about child sexual abuse, following the resignation of Sarah Champion for her problematic comments about abuse by Asian men:

javid champion csaBut The SKWAWKBOX looked on Monday at the case of Sharon Evans, former panel member of the government’s child abuse inquiry, who has claimed that members were told how to answer questions put by the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) in order to protect the reputation of Theresa May when she was Home Secretary.

Ms Evans has spoken of the control exerted on panel members testifying to the HASC in a startling interview given to Talk Radio and the fact of the ‘coaching’ has been a matter of public record since 2015 – but the SKWAWKBOX is now able to bring you the scripted answers themselves.

And some of them are both striking and raise serious questions about the…

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Climate change, Trump & Rex Tillerson

Found a gold nugget I did, nice work Bob

Bob Mouncer's blog

I’m reading Naomi Klein’s latest book, No is not enough. On climate change, I didn’t know before how long ago oil companies knew about the dangers. She says, on Exxon:
“… this company, it has now been documented, knew about climate change as far back as the seventies. According to a groundbreaking investigation by InsideClimate News (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize), Exxon did its own cutting-edge empirical research, taking CO 2 samples off its oil tankers and building state-of-the art climate models that predicted the coming changes such as sea-level rise. It also received warnings from its own senior scientists, including James Black who was categorical in his reports to his employer about the ‘general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.’ He also wrote that ‘man has a time…

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Consulting engineer’s 41 #Grenfell questions demand answers

Consulting engineer’s 41 #Grenfell questions demand answers

Yes this list is worth saving for the days of the inquiry
Every question on it is relevant and its vital we get ALL the answers

The SKWAWKBOX

grenfell after

Paul Follows is a hugely experienced Consulting Structural Engineer, Forensic Specialist and Residential Refurbishment Designer who has taken a keen professional and personal interest in the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower and its aftermath. He has used his expertise to put together a comprehensive list of questions that demand answers if the victims and survivors of Grenfell are to have anything approaching justice.

And for the security of every person living in a high rise in this country and beyond.

Explaining why he put together the list and sent it to the SKWAWKBOX, Mr Follows said:

Anything less than complete thoroughness could cause problems again and potentially mean other towers are still at some risk if the emphasis is narrow rather than as complete as possible. ie a full investigation of all parts.

I want to ensure ‘no stone is unturned – a full, thorough and complete” assessment. The danger with forensics…

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Excl: fire-safety expert ‘tests/inspections a sham’. Millions at risk #Grenfell #mustread

Excl: fire-safety expert ‘tests/inspections a sham’. Millions at risk #Grenfell #mustread

Some serious food for thought here, even as an ex Snr HSE person

The SKWAWKBOX

tarling2.pngArnold Tarling

Fire-safety expert Arnold Tarling is a man who has found sudden and unlooked-for fame after a deeply-moving and equally worrying TV interview in which he broke down as he spoke of warning three years ago of the threat posed by the type of cladding used on Grenfell Tower and of bursting into tears at four in the morning last week when he saw the news of the terrible fire:

Tarling is clearly a man completely committed to keeping people safe – and something of an action man, who has been known to abseil down the sides of buildings to carry out safety checks, although all he says on the matter is, “I’m not your typical surveyor”.

Mr Tarling very kindly spoke at some length to the SKWAWKBOX about his fears for the safety of residents, the warnings he gave – and the vast, barely-scratched fire threat facing hundreds…

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Some Issues In Our Party Need Addressing.

Excellent look at the Labour party post election date

Checking Reality

Vindicated is how I’m told I should feel, but I don’t. Vindication implies that I was proven right, I already knew I was right – others now telling me I am doesn’t change how I feel because I never needed affirmation. I, like thousands of others are secure enough to be comfortable with our own belief without approval from others and that was tested time and time again over the past 24 months.

Twitter is now littered with people saying “I’m glad Jeremy proved me wrong”, like seeking to prove something to these people was his objective. Like they were silent observers who gave him a fair ride. Like he has achieved something by meeting their approval.

Words are important, and one word very few of them are using is ‘sorry’.

It has been two years of constant attacks and abuse, which caused distressed, distraction and damage to our members…

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We mustn’t talk about Jeremy

An excellent piece, resonates with me too, as does The Candidate

It could be you

Although I despair of politics, you and I just cannot avoid or escape it in everyday life, much as many of us would like to. I don’t claim to fully understand it, or even understand it to a novice level, but I do get gut feelings about what is wrong and what is right. My earliest memories of politics, around the 11-16 age range are how I was influenced in my leanings by the media. I remember being confused as to who stood for what and even which MP was a member of which party. It was all such a jumbled mess. However, I could sense what the parties stood for in general terms. Who represented who in terms of social class. It didn’t help that my parents were on either side of the political divide, with my Mum being a Labour voter, my Grandfather on her side, Walter Jenkins…

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Bill Poster, The Bengali Tiger.

 

Personal observations from a memorable 7 months spent in Bangladesh, between August 1999 and April 2000. One of the poorest countries on the planet, but where the human spirit seems to be at its strongest.

I was busy working on a project in the Bay of Bengal and was based in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Part of my daily duties included ferrying personnel by small boat between the various elements of our Seismic crew, working offshore, either on a secondary base on Sandwip (Pron. Shawn-dipp) Island or a barge installation, assuming we could remember where we had last parked it.           

Our boat was based on the Kharnaphuli River, and to get there from the Staff house in the Khulshi Hills we had to drive right past the main gates of the Bangladesh Naval Academy, a very smart establishment a little bit like the famous UK Dartmouth Naval academy, but a lot more like something from “It aint ‘arf hot mum”.

During this daily commute by car, I had noticed that close to the main gate of the college a solitary old man had pitched a tent on the wide grass verge. Alongside this tent was a mountain of paint tins, mostly second hand, of all sorts, shapes and sizes, and my curiosity was aroused.

As the days went by my morning and evening commute saw a large bamboo scaffolding appear, looking pretty precarious but gradually taking shape as the frame to a giant billboard.

The Billboard was 4 -5 metres high and about 12 metres long, standing on legs so that the bottom of the frame was a couple of metres from the ground. The entire structure was held together with rope lashings and what looked like baling twine.

Traffic was usually heavy at this point and I often nodded or waved to the old man as we crawled past, and he always responded with a cheery and rather toothless smile.Once the frame of the billboard was complete the boarding itself was built up from dozens of bits of board, all shapes and sizes that he’d scavenged. They filled the rectangle like a deranged jigsaw puzzle.

With all the holes filled in, the surface was treated to a few miles of Gaffer-tape to cover all the cracks and imperfections, and then a few coats of white paint mixed with glue. Every day saw progress, but it took 5/6 weeks to complete. But suddenly one day there was a blindingly white Billboard, with a neat frame, and a totally professional finish…. just so long as you didn’t go round to the back and see how it was all held together.

“Job done!” I thought, “now we will see someone rock up with a few rolls of poster and a big pot of glue, wonder what ad it will be?”

Never make assumptions, and certainly not in places like Chittagong, what you see is not always what you get.

The old man was only occasionally seen for the following week or so, pushing a hand cart loaded with more paint, and the pile of mostly part-used pots alongside his tent grew to an impressive size. And then, one day he appeared back on the scaffold again, armed with a pocketful of pencils, and busy at work, sketching outlines.

At first it was hard to see what it was he was drawing from the distance we usually passed, so one morning, while stuck in heavy traffic, I jumped out of the car for a closer look. I was gobsmacked.

It was the Julie Andrews scene from the Sound of Music, “The Hills are alive” bit, with J.A. and the kids skipping up the hillside holding hands and the most awesome mountain scenery backdrop behind. The old man saw me and was clearly very proud of his work but laughing his head off at the dopy Englishman standing gawping with an astonished look on his face.

The old man fired off a string of what sounded like questions to me and all I could do was shrug and grin at him, making “Bugger me that’s good” type noises and gestures. Luckily my driver heard this and saw me struggling stepped in to translate for us. We had a great chat, agreed to meet up often, and he asked me to stop and tell him what I thought from time to time. All I really found out was that he was a trained artist, and this was a commission for him that was going to pay him handsomely

So I had met the artist, and even shook hands with him, and he had let me in on the secret, and day by day, over a total period of 3 months, all I had to do was watch, as a glorious technicolour scene from the Sound of music took place before my very eyes. It was superb, magnificent, and flawless too. It WAS Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp kids, life sized and recognisable, in the mountains and singing that bloody awful song (It’s even got back in my head just now writing this FFS).

In the bottom right hand corner, perfectly executed, was the Fuji Film logo and a statement in Bengali that if YOU “wanted the hills to come alive in living colour you had better buy their film stock”.

Abruptly one day, the tent, along with the old man disappeared. He had cleared up and cleared off. I had an empty feeling, a part of my daily life had come to a sudden end, and I was so deeply caught up in it all, that I never even saw “The End” arriving.

Shit!

Our work was now taking on a whole new twist, with operations in the Bay of Bengal being the most challenging I have ever worked in, and I confess, the old man went out of my mind temporarily.

To make things interesting, we had heard that a Typhoon was in the Bay, and tracking aimlessly about with no particular direction.

The JTWC (Joint Typhoon Warning Centre) in Canberra, Australia were providing daily updates on its strength and position, and after nearly a week of uncertainty we got all complacent, and went to the Monday evening “Pub Night” to get lubricated, celebrating the demise of Typhoon “Rupert”.

And lo, did it not come to pass that the following morning, (over a light breakfast of Paracetamol and copious puffs of Oxygen from the mechanic’s workshop), we did come to receive the news that “Rupert” had had a change of heart, and the bastard was strengthening, and now tracking in a dead straight line for Chittagong. Deep Joy.

We were organised for once, and had put a traffic light zone alert system in place, so by the time the storm had entered our Green Zone, we were getting things ready to evacuate.

When it reached the Yellow Zone we put the evacuation plan into practice and got the boats out of the Bay and deep inland, way up-river, sending our 1000 strong workforce home, and battening down everything we could.

Imagine my surprise when at this critical stage I got called into the office by the Crew Chief, to be told that as I had already completed twice as many days as my shift rotation permitted, I could now go home for a “couple of weeks”.

In actual fact our rotations meant that I had earned 6 weeks at home at least, so the thought of going home for a “Couple of weeks” was somewhat underwhelming.

Anyway, I got the hell out of Dodge. Typhoons are not to be taken lightly, especially when you are owed 6 weeks leave and there is still time to make the airport.***

I confess that I did feel slightly bad about leaving my mates behind to deal with Big Bad “Rupert”, my guilt lasted all of a Nanosecond.

Then I got on the plane and went home to see the wife and lovely new Daughter, who, at a year old had just managed to say “Dads working in Banladess”, in Dutch.

All hell did break loose in Chittagong, but not nearly as much as it did 100m west of Chittagong where the storm first touched land, with over 2000 dead and whole villages washed away. Typhoons and storm surges are a very big thing in Bangladesh. One that hit them in 1991 killed several hundred thousand people.

Once over, the storm damage was repaired and the crew reformed. I had had about 10 days leave out of the promised 42 days but we got going again. On my first trip back to the harbour I was sickened by the site of the famous (in my head at least) Billboard, which had been reduced to a few sticks poking out of the grass.

Weeks and weeks of work blown to bits, scattered to the 4 winds.

The following morning however, the tent was back, with a huge pile of debris arranged neatly alongside of it. I didn’t see the old man for more than a week, but when I did, he was already up on the beginning of his makeshift scaffolding, piecing together the bits he had gathered up from all over the neighbourhood. We had found a few biggish bits of the billboard in the river one day and gave them to a friendly lorry driver to dump by the old man’s tent.

A couple of days later the old man rushed up to our car as we passed in the morning, and banged on the window with a Pineapple, it was his gift to us for finding his stuff.

3 weeks later, the whole thing was reassembled, good as new, and a week after that I left Bangladesh for the last time.

I took something with me though. An undying respect for the power of little men, with no money, and little education, yet seeming to have all the strength of a Bengal Tiger

***

There is a bit of a sub story here.

To avoid the Typhoon, I had flown from Chittagong to Dhaka, for my international flight to Paris, but when I checked in they had “mysteriously” managed to sell my seat. Several times I believe.

Of course it didn’t take long to figure out why, with a Typhoon coming, those folk that could afford it were also getting out of the country PDQ, and had been waving blocks of currency about that would choke a donkey.

Very tired and after nearly 3 months away working, I aimed myself at the highest ranking Air France official I could find and ripped into him. I was not about to take Non! for an answer. I had a ticket and a seat number and I was putting my backside on that seat come what may.

I wore him down, and he buggered off to have a conversation.

He returned half an hour later and took me to one side. In one hand he had an envelope, and in the other he had my laptop bag with me still attached, heading off across the lounge. We arrived at the Lufthansa desk, words were spoken, my passport was requested and all was in order.

If I would care to accept the envelope, containing $1250, the nice people at Lufthansa would take me to Frankfurt, 1st Class, on a flight leaving Dhaka only 1 hour later than my original Paris flight.

I don’t know about you but I have never earned $1250 in a single hour before (Or since), especially as it was spent having a Champagne Breakfast in the Lufthansa VIP suite.

Five things taught to me by Tony Benn

The World Turned Upside Down

Benn 2It’s been three years since Tony Benn left us. For many of the left, both inside and outside the Labour Party, his departure still leaves a huge hole, despite everything that has happened since his death in March 2014. I think about Tony a lot, imagining what his reactions would be – to Brexit; to Trump’s election; to the shifts on the British left, and the schisms that have opened up.

Benn’s formal political career stretched from 1950 to 2001, but he continued as a huge presence after that decision to ‘leave Parliament to spend more time on politics’, especially in the Anti-War movement. In that huge span of 50 plus years, he transformed from the ‘bright young thing of the party’ (with few socialist credentials) to the ‘kindly, harmless, grandfather’ figure that used to annoy him so much. In between, his politics and his career made somersaults and contradictory…

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