Friday, June 13, 2014
Oxfam's film poster is a disgrace, say Tories: MPs lodge complaint with charities watchdog over advert attacking austerity
They are now as much a Leftist propaganda outfit as a charity. Conservatives should not donate to them
Conservative MPs have stepped up a row with Britain’s leading aid charity over its ‘misleading’ assault on the Government’s austerity programme.
Ministers are understood to share anger at Oxfam’s campaign accusing the Government of creating a ‘perfect storm’, including ‘benefit cuts’ and ‘unemployment’, which it suggested was fuelling hardship in Britain.
Oxfam insisted it had a ‘duty’ to highlight hardship in the UK, but Tories branded its attack a ‘disgrace’ as official figures showed another record increase in the number of people in work.
They have lodged a complaint to the charities watchdog claiming the campaign breaches laws barring charities from political campaigning.
Oxfam’s campaign involves a mock film poster showing a raging sea and black skies, carrying the slogan: ‘The perfect storm... starring zero hours contracts, high prices, benefits cuts, unemployment, childcare costs.’
Conservative MP Priti Patel, a member of the Number Ten policy advisory board, said: ‘Oxfam are behaving disgracefully by misleading the public about Government policies and their political campaigning may be in breach of their charitable remit.
‘They have shown their true colours and are now nothing more than a mouthpiece for left wing propaganda.’
Conservative MP Dominic Raab said: ‘It is sad, when a charity doing such great work abroad to alleviate poverty, becomes embroiled in politically partisan attacks in an attempt to compete with all the other head-in-the-sand left-wing groups and grab a few headlines”
Political commentator Tim Montgomerie, former chief of staff to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, said: ‘I won’t be giving to Oxfam again. I want to help the poorest people of the world, not finance left-wing politics.’
Charlie Elphicke, a Conservative MP, accused Oxfam of engaging in an overtly ‘political’ that was not borne out by the facts.
‘My concern is that charities should walk the walk - helping make a difference to people at the front line - not talk the talk - engage in advertising or political campaigning. They should make a difference to people in their daily life,’ he said.
‘I think we can all see the messaging here and what Oxfam is intending to say. My bigger concern in many ways is that a lot of it is not accurate; we have got a government that is reforming zero-hours contracts, we have seen unemployment fall by 400,000, we have seen inequality - the gap between the rich and the poor - falling, we have seen relative poverty falling, and we have seen food poverty falling according to OECD figures.’
Tories also pointed to Oxfam’s links to the Labour Party, notably through its honorary treasurer David Pitt-Watson, who was appointed general secretary of the Labour Party in 2008, but did not take up the post.
Mr Pitt-Watson was Labour’s finance director from 1997 to 1999. Jo Cox, a former head of policy at Oxfam, has been selected as a Labour candidate at the next election and is chair of the Labour women’s network.
Ben Phillips, Oxfam’s campaigns and policy director, defended the advert, arguing the campaign was not political and that the charity has a duty to draw attention to the hardship ‘suffered by poor people we work with in the UK.’
‘Fighting poverty should not be a party political issue,’ he added.
The Charity Commission said it was considering a complaint about the campaign to determine whether a full-scale inquiry should be launched.
Vintage Chemistry Sets Show We Used to Be Way More Chill About Chemicals
In their mid-20th century heyday, chemistry sets inspired kids to grow up to be scientists. Intel founder Gordon Moore, for example, credits a chemistry set with sparking his lifelong interest in science (not to mention some pretty neat explosions along the way).
Chemistry sets seem to have fallen out of favor in recent years, but there’s a movement to bring them back—or at least recapture some of the unstructured experimentation the old sets encouraged. In this gallery, we take a look at some vintage sets from the collection of the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum in Philadelphia. They provide an interesting perspective on how public attitudes towards science shifted over the course of the 20th century, says Kristen Frederick-Frost, the museum’s curator of artifacts and collections manager.
In the early to mid 1900s, there was growing optimism that science could solve many of the important problems facing the world, Frederick-Frost says. Chemistry kits reflected this enthusiasm, featuring what was new and exciting at the time: Plastics! Atomic Energy! Outer Space! It was common for the box of a kit to feature both an image of a young boy playing with the kit and an image of a scientist in his lab—the man the boy would grow up to be. “It’s about much more than chemistry, it’s about creating the ideal citizen through play,” she said.
“The typical historical narrative goes that after the war and after Sputnik there’s this huge push to get more scientists in the field,” Frederick-Frost said. There are some wrinkles in that story, though. “If it was purely about mobilizing as many scientists as possible, the sets would have been made to be attractive to far more flavors of people than just white boys,” she said. “More so, the ‘science’ promoted wasn’t completely open ended; it’s especially the stuff with defensive or industrial utility.”
At the same time, there was often an entertainment aspect to the sets. A 1940s Chemcraft set, for example, included a pamphlet on how to put on a chemistry-themed magic show. “It covers everything from how to make thunder sound effects and crackling flames to how to arrange a curtain between you and your audience and how to affect the air of an alchemist,” Frederick-Frost said.
Attitudes started to shift in the 60s and 70s, however. This was the era of Silent Spring, Thalidomide babies, and Three Mile Island, all of which, among other influences, made the public more wary of chemistry and the industries built on it. “We have a much more mixed view of science now,” Frederick-Frost said. “Yes, it’s good, but it’s also scary.”
Add to that 21st century fears of litigation, home-grown terrorism, and Walter White, and it’s little wonder modern chemistry kits seem so tame. In one 1996 kit from the museum’s collection, the tiny vials of chemicals are just big enough to accommodate prominent warning labels. Another kit, not shown here, boasts on the box that it includes no chemicals. One reviewer mocked it as an “astounding oxymoron of a product” (to be fair, it does use chemicals, just ones you acquire for yourself in the form of household materials like vinegar and baking powder).
Some people want more. A recent Kickstarter campaign raised almost $150,000 to build “heirloom chemistry sets” modeled on a kit originally sold in the 1920s through 1940s. And in April, a competition sponsored in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded $50,000 to a Stanford bioengineer who invented a a hand-crank chemistry kit that can be customized for an endless variety of chemistry experiments.
The Chemical Heritage Foundation has taken a different tack. They recently released a free iPad app called ChemCrafter that lets you build your own chemistry lab and mix stuff together. Sure, it’s safe for all ages—no safety goggles required. But the website promises it won’t be boring: “You’ll create surprising color changes, encounter fire and smoke, release various gases, and shatter equipment.” Is it as educational and inspiring as blowing stuff up for real? That’s up to you to decide.
British electricity engineer abandons attempt to install meter because he wasn't trained in using STEP LADDERS
What a wuss!
An engineer refused to install an electricity meter at a couple's home - after telling them he was not trained to climb step ladders.
The worker, from Utility Warehouse, said he was not allowed to use ladders while he was carrying out work at John Stearn's house in Saltburn, Teeside.
Instead, the engineer downed tools and left saying specialist colleagues would have to finish the job.
The company says their employee was unable to carry out the work for 'health and safety reasons'.
Mr Stearn added: 'You don't need a training course to be able to use a pair of ladders. 'You have to laugh at what seems another silly health and safety rule.'
He had asked his supplier to change both his gas and electricity meters to a pre-payment scheme.
The gas meter was changed without any delay because it was at ground level but the electricity meter was placed on the wall above head height.
With the pair facing financial difficulties, he had hoped the work could have been done quickly to help manage his bills. 'We agreed to have pre-payment meters installed thinking it would be a simple thing to do, but we had this delay over the ladders,' he added.
Mr Stearn said that he had been one of the company's customers for 'a number of years'.
Jon Goddard, head of distributor marketing at the Utility Warehouse, admitted there had been a health and safety issue over the job at Mr Stearn's home.
He said: 'We were able to install a gas pre-payment meter, but the installation of the electricity pre-payment meter has been delayed because the engineer we sent to do this work was unable to climb a ladder to exchange the meter due to health and safety reasons.
The highly specialised work was later completed after being referred to a specialist metering team at the company.
The racial tensions behind Sweden’s idyllic facade
Immigrants out of sight, out of mind. Stockholm’s outskirts reveal a segregated, racially unequal and Islamophobic society
Last month, I went to Stockholm on a reporting trip. The city seemed idyllic: bicycles aplenty standing unlocked outside at night, Volvos with their doors open and engines running, and not a cigarette butt in sight. In trendy Hornstull, bearded bros high-fived each other over Brooklyn craft beers. But everyone, it seemed, was white.
I got chatting with some of these happy hipsters and asked where I might find some of the million Somalis, Kurds, Iraqis, Chileans and Syrians who began arriving in the ’70s seeking asylum in what many perceived to be a Scandinavian “paradise.” Ever since, Sweden’s immigrant population has largely reflected wherever there has been conflict or unrest in the world. “They live in the suburbs, at the end of the blue metro line,” Karl informed me, adjusting his sunglasses in the dimly lit bar. “Don’t go there now, though, it's pretty dangerous. They’re pretty angry, and it's nighttime; black people get pretty angry when there’s no sun.”
“Don’t you think that’s pretty racist?” I asked. Karl hesitated for a moment, shooting a look at his drinking companion before removing his Ray-Bans and turning back to me. “I’m not racist,” he said. “I’m Swedish.”
My time in Sweden suggested that Karl’s articulation of the apparent exclusivity of these two concepts was not an anomaly confined to late-night drinking. Sweden proclaims itself to be an inclusive and tolerant society despite its segregated cities, racial inequality and Islamophobia. But that’s false. One only has to look at the main entrance to the Central Mosque in the middle of Stockholm to see the remains of the swastikas painted on the doors. The rise of the far right, and the entrance of the Sweden Democrats into Sweden’s parliament, have created a space to further isolate those who don’t look “Swedish.” Twice in central Stockholm, when accompanied by two Swedish-born Somalis, I was told to go back to my own country. Recent statistics show a large increase in hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, African-born residents and the Roma community.
Hate crimes and inequality
Sweden’s rising inequality plays a role in these social tensions, but racism is not a new phenomenon in this society. Regularly overlooked in Sweden’s history is its role in the slave trade and colonialism. Under King Gustav III, Sweden held colonies such as Saint Barthélemy in the Caribbean and profited directly from the slaves who were imported onto the island and then sold to French colonies and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Sweden actively participated and embraced the agreements in the dividing up of the African continent in the Berlin conference of 1884–85. More recently, in 1922, the country was the first to establish a National Institute of Racial Biology at Uppsala University to measure the racial makeup of the population and the size of people's heads in a vain attempt to learn about hereditary illnesses. This institute was associated with a eugenics movement network that “may have been relatively small but it was nevertheless historically significant,” writes Maria Björkman of Linköping University, “because of its intimate ties with that part of the German eugenics movement that would shape Nazi biopolitics.” It has not been until the last few years that this dark history has begun to be fully examined.
Today, politicians are helping to solidify outmoded notions of “difference” in Swedish society. In 2012 the prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, buying into the rhetoric of the increasingly popular far-right political party the Sweden Democrats, made headlines by speaking about “ethnic Swedes.” The same year, the minister of culture displayed outrageous ignorance by cutting into a cake depicting a racist caricature in an attempt to highlight female genital mutilation. Is it any wonder the “they” whom the Hornstull hipster described are angry?
The portion of Sweden’s population whom certain politicians see as ‘other’ is close to 28 percent.
Such incidents are happening in a country with a foreign-born population of over 1.5 million — about 15 percent of the total population. This level is comparable to rates of foreign-born citizens in countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and Norway. However, Sweden stands out for its disproportionate number of European Union asylum applications. In 2012 the country received 13 percent of the EU’s total applications. There are an additional 695,775 citizens who have one foreign-born and one native Swedish parent; there are also those 467,697 Swedes born to two foreign-born parents. In fact, the portion of Sweden’s population whom those politicians see as “other” is closer to 28 percent.
Much to the surprise of the world’s media, these “others” rioted last year in suburban Husby. Police brutality certainly played a part, but the incidents indicated much bigger problems in Swedish society as a whole. For one, Swedish cities are segregated by design. The well-meaning “Million Program” of the 1960s and ’70s, which set out to build affordable housing developments across the country, was ambitious and well intentioned. However, it concentrated low-income rental properties in faraway and inconvenient suburbs, which began the fragmentation of Swedish society.
Those arriving from abroad in the ’70s could afford only to move into these distinctive Million Program rentals, while the white middle and upper classes moved into cooperative housing or bought houses outright in the “Swedish-looking” accommodation mainly situated in the centers. This resulted in what Irene Molina, professor of social and economic geography at Uppsala University, has called “the racialization of the city.”
Take Tensta, a suburb that was part of the Million Program: It lies on the northern edge of Stockholm’s metro map, buried deep underground. In order to get there from the central station, one has to walk down three escalators, to the deepest section of the city’s main metro station where the blue line runs north. Here we see another, more complete Sweden of different colors and communities.
In Tensta and other suburbs, children go to schools whose student body is composed of 90 percent first- or second-generation immigrants. I visited a local school called Tensta Gymnasium, which prides itself on its immigrant-heavy student body. I asked if attracting blond-haired and blue-eyed Swedish schoolchildren to Tensta Gymnasium might aid integration, to which principal Sofie Abrahamsson replied, “Why should we put money into attracting those from elsewhere, when we know they won’t come?”
Abrahamsson’s resigned attitude makes sense. Outside the archipelago of immigrant islands such as Tensta, Rinkeby, Alby and Husby, racism and Islamophobia are commonplace. Social media have provided a small ray of hope, with Instagram accounts such as Svartkvinna (Black woman) and Muslimskvinna (Muslim woman) offering a platform for those “others” to articulate their stories. Johanna Lihagen, a Swedish woman who converted to Islam, created Muslimskvinna and told me that, as a Muslim, “you must always be prepared for questions — when you're at the dentist, at your local grocery store, at work, when you are meeting a doctor. You can never believe the things doctors ask a Muslim woman.”
Beacon of hope
Externally, Sweden projects itself as an egalitarian beacon of hope in an intolerant world. Swedes love to hold seminars, create associations and broadcast panel discussions about their “integration problems.” But seminars and short-term policies won’t help. Sweden needs a radical reorganization of the way its cities are planned, its educational systems are structured and its minorities are represented across all levels of society to prevent repeats of the Husby riots.
Toward the end of my stay in Sweden, I sat on a bench in Tensta’s main square. People talked to each other outside the bustling Iraqi-run market. A Syrian asylum seeker tried to sell me a pack of dodgy cigarettes before asking about my family. There was a sense of community in the suburbs that I didn’t experience in the center of the city.
A young Somali woman came and sat next to me. “I’m three times screwed in Swedish society: I’m black, Muslim and Somali,” she said. She paused to acknowledge her friends as they headed to school, before summing up what so many Swedish suburbanites told me: “Swedes are so image-conscious that they forget to look at what’s really happening in our country. We, the foreigners, are so many, but we are hidden on the outskirts of society and on the fringes of the city. They put us here so we can’t be seen.”
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.