AFGHANISTAN: Islamic State (Isis) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 34 students in Kabul yesterday.
The terror group bragged that it had killed or injured over 200 in the attack on young Shia women and men preparing for university entrance exams at an educational centre.
LIBYA: A court sentenced 45 people to death yesterday for killings committed as forces loyal to former leader Muammar Gadaffi clashed with jihadist rebels in Tripoli in 2011.
The executions by firing squad are for people who fought on the Gadaffi government’s side, while the widespread killing of Gadaffi supporters, black people and the lynching of the former leader himself have not been punished.
TURKEY: The lira is recovering following a pledge by Gulf kingdom Qatar to invest $15 billion in the country.
Following US tariff increases against Turkish steel and aluminium, Qatar’s support may be revenge for Washington’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, which has led a blockade of the tiny kingdom.
GERMANY: Chemicals giant Bayer says it has sold off some Monsanto assets as required by competition regulators and is now ready to integrate the agricultural corporation into its structures.
This means it will now “become actively involved in defence efforts” related to Monstanto’s Roundup weedkiller, it said.
Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages last week to Dewayne Johnson, a school groundkeeper who developed terminal cancer after long use of Roundup, which Monsanto denies is carcinogenic.
A GERMAN judge accused authorities yesterday of testing “the limits of the law” by deporting a suspected jihadist to Tunisia without waiting for guarantees he would not be tortured.
A man known as Sami A under German privacy rules, accused of having been an aide to al-Qaida founder Osama Bin Laden, was deported on July 13 despite a court ruling the previous evening that he should remain in Germany until Tunisian authorities offered assurances about his treatment.
The court apparently faxed the ruling to government officials who did not receive the archaic communique until he was already airborne.
Judges ordered he be brought back to Germany, prompting an appeal by the city of Bochum. North Rhine-Westphalia’s top court rejected the appeal on Wednesday.
Court chief justice Ricarda Brandts complained of “significant public pressure” to allow the deportation, including from politicians, which created “expectations” as to how the court should rule.
A YOUNG Vietnamese man who was trafficked into Britain as a child lost his case yesterday that the Home Office’s alleged failure to provide him with support in immigration detention was “illustrative of systemic failings.”
The man, referred to only as H, was 16 or 17 when he was trafficked into Britain to work on a cannabis farm, where he was arrested in October 2013.
He absconded and was not located until February 2016, when he was detained and eventually sentenced to eight months imprisonment for cannabis production.
He was “released” in June 2016 but went straight into immigration detention while the Home Office tried to deport him, despite having considered there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect that he had been trafficked.
H told several members of staff at the various immigration removal centres (IRC) he was held in that he had been tortured by his traffickers and had also been “raped on several occasions.”
He is currently bringing separate claims against Morton Hall IRC and the Ministry of Justice, over alleged failures to properly respond to his report of an attempted rape by a fellow detainee, and against Derbyshire and Merseyside police forces.
Dr Frank Arnold, who examined him in May 2017, considered that H suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, that detention was having an “adverse effect” on his mental health and it was “highly likely” that detention had “compounded psychological damage.”
H was finally released on bail in June 2017. In May, the Home Office admitted that the “entire period of [H’s] immigration detention was unlawful” and that he was entitled to “substantial” damages.
But his lawyers also argued that the Home Office had failed to provide him the support he needed in immigration detention, given his “complex mental health diagnosis and needs,” and that H’s treatment exposed a “wider problem” in the government’s treatment of trafficking victims.
Mr Justice Nicol, however, dismissed H’s application for judicial review, ruling that the Home Office were not obliged to provide medical support just because H was a victim of trafficking.
He also said it would be “inappropriate” to make a declaration on whether or not there were “systemic problems with the procedures for dealing with victims of trafficking.”
THE “academy” programme, where state schools are taken away from local education authorities and handed over to private multi-academy trusts has been opposed by the left from the start, but the failure and waste of this undemocratic scheme is finally being more widely understood.
But commentators could have grasped where the academy programme was going a lot more quickly if they understood it was copying a US model.
The academy programme is really based on George W Bush’s schools plan.
Tory ministers have been quite clear that they are following Bush’s scheme, but the British media hasn’t noticed.
The US has had “charter” schools for years. Charter schools got a huge boost under Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” Act, which pushed more state schools into becoming charter schools.
Charter schools, which are publicly funded but run by private boards — typically made up of “entrepreneurs,” business executives and “unconventional” educational thinkers — are the model for academy schools.
So academy schools are basically a Bush policy. Our main educational plan is inspired by the man who said: “They misunderestimated me.”
Bush’s famous statements on education include: “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” and his insightful statement: “One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.”
Bush also famously declared: “I know the human being and fish can co-exist peacefully.”
The simple statement that the academy policy is based on Bush’s educational ideas should have been enough to kill it stone dead.
Instead, the academy programme has got bigger and bigger. New Labour governments wanted academies to be part of the educational landscape. The Tories then ramped this up, trying to force most, if not all, schools into becoming academies.
This July the public accounts committee of MPs showed where this policy is going.
It pointed out that “the checks that the department carries out before schools convert to academies have not prevented a succession of high-profile academy failures that have been costly to the taxpayer and damaging to children’s education.”
Even if academies don’t fail, the Department for Education (DfE) “could not prove whether converting underperforming schools to academies had been better value for money than leaving them as maintained schools.”
Separately, the education select committee of MPs showed the government has spent £745 million since 2010/11 on turning schools into academies. That’s almost a billion pounds on a programme that the DfE can’t even say is better than state schools.
The trusts running academies are private, so this is a privatisation.
However, the government has argued that it “isn’t really” privatisation because academy trusts are “not-for-profit” organisations.
However, they can funnel out money to companies run by their directors, through what are known as “related transactions,” which has led to many scandals.
Academy trusts are also “business-like,” paying very high salaries for top staff, while often trying to cut classroom salaries.
All these failures were apparent in the “charter schools.” When he was education secretary, Michael Gove visited the US Knowledge Is Power Programme (Kipp) charter group. He also brought Kipp staff to Britain.
Kipp runs around 200 charter schools in the US. Its supporters claim it has a “no excuses” culture that gets good results for underprivileged Afro-American and Hispanic kids.
However, critics say this is an illusion. A Columbia University study found the secret of its success. Its schools have a “high rate of attrition” for children with low test scores, along with “selective entry and exit of students and … higher levels of funding.” So less able kids don’t get in or are booted out. This will improve Kipp’s figures, but won’t help pupils.
Kipp tried to disprove this with a study from a think tank called Mathematica Policy Research. Its accounts showed Kipp paid an incredible $2.1m to Mathematica Policy Research to come up with its study. That’s a huge sum for a state-funded schools group to pay for “friendly” research.
Kipp records showed other high spending. In one year, 2013, its tax filing showed it had paid an incredible $1.8m to the upmarket Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for “lodging and hospitality,” presumably for some kind of conference. It also paid Marriott Hotels $967,000 for “lodging and hospitality” in that year.
The year before it paid Walt Disney World $1.2m for “hotel and hospitality” — also probably a conference. The event was held at Disney’s Epcot Centre in Florida, the more “upmarket” bit of Disney’s magic kingdom.
There are also high salaries at the top. Kipp was founded in 1994 by Mike Feinberg. In 2015 he had a $231,000-a-year salary. Feinberg helped to shape Kipp’s “no excuses” culture.
Kipp says it is all about building students’ “character” as well as academic success — a theme the Tories have picked up.
It says its character slogan is “Work hard, be nice.” It says its “character work focuses on the seven strengths,” including “grit,” ”gratitude,” “self-control and “zest.”
In 2016, education professor Jim Horn wrote a book based largely on former Kipp teachers’ experience called Work Hard, Be Hard — because the former teachers said Kipp wasn’t nice to its staff or pupils at all.
Kipp had a high staff turnover, which kept Kipp management from facing challenges to their methods. Teachers said they were encouraged to scream at pupils, with head teachers giving the impression that “because of cultural differences, black students are accustomed to being screamed at … because that’s how their parents speak to them.”
One teacher reported that her Kipp school hid the worst-behaved students in the basement when visitors came by.
Horn argued that “The Kipp model applies a psychological/character intervention programme that is sustained by pedagogical machismo mixed with no excuses authoritarianism.”
Kipp’s authoritarian model looked a lot darker this year. This February, Kipp sacked Feinberg because “an independent, outside investigation found credible evidence of abuse and harassment that was incompatible with Kipp’s values and unwavering commitment to student well-being.”
Two adult members of Kipp staff accused Feinberg of sexual harassment. At least one received a financial settlement. A former Kipp pupil also accused Feinberg of “sexual impropriety.” Kipp said the accusation could not be proved, but it was “credible.”
So the founder of a charter school chain that is a model for our academy programme has been sacked over allegations of the worst kind of exploitation.
IT’S the same the wide world over.
Ain’t it all a bleeding shame,
It’s the rich wot gets the pleasure,
It’s the poor wot gets the blame.
How things have changed from when that Victorian ditty was penned.
Today we are all equal in an equal world. At least that’s what many would have you believe, from Theresa May to the many self-appointed media gurus who pontificate to us from printed page and digital screen.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Research shows that the pay gap between those born into wealthier families and those with less well-off parents is widening.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that, in 2012, a 42-year-old man from the richest fifth of households earned an average of 88 per cent more than those from the poorest families. In 2000, the same difference was just 47 per cent. That gap is widening.
Thanks to May and her Tory government’s policies that have consistently attacked the standard of living of poorer working-class people and families while giving even more tax breaks and bonuses to the better off, Britain is becoming increasingly divided, with whole sections of the of the population being left behind.
Some commentators may want to pay lip service to social mobility initiatives, but make no mistake, equality in Britain is actually going backwards.
When May became prime minister in 2016, she promised to fight the “burning injustice” of inequality in modern Britain. Yet her own Social Mobility Commission reports that all government efforts to improve social mobility have failed to deliver.
The statistics assume that those from both groups can get a paid job, but these reports also identified inequality in the employment market, with men from higher-income backgrounds significantly more likely to be in paid employment.
As well as earning more and being more likely to have a job, those from richer families are more likely to have a partner and to have a higher-earning partner than those from less well-off backgrounds.
The Tory government’s planned cuts to tax credits over the next few years are sure to make matters worse, causing yet a further increase in inequality. These tax credit cuts are already hitting hard at the poorest in society and look set to hit harder still.
When it comes to buying food, the better off have a rich choice, but at the other end of the food price spectrum foodbanks are Britain’s biggest growing feature of the entire food distribution system.
The latest NHS proposals claim to be saving money by cutting out smaller, simpler, less necessary operations.
Tell that to the child crying himself to sleep every night in agony from his infected tonsils or the mum and dad trying to comfort him.
Tell it to the young waitress with varicose veins from too much standing. Painful piles? Sorry, not serious enough for NHS treatment.
These treatments will be offered by the NHS only if it is judged to be of compelling benefit and there are no alternatives. You can bet your life that all these operations will be available at a price at small private clinics and the relentless process of NHS privatisation will have taken another giant step forward. Another step like last year’s review that stopped supplying over-the-counter medications and treatments described as low value on prescription. Now everyone has to pay for them.
If you have a decent income, you can buy your own drugs or even a small operation, but, if you are among the poor, you will just have to suffer.
When it comes to transport, again the poorest find themselves paying most. Outside the big cities the rich rarely use buses, but, for those without a car of their own or the money to buy ever more expensive fuel, the bus is a lifeline to reach friends and family, shops, medical appointments, pubs, cinemas and — if it’s still open — even the local library.
Lack of affordable transport is one of the main causes of rural isolation and deprivation that results in deterioration in both mental and physical health.
I could give plenty more examples, but I’ll finish with housing and a story that would be funny if it wasn’t such an obscene example of the two Britains that are our home nation in 2018.
Homeless figures are shameful, Grenfell Tower points up the disgraceful scandal of what passes for public housing today. Even young people with a reasonable job look wistfully at the property ladder and know they will never get a foot even on the lowest rung.
Step forward those with parents in the more affluent layers of society. Yes the bank of (rich) mum and dad comes to the rescue.
The average cost of a house in Britain today is out of many people’s reach at £234,794. No wonder so many people are turning to what traditionally was holiday accommodation, caravans, mobile holiday homes — even narrowboats.
So what about buying a beach hut? I’ve just seen one for sale at Mudeford in Dorset. It sleeps six, but there is no toilet and no mains electricity, nor road access.
The timber-built hut measures just 18 by 11 feet. Lighting is provided by solar panels on the roof, while in the kitchen, the oven runs on gas bottles, the fridge is battery-powered and the tap water comes from a pump. The nearest communal toilet and shower block is a couple of minutes walk away.
Poll tax is £500 per year and ground rent is approximately £2,500 per year. And the price? Just £300,000. Welcome to equal Britain.