All posts by chrisramsey2013

Techno digest – smart utility meters, hackers, cyber-attacks, missives and missiles amiss

Smart meters will transmit private data to energy companies, enabling supplies to be remotely disconnected. Smart meters will be used to increase what you pay to use energy at peak times, not to reduce overall energy consumption. Radiation hazards for people remain unclear. Smart meters are insecure and can be hacked by third parties. A single line of malicious code can cut power to a property or cause overloads, exploding meters and fires.

Smart meter fitment is often not possible if there’s patchy 4G Vodaphone, or no mobile/Wi-Fi coverage. This could be a blessing in disguise.

Purporting to save 2% of our energy costs, smart meters for water, gas and electricity utilities are being promoted for UK properties, although Germany has rejected proposed installations. Smart meters don’t always report properly. Dimmer switches and LED bulbs confuse them. They rely on proprietary software. Three-phase static meters can exaggerate consumption by up to 600%.  A small energy monitor is a much cheaper, less intrusive way to cut consumption.

British electricity meters belong to the retailer. There’s no incentive to help you use less of their product. Technologies are incompatible. Smart meters will be used to increase what you pay to use energy at peak times, not to reduce overall energy consumption. A one year study by Toronto Hydro showed that 84% of people’s bills went up after smart meters had been installed – often by more than 50%. The £12billion roll-out cost for installation in the UK will push up consumer bills which, thanks to the Big 6, have already taken on average a 12% hike this year. Long-term it’s estimated that smart meters will cost each consumer £400. Companies won’t have to employ so many call centre staff dealing with bill enquiries, meter readers will lose their jobs. Automation continues its relentless march. Will these ‘savings’ be passed on to consumers?

If you spread payments and pay by direct debit, you can’t be billed for exact usage. Upgrades malfunction. You can’t use the smart meter to measure the energy you create through solar panels. Switch supplier and your meter may lose its smartness, with consumers trapped in poor deals, unable to switch utility providers. The real purpose of smart meters is to transmit private data to energy companies and allow them to remotely disconnect supplies and perform ‘Active Demand Management’ – whereby appliances and supply are controlled. In a dream infrastructure for advertisers, marketeers and criminals stealing personal details, corporations and agencies will harvest data, analyse our habits, determine the age of appliances, profile our behaviour and further monetise our private lives.

Radiation hazards for humans, especially young children, babies and foetuses, remain unclear. There are major health concerns about electromagnetic interference – pulsed microwaves and damage caused to the natural ecology. There will be grid security threats from pulse attacks.

Smart meters are insecure and will be hacked by third parties to callously attack customers. Utility bills could be changed. In the US, for example, 10% of transmitted electricity already disappears because of commercial losses; it’s called theft. Electricity will be stolen just as easily after smart meter installation. Puerto Rico hackers have re-programmed smart meters for a fee to cut up to 75%t of the user’s electricity cost. Burglars will be able to detect vacant properties and expensive equipment in advance. A single line of malicious code can cut power to a property, turn off lights and alarms, even cause overloads leading to exploding meters and fires. This is not mindless scaremongering – hacker collectives, CCHQ even, have undertaken tests to highlight and report these dangers. Cyber security implications for NASA, the Pentagon, banks and air traffic control should not be underestimated. WikiLeaks has released a wad of documents it calls “Vault 7”, which contains details of hacking tools used by the CIA. Political activists’ phones are hacked to maintain details on a ‘domestic extremism’ database.

Think Weeping Angel, Tesco Bank and TalkTalk’s 157,000 directly affected customers; Wonga’s woes, Debenhams Flowers and the phishing attack on Google Docs in the spring of 2017. The nuclear programme in Iran was sabotaged by custom malware. The ‘Stuxnet’ malware took months to develop and specifically targeted machinery used to process uranium.

The latest and biggest hack came in May 2017, when in Britain the NHS became a high-profile victim of a global ransomware attack as malware stolen from the US National Security Agency affected communications in over 150 countries. The security breach disrupted GP surgeries, dental practices and other primary care centres. Telefónica, FedEx and Deutsche Bahn were also hit. The malware is dubbed WannaCry. It was spread by the Shadow Brokers hacking group, but it didn’t take long for reports to circulate pinning the blame on North Korea and Wikileaks.

The massive distributed denial of service attack that closed half the Internet on October 21st 2016 was down partly to botnets; hackers used a known default password, a log-in common to all kettles. I’ll rewrite that: yes, kettles, smart kettles.

It gets worse. In the Netherlands pavement LEDs mean you don’t have to avert from perusing your phone to check traffic lights when crossing the road. Good luck with that.

In the distant past, when I was a teenager, when there were lollipop men and women, a hack was a journalist, not someone who illegally accessed mobile phones. There were no remote controls; I had to suffer the inconvenience of rising to walk across the room to change the TV channel.

Returning to the meters .. Water utilities are lagging behind when it come to smart meter installation, mainly because of cost implications. With a third of Scottish consumers living in fuel poverty conditions, dwellers in bedsit land, for example, will remain dependent on their landlords overcharging through the existing meters in their rooms. Though protected by caps, customers are saddled with a meter whereby they pay upfront, because they fell behind with utility bill payments. Rest assured, those already disadvantaged, the poor and vulnerable, will suffer the most.

Businesses, mountaineers, farmers, fishermen .. Rural isolation of course means remote communities – the 5% who reside in areas that are not covered for mobile, Broadband and fibre optic services, a problem exacerbated by the BT/Open Reach monopoly on supply lines/exchanges/access and a toothless watchdog, Ofcom. Some customers still suffer dial-up, a blatant denial of ‘superfast’ Broadband (at present classed at 30Mbps+), considered these days to be a vital utility for people who most require such a lifeline.

Folk might not even need a landline if they were not in a signal reception blackspot. No mast signal? Can’t get Vodaphone 4G? Then often no smart meter installation is possible, a blessing in disguise, by all accounts.

The Tory party 2017 manifesto has made the introduction of smart meters an optional choice for consumers.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-do-not-consent-to-smart-meters?source=facebook-share-button&time=1486373237

‘We do not consent to the roll-out of smart meters in the UK’ – 38 Degrees petition

The UK government has contracted a private company, Capita, to provide the behind-the-scenes infrastructure for part of the smart meter roll-out programme. Capita featured in a National Audit Office report recently. The report said that the Department of Work and Pensions has failed to achieve value for money from the health and disability assessments it had contracted out to Capita, and two other contractors, Atos and Maximus. Giving evidence to MPs, the three companies were forced to admit regret at the poor quality of their work.

Capita is also ‘dealing’ with Personal Independence Payments, which are to replace Disability Living Allowances.

The good news is … ‘The Scottish Government revealed they will not be using private firms to assessing disabled people for benefits under the new Scottish Social Security agency. Minister for social security Jeane Freeman confirmed private contractors such as Atos, Concentrix and Maximus would not be involved in administrating the 11 benefits devolved to the Scottish Parliament. She told MSPs that profit-making should not form a part of decisions about people’s medical capability or whether they qualify for help and that Scotland’s system would be more humane and efficient.’ Andrew Learmonth, writing in the National newspaper on April 28th.

And the bad news is …  According to the Ferret’s investigative journalism platform, ‘the Scottish government awarded a £290,000 contract to PA Consulting to work on the development of a new trial Scottish social security system. PA Consulting is a subsidiary of a US private equity company, Carlyle Group. The London-based company has been accused of a lack of transparency by the UK’s Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office, both of which monitor how taxpayers’ money is spent.’

Between 2011 and 2016 NHS Shared Business Services, an internal postal company partly owned by the Department of Health and private French contractor Sopra Steriato, stored half a million letters in a warehouse instead of sending this crucial information between GPs and hospitals, as they were contracted and paid to do. Missives amiss! Privatisation can be bad for your health. It is only a matter of time before some nation’s medical records are released online for all to view.

NHS patient records were decidedly unavailable after WannaCry in May. Brad Smith, Microsoft president, used an unfortunate analogy when he said that the cyber-attack was ‘ like the US military having a Tomahawk missile stolen’.

Does getting a missile merely mis-delivered beggar belief?  A U.S.-bound, laser-guided, air-to-surface Hellfire dummy missile was delivered to Cuba in 2014. Lockheed Martin was authorised to export it to Florida after a NATO training exercise in Spain. Couriers and freight forwarders shipped the 45Kg weapon from Europe to Cuba by mistake. The words ‘lax’ and ‘lost’ come to mind. I do wish I was making this up. “Can we have our dummy back, please?” Fidel Castro died laughing.

For two years the U.S. worked with Lockheed to get Cuba to return the missile. Worth $65000 in monetary terms, Cuba gave the Hellfire back – in pieces, I hope – in February 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/08/dummy-us-hellfire-missile-mistakenly-shipped-cuba

Cuban crisis! A missile amiss!

A newly declassified Pentagon audit shows the US Army failed to keep track of more than $1 billion worth of weapons and military equipment sent to Iraq and Kuwait, including tens of thousands of assault rifles and hundreds of armoured vehicles.

Finally I offer two reports on https://chrisramsey2013.wordpress.com

an advanced digital society from My Blogs, and www.wired.com/2007/08/ff-estonia

its vulnerability. Russian-based hacking collectives have taken down Estonia, the most wired country in Europe.

 

 

 

The world’s most advanced digital society – Estonia

Estonia is the fastest growing and most advanced digital economy in Europe. Six years after gaining independence from Russia in 1991, Estonia had put 97% of its schools online. By 2000, Cabinet meetings were paperless. In 2002 the Government had established eResidency, and a free Wi-Fi network covering most of the populated areas. The country has pioneered digital signatures, border queue management, international student admissions, e-business registration, mobile banking apps, new forms of crowd-funding, brands without logos, and easy access to healthcare facilities to empower and benefit its citizens.

e-Estonia means a land without queues or lines, voting in elections from your own living room, filing your income tax return in just five minutes, signing a legally-binding contract over the Internet from anywhere in the world via your mobile phone, and checking vital company, property and legal records online. These are just a few of the services that Estonians take advantage of on a regular basis. Interaction among government agencies, and between the government and citizens, has been completely transformed in e-Estonia, making bureaucracy virtually a thing of the past, the running of all levels of government more efficient, and communities better, it is claimed.

This transformation has resulted in:-

  • Unprecedented levels of transparency and accessibility in government
  • Safe, convenient and flexible exchanges of private, government and corporate data
  • A healthier, better educated population with good access to social services
  • A prosperous environment for business and entrepreneurship

The e-Estonia digital society is made possible largely due to its infrastructure. Instead of developing a single, all-encompassing central system, Estonia created an open, decentralized system that links together various services and databases. The flexibility provided by this open set-up has allowed new components of the digital society to be developed and added through the years. It is that power to expand that has allowed Estonia to grow into one of Europe’s success stories of the last decade.

Estonia

“The disruptive innovation from Estonians is thus not technology itself, the innovation lies elsewhere – in the process of bringing businesses and government together to help all people, young and old, to benefit from digital services options available. Already for 17 years, Estonians have a digital ID and can use this to sign and time stamp documents, including private contracts, apply for different public services, pay fines and taxes, query the registries, change their services packages and simply send encrypted e-mails. Digital ID is an integral part of all ID cards, since 2001. Digital identity is created at birth, by the way, automatically and in the background when a doctor enters the details of a birth into medical records, without the doctor hitting one additional button to undertake this task. They are a civil registry manager, but they do not even notice. The parents can then later on, using their own IDs, add a name to the baby with an already created e-identity. They can then start applications for social services and kindergarten places if they wish, from their maternity hospital room. A new digital citizen is born. We save 2% of our GDP by never visiting any public office and we have very few bank offices left in the country. Postal ones have been replaced by automatic delivery lockers, too. A delivery announcement is routinely an sms. You may notice – I am here not talking anymore of public service. The laziness of people to go and queue allows businesses to save huge costs by offering digital, automated solutions without facing the risk of losing their client base.” Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid.

Estonia will be holding the Presidency of the EU Council in the second half of this year.

Related/of interest

‘A trip to the Faroe Islands, located between the Shetlands and Iceland, revealed something more ambitious and successful. There, 98% 4G LTE coverage is backed up by an islands-wide fibre network. Coverage extends out to the 200 mile fishing limit – to include the Faroese fishing fleet and passing cruise ships – and also a mile up in the air to cover helicopter routes.

Faroese Telecom provides the world’s best mobile broadband. According to Chief Executive Jan Ziskasen, “In South Korea, allegedly the world’s number one spot for 4G connectivity, the average speed is about 60Mbps. We are in the process of overtaking that as the average speed here is approaching 100Mbps. Once we launch the 800MHz – a long-range frequency – the islands will have a theoretical speed just below 1Gbps and that truly is speed in your pocket.” The population of the Faroes is 49,000 people.’

http://www.thenational.scot/comment/14871575.Lesley_Riddoch__The_Government_s_failed_on_broadband___here_s_how_to_fix_it

Lesley Riddoch: The UK Government has failed on Broadband – here’s how to fix it.

 

The battle of Grangemouth, Ineos, the Forties pipeline and Apache Corporation

Lawrence & Wishart

Read about a catalogue of assaults on the trade union Unite at the Grangemouth refinery in 2013.  Workers were forced to accept cuts in their pay and conditions as the Swiss firm’s owner Ineos threatened closure of the complex. To maximise profit, workers’ pensions were attacked, as well as their terms and conditions of employment.

BP sold the Forties oilfield to Apache in 2003, then divested the Grangemouth refinery to Ineos in 2005. Now Ineos plan to purchase the Forties pipeline system. Originating at Apache’s Charlie platform, the pipeline carries 30% of the UK’s total oil production. It reaches land, buried in Cruden Bay, to run 105 miles south to Grangemouth.

‘This is a story of a fight for working people told from the workers’ point of view.  I commend this enthralling book to everyone’ – Jeremy Corbyn

Written by the Grangemouth convenor, Mark Lyon, and published in association with Unite the Union, ‘The Battle of Grangemouth’ is a vital story in challenging times. It demonstrates why – now more than ever – being organised is vital for the defence of basic rights at work.

http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=97d003fe793ca7b505c7dd78a&id=36764508c6&e=3efd157017

Pat Rafferty, regional secretary of Unite thinks we need a national debate as Grangemouth oil and chemical complex owner Ineos confirms that it is in discussion with BP about buying the Forties pipeline system. If the deal goes through, Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe will control two pieces of vital national infrastructure.  “There are serious concerns about the welfare of employees who would be transferred as part of any deal. We need a national debate now,” says Pat Rafferty. “Do our politicians believe in an economy where power is widely held and used for the benefit of us all or are they happy with power in the hands of a tiny minority whose biggest concern is their own personal benefit? Is it right or sensible to give the power to turn off the taps- and bring the entire country to a standstill – to one private company, with no democratic involvement or oversight?”

http://www.thenational.scot/business/15165152.Union_fears_over_pipeline_talks/?ref=eb

Union fears over pipeline talks: Greg Russell.

http://www.thenational.scot/news/15307012.Ineos_buys_North_Sea_oil_fields_in___1bn_deal    Ineos buys North Sea oil fields in £1bn deal.

Forties riser mist

 

Grangemouth is still suffering from poor management. The site’s future is unclear.

The BP pipeline originates at Apache’s Forties Charlie platform.

Forties Charlie

Do not forget the eight Chinese dragon ships transporting ethane into Grangemouth from the North American shale fields.

https://theferret.scot/ineos-grangemouth-plant-poor-two-years/?mc_cid=ebd8a5f6f0&mc_eid=b9ccd4419d  Ineos Grangemouth plant rated poor for pollution two years running

Fracking company Ineos Upstream has submitted a scoping requests for fracking sites on Barmleymoor Lane at Marsh Lane near Eckington in Derbyshire, and Common Road near Harthill, Rotherham. These are the first sites in Ineos’s exploration plans for its million acres of fracking licences. A recent Ineos exhibition in Marsh Lane attrached a large counter demonstration of local residents outside the venue. Ineos is also planning to carry out seismic surveys across its licence areas and is targeting 500 square miles of South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire first. Ineos has contracted Fisher German Priestner as their land agent to gain access for the surveys.

https://theferret.scot/ineos-fracked-gas-grangemouth  Ineos plans for fracked gas at Grangemouth under fire.

https://chrisramsey2013.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/underused-crackers-and-fast-tracked-frackers-ineos-at-grangemouth Underused crackers and fast-tracked frackers – Ineos at Grangemouth. Forviemedia WordPress blog from 2015

 

 

 

 

Balmoral estate hosts World Nomad Games

World Nomad Games

I suggested to my gymnast granddaughter that she emulate the archer quine (pictured), with a view to participating in the bow-and-arrow display at the Games, but she said that her ticklish toes would make the feat impossible.

‘Girl in traditional dress performs an impressive display’: photograph © Viktor Drachev TASS/Getty Images

There was an early tourism boost for Aberdeenshire as the World Nomad Games were staged on the Royal Deeside estate of Balmoral this spring, Scotland’s first turn at hosting the event. The Games were organised by Aberdeenshire Inspired and funded by the Scottish Government. The decision to bid and then extend invitations – to all diasporic nations sharing long nomadic histories – came about after the President of the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan visited Aberdeen in the autumn of 2016. With twenty-five golds, hosts Kyrgyzstan topped the medals table at last year’s Games.

“In the modern world, people are forgetting their history and there is a threat of extinction for traditional cultures,” said Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev. “Nomadic civilisation is a good example of sustainable development, which is what all of humanity is looking for today. The Games were designed to unite nations.”

Two thousand competitors from forty countries pitched up for the Games in Scotland. A hippodrome was built in the shadow of Lochnagar, beloved mountain and haunt of Prince Charles. A traditional yurt village was constructed on the site where the Braemar Gathering takes place in September every year.

The Games featured unorthodox disciplines and ethno-sports, such as hunting with golden eagles and throwing bones. The highlight was the horse-riding competition, Kok-boru, a tradition which dates back to when men brandishing sticks on fire used to hunt animals that preyed on their livestock. Fire wards off evil spirits. As part of the Games programme, visitors to the Games were encouraged to rewild with reindeer, beavers, lynx and wolves in the Caledonian forests, or to tramp on the Cairngorms mountains.

More fierce – if not fiery – competition was evident in the stick wrestling, an event in which two competitors tried to gain control of a small stick. The Scottish entrants excelled at the caber tossing, as expected, though the event was cancelled after several teams visited the Lochnagar Distillery prior to the tossing. The Army teams from nearby Ballater won both the tug-of-war and the polo competitions. The Royal Family sponsored a special game – riders on horseback tried to capture a dead goat, then hurl the decapitated carcass into a goal. Security was strict due to the Castle venue, and protest threats from animal rights activists.

Within the grounds of Balmoral, there were concerts for spectators, a nomads cinema, processions, stunts involving camels and yaks, husky racing, tent erection displays, belt wrestling, Bedouin dancing, rolling Easter eggs and pagan face-painting.

The opening ceremony for Scotland’s World Nomad Games was at Crathie on April 1st.

I thought that this article would crash my spellcheck; the only words it has challenged are ‘quine’ and ‘caber’. A quine is a lass, a girl.  A caber is a big stick, a telegraph pole.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2016/09/07/pictures-world-nomad-games-2016-kyrgyzstan/#ixzz4JddDIbup

Lonely Planet photographs

http://www.trtworld.com/art-culture/second-world-nomad-games-alive-with-colour-and-history-181124

TRT World

https://www.worldphoto.org/blogs/19-10-16/davide-monteleone-4-days-nomad-games

Davide Monteleone works on independent projects using photography, video and text

 

Standing Rock Sioux and the Dakota Access pipeline

Standing Rock

At Standing Rock in North Dakota, Native American elders fighting the Dakota Access pipeline have extinguished the Seven Council Fires, which has been burning for months at the main camp.  Young Native water protectors have relit a new fire, the All Nations Fire, part of the continuing resistance to the $3.8 billion pipeline.

The water protectors are calling for global mass mobilisations as the US Army plans to approve the pipeline. It threatens their vital water supply from the Missouri river. In April 2017 Bakken oil was flowing through the pipeline under Lake Oahe near the Reservation.  http://www.hcn.org/articles/oil-expected-to-flow-through-dakota-access-pipeline-this-week

The Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo are among companies funding the pipeline.  https://www.thenation.com/article/these-cities-are-divesting-from-the-banks-that-support-the-dakota-access-pipeline

These cities are pulling billions from the banks that support the pipeline.

Amnesty International has dispatched human rights observers to monitor the repression of Native Americans

https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/8/water_protectors_call_for_global_mass

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/standing-rock-protesters-react-to-life-under-trump-w452010?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=daily&utm_campaign=112316_16

Standing Rock Protesters React to Life Under Trump: Rolling Stone. President Trump has reversed previous policies and given the Dakota Access {and Keystone XL} pipelines the go-ahead to expand.

Court proceedings continue to rage in the battle over the pipeline that has drawn thousands of protestors to North Dakota. As law enforcement officers and Indigenous activists face off near the construction site, the conflict plays out in real time on social media, capturing international attention.  The main resistance camp set up by the water protectors has been largely vacated after protesters were ordered to leave the camp.

http://www.thenational.scot/world/14872960.Profile__Dakota_oil_pipeline

Profile: Dakota oil pipeline: Greg Russell writes in the National daily newspaper.

https://theestablishment.co/we-cant-talk-about-standing-rock-without-talking-about-cultural-appropriation-5c5a8c92bc7d#.4jndm7qae

The Standing Rock fight isn’t just about the Dakota Access pipeline. It’s also about cultural theft, colonialism, and white supremacy.

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/opinion/readers-views/4240001-readers-view-posts-dakota-access-ignored-cultural-considerations

Posts on Dakota Access ignored cultural considerations

http://www.agweek.com/news/north-dakota/4236396-spiritual-wounds-dakota-access-pipeline-protest-wont-soon-heal

Spiritual wounds from Dakota Access Pipeline protest won’t soon heal.

 

 

 

 

 

‘I, Daniel Blake’ film review

From Facebook page

Strapline

Bankers trouser huge bonuses as foodbank use mushrooms.

I Daniel Blake was a carpenter..

After working as a joiner in Newcastle for most of his life, widower 59 year old Daniel Blake suffers a heart attack and needs help from the State. His consultant and GP say that he is not fit to return to work. The shambolic Department of Work and Pensions declare him fit and able to work, making him claim Jobseekers Allowance, seeking jobs he is unable to do on computers that he has never used

I, Daniel Blake

When a monastic cemetery was unearthed during excavations on a medieval site in Aberdeen last year, wags queuing at the local Halls of Plenty joked that the bones they’d found had been assessed and the monks passed fit for work. Presumably they were supposed to apply for jobs as skeleton staff.

‘Looking for non-existent jobs.. it humiliates me. You lose your self-respect, you’re done for’ – I am Daniel Blake.

Daniel Blake’s cardiac consultant and GP say that he is not yet fit to return to work. Unqualified, untrained Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) staff declare Daniel to be able to work and force him to claim Jobseekers Allowance. He befriends Katie, a single mother with two young children. They find themselves in limbo, caught up in a Kafkaesque nightmare of welfare failure. Both Dave Johns as Daniel and Hayley Squires as Katie produce stunning performances in the lead roles of this new Ken Loach film.

Ken Loach abandoned self-imposed exile to deliver ‘I, Daniel Blake’, fifty years on from Cathy Come Home and Poor Cow (1967).

On November 9th judges ruled in favour of a family that have been forced to pay the ‘bedroom tax’ on a room used for medical needs, overturning a Court of Appeal decision made two years ago against Jacqueline Carmichael, who has the skeletal disorder spina bifida. The judges decided that it is “irrational” to argue against the extra bedroom for a hospital bed at her flat in Southport.

‘I, Daniel Blake’ is especially topical given that a £75million performance-driven tax credits contract is to be cancelled. Awarded by HMRC to Concentrix to save £300million a year, it imposed sanctions, arbitrarily signing claimants off for suspected fraud and other ‘offences’, draconian measures cloaked in Orwellian jargon. ‘Mhairi Black calls for new law to prevent repeat of Concentrix tax credits scandal’ – Andrew Learmonth

A National Audit Office report says that the DWP has failed to achieve value for money from the health and disability assessments it had contracted out to Atos, Maximus and Capita. Giving evidence to a committee of MPs, the three companies have been forced to admit regret at the poor quality of their work.

Once contracts rely on target-drives and monetary results, a deliberate bias is created. Private companies administering State services – what should be critical safety nets – are an essential part of Austerity UK, the vile war being waged against the poor and the vulnerable.

A stereotypical drunk Scot and a gaggle of partying Geordie girls bring levity, yet spoil a scene when I, Daniel Blake could have broken from its predominantly ‘cubicle setting’, missing an opportunity for a display of mass solidarity. Though depicting suffocation and dehumanisation well, the box-type locations continue until the film reaches a rather disappointing ending. The accompanying photograph (above) is from SUWN. Regular screenwriter Paul Laverty based his devastating script on extensive interviews and research including spending a day with SUWN activists on the streets of Dundee; everything you see in the film happened to someone in real life.

Dr Tony Cox was arrested for ‘breach of the peace’ when trying to accompany a vulnerable claimant to her Work Capability Assessment, despite the woman’s statements in Tony’s defence. Tony was giving his time to help someone through the thicket of punitive government bureaucracy. Found guilty, on July 21st 2016 he was sentenced to serve a 150 hour community payback (sic) order.

http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2016/08/02/fighting-state-sponsored-starvation-in-red-yes-city

The anger over ‘I, Daniel Blake’ needs to turn into action – here’s how it can: Sarah Glynn

Loach and Laverty can boast a wonderful track record of collaboration; they are responsible for some of the most moving and powerful dramas of the last 20 years, two decades of (en)countering austerity as crass benefit porn has flourished on screen. A Scot, Laverty’s outline for ‘Carla’s Song (1996)’ caught Loach’s attention to begin the partnership. The script introduced a Glasgow bus driver who befriends a Nicaraguan woman and visits Central America. Peter Mullan’s performance in ‘My Name is Joe’ won him the best actor at Cannes in 1998. In 2000 ‘Bread and Roses’ told the stories of a group of Los Angeles janitors who become activists to fight their exploitative bosses. Martin Compston played a youngster on a Greenock housing scheme trying to help his Mum in 2002’s ‘Sweet Sixteen’.  ‘Ae Fond Kiss (2004)’ brought us a love story set within Glasgow’s Pakistani community. ‘The Wind that shakes the Barley (2006)’ documented the early days of the Irish Republican movement and won the duo their first Palme d’Or at Cannes.

The second Palme D’Or winner, ‘I, Daniel Blake’, proves that their work is as essential to our struggles now as it ever was. The film catalogues frustration; it’s a searing indictment of neoliberal Britain. Tears will well as you watch the film; by all means scream at the eye-wateringly serious – dozens suffering sanctions have been driven to suicide. But tears and anger are not enough.

http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/appeals-and-mandatory-reconsideration

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/9743/stop-sanctions-and-tackle-child-pensioner-poverty-comon-weal-submission-social

http://www.thenational.scot/comment/vonny-moyes-we-are-all-just-a-crisis-away-from-needing-the-safety-net-of-benefits.23906

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/9735/i-daniel-blake-campaigners-rally-holyrood-social-security-justice

http://www.thenational.scot/comment/cat-boyd-i-daniel-blake-lays-bare-process-of-dehumanisation-practised-at-dwp.23946

http://www.thenational.scot/comment/mhairi-black-tories-tell-concentrix-were-all-crooks-while-real-ones-drink-champagne.24131

http://www.nme.com/reviews/movie/i-daniel-blake-review

http://www.thenational.scot/comment/14944225.Mhairi_Black__Bill_to_protect_most_vulnerable_in_society_was_scuppered_by_Tory_tactics/?ref=mr&lp=1

Footnote: in a new collaboration auguring well for the future, Scots writer Jenni Fagan has turned her debut novel ‘The Panopticon’ into a script. It is set to be realised on film by Jim Loach, Ken’s son.

 

 

CAP in handouts; murdering birds on the moors

Bennachie

Images: Bennachie hill range from the skies

url=http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/blog/2016/aug/5/time-uk-agricultural-policy-doesnt-subsidise-rich

‘The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a disaster, essentially a £50 billion welfare system for the landed gentry and other big landowners across Europe. You would think that leaving the EU could actually be a positive thing for agriculture. Free from the shackles of CAP, we might get a fairer system. Right?

Wrong.’

‘A UK agricultural policy that doesn’t subsidise the rich’ – Alex Scrivener

Bennachie

50% of Scotland’s hill farmers only survive thanks to Working Tax Credits, the CAP payments IT system has buckled, becoming a processing shambles, and overall debt levels in the farming sector have reached a record high. At the beginning of December 2016 it emerged that another blunder had occurred issuing farm subsidy payments. Farmers and crofters have been overpaid during the UK Government’s £300million cash advance loan scheme.

http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2016/08/29/responsibilities  ‘Responsibilities’ – Alec Finlay

http://www.andywightman.com/docs/STFA_20160823.pdf

Scottish tenant farmers call for sale of Highland sporting estate to be put on hold

https://theferret.scot  Loophole in bid to punish landowners for killing birds of prey

Doffing caps, Tillypronie Estate Trusts received £385,279 from CAP in 2014 for “first afforestation of agricultural and non-agricultural land”. The 6000 hectare estate in Aberdeenshire is up for sale, complete with grouse moors and valued at £10.5 million.

A Scottish land owner has claimed £3 million in CAP subsidies from the European Union last year – more than anyone else in the UK. Frank Smart owns land near the town of Banchory on Deeside. He is what’s known as a ‘slipper farmer’, buying farms along with their subsidy entitlement, and then leasing them out to be farmed by tenants.