Friday, August 25, 2017

Grenfell Tower

Fire danger from faulty white goods


THE LONDON Fire Brigade (LFB) last week called on the Government to take urgent action regarding the dangers from electrical household goods such as refrigerators and washing machines.
The LFB was particularly critical of the Government’s failure to implement any of its recommendations a year after a faulty Indesit tumble drier caused a serious fire in a tower block in Shepherd’s Bush, which was attended by 20 fire engines and 110 firefighters.
No one was killed in this incident but more than 100 families had to be evacuated.
A faulty Hotpoint fridge-freezer is thought to have been the original source of the fire on 14th June this year in Grenfell towers, which cost at least 88 lives, though the inquiry into that fire has yet to begin and the rapid spread of that fire across the insulation cladding tiles on the outside of that building will also feature in that inquiry.
The LFB is demanding a Government-backed single register for all product recalls in Britain to be readily accessible to consumers online and better regulation of second-hand appliances.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, along with other campaigners, has added his name to the demand sent by the LFB to Theresa May to demand action to stop further fires.
Although nobody was killed in the Shepherd’s Bush blaze, more than 100 families were evacuated, with 26 being found temporary accommodation in hotels owing to the extent of the damage.
The brigade says that nearly one fire per day in London involves white goods. Between 2010 and 2016 there have been nine fatalities and 298 injuries as a result of fires involving white goods in London.
The figures do not include those who died in the Grenfell fire because the causes of these fatalities are subject to an inquest.
Hotpoint urged owners of its fridge-freezers to check their model numbers for safety reasons immediately after the fire.
Last week an inquest resumed into a fatal fire in north Wales, which may have started in or around a tumble dryer. Bernard Hender, 19, and Doug McTavish, 39, died after a blaze at a flat in Llanrwst in October 2014. At an earlier hearing, experts disagreed over what caused the blaze.
The LFB has made a series of urgent calls for action to make white goods safer as part of its Total Recalls campaign, which calls for a single, publicly accessible register of product recalls and better publicity to reduce consumer confusion.
Dany Cotton, the LFB commissioner, said: “How many more devastating white goods fires do there have to be before the Government makes it easier for consumers to check whether their fridges and freezers are on the recall list?
“Worse still, the second-hand market is under-regulated and there is little to stop people buying kitchen appliances which pose a serious fire risk.”
The LFB is also calling on manufacturers to use less flammable materials in machines. Cotton said: “All new refrigeration and freezing appliances should have a non-combustible backing as standard. Many models still use a flammable plastic backing, which offers very little protection against the foam inside catching alight if a fire starts.”
The coroner at the inquest into the death of Santosh Benjamin Muthiah, who died after saving his wife and two children from a fire that was caused by a faulty Beko fridge-freezer, recommended a series of measures to improve product recalls in 2014.
The Government announced a review of the UK product recall system in November that same year. A working group published its recommendations this year and the Government response is due in the autumn.
The Government did set up a product Recall website to inform the public which goods are safe to use at home, but it is an interim measure that gives links to significant sources of information on product recalls and corrective action but it does not deliver the information itself.
The fault in the Indesit tumble dryer model that had caused the Shepherd’s Bush fire emerged before the incident, with numerous but less severe fires reported. The parent company Whirlpool had been replacing or repairing an estimated 3.8-million potentially faulty dryers across Britain after identifying a fire risk safety defect in November 2015, caused when excess fluff touches the heating element.
It did not issue a product recall, telling customers that they could continue to use their tumble dryer whilst waiting for the modification, provided it was not left unattended. That advice was changed in February after pressure from consumer groups, with owners advised to unplug the appliances and stop using them until they were repaired.

Remembering the horror of slavery

By New Worker correspondent

Londoners wore Sankofa badges at a rally to remember the victims of the slave trade in Trafalgar Square last weekend. The badge, much like the British Legion poppy, was designed to commemorate International Slavery Remembrance Day, and acknowledge and commemorate the tens of millions of men, women and children kidnapped from the African continent and sold into slavery.
A national memorial service was held in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, as part of a series of events across the country leading up to 23rd August – the day chosen by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a tribute to the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. On that day in 1791 the slaves in the French colony of Saint Domingue, now Haiti, rose up in a rebellion that drove the French out and established the first independent state in the Caribbean.
Whilst the day is a tribute to every victim and their resistance against slavery, it is also a reminder of the importance of teaching history, a senior UNESCO official stressed.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Art and Peace in London

By New Worker correspondent
Londoners got a glimpse of contemporary Chinese art at an exhibition in the Mall Gallery in the heart of the capital last week. The exhibition showcased highlights from the Beijing International Art Biennale, including paintings in ink, watercolour and oil, as well as wood block prints and sculpture, all by renowned Chinese artists. They have been selected to be part of the Chinese Art World Tour to demonstrate the pursuit of peace through art, and to strengthen understanding and the exchange of ideas between the China Artists Association and groups of artists around the world.
Sino-European Arts, a London- and Hong Kong-based art consultancy and exhibition service, hosted the week-long exhibition. Managing Director Suzanna Mu said that she was really excited about presenting the exhibition. “The works include ink paintings, oil paintings, wood block prints, sculptures, watercolour paintings and mixed media, all by renowned Chinese artists. Collectively, they demonstrate the Chinese nation’s pursuit of peace through art from 2003 to 2015.”
At the opening ceremony,  Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, said: “For the first time, this exhibition brings to Britain contemporary Chinese art works that had been the highlights of the Beijing International Art Biennale exhibitions from 2003–2015. Under the theme of ‘Art and Peace’, this exhibition will be an art gala for building friendship and peace. It has three-fold significance.
“First, the art works represent the Chinese people's keen aspiration for peace.
“The Chinese are a peace-loving nation… For the Chinese nation, the pursuit of peace, concord and harmony is a way of life. It is in our blood and soul. It is at the heart of Chinese culture. And it is an unchanged theme for generations of Chinese artists.
 “The Art & Peace exhibition covers various kinds of artistic works, including ink painting, oil painting, wood block prints, sculptures, etc. These works showcase China's traditions and modernity, and the harmonious co-existence between man and the nature. They are meant to extol life and the nature, and to express the Chinese people's love and pursuit of peace.
“Second, today's event reflects the common wish of humanity for lasting peace in the world.
“When we look at the world today, we see peace remains unachieved in many regions. We see a complicated and changing international landscape. We see global problems propping up one after another. We see uncertainties and instabilities on the rise. It is against such a background that the {Art & Peace} exhibition is coming to London.
“Through a rich variety of artistic expressions, this exhibition emphasizes China's commitment to building a community of shared future for mankind.
“It conveys a profound reflection by Chinese artists and their aspiration for world peace and development. It is a worthwhile attempt at interpreting the tireless pursuit of humanity for lasting peace in the world.
“I believe that viewers visiting this exhibition will gain a deeper understanding about the value of peace, about the healing power of art, and about the importance for humanity to pursue and uphold peace together.
“Third, the event today adds new highlight to the broad cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and Britain.
“This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Ambassadorial diplomatic ties between our two countries. It is also a year for consolidating the China–UK Golden Era. In such an important year we are very happy that the China Artists Association is bringing its finest collections to London. This exhibition and the seminar you are going to hold for academic exchanges will contribute to the overall China–UK cultural ties and people-to-people bond.
“They will promote the exchanges and mutual learning between Chinese and British artists, and help them build consensus.
“They will display the charm of the contemporary Chinese art to the British public.
“They will bridge the hearts of our two peoples and increase the friendship and mutual understanding.
“Finally, they will reinforce our joint efforts to build a world of harmony and a world of lasting peace.”

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Remembering the Battle of Lewisham

by New Worker correspondent
ANTI-FASCISTS gathered outside the New Cross Inn, close to Clifton Rise, last Saturday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the historic battle between local communities and the National Front, who were supported by thousands of police, that saw the fascists forced to turn back and marked the beginning of the decline of the National Front (NF).
Last Saturday’s rally, followed by a march, was attended by dozens of veterans of the original battle and many gave an account of the battle.
The NF was founded in the late 1960s as a movement against immigration, especially from the West Indies, Asia and Africa, into Britain. It won ignorant white supporters by scapegoating immigrants for a shortage of decent housing, for unemployment, for high crime levels and for many other ills that were growing after the post-war economic boom had run out of steam.
But at its roots the NF was run by fascists and neo-Nazis, and was the enemy of all the working class.
The NF had been growing steadily for nearly a decade and was on the verge of becoming a mass party. In Deptford, a ward of the London Borough of Lewisham, in a local by election it had almost beaten Labour and polled votes more than the Tories.
In May 1977 police had arrested 21 young black people in Lewisham in dawn raids, claiming this “gang” was responsible for 90 per cent of street crime in London.
The local community rallied round and formed a committee to defend the “Lewisham 21”, and a protest march was held to demand justice for the “Lewisham 21”. It was attacked by a group of around 200 NF supporters, who threw rotten fruit and bags of caustic soda at the marchers.
The NF decided Lewisham was a good place to march to intimidate the local black population.
Before the NF march was due to start there was a mass rally in a local park addressed by local councillors, a bishop and other dignitaries whilst others went to block the route the NF were due to take.
Once the NF arrived and set off from their assembly point at Clifton Rise in New Cross, most of those at the rally in the park began to join those trying to block the route.
The NF were headed by their ‘honour guard’ carrying banners and flags with sharp pointed metal finials on the flag and banner poles.
The 500 NF were surrounded by three rows of police and mounted police were out in force. Most of the fighting was between the anti-fascists and the police as the police, using utmost brutality, tried to clear a path for the NF.
Members of the local community, black and white, came out of their homes and started picking up anything and everything they could lay their hands on to lob at the NF marchers.
Meanwhile another group of anti-fascists had occupied Lewisham town centre, around the clock tower.
The NF never made it to the clock tower. Police were forced to divert them into a side street to have their rally and then bundled them on to waiting trains.
But the anti-fascist protesters were unaware the fascists had gone and continued to fight with the police – who, in spite of their huge numbers, totally lost control of the town centre for a while as “the People’s Republic of Lewisham Clock Tower” was declared briefly.
Two hundred and fourteen people were arrested and at least 111 injured, including 56 police officers.
One black veteran told the crowd last Saturday: “Once we had seen the ‘master race’ running away in terror that was the end of their power to intimidate us.”
The Battle of Lewisham led to the foundation of the Anti-Nazi League and the decline of the NF.