Saturday, 9 December 2017

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte concedes title, as West Ham secure first win under David Moyes

West Ham 1-0 Chelsea

An action packed derby game at the London Stadium ended with new West Ham boss David Moyes securing his first victory, whilst Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte, conceded the Premier League after their fourth defeat in 16 games.

A happy Moyes explained how his side had taken confidence from their spirited perfornance against Manchester City last Sunday, which saw the Hammers lose out narrowly to the league leaders.

“We had a good plan and organisation,“ said Moyes, who once again deployed Marko Arnautovic and Michel Antonio in free running roles up front to stretch the Chelsea rearguard. A similar tactic had been deployed against City.

“We tried to fill the middle of the pitch with power and pace,” said Moyes, who though pleased with the rising energy levels of the players, said that he would like to see Arnautovic and Antonio play 90 minutes, not having to come after after 75 minutes as in this game.

The West Ham manager proved once again that he is not afraid to ring the changes, with Adrian retaining his place at the expense of England’s Joe Hart, after an impressive game against City. Others missing out on the start were the clubs four main strikers Andy Carroll, Andre Ayew, Chicarito and Diafra Sakho, all of whom started on the bench. Sakho did get on for the last 20 minutes.

The home side began as they meant to go on, not allowing Chelsea any space. The approach yielded early dividends, when, in the fifth minute, the impressive Arnautovic exchanged passes with Manuel Lanzini in  the penalty area, before calmly slotting home.

Chelsea then piled on the pressure with Eden Hazard seeing one shot go just wide, while Adrian turned another round the post.

Five minutes into the second half, Arnautovic was sent clear away by Antonio but Thibaut Courtois came out to block the resulting shot.

Fans wondered at this point whether West Ham would live to regret that miss, as Chelsea began to camp in the home team’s half.

The Hammers though held on, with Hazard and Alvaro Morata missing good chances for the visitors.

Moyes was again full of praise for the home fans for the way they got behind the team. “The fans have been fantastic since I came, it’s a great atmosphere,” said Moyes, whose never say die attitude runs throughout his players and staff. On one occasion, as the game reached  a climax, Stuart Pearce got involved, angrily kicking the ball away after a Chelsea player had tried to feign injury. The old West Ham favourite received loud applause as he returned to his seat - urging the crowd on.

Conte declared his desire to stay in the battle for the title but conceded that four losses, with two against sides at the bottom of the table really was not good enough. “You can lose once or twice,” said Conti. “I said it would be very very tough and that is proving true.”

published - "David's West Ham slays Goliath as Conte concedes title," - Morning Star, 11/12/2017 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Uber have an annus horribilis, as brand takes a bashing

Exploitation of workers, failing to abide by regulations in London, cover up of a major data breach and sexual harassment claims are just some of the features of the past year for beleaguered care hire company Uber

In the UK, the future of the car hire company has come under threat, as TFL refused to renew its license to operate in the capital. Uber were accused of a number of irregularities, including its approach to reporting serious criminal offences, its approach to how medical certificates are obtained and use of blocking software, stopping regulatory authorities getting full access to the app.

The company has begun an appeal in the courts.

Other towns are looking closely at what is happening in London and the operation of the company, with Brighton and Cambridge among those reviewing operations.

The company has also been seeking to defend its position as a main player in the gig economy. This has involved claiming that its drivers are self-employed, so not entitled to things like holidays and sick pay.

A tribunal ruled in favour of two drivers supported by the GMB, who claimed that they were effectively employees of the company. The company appealed the key tribunal ruling on worker’s rights but lost again in November at the high court. It is now looking to take its case Supreme Court.

There was more damaging news from the US, where Uber there have been revelations of a data breach and sexual harassment claims.

Uber admitted that it had failed to disclose a cyber-attack that exposed the data of some 57 million drivers and passengers. The breach affected 2.7 million individuals in the UK. The company then paid the hackers £75,000 not to release the stolen data.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office said that Uber’s admission over the hack “raises huge concerns around its data protection policies and ethics.”

Also in the US, former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler alleged in a blog that she was sexually harassed at and experienced gender bias during her time at the company. She claimed that one manager propositioned her and asked for sex, but her complaints to HR were dismissed because the manager was a high performer. She said Uber continued to ignore her complaints to HR, and then her manager threatened to fire her for reporting things to HR

The New York Times then published further details of other abuses involving sexual harassment and drug use.

The company hired Eric Holder, former US attorney general, to lead an independent investigation, which saw more revelations and eventually 20 staff were fired.

In June, CEO and company founder Travis Kalanick stood down.

Further problems saw the Google self-driving-car group, now known as Waymo, accuse Uber of using stolen technology to advance its own autonomous-car development. The law suit, filed in the US District Court in San Francisco, claimed that a team of ex-Google engineers stole the company's design for the lidar laser sensor that allows self-driving cars to map the environment around them.

So it has truly been an “Annus Horribilis” for the car hire company, with its global reputation in the taters. The new management will certainly have their work cut out, not least the way it treats its workers, if next year doesn’t prove to be worse than this year.  

Published by Unionline

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Wanstead Park needs a cash injection and some tender loving care

The scene in Wanstead Park at this time of year offers a panorama of colours, with the yellows and coppers blending against the greens and reds, amid a constantly changing natural scene.

It is a breath taking experience, for those of us lucky enough to be observing the different seasons of change throughout the year. The park is a real gift to people living in this area – a green lung as it were.

However, it has been alarming over recent years to see a deterioration in the state of the park. The most visible sign of the decline has been the emptying of water from the lakes.

The park has a unique water system, with the five lakes effectively regulating water flows between them.

Well that is how it worked for hundreds of years but recently the system has broken down. I am not sure if there is any flow from Shoulder of Mutton to Heronry. The Heronry lake dried out earlier in the year, it having been supplied over recent years by a nearby pumping system that saw water coming from a bore hole. The pump was broken, so the flow stopped. Thankfully, this has now been fixed, so the Heronry has refilled.

The Perch pond had a pennywort infestation, which the City of London Corporation brought in contractors to treat. Whilst this was happening the water supply from Perch to Ornamental was cut off. The result is that the magnificent Ornamental lake has been drying out for the past couple of years. Thankfully, the flow from Perch to Ornamental has now been restored, with the latter lake slowly refilling.

These sticking plaster solutions though have taken far too long to be enacted. The park was classified as at risk on the English Heritage register back in 2009, on the basis of the faulty waterways. What is required is for the centuries old system of water flows to be fixed, with maybe some extra reserves from bore holes and the Roding brought into the scenario as well.

The work that needs doing is premised on attaining a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Over recent years the City of London Corporation has postponed even applying for this money, having presented it as a panacea for resolution of all the parks problems. Things though do seem to be slowly moving ahead but we need some urgency to resolve the issues of our beautiful park.

The Friends of Wanstead Park have been trying to move things along, their efforts together with Leyton and Wanstead Mp John Cryer saw a Save Wanstead Park summit held recently in Parliament. It was aimed at bringing all the stakeholders in the park together to agree a plan of action to save the park. There seems to have been some positive movement in a number of areas but we wait to see things really begin to transform in the park.

What is for sure is that the custodians of the park, the City of London Corporation could do better. One has only to visit other parks in the area, such as Valentines and Victoria, not to mention the recently opened Walthamstow Wetlands  to see what can be achieved with a bit of money and will power.

Wanstead Park does not need huge change, it is the wilderness nature of the park that makes it so attractive to so many. What it does need is a bit of Tender Loving Care, a recognition of what a wonderful natural resource we have in the park, something that the present generation has a responsibility to preserve to hand onto future generations.

published - Wanstead and Woodford Guardian - 30/11/2017
Ilford Recorder - 7/12/2017

Monday, 27 November 2017

It's the magic of players like Payet, Di Canio and Brooking the fans want to see, not a record of how many miles players have run in a match

Many west ham fans must still have memories of Dimitri Payet and that final season at Upton Park. Much of the football played in that final season was brilliant, in the true spirit of West Ham -and the Frenchman was at the centre of most of it.
The drag backs, step overs and pull downs of the ball. The brilliant free kicks. The sense of anticipation as the ball looped over to Payet, what would he do with it next? It was the sort of exhileration that fans were happy to pay their money to see - the exciting, the unusual.
Payet ofcourse fell from grace and left the club, things have never been the same since.
We now have work rate continually discussed, have the players run far enough, are they fit enough. The result is all that matters, we must "grind out" some results is the regular cry. Avoid the drop, sack the manager. Hang on a minute is this not an entertainments business?
All a far cry from that final Upton Park season. Payet didn't tackle back but nor did Paulo di Canio or Trevor Brooking  in their time. These players were the artists of football, not the journeymen putting in the miles. Players who lifted the game to a new level of entertainment beyond the attritional business of so much we see today. Players that the fans loved to see and be thrilled by week in week out - it's what makes the beautiful game beautiful.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Fans recreate Upton Park atmosphere, as David Moyes secures first point as West Ham manager

West Ham 1-1 Leicester

New West Ham boss David Moyes likened the atmosphere in the London stadium to that of the old ground at Upton Park as the fans really got behind his beleaguered team.

A chorus of the club's anthem “I’m for ever blowing bubbles” lifted the stadium in the second half, as the fans tried to roar their team to victory.

Moyes had previously called for everyone at the club to unite and get behind the team. On the pitch, the new manager was impressed with the resolution shown by the players but believes there is a long way to go before things really come right for West Ham United.

The manager thought his team unlucky to go behind early on and was pleased they did not then capitulate. “The second half was much more like us. For 10 minutes the crowd were right behind us,” said Moyes.”We got a reaction from the players but we are still going to have to do loads and loads of work.”

“The passing and play should be better. I think the players worked hard tonight and deserved the applause,” said Moyes.

After early signs of promise, West Ham fell behind in the eighth minute as Jamie Vardy got away down the left to cross for Marc Albrighton to turn home.

There was much effort from both sides in this game, without a lot of end product. The next best chance fell to Vardy in the 42nd minute as he turned onto his right just pulling the shot wide of Joe Hart and the far post.

Three minutes later, West Ham were level, as Cheikhou Kouyate saw his header from  an Manuel Lanzini’s corner deflected into the net.

The home side pressed hard in the second half, looking unlucky not to get a penalty in the 77th minute, when Andre Ayew went down under challenge from Harry Maguire.

The final effort came in injury time, with an Ayew overhead kick going just over.

- published - morning star - 26/11/2017

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Catholic Associaton for Racial Justice loses agency status at the Bishops Conference

The Bishops Conference of England and Wales (BCEW) has confirmed that the Catholic Association for Racial Justice has been stripped of its (will no longer be an) status as a Church agency.

Founded in 1984, CARJ became an agency of the BCEW in 2002. A bishop always sat as president on the board of CARJ, with Migration Bishop Pat Lynch being the last such individual to occupy that role.

The organisation has been largely funded by the proceeds of a collections taken up on the national Racial Justice Sunday (second Sunday of September) each year. The collection began in 1995 and has been taken up every year since.

A statement from the BCEW confirmed that “CARJ is no longer an agency of the Bishops Conference.”

On the subject of Racial Justice Sunday, the BCEW confirmed that Racial Justice Sunday will continue, with a voluntary collection. “As agreed with the board (of CARJ), next year CARJ will receive some of the money from this collection,”said the BCEW spokesperson.

The BCEW were non-committal as to whether the removal of CARJ from agency status amounted to a downgrading of racial justice as a priority, suggesting instead that the focus had shifted to the area of human trafficking.

"The bishops' contemporary racial justice work focuses on migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as well as those who are victims of human trafficking. Recently this has been expedited through the office of migration policy, diocesan initiatives to support refugees and the Santa Marta Group on human trafficking,” said the BCEW. "Supporting and integrating migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking is an integral part of the Church's witness in England and Wales. It is the importance of this witness that has led to the bishops focussing this work within the Bishops' Conference.”

Others though are concerned that the downgrade of CARJ does indicate that racial justice per se is being relegated in the Church lexicon. “Hate crime, racism against Muslims and on grounds of Jewish ethnicity, not to mention against other ethnic communities at the heart of our religious community are right now on the rise,” said Francis Davis, Professor of Social Justice at St Marys University, Twickenham. “If the bishops timing is not to be misread as a lack of care we need to know what plans they have to convincingly address these issues as core business.”

At the recent CARJ AGM, a motion was passed stating: “Regretfully, we accept that Bishops’ decision that CARJ will no longer be an Agency of the Bishops’ Conference. However, we commit ourselves to engage with diocesan bishops and to develop a positive partnership for the future.”

Yogi Sutton, chair of CARJ, said:”We in CARJ accept that the Bishops Conference wish to give priority to the issue of ‘migrants, refugees and trafficking.  

“CARJ has a wider mission which involves us working with a variety of partners (religious and secular) and supporting a variety of vulnerable groups.  The recent Race Disparities Audit has confirmed the complex and diverse network of inequalities that currently exist in UK society and the need for those working for racial justice to address this complexity .

“We believe that the Bishops’ more focussed mission and CARJ’s broader mission require a degree of independence.  However, both are important, and the two are complementary and should be mutually supportive.  We hope in the future to work alongside the Bishops Conference in a mutually supportive, complementary and independent partnership.”

CARJ works in dioceses and parishes to support people from diverse backgrounds. CARJ aims to empower black and minority ethnic Catholics to give them an effective voice in the Church and in the wider society.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Polluting ourselves to death

A recent report from the World Health Organisation  declared that millions of people in the UK were  inhaling air that is too dangerous to breath.

The study found that 44 out of 51 towns and cities failed its test for fine sooty particles smaller than 2.5 microns across.

The particles, known as PM2.5s, have been linked to causing heart disease and premature death and they should not exceed 10.5 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Among those places with excessive levels were London registering a level of 15 micrograms. Glasgow and Scunthorpe topped the chart with levels of 16. Birmingham recorded 14 and Manchester 13. Edinburgh and Inversness were among the cleaner places, with levels of 8 and 6 micrograms respectively.

The lack of concern among so many people regarding pollution is amazing. There is now a pollution epidemic, whereby we are effectively poisoning ourselves and our children in order to live environmentally destructive lifestyles
The effects on our health are frightening, with higher levels of asthma in children due to pollution. Children also  fail to develop full lung capacity, which leads to problems in later life, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

It is estimated that pollution causes 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year, some 9000 in London.

In the Wanstead area, residents around Woodbine Place have complained about the pollution being caused by the buses sitting with their engines running. There have been high levels of pollution recorded around major roads, often near to our schools.

There is a growing awareness of the problem but also confused thinking regarding solutions. People don’t want to breath polluted air yet also don’t want restrictions imposed on their use of cars, planes and other polluting technologies. We really cannot have it both ways. Polluting technologies have to be restricted and in the case of things like the diesel vehicles totally eliminated over time.

The London Mayor Sadiq Khan has shown the way, putting cutting pollution high on his list of priorities. The first measure has seen a toxic charge of £10 imposed in the central London congestion area for polluting vehicles. This mainly relates to petrol and diesel vehicles registered  before 2006. The plan is then to extend the range for the charge out across the majority of London.

It is a start but much more needs to be done.

Other countries have taken much more radical action to cut pollution. In Paris, there are odd-even bans on vehicles, with public transport made free at times of high pollution levels. Car and bicycle sharing schemes are encouraged.

In Copenhagen,  cycles are prioritised over cars, so there are now  more cycles than people. It has been estimated that one mile on a bike benefits society by 27p whilst a mile in a car costs 15p.

In Zurich, the number of parking spaces has been capped, with only a certain number of cars allowed into the city at any one time.

So there are many things that can be done, if the will is there. Central and local  Government actions in terms of regulations will help to cut pollution but people also need to take action individually to live less polluting lives. Drive a little less, use public transport more and reduce those flights. A collective push by everyone can see the scourge of pollution defeated but only if there is a common will to achieve that goal. 

 Former US president John F Kennedy summed up the situation well, when he said: “In the final analysis our most basic common  link is that we inhabit this planet. We breath the same air. We cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

published in the Universe - 17/11/2017