Immigration Detainees on Hunger Strike in Oxford UK

Thursday, June 15, 2006

One hundred and twenty detainees at an immigration removal centre in Oxford, UK, are on hunger strike. The protest started when some detainees refused breakfast on Wednesday 14th June 2006. A letter from the hunger strikers explaining why they are seeking to draw attention to their plight in this way has been reproduced in full below.

Those detained at the centre are mostly men who have sought asylum in the UK and whose asylum applications have been rejected. These people are then held without knowing how long they will be detained for – some end up being held for many years while awaiting deportation.

The removal centre, known as Campsfield, or Campsfield House is approximately 5 miles north of Oxford and has been in operation since 1993. It was managed on behalf of the UK Government by Global Solutions Limited, until may 2006 when it was taken on by GEO UK, the centre has a capacity of 198. Only males are detained at Campsfield.

According to the campaign group Barbed Wire Britain Over 2,600 individuals, mostly asylum seekers, are detained indefinitely in the UK without trial and with no automatic right to bail.

There have been reports in the UK press of the state taking people to detention centres without notice, in the early hours of the morning using excessively heavy handed tactics, taking children out of schools and separating families.

Many UK people and politicians express their disgust at the way detainees are treated, yet it continues. Perhaps this action by the detainees themselves will further highlight their plight and result in more UK electors writing to their MPs and demanding improvements to the way in which rejected asylum seekers are treated.

“We are detainees at Campsfield removal centre in Oxford. Most of us have been here for a long while now. There are people who have been detained for up to two years and down to three months. We are cramped in here like animals. We are treated like animals and moved around different detention centres like animals. The immigration service have taken husbands from their families and taken people who ran away from persecution in their various countries, and dumped everyone in here.

Once you are put in here the immigration service forget you. There are detainees who have applied to go back to their own countries that are still being held here for months without any news about their cases, just so that the private security companies get more money.

Detainees are asked to seek asylum and then refused. The immigration service also ask detainees to apply for bail. When you get a bail hearing date all of a sudden they serve you with removal papers that are not valid. There are many of these situations. In most cases the immigration service don’t take you to your court hearings. And then they tell the judges you refused to turn up, just so the hearing goes ahead in your absence. Many detainees have been served with removal papers and travel documents but nothing happens on the removal day.

Campsfield has become a slave house. We detainees are treated like slaves, to do odd jobs for officers. Detainees are handcuffed to see doctors or dentists in hospitals or clinic appointments. We have some racist security officers who make racist comments to detainees and go out of their way to make you feel like committing suicide. Detainees have to be at the point of death before they get to see the doctors.

The food is not worth eating. Even dogs would refuse to eat what we eat. But we don’t have a choice; every single day we eat the same food (the food we eat is rice, chicken, sandwiches, and left-over eggs)”.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Immigration_Detainees_on_Hunger_Strike_in_Oxford_UK&oldid=3763375”

Wikinews interviews You-peng Wang of Taipei Electrical Commercial Association

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Besides becoming a political stomping ground for the Pan-Green and Pan-Blue coalitions, there are other changes from past years of Taipei Audio Video Fair (TAVF). With those changes in mind, Wikinews reporter Rico Shen interviewed You-peng Wang, chairman of the Taipei Electrical Commercial Association (TECA), the main organizer of TAVF, about the 60th year anniversary of TECA and the changes to the show.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Wikinews_interviews_You-peng_Wang_of_Taipei_Electrical_Commercial_Association&oldid=665537”

Glazer caps Manchester United’s player transfer spending at £25m a year

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The intentions of Manchester United’s new owner, U.S. sports tycoon Malcolm Glazer, for the club have been revealed. Although spokespersons for Mr. Glazer (including his son) have stressed that nothing has been finalised, it appears that he intends to raise ticket prices, income, profits whilst capping spending on player transfers.

Mr. Glazer – who owns over 76.2% of the club’s shares through his investment company, Red Football – enraged fans when he started to accumulate shares earlier this year in an attempt to gain control of the what amounts to the world’s most successful football club. Manchester United has more fans, a higher market value, a more valuable and more widely recognised brand and is more profitable than any other football club in the world.

To gain control of the club, Glazer used borrowed money and he is set to transfer this money to the club’s books when he gains full control. The borrowed money will result in large interest repayments – pushing the clubs finances into the red. To counter this Mr. Glazer apparently intends to raise ticket prices by about 50% and to increase revenues by 52% to £245.6m (from £161.5m this year) over the next five years. Apart from ticket price increases, this jump in revenue will be achieved by a 61% jump in match day sales, a 13% increase in media sales, and a 76% rise in sales of merchandise and other commercial activities.

As part of his plans, expenditure on player transfers will be capped at just £25m a year. This is a very low figure for a English football club endeavouring to win domestic and European trophies. Seven years ago the club spent £28m on players, since then expenditure in England on players has increased hugely.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Glazer_caps_Manchester_United%27s_player_transfer_spending_at_£25m_a_year&oldid=851889”

Wikinews interviews Spanish Paralympic track and field athlete Alberto Suárez Laso

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

With the IPC Athletics World Championships scheduled to start this Friday, Wikinews interviewed Spanish T12 classified long distance runner Alberto Suárez Laso at Madrid–Barajas Airport Monday before he departed for Lyon, France. Suárez is scheduled to compete in two events, the T12 5,000 meters and marathon events.

((Wikinews)) Hi this is Laura Hale. I’m interviewing Alberto Suárez, who is a visually-impaired runner competing for Spain in the IPC World Championships. What events are you doing? ((es))Spanish language: ?¿En qué eventos estás?

Alberto Suárez Laso : Marathon and 5000m. ((es))Spanish language: ?Maratón y 5000m.

((WN)) You have a World Record? Are you going to smash it and give Spain a gold medal? ((es))Spanish language: ?¿Vas a romper el record mundial y darle a España un oro?

Alberto Suárez Laso: This time it’s a bit complicated because I’m going a bit injured. ((es))Spanish language: ?Esta vez está un poco complicado porque voy un poco lesionado

((WN)) Ah. You finished second in London [the 2012 Summer Paralympics]? ((es))Spanish language: ?¿Terminaste segundo en Londres?

Alberto Suárez Laso : I finished first.

((WN)) The injury has impacted you training? ((es))Spanish language: ?¿La lesión ha perjudicado tu entrenamiento?

Alberto Suárez Laso : For the last three weeks I’ve been doing gym and walking machine only. I have pain in my Achilles tendon. ((es))Spanish language: ?Llevo tres semanas solo con gimnasio y elíptica. Tengo dolor en el tendón de Aquiles.

((WN)) So, as someone who writes from an international perspective, do you think Spain’s got all that stuff to help you properly? The medical support, stuff to help you recuperate and be a great runner?

Alberto Suárez Laso : I hope so. We’re there, they’ve been treating me very well and I hope to be able to run without pain, which is the most important thing. I’ve got the training, but I need to remove that pain. ((es))Spanish language: ?Espero que sí. Estamos ahí, me están tratando bastante bien y espero correr sin dolor, que es lo fundamental. La preparación la tengo, pero hay que quitar ese dolor.

((WN)) Do you run with a guide?

Alberto Suárez Laso : No.

((WN)) Okay, so are you T-13?

Alberto Suárez Laso : T-12.

((WN)) Oh. So it’s optional for a guy at T-12?

Translator : He could, but he’s not too badly impaired. He can run by himself.

((WN)) So is your preference to run without a guide?

Alberto Suárez Laso : It’s complicated because of the pace I run at. I would require several guides, and it’s hard to find them. ((es))Spanish language: ?Es una complicación por el ritmo al que corro. Necesitaría varios guías y es dificil conseguirlos.

((WN)) Do most of your competitors run with guides?

Alberto Suárez Laso : Not among the first ones. Well, there are a couple that do run with guides, but the rest don’t. ((es))Spanish language: ?Los primeros no. Bueno, hay un par de ellos que corren con guía, los demás no.

((WN)) Is there anything you would like to say about this competition coming up that people from an international sporting community would find valuable to know?

Alberto Suárez Laso : Mm, I don’t know what to say!

((WN)) Okay. Thank you very much! ((es))Spanish language: ?¡Muchas gracias!

Alberto Suárez Laso : You’re welcome! ((es))Spanish language: ?De nada.
Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Wikinews_interviews_Spanish_Paralympic_track_and_field_athlete_Alberto_Suárez_Laso&oldid=4635249”

UK allows corporations to award high school credits

Monday, January 28, 2008

The government of the United Kingdom has given corporations like fast food chain McDonald’s the right to award high school qualifications to employees who complete a company training program.

Two other businesses, railway firm Network Rail and regional airline Flybe, were also approved. The decision was made by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which oversees the national curriculum.

McDonald’s said it will offer a “basic shift manager” course, which will train staff in marketing, customer service, and other areas of restaurant management. Completion of this course will be the equivalent of passing the GCSE, the standard exam taken at age 16, or the Advanced Level, taken at age 18.

Network Rail plans to offer a course in rail engineering, while Flybe is developing a course involving aircraft engineering and cabin crew training. Passing Flybe’s course could result a university level degree.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown supports the plan. “It is going to be a tough course, but once you have got a qualification in management you can probably go anywhere,” Brown said. He emphasized the importance of higher education, saying, “Every young person needs a skill and to think about going to college, doing an apprenticeship or university.”

John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, called the decision “an important step towards ending the old divisions between company training schemes and national qualifications” and said it will “benefit employees, employers and the country as a whole.”

However, some people are unsure of the plan’s effectiveness. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said, “We are unsure whether those institutions would be clamoring to accept people with McQualifications,” using a derogatory term for the program.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=UK_allows_corporations_to_award_high_school_credits&oldid=3197742”

Bank of America leads Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints about mortgages

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A review this week by Wikinews of US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) complaints about mortgages in the United States shows Bank of America leads all lending institutions in complaints.

Since mortgages complaints were recorded in December 2011, 77,622 total have been added to CFPB’s database. 29.2% of these complaints involved Bank of America, with the second most received by Wells Fargo, accounting for 15.5% of all complaints. JPMorgan Chase ranked third by volume of complaints with 9.8%. Ocwen was fourth with 8.7% and Citibank was fifth with 4.8%. Nationstar Mortgage; Green Tree Servicing, LLC; HSBC; PNC Bank; U.S. Bancorp; OneWest Bank; SunTrust Bank; Flagstar Bank; and Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. each had between 1.0 and 3.8% of total complaints. The remaining 14.4% of all complaints about consumer mortgages were divided between about 530 other lending institutions.

The Motley Fool reported last month that for the past fiscal quarter, the biggest US based mortgage lenders were from first to fifth Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Quicken Loans and U.S. Bancorp.

According to the US Federal Reserve, debt for family residences stands at US$10.706 trillion for the second quarter of 2013. As of the end of June of this year, Bank of America is the United States’s second largest commercial bank with US$1.343 trillion in domestic assets. Wells Fargo is the fourth largest commercial bank with US$1.251 trillion in domestic assets. JPMorgan Chase is the largest US commercial bank with US$1.329 trillion in domestic assets and US$1.947 trillion in total assets.

The mortgage complaints in the CFPB report include several subproducts. Conventional fixed mortgages account for 27.1% of all complaints. Conventional adjustable mortgages account for 10.0%. FHA mortgages account for 7.7% of all complaints. Home equity loans or lines of credit account for 3.8% of all complaints. VA mortgages are 1.4% of all complaints. Second mortgages and reverse mortgages each account for 0.6% of complaints. The remaining 48.7% of complaints are about other mortgages or other mortgage issues. A few years ago, FHA loans accounted for about 10% of all US mortgages while VA loans accounted for about 3%. Prime loans accounted for over 75% of the market and the rest were subprime mortgages.

California leads all states by volume of complaints with 14768. It is followed by Florida, New York, Georgia and Texas. When complaints are divided by a state’s total population, New Hampshire leads. The state is followed by Washington D.C., Maryland, Georgia and Florida. Complaints do not correlate with national rankings for August’s foreclosure rate by state where Nevada topped the list, followed by Florida, Ohio, Maryland and Delaware.

Two zip codes account for over 1,000 total complaints between them. 565 complaints originated in the 48382 zip code, which is in Commerce Township, Michigan, located in suburban Detroit. 553 complaints originated in the 33071 zip code, in Coral Springs, Florida. According to real estate website Zillow, there are currently 1,033 properties in foreclosure in Coral Springs while Commerce Township only has 131 properties currently in foreclosure. Four other zip codes have 100 plus complaints originating from them. 91730, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, had 158 complaints. 33409, in West Palm Beach, Florida, had 132. 92626, in Costa Mesa, California, had 125 complaints. 92660, in Newport Beach, California, had 122 complaints. Respectively, the towns had 534, 1,068, 153, and 134 properties currently in foreclosure. These numbers are higher than for the cities of a few sampled zip codes where there was only one complaint, such as Gold Hill, Oregon which has 4 properties in foreclosure, and Decatur, Illinois which has 6 properties in foreclosure.

The CFPB categorizes complaints into six categories: “Loan modification, collection,foreclosure” or problems when a person is unable to pay; “Loan servicing, payments, escrow account” or problems with making a payment; “Application, originator, mortgage broker”; “Credit decision / Underwriting”; “Settlement process and costs”, and “Other”. The CFPB says the complaint types indicate consumers “appear to be driven by a desire to seek agreement with their companies on foreclosure alternatives. The complaints indicate that consumer confusion persists around the process and requirements for obtaining loan modifications and refinancing, especially regarding document submission timeframes, payment trial periods, allocation of payments, treatment of income in eligibility calculations, and credit bureau reporting during the evaluation period.” Currently, 59.6% of all complaints against lenders deal with being unable to pay. 25.1% deal with problems in making a payment. 7.0% have to do with the application process.

Of the complaint-heavy zip codes, for 48382 in Commerce Township, Michigan, 98.9% of all complaints have to deal with being unable to pay. Accounting for 23.4% of all mortgage complaints in Commerce Township, 132 of the complaints for being unable to pay were made regarding Bank of America, accounting for 97.8% or all but 3 complaints against them from the zip. 121 of the Bank of America responses in Commerce Township were closed with explanation and 12 were closed with non-monetary relief. 33071 in Coral Springs is different, with 537 of the 553 complaints being categorized under other. Only 11 complaints relate to foreclosure and issues with being able to pay. 92626 in Costa Mesa, where 32% of the mortgage complaints were about Bank of America and 26.4% were about Wells Fargo, had 93.6% of its complaints dealing with being unable to pay. 5 total complaints dealt with payment issues and 3 dealt with applications.

Beyond regional variance in complaint types lodged, the top five mortgage lenders by volume of complaints all had being unable to pay as their top complaint category, ranging between 55.8% for Citibank and 69.4% for Bank of America. Problems with payment accounted for the second largest area of complaints, with Ocwen having the largest percentage of complaints at 31.9% and Bank of America having the smallest at 18.8%. Foreclosure was the top area of complaints for a number of other lending institutions including 1st Alliance Lending, OneWest Bank, Ally Bank, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, Bank of the West, BMO Harris, BOK Financial Corp, Caliber Home Loans, Inc, Capital One, Deutsche Bank and EverBank.

Nationally, complaints reached a high of 5,840 for January 2013, 1,107 more than the next highest month of April 2013. The total emerging for September is the second lowest since records were first kept in December 2011. On a state by state level, this pattern largely repeats with a major exception for Florida which saw a peak of 849 complaints in June 2012. Then, as now, Florida was one of the top five states in the nation in its foreclosure rate. The national January spike came as the Qualified Mortgage standard required by the The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 came into play. It required mortgage lenders to take steps to insure borrowers could repay their mortgages.

Bank of America’s complaint volume follows the national trend, with a spike in January 2013 with 1,925 total complaints. Unlike nationally, the next month by volume of complaints was February of this year with 1,598 complaints. Prior to that, the highest month was May 2012 with 1,418 complaints. The lowest volume of complaints is September this year with 334.

Wells Fargo matched national trends for volume of complaints by month, with the exception of the current month being the lowest on record for number of complaints with 197 compared to the next lowest month, December 2011, when they had 221. JPMorgan’s complaint volume by month spiked in January and March of this year with 504 complaints. April of this year was the next highest month with 493 complaints, edging out May of last year with 488 complaints. September this year is on track to be the lowest month by complaint volume.

The federal government shutdown is unlikely to impact the current mortgage situation in the United States directly for most consumers, though mortgage processing by the Federal Housing Administration could be slower, resulting in fewer mortgages processed.

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Ford Motor Company cutting 30,000 jobs by 2012

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Ford Motor Company, the second-largest car manufacturer in America, will cut 30,000 jobs and 14 plants as part of a restructuring plan to relieve Ford after a US$1.6 billion loss last year in North American sales.

The plan, called “Way Forward”, the brainchild of Ford’s Chief Executive Officer, William Clay Ford Jr., is to end Ford’s North American losses by 2008. To accomplish this 30,000 jobs which make up 20 to 25 percent of Ford’s North American workforce of 122,000 people will be cut and 14 plants will be closed in order to bring Ford’s production capacity in line with demand.

By the end of this year, the Atlanta and St. Louis plants will be closed. Atlanta makes the Ford Taurus sedan, which is being phased out. The St. Louis plant is one of two plants that manufactures the Ford Explorer, whose sales had a 29% decline in 2005. It will also close its Wixom, Michigan plant, Batavia Transmission in Ohio the Windsor Casting plant in Ontario which was previously announced by Ford that it was to be closed after contract negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers union.

The plant in St. Thomas, Ontario plant will have one shift cut from it. The plant makes the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis cars. On this cut of the one shift, Whitey MacDonald, chairperson of Local 1520, Canadian Auto Workers union said “There is a lot of anger here today, there is no doubt about it. Any time a plant goes to one shift, it puts them in limbo. This car has made the company millions of dollars over the years they have invested in other products and locations – we are entitled to some new investment given our track record.”

Positive news for the plant is that Ford is still committed to invest $200 million into the plant to upgrade the appearance of the two cars manufactured there. On the contrary, according to Automotive analyst Dennis DesRosier believes that the factory is still “likely” to close. DesRoiser said, “The St. Thomas plant is old, the product is old, it make sense it is on that list. This may be just a short-term reprieve, it may be look at permanent closure in two to three years.”

Two more plants will close in 2008, another two in 2012. Two more plants to be closed are to be announced later this year. Also, Ford will fire 12% of its 53 executive officers.

Due to the company’s current contract with the United Auto Workers union, workers at the idled plants will still be receiving their pay and benefits until Ford negotiates a new contract with the union. However, the workers may not earn what they earn today because they will not be eligible for overtime.

The UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President Gerald Bantom called say the plan is “extremely disappointing.” The UAW issued statement saying “The impacted hourly and salaried workers find themselves facing uncertain futures because of senior management’s failure to halt Ford’s sliding market share. The announcement has further left a cloud hanging over the entire work force because of pending future announcements of additional facilities to be closed at some point in the future.”

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Ford_Motor_Company_cutting_30,000_jobs_by_2012&oldid=4462716”

Suspected serial killer appears in British court

Friday, May 28, 2010

A man accused of being a serial killer has appeared in Bradford magistrates court in West Yorkshire today charged with three counts of murder. 40-year-old Stephen Griffiths is accused of killing Suzanne Blamires, 36, Susan Rushworth, 43, and Shelley Armitage, 31, all prostitutes.

Griffiths, a former van driver with a degree in psychology and studying for a PhD in criminology, gave his name as “Crossbow Cannibal” when asked. He has been in police custody since Monday when police were alerted to a CCTV recording that appeared to show a murder.

A caretaker had been reviewing footage from the flats where Griffiths lives when he saw footage of a woman and a man enter a flat early on Saturday morning. Two minutes later, she ran out and was followed by the man, who beat her to the ground and shot her in the head with a crossbow. Over the course of the weekend, the man was seen several times with bin bags and a rucksack.

On Tuesday, the day after the arrest of Griffiths, Blamires’ remains were found in the River Aire in nearby Shipley. She had been cut into several pieces and her head was located in a rucksack. Police continue to search for the other two alleged victims; Rushworth has been missing since June last year and Armitage vanished in April.

Police have searched much of Bradford’s red-light district, where Griffiths’ third-floor flat is located. Forensic investigations at the flat are expected to last around three weeks. There are plans to search landfill sites for bodies, and police may yet expand the inquiry to cover three more cold cases, although at present they have not been linked to the current inquiry.

Sniffer dogs have been used throughout the city, and police have been taking away plastic evidence bags. Some alleyways remain closed off. Police charged their suspect yesterday.

Griffiths was known as “the lizard man” in his block of flats owing to his habit of walking his two pet monitor lizards in the area. One neighbour is reported to have quoted him as saying he was studying for “a PhD in murder and Jack the Ripper,” and he has spent time in a high-security psychiatric hospital. During his five-minute court appearance he did not enter a plea, kept his head bowed and fidgeted with his cuffed hands. He said “Here, I guess,” when asked for his address.

As he stood in the glass-fronted dock, guarded by three security officers, he was watched by the families of Rushworth and Armitage, who were accompanied by police family liaison officers. Blamires’ family chose not to be present, but the victim’s mother Nicky Blamires, 54, has told the press that Suzanne was a “much-loved” family member even though she “went down the wrong path and did not have the life she was meant to have.” “Nobody deserves this,” she said. “All these girls were human beings and people’s daughters.”

Griffiths’ morning court appearance was followed by a second one this afternoon, at Bradford Crown Court. This time, he confirmed his name without incident. He was remanded into custody until next month, when he will appear in court again.

British media has been quick to compare the case to Peter Sutcliffe, dubbed the “Yorkshire Ripper”. Sutcliffe was a Bradford killer responsible for thirteen murders and seven attempted murders, including several prostitutes. Since his 1981 conviction he has spent most of the last three decades in Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital near London.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Suspected_serial_killer_appears_in_British_court&oldid=4501892”

Malaysian government warns citizens about Uncyclopedia

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Satire site Uncyclopedia, a parody of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, has been labeled by the Malaysian government as dangerous. The Internal Security Department of Malaysia issued the warning today, saying that the site has “messages and information insulting Malaysia”.

The warning notes the creation date of the website as being 5 January 2005, and hosted by Wikia, Inc., both of which are correct. However, it claims Wikia owns Wikipedia; Wikipedia is a charitable non-profit website owned by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, while Wikia is an independent, for-profit company.

The report evidently mentions that Uncyclopedia covers Malaysian “history, culture, the political leaders, the government, the national song and the name / history of the national flag,” none of which is “correct”. They accuse the website of helping to reinforce a bad international image of their country.

There are no reports of the site being blocked from access within the country, only this statement, which urges Malaysians not to circulate the content.

Uncyclopedia’s article on Malaysia begins:

Essentially the penis of Asia which is located to the north of their cousins who live on an even smaller island Singapore, Malaysia (also known as Bolehland) is a young nation of diverse cultures and races such as F1 Formula-1 and Nascar. The timezone of Malaysia is unique because it follows the system of +1/+2 PMT (Predetermined Meeting Time) which is 1 or 2 hours later than PMT. Most foreigners have difficulty adjusting to this new timezone as they tend to show up 1 or 2 hours earlier than the local counterparts. The nation is moving forward with a vision towards becoming a developed nation by the year 2020, 3030, 4040 or whatever catchy number.

…Another common state that Malaysians have is denial (no lah, where got?), which incidentally, is a river in Egypt.

The site has fired back with a parody article posted at the site under their UnNews section, titled Uncyclopedia Internal Security Department warns on Malaysia. The article suggests that the “Internal Security Department of the Uncyclomedia Foundation,” which is a facetious and fictitious parent organization of Uncyclopedia, identifies Malaysia “as a dangerous country… It warned its people not to use the country today.”

There are forty-seven individual language editions of Uncyclopedia, including Tolololpedia, which is written in Bahasa Melayu, the Malay language. This is in addition to fictional “language” editions which include Oscar Wilde, Newspeak, N00b, White Supremacist, and Re: PharmaccgRy.

Retrieved from “https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=Malaysian_government_warns_citizens_about_Uncyclopedia&oldid=1408264”

Petition pressures City of Edinburgh Council to review clause affecting live music scene

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Live music venues in Edinburgh, Scotland are awaiting a review later this year on the 2005 licensing policy, which places limitations on the volume of amplified music in the city. Investigating into how the policy is affecting the Edinburgh music scene, a group of Wikinews writers interviewed venue owners, academics, the City of Edinburgh Council, and local band The Mean Reds to get different perspectives on the issue.

Since the clause was introduced by the government of the city of Edinburgh, licensed venues have been prohibited from allowing music to be amplified to the extent it is audible to nearby residential properties. This has affected the live music scene, with several venues discontinuing regular events such as open mic nights, and hosting bands and artists.

Currently, the licensing policy allows licensing standards officers to order a venue to cease live music on any particular night, based on a single noise complaint from the public. The volume is not electronically measured to determine if it breaches a decibel volume level. Over roughly the past year there have been 56 separate noise complaints made against 18 venues throughout the city.

A petition to amend the clause has garnered over 3,000 signatures, including the support of bar owners, musicians, and members of the general public.

On November 17, 2014, the government’s Culture and Sport Committee hosted an open forum meeting at Usher Hall. Musicians, venue owners and industry professionals were encouraged to provide their thoughts on how the council could improve live music in the city. Ways to promote live music as a key cultural aspect of Edinburgh were discussed and it was suggested that it could be beneficial to try and replicate the management system of live music of other global cities renowned for their live music scenes. However, the suggestion which prevailed above all others was simply to review the existing licensing policy.

Councillor (Cllr) Norma Austin-Hart, Vice Convenor of the Culture and Sport Committee, is responsible for the working group Music is Audible. The group is comprised of local music professionals, and councillors and officials from Edinburgh Council. A document circulated to the Music is Audible group stated the council aims “to achieve a balance between protecting residents and supporting venues”.

Following standard procedure, when a complaint is made, a Licensing Standards Officer (LSO) is dispatched to investigate the venue and evaluate the level of noise. If deemed to be too loud, the LSO asks the venue to lower the noise level. According to a document provided by the City of Edinburgh Council, “not one single business has lost its license or been closed down because of a breach to the noise condition in Edinburgh.”

In the Scotland Licensing Policy (2005), Clause 6.2 states, “where the operating plan indicates that music is to be played in a premises, the board will consider the imposition of a condition requiring amplified music from those premises to be inaudible in residential property.” According to Cllr Austin-Hart, the high volume of tenement housing in the city centre makes it difficult for music to be inaudible.

During the Edinburgh Festival Fringe during the summer, venues are given temporary licences that allow them to operate for the duration of the festival and under the condition that “all amplified music and vocals are controlled to the satisfaction of the Director of Services for Communities”, as stated in a document from the council. During the festival, there is an 11 p.m. noise restriction on amplified music, and noise may be measured by Environmental Health staff using sophisticated equipment. Noise is restricted to 65dB(A) from the facades of residential properties; however, complaints from residents still occur. In the document from the council, they note these conditions and limitations for temporary venues would not necessarily be appropriate for permanent licensed premises.

In a phone interview, Cllr Austin-Hart expressed her concern about the unsettlement in Edinburgh regarding live music. She referenced the closure of the well-known Picture House, a venue that has provided entertainment for over half a century, and the community’s opposition to commercial public bar chain Wetherspoon buying the venue. “[It] is a well-known pub that does not play any form of music”, Cllr Austin-Hart said. “[T]hey feel as if it is another blow to Edinburgh’s live music”. “[We] cannot stop Wetherspoon’s from buying this venue; we have no control over this.”

The venue has operated under different names, including the Caley Palais which hosted bands such as Queen and AC/DC. The Picture House opened in 2008.

One of the venues which has been significantly affected by the licensing laws is the Phoenix Bar, on Broughton Street. The bar’s owner, Sam Roberts, was induced to cease live music gigs in March, following a number of noise complaints against the venue. As a result, Ms Roberts was inspired to start the aforementioned petition to have Clause 6.2 of the licensing policy reviewed, in an effort to remove the ‘inaudibility’ statement that is affecting venues and the music scene.

“I think we not only encourage it, but actively support the Edinburgh music scene,” Ms Roberts says of the Phoenix Bar and other venues, “the problem is that it is a dying scene.”

When Ms Roberts purchased the venue in 2013, she continued the existing 30-year legacy established by the previous owners of hosting live acts. Representative of Edinburgh’s colourful music scene, a diverse range of genres have been hosted at the venue. Ms Roberts described the atmosphere when live music acts perform at her venue as “electric”. “The whole community comes together singing, dancing and having a party. Letting their hair down and forgetting their troubles. People go home happy after a brilliant night out. All the staff usually join in; the pub comes alive”. However licensing restrictions have seen a majority of the acts shut down due to noise complaints. “We have put on jazz, blues, rock, rockabilly, folk, celtic and pop live acts and have had to close everything down.” “Residents in Edinburgh unfortunately know that the Council policy gives them all the rights in the world, and the pubs and clubs none”, Ms Roberts clarified.

Discussing how inaudibility has affected venues and musicians alike, Ms Roberts stated many pubs have lost profit through the absence of gigs, and trying to soundproof their venue. “It has put many musicians out of work and it has had an enormous effect on earnings in the pub. […] Many clubs and bars have been forced to invest in thousands of pounds worth of soundproofing equipment which has nearly bankrupted them, only to find that even the tiniest bit of noise can still force a closure. It is a ridiculously one-sided situation.” Ms Roberts feels inaudibility is an unfair clause for venues. “I think it very clearly favours residents in Edinburgh and not business. […] Nothing is being done to support local business, and closing down all the live music venues in Edinburgh has hurt financially in so many ways. Not only do you lose money, you lose new faces, you lose the respect of the local musicians, and you begin to lose all hope in a ‘fair go’.”

With the petition holding a considerable number of signatures, Ms Roberts states she is still sceptical of any change occurring. “Over three thousand people have signed the petition and still the council is not moving. They have taken action on petitions with far fewer signatures.” Ms Roberts also added, “Right now I don’t think Edinburgh has much hope of positive change”.

Ms Roberts seems to have lost all hope for positive change in relation to Edinburgh’s music scene, and argues Glasgow is now the regional choice for live music and venues. “[E]veryone in the business knows they have to go to Glasgow for a decent scene. Glasgow City Council get behind their city.”

Ms Martina Cannon, member of local band The Mean Reds, said a regular ‘Open Mic Night’ she hosted at The Parlour on Duke Street has ceased after a number of complaints were made against the venue. “It was a shame because it had built up some momentum over the months it had been running”. She described financial loss to the venue from cancelling the event, as well as loss to her as organiser of the event.

Sneaky Pete’s music bar and club, owned by Nick Stewart, is described on its website as “open and busy every night”.”Many clubs could be defined as bars that host music, but we really are a music venue that serves drinks”, Mr Stewart says. He sees the live music scene as essential for maintaining nightlife in Edinburgh not only because of the economic benefit but more importantly because of the cultural significance. “Music is one of the important things in life. […] it’s emotionally and intellectually engaging, and it adds to the quality of life that people lead.”

Sneaky Pete’s has not been immune to the inaudibility clause. The business has spent about 20,000 pounds on multiple soundproofing fixes designed to quell complaints from neighboring residents. “The business suffered a great deal in between losing the option to do gigs for fear of complaints, and finishing the soundproofing. As I mentioned, we are a music business that serves drinks, not a bar that also has music, so when we lose shows, we lose a great deal of trade”, said Mr Stewart.

He believes there is a better way to go about handling complaints and fixing public nuisances. “The local mandatory condition requiring ‘amplified music and vocals’ to be ‘inaudible’ should be struck from all licenses. The requirement presupposes that nuisance is caused by music venues, when this may not reasonably be said to be the case. […] Nuisance is not defined in the Licensing Act nor is it defined in the Public Health Act (Scotland) 2008. However, The Consultation on Guidance to accompany the Statutory Nuisance Provisions of the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008 states that ‘There are eight key issues to consider when evaluating whether a nuisance exists[…]'”.

The eight key factors are impact, locality, time, frequency, duration, convention, importance, and avoidability. Stewart believes it is these factors that should be taken into consideration by LSOs responding to complaints instead of the sole factor of “audibility”.He believes multiple steps should be taken before considering revocation of licenses. Firstly, LSOs should determine whether a venue is a nuisance based on the eight factors. Then, the venue should have the opportunity to comply by using methods such as changing the nature of their live performances (e.g. from hard rock to acoustic rock), changing their hours of operation, or soundproofing. If the venue still fails to comply, then a board can review their license with the goal of finding more ways to bring them into compliance as opposed to revoking their license.

Nick Stewart has discussed his proposal at length with Music is Audible and said he means to present his proposal to the City of Edinburgh Council.

Dr Adam Behr, a music academic and research associate at the University of Edinburgh who has conducted research on the cultural value of live music, says live music significantly contributes to the economic performance of cities. He said studies have shown revenue creation and the provision of employment are significant factors which come about as a result of live music. A 2014 report by UK Music showed the economic value generated by live music in the UK in 2013 was £789 million and provided the equivalent of 21,600 full time jobs.

As the music industry is international by nature, Behr says this complicates the way revenue is allocated, “For instance, if an American artist plays a venue owned by a British company at a gig which is promoted by a company that is part British owned but majority owned by, say, Live Nation (a major international entertainment company) — then the flow of revenues might not be as straightforward as it seems [at] first.”

Despite these complexities, Behr highlighted the broader advantages, “There are, of course, ancillary benefits, especially for big gigs […] Obviously other local businesses like bars, restaurants and carparks benefit from increased trade”, he added.

Behr criticised the idea of making music inaudible and called it “unrealistic”. He said it could limit what kind of music can be played at venues and could force vendors to spend a large amount of money on equipment that enables them to meet noise cancelling requirements. He also mentioned the consequences this has for grassroots music venues as more ‘established’ venues within the city would be the only ones able to afford these changes.

Alongside the inaudibility dispute has been the number of sites that have been closing for the past number of years. According to Dr Behr, this has brought attention to the issue of retaining live music venues in the city and has caused the council to re-evaluate its music strategy and overall cultural policy.

This month, Dr Behr said he is to work on a live music census for Edinburgh’s Council which aims to find out what types of music is played, where, and what exactly it brings to the city. This is in an effort to get the Edinburgh city council to see any opportunities it has with live music and the importance of grassroots venues. The census is similar to one conducted in Victoria, Australia in 2012 on the extent of live music in the state and its economic benefit.

As for the solution to the inaudibility clause, Behr says the initial step is dialogue, and this has already begun. “Having forum discussion, though, is a start — and an improvement”, he said. “There won’t be an overnight solution, but work is ongoing to try to find one that can stick in the long term.”

Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of Music Venue Trust, said she is unable to comment on her work with the City of Edinburgh Council or on potential changes to the inaudibility clause in the Licensing Policy. However, she says, “I have been asked to assess the situation and make recommendations in September”.

According to The Scotsman, the Council is working toward helping Edinburgh’s cultural and entertainment scene. Deputy Council Leader Sandy Howat said views of the entertainment industry needs to change and the Council will no longer consider the scene as a “sideline”.

Senior members of the Council, The Scotsman reported, aim to review the planning of the city to make culture more of a priority. Howat said, “If you’re trying to harness a living community and are creating facilities for people living, working and playing then culture should form part of that.”

The review of the inaudibility clause in the Licensing Policy is set to be reviewed near the end of 2016 but the concept of bringing it forward to this year is still under discussion.

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