Monthly Archives: January 2016

  • Worcester cannabis farm case adjourned for lack of interpreter

    Cannabis sativaPolish is one of the most common foreign languages for which interpreters are required in UK courts, yet it seems that Capita Translation & Interpreting, which holds the contract for supplying interpreters in courts and tribunals, still seems to be experiencing difficulties in providing Polish interpreters, nearly four years after the incompetent outsourcing giant got its hands on the contract.

    Yesterday’s Worcester News reports that a case against 3 Polish nationals accused of producing 105 cannabis plants in Worcester had to be adjourned yesterday.

    Marcin Pobiegly, Lukasz Kloch and Andrzey Ratowski appeared before magistrates in Worcester on Friday concerning a cannabis grow in the city’s Vauxhall Street.

    However, the case had to be adjourned due lack of court time as magistrates waited in vain for a Polish interpreter to arrive.

    It will now be heard on Monday, always providing that a Capita interpreter bothers to turn up.

    Update 02/02/16: An interpreter did turn up on Monday and that day’s Worcester News states that the case has now been referred to Crown Court.

  • Joint effort to produce first 100% open source, enterprise-grade cloud office suite

    Kolab Systems, creators of Kolab, the leading open source groupware and collaboration framework, today announced a partnership with Collabora Productivity, the architects behind LibreOffice Online, the cloud-based office productivity suite.

    The first version of Kolab with integrated CloudSuite functionality is due to appear around the middle of 2016.

    Collabora’s CloudSuite web-based document product will be available as an integrated component in Kolab. The integration of CloudSuite into Kolab will allow users to work on documents simultaneously using a fully-featured online office suite from within the Kolab collaboration suite. Users will be able to create text documents, fill in spreadsheets and design presentations together, even when they are in different locations. Documents can later be saved in popular formats, including Open Document Format (ODF) and MS-compatible formats. The CloudSuite offering also comes with Collabora Office, a professional LibreOffice distribution, for offline use on the desktop.

    CloudSuite complements Kolab’s integrated editor, which is also gaining collaborative editing capabilities. Users will be able to collaborate in real-time composing emails, setting agendas for meetings or adding contacts to distribution lists before sharing their work with colleagues and clients.

    LibreOffice Online graphic

    “For too long, closed and insecure solutions have been the industry standard for office and groupware productivity,” said Kolab System’s CEO, Georg Greve. “With this partnership Collabora and Kolab are taking the lead, not only with bleeding edge technological innovation and an office stack with full, user-friendly and comprehensive collaborative features, but also with a product that respects users’ freedoms, protects their privacy, and guarantees their work will not be locked away in proprietary formats.”

    “Collabora Productivity is delighted to provide a key building block in Kolab’s comprehensive, new offering,” said Michael Meeks, General Manager at Collabora Productivity. “Kolab Systems have been a leading light in open source for many years and we look forward to supporting their ambitious growth plans in the enterprise sector and beyond.”

  • Gloucestershire PCC defends linguists

    Gloucestershire PCC Martin SurlA couple of days ago, the Tory Police & Crime Commissioner candidate for Gloucestershire, Will Windsor-Clive criticised the £100,000 or so the Gloucestershire constabulary spends annually on interpreters (posts passim) in an early campaign effort to deploy bigotry and xenophobia.

    Today, the Western Daily Press reports that the current Police and Crime Commissioner, independent Martin Surl, has defended his force’s expenditure on linguists.

    He is reported to have said the following:

    Translators [sic] are highly qualified professionals who provide a fundamental service.

    Victims must be protected and the law administered without fear or favour and effective communication is essential to the process of justice.

    It is also a legal requirement that if a case comes to court, all sides must be understood and be able to understand the proceedings.

    Well said, Mr Surl, although you need to see my handy illustrated guide to appreciate the difference between translators and interpreters. 🙂

  • PCC candidate queries paltry interpreting bill

    This May sees a whole slew of elections to local councils, the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and last but not least, 41 local Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

    Will Windsor-Clive looking dapperAs regards the election of the PCC for Gloucestershire, Will Windsor-Clive, the Conservative candidate, has decided to play the bigotry and xenophobia card early. He’s doing so by questioning the £100,000 the force spends annually on interpreters, having filed a Freedom of Information Act request on the subject, the Western Daily Press reports.

    The paper reports the overall costs have remained around £100,000 a year over the three years between 2011 and 2014.

    In a quote for the paper, Mr Windsor-Clive is reported to have commented: “This is an unseen cost of high levels of immigration. Taxpayers quite rightly want their money spent on keeping their community safe, not on providing translating services. I’m determined to find ways of cutting back-office costs to spend on frontline policing and this is one area that needs investigating.”

    Here are a number of questions electors (and others) should ask Mr Windsor-Clive.

    1. Is it right to whip up bigotry and xenophobia for electoral gain?

    2. Does Mr Windsor-Clive regard the rule of law and the administration of justice as priceless commodities in a civilised society?

    3. If the answer to 2. above is yes, wouldn’t any reasonable person regard £100,000 a reasonable price to pay to enable the full participation of both victims and accused persons who don’t speak English proficiently in the enforcement of the rule of law and the administration of justice?

    4. If Mr Windsor-Clive were to fall foul of the police in a foreign country whose language he did not speak, would he be content to forego the services of an interpreter, as he obviously wants to do in Gloucestershire?

  • Is Cabot Circus employing Smurfs?

    The modern mobile phone is a sophisticated and very useful item: mine is a miniature marvel – a Linux-based computer that fits comfortably in the hand, plays music, acts as a radio, takes video and still images and also allows me to make telephone calls.

    Venturing into central Bristol, one notices that nearly everyone one passes has one and entering the Cabot Circus shopping centre – that latter day monument to retail therapy – is no exception to this general observation.

    Having noticed a couple of years ago that visitors to Cabot Circus have their progress around that Temple of Mammon tracked by means of their mobile phone signal (posts passim), it has been my practice ever since to turn my mobile phone off before entering; and I don’t turn it back on until I’m well clear.

    Cabot Circus mobile phone recharging cabinetIt’s bad enough being tracked from shop to shop, but there’s another threat to the privacy and security of mobile phones and their users in Cabot Circus… but you’ll only discover it if you happen to use the mobile phone charging points (shown left) kindly provided by the centre’s management.

    On the face of it, these charging points – 3 in number – are a boon to visitors. After all, who hasn’t been in a situation where one’s battery is running low. It does seem benevolent of the managers of Cabot Circus to provide half an hour’s gratis battery top-up, doesn’t it?

    Now, you remember me saying about turning my phone off before entering? Good! With my device switched well and truly OFF I have now placed my phone in the recharging facility whilst paying a call of nature. Upon return a few minutes later, I have in each instance retrieved by phone from the locker – and found it to be switched ON!

    Needless to say out of consideration for my security and privacy, I shall not be using one of these charging points again.

    As regards using the mobile phone charging points, the Cabot Circus website states the following:

    Because we want our visitors to have a stress free [sic] shopping experience within our centre, Cabot Circus has now installed three ChargeBox phone charging stations, ideal for when your battery goes flat at the most inconvenient times.

    Easy to use in three simple steps, connect your phone, lock, take the key and relax. The ChargeBox stations allow you to charge your phones for free and enjoy 30 minutes extra shopping time!

    The ChargeBox stations at Cabot Circus are located:

    – Level 1 outside Costa
    – Upper Ground at the Information Desk
    – Ground floor toilet lobby

    Curiously, there’s nothing in the above text that I can see about the points’ ability to turn on a mobile phone that’s been switched off.

    However, let’s be generous and assume that specific piece of information was omitted by mistake. 🙂

    When I charge my turned-off phone elsewhere, either by using a USB cable connected to a PC/laptop or the adapter that came with it, it definitely stays off. That being so, I began thinking how could the lovely folk at Cabot Circus generously providing me with free electricity be turning my phone back on when I’d left it firmly switched off.

    A quick internet search reveals no logical or plausible benign explanation as to why a switched-off phone is turned on by the charging station.

    The only tools of which your correspondent is aware for doing such things to a mobile phone is the Smurf suite of tools used by the British State’s snoopers at GCHQ, as revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In this suite of tools, one called “Dreamy Smurf” can allegedly turn a phone on or off, whilst another called “Nosey Smurf” can activate a phone’s microphone to use it for audio surveillance. “Tracker Smurf” is a geo-location tool that Snowden says offers a more accurate method of locating a phone and its carrier than using triangulation. Another Smurf can operate a smartphone’s camera, while “Paranoid Smurf” does its best to hide the activities of the other Smurfs.

    One therefore has to wonder whether that the operators of Cabot Circus, by turning visitors’ phones on, are infringing their privacy and presenting a security threat to their mobile devices.

    Care to come clean, Cabot Circus, on whether you’re employing Smurfs or using something analagous?

  • Tidy BS5 at the Mayor’s Question Time

    George Ferguson looking trustworthyOn Wednesday evening Bristolians had an opportunity to question the city’s elected mayor, George Ferguson, at the City Academy on Russell Town Avenue.

    Your ‘umble scribe attended, hoping to ask George a question on the city council’s dreadful record on keeping on top of fly-tipping, litter and other environmental crimes within the city as a whole and east Bristol in particular.

    The session was chaired by BS5 resident and freelance journalist Pamela Parkes, who did an excellent job.

    Your correspondent was successful in putting his question to the mayor, which read as follows:

    This year Stoke-on-Trent City Council managed to find £750K of additional funding to tackle environmental crimes such as fly-tipping. What additional budget allocations will the mayor be making this year to emulate the Potteries?

    Needless to say, the mayor ducked answering the additional funding bit (from which one can infer that no additional resources will be made available in Mr Ferguson’s forthcoming budget. Ed.) and laid great emphasis on £80m cuts imposed by central govt. on Bristol and how much Bristol City Council was actually spending on waste management in Bristol. I thought most of his answer was emollient waffle, blustering about the establishment of Bristol Waste, early days for them etc. However, facilitator Pamela Parkes pointed out that despite all the campaigning by residents, both informally and formally under the banner of Tidy BS5, the situation locally hasn’t improved at all. To be fair to George Ferguson, he did make a good point about the need to promote the repair and reuse of consumer goods, to reduce the amount going to landfill.

    George then handed over to the head of Bristol Waste whose name I cannot remember. She made the point that fly-tipping had remained constant in Bristol over recent years. When challenged about the level of fly-tipping – four times that in neighbouring local authorities, back came the defeatist line that fly-tipping is always higher in cities.

    So overall it looks like there will be little change in the council’s competence or motivation in tackling fly-tipping in the city

    Besides my question, others tackled the mayor on education, housing and homelessness, the treatment of BME communities (following the cancelling of this year’s St Paul’s Carnival and current management problems at the Malcolm X Centre) and transport.

    At the end there was a lively open session, during which there was a lot of hostility to the mayor from the public on various matters – the previously mentioned carnival and Malcolm X woes, growing Islamophobia, declining community cohesion and the total waste of Green Capital (which GF characterised as the most successful Green Capital year yet. Ed.), to mention but a few.

    George placed great emphasis on his listening skills, stating he’d listen to anybody. However, he has past form in his post-listening dismissals of members of the public. This was not lost on his audience on Wednesday, one of whom queried along the lines of: “You may be listening George, but are you hearing what they’re saying to you?”

    T-shirt slogan I've listened now f**ck off
    A T-shirt design produced after George’s dismissal of a member of the public in 2013. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    In the end the session overran and City Academy staff were heartily thanked for sacrificing their time so generously.

  • Why pick on Muslim women, Mr Cameron?

    Earlier this morning a man doing Prime Minister impressions appeared on the BBC’s Today programme to explain why Muslim women should be encouraged to learn English.

    That person – a man called Cameron – is reported by the press to be advocating such an idea to “combat radicalisation“.

    shot of Time front page with headline women must integrate Cameron tells Muslims

    At the same time, this Prime Minister impersonator announced £20 mn. additional funding to teach Muslim women English, an initiative that applies a sticking plaster to the massive wounds inflicted to English language teaching by his governments since 2010. The most recent of these cuts was last July, involving a £45 mn. scheme that taught English to 47,000 foreigners.

    Whilst I would concur that parents with a poor command of English in this country would place them at a disadvantage when it came to understanding the influences on their children, why are Muslim women being singled out for special treatment? After all, there are plenty of women of other religions – and none – with poor English skills.

    Journalist Fleet Street Fox of the Mirror has labelled Cameron’s announcement as “breathtakingly cretinous“, in addition to which he’s come under fire from his own ranks, including via social media from a former Minister, Sayeeda Warsi.

    tweet text reads mums English isn't great yet she inspired her girls to become a Lawyer, teacher, accountant, pharmacist, cabinet minister #WomenPower

    Furthermore, Cameron’s pronouncement has been roundly condemned by the Ramadhan Foundation whose Chief Executive Mohammed Shafiq commented as follows earlier today:

    The Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Government are once again using British Muslims as a political football to score cheap points to appear tough. There are three million Muslims in this country and the Prime Minister chooses to focus on a very small minority of extremists when clearly the majority of British Muslims reject extremism.

    The Ramadhan Foundation has been clear for many years that we face an increased risk from terrorism and an ideology of hatred, the best way to confront it is to build support within Muslims and support the work done across the country and not lashing out and denigrating Muslims.

    The irony of the Prime Minister calling for more resources to help migrants learn English when his Government cut the funding for English classes in 2011 has not been lost on many people.

    This was a right wing, neo con Prime Minister delivering more of the same disgraceful stereotyping of British Muslims rather than focusing on the positive contribution of our faith and community he focuses on the extreme minority of issues which clearly is not representative.

    Many in the British Muslim community will reject this neo con agenda and continue our work in confronting extremism and terrorism without the support of the Conservative Government.

  • 2016 – the greenwash continues

    Bristol’s wasted year as European Green Capital (posts passim) may be over, but the greenwash* continues, as shown by the advertising hoarding below by the side of the A4032 Easton Way, a dual carriageway blasted through this inner-city community in the late 1960s or early 1970s to speed motorists from one jam to another. To be more specific, the hoarding itself is conveniently situated next to the traffic lights by the Stapleton Road bus gate, where bored commuters can gawp at it waiting for the lights to change as they suffocate in their own traffic fumes and poison the rest of us.

    poster subvertised with wording Red Trouser Greenwash
    Picture credit: StapletonRd

    As can be seen from the photo, at least one local hasn’t fallen for the greenwash and has said so, pinpointing the source as the trousers of Bristol’s elected mayor. 🙂

    The mayor – and the local authority he runs – had an ideal opportunity during Green Capital Year to tackle some of Bristol’s endemic problems, such as the chronic over-reliance on the motor car, abysmal public transport and the unending stream of litter and fly-tipping blighting the inner city, but decided to do very little on these matters, preferring instead to spend money on pointless art projects and mutual back-slapping events for the great and good.

    * Greenwash (n.), a superficial or insincere display of concern for the environment that is shown by an organisation.

  • An evening’s poaching in Bristol

    My late mother Gladys grew up living next door to the village poacher – a gentleman now long departed called Tom Cook – in her childhood home of Blo’ Norton in Norfolk.

    During my youth in Market Drayton, Shropshire, Derek Podmore – otherwise known as Poddy the Poacher – was another character one encountered who achieved a certain notoriety. At one stage this notoriety reached national level when he featured on the centre pages of the now defunct News of the World after breaking into the Duke of Bedford’s safari park at Woburn Abbey one night and shooting milord’s bison… for a bet.

    I was therefore very pleased to learn that Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG) is organising a talk on poaching by Steve Mills at 7.00 p.m. on Thursday 28th January at Hydra Books in Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EZ (map).

    Entitled “Poaching in the South West: The Berkeley Case“, Steve’s talk will cover the contents of his recent BRHG pamphlet “Poaching in the South West“, which considers the poaching wars in rural areas in the 18th and 19th Centuries and the arms race conducted between the poaching gangs, landowners and gamekeepers. He will also look at the development of the “poaching” laws in the period and the famous Berkeley Case.

    William Hemsley's The young poacher 1874
    William Hemsley, The Young Poacher (1874). Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    More information on Steve Mills’ pamphlet here.

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