Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hurricane Irene

as seen from the International Space Station

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Use boats to ease housing crisis, minister says

Local authorities should encourage residents to live on boats to ease Britain’s lack of affordable housing, the Housing Minister has said

Grant Shapps said that boats with residential moorings could be used to allow people to live in areas of the country where they could not afford to do so otherwise. Around 15,000 people live on the UK’s waterways and many more “would like to do so”, the minister said. Half the population lives within five miles of one of Britain’s waterways.

Mr Shapps said that new moorings could be eligible for the Government’s New Homes Bonus, meaning that councils could receive funds to invest in waterside areas. The UK’s current housing shortage requires around 60,000 new homes to be built per quarter for the shortfall to be met. Mr Shapps said that houseboats are an example of how “unconventional housing” can be used to tackle the crisis.

“Whilst they will never overtake bricks and mortar in putting a roof over the heads of families, innovative new ways of housing families – such as residential moorings – play an important role in allowing people to live near to their place of work, children’s school, or family, and where perhaps they would not be able to afford to otherwise,” said Mr Shapps.

He said that the Government’s localism agenda could be an opportunity for houseboats to be given “a new lease of life”. Sally Ash, head of boating at British Waterways, said: “The number of people visiting and enjoying our canals and rivers has grown in recent years and this waterways renaissance has triggered strong demand from people wanting to live afloat. We welcome the minister’s encouragement to local authorities to support the creation of purpose built residential mooring sites.”

Alan Wildman, chairman of the Residential Boat Owners’ Association (RBOA), said: “Living afloat is arguably the most sustainable, lowest impact way to live.”

Can you think of any other examples of “unconventional housing”, children?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Private investors could profit from projects aiding troubled families

Private investors will be encouraged to fund intensive help programmes for troubled families under a trial launched by the government on Friday, writes Randeep Ramesh in the Guardian.

Ministers want philanthropists, charities and other organisations to plough cash into projects for 120,000 families to reduce the number of days their children spend in care, lower the rate of teen pregnancy and cut the number of visits to hospital accident and emergency wards.

Investors who put cash into a "social impact bond" will be paid a dividend for any successful project. Nick Hurd, the minister for the big society, says £40m could be raised by four bonds to be launched in pilot schemes in the London boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster and in Birmingham and Leicestershire.

These areas contain more than 6,000 "troubled families", leading such chaotic lives that taxpayers fork out more than £100,000 a year per family. But this cost can be shrunk by a dedicated team working intensively with the families to keep children in school, end domestic violence, force adults to kick drugs and drink and deal with mental health issues. Last week, in a response to the riots, David Cameron said all such troubled families would be helped within four years.

Although such "family intervention projects" were introduced by Labour more than five years ago in the four boroughs now targeted by the government, ministers said fewer than 150 families had been aided. The first of the new schemes will be running by April 2012. Investors will take a share of savings made by the government in a four-year period.

These profits could be substantial, with a pilot scheme in Westminster showing that £20,000 "invested" in a problem family could save £40,000 that would have been spent deploying social workers, police and child protection staff.

"We want this to take off pretty quickly," said Hurd. "I have had meetings with all the banks representing high net worth individuals who all wanted to talk about social impact bonds. Eventually we want a new asset class, social ISAs, where even me with my paltry savings could invest and get financial and social returns."

Hurd said the new bonds were a step change for the idea of social finance, with only one other bond proposed by the government. That first £5m bond, backed by the Ministry of Justice, aims to resettle 3,000 ex-offenders in Peterborough and reduce reoffending. If crimes committed by the former offenders fall by 7.5%, the funders could see an £8m payout.

Natasha Bishop, head of family recovery at Westminster council, told the Guardian that its scheme had been successful enough to bring more than a dozen families into work. "The biggest issue for us in Westminster was controlling the domestic violence issue. "We worked hard with police on getting information from families on how many times people had been hit or throttled."

She said the bonds would help councils recoup their own investments. "However, in the evaluation for our cutting-edge pilot with 50 families, the council helped to save 42% of the costs but received zero return on our investment. That will change."

Monday, 22 August 2011

Portraits of Cameron: Blue Eyes

Who designed France's new football shirts?

Ok, the story goes that Nike won the contract from Adidas back in 2008, when France were half-decent and had just enjoyed a hugely successful ten years. But since then, France walked out of the World Cup and their players were all banned from playing for France, by their own country, for a year, making them an international laughing stock. 

This is Nike's first ever kit for France and it's the most expensive football kit of all time - however, I don't think it's going to do much to stifle the laughter. It cost Nike around €300m (€42m per year until 2018) to buy the rights to dress the French team with a swoosh. But who the fuck designed the shirts? Apparently Karl Lagerfeld launched the kit but had nothing to do with the design of them - or at least he's not admitting to it and who can blame him.

The blue home shirt looks more Azzurri than Puma's Italy shirt and what's with the ridiculous little collar?!

As for the away kit, surely it wasn't Gaultier, was it? Or rather, Topshop does Gaultier. It doesn't look too bad on, say, Antoine Griezmann (below) but I can't wait to see it on the likes of N'Zogbia or Diarra or even Ribéry. Querelle de Brest he ain't!

Does anyone know who the designer was? 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

She's a Model

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Planetpmc on Facebook

Keep up with Planetpmc on Facebook

It's a lifestyle choice!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

So is your Blackberry secure? (part two)

So is your Blackberry secure?

"Not only are Rim (Research in Motion, Blackberry's owner) the most secure messaging operator, they're also the most fastidious - they log everything. If you were a looter using a Blackberry, you're going to get found out. The police have the power to serve Rim with an order to reveal information. Under the same law, Rim are barred from disclosing whether they've done so or not.

But although Rim can't say it themselves, I can say with confidence that they'll be doing everything they can to help. It's a reputation issue - these people are a tiny minority of their users and they want the remainder to see them doing all they can to track them down.

Rim don't need to reveal the actual contents of messages in order do that. They can tell police who sent a message to whom and when. The police can then ask the network operators where that was done - and the sum total will probably be enough to be used as evidence.

If you know a Blackberry belonging to a suspect sent a message to 45 other Blackberries and then those 45 owners all turn up in Ealing or Tottenham an hour later, it's clear what's going on."

Ben Wood, mobile technology expert, BBC News website

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The future is orange for rioters

A slew of punishments and deterrents have been suggested by politicians looking to ensure last week's riots are not repeated. If Cameron, Clegg and Co have their way, future rioters could end up ...

Losing benefits: Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has led the charge here, telling the BBC Radio 4 Today show that if we already accept that people who don't bother to look for work should have their benefits removed, the same should apply to those convicted of rioting.

Wearing orange suits: Deputy PM Nick Clegg said today that those rioters convicted but not imprisoned should have to return to the areas they vandalised and carry out their community service in "orange clothing".

Being banned from social media: David Cameron told Parliament last week that "when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality."

Being forced to face their victims: Another suggestion by Clegg, whose wide-ranging speech today focused on how to make criminals "change their ways", was to force convicted rioters to "look their victims in the eye". He explained: "They should have to see for themselves the conseqences of their actions and they should be put to work cleaning up the damage and destruction they have caused so they don't do it again."

Being removed from school: London mayor Boris Johnson has urged justice secretary Ken Clarke to let the courts take convicted young rioters between the ages of 11 and 15 out of school and into pupil referral units (PRUs). The Mayor said this "would isolate them from their peer group during the school day, preventing bragging rights on school premises, and sends a salutary warning to other pupils that such behaviour will result in temporary ejection from the school community".

Doing national service: David Cameron has refloated his idea for 16-year-olds to take part in non-military National Citizen Service. "Teamwork, discipline, duty, decency: these might sound old-fashioned words but they are part of the solution to this very modern problem of alienated, angry young people."

First Post

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Idiot let loose in London

London “mayor” Boris Johnson has suggested he will be providing a measured analysis of the week’s events, saying: "There are rich ideological pickings for both left and right. And there are issues here that can cause heart-searching on both sides of the political argument. I do not think we can simply ascribe it to wanton criminality or simply ascribe it to 'Tory cuts’ or whatever."

56 Oh, how we laughed

Monday, 8 August 2011


After Tottenham, unrest spreads to Enfield

Groups of youths attacked shops and damaged a police car in north London on Sunday as police sent in reinforcements to prevent more rioting on the scale that laid waste to another area of the capital twenty-four hours earlier. Scattered incidents broke out on Sunday evening in Enfield, a few miles north of the deprived London neighbourhood of Tottenham, which was hit by some of the worst riots seen in London for years on Saturday night after a protest over the fatal shooting of a man by armed police a few days earlier turned violent.

Police Commander Christine Jones said the police had "extra resources" on duty across the capital on Sunday. "Anyone else who thinks they can use the events from last night as an excuse to commit crime will be met by a robust response from us." she said in a statement. Three shops were damaged, and two of them looted, in Enfield and the rear window of a police car was smashed, police said, adding that several people had been arrested.

Local pharmacist Dipak Shah told the BBC he and his brother had barricaded themselves in their shop after fifteen youths smashed the window and tried to break in. "It was very threatening. It felt as though they could have actually killed or maimed somebody," he said. Also, a Reuters photographer at the scene said a jeweller's shop window was broken but that riot police had flooded the centre of the suburb and youths, who had earlier hurled missiles at police, had dispersed.

Amid rumours there could be more flare-ups on Sunday, police Commander Adrian Hanstock told Reuters there was "a lot of ill-informed and inaccurate speculation on social media sites" that could inflame the situation. In Tottenham, an area with large numbers of ethnic minorities and high unemployment, workers began cleaning up shops trashed by looters and police sealed off a main street to investigate crime scenes after rioters throwing petrol bombs set fire to police patrol cars, buildings and a double-decker bus.