Archive for March 27, 2013

Pathfinder Liverpool

‘Tinned-up street after tinned-up street’ – boarded up properties left derelict by the Liverpool Pathfinder scheme.

If you walk around much of inner-city residential Liverpool, you soon find yourself asking, “What catastrophe hit this place?” On investigation, you’ll find it wasn’t merely the haemorrhage of jobs at the docks or the depopulation of the city, but something much more recent. In any of the six areas selected under New Labour for “housing market renewal” you can see tinned-up street after tinned-up street, with wastelands in between, and people still living among it all. Although the depredations of Housing Market Renewal Pathfinders have been ghastly all over the north of England, there is nothing to rival Liverpool for the sheer scale of destruction, dereliction and waste. How did it come to this? And can the process be stopped?

In fact, typically for Labour councils after the collapse of the speculative boom, the current strategy is to hope desperately that the process can be restarted. Pathfinder has been officially abandoned so, to some fanfare last year, the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, and the then housing minister, Grant Shapps, agreed to save and refurbish 16 houses in the condemned “Welsh Streets”, in Toxteth – out of about 500. Yet a recently submitted planning application proposes the demolition of 439 houses and a housing association scheme that will replace them with only 152.

George Clarke, of Channel 4’s Great British Property Scandal, was appointed “empty homes adviser” to work with the scheme, but he has broken ranks – calling it “the social cleansing of an area not only currently occupied, but very much in demand”. Given the pace of redevelopment that Liverpool saw during the boom, let alone now, the area can be expected to remain in half-demolished limbo indefinitely. The exceptionally dubious rationale for Pathfinder, a programme to clear frequently viable housing and its inhabitants for the purposes of “renewing” insufficiently profitable local housing markets, is still unquestioned. And the results – the scarred, often shocking landscapes around the centre of Liverpool – do not seem to have forced anyone to change course. But one of the most prickly issues is how this all happened in the first place without much resistance.

Last summer I visited Homebaked, a bakery in Anfield converted via Liverpool Biennial funding, cunningly diverted by the artist Jeanne van Heeswijk into the base for a community land trust, all designed to gradually reverse the destruction of the area. I walked there from the centre of town, and saw how the metropolitan civic pride of the city centre gives way quickly to a strange mix of insular 80s low-rise, low-density housing, vast parks created from wasteland in the same decade, and eccentric Arts and Crafts buildings like the Mere Bank pub or the Everton Library – beautiful and derelict in the middle of it all. Then you come to residential Anfield, and a seemingly endless swath of blight around the football stadium.

The houses here are those that were omitted by the slum clearance schemes of the 1960s, for the obvious reason that they’re large and well-constructed; the infrastructure is sane and viable (if obviously depleted by the area’s clearance) – a high street and the large Stanley Park, with the recently renovated Gladstone Conservatory.

At one corner, the streetline of grand and rotting terraces is suddenly broken by the new houses – the Pathfinders themselves, and the reason for all this. Apart from increased parking space created by their cul-de-sac like arrangement, their smaller windows and the poverty of their detailing and design, it’s hard to see the difference – nondescript redbrick terraces and flats, devoid of character, devoid of offence.

It’s bizarre, given that the entire rationale of Pathfinder was to bring the middle classes into the area: surely the small middle class of Liverpool, based usually in education and media, would have far preferred gentrified Victorian townhouses to this suburban-looking newbuild. How could this possibly have been worth it? How could anyone have been convinced that it would be?

The event at Homebaked, sponsored by Liverpool Biennial, involved me and other speakers talking about the crisis in housing. A long-term resident took issue with a lot of what I’d said about Pathfinder, which (I thought uncontroversially) I’d described as social cleansing. Although she opposed the demolitions, she didn’t see it that way. The area had been practically left for dead before the Pathfinder programme, she pointed out – this was the first time anyone in the area had been talked to or consulted in years.

While I pointed out the iniquity of dragging council tenants out of potentially lucrative inner-city areas, she – as an owner-occupier – pointed out that her friends rang her up from the suburban council houses they had been moved into, saying, “Guess where I am? In the garden of my nice new house.” It was obvious that the area’s residents didn’t fight Pathfinder because, on one level, a lot of them didn’t want to – Anfield had been run down so ruthlessly that it was in many cases a relief to leave. The iniquities of the scheme had since become obvious, hence the action to save the area via the community land trust – but this hadn’t been so from the outset.

This was fair enough – but setting owner-occupiers against council tenants seemed like the sort of breach in solidarity that made this disaster possible in the first place. Although in Welsh Streets there is a very active local campaign against demolition, resistance to Pathfinder has often been spearheaded by Save Britain’s Heritage (which has bought condemned houses in the city) or Biennial-funded artists, rather than the gutted local communities – so partially achieving, ironically, Pathfinder’s original aim of bringing the middle classes into areas of “low market demand”.

If working-class areas are to defend themselves, they need confidence, both in themselves and in the places they live, otherwise the whole grim process will go on, with councils making the same mistakes and the same lives being destroyed, without interruption.


Troubled Cardiff Airport has been sold to the Welsh government for £52m, it has been confirmed.

But First Minister Carwyn Jones said the airport, which was owned by TBI, would not be operated by the government.

It will be managed “at arm’s length” and “on a commercial basis”, he added.

Mr Jones has been critical of the airport after a slump in passenger numbers from a peak of two million in 2007 to just over one million in 2012.

He said it was vital for the number of passengers to be increased.

“Cardiff Airport is a vital gateway to Wales for business, tourists and general travellers alike,” he said.

“It is essential that its future is secured and that we develop high-quality sustainable services.

“The airport will not be operated by the Welsh government. It will be managed at arm’s length from government on a commercial basis and, over time, I expect to see a return to the public purse on the investment.

“A chief executive of the airport will be announced in due course. In the meantime, I am delighted that Lord Rowe-Beddoe has agreed to serve as chairman of the airport board.”

In the longer term, the board will look at the possibility of bringing in a commercial operator to run the airport.

Mr Jones said the Welsh government had been contacted by a number of interested operators but there would be an open and transparent process before any decision was made.

The airport’s existing staff will remain but only 40 are employed directly.

An average of around 1,000 staff work on the site as sub-contractors but that figure can vary considerably.

Mr Jones has for some time been critical of the way the airport has been losing passengers over recent years.


Inside Cardiff Airport

Reaction has been mixed to the Welsh government’s purchase of Cardiff Airport but almost everyone agrees a thriving airport would be good for the economy.

Business organisation CBI Wales said “strong and effective commercial stewardship” was required.

“To compete on the world stage, Wales needs world class infrastructure and a key part of that is a modern and effective international airport,” said director Emma Watkins.

“Welsh business needs a dynamic and thriving airport that can drive investment and deliver growth.”

The Federation of Small Businesses in Wales said infrastructure around the airport, such as roads and rail, needed to be improved.

“Increasing the number of flights and destinations would no doubt enable businesses to search for new markets and boost their trade internationally,” added Janet Jones, FSB Wales policy unit chair.

Political opponents were unsurprisingly sceptical but even those who were more supportive were keen to hear a lot more detail from the Welsh government about its plans.

Withdrawal of flights

Figures showed just over one million passengers used Cardiff in 2012, down about 200,000 in a year.

Meanwhile, nearby competitor Bristol Airport, which has sought assurances that Cardiff will not get state handouts, had seen almost six million passengers last year.

Cardiff was hit by the withdrawal of flights by budget airline bmibaby in 2011, but has said it expects 5% – 8% growth during 2013.

Last May, Mr Jones called on the Spanish owners of the airport to invest in its future or put it up for sale.

He said the airport gave a bad impression of Wales and was falling behind its rivals.

The owners said at the time that they had no plans to sell but would listen to offers.

Only this month there was bad news when Swiss carrier Helvetic announced it was pulling out, two years after the Welsh government spent £500,000 marketing Wales in Switzerland.

Helvetic started flying to Zurich from Cardiff in 2011, but had already dropped winter services after low demand and will not fly this summer.

The company said it was discussing with Cardiff Airport whether operations should restart in 2014.

However, Spanish airline Vueling said it was increasing services to Malaga and Alicante from Cardiff after a “positive response from Welsh travellers”.

It will add one extra flight to Malaga on a Wednesday throughout August and September.

Opposition politicians were sceptical of the Welsh government’s involvement in trying to turn around the airport’s fortunes.

“I have yet to be convinced that a 1970s style nationalisation is the answer to the airport’s problems,” said the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies.

“When you consider the recent decision by Helvetic to withdraw, in spite of the Welsh government having invested around half a million pounds, it is far from clear that the first minister is the best man for the job of rescuing this airport.”

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat economy and transport spokesperson, called on the Welsh government to “urgently announce its plans to transform the airport”.

“We’ve had the sound bites from Carwyn, we now know the price but now we need to see the substance and the government’s long term plans for attracting airlines, tourists and business travellers to Cardiff Airport,” she said.

Plaid Cymru also said it wanted to see the detail of the government’s plans.

“There is no reason why a publicly-owned national airport for Wales could not be far more successful than the airport in its present state.

“It is now up to the Welsh government to show that it has made the right decision, for the right reasons by getting the right results,” said Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood.

Cardiff Airport

Cardiff Airport in 1998
  • The airfield at Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan was built in 1941.
  • Control was transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the former Glamorgan County Council in 1965, and then to its three successor councils of West, Mid and South Glamorgan in the 1970s.
  • The airport was privatised in 1995, with TBI now owned mainly by the Spanish company Abertis with a minority stake held by the Spanish airports operator AENA.
  • Just over one million passengers used Cardiff in 2012, down about 200,000 in a year
  • Passenger numbers peaked at two million in 2007.



Deputy sarpanch Noor Mohammad Khan
A deputy sarpanch was allegedly shot at and injured by militants in north Kashmir Kupwara district, police said today.

Noor Mohammad Khan (50), deputy sarpanch from Bongamin Kupwara, reported at Police Station Kupwara in injured condition this morning, a police spokesman said.

He said Khan stated that he was shot at by militants inside the compound of his local mosque in the wee hours today when he had gone there to offer prayers.

“Khan sustained injury in left arm and has been admitted in Sub District hospital, Kupwara,” he added.


What does The Red Equal Sign MEANS?..



This questions can raise in your minds….We tried to find the answers….

This morning, you may have noticed an onslaught of red equal signs taking over your Facebook feed … and maybe even your Twitter stream. And Instagram. What we’re witnessing here is a social campaign gone viral – and if you’re feeling out of the loop (as obvious as the symbol may be), we’re going to break it down for you.

What’s up with these red equal signs?

The United States Supreme Court is hearing an argument today about Hollingsworth v. Perry, a case that will determine whether California’s controversial Proposition 8 law is constitutional. Prop 8 declares marriage can only be between a man and a woman, so if the Court strikes it down, it will be celebrated as a victory for everyone who supports marriage equality. Tomorrow, the Court will hear United States v. Windsor, which will determine the constitutional fate of DOMA, or the Defense of Marriage Act. Together, these two cases are by far the deepest the Supreme Court has entered into the debate over marriage.

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To say this is a significant moment in the fight for equal rights is an understatement – even though neither outcome will determine the legality of gay marriage in the U.S., both decisions will have a major impact on how the issue is addressed in the future.

So where did the red and pink icon itself start? The Human Rights Campaign, an organization that advocates for LGBT rights, changed its symbol from a blue and yellow equal sign to the pink on red version today to draw attention to the importance of the Court decisions explained above.

How did it spread so fast?

The HRC is a sizable lobby, and it does a good job of engaging with the Facebook community – right now, over 40,000 shared its original post to spread the word some 23 hours ago, and that’s just from the group’s homepage.

Internet superstars like George Takei helped boost support by re-posting to their popular pages; Takei got over 60,000 “likes” for his post.

And it’s not just Facebook. The red sign migrated to Twitter and Instagram as well – hashtags like #MarriageEquality and #SCOTUS are trending, with people changing their pictures there to the red equal sign, and many others weighing in – including President Obama’s official account:


Taking the sign and running with it

A lot of people are putting individual twists on the symbol, adding some personality to the otherwise identical see of red equal signs.

Now, obviously not everyone in the United States supports marriage equality, or it wouldn’t be as contentious an issue.

In fact, a recent study illustrated how what people express on Twitter differs from actual mainstream opinion, and the same likely holds true for Facebook. And since the Twitter study showed that opinions on Twitter did not match up how people voted for Prop 8, it’s safe to say social media is not an entirely accurate barometer for popular sentiment.

Still, there isn’t an anti-gay marriage symbol gaining nearly as much traction. The closest thing we found was the National Organization for Marriage’s symbol, and while the group didn’t come prepared with a viral-ready image, it is advertising a march on the Capitol today to defend Prop 8 and DOMA.

Social media’s problems predicting actual popular opinion may stem from who uses it. Twitter users skew younger than the general population, so while this marriage equality meme campaign’s popularity doesn’t necessarily mean that mainstream opinion has shifted substantially, it does mean that the kind of people who post on social media – which is generally a younger demographic – hold these views. And that may help presage future popular sentiment, if not how the nation feels on average today.

We still don’t know how the Court will decide these pivotal cases, but at least we can take comfort in the fact that we know how “The Golden Girls” felt about marriage equality:

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Consistent performances with the bat have helped Cheteshwar Pujara move into the top 10 of the ICC rankings for Test batsmen for the first-time in his career.

Pujara’s unbeaten 82 helped India script a six-wicket win in the fourth Test against Australia in New Delhi, thereby

registering a historic 4-0 series sweep. As a result, Pujara jumped five places, in the rankings released Wednesday, to a best seventh position with 777 ratings points.

South Africa’s Hashim Amla continues to lead the batting table.

Another South African, Dale Steyn, leads the bowlers’ table.

India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is now at his best sixth after jumping two places while man of the match in the New Delhi Test, Ravindra Jadeja, made a whopping leap of eight places to 27th.

Delhi pacer Ishant Sharma also climbed in the rankings by three places to 31st.




Microsoft Will Release Windows Blue Public Preview At Build Conference In June….

For the first time since reports about its new operating system surfaced, Microsoft has openly acknowledged the existence of Windows Blue to the public. In a blog post, Microsoft Vice President of Corporate Communications, Frank X. Shaw, wrote about how the company is “working together on plans to advance [their] devices and services,” calling “Blue” an internal code name. What we’ve been calling Windows Blue for a while now will apparently be released as something else, perhaps Windows 9, as Shaw says chances are slim to none that the final product will hit the market with that name.

While a leaked early build of the new OS already gives us a pretty good idea of what it can do, Microsoft will talk about it at length at the company’s annual BUILD conference. The event, intended specifically for developers, will take place on June 26 to 28 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. A public preview of the OS is also expected to be released in the future, but it’s not clear whether it will c0me before the OS demo at the BUILD conference.

If the final version of Windows Blue is anything like the leaked preliminary build, it will look very similar to Windows 8 but will feature several upgrades, including the capability to choose extra-small or super-sized live tiles, new gesture controls, and a 50/50 Snapped apps view option.

The action-thriller also stars Jamie Foxx as the President of the United States and opens on June 28

The first trailer for White House Down, the new action-thriller from Independence Day director Roland Emmerich, has been released. Scroll down and click ‘play’ to watch it.

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White House Down stars Channing Tatum as a failed applicant to the Secret Service who unwittingly ends up having to rescue the President, played by Jamie Foxx, when a paramilitary group takes over the White House. The script was written by James Vanderbilt, whose previous credits include The Amazing Spider-Man andZodiac.

The two-minute trailer amps up the tension slowly before unveiling plenty of thrills and spills in its second half, which shows Tatum channelling Bruce Willis as he tears around in a sweaty white vest brandishing a gun.

White House Down also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, James Woods and Jason Clarke. It opens in the US on June 28, as the trailer announces, but won’t arrive in UK cinemas until September 6.

Meanwhile, Roland Emmerich has recently revealed plot details for two sequels to his 1996 blockbuster Independence Day, titled ID Forever Part I and ID Forever Part II. Emmerich’s other directing credits include disaster movies The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 and 1998’s poorly-received Hollywood remake of Godzilla.