Archive Monthly Archives: November 2018

How would the UK handle a missile threat?

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Media captionPeople were warned to take shelter

Residents of Hawaii are reeling from the shock of a false ballistic missile alarm, after a government employee “pushed the wrong button”. But how would UK citizens be made aware of an incoming strike?

Analysts agree a ballistic missile attack on the UK is highly unlikely. North Korea’s nascent missile technology has nowhere near the range or reliability to hit European shores.

Nevertheless, Sweden is reportedly preparing hundreds of nuclear war shelters in case of a potential attack from Russia, while countries around the world have a range of advice for survival in such a scenario and many carry out drills.

In the event of such an attack being launched, would newsflashes be our only way of knowing? And with a few minutes’ warning, what would British advice be?

As things stand, the UK doesn’t appear to have a text message warning system in place specifically for this purpose.

The Cabinet Office announced in 2013 that a system to send emergency alerts to mobile phones within areas affected by flooding, industrial accidents or “other local risks” would be tested.

And in a government pilot, as many as 50,000 people received a message marked as a test. But mobile phone companies say nothing has been agreed yet.

A spokesman for EE told the BBC News website the UK government was “working with the mobile industry to put this capability in place”.

And a source at another major UK mobile phone company said: “The government are looking at text alerts but not for anything potentially incoming from North Korea.

Image caption The “war book” detailing the BBC’s previous plans for broadcasting while under nuclear attack

“The technology is there and it’s relatively easy to do, but the government are considering it more in terms of floods.”

The project is being overseen by the Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat. A spokesman said: “The UK has robust emergency management arrangements and is designed to be flexible, adaptable and applicable to a range of emergency scenarios.

“These include the capability to warn and inform the public through a range of channels including social and broadcast media platforms and direct alert such as the flood warning system. We continue to keep these arrangements under review.”

But what else has Britain got?

Some World War II air raid sirens were retained during the Cold War to broadcast the chilling “four-minute warning” that never came.

But after the Berlin Wall fell, that network was dismantled.

Although the UK does have a few warning sirens left, they are largely found around chemical plants, oil refineries and flood areas.


That would leave old-fashioned news flashes as the primary warning – albeit hastened to the public consciousness by smart phones and social media.

In 2016, the BBC revealed the so-called “War Book” it drew up during the Cold War, containing detailed plans for broadcasting in the event of a nuclear strike.

The corporation would have operated from 11 bunkers across the UK, with studios manned by staff from local radio stations.

The codeword for authorising a national warning was “Falsetto”. Peter Donaldson, the late Radio 4 newsreader, pre-recorded an announcement.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption North Korea missiles are not thought to have the range to hit Britain (Image provided to Reuters by a North Korean news agency and could not be verified)

It began: “This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons.

“Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible.

“Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.”

Citizens were advised not to go outside “under any circumstances” as roofs and walls provided protection against radioactive fallout.

‘BBC obliterated?’

They were told to turn off gas supplies and fill containers with water because the mains supply might not be available for long.

To conserve water, toilets were not to be flushed. It was advised that fresh food should be eaten before tinned food and it should also be rationed, as it might have to last 14 days or more.

The use of a well-known presenter for the message was considered crucial because an “unfamiliar voice” would lead listeners to conclude that “perhaps the BBC has been obliterated”.

Current broadcasting arrangements in such a scenario are not public knowledge.

Image copyright Instagram/@SIGHPOUTSHRUG via Reuters
Image caption An electronic sign in Oahu after the false alarm

The Hawaiian alert was sent on Saturday morning by an emergency system worker. Residents spoke of hysteria and panicked evacuations.

There was no correction sent by text for 38 minutes, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

That was because the alert system did not allow for a correction to be sent quickly to mobiles – something the Cabinet Office might want to consider as it rolls out the UK’s own capability.

Two people are also now required to sign off the issuing of an alert, Hawaiian authorities said.

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Dear Hollywood, Let Broadway Show You What Diversity Looks Like

This morning, the sweetheart of musical theater, “Hamilton,” shattered records by earning 16 Tony Award nominations in categories spanning acting, directing, composition, design, choreography and more.

The recognition was hardly surprising, given the fact that the production has dominated headlines, skyrocketed to the tops of Spotify playlists, and essentially sold out its shows until January of next year. Tony speculators were practically licking their lips in anticipation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s domination, predicting weeks before the announcements that his hip-hop-infused musical relaying a different kind of Founding Fathers’ saga would surpass “The Producers” and “Billy Elliott,” securing a record number of nods for any one Broadway show. 

Just because the nominations weren’t surprising, though, doesn’t mean they aren’t exciting.

The nominations for “Hamilton,” along with other plays and musicals like “The Color Purple,” “Eclipsed,” “On Your Feet!,” and “Shuffle Along,” reveal a picture of Broadway far more diverse than seasons before it. These shows feature actors of color in lead roles, highlight the experiences of women and minorities in the U.S. and beyond, and empower writers and directors breaking barriers in their categories. They prove, along with a litany of shows that weren’t nominated, that this year was a different kind of year for the Great White Way.

Mashable’s Aliza Weinberger summarized the broader 2015-16 season succinctly:

Of the 15 new musicals that premiered between the fall of 2015 and the spring of 2016, 11 feature cast members of color. Four of those shows include only actors of color in their lead roles. And of the 16 returning shows running this season, eight feature diverse casts and stories — ones that don’t just focus on white people and their problems — while six more boast non-white cast members.

“Diversity is the theme for the entire season,” Tony-winning producer Ken Davenport (“Kinky Boots,” “Spring Awakening”) explained in an interview with The Huffington Post. “We’re experiencing a selection of shows that nominators have to choose from… it’s the most diverse group of artists and shows we’ve seen. Especially when compared to the lack of diversity in Hollywood.”

Theo Wargo via Getty Images

Broadway’s offering something that Hollywood isn’t.

The pop culture world was rightly angry when the Oscars recognized only one person of color in its lead categories (Best Director, Best Picture, and all four acting categories): Alejandro G. Iñárritu for “The Revenant.”

However, following a year of #OscarsSoWhite, critics across the Internet are using a different kind of hashtag ahead of the theater world’s version of the Academy Awards: #TonysSoDiverse. To compare, in its lead categories (Best Book and Best Score, and all eight acting categories), the Tonys recognized a highly deserving and robust group of acclaimed writers and actors of color this year:Danai Gurira, Pascale Armand, Saycon Sengbloh and Lupita Nyong’o for the play “Eclipsed”; Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr., Phillipa Soo, Daveed Diggs, Christopher Jackson, and Renée Elise Goldsberry for “Hamilton”; Cynthia Erivo and Danielle Brooks for “The Color Purple,” George C. Wolfe, Adrienne Warren and Brandon Victor Dixon for “Shuffle Along”; and Sophie Okonedo for “The Crucible.” 

While Broadway has long been a venue for storytelling that moves beyond cis white male American history (think: “Rent,” “Fun Home,” “West Side Story,” even Miranda’s previous “In The Heights”), a quick look at the plays and musicals offered up to Broadway-goers this year gives a glimpse into why the Tonys are putting the Oscars to shame this year in particular.

Davenport first lists the familiar “Hamilton” — filled out by a largely non-white cast of singers and dancers — as an “exceptionally diverse” example of this year’s Broadway offerings, and a reminder of how casting can work in favor of the non-realistic, imaginative art form that is theater. “The brilliance of it is that none of the people on the stage look like the Founding Fathers,” he said. “By making specific choices, from actors to the music, we can make a strong artistic statement.”

The stories being told this year — I think, finally, they’re all American stories. They don’t just have to [feature] a bunch of white faces, we know that now. Ken Davenport

Productions like “Shuffle Along” (subtitled: “the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed”) and a revival of “The Color Purple” similarly give way to strong casts of people of color, telling stories that go beyond white narratives. Gurira’s “Eclipsed” relays the tale of five women brought together by political upheaval in their home country of Liberia, featuring the first all-black, all-female cast. It’s also directed by a black woman, Liesl Tommy.

This year’s musical productions have also drawn audiences to stories told by historically marginalized minorities including Asian- and Hispanic-Americans. The musical “On Your Feet!,” based on the lives and music of Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio, stars a predominately Hispanic cast including Ana Villafañe and Josh Segarra. The musical recounts Gloria and Emilio’s efforts to cross over from the Latin market, cracking relevant jokes along the way: “You know how white those people are?” Emilio asks while in Sweden. “It was like watching a room full of Q-Tips bouncing all over the place.” 

Jay Kuo’s “Allegiance,” which did not nab a Tony nod despite an acclaimed performance by George Takei, relays the story of the Kimura family, a part of the 120,000-person group of Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps following the events of Pearl Harbor during World War II. And there’s still more productions lifting up writers and actors of color: “Amazing Grace,””Disaster!,” James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson in “The Gin Game,” Forest Whitaker in “Hughie.”

“The stories being told this year — I think, finally, they’re all American stories,” Davenport told HuffPost. “They don’t just have to [feature] a bunch of white faces, we know that now.”

Davenport even hoists up his own Tony-nominated show “Spring Awakening” as yet another example of the many sides of diversity we’re seeing in the 2015-2016 Broadway season. “Half of the cast is deaf or hard of hearing,” he added, “and it features the first ever woman in a wheelchair. It’s hard to believe it’s taken this many years for that to happen.”

NBC via Getty Images

OK, so Broadway isn’t perfect.

“It’s been an extraordinary year for diversity on Broadway,” “Hamilton” star and creator Miranda told Here & Now’s Karyn Miller-Medzon. “But that being said, it’s all an accident of timing.”

Last year’s Tonys, he emphasized, were just as white as this year’s Oscars. So before producers and directors pat themselves on the backs, Miranda thinks its worthwhile for the theater industry to recognize that this year could be a lovely anomaly if steps are not taken to ensure that the “three theater owners and 40-something theaters” that make up Broadway are continuously working to bring diversity to upcoming seasons.

In fact, a Guardian article written in August of last year remarked specifically upon the absence of plays by women or writers of color. Writer Alexis Soloski noted that less than 25 percent of plays produced in America during the 2014-2015 season were by women, while over the last three years, only 12 percent of American plays were written by people of color. Perhaps casts look different today, but the writers’ rooms, Soloski posits, are still very white. 

Forbes published a similarly dismal report earlier this year, comparing Broadway’s historic lack of diversity on and off stage to #OscarsSoWhite. “Since the awards began — 1929 for the Oscars, 1947 for the Tonys  — over 95 percent of all nominees have been white, with the Tonys recognizing more people of color by 1 percent,” Lee Seymour wrote. “The big difference is in the ratios: The Tonys recognize twice as many black artists, but the Oscars recognize three times as many Asians and Latinos.”

The New York Times’ Michael Paulson acknowledged that other smaller plays have also been able to draw diverse audiences with diverse casting choices, including a revival of “Fences” with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and Chris Rock’s “The ________ With the Hat.” But because these plays generally have limited runs in smaller theaters, they tend not to influence the larger theater landscape like a longstanding musical or play can. This is why this year’s list of Tony Award nominees — stacked with nods for “Hamilton,” “The Color Purple,” “Off Your Feet!”, “Spring Awakening” and “Shuffle Along” — is so important.

Unfortunately, according to some predictions, the next season on Broadway is unlikely to be as diverse as this one. Broadway has never experienced a season as diverse as this past year, at least when it comes to the people on stage. And if theater bigwigs want to ensure that diversity in theater is a movement, and not a moment, they’ll have to address the lack of women and people of color behind the curtain. 

Bruce Glikas via Getty Images

So what can be done to ensure #TonysSoDiverse continues?

It’s no secret that money — and the potential for making it — is a driving force behind a Broadway season. “Broadway’s decision-makers simply don’t prioritize racial equality,” Seymour wrote in another Forbes piece. “Several producers and ad execs … told me that ‘green is the only color that matters.'”

In essence, financial calculations are being made, and those calculations rest at least partially on audience statistics: Who exactly, the producers ask themselves, will buy our (oftentimes highly priced) tickets? Well, women, first of all. “Women generally represent 68 percent of the audience,” The Broadway League reports. “Moreover, women are more likely to make the purchasing decision than their male counterparts.”

The Broadway League also found that the predominately white audiences have been slowly declining; while 83 percent of Broadway goers were white five years ago, today the count measures 80 percent. Mashable points out that we’ll have to wait until 2017 before we know how demographics have changed this season, but there’s reason to believe Broadway mined new audiences in 2016, and theater executives should take note.

Theater unions have been doing their part to raise awareness of the importance of diverse cast and crew choices, too. Ultimately, though, in order to ensure that #TonysSoDiverse continues, and that new crops of audiences venture to Manhattan, the theater community needs more diverse writers telling stories that move beyond the traditionally white experience.

If you want more diversity on our stages, than we need diverse writers.

“If you want more diversity on our stages, than we need diverse writers,” Davenport reiterated in our interview. “I like to use this analogy: If you want a different color flower, you plant a different seed, a seed that grows roots and sprouts the type of flower that you want. The seeds in this analogy are the writers. Of course, people tend to write what they know. The more diverse writers, the more female writers, the more we’ll see those types of experiences.”

Zakiyyah Alexander, a member of the Kilroys, a group of Los Angeles-based producers and playwrights tackling gender parity in the theater world, agrees. As HuffPost reported last year, the Kilroys are behind an annual project subtly titled “The List,” which collects together the names of female and trans playwrights who’ve written plays in the past year. “We created The List because time and time again we heard that artistic directors would love to produce female playwrights, but were having trouble locating good plays,” Alexander explained to The Huffington Post. “Ultimately, we know it’s possible to program an exciting season of theater that reflects the landscape we live in, which is more than just a landscape of men.”

We’ll have to wait a few months before we know what’s on the Broadway horizon in 2016-17, but in the meantime, Hollywood executives should be taking notes. Studio heads need only tune into to the Tony Awards this June to see what a truly diverse celebration of the entertainment industry looks like. And they need only peruse the #Ham4Ham chronicles of social media to know that audiences are on board.

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Korryn Gaines: police killing highlights Baltimore’s lead poisoning crisis

Both Gaines and Freddie Gray, who died in police custody last year, suffered from lead poisoning, something that has been pointed to as racist public policy

Days after Baltimore officials announced that nearly 2,000 homes previously deemed safe from lead paint may in fact be contaminated, Korryn Gaines, who was suffering from severe lead poisoning, was shot and killed by police after a long standoff. At the time of her death, Gaines was involved in a lawsuit against former landlords for lead poisoning and in one Instagram post showing weapons she wrote: They can try to come get it they gon leave with more Lead than they poisoned me wit.

Although there have been large reductions in poisoning from peeling lead paint in Baltimore over recent decades, an investigation by the Baltimore Sun last December showed that more than 4,900 children have been affected in the past 10 years. Since the 1990s, when Gaines suit alleges she was first exposed to the dust from lead paint, 65,000 children had been contaminated with blood levels of lead higher than 10 micrograms per deciliter (mg/dL), which was the limit at which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recorded the data and reported to parents, until 2012 when the agency lowered the level to 5 mg/dl. Still, according to the CDC: No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.

In a lawsuit, Gaines claimed she grew up in a sea of lead and had a lifetime lead level of 12 mg/dL. The suit alleges that Gaines suffered permanent brain damage resulting in developmental and behavioral injuries.

The negative cognitive effects of lead have been widely documented, especially for children under six years old. A 2002 University of Pittsburgh study looked at the lead levels in 146 youths convicted in juvenile court against a control group of 146 youths without a criminal record and found that the delinquent youths had significantly higher mean concentrations of lead.

Freddie Gray, whose death in police custody last year set off weeks of unrest, also suffered from the effects of lead poisoning.

Lead interrupts the stress reaction and so it distorts the way people view threats and so I think thats absolutely germane to both Freddie Gray and Korryn Gaines, said Lawrence Brown, a professor of public health at Morgan State University. If [lead poisoning] is in fact disturbing and exaggerating the threat then you can understand why Freddie Gray is running and why Korryn Gaines has a shotgun when the police are knocking on her door.

When Gaines was pulled over with an unregistered vehicle in March, she filmed the incident and refused to leave the car and had to be physically removed. On social media, Gaines referred to her arrest as a kidnapping and said she was held in isolation for two days without food and water before she was released. After she failed to appear in court, police officers came to her apartment to serve her with warrants. When they entered the apartment they found her with a shotgun. After nearly six hours of negotiations, according to police, she threatened to kill officers if they didnt leave her home and they opened fire.

For Brown, the tragedy of Gaines death is the result of racist public policy that has resulted in hyper-segregation, over-policing and public health hazards like lead poisoning, which are largely isolated to black communities in Baltimore, which, Brown says, is still segregated by practice if not by law.

Saul Kerpelman, a lawyer who has worked on lead issues for 30 years, agrees, saying the lead crisis would have been solved if it had affected white children. Kerpelman says roughly 99% of children poisoned by lead are African American. In the background of it all is the racism endemic in America, he said. If youre a poor person, the only place you can afford to live is a place thats full of poison that is going to cause your children to have brain damage. Societally, that is sick, pathological.

Kerpelman says he has sued Louis Ellison, Len Barnstein and City Homes III Limited Partnership, the defendants in Gaines suit, which was still pending at the time of her death, on numerous occasions.

Theyre the usual suspects. Bad landlords who dont keep their houses up properly and so the kids in there get poisoned, he said.

In January, the state sent letters to nearly 400 households asking them to have their children tested for lead poisoning due to fraudulent lead inspections performed for the American Homeowner Services LLC between 2010 and 2014. State officials have since discovered that the irregularities go back to 1996 and have added 1,600 more homes to the list of those that may be affected. Since January, only 80 of the initial homes have been re-inspected, with roughly half of them failing the inspection.

Kerpelman was not at all surprised by the fraudulent inspections. Since landlords are in the market for a certificate that says the house is safe then there are going to be bad actors willing to, for a fee, give them that outcome, he said. This is just the latest episode in the standard history of how this stuff goes.

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UPDATE: 14-year-old SC student posts second social media threat to shoot-up high school in response to bullying … – WIS10


UPDATE: 14-year-old SC student posts second social media threat to shoot-up high school in response to bullying …
SUMTER, SC (WIS) – The Sumter County Sheriff's Office said the 14-year-old student made the threat on social media is in custody – and it's not the first time he's threatened violence at the school. “We take all threats very seriously,” said Sumter

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