Michael Moore steps in to help Oscar-nominated Palestinian filmmaker threatened with deportation in LA

Just a sample caption to see how it appears in the blog – Wonder if it’ll wrap the paragraph correctly with sensible line spacing. Guess we’ll see…

A Palestinian filmmaker on his way to the Oscars was held at Los Angeles International Airport and threatened with deportation before being allowed into the United States.

Emad Burnat, whose 5 Broken Cameras is competing for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Feature category, said US immigration officials took him, his wife and 8-year-old son aside when they arrived in Los Angeles from Turkey on Tuesday evening.

“Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award … and they told me that if I couldn’t prove the reason for my visit, my wife Soraya, my son Gibreel and I would be sent back to Turkey on the same day,” Burnat said in a statement.

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in a series of Twitter messages that he stepped in to help resolve the situation.

“Although he (Burnat) produced the Oscar invite nominees receive, that wasn’t good enough & he was threatened with being sent back to Palestine. … Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn’t understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee. Emad texted me for help … I called Academy officials who called lawyers. I told Emad to give the officers my phone # and to say my name a couple of times,” Moore tweeted on Tuesday evening.

Burnat said he and his family were detained for about an hour.

US officials declined to comment on the incident, citing privacy laws.

“Travellers may be referred for further inspection for a variety of reasons to include identity verification, intent of travel, and confirmation of admissibility,” US Customs and Border Protection said in a statement. “The United States has been, and continues to be, a welcoming nation.”

Burnat, a farmer, is the amateur filmmaker behind 5 Broken Cameras, which documents about five years of protests against land seizures by Israeli forces and Jewish settlers in his village of Bil’in in the occupied West Bank. It was co-directed by Israeli activist and filmmaker Guy Davidi.

It is the first Palestinian film to be nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars, according to representatives for the film.

5 Broken Cameras is one of five films nominated for an Oscar in the documentary category. One of its competitors is Israeli film “The Gatekeepers,” which looks at the decades-old Middle East conflict through the eyes of six top former Israeli intelligence bosses.

The Oscars, the highest awards in the movie industry, will be presented on Sunday in Hollywood.

via The Independent.

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2 Energy bills to be made ‘more fair’ says Cameron

Prime Minister backs plans for simpler energy bills, with four core tariffs, to come into effect towards the end of 2013

Householders will be presented with gas and electricity bills that are “more fair for everyone” said David Cameron as he backed plans to make energy bills simpler from next winter.

Energy companies will be restricted to offering no more than four core tariffs for each type of fuel and will have to inform customers what the cheapest deal available to them is via their bill. The reforms from Ofgem, which were originally proposed last October, have been backed by the prime minister.

“The package announced today is a huge step towards energy bills that are more fair for everyone,” he said. “This is about putting people before profits. It’s about pensioners being better able to heat their homes in winter, and families better able to cope when the bills arrive.”

He added: “Our aim is that consumers will get the best possible energy tariff – no tricks, no loopholes – and we will use the powers we gained in the Energy Bill earlier this month to make sure this happens.”

The reforms, which are not designed to lower bills, come against a backdrop of rising energy prices that the head of Ofgem has warned are set to continue for years to come.

The key points of the reforms include:

• A restriction to four simple core tariffs per fuel type available from each supplier. This includes four for gas and four for electricity. One of the tariffs has to be a standard-variable rate, suppliers can choose the other three from a range of options such as fixed, green and online.

• Suppliers will have to make clearer, through their bills, which is the cheapest tariff. They will all have to use a new tariff comparisons rate (TPR) to do this. This will work in a similar way to the APR used to compere loan and credit card rates.

• Discounts will remain for those who take both gas and electricity from the same supplier and those who opt for paperless billing. These discounts will apply across all tariffs.

• Certain “dead” standard or variable tariffs no longer available to new customers will be banned to reduce the overall number of tariffs and reduce the risk of people paying too much.

• Those on fixed-term contracts will have further protection. Suppliers will be banned from rolling customers onto another fixed-term contract without their consent and will not be allowed to bring in price increases or other charges to fixed tariffs.

New enforceable standards of conducts will come into force this summer, meaning energy companies need to ensure they are dealing with customers in a “fair, transparent and honest way”, said Ofgem. The regulator will have new powers to fine companies who do not do this.

The main reforms on tariff simplification are expected to come in by the “winter of 2013-2014”. Ofgem could not confirm whether this is likely to be before the traditional round of price hikes from energy companies that typically take place every autumn.

Consumer groups welcomed the reforms and said that they were long overdue.

“We have allowed what should be a fair market for an essentially simple service to become a byword for complexity, confusion,” said Mike O’Connor chief executive of Consumer Focus.

Which? said it welcomed the changes but called on the government to do more.

“More must be done to keep costs under control for hard-pressed households who already say spiralling energy prices are their top financial concern,” said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd.

“These moves will help people to get a better deal from their existing supplier but do not go far enough to increase competition and keep prices in check,” he said.

The regulator also confirmed that it is going ahead with work on a pilot scheme that would ensure those who haven’t switched for some time, and vulnerable customers such as those on benefits, will get a personalised estimate on the cheapest tariff across the whole market. This will need the co-operation of all energy suppliers and Ofgem has now set up a working group with those suppliers and consumer groups to work out how the scheme could run. It is also asking energy suppliers to provide more personalised comparisons of their own tariffs to their customers once those customers have submitted enough meter readings to give their personal usage.

Supermarkets and other companies that white label tariffs from the big six energy companies will have to apply for a separate supply licence if the terms and conditions of those tariffs are different in any way. So, for example, Sainsbury’s currently offers its own tariffs in partnership with British Gas. It sometimes offers these at discounted prices to British Gas’s equivalent tariff. In order to be able to do this in the future it will need its own supply licence.

via The Guardian.

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Energy bills to be made ‘more fair’ says Cameron

Prime Minister backs plans for simpler energy bills, with four core tariffs, to come into effect towards the end of 2013

David Cameron in Mumbai

Gas and electricity customers ‘will get the best possible energy tariff,’ said David Cameron. The prime minister is supporting plans for simpler energy bills. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Householders will be presented with gas and electricity bills that are “more fair for everyone” said David Cameron as he backed plans to make energy bills simpler from next winter.

Energy companies will be restricted to offering no more than four core tariffs for each type of fuel and will have to inform customers what the cheapest deal available to them is via their bill. The reforms from Ofgem, which were originally proposed last October, have been backed by the prime minister.

“The package announced today is a huge step towards energy bills that are more fair for everyone,” he said. “This is about putting people before profits. It’s about pensioners being better able to heat their homes in winter, and families better able to cope when the bills arrive.”

He added: “Our aim is that consumers will get the best possible energy tariff – no tricks, no loopholes – and we will use the powers we gained in the Energy Bill earlier this month to make sure this happens.”

The reforms, which are not designed to lower bills, come against a backdrop of rising energy prices that the head of Ofgem has warned are set to continue for years to come.

The key points of the reforms include:

 • A restriction to four simple core tariffs per fuel type available from each supplier. This includes four for gas and four for electricity. One of the tariffs has to be a standard-variable rate, suppliers can choose the other three from a range of options such as fixed, green and online.

 • Suppliers will have to make clearer, through their bills, which is the cheapest tariff. They will all have to use a new tariff comparisons rate (TPR) to do this. This will work in a similar way to the APR used to compere loan and credit card rates.

 • Discounts will remain for those who take both gas and electricity from the same supplier and those who opt for paperless billing. These discounts will apply across all tariffs.

 • Certain “dead” standard or variable tariffs no longer available to new customers will be banned to reduce the overall number of tariffs and reduce the risk of people paying too much.

 • Those on fixed-term contracts will have further protection. Suppliers will be banned from rolling customers onto another fixed-term contract without their consent and will not be allowed to bring in price increases or other charges to fixed tariffs.

 New enforceable standards of conducts will come into force this summer, meaning energy companies need to ensure they are dealing with customers in a “fair, transparent and honest way”, said Ofgem. The regulator will have new powers to fine companies who do not do this.

The main reforms on tariff simplification are expected to come in by the “winter of 2013-2014”. Ofgem could not confirm whether this is likely to be before the traditional round of price hikes from energy companies that typically take place every autumn.

Consumer groups welcomed the reforms and said that they were long overdue.

“We have allowed what should be a fair market for an essentially simple service to become a byword for complexity, confusion,” said Mike O’Connor chief executive of Consumer Focus.

Which? said it welcomed the changes but called on the government to do more.

“More must be done to keep costs under control for hard-pressed households who already say spiralling energy prices are their top financial concern,” said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd.

“These moves will help people to get a better deal from their existing supplier but do not go far enough to increase competition and keep prices in check,” he said.

The regulator also confirmed that it is going ahead with work on a pilot scheme that would ensure those who haven’t switched for some time, and vulnerable customers such as those on benefits, will get a personalised estimate on the cheapest tariff across the whole market. This will need the co-operation of all energy suppliers and Ofgem has now set up a working group with those suppliers and consumer groups to work out how the scheme could run. It is also asking energy suppliers to provide more personalised comparisons of their own tariffs to their customers once those customers have submitted enough meter readings to give their personal usage.

Supermarkets and other companies that white label tariffs from the big six energy companies will have to apply for a separate supply licence if the terms and conditions of those tariffs are different in any way. So, for example, Sainsbury’s currently offers its own tariffs in partnership with British Gas. It sometimes offers these at discounted prices to British Gas’s equivalent tariff. In order to be able to do this in the future it will need its own supply licence.

via The Guardian

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UK public finances show January surplus

The UK’s public finances recorded a surplus of £11.4bn in January, £5bn higher than in the same month last year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

January often records a surplus thanks to an influx of money from tax self-assessment and corporation tax.

Public sector net borrowing, excluding financial interventions, for the financial year to date is now £93.8bn.

This is £1.5bn higher than at the same point a year earlier.

January’s borrowing figures were better than many economists had expected. They are flattered by a £3.8bn windfall which the government received from the Bank of England under a new agreement.

Under that agreement, interest the Bank of England earns on holding government debt is transferred back to the Treasury.

Stripping that out, the surplus was £7.8bn in January.

Treasury Minister Sajid Javid said the figures showed that the government’s plans were “on track”.

But Chris Leslie, shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “Strip away the smoke and mirrors, like the transfer of cash from the Bank of England, and underlying borrowing so far this year is rising and is £5.3bn higher than the same period last year.

“A flatlining economy means the government is borrowing more to pay for economic failure as the welfare bill is up.”

‘Disappointing’

Public sector net debt – the total amount the country owes – stood at £1.16 trillion in January, up from £1.07tn in the same month last year.

This means that as a percentage of gross domestic product, public sector net debt has risen from 69.9% to 73.8%, a rise of almost four percentage points.

James Knightly, an analyst at ING, warned that although January’s figures looked promising, the “the underlying story isn’t quite as good. The UK’s AAA rating remains under threat and with economic activity remaining subdued and tax revenues disappointing, Chancellor Osborne has little wiggle room when he presents his annual Budget next month.”

And David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “While income tax and VAT receipts show a healthy 4% growth in January this year, corporation tax receipts recorded a decline of 13% when compared with January 2012.

“The large decline in corporation tax receipts highlights the need to support growing companies with the ability to make profit, and the lack of finance available to these companies must be urgently addressed.”

Some analysts believe the chancellor will overshoot the Office for Budget Responsibility’s borrowing forecast for the financial year.

via BBC News

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House construction at 90-year low

House construction is set to plunge to its lowest level for 90 years as councils have cut their home-building targets by more than 270,000 in the past two years, a report warns.

Moves to give English town halls more power over planning have backfired as the numbers of planned new houses are scaled back in areas worst affected by homelessness, according to the Policy Exchange think tank. The Coalition scrapped quotas set by the last government for building in each part of the country, devolving responsibility for the issue to local authorities.

Housebuilding targets have been slashed by 57,000 in the South-east and by 108,000 in the South-west since 2010.

The report???s author, Alex Morton, said: ???The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have rightly made it clear that we need to build more homes. Yet the Government is on track to preside over the lowest level of house-building since the 1920s.???

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Poor have suffered bigger hit to incomes than rich, says Bank survey – Independent

The poor have seen their incomes squeezed more than the rich over the past year and households are reining in spending as they grapple with uncomfortably large debt burdens, a new survey commissioned by the Bank of England reveals today.

The survey, published in the Bank’s latest Quarterly Bulletin (pdf) found that 62 per cent of households in the lowest quartile of the income distribution said that their after-tax income declined over the past year. That contrasted with 48 per cent of those in the top quartile of earners who reported a drop in after-tax incomes.

The survey, conducted for the Bank by NMG Consulting, said average monthly pre-tax incomes fell by £43 in 2012, to £2,627. Modest wage increases over the year were eroded by increases in VAT, higher energy prices and more expensive imports. And CPI inflation of 2.2 per cent implied an even steeper drop in real incomes.

The survey also showed that 12 per cent of households were “very concerned” about the borrowing levels, while a further third said they are “somewhat concerned”. Those with high loan-to-value mortgages were the most nervous about borrowing levels.

Thirty-five per cent of households have cut back on their spending in response to worries about debt. Spending by households accounts for 75 per cent of GDP, meaning retrenchment or falls in disposable income are bad news for the economy.

Services data from the Office for National Statistics for October will be released on Friday. A fall in output will increase the chances of the economy contracting in the final quarter of 2013 and entering a “triple dip recession”.

The survey found that 5 per cent of households have fallen behind on bill repayments and a further 17 per cent described keeping up as a struggle.

The survey reported that households are saving an average of £185 per month, or 7 per cent of their pre-tax income. It also indicated further household deleveraging to come, with households that voiced concern about their debt levels paying down their borrowings at a quicker rate than others.

Respondents expected further saving too. Twenty-eight per cent of households said they plan to increase savings over the next year. Prospective homebuyers were particularly pessimistic, with the average saying they expect to be forced to save for a further six years to achieve this goal.

Around half of respondents said they have been impacted by the Government’s fiscal consolidation, blaming higher taxes, cuts to spending, and lower welfare benefits. Households containing a public sector worker were more nervous about losing their jobs than households with earners in the private sector. Uncertainty about future incomes was higher among younger households, reflecting the Coalition’s efforts to safeguard the interests of pensioners. Almost half of working age respondents were concerned about income falls, compared with just 28 per cent of households aged over 65.

Relatively few respondents – just 6 per cent – cited the eurozone crisis as a reason for increasing saving over the next year. By contrast, 36 per cent cited saving for a large item, 34 per cent to reduce debts and 27 per cent to save for a house deposit.

The Bank concluded from the survey that “the household saving ratio is likely to remain broadly flat over the next year”.

NMG questioned 4,000 households in an online questionnaire between 12 September and 2 October.

 

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Ripped-off Britons: Is the UK national debt at a historical high?

Actually it’s lower than it has been for most of the last 300 years.

In the Autumn Statement of 2012 the chancellor’s idea of ‘more Austerity’ was not much of a surprise. To prove “we are all in it together” Osborne cut benefits for the poor and disabled and also cut pension savings allowances for the rich. 

Osborne hoped that nobody would notice that this takes money away from the poor immediately, but only reduces the incomes of the rich some time in the future when they retire to find their pensions aren’t as large as they otherwise may have been. Though by that time the economy would have recovered and other wheezes will doubtless have been dreamed up to once again fatten up those elite pensions. 

Osborne decided that at the time of crisis the poor would have to make immediate sacrifices so that no significant contribution would be required from the rich in the form of higher income tax or a new wealth tax. Far from a making an extra contribution the wealthy have instead been given cuts in income tax and corporation tax

But is all this austerity for the 99% really the only option we have? This graph from a McKinsey report in 2010 illustrates the lies we are being fed to justify the austerity.

Government debt is at a historical high.

The Treasury stated that in October 2012 government net debt was 67.9% of GDP. The McKinsey graph shows that far from being a high, for most of the last three centuries government debt has been much higher. Debt generally balloons during wars, when elites pour blood and treasure into protecting their own and snatching one another’s assets. Andy Haldane, executive director of the Bank of England, speaking to BBC Radio4 in December 2012 compared the economic impact of the current crisis with that of a world war:

“In terms of the loss of incomes and outputs, this is as bad as a world war….It would be astonishing if people weren’t asking big questions about where finance has gone wrong.” “If we are fortunate, the cost of the crisis will be paid for by our children. More likely it will still be being paid for by our grandchildren. There is every reason why the general public ought to be deeply upset by what has happened – and angry.”

Haldane compares the current situation as economically equivalent to a World War. So why not grow government debt to sort it out? The reason is ‘real’ wars were about the British elite fighting wars to maintain and grow its own wealth. For this the elite was prepared to spend much blood and treasure, borrowing whatever was needed. On the other hand the Credit Crisis is the result of the wealthy recklessly enriching themselves. Having pocketed the proceeds, they are happy to sit tight and ride out other people’s austerity.

It is wrong to leave our debts to our children and grandchildren.
 
The McKinsey graph shows that as a nation we have always been paying off the debts of our ancestors. And our ancestors were paying off the debts of their ancestors. In any case, the objection to our children paying off our debts is not because they are so sweet and helpless. By the time they get round to coughing up they will be as gnarled and saggy as any other grown-up Briton. The objection is presumably that it isn’t fair for them to pay for other peoples’ mistakes. But that is already happening. In the words of the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King:

Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, in evidence to the UK Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee, March 2011.

Smokescreens are being thrown up by bankers and their beneficiaries in government claiming the credit crisis is all our faults. They claim that reckless lending by them could only happen if there was reckless borrowing by us. But if a building collapses because the well paid and professionally regulated architects and engineers put it up incompetently is it also the fault of the dead residents because they chose to live in it? If a drunk driver causes a motorway pile-up, is it also the fault of all the victims for choosing to be on the motorway at that time and place? If government regulated bankers, some of the most highly remunerated and therefore presumed competent professionals, say it is just fine to borrow is it our fault if we borrow?


It seems clear that politicians of all stripe, caring more for their paymasters than their constituents, see the crisis as an opportunity not to be wasted. The crisis has provided cover for reducing what is given to the 99% in the form of pay, pensions, benefits, and services including health (NHS) and security (police). It has also provided cover for the ongoing privatisation and outsourcing of services in the name of austerity.

Particularly in the last two decades the top 1% in Britain has taken an ever growing share of national income. They have done this more so than in any other major European nation. Having collected all the wealth, the last thing the wealthy would want to do is have to give any of it back. The second last thing would be to take on more debt to help the poor. 


 

Referring to the Occupy Movement the above mentioned Andy Haldane, executive director at the Bank of England, commented:
 
“Occupy has been successful in its efforts to popularise the problems of the global financial system for one very simple reason:  they are right….I do not just mean right in a moral sense……For the hard-headed facts suggest that, at the heart of the global financial crisis, were and are problems of deep and rising inequality”

Getting out of the recessionary hole will need money to restart growth in the economy. This should come from a combination of taxes on wealthy individuals and companies, plus some borrowing. Cutting the incomes of ordinary Britons is just an opportunistic attempt at using the current crisis as a smokescreen to rip off the already ripped-off.

via blog.rippedoffbritons.com

 

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Charities give Clegg backing in call for overhaul of drug laws – Independent

The decriminalisation of some drugs appeared a more realistic prospect tonight after charities backed Nick Clegg???s call for a Royal Commission to review Britain???s 40-year-old laws on illegal substances.

The Deputy Prime Minister warned that the country was losing the war on drugs today and claimed the Government had missed an opportunity by not ordering a fresh look at the legislation. His comments were immediately rejected by David Cameron, who made it clear the Coalition would not be changing policy on drugs.

But Danny Kushlick, of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said: ???Nick Clegg???s call is a sign the world has moved on.???

He said attitudes to drugs controls were rapidly changing around the world and accused Tory and Labour leaders of lagging behind public opinion on the issue.

Mr Kushlick said: ???The time has come for David Cameron and Ed Miliband to call a truce, end the  political posturing and engage in a  serious exploration of all alternatives including legal regulation. Anything less would be outdated and irresponsible.???

The Deputy Prime Minister???s comments were a response to a report by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee this week, which urged ministers to set up a Royal Commission to examine whether the current system of drugs controls was effective.

Mr Clegg said: ???If you were waging any other war where you have 2,000 fatalities a year, your enemies are making billions in profit, constantly throwing new weapons at you and targeting more young people, you???d have to say you are losing and it???s time to do something different. I???m anti-drugs ??? it???s for that reason I???m pro-reform.???

He is praised for his leadership in facing up to a taboo subject in an article in today???s Independent by Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder, and Mike Trace, the chairman of the International Drug Policy Consortium.

They say: ???A Royal Commission may or may not be the best way to organise a review but, whatever the process, let???s stop pretending that a 50-year-old strategy, and a 40-year-old law, are sufficient to manage a 21st-century drug market.???

The charity DrugScope welcomed ???any moves towards having a mature public debate about drugs in the UK???. It said it supported creating a Royal Commission.

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Exposed: the myth of a ‘culture of worklessness’

Stories about the real extent and problem of worklessness are finally making headlines, jostling with those about “welfare scroungers” and “shirkers” and “strivers”. Last week, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed the scale of “in-work poverty” and “under-employment” in the UK and how it is the “low-pay, no-pay” jobs market that keeps millions in poverty and holds the economy back. Early results show that the government’s flagship programme to tackle longterm unemployment, the Work Programme, is failing to meet its modest targets of placing 5% of participants into sustainable employment.

The “success rate”, in fact, was below what is said might be expected for longterm unemployed people who have benefited from no advice, help or multimillion pound government intervention. “Difficult economic circumstances” – that is, the lack of jobs – was offered up as the excuse. Perhaps, after all, there is a dawning realisation that the real problem of worklessness might lie not with those who are out of work but with “the economy, stupid”?

Yet myths persist. One of the most influential is that there are “three generations of families where no one has ever worked”. This is an idea first championed by welfare secretary Iain Duncan Smith back in 2009 when he was at the Centre for Social Justice and commenting on housing poverty said: “Life expectancy on some estates, where often three generations of the same family have never worked, is lower than the Gaza Strip”. It suggests that unemployment can be explained by “cultures of worklessness” and “welfare dependency” being passed down the generations, from grandparent to parent to child. A debate in the House of Commons at the end of November saw government and opposition MPs drawing on exactly these ideas. But a new study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which set out to see whether cultures of worklessness helped explain long-term unemployment in families across generations, dispels any notion that this is the case.

Together with Andy Furlong at Glasgow University and researchers Johann Roden and Robert Crow, we undertook fieldwork in very deprived neighbourhoods of Glasgow and Middlesbrough. We used every method available to try to locate families with three generations that had never worked, such as spending days surveying clients of job centres, interviewing dozens of organisations that worked in these neighbourhoods, advertising via posters, newsletters and newspaper stories through leafleting and door-knocking and spending months in these neighbourhoods talking to hundreds of residents.

Despite this, we were unable to find any such families. If they exist, they can only account for a minuscule fraction of workless people. Recent surveys suggest that less than 1% of workless households might have two generations who have never worked. Families with three such generations will therefore be even fewer. As Paul Gregg, one of the foremost experts on inter-generational worklessness in the UK has said: “It just doesn’t exist on the scale people seem to think it does.”

After further searching, we managed to recruit20 families where there was long-term worklessness across two generations and interviewed family members in depth. It was clear that these families did not inhabit of “a culture of worklessness”. People told us that they deplored “the miserable existence” of a life on benefits. Families experiencing long-term worklessness remained committed to the value of work. Workless parents were unanimous in not wanting their children to end up in the same situation as themselves.

They actively tried to help their children find jobs (for example, by accompanying them to job interviews to provide moral support). As one 50-year-old father said: “What I want is for my family to have jobs. They’re not asking for anything big, that’s the thing, they are not, like, being greedy.” Unemployed young adults in these families were strongly committed to conventional values about work as part of a normal transition to adulthood. They were keen to avoid the poverty, worklessness and other problems experienced by their parents.

The long-term worklessness of parents in these families was a result of the impact of complex, multiple problems associated with living in deep poverty over years (particularly related to ill health). In an already tight labour market, these problems combined to place them at the back of a long queue for jobs.

The overriding message of the study is that if we cannot find a “culture of worklessness” here – among these rare cases of very long-term workless families in some of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods – then we are unlikely to find them anywhere. Politicians and policymakers need to abandon theories – and policies flowing from them – that treat workless people as “scroungers” and “shirkers”.

The real challenge is creating opportunities for work – jobs that help people escape from poverty and insecurity.

 

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Nick Clegg calls for reform of drugs laws – Guardian

Nick Clegg says Britain is “losing the war on drugs on an industrial scale”, accusing politicians of “a conspiracy of silence” when they know present policies are not working.

Committing the Liberal Democrats to a major review of how to tackle the problem in the 2015 election manifesto, the deputy prime minister said David Cameron should have the courage to look at issues such as decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs.

Clegg threw his weight behind the report from the Commons home affairs select committee earlier this week that recommended that a royal commission look at such options.

He said: “In politics, as in life, you can’t keep on doing something that does not work. You can’t keep making the same mistakes.

“If you were waging any other war where you have 2,000 fatalities a year, your enemies are making billions in profits, constantly throwing new weapons at you and targeting young people – you’d have to say you are losing and it’s time to do something different.”

Clegg’s intervention comes just days after Cameron ruled out such a commission.

In an interview with the Sun, Clegg said he had already challenged Cameron on the issue and ordered a fellow Liberal Democrat minister to make a fact-finding tour of how other countries tackled it.

“I was disappointed that the Home Office ruled out an open-minded, level-headed look at all this before the ink had even dried on the committee report. I told the prime minister that this was a missed opportunity. He knows my views on this. He and I don’t agree on this.”

Clegg criticised attitudes at Westminster. “For too long, people in politics have worried that saying something differently can somehow look like you are being soft. It’s important now to pluck up the courage to speak.”

He said politicians knew the “war on drugs” wasn’t working, but when in government they said everything was fine. “We’ve got to level with the British people and tell them what many people already know – it’s time to do something different.”

Clegg has asked Jeremy Browne, a Lib Dem Home Office minister, to look at approaches in Portugal, Amsterdam, the US and Latin America. He said the former Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, had privately admitted to him last year that his country’s attempt to crush drug barons by military force had failed, claiming 60,000 lives. “He said to me: ‘It’s not working. We can’t win against these odds.'”

Britain should be leading international debate, Clegg said, although he was not in favour of full legalisation. He said decriminalisation of possession while cracking down on traffickers and dealers might be a solution.

“Far from being soft, I want to get tougher on gangs who profit from the misery of drug addicts,” he said.

Although the coalition government was doing “great things” on treatment, “we owe it to young people to find out what does work and then do it”.

Clegg told the BBC: “Both the prime minister and I are relaxed about the idea that this isn’t an identikit government … The home secretary and indeed the prime minister are perfectly entitled to say that they want the government’s present approach to be given a chance to work and don’t want the distraction of a royal commission. My view is that we’ve been waging the war on drugs for almost 40 years, and I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination it has worked.”

Danny Kushlick, of Transform, which campaigns for drugs policy reform, told the Sun Clegg should be congratulated for “telling us the truth about the war on drugs”.

 

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