2014年3月21日 星期五

Dry Bars?

Statistics that suggest the UK's dependence on the bottle may at last be starting to wane, not least among people under 30
The UK may be falling out of love with alcohol. As more and more dry bars open across the country, John Harris asks if we may be entering a new...
The Guardian|由 John Harris 上傳

2014年3月16日 星期日

London, the “tech capital of the world.”

East London Tech City - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

East London Tech City (also known as Tech City or Silicon Roundabout) is a ... 15 media and high-tech companies in close proximity of the Silicon Roundabout, ...

  1. The Guardian ‎- 5 days ago
    Once the home of groundbreaking startups, Silicon Roundabout has ... in London that, for its sins, has been dubbed Silicon Roundabout. .... that ridiculous name will soon be the only thing high-tech about the neighbourhood.
  1. Taipei Times‎ - 1 day ago
Maybe this time Silicon Valley will have to move over — London made a fresh bid on Thursday to become a world center for high-tech and startups.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said he wanted to make the city the “tech capital of the world.”
The high-technology sector in the British capital has grown out of the trendy east London district of Shoreditch and now stretches out to the Olympic Park several kilometers away.
“There is nowhere to rival London for tech firms to thrive and grow — we have the talent, the investors, and the entrepreneurial spirit,” Johnson said.
The prevalence of startups around Old Street roundabout has seen it dubbed “Silicon Roundabout,” but while the area is far from the gleaming offices of California’s Silicon Valley, the British government is pushing the sector hard.
The Tech City body, which has been helping companies set up in London since 2010, says there are now 1,300 compared with 200 when it was created, and they employ more than 155,000 people.
Johnson said the Olympic Park — the site of the 2012 Games, which is now reopening in a reconfigured form — was “ripe both for new startups and more established operations.”
Tech City says one sign of the attractiveness of the British capital for the high-tech sector is the 75 percent growth in the number of foreign companies investing there.
Not everyone is happy — some of the original startups in Shoreditch claim they have been priced out by rapidly rising rents as the tech giants move in.
Yet key players in the sector who gathered with Johnson at the TechHub — a center where other entrepreneurs can come for advice — said London was a highly attractive destination with huge potential.
Michael Acton Smith, the CEO of Mind Candy, the makers of the global hit Moshi Monsters, said: “Confidence in London is rising, startups are flourishing, you can feel the crackle of energy and potential in the air.”
Social networking giant Facebook Inc is expanding fast in London because it is such a “rich source of engineering and technology talent,” company vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Nicola Mendelsohn said.
  原標題:倫敦市長親自推介科技城項目 誓將倫敦打造成歐洲矽谷   國際線上報道(記者 段雪蓮):英國倫敦一向被認為是藝術之都、設計之都、文化之都,但在最近兩年,科技產業成為了這個城市一顆冉冉升起的新星。當地時間13日,倫敦市長鮑裏 斯·約翰遜現身倫敦東區的科技城,親自參與推介倫敦的創業優勢,誓將倫敦打造成世界科技之都和歐洲矽谷。
  倫敦市長鮑裏斯·約翰遜可以說是這個城市最好的代言人。作為東倫敦科技城的主創之一,他向在場企業家和媒體承諾,要將倫敦打造成世界上最好的科 技企業孵化器。“說到底都是為了給新生的企業提供發展空間。倫敦已經是國際科技產業之都,我們有34400家數字科技公司,並且這個數字還在不斷增長。他 們代表著未來。剛創業的公司需要有合適的租金,以及便捷的工作環境,這裡是個不錯的選擇。”
  為了吸引更多的創業者和國際科技公司,市長鮑裏斯·約翰遜欽點了多家重點企業的CEO作為推介大使,包括英國著名兒童網路遊戲開發商 “心靈糖果”的首席執行官邁克爾·阿克頓·史密斯。“我們喜歡倫敦因為這個城市是創業的理想之選。它的好處很多,企業家之間有很好的合作氛圍,政府為企業 提供支援,這裡有豐富多元的產業文化,從經濟到時尚,從音樂到媒體,並且偶爾我們會看到燦爛的陽光,每當這個時候,我會覺得倫敦是世界上最棒的城市。”
  對於國際企業來說,倫敦科技城的主要吸引力在於其為創業者提供的幫助,例如企業家簽證和投資稅收的減免等政策。來自中國的企業文檔管理 軟體開發商德雅科技已經簽約並將於近期入駐科技城。公司董事李燕寧介紹說,之所以選擇倫敦,很大程度上要歸功於這裡對國際企業的支援力度。“非常具體的就 是,市長市政府辦公室他們給了我們很多這方面的諮詢,包括幫我們介紹當地的合作夥伴,還有公司成立過程中所需要了解的一些關於稅收啊等等這方面的支援。對 我們來講,這些都是非常有用的。”
  據統計,2010年至2013年,超過340家駐倫敦的科技公司為這個城市吸引了1.47億英鎊的投資。隨著越來越多的企業入駐,科技 城的範圍也不斷擴大,從泰晤士河周邊蔓延到了奧林匹克廣場這樣空間比較寬闊的區域。科技城國際項目的負責人安德魯·提比茲表示,寬鬆自由的工作環境是吸引 無數年輕人慕名而來的原因之一。“在科技城,我們提倡工作與休閒相平衡的方式。你可以看到我們那邊有乒乓球桌,累了的時候大家可以去放鬆一下。我們也鼓勵 員工之間相互交流,在休息和玩兒的同時大家其實也能想出不少好點子。所以在某種意義上說,休閒也是創新。”

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2014年3月12日 星期三

The stretched middle: can Londoners cope with hundreds of new towers?

The stretched middle: can Londoners cope with hundreds of new towers?

With its skyline about to explode upward, the city will one day look back on the Shard as the thin end of a vertical wedge
City of London skyline
Tall storeys: the City of London skyline. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
London's relatively clear skyline, once dominated by St Paul's Cathedral and, later, by Canary Wharf, the Gherkin and the Shard, is likely to get an awful lot more crowded over the coming years, with almost 250 tall towers proposed, approved or already under construction.
A survey by the New London Architecture (NLA) thinktank suggests that 236 buildings of more than 20 storeys could be on the way, 189 (80%) of which are intended to be residential blocks. Eighteen are planned as office developments, eight as hotels and 13 are due for mixed use, while one tower is to be an educational institute.
According to the study, which is based on local authority figures, 48% of the towers have been approved and another 19% are under construction. Thirty-three of the 236 will be between 40 and 49 storeys high; 22 will have 50 or more storeys.
At the heart of the new tower boom is Tower Hamlets, in east London, which is to be home to 23% of the new buildings. Projects in east and central London account for 77% of the total, although south London also faces significant vertical development. Between them, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, Greenwich, Newham and Southwark will have 140 of the 236 towers.
Peter Murray, director of the NLA, said the survey had been prompted by remarks made by the London mayor, Boris Johnson as he announced his revised housing strategy at the end of last year.
"He said that we've got to build 42,000 new houses every year, but it won't mean towers are 'popping up all over London', as he put it," said Murray.
"But then we started looking at some of the statistics coming in from various boroughs as to the sorts of buildings they were giving permission to, and we realised that actually it does mean that: just like in the 1960s, when we had to build a whole lot of houses, we are going to go higher than I think a lot of people in London had imagined."
And, judging by his comments, higher than Boris imagined as well.
The survey is the thinktank's way of attempting to gauge the effect the new towers will have on the London skyline and the shape of the city as a whole.
"I've got nothing against towers at all, but we need to understand what the impact is," said Murray. "We need to make sure we have a planning system that really is fit for purpose to properly do what planning is supposed to do: to provide a vision for the city in the future and to control the way that development takes place in a reasonable manner."
Murray, who believes the current system could do with some "beefing up", points to the huge pressures on the Greater London Assembly and local authorities to deliver more housing at a time of very high land prices. Faced with such prices, developers are understandably keen to build high, he says. The situation is further compounded by increasing demand for housing in London from the east Asia, where tall buildings have long been part of the urban landscape.
Sir Edward Lister, London's deputy mayor for planning, said a strategic approach was required to balance the protection of the city's skyline with the need to house 1 million more people and create more than 500,000 new jobs over the next few years.
"What we can't do is try to impose some kind of freeze on the skyline and suspend the capital in stasis," he said.
"The key issue in any discussion of London's skyline is whether a building makes a positive contribution to London's urban realm, protecting the things we value about our city while helping us meet the challenges of growth and ensuring the continued prosperity of London and Londoners."
The NLA, which is now examining people's attitudes to tall buildings, believes the public is more receptive to high-rise buildings than it once was.
"There's a greater acceptance of towers because generally the architecture is more interesting than it was in the 1960s, when there was a general antagonism towards taller buildings," said Murray. "I think buildings like the Gherkin – which people generally like – have restored people's faith in the ability of architects to put up buildings that can enhance the skyline rather than damage it."

英國 Department for Work and Pensions 慘不忍睹,災難

I take my hat off to Iain Duncan Smith. Only he could turn a disability crisis into a fiasco

The DWP's latest disaster – a report leaked to the Guardian about £1bn of welfare cuts – is typical of the incompetence ruining millions of lives
 Alzheimer's care worker
'Up and down the country people with conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer and kidney failure are being left increasingly isolated.' Photograph: Gary Calton
We no longer discuss whether Iain Duncan Smith's reforms will succeed or fail. We no longer need thinktanks and charities to produce reports on what might happen if you attempt to reform every strand of the social security system at once, without taking any advice at all from people who actually live with illnesses or disabilities, and at a time when money is short and compassion shorter.
The chaos at the Department for Work and Pensions is now so widespread, so universal, that we can only report daily on each new disaster.
Last week alone, the doomed universal credit project bade farewell to yet another IT manager. Over budget, with more than £60m already written off in failed rollout, it seems increasingly unlikely that the scheme can be saved at all.
Reassessments of employment support allowance (ESA) have been suspended as Atos grinds to a halt under the sheer volume of new applications, reassessments, and transfers from old benefits – and the new personal independence payment (PIP) assessments. There are no doctors assessing disability living allowance any longer, and PIP decisions are taking up to eight months. The bulk of PIP reassessments have also been deferred until after the 2015 election, just too toxic to expose to the electorate.
The Work Programme has failed almost completely to help sick and disabled people into work, with fewer than 1% sustaining work over the longer term. Nick Clegg's Youth Contract has failed spectacularly to help younger people into work.
The new PIP benefit is resulting in a shocking two-thirds of disability claims being rejected, successful ESA appeals have soared to an unprecedented 43%, and tribunals say they cannot keep up with demand, leading to yet more frightening delays.
Food banks report that welfare changes now make up 50% of their referrals, but the welfare minister David Freud believes that it is "very hard to know" why people use them. Church groups are united, blaming Duncan Smith for creating "hardship and hunger".
Social care budgets, respite care, day centres and carers' support have been slashed by up to 40% up and down the country, leaving people with conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer and kidney failure increasingly isolated. Perhaps most shockingly, sick and disabled people are being forced into unlimited, unpaid workfare that takes no account of their conditions.
So, at a time when sick and disabled people face uncertainty in every aspect of the support and services they rely on to lead active, inclusive lives, we might think it vital for the DWP to be at the very top of its game. Firing on all cylinders. Cooking on gas.
But perhaps this government really is so incompetent as to believe that, at the same time as it attempts to dismantle the welfare state and rebuild in its own image, it can attempt to make unprecedented cuts to departmental running costs. Perhaps this has contributed to the repeated failures and forced U-turns.
This week the Guardian reported that a leaked internal review revealed "that the Department for Work and Pensions is struggling to meet 'extremely challenging' demands for over £1bn of efficiency savings over the next two years, and these pressures could disrupt plans to roll out benefits reforms".
With £1bn still left to find, it warns "further savings can be achieved only by radical measures, such as outsourcing core services to the private sector, investing heavily in new IT systems, and moving to digital-only customer services".
And at a time when the need for experienced DWP employees and jobcentre staff could not be greater, "almost 30,000 posts (24% of the workforce) have been cut, with thousands more expected through voluntary redundancy schemes in the next few months".
Every time I despair that the fiasco could not be made any worse, it seems that the DWP always has yet more incomprehensible decisions to astound me with. Like a very slow car crash, choking off whole motorways with wave upon wave of twisted, jagged metal, this DWP chaos just keeps piling up.
Presumably we'll be sacking three of the England squad just as the World Cup kicks off? Closing all our schools just before GCSE week? Or is this level of incompetence only reserved for people living with long-term illnesses and disabilities?
However, it's often easy to forget that these ignorant schemes, crumbling around us, are there to decide how people live. These are not the inevitable mistakes and teething problems of any new system. Every failure, every cut, every tribunal and appeal has ruined a life. Not a few lives, but millions.
They may be unseen, and often unheard or misunderstood. But they are people just the same, and they deserve so much better than this.

2014年3月3日 星期一

London: A History in Verse

London: A History in Verse
London: A History in Verse
Edited by Mark Ford
‘Six and a half centuries of wandering, whoring, watching, drinking, dancing, praying, building, courting, and cursing’

“This marvelous anthology ranging over six centuries about one of the great cities of the world is not only a delight to read, but also a revelation… [W]e go from surprise to surprise turning the pages of this book, very much like someone taking in the sights of a city he was not familiar with, or has long known, and is now discovering to his astonishment, as if for the first time.”
—Charles Simic
“A volume that holds a poetic mirror up to London—and how does she look? Sublime and squalid, high-born and street-smart, worthy of a sonnet and only fit for doggerel. This irresistible collection captures 600 years of the city’s vibrant many-voiced chorus. A gem.”
—Zadie Smith

“It’s a London Thing”

Editor Mark Ford discusses his process in collecting the most evocative, representative, and iconic poetry about London:

'Homely' Boots treats its staff like red revolutionaries

'Homely' Boots treats its staff like red revolutionaries
The pharmacy is a high street favourite. But its attitude to the negotiating rights of its workers is anything but healthy
It's trusted by families across Britain. But questions are being asked about what lies beneath its cosy image Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian
No child dreams of growing up to become a pharmacist. They are never romantic leads or action heroes in films. As far as a search of my bookshelves and the web can tell, they are not the heroes and heroines of novels either. Doctors, detectives and spies are everywhere, while the ignored pharmacist is nowhere to be seen.
To become a chemist is to choose a comfortable existence. At Boots they make around £38,000 on average. This money buys the kind of life the rich and the bohemian have always derided: the semi in suburbia with the spare room for the children; the annual holiday and the car on HP. It can sound dull until hard times fall on you or your society and you learn that ordinary achievements are not to be derided.
I wasn't surprised to learn that almost a fifth of pharmacists are Asian. It's a good career for second generation immigrants. Your parents work hard in a menial job or at a shop that's open all hours so that you can have better. You go to university and choose to study a subject that will bring you a secure middle-class future. Maybe a slightly dull future, but as your parents will tell you, there are worse fates than being bored occasionally.
The politicians chant that if you "work hard and play by the rules," they will respect you. But respect and security is hard to find in modern Britain even for such respectable people as pharmacists.
In 2007, Boots, once a solid Nottingham retailer, was bought by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. The American private equity firm specialises in borrowing money to take over established firms, and then sweats the assets and restructures the firm to pay off the debt and take the profits.
Wall Street journalists of the 1980s called KKR "the barbarians at the gate" . Others called them worse. No one has ever said that they were dull. In 2012 KKR and their partners more than trebled their original investment of around £1bn after selling 45% of their holding for £4.3bn. They sold out to and cashed in with the American health chain, Walgreens. It doesn't appear to like trade unions or to want to deal with them. More to the point it has an option to further enrich the "barbarians" of KKR by buying its remaining stake in Boots.,
Profit-taking on this scale has economic consequences which are all around us. Because corporations sit on piles of money, and direct profits to executives and shareholders, the balance between labour and capital is out of joint. Profits don't lead to higher wages or new jobs in developed countries, where in the words of the International Labour organisation, "Almost everywhere, young people and women find it difficult to obtain jobs that match their skills and aspirations." Falling real wages and persistently high unemployment mean that economic recovery is fuelled by yet more debt and may sputter out, as even George Osborne fears.
Less examined are the intellectual consequences of the power imbalance. The notion that employers exploit workers has a precarious place when established society hails the executive or the dealmaker as the real wealth creator. Workers do not create, so they cannot be exploited. They are cost centres to be squeezed, when they are not being patronised.
If this sounds like radical language, consider the position of an upright group of men and women. Boots' private equity owners are so jealous of their profits and contemptuous, arguably, of their workforce that pharmacists must seek a change in the very laws of the land to get the bosses to talk to them.
In 2012, the Pharmaceutical Defence Association asked Boots if it would recognise it as a trade union. This was a mild demand, indeed no demand at all. We still have free trade unions in this country and rights to association are still regarded as fundamental liberties, although you would be forgiven for not knowing it. Pharmacists need them as much as everyone else. They are caught in a trap, which is closing on many middle-class people.
On the one hand, the law treats them as professionals who are personally liable for mistakes in prescriptions and diagnoses. If a patient is given the wrong medicine and suffers, it is their responsibility. On the other, the conglomerates who employ them treat them as staff, "proletarians," if I may use old-fashioned language, who must obey orders, even though if a mistake happens because the corporation has not given pharmacists the backup they need, the pharmacist rather than conglomerate pays the price.
Boots strung the Pharmaceutical Defence Association along, then pulled a trick on it. Rather than recognise the independent trade union, it said it would deal with a Boots staff association instead. John Murphy, the general secretary of the rejected union and a former Boots chemist, said that the staff association didn't challenge the employer or seek to negotiate or bargain collectively.
The adjudicators of the Central Arbitration Committee, an independent body which settles disputes, did not bite their tongues. Boots "had no intention of recognising the union," they said. It stalled so it could arrange a deal with the staff association. As a result there was no real union at Boots which had "collective bargaining rights for at least pay, hours and holidays", it continued, and this omission left the private equity capitalists in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Boots went to the courts to challenge the decision. The courts said Boots did not have to recognise the Pharmaceutical Defence Association under English law but told the union that English law could well be incompatible with the European Convention.
The judge invited the union to go to another court to seek a "declaration of incompatibility". If a fresh judge makes a declaration, then the government must consider legislating to make English law and human rights law compatible. All this just so pharmacists can have the right to raise legitimate concerns with their vastly rich and proud employers.
The crisis that the soaring growth of inequalities of wealth and power has brought can be glimpsed everywhere. You can see it in the inability of the young to afford an ordinary house in an ordinary street. You can see it in the vast levels of debt weighing down on ordinary working- and middle-class families, and you can see it at the Boots pharmaceutical counter, where chemists are treated like red revolutionaries just for wanting to negotiate with their employer as free men and women.