Travelers face chaos as drones shut London’s Gatwick airport
By GREGORY KATZ and JILL LAWLESS
Thursday, December 20
LONDON (AP) — Tens of thousands of passengers were delayed, diverted or stuck on planes Thursday as the only runway at Britain’s Gatwick Airport remained closed into a second day after drones were spotted over the airfield.
The airport south of London — Britain’s second-busiest by passenger numbers — closed its runway Wednesday evening after two drones were spotted.
It reopened briefly at about 3 a.m. Thursday, but shut 45 minutes later after further sighting and remained closed at midday — 15 hours after the first sighting.
Police said the “devices used are of an industrial specification,” an indication that the drones weren’t small, inexpensive machines. A police helicopter was hovering near the airfield as officers from two nearby forces hunted the drone operators.
“The police advice is that it would be dangerous to seek to shoot the drone down because of what may happen to the stray bullets,” said Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer.
Eurocontrol, an international organization devoted to air safety across Europe, said on its website that the airport was expected to stay shut until at least 1800 GMT (1 p.m. EST).
Woodroofe said sightings of at least one drone were continuing, and “I cannot tell you what time we will reopen.”
He said the vast majority of the 110,000 passengers due to pass through Gatwick on Thursday — one of the busiest travel days of the year — would experience disruption.
All incoming and outgoing flights were suspended, and the airport’s two terminals were jammed with thousands of weary travelers, many of whom had spent the night on benches and floors.
Police said the drone flights were a “deliberate act to disrupt the airport,” but that there were “absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror-related.”
There were 20 police units from two forces searching for the elusive drone operator.
Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, of Sussex Police, said the search was daunting.
“Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears,” he said.
Burtenshaw said new and bigger drones have more reach, making it harder for police to locate the personal control the flying device.
“It’s a difficult and challenging thing to locate them, but I’ve got teams now and I’ve got investigators looking at how we do that, and I’m confident we will,” he said.
Gatwick, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) south of London, sees more than 43 million passengers a year to short- and long-haul destinations and serves as a major hub for the budget carrier easyJet.
Any problem at Gatwick causes a ripple effect throughout Britain and continental Europe, particularly during a holiday period when air traffic control systems are under strain.
Passengers complained on Twitter that their Gatwick-bound flights had landed at London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities.
Luke McComiskie, who landed in Manchester — more than 160 miles (260 kilometers) from London — said the situation “was just chaos, and they had only two coaches (buses) and taxis charging people 600 pounds ($760) to get to Gatwick.”
Andri Kyprianou, from Cyprus, described “freezing” conditions for passengers who spent the night at Gatwick’s South Terminal. Her flight to Kiev had been canceled.
“I haven’t slept since yesterday morning. We are very tired. It’s freezing, we are cold, having to wear all of these coats for extra blankets,” she said.
“There were pregnant women, one of them was sleeping on the floor. There were people with small babies in here overnight. We saw disabled people on chairs. There were young children sleeping on the floor.”
Gatwick briefly closed its runway last year when a drone was spotted in the area. An errant drone also briefly led to the shutdown of Dubai International Airport in October 2016.
Pilots have reported numerous near-misses with drones in recent years in Britain, and aviation authorities have warned there is a growing risk that a midair collision could cause a major disaster.
Strong sales of small consumer drones have led to repeated warnings about a possible threat to commercial aviation.
Britain has toughened its laws on drones, and flying one within 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) of an airport carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
But opposition politicians accused the government of failing to do enough, pointing out that a registration system with safety checks for drone operators wouldn’t take effect until November.
Christopher Lister, whose flight from Kiev, Ukraine, to Gatwick was diverted to Birmingham in central England, said the scale of the disruption was “a little bit scary.”
“We feel grateful it’s not a worse story this morning about an aircraft (that has) come down,” he told the BBC.
100 days to Brexit: EU acts to cushion no-deal shock
By LORNE COOK and JILL LAWLESS
Wednesday, December 19
BRUSSELS (AP) — With British politics gridlocked and just 100 days until Brexit, the European Union on Wednesday triggered contingency plans designed to cushion some of the shock of a “no-deal” U.K. exit from the bloc.
The EU measures, announced a day after Britain ramped up its own no-deal planning, are intended to alleviate “major disruption” to people and businesses in sectors including financial services, customs, air transport and climate policy.
European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters that the plan was “an exercise in limiting damage.”
He said the aim was “to turn an abrupt exit into a more soft landing.”
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but it remains unclear whether lawmakers will approve the divorce agreement Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has negotiated with the bloc. Leaving without a deal risks plunging the British economy into recession and touching off chaos at the borders.
The 14 EU actions include temporary one- to two-year measures to allow U.K.-EU financial services to continue and a 12-month provision to keep planes flying between Britain and the bloc.
But Dombrovskis stressed that the measures “cannot replicate the benefits of the withdrawal agreement, and certainly it cannot replicate the benefits of EU membership.”
On Tuesday, the British government stepped up U.K. no-deal preparations, putting 3,500 soldiers on standby and warning thousands of businesses and millions of households to get ready for disruption.
The government said the plans — which include chartering boats and stockpiling medicines — are a sensible precaution.
But opposition politicians accuse the government of trying to scare lawmakers into supporting May’s Brexit deal.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday accused May of “a cynical attempt to drive her deeply damaging deal through this House.”
“No-deal would be a disaster for our country and no responsible government would ever allow it,” Corbyn said.
Many businesses agree. Britain’s five leading business groups said in a rare joint statement that businesses “have been watching in horror” as political infighting made the prospect of a disorderly Brexit more likely.
Organizations including the British Chambers of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry urged lawmakers to “return to their constituencies over Christmas and talk to their local business communities.”
“We hope that they will listen and remember that when they return to Parliament, the future course of our economy will be in their hands,” the groups said.
In a bid to regain some of its vanished political momentum, the British government was publishing long-awaited plans Wednesday for a post-Brexit immigration system that will end free movement of EU citizens to the U.K.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the proposals — Britain’s biggest immigration changes in more than 40 years — would create a “skills-based immigration system built around the talent and expertise people can bring, rather than where they come from.”
At present, all EU nationals can live and work in Britain under the bloc’s free-movement rules, but that will end after the U.K. leaves in March.
The government is proposing no limit on the number of well-paid, skilled immigrants who can settle in Britain, but curbs on “low-skilled” workers.
The rules will not apply to more than 3 million EU citizens currently living in Britain. The government has said they can stay, even if the U.K. leaves the bloc without an agreement on future relations. The EU, in its no-deal plans, urged member states to extend the same right to more than 1 million resident British nationals.
Immigration was a major factor behind Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the EU, and May has made “taking back control of our borders” her key Brexit goal.
But that has put her at odds with many business leaders, and some members of her own Conservative government.
Big chunks of Britain’s economy, from agriculture to health care, have come to depend on European workers — more than 1 million of whom have moved to Britain in the last 15 years. Businesses fear that choking off the flow of lower-skilled workers could lead to acute employee shortages.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers — an umbrella group for Britain’s state-funded health care system — said the health sector was “deeply concerned” about the planned changes.
“High skills does not equal high pay,” she told the BBC.
The government plans suggest setting a salary threshold that immigrants will have to meet in order to be given the right to settle in Britain. A figure of 30,000 pounds ($38,000) a year, recommended by an independent report earlier this year, is more than the starting salary for nurses, paramedics, junior doctors and many other professions.
Javid said the “exact threshold” would be decided after public consultation.
He also said the plan would not commit to reducing net immigration below 100,000 people a year — a longstanding goal of the Conservative government that it has never come close to meeting. Net immigration in the year to June was 273,000.
Javid said the plans would seek to reduce migration to “more sustainable levels,” but would not set a specific target.
Jill Lawless reported from London. Danica Kirka in London contributed to this story.
Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
A SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHRISTMAS GIFT
by Bob Morrison
On December 12, 2018 our nation received an unexpected gift, a “Report On Slavery And Racism In The History Of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary”. It was commissioned and published by the Seminary itself, not a result of someone else’s investigation. It seems honest, thorough and unblinking as it describes what was done, by whom and why.
For those who have studied slavery and racism, there are few surprises but those who have been taught the “Lost Cause” mythology of the Confederacy and white supremacy will find a shocking explanation of how American culture, business, politics and religion interacted to produce slavery, civil war, Jim Crow laws and our present day racial relations.
In both the South and the North, a great many evangelical Christians wanted to ban slavery. Abolitionist Baptists argued that they “…could not hold communion with slaveholding Christians…” In the South, wealthy Christians who supported slavery refused contributions to abolitionist organizations; and in 1845 they created the Southern Baptist Convention as a pro-slavery church.
Their seminary taught that “God established slavery as the permanent condition of Africans after the flood. Noah’s prophecy condemning Canaan to perpetual slavery was observably fulfilled by the African race.” That doctrine was taught in churches of many denominations across the slave states. A member of the Seminary faculty drafted the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution supporting the Confederacy. It described secession and the war as just and necessary for the defense of slavery.
After the war seminary faculty wrote that, “…any solution to the racial tensions in southern states must include the restoration of southern white political control…” The Seminary Board Chairman said, “We at the South do not recognize social equality of the negro… we cannot entrust to him the management of the interests of our country for this simple reason: God and man know he is not competent to control them.” They taught that God created blacks as an intellectually and morally inferior race therefore the white race should be in charge of government.
Joseph Brown, a Seminary Board Chairman, its largest financial contributor and a Governor of Georgia made most of the money that he donated in a convict lease system. After men (almost all of them black) were arrested, he leased their labor from the state for use in his coal mines and foundries. The brutal conditions were described as worse than slavery. The practice became common in the South.
Seminary faculty adopted the “lost cause” mythology that, in the words of the report, “re-shaped Christianity itself into a civil religion.” The lost cause interpretation of history justified racial segregation and the disenfranchisement and oppression of blacks based on the doctrine of white superiority and the belief that blacks “lacked capacity for learning, literature and self-governance.”
The Seminary supported segregation and opposed voting rights through the first half of the 20th century. By 1961, some faculty realized the need for change. Dr Martin Luther King Jr, himself a Baptist minister, accepted an invitation to address and converse with students and faculty. 250 students subsequently petitioned the Mayor of Louisville, KY (home of the seminary) to desegregate its restaurants. Several large churches promptly cut off financial support and complained about Dr King being invited, referring to him as a “racist agitator.” The Seminary President and Board officers apologized to the churches and the money began to flow again.
Southern Baptists and others demanded that legislators put their doctrines into law. They prohibited interracial marriage and created a segregated society through Jim Crow laws. They aligned God with slavery and white supremacy by poring over scriptures to find a verse or two that seemed to support a conclusion that they had already reached. The practice of aligning God with our own prejudices and then turning the prejudices into laws continues today. It is visible, for example, in battles over marriage equality, ordination of women and voter suppression.
Current seminary President Albert Mohler, Jr closed the report with these words, “Diversity is not an accident or a problem – it’s a sign of God’s providence and promise. If the church gets this wrong, it’s not just getting race and ethnic difference wrong. It’s getting the gospel wrong.”
The gift of Christmas is a gift of new light for our world. There is a glimmer of that light in the Seminary’s Report. I hope you’ll take a look.
Adair Turner: ‘Every politician’s wrong about productivity’
The British technocrat supreme talks to Ben Chu about street sweepers, lawyers, climate change and whether he could work with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party
Monday 26 November 2018
‘Sometimes a useful role in public debate is to throw something deliberately provocative into the pond!’
Adair Turner is being provocative again. Almost a decade ago now he scandalised bankers and traders (although not the general public) when he declared the work of financiers to be “socially useless”.
A few years ago he made himself almost equally unpopular in central banking circles by suggesting they should consider monetising debt to rebalance their economies.
And now Baron Turner of Ecchinswell’s latest thesis is that politicians, everyone from the Chancellor Philip Hammond down, are talking rubbish about productivity.
“What every politician always agrees is that the crucial thing we need to do is speed up the rate of productivity growth – every politician’s wrong!” the silver-haired 63-year-old declaims in an interview with The Independent.
Turner, whose technocratic career has taken him from the CBI, to the Climate Change Commission, to a major government review of pensions, to the chair of the Financial Services Authority, is now chair of George Soros’ Institute for New Economic Thinking. And the economic thinking he’s doing is certainly “new”. Downright heretical, many would say.
So what’s led him to this radical conclusion that we should stop obsessing about productivity growth? The answer is twofold.
First, he suspects automation is happening quicker than is being picked up by our official GDP statistics. Second, he thinks lots of the new service jobs being created as the mechanisable parts of the economy become more efficient are inherently “zero sum”, meaning they are competing for existing wealth rather than creating it.
He gives an example of street sweepers and lawyers: “If we manage to create a totally effective automated street sweeping machine, nobody would have a job as a street sweeper. But if we apply IT to the limit to law, there’ll still be lawyers. It’s just that each of these two highly paid lawyers will now have software that review not simply many cases, but every single case that there’s ever been.
“What do lawyers do? They fight against each other. If you make lawyer A and lawyer B both much more skilled than they were before, you can’t say there’ll be a better product, there’ll just be a more intense fight.”
He thinks that focusing on productivity growth in this context will not help to deliver a higher quality of living for most people. Indeed, he fears it could actually end up harming living standards, citing the example of those who provide social care for the frail elderly.
“What do we do with those jobs at the moment? We reduce their status and their cost. We put them up for competitive bidding. And we bid down the price. And then we do these gig economy games where people being paid to do social care of the elderly aren’t even employed for movement between client one and client two; we say you’re only working when you’re at the client. Then we tailorise their life. We say ‘you’ve got 14 minutes to clean someone’s bottom’…”
The solution, Turner says, banging the desk of his Mayfair office for emphasis, is simply to stop focusing on the bottom line.
“We’ve just got to pay more for social care – we’ve just got to make something which is valued. We’ve got to pay higher taxes to afford it. They’re never going to be high-paid jobs, but we should not be using the techniques of the market to skinny them down.”
He concedes the macroeconomics of his argument, laid out in an extensive lecture in the US earlier this year, is unproven. There are certainly many theoretical and empirical challenges that could be mounted. He also accepts that his thesis – saying we should focus more on distributing the GDP pie than making it bigger – will not be easily swallowed by policymaking classes.
“Ten years ago I said precisely the opposite,” he smiles. “That’s undoubtedly [not] what I would have said when I was director of the CBI. I’m still cautious about leaping to that. But sometimes a useful role in public debate is to throw something deliberately provocative into the pond!”
Turner advises a start-up online bank – OakNorth – which he says has influenced his views on the rapid underlying speed of job-shedding automation.
As chair of a group called Energy Transitions Commission (ETC), made up of public and private sector experts and executives, he’s also advising governments in China and India on decarbonisation.
Despite Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Paris accord, Turner insists he’s relatively hopefully about the prospects of cracking the problem of a rapidly overheating planet.
“We’re optimistic that there are bits of Indian policy that are heading in the right direction,” he says. “I’m optimistic that China gets it, that they are determined eventually to bring down their emissions, that they’ll develop renewables on a massive scale, that they’ll electrify their bus fleets, etc.
“The thing that frustrates me about climate change is that we could get to 2060 and we could have a pretty close to zero carbon economy. Run the numbers and it’s completely doable by technologies that we know how to do. It is soluble if we just get on with it.”
But what’s lacking from Turner’s employment portfolio is a major, high-profile, public sector job in the UK. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour seems an obvious fit. They could use someone with Turner’s economic and establishment credentials.
And it turns out there has been some contact. On 19 May (the same day as Harry and Meghan’s wedding) Turner was to be found addressing Labour’s macroeconomic conference.
But could he work with a party of politicians who many in the business world regard as unreconstructed Marxists, a bigger threat to the economy even than Brexit?
“The answer is I’d have to spend a bit more time,” he says, judiciously. “There are some things about some of the people around them of which I am suspicious. There seem to be some people around them who genuinely do believe that Venezuela is a well-run country. You cannot believe that and be sensible. Venezuela is a disaster and it has been destroyed by a left-wing Marxist government that had oodles of oil revenues. You’ve got to say the way that the world is.”
But he’s certainly not shutting the door.
“There are things that make me wary of that tradition on the left which can see no problems with left-wing governments. On the other hand, there are other aspects of what they are saying that do not seem all that extreme or worrying.”
The supreme British establishment technocrat taking a job with a radical left Labour team? That could be a Turner provocation to put all his others in the shade.