Fraunhofer ISE joins US SunShot InitiativeThe Germany-based research institute becomes one of only three non-American research partners on the SunShot program, which aims to lower the electricity generation costs of solar energy in the U.S. November 27, 2013 pv magazine Finance Markets Markets & Policy Technology Technology and R&D Share Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE research institute, based in Freiburg, has been invited to participate as a research partner of the SunShot Initiative in the U.S.Set up in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the aim of the SunShot Initiative is to reduce the electricity generation costs for solar energy in the U.S., down to as little as $0.06 a kilowatt hour, with the overall aim being to make solar power cost-competitive with conventional fossil fuels. Having worked on increasing solar cell efficiencies for more than 30 years, Fraunhofer ISE has become one of only three non-American research departments to be granted project funds to work within the SunShot Initiative framework. “We are delighted to be a European research partner in the second round of the SunShot Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency (F-PACE),” said Fraunhofer ISEs division director of development and characterization, Stefan Glunz. “Our participation demonstrates the high level of international recognition that our research receives.” Fraunhofers researchers will partner with experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the project leader of Georgia Institute of Technology to work on improving the efficiency of high-efficiency silicon solar cells. Dr. Glunz added that “the research focus will be on passivation strategies for solar cell contacts, emitter optimization, as well as improved light trapping in the solar cell.” The cooperation was welcomed by Fraunhofer ISEs director, Professor Eicke R. Weber, who added: “Photovoltaics is a key player in the inevitable global energy transition to renewable energy sources and still holds potential for efficiency gains, which can be realized through international joint research efforts.” Through the SunShot Initiative, the DOE supports a number of research efforts from universities, national laboratories, NGOs and private companies to help drive down the cost of solar.Popular content The Hydrogen Stream: 20 MW green hydrogen plant in Finland, two Australian projects move forward Sergio Matalucci 20 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Storegga, Shell and Harbour Energy want to set up a 20 MW blue hydrogen production facility in the U.K. Australia’s Origin Energy wants to build a hy… Enabling aluminum in batteries Mark Hutchins 27 April 2021 pv-magazine.com Scientists in South Korea and the UK demonstrated a new cathode material for an aluminum-ion battery, which achieved impressive results in both speci… ITRPV: Large formats are here to stay Mark Hutchins 29 April 2021 pv-magazine.com The 2021 edition of the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics (ITRPV) was published today by German engineering association VDMA. 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Cracking the case for solid state batteries pv magazine 29 April 2021 pv-magazine-australia.com Scientists in the UK used the latest imaging techniques to visualize and understand the process of dendrite formation an… 123456Leave a Reply Cancel replyPlease be mindful of our community standards.Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *CommentName * Email * Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. By submitting this form you agree to pv magazine using your data for the purposes of publishing your comment.Your personal data will only be disclosed or otherwise transmitted to third parties for the purposes of spam filtering or if this is necessary for technical maintenance of the website. 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Fifteen day-long periods, just before the start of Navaratri festival, is the time when the Hindu population performs rituals in remembrance of dead ancestors. The town of Gaya in Bihar is supposed to be most sacred for these rituals and devotees from all over India converge to Gaya during this period. Everyone would usually expect a large unmanageable crowd and breakdown of the system, under so much load on services in such a small place. I braved my fear and headed to Gaya during September last for a similar purpose. The fear of going to uncharted course lingered in my mind. However, the city presented to my eyes, a very pleasant experience. The whole city was geared to take up the enormous load of visitors. All the private transport was restricted within the city, and free transport was provided for all the important destinations. Portable toilets at close locations and courteous cleaning staff had made the place very different from what I feared it to be. Police personnel were posted every two meters to help the devotees, many of devotees being old and having limited mobility. At one point, we were literally supported by police personnel to be able to climb up the stairs of one of the temples. Subsequently, a vehicle was summoned to take us to the place where our vehicle was parked. On the whole, the atmosphere was devotee friendly and an example for everyone to see, as to how any public gathering could be controlled in a small town. Government of Bihar, especially Bihar Police deserve appreciation for their helpful approach and city administration for managing the Gaya Mela in an efficient manner.
1. Home Quarantine Positives: The country realized early on that it does not have the bed capacity of the hospital infrastructure to deal with the hundreds of positive cases that were emerging in March, this year.Thus it created a system whereby all testing was made free but the positive patients were asked to isolate themselves at home. In case, anybody did not have a separate room for isolation, the government took over a few hotels in the country to isolate them from the healthy populace.The lockdown helped the positives in two ways. It gave time to people who were positive to rest and recuperate, without having to worry about work. A month long time was enough for them to become non-infectious. Secondly, the lockdown prevented the positives from coming in contact with other healthier populace.2. Testing & Contact Tracing: At first, anyone with symptoms would have to get a letter from a general practitioner, recommending a test, due to the shortage of test kits.However, later testing became open to all. It was free of cost from day zero.A positive test meant that all who came into your contact would also be tested.Contact tracing and free testing was something that helped limit the spread as government was able to identify a wedding, a bar, a conference, and a school as a clusters.3. Give Notice of A Few Days to Lockdown: The country managed to develop a graded level approach to a lockdown, similar to a one it has for disaster relief as it is prone to natural calamities.It developed jargons such as bubble-isation and social distancing in March and the Prime Minister encouraged its usage, who was also confined to her work bubble.All people received an emergency SMS on their phone screens alerting them on the date the country would be going into a lockdown.A 3-day notice to the lockdown (level 3) was given, which was enough for people to get back home from other cities, wrap-up businesses, pay vendors and stock any essentials or cooking gas if needed. The level was later upgraded within 24 hours to level 4 (full lockdown).4. Give Wage Support To Employees/Businesses: Even as the country went into a lockdown, the government announced that there would be some relief for all businesses. As the markets and economy went silent, the ministries worked out a plan to support small businesses and their employees.All businesses were given a weekly wage support per employee of about $585 till the country would remain in some sort of lockdown, to curtail the pandemic.Purchasing power granted by the government to the public also meant that the economy would not stop.Firing of employees was made illegal if a company had applied for a wage subsidy on behalf of that employee.The wage support was also given to the self-employed including the plumbers, electricians, home tutors, taxi drivers, food delivery executives, couriers, etc.5. Regulate Landlord-Renter Agreements: Commercial and residential rent disputes were kept controlled. Renters were given a 60-day period in which they cannot be evicted even if they could not pay the rent. A landlord can approach a tribunal after 60 days to appeal against the renter.In one case, a landlord who tried to move in a renters place, was arrested by the police and placed in a hotel room as he claimed to have no other place of his own.The Prime Minister encouraged public shaming of such landlords online, and invited their names to be put on a government website. However things did not reach that far as most commercial realtors co-operated with renters in order to avoid hurting their brand in the market.6. Communicate With The Public Daily: The daily joint presser during the lockdown from the Prime Minister and Director General of Health, achieved more eyeballs than any fully packed national rugby All Blacks match.On some evenings, after putting her baby to sleep, the Prime Minister would hold a Facebook Live with the public and take questions, from the comfort of her living room couch, dressed in a sweatshirt on the steps ahead for her team of 5 million people, as she called the nation.Government started buying media adspace online and in print. It started propagating the message on what people were allowed to do. There were four levels of lockdown from 1-4 developed on March 21st.People slowly started getting mailers in their letterboxes at home about what each alert level system meant for them.The daily presser at 1 pm, by the Prime Minister, however kept the public informed on each step.7. Impose Lockdown Strictly with fines: There were breaches of the lockdown where people started going to the beaches. But they were dealt with fines by the police. In one instance a group of South Asian students playing cricket during lockdown were imposed a penalty running into several hundred dollars, as they breached the rules.The health minister was caught cycling and snapped by a person with a smartphone. As his photo went viral on Facebook, the Prime Minister acted decidedly, demoting him to the bottom of the cabinet-rank.The lockdown helped. It controlled the spread of the virus, and those with symptoms were given ample time to rest and recover at home so as not to become super-spreaders.This protected a large mass of the population in the island nation. Ironcially, it’s said that the last big pandemic – the Spanish Flu of 2018 had killed almost 7,000 people in the island nation, almost a 100 years ago.8. Decision-making only on Scientific Models: The government asked epidemiologists, scientists and mathematical modellers to help out in political decision making.Each lockdown level was upgraded or downgraded based on a scientific report given by the Director General of Health and his staff, which consisted of several experts, including many University professors on epidemiology.Of course, a few opposition politicians clamoured saying the lockdown would hurt the economy.However, the broader population supported the government’s move as it saw the number of cases declining after 3 weeks of lockdown.On March 23rd, a lockdown level was suddenly upgraded. The political decision was largely based upon a campaign by scientists, and experts warning the government of severe consequences, if it did not.9. Shut & Seal Borders Early On: The country created a temporary military facility where it would quarantine all positive cases it found at the airport arrivals. The country struggled with a limited bed capacity as it never had the healthcare infrastructure to deal with a pandemic.Only the severe cases were shifted to a hospital. Of course, all patients would be monitored closely, and would get regular calls from the Ministry of Health asking about their well-being.The country shut international borders including seaports and airports, but gave a 7-10 day notice to all its residents and citizens to return back to the country, even as it went into the lockdown.The country had shut its borders to China, in February itself, despite the Chinese having a significant presence in the country’s immigrant population, owing to disturbing reports from Wuhan. Meat shipments from Wuhan were banned in February itself.Ironically, the first few cases in the island nation emerged from travelers who arrived from Iran and Italy, indicating that the spread was no longer limited to China. However, as NZ and nearby Australia emerge from the coronavirus calamity, both are thinking of starting a travel bubble soon.Finally, the country has decided to continue with free testing and social distancing rules for months to come in order to prevent a second wave if it emerges at any time. This means that all public transport including school buses will have to remain partially empty from now on. How did New Zealand manage to curtail the spread of the pandemic even as other nations are struggling? Geographical sea borders did help the country but here are 8 things New Zealand government did, which other nations can learn from. Even as the world is reeling from the effects of coronavirus shutting down shopping malls, schools, bars and restaurants, the island nation of New Zealand has managed to flatten the curve and curtail its spread for now. It is re-opening its shopping malls, cinemas, dine-ins, and schools from May 18 onwards.NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced last Monday a partial lifting of the lockdown measures imposed on the country on March 25th, when the cases were increasing by the hundreds every day. The country has had about 1499 cases and 21 deaths in past two months, from coronavirus. The country went into a full lockdown on March 25th.From May 18 onwards, all bars, restaurants, schools, universities, shopping malls, and cinemas would re-open. However, all will have to follow a social distancing rule of two metres. This means that cinemas would have a lot of empty seats. Fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC will have to have a two meter distance between each table for dine-ins.Funerals and mass gatherings including at home or in religious places were limited to just 10 people. But were increased to 50 people after protests from local communities about the rule. “Why 10? Because If something goes wrong, that’s much easier to contain, much easier to contact trace,” Ardern had explained earlier before giving in.Public transport including domestic flights would re-open albeit international borders would remain closed. However a new travel bubble between Australia and NZ might be on the cards soon.
India leads the world in a lot of indices, and interestingly, not all of them are detrimental. With 504 million customers, India has the second-highest internet users in the world. A pretty large number, huh? But what percentage does it constitute of India’s total population? Only around 50%. And how many households does this huge figure cover? As per the National Sample Survey report on Education (2017-2018), it is barely 27% of India’s total. In such a scenario, are we ready for an online exam especially, in an institute like Delhi University with students from various economic and social backgrounds, religions, and regions?Isn’t it right to throw all those unprivileged kids under the bus during this ongoing pandemic?According to a recent survey conducted by Delhi University Teacher’s Association (DUTA), 85% of the DU’s students are not in a position for an online Open-Book Examination. It includes a large number of whom are from SC, ST, OBC, and economically weaker backgrounds, and are from different parts of the country. Out of those 51,453 respondents, 11.9% received no study materials during the lockdown. 38.1% had no access to them at all because of reasons like having no laptops, owning a single smartphone in the entire family, 2G internet connection, or no connection at all.Although the ambitious Saubhagya scheme ensures power connection to 99.9% of the homes, the reality is far less luminous than the plan if we look at the quality of electricity and the number of hours for which it is available every day. Mission Antyodaya (2017-18) has revealed that hardly 47% of Indian households receive power supply for more than 12 hours a day. A blackout occurs mostly because of the gap between the demand and supply of electricity. During peak hours, to suffice the chief municipalities, supply has to be cut in the backward areas and settlements. During long and frequent power-cuts, students are not able to charge their phones, which at most times, is the single electronic device in a family of five or six. So, the foremost sufferers are those poverty-stricken families who aspire for something bigger and better but get restricted by their resources.This lockdown also manifests the fact that there is a clear-cut distinction between in-general access to internet and internet access at home. Over 66% of the Indian population resides in rural areas, but only a little over 24% have access to internet services. For urban areas, this number increases to 43%, but it still leaves a lot of the young students in the lurch. The discrepancies do not end here. Internet penetration varies from 69% in Delhi and 54% in Kerala to 38% in U.P and 21% in Bihar. The gender disparity in terms of internet accessibility is stark: 33% of internet users are female, and the difference is even deeper when it comes to rural areas. A report by the Quacquarelli Symonds on the usage of the internet shows that even broadband connection in India is not good enough. Over 3% face cable cuts, 53% face poor connectivity and 32% face signal issues. Is this online exam even worth the stress that it’s going to put on us in the coming months? Because there may be a certain percentage of students who perceive this lockdown as an opportunity to hone their skills, read more, spend some quality time with family and friends but there is also a large proportion of students out there whose parents have lost their jobs or are stuck in some other part of the country or have family members suffering from this fatal virus.Smartphones can be convenient for various apps and attending online classes but not for carrying out lengthy assignments or research. The fact that only 11% of Indians own computers- laptops, tablets, palmtops reveals the glaring differences that may exist between two college classmates.In such a situation, exams seem doubtful when there are significant gaps in digital learning. Besides the connectivity issues, online interaction between students and their teachers looks like a challenge. One-to-one communication is essential for both teachers and their students. It mostly depends on the acceptability of this new platform and the readiness of both parties. It is harsh of the authorities to make a sacrificial lamb out of the traditional teachers who may be technologically-challenged to tutor online. Has DU been thoughtful enough to issue directives on how to teach online, and what platforms to use for that? It has not been bothered to provide any precautionary measures to ensure that the students and teachers don’t fall prey to cybercrime during these online lessons. As an inevitable result of such loopholes in the decisions, there were several cases reported where teachers claimed to have faced harassment during web classes sometimes by their students and sometimes even by outside intruders.An online course ideally requires devising lesson plans, and preparation of teaching materials, which is an arduous task, without any framework or broad outlines, to begin with. So is the case with the learning process- learning demands a conducive environment for studying, and we have to keep it in mind that not all of us have a quiet space for that at home. Reports indicate that 37% of the houses in India are 1-dwelling households. Regular online classes have their costs for both teachers and students, and its affordability continues to be a big question in a developing country like India. The recent cutback in the budget for digital learning from ₹604 to ₹469 crores in the fiscal year 2020-21.The 25-point-OBE plan released on Saturday by the Dean of Examinations Vinay Gupta assured that the students would be allowed to use the ICT resources available with the CSC (Common Service Centre) academy for downloading and taking the print, scanning, and uploading of answer sheets free of cost. As per DU, there are more than 2 lakh functional CSCs located at almost all gram panchayats across the country. But the teachers and students called this circular- confusing and a mockery of the examination process. It leaves a lot of loose ends. It does not give specific instructions to take any precautions to ensure that CSCs do not get overcrowded. Are these CSC’s safe and sanitized in line with the guidelines of GOI? DU has also decided to wash its hands of specially challenged students just by allotting two extra hours to them. The fact that the website crashes as soon as results are out or forms are uploaded puts a big question mark on how successful these online exams would be.This inconsiderate behaviour meted out by DU has invited RTI, petitions, letters to the administration, protests on twitter, etc. Although the university has turned deaf ears to the solidarity shown by the students and teachers together, we must not stop until we get there because when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.
Fear having no fears at all. Fear giving in to fears. Fear running away from fears. But never ever fear the fear. Holding on to your fear for a minute longer at the moment when you feel its drowning you makes you unbeatable. If you can walk through the walls of fear with a smile, trust me, you got the brightest flame in your belly. When you first step into these walls you want to run away, as far as you can, from these very dilapidated and disastrous walls. But be strong. For the future that lies ahead shall be as bright as the light one sees at the end of a dark tunnel. Keep that light as your drive to keep going on. Remember when you are at your lowest point is when you are open to the greatest change in your life. Keep going until you feel your legs giving up, your heart almost stopping, your mind becoming dead. That is when you will start to see the future you dreamt of starting to become your present.
iStock(NEW YORK) — A submarine in the Pacific Ocean was found with over 12,000 pounds of cocaine worth over $165 million dollars, officials said.The vessel was intercepted by officials with the U.S. Coast Guard, who arrested four suspected drug smugglers, the Coast Guard said in a statement announcing the apprehension.Crew members aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant, along with members of the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team, launched two small boats to board the 40-foot self-propelled semi-submersible ship on Sept. 5.Officials recovered 1,100 pounds of cocaine which was offloaded to the Valiant during operations, the Coast Guard said. The remaining cocaine could not be safely extracted because the submarine was unstable.“There are no words to describe the feeling Valiant crew is experiencing right now,” said Cmdr. Matthew Waldron, the ship’s commanding officer, in the statement.The drug bust is one of several the U.S. Coast Guard has made this month.The Coast Guard Cutter Seneca offloaded more than 12,000 pounds of cocaine on Sept. 20 in Miami.Two other Coast Guard vessels, the Tahoma and the Midgett, were responsible for seizing over 9,000 pounds of the drug earlier this month.“These down range counter-drug operations are a vital component to the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security’s mission and our national security,” commander of the Seneca, John Christensen, said in a statement.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
kali9/iStockBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News(SAVANNAH, Ga.) — The Savannah Police Department announced Wednesday that it terminated two of its officers following a three-month investigation into excessive force used in an arrest.District Attorney Meg Heap told reporters at a news conference that she will call for a grand jury in September to look into the April incident involving Corporal Daniel Kang and Sergeant Octavio Arango. Heap, the police officers and Mayor Van R. Johnson did not disclose specific details about the incident — which was caught on body cameras — but they did say excessive force was used during a warrant sweep on a suspect who, ultimately, was misidentified.“Based on my review of the internal investigation and the video, I believe that the conduct of the two members of the Savannah Police Department during this particular incident was totally unacceptable and egregious behavior on their part,” Johnson said at the news conference.Following the incident, the officers notified their supervisors about the use of force during the arrest, the Savannah Police Department said. The supervisors alerted internal affairs after reviewing the details of the incident and body camera footage, and the officers were put on administrative leave.In July, internal affairs terminated the officers for “conduct unbecoming of an officer,” and other charges. Savannah Police Department Chief Roy Minter presented the evidence and body camera footage to the Savannah CARES Task Force, which was created last month by the mayor to review current use of force policies and internal affairs data in the police department.“Last Friday, the CARES Task Force gathered in person and they reviewed the body cam video, and they made a recommendation to the chief that the actions of the officers warranted a referral to the district attorney’s office,” the mayor said.Arango had been with the department for approximately 15 years and Kang for eight, according to police. Attorney information for the officers wasn’t immediately available.“We have worked hard to build a rapport with our community and want to strengthen that trust,” Minter said in a statement.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Founded in 1920, UNH is a private, top-tier, comprehensiveuniversity with an 80-acre main campus. UNH has an enrollment ofmore than 5,900: approximately 1,700 graduate students and morethan 4,200 undergraduates, 70 percent of whom reside in universityhousing. The University offers more than 80 undergraduate degreesand more than 25 graduate degrees through its five colleges.Conveniently located near downtown New Haven, the Universityprovides employees with a comprehensive benefit package and aprofessional, productive and pleasant work environment. Women andminority candidates are encouraged to apply. The University of NewHaven is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. Application materials should include a cover letter of interestaddressing all the qualifications for the position, currentcurriculum vitae, a concise statement of teaching philosophy, andthree letters of professional reference. All materials should besubmitted online at: http://apply.interfolio.com/85199 University of NewHavenLecturer ofCounseling/Clinical Fieldwork CoordinatorSearch # 21-10F Review of applications will begin immediately and will continueuntil the position is filled. The successful candidate must be a dynamic instructor and ableto teach using online, hybrid, and face-to-face modalities.Experience in advising, mentoring, and providing clinicalsupervision to graduate counseling students is preferred. Acommitment to serving culturally, ethnically, and linguisticallydiverse communities is expected. The University of New Haven is seeking applications for afull-time (12 month), non-tenure-track, Lecturer position in theDepartment of Psychology’s Clinical Mental Health CounselingProgram beginning Fall 2021. Specific duties and responsibilities include:Teaching an 18-credit load per academic year in the ClinicalMental Health Counseling program and potentially some undergraduatecourses;Engaging in service activities including curriculumdevelopment, recruitment, advisement, and retention of culturallyand linguistically diverse students;Responding to inquiries from students and site supervisorsregarding field placement opportunities;Planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating fieldplacement for graduate counseling students;Verifying placement of graduate counseling students in approvedsites;Recruiting, evaluating, and retaining sites ensuringresponsiveness to the missions of the University, Department ofPsychology, and Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program;Monitoring, assessing, and guiding field placements andproviding consultation to students and site supervisors;Compiling performance evaluations of students, sitesupervisors, and placement sites;Intervening promptly in collaboration with faculty supervisors,the resolution of problems experienced by students or sites inplacements;Scheduling field trainings each semester for sitesupervisors;Planning, developing, and implementing field orientation forstudents prior to being placed in field experiences;Providing reports to the Clinical Mental Health Counselingprogram director including student progress, status ofclinical/field sites, and problems encountered in placements;Overseeing the maintenance and updating of student files andplacement information;Leading site supervisor/faculty meeting (minimum of once persemester);Performing related duties as assigned The successful applicant for this position will teach selectedgraduate courses in counselor education and in our undergraduateofferings, coordinate and administer clinical fieldwork placements,and contribute actively and effectively to student growth, service,and program development. An earned master’s degree in mental healthcounseling or related counseling field is required. The successfulapplicant will be licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor(LPC) in the State of Connecticut (or equivalent licensure issuedby another state). The University of New Havenis an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action Employer.
LONDON — I don’t know how many readers of POLITICO have had the misfortune to try buying a house in London over the past few months — as I have (and am still doing) — but short of war, famine and Donald Trump’s company, a less pleasant experience could hardly be imagined.Aside from the joylessness of dealing with estate agents, paying surveyor’s fees of thousands of pounds, and making lawyers wealthy, the sheer madness of London’s house prices, much worse than even New York, is unbearable. Right now, if you want a three-bedroom house with a garden in Zone 2 on London’s Underground map, it is hard to find anywhere for less than £1 million — that is, around 30 times average earnings. Everybody — everybody — has a horror story to tell, about being ‘gazumped’ (look it up, it’s a very British word), or about dodgy dealings and killer last-minute bills. And yet, because houses are meant to be homes too, everyone is forced to sign up to participate in this racket. It is daylight robbery by another name, but all of us are in on it.Housing is the greatest scandal in modern Britain. In this essay I want to examine the curious historic journey of our current property madness, highlight the hypocrisy of recent policy, give a warning about where it is leading us, and argue that many of the biggest and worst social changes in our time have a common origin in the reprehensible failure of successive British governments to do anything about it. Finally, I will suggest two modest changes in taxation which may help restore justice and sanity to our disgraceful and demented property market. * * *What is to be done?I don’t hold out much hope, and if the moral case for addressing our housing crisis fails to find support in Westminster, I don’t imagine the intellectual case for how to fix it will prove popular either. But it is patently obvious that if one object of taxation is to incentivize socially beneficial behavior, and disincentivize socially costly behavior, Britain has to shift the burden of taxation from work to unearned wealth — that is, land and property.London homes for sale — for the rich only | GettyA land value tax is eminently sensible: the value of land rises not because of the endeavor of private landlords who own it, but because of public investment in surrounding infrastructure and amenities. Similarly, it is beyond all definitions of basic decency that council tax bands are nearly a quarter of a century out of date. Adding new council tax bands would be much better than a mansion tax, as proposed by Labour but dropped by the Lib Dems: there is already an existing system in place for council tax, the money would be raised locally and spent locally, and it cannot be right that no new bands have been added since the early 1990s.Alas, such suggestions seem to be futile at the moment. Housing policy has little to do with rationality and reason, and everything to do with hypocrisy, cynicism, and injustice. The dream of a property-owning democracy long ago turned into a nightmare, and it seems painfully clear that this all-consuming boom will go on until there is an almighty crash, leaving the debris of countless shattered hopes in their wake. This is the abysmal truth about the greatest scandal in modern Britain. We have an economy built on a property bubble, and a political class who need to get re-elected long before that bubble goes pop. By then it will be someone else’s problem — our children’s.Amol Rajan is editor of The Independent, in London. * * *The phrase “property-owning democracy” is usually attributed to Noel Skelton, a Scottish Unionist MP of the interwar years. He saw property and democracy as causally linked: citizens who owned the roof over their heads would feel more deeply invested in their surrounding neighbourhood, having a sense of pride, responsibility and attachment that the looser connection of renting fails to generate. Private control of houses would, by a pleasing inversion, increase public solidarity. Three decades later this sentiment drove Harold Macmillan, the pragmatic Tory who David Cameron resembles politically, to build 350,000 homes per year — unimaginable now, when we just about get to 140,000.In her first term in office, Margaret Thatcher seized on Skelton’s phrase and adopted it as her own. For her there was an umbilical connection not just between property and democracy, but — via the engine of property — between democracy and capitalism. Capitalism is a way of owning things; spreading ownership is the proper task — not always achieved — of governments that embrace capitalism. Thatcher believed that if she could spread ownership, she would not only wrench Britain from the more socialistic Seventies, she would also infuse the working classes, as they were still known then, with conservative values.Expensive properties in an affluent area of London | GettyOne of the most important early achievements of Tony Blair was that he persuaded others on the Left that they were wrong to let conservatives own the idea of ownership. Not only was it natural to want to own a home, for comfort and security (both economic and physical); it was also vital for the egalitarian cause. Allowing the rich to monopolize the housing market actually increased inequality.Fatally, however, New Labour’s support for property ownership combined with other economic factors to create one of the most remarkable booms in financial history. Booms are by definition unsustainable; this one is no different, but a lot of people have got very rich in the process, often taking on levels of debt so astronomical that no government would dare jeopardize the upward trajectory of house prices. Loose monetary policy, reckless bank lending, and demand far exceeding supply — especially here in London — has caused property to be one of the most reliably rising asset classes anywhere. Because it is liquid, too — that is, you can always sell your house — it has been an invitation to mass speculation on a scale hitherto unseen. And it has been an invitation to phenomenal hypocrisy by Britain’s ruling elite.* * * * * *This glaring injustice, in which asset owners are able to pull ever further away from those who don’t own assets, not by their industry or entrepreneurial zeal but just because they had money to begin with, has become not just a defining feature of the society in which we live, but the defining feature. You can surmise that from the fact that several of the most urgent moral challenges of our time have their roots in the economics of housing.Here, just for starters, are six of them. Each deserves an essay on its own, of course; but for now, I wish to propose that all of the following have a shared fundamental cause in our housing crisis.1. InequalityNothing — nothing — has done more to increase inequality in modern Britain than rampant property inflation. The rich own assets; the poor often don’t. The rich are able to pull away even if they sit idle, just by investing in property. If you have a spare million, why bother working? Invest smartly in London property and you can make a £100,000 in a year by doing nothing.2. Work is no longer the route to wealthIt used to be that people with an above average education could expect an above average salary and therefore have an above average quality of life. No more. Yes you can get above average salaries; but if you want a really good life — which may include a lovely home in a safe, leafy, reasonably central area — you will struggle to get one through work. You have to speculate to accumulate. This fracture in the connection between work and wealth is almost unimaginably consequential. Blame housing.3. The end of savingConservatives are supposed to prize the idea of saving. It involves deferred gratification, and a stronger connection between generations. But with interest rates extremely low, houses have become pensions. Rather than put aside funds every month, people are taking on huge debt to invest in housing, knowing they’ll get a much better return that way. 4. Inter-generational injusticeBecause young people, and especially poor young people, can’t get a home unless they inherit, they are watching older asset owners pull ever further away from them. Inflation in house prices on the scale we now see amounts to a phenomenal transfer of wealth from the young to the old.5. Planet LondonEveryone knows that London is becoming less and less like the rest of Britain. Immigration is a major driver of this. But housing is the main cause. Whereas house prices rose by an average of 19 per cent in London last year, they fell in many other parts of the UK — by 1.1 per cent in the North East, for example. This fuels the sense of grievance felt by the majority of Britons who don’t live in our capital.6. Delayed marriage and parenthoodOne of the most extraordinary social changes of recent decades is that Britons are getting married and having kids later. In 1981, the average British woman got married at 23.1. Thirty years later, it was 30.1. For men, it has risen from 25.4 to 32.1. This is an astonishing development for so short a period. Partly it is driven by positive developments, such as many more women entering the workplace. It is also driven by a cultural endorsement of freedom, and the idea that we can delay adulthood and commitment for longer. But economic factors determine this more than anything: and the fact that it takes many more years to get a deposit for a house together is not a good thing. Watch out for companies paying women to freeze their eggs, and rates of fertility treatment rising, to meet this delayed marriage and parenthood phenomenon.* * *I don’t suppose for one minute that a single paragraph is sufficient treatment for social phenomena on this scale. I merely put to you that there is a common cause here, and that cause is housing. If you asked senior members of the Labour or Conservative parties whether they were for or against inequality, work no longer being a route to wealth, the end of saving, inter-generational injustice, London becoming ever more dominant in the U.K., and people getting married later, they would probably all come down on the side of “against.” And yet neither party has come close to formulating a response that meets these challenges, though Tessa Jowell, the Labour candidate for Mayor of London, has some very smart ideas about building on public land.Two reasons, by the way, that our political class has failed to do anything about our property market are as follows. First, they themselves depend on it for the bulk of their income, given they know they could earn more in the private sector, generally have at least one house in London, and — especially among the young new intake of MPs — haven’t made money before coming into politics. Second, those who benefit from owning assets tend to be older, and in Britain the older you are the more likely you are to both vote, and vote Conservative. That is why so many of Osborne’s policies, on pensions, inheritance tax, and indeed housing, are skewed toward the benefit of the old, and against the young. For many years, the likes of Cameron and George Osborne talked about the need to move from Gordon Brown’s “borrow and spend” economy to a “save and invest” economy instead. Now that they are in power, however, they find that of the four economic booms that generated economic growth in the New Labour era — immigration, private debt, public borrowing, and property prices — the last one was most important. Britain’s consumers are in so much debt that only surging property prices will give them the confidence to spend money, so creating the economic growth that keeps Tories in government. Allow the property bubble to burst and you’ll destroy the good feeling in the High Street. To adopt Warren Buffett’s immortal formulation, if that particular tide went out, we’d see that all of Britain was swimming naked.Britain is building a paltry 150,000 homes per year, less than half what is needed.In recent budgets and economic policy, the Tories have reverted to something closer to Thatcher’s model. They talk openly about extending ownership, and have flagship policies to go with such talk. Help to Buy, nicknamed Help to Buy Votes, was a signature policy of the Conservative-LibDem coalition government, giving better access to finance for people trying to get onto the housing ladder. Ahead of the election, Cameron announced Right-to-Buy, a reheated version of Thatcher’s property revolution, in which she let council tenants buy their home.Neither of these comes close, however, to addressing the root cause of the problem, which is the abysmal failure to build enough homes, and so match demand with supply. Shortly before the election, a very senior Tory MP told me that the answer to the housing crisis was obvious: build on the Green Belt, a misnamed area of land which is often ugly and poorly served by transport, though occasionally — as with an area west of London known as the Chilterns — very beautiful. “I think the days and weeks before an election may not be the best time to build on Tory constituencies”, my lunch companion said, shamelessly admitting that it was a concern for Tory MPs on the outskirts of London that stopped the urgently needed development from happening. As a result, Britain is still building a paltry 150,000 homes per year, less than half what is needed, and less than half what MacMillan managed.Over lunch at Les Deux Salons in Covent Garden last year, another Tory MP, Grant Shapps (then party chairman) told me that while building more homes was clearly a priority, there were two other pillars to the housing crisis. The first is access to finance, which Help to Buy was meant to address. The second is reforms to planning law, and, in fairness to the coalition, they did make significant progress on this front under the watchful eye of Nick Boles MP, the planning minister.Whatever modest success there may have been on that score, and however many pledges we may have heard about housebuilding, the sorry fact remains that insufficient new supply is making this problem worse and worse — in the south-east of Britain at least. House prices rose by an average 19 percent in London last year. So someone who inherited a £2 million house from his parents — and there are tons of these in our modern city — made £380,000 in a year just by sitting on his backside. That’s more than his cleaner would make in, say, 12 years of wiping toilets and scrubbing floors. And don’t forget that in some areas, such as Kensington and Chelsea, house prices grew by a lot more than 19 percent.
Elite jamtronica outfit Particle is hitting the road this winter for what’s bound to be their most exciting run to date. With a new album in the works – their first in over a decade – the band is more fired up than ever, and fans have a lot to look forward to. The band will make the rounds beginning next Thursday, February 11th throughout the month of February and into early March. A full run of dates with accompanying ticket links can be found here.“We’re so psyched to kick off our first tour of the year by debuting a bunch of new original songs from our upcoming studio album,” said founding keyboardist Steve Molitz. “There’s been this unspoken wave of fresh inspiration sweeping over the band recently, so I suspect we will really let the new material evolve and stretch into uncharted territory throughout the tour.”The pioneering jamband exhibits elements of rock, funk, electronica and beyond to deliver a unique medley they classify as “Space Porn Funk”. After nearly 15 years, Particle maintains a longstanding hardcore fanbase while the touring machine continues to rope in the younger crowd attending festivals and shows around the country. The band boasts an impressive roster of past collaborations ranging from members of the Grateful Dead to String Cheese Incident to Phish, but this is only the beginning.“In addition to all the new material, I’m looking forward to busting out some Particle classics and fan-favorites that haven’t been played in years,” Molitz assured us. “And we’re adding a handful of new covers for this tour that range from 70’s Space Porn Funk to some of our favorite recent big Electro bangers. We’re also unleashing some deep cuts that our bassist Clay Parnell wrote in Brothers Past. Clay’s songs have so many lush layers and textures to explore and we are all really excited to dive into that material.”“I’m also really excited to welcome two amazingly talented musicians to the Particle stage: Mike Daum (Roster McCabe) on guitar and Kito Bovenschulte (Fikus) on drums,” he continued. “I’ve played with both Mike and Kito for years in various projects, and they both bring the heat. I can’t wait to hear the fresh musical perspectives and explosive energy they will bring to the band. I’m also very happy to announce that LD extraordinaire Danny Grabus will be joining us for the entire run with a custom lighting rig he is building and programming specifically for our Winter Tour.”This is bound to be Particle’s best tour yet, with the band promising tons of surprises for fans and tricks up their sleeves. Stay tuned for more announcements coming soon!PARTICLE WINTER TOUR 20162/11: Killington, VT – Pickle Barrel Nightclub2/12: Woodstock, NY – Bearsville Theater Woodstock, NY2/13: Pittsburgh, PA – The Rex Theater2/14: Buffalo, NY – Buffalo Iron Works2/15: Toronto, ON – Sneaky Dee’s2/17: Grand Rapids, MI – The Intersection (The Stache)2/18: Bloomington, IN – The Bluebird2/19: Chicago, IL – 1st Ward Events at Chop Shop2/20: Minneapolis, MN – The Cabooze2/21: Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s2/22: Lawrence, KS – The Bottleneck2/23: Fayetteville, AR – George’s Majestic Lounge2/26: Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge2/27: Atlanta, GA – The Loft2/28: Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle3/1: Raleigh, NC – Southland Ballroom3/2: Savannah, GA – The Wormhole3/4: Live Oak, FL – AURA Music & Arts Festival