Saturday, October 17, 2015
Crisis warning from UK steel industry; Steve Ballmer takes 4% equity in Twitter; The real risk to our kids: Mollycoddling
1 Crisis warning from UK steel industry (BBC) The steel industry is "in crisis" and needs "life-saving surgery", the director of UK Steel has warned. Gareth Stace has called on Business Secretary Sajid Javid to honour promises he has made to address some of the challenges facing the industry. It comes as Tata Steel is expected to announce 1,200 job cuts at sites in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire.
Mr Javid said "there is no straightforward solution to the complex global challenges" facing the industry. The Tata Steel redundancies follow the closure of the blast furnace and coke ovens at SSI's plant in Redcar, Teesside, where 2,200 jobs have been lost.
Tata Steel is expected to significantly reduce the workforce at its Scunthorpe site, which employs 4,000 people and is one of the UK's largest steel plants. It may also cut jobs at Clydebridge, Cambuslang, and Dalzell, Motherwell. Tata has not yet confirmed the job cuts but said it has been facing challenges in the UK, including a surge in steel imports and the strong pound.
Unions have also called on ministers to take urgent action to save the industry, while CBI director-general John Cridland has urged the government to work with businesses on a long-term industrial strategy.
2 Steve Ballmer takes 4% equity in Twitter (Gulf News) Los Angeles Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has bought a 4-per cent stake in Twitter, a vote of confidence in the struggling messaging company. That makes Ballmer one of Twitter’s largest shareholders.
A Twitter account that identified itself as Ballmer’s said that he bought stock in Twitter in the last few months. The high-profile investment comes as Twitter is trying to win more users and turn a profit. This month, its co-founder Jack Dorsey returned as its permanent CEO.
Then the company announced that it would lay off up to 8 per cent of its workforce and unveiled a new feature, ‘Moments’. Those packages of commentary, video and photos about major events are an attempt to make Twitter more accessible and broaden its appeal.
Ballmer also said he liked that Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal and his investment company bought more shares of Twitter. The prince and his firm said this month the stake had doubled over a six-week period to more than 5 per cent.
Ballmer’s holdings would make him the third-largest individual owner of Twitter shares after company co-founder Evan Williams and Prince Al Waleed. Ballmer, who was Microsoft’s CEO for 14 years ending last year, is also the largest individual owner of Microsoft stock with a 4.2-per cent stake.
3 The real risk to our kids: Mollycoddling (Viv Groskop in The Guardian) A new, all-party parliamentary group report on what constitutes “a fit and healthy childhood” has concluded that “risky play” is occasionally to be recommended for children, especially “playing near potentially dangerous elements such as water, cliffs and exploring alone with the possibility of getting lost”. Hey, parents, leave those kids alone! Clifftop activities are good for your wellbeing, guys! And childcare is expensive.
Somehow, in the course of a generation, we’ve lost all the normal rites of childhood. And in attempting to protect children (often because we fear things happening we can’t control), we expose them to very real and obvious dangers we could actually control.
The report cites endless research, depicting a society where children are increasingly less likely to walk or cycle to school or play outside. Childhood is instead dominated by “a toxic brew of adult fear (stranger danger, traffic density) and school restriction (shortened playtimes, ‘organised’ activity, poor use of space)”. This is a world where childhood has become “passive, sedentary and solitary”.
This isn’t only about the obesity crisis, although that is a key issue. Earlier this year, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said at a conference about childhood obesity that we will “go bankrupt” if we don’t address this issue. But this is equally about more nebulous influences. Isn’t there a danger that we’re raising a generation of children who are not self-reliant because they’re not used to coping outside in the world on their own? And how well socialised will these children be if their best friend is the screen?
If you add these influences to the fact that fewer teens and twentysomethings are able to set up on their own when they reach adulthood (because they can’t afford to leave home)... Forget the phenomenon of the perpetual student – we risk raising perpetual children. Some kind of desperate measures are needed to push parents out of this false sense of security.
As the American authority on children and obesity, Dr Mark Tremblay, puts it: “We have lost the balance between short-term safety and long-term health.” A generation ago, 70% of children walked to school. Now it’s 46%.
Of course, childhood is a time when you should be protected and looked after and some of what has happened in the past few decades is a reaction to our not having looked after children properly in the past. I’m not just thinking about chimney sweeping here – although that wasn’t very nice of us adults – but now we have gone too far in the opposite direction. It’s time to push children again. Not up the chimney this time but, instead, closer to the cliff edge.