Who Won the Week (9 May 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week post, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

In the UK, we had local elections this week. In every nation of the UK, the incumbents did well, which is unusual as elections go. The real effect of the COVID vaccine.

One area which raised an eyebrow was in Scotland, where the Scottish National Party did well. So they won my week. And I wish them well because they are a left wing party, which fits more closely to my own politics, although the fit isn’t exact.

As the name suggests, these people are indeed nationalists. Front and centre of their policies is to withdraw from the UK. To make the UK just the K, I suppose.

Continue reading “Who Won the Week (9 May 2021)”

Who Won the Week (2 May 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week post, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

I have a nice, benign (and short!) story this week. The world has a new longest pedestrian suspension bridge after this one opened to span a gorge in Portugal:

Continue reading “Who Won the Week (2 May 2021)”

Who Won the Week (25 April 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week post, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

I have a win-fest this week. Without a shadow of a doubt, my winners are:

  • Simon Bramwell
  • Ian Bray
  • Jane Augsburger
  • Senan Clifford
  • David Lambert
  • James “Sid” Saunders
Continue reading “Who Won the Week (25 April 2021)”

Who Won the Week (18 April 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week post, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

I wanted to talk briefly this week about how social media companies finally seem to be taking some responsibility for the content that appears on their platforms. Just focussing on Facebook, they now have some robust policies, and employ 15,000 human moderators, not to mention all the tech they have at their disposal.

Continue reading “Who Won the Week (18 April 2021)”

Who Won the Week (11 April 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week post, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

You’re probably used to me going off on one about gambling. One more week? I just wanted to highlight the rules by which these companies play.

Ostensibly, this is a story about a guy who won a load of money. Very few gamblers do, so his story is worth sharing.

Way back in January 2018, Andy Green, from Lincolnshire, was playing a Blackjack app on his phone, provided by UK gambling company BetFred. Whatever game he was playing, he won the jackpot three times, which amassed a staggering win total of £1.7m. He took a screengrab of his phone, and I suspect this was key.

The initial reaction of BetFred’s customer service team was to congratulate him. A lucky winner, good for him. And not surprising. It is a drop in the ocean in an industry which is worth approximately £15 billion per year. And, on the strength of this reaction, Mr Green splashed out thousands in celebration of the win. Well, wouldn’t you?

A couple of days later, his big win had obviously reached the ears of BetFred’s directors. One contacted him. He told Mr Green that there had been a glitch in the software. BetFred’s bad? Apparently not. They have a clause in their Ts & Cs which states that in the event of a bug, all bets are off. Winners lose. So BetFred told him that because the game had not been functioning correctly, they were withholding his win.

When Mr Green then started legal proceedings, BetFred offered him a token £60k, on the condition that the matter was never raised again. Mr Green refused, and last week had his day in court. After three years, the judge ruled that BetFred had no reasonable grounds to withhold payment, and finally awarded Mr Green his £1.7m.

Perhaps a lesson there that companies should try testing their software before releasing it to the public?


Who Won the Week (4 April 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week un-post, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

Following my very “UK” story last week, I’m gonna head over to Fandango’s backyard, with a story which I originally picked up from the BBC, but where I gleaned most of my information from a 1 April article in the San Francisco Chronicle. So in total contrast to last week, this story is probably unknown to most UK readers. US readers, however, and especially Fandango, might be able to mark me on my accuracy.

We’ve all heard of Uber, right? It has become quite famous, here, for its use of workers which it claims are self-employed. Uber claims it offers a service to match people with rides, but that those rides themselves are independent operators. Uber fights very hard to maintain this distinction, and it is core to their business model. However, an increasing number of courts (worldwide) say differently. That Uber’s drivers are plain, vanilla employees.

Now, in this case, we’re not talking about a court. When Americans sign up to use Uber, they agree to be bound by an Independent Arbitrator. So, for now, we are talking about an arbitrator, although this case might well go further.

This case involves a woman (she was actually in San Diego at the time, not San Fran) called Lisa Irving, who last week satisfied the arbitrator that Uber had discriminated against her.

Ms Irving is blind, and she had a guide dog, a lab called Bernie. And she was able to cite fourteen incidents (she claims there were actually about sixty in total) where her ride had gone wrong, because drivers, on seeing Bernie, would refuse the ride. Or, on one occasion, the driver accepted the ride only to subsequently get mad… at Bernie! These refusals, in turn, caused varying degrees of tardiness, the most extreme being to miss doctors appointments, or to be late for work.

This despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which classes Bernie as a “service animal”, and which gives service animals absolute rights to travel with the humans they assist.

Uber offered their standard defence – that it was individual drivers who had refused travel, so Ms Irving’s beef was with them, not with Uber. They even pointed out that they issue strict guidelines to anybody driving for them, regarding adherence to legislation like ADA. In addition, Uber issued various statements to the media, along the lines of how their drivers offer a generally wonderful travel experience to blind people.

The Arbitrator rejected this defence. Pure and simply, Uber offers the service on its web site, so it carries the can. They accepted Ms Irving’s version of events, and awarded her $300k in damages, plus $800k in costs.

Now, I could just leave it there and say that Lisa Irving won the week, but I want to take it a step further. It’s about the statements coming out from Uber. “We are proud Uber’s technology has helped people who are blind locate and obtain rides” was one such statement.

Proud? Well, I can think of 300,000 reasons why you oughtn’t to be proud!

It’s easy to cite Orwell’s dystopia at all manner of things nowadays, but this is a new form of Newspeak that I am hearing. Big companies, governments, offer up all sorts of bullshit, often lying through their teeth, yet because they have the megaphone, every other voice is silenced. It’s nice to hear a little guy above their chatter.

The little guy won the week.


The Other “Who Won The Week”

inspired by Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 30 March 2021, slight.

It was only an hour to nightfall,
When the helmsman encountered a squall,
Though his pressure was slight
The ship veered to the right
And lodged itself into the wall.

Come on, anyone else think this was hilarious?

Who Won the Week (28 March 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week post, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

Outside the UK, you probably didn’t hear of this story, but have a look at this 30s clip:

Now, this clip happened last July. The subject might be fresh in our minds from Sarah Everard, but this happened way before that. If anything, this goes to show how nothing changes.

This footage is a guy, Oliver Banfield, assaulting a woman, Emma Homer. I imagine something must have happened leading up to this, but that’s no excuse for his behaviour. What I find particularly distressing is that his girlfriend can be heard calling his name, to calm him down.

The reason this is interesting is because the incident was reported to the authorities, who decided that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the guy. On that, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt – I’m not sure that this video had been discovered at the time the original decision was made. But it does underline what I said the other week about the authorities being unwilling to bring risky prosecutions.

Mrs Homer appealed, and the authorities changed their minds and went ahead with the prosecution. Following a very sluggish investigation, this has all come to a head in the last few weeks here. So while the actual incident happened before Sarah Everard, the court case has occurred very much in the same timeframe.

Mr Banfield was found guilty. I guess by then, this video had emerged, so it is not at all surprising.

What was surprising, however, was the sentence. Mr Banfield was sentenced to a fourteen-week curfew. Yes, he was forbidden from leaving home between 7 PM – 7 AM. And this, at a time when the UK is under lockdown anyway. And will be locked down, until June..

Now this case raises several questions, already. The sluggishness of the investigation? Perhaps, because a man assaulting a woman is regarded as a low priority? The light sentence? Perhaps because the offence is regarded as trivial?

But it gets more interesting, because Mr Banfield turns out to have been an off-duty police officer. So, perhaps the more sinister answer to these questions is that the authorities want to protect their own?

Frankly, this is why they need to be squeaky-clean. But, whatever the reasons, something smells.

The case is further complicated because the victim claims that, having discovered that she had been assaulted by a police officer, a guy sworn to protect and serve, the damage was that much worse.

In more recent events, first of all, the sentence made the case reach the news. So the UK now knows of the case. It has been all over several outlets.

That prompted Banfield’s employer, West Midlands Police, to announce that there would be a misconduct hearing. Well, it seems the least they can do, under the circumstances. But shouldn’t the charges have been the trigger for this? Not the publicity? As in, a court case decides if he broke the law; a misconduct case decides whether he came up to the police’s standards? Two different things. Surely those two bars are set at different levels? Surely the police expect something better than just “not criminal”?

Anyway, this is a long post by my standards, so I just wanted to wrap it up. Banfield won the week, because last Tuesday he resigned from the police, before they could kick him out on his ass.

In one final, bizarre twist, though, the police have decided that the misconduct hearing will happen anyway, in his absence. I’m cynical. It seems an attempt to redress some of the bad publicity, as though it isn’t the offence that’s important, but the reaction. Also, I’m not clear what teeth it has, now that the guy has already gone. But it feels a bit like the authorities started way off the pace, finally realised the “right thing to do”, and are consequently behaving like a dog with a bone, despite events having once again overtaken them. I don’t know about a sluggish investigation, they just feel sluggish all round.

Thank goodnesst at least that Mrs Homer survived to tell the tale. And thank goodness good people are around to record this stuff.