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Stuart White

There’s only one item on the HR talent agenda this week and that is clearly the sacking of Jeremy Clarkson as Top Gear presenter after an unbroken run of more than a decade. The announcement came late on Wednesday afternoon in a statement from Lord Hall, the Director General of the BBC, which said: 'It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. For me a line has been crossed'.

That may be true but it is equally so that Mr. Hall himself has probably crossed a line of his own. Reports in the press show a public sharply divided as to whether the fracas between Clarkson and junior producer Oisin Tymon was of such a serious nature in terms of conduct in the workplace as to tie Hall’s hands, or whether it was nothing more than a storm in a big boy’s teacup. 

Certainly industry insiders have remarked that the incident just gave some senior members of staff at the BBC the ammunition they needed to do what they’ve wanted to do for some time – get rid of the Clarkson thorn in their sides and publicly humiliate him at the same time. Clarkson, you see, is everything the BBC seems not to like – a bloke’s bloke who is far too British, far too macho, not in the least PC and er……white. 

And of course he certainly is all of those things but he is also much more.  It was he who took the very safe and predictable longstanding Top Gear show, once a mere review of cars old and new, assorted automotive products and a bit of auto sport news, grabbed it by the throat and gave it a makeover which transformed it into a show that pushed every  driving boundary that ever existed. Together with co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May, the trio travelled the world in pursuit of the next automotive high. They drove fast cars and skorro-skorros. 

They played football with small hatchbacks and wrecked caravans just for fun. They challenged every other mode of transport and made the car king. Top celebrity names jostled to be the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car and the waiting list to be a standing member of the audience at the show ran into several years. And towering over it all was the massive personality and physical presence of Jeremy Clarkson, a man adored by his fan base all over the world, with over a million signatures on an online petition to reinstate him; a petition that proved to be in vain.

As the news broke of Clarkson’s dismissal, SKY news interviewed a visibly shaken  James May who said “Well, they’ve shot him”, complaining that he had had to  prise the information out of BBC management.  He described his co-presenter as a bit of  k—b (door handle) but someone he liked working with and said he would be considering his options in terms of the show. “The team works in ways that people don’t understand”, was how he summed up their strange bedfellow personality mix.

As it happens, all three of the presenters’ contracts are due to expire next week and it really is hard to imagine how the show could continue without its anchor man. Some names have been bandied around as his successor, including Stephen Fry and Hollywood petrol head Jodie Kidd, but it is hard to see how they could replace JC as part of the Three Motorteers with all their shared history and experiences, not to mention the depth of their collective automotive knowledge.

As to the BBC itself, it’s hard to estimate the potential loss in revenue from the already cancelled shows as well as those still in the pipeline. A figure of 64,000 pounds sterling (P960 million) has been mentioned but that may very well be conservative, given that Top Gear is syndicated and sold all over the world and has a number of lucrative spin-offs such as live shows and appearances by its stars when there is a production break.

And last but not least, whence Oisin Tymon, the lowly co-producer who is the other half of the controversy? True, the BBC has come down firmly on his side with an internal investigation, led by Ken MacQuarrie, Director of BBC Scotland finding that Mr Tymon took himself to hospital after he was subjected to an "unprovoked physical and verbal attack during which he was struck, resulting in swelling and bleeding to his lip….., It lasted "around 30 seconds and was halted by the intervention of a witness," Mr MacQuarrie noted in his report. 

"The verbal abuse was sustained over a longer period" and "contained the strongest expletives and threats to sack" Mr Tymon, who believed he had lost his job. However in the event it is Jeremy Clarkson who has been relieved of his position and whilst the BBC may have closed ranks around Tymon, the show’s legion of fans are likely to want his head on a plate. 

He will be a complete Pariah, much like Ben Collins, former racing driver and erstwhile Stig who broke the cardinal rule of Stig anonymity and outed himself in an autobiography. That all ended in tears and an unpleasant court case which he may have won but it was a Phyrric victory since Messrs. Clarkson, May and Hammond lost no opportunity to bad-mouth him with less than oblique references as often as they could on almost every show and throughout several later series.

As I see it there are no winners here but the BBC will probably prove the biggest loser. They have managed what they never could before by dethroning the king but they have grossly underestimate Clarkson’s incredible popularity and personal fan base. And Clarkson himself, though down, is certainly not out. Talent such as his will always rise to the top and the Beeb’s loss will yet prove SKY or ITV’s gain. After all, another even more famous JC was quite literally crucified and look what happened there.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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