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OpenLearn Live: 14th November 2016

Updated Monday, 14th November 2016

Why Birmingham is a 150 year old city with a flag that's just a year old; the NHS email problem and the man who discovered insulin. Learning and research from across the day.

OpenLearn Live brings the best of learning and research onto a single page, every week day.

On Friday, we completed a week looking at the worst Presidents of the United States, remembered those who died shortly before the Armistice came to be observed, and looked at some small space craft

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Redlining: Using maps to create ghettoes

Some interesting research from the University of Maryland, which has been combining digital maps from the 1930s and now to show the legacy of redlining in modern Baltimore.

Redlining was the practice of marking sectors of city neighbourhoods as being unworthy of investment. These areas, you won't be surprised to discover, were more likely to be African-American neighbourhoods - and while redlining trapped families in their homes at the start of the left century, descendents of those families can still find themselve stranded all these years later:

WHEN MARCIANO, an expert in digital archives and databases, moved to San Diego in the 1990s, he was curious about his neighborhood’s past. What people told him—that the area once had white occupancy requirements—pulled him into the dark side of American real estate. He collected original deeds for his Mission Hills subdivision and was amazed that racial restrictions from the early 1900s mirrored present-day trends. Eventually, he found that local bigotry had been institutionalized by the federal government through the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC).

Signed into law in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, HOLC was designed to boost the struggling real estate industry during the Great Depression. U.S. residential property construction had fallen by 95 percent, with half of all mortgages in default and more than 1,000 foreclosures a day.


The HOLC maps dictated what parts of the country were—and weren’t— worth investing in. They put a premium on neighborhoods of single-family homes in all-white hands, with new construction and no evidence of African Americans. The directions for HOLC assessors considered “lower grade populations or different racial groups” as toxic as slaughterhouses.


The 1968 Fair Housing Act outlawed any form of housing discrimination, including redlining, but in many ways came too late. With inner-city riots in the 1960s and economic stagnation in the 1970s, poverty begat more poverty. In his 2013 book “Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality,” sociologist Patrick Sharkey estimated that more than 70 percent of blacks “who live in today’s poorest, most racially segregated neighborhoods are from the same families that lived in the ghettoes of the 1970s.”

Read the full article at TERP: The Thick Red Line

Share your stories of the UK's Secret Streets

CC All: The NHS email error

We've all done it. Sent out an email, only to discover that we've accidentally sent it a little more widely than we'd originally intended. Perhaps, though, we've not done it to quite the extent someone working for the NHS managed this morning. The Guardian reports:

On Monday, NHS employees complained on Twitter about a “test email” sent by an IT contractor at Croydon NHS to everyone in the organisation, as well as replies-to-all, leading to claims the entire email system has crashed.

One NHS statistician estimated that at least 186m emails, including replies-to-all asking to be taken off the distribution list, had been sent, clogging up people’s inboxes.

Read the full article at The Guardian: '186m needless emails': NHS-wide test message and replies-to-all crash system

Can the four Ds help you with your own email crises?

Previously on OpenLearn Live: Ray Tomlinson, the father of email

World Diabetes Day

You may know today is World Diabetes Day. But why was November 14th chosen as the day we stop to think about this particular disease?

Today's Google Doodle may give you a clue - it's the 125th birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, one of the men who discovered insulin. Here's a quick guide to the man and his work, produced by The Ontario Tourist board. Which makes sense...

Explore the global diabetes crisis with OpenLearn

FutureLearn this week

FutureLearn, our sister site publishing free courses in a MOOC format, has got sixteen courses starting this week. Included amongst them:

See the full list of new and upcoming courses at FutureLearn

A week in Birmingham: The flag

After a week soused in the past and present on the other side of the Atlantic, we're going to spend our start-up segment this week looking at some stories connected to England's second city, Birmingham. This is in part to celebrate the city hosting the EPALE in Action conference this Thursday, bringing together educational professionals from around the country. And, equally, because the city that gave us Duran Duran, the Phantom Fan Flinger, Kenny Baker and the photocopier needs no further excuse to be applauded.

We're starting the week with Birmingham's flag.

Birmingham City Flag Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: Public domain

What might surprise you about this flag is that, although there's been people living in Birmingham since around the year 600, it's been a proper place since it became a siegneural borough in 1166 and got its city status back in 1889, the city didn't have a flag until last year.

Oh, sure, Birmingham had a coat of arms and a related banner. But that wasn't a flag for the city; it was very specifically a flag for the council:

The flag is divided into four quarters, the top left and bottom right each having a diagonal band of five yellow diamonds against a blue background, the top right and bottom left being divided vertically with a zig-zag line between a yellow left hand side and a red right hand side. These heraldic devices are taken from the arms of the de Birmingham family.

And that was the reason the council decided to launch a search for a flag that was more inclusive. The then-deputy Mayor of Birmingham, Mike Leddy, explained:

“You may well think that Birmingham already has a flag, but this isn’t the case as the flag flying over the Council House belongs to the council and no one is allowed to fly it without the council’s permission. I believe that a Flag for Birmingham will instil civic pride, allow Brummies to express pride in our community, celebrate our heritage and culture and raise greater recognition and awareness of Birmingham nationwide. That’s why I’m launching a competition to create a people’s flag for Birmingham.”

The winning flag - which can be seen above - was designed by two eleven year-olds, Thomas Keogh and David Smith. And their design managed to cover a lot of Birminghamness without being overcrowded:

From the hoist issue two blue triangles, which together act as an abstract representation of the letter B, recalling the name of the city, the colour blue representing Birmingham’s importance in the national canal network. This is bordered by a golden zig-zag shape, similarly forming an abstract vertical letter M. This symbolises the Roman letter for 1000 and in turn Birmingham’s sobriquet as ‘the City of a thousand trades’, the zig-zag shape also represents closed locks on a canal, positioned next to the colour blue.

The overall arrangement of the zig-zag and colours serves to represent the historic arms of the de Birmingham family and current city council. In the centre of the design is charged a golden bulls head for the Bull Ring market which stands at the geographic, economic and historic heart of the city.

If we'd been asked to come up with a flag when we were eleven, I don't think I'd have come up with anything half as sophisticated. (You can see some of the other entries on the Birmingham Mail site.)

You may also like: Reading a photo of a flag-raising in Devon





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