31 Mar 2008

Green Party Principal Speaker campaigns against destruction of Bristol-Bath Cycle route

Green Party Principal Speaker campaigns against destruction of Bristol-Bath Cycle route.

'I am appalled that the oldest cycle route in Britain is under threat. This is a slap in the face for all of those of us working for climate change action and frankly it will lead to more deaths on the road. When I lived in the West Country in the 1980s and 1990s I must have used the route 100s of times, it makes for fast, safe cycling. We should not be destroying such an essential piece of cycling infrastructure. Cyclists should be able to cycle away from cars and lorries, this scheme will kill. It is utter madness that we should be fighting to conserve environmentally sound projects and infrastructure.

Bristol Green Party councillor Charlie Bolton is putting a motion to preserve the cycle path, he has my support and that of the whole Green Party'



This is from Charlie

Hi Derek

you may or may not be aware that the West of England partnership has come forward with a proposal to put a bus rapid transit line down the Bristol to Bath cycle path.

This is causing a furore locally

See on line petition at

http://epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/activepetitions.php


with 9,300 signatures

Also see our website

http://bristolgreenparty.org.uk/east/cyclepath.htm

I have submitted a motion to the full council on April 1st trying to stop the proposal

30 Mar 2008

Beyond Spitzer -- The Abyss of Business

Well I am a lot lot better but still another two months I am told by Dr Jacobs at Heatherwood Hospital until my fracture heals, so I am doing less than usual...so here is a guest comment from Philadelphia, unlucky in health, I am very lucky to have a guest column from the finest columnist on the planet...ahead of the Guardian and the Economist and the rest of the world's media I think!


Not often we praise students of Friedman and disgraced US politicians but here goes!

[col. writ. 3/25/08] (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal


It has been several days since the national fever has broken over the
alleged sex scandal of the meteoric politician, Eliot Spitzer, and like a
predator seeking fresh prey, the media has prowled on, seeking a new feeding
ground.

But, even as the embers cool 'on the barby', we seem to have been
drowsing, for we have missed the most important things about this scandal.

There is a reason why today's media is little more than a recurrent
sex-fest, and a reality show machine.

This navel level of programming keeps us too dazed to appreciate what
lies behind the curtain.

In Spitzer's case, yes, hypocrisy was a juicy story that few true
reporters could ignore.

But what was more important; who he slept with, or what he was involved
in shortly before his ungracious fall from grace?

The well-known investigative reporter and writer, Greg Palast (author of
Armed Madhouse; Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?.... (N.Y.: Dutton, 2006), was,
in his pre-reporter days, a student of Milton Friedman, who earned a degree in
finance.

He thus has insight into economic matters. In a recent article, *
Palast has pointed to Spitzer's efforts to criminalize and outlaw the sub prime
market, which Spitzer considered not just unjust, but illegal. That's because
sub-prime lenders, using a process called "steering", directed some 71% of
such business to Black and Latina high-income families. Only 17% of similar
white families received such loans. The loans were essentially balloon
payments, which had cheap teaser rates to attract (and indeed, entrap) home buyers,
and once the bait was hooked, the monthly payments exploded. If home owners
couldn't afford the increased payments, they were evicted, and their properties
were rushed back to the market, and other families were snared.

It was great for everybody -- but homeowners.

On Feb. 13, Spitzer wrote, for the Washington Post, "When history tells
the story of the sub prime lending crisis and recounts its devastating
effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners the Bush administration will
not be judged favorably."

Spitzer added, "Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to
protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to
prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which
the federal government was turning a blind eye."

That date is significant not only because that's when he penned these
words, but on that evening he would visit a Washington hotel room and, of
course, the rest is history.

As he began his precipitous fall from power, the federal government
began its $200 billion bailout of the bankers who issued these sub primes.

For the bankers, everything; for the families who've lost their homes --
nothing.

And while Spitzer was far from a perfect public servant, his instincts
were to follow the money (well-- everyone's but his own).

In law, what these bankers did was tantamount to predatory lending, or
what's called "fraudulent conveyances" --- in a sense, this is a huge bait and
switch!

But, they have nothing to fear. They were given the biggest public
payoffs since the infamous savings and loan scandals of the 1980's.

But, Spitzer is, for all intents and purposes, out of the game, as
surely as he was ejected from the governors mansion.

But, he's a wealthy man, and will always have a place to live.

For the duped borrowers, and their families, they should be so lucky.

--(c) '08 maj

[*Source: Palest, Greg, "Eliot's Mess: The $200 billion dollar bail our for
predator banks and Spitzer charges are intimately linked," AirAmerica,
Clout: _http://mailings.gregpalast.com//It/tgo.php?i=Mjuxnzu=&I=http--www.GregPalast.com_

26 Mar 2008

Breakfast at Heathrow





ON THE OPENING DAY OF HEATHROW TERMINAL 5
11am on the dot, Thursday 27 March
International Arrivals (Ground Level), Heathrow Terminal 5
www.stopairportexpansion.org
Be at T5 International Arrivals at 11am to put on (or strip to reveal) your brightly coloured ‘STOP AIRPORT EXPANSION’ t-shirt: a visible presence of public opposition to the madness of airport expansion. Wander round for a bit, have a coffee, leave when you like.
ORDER YOUR FREE T-SHIRT TODAY: stopairportexpansion@gmail.com or 0845 458 2564.

The Government and BAA see the opening day of Terminal Five – the biggest terminal ever built in the UK, and the subject of the longest Public Inquiry in British history - as an opportunity to put the case for further airport expansion. Join the flash mob* on 27 March to highlight the real problems that airport expansion causes: climate change, noise, air pollution and community destruction.
Download the flyer

* Flash Mob: ‘A large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief period of time, then quickly disperse’ (Wikipedia).
www.t5flashmob.com


PLEASE NOTE: Almost everything is against the Heathrow byelaws, but wearing a t-shirt is not a crime. So as long as you’re not demonstrating, you’re not breaking the law!


Campaigners plan Heathrow T5 'flash mob' protest

20.02.08

Activists plan to disrupt the official opening of Heathrow's £4.2 billion fifth terminal next month by flooding it with hundreds of protesters, the Evening Standard reports. It says that demonstrators, wearing yellow T-shirts emblazoned with a ‘Stop Airport expansion’ logo will descend on the terminal at 11:00 on 27 March in a ‘flash mob’.

The newspaper says that the protest will initially be passive to evade strict laws banning direct action inside T5. But the presence of hundreds of protesters will threaten the travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers and create a security nightmare. One anarchist source told the newspaper: ‘Imagine hundreds of very obvious protesters milling around, drinking coffee and at any time capable of doing something radical or staging a rather less passive protest; it is a security nightmare.’

The protest is to be the culmination of a series of planned demonstrations aimed at bringing the airport to a standstill. Protesters plan to infiltrate and disrupt the final security tests on T5 that will take place on 8, 11 and 13 March. The disruption will be launched from a new protest camp on the airport perimeter which will be a security nightmare for police and airport staff.

Environmentalists hope to have the eco-camp set up when the terminal opens so they can use it as a launch pad for protests. In a move that will have severe security implications for police guarding the airport, anarchists are planning to set up camp in the nearby villages of Sipson, Harmondsworth and Harlington.

According to the Evening Standard's 'anarchist sources': ‘The public relations spin is that we want to help locals make the place greener as a counter measure to Heathrow's contribution to global warming. But really, the camp will be a haven for launching protests.’

BAA told the newspaper that it would not comment on specific threats, but defended T5 as 'one of the most environmentally friendly terminals in the world.'

25 Mar 2008

Britain fails on trains, bikes, buses, walking...

its worse than you think one of the oldest bit of cycle path in Britain is under threat, yes the local authority want to close the Bristol-Bath Cycle way and replace it with a bus lane.

Does the British government care about the environment...no they would rather sell nuclear power stations to developing countries...for a 'few dollars more' is the motto.

Nice to have this press release, send me good stuff like this and I will blog, health and time permitting


PRESS RELEASE
Britain's failure to build transport infrastructure for a sustainable future.
A Study Tour for transport professionals, politicians, campaigners and journalists
interested in sustainable transport.
There have been many words spoken about reducing CO2 emissions to tackle climate change, increasing the amount of exercise taken by the population to fight obesity and about our streets being made into places where people matter instead of motor vehicles. However, Britain still does not invest sufficiently in truly sustainable transport. In fact, new infrastructure is still designed very much like the old infrastructure, emphasizing flow of motorized traffic above all else, reducing opportunities to take exercise as a part of everyday life, and decreasing the freedom of people to make use of the space outside their home. As a result, Britain remains near the bottom in Europe so far as use of sustainable transport is concerned, obesity is growing and children are not given the freedom to get sufficient exercise.

Until now, Britain has produced far more words than it has action. Announcements of available money often sound substantial, but they're spread thinly and have low priority. Britain still spends just a tiny proportion of the transport budget on cycling and walking. Well under 1%. Along with the lack of money there is the problem of a lack of vision about what good quality design for cyclists and pedestrians actually means. Low quality infrastructure makes the use of alternatives to the car unattractive.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Having made different policy decisions over many decades, the Dutch now travel travel by bicycle more often than by car. There is universal well designed infrastructure which makes cycling an appealing option for most people. As a result, most people cycle. Cyclists feel safe and their journeys are efficient and direct. Virtually all children cycle to school daily, incidence of obesity is comparatively low and reliance on fossil fuels for travel is smaller than in the UK.

The Dutch success is real, not just hot air. Their success could and should be copied in the UK.
Quick Facts:
In Britain, under 2% of all journeys are made by bicycle. In the Netherlands the equivalent figure is around 30%.

In Britain, most journeys under 2 miles are made by car. In the Netherlands, more journeys under 5 miles are made by bicycle than by any other means.

In the Netherlands, older people are also mobile. Over 10% of cycle journeys are made by over 60s.

Virtually all Dutch school-children cycle to school.

Levels of public transport usage in the Netherlands are not much different to those in the UK. There is far greater potential for reduction in fossil fuel reliance by encouraging cycling than by subsidizing public transport. In addition it leads to a far greater cut in fuel usage and other benefits for society such as an increase in general health and a reduction in noise and fumes.

London recently announced its largest ever figure for walking and cycling: £500M. This sounds remarkable, and it's very welcome, but breaks down to a level of expenditure which is not particularly high by European standards. The sum is to be spread across several years. For instance, in 2008/2009, £62M is to be spent for both Walking and Cycling. Across London's 7.5M population this amounts to a little over £8 per person per year. Another European capital, Amsterdam, currently spends around €26 (approximately £20) per person per year on cycling alone. Walking has a separate budget. Unlike UK cities, Dutch cities are not starting from nowhere. They have been spending this much for decades.
Who are we ?
We are a British family who have lived and cycled in many parts of the UK including London, Cambridge, Somerset and Yorkshire. Our cycling experience includes commuting, shopping, tours with and without children, a little racing and even riding Land's End to John O'Groats.

We now live in the green city of Assen in the North of the Netherlands. Winters are cold here and headwinds are fierce, but the population of 63000 people nevertheless makes an average of 70000 cycle journeys per day. We make our share of those journeys.
What are we doing ?
We are organising Study Tours for all interested parties to show how much has been achieved in this country. We will be showing participants the result of design for people rather than for motorised vehicles. We will show the practical results of putting into action long term plans to achieve a more mobile and fitter society.

Over 3 full days we will show commuting routes, school routes, city centres, residential areas, links between villages and the design of new developments. All these were designed with cycling as a priority. We also have a presentation from local experts giving their rationale.

The cost of participating has been kept low in order that it will be accessible to as many people as possible.

Full details of the Study Tour, including photos and feedback from previous participants, can be found on our website:

http://www.hembrow.eu/cycling/studytour.html

The first Study Tour this year runs from the 13th to the 15th of May. This tour is now fully booked and has participants from Avon, Cambridge, London, Manchester and Southampton. We are now taking bookings for the second Study Tour which runs from the 20th to the 22nd of May and soon will be taking bookings for the third Study Tour which runs from the 10th to the 12th of June.
References:
Articles in English about Dutch cycling policies:

http://www.hembrow.eu/cycling/articles.html
Photos:
Photos of Dutch cycling conditions including hi-resolution photos suitable for press use can be downloaded from here:

http://www.hembrow.eu/cycling/photos.html

Contact details
Hembrow Family
Vechtstraat 19
9406 PM Assen
Netherlands
0031 592 854808
david@hembrow.eu
www.hembrow.eu/cycling

Biofuels: A threat not an opportunity

Green Party Principal Speaker Dr Derek Wall said: 'Biofuels are a threat rather than an opportunity. Soya beans and palm oil production for fuel is the fastest growing source of rainforest destruction. Monoculture crops displace people, push rare species into extinction and accelerate climate change. The European Union's legislation for compulsory biofuel is nail vigorously hammered into life support systems of Planet Earth. Critics as diverse as the neo-liberal Economist magasine to former Cuban president Fidel Castro have pointed out that biofuels are pushing up food prices and making the poorest go hungry. Please email your MP to suspend the Biofuels target'

> Subject: Please email your MP to suspend Biofuels targets
> Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2008 15:46:42 +0000
>
> Dear friends,
>
> There is emerging concern that more and more grain and vegetable oil which
> should be used for food is being turned into biofuels for transport. This
> means cereals - corn, wheat, bread and pasta - and vegetable oil are
> becoming more expensive. It also makes meat and dairy more expensive,
> because grain is now turned into ethanol(biofuel), instead of feeding
> animals. High food prices are causing hardship in industrialised countries.
> In poorer countries, high food prices mean more people going hungry or
> starving.
>
> Biofuelwatch has an email alert to MPs asking them to support calls for the
> UK Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) and EU legislation promoting
> biofuels to be suspended due to this emerging global food crisis.
>
> Please click here to go to the webpage to send your MP an email:
> http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/mp-Mar2008.php
>
> The UK government's new chief scientific adviser, Professor John Beddington
> recently warned in a speech on March 6th:
> "It is very hard to imagine how we can see a world growing enough crops to
> produce renewable energy and at the same time meet the enormous increase in
> the demand for food which is quite properly going to happen as we alleviate
> poverty."
>
> This is a real crisis happening now - Josette Sheeran, the head of the UN's
> World Food Programme (WFP) that warned that due to rising food prices WPF is
> short of $0.5billion just to meet existing food aid deliveries. High prices
> are forcing more people into needing food aid too - for example, in
> Afghanistan, 2.55 million more people need food aid because they can no
> longer afford wheat. This week, Egypt's president has had to order the army
> to increase the production and distribution of bread, in an attempt to cope
> with serious shortages -
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7300899.stm
> and called on the EU to end biofuel subsidies:
> http://www.checkbiotech.org/green_News_Biofuels.aspx?Name=biofuels&infoId=17
> 306
>
> For more explanation of this crisis, please see:
> http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/foodcrisis.php
>
> The Environmental Audit Committee recently called for a moratorium on the
> RTFO on sustainability grounds. Now there are grounds on the basis of the
> most important of human resources - food. PLEASE HELP US in urging MPs in
> the UK Parliament to suspend the RTFO. If this is introduced on April 15th
> 2008, then the poor and hungry will suffer.
>
> Please click here to go to the webpage to send your MP an email:
> http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/mp-Mar2008.php
>
> Please forward on to your networks
>
> Andrew Boswell, biofuelwatch

Mehdi must stay demo

Iran's homophobic persecution condemned

Call to reform the asylum system to protect LGBT refugees

London – 25 March 2008

Over 120 protesters braved hail and rain to demand that gay Iranian
asylum seeker, Mehdi Kazemi, be granted refuge in the UK.

They also urged asylum for the Iranian lesbian refugee, Pegah
Emambakhsh, and an estimated 12 other gay Iranians who are at risk of
deportation back to Tehran.

There were calls for a "fundamental reform" of the way the Home Office
treats LGBTI asylum applicants.

The demonstration took place opposite the Prime Minister's residence,
Downing Street, on Saturday 22 March.

See photos of the protest:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/outrage/sets/72157604215757814/
(credit: OutRage! – free use, no charge)

"The British government had ordered Mr Kazemi to be deported back to
Iran," said protest speaker Peter Tatchell, spokesperson for the LGBTI
human rights group OutRage!.

"Following worldwide protests, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith MP,
has agreed to review Mehdi's case. While there is no guarantee that
this review will result in him being allowed to stay, we are hopeful
that he will be permitted to lodge a fresh asylum claim and that this
will result in Mehdi being given refugee status in the UK."

Saturday's protest was sponsored by Middle East Workers' Solidarity
and the National Union of Students LGBT campaign, with the support of
OutRage!

The protest's three main demands were:

- Don't send Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran
- Iran's homophobic laws violate human rights
- Give the victims of homophobic persecution the right to settle in the UK

Peter Tatchell told the rally:

"There needs to be a fundamental reform of the way the Home Office
processes LGBTI asylum applications.

"The government is currently failing LGBTI refugees:

"Asylum staff and adjudicators receive race and gender awareness
training but no training at all on sexual orientation issues. As a
result, they often make stereotyped assumptions: that a feminine woman
can't be a lesbian or that a masculine man cannot be gay. They
sometimes rule that someone who has been married must be faking their
homosexuality.

"The government refuses to explicitly rule that homophobic and
transphobic persecution are legitimate grounds for granting asylum.
This signals to asylum staff and judges that claims by LGBTI people
are not as worthy as those based on persecution because of a person's
ethnicity, gender, politics or faith.

"The Home Office country reports on homophobic and transphobic
persecution are often partial, inaccurate and misleading. They
consistently downplay the severity of victimisation suffered by LGBTI
people in violently homophobic countries like Iran, Nigeria, Iraq,
Uganda, Palestine, Algeria and Jamaica.

"Cuts in the funding of legal aid for asylum claims means that most
asylum applicants - gay and straight – are unable to prepare an
adequate submission at their asylum hearing. Most solicitors don't get
paid enough to procure the necessary witness statements, medical
reports and other vital corroborative evidence.

"The Home Office has failed to take action to stamp out anti-gay
abuse, threats and violence in UK asylum detention centres. Some LGBTI
detainees report suffering homophobic or transphobic victimisation,
and say they have failed to receive adequate protection or support
from detention centre staff," said Mr Tatchell.

Further information:

Peter Tatchell, OutRage! 020 7403 1790

Protest photos:

Photos of the protest can be viewed and used free of charge for
publication from the OutRage! photo website:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/outrage/sets/72157604215757814/

Professional photos by photojournalist Marc Vallée can be viewed here:

http://www.marcvallee.co.uk/blog_mehdi_220308.html

Permission is required from Marc Vallee for publication:

Mark Valee:
studio: ++ 44 (0) 1923 822170
cell: ++ 44 (0) 7947 181204

http://www.marcvallee.co.uk

http://www.blog.marcvallee.co.uk

http://www.archive.marcvallee.co.uk

ENDS

--
Peter Tatchell is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East
http://www.greenoxford.com/ and www.petertatchell.net

PETER TATCHELL HUMAN RIGHTS FUND

Donations are requested to help fund Peter Tatchell's campaigns
promoting human rights, democracy and global justice. Peter is unpaid
and receives no grants.

To continue his human rights work, he depends on donations from
friends and supporters.

Please make cheques payable to: "Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund".

Send to: Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund, PO Box 35253, London E1 4YF

To download a donation form or a standing order mandate, go to Donations at:
www.tatchellrightsfund.org

To email PTHRF:
info@tatchellrightsfund.org

Thank you. Richard Kirker, Treasurer PTHRF

For information about Peter Tatchell's campaigns:
www.petertatchell.net

Shit is sacred


We could use sewage as way of generating biogas, turning human waste into a cost free energy source that would massively reduce climate change.

Then again Gordon Brown is rather keener on pushing nuclear power, trident missiles and more war.



Nice article here on shit, I would have British Cabinet ministers not prisoners working on this project if I had my way.




Nature's Answers to the Sanitation Challenge

At a prison on the East coast of Africa, in-mates are pioneering a sanitation project that is working with nature to neutralize human wastes. The initiative, involving the development of a wetland to purify sewage, is expected to cost a fraction of the price of high-tech treatments, while also triggering scores of environmental, economic and social benefits.

Apart from wastewater management, the project is to use the wetland-filtered water for irrigation and fish farming, giving prisoners a new source of protein or alternative livelihoods. Part of the so-called 'black wastewater' with high concentrations of human waste will also be used for the production of biogas.

The biogas can be used as a fuel for cooking, heating and lighting thereby cutting electricity bills, saving the prison service money and cutting emissions from the 4,000-strong jail, including staff and in-mates, to the atmosphere.

News of the project, financed by the government of Norway and the Global Environment Facility with support from a wide range of partners including Kenya's Coast Development Authority and National Environment Management Authority, supported by the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and the University of Wageningen, the Free University of Amsterdam and the NGO "Aqua-4-All" in the Netherlands, comes as the globe marks World Water Day 2008 in the UN International Year of Sanitation.

The day and the year are aimed at raising awareness and galvanizing action to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015. These include halving the proportion of people with no access to sanitation from the current 40 per cent of the global population or an estimated 2.6 billion people.

Sewage pollution, a great deal of which ends up in coastal waters, is estimated to cause four million lost "man-years" annually in terms of human ill-health—equal to an economic loss of $16 billion a year. In many developed countries, part of the answer over the past half century has been found in ever more sophisticated, multi-million dollar water treatment works.

But as the new project at the Shimo la Tewa jail in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa highlights there are other, less costly ways of addressing the same problem with important spin-offs. The sewerage collection and wetland purification system, plus labour and construction costs and including upgrading of sanitary facilities inside the prison amount to some $110,000 or $25 per person served—something of a bargain.

These do not include benefits likely to accrue as a result of diminished economic costs to the wider environment - reductions of solids that can choke coral reefs and nutrients that can increase risk of de-oxygenated 'dead zones' alongside cuts in bacterial pollution that can contaminate shellfish and ruin someone's holiday in a locale where tourism income is important to the local economy.

Meanwhile the project is likely to have benefits for wildlife including birds and marine organisms. Thus, in its own modest way, it can play a part in assisting to achieve the global target of reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010. The scheme is among a raft of projects being undertaken under the Addressing Land-Based activities in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO-LaB) initiative which forms part of the UNEP-brokered Nairobi Convention treaty—a regional seas agreement.

It is hoped the lessons learnt can be applied to other parts of the world so that the multiple challenges of sanitation and pollution can in part be viewed through a nature-based lens.

The project is among others also working with the coastal Ndlame communities in Port Alfred South Africa using ponds of natural algae to treat wastewaters including sewage. The algae, a freshwater or marine organism, assist in de-toxifying the pollutants and is then harvested as a commercial fertilizer and protein-rich animal feed. The total project cost here is around $188,000 with economic benefits from utilizing treated wastewater and fertilizer production offsetting the price by $50,000 a year. Similar creative and nature-based projects are being pioneered on Pemba Island, Tanzania and in Dar es Salaam.

The sustainability challenges of the 21st century, including those that relate to water and sanitation, demand more intelligent and creative solutions than perhaps have been deployed in the past. Working with nature rather than against it is part of that intelligent decision-making that may prove a faster, more cost effective and more economically attractive way of achieving local and international health and poverty goals.

23 Mar 2008

Food miles increasing, planet being killed more quickly


Etihad Airlines increased its 3 times per week service from Sydney to Abu Dhabi to a daily service, with cargo flown out from Sydney 80% perishable produce including frozen meat, fruit and vegetables From http://www.rosebridger.net/


The truth is simple. Food is being flown, driven and shipped further and further every single day. The globe is being organised as one corporate supermarket and local is being annihilated for profit. There is a huge investment in physical infrastructure, the building of new airports, runways, depots and refrigeration units.

Uniform and all round the year...carrots, potatoes, cod, asparagus. Asparagus from Mexico is to be found in British supermarkets if you pop in this week.

Madness in terms of climate change and you guessed there is a huge propaganda effort spearheaded by the British government to defend it.

You will not hear Ministers discuss the growth of transport infrastructure or the absurdity of flying fishing into British airports!

Its all about soft selling the growth of air miles. Rhetoric is used with sharp skill to make the unacceptable something to celebrate...we in the UK still have the government that lied over WMD to justify the war in Iraq. Tony Blair is the mother of several 100,000 dead children, Gordon Brown's govenment are hardly going to object to airport expansion whatever the consequences.



In the words of Gareth Thomas, Minister for Trade and Development, speaking at a recent Department for International Development air-freight seminar: 'Driving 6.5 miles to buy your shopping emits more carbon than flying a pack of Kenyan green beans to the UK.'


Yes driving to the supermarket is a waste of resources but it only seems to bother Minister as a handy bit of discourse to promote more environmental destruction...the Brown government are hardly promoting an alternative to Tescopoly.

So yes, lets eat in season, lets go organic, lets us pluck herbs from the window sill and above all lets go vegetarian.

Out of season, intensively produced crops are not arguments for increasing food miles.

Food miles are not the only factor we need to look at but, facts are being muddy so we don't look at the extraordinary growth of air freighted food.

There is an excellent article analysing this from Rose Bridger here:
While the media fixates on the rise in, and environmental impacts of, passenger flights, worldwide air cargo is rising faster and a lot of the development at airports is cargo related. Worldwide, the largest and fastest growing air cargo sector is ‘perishables’ which means cargo that requires temperature control.

Industry estimates for the annual increase are creeping upwards from about 10%. About 80% of this perishables sector is food and flowers. Most of this is primary produce, but processed foods is a growing sector and encompasses everything from trimmed vegetables or peeled and diced fruit through to highly processed chilled products such as ready meals. As always, the food chain is complex to unravel, and air freight is not as direct as claimed. There are often connecting flights and distribution is entangled with the geographical dispersion which affects the food chain generally.


The great Mike Small, I did a lot of work with his brother Patrick in Bristol way back, is perhaps the most inspiring example of someone who has tried to put Murry Bookchin's social ecology into action, good to see this about his families efforts in today's Observer:

Mike Small and his wife, Karen, sat down last Thursday to a dinner of smoked fish pie crusted with mashed potato and served with purple-sprouting broccoli, an unremarkable family meal except for one key factor: every ingredient came from sources close to their home in Burntisland, Fife. 'The fish was Fife-landed, while the potatoes and broccoli were grown on nearby farms,' he says.

Nor was this a one-off culinary event. For the past six months Mike and Karen and their two children, Sorley and Alex, have consumed only food and drink bought in their home district.

This is the Fife Diet, developed by Mike Small as a response to the environmental dangers posed by carbon-emitting imports of Peruvian avocados, Kenyan green beans, New Zealand lamb and all those other foreign foodstuffs that now fill the shelves of our supermarkets. Each of these imported products involves the emission of carbon dioxide from the planes and ships that brought them to our shores.
From here

The Observer newspaper is promoting food mile denial, in 2003 it promoted war in Iraq!

Happily its mag has a great section on growing food, I wonder whether the Observer magazine, in contrast to the paper, had a column against murderous war in 2003, I would love to know.

To know exactly where your food comes from and how it has been raised is a rare thing today. To see seedlings develop and respond to your care is a process that has a certain alchemy. It is also a rewarding educational process. Looking after the soil and understanding its importance as the foundation from which everything else comes - knowing when to prick out, when to pinch out and when to water, learning how to keep an eye out for pests and diseases - are what makes the final produce that much more appealing. What is more, home-grown vegetables, fruit and herbs are chemical- and packaging-free, and food fresh from the ground is full of life and vitality. It is tastier, crisper and sweeter. You also learn to appreciate the importance of eating in season, with the earthy flavours of broccoli, turnips, leeks and kale in deepest winter, followed by the intensity of warm tomatoes, basil and bowlfuls of the tastiest salad at the height of summer. Most importantly, by having to engage with the changing seasons and the cycle of growth, harvest and death, the year is marked, celebrated and honoured, and few things are more gratifying.

22 Mar 2008

GREEN PRINCIPAL SPEAKER DEMANDS KIM HOWELLS APOLOGISE OR RESIGN

Green Party Principal Speaker Dr. Derek Wall today slammed Kim Howells
after the Foreign Office minister told a newspaper that the British
Union backed campaign group 'Justice for Columbia' supports the
Columbian paramilitary resistance movement FARC (The Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia), branding his remarks "irresponsible" and
"dangerous". The remarks are seen as endangering the lives of human
rights workers and trade unionists working within Columbia, as they
could become victims of retaliatory violence.

Mr. Howells faces fresh criticism after his latest remarks, so soon
after he featured in a series of photographs laughing with General
Montoya, the Commander of Colombian National Army who was last year
named in a US House of Representatives report as having allegedly
"collaborated extensively with militias that the Department of State
considers terrorists organisations", and in another seen posing with
members of a Colombian military unit which human rights groups say was
involved in the murder of trade unionists. (1)

This statement has caused outrage from both Justice For Columbia and
the trade unions that back the group, including Unite, UNISON and the
GMB. They are calling for Kim Howells to withdraw his comments or be
sacked.

Dr. Wall, who has petitioned Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to enter
into negotiations with the FARC for the release of the Oxygen - Green
Party leader Íngrid Betancourt Pulecio said,

"Instead of responding to legitimate concerns raised about British
policy in Colombia, Kim Howells is making irresponsible and unfounded
allegations with no basis in reality and is putting lives at risk in
Columbia.

"Death squads still kill those alleged to be link to paramilitary
groups. Mr Howells' dangerous allegations could result in human
rights activists being killed in the country.

"He must retract his remarks or resign.

"Resignation over policy differences or sex scandals are minor
compared to statements that could potentially lead to loss of life.
New Labour's unethical foreign policy has already led to too many
unnecessary deaths. It must not be responsible for any more, whether
in the Middle East or Latin America.'


ENDS


Notes for editor

1 - http://www.amicustheunion.org/Default.aspx?page=8154

--
Green Party Press Office
020 7561 0282
http://www.greenparty.org.uk

Published and promoted by Jim Killock for the Green Party, both at
1a Waterlow Road, London N19 5NJ.

19 Mar 2008

Nigel Tart writes on combatting homophobia


Nigel Tart admits freely that being 'Mr Tart' is not always a good thing as a teacher, I had a pint or two with him on the saturday of Green Party conference in Reading, he is an active member of Brighton Green Party and the GReen Party LGBT network and definately one of the party members with a sense of humour.

As a parent and a teacher I am used to having to challenge a bit of casual negative use of 'gay' so I was pleased to see his letter in the Guardian today flagging up the work of schools out. Some interesting comments on how employers can be part of the problem and the solution.

right must stop blogging bad for my back but I am getting more cheerful...another trip to Heatherwood Hospital next week...famous for the filming of the carry on films, if I was really sick well hey...



Your story on homophobia in schools makes sadly familiar reading. The government think they've ticked the gay box by publishing guidance on homophobic bullying. The guidance itself is excellent, but most teachers don't even know it exists. It's not statutory, so most schools will ignore it.

Before I came out in the classroom, I dreaded challenging homophobia and transphobia. It put me on the spot, because other teachers let it go. I don't really blame colleagues. None of them had any training, and there was no cultural leadership from headteachers.

Five years on, after two homophobic sackings, one tribunal and one attempted ABH, I've finally found the right school, with a supportive headteacher. I still hear some awful language, but students are starting to apologise if they think they've offended me. How long will it be before every education worker feels safe enough to come out?
Nigel Tart
Schools Out (schools-out.org.uk)

18 Mar 2008

Exxon lose, Venezuelan people win


Samuel Moncada is excellent period. Nice to see him have a good day in court supporting his country and his President.

I say keep the 'oil in the soil' getting it back off of Exxon is a step in the right direct, a difficult thing moving an economy from oil export dependency but this will help not hinder.

Samuel gave an excellent speech on green politics to Green Party conference just a few weeks ago and as soon as I am fully recovered I aim to meet him and ask what I can do to support Venezuela against US interference (well probably only a little but I will do my best)


US oil giant loses Venezuela case

Moncada said the ruling to suspend the freezing of Venezuelan assets was a defeat for ExxonMobil [AFP]
A London judge has suspended a court order that froze $12bn of Venezuelan assets awarded to US oil giant ExxonMobil in a dispute over oil interests.

Judge Paul Walker said ExxonMobil had "no good arguable case" that Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Venezuela's state oil company, had acted unjustifiably in taking control of two of its operations.

The ruling came after ExxonMobil won a court order against PDVSA as part of an international arbitration to win compensation for assets seized during the nationalisation of Venezuelan oil fields.

The funds were originally frozen so that ExxonMobil could be compensated should it win arbitration.

"I have today held that the injunction granted on 24 January 2008 against the defendant [PDVSA] should be discharged," Judge Walker said in a statement on Tuesday.

"In the absence of any exceptional feature such as fraud, and in the absence of substantial assets of PDVSA located here, the fact that the seat of arbitration is not here makes it inappropriate to grant an order," he said.

'No fraud'

Judge Walker said there was no evidence that there was any international fraud involved, which would normally allow a worldwide asset freezing order to be imposed.

Exxon was ordered to make an interim payment of $765,300 to cover legal costs within 21 days.

Gordon Pollock, a lawyer for PDVSA, said the ruling was "comprehensive" and "ground-breaking".

"This will be an important decision for future, a precedent," he said.

Samuel Moncada, ambassador for Venezuela, said the judgment was a victory for Venezuela.

"This was a defeat of the tactics of judicial terrorism used by ExxonMobil," he said.

"This is the beginning of the end of the harassment campaign Exxon instigated against Venezuela. We are planning to fight all of the way," he told reporters at the High Court in London.

International orders

Exxon declined to comment on whether it would appeal the ruling, but said it had no impact on the company's claim for compensation for the assets taken during the nationalisation process.

"We think that it's important the court did not question the merits of [Exxon's] underlying claim, but rather concluded that an English court should not issue a pre-judgment worldwide freezing order," Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for ExxonMobil, said.

Last month, Venezuela asked ExxonMobil to resume talks on the nationalisation dispute, sponsored by the World Bank.

It also asked the US oil company to abandon legal cases in New York and London.

ExxonMobil won court orders in New York, London, the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles freezing about $12bn of PDVSA assets in those jurisdictions.

Last month, a New York federal judge approved a freeze of $300m in Venezuelan assets held in a US bank, after PDVSA suspended supplies to ExxonMobil.

Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the United States, but Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, is a staunch critic of the US government.

Chavez needs a vegan revolution

Venezuela would be an easy country to be super vegan, advocados as big as small melons..

But they just unfortunately do go for it, a vegan/vegetarian Bolivarian revolution would be great for food supply...well what we do have is support for family farms.

Incidentally with the money being in oil, farming is less popular than in other parts of the world.

For a long time Venezuela has imported too much food, I think this will be difficult to change.

here is a report on how they are trying

Venezuela Responds to World Food Crisis

Programs provide land, aid to working farmers

By John Riddell and Suzanne Weiss

Suzanne and John are members of the Venezuela We Are With You Coalition. The following are major portions of a presentation they made to members of the National Farmers Union in Grey County, Ontario, March 10, 2007.

The people of Venezuela are today campaigning to rebuild a devastated family farm economy. They have more problems than solutions, but still are making significant progress.

Venezuela is an oil-rich country. But that doesn't mean that Venezuelans are rich: in poor countries, oil brings misfortune. The so-called free market ensured that oil exports were balanced by a flood of cheap imports that stunted Venezuelan manufacturing and devastated its agriculture.

So despite the oil, Venezuela remained poor – its income per person is about one-fifth of Canada's. And a rich minority gets most of it; 65% live in desperate poverty. Over half, unable to get jobs, scrape by in what is called the "informal economy."

For `holistic rural development'

When Hugo Chávez was elected as Venezuela's president in 1998, only a fraction of Venezuela's once flourishing farming sector was left. There were fewer than 300,000 farm families, and many of them were doing little farming. Much of its richest farmland was no longer utilized. Much was being held idle in huge estates. Agriculture made up only 6% of national production – extremely low for a country so rich in farming potential and so poor in industrial development. Three-quarters of Venezuela's food was imported.

Soon after the election, the Venezuelan people adopted a new constitution that addressed this problem in terms not just of raising farm production but of rebuilding rural communities. It declares:

"The state will promote conditions for holistic rural development guaranteeing the farming population an adequate level of wellbeing, as well as their incorporation into national development."

The government stated in 2004 that farming is "the basic foundation for the preservation of a culture" and of "a way of life." ("ALBA and Food Security," Bancoex, February 5)

It is government policy to promote family farming as the best way to achieve this cultural goal and as the most efficient form of agriculture.

In Venezuela, 5% of landowners hold three-quarters of the land. The constitution deplores this situation, declaring that "the predominance of large estates is contrary to the national interest." President Chávez explains this with a biblical quotation from the prophet Isaiah: "Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, tell there be no room, and ye be made to dwell alone in the midst of the land."

As Venezuela sees it, reliance on food imports endangers the security of its food supply.

Venezuelan farmers cannot compete with highly subsidized U.S. exports, and with the big lead that U.S. agriculture has developed in technology and infrastructure, but attempts to protect producers are denounced as attacks on "free trade."

Meanwhile, the predatory tactics of a handful of corporate giants are making farmers "more and more dependent on the purchase of expensive inputs of transnational companies." (Bancoex)

Land reform

The heart of Venezuela's agricultural program is a land reform that aims to distribute idle land to small farmers or farming cooperatives, using both state-owned land and expropriated portions of private estates with compensation.

The reform is moderate, leaving untouched large estates that are in production. Yet it has led to a wave of violence in the countryside. Assassins in the pay of large landowners have killed almost 200 farm activists. The reform has also met with obstruction from government bureaucrats, judges, and police.

Farmers, who face lawless, chaotic conditions in the countryside, receive weak legal and police support. Infrastructure is lacking – for example, the rural road system is very poor, so it is hard to market products. State officials appointed under the old regime are often unhelpful.

Nonetheless, by 2004, 125,000 families had received inalienable title to four million acres – often land they were already cultivating – and there's been much progress since.

Many of the new farms are independent family enterprises; others are cooperatives, and there's a full-time training program for those who are joining or forming new co-ops. Producer co-ops are mostly small and often family-based. There are also co-ops that process or transport food.

Close to $1 billion a year has been invested in agricultural development. Low-interest loans have been provided to small farmers. And food production has increased in each of the last three years – 12% in all.

Meanwhile, the government has moved to counter hunger among the poor. It slapped price controls on basic foods. A new network of 14,000 state-run groceries stores, called Mercal, provides cut-rate food in poor districts, and another network of 6,000 community-run kitchens, using donated space and labour, provides free meals each day to a million of Venezuela's neediest.

A visit with Venezuelan farmers

While we were in Venezuela in November and December, we met residents of the town of Libertador, in the state of Caribobo, who had taken up farming on idle land.

We met Maria Morillo, president of a communal government formed by about 200 farm families living in a hill district called Mont Vernont. She told a dramatic story. In the early days of the Bolivarian government, she and her neighbours had occupied an idle farm, refused to accept the landlord's eviction order, fought off an armed attack by his thugs (two farmers were wounded), and finally won title under the land reform law.

Mont Vernont farmers set up communal councils in each of the area's 14 hamlets, which in Venezuela have authority to decide on and administrate local improvements. They worked to bring in health, electricity, schooling, and other services.

Mont Vernont is famous in Liberator for the success of its first electrification project. The farmers got funds to wire up one of their hamlets. By working some angles and contributing some free labour, they managed to stretch the money to cover electrifying not one but three hamlets. Such community control means cheap government.

As president, Maria visits the 14 communities to check on progress. She goes on foot and can reach three hamlets in a day. In these isolated rural communities, everything cries out for action. We reached another mountain farming community, Las Vegas del Torrito, by the worst road we've ever seen. At one point it dived into a gully and splashed across a stream, obviously passable only in dry weather and only by a truck or four-wheel-drive. Garbage was burning in piles by the side of the road.

There are 23 farm families in Las Vegas. The communal council decided to put human needs before issues such as roads and garbage. Their first project was a community building—a classroom, meeting room, and consulting area for a visiting Cuban doctor. A school is under construction. They have council assemblies every two weeks with attendance of between 40 and 100.

Bureaucratic obstruction

We also found in Libertador several examples of the obstruction farmers face from a conservative state bureaucracy.

There are small hog raising operations in the municipality, which generate manure that threatens local water supplies. The local government developed a solution: septic tanks that would eliminate pollution and odor while generating gas that can be burned for cooking. But the project was quashed by the ministry of the environment, on the grounds of zoning regulations.

There had been other incidents of this sort, like a ministry ban against construction of ponds where small farmers could raise trout.

What explanations do the ministry provide? "None whatsoever," says Libertador mayor Argenis Loreto. "Just as we always say: this bureaucracy is eating us alive… We can't change things with this type of state…. I'd like to dissolve the municipal administration and create a confederation of community governments."

Battling shortages

During our visit, many basic food items were in short supply, especially in the Mercal stores. The shortages were causing discontent.

Partly, this reflects the success of efforts to improve living standards of working people. Venezuela's poor now have more money in hand (more than double, by one estimate), and they are buying food at subsidized prices. They are eating better. Demand for milk has risen 50% in eight years. By another measure, demand for food rose by more than a third in three years.

Corruption is also a factor. Some subsidized food was being diverted from the Mercals and sold privately.

Market forces make matters worse. Scare tactics by the right-wing media have encouraged panic buying. Importers brought in too little food. Distributors resisted price controls by hoarding. Large amounts of food – often subsidized food – were being smuggled out of the country.

Public exasperation was increased by the fact that these problems were all foreseeable.

In recent months, the government has responded decisively. Price controls and import restrictions have been eased. Funds have been allocated to reinvigorate and expand the Mercal chain. Mercal stores have been placed under community control. Most importantly, a large state-owned food distributor has been established to import food on a massive scale for the Mercal network.

World food crisis

President Chávez believes that the food shortages in Venezuela are also symptoms of a looming crisis of supply on a world scale. He recently quoted an article from Canada's National Post (January 7, 2008), reporting a speech by a Bank of Montreal investment expert. "A new crisis is emerging, a global food catastrophe," the expert said. Raw food prices are up 22% in a year. Corn prices are up 44%. The U.S. produces more than half the world's corn, and its exports are expected to shut off in three years.

Two dozen companies control world food supplies, says the bank's expert.

Chávez identifies three causes of world food shortage, all of them hard to reverse.

1. An increase in world demand, particularly for meat and dairy.
2. A decline in yields, caused by global warming.
3. "George Bush's crazy plan to use food to make gasoline."

Massive investment

The answer? In Chávez's words, "With the grace of God, we will make Venezuela a powerhouse of food production." Venezuela aims to increase cattle herds 50% in four years; to increase food production 2½ times over. The pace of government investment in agriculture has been stepped up greatly.

Many new socially owned food processing plants are being opened under community control. For example, on January 10, 2008, Chávez opened a milk processing centre, one of the largest in Latin America, in the state of Zulia. The centre's history is typical of many of these projects. It began 47 years ago and was government-owned until 1995. Then it was then sold to an Italian firm, Parmalat, which ran it into the ground. The plant lay idle until the government repurchased it last year.

Zulia is an important cattle-raising area, and the plant will help local dairy farmers market their product. But it takes more than a single plant to create a healthy environment for farming. Alongside the milk plant, Chávez announced an array of measures for Zulia's farmers:

* A centre for genetic support of livestock herds.
* A meatpacking plant.
* A branch of the government's Agrarian Bank, providing low-interest loans to farmers.
* The rebuilding of 226 kilometers of rural roads.
* Creating of a rural planning district, which will implement an integrated plan for supply of electricity, water, schools, health, security, and other services.

Such socially owned processing plants can fit into a farm marketing system that cuts out the profiteering private food monopolies. Small farmers get preference in sales to the socially owned processing plants, whose product can be passed on to the state distributor, and then to the Mercal community grocery, and finally to the consumer.

Venezuela's agricultural efforts are also expressed internationally through its alliance with other countries that seek a path independent of U.S. control – an alliance called ALBA (Spanish for "dawn"). One result of this cooperation that we saw is a large vegetable garden in downtown Caracas – a demonstration site that was established with help from Cuba.

A massive challenge

Farmers in Venezuela, as in Canada, are aging. The young generation is mostly in the cities and has mostly lost touch with its farming roots. Venezuela needs to persuade tens of thousands of young people to return to the land. How will this be possible?

It will take more than economic support. For farming to flourish, it needs a rich rural culture. But this is Venezuela, where farmers cannot easily get a truck or tractor, let alone satellite TV and Internet. How can such needs be met in a poor country, with urgent problems on every side crying out for solution?

What's more, the country is locked in conflict and threatened with attack from abroad, and the very survival of the social experiment led by Chávez is in question. Farmers cannot always count on the sympathy of government bureaucrats or police. And Zulia, where Chávez opened the milk processing plant, is often hit by right-wing violence initiated by paramilitary gangs that cross the border from neighboring Colombia.

So it won't be surprising if Venezuela finds it difficult to achieve the high goals it has set for the expansion of food production. But its people deserve credit for setting the right tasks and tackling them with energy.

Support for small-scale farmers and rebuilding of family farming is an urgent priority worldwide. In this struggle, farmers in Canada share a common interest with the popular movement led by Hugo Chávez and with Venezuelan farmers.

17 Mar 2008

Legal Update on Mumia

Dear Friends:

This is an update on the case of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been
on Pennsylvania's death row for over a quarter of a century.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia: We continue to
await the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. I
am in contact with the court, and will alert everyone immediately upon the
issuance of a ruling. Oral argument was on May 17, 2007, thus people ask
why the court is taking so long. This is a highly complex case involving
issues of great constitutional significance and a voluminous amount of
material. In three decades of successfully defending people in numerous
murder cases involving the death penalty, I have not seen one more
complicated.

It is impossible to know how the federal court will rule, but the briefing
and arguments could not have gone better even though there have been
problems due to mistakes by prior counsel. If the federal court follows
the mandate of the U.S. Constitution, the decision should be favorable.
However, Mumia's remains in jeopardy because courts are so unpredictable.

The pending issues, as set out in our federal briefing, are:

a. Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied the right to due process of law and a
fair trial under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments because of the
prosecutor's "appeal-after-appeal" argument which encouraged the jury to
disregard the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt, and err on
the side of guilt.

b. Whether the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to exclude
African Americans from sitting on the jury violated Mr. Abu-Jamal's rights
to due process and equal protection of the law under the Sixth and
Fourteenth Amendments, and contravened Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79
(1986).

c. Whether the verdict form and jury instructions that resulted in the
death penalty deprived Mr. Abu-Jamal of rights guaranteed by the Eight and
Fourteenth Amendments to due process of law, equal protection of the law,
and not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and violated
Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367 (1988), since the judge precluded the
jurors from considering any mitigating evidence unless they all agreed on
the existence of a particular circumstance.

d. Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied due process and equal protection of
the law under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments during post-conviction
hearings as the result of the bias and racism of Judge Albert F. Sabo
which included the comment that he was "going to help'em fry the n----r�."
There are many scenarios of how the federal court might rule. Among these
are: (1) grant an entirely new jury trial; (2) order a new jury trial
limited to the issue of life or death; (3) remand the case back to the
U.S. District Court for further proceedings; or (4) deny everything,
thereby leaving the death judgment intact.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court: For over two years we have been litigating
issues in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court regarding the prosecution falsely
manipulating eyewitness testimony and fabricating evidence. Recently the
court denied relief. (Commonwealth v. Abu-Jamal, ___ A.2d ___, 2008 WL
434567 (Pa. Feb. 19, 2008).) Mumia and I talked just after the ruling on
February 19, and I then issued the following public statement:

"Mumia and I had a long conference this afternoon, shortly after the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court made its ruling. We were not surprised since
that court has a history of not addressing the racism and fraud that has
dominated the prosecution since its inception over a quarter of a century
ago. By dismissing the appeal on procedural grounds, the court avoided
dealing with the compelling facts establishing that the prosecution of my
client was based upon lies, half-truths, and bigotry. It is sad that the
state court used possible mistakes of the previous lawyers in the case as
an excuse to dodge the truth.

This state ruling has no bearing on the proceedings pending in the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. If the federal decision is
favorable, then the Pennsylvania Supreme Court judgment will be moot.
Otherwise, I plan to seek relief in the U.S. Supreme Court. I will not
rest until Mumia is free."

Germany: On January 12, 2008, I spoke on behalf of Mumia at the annual
Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Berlin. As I concluded, the thousands in
attendance gave a long and enthusiastic ovation. It was a nice tribute to
my client who has become a symbol in the international struggle against
the death penalty and human-rights abuses. Mumia asks that I convey his
gratitude to the many good people in Germany who work so tirelessly for
justice. These include especially his longtime German publisher and
confidant Jurgen Heiser, the human-rights attorney Eberhard Schultz,
Sabine Schubert, Petra Siemering, Victor Grossman, George and Doris
Pumphrey, the distinguished actor Rolf Becker, the renowned Berlin
filmmaker Thomas Giefer, the prominent writer Sabine Kebir, and German
PEN.

France: Professor Claude Guillaumaud-Pujol has written an excellent book,
Mumia Abu-Jamal, un homme libre dans le couloir de la mort, which was
published late last year. It has Mumia's endorsement, and has sold well.
Claude has donated the proceeds from her book to help the defense of Mumia
in our struggle for his freedom. The author represents the highest
standard in the movement for she is totally committed to justice and the
freedom of Mumia, and does not seek to exploit my client. Mumia expresses
his gratitude to Claude, Jacky Hortaut, Mireille Mendes-France, Jacques
Lederer, the Collectif Unitaire National de Soutien à Mumia Abu-Jamal,
Senator Nicole Borvo Cohen-Seat, the Paris Bar, and the many others in
France who have done so much.

England: Mumia asked that I also thank Niki Adams, the legendary Selma
James, and their colleagues at the Legal Action for Women, London, for
their ongoing work on behalf of justice not only in England but throughout
the world. I am particularly indebted for their extraordinary commitment
that has resulted in programs on Mumia in the Inns of Court and other
British venues, a petition for justice and a new trial signed by over 100
prominent lawyers there, and drawning public attention to the injustice in
this case. And, of course, the efforts of Ian Mcdonald QC, Garden Court
North Chambers, an outstanding barrister and friend, have been
significant.

In Prison My Whole Life, British film: The new documentary film on Mumia,
In Prison My Whole Life, has been shown at a number of prestigious film
festivals, e.g., International Film Festival & Forum on Human Rights,
Geneva, Switzerland; Sundance Film Festival; Belfast Film Festival; London
Film Festival; Rome Film Festival; Copenhagen International Film Festival;
Dublin International Film Festival. It was also recently screened by
members of the House of Commons, London. Mumia and I are grateful to
Colin and Livia Firth, and their associates, for having the courage to
make this extraordinary film. They have my full support and that of my
client, for this worthwhile film which deals with the larger issues of the
death penalty, racism and injustice.

Donations in the United States for Mumia's Legal Defense: With Mumia's
authorization, a process exists which guarantees that U.S. donations go
only to the legal defense, and are tax-deductible. Checks should be made
payable to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation (indicate "Mumia" on the
bottom left), and mailed to:
Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012

Conclusion: The issues in this case concern the right to a fair trial,
the struggle against the death penalty, and the political repression of a
courageous writer and journalist. My goal is to win a new and fair trial
for Mumia, and a jury acquittal upon his retrial. I want him to go home
to his family. Nevertheless, Mumia is in great danger, for if all is lost
he will be executed. We must never forget that racism, fraud, and
politics are threads that have run through this case since the beginning
and continue today.

Your interest is appreciated.

Cordially yours,

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117

Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal



Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

16 Mar 2008

An under paid proletariat


'the rise of sessional teachers, who constitute a flexible, underpaid university proletariat'


I think UK wise university are increasingly market orientated and they certainly float on casual labour with fewer and fewer tenured posts. This is a global trend, this is a piece from the Canadian Socialist Voice on resisting the University.

Like the re-use recycling of Students for a Democratic Society name


One of the most promising developments among Canadian social movements this year is the emergence of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. SDS's bold and imaginative actions have won it wide support in the student body. In the following article, SDS member Jasmine Rezaee outlines the group's program for transforming the university.

Resisting the University:
Students for a Democratic Society at the University of British Columbia
By Jasmine R. Rezaee

To effectively resist the commercialization of public space and the corporatization and militarization of education, students at the University of British Columbia (UBC) created a political group in the summer of 2007 called Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). SDS-UBC consists of students who are unafraid to use direct-action to enact radical social change. We actively resist the corporate and military funding of our education, and we believe that students should have a meaningful role in the decision-making processes at the university.

From March 3-7, 2008 SDS hosted a "Resisting the University" conference. Our conference contained sixteen different events ranging from panels and speakers to protests and TrekPark 2.0 building sessions (a campaign to reclaim park space on the campus). Our keynote guest speakers were professors David Noble from York University in Toronto and Denis Rancourt from the University of Ottawa. We had panels about the corporatization of the university, grad student apathy, militarization of education, academic freedom, critical pedagogy, the gentrification of our campus/city, the history of activism at UBC and Vancouver, and discussions about the governance structures at UBC.

A highlight of the week of activity included an opening speech by David Noble. He proclaimed a radical epistemology of knowledge through action and insisted that students must fight the university from outside its bureaucratic structure. Noble lambasted the tenureship process, the complacency of faculty, the corporatization of education, and the power-dynamics that structure the classroom and student-teacher relations. He proclaimed that the future is not pre-determined and that it is up to students, activists, and young people more generally to create a better university and society.

Another important event that occurred was our protest held on the day of UBC's 100 year anniversary. A large SDS and sympathizers contingent marched through the Student Union Building, Brock Hall (UBC's financial hub), and occupied the Old Administration building. We barged into a UBC executive meeting and seriously frightened a group of predominantly white males in business suits. We ate their food (a fancy buffet), screamed at them through a megaphone and put the unelected, Liberal government-appointed Board of Governors member Stephen Owen under severe heat! We also went to the president's office and chanted "1,2,3,4 we're knocking on your office door" but he never came out (the coward!).

After occupying the Old Administration Building, we went to our campus library and protested the presence of a huge, newly-erected military mural. Finally, we barged into a construction site and halted work for a while.

Our Week of Resistance was an important consciousness-raising experience. A reoccurring theme throughout the conference was the responsibility for social change that we carry as students and members of society.

Another theme that emerged in our conference was the hegemonic fear that renders faculty politically impotent. A milieu of fear and timidity has been bred due to

a) the rise of sessional teachers, who constitute a flexible, underpaid university proletariat;

b) the increasing difficulty in obtaining tenure; and

c) the tenure process, which is designed to ensure the complacency and capitulation of faculty.

The fear of being fired or denied tenure often prevents faculty from including more critical perspectives in the classroom and discussing issues that may be deemed "controversial" by the university establishment. This curtails academic freedom and seriously hampers the development of critical thinking skills within the student body.

Each panel and discussion at our conference reminded us that there are many issues which are not discussed in the classroom but that directly shape the content and availability of courses. For example, because neoliberal or capitalist/profit-driven forces are engulfing the university, departments that don't exist to generate a profit, like women and gender's studies, or arts courses more generally, obtain increasingly diminished funding, limiting the availability of courses and the quality of research from these departments.

Some concrete issues that came out of Resisting the University which SDS-UBC hopes to realize:

Banning military recruitment at UBC.
Banning military funding for the Arts and Sciences (eg from the Security and Defence Forum of the Canadian military).
Stopping the rise of sessional teachers by changing the university's hiring policies.
Changing the tenure process so that it breeds less fear, conservatism and complacency.
Stopping commercial development on campus: affordable student, staff and faculty housing only!
Equalizing the allocation of funds so that departments that don't exist to generate a profit secure adequate funding for quality research and permanent staff.
Pressuring the provincial government to better fund post-secondary education.
No more Tuition Fees! Zero student debt and zero fees to ensure the university is accessible to all.

Transforming UBC's governance structures into more transparent, representative and accountable bodies by empowering the Senate; jettisoning appointed seats; allowing students to easily place an item on the Board of Governors agenda; and eliminating corporate presence on the Board.

An official acknowledgement that UBC is built on stolen land and that the Coast Salish, and the Musqueam people in particular, have a right to it.
Coalition building among sessionals, faculty, and other activists organizations to realize these goals.

The university should not be a vocational school. It should not be a place where people obtain a few skills to qualify them for a specific occupation in the capitalist economy. The university should be a revolutionary place where students learn the language of critique and dissent and develop critical thinking skills that will enable them to engage with other members of society in a socially and politically relevant manner. To realize this aim, SDS will continue to resist and concretely act to achieve each of the above mentioned goals.

Jasmine R. Rezaee is a member of Students for a Democratic Society at UBC. For more information on SDS, go to http://www.sdsubc.ca/. While there, check out the SDS monthly newspaper, The Knoll.

15 Mar 2008

Frankenstein forests!


Had this from Glen, I am not big on population but otherwise I agree...also we need to get Green Party people thinking more about ecology...this is a good start.

Burning Forests to Feed Cars The Ecological Madness of Biofuels, Take Two

How cellulosic ethanol will fail, exacerbate the global forest and climate crises, and why it must be rejected along with other quick fixes in favor of an environmental sufficiency agenda Earth Meanders by Dr. Glen Barry

http://earthmeanders.blogspot.com/ March 15, 2008


If you thought burning food for fuel -- agrofuels -- has been an unmitigated disaster, just wait until we start chopping up our last natural forest habitats for cellulosic ethanol biofuel. Much heralded second generation biofuels, to be based largely upon woody biomass, will be a resounding ecological disaster, and must be stopped now. It is a myth that enough unused forest and agricultural waste, and a surplus of land to grow various grasses and wood, exists to base an industrial energy source. Humanity must stop seeking easy answers to perceived energy shortages that in fact are a result of over-population and ecological limits to growth. Agrofuels were heavily promoted for climate benefits and pursued at much expense, yet have been catastrophic to the world's food security, habitat, water and climate. The same will be true of ethanol production from trees.


Cellulosic ethanol will be the ultimate deforestation biofuel, equivalent to dismantling and burning your home to keep warm. Biofuel from trees a looming disaster The promise being made is that wood can produce fuels to run our cars. A few years ago we were told corn, rapeseed, sugar, oil palm, soy and various other crops could be grown for biofuels while providing energy security and reducing greenhouse emissions. The reality has been far different with globally surging food prices, loss of rainforests and other important habitats, further depletion and poisoning of aquifers, and rampant human rights abuses -- all for little or no greenhouse gas emission reduction. So called "second generation biofuels", including the use of woody biomass, is being given the same unthinking, ecologically bereft hype. I will focus upon the idea that a wide variety of woody plant materials -- including both waste and planted woody crops -- should be the basis of a cellulosic ethanol industry.


Creating ethanol is trickier than with agrofuels, the cellulose more difficult to break down, but clearly it is possible to produce liquid fuels from woody biomass. But what of associated social and ecological issues that are again being ignored? Second generation biofuels based upon woody biomass will clearly be an unmitigated disaster. As with agrofuels, a cellulosic ethanol industry will indirectly destroy forests and lead to more costly food by increasing land pressures upon natural forests and agricultural crop lands. We can expect more vast, lifeless, toxic and water dependent monocultures of genetically modified Frankentrees on stolen deforested lands at a net carbon loss. And the biofuels will be sold to us as a green product, perhaps certified as "well-managed" by WWF, FSC, and other forest sell-outs.

Global forest crisis the fundamental ecological problem


Forest waste is a euphemism for the materials left over when industrial forestry decimates a forest. The branches, bark, saw dust, etc. represent nutrients that are best returned to virtually mined soils to make new forests. There is certainly not enough such "waste" lying around unused to power industrial society. Just what the world's beleaguered natural old-growth and regenerating forest ecosystems need, another potentially limitless draw upon their growth, diversity and regeneration. Once the infrastructure is in place to toss wood into vast choppers and have energy come out the other end, how long until meager switch grass harvests are supplemented with natural forest clearance? Let's skip the step of clearing rainforests to plant crops and just toss the chopped up liquefied rainforests directly into our gas tank instead. The use of wood biomass from natural forests is already occurring on a limited scale and will be ramped up. Such is the promise of cellulosic ethanol. Natural forests and other habitats provide a thin layer of biological life that shields and acts in concert with other aspects of the Earth System to make advanced life possible. This human habitat is endangered, devastated in short order by the human locust.



All major environmental crises are entwined, but my observation is that clearing of terrestrial ecosystems -- that is dismantling human habitats as resources to allow unsustainable growth -- is the crux of the human dilemma. As if the world’s forests, land base, ecosystems and habitats do not have enough demands upon them already, let us try to use them to power seven billion consumers in their drive to each have it all. Think this a needlessly harsh appraisal? Name one time the global economic system has demonstrated self-control in matching growth to underlying resources. Biofuels based upon wood must be rejected now, before it begins, to avoid the next ecological catastrophe. Given the scale of human energy demands and dismal state of global ecosystems, this one may prove fatal. Time only for ambitious, sufficient global ecological responses The Earth system is perilously close to failure and cannot stand more environmental solutions based upon greater and more intensive resource use for current, much less increased, human population and consumption.

Most want an energy panacea that allows endless procreation and economic growth. None are to be had. There is a finite amount of energy that can be taken from, and waste put into, the global biosphere before it becomes uninhabitable. And we are reaching or have passed that point. It is imperative that we embrace an environmental agenda based upon what is actually needed to maintain and restore ecological systems upon which all life depends. It is too late to put our efforts into anything else than the full package of societal and personal change necessary to maintain the biosphere. There are no solutions worth pursuing at this late date other than those that are ecologically sufficient. Anything less is more of the same disease that is assuredly destroying being.

Regular readers will know I have identified several major societal changes that could be implemented now at considerable but affordable cost and would make major headway in saving creation. These include immediately ending the use of coal that emits waste in the atmosphere; ceasing industrial clearance of natural habitats including ancient forests; investing major sums in renewable energy, energy conservation and efficiency; and providing incentives to reduce global population and sum consumption (more at http://www.ecoearth.info/ssi/ ). These and other rigorous and sufficient measures will be pursued, or global ecological collapse is unavoidable. If part of your shtick is we can cut our forests, burn our fossil fuels, and continue to grow endlessly; you are the disease eating the Earth. Change sides and become part of the cure by rejecting reformist quick fixes such as biofuel from food and trees in favor of an environmental sufficiency agenda. Or we can all die looking for an easy way to have it all at the Earth's expense.

********************Dr. Barry is founder and President of Ecological Internet; provider of the largest, most used environmental portals on the Internet including the Climate Ark at http://www.climateark.org/ and http://www.EcoEarth.Info/ . Earth Meanders is a series of ecological essays that are written entirely in his personal capacity. This essay may be reprinted granted it is properly credited to Dr. Barry and with a link to Earth Meanders. Emailed responses are public record and will be posted on the web site unless otherwise requested.

14 Mar 2008

Wiki candidate interviewed by wiki news

Wikinews interviews U.S. Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney
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March 7, 2008


Wikinews held an exclusive interview with Cynthia McKinney, one of the candidates for the Green Party nomination for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

McKinney is a former Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and held her seat for ten years until being defeated by Denise Majette in 2002. She was the first ever African American woman from her state to be elected to Congress.

We asked her why she made the recent switch to the Green Party. She replied, "Due to the importance of environmental issues, Green issues are the issues of today. The Ten Key Values of the Green Party stress us getting along with each other in harmony with the planet that gives us life."

When asked about how she would handle Iraq she replied, "I would instruct the Joint Chiefs to draw up a plan for the orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country. I would dismantle our military bases in the area, and I would also demand that U.S. and other international corporations relinquish any claims to Iraqi oil or other resources and withdraw as well."

McKinney is running for president because, basically, she thinks that "it's time that the people win".

[edit] Interview

Wikinews: Why are you running for president?

Congresswoman McKinney: It is clear that the country needs an additional political party that is not beholden to special interests or corporate lobbyists. Just 5% of the electorate, voting for a third party candidate gets the nation just that. Therefore, for those who are tired of the ability of special interests and corporate interests to subvert the will of the people, their values, or change their policy makers,winning the 5% is the best way to infuse structural change into our political system.

A victory for the Green Party in this election is possible and necessary. The alternative we present will appeal to the large numbers of disfranchised voters who do not see the major party candidates addressing their issues. In order for a democratic government to work in the public interest, it has to be both transparent and accountable. If 5% vote Green, it will put a third chair at the table of American politics, and it will open the door to the people to see what is going on inside the two-party system that has become controlled by corporations and the expanding power of a military, industrial, and intelligence complex that President Eisenhower warned of in 1960. The Green Party will represent the voices of the majority of diverse and disfranchized voters and citizens and will directly and effectively address their issues.

I spent my birthday last year protesting in front of the Pentagon. At that rally, I stated that upon winning a majority of the seats in the Congress, the Democratic representatives should have repealed the Bush tax cuts, repealed the Patriot Act, the Secret Evidence Act, and the Military Tribunals Act. And that the majority in Congress should have voted a livable wage for America's workers. And that someone should be trying to locate the $2.3 trillion lost by the Pentagon to pay instead for jobs, health care, and education. I was saddened by the Democratic majority's failure to stop funding the war, and declared my own independence from a national leadership that gave us war crimes, torture, and crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, there is not a major party candidate in the race that has not voted to fund this war. And that vote to fund what is clearly an immoral and illegal war is a vote of complicity in the torture and war crimes that are being committed as part of this war.

The deep economic morass which is facing our country today is not being adequately addressed. We are witnessing, through the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the greatest wealth transfer in our history from Black and Latino households. Yet, while they are being asked to tighten their belts, the CEOs of the banks that caused this crisis are reaping maximum pay. Even the solutions proposed by the major candidates focus on using taxpayers' funds to reimburse the banks instead of funding alternative refinancing in the poorest communities. It is clear that in this scenario, the banks always win.

Well, I think it's time that the people win. Our children shouldn't have to graduate from college one hundred thousand dollars in debt. That is a policy choice made by public policy makers. We don't have to have 48 million Americans without access to health insurance, and even more who are under-insured. Our Congress doesn't have to authorize an increase in national borrowing to nearly $10 trillion shrouded in secrecy. This country should not have racial disparity gaps wider now than at the time of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But these are the facts about conditions that Americans are forced to live through every day. Sadly, our policy makers would rather have our country spend $720 million a day on war. Just imagine what that amount could buy in a single payer health care system, education subsidies from Head Start to university, or green technology home conversions and sustainable, safe and non-polluting energy sources.

Politics can change things. I have seen that in my lifetime. But we must have policy makers committed to the kind of public policy that reflects our values and those policy makers must be more than marionettes whose strings are pulled by forces not seen or understood by the voters. Those are some of the compelling reasons why I chose to leave the Democratic Party after many years and to run for President on the Green Party ticket.

WN: You were a Democrat until not too long ago. Why the switch to the Green Party?

Congresswoman McKinney: The Green Party is an international party that makes policy in other countries in the world. Due to the importance of environmental issues, Green issues are the issues of today. The Ten Key Values of the Green Party stress us getting along with each other in harmony with the planet that gives us life. We need to get along with each other, and we need to respect our environment.

The Green Party also is not constrained in its policy positions by considerations of large corporate donors because the Green Party is supported by individuals who share its values, not large donors intent on gaining concessions at the expense of the people and the U.S. national interest.

WN: If elected, how would you handle Iraq?

Congresswoman McKinney: I would instruct the Joint Chiefs to draw up a plan for the orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country. I would dismantle our military bases in the area, and I would also demand that U.S. and other international corporations relinquish any claims to Iraqi oil or other resources and withdraw as well. I would encourage the Iraqi people to select their own leaders through the ballot box with assistance from the best minds in the universities region and in the world, in very much the same way that the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa was written. I would support the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to inaugurate a just peace and I would deploy a Peace Corps to the country that would work in concert with the reconstruction needs of the Iraqi people and their leadership.

I would go further than Iraq. I would deconstruct AFRICOM, the new continent-wide U.S. military command set up in Africa, to show the world that the United States has more to share with it than its military might, destabilizing covert operations, nukes, bombs, and missiles. I would work with the Congress to make sure that the face of U.S. engagement with the world is not a military one.

WN: How would you handle abortion?

Congresswoman McKinney: I would not change Roe v. Wade, I would protect and expand women's reproductive rights, and I would work with Congress to bolster family planning and protection against sexually transmitted diseases here and abroad. I would also support better sex education in our schools and community centers, as well as making safe and healthy preventive measures available through heath care providers and community programs to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Many factors come into any woman's decision to get pregnant or have an abortion. We are still missing effective policies to insure safe, affordable and effective birth control for both genders, programs that support education and employment for single parents, courts that insure child support payments, and available health care through pregnancy and childbirth, and for children.

WN: There are thousands reading this right now. What could you say to convince them to give you their vote?

Congresswoman McKinney: People in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, India, Italy, Nicaragua, and Spain decided that even during their deepest national tragedies, they would vote their values, their dreams, and their aspirations. The governments that resulted were not just face-changes, but were governments reflective of the people's deep longing for real change. As a result, policies are being offered and implemented that reflect the truest values of the people--they want to enjoy peace and the right of self-determnination.

I believe in the good that our government can do to respect civil liberties, the dignity of work, restorative justice (not just incarceration for profit), and peace. I believe that whoever wins the general election right now, Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton or John McCain, the people will still need a third party with standing to keep them accountable. But to achieve these goals, 5% of us are going to have to do something we've never done before in order to have something we've never had before. I am taking a stand for justice and for peace. I hope others willing to step outside of the two-party paradigm will join me in an effort to make the structural change in the political system that our country so urgently needs.