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NEWS AND VIEWS

Archive 13 December 2002 - 29 January 2003

Items I find interesting or important - not directly connected with my business. Recent items are on the main NEWS AND VIEWS page, other older items are listed at the FULL NEWS ARCHIVE INDEX. Index shows date of posting on this website.

You may also be interested in LINKS to sites on related topics, especially the HEALTH, DIRECTORIES and CHANGING THE WORLD sections, and the Adult Education courses "TALKING POLITICS" and "CHANGING OURSELVES, CHANGING OUR WORLD"

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INDEXOTHER NEWS WEBSITES - ZNN ALTERNATIVE NEWS

OTHER NEWS WEBSITES;

Common Dreams "News and views for the progressive community" - US based.

Complementary Healthcare Information Service (CHIS-UK)

Friends Of The Earth UK (Press releases)

From The Wilderness Mike Ruppert's excellent site. What's wrong with official story on Sept. 11 2001, US plans for war in Colombia, CIA, USA politicians and the drugs trade, peak oil....No longer updates, but archives are still online. Mirror site was at http://www.copvcia.com

Globalinfo.org "Daily news service of the developing world" - news on site, also offers free news feed to your website.

Indymedia UK  "network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues". Some good impartial comment, and some total pillocks.

ZNet "A community for people committed to social change". Includes articles by Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Robert Fisk and many more.

2003 

29 January  (updated from 10 January) THREAT TO LIVE MUSIC IN ENGLAND AND WALES  - LICENSING BILL
25 January  LETTER FROM BAGHDAD
13 January SUBMARINE-SEEKING SONAR DEVICES KILL WHALES AND DOLPHINS

2002

20 December ZERO WASTE STRATEGY COULD BOOST GREEN INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
13 December WEAPONS INSPECTORS DENIED ACCESS TO UK BOMB FACTORY 

 

29 January 2003 (updated from 10 January)

THREAT TO LIVE MUSIC IN ENGLAND AND WALES - LICENSING BILL

(Note 21.8.03 I have removed the pages on this web site of explanatory notes and Schedule 1 as they may be outdated since the Bill became law in July 2003 - see 21 August. I do not know how long the other websites below will retain their material).

If you are concerned that the new licensing proposals are a threat to Live Music in England and Wales then please read the statement below and sign the petition that you will find set up on the following site - www.musiclovers.ukart.com. (12.07.04 - other links to the text of the draft Bill and other websites campaigning against it have now been removed as the material is no longer on the internet or has become irrelevant. You may be able to read or download the text of the Bill as passed at the HMSO site.

Please feel free to circulate this a widely as possible;

This is an E petition set up by and to be submitted on the 15 March 2003 to Number 10 Downing Street. 

"We, the undersigned, are concerned that the Licensing Bill proposals to make the performance of live music licensable in pubs and clubs, in places where alcohol is served, in churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, in schools and colleges, in community centres and village and parish halls, and in private homes and gardens where private parties and weddings may be held will have an enormously detrimental effect on musicians and live music performances; fears that the raising of money for charities by musicians will be seriously compromised; consider it will seriously impinge on the folk community including folk music and traditional folk activities such as morris dancing, wassailing, etc; believe that the penalties for breaking the law of a six month jail sentence of a 20,000 fine are far too draconian; consider it grossly unfair and inconsistent that live music will not be licensable in Scotland but will be in England and Wales; regret that the Government has decided to replace the anomalous two in a bar rule with a none in a bar rule which will catch all live music performances; believes that the requirement for the provision of entertainment facilities to become licensable which will ensnare music shops, music and dance studios and teachers, represents a totally unacceptable regulatory intrusion into mainstream activities; and calls on the Government to amend the relevant parts of bill in order to remove the iniquities faced by musicians and the music industry as a whole."

The UK government do recognise E Petitions Read their policy. www.number-10.gov.uk It explains why you need to enter a valid postal address. 

Please add your name to this and take the opportunity to possibly make a difference.

25 January 2003

LETTER FROM BAGHDAD

Various authors - see content for details - edited from Holistic Connection 23/01/2003

Dear Friends, 

From 3rd- 8th January 2003 a group of NGO representatives and former UN officials was able to meet with cabinet ministers in Baghdad, as well as to talk with doctors, teachers and scientists. We had the opportunity to meet ordinary Iraqis and visit sites recently inspected for weapons of mass destruction. The aim was to contribute to efforts to prevent war and to gather information not available in the western press, particularly with regard to the human situation. 

Attached is a brief summary of a very intense series of visits. (EDITED)

Margarita Papandreou, former First Lady of Greece 
Scilla Elworthy, Director, Oxford Research Group, UK 
Denis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq 
Christian Harleman, the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, Sweden 
Jan Oberg, Director, the Transnational Foundation, Sweden 
Zeynep Oral, Winpeace and Peace Initiative, Turkey 
Omaima Rawas, peace activist and Vice President of the Syrian Arabic League, Syria 
Fotini Sianou, President, Women?s Committee, European Trade Union Confederation 

NEWS FROM BAGHDAD - a visit to Iraq 3rd 8th January 2003 
including meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Foreign Minister Nagi Sabri and Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid, as well as conversations with ordinary Iraqis in the street and visits to sites. 

1. Attitudes of Iraqis today. We experienced an extraordinary mixture of fatalism, faith and defiance in the El-zahrawi tearoom. Watching Saddam Hussein?s Army Day speech on television, we talked with people at random, many of whom spoke English. They said that twice now world opinion has predicted that Iraq would collapse after the Gulf War in 1991, and in 1998 when 350 cruise missiles hit the country and once again they will survive. Yes, their children are afraid. Yes, the teenagers do not know if it is worth studying seriously or not. No, they will not go to the shelters. They do not talk so much of US or UK aggression but rather of Bush and Blair: until now, they have not resented the people of the countries about to bomb them, nor the civilizations, but the leaders. 

However that trend seems to be changing with the Iraqis increasingly holding the people of the UK and the US responsible for their countries? policies. In the words of Dr. Hoda Ammash ?People here bear every respect for western people and western civilization. We respect your technological advancement, and your values. We know that westerners are being given the opportunity to learn about Arabic civilizations. Yet hatred is being manufactured, by some, to engineer a clash of civilizations.? 

2. Food reserves. Iraqi households have been given three months? (and now a further two months') food rations in order to get it out of the main storage sites to prevent warehouses being bombed. The food distribution programme, according to Denis Halliday (former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq (1997-98), is one of the most efficient in history, involving 49,000 food distribution agents and minimizing corruption through a system whereby if 100 people complain about an agent, he or she is removed. Iraqis are also stock-piling water but have no suitable large containers. People with gardens are being asked to dig wells. 

Under the UN Oil-for-Food Programme only about half the oil revenues can be used for buying food and other necessities for the population of the centre and South of the country; the rest being used for compensation to Kuwait, food for the Iraqi Kurds in the North, and the costs of the UN programme including the UNMOVIC weapons inspections. 

Halliday concludes: ? The twelve year sanctions regime has become a weapon of mass destruction, built on the massive damage to civilian infrastructure by US bombing and resulting in the deaths of over one million people since 1991, over half of whom are children.? 

According to UNICEF 25% of Iraqi babies are born weighing 2kgs or less, a key indicator of famine. One million children under 5 suffer acute or chronic malnutrition. 

3. Shelters. Everyone we spoke to said they would not use the 34 shelters provided for civilians in Baghdad because of the 1991 bombing of Al-Amarya shelter when 408 out of 422 women and children in the shelter were burned to death. 

4. Weapons Inspectors. Dr. Sami Al-Araji, a nuclear engineer and Director General of Planning at the Ministry of Industry, is facilitating the work of the UNMOVIC inspectors. Everywhere we went there was a remarkable willingness to co-operate with the inspections, but patience is being tested. During our visit there was a routine inspection near the University of Baghdad where there are 6 science centres. The inspectors wanted to investigate one of these, but froze the entire complex meaning that nearly 3,000 people could not move for six hours, even though their place of work was not under inspection. This meant that toddlers were left uncollected at nursery schools. Not even the Iraqi Ambassador to the UN, there for a visit, was allowed to leave. 

A professor of microbiology at the University of Baghdad told us that during 1991-98 inspectors re-examined the university every three weeks, searching minutely. ?They enter exam halls where students are doing their finals and search under their chairs.? Iraqi people thought the inspections would last 2-3 years, and then they could go back to normal life. It is now 12 years since the inspections started, they are more intense than ever, and there is no end in sight. 

We visited the al-Dawrah Foot and Mouth Vaccine Institute which was high on the list in the UK Government dossier (published September 2002) of biological weapons sites. Since 1994 the site has been inspected 60 times, it has been closed since 1995, when all the equipment was destroyed or removed and there were cameras everywhere connected to the former UNSCOM Monitoring Centre in Baghdad. The place was wrecked. 

5. Civil and political rights. Since Oct 2002, laws and regulations have been or are being revised as follows: 
Amendments to the constitution to allow for a multi-party system. 
Abolition of special ?security violations? courts which had no rights of appeal 
Abolition of laws requiring cutting off hands of thieves 
Amnesty for political prisoners 
Exiles not linked to intelligence services may now return to Iraq with the right to criticise the government 
Reduction of fee for exit visa from Iraq from $200 to $10. 

6. Oil. Current Iraqi production is approx 3 million barrels per day (current world production approx 77 million) but it has the second largest reserves in the world. If controls were lifted, and with infrastructure investment, with its immense reserves of easily extractable oil Iraq has the potential to supply 10% of the world?s oil needs, and to continue to do so for at least a century (since less than 1% of reserves are being used up each year). Iraqis are very conscious of the energy needs of the western economies - the US has to import 60% of its oil needs - and know that the main reason for military invasion is to gain control of its vast reserves of oil. Iraqi ministers fear that if the US were to control Iraq's oil production, it would manipulate the economies not only of the Far East, but also of Europe. Iraq takes a long-term view, wants a stable oil price, and would like to adopt normal trading relations rather than be subject to crises, threats and manipulation. 

7. Depleted Uranium (DU). Water-borne and air-borne dust from DU shells, used by the US and the UK in the 1991 Gulf war, is spreading over vast areas of Iraq but the government has no way of detecting the direction of the spread because airborne radiation sensing equipment is prohibited. People are developing cancers by consuming meat and milk from animals grazing in polluted areas. Cancers of all kinds are increasing dramatically in Iraq particularly amongst women with breast cancer and leukaemia. Members of our delegation have visited hospitals in Iraq since 1991 and observed that current conditions in the hospitals have worsened. 

Equipment needed for treatment lies idle because the computerized controls have been removed due to sanctions. There is one nurse for every 16 beds where previously there was one for every two beds. Every child has a mother or grandmother giving full time care. Omar, three years old has a plastino plastoma*, which attacks kidneys and then destroys the brain and nervous system: his head is enlarged to twice normal size, his face swollen unrecognizably out of shape and his eyes blind. His mother sits with him like a madonna, waiting for her child to die. Tiny Aia (?Miracle?) was born with a second head, a brain sack attached to the back of her own head, a condition known as meningoceal* and not seen in Iraq before the mid-1990s. Dr. Ahmed Fadeh of the Baghdad Children?s Hospital told me there are unlimited cases he simply can?t treat because his equipment is worn out or lacks spares, and he has not got the drugs or even the suture thread that he needs because of sanctions. *this was told to us phonetically in a hurry, we are not sure of the correct spelling 

8. Implications for the future. This visit was a shock treatment in learning what it feels like to be an Iraqi. This is an ancient people with a civilization 7000 years old (Iraqis point out that the United States is barely 300 years old), an economy that until the 1980s was a model for the entire Middle East, and with a free health service that was ahead of the National Health Service in the UK. The streets are now rubble-strewn, most of the middle class have left, and people are selling their household goods on street corners in order to survive. The currency has devalued 6000 (six thousand) % in 20 years; in 1981 one dinar bought three US dollars, today one US dollar buys about 2000 dinars. To pay a modest hotel bill for 6 days, you need a pile of dinar notes two meters high. Twelve years of sanctions, which were intended to make the Iraqi people revolt against their leadership, have had the opposite effect giving Saddam Hussein total control over his people through food r ationing. Sanctions have simply disabled Iraqi people through hunger and the wholesale disintegration of their infrastructure. Rather than rebel against Saddam Hussein, they feel defiance towards Bush and Blair which their leader can constantly reinforce, since their sense of honour is continuously provoked. The humiliation is very deep and very dangerous. In these circumstances a war and subsequent occupation of Iraq will no doubt fuel the fires of hatred and terror, and consequently the risk of attacks on the West. 

For more information see websites: www.transnational.org

(EDITED FROM ORIGINAL POSTING))

13 January 2003

SUBMARINE-SEEKING SONAR DEVICES KILL WHALES AND DOLPHINS

Warships fitted with submarine-seeking sonar devices that are killing marine mammals and depleting already-threatened fish stocks should be banned from European waters, according to Euro MPs.

Strandings of marine mammals have become more commonplace following tests of the devices: more than 17 whales, dolphins and porpoises were beached in March 2000 following US tests near the Bahamas. Nine died following bleeding of the eyes, brain and lungs. A NATO investigation admitted an earlier 1996 mass stranding of Curvier's Beaked Whales in Greece in the wake of LFAS tests could not have been caused naturally. Most recently, 15 beaked whales died after being washed up on the Canary Islands following military manoeuvres in the area by NATO's Mediterranean fleet. Autopsies showed they had suffered brain lesions and inner ear damage.

A cross-party group of more than 60 MEPs have signed a motion proposed by Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas supporting a moratorium on LFAS use until a full environmental impact assessment is carried out, as required by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. MEPs will debate the ban in Strasbourg this Thursday (January 16, 2003).

Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) submarine trackers have been under development for over a decade, by NATO members including the UK and the US and other states. They work by bouncing low frequency sounds at high volumes off the ocean floor, allowing operators to spot any large objects - such as submarines - disrupting the signal. The sounds used are up to 200 billion times louder than those which normally disturb marine mammals, causing internally bleeding, deafness and lung damage in dolphins and whales and sparking an epidemic of strandings wherever LFAS has been tested.

20 December 2002

ZERO WASTE STRATEGY COULD BOOST GREEN INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

A new report from the Green Party reveals how far behind the times Britain has fallen on Green waste management. While cities, provinces and companies in some parts of the world aim for zero-waste status as soon as 2020 or even 2010, Tony Blair's rubbish policies would leave Britain a land of dumps and incinerators - and miss out on multi-billion pound business opportunities.

The Party's policy coordinator, Danny Bates, explains: "Toyota, Honda, Kimberley Clark all have zero waste targets now. Xerox has a waste reduction initiative it calls 'Xero Waste', and its recycling rate of 88% saved the company $45 million. A carpet company in Georgia managed to achieve zero landfill waste while the company was increasing production by 300%, without increasing its energy use."

Mad River Brewery, in Blue Lake, California, diverts 98% of its waste from landfills, which leaves only enough waste to fill two 90-gallon drums a week. In 1998, the brewery's waste reduction efforts saved it more than $35,000. The company takes back six-pack containers and donates plastic grain packaging for remanufacture into reusable shopping bags. Hewlett-Packard in California is diverting 92 to 95 % of its solid waste, saving almost $1 million a year in waste disposal costs.

Danny Bates continues: "We have to meet an EU target to divert waste from landfill sites. Tony Blair's proposals are to build dozens of incinerators instead, which are even worse than mass landfill in terms of both job-creation and environmental impact. There's also the revenue aspect: a typical energy-from-waste incinerator will generate 30m in its 25-year lifespan. In that time, a paper recycling business could turn over a couple of billion.

13 December, 2002

WEAPONS INSPECTORS DENIED ACCESS TO UK BOMB FACTORY

A TEAM of 20 weapons inspectors led by Green MEP Caroline Lucas and TV satirist Mark Thomas was today refused access to the UK's nuclear weapons factory in Berkshire.

The group hoped to conduct a 'citizens' inspection' of the UK's capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction and seek reassurance that a #2.5bn investment in Aldermaston announced in the summer will not contravene international law, in parallel with the UN mission currently operating in Iraq.

Dr Lucas, who represents South East England, said:

"We were refused access to the weapons site despite our having a clear mandate from constituents to ensure the facility was not being used to amass weapons of mass destruction or engage in any activity which contravenes international law.

"We particularly sought an assurance that the base will not be used to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons to succeed Trident, as has been suggested in the media and elsewhere. Any such development would constitute a clear 'material breach' of the UN Non Proliferation Treaty, of which the UK is a signatory and is binding in international law."

The development at Aldermaston is the Government's response to a 1998 Strategic Defence Review, which called for the base to maintain "a capacity to design a successor warhead to Trident" - despite any such research being prohibited by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"In the context of the current threat of war against Iraq for its flagrant disregard for international law and Saddam's history of production and use of weapons of mass destruction it is clear the world has had enough of bullying regimes riding roughshod over international law and maintaining power by the threat or use of force.

"As the US has consistently asserted of Iraq - if the Government had nothing unlawful to hide it would have had no problem letting the inspectors in.

"Since we have been denied access we can only assume the worst. I will now be writing direct to Defence Minister Geoff Hoon to demand an explanation - and access to the base. If it transpires Aldermaston is being used to develop weapons in breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty it will be a matter for the International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council."

Page updated 24.05.08

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