Archive for the ‘human rights’ Category

Edward Snowden talks to German TV

January 29, 2014

Edward Snowden talking to Germany’s NDR who he chose to make his first television interview since he blew the whistle on NSA’s global dragnet and illegal surveillance. The 30-minute interview was made in strict secrecy in an unspecified location in Russia, where Snowden is currently living under temporary asylum.

At the beginning of the interview, Edward Snowden talks of seeking Russian police protection, because of threats to kill him by the military-security-industrial complex in the US.

If we contract security and intelligence out to private companies, we run two risks: the first is they inflate the value of the intelligence for their own profit, the second is that they use the intelligence for their own commercial gain.

Expansion of Israeli Embassy in South Kensington

January 3, 2014

Local shopkeepers are told they are to be demolished to make way for expansion of Israeli Embassy.

Planning permission?

No, this land is ours, we were given it by God.

A letter?

We generally send the bulldozers in first, be we do try to give at least a couple of hours notice, if you are lucky.

Before it was your land it was our land, so we’re really going to take what’s rightfully ours…

We’ve got a very very old planning book, it’s about 2000 years old…

This is our land as given to us by the almighty…

Without putting too fine a point on it, mate, they’re going to bulldoze your land.…

Can I have a letter?

We generally go with bulldozers first, and letters later…

And you see all those olives you’ve got in the deli display there, they’re ours too…

I’m finding that smile a bit anti-Semitic, mate, so you should really wise up with your face….

You’re being a bit anti-Semitic. It’s only a conservatory.

Cops off Campus

December 11, 2013

Not since the heyday of student protest in the late 1960s, early 1970s, have we seen student activism as we are now seeing. After decades of apathy, the students have finally woken, albeit late in the day, there is something wrong, very wrong in the world today.

And the authorities are running scared.

Adam Ramsey has documented the state of play, from up and down the country, and that may well be the tip of the iceberg.

What is university security for? One would hope it is to protect students, not to be used as an army of private security thugs at the beck and call of university authorities to beat up students.

From her vantage point in the library, looking out onto Malet Street, Alice Gambell has seen an increasing repressive police presence. The smallest, peaceful demonstration, and van loads of police turn up, often outnumbering the students. Understandable, students find this very intimidating, which no doubt is the intention.

I spend most of my time in the Birkbeck library with my head in books trying to understand the intricacies of the law. I sit in my usual place every day, a window seat overlooking Senate House and Malet Street, and when my concentration lapses I stare out of the window watching the day unfold. This means I get to see a lot of what is going on campus. I have seen all the protests go past Senate House, heard the Samba band rousing the crowd, watched various causes gather at Malet Street and listened to the speeches on the steps of SOAS. Even though all of these occasions may have distracted me from my studies it has always excited me to see so many different people coming together to stand up for what they believe in, it gives me hope.

The University of London is probably one of the most pluralistic environments I have ever been a part of, with people from so many different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, sexualities and identities studying every day, coming together and joining in a constant dialogue. Being part of this environment has led me to learn about many different issues and ideas and made me, a person coming from a background of very little education and cultural diversity, a better, more worldly and confident person.

From the beginning of the year from my seat in the library overlooking Bloomsbury, I started to notice a police presence on campus. At first I thought it was a one off instance, but then I stated to notice them on a regular basis. Every time I was walking around campus or staring out of the window they were there. I saw them every day, sitting in vans next to Senate house, loitering around the Hari Krishna lunch queue, walking up and down Malet Street. This disturbed me and I found it oppressive.

I started to notice that whenever any political activity started to stir around campus the police were there like a shot. I am not talking about any “violent and intimidating” activity, as has been suggested by University of London’s Chris Cobb. This was simply the same political activity that I have been used to seeing since I started university here.

Even the smallest, and I am sorry to say meekest, of demos had a large oppressive police presence, with huge police vans next to it. Why are they here I kept thinking, what do they want, why are they looming over a tiny group of people who are standing there peacefully protesting about causes and issues for which they believe in? Causes and issues which have been taught by our lecturers, by the University of London. Lecturers that teach us to be critical of the law, of the police, of oppressive Government policy, of capitalism, of neo-liberalism and how all of these things have created so many injustices in the world.

Was it just me I thought, am I just being paranoid? I soon would out that it was not just me. When I started talking to other students they had noticed it too; they felt paranoid, oppressed; worried that their information had been recorded, it noted down that they were “political” and therefore to be watched. Who had authorised this? Who has decided that enthusiastic students were a threat that needed to be curtailed? It seems that our universities that teach us to be critical of the world around us and to stand up and fight for what believe in are now scared of the fact that they have taught us too much.

I started engaging with other students, listening to people I have never spoken to talking about the police always being on campus, butting into their conversations when I heard them talking about it, saying “excuse me, but have you noticed too?” and “yes” they would say, and we would all agree that something needs to be done about it. The university has become more oppressive, more restrictive and the university condoning a constant police presence on campus has made us want to fight back against it.

Before anyone starts thinking oh but you’re all just middle class white students that don’t like it when it happens to you. No we are not. We are students from so many different backgrounds, so many different races, some of us may be middle class, but some of us are poor, some of us have experienced police oppression outside our campuses, some of us have come from communities where there is police brutality, some of us have been arrested and some of us have been to prison.

Yes the university may be a different environment to that on the streets in London, but what is happening within our campus is testament to what is happening elsewhere: surveillance, social control, breeding a culture of fear, silence and oppression by attempts to curtail any form of dissent, political action and dialogue.

The fight back against police presence on campus is not just about cops on campus. We stand in solidarity for all who have been oppressed by the police. It does not invalidate our fight because we are university students. The university has enabled us in the past to stand up for what we believe and voice our issues in a safe space. By taking that away from us you radicalise us even more. I will no longer be watching from the window. I will be standing there on Wednesday and we won’t stop until we regain our Universities and our communities as places of free expression.

Last week, a peaceful demo in Malet Street. Left to its own devices, it would have taken place, the students then dispersed. But no, van loads of police turn up.

Now either the commanding officer is incredibly stupid, or this is a deliberate act of provocation.

Do the police have nothing better to do? As we all know, report a crime, and the police are too busy, lack the resources, to turn up.

Excellent analysis in The Guardian by Laura Penny.

The reason for the repression, is simple, fear. The authorities fear it will spread. Only their repression is counter-productive, it is waking students and others out of their stupor.

But they are too late. The students are already supporting the workers. They even crowd sourced to raise the money, to support the lowest paid workers. In turn, Unite, has given the students their full backing.

Today, a big Cops Off Campus protest took place.

Where was the mainstream reporting? Yet another media blackout.

When we see people take to the streets in Tahrir Square, in Gezi Park, in Kiev, we are told it is democracy. When it takes place in London, a deafening silence.

BBC Radio 4, on their flagship evening news programmes, on their ten o’clock news, on the midnight news, mention of Kiev, not a mention, not a murmur, of what is happening in London.

And even on Ukraine, we are not told it is EU, and now US, meddling, that is destabilising the country.

The people have lost all confidence in the political class, who with a few rare exceptions, are there to line their own pockets, get their snouts stuck well and truly in the trough.

We should not forget students and citizens in Greece, who are fighting similar battles and facing similar repression.

Student protest

December 10, 2013

Following decades of student apathy, the campuses are a stirring.

students leaving Cornwallis building following student sit-in at University of Kent at Canterbury  March 1970

students leaving Cornwallis building following student sit-in at University of Kent at Canterbury March 1970

The height of student protest was the late 1960s, early 1970s, then nada.

Centres of student radicalism, Kent and Sussex.

At Kent, students occupied the Cornwallis building and occupied it for weeks. The issues were student files and lack of accountability. The Free University of Canterbury in Kent was declared.

From the heyday of the late 1960s, early 1970s, nada, decades of student apathy, universities turned from centres of academic excellence to bums-on-seats businesses.

We see Coke machines, Starbucks, Subway on campuses. They would not have got a look in during the late 1960s, early 1970s.

Are universities and students no longer capable of running their own coffee bars, are those placing the contracts getting backhanders?

If you want an on-campus quality coffee shop (which immediately rules out Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero), then invite a local entrepreneur to run it, engage a skilled barista, train the students on the art of coffee making (it might be the only job they can find on graduating), serve quality coffee, quality food, occasional live music in the evening, a quiet area to sit and study.

UK Uncut and Occupy have shown the way forward, it is only through protest and occupation we move the agenda forward. Last month Civil Society walked out of the Climate Talks in protest at the hijacking by Big Oil, Big Coal.

Protest has become imaginative.

There has also been the expected brutal backlash.

New York last year we saw police brutality against Occupy New York. On a student campus, peaceful students were pinned to the ground and pepper spray sprayed into their eyes.

This year there has been police brutality against students at London University, at Sussex there has been intimidation by the Vice Chancellor.

At Sussex, the students are protesting at privatisation. The response of the Vice Chancellor has been heavy handed and completely over the top.

On Wednesday evening, after coming home from work, I found an email in my inbox from the vice-chancellor of my university. It told me that I was suspended from the University of Sussex, meaning I am unable to go on to campus, attend classes, or be involved with any societies and campaigns. I am unable to access teaching, resources, or even attend my doctor’s surgery.

If the Vice Chancellor of Sussex thinks intimating students, will stop protest, then he is not fit for purpose and should resign with immediate effect. It goes without saying, the suspended students should be reinstated forthwith, and receive an unconditional apology.

The university authorities lacked even the common courtesy to call the students in, they were sent an e-mail.

Please sign the petition calling for the suspended students to be reinstated and add your voice calling for the Vice Chancellor to resign.

At the University of London, an occupation was broken up by security thugs and Met Police using extreme violence, one student punched in the face and knocked to the ground, others report being physically attacked by security thugs and police.

We are still investigating what happened inside, but initial reports indicate that protesters were assaulted by both police and security: thrown to the ground, kicked and punched, and dragged to the ground by their hair.

The level of police force that we have seen in the last couple of days is totally unprecedented on university campuses. It appears pre-planned. It is as if they are reacting to a riot situation — taking the level of force — and using it against students protesting on a university campus.

Michael Chessum, president of the University of London Union, was arrested on his way home for organising an unauthorised protest against the forced closure by the university authorities of the London Student Union building.

The demonstration Michael helped organise in his role as ULU President was peaceful and part of a proud history of student dissent. The students protest didn’t even leave the pavement for goodness sake!

Is it Turkey, Egypt or England? It is becoming increasingly difficult to tell. Authoritarian rule, zero tolerance of dissent, violent repression.

A Cops off Campus National Day of Action has been called for Wednesday 11 December 2013. The Cops off Campus protest will take place at the University of London and campuses across the country.

In the past month universities across the country have been subject to unprecedented levels of violence from the police, targeting a resurgent wave of activism against the privatisation of the university system.

Across the country, students are initiating a vibrant, popular, winnable fight for democratic and public universities, free from exploitation and repression. We cannot be beaten if we stand together.

If you cannot protest on a university campus against policies of the university where can one protest? Are universities not meant to be bastions of free thought?

The reason we are seeing this clampdown, is that authorities are paranoid at protest. They realise that the reaction, not only of students, but of Civil Society, is that enough is enough, they have had enough of Austerity, and see it for what it really is, Shock Doctrine, an excuse for slash and burn of public services, of cutting welfare.

We are seeing not only brutal crackdown, we are also seeing a failure of the mainstream media to report.

Last month two protests took place in London. There was a deafening silence from the mainstream media.

Originally published on Medium.

10-year old Johnny Jones suspended for shooting imaginary arrow

December 9, 2013

How about these nut case zero-tolerance school officials be reduced to imaginary jobs?

The Hunger Games bow and arrow training

The Hunger Games bow and arrow training

We have highlighted here many times the almost insane “zero tolerance” policies at school wherein students are disciplined, suspended and expelled for biting a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun, bringing Quarter coin-sized gun keychain charms to school, and even pointing a pencil and saying “bang.”

Now another case.

A fifth grader is suspended and faces expulsion for shooting an imaginary bow and arrow at school mimicking The Hunger Games.

Megyn Kelly reports (video at bottom of post):

A fifth grader in Georgia [note: original report has since been corrected to reflect Pennsylvania] has been suspended for shooting an imaginary arrow at a classmate. The 10-year-old also faces possible expulsion.

The Rutherford Institute, which is defending Johnny Jones, says he was told he violated the school’s zero tolerance policy on weapons. They’re working to get the suspension reversed and lifted from his permanent record.

On Friday night’s The Kelly File, defense attorney Jonna Spilbor reacted to the ordeal. “Here’s how ridiculous it is. If we’re going to punish this poor kid for pretending to shoot a bow and arrow, let’s ticket his parents for parking their unicorn in a fire zone.”

The school is defending its decision:

Principal John Horton contacted Ms. Jones soon thereafter in order to inform her that Johnny’s behavior was a serious offense that could result in expulsion under the school’s weapons policy. Horton characterized Johnny’s transgression as “making a threat” to another student using a “replica or representation of a firearm” through the use of an imaginary bow and arrow.

According to the South Eastern School District’s Zero Tolerance policy for “Weapons, Ammunition and other Hazardous Items,” the district prohibits the possession of “weapons,” defined as including any “knife, cutting instrument, cutting tool, nunchaku, firearm, shotgun, rifle and any other tool, instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.” The Student Code further prohibits any “replica” or “look-alike” weapon, and requires that the school Principal immediately contact the appropriate police department, complete an incident report to file with the school Superintendent, and begin the process of mandatory expulsion immediately.

Little Johnny is being represented by The Rutherford Institute, which has written a letter on his behalf.

Originally published by Legal Insurrection.

Best be careful where you park the coach and horses when you take Cinderella to the Ball, and be careful where you let your Unicorn wander, and please do not tell anyone where you go when you walk through your wardrobe, and as for that weird shit Alice encountered.

I was worth 50 sheep

November 29, 2013

In Afganistan, women are chattels, to be bought and sold.

Sabere was only seven years old when her father died in war. Her cousin inherited her, and following a long-practiced tradition in Afghanistan, he sold her when she was 10 years old to Golmohammad, a man in his 50s and a member of the Taliban. Over the next six years, she became pregnant four times, miscarrying each time. The cause may have been her youth, or the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband. On a trip to Mazar-e sharif, Sabere managed to escape and make her way to a women’s shelter.

Meanwhile, Sabere’s mother needed to remarry quickly to avoid bringing shame on the family with her widowhood. According to tradition, ownership and betrothal of a widow transfers to the deceased’s cousin. So Sabere’s mother marries the cousin, and gives birth to a daughter named Farzane (Sabere’s half-sister). The family struggles to make ends meet, so when Farzane is 10 years old, her father sells her to a man in western Afghanistan. Her price: 50 sheep and a piece of dry-farming land. As a kind of installment plan, the buyer pays Farzane’s father 10 sheep per year, and will take possession of her when she is 15 and the full amount has been paid.

After six months of searching, the women’s shelter tracks down Sabere’s mother and her stepfather and invites them to the shelter for a meeting. When they discover the deal to sell Farzane, the shelter’s managers realize they not only need to help Sabere, but Farzane as well.

I Was Worth 50 Sheep is the tale of these two sisters and their struggle for human dignity and freedom in a war-torn country caught between ancient traditions and a modern world.

It begs the question, why has the US and UK sacrificed many young men for these evil people, men who sell-off ten-year-old girls to be raped.

The Bookseller of Kabul describes similar treatment of women and girls.

A few years ago, at an international film festival, I asked a young Afghan film-maker who had gone under cover in Afghanistan to film, one advantage of wearing a burka, she explained, I asked her if what I had read in The Bookseller of Kabul, was a true reflection of life in Kabul, the treatment of women. She said no, it is far, far worse.

This is not Islam, it is what fundamentalists practice as Islam. In The Koran, women are granted rights.

Não pare na pista

November 17, 2013

A brief snippet of the film being made of the life of Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho.

It is due for release in Brazil in January 2014, then the rest of the world.

Today, marked The Alchemist two hundred and seventy-seven consecutive weeks in the New York Times best-seller list. Not bad for a book that was first published twenty-five years ago.

Where is Nadya?

November 5, 2013
Pussy Riot punk band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova standing in the defendant's cage in a court in the town of Zubova Polyana, Mordovia in April this year

Pussy Riot punk band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova standing in the defendant’s cage in a court in the town of Zubova Polyana, Mordovia in April this year

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of Pussy Riot, was put into a car on the 22 October. Her whereabouts remain unknown. She is somewhere ‘lost’ in the Russian gulag system. Neither her lawyers, nor her family, know her whereabouts.

She had been on hunger strike, in protest at the harsh prison conditions. She had agreed to end her hunger strike, if transferred to another prison.

She is now halfway through her prison sentence.

Amnesty International has launched an urgent appeal, only their website is so baldy designed, it cannot be read.

Please sign the petition to Vladimir Putin demanding to know the truth of he whereabouts of Nadya.

No Woman, No Drive

October 26, 2013

Full support to brave women in Saudi Arabia who today decided to take on the repressive, corrupt regime of the House of Saud.

And what did the brave women do? They drove their cars in a public display of defiance.

Muslim fundamentalists have attacked the women saying, the Koran forbids woman to drive a car.

Yeah right, and The Prophet drove around in a Mercedes.

Muslim fundamentalists call it a conspiracy by women.

It is not only the bastardisation of women in Saudi Arabia. The corrupt House of Saud are propping up the repressive regime in Bahrain, are responsible for much of the bloodshed in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Sexual harassment and violence in India

September 11, 2013

Vithika Yadav talking about sexual violence towards women in India, anything from sexual harassment up to and including gang rape.

Vithika Yadav was first sexually harassed when her breasts were pinched. She was 12 years old.

An Indian woman has to be on her guard every moment she is in a public place. But it is not only in public places, women and girls are not safe in the family home either.

One woman is raped or gang raped in India every twenty minutes (and that is only the reported rapes).

Rapists are serving in the Indian parliament.

In the Asia-Pacific rim, one in four men admit to rape, they see it as an entitlement, for sexual gratification and punishment.


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