Archive for the ‘human rights’ Category

The Bishop of Guildford’s Lent Call

March 28, 2014
Lent Call

Lent Call

Make Lent count in a different way this year, with the Count Your Blessings calendar available to all our parishes. Throughout Lent, the short reflections and actions detailed are intended to inspire us all to give thanks for the blessings in life and enable us to help change the lives of those less fortunate – both at home and abroad. – Bishop Ian

Count Your Blessings is a reminder to us to reflect on our blessings from God. Living as we do in relative wealth, it asks us to make a generous response that will bring hope and a blessing to communities living in poverty. So let’s go for it! Let’s count our blessings and be prepared to share them. — The Right Reverend Ian Brackley, Bishop of Dorking

I was on my way to lunch at Guildford Institute, but diverted to a bowl of soup and a piece of bread at St Nicolas Church.

On the tables were leaflets, Make Lent Count, with thought provoking messages for each day of Lent, with possible responses. These were grouped into themes for week days and weekends.

Our climate is changing, with more extreme weather hitting the poorest hardest, at home and abroad.

The planet burns whilst our politicians fiddle. Extreme weather events are becoming the norm. No action is being taken to curb global warming, the floods that hit Surrey and other parts of England this winter were preventable had money been spent on soft defences, rewilding, and there been implementation of better farming practices.

Despite us having the technology and the knowledge that we need, a staggering 783 million people still do not have access to clean drinking water.

Give 20p for every drink of water you have today.

It is a scandal the chairman of Nestlé sees water as a commodity not a basic human right.

There are now over 30 food banks and breakfast clubs in Surrey and north-east Hampshire.

UK is a wealthy country, and yet food banks are the fastest growing sector. When this was debated in Parliament, the chamber was almost empty, and yet it was full to overflowing when MPs salaries was debated.

Nearly half the population of Africa live on less than $1.25 a day. Most of us have spent that by the time we’ve had breakfast.

Consider taking the Christian Aid Live Below the Line challenge and get an idea of what it’s like to live in hunger.

Living on less than a dollar a day in a Money Economy, is to live in dire poverty. In a self-sufficient or Gift Economy, the figure becomes meaningless as living outside the Money Economy.

Tax dodging by some unscrupulous multinational companies costs poor countries and their communities an estimated $160bn every year – far more than the global aid budget.

Support UK Uncut in taking direct action against tax dodgers.

How to Punish Putin

March 23, 2014

MOSCOW — AS I write this, I am under house arrest. I was detained at a rally in support of anti-Putin protesters who were jailed last month.

In September, I ran for mayor of Moscow as a pro-reform, pro-democracy opposition candidate and received almost a third of the vote despite having no access to state media. Today, my blog, which was until recently visited by over two million readers per month, has been blocked as “extremist” after I called for friendly ties with Ukraine and compliance with international law.

For years, I have been telling journalists that President Vladimir V. Putin’s approval rating would soon peak and then tumble. Russia’s economy is stagnant, I said, and the Russian people would soon weary of the president’s empty promises. Even a rally-round-the-flag military adventure — a “little war,” as it’s known in Russia — would be impossible, I believed. Russia no longer had enemies.

Then, on Feb. 28, Russia sent troops to Ukraine in precisely such a “little war.” I admit that I underestimated Mr. Putin’s talent for finding enemies, as well as his dedication to ruling as “president for life,” with powers on par with the czars’.

As a citizen and patriot, I cannot support actions against Russia that would worsen conditions for our people. Still, I recommend two options that, if successfully implemented, I believe would be welcomed by most Russians.

First, although Mr. Putin’s invasion has already prompted the European Union to impose sanctions on 21 officials, and the United States on seven, most of these government figures cannot be considered influential. They do not have major assets outside Russia and are irrelevant to Mr. Putin; sanctioning them will not change Russia’s policy. After all the tough talk from Western politicians, this action is mocked in Russia and even seen as a tacit encouragement to Mr. Putin and his entourage, who seem to possess some magical immunity.

Instead, Western nations could deliver a serious blow to the luxurious lifestyles enjoyed by the Kremlin’s cronies who shuttle between Russia and the West. This means freezing the oligarchs’ financial assets and seizing their property.

Such sanctions should primarily target Mr. Putin’s inner circle, the Kremlin mafia who pillage the nation’s wealth, including Gennady N. Timchenko, head of the Volga Group; Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, influential businessmen and former judo sparring partners of Mr. Putin; Yuri V. Kovalchuk, a financier believed to be Mr. Putin’s banker; Vladimir I. Yakunin, president of Russian Railways; the oligarchs Roman A. Abramovich and Alisher B. Usmanov; and Igor I. Sechin and Aleksei B. Miller, the heads of Rosneft and Gazprom, respectively.

The sanctions must also hit the oligarchs whose media outlets parrot the regime lines, and target Mr. Putin’s entire “war cabinet”: the TV spin doctors, compliant Duma members and apparatchiks of Mr. Putin’s United Russia Party.

The invasion of Ukraine has polarized members of Russia’s elite, many of whom view it as reckless. Real sanctions, such as blocking access to their plush London apartments, will show that Mr. Putin’s folly comes with serious costs.

Second, Western authorities must investigate ill-gotten gains from Russia within their jurisdictions. The Anti-Corruption Foundation, which I established in 2011, has revealed dozens of major cases of graft. In 90 percent of those cases, Russian money was laundered in the West. Sadly, American, European Union and British law enforcement agencies have stymied our efforts to investigate such criminal plunder.

“Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people,” Mr. Putin claimed this week. But even among the most nationalist and pro-Soviet of our people, a longing to restore Crimea to Russian rule faded years ago.

Yet Mr. Putin has cynically raised nationalist fervor to a fever pitch; imperialist annexation is a strategic choice to bolster his regime’s survival. Mobilizing the masses by distracting them from real problems like corruption and economic stagnation can take place only beneath the banner of fighting external enemies.

What is truly alarming in Mr. Putin’s rash behavior is that he is motivated by the desire for revenge against the Ukrainian people for revolting against a Kremlin-friendly government. A rational actor would know that the precedent of holding a local referendum to determine sovereignty is risky for Russia — a federation of more than 80 disparate regions, including more than 160 ethnic groups and at least 100 languages.

It is true that the consensus in both Russia and Crimea is that the peninsula has historically been closer to Moscow than to Kiev. But the notion that this reunification should be achieved at the end of the barrel of a gun is supported only by Mr. Putin’s hard-core base. The opposition has spoken clearly. The antiwar protest held in Moscow over the weekend was the largest in two years, and it exceeded any counterdemonstration mustered by pro-Kremlin movements.

There is a common delusion among the international community that although Mr. Putin is corrupt, his leadership is necessary because his regime subdues the dark, nationalist forces that otherwise would seize power in Russia. The West should admit that it, too, has underestimated Mr. Putin’s malign intent. It is time to end the dangerous delusion that enables him.

– Alexey A Navalny

Alexey A Navalny is a Russian lawyer, anti-corruption activist and opposition politician. He is currently under house arrest, his popular blog shut down.

Originally published by the New York Times.

A sign of the times

March 12, 2014
admission charge for entering a church, a bar of soap

admission charge for entering a church, a bar of soap

Admission charge for entering a church, a bar of soap, not a symbol that those who enter are unclean, but as a contribution to a local food bank.

Food banks are the fastest growing sector of the economy in the UK, a clear sign of the failure of the evil ConDem government. Hit the poor and elderly, the vulnerable and disabled, help the rich get richer and take a softy softly approach to tax dodgers.

snouts in the trough

snouts in the trough

When Members of Parliament debated poverty and food banks, the chamber of the House of Commons was almost empty, when it came to discussing their own salaries, it was full to overflowing. Business as usual, pigs with their snouts in the trough.

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven.

    Matthew 19:23-25: And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”

    Mark 10:24-26: The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?”

Top Story in War On The Working Poor (Thursday 13 March 2013).

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.


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