Monthly Archives: March 2008

Hyderabad opens new airport

Q. Why is Terminal 5 like a mortuary? A. You can’t take your baggage with you. At much the same time as Terminal 5 was opening at Heathrow an airport of comparable size was opening in the fast growing hub of technology and scientific achievement in Hyderabad, India: the Rajiv Gandhi Airport.
They reported no problems with baggage handling and everything appears to have gone smoothly.
A meeting in Birmingham called by the Asian Rationalist Society (Britain) described something else going on in India. Barely 150 km from Hyderbad is a village outside of which there is a Dalit (formerly known as untouchable) community. One of India’s notorious godmen had announced that before the children in the community could receive an education they would need to make a sacrifice. Not a sheep or goat, but one of their children. It would have to be a human sacrifice he insisted. Fear spread through the community and children were kept from going to school. Here the Rationalists stepped in. They spend time in communities demonstrating the cheap conjuring tricks and sleight of hand which the holy men use to trick people into believing they have supernatural powers. They managed to persuade some of the young people and some elders in going with them to the temple to confront this godman. Having got wind that he was to have visitors he ran off and so there was great disappointment. However the community now feel enlightened and empowered to act against these villains.

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Nostalgic CDs

Having listened to and collected vinyl LPs since my mid teens in the fifties I find myself comforted and isolation relieved by revisiting recordings on reissued CDs. The latest to have arrived is Ferenc Fricsay, that great Hungarian conductor who died at an early age, and his performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Why did I go there after last week’s Building a Library recommendations. Well I think it was probably the first time I heard the work. I never owned it, but it was a record I borrowed from the Enfield Gramophone Library. I became great friends with the librarian, a pioneer in gramophone record libraries, and worked there during summer holidays later on.
What pleases we about this acquisition is its packaging. It’s a simple card cover with what looks like the original cover, not just a small reproduction which looks tacky (like Great Recordings of the Century from EMI and most other “Originals” from Universal). In fact so keen are they to keep the “feel” of the original they do not even add the fact that the disc also includes Petrushka! That is revealed by a stick on label, although it does appear in the listings on the back.
I much prefer card packaging to the so-called “jewel case”. How many of my collection have broken hinges, or the centre plastic retainers have disintegrated so the disc falls to the floor when you open the wretched thing. I welcome the habit of putting boxed collections in thin slip cases. It certainly reduced the space that the complete Stravinsky edition took up on Sony Classics!

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Rachel Corrie’s parents praise Bil’in residents for their non-violent protest

This week’s news from Bil’in tells of Israeli troops firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets:
“Israeli military attacks weekly Bil’in protest, 17 injured including 7 journalists.”
Rachel Corrie‘s parents were among those supporting the rights of villagers who undaunted by the armed-to-the-teeth bullies of the US backed Israeli government. What precisely is a terrorist, and who are the terrorists?
Friday March 28, 2008 16:51
Scores of residents of Bil’in, a village near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with their international and Israeli supporters, took to the streets on Friday to conduct their weekly nonviolent protest against the Israeli Wall and illegal confiscation of the village’s land.
Israeli troops manning the wall and its gate that cuts off the villagers from their land showered the protesters with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets immediately after the protesters reached the gate.
17 were injured including seven journalists. Medical sources identified some of the injured journalists as Fadi Al Arouri, a photojournalist, Najud al Qassem, a cameraman, Moheb Al Bargouthi, a reporter, and George Haltah, a cameraman.
Also among those injured was Eyad Burnat, of Bil’in popular committee, who told IMEMC “I was trying to protect one of the village youth who was attacked by the soldiers when soldiers attacked and beat me up.”
The parents of Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist who was killed by the Israeli army in Gaza five years ago, took part of the Bil’in protest. Her father, Mr Craig Corrie, praised the nonviolent resistance in Bil’in and called for more support for the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom.
Rachel Corrie was killed in 2003 in Rafah city, in the southern part of the Gaza strip when an army bulldozer ran over her while she was protecting a local family home from being demolished by the Israeli army.

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An inhumane system, or “how to learn to love fish and chips”

A report headlined in the Independent (27/3/2008) states the obvious: that Britain’s policy towards asylum seekers is “inhumane” and “oppressive”. It states that it “falls seriously below the standards to be expected of a humane and civilised society”.
The report talks about “a culture of disbelief” where the odds are stacked against genuine claimants at the outset, lumped in with those who may not have a right to stay.
The inhumanity referred to here doesn’t begin and end with the asylum system. It has become embedded in many other areas of our existence. The prison system it is well known is a place where those who are unwell end up, a place where self-harm and suicide have become endemic.
The rot starts in schools, however, where young children are oppressed by an over-zealous system which “tests to destruction”. Primary aged children end up with stress and depression. Not the sign of a healthy society.

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What sauce!

Sauce is not the word for Heinz behaviour following their theft of the company from Aston putting many loyal staff out of work. Now they have moved on as if Birmingham never existed. I am afraid, however, that this is the logic of the so-called global village made to sound so appealing in the pretext of progress.
What it means is that the multinationals have the power to pick and choose where they locate and who they employ cutting costs to their benefit. Where do people come into this. Sure there will be those suffering poverty who will be pleased to get a job. Poverty, then, is a tool to ensure companies like Heinz are able to maximise profits. Their shareholders and directors should be shamed.

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Good tidings at Easter

Some good news from the Independent. It’s Easter Day and the other Good News appears to have been banished from British television at least. No religion in the schedules apart from the Mozart Requiem and a programme on the history of choral music. The other headline on Good Friday was that I could go and place my bet at the bookies, and then on Saturday the storm about embryology where Gordon Brown plans to put a three line whip on the party to vote for merging human and animal cells. Catholic MPs are put on the spot as their leaders speak out in horror. Just in time I found two of J.S. Bach’s Cantatas for the second day of Easter, BWV6 and 66. The opening chorus, including a dialogue between fear (counter tenor) and hope (tenor), was particularly uplifting.
However the news I speak of is of a turbine emerging from the former shipyards of Belfast. It has a number of things to commend it. It speaks of power from tidal energy. Evidently, unknown to us – like the Nubia of ancient times never mentioned in the shadow of Egypt, a scientist has been experimenting with a turbine in the Nile in the Sudan. From the experiment in the river attempts were made to transfer the idea to harness tidal power.

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A death unites the community in Bethlehem

The death of a Palestinian leader, shot in an ambush by Israeli forces, brought together Muslim and Christian communities.
Many met together in the Church of the Nativity, held to be on the site of the birthplace of Jesus, to mourn the loss of a leader who carried both a Koranic text and a picture of Mary. mother of Jesus.
“Mohammed Shehadeh was one of four Palestinians shot in an Israeli undercover ambush here last week, killings that have fuelled support for Hizbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, among Christians and Muslims alike.
School principals, teachers and students from the Bethlehem School, the Catholic School and the Greek Orthodox School paraded to the mourning tent outside the church chanting and waving placards praising the Palestinian ‘martyr’.
‘People admired Shehadeh’s ability to stand up to the Israelis,’ said Sami Awad, Christian executive director of the Holy Land Trust, dedicated to promoting non-violent action against Israel’s occupation. ‘There’s a lot of admiration for the charisma that Nasrallah has and the way he speaks and presents his views in public.’ “
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Media coverage of Israel and Palestine

Jewish Voice for Peace sent the following concerning the way that the media and political leaders have treated news about Palestine and Palestinians in a completely different way to Israel and Israelis.
David Cromwell works with a British organization called Media Lens.
What is Media Lens? – Here is part of their self description.
“Media Lens is a response based on our conviction that mainstream newspapers and broadcasters provide a profoundly distorted picture of our world. We are convinced that the increasingly centralised, corporate nature of the media means that it acts as a de facto propaganda system for corporate and other establishment interests. The costs incurred as a result of this propaganda, in terms of human suffering and environmental degradation, are incalculable.”
Media Lens “recommend(s) Herman and Chomsky’s “propaganda model of media control” as a basis for understanding the manner in which truth is filtered from, rather than consciously obstructed by, the modern media system.
They quote historian Howard Zinn, who has written::
“Society has varying and conflicting interests; what is called objectivity is the disguise of one of these interests – that of neutrality. But neutrality is a fiction in an unneutral world. There are victims, there are executioners, and there are bystanders… and the ‘objectivity’ of the bystander calls for inaction while other heads fall.”
In the essay below, Cromwell contrasts English media attitude towards Palestinian victims of Israeli violence, with its attitude towards Israeli victims of Palestinian violence. Just like in the US, Israelis fair much better, both in newspapers coverage, and in BBC broadcasts.
Racheli Gai
David Cromwell: Israeli Deaths Matter More
March 12, 2008
The horrific shooting of eight young people at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem last Thursday was followed by saturation media coverage. International statesmen lined up with condemnations of the attack and condolences for the victims and their families.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced: “This is clearly an attempt to strike a blow at the very heart of the peace process.” (Jon Smith, Press Association, ‘Brown: massacre “strikes at heart of peace”‘, March 7, 2008)
Foreign Secretary David Miliband described the slaughter as “an arrow aimed at the heart of the peace process so recently revived.” (Donald Macintyre and Eric Silver, ‘Massacre in the heart of Jerusalem’, The Independent, March 7, 2008)
The Guardian’s front page declared: “the descent into violence in the Middle East accelerated last night” in a “dramatic escalation”. (Rory McCarthy, ‘Eight dead as gunman hits Jerusalem religious school’, The Guardian, March 7, 2008). A Daily Mirror headline read: ‘Kids Murdered In The Library’ (Allison Martin, March 7, 2008). The Telegraph asserted that the attack “is likely to be remembered as the moment the Middle East peace process died.” (Tim Butcher, ‘Hopes of peace in the Middle East are blown away in a hail of bullets’, Daily Telegraph, March 7, 2008)
The contrast to reactions to the killing of over 120 Palestinians, including many women and children, in occupied Gaza the previous week could hardly be more striking. On one day alone, 60 people died in a hail of Israeli firepower using F-16 planes, Apache helicopter gunships, tanks, armoured bulldozers and ground troops.
No Western leader was heard condemning the Israeli assault on Gaza as “an attempt to strike a blow at the very heart of the peace process.” To our knowledge, no reporter suggested that “the peace process” had now “died”. No headlines screamed of Palestinian babies “murdered” in their beds. In short, news reports from the Gazan bloodbath typically lacked the anguished details and tone that suffused the reporting from Jerusalem less than a week later.
Nor was there the same heightened pitch and intensity of news coverage following Israel’s deadly ‘incursion’ into Gaza in mid-January. 17 Palestinians were killed in one day, and around 50 injured, while President Bush was visiting the region. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said:
“Al-Jazeera, ‘Abbas: Israeli raid “a massacre” ‘, January 15, 2008; “Our people cannot keep silent over these massacres. These massacres cannot bring peace.”
But for the Western media the massacres that really matter, the ones which “strike a blow at the very heart of the peace process”, are those inflicted on Israelis.

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Tony Blair, our Saviour!

Not content with the long list of jobs and wide range of expertise already on offer, our Hero dons his Superman outfit to save the planet – and don’t we need it! He’s in charge of a brigade which is going to cut carbon emissions.
His government said it was going to do this, but if I remember rightly it didn’t quite turn out as it should have. Same with his appointment as peace envoy for the Middle East it was difficult to see how his CV fitted the job description when he had willfully overseen conflict resulting in untold death and misery. Indeed how did this fit in with his religious pretentions and resulting job as lecturer? Whatever it is you can sure it’s going to be lucrative for him. Volunteering’s not his game!

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More about the Qustul Incense Burner

In a teaching article about Nile Valley Civilisations the discovery by Chicago University’s School of Oriental Studies of an incense burner with its pharaonic image we discuss its significance. We believe it revives powerfully the view that Egypt civilisation was essentially of African origin at the start. Clearly its success brought in many others to make it a vibrant multicultural society, but to continue to put across the idea that Africa intervened only as late as the 25th Dynasty, as the National Geographic Magazine did in their February edition, is very far wide of the mark.
Further discussion on this artefact.
The reverse of the incense burner.

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