Monthly Archives: August 2008

“Hurricane deaths are rare in Cuba, where evacuations are well organised and begin early.”

The quote “Hurricane deaths are rare in Cuba, where evacuations are well organised and begin early.” is a throw-away comment within the report (Observer 31/8/2008) about the progress of Hurricane Gustave, now rampaging across the Gulf of Mexico and threatening New Orleans three years after Katrina devastated large areas. Katrina was grade 3 while Gustave looks like grade 4 at the moment. It hit Cuba’s western edge destroying banana crops. This is also a tobacco growing area.
The mayor of New Orleans has advised the population to “move their butts” out of the area in anticipation of extensive damage where levee repairs and reinforcements remain incomplete.

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“Twitters of protest”

Noam Chomsky has criticised the U.K. for failure to speak out about “shameful acts” against U.S. detainees. The “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K. had given the U.K a great opportunity to make it clear that the treatment of prisoners such as those at Guantanamo Bay is a disgrace and not to be tolerated. All Chomsky has heard are “twitters of protest”.
The craven following of U.S. acts in its hegemonic policies across the globe continues with support for Georgia against Russia. The suspicion that this has been set up by the U.S. is confirmed by statements from Vladimir Putin.

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The dead hand of Ofsted moves on pre-school

The fetish with recording even young children’s academic achievements advances into pre-school years. Ofsted complain that fewer child minders are being rated as “good”.
One of this group says that last year she had a high rating, but this year it had dropped to satisfactory. Why? Evidently it was a matter of a failure to supply adequate paperwork now being added to the tasks of child minders as has already happened in schools. So it is not the child care which is being looked at, but the ability to tick boxes. The carer concerned said that it was unlikely she would be taking more children next year.
We can agree that the wellbeing and safety of children is paramount, and that the standard of that care is high. However the bureaucratic impositions that have done such damage in so many institutions can easily become counterproductive.

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Mandelson at large

Peter Mandelson was sent into exile in Europe following his inability to stay out of trouble in UK, this in spite of his closeness to then PM Tony Blair. Several attempts were made to reinstate him but reports of his personal property dealing and fiddles put paid to him. We all sighed with relief.
However an article by George Monbiot in today’s Guardian (26/8/2008) shows how he is dealing with trade. In particular fish stocks of poor nations are being plundered because European nations have not managed their own supplies. Demand far over reaches supply. Monbiot compares this to food famines caused by British colonial rule in India in the late nineteenth century when millions died after food stocks were plundered. The rulers, like Mandelson, themselves lived in comfort and style.

The British Camp at Malvern

Decided to take the train today parking at the my favourite station with free park and ride. The train to Malvern Link went direct. I wasn’t sure of the local bus services since the information seems quite sketchy on the web. Eventually a bus came along which took me through Great Malvern right up to the British Camp. Here I followed in the footsteps of the British chief Caractacus and composer Edward Elgar.
I took the high road which is quite a steep climb. It was still quite cloudy but the sun appeared through to make it quite warm, except up on top by the Hereford Beacon where it can only be described as “bracing”. As you can see from the panorama there are wonderful views of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and the Malverns themselves. The Iron Age fort is still clearly visible forming deep trenches around the hillside.
Years ago when my son was little the silence was broken by jet aircraft which could be seen approaching the hills below summit level before shooting upwards. They were said to be testing radar defences for low flying planes. Today there was just one helicopter droning above constantly and annoyingly just as police helicopters do back in Handsworth. Apart from this the scenery, the heather, small orange butterflies make it a joy to be out. It is evidently the same for others as they raise a greeting as we pass.
I then realise my train pass expired a few days back, although neither I nor my friend in the ticket office at the Hawthorns had noticed. This was quickly rectified at Great Malvern Station. The London Midland Service was to New Street with clearly impressive brand new stock. However we were told that everyone would have to change trains in an unscheduled stop at Worcester Shrub Hill. I changed at the previous Worcester Foregate Street. The Snow Hill trains are relative old and decrepid. Anyway we started promptly only to stop again just outside the station. It was announced that due to a broken down train in Shrub Hill there would be a delay – this was the train I had just left presumably. Finally we trundled into Shrub Hill where the train reverses direction. Out of Shrub Hill we stop again. Finally we progress through Kidderminster to Stourbridge Junction. “Due to the late running of this train” it wasannounced “the next stop will be Snow Hill, passengers for …The Hawthorns must change here”.

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Peace it Together

I received this e-mail from Jonathan Tyrrell today which I’d like to share:
i thought you might like to read about a project i’ve been working on:
and the visit the web site of one of the participants:
see you in a couple of weeks!

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Advancing World War III

The Stop the War Coalition is stepping up it’s activities in the wake of war in Georgia. David Miliband, who wants to be our next leader very badly, is pushing even harder for Georgia to be accepted into NATO. Stop the War points out that had Georgia already been a member then other NATO members would have been obliged to support Georgia. So we’re now looking down the barrel of a gun again. WELL DONE DAVID!!!
We can’t take comfort in a General Election sorting matters out, given that David Cameron has also waded into Georgia with an identical agenda. Al this in pursuit of the U.S. Neo Cons who push the idea of Armageddon, Christian Zionism and far right extremism which would be hard to match by any Muslim cleric.
The Stop the War current mailing is reproduced here because the irresponsibility and “hypocrisy” of our leading politicians is staggering:

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Hey Liam, terrorists do eat fish and chips!

Politicians and media who play with our sensibilities are floored by the report in todays Guardian (21/08/2008) from MI5. It points out that there is no rule of thumb, but those who have been detained so far are not so likely to be foreign nationals or religious fundamentalists as people brought up in the U.K.
Liam Byrne, MP for Hodge Hill in Birmingham, has banged on about the need to instil “British values” in all of us (I tell you I failed the test which foreigners must take if they want to settle here!) When asked what those values were he fumbled around and came out with “cups of tea” and “fish and chips”.
The problem is that together media hype and political expediency has done untold damage to community relations by playing up widely held suppositions at home and abroad. But if you’re going to attack communities containing Muslims abroad then you’re going to have to try to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes at home.

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Pauline Campbell’s Will

I have received a message that Pauline Campbell’s will has disappeared and her wishes to benefit charity are being ignored. Her legacy deserves better than that.
The news of Pauline’s death came as a shock to her friends and many who didn’t know her but were affected by her dedicated work. Pauline was fearless and at each demonstration would request that women arriving at the prison in a van should be taken to a place of safety. The police response was violent and she and her supporters were thrown to the ground on more than one occasion.
Her actions were followed by court appearances. Not only were they costly, they proved to be of no value, a complete waste of time. Pauline was honoured and took part in a number of broadcasts, in fact she was the regular speaker every time the subject of deaths in prison came up. She was invited as a speaker at a international conference on penal abolition.

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Brown or Miliband or Cameron? No thanks

We hear that Miliband won’t change the fortunes of New Labour, but then people have twigged that it’s a band of people stuck in a groove, not any one individual. So Cameron to the rescue? Not after his intervention in Georgia when he demonstrated his foreign policy credentials. We’re on a hiding to nothing.
NATO meets today to discuss the “crisis”. The assumption is it’s all of Russia’s making and Miliband is on his way to say so.. George Monbiot in the Guardian (19/8/2008) sums up the problem when he asks what America’s global defence system has to do with the price of eggs. Georgia has been persuades it wants to join NATO. Poland, the Czech Republic and other neighbouring states are being lined up as missile sites. Russia has made the point that those countries housing the U.S. missile defence system will be targets for their nuclear missiles. That includes the U.K. Monbiot points out that the trouble spots are supposed to be Iran and North Korea, so how will the defence system address that?
So well done everyone, we’ve succeeded in recreating the cold war. We fell for U.S. nonsense in supporting them in Iraq, we follow the rhetoric into Iran. Now we’re swallowing this one hook, line and sinker.

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