Monthly Archives: April 2009

Deaths in Custody, a government response

Tuesday 28 April 2009
Custodydeaths – epetition response
We received a petition asking:
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ensure that the Government does more to address the issue of people dying in the custody or care of police, prison and mental health institutions.”
Details of Petition:
“The United Families & Friends Campaign challenges the Prime Minister to intervene in what we believe to be a lack of justice for families following a death in custody. What We Demand -Deaths must be investigated by a body that is genuinely independent of the police. -Prison & Mental Health deaths must be subject to a system of properly funded investigation independent of the Prison Service and Health Service. -Officers involved in custody deaths are suspended until investigations are completed. -Prosecutions should automatically follow ‘unlawful killing’ verdicts at inquests. -Police forces are made accountable to the communities that they serve. -Legal Aid and full disclosure of information be made to the relatives of the victims. -Officers and staff responsible for deaths should face criminal charges, even if retired. The following are statements from affected families: “The struggle for justice for all the others that have died at the hands of the state, goes on. We ask people to support us. “It is not in the public interest for the victims of deaths in custody to be denied justice”.
· Read the petition
· Petitions homepage
Read the Government’s response

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Ortega briefs Castro personally on the Port-of-Spain summit.

Daniel Ortego, President of Nicaragua, spent four hours with Fidel Castro following the summit of Latin American countries held in Trinidad this month. This was addressed by Barack Obama.
An article in Granma reveals Castro’s reflections on that summit. He says that what came out as a definitive report had not even been read by Obama, with the U.S. President trying to act as if history did not exist.

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While Cheney is still claiming torture was beneficial to the U.S. the story from Iraq thinks differently

Dick Cheney has criticised Obama for not publishing what he claims were the beneficial outcomes of the use of torture. A report from those on the ground in Iraq – U.S. personnel – gives a rather different point of view.
The key point that it has always been very clear to most of us that so-called Islamic fundamentalists have not the ones who have successfully recruited support. Aggressive policies, including the use of torture in Abu Ghraib and Guatanamo Bay have. So Dick Cheney count yourself number one recruiter of terrorists
The problem remains with day-to-day community relations as Islam continues to be blamed by media and conventional wisdom expressed in pubs and websites. I have news that the “Islamic extremists” are mere babes, beginners when it comes to fundamentalism. The Christian right and supporters of Christian Zionism leave them standing when it comes to outrageous – and exceedingly dangerous – doctrine. Cheney and Bush were greatly influenced. Not surprising because we knew where they stood. What was rather more unexpected was that a UK leader of what was once the Labour Party became “all faithed up” to quote Steve Bell and adopted their ideas so enthusiastically.

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Old King Coal looks to be merry again

There are huge contradictions in making the planet sustainable. Dire warnings and predictions face huge inaction as unrealistic targets fail time after time. As far as energy is concerned in the UK renewable forms are in their infancy. At last the Severn looks as if it will become a source of harnessing the tidal flow.
As far as the Severn is concerned there is a debate about barrages which will stretch across the full width of the estuary and turbines more discreetly located on the river bank. The latter it is claimed will have much less effect on the environment and the rich wildlife in that area.
In Germany whole towns can be seen with solar panels, but in the UK they are a rare sight still. Why?

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The New Jewish Lobby in the U.S.

The Washington Post reports on the J Street neo-liberal Jewish lobby which has been quite aggressive in getting support in U.S. government circles. It is interesting to see what it stands for in the light of the new Israeli administration.
They claim to stand for peace and diplomacy, and are highly critical of Israeli government policy. They believe in a two state solution for Israel and Palestine and they are particularly concerned about a failure to recognise what Liebermann stands for.
Since their viiews appear to coincide more with Obama’s stance than that of Israel the question is will they have any influence on U.S. policy towards Israel and Palestine in particular and the Middle East in general?

U.S. interest in the “backyard”

Hillary Clinton called on on Haiti on the way to revive interest in the southern hemisphere of America which deeply resents U.S. domination. Like neighbouring Cuba the island was battered by successive hurricanes last year which wiped out crops. Schools are private and so if parents can’t pay fees children get no education.
Cuba on the other hand, although poor – and kept so by 50 years of U.S. imposed sanctions – provides universal education and health care. The system trains so many as doctors and teachers that Cubans can be found helping countries throughout Latin America and further afield. When Mew Orleans was devastated Cuba offered aid but the thought was too much for President George W. Bush and it was declined.
Now Obama is speaking about equality through Latin America and has offered a thaw in relations with Cuba. Cuba on their part have said yes they are willing to talk about anything, but not of there are pre-conditions. Although Obama talks about equality clearly the U.S. agenda still maintains its concern about “freedom” and seems to want to dictate what kind of regime governs the country. In the past Cuba was a playground for the rich and the poor certainly did not have access to the care provision that the government has organised in spite of huge difficulties. People’s lives are a high priority here and civil defence arrangements ensured a minimum loss of life in the event of storms which stayed low even compared with the United States. The wealthy free-market countries are loathe to recognise this and give credit. Who knows they might have something valuable to learn.

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Fidel notices something is happening in the U.S.

Fidel Castro has noted that there have been steps taken towards relations with Cuba. what is interesting is that they lead him into his series of “reflections” giving him the opportunity to put it into a personal context. This to me is both fascinating and revealing.
The writings includes comments on incidents relating to himself. He talks about an accident in Santa Clara in 2006 and then falling gravely ill. However the reflections are pin sharp comments on what is going on linked back to significant historical events with a personal gloss.
Granma also pays close attention to what is happening in Latin America. Here I learned about Morales going on hunger strike in Bolivia in order to draw aention to opponents in parliament trying to block crucial reforms to the constitution and upcoming elections.

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Bolivian struggles to maintain democracy as Morales declares hunger strike

An article in the Cuban press, Granma, under the heading Reflections of Fidel, has pointed to the ongoing struggles in Bolivia. As was the case in Venezuela, the Bolivian media is still controlled by forces opposing the government of Evo Morales and their representatives in parliament are blocking continuing reforms and it seems elections due later this year. Morales has gone on hunger strike in protest at their actions.
Bolivia has introduced health care for all its people in a very short space of time and moved to put an end to illiteracy for the many indigenous people who have suffered centuries of oppression under colonial rule.

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Obama wins his military stripes

In an adventure which will enter history as legend the US navy secured the release of a naval captain held hostage after his vessel was seized by pirates off the Somali coast. Who will get the credit. Certainly the captain who offered himself as hostage to save his ship, and the marksman who picked off the pirates in the cramped lifeboat, one of whom was pointing his rifle directly at the captain’s back. It is Obama who will benefit most, however, since although it was a minor operation compared to Iraq and Afghanistan the White House staff have made it clear that it was the President’s clear commands following many briefings that contributed to success.
Such incidents show the fragile and complex nature of presidential fortune since has the operation turned sour Obama would have faced headlines as Clinton did when an invasion of Haiti went wrong, and Carter after a rescue mission in the desert ended catastrophically. Earlier this month a French operation ended by killing one of the hostages as a small yacht seized by pirates was reclaimed.

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