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The Peace News log

New book marks 20th anniversary of land-mark anti-arms trade action

ImagePress release
27 January 2016
Peace News [1]

Contact 07596 483 272 for more info or to arrange an interview with Andrea

WOMAN WHO DISARMED WARPLANE PUBLISHES MEMOIR
New book marks 20th anniversary of land-mark anti-arms trade action

7pm, 29 January 2016, Friends House, London: A woman who disarmed a warplane bound for genocide in South East Asia will be launching her newly published book about the action and subsequent trial at an event in Friends House, London this Friday, the 20th anniversary of the action itself [2].

Published by Peace News Press, Andrea Needham's book 'The Hammer Blow' [3], is an inside account of the Seeds of Hope East Timor Ploughshares action, in which four women used household hammers to disarm a Hawk warplane at a British Aerospace factory in Lancashire in 1996 [4].  The plane was about to be delivered to the Indonesian military, for use in their then-ongoing campaign of genocide against the people of occupied East Timor [5].

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An important perspective on last November's 'People's March for Climate, Justice and Jobs'

Pictures from 3 demos against UK airstrikes on Syria and further information and actions you can take.

2 December Syria Vote: die-in outside Parliament

All images © indyrikki

For here more images and a full report

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A die-in

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The Department for Energy and Climate Change was renamed the 'department for extreme climate change' as COP21, the UN climate negotiations, opened in Paris.

Christian climate action in LondonFive Christian climate protestors were arrested in Whitehall on 30 November for protesting against government hypocrisy on climate change, which they called a 'climate whitewash'. The five, from Christian Climate Action, were arrested for criminal damage after writing in whitewash and black paint on the wall of the DECC (department for energy and climate change). They said 'underneath the hypocritical whitewash of fine talk on climate, are DECC policies that lead to death.'

The five, acting on the first day of the Climate summit in Paris, arrived at the DECC wearing white paint suits with 'DECC' on them. They delivered a letter to Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, prayed and stood with a skeleton and a 'whitewashed tomb' outside, before whitewashing the wall, and painting in black letters, 'Dept for Extreme Climate Change' on the wall of the DECC. (Jesus, in Matthew 23:27, says: 'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.')

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After four years of legal struggle, the Metropolitan police finally concede that undercover relationships were an abuse of power and violated women's human rights

ImageStatement by the eight women:

In the apology issued today by assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt, the Metropolitan Police finally conceded that 'officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong' and that 'these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma'

AC Hewitt issued this public apology on behalf of the Metropolitan Police as part of the settlement of seven out of our eight claims arising from intimate relationships we were decieved into by undercover police officers Bob Lambert, John Dines, Mark Jenner, Jim Boyling (all Special Demonstration Squad officers) and Mark Kennedy (of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit), all of whom infiltrated environmental and social justice campaigns.

The apology is the result of our four-year legal battle to bring to public attention these state sponsored, deceptive relationships and to prevent future abuses. We have worked together on this painful and deeply personal legal case in order to expose the serious and systemic abuse of power by undercover police officers and their managers. Although no amount of 'sorry', or financial compensation, can make up for what we and others have endured, we are pleased the police have been forced to acknowledge the abusive nature of these relationships and that they should never happen.

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A tribute to Peace News's ground-breaking drama critic 

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Albert Hunt, critic, playwright and educator, and former staff member and drama critic of Peace News, was part of the wave of innovators that transformed the British theatrical scene in the 1960s and 1970s and pioneered an approach to adult education based on the active participation of students in games and creative improvisation.

Born in Burnley in 1928 to a working-class Pentecostal family, with a radical pacifist tradition, he was a conscientious objector to military service in the 1940s. When a nurse hesitatingly informed his mother at his birth that he had a deformed right hand with no fingers and only two stumps where his thumb and little finger should have been she responded: ‘Well at least he’ll never have to go to war.

Much of his theatrical and educational work reflected his enduring political concerns but also, crucially, his commitment to raising them in a way which was both entertaining and encouraging of open debate. Brecht provided the model, and, among contemporary playwrights, John Arden, a study of whose plays he published in 1974 (Arden: A Study of His Plays, Eyre Methuen).

After graduating from Oxford, he taught at a grammar school at Swaffham in Norfolk. I first met him at that time when he and others provided invaluable local support to those of us in the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War, campaigning against the construction of a US nuclear missile base in nearby North Pickenham. In 1960, he became adult tutor to Shropshire and in 1965 took up the post of head of Complementary Studies at Bradford Regional College of Art where he formed the Bradford College Theatre Group, which staged some of his best productions.

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A young Afghan peace activist sets out his hopes for the future.

Afghan peace activist Esmatullah

24 October 2015

Kabul - Tall, lanky, cheerful and confident, Esmatullah easily engages his young students at the Street Kids School, a project of Kabul’s “Afghan Peace Volunteers,” an anti-war community with a focus on service to the poor. Esmatullah teaches child laborers to read. He feels particularly motivated to teach at the Street Kids School because, as he puts it, “I was once one of these children.” Esmatullah began working to support his family when he was nine years old. Now, at age 18, he is catching up: he has reached the tenth grade, takes pride in having learned English well enough to teach a course in a local academy, and knows that his family appreciates his dedicated, hard work.

When Esmatullah was nine, the Taliban came to his house looking for his older brother. Esmatullah’s father wouldn’t divulge information they wanted. The Taliban then tortured his father by beating his feet so severely that he has never walked since. Esmatullah’s dad, now 48, had never learned to read or write; there are no jobs for him. For the past decade, Esmatullah has been the family’s main breadwinner, having begun to work, at age nine, in a mechanics workshop. He would attend school in the early morning hours, but at 11am, he would start his workday with the mechanics, continuing to work until nightfall. During winter months, he worked full time, earning 50 Afghanis each week, a sum he always gave his mother to buy bread.

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A father and son escape from the violence and chaos of Iraq and seek refuge in Europe.

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24 October 2015

When I can’t sleep at night I have the bad habit of listening to world news on the radio. This seems to be a family trait that I inherited from my father. The wave of refugees trying to find safety in European countries continues unabated. The numbers are staggering. As someone from the US, I am shamed by our lack of response and indifference, as well as our inability to acknowledge our responsibility in unleashing the chaos and violence in the Middle East through our war making.

My thoughts go to the recent perilous journey of a close Iraqi friend (I will call him Mohammed) and his son (whom I will call Omar). Already the survivor of an assassination attempt, this trusted translator, driver, guide and confidant received a death threat on his gate in early August. He fled under cover of the night, taking Omar with him. On that same day, 15 men were kidnapped in his village. He left a wife and six other children.

Having lived with this dear family, I too felt as if I were on the hazardous exhausting, 42-day journey with them.

From Baghdad they fled to Kurdistan. From Kurdistan they went to Turkey. Next, they boarded a boat from Turkey to a Greek island, just miles from the Turkish shore. From there they went to another Greek island, and finally to a third island. Much to their relief, they were at last able to get on a ferry to Athens.

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The G8 summit in 2005, praised for 'Making Poverty History', was a cynical sham. How can we prevent the Paris climate talks following the same path?

ImageThe climate negotiations in Paris in December are shaping up to be an orgy of self-congratulation for the great powers, as they trumpet pledges to reduce their carbon emissions. There's a real risk that an inadequate - and non-binding - deal will nevertheless be represented as ʻsolvingʼ the problem of climate change.

Thereʼs an ominous parallel here with the 'Make Poverty History' campaign 10 years ago. The mass media projected the impression that global poverty was on the way out, because of pledges made at a G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005. This picture of the G8 agreements was reinforced by some figures at the centre of the Make Poverty History campaign itself, and even more by British rock star Bob Geldof, who organised a series of 'Live 8' concerts in support of the campaign.

The Make Poverty History campaign officially demanded: the cancellation of the debt of the poorest 62 developing countries; the doubling of aid, with G8 countries committing 0.7% of national income; and trade justice between the North and the Global South.

Debt cancellation was the most successful area. As is well-known, the G8 cancelled the World Bank and IMF debts of 18 of the world's poorest countries (the number grew after the summit).

What is less-well-known is that the debt cancellation came with a neoliberal agenda. Only countries which completed the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative qualified for debt cancellation under the Gleneagles agreement.

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A long-time anti-war activist has been jailed for six weeks for refusing to pay his council tax on the grounds that the UK government is engaged in terrorism

ImageOn 7 October, Chris Coverdale of Rye, East Sussex, was imprisoned for 42 days by Hastings magistrate court, for refusing to pay over £1,800 in council tax to Rother district council.

According to the Hastings & St Leonards Observer, Chris said he believed it would be a criminal offence under the Terrorism Act 2000 to pay taxes for the government to use in illegal foreign warfare.

The background to the case is explained on the Campaign to Make Wars History website, in a July 2014 document which Chris used in trying to appeal against his conviction and sentencing. Chris writes:

The legal action that forms the basis for this case commenced in 2013 when I moved to Rye in Sussex and informed Rother District Council [RDC] that I would withhold payments of council tax until the illegal wars had ended, HM Forces had returned to their bases in the UK and criminal proceedings had begun against UK citizens responsible for war crimes. RDC then commenced proceedings against me and in October 2013 Justices at Hastings Magistrates Court granted a liability order ordering me to pay council tax.

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