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"Peace News has compiled an exemplary record... its tasks have never been more critically important than they are today." Noam Chomsky

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Hungry planet

The number of hungry people on the planet has reached 1billion, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Since 2004, the proportion of people in the global south who are undernourished has risen from 15% to nearly 20%, because of inflation: in 47 developing countries, basic food prices are up 19% since 2007.
The world’s rich countries have cut their donations to the World Food Programme (WFP). The Observer states global food aid is now at its lowest in 20 years.

Topics: Food

Iraqi/Afghan abuse

A former British military police officer told BBC Radio 5 on 11 October: “there were incidents running into the hundreds involving death and serious injury to Iraqis where the chain of command of the army had decided that the circumstances did not warrant a royal military police [RMP] investigation.”
The anonymous veteran said it was not a case of rotten apples: “we’ve got a rotten barrel.” Separately, three high court judges in Britain concluded that one of the RMP’s most senior figures, deputy provost marshal colonel Dudley Giles, was “a most unsatisfactory witness”.
The high court ruled that Giles “lacked reliability” when he gave evidence to an inquiry into claims that UK soldiers mistreated and murdered prisoners.
A test case involving Afghan detainees has been taken to the high court by Maya Evans of JNV, with Public Interest Lawyers.

Topics: Iraq

Gandhi sells

Luxury penmaker Montblanc has developed a Gandhi-themed rhodium-plated fountain pen, entwined with a gold wire to “evoke the roughly-wound yarn on the spindle with which Gandhi spun every day for half an hour, regardless of where he was or whom he was talking to”.
There will only be 241 pens made (each with an engraving of Gandhi), to mark the 241 miles on the Indian pacifist’s famous salt march of 1930. Each Gandhi pen costs only £16,000 (and of course makes a donation to charity.)

Nepal tensions

The Nepali peace process is now under enormous pressure as the government seeks the renegotiation of the 2006 peace accord (to disadvantage the Maoist former guerrillas), and the Maoists block the passing of the national budget in a tangled civilian-military dispute.
Defence minister Bidhya Devi Bhandari said on 22 October that the comprehensive peace accord (CPA) must be reviewed “no matter what anyone says”.
She claimed that the CPA might have damaged the Nepali army’s efficiency, and she called for the recruitment of 5,000 new soldiers, in contravention of the CPA.
Karin Landgren, head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), said that the defence minister’s statements were “provocative” and could jeopardise the ongoing peace negotiations.
The Maoists, for their part, are blocking the passing of the budget until they get a debate in parliament on the conduct of the president, Dr Ram Baran Yadav, in over-ruling the previous Maoist-led administration. (See PN 2510.)
Since mid-October, the start of the Nepali month of Kartik, the government has been unable to pay salaries to ministers, security forces or other employees.
At the time of going to press, the Maoists were threatening to begin street protests on 2 November.

Topics: Nepal

Western Sahara

On 21 October, Aminatou Haidar, 42, known as the “Sahrawi Gandhi”, won the Civil Courage Prize, awarded to individuals who have demonstrated steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk.
“This prize gives me the courage to pursue the nonviolent struggle that I have been leading since I was 23,” Haidar said after receiving the award in New York from The Train Foundation along with a cheque for $50,000.
Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.
To mark the anniversary of the international court of justice’s ruling on Western Sahara’s right to self-determination, a Sahrawi Olympic athlete, Sahal Hmatou Amaidane, 26, ran around Parliament Square, Westminster, 34 times on 13 October: once for each year that the ruling has been ignored by Morocco.
Amaidane then went on to win the Wimbledon Audi 10km road race on 18 October. He said: “I came to the UK to support the charity Sandblast and their efforts to campaign for the annual Saharamarathon in the camps [next staged in February 2010]. It gives British the chance to see how my people have to live”.
On 20 October, campaigners vigilled at Camden Lock, London, calling for the immediate release of seven prominent Sahrawi human rights activists arrested in Casablanca, Morocco, and now possibly facing death sentences.

Topics: Western Sahara

No Afghan war

There is no war in Afghanistan, ruled three judges of the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal on 21 October. Hundreds of Afghans living in Britain may therefore be deported back to southern parts of their homeland, because the level of “indiscriminate violence” is not high enough.

Topics: Afghanistan

No Iraqi returns

The first attempt to forcibly return asylum seekers to central and southern Iraq ended in embarrassment for the British government, as 34 of the 44 Iraqis remained on the plane in Baghdad and flew back to Britain.
After protests from the Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq, Air Italy confirmed that it would no longer “operate air transport with asylum seekers or refugees”.

Topics: Iraq

No Kurds gassed

Contrary to popular belief, the British RAF did not drop chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds in the 1920s, according to US historian Ray Douglas of Colgate University, New York.
While Winston Churchill, then war secretary, urged the use of the weapons on rebel Kurds, the nearest supply was in Egypt.
An official at the air ministry wrongly wrote in 1921 that tear gas shells were used in Iraq to “excellent moral effect”; however army general HQ in Baghdad said that no shells were used either by artillery or by plane.

Topics: Iraq

Parish direct action

Parish councillor Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury, 67, knowingly broke the law early in October. She organised a team of volunteers to weed her village of Sonning Common, despite advice from Oxford county council that acting without a “street operative licence” or “health and safety liability insurance” meant they were breaking the law. After Council budget cuts, weeds were growing “like mini hedges”. The council later retracted its advice.
Meanwhile, parish councillors Edmund Done, 67, and Michael Curtis, 72, are being prosecuted for their own nonviolent direct action in Hagworthingham, in Lincolnshire.
A faulty burglar alarm at an empty cottage was ringing at all hours, and had kept residents awake for months. All attempts to trace the owner of the cottage had failed, and the police and the council refused to take action, so Done and Curtis cut the wires of the alarm, to the applause of villagers.
A pre-trial review is set for 6 November.

Copwatch

Sergeant Delroy Smellie of the territorial support group, Metropolitan police, is to be charged with assault for striking Nicola Fisher during the G20 protests in London on 2 April.
A video posted on YouTube shows Smellie hitting the activist in the face with his gloved hand, and on the leg with a baton.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission has received 282 complaints against the police relating to the G20 protests; 135 concerned the use of force.
Overall complaints against police officers in England and Wales hit a record 31,259 in the financial year 2008-9. 46 police officers were found to have committed perjury, 11 committed “corrupt practice” and six were guilty of sexual assaults.
In Lincolnshire, police are investigating the theft of £1,700 from an unlocked cupboard… in the force’s headquarters in Nettleham, between July and September 2008. Everyone in the building is still a potential suspect.
Back in London, the Met has confirmed that it holds on a computer database at least 1,500 photographs of protesters on a computer database, many of whom have not been convicted of a crime. Scotland Yard told the Financial Times on 17 October that the photos were a mix of people found guilty of offences and those who, “according to intelligence”, help organise or manage “the commission of criminal offences in a public order environment”.
The Met also told the FT that it had cut the photo database by 40% after it was forced by the court of appeal to delete images of Andrew Wood, an anti-arms trade campaigner. (See PN 2510.)
Armed police officers have been on routine foot patrol on British streets for the first time. Armed with Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine guns and Glock semi-automatic pistols, the special armed unit has patrolled on foot, motorcycle and in cars in gun crime hot spots since June.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Black Police Association is continuing its boycott of the force, after condemning as too weak the interim findings of an inquiry into race and faith issues in the Met.
The association will continue to urge black and Asian people not to join the Met because it is too likely to “persecute” them for their race or faith.
A Sikh police officer was awarded £10,000 damages on 2 October after being ordered to remove his turban to carry out riot training with the Greater Manchester police.

Topics: Police

And finally....

In Hungary, the town of Budaörs was left without police protection on 13 October when the entire police force resigned immediately after their syndicate won the national lottery. The 12 officers shared HUF 2.18bn (about £10m).

Topics: Police

4 Degrees Celsius "plausible"

At the end of September, Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, described a temperature rise of 4oC as “an extreme scenario”, but also “a plausible scenario” within people’s lifetimes. He added: “the most severe scenario is looking more plausible”.
According to scientists, a 4oC rise over pre-industrial levels could threaten the water supply of half the world’s population, wipe out up to half of animal and plant species, and swamp low coasts.

Two wins. One deal?

Power company E.ON announced on 7 October that it would not go ahead with its planned coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent (for at least two years). It became clear on 11 October that airports operator BAA will not submit a planning application for a third runway at Heathrow airport before the next general election, will not sign binding third runway-related contracts before then, and will not fight for the additional runway if the Tories form the next administration.
The Conservatives have staked their green credentials on halting airport expansion at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted. (But not the Thames.)
Kingsnorth and Heathrow: two big wins for climate activists. Interestingly, the BAA climbdown was followed two days later by news that the government was retreating on its plans for a “special administration regime” to enforce rigorous financial controls on BAA.

Topics: Climate Change

Two wins. One deal?

Power company E.ON announced on 7 October that it would not go ahead with its planned coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent (for at least two years). It became clear on 11 October that airports operator BAA will not submit a planning application for a third runway at Heathrow airport before the next general election, will not sign binding third runway-related contracts before then, and will not fight for the additional runway if the Tories form the next administration.
The Conservatives have staked their green credentials on halting airport expansion at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted. (But not the Thames.)
Kingsnorth and Heathrow: two big wins for climate activists. Interestingly, the BAA climbdown was followed two days later by news that the government was retreating on its plans for a “special administration regime” to enforce rigorous financial controls on BAA.

Topics: Climate Change

Poor climate

The Fairtrade drinks producer Cafédirect reported on 9 October that the incomes of small-scale tea and coffee farmers could fall by up to 90% in the next 15 years.
Farmers are being forced to move uphill an average of three to four metres every year – in Kenya, Mexico, Peru and Nicaragua – to escape pestilence and disease caused by rises in temperature.
At the end of September, a report for the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank predicted that, by 2050, climate change will cause 25 million more children to go hungry because of food shortages and rising prices.
Wheat yields in developing countries could decline by over 30% and prices rise by 170%.

Topics: Global South

EDM 2057

Please ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 2057 (from Colin Challen MP) on climate change. It asks for “substantial emissions reductions of 10% by the end of 2010”; domestic flights and unabated coal “to be phased out by the end of 2010”; “at least two hours of prime time TV per week” to be used to explain the gravity of the crisis to the public; and the creation of a million green jobs by the end of 2010.

Topics: Climate Change