News in brief

Pennies from heaven

New Internationalist magazine has not sold out, it’s sold itself to its readers, raising £704,000 in a month-long fundraising campaign.

On 7 April, the day after the community share offer closed, NI co-director Helen Wallis wrote: ‘this email finds us audience-owned, fully capitalized and in a position to put our ambitious plans into action’.

The magazine, which had only hoped to raise £500,000, will now be owned by 3,400 investors who bought shares over the month-long fundraising campaign.

Nepal process

The Nepali peace process, which PN has been tracking for a number of years, took a big step forward in mid-May when the country held local elections for the first time in 20 years.

At the time of going to press, almost all mayoral election results had been declared in the three provinces being contested.

The Communist Party of Nepal (UML) and the Nepali Congress party split 80 percent of the posts between them. The Maoist Centre party was a distant third. Turnout was said to be 70 percent.

The next round of local elections, in June, will be held in the other four provinces.

April and May marked the second anniversary of the devastating earthquakes that killed 9,000 people and destroyed nearly a million buildings.

Out of the 525,000 private homes that the national reconstruction authority has agreed to rebuild, just over 22,000 have been completed.

Foreign governments pledged $4bn in aid after the earthquakes. Nepal collected $2.6 billion.

About $250 million has been handed out so far to the half million homeless families.

Commentators blame party infighting, bureaucracy, corruption, the parties’ decision to focus on constitution-making rather than rebuilding, and the four-month Indian blockade at the end of 2015.

Western Sahara

On 18 May, cargo ship Ultra Innovation was stopped going through the Panama canal while carrying 55,000 tonnes of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara to Canada.

A few days earlier, the NM Cherry Blossom, carrying 50,000 tonnes of Sahrawi phosphate to New Zealand, was halted in South Africa by a local court.
These were (perhaps temporary) legal victories for Western Sahara’s national liberation movement.

Polisario argued in court that the exports were unlawful as Morocco has illegally occupied the territory of Western Sahara since 1975, and, according to international law, such resources cannot be extracted without the consent of the people being occupied.

Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) commented: ‘The question for the South African court, then, is who owns the cargo on board.

‘Morocco has alleged that it has the right to export the non-renewable minerals from the Bou Craa mine, despite no state in the world, nor the United Nations, recognis[ing] the Moroccan claims to the land.’

According to WSRW, New Zealand importers Ballance Agri-Nutrients ‘never answered questions as to whether they had obtained permission from the owners of the phosphate rock to import’.


On 7 April, scores of Palestinian and Israeli activists held a ‘Stop Annexing the Jordan Valley’ Freedom March organised by Combatants for Peace (CfP).

In the Jordan Valley, the Israeli government conducts live firing near Palestinian homes, deprives Palestinian farmers of water, restricts Palestinian sheep-herding, and demolishes Palestinian homes, while giving full support to illegal Israeli settlements.

The Freedom March went from a settler-only road to the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Farming project at Jericho where there were speeches from Israeli and Palestinian organisers.

CfP holds nonviolent Freedom Marches on the first Friday of every month to protest at Israeli occupation of the West Bank.


On 19 May, 200 Palestinian and 200 Israeli women held ‘Grassroots Peace Negotiations’ in downtown Tel Aviv, Israel. The talks, organised by the Leon Charney Resolution Centre, aimed to formulate solutions to the conflict.

There have been dozens of such grassroots Palestinian-Israeli peace conferences over the years, many organised by ‘Minds for Peace’. The Israeli group held an Israeli-Palestinian ‘Congress of the People’, with perhaps 2,000 people, in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, on 17 March.

The 19 May event was the first women’s grassroots peace congress.


On 27 March, two 19-year-old Israeli women, Tamar Zeevi and Tamar Alon, reported to Tel Hashomer army base and once again refused compulsory military service – because of their opposition to Israel’s actions in the West Bank.

By this point, both women had served five prison sentences and spent over 110 days in prison for refusing military service.
This time, Zeevi was given conscientious objector (CO) status and released, while Alon was sent back to jail.

Mesarvot, an organisation of feminist army refusers, said it was the first time in 15 years that the army had recognised an ‘occupation-refuser’ as a CO.


The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign is sending a new legal opinion on the British government’s antisemitism definition to every public body in the UK.

According to British human rights lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC, it would be illegal to cancel an event on the grounds that it criticises Israel.

In his view, the government’s own definition of antisemitism would require evidence that the event involved ‘hatred of Jews’. and

Dollar a day

On 4 May, six immigrants detained in a US prison ended a six-day hunger strike after authorities granted their demands at the Northern Oregon regional corrections facility in Wasco county, Oregon, USA.

The action was inspired by waves of hunger strikes since 10 April by immigrants in the North-West detention centre (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington state.

The NWDC is the largest immigrant detention centre on the US West Coast, housing over 1,500 immigrants awaiting deportation.

The prisoners’ demands include lower prices for goods sold in the prison, increased recreation time, better medical attention and an increase from the $1-a-day wages for working detainees.

Bucking the trend

On 27 April, US radical website AlterNet listed ‘The Top 10 Resistance Victories in Trump’s First 100 Days’ (written by John Cavanagh, Sarah Anderson and Domenica Ghanem).

Among other things, AlterNet pointed out that the massive Women’s March in January ‘changed everything’.

Newly-elected Democratic Congress member Jamie Raskin told them: ‘When we first got sworn in on 3 January, a lot of the Democrats were saying that we had to give Trump’s agenda a chance and confessed to being nervous about taking him on directly. After the inauguration and the Women’s March, everyone was singing a completely different tune.’

More bang for a buck

On 15 May, an escort vehicle with a nuclear convoy broke down near Bicester, holding up a convoy taking warheads from the nuclear bomb factory in Burghfield, Berkshire, to Coulport in Scotland.

More nuclear weapons were moved across England and Scotland in 2016 than in previous years, according to Nukewatch, who monitor nuclear warhead convoys.
The number of convoys was similar, but twice as many were carrying nuclear weapons, Nukewatch estimates.

Nukewatch believes convoys in the first half of 2016 transported the more accurate and destructive upgrade of the Trident Mark 4A warhead, to be loaded onto HMSVengeance.