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Yes we can

We can cancel Trident replacement without massive job losses. Defence Diversification, a report published by the Nuclear Education Trust in June, sums up lessons in conversion from Estonia, Germany, Italy, South Africa and the US.

One lesson is that ‘workers and communities must take the lead in making decisions’, as part of ‘a broad partnership’ including every interest that’s involved.

Also: it’s better to have a five-year plan for diversification and to take action early to support communities going through the process, rather than wait and react to a crisis.

www.nucleareducationtrust.org

Topics: Nuclear Weapons

Yes we should

On 7 July, the synod of the Church of England decided (by 260 to 26) to call on the British government to ‘respond positively’ to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

There was an attempt to strengthen the wording to ask the government to actually sign the treaty, but that amendment was lost.

The motion asks the government to explain its strategy for meeting its obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: ‘to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament’.

Topics: Nuclear Weapons

Oh no, they can

In mid-July, the planned replacement for Britain’s armed Reaper drones, the Protector, made the first crossing of the Atlantic by a medium-altitude, long endurance remotely-piloted aircraft. (The first drone to cross the Atlantic, in 1998, was on auto-pilot.)

The Protector (aka MQ−9B SkyGuardian) will be able to fly further and carry more weapons than the Reaper. It has a wingspan of 79 feet, and is due to enter service in the UK in the 2020s.

The drone took off from, and was controlled throughout from, a US base in North Dakota. The 4,000-mile flight took 24 hours.

Topics: Drones

Oh no, they can’t

On 6 June, the UK court of appeal ruled that the investment policies of local authority pension funds must not be ‘contrary to UK foreign policy or UK defence policy’.

This overturned a landmark high court ruling last year which said that the government had been wrong to issue ‘guidance’ on local authority pension strategies which contained those words. (PN 2608 – 2609)

The guidance also told local authorities they should not ‘pursue boycotts, divestment and sanctions against foreign nations and UK defence industries’ unless that was already national policy.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is raising £100,000 to continue the legal fight.

Topics: Arms trade

Ireland divests

On 12 July, Ireland became the first country to commit itself to completely divesting from fossil fuels. The country’s €8bn sovereign wealth fund will sell €300m of investments in 150 oil, gas and coal companies within the next five years.

Fossil fuel companies are defined as ones that have 20 percent or more of their revenues from exploring for, extracting or refining fossil fuels.

In June, climate group 350.org noticed that oil and gas company Shell had recognised ‘divestment and climate litigation as material risks to the company’s bottom line’ in its 2017 annual report, published in March.

Trump unites

On 13 July, an estimated 250,000 protesters filled the streets of central London on a Friday afternon in the ‘Together Against Trump’ protest against the visit to the UK of US president Donald Trump.

Earlier, thousands joined a ‘Bring the Noise’ march organised by the Women’s March London coalition, supported by a range of NGOs.

The Climate Coalition against Trump dropped a 100-metre banner, ‘Trump: Climate Genocide’, at the side of the river Thames.

The ‘Together Against Trump’ coalition brought together ‘Stop Trump’ and ‘Stand Up to Trump’, who originally planned separate anti-Trump marches.

Topics: Activism

A near thing

In June, protesters in County Durham prevented construction of an access road to a planned opencast coal mine near Dipton. The Campaign to Protect Pont Valley argued that this meant the Bradley mine could not go ahead. The council said the access road was not a condition of planning permission, but a separate agreement.

Despite huge efforts, including lock-on blockades in Newcastle and Bradley, campaigners did not succeed in preventing contractor Banks Mining from breaking ground at the mine by the deadline of 3 June, which was definitely a necessary condition for planning permission. Banks claimed ground was broken on 1 June.

Topics: Climate Change | Green

A near thing

In June, protesters in County Durham prevented construction of an access road to a planned opencast coal mine near Dipton. The Campaign to Protect Pont Valley argued that this meant the Bradley mine could not go ahead. The council said the access road was not a condition of planning permission, but a separate agreement.

Despite huge efforts, including lock-on blockades in Newcastle and Bradley, campaigners did not succeed in preventing contractor Banks Mining from breaking ground at the mine by the deadline of 3 June, which was definitely a necessary condition for planning permission. Banks claimed ground was broken on 1 June.

Topics: Climate Change | Green

Dear things

On 17 May, three of the Kings Bay Ploughshares Seven were released on bail at a court hearing. Martha Hennessy, Carmen Trotta, and Patrick O’Neill posted a $50,000 bond (with either $1,000 or $5,000 paid in cash), surrendered their passports and are now wearing ankle monitors under house arrest.

Liz McAlister, Clare Grady, and Mark Colville refused the conditions and stayed in Glynn county jail. Steve Kelly wasn’t given the choice because of a pending case.

The seven entered a US Trident nuclear weapons base in Georgia on 4 April to carry out symbolic disarmament. (PN 2618 – 2619) No trial date has been set yet.

Yemen

The war in Yemen is poised to tip over into complete disaster if Saudi-led and British-supported coalition forces continue their push to invade and occupy the crucial Yemeni port of Hodeidah.

At the time of writing, there is an official ‘pause’ in this offensive as the UN tries peace negotiations. Even so, coalition artillery fire and airstrikes continue. Over 120,000 out of 600,000 residents have fled the city since the Saudi-led assault began on 13 June.

Tarik Jašarevic, for the UN World Health Organization, said on 10 July that conditions in Hodeidah had been some of the worst in the country, even before the escalation of the conflict. The Hodeidah governorate had one of the highest malnutrition rates in the country. Intensification of fighting in Hodeidah endangered not only residents but also the 70 percent of the population of Yemen who depended on vital supplies, including healthcare supplies, that flowed through the port of Hodeidah.

There are already problems because of the coalition’s naval blockade.

On 22 June, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director, said: ‘By delaying vital supplies such as fuel and medicine getting into the country, the Saudi-led coalition is abusing its powers to cruelly inflict additional hardship on the most vulnerable civilians in Yemen.’

Topics: Yemen

Western Sahara

Regular readers will know that Polisario, the liberation movement for Western Sahara (illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975), managed to get a cargo ship full of phosphate rock (illegally mined in the territory) impounded by a court in South Africa last year.

We now know that the ship, the NM Cherry Blossom, will no longer carry phosphate from Western Sahara. Western Sahara Resource Watch calculates that the company that charters the ship lost £3.5m because of the year-long detention in South Africa. All exports to Latin America and Australia of Sahrawi phosphate have also stopped.

On 14 July, the Irish senate passed a ban on the import or export of all goods from or to Western Sahara, and other occupied territories.

Meanwhile, on 5 July, the European parliament voted down provisions that would have supported the cause of Western Sahara. The Greens had proposed: acting on the rulings of the EU court of justice on Western Sahara (voted down by three votes!) and pushing for the UN mission to Western Sahara to be given a human rights mandate (lost by 40 votes).

A third suggestion survived by two votes: to support UN efforts to secure a fair and lasting settlement of the Western Sahara conflict on the basis of the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination.

Topics: Western Sahara