Monday, October 29, 2012


Russell Tribunal on Palestine
New York Session 6-7 October 2012

Leila Shahid and Raji Sourani, two Palestinians, were prevented from attending the New York Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which met in the Grand Hall of Cooper Union during the first weekend of October 2012 with hundreds of people attending over the two days. They weren’t granted visas in good time by the US authorities. Their absence denied the Tribunal direct testimony from Gaza (Sourani maintains the human rights centre there), as well as the presence of one of its initiators (Shahid, together with Nurit Peled of Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Parents for Peace, and Ken Coates of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation issued the initial call for the Tribunal in 2008).

Both Leila and Raji had been present when the Tribunal was publicly launched in Brussels in 2009. Since then, it has held sessions in Barcelona (on EU complicity against Palestine), London (on corporate complicity), Cape Town (on the crime of apartheid against the Palestinians), and now New York (on ‘US complicity and UN failings in dealing with Israel’s violations of international law towards the Palestinian people’). A culminating session will convene in Brussels in spring 2013, hopefully with these two Palestinian representatives, as well as many others, present.

The origins of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine go back to 2004 when, in its advisory opinion as requested by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice judged illegal in international law the enormous wall which Israel continues to construct across Palestine, assisted by a variety of corporations such as G4S, the hapless "security" contractor, which installs some of the wall’s crossing points. In its strongly worded findings, the ICJ noted that

‘All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction; all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention’.

When this matter came before the General Assembly of the UN, the ICJ’s considered view received widespread support, but Security Council members such as France were heard reassuring Israeli representatives that the matter would not be pressed. So it is that some of the UN’s more prominent member states apparently acquiesce in Israel’s serious breaches of international law and fail to act to enforce the clear opinion of the International Court in respect of the Wall.

One of those outraged and galvanised by such backsliding was Pierre Galand, then a Belgian Senator visiting the UN. What could be done to right this grievous wrong and uphold the opinion of the Court? Galand proposed to the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation that there be a tribunal in the tradition of the Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal, which Bertrand Russell had inaugurated in London in 1966 with the injunction to ‘let this Tribunal prevent the crime of silence’. The Foundation readily agreed to loan its flag for the important work proposed by Galand and his colleagues, which it regarded very much as unfinished business. Russell's own last political act before his death, in 1970, was to speak out on Palestine in these terms:

‘The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign Power to another people for the creation of a new State. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless.’

So it is that the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, an autonomous project, has been some eight years in the making, and still has much work to do. At its heart is a jury which hears expert testimony and receives written submissions. The jury in New York included Michael Mansfield and John Dugard, who provide substantial legal expertise, as well as Angela Davis and Ronnie Kasrils, who bring considerable and diverse political experience. Like Angela Davis, musicians Miguel Angel Estrella and Roger Waters joined the jury for the first time in New York, together with Dennis Banks, Native American leader and veteran of Wounded Knee. In addition to Mansfield and Dugard, New York jurors who had participated in previous sessions included Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, Stéphane Hessel, Ambassador of France and author of the international bestseller, Time for Outrage (Indignez Vous), who recites Shakespeare sonnets, notwithstanding his 95 years, Alice Walker, revered author, and former congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney. (Incidentally, Ambassador Hessel generously donated the proceeds of his bestseller to the Tribunal to the tune of $200,000. Russell Tribunals are autonomous, independent, and beholden to nobody.)

This diverse body of independent-minded people is generally kept headed in the same direction by the light touch of Pierre Galand, father of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. How did they get on on New York?

As in London in 2010, an earlier session of the Tribunal which I attended, the content in New York was frequently authoritative and compelling; for example, when Professor Vera Gowlland-Debbas, formerly rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, probed the legal responsibility of the United Nations itself in relation to the obstruction of Palestinians’ right to self-determination, she highlighted the UN’s particular responsibility for Palestine as a former mandated territory, and how the fourth Geneva Convention now applies to it as an occupied territory. Thus, Israeli administrative measures, such as declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, are null and void in international law. She pointed out that there had been not a word from the Security Council about the Wall, notwithstanding the International Court’s opinion. More recently, the Council had refused to discuss the Goldstone Report of 2009, following the Israeli onslaught on Gaza in which more than 1,400 people were killed, which urged the Council and the international community as a whole to put an end to impunity for violations of international law in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. During that prolonged bombardment, many UN facilities in Gaza, including schools and food stores, had been attacked and destroyed, yet the Organisation’s highest body would not address the facts uncovered by the UN’s own mission. As Professor Gowlland-Debbas reminded us, since 1983, the United States has vetoed 22 Security Council resolutions on Palestine.

Diana Buttu, a Palastinian-Canadian lawyer, set Sunday morning alight with her account of a Palestinian village near Ramallah where 150 families have built a school made of tyres. Israeli settlers, who occupy the hills nearby, want the school demolished and are pursuing this course of action. Buttu pointed out that the Palestinian Authority spends more money on security than education. She set her account in the context of US attempts to change international perceptions of the illegal Israeli settlements, to try to make what is illegal seem legal, and to make what is unjust seem just.

Peter Hansen, who served as the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which does much work in Palestine, described the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and UN, established in 2002) as power without legitimacy. Its statements time and again favoured the Israeli position. There is no balance in such a process, he testified, and as a result, the UN’s ‘image for impartiality’ had suffered. The UN should not participate in the Quartet, whose Representative, Tony Blair, figured in the Tribunal Session’s draft findings in these terms:

‘The Quartet and its envoy have failed to effectively oppose settlement building, the construction of the Wall, and violations of both international humanitarian law and human rights law by Israel. It is clear that the US determines the response of the Quartet to these matters, and this raises serious questions about the good faith of the Quartet. Consequently, the Quartet has made little attempt to prevent violations of international law. As a member of the Quartet, the UN bears responsibility for its failures.’

This small selection gives only the merest indication of the diversity of contributions to the New York Session. Much more can be gleaned online (, together with visuals. Amongst these there are some pictures of Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel, who was killed in Gaza in 2003 by one of Israel’s monster Caterpillar bulldozers as she tried to stop, with her own body, the destruction of more Palestinian homes. In August 2012, an Israeli court found no one nor the Israeli state responsible for Rachel’s death. It doing so, it revealed video showing that Rachel had not been killed in the precise spot claimed in statements to the Israeli court, as Craig Corrie reported to the New York Session. Rachel’s parents continue to seek justice for their daughter and, as Cindy Corrie said, for all the other victims who have died while protesting non-violently in Palestine. The Corries then departed for Reykjavik to receive the 2012 LennonOno Imagine Peace Award from Yoko in recognition of continuing Rachel’s work to ‘foster connections between people, that build understanding, respect, and appreciation for differences, and that promote co-operation within and between local and global communities’.

How does the Russell Tribunal on Palestine compare with its predecessors?

Over the years, there has usually been some element of theatre about Russell Tribunals. It is one element among several that are essential to an effective Tribunal. Proceedings without legal powers necessitate rigorous scrutiny of the evidence and testimony that might otherwise not be heard. It also requires some forbearance on the part of the public, who are more used to applauding causes which they support, rather than listening to detailed legal testimony in silence (‘no applause, please’) and standing as the jury enters and leaves the 'court'. In New York, the technique of ‘silent applause’, fluttering hands in the air, proved popular, effective, and permissible.

All these elements were evident at Cooper Union in the East Village. As in the London Session, when Palestinian trade unionists working in agriculture were prevented from attending to discuss corporate complicity against Palestine, so the New York session was deprived of some, but not all, Palestinian voices, as we have seen. This was a blow to proceedings, which itself is symptomatic of the long-running injustices that the Tribunal seeks to address. How did it cope with their absence and other challenges? Some historical context might help.

Russell inaugurates the Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal, London 1966
In 1966, when Bertrand Russell inaugurated the Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal, the truth of what the United States was doing in South East Asia was little known. President de Gaulle knew, which is why he banned the Tribunal from convening in Paris, as planned, under the chairmanship of Jean-Paul Sartre. Instead, Prime Minster Erlander of Sweden courageously permitted the Tribunal to convene in Stockholm, notwithstanding considerable opposition. There, as Staffan Laam's short film of the Tribunal shows, Vietnamese victims, adults and children, revealed some of their burns and wounds to the Tribunal and spoke of their daunting experiences. Tariq Ali gave eyewitness testimony of what he had seen in Vietnam. US veterans gave compelling testimony of their first-hand experience of the war. A second session followed in Denmark.

The Vietnam Tribunal set the template. The jury was one of "conscience", with considerable moral standing, which people would want to see in action. Russell later wrote that it seemed to him essential that ‘what was happening in Vietnam should be examined with scrupulous care, and I had invited people whose integrity was beyond question’. The evidence was first-hand and new. It resonated because it was a people's Tribunal, not constrained by interests of state.

Thus, in Istanbul in 2005, much powerful first-hand testimony was presented to the culminating session of the World Tribunal on Iraq, which acknowledged its provenance in earlier Russell Tribunals. A succession of witnesses had travelled from Iraq to testify to the threats to women from the invaders, to the damage caused by depleted uranium munitions, to the looting of museums and archeological sites, among other aspects. Arundhati Roy, the Indian writer, presided over the jury with great aplomb, while lawyers Richard Falk and Phil Shiner provided legal expertise. A young American pilot testified how aerial bombing increased in the extended no-fly zones prior to the war. As in New York so also in Istanbul, the father of peace studies, Johan Galtung, shone a penetrating sociological light on conflict; in New York, he advocated a six-state solution in the Middle East (Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon).

The earlier BRussells Tribunal, of 2004, which was one of several leading up to the Istanbul meeting, distinguished itself by nominating representatives for the defendants who had absented themselves from proceedings (in particular, the United States Government). Tom Barry of Right Web and the journalist Jim Lobe carried out this task with great finesse. Their penetrating questioning of the witnesses extracted some real insights. (Pierre Galand reported that the current US Government, Madame Clinton in particular, did not answer the Russell Tribunal on Palestine’s letters.) But the most significant revelations of the BRussells Tribunal came as Iraqi testimony began to pile up about the beggarly state to which Iraq had been reduced; for example, how the occupiers would not permit experienced Iraqi engineers to repair their own broken electricity system so that the population suffered repeated power cuts for much of the day for months on end.

International participation has been a common feature of all the Russell Tribunals, since 1966. Russell encouraged international activism, and it is an enduring legacy of his work which runs through Istanbul, Brussels, the four sessions of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and other such hearings down the years.

One unwelcome development of recent times is the imprisonment of Ayse Berktay Hacimirzaoglu, who was one of the main organisers of the World Tribunal on Iraq. She, together with thousands of other members of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Turkey, which draws its support from the large Kurdish minority, has been detained for more than a year, charged with membership of an illegal organistion (the KCK or Kurdish Communities Union). Her mass trial with more than 200 others has been adjourned again and is due to resume for the third time in December 2012. One BDP MP, a young woman, was recently sentenced to 8 years 9 months in prison for involvement in the Kurdish Communities Union, which the Erdogan Government deems a terrorist organisation. Now, hundreds of Kurdish prisoners are on hunger strike. Ayse's extensive international travel to organise the World Tribunal on Iraq is cited against her in the lengthy indictment, although no explanation has been offered as to how this might have been illegal in some way.

Silent applause flutter across Cooper Union’s Grand Hall. What would Mark Twain, a previous speaker between the pillars, have made of that?

The Tribunals attract a distinguished band of activists, as jurors and witnesses, who freely commit themselves to hearing or providing extensive testimony. It is a substantial undertaking. Tribunals are hard work to organise and do well. That is why there has been only a handful during the 40 years and more since the Vietnam Tribunal. Now into its fourth year of work, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine has set itself an exacting standard, which it continues to meet. The 12-page draft Executive Summary of the Findings of the Fourth Session was presented to the world’s press at 10am on Monday 8 October and, an hour later, in person to the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which generously gave of its time to accommodate us. That took careful planning, which reflects the consistently high standard of work achieved by Pierre Galand, Frank Barat and Virginie Vanhaeverbeke, the main co-ordinators, the international organising committee, the lively national support committees, and the indespensable bands of volunteers for each session.

Tony Simpson,

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Oktoberfest! The time of year to enjoy some beer!

Oktoberfest: 10,000 years of Beers, not Bombs

"Creating a better world one beer at a time."

In September of 2009 President Obama hosted the famous "Beer Summit" with Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates (left) and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley (center) at the White House. As Gates was returning from an out-of-town speaking engagement, he was arrested by Crowley on his own front porch for disorderly conduct. A very public national debate on race relations ensued, and President Obama brought peace to the warring parties over a glass of beer.

Beers not Bombs works wonders!!

Oktoberfest, a 200-year-old event first held by the Germans of Bavaria to celebrate a king’s wedding, now has gained international popularity. Hundreds of Oktoberfests to honor the “harvest” of new beer are held throughout the U.S. each autumn--the most massive gatherings occurring in Cincinnati, Denver, and La Crosse, Wisconsin. The global granddaddy of such sudsy fests occurs in Munich, Germany, which draws nearly five million thirsty consumers. Worldwide, the Oktoberfests thrown in Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, Australia, and other countries together attract millions of aficionados.

These casual, fun-filled occasions often feature parades, music, open-air beer gardens, and hearty foods from brats to strudel on tap. They’re a grand way to honor the cornucopia of October foodstuffs and seasonal tipples from tangy apple cider to traditional ales, lagers, and malts.

The tradition of drinking beer--as well as making it--goes back much further than two centuries, however. Archaeologists don’t agree on whether the making of beer or bread came first, but most confirm that by 8000 B.C. or so, humans were enjoying both. Long-ago people living in the Fertile Crescent that stretched from Egypt across all of Mesopotamia and Persia were the first pioneers to make beer (and bread) from wild grains, such as barley. (In Asia, beer making has had an equally long history.)

As time passed, nomads became farmers and began to deliberately plant and harvest such cereal grains. As they discovered, cereal had two delightful qualities. Once it’s soaked in boiled water and begins to sprout, it produces maltose sugar. It becomes sweet--a rare treat back then. Secondly, if you let a runny mix of cereal and water (your basic gruel) sit around, in a couple of days it turns fizzy and slightly intoxicating. It becomes beer, in fact.

Wow. This was a very big deal--a liquid that was much safer to drink than most of the (unboiled) water supply and one that was also quite nourishing because it contained yeast and barley. Not only that, beer could be brewed and then stored in animal skins, shells, even hollowed-out trees. Later of course beer would routinely be stored in pottery vessels--but that advance would not take place until around 6000 B.C.

Try to picture this: in ancient times, almost everyone drank beer every day. Pharoahs and kings sipped it. Children drank it. Early doctors prescribed it for a variety of ailments. Women drank it--and manufactured most of it, too, in the cities and towns that lined the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates Rivers.

Beer had a strong spiritual significance too; it was often offered to the gods and was said to be their favorite beverage. Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing in old Mesopotamia, was a formidable deity. The oldest surviving recipe for beer making comes from a poem celebrating her.

Like today’s beer loving culture, brew back then also had a very social side. It was often shared among friends. Some of the earliest depictions of beer consumption show two people of Sumer drinking with large straws from the same large container. (The “straws” were probably gourds or dried reeds of some sort. They were needed because long-ago beer was thick--and could also contain chaff or bitter residues. )

Egyptian tombs have wall paintings of beer making, along with small clay figures of male and female brewsters at work. In this century, archaeologists have been tickled to stumble on clay “receipts” from ancient times, including one tablet that records the purchase of “the best beer” from a brewer who lived around 2050 B.C. in ancient Iraq (below).

The long-ago Greeks and Romans were lukewarm about beer. As Christianity took hold, however, monks from the monasteries that sprang up often specialized in making ales and beers. Adding hops to beer, which kept it from spoiling, was perfected by German brewers in the 13th century. Throughout the middle ages and into relatively modern times, beer was a staple. It sat on every table in every home in Europe. People of all ages and most social classes considered it their main beverage. Why? Besides being the cheapest drink going, it was by far the safest in terms of contamination. (Hygiene and public sanitation took a nose-dive after Greco-Roman times, so beer in those centuries helped save lives, you might say.)

These days, we don’t have to worry too much about the purity of our drinking water. And we have plenty of liquid alternatives at our disposal. Nevertheless, the lively social side of beer-drinking and the celebratory aspect of this ancient brew remain very strong traditions.

Lines on Ale
by Edgar Allen Poe

Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain.
Quaintest thoughts, queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away.
What care I how time advances;
I am drinking ale today.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New Putney Debates: Full Programme

Levellers revisit Putney, in the spirit of H N Brailsford and Christopher Hill.

The New Putney Debates
28th October - 11th November

A series of free public debates organised by Occupy London. For full programme of debates see: and also see below.

365 years ago the original Putney debates discussed the need for greater democracy and a new constitution for England. Today these issues are even more relevant, with decisions that affect us all being taken by a few, decisions on economic policy, energy, climate change, welfare and education for example.

All political power is inherent in the people – so how should we address the democratic deficit?

Law & democracy day:
How does the law relate to democracy? Whose interests does the legal system serve – the public or private interest? Do we need a new civil rights movement to elevate people and nature’s rights above corporate rights?

Come along and have your say! Contributors include Prof Conor Gearty, Michael Mansfield QC, Halina Ward, and Dr Shahrar Ali, as well as performance artists.

Location: St Mary’s Church, Putney High Street (nr Putney Bridge tube)
Date & time: Saturday 3rd November 1 -5pm

Donations on the day welcomed to cover the cost of venue hire.

Prior registration not necessary but it would be helpful to confirm attendance by emailing:

Also posted at

Please share this info widely with your networks.

Occupy London debates are free but donations on the day towards the cost of venue hire will be greatly received. Events organised by partner organisations may charge.

Friday 26 October
Last event in the October 2012 series of Quilligan Seminars by the School of Commoning, running from 22 – 26 October.
Venue: The Grimond Room, Portcullis House, Westminster SW1A 2LW London
2-4 pm

Creating a Movement on Understanding the Common Good.

James Quilligan will set the Global Scene.Paul Moore will outline the proposal for the New Wilberforce Alliance and its early momentum. Charles Secrett will speak of his experience in challenging and effecting the need for deep changes in the structures of our society; and Frank Taylor will relate the Purton Declaration and the Runnymede Project to the task before us. Participants will have opportunity to steer the process towards the next steps in building a movement capable of public clamour.

There is a charge for this event and other seminars.

For details of the whole programme and booking details please go to:

Saturday 27 October
Venue: Oasis Centre, 75 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7HS

1-5.15pm Economics and democracy.  Rising inequality – what is the solution?

1.20 Inequality: the enemy between us? – The Spirit Level: Why Inequality Matters. With Professor Richard Wilkinson.

2.30 The Finance Curse: Tax Haven Britain, Predator and Victim. How Britain has become captive to its offshore empire and what we can do . With John Christensen

3.55 Income Equality – a co-operative approach. with Dr John Courtneidge

4.40 Occupy economic roadmap -a lightning introduction tour, and an introduction to the ‘Little Book of Ideas’, followed by a plenary discussion.

Sunday 28 October
Venue: Putney Station pub, 94-98 Upper Richmond Road, SW15 2SP

Real Democracy

2 pm – The English Revolution, the Putney Debates and the making of the British Constitution with the Occupy Real Democracy working group

4 pm – What would real democracy look like? with John McDonnell MP

Sunday 28 October
Venue: St Mary’s Church, Putney High Street, Putney
8pm “A light shining in Buckinghamshire”

A rehearsed reading and discussion of Caryl Churchill’s 1976 play, which looked at the events of the English Revolution. The second half of the play focuses on the conflict within the New Model Army between the senior officers (the Grandees) and the Agitators, who stood for the interests of the ordinary men and women. The Putney Debates reached their peak when a document called ‘An Agreement of the People’, prepared by those who wanted a democratic republic, was presented to the General Council of the Army

Monday 29 October
Venue: Friends Meeting House, 173 – 177 Euston Rd, NW1 2BJ
6 pm Socially useful banking?

Public discussion led by Andy Haldane, Bank of England Executive Director, Financial Stability. Responding: Duncan Weldon, TUC senior economist, and Dominic Lindley, Which? Head of Financial Services Policy. Chaired by Lisa Pollack, Financial Times & Alphaville blog.

Arrive early.

For further info, and to register to attend, visit

Thursday 1 November
Venue: St Mary’s Church, Putney High Street, Putney
7 pm – Land and democracy

Nearly 400 years ago the Diggers described the Earth as a ‘common storehouse for all’ and objected to land being kept in the hands of a few. Are landowners still oppressing the people today, and how should we respond? With George Monbiot; Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party; Kate Geary, land grab expert at Oxfam, and the Runnymede Diggers

Performance poet Pete the Temp.

Event page:

Saturday 3 November
Venue: St Mary’s Church, Putney High Street, Putney

1-2.30 pm – Who does the legal system benefit? With Professor of Human Rights, Conor Gearty and Michael Mansfield QC, and Halina Ward from the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development

3-5 pm – Do we need a new civil rights movement today? With Melanie Strickland – in the US communities are asserting their rights above corporate rights by putting in place local laws called Community Bills of Rights – can we do something similar? And Dr Shahrar Ali, London Green Party and Michael Mansfield QC on the National Civil Rights Movement

Event page:

Sunday 4 November
Venue: Toynbee Hall, 28 Commercial Street, London. E1 6LS
11am-5pm Capitalism is Crisis (Another World is Possible…)

The sessions on capital, power and the State will tell a story of capitalism. They will explore the character of the capitalist process that is continuing to tear up the planet and to exterminate its inhabitants. The purpose of the sessions is to investigate why we are doomed, and also how we might escape the doom. Speakers. Discussion. Workshop.

Event page:

Monday 5 November
Venue: Friends Meeting House, Euston, small lecture theatre.
6.30 pm Putney Housing Debate

Contributors will include Toby Lloyd; Charles Seaford, New Economics Foundation; Steve Barwick, Housing Voice-UNISON and a representative of the Institute of Public Policy Research, all of whom have produced guidance documents on Housing in the past year. This will set the context for a discussion of the ideas contained in the Occupy Petition on Housing that went to No 10 in July. This should be of interest to all those with very real concerns not only about the housing crisis, but also in respect of the economy.

Thursday 8 November
Venue: Friends Meeting House, 52 St Martin’s Lane, Westminster
Time: Evening (exact time TBC)

Solutions to tax injustice – taming finance with Network Banking

Friday 9 November
Venue: St Mary’s Church/Hall, Putney High Street, Putney
6-8pm A New Economy with Clive Menzies and Janos Abel.

This two hour workshop examines flaws in the economic system, why it cannot be sustained and what an alternative system could look like. The foundations of the New Economy are: the means to life (water, food and housing) for all as a right; land and resources held in common and the benefits shared; alternative currencies to foster greater equality and societal cohesion.

Saturday 10 November
Venue: Oasis Centre, 75 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7HS

11-12.30pm – Food and democracy how do we ensure people have access to nutritious, sustainable and good food? With Helena Paul, Econexus; Dominika Jarosz, Head of Campaigns for Pig Business, and Biofuelwatch

1.30-3pm – Energy and democracy with Jeremy Leggett, Solarcentury; Fuel Poverty Action Group, and Danny Chivers.

3.15–4.45pm – Law, environment and democracy with Polly Higgins, Eradicating Ecocide, and Melanie Strickland, speaking on the Community Bill of Rights, from the Occupy Law working group, and Halina Ward; Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development.

Event Page:
Sunday 11 November
Venue: tbc
Time: afternoon (exact time TBC)

A new Agreement of the People for 2012

Summary/action workshops/building a movement for real democracy. Content TBC.

Saturday 24 November
Venue: Runnymede Diggers, Runnymede, Egham.
Daytime. Land and Freedom

The day will look at who owns the land and the history of common people living communally in the Forests and Chases of Britain There will be a discussion on the Charter of the Forest, which was developed as part of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. This was first issued on 6 November 1217 as a separate charter, giving commoning rights to common people. The day will consider the the viability of living in the forest today; is the tragedy of the commons inevitable or can we govern the commons collectively and live in harmony with nature?

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Cuban Missile Crisis

Fifty years ago, on 22 October 1962, America announced that spy flights over Cuba had revealed the construction of bases for Soviet medium-range missiles, and that America would impose a naval blockade on Cuba to prevent the delivery of further missiles. Bertrand Russell sprang into action to try to avert a deadly nuclear confrontation.

Follow the link to read Cuban Missile Crisis – 50 years on by Bertrand Russell in The Spokesman 117.

Unarmed Victory by Bertrand Russell can be bought from the Spokesman Books website.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012


As Remembrance Sunday approaches, I feel more strongly than ever that the world is not as it should be. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Earth’s bounties are squandered and used to fill the pockets of the powerful. The so-called “war to end wars” was followed by another world war and by many localised ones, often characterised by unspeakable cruelty. In World War II my brother died, slowly and painfully of wounds, exposure and dehydration in a ship’s lifeboat. My boyhood friend, an RAF navigator, is buried in Germany.

Our War Memorials list those who “gave their lives”: it would be more honest to say they were killed. If wars continue, thousands more people will be killed or wounded. Families will be devastated.

Remembering is not enough. The best way to honour the dead is to work for the world they wanted, a world without war. We must learn to settle our differences by negotiation and to see violence as very much a last resort. We must not shake our heads in the belief that war will always be with us: we have a difficult task ahead of us, but change is possible. War is almost unthinkable in western Europe, and we are moving towards the goal of the United Nations “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war….”. An important element in this has been the increased value placed on human life: capital punishment has been eliminated in western Europe, and no western commander would now send battalion after battalion over the top to be slaughtered, as at Passchendaele. We must extend and enforce such change in moral values and ensure that it extends to all those who control our fate.

Let us use Remembrance to further these aims. If you are planning an event or service, some of the publications listed below may help.

Robert A. Hinde
Former pilot, Coastal Command, RAF 1941-45

The following are available on the MAW website (http://www.abolish
Remember War, Make Peace, book and CD £10
Remembrance for Today, booklet £3
Ending War: A Recipe, booklet £4
The Final Surrender: Time to abolish war, booklet 50p
A World without War (Rotblat) 30p

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Final Space Week Local Actions List

Keep Space for Peace Week - October 6-13, 2012

International Week of Protest to:
Stop the Militarization of Space
No Missile Defense
Stop the Drones
End Afghanistan War
No to NATO Expansion
Convert the Military Industrial Complex
Bring Our War $$ Home
No Nuclear Power in Space or on Earth
End Corporate Domination of Foreign/Military Policy

List information

Albuquerque, New Mexico (Oct 3) Showing of award winning documentary Pax-Americana & the Weaponization of Space at the Center for Peace & Justice, 202 Harvard SE, 6:00pm.  

Andover, Massachusetts (Oct 11) Merrimack Valley People for Peace will hold a vigil in front of Raytheon, 7:00-8:00am.

Bath Iron Works, Maine (Oct 6) Vigil across from administration building on Washington Street (Navy Aegis destroyers built at BIW) 11:30-12:30am Smilin’ Trees Disarmament Farm (207) 763-4062

Bhubhaneswar (Orissa state) India (Oct 6) Space issues education and awareness program. Coordinated by Ramchandra Patro:  

Bombay, India (October 12) Day long seminar by Dr. Leo Rebello on World Without Wars on Earth or Space, based on his book World Without Wars.  

Boston, Massachusetts (Oct 6) Drones Death Walk. We will walk from 565 Boylston Street (across from Copley Square) at 12:30pm. Join WILPF Boston Branch as we walk to the Boston Common and Park Street Station. We will dress in black and wear white masks. Contact:  

Brunswick, Maine (Oct 4) Showing of award winning documentary Pax-Americana and the Weaponization of Space at the Curtis Memorial Library at 7:00pm.  

Bucharest, Romania (Oct 12) Distributing leaflets and showing of Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space video at the Cervantes College:  

Cardiff, Wales (Oct 9) Handing in of Petition calling for Welsh Government to withdraw support for testing of drones at Aberporth and over Wales  

Colorado Springs, Colorado (Oct 12) Demonstration from noon to 12:45pm with banners outside of the SAIC facility which is adjacent to Peterson AFB (HQ of Air Force Space Command) northgate. That way we get a twofer.

Colorado Springs, Colorado (Oct 12) Demonstration at West gate of Schriever AFB, home of the Space Warfare Center and numerous other Star Wars programs 3:30 - 4:30pm.

RAF Croughton, England (Oct 6) Rally at U.S. communication base, March to main gate 1 mile - starts Croughton village 12.00 midday, Returns 3:00pm, Oxfordshire Peace Campaign,  

Deming, New Mexico (Oct 12) Weekly Friday Occupy vigil will carry Keep Space for Peace signs

Fort Meade, Maryland (Oct 9) Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore will make its annual trek to the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade from 5:30-6:30pm. The spy agency continues to break a host of laws both U.S. and international. Gather on Route 32 outside the main gate to alert the general public to the criminal activity taking place at the NSA. RSVP to Max at 410-366-1537 or  

Friargate, England (Oct 8) Public Meeting: Yorkshire’s role in Drone Warfare 7:00pm, Friargate Friends meeting house.  

Fylingdales, England (Oct 7) Begin bicycle trip from Fylingdales U.S. radar facility to Menwith Hill to highlight their connections with US missile defense and the use of space technology. Overnight peace camp the night before.

Gangjeong, Jeju Island, South Korea (Oct 6-13) Screening of space films in the Peace Center during the Keep Space for Peace Week. Banner and signs on Space Week will be hung and held in the village, including near the naval base construction gate. Information on space week will be distributed to the nationwide march participants during the space week.

Hinckley, England (Oct 7) Drones Peace Walk: Leave Tamworth 9am for long walk (approx 17 miles) to Hinckley.  

Jammu (Jammu & Kashmir state) India (Oct 10) Rally coordinated by Ashwani Pradadhan:  

King of Prussia/Valley Forge, Pennsylvania (Oct 13) Noon. Brandywine Peace Community's annual Keep Space for Peace Week demonstration (and observance of U.S. Afghan war anniversary) at Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin, the world's largest war profiteer, a primary contractor of space weaponry as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, drones (including the Hell Fire missiles they carry) and the satellites which enable their remote control from the continental U.S.  

Leeds, England (Oct 3) ‘Drones – a new kind of warfare’ a talk and discussion with Chris Cole of the Campaign against Drones on the growing use of unmanned drones in the Middle East and beyond. 7.30pm, Room G546, Rosebowl Building, Leeds Metropolitan University. Organised by Pax Christi and Yorkshire CND.  

Leicester, England (Oct 8) Drones Peace Walk leaves Hinckley 10:00am for 12 mile walk to Leicester. Demonstration at the Thales Watchkeeper drone factory, Scudamore Road, Leicester, 3.30pm.  

Lincoln, England (Oct 12) Drones Peace Walk leaves Southwell on bus 28 to Newark at 9.38, then bus 47 from Newark at 10.40 to outskirts of Lincoln then walking 5 miles to Friends Meeting House. Hosted in houses. Possible evening meeting.  

London, England (Oct 12) Demonstration outside London office of General Atomics, Tower 42, Old Broad Street. Organised by London Catholic Worker  

Loughborough, England (Oct 9) Drones Peace Walk: Gather at Gandhi’s statue, Belgrave Road, Leicester at 9.30am for readings, 10am leave for Loughborough 12 miles, evening meeting in Loughborough:  

Menwith Hill, England (Oct 9) ‘The Faceless Face of Military Drones’ demonstration at NSA Spy Base in Yorkshire at 6-8pm. Will be welcoming the cyclists from Yorkshire CND when they arrive at Menwith Hill from Fylingdales. (Faceless masks will be available) Sponsored by CAAB or 01423 884076

Montrose, California (Oct 12) Weekly peace vigil with Keep Space for Peace theme, corner of Ocean View/Honolulu Ave, 5:30-7:00pm:  

Nagpur, (Maharashtra state) India (Oct 9) Space issues education and awareness program at Women’s College, Nandanwant Lay out. Coordinator Mrunalini Fadnavis:  

Nagpur, (Maharashtra state) India (Oct 12) Students rally at Matru Sewa Sangh Institute of Social Work. Coordinated by Prof. Geetha Thachil:  

Nagpur, (Maharashtra state) India (Oct 13) A massive Dharna (Squating) will be held jointly with several organisations at Nagpur.

Newton, Massachusetts (Oct 21) Bruce Gagnon speaks at First Unitarian Church, 1326 Washington Street, West Newton, 7:00pm:  

New York, New York (Oct 6-13) United Nations office of WILPF Reaching Critical Will has reorganized their information on Keeping Space for Peace, Aerospace war profiteers, missile defense, weapons in space and existing space treaties for Keep Space for Peace Week and beyond. Go to:  

Nottingham, England (Oct 10) Drones Peace Walk Leaves Loughborough 9am, walk to Nottingham, 15 miles, staying in Friends Meeting House, peace supper.  

Oita, Japan (Oct 12) Banner against the fast breeder reactor development in Japan and the international joint R&D of a nuclear fusion reactor 16:00~17:00 at Oita Kyusyu Electric Power Co:  

Omaha, Nebraska (Oct 6) "Stop the Killing, Ground the Drones" vigil, 10am to noon, Close to Stratcom at Offutt AFB, Corner of Fort Crook Rd & Cornhusker, Code Pink Omaha, Contact Frances Mendenhall 402-208-3717

Oneonta, New York (Oct 6-13) Putting up Keep Space for Peace Week posters around town throughout the week.  

Oswestry, England (Oct 4) Coalition for Peace is hosting a talk by Chris Cole of Drone Wars UK at the Walford Davies Room, The Giuildhall, Bailey Head, Oswestry, Shropshire at 7.30pm. The title is ‘Drone Wars: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Beyond’. Details 01691 650527

Pentagon, Washington DC (Oct 9) Keep Space for Peace signs will be held at weekly Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Pentagon morning vigil:  

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Oct 7) Vigil and demonstration against drone research at UPENN at 34th & Walnut Streets, 1:00pm. Speakers, music, and more; followed by kite flying in Woodland Walk field, between UPENN and Drexel University, behind the corner at 34th & Walnut Streets. End the War, Stop the Killer Drone Strikes, Space for Peace, not drone strikes directed from the U.S. through space. Kites will be available, bring your own if you can, and don't forget your umbrella in the event of rain.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Oct 8) Noon, Brown bag lunch presentation at Friends Center, 1501 Cherry Street, with Bruce Gagnon, International peace organizer; Coordinator,Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and Keep Space for Peace Week; Author, Come Together Right Now: Organizing Stories From Fading Empire.  

Pickering, England (Oct 7) Peace in space cycle journey we will be stopping overnight for rest. meeting and discussion.  

Ponidcherry University, India (Oct 7-8) Space issues education and awareness campaign Coordinator J. Narayana Rao:  

Porthmadog, England (Oct 13) Anti-drone street stall, Porthmadog, Fellowship of Reconciliation, 2.30pm  

Portland, Maine (Oct 8) Anti-Drone Die-In at Obama Campaign Headquarters, 533 Forest Ave., noon-1pm. CODEPINK State of Maine & Portland Pat Taub (207) 542-7119,

Portland Oregon (Oct 6) Rally and march: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom will carry signs and banners calling for Keeping Space for Peace, No Drones, No to Missile Offense and more in event sponsored by more than 30 organizations. WILPF speaker at the rally will hi-lite KS4Peace issues.  

Portland, Oregon (Oct 7) Teach-in. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom is conducting a participatory workshop on the inter-relationship of U.S. space militarization, nukes, wars and occupations and on building for peace, not war.  

Poway, California (Oct 11) Anti-Predator drone vigil at General Atomics, 4:00-6:00pm, Scripps Poway Pkwy & General Atomics Way, San Diego Veterans For Peace:  

Prague, Czech Republic (Oct 10) Militarization of Space and the Missile Defence Project discussion with Dr. Miroslav Tuma, disarmament expert from the Institute of Foreign Relations in Prague. Where: Centrum neziskovych aktivit, Tyrsova 1, 6:00pm:  

Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (Oct 11) Vigil and flyer distribution at the north end of the Scarth Street Mall in downtown Regina, 12:00-12:30pm. Making Peace Vigil 306-539-8853;  

Rochester, New York (Oct 6-13) Putting up Keep Space for Peace Week posters around town throughout the week. 585-339-9782

Santa Barbara, California (Oct 18-21) Challenging Robotic Warfare Technology: Education, Organizing, Strategy & Resistance Statewide Conference:  

Shenstone, England (Oct 6) Anti-drones peace walk begins with demonstration at UAV engine plant at Shenstone (near Birmingham). Meet at the train station at 10.30am then demonstration at the nearby Elbit factory until 11.30.  

Sioux Falls, South Dakota (Oct. 13) Pax Christi Southeastern SD "The Dignity of Life, Promoting Peace on Land & at Sea." We will pray, study and act on issues of life and death. Caminando Juntos, 1-3pm.  

Southwell, England (Oct 11) Drones Peace Walk leaves Leicester FMH 9am, walk to Southwell, 13 miles.

Springfield, Pennsylvania (Oct 7) Anniversary of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Bruce Gagnon speaks at the Peace Center of Delaware County, 1001 Old Sproul Road, 5:30pm. Potluck Supper; 6:30p.m. Presentation and Discussion: A Decade plus of War...Drones, and more: Empire and the Militarization of Space. Evening co-sponsored by the Brandywine Peace Community:

Stockholm, Sweden (Oct 28) Swedish Peace Council seminar about The Militarization of the North: How the Arctic has become a dangerous field for war preparations. Speakers from northern Russia, Bard Wormdal from Vardö (northern Norway) on satellite war, from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Sweden is present chair of Arctic Council) and Agneta Norberg on drone testing in Northern Sweden.  

Sydney, Australia (Oct 6) Australian Anti-Bases Campaign is planning a picnic in Sydney's Hyde Park to commemorate Space for Peace Week and to protest the militarisation of space.  

Tavistock, England (Oct 9) Public Meeting in Tavistock. ‘Drones: The future of war?’ with Chris Cole.  

Tucson, Arizona (Oct 9) Vigil from 6:30 - 7:30 a.m. at Raytheon Missile Systems, Hermans Road entrance to the plant (3rd traffic light south of Valencia on Nogales Highway, the extension of South 6th Avenue):  

Vandenberg AFB, California (Oct 10) Monthly protest from 3:45- 4:45 pm at the Main Gate. Anyone wanting to join us can call for info at (805) 343-6322.

Vandenberg AFB, California (Oct 22) Back country non-violent resistance action to occupy Pentagon’s global drone and missile nerve center:

Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh state) India (Oct 11) Students rally coordinated by J. V. Prabhakar:  

RAF Waddington, England (Oct 13) Drones Peace Walk leaves Lincoln 9am, walk 6 miles to RAF Waddington. Demonstration at RAF Waddington from 12 noon until 2pm.  

White House, Washington DC (Oct 12) Keep Space for Peace signs will be held at weekly Dorothy Day Catholic Worker White House: vigil  

York, England (Oct 8) Peace in space cycle journey we will be stopping to meet and talk with public.

Keep Space for Peace Week is co-sponsored by the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK), Swedish Peace Council, and the Drone Campaign Network (UK).

Download the full space week poster at:  

The award winning documentary Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space is now available online at:!  

Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502 (blog)

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

After Fukushima

Leaked EU nuclear stress tests reveal hundreds of defects

By Nikolaj Nielsen for EUobserver

Hundreds of defects have been found throughout Europe’s nuclear reactors and mostly in France, according to an EU stress test report.

The stress tests assess whether any of Europe’s 143 licensed nuclear power plants can withstand extreme events such as earthquakes and terrorists attacks.

The tests were introduced after the nuclear accident in Japan's Fukushima some 18 months ago. EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger is to present the final report and recommendations in the upcoming EU summit on 18 and 19 October.

We have reassessed all the nuclear power plants in Europe in the light of Fukushima,” said commission energy spokesperson Marlene Holzner on Monday (1 October).

Oettinger is also scheduled to present his findings to his fellow EU commissioners on Wednesday.

The European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (Ensreg), a group of senior officials from the national nuclear regulatory authorities from all 27 member states, said on Monday in a statement said they have yet to be informed of the content of the report.

The commission had not made available to Ensreg any draft of the communication. However, the content of a draft was known by some Ensreg members and this draft raised major problems and concerns in Ensreg,” said the group's chairperson Tero Varjoranta.

Meanwhile, a preview into the content by French daily Le Figaro and German daily Die Welt suggests none of France’s 58 nuclear power plants meet, to varying degrees, the international security standards outlined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

For the very first time in history, we know for all the nuclear power plants in Europe whether these very high standards are actually used or not used,” said Holzner.

Nineteen French reactors have no seismic measuring instruments, says Le Figaro. The paper also notes that safety and rescue equipment in case of disaster is not adequately protected unlike at German, British and Swedish reactors.

The report does not recommend shutting down any one EU nuclear power plant, say the papers, but notes that getting them up to standard would cost some €25 billion.

National regulators carry out the initial stress tests inspections. Teams of safety experts from the EU member states and the commission then scrutinize their conclusions followed by on-site spot checks.

For its part, Belgium’s national regulator, the federal agency for nuclear control (FANC), decided to shut down two of its seven reactors in August after having discovered thousands of cracks.

The discovery of the cracks came two months after having submitted their peer-reviewed EU stress tests in April.

"Results of the stress tests are still perfectly valid. In any case they had an altogether different purpose," said FANC at the time.

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