Category: News From National Campaigns


Housing-For-AllSale Of Small Council Homes Condemning Thousands To The Bedroom Tax – The VOAG Investigates

Thousands of one and two-bedroom council homes have been sold off since 2010, preventing tenants affected by the “bedroom tax” from downsizing to avoid the penalty, research by The Independent shows.

The controversial policy is meant to free up social housing space by encouraging hundreds of thousands of tenants to move to smaller properties, by cutting their benefits if they have a spare bedroom.

But figures obtained by The Independent show that a severe shortage of smaller council homes across the country is being exacerbated by the right-to-buy scheme – leaving many victims of the bedroom tax with no choice but to accept reduced benefits.

In the areas hardest hit by the housing crisis, more than two-thirds of council homes sold off under right-to-buy since the Coalition came to power had one or two bedrooms, figures obtained under Freedom of Information show.

Central London is suffering from the biggest sell-off of small homes. In Camden, 81 per cent of properties sold since 2010 had two bedrooms or fewer, and 49 per cent had one bedroom. Figures for Hammersmith and Fulham show that 77 per cent of sales were of small properties.

In Southwark, 74 per cent of those sold were small, with 32 per cent one-bedroom properties, and in Lambeth, 74 per cent of its right-to-buy sales were of the smallest homes.

Brighton and Hove council has sold 111 properties since 2010, of which 74 per cent had one or two bedrooms. Although Bournemouth council sold just 20 homes, all of them were small.

The analysis of 125 council areas found that of 14,616 properties sold across England, 45 per cent had one or two bedrooms. About 61 per cent of England’s total social housing stock is made up of one- or two-bedroom properties, suggesting that some councils appear to be selling off a disproportionate number of smaller homes.

Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the figures exposed the bedroom tax as “a hasty shambles” which had forced some of the most vulnerable children into unfit housing. “It’s often pushing them into the worst quality housing in the private sector – places that aren’t fit for habitation because of problems like damp and mould.”

Labour’s shadow housing minister, Emma Reynolds, said: “The truth about David Cameron’s bedroom tax is that there are simply not enough smaller homes for people to move to. With the Government failing to keep its promise on replacing every home sold through right-to-buy with a new home built, the shortage is getting worse.” Labour plans to scrap the policy if it wins a majority in next year’s general election.

Government efforts to reform the welfare system have resulted in tenants being moved out of expensive areas. But even those cities receiving families who are priced out are losing smaller properties through right-to-buy. In Hull, for example, 44 per cent of houses sold since 2010 had one or two bedrooms.

The housing charity Shelter urged the Government to review the bedroom tax in the light of the findings. “This research points to a serious contradiction at the heart of government policy,” said Roger Harding, Shelter’s director of communications, policy and campaigns. “Unless sufficient one- and two-bed homes are made available the bedroom tax is an unfair penalty on people who have no choice but to stay where they are.”Voag-Logo-catapult2

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voice of anti-capitalismModern Day Slavery In Qatar: Workers Paid Less Than 60p An Hour – The VOAG Investigates

The VOAG has been aware of the issue of foreign workers in Qatar for some time. RT, Press TV, and Aljazeera, as well as Amnesty International have made documentaries on the issue, and the VOAG has received a variety of articles on the subject. foreign workers mainly from India, Pakistan and other developing countries are encouraged to go to Qatar to work in the construction industry. Once there they are stripped of their passports and forced to work for very little money, and in some cases, for free.

UCATT, the British construction union recently went to Qatar on a “fact-finding mission” to investigate for them selves, and spoke to the VOAG of their results. UCATT now plan to put further pressure on the Hukoomi – Qatar Government Portal and British based companies working in the country. The plight of workers will become increasingly high-profile, as construction is now beginning for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.ucattUCATT met workers who were being paid less than £0.60 pence an hour and who were being paid a little over £50 a week, while being expected to work excessive hours, 6 days a week in temperatures up to 55 degrees in the summer. The levels of poverty pay are especially stark given that Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

The 2 million construction workers in Qatar work under the kafala system which means they are bonded labour. The workers have their passports confiscated and cannot leave the country without their employer’s permission. For many workers this means that they cannot return home for at least two years. The workers also have to pay up to a thousand pounds each before they are allowed to work in Qatar, which are often financed through loans at very high interest rates. Often workers do not receive the wages owed to them. During the mission UCATT met workers who had not been paid for five months.

UCATT also visited the accommodation provided for many of the workers and saw how workers live in abject squalor. UCATT met a group of nine workers who were expected to live in one tiny room measuring 10 square metres. Welfare facilities were entirely inadequate with just five poorly maintained toilets provided for 200 workers. The facilities for workers to prepare food were also atrocious. Workers report there is often no running water and they are forced to wash in sea water.

Steve Murphy, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “The treatment of migrant construction workers in Qatar is appalling. If animals were being treated in this way in Britain there would be a national outcry. The fact that this is happening overseas means that many companies are prepared to look the other way in the pursuit of profits.CONSTRUCTION WORKERHundreds of migrant construction workers die in Qatar every year. In the last two years 500 Indian workers have died. Last year 195 Nepalese deaths were recorded 123 of these were recorded as being due to cardiac arrest. UCATT learnt that deceased workers do not receive a post mortem and if the death was recorded as natural causes then no compensation was paid. Mr Murphy added: “The way that migrant workers are treated in Qatar demonstrates that those in power consider their lives to be cheap and expendable.”

The fact finding mission to Qatar was jointly organised with Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) the international federation of construction unions.

Reporting on the preparations for the 2022 World Cup, an RT (Russia Today news channel) investigation discovered foreign construction workers “toiling in terrible conditions and having received no salaries for months”, and their “passports confiscated by employers”.

One of the men interviewed worked for 12 years as an accommodation specialist, but, as Peter Giesel, the film maker, indicated to RT, “ironically, his accommodation itself doesn’t even have a fan.” The man hasn’t been getting his salary and bonuses for a number of years, and his main difficulty is to fight a case against his boss and his firm: the employer took his passport from him, and the 35-year-old worker hasn’t made the money necessary to return home, “the devilish circle”, as the RT report put it. Another group of guys – there were four of them – weren’t paid for seven months in a row and were trying to file a case when Giesel met them.

As the filmmaker explained, one of the main issues surrounding migrant workers is that they are employed under the so-called kafala system, which is “a law basically stating that every migrant worker that comes into Qatar has to find his own personal sponsor meaning his boss, the firm or corporation he’s working for.”

“And that sponsor has to take care of him legally and medically, but obviously, most of the sponsors take their passports away from the migrant workers. That puts maybe tens of thousands of them in a miserable situation. They can’t make any money to go home, so they’re trapped down there.”

Moreover, migrant employees can’t rely on outside forces such as their countries’ embassies, according to Giesel. “I had a chance to sneak into the Nepalese embassy and do my recordings down there. It seems to be some kind of chaos: the bureaucracy not only in the embassies, but also in the Qatari system is too overwhelming for those 1.4 million migrant workers to be treated fairly,” reported Giesel.

SF Meeting
Speakers

Peter Banda, Acting GS General Industries Workers’ Union of South Africa (GIWUSA)
Shaheen Khan, chief co-ordinator, Bolshevik Study Circles (ex-RMG).
Latief Parker, Critique journal Editorial Board
Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the RCIT
Gerry Downing, Secretary Socialist Fight Group
Chair, Laurence Humphries, Socialist Fight CC
Shaheen Khan speaks of their work with the Workers and Socialist party (WASP )

“Some of our comrades in the North are members of WASP. Our relationship with WASP starts off with the work our comrades did in the mine workers strike of 2012.
Two of our comrades were part of the mine workers committee in Rustenburg and one in Carletonville, and other comrades regularly attended the WASP meetings in Johannesburg.
I have been asked to do Marxist classes with the youth in the Socialist Youth Movement as well as the National Transport Movement.
We have also hosted WASP in Potchefstroom where they addressed Civic and Youth groups. Our view generally is that we support the WASP in the forthcoming elections and will participate actively to promote a vote for the WASP.”Rebuild The Fourth International

lionFrom Animal Rights UK
This is Millionaire Banker, Tory Advisor and member of the Countryside Alliance Sir David Scholey.

David Scholey is one of many wealthy individuals who are willing to spend in excess of £60,000 for the privilege of shooting a lion in South Africa. These lions are bred to be shot in so called canned hunting operations which have grown significantly in South Africa over the last decade.

They breed the lions from cubs often bringing in tourist to play and walk with them boasting on their conservation work. The young animals are then prepared to be released into shooting areas where they will be brought out via meat baits in front of the guns of so called trophy hunters. In many cases the shooters will have been drinking and will blast wounding the animal many times before its killed.

Some operations even allow the use of high powered bow and arrows to kill lions. To make matters worse the hunt operations will provide the head and skin of the lion for use as a rug and a wall trophy and keep the bones which they will then sell into the Asian medicine trade at great profit. This trade is leading to a huge increase in the poaching of wild lions across Africa (little over 200,000 left). None of this seems to worry Mr Scholey who seems very proud of his kill.

The Countryside Alliance and US National Rifle Associations are vey happy for their members to participate in these trophy hunts despite the obvious cruelty and its impact on the future of a threatened species. Next time the Countryside Alliance start attacking the RSPCA don’t forget to ask them when will they throw out African trophy hunters from their membership like David Scholey.

Note: there is now a petition to have his knighthood removed please sign here
http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-cameron-remove-sir-david-scholey-s-knighthoodenemy is at home

Grass Roots Rank and File Launch Conference.

Saturday 12 April 2014. 12pm
Comfort Inn, Opposite New St Station,

Station Street,

Birmingham. B5 4DY.

Following the successful meeting of the Grass Roots Left National Committee in Birmingham on 18 January the launch conference of the new Grass Roots Rank and File now looks to be on a far healthier basis than was feared when Socialist Fight supporters had been reduced to a minority of two in defence of the Constitution and Platform of the GRL as the basis for the new organisation at the AGM of 9 November. Between the two meetings the SWP had split at its December conference and the new organisation, now called the Revolutionary Socialists of the 21st Century, took the majority of the Unite the union faction who had supported Jerry Hicks for general secretary twice. Both the SWP and the SR21C attended the GRL NC and as they were now rivals they sought to accentuate their leftism. It seems now that the new joint Rank and File organisation will be open and democratic and be based on a platform and constitution at least similar to the old GRL one. Both Workers Power and Socialist Resistance had to reverse themselves and now say that standing on Jerry Hicks election points really was minimalist and not enough and they abandoned their charges of ultra leftism against SF. The SWP, of course, continues its opportunist tailending of all the other the TU bureaucracies as Laurence Humphries’s report on the Unite the Resistance conference on page 30 makes clear. In the meantime we hear that fusion discussions between Unite and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose Executive is dominated by the SP/CWI, are going to succeed because the government will withdraw check-off facilities from the PCS and so probably bankrupt it. The SP has already approached the United Left, the Unite bureaucracy’s mouthpiece, to ensure that they become ensconced as that bureaucracy’s footstools as well as for the RMT’s Bob Crow.grass-roots-RandF

How science is telling us all to revolt

Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

Naomi Klein speaks to The VOAG (Well kind of)Irrigation

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Some scientists need no convincing. The godfather of modern climate science, James Hansen, is a formidable activist, having been arrested some half-dozen times for resisting mountain-top removal coal mining and tar sands pipelines (he even left his job at Nasa this year in part to have more time for campaigning). Two years ago, when I was arrested outside the White House at a mass action against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, one of the 166 people in cuffs that day was a glaciologist named Jason Box, a world-renowned expert on Greenland’s melting ice sheet.

“I couldn’t maintain my self-respect if I didn’t go,” Box said at the time, adding that “just voting doesn’t seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also.”

This is laudable, but what Werner is doing with his modelling is different. He isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

That’s heavy stuff. But he’s not alone. Werner is part of a small but increasingly influential group of scientists whose research into the destabilisation of natural systems – particularly the climate system – is leading them to similarly transformative, even revolutionary, conclusions. And for any closet revolutionary who has ever dreamed of overthrowing the present economic order in favour of one a little less likely to cause Italian pensioners to hang themselves in their homes, this work should be of particular interest. Because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new (and perhaps, with lots of work, better) no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.

Leading the pack of these new scientific revolutionaries is one of Britain’s top climate experts, Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s premier climate research institutions. Addressing everyone from the Department for International Development to Manchester City Council, Anderson has spent more than a decade patiently translating the implications of the latest climate science to politicians, economists and campaigners. In clear and understandable language, he lays out a rigorous road map for emissions reduction, one that provides a decent shot at keeping global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, a target that most governments have determined would stave off catastrophe.

But in recent years Anderson’s papers and slide shows have become more alarming. Under titles such as “Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous . . . Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope”, he points out that the chances of staying within anything like safe temperature levels are diminishing fast.

With his colleague Alice Bows, a climate mitigation expert at the Tyndall Centre, Anderson points out that we have lost so much time to political stalling and weak climate policies – all while global consumption (and emissions) ballooned – that we are now facing cuts so drastic that they challenge the fundamental logic of prioritising GDP growth above all else.

Anderson and Bows inform us that the often-cited long-term mitigation target – an 80 per cent emissions cut below 1990 levels by 2050 – has been selected purely for reasons of political expediency and has “no scientific basis”. That’s because climate impacts come not just from what we emit today and tomorrow, but from the cumulative emissions that build up in the atmosphere over time. And they warn that by focusing on targets three and a half decades into the future – rather than on what we can do to cut carbon sharply and immediately – there is a serious risk that we will allow our emissions to continue to soar for years to come, thereby blowing through far too much of our 2° “carbon budget” and putting ourselves in an impossible position later in the century.

Which is why Anderson and Bows argue that, if the governments of developed countries are serious about hitting the agreed upon international target of keeping warming below 2° Celsius, and if reductions are to respect any kind of equity principle (basically that the countries that have been spewing carbon for the better part of two centuries need to cut before the countries where more than a billion people still don’t have electricity), then the reductions need to be a lot deeper, and they need to come a lot sooner.

To have even a 50/50 chance of hitting the 2° target (which, they and many others warn, already involves facing an array of hugely damaging climate impacts), the industrialised countries need to start cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions by something like 10 per cent a year – and they need to start right now. But Anderson and Bows go further, pointing out that this target cannot be met with the array of modest carbon pricing or green-tech solutions usually advocated by big green groups. These measures will certainly help, to be sure, but they are simply not enough: a 10 per cent drop in emissions, year after year, is virtually unprecedented since we started powering our economies with coal. In fact, cuts above 1 per cent per year “have historically been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”, as the economist Nicholas Stern put it in his 2006 report for the British government.

Even after the Soviet Union collapsed, reductions of this duration and depth did not happen (the former Soviet countries experienced average annual reductions of roughly 5 per cent over a period of ten years). They did not happen after Wall Street crashed in 2008 (wealthy countries experienced about a 7 per cent drop between 2008 and 2009, but their CO2 emissions rebounded with gusto in 2010 and emissions in China and India had continued to rise). Only in the immediate aftermath of the great market crash of 1929 did the United States, for instance, see emissions drop for several consecutive years by more than 10 per cent annually, according to historical data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. But that was the worst economic crisis of modern times.

If we are to avoid that kind of carnage while meeting our science-based emissions targets, carbon reduction must be managed carefully through what Anderson and Bows describe as “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the US, EU and other wealthy nations”. Which is fine, except that we happen to have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else, regardless of the human or ecological consequences, and in which the neoliberal political class has utterly abdicated its responsibility to manage anything (since the market is the invisible genius to which everything must be entrusted).

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

In a 2012 essay that appeared in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change, Anderson and Bows laid down something of a gauntlet, accusing many of their fellow scientists of failing to come clean about the kind of changes that climate change demands of humanity. On this it is worth quoting the pair at length:

 . . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. By August 2013, Anderson was willing to be even more blunt, writing that the boat had sailed on gradual change. “Perhaps at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, or even at the turn of the millennium, 2°C levels of mitigation could have been achieved through significant evolutionary changes within the political and economic hegemony. But climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high emitting industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony” (his emphasis).

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of even their own research. Most of them were just quietly doing their work measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as the Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that they “were unwittingly destabilising the political and social order”.

But there are many people who are well aware of the revolutionary nature of climate science. It’s why some of the governments that decided to chuck their climate commitments in favour of digging up more carbon have had to find ever more thuggish ways to silence and intimidate their nations’ scientists. In Britain, this strategy is becoming more overt, with Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writing recently that scientists should avoid “suggesting that policies are either right or wrong” and should express their views “by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena”.

If you want to know where this leads, check out what’s happening in Canada, where I live. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has done such an effective job of gagging scientists and shutting down critical research projects that, in July 2012, a couple thousand scientists and supporters held a mock-funeral on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, mourning “the death of evidence”. Their placards said, “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth”.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly: blockading fracking activity in Balcombe; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters (at tremendous personal cost); taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small. In Brad Werner’s computer model, this is the “friction” needed to slow down the forces of destabilisation; the great climate campaigner Bill McKibben calls it the “antibodies” rising up to fight the planet’s “spiking fever”.The VOAG is everywhere

The Friern Barnet library victory shows the way to
campaign against cuts

Local residents, Occupy activists and squatters have worked together to force the council to re-open Friern Barnet library.Friern Barnet library

The Guardian, Nov 15th, 2013
Local residents, Occupy activists and squatters have worked together to force the council to re-open Friern Barnet library.

When Bob Marley and Peter Tosh wrote the classic protest song Get Up, Stand Up they could not have envisaged that it would be adopted by a group of mainly white, middle-aged, middle-class north Londoners who have formed a remarkable alliance with a group of squatters and members of the Occupy movement to oppose a library closure.

On Tuesday, all of the above joined hands in a human chain around Friern Barnet Library in north London. It was closed in April 2012 due to council cuts, and occupied by squatters five months ago, who reopened it with the help of local volunteers almost immediately.

Needless to say the council was not pleased. It has now reopened as a community library with financial input from the council who shut it down. Together, the disparate group of library fans sang an adaptation of their song that Marley and Tosh would probably have approved of – Get Up, Stand Up, Save Our Libraries.

The council threatened to close the library in 2009. Residents and Labour councillors staged various protests, including leafleting, a five-hour sit-in and the temporary establishment of a pop-up library. When the library closed the council brushed off the pleas to reopen it on that site.

When the squatters climbed through an open window in September and began working with local residents to restore a library service in the building the council was stymied.

Officials had to lodge court proceedings to evict the squatters, and as the weeks ticked by before the case was heard the disparate groups forged genuine and trusting relationships and the initially empty library shelves swelled until they had more than 10,000 donated books on offer to lend.

The library became a community hub with events for children, yoga classes and book signings with the likes of Will Self. Barnet county court granted an eviction order in December. But local residents speedily formed a legally constituted group of licensees who offered to take over the running of the library when the squatters moved out on Tuesday. They are now negotiating a long-term lease with the council and plans to sell the site off to a developer have been shelved – for now at least.

When David Cameron put forward his “big society” idea he probably wasn’t advocating unusual alliances of people working together collaboratively to overturn closures of public services implemented by radical Tory councils such as Barnet. But, arguably, this is the big society in action.

The Occupy movement has raised a great deal of awareness of global inequality but has not focused on or achieved small, concrete wins such as this one. The Barnet residents’ protests fell on deaf ears until the squatters supported by Occupy moved in. Squatters have had an opportunity to rebrand themselves as socially responsible, community minded individuals who are working to restore closed-down public services. The local residents are clear that without the input of the squatters and Occupy, the library would not have reopened.

The squatters know that without the huge support from residents they would have been unceremoniously evicted from the library premises much sooner and Barnet council would have gone ahead with its plans to sell the site to a commercial developer. But together the different groups formed a potent alliance. Assisted by a strong legal team they were able to argue in court that they were providing a greatly valued public service. Their arguments were reflected in the judge’s ruling. While granting Barnet council an eviction order, district judge HHJ Pearl recognised the right to protest and said of the occupied library: “There is no suggestion that this is anything other than a happy, pleasant, well-run place.”

The relationship between the various groups involved in the library protest and occupation has been characterised by gentleness, mutual respect for the range of views put forward and a very sincere spirit of collaboration. The residents have become more tuned in to the issues raised by the squatters and Occupy, and the latter have worked sensitively with the locals to help them achieve their objectives of restoring a much-loved public service.

As those gathered to celebrate the establishment of Friern Barnet community library on Tuesday lit candles on a very long cake modelled on Eric Carle’s classic children’s book, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, the unity of purpose resonated around the room. Could this kind of unusual alliance be the future of campaigning against cuts in services and other matters of public concern? This unprecedented reopening of a closed down library suggests that it could.Voag-Logo-Darker

Monsanto Wins  Nobel Prize of agriculture

In an obscene development, a Monsanto executive is winning this year’s “Nobel Prize of agriculture” – the prestigious World Food Prize – for creating GMOs. Receiving it legitimizes the sort of rampant genetic modification Monsanto pioneered, and helps validate a ruthless business model that impoverishes farmers and monopolizes our food. [1]

If that wasn’t baffling enough, the founder of Syngenta, the same biotech giant joining Bayer in suing Europe to keep selling bee-killing pesticides, will also win the prize, and with it, a share of the $250,000 prize money. This prize legitimizes their frankenfoods and bee killers.

Winning this prize will encourage the wider use of genetically engineered crops and be a huge obstacle to those fighting to investigate the long-term effects of its frankenseeds, which is exactly what Monsanto wants. In 2008, Monsanto made a $5 million pledge to the World Food Prize Foundation, part of its plan to buy the credibility it can’t legitimately earn. By handing its benefactor this award, the Foundation risks undermining the credibility of the most respected prize in agriculture.

Monsanto has been by far the most prominent and controversial corporation promoting the introduction of biotechnology in agriculture. The company has a long and messy history of manufacturing hazardous chemicals. Their products have included chemical warfare agents (Agent Orange), industrial materials (PCBs), food additives (NutraSweet), agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals.

The Crimes of Monsanto
As the market leaders in GM crops it is Monsanto who have been largely responsible for contaminating the global food chain with GM crops. The long term health effects of eating GM crops are as yet unknown. [2]

BST,  marketed by Monsanto as Posilac, is a genetically engineered hormone designed to make cows produce more milk. Studies have shown that BST has serious implications for the health and welfare of dairy cattle and may cause breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer in humans. It is banned in Europe but Monsanto is trying to overturn the ban in the courts.

One of the most worrying and pernicious of Monsanto’s crimes has been to obtain patents for ‘terminator’ technology. Terminator technology involves the genetically engineering of plants to produce sterile seeds, thus forcing farmers to buy new seed every year, rather than saving their own seed from year to year. Monsanto has said it will not use this technology, but still holds the patents and may use it in future. [3]

Several scientific studies have suggested that the Bt technology used by Monsanto in their insect resistant crops may kill ‘non-pest’ insects such as the Monarch butterfly, yet Monsanto attempted to rush their Bt insect resistant cotton through the Indian government’s regulatory process anyway. The dicission on allowing commercial growing of Bt cotton has been postponed in the face of massive opposition from Indian farmers and NGOs all over the world.

Monsanto have also been behind a long list of litigations against activists, designed to intimidate anyone who may question Monsanto’s story. In 1997 two TV journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, who were making a documentary on the dangers of  Monsanto’s BST were fired by their employers Fox, when they refused to change the content of the documentary. In 1998 Monsanto took out a wide ranging SLAPP (Stategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against activists from Genetix Snowball who were campaigning agains Monsanto’s GM food trials in the UK.

Protest
In protest, 81 Councilors of the World Future Council have penned a statement blasting the World Food Prize Foundation for betraying its purpose. In the words of the esteemed authors: “GMO seeds reinforce a model of farming that undermines the sustainability of cash-poor farmers, who make up most of the world’s hungry. The most dramatic impact of such dependency is in India, where 270,000 farmers, many trapped in debt for buying seeds and chemicals, committed suicide between 1995 and 2012.” Despite the criticism, Monsanto and Syngenta executives are set to receive their prize on World Food Day, October 16, a slap in the face to everyone harmed by their products. [4]

[1] http://action.sumofus.org/a/world-food-prize-monsanto-syngenta/5/4/?akid=2390.1701622.QwfZ4y&rd=1&sub=fwd&t=3

[2] http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=210

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

For further reading: Focus On GMOs – WANTED: Monsanto for crimes against the planet

VOAG-Logo-(Brick)5-transparPolice colluded in secret plan to blacklist 3,200 building workers

IPCC tells lawyers representing victims it is likely that all special branches were involved in providing information

The Observer, Saturday 12 October 2013
Police officers across the country supplied information on workers to a  blacklist operation run by Britain’s biggest construction companies, the police watchdog has told lawyers representing victims.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has informed those affected that a Scotland Yard inquiry into police  collusion has identified that it is “likely that all special branches  were involved in providing information” that kept certain individuals  out of work.

The IPCC’s disclosure confirms suspicions voiced by the information commissioner’s office last year that the police had been involved in providing some of the information held on the files, as revealed by this newspaper.

The admission has been welcomed by campaigners for the 3,200 workers whose  names were on the blacklist that was run for construction companies as  “absolute evidence” of a conspiracy between the state and industry that  lasted for decades.

Dave Smith, an engineer who had a 36-page file under his name and was  repeatedly victimised for highlighting safety hazards on sites,  including the presence of asbestos, said he was delighted that the IPCC  had revealed “the truth”. He added: “For the past five years, when we  have been saying the police were involved, we were told we were talking  nonsense and it was a conspiracy theory. They wanted it to go away. Now  we have the absolute evidence and this is no longer about industrial  relations but is a major human rights scandal involving a conspiracy  between the police and the industry.”A worker lays bricks at a building siteThe blacklist, run by a company called the Consulting Association, funded by 40 major firms in the construction industry including Balfour Beatty and Sir Robert McAlpine, was discovered in  2009 after a raid by the information commissioner’s office. Since then,  the victims have fought to find out who was providing information  against them. The IPCC’s correspondence is regarded as a major  breakthrough.

However, the watchdog’s disclosure has been disputed by a subsequent letter to the victims’ solicitors. This was sent by a  recently appointed senior investigating officer for the inquiry into the activities of undercover police officers, known as Operation Herne.

In a letter, seen by the Observer, detective inspector Steve Craddock insists that the IPCC’s statement is incorrect and that he has seen “no conclusive evidence” that Scotland  Yard shared information with the blacklisters.

The IPCC is  standing by its correspondence, which it says was informed by  discussions with the Metropolitan Police and that “developments since  that … are a matter for the Metropolitan Police”.

In response, a spokesman for Craddock said Operation Herne’s investigating officer was “aware of the apparent contradiction and is looking into how that may  have arisen”. She added: “Operation Herne will report on the  ‘blacklisting’ matter to the Metropolitan Police commissioner in due  course.”

The developments come as the group fighting for justice  for the blacklisted workers has received confirmation of a meeting  between undercover police officers and those running the blacklist in  November 2008. The information commissioner’s officers have confirmed in a freedom of information response that they hold notes from a meeting  between the Consulting Association and officers from the police national extremism tactical co-ordination unit, which runs undercover officers.

The notes of the 2008 meeting are part of a haul of documents seized by the information commissioner’s office when it discovered the existence of  the secret blacklist during a raid on an office in Droitwich,  Worcestershire.

Sir Robert McAlpine, which was allegedly a major player in the  establishment and funding of the blacklist, is currently being sued in  the high court over an unlawful conspiracy to amass a database of information against thousands of people.

Last week, in a dramatic twist, eight major construction companies, including Sir Robert McAlpine, announced  that they would compensate some of the 3,213 workers whose names had been on a blacklist. A statement said: “The companies – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain,  Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci – all  apologise for their involvement with the Consulting Association and the  impact that its database may have had on any individual construction  worker.”

Sean Curran, a solicitor representing 69 victims in the  high court, said he cautiously welcomed the announcement but raised  concerns over the involvement of the unions, which are also suspected of providing information to the blacklist operation in some cases. He  said: “We note that there has been reference to the consultation of  Ucatt and Unite in the formulation of the proposed compensation scheme.  We express serious concern about the involvement of those organisations.

“We have seen evidence that implicates Amicus (which evolved into Unite)  and Ucatt officials in the supply of negative commentary about the  suitability of their members for employment. That commentary frequently  made its way onto the Consulting Association database and was no doubt  one of the factors that led to denials of employment.

“It is also  worthy of note that those unions refused to support their members in  bringing a High Court claim so that they could seek redress for the  hardship that they suffered. Many of those that we represent are firm  that they object to Unite or Ucatt playing any part in negotiations with the relevant companies for these reasons.”

Claire Windsor,  solicitor for the victims in regard to the complaint over police  collusion, said her clients had lost any faith in the ability of the  police to investigate themselves and that the blacklist support group  was now calling for a judge-led independent inquiry into blacklisting.The Voag

hendrik-a-verfaillie-and-monsWANTED: Monsanto for crimes against the planet

Greenpeace, August 24, 2002
Long time corporate scoundrels Monsanto are WANTED for their crimes against the planet. It started innocently enough with the production of Agent Orange for military use in Vietnam. Then came PCBs and Dioxin. Now they are after our food. Their goal: global food supply domination.

The environmental criminal:
Monsanto is wanted for questioning in relation to the genetic pollution of the planet Earth, force feeding global citizens genetically engineered foods and the global take over of the planet’s food sources.

It is armed with the arrogant belief that genetic engineering is safe, both for the environment and human health. Monsanto is the same company that brought us such safe, healthy products as Agent Orange and PCBs.

The accomplice:
The US and Canadian governments not only ignored the inherent risks of genetic engineering, they have aided Monsanto setting up an inadequate regulatory system that relies on risk assessment, industry science and voluntary compliance.

The environmental crime:
As if polluting the planet with noxious PCBs, dioxins and harmful pesticides wasn’t enough, now this leader in the genetic engineering industry is threatening to alter the genes of every food crop on Earth. Monsanto’s Robert Fraley testified: “What you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies, it’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain.”

Through a spending spree of billions of US dollars acquiring seed companies around the world and the contamination of the global food chain with GE crops, Monsanto’s diabolical plan of global food take over may soon be a reality. But since meeting resistance from people in developed nations, Monsanto has turned its focus to developing nations. They claim that they can help meet the world’s growing food needs and feed the hungry. But they ignore the fact that most hungry people live in countries that have food surpluses rather than deficits.

Innovative, environmentally responsible farming practices are already in the ground, offering food security and sustainable livelihoods without drawing farmers into more dependency, threatening biodiversity or endangering human health. Food security, the ability of a community to feed itself consistently on a diverse and healthy diet, is a complex problem that will not be solved overnight, it depends on people having access to land and money. Monsanto is offering neither.

And why should we believe that this move to sell genetically engineered crops to developing nations to help them with hunger and malnutrition comes from the goodness of their hearts. If their relationship with farmers in developed nations is any indication, farmers in the developing world will be trampled by the coercion and censorship tactics of this agriculture bully.

Monsanto promotes a farming model of snooping and snitching on your neighbours. The company employs a small army of private investigators to check up on farmers and advertises a toll-free informer line. They have tried to censor journalists questioning the safety of Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone and stop the printers of the Ecologist from publishing a special edition attacking Monsanto. Instead Monsanto spends millions on public relations campaigns of misinformation and warm fuzzy feelings.

The victim:
Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from the prairie food belt of Canada. His canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready canola seed. Monsanto’s position is that it doesn’t matter whether Percy knew it or not, his canola field was contaminated with the Roundup Ready gene and he must pay their technology fee. Percy and his wife Louise stood up to Monsanto in a classic battle of good versus evil, David versus Goliath, but in this round it was Monsanto that won out in the Canadian court battle. Percy is appealing.

Monsanto quotes Gandhi “we must be the change we wish to see in the world” in their propaganda. But it was Percy who received the Mahatma Gandhi Award while he was in India in October 2000. The award is given in recognition of working for the betterment and good of humankind in a non-violent way.

The verdict:
Oh so guilty, their arrest is overdue. Monsanto has already polluted every corner of the planet with PCBs and dioxin, they must be held accountable before all crops and genetic resources on the planet are contaminated and our food supply forever under their control.

The US and Canadian governments must hold Monsanto accountable for their crimes against the environment and the global food supply. World governments need to agree on legally binding rules for corporations that hold them responsible for the actions next week at the Earth Summit.

The Reward:
A safe and secure global food supply, a healthy environment and the chance to properly tackle the inadequate distribution of food to the world’s hungry.