Sunday, August 31, 2014

Boris rides extremist band wagon

LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson has provoked outrage, including from members of his own party and outside it, for saying Britons who travel to Iraq and Syria should be presumed guilty of terrorism.
He also suggested dropping a bomb on a British jihadist who appeared in an Islamic State execution video.
Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna has said he doesn't think Boris Johnson's comments about returning British extremists are "sophisticated, sensible or responsible".
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: “I’ll listen to security services rather than Boris when it comes to dealing with Islamic State militants.”
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty said: "When Mr Johnson was seeking the vote in London, he spoke passionately against identity cards and punishment without trial. Now his political ambitions have escalated, it seems that liberty is trivial and suspicions should replace charges, evidence and proof.
"Stripping Britons of their nationality is unjust to the innocent and internationally irresponsible if they are guilty. Control orders are anti-terror asbos that serve neither justice nor security. An August cockfight between rivals for the Conservative leadership is no way to make policy."

Exhibition shows the horrors of war in eastern Ukraine

by New Worker correspondent
Sunshine Choir sings for peace

MEMBERS of London’s Russian and Ukrainian communities along with progressive Londoners last Thursday evening packed the Coningsby Gallery for the launch of a charity photo exhibition to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in south-eastern Ukraine.
The walls were filled with photographs of scenes of what is now everyday life for the people of that region – surviving amid shattered buildings with no electricity, no clean water supplies and very little food – and under constant threat of new bombing and shelling of their homes.
This is the result of the war being waged on the population by the fascist junta now reigning in Kiev because they have refused to accept the authority of that junta and bow down to a Nazi regime.
The photos show elderly women distraught as dead bodies lie in the street, or sheltering in basement store-rooms amid large jars of pickles. They show mothers trying to protect and feed their children amid chaos; they show queues for food and queues for transport out of the area – to take them as refugees to neighbouring Russia.
Thousands who can get out have done so but many are trapped, especially the elderly and the very young and those who are pregnant.
The exhibition was organised by Lazlo Puskas of the Kultura Foundation to show the world what is really going on in eastern Ukraine and to protest about the lack of coverage of the situation in western media.
The exhibition was opened with songs for peace from the “Sunshine Choir” in Ukrainian and in English.
And Larissa, a woman from Lugansk told the crowd assembled there of how those who cannot get out are trying to cope with no food, no clean water, no electricity, no transport and homes in ruins.
She spoke of how the lack or refrigeration means that the bodies of the dead have to be buried at once – often in mass graves and before proper identification can happen.
Homes, hospitals and schools have been bombed – there are no safe places to take the sick , the wounded and few medicines to treat them. Many are sheltering in dark, damp cellars.
The Kultura Foundation explained that after the February seizure of power in Kiev by ultra-nationalist organisations, including the neo-Nazi Banderists and the Right Sector, there was a surge of peaceful anti-fascist movements in the majority of cities in south-east Ukraine.
This was accelerated by the Odessa tragedy where people fleeing from the brutal fascists sought shelter in the Trade Union Building, which was then set on fire, leading to the death of at least 48 people – while the police stood by and watched.
In order to prevent similar tragedies locals created peoples assemblies in Donetsk and Lugansk and tried in vain to achieve a dialogue with the Kiev regime.
Kiev responded by launching a full scale military operation against the people of south-east Ukraine and the area has been plunged into a humanitarian catastrophe. Thousands have died or are wounded. Tens of thousands have fled their homes.
The goal of the exhibition, which lasted a week from Thursday 21st August, was to show the scale of the disaster and to urge Kiev to stop the genocide of its own people.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Welcome home for Talha Ahsan

FAMILY and friends of Talha Ahsan organised a rally to celebrate his return home to Britain after years of detention in Britain and the United States.
Syed Talha Ahsan is an award winning British poet and translator. He was arrested at his family home in London, on 19th July 2006 in response to a request from the USA under the US-UK Extradition Act 2003.
Talha Ahsan was detained without charge for over six years before his extradition to the United States on 5th October 2012. Ahsan was accused of helping to set up an Islamic fundamentalist website based in Connecticut that raised funds for the Taliban and other Islamic terror groups in Bosnia and Chechnya. The Americans also claimed that Ahsan had provided support to Al Qaida and that he had fought in Afghanistan. Ahsan, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, denies all charges.
But on 10th December 2013, in the US District Court in New Haven, Connecticut he entered into a plea-bargain with the prosecution and pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to provide and providing material support for militants in Chechnya and Afghanistan. All other charges were dismissed.
 His brother Hamja said: "Talha had little choice but to enter a plea bargain: he was faced with the option of dying in a 'supermax' prison, or entering into a plea bargain, which was the quickest way to come home," he said.
The length of Talha's detention without trial or charge is among the longest in British legal history. He is also the translator of a tenth-century Arabic poem, Above the Dust, by Abu Firas Al-Hamdani, on his captivity in Byzantium.
His extradition case raised controversy due to comparison with the treatment of Gary McKinnon, whose extradition – which was expected to be 10 days after Ahsan's – was stalled after a medical diagnosis of Asperger syndrome and associative risks, similar to a diagnosis given to Ahsan.
This has led to accusations from mainstream UK media, Human Rights NGOs as well as religious groups of a racist double standard within Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May's application of the law.
Talha was declared a free man by a US judge on 16th July and was transferred to US immigration custody where he awaits release and permission to return home.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

London highlights Ming Dynasty exhibition

 London's most well-known cultural institutions gathered together last week to promote the metropolis' autumn cultural season, which will highlight an exhibition about China's Ming Dynasty.
The exhibition -- Ming: 50 years that changed China -- focuses on 1400-1450, a key period in the dynasty's early years and will be held from 18th September  2014 to 5th  January 2015 at the British Museum in London.
Between 1400 and 1450, China was a global superpower run by one family -- the Ming dynasty, which established Beijing as the capital and built the Forbidden City.
During this period, Ming China was thoroughly connected with the outside world. Chinese artists absorbed many fascinating influences and created some of the most beautiful objects and paintings ever made.
The exhibition will feature a range of these spectacular objects - including exquisite porcelain, gold, jewelry, furniture, paintings, sculptures and textiles - from museums across China and the rest of the world. Many of them have only been very recently discovered and have never been seen outside China.
At the launch event of the cultural season, Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming said the exhibition "is the most valuable way to introduce Chinese culture to the public across the Britain."
"This exhibition will also play a big role and lay a good foundation for the Year of China-UK Cultural Exchange in 2015...I wish the London autumn cultural season a great success and I look forward to many more excellent cultural events in London," Liu said.
Besides the Ming dynasty exhibition, the stellar line-up of shows and exhibitions to take place in the upcoming autumn includes exhibitions of English Romantic landscape painter Joseph Mallord William Turner's works and German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer's works as well as a Sherlock Holmes exhibition.
The autumn cultural season is expected to attract more than two million visitors.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Anti-fascists protest outside US embassy

Stop funding Israeli terror in Gaza and Ukrainian terror in Donetsk and Lugansk. Protesters outside the US embassy in London demand an end to the targeting of civilians in Ukraine and Gaza.

Commemorating the Roma Porajmos

By New Worker correspondent

ROMA people throughout Europe commemorate the Porajmos – the mass killing of Roma people by the Nazis – on 2nd August and in London this memorial event is traditionally is held at Hyde Park’s Holocaust memorial garden, near the Albert Gate.
Last Saturday a large group of Roma people, along with many Jewish supporters, met there to remember the Roma victims of the Nazi death camps – estimates vary from 250,000 to 1,500,000.
They included Ladislav Balaz, who chairs the European Roma Network and cannot return to his home country, the Czech Republic, Petr Jano, also a Czech Roma, Toma Mladenov from Bulgaria, Valdemar Kalinin, a former Red Army officer and poet from Belarus and Grattan Puxon, who heads the Roma network in Britain.
Also present were David Landau of the Jewish Socialist Group, Ruth Barnett a 79-year-old author and campaigner against discrimination who came to Britain in 1939 with the Kinder transport and Thomas Acton, emeritus Professor of Romani studies at Greenwich University.
They brought the Roma flag – top half blue to represent the sky that Roma travel under, bottom half green to represent the earth and with a big red wagon wheel in the middle – making it look a bit like the flag of India, which is where the Roma people are believed to originate.
The fate of the Roma under the Nazis is often spoken of as the forgotten holocaust and whereas now anti-Semitism is socially unacceptable, Roma people still face widespread irrational prejudice and hostility making their lives difficult and leaving them vulnerable to abuse and attacks.
This is very much the case in the former socialist republics where Roma communities have become victims again of extremist nationalists and fascists and now many go in fear of their lives.
Toma Mladenov is one such refugee – an activist for Roma rights he was imprisoned for his political activities for six months and fled to Britain on his release. He then had to fight the British Home Office to avoid extradition.
Valdemar Kalinin brought along a collection of medals awarded by the Soviet Union to Roma people who had served in the Red Army or in Soviet industry during the Second World War.
They warned of the real dangers of rising racism and Nazism in Eastern Europe and especially Ukraine.
But Roma in Britain also have real problems. Grattan Puxon spoke of a recent meeting with Communities Minister Eric Pickles and reported that our current government is definitely “Roma hostile”.
This is the government that supported Basildon council in evicting travellers from land they had bought and converted from a junkyard into living space because of technicalities over planning permission.
Grattan called for a national strategy for Roma and other Travellers that will allow them places to live together legally and to access the same health, social and educational services as anyone else.
Pickles recently issued a guidance paper: Dealing with illegal and unauthorised encampments – A Summary of Power.  This document brings together an armoury of legislation and legal processes, old and new, which can be used against Travellers.
Pickles makes no attempt to hide his purpose – its opening salvo is “This guide sets out the robust powers councils and landowners now have to clamp down quickly on illegal and unauthorised encampments.”
“This is nothing less than a declaration of war against Travellers and Roma, to batter those who try to carry on, intimidate people from continuing to live a Traveller’s life and to clear Roma encampments,” said Grattan.
“The Government and the media present Travellers as a problem. The real problem is the woeful lack of site provision.  At best no more than 150 pitches out of an officially recognised need of 3,000 individual family yards will be provided this year and next.
“Travellers have been encouraged by successive governments to buy their own land only to find, that having struggled to raise the money, they are refused planning permission to live on their land. Squeezed by the lack of sites on the one hand and Pickles’ ‘robust powers’ on other, where are Travellers supposed to go?  Nowhere. The intention is clear; to destroy Traveller identity and way of life.”
Last year’s Porajmos commemoration was interrupted by a police raid and attempt to arrest Romanian refugee Travellers at the ceremony who had been sleeping in the park because they had nowhere else to go.