Posts Tagged ‘Pollution’

RT’s Afshin Rattansi Talking to Gaza Health Minister Dr Basem Naim

May 18, 2018

This was posted on May 14th, a day before the Israeli’s massacred 60 Gaza Palestinians for trying to break through the fence into Israel, and it adds some very relevant pieces of back ground detail.

It’s from RT’s ‘Going Underground’ show, where Rattansi interviews various guests. This year is the 70th anniversary of the birth of Israel, called by Palestinians the Nakba, or ‘Catastrophe’, because it led to the destruction of their country and its communities. 400 Arab villages were razed by the Israelis in 1948, and countless villagers massacred up and down the country by Israeli troopers, even those bringing them rice as a peace overture, or seeking refuge in mosques.

To mark this, the Palestinians had organised a ‘March for Return’, which has been going on since April 30th. This is clearly part of the demand that the Palestinians should be allowed to move out of their refugee camps, and, presumably, return from their exile abroad to their old homes in what is now Israel. Israel definitely does not want to do this, as it has been pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing since the first Zionist settlers arrived in the early 20th century. It refuses to let Palestinian exiles return because this would upset the demographic character of Israel as the Jewish state.

He also attacks Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, pointing out that it is a contested city, and should be the Palestinian capital. He also describes the squalid conditions in Gaza itself, which is deliberately starved of water and electricity by Israel, and indeed the water supplies have been fouled by Israel consumption and water projects. The beach is also heavily polluted – up to 97 per cent if covered with sewage, again from Israel. There economy is also deliberately stifled by Israel. And naturally, he is firmly opposed to the visit to Israel scheduled for later by Prince William.

Rattansi tries to tackle him on Syria, trying to get him to admit that Hamas forces there have been fighting against ISIS and al-Qaeda. Basem refuses to admit this, and just repeats the line that Palestinians are peaceful people dedicated to cooperation.

This adds a bit more information to explain the powerful reaction by the Palestinians to Trump’s movement of the embassy. This was always going to be intensely controversial to a persecuted and exiled people, who look on the Holy City as their own. But the fact that this occurred in what they remember as the anniversary of their country’s destruction and their persecuting, ethnic cleansing and massacre, which they were commemorating with a march demanding their return to their homes, also explains why so many massed at the fence between Gaza and Israel.

As for Palestinians being a peaceful people, the PLO has carried out terrorist atrocities. Israel has regularly denounced Hamas, the governing faction in Gaza, as a terrorist organisation, but I’ve read others claim that Israeli policy has left them no choice. The Israeli state ignores Palestinian moderates, and does not seem to respond except through the threat of violence. When this occurs, they refuse to concede to Palestinian demands because they don’t talk to terrorists. I’ve also come across conspiracy theories, which consider that Hamas is itself a creation of the Israelis.

As for Hamas fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda in Palestine, I’m actually with them on that one. Hamas are also Islamists, but ISIS and al-Qaeda are terrorists. Daesh are responsible for the destruction of antiquities and priceless ancient artifacts and monuments, including mosques and other Islamic buildings, all over the Middle East and North Africa. They have also murdered moderate Muslims, Sufis, Shi’a, and other forms of Islam that don’t conform to their own twisted ideas. And this is quite apart from their persecution of non-Muslims, like Christians and Yezidis, and their re-imposition of sex-slavery for the Yezidi women they have captured. They are an affront to human civilisation, and it is an abomination that the Americans have been backing them as part of the proxy war against Assad in Syria. Daesh should be fought against and the movement wiped from the Earth.

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Jimmy Dore and Abby Martin Discuss Whether Rachel Maddow Is A Danger to Journalism: Part 1

November 19, 2017

It’s isn’t just Rachel Maddow. They go on to talk about how the whole of the American mainstream media, including MSNBC, has been corrupted by corporate power, and now reflects nothing but establishment propaganda. Just like the corporatist, Clintonite wing of the Democrats. They also talk about the terror Black and Latino neighbourhoods are living in, thanks to Trump, ICE and the anti-immigrant rhetoric. They conclude by discussing how whole neighbourhoods in Houston and elsewhere in Texas have been gutted by Hurricane Harvey, but aren’t receiving any help, because they’re working class areas and only the business and affluent centres are prioritised. And the immense environmental damage that has been caused by Big Oil, but which goes unchallenged and undocumented, because Big Oil owns everything in those areas, right down to schools and hospitals.

Abby Martin is the courageous and fiercely intelligent host of The Empire Files on TeleSur English and previously, RT. This series unflinchingly exposes what the American military-industrial complex is doing across the world through coups, ‘regime change’ and foreign wars and military interventions. Including the real situation in Israel, where the Israelis have subjected the indigenous Palestinians to nearly 70 years of massacres, brutality and ethnic cleansing.

She also shows how ordinary Americans are being exploited at home, as big business seeks to strip them of welfare, workers’ rights and shift the tax burden on to them, while further destroying any affordable healthcare provision and privatising the public schools. She was so much a threat to the American establishment, that half the report concocted to show that RT was just a propaganda operation being used by Putin to destabilise America was about Martin personally.

I’ve already put up a three-part blog post about a previous 30-minute long segment from the Jimmy Dore Show, in which he and Martin discuss her work and the crimes of American imperialism. I think this segment may have been part of the same interview, but the two have been edited and split into separate parts.

The two begin by discussing how MSNBC, the formerly liberal network, is now just the mirror image of the right-wing Fox Network. Martin is particularly unimpressed by the way MSNBC tried to discredit Bill Binney by calling him a ‘conspiracy theorist’. Bill Binney was the NSA official, who constructed the ‘Thin Spread’ mass surveillance software keeping tabs on people’s electronic information and communications. He’s been praised by Edward Snowden, one of the other whistleblowers on the use of mass surveillance software by the intelligence agencies. They then talk about the lies and propaganda about RT, and how the government is trying to shut it down by having it register as a foreign agent. Martin states that MSNBC is now just the other arm of Fox News, but just parrots Democrat propaganda.

As for Rachel Maddow, one of the lead presenters on MSNBC, and a staunch supporter of Killary and the corporatist Democrats, Martin states that she’s a careerist hack. However, she and the other hacks with her realised that they have to double down and try to explain away why Killary lost to Trump. But they’re so trapped in the elitist bubble, that they have absolutely no idea. One of the reasons Clinton lost was because she didn’t bother going to certain states, like Wisconsin. Martin and Dore joke about whether it was Putin, who stopped her going there. Did he steal her map, hack into her computer and wipe the entry for it?

They then move on to the question of the future of journalism. Martin states that journalism has always been antithetical to business, this is why it’s been corrupted by government and folded into big business conglomerates through mergers. It’s why Martin herself joined RT. She talks about how it was a long time before she realised how compromised journalism actually was, however. She talks about how she went on tour with John Kerry. But journalism hasn’t just been corrupted by the Democrats, nor the Republicans. She states that the future of journalism lies with us, referring to alternative media and the power of the internet. She states that now we don’t need to get a press handout from Monsanto to talk about what they’re doing, or get a statement from the government: they can just talk to the government’s victims.

She then goes on to talk about ‘fake news’, and how this is being hijacked by the establishment to close down alternative media. Bill Kristol, one of the founders of the Neocons and the head of the Project for the New American Century, has said that he’s going to set up a thinktank to combat ‘fake news’. She and Dore also talk about how the alternative media are being forced to brand themselves to survive, so they have to set up Patreon accounts so people can fund them. But she has a lot of hope for citizen journalism. There is just a need to invest in it, and to follow those journalists we admire. We have to create our own networks. The Intercept, which has done some good work, was forced to rely on a billionaire, and now they have to go begging for money.

Martin then turns to Project Censored, which she praises as a very good, worthwhile alternative to mainstream journalist training. She advises aspiring journos not to go to journalism school, as they will just get into debt up to their behinds, and will be hit over the head with how to be journalists. Only to get a job as an unpaid intern at the end of it. Project Censored, on the other hand, takes in anyone, and you can go in at different levels – as a researcher, or writer, for example. Every year they published the five most censored stories. One of these is that there are 3,000 towns in America, whose water has a higher lead content than that of Flint in Michigan. She and Dore then discuss the alternative, drinking bottled water. Martin refuses to drink most of these brands, because they’re all owned by Nestle. Nestle owns the majority of water bottling plants. They just suck out the aquifers of local towns, which get nothing in return, except for a councillor, who’s on their payroll. And this is apart from the slave labour involved in their chocolate. She states that there is now only one party, and that she has always advised against voting for the lesser of two evils.

Continued in Part 2.

Jimmy Dore and Abby Martin Discuss Whether Rachel Maddow Is A Danger to Journalism: Part 2

November 19, 2017

This is the second part of my article about the segment from the Jimmy Dore Show in which the comedian talks to Abby Martin, the uncompromising investigative reporter and presenter of The Empire Files, now on TeleSur English, but formerly on RT.

Dore and Martin talk about the accusations of misogyny that were thrown against anyone who dared not to vote for Killary. Martin jokes that she didn’t, and has been denounced as ‘treacherous’ because of this. She then describes how the Clinton camp tried to explain away the masses of women, who didn’t vote for Killary. Oh, they didn’t vote for her, because their boyfriends told them not to. She makes it clear that this explain also denigrates women because it denies them their own agency.

Martin and Dore talk about how someone can be right about the issues, but wrong on strategy. Bernie Sanders is one of these. He’s right politically, but wrong in continuing to support the Democrats. Martin points out that this happened a few years ago to Michael Moore with Ralph Nader, who ran as a third party candidate in a presidential election. Moore was originally a staunch supporter of Nader, attacking the corrupt Democrat establishment. Now he’s part of that establishment, and has been on his knees pleading with Nader not to run.

Martin then talks about the fear running through Black and Latino communities. Martin states that she doesn’t know about all of it, because she belongs to a more privileged group. But she has Mexican friends, who are now in hiding. Black people are being assaulted. She describes this as a mass psychosis. Undocumented immigrants are afraid of ICE and being deported. She states that this anti-immigrant hysteria has happened before, but it’s been ramped up by Trump. She doesn’t really believe very much in the view that the Deep State is deeply opposed to Trump. She just thinks that they hate him because he reveals the true reasons for the wars now being fought. As when he blandly stated that we should take their oil from those nations America is fighting. But she states that some wars are planned, and believes that if Gore had won, then Saddam Hussein would still have been overthrown. It’s questionable whether this would have been through a war, however.

She also goes on to make the point that many wars aren’t planned, and the current situation is very dangerous. For example, Iran never had a nuclear weapons programme, despite Trump putting them ‘on notice’ and imposing sanctions. She describes these sanctions – against Iran, against Maduro in Venezuela and against North Korea as an act of war. Dore reminds her that North Korea had actually stopped its nuclear weapons programme, in return for America not conducting war games on their borders. But Obama rejected this. And they resumed their nuclear programme when Bush declared they were part of the ‘Axis of Evil’.

Martin then goes on to discuss her investigative work amongst the towns devastated by Hurricane Harvey. One of these was Houston. It’s a town dominated by Big Oil, with absolutely no zoning laws whatsoever so people are living right next to big, highly polluting industrial complexes. They even built a school next to a chemical plant. The plant exploded, but under the counterterrorism laws the company doesn’t have to reveal what chemicals were released into the environment. At the same time, the oil companies don’t have to pay fines during start-ups, shut-downs or disasters. So they can pollute as much as they want, as they won’t have to pay for it.

She also talks about another town she visited, Lakewood, where weeks after Harvey people were left living in their gutted homes. They didn’t see any volunteers, no FEMA officials or anyone from the government. She states that this was an act of pure class war, as these areas were Black and Latino. Back to Houston, she remarks on how, in the aftermath of the hurricane, it was only the business districts and the affluent areas that were up and running within a few hours of the disaster. Volunteers were told not to go into the rougher neighbourhoods, as they would get shot. She and Dore make the point that everyone calls looting was, in the circumstances, just survival.

And Big Oil hides the extent of the problems it causes in these communities, because it owns schools and hospital wings. Thus it’s impossible to study cancer properly, because everything’s compartmentalised. And the doctors and scientists studying it can’t call out who’s responsible, because they’ll then lose their funding. Everyone in those towns works for the industry.

This is clearly an American programme, discussing American issues, but it also reflects the situation over here in Britain to a considerable extent. Journalism in Britain has also been corrupted by the merger of the newspaper companies into big industrial conglomerates, whose proprietors then decide what line their papers should follow and suppress awkward content. And just as Bernie Sanders was reviled by the Clintonite camp of the Democrats, and cheated of his nomination, so the so-called left-wing media over here demonised Jeremy Corbyn. They also lionised, and are still praising Killary to the rafters, and accused anyone, who didn’t support her as a ‘misogynist’. Just like they accused Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters.

The mainstream media over here is also corrupt. The BBC is overwhelmingly staffed at its management levels by very middle class, public school educated White men. It’s leading journalists, most notably ‘Goebbels’ Nick Robbinson and Laura ‘Arnalda Mussolini’ Kuenssberg, are arch-Tories, who show their contempt for their audience by scarcely hiding their bias against Corbyn and the Labour party.

The establishment over here is also trying to destroy alternative media sources. We’ve seen the same lies about Russian propaganda levelled at RT by the Theresa May and the Tories. The same algorithms, that have been developed to lead people on the internet away from alternative news sites and the demonetisation campaigns against ‘controversial’ material on YouTube – all set up in the guise of protecting us from ‘fake news’ – are hitting alternative news blogs and vlogs over here.

And you can see the same kind of problems that America is experiencing through the acquisition of schools and hospitals by Big Oil happening over here. Academics have already complained about the way science departments have been shorn of their independence ever since Maggie Thatcher decided that they should work more closely with industry, to the point where many scientists feel that they are just working for their industrial sponsors and partners. So far the media over here has been free of some of the attempts of the media to pour scorn on climate change and discredit climate science, with the obvious exceptions of the Heil and some of the journos on the Telegraph or Times. But you can also see that coming too, especially if the government goes ahead with privatising the NHS and handing schools over to private academy chains, whose heads have their own bias towards promoting business.

Norman Tebbit Claims Air Pollution Making People Transgender

October 29, 2017

Mike’s put up a lot of material on his blog, which deserves to be read and commented on. But I really couldn’t let this one pass.

Norman Tebbit, the noted opponent of LGBTQ rights, has risen once again to show his ignorance and bigotry.

Pink News reported that the elderly Thatcherite appeared in the pages of the Torygraph to claim that transgenderism is a new phenomenon. He said he couldn’t remember there being any other children, who were unhappy with their sex at his school, or amongst his intake for National Service or in his children’s school. He wants research conducted into it to examine its extent in time and geographical space. He also states that it’s unknown whether ours or other species are affected, and stated that some scientists believe it could be caused by air pollution. Pink News concluded that it was unclear what scientists he was referring to.

Mike makes the point that there have always been people unhappy with their gender, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if there were people at his school or amongst his cohort for National Service, who weren’t happy with the sex into which they were born. They kept silent, and hid it, because of the very strong hostility towards it. Those were more primitive times, and what has changed is that society has become more tolerant.

He concludes

The current situation is far from enlightened, but progress has been made – as a result of decades of campaigning against oppressive prejudice such as that displayed by Lord Tebbit.

And it is oppressive. It is an attempt to tell other people how to live. How would you like it?

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/10/28/lord-tebbit-thinks-air-pollution-is-making-people-transgender-is-that-as-opposed-to-narrow-minded/

There are a number of aspects to this, which do need to be carefully dissected and commented on.

First of all, I think somewhere along the line Tebbit has come across some entirely respectable research into the growth of reproductive abnormalities and intersex conditions in male animals, and then got it somehow twisted in his weird, bigoted little mind. Scientists have become worried about the increase in malformed sexual organs and female characteristics amongst some animals, such as frogs. I can remember reading an article in New Scientist back in the 1990s that reported that scientists had found an increase in these, as well as other birth defects, in areas in Canada and America that were particularly heavily polluted. I don’t think this was air pollution. It was chemical pollution from factories entering the water table. Amongst the human population, there was a growing gender imbalance with an abnormally low incidence of male births.

In short, there is plenty of evidence which shows that industrial pollution is feminizing animal populations, including humans. And I think it is reasonable to conclude that this process is connected with the fall in sperm vitality in developed, industrial countries, that will leave half of all men classified as clinically infertile by the middle of this century.

But this is not the same as transvestism or transgenderism. This has always been present in human societies. It’s condemned, along with homosexuality, in Leviticus in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. Other cultures have been more accepting. For example, in Polynesian culture there were homosexuals, who dressed as women and did female tasks, and were accepted. Herodotus, the Father of History, states that the upper class of the Scythians were not only impotent, but they also dressed as women and did women’s work. The Scythians were a nomadic people on the steppes of central Asia and Siberia. And many of the shamans in Siberian spirituality were transvestites.

In the west, transvestism and transgenderism remained very illegal until very recently. Not only was it frowned upon, but it could also get the transvestite thrown in jail. There was a notorious case in the 19th century of two men, who dressed in drag as part of their music hall act, who were prosecuted because they went out in public wearing their female togs ‘for immoral purposes’, according to the prosecution. Transvestism has also been called Eonism, after the Chevalier d’Eon, a French nobleman and spy, who was also a transvestite. He was also very good at it. He lived as a woman for 20 years, and the woman, who shared his accommodation with him said that in all that time she didn’t know he was a man. One of the small press magazines that emerged in the great flourishing of independent zines in the 1990s was entitled Eon: The Magazine of Transkind, which was dedicated to defending transvestite/ transgender people and their rights.

Western society has become more tolerant towards the transgendered as part of the gay rights campaign that began in the 1950s and ’60s. And at the popular level a strong influence was David Bowie and Glam Rock. Bowie in the ’60s and ’70s adopted a very strongly sexually ambiguous persona. There are photos on the web of him with long hair wearing a man dress. Bowie inspired parts of the pop and rock scene to adopt a similarly androgynous image. Thus the number of Rock and Heavy Metal bands, who also sported long hair and the spandex clothes they’d bought from Chelsea Girl with their sisters. This whole attitude could be summed up in Twisted Sister’s old maxim, ‘Dress like women, sing like men, play like Motherf***ers’. These ’80s monsters of metal arguably achieved their ambition when, in 1987, they were voted America’s ‘worst dressed women’.

It wasn’t just down to Bowie, of course. And despite the massive hair, make-up and spandex, Rock and Heavy Metal are very aggressively masculine musical genres, although certainly not without their female fans and stars. The Goth subculture, or parts of it, also took up the androgynous look as well as a certain tolerance towards bisexuality, which was also becoming increasingly common across popular music generally as part of the changes in sexual attitudes amongst young people.

As for the prevalence of transvestism and transsexuality across different cultures through time, there have been a number of histories of sex written by serious anthropologists, archaeologists and historians, one of whom was also interviewed about his work and book by New Scientist. These issues have also been explored by some of the gay historians. A friend of mine used to have one lying around, which did cover homosexuality and related queer issues as a global phenomenon, from Asia and Europe to Africa and elsewhere.

If Tebbit wants to know more about the Scythians and their sexual habits, he can read Herodotus: The Histories, and the collection of ancient Greek medical writings ascribed to Hippocrates, The Hippocratic Writings. Both are, or were, in Penguin Classics. I’m afraid I can’t remember the titles and authors of the books on the history of sex, although one of them I think was simply titled, The History of Sex, and published by a mainstream publisher. The gay history book was, I think, published by one of the gay publishers.

The Oxbow Book Catalogue for autumn 2017 also contains a recent book, Exploring Sex and Gender in Bioarchaeology, ed. by Sabrina C. Agarwal and Julie K. Wesp (University of New Mexico Press 2017).

The blurb for this runs

Archaeologists have long used skeletal remains to identify gender. Contemporary bioarchaeologists, however, have begun to challenge the theoretical and methodological basis for sex assignment from the skeletons. Simultaneously, they have started to consider the cultural construction of gender roles, recognising the body as uniquely fashioned from the interaction of biological, social, and environmental factors. As the contributors to this volume reveal, combining skeletal data with contextual information can provide a richer understanding of life in the past.

(Page 6 of the catalogue).

This book ain’t cheap, however. The hardback edition is £88.95. But as Tebbit was a Tory cabinet minister, he can probably afford it. As for the other books, he could simply go on Amazon to find them, or simply look round his local branch of Waterstones.

As it is, it looks as if Tebbit has simply been watching too much Alex Jones, the bonkers American conspiracy theorist, and his foam-flecked rant about ‘the globalists’ putting chemicals in the water ‘to turn the frickin’ frogs gay!’

And here’s some light relief at the great conspiracy theorist’s expense:

From C. 1989: Pravda International on Launch of Greenpeace Rock Album in Soviet Union

October 18, 2017

Pravda International, with pic of Yeltsyn before he became president. This seems to have been before the drunkenness took hold. It also doesn’t show his uncritical adulation of capitalism, which destroyed the Soviet economy and caused massive unemployment and poverty.

Way back in the 1980s when I was at College, I used to buy Pravda International occasionally. It was, very roughly, an English language version of the Russian Communist party newspaper, but with articles also drawn from the other Russian newspapers and magazines Izvestia, Argumenty I Fakty, Moscow News, as well as by the English editions own staff. Like many magazines over the years, it seems to have folded due to lack of interest. I tried to buy it from my local newsagent, but found out that it was unavailable. The two big magazine distributors had divided Bristol up between them, and one of them wouldn’t carry it. So guess which half of Bristol I was in.

I nevertheless kept hold of some of them, as they were records of an exciting, historic time. This was when Glaznost and Perestroika were in full swing, the Soviet Union was being democratised according to Gorbachev’s belief that democracy and Communism could be combined to produce a new, vigorous, prosperous Soviet Union. The Soviets were opening their borders and allowing western media into the country. The Cold War was thawing rapidly, and right across the Communist bloc censorship was being lifted. The Soviet people were making their voices heard, and books, plays, poetry and art that had previously been banned were now being published and publicly discussed. Stalin and his minions stood, thanks to dissident Marxist historians like Roy and Zhores Medvedev, openly condemned as monstrous mass murderers. And the families, friends and loved ones of his victims organised to demand memorials to the millions he had murdered. And instead of hatred, distrust and the looming threat of nuclear holocaust, for a few years it looked like the peoples of the West and East would live as friends and co-workers. The missiles were being decommissioned, the silos filled in. Across the world it seemed that our peoples would never again have to fear the threat of nuclear attack, or invasion from across the other side of the Iron Curtain.

And I also dug out the old copy of Pravda International out of a sense of mischief. RT UK and America have been under attack recently, accused of spreading Russian propaganda and interfering with our politics. What this means is that the Russian-owned news agency has actually done some good journalism, and uncovered the poverty, misery and despair caused by corporatist late capitalism and the gutting of the British and American welfare state and working class organisations. It’s what our own, domestic news networks should be reporting on, but instead they’ve been turned into part of the same corporate system, publishing nothing but mainstream propaganda for the corporatist elite and their puppets and shills in the political parties. I wanted to dig it out to show that the Russians have always had a media presence in the West, and there was a time when it also really frightened some capitalist interests. Although flicking through that issue of the magazine, many of the stories were about western businesses, including British firms, securing contracts to work with Soviet enterprises, as the economy opened up.

Russia, like everywhere else, is also suffering from environmental damage and climate change. Simon Reeve, in his recent TV journey across Russia from the Far East to St. Petersburg, stopped in Siberia to show the terrifying changes that are occurring in the Russian north. The permafrost is melting causing the remaining rock and soil to subside. This has created vast craters in the tundra. One Russian environmental scientist took Reeve to see one of these. It was staggering, the size of the vast Arizona meterorite crater in the US. It was as if a piece of land the size of a city had been scooped out of the Arctic.

These climatic changes are threatening the stability of many of the cities the Russians built up in the north. They’re also a further threat to all humanity, as they release methane, a greenhouse gas far more powerful than Carbon Dioxide. About 25 times more powerful. This threatens to create runaway global warming beyond the tipping point, to the point where the survival or human civilisation, if not the human species itself, is very much under threat.

Looking through this old issue of Pravda International, it was therefore particularly interesting to find an article by their staffer, Jennie Walsh, reporting the launch of a rock album by Greenpeace, released by the Soviet recording company Melodiya, to raise awareness of environmental issues.
The article, ‘Breakthrough for the Environment’, reads

The ecological pressure group Greenpeace has long highlighted the international potential of the environmental movement. The recent release of their rock compilation album, Breakthrough marks an important step forward for the campaign, and for Western music.

Two years ago Greenpeace chairman David McTaggart approached Ian Flookes of the Wasted Talent Artists Agency with a view to putting on a concert of Western bands in the Soviet Union in order to generate roubles for a Soviet-based Greenpeace campaign. Political problems prevented this at the time, but in the changing climate of perestroika the plans were restarted last year, though a compilation record was considered more appropriate.

‘After what happened at Chernobyl, I think the Soviet authorities have become extremely environment-conscious and their approach to Greenpeace and to the project has been one of great support’, Flookes told Pravda International.

With the full cooperation of the Soviet state record company Melodiya, who were granted independent status last year, Breakthrough is the first major release of contemporary Western rock music in the USSR.

It is the first time that Melodiya has been able to do a ‘normal’ promotion campaign, with many of the artists (who all gave their services free of charge) present at the Moscow launch in March. There was an incredible reception. One record store queue was over 7,000 people, which is quite phenomenal – even by Soviet standards!

The purpose behind Breakthrough, however, must not be forgotten amid such hysteria. Kate Karam of Greenpeace emphasised that in releasing the album, they wanted to educate as much as to entertain. Despite perestroika, it is still difficult to put out independent information in the USSR, and the album provided a vehicle for the distribution of a booklet highlighting the work of Greenpeace and the environmental problems of the USSR.

The profits from the record sales will be shared between Greenpeace and the International Foundation for the Survival and Development of Humanity, one of the first independent, non-governmental organisations to be founded in the Soviet Union.

The money will be spent only on projects within the USSR. This is a major indication of the political changes that have taken place. Greenpeace is quite a radical organisation by any standards, and to have some of the top soviet scientists and public servants (including Velikov, vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences) support them through the Foundation, has been vital to the project. It is also an important challenge – a challenge to get programmes started in the USSR while maintaining the traditional Greenpeace principle of direct action.

Several environmental projects have now been formally agreed. Greenpeace will use some of the funds from the record to organise an East-West exchange programme in cooperation with the Soviet Academy of Sciences, for children to study environmental problems. Projects in the pipeline include work with the International Foundation to establish a central clearing house for information on atmospheric pollution problems and trying to involve the Soviet Union in the campaign to stop the industrial pollution of the Baltic Sea.

‘We don’t want to impose our Western standards about the environment on the Soviet Union,’ explains Karam. ‘I think that’s a danger with many of the Western organisations taking advantage of the new political climate there. Greenpeace is going to Russia to learn about their specific problems, because it is wrong to develop homogeneous attitudes about the environment. We need to study and talk to people before we launch into setting up offices and membership drives. Getting educational materials out in Russia is a big enough challenge right now without going straight into direct action projects.’

The popularisation of ‘green politics’ in the West may be little more than rhetoric on the part of its leaders, but it has encouraged the critical eye to fall on eastern Europe with regard to its environmental record. The socialist system may have failed the environment as much as the capitalist, but the big difference is the West has had 10 years lead time with environmentalists pushing legislation through. ‘I think the question is now how bad the USSR’s record is, but what is going to happen over the next 10 years – not in the past 50. I don’t think its fair to criticise.’

Now that the Soviet authorities have made active moves to encourage environmental concern, particularly by creating a Ministry for the Environment, Greenpeace are keen to see whether other east European countries follow suit.

Breakthrough is to be released in all the east European countries as well as in the UK, USA, India, Australia and Japan, emphasising the international aspect of the green movement.

The release of the album worldwide, under the title Rainbow Warriors, will probably be slightly more of a gamble than it has been in the Soviet Union. Compassion fatigue in the West, however, might be overcome by the quality of the record.

There probably hasn’t been an album released yet, which features so many top musicians – U2, Simple Minds, The Eurythmics, Bryan Ferry, Peter Gabriel and Sting to name a few. There are 26 tracks, all of which have recently been hits. For many, the album will probably have an intrinsic value just for this reason. The fact that it supports Greenpeace will be a bonus.

In the three weeks since the album was released in the USSR over 10,000 copies have been received on the forms that were enclosed in the information booklets.

The worldwide launch is on May 22nd and if it sells for reasons other than its musical content, its educational and mobilising potential could be as effective as the fundraising.

Now, unfortunately, we have had Russian hackers releasing scientific data in an attempt to discredit climate change and global warming, while Trump is also trying to stifle climate science, including the virtual closure of America’s Environmental protection Agency. He and the rest of the Republican party are determined that only the paid propagandists for the Koch brothers will be heard.

TeleSur English: Scotland Bans Fracking

October 4, 2017

This is another little video from the Latin American broadcaster, TeleSur. It reports that after a two year investigation, the Scots parliament has banned fracking forever. During its examination of the issue, the Scottish assembly took the views of 60,000 Scots, 99 per cent of whom were against. The video notes that Scotland joins the growing number of opponents of fracking, which damages the environment through pollution and global warming, contaminates water as well as an increased demand for it, and damages peoples’ health.

I’m really glad the people of Scotland have made such a decision to preserve their country and its beautiful environment, as well as their health, from fracking. I wish this country would also follow them and ban it. I blogged about local concerns about how it would affect the environment around Keynsham, a small town near me just south of Bristol, between this city and Bath. I think there are also concerns about it on the Somerset levels, as well as elsewhere in Britain. Unfortunately, it has the full support of the Tories, who don’t care how much pollution and contamination goes to kill of the environment and damage people’s health, so long as the oil companies, who fund their campaign and on whose boards so many of them probably sit or otherwise have connections, turn a profit.

Telesur English: Caribbean Paying the Price for Developed World’s Global Warming

September 29, 2017

This is another extremely short video from Telesur English, covering the speech by the president of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit. The video and President Skerrit make the point that the developed world is responsible for the pollution that is altering this planet’s climate. The rise in sea and air temperatures mean that storms, such as the hurricane that recently devastated so much of the Caribbean, have greater force. The Caribbean itself contributes about 0.001% to the carbon emissions driving climate change. Telesur makes the case that it is capitalism that is the root cause of these storms, and that the peoples of the Caribbean are the innocent victims of a war produced by the developed world.

More Anti-Science from Trump: Climate Denier to Head NASA

September 13, 2017

This is absolutely incredible. It really is like something from dystopian Science Fiction, but unfortunately it’s true. In this clip from the Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano comment on a report from Democracy Now! that Trump has decide to appoint Jim Bridenstine as the new head of NASA. Bridenstine has no scientific credentials, and doesn’t believe in climate change. In fact, in 2013 he stood on the floor of the senate and demanded that Barak Obama apologise for promoting it.

The trio begin the clip by remarking on the evidence from the hurricanes to hit America that climate change is real. Before storm Harvey, only three magnitude 5 storms had hit America. They then show how ludicrous the decision is by stating that as Trump has appointed someone, who doesn’t believe in a scientific fact to head a scientific agency, then Richard Dawkins should be appointed to head the national prayer breakfast. Dore jokes that there hasn’t been a government this anti-science since Galileo. And the Pope has apologized for him. The papacy also acknowledges climate change. Which means the world’s most religious Roman Catholic is more progressive than Trump and his minions.

There’s no way this is anything other than an attempt by the Republicans and their paymasters, the Koch brothers, and the other big polluting industries, to hobble and silence research into climate change in America. One of the functions satellites carry out is weather and climate monitoring. Space research generally has also led to greater understanding of weather systems on Earth. For example, the massive storms that rage across Jupiter are driven by the same laws and forces as those, which generate similar storm systems on Earth. Countries like India have invested in their space industry for the promise it offers of monitoring the weather and the progress of crop diseases, which can be disastrous for a developing nation, much of whose population are subsistence farmers.

Dore’s wrong about the Pope’s treatment of Galileo, however. Yes, it was scandalous, but at the time Galileo’s own research was actually undersupported. And he didn’t help himself in his book, the Dialogue of the Two World Systems. He knew the pope was an Aristotelian, but deliberately made the Aristotelian speaker in the book appear as stupid as possible. Even so, the Church was not uniformly against him. He did have supporters within the church and amongst the cardinals. See James Hannan’s God’s Philosophers: Science in the Middle Ages.

But this is like something from Science Fiction. Stephen Baxter’s Titan is an alternative history, in which a rabidly anti-science senator becomes president of the US and closes down NASA. It’s because he’s a Creationist, and doesn’t believe in the Copernican heliocentric system, or the discoveries revealed by Galileo. What isn’t shut down, is given to the USAF and given over to defence instead, while the agency’s museum is shut, except for its museum. This is then altered to stress the religious experiences many of the astronauts had when exploring space.

This isn’t quite fair on the Creationists. Those I knew did not reject Galileo and they didn’t reject heliocentrism, although I’ve since come across people, who do on the Net. But there are still clear parallels between Baxter’s book and Trump and those who back him.

Yesterday I found an interview with the veteran comics creator, Pat Mills on YouTube. I’m going to have to write a piece about it, because Mills is very left-wing and a fierce critic of capitalism and Britain’s class system. In the video, he states that when he started writing for 2000 AD, he and the others were told to create futures, which people would live in. And now we are. He pointed out that there really were robots, which looked like Robusters, and we also now had Donald Trump, who was very much like something from 2000 AD’s often bleak view of the future.

And he’s right. Trump’s appointment of a scientific ignoramus like Bridenstine is almost exactly like something from Science Fiction. And Mills compared Trump himself to Judge Cal, the deranged Chief Judge of Mega City 1, who behaved like Caligula. He appointed his pet fish as judge, and had one of the other judges pickled. Oh yes, and he called in the alien Kleggs to keep the human population of Mega City 1 under control. Trump hasn’t made contact with an evil alien life forms yet, but the nepotism and corruption is all there. Even if he hasn’t made his goldfish senator. But given the fictional parallel drawn by Mills, Bannon, Kelly-Anne Conway and the others he’s got rid of should be glad he just had them sacked. The real trouble’s going to start when he starts ordering human-sized pickled jars.

Stephen Hawking on Why We Need to Colonise Space

September 6, 2017

Next Monday evening, 11th September 2017, on BBC 2 at 9 pm, Professor Stephen Hawking will present a programme arguing that humanity needs to colonise another world. Entitled The Search for a New Earth, the blurb for the programme on page 72 of the Radio Times runs

Physicist Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive, with climate change, pollution, deforestation, pandemics and population growth making life on Earth increasingly precarious. In this programme he examines whether humans could relocate to other planets, travelling the globe to meet scientists, technologists and engineers working on the means and method.

There’s more information about the programme on page 71. This passage states that

Stephen Hawking is convinced that, if we are not to risk annihilation, humans need to leave Earth within the next 100 years and make a new home on another planet.

It sounds like sci-fi, but a planet has already been discovered “in our neighbourhood” that’s a contender: Proxima B is in the Goldilocks Zone (the narrow orbit where conditions are perfect to sustain human life), but we’d need a massive technological feat just to get us there.

Astrophysicist Danielle George and Hawking protégé Christophe Galfard explore the practicality of where and how e could create a human colony in space.

There’s also a single page feature about the programme in the Radio Times on page 31, which includes Danielle George’s replies to the following questions

Do we really need to leave Earth?

What does a new planet need to be human-friendly?

How many people will it take to set up a colony?

Stephen Hawking believes Proxima B may be the most suitable planet. Why?

How far away is Proxima B?

How long would it take to travel 4.2 light years?

Could we fit 20 years’ worth of astronaut food into a spaceship?

Dow we have the right to take over another planet?

Do you think there is the will to make this happen?

Regarding the amount of time required to journey to Proxima B, George states that using current chemical rockets it would take 250,000 years. But there is a project at Caliphornia where they are experimenting with propelling a nano probe the size of a mobile phone sim card using a laser beam. This may make it possible for such a probe to reach Proxima in 20 years.

That last sounds like a version of the old proposal to use space-based lasers to send a light sail to another star. One of the proposed missions was Starwisp, which would use solar sails to carry a 50 kilo instrument package to Alpha Centauri. The probe would reach a speed of 1/3 of the speed of light, and make the journey in something like 20 years.

The veteran hard SF writer, Larry Niven, also used the idea of laser-driven solar sails in his classic The Mote in God’s Eye. This is about the encounter between an expanding human galactic empire, and an alien race, the Moties. These are so called because their homeworld is a planet in a nebula dubbed Murchison’s Eye by humanity. The Moties are highly intelligent, but lack the Anderson Drive that has made it possible for humans to move out into the Galaxy. Instead, they have sent a vessel out on the centuries long voyage across interstellar in a ship using such a solar sail, powered by laser beam from their own system. It is the light from the laser beam which has given the Moties’ nebula its characteristic red colour.

As well as being super-intelligent, the Moties also possess between three and four arms, depending on their caste and function, and change sex throughout their life. Which makes me wonder whether the writers of the X-Files’ episode, ‘Gender Bender’, about a group of sex-changing aliens, who live an existence like the Amish had also drawn on the book for their inspiration. As well as the writers of Doctor Who when they decided that the Time Lords are also not restricted to remaining the same sex when they regenerate.

Counterpunch on the Dangers of the Driverless Car

July 1, 2017

Ralph Nader in an article posted on Tuesday’s Counterpunch took to task the current hype about driverless cars following a day long conference on them at Washington University’s law school.

Driverless cars are being promoted because sales are cars are expected to flatten out due to car-sharing, or even fall as the younger generation are less inclined to buy them. Rather than actually investing in public transport, the car industry is promoting driverless automobiles as a way of stimulating sales again.

Nader is rightly sceptical about how well such vehicles will perform in the real world. There are 250 million motor vehicles in the US. This means that real driving conditions are way more complicated than the simple routes on which these vehicles are developed and tested. And while the car industry claims that they will be safer than human-driven vehicles, the reality is most people won’t want a car that they can’t control, whose guiding computer can malfunction or which could be hacked into, whether by the manufacturers or others. Along with such vehicles come increased pressure from the manufacturers for less protective regulation for their drivers, passengers and the general American public.

As for developing a driverless car, which can be taken over by its human occupant in an emergency, researchers at MIT have already shown that this won’t work. Instead of producing driverless cars, we’d be better of concentrating on creating vehicles that are safer, more efficient and less harmful to the environment.

He concludes

The driverless car is bursting forth without a legal, ethical and priorities framework. Already asking for public subsidies, companies can drain much-needed funds for available mass transit services and the industry’s own vehicle safety upgrades in favor of a technological will-o’-the-wisp.

He also links to a report by Harvey Rosenfeld into the dangers posed by driverless cars. It’s quite long – 36 pages. This makes it very clear, however, that driverless cars are disastrous. They’re literally a car crash waiting to happen. The report also claims that much of promotion of such vehicles comes from the insurance. Although driverless cars are likely to be much less safe than ordinary cars, the claims that they will be less liable to accidents will allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for those driving ordinary vehicles.

Driverless cars have been under development since the 1980s, but I can’t see them becoming a viable reality any time soon. Last year the industry proudly announced two types of driverless car, one of which was called the Tesla, after the great Serbian physicist and inventor of Alternative Current. These were withdrawn after accidents in which people were killed.

I have to say, I don’t know anybody who wants one. The various pieces I’ve read about them say that for their owners, using them will actually be quite boring. This is despite the claims that people will be able to read, work or relax instead of driving. But you can do all of that anyway by simply travelling by bus, rail or tube.

Then there’s the threat of unemployment. Two-thirds of all jobs are expected to be lost to automation in the next decade. There are about 40,000 truckers in Britain. That’s 40,000 people, who may lose their jobs if driverless lorries are every produced. And they have been trying to develop them. I can remember Clarkson nearly bursting with excitement while riding in one during an episode of Top Gear a few years ago.

My guess is that the reasons behind their development is far more sinister, and almost certainly connected to the military. For years the military has been trying to develop autonomous, robotic weaponry. I’ve blogged about some of the war robots that have been created and which were featured a few years ago in the popular science magazine, Frontiers. These included various types of jeep, which had been altered so that they carried guns. Such machines have been under development for a very long time. Kevin Warwick, a robotics scientist at Reading University, describes how the US army created a robotic jeep equipped with a machine gun way back in the 1950s. This looks like another step along the way to producing the type of autonomous war robots, which Warwick and some other robotics scientists fear may pose a very real threat to the human race as they become more advanced and their intelligence greater. We are creating war machines very close to the Daleks of Dr. Who or The Terminator franchise.

It also seems to me that the navigation software and computer hardware needed for driverless cars will also find a major general applications in other types of robot. Despite claims by some neuroscientists that the human brain is a load of inefficient ‘kluge’ created by blind evolutionary forces that select for survival, rather than particular skill, cyberneticists have found it very difficult in practice to replicate the way living things, from insects all the way up to humans, actually navigate their way around the world.

Think about the way robots have to work their way around objects. They have to estimate exactly how far away the obstacle is, then work out a path around it, all done using maths. A human, meanwhile, rather than estimating how many steps it takes to the object, and then planning a path of some many steps, precisely laid out, are needed to walk around it, simply does it.

An example of how difficult robots actually find such navigation in practise was given by Warwick when he appeared at the Cheltenham Festival of Science over a decade ago. There’s been a kind of robot Olympics held in Reading. The various competing teams had tried to produce robots that could navigate their own way around the town. Warwick’s team had created a robot with an infrared detector, which would simply follow the light source planted on the back of the human running in front of it. Which to me sounds very much like cheating.

All went swimmingly, until suddenly the robot veered off the road and started shooting off somewhere else entirely, before it collided with something, fell over and stopped. Warwick and his team wondered what happened until it finally occurred to them that the robot had fixed on that big, infrared light source in the sky, the Sun, and ran off trying to pursue that.

This was a decade or so ago. I’ve no doubt that things have improved since, but I doubt that they’ve improved quite so much that driverless cars, or completely autonomous robots, are going to be appearing in the next few years.

And until they do, I shall be very suspicious of the hype.