Monthly Archives: September 2007

sudden link explosion thanks to Usmanov dispute

This morning I was suddenly astonished by a mass of links to my site. It seems the resistance against Alisher Usmanov started to link to my blog, too. It’s now more than 300 blogs which reproduce the initial blacklisted article or give background information on the events.
Tim Ireland gives a timeline of events on Bloggerheads. Reads like a drama, maybe a new version of Macbeth or something. One of the interesting things is, that when the 2007 article was taken down, the lawyers seemed to focus on the 2005 article about the torture of Sanjar Umarov, leader of the Uzbek opposition Sunshine Coalition, and Craig Murray’s analysis of Alisher Usmanov’s involvement in the confinement and torture of this other oligarch? Somehow, things seem to be rather complicated when these two guys have nearly the same name and had similar financial interests. I am never quite sure if one of the names hasn’t been misspelled.

The only thing I kind of understand is that Usmanov gave half of a bank, yes a financial institution, to Putin.
“Alisher Usmanov gave Putin a sweetener of 40% of the shares in Mapo Bank, an important Russian business bank with a close relationship to several blue chip western firms operating in Russia. The shares were made over to Piotr Jastrejebski, Putin’s private secretary who was a college friend of Alisher Usmanov and shared a flat with him. ”

Anyways, Craig Murray explains in this article why Uzbekistan threw out the US out of the military base and started sliming up to Russia instead.

“This is the background to the diplomatic revolution of the last six months, with Karimov abandoning the US and turning back to the embrace of Mother Russia.
It is worth recalling that the Karimov regime had been aggressively anti-Russian, in terms of both propaganda, and of practical measures of linguistic discrimination. Approximately two million ethnic Russians have fled Uzbekistan since independence in 1991; about 400,000 are left.  This reorientation towards Russia went along with fierce anti-enterprise measures designed to stifle any entrepreneurial activity not under direct control of the Karimov family. This explained the physical closures of borders and bazaars, the crackdown on crash transactions and the channelling of all commercial activity through the state banks. ”

“Over dinner, we shared our frustration over this: Uzbekistan is not a naturally poor country. It is extremely well endowed with gas, gold, uranium, iron, coal and most rare minerals you can think of.”

online seed swap

The Magazine “Grow Your Own” has a very active Forum called “Grapevine”. They are running an online fruit and vegetable show with photographic entries allowed till 30th of September. They have some nice prices for winners, too.
But what I like most about the Forum is the seed swap. I got some passionfruit seeds, apple cucumbers are on the way, purple kale and peanuts and cabbage seeds so far, and I sent away a bulk of sweet peas, nasturia seeds and shared some asparagus seeds and hot pepper Jalapeno with interested gardeners.

The mix of seeds consists partly of shared commerical seed packets, as sometimes there are hundred of seeds in one packet when only few are needed. An exception to this rule can be seen and bought via : MoreVeg, which also supply seeds in few quantities for 50p.

Community Council AGM

So we had our community council AGM yesterday, which was quite interesting.

Apparently I have missed a planning application for more than 242 units on the former BT land up near the primary school, despite signing up for the planning alert and getting the weekly list of planning applications. Luckily enough a member of the local housing association has noticed it and the association will dispute the application. Over the last years our former “Trainspotting” area has been discovered by private housing developers for a quick buck; and whilst our multi-storey council houses got demolished to make way for new buildings intended to lead to much less density of people living here, the private developers have built crackers of “luxury apartment towers” before we had the community councils and when it was more difficult to actually see the list of applications and documents.
Despite the demand rising for affordable housing for families with kids and or/more than 3 bedrooms on ground level, garden, ( see council website where hundreds of people apply just online for one vacant property) all we seem to get build here are towers and towers of 1 and 2 bedroom(s) ridiculously priced “luxury apartments”. Whilst looking at the planning application, I could not see anywhere that the developers want to built over two hundred units on that little piece of land, maybe because I could neither see the map nor the associated documents.

Another issue which got me exploding yesterday – despite the fabulous selection of fruits and sandwiches – were the steep funding cuts of local projects in the education sector. Our councillors explained it would be due to a £9 million budget hole in the education department of the Council, but I got really angry when the cuts were applied for example to staffing our local nursery and our community centres. Now we have got brandnew private-public partnership buildings but no staff to run it to its full potential – the North Edinburgh Arts Centre, famous for its children’s activities, is already nearly closed because of funding cuts, and now the community centres are left empty and even the nursery gets attacked. Especially as we are in a SIP area- lots of low or uneducated, unemployed and/or disabled people, single-mothers, minimum wage labourers and poverty around, so therefore our area is getting hit disproportionally hard because of needing more staff and funding than other areas.
But I was getting REALLY agitated when our longterm Labour councillor, Elizabeth MacGinnis (usually, but apparently not currently Enemy No1 on Pilton Sucks) started to praise the Labour policy of social inclusion, without mentioning that it was Labour in power who build up the big budget overspend before the elections this May. And I also ranted a bit against the Public-Private Partnerships- we got a lot of new buildings in this area, especially schools and community centres, but the running costs of these buildings which are indebted for a long time in the future to the private, profit-driven companies, are much higher than before, so no surprise that suddenly the local education budget seems to blast. I would rather like to investigate the impact of that policy to be able to draw more factual conclusions, time permitting.
Funny it was though how the issue came up – our local socialist Revoluzzer Wullie briefed two of us before whilst we were chewing over the sandwich bar about his forthcoming revolt proposal, which was actually then withdrawn, of cutting all communication of our little community council with officials. But even our local Labour foot folk put up a great stand against the cuts – probably because now it’s a Libdem coalition in power.

NEWS: £100 laptop for kids + Guatemala election protests

BBC World reports that the Linux laptop for kiddies in developping countries is up for sale on a Buy1 – Give1 basis.
Originally though I just wanted to check if the BBC World -usually the best on reporting foreign news – has a report about the election protests in Guatemala. Indymedia Germany reports over 200 arrested and one person killed, including reports that a town hall had been burned down, four policemen kidnapped, the house of the mayor and other houses got destroyed, burning barricades erected and that ballot papers were burned. Otto Pérez Molina, the former dictator-general who is held responsible for massacres in the bloody civil war with disappearances and torture, has been running for president, too. There seems to be a lot of election fraud going on as well.

Interesting is also Junge Welt’s series on the resistance in Iraq. The left-wing daily also reports that 25 000 workers in cloth factories in Bangladesh defied the protest ban last saturday, demonstrating against their low wages undercutting the agreed minimum of $25 a month.

Lidl goes fairtrade?

At my last visit to Lidl – prices of fruit and veg cut by 70% – I have noticed a shelf full of new fairtrade products. The brand is called “Fairglobe”, but I am getting a bit suspicious of all the fairtrade products creeping into big supermarket chains and cafes such as Starbucks. I would be very keen to examine and investigate this issue, in particular after seeing Jan Nimmo’s film about the fairtrade banana production in Panama. She shows in her film, that not all fairtrade labels are actually produced under the ethical circumstances we would expect from the label; like the minimisation of pesticides, the possibility to form and join a trade union, health & safety protection for the workers in particular in regards to chemicals, health care for their workers and families, enabling school visits for the workers children, and protecting the environment do that in particular the drinking water, the fishes, the farm animals and the people are safe from waste and residues.
At the discussion about fairtrade, which took place in Dundee University in spring, companies which just pay a slightly higher price for the product, but employ the same unethical production guidelines, were criticised for being allowed to call themselves “fairtrade”.

On the other hand, co-operatives have to compete against these industrial cashcrops multinational farming methods, and often would have to sell their produce below their standard fairtrade price to mix in with other non-fairtrade produce.

The documentary about Africa’s Gold, Rice and Chocolate production in Ghana, which was screened yesterday on Channel4, also picked up some important issues about fairtrade but also criticised IMF and WB policies.