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Blackwater Valley Environmental Justice

Newsletter August 2003


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In practice, it is impossible for the modern state to maintain an independent control over the decicions of big business. When the state extends its control over big business, big business moves in to control the state. The political decisions of the state become so important a part of the business transactions of the corportions that it is a law of their survival that most decisions should suit the needs of profit-making. -- Nye Bevan, Labour Party Conference, 1944

It is not possible to continue with an economic order, in which some people eat up to five times a day and others go five days without a meal. -- Liuz Inacio 'Lula' de Silva, Davos, January 2003


BVEJ

You may be reading this newsletter for the first time as a result of the BVEJ Experiment. To ensure you receive future copies please subscribe.

To participate in the BVEJ Experiment please visit the BVEJ home page and forward a copy of the BVEJ newsletter to everyone you know, ask the recipients to do the same. [BVEJ newsletter #0031 December 2002]

Blackwater Valley Environmental Justice was formed three years ago as a response to the lack of any effective environmental group in the locality, sadly a situation as true today as it was then. Since then the personnel has changed, but we remain true to our founding principles (see links from home page), the only difference is we have gone international, but our roots remain in the Blackwater Valley.

The lack of any effective local environmental groups was not the only formative factor, the lack of any quality local press, we report what you don't read elsewhere. Our other guiding principle was the dismay at the failure of all existing groups to see the wider picture and the need to cooperate.

Locally we focus on Farnborough Airport, Farnborough town centre and exposing corruption in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor. Recently we have taken a closer look at what is happening in Aldershot.

Internationally we are part of the anti-globalisation movement. We highlight the ills of Big Business, as of late Iraq has been the focus of our attention.

Unlike traditional groups, we link together issues, we recognise social, human rights and other issues and link them together. A group fighting rainforest destruction may need our help because it is a British transnational that is carrying out the destruction.

Almost all our back issues are available on our web site, we are slowly slowly, adding more. We used to produce briefings and urgent actions, resources permitting, we may again in the future. We have finally got around to updating our on-line diary (the newsletter contains an edited version).

At the moment newsletter production is our main activity. Our editorial team put together easily digestible articles, often with links and references for more in-depth information.

Latest version of the newsletter usually appears on-line a few days after we have e-mailed out the the newsletter. We will post a notice on Indymedia UK when available.

We would like to be able to put out a hard copy of our newsletter but lack the resources.

We have recently added ourselves to the Yahoo list server. If you are getting multiple copies it is because you are on both the listserver and the manual list. Tell us and we will remove you from the manual list. The two will be for a time run in parallel, but we will eventually use the automated system only. Please ensure therefore you subscribe.

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Readers are welcome, indeed encouraged, to run off copies and pass around to their friends.


BVEJ mail server

We are not sure if our Yahoo group mail server is working. We are also having problems with our yahoo e-mail account. For some reason it removes line breaks between paragraphs, making the text files difficult, if not impossible, to read (we have got around this by adding the newsletter as an e-mail attachment).

If you don't appear to be receiving an e-mailed newsletter, you can always find it on our website (and we post on Indymedia UK when it's there).


BVEJ website

Our website was down for a few weeks from the end of May 2003. It has since been restored and should be on a faster server, but seems to be running slower. The good news is that as we write, there are no popups. In the meantime, we created a new website.

We are taking the opportunity to completely overhaul both our websites, which we will now run in parallel.

In addition to using our search engine, you can also search the site by going to Google, typing BVEJ, followed by whatever you are searching for.

We will, as before, post on Indymedia UK when a new newsletter is on-line, but to be sure of receipt, please subscribe.


Ooops

Last month's newsletter was e-mailed without the Diary section.

The diary was in the on-line version posted later on our website.

If ever the Diary section is missing, checkout our website as we have a more comprehensive listing than we put in the newsletter.


Farnborough Airport Consultative Committee

Anther meeting, another farce.

The meeting was held at a time and place (2pm BAE Systems HQ) making it difficult for people to attend unless they took the day off work and had their own transport.

Note: BAE Systems have injunctions on several people preventing them from going on to BAE Systems premises. Thus the meeting was not open to the public as required.

Caroline Lucas MEP had hoped to attend, she was in the locality during the evening, but unfortunately had a prior engagement during the day.

Contrary to government guidelines there was no publicity for the meeting, no distribution of documents to the public. FARA did nothing to leaflet the local area. Local activists did their best to spread the word and we put out an urgent action. As a result there was a good public turnout.

Apologies were received from Victoria Noakes (DfT) who has been 'tasked' to investigate the running of the committee!

Before the meeting, Fleet councillor Peter Hutcheson (not on the committee) huffed and puffed that Fleet was under represented, and wanted to increase the number of Fleet councillors. True, but misses the point. The imbalance between Fleet councillors (who have one seat) and Rushmoor councillors (who have three seats) is to reduce the number of Rushmoor councillors to one seat. The more serious imbalance is that there are too many council seats, well over a third, and that of the third that should be allocated to the local community (seven seats out of 21) only two seats have gone to groups remotely representing the local community (others have gone to local chamber of commerce, Farnborough College of Technology and local Parish Councils, one of which is not even affected by the airport).

Note: The committee should be roughly balanced - one third airport operator and users, one third local councils, one third local community.

Much of what should be discussed by the committee, had been going on behind the scenes, behind the backs of many of the committee members. Examples include: imposition of 'independent' committee chairman, removal of Pat Devereux (Hampshire councillor who made a bad job of chairing last meeting), increasing the number of councillors on the committee (the excuse for excluding many community groups had been it would make the committee too big), etc.

What was clearly a stitch-up between Rushmoor and TAG, Robin Mackay was imposed as an 'independent' chairman. Fleet councillor Norman Lambert raised that this had not been discussed, let alone agreed, at the last committee meeting. He could could have added, neither had the criteria or procedure for selection.

Robin Mackay gave a brief resume of his background and qualifications for the job. He neglected to mention that he was an adviser on planning matters to Fairoaks Airport, and formerly manager of Fairoaks Airport! [BVEJ newsletter #0038 July 2003]

Objections from Norman Lambert were ignored, not a peep of an objection from FARA, and Mackay was appointed as chairman for three meetings. Would the committee have appointed Mackay had they been aware of his background?

Note: As manager of Fairoaks, Mackay was instrumental in blocking any community seats on their consultation committee. The situation eventually had to be resolved through High Court action. The judge was scathing in his attack on the behaviour of Fairoaks. [for a transcript of the case please see Richard Buxton's website or obtain a briefing pack from AEF]

The main discussion then resolved around the constitution, the cause of greatest concern was the occupancy of three seats by Rushmoor. Norman Lambert bitterly contested this, but got no backing, not a murmur from FARA. Eventually Norman Lambert left the meeting in disgust. He left because of the imbalance on the committee and the way the committee was functioning, not because he was peeved at not getting his own way, as the local press gives the misleading impression.

The holding of the secretariat by TAG was raised, but left with TAG holding the secretariat, an entirely unsatisfactory situation.

The rest of the meeting was technical issues raised by FARA on noise, safety etc.

TAG claimed their projections for 2015, to draw a PSZ, would be 28,000, ie their planning limit. TAG claimed they did not know the capacity of the airport, assuming no planning constraints.

TAG claimed they only occasionally deviated from the centre line of the runway. A claim that was met by guffaws of laughter from the public.

It would be churlish not to note that there has been some minor improvements. The chairman allowed a few token questions from the public, Waverley now have a seat, as do Fleet and Crookham Civic Society. This brings the number of seats allocated to each grouping to eight, a total of 24 seats for the committee. But there is a long way to go, there has to be better publicity for the meetings, greater involvement of the public, the secretariat removed from TAG and handed to an independent third party, but above all the question of membership has to be resolved, Rushmoor must be reduced to one seat and groups currently excluded, eg FoE and CPRE, offered seats.

Jenny Radley has been appointed to the committee (not co-opted as incorrectly reported in the local press) to represent Fleet and Crookham Civic Society. Her appointment has been questioned in Crookham and Fleet as to whether she will represent the wider community or merely focus on the narrow issue of the development of Queen Elizabeth Barracks (former Gurkha barracks), important as that is. These fears were reinforced by the fact that Jenny remained remarkably silent throughout the entire meeting and the crass comments she later made to the press: 'There are good and bad things to do with the airport and what it has to offer.' Well we are all aware of the bad things - noise, air quality, risk of a crash, destruction of local heathland, siltation of Fleet Pond, flooding along Cove Brook, globalisation - but what are the good things it has to offer?

If the Rushmoor are reduced to one seat, Farnham Town council and Crondall Parish council can be moved to where they belong, the council grouping (Fairoaks ruling). Ash is not affected by the airport and should not have a seat. Farnborough Tech should not have a seat. Farnborough Tech, whilst affected by the airport, is less affected than the Swan Pub, BMW garage or the kindergarten. The board of governors includes Andrew Lloyd (chief executive Rushmoor), Ann Bartaby (TAG director)! Who else is on the board, BAE Systems, SBAC?

This would give (24 seats)

Not unexpected, the behaviour of the Rushmoor councillors was a disgrace. They should be acting for their constituents. Not once did they raise any matter on behalf of their constituents, but fell over backwards to back TAG at every opportunity. Should they even be on the committee, when every single one was a member of the planning committee that granted TAG planning permission? All, with the exception of Dibbs, voted for TAG. Dibbs was unable to vote as he lacks a vote, but he has more than made up for the lack of a vote by speaking on behalf of TAG at every opportunity and doing his best to force through the TAG planning application. A matter for referral to the Standards Board of England?

The biggest disappointment has to be FARA (Farnborough Airport Residents Association). Whilst they are very good at raising technical issues at these meetings (and did raise some good points on the constitution), they are missing the bigger political picture. Nominally they exist to represent the local community. In this they have clearly failed. To represent the local community there has to be dialogue between FARA and the local community, there is no dialogue. FARA do not even trouble themselves to inform the local community of what is going on, even local activists are kept in the dark. They were asked to leaflet the locality prior to the meeting, they refused. They were asked to raise the absence of CPRE, FoE and other groups on the committee, they refused. They were asked to distribute the constitution and structure drawn up by Keith Parkins (one that would be fairer and more representative of the local community), they refused, they even refused to raise the matter before the committee. FARA have a website, no mention of the meeting.

It is easy to see why TAG or Rushmoor are keen not to allow FoE a seat on the committee as they were instrumental in generating over a thousand letters of objection to a business airport at Farnborough, but why FARA? Are they afraid that if other groups who have every right to a seat take up their rightful seats they will highlight the fact that FARA is not acting in the best interests of the local residents who they allegedly represent? The underlying philosophy of FARA seems to be: don't rock the boat, go with the flow.

The local community is suffering hell from an unwanted, expanding airport on their doorstep - noise, traffic generation, deteriorating air quality, risk of a crash. They still have no effective voice on the committee.

The next meeting of the committee will be 20 November 2003. It is important the meeting is well attended and essential there are external observers present, eg AEF, HACAN, DfT etc.

Groups question airport's choice of committee chair, Farnborough News, 27 June 2003

Keith Parkins, Community still not represented, letters, Farnborough News, 11 July 2003

Demand to air views, Farnborough Mail, 15 July 2003

Keith Parkins, Farnborough Airport Consultative Committee, Indymedia UK, 18 July 2003

Councillor walks out after airfield meeting row, Farnborough Mail, 22 July 2003

Airport body biased after Fleet appointment?, Fleet Mail, 22 July 2003

Clive Green, public jeering at tough meeting, Fleet Mail, 22 July 2003

[BVEJ newsletters passim]


Iraq

I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear - were destroyed. -- General Kamel

As we exposed sometime ago (and now picked up by the mainstream press), the government claim that Saddam Hussein was importing uranium from Niger, was based upon crudely forged documents. The CIA has also said the documents were forgeries, and the Director of Central Intelligence has been forced into a humiliating public apology over their use to justify war. Tony Blair has now taken a fall back position. He was relying upon other intelligence sources, sources unknown it seems to the CIA or anyone else. But this creates further problems. If the Brits were aware of this importation of uranium, why were the IAEA not notified, as Britain is required to do under International Law, failure to do so was a clear breach of a UN Security Council resolution.

It seems Blair has his own intelligence sources. He has claimed Chechen fighters were fighting in Iraq. This was news to the successor of the KGB, and news to everyone else, including the US, but let's not digress.

Like all liars, Blair becomes ever more desperate, and digs a deepening hole. He is now claiming (mid July) that as Iraq imported a few hundred tonnes of uranium from Niger in the 1980s, it is 'not beyond the bounds of possibility' that it has done so more recently. That is the strength of his 'evidence'

Jack Straw has also added his two pennies worth, claiming a nuclear scientist who was part of the weapons programme, had centrifuge parts buried in his back garden (he neglected to mention they were buried 12 years ago).

Let's look at the reality. For a nuclear weapons programme, Iraq would have to import several thousand tonnes of uranium in the form of yellow cake from Niger. A large plant would be needed to turn this yellow cake into uranium hexafluoride, another large plant of cascading centrifuges to concentrate the 1% fissile isotope to around 99% for weapons grade material (though less if the intention was a crude dirty bomb). To construct the plants needs a high degree of technology (possible when UK was happily supplying the parts and expertise). These plants are huge, the amount of energy required is huge. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that US satellites might just have noticed such activities.

There are two processing plants in Niger producing yellow cake. These are part French owned. Would not French intelligence have noticed? IAEA has to be notified of shipments of yellow cake. There are tight sanctions on Iraq, it is not a simple matter slipping through several thousand tonnes of yellow cake.

It should not be forgotten that we went to war, not because of acts of aggression by Iraq, but as a pre-emptive measure because not only the region, but US and UK were threatened, Iraq was within 45 minutes of launching an attack.

So where was the evidence? Both British and US intelligence have said off the record that there was no evidence. Veterans of the CIA have complained of politicisation of the CIA. An ex-member of the US State Department has recently gone on the record to say the evidence did not stack up for war with Iraq. Spanish intelligence have said they had no evidence. Mossad said Iraq was not an immediate threat. Other countries of the region said Iraq was not a threat.

We did have a very reliable intelligence source. This was Saddam Hussein's son-in-law who defected to the West with crate loads of documents to secure his acceptance. Before his defection he was part of the trusted inner-circle, head of the biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programmes. He told his interrogators that these programmes had been stopped, and what weapons and facilities did exist had been destroyed. The UN weapons inspectors who checked up on his story, were satisfied he was telling the truth. He then went back to his death in Iraq.

If 'evidence' is 'discovered' on the ground, there will be a strong suspicion that it has been planted or fabricated, like the so-called mobile biological/chemical laboratories or the crudely forged documents planted to discredit George Galloway MP.

The mobile labs, far from being kitted out camper vans or trailers, were canvas covered trucks. Their real purpose was part of an Artillery Meteorology System (AMETS), balloons are launched to predict wind speed, supplied by Marconi. Covered by export credit guarantees, which when Saddam defaulted, the UK taxpayer picked up the bill.

We need a judicial inquiry. Blair fears such an inquiry because he saw what the Scott Inquiry did to the Tories over weapons to Iraq.

As with weapons to Iraq, we are likely to see more come out in the US than in UK.

In the meantime Blair must go. The only useful thing Clair Short has ever done is to call for the resignation of Blair. But is not only Blair, it is all those around him who are flocking to the media to back him in his lies - Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Geoff Hoon et al. All must be swept away.

But resignation is not enough. Blair, Straw and Hoon should be put on trial for war crimes.

In Iraq, the country is descending into chaos, attacks on US troops are on the increase, and now it seems the troops themselves are on the verge of mutiny, having been told they cannot go home and will have to be picked of one by one whilst they remain as sitting ducks in temperatures in excess of 50 degrees.

Which only leaves the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Are there such weapons. Yes, the country is carpeted with the remnants of depleted uranium weapons and unexploded cluster bombs.

Keith Parkins, Iraq, Blair and WMDs, Indymedia UK, 18 July 2003


BP sponsors British Museum exhibition

Rising Tide at British Museum This is part of a campaign to alert people to the serious issues surrounding oil consumption, transportation and extraction. In the ever more bloody "aftermath" of the latest Gulf war, and in the 120 day consultation period for the BTC pipeline, it is essential that "No Blood For Oil" does not fade away with all the other slogans chanted on the marches. There is blood, torture, repression and environmental degradation for oil every day round the world, from Colombia to Chechnya -- London Rising Tide

Following on from their protest at the BP-sponsored National Portrait Awards in June (BVEJ newsletter #0038 July 2003), Rising Tide were again in action, this time at the British Museum in central London, which is currently hosting the BP-sponsored 'Museum of the Mind - Art and memory in world cultures' exhibition.

Posing as BP representatives (wearing a suit, bright red shirt and matching spoof-logo'd sun glasses) and handing out spoof reports, Rising Tide engaged the visitors in debate. Many refused to take what they believed was a real BP report, explaining that the actions of BP around the world were utterly reprehensible. The police were called, and security guards tried to remove the now fully unfurled banner "BP Sponsors Climate Chaos", arguing that the British Museum owned the space the protesters occupied and that they had no right to protest there. Determination won through and Rising Tide were granted a "victory lap" of the domed space. The protest continued outside the museum for a couple of hours, leaflets were handed out about BP and BP's planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline in Turkey (BVEJ newsletters passim).

A Museum employee said this was neither the time nor place to make such an, er, exhibition!

BP at the BM: London Rising Tide action against BP, UK Indymedia, 5 July 2003

London Rising Tide action at the British Museum,UK Indymedia, 8 July 2003


Baku Ceyan pipeline

pipeline route We are now within the 120 days official public consultation to stops banks using YOUR money to pay for big oil.

BP has formally asked for funding from the World Bank (IFC) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for its controversial new Caspian oil pipeline (BVEJ newsletters passim). This means there are less than 120 days before their decision is made. The banks call this 120 days the ‘public consultation period’ – so we all get a chance let them know what we think of the BTC pipeline.

The only thing which stands between Big Oil getting your money and setting a precedent against funding these types of projects is YOU!

Things you must do is write to the World Bank, EBRD, and your MP saying no to public funding and giving the reasons why. To help you Baku Ceyan campaign have produced some sample letters, and we have produced an urgent action with more details.

[BVEJ urgent action #0014 10 July 2003, BVEJ newsletter #0033 February 2003, BVEJ newsletter #0029 October 2002]


Absolut Bastards

We have reported in the past on the steps global corporations take to bully small companies when they feel their trade marks are being infringed. If it was a case of 'passing off' the action may be justified, but it is nearly always the big guy intimidating the little guy. [BVEJ newsletter #0037 June 2003 & newsletter #0020 January 2002]

In 2001, Vin & Sprit, makers of Absolut Vodka, launched lawsuits against Bo Enfridsson and Tina Hansen in the United States and the UK over the name of their small Sydney-based swimwear making business, Absolut Beach, claiming total rights over the name ‘Absolut’, including trademarks and domain names. Absolut Beach collapsed on June last year after spending more than $200,000 on legal fees. The court action continued however and, unable to afford representation, Bo and Tina lost under default judgements awarded in favour of Vin & Sprit. Last October, the High Court ordered Absolut Beach to take its name off the companies’ register and give up its internet domain names.

In the United States, the District Court for Virginia found against Absolut Beach on several charges, including: trademark infringement - for selling its products to a US customer over the Internet, cybersquatting, and unjustly profiting from Absolut Vodka’s fame. Bo and Tina maintain their innocence, pointing out that Absolut is a generic word in several Scandinavian languages. Vin & Spirit may yet pursue claims for damages.

Absolut Bastards, Corporate Watch Newsletter No 10, August/Sept 2002


The Strange Case of Martin Sixsmith

Martin Sixsmith was a well respected BBC journalist, he then went to work for the government and ended up heading the communication department for the Department of Transport under Stephen Byers.

Weeks before Sixsmith arrived at DfT, Jo Moore issued her infamous memo that 9-11 was a marvellous day to bury bad news. She should have been sacked on the spot, but due to the patronage of Byers (she was his political adviser) she was allowed to remain. The whole sorry incident was put down as an aberration. Only it wasn't, it was part of the political culture that pervades the Blair government and is eating away at the integrity of the Civil Service.

The funeral of Princess Margaret, offered, according to Jo Moore, another ideal opportunity to bury bad news. She wished to see bad transport figures released that day. Sixsmith, as head of communications, resisted. He wrote a memo saying it would be a very bad idea.

The gist of the memo was leaked. Downing Street denied the very existence of the memo. Next day the contents of the memo were published.

Jo Moore had to go. Byers demanded the resignation of Sixsmith, even though Sixsmith had done nothing wrong, and had acted with integrity throughout.

Sixsmith was asked to resign. He had not even given his response when Alistair Campbell, Blair's head of communication, announced Sixsmith had resigned.

Byers repeatedly lied to Parliament that Sixsmith had resigned. He had not. Byers then continued to lie on the sequence of events that had led up to the attempt to force Sixsmith to resign.

Byers was eventually forced to resign. Sixsmith got an apology and a six figure settlement, the actual figure he is prevented from stating by the terms of the settlement. Campbell is still there.

In the confusion over weapons of mass destruction and flawed dossiers, who do you believe, BBC, or Blair and Campbell?


The Road to Skye

There is a bridge across to Skye. It takes around 30 seconds to cross, and if you are in a car you pay £5.70 to cross each way (it would be even higher but is currently being subsidised by the Scottish Executive), for a coach it is £80 for the round trip. There used to be a ferry, but the ferry was closed to force use of the bridge.

The owners of the ferry are making money hand over fist, meanwhile the local economy is suffering to the tune of £4.5 million per year.

The Skye bridge was one of the very first of the PFI scams and the scandal is well documented in George Monbiot's excellent book The Captive State.

The Scottish Executive is now considering buying back the bridge.

Er, is not PFI supposed to deliver value for money. Well yes, it does, but to the private sector not the public sector.


Boy meets girl

Usual story, boy meets girl, both run off together. Only in this case the girl was 12, the boy in his thirties, and they both met through the internet.

Met through the internet! Enough to drive the mainstream media into one of its periodic bouts of hysteria.

Would there be the same hysteria if they met and communicated by letter, would there be demands to shut down the postal system? Of course not.


Trial by jury

One of the basic tenets of our legal system is trial by jury, to be tried by ones peers. Blunkett, as we reported last month (BVEJ newsletter #0038 July 2003), wants to abolish this basic human right. Only he has ran into problems in the House of Lords.

It shows how bad things have become under neo-Labour, when it takes a coalition of Lords and Tories to block neo-Labour legislation on human rights grounds.


QinetiQ

What was once DERA, and formerly the RAE, was sold to the Carlyle Group for a measly £42 million. The patents alone held by DERA are probably worth more than this, and the legal and advisory fees came to double this figure.

Carlyle Group is now busy netting a big profit by flogging off the land.

Land at the Longcross tank range at Chobham has been sold to developers for a reputed £120 million. Land at Pyestock (Farnborough) is being sold to developers for 2,000 homes (if Rushmoor give the planning consent), at £50,000 a plot this could rake in a further £100 million.

But is the land theirs to sell? It was once common land, before being expropriated by the military. Should it not be released back to the local communities if surplus to MoD requirements?

The same could be said for Farnborough Airport, which was once Farnborough and Cove Commons, before being seized by the military

[BVEJ newsletter #0013 June 2001]


Microsoft

The ultimate result is that some innovations that would truly benefit consumers never occur for the sole reason that they do not coincide with Microsofts self-interest. -- Judge Jackson, Microsoft anti-trust trial

Microsoft is a fucking evil corporation.-- Steven D McGeady, Intel Vice President

It was like a visit by Don Corleone. I expected to find a bloody computer monitor in my bed the next day. -- Marc Andressen, co-founder of Netscape

It's been very difficult to convince [a PC manufacturer] to appear in court without a hood. -- David Boies, lead prosecution attorney, Microsoft anti-trust case

We're just flooding the market with copies... The goal is... that when people actually end up having to buy software, they [will] already know our software and its the one they will have to buy when the laws get passed. Were basically getting market share. As soon as we start to get a return on that investment, it will be humungous. -- Chris Williams, Microsofts director of product development

If a substantial number of people moved from using the Word, Excel and Powerpoint formats for exchanging their documents, and instead used OpenOffice.org formats, it would undermine Microsofts control of electronic documents, and threaten one of its major sources of income. -- Dave Malcolm

You have just bought your new computer, it comes with Windows XP (Microsoft's first attempt at building a stable operating system), but as you quickly discover, without application software, you have acquired a very expensive paperweight.

Your machine may have been bundled with a free copy of Microsoft Works. You soon learn why, it is crap, no one in their right mind would buy it.

What now? Well you could beg, borrow or steal a copy of Microsoft Office. There is though a problem if you did, you are helping to propagate the Microsoft monoculture. In parts of the world where piracy is rife, Microsoft gives away free copies of Office to propagate their monoculture, in the same way that they are giving away Windows to some African countries (though the latter comes with strings attached). No different to dealers giving junkies their first fix, knowing they will be hooked for life.

SchoolNet Namibia, were offered a 'free gift' of $2000 worth of Office software license donation, conditional on the project spending $9000 to pay for operating system licenses, and Microsoft attempted to get the project to spend a further $22,500 on equipment that would have mainly been useful as part of a Microsoft marketing campaign. Namibia wisely chose Linux instead, not so much because it was free, though that was a factor, but mainly because they had access to the source code, could adapt it to their needs, and in doing so, would buld up skills within the country.

There is though a choice. The choice is Open Office, a fully functional Office suite. The difference is, it does not come from Microsoft, it is free, and the source code is available too. And if you use Open Office, you are planting seeds of dissent in the Microsoft monoculture, and hitting them where it hurts, in their pocket.

Microsoft hates Open Office, they see it as a real threat.

Microsoft makes its money from applications software, the bits that do something useful other than run the computer. Microsoft make it as difficult as possible for rival application software, for example by restricting access to internal workings of Windows and the nitty-gritty of file structures, essential if you are to build reliable application software.

If a rival does appear, Microsoft will attempt to buy it. They will want to know everything about the software, including design details. They will then put in a derisory offer, you have a choice, take what's on offer, or be put out of business.

Marc Andresson, developer of Netscape, discovered this to his cost. At one time seen as a serious rival to Microsoft, Andresson described dealing with Microsoft as like dealing with the Godfather, and expected to wake up one morning to find a bloodied disembodied computer on his pillow. Microsoft launched Internet Explorer, no costs spared, the rest was history, Netscape was driven into the arms of AOL and never recovered.

Sun launched Java, which made applications 'platform free', in non-tech speak, programmes could run on any machine, any operating system, it would not matter as the programme ran on its own virtual machine on the host system. Microsoft saw an immediate threat, software that was not operating system specific, and launched spoiling operations - ActiveX which was a poor substitute for Java, and for good measure, ensured Java applications did not run properly on Windows - giving Sun and Java a bad name. Sun sued, and won the case, but too late, the damage had been done.

Computer makers are beholden to Microsoft. They are solely dependent on Microsoft for their operating system. At the recent anti-trust case against Microsoft, the prosecuting attorney felt he had to put hoods over the heads of potential witnesses as the only way to persuade them to testify against Microsoft. Even the all powerful Intel feels intimidated by Microsoft.

Which is why Microsoft fears Open Office. It gives users a genuine alternative to Microsoft Office and helps to wean them of their Microsoft dependency.

A measure of that fear can be seen in Peru. There, legislation is being considered to force Open Software, of which Open Office is but one example, to be the software of choice for all government offices and departments. Other countries are watching this development with keen interest.

Peru is an infinitesimal part of the Microsoft market, but like the manufacture and import of cheap generic drugs in Africa, sets a very dangerous precedence that others may be tempted to follow.

To ensure it does not come to pass the US Ambassador to Peru has been called upon to lean on the President of the Peruvian Congress.

The Microsoft stranglehold on the market is not only ripping off consumers by denying them choice, it is also stifling technological innovation.

You could go one stage further, and ditch Windows and install Linux. Whilst its pundits will claim it is the best thing since sliced bread, and for servers and running the internet it is great, it is still not suitable for the average user due to the level of technical expertise needed to get to grips with it, and the lack of good, easy to use, application software.

But if you do ditch Windows, and install Linux, did you know you can claim back the licence fee from Microsoft for your unwanted copy of Windows?

Dave Malcolm, MaxiMegaSoft - the hard sell, Corporate Watch Newsletter No 13, March/April 2003

Keith Parkins, Microsoft v Open Source software, Indymedia UK, 18 July 2003


Highway to Heaven

US PR firm Fenton Communications latest brief is to provide publicity for an odd intersection of two great American interests – evangelical Christianity and cars. This comes in the form of the Evangelical Environmental Network’s ‘What Would Jesus Drive?’ campaign, designed to pressure car manufacturers to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Rev. Jim Ball, of the EEN, believes Christians should junk SUVs and drive less-polluting vehicles that aren’t as harmful to the environment and people’s health. According to an EEN fact sheet, ‘The Lordship of Christ extends throughout every area of our life. Nothing is excluded from His Lordship. This includes our transportation choices.’

EEN maintains the more fuel efficient cars would reduce the risk of global warming and cut America’s reliance on ‘imported oil from unstable regions’. The US car industry is taking EEN seriously - Ball has visited Detroit to meet with Ford CEO Bill Ford and executives from General Motors.

But the car manufacturers might not be so keen if they thought it through - surely Jesus would take public transport or would it be a donkey?

Highway to Heaven, Corporate Watch Newsletter No 11/12 : Dec/Jan 2002/2003


Nine Reasons not to shop at ASDA

  1. Asda is owned by Wal-Mart, the biggest and one of the most aggressive companies in the world. Wal-Mart is, according to the Global 500 list, the largest corporation in the world by revenue ($219 billion worth of sales in 2001). With over one million employees in over 4,600 stores worldwide, it is not only the largest retailer in the USA, but also in Mexico and Canada. It also operates across Europe, South America and Asia.

  2. Asda has contributed to the demise of urban high streets and small independent retailers. According to the New Economics Foundation, between 1995-2000 we lost roughly one-fifth of our local shops and services – including cornershops, grocers, high-street banks, post offices, pubs and hardware stores – the very fabric of our communities – as a result of supermarket expansion.

  3. Asda misleads its customers about its prices. Asda may not be as cheap as it seems. In the last 4 years, Asda has been investigated 5 times by the Advertising Standards Authority, as supposed price cuts turn out not to be as good value as they seem. In 2001, a Norwich Asda was fined for misleading customers about the amount it had actually cut prices. Recent research by food group, Sustain, has shown that it is up to 30% cheaper to buy your food at your local grocer, butcher or market than at a supermarket.

  4. Asda treats its suppliers with contempt. The Competition Commission report into supermarkets in 2000 illustrates how Asda uses its power to bully suppliers. Its investigation found 18 Asda practices in dealing with suppliers that adversely affect the public interest. These included requiring suppliers to make a payment for better positioning of their products in stores, forcing suppliers to agree to a lower price than originally agreed, and changing quality and packaging demands without adequate notice.

  5. Asda is bookies’ favorite to take over Safeway. If Asda get the go ahead to buy Safeway it will put Asda on level pegging with top dog, Tesco, in terms of market share at around a massive 25% each. The additional buying power that Asda/Wal-Mart would gain from the Safeway takeover would tip the balance of power even further away from suppliers to big retailers.

  6. Asda tries to present itself as ‘the store of the community’, when really it is sapping it of money, resources and life. In-store weddings, in-store kid’s education programmes (the Big Sum, the Big Read etc) MPs surgeries and the ‘Get Involved’ programme that sees Asda workers giving up time to support good causes in their communities, all sorts of business in the community awards, including the Nestle award for social commitment (yes, it really exists), but in fact Asda has a devastating effect on local communities. Supermarkets are responsible for destroying local independent retailers who just cannot compete with their buying power and low wages. Shoppers become totally reliant on car use to get to their local supermarket which increases pollution and congestion.

  7. Asda has strong links with the Conservative party. Asda has strong links to the Tory party through former CEO Archie Norman, who is currently a Tory MP and former close advisor to William Hague. Norman has also been dubbed ‘the Green-belt destroyer’.Asda has strong links with the Conservative party.

  8. Would you really want to work for Asda? Wal-Mart is notoriously anti-union and has regularly been found to flout labour laws. In the US state of Maine, for example, it was fined for 1,400 violations of child labour laws in every one of its stores. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against it for disability discrimination and discrimination against women. Since becoming part of Wal-Mart, GMB union reps say it has been subtly clamping down on union activity.

  9. And have you been into an Asda store recently? Once you have evaded the ‘personal greeters’, the supermarket experience is frankly overwhelming. They are huge cavernous impersonal spaces, with aisles upon aisles and rows upon rows of things – almost too much choice. The fresh produce often looks tired, and not as fresh as it might be. Even if it looks nice, the taste invariably lets you down. You walk about in a trance induced by strip lights and piped music and an endless mantra of special offers over the loud speakers.

Across the USA, from Puget Sound to the Gulf of Mexico, from Maine to Arizona, communities are fighting the Wal-Mart/Asda juggernaut. Its expansion across Britain is not inevitable if we unite to oppose it.

By the way, we’ve singled out Asda for this campaign. It would be just as easy to find 9 reasons not to shop Tesco, Sainsbury, Safeway etc

Further Reading on Wal-Mart

Bill Quinn, How Wal-Mart is Destroying America and The World and What You Can Do About It, Bill Quinn, Ten Speed Press, 2000

Al Norman, Slam-Dunking Wal-Mart, Raphel Marketing, 1999

Bob Ortega, In Sam We Trust The Untold Story of Sam Walton and How Wal-Mart Is Devouring America, Times Business, 1998

Web

[Corporate Watch Newsletter No 13 March/April 2003, BVEJ newsletter #0005 October 2000, BVEJ newsletter #0016 September 2001]


Dr David Kelly RIP

Dr David Kelly was an expert on chemical and biological weapons, he volunteered and served as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq after the first Gulf War. By his own admission, he was one of the sources as to what went into the government's dossier on Iraq's weapons.

For reasons known only to MoD, and very reminiscent of the treatment of Martin Sixsmith (see this issue), he was served up as a patsy, someone to blame for the government having lied about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction.

He is now dead. Spin Ali's bloodstained fingerprints are all over the body.

Blair is finished and must go. A decent and innocent man lies dead, driven to suicide by Alistair Campbell's phoney war against the BBC, a distraction from the real issues, the lies from himself and Blair that took us into an illegal war with Iraq.

Who were the thugs at MoD who threatened David Kelly with loss of pension and prosecution under the Official Secrets Act? Was Kelly subjected to several days of intense interrogation, previously used to break KGB agents, so that by the time Kelly appeared before the Select Committee, he was a broken man? Nevertheless, Kelly was a brave man, and when he did appear before the Select Committee, he did not play ball as expected by his masters. Who was Kelly referring to by the 'dark forces'? It is inconceivable that this level of intimidation took place without the knowledge, let alone authority, of Geoff Hoon, and it probably went higher.

Geoff Hoon, arrogant shit to the end, refused to apologise to the family of David Kelly for his part in his death. Pathetic Campbell, spent the day onto news editors trying to get himself of the hook.

Once again, an attempt is being made to pin the blame on the BBC.

Blair, Hoon, Campbell, we want your resignations.


Vision chips

Imagine walking into a store and having a computer take an inventory of everything you’re wearing — right down to the size and color of your underwear. Store employees could even read the contents of your wallet to determine whether you’re a desirable customer or someone they want to ignore based on your financial value. The possibilities for discrimination are quite disturbing. -- Katherine Albrecht, director of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.

Good news for anyone who feels like their privacy hasn’t been infringed quite enough yet. There’s a new wee beastie come to fill your lives with joy, RFID (radio frequency identification). If these catch on - and it looks like they already are - everything you buy could soon have a unique number that can be transmitted to anyone nearby, without your permission.

RFIDs are tiny chips which can be embedded into almost anything. When a reading device is placed within 5 metres of them, they transmit their unique number to the device. The idea is that shops will use them instead of barcodes, so you just push your trolley through the checkout, and you’ll know how much you owe. Sounds good so far…

Now it gets dodgy, folks. As each chip has a unique number, if someone knows the number of the chip embedded in your shoes, for example, they will be able to track exactly what you do. So a supermarket could know when you enter their store, how long you spend in each section, and what you buy. At the recent Chinese Communist Party Congress, each delegate had to have a badge, equipped with RFID chip, that tracked them wherever they went.

“The Auto-ID Centre is designing, building, testing and deploying a global infrastructure ... that will make it possible for computers to identify any object anywhere in the world instantly,” happily burbles the Auto-ID Centre press release.

A casino in Sydney has already put 80,000 of these chips into their employee uniforms in order to reduce theft. Michelin, which make 800,000 tyres every day, are soon to place RFID chips in each tyre, which will be matched to the make of car they are fitted to in a huge database. Tesco are just about to introduce a huge trial of the technology. Other companies testing the technology include all the SchNEWS favourites: Gillette, Gap and Bennetton.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a network has been created which has the capability to track anyone going anywhere in the town centre as long as they have an RFID chip somewhere on them. A company called Applied Digital Solutions has already developed an RFID chip for people, it’s 11mm long, embedded under the skin and can be read from 4 feet away. And yes, folks, these have already been implanted into people.

The EU is in the process of putting RFIDs into high denomination bank notes as a fraud-reducing measure. “RFID tags also have the ability of recording information such as details of the transactions the paper note has been involved in,” according to analyst Prianka Chopra. In one fell swoop this would destroy any of the anonymity of using cash. The other great thing about this is that anyone with an RFID reader (which will become more and more common) can tell exactly how much cash you have on you... Hooray!

So what’s the Home Office doing about this potentially huge privacy risk? Urging caution and debating the privacy risks? Nah, course not, they’re putting 4.5 million quid up for improving it. There is also much interest in using RFID in passports, driving licenses, and any other documents you could name, potentially allowing no-one to opt out of RFID, if documents without the chip are rejected.

If chips were installed in mandatory ID cards police (and others) could access extensive information on anyone just by scanning from metres away. In the US many supermarkets require official state ID to sign up for loyalty cards. Huge databases can easily be created from this as corporations merge the personal information of their clients in order to build frighteningly accurate personal profiles. So your supermarket shares your info with your bank who shares it with your preferred clothes shops and all of a sudden they’ve got a massive database of info on Jo Soap. Impressive huh?

Leaked briefings on focus groups held by Auto-ID, the main people behind RIFD, reveal people’s true perception of this technology, “There are currently no clear benefits by which to balance even the mildest negative. While the possible benefits were explained to each group at length, nothing seemed to really motivate or inspire. In fact, the presentation of benefits seemed to automatically lead consumers to think of negatives.” This dislike has already prompted concessions from suppliers, such as chips that are destroyed when they leave the shop, and only attaching chips to packaging rather than the product itself.

Ironically the leaked briefings came from a public part of the Auto-ID website. If they can’t protect their own confidential documents, it’s hard to believe their claims of keeping huge databases of customers’ information private.

As these chips are getting so tiny (less than 0.3mm), they are extremely difficult to find and destroy. Washing will not destroy them, and they need to be crushed or micro-waved (with the corresponding fire risk) to make them ineffective. And you can’t exactly go walking round Tesco’s with a microwave to disable all the bloody things.

“RFID technology is moving forward at an incredible pace, and there is an urgent need for this legislation. Companies have already begun embedding these chips in products people buy today. For all you know, these chips could be in your home now. The problem is you have no way of knowing,” claimed Albrecht.

Luckily this wonderful nirvana of new technology is starting to receive some very bad press. Wal-Mart quietly started a trial of the technology in one of its stores, but when the company that made the chips turned up and started pointing it out to customers, they were horrified. Wal-Mart were so inundated by complaint calls that they had PR executives answering the phones, bringing the trial to a sudden end. Hopefully this technology will be seen in a similar way to GM: big benefits for big business but only losses for everyone else. They get your personal preferences and all the fat profits while you lose any morsel of privacy.

Neo-Labour are pressing ahead with the introduction of an ID card, and to add insult to injury you will have to pay for the privilege of carrying one.

George Orwell, author of Nineteen Eighty-Four, was born 100 years ago.

[SchNEWS Issue 415 Friday 18 July 2003]


Illegal workers

Casualisation of workers is driving down wages. Using unskilled workers, as we saw with the tragic death of Simon Jones, can lead to the death of workers. [BVEJ newsletter #0004 September 2000]

Even lower down the scale is the use of illegal immigrants. The practice is rife in Farnborough in local nursing homes and kindergartens, using illegals from Nigeria and the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe. They are paid cash in hand, below the minimum wage, no questions asked.

What is happening in Farnborough is only the tip of the iceberg. In the building trade and agricultural industries, organised crime is muscling in on the act, Albanians, Romanians and a growing problem of Chinese Triads and Snakeheads.

On building sites, unskilled workers, who have a poor grasp of English if any at all, are putting fellow workers at risk, if not out of a job. Everyone knows what is going on, right to the top of major construction companies, but they turn a blind eye to what is going on, accept forged documents (forged driving licences and NI documents for around £50, a forged passport £1,000) to keep costs down and profits up. If a site manager tries to insist on legal workers he will get roughed up.

A growing problem is that of criminal gangs supplying seasonal labour to farms, no questions asked. In Kings Lynn, the town is crawling with illegal Chinese. A Chinese will typically pay £20,000 to get to the UK. He then has to pay this back, earning £150 a week, if he's lucky. The problems of the criminal gangs is especially bad in Norfolk and Lincolnshire.

File on Four, Radio 4, BBC, Tues 22 July


Ambient Picnic

This year's green Ambient Picnic in Shalford Park, down by the river in Guildford, was held a little later in the year, so it clashed with the Aldershot Green Day. No contest, everyone went to the Ambient Picnic. They came down from London, up from the south coast. The only similar event, another free festival, is the Strawberry Fair held in June in Cambridge.

The most successful Ambient Picnic, was few years ago, it then missed a year due to pathetic mean mindedness by Guildford, and lost its momentum, and has been trying hard ever since to recover its former lost glory.

Unlike previous events, no main stage, instead, several tents with music scattered around the main field, with acoustic music (with amplification!!) in the bottom field. All powered by clean energy sources.

Disappointing is still the lack of many alternative stalls (which is the main point of the event). Stalls that were there were: Phil with his anti-Bush, anti-Exxon campaign, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Surrey Anarchists, SchNEWS and the Green Party. Surprisingly Surrey Stop the War Coalition did not have a stall. An amazing lost opportunity, but maybe they were not aware of the event, which seems to spread by word of mouth (though it was in the SchNEWS Party and Protest guide and we mention it in our Diary).

Greater effort needs to be done to spread the message and get more groups involved - London Greenpeace, Rising Tide, War on Want, WDM, Action Aid, CAAT, FoE etc.

SchNEWS had their newsletters, and it was the ideal opportunity to pick up the SchNEWS Annual 2003 (reviewed in this newsletter), yes its that time of the year folks. Inside their tent, with tea and refreshments, SchNEWS were showing a selection of films, some of which are available on the latest Undercurrents CD (reviewed in this issue) and Beyond TV CD (available free with the latest SchNEWS Annual and reviewed in this issue). Also on the SchNEWS stand was the excellent Pork Bolter.

The best food stall by far was a tiny little van, easily missed, which was serving deep fried organic vegetables. Hogs Back Brewery operated a beer tent, but why oh why, are they serving crap Fosters lager when they have their own excellent real ales on offer? Fancy a Tea anyone?


BVFoE

Just when everyone thought the local FoE had died a long lingering death, out comes a newsletter. No explanation why no newsletter since Winter, no apology, very scruffily put together.

Our merry little band of pretend environmentalists have discovered the Stop Esso Campaign, and even the Baku Ceyan pipeline gets mention (with a distortion of the facts).

Stop Esso campaign must have been running for at least two years. But at least it gets a mention, not that ExxonMobil is any worse than any other oil company (see last issue of BVEJ newsletter on BP).

The only reason Stop Esso Campaign or the Baku Ceyan pipeline get a mention is because they are national FoE campaigns.

The Baku Ceyan pipeline does not get mentioned by name, although the main backers BP do. Incorrectly reported, the pipeline is not being financed by the UK taxpayer, though it would be were BP to get their way. No mention of the human rights violations, no mention of the fact that we are now in the 120 days public consultation period when there is a possibility of BP getting money from the World Bank and EBRD or what you can do to stop it (see this newsletter), or from where more info can be obtained, eg Baku Ceyan campaign.

BVFoE kindly tell its readers of the government consultation on the Future of Aviation (deadline for comments was 30 June 2003) and that the government 'has just begun its consultation on the future of GM foods'. In fact when the newsletter came out, the consultation had just ended!

BVFoE claim they are still trying to get onto the airfield consultation committee. They made no application to the committee when it met in July, the only efforts have been behind the scenes by local activists, and BVFoE have done nothing to follow through.

The newsletter contains a detailed questionnaire on your IT habits and the use of the Internet. This is an appalling invasion of privacy (what business is it of BVFoE what operating system you use, fast modem etc) and should be binned.

Please will FoE disband this group of social misfits and set up a proper campaign group.


Local heathland

trashed heathland spring 2003 Heathland to the west of Farnborough Airport, which TAG and MoD with the collusion of Rushmoor and English Nature, have done their best to destroy, is slowly, slowly recovering.

There is now an extensive area of heath grassland, some isolated pockets of heather, but the area that is not recovering, a handful of weeds, little else is, that which was trashed at least three times, and the ground scraped bare to the subsoil and left piled in ridges.

Four highland cattle have been introduced to a fenced-off area.


Fleet

The potential for damage is there and there is no point in having these designations if they do not protect wildlife. -- Caroline Lucas, MEP

I am also concerned at the sheer size of the project [1,100 houses] ... This massive increase is part of a pattern of large-scale development across the south east and is a major concern to my constituents. People feel as if the region is being developed to death. -- Caroline Lucas MEP

With the government's desire to expand airport's, particularly in the south east, most people who have looked into Farnborough Airport find it impossible to believe that the airport will not continue to grow beyond 28,000 flights a year. -- Caroline Lucas MEP

Following a visit to the Queen Elizabeth Barracks site (QEB, former Gurkha Barracks) Caroline Lucas MEP slammed the over development that is taking place in the locality and in the south east in general, and questioned the lack of economic development in the north of the country where it is desperately needed. She also questioned designated areas for protection if as soon as the area is under threat the designation is ignored.

It had been hoped Caroline could have attended the airfield consultation committee the same afternoon but she had a prior engagement in the New Forest and a further meeting that evening down in Winchester. Nevertheless Caroline poured scorn on TAG's claim they will not exceed their planning limit of 28,000 movements. A position contrary to what Caroline was told when she visited TAG a couple of years ago and contrary to the position TAG take when talking to the industry (BVEJ newsletters passim).

Clive Green, 'Hart is being developed to death': MEP, Fleet Mail, Tues 22 July 2003

[BVEJ newsletter #0035 April 2003]


Odiham

It destroys an important green space, including an old orchard of exactly the type the conservation area was set up to protect. This leaves all conservation areas open to attack by setting a dangerous precedent, which will be of concern to all Hart residents, not just those in our village. -- Roger Clarke, North Wanborough local resident

Odiham is a very attractive village in north-east Hampshire. How long it will stay that way remains to be seen as developers in collusion with Hart planners are doing their best to destroy the village and surrounding area.

Plans have been submitted to develop the gardens of Cedar Tree House, a Georgian Grade II listed building, in the Street, North Wanborough - five one-bedroom flats and five two-bedroom, seven three-bedroom and three four-bedroom houses, in the back garden, paddock and orchard, in the North Wanborough Conservation Area.

Over 70 mature trees would be destroyed, and the loss of an ancient orchard.

Villagers are strongly opposed, over 100 letters of protest, Odiham Parish Council has also objected, drawing attention to increase flood risk and poor vehicle access.

Hart planning official, Nicky Cottrell, is pushing hard for planning approval, claiming the scheme would not be detrimental to either the house or the local area!

Anger at plans to build in garden of listed house, Fleet Mail, Tues 22 July 2003


Pavilion

We all know Pavilion are rubbish, it now appears Pavilion cannot even clean up the rubbish on their estates.

On a sink estate in Aldershot, residents lives are being made a misery by one man dumping rubbish. Everyone knows who he is, Pavilion know who he is, but Pavilion have failed to take any legal action to stop the ongoing nuisance.

Pavilion are showing the same degree of efficiency cleaning up their estates as they show in carrying out repairs.

Tenants are still waiting for repairs to be carried out. Several cases have been passed to Alison Whiteley (Rushmoor head of housing) for enforcement action. She has done nothing.

Rushmoor councillors are aware of the problems and have done nothing. At least a month ago Don Cappleman was taken around one of the sink estates in his ward in Aldershot. Photos were taken of the disgusting state of repair of many of the properties. He appears to have done nothing. Caroline Culver has been shouting about the lack of social housing, but appears to be doing nothing about the state of existing housing.

The Local Authority Ombudsman has now been asked to intervene.

Compare the reality with the pack of lies reported by the News. The News has still done nothing to correct their false reporting.

Simon Coughlin, Housing boss builds hope for the future, Farnborough News, 27 June 2003

Rubbish despair, Farnborough News, 18 July 2003

[BVEJ newsletters passim]


Farnborough town centre

We are very disappointed. This was a very important meeting. We have to keep on top of them and make sure they come back and report. -- Paul Taylor

Our corrupt and incompetent planners have now given the go-ahead for KPI to trash the northern end of Farnborough town centre.

Many were under the misleading impression that the go-ahead had been granted last year. What was granted then was 'minded to grant outline planning permission'. A section 106 legal agreement is now in place and KPI have been granted outline planning permission.

Once again the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor has stuck two fingers up to the people of Farnborough. There has still been no consultation with people living in the town centre (either in the flats above the shops or Firgrove Court) or the local shopkeepers (the few that still remain).

Those who live in Firgrove Court are deemed expendable. Discussions are taking place between KPI, Rushmoor and Pavilion to rehouse them in inferior housing, on an inferior site, further away from the town centre. The residents of Firgrove Court have not been party to these discussions.

As the majority of residents of Firgrove Court do not wish to move they should stay put. It is essential though that they all get legal representation to fight their forced eviction. There is also a need to seek a Judicial review of the entire planning process.

Caroline Culver has been shouting about the lack of social housing, but appears to be doing to stop this loss of social housing. 28 maisonettes are earmarked for demolition for a car park for an unwanted superstore.

There is something we can all do. The scheme will mean the loss of the highway running through Queensmead. A Stopping UP Order must be applied for to the Secretary of State. Look out for the Notices which have to be posted in the street and lodge an objection.

The idiot who goes under the title of 'town centre manager' must must be as brain dead as our planners and councillors as he welcomes the scheme as good for the town!

The town has already suffered during demolition work and erection of the two monstrosities on The Mead and the old Post Office site. That disruption will be nothing to what the town will face when the northern end is demolished.

By the time we are published Staffords (camping shop) will have finally closed its doors for the last time. Another retailer to have paid the price for the collusion between Rushmoor and KPI.

Fingz Fashion closed some months ago, driven into bankruptcy by KPI. Not satisfied with driving their business into bankruptcy, vicious bastard Simon Rutter pursued them for personal bankruptcy. The last laugh however rests with Peter and June Newman. When the case appeared before the judge, Rutter could not even be bothered to turn up. The case was judged in their favour and the judge awarded them costs.

Rushmoor councillors held a meeting to cross-exam Rutter for the sorry state of the town centre. He displayed the same contempt for the councillors as he does for everyone else and failed to show his ugly face.

Rutter is still feeding the same pack of lies to the council that he has a cinema group lined up for the town. About as believable as TAG will stick at 28,000 flights and WMDs are to be found in Iraq!

Town centre developer only doing just enough, Farnborough News, 4 July 2003

[BVEJ newsletters passim]


North Camp

Against strong local opposition, our corrupt and incompetent planners have given the final go-ahead for a block of student flats in Peabody Road. Sheer hell for local residents, two fingers to the local community from the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor.

The developer is Pavilion. Why are Pavilion building student flats when there is an acute shortage of social housing for local people? Yet another example of empire building by Mervyn Jones. No money for repairs, but money can be found for student flats, flats which lie empty for a third of the year.

Caroline Culver has been shouting about the lack of social housing. Why is she not making a fuss about this abuse of Pavilion funds?


Rotten Borough of Rushmoor

The row over car parking fees for Aldershot and Farnborough rumbles on. It is to go before council, but cabinet member Roland Dibbs has already pre-empted any decision by council by saying cabinet will ignore it. So much for democracy.

Sleazy Charles Choudhary has been referred to the Standards Board of England for failing to declare an interest (he is a taxi driver) when matters affecting taxis were being discussed. We can only hope he gets disqualified as a councillor.

Councillors have been on a freebie trip to our twin town in Germany. Who paid for this freebie?


May local elections - update

Despite all the gimmicks - banners, beer mats, internet voting - turnout at 31% was down by 2% on last year.

When will they learn, it is not gimmicks but decent candidates, real choice, that will get people out to vote. Would you vote for the shits on offer?

Remember the LibDems who were crawling all over Knellwood and St Marks? Post-election, not a sign of them. They have crawled back under their stones. Remember their commitment to local issues? Where are they now? Remember how their candidate in Knellwood was so concerned about airfield safety and the process of consultation? Where was he at the recent meeting of the airfield consultation committee? There is no bigger hypocrite than a LibDem.

In Porto Alegre in Brazil, where there is genuine public participation in the running of the city, voter turnout has risen year on year.

Next year, if the government has its way, the local elections will be moved from 6 May 2004 to 10 June 2004 to coincide with the European elections.


The infamous bus lane

We alerted that this would be a bloody disaster even before it got off the drawing board, and once again we have been proved right. [BVEJ newsletter April 2001]

It was bloody obvious that if you restrict two lanes on the highly congested main Farnborough Road, to one lane each direction, then you are going to have problems, and this has proved to be the case. Traffic is now flowing down quiet residential roads to try to avoid the congestion on the Farnborough Road.

Congestion and consequential diversion of traffic onto quiet side streets are not the only problems.

The lanes are very badly designed, and often only the length of an extended bus stop.

What use is for example, the short length of bus lane that runs along Victoria Road where it meets the Clockhouse roundabout? The lane ends a short distance before the roundabout, so any advantage it gave the bus to merge onto the roundabout is lost, but what it has done is caused a massive tailback for everyone else driving onto the roundabout.

Another example of the poor design is the short length of bus lane before the traffic lights at the road junction passed the Farnborough main station. If you wish to turn left (to head down towards the six form college) you merge left, only to find you are in a bus lane. You then have to fight your way into the middle lane, cutting across other drivers, an accident waiting to happen. Again any advantage this may have given the bus, is lost because the lane ends before the lights.

Taxis are excluded from the bus lane, as it appears are long distance coaches, as the sign for the bus lane explicitly says local.

The contractors carrying out the work are cowboys. They have had to relay the road several times, workmen have been cutting stone on the public highway with no dust mitigation measures in place. Specifications are laid down, but our councillors are not enforcing these specifications. For example, the lamp posts have a plasticised coating to minimise maintenance, some have been scratched, then covered with paint, each lamp post should have a concrete base that drains water away from the central pillar.

This was clearly a paper exercise carried out down in Winchester, with absolutely no understanding of the local conditions.

More fundamentally, why do we need a bus lane when there are virtually no buses?

It is only now, very late in the day, that Rushmoor councillors are waking up to the disaster that is on their doorstep.

This unwanted white elephant is costing the local taxpayer millions. It should be scrapped before any more money is wasted.


Informed Dissent

Several clips of Noam Chomsky, Seize the Day, an award winning documentary on Globalisation and the Media, various anti-war actions. What more could you ask for, all on one CD, for the bargain price of £6-50.

Produced by Undercurrents, in collaboration with Peace News, all profits go back into the anti-war movement.

What a pity we did not have a large screen, and the video clip of Seize the Day, to show at the Concert in the Park, the Farnham Hospice shindig sponsored by BAE Systems, TAG Aviation, and KPI (BVEJ #0038 July 2003). The video clip features the song written by Shannon Smy, 'With My Hammer ...' - atrocities, BAE Hawks exported to Indonesia for genocide in East Timor, anti-war actions, are interwoven with Smy singing.

It is a pity the CD is not available as DVD as the quality is poor. But then it would cost more, few people have access to the technology, and even fewer have DVD duplication facilities. Which in part, would defeat the objective of making the CD widely available.


Books

SchNEWS Peace de Resistance Annual 2003

All collected together in one volume, SchNEWS newsletters issues 351-401.

If you are used to picking up the printed newsletter, or downloading the pdf version to hand around to your mates, you will know the flipside of the A4 sheet, is very small typeface. It gets even smaller when reduced for the book.

Someone at SchNEWS towers must have been listening, as instead of simply reproducing the newsletters 'as is', they have been relaid out and now occupy three pages or four if there are pictures. It's a bit disconcerting if you are used to the past format, but you soon get used to it, and it does improve readability. The downside is that there is less room for articles.

The normal SchNEWS newsletters lack pictures. One reason to buy the book, apart from having your newsletters neatly collated in one place, you get pictures.

The theme this year is the anti-war movement that has sprung up to oppose the Iraq war. One of the few rays of sunshine throughout this whole sorry episode has been kids coming out onto the kids, SchNEWS has a very good article covering this. Towards the end there is an excellent one page article based on the work of former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, which leaves beyond a shadow of a doubt the extent to which Blair has lied about WMDs. Interesting extracts from the diary of Jo Wilding who went to Iraq as an observer. Other important issues are not forgotten, GM, free festivals etc.

At the end of the book is the ever useful SchNEWS Yellow Pages. Essential for looking up contact details of activist groups and we refer to it all the time.

This year there is a bonus. A Beyond TV video CD with film clips of anti-war actions across the world, plus lots more. The video clips cover many of the issues ourselves and SchNEWS have covered over the last two years. SchNEWS must have read our collective minds. How useful we thought to have the entire SchNEWS site on a CD. well they have almost managed the whole site, unfortunately not quite enough room to squeeze in the entire site, but most of it is there (it goes up to issue 400).

A bargain at £8-00.


Snippets


Diary


News index | | August 2003 |
BVEJ News August 2003
Published by Blackwater Valley Environmental Justice
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