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THOUSANDS PROTEST IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE

RALLY CALLS TIME ON DICTATORS IN SYRIA, EGYPT, BAHRAIN....

Activists from countries across the region took to a huge stage to share their stories of struggle and perseverance in the face of violent suppression. Speakers were there from Egypt, Libya, Syria, Palestine and Bahrain. The huge crowd was made up of trade unionists, students, Amnesty International supporters and other ordinary people from across the UK who gathered in a day of "solidarity and defiance".

visionOntv interviewed the activists:

The Graveyard of Boats - photo essay

Richard Hering and Takako Yamaguchi have been touring with visionOntv's Making News Roadshow in Japan, promoting video citizen journalism. As part of this they visited the area of the earthquake-damaged nuclear reactors. Richard's first article from the Roadshow follows:

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Near Minamisoma City, just 25km from the nuclear meltdown at the power plants of Fukushima, northeastern Japan, is a shocking sight. It's a classical painting gone wrong, where seascape and landscape have surreally combined.

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The tsunami carried these boats no less than five kilometres inland.

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The area is known locally as the "graveyard of boats". There are some 30 hulks here.

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Compensation from the authorities and from nuclear power company TEPCO has been marred by controversy. Application forms sent out to 60,000 households on September 12th are 60 pages long with a 156-page manual. (Earlier provisional payments were praised for their simplicity). The new claim forms, with one required for each individual in a family, also only cover the period to the end of August, with a new form being required for subsequent damages. "Is this some kind of harassment?" tweeted a recipient. (1)

In any case, compensation will not restart the fishing industry on this coast any time soon. The ocean around remains irradiated, including the vital frozen storage. So this is all that is left.

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Our guide, Tomoyuki Narasaki of the Japan Volunteer Centre, informs us that the tsunami wave also took 600 lives on this coast alone. On what was once a popular public beach, most of the sand was washed away. The force of the wave ripped up some of the some of the very solid stone steps which took sunbathers to the water and carried them far inland.

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The remains of a concrete bridge. Cars and other metal items lie in shredded and rusting heaps.

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We visit a closed primary school, whose playground has a huge pit in the centre, as diggers excavate the radioactive dust from it.

Narasaki-san introduces us to a project he manages, Minamisoma Disaster Radio. This citizen radio station broadcasts three times a day, including the latest radiation levels, and facts and opinions from listeners. He was our guide for what he ironically termed "disaster tourism". His guided tour will be published soon on globalviews.

Follow all coverage of the Making News Roadshow tour on the globalviews channel.

NOTES:

(1) http://www.majiroxnews.com/2011/09/14/tepco-blasted-over-60-page-compensation-application-forms/

Whose reconstruction? - the tsunami disaster one year on

One year on from the biggest earthquake to hit Japan, with media interest having dwindled, relief NGO Peace Boat has announced today that it will continue to work for the foreseeable future in the Tohoku area so devastated by the tsunami wave. Why?

When we visited the fishing town of Ishinomaki in September, we witnessed the hard work, and phenomenal organization, of Peace Boat volunteers and workers, still clearing debris from the beaches and serving hot food in emergency shelters.

Now their work has shifted to helping restore the infrastructure and to focussing on the long-term psycho-social problems of people who lost their homes and loved ones. As the emergency shelters closed, tsunami survivors have been rehoused far from their original homes, often isolated and left alone with their trauma. Just before our trip, one man in this situation in Ishinomaki committed suicide.

One local man, Konno Fumiaki, from Rikuzentakata, 60 miles to the north of Ishinomaki, commented:

"Unfortunately, in spite of the effort of our mayor and city authorities, one big flaw is there. That there is very little communication or consultation with the local population, who are dispersed in different parts of the city, and sometimes outside of the city, and that worries me so much. It seems that in spite of the enormous help from outside, our future planning is not going to be the planning made by the people ourselves, but a plan made by a few officials, and the outside agencies and the government and the companies and so on. so I am very worried that our town in the future may not be the town of our own. That concerns me so much."

The Fear of Working Class Power - Liberal journalists and Venezuela

Yet more counter-factual bile is spewing out of the traditional media, and especially the liberal media, on the occasion of Hugo Chavez' death. So I re-publish this article written at the time of the Venezuelan Presidential elections in October 2012:

 

Most journalists work for companies whose purpose is very well described in Patrick Chalmers' article News to Make the Rich Richer. Based on his 11 years' experience as a journalist for Reuters, this article introduces the broader themes of his excellent book Fraudcast News. Ownership, who pays, news sources, editorial ideology, and journalists' fear all contribute to the distorting lens.

The immediate aftermath of another election in Venezuela is a perfect opportunity to count the cost of corporate media mis-reporting. This article will analyse the reporting of some journalists of the supposedly liberal media in the UK. But following Patrick's lead, let's look first at Reuters.

Sure enough, in the lead-up to the Venezuelan Presidential election, which pitched socialist incumbent Hugo Chavez against candidate of the right-wing coalition Henrique Capriles, Reuters followed the meta-narrative of the vast majority of the corporate media. They constantly insisted that the election was closely fought, right up until election day, when Chavez actually won by a whopping 11%. This depiction of a tight race was despite most opinion polls showing Chavez with a double-digit lead. A cursory research would have told a half-decent journalist that the solitary polling organisation that showed Capriles to have a lead, Consultores 21, has an abysmal record in previous elections. In 2004, 2006, and 2009 this poll underestimated Chavez' vote by between 10 and 13 percentage points, well outside the acceptable margin of error. And again this time, Consultores 21 underestimated Chavez' vote by 10%. They are nothing if not consistent. Of course for US media organisations, that makes this poll "respected", "reputable" and "well-regarded" (in the words of the Wall Street Journal, ABC News, and the Washington Post respectively). But why are the reporters of Reuters not more sceptical? Patrick Chalmers answers this well. But I believe there is another factor.

In the almost universal disparaging of Bolivarian socialism in the media of the US and UK, one of the most interesting phenomena is the intense involvement of liberal newspapers and news outlets. The Guardian's Rory Carroll is notorious. For him, Venezuela is always on the point of infrastructural collapse, while Chavez is a waning force. His recent headlines included "A strongman's last stand" and "People's hero in final showdown". Chavez was described as "Banquo's ghost". Given the opinion polls cited above, was the apocalyptic tone justified? His reports are also peppered with the kind of factual errors which always chime with the opposition's narrative of an authoritarian populist demagogue. I felt roused to challenge Carroll, using the feeble means of twitter, over his claim that Chavez' election victories were "not always fair". Jimmy Carter, after his long experience of monitoring democratic elections, for which he won a Nobel Prize, said “the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world” and that Chavez has always won “fairly and squarely”. No response of course came from Carroll, so I ask again. What is it that you know, Rory, that Jimmy Carter doesn't? The overwhelming tone of all of Carroll's pieces is an obsession with the figure of Chavez himself, not the Revolution he has led into being. His post-election piece is headed "Hugo Chavez: a victory of enduring charisma and political mastery". Note how Chavez' voters, the Venezuelan poor, are, according to Carroll, voting for him because of his charm and Machiavellian skills, not because of their empowerment through communal councils, the free health clinics and universities, the new housing, or the massive reductions in poverty.

The Independent newspaper reporter Jim Armitage, however, makes Carroll look like a Chavista sympathiser. Here we have unsupported references to human rights abuses, defamation of oil workers, the casual, and again unsupported, claim of privations, and the cheap and gratuitous reference to Ken Livingstone. If you are astonished by the tone of the unfactual hack piece in the link, it's worth noting that the supposedly liberal Independent has a long history of this kind of coverage.

But one thing connects Carroll and Armitage. When I wrote that I would analyse their coverage, I meant it in an almost psychoanalytic way. Their patronising of and disregard for the poor majority seems to me to involve the same hysteria that Carroll ascribes to Chavez' voters. They both profess to support a mildly social democratic system of social welfare, as avowedly did Chavez' so soundly beaten rival Capriles. In other words, they think the elite should deign to alleviate the worst excesses of capitalism. What troubles them beyond their being able to deal with it rationally is the idea of the poor majority taking power. For this presumption on the part of the working class, and their vision of a society that goes beyond welfarism to socialist democracy, the poor deserve to be mocked or sidelined or ignored. Why do Carroll and Armitage not celebrate the Bolivarian revolution's reduction of poverty by half, instead of putting it in parenthesis, or treating it as an electoral bribe? What is the mixture of hatred and fear that motivates them to write such shoddy journalistic bile? The fact that the Guardian and Independent commission and print it shows us the dark, inhuman heart of liberalism.

The Shack-dwellers movement: using democracy to replace capitalism

The problem is capitalism, but what, for the poorest people on the planet, are the solutions? This was the constant theme when the Anarchist Bookfair on October 27 2012 was addressed by Lindela Figlan from the South African Shack-Dwellers Movement (Abahlali baseMjondolo - AbM).

The AbM grew from the discontent of poor shack-dwellers with the neo-liberal policies of the African National Congress government since 1994. Since foundation in the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban, it has won victories over land rights and infrastructure, while remaining fiercely independent of both politial parties and NGOs. This grassroots movement is famously democratic, and as such reminded me of the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST), with whom they are linked. Currently they are organising popular assemblies for decisions to be made, a parallel political structure from the grassroots. Their leaders are unpaid, and Lindela describes them as "servants of the people". Everything the movement does seems designed to contrast clearly with the kleptocratic corruption of the post-apartheid political system.

Their door is always open for meeting with politicians, but, Lindela says, rather than come imposing their own agendas, the politicians must listen to the democratically-decided demands of the shack-dwellers.

The movement's radicalism has provoked violent repression, with arrests and torture common, and there have been  cases of armed raids. Lindela himself sleeps in a variety of places for his personal safety.

Answering a question about the role and threat of NGO involvement, it was clear from his reply that the movement has no delusions about help offered. Lindela described how one NGO bussed in AbM activists to a meeting with the NGO's donors, but afterwards refused the movement's request for modest help to organise a march. He made an analogy: as long as your car (the movement) keeps travelling, the dogs (the NGOs) run after it barking, but if it stops, they cock their legs against it. He contrasted the canine NGOs with War on Want, who had listened and responded to their needs.

The AbM is in no way a single-issue movement. They recognize, for instance, that new housing projects are not enough. As Lindela explained, if a person gets a new flat, but can't eat, they then sell the flat for a fraction of its value to put food on the table. So Abahlali baseMjondolo is adamantly anti-capitalist, arguing for a complete transformation of society from the bottom up.

For more information: http://abahlali.org

Catch the DATES of Lindela Figlan's UK TOUR here

Latest from Istanbul protest: "Reclaiming the park made people feel very strong"

An eye-witness account from Taksim/Gezi Park, Istanbul

I received this report this morning from a friend:

"It was like hell in here. I was not able to go home tonight, I came to a friend of mine for the night.
We are very tired and it seems that the conflicts will continue tomorrow as well, so we want to be ready for it.
But I can summarize it like this: the attitude of the police is very brutal. They almost try to kill us. Today they used a different gas, which is claimed to be agent orange (banned by UN). It makes you vomit the second you inhale it. But the resistance is unbelievable. Nobody expected it. There is a great solidarity. For example yesterday I lost my friends when the police sent gas bombs to us, just in the beginning of the protest. I was alone almost all night long. I panicked at the beginning, but after a while you realize that it doesnt matter, because everybody is helping everybody out. You know that you are not alone, even if you dont know a single person around you. Today there happened a massive march towards Taksim and the police left the park and the square. Not only socialists, but everybody was there. Those groups that you wouldnt believe they could stand side by side walked to Taksim alltogether. It is not about Taksim or Gezi Park anymore. People had enough with the government. Reclaiming the park and the square today was amazing. You should have seen the atmosphere. I cannot describe it. We were just like some very excited primary school kids. People are very confident right now. We were there all night long and it was not just a protest anymore. People occupied it. Everybody is saying the same thing today: from then on, the government will not be able to do anything that easily. Reclaiming the park made people feel very strong. Right now there are still people there who will stay there till morning in case the police attacks in the morning. But today the police was very brutal in Besiktas. There are many wounded people. We tried to go there to help people but it was impossible to reach there. We saw some videos which showed the police attacking even the houses as people let the protestors in. Now they say that Besiktas is calmer. People went back to Taksim to protect the square from the police. We will rest tonight as it was exhausting for us to be in the streets for 4 days. We want to be ready for tomorrow, as it is clear that the conflicts will not end today.


You can follow the latest pictures from here:
http://occupygezipics.tumblr.
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