It would be impossible to give more than a brief account of the achievements of this organisation here, so do look at their website www.chernobyl-children.org.uk
They began by bringing children from the Chernobyl area to the UK for recuperative holidays in summer 1995, Glossop and Littleborough volunteers hosted the first group. In autumn 1995 they took a forty-foot trailer of aid to Belarus. Since then they have brought children to different areas of the UK for holidays every year, some of the smaller children also accompanied by their mothers, staying with volunteers.
Four aid convoys a year have been sent until recently when they decided to focus more on their other work.
They have opened homes and schools for disabled children in many areas - Gomel, Zhuravichi, Klimova, and Rogachev. Doctors, nurses, teachers and psychologists have come from Belarus on exchange visits and training sessions, while medical experts and many other skilled people have gone on fact finding and skill-sharing visits there.
One severely disabled child was brought to Exeter hospital for an operation, and now a Hospice has been set up in Gomel. Recently a teacher has been employed at a home for severely disabled adults, and a project has been started in Minsk to help find foster families for mildly disabled children.
One firm, Olympus KeyMed have given large amounts of medical equipment, funded visits and donated printing costs.
There have been weddings among the volunteers and sadly a few deaths.
A film has been made about this work which can be viewed on the website so do have a look. You might even be inspired to make a donation!
Margaret Hodge (House of Commons Public Accounts Committee chairwoman) has revealed that the cost of cleaning up the Sellafield nuclear power station has soared to £53 billion. (But we have to do this of course!)
I attended a meeting in the House of Commons entitled “The continuing Fukishima Disaster after 4 years”.
This was a pretty chilling affair. Speaker after speaker emphasised that the problems are on-going, are not being dealt with as quickly as we are told, and that a great amount of luck was responsible for it not having been a lot worse.
The first speaker, Arnie Gundersen is a nuclear engineer with a long career background, 35years. He mentioned 5 “ accidents” in that time, starting with 3 Mile Island, and he says this is the worst yet. As well as the main destruction the tsunami destroyed neighbouring cooling plants belonging to 14 reactors, 27 out of 37 diesels for cooling failed.
He said that luck and courage saved it from being much worse initially – luck because it happened on a working day when 1000 staff were on duty, not the 100 who would have been there overnight, and courage because so many workers volunteered to stay on despite personal danger – many are now sick or dead.
He stressed that nuclear power is unique in the damage done when things go wrong – many conservatives in Japan now realise the country could have been destroyed. We need to work towards small grids and small distribution systems – this can be done with modern computers.
Rik Garfitt-Mottram from Kick Nuclear spoke next, and showed slides of damage and ongoing problems. He explained that initial pollution from the blow-out spread as far as Oregon USA. Minute particles from such a cloud can get into lungs. There was a US warship off-shore at the time and 25% of those sailors now suffer from cancer and have just won the right to sue Tepko (Tokyo Electric Power Co.) He feels long-term this will be worse than Chernobyl – a lot of strontium 90 was released – this causes bone cancer long-term. Now the main problem is contaminated groundwater – fuel ruptured out of the base of the pressure vessel so water flows through – there are 1000 storage tanks full and he showed a photo of plastic bags now being used.
Geoff Read was a resident and was evacuated. He stated there are still 213,000 in temporary accommodation and 84,000 still housed in sports halls etc. Many people outside the evacuation zone are very worried – about water, local vegetables, dust being kicked up when children play outside, etc. Some blame mothers for causing psychological damage to their children for mentioning these things.
Ayumi Fukakusa, a student at Kings College London spoke of the work of Friends of the Earth Japan. They are campaigning across Japan with meetings, petitions, and student exchanges and combine their work with climate-change activists.
Many of our members will know of the work of Dr. Ian Fairlie, who is an Independent Consultant on Radiation Risks. He told the story of the German Government which funded a big study in Mainz to investigate increases in child leukaemia around nuclear sites. They did this because they were sure no such “hot-spots” would be revealed. But there decisively were! So the Government sat on the results for 6 months and finally published them on the web at 11.58 on December 31st. But eventually all this leaked out – and was investigated – it was shown that the spikes were being caused by venting gas during transfers of fuel over 4 – 5 hours. In spite of more attempts to hush this up, eventually the Government of Bavaria managed to get it published, so now the power stations know that they should do this at night when children are in bed, and when the wind is blowing off-shore etc. And Germany has banned more nuclear power stations being built.
He was optimistic –mainly because EDF and Areva are bankrupt, and the Government will need too much money to go ahead. He thinks Hinkley C will be a dead-duck.
Next we heard from Dr. Paul Dorfman, Senior Researcher, Energy Institute, UCL. He spoke of the deal the Government have announced for Hinckley Point C – to guarantee a price of the electricity for 35 years. This will be funded by levies on consumer bills. Surprisingly the EU has agreed to this – but Austria is challenging it.
He stressed how uneconomic it is, also that there is still no proper provision for waste treatment. The plant on the coast will be very vulnerable to climate change, and we should be investing properly in all types of renewables - wind, solar, tide etc. He also queries it ever being built, as
Areva have given 5 profits warnings in 7 months, and the plants being built in Finland and France are massively behind and over-budget.
The last speaker was Michael Meacher MP who together with Jenny Jones facilitated the meeting.
He also spoke about the Government deal for Hinckley – offering to buy for £92 per megawatt hour for 35 years. This is double the current price. The price of renewables will be coming down all this time. EDF will have to cover a share of decommissioning costs and waste treatment, up to £10 billion – but the cost at Fukishima is already estimated at £15 billion and that’s nowhere near cleaned up. Taxpayers will of course be liable for the rest.
Now that EDF and Areva are in trouble over the French and Finnish nuclear projects, our Government has in desperation agreed to underwrite Hinckley C including covering any “unexpected costs”. In any case no generation is expected before 2023.
All together it was a very interesting meeting. Further information is available at www.stopnuclearpoweruk.net
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On Saturday 14th March, the actual anniversary of the tsunami and Fukishima meltdown, I went to the March from Hyde Park corner to Old Palace Yard, Westminster, with stops at the Japanese Embassy, Tepco and Lockheed-Martin.
This was a lively affair, but not as well-attended as this event has been in previous years. However it was a good opportunity to leaflet passers-by.
Kingston Peace Council/CND are holding 3 Hustings Meetings in the 3 constituencies where most of our members live, together with other similar-minded local organisations.
Details as follows:-
Wednesday 8th April, 7.30 pm at The Pagoda Room, London Welsh Rugby Ground, Old Deer Park, 187 Kew Road, Richmond, TW9 2AZ
Together with Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Richmond Stop the War Coalition.
Email questions by the evening of Tuesday 7th to email@example.com or submit on the day (please arrive by 6.45pm)
Tuesday 14th April, 7.30 pm at Teddington Baptist Church, Church Road, Teddington, TW11 8PF
Together with Twickenham United Nations Association, Traknat and Amnesty.
Email questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit at door well before meeting starts, arrive by 7pm please.
Tuesday 21st April, 7.30 pm at John Bunyan Baptist Church, Cromwell Road, Kingston,
Together with Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, Amnesty, Transition Town Kingston and Global Justice Now.
Email questions in advance to email@example.com or submit at door before meeting starts. Pl. arrive by 7pm to do this.
We do hope our members will take the opportunity to get to these meetings as appropriate. See below for suggestions for questions you could consider submitting.
News from Bradford – Students at the University recently held a spontaneous peace protest at the annual Spring Careers Fair when they found a Royal Navy and Air Force stall there. They were especially incensed as Bradford University has an internationally acclaimed Peace Studies Dept. Police were called but there were no arrests, although one student was barred from certain activities in the university.
In a discussion at a recent KPC meeting, it was suggested that, with the election approaching rapidly, we should encourage secondary schools to enable pupils to engage with the moral and political issues of the world including nuclear weapons.
Angie Cooper did some research and contacted CND Peace Education who have produced an education pack entitled “The Bomb Factor”. We requested forty packs to send to all state and independent secondary schools in the boroughs of Kingston and Richmond. After collecting them, they were quickly distributed to the schools with a covering letter.
We hope this pack will assist teachers with ideas and preparations for lessons and debates on the issues of conflict, nuclear deterrence, peace and pacifism, pressure groups etc. Sessions are designed to encourage discussion, and enable students to articulate their thoughts and opinions.
It was also suggested that teachers look at a film on YouTube – Bomb Factor Citizenship GCSE - showing a lesson (on the lines of “The X Factor”) taking place at a school in Hull. It is an interesting lesson showing students very involved with the topic and giving serious thought to the issues.
CND Peace Education provides speakers and advice and this charitably funded project empowers young people to come to their own conclusions about these global issues. They do not campaign in schools but rather give both sides of this important debate. CND Peace Education’s Jac Bastian has already visited some schools in this area. He and other speakers can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Members of KPC/CND who have experience in visiting schools and initiating debates may also be visiting schools.
Please support us in our fundraising this year. We shall be holding the first two of this year’s
Book and Bric-a-brac sales
in Maggie’s garage in Lower Ham Road, Kingston at the rear of 289 Richmond Road.
They will be held on
Bank Holidays in May – Monday 4th and Monday 25th
from 11 a.m. to approx. 4 p.m.
In order to make space for new stock, books will be sold at 50p each. Come, browse and buy – free tea or coffee to KPC members!
Also please note we have a stall at Ham Fair on Saturday 13th June. We will need volunteers to load cars and transport items in advance and on the day, and to help sell on the stall.
Please contact Maggie on ‘phone 0208-546-0086.
Peace campaigners from across Europe came to join in the blockade organized at the beginning of March. Coaches arrived before dawn from Finland, Sweden, Spain, France and Belgium and Wales. Some gates were blocked for nearly 10 hours. Messages of support were sent by film director Ken Loach and actor John Hurt.
Our member Stephen Hensel was there and sent this report:-
“ Our gate at North Mearings was the one half -blocked. The workers were dropped and walked in from that gate.
There were about 50 protesters and a similar number of police. Oxford CND, Salisbury CND, and the French were in attendance. There were a good number of young protesters. Arctic winds blew all day although it was sunny.
I spent a lot of time at the tea stall. It is run by a couple of long-protesting Oxford CND campaigners. The tea, coffee and snacks were much appreciated. Some folks were from the days of Greenham Common.
I spent 5 hours on site and felt invigorated by the process.”
See photos and more details of the action on www.actionawe.org
Stop the War Coalition held a meeting on this on March 19th.
It was very well-attended.
The first speaker was Jonathon Steele, former Guardian Journalist.
He began by saying that while our mainstream media talk constantly of the danger to us posed by ISIS, this is minor compared to the danger that a new Cold War would involve. He stressed that the politicians in power now do not have the same constant fear of nuclear war, as they did in original cold war times. This tended to ensure they were “super-responsible”, especially after the Cuba missile crisis. He mentioned that Putin said last week he was prepared to put his nuclear forces on alert – but stressed that the drivers for all this are in Washington.
Russia feels very cheated by Nato – verbal assurances having been given, especially by Helmet Kohl, that it should not and would not expand up to the borders of Russia.
He praised the Minsk agreement of Feb. 2015, which did not involve USA or Britain (it was between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany).
Constitutional reforms were needed, Russian speaking citizens need to feel secure and to have their voices heard. Tensions arise between two different models of Ukrainian statehood, tolerance and co-operation are required, not “winner-take-all” mentality.
He stressed we should not ramp up sanctions nor send troops to train near to the Eastern borders. We should press the UK Government to push for Ukraine to be non-aligned – not a Nato member.
Kate Hudson then spoke of the dual standards of Western media. US tanks had been in Poland the day before for Nato exercises, but International media still only focus on Russian manoeuvres near the border. She also stressed that Nato has been expanding up to Russia’s borders, and that it should have been disbanded when the Warsaw Pact was. Instead it has taken part in “out of area” operations, for example in Afghanistan, Libya, and the Horn of Africa, it is operational in central Asia and seeking to expand eastwards. Not all the people in these countries agree with this, and this creates fear and tension, not only in Russia. It also leads to massive “defence” spending, thus impoverishing populations and aiding arms traders and manufacturers.
The next Speaker was Alex Gordon of the RMT, though speaking in a personal capacity. He warned of the re-emergence of fascism in Ukraine and the Baltic States – swastika wearing has become acceptable, and in Latvia there was a Waffen-SS festival last year. Banners relating to fascist groups active in WW2 are displayed at demonstrations.
He mentioned the massacre of 48 protestors in Odessa on 2nd May in a fire, while security forces and police stood by or at least did very little. He fears the history of the 2nd world war is being rewritten to minimise the role of the Russian Red Army in defeating the Nazis.
He recommended a website “Pivot to Asia” to clarify what is going on.
Andrew Murray recommended a book “Flashpoint in Ukraine –How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War 3” edited by Stephen Landman, published in May 2014.
I looked this up later on Google and read the following:-
“Flashpoint in Ukraine provides insight into today’s gravest geo-political crisis since WW2. Viewed from the perspective of Western mainstream media, the crisis arose due to pro-democracy activists overturning a brutal dictatorship, which led swiftly to Russian incursion into Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.
Viewed from the perspective of the 20 highly credentialed analysts who have contributed to this anthology, it’s an entirely different story. Obama’s pivot is global, in pursuit of unchallenged worldwide dominance, leading to multiple direct and proxy wars. Neo-con dominated Washington seeks to marginalise its Russian and Chinese rivals, surrounding both countries with US bases. Ukraine is in the eye of the storm, the crown-jewel of Nato eastward expansion…… “
So maybe someone in KPC/CND should buy this book? Ed.)
Lindsay German spoke last to remind us that if you join the European Union you must also join Nato, and you must commit to privatisation irrespective of the concerns and wishes of your citizens.
There then followed a lively questions and answer session. Not everyone agreed with what had been said!
In last month’s edition of Kingston Peace News we described CND’s election campaign, including ways of lobbying your election candidates. Other organisations are also suggesting questions to ask your candidates. The following is a list of questions distilled from those suggested on various websites*. You could use them to email or write to your candidates, or ask them face to face if they are canvassing on your doorstep.
*Further questions and ways to email your candidates can be found on the following websites:
The CND and PSC websites will tell you the names of your candidates according to your postcode. They do not have email addresses for all candidates, but you may be able to get contact details from the party headquarters:
Your local Conservative Association address can be found, using the post code, from: http://www.conservatives.com/People.aspx
Labour Party Candidates from: http://www.labour.org.uk/candidates
Following the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party in coalition with various right-wing parties in Israel, I was interested to read in the Morning Star March 24th that the USA had abstained from speaking in the United Nations Human Rights Forum during the annual debate on violations committed in the Palestinian territories.
This is unprecedented at the forum, during which Washington has hitherto unfailing defended Israel.
A straw in the wind no doubt as we know that President Obama has very little power against Congress and the House of Representatives all dominated by apologists for the behaviour of Israel. As he cannot be re-elected perhaps he feels less pressure to kowtow to the powerful pro-Israeli lobby. But hopefully there must be many disgusted by the recent remarks of Netanyahu that there will never be a Palestinian State while he is Prime Minister. Ed
At last John Mcdonnell MP and the other MPs on the recently formed Parliamentary Committee managed to get this scheduled for the Main Chamber of the House of Commons, and it took place on Tuesday 17th March. The debate was secured to seek answers as to why Shaker is still languishing in the infamous prison that President Obama promised to close, after being cleared for transfer in 2007 and 2009. It was also aimed to increase pressure on the US President to keep his promise made to UK Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this year to prioritise Shaker’s case, which should have led to his release back to the UK. The debate was attended by a good number of MPs, senior Members and ex-Ministers and others with a human rights background, from all parties.
Introducing the Debate John McDonnell asked "Why is Shaker still being detained? That is the question that we are all asking. Why can he not be allowed to come home to his family? We can only speculate. Is it because he knows too much about what happened in Guantanamo Bay and will ensure that the truth comes out if he is released? Is it because he was a spokesperson?"
Jim Cunningham MP raised the morality of the case, given that the US and UK have lectured the world on democracy and justice. He questioned American justice that keeps a person for "13 years in prison without ever being charged with anything and being tortured”. He asked “What does that say about the west, given the way in which we look at the rest of the world, and particularly the Middle East?”
In a blistering speech in which Guantanamo was said to be illegal and its maintenance a war crime, Sir Gerald Kaufman suggested Shaker was being "treated in a way that would be regarded as inhuman and unacceptable in any country in the world”. He asked "what kind of a special relationship is it where one member of a relationship takes all the time and the other is regarded as a junior, negligible partner? That is what we have here: the United Kingdom loyal to the United States and the US not giving a damn. So we denounce the inhuman treatment of Shaker Aamer and demand that he be released”
Other MPs participating in the debate included: David Davies, Kate Hoey, Neil Carmichael, Andrew Mitchell, Alistair Burt, Stephen Timms, Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn, Dennis Skinner, Andy Slaughter, Tim Farron, Gareth Thomas (Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs), Ian Murray and David Ward. Shaker’s MP and Minister for Health, Jane Ellison also attended.
MPs questioned why Shaker was still in Guantanamo when many others, both British citizens and residents, had been released and returned to the UK without any problem. MPs insisted that Shaker should be returned to the UK and nowhere else. Many MPs sought answers and detail on UK discussions held with US counterparts. Minister Tobias Ellwood in his reply to calls for ‘answers’ limited his words to “It would be inappropriate to comment on why Mr Aamer is in the Guantanamo Bay facility, especially as we continue to discuss the details of his case with the United States in order to secure his release. This is a sensitive issue and, as the House will understand, it has been the policy of successive Governments not to discuss intelligence matters."
It was clear that Members of Parliament were dissatisfied with much of what the Foreign Office Minister, Tobias Ellwood, said in response to their probing of the facts. Secret documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (August 2010) pointed to the possibility that the US have tried to negotiate a forced return of Shaker to Saudi Arabia. It is understood that the US had promised the UK it would not do this. Campaigners have requested many times over that the UK Prime Minister and the Foreign
Secretary seek assurances from the US that they will return Shaker only to the UK. Caroline Lucas MP expressed her concern "as others have voiced, that the only possible reason for sending Shaker to Saudi Arabia is to stop him speaking out about his abuse—abuse in which he claims the UK authorities have been complicit.” Caroline also described Shaker’s deteriorating state of health and many ailments, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety, insomnia, and his oedema, severe tinnitus, kidney pain, severe headaches, asthma and loss of vision.
Look at Hansard for full details:- http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm150317/debtext/150317-0003.htm#15031763000001
Note: Our usual monthly meeting date in May (May 13) clashes with a London Region CND meeting, so own meeting MAY change to Thursday 14th May. This will be announced in our next newsletter.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND