Thursday, August 27, 2020

It was only a matter of time!

Red Beret
By Rossotrudnichestvo correspondent

Well done to Thomas Arthurton for having one of his works selected for the final exhibition of the National Portrait Gallery's world-famous BP Portrait Award 2020; it’s a fantastic work of art!
    We met Thomas couple of years ago at the Russian Culture House in London. From our first meeting we knew that his passion would unlock any doors and pass the entry exams to St Petersburg’s State Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he is currently enrolled as a student specialising in portraiture. Born in Norwich, Thomas studied history of art at the University of York and The Courtauld and studied painting at the Florence Classical Arts Academy before going to Russia.
    The portrait, Red Beret, was painted on a dark winter evening in the attic of the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. Arthurton said he left some parts of his work slightly unfinished “so that the painting is like a memory in which parts fade whilst at the same time remembering what is essential”.

Unfair Fares

 by New Worker correspondent

The Government have come up with another wheeze to get people into their cars. It plans to put up the price of train season tickets. According to ancient tradition, the annual January increase depends on the July inflation figure. This year, because of an unexpected jump in the July figure, they will be going up 1.6 per cent.
    This will apply to nearly all regulated fares in Scotland, and all regulated fares in England and Wales, as well as most off-peak long-distance fares.
    The Department for Transport said they are considering other options, including introducing flexible tickets. Rail minister Chris Haton-Harris said: “We expect any rail fare rise to be the lowest in four years come January and any increase will go straight to ensuring crucial investment in our railways.”
    Londoners will suffer most, with a 2.6 per cent rise due to the funding agreement between the government and City Hall after the coronavirus crisis. RMT instead demanded a five per cent cut fares. This could easily be achieved by redirecting funds paid to private operators since the pandemic.
    Transport Focus, a passenger watchdog, has joined forces with RMT to call for the introduction of a new season ticket to reflect current working patterns and to make travel more affordable for part-time commuters. Labour called for a re-nationalisation of the rail network and pointed out that that fares have risen by 42 per cent in real terms in the last decade.
    Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) General Secretary Manuel Cortes, supporting the call for a freeze, said: “There should be no planned increase in rail fares, doing so in the middle of a health emergency and emerging economic crisis will help no one.
    “Since the pandemic hit our shores, our railways have kept key workers and vital supplies moving. There can be no doubt how vital our rail infrastructure is for the wellbeing of our nation and for our efforts to decarbonise our economy.
    “This is the moment for Government to come clean and tell us that not only will there be no increase in fares but that they are taking our railways back into public ownership.
    “We simply must get more people to use our railways for leisure travel as there is very likely to be a drop in commuter numbers as we feel the bite of what is expected to be a very deep recession and also increased homeworking taking hold.
    “This means putting in place a new affordable and more flexible fare structure which serves the needs of changing working patterns and which strongly promotes people using our railways for leisure purposes.”

Friday, August 21, 2020

Voices of War at the War Museum

Voices of War at the War Museum In 1940, Donald Lashbrook from Exeter left behind friends and family to embark for India to serve in the British Army in the Second World War. He spent five years on the frontline in India, Afghanistan and Myanmar, as the British Army joined China and the United States in their fight against Japanese forces. On 15th August 1945, the war was declared over and Lashbrook, then 25 years old, was able to return home. "VJ (Victory over Japan) Day came, it was all over. Everybody was 'we're on our way home,'" Lashbrook said in an archived audio interview that now features in the Voices of War soundscape collection at London's Imperial War Museum (IWM). His voice is one of the many personal accounts presented by the IWM in the exhibition that was set up to commemorate the Second World War 75 years after its end. From 8th May to 15th August the museum has been sharing the personal stories of people who stood together during a time of national crisis and their reflections on a time of both celebration and cautious relief in the summer of 1945. "With Voices of War, IWM will be bringing the stories and memories of those who lived through the conflicting jubilation, hope, sadness and fear that was felt during the summer of 1945 directly to homes around the country. We want the public to reflect on this important historical milestone as many others did 75 years ago," said Diane Lees, director general of the IWM. Anthony Richards, head of documents and sound collection at the War Museum, played a key role in pulling together the audio and text archives. Spending years researching into private papers and interviewing relatives to help piece together a retelling of the personal lives impacted by war. The voices, testimonies of personal responses to moments in the war from people who were actually there, are selected as representations of three important anniversaries: VE Day (May 8th), the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (marked on August 6th) and VJ Day (August 15th). Among the voices, there is one from a British soldier, who was bayoneted in the arm by a Japanese soldier, about how joyful he was when he finally went home from the battle in 1945: “There was a banner outside, you know, 'welcome home' and it took me quite a while to knock the door. Just the feeling of getting home really you know and you hadn't seen your family for nearly four years and it was a very joyous occasion really”. There is also the voice of a former Japanese officer who took part in battle in both India and Myanmar but many years later worked hard to promote reconciliation between former enemies, saying "We arrive now after the war because of the many, many, war dead. So we owe them. We owe the dead." Extensive research was required to put the collection together. For Richards, it meant that he had to dig through the museum’s extensive archives, which held records of testimonies, interviews and documents going back to 1917 and beyond. To capture the voices of war he also went out to people's homes to sit down with them for hour-long interviews and cover their entire lives and their experiences of warfare. The intention behind the Voices of War project, he said, was to try and break down the complexities of the end of the Second World War through the personal stories of those who were directly impacted by it – and to show people today just how awful war is. He sees Voices of War as a reminder of how badly war affects ordinary lives and that is something he feels we ought never to return to. “In a way, it tells you more about how awful war is than anything else. It's the effect of ordinary people in ordinary lives,” Richards said. Despite victory and the war coming to an end, the audio interviews also detail people's concerns and uncertainty on “rebuilding the world”, something that according to Richards, resonates strongly with how people may feel today amid a global pandemic. “Looking at the wide variety of voices that we used for this project, I think they're interesting because they show how events at the end of World War II were never as clear cut as people think they were,” he said. “Current events in the news today are immensely complicated, and there's multiple viewpoints...And things were not straightforward. People felt very confused. They didn't quite know what was going to happen,” he added. Hearing the personal accounts of confusion and uncertainty, Richards feels that the voices from the exhibition – although from a different era – can be of inspiration to the people of today living through a global pandemic. “And obviously, it (global pandemic) is very different to a major world conflict. But there are parallels to be made there and I think we can take that away from the voices from 1945,” he said. Xinhua

Defending Liam Campbell

By New Worker correspondent

Supporters of the Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group - Greater London picketed the Irish embassy in London on Saturday in support of the campaign to stop the extradition of Liam Campbell to Lithuania. 
Liam Campbell, a dissident Irish republican, was arrested in Dundalk on 2nd December 2016 on a warrant issued by Lithuania and endorsed by the High Court in Dublin. He is facing extradition to Lithuania pending an appeal against the 13th July order in January 2021. If extradited and found guilty, he faces a sentence of 20 years. This latest attempt to extradite Liam comes after a legal battle lasting nearly 12 years in the High Court in Dublin. 
In October 2013 his brother Michael Campbell was acquitted of all charges in Lithuania because the court believed he was framed by MI5. His lawyer, Ingrida Botyriene, said: “A person cannot be sentenced for a crime committed by state officials. He was acquitted because the court found that what he was accused of was a provocation. It was just an activity of the state security services. Michael Campbell was set up in a ‘sting’ operation by MI5, the Irish and Lithuanian intelligence agencies and jailed in Lithuania on 21 October 2011 for 12 years. The spooks had in fact initiated the arms deal on which he was convicted. He would never be involved in arms deals and would never go to Lithuania for such an affair if he had not been provoked by secret agents”.
The same judgement should apply to Liam now as the circumstances are exactly the same.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Victory at the Ministry of Justice!

By New Worker correspondent

 UVW members have overcome the odds winning a ballot for trade union recognition at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) with a whopping 70 per cent vote in favour!

The victory has come just three weeks after the workers won full pay sick pay for Covid-19 related absences and some two months after the death of their colleague, cleaner and UVW member, Emanuel Gomes. Gomes’ death was mired in controversy with reports the MoJ ignored repeated warnings of potential Covid-19 infections and had put workers’ lives at risk through its refusal to provide full pay sick pay or face masks. Something which saw Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister, David Lammy MP, call for an official investigation.

This victory has come despite the MoJ contractor, OCS, subjecting the workers to a vicious campaign of union busting. The cleaners, security guards and porters have voted in favour of recognition of their union, United Voices of the World (UVW), in a statutory ballot administered by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). The UVW is a street union founded in 2014 that mainly represents outsourced migrant workers in London and beyond.

And this marks the first time that a non-TUC affiliated union has won a recognition deal in Whitehall.

The workers defied what the union called the OCS’s “shocking union busting” which led to the UVW submitting several complaints to the CAC. They say OCS offered pay rises to UVW activists if they agreed to transfer to other sites while blocking other key union members from attending meetings for the purposes of discussing recognition. The union claims the contractor also refused to provide employees with facemasks which prevented meetings between the workers and the union from taking place - something which saw the UVW lodge a formal complaint with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The UVW has vowed to continue fighting until the Ministry of Justice ends outsourcing and hires the workers directly on equal terms and conditions with civil servants. To that end the union is going to also bring a case to Employment Tribunal arguing that outsourcing the entirely BAME and migrant workforce on inferior terms and condition to civil servants is a breach of the Equality Act 2010.

The union has also pledged to bring a Judicial Review against the Health and Safety Executive and the Ministry of Justice’s failure to mandate the use of face masks, which the union claims encourages employers to breach health and safety legislation.

Speaking after the result of the ballot was announced, one of the cleaners, Fatima Djalo, said the following: We have won, we have won, we have won. We beat them. We beat their union busting and won our rights. I’m delirious with happiness with this result. Now let’s go for full victory!”

Yet again UVW members have shown what can be done when workers organise and use their collective power to show the boss that they will not be intimidated. The fight isn't over and they still have a long way to go before their members are treated with the full equality and dignity that they deserve, but they are getting closer than ever!

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

US virus research in Eastern Ukraine?

by Theo Russell

Revelations by whistle-blowers are ringing alarm bells across Europe. Campaigners in Kharkov province, Eastern Ukraine, are appealing for international support to expose the work of US-financed bio-research labs in Merefa district, 10 miles south-west of the industrial city of Kharkov.
According to the Kharkov Ecological Monitoring Association (KEMA) and independent Kharkov journalists and bloggers, the laboratory complex was built by the US company Black & Watch, which has close ties with the Pentagon. The facility has been operating for several years and is officially called the Central Abstract Laboratory.
`KEMA’s source confirmed that in 2018 the lab carried out studies of influenza viruses with pathogens brought from the USA. Local staff were told that this research was to develop a so-called “universal, smart” vaccine, able to adapt to multiple virus mutations. These studies ended in early summer 2019 and all the results were “exported”.
The whistle-blowers also say they have evidence linking one of the laboratories with outbreaks of measles and diphtheria in Eastern Ukraine in 2018–2019.
The source also highlighted serious health and safety concerns at the lab. Water and electricity supplies were regularly cut due to local power cuts, including during major experiments. He said medical refrigerators were often turned off and adequate temperature ventilation conditions were often not maintained.
Last year some patients taking part in the lab’s medical experiments died, but details have been kept secret.
Strangely, the facility is guarded not by the Ukrainian police but by the National Bureau of Interpol in Ukraine.
In 2019 the laboratory collected biological samples and tested new drugs on residents of Kharkov, often homeless or low-income people. Attempts were made to give drugs being tested to state health and education providers, and even children's camps.
The Kharkov lab also carries out research on the ability of insects to carry dangerous pathogens including the Zika virus, West Nile Fever, Dengue Fever and others. In 2018 insects were released in a forest near the lab to study how the infected insects transmit the virus to animals.
A former employee of one of the biological laboratories located between the villages of Pesochin and Podvorki contacted KEMA anonymously and explained that the laboratory was working on normal research, but its real work was hidden from public view.
The laboratory’s work is under the direction of Melinda Haring, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Centre. The Atlantic Council was founded in 1961, is very close to NATO, and describes itself as “a non-partisan organisation that galvanises US leadership and engagement in the world, in partnership with allies and partners, to shape solutions to global challenges”.
Haring’s assistant Paul Niland is managing director of Pan Publishing and an active backer of the Kiev regime. He apparently oversees the ongoing research and co-ordinates the interaction of American and Ukrainian specialists.
The bio-labs are financed by the International Renaissance Foundation, part of the global network of ‘human rights and democracy’ organisations run by financier George Soros, with funds passing via the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.
Whilst KEMA’s source was still working in the laboratory, ex Health Minister Ulyana Suprun, her deputy Pavel Kovtonyuk and the head of the National Health Service of Ukraine Oleg Petrenko were personally involved in the project.
KEMA’s source also named Americans who have worked at the Kharkov facility, including senior researchers and professors from Vanderbilt University, New Jersey Medical School, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Indiana University School of Medicine, and several US hospitals.
One of these, Kartlos Kankadze, a Washington-based native of Tbilisi, is a pharmacist from USAID (United States Agency for International Development) who specialises in research on infectious diseases, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
KEMA has sent the evidence it has collected to ecological and health organisations in Europe and elsewhere, proposing joint research into the activities of the Kharkov bio-research labs.
According to KEMA: “We have sufficient information to start an investigation at the state level. However, given the complete absence of our country's sovereignty, the Ukrainian authorities will never take this step.”

Monday, August 03, 2020

Taking the knee in Feltham

by Siobhan Kelly

The murder of George Floyd by racist cops in Minneapolis in May sparked protests that have rocked the United States and a wave of solidarity actions in Britain and the rest of Europe. The British Black Lives Matter movement has taken the lead the campaign demanding racial equality, social and criminal justice and basic human rights. Last Sunday they took the knee for George Floyd in the Feltham Arcade in West London.
            BLM supporters, including two Labour councillors as well as local religious leaders, gathered in Feltham High Street at 1.30 pm for a peaceful demonstration in solidarity with all protesters against racism and demand racial justice globally. The West London organisers plan to continue the demonstration on a fortnightly basis and the next one is set for Sunday 12th July.

Ecclesiastical News

 By New Worker correspondent

About a fifth of workers at an important London establishment are at risk of redundancy when the government’s job retention scheme ends in October.
It’s Westminster Abbey, where funds are very tight because it has been closed to visitors and its income is down by more than £12 million. As the Abbey no longer has land and serfs it is dependent on tourists.
The Dean, the Very Rev Dr David Hoyle, said the coronavirus had dealt a “shattering blow” to the Abbey’s finances. It was truly heart-breaking to hear him add that the Abbey’s financial reserves would be depleted by a third from September and they would continue to fall as visitor numbers were not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for up to five years.
In a normal July, the Abbey gets 1,000 visitors per hour, many of whom buy tourist tat to keep the Right Rev in surplices, but not this year.
As all New Worker readers will be aware, the Abbey is a Royal Peculiar, which means it is owned directly by the Queen and thus is not eligible for funding by the Church Commissioners.
The Abbey has already scrapped regular Sunday services in next door St Margaret’s and the professional choir at St Margaret's will be disbanded. Worshippers will be told to merge with the congregation in the Abbey.
Elsewhere the Church of England’s 42 cathedrals expect to be down more than £28.4 million on what they thought their budgets would be this year, with another £15.5 million expected to be lost next year. Lincoln Cathedral is already seeking voluntary redundancies or a reduction in hours amongst its 120 workers.
The Association of English Cathedrals warns that job cuts will hit all Anglican churches, but the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says faith organisations have access to government support including the Coronavirus Community Support Fund.