DEATH THREATS – The New Measure of Success!

Who would have thought that death threats could be a measure of success? But this is apparently the case, according to an alert message I received from Avaaz.

This is important enough to repost here, as we must not allow ANYONE to muffle the loudest voice we have to shout with!
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From: “Emma Ruby-Sachs – Avaaz.org” Avaaz
They’re coming after our team
Dear friends,

The pressure on some of our most vulnerable staff is reaching a breaking point: they’ve received death threats, had their computers and emails hacked, their cars tampered with, and been threatened on television and radio.

Wissam, while delivering our call to stop Egypt’s largest mass execution in history, was detained at the Cairo airport, taken into a windowless room and interrogated for hours — drilled with chilling questions about his personal life, travel and work with Avaaz!

But this amazing community can, together, stand behind these brave people who speak our community’s truth to power.

The threats will get worse as we become larger and more effective, taking on some of the most entrenched and powerful players on the planet. That’s why Avaaz needs to triple-reinforce our security systems, including legal counsel to stand ready for emergencies, media support to raise the alarm if people are threatened, better encryption and the resources to move staff to a safe location when the pressure gets to be too much.

Click below to pledge a weekly donation to power the protection Avaaz needs — pledges will only be processed if we raise enough to fully fund our security plan to safeguard our staff:
YES, I’LL PLEDGE £1 A WEEK
YES, I’LL PLEDGE £2 A WEEK
YES, I’LL PLEDGE £3 A WEEK
To pledge an amount other than the ones listed above, click here.

The campaign we’re running right now to Egypt — opposing the mass execution of hundreds of people — has been hugely powerful, reaching the highest levels of the government. Wissam had permission to enter Egypt and had a meeting scheduled with the Grand Mufti Allam — who has the power to immediately reject the mass killings. This is why we came under attack — Wissam says the generals who interrogated him knew everything about Avaaz, our campaign, and his own life and travel. The government was clearly watching our campaign closely.

And as soon as Wissam was sent home, news outlets around the world from the Washington Post to Al-Arabiya picked up the story immediately, putting more pressure on the Egyptian government to act to protect human rights.

But we know the threats will get worse as we get more effective. Our people-powered campaigning has taken on the world’s worst actors head-on, in ways that genuinely hurt them — from the Syrian and Russian regimes to Rupert Murdoch, Big Oil and organized crime. The Syrian dictatorship even called our campaigner ‘the most dangerous man in the world’.

We’re not backing down, and our team is laser-focused on winning our campaign in Egypt — but we also need to keep the team and the movement safe. We don’t know if Wissam would be free now if we hadn’t had such broad legal, media and diplomatic pressure lined up — and we want to make sure we always have what we need to respond to emergencies like these. With all of our small weekly pledges added up now, we can:

    – Build industrial-scale security and hire top hackers and technologists, so that no attack can stop us campaigning.
    – Increase the physical security of our most vulnerable staff and action teams in places like Lebanon, Russia and Uganda.
    – Have lawyers ready to leap into action to ensure we have the legal and diplomatic support needed when our team is under threat.
    – Build a direct-response media team, which brings global attention to such incidents right away and ensures that the voices of the people aren’t silenced.
    – Take a range of other actions to improve the security of our team and our members.

Click below to pledge now to help protect Avaaz:
YES, I’LL PLEDGE £1 A WEEK
YES, I’LL PLEDGE £2 A WEEK
YES, I’LL PLEDGE £3 A WEEK
To pledge an amount other than the ones listed above, click here.

With more than 35 million members, we’ve become the largest global civic movement ever, and our campaigns pose a real threat to brutal regimes and corrupt corporations. Two years ago, our website came under massive attack, threatening our ability to keep campaigning. We came together to protect it and now our tech systems are reinforced and fully prepared for almost any kind of cyber-attack. But they’re coming after our staff. Let’s prove that no matter what tactics they use, attacking our movement only makes us stronger.

With hope and deep gratitude,
Emma, Mia, Alex, Mais, Christoph, Emily and the whole Avaaz team

MORE INFORMATION:
Egypt: Stop the Mass Execution (Avaaz)
http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_mass_execution_loc/?fr
Egypt deports man lobbying against mass death sentences (Reuters)
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/04/us-egypt-deported-idUSBREA330RY20140404
Egypt deports activist with death penalty petition (Washington Post)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/egypt-deports-anti-death-sentences-activist/2014/04/04/68da1054-bc02-11e3-80de-2ff8801f27af_story.html
Egypt Bars Lebanese Man over Death Sentence Petition (Almanar)
http://www.almanar.com.lb/english/adetails.php?eid=144362&frid=21&seccatid=19&cid=21&fromval=1
Egypt bars Lebanese activist over death sentence petition (AlArabiya)
http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/2014/04/04/Egypt-bars-Lebanese-activist-over-death-sentence-petition-.html
Hundreds of Egyptians Sentenced to Death in Killing of a Police Officer (NY Times)
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/25/world/middleeast/529-egyptians-sentenced-to-death-in-killing-of-a-police-officer.html

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Testing Times for Europe!

I was asked by Unlock Democracy if I would add a Widget to my blog to take people directly to Vote Match. Well, I can do better than that – I will devote most of this post to it.

Why? As I see Europe at the moment, it is a seething maelstrom of discontent, a failed experiment that won’t die, with a common currency that doesn’t really work, that is about to become a vassal state of the USA as the result of a looming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that we don’t want.

And don’t get me started on the involvement of Israel in EU projects. When I last looked at a world map, Israel was nowhere near Europe, and has no business whatsoever milking the European Cash Cow!

Is this what we signed up for?

I think not!

Normally, for UK elections, I would advocate not voting at all, or vote for maximum protest, which in all probability means UKIP. (Might I suggest Russel Brand for Prime Minister – at least we would get a laugh now and again!)

In this case, however, you should vote for maximum disruption! The requirement is to force the powers that be to stop and take note of the current wishes of the European population, before signing any documents that have the word “IRREVOCABLE” in them, and so avoid impending disaster.

How do you do that?

Inform yourselves! A starting place could be
“The enemy invasion: Brussels braced for influx of Eurosceptics in EU polls”
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/28/brussels-braced-influx-eurosceptics-parties-european-union-polls

If you want to make use of the Unlock Democracy offer, go to Vote Match.
I will unashamedly copy the information they publish so that you know what you are letting yourselves in for.
Vote Match
“Vote Match is an online election quiz which matches users to the political party that best represents their views in an election, based on the issues which they select as most important.
Vote Match has four aims:

    To be fun
    To inform about policy differences between parties
    To encourage people to vote and so boost turnout
    To promote debate

How it works
The statements – answer the statements by clicking on agree, disagree, open-minded or skip (if you want to ignore the statement entirely).

Your priorities – you can choose which statements you think are most important. The statements you choose as most important will count double towards your results.

The parties – select which parties you would be prepared to vote for (at least three).

Results – the results screen will reveal which party you agree with most, and other parties will follow in descending order. You can look at the responses from each party in more detail in the table below.

Don’t forget to share your results on Facebook or Twitter

Vote Match is intended as a guide only and is not intended to give you definitive answers on which way you should vote. We encourage you to look into the parties’ policies in more detail.

There is little time to get ready for this.

Lets get this European mess sorted out – once and for all!

“Shitty” first draft? Doesn’t everybody?

Alright, so the term “shitty” first draft may be a bit over the top, but a “rough draft” is perfectly normal, and an accepted way of working. A rough draft is not something I produce then put to one side and start writing all over again. No, the draft goes through series of reworks until it reaches the end-product stage.

Sometimes I am very lucky, and have a reasonable idea in my head of what I want to say, and in what order. This doesn’t happen so often.

Mostly I have a few points fixed, and then something comes to me while I am typing that also needs to go in. Then we have the question – yes, but where? Can I just add it in as I go along, or will I have to cut and paste and shuffle things around? Often I won’t know the answer to that until I have reread the draft from the beginning.

I think its important to have flow – the document starts with the title, and ends with the closing sentence, and everything between those points must lead the reader from the start to the end, or it won’t seem “right”. Its a ‘feeling’, if you like, but if it ‘feels’ wrong, it probably is wrong.

I have a set sequence of working on any text. I start out in Wordpad, as I dont need a full-blown word processing program – I keep it as simple as possible.

The document is massaged carefully into shape, and constantly checked for typo’s, as there is no spell checker. I don’t like them anyway – they are mostly stupid. I often see perfectly good English words flagged with an error because Americans can’t spell them properly. Ridiculous!

It is also checked for grammar, as there is no program I know that will do a decent grammar check for you. You check also for omissions – did you get everything in that you wanted to say? In fact, by the time you have finished, you have spent more time reading than you have writing!

Never mind. Its the result that counts.

Now comes the important bit – the Pause!

You go away and leave it for a while. Go shopping, have a beer, take a walk in the park, whatever. The main thing is to take a break from it and do something else. Just let your subconscious work on the document for you.

When you come back to it, read it through from start to finish. There are two questions you need to answer – 1) Did it ‘feel’ right? and 2) Did you enjoy reading it? Why? Well, if you didn’t enjoy it, how can you expect anyone else to?

On rare occasions I come back after a pause, and a document doesn’t seem “right”. If I can’t get it right, or can’t pinpoint where the problem is, I can do one of two things:-

    1. Have another pause, and see if that helps, or
    2. Junk the whole thing and throw it away. Fortunately that doesn’t happen very often.

So, assuming I have some usable text, the next step is to get it into my off-line WordPress system. So I fire up Wampserver, log in to WordPress, go to “New Post”, and copy and paste from the Wordpad document. Then I add images if necessary, preview the post, and tweak it around until I am satisfied with it.

The final stage is to get on-line, with my off-line system in one browser tab, a new on-line post in the adjacent browser tab, and copy and paste from one to the other. Upload pictures if required, and the new post is ready in record time. A final preview just to check, and then publish it for the world to see!

Would you believe that in spite of this rigorous production process, I still have the odd occasion where I have published a document with an error in it? Its true!

To my eternal shame I had to make an on-line correction only yesterday. (But I am certainly not going to tell you what it was. I’ll just hope that you didn’t notice.)

One last comment on this subject. I think the last line of a post is very important. I always try to come up with something humorous, punchy, or in some other way memorable.

The “Lets hear it for People Power” post closed with “Once you get to a million signatures, things start to happen!”, for example.

If only I had such flashes of genius more often!

Look Ma! My New Blogroll, no Widgets!

This had been bugging me for some time. I didn’t realise that my blogroll had disappeared completely when I changed the theme, but sometime later. Perhaps I was just too busy getting everything sorted out to my liking.

When I looked around, there was no suitable widget for a blogroll either. Ok, so a ‘Links’ widget could have been pressed into service for the purpose, so I wasn’t completely without options.

The only thing was, my off-line system does not have a ‘Links’ widget, so there would have been an incompatibility between my off-line system and the on-line blog.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like incompatibilities!

So, the result is a new page called “Hot-Links”. You will see it on the top menu bar.

And no, the Climate Hot-Links have not gone, they have just been moved! You will find them under the Hot-Links main title.

Oh yes, while I think of it. There are two “By the ways…..”

By the way (1) … Does anybody know how to get the top menu in alphabetical sequence, left to right? I have been puzzling over this for a while, but have given up for the moment, as there are a myriad other things to do, at least.

By the way (2) … Comments have been switched on for a while now, but I forgot to mention it. But do check on the comments page to find out what the rules are, I don’t want to spend a lot of time throwing out garbage, as before.

Happy Blogging!

Lets Hear it for People Power!

People Power is a watchword in the Philippines, where the Edsa revolution of 1986 brought the government down.Edsa

In China, however, Tiananmen Square is not a happy memory of success, but a stark reminder of what can happen when things go drastically wrong.

In either case, a revolution is an extremely disruptive event, which, under normal circumstances we would strive to avoid if at all possible.

This is certainly possible. We use the PETITION!

Petitions used to be very difficult to organise; slow, bulky, (boxes and boxes of paper), and always prone to challenges. Had signatures been duplicated, were petitioners actually who they said they were, etc.?

The power of the mouse has changed all that!

The on-line petition may be open to the same challenges as the paper ones, but they are fast to organise, easy to sign up to, and above all peacefully effective.

There is no chance of recrimination – nobody can label you as a terrorist for signing a petition – and the minimum number of signatures can be reached in only a couple of days.

This means that petitions can be used in response to changing events, and are as near to real-time reaction as we can currently achieve.

Let me introduce you to the petitions I use!
Avaaz38degrees

Avaaz, which with a membership of over 35 million, has worldwide reach, and 38Degrees, which is UK oriented only. I have asked for information on current membership.

    Both are funded exclusively by members, so there is no unwarranted interference from anywhere.
    Both allow you to start your own petition, and will help you with it if needed.
    Both are run democratically, with regular polls to decide future direction.

To put this in perspective, Avaaz membership at the moment is about the same as the current population of Canada, and more than the population of 205 other countries on the list (Wikipedia).

Imagine what 35 million likeminded souls can achieve when they really go for it!

What can you do?

Sign up to Avaaz if you are not in the UK. If you are in the UK, sign up to both!

38Degrees already has the respect of various MP’s, and gets thing done!

The power of AVAAZ is already legendary!

Once you get to a million signatures, things start to happen!

HS2 – Juggernaut or U-Turn?

My money is on a U-Turn – Cameron is about due for another one!

In the one corner we have Cameron, with “HS2 is vital for Britain’s long-term economic prosperity”, and Osborne, with “essential to the future of this country”.

You note that neither of them offers any proof of their statement, which, in view of the fact that the Cabinet Office decided to withhold the Major Project Authority’s report into HS2, is more than just suspicious. In fact, it ranks of downright skullduggery!

Sunsine and rain are self-evidently essential, but HS2 doesn’t come anywhere close!

In the other corner we have Andrea Leadsom, newly appointed as Treasury minister, and who has called for a “dramatic rethink” of the High Speed 2 rail project.

There is more skullduggery here. Andrea Leadsom’s website, which has some outspoken contradiction to government policy on HS2, (as you would expect, if she is doing her job of representing her constituents), is no longer available.

It normally resides at http://www.andrealeadsom.com/ but when you go there you find Andreablock

So, Cameron has reached into his bag of dirty tricks again, and kettled his Treasury minister!

Was that enough to shut her down?

Well, no, not quite. We have alternatives.

Now we know that ministers are expected/required to vote in accordance with government policy, or “fall on their sword” if they refuse to do so. The ‘problem’ is that the long-suffering constituents are demanding that their wishes be properly represented, as they are entitled to expect.

“Conservative ministers are being urged to resign from the government in order to vote against the High Speed 2 rail project this week, as local party activists grow increasingly angry that the scheme will blight their areas.”

More detail on this at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/10790583/Quit-over-HS2-local-Tories-urge-ministers.html

Andrea Leadsom has warned that the £50 billion scheme does not represent value for taxpayers’ money.

Well, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can predict with 100% certainty that, if given the go-ahead, the HS2 project will be overspent by at least a factor of 2, and wildly over schedule. There is no historical record whatsoever of any government getting their sums right, and managing a project successfully.

It would be far better to pump that money where it is really needed – the NHS for example!

What can you do?

Start at http://stophs2.org/ and get involved!

Time on your Hands? School in the Cloud!

    Do you have spare time that you could make available to someone else in a good cause?
    Would you like to help transform an underpriviledged child’s life?
    Do you have access to a computer, Internet, and can you use Skype?

If you can answer “Yes” to all three questions, then perhaps you would be interested in the School in the Cloud.

The starting point for this post was the page
“School in the cloud: Children with mentors on the other side of the world”
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26356160

I am not going to extract vast quantities of text and repost it here. Its better if you read the original page yourself.

There are some very interesting concepts here. The principle that children will teach themselves if given the facilities to do so is something that I have also noticed. However, if guidance can be provided in addition, the learning process can be that much faster.

Furthermore, the experience of an older person can be invaluable in avoiding such pitfalls as computer scams, to which an inexperienced child would soon fall prey.

“Liz Fewings was 60 and had just retired from teaching. She lives in Hackney, east London and joined the project in 2009, after reading about it in a newspaper.”

Liz is one of the mentors known as a “Cloud Granny”. Don’t worry, I am sure that there are “Cloud Granddads” as well!

Its not all one-sided!

“But it isn’t just the children who benefit – Fewings now sees herself as a kind of auntie to Khan. “To have this relationship with somebody in India is quite exciting really for me… he has a good heart this boy,” she says.”

How about it?

Have you got what it takes to give?

You can find out by going to – https://www.theschoolinthecloud.org/

Web Breakup? Bring it On!

This post was prompted by a report on the Guardian website:- “Putin calls Internet a ‘CIA project’ renewing fears of web breakup”
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/24/vladimir-putin-web-breakup-internet-cia

Whether his allegation is true or false is not the issue here. We know enough from Edward Snowden’s revelations to understand that the privacy of individuals has been compromised beyond belief under the present system.

Its easy enough to do, if you have the cash and the motivation. Just tap into the optical fibre network at the relevant points, and you have free access to anything flowing along it.

To prevent this happening, we need to decentralize the network completely. We can’t do anything with the existing one, so the answer is to build a new one that suits our own purposes, and not those of the state.

To just switch over to wifi communication is not enough. We would only exchange one set of masters for another by following that path.

A true decentralized system is possible using a Mesh network, whereby the mobile phones themselves take over the role of transmission and routing.

This is not a new concept. Some years back, such a system was being developed to provide communication possibilities in areas that had no service at all, eg. regions of Africa. More recently, people have realised that existing networks can be completely decimated by natural disasters, and are working on an alternative.
See:- Wilderness communication without cell towers
http://www.kurzweilai.net/95217
servalproject1
“Communications should not just be for the geographically, financially otherwise fortunate — for it is the unfortunate who need it most. ”

Perhaps more advanced is the Mesh Potato.

However, as there is no dynamic IP allocation, each Mesh Potato needs to be set up for the network on which it will run. Once the network has been set up, it should be both cost and maintenance free.

OK, you say, thats fine for Africa or places where its needed, but not much use to me.

Don’t believe it!
Read this:- “Creating An Alternative Internet To Keep The NSA Out”
http://www.popularresistance.org/creating-an-alternative-internet-to-keep-the-nsa-out/

What can YOU do now?

Build your own mesh network of course, and get all your friends on it together. Keep track of new developments, and wherever you see an improvement, grab it.

But don’t just grab it and say nothing.

Share it with the rest of us!

Despite Government Pledges!

How often have we heard that one before?

In this case it refers to “http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/10774314/Allotments-being-sold-off-for-development-despite-government-pledges.html

I strongly suspect that someone is cheating!

Look at the requirements:-
“Under the law, any sell-offs must be approved by the secretary of state and local authorities must prove that the site is unnecessary because no one is using it or on a waiting list or that it is not “reasonably practicable” to keep it.”

I know of no allotment for which there is no waiting list. “In 1996 there were four people waiting for every 100 plots, but that has risen to 57 today.”

The only allotment that I knew of that was not being used was the one I had. I couldn’t use it, as I was working abroad at the time, and had nobody to use it on my behalf. The rest of the site, however, was fully occupied.

I cannot think of a situation – apart from sleaze – that would make it not “reasonably practicable” to keep an allotment site.

Nevertheless, between 2010 and 2013, 83 councils applied to sell allotment sites to make way for development. Somehow, 83 councils had found the “justification” to make such an application.

I simply don’t believe this to be possible!

Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has rejected just two out of 83 applications.

Really! As many as that?

“Two have been refused by Mr Pickles, 10 are pending, 59 have been approved and the remainder (12) withdrawn, figures released under Freedom of Information laws show.”

I think if Mr Pickles had been doing his job properly, there would have been 83 rejections!

And if you ever doubted that the law is an ass, here is the proof:-
“If a sale goes ahead, the council is obliged to provide an alternative site within two miles.”

You take people that have invested years of TLC into their plot to get the maximum return, and move them onto land that they must break-in anew? Absolutely crazy!

It makes much more sense to offer the developers an alternative site, and leave the allotments exactly where they need to be.

I think somebody needs to do some serious digging!

What can you do to help?

Sign the petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/61225 for starters.

Then visit http://www.allotmoreallotments.org.uk/index.htm for the legal background and more information.

And don’t foget the legal loophole, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/7749777/Councils-exploit-legal-loophole-to-get-out-of-providing-allotments.html

As you should all know by now, the answer lies in the soil!

The Chagos Islands dispute

Contrary to the British and American governments’ hopes, the Chagos Islands dispute has not gone away!

How could it?

The islanders, forcibly removed from their homeland by the British between 1968 and 1973, they are still being prevented from returning home by successive British governments.

The British claim that compensation has already been paid in “full and final settlement”, but I cannot see it that way at all.

If the Chagossians were already back in their homeland, we could talk about “full and final settlement”, and come up with a new figure that was commensurate with the suffering that has been endured. For starters, I would advocate that the Chagossians receive the rent paid by the Americans for their use of Diego Garcia -some $14 million to-date.

The situation has now become more critical, as the lease between the British and the Americans comes up for renewal shortly. This would lock in the problem for another 20 years.

The Chagossians have fought their claim through the British legal system without success, and have now taken it to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. See
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/21/chagos-islands-diego-garcia-base-court-ruling

You can also download a PDF file from the House of Commons Library for further information, (sn04463.pdf), and there is a lot of other material around the Internet on this subject.

There is no doubt at all in my mind that this was one of the shabbiest episodes in British colonial history. The horrifying aspect of it is that the British government is still doing everything in its power to prevent the Chagossians returning home, including declaring a Marine Protected Area in 2010, courtesy of David Milliband.

“The Mauritian prime minister, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, has claimed that the decision to establish a 1,411,550sq km (545,000sq mile) marine reserve was carried out in defiance of assurances given to him at the time by the then UK prime minister, Gordon Brown, in 2009.”

With Mauritius now making the legal challenge, instead of the Chagos Islanders themselves, we may have a better change of righting this terrible wrong.

I sincerely hope so!