Friday, 10 April 2009

A question of trust

Barack Obama’s tour of Europe has set the scene for a more progressive US - demonstrating a real change in the tone of trans-Atlantic relations; and making a significant inclusion of the Arab world.

This is all good news. However, as regards ways of engaging with the deeply embedded problems in the Middle East, summit diplomacy will never be sufficient - because it simply excludes the different motivations and perceptions of all the other actors involved.

So - as the US pledges more troops to Afghanistan while protesters in Iraq call for immediate US withdrawal - here’s an alternative strategy for conflict prevention, which involves a more intimate type of connection and a more creative kind of communication…

This was my starting point:

“When the allies invaded Iraq in March 2003, I was in the south of Nigeria leading a small team of Muslim colleagues doing participatory research on conflict prevention. As fundamentalist imams in the north of Nigeria called for a violent response to the invasion, there was the likelihood of reprisals against Muslims in the Christian south. So we made our plans to leave the south before midday on Friday and travelled as quickly as possible to the capital Abuja, where the World Bank grounded us for our own safety.

Thus it came about that I spent several days in a hotel bedroom watching CNN and BBC24 coverage of the unfolding situation in Iraq. It was clear that the US intelligence was flawed and /or the US politicians had misread / ignored what intelligence there was; that the US military chiefs were at odds with the politicians over how to run the campaign; and that the world’s media were being treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark). I was, above all, fascinated by the role of poor Brigadier-General Vincent Brooks, the token black officer delegated to provide meaningless daily press briefings. At that time I conceived the scenario of a varied group of stakeholders in a bunker, learning how to see each others’ point of view…”

Finally, here’s the blurb for the product (and I’m not claiming to have entirely solved the problem).

“She is known only as The Facilitator. You may hate and love her at the same time: it doesn’t matter. When she calls you to take part in her virtual scenarios, you can’t refuse. She has the power to send you where you’ve never wanted to go. You have to enter other people’s minds – and learn how to survive there. We are in a time of crisis: there is only war. Those who are called need to collaborate to find the ultimate solution. After all, the future of the universe is in your own imagination.”

The Facilitator
can be accessed at

Also read: Global politics and confidence building measures

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Roll over northern rock: we can build a new movement on twopence a week

Among all the gloom and doom of the credit crisis, my friend Jen claims there is something to celebrate. Not all banks have gone to the wall: the Cooperative and other mutual or friendly societies are thriving up here in the north of England.

This weekend we went to see the last performance of Mikron’s Fair Trade. Reaping the Dividends, which tells the story of the Cooperative Movement from its beginnings in Toad Lane in Rochdale in 1844 when the first Co-op shop was opened. The show was written and produced before the current financial crisis really took hold – so it was interesting to hear that, during hard times in the 19th century, the reason for the success of the Cooperative, in comparison to other schemes, was their decision not to give credit. “Only deal with cash.” Members contributed twopence a week to get the Cooperative Wholesale Society off the ground, to provide affordable basic food and goods to poor families. And, of course, the movement was also built on that fundamental principle that, for some of us, still holds good today: that any surplus should be divided evenly between members, not hived off by managers.

After being away from Yorkshire for a long time, I’m proud to be back, and back to being a Co-op member. In fact, my mum claims that the first Co-op shop was opened in Meltham (in Yorkshire) - where I was born and bred – and not Rochdale (in Lancashire). We recall how, in the 1950s and 60s, Meltham Co-op ran its own farm, alongside a grocery store, a hardware store, a clothes store, a pharmacy and the village cinema. It built affordable housing. It offered interest-free loans and modest overdraft facilities to its members before payday. It also, importantly, acted as a savings bank, encouraging thrift and forward planning through the scheme to put away a small sum every week towards Christmas, family holidays - and funerals. Truly it provided ‘cradle to the grave’ security.

In contrast, today’s high street banks have made, and continue to make, their unique contribution to heightened insecurity. I’ve had personal experience of this over the past few months. (Mortgage, madame? Of course, but for not less than £25,000. Costing £2,000 in ‘administrative costs’. On condition that you employ a solicitor. Yes, we acknowledge that you are legally entitled to do your own conveyancing, but if you intend to do so you can’t have a NatWest mortgage. Oh and look, our statistics show that fewer people are taking out mortgages. This is clearly a client driven crisis!) And on the backs of these fleas are smaller fleas to bite us – viz the increase in modern day loan shark cold calling, with an insistence on speaking to the owner of the house: “we’d like to offer you debt advice” aka “let us get you deeper into debt.”

See Cristina’s blog on globalisation and cooperativism in

Fair Trade highlights the growth of the co-operative movement beyond Britain. There are more than 750 million co-operative members in over 100 countries today. One notable example: the 900
rural electricity co-operatives providing energy for 40 million people across the United States. Another: there is a Co-op for employees in the Emperor’s palace in Japan. Strangely enough, the day I picked up Mikron’s leaflet in Holmfirth, I was with my friend Mary, who comes from Warrington but for many years has been living in Mali. “Oh yes,” she tells me, “the French version of cooperativisme used to be very big in West Africa.” And apparently everyone in Mali knows about the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Across countries in the south, on a small scale, farmers are benefiting from Fair Trade agreements, workers’ cooperatives and credit unions - all of which initiatives are seen as providing more autonomy and better security to the poor than World Bank loans with its crippling conditions attached. Cooperativism is increasingly seen as an
alternative world order . Also see an earlier post on women and 'the gift economy'.

I’ve picked up a related idea recently from south Wales: that of ‘time banking’. This is a mechanism promoting volunteerism in community development, which enables people to feel valued and to value each other for their contribution ‘outside paid work.’ The impact assessment report on this system, from the Wales Institute for Community Currencies, emphasises that “it is important to treat people as assets.” A concept western society largely seems to have forgotten.

The Mikron Theatre Company, itself a co-operative, provides a good example of operating on a human scale. Now 37 years old, supported by the Co-operative Membership and working out of the Mechanics Institute in Marsden, the company performs across the north of England in local venues – pubs, village halls, community theatres and even sometimes on their own barge – bringing culture, politics and solidarity to ordinary people.

Read more about Mikron at

and the Wales Institute for Community Currencies at

Note on the Tolpuddle Martyrs:
This was the group who, in the 1830s, set up the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers, operating as a trade-specific benefit society. But as friendly societies had strong elements of what are now considered to be the role of trade unions, the organisers were jailed and subsequently sentenced to transportation to Australia...

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The feminist agenda? Let’s do the time warp again!

The good news last week was that the UK government has published plans to reform the murder laws, specifically to ensure that an effective defence be made available to women who murder their partners after prolonged and violent abuse.

Interviewed on Women’s Hour about this and, more generally, about the June 2008 white paper on equality, Minister for Women Harriet Harman was quizzed as to whether her “promotion of the feminist agenda” might add to the government’s current problems, merely serving to further weaken Gordon Brown’s position. It was even mooted that this might be part of Harman’s strategy in a potential leader contest.

I found these questions quite outrageous, given that we have had the Sex Discrimination Act since 1975, the Equal Opportunities Commission for 30 years and a new combined Commission for Equality and Human Rights since autumn 2007. One would expect that “the feminist agenda” (that is, active promotion of gender equality and the rights of women) to be automatically an integral part the agenda of each MP and every individual in our society.

In fact, the recent draft Equality Bill – supported by all major political parties, by the way (Hansard Debates for June 28 2008) – does little more than restate a number of previous government policy commitments, for example the legality of choosing a female over an equally qualified male candidate where women are under-represented in the workforce; an end to age discrimination; measures to increase the number of black MPs in Westminster; and an equality duty on the public sector. This is not new news.

However, at every turn we see resurrected the harbingers of doom decrying “the unleashing of the spectre of positive discrimination” (see The Spectator)
as if this would mean the undoing of modern society as we know it. These pundits overlook the fact that “positive discrimination” in favour of men has been operating for the past four or five thousand years, culminating now in irreversible climate change, the international credit crunch, the food security crisis and violent conflicts around the world.

And so, quite rightly, a radical change is overdue. In July I attended the 10th Women’s Worlds Congress (this year in Madrid) where these issues and many more were explored. A couple of my reports were published by on creativity and dissidence

and women in the global economy – just to give a flavour of the diversity of topics. My summary below attempts to capture some of the inherent contradictions of this regular event which, since 1981, continues to highlight women’s potential alongside our subordinate position in a man’s world – where even a Minister for Women is required to justify her engagement in equality and where feminism is still seen as a minority interest rather than a mainstream project.

Read more

Boys may under-perform but it is women who are underpaid

Solidarity, sustainability and nonviolence

Women's worlds 2008: not a utopia

(See introduction above)

The Women’s Worlds Congress convenes every three years in a new country and naturally takes on a different flavour or focus according to its location. The first was held in Haifa, Israel. I attended the eighth Women’s Worlds in Kampala, 2002. That was the first time the congress had been held in Africa and it was an important event for Uganda itself, widely covered in the national media and actively supported by President Museveni. It provided a platform particularly for African women, and especially Ugandans, to highlight current issues of concern around government policies, political participation and women’s rights.

Co-ownership of land for women and recognised rights for second (unofficial) wives in a polygamous society were two aspects of the proposed Domestic Relations bill which had been under discussion then for four years by the government. Ugandan friends suggested to me that one reason for its slow progress was the fact that President Museveni had more than one wife himself.

At Makerere University, we had the official ceremonies in the open air under a large awning, were entertained by African drummers, enjoyed a fashion show featuring fabulous African prints and were able to browse the stalls of goods and services from local publishers, non-governmental organisations and women’s campaigns on the lawn of Freedom Square. And frankly, there was some dissonance between the language of western feminist academics and the articulation of hard-pressed needs of African women, whether working in national government or at the grassroots.

At the congress in Seoul 2005, aiming to address something of that paradox, the theme was north-south, east-west. For Madrid 2008 the slogan was “equality is not a utopia.”

At the congress opening in Spain, our first delight was the highly acclaimed flamenco singer Carmen Linares, whose powerful voice, interpreting raw pain and passion, transcends time, space and culture: “history is always the same for women.” And adding to the colour of this congress were the Arab women - both visitors and residents - in the hijab and shalwar-kameez.

The contradictions of the context also resonated clearly here. The (male) Secretary of State for Education and Innovation was convinced that the future of the world depends on bringing women and their talents on board, yet the (female) representative from the Ministry of Equality (with “an agenda fully supported by the government of Spain”) highlighted a list of problems still to be tackled: domestic violence, sex trafficking and the high level of abuse and discrimination against immigrant women. The (male) chancellor of the Universidad Complutense applauded the efforts of the (female) vice chancellor in pulling off the logistical feat of organising the Women’s Worlds Congress while the university’s office of gender equality talks about raising awareness among the academic community “by means of various actions including the gradual elimination of sexist language,” which scarcely sounds a hard-hitting approach.

To be fair, the opening ceremony provided a platform to air “the numerous obstacles to equality in our country” including inequity in the labour market and the “predominant white machismo of liberal democracy.” Spanish women are still in a minority in decision-making positions. Yet again, the congress is clearly a prestigious national event from which the male côterie wish to benefit.

My friend Irene Norman suggested that each country hosting the congress should be held accountable for achieving national changes in the three years leading up to the following gathering. (Irene was awarded “woman of the year for learning” by the Wales Assembly Government in 2002 and named one of Wales’ 2003 “top ten regenerators” in community education through projects such as promoting women’s enterprise.)

We were told by the convenors that the logo of this year’s congress represented “a woman, like a butterfly, emerging from her chrysalis, symbol of the change we are all going through, with her wings open to the future of possibilities.”

To what extent is this meaningful?

We can’t deny the fact that, in one sense, the Women’s Worlds phenomenon is located within what is still a man’s world, deriving permission, sponsorship and credibility from it. Can, indeed, women’s worlds exist independently outside? Yes, in terms of our collective intellect and imagination, our capacity to inspire each other, the connections we make and our conversations together. All this leaves little doubt that a woman’s world (for want of a better phrase) would be a smarter, safer, fairer, wittier, more colourful and sustainable place for both men and women to live in. Not a utopia, but a different paradigm – and an urgent necessity.

The Women’s Worlds 2008 website is at

Read more: Wales Women’s Studies Monographs

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Nearly ninety years of solitude: Magical realism and the United Nations

Last night the UN rebuked the Zimbabwean government”

(Quoted from front page article, The Guardian, 24th June 2008)

When I ask my daughter about the literature module she’s been studying on the works of Gabriel García Marquez, Mikhail Bulgakov and Salman Rushdie, she replies: “But, mum, I think the whole of life is magical realism!” And thus she gifts me the language by which I can begin to translate the fantastic narrative of the United Nations.

Just a quick recap of the main aspects of the genre: time passes and yet stands still; events repeat themselves, but nothing is resolved; cause and effect are inverted while the characters - resembling each other and even having similar names - accept rather than question the logic of the magical element. In general, the story holds a dreamlike quality with heightened sensory details, emotions and symbolism all of which work to seduce and confuse the reader.

Is the magical or the mundane rendering of the plot more truthful to the world as it is?
Here it goes…

The forefather of the United Nations was the League of Nations - conceived during the first world war and established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles, “to promote international cooperation and achieve peace and security”. Twenty years before, its existence was heralded by the first international peace conference, hosted in Den Hag, to elaborate common instruments for settling crises peacefully, preventing wars and codifying rules of warfare. The weakling League of Nations was disowned in 1942 for having failed to prevent the second world war. So, in 1945, fifty countries came together in San Francisco to celebrate the birth of the newly proposed United Nations and to baptise the Security Council - the body with primary responsibility for preserving peace - which held its first meeting in January 1946.

Unlike the UN General Assembly, the Security Council was given power to enforce measures (on any danger to world peace) and was organized as a compact executive organ. Also unlike the assembly, it in theory functions continuously... However, on substantive matters, the nine affirmative votes required under the charter must include the five permanent members. This requirement of ‘Big Five’ unanimity embodies the so-called veto. The veto has prevented much substantive action of the UN but it embodies the reality that resolution of major crises requires the agreement of major powers” (US, UK, France, Russia and China).”

Almost lost in translation here: the Security Council as an entity was never given the power to avert crises or to exert sanctions – but the five major powers gave themselves (and each other) a licence to wage war (although of course Russia and China were never meant to use this). How many times during the 1980s did the UN General Assembly condemn US interference in the domestic affairs of Nicaragua (for example) while the US arrogantly shrugged off the ruling of the International Court of Justice in Den Hag? In more recent times, how often has the toothless Security Council vacillated over relationships in the Middle East, before and after, in all impotence, watching as the US and UK invade Iraq?

As I float back through the nebulous history of the UN family, I can recount how Iraqi oil was an issue that arose during the first world war: the archives show that the British government rushed troops to Mosul in 1918 to gain control of the northern oil fields. Britain and France clashed over Iraq's oil during and after the Versailles Conference, but Britain eventually took the lion’s share by turning its military victories into colonial rule. The powerful Iraq Petroleum Company acted always in the cartel interests of the Anglo-American companies. To the fury of the Iraqis and the French, the IPC held down production to maximize profits elsewhere, keeping a monopoly of Iraq’s oil sector until nationalization in 1972 (see Global Policy Forum).

During the final years of the Saddam era, envied companies from France, Russia, China and elsewhere obtained major contracts. But UN sanctions were kept in place by the US and the UK, making those contracts inoperable. Since the occupation of Iraq in 2003, have things changed? The Iraqi constitution of 2005, greatly influenced by US advisors, contains language that guarantees a major role for foreign companies in the forthcoming decades. But it is not yet a done deal - the Iraqi parliament has balked at the legislation; most Iraqis favour continued control by a national company and the powerful oil workers union strongly opposes de-nationalization. This is another thread in the nylon stocking of the storyline that will run and run.

Meanwhile, the UN flounders incomprehensibly across the globe, as ‘breaking news’ (UN News Centre ) eerily echoes both past and future:

“Settlement in Cyprus ‘not a foregone conclusion’ says envoy”

“UNICEF reports rising trend of violence against children in strife-torn countries”

“Ban calls for ‘redoubled’ efforts on causes and consequences of forced displacement”

“Kosovo plan is a ‘practical and workable solution’”

“UN chief says more women need to be involved in peace negotiations and recovery.”

In Africa conflict, food insecurity, poor health and inequality prosper. Help is at hand, however, according to ‘musician and humanitarian’ Bob Geldof who raised money through the Live Aid concerts of 1985 in response to famine and drought in northeast Africa (the UN estimated 160m people were still affected after nine months) .

This gentle knight accompanied the US president on his journey round Africa recently and records the experience without irony:

“On Air Force One, the President and I discussed this Luminous Continent, drenched in light and hope, grace and spirit…” (No! How could I make it up? This is from Time magazine, March 3rd 2008) “…The great unacknowledged story of America in Africa didn’t immediately originate with this President. But it was accelerated hugely by him, increased by him and monitored by him… I look forward to seeing exactly what the next President will do to continue this great untold and secret story. The story of the African Bush.” (No! seriously!) “The quiet triumph of America’s foreign policy.”

In the same issue of Time, ‘last true movie star’ George Clooney has an alternative perspective. Founder of a Darfur support organisation Not on Our Watch, he has a UN passport bearing the legend ‘Messenger of Peace’ (“it’s very cool”) which allows him to visit. “I’ve been very depressed since I got back. I’m terrified that it isn’t in any way helping. That bringing attention can cause more damage. You dig a well or build a health centre and they’re a target for someone… A lot more people know about Darfur but nothing is different. Absolutely nothing.”

Travelling to conflict areas of Sierra Leone and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, we next find goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commission for Refugees, Hollywood actress and ‘earth mother’ Angelina Jolie (with adopted children from Ethiopia, Vietnam and Cambodia she has said she would like to create her own UN family) (Scotland on Sunday, 22nd June 2008).

Still active in the story from time to time is ‘international entertainment personality’ Geri Halliwell, who as goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Population Fund since 1998, draws on her ‘girl power’ persona to promote women’s sexual and reproductive health rights not only in countries like the Philippines and Zambia, but also in the US (speaking to Congress - and respect to her).

Stop press for 18th June 2008:

At roundtable discussions at UN headquarters in New York, US Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice raises the issue of war rape and joins calls for an end to sexual violence in armed conflict. She also presses the UN to weigh in on Zimbabwe’s rising violence: “the UN must act.” A UN food survey warns of impending food crisis in Zimbabwe. Neighbouring Malawi (where pop singer Madonna adopted her son) can help out because bumper harvests last year have provided a surplus, so the government is selling maize to Zimbabwe while the poorest Malawians are unable to buy sufficient food for their own families.

Violence and discrimination have marked Mugabe’s reign since he was first elected in 1980. However, during the first ten years, a commitment to social programmes brought real changes in the areas of health and education. From 1990 there followed austerity measures (it’s the same old story) imposed by the World Bank and IMF (both members of the UN family) - which have drastically affected social development in Zimbabwe.

So, here is the UN Security Council’s first direct involvement in the Zimbabwean crisis: mundane, magic or meaningful? Compare with the (still unsuccessful) nearly fifty-year-old US trade embargo on Cuba which continues despite the fact that, in the annual UN General Assembly, all of the USA’s closest allies vote against it. But no surprises there, especially as the term ‘magical realism’ was originally coined in 1949 by Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier : he called it “lo real maravilloso” in his novel The Kingdom of this World.

In 1967, The New York Times hailed One Hundred Years of Solitude as "the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race."

Read more
The new International Journal of Cuban Studies is now online at

And all my posts under Conflict and Africa!

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Will he, won’t he? Climate change and the romantic fiction of global politics

It’s spring again, which in recent years seems to bring rapid extremes of temperature, from snow in Hyde Park to apple blossom in Snowdonia almost within a twenty-four hour period. And like the weather, our so-called world leaders are blowing hot and cold on fundamental issues such as human rights, freedom and the environment.

Looking forward to the summer, the Olympic Games in Beijing provide a classic opportunity for each to parade their own moral barometer. At the end of March, France’s president was
reported as the first premier who “hinted that he may boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games as Britain and France increased the pressure on China over Tibet”. France, of course, made the same threat last year when China’s role in the Sudanese oil business was condemned and China disregarded calls from G8 countries to exert influence on the Sudanese government over the conflict in Darfur.

So far, Bush is going, Merkel is not. Brown is apparently able to do both (boycott the beginning but attend at the end: a Scottish jig he used for the opening of the European Parliament). And the European Parliament, through a ‘
non-binding resolution’ has urged EU leaders not to attend.

They may dance the soft shoe shuffle or attempt the more flamboyant tango: after all, they’re just games. But when the G8 summit meet on the banks of
Lake Toya on the island of Hikkaido in northern Japan at the beginning of July, we can be sure that China will be there, invited as one of the ‘G8 plus 5 group’ because of her emerging role in the global economy - and there’ll be plenty of other rationalisations at the last minute to justify her inclusion.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has identified the environment as a key topic of discussion in Toyako. Climate change was also highlighted by the German government for Heiligendamm in 2007 - resulting in some vague pledges to agree to consider a time to discuss the topic again. As
GRIST argues, 'since the safe bet is on continued US interference with specific emissions reduction goals, there's little to lose by aiming for the same shot-down target as last year'.

Before last year’s summit, there was some fear that
strained relations between the US and Russia – caused by Putin’s cheeky little rocket launch - would blight reasonable debate. However, an unexpected thaw occurred, leading Merkel to pull off a great public relations victory, claiming success on climate change negotiations when in fact nothing concrete had been agreed.

See Robert Amsterdam's blogpost: A Valentine for Putin

Since then, Merkel has pushed forward carbon emission reduction regulations at home – excluding, of course, the heavy industries because of their importance to the German economy. In contrast, Brown and Sarkozy plan together to save the world’s energy crisis by developing the use of nuclear power; the UK plans to count its clean power projects overseas towards the EU mandated renewables targets; and the West’s stampede on bio-fuels has triggered a global food crisis, as predicted last year by social movements.

And one of the downsides of China’s economic boom is the astounding
environmental devastation that has come with it at home, not to mention the environment damage also associated with China’s march across Africa.

Downloadable from

Back in Hokkaido, Governor Harumi Takahashi has said she hopes the G8 will help resolve the longstanding territorial dispute with Russia over sovereignty of the Northern Territories: in fact president Putin and prime minister Yasua Fukuda have been meeting to discuss this.

Group composition moves on: last year Sarkozy was the new kid on the block, this year will be the first G8 summit for Gordon Brown and the recently elected Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

But I don’t imagine that this continual flux of cosying-up and the subsequent cold shoulder among our world leaders will ever be subject to real climate change. How can we ever believe what they say? Why do we even care any more? When we turn to the press, it so often seems as if there is in fact no real news, rather we’re caught up in a fictionalised narrative, which plays out in the present tense with no sense of historicity, nor cause and effect, although events continue to repeat and repeat themselves.

As with romantic fiction, this approach has become almost entirely
formulaic : but instead of dismissing it, we as readers also play an important role in perpetuating the genre.

One little known fact is that in 1983 I won third prize in the Women’s Hour / Woman’s Weekly Quest for a Romantic Novelist. So here’s another take on the news. It’s a little flight of fancy I jotted down last year in Berlin when I was covering the
2007 G8 summit from a women's perspective:

"Georgie came in with her natural flounce, bold, bumptious and brazen. She knew she was irresistible, but still there were those who resisted her. Vladimir stood at the window looking out into the night. There was something virile and aggressive in his slender frame and his arrogant stance.

‘Why don’t we settle this matter here and now?’ asked Georgie, taking his arm.

For an instant, Vladimir’s dark slavic
face softened. He was, in fact, incredibly attractive when he smiled. Georgie’s heart flipped over. Even as she succumbed, she knew that tomorrow things would look different. Another crisis, another man: she was incorrigible.

‘I’ll see you later,’ she drawled...”

Malcolm turned the page, dreamily reaching out for one of the tea-time sandwiches that nurse had left him. It was such stirring stuff. And now a new twist in the plot…

"...Nicole smiled across at Abe, their gaze entangling. ‘I think we may be quite similar in lots of ways,’ she murmured in her attractive French accent.

Abe watched her slink away. He was definitely interested. But he couldn't
help wondering if Nicole was only making up to him to make someone else jealous…"

Suddenly the door opened and Sister Theresa came into the room, creating a through-draft, which made the candles flicker. It was too late for Malcolm to hide what he was doing. He shrank back into his chair, clutching the book to his chest.

“Malcolm,” she said incensed, “Why are you doing this?” She swept an authoritative arm around to indicate the well-stacked feminist bookshelves. “After all the effort
I put in to provide improving literature for you, I still find you involved with this kind of …”

Malcolm tried to defend his position, but nurse was too strong for him. Wrenching the offending volume from his grasp, she threw it out of the open window.

told you before,” said Theresa. “Too much of that can make you go blind!”

Don’t read more, Take action
Anti-G8 action in Japan

Read a little more: The temperature in Berlin blog

Here below is another piece about the environment from this time last year, which I omitted to post. Plus cela change

The temperature in Berlin

7th May 2007

(Please read in conjunction with the post above)

The hottest news in Berlin is still the weather: the highest recorded springtime temperatures in the last hundred years. The environmental lobby is warning that this is yet more evidence of global warming.
McPlanet a three-day conference held at the Technical University over the weekend, attracted over 1500 participants calling for ‘a climate of justice.’ Meanwhile many Berliners decamped to the beach at Wannsee – a large lake south-west of the city, where apparently middle-aged nude bathing remains popular. (see photo below).

Also top news last week in the Berliner Zeitung is Sahira the 27-year old Palestinian born German hip hop artist who raps about the racism which bubbles just beneath the surface here – and who has now reclaimed the hoodie as a feminist neo-muslim alternative to the hijab.

(NB a free translation of ‘Frei Schnauze’ is ‘speak your mind!’)

I’m not generally in favour of women covering up their natural assets. However, it’s good to see youth coming up with creative solutions to the world’s problems, while the older generation just let it all hang out. I don’t mind hip hop, but more importantly, I think Sahira rocks (and let’s hope the planet keeps on rolling).

(Today it’s cold).

(Photo by Daniel Rosenthal courtesy of Greenpeace Germany)

Greenpeace activists urged G8 climate action at the G8 environmental ministers meeting in March in Potsdam (also on the Wannsee)