Music for peace, all over the world


This music video is called Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around the World.

By Richard Maunders in Britain:

Globally harmonised

Tuesday 22nd July 2014

RICHARD MAUNDERS reports on a unique international music project which promotes peaceful global change

MARRYING Rolling Stone Keith Richards with Aztec Indian percussionists, Mexican horns, an Australian didgeridoo, a Congolese bassist and an array of other talented international musicians may come across as a bit off the wall.

But in the case of the remarkable eight-track album Making The World A Better Place, the experiment is something of a triumph. Hundreds of musicians from 31 countries across six continents have been brought together by Playing For Change, a movement formed in California to inspire, connect and bring peace to the world through music.

This album is the third such collection recorded in a quest to enhance the cause. In 2005, co-founders Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke committed to the ideal that through music change can be made and that all races, cultures and societies should be able to live in peace and harmony together.

They created the concept of Songs Around The World by uniting together musicians from many different countries, races and cultures to perform together on the same number.

Although most are well known and the music is superb, the achievement of this album is the clever knitting together of so many talents — young and old, with different beliefs and backgrounds — to join in what is a festival of humanity and respect.

Their conviction — that we are all together, inhabiting one world, for peace and humanity — is a message few would disagree with, even though there may be differences as to how best to achieve such noble ideals.

The performances are brilliantly conceived, beautifully photographed and expertly recorded even though in some instances the “recording studio” sometimes includes the open air, city streets, backyards, bars and the countryside.

The Playing For Change team recorded artists in countries including the Congo, South Africa, Mali, Jamaica, Mexico, Serbia, Portugal, Brazil, Cuba and more over a two-year period.

The result is an infectious set in this musical odyssey around the planet.

Household names such as Keith Richards, Los Lobos, bluesmen Keb Mo and Taj Mahal, Toots Hibbert — of the legendary Toots And The Maytals — and others rub shoulders with street musicians, African choirs and instrumentalists, Cuban guitarists and even a fabulous female Japanese honky-tonk pianist. It’s a cocktail of effervescent music that stirs the senses.

Two pieces of an outstanding collection stand out. There’s a spirited version of the anti-war anthem Down By The Riverside, led by Granpa Elliott, a New Orleans street musician for more than 60 years. He’s joined by Choeur la Grace, a Congolese choir singing the chorus in their own language, with the brilliant Preservation Hall Jazz Band adding a rousing finale.

This music video is called Playing For Change – Down by the Riverside/A Better Place.

The best, however, is saved for the last performance. More than 75 Cubans around the world from Havana and Santiago to Miami and Tokyo came together to sing Jose Marti’s patriotic verses on a passionate rendition of Guantanamera.

This music video is called Guantanamera | Playing For Change | Song Around The World.

US singer Jackson Browne was so impressed with Cuba that he writes in the sleeve notes: “Travelling with playing for change to Havana and Santiago de Cuba was one of the most rewarding and inspiring musical experiences of my life.”

If there is a criticism it has to be the lack of “revolutionary” edge. There is no Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger material here, for example, and maybe in future the Playing For Change Foundation might consider tackling poverty and hunger in its remit. Yet this is a vibrant and inspirational journey across the musical spectrum and one for all to enjoy.

The CD/DVD on Timeless Media is available at www.playingforchange.com, along with updates of Playing For Change’s British tour next month.

British suffragettes and World War I


This video from Britain is called Mark Steel on Sylvia Pankhurst.

By Claire Eustance in Britain:

WWI didn’t end fight for women’s equality

Saturday 19th July 2014

Not all Suffragettes gave up the struggle for votes in 1914, says CLAIRE EUSTANCE

It is still all too easy to dismiss the scope and radicalism of the early 20th century British women’s movement. A case in point is the standard response to the question — what happened to the movement after outbreak of war in August 1914?

You are likely to hear comments along the lines of “Didn’t it all just stop?” or “The Suffragettes stopped attacking buildings and pillar boxes and instead started handing out white feathers to men who didn’t rush to join the military.”

If you are lucky you might find someone who knows something of the women suffragists who embraced the peace movement. Perhaps they might mention the International Congress of Women meeting at The Hague in the Netherlands in April 1915.

Surely the history of the women’s movement has more to it than this? What about the thousands of other women who had joined the myriad of women’s suffrage societies to campaign for an end to the exclusively — albeit partial — male parliamentary franchise?

My talk at the Tolpuddle festival, Keeping the Suffrage Flag Flying, focuses on one of these societies, The Women’s Freedom League (WFL), and considers the ways some of its 5,000-plus members responded to the outbreak of war and the impact the conflict had on them.

“Patriotism before politics” was the position adopted by the British Establishment in August 1914. The message to the suffrage societies was clear — it was selfish for women to continue to demand political rights when the country was at war.

And yet, while Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and other suffrage campaigners were won over by such sentiments, others were less convinced.

Among them was Charlotte Despard, the revered president of the Women’s Freedom League, who declared that war “was the decisive damnation of a corrupt society.”

Although many of her comrades found it impossible to follow her into the peace movement, a significant number agreed that it was vital to keep attention focused on women’s demands for an equal voice in the politics of the nation.

The Women’s Freedom League’s long-standing commitment to the principle of resistance to government without representation remained broadly intact through the years of war.

An example was the decision of one member, Florence Underwood, to continue to refuse to pay income tax on her earnings. The league also moved swiftly to accommodate the wishes of their members who wanted to offer service to their country by channelling some of their considerable organisational skills into supporting working women, mothers and children who had been affected by the war.

The Women’s Freedom League’s commitment to the principles of equality produced what might seem a rather incongruous stance on alcohol — viewed by many as a national scourge in wartime.

However, in Hartlepool in 1917, the entire branch membership rose en masse to protest at the exclusion of women from licenced premises at certain times of the day. It was they claimed “not only an injustice but an insult to women!”

The Hartlepool campaign was just one of many forays taken by the league into debates around civil liberties.

Other campaigns highlighted equal pay, prostitution, sexual abuse and the treatment of women by law courts — topics that are largely still relevant to feminists and radicals today.

Yes, war meant that the women’s movement in Britain was probably organisationally weaker. There was less accord, less publicity and less wealth.

And yet over the same period some important principles relating to women’s rights to work, equality with men, rights of mothers as well as meanings of national identity and citizenship, were tested by women and found wanting.

It was feminism as much, if not more, than suffrage that flourished after 1914. There are some lessons for us there today, surely.

Claire Eustance is senior lecturer in history at the University of Greenwich. She will be giving a talk at the Tolpuddle radical history school.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crash in Ukraine, tragedy and war


Wreckage of flight MH17 in Ukraine

By Alex Lantier:

The crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine

19 July 2014

The remarks Friday by President Barack Obama on the tragic crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine raised far more questions than they answered.

Obama continued the mind-numbing propaganda barrage from US officials and media, denouncing Russia and pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine for shooting down the plane and demanding the surrender of the separatists to the Western-backed regime in Kiev. However, his remarks themselves underscored that this propaganda campaign has no factual basis whatsoever and is leading Washington into an explosive confrontation with Russia.

Obama said: “Here is what we know so far. Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine. We also know that this is not the first time a plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine. Over the last several weeks, Russian-backed separatists have shot down a Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter, and they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet. Moreover, we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia.”

Reread Obama’s comments carefully. You will see that nothing he said proves that pro-Russian forces fired a missile at MH17. Separatist rebels have shot down low-flying Ukrainian military aircraft with portable anti-aircraft missiles, but this does not mean they had either the intent or the capability to destroy a jumbo jet flying at 33,000 feet—an act they knew would hand Washington a massive propaganda weapon.

As for Obama’s claim that the separatists control the area from which the missile was fired, for which he presented no evidence, this means nothing given the chaotic conditions in eastern Ukraine. In the city of Donetsk, the stronghold of the anti-Kiev separatists, forces loyal to Kiev control the airport, from which they routinely shell the city. In fact, shortly before MH17 was allegedly destroyed by a BUK missile near Donetsk, the Kiev regime reinforced its anti-aircraft batteries in the region.

Remarkably, Obama went on to admit that his administration does not know who shot down MH17 or why. He said, “I think it’s too early for us to be able to guess what intentions those who might have launched the surface-to-air missile might have had… In terms of identifying specifically what individual or group of individuals, you know, personnel ordered the strike, how it came about—those are things that I think are going to be subject to additional information that we’re going to be gathering.”

Again, reread Obama’s statement carefully. Behind all the conditional statements and verbal hedging, he is saying nothing about who launched the strike. Obama’s remarks directly contradict those of his own UN ambassador, Samantha Power,

a ‘liberal hawk’ within the Washington administration, a believer in ‘humanitarian wars

who had just stated that there was “credible evidence” that Russia was responsible for the crash, adding, “Russia can end this war. Russia must end this war.”

Obama proceeded to throw a question mark over the entire coverage of the MH17 crash: “I want to point out there will likely be misinformation as well. I think it’s very important for folks to sift through what is factually based and what is simply speculation.”

The picture of the situation that emerges from Obama’s account is remarkable. By his own admission, the United States and its allies are hurtling toward a military confrontation with Russia, under conditions where the White House does not know who is responsible for the MH17 crash and believes powerful political forces are feeding misinformation to the media.

Having already admitted that the CIA did not bother to inform him before spying on German officials, Obama is apparently trying to figure out what his own government is doing—all the while irresponsibly denouncing Russia.

Properly considered, any of the possible explanations for the firing of a missile at MH17 raise the most serious questions about the risk of a direct clash between the Western powers and Russia.

While there is a deafening silence on this in the US media, forces loyal to Kiev may well have fired a BUK missile that took down MH17. The motive that would lie behind such an act is demonstrated by the US media campaign itself: to denounce Russia, step up the campaign for NATO intervention in Ukraine, and seek to whip into line some of Washington’s European allies who are balking at imposing sweeping sanctions against Russia.

The very real possibility that pro-Kiev forces shot down the plane takes into account the close ties between CIA operatives, mercenaries of the US firm formerly known as Blackwater, European intelligence agencies, and the fascist militias that spearhead Kiev’s armed forces. It raises the possibility of direct complicity of sections of the American state in the murder of MH17’s passengers and crew.

Particularly significant are Russian media reports that MH17 briefly crossed the path of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s flight returning from the World Cup and an international summit in Brazil, and that factions in Moscow believe the missile that destroyed MH17 may have been intended for Putin. It is impossible to verify whether such reports are correct. However, if sections of the Russian state come to believe that American and European intelligence agencies sanctioned an assassination attempt on the Russian head of state, the implications are mind-boggling.

On the other hand, if, as the US propaganda campaign claims, MH17 was destroyed by a missile fired by forces allied to or directly aided by Russia, this raises the question of what message the Russian factions involved were trying to send by demonstrating their willingness to murder nearly 300 people. It would certainly show that Moscow takes the crisis in Ukraine far more seriously than Washington realizes, and the situation is extremely dangerous.

The US media and political establishment, in their haste to denounce Russia, appear completely uninterested in these questions. This attitude combines utter recklessness with light-mindedness. What has already been revealed by the MH17 disaster is the deep crisis of Western imperialism and the risk of global war.

United Nations about MH17: here.

Though the investigation of the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has barely begun, the Obama administration and the U.S. media have sold the world on the narrative blaming Russia’s President Putin, with Secretary of State Kerry sealing the deal, writes Robert Parry: here.

Barely 24 hours after the crash of a Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine, leading German media outlets are pushing for an escalation of the confrontation with Russia: here.

Newcastle have paid tribute to two fans who died on flight MH17 on their way to support the club in New Zealand: here.

From the BBC:

The appearance of far-right activists, both foreign and home-grown, among the Ukrainian volunteers fighting in east Ukraine is causing unease.

Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He is known to be dangerous to the rebels: reportedly there is a bounty of nearly $7,000 (£4,090; 5,150 euros) on his head.

In a telephone conversation from an undisclosed location, Mr Skillt told me more about his duties: “I have at least three purposes in the Azov Battalion: I am a commander of a small reconnaissance unit, I am also a sniper, and sometimes I work as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.”

As to his political views, Mr Skillt prefers to call himself a nationalist, but in fact his views are typical of a neo-Nazi.

“It’s all about how you see it,” he says. “I would be an idiot if I said I did not want to see survival of white people. After World War Two, the victors wrote their history. They decided that it’s always a bad thing to say I am white and I am proud.”

‘One stray liberal’

Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white people.

UK arms export licences for Russia still in place despite claims of embargo – report. Many weapons and military components are still approved for export to Russia, report by four Commons committees says: here.

Death of bullied British soldier, new inquest


Private Cheryl James was found dead from a single gunshot wound in November 1995. Photograph: PA

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Deepcut barracks: fresh inquest ordered into soldier’s death

High court quashes 1995 open verdict into death of Private Cheryl James, one of four soldiers who died amid bullying claims

Friday 18 July 2014 11.09 BST

High court judges have ordered a fresh inquest into the death of Private Cheryl James, who died at Deepcut barracks.

Her family applied for a fresh investigation with the consent of the attorney general.

Pte James, 18, was found dead from a single gunshot wound in November 1995. An inquest recorded an open verdict.

She was one of four soldiers who died at the Surrey barracks between 1995 and 2002 amid claims of bullying and abuse.

Privates Sean Benton, James Collinson and Geoff Gray also died from gunshot wounds.

Mr Justice Mitting and Judge Peter Thornton QC both agreed that there was “an insufficiency of inquiry” at the 1995 inquest and quashed its open verdict.

Judge Thornton said “the discovery of new facts or evidence” made “a fresh investigation including a fresh inquest necessary or desirable in the interests of justice”.

Pte James was undergoing initial training at Deepcut when she was found dead with a bullet wound between her right eye and the bridge of her nose.

Her parents, Des and Doreen James, applied through human rights campaign group Liberty for a new inquest after the Human Rights Act was used to secure access to documents held by the authorities about the teenager’s death.

Mr and Mrs James said they were delighted to have a fresh inquest but added that “a meaningful inquiry into Cheryl’s death is almost 20 years late”.

They said in a statement: “When young people die in violent circumstances, a rigorous and transparent investigation should be automatic. Something went dreadfully wrong at Deepcut yet until now no one has bothered to look at how and why our daughter died.

“We can only hope that Cheryl’s legacy helps change the current ineffective and discredited military justice system.”

Liberty solicitor Emma Norton, who represented the couple, said: “Cheryl’s family refused to let her death be swept under the carpet but they’ve had to fight at every stage for answers in the face of a state that thought it could ignore the basic human rights of its troops.

“Cheryl was preparing for a life of service and deserved so much better – her family can now hope to finally get some answers.”

See also here.

Terrible death of Malaysian airlines passengers and crew in Ukraine


Malaysian Airlines flight path

295 people, from many countries, on their way from the Netherlands to Malaysia, died a terrible death. First of all, condolelences to all the families and friends of the victims, wishing them strength in this tragedy. There should be an unbiased, thorough investigation how this happened.

Alex Lantier writes about this:

18 July 2014

Before any investigation had been carried out, leading US politicians and media outlets seized upon yesterday’s terrible crash of a Malaysian Airlines flight in east Ukraine, which cost 295 lives, to legitimize stepped-up threats against Russia, posing the danger of all-out war.

The wreckage of Flight MH 17 is strewn over a nine-mile perimeter in an area controlled by pro-Russian militias fighting the Western-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev. Flight safety experts explained yesterday that the crash could be due to mechanical failure, a bomb inside the jet, or the plane being shot down.

Less than an hour after the crash, however—before even the size and location of the crash site were known—leading US politicians, American media outlets and the US puppet regime in Kiev were insisting that Russia and its east Ukrainian allies had shot down the jetliner with a BUK missile. Ukrainian Interior Ministry official Anton Gerashchenko told the Wall Street Journal: “They clearly thought that it was a military transport plane that they were shooting at. They were the ones who did this.”

US intelligence agencies also claimed the plane had been shot down by a missile, citing satellite data, but without saying who had fired it. Neither Kiev nor Washington presented any evidence, such as satellite images, radar tracking data or eyewitness testimony, to back up their allegations.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak—whose country faces a second airline disaster this year, after the March 8 disappearance of all 239 people aboard MH 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing—called for investigations to proceed. He said: “The Ukrainian authorities believe that the plane was shot down. At this early stage, however, Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy … If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must be swiftly brought to justice.”

If MH 17 was shot down by a BUK missile system—a Soviet-designed system fielded by both the Russian army (with 250 units) and the Ukrainian army (60 units)—there are three possibilities as to who shot it down. It could be the Kiev regime or the various far-right militias fighting alongside its armed forces, east Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists, or the armed forces of Russia itself.

Russian media reported that on Wednesday, Kiev dispatched anti-air missile batteries to the area around Donetsk, the largest city held by pro-Russian militias. From there, advanced missile systems like BUK or S-300 could have shot down a plane in the region.

Moscow or pro-Russian separatist militias in eastern Ukraine operating BUK batteries with technical assistance from Russian forces could also have hit the jet. The east Ukrainian separatist forces reportedly seized a BUK battery when they captured a Ukrainian military base earlier this week, and they claimed they had shot down a Ukrainian airplane shortly before MH 17 crashed.

As to whether Kiev, Moscow, or their allied militias shot down MH 17, one can only wait for an investigation to proceed, assuming that the fighting in east Ukraine will allow it to take place. Whoever shot the jetliner down, if it was indeed shot down, the main responsibility for this horrific act lies with the catastrophe unleashed in Ukraine by Washington and its European allies.

The crash took place a day after Washington and the European Union (EU) imposed new sanctions against Russia, amid a bloody civil war in Ukraine in which Washington has backed a far-right, anti-Russian regime in Kiev that came to power in a fascist-led putsch this February. In the past week, mass graves were discovered in east Ukrainian cities captured by the Kiev regime, and Ukrainian artillery bombarded Russian cities near the border.

Washington has sought to continuously intensify political and military tensions in order to encircle Russia, and, by making the situation ever more violent, counter elements in Germany who, for reasons of their own, are nervous about the subordination of German policy to US interests. US officials and media therefore seized on the crash to demand military escalation in Ukraine, a Russian capitulation to US interests in Ukraine, and a total alignment of the European powers on US policy.

The New York Times placed all blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though it admitted that it did not know who was responsible for the crash. Noting that “it may take a while to fully sort out who is responsible,” it called for an end to the Ukraine conflict, asserting: “There is only one man who can stop it—President Vladimir Putin of Russia, by telling the Russian-backed secessionists in Ukraine to end their insurgency and by stopping the flow of money and heavy weaponry to these groups.”

US Republican Senator Lindsay Graham called the crash a “game-changer,” adding: “You would take the sanctions we’ve unilaterally imposed, toughen them and get the world behind them. Start arming the Ukrainian military, that is what I would do.”

Fellow Republican Senator John McCain said: “I think there’s going to be hell to pay and there should be … If these are separatists, which are also Russian, Vladimir Putin should be paying a heavy price.”

Aspiring Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said the European powers now had a responsibility to impose the deep economic sanctions on Russia that Washington has demanded of them. “They must say, ‘Putin has gone too far and we are not going to stand idly by,’” Clinton said. “There should be outrage in Europe.”

Such a policy of deliberately and continuously provoking a major military power armed with nuclear weapons, such as Russia, is immensely dangerous. In the state of heightened military alert and uncertainty provoked by the Ukrainian civil war, engineered by the Western powers, a passenger jet has been destroyed and nearly 300 lives lost.

One must ask: what is the next “unexpected event” in the spiral of escalation in Ukraine, and will it trigger a direct military confrontation between the United States, the EU, and Russia involving nuclear weapons?