Sunday, 18 August 2013

Incinerator study sees big picture only

Taken from Big Issue in the North article

The health impact on babies of the smallest airborne particles that are generated by municipal waste incinerators will be ignored by a major study.
Complex research started last year and is expected to take two years. A team from Imperial College London and Kings College London are using health data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and congenital anomaly registers.
The study, commissioned by the Health Protection Agency (now Public Health England), is in response to public concerns that emissions are particularly damaging to the health of babies and infants. Critics have claimed that incinerators increase infant mortality levels in the areas surrounding them. Supporters of incinerators claim factors such as deprivation are responsible for any health problems.
The Health Protection Agency first promised a study in 2003, a year before a study in Japan concluded that the risks of infant deaths and malformations decreased with distance from incinerators. A similar study conducted in Italy three years later also came to similar conclusions.
Legal action
The number of waste incinerators in the UK has risen since then and the study will examine all 22 municipal solid waste incinerators in England, Wales and Scotland, including ones located in Bolton, Grimsby and Kirklees.
Three years ago, The Big Issue in the North reported that residents in Thirsk who were opposed to a proposed new incinerator there were threatened with legal action in a letter from Kirklees Council. This had displayed campaigner Michael Ryan’s claims that the incinerator in the borough was linked to high infant mortality levels.
The letter cited a study by NHS Kirklees that attributed the higher mortality levels to smoking by pregnant women and malnutrition and found “no evidence whatsoever that the higher death rate is in any way due to air pollution of any kind”.
Public Health England agrees, telling politicians: “Provided modern incinerators are well designed and maintained, their contribution to air pollution at ground level is likely to be very small.”
Infant deaths
However, Ryan – who lives in Shrewsbury and first became interested in incinerators after two of his children died – used ONS to show that the affluent area of Chingford Green in North London, located close to Britain’s largest incinerator, had a rate of 10.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003-2011. Neighbouring Valley ward had a rate of 9.4 deaths. Both are significantly higher than the national average of 4.56.
Ryan’s examination of all 625 wards in London has revealed that nine of the 44 wards with rates above 7.5 deaths per 1,000 births are clustered around the Edmonton municipal waste incinerator. A further ten are downwind of the cluster of incinerators that includes Colnbrook incinerator. Other clusters above 7.5 include wards around the Kings College Hospital incinerator and one in Bermondsey. There are 59 wards with rates of less than 2 deaths per 1,000 live births and they are in locations with minimal exposure to incinerators.
A pre-publication online copy of the current Public Health England study reveals it will concentrate on filtrating particles of 10 microns (PM10) or more in diameter. No specific work is to be undertaken on particles less than PM2.5, which are able to penetrate deepest into the lungs. European limit values for emissions currently apply to particles of a minimum of PM10 but this will drop to PM2.5 in 2015.
Former Manchester University scientist Graham Cliff told The Big Issue in the North: “The initial failure to regulate asbestos particles below PM10 led to thousands of deaths from mesothelioma across Britain.” Cliff believes Britain lags well behind other countries in assessing the possible health affects of human exposure to what are called nanoparticles. This results in inadequate air pollution regulations.
He also said the current study’s model to assess the dispersion of particles is “out of date”.
Air pollution
The Lullaby Trust, a charity that provides support for bereaved families who have been affected by sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), has funded its own study into the role of air pollution on SIDS and is awaiting the results.
A much longer study – eight years – by 60 scientists connected to the World Health Organisation has concluded that air pollution causes 29,000 early deaths in the UK.
Two million deaths every year globally are believed to result from air pollution from human activity. Whether that includes the impact of waste incinerators remains disputed.

Rain on the parade - threat to Durham Miners' Gala

The biggest union event in the country could be scrapped because of a funding shortage resulting from failed legal action.
The Durham Miners’ Gala has been held in the city in July since 1871 and this year attracted over 150,000 people, despite the area’s last colliery closing in the mid-1990s.
Legal bill
Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) has organised the gala since it began, although with no working miners the union hasn’t received income from contributions since 1993.
The association continues to represent miners made unwell by harsh working conditions.
In 2009, years of campaigning proved successful when the Department for Work and Pensions agreed that osteoarthritis of the knee would be classed as an industrial disease. Miners were twiceas likely as other workers to contract the disease, which severely restricts mobility.
But the DMA was unsuccessful in a subsequent court case aimed at gaining compensation for miners, when the judge refused to allow the case to proceed because it was outside the three-year time limit for claims. An appeal against the ruling was also lost and the DMA was left with a legal bill for £1.4 million. It has also now received a demand for costs from the government’s solicitors. DMA general secretary Dave Hopper said that due to negotiations it would not be appropriate to give a figure but said it is “considerable” and threatens the future of the gala.
‘Struggles of the past’
“We have launched a Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala as we urgently need to raise funds to ensure the gala continues,” said Hopper. “We owe it to young people to remember the struggles of the past to make things better in the future.”
Amongst those marching at this year’s gala was John Chilton, a miner at the Cleveland Potash pit near Whitby, who described it as “magnificent and uplifting”. He added: “It upholds the values of solidarity, internationalism and community spirit.”
The DMA has meanwhile started organising Crisis in the Community meetings in former mining villages, to discuss how to support areas hit by the recession and government cutbacks that have also been targeted by right-wing groups such as the English Defence League. The first was held in Murton and there are also plans to organise advice centres for local people. 
For more details on Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala go to:- 

(Coastal) Path of most resistance

The government has denied it has plans to curtail the England Coast Path project after the minister responsible said it might not be a high priority.
The plan to create a well- marked walking trail around the whole of the English coast – around 5,581 miles long – was part of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
Natural England is responsible for creating the England Coast Path but campaigners fear there is no timetable for mapping the route and work such as the installation of gates and steps has yet to be completed.
Supporters believe the coastal trail will bring tourism and economic benefits but some landowners have resisted opening up their land.
Last month environment minister Richard Benyon added to ramblers’ concerns when he cast doubt on the future of what he called “expensive” schemes inherited from the previous Labour government, adding: “The Coastal Access Bill was a sledgehammer to miss a nut.”
But a spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted the government would continue with the path.
Ramblers have been voluntarily organising surveys of coastlines. Tom Halstead has co-ordinated efforts by East Yorkshire and Derwent Ramblers to map over 100 miles of coastline from North Teesside down to the Humber estuary.
Halstead said much of the northern section, from Saltburn- by-the-Sea to Filey Brigg, is already fully accessible and well used. “But there are virtually no rights of way along the coast from Bridlington to Humberside,” he added. “People do walk the coast as there are paths, but no one who sets out from Bridlington can be sure how far they can walk before they are forced to turn back or make a big detour inland. People regularly complain about obstacles preventing them enjoying walking the coastal areas.”
Natural England has recently completed coastal works south of Whitby at Ravenscar. There has been approval for stretches further up the coast, between North Gare and South Bents, and in Cumbria between Allonby and Whitehaven. A DEFRA spokesperson said: “The aim is to have both open to the public in 2014.”
Halstead said: “I’m delighted about the new plans, but DEFRA needs to confirm an exact timetable for all works to be completed, especially as the Welsh coastal path was completed last year and is now bringing significant economic benefits to the country.”
According to the Welsh Assembly the path was walked by 2.8 million people last year, brought in an additional £16 million to the Welsh economy and has put Wales on the map as a major tourist destination.
Tourism boost
New coastal paths from Silecroft on the Cumbrian coast right down to the Welsh border on the River Dee and towards Berwick from Tynemouth have the potential to boost tourism on both of northern England’s coasts. But Halstead fears the Conservatives, “who opposed the now extremely popular rights of way legislation introduced under Labour, are more likely to listen to landowners and the National Farmers Union, both of whom have philosophical objections to anyone except landowners accessing land”.
He added: “Let’s hope not in this case.”
The DEFRA spokesperson accepted that the Wales Coast Path has been an economic success and said: “We have already helped thousands of people to better enjoy our spectacular coastline and that is why we are continuing the programme so that more residents, visitors and businesses can benefit.”

NHS SOS - how the NHS was betrayed book review

The book NHS SOS: how the NHS was betrayed and how we can save it is a painful story that needs reading, and acting upon.

It is the most cherished institution in the country and yet England no longer has a NHS. Getting it back is going to require effective campaigning to ensure that a future Labour Government keeps to their public promises to reverse the legislation adopted under the current Coalition Government.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 has ended 65 years of universal health care in the form of equal access to comprehensive care irrespective of personal income.  The Health Secretary has now only to promote rather than provide health care by allocating resources. Market forces and unaccountable organisations are going to be left to take over. Amongst those who hope to make a profit from the changes are 70 Mps and 142 peers who have connections with private health care firms.

Treatment on the basis of need and not the ability to pay was why the NHS was created on 5 July 1948. Before World War Two only 43% of the population were covered by the National Insurance Scheme and over twenty-one million people, mainly women, children and the sick, were not covered at all. When Churchill’s government brought all hospitals under public control, the population got a taste of universal health care that ensured it remained once hostilities ended.

In NHS SOS, a group of doctors, analysts and health campaigners uncover the lies, self-interest, democratic weaknesses and media failings that have led to the betrayal of the NHS.

Cameron and his party went to great lengths before the 2010 election to promise the electorate that the NHS was safe in his hands. Nick Clegg reaffirmed this commitment, when he joined hands with the Tories.

Within days, Andrew Lansley was unveiling his plans for radical change, none of which had been placed before the electorate, who were informed it was about putting doctors in charge. When the latter demonstrated they were bitterly opposed the public was again let down, this time by the press and TV. These institutions failed to explain this was because GP’s knew the plans involved turning the NHS into a full-blooded, competitive market open to ‘any qualified provider’ and allowing up to 49% of NHS hospitals to be used for private patients.

The BBC, which provides 70% of news consumption on TV, is slammed in the book for failing to provide an ongoing narrative of an emerging national disaster. That might have been avoided if the leadership of British Medical Association and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges had reacted to their member’s anger by utilising it in an effective campaign.

Labour too failed to offer effective opposition in Parliament, the party that set up the NHS having helped pave the way for its destruction by favouring external competition over internal competition during the Blair and Brown years. Worse still was the paying of capital development projects through the woefully inefficient and horrendously expensive Private Finance Initiative. Unite the union wants to see more working class people elected as Labour MPs and this books shows just why.

What you can do to the save the NHS is the title of last chapter of the book. Union members can join established campaigning organisations such as Keep Our NHS Public. If there isn’t a local campaign then consider setting one up. Help mobilise public opinion with events, petitions, marches and other protests. Unite is also seeking reports of cuts and closures. In the lead up to the next election pressurise prospective candidates on their views about repealing the 2012 Act.

NHS SOS: How the NHS was betrayed - and how we can save it is published by ONEWORLD and costs £8.99 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Rebel road launched to celebrate trade union and labour movement heroes

Welcome to Rebel Road, a section of the website that celebrates trade union and labour movement heroes that have been publicly recognised in one form or another such as a statue, plaque or building named after them. You’ll also find pubs with historical connections and a list of museums and exhibitions that anyone wanting to know more about labour history should consider visiting.

Letter to A Love Supreme on Di Canio

The following letter was sent to Sunderland fanzine, A Love Supreme, for publication. The fanzine has so far taken a cowardly attitude towards the fact that Sunderland has appointed a fascist as its football manager, preferring not to condemn this clearly backward move in an area already suffering badly from unemployment and poverty and where fascism is on the rise. The fanzine is currently idolising Di Canio following a 3-0 win against Newcastle at the end of last season.

The letter is a response to a piece of utter nonsense from Michael Graham, who runs Roker Report.

In Michael Graham’s Love will Tear US APART feature at the end of last season he asserts that the debate over Di Canio is now ‘mostly settled’ because Sunderland beat the Mags 3-0. Well not in my household I have to say, where as the new season approaches myself and my son will be making arrangements to watch any other side than Sunderland until the Italian fascist departs. And I am in contact with plenty of other Sunderland fans that are also doing the same. Indeed when I wore a Love Sunderland Hate Di Canio t-shirt at the recent Durham Miners’ Gala I received overwhelming support that ran 20 to 1 in my favour. 
Graham mentions a debate. Well it was one that was fairly easy to win as Di Canio had ample opportunities to refute his previous admittance that he was a fascist by using just five words – I am not a fascist. He refused to do so.
What Di Canio did was to issue a statement "I am not a racist and I do not support the ideology of fascism," that his fascist friends know means absolutely nothing, as back when he made his fascist salutes to Lazio fans in 2005 he responded to after-match criticism by saying: “ I will continue my battle for freedom even with more determination than before. I will do so in appropriate places until I have strength in my body. From today I will avoid certain situations such as public displays of the salute but the people who share certain values know when I looked them in the eyes that I am not the kind of person who has second thoughts.”
Di Canio subsequently demonstrated he couldn’t even keep his commitment to ‘avoid certain situations’ by openly attending in 2010 the funeral of one of his best friends, Paolo Signorelli, who was known as the ‘Black (shirt) professor.’ In the 60s Signorelli helped found the New Order fascist organisation that regularly committed atrocities such as the Bologna train bombing that slaughtered 85 members of the public in 1980.  
So by his words and actions it’s clear Di Canio is a fascist. Some Sunderland fans have said ‘so what, we are not interested in politics.’ I can accept that view a lot more easily than the attempt by Graham to paint a rather rosy of that horrible little man, Mussolini. Graham twists himself in knots attempting to show he wasn’t so bad in the context of the times. To be honest I am slightly sad he didn’t mention he got the trains to run on time.
What are we to make of nonsense such as he ‘won the support of the working class through legitimate leadership.”  So organising a coup d’etat, then rigging and getting rid of elections before killing and imprisoning your political opponents is legitimate leadership! Eradicating all forms of working class self-organisation such as trade unions meant he was a dictator of a police state. Graham can’t even bring himself to state this in his article. 
There was no intrinsic racial policy to Italian fascism? What therefore are we to make of Mussolini’s statement in 1928 that he feared ‘the whole White race, the Western race can be submerged by other coloured races which are multiplying at a rate unknown to our race?” In 1938 he told a Rome audience after the invasion of Ethiopia: “This is why the racial laws of the empire will be rigorously observed and that all who sin against them will be expelled, punished, imprisoned. Because for the empire to be preserved the natives must be clearly and forcefully aware of our superiority.” There are hundreds of similar quotes that Graham has ignored. All of which rather casts doubt on his claims to be a historian.
To claim such a title is quite something. Unless I am mistaken it would mean Graham is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. That’s the general definition. I can find nothing anywhere for Michael Graham to make such a claim. The only historian with such a name specialises in flute history. As far as I know the ALS writer has no books or papers published in his name on history.
Mark Metcalf
Former Sunderland season ticket holder
Love Sunderland
Hate Di Canio