The MH17 disaster is one big guessing game

by Pierre Marshall

A Malaysian Airline flight mysteriously dropped out of the sky last Wednesday.

We know all the standard background details about the aeroplane and its passengers, and I think it’s fair to say at this point in the news cycle that the actual story is pretty much finished. The plane was destroyed. It was a one-time event and it’s over now.

The nationalities of all the passengers are known and nobody’s suggesting that the plane was hijacked or blown up by a passenger. There were a couple of videos of a plume of smoke rising from somewhere near Torez, but for now the only images we have of the crash are endlessly looping videos of mutilated corpses lying about in the summer heat. It makes for good news fodder, but audiences are fickle and there’s only so many ways to report on a pile of dead bodies and twisted metal.

At this stage the story is feeding off a steady dribble of press conferences and statements from important people who are wheeled out to puzzle how exactly this disaster happened. Underlying it all is the more politically-charged question of who is responsible. As for the rest of the population, they’ve already decided on their own version of events. Some think the rebels did it, some think the Ukrainians did it, and neither side has enough substantial proof either way. We can guess that neither side genuinely intended to shoot down a civilian airliner, so whatever happened it was probably a really unfortunate mistake.

Buk missile launcher control panel, by Yuriy Lapitskiy

Buk missile launcher control panel, by Yuriy Lapitskiy

The rebels did it

This is the most straightforward theory, the rebels mistook the passenger jet for an Ukrainian military plane and shot it down with a missile launcher. To back this up Igor Strelkov made some hastily-deleted comments on Vkontakte claiming rebels shot down an An-26 military transport plane near Torez. That would make sense since flight MH17 ‘fell out of the sky’ in around the same area at around the same time.

The evidence for this theory hinges on the assumption that the rebels had a missile launcher capable of targeting and hitting an aircraft so high up. So far proponents of this theory claim the rebels most likely used a Buk system, and the rebels say they don’t have one of those, and we’re back to “he said, she said”.

Tributes to MH17 victims outside the Dutch embassy in Berlin, by Pierre Marshall

Tributes to MH17 victims outside the Dutch embassy in Berlin, by Pierre Marshall

The Ukrainian military did it

There were some inconsistencies in the MH17 flight path, it would have normally done a slight right turn shortly after entering Ukrianian airspace which would have adjusted its course to avoid the rebel held region. This right-turn waypoint is the area where some maps say contact with the plane was lost, but flightradar was tracking it all the way to Torez. The Ukrainian military might have mistaken MH17 for a Russian military jet because it deviated from the normal civilian flight route. Or, moving down the less plausible theories, the Ukrainian military mistook MH17 for Putin’s presidential plane (this has since been roundly dismissed as Putin wasn’t flying over Ukraine at the time). Or it was part of a secret military coup within the Ukrainian military which went wrong. The Russian air force is quite certain that a Ukrainian military plane was near MH17 when it went down, which would be in line with the claims a now-vanished Spanish air-traffic controller made on twitter.

The best explanation Malaysian Airlines can muster for the change of route is that every other airline was regularly flying over the same airspace and they thought it was safe. Still, there are unanswered questions, and as long as we’re kept in the dark about the change of flight path people will be quite happy to use their imagination to fill in the blanks.

Malaysia airlines flight meal, by Jonom1

Malaysia airlines flight meal, by Jonom1


While we’re still groping around for adequate information, the next step is a guessing game where we work out the suspect based on who had the best motive to commit the crime. In the current circumstances the downing of a civilian airliner can only be a good thing for the Ukrainian state, the killing of innocent civilians is a morally indefensible act. A line has been crossed here, a small regional conflict now concerns the rest of the world with the citizens of 10 other countries killed in the crossfire. An international appeal for ‘stability’ would play nicely into Poroshenko’s hands.

Furthermore, the incident occurred within the internationally recognised boundaries of Ukraine, so the Ukrainian authorities are in a good position to prove they didn’t do it. This is particularly important when trying to locate the aeroplane’s black box. Russia have said they won’t take it, and the Ukrainian state can’t be trusted to investigate the data which might implicate it. Personally I think the Malaysians should have the box, though the rebels have already taken it and likely stashed it away somewhere nobody will ever find it.

The counter to this line of argument is that the Ukrainian state had no long-term need to shoot down an airliner. Some have suggested that the rebels were winning and the Ukrainian military needed a magic bullet to turn things in their favour. From what I can see that’s just not true. The Ukrainian army forced rebels to retreat from Slavyansk last week and they began encircling the city of Donetsk. The rebels were putting out ’300′ style propaganda, as if this were their last stand. Igor Strelkov’s deputy even signed off a famous letter with:

Forgive us for not dying in Slavyansk. We may yet have a chance to die in Donetsk if Russia will not help us.

We may yet have a chance to die in Donetsk. They’re courageous words, invoking a final desperate chance to save the day. They’re not the words of someone confident of their victory.

Even if the rebels did shoot down the airliner, the Ukrainian state still shares the blame. Donetsk International Airport was out of action and the residents in rebel-held territory knew that the sound of planes meant Ukrainian air strikes. For two weeks the Ukrainian army bombarded rebel cities with all kinds of artillery. They put the residents of those places under sustained fire, and if those residents get a hold of a missile battery and start shooting down planes, who is at fault? Who pulled the trigger and who started the war?

Imagine this time last year, I’d not heard of Donetsk or Lugansk, or the village of Grabovo. Now these names take top place in news bulletins every day, lets try not to forget them too soon.

Now is the time to raise our voices on TTIP.

Action in Edinburgh

Action in Edinburgh

Behind closed doors, the EU and US are planning the biggest corporate power grab in a decade. If agreed, the EU-US trade deal (TTIP) would grant corporations the power to sue governments, threatening to lock-in the privatisation of our schools and NHS.

Rules that protect workers, the environment, food safety, digital rights and privacy would be undermined, with harmful industries like fracking and GM technologies encouraged.

This is a deal that would have devastating and irreversible impacts on our society. But we are being entirely shut out of the decision making process. Negotiations are shrouded in secrecy. Anyone taking part must sign nondisclosure agreements. There is no access to the draft text of the agreement – even for MPs.

If ever there was an agreement that politicians and big business wanted to push through on the quiet, this is it. But we won’t let them. As politicians and lobbyists meet in secret, the international movement to stop TTIP is growing.

Bringing together farmers and trade unionists, environmentalists and privacy campaigners, new and diverse coalitions are emerging in opposition to TTIP. Protests are gathering pace across the EU and US, with a mass arrest of 250 protesters – including MEPs and political candidates – at the last round of negotiations in Brussels.

Just two days before the next round of negotiations on TTIP, people around the UK came together to say: hands off! From Brighton to Bradford, Cardiff to Cambridge, Sheffield to Swindon, many of actions were planned and the fight back delivered. Hundreds of people took part in creative actions outside the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, in central London.

Now is the time to take action. The negotiators are working against the clock. For the US this agreement must be concluded by early 2016 to avoid running up against the presidential election. We can prevent that happening.

President Obama has already been refused special powers to negotiate the deal through congress. The European Commission has been forced to hold a public consultation. In the UK, MPs and MEPs who support TTIP are on the back foot and more and more people are becoming clued-up on the threat we face. We are winning the argument. Now, we must raise our voices.

On 12 July, NHS campaigners, anti-fracking groups, major trade unions, local food growers and many more (see the list of supporters below) took to the streets together for the beginning of a broad and exciting new UK campaign. We are part of an international movement with the power to defeat this agreement and strengthen the position of the many against the few.

Join us! #noTTIP

The #noTTIP day of action is supported by:

Part of the #NoTTIP day of action, supported by:, Biofuelwatch, Campaign Against Climate Change, Community Food Growers Network, Corporate Watch, Disabled People Against Cuts, European Greens in London, Frack Free Sussex, Frack Off London, Friends of the Earth, Fuel Poverty Action, Globalise Resistance, GMB, GreenNet, IOPS, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Keep Our NHS Public, Lewisham People Before Profit, London Federation of Green Parties, Occupy London, Open Rights Group, OurNHS, People & Planet, People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Platform, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Reclaim the Power, Red Pepper, Roj Women’s Association, STOPAIDS, Student Stop Aids Campaign, SumOfUs, UK Food Group, UNISON, University and College Union (UCU), War on Want, We Own It, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, World Development Movement, Young Greens.


New Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association (GRTPA) launched in Westminster

The GRTPA was started in September 2013 by an English Romany Gypsy Officer from Thames Valley Police, Jim Davies and a Czech Roma Officer from Cambridgeshire, Petr Torak, who met by chance at an Association of Chief Police Officers conference. The association has grown quickly and now has over 50 members from the UK and several members from Europe.The formation and national launch of the GRTPA will mark a key milestone in how Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities participate and engage with police forces up and down the country.

Jim Davies, GRTPA Chair and Police Officer at Thames Valley Police said: “I had heard of other Traveller Police Officers but didn’t know who they were. We just weren’t that visible. Part of the problem is, I think, that such is the level of discrimination towards us, discrimination that exists in all walks of life, many Travellers who have built successful careers are apprehensive about disclosing their ethnicity for fear it may harm them. This is as true in policing as it is in other professions.”

Petr Torak, GRTPA member and Police Officer at Cambridgeshire Police said: “First and foremost we are a support association for Police Staff who are Gypsy, Roma or Traveller. We are there to provide support to our members and help in any way we can with the issues that affect our working lives.” “However we can do much more than this. We want to help break down the barriers between the Police and the Gypsy Roma Traveller community. We want to be a police network that will give Gypsy, Roma Traveller people the confidence to be visible, and by being visible I think we can turn that age old myth, that all Gypsies and Travellers are criminals, on its head.”

Yvonne MacNamara, CEO for the Traveller Movement said: “The Traveller Movement is proud to be supporting the launch of the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Police Association and we hope that it will mark the beginning of a more meaningful relationship between the police and the communities and will build trust on all sides.” “The formation of the GRTPA also sends out a clear message of hope for all young Travellers. The barriers are being broken down and it’s good to see Romany Gypsies, Roma and Travellers visibly engaging with civil society in positions of authority and responsibility.

Press release by Mike Doherty, Campaigns and Communications Traveller Movement.


Media bias and UKIP, the party of the people

BBCPurpleBy Nathan Akehurst & Manishta Sunnia in collaboration with Yasmin Spark

In a YouGov survey released two days before the recent elections, 47% of respondents thought there was a media bias against UKIP. These figures include a majority of UKIP and Tory voters plus 40% and 31% of Labour and Lib Dem supporters respectively. People seemed to have bought into Nigel Farage’s claims that the press are giving UKIP a rough ride.

This is odd as the exact opposite seems to have been the case. Between 2009 and 2013, UKIP’s spokespeople appeared on Question Time twenty one times compared to the Green Party’s meagre eleven. This is unrepresentative of the size, popularity and vote distribution of the two parties. This is also an increase compared the amount of airtime given to other relevant parties such as the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. From the year 2012 to 2013, media citations for Ukip also rose from 10,000 to a whopping 25,000.

UKIP has undoubtedly grown in support and stature. But it has not done so enough to warrant the level of attention handed to it by an unquestioning commentariat. Farage’s own ‘political earthquake’ phrase was thrown about by media outlets scant hours after polls for council elections had closed. To give some perspective, UKIP now have 120-odd seats out of the 4000+ that were elected. When non-voters are taken into account, this giant ‘earthquake’ is more of a slight tremor. Just 5.4% of the electorate voted for UKIP. There must be reasons other than popular support to explain why UKIP is getting so much airtime.


Not all of this airtime is positive, granted. UKIP attracts scandals like a cowpat attracts flies. UKIP politicians thinking that gays cause flooding, that Londoners need to wear masks to prevent themselves from catching Eastern European diseases, that disabled foetuses should be aborted, et cetera, is newsworthy. UKIP punch above their weight because they are a polarising force. They have done everything possible to incur the ire of progressives and leftists, whilst at the same time hitting their message home to swathes of the public – often in solidly Labour areas. However, it does not explain the fact that Farage and his band have been given an unreasonably easy ride. The interviewer in which Farage made his comments about Romanians did not merely prove that the UKIP’s leader had a tendency towards racism but how easy it was to corner him. Instead, the Nick Robinsons and David Dimblebys of the establishment have feted and cajoled him. Even where they have challenged him, he has been allowed to define the terms of the debate. To be sure, UKIP are growing and either good or bad stories about them are selling newspapers, but there is something darker going on.

UKIP uses the language of anti-politics and does so adroitly, tapping into public anger about out-of-touch elites. But its programme is anything but anti-establishment. Its leadership and money are drawn from traditional elites. It relies on assumptions that once again are becoming normative and are defining the political consensus. Clare Moody, a Labour candidate, released leaflets in her campaign claiming she was tougher than UKIP on benefit claimants. Sadiq Khan wrote a letter of ‘apology’ to UKIP voters to win them back. Other Labour politicians (and indeed Conservatives and Lib Dems) have jumped on the immigrant-bashing bandwagon. Indeed, it was only last year that the government sent vans around telling immigrants to ‘GO HOME.’

10309575_10152745312004409_3513652612846765248_nUKIP claims it is saying what no-one else wants to say. In fact, the political world is lining up to say it. That’s part of the real reason the media cover UKIP so much- because they fit a narrative that is entrenched enough to use to sell papers. The Greens, on the other hand, railing against draconian immigration policies and arguing for a citizens’ income, can be dismissed as cranks by, as Farage puts it, ‘the political class and their mates in the media.’ Unlike UKIP, the Greens do not receive swathes of money from the wealthy and have an elected MP. Yet, the media have still dismissed the Greens as ‘a protest party’. The media’s complacency and endorsement of UKIP when challenged fall into deaf ears and flippant behaviour, such as when the SNP’s Alex Salmond raised the issue of media bias on election night.

A simple look at their narrow, divisive and bigoted policy platform demonstrates that UKIP are not a party of ‘the people.’ The question remains – how do we recuperate the public from a shift toward the politics of the far right that has been fundamentally sustained by mainstream media and political elite?

End of Equality by Beatrix Campbell

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Equality is a perplexing thing, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to decipher what equality actually looks like, it just seems like a corporate term that makes companies look good – ‘an equal opportunities employer‘ they put on their job ads. The title of award winning writer Beatrix Campbell’s latest book ‘The End of Equality’ (note the title is posed as a missive rather than a question) drew me in. It’s not the first time I’ve come across her work outside of her columns for the Guardian, a few years ago I was engrossed in ‘Goliath’a book that chronicled the link between hyper masculinity and economic recession.

End of Equality chronicles the link between increasing gender inequality in the age of rampant Capitalism looking at the examples of the burgeoning  economies of India, China and Latin America and with dogmatic research (the book has 198 notes at the back) shows that with a rising GDP comes more inequality between the sexes, more violence, more oppression than ever before, or as Campbell posits:-

 ‘…with Neo-liberalism comes Neo-Patriarchy…’

I was in a short conversation with an acquaintance about this book, and she said ‘it’s a bit depressing, isn’t it?’ Yes, that we have to keep outlining what’s happening to Woman all over the world in 2014 when there’s absolutely no excuse for it. The tragic proof of that is with the slaughtering of Women in America and the hashtag #YesAllWomen  that arose with tens of thousands of Women’s truths being aired. But this is in the mist of a tragedy, second wave feminism rose on the truths of Women being aired publicly after centuries of tragedy, it was supposed to be over with equal pay acts, sexual discrimination laws supposedly cemented in law. Campbell outlines some of these victories: the ones that didn’t get a hashtag, like that of the unions taking councils to court over not paying compensation to Women workers who were unlawfully paid less than their male counterparts; the unions won, the only headline was that of the councils having to sell the ‘silverware’ to give women workers what was legally theirs.That’s what’s depressing, victories don’t warrant a hashtag only tragedy does.

End of Equality is a quick, jargon free read. It outlines the way that hyper capitalism does not empower but exploits. Sometimes it’s hard to look to the future for what it could be, there’s always so much going on right now; I’ll leave the final word to Beatrix:-

‘Imagine men without violence. Imagine sex without violence. Imagine that men stop stealing our stuff-our time, our money, our bodies; imagine societies that share the cost of care, that share the costs of everything… it is do-able, reasonable and revolutionary.’

Why Labour’s proposals won’t fix renting

Mandate for Change

By Christine Haigh of Lambeth Renters.

A recent announcement by the Labour Party stated that if they win the next general election, they would reform the private renting sector. This made some of us involved in renters campaign groups around the UK, sit up and take note.

Not because their proposals would get anywhere near fixing the problems of private renting – but because it showed that the political mainstream is finally beginning to wake up to the magnitude of the housing crisis. This crisis is, of course, partially of Labour’s own making since for 13 years up to 2010, the party failed to change course from a Tory agenda which saw the advent of buy-to-let mortgages, the sell-off of public housing to mega housing associations and through right-to-buy the end of secure tenancies and controlled rents for private tenants. Then Labour was swept from power in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, triggered by the subprime mortgage crash – a product of an increasingly financialised global economic system. The excesses of a system which they did nothing to curb but instead ushered in government determined, to reward the culprits and punish the rest further.

Insecure, poor quality and unaffordable housing is now the norm for a growing number of the population. And Labour’s new proposals barely acknowledge the root causes of this situation, never mind tackle them. Indeed, an analysis of the shortcomings of the proposals also exposes the risks of divide and rule within the increasingly large and diverse section of the population that now rents from private landlords. This also highlighted the need for strong and diverse renters organising within the growing movement for housing justice.

Labour propose to abolish letting agents’ fees. Given that many letting agents charge tenants fees of hundreds of pounds before they can move in, this is welcoming news. But those who are most likely to use letting agents tend to be those on higher incomes. Letting agents point-blank refuse to let properties to tenants on housing benefit. This was powerfully highlighted by Haringey Housing Action Group’s ‘Community Housing Inspection’, which later inspired a London-wide day of action targeting letting agents in spring 2013.

While measures to introduce longer tenancies and limit rent hikes within them would also be an improvement, Ed Miliband was quick to point out that rents would still be set by the market – regardless of how unaffordable it is for those on low or even average incomes for whom access to secure and relatively affordable social housing can only ever be a dream these days.

Over the past couple of years, groups of renters have been emerging across the country. Now in London alone there are almost ten groups demanding greater rights for private tenants – a product of the skyrocketing rents in the capital and the mutual support that exists through the London Renters network – a coalition of renter groups.

The coalition has organised a number of actions to highlight problems suffered by all private tenants such as holding a spoof housewarming party in a newly built rented flat in east London to highlight high rents and bedding down in sleeping bags in the lobby of the Department of Communities and Local Government to expose evictions by landlords as the leading cause of

But aside from pulling off stunts like these, the groups involved are doing the much less visible and glamorous (but arguably more important) work of organising renters locally, trying to ensure that their groups reflect the diversity of those who rent from private landlords. It’s hard work – but if we want genuine housing justice rather than just a sop to pacify a better-off segment of renters, there’s no substitute for it.

More information of renters groups across the country can be found here: ExeTRA private tenants projectBrighton Tenants UnionEdiburgh Private Tenants Action GroupOxford Tenants UnionOrganisation of Private Tenants (Scarborough)Let Down Cardiff, London Renters.

What Will Nigeria Owe America Now?

Originally posted on Media Diversified:

by Atane Ofiaja

Calamity befalling Nigeria is now the norm. Who could have envisioned regular bombings in Abuja, the nation’s capital? This is where we are, my Nigeria almost seems unrecognizable. New York City has been where I’ve lived for my entire adult life, but Nigeria is still home. Fond memories as a child in Port Harcourt still bring a smile to my face. Driving through Aba to my mother’s small village in Abia State was always fun. You’d be hard pressed to find clearer nighttime skies than in my father’s small village in Rivers State called Ngo. It was perfect for stargazing. Like most Nigerians in the diaspora, we cling to and yearn for home. We visit when we can afford to.

But the Nigeria we remember didn’t include bombs on city streets.Bring-Back-Our-Girls-590x339 As the attacks from the scourge known as Boko Haram continues to get bloodier and more…

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