A day of freedom, equality and inspiration

cardiffbookfairSince the first London Anarchist Bookfair in 1983, these events have been held around the world, spreading the vibrancy, history and diversity of the anarchist movement. The first Cardiff Anarchist Bookfair will feature talks, discussions and a space to network as well as stalls with books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, CDs, t-shirts, badges and more, with contributions from local, national and international organisations, distributors, publishers, campaigns, activist groups and other anarchist collectives. After experiencing the movement we’ve got, the day will close with a panel discussion on ‘the kind of Anarchist movement we want’. Everyone with an interest is invited to contribute. 

Free. In more ways than one.

Limited spaces available for stalls & workshops – deadline 1st April.

KILL THE MOSQUITO!

Compound Security Systems Ltd (CSS) is, once more, making the news for all the wrong reasons. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the Merthyr-based outfit manufactures the Mosquito, a device emitting a very loud, high-pitched noise designed to “deter youths from congregating” according to the company website. And it works. Young people find the noise unbearable and degrading. “It [the Mosquito] makes us feel like second-class citizens”, said one.

exterminate!!

exterminate!!

Since production began in 2006, 6,000 of the devices (costing £500 each) have been bought by local authorities and, not surprisingly, police forces around the UK in attempts to make life even worse for our young people.

Quite rightly, this modern-day instrument of torture has attracted scathing criticism from children’s organisations and Liberty, the human rights watchdog. “Imagine the outcry if a device was introduced that caused blanket discomfort to people of one race or gender, rather than to our kids”, said Liberty. Kathleen Marshall, the children’s commissioner for Scotland said: “such indiscriminate targeting would not be tolerated against any other section of society”. Al Aynsley-Green, the children’s commissioner for England described the use of the Mosquito as “demonising children and young people.” Autistic children are particularly at risk, according to Benet Middleton of the National Autistic Society. Keith Towler, the children’s commissioner for Wales, has been much less outspoken, which shows a serious lack of judgement, given that the Mosquito is manufactured in his patch.

ouch!

ouch!

The ‘Buzz Off’ campaign, which documents young people’s opposition to the device and their desire to see it outlawed, is having some success. Mosquito sales are falling as local authorities find themselves subject to increasing pressure to remove the contraptions from public places.

Yet CSS still hasn’t got the message. To counter falling profits, Howard Stapleton, the Mosquito’s inventor, has just launched the Mini Mosquito, a half-price version for homeowners, even though last year he promised he wouldn’t. The company is also flogging the “improved” mark 4 Mosquito, which can emit an ear-splitting 108 decibels (dB), way above World Health Organisation recommendations that outdoor noise levels should not exceed 55 dB. Clearly Mr Stapleton doesn’t care about the potential damage to children’s hearing, even, presumably, that of his own five children!

howard-stapleton

Howard Stapleton

So why isn’t the Mosquito banned?

Perhaps the campaigners haven’t paid enough attention to the impressive list of documents on the company website “all of which have been compiled and written by independent third parties” we’re told. Had the commissioners taken a close look at the evidence, they would have understood that, rather than supporting the company’s official claim that the Mosquito is completely harmless, the reports highlight serious health risks and express grave reservations about its usage.

At the top of the list is an Acoustic Test Report carried out in April 2006 by David Taylor, clinical scientist and radiation protection adviser of the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, for North Staffordshire Police. Mr Taylor reports that his 23 year-old female “guinea pig” found the tone “disagreeable” and that it was “not possible to state categorically that supersonic components are irrelevant to any possible hazards associated with the Mosquito, since there may be effects on human hearing at lower frequencies which are unknown”. Subsequent pages of the report have been deliberately omitted, which hardly makes for a ringing endorsement. Let’s not forget, either, that Mr Taylor was reporting on a version of the Mosquito which emitted a maximum of 89 dB, 20 less than the new Mark 4.

Next is an unsigned draft report carried out by the Applied Environmental Research Centre Ltd (AERC) and commissioned by CSS in 2006 so not independent at all. Mr Stapleton considers the report so crucial that he’s listed it twice. Whoops! Here’s what paragraph 3.4.1 of the report says (twice): “Exposure to constant or very loud noise – either occupational (above 80 dB) or leisure-associated – can cause temporary or permanent hearing damage.” The report’s unknown author also suggests that existing legislation, such as the Noise Act 1996, isn’t applicable to the Mosquito, but insists that: “specialist legal advice is sought regarding the conclusions drawn from this assessment”. So they’re not sure of its legality.

Likewise, another CSS-commissioned report carried out by the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) at the University of Southampton admits that “It seems possible that the worst-case Mosquito signal 16.8KHz at 89 dB might produce some subjective effect in sensitive individuals”. We wonder what the institute would say about increasing the volume to 108 dB?

Other documents, such as the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Advocacy Report and one by the Belgian Superior Health Council turn out to be worthless summaries written by person(s) unknown.

Those who are still convinced, however, that the Mosquito can make the world a better place will take comfort from the findings of a third party report “analysing the use of high frequency sound and its impact on human hearing”. Compiled in July 2007, this document concludes unequivocally that “there is no danger to hearing from exposure to the Mosquito device“. And the author? A certain Simon Morris who just happens to be one of the directors of…Compound Security Systems Ltd!

SHAC attacked, but not defeated

On Wednesday 21st January 2009, seven activists from SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty), including Heather Nicholson from Swansea and Daniel Wadham from Aberdare, were sentenced to prison terms totalling 50 years. Individual sentences ranged from four to eleven years for ‘conspiracy to blackmail with persons unknown’. The implications of this judgement go far beyond the animal rights movement.

SHAC, set up to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) in late 1999, has long been the target of government oppression and it seems our elected ‘leaders’ will stop at nothing to clamp down on legitimate protest in order to protect big business.

Inside Huntingdon Life Sciences 2005

Inside Huntingdon Life Sciences 2005

HLS claim their tests are performed to strict criteria, provide reliable results that can be reproduced and use leading standards of animal care and welfare.  However, in recent years, HLS has been exposed on seven separate occasions for falsifying data, staff incompetence and animal cruelty, including workers punching beagle puppies in the face .

Far from being the pioneers of life-saving medical research depicted by the mainstream media, HLS is a commercial contract testing company which tests artificial colourings, flavourings and sweeteners, herbicides, GM food, plastics, industrial chemicals, ‘health foods’, dietary supplements and a small amount of drugs for other commercial companies.  It is the largest company of its kind in Europe with approximately 70,000 animals on site at anytime including rabbits, cats, hamsters, dogs, guinea-pigs, birds and monkeys.  HLS kill 500 animals every day.

As SHAC’s campaign against HLS took hold, more and more investors (including the Labour party) sold their shares, causing the value of the company to plunge.  The situation became so desperate that the government stepped in to provide both banking facilities and insurance.

Brian Cass, managing director of HLS, complained that the company wasn’t being defended. He wanted draconian penalties introduced against anti-vivisectionists and he got his way.  The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) 2005 was amended, creating new offences including harassment in relation to such protests, intimidation of persons connected to animal research organizations and interference with the contractual relationships of animal research organizations.

Yet despite this raft of new legislation it is important to stress that these seven committed individuals have not been convicted of any form of illegal direct action. They’ve been handed absurdly long jail sentences because they played a part in a successful campaign to dent the profits of an industry they believe to be unjust. What the authorities have sought to do is to vilify a legal and peaceful campaign and to ’round up’ its assumed leaders in order to break the back of a successful movement. The prosecution had only to prove that the campaign against HLS influenced ‘persons unknown’ into taking illegal direct action. This is a classic example of a political motive behind policing in Britain in order to defend corporate interests. Justice, once more, played no part in the proceedings. 

Judge Butterfield’s decision will almost certainly have implications for anyone who protests. Anti-war campaigners who publish information about a military base and call for its closure, for example, could also be prosecuted for ‘conspiracy to blackmail’ if that base was then subject to an arson attack even if the campaigners had nothing to do with the arsonists.

Activists beware! The National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU), created to defeat the animal rights movement is, no doubt, already looking for other groups to target…

Protestors are not extremists and SHAC are resolved to continue their protests against those who needlessly slaughter animals, as their actions of last week clearly demonstrate.

South Wales Anarchists stand in solidarity with those convicted, Cardiff ABC shows how you can support these, and other prisoners.

PARASITE: PERSON WHO EXPLOITS OTHERS

Mark Roberts, lord of extortion

Mark Roberts, lord of extortion

Following our exposē of would-be Plaid Cymru councillor, Mark Roberts a.k.a. lord Marcher of Trellech, dubbed the ‘lord of extortion’ by the press, Plaid are taking active measures to expel Roberts. We wonder, however, whether the good lord will go quietly, given his continuing litigious adventures – Roberts is taking legal action against the Vale of Glamorgan council to get his hands on the Old Harbour in Barry – or whether he’ll call on Darwin Gray, the Cardiff-based solicitors, to defend his honour.

Established in 2002 by Bethan Darwin and Donald Gray, the legal firm has carried out much of Roberts’ dirty work, including the scam against the residents of Peterstone Wentlooge, Newport in 2004. Paul Flynn MP was so outraged by the ‘atrocious’ letter sent by Darwin Gray to residents that he named and shamed their four senior solicitors (Darwin and Gray plus colleagues Jason Smith and Rhodri Lewis) in his campaign newsletter, describing them as ‘parasites‘.

           

Donald Gray, specialist in common land and manorial law

Donald Gray, specialist in common land and manorial law

 Flynn couldn’t possibly be referring to the Donald Gray who provides commercial property advice for South Wales charity, Valleys Kids, could he? Or media-friendly Bethan Darwin who does voluntary work for Cardiff Law Centre and who set up the Superwoman charity which boasts of helping Barnardo’s Cymru, Trust for Sick Kids, Bobath Cymru, Smile Train and Noah’s Ark? At Superwoman 4, a charity piss-up for the great and the good, held in October 2008, guests were treated to talks by Menna Richards, head of BBC Wales, and Betsan Powys, Wales’ leading political pundit. Ms Darwin clearly knows people in high places.

Bethan Darwin, superwoman

Bethan Darwin, superwoman

Plaid Cymru beware! When it comes to assisting Mr Roberts with his scams, justice is the last thing to concern Darwin Gray. Mind you, they can’t be that good. Roberts lost his attempt to extort money from the Peterstone residents and last year got stuffed in another high court case resulting in a legal bill running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Before he gets kicked out of Plaid Cymru, perhaps Mr Roberts should think about giving Darwin Gray the boot…

One thing’s for sure: Valleys Kids and all the other charities supported by Darwin Gray solicitors must sever their links with these ‘parasites’ before they, too, become discredited.

And when Roberts does get his marching orders from Plaid, remember, it was South Wales Anarchists wot done it!!

BAILLIE GIFFORD IN DEEP SH*T

Monday, 19 January 2009

South Wales Anarchists’ revelations about the Welsh arsembly pension fund’s manager, Baillie Gifford Life Ltd, last week can only be adding to the woes of the Edinburgh-based partnership.

Baillie Gifford partners, Alex Callender and Edward Hocknell

Baillie Gifford partners, Alex Callander and Edward Hocknell

            In 2007 the thirty-three partners who own the company were sitting pretty on investments worth £55 billion. By September 2008 that amount had plunged to £46 billion with one of its flagship funds, Scottish Mortgage Fund, losing nearly half its value. Baillie Gifford lost a further £200 million when Northern Rock collapsed. And the international investment markets are only set to get worse.

            While the bankruptcy of such a disreputable organisation could potentially be good news, we think it could spell even more of a disaster for the environment. This is what Edward Hocknell, one of the partners had to say recently:

“We think what will get us out of the hole will be infrastructure spending,” Hocknell said. “It won’t be a consumer recovery but an industrial one.”

This strategy has led Baillie Gifford managers to continue betting on companies such as the Brazilian energy giant Petrobrás and Sweden’s Atlas Copco.

He went on: “We are very overweight in areas that are dirty and smelly-mining and engineering-because emerging markets have huge reserves to spend on their infrastructures.”

What Mr Hocknell means by that is in order to claw back profits for its clients, many of whom are UK local authority pension funds involving billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, Baillie Gifford are going to pump more money into some of the most polluting companies on the planet.

Don’t these people take any responsibility for their actions? Of course they don’t. Profits come before people: “We take a pragmatic and flexible approach to corporate governance,” say Baillie Gifford on its website. “Baillie Gifford recognises that it has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of its clients.” And if that means supporting Robert Mugabe’s murderous regime in Zimbabwe by investing funds in Anglo-American mining corporation then so be it…

We CAN do something to stop these corporate cowboys.

Baillie Gifford is one of the largest managers of local authority pension funds in the UK. Not only does it look after the interests of Welsh arsembly members, Baillie Gifford manages the pension fund of the Scottish parliament and used to look after the pension fund of the Northern Ireland assembly.

If you work in local government, check on your pension fund with your employer. Baillie Gifford is creaming off billions of pounds from Orkney to Sussex.

Contact Baillie Gifford and express your outrage at what they’re doing.

We’re doing our best to track down the 33 partners. So far we’ve come up with:

 Alex Callander –     joint senior partner

Charles Plowden –  joint senior partner

Ken Barker                                                    Elaine Morrison

Peter Hadden                                                Anthony Tait

Edward Hocknell                                           James Anderson

The company also boasts top Tory porker, lord Strathclyde, as one of its directors.

lord Strathclyde

lord Strathclyde

 Head office address:

Baillie Gifford, Calton Square, 1, Greenside Row, Edinburgh EH1 3AN

Tel: 0131 275 2000

Or you can email them on: colin.neilson@bailliegifford.com

I’m sure Colin would love to hear from you…

And if you’ve got any more information on Baillie Gifford please tell us on cardiffanarchists@riseup.net

ALUN CAIRNS RESIGNS AS CHAIR OF ASSEMBLY PENSION FUND TRUSTEES

SOUTH WALES ANARCHISTS CLAIM VICTORY AS YET ANOTHER PENSION FUND SCANDAL EMERGES

 Following our revelations that the welsh arsembly members’ pension fund is being held in companies with appalling environmental and human rights’ records, chair of the pension scheme trustees, Alun ‘greasy wops’ Cairns has resigned.

another Tory twat bites the dust

another Tory twat bites the dust

End of story? Er, we don’t think so. Mr Cairns isn’t the only villain of the piece. There are, of course, four other trustees representing all the political parties who must have known as much or as little as Mr Cairns. Perhaps the lot of them should come clean and tell us exactly what they’ve been up to during their tenure as trustees? We’ll be sending a freedom of information question to the government requesting details of ‘meetings’ between trustees and Baillie Gifford Life Ltd, the Edinburgh-based partnership that manages members’ pensions. Watch this space, although we’ll probably be met with more porky pies from the freedom of misinformation team at the assembly.

But the story doesn’t end there. We’ve been in touch with the nice freedom of information officer at Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT), one of our favourite councils (see Gagged 24 and16) and we’ve learned that, coincidently, of course, Baillie Gifford, along with four other financial companies, manages RCT’s pension fund too! The assembly’s stash of £10.5 million pales into insignificance against RCT’s fund with a membership of 23,000 people. At the end of March 2008 the fund stood at £1.3 billion, with Baillie Gifford Asset Management holding £540 million.

 And, you’ve guessed it, many of the star performers in the arsembly fund feature in RCT’s. We asked specifically about money given to the arms and tobacco industries and were told the breakdown of holdings at 31st March 2007 in aerospace and defence was:

 BAE Systems            £2,908,645

Meggitt                        £3,305,736

Rolls Royce    £6,770,177

how many more Palestinian children will Israel murder?

how many more Palestinian children will Israel murder?

 

That wouldn’t be the same BAE Systems that supply Israel with parts for F-16 bombers currently being used to murder Palestinians, would it?

 

 

The breakdown of RCT’s holdings in tobacco was:

 British American Tobacco               £  6,252,715

Imperial Tobacco                              £10,838,441

Which, when added up, comes to £13 million to weapons manufactures and £17 million to tobacco barons.

By the end of March 2008 RCT’s investments in the arms trade had fallen to £9 million, following the sales of shares in arms companies including Lockheed Martin, worth £840,000 in 2006, and the sale of nearly £500,000 of shares  in our old friend, Raytheon (see Gagged 25). Investments in tobacco stood at almost £16 million.

Perhaps it’s time for the Pension Panel Members, which include council leader Russell Roberts and councillor Clayton Willis, to step up to the mark and account for their murderous investment decisions.

RCT councillor Roberts

RCT councillor Roberts

                                

RCT councillor Willis

RCT councillor Willis

     

WELSH ASSEMBLY IN PENSION FUND SCAM

AN EXCLUSIVE REPORT IN TO THE ABUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS

While most of us will deplore Gazprom’s inhumane decision to stop gas supplies to millions of people across Europe this winter, Welsh assembly members are, no doubt, breathing a sigh of relief that the world’s largest gas extractor is putting profits before lives. That’s because Gazprom is one of the companies included in the National Arsembly for Wales Members’ pension scheme! The scheme, worth £10.5 million, is run by Edinburgh-based Baillie Gifford Life Ltd, which trousered nearly £800,000 last year for investing taxpayers’ money in companies which systematically destroy the environment, are mired in corruption and mistreat their workforce. All so that our hard-working assembly members can enjoy a very handsome payout when they retire.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the fund’s main holdings.

Flooded jungle downstream from the Ok Tedi mine. Courtesy of World Resources Institute

Flooded jungle downstream from the Ok Tedi mine. Courtesy of World Resources Institute

BHP Billitonis the world’s largest mining company. Created in 2001 following the merger of Australia’s Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) and the UK’s Billiton, the company’s worst environmental crimes have been committed in Papua New Guinea where BHP ran the OK Tedi Mine from 1984 to 2002. In 1999 BHP’s boss, Paul Anderson, finally admitted that the project was ‘not compatible with our environmental values‘; rather an understatement considering BHP was discharging 80 million tons of toxic waste into the OK Tedi river system each year affecting 50,000 people in 120 villages downstream. BHP were forced to pay $28.6 million in compensation, but don’t seem to have mended their ways. In January 2007 a further claim for $5 billion was lodged on behalf of 13,000 villagers known as the Ningerum people

In 2006 BHP Billiton became embroiled in the Iraq oil-for-food scandalwhen it emerged that United Nations contracts had been inflated by £4.5 million so that BHP could recover a debt owed by the previous Iraqi regime. Involved in the same scam which impoverished millions of ordinary Iraqis, is another star performer in the Welsh Arsembly pension fund: Atlas Copco, the Swedish industrial company. The 2004 oil-for-food inquiry led by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, found that Atlas Copco paid kickbacksfrom both its construction and mining division in Sweden and Airpower, its huge air compressor manufacturing division in Belgium. Airpower paid $1.3 million on sales of $15 million while Atlas Copco CMT paid an undisclosed amount for a $500,000 contract.

The stink of corruption hangs over Vodafone, another major pension fund holding. In 2007 the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launched an investigation into allegations of corruption involving Vodafone’s activities in Kenya, notably its links to a mysterious Guernsey-registered company called Mobitelea, which was allegedly connected to members of the family of former reviled president, Daniel Arap Moi. Vodafone refused to co-operate with the inquiry and the SFO inquiry was later dropped for reasons of ‘resources’. A year later Vodafone were accused of ‘blatant dishonesty’by the National Consumer Council (NCC) after blocking customers from legitimately quitting their contracts over price rises.

The decapitated Appalachians

The decapitated Appalachians

Following in BHP Billiton’s destructive footsteps is Arch Coal, the second largest US coal producer. Arch Coal practices mountaintop removal mining (MTR) in West Virginia, reducing the height of the Appalachian mountains in the area by 800 feet. As a result vegetation is destroyed and mining waste pours into mountain streams, causing flooding, erosion and water contamination. Due to the huge amount of explosives the company uses, neighbouring communties complain of stray rocks hitting homes, damaged water wells and endless clouds of dust.

As well as mining companies, taxpayers’ money is also being handed out to some of the world’s most notorious oil and gas corporations. Apart from Russian bully Gazprom, the pension fund has holdings in Royal Dutch Shell, Petrobras, the Brazilian giant, and Reliance Industries Ltd, India’s largest private sector conglomerate.

While Shell continue to make record profits, an alliance of human rights and green groups, including Friends of the Earth, estimated the environmental cost of the damage caused by Shell’s irresponsibility at £10 billion. We’re aware of the destruction to the Niger Delta thanks to Ken Saro-Wiwa’s efforts to expose Shell’s crimes, for which the Nigerian writer was executed. Shell has also attracted criticism over its running of the massive Sakhalin II project in Russia and the controversial Corrib gas field development in Ireland.

Meanwhile, Petrobras is doing its very best to destroy the Amazonian rainforest. It currently extracts 35,000 barrels a day from its facilities in Ecuador. However pressure from the Huaorani people, who live in the Yasuni rainforest, has meant that further destruction has been halted temporarily. Not to be outdone, Petrobras is now building a $500 million natural gas pipeline through the rainforest, despite the growing wave of protests.

Reliance Industries Ltd is doing its bit to destroy the environmentand accelarate climate change through its involvement in a multi-billion dollar project to build dams in the Himalayas. ‘Mountains of Concrete’, a report published in December 2008 by International Rivers, a non-governmental organisation which protects rivers and defends the rights of communities that depend on them, concludes that ‘the projects are likely to have huge social, environmental and cultural impacts, impacts that will be especially harsh on locals, tribal people, farmers and others living in the remote valleys of the Himalayas. These projects threaten not only livelihoods but often the very identity and culture of these people.’

Also included in the assembly members’ managed pension fund is United States Steel, which finished second in the Toxic 100, a list of top US air polluters in 2002 compiled by the Political Economy Research Unit of the University of Massachusetts. Another fund holding, US company, Berkshire Hathaway, whose directors include Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, came thirty-fourth.

Our investigations into Hon Hai Precision Industry Company, which trades under the name Foxconn, a Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer, have revealed widespread abuse of workers’ rights. An inspection report commissioned by Apple, a customer of Foxconn, found that workers were forced to work up to an extra 80 hours per month even though labour law restricted over time to 36 hours. A quarter of employees were denied at least one day off a week and workers were punished by being made to stand to attention for long periods of time. 

Of course, no Baillie Gifford pension fund would be complete without a link to the defence industry. Step forward the Taiwan Semi-conductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest dedicated semi-conductor foundry. In a 2006 report entitled ‘Defence Critical Technologies‘ published jointly by the US Defence Department and UK Ministry of Defence, TSMC was on the critical technologies list.

Neither should we exclude British American Tobacco (BAT), whose

Start 'em young!

BAT likes to start 'em young!

shares form part of the pension fund’s UK equities. Last year the company’s activities in Africa were the subject of a BBC2 documentary which found that BAT targets childrenthrough music, competitions and the sale of individual cigarette sticks; practices which broke BAT’s own code of conduct and company standards.

And, finally, we shouldn’t forget the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), whose beginnings date back to Britain’s involvement in the Chinese opium trade. Last December,the US Justice Department expanded its criminal investigation into banks that sell offshore private banking services to include HSBCand Credit Suisse. The investigation centres on allegations that the two banks helped wealthy Americans hide as much as $30 billion in offshore accounts in order to avoid tax. Meanwhile HSBC is growing its private banking division by 24% a year, making over $1.5 billion in 2007.

And when arsembly members plead ignorance over their shameful support for these criminal corporations, don’t believe them. While Baillie Gifford run the scheme, politicians from all parties sit on a board of trustees to which Baillie Gifford report.  Alun ‘greasy wops’ Cairns, the diminutive Tory AM, currently holds the chair; Eleanor Burnham represents the liberals; Carwyn Jones and Rosemary Butler represent labour and Mohammad Asghar is plaid’s man.

Just how are they going to explain themselves?