New Internationalist

Radio New Internationalist

The Hunger

This program hits the airwaves at the start of Ramadan - the most significant month of the Islamic year: a month in which fasting features. So, inspired by the millions around the world of all faiths who fast, today we're focusing on food - who's got it, who hasn't, and how it's being used for religious and political pursuits:

  • With global grain reserves at levels so low that would only be capable of satisfying world demands for two months, Angus Calder - a company director in search of more efficient agriculture - takes us through the problems that threaten our food supplies. As rising populations face falling levels of both water and agriculture land, he explains the conflicting choices that are about to be served up to our dinner tables.
  • Many millions in Africa are on the starvation line. Yet a number of African countries don't want genetically modified food to feed their people. Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria, tells us why.
  • During Ramadan, thousands of Jews and Christians in the United States are planning to join their Muslim friends for an interfaith fast asking for an end to the war on Iraq. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, from the Shalom Center in Philadelphia is one of the organizers. As he shares their plan of action, he explains the significance of fasting across faiths. 
  • And while we're talking about food as a tool of political protest, we visit Palestine, where political prisoners (more than 11,000 of them now) have a rich history of using hunger strikes to leverage basic human rights from their Israeli captors. Jaber Wishah - a political prisoner for 16 years and now Deputy Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights - tells us how.

To set the mood, we dip into the CD Sahara performed by Javier Ruibal. He's a highly regarded singer-songwriter from Cadiz in Spain, blending more relaxed North African sounds with passionate flamenco.  

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Pulp Friction

Whether you're living in the Rich World or Poor World, pulp is probably producing problems for people not too far from you. We're continuing to destroy trees that eat carbon dioxide – one of the main greenhouse gases. There’s also a litany of other problems that follow the plantations that are grown to replace old growth – the loss of food-supplies for the surrounding communities; the pollution of local water supplies; the promise of jobs at paper mills that only a few will ever get; and the community conflict that mounts as a result. And it's not just pulp. Palm oil production presents parallel problems, yet some European countries are marketing it as a sustainable replacement for petroleum.

  • Co-host Cam Walker, a seasoned international campaigner from Friends of the Earth, starts this week's Radio New Internationalist program by setting out these scenes, opening the door to today’s main forum – how countries can bring down greenhouse emissions at the same time as bringing up the standard of living in many of the world’s poorest countries.
  • Chris Lang – formerly an architect, now an environmental activist – has just completed a global audit of pulp problems: Banks, pulp and people. He invites us into a recent meeting in Germany when big bankers asked a team of non-governmental organizations to help them choose which pulp projects to finance.
  • How can China and India continue to develop without taking the planet to fatal levels of greenhouse gas emissions? Why should Europe, Canada and the United States support them in this aim? Tom Athanasiou and his colleagues at the Californian-based organization EcoEquity, have a proposal that they are about to take into international negotiations on climate change. He shares it with us.

Today's CD is called Canta Bovea y Sus Vallenatos con Alberto Fernandez, celebrating that Colombian style of music called vallenato. It's usually accordian led, and suggests that not nearly enough credit is given to the accordian's sweet and saucy strains.

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Cyber crimes

Next time you're downloading a film or music through the internet, spare a thought for Hew Griffiths, 44 years old, unemployed and now languishing in a jail half a world away from his home. Unlike most of the other inmates, he's not there for doing drugs, theft or assault. Rather, his crime was to belong to a group that cracked security codes of some of the United States' biggest media moguls, giving group members access to software and games that - if downloaded - could have been accessed free of charge. And whilst Australian authorities did not charge him, they nevertheless complied with a US request to send Hew to them for trial. In June this year he was judged by a Virginian court and sentenced to more than four years (51 months) in jail; shunted into a cell meant for two men in which three would sleep.

But Hew is only the first in a disturbing new trend. Following in the traditions established at Guantanamo Bay, the US is putting the world on notice that borders will not limit their prosecution and punishment of copyright crimes.  For as US Attorney General John Ashcroft explained in 2004 - with copyright industries contributing more to US economy than the entire Gross Domestic Product of countries like Argentina, The Netherlands, and Taiwan - his administration cannot afford to do otherwise. To brief us about copyright crimes in cyberspace - crimes' new frontiers - lawyers from India and Australia join today's program:

  • Cyber-space copyright experts Lawrence Liang from Bangalore, India, and Professor Andrew Christie from Australia put us in touch with the world of intellectual property and debate whether Hew's crime fits his punishment.
  • Stephen Kenny - whose represented four men arbitrarily detained in the war on terror - argues that the real offence against criminal law is shunting Hew off to another country for trial and sentence.

The music of Indian musician Debashish Bhattacharya also stars this week with three guitars that he designed himself. In Indian cosmology, the Trinity is a powerful symbol - for instance Tri Netra - Sanskrit for three eyes - represents past, present and future. Together the guitars straddle the styles of one thousand years of Indian music. The result is the magical CD Calcutta Slide Guitar.  

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Taxing matters

Most Africans are poor. Everyone knows that. But they needn't be. On current estimates, for every dollar of aid that flows into Africa, five dollars of financial assets flow out into private bank accounts in the Rich World. Money that's never taxed. Africa has the fastest growth of millionaires in the world, but the burden for building much needed infrastructure keeps on getting pushed back to those who can least afford to pay. For African economies straining under the burden of debt and the conditions that are placed on it, tax revenue means self-reliance, economic freedom, and money to improve education and health. So why are African countries relying on aid, rather than taxing those who profit most from their countries? In what is emerging as a major social justice issue for this decade, today's guests challenge the accountants and politicians of the world to 'Go figure!'

  • Investigative journalist and author, Nicholas Shaxson reveals how President Omar Bongo of Gabon maintained a giant offshore slush fund, fed by African oil and hooked up to tax havens.
  • Greg Muttitt from London NGO PLATFORM lifts the lid on how the International Tax and Investment Center - a registered charity - manipulates governments for six of the world’s biggest oil companies.
  • With money bouncing across borders throughout today’s program, today’s CD is called Rumba without borders: Rumba Sin Fronteras - performed by Cuban percussionist Pancho Quinto together with a long list of his Havana friends. It’s a collaboration spanning a number of generations creating new frontiers in Afro-Cuban beats.

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Labour the point

Each time a person becomes rich, you can bet your bottom dollar that it has come at a cost to the wealth or health of others. As an upper class of millionaires emerges in any country, they often do so off the backs of imported labour, creating a layer of second-class citizens. China is no exception. More than 120 million rural workers have now left their land and migrated to factories and developments both inside and outside their country. Once there, they can earn a better living than in their fields by mortgaging their bodies to their bosses. But what are these capitalist realities doing to socialist principles? And is the Chinese Communist Party bringing their people out of poverty or throwing away a whole generation of its citizens to feed capitalism's new machines? Through a range of revealing discussions, Monina Wong, from Labour Action China, helps us find some answers.

  • In foreign policy, the Chinese Government is substituting development aid for diplomacy. Nicola Bullard, a senior associate with Focus on the Global South, and Daniel Bibiero from the Mozambiquen NGO Justicia Ambientale investigate the results.
  • When Chinese state-owned enterprises export Chinese workers to develop and construct their overseas projects, cultural clashes and conflict result. Yat Paol, who works with the NGO called the Bismark Ramu Group in Madang Province in Papua New Guinea, lays out the concerns held by Papuans about the Ramu nickel mine development, owned and operated from China.
  • Then today's microphones turn to Iran, to hear Pakistani sociologist Farida Shaheed explain why women are still being stoned to death, and the international campaign that's now developing to stop it.

Carrying on with the Asian and Pacific themes in today's program, the music that you'll be listening to comes from the CD Nankuru Naisa - in which Bob Brozman's island-beats intertwine with the Japanese songs of Takashi Hirayasu

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Another Afghan Postcard

The sixth anniversary of the United States-led invasion of Afghanistan is fast approaching, but no-one is celebrating. Western governments continue to pour military resources into Iraq and Afghanistan, turning away from the reality that their continuing intervention is destroying the social, political and economic viability of both countries. In this program we hear the voices that are too often missing from mainstream media coverage: the perspectives of Afghans and Iraqis themselves. Our guests today explain the affects that the Western invasion of their countries is having on their hearts, minds and souls. And as they share with us their stories about the collapse of their parliaments and international exploitation of their resources, they reveal how – if these military interventions were ever really about liberating Afghans and Iraqi people – then they have completely failed.

  • Sohaila and her colleagues in the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) risk life and limb to bring education and security to the women of Afghanistan. She talks in detail about daily life in her country.
  • At last – the very thing that everyone’s suspected was behind the invasion of Iraq is now on the table of Iraq’s Parliament until October. This Oil Law will hand the management of Iraq’s oil fields back to foreign companies. Faleh Jabar – one of Iraq’s most prominent sociologists and Director with the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies – explains its causes and effects.
  • The talented Phil Sparrow – development consultant, photographer and writer – challenges our humanity in a performance of one of his wonderful stories about living and working in Afghanistan.

This program also features the CD Introducing Etran Finatawa from Niger – a country which serves as a crossroads between the Arabs of North Africa and the sub-Saharan traditions. You can tell in this music.

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Darfur - don't turn away

Say ‘Darfur’, and many of us feel we just can’t confront the prolific slaughter and rape that is taking place there, in the African nation of Sudan. Yet those who don’t turn away will see an extreme example of how many of the world’s governments deal with those seeking independence. On the ground, there’s an arrogant government stripping the natural resources from the area without giving the region and its people opportunities to develop. Internationally there are the diplomatic deals that indirectly prop up the violence and a continuing cycle of United Nations impotence. Together with New Internationalist co-editor Jess Worth – who’s just finished editing a magazine about Darfur – today’s program travels to Egypt, Uganda, and China in search of some solutions:

  • Nicola Bullard, a senior associate with Focus on the Global South chats with Sara Musa el Saeed from Sudan about how China is supporting a government guilty of killing its own citizens  
  • Moataz El Fegiery, the Programmes Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, explains why the Arabs as well as the Christians seem to be keeping clear of the conflict   
  • Dismas Nkunda, a co-Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative in Uganda, outlines the initiatives that are being taken in other parts of Africa to stop the violence and
  • Darfurians explain what they want you to understand about their plight.  

From Sudan, today’s CDCeasefire – reflects hope for a peaceful future, as Emmanuel Jal, a Christian rapper from the Sudanese south, gets together with Abdel Gadir Salim, a Moslem musician from the North, to show what colourful and dynamic sounds are produced when two different cultures work side-by-side.

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Pipelines to power

Oil and gas can make the difference between living in a developed or developing world. As a valuable energy source, oil and gas create power. Pipelines bring this power to the people. But now that oil and gas supplies are dwindling, transnationals are pushing more desperately into new frontiers, bulldozing the paths for their pipelines straight through community resource-rights and surrounding environments. A phenomenon limited to the developing world? Not any more. Today’s co-host, Jack Byrne from community radio NEAR FM in Dublin – reports from West Ireland on the Shell gas pipeline that’s breaking through the fragile bog lands of County Mayo. He introduces us to Willie Corduff – one of the Rossport Five – who went to jail for 94 days after refusing Shell and its pipeline workers entry to his farm. Willie takes us into his beautiful town and shows us the police violence and the corporate arrogance surrounding the pipeline, and the legal system that allows these problems to take place.

  • Mika Minio gives us a global audit of communities in other countries plagued by pipeline problems.
  • Alicia Casas, the facilitator for Oilwatch Mesoamerica, talks about how Costa Rica became the first country brave enough to place a moratorium on oil extraction, and why this world-first is now in jeopardy.
  • New Zealand’s investigative journalist, Nicky Hager lifts another lid – this time of spies planted by corporations in community campaigns.

Today’s program features the wonderful performances of Spanish vocalist Benjamin Escoriza from his first solo album Alevanta! – or in English Rise Up! – a very appropriate title to conclude a program about protesting power and pipelines.

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Bombs away

This month last year, Israel’s military forces were attacking Lebanon. One year later, a horrifying legacy remains. Imagine walking into a field where hundreds of unexploded cluster bomblets lie – just some of the four million that Israel’s military dropped into South Lebanon in the last days of its bombardment. You know that – in this field – living and dying can change with the wind. You have seen the faces and limbs that are blown away with one wrong step. What do you do? What John Rodsted did was grab a camera, film the fields, and take the footage to the Norway Government. Within weeks the Oslo Process had begun – an international dialogue to negotiate a treaty to ban cluster bombs. John is the official photographer to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines – the team that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Ten years later John is still campaigning against those cruel and life-destroying legacies of war – the anti-personnel bombs that fighting forces leave behind when they withdraw from conflict. To explode the argument that cluster bombs are legitimate weapons of war, he is joined in conversation with other international campaigners:

  • Rae McGrath, a driving force behind the campaign to ban landmines, describes the anatomy of this successful international campaign: where to lobby, when to fight, and how to win.
  • Simon Conway, the Director of the British NGO Landmine Action, who’s a global advocate effectively prosecuting both landmines and cluster bombs, translates what the politicians are saying.  
  • Arms traders make their money from dead bodies. Their best products are the ones that kill the most effectively. Siemon Wezeman from the Stockholm International Peace Research explains why the international arms trade continues to be brisk.  
And what’s a more appropriate CD for the topics that we’ve been discussing in this program than Ceasefire. Rock meets rap in this musical collaboration from Sudan inspired by peace-talks between the Muslim North and the predominantly Christian South.

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Radio New Internationalist - Up in smoke

Forty-seven million documents are now online that trace the power-marketing and politicking undertaken by the tobacco industry – the only industry in the world that’s able to sell a product that is directly killing many of those who buy it. There’s a lode of gems you can find in these documents: that is, if you’ve got time to wade through 47 million pages. Anne Landman – the editor of TobaccoWiki, a new online research and information project being facilitated by the Center for Media and Democracy in the United States – is doing much of the hard-yards for us. She’s smoking out damning material about the ways that the tobacco industry attacks the public interest by recruiting young children to smoking; butting out its critics; and influencing government policy away from a healthier policy agenda. Together with today’s guests, she shares with us the industry’s excesses and what can be done to stop them:

  • Hemant Goswami, the Chairperson of the Burning Brain Society, drops in from the north of India to offer us a packet of policies that countries can adopt to stop tobacco’s carnage.
  • Peter T. Brown, the Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation, celebrates open online communities like TobaccoWiki, and alerts us to the ways that Microsoft is trying to make the information superhighway into a one-way street… leading right to the backdoor of its bank.   

This program also features the music of Indian musician Debashish Bhattacharya and his three guitars – a trinity of guitars that he designed himself. Together the guitars straddle the styles of one thousand years of Indian music. The result – Calcutta Slide-Guitar – is a CD that’s already attracting award nominations.

Radio New Internationalist - No refuge

The dictators may be different and the violence may vary but when people flee their homes in fear, they live many common experiences. In this program, refugees from Chile, Rwanda and Uganda share with us intimate details of their life journeys. Facing up to the gruelling resistance of the Rich World to open its borders to those who are asking for just one more chance at finding a peaceful existence. Searching for an identity that’s not connected to country. Dealing both with the fear that stalks their dreams for decades and the deaths of loved ones left behind. And then, there are the children. … Co-host Marisol Salinas – who has herself fled political repression in Latin America and has recently reproduced the experiences of over 40 Latin American refugees on the CD Voices of Exile – helps steer us through the hopes and fears of these brave people.

  • Dheepthi Namasivayam travels to Strasbourg, France, to explore how Rwandan refugee Immaculée Cattier has found refuge in a country that helped fuel the genocide in her birthplace.
  • Rowenna Davis goes into Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention and Removal Centre and talks to Ugandan refugee, ‘Doris’, about how she has been treated by British authorities and the effect that this has had on her children.
  • Also from Uganda, but this time travelling with those who are displaced within their own country, Rebecca Wearn shows us why Ugandan children continue each day to travel to the safety of night camps even after the need for their protection has passed.
The stunning songs of lost love and hardship from the world’s perennial refugees – the gypsies – seemed like just the right sound for this week’s program. So while you’re listening to the program, enjoy the music of Introducing Bella Lakatos and the Gypsy Youth Project.

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