New Internationalist

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Depleted Uranium

Just one microscopic particle of depleted uranium lodged in the lungs can start a reaction in a single cell that could lead to fatal cancer. It’s unfortunate, then, that the world has an estimated one million tonnes of this dangerous waste - and a very limited means to get rid of it. In this program we’ll hear how, why and where it’s being dumped… and the injuries and deaths that are being caused as a result.

Storing depleted uranium (DU) is not a viable long-term option: it takes 4.5 billion years for just half of it to turn into lead, and keeps eating through the containers in which it is stored. So countries are giving it away - to weapons manufacturers, who turn it into weaponry that they sell back to governments. It’s very effective in weapons: piercing tanks and armor like a hot knife through butter. However, its long-term impacts are cruel and inhuman. With a range of international guests, New Internationalist co-editor Dinyar Godrej joins Chris Richards to report on how DU waste now contaminates a string of ‘enemy’ countries. As a result, thousands of civilians are - and will continue to be - reporting cancer and abnormalities at rates never before experienced well after their war is over:

  • Having sent troops into places marked on maps as being contaminated with depleted uranium, the US army told their troops in Iraq that depleted uranium was so safe that it could be sprinkled on breakfast cereal. Now Retired Staff Sergeant Herbert Reed is living with the legacy - including nerve damage, respiratory problems, pain, paralysis, and internal bleeding.
  • When John LaForge from Nukewatch went knocking at the door of the number-one producer of depleted uranium weapons in the United States, he and three other non-violent protestors were arrested for trespassing. In his defence, he asked a jury to find that the munitions manufacturer was the real criminal, not those who protested against it. The jury did.
  • The movement against DU is growing. In March this year, the Belgian Parliament voted to ban depleted uranium ammunition. Then there’s the ultimate campaign result - peace glorious peace. Dekha Abdi is a peace-builder - forging viable ways to resolve conflict without violence. She’s one of the recipients this year of a Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize) for outstanding vision and work on behalf of the planet and its people. She shares some of her rich experiences with us.

Reflecting our hope for the future, today’s CD is called Ceasefire. Inspired by peace-talks in Sudan between the Muslim North and the predominantly Christian South, Emmanuel Jal, a Christian rapper from the South, gets together with Abdel Gadir Salim, a Muslim musician from the North to show what colourful, dynamic sounds are produced when two different cultures work side-by-side.

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This program’s full of tasty treats. It’s all about chocolate. Luscious and lovely, it’s a product that’s starting to light up the fair trade lists. Sweet and satisfying, it’s been hailed over the centuries as a sexual stimulant. But when it comes to chocolate desserts, there’s little that’s just. The country producing over forty per cent of the cocoa to make the world’s chocolate is still relying on child slaves and forced labourers. Today’s co-host - Troth Wells - is one of the authors of The BitterSweet World of Chocolate. As she shares with us some secrets of sweet and savoury treats, she serves up a taste of both the light and dark sides of the global chocolate trade.

  • Bama Athreya and her colleagues from the International Labor Rights Forum have calculated the cost of wiping out slavery and forced labour in the supply of chocolate by paying producers properly. It’s an extra .02 cents on the price of each chocolate bar. She tells us why cocoa and chocolate companies aren’t prepared to pay.
  • Nikki van der Gaag takes us through the many health benefits that history hands to out to chocolate consumption.
  • The Grenada Chocolate Company is revolutionizing the supply chain from cocoa to chocolate block. Company founder Mott Green tells us about the dynamic impact that this will have on Grenada’s economy.

Today’s CD - Canta Bovea y Sus Vallenatos con Alberto Fernandez - celebrates that Colombian style of music called vallenato. It’s sweet and saucy strains should provide an ideal accompaniment to any chocolate dish.

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Climate Change in Bali

What are the people and politicians in the developing world saying about climate change? Nicola Bullard, from Focus on the Global South, joins Radio New Internationalist’s Chris Richards to find out, as campaigners in India, Thailand and the United States take a ride through the rhetoric of climate change politics.

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali this December, the nations of the world will be writing a roadmap setting-out how to get to a global agreement for cutting greenhouse emissions. The conference is being held on the Indonesian island of Bali in Indonesia - ‘the Island of Gods’ - and the Gods know that climate change needs a little divine intervention right now. Just as the Rich World is finally acknowledging that the world is hurtling towards a global warming catastrophe the political game going into those negotiations is blame, not shame. China and India are being painted as the new environmental vandals. Hell bent on development, the increasing emissions of China and India will surely kill us all and block the potential for meaningful international negotiations. As least, that’s what’s being said by the real renegades - Rich World countries that have turned their backs on committing to a meaningful reduction to their greenhouse emissions.

  • Chandra Bhushan - Assocqiate director and head of the Industry Unit at Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi, India - advocates how India can accelerate development in ways that minimize its emissions.
  • EcoEquity’s Tom Athanasiou - argues that it’s the countries of the Rich World, not the Poor World, which are responsible for climate change, and now it’s their responsibility to pay. Tom outlines his plan, and presents the politics that await it at the UN Climate Change Conference.
  • Daphne Wysham - co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network - reveals why international institutions such as the World Bank are cashing in on the growing climate change market, and how this is hindering sustainable energy options.

The music threading its way through today’s program is some ambient funk from Asia: Ryukyu Underground - a collection of original Japanese recordings mixed for dance.

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Celebrating the Dead

Inspired by the millions of people around the world who are celebrating All Souls Day this year, the Radio New Internationalist team dips into different cultures to hear the many ways in which the world’s populations honour their dead and respect the dying. From the fear of the spirit-world underpinning Halloween to the burning of money at the tomb-sweeping festivals of Taiwan, the ways we celebrate death shape our own hopes and fears about dying.

  • What better place to start than Mexico’s Day of the Dead - a two day national celebration where bands, feasting and sugar-coated skulls go hand-in-hand to the cemetery. Author Mary Andrade takes us there.
  • Just what human rights should we have as we die? It’s an issue that literally gets buried with the body. Prominent Australian human rights lawyer, Julian Gardner, has had the rare experience of making decisions on behalf of people who are in the process of dying, and then living to tell the tale.
  • On the cusp of celebrating Halloween - the night that the Irish believe the spirits can break back through to the world of the living - Jack Byrne from NEAR FM in Dublin shares some scary recollections.
  • The three day mourning ceremony undertaken by Koreans can be gruelling on their families. After explaining the process before burial, a young Korean - Anna Alcon - weighs up the pros and cons of their mourning traditions in a story read by Vymala Yim.
  • One of the benefits of religion is that it sets out a belief structure when someone dies. But ritual is not the sole province of the religious, as Dick Gross - the author of a modern guide to meaning and morality called Godless Gospel - explains.

The feature CD is by Benjamin Escoriza performing his first solo album Alevanta! or in English Rise Up! - an eerily appropriate title for today’s program. It’s a magical mix through which Moroccan influences jump across the Mediterranean to dance with flamenco.

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Tribal revival

Guess which country the Radio New Internationalist team is talking about today? Its indigenous people - still struggling for rights to their land and resources - often live in shanty communities overrepresented by the unemployed, drug addicted, and alcoholic. Fringe-dwellers, they die much earlier than non-indigenous people, and suffer a range of chronic health problems. Many non-indigenous people say that these folk need to be integrated into mainstream society, but the standard of education and other basic services that they are offered still remains low. It could be Australia. Or it could be Canada. Perhaps it’s the United States, or Africa, or Latin America?

In fact it’s the standard text for a long list of indigenous peoples all over the world. Together with today’s co-host - Jonathan Mazower from the international NGO Survival - today’s guests share the problems and possible solutions that their people face as a result of a continuing stream of attempts to steal their land and culture.

  • Canadian Innu leader Marcel Ashini describes how - just like a tree - strengthening ones roots can make indigenous people grow stronger.

  • Carteret Islanders Ursula Rakova and Bernard Tunim relate how rising tides caused by climate change are now claiming their crops and their Pacific homes.

  • Debra Harry, who spearheads the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism based in Nevada, talks about how global genetic testing that’s currently being undertaken can threaten the culture and knowledge systems of indigenous peoples around the world (in conversation with Daniel Diesendorf from Victoria University in Australia).
Today’s CD is Introducing Kenge Kenge. Kenge Kenge is an expression of the Luo people of Kenya and Tanzania in Africa. It means ‘fusion of small, exhilarating instruments’. And don’t those beats fuse well - guaranteed to get their most reticent of dancers bopping.

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    Torture - the deepest scar

    Undoubtedly acts of torture are shocking. How could anyone extract information from others by breaking their back or boiling them alive? But the real horror exposed by this program is not so much the acts themselves but the complicity of Western Governments - and the leaders and officials in them who hold themselves out as supporters of human rights - in obtaining information through such methods. Down in The Grave in Syria and the countless other cells where thousands have been sent for forceful questioning, we come face-to-face with some inescapable realizations - that the war on terror is a war of terror, and that our security is being traded for the insecurity of an unacceptably high number of others.

    • Stephen Grey, author of Ghost Plane, tracks both the private executive jet fleet that the US uses to ferry suspects in the war on terror to torture chambers around the world, and its implications for us all.
    • Canadian Abdullah Almalki - who spent 482 days of torture in a Syrian torture centre - relates the impact that torture has had on his life and that of his family.
    • Author and activist, Kerry Pither sets out how innocent Canadian citizens are being tortured abroad with the knowledge and support of their Government.
    • Andrea Berg, the Central Asian researcher for Human Rights Watch, reveals the findings of a report about the world’s most notorious torturers - the Uzbekistan Government and its authorities - that is about to be presented to the United Nations Committee Against Torture.
    • And Stephen Grey outlines the lengths to which British authorities have gone in order to continue receiving information obtained from Uzbek torture.

    The CD Lumiere performed by Bob Brozman proves a perfect sound for today’s program as it moves musical influences effortlessly between cultures and countries: a great thing for music, but not so good for the many thousands who are being moved around the world for interrogation in the war on terror.

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    Down the dictators

    Meet Reed Brody. He hunts dictators for a living. Dictators need to be hunted by full-time professionals. For, as Reed explains: ‘If you kill one person, you go to jail. If you kill 40 people, they put you in an insane asylum. But if you kill 40,000 people, you get a comfortable exile with a bank account in another country, and that’s what we want to change.’

    And the good news is that he and his colleagues at Human Rights Watch are well on the way to making that change. They were there in London when the House of Lords decided that General Augusto Pinochet could be arrested and sent to overseas courts that wanted him to be tried for his crimes against the people of Chile. And although Pinochet - now dead - never faced trial, the knock-on effect since the law lords’ decision has been significant. The legal systems of Argentina and Uruguay are paving the way for the arrest and trial of former officials during the 1970s dictatorships that brutally governed their countries. Africa, too, is slowly but surely following suit, with a developing front amongst the African Union to prosecute war criminals on their continent.

    With the backdrop of testimonies from people in Latin America and Africa who have been victims of state-sponsored violence, Reed takes us on safari to show how some of the world’s worst dictators are being tracked down. From diplomatic negotiations across Europe and Africa down into the former offices of Chad’s political police, he explains the barriers to prosecution, how they are being pushed through, and what practical benefit this will hold for the people who have been systemically brutalized by their own governments.

    To lift your spirits, the invigorating music that threads its way through today’s program comes from those sons of son music, the Cuban band Sierra Maestra, from their Soul of a Nation CD.

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    Democratic conventions

    Now that products are being pumped out into already saturated markets, it’s not surprising that the culture that capitalism creates is centred on: ‘Me! Me! More! More!’. For many, life’s main goal has become: ‘The one with the most toys wins’. We often hear how soul-destroying this culture can be. But what does it do for our political structures? The rich terrain that we’re tilling in this program is whether capitalism is cultivating democracy, or killing it.

    Democracy must be one of the most exploited words in the English language. So much is being done in its name. We’re supposed to be living in it. Iraq has been invaded so that the people of the Middle East can start enjoying it. Together with New Internationalist co-editor, Richard Swift, leading lights in the field shine their intellect on ways to rebuild our political and economic foundations so that societies can better deliver democracy’s main prize - power to the public.

    • Author of Radical Democracy, Douglas Lummis outlines where the concept of democracy comes from and where it could go.
    • British mental health professional Trevor Turner sorts through the ways politicians dumb-down debate, and what it means for short and long term decision making by governments.
    • Susan George - whose many books have stimulated debates amongst progressive people around the world - outlines a new economic order that would address climate change at the same time as strengthening democratic structures.

    Africa meets Europe in the musical backdrop for this program, as Saba - who was born to an Ethopian mother and an Italian father - sings her way through the divide between the two continents in her debut CD Jidka.

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    What kind of person wakes up and says: 'Right, I'm going to make some money by selling a person today?' Apparently it's often a parent or trusted friend; someone known to the victim. And it's women as well as men. Today's program seeks out sex traffickers …and what can be done to stop them. Through stories fresh from the streets and brothels of India, Nigeria and Moldova, profiles of both the exploiters and the exploited emerge that are very different from those reported in the Rich World.

    * New Internationalist co-editor Vanessa Baird describes how the global sex trafficking industry operates. She climbs through a cruel barrier discouraging prosecutions of sex traffickers - that police intervention often means the deportation of victims - and introduces us to a country successfully taking an opposite approach.   

    * Louisa Waugh - author of Selling Olga: stories of human trafficking and resistance - explains why domestic violence, migrant labour and international sex trafficking go hand-in-hand

    * Film maker and writer Bishakha Datta introduces us to the sex workers of India, and why abolishing prostitution is unlikely to stop people-trafficking.

    ALSO in this program: the third in a series of interviews from a conference in Shanghai held in May this year to examine the increasing influence of China in Africa. Regular Radio New Internationalist contributor, Nicola Bullard asks Walden Bello, the executive director of Focus on the Global South, for an overview.

    And because today's theme was a weighty one, the music that's threading its way through the spoken words is full of exuberance and love for life.  The old up-tempo but melodic traditions of marrabenta - the national rhythm of Mozambique - meet the youthful energy of hip-hop in the CD Soul Marrabenta performed by the band Mabulu.

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    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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