Welcome to Bennett's World: a collection of articles and references covering a wide variety of topics in which I am involved. I am a very political person but I have no allegiance to any political party. Follow me on twitter @colinhove

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Military Spending

There has been very little spoken about UK military spending during the 2015 General Election campaign. This is remarkable since the UK has the second largest "defence" (that means warfare) budget in the EU. The Tories and LibDems have said very little about their commitment to military spending but we can assume they're quite keen on it. To their shame, UKIP wants to increase military spending to 2% of GDP as does the Labour Party. These arbitrary percentage figures are completely ludicrous and indicate clearly that military expenditure has no relationship to perceived need. Disgracefully, the Greens also support an increase in military spending. In fact their "defence" spokesman spelt this out in a BBC Radio interview a couple of weeks ago. Also in the studio that day was Rory Stewart, right-wing Tory MP and chairman of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. He congratulated the Green man on this commitment. As this was radio I couldn't tell if he blushed. To be fair to the Greens they are not in favour of renewing the Trident weapon system and that is the case for the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Disgracefully, the Tories, UKIP, LibDem and the Labour Party are in favour of this. Here is a very useful statement from the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). It's sobering reading and I hope you will spread this message.

Imagine a world where instead of spending public money on
conflict and repression, the UK took real action to tackle the
biggest threat we face.

Did you know...

That our government spends 25 times more on research and
development into weapons than renewable energy?
And there is only 1 member of staff working on renewables in
the government's Trade & Investment Department, compared to 128
staff promoting arms sales?

The UK pushes arms sales to governments all over the world,
including human-rights abusing regimes such as Saudi Arabia and
Israel, and it's all tax-payer funded.

The government justifies its support for this deadly trade by
arguing that it's necessary to protect engineering jobs, but even
arms trade representatives
admit the industry is “flat-lining at best”. And all of these
jobs are subsidised with our taxes.

A brighter future...

The good news is an alternative is possible. Our research
shows that government investment in offshore wind and marine
energy could create more jobs than the entire arms industry.
It would also make use of many of the same engineering skills
as the arms trade but, instead of promoting death and
destruction, it would help us to build a brighter, more secure
future for all.

With your help, we can make this a reality.

CAAT is producing ground-breaking research ( https://crm.caat.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=175&qid=181449 ) to prove to policy
makers the positive economic
impact we could have by shifting priorities from arms to
We are engaging directly with engineers ( https://crm.caat.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=176&qid=181449 )
to gain important insights from within
the engineering industry and grow support for a shift to
Most importantly, we are building a mass-movement towards a
brighter future ( https://crm.caat.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=177&qid=181449 ), with
thousands of supporters across the country joining our new

Help us continue to take effective action by setting up a
regular gift today:
www.caat.org.uk/support-our-work/donate/regular ( https://crm.caat.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=174&qid=181449 )

We need this campaign to have a long-term impact to help
safeguard future generations, but we need long-term support in
order to do this.
A regular gift to CAAT will help us continue to be effective,
independent and politically focused in our campaigning.
The vast majority of our funding comes from individuals like
you. Please show your support by donating today.

Click here to set up a regular donation to CAAT and help make
a shift from arms to renewables possible. ( https://crm.caat.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=174&qid=181449 )

Thank you so much for your support.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

WILPF was founded 100 years ago in The Hague, Netherlands when 1000 women gathered to campaign against World War One then in progress. The Netherlands was neutral in WW1.

The broadcast of Democracy Now! on 27 April 2015 is largely given over to celebrating this anniversary and the achievements of women Nobel peace laureates. It is certainly worth listening to.

WILPF provides a lot of useful information and has been a tireless campaigner for peace and freedom. Here is the link:


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What is TTIP?

 At last, we are hearing more about TTIP. It's a very nasty invention but not many of us are aware of it yet. 
Here is a list of links for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership:
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – Wikipedia

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – European
Commission http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/ttip/about-ttip/ 
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP – European
Commission http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/ttip/ 
DRAFT REPORT - containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to
the Commission on the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership (TTIP) (2014/2228(INI)), Committee on International
Trade, European Parliament

EU-US trade talks “not open enough” – top watchdog – BBC News
TTIP: EU-US Trade Deal leaked to BBC – BBC News Scotland
TTIP: Transatlantic trade deal text leaked to BBC – BBC News
The TTIP Leaked Text – BBC News
TTIP: The EU-US trade deal explained – BBC News
US-EU trade deal: six reasons to care – BBC News
What is TTIP? And six reasons why the answer should scare you – The

TTIP – The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/business/ttip 
Trade talks “must include healthcare” – BBC News
EU-US Free Trade Agreement affects on NHS operation and provision –
Patients 4NHS
EU reveals US trade talks agenda in key TTIP document – BBC News
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) – United States
Trade Representative https://ustr.gov/ttip 
Is democracy threatened if companies can sue countries? - BBC News
A million sign petition against EU-US trade talks – BBC News
Unions oppose US trade deal with EU – BBC News
US-EU Free Trade Agreement (TTIP) AFL-CIO
MPs seek more detail on controversial US-EU trade talks – BBC News
MEPs debate TTIP Resolution - BBC News
“What’s Wrong with TTIP” Jean Lambert MEP

Prague joins global TTIP protest – Prague Post
Juanjo Basterra, periodista economico sobre el TTIP – Radio Euskadi
(Basque Radio)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

"Justice" in the USA!

There was a very useful broadcast by Democracy Now! on 6 April 2015. Here is the link:


There were three main stories:

1. The release after nearly 30 years on death row in Alabama of Anthony Ray Hinton. The situation of poor people, especially black people in the USA, under the criminal law system and penal system is barbaric beyond words. This is a very moving account of what happened and one can only admire Mr Hinton and his lawyer who like other lawyers, including some from the UK, are doing what they can in very difficult circumstances.

2. This is the case of Glenn Ford who after being wrongly convicted and on death row in Louisiana is being denyied compensation by the state even though he is now dying of cancer - a second death sentence.

3. This concerns the welcome decision of the American Pharmacists Association urging its members not to prescribe drugs to be used in executions

Monday, April 06, 2015

Our right to ramble

 Readers will know of my interest in protecting access to our countryside and in particular our commons. Here is a very useful article that appeared in the Daily Telegraph of 4 April 2015. It is worth reading:

Our right to ramble on common land must be exercised

Only after years of struggle did the people of Britain gain access to its ancient commons. Now that right is under threat, say campaigners

Sherwood Forest
Eighty-eight per cent of commons are in areas officially designated for their beauty or wildlife Photo: photolibrary.com; John McKenna
Estovers, turbary, pannage: they sound like answers to questions on University Challenge. And this weekend millions of Britons will be enjoying a relatively recent addition to their ancient rights to collect firewood, cut peat, and graze pigs on common land – the right of access.
From Hampstead Heath to the Lake District, the Malvern Hills to Wimbledon Common, Oxford’s Port Meadow to the Outer Hebrides, people will be out on common land, often without realising that’s what it is. Many urban commons have, of course, long been open to the public, though often only after a struggle. And since the turn of the millennium there has been a right of access to virtually all the rest.
Yet countryside campaigners say that, as a whole, Britain’s thousands of commons have never been so threatened – from disuse even more than from development.
Commons date back at least to Saxon times, with some archaeological evidence suggesting they are rooted in prehistory. Once they covered about half of the country; some of our earliest laws are about managing them. Now they make up only some 5 per cent of Britain. England’s 7,000 commons, for example, cover an area about the size of Suffolk.
Hampstead Heath: the single largest commons in London (Matthew Dent)
What is left is often especially valuable. Eighty-eight per cent of commons in England and Wales lie in areas officially designated for their beauty or wildlife, such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, while urban commons are cherished green lungs among the concrete. Upland commons, too, provide vital grazing for hill farmers.
They remain because they survived successive waves of enclosures, which in turn provoked resistance by sword and pen. Armed rebellion broke out in Norfolk and Oxfordshire, while John Clare, the 19th-century peasant poet, bewailed “little parcels little minds to please, with men and flocks imprisoned ill at ease”. His contemporary William Wordsworth went further, tearing down a wall built on common land and helping to save the great commons of Helvellyn and Grasmere in the Lake District.
Enclosures, however, continued into the 19th century, when Britain’s oldest conservation group, the Open Spaces Society – which this year celebrates its 150th anniversary – was formed to fight threats to Hampstead Heath, Wimbledon Common, parts of Epping Forest, and other commons in the capital. In 1878 it went nationwide, campaigning in vain against the Lake District’s Thirlmere reservoir, but winning public access to adjacent common land.
The Open Spaces Society led to the formation of the National Trust (Alamy)
Seven years later, one of its trustees – the social reformer Octavia Hill, a leader of the Thirlmere campaign – was convinced that conservationists had to go further and buy land for the public. She proposed establishing the Commons and Gardens Trust, “for accepting, holding and purchasing open spaces for the people in town and country”. The name struck a colleague as too long-winded: he substituted “The National Trust.”
Today the trust is one of the main owners of common land, which, contrary to public perception, belongs to individual people, firms and bodies rather than to the public at large. Some 36,000 rights for non-owners to use them have been registered and commons are supposedly protected by law, but the Open Spaces Society is still fighting encroachment.
It has, for example, returned to one of its first battlegrounds to resist United Utilities erecting a six-mile fence at Thirlmere, and is objecting to the building of a £315 million motor racing circuit on 600 acres of common land in the Welsh Valleys. There are two sides to each story; the water company is trying to reduce erosion from grazing, and promises stiles and gates for access, while the circuit would bring much-needed jobs and income to one of Britain’s poorest areas.
Thirlmere Reservoir: an ancient battleground for commons campaigners (Alamy)
Still, the society insists that commons are “probably under greater threat today than for decades”. Cuts threaten to deprive the Surrey Wildlife Trust of hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money for managing its 9,000 acres of common land, while recent legislation has made it easier to build on village greens. The worst danger, however, is from disuse, especially on smaller commons, where people no longer exercise their rights. Grazing, for example, has declined dramatically, causing scrub to take over.
Yet there are signs of revival. Communities from the Chilterns to Northumberland, East Devon to Tunbridge Wells, are clearing scrub and bringing life back to commons by managing them. They are organising activities such as pond-tipping, tree-planting, horse-riding and butterfly recording, school visits and nature walks.
It’s a long way from the estovers, turbary and pannage of yore. But it offers hope of a new age for our ancient common land.