The Road North: Tottenham Court Road to Camden, a set on Flickr.
On September 3, 2012, as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, inspired by a journey from Triton Square through Fitzrovia to Oxford Street and Soho Square that I had taken just three days earlier, I returned to central London, to the giant Crossrail project that has currently devoured the junction where Oxford Street and New Oxford Street meet Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road (known as St. Giles Circus), and cycled north, up Tottenham Court Road, across Euston Road and up Hampstead Road to Camden Town.
Photos of Camden, and of the journey I took along the Regent’s Canal from Camden to King’s Cross, will follow soon, but this set focuses on the great artery north, technically the A400, that takes its name from a manor house just to the north west of the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street, which, during the time of Henry III (1216–1272), belonged to William de Tottenhall. By the time of Elizabeth I, it was known as Tottenham Court, and now, as Tottenham Court Road, it is a busy shopping street, with electronics shops at the southern end and big furniture stores further north, although, as with most things to do with the retail environment, these certainties are generally in flux, and shops come and go with the whims of fashion, the ludicrous ease of internet shopping (consigning young people to work in warehouses in the middle of nowhere), and the state of the economy. Read the rest of this entry »
On Friday, as part of a court case, the Justice Department released the names of 55 of the 86 prisoners cleared for release from Guantánamo in 2009 by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consisted of officials from key government departments and the intelligence agencies. The Task Force’s final report was issued in January 2010.
Until now, the government has always refused to release the names, hindering efforts by the prisoners’ lawyers — and other interested parties — to publicize their plight.
The rationale for this was explained by Ambassador Daniel Fried, the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Closure of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility, in June 2009, when he stated that “indiscriminate public disclosure of the decisions resulting from reviews by Guantánamo Review Task Force will impair the US Government’s ability effectively to repatriate and resettle Guantánamo detainees” under the executive order establishing a review of the prisoners’ cases, which was issued on President Obama’s second day in office in January 2009, at the same time that he promised to close Guantánamo within a year. Read the rest of this entry »
London Skies: Big Fluffy Clouds , a set on Flickr.
“Little fluffy clouds,” famously, was a quote in an interview with the wonderful singer/songwriter Rickie Lee Jones, which was sampled by art pranksters The Orb for their 1990 single of the same name. This is the exchange:
Interviewer: What were the skies like when you were young?
Rickie Lee Jones: They went on forever. We lived in Arizona, and the skies always had little fluffy clouds in ‘em, and, uh, they were long and clear and there were lots of stars at night. And, uh, when it would rain, it would all turn — They were beautiful, the most beautiful skies as a matter of fact. Um, the sunsets were purple and red and yellow and on fire, and the clouds would catch the colours everywhere. That’s, uh, neat ’cause I used to look at them all the time, when I was little. You don’t see that. You might still see them in the desert. Read the rest of this entry »
This afternoon, on my way back from a disturbing bike ride around Mayfair, where money is almost literally oozing out of every orifice of those who find it easier than ever to enrich themselves at the expense of society as a whole, I arrived back at Charing Cross, to catch the train back to south east London, where I was confronted by the front page of the Evening Standard announcing, “London Squatter First to Be Jailed,” which threw me into an angry depression.
The squatter in question — actually a 21-year old from Portsmouth, Alex Haigh, who only arrived in London in July — is indeed the first person to be jailed for squatting since the law on squatting was changed on September 1, transforming it from a civil to a criminal offence, punishable by a six-month prison sentence and a £5,000 fine.
Haigh was given a 12-week sentence after pleading guilty to squatting a property in Pimlico owned by the housing association L&Q (London & Quadrant), which, ironically, is supposed to be in the business of providing homes to those in need, like all providers of social housing. He is now in Wormwood Scrubs, where his accommodation for the next three months will be provided by the British taxpayer. Depriving people of their liberty costs, on average, between £27,000 and £29,000 a year, and £2.2 billion is spent in total on the 80,000-plus prisoners in England and Wales. Read the rest of this entry »
On Sunday, in torrential rain, I cut short a dry afternoon in the Catford Bridge Tavern — a formerly notoriously rough pub reborn after its recent takeover by the Antic group, which is spacious, friendly, well-decorated, and which also does excellent food, including Sunday roasts — to take my bike on the train to Charing Cross, and, from there, to cycle up to Piccadilly and through Mayfair to Grosvenor Square, to speak at a protest outside the US Embassy to mark the second anniversary of the sentencing, in a court in New York, of Aafia Siddiqui.
The story of Aafia Siddiqui, which I have been covering for many years, remains one of the most disturbing in the whole of the Bush administration’s brutal “war on terror.” A Pakistani neuroscientist, she is currently two years into a horrendously unjust 86 year sentence in a prison hospital in Texas for allegedly having tried and failed, in August 2008, to shoot a number of US soldiers who were holding her in Ghazni, Afghanistan. This followed her resurfacing after a mysterious five and a half year absence, in which many people believe she was held in one or more secret CIA “black sites,” where she was severely abused and lost her mind.
Although the turnout for the protest, organised by the Justice for Aafia Coalition, was only moderate, numbers were swelled by the many thousands of people who had turned up for a protest about the terrible racist and Islamophobic video, “The Innocence of Muslims,” which, to my mind, like all examples of bigotry, is best ignored, to avoid providing the oxygen of publicity to those peddling such filth. However, the organisers of the Aafia Siddiqui protest were presented with an excellent opportunity to inform numerous people about the plight of Dr. Siddiqui, which was obviously useful. Read the rest of this entry »
Deptford: A Life By The River Thames, a set on Flickr.
In May, when I first conceived of the notion of travelling the whole of London by bike, taking photos to compile a portrait of the city at this troubling time in its history (caught between the Olympics and its role as a harbour for the global rich on the one hand, and on the other subjected to the Tories’ ruinous and ideologically malignant “age of austerity”), the first places I visited were Greenwich and Deptford (or see here), down the hill from my home in Brockley, in south east London.
Greenwich, of course, is internationally renowned, and deservedly so, as it is the home of the Royal Observatory (and the location of the prime meridian), and is also the home of the recently renovated Cutty Sark tea clipper, and the splendid Royal Naval College.
Deptford, in contrast, Greenwich’s westerly neighbour and the site of the former Royal Dockyard, is unknown to many Londoners, and has few obvious attractions beyond its two historically significant churches — the Church of St. Nicholas on Deptford Green, where the playwright Christopher Marlowe is buried, and the Church of St. Paul, located off Deptford High Street. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.
In a busy week for news relating to Guantánamo, the most significant development was the court-ordered release of the names of 55 of the 86 prisoners who have been cleared for release from Guantánamo but are still held.
Beginning this coming week, and in the weeks to come, we will be analyzing this list in detail, telling the stories of many of these men, but what we can note upfront is that 28 of the 55 names were featured in our groundbreaking report in June, “Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago.”
Adnan Latif: Please sign the open letter
For now, however, we’d like to revisit the story of Adnan Latif, the mentally troubled Yemeni man who died at Guantánamo two weeks ago, and to call your attention to an open letter and petition to the US government issued by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Please sign and circulate it, if you can. Read the rest of this entry »
The Old and the New: A Journey through Waterloo, Borough and Bermondsey, a set on Flickr.
These photos are the last in a series of photos from Friday August 31, 2012, when, as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, I cycled through central London and back to my home in Brockley, in south east London, after attending a protest in Triton Square, just off Euston Road, outside the offices of Atos Healthcare, the multinational company that is running the government’s vile review process for disabled people, which is designed to find them fit for work when they are not. See the Flickr set here.
After the protest, I cycled through Fitzrovia to Oxford Street, and then on to Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross and the Southbank Centre. The previous Flickr sets are here, here and here. Read the rest of this entry »
What is the government doing? Last year, when Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with its contentious passages endorsing the mandatory military detention of terror suspects, there was uproar across the political spectrum from Americans who believed that it would be used on US citizens.
In fact, it was unclear whether or not this was the case. The NDAA was in many ways a follow-up to the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress the week after the 9/11 attacks, which authorized the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
As confirmed by the Supreme Court in June 2004, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the NDAA also allowed those seized — who were allegedly involved with al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban — to be held until the end of hostilities. The AUMF was, and remains the basis for the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo, but on two occasions President Bush decided that it applied to US citizens — in the cases of Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, who were held on US soil as “enemy combatants” and subjected to torture. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m sorry to report that it’s two years since the Pakistani neuroscientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui received an 86-year sentence in a court in New York for allegedly having tried and failed to shoot the US soldiers in whose custody she was being held in Afghanistan in August 2008. There is a protest outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square tomorrow afternoon — September 23 — at which I’ll be speaking, along with many other people, so if you’re in London please come along. See a map here, and the Facebook page here.
The trial of Aafia Siddiqui, which culminated in her sentence, and which I described at the time as “barbaric,” appeared to be a cover for a much grimmer story — one of the darkest in the whole of the torture-filled “war on terror” — in which, on the basis of alleged connections with terrorism that have never been proved, she had disappeared with her children in Pakistan in March 2003 and was then held in a “black site” until her engineered reappearance in Ghazni in 2008.
According to the US authorities, after being captured in a bewildered state, she allegedly tried and failed to shoot the Americans guarding her, which provided an excuse to render her to the US to be put on trial — an unusual move given that most people accused of anti-American activities in Afghanistan did not end up in the US — and for her to be silenced as a result of the 86-year sentence handed down after a trial that critics called “a grave miscarriage of justice,” and to be held in isolation in a psychiatric prison/hospital for women in Carswell, Texas, notoriously referred to as the “hospital of horrors”, where her health continues to deteriorate, and where she is denied meaningful contact with her family. Read the rest of this entry »
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