Archive for July, 2019

The War on Social Housing – on the Centenary of the Addison Act That Launched the Creation of Large-Scale Council Housing

The unnecessary destruction of Robin Hood Gardens Estate in Poplar, in east London, March 2018, to make way for a new private development, Blackwall Reach (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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Today, July 31, is the centenary of the first Housing and Town Planning Act (widely known as the Addison Act), which was introduced by the Liberal politician Christopher Addison, as part of David Lloyd George’s coalition government following the First World War, to provide Britain’s first major council housing programme, as John Boughton, the author of Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing, explained in an article published yesterday in the Guardian.

Boughton explained how, when Addison “introduced his flagship housing bill to the House of Commons in April 1919”, he spoke of its “utmost importance, from the point of view not only of the physical wellbeing of our people, but of our social stability and industrial content.”

“As we celebrate the centenary of council housing”, Boughton noted, “this sentiment is not lost in the context of the current housing crisis. From the rise in expensive, precarious and often poor-quality private renting to the dwindling dream of home-ownership, it is fuelling discontent. This escalating crisis means that increasing numbers of people are now forced to deal with the painful consequences of the country’s inability to provide such a basic human need — a stable, affordable home.”

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I’m Off to WOMAD to Forget About Boris; Why Not Watch Tidemill on the BBC While I’m Gone?

A photo from WOMAD 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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My friends, I’m off to Wiltshire for six days, for the annual WOMAD world music festival in the grounds of Charlton Park in Wiltshire. My wife runs children’s workshops at this very family-friendly festival, and this will be our 18th year of entertaining children with craft activities, soaking up some of the best music from around the world, and hanging out with friends and family backstage and in crew camping.

It will be a relief to get away from London as the fallout from Boris Johnson’s election as Prime Minister by just 92,153 members of the Tory Party continues, to the dismay of everyone vaguely sentient, and if you’re stuck for something to do until I’m back, why not check out ‘ How the Middle Class Ruined Britain’, a BBC2 documentary featuring working class Tory stand-up comedian Geoff Norcott exploring Britain’s class struggle, which was broadcast last night, but is available on iPlayer for the next eleven months.

I worked closely with the producer and director, and spent an interesting day with Geoff focusing on the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign in Deptford, particularly focusing on the proposals, by Lewisham Council and Peabody, to demolish Reginald House, a structurally sound block of council flats, as part of their planned redevelopment of the old Tidemill primary school and its former wildlife garden, which myself and others occupied for two months last year until we were violently evicted in October.

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Extinction Rebellion’s Summer Uprising Shows the Need for Increased Direct Action as the Establishment Fights Back

A screenshot of a video of Extinction Rebellion activists blockading London Concrete’s plant in Bow, in east London, on July 16, 2019.

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Last week, the environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) held a ’Summer Uprising’ in five UK cities — London, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow and Leeds — theatrically installing painted boats emblazoned with key messages in all five locations, and engaging in various actions designed to continue highlighting their three core messages: to get the government to “tell the truth” about the unprecedented man-made environmental crisis that is already unfolding at an alarming rate, to “halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025”, and to “create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.”

Since last autumn, when the group announced itself via the occupation of five bridges in central London, and followed up in April with the extraordinary and unprecedented occupation of five sites in central London that lasted for over a week, with the police arresting over a thousand people but refusing to respond with blanket violence to a movement that was resolutely non-violent, Extinction Rebellion has been one of two movements that have captured the public’s imagination in significant numbers regarding the unprecedented emergency facing life on earth  —- the other being the School Strike for Climate initiated by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg

With the steely resolve of an individual with Asperger’s who has chosen an implacable route, Thunberg relentlessly confronts world leaders about how they have known about the scale of the unfolding disaster for 25 years, and yet have done nothing about it. She is particularly scathing about the “fine words” they utter when confronted about it, which she correctly assesses as being completely meaningless without the necessary actions to fulfil them. Inspired by her message and her attitude, millions of schoolchildren around the world have taken part in — and continue to take part in — regular school strikes, showing adults the world over how much more clued-up they are when it comes to what should be society’s urgent priorities.

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Celebrating 800 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos posted in my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

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Check out all the photos here!

Over seven years ago, in a world that seemed brighter than today — even though the Tories were in power, and London was in the throes of a corporate and jingoistic makeover as the host of the 2012 Olympic Games — I began an absurdly ambitious project that I soon dubbed ‘The State of London’, which involved me cycling around the London postal area (the 120 postcodes beginning WC, EC, SE, SW, W, NW, N and E), with some additional forays into the 13 Greater London postcodes beginning with two letters (e.g. CR for Croydon) that surround it.

For some reason, I wasn’t deterred by the fact that the London postal area covers 241 square miles, and although my ambition has in some ways paid off, in that, by September 2014, I had visited each of the 120 postcodes at least once, I would be lying if I didn’t concede that my knowledge of much of London — particularly in the west, the north west and the north — remains shadowy to say the least.

That said, my knowledge of a larger part of London — radiating from my home in south east London — has become satisfyingly thorough. There is barely a street in the whole of south east London that I have not visited, and, in addition, east London and south west London, the City, the West End, and parts of north, north west and west London have all become extremely familiar to me.

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CIA Torture Unredacted: New Report Fills in Crucial Gaps in 2014 Senate Torture Report

The front cover of “CIA Torture Unredacted”, a 400-page report by Sam Raphael, Crofton Black and Ruth Blakeley, published in London on July 10, 2019.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.

Congratulations to Sam Raphael and Ruth Blakeley of The Rendition Project, Crofton Black of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and all those who worked with them, for the publication of “CIA Torture Unredacted,” their 400-page report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, which was launched in London last Wednesday, and is available online, in its entirety, here — and see here for a chapter by chapter breakdown.

The report is the culmination of nine years’ work, which began in 2010 with funding from the UK-based Economic and Social Research Council, and which led, in May 2013, to the launch of The Rendition Project website, which, as Ian Cobain and James Ball explained for the Guardian, “mapped the US government’s global kidnap and secret detention programme, shedding unprecedented light on one of the most controversial secret operations of recent years.”

At the time of its initial launch in 2013, The Rendition Project drew on previous work conducted by researchers for a variety of NGOs and international bodies, which included an influential report for the Council of Europe about secret prisons and rendition in Europe, published by Swiss Senator Dick Marty in 2007, a detailed analysis of the secret detention programme for a UN study in 2010, for which I was the lead author, and in which, as I described it in an Al-Jazeera article in 2014, “I sought to ascertain the identities of the 94 ‘ghost prisoners’ in CIA custody — including 28 subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation’ — who were referred to in a memo from 2005 by [US government] lawyer Steven G. Bradbury that was released by the Obama administration in April 2009. Another major report, by the Constitution Project, was published in 2013.

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2010 Guantánamo Military Report Expresses Concerns About Reliability of Intelligence from Prisoners with Mental Health Problems or on Mind-Altering Medication

An undated photo of a Guantánamo prisoner being escorted by guards in the prison’s Camp 6 (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images).

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Many thanks to Jason Leopold, senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News, for securing, through a Freedom of Information request, a DoD Inspector General report from 2010 entitled, “Review of the Joint Task Force Guantánamo’s Inclusion of Mental Health information in Intelligence Reports.”

Leopold, whose dogged pursuit, through FOIA requests, of documents the government would rather keep hidden secured him a description as a “FOIA terrorist,” posted the heavily related 33-page report on Twitter, noting that the report had taken seven years to be released since he first filed a FOIA request for it, and explaining that it was “about the mental health of detainees and the reliability of intel they provided to their captors.” 

The report states that it was “conducted to determine whether DoD Intelligence Information Reports (IIRs) published by Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF GTMO) and its predecessor organizations included information regarding the mental health status of sources or their history of medication with substances and to determine the possible effect on finished intelligence.”

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Deprivation and Despair: New Report Details Crisis of Medical Care at Guantánamo

The cover of ‘Deprivation and Despair: The Crisis of Medical Care at Guantánamo,’ a new report by the the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).

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Many thanks to the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) for their new report, Deprivation and Despair: The Crisis of Medical Care at Guantánamo.

As CVT state in their introduction to the report on their website, “the experiences of detainees and independent civilian medical experts with medical care at the Guantánamo Bay detention center not only broadly refute the claim that detainees receive care equivalent to that of U.S. service members, but also evidence specific violations of the Nelson Mandela Rules, the universally recognized UN standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, which the United States has championed.”

In the introduction to the report itself, CVT and PHR provide a summary of Guantánamo now, “in its eighteenth year”, explaining, “Forty Muslim men still languish there, 31 of whom have never been charged with a crime. Five detainees have long been cleared for transfer by consensus of the Executive Branch’s national security apparatus, which determined that the men pose no meaningful threat, if any at all, to the United States. Many of the remaining detainees are torture survivors or victims of similarly significant trauma. All of them are either suffering from or at high risk of the additional profound physical and psychological harm associated with prolonged indefinite detention, a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. As the men age under these conditions, they are increasingly presenting with complex medical needs.”

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Andy Worthington: An Archive of My Articles About Guantánamo and My UK Housing Activism – Part 25, July to December 2018

Outside the White House, singing in Washington, D.C., and with a loudhailer outside the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, on October 29, 2018, the day its occupiers were violently evicted.

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This article is the 25th in an ongoing series of articles listing all my work in chronological order since I first began publishing articles here in May 2007. It’s a project I began in January 2010, when I put together the first chronological lists of all my articles, in the hope that doing so would make it as easy as possible for readers and researchers to navigate my work — the more than 3,150 articles I have published, which, otherwise, are not available in chronological order in any readily accessible form.

I receive no institutional funding for my work, and so, if you appreciate what I do as a reader-funded journalist and activist, please consider making a donation via the Paypal ‘Donate’ button above. Any amount, however large or small, will be very gratefully received — and if you are able to become a regular monthly sustainer, that would be particularly appreciated. To do so, please tick the box marked, “Make this a monthly donation,” and fill in the amount you wish to donate every month.

As I note every time I put together a chronological list of my articles, my mission, as it has been since my research in 2006-07, for my book The Guantánamo Files, first revealed the scale of the injustice at Guantánamo, revolves around four main aims — to humanize the prisoners by telling their stories; to expose the many lies told about them to supposedly justify their detention; to push for the prison’s closure and the absolute repudiation of indefinite detention without charge or trial as US policy; and to call for those who initiated, implemented and supported indefinite detention and torture to be held accountable for their actions. In addition, as released prisoners have been abandoned by the government under Donald Trump, who has shut down the State Department office responsible for negotiating resettlements, and monitoring those released from the prison, a fifth aim is to seek justice for those released from Guantánamo.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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