Tuesday, 29 December 2009

*Norwich councillor in Gaza house arrest

A Norwich Green Party councillor has been placed under house arrest in Egypt after trying to reach the Gaza Strip to deliver art materials to people traumatised by the conflict in the territory.

Peter Offord, Green county councillor for Thorpe Hamlet, set off last week to join the Gaza Freedom March, a 1,000-strong international delegation calling for the borders to be re-opened to let in humanitarian aid and mark the first anniversary of a conflict with Israel which saw more than 1,400 people killed.

The 62-year-old managed to reach the Egyptian city of el-Arish, about 40km away from the Gaza Strip, but at 12pm on Sunday he was among around 30 activists who were detained in their hotel.

Road blocks have also been set up around the town, with the Egyptian security forces preventing taxis carrying people who appear to be European, from leaving, with two protesters having been stopped and detained by police.

Mr Offord, a qualified art therapist, who hoped to visit the newly set up Palestine Trauma Centre in Gaza and donate art materials, said: “We are pretty much under house arrest. We can leave the apartments so long as we don't take our luggage with us, but the minute we pick up our bags, they stop us from leaving.

“The internet connection at the hotel has either gone down or been cut off and there are plain-clothed police at the front and back of the hotel.

“My main aim is getting the art materials to the trauma centre, so I am trying to make contact with the Egyptian Foreign Minister to see if, even if I can't go there, it would be possible for someone else to take the materials to them.”

On New Year's Eve the group hopes to walk from Gaza City to the Erez border crossing to meet a delegation from the Israeli side comprising of Palestinians and Jews who are also calling on the Israeli government to open the border crossing.

But Mr Offord said the group was becoming increasingly frustrated and that such as meeting was looking unlikely to happen unless the Egyptian security forces relented.

He said: “We are frustrated, sad and angry. From the outset we made clear this was a peaceful protest, but as soon as we arrived they enforced a law saying it was unlawful to gather in groups of six or more, so the main protest was banned.

“We are looking at ways we might still be able to get there, but people are becoming demoralised.”

Mr Offord said the trip had still fulfilled its objective to raise awareness of the situation in Gaza and help victims of the conflict.

“It is vital that Gaza and Palestine are not forgotten by the rest of the world,” he said. “It highlights the need for both sides to come to a peaceful resolution.”

Friday, 25 December 2009

*20mph speed zones cut road injuries by 40%, study says

UK cities should have more 20mph speed zones, as they have cut road injuries by over 40% in London, a study claims.

In particular the number of children killed or seriously injured has been halved over the past 15 years, the British Medical Journal reported.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine study estimates 20mph zones have the potential to prevent up to 700 casualties in London alone.

At 20mph, it is estimated only one in 40 pedestrians is killed in a crash.
This compares with a one in five chance for someone hit at 30mph.

The researchers compared data on road collisions, injuries and deaths in London between 1986 and 2006, with speed limits on roads.

After adjusting for a general reduction in road injuries in recent years, they found that the introduction of 20mph zones were associated with a 41.9% drop in casualties.

The greatest reduction was seen in children under the age of 11 years and in the numbers of all ages killed or seriously injured.

Cyclist injuries fell by 17% once 20mph zones came in, and injuries in pedestrians have been cut by almost a third.

There was also no evidence of a higher rate of casualties in areas bordering the 20mph zones, as in areas adjacent to 20mph zones casualties fell by an average of 8%.

Study leader Dr Chris Grundy, a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "This evidence supports the rationale for 20mph zones, not just in major cities in Britain, but also in similar metropolitan areas elsewhere.
"Indeed, even within London, there is a case for extending the currently limited provision of such zones to other high casualty roads."

He estimated that 20mph zones in London save 200 lives a year, but this could increase to 700 if plans to extend the zones were implemented.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the study backed their own research showing that 20mph zones help to reduce accidents and casualties.

"Our road safety strategy consultation recommends that local authorities introduce, over time, 20mph zones or limits into streets around schools, and which are primarily residential in nature, to protect pedestrians and cyclists.
"This will save lives and make people feel more secure in walking and cycling on those streets."

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: "This research confirms that one of the most effective ways of protecting vulnerable road users, especially children, is the introduction of 20mph zones.

"It lends weight to calls for an expansion of 20mph zones, which RoSPA strongly supports and which we hope will become a crucial part of the new road safety strategy for the next 10 years."

A special word here for Councillor Katie Dawson, Green Party Councillor in Islington. She was instrumental in forcing the 20mph policy through Islington Council in the face of opposition from the ruling Lib Dems. She can sleep well at Christmas knowing that there will be people alive to celebrate next year's festive season who would not have been alive without her efforts.

Friday, 11 December 2009

*London Greens Winter Party

Our Winter Party is shaping up to be a great social event. “Sounds like a jolly party, so I will be there” said a top London (non-GP) Blogger.

Jules, our Social officer has put in a huge amount of work. She has gathered wonderful stuff for our auction and raffle. She is even baking the Green party birthday cake, and wait until you taste Melan’s wonderful cuisine!!
There will be a pay bar and they have got in real ale, especially for the Green Party.

There will be a ‘goody bag’ for everyone (or at least the first 60).



This year's London Fed Winter Party hopes to be so. Also marking the exact birthday of PEOPLE (from whence we grew), founded 12th December 1972.

Presentations to the longest serving active members and the children from the Euro campaign leaflets.

With talented John Hegley headlining and live music from Afghanistan and the Ukraine; vegan & vegetarian dishes from Iran & Central London (?!). Quality and original auction lots and raffle prizes kindly donated by Ecotricity, Ecover, Wiggly Wigglers & others, including a Bat Walk for two at the London Wetlands Centre. We are going to try our hardest to make this a 'zero waste event' with NO disposable cups, plates, cutlery, anything. Hope to see you there.

Out of the tube, left & left again!

Winter Party

Saturday 12th December

7.30pm to 11pm

The Horse Hospital

Colonnade, Bloomsbury

London WC1N 1HX

See map at www.thehorsehospital.com

Russell Square tube, Piccadilly Line,
Buses: 7, 59, 68, 91, 168, 188

Special guest: Comic poet musician, John Hegley ( www.johnhegley.co.uk)

Delicious vegan & vegetarian feast

Live music

Pay bar

Disabled access

Original raffle prizes, auction, Irish bingo, gift stall & more

FREE admission but donations very welcome. Come along, bring friends. Meet and chat to our MEP, Assembly Members and Councillors. Have a great London night out at this special venue for the Arts.

Live music

Pay bar

Disabled access

Original raffle prizes, auction, Irish bingo, gift stall & more

FREE admission but donations very welcome. Come along, bring friends. Meet and chat to our MEP, Assembly Members and Councillors. Have a great London night out at this special venue for the Arts.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

*Dubai debt woes give Islamic finance its first big crisis

By Andrew Newby

DUBAI, Dec 02, 2009 (AFp) - Dubai World's plan to delay repaying a huge Islamic bond issue may damage the image of sharia finance, not due to inherent problems but rather because investors have ignored key questions, analysts say.

"In many ways, this has been an extraordinary crisis, but it is the first for the empyonic sukuk industry," said Khalid Howladar of Moody's Investors Service.

Another expert, professor Habib Ahmed of Durham University, said the crisis points to the need for a better understanding of the rules applying to sukuk.

"This case is a wake-up call for Islamic finance to focus more on ethical and moral issues that it has been ignoring for so long," Ahmed told AFp.

A widespread view among economists is that fears about the rights of the Dubai World bondholders relate at least as much to a lack of clarity in the Dubai legal system as they do to the rules of Islamic finance.

In addition, much of Dubai's spending has gone on speculative construction projects and the 50 percent fall in property prices in the emirate means all real estate-related finance deals face a problem whether using Islamic or Western rules, they say.

Islamic sharia rules forbid usury, so anyone lending money is barred from charging interest. Instead, investors are granted a share of the assets and in the case of a property developer, the issuer of a sukuk will typically pay a rent until refunding the loan when it matures.

Dubai World's property unit Nakheel, developer of Dubai's iconic palm Jumeirah artificial island resort, is scheduled to repay a 3.5 billion dollars sukuk on December 14, so it is the first subsidiary affected by the group's request last week for a six-months halt to debt repayments.

"The maturity date of the sukuk was December 14, 2009 when Nakheel was supposed to pay the last rental coupon and buy back the assets, but instead declared its inability to perform," said Ahmed, chair in Islamic law and finance at Durham's Institute of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.

Theoretically at least, Islamic laws on financial transactions have some inherent features that induce stability, he said.

"The ban on interest and other rules would prevent Islamic investors investing in certain instruments such as conventional bonds and derivatives," which caused last year's global credit crunch, Ahmed said.

"Until now, Islamic economists have been saying that Islamic finance was not affected directly by the subprime problems. The Nakheel problem shows that Islamic finance can have similar problems if wrong investments are made," he said.

One reason for this is that many sukuk are structured to resemble conventional bonds, meaning the risks of ownership are transferred to the issuer rather than shared by the investors, the professor said.

"This is one of the criticisms of Islamic products: instead of coming up with products that reflect the spirit and substance of Islamic law, they are structured very similar to conventional products," Ahmed said.

A source who asked to remain anonymous because his company has extensive dealings in the region said credit ratings agencies have valued Islamic debt on the creditworthiness of the issuer rather than the assets because of doubts over investors' claim to the assets.

"Noone has confidence in sukuk investors to foreclose on the assets" they have lent money on in Dubai and several countries using sharia rules, because the legal system in those countries is "underdeveloped," he said.

The Dubai International Financial Centre, a business district which opened in 2004 with the aim of making the emirate a world-class financial hub, uses English law within its perimeter because of the lack of precision in sharia law, the source told AFp.

Moody's Howladar agreed with Ahmed that many sukuks are too similar to convention finance for their own good.

"The desire for Middle Eastern corporate credit exposure and unsecured debt has created sukuk instruments that, in substance, attempt to be identical to conventional bonds," he said in a study released this week.

Restructurings such as Dubai World's are common in mature markets, but the "immature and opaque nature" of Dubai's law system and the lack of precedent "give little comfort to investors spread across the world," he said.

"Given the sheer scale and complexity of Dubai World, this event will be an important test of investors.

Source: Zawya

This article is by Andrew Newby, economics journalist and foreign affairs expert. He is the Green Party General Election candidate for Hendon.

Saturday, 5 December 2009


CHRISTMAS WITHOUT CRUELTY FAYRE takes place tomorrow Sunday Nov. 6th.

Venue, Kensington Town Hall, just yards away from High Street Kensington Tube.

As usual, I will be running the Green Party/Green Room stall. I will also be conducting the Auction at 2.30pm.

Our stall is downstairs outside the crèche.

Hope to meet loads of you there. If you haven't been there before, it really is a wonderful event.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

*The Internationale starts auction.

The auction on Saturday was a great success.

Adams & Smith Auctioneers (alias artists Hollington & Kyprianou)put on a very professional production. About 50 people attended. I was introduced after a rousing rendition of all six verses of The Internationale.

Among the prices realised:

Packet of anadins......£5.50.

A used golf ball.......£40. This allowed me a rant about the iniquities of Donald Trump's vandalism in Scotland and 'Scottish Clearances'

Bottle of water........£4. The greatest con of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Empty plastic bag......£8. Allowed me to give a quick briefing on these environmental terrors and mention my GLA paper 'Plastic not Fantastic'

Banking counter pen and holder......£48. Made the point that while people were expected to trust the banks, the banks didn't even trust their customers with a plastic pen!!

Several hundred pounds was raised to help send protestors to Copenhagen.

The whole event was filmed and will be available in the near future.

See more at www.electronicsunset.org