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Peace News log archive: January 2011

Articles from the Peace News log.
For archive articles from the whole site, look here

Virginia Moffatt reflects on having a partner imprisoned

To all intents and purposes, last Wednesday was a normal day. I dropped my husband, Chris Cole, in Headington and watched him walk away in the darkness to the London bus, as I often do. Then I  headed back home for the usual morning routine of breakfast, sandwich making, and the school run.

But last Wednesday was different in one respect. For the second time in four years, Chris was returning to Westminster Magistrates to “wilfully refuse” to pay a fine he’d incurred during  an anti-arms trade protest. In September 2009, he’d taken a can of spray paint, and left messages of peace on the entrance to the opening conference of the Defence Services Export International Exhibition (DSEI). After a year of dodging bailiffs and arrest warrants, we knew this would inevitably lead to a prison sentence, and by lunchtime he’d been sentenced to 30 days (hopefully out in 15) and off to Wandsworth Prison. (Chris has written some excellent pre-prison reflections here)

Six days later, and although we’ve received a lovely chatty letter, he hasn’t managed to call.  This is the longest period of time that we haven’t spoken to each other since we’ve been together. I know from last time, that part of the frustration of having my partner inside is being at the mercy of the prison system. He’s probably written  several more letters, but they are buried somewhere in a postroom. He may not have received ours. It’s possible that he’s been locked up 24/7 and hasn’t been able to get to a phone, or he hasn’t got his pin number, or the queues have been too long. It’s best not to speculate, or sit around waiting for the phone to ring.  But I am so used to Chris being there throughout the day to share domestic tasks, silly jokes, work problems, that his absence is everywhere.

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Rai Ko Ris, A punk band from Nepal, toured Europe last autumn. Frontwoman Sareena Rai describes how the anarchist scene surprised her.

“To exist as a band without the corporate music industry is in itself a political feat” – sticker stuck on a wall at a venue in North Germany

Sitting in a village on the edge of Kathmandu happily listening to the Subhumans, I had this yearning to go to Europe.

A good friend of ours from Holland calls the West “the fortress”; he said the people, the culture, and the way the whole place works is like a fortress, sealed and intimidating. I agreed with him and so why would I want to leave my six-year-old son behind for six weeks to travel in hostile territory? Not for work, nor for a better life, or for fortune but because I am “virused” and I am a little punkish.

In 2009, we got an email from somebody who’d been following our band for a while, asking us to gig at some shows for a festival organized by the ministry of culture in Denmark, all expenses paid. Though the other half of my band (my partner, who is also the drummer) was totally sceptical about a government-funded offer – the fact that some comrades of a similar “virused” nature happened to be part of the organising committee gave us confidence that we weren’t going to become sell-outs just yet.

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Jill Gibbon draws spooks and arms dealers in B'ham

This month’s drawings come from a graduate recruitment fair, held at the NEC, Birmingham at the end of October. The impact of the recession was clear – the show barely filled one of the twenty exhibition halls, and it was dominated by defence. Exhibitors included BAE Systems, EADs, Rolls Royce, Selex, the army, air force, GCHQ and M15. In spite of this, defence was curiously absent from the list of careers in the show guide.

BAE Systems appeared, instead, under almost every other category of job – Engineering, Finance, Human Resources, IT, Logistics, Manufacturing, Purchasing and Research. The stands were equally obscure. BAE gave away sweets stamped with its logo and jelly beans, against a poster of a bizarrely irrelevant smiling dolphin.


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