Thursday, 31 May 2018


Big Issue North December 2017 
Spotlight on waste incinerator emissions 
Campaigner cautiously welcomes new findings 
A new American study on the impact of tiny air particles on infants contends that the results “provide supportive evidence that lifetime exposure increases the risk of mortality”. 
The findings have been cautiously welcomed by Michael Ryan, whose research, reported by Big Issue North, was significant in forcing Public Health England (PHE) to conduct a study on the impact of municipal waste incinerators (MWI) on infant mortality levels. 
Ryan is currently waiting for the release of the results of the now long delayed PHE study and another by the Lullaby Trust, which aims to prevent unexpected infant deaths. 
He has also just submitted a detailed series of maps, information and reports, some stretching back to the mid-19th century, from across the world, to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee inquiry into air quality currently taking place in Parliament. 
Microscopic pollution 
The new American study. published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, looked at births and deaths in Massachusetts in 2001- 2007. It mapped them against estimates of the amount of PM2.5 particles they would have been exposed to. 
PM2.5 particles are pollutant microscopic particles found in the atmosphere – either solid or liquid – such as dust and ash. Waste incinerators emit them, although in the US study the source of them was not specified. “We found statistically significant associations between lifetime PM2.5 exposure and infant mortality,” report the researchers. 
A personal mission 
In 2004 a major Japanese study concluded that incinerators pose a health risk to infants. The previous year the Health Protection Agency – now PHE – promised to check health data about incinerators and landfill sites because of residents’ concerns. Ryan subsequently made a Freedom of Information request and found that no checks had been undertaken. 
After losing two of his children, one at 14 weeks, and considering their deaths could be related to living downwind of an incinerator, Ryan undertook his own studies in the UK, finding that infant mortality rates were higher close to incinerators, whether that was in affluent or poorer areas. 
He has since campaigned for further studies but one by PHE, into the link between incinerator emissions and infant deaths, has been delayed. PHE expected to report preliminary results in March 2014 and in July 2015 said it was aiming to submit results to peer-reviewed journals at the end of 2015. It is now expecting to do that by the end of this year. 
PHE has contended that well regulated modern incinerators are not a significant risk to public health. 
There have been delays too in another study, funded by the Lullaby Trust, on ambient air pollution in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) mortality. The Lullaby Trust’s initial findings in 2015 indicated “ambient air pollutants were associated with increased SIDS mortality”. 
“The Massachusetts results provide further supplementary evidence that claims by the PHE – which has once again delayed releasing its own report – that municipal waste incinerators are safe should be treated with scepticism especially where infant mortality is concerned,” said Ryan. 
“This is one of the points I have made, after being approached by the committee to submit my opinions, in my detailed written submission to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee inquiry. I am finding that an increasing number of groups that are opposed to waste incinerators being built locally are approaching me for information.” 
PHE refused to comment on the study. A Lullaby Trust spokesperson said: “We are very interested in the findings, they point towards lifetime exposure to PM2.5 increasing the risk of infant mortality, including SIDS.” 

Martin Jenkinson photo exhibition at Halifax Central Library goes well

Calderdale Council were able to build a good new library without needing to resort to finding the finance through the highly controversial PFI structure. In early May 2018 it was good to be able to assist Justine Jenkinson in exhibiting at the library - on behalf of Calderdale Trades Union Council - some very well known photos from the 1984-85 Miners' Strike by her late (and great) father, Martin.

Six copies of the 2014 book I helped bring together using Martin's images were sold to members of the public. This book has helped raise many thousands of pounds for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

Anyone interested in hosting an exhibition of Martin's work should take a look at:-

Easington Colliery in August 1984 - we never did finish the crossword

I am delighted to have assisted with an excellent documentary on the 1932 Mass Trespass

WellReadFilms have completed an excellent 13 minute documentary on the 1932 Mass Trespass and Benny Rothman's role in it:-

I was delighted to be interviewed and feature in the documentary and delighted that it ends with a link to my booklet, produced for Unite Education, on Benny Rothman and which can be downloaded for free at:-

My article (see below) on the documentary for UNITELive is at:-

The story of a land access protest in 1932 is now a film
Mark Metcalf, Friday, May 18th, 2018 

Mass Trespass is an entertaining 13 minute documentary film by WellRedFilms about the 1932 Kinder Scout Trespass, which has been described as the most important event of civil disturbance in the history of England.

It is universally accepted that the 24 April 1932 ramble on the moors in what is now the Peak District National Park by 400-500 working class youth, mainly from Manchester and Sheffield, helped pave the way for the creation of national parks and the right to roam on mountains and moorlands across the UK.

Manchester’s Benny Rothman, then a 20-year old unemployed motor mechanic with a background in trade union activity in the Unite heritage union, Amalgamated Engineering Union, was one of five young men imprisoned for defying trespassing laws that were policed by burly gamekeepers who jealously guarded the moors for their grouse-shooting masters.

Impromptu speech
Rothman had been thrust to the front of the trespassers when the main speaker failed to arrive. His impromptu speech heralded the start of the short trespass, which was opposed by 20 to 30 keepers. On their return to nearby Hayfield, Rothman and four other men were arrested and charged with public order offences, although not of trespass!

Their trial was riddled with class prejudice and on conviction they were imprisoned for between two and six months. Rothman conducted his own defence. It was a masterpiece of working class rhetoric. He was sent to prison for four months and in which time he learnt shorthand!

In Mass Trespass, WellRedFilms has skilfully combined images from 1932 with ramblers walking today on open countryside and re-enacted part of Rothman’s court case.

Modern campaigners for open spaces such as Kate Ashbrook, Roly Smith, who wrote the script for film, and Martin Porter describe how important the events in 1932 were. How they were part of a large peaceful campaign that included numerous public meetings, out door events and the lobbying of MPs. How success was built on collective organisation, a willingness to stand up for core beliefs and the use of innovative tactics that put their opponents on the back foot and led to mass public support that ultimately could not be ignored. These ideas remain vital today.

Smith, who knew Rothman well, describes him as “a fantastic little character, a man of principle.“ Ashbrook describes Rothman, whose parents were forced to flee Romania because Jews were the target there of religious persecution, anti-Semitism and racism, as “brave.”

Action against Mosley
Rothman, a member of the Communist Party, was certainly that when he left prison and immediately became one of the main organisers, especially amongst the Jewish community, in Manchester against the growing threat of fascism in the form of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts. Ideological opposition was successfully combined with a strong physical presence on the streets that helped prevent Mosley organising.

Ashbrook, who is general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and vice-chair of the Ramblers, praises the mass trespassers’ achievements that led to the passing of the 1949 National Parks and Countryside Act and the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000, but warns ”our rights are not complete. That is why we are still campaigning for access to woodland and the coast.”

The documentary makes comparisons with current struggles against fracking and the highly contentious chopping down of hundreds of trees by Sheffield City Council.

It closes with a link to the booklet written by myself, who features in the documentary, for Unite Education on Benny Rothman and which can be downloaded for free

The booklet shows how Rothman’s part at Kinder Scout in 1932 was just one act in his lifelong struggle for the rights to roam, workers’ and equal rights, trade union organisation and socialism. Thousands of Unite members have read the book. Other free books on Tom Jones, Julia Varley, Tony Hall and the 1889 Great Dock Strike can also be read for free

Congratulations to WellRedFilms for producing such a good documentary in Mass Trespass, which the actor and political activist Maxine Peake has said is, “A must see! A gem. Informative and inspiring. Lest we never forget Benny Rothman and the mass trespassers… because of their passion and bravery we have our freedom to roam. Long may they continue to inspire us.”

The film, which was directed, filmed and edited by film maker Jordan Carroll can be watched for free here

WellRedFilms is a small Sheffield-based group of videographers and activists who have made 45 short documentaries and features over the past few years. To take a look at their other films see here


Iranian refugees fear conflict

Iranian refugees fear conflict 
Concerns over plans to scrap nuclear deal 
Big Issue North Xmas Special 2017 
Donald Trump’s plan to scrap the Iran nuclear deal could lead to foreign intervention and further Middle East conflict, Iranian refugees fear. 
Even though they do not support the current regime in Tehran, Iranian refugees attending a recent conference in Sheffield said cancelling the deal signed between Iran and six world powers, including the US, could lead to upheaval and civil war in their country. 
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the Iran nuclear deal – was agreed in 2015 by Iran and the US, Russia, France, UK, China and Germany. 
Controversial programme 
Iran agreed to limit its controversial nuclear energy programme, which international powers had feared was being used to create nuclear weapons, in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions that had paralysed major parts of the Iranian economy and led to thousands of children dying due to a lack of food and medical supplies. 
The JCPOA was US president Barack Obama’s major foreign policy achievement during his term in office. But his successor has said he will not re-certify the deal and wants Congress and the other signatories to toughen its restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme and to re-impose sanctions. 
“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” Trump said in October. 
The other world powers have maintained their commitment to the deal and say the US cannot unilaterally tear it up. 
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif  said that if sanctions were reintroduced Tehran would have a right to decide whether to remain signed up to the JCPOA. Some analysts believe the possibility of war is growing. 
‘There is no freedom’ 
Yassamine Mather, an Iranian refugee, believes Trump is determined to avenge the 1979 revolution in Iran, which overthrew the US puppet the Shah of Iran. But she warned of the dangers of further sanctions on Iran. 
“The regime won’t just give up and what may happen if people are starving is a civil war, replicating the current situation in the Yemen, Syria and Iraq,” said Mather, whose socialist politics led her into conflict with the Iranian authorities and exile in the UK in the 1970s. “Across the Middle East there is destruction everywhere. 
“Israel wants the opportunity to bomb Iran’s nuclear capabilities. It has the abilities to do so. But they know that Hezbollah, formed in 1979 to defend the Iranian revolution, is the only group to have previously defeated the Israeli army. Saudi
Arabia is now expressing concerns about the situation in the Lebanon and so may be utilised to attack Hezbollah there. 
“The situation is fluid but clearly Trump and the people around him seem keen to change things from above in Iran. It is frightening.” 
Manu, who organised the Sheffield public meeting about refugees, believes the Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei would make some concessions in the face of Trump’s threat. 
“He really does not war,” said Manu, who was involved in socialist politics in the 1980s but fought with the Iranian army after Iraq invaded in 1980. “Also the EU clearly does not want another conflict in the Middle East and are exerting pressure to make sure it is avoided. 
“Trump appears not to have the total support of his own Republican Party. I am hoping that Donald Trump serves just one term in office as his presence in the White House is dangerous.” 
Neither of the refugees supported the Iranian regime. Manu – who quit the army when Iran became the aggressor in the war and later fled his country for Sheffield when the fellow directors of his publishing company were killed by the Iranian intelligence services – said: “There is no freedom. Listening to various types of music can be dangerous. Far too many people have to flee for their lives. Many are coming to the UK. Creationism is being taught in Iranian schools. 

“The current president is a reformist but he has no powers. I really do hope that the next government will be a democratic reformist one.” 

Undercover Cops - thanks letter

Hospital bed surplus

Hospital bed surplus 
Big Issue North 12-18 February 2018. 
A Conservative MP has called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to do more to ensure facilities at his town’s hospital are fully employed. 
Bridlington MP Sir Greg Knight’s intervention comes in the wake of thousands of cancelled operations across the north due to a lack of beds. 
Bridlington Hospital has three empty wards, increasing to four at the end of April. A hospital that had 218 beds when it opened in 1988 will have just 70 being used. 
Not fully utilised 
The first cuts at Bridlington took place in 2008 when Labour health secretary Alan Johnson ignored mass protests and accepted the recommendation of Scarborough and North East Yorks Healthcare NHS Trust to transfer cardiac and acute medical services to Scarborough, 20 miles away. 
At the time Knight said: “Shadow health secretary Mr Lansley has made it clear to me that he would save the services at Bridlington Hospital. I would therefore expect a future Conservative government to return all services.” 
In 2013 NHS East Riding of Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) closed 12 beds on Buckrose Ward for mental health patients and moved eight beds to Hull, 40 miles away. In April the Macmillan Ward, run by the Humber NHS Foundation Trust, closes. 
But Bridlington Hospital, which is overseen by York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (YTH), still has three operating theatres for basic and orthopaedic surgery, which local union officials says are performing well, with no cancellations. 
“Bridlington Hospital is more modern than Scarborough or York,” said Terry Cunliffe, regional health officer for the union Unite. “At Scarborough some services are delivered in cramped Victorian buildings. When the NHS currently needs more beds it would make sense for Bridlington to be, as Unite has contended for many years, fully utilised.” 
Knight said he met Hunt recently to tell him of his concerns that Bridlington Hospital is “grossly underused”, adding: “The current situation is unacceptable and I will soon also be meeting with the head of the hospital trust on this. Over the years local hospital trust managers have steadily removed facilities from the hospital.” 
Cunliffe acknowledged reopening wards would require more investment in staff too. 
Asked whether empty Bridlington wards should be reopened YTH chief executive Patrick Crowley
did not answer directly but said: “Bridlington Hospital is already a centre for excellence for general and orthopaedic surgery. Some of the best surgeons work there. 
“The orthopaedic facility relocation was designed with patients’ needs in mind. It has been crucial in helping us manage our winter pressures on the East coast.” 
Cancellation figures at Scarborough, York and Bridlington hospitals in the last six months are not yet available from YTH. 
Asked by Big Issue North whether Hunt agreed with the calls to reopen wards, an NHS spokesperson said: “The health secretary is always interested to hear the views of MPs, and is pleased to see Sir Greg is also raising his concerns with local NHS leaders who are responsible for decisions made about their hospital services.” 
But Cunliffe said: “It is all well and good saying local NHS leaders are responsible for decisions but all the trusts in our region don’t have the funds anymore to provide a comprehensive service. Mr Hunt is badly letting down the NHS, patients and staff across north east Yorkshire.” 

   Procedures Cancelled Due to Bed Shortages at York Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust - July to December 2017                                            

Scarborough General Hospital
York Hospital
Bridlington Hospital
Grand Total
Grand Total