The Ant in the Ear of the Elephant


DAVID BRADLEY REPORTS BACK ON HIS OVERLY EVENTFUL TRIP TO KOONDANKULAM AND THE NEED FOR AUSTRALIANS TO TAKE NOTICE OF WHERE OUR URANIUM IS GOING AND THE HAVOC AND DANGER IT IS CAUSING!Dr Helen Caldicott

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By David Bradbury

I knew we were in trouble when the young auto-rickshaw driver pulled his vehicle off to the side of the road to take a phone call. Normally Indian taxi drivers take their mobile phone calls while driving at breakneck speed weaving in and out of traffic with an inch to spare either side. This was unusual.

We had just slipped past the police barricades at the entrance to Kundakalum town with the plastic flaps of the rickshaw down protecting us from the monsoon rains and the lazy eyes of police on the lookout for any foreigners or troublemakers who dared to stray into this forbidden zone.

When the driver started to turn around to head back into town, my instincts automatically kicked in to bail out of the rickshaw: I grabbed my suitcase, tripod, camera bag and a perplexed three-year-old Omar. Partner Treena jumped out as well.

The next few minutes are a blur. A mad frantic phone call from the driver back to the police in nearby Kundakalum reported our attempts to do a runner. I thought of wrestling his mobile out of his hand but then thought better of it. Next I dashed to the side of the road, little better than a goat track, and tried flagging down a car and then a young lad on a motorbike. God knows how I intended to fit two adults, a toddler, plus a heavy suitcase and camera equipment on the motie – had the kid stopped. Some old women collecting firewood seemed to know our purpose and gave encouraging fist waves to keep going.

A lumbering fish truck returning to our intended destination of the seaside village of Indinthakarai came into view. Like a man possessed, I stepped into the middle of the road to flag it down. By now a plainclothes cop on a motorbike had appeared. But I wasn’t to be stopped. Having flown over 10,000km to record our prime minister Julia Gillard offering to sell uranium to the Indian PM and then another 3,000km from New Delhi to the southernmost tip of India, I wanted to reach the valiant anti-nuke fisherfolk of Indinthakarai. This where the Russians have built two nuclear power plants on a seismic fault line – right where the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 swept nearly two thousand locals to their deaths and demolished all buildings in its wake.

Two carloads of police soon turned up and we were bundled into the 4WD headed back to the Kundakalum cop shop. With his bullet-bald head and an impressive handlebar moustache, deputy superintendant NK Stanley Jones was an Indian cross between Kojak and Jimmy Edwards. He was decidedly unimpressed with my feeble story that Omar had a fascination with fishing boats and wanted to visit the seaside fishing village of Indinthakarai. Why this particular part of the coastline, I would have immediately asked, when there are thousands of kilometres of beachfront around India?

‘It is a prohibited zone!’ he said, eye-balling me from across the table to see any falter, any slippery eye movement as Treena and I gave him our made-up-on-the-spot pitch.

‘The people there are dangerous!’ Stanley Jones told us.

We showed Stanley our passports and gave him our mobile phone numbers to be duly recorded – which left me paranoid for the rest of the trip, as the activist phones there are all tapped by Indian state security. We’re talking national security and big bikkies here – $140 billion in nuclear power contracts if the Centre Government has its way.

He repeated that the area was a prohibited zone under Section 144. I didn’t bother to draw the parallel for him that this was exactly the same rationale used by the South Australian coppers two months earlier in arbitrarily arresting people at Lizards Revenge outside Olympic Dam uranium mine. There, SA police in similarly threatening Orwellian tones repeatedly warned us over loudspeakers, ‘You are now entering a Protective Security Zone. Under the Protective Security Act of the South Australian Parliament 2007, you are subject to arbitrary arrest, strip search and detention…’

It would seem the nuclear lobby worldwide has a special dispensation for suspending people’s normal rights of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of non-violent protest.

I was smart enough this time to travel on a business visa. It cost four times as much as a normal tourist visa but worth every penny now that push had come to shove. I could truthfully say I was in India on business as a film producer and this was a side visit en route to the Kolkata film festival in a few weeks’ time.

He looked at me over his handlebar moustache to see if he could detect any smug Anglo-Saxon superiority in my bearing or any other legitimate pretext to immediately deport me from the country. Three weeks earlier, three Japanese activists travelling on tourist visas didn’t get past the airport inquisition before being deported. Indian Security had intercepted their emails to Kundakalum activists before they arrived and were waiting for them.

We were escorted out of town and sent packing. Back at our hotel the booking clerk was decidedly rattled. He’d been rung by police and his friendly attitude had changed. He demanded our passports again. We decided to pack our bags quickly and leave town before police googled my anti-nuke track record and came back. We hailed a passing bus and threw our suitcases and film gear onto it with the help of locals. I felt a huge surge of relief as we headed out of town.

Four nights later, under cloak of darkness, I found myself bumping along another goat track entering the seaside village of Indinthakarai. A lit-up Virgin Mary bobbed along on the dash of the 4WD, turning blue to brilliant red to lime green and flashing purple as a very happy-go-lucky 74-year-old priest clapped along to a popular Bollywood song, and three strong anti-nuke activist women from Indinthakarai sang heartily. The priest told me he was married with a special dispensation from the pope in Rome and had two grown-up children. I felt like I was trapped inside a Graham Greene novel: all we lacked was the bottle of whisky. We were headed towards Indinthakarai via a little-known potholed road that hugged the sea coast.

The next morning the village and I awoke to the bells of Lourdes church summoning people to early morning mass at 5.40am. The priest’s melodic voice incanted over the loudspeaker across the rooftops, for any worshippers too lazy to get out of bed. I watched as Leon the fisherman rubbed ‘440 days’ off the whiteboard and added a ‘1’ to it. For 441 days the people of Indinthakarai have resisted the dictates of the Centre Government 3,000km away in New Delhi to incorporate their village into the grand scheme of things.

The growing Indian economy needs power. Power. More POWER to ‘beat’ China. To fill still more the overflowing pockets and black Swiss bank accounts of the burghers of Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. To put kids into sweatshops and factories at 10 years of age – dragged from finishing their schooling to make cheap acid-washed jeans, footwear and toys for a dollar a day for people living in western ‘democracies’ like Australia – items that last a day or two before they are sent off to landfill.

The latest round of opposition to stop the opening of the Kundakalum nuclear power plants has raged for more than ten years now, with this last year seeing opposition to the Russian-built nuclear power plants at Indinthakarai reach fever pitch. They are a hair’s breath away from being fully operational. The nuclear fuel rods have been loaded. Tests are being done and are only waiting now for the green light. Maybe President Putin’s visit to India in December will be the symbolic moment for the plants to start generating power.

However, seaside villages all along the coast, not just Indinthakarai at ground zero, have opposed the opening of the first two of six planned nuclear reactors every step along the way. Tens of thousands of fisher folk who live off the ocean have taken part in a series of hunger strikes and imaginative land- and sea-based demonstrations and peaceful blockades. They’ve buried themselves up to the neck in sand at the approach to the plants. They’ve immersed themselves in the ocean and blockaded the harbour with their fishing boats.

These rolling protests, born out of the non-violent leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, have been continuous since 15 August last year – India’s day of Independence. Since then there have been two major police raids in March and September involving thousands of police each time. In the last raid, the police lathi charged (with bamboo sticks) peaceful protestors and beat everyone in their path who could not flee fast enough: children, the crippled, old men and women. One fisherman was shot dead. Another fell down and died from his injuries. People threw themselves into the sea as they tried to escape the tear gas and baton charges. The tear gas shells used showed an expiry date of 2002, ‘Made in the USA’, and they caused permanent horrible sores on the faces of the kids and those exposed to the outdated chemicals. The police entered the Lourdes church, broke the statue of Mary and urinated in the foyer area of the church. All of this I was given as firsthand witness accounts. That is the price to people’s lives of going nuclear.

I filmed for the next ten days and was given a very humbling and wonderful insight into the life of this courageous little village. It will form the basis of my next film which could be called simply ‘Business As Usual’ or more enigmatically, ‘The Ant in the Ear of the Elephant’ – an expression used by one of the leaders in Indinthakarai to sum up their chances of winning against the huge nuclear beast. An ant biting in the right place in the ear of an elephant can inflict a lot of pain and trip the animal up. That’s what’s happening in India right now.

Certainly I enjoy the challenge and the adventure of going to places where authority and corrupt governance don’t want others to go and point a camera. It’s often quite nerve-wracking though, and sometimes dangerous to one’s life.

However, I don’t go to the edge for the sense of the adventure it brings. I go there so I can inform other Australians and my local community about what’s really going on and the hidden agendas operating. If taking the risks involved – physical, psychological and financial – result only in a pat on the back for the courage it takes, that’s not enough for me. I want my community, my fellow Australians, to take ACTION with the information I bring back.

Other communities who entrust me to film do so believing I can help them in their struggle. That’s the punchline for me. You have to take the information and run with it, and find ways of supporting the people of Indinthakarai by hassling the Indian government through the local High Commission in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Let both the Australian and Indian governments know you don’t appreciate this brave community being put through outrageous and anti-democratic actions any more than you appreciate our government opening up our local area to CSG mining and so spoiling the aquifers forever. It’s about human greed by a few at the expense of the majority of us. And it needs ACTION.

I’ve just been informed 30 people including the woman who helped me get to Indinthakarai have been arrested and detained by Tamil Nadu police. They join another 54 others who were arrested in September and have been refused bail, wasting away in dirty conditions in jail after a big police operation invaded their village and beat the daylights out of anyone who could not run away fast enough. These activists have been charged with various offences including sedition, being ‘terrorists’ and waging war against the state. Some charges carry the death penalty. They are ordinary people like you and me. The police couldn’t get away with putting me in jail, but they can do this to their own people. We have to agitate for their release. They are only exercising their democratic rights to non-violently oppose the spoiling of their ancient environment, the same as people opposing coal-seam gas fracking here.

If anyone wants to contribute a tax-deductible donation to seeing the film completed contact david@frontlinefilms.com.au or 6684 0015.

Source: Echonetdaily

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And Now Sydney’s Malabar Beach Glows Blue


AFTER the eastern beach coastline resembled the Red Sea last Tuesday, the “night lantern” visited Sydney’s Malabar beach that evening.

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Malabar beach sparkles ghostly blue from red algae

By Leesa Smith, Southern Courier

December 04, 2012

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Malabar beach - 1

David Psaila captured amazing shots of the ‘BLUE LANTERN’ at Malabar Beach. News Limited

Malabar beach - 2

Photo: David Psaila

Malabar beach - 3

Photo: David Psaila

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These photos have not been digitally enhanced – in fact, photographer Dr David Psaila said the water was an even more spectacular colour blue than that shown in these images, the Southern Courier reports.

“The organism responsible, Noctiluca Scintillans known as “night lantern” is very aptly named, as it will luminesce a bright blue when it is disturbed by waves,” he said.

The Chifley scientist said the red algae that crept along the east coast last week contained a chemical called luciferin which was a common protein found in bioluminescent animals.

.“It’s a chemical reaction that causes light,” he said. “It is often found in deep sea creatures and is the exact same chemical that causes fire flies to glow.”

Dr Psaila said although he had seen this effect before but never to this degree.

“The reason why they are probably not seeing it at other beaches is that those beaches would have a lot more lights around so its really hard to see whereas at Malabar – you see the waves rolling in and they are all blue,” he said.

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FoxNews: $100 bills from a secret Santa rain down on Sandy-hit New York, New Jersey


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    Nov. 29, 2012: Charlotte Muhammad holds up two $100 dollar bills she got from Secret Santa, at St. Joseph’s Social Service Center in Elizabeth, N.J. (AP)

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    Nov. 29, 2012: A woman hugs Secret Santa after receiving a $100 dollar bill from the wealthy philanthropist from Kansas City, Mo. Secret Santa distributed $100 dollar bills to needy people at St. Joseph’s Social Service Center and other locations in Elizabeth, N.J. (AP)

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    Nov. 29, 2012: A woman is surprised after Secret Santa gave her a $100 dollar bill while looking for clothes at the Salvation Army store in the boro of Staten Island, New York, N.Y. (AP)

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NEW YORK –  A wealthy Missouri man posing as “Secret Santa” stunned New Yorkers on Thursday, handing $100 bills to many in Staten Island who had lost everything to Superstorm Sandy.

The Kansas City businessman is giving away $100,000 this holiday season, and spent the day in New Jersey and New York giving away thousands. But he says money is not the issue.

“The money is not the point at all,” said the anonymous benefactor as he walked up to surprised Staten Island residents and thrust crisp bills into their hands. “It’s about the random acts of kindness. I’m just setting an example, and if 10 percent of the people who see me emulate what I’m doing, anybody can be a Secret Santa!”

A police motorcade with sirens took him across the borough, passing a church ripped from its foundations and homes surrounded by debris. At a nearby disaster center run by volunteers, a woman quietly collected free food and basic goods.

“Has anyone given you any money?” he asked her.

“No,” replied Carol Hefty, a 72-year-old retiree living in a damaged home.

“Here,” he said, slipping the money into her hand.

“But this isn’t real money!” said Hefty, glancing at the red “Secret Santa” stamped onto the $100.

“It is, and it’s for you,” he tells her.

She breaks down weeping and hugs him.

And so it went, again and again.

Secret Santa started his day long East Coast visit with stops in Elizabeth, N.J. Keeping close watch over the cash handouts were his security entourage — police officers in uniform from New York and New Jersey, plus FBI agents and former agents from various states. Some have become supporters, wearing red berets marked with the word “elf” and assisting “Santa” to choose locations where people are most in need. He himself wears an “elf” beret and a red top, plus blue jeans.

The group must choose stops carefully, and refrain from simply appearing outdoors in a neighborhood, lest they be mobbed by people hearing that cash is being handed out.

At a stop at a Staten Island Salvation Army store, one woman is looking over a $4 handbag. “But you get $100!” he tells her, offering the bill.

“Are you serious?” said Prudence Onesto, her eyes widening. “Really?”

“Secret Santa,” he deadpans, breaking into a broad grin.

The 55-year-old unemployed woman opened her arms and offered him a hug.

An aisle over, 41-year-old Janice Kennedy is overwhelmed: She received four $100 bills.

Unemployed with a 2-year-old daughter, she lost her home in the storm and lives with her boyfriend. The money will go toward Christmas presents and her toddler’s next birthday.

“You’re not alone. God bless you!” the Missouri stranger tells Phillip and Lisa Morris, a couple in their 30s whose home was badly damaged — but now had an extra $300 in cash for rebuilding.

Secret Santa took up the holiday tradition from a close Kansas City friend, Larry Stewart, who for years handed out bills to unsuspecting strangers in thrift stores, food pantries and shelters. Stewart died in 2007 after giving away more than $1 million to strangers each December in mostly $100 bills.

The current Secret Santa will not divulge his name. Nor does he allow his face to be photographed. But he said he’s been to cities across America, from San Diego to Chicago to Charlotte, N.C.

A reporter asked whether he might be a sort of Warren Buffett of Kansas City. He smiled mysteriously and said only that he admires Buffett for his philanthropy. “And I hope I give all my money away before I die.”

Then, as suddenly as he arrived, the generous stranger left for the airport and home, riding in the volunteer motorcade he jokingly calls “my sleigh,” zipping with ease through red lights and city traffic.

Source: FOXNEWS.COM

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