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06 juin 2006

Pride supplement celebrates 101 great citizens

The Bath Chronicle campaign to make its readers feel good about their city has taken another step forward with the publication of a free 32-page supplement of 101 great Bathonians. The supplement is part of the Pride in Bath campaign which has been running since October to encourage people to salute the achievements of their community.

The supplement includes people like King Edgarthe first King of England who was crowned at Bath Abbey – through to modern day stars such as jazz singer Jamie Cullum and England rugby hero Jeremy Guscott. The supplement features academics, scientists, business people, writers and many more people have been associated with Bath over the centuries. It was compiled by the Bath editorial team spearheaded by features editor Georgette McCready and design editor Liz Burcher with input from the Chronicle’s own readers who were asked to nominate their favourite Bathonians for the supplement.

Editor Sam Holliday said he was delighted with the supplement which was part of his continuing campaign to try and increase civic pride amongst the Chronicle’s readers. He said: "Bath really does have an amazing history and has produced many famous people. "We have tried to cover all the bases and included people who everyone will have heard of such as Jane Austen, Roger Bannister, Peter Gabriel and the scourge of young journalists everywhere - shorthand king Isaac Pitman. Just as importantly, however, we have also featured those who just work really hard in Bath on a day to day basis to ensure the city is as successful as it is."

The Pride in Bath campaign is one which the editor says should never actually have an end point. He said: "With many other campaigns I have been involved in, you start something off, you hopefully get the result you want and then you close it down. This one is different though. I think it is the duty of a newspaper to not only reflect the bad news in its community but also to look for, and then cheer, the achievements. Pride in Bath focuses all our minds on trying to look on the brighter side of life. "This latest supplement is just another example of how you can find things to applaud in every community - if you just take the trouble to look for them."

05 juin 2006

It Was 20 Years Ago Today: Remembering the Conspiracy of Hope Tour

Former Amnesty International USA Executive Director Jack Healey shares his memories (and photos) with @U2

Don't be surprised if a few years from now you find the Universal Declaration of Human Rights printed in your passport. That's Jack Healey's latest project, and what Healey wants -- at least when it comes to human rights efforts -- he often gets. Or, more accurately, he makes happen.

In 1981, Healey set out to organize a concert tour on behalf of Amnesty International. Five years later, and 20 years ago today, the "Conspiracy of Hope" tour began; two weeks later, it was a stunning success. With performers such as U2, Sting and The Police, Peter Gabriel, Joan Baez and others on board, the tour visited six cities between June 4 and June 15, 1986. Talk about making things happen: In the immediate aftermath of the tour, four of the six prisoners of conscience the artists had adopted were released, Amnesty's membership nearly tripled within a matter of weeks, and the concerts raised $3 million -- an amount equal to Amnesty's U.S. section's annual budget. (...)

With U2 on board, Healey set out to get more artists to join the tour.

"I had lunch with Sting at his apartment in New York. It was really neat," Healey remembers. "I said to him, 'Would you reunite The Police?' And he said that would be difficult to do, but he was very like ... you know ... he was very cool. He told me, 'If you keep it a secret, Jack, I'll try and do that and I think I'll be able to. I'm not positive, but I think I'll be able to.'"

Sting was the second artist on the Conspiracy of Hope tour roster, and others soon followed. Graham's recruits included Lou Reed, Joan Baez, and the Neville Brothers. Bono brought Peter Gabriel on board. They had the artists, they had the tour itinerary, and perhaps most importantly, they convinced MTV to give them 11 hours of programming for the final show at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, as well as the revenue from all the advertising Amnesty could sell.

Putting the tour together was only half the battle. No one involved in the effort had any idea if the Conspiracy of Hope tour would succeed. How would the artists get along? Would everyone -- artists and audience -- understand the message Amnesty was pitching? Healey admits to being nervous before the opening night show, but all his fears soon disappeared.

"I was a bit terrified in San Francisco at the opening, and what happened was -- I had never heard the song 'Biko' before," Healey recalls, referring to the Peter Gabriel song about Stephen Biko, a black leader who died in 1977 from brain injuries suffered while in the custody of South African police. "I was not knowledgeable about Peter Gabriel at all. It wasn't Peter's fault, it was my fault. But when he sang 'Biko' that night, I knew the show was gonna work." (...)

And once the air was cleared, the rest of the tour ran smoothly. Except for the flight from Chicago to New York, that is.

The artists and crew were in a great mood. Days earlier in Atlanta they had celebrated with an impromptu jam session at the hotel lounge, everybody getting on stage and playing together into the early morning hours (until they were stopped -- no kidding -- by a bartender who wanted to close up and go home). Healey says everyone felt the tour was working; the audiences were responding to their message.

Spirits were so high that the flight from Chicago to New York was "one big pillow fight," Healey says. And then, a near disaster: When the plane landed in New York, it blew two tires.

"I probably was one of the only ones that knew it," Healey says. "When it hit, it bounced too high, coming back down. It went 'boomp' [makes a sound effect] and up. I thought, 'Holy shit, we're in trouble.' All that talent was almost lost." (...)

04 juin 2006

Stars join our fight to free web

Coldplay, Geldof and Tutu
are among 20,000 supporting the Observer/Amnesty campaign

David Smith, Sunday June 4, 2006, Observer

Chris Martin, Martha Lane Fox, Bob Geldof and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are among nearly 20,000 people who have backed the Observer and Amnesty International campaign to end repression on the internet. This remarkable response to the launch of last week included support from around the world.

The campaign - 45 years after a powerful article in this newspaper led to the founding of Amnesty International - recognises the internet as a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. It demands that governments stop censoring websites, blocking emails and persecuting and imprisoning bloggers. It also calls for major corporations to stop making it easier for them to do so. A remarkable 18,790 people have pledged their support so far. Among them is Martha Lane Fox, who became a star of the first 'dotcom boom' when she co-founded the online retailer She said: 'I was lucky enough to have my horizons expanded and my business life transformed by the web - I wholeheartedly support The Observer's Irrepressible campaign.'

More than 1,000 blogs are already linked to the website, and the campaign has been welcomed by bloggers who have suffered under oppressive regimes. Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian now living in Canada, whose blog has been censored in Iran, said: 'By censoring the internet and specifically blogs, governments are depriving themselves of amazing sources of information about what their population thinks of them and what they are are up to.'If blogs were around at the time of the Islamic Revolution [in Iran] in 1979, the former Shah would have probably predicted the massive uprising and could have changed his attitude towards running the state. Reading blogs for an official now is like when kings used to go out at night in disguise to see the ordinary lives of ordinary people. I am pleased to support the campaign.'

In an article to launch the campaign last week, Kate Allen, UK director of Amnesty International, highlighted the case of Shi Tao. The Chinese journalist was sentenced to 10 years' hard labour for using the web to reveal that his country's newspapers were being restricted in their coverage of the anniversary of the democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. Information from Yahoo was used as evidence for his conviction. As well as inviting people to sign the campaign pledge for freedom of speech, the website - which has had 81,563 unique visitors, almost half from America - encourages people to write to the Chinese authorities and Yahoo to urge Shi Tao's release. In the past week 3,128 emails have been sent.

There was a further blow to Yahoo when the National Union of Journalists advised its 40,000 members to boycott the firm's products and services, accusing it of providing 'information to Chinese authorities that helped identify and prosecute several journalists and pro-democracy writers'. The union cited the case of Shi Tao as well as those of Jiang Lijun, jailed for four years for articles calling the Beijing government 'autocratic', and Li Zhi, sentenced to eight years for discussing democracy in a web forum and emailing pro-democracy campaigners. 'The Chinese government has an atrocious record of censorship and free expression,' said Jeremy Dear, the union's general secretary. 'The NUJ regards Yahoo's actions as a completely unacceptable endorsement of the Chinese authorities. The NUJ will be cancelling all Yahoo-operated services and advising members to boycott Yahoo until the company changes its irresponsible and unethical policy.' Mary Osako of Yahoo said: 'The facts of the Shi Tao case are distressing to our company, our employees and our leadership. We condemn punishment of any activity internationally recognised as free expression, in China or anywhere else. We have made our views clearly known to the Chinese government.'

Amnesty International has uncovered internet repression in countries such as Iran, Israel, the Maldives, Tunisia and Vietnam. In Egypt last month at least six bloggers were among about 300 people jailed during anti-government protests. Founding supporters of the campaign :

Bryan Adams
musician ; Margaret Atwood writer ; Lord Avebury campaigner; Norman Baker MP ; Joan Bakewell broadcaster ; Beryl Bainbridge writer ; Honor Blackman actor ; Melvyn Bragg broadcaster ; Michael Brandon actor ; Rory Bremner satirist ; Shami Chakrabarti director of Liberty ; Eric Clapton musician ; Baroness Frances D'Souza ; Dr Shirin Ebadi Nobel Peace Prize winner ; Peter Gabriel musician ; Paul Gambaccini broadcaster ; Bob Geldof musician and campaigner ; Richard E Grant actor ; Lord (Raymond) Hylton ; John Kampfner editor, New Statesman ; Charles Kennedy MP ; Baroness (Helena) Kennedy QC ; Glenys Kinnock MEP ; Lord (Neil) Kinnock ; Peter Kosminsky film director and writer ; Martha Lane Fox internet entrepreneur ; Simon Le Bon singer ; Helen Lederer comedian ; Maureen Lipman actor ; Roger Lloyd Pack actor ; Joanna Lumley actor ; Art Malik actor ; Chris Martin and Coldplay musicians ; Robert Ménard secretary-general, Reporters Without Borders ; Henderson Mullin managing director, Index on Censorship ; Lembit Opik MP ; Gordon Prentice MP ; Dave Stewart musician ; Desmond Tutu archbishop ; Xu Wenli head, overseas exiles branch, Chinese Democratic party ; Ken Wiwa campaigner ; Derek Wyatt MP