National Secular Society ✒ The National Secular Society has called for mandatory labelling for non-stun meat as new figures suggest over half of all cattle religiously slaughtered for kosher meat may end up on the general market unlabelled.

A report published this week by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said 51% of cows slaughtered by traditional Jewish (shechita) methods during a survey by the Food Standards Agency were rejected as not meeting religious requirements but "fit for wider consumption".

Forty-three per cent of shechita-slaughtered sheep were also rejected.

When the same survey into slaughterhouses was conducted in 2018, 15% of cattle and 27% of sheep slaughtered for kosher meat were rejected.

Additionally, the hindquarters of cattle, sheep and goats slaughtered by shechita are not considered kosher and are routinely sold on the non-Jewish market. The report said kosher food business operators provided:

no meaningful information" when asked about the destination of meat from the hindquarters. It said it is "unclear whether hind quarters are sent on for wider consumption.

It has been estimated that less than half of the meat from animals slaughtered by shechita is sold in kosher shops, according to the RSPCA.

Continue reading @ National Secular Society.

Over Half Of Kosher-Slaughtered Cows Rejected By Jewish Authorities


A Morning Thought @ 1518

Right Wing WatchArtur Pawlowski, a Canadian pastor celebrated by American conservatives as a symbol of religious freedom for bucking that country’s public safety orders, joined far-right podcaster Ethan Ralph’s show last Wednesday, where he announced that he will run for political office in Alberta.

 Kristen Doerer |

“I have not made this public announcement, but I am going to run for political office as well here in the province of Alberta,” Pawlowski declared.

Ralph, host of the “Killstream” podcast, has granted a platform to extremists like white supremacist Lana Lokteff, failed neo-Nazi congressional candidate Patrick Little, and cult leader Gazi Kodzo, who recently was arrested after a dead body was found in his home. Ralph has also become friends with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and streams his podcast on Fuentes’ “anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Black, antisemitic” platform, Cozy. The far-right podcaster has had his own run-ins with the law; he was convicted of assaulting a police officer in 2018 and of posting “revenge porn” of his then-18-year-old girlfriend earlier this year. According to court documents, Ralph has also violated the domestic violence restraining order she holds against him.

Nevertheless, Pawlowski has appeared on Ralph’s show “a ton,” according to Ralph.

Continue reading @ Right Wing Watch.

​​Canadian Pastor Artur Pawlowski Uses Far-Right Podcast To Announce Run For Office

Dixie Elliot ✒ in short story form.

Jack had given up on life, not that he had done much in the way of living. He had boxed back in the day but didn’t amount to anything. The neighborhood he grew up in was a world where the gutter entered the sewer. He left that world behind him and came a long way to the middle of nowhere, for this was a solitary log cabin on a mountain. It was far from the nearest town and another winter was setting in. The place was freezing even though there was a fire burning in the stove. Jack sat on a tattered armchair with his shoulders slumped. He wore a heavy coat, a fur-lined hat and a blanket was wrapped around his shoulders. He hadn’t shaved in over a week.

Jack held a .38 Special revolver, it was rested on his lap.

“What else can I do Little Brother? Old Nate’s dead, I had to bury him out the back cause I hadn’t the money to bury him proper. Imagine not getting a decent burial. Then again Nate lived his whole life on this mountain so he wouldn’t rest happy among dead strangers... would he? It’s as good as an excuse as I can come up with. Damn it all, why am I talking with you Little Brother? You’re not even here. That’s about as crazy as anyone can get. All the more reason to put a bullet in my head, so don’t go trying to talk me out of it.”
Jack pressed the barrel of the revolver under his chin and slipped his finger over the trigger. A tear ran down his cheek.

The door of the cabin shook as someone pounded on it with the side of their fist. Then it was kicked open. Two men burst in bringing the wind and snow with them, the younger one pushed the door shut. The older man carried a leather duffle bag in one hand and an Uzi submachine gun in the other. They were both wearing heavy coats and beanie hats.

“We need to go back down and check on The Viking Deke, we can’t just leave him out there. He’ll freeze to death,” said the younger man.

“He looked dead enough to me. But if you want to go and drag his heavy ass up here, go ahead. Damn fool seen something and drove the car off the road nearly killing us. I’m staying with the dough.”
“He hit ice.”

“He was driving too fast. I told him to slow down, we weren’t running from anyone.”

Deke looked towards Jack as if he were seeing him for the first time. “Who else is here?”

“No one,” replied Jack.

“You weren’t talking to any no one.” He nodded to the younger guy, who was armed with a Glock. “Have a look around and see Mikey.”
Mikey went into the only other room in the cabin, the bedroom and tore it apart. Then he re-emerged. “There’s nobody in there Deke.”

“Are you a crazy guy who talks to himself?” asked Deke.

“Occasionally,” replied Jack. “When you have no one else to talk to, who else is there but yourself?”

“Smart guy eh?” Deke was dialling his cell phone.

“You won’t get a signal up here. A big mountain with too many trees.”

“Damn,” said Deke. “You got a car?”

“There’s an old truck out in the lean-to but you won’t get anywhere in it. It hasn’t been driven in a long while.”

“Fuck,” said Mikey. “What are we gonna do Deke?”

“You two are in the business of selling drugs, if I’m guessing right,” said Jack. “How about I sell you three bricks of cocaine… say ten grand? I don’t know what three bricks is worth but I’d say that’s more than a fair price.”

“Three bricks, are you fucking me about?” asked Deke.

“Pull that dresser out, they’re under some loose floor boards.”

“Check it out Mikey. If he’s lying he’s dead. I ain’t got any patience left.”

Mikey pulled the dresser over and it crashed to the floor smashing cups and plates. He lifted the floor boards and found the three bricks of cocaine.

“He’s not lying Deke.”
“Give them here.” Deke placed the Uzi at the end of the table beside the duffle bag. He took one of the bricks, pierced it with a flick knife and tasted the powder. “F-ck me,” he said. “It is coke. Where’d you get this?”

“From a dead guy who got what he deserved.” replied Jack. “What do you say then? Ten grand would get me out of here.”

“I ain’t paying you nothing,” said Deke. He threw a glance at Mikey and nodded towards Jack. It took only a second before it registered with Mikey as to what he meant and without hesitation he moved towards Jack raising the Glock.

Jack fired once from underneath the blanket and the bullet tore into Mikey’s gut. The Glock slipped from his grasp and he staggered backwards clutching his stomach. He flopped onto an old couch in a sitting position and began swearing in disbelief.
Deke moved quickly towards the end of the table to get the Uzi. Jack fired repeatedly in his direction and one of the bullets stuck him just above the right eyebrow. The impact twisted his head, then his body back and he hit the floor with his arms outstretched.
“You shot me... you fucking shot me!” screamed Mikey.

“With the very same bullet I was about to blow my own brains out with, only you busted your way in here and interrupted me.”

“No… no… no!” Mikey was staring down at the blood oozing through his fingers.

“You’re shot in the gut so you’ll likely die where you sit. In your line of business it was just a matter of sooner rather than later. If you had come a bit later you’d have found me lying here dead.”

Mikey looked over at Deke. “Do you know who that is?”

“He isn’t anyone any more, so it matters little to me who he was. I made him a fair offer and he was intent on killing me.”

Mikey then turned to pleading for help. “I’m burning up, please do something.”

“That’s the devil himself letting you know what hell’s got in store for you. The only thing I’m going to do is check the contents of that duffle bag.”
Jack got up, flipped the blanket from his shoulders and walked over to the table. He placed the revolver beside the Uzi and unzipped the duffle bag.

“Would you look at this Little Brother, it’s stuffed full of money.”

“Who the hell are you talking to, you crazy bastard? There’s no one there!” screamed Mikey.
“I know that but I talks to him anyways.”

“Talks to who?”

Jack lifted the Uzi and went back to the armchair, where he sat down again.

“What are you going to do with that Uzi?” Asked Mikey.

“I’m taking no chances.”

Jack placed the Uzi on his lap then he reached into his coat pocket and produced a wallet. He took a photograph from the wallet, looked at it and placed it back again. He did this several times but didn’t show any of the photographs to Mikey.
“I talk to my little brother. This is all I have left of him… photographs in a wallet.”

He then took a neatly folded piece of paper from the wallet and opened it out to look at it. He didn’t show this to Mikey either. It was a picture of a pier with a Ferris wheel and a beach in the sunset.
“This was my little brother’s dream.”

“What happened to him?” Mikey was clearly in great pain but he needed to know what this was all about.
“My little brother was murdered as he walked home from school… shot dead by a drug-dealing piece of shit, just like yourself.”

“You’ve got three bricks of coke, what were you doing with three bricks of f-cking coke?” asked Mikey.
“I kept them because they belonged to the scumbag that drug-dealer worked for. It was the satisfaction of knowing what it would cost his boss when he couldn’t pay for those bricks. I never intended selling them until now and only because I was desperate to get out of this place.”

“You kept three bricks of coke as a… as a trophy. Are you crazy?”

“I suppose I am crazy now but I wasn’t always that way, even after the lives we lived… my little brother and I. We never knew who our father was. He could have been any one of the men who regularly came into our home. We mightn’t even have shared the same father. Our mother was hooked on drugs, she had to feed her habit somehow. But not us... I had to feed us. I found her dead on the couch one morning with a needle stuck in her arm.”

Jack stared at Mikey as he twisted in pain. He seemed to pity him.
“I took on two jobs in the hope that I could put my little brother through college, so that he’d have a better life. I collected garbage during the day and did the door at a strip club during the night. I was only ever handy with my fists. He was a smart kid, eager to learn… to better himself. ‘Jack’, he’d say, ‘one day we’ll get out of this place. I’m going to make you proud of me Jack.’ I knew he would... I f-cking knew he would!”
Jack’s eyes had filled with tears and anger. Then the door was kicked open for the second time that night. It was a huge bear of a man with a tattooed face and a thick beard, he was brandishing a firefighter’s axe.
“You left me out there to freeze to death Deke. What the f-ck?”

Jack lifted the Uzi and squeezed the trigger. He couldn’t believe how easy it was to not miss this guy. The force of the bullets threw the big man back against the wall of the cabin and he slid to the floor onto a sitting position as they still tore into his body. Jack stopped firing and the man toppled to the side with a heavy thud. His torso was a bloody mess, there was also a gaping wound in his throat and a hole in his cheek. The wind was blowing the snow in again as Jack walked towards the body. He pushed the door shut.
“I knew he’d turn up eventually.”

Mikey was was twisting in agony and screaming again but Jack ignored him.

“That’s one Viking who won’t be in Valhalla,” he said. “Only real Vikings goes to that place.”

“You’re a dead man!” screamed Mikey. “You don’t realise who you’re fucking with. Our boss will...”

“Fuck your boss. I should be a dead man but I’m not, thanks to you. No one knows who I am, where I came from or where I’m going to… except you when I tells you. And you’ll soon be a dead man.”
Jack took the firefighter’s axe and began chopping a wooden chair to pieces with it.
“The handle of my own axe broke earlier. That was the sort of luck I was having of late,” he said. He then flung the pieces of the chair into the stove which had been burning low.
“I’d make some coffee but I’m all out of it,” said Jack as he returned to the armchair and wrapped the blanket around his shoulders. He looked Mikey directly in the eyes.

“We had never been outside of New York... poverty has a way of keeping you imprisoned in the one place. ‘When I graduate from college,’ my little brother would say. ‘We’re going to California Jack. We’re going to Santa Monica to see the pier and the Pacific Ocean and the sun setting out there.’ He cut his dream out of a magazine and stuck it to the wall beside his bed.”

Jack looked at the picture again.
“This was your dream Little Brother… your dream and mine.”

His head was tilted to the side as if he were speaking to someone standing there.
“I don’t want to hear any more of this shit!” screamed Mikey.
“You’ll hear it all before you die,” replied Jack as he neatly folded the picture up and put it carefully back into the wallet. “My little brother was coming home from school when a car drove past and one of the scumbags in the back sprayed shots at two drug-dealers standing at a corner. My little brother was hit in the head by a stray bullet. He died beside two drug-dealers. The scumbag was laughing as they drove off. He had killed a little boy and the bastard laughed.”

Jack broke down completely before he composed himself again.

“I used the money I had saved, to put my little brother through college, to bury him and to put a stone on his grave. I had nothing left to lose, so I spent weeks watching that piece of shit… wanting to get revenge for my little brother. I was intending to beat him to death with my fists but I realised that I had lost as many fights as I had won, so I wasn’t for taking the chance on losing that fight. I didn’t care about dying I only wanted revenge and if I died after getting it then that suited me fine.”

Mikey was weeping but it was from pain and self-pity. “F-ck you!” he screamed. “I don’t want to know about your brother!” His face was drained of colour.
Jack ignored him, he had to tell his story.
“The scumbag pulled up in the alleyway round the side of his house the night I got my revenge. When he was half out of the car I stepped from the shadows and stuck a screwdriver into his throat. He slid down the side of the car looking up at me and I pushed it further in. ‘This is for my little brother, laugh now you b—stard. Laugh now!’ I kept repeating. He was still gurgling as I dragged him across to waste ground and searched his pockets. I found a bundle of notes in one of his pockets and threw garbage over his body before I went back to the car, found the keys and took off.”
Jack rose from the armchair, took the blanket from around his shoulders and placed it over Mikey. He then got the axe and chopped another chair to pieces before throwing it into the stove. The wind was howling outside. It rattled the door as if it were trying to get into the cabin. Jack warmed his hands at the stove and continued.

“I kept driving until New York was far behind me. Maybe two or three states. The state lines flashed by in the headlights. I stopped now and again for gas and something to eat and just kept moving. I saw the lights of a cop car coming up behind me on the freeway, but it passed and I took to the side roads. I didn’t know where I was headed. That’s when I started talking to my little brother.”

“Please stop talking. I don’t want to die man!” Mikey was still weeping.

Jack went back to the armchair and sat down again.

“I expect there’s a lot of people who’ve been killed by you, Deke and The Viking. They wouldn’t have wanted to die either.”

Jack waited for a response from Mikey and none came so he continued.

“I slept in the car, then moved on and found myself on a mountain road… the one outside. I knew the car was finished, it was rattling something awful and steam was coming from inside the hood so I pulled up. I decided to check the trunk to see if anything worth taking was in it. There was a backpack in there and when I opened it I found the three bricks of cocaine. I almost flung it into the trees but something told me not to… it was a reminder of what I had done to that scumbag and to his boss. Someone would want paid for the cocaine and the boss would have to pay, one way or the other. That thought made me hold on to it. I pushed the car off the road and it rolled down into the trees. And then I walked until I came to this cabin.”

Jack stopped talking, he waited again to see if Mikey would say something but he was still whimpering.

“There’s nothing anyone can do for you… nothing. Living’s about dying eventually… in the end we all die. The man who took me in, Old Nate, died right here in this armchair, just over two months ago… in the middle of a conversation. ‘I’m not feeling well Jack,’ he said. Then he just died on me. I had lost a little brother and someone who had become the only real father in my life. I couldn’t take it any more... I just couldn’t. Old Nate took me in when I had nowhere else to go. I felt bad hiding the cocaine from him... but I expect he knew something had to be in the backpack. He said nothing because he was lonely and needed company. He took me in about three years ago. Old Nate had known why I left New York... he knew about my little brother and knew I talked to him. He understood why because he was a good decent man.”

“What are you… what are you going to do now?” Mikey was struggling to speak. “You just going to take that duffle bag and walk down… down off this mountain in that weather? Some lucky b-stard will find your body and the...”

“I’ll drive down.”

“In what? You said the truck wasn’t working.”

“I said it hadn’t been driven in a long while. That’s because it’s out of gas. There’s gas in that car you came in, I’ll go and get it tomorrow and be off.”

“Fuck you!” spat Mikey, then he began choking blood.
Jack waited until he eased up before he continued.

“I’m going to take the money in that duffle bag and use some of it to buy me one of those RVs. Nothing too fancy, mind you, I don’t wait to be attracting any attention. Come the morning, before I leave, I’ll nail the door up good and proper, like nailing the lid on a coffin. I don’t want the coke, it’s yours anyway, you paid for it with your lives, so you might as well keep it. Then I’m going to go and sit on a bench on that pier in Santa Monica and I’ll be imagining the excitement on my little brother’s face as he watches the sun setting out on the Pacific Ocean.”

“The Viking screamed about a kid… a kid on the road… before he lost control of the car,” said Mikey, he was struggling to get the words out. “There was no kid… I was sitting up front. There was no kid… no kid.”

Jack sprang forward from the armchair. “He saw a kid on the road?”

But Mikey only stared back at him with lifeless eyes.

Jack turned half-expecting to see his little brother standing behind him. There was no one else there.
“Was that you Little Brother? Sonny please let me know... was that you Little Brother?”

He waited for a response but only heard the wind outside. Jack pulled the blanket over Mikey’s head, then went over and slumped down on the armchair.
“I understand Little Brother… I do. Not everyone can see the dead, not even those they love. We’ll leave first thing in the morning.”

Thomas Dixie Elliot is a Derry artist and a former H Block Blanketman.
Follow Dixie Elliot on Twitter @IsMise_Dixie

Sonny’s Dream


A Morning Thought @ 1517

People And Nature ☭ Russian environmentalists have reacted angrily to jail sentences of between three and five-and-a-half years imposed on four nature reserve workers in Kamchatka, in the Russian Far East.

The four protest their innocence of embezzling funds from the Kronotsky nature reserve, in a case where the prosecution’s motives are hard to discern.

The Uzon caldera in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve:
Photo: Igor Shpilenok/
Kronotsky Nature Reserve

Mediazona, a human rights defenders’ site, reported that charges were brought against the four in 2018, after the director of a firm contracted to work for the reserve, himself implicated in criminal corruption, pointed the finger at them. That version of events was supported by a video posted anonymously on Youtube.

Pyotr Shpilenok, director of the Kronotsky reserve, and Greenpeace, “also connected the harassment of the ecologists with the fact that they had spoken out against a lake being excluded from the reserve, to be used for commercial purposes”, Mediazona said.

In 2019, the Insider, an opposition media site, reported that the intimidation campaign may have been connected with plans, about which the staff had doubts, to turn over fishing rights on the Kronotsky river to Rockwell Capital, an investment firm.

Rockwell’s founder Gleb Frank is the son-in-law of Gennady Timchenko, an oil trader and close friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and son of former Russian transport minister Sergei Frank, the Insider noted.

No-one knows for sure why the staff of the nature reserve, who vehemently protest their innocence, have had their lives wrecked by these cruel sentences.

This statement by Greenpeace Russia is reproduced, with thanks, from the Russian Reader, where the English translation was published. SP.

Greenpeace Russia strongly disagrees with the charges against the nature reserve employees.

On 15 July, the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsk City Court found employees of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve guilty of embezzlement in the amount of [454] million rubles [approx. 7.9 million euros]. The money had been allocated from the federal budget to eliminate accumulated environmental damage.

Darya Panicheva, head of the reserve’s scientific department, was sentenced to four years and six months in prison. The court sentenced Roman Korchigin, deputy director for science and educational tourism, to five years in prison. Oksana Terekhova, deputy director for financial and legal support, was sentenced to five years and six months in prison. Nikolai Pozdnyakov, a former employee of the reserve, was also convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. All of them were taken into police custody in the courtroom.

The court also sentenced all the convicted persons to compensate in full the financial damage indicated in the charges, and to pay large fines.

None of the reserve employees of the reserve has admitted any wrongdoing. The defence will petition a higher court to review the verdict, seeking to have the charges completely dropped and obtain an acquittal.

The director of the Kronotsky Reserve, Pyotr Shpilenok, commented on the court’s decision.

“I’m in shock,” he said. 

Innocent employees have been taken into custody for doing their official duties. We will continue to fight on their behalf — otherwise we wouldn’t know how to go on living and working. There is now only one recourse for us — to go to higher courts and seek the complete dismissal of charges against them.

In addition, the reserve is now literally in a state of emergency: it won’t be able to function as before without these key employees. The specialists sent to prison were responsible for the most important areas of work: science, tourism, and economic support. Kronotsky will now have to urgently make some difficult decisions to keep nature protected.

The Kronotsky Reserve employees were charged with embezzling more than 454 million rubles from the federal budget and being involved in an organised criminal group. The money was earmarked for and spent on cleaning up the reserve and eliminating accumulated environmental damage.

The Investigative Committee, however, believes that this money was stolen. On June 27, the prosecution requested that the court sentence the accused reserve employees to six to eight years of imprisonment, multimillion-ruble fines, and overall damages of 454.6 million rubles.

The charges caused a massive public outcry, and the trial came to be called the “Clean-Up Case.” The team at the Kronotsky Reserve publicly posted materials that testify to the innocence of the reserve’s employees: paperwork, photos and video footage, witness statements, and official findings by scientific institutions, Rosprirodnadzor, and the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources. They clearly show that there are many discrepancies in the case.

“I personally know the accused reserve employees and can confirm that they are some of the best and most dedicated specialists in the reserve system,” says Mikhail Kreindlin, project manager for specially protected natural areas at Greenpeace Russia.

Basically, the employees are accused of conscientiously and competently performing their work in assessing the damage caused to the reserve earlier, while the investigation is trying to prove the existence of an organised criminal group by pointing to the organisational structure of the institution that manages the reserve.

Greenpeace Russia considers the sentence imposed on the employees of the Kronotsky Reserve unfair. Over years of cooperation, the reserve employees have proven themselves to be exceptionally honest and professional people, dedicated to their work. 20 July 2022

For news and views of the other Russias, I recommend The Russian Reader, where this statement was first published in English.

⏩ Follow People & Nature on twitter … instagram … telegram … or whatsapp. Or email me on peoplenature[at] and ask for updates.

Russia ✑ Nature Reserve Staff Hit With Savage Jail Terms

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Two Hundred And Ninety Four

Christopher Owens 🔖 Sometimes, recent events just help write the review for you. 

Michelle O’Neill’s recent comments about there being “no alternative” to IRA violence has been dissected by various commentators (some of whom pointed to John Hume as a shining example, while ignoring the vitriolic abuse hurled at him 30 years ago for dealing with Sinn Fein) and reassembled in bad faith by various Twitter types who wear the fact that their parents didn’t join a paramilitary organisation as a badge of honour.

To paraphrase Chris Rock, what do you want? A cookie? You're not supposed to join a paramilitary group, you low-expectation-having motherfucker.

It is important to consider that, equally, many loyalist paramilitaries felt there was no alternative. Indeed, the perception among many within loyalism is that it was one of protecting the community and the family, with many discussing how fathers would man barricades by night and then go straight to work when morning came. As Anthony McIntyre has pointed out, the theme of defence crops up constantly in loyalist writings so it is clearly something that cannot be dismissed out of hand.

If we’re going to come to terms with what happened in this country, we need to be honest. And one writer who has been giving an honest voice and personality to loyalism via the arts is Robert ‘Beano’ Niblock, who has published No Milk Today off the back of delivering a book of poetry, a play as well as collaborating with Gareth Mulvenna on various 'Belts and Boots' nights, all of which have been well received.

Niblock describes the book as a selection of stories:

. . . that I have been writing over the years. Most of them are standalone but there is a little connection with a couple of them. You will have spotted the lineage of the two main characters in No Milk Today: revisiting the legacy of the Tartan gangs of the time and the subsequent journey into loyalist paramilitarism-with heavy influence from ‘older men’.

Set in 1973, the story that gives the book its name is a strongly evocative piece, due to the contrast between the youth of the characters (with references to The Sweet and Last Tango in Paris) and the heavy atmosphere of violence, rumours and paranoia (all too prevalent throughout the early years of the conflict). I must admit, I did have a chuckle at a line referring to Last Tango . . .  said by an RUC man while casually interrogating a loyalist hit squad. Such details make for an intoxicating read.

‘O Krok Dalej’ takes on the veneer of a story of mischief and good natured oneupmanship before it goes out of control very quickly. It also, in a way, acts as an inverse of the opening tale ‘Cardinal Sin’ where the beginning of the conflict ends up creating division and suspicion among long term work colleagues. With both tales, Niblock shows how easy it can be for a situation to escalate beyond control, be it external or internal.

As you may have picked up, this is not a book that deals exclusively with our recent past but uses it as a framework for examining working class life and work relationships. Take this excerpt for example:

My driver - Andy Mills - would be there already making sure the loaders had the order just right. Andy was about forty - sound as a pound he was. He’d two kids – daughters - and loved the Arsenal - me and him argued constantly about football. He called me The Yid… Big Terry the yard supervisor was standing-full length brown work coat - a milkman's hat that had seen better days - and a clip board with a blue Biro dangling from a piece of string. Terry was due retirement sometime soon - it was rumoured he’d been here since the milk was delivered by horse and cart for fuck’s sake . . . Nobody wanted to go to Bay Six. Ever. That was definitely a phrase you didn’t want to hear anytime, let alone at five o’clock in the morning . . .  You were paired up with Sammy Smith. Jesus! I’d only been out with him a few times, thank God. The float windows were down all the time because he smoked constantly, but just as well they were down because he stank of B. O . . .  he also farted nonstop but that wasn't his worst habit. No. He had this skill of hawking up these mouthfuls of stuff . . . with a shuddering throaty roar that at least gave you a warning for a globule of phlegm and spit that was aimed out the side window: the passenger window. Through years of practice, most of the time it made it the whole way out. Most of the time. His most disgusting habit, however . . .  well . . . we’ll just leave that one there. His nickname was Pickalicka.

Another thing that springs out is Niblock’s use of dialogue. Staccato, heavy on the Belfast dialect and cut through with an ambiguous tone (is this character being nasty/having a laugh), it captures a piece of Belfast life that not only moves the story along in a swift manner, but is very difficult to replicate without falling into parody or becoming obtrusive for a reader not from the city:

‘“Okay guys-don't wanna be hanging about here all night”.

No one spoke. Or moved.

He turned a chair round back to front and sat on it. His two friends remained standing. Impassive.

“No doubt yez’ve noticed what’s been happening since the turn of the year?”

It was a rhetorical question which he didn't expect an answer to.

And he didn’t.

“Three soldiers . . . Two peelers . . . and three Prods killed . . . and we haven't lifted a finger to do anything about it”.

He straightened up in his chair, took a polo mint out of his pocket and popped it into his mouth.

No one spoke.

There was some fidgeting amongst us until, Roscoe…

“We need to hit back then Bobby . . . that’s what you’re saying”?

“Ten outta ten for paying attention at least”.

Bobby slowly scanned the rest of us seated around the room.

I felt uncomfortable.

He then looked directly at me.

I reddened and felt a cold sweat.

“What’s your name son”?

“Hovis” I stammered.

“What’d’ ya think Hovis”?

“What about Bobby”?

“The price of coal for fuck’s sake”.’

Here we have a scenario that, among other writers, would be played out with stern sincerity. Each participant listening to a charismatic leader whose tone and volume increases as he speaks. With Niblock, he paints a much more realistic scenario where an older man is surrounded by a bunch of teenagers who feel their way of life is under attack and need to hit back, but still have the mentality of teenagers. When that is considered, the loss of life in the conflict takes on an even greater poignancy.

Once again, Niblock hits it out of the park. Not only is this an excellent collection of stories that reflects working class life, the different facets of the male personality in a competitive (or hostile) environment and a Belfast that still holds a grip on the collective psyche fifty years on, but it also does an immense job of adding character and drive to men who have been consigned to history as either faceless killers or grotesque caricatures.

Pickalicka notwithstanding.

Robert ‘Beano’ Niblock, 2022, No Milk Today, ACT Initiative, Privately Published.

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

No Milk Today


A Morning Thought @ 1516

Simon Pitani  ☭ The Belarusian regime is threatening “railway partisans”, arrested for sabotaging signalling equipment to disrupt the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the death sentence.


Criminal investigators have passed a file on the first three cases – Dzmitry Ravich, Dzianis Dzikun and Aleh Malchanau of Svetlagorsk – to court prosecutors.

From left: Dzianis Dzikun, Aleh Malchanau and
Dzmitry Ravich. From 
the Viasna site

The state Investigations Committee says they could face the death penalty, although lawyers say there is no basis for that in Belarusian law.

On Saturday 23 July, Belarusians will protest at their country’s embassy in London, in support of the Svetlagorsk defendants and eight others arrested on terrorism charges.

Ravich, Dzikun and Malchanau were detained in Svetlagorsk on 4 March this year – a week after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine – along with Alisa Malchanau, Aleh’s daughter, and Natalia Ravich, Dzmitry’s wife, who were released a few days later.

Dzianis Dzikun’s brother, Dmitry, said in an interview last month that Dzianis had wanted “to help Ukraine somehow”. Three people had been arrested, he said, and:

As far as I understand, people knew [at that time] that all the Russian equipment was moving towards the north of Ukraine through Belarus. And for that they used the railways. They wanted to help Ukraine somehow – to stop these armaments, to make sure they couldn’t go further.

There are 11 people in the “railway partisans” case, and now the first three are going to court. For me, these people are heroes. They didn’t sit at home, like the “armchair battalion”. At least they tried to do something.

Dmitry said that Dzianis, who is in a detention centre at Gomel’, had been able to send and receive letters, and had been visited by his partner and and his sister.

Straight after his arrest in March, it was very different. Dzianis was severely beaten and forced to record a so-called confession on video – one of the Belarusian security forces’ standard techniques. Dmitry said:

On the so called “confessional” video it is clear that my brother’s face was smashed in. A black eye, swelling on his chin. The day before he was arrested, we spoke [on line] in the evening. I saw how he looked; not so much as a scratch. He was feeling fine. [But after his arrest] he was limping. Other people saw him. He was holding his side, his face was bruised.

The case against Ravich, Dzikun and Malchanau concerns an arson attack on a railway relay cabinet. This is reportedly the most common form of rail sabotage: it wrecks automatic signalling systems, disrupts schedules and forces trains to move at reduced speeds of 15-20km/hour.

The Svetlagorsk trio have been charged with: participating in an extremist organisation; acts of terrorism; deliberate harm to the transport system, resulting in serious damage and threats to life; and treason.

The Investigations Committee said the trio could face the death penalty. But Zerkalo, the independent news site, published legal advice that the death penalty for terrorism offences, introduced on 29 May this year, can not be applied retroactively. Prior to that date, it could only be applied if the offences had led to deaths.

Obviously there is no reason to think that Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime will obey its own laws, and so the lives of the Svetlagorsk accused are in danger.

On 21 April, a coalition of six human rights organisations recognised the Svetlagorsk three, and eight other “railway partisans”, as political prisoners.

An overview of the “railway partisans” movement by Belarus Digest estimated that in the first two months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there were more than 80 actions.

“Incidents at this scale have not been seen since world war two”, Lizaveta Kasmach wrote in that report. Railway workers had been among those arrested, and in the last week of March, independent Telegram channels had reported that more than 40 of them had been arrested.

The authorities charged the detainees with high treason, espionage, and terrorist acts. By 30 March, Telegram channels affiliated with the security forces posted more than three dozen “confession” videos featuring arrested railway workers.

The fate of these detainees is unknown to Belarusian activists I have been in touch with. They are not included in the human rights organisations’ list of political prisoners, but that does not mean they are safe. There are so many detainees that activists are struggling to keep track of them all; people are only included on the list according to narrow criteria.

In April, the Belarusian opposition politician Franak Viačorka reported that, as well as sabotage, there were “dozens” of smaller actions, e.g. by train drivers who refused to carry equipment.

Dzianis Dzikun before his arrest (left) and on “confessional” video.
Photos from Viasna

A decentralised network, including Bypol (former security services officers now in exile), the Community of Railway Workers (organised on Telegram) and the Cyber Partisans (Belarusian IT professionals now in exile), helped facilitate action against Russian military transport, the Washington Post reported.

The “railway partisans” actions are indicative of widespread discontent with the Belarusian regime over its support for Russia’s war on Ukraine. In response, the authorities have lashed out with renewed repression of trade unionists, journalists and other opponents.

The Supreme Court of Belarus last week (12 July) ordered the liquidation of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union, which for thirty years has played a leading role in the struggle for workers’ rights.

“The union’s activities have always been about increasing workers’ wages, workplace safety, and fair and dignified relations with people in the workplace”, its organisers stated prior to the decision.

Since 1991 members of our trade union, united in primary organisations of Mozyr, Novopolotsk, Soligorsk, Grodno, Bobruisk, Minsk, Mogilev, Vitebsk, independently defended their legal rights by concluding collective agreements.

The union’s president Maksim Poznyakov was arrested in May in Novopolotsk. A week previously he had been elected as president of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions – to replace Aleksandr Yaroshuk and his deputy, Sergei Antusevich, who were also arrested.

This month, Katsiaryna Andreyeva, a journalist, had an eight-year sentence for treason added to her two-year jail term for participating in the 2020 protests, and Danuta Perednia, a student, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years for reposting an anti-war statement.

Human rights organisations say there are now more than 1200 political prisoners in Belarus – although the total numbers detained in response to protest activities (such as the rail workers mentioned above) is far higher.

Railway workers’ support for the antiwar movement this year follows their active participation in the wave of protests that swept Belarus in 2020.

Those actions, too, led to dismissals, arrests and jailings, which are documented, together with information about the “railway partisans”, in a report by Our House, the civil society campaign group. (A downloadable version of the report, that Our House has circulated among trade unionists in the UK, is here.)

In September last year, three railway workers – Sjarhei Dzjuba, Maksim Sakovicz and Hanna Ablab – were rounded up as part of a “treason” case against the Rabochy Rukh labour rights group.

➤ On Saturday 23 July, Belarusians and their supporters in the UK will demonstrate in support of the “railway partisans” and other political prisoners. 12.0 midday, at the Belarusian embassy, 6 Kensington Court, London, W8 5DL.

The demonstration is called “in support of the rail workers of Belarus, who despite facing tremendous repression from the regime, successfully disrupted the Russian invasion in Ukraine by sabotaging the railway network. We will be demanding an immediate release of the imprisoned heroes”.

Earlier this month, a conference of the UK rail workers’ union RMT resolved to support Belarusian rail workers facing repression. This welcome stand will help to strengthen desperately needed solidarity. 

⏩ Follow People & Nature on twitter … instagram … telegram … or whatsapp. Or email me on peoplenature[at] and ask for updates.

Belarusian ‘Railway Partisans’ Face Death Penalty

Max Thrax 🔖answers thirteen questions in Booker's Dozen. 

TPQ: What are you currently reading?

MT: Cogan's Trade - George V. Higgins Along with Jim Thompson and Georges Simenon, Higgins was a primary influence on me. Cogan's Trade is his third novel and the basis of the 2012 Brad Pitt vehicle, which changes the location from Boston to New Orleans. As always, Higgins's dialogue is excellent. It's stylized in a way that makes it sound real, which is a perpetual goal of mine.
TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read?

MT: Best: Madame Bovary – Flaubert. Madame Bovary is the closest thing to a perfect novel in any language.

Worst: A Million Little Pieces - James Frey. Terribly written and obviously fake, so it was no surprise what happened to Frey.

TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?

MT: D'Aulaires' Trolls 🔖 Book of Greek Myths 🔖  Norse Gods and Giants. Some of my favorite stories paired with some of my favorite illustrations. Few can compete with the D'Aulaires.

TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?

MT: Roald Dahl. As a kid, The Phantom Tollbooth was my favorite book but Dahl simply has too many classics. Matilda is his finest.

TPQ: First book to really own you.

MT: : Naked Lunch - William S. Burroughs. Discovered on my dad's bookshelves sometime in middle school. It opened up a new world of literature. Burroughs and Ballard were the major authors of my teens.  

Iraqi Book Market

TPQ: Favourite male and female author?

MT: Favorite male writer: Dostoevsky. Flaubert wrote the best novel, Dostoevsky is the best novelist. Much of what I do as a writer can be traced back to him.

Favorite female writer: Patricia Highsmith. Atmosphere, black humor, pitch-perfect noir.

TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?

MT: My main interest is the novel. I do, however, read a lot of non-fiction. Research is usually enjoyable and many ideas have come from it.

TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you.

MT: War Commentaries of Caesar. It seems unfair that Caesar should also be a superb stylist, but that's life. The sparseness, vividness, and directness of his prose were big inspirations when I was trying to develop my own style.

TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?

MT: No.

TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you.

MT: Perfume - Patrick Süskind. A distillation of what I enjoy reading and what motivates me.

TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?

MT: Dirty Snow - Georges Simenon. Underrated gangster novel. Hardboiled in tone and subject but also highly interiorized.

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

MT:  Dead City - Shane Stevens. Forgotten masterpiece about Jersey mobsters in the early 1970s. The realism makes it adjacent to horror, with one of the all-time great gangster finales.

TPQ: The just must - select one book you simply have to read before you close the final page on life.

MT: Finnegans Wake - James Joyce. Looks good. Requires more time than available at present.

📕 Max Thrax is an author and editor of Apocalypse Confidential. His new novel, God is a Killer, is out now.

Bookers Dozen @ Max Thrax


A Morning Thought @ 1515

Matt Treacy On Tuesday, France became the latest country to scrap its television licence.

Following on an election promise from President Macron, the Senate approved the proposal to scrap the tax by 170 votes to 57. This means that it will also be certain to pass through the National Assembly.

Macron had basically stolen the idea from Marine Le Pen’s National Rally manifesto, and it proved to be a popular one, and comes as part of a series of measures designed to address the cost of living crisis that is impacting on households across all of Europe.

The French fee was €138 per year, a revenue of €3.2 billion in 2022. The state now proposes to fund public service broadcasting through VAT. Not surprisingly our own state broadcaster RTÉ seems to have missed this story.

Irish contributors to RTÉ will also probably not realise that the legal requirement to have a TV licensc is in very much the exception among the nations of the world. A mere 15 Europe states have such a thing, and beyond that only seven other countries on the planet require that you have a piece of paper in order to own a television.

Not only that, but the trend has been for countries that did force its citizens on pain of fines and imprisonment to have a TV licence to scrap it. Since 2000, that has included Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Romania and Sweden.

Poland, where evasion rates are around 65%, is currently considering doing away with it, as are the British where the current Minister for Culture Nadine Dorries supports a two-year freeze, with possible abolition in 2027.

The political divide on TV licences is interesting. The British Tories clearly have an issue with the BBC which is regarded as biased towards the left. Likewise in France, where National Rally and the more conservative Republicans support not only scrapping the license but privatisation. In Le Pen’s case this is clearly not anything to do with opposition to public services whose protection is a key part of National Rally policies, but a dislike of the fact that public broadcasting has clearly constituted another battle decisively won by the French left in its “march through the institutions.” Indeed, Mélenchon’s far left alliance NUPES and the Communist Party are the most vociferous opponents of abolition.

The main opposition party here, Sinn Féin, has had its own issues with RTÉ having been banned in the past under Section 31 and is still claiming a certain bias when it comes to coverage. It has never, however, made abolition an election promise and in general it’s overall left liberal stance on issues such as abortion which they share with the other establishment parties are clearly favoured by RTÉ.

This was evident in RTÉ’s coverage of the referendum on the 8th amendment and is reflected in its daily content on a whole range of issues. The public broadcasting service claim – as in providing any sort of meaningful cultural content – is moot when you look at their schedule which is pretty much wall to wall imported soap operas and American talk shows. There is certainly an argument for supporting Irish language media but TG4, apart from a few exceptions, differs little from the two RTÉs in its overall standard of content.

The fact that the Irish state was considering broadening their take from what people watch was signalled by the Fine Gael/Labour proposal to introduce a charge that would allow them to basically tax people for watching stuff online on their phones and laptops. That seems not to be completely dead in the water and would be a true return to the days when the state taxed people for having windows and fireplaces.

The current evasion rate here was estimated at 12.8% in 2018. I, for one, am not apologising for being one of that band. I do admit to having some lingering reservations with regard to what I believe is an onus on the state to set some sort of cultural level, but that is perhaps nothing more than intellectual snobbery on my part and a quick glance at the TV and even radio schedules indicate that that ship has by and large sailed.

In any event, my willingness to pay a few euro for TG4 is outweighed by the knowledge that it is mostly going to support ideologically motivated overpaid broadcasters who represent most of the things I disagree with, and broadcast content that I would not watch nor listen to unless you were to tie me to a chair and staple my eyelids to my forehead.

Matt Treacy has published a number of books including histories of 
the Republican Movement and of the Communist Party of Ireland. 

France Latest Country To Scrap TV Licence