India Puts Capital on Lockdown as Protests Against Discriminatory Laws Rage on

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/01/2020 - 4:18am in

The protests against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Registration Council (NRC) laws continue across India. In response, the government of Narendra Modi has placed the capital Delhi under the National Security Act (NSA); legislation that allows any Indian to be detained for up to a year without charge or access to legal representation.

Late Friday night Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal granted the power of preventative detention to the city’s police as the government has failed to neutralize widespread resistance to its controversial new decrees. The protests started on December 4 and have since spread to every state in India. The response has been considerable. The government has not released nationwide figures but 23 have been people killed and over 5,500 detained as of December 25 in Uttar Pradesh alone, a state bordering Delhi, home to India’s largest Muslim population.

The CAA allows for immigrants from neighboring Muslim-majority countries to achieve Indian citizenship more easily – if they are Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain. But it explicitly prohibits Muslim, transgender, atheist and lower-caste immigrants from doing the same thing. It, therefore, constitutes a sharp reversal of the country’s tradition of secular republicanism. 

Meanwhile, the NRC is a newly established body that determines Indian citizenship. It can demand of any Indian that they provide extensive documentation of their ancestors’ birthplaces – something most of India’s 1.3 billion inhabitants will likely be unable to do. As a consequence, Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) now have the ability to question and strip the citizenship (and therefore human rights) of large numbers of people at a time, making them stateless. 

The NRC has already been used in the state of Assam, where nearly two million people – half of them Muslim – have had their citizenship revoked. Many of the newly criminalized “illegal immigrants” will be housed in huge detention centers resembling those on the U.S.-Mexico border.

 Despite the potential for serious consequences from the capital’s police, Delhi women have led a spontaneous 24/7 protest – called the Shaheen Bagh – for 37 continuous days. Many have traveled from all over the country to set up shop at the encampment in southeastern Delhi. Similar occupations have popped up in other cities. With the new NSA decree, police will be empowered to take far more forceful action against protestors if they so desire. 

The protests have become a popular place for artists and musicians, as young people join the revolt; while Muslims are particularly prevalent, people from all faiths have joined. There are also vigils outside Delhi’s Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in the city. On Saturday, the anniversary of statesman Mahatma Gandhi’s final hunger strike, a large crowd gathered outside the mosque pledging to uphold the secular constitution and protect the Muslim community from further attacks from the government. Gandhi ended his final hunger fast on January 18, 1948, after Hindu extremist groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – a group Prime Minister Modi is a member of – agreed to end their campaign of communal violence against Muslims. Hindu extremists assassinated Gandhi later that month. Protestors claim that Modi’s new laws “shatter the promises made in that declaration.” “For Gandhi, India belonged to all. He would have found the idea of linking citizenship to religion abhorrent,” they argue.

The Shaheen Bagh has become a metaphor for the resistance against Modi’s attempts to move India away from its secular tradition into a Hindu supremacist state. As one writer put it, “It’s not just about saving Indian Muslims. It’s about saving India.”

India Citizenship Law Protest

Indian Christians protest against the new citizenship law outside St. Pauls’ Cathedral church in Kolkata, Jan. 20, 2020. Bikas Das | AP

There is, however, strong support for the BJP’s policies among India’s Hindu community, who constitute over 80 percent of the country’s population. Modi became Prime Minister in 2014 after the collapse in support for the once-dominant Congress Party. And in the April-May elections last year the BJP swept the country, winning 303 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament, a remarkable achievement in a federated, multi-party subcontinent where nearly forty parties won seats. Modi is also widely seen, both positively and negatively, as the man who oversaw the 2002 Gujarat riots, where over a thousand Muslims were slaughtered in communal violence reminiscent of Gandhi’s era.

In December, Indian intellectual Vijay Prashad described Modi’s ideology as a mixture of fascism and hard neoliberal economics, combining Hindu nationalism with a package of privatization of state resources. Despite substantial economic growth, India’s working class has seen little to no rise in standards of living in decades, leading to rapidly expanding economic inequality. Without an explanation from the moderate National Congress Party, who began implementing the privatization process, the BJP has been able to successfully focus the Hindu majority’s discontent onto ethnic minorities and immigrants, particularly Muslims, even as they carry out largely the same economic agenda as Congress did.

Earlier this month, an estimated quarter-billion Indians went on strike demanding better wages and working conditions. While the Modi government may have the seats in parliament to push through any legislation it wants, it does not mean that those opposed to it will take his plans lightly.

Feature photo | Indian Christians hold national flags and placards during a rally to protest against the new citizenship law outside St. Pauls’ Cathedral church in Kolkata, India, Jan. 20, 2020. Bikas Das | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post India Puts Capital on Lockdown as Protests Against Discriminatory Laws Rage on appeared first on MintPress News.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on the Economic, Academic and Social Costs of Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/01/2020 - 9:17pm in

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown issued another stinging attack on Brexit in the I yesterday. She sharply criticised the Brexiteers triumphalism, that made them demand the mass celebration of Britain’s departure from the EU with a ‘festival of Brexit’, churches ringing their bells up and down the country, street parties and ‘a big, fat, jingoistic party in Parliament Square on January 31st’. She compared the proposed celebrations with the forced, state-mandated festivities of North Korea, and quoted the Roman satirist Juvenal on how the rich distracted the plebs with bread and circuses while taking away their liberties. She also bitterly complained about the way Remainers were now seen as somehow treacherous for their rejection of this wave of jingoism despite the closeness of the vote in the referendum. But she also made very good points about the immense cost Brexit had already inflicted on our economy, education, and society. She wrote

According to a detailed report by ratings agency S&P, Brexit has already cost the economy £66bn. It calculates that the amount is more than we paid into the European Union for 47 years. The economy is stagnant. The Union  of the four nations may not hold. Migrants and black, Asian and minority ethnic Britons are experiencing more hostility. Complaints are met with increased hostility or disbelief. Universities are panicking about the potential loss of EU grants and the Erasmus+ scheme – a travel bursary for young people which enriched their lives.

Musicians and artists are losing essential EU connections. Care homes cannot get workers because EU citizens are leaving. Too many feel unwelcome or are discouraged by new, costly and unfair immigration rules. NHS workers from elsewhere are becoming disillusioned.

She then describes how an Asian friend, Priti, told her about the increasing racism she was experiencing.

My friend Priti, a nurse who came over from India five years ago, says: “This is not the country I came into. Not the place my parents loved when they studied here. It has become so impolite. Even when I am changing a bandage or putting drops in their eyes, some patients shout at me to go bac. My colleagues are great but I am going – I have a job in Dubai. They need us but don’t behave well.”

We need these foreign nurses and doctors, who do an excellent job caring for our sick. It’s disgusting that they should be treated with such contempt and abuse.

Brexit is wrecking our economy, placing the Union under potentially devastating stress, and impoverishing our education system, our arts and culture, and denying needed expertise and labour to the NHS. But somehow we are meant to celebrate all this as a victory for Britain.

Alibhai-Brown herself says that Remainers should follow Will Hutton’s advice, and light candles on 31st January before going back to Brexit. She says that we must, for the sake of the younger generation and the future of this once-formidable nation.

I don’t think we can reasonable go on opposing Brexit forever without isolating ourselves politically. But I think we should be trying to get the best possible deal with the EU and trying to forge lasting, beneficial links with it.

While pointing out that so far, it is a massive, astronomically expensive failure.

GM in India: Faking it on the Astroturf

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/01/2020 - 3:00pm in

Colin Todhunter According to a recent report in The Hindu Business Line, India’s intelligence agencies are investigating the role of a global investment company and international seed companies in supporting farmers organisation Shetkari Sanghatana (SS) in the distribution of illegally procured genetically modified (GM) herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton seeds. The planting of such seeds is an offence …

In What May be the Largest Strike in World History, Millions in India Protest PM Modi’s Policies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/01/2020 - 6:52am in

An estimated quarter billion Indians – roughly three percent of the world’s entire population – went on strike today across the subcontinent, protesting the government of Narendra Modi’s racist and “anti-people,” “anti-worker” policies. The protests were called by the Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and are thought to be perhaps the largest in world history.

The CITU has a 12-point charter of demands they have put to the government. The demands include:

  • Urgent measures to contain price rises through a universalized public distribution system and banning of speculative trading on the commodities market.
  • A job generation scheme to combat India’s unemployment problem.
  • Stricter enforcement of all basic labor laws.
  • Universal social security.
  • A minimum wage of at least 15,000 Rupees (≈ $210) per month.
  • A guaranteed pension for the entire working age population.
  • Equal pay for equal work.
  • The stoppage of pro-employer, anti-labor laws.
  • The end to foreign direct investment in key industries like rail, defense and finance.

Many on the streets are also continuing the protest against Modi’s privatization schemes and racist CAA and NRC acts. The CAA explicitly prevents Muslims (India’s largest religious minority numbering around 140 million people) from neighboring countries to acquire citizenship. The NRC (National Registration Council) overturns all previous citizenship laws, requiring all Indians to provide extensive documentation to prove their citizenship– something hundreds of millions will surely be unable to do. It, therefore, gives Modi and his ruling far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the ability to remove citizenship– and therefore virtually all human rights– from any Indian it wishes. The government has already removed nearly two million people’s citizenship in the northeastern state of Assam– around half of them Muslims. It is also currently building a network of “detention centers” similar to those used by ICE in the U.S. to house the newly criminalized population of “illegal immigrants.” In many cases, it is employing those same people to build their own prisons.

The strike is supported by most major unions except for those affiliated with the ruling BJP. It also has the support of the Indian National Congress Party, which ruled the country for decades after its independence from the U.K. Rahul Gandhi, leader of the party until August last year, also estimated that 250 million would be on the streets, tweeting:

One industry expected to be hit particularly hard by the strike today is banking. Nearly a quarter of a trillion Rupees (≈ $3.1 billion) in bank transactions are set to be hit throughout the day, as ten unions from the finance and insurance sectors, representing around half a million workers, join the strike.

A common tactic of the strikers across the country is to occupy railway lines, shutting down India’s most important and iconic transport network, effectively paralyzing the country. Representatives of India’s coal unions also announced that its 600,000 members would join the strike, despite an order from the management of Coal India Ltd. not to do so. Many of the country’s enormous population of agricultural workers are expected to down their tools as well.

News of what is billed by supporters as the world’s largest strike has been hard to come by in Western sources. In fact, there has been an almost complete media blackout of the subject. A search for “India strike” into Google’s news search engine as of 23:00 India standard time (in other words after an entire day of unrest) produces just one result from a Western news organization; a short article from Reuters claiming that only “tens of thousands” are on strike. While numbers for simultaneous demonstrations happening across a subcontinent can never be gauged completely accurately, what is striking is the complete disinterest in such a large revolt from international media organizations.

Modi sees himself as part of the global wave of far-right leaders (such as Bolsonaro in Brazil and Orban in Hungary) who have come to power in the wake of the global economic downturn of 2008. In December, Indian intellectual Vijay Prashad described Modi’s ideology as a perfect blend of Indian fascism and hard neoliberal economics, combining Hindu nationalism with a package of privatization of state resources. In September, the prime minister came to the United States to attend a “Howdy Modi” summit in Houston, TX, where he embraced Donald Trump as a kindred spirit. And in April, he used the opportunity of International Peace Day to threaten to drop nuclear bombs on Pakistan. 

Despite the fact that today’s actions show that there is stiff and nationwide opposition to his Hindu chauvinism, he continues to retain high approval rates, while his ruling BJP party celebrated a resounding victory in the elections of April/May, winning 303 of the 545 seats in India’s lower house, a margin of victory rarely seen in a multi-party system.

Modi’s government warned that “any employee going on strike in any form would face the consequences,” while the Supreme Court claimed that protesting today amounts to “grave misconduct,” suggesting that the government sees the nationwide strike as a threat to its legitimacy. Strikers claim that it is just this authoritarian sentiment they are opposing.

Feature photo | Members of various trade unions shout slogans during a general strike called by various trade unions in Ahmadabad, India, Jan. 8, 2020. Ajit Solanki | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post In What May be the Largest Strike in World History, Millions in India Protest PM Modi’s Policies appeared first on MintPress News.

New Dewey Center in India

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/01/2020 - 12:43am in


India, philosophy

An institution dedicated to the study of the works of John Dewey will be opening in India later this week. 

The Center for Dewey Studies will be the first institution of its kind in India. It will be based at Savitribai Phule Pune University and directed by Dr. Vijay Khare.

Its aim is “to encourage scholarly engagement with the ideas of John Dewey on topics relevant to the Indian context as far ranging as education, democracy, communication, morality, science, and national security,” according to a press release. The center “will organize academic lectures, courses, and seminars to deepen understanding of the American pragmatist’s expansive set of writings, as well as the thought of those influenced by pragmatist philosophy.” One such figure is Bhimrao Ambedkar, “the architect of the Indian constitution, a prominent leader of the anti-caste movement, and an eager student of Dewey while studying at Columbia University in 1913-1916.”

The John Dewey Society has donated a 38 volume set of the complete works of Dewey to the Center.

The Center’s inauguration will take place on January 9th, 2020, and feature a lecture from Dr. Scott Stroud of the University of Texas, Austin.

More information here.

The post New Dewey Center in India appeared first on Daily Nous.

Tories’ and UKIP’s Nazi Anti-Immigration Imagery

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/12/2019 - 11:18pm in

Remember how UKIP and its head honcho, Nigel Farage, got into trouble a few years ago for their anti-immigration poster? This showed a long line of middle eastern immigrants stretching across the landscape trying to get into Europe and Britain. It was based on the Syrian and North African refugees that had made their way to the West up through the Balkans, a million of whom had been promised asylum by German chancellor Angela Merkel. It was another piece of Farage’s anti-immigration propaganda. The argument runs that unless we get out of Europe, EU law will force us to take in more extra-European immigrants. And particularly Muslims, who are now the specific object of right-wing suspicion and hatred.

As Mike’s shown, the argument’s nonsense. Britain’s not part of the Schengen immigration area, and so doesn’t have to take in immigrants from outside Europe, who have sought refuge in one of these countries. The laws demanding Britain take in asylum seekers are UN treaties governing the rights of refugees, which obviously have nothing to do with the EU and will still be in place when we leave.

But Farage also got into serious trouble with the post because it was almost exactly like one put up by the Nazis protesting against Jewish refugees from eastern Europe trying to enter Germany. And there are more recent images from British neo-Nazi rags which also express the same type of bitter anti-immigrant sentiments.

I found this piccie of the cover of the British Nazi rag, The White Dragon, in Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s book on modern Nazi paganism, Black Sun. It seems to be of Hindu worshippers in the Ganges, but has been taken out of context and captioned ‘Welcome to Dover’. It’s from 1999, but could have come from any time up to the present.

Farage’s poster caused a storm of controversy, but the recent Tory victory and their promises of getting Brexit done have emboldened the islamophobes and racists. So can we expect more anti-immigration posters like UKIP’s? And will the Scum, the Depress or the Heil put a photo like this on their front pages when they issue another rant about non-White immigration?

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/12/2019 - 8:14am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

December 26, 2019 Adam Kotsko, author of “The Evangelical Mind,” on the life and thought of that tendency • Shailja Sharma on India’s new citizenship law and protests against the country’s drift into fascism

Millions Protest India’s Anti-Muslim Citizenship Laws As Gov’t Crackdown Intensifies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/12/2019 - 4:03am in

Millions of Indians have defied Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ban on protests to express their opposition to the government’s wave of anti-Muslim citizenship laws, especially the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Registration Council (NRC). Around 140 million Muslims live in India and many see the new steps as a fresh attempt by the far-right Hindu nationalist government to oppress and marginalize them. At least 25 people have been killed, primarily in the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (UP). The government has banned protests in the country’s capital, Delhi, UP and other states.

The CAA makes it easier for people from neighboring Muslim-majority countries to apply for Indian citizenship– if they are Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain. But it explicitly rejects certain classes of people it deems as undesirable, including Muslims, transgender people, atheists and those from a low caste. The NRC demands all Indians provide extensive documentation to prove their citizenship– something hundreds of millions will surely be unable to do. It, therefore, gives Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) authority to strip citizenship from most Indians if it wishes, making them stateless and effectively without any rights.

The NRC has already been applied to the northeastern state of Assam, and 1.9 million people– half of them Muslim– have lost their citizenship. The BJP government is also building an extensive network of “detention centers” to house the enormous, newly criminalized population.

Critics describe the laws as akin to President Trump’s Muslim ban and claim they are in violation of India’s secular constitution. Delhi has been in an uproar for a number of days, as over a dozen metro stations have been besieged, roads closed, inducing enormous traffic jams and canceled flights. The government shut down the internet and other telecommunications services in Delhi and other hotspots of discontent. Sources inside the capital tell MintPress that businesses across the city are closed, power cuts are frequent and many are staying inside their homes to avoid the violence. But despite the ban on protests, demonstrators stormed the city’s iconic Red Fort. Similarly, militant actions are occurring across the country. The BJP’s Chief Minister in UP, Yogi Adityanath, has promised to take “revenge” against those protesting against his party. Already thousands have been detained, among them the celebrated historian Ramachandra Guha, who was arrested live on camera in the southern city of Bengaluru.

The government has insisted that Muslims have nothing to fear from the new laws, that they are designed to protect citizens, and that any decision can be challenged in court. Among those who are skeptical of this claim is noted writer and political activist Arundhati Roy, who joined the protests in Delhi. “It is a shameful thing,” she said of the new laws, accusing the government of “turning India into Kashmir.” “Everybody knows that this is an existential question for this country now,” she added, claiming that the BJP had made passports and voters’ cards meaningless and that citizenship was now based on a collection of BJP-written documents. “This only happened in 1935 in Germany,” she said, claiming that the legal challenges were virtually meaningless for most people: “Which poor person can appeal in the Supreme Court?!” Earlier this year, the Indian army invaded Kashmir, a disputed territory with Pakistan, inflaming tensions and raising the possibility of a potential nuclear war between the two countries.

 The CAA and the NRC are the newest examples of a strident, far-right Hindu majoritarian movement that has swept India in modern years, defeating the once-dominant Congress Party of the Gandhi and Nehru dynasties. Modi’s BJP achieved a resounding victory in the April/May elections, winning 303 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament, quite an achievement in a multi-party system. Modi himself has maintained very high popularity levels throughout, perhaps because of his Hindu chauvinist policies, which put the 80 percent of the population that practices Hinduism first.

Modi has also cultivated a close alliance with other far-right leaders like the U.S.’ Donald Trump, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. He was among the first world leaders to send his congratulations to Britain’s Boris Johnson after his recent election victory.

Thus, while there is stiff opposition to Modi’s anti-Muslim policies, it would be a mistake to believe that the protests represent the will of all the people. Modi is leading the subcontinent in a very particular, rightward, religious majoritarian direction with the consent, if not the enthusiastic support, of much of the population. Decades of religious and economic resentment are boiling over as Indians fight over its future. The end of 2019 could also be the end of India’s secular tradition.

Feature photo |Indians gather for a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act protest outside Jama Masjid in New Delhi, India, Dec. 20, 2019. Altaf Qadri | AP

Alan MacLeod is a MintPress Staff Writer as well as an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.

The post Millions Protest India’s Anti-Muslim Citizenship Laws As Gov’t Crackdown Intensifies appeared first on MintPress News.

The Coming Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide in India

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/12/2019 - 1:00am in

India is currently experiencing protests and riots over a pair of laws.

The state of Assam, in Northeast India, has a national register of citizens. It was recently updated, and 1.9 million residents weren’t on it. Most of those are Bengali Muslims, many likely from Muslim majority in Bangladesh. India is building camps in Assam for those 1.9 million residents, and will attempt to send the Muslim ones to other countries.

The government has announced it will extend the register through India: Everyone will have to prove their citizenship.

The second law is is the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019. It allows a path to citizenship for refugees of,

 Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan

Now, if you’re familiar with India at all, you know that the bureaucracy is not the best at record keeping. When the registry is extended through the country a lot of people won’t be able to prove citizenship. But those who aren’t Muslim will be able to regain citizenship under this amendment.

Those who are Muslim will presumably be put in camps and sent to other countries. In many cases, countries they’ve never lived in–as with many recent cases in the US in which people who were born in the US, but who INS claims don’t have –or aren’t qualified for–American citizenship.

This is ethnic cleansing based on religion.

The people I know who support this say that the Muslims are violent and keep opposing Hindu majoritarian rule–things like rebuilding temples torn down by Muslims and banning the killing of cows. The Muslims, to them, are the remains of an invading army, still trying to impose their values and religion on a country where the majority of citizens don’t accept those values or that religion. Since they won’t stop their opposition, they must be gotten rid of.

In particular, there is much animus towards recent Bangladesh immigrants, who are, apparently, aggressively Muslim (this is a result of Saudi money, as an aside; I lived in Bangladesh in the 80s and it was relatively tolerant.)

But I want to focus on the longer game: Where does this leads?

Bangladesh as a country is Muslim and exists on the Ganges flood plain. Leaving aside island nations, it is one the lowest countries in the world, and will be one of the very first to flood. It is surrounded by two countries: India and Myanmar (which has been ethnic cleansing its Muslims.)

When Bangladesh starts going underwater, and it will, over 160 million people, mostly Mulim, are going to try to flee to India and Myanmar.

What are the Indians going to do? Build a huge wall with machine guns and machine gun them down? If they want no new Muslims, how is this going to play out? Ships won’t be sufficient to handle the volume of refugees, they have to leave by land.

Either they wind up in camps, almost 200 million of them by then, or they get killed. Or both. Most of them are going to run to India.

This is the sort of scenario that the end of secularism and the rise of majoritarian rule throughout the world makes more and more likely.

Before sneering too hard at the Indians, however, remember the response of the Europeans to a much smaller influx of mostly Muslim refugees: a lot of European countries closed their border entirely, and virtually none of the remainder have been welcoming.

This is the future. Climate change is going to cause a lot of refugees. In the hundreds of millions. Countries are not going to accept most of them. And it’s going to get violent and leave the number of people in camps as, in aggregate, one of the largest populations in the world.

Fun future we’re creating.

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Modeller’s Magazine on Building Kits of Real Spacecraft

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 21/12/2019 - 9:59pm in

Like many children in the ’70s I was into plastic model kits. I was particularly into air- and spacecraft, and so spent some of my free time and pocket money gluing together and painting kits of the Apollo Lunar Module and the mighty Saturn V rocket that took men to the Moon, the Space Shuttle, and a spaceship from the Science Fiction film and TV series, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I was therefore pleased to find looking through W.H. Smith’s magazine shelves that not only had the hobby not died out, but that manufacturers were producing models of contemporary spacecraft. You can find plastic model kits on sale at some hobby shops and in Waterstone’s, but these tend to be of military aircraft, usually, but not exclusively from the Second World War II, tanks, and high performance modern jet fighters. Spacecraft seem to be dominated by Star Wars. So it was a real surprise when I found Scale Modelling: Real Space.

The kits built and described are those of the International Space Station; the Retriever Rocket, designed in the 1950s by Werner von Braun as part of the original concept for the Moon Landings which was then abandoned; the early Redstone rocket which launched some of the first Mercury capsules; the American Skylab space station; the Chinese ‘Celestial Palace’ space station, formed from their Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 spacecraft; the French Ariane 5 rocket; the Russian Buran orbiter, their answer to the American Space Shuttle, which has been built but never flown; the Titan IIIC launcher; NASA’s Space Launch System heavy lifting rocket.

Interspersed with these are articles on some of the real spacecraft themselves, written by NASA scientist David Baker. These are on the history of the ISS, how the final Saturn V launch for Skylab was very nearly a disaster, and the station became a success, and the Space Launch System rocket and its Orion capsule.

The very last model kit of a real spacecraft I built was of the Jupiter C way back in the 1990s. This was one of the early rockets that launched one of America’s first satellites into orbit. I’m very glad that people are still enjoying the hobby and building models of the real spacecraft which are carrying men and women into orbit. I was very pleased indeed when James May in one of his programmes on boy’s hobbies of the past, tried to revive interest in plastic model kits for a new generation of boys and girls a few years ago. As part of it, he built a full-scale replica of a Spitfire as a plastic model kit, complete with a dummy pilot, whose face was his own. It was cast by the artist Esther Freud, using the same techniques used to create creature masks for SF/Fantasy/Horror movies.

This issue of the magazine celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings with these kits. As NASA, ESA, India, and China again discuss plans for a return to Earth’s airless companion world, I hope the magazine and the kits encourage and inspire more children to become interested in space and the great vehicles that take us there.