ME and Ophelia

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Fran Healy called criticism of the single for Darfur "disgraceful"

Band Aid 20's version of the 1984 charity hit "Do They Know it's Christmas" for Darfur is a smash hit in its opening days on the British charts. The updated tune sold nearly 100,000 copies on Monday, its first day in stores, and was moving 2,500 copies an hour at Woolworth stores, according to Britain's Sun newspaper. UK music magazine NME predicted that first-week sales of the single will hover near 500,000--which would make it the year's second fastest-selling single.

In the UK, the song is expected to be at number one and stay at the top of the Brit pops until Christmas. But it has been dealt a massive blow in its bid to raise awareness and funds for Darfur - the track might not make it to US record shops before Christmas, if at all, according to industry sources - it's not going to be released in America.

Record company Universal is responsible for the global distribution of the single, which will be available across Europe, Asia, South America and Canada. Although US record stores are selling imports of the tune - which is proving popular in Los Angeles and New York - a rep for Universal in New York says there are no immediate plans to release the single in America.

One report says, "The last we heard it is not coming out in the U.S.," says Jerry Suarez, Virgin Megastore's senior music product manager for North America. The chain is selling an import version of the CD single.

"Historically, the American marketplace has proven averse to much of what has been incredibly successful in England," says HITS magazine editor and E! News Live correspondent David Adelson. "Despite the success of the first Band Aid, as well as the noble cause behind this latest one, the chance of replicating the song's U.K. success Stateside is slim at best," he said.

Another report suggests Universal's apparent ambivalence at releasing the tune has something to do with the lukewarm critical reaction. British critics harshed on it ("Nobody's idea of a great record," opined the Guardian), and in New Zealand, one radio station has even banned the tune--calling it "rubbish."

Travis frontman Fran Healy called criticism of the single for Darfur "disgraceful."

The song is available on Apple's iTunes music download service, but only on UK and European versions of the online store.

US fans wanting to hear the new version can go to the official Website, - and may have to keep trying. I tried to access it a few minutes ago but it wouldn't open on screen. Perhaps it's swamped with other visitors.

Proceeds from the sales are going towards relief for Darfur and to combat HIV and Aids across Africa.

Going by the above news, it would appear that criticism of the single, and doubts that Americans would buy it, have deterred Universal from releasing it in the US. Hey come on USA, please prove the naysayers wrong and help raise awareness by spreading the word.

Public demand could result in the single being released in the USA and millions of copies sold before Christmas. Who knows, it may even reach the ears of the members of the UN Security Council (and their famillies and friends) and shame them into action.

Also, please do not miss Jim's latest post at the Passion: "You can help: Remove Kofi Annan from the United Nations."


The latest news from the UN is that raping and fighting are continuing in Darfur despite the peace accords

UN officials say they're noticing splits within the rebel movement. There appears to be little coordination between the military forces in Darfur and the rebel political wing that's negotiating peace. Dozens of local commanders now control their own territories. "The world might soon find Darfur ruled by warlords," warned Jan Pronk, the top UN envoy in Sudan.


Arab Janjaweed militia continued to rape women and girls in Darfur last month while authorities forcibly moved refugees, says the UN. There is very little the UN monitors can do to prevent it while it is happening. Forced relocations are usually undertaken by police and law enforcement officials.

The number of UN human rights monitors is set to double shortly to 32, but they remain basically helpless to halt violations in Darfur, where about 1,000 African Union ceasefire monitors are also deployed.


The mandate of the 1,000 AU soldiers currently in Sudan is to observe and protect the UN monitors who are there to observe ceasefire agreements. Fighting between warring parties has escalated. AU troops have come under fire and one has been shot.

The shooting of the AU peacekeeper occurred as a team of ceasefire monitors were travelling to the village of Adwah in north Nyala, to investigate an alleged bombing by the government in breach of a ceasefire agreement with rebels.

On Thursday, an AU spokesman told IRIN: If they come under fire, then they will shoot back. "They have to protect their lives - and they will." The current 830-strong peacekeeping force in Darfur would "not give in to intimidation" he said.

The monitors find their task daunting. AU troops can intervene militarily only if the civilians and aid workers they encounter are "under imminent threat and in immediate vicinity" of attacks. AU monitors frequently witness human rights abuses they are powerless to stop.

"It's not an easy job," an AU spokesman says. "This is not a peacekeeping mission where you can exert some kind of force. Nobody ever agreed to that."


With anarchy breaking out in Darfur, there is no ceasefire to observe. After decades of war in Sudan, landmines are all over the country. A freshly laid mine recently killed two British aid workers. A no-fly zone has not been imposed. Government of Sudan forces still continue to bomb.

Sudan has called for international help to eliminate landmines. "We appeal to the international community to assist Sudan to remove this terrible threat to the lives of peoples and much needed recovery and development in this country," an official said.

A report out today "UN Agency appeals for funds to de-mine Sudan roads" states that a six-year mine action strategy sealed in Nairobi in August between Khartoum and southern rebels has now allowed the UN to begin work in southern Sudan, clearing landmines and unexploded ordnance. Perhaps this is the work that is planned for UN peacekeepers when they enter Sudan to monitor peace agreements, after they're signed December 31, 2004.


Several days ago, Sudan's government tried to expel two British aid workers for speaking to the press and mentioning recent bombings by Sudan's government forces, without clearing it through Khartoum first. Hard news from the field is not easy to come by. Whatever news comes out of Sudan, the regime in power are such masters at spinning propaganda you can't trust a word they say.

Patrick Hall points out that in June 2004 there was an urgency to speak to foreigners about the massive abuses committed in Darfur among the displaced community. But since September the displaced have become afraid of talking. They are being watched by the security forces and the police within the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and fear being arrested after being seen speaking to foreigners.

Patrick says Amnesty International's latest report on Sudan, titled "No one to complain to - no respite for the victims, impunity for perpetrators" describes in detail exactly what the refugees are now afraid to report to the outside world.


UN troops are often criticised for not being allowed to intervene


More UN monitors and AU observers without a mandate to protect and defend? There is no ceasefire to observe and no peace to keep. Tens of thousands of protection troops from the UN are urgently needed in Darfur to back up the AU troops. Everyone on the ground in Sudan - and the people of Darfur - need all the help and publicity they can get. Please spread the word. Thank you.

Please do not miss Jim's post at the Passion "You can help: Remove Kofi Annan from the United Nations." A new broom at the UN could do wonders for Sudan and Africa as a whole.



Prime Minister Tony Blair purchased two copies of Band Aid 20 yesterday.

Staff were surprised when the Prime Minister walked into HMV at 0900 GMT, accompanied by aides and local police.

"When Mr Blair came in unannounced, we were all pretty gobsmacked," said HMV manager Clive Smith.

"Our customer helper approached him... it was only then we realised he wanted to buy copies of the Band Aid single, rather than the latest Eminem album."

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 12/04/2004
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