How Britain’s Bronze Age Created the UK’s First Wealthy Elite

The World of Stonehenge – Part 4 The Age of Bronze

BBC (2018)

Film Review

Episode 4 is about Britain’s Bronze Age, which began about 2,200 BC. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. Archeological evidence suggests the first British copper came from western Ireland. It was transported to Britain to be combined with Cornish tin to make bronze.

Skeletal DNA evidence suggests that Irish copper and Cornish tin were discovered by European metal prospectors who taught the British how to extract copper and tin from ore, combine the molten metals to craft tools weapons and jewelry.

Copper alone is no stronger than the greenstone used for Stone Age tools and must be combined with tin to produce strong and durable swords and axe heads. The film contains fascinating shots of metallurgists reproducing the ancient technologies used to smelt copper and tin and combine them to make bronze.

The discovery of metallurgy in Britain led to the development of an entire industry made up of metal workers, metal traders and middlemen who controlled the main trade routes. It also created the opportunity for some families to become ostentatiously rich, as they acquired bronze tools (poor people could only afford stone tools) and gold and jet* jewellery. Because tin was relatively scarce, by 2,000 BC Britain was setting fashion trends for the rest of Europe.

Prior to the Bronze Age, there is no evidence of permanent settlement in Britain – farmers typically worked fields and pastures until they exhausted the soil and moved on. However beginning in 2,220 BC, Britons began building permanent dwellings (single room Bronze Age roundhouses) that could last as long as 1,000 years. The first evidence of villages also dates to this period.

Despite the clear emergence of a wealthy elite during the Bronze Age, skeletal remains reveal no evidence of a malnourished underclass.


*Jet is a type of lignite, a precursor to coal, a gemstone of organic, rather than mineral, origin.

 

 

Urban Mining: Reclaiming Gold from Dead Cellphones

Urban Mining: Gold in Our Trash

VPRO (2015)

Film Review

Urban Mining is about a program in Belgium that collects dead cellphones from Africa and ships them to Umicore, a Belgian mining company. At present, the price of gold is so high that it’s cheaper to retrieve it from old cellphones than from new mines. At present a gold mine yields 2-3 grams per metric ton on average – on average cellphones yield 300 grams per metric ton.

Umicore also recovers other metals and rare earth minerals from cellphones, including silver, palladium, copper, lead nickel, thulium and europiam. The company separates the metals in a special smelter heated by burning the plastic in the phones.

The Belgian NGO responsible for collecting the phones is called Close the Loop. They pay Africans 0.25 euro for their phones and sell them to Umicore for 1 euro. They also recycle secondhand European cellphones to Africa (the average European cellphone user keeps their phone for 18 months).

The filmmakers also visit a German gasplasma plant that re-mines landfills to recycle discarded computers. The plant melts down the plastic to produce plasma rock, an environmentally friendly alternative to cement and lightweight insulating tiles. The gasplasma plant also produces energy as heat, biogas and hydrogen.

In 2010 Swindon England opened a gasplasma plant that produces enough electricity to power 15,000 homes. Germany is also providing technical guidance to China, India, Croatia and Greece in building their own gasplasma plants.

 

 

The US Military Occupation of Africa

The Shadow War in the Sahara

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

The Shadow War in the Sahara is a thumbnail history of the US military occupation of Africa. The documentary begins with the 1885 Berlin Conference, at which the major European powers divided up all of Saharan Africa to better exploit its rich resources of gas, oil, copper, uranium, coltan and other rare earth minerals.

France initially came out the winner, controlling three-fourths of Saharan Africa until World War II. Even after all their Saharan colonies won independence (1945-62), France continued to maintain a military presence, as well economic dominance over most of its former colonies.

With the discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea in the sixties, this began to change – with the covert US support of armed rebellions in Ethiopia and Angola and its failed invasion of Somalia. Over time, most French troops have been replaced by US troops. While this was done in the name of “fighting terrorism,” the real US agenda has always been to secure oil and mineral resources in the face of Chinese domination over African oil.

Instead of employing military force and direct political intervention via the International Monetary Fund and their “structural adjustment”* policies, China has gained a major foothold in Africa in offering debt-free development loans and a policy of non-interference in domestic policy.

The US is the only major power to divide up the entire world into military command and control regions: USNorthcom (North America), USSouthcom (South America), USEUCom (Europe), USCentcom (Middle East and Central Asia), USPACom (Pacific region and Australia) and USAfricom.

Former Libyan ruler Omar Gaddafi successfully blocked the US from locating the USAfricom headquarters in Africa – so the US built it in Germany instead.

Prior to his assassination by US-backed rebels, Gadaffi was a powerful advocate for African unity. His primary goal in founding and bankrolling (from his massive oil revenues) the African Development Bank and an African Monetary Fund was to assist other African countries to resist western colonialism.

In 2009, he was elected chairman of the African Union, and in 2011 he cancelled major contracts with the powerful (US) Bechtel corporation and with France (for millions of dollars of military hardware). The punishment inflicted by the US and France was swift – a NATO bombing campaign in support of CIA-backed rebels charged with overthrowing his government.


*Structural adjustment describes a process by which the US-controlled IMF forces countries to privatize public utilities, cut public services and open third world economies to western investment as a condition of debt refinancing.

 

 

 

Stealing Africa

Stealing Africa – Why Poverty

BBC (2012)

Film Review

Stealing Africa is about the Swiss corporation Glencore and how they have been ripping off Zambia’s copper for the last 16 years.

Despite exporting $29 billion worth of copper annually, Zambia remains one of the twentieth poorest countries in the world. The reason? A Swiss company called Glencore that keeps the vast majority of these profits for themselves. Thanks to creative bookkeeping and major tax evasion, Glencore pays less to the Zambian government in taxes than they pay to provide electricity to their mines.

Glencore has an interesting connection to the Clintons. The company was started in the 1970s by Marc Rich, an American white collar criminal who fled to Switzerland in 1983 to avoid imprisonment on money laundering, tax fraud and trading with the enemy* charges.

In 1994, the company changed their name from Marc Rich and Company to Glencore.- in 2000, Bill Clinton pardoned Rich in return for millions in campaign contributions and donations to the Clinton Library.

The Zambian copper mines were a state owned industry until 2000, when the global price of copper plummeted, leaving Zambia unable to repay its foreign debt. Allegedly under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, President Frederick Chiluba sold all Zambia’s copper mines to Glencore and other foreign companies. In 2007, a case in the British high court found Chiluba (who died in 2011) guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

In 2011, a confidential tax audit of Glencore’s Mopani mine was leaked to Friends of the Earth. It revealed that Glencore (with the collusion of Switzerland) was reducing their tax bill in Zambia by rigging the price of copper and fraudulent profit reporting. Following public release of the audit, the EU investment bank suspended further loans to Glencore. Sadly the company persists in their refusal to pay the tax demands of a government lacking the legal resources to take on a gigantic multinational corporation.

The result is a country in which 64% of the population live below the poverty line and residents adjacent to Glencore copper mines suffer major health problems. These relate mainly to the company’s refusal to abide by World Health Organization standards for sulfur dioxide emissions.

The CIA and Congo’s 20-Year Civil War

The following presentation by Friends of the Congo Executive Director Maurice Carney provides an elegant but horrifying summary of the CIA’s 50-year assault on the Republic of Congo. The Congo has the distinct misfortune of having amazingly rich mineral resources (uranium, gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and especially coltran*). The result has been a single minded determination by Wall Street and the CIA to destroy democratic rule in that country. I was well aware of the importance of CIA and US State Department in destabilizing Latin America, Asia, Russia and the Middle East. Until recently I was less aware of their aggressive machinations in Africa.

According to Carney, their first president Patrice Lumumba became a high priority CIA target it due to joint efforts with Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana to establish a United States of Africa. This presumably would have granted the continent total independence of US corporate rule.

After briefly summarizing the county’s ruthless colonization by Belgium, Carney describes the Congo’s struggle for independence under Patrice Lumumba in 1960, the first and only legitimately elected president. After assassinating Lumumba, the CIA installed a 30 year dictatorship to ensure US corporations continued access to Congo’s resources on their terms.

In 1996, the people of Congo had just overthrown the dictatorship and installed democratic government when the CIA instigated puppet sociopaths ( Paul Kagami of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda) to invade and instigate a 20 year civil war in Congo. In addition to providing them military aid and training, the US government actively covers up Kagami and Museveni’s war crimes, resulting in millions of civilian deaths.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has recently ordered to Uganda to pay millions in reparations to Congo. As Rwanda doesn’t belong to the ICJ, Spanish courts (under the authority of universal jurisdiction) have indicted 40 top Rwandan officials for war crimes

Current Congo president Joseph Kabila, also handpicked by the CIA, who succeeded his father Laurent-Désiré Kabila (1997-2001), maintains power by way of a US-rigged election in 2006 and massive electoral fraud in 2011.

See also The US Rape of the Congo


*Coltran is a rare earth mineral essential in the manufacture of cellphones and computers.