National News

Families deeper in debt

TWO REPORTS into debt in Britain issued last week at first sight seem contradictory. One, from the Bank of England, shows a fall in personal borrowing over the last month. The other from the insurance company Aviva Family Finances, covers the whole of the last year and shows that family debt within that period has risen by almost 50 per cent.

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Wheelchair protesters block Oxford Circus

DISABLED campaigners in wheelchairs last Saturday blocked Oxford Circus — one of central London’s busiest junctions — for two hours to protest at Con-Dem Coalition cuts to welfare and disability benefits.

The group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) was backed by the activist group UK Uncut, which aims to pressure wealthy businesses into paying their fair share of taxes. The UK Uncut activists met at Holborn Tube — closely monitored by police, and set off for a roundabout trip on the underground, followed by the police.

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Health unions rally to save NHS

HEALTH service unions are organising a mass rally in central London involving patients and workers from all fields within the NHS to lobby the House of Lords as the Health and Social care Bill reaches its final crucial parliamentary stages.

On Wednesday 7th March the giant union Unite, 100,000 members in the health service, is holding the lobby of MPs and peers in the Houses of Parliament on the afternoon of 7th March, with the message that the Bill’s proposals are ‘untried and untested’ and will have a negative impact on patients’ welfare.

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Left-wing unity — the way forward

by New Worker correspondent

ALEC MCFADDEN, President of Merseyside TUC, attacked the Con-Dem government at a New Worker Public Meeting held on the 23rd of January at the Casa Bar in Liverpool.

He said: “They are dismantling the welfare state, privatising public transport and destroying the NHS,” while describing the offensive against the working class.

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Misleading stats on deaths in custody

THE OFFICIAL figures on the numbers of deaths in custody is understating the true numbers because people who die under restraint before being formally arrested and charged are not included, according to a report issued by the BBC last week.

Campaigners want an inquiry into how the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) collates its figures.

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No to Nato intervention in Syria and Iran

by New Worker Correspondent

SEVERAL hundred peace campaigners, including many Syrians and Iranians, gathered outside the American embassy in Grosvenor Square last Saturday to protest at the preparations for new Nato aggression against Syria and Iran.

The rally was organised by the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and supported by many organisations, including a large delegation from the Occupy London protest.

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Speaking out about the Holocaust

by New Worker correspondent

THE SMALL cinema at the Imperial War Museum was packed — standing room only — with a strange mixture of Second World War veterans, schoolchildren, representatives of the embassies of the former Soviet republics and local campaigners — along with an MP and various local Town Hall dignitaries.

They had all come together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, themed around the message: “Speak up, Speak Out” about racism, fascism, discrimination and injustice to prevent such horrors happening again.

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International News

Protests mark anniversary of the Tunisian uprising

by Abayomi Azikiwe

Editor, Pan-African News Wire

LONG-TIME Tunisian ruler President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled his country on 14th January to Saudi Arabia, where he has been granted political refuge.

The uprising that began in Tunisia 14 months ago was the first in a series of events that have reshaped the debate and struggle in much of Africa and the Middle East.

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Venezuela: Improving people’s lives

Radio Havana Cuba

THE FINAL months of 2011 and the first weeks of the New Year have seen the emergence of new missions in Venezuela developed by the government of President Hugo Chavez, seeking to cut extreme poverty in half, which is currently at seven per cent.

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China’s stance on Iranian nuclear issue is clear

by Zhong Sheng

DESPITE the delicate situation in Syria, the world’s attention is now focused on the confrontation between Iran and the West.

Sabre-rattling does not necessarily turn into an actual war. Iran is a major oil exporter, and the Persian Gulf is a strategic energy transportation hub. The complex situation and uncertain prospects for the region have caused instability in global energy markets, and cast a heavy shadow over the world economy. Once this hornets’ nest is stirred up, the entire world will be affected.

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Cuba: Baracoa’s ‘Carmen La India’

by Pedro Quiroga

HER STATURE and corpulence are different from what are usually considered characteristic of the Taino indigenous people, who inhabited Cuba before it was colonised by the Spanish, but her skin colour and facial features are like those of her ancestors.

She lives in Baracoa, which is known as Cuba’s first villa and was founded by the Spanish 500 years ago. Everybody knows her as Carmen La India [Carmen the Indian]. She wears a long feather pinned to her hair, and describes herself as a continuator of the traditions of her great-grandmother,who was known to have been of indigenous descent.

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Features

Historic strike halts Panama Canal expansion

by Olmedo Beluche

Last month Panamanian canal workers downed tools for a week in a strike that was eventually called off after the consortium in charge of the works agreed to increase the minimum wage.

SOME 5,000 workers who are building two new locks in the expansion of the Panama Canal went on strike on 16th January. The work is to cater for ships larger than the maximum “panamax” size that currently move through the existing locks. The strike was solid, both in the Pacific and Atlantic areas, and joined by all categories of workers, from assistants to low-level supervisors.

A list of demands shows that a series of abuses committed by the United for the Canal Group consortium provoked the strike. The consortium is headed by the Spanish transnational Sacyr and the main Panamanian construction company, the CUSA Group. The family of the current administrator of the Panama Canal, German Zubieta, owns CUSA.

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The rich get richer, and the world gets scarier

by Rob Gowland

EARLY last year the Labour pressure group Compass, with backing from the charitable Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (remember Rowntree chocolates?) established the High Pay Commission to investigate persistent claims that boardroom pay had become excessive.

After a year-long inquiry, the study concluded that the pay of top FTSE executives had risen on average by more than 4,000 per cent over the last 30 years. In contrast average wages in the UK today are just three times higher than in 1980.

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Ireland: remembering Kevin Barry

Republican News

KEVIN Barry, one of Ireland’s youngest martyrs, was born in Dublin on 20th January 1902. He was the fourth of seven children. The Barrys came from a well-off family in Hacketstown, County Carlow. Carlow at that time was very nationalistic, so the Barry family brought this nationalistic sentiment with them to Dublin.

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