National News

NUT announces strike

THE NATIONAL Union of Teachers last week announced a one-day strike in England and Wales for 26th March in pursuit of the disputes that Education Secretary Michael Gove has caused with the profession around pay, pensions and conditions.

In the run up to the strike the union will engage in all talks and encourage its members to leaflet parents and engage with politicians. Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “Michael Gove’s persistent refusals to address our ongoing dispute over pay, pensions and conditions of service, is unnecessary and deeply damaging.

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Hospital saves £14m by getting out of PFI deal

AN NHS TRUST in the north of England has opted to buy itself out of a Private Finance Initiative deal and calculates that in the long run this will save £14 million.

The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Mental Health Foundation Trust took advantage of a break clause in the PFI deal that led to the building of West Park Hospital in Darlington, County Durham by a private company.

The trust was due to pay £2 million a year for the next 23 years so paying £18 million upfront to get out of the deal now made sense. Now it owns the hospital outright and expects to save £14 million over the course of the deal once maintenance and inflation is taken into account.

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Environment Agency cuts led to flood damage

THE GMB union, which represents employees of the Environment Agency, last week accused the Coalition and previous Labour and Tory governments of successive cuts that left our waterways unable to cope with the exceptional amount of rain we have had in the past two Months.

The union commented on the statement in the Guardian last Monday by Lord Chris Smith (former Labour Cabinet Minister, who chairs the Environment Agency and who blamed the Treasury for limiting spending on the environment, including flood prevention.

GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “ members at EA, said: “Chris Smith has come out fighting at last in defence of the Environment Agency and its exhausted and overstretched staff and laid the blame squarely where it belongs — at the door of central government and their the penny wise and pound foolish cuts.

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Government website advertises fake jobs

THE GOVERNMENT’S Jobmatch website is carrying bogus vacancies from nine online recruitment agencies run by a Baptist deacon in Coventry, who makes money by encouraging visitors to post their CVs according to research by Channel 4 News reporters.

They say that more than 11,000 positions currently advertised on the Government’s Universal Jobmatch website may be bogus.

The jobs, which range from sous chefs to dry cleaners, account for almost one in 50 of all those posted in Britain on the site and, in some areas, a third of all the jobs available on Jobmatch, may be fake. Since March 2013 it has been mandatory for all jobseeker’s allowance claimants to register and use the Jobmatch website.

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The cost of policing party conferences

ALMOST half the special police fund assigned to cover “unexpected costs,” like the search for April Jones and the Madeleine McCann investigation, was spent on policing party conferences.

In the past five years the Home Office has awarded £106 million in “special grants”. But £50m of this money was spent on policing party conferences.

With football clubs and music festivals having to contribute to policing costs, there have been calls for the three main political parties to do the same.

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Barclays to cut 12,000 jobs

BARCLAYS Bank last week announced plans to cut 12,000 jobs this year, 7,000 of them within Britain. The bank, which has 140,000 staff in total, said it had already told about half of the staff affected. The new job cuts come after the bank cut 7,650 jobs last year.

Meanwhile Barclays claimed it has increased the total amount on staff bonuses last year, with the total bonus pool rising by 10 per cent to £2.38 billion from £2.17 billion in 2012, with the investment bank’s bonus pool increasing by 13 per cent.

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Dock us a day’s pay, then we’ll strike all day

MEMBERS of the lecturers’ union UCU employed at three universities in Scotland last week took a full day’s strike action after their bosses announced they would dock a full day’s pay for taking two hour’s Action.

UCU members across Britain were striking for two hours between 9 and 11am as part of their ongoing campaign against low pay but members at the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University and the University of the West of Scotland stayed out all day.

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Grantham anti-fascists mobilise against EDL

ANTI-FASCIST in Grantham, Lincolnshire are preparing to try to block a planned demonstration by the Islamophobic English Defence League, who are objecting to plans for an Islamic centre in the town.

A group calling itself Grantham Town EDL plans to protest in the town on Saturday, 22nd February, from 1pm, against the building of the Islamic community centre in Mowbeck Way, off Alexandra Road.

In response, a group led by Grantham man John Morgan will gather on St Peter’s Hill at 11am, aiming to keep the EDL protesters away from the town centre.

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Rising number of Chinese fans visit home of the Beatles

by Gao Yinan and Yao Chun

FIGURES released last week showed the number of visitors from China last year to a museum in Liverpool: The Beatles’ Story, has exceeded visits from tourists from Australia and Germany.

The Beatles were a home-grown pop group from Liverpool who in the early 1960s changed the face of popular music in the western world. And last Friday was the 50th anniversary of their flight across the Atlantic to the United States, exporting so-called Beatlemania on its journey across the world.

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International News

Syria: US imperialism and diplomacy

by Gene Clancy

THE MUCH ballyhooed Geneva II peace talks, which were supposed to bring about peace in Syria, ended on 31st January with no agreement for one very good reason: The US had no intention of seeking any real peace agreement, but was intent on using the forum as a background for propaganda and as a way to deceive and weaken the Syrian government.

No concessions were offered by the imperialists and their allies, while they continued to arm the “rebel” forces both directly and indirectly, through such countries as Saudi Arabia. Indeed some analysts believe that the US is trying to achieve through diplomacy what it is failing to do on the battlefield.

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Jewish Leader says boycott campaign endangers Israel

by Juan Leandro

A TOP American Jewish leader says the growing international campaign to boycott Israel over illegal settlements is one of Tel Aviv’s greatest Challenges.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations, called on western governments to work against the phenomenon.

“We have to counter the BDS movement in the strongest possible way,” Hoenlein said, referring to an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions — known by its acronym BDS. He said: “That means zero tolerance, and that has to become the mantra of our time.”

The campaign to boycott Israeli products is taking a heavy toll on illegal settlers in the Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank.

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New Zealand may ditch Union Jack

by Mark Moloney

NEW ZEALAND Prime Minister John Key says there may be a referendum to change the country’s Flag.

He believes public opinion is split down the middle on whether or not to keep the current version with a Union flag canton and there is no obvious alternative version at the Moment.

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US military sex crimes increase in Japan

THE NUMBER of sexual assaults by US military personnel in Japan is on the rise, as many offending soldiers receive either no or very light Punishments.

According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, American military personnel were involved in more than 1,000 sex crimes between 2005 and 2013 in Japan.

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America’s four-letter Ukrainian diplomacy

by Anton Kulikov

THE RECORDING of a phone call by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who used an F-word when describing the EU policy in Ukraine, is breaking records on YouTube. In less than a day the video was viewed over 40,000 times.

Washington is not arguing the authenticity of the recording, but Nuland has already apologised to the Americans’ European allies.

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Sochi: an exceptional atmosphere for sport

by Jay Johnson

NOAH HOFFMAN from the US cross-country skiing team that came to Russia to take part in the 22nd Winter Olympics has devoted his own blog to a detailed description of the Games. In his Olympic posts the US athlete is praising the organisation of the Games and the atmosphere Russia managed to create for the event.

How do you like it here in Sochi?

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Features

A new fascism taking shape in Syria

by Lyuba Lulko

NEW WORLD fascism is being born in Syria. Today’s Syria is Spain of 1936. If fascism created by tycoons saving the US dollar wins in Syria, the world will plunge into the abyss of a third world war, according to Syrian parliamentarian, former deputy prime minister and leader of the opposition “Popular Front for the Liberation and Change” Qadri Jamil.

“For us, as the opposition, the most important question is not the participation in the Geneva-2, but stopping the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria,” said Qadri Jamil. The humanitarian catastrophe is 150,000 killed since the beginning of the conflict and 200 new victims every day. It is those wounded, orphaned, widowed, it is the disrupted economy. “If the war continues, there is a danger that Syria would cease to exist as a state. Therefore, despite the different priorities and ambitions of the opposition forces, for serious politicians the most important thing now is to stop this fratricidal war.”

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The Abbott offensive by Rob Gowland

IT’S STARTED! The Abbott offensive has begun. Australia’s new right-wing prime minister has launched serious attacks against key “left-wing” unions, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union (CFMEU). Dubious practices by some union officials have played into his hands, allowing the tabloid media and the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) to rip into the unions as criminal entities.

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The paranormal as inverted reality

by Adrian Chan-Wyles

THE WESTERN media are currently awash with so-called paranormal television programmes that cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds to make, that run for endless series.

Sophistication can vary from high calibre productions such as Lost or Fringe, to bargain basement ghost hunting, and medium — the latter often involving Derek Acorah (and similar presenters) rolling around on the floor apparently “communicating” with the spirit world.

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