National News

Local government bosses stall wage talks

LOCAL government unions are furious as their employers last week stalled negotiations concerning a miserly one per cent pay rise offer to wait for the result of Government deliberations on the national minimum wage, due next October.

The unions are demanding a one-pound-an-hour pay rise for all local government workers across the board to compensate for an average fall in the value of their wages 20 per cent over the last five years.

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House prices ‘out of control’

AVERAGE earners in England would need a pay rise of £29,000-a-year to keep up with house prices, according to a report published last week by the housing pressure group Shelter. Wage and house price inflation in each area of the country since 1997 was used to calculate what average annual earnings would be if they’d risen at the same rate as house prices.

In the London borough of Hackney, the average annual salary would need to increase by over £100,000 to be in line with the astronomical increase in house prices.

But dramatic results aren’t restricted to London. The shortage of affordable homes means that people on average wages in Watford and Brighton & Hove would need an extra £47,000 each year to keep up with local house price inflation, and in Manchester £34,000 extra is needed.

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Bad news day for pensioners

WORK AND Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith waited until the media headlines were dominated by the floods to sneak out an announcement that he is considering privatising the administration of the state Pension.

No doubt his big business friends were pleased to hear of this new opportunity to make millions from the Treasury pot of funding allocated to pensions but for pensioners and civil servants at the Department of Work and Pensions this is very bad news.

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Telling Boris where to put his water cannon

DIETRICH WAGNER, a retired German engineer, came to London last week to support a campaign against a plan by London Mayor Boris Johnson to equip the Metropolitan Police force with water cannons.

Wagner was blinded by a water cannon when he was hit in the face by a high pressure blast of water at a protest in Stuttgart four years ago.

His eyelids were torn and some of the bones around his eyes fractured, causing his eyeballs to fall out of their sockets. He came to London the show that water cannons are not as safe as Johnson Claims.

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MPs unsackable

DAVID Cameron last week reneged on another election pledge — in this case to allow voters to expel MPs who have lost the confidence of their electorate from Parliament, for example if they had been sent to prison or been found guilty of “serious wrongdoing” by their Colleagues.

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Shaker Aamer still waiting to be free

SHAKER AAMER, the last British prisoner held in the US Guantanamo Bay concentration camp since 2002, without charge or trial and cleared for release in 2007, is still trapped there.

He recently wrote: “I feel lonely and lost. Not knowing my future is the worst torture. I am living just to die...Dead people are better off than us.”

He wrote the letter to mark Valentine’s Day — the 12th anniversary of his detention. He is currently on hunger strike.

And in London supporters of Shaker Aamer gathered to protest outside the MI6 building in Vauxhall, since it has been reported that British security services have been involved in the decision not to release Aamer.

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Serious results of staff cuts at Pentonville

NICK HARDWICK, the chief inspector of prisons, last Tuesday issued a damning report on conditions inside Pentonville prison and laid the blame squarely on Government spending cuts that have reduced staff numbers making the prison unmanageable.

During a series of inspections last summer of the north London prison last September Hardwicke found 1,236 inmates in a prison designed to hold only 913.

All the prisoners had to be “locked down” during the inspections because that was the only way the governor could be sure where all the inmates were.

Hardwick found most parts of the 170-year-old prison in a disgusting state, infested with rats and cockroaches, poorly maintained and dirty.

Prisoners had easy access to drugs, assaults were frequent and “part of the culture” and half the prisoners reported that they did not feel safe.

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On the road against Trident!

by Wendy Lewis

IF CAMERON thinks the campaign against nuclear weapons is over, he can think again. We set off in our minibus last week, full to bursting with singers eager to take part in the latest action against Trident: a mass crime reporting at Reading Police Station, near the sites at Burghfield and Aldermaston where nuclear warheads are developed and tested.

The sight of flooded fields and swollen rivers almost lapping the motorway near Reading was a shocking reminder of how urgent it was to win the argument against Trident.

[ On the road against Trident! ]

International News

More pro-war lies about Korea

by Deirdre Griswold

JUST a coincidence? Near the end of February the US and the regime in south Korea will begin joint military exercises off the coasts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Last year, these war “games” involved more than 12,000 US troops and tens of thousands more from south Korea and Japan, the former colonial overlord in Korea.

The DPRK made several gestures this month indicating a desire to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula. It agreed to reunions for families divided ever since the war of 1950- 1953. It also asked the US to suspend its annual war “games” — which are a rehearsal for an invasion of the north.

The US refused to call off the war exercises. Then, a week later, a special commission of the United Nations issued a scurrilous report accusing the north of every kind of “human rights” violation.

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Venezuelans march for peace

by Juan Leandro VENEZUELANS staged a mass mobilisation on Tuesday for peace and against violence unleashed by right-wing opposition sectors.

Workers, headed by employees of the country’s oil sector, marched from Bolivar Square to the government’s headquarters at Miraflores Palace to also express their strong support for the constitutional government of President Nicolas Maduro, as well as their rejection of the destabilisation plots orchestrated by his political Opposition.

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French workers stage waves of strikes

by G Dunkel

THE LARGEST and most militant of France’s five major trade union confederations, the CGT, filed 148 “strike notices” for actions to take place on 6th February. The unions hit growing income inequality and raised concerns about employment, wages, working conditions, public services and benefits. They called for “another division of society’s wealth”.

These protests are a response to the French government’s decision to institute a policy of even more rigorous austerity.

The CGT accused the government of giving the bosses between 30 and 50 billion euros while imposing austerity on workers.

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The Irish Volunteer — the paper that rallied a new movement

by Mícheál Mac Donncha

THE IRISH Volunteers — óglaigh na héireann — were founded in November 1913 and grew rapidly across Ireland in the subsequent weeks and months.

In an appeal for financial support issued in December, the Provisional Committee of the Volunteers stated that they were the nucleus of a national army and “will be an arm and a possession of the whole nation, the focus of its defence and the necessary guardian of its liberties both now and Hereafter”.

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A Shining Star of Korea

by New Worker Correspondent

LAST weekend Koreans marked the 72nd anniversary of dear leader Kim Jong Il, who steered the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea through the difficult times that followed the death of great leader Kim Il Sung in 1994. Democratic Korean leader Kim Jong Un headed the solemn tribute at the mausoleum dedicated to the two great leaders of the Workers Party of Korea in Pyongyang while other ceremonies were taking place throughout the country.

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Egypt strikes arms deal with Russia to withstand US pressure

Interview with Egyptian General Hussam Sweilem

Voice of Russia

AS REPORTS that Russia and Egypt are working on a large arms deal have been confirmed to the press, retired Egyptian General Hussam Sweilem, who is also a well-informed military expert, revealed to the Voice of Russia some of the aspects of the upcoming cooperation between the two countries.

Earlier the Russian press had announced that during last week’s visit to Moscow of Egypt’s Foreign and Defence Ministers, several arms contracts worth $3 billion were worked upon. On the other side the Cairo media reported on the desire of the Egyptian military to acquire missile defence systems, combat helicopters, fighter planes and anti-tank complexes from Russia. According to the media, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed to finance the deal.

“So far there is no agreement on that deal, some work on it still needs to be done,” a Russian source close to the area of military and technical cooperation said, adding that “shipping and payment will be done in two tranches, with the first one to be realised by the middle of this Year”.

Mr Sweilem, could you comment on the latest announcements?

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Cuba to chair World Health Assembly

by Carmen Esquivel

CUBA will preside over the 67th World Health Assembly (WHA) this year, in recognition of the Revolution’s achievements in this sphere and its role in the international arena, said Dr Antonio González, an official with the Cuban Public Health Ministry.

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Japan: back to militarism!

by Yohannan Chemarapally

AFTER regaining the prime minister’s post in 2012, Shinzo Abe has been rarely out of the news. An avowed right wing nationalist, Abe has been trying to make dramatic changes in the country’s domestic and foreign policies. Unlike his immediate predecessors, Abe has not shirked away from identifying the neighbouring China as Japan’s main rival in the region. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) under Abe’s leadership now wants the “pacifist” Japanese constitution to be overhauled and replaced by a constitution that would allow the Japanese military to engage in activities that were expressly prohibited by the 1950 constitution that was drafted when the country was under American military occupation.

In the first week of January, the ruling party removed a long standing pledge that Japan “will never wage a war” from its manifesto for the 2014 local elections. Under article nine of the constitution, Japan had renounced war and “the threat or use of force as means of settling international Disputes”.

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