National News

Outrage as Grayling bans sending books to prisoners

CHRIS GRAYLING, the Secretary of State for Justice, has sparked outrage across the political spectrum by banning prisoners from receiving books from relatives.

It is part of a half-baked idea to introduce a rewards system for good behaviour in prisons which means prisoners can only receive books and other “treats” as part of a closely monitored programme — and then only from the prison library.

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Anti-racism day in London

by New Worker correspondents

AROUND 10,000 anti-fascists and anti-racists gathered in and around Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament, last Saturday to mark United Nations Anti-Racism Day with a march to Trafalgar Square and a rally, organised by Unite Against Fascism and the TUC.

There were scores of union banners from all over the country as Unite, PCS, Unison and many other unions joined the noisy and cheerful march. There were also contingents from EU migrants, faith groups as well as the Woodcraft Folk, Dale Farm support group, the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign and a contingent of London communists marching under the banner of the Central Committee of the New Communist Party.

United Nations Anti-Racism Day originates from the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 when South African police shot dead 69 peaceful demonstrators protesting against apartheid. And Saturday was the first Anti-Racism Day following the death of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, who passed away on 5th December 2013.

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Student loans time bomb

LABOUR’S Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna last week warned that the Con-Dem Coalition’s decision to raise student loans to £9,000-a-year could bankrupt the system because of the number of students who cannot afford to repay it.

Graduates do not start repaying their loans until their earnings are above £21,000-a-year. But a general lowering of wages is reducing the number who achieve that level quickly. This could be an election disaster for the Liberal Dem- ocrats, whose first act as partners in the Coalition was to renege on an election pledge to oppose all rises in student tuition fees.

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Five times more sanctions than jobs

THE GOVERNMENT’S flagship scheme for the long-term unemployed is delivering five times more benefit sanctions than jobs, PCS says as the latest figures are published.

Data published last week shows the wholly privatised work programme is still performing worse than if the Government had done nothing, and it appears to be getting worse.

Only three per cent (48,000) of the 1.5 million people who have been through the scheme since it began in June 2011 have been found a lasting job.

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Wage inequality soars

WAGE inequality has soared across, especially London and the South East, over the last 13 years according to new TUC analysis published on Monday to coincide with the beginning of the TUC’s first Fair Pay Fortnight which runs until Sunday 6th April 2014.

The figures — based on full-time earnings from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) — show that between 2000 (when the data was first collected) and 2013 the pay gap between the top 10 per cent and the bottom 10 per cent of earners in London rose by 14 per cent.

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Bombardier workers walk out

PRODUCTION workers at Bombardier, the rail rolling stock manufacturer, last week began 14 days strike action over management attempts to force them to work 70 per cent of their shifts at night time.

The Unite members at Bombardier’s Central Rivers depot near Burton- upon-Trent say the new shifts will cause massive disruption to their family lives.

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Battle to save Nuneaton Hospital

NHS CAMPAIGNERS in Nuneaton on Wednesday this week brought fight to save George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton from the clutches of privatisation to the trust chair and the directors as they gathered for their monthly board meeting.

Protesters, including members of Unite, gathered outside the public meeting to tell the board that “big business has no business in our NHS, or the George Eliot”.

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NUT strike closes thousands of schools

THOUSANDS of schools in England and Wales were closed by a successful one-day strike on Wednesday by the National Union of Teachers over the Government’s refusal to negotiate over teacher’s pay structures, pensions and working hours.

But on this occasion they were not joined by the NASUWT — the other major teaching union. Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “Teachers deeply regret the disruption caused by this strike action to parents and teachers. The Government’s refusal, however, to engage to resolve the dispute means that we have no alternative other than to demonstrate the seriousness of our concerns.

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Left Labour MPs rebel over welfare cap

A GROUP of Left Labour MPs last week called on their leader, Ed Miliband, to vote against a permanent cap on Government welfare spending.

The Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, said that the party would vote for the cap, pointing out Labour had been the first to suggest this form of public spending control last year.

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Lawrence lawyer defends legal aid

IMRAN KAHN, the lawyer who has represented Doreen Lawrence in her fight for justice for her murdered son, battling police institutional racism, obstruction and dirty tricks, last week said that he could not have taken the case if today’s cuts in legal aid had been in place.

He warned that many families facing injustice are already engaged in a battle to secure representation because lawyers cannot afford to take on expensive, unpredictable, open-ended cases. The human rights solicitor said cuts in funding already meant: “I am working twice as hard as I used to with half or a third of the money.”

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International News

Peace-keeping is the DPRK’s firm will

by Chae Hyang Ok IN HIS New Year Address supreme leader Kim Jong Un set the protection of national security and peace as one of the tasks to be tackled by the Korean nationals.

True to his intention, the DPR Korea National Defence Commission made crucial proposals and sent an open letter that called for putting a full stop to inter-Korean military hostilities.

Despite the sincere efforts of the DPRK, US south Korea joint military exercises against the DPRK are going on in south Korea. This fuels the already tense situation on the Korean peninsula.

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US politicians conspire against Venezuelan independence

by Juan Leandro

THE UNITED STATES Government and several members of the US Congress may be accused of openly supporting the activities of armed right wing murder gangs that, in some communities of oil-rich Venezuela, are spreading disorder and death in an attempt to topple the legitimate Administration of President Nicolas Maduro.

Oil-rich is the key word. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. No other nation has so much of the so-called black gold in its own backyard.

Before the Venezuelan people toppled a brutal dictatorship that had been supported by the United States, Venezuelan oil was in the hands of US companies, which left the Venezuelan people with waste products and empty wells.

But Venezuela was able, under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez, to regain its freedom and with it the full control of its oil and natural resources.

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Over half Syria’s chemical weapons removed

Radio Havana Cuba

MORE THAN half of Syria’s chemical weapons, nearly 53 per cent, have been removed or destroyed, according to the joint mission of the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution in September last year to rid war-torn Syria of its chemical weapons. Under the resolution, the OPCW was mandated to oversee the elimination of Syria’s chemical materials, with a deadline established for the end of June this year.

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Phillipines: no chance for new talks with communists

by Alito L Malinao in Manila

THE PHILIPPINE government is set to sign a peace accord with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on 27th March but the chances of concluding a similar peace deal with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), have disappeared.

The refusal of the government to release the two captured leaders of the CPP-NPA, Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma, as demanded by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), has made the resumption of the talks almost impossible.

The NDFP, the political arm of the CPP-NPA, has called on the government to release the two, saying that they are NDFP consultants and are entitled to immunity from arrest.

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The inconvenient truth about US cyber-aggression

by Yamei Wang

IS THE technology giant Huawei a private and independent company, as its leaders contend, or a spying front for the Chinese state, as US officials suggest but have never proved?

Despite prolonged administrative and Congressional investigations that have produced no evidence to substantiate the latter, the US National Security Agency (NSA) apparently decided to see for itself, prying into the servers of Huawei’s sealed headquarters, according to the latest revelations by the New York Times and Der Spiegel.

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Female Circumcision A threat to women’s health

by Vivian Collazo

AT LEAST 125 million girls and women around the world have undergone some type of genital mutilation, a practice attributed to religious, sociological, and aesthetic reasons, and that is mostly performed in African countries and the Middle East.

Even though some progress has been attained in the efforts to prohibit this procedure, it is estimated that some 30 million girls are still at risk of undergoing genital mutilation.

In 2008 the United Nations Population Fund and the UN Children’s Fund implemented a programme to eradicate any female genital cutting procedure among current and future generations. As a result, countries with considerably high prevalence rates have begun joining in the effort.

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Palestinian oil could be pumping in 2015

Voice of Russia

Russian companies have been invited to take part in an international tender for oil extraction in Palestine, which was launched on 22nd March. Palestinian Economy Minister Jawad al-Naji dropped some details about the upcoming tender to Voice of Russia correspondent Yelena Suponina.

How was oil found in Palestine?

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Behind the coup in Ukraine: Oil and gas as a weapon

by Chris Fry

WHAT DO oil and gas have to do with the US-sponsored crisis in Ukraine? Lots. But that is barely mentioned in the mass media here. And it’s not the first time.

When the US military invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq the story was that it had to do with “combating terrorism” and “eliminating weapons of mass destruction”.

But neither the Taliban regime nor the Iraqi government were in on the 9/11 attacks. And the claims that Iraq had nuclear, biological or chemical weapons were also bare-faced lies.

In fact these were wars for oil profits — for a key pipeline in Afghanistan, and for the lion’s share of the world’s second-biggest oil supply in Iraq.

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Syria: how to stop a war

by Manuel Vázquez in Damascus

HOW TO stop a war in which there is no defined front, the warring parties go beyond the two classic sides, many foreign interests play a role, and any civilian can become an armed extremist by simply reaching for a Kalashnikov?

This is Syria today. At present, the country is artificially divided into areas in which both the government and the so-called opposition exercise control and within which there are factions that sometimes conflict over tactics leading to frequent internal clashes.

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