National News

Bedroom tax disaster

THE MUCH-hated “bedroom tax” has left 1,500 larger homes empty and councils with a £20 million rent deficit, according to official Government figures.

These figures shows hundreds of larger council homes standing empty because no one can afford to live in them while councils are losing the rent income they would have had from these homes if they were occupied.

The bedroom tax penalises low income tenants who claim housing benefit but are deemed to be living in homes with more rooms than they need. They get £14-a-week cut for every room that is deemed extra to their needs.

This affects households with disabled members most because they need extra rooms for storing equipment, wheelchairs, dialysis machines and so on and because they often need a bedroom to themselves but these needs are rarely taken into account when deciding how many rooms a family needs.

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Dole too low EU warns Britain

THE COUNCIL of Europe last week told the British government that unemployment benefits here are “manifestly inadequate”.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith responded by accusing the Council of Europe of “lunacy”.

Ministers have been told they are in violation of the European Social Charter — potentially opening the door for claimants to take the Government to court to get more money.

But ministers say obeying the diktat from the Council, which oversees the controversial European Court of Human Rights, would cost Britain billions of pounds and plunge efforts to reduce the deficit into chaos.

To comply, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) would have to be raised by £71, from £67 to £138 a week.

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Massive support for London Bus Strike

THERE was solid support across London for a 24 hour strike last Thursday 5th February) as up to 20,000 bus workers across the capital’s 18 bus operators walked out for a second time to end pay inequality and secure one collective agreement for pay and conditions.

With picket lines in place outside London’s 70 bus garages, the bus workers’ union Unite accused Transport for London (TfL) of being “wildly optimistic” with its claims of the number of buses on the road.

Urging the buses operators to step out from behind the “coat tails” of TfL, Unite warned of more action if London’s bus companies continued with their refusal to talk collectively.

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Pensioner suicide over benefit mistake

MALCOLM Burge, aged 66, fell into £800 in rent debt because of a mistake by his local council that meant he was not told about a cut in his housing benefit.

The London Borough of Newham bombarded him with 10 demands for the money but he replied saying he didn’t understand the situation and could not afford to pay the lump sum.

In despair Burge wrote to the council saying: “I can’t remember the last time I had £800 in my possession.

“I’m now more stressed, depressed and suicidal than any of my previous letters. I have no savings or assets. I’m not trying to live. I’m trying to survive.”

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Hundreds protest at Le Pen in Oxford!

AROUND 400 protesters protested last Thursday evening (5th February) against the Oxford Union invitation to Marine Le Pen.

Opposition had been registered by many local community groups, councillors and students; a petition against the visit gathered 700 signatures in four days.

The invitation came weeks after Le Pen called for the surveillance of mosques and the reintroduction of the death penalty.

Le Front National has ruthlessly exploited the wave of Islamophobia that was unleashed following the horrific shootings in France last month.

The demonstration led with chants of “Never Again!” and was addressed by Collete Levi, one of the “hidden children” who escaped Nazi occupied France, Local councillors, Student representatives and anti-fascists including Weyman Bennett, Joint National Secretary.

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In Dudley antifascists reject EDL

AROUND 400 local protesters attended the Unite Against Fascism Rally and Dudley Central Mosque in Dudley last Saturday in opposition to the Islamophobic English Defence League (EDL) marching through the Town.

Entertained by music from a truck under the banner of “Love Music Hate Racism,” those at the protest came from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Representatives of numerous trade unions spoke including Dudley Unison, Unite, West Midlands University and College Lecturers Union, the National Union of Teachers and the Fire Brigades Union.

Councillors from the Labour Party and the Green Party spoke in support, including Council Leader Pete Lowe, who stressed the need for unity in opposition to the racism of the EDL.

The EDL were mobilising as an Islamophobic response to the extension of one of Dudley’s Mosques. This is a completely reasonable proposal as the Muslim community are the second largest in area and everyone has a right to worship.

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Stop Benefits Sanctions

National Day of Action19th March 2015

THE GIANT Union Unite is involved in organising a nationwide Day of Action against the use of punitive benefit sanctions on 19th March, with local and regional activities being planned throughout the country.

More and more people are facing benefit sanctions; two million people have had their money stopped in the past two years.

That’s two million people, many of whom have been plunged into poverty, unable to heat their homes or even eat. How is this meant to help prepare people for work?

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Climate change protest told to hire private police

THE EFFECTS of finance cuts to the Metropolitan Police Service are threatening the right to stage big demonstrations in London as the Met last week told the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC), which is planning a big march next month that they would have to hire a private security firm to oversee it.

The CACC says it is effectively being made to “pay to protest”, after learning that its demonstration in London, which could attract up to 20,000 people, will carry a bill of thousands of pounds.

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20 million living in poverty in Britain

TWENTY million people in Britain are living in poverty according to a new book, Breadline Britain, based on the largest ever survey of poverty in this country.

The book, by economist Stewart Lansley and academic Joanna Mack, reveals that poverty has doubled since 1983 — and is set to get worse over the next five years.

Their findings paint a shocking picture of modern Britain. Thousands of face-to-face interviews reveal the desperate state in which many families live.

One third of all people in Britain are living below an internationally accepted minimum living standard devised by the authors.

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Scottish News

from our Scottish Political Correspondent

“THE EUROPEAN Union against the Peoples of Europe” was the title of the Scottish Campaign Against Euro- Federalism’s meeting held in Glasgow last Saturday.

Alex Smith, former South of Scotland Labour MEP denounced the “international Wonga merchants” who caused the international financial crisis but expect others to pay for it.

He attacked Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander for saying the EU needs to be reformed, but who shies away from making a single suggestion about what these reforms will be. He pointed out the EU is so rotten it cannot be reformed and needs to be replaced.

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Down with oppression in south Korea!

by New Worker correspondent

DESPITE sub-zero temperatures and a bit of snow Korean solidarity activists picketed the south Korean puppet embassy in London last week to denounce the suppression of a leading opposition party and the arrest of pro-reunification activists.

New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks joined comrades and friends from the Korean Friendship Association to protest at the banning of the Unified Progressive Party and demand the release of Ro Su Hui, the jailed veteran peace campaigner, and other south Korean political prisoners.

Dermot Hudson of the KFA opened the picket by condemning the repression of fascist puppet Park Geun Hye regime, which is dragging south Korea back to the era of the Yushin fascist dictatorship of her father Park Chung Hee. General Park came to power in a military coup in 1961 and ruled with an iron fist until he was assassinated by the head of his own intelligence service during a power struggle in 1979.

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The Shining Star of Korea

by New Worker correspondent

FRIENDS of the Korean revolution marked the 73rd anniversary of dear leader Kim Jong Il at the John Buckle Centre in London on Monday.

Andy Brooks, the chair of the Friends of Korea committee that organised the meeting, welcomed everyone to the event to honour the memory of the Korean communist leader who died at his post in December 2011.

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Friends from Nepal

by New Worker correspondent

COMRADES from the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) met New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks and Central Committee member Theo Russell at the Party Centre in London last week.

Dr Vijay Poudel, Politburo Member of the CPN (UML) and two other comrades from his party talked about the current situation in Nepal and about their party’s work within the growing Nepalese community in Britain. Though the CPN (UML) opposed the armed struggle of the CPN (Maoists) it supported the mass movement, which together with the guerrilla forces, compelled the hated king to abdicate in 2008.

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International News

FARC to become a political movement

by Juan Leandro

THE REVOLUTIONARY Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) stated over the weekend that they are determined to end the armed conflict and become a political movement.

This declaration was made by FARC peace delegation member Jesus Santrich and was part of a series of proposals that FARC is introducing in the latest round of negotiations.

Peace talks between FARC and the government of Colombia resumed earlier this month, with the two parties discussing the rights of victims of the conflict. This is the fourth of five agenda items being discussed, with parties having already reached an agreement on three other items. Talks have been ongoing since November 2012.

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Russian nuclear power for Egypt

by Mu Xuequan EGYPTIAN President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi says Russia will build a nuclear power station in Dabaa in Egypt’s coastal Matrouh province following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week. The agreement was signed on Tuesday following their talks at the presidential palace in Cairo. The Russian leader was in Cairo for a two-day state visit to Egypt.

“The visit of President Putin adds to enhancing the Egyptian- Russian relations and takes them to wider horizons,” Sisi declared, at a joint press conference in the Egyptian capital, adding that the two presidents had also agreed to establish an Egyptian-Russian free trade zone as well as a Russian industrial city near the Suez Canal corridor region.

“We also agreed to continue military cooperation between our two countries,” Sisi noted, appreciating Russia’s support for Egypt and its “war against terrorism”.

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N Ireland police block death squad report

by Peadar Whelan

THE POLICE Service of Northern Ireland had effectively blocked a major report into the actions of a notorious pro-British death squad made of members of the PSNI’s predecessor, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment, and the unionist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, the Belfast High Court was told on Monday 2nd February.

In an affidavit Steve Morris, senior investigator with the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), said his report into the operations of the loyalist “Glenanne Gang” was “shelved” even though it was 80 per cent complete.

The former Scotland Yard detective was in charge of a special HET unit tasked with investigating the Glenanne Gang.

The disclosure was made in Belfast’s High Court as representatives of 13-year-old Patrick Barnard sought a judicial review against Chief Constable George Hamilton over the PSNI’s decision to halt the HET inquiry into the gang’s activities.

Patrick Barnard was one of four people killed when a bomb exploded at the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon in March 1976.

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NBC’s false Iraq story hurts US media’s credibility

by Tian Shaohui

NBC NEWS anchor Brian Williams’ admission of falsely claiming that he was on a helicopter forced down in Iraq in 2003 drew harsh words from media critics as well as people on social media last week.

Usually it is admirable for a person, especially a celebrity, to honestly confess his or her wrongdoing as most people tend to weasel out of their mistakes. But the timing and approach of the anchor’s apology was dubious.

Williams retracted his story only after being challenged by veterans writing on the Facebook and a military publication, Stars and Stripes, which has a timeline showing his shifting version of events over the years.

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The dangerous and misleading campaign of ‘solidarity with the Greek people’

Comment of the International Relations Section of the CC of the KKE (Greek Communist Party)

AT THE same time as the discussions and meetings of the new Greek Syriza-Anel government are under way at an international level, before the beginning of the official negotiations with the “European partners” and “lenders”, a “campaign of solidarity with the Greek people and left government” is being promoted by certain forces abroad.

But if you look at the real conditions and facts in an objective way you will notice that the following are at the centre of the negotiations: how the people will continue to pay the high price for the debt that they did not create, how the competitiveness of the business groups will be reinforced, how the “reforms” will proceed (which, as the Prime Minister A Tsipras stressed during his meeting with the French President F Hollande on 4th February are aims of the government, no one is imposing them), how ready money will be secured for capital’s recovery.

[Read the full statement here The dangerous and misleading campaign of ‘solidarity with the Greek people’ ]

Ukraine: the cuckoo country

by Alexei Albu

THE CUCKOO is a bird that does not bring up its chicks, but pushes them into others’ nests. Like the cuckoo Ukraine also refuses to provide for its citizens. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing in all directions, hoping for a better life. Poverty, destruction and bloodshed have become today’s reality in Ukraine.

Our state cannot provide its citizens with the most basic necessities — jobs and decent pay. All vulnerable groups suffer from delays, and sometimes complete cessation of payment of benefits and pensions. Colossal inflation “eats up” honestly-earned money. People are unable to provide for their families. In addition Ukraine has arranged a social genocide of the people of Donbas, refusing to pay pensions. Any normal state should take care of its citizens. But Ukraine is not among them.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

African Burial Ground exposes slavery

by Dolores Cox

YES, SLAVERY existed in the North, too. New York was one of the largest centres of slaveholding in the United States. In 1991 a gravesite was discovered during a dig for the construction of a new federal building in New York City’s Lower Manhattan area. It was 300 years old then. An 18th century map of the area revealed the site was the location of a “Negros’ Burial Ground” covering six acres, approximately five city blocks.

Africans began arriving in New Amsterdam, a Dutch settlement, in 1625. They were forcibly brought there from the Caribbean and Africa. In 1664 New Amsterdam became the British colony of New York.

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Speaking with a forked tongue

by Rob Gowland

TONY ABBOTT, Australia’s right-wing premier, has warned the Australian people against getting rid of an unpopular leader prematurely. He wants them to give him more time to give his policies a chance to “work”. Fortunately for him, the Australian people are not in a position to get rid of Abbott and his ultra-conservative religion-driven policies just yet. There is no election due for some time. Only Abbott’s parliamentary colleagues can oust him right now. And their only worry about his policies is a fear that “voter backlash” might take them down with him.

That the policies of Abbott and his despised Treasurer Joe Hockey are unpopular is abundantly evident: the “Bust the Budget” demonstrations and rallies, the banners bearing Abbott’s likeness and the slogan “Ditch the Drongo”, the panicky moves within the ruling class to dump Hockey. Don’t make the mistake however of thinking that Abbott’s parliamentary colleagues don’t support and agree with his reactionary policies. They do. Wholeheartedly.

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