National News

Post workers defy strike laws

ROYAL Mail workers last Wednesday (11th November) ignored strike laws to protest in support of a fellow disabled worker.

Around 80 staff in Bridgwater, Somerset, staged the strike over the treatment of a fellow worker, who they allege has been prevented from working by the company.

They walked out without a ballot, which currently means the strikers have no protection from being dismissed, in protest at Royal Mail’s refusal to reinstate Andrew Mootoo.

Dave Chapple, who is the local representative of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), said that the company has increasingly made it difficult for Andrew Mootoo, who has multiple sclerosis, to return to work.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Driving examiners set for 48-hour strike

DRIVING examiners are planning a two-day strike this week over plans issued by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to impose longer working hours in order to accommodate more driving tests per day.

The strike on Thursday 19th and Friday 20th November will involve about 1,600 members of the civil service union PCS, including operational staff such as driving examiners, vehicle testers and traffic inspectors. It will result in the cancellation of driving tests across the country.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Work tests associated with rise in suicides

THE DEPARTMENT of Work and Pension (DWP)’s Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is associated statistically with a rise in suicides and with a rise in worsening mental health problems.

A study published last week by researchers in Oxford and Liverpool universities looked at data from 2010—13 and found a rise in both WCA assessments and in mental health problems. They say their findings indicate that nearly 600 suicides in England may be linked to the WCA.

The study found the areas with the most WCAs showed the sharpest increases in mental health deterioration.

The Government claimed that the report was “wholly misleading” and the authors had cautioned that no conclusions could be drawn about cause and effect; but the researchers said that although a causal link could not be established they had tried to adjust for other factors that may have influenced the results.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

GMB union fights Chelsea land grab

THE GMB general union last week attacked plans by the Sutton Trust to sell land in Chelsea to the private sector for gain.

The land was originally acquired by the Victorian philanthropist William Sutton and bequeathed it to be used in perpetuity for housing for low income people. Now that land is the most expensive area in London and worth a fortune.

The Sutton Trust now claims to be selling the minimum necessary to fund regeneration, while reducing the total number of homes by 146. GMB says this is misleading and accuses the Sutton Trust of asset stripping the land.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Holby City stars back junior doctors

ACTORS starring in the BBC TV hospital drama Holby City say they will join NHS staff on strike in a show of support for their real-life counterparts.

They could walk out, disrupting filming of the show, which is watched by five million viewers each week.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Legal aid cuts hurt children

THE COST to children involved in custody cases caused by massive cuts to legal aid are highlighted in a report backed by civil service union PCS that was launched in Parliament last week.

The report by The Family Court Unions Parliamentary Group, to which PCS belongs, highlights the Government intention to cut the legal aid budget by £220 million annually until 2018.

These cuts are leading to chaos in our courts as people attempt to represent themselves. Both PCS and the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) have warned of the inevitability of such chaos if these cuts were made.

The changes in relation to family courts have not made proceedings more efficient or cheaper. They are prolonging them and, the unions say, costing the taxpayer more.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Scottish News

by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

MEMBERS of the Scottish Parliament will be doing their bit to reduce poverty and increase employment. Holyrood’s management committee has proposed a £23,000 rise in MSP’s staffing budgets to £85,000 so that MSPs can employ three assistant members of instead of having to make do with the present measly two.

The present system, according to the Presiding Officer, “is not fit for purpose”. She said that members need to be properly resourced to cope with the additional responsibilities coming to Holyrood.

One who agrees that the Scottish parliamentarians are not up to much is Lord Smith of Kelvin. He chaired the Smith Commission which was set up formulate the post referendum devolution policies which are contained in the present Scotland Bill.

He has said that scrutiny of the government at Holyrood is far worse than at Westminster where: “The Commons select committees take their own MPs and beat them around and rightly so”. In comparison at Holyrood committee chairs are appointed by party leaders, allowing the SNP simply to appoint the more docile who can be relied upon not to ask difficult questions.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Red October in London!

by New Worker correspondent

THE GREAT October Russian Revolution is celebrated by millions of communists all over the world and last weekend comrades and friends joined them at the New Communist Party’s annual tribute to the greatest event of the 20th century.

The print shop was, as usual, transformed into a bar and buffet for comrades to meet friends old and new and greet the honoured guests who joined us on Saturday to honour the generations who fought and built the Soviet Union.

Six communists took the floor during the formal part of the proceedings, opened by Party Chair Alex Kempshall, including Dermot Hudson from the UK Korea Friendship Association, Kumar from Second Wave Publications, Michael Chant from the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and NCP leader Andy Brooks as well as Prof Vijay Singh, the editor of the Indian Marxist journal Revolutionary Democracy and Thae Yongho from the embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Every comrade spoke of the lessons of the Bolshevik revolution led by Lenin and Stalin and the need to build the revolutionary movement in Britain to build the resistance to austerity and the creeping fascism of the ruling class

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Story of global Chinatowns to unfold in Liverpool

by Mu Xuequan

EUROPE’S biggest traditional Chinese Arch, which dominates Liverpool’s Chinatown, is to be given a starring role in Britain’s biggest contemporary arts festival. The Liverpool Biennial took the wraps off its programme on Monday, announcing that 37 international artists, including several from China, have already been signed up to create commissions for the event which runs for 14 weeks from 9th July 2016.

Many of the events — described as stories or episodes — will take inspiration from Liverpool’s present, past and future, including the Chinatown arch, which was built 15 years ago to cement Liverpool’s links with its sister city of Shanghai.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

International News

Israelis protest natural gas heist

Communist Party of Israel

PROTESTS against the government’s proposed deal for regulating the natural gas industry were held in 16 cities across Israel last weekend. All told there were over 15,000 participants in these demonstrations, including activists from the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash) and the Communist Party of Israel.

The main demonstration was held in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening. The demonstrators called on the government to stop the deal, calling it a giveaway to the gas companies and surrender to the gas monopoly. Main streets in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beersheba and Haifa were closed due to the protests. The main speaker at the Tel Aviv rally was Prof Yaron Zelekha, the former accountant general in the Finance Ministry. He called the deal not just a robbery but organised crime. “Whoever gives from the public coffers to his friends will, in the end, refill them with injustice. With its own hands the government created the biggest and most powerful monopoly in the history of the Israeli economy, with one result being excessive prices for gas for the past five years.”

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Growing stronger in the Angola war

by Ivan Martínez

FORTY years after the beginning of Operation Carlota, the Cuban internationalist military mission in the People’s Republic of Angola back in the 1990s, both Angolans and Cubans, treasure moving memories of that crucial chapter of their history.

The mission, named after a rebel African woman slave in Cuba, ran from August 1975 to May 1991, when the last group of combatants returned. In that 16-year period the Cuban contingent reached a total of 337,033 combatants and 50,000 civilian workers.

Ramon Salmon Palu, now an 80-year-old man living in Eastern Santiago de Cuba, was 40 when he assumed the historic duty that would change his life, which he describes as the greatest honour ever and a cause of pride for his 10 children.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Could Saudi Arabia or Qatar be behind the crash of the Russian Airbus?

Sputnik

ON 31ST OCTOBER Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 passengers and crew on board. Two weeks have since passed, and some Russian experts are now coming to suspect that the crash may indeed have been an act of terror and that the trail leads to the Gulf.

Commenting on the theory that the plane may have been downed by terrorists, Russian business and analysis magazine Expert noted that: “Such a theory poses serious foreign policy implications. It is absolutely clear that Russia cannot simply passively swallow such a bitter pill, and that its next steps in the complex game in the Middle East must take account of a new kind of threat.”

The magazine’s analysis, published as an editorial in its Monday print edition, suggests that: “If the version suggesting terrorism is definitively confirmed (and the facts in favour of this theory are mounting), first and foremost it will be necessary to understand what forces may stand behind the direct perpetrators from among the Egyptian wing of the Islamic State.”

“The first version,” Expert notes, “is that Qatar, a country which supports ISIS, may be responsible. The emirate does have a very tense relationship with Moscow and the parties regularly exchange insults and threats, including over Syria. Moscow’s actions there are contrary to the interes ts of Qatar’s powerful Minister of Foreign Affairs — Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, and undermine his authority in his own country.”

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Features

The new Vietnam War?

by Rob Gowland

IF YOU watched the TV news near the end of October you could not have missed the coverage of the death of Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, a United States soldier and acknowledged member of the elite Delta Force, who was allegedly killed during a raid on an ISIS facility in Iraq.

We not only saw footage of the supposed raid, conveniently videotaped, but also of course the arrival of his body back in the US. A colour studio portrait of his stern, shaven-headed visage accompanied every story. The coverage was surprisingly extensive given that Delta Force specialises in covert, ultra-top secret operations “behind enemy lines” to extricate hostages or simply to “take out” (assassinate) people the US government or military regards as significant enemy personnel.

As former US State Department official Peter Van Buren wrote in his Washington-based blog: We Meant Well about the Middle East: “The United States does not formally acknowledge the existence of Delta Force, and rarely mentions the names of any of its members, even after they leave the service. ... Most of the unit’s actions abroad are never mentioned publicly and when an operator is killed in combat often the death goes unmentioned in the press, or (is) attributed sometime later to a training accident.”

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Beirut and Paris: A tale of two terror attacks

by Belén Fernández

WHERE was the global sympathy when a terror attack left at least 44 people dead and 239 others injured in Lebanon?

As news arrived yesterday of terror attacks in Paris that ultimately left more than 120 people dead, US President Barack Obama characterised the situation as “heart-breaking” and an assault “on all of humanity”.

Presidential sympathy had been conspicuously absent the previous day when terror attacks in Beirut left more than 40 dead. Predictably western media and social media were much less vocal about the slaughter in Lebanon. And whilst many of us are presumably aware to some degree of the discrepancy in value assigned to people’s lives on the basis of nationality and other factors, the back-to-back massacres in Beirut and Paris served to illustrate without a doubt the fact that, when it comes down to it, “all of humanity” doesn’t necessarily qualify as human.

Of course there’s more to the story than the relative dehumanisation of the Lebanese as compared with their French counterparts. There’s also the prevailing notion in the West that — as far as bombs, explosions, and killings go — Lebanon is simply “One of Those Places Where Such Things Happen”. The same goes for places like Iraq to an even greater extent, which is part of the reason we don’t see Obama mourning attacks on all of humanity every time he reads the news out of Baghdad.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]

Kuweires: freed by the Syrian Arab Army

by Costantino Ceoldo

TO a foreign weed I prefer the nettles of my home. So says Ouday, the old Syrian. He also said that it was a poet of Iraq who told him this first and who am I to doubt the old Ouday? Before cheerfully greeting the foreigner who enters your home armed and unasked telling you that he comes to free you, better ask yourself what his motives really are.

A few days ago the Syrian army at last broke the long siege around the airbase of Kuweires near Aleppo. The Syrian offensive would not have been possible without the electronic warfare and the considerable air support of the Russian armed forces, but there would be nothing to liberate if the Syrian soldiers who guarded the besieged base had not resisted for so long.

They could have surrendered but they did not. They could have deserted but they did not go over to the enemy. They could have sold themselves for Judas money, even sold their homes along with their dignity, but they preferred to resist. They fought on for over two years, a huge amount of time. They resisted when the rest of the world thought they were finished.

[Read the complete story in the print edition]