National News

FBU alarm at effect of cuts on flood rescue services

FIREFIGHTERS in the North East and North West of England, Yorkshire and Humberside have raised concern at the serious underfunding of the fire and rescue service as they respond to floods and other emergencies as a result of Storm Desmond.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) reports that every fire and rescue service that has responded to the floods across northern England has seen unprecedented funding cuts over the past five years at the same time that meteorologists are recording unprecedented levels of rain and flooding.

Fire and rescue services in Cumbria, Northumberland, Lancashire, Tyne and Wear, and North Yorkshire have all faced devastating cuts that have resulted in a record loss of firefighter numbers.

The FBU says that this is obstructing the ability of the fire and rescue service to respond to incidents on the scale seen over the weekend and called on the Prime Minister to urgently reverse the latest cuts.

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Veterans for Peace discard medals in protest at Bombing of Syria

FOUR former members of the armed forces belonging to the group Veterans for Peace last Tuesday publicly threw down the medals they had been awarded in protest at the British government’s decision to bomb Syria.

In the second ceremony of its kind this year, the four veterans marched with their Veterans for Peace friends from Trafalgar Square to the gates of Downing Street where, one-by-one, they took off their medals, made a short speech and threw the medals on the pavement.

Daniel Lenham, who served in the RAF from 2002 to 2014, being deployed on operations against Iraq and Libya, said: “If you look close enough at these medals, you can see the reflections of dead Iraqis. You can see the embers of Libya. And you can see the faces of the men and women of the British armed forces who didn’t return, and also those who did with lost limbs and shattered souls. I no longer require these medals.”

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Pensioners join protest about fuel poverty

MEMBERS of the Fuel Poverty Action group and Lambeth Pensioners Action Group came with blankets, bubble hats and scarves to protest against the Excess Winter Deaths that occur each year. According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) there were 43,900 excess winter deaths in 2013/2014 in England and Wales.

This figure represents a 151 per cent increase on the winter of 2012/2013 and is the biggest increase in deaths since records began. The majority of deaths (36,300) occurred amongst people aged 75 and over.

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Disabled peer angered

BARONESS Jane Campbell last week protested after the Government used a picture of her in her wheelchair to promote its Disability Confident employment programme.

She has been forced to stress that she does not support the Government-run disability employment campaign, after civil servants mistakenly tweeted comments that suggested she had endorsed the much-criticised programme.

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Muslims in London March for peace

HUNDREDS of Muslims marched through London last weekend calling for peace and unity in an annual march organised by the Husaini Islamic Trust UK. Yet none of the mainstream media covered the event.

Men, women and children marched carrying brightly coloured banners during the event, which aims to promote the teachings of Imam Husain — a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed — whom they revere as a freedom fighter for standing up against dictators trying to deny citizens their rights.

Organisers wrote on their website that they were: “Aiming for a peaceful and successful procession and to cement a bond of unity and friendship between people of all ages and cultures under the banner of love for the Holy Household.”

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Trump trumped!

THE OFFICIAL parliamentary petition website briefly crashed on Wednesday after more than 200,000 people signed up within 24 hours to demand that US presidential wannabe, Donald Trump be banned from entering the UK for hate speech. The Republican presidential front-runner, known for his bigoted views on immigrants, recently called for a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the United States even if they held American passports.

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RMT defends Glen Hart

MEMBERS and supporters of the RMT transport union last Wednesday staged a protest meeting outside Clapham Common Tube Station in defence of member Glen Hart.

Bosses tried to sack Glen last year during strikes over cuts to stations. He followed union instructions not to work overtime and closed his station because there was no relief.

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Scottish Political News

by our Scottish political correspondent

SOME TIME ago a waggish commentator of the Scottish political press suggested that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should change her forename to Elsie on the grounds that whenever a Scottish government department makes a mess of its responsibility she is always quick to say it is someone else’s fault.

A recent example of this is the affair of the Forth Road Bridge, which is under the control of the Scottish government. Opened in 1964 it has been known for some time that the bridge was not in such robust shape as the neighbouring 1890s rail bridge. It has now been closed until at least the rest of the year following the discovery of major faults. There is a replacement bridge presently under construction (made with Chinese steel).

John Carson, former head of engineering firm Miller Civil Engineering, condemned Transport Scotland for neglecting the bridge and for covering up the fact that the problems that have caused the closure were identified five years ago. Then the SNP government actually advertised publicly on 25th May 2010 for an engineering company to carry out essential repairs (estimated at £10—12 million but cheaper that a £15 million replacement), but they were almost immediately cancelled.

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Science in the Pub Antibiotic Apocalypse? Antibiotic Resistance: Occurrence and Challenges

by Kate Viscardi

NOVEMBER’S PubSci was timely, coming as it did in World Antibiotic Awareness Week. Dr Michael Byford, who is a Biochemist lecturing at London South Bank University, outlined the dangers that arise from the development of resistance to antibiotics and discussed a different approach taken in the Soviet Union.

Bacteria are all around us and generally do us no harm; indeed we have symbiotic relationships with some, inside and outside our bodies. However, when the wrong bacteria get in the wrong place they can, and do, kill. Until the discovery of penicillin, infections in wounds were very bad news indeed and made surgery a risky business, while tuberculosis patients were isolated in remote sanatoria for long periods.

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International News

American democracy: anyone can kill

by Lyuba Lulko

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has called the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, California a “new phase of terror”. Carefully avoiding the phrase “radical Islamism” and not offering anything new in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), Obama said that the USA will overcome the threat because “freedom is more powerful than fear.”

“Let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear. That we have always met challenges, whether war or depression, natural disasters or terrorist attacks, by coming together around our common ideals as one nation and one people,” Obama stated in his televised Oval Office address on Sunday.

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Right-wing win in Venezuela

by Ivan Martinez

VENEZUELA’S rightwing has won a majority in the country’s National Assembly during parliamentary elections on Sunday.

The right-wing coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), won 99 seats in yesterday’s legislative elections, giving them a clear majority whilst counting still continued for a number of other seats.

The ruling socialist coalition, the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP), held 46 seats according to figures released by Venezuela’s electoral authority, the CNE. Nineteen regular and three Indigenous seats are yet to be announced.

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Terror link to China

People’s Daily (Beijing)

ACCORDING to the Associated Press (AP), Russian warplanes have carried out airstrikes against an office of the “Turkistan Islamic Party” (TIP), a group that is also called the “East Turkestan Islamic Movement” (ETIM).

The AP reported the news based on information from the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. In the report, the Turkistan Islamic Party was not classed as a terrorist organisation but was described as “a group that consists mainly of fighters from Asian states.”

According to solid intelligence that Chinese anti-terrorism agencies have, the TIP and ETIM are one and the same, and the TIP claimed responsibility for the terror attack on 28th October 2013 in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Quite a few terrorist attacks and acts of violence in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are related to the separatist movement.

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Burkina Faso: winning the streets but losing in the ballot

by Explo Nani-Kofi

THE UPRISING of the masses of Burkina Faso against the military tyranny of Blaise Compaoré, which masqueraded as a civilian constitutional regime, gave a lot of democratic forces around the world a lot of hope that masses were bringing about a change.

This conviction was strengthened when the masses again stopped a military takeover by soldiers close to the old regime led by General Gilbert Diendéré in September of this year. Some progressive forces even started celebrating that the revolutionary forces, in the tradition of Thomas Sankara, were now directing affairs in Burkina Faso.

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A helmsman’s historical legacy

by Dilbert Reyes Rodríguez

NORBERTO’S life has been marked by the stories of his uncle, whose modesty was as remarkable as his glorious experience.

He bears his uncle’s name as a commitment to the man who raised him with the affection of a father, told him the most exciting sailor’s stories and took him by the hand on many occasions to see the white yacht, the Granma [the boat from which Fidel and the small group of revolutionaries landed in Cuba], that was his pride and joy. But Norberto’s best tribute is his work.

Few amongst those around him, who call him Indio, know that his real name is Norberto Collado, exactly like the legendary ship’s captain — his uncle who took him in as a son at just a few months of age.

“I am the son of the Granma’s helmsman; it is my greatest honour,” he said, emphasising the sincerity of his pride.

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Strange bedfellows: does US coalition intentionally feed ISIS in Syria?


RUSSIA’S increased activity along the Syrian—Turkish border indicates clearly that the Syrian conflict has entered its final phase said Tony Cartalucci, a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer. He added that the true sponsors behind this conflict are now stepping in overtly.

It should be clear now to those who criticised Russia’s air campaign as ineffective that their prognosis has proved wrong, he said.

“For those who have criticised Russia’s air campaign, claiming that conflicts can’t be won from the air without a ground component, it should be clear by now that the Syrian Arab Army is that ground component, and has dealt ISIS and al-Qaeda its most spectacular defeats in the conflict,” Cartalucci says in his latest article for New Eastern Outlook.

According to the researcher, when this corridor is sealed the flow of supplies for ISIS, the al-Nusra Front and other Nato-backed factions will eventually “atrophy” and be eradicated by the Syrian Arab Army.

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Unlocking potentials: the China—Laos friendship railway

by Rong Zhongxia and Zhang Jianhua

THE LONG-AWAITED railway that will connect landlocked Laos with China will soon become a reality following an agreement between the two countries for its construction, which begins this month.

The China—Laos railway will speed up not just trade relations between the two neighbouring countries but also people-to-people exchanges on the new high-speed trains.

As a landlocked and one of the least developed countries in Southeast Asia, most Lao people have only seen trains on television. To them, riding on a train was just an impossible dream.

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