National News

Nurses battle for their bursary

THOUSANDS of trainee nurses from around the country gathered outside St Thomas’ Hospital on the Thames’ south bank in London last Saturday for a protest march to Whitehall to express their anger at Government proposals to cut their student bursaries and replace them with student loans. Similar marches were held in Manchester and Newcastle.

Currently student nurses and midwives receive an annual bursary from the NHS while they study, which they do not have to pay back, nor do they pay tuition fees. But they also spend half their time working with patients while they are studying.

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Work capability assessments cost more than they save

THE NOTORIOUS Work Capability Assessment (WCA) that people claiming sickness and disability benefits must undergo costs the Government more than they save according to a report released last week.

The assessments, carried out by private companies such as Atos and now Maximus, are computer-based, mechanistic and designed to assess as many people as possible as fit for work.

Claimants with terminal illnesses have been told to look for work. Thousands of genuinely very ill people have lost benefits, and there have been many suicides and many assessments overturned on appeal.

Now it seems that the WCA has not even achieved its supposed main purpose: saving money for the Government.

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Brutality exposed in G4S young offenders centre

OFFICERS from the education watchdog Ofsted have spoken to inmates at a Kent young offenders centre following allegations that staff assaulted young people there.

Officials visited the Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) in Rochester, managed by security firm G4S on Monday.

Seven staff were suspended after secret filming by the BBC [Panorama] programme. Justice Secretary Michael Gove told the House of Commons he would be meeting with the firm this week to discuss the allegations.

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THE HOURLY legal limit for atmospheric nitrogen dioxide pollution for the whole of 2016 in London was breached in just the first eight days of 2016, according to a report from the London Air Quality Network issued last week.

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Hungry children

NEARLY a third of people using foodbanks in Wandsworth are children, according to figures released by the Trussell Trust.

The Wandsworth foodbank provided emergency food to feed 1,764 people in the six months between April and September last year, an increase of 24 per cent on the same six months in 2014.

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RMT still in dispute

THE TRANSPORT union RMT last week confirmed its plans for a programme of action on London Underground over pay, Night Tube and job cuts.

The union’s executive has agreed to a wide ranging programme of industrial action across London Underground grades in two separate disputes over pay and night tube, and the plans to bulldoze through massive cuts to station staffing numbers early next month.

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Cameron’s authoritarian streak

BILL KERSLAKE, the retired former head of the civil service, last week warned that the Trade Union Bill marked a “partisan and disproportionate” attempt to improve the position of the Conservative Party at the expense of Labour.

“I’ve had bruising encounters with trade unions, but I condemn efforts to silence them,” he said. “For all my frustrations as former head of the civil service, I fear that the Trade Union Bill shows a worryingly authoritarian streak in this government.

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Scottish Political News

by our Scottish political correspondent

Shameless Hypocrisy

“AN NHS Consultant working with clients who have mental health problems and learning difficulties”, “an Expert Witness within the Scottish Court system working in cases of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence” and “an active local union representative over the past 12 years”. So says the official biography of Dr Lisa Cameron, the new Scottish National Party (SNP) MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow. Doubtless it was only for reasons of space that she failed to mention her more commercial activities.

This self-styled defender of the NHS could not find room on her election address to mention her stake in private medicine as a director of Psychological Services Scotland Ltd, nor does she mention that she has owned several properties in her constituency.

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International News

Istanbul attack shows Turkish government unable to govern


THE TURKISH authorities are unable to govern the country, the leader of main opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said on Tuesday after a blast shook Istanbul.

Earlier in the day an explosion occurred in the central square in Istanbul’s historical centre, leaving at least 10 people dead and 15 injured. The attacker was identified as a Syrian suicide bomber, born in 1988. Most of the victims were foreign citizens.

“A bomb explodes in the central tourist district in the Sultanahmet square, and you don’t take any measures. Then what do you do? You impose a ban on information [on the attack] before the ambulances leave. This government is not able to run the country,” Kilicdaroglu said in an address to his party.

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Saudi pressure will not provoke Iran Sputnik

DESPITE Saudi Arabia’s paranoid rhetoric toward Iran and the cutting of diplomatic ties, Iran does not plan any retaliatory measures. Saudi Arabia’s offensive against Iran is likely to be limited as Saudi Arabia runs out of ways to increase the pressure, says Iranian political analyst and journalist Kamran Karami.

“It is possible that if Riyadh showed more flexibility and pliancy, we would not have to now trade barbs,” Karami said.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran after executing a prominent Shia cleric, which triggered violent protests at Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran. According to Karami, the Saudi action is being taken at a time when Iran has consistently sought to ease tensions, while Saudi Arabia sought to escalate them.

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Genuine communist parties not debating societies are what are needed

by Claudia Wangerin

ALEXEY MARKOV, founder and political commander of the communist detachment of the Ghost Brigade in Donbas, which is referred to in Western media mostly as “pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine,” participated in a live video interview during the 2016 Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Berlin last week.

On the front in the unrecognised Lugansk People’s Republic there are volunteers from many different countries. “Our comrades from Italy and Spain are suffering of course from the fierce winter, which they aren’t used to. But it’s easier for our Finnish comrades,” he said during the interview with Susann Witt-Stahl.

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Algerian independence leader dies

by Abayomi Azikiwe

A CO-FOUNDER of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) in 1954 has died in exile in Switzerland.

Thousands attended the funeral of Hocine Ait Ahmed in his home village, named after him, in the Berber-dominated Kabyle region of Algeria. Although he had been in opposition for well over five decades, the FLN government of Abdelaziz Bouteflika paid respects to the fallen leader, who had fought gallantly and suffered immensely in the struggle against French imperialism.

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Vietnam: a great place to dive, a great place to live

by Le Huong

TOURISTS visiting the old city of Hoi An in the central province of Quang Nam rarely miss a chance to explore the Cham Islands with their terrestrial and aquatic marine ecosystem.

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Free English course about Shakespeare for China


THE British Council is launching a six-week course on Shakespeare for non-native speakers who are trying to improve their language skills while learning more about the prolific author’s life and work. The course, available online on the FutureLearn website, is entirely free for participants.

Shakespeare Lives is supporting English language learning in China. Shakespeare’s 37 plays and 154 sonnets have added more than 3,000 new words and hundreds of idioms to the English language.

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Oregon’s land dispute: Who are the original owners?

by Jacqueline Keeler

WHEN Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who led an armed stand-off against the US Bureau of Land Management in 2014, charged into the Malseur Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, he said he was going to return the land from an overreaching federal government to its “original owners” he was not thinking of the Burns Paiute Tribe.

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Democratic Korea: 70 years of victory!

by Dermot Hudson

I VISITED the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for the 10th time in October at the kind invitation of the Korean Association of Social Scientists, to attend the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

Seeing the DPRK countryside I realised that the stories about crop failure and famine are untrue. Some elements also spread false stories about “reform”, “opening up” and even the “restoration of capitalism”, but in the countryside you could see the Red flag proudly displayed in the collective farm fields.

Highlights of the trip included the massive military parade to celebrate the foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea, a torchlight parade by tens of thousands of youth and a 10,000-strong gala performance on a floating stage.

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