National News

Labour fights student grant abolition

THE TORIES caused outrage last Thursday 14th January when they sneaked through the abolition of all student maintenance grants using an obscure parliamentary committee and without any debate on the floor of the House of Commons.

But on Monday Labour launched an opposition day debate and annulment motion to try to reverse this abolition, which would affect more than half a million of Britain’s poorest students.

Students from all over Britain demonstrated in Parliament Square and on Westminster Bridge on Tuesday while the debate on Labour’s opposition day debate to try to annul the abolition of grants took place in the House of Commons.

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Racist turn-out embarrassing

A MARCH against refugees in Middlesbrough organised by a group calling itself “Middlesbrough Against Mass Immigration” was outnumbered by the police attending it, according to a report in the Northern Echo.

The group included protesters from the notorious Islamophobic North-East Infidels. Last Sunday they planned to march from the Pig Iron pub through the town centre but fewer than 30 turned up.

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Tories vote for slum landlords

THE TORY Government voted down a Labour amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill on Tuesday that would force landlords to make the homes they rent out fit to live in.

Shadow Housing Minister Teresa Pearce called for the new rules to be added to the new Housing Bill, currently being rammed through Parliament by the Government.

The amendment would require all private sector landlords to make sure their properties are fit for people to live in. She said: “The majority of landlords let property which is and remains in a decent standard.

“Many landlords go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted quickly and efficiently. “So it is even more distressing when we see reports of homes which are frankly unfit for human habitation being let, often at obscene prices.”

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Household debt at record high

A NEW ANALYSIS published last week by the TUC shows that household debt is rising again, with total unsecured debt reaching a new high.

Total unsecured debt (including consumer credit and student loans, but excluding mortgages) rose to £319 billion in the third quarter of 2015 — a record high, and well above the £290 billion peak in 2008 ahead of the financial crisis.

The TUC analysis finds that unsecured debt as a share of household income is now 26.5 per cent — the highest it’s been for five years.

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Scottish Political News

by our Scottish political correspondent

IT HAS become a regular feature of this page to have an item describing the dubious financial activities of SNP parliamentarians.

This week we profile Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, the SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire. A former actress in Pakistani soap operas she previously canvassed for Labour and stood unsuccessfully for the Tories for the Scottish parliament shortly before defecting to the SNP. She was responsible for setting up the Scottish Asian Women’s Association (SAWA), a “charity” that seems to have no income other than that awarded by the SNP government from the pockets of the Scottish taxpayers. Piously devoted to promoting “religious and racial harmony by seeking to raise the profile of Scottish Asian Women from different religious and racial backgrounds in order that their views be recognised by Government at Westminster and at Holyrood.”

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REVOLUTIONARY DEMOCRACY

Reviewed by Robert Laurie

REVOLUTIONARY DEMOCRACY Vol XXI, No 2, September 2015. £5.00 + £1.00 from NCP Lit: PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ.

THE LATEST edition of Revolutionary Democracy, the twice yearly journal from India, has just arrived with its usual mix of interesting, sometimes controversial, political and historical articles.

The Indian material includes a piece by Badruddin Umar, who shows that the Congress Party has from its earliest days been far more supportive of sectarian Hinduism than its secular reputation suggests. He blames these policies for contributing to the rise of the more explicitly Hindu nationalist BJP, which is now the ruling party in India.

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International News

Turkish charade: Why did ISIS carry out suicide bombings in Istanbul?

Sputnik

AFTER a recent terror assault in Istanbul, which killed at least ten and injured 15, the Turkish leadership was quick to pin the blame on ISIS, geopolitical analyst Toni Cartalucci notes, whilst calling attention to the fact that Ankara is involved in the illicit oil trade with the terrorist group.

The suicide bombing attack in Istanbul was immediately blamed on ISIS by Turkish Prime Minister Ahment Davutoglu. But there is something fishy about the Turkish leadership’s statement, says Bangkok-based geopolitical analyst Toni Cartalucci in his latest article in New Eastern Outlook.

Ankara has a long record of colluding with Islamists in the region, the analyst insists, referring to a 2012 US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) document that named Turkey as one of the benefactors of the Syrian opposition, headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and al-Qaeda in Iraq.

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Egypt awaits the “great, friendly” Chinese president

by Zheng Kaijun

“IT’S GOING to be like a festival when our nation welcomes the Chinese president,” Egyptian photographer Izaq Hanah said in downtown Cairo on Tuesday, a day before Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived for a three-day visit.

Chinese and Egyptian flags are fluttering along the main streets around the landmark Tahrir Square in central Cairo. Egyptian newspapers, front-paged with Xi’s photo and his signe

“I knew about the Chinese president’s visit three days ago and I am looking forward to that. He (President Xi) is a great and friendly man,” said Hanah. “And I know the relationship between Egypt and China is very good.”

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Kids book depicts happy slaves on Washington’s estate

Telesur

AMERICAN publishing giant Scholastic has come under fire for presentin

A new children’s book from the Scholastic publishing company has caused controversy amongst educators for portraying George Washington’s slaves as grateful, happy workers.

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Scholastic withdraws book

Scholastic announced on 17th January that they had halted the distribution of A Birthday Cake for George Washington and will accept all returns. The publishers said: “While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator, and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn

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Features

Ebola: What is going on?

by Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey THE CRITICISM in this column of the World Health Organisation’s zero or limited responses to international emergencies is well documented, the idea being that this body offers little protection in the event of killer pandemics. The situation surrounding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is more than strange. What is going on?

During the Influenza A H1N1 outbreak in 2009/2010, this column criticised the World Health Organisation for sitting back and doing nothing except inform us what was happening and how fast the “Swine Flu” pandemic was spreading until it moved from a Phase One manifestation to a Phase Six pandemic. What does the WHO do? It acts like a voyeur.

And once again, predictably, with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, while the WHO did swing into action eventually, moving healthcare workers (who placed their lives at risk to help the victims) and resources into the area, it came too late. The result was the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

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India The Trojan horse of Free Basics

by Prabir Purkayastha

FACEBOOK is running a high profile, misleading campaign, using full-page advertisements, blocks of TV time, hoardings, and Facebook itself. This campaign, estimated to cost more than Rupees 400 crore (£46 million), is promoting Facebook’s private, proprietary platform called Free Basics and describing its opponents as anti-poor. In India Facebook has joined with Reliance Telecommunications to offer this platform. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has stayed the Facebook- Reliance proposal for now, and issued a consultation paper on whether telecom operators can offer differential rates for data for connecting to different websites. The Facebook campaign is obviously an attempt to influence this consultation.

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