National News

Benefits and pensions in Britain too low — Council of Europe

THE COUNCIL of Europe last week declared that pensions, jobseeker’s allowance and long-term sickness and disability benefits in Britain are “manifestly inadequate” because they fall below 40 per cent of the median income of European states.

The Council of Europe (CoE) is an international organisation based in Strasbourg. It was founded in 1949 with 47 member states to promote co-operation between European countries in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation. It is not controlled by the European Union, which is a separate organisation.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith dismissed the CoE findings as “lunacy”. The CoE said the conclusions were legally binding in the same way that judgments relating to the European convention on human rights had to be applied by member states.

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Anger as David Cameron ‘hijacks’ Magna Carta

THE CIVIL rights pressure group Liberty last week accused David Cameron of “bare-faced cheek” for using the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta to promote his policy to abolish the Human Rights Act.

Cameron claimed the message of human rights is now “distorted and devalued” in a speech in front of the Queen and Archbishop of Canterbury.

He used the once-in-a-generation event to push for the Tories’ British Bill of Rights and claimed it would “safeguard” the 1215 document’s legacy.

He’s also refused to rule out withdrawing Britain from the European Convention on Human Rights — which was set up to prevent a repeat of the Holocaust.

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Neo-Nazis attack Jewish memorial

NEO-NAZIS last week filmed themselves defacing a Jewish monument in Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham, draping a swastika flag and hate slogans over it.

The extremists from sinister pro-Hitler hate group National Action also smeared anti-Jewish graffiti onto the park gates.

West Midlands Police are now investigating the attack after a video emerged last week on online video-sharing site YouTube. It was uploaded from an account linked to National Action, a fascist youth group said to have previously been under investigation by anti-terrorism police.

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Hackney council backs down

CAMPAIGNERS in Hackney were celebrating last week after Hackney Council withdrew plans to create a Public Space Protection Order that would have criminalised homeless rough sleepers.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Sophie Linden announced that the Council has withdrawn its Public Space Protection Order. “In the light of ongoing public concern, we have decided to withdraw Hackney’s Public Space Protection Order, whilst we further review how we can best tackle anti-social behaviour for the benefit of all our residents, and further assess the process and impact of the order,” she said.

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Phil Turner reinstated

THE NATIONAL Union of Journalists last week called off planned strike action against the Rotherham Advertiser after victimised union activist Phil Turner was reinstated.

Management rescinded its decision to make him redundant on appeal and agreed to sign a new house agreement with the union.

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Justice for Orgreave fight will go on

THE ORGREAVE Truth and Justice Campaign has said it is “disappointed” the IPCC will not investigate the 1984 incident during which mounted police charged striking miners.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission last week announced it “could not pursue” a complaint into the incident due to the passage of time.

More than 120 officers and pickets were injured when police officers on horseback rode into picket lines.

A statement from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign said: “Whilst disappointed, OTJC members are not surprised that the IPCC will not be conducting a full investigation into policing at Orgreave on 18th June 1984.

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Scottish Political News

from our Scottish political correspondent

Death in custody AT THE beginning of May a 31-year old Kirkcaldy father from Sierra Leon, Sheku Bayoh, was pronounced dead after being arrested by nine policemen.

Restrained by handcuffs and leg restraints he died in police custody. It has been alleged that police used batons, CS and the more potent PAVA spray.

His surviving family have called for a public inquiry and are angry that the police involved have not given statements. They claim that the police gave false and five conflicting versions of the events.

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Parliamentary games

from our Scottish political correspondent

THE HOUSE of Commons has started work on the Scotland Bill to give Scotland enhanced power promised at the time of the Referendum.

The response of the SNP is to publically claim that the powers on offer are both insufficient, and are less than those actually promised. Their own response — like Saint Augustine’s “Oh Lord, give me chastity and obedience, but not yet” has become the unofficial SNP policy.

Despite their public advocacy of the policy they will be greatly relieved that their demand for “Full Fiscal Autonomy” was massively defeated in the Commons on Monday night.

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Local government news

from our Scottish political correspondent

SCOTLAND’S local authorities are facing the prospect of losing thousands of jobs and cuts to essential services.

The SNP’s council tax freeze and an 8.5 per cent real term cut in the past three years SNP government grants to local authorities have seen councils amass debts of nearly £15 billion. Scottish council debt is £6,166 per household, compared with £3,100 in England.

While the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities argues that the borrowing was sustainable debt repayments have surged in recent years from £946 million in 2009-10 to £1.5 billion last year.

That means that Edinburgh bankers are getting money out of the pockets of the Edinburgh poor who depend on council services.

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International News

Has Al-Qaida’s ‘uncatchable’ leader been killed?


ONE OF North Africa’s most wanted militia leaders has been killed in a US airstrike, Libya’s internationally recognised government announced on Sunday. “The Libyan government in the east of Libya confirms that US fighter jets conducted airstrikes last night in a mission which resulted in the death of the terrorist (Mokhtar) Belmokhtar,” the government said in a statement broadcast via state media. Hours earlier the US Department of Defence acknowledged it had conducted airstrikes on Saturday, but gave no details of casualties.

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Nine arrested in Hong Kong bomb plot

by Huang Jin and Gao Yinan

THE HONG Kong police arrested nine people in raids and seized explosives and air-rifles this week. The Hong Kong authorities have not ruled out further arrests after police said on Monday that they had seized nine radical activists who were allegedly preparing to bomb sites around the city’s centre of government.

Samples of the explosive triacetone triperoxide and at least 11 kg of related substances were seized by officers of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau in a series of Monday-morning raids, beginning at a derelict television studio that police say was used as a location for making bombs.

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Israel blocks UN envoy

by Ivan Martínez

AS THE prospect of a United Nations report on Israel’s bloody 2014 attack on Gaza draws nearer, the world body’s point man on the human rights situation in the occupied territories has been kept outside the Palestinian territory by Israel.

Tel Aviv once again prevented Makarim Wibisono from visiting the coastal enclave, with Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon saying outright on Monday: “We didn’t allow this visit.”

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Belarus tests secret missile


BELARUS has tested its new Polonez rocket launcher system in China, which has a considerably greater range than Soviet- made Smerch systems and could indicate a secretive development between the two countries over the past decade.

The Belarusian multiple rocket launcher system (MLRS) Polonez has passed tests in China, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s press service reported on Tuesday.

Very little is known about the system, which was first publicly presented at the 9th May 2015 Victory Day Parade in Minsk. The system’s publicly declared specifications, which promise a range of up to 200 km, are similar to those of the Chinese Norinco AR3 MLRS first presented in 2011. This could indicate that Chinese-Belarusian military cooperation on the project has been taking place secretively for some time.

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The Final Whistle

Telesur During the 2015 Copa America, the dark history of Chile’s stadiums and their victims must not be forgotten.

CROWDS throng towards Chile’s National Stadium like metal beads to a magnet for the first match in Copa America, the most hard-fought soccer tournament in Latin America. Fans wait nervously for the first whistle of the inaugural game between the home side and Ecuador, roaring national anthems and unfurling flags.

In the dressing room players bow their heads and pray for that holy goal, as managers pace and bark orders: 12 teams playing in eight cities from 11th June to 4th July, each hoping to kiss the trophy.

But rewind 42 years and the scene is very different. Emaciated men lie on the cold, hard benches of the stands, huddled together for heat without blankets.

Those revered dressing rooms, less than half a century ago were torture chambers, where men were sent for beatings, electric shocks, sexual assaults; to die. The very same stadiums that will bring glory or disappointment to the region’s top sportsmen were the places 40,000 political prisoners were taken during General Pinochet’s dictatorship.

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Aral Sea: from sea of islands to desert

by Timothy Bancroft- Hinchey

THE ARAL Sea, once one of the four largest lakes in the world, is confined today to a strip of water and a toxic desert, its ecosystems almost totally destroyed by the touch of humankind, purely for economic reasons. Its demise was begun by diverting water for the cotton industry, its recovery doomed by (surprise!) the discovery of natural gas.

The history

Short-term resource management policies starting in the 1940s, with the aim of boosting the production of cotton (“white gold”) in Uzbekistan, saw the Amu Dar’ya and Syr Dar’ya Rivers diverted into irrigation channels and away from the Aral Sea (“The Sea of Islands”, after the 1,100 islands in the sea), which they fed. The initial result was a short-term economic success — Uzbekistan indeed became the world’s largest exporter of cotton; the end result has been a lasting environmental catastrophe.

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Rockin’ Cubans know more than Salsa rhythms

Havana Reporter

IT GOES without saying that Cubans know music. There may however be a tendency to stereotype a public appreciative of fine symphony, an enchanting tango or classic rock music, as being followers of only rumba and salsa dancing. If any doubts about the matter remain, questions should be directed to the US rock band The Dead Daisies.

Indeed, this super-group witnessed that not only do Cubans really rock, but also enjoy singing along to many of the classics of a genre theoretically far from tropical tastes. The band’s concerts at Havana’s Maxim Rock Theatre and La Tropical demonstrated that Cubans do have a feeling for genres like blues and heavy metal.

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The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears

by Dolores Cox

A GRASSROOTS campaign to remove US President Andrew Jackson’s portrait from the $20 bill is receiving some attention. Why Jackson especially? A little history is necessary.

On 28th May 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal Act, after having pushed the legislation through Congress. This deplorable act legalised the expulsion of Indigenous peoples from their land on a massive scale.

From the beginning of the 19th century the US government had planned the removal of Indigenous people from their ancestral homelands. As a solution to the “Indian problem,” early proposals allowed the Indigenous to remain on their homelands only if they agreed to adopt Euro-American behavioural and cultural practices. An 1823 Supreme Court decision had stated “Indians” could occupy lands but could not hold title to them.

The United States in 1830 consisted of only states east of the Mississippi River. That area had originally been inhabited by the Indigenous, referred to as Indians or Native Americans. Jackson called for Native removal from the Southeast, with resettlement in the West. Ancestral homelands of Northeast tribes were already being confiscated.

Slave-owner Jackson promotes relocation

Jackson was a Southern slave owner and former military commander in wars with Native nations. He was a strong supporter of expanding federal territory westward for white settlers and for ever-enlarging cotton fields.

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Iran: nuclear “deal” a timid, imperfect step in a better direction

by Dave McKee

THE RECENTLY-concluded Joint Plan of Action (JPA) nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 countries (US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) represents a positive step on a number of levels. At the same time, however, the agreement is extremely limited and fails to address many key issues. It is crucial that the peace movement renew its longstanding effort to achieve global, comprehensive nuclear disarmament and the abolition of all nuclear weapons, as a key factor in building genuine and lasting peace.

The Iran/P5+1 deal demonstrates that an effort based on diplomacy and transparency can achieve positive results. This stands in obvious contrast to the longstanding approach taken by the US and its allies in Nato and Israel — military build-up, provocation, interference and outright aggression — which have only yielded death, destruction and instability.

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Both a Communist Youth and Sports Champion

by David Moreno

A YOUNG 16-year old Russian, Maryana Naumova, has won several world championships and set more than 15 world records in weightlifting. The most recent was in April of this year where she lifted 150 kilos in the bench press, a weight that is significant even for adult men.

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