Dated: 19 Jul 2003
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'They don't want them to come home. They actually want them to get killed so their stories do not get out.' This is how Azmat Begg, father of Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, sees the government's attitude to his son's plight.
WINIFRED HUMPHREY has died after she was evicted from her private care home in Kent. The 102 year old was forced to leave Bradley House after its owners demanded Kent County Council coughed up more in fees, as Socialist Worker reported at the time. Winifred was transferred to another care home on 20 June. She died just over two weeks later.
A "SHOCKING catalogue of failure" led to the murder of a 19 year old Asian man bludgeoned to death by the racist sharing his prison cell. This is how a third report by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) describes the events leading up to the brutal murder of Zahid Mubarek. In March 2000 Zahid was placed in the same cell as racist skinhead Robert Stewart, also 19, in Feltham Young Offenders Institution.
MILLIONS OF pensioners won't get payments they are entitled to - that's the assumption underlying New Labour's alternative to the state pension. The Pension Credit is due to come in this October. The government's "planning assumption" is that only 73 percent of pensioners will take up the means-tested alternative to benefits by 2006. And that is without breakdowns in the system and computer technology which have dogged similar schemes.
THE EDUCATION funding crisis is set to bite again in September as a survey reveals one in five schools have spent their cash reserves. Education secretary Charles Clarke claimed the budget crisis that hit schools this year would not be repeated in September.
THE PCS civil servants' union conference in Blackpool last week revealed the depth of anger that the people who are forced to implement government policy feel towards New Labour.
THOUSANDS OF people attended the biggest Durham Miners Gala in over a decade on Saturday of last week. The event was co-sponsored by the National Union of Mineworkers and the Unison union. It attracted the support of many other trade unions, including the RMT, Aslef and Usdaw.
OVER 70 pickets were out on Monday morning at Royal Bolton Hospital as workers began their latest three-day strike over pay. The 150 workers are fighting for £5.60 an hour minimum for porters and £5 for domestics. They are employed by ISS Mediclean, one of the biggest NHS contractors.
MEMBERS OF Leeds NUT union were set to strike on Thursday of this week after an 81 percent ballot in favour of action over the threat of compulsory redundancies. Some schools will be closing as a result of the action and picket lines are being planned across the city.
PROTESTERS from Camden Stop the War Coalition staged a picket outside Alastair Campbell's Camden house last week. It was in response to the publication of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report, which cleared Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell of any involvement in "sexing up" the evidence to justify war in Iraq.
WORK ON a "wall" in Manchester to symbolise the wall of silence in the West over Palestinian rights started at 11am in front of the town hall last Saturday. Cardboard boxes were collected, banners were made and declarations, photos and Palestinian flags stuck onto the boxes. The demonstration started at 2pm. We carried the boxes to the square in front of Manchester town hall. Together we built the wall.
THE WORKERS at Remploy, the government-aided company that mainly employs disabled workers, have given Remploy's final wage offer a massive 70 percent rejection. This comes after underhand bully-boy tactics from the board. The 5,700 workers are members of several unions - the biggest is the GMB, but some are in the TGWU, GPMU and KFAT.
THE RESULT of the vote by workers at Peugeot's car plant in Ryton, just outside Coventry, was released last week. The management offered them a "choice" - vote for a pay cut or 700 jobs will be axed. The workers voted 1,580 to 799 votes for the pay cut.
WORKERS AT Addis in Swansea voted unanimously this week to reject the company's demand that they take a 5 percent pay cut. Addis, a German-owned firm which makes household goods, tried to do what Peugeot did.
LOVE MUSIC Hate Racism has organised a tour to raise awareness about the need to stand up to the divisive poison of the Nazi BNP. The inaugural tour features three young bands, Miss Black America, Antihero, and Cultural Ice Age.
AROUND 700 bus workers in Exeter and south and east Devon struck for two days last week. This followed a 93 percent vote in favour of industrial action. Strikers, members of the RMT union, want £6.50 per hour minimum and one hour off the 41-hour week. Stagecoach bosses are offering £7 per hour but that's tied to the loss of paid meal breaks, reduction of holiday entitlement from five to four weeks per year and unpaid work time for daily vehicle checks, walking time from the depot and cashing up.
LEADERS OF the Communication Workers Union (CWU) faced a key test this week. On Tuesday the union's postal executive was to vote on its response to demands for a strike ballot over London weighting. A press report in advance of the meeting suggested that the union's national leaders were opposed to a ballot because the annual pay negotiations with Royal Mail were "only just beginning".
SOME 1,000 lift engineers working for Otis were set to strike on Friday of this week and Monday of next week. The workers, members of the Amicus union, are continuing their long-running dispute over pay.
THE CRISIS over pensions has provoked another group of workers into strike action to defend their final salary pension scheme. Some 600 workers at the Rhodia chemical firm in Oldbury and Widnes were set to strike on Friday this week. The workers are members of the GMB and Amicus unions. The multinational wants to close their pension scheme to new entrants.
SOME 1,500 council workers across London walked out on strike on Monday. Most will be out for the next four weeks, in the latest phase of their battle to win an increase in their London weighting allowance. They are demanding a rise to £4,000 a year in the allowance which is meant to cover the extra costs of living and working in the capital. Other groups of public sector workers in London - from teachers to postal workers, firefighters to university workers - face similar fights.
REFUGEES WHO hoped to find peace and justice in Britain have been grilled by prosecution lawyers in the Yarls Wood trial taking place at Harrow Crown Court. Yarls Wood is New Labour's refugee detention centre in Bedfordshire. After a fire destroyed most of the centre on 14 February last year the refugees were arrested and faced charges including violent disorder. They could be sent to prison.
GEORGE BUSH'S visit to Africa last week was a grotesque spectacle. Nowhere else on earth has suffered so much from the policies he and those he represents push across the world. His visit came as a United Nations (UN) report showed how in over 50 countries, many in Africa, society has been plunged backwards in the last decade.
SALMA YAQOOB chair Birmingham Stop the War Coalition
THE AWARD of a knighthood to outgoing TGWU union general secretary Bill Morris might have caught many people by surprise. He has never been identified as being inside the Blair camp.
NEW LABOUR'S announcement of a £7 billion road building programme last week was a U-turn of dramatic proportions. It is one for which people and the environment will pay dearly. The plan marks the final abandonment of New Labour's pledge to solve Britain's transport crisis.
THE demonstrations against the G8 summit in Evian, France, a month ago showed that the anti-capitalist movement is alive and well. Around 100,000 people took part in the biggest protest, shattering the predictions of some critics. They had said just a few tens of thousands would turn up.
ON 5 December 1996 paramilitaries gunned down a trade union negotiator, Isidro Segundo Gil, at the Bebidas y Alimentos bottling plant in Carepa in Colombia. They later kidnapped another union leader at the plant, who managed to escape. The right wing thugs then burned down the union offices and set about terrorising the remaining workers into leaving the union. Behind this murder lay one of the world's most famous and profitable companies. Bebidas y Alimentos is a Coca-Cola bottling plant.
LIBERIA IS a typical colonial country. A few tens of thousands of the population are "Americo-Liberians", Negroes whose ancestors were once slaves in America but returned and settled in the country during the early days of its colonisation. After the First World War America found herself confronted with the necessity of competing against the British rubber monopoly.
FIFTY YEARS ago next week, on 27 July 1953, the Korean War ended. In the course of three years it had claimed over two million lives. Most were civilians. The warring armies settled in almost exactly the same positions they had been in at the start of the war - facing each other off across the 38th parallel.
Vive la Revolution by Mark Steel is a lively and witty history of the French Revolution. It is an accessible history which reclaims the 1789 revolution from the widely held idea that it was a period of terror, murder and mayhem. Steel celebrates the revolution as a time when masses of disenfranchised people played a part in radically changing the society in which they lived.
The film Etre et Avoir (To Be and To Have) should be required watching for all New Labour politicians. It might enlighten those who believe education can be reduced to a barracks regime of testing designed to fit young people for the needs of employers. Etre et Avoir follows in great detail the life of a real school in the French countryside. The school is tiny so there are children from four years old to ten in a single classroom.
THE HEADLINES in the papers slammed Tony Blair as he set off this week to the US, Japan and South Korea. They reflect a now near universal feeling that his days are numbered. Just this weekend you could read "We don't trust you: Tony Blair has lost the trust of the British people over war on Iraq" (Daily Mirror). "Lost on the Third Way to nowhere. He's run out of drive and so have his policies" (Sunday Times).
Criminalised because there's nothing to do AS A youth worker, every day I see first hand how the policies of Tony Blair and David Blunkett are systematically lowering young people's aspirations and hopes. I work on estates in Brent in west London which have a mainly black and Asian population.
DRUG ABUSE, heavy drinking, prostitution, violence - it sounds like the press image of "murder mile" in Hackney or parts of Brixton. A court case told about the goings - on did not come after a police raid in an inner city - it came from THE City, stockbroker land. Steven Horkulak is a high-flying City type.