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Sean Christian Price's nasty history and previous convictions

Sean Christian Price, accused of murdering school girl Masa Vukotic, has a dark past.

It has already been revealed that Price had been an inmate at a secure psychiatric institution where he managed to punch Tony Abbott, then Health Minister, during an inspection.

The Herald Sun gives us another clue but without the details: Price's middle name, Christian, comes from his father, of Pitcairn Island.

Spanish Ebola nurse: infected others in holiday swimming pool?

English news reports of Teresa Romero, the Spanish nurse infected with Ebola mention that she had been on holiday when she first started experiencing the symptoms of Ebola.

As most people know by now, a patient becomes infectious the moment that they start to exhibit symptoms.

Australia can't criticize Putin while competing with him

While much of the world is watching the tragedy of MH17 and contemplating the grim fate of 298 deceased passengers sealed into a refrigerated freight train in the middle of a war zone, Australia (with 28 victims on that train) has more than just theoretical skeletons in the closet too.

Abbott may kill more Australians than Putin

Australians are the third biggest group of casualties in the MH17 tragedy this week. Australia's leader, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is already calling Mr Putin to account before the facts have even been confirmed.

The startling reality is, OECD research already suggests that Mr Abbott's own policies have the potential to kill more Australians.

Balancing a budget with sex work?

Tony Abbott has attracted worldwide ridicule for himself and our country (not for the first time of course) with his infamous wink incident this week.

In fact, people repeatedly sharing this incident on social media are not really adding much to the national debate. Anybody who's opinion actually matters already knew Tony Abbott is not fit to even lead a scout group, let alone a whole country.

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Greece: Referendum on the cards if EU deal not reached

Links International - 5 hours 57 min ago

Part 1.

For more analysis and discussion on SYRIZA's struggle against austerity, click HERE

By Dick Nichols

May 4, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On April 27, in a three-hour appearance on private TV channel Star TV, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras spoke extensively about the challenges confronting the government led by SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left.

The program, beginning with a grilling of Tsipras by interviewer Niko Katsinikolao and ending with questions from a 50-strong audience, is available above and below with simultaneous English translation.

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Level crossing removals en masse – important to get them right

Daniel Bowen - Sun, 03/05/2015 - 23:45

I was planning on writing a blog post on the potential of close to 40+ railway stations being completely rebuilt via the fifty level crossing grade separations the state government is intending on doing over 8 years — most of which are adjacent to railway stations.

But last Thursday night’s PTUA member meeting with Ian Woodcock, who has studied this in some detail, somewhat stole my thunder.

I can’t do justice to all the great material in his presentation, but to my mind, his main points were:

  • Doing a series of grade separations makes the most sense, to allow more trains to run on a section of line (or an entire line)
  • Some of the architecture of recent stations is pretty horrible — needs to be improved
  • Integration with surrounding urban form is really important. Shops, businesses, “destinations” are vital.

Balaclava station

But his big idea was to consider elevated rail. He says it’s cheaper than trenches (the default method of grade separation) — about 1/3 of the cost.

It allows more places to cross the line, and in fact can make use of the land underneath — something which is generally not economic with trenches. It’s also operationally cheaper — trains can slow down coming up the hill into a station, and have gravity help them accelerate away as they depart.

There are old examples of elevated rail working well with the urban landscape, such as around Glenferrie station, providing good proximity for the station to the connecting trams and the shops and the university around it. Canterbury, Balaclava, and others also have elevated rail, though these were all developed many decades ago.

A more modern (Australian) example is the Sydney North West rail link, much of which is elevated through parks and suburbs.

I think he’s got a point. Elevated rail may be the best solution in some cases, and it doesn’t have to be ugly or impinge on the community if it’s done well. The cost difference alone — saving up to two-thirds — should have authorities carefully considering where it can work.

For some examples, see these designs on the ABC web site: Dream train stations designed by Melbourne students.

Proposal for Moreland station, by Evelyn Hartojo (Ian Woodcock's Dream Stations)

Closer to home: Ormond/Mckinnon/Bentleigh

Vicroads had an information tent for the North Road level crossing grade separation, at the Ormond traders festival a month or two back, and I also had a brief chat about it with local MP Nick Staikos about the same project when I ran into him one Monday morning at Bentleigh station.

The new line will be in a trench. As Ian Woodcock noted, the only two options presented to the community for this project were: rail under road in a trench, or road under rail. (Elevated rail may or may not have worked in this spot, though it would have resolved the problem with the Dorothy Avenue underpass, which looks set to close to motor vehicles and/or pedestrians and cyclists. The point is it doesn’t even seem to have been considered.)

As was already known from the information they have put out, the project is set to start major construction in 2016, with major works including a complete rail shutdown for a month in the 2016/17 Christmas holidays.

Other partial shutdowns will occur, including closing the westernmost track for a period of time, which will obviously require a modified peak hour timetable to operate. (Not impossible: it’s been done during Glenhuntly rail crossing rejuvenation works.)

What’s interesting is that Vicroads said, and Nick confirmed, that they are studying whether they can do the Mckinnon and Bentleigh crossings at the same time. This makes a lot of sense; the latter two are less challenging, narrower roads, and it would minimise the rail closures and costs.

Vicroads said they are hopeful, but it’s subject to the state Budget funding the extra two crossings. If I were Nick I’d be pushing for it, as if they can finish them all well before the next state election in 2018, it’s a better look for him being re-elected than if the job’s only half done, the stations are piles of rubble and replacement buses are running every weekend.

I guess we’ll see tomorrow (Tuesday; State Budget day) how many level crossing removals get full funding — as well as what other projects, such as Mernda rail, go full steam ahead.

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British election: Labour Party prefers Tory government than deal with Scottish nationalists

Links International - Sun, 03/05/2015 - 05:22

May 2, 2015 -- Irish Republican News, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- With just days to go before a potentially historic Westminster general election on May 5, a further rise in support for the Scottish National Party (SNP) is already creating a crisis in British politics which will likely have implications for Ireland.

Most recent polls indicate that the SNP will sweep almost all of the 59 Westminster seats in Scotland, and is well placed to win the balance of power in London. The development appears to have taken the British establishment by surprise and thrown the opposition Labour Party into chaos.

All but one or two of the 59 MPs elected by Scotland could now be won by the SNP by the time counting concludes, creating a political imperative for independence which is directly comparable to the 1918 "Sinn Fein" election in the aftermath of the Easter Rising in Ireland.

A confused Labour Party leader Ed Miliband told a television election special that he would refuse any pact with the SNP -- even if it meant giving up the chance of power to David Cameron’s Conservatives (Tories). On May 1 he repeated that there would be “no deals or coalitions”.

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Malaysia: Protest letters needed! May Day protesters arrested

Links International - Sat, 02/05/2015 - 14:42

Socialist Party of Malaysia secretary-general S. Arutchelvan was among those arrested at an anti-GST protest on May Day in Kuala Lumpar.

May 2, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Malaysian police have arrested Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S. Arutchelvan, formal president of Malaysian Bar Council Ambiga Sreenevasan and member of parliament for Seremban Anthony Loke at a May Day demonstration on May 1, 2015.

The arrests are part of the recent wave of crackdown on anti-GST (goods and services tax) and aim to further curtail dissent in the country.

Another 29 young people were arrested soon after the May Day rally. More people have been call to report themselves to the police otherwise will be subjected to arrest.

About 20,000 people took part in the May Day rally this year in the capital city Kuala Lumpur, with the theme to demand for the cancellation of the newly introduced GST. The protest was largely peaceful, but the police reacted with arrests after the rally and intended to punish the protesters by remanding them in lock-up.

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Professionalism as tyranny: a liberationist fantasy

Club Troppo - Sat, 02/05/2015 - 09:28

‘People of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public’ - Adam Smith

Adam Smith put it memorably above. I’ll be forever grateful for my time at the Australian Centre for Social Innovation because it has shown me the generality of that statement. Whether Smith intended it or not, it applies not just to businesspeople of the same trade, but to professions. And it applies not just to the professions whose anti-competitive practices are familiar to us all – lawyers and medical specialists for instance. The behaviour of these high status professions is consistent with the entire sentence from Smith which ends “or some contrivance to drive up prices”.

Some of the lower status professions also try to use their political power to drive up their own wages and, leaving aside the vexed question of the political and economic means by which their campaigns might be waged, I have a lot of sympathy for their desire to be paid and treated better than they are.  I’m talking of teachers and nurses most particularly, but I could be tempted to add academics and various others. However, often in an almost thoroughly well-intentioned way these professions exercise a kind of tyranny in the way they work. They see things in a particular way and, because they are either in charge of or an integral part of the functioning of some important social institution, it gets built around their world view. This is the meaning of the marvellous French expression déformation professionnelle

As I recounted in my speech launching the Centre’s family mentoring programme in Mt Druitt:

These are the words of Mystic (pronounced Mystique). She’s 21 now but was in out of home care since she was 3.

It happened so quickly. Once I turned 18, they sort of kicked me on my arse. They said ‘here’s $750, see you later, thank you’. And I’m just like ‘what the hell?’. A book and $750. That’s for being in care all your life.

Actually it makes you feel like an outsider. It makes you feel non existent on this earth. Like you are an alien. It does. It affects when you go to school too. You’re so used to being called ‘client’ and stuff that you start looking at yourself different to everyone else.

That ladies and gentlemen of the Tropposphere is, to purloin and marvellous expression of William Easterly’s the “cartel of good intentions”, or do-good professionalism as tyranny. Why is this tendency so strong and what could be done about it. Both good questions, but this post is dedicated to a fantasy of how it could be – to a bit of rhetoric. The sentiment might be said to be utopian I guess, but it’s not devoid of seriousness, or even practical import of some kind. Recall that, not only are the professions full of people who have taken them up for real love of the texture of the work, the intrinsic reward for doing it well and for the good they do, but professions are all built implicitly and often explicitly on noble ethical commitments – like the doctor’s to do no harm, the lawyers to uphold the rule of law ahead of the rule of men and the generalised duties of care of the many caring professions.

In any event, when I read Albert Camus’ magnificent lecture on accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature for the first time, inside my brain the speech morphed into one in which Camus used the word ‘professional’ wherever he had used the word ‘artist’ and mutatis mutandis for all the associated derivatives of both words. This is what I read:

In receiving the distinction with which your free Academy has so generously honoured me, my gratitude has been profound, particularly when I consider the extent to which this recompense has surpassed my personal merits. Every man, and for stronger reasons, every professional, wants to be recognized. So do I. But I have not been able to learn of your decision without comparing its repercussions to what I really am. A man almost young, rich only in his doubts and with his work still in progress, accustomed to living in the solitude of work or in the retreats of friendship: how would he not feel a kind of panic at hearing the decree that transports him all of a sudden, alone and reduced to himself, to the centre of a glaring light? And with what feelings could he accept this honour at a time when other professionals in Europe, among them the very greatest, are condemned to silence, and even at a time when the country of his birth is going through unending misery?

I felt that shock and inner turmoil. In order to regain peace I have had, in short, to come to terms with a too generous fortune. And since I cannot live up to it by merely resting on my achievement, I have found nothing to support me but what has supported me through all my life, even in the most contrary circumstances: the idea that I have of my profession and of the role of the writer. Let me only tell you, in a spirit of gratitude and friendship, as simply as I can, what this idea is.

For myself, I cannot live without my profession. But I have never placed it above everything. If, on the other hand, I need it, it is because it cannot be separated from my fellow men, and it allows me to live, such as I am, on one level with them. It is a means of stirring the greatest number of people by offering them a privileged picture of common joys and sufferings. It obliges the professional not to keep himself apart; it subjects him to the most humble and the most universal truth. And often he who has chosen the fate of the professional because he felt himself to be different soon realizes that he can maintain neither his profession nor his difference unless he admits that he is like the others. The professional forges himself to the others, midway between the beauty he cannot do without and the community he cannot tear himself away from. That is why true professionals scorn nothing: they are obliged to understand rather than to judge. And if they have to take sides in this world, they can perhaps side only with that society in which, according to Nietzsche’s great words, not the judge but the creator will rule, whether he be a worker or an intellectual.

By the same token, the professional’s role is not free from difficult duties. By definition he cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it. Otherwise, he will be alone and deprived of his art. Not all the armies of tyranny with their millions of men will free him from his isolation, even and particularly if he falls into step with them. But the silence of an unknown prisoner, abandoned to humiliations at the other end of the world, is enough to draw the professional out of his exile, at least whenever, in the midst of the privileges of freedom, he manages not to forget that silence, and to transmit it in order to make it resound by means of his profession.

None of us is great enough for such a task. But in all circumstances of life, in obscurity or temporary fame, cast in the irons of tyranny or for a time free to express himself, the professional can win the heart of a living community that will justify him, on the one condition that he will accept to the limit of his abilities the two tasks that constitute the greatness of his craft: the service of truth and the service of liberty. Because his task is to unite the greatest possible number of people, his art must not compromise with lies and servitude which, wherever they rule, breed solitude. Whatever our personal weaknesses may be, the nobility of our craft will always be rooted in two commitments, difficult to maintain: the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance to oppression.

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Bitcoin: Micro-economic miracle worker and macro-economic wrecking ball

Club Troppo - Sat, 02/05/2015 - 03:50

Yes, folks, every now and again you hear yourself talking in sound-bytes – well I do anyway. It’s kind of fun – like when you look at those 3D pictures that were in vogue in the 1980s - I think there was one every week in the Good Weekend – and your brain suddenly comes into synch and you can see the 3D effect. Perhaps this is what the Delphic Oracle felt like when she was really giving prophecy. Anyway after my presentation at a Bitcoin conference I was whisked away by a bunch of people working on a doco on bitcoin for an interview. I had a lot of fun, and somehow the force was with me. Soundbites emanated with a rare fluency. I was having fun. I have no idea whether I’m quoted in other parts of this doco, now assembled with a cheesy American narrator who has another force with him – not one I like much. But there you go.

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The Minister, a shady Japanese bar and the $5200 4am hospitality tab

The Northern Myth - Fri, 01/05/2015 - 14:49

This is the text of Deputy Speaker Matt Conlan’s Adjournment Speech to the NT Legislative Assembly on 30 April 2015 as reported in the Daily Hansard.

Mr CONLAN (Greatorex): Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, I rise to clear up a bit of scuttlebutt and rumour, or put to bed a couple of rumours. I have caught the attention of the member for Barkly who was just packing up his stuff but he wants to stay and hear this and I am happy for him to do so.

The scuttlebutt and the rumour of course surrounds myself and the issue relates to a personal expense incurred by myself that, due to particular circumstances, was settled by the CEO of Tourism NT. The amount in question is some $5119.54. That amount has since been repaid by myself from my own personal salary. The scuttlebutt surrounding it relates to some rumour and innuendo that I was, believe it or not, arrested while on an overseas trip and released on bail. The suggestion being that I was bailed out on taxpayers’ expense.

I know a number of scandalous stories and juicy tales emerge from this Parliament at time to time but I cannot think of a more solicitous one than an MP being bailed from a foreign gaol at taxpayers’ expense. It would make a great story. It is a story though, that is too good to be true.

The allegations were – there were three; there may be more but I have heard three – that I had a run in with the Triads while I was in China and was bailed or some taxpayers money was used to free me from the grips of the ‘Triads. I would think if I had a run in with the Triads and I am still here to tell the tale, I should probably be congratulated.

The other was an alleged altercation in Japan and I was subsequently thrown into prison and bailed out on taxpayers’ money. The third one though, I think is probably the best. It was alleged an incident took place while I was in Singapore. I had an altercation with the Singaporean police, was subsequently locked up and bailed out by none other than the Honourable Shane Stone QC.

I can confidently and categorically refute and dismiss these allegations. At no stage in my life have I ever been held in any form of foreign gaol or ever had any encounter with foreign police. To suggest otherwise is completely untrue and without a skerrick of substantiation.

The matter of the $5119.54 that I requested the CEO of Tourism to settle on my behalf was, to put simply, a bar tab gone wrong. It was in Tokyo. Anyone who has been to Japan will know it is not difficult to rack up large hospitality bills, but nevertheless it became clear on receiving the account at the end of the evening that my generosity was severely taken advantage of. As a result I found myself in a situation where my own credit card could not cover the expense. Consequently, the only option to me at the time was to phone my CEO, who was not with me at the time, and ask if he could please settle the account for me and I would make arrangements to resettle it from my own salary.

I seek leave to table these documents that have been FOI-ed. There were two FOI requests; one from the Leader of the Opposition’s office, one from the NT News. I have these documents with me. I seek leave to table these documents.

Leave granted.

Earlier this year Matt Colan resigned from all his cabinet positions, citing family reasons. He is currently Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees for the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. In March this year it was reported that Conlan would not contest his seat of Greatorex at the next NT general election due in the third quarter of 2016.

You can read more on this matter at the NT News in Ben Smee’s piece, Territory taxpayers funded Matt Conlan’s $5200 booze-fest at a seedy Japanese bar and at the ABC Darwin website via Former NT tourism minister Matt Conlan admits to paying $5,000 Tokyo ‘bar tab gone wrong’ with government credit card.

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'Don't moan, mobilise! Don't mourn, organise!' -- Zwelinzima Vavi's May Day message

Links International - Fri, 01/05/2015 - 13:52

Read more about recent developments in South Africa HERE.

May Day 2015 speech by Zwelinzima Vavi, Durban

May 1, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Today we march in concert with millions of workers all over the world to celebrate International Workers’ Day. We stand with workers in Greece, in Syria, in Bangladesh, in Argentina, in Zambia, in Canada and in every other country of the world to pronounce our determination to step up the struggle against exploitation and oppression. For while the global elite get richer and richer, the working class continues to be condemned to poverty.

In standing together against exploitation we also gather to celebrate our past victories. This includes the victory of the working class in South Africa in winning May 1 as a paid public holiday in 1994. This was not given to us on a plate. It was a struggle started in 1904, intensified in the 1980s, and finally won immediately after our first democratic election.

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NT juvenile detention system failure – ‘unhealthy’, ‘incompetent’, ‘punitive’ and ‘in crisis’

The Northern Myth - Fri, 01/05/2015 - 13:47

 

Despite recent efforts to cleanse the troubled and lost souls previously incarcerated at Darwin’s decrepit Berrimah Jail–no longer used to house adult inmates but re-purposed as a juvenile detention facility–juvenile detention in the Northern Territory remains in crisis.

This report, originally published in the April 2015 edition of Land Rights News, shows how deep that crisis really is.

The judgment is in: the Northern Territory’s juvenile detention system is in crisis, its management is incompetent, staff are undertrained, operational practices are haphazard and overly-punitive, and there’s been covering-up when things go wrong.  And the system is doing nothing to rehabilitate the young people whom it locks up.

That’s the picture painted by a New South Wales prisons bureaucrat, Michael Vita, who was engaged in October last year by the NT Government to review its youth detention system, after a series of disturbances.

Correctional Services Minister John Elferink released Mr Vita’s report in February and promised to implement all its recommendations to improve the system.

The report portrays a system which lacks a philosophy to drive the purpose of juvenile detention and says it is “highly doubtful that meaningful headway is being made to reduce reoffending.

“There are no examples of programs currently provided at either (Darwin or Alice Springs) youth detention centres that would … be considered to be of sufficient intensity to bring about change in the highest group of offenders.”

It is just a fact, the report says starkly, that the programs would not reduce reoffending.

On the subject of case management, the report is scathing.  It describes a system which is uncoordinated and driven by individual staff (some of them without training) who, without consulting stakeholders, “drive the case management process in a very basic fashion.”

The report says behavior management lacks direction and consistency, and an understanding of adolescent behavior – “behavior initiated by a history of trauma, symptoms of foetal alcohol syndrome and behavior associated with ADHD and other mental health issues.”

STAFF AND TRAINING

The report lays much of the blame for this state of affairs on poor training and an unqualified, mostly casual, workforce.  It identifies an “unhealthy” reliance on inexperienced, casual and temporary staff.

Casual and temporary staff comprised 90 per cent of the workforce in the Darwin and Alice Springs detention centres when Mr Vita wrote his report.  He wants that proportion reduced to 10 per cent, and says that turnaround would present an ideal opportunity for the Department of Correctional Services to get rid of staff or who were not performing, “or who do not wish to embrace a youth detention philosophy that will demand more interaction, motivation and job satisfaction.”

The reliance on a substantially casual workforce, Mr Vita says, impacts on morale and management of emergency situations.

Mr Vita describes training for youth workers as “grossly inadequate,” – even though it’s “one of the most important aspects that will dictate the safe, secure and humane operations of any institutional setting.”

Youth workers had only four days training when Mr Vita looked into the system late last year – compared with 11 weeks training and a 12 month probationary period for prison officers.

“This is clearly not enough to develop a professional youth worker to manage young, immature and challenging adolescents, many of whom have significant mental health, alcohol and other drug and behavioural problems and who, in the main, come from abusive and violent backgrounds,” the report says.

The NT’s four-day training regime is significantly below Australian training standards.  For examples, New South Wales has a 30-week training program.

Mr Vita was encouraged to learn that the NT Department of Correctional Services planned to expand its training program to eight weeks in March, and that all staff would be retrospectively trained.

He had no doubt that the lack of appropriate training had contributed to poor decision-making during disturbances in detention centres last year.

BEHAVIOUR MANAGEMENT

Juvenile detainees who play up badly end up in the Behaviour Management Unit (BMU), and Mr Vita’s report paid special attention to management of the BMU at the former Don Dale youth detention centre  at Berrimah which was vacated last September.

He found that high risk detainees in the Don Dale BMU had been locked up for excessive periods for various reasons, including violent and aggressive behaviour, and an environment of crisis management where inexperienced staff were afraid to open doors in case they were attacked.

Mr Vita reported an incident at Don Dale on 16 August last year where staff “acted inappropriately in threatening a detainee and attempted to cover up the CCTV surveillance to hide this.”

Then, five days later, a major disturbance broke out, which resulted in juvenile detainees being sprayed with tear gas.  Mr Vita’s report reveals that the order to resort to the use of tear gas was made by the Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mr Ken Middlebrook  -  an order which Mr Vita considered justifiable.

That disturbance led to the decision to abandon Don Dale and remove the detainees to the new gaol at Holtze (they’ve since been permanently placed in the former adult Berrimah gaol.)

In his review of all “significant incidents” which were not managed well over five years in the Don Dale and Alice Springs Youth Detention Centres, Mr Vita identified the following contributing factors:

  • Poor supervision
  • Lack of experienced staff
  • Lack of training, especially in crisis management and behaviour management
  • Poor communication and relay of intelligence information
  • Lack of appropriate direction and procedures
  • Sloppy security awareness
  • Immature response by some staff to detainees’ behavior
  • Lack of a comprehensively structured day which includes elements of work, programming, recreation, cleanliness, hygiene and schooling
  • Inadequate infrastructure and equipment.

Mr Vita also found that too much reliance was placed on confinement and isolation at Don Dale  – “this does not help with behavior management.”

=====================================

You can read all of The Vita Review 2015 here.

Photo: Emilia Thurzon, ABC Darwin

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Ireland: Left discusses how to win a radical new republic

Links International - Fri, 01/05/2015 - 04:03

May 1, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Ireland's left, under the impact of the mass movement against water charges that has thrown traditional politics into turmoil, is discussing how it can organise to seriously challenge for power.

On May 1, in Dublin, five trade unions involved in the Right2Water (R2W) campaign are hosting a conference to discuss a “Platform for Renewal” for the general election due within the year. There will be guest speakers from SYRIZA, Podemos and the European movement against water privatisation.

R2W includes the radical left, Sinn Féin, other left politicians and the extensive network of anti-water charges grassroots groups in towns and communities across Ireland. R2W has mobilised four massive protests in since October 1, 2013, which have rocked the establishment.

Ireland's Irish Left Review is housing a discussion on what way forward for the left, from which the contribution below first appeared.

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By Rory Hearne

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40 years after Vietnam's liberation: Okinawa's forgotten war

Links International - Thu, 30/04/2015 - 03:27

April 30, 1975: a North Vietnamese tank rolls through the gate of the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

By Jon Mitchell

April 30, 2015 -- Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On April 30, 1975, North Vietnamese troops and their supporters entered Saigon. Their arrival ended three decades of conflict -- including 10 years of direct US- intervention -- which left as many as 3 million dead and countless others suffering from the legacy of PTSD, unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange.1

As the world remembers this 40th anniversary, all too often forgotten is the role of the Pentagon’s most important launch pad for this failed war: Okinawa.

The Vietnam War wrought massive changes on the lives of the island’s 900,000 residents. Many of Okinawa’s current problems date back to this era and, if the history of the Vietnam War there continues to be ignored, the island’s wounds -- in many ways as raw as those in South-east Asia and the US -- will continue to fester long into the future.

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Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Takes ‘Whale Wars’ to Supreme Court

Sea Shepherd - Wed, 29/04/2015 - 15:43
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Takes ‘Whale Wars’ to Supreme Court

Expansive Interpretation of Alien Tort Statute Endangers U.S. Businesses, Sea Shepherd Argues

The United States Supreme CourtThe United States Supreme Court
Photo courtesy Wikimedia CommonsSea Shepherd Conservation Society, a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) non-profit marine conservation organization, filed a petition yesterday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appellate decision holding it in contempt of court based on the activities of foreign groups that opposed illegal Japanese whale hunts. (The petition is available at: Petition for Writ of Certiorari).

“Any business that operates internationally should be alarmed by the ruling at issue here,” said Claire Davis, a partner with Lane Powell, the law firm representing Sea Shepherd at the Supreme Court. “This case isn’t specific to whaling, but instead raises fundamental questions about how aggressively U.S. courts can interfere in the foreign affairs of U.S. businesses.”

Sea Shepherd seeks review of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, finding that it violated an injunction to remain at least 500 yards away from Japanese whaling vessels in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary near Antarctica. The Ninth Circuit asserted jurisdiction over Sea Shepherd through the Alien Tort Statute, a federal statute intended to allow foreign citizens to bring actions in U.S. courts for violations of a small number of universally recognized international laws, usually understood to include acts such as genocide and torture.

“The Alien Tort Statute is meant to apply in a very narrow set of circumstances, which do not include environmental activism,” said Davis. “This decision authorizes U.S. courts to invent new international law and apply it to the activity of all U.S. businesses abroad. It sets a welcome mat in front of the U.S. courts for any plaintiffs’ lawyer or foreign actor wishing to attack a U.S. business, based on grudges arising anywhere across the globe.”

The legal dispute arises from Japan’s long-running violation of the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC’s) ban on commercial whaling. Since the 1980s, Japan has granted Scientific Research Permits for Japanese organizations to kill more than 1,000 whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary each year, including humpback whales and endangered fin whales. Last year, the International Court of Justice declared Japan’s research rationale to be a sham, and said that its whale hunts are in violation of international law. Sea Shepherd’s campaign to stop Japanese whale hunts has been documented in the Emmy-nominated Animal Planet series “Whale Wars.”

Japanese whaling has been the subject of consistent condemnation by the U.S., foreign governments, IWC, and scores of environmental groups. When Japan first began violating the moratorium against whaling, President Ronald Reagan responded by ordering the Secretary of State to suspend Japan’s fishing privileges in U.S. waters.

Sea Shepherd’s petition takes exception to two rulings by the Ninth Circuit—its issuance of the original injunction, through which it accuses Sea Shepherd of piracy under international law, and its finding that Sea Shepherd violated that injunction. Both rulings reversed prior decisions in favor of the conservation organization. In 2012, a federal District Court in Washington state issued a 44-page opinion denying the request for an injunction against Sea Shepherd by the Institute of Cetacean Research, a Japanese whaling group; in 2014, after an eight-day hearing, a special master recommended the Ninth Circuit find that none of the defendants had violated the injunction.

Despite its disagreement with the injunction issued by the Ninth Circuit in late 2012, Sea Shepherd complied, cutting all financial and administrative ties to Operation Zero Tolerance, an anti-whaling campaign scheduled for early 2013. Although the Ninth Circuit acknowledged that Sea Shepherd had not violated any of the terms of the injunction, it found the organization in contempt nonetheless, claiming retroactively that the “spirit” of the injunction required Sea Shepherd to control foreign entities.

Sea Shepherd’s bid for review before the Supreme Court raises two legal questions: (1) whether the Alien Tort Statute provides jurisdiction for an injunction regulating otherwise legal behavior in international waters, under a new norm of international law created by U.S. judges; and (2) whether a federal court can use its contempt power to punish a party for violating the spirit of an injunction, although it adhered to its express terms.

“The Ninth Circuit held Sea Shepherd to be committing piracy under international law, despite the fact that Sea Shepherd had been engaged in a non-violent campaign to halt illegal whaling in an established sanctuary. Then the court found Sea Shepherd to be in contempt, even though it concedes Sea Shepherd had complied with the terms of the injunction,” said Davis. “But these rulings are not really about piracy or whaling. They are about the ability of the federal courts to exercise unrestrained power, without authority from Congress, over what the law says, and how and where it can be enforced.”

The Supreme Court petition was filed as Sea Shepherd Conservation Society v. The Institute of Cetacean Research et al. A fact sheet with further information on Sea Shepherd and its involvement in this litigation is available here: Fact Sheet: Background on Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Connection with Request for Appeal to Supreme Court.

Categories: Community

Breaking free of the boilerplate: Testament of Youth – now in a cinema near you

Club Troppo - Wed, 29/04/2015 - 08:26

This is a re-post of a post I did on Testament of Youth last December when the lead actress and I sat down to watch it for the first time (as you do). My excuse for reposting it is that the film has now been released in Australia and so is at a cinema near you. However the blogosphere is harsh and unforgiving, even here at Club Pony. So, to keep the howls of protest down, to throw a little meat to the wolves to keep them at bay till I can slink away, the post now has an EXTRA PARAGRAPH on my favourite scene. I discovered (HT James Kent) that the screenplay for this film and many others funded by the BBC repose freely available on the BBC website. A small victory for sensible publishing and an invaluable guide to my paragraph on my favourite scene. Anyway, the review is below the fold.

There comes a terrible moment to many souls when the great movements of the world, the larger destinies of mankind, which have lain aloof in newspapers and other neglected reading, enter like an earthquake into their own lives — where the slow urgency of growing generations turns into the tread of an invading army or the dire clash of civil war, and gray fathers know nothing to seek for but the corpses of their blooming sons, and girls forgot all vanity to make lint and bandages which may serve for the shattered limbs of their betrothed husbands.

Vera Brittain quotes this magnificent passage from George Elliott’s Daniel Deronda in her own great work, Testimony of Youth. It is of course the story of her generation and the catastrophe of the Great War visited upon them after a century of peace (if you ignore the horrors of colonialism at the periphery). She also says this in the book.

There is still, I think, not enough recognition by teachers of the fact that the desire to think – which is fundamentally a moral problem – must be induced before the power is developed. Most people, whether men or women, wish above all else to be comfortable, and thought is a pre-eminently uncomfortable process.

One of the most iconic and haunting episodes of war, indeed of any time is the Christmas parties that broke out spontaneously – to the horror of the authorities – along substantial sections of the Western front in 1914. Those events stand for many things – most particularly the life-world, in all its fragility breaking out against the iron fist inside the velvet glove of civilisation – the organised forces of coercion and violence behind any successful mass social formation. Yet, by then it was too late. Any insight or inclination that those events stood for could not be turned to any material advantage to anyone and the soldiers were hounded back into the trenches.

I’ve been reading some of Ulysses S Grant’s autobiography and it’s notable how often he juxtaposes moral and physical courage giving the impression that they tend to substitute for one another: Lack of moral courage seems the norm, and it often exacts its price in the need for physical courage. In a world which is so often reduced to boilerplate prose, never less so than today when managers manage their brands, and their own personal ‘brands’, in which politicians of both sides gradually – nowadays rather quickly – disappear beneath the insincerity of their talking points, I loved this film for dramatising this dichotomy in our lives between life as the collection of the petty hypocrisies and insincerities that get us through a normal day and life as a creative and rational act. 

I think it was during the Great War as Bertrand Russell watched men march off to a war which had metastasised out of all proportion to its origins and said to Maynard Keynes that he didn’t fancy studying economics because he couldn’t take seriously a discipline that had as a fundamental axiom that people acted in their own self-interest.

When the likes of Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon published their war memoirs, Vera Brittain was emboldened to write something similar but from her own perspective as a woman who had, like the men, subjected her own interests to the Greater Good only to come to wonder whether it was the greater good. As her lover, her friends and her brother went off to war, she suspended the Oxford education she had striven so hard for to try to do something for them. She went nursing the troops and in so doing went through her own hell, of bullying by other nurses who resented her superior station in life. And by war’s end she suffers the same kind of devastation as do the protagonists in the Great War books of the men. As the film proceeded I thought particularly of All Quiet on the Western Front which by the end leaves its protagonist destitute as one after the other his closest comrades are slaughtered in the trenches and the experience leaves him estranged from those previously closest to him who can never understand what he has experienced.

This is a large story and Testament of Youth is a large book. What to put into a film of less than three hours? What to leave out? The director gives you a pretty good idea of his priorities in the video above. But one of the things I can’t help noticing being left in is the farcical supervision of Vera’s courtship to Roland. She can only see Roland in society with a chaperone. So with young love breaking out, with all its potential for subversion – petty and otherwise - the couple are accompanied wherever they go in public by someone who may as well be their nanny, right down to the scene in which they briefly escape their chaperone’s gaze to seat themselves together at a show. But the chaperone catches up with them and by the time the show starts she has plonked herself between them. And that’s how a civilisation sleepwalked into catastrophe. Just as the chaperone with the iron fist turned up after Christmas Day 1914 to harass the troops back where they belonged – trying to kill each other from their respective trenches – so the nanny chaperone of Vera and Roland is there to ensure that nothing untoward breaks out. That’s much more sensible given the trouble to which one must sometimes go once it has broken out!

Amongst many fine scenes there was a complete standout for me. I can’t think of a more thrilling scene in any movie. Vera visits Roland at his family home with his friends on his first leave back in England from the front. The group have the sensitivity to leave the betrothed lovers to their own devices as they walk on ahead towards a deserted beach. They sit down together. He is changed. Shy of her. He can barely speak with her. His silence is dire and dark.

His male friends catch up with them and Roland is back to normal – jousting and joshing with his mates. Vera withdraws, one presumes devastated at the contrast between his ease with his friends and his conduct towards her as well she might be. Does he now hate her? After some mucking around one of Roland’s male friends asks him “Were you scared?”.

“You don’t think about it” Roland offers, adding that his friend in the trenches Harrison isn’t interested in home leave. “Says it makes a man soft”. Vera has been quietly boiling.

“God forbid any of you should be soft!

Roland’s friend Victor opines “If I could get out there I don’t think I’d want to come back”.

Vera spits back “You don’t know the first thing about it!”

Anxious to diffuse things, Roland leads Vera away. She tries again asking Roland if he received her poetry in the trenches – if he has written any. “Poems?! Please . . .” At her striken expression, he continues the attack. “For God’s sake!” and walks on alone outpacing her. At this point I was expecting the usual sexual politics to emerge. But Vera rises above the devastation and cuts straight to the heart. Utterly without recrimination, she runs after Roland, and after she stumbles and he helps her up she grabs his hand and simply demands that he acknowledge her – that he acknowledge this terrible thing that he has taken inside himself and her loving support.

From the screenplay

“This isn’t the real you! This -!”

She puts his hand to her cheek, then kisses it, then puts it to her waist, almost forcing him to hold her -

VERA

“This is real! Feel it! Remember, Roland! You and me together – now – here – this moment!”

He looks at her, raw, his armour cracking -

VERA (CONT’D)

The most precious part of you – don’t let war destroy it!

ROLAND

It might be gone already -

VERA

No! It’s not! I promise you!

Formerly eking out their courtship against the grain of the boilerplate, now, no doubt against her own petty doubts, Vera’s passion rises to the service of life and love against death.

There are other fine things about the movie. Scenes such as the one I’ve just sketched out require good, preferably great actors or the result is bathos. And to think, Ronald Reagan was cast in Casablanca! I liked the casting of Swedish actress Alicia Vikander as Vera. Luminous though not glamorised, her subtle distance from an ordinary British sensibility was entirely fitting for Vera who pretty obviously wasn’t your ordinary Brit. It gave her presence and her story a universality, somehow distanced from BBC costume drama which was entirely fitting for the simplicity, grandeur and universality of the story (even if the film was co-funded by the BBC!)

There was another more personal reason I got a huge kick out of the movie. The screening was a special screening in Melbourne’s British Film Festival and took place some months before the official opening in London in the new year. I went because I expected the movie would be up my alley. I think it was also the last session of the festival and as such would be attended by the star Alicia Vikander. It wasn’t slated to take longer than a normal showing and there was no fancy price. So I went along to check it out. I’ve been to such a showing before and usually they have the star come out and do an interview after the movie. Not on this occasion. Alicia V turned up at the front with a microphone and was briefly introduced. Looking a bit lost she said this was the first time she’d have seen the movie so she was looking forward to it and then popped up to the back of the cinema. The person introducing her said we could talk to her after the show was finished. And that was that.

There was no other formal session but Eva and I shuffled out along with everyone else, and there she was – next to us – shuffling out too. So we talked to her for a few minutes. She happened to be on location filming another film in Tassie. She was visiting her sister – who lived a few doors down from the cinema. She was up for the evening and flying back at 6 am the next day and had agreed to attend this movie before heading off to her sister’s place. Anyway, I told her I thought she was great. She was very nice, unassuming and seemed like a very centred sort of person – not much nonsense about her – though I may have been influenced by the previous couple of hours on screen where she carried all before her.

Then I tweeted this.

Just saw Film of Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the British Film Festival A masterpiece – see it if you can

Whereupon I got this tweet-back

JamesKentDir: @NGruen1 from the director thanks for that! James

So go and see Testimony of Youth when it comes your way – a film for the ages, delivered with the personal touch!

Categories: Community

Nepal: Urgent appeal for earthquake victims

Links International - Wed, 29/04/2015 - 07:20

By Bharat Nepal

April 28, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- As you all know a very devastating earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. More than 5000 people were killed and more than 6000 are still missing. Outside of Kathmandu is also badly affected, however due to remoteness damage has still not been fully appraised.

There is great need for health care, food and water. I am coordinating to raise fund to support this crisis.

If you can please support by donating to the following account, all money raised will be sent to National Disaster Relief Fund in Nepal.

Organisation name: Australia Nepal Public Link Inc.
National Australia Bank
BSB 082 342
A/c. no. 83 719 7693
Please state: Earthquake support as transaction ID

Thank you so much.

Regards,

Bharat Nepal, president Australia Nepal Public Link Inc.

Categories: Community

Bing (and others) add Melbourne public transport timetable data

Daniel Bowen - Tue, 28/04/2015 - 23:39

Yesterday it was discovered (by Rod S) that Bing Maps has loaded the Melbourne/Victoria GTFS public transport timetable data, and thus you can now plan PT trips on Bing.

 Public transport planning

Who uses Bing? Almost nobody I suspect — it was found by mistake!

It looks pretty good. Most trips I’ve tried provide a good, solid, logical result.

There are some quirks, and I’ve shown one in the example above: in my testing of trips to the airport, I’ve found CBD connections are funny.

In one case it suggested I alight a train at Flinders Street, and catch a City Circle tram around the city to Latrobe/Spencer Streets (taking 32 minutes) then walk to the Southern Cross coach terminal. Then it suggested I change onto a V/Line bus to Heathcote and Barham, which does stop at the airport about once a day, but it’s a pick-up only stop, so technically passengers can’t alight there.

In the case above, it’s suggested I hop off the train at Flagstaff, walk a block, catch a bus to Southern Cross, then the Skybus (which it thinks is a train — if only!).

In both cases I suspect it’s minimised the walking involved, but has come up with a counter-intuitive result, the logical path being to catch the train to Southern Cross. The official PTV (then Metlink) planner had these kinds of issues in the early days.

However the V/Line bus problem might be a data issue, or an issue with interpretation of the data (as I’m told GTFS feeds do include provision for “pick up only” stops).

Nonetheless, as I said, for most trips it’s providing good results.

The same goes for Nokia Here — which also has the GTFS data loaded, and in brief testing, showed a more logical route to the airport.

Here trip planning

Both are available for phones, so it’s possible to plan trips on the run. Various other lesser-known app providers have also loaded the data (for instance: Offi).

In my minimal testing, it appears Nokia Here uses a little less battery power on Android, and also doesn’t distract with all the other Bing search stuff I don’t need… though Nokia also has a lot of driving support that I can’t immediately see myself using.

I doubt many people will switch over to Bing or Here, but it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes Google to get its act together.

It’s good to see progress in this area — the release of the GTFS data has made it possible for PT trip planning to be more readily available to more people — without enduring PTV’s clunky apps and web site.

Categories: Community

My Message to the Government of Costa Rica: Enough is Enough

Sea Shepherd - Tue, 28/04/2015 - 18:24
My Message to the Government of Costa Rica: Enough is Enough

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

A Sea Shepherd billboard seen by drivers in Costa RicaA Sea Shepherd billboard seen
by drivers in Costa Rica
Photo: Sea ShepherdCosta Rica is a beautiful nation with incredible bio-diversity and friendly people, but for many years this country has been plagued with political corruption from leaders whose agendas do not represent the people – and certainly not the environment.

Unsolved murders of conservationists, turtle egg poaching, illegal shark finning, the convenient loss of evidence in the trial of Jairo Mora Sandoval that resulted in his killers walking free.

Costa Rica has great public relations that feeds the myth of an ecologically conscious nation but it remains a country where narco-poachers operate with impunity and where many environmentalists have been murdered without their killers found, or if found, released on some technicality like the convenient loss of evidence.

They have said I should come to Costa Rica to defend myself in their courts, but there has been a $25,000 reward on my head since 2002 put in place by the poachers – and the best way for that reward to be collected is if I am in a Costa Rican jail. And what chance would I have in a court that loses evidence in a murder trial and proceeds to trial in my case with an accusation that contradicts itself regarding the geographical position of the “crime.”

Since 2012 I have been trying to speak with the Costa Rica government about the bogus charge they brought against me in response to my stopping an illegal Costa Rican shark-finning operation in the waters of Guatemala at the request of the Guatemalan government.

The charge against me accuses me of stopping the shark-finners in international waters but the position given in the accusation is well inside of Guatemalan waters.

And yet despite the contradiction in the charge itself, they refuse to drop the charge. They issued a Red List extradition request against me with Interpol. The Red List is for serial killers and war criminals. What I did was to stop a crime, and not a single person was hurt nor was property damaged. But for stopping an illegal shark-finning operation, Costa Rica wants to put me in prison from five to 15 years.

This month I said enough is enough. If the government and the courts will not talk with me, perhaps I should go straight to the people of Costa Rica with the truth.

A full-page ad in La Nacion newspaper reads, “Changes are accomplished by people. Let us defend together the seas of Costa Rica. Thank you Ticos for your tremendous support to turn the course of the unjust legal case, open against me 13 years ago by the Varadero 1 case. I still believe in justice.”A full-page ad in La Nacion newspaper reads, “Changes are accomplished by people. Let us defend together the seas of Costa Rica. Thank you Ticos for your tremendous support to turn the course of the unjust legal case, open against me 13 years ago by the Varadero 1 case. I still believe in justice.”Sea Shepherd has posted billboards in Costa Rica stating the importance of protecting marine wildlife. Last month journalists from Channel 7 in San Jose came to Paris to interview me. That interview has aired in different segments for the last three days this week and will continue tonight.

This reportage not only includes an interview with me but also with the captain of the fishing boat we caught finning sharks in 2002, as well as legal experts, lawyers, members of the government and the judiciary.

As a result, people in Costa Rica are getting a complete background of the case and the issues involved.

My attorney in Costa Rica, Abraham Stern will be taking my case to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights.

The question must be asked: If no one was injured; if no damages to property occurred; if the evidence in the accusation states the incident took place in Guatemalan waters; if we were acting on behalf of the government of Guatemala; if Sea Shepherd documented the entire incident on video, then why is Costa Rica investing so much money, time and effort to extradite me back to Costa Rica on such a minor charge?

My suspicion is that they want to bring me back to Costa Rica where the charges will be dismissed and they will then extradite me onward to Japan. There is significant evidence to suggest that Costa Rica revived their 2002 case against me in 2012 at the request of Japan – in other words, a political favor for a nation (Japan) that invests heavily in Costa Rica.

In 2002, the charges against me were dismissed and I was given clearance to leave Costa Rica. I never heard another thing about it until the Germans detained me in Frankfurt a decade later, in May 2012.

The film crew that covered this incident was an independent film crew led by Rob Stewart. His footage was used in the award-winning documentary “Sharkwater.”

The fishing captain of the Varadero I states that he was not in Guatemalan waters; the evidence proves otherwise. He claims he was not finning sharks, and yet, he was filmed finning sharks. He says he was not a poacher; yet he and his boat had been previously arrested and convicted of poaching within the Galapagos Marine Reserve in 2001.

Sea Shepherd is needed to address issues diminishing sharks and sea turtles in Costa Rica but the Costa Rican government has refused their assistance to protect the turtle beaches and to protect the fragile waters around Cocos Island. Sea Shepherd is tired of being refused as the poachers carry on with their crimes unopposed. Beginning June 1st, Sea Shepherd will have volunteers on Pacuare and Moin beaches protecting turtle eggs and nests, and will not let Jairo’s murder deter protection of the nests. Moin Beach is the place where Jairo was murdered two years ago.

Sea Shepherd has decided to go ahead with efforts to defend the lives of turtles, announcing this week the launch of Operation Jairo.

Sea Shepherd’s vessel, the Jairo Mora Sandoval is currently defending turtles and turtle nests in Cape Verde, carrying on Jairo’s legacy.

Sea Shepherd will continue its efforts to supply a patrol boat to the rangers of Cocos Island in order to assist in the protection of the Cocos Island Marine Reserve from poachers.

With the airing my interview with Channel 7 in Costa Rica over the last three days, the truth about my case is finally reaching the Costa Rican public.

I may not be able to go to Costa Rica myself, but Sea Shepherd will return to the beaches of Costa Rica and to the Cocos Island Marine Reserve.

Sea Shepherd will not let the Costa Rican government forget the name “Jairo Mora Sandoval,” and will do all in its power to further Jairo’s incredible conservation efforts, the very courageous efforts that cost him his life at the young age of 26.

The links to the interview with Channel 7 below are in Spanish. English subtitles will be available in the near future.

Part 1: ¿Qué pasó con el barco Varadero I? El capitán Paul Watson cuenta su verdad

Part 2: ¿Dónde ocurrieron los hechos por los que se acusa a Paul Watson: en Guatemala o aguas internacionales?

Part 3: Paul Watson afirma que le gustaría tener fe en el sistema legal tico

Categories: Community

Devotion and resistance: Bizhan Jazani and the Iranian Fedaii

Links International - Tue, 28/04/2015 - 14:12

Historian Doug Enaa Greene's lecture on the Iranian Marxist theorist Bizhan Jazani, presented to the Center for Marxist Education see https://www.facebook.com/CenterForMarxistEducation

By Doug Enaa Greene

April 30, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The popular image of the Iranian Revolution in the United States focuses on a series of stereotypical bearded mullahs, an exotic and backward oriental society, and of course the seizure of the US embassy by frenzied masses. While it is true that the current government of Iran is a theocratic Islamic state that hijacked the revolution that brought down the US-backed Shah. There is another story, of brave and dedicated communist revolutionaries who sought the liberation of their people from capitalism, imperialism and the establishment of a revolutionary socialist state. Communists like the brilliant Bizhan Jazani, who thought seriously and sincerely about how to make a revolution in Iran.

read more

Categories: Community

Hospital precinct: still no accessible tram services

Daniel Bowen - Sun, 26/04/2015 - 23:04

Melbourne’s expanding fleet of low-floor trams are being allocated to tram routes that lack wheelchair-accessible stops, while accessible tram stops are being built on routes that have no low-floor trams.

— The Age: New accessible tram stops not on the level for those most in need in Melbourne

Let me present a prime example.

 RWH and RMH

This is Melbourne’s hospital precinct in Carlton/Parkville. The Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Royal Women’s Hospital, and the Melbourne Private Hospital are all in close proximity. The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is currently under construction. The Royal Children’s Hospital is just up the road in Flemington Parade. Various research and specialist facilities are also nearby.

As in any busy precinct, where lots of people converge, parking is at a premium. Public transport access is important, and eventually (2026) it’s planned the metro rail tunnel will serve it.

But for now, it’s trams and buses:
PTV map of hospital precinct. (Pointer to RMH is incorrect.)
(Note: PTV appears to have placed the RMH in the wrong place.)

At present, it’s served from the west (Footscray and North Melbourne) by bus routes 401 and 402. Bus 546 from the east (Heidelberg and Clifton Hill) also goes past, though only on weekdays. All these bus services are scheduled to be served by accessible buses.

From the north and south are trams — the 19 along Royal Parade, and the 55 and 59 along Flemington Parade.

Here’s the brilliant bit:

Route 19 is served by low-floor trams, but has no platform stops.
Royal Parade, hospital precinct tram stop

Routes 55 and 59 have platform stops, but no low-floor trams.
Tram 59 in Flemington Parade
Platform tram stop, but step access to tram

That’s correct — in the hospital precinct, there are accessible trams without accessible stops, and accessible stops without accessible trams.

The overall result is no accessible tram services, making prams difficult and wheelchairs impossible.

The closest place where accessible trams meet accessible stops is at Haymarket, at the northern end of Elizabeth Street. To the RMH or RWH this is about 400 metres, or a 6 minute walk for an able-bodied person (crossing numerous at traffic lights along the way). But for somebody with limited mobility, this would be a somewhat arduous task.

The rail tunnel is at least a decade away from completion, but even if it were opening tomorrow, obviously work should continue to make more of the tram and bus systems accessible.

It’s not known when low-floor trams will arrive on routes 55 and 59 — no doubt it relies on depot and power upgrades to accommodate the new trams, which are generally longer and use more power than the older trams — so a solution for the Royal Children’s Hospital may be some time ago.

But it should be a no-brainer that accessible tram stops on route 19 along Royal Parade are needed — at the very least at the corner of Grattan Street to serve the other hospitals.

Categories: Community

Some stimulating debate on the sensitive subject of gender differences in specific cognitive abilities

Club Troppo - Sun, 26/04/2015 - 13:12

On a difficult subject, let’s throw the subject over to some people who know nothing about it, but who have flawless makeup on and vigorously assert mutually inconsistent propositions. If you think the first 90% of the video is exemplary, wait, there’s more – when the panelist asks whether it might not be time to talk about her again – and return to the subject of how ‘hot’ she is – and then tops it all off with a truly masterful summary of her position.

Categories: Community

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