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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.

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.

Why I hope Craig Thomson avoids jail

Craig Thomson has finally been convicted of all those fraud charges that everybody has been talking about throughout the years of Rudd/Gillard Government.

It is worth remembering how Gillard deflected all the questions about Thomson:

"Everybody is innocent until proven guilty"

Well, unless you are a refugee or a coloured person (or both).

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Kurdistan: Why Kobanî did not fall

Links International - 18 hours 32 min ago

[For more on the struggle of the Kurdish people, click HERE.]

By Dilar Dirik

January 27, 2015 -- Kurdish Question, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- One year ago, today, Kobanî declared itself as an autonomous canton.

Today, after 135 days of fearless resistance, the people of Kobanî have liberated the city from the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). Since September 2014, the YPG and YPJ (People's and Women's Defence Units) have been leading – there are no other words to describe it -- an epic and unbelievable resistance against the latest wave of attacks by ISIS.

The women and men, who lead the most glorious resistance of our time, hoisted their flags on the last hills that were occupied by ISIS and immediately began their line dances, accompanied by old Kurdish revolutionary songs and slogans. Ever since, people around the world rushed to the streets to celebrate. After the countless tragedies, massacres and traumas that this region has had to suffer recently, the pains that have preceded this moment make victory even sweeter. One eye sheds tears for the dead, while the other cries out of much deserved joy.

read more

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Thailand: Yingluck’s impeachment -- a fraudulent 'legal' attack by an illegal junta

Links International - 18 hours 46 min ago

Yingluck Shinawatra leaves the final impeachment hearing at parliament in Bangkok. Photograph: Vichan Poti/Demotix/Corbis.

For more on Thailand, click HERE.

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

January 28, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Let us be clear. The impeachment motion passed by the puppet parliament on January 23 against former Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, submitted to the military junta’s appointed Assembly by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, over her role in the rice price support scheme for farmers, is a total farce and a red herring. It is a deliberate part of the anti-reforms designed to destroy democracy. It has nothing to do with the rice scheme.

Yingluck is accused of “allowing corruption to take place” in this rice scheme and of presiding over financial losses to the government.

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#Myki Monthly and Weekly Pass fares: more expensive than ever compared to daily fares

Daniel Bowen - 19 hours 43 min ago

On many public transport systems, they go out of their way to encourage what we in Melbourne call Passes — sometimes called Season Passes, Periodicals, Monthly or Yearly tickets: a fixed price for unlimited travel for a period.

For the system, the benefits include reduced transaction costs, getting a bunch of money up front, and the promise of customer loyalty, at least for the Pass duration, but also beyond that if they like the discount and the service and renew.

For the passenger, they get a nice discount, and they don’t have to bother with queuing and buying more tickets for a while. In some places, they don’t even need to get their ticket out unless asked by an inspector.

Myki 2015 bus signage

Passengers can also use the Pass for any travel they like during that time, for instance weekday commuters might use it for social or recreational travel on weekends or evenings.

The key benefit of the Pass is the discount over everyday fares, but Melbourne’s used to have some other benefits which have been removed with the migration to Myki:

  • Pre-1990s Metcard, on weekends, a Weekly/Monthly/Yearly allowed travel not just for the cardholder, but also for another adult and kids, effectively becoming a weekend family ticket
  • Pre-Myki, on weekends the fare also allowed travel in any zone in Melbourne for no extra cost (the clumsy handling of this has led to the situation where some users actually get charged a negative fare for using extra zones now)

Personally I think the loss of these benefits is probably forgiveable. Bringing across every single fare oddity into a new system is part of what has made Myki so trouble prone. There’s a good argument that they should have simplified things further, such as scrapping the Weekly Pass and using an automatic Weekly Cap instead. But I digress.

The bigger effect of Myki, and in particular its compulsory use in Melbourne since the end of 2012, is that the Pass discount is now greatly diminished.

Melbourne Myki Pass costs vs daily fares

How many days does a Pass cost?

Weekly fares were about the cost 4.3 Dailies, from the 90s, right up to 2012. Since Daily fares were moved onto Myki Money, which is at a cheaper rate (since it was originally intended to sit alongside 2-hour and Daily short term/single use tickets), a Weekly fare is now equivalent to 5 weekdays.

In other words, the Weekly fare is no longer a great proposition, unless you know for sure that you’ll travel more than 5 days a week. If you’re not sure, or you never use public transport at weekends, you might as well use Myki Money.

A Monthly/30 Day Pass had been about the cost of 16.2 Dailies, making it a very attractive proposition for daily commuters. It’s now the cost of 18.4 weekdays, making it less compelling for 9-5 workers who might only have 20 days’ use in the month if they never use public transport on weekends.

A lot of people buy 33-day Passes, and have them start on a Monday, and end on the Friday five weeks later, avoiding paying for an intermediate weekend if they are unlikely to use it. With some planning ahead, you can also adjust the number of days (anywhere between 28 and 325) to fit in with public holidays or leave from work.

Yearlies used to be about the cost of 171 Dailies. They are now up at the cost of 199 weekdays.

For metropolitan passengers, there’s no reason to ever pay retail price for a Yearly. Get the Commuter Club discount via your workplace or PTUA instead.

Happily, the combination of the Yearly discount and the Commuter Club discount still makes it a pretty good deal for most everyday users, as long as they can afford the initial outlay (or their workplace can pay it via monthly deductions).

What about the weekend cap?

My calculations are perhaps a little shaky, but the figures come out significantly worse if you take into account that some days in a Pass would be subject to the $6 weekend/holiday daily cap, not the weekend price.

(While few would have welcomed the increase of the weekend daily cap from $3.50 to $6 in 2014, it did remove the anomaly whereby Myki Money users got weekend travel more cheaply than loyal Myki Pass users.)

Including the weekend cap in the calculation, a Weekly costs the same as 5.3 days (assuming no public holidays). A 30-day Pass is 23 days (also assuming no public holidays in the month). A Yearly is around 251 days (assuming 12 public holidays per year).

Average days per Monthly ticket cost (2011)

Comparing Melbourne to other cities

A PTUA study in 2011 found that Melbourne had one of the most expensive Monthly fare prices in the world, at 20.3 days. (The calculation used an average of Zone 1, Z2, and Z1+2 prices. I’ve used just Z1 above.)

The average for the other cities in the study was 12.5 days, and the European cities in particular had deep discounts for Monthly fares.

The prices may have changed a bit since then, particularly as many cities have moved to smartcards in the mean time, and changed their fare structures. For instance in Vancouver it appears the Monthly has moved up from 12.67 then to about the price of 15.5 days now (based on two single fares with transfers).

But most of them still seem to price their Monthlies cheaper than Melbourne.

I’m certainly not arguing that Myki Money fares should go up. The discount from paper tickets is a reasonable one, given the inconvenience of having no paper tickets available.

Given Melbourne’s Weekly Pass discount is negligible for most users, it might be time to revisit whether an automatic Weekly Cap (once proposed, and partly implemented) can easily replace it. A Monthly cap was also once proposed, but seems to have been excised at an early stage.

But to encourage regular users, the Monthly/Yearly price should really come down, at least to reflect the cut in daily fares that occurred when everybody got forced from paper tickets onto Myki.

Categories: Community

Sea Shepherd is Free to Return to the Faroe Islands in 2015

Sea Shepherd - Wed, 28/01/2015 - 17:58
Sea Shepherd is Free to Return to the Faroe Islands in 2015

Denmark Puts a Lid on Attempts by the Faroese to Implement Authoritarian Measures

Commentary by Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson

Last year, more than 400 Sea Shepherd volunteers traveled to the Faroe IslandsLast year, more than 400 Sea Shepherd volunteers traveled to the Faroe Islands
File Photo: Sea ShepherdIn an attempt to undermine freedom in their own country, 29 of the 33 members of the Faroese Løgting (parliament) voted in December to ban Sea Shepherd volunteers from coming to the Faroe Islands. After Sea Shepherd's successful campaign to protect pilot whales and dolphins this past summer, Operation GrindStop 2014, Faroese politicians decided to take the drastic move to stop further Sea Shepherd intervention by simply banning Sea Shepherd volunteers from the Faroes. This move certainly illustrated that many Faroese politicians have acknowledged the effectiveness of Sea Shepherd's campaigning.

This law of course would be a blatantly discriminatory policy that would ban people for their beliefs. However, this did not concern 29 of the Faroese legislators with their blind obsession to defend the slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins at all costs.

The problem for the Faroese however is, how do you ban Sea Shepherd volunteers who happen to be members of the European Union (EU)? Banning members of the EU could cause a retaliation of banning Faroese citizens from Europe. A law banning Sea Shepherd would have required Danish approval, and Denmark was not about to head down the road of censorship and discrimination.

The Danish government would have none of it and vetoed the measure, illustrating once more that Denmark does indeed have control over affairs in the Faroe Islands.

The Faroese claim that killing whales is a tradition and part of their culture. On the other hand, the Danish view freedom, democracy and human rights as part of their culture. It appears that in this case Denmark’s commitment to human rights and freedoms takes precedence over any obligation they may have to defend the barbaric practices of a vassal nation.

Killing cetaceans is a violation of European Union law. Denmark is a member of the EU and provides subsidies to the Faroe Islands. The Faroese claim they are independent, and for that reason, they insist that the law does not apply to them despite the fact that Danish police intervene to protect the whale killing in the Faroes.

Last year, more than 400 Sea Shepherd volunteers traveled to the Faroe Islands to oppose the obscenity that the Faroese call the “Grindadrap,” which translates to “the murder of whales.” 33 whales were killed during the three-month period that Sea Shepherd volunteers patrolled the islands. The year before, in the same time period, more than 1,300 pilot whales and dolphins were massacred on Faroese beaches.

Sea Shepherd will never stop opposing the Grind no matter what obstacles are placed in our way. This global movement to protect and defend cetaceans grows stronger every year. The murder of whales and dolphins has no place in the 21st century.

It appears that the attempt to legally ban Sea Shepherd from the Faroe Islands has failed. Thus, if Sea Shepherd is able to return to the Faroe Islands in 2015, there is no legal impediment preventing our volunteers from doing so in order to protect pilot whales and dolphins.

Operation GrindStop Visit our
Operation GrindStop 2014
site for more information.
Categories: Community

Daylight Saving Redux

Andrew Bartlett - Wed, 28/01/2015 - 11:45

I wrote a piece here nearly ten years ago about how I personally wasn’t a big fan of daylight saving – mainly because I’m a bit more of a night owl than most people.  But it’s an issue that repeatedly raises it’s head in Queensland, and I’ve certainly had countless people mention to me that bringing Queensland into line with the rest of the eastern states would be beneficial for many businesses; not least the tourism industry, even – as this example shows – in areas in the far north like Port Douglas where it is assumed that everyone is opposed to daylight saving.   Having said that, there is little doubt that support for daylight saving in Queensland is strongest in the Gold Coast region, and gradually declines as you get further north – particularly into the Tropics.

But after more than twenty years where Queensland has tried going without daylight saving, the Greens have released an election policy proposing that we have a couple of years trialling the other approach and see what it is like.  During that time, we can gather all the evidence about whether it does boost tourism, improve recreation, lessen energy consumption (and/or increase solar energy generated) and the many other positives which daylight saving advocates have suggested.

Seeing it’s more than twenty years since Queensland last tried it, it seems fair enough to give people a chance to experience it – many for the first time – and then given them a say on whether they’d like to keep it or not.

Of course, as some journos have noted, opposing another shot at daylight saving seems like one of the few issues on which the LNP and ALP agree, so it’s not likely to happen straight away. But if lots of people decide to use this issue to send a message by voting Greens 1 and then 2 for their preferred larger party, then the momentum could well build – particularly if the tourism and other industries decide to publicly get behind the Greens’ proposal.

Categories: Community

Greece: Venezuela welcomes SYRIZA victory; International left celebrates

Links International - Wed, 28/01/2015 - 06:47

For more discussion and analysis of SYRIZA's victory, click HERE.

January 28, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Venezuela's government has congratulated Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing SYRIZA party, who won a huge victory in Greece's parliamentary elections on January 25, 2015, reports TeleSur English. Tsipras has been inaugurated as the country's prime minister.

A Venezuelan government statement said: “Venezuela warmly congratulates the Syriza coalition party and Alexis Tsipras for their historic victory, wishing them success and complete solidarity and support.”

Venezuela's foreign minister Elias Jaua tweeted: “The Greek people, after a long and historic battle against neoliberalism, has crowned itself a wonderful victory. Syriza is fresh air for Europe!”

read more

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Verdict Issued in Jairo Mora Case: Court Could Not Condemn the Murderers, But We All Know Who They Are

Sea Shepherd - Wed, 28/01/2015 - 00:39
Verdict Issued in Jairo Mora Case: Court Could Not Condemn the Murderers, But We All Know Who They Are

Environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval on the beach with fellow WIDECAST volunteersJairo Mora Sandoval
Photo taken by Christine Figgener
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia CommonsSea Shepherd Conservation Society deeply regrets the decision of the Criminal Court of Limon, which yesterday acquitted seven men accused of the murder of environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval.

Jairo Mora, a 26-year-old Costa Rican activist, dedicated to protecting sea turtles from poachers, was brutally murdered on May 31st, 2013 in Moin, Limon, Costa Rica.

The verdict of the Court of Limon has dismayed our organization. The murder of a young man who dedicated his life to protecting marine life should not go unpunished.

We understand that the Court issued a judgment of acquittal justified by errors which took place during the investigation of the case. However, we strongly appeal to the judicial prosecutors and investigators to not continue making such mistakes that allow murderers to kill with impunity.

The name of Jairo Mora won't be forgotten and as a tribute to his work, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society named last year one of its ships in his honor. Currently, this boat performs control operations against poaching off the coast of West Africa.

In September of last year, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Latin American Sea Turtles Association (LAST) launched Operation Pacuare, a campaign against poaching to protect sea turtles at Playa Pacuare in the province of Limon, Costa Rica.

The goal for this year is to expand this operation and the vigilant patrols of turtles in Moin Beach as a way to continue to honor the memory of Jairo and the important work he accomplished in Costa Rica.

We will never be silent. We will not forget. We will not stop. The life in our seas should be protected in accordance with the courageous work of Jairo and many others offering their lives for this noble cause.

Beyond the technical flaws, which prevented the court from issuing a guilty verdict, Costa Ricans know who are the culprits.

Categories: Community

Verdict Issued in Jairo Mora Case: Court Could Not Condemn the Murderers,But We All Know Who They Are

Sea Shepherd - Wed, 28/01/2015 - 00:39
Verdict Issued in Jairo Mora Case: Court Could Not Condemn the Murderers,But We All Know Who They Are

Environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval on the beach with fellow WIDECAST volunteersJairo Mora Sandoval
Photo taken by Christine Figgener
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia CommonsSea Shepherd Conservation Society deeply regrets the decision of the Criminal Court of Limon, which yesterday acquitted seven men accused of the murder of environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval.

Jairo Mora, a 26-year-old Costa Rican activist, dedicated to protecting sea turtles from poachers, was brutally murdered on May 31st, 2013 in Moin, Limon, Costa Rica.

The verdict of the Court of Limon has dismayed our organization. The murder of a young man who dedicated his life to protecting marine life should not go unpunished.

We understand that the Court issued a judgment of acquittal justified by errors which took place during the investigation of the case. However, we strongly appeal to the judicial prosecutors and investigators to not continue making such mistakes that allow murderers to kill with impunity.

The name of Jairo Mora won't be forgotten and as a tribute to his work, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society named last year one of its ships in his honor. Currently, this boat performs control operations against poaching off the coast of West Africa.

In September of last year, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Latin American Sea Turtles Association (LAST) launched Operation Pacuare, a campaign against poaching to protect sea turtles at Playa Pacuare in the province of Limon, Costa Rica.

The goal for this year is to expand this operation and the vigilant patrols of turtles in Moin Beach as a way to continue to honor the memory of Jairo and the important work he accomplished in Costa Rica.

We will never be silent. We will not forget. We will not stop. The life in our seas should be protected in accordance with the courageous work of Jairo and many others offering their lives for this noble cause.

Beyond the technical flaws, which prevented the court from issuing a guilty verdict, Costa Ricans know who are the culprits.

Categories: Community

Greece: SYRIZA’s win -- the numbers behind the victory

Links International - Tue, 27/01/2015 - 05:27

SYRIZA: 149 seats, 36.3%; New Democracy: 76 seats, 27.8%; Golden Dawn: 17 seats, 6.3%; To Potami: 17 seats, 6.1%; KKE: 15 seats, 5.5%; Independent Greeks (ANEL): 13 seats, 4.7%; PASOK: 13 seats, 4.7%; others not elected: 8.6%.

By Dick Nichols, Athens

January 27, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The victory of SYRIZA, Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, in the January 25, 2015, general election caused enormous outpouring of joy on the streets of Athens and confirmed general expectations.The final result was 36.49% and 149 seats. SYRIZA will now form government in alliance with the socially conservative, but anti-Brussels, Independent Greeks.

The “poll of polls” done just the day before the election had SYRIZA winning 37.5% and 146 seats. Exit polls taken after voting closed had SYRIZA at between 36.5% and 38.5% (146-158 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament). In the end, the radical coalition fell two seats short of an absolute majority.

That majority would most likely have been achieved if the outgoing, right-wing New Democracy (ND) government had not stopped about 100,000 18 year olds from voting. Electoral rolls are updated every February in Greece and the ND government voted down a proposal to have them updated for this poll.

read more

Categories: Community

Sea Shepherd Receives 8.3 Million Euros from the Dutch Postcode Lottery

Sea Shepherd - Mon, 26/01/2015 - 21:55
Sea Shepherd Receives 8.3 Million Euros from the Dutch Postcode Lottery for the Protection of the Southern Ocean

National Postcode LotteryAt the annual Goed Geld Gala (Good Money Gala) in Amsterdam on January 26th, Sea Shepherd received the biggest donation (8.3 million Euros) in its history. Sea Shepherd’s submitted Dream Project Stop Illegal Fishing in the Southern Ocean was awarded with the required funds to make this dream a reality. Sea Shepherd will use the donation to build a new ship, which will enable the organization to be more effective than ever in the fight against poaching on the high seas.

Since 2002, Sea Shepherd has been confronting illegal whalers and illegal fishermen in the waters surrounding the Antarctic continent. Sea Shepherd’s actions have been very successful but the fleet is aging and the vessels are lacking speed. For many years, Sea Shepherd has looked for a vessel that has the range and capability of reaching high top speeds to be the Southern Ocean Patrol flagship. To date, however, budget restrictions have made such a purchase impossible.

“Sea Shepherd will now be able to have a custom-designed ship built, capable of achieving speeds that far exceed any of the vessels in our current fleet. After researching possible ship builders for the last two years, negotiations with Dutch ship builder Damen has resulted in a blueprint of our ideal ship”, said Alex Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global.

Artists' impression, depicting the potential look of Sea Shepherd's 'dream' ship. (By Artist Damen)Artists' impression, depicting the potential look of Sea Shepherd's 'dream' ship. (By Artist Damen)

The Southern Ocean is one of the last regions of untouched natural beauty on the planet. Unfortunately we are seeing an increasing number of illegal activities that aim to spoil this pristine environment. Unregulated and illegal extraction of marine wildlife is disrupting the Antarctic eco-system and urgent action is needed.

“We are now able to proceed with the purchase of our dream ship and lift our conservation efforts to protect the Southern Ocean from illegal exploitation to the next level. We are extremely grateful to the Dutch Postcode Lottery and the people of the Netherlands for this very generous support,” said Cornelissen.

Sea Shepherd received for this project 8.3 million Euros from the postcode lotteries in the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The Dutch Postcode Lottery contributed 7.5 million Euros. Further to the Dream Project, Sea Shepherd once again received a check for 900,000 Euros from the Postcode Lottery, bringing the total donation that Sea Shepherd has received from the Lottery since 2007 to the incredible amount of 15.5 million Euros.

Categories: Community

Greece: SYRIZA wins! SYRIZA's 40-point program

Links International - Mon, 26/01/2015 - 05:38

 Emotional celebrations as SYRIZA wins the January 25, 2015, general election.

See SYRIZA's 2014 governmental program: "Greece: What a SYRIZA government will do"

For more discussion and analysis of SYRIZA's victory, click HERE.

January 26, 2015 -- SYRIZA has won a great victory in the Greek general election.
It became clear in the final days of the campaign that SYRIZA was headed for such a momentous victory. Their rallies across Greece – in town squares, factories and universities – were thoughtful and inspirational. The working class was making its mind up about SYRIZA. Now it has decided and the results are clear – this is nothing short of an overwhelming expression of the people’s will for change, by and for the people.

* * *

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Categories: Community

Eyewitness Greece: Solidarity in action -- a visit to a Solidarity4All clinic

Links International - Mon, 26/01/2015 - 04:29

Volunteers at Solidarity Clinic in Peristeri.

By Vivian Messimeris, Athens

January 25, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Vivian Messimeris is part of the Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal team covering the January 25 election in Greece. You can read more of team's eyewitness coverage of Greece HERE and HERE.

* * *

 

Today we visited one of the solidarity clinics that operates in the suburb of Peristeri. We met with some of the volunteers that work in the clinic that included two doctors as well as other activists. The clinic is staffed by 60 volunteers, including 20 doctors, and offers free medical consultations and pharmaceuticals.

Peristeri is largely a working class suburb of 400,000 people and is located in west Athens, which has a population of 1 million. Before the economic crisis most residents worked in blue-collar industry or were self-employed in small businesses.

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Categories: Community

Eyewitness Greece: Interview with Hara Petsiou, cleaner fired from Ministry of Finance

Links International - Mon, 26/01/2015 - 04:08

By Vivian Messimeris, Athens

January 25, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Vivian Messimeris is part of the Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal team covering the elections in Greece, which polls give radical left group SYRIZA a strong chance of winning on January 25. She spoke to Hara Petsiou, a cleaner sacked from her job at the finance ministry. The sacked cleaners are fighting for their jobs. You can read more of team's eyewitness coverage of Greece HERE and HERE.

* * *

Can you explain what you are protesting about?

We are cleaners from the Finance Ministry who work throughout Greece, we are not only located in Athens, but in all of Greece. We work in a range of different government buildings and offices. On September 17 (2013) we arrived to work and we were told that we would no longer be employed. Because of the Troika, I’m not sure why, but they had to retrench a certain number of public employees.

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Categories: Community

House repairs and renovation

Daniel Bowen - Mon, 26/01/2015 - 02:40

Happy Australia Day! Now I’m going to do the Australian thing and talk about real estate.

Later this year it will be ten years since I moved into this house. It’s got me pondering maintenance, repairs and a little bit of renovation.

It started when I got my stepfather, who knows more about this kind of stuff than me, to look over the place and identify what needed fixing or upgrading. He came back with a lengthy list, and did some of the smaller jobs himself. Some of the major ones I’ve now organised to get done by tradesmen:

Window repairs. Some of the wooden windows need patching up as they’re showing signs of water damage. It’ll be good to get this done before it gets worse and more expensive to fix. Some of the sash windows need additional repairs, and the same guy can look at a couple of other issues including cracking brickwork.

Windows in need of repairs

This lead me into house painting. The windows obviously need to be repainted when patched. Looking at the rest of the outside of the house, it seemed like it might be a logical time to get it all done in one hit — for one thing where the windows were repainted, they’d match everything else.

Thirdly, external blinds. This is part of my three-point plan to keep the house cool on hot days via passive cooling. The first two parts were better roof insulation, and ceiling fans. I’ve ordered three external blinds for the biggest north and west-facing windows.

Wait, do ceiling fans count as passive cooling? Not sure, but hopefully the external blinds will make a difference, by deflecting the heat before it gets into the house. At present the inside of the house can get up to the low-30s on a really hot day.

I’d heard mixed reports from the big blind company starting with V (who also own the one starting with K), and ended up with the one with the appalling radio jingle starting with B. They came out on Monday and the bloke seemed cheerful and knowledgeable. I also got him to quote on replacing a broken interior window blind.

I’m not sure I understand their system of working out a price then automatically giving you a 40% “factory discount”. If that’s done as routine, it’s not really a discount — it’s just your price. I gather V/K do something similar, but press you to agree on the day to get some/all of that discount. Must be something they just do in the blinds business.

As part of preparations, I spent some time in the garden with various implements of destruction clearing away bushes from the walls and windows to about a metre. Hopefully it’s enough to allow the coming small army of tradespeople to do their work.

I’m also steeling myself for the cost. Suddenly I find myself up for about $800 of window repairs, $2000 in new blinds, and a whopping $5700 of painting, which will drain away my savings somewhat.

But it ultimately is an investment in keeping the house shipshape, and cooler in hot weather.

(Some neighbours of mine have gone for a different plan. They’ve just moved out, in preparation for having their house demolished, and a brand new one built in its place.)

And doing a bunch of repairs and renovations at the start of the year is good, because (as will be the subject of a future blog post), I always get a whole raft of annual bills midyear.

Categories: Community

Debate on Tax and Small Government Flares Yet Again

Left Focus - Sun, 25/01/2015 - 09:40


Recent Claims by Joe Hockey that Australians pay about half their income to the Government through the tax system has once more spurred a broader debate about tax reform - and the falsehoods spread by the Conservatives and Economic Liberals to rationalise their Ideology.

Tristan Ewins

January 25th 2015

Recently  debate has arisen once more about rates of tax in this country.  Again Joe Hockey has come out with totally unfounded claims that individuals on average pay half of their income in tax.
 In response ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie has argued that in fact middle income earners pay only 11 per cent of their income in personal tax, and higher income groups only about 20 per cent.  
Peter Martin of ‘The Age’ further explains how:  “ACOSS [arrived] at the figures by including all household income in its total, including untaxed or lightly taxed…Income washed through superannuation, family trusts and negatively geared properties.”
Martin also explains how:
“The bottom one-fifth of households pay 3 per cent of their income in personal tax, the next group pays 7 per cent, middle group 11 per cent, the second-top group 15 per cent and the top group 20 per cent…
But [this] progressivity vanishes when other forms of tax are included. Including the goods and services tax and other consumption taxes such as petrol and tobacco excise, the lowest earning household pays 24 per cent of its income in tax and the highest earning household only a little more at 28 per cent.”
So the existing system is also barely progressive when taken as a whole; and the Conservatives want to dilute or reverse this even more!
And today Gareth Hutchens of ‘The Age’ has also questioned the facts surrounding Joe Hockey’s claim that increased taxation through bracket creep is ‘the only alternative’ if Labor does not support the Conservative government’s austerity agenda. 
Crucially: improper reliance on bracket creep and increases in the GST and other regressive taxes and charges – including user pays mechanisms - are not the only alternative.
The Liberals’ offensive against and all forms of redistribution rests upon their commitment to a classical liberal economic philosophy which naturalises the inequalities in wealth, income and power that arise under capitalism. Employers rather than workers are seen as ‘the real wealth creators’.  Workers are seen as freely entering into contracts with employers.   Their bargaining power as relates to skills in the marketplace are recognised; but the influence of trade unions in improving that bargaining position of workers is not. Differences in recompense based on demand and supply in the labour market are also ‘naturalised’.  Because of this ‘naturalisation’ government intervention in the economy is rejected outright – except for instance in cases where this paradigm is enforced – for instance through impositions against the industrial liberties of organised labour.  Hence the Conservatives and economic libertarians press for ‘simpler’ tax and lower tax because that means less redistribution.
There is also the question of peoples’ own liberties in their capacities as consumers. This issue is raised by the Conservatives and economic liberals and deserves a considered response.  There is the question of whether or not we are better off to determine our own ‘needs structures’ freely through consumption.
Very few socialists today would aspire to abolishing ‘the market’ in its entirety. Most socialists today would recognise the place of ‘the market’ as a medium by which workers and citizens in their capacities as consumers hold corporations accountable through the play of market signals.  Importantly, though, this entails the organisation of people in their capacity as consumers – both to improve the quality of information they can access as consumers – but also improving their market power through collective bargaining as consumers.
But there are problems with this ‘market utopia’.  Information is not perfect. Consumers are not sufficiently organised.  There are monopolies and oligopolies which minimise the effective role of competitive market forces and signals. And there is the possibility of consumers prevailing to the expense of the more poorly organised  workers. That is: the prospect of more – not less –exploitation.  
ALSO where there isintense competition there is the problem of investment in ‘the means of production’ growing so disproportionate compared with recompense through wages that the market is no longer able to absorb these costs – or provide sufficient consumption power to absorb what is produced.
But if all this is true what are the alternatives?
Firstly Labor should support a progressive restructuring of the tax system as a whole.  That must mean winding back superannuation concessions for the well-off – a good proportion out of about $50 billion in total by 2016-17. In total superannuation concessions  cost about as much the entire aged pension budget. It could also mean partially withdrawing dividend imputation (tax breaks ostensibly to negate ‘double taxation’) - justified on distributive grounds – and with exemptions for ‘small investors’.  
Further – it could entail an active restructuring of the income tax system – as opposed to ‘passively’waiting for bracket creep to ‘do its work’. ‘Passive’ reliance on bracket creep for lower and middle income tax thresholds would have a regressive distributive effect. (which is why Hockey is willing to consider it despite his preference for ‘ever smaller government’) But restructuring and altering income tax scales and rates could allow bracket creep to work for higher income earners, delivering billions while actually reducing income tax for those on low incomes. A new top income tax rate could also be established for the millionaires. And restoration of a robust ‘resource rent’ tax for mining could deliver billions; as could ‘super profits’ taxes in crucial areas such as banking. Finally: with modest increases in corporate tax we could signal our desire to end the ‘race to the bottom’ that results in effective ‘corporate welfare’.
If an incoming Labor Government succeeded in raising at least $45 billion in new Commonwealth revenue (in today’s terms) through these and other measures in its first term upon retaking government it would be in a strong position to deliver on Australian taxpayers needs in education, health, transport, communications, welfare and more.  Specifically it could fund big initiatives such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme progressively; And could also provide for another area of critical need – for a National Aged Care Insurance Scheme. Without austerity.
In response the Conservatives and economic libertarians would insist that public provision ‘rejects the market’ which is the proper arbiter of all goods and services.
 But Labor must reject such claims for several very practical reasons; as well as for the sake of economic justice.
Firstly ‘collective consumption’ as taxpayers can often secures for us ‘a better deal’ than in our capacities as isolated private consumers. Private infrastructure means user pays – which hits low and middle income citizens hardest.  It also involves higher rates of borrowing – with the cost structures passed on to consumers.  Finally it  means private profit margins and dividends – which demand that as much income be extracted from consumers as is possible. And in the case of private toll roads, for instance, can mean the exclusion of public transport investment to artificially support the particular private investors.
Competition in place of ‘strategic and natural public monopoly’ also passes on increased underlying cost-structures to consumers.  A ‘hybrid’ economic system which delivered those efficient cost structures on would mean more consumption power – not less.  Business actually gains from this. Both through cheaper infrastructure and services – but also through the increased consumption power of workers and citizens.
Hence there is ‘the bottom line’ that tax-payers would have more to spend in the areas where choice is most important as a consequence of strategic ‘collective consumption’; including ‘social insurance’ for instance.  And frankly ‘market forces’ do not necessarily make enough of a difference when it comes to roads and rail; or in the provision of water and energy; or in areas that are properly the reserve of ‘natural public monopoly’. (eg: energy, water, communications, and transport infrastructure)  Often it all comes down to a contest as to which provider can most efficiently fleece consumers with unintelligible deals and plans foisted upon people who would much rather take ‘the basics’ for granted.  And in areas like Education – ‘market choice’ just sorts us out on the basis of our capacity to pay.  That is, on the basis of class. And that is unfair.
But if ordinary people secure a ‘better deal’ through collective consumption in these areas that frees up more money for determining our needs structures in the areas where that really counts.  For instance, including but not limited to the consumption and other participation in culture, sport, fitness, social activity and art.  
The time has come to question neo-liberal shibboleths around ‘small government’ and ‘the market’.  An alternative is possible which delivers a better deal for the general public in our capacities as workers, citizens and consumers.  But which has also learned from the mistakes of the old socialism which thought it could supersede ‘the market’ entirely.
 
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Greece: Is SYRIZA radical enough?

Links International - Sun, 25/01/2015 - 06:11

SYRIZA's closing election rally, Athens, January 22.

Click HERE for more on SYRIZA and the election in Greece.

By Ed Rooksby

January 22, 2015 -- New Left Project, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- It would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but a party of the radical left is on the cusp of power in an EU country. The latest opinion polls indicate that SYRIZA will triumph in the Greek national elections to be held on January 25 and although it may not win an absolute majority in parliament it would (assuming it can find coalition partners) certainly be the dominant force in any coalition government that emerged.

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Eyewitness Greece: Looming SYRIZA win alarms elite; Big rally: 'Hope is on its way'

Links International - Sat, 24/01/2015 - 14:16

Click HERE for more on SYRIZA and the election in Greece.

By Dick Nichols, Athens

January 23, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In the days ahead of Greece's January 25 general election, all signs point to victory for the Alexis Tsipras-led Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA). The big unknown is whether the party will win an absolute majority in the 300-seat Greek parliament, freeing it from the need to negotiate with minority parties and ending the chance of a further national poll in case negotiations fail.

All Greek political actors are behaving as if SYRIZA will win. The campaign of the ruling New Democracy (ND) of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has been lackluster, with almost no ND propaganda to be seen on the streets.

On January 16, Ta Nea, the daily paper closest to the government, finally conceded a two-page interview to Tsipras, an admission that SYRIZA might actually have an important role to play in Greek politics.

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Pablo Iglesias: 'It is called SYRIZA in Greece, in Spain it is Podemos'

Links International - Sat, 24/01/2015 - 11:46

Click HERE for more on SYRIZA and the election in Greece.

January 23, 2015 -- StoKokkino.gr, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Alexis Tsipras was joined on stage by Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spanish leftist party Podemos. Supporters waved Greek flags and placards reading "Change Greece, change Europe!", while loudspeakers blared lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song, "First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin".

"The wind of democratic change is blowing, a change in Europe, of a change in Greece", Iglesias told the rally. "It is called SYRIZA in Greece, and in Spain it is called Podemos."

Earlier Iglesias gave an interview to the radio station StoKokkino, in which he underlined that the forthcoming electoral win of SYRIZA will be a promise to the majority of Europe's people, because "SYRIZA, like Podemos in Spain and Sinn Fein in Ireland, is fighting first of all for democracy.”

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Gerry Adams wishes SYRIZA leader ‘good luck’ in Greek election

Links International - Sat, 24/01/2015 - 09:45

January 22, 2015 -- Cairde SinnFéin Australia, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has spoken by phone with Alexis Tsipras, leader of the SYRIZA party in Greece. Speaking after their conversation, Adams said he had wished Tsipras and SYRIZA well in the Greek general election on January 25.

Adams said: “I spoke this morning with Alexis Tsipras, leader of SYRIZA. I expressed Sinn Fein’s solidarity with the Greek people as they struggle against the disastrous consequences of the austerity policies of the Greek government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

“On my own behalf and that of Sinn Féin I extended good luck and best wishes to SYRIZA in Sunday’s general election in Greece and expressed our full support for a European debt conference.

“The austerity policies of Ireland's Fine Gael/Labour Party government and its predecessors have inflicted widespread damage on Irish society and hardship on our citizens.

“A debt conference opens up the real prospect of debt being significantly reduced for a number of states, including Greece and Ireland. In this state that would free up more money for economic stimulus and funding for vital public services, including health.

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Colin Fox: 'SYRIZA’s victory will be loudly cheered by working people in Scotland '

Links International - Fri, 23/01/2015 - 13:28

Click HERE for more on SYRIZA and the election in Greece.

September 23, 2015 -- Stokokkino.gr, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- -- Scotland is also in the grip of austerity today says Colin Fox, leader of the Scottish Socialist Party (pictured).

"Scotland is also in the grip of austerity today. The right-wing Conservative Party/Liberal Democrat coalition government in London have attacked the standard of living of working-class people. They have cut public spending on our health, education and social services by many billions of pounds. Britain also has unprecedented levels of debt as a result of bailing out greedy, reckless private banks with huge sums of public money.

"While our economic and social conditions have not declined as badly as Greece, working-class people are nonetheless struggling to maintain their living standards. The average family is £50 per week [or 70 euros/week] worse off today compared to 2008. And this despite our economy returning to growth, albeit weak growth. People in Scotland are angry at the London government for making workers families pay for a financial and economic crisis the bankers in the City of London caused.

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