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SALMA YAQOOB confronts Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith on poverty, austerity & and the government’s labelling of those on benefits as “scroungers” | BBC Question Time, 12 June 2014

"My full-time job is actually mental health. I have seen myself, how people have become suicidal. I have had to counsel people who have lost their loved ones who said they did not want to be a burden on their own families because the support has been taken away. These are very, very real issues. And it’s [cuts to benefits] being done in the name of austerity. We’ve had this drive of people being called scroungers when actually half of the people on benefits are pensioners, our pensioners in this country are not scroungers. 60% of people on benefits are in work, but the wages are not paying enough to feed their families.

Yet I’m sitting next to Iain Duncan Smith, who quite happily labels poor people as scroungers, when you claim £39 for a breakfast, like you can’t afford your own breakfast, when you live on your wife’s estate, and have taken £1.5 million of taxpayers money. That’s what I call scroungers, that’s what I call shirkers.”

So glad that Yaqoob said this. Like so many, I’ve been disgusted by the vilification of poor people under the current British government, and the political impunity the Lib/Cons have enjoyed as they wage their war on the British welfare system and the people it used to assist. Lord knows, back in 2012 that was basically all my tumblr was about

I’m elated that Yaqoob says what she came to say despite being interrupted by three different white men in under two minutes. See how they flail about trying to shut her down? Trying, and failing to close ranks. Their language intends to belittle her intelligence, accuracy and question her political maturity. “What a lot of nonsense” says Iain Duncan Smith again and again, as she backs him into a corner. The dimwit David Dimbleby, whose sole public function is to maintain the status quo, (in a very gentlemanly fashion) orders Yaqoob to answer the question. Surely a person with his journalistic experience knows that politicians reframe the question they’re asked and give the answer they came to give? It’s alright when white men with party backing/influence/money do this very thing, but apparently not when Yaqoob does. I’m sure the question was boring anyway. 

But she doesn’t let them to dismiss her! I cannot count the number of times I’ve been talked over and talked down to by white British men. My statements informed by education, research or experience are interrogated, picked apart, evengoogled when similar statements by a white man would be accepted as truths. Apparently, women of colour’s speech is always awaiting verification. I love that Yaqoob refused to succumb to all those familiar silencing tactics, and so quickly articulated a powerful case against austerity.  

Bust the budget! Thousands of Australians protest Abbott’s austerity | US Uncut

85,000 people from across Australia marched against austerity on Sunday in the nation’s largest economic protest in 30 years, but the media refuses to cover them. SHARE to break corporate media’s blackout of this historic uprising. 

Prime Minister Tony Abott’s budget includes cuts to schools, disability care, unemployment benefits, and also raises the pension age. Demonstrators want to stop him from transforming Australia’s economy into the US model with record high corporate profits, repressed wages, and rampant inequality.

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Four Years of Greek Austerity in Forty Pictures

This coming May will mark four years since the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund took control of the Greek economy. Although massively important, it’s an anniversary not many people are going to celebrate.

As more of a memento than a celebration, photographer Dimitris Michalakis has put together a selection of 40 photographs that he’s taken over the past four years. The series depicts the social impact of austerity in Greece, and serves as a snapshot into almost half a decade dominated by headlines about social polarity, debt, and economic crisis.

More photos

What would you do to keep your baby from starving? Perhaps the same as Lucy Hill. At the start of October, the 35-year-old mother from Kidderminster was broke. After missing an interview at the jobcentre, her disability benefits had been stopped – which left her, her partner and her toddler of 18 months without anything to live on. So she went to the local Spar and stole a chicken and some soap powder.

Two weeks later, Hill was up before the magistrate. Her police interview noted that she said “sorry to the shop … but had no money … and was in a desperate situation”. She was ordered to pay compensation, a fine, costs and a surcharge: a total of over £200 to be taken off someone who’d only committed a crime because she had no money. Her solicitor John Rogers remembers that the mother’s chief worry was that the social services might  find out and take away her baby.

After running me through the details, Rogers sighs. Cases like this keep coming his way, he says: “They miss an appointment so their benefits are sanctioned [docked or stopped altogether], so they have no money, so they steal.” His local office now handles “at least half a dozen” such cases each month – up from almost nothing a year ago.

He’s just one lawyer in one post-industrial town, describing a national policy: of starving the poor into committing crime. Nothing is accidental about this regime.

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Anti-austerity marches take over Quebec streets

Thousands of people stormed the streets in Montreal and Quebec City this past weekend to protest against austerity measures proposed by the Quebec national government.

The march was organized by Collectif refusons l’austérité, a group that includes several union and student movements such as L’ASSÉ and Centrale des syndicats du Quebec.

Around 100,000 Montreal protesters descended on the downtown streets, making their way to Place des Festivals from René-Levesque Boulevard.

The anti-austerity movement inspired its own hashtag on Twitter: #manif29nov.

"Austerity is the fruit of [Parli Liberal Quebecois] neoliberalism that doesn’t represent 30 per cent of us," tweeted Arlette Richer using the #manif29nov hashtag.

Continue Reading.

NIH: We could have developed a vaccine for Ebola if it weren't for 'budget cuts'

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Oh the austerity!

As we recently reported, the left is officially blaming Republicans for the spread of Ebola. You know, sequester and such. It doesn’t matter that the NIH budget has nearly tripled since 2007, the NIH can’t possibly be expected to do its job with the paltry sum of $31 billion the taxpayers give it every year.

But let’s see what the NIH has spent some of that money on within the last couple of years (with links to sources):

  • $386,000 to massage rabbits
  • $3,200,000 to study drunk monkeys
  • $484,260 for studying the effect of hypnosis on hot flashes
  • $666,905 (pg 87) on how watching TV reruns might be good for you
  • $325,525 to conclude that wives would be happier if they could calm down faster after arguments with their husbands
  • $900,000 (pg 100) on a study determining that male fruit flies do indeed like female fruit flies
  • $548,731 (pg 127) on a study that suggests that heavy drinking in thirties is linked with immaturity
  • $702,558 on a study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam
  • $423,500 on why men don’t like to wear condoms
  • $1,500,000 to study why lesbians are overweight

In just a few minutes, I was able to find nearly $10 million of wasted NIH funds that could have gone toward the creation of an Ebola vaccine. But yeah, it was those draconian cuts that are the real culprit.

Subprime loans aren’t just for homes: A quarter of people who took out auto loans last year are considered subprime, meaning they have bad credit scores, typically lower than 640. And like defaulting homeowners, life’s not getting easier for them. In a recent report, The New York Timesrevealed that many borrowers with low credit ratings have to endure more than just sky-high interest rates if they want to drive a car off the lot. Now they must also allow the repo man to ride with them at all times.

This repo man isn’t a flesh-and-blood person occupying one of the car’s seats, though. He’s a technological extension of the lender — called a starter interrupt device —installed in the vehicles of subprime borrowers. The device allows lenders to track and monitor the location of the vehicle — both in real time and over time — and provides them with the ability to remotely shut off vehicles if, say, the borrower falls behind on payments (sometimes by just a few days) or drives outside an approved area.

There is no escaping debt collectors who can, with the push of a button on their smartphones, disable your car until you cough up payment. As one collector told the Times, “I have disabled a car while I was shopping at Walmart.” The Times provided a number of stories from people who had their cars surprisingly stop working because lenders switched them off for one reason or another. They range from startling — one woman was temporarily stranded at a gas station with her children — to mind-boggling: Another woman’s car shut off while she was driving, “sending her careening across a three-lane Las Vegas highway.”

The danger the starter interrupter poses to borrowers and other drivers is problematic in its own right. But these technologies of control are more than just instruments of aggressive lenders that want to ensure they get the expected return on their investment; they are also a natural product of our terribly exploitative financial system, which is always churning out innovative ways to squeeze the socioeconomically disadvantaged.

The political climate has clearly shifted in favor of creditors, which can demand near absolute certainty that they can extract payment from debtors. As starter-disabling devices proliferate, that certainty is becoming more important than your certainty that the car in front of you isn’t going to suddenly decelerate and veer off the road. Or that a once mobile vehicle idling at a stoplight won’t become an immobile hunk of metal blocking the road.

The goal is to cut out those spots of inefficiency where the disadvantaged might have been able to momentarily enjoy a brief respite from the usual struggles of life — whether it’s floating a check for a few days or having some wiggle room with a loan payment’s due date. We know, abstractly, that wealth is the shadow side of debt. The car starter interrupter heightens the tension, making the lender’s life more secure by making the borrower’s life more precarious.

Naturally, this is not how the lenders would frame their ever-expanding powers. As the Times reports, “Lenders and manufacturers of the technology say borrowers consent to having these devices installed in their cars. And without them, they say, millions of Americans might not qualify for a car loan at all.” So everything is rosy, because borrowers give their consent as a term of the loan and in exchange they get access to a vehicle — granted at an exorbitant cost when you factor in principal plus interest.

The basic rationalization here is the logic of unintended consequences. Reformers may help currentsubprime borrowers by limiting digital repossession strategies, lenders say, but futureones will be hurt, because lenders will charge more to make up for defaults they could have avoided if only they could disable cars remotely. Ordinarily, an abuser who argues, “If you limit my options now, I’ll just be more brutal in the future,” wouldn’t be persuasive. But somehow, among a prominent subset of free-market economists, it’s a winner.

Let’s take that unintended-consequences logic seriously, in the other direction. What happens if remote monitoring and disabling become a deeply rooted practice in car lending? And what if the repossessed cars are worth less than the value of the loan on them? Should we allow further contingency planning for lenders — say, automatic garnishment of wages? Electric shock devices implanted in the skin for gentle reminders to pay your bill and not drive outside the approved area? These might really cheapen the cost of credit.

Those possibilities will, of course, be dismissed as a slippery slope — even though a new gadget called the Pavlok wristband already offers worrywarts the chance to be shocked if they miss deadlines. And the auto lenders’ defenders will treat their predictions of rising credit costs due to regulation as infallible science — even though mortgage rates appear to be affected little, if at all, by certain state laws declaring mortgage debt nonrecourse.

So it’s hard not think of the libertarian tough-love stance here as a rhetorical veneer, rationalizing and exacerbating an exploitative system that strips away privacy, autonomy and dignity. An early version of these devices was used to help pet owners track and manage their animals, and its origins speak volumes about the power dynamics implicit in its deployment. Paternalism propels tracking of people as well as pets. Lenders and collectors cynically marshal the language of fairness, equality and opportunity to cast these technologies — which ensnare and control those who are already marginalized — as necessary tradeoffs if (poor) people want to gain the privilege of freedom (i.e., a vehicle).

If only the starter interrupter were an isolated case, then all we would need to do is resist its spread and regulate its use. Problem solved. Alas, things are not so easy.

The device is beneficial to us in at least one way, though: It’s a stark representation of the near future, in which such technologies of control continue to proliferate and become the norm. And not just among poor people, who have been harnessed with intrusive systems of surveillance and control for a long time.

Back in 1990, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze saw the writing on the wall, saying in an interview with Antonio Negri, “We’re moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people but through continuous control and instant communication.” This transition to control societies — in which people are entangled in a web of systems that continuously keep track of and analyze their actions and have the power to grant or deny freedoms of, say, movement or access — corresponds with the rise of computerization.

The examples of technologies that fit the trend Deleuze describes are varied and increasing. There are biometrics, such as facial recognition, that create new capacities to monitor, monetize and manipulate people; insurance companies that take advantage of the Internet of Things (objects embedded with sensors and networked) to more intrusively surveil and discriminate against clients; and everyday appliances receiving smart upgrades that come with effective abilities for social engineering. The starter interrupt device is simply a more in-your-faceexample. And the same logic might soon be applied to people’s homes. Electronic locks are starting to be used in apartments and houses, thus opening the opportunity to remotely or automatically lock out delinquent debtors until they pay up.

Our transition toward living in societies of control is well underway. The consequences raise fundamental issues of justice. No one proposed putting starter interrupters on the cars of CEOs of bailed-out banks, lest they fail to repay government largesse. And such degrading, invasive tactics are sure to creep up the social ladder to burden middle class or prime borrowers after they’ve been accepted as standard solutions in subprime contexts.

A first step toward fighting against these types of devices would be to regulate their use by putting strong restrictions on the reasons for their installment, the type of data that may be collected, how that data is stored, who may view the data and when vehicles may be remotely shut off. While regulating individual technologies is important for curbing their effects, it can’t be the endpoint. We should be careful to not let reform become a rationalization for technologies of control. Merely fighting to make the process of imposing swift, brutal punishments more fair has a tendency to normalize the punishments. Rather, we must always keep in mind that the real problem is the system itself and its expansive powers for exploitation. Without focusing on ways to restrain and undermine these systems, we are likely to just see the continual development of perhaps even more inhumane innovations or strategies for imposing control over and extracting value from people.

Everyone is talking about protests in Hong Kong and The U.S, but lets no forget Europe, due to Austerity cuts, corrupt governments and the failing of political parties to put people before profit, this is our modern Europe.

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Rome, Italy

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London,England

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Glasgow, Scotland

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Catalonia 

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Brussels, Belgium

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Madrid,Spain

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ITS TIME TO SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, THERE IS A REVOLUTION THAT CAN’T BE STOPPED.

The school of 450 students only had a nurse one day a week. Poverty kills. Capitalism kills. We will not be able to ‪#‎BringBackOurChildren‬ who die from budget cuts and inequality.

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A 7-year-old student died suddenly after becoming ill at a city public school, district officials said. There was no nurse at Jackson Elementary School at the time the child became ill, spokesman Fernando Gallard said. The school has a nurse every Thursday and every other Friday.

Tens of thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday afternoon in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel.

An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster. This protest is going largely ignored by the media.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/21/protest-march-austerity-london-russell-brand-peoples-assembly

Poorest areas in Britain hit 16 TIMES harder by budget cuts than richest areas

The 10 most deprived councils are down an average of £782.10 per household since 2010. At the other end of the scale, the 10 least deprived councils have lost just £48.

The logical conclusion, the Tories don’t believe they can ever win these seats, so they use them as pawns to sacrifice at will. They did this with Scotland over the Poll Tax, and Liverpool after the Toxteth riots.

Conservatives don’t serve the nation, they serve themselves.

Air Force Grounds Its Lockheed F-35s After Fire | Bloomberg 

The U.S. Air Force today grounded its fleet of F-35 fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) as a safety precaution after a fire on one of the planes forced an aborted takeoff.

The temporary suspension of flight operations applies to the Air Force’s 45 “A model” planes. The Defense Department didn’t direct a halt to tests of the Marine Corps and Navy versions of the jet, known as the Joint Strike Fighter.

The grounding was the latest setback for the F-35, the costliest U.S. weapons system, which is being built even as it’s still being developed. The order was issued after an emergency at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on June 23, when a fire in the rear of one plane forced the pilot to abort a takeoff.

“As a precautionary measure, the Air Force has decided to temporarily suspend all F-35A operations until it is determined that flights can resume safely,” the Air Force said in a statement. “This is not an uncommon practice following a mishap. It ensures the safety of our crews and our aircraft so we can determine there is no fleet-wide issue that needs to be addressed.”

The cause of the Eglin incident remains under investigation, Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today.

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