Egypt opens Rafah border with Gaza

Egypt has reopened its Rafah border with the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, allowing people to cross freely for the first time in four years following the downfall of ex-President Hosni Mubarak. About 400 Palestinians gathered at the border on Saturday in eager anticipation of the move to head southward. Among the first to cross the reopened border post were two ambulances ferrying patients from Gaza for treatment in Egypt as well as a minibus carrying a dozen visitors. Cairo says the Rafah crossing will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. local time every day except Fridays and holidays. 

Jubilant Palestinians also expect Cairo to allow the importation of services and goods including construction materials into the impoverished coastal sliver.

Women, children as well as men aged over 40 will be allowed to enter Egypt freely, but men aged between 18 and 40 will still require a permit. 

Gaza Strip’s sole gateway to the outside world will remain closed for trade. However, the opening of the border crossing is expected to provide a major boost to the enclave’s economy. 

The former Egyptian regime was under pressure from the public and some Arab countries for refusing to open the crossing even during the Israeli deadly offensive into Gaza in 2008, in which nearly 1,400 people lost their lives, mostly women and children. 

The 22-day Israeli offensive deteriorated the already dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza as many civilian infrastructures were knocked out during the invasion. Gazans have ever since been facing harsh conditions with minimal supply of food, water, fuel, and electricity.

Egypt kept the crossing largely closed after Israel in 2007 when Israel imposed a siege on Gaza after Hamas took over the territory after a power struggle with Fatah, the party of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. Israel launched a war on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009. The siege has left nearly one and a half million Palestinians in dire need of basic supplies. 

Enforcing the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, the regime of the ousted, US-backed ruler of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, had refused to open the Rafah crossing since June 2007. 

The reopening of Rafah is likely to rattle the Israeli regime, which earlier said it was “worried” by Egypt’s plans to reopen the crossing. 

The UN has called the siege illegal and repeatedly demanded that it be lifted. The new Egyptian government has been keen to review its policy on Gaza since Mubarak was overthrown in February.

UWE’s Plans To Join Top (Costing) Universities.

Sources have revealed that the University of the West of England will almost certainly set a tuition fee of £9,000 a year as of 2012, this increase in fees will apply to all full-time UK and EU students. In addition to this UWE plan to continue raising their fees each year in line with inflation. Putting the price tag of a three year degree at a sizeable £27,000, comparable with that of the United States. The new maximum fee cap has raised questions over whether students from less affluent backgrounds will be put off going to university. As a response to these concerns government guidelines state that universities must funnel £1 in every £9 taken in fees back into funding for low-participation, or ‘priority’, groups. This equates to £1000 in support for a less affluent student, for each one who pays the full amount. Groups being specifically targeted for greater inclusion by UWE include: Students from Black and Minority Ethnic groups; disabled students; students from groups that are underrepresented in the professions (law, medicine etc). A bursary system will still exist at UWE to assist less well off students, allocated on a sliding scale of individual requirement as it is now although, according to the UWE website, exact figures have not been released yet. 


It has been suggested that UWE has “used bursaries as marketing tools” in the past, as a way of attracting students from less affluent backgrounds and with the number of people that will be able to pay their fees up front becoming smaller than the number that are able to pay the previous fee of £3,250 per year this means only one thing; greater front-end borrowing from the state. An article in The Guardian on 20th April stated, “The Treasury is faced with a funding black hole because the initial cost of students’ fees is borne by the government.” This figure is exacerbated by the predicted loan default rate of 30%, meaning that just under a third of fee loans will never be recovered by the state. Given that the Treasury’s coffers are infamously depleted at the moment, the impact of an elevated level of student borrowing could only be offset in a finite number of ways. Increasing the national debt through borrowing until the system becomes more economically viable, or decreasing the number of university places, as suggested by the Labour opposition in The Guardian on 19th April. “Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour party, warned that at least 10% of university places for undergraduates would have to be cut to fund the coalition’s ‘unraveling’ tuition fee reforms. This is the equivalent of removing 36,000 full-time places each year.”


Another way to side-step the public spending issue, as suggested by Universities minister, David Willetts, would be to allow those who can afford to, to simply buy their place at university. Much in the same way that international students do. Given that the non-subsidised annual fee for international students can be anything up to £26,500 (Oxford medical degree, years three to six), the wealthy will be able to simply buy their way into a more prestigious institution and by association a higher bracket of earning upon graduation. Is this the face of an evolving level of social inclusion and mobility that we have heard so much about of late? Mr Willetts has alleged that more people paying full and unsubsidised fees would mean a greater surplus of cash to aid those from a less affluent background to go to university. Indeed, postgraduate courses have long had the option to accept privately funded students onto PhDs, who would otherwise have failed to qualify for state-sponsored research. Accusations of ‘cash-for-qualifications’ have been met with suggestions that the applicant must still complete his or her body of work to a certain standard. But if others are unable to afford even an attempt at this, does this not equate to poorer students being held to more rigorous academic standards before their studies have even begun? Whether Mr Willetts higher education economic model will translate to a reality is a subject of some contention and therefore a model that his Liberal Democrat colleagues will take some convincing of. The idea smacks of doors opening to the affluent and privileged, yet may well hold the answers to the question of how to fund poorer students. Harvard University in the United States charges a whopping $38,000 (£23,000) per year, yet uses some of its surplus to offer generous bursaries and scholarships to its less wealthy applicants.

The new salary threshold and rate of loan repayment for English universities, of 9% of anything earned over £21,000, is an improvement on the previous rate set by Labour at the time of the last fee rise. But has done little to stem the tide of criticism of what was labeled by The Economist as an
 “Unseemly scramble by most English universities to raise annual tuition fees to the maximum level permitted by the state.” If claims by Mr Miliband regarding a reduction in places are to be believed, then one could surmise that it will be students from lower performing schools and colleges, in less affluent areas that are squeezed out first. UWE’s high level of inclusion for UK students may yet be marred by a national reduction in university places.


26th May 2011

Guest:
Lea from Manchester Zapatista Solidarity Group
Email: manchester.zapatista.solidarity@gmail.com
Web: http://ukzapatistas.wordpress.com

Playlist:
Kortau -Nicaragua Sandinista
Robb Johnson -Zapatista Coffee -Irregular Records
Panteon Rococo -La Carencia -Ubersee Records
Manu Chao -Luna Y Sol -Ark 21
Saul Williams -September 12th -Ninja Tune
The Plugz -Revolution
Sonic Boom Six -Ya Basta!
Crass -Birth Control Rock n Roll -Crassical Collection
Anarka and Poppy -If It Dies We Die -Overground Records
Johan Johanson -Freedom From Want And Fear -130701
MDC -Someone’s Behind You Again
Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros -Arms Aloft
Sham 69 -George Davis Is Innocent
NIS -Liberta Senza Colore -Righteous Anger Records
Warpath -In The Spread Of Madness -Righteous Anger Records

Defeat For Spanish Socialists As Protests Rage On.

Spain’s ruling Socialist Party took a battering in elections last Sunday. Amid anger at the failing economy, the centre-right Popular Party (PP) won 37% of the vote to the Socialists’ 28%, and nearly all the 13 regions up for grabs. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero conceded defeat but ruled out early general elections. There was a shock result in the Basque country, where a new radical separatist alliance beat the Socialists.

Meanwhile, thousands of young protesters remain camped out in squares across the country. What began as a sit-in in Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square a week ago has turned into a national protest movement popularly known as 15-M. About 30,000 people were estimated to have occupied the central square in the run-up to the vote. The protests, which have also taken place in cities including Barcelona, Valencia, Seville and Bilbao, have so far been peaceful. Demonstrators defied a government ban on political protests on the eve of the election. On Sunday, protesters in Puerta del Sol voted to stay in the square until at least 29 May.

In Barcelona, health workers, bus drivers, communication workers and firefighters organised in independent unions have taken part in the protests, but it has been young people at the centre of the struggle—as they suffer high rates of unemployment and attacks on education as a consequence of the government’s cost-cutting.

The power of young people in such movements is not a new thing, in France in 2005, school and college students joined workers on the streets fighting for their pensions and against the appalling CPE employment law. In Greece, students and young people have made up big parts of the general strike demonstrations and have occupied their universities. In Britain, the student movement and the occupation of Tory HQ at Millbank last year changed the pace of the fightback against the government. And in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya and Yemen, young people are at the heart of the resistance to their rulers. In every country, the people fighting for a better world take inspiration from each other.

The Empire Strikes Back: Tesco Return To Stoke’s Croft

A month has passed since Tesco’s became victim to the riots that filled Stokes Croft on April 22nd and with that passing so has the period in which discussions would be held to decide the much opposed stores future. Unsurprisingly on May 24th saw the supermarket giant re-open complete with some minor adjustments; a new poster here, an extra security camera there, most noticeable though was the reduction in the stores opening hours, which are now 7am-6pm instead of 7am-11pm. This return to business as usual followed a neighbourhood meeting held by local community group “St Paul’s Unlimited” during which great concerns were expressed about the way in which the police acted on the night of the riots. Also during this meeting a woman describing herself as a “lone voice” showed support for Tesco before claiming that sadly she had mistakenly believed that the riot was part of the campaign to stop Tesco opening. Also in attendance that evening was Ashley ward’s first Green Party Councillor, Gus Hoyt who said that the media has framed the debate as people who are against the riot are equally for Tesco. It’s a much bigger picture than that he continued before calling for an independent public inquiry.

Moving away from Tesco it was discussed how plans are being drawn up to make squatting more difficult and less legal. One of Bristol’s most prominent squats, Westmoreland House earned a mention as it was recently announced that the site could soon be bought using money from the Homes and Communities Agency. This prompted a mention that campaigners are calling for greater transparency in UK planning law so communities are made more aware of new businesses in their area. Before long though discussion returned to Tesco and how their presence in Stokes croft would be detrimental to local businesses with the Golden Hill Branch (less that two miles away) cited as a perfect example of the damaging effect Tescos would have. The question still on everybody’s lips is what will come of Tesco, Stokes Croft. It is imagined that the answer is not a healthy trade, it has already been seen that Tescos have provided misleading figures with regards to the stores success. For the prominent ‘No Tesco in Stokes Croft’ campaign there is still much being done including winning the right to appeal against the decision not to grant a Judicial Review and the moving forward of plans to set up a People’s Supermarket. One this is for sure, this is not over.

19th May 2011

Guests:
John Player Specials

Playlist:
Astronauts -Nurse
Eastfield -Rugeley Crime Stoppers
The Very Things -Conqueror
John Player Specials -Parasite (Live In The Studio)
John Player Specials -I.T. (Live In The Studio)
Harijan -Portland Street -TNS Records
John Player Specials -? (Live In The Studio)
Sublime -Four
John Player Specials -Hippy Bashing (Live In The Studio)
Zounds -Biafra
Pansy Division -The Summer You Let Your Hair Grow Out
The Smiths -Latest Flame/ Rusholme Ruffians
The Destructors -Bombs Are Metal
Andy T -Vivisection (Live in Bristol)
John Cooper Clarke -Nothing
Leatherface -Belly Dancing Stoat
Aidan Jolly -We’re All In This Together
TV Smith -Us And Them
Violent History -Unknown Track
Pine Barrens -Product

Obama supports Palestinian return to 1967 boarders.

Palestine received backing from the worlds highest office today as President Barack Obama endorsed their major demand for the borders of its future state to be based on 1967 borders, before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, prodding Israel to accept that it can never have a truly peaceful nation that is based on “permanent occupation.” The comments, which come ahead of his meetings tomorrow with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mark Obama’s most comprehensive response to the Arab uprisings to date. Speaking at the State Department, he called for the first time for the leader of Syria to embrace democracy or move aside, though without specifically demanding his ouster.

 

The aims of his address were clear, show definitive support to the protesters who have swelled from nation to nation across the Middle East and North Africa, whilst convincing America that US involvement in such unstable countries halfway around the world is in their interest, too. Obama said the United States has a historic opportunity and the responsibility to support the rights of people clamoring for freedoms, and he called for  “a new chapter in American diplomacy.” Obama said the “shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region.” The president noted that two leaders had stepped down — referring to Egypt and Tunisia — and said, “more may follow.” He quoted civilian protesters who have pushed for change in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. On Syria, Obama said President Bashar Assad must lead his country to democracy or “get out of the way,” his most direct warning to the leader of a nation embroiled in violence. Obama said the Syrian government “has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens.” He praised the Syrian people for their courage in standing up to repression in a bloody crackdown that has killed hundreds. He continued to say that while each country in the region is unique, there are shared values in the push for political change and that while there will be setbacks accompanying progress in political transitions, the movements present a valuable opportunity for the US to show which side it is on.

 

But which side is that? The president ignored many of the most divisive issues separating the two sides. He did not speak about the status of Jerusalem or the fate of Palestinian refugees. And, he did not discuss a way to resolve Israel’s concerns about a Hamas role in a unified Palestinian government, telling the Palestinians that they would have to address the matter themselves. The speech was in some ways notable for what Obama did not mention. While critical of autocracy throughout the Middle East, he failed to mention at the region’s largest, richest and arguably most repressive nation, US ally Saudi Arabia. Nor did he discuss Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally that has a peace deal with Israel. Also left out was the United Arab Emirates, the wealthy, pro-American collection of mini-states on the Gulf. And he gave little attention to Iran, where US attempts at outreach have gone nowhere.

 

On the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the president cautioned that the recent power-sharing agreement between the mainstream Palestinian faction led by Mahmoud Abbas and the radical Hamas movement that rules Gaza “raises profound and legitimate” security questions for Israel. Netanyahu has refused to deal with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. “How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Obama asked. “In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”

19th May 2011 What’s On

Saturday 21st May

10.00am-6.00pm: Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair
Bank Street Arts, 32-40 Bank Street, Sheffield
http://www.bookfair.org.uk

8.00pm:  Aidan Jolly, Sai Murray and guest Simon Prince on Sax and Flute.
A rhythmical and part improvised combination of performance poetry, folk and jazz, riffing and blending around contemporary themes
The Art Lounge, upstairs at the Beehive Inn, 67 Albion Road, New Mills, SK22 3EY

Tuesday 24th May

7.45pm: Manchester Film Co-op show “Erasing David”

Upstairs at Kings Arms, Bloom Street, Salford £3/ £2

Filmmaker David Bond lives in the UK, one of the most intrusive surveillance states in the world. In this documentary, he decides to find out how much private companies and the government know about him by putting himself under surveillance and attempting to disappear a decision that changes his life forever.

He is tracked across the database state on a chilling journey, raising issues about the meaning of privacy in the UK – and the loss of it.

As always, the films starts at 7.45 and will be followed by discussion.

Entry to film £3 or £2 for unwaged, low waged, students or OAPs.

Printed programmes for the full series on surveillance will be available at the screening.

www.manchesterfilm.coop

Saturday 28th May

11am at Oxford Road station

Red Flag Walk: The Irish in Manchester
This walk will visit sites connected with Little Ireland, Peterloo, Irish Nationalism, the trade union movement and the Manchester Martyrs. It will finish on Bridge Street.

Fees £6.00/ £3.00 unwaged. The walks will last 2 hours.

 

 

Saturday 11th June

11am at Queen Victoria’s statue on  Piccadilly

 

Red Flag Walk: Irish in Manchester
This walk will visit sites connected with Chartism, Irish Nationalism,  clashes between Catholic and Protestant,  the Civil Rights movement and Irishtown. It will finish on Rochdale Road.

 

Fees £6.00/ £3.00 unwaged. The walks will last 2 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 3rd July

7.45pm: Oi Polloi
Gullivers, Oldham Street

If you have an event you would like us to mention on Under the Pavement email

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Arab Spring Brings Forth European Summer

There is no denying that 2011 has been the year for revolution, what has been seen across the Arab world has been amazing and now the spirit spreads further. On May 15th dozens of thousands of Spanish citizens of all ages have taken to the squares of almost 50 cities within the 15M Movement, which defends “a true democracy now!” and points the finger of the difficult economic and social situation to the “bipartisan system”- PSOE and Popular Alliance. The participants in these camps are mainly unemployed, young precarious, workers without a contract who fail to earn a thousand euros per month, immigrants, teachers, workers who have been equally loosing social rights and purchasing power, retired. Although a young camper testified that since Monday, “the average age of participants has risen”.

On the ground, the people have self-organized themselves into various committees, so that the common life of citizens is not adversely affected by their presence in the square. From garbage collection, to separation of materials for recycling, to the Internet functioning, to security, to distribution and promotion of initiatives, the volunteers take care of their tasks, often almost without being noticed. The frequent rains that have fallen did not demobilized those gathered; and despite the convocations running in the social networks establishing 8pm each day as the moment for the concentration and for a minute of a “silent scream” against the crisis, that is normally followed right after by a storm of applauses, thousands of people pass by the Puertas del Sol throughout the day.

The unemployment rate in Spain is above 20 percent of the population of which more than 40 per cent aged under 25 years; the austerity measures imposed by the government by the troika’s decision (IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank) even without the known shenanigans of the bailouts as in Portugal, Ireland and Greece, have gradually come to attack and dismantle labour rights and the social security system step by step.

“The political class lives faraway from the citizens, we have the right to indignation”, declared one of the protesters while taking care of one of the tents. At his sides, companions stressed that the criticisms to the politics did not represent contesting the party system, but an appropriation of democratic mechanisms by two parties that took over the State. One of them, echoing the Movement M15 slogans, added that the movement does not defend abstention, quite the contrary, appeals to voting. “What we say is ‘do not vote these two parties in’”, he added. “If you prevent us from dreaming we will prevent you from sleeping”, stressed Juan López, a slogan that has become popular across this movement. Despite the lack of reporting done by the mainstream global media the word is spreading fast with camps being set up in solidarity all over the world.