100,000 Protest in Dublin Over Irish Economy

0002165c10dr.thumbnail.jpgOver 100,000 people marched in Dublin, Ireland Saturday to protest the government’s handling of inflations, job loss and economy. The march was organized by Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), and many of the demonstrators were protesting plans to impose a pension levy on public sector workers.

 The government said the levy was


and reflected

the reality that we are not in a position to continue to meet the public service pay bill in the circumstances of declining revenue.

Sally-Anne Kinahan, Ictu’s secretary general, told the BBC:

Our priority is about ensuring that people are looked after, the interests of people are looked after, not the interests of big business or the wealthy

The Itcu is offering a ten-point plan which is

not perfect but that it was the best offer that it [the Government] would get

said Ictu general secretary David Begg. Additionally Begg called for the nationalization of the banks and said that

if the taxpayer was taking responsibility for the cost of the €300 million in loans for the ten members of the so-called “golden circle” who were involved in investing in Anglo Irish Bank that the people were entitled to know their identities at the very least.

Also marching were working from the private sector where the economic crisis has been deeply felt. Delegations from Waterford Crystal and SR Technics, two especially hard hit companies, led the march which began in Parnell Street and moved to Merrion Square.

A collapsing real estate market and a huge downturn in construction have helped fuel Ireland’s recession, along with worldwide market downturns.

The president of Ictu, Patricia McKeown called for action at the ballot box where power can be most felt:

If our Government and the elected politicians are not prepared here and now to pledge that they will act now and act on our behalf and act on the proposals we have placed before them then you must be prepared to deny them even a single vote and to send that message out loud and clear.

In a statement issued this morning, the Government said there was a considerable amount in Ictu’s Plan for National Recovery that was "entirely consistent" with its own agenda–and then went on to discuss how necessary pension cuts were, a completely inconsistent  point to the trade unions’ stance.

One demonstrator told the BBC:

 I’ve worked all my life, I’ve never broke the law, never walked out on strike. Instead I’ve went to work and done my job. I’ve a mortgage to pay, I’ve children to put through school, and now I’m being told I have to take cutback, after cutback, after cutback.

Ireland’s employment figure–based on people receiving benefits–rose to 326,000 last month, the highest number since record keeping began in 1967. The country, once one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union, officially fell into recession in 2008.

Hey, Mr. President, America Has Some Ideas!

eleggua.thumbnail.jpgSo there’s this great thing on change.gov called the President’s Briefing Book, where real folks can write up an idea which gets voted on, and the most popular ideas will be brought to Obama.  Lots of them are really good, and show the wide range of concerns held by the American people from light rail transportation to the Employee Free Choice Act.

 There are a lot of things I’d like to see implemented in this country, a lot changes made, and from reading what I write you pretty much know that marriage equality is a huge issue for me, and there are several suggestions in the briefing book including the repeal of  DOMA. I voted on ideas important to me and then I…uh, wrote up one myself.

Rather than be redundant and draw away from the many articulate ideas I share with others who had posted their  (far less typo-ridden) thoughts, I wrote something new something I hadn’t really gone into before, which like Civil Marriage Equality, won’t cost the government very much money, won’t raise taxes and will benefit millions of citizens: Opening scientific medical research exchange with Cuba. I know it’s a tiny weird idea, but Cuba’s CIM, the Center of Molecular Immunology, has made some amazing strides in immunology research projects  focused on cancer immunotherapy, especially the development of molecular vaccines. Yeah, cancer vaccines.

In the United States cancer is the second leading cause of death, with some half a million people dying every year from that disease. Cancer knows no political boundaries, the immune system is not a political entity, and scientific research–like art–is both inspiration and hard work.

But in 2003 the  Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") established a regulation stating that publishing works–articles, short stories, research papers–from Cuba, Libya, Sudan and Iran was in violation of the embargos imposed on those countries, and required a license in order to publish anything from poetry to scientific articles. Those who did not comply with the regulation could have been fined up to $50,000 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A group of publishers and editors quickly filed suit and the matter was thankfully resolved in 2007. Now I’d like to see that embargo further lifted to allow scientists from the US and Cuba to  inspire and work together in laboratories.

Opening the door for Cuban researchers to work with their American compatriots in the field of immunology allows for the exchange of ideas and information that can help speed cures and vaccines, not only for cancer, but for diabetes, hepatitis C, diabetes, allergies and HIV/AIDS. Unlocking the secrets of the immune system can lead to lowered health care costs; better, cheaper drugs in the pipeline; and and overall growth of scientific research. And yes, an end to cancer and other immune system disorders.

 So have fun in the Briefing Book, write up your own ideas, vote for what’s important to you and enjoy this new way of making our thoughts and concerns known to our new administration.

WTF? Springsteen CD Exclusively at Wal-Mart?!

I thought Bruce Springsteen was pro-labor. Then I read that The Boss’ Greatest Hits will be released exclusively by Wal-Mart. Okay, its only his greatest hits, which you can download anyway song by song if you have the patience. But still, wtf?

Some of my illusions about Springsteen were destroyed at a concert in the mid-80s when an usher told me that every night he pulled a girl out of the audience at exactly the same time for “Dancing In the Dark”–naive me, I thought that was like, spontaneous.

Could Springsteen’s exclusive release be a reward for Wal-Mart’s attempts at reform? Okay, the mega-retailer has made some effort, but not from the goodness of their own heart. They were forced.

In May, 2008 the mega-employer expanded their anti-discrimination policy to included transgendered employees, a proposal made by shareholders, and opposed by the WalMart board of directors.   And today the New York Times reports:

Wal-Mart said  it would pay at least $352 million, and possibly far more, to settle lawsuits across the country claiming that it forced employees to work off the clock…In a case still pending, Wal-Mart has appealed a 2005 verdict in which a California jury ordered it to pay $172 million for making employees miss meal breaks.

But Wal-Mart spokesman Dave Tovar told the Associated Press in August:

We believe the Employee Free Choice Act is a bad bill and we have been on the record as opposed to it.

Way to support diversity and the unions, Bruce.

And Wal-Mart’s health coverage sucks. The company covers around 50% of its employees, while nationally, 64% of workers at very large firms (5,000 employees or more) receive their health benefits from their employer.

Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart Executive Vice President for Benefits, for the Wal-Mart Board of Directors, wrote in a 2005 memo:

Specifically, our coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance.

That’s taxpayer money. And its morally reprehensible. Surely WalMart, the world’s largest retailer with its gianormous profits, could kick down more cash to cover the cost of employee health care.

And don’t get me started on Wal-Mart’s manufacturers.

The Boss could have found a much more socially responsible way to release his Greatest Hits.