Andrew Stone

On Guard for Strikebreakers

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Train guards began their first national strikes since privatisation at the end of last month in response to persistent attempts by train operators to diminish their safety role.

Strikes are under way at nine of the companies that have refused to implement rulebook changes recommended in a study commisioned by fellow train operator GNER. The regulator, the supposedly neutral Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), has responded by funding the recalcitrant train operators £10 million to take on the unions .

School's Out Against War

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In the past few weeks tens of thousands of school students have made an extraordinary entrance into political activism. On the day war broke out waves of walkouts, sit-ins and protests against the attack on Iraq swept the country, completely confounding journalistic stereotypes of 'apathetic youth'.

A series of wildcat student strikes began on 28 February, when 800 Glasgow school students walked out of classes to shut down an army recruitment office. On the same day about 1,000 school students in Northern Ireland and 400 more in Wales also struck.

Still Producing Hot Air

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'Green Monday', went the Downing Street spin last month as Tony Blair introduced the government's new energy white paper. Unfortunately there was enough hot air in it to power a turbine.

The media headlines were filled with a government commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This waste product--caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal--is one of the major causes of the 'greenhouse effect'. This warming of the earth's atmosphere produced a 0.6°C average temperature rise last century, and this could increase by a further 6°C by 2100-- leading to devastating floods, hurricanes and droughts--unless urgent action is taken. Unfortunately, the white paper was vague on urgent action.

United Nations: Coalition of the Killing

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The next few weeks will see a mixture of bribery and coercion as George Bush and Tony Blair attempt to veil military self aggrandisement in the language of coalition.

Whether it takes place through a 'coalition of the willing' or under the cover of the UN, the manoeuvres that have characterised the build-up to war should dispel any illusions of an 'international community' of our rulers.

Reasons to be Fearful

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Bush and Blair are desperate to justify war on Iraq. Andrew Stone demolishes their lies one by one.

Saddam Hussein is the new Hitler.

This facile comparison, which has also been applied to General Galtieri, Colonel Gaddafi, Slobodan Milosevic and Osama bin Laden in recent years, has become so tired that even many hawks are now embarrassed to use it. A new trend is to insinuate this false parallel with references to 'appeasing' Saddam Hussein.

Anti-War Demonstration: A Day to Change the World

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In a time when politicians and advertisers have devalued the word 'historic' to another piece of hyperbole, 15 February looks set to reclaim it with full force.

On that day hundreds of thousands of people will protest in London against war on Iraq. As if potentially the largest demonstration in British history was not remarkable enough, it takes place as part of an international day of action encompassing millions of protesters in 57 cities as we go to press.

The scale of the mobilisation has forced the media to acknowledge 15 February in a way that it has not done for a demonstration in years. This has included a Guardian leader column and an active campaign and petition by the 'Daily Mirror'.

Counterpoint

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Review of 'The Pianist', director Roman Polanski

When the Nazis invaded Warsaw in September 1939, 360,000 of the city's 1 million inhabitants were Jewish. By the time the Nazis retreated in January 1945 there were only 20 Jews left alive. 'The Pianist' is the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, one of those survivors.

Pensions: From Final Salary to the Final Straw

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When is a fraud not a fraud? This is a question that millions of people will be asking themselves as increasing numbers of employers reduce, or default on, pensions that workers have been paying into for years.

One of the major causes of the growing pensions crisis is the closure of 'final salary' schemes. Fifty six percent of companies which have reviewed these in the past five years have closed them to new applicants according to consultants Watson Wyatt, and many existing employees have been switched to more risky 'money purchase' schemes. On average bosses pay half into these schemes what they would to final salary pensions.

Music Time

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Review of the London Film Festival

Amid the choking fumes, overcrowded tube and ludicrous house prices the London Film Festival is a welcome reminder of the benefits of living in the capital. A chance to see many films weeks, if not months, before their general release, it features works from most nations and every genre.

Student Fees: No Working Class Children Need Apply

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When New Labour proclaims its concern for the low paid it is usually a sign that it's about to attack higher education.

In 1997, announcing the scrapping of the student maintenance grant and, contrary to a pre-election pledge, the introduction of tuition fees, we were asked why cleaners should subsidise students. Now, as it plans to renege on last election's manifesto pledge not to introduce top-up fees, higher education minister Margaret Hodge asks, 'should the dustman continue to subsidise the doctor?'

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