Judith Orr

The economy - don't believe the hype over recovery

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Beware talk of "green shoots" in the economy. Even if they prove to be real, job losses will continue to rise for some time to come.

That was the message of a new report on the recession from the TUC. It compares data from the current recession with the 1980s and 1990s and states, "Unemployment increases were far greater in the 1980s than the 1990s, but in both recessions unemployment levels continued rising for at least a year after GDP started to increase and remained above pre-recessionary levels for years to come."

Northern Ireland

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When Barack Obama announced George Mitchell as his "peace envoy" in the Middle East there was praise for his choice of the "peacebroker" of Northern Ireland (NI). Yet only two months later the peace was shattered when two British soldiers and then a police officer were killed by Republican groups.

New Labour's warmongers proceeded to pour vitriol on the "men of violence" in a flood of hypocrisy. The British media revelled in the opportunity to push Sinn Fein to condemn the shootings. This they duly did. The sight of Martin McGuiness denouncing the attacks alongside police chief Sir Hugh Orde and the Unionist first minister Peter Robinson was a stark reminder of the extent of Sinn Fein's integration into the state.

Playing a part against injustice

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Oscar winning actor Julie Christie talks to Sabby Sagall and Judith Orr about her work and political commitment and how she feels about the media treatment of women in the public eye in the age of celebrity culture.

Your first film was Billy Liar in 1963. It was about a woman, Liz, who wanted to challenge conventions and live her own life. Were you aware in your own life about women's changing expectations at that time?

I had absolutely no understanding of the social historical meaning of anything then, let alone of the part I was playing. She was a beatnik, not yet of the 1960s. It's just after the war. Billy represented the fears and repression of post-war Britain and Liz the very beginning of a new culture which youth called "freedom".

Lehman Sisters?

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A steady stream of recent articles blames "macho behaviour" for the financial crisis. Judith Orr challenges the assumption that women would do it better.

Would the economic crisis have happened if women had been in charge - if instead of Lehman Brothers it had been Lehman Sisters? This has been a recurring argument in the pages of analysis of recent events.

Defiance

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Nechama Tec, Oxford University Press; £7.95

This is the book on which the recent movie of the same name was based. Like the film it has its weaknesses. But the film helped reveal this extraordinary story of a group of Jewish partisans who defied the Nazis and survived deep in the forest of Western Belorussia during the Second World War. Unfortunately, Nechama Tec has an irritating style that would be more akin to a romantic novel. She should have let the material speak for itself because what she has unearthed about the Bielski partisans is utterly fascinating.

Revolutionary Road

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Director Sam Mendes; Release date: out now

This is a story about two people who rejected the American dream. The scenario of the mother at home with two children in a suburban house with a white picket fence while the father commutes to a corporate job was the thing of their nightmares. Instead, as young and idealist lovers, everything seemed possible. Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) planned to break conventions and live their dreams.

Interview: A structural crisis of the system

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István Mészáros won the 1971 Deutscher Prize for his book Marx's Theory of Alienation and has written on Marxism ever since. He talks to Judith Orr and Patrick Ward about the current economic crisis.

The ruling class are always surprised by new economic crises and talk about them as aberrations. Why do you believe they are inherent in capitalism?

I recently heard Edmund Phelps, who got the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics. Phelps is a kind of neo-Keynesian. He was, of course, glorifying capitalism and presenting the current problems as just a little hiccup, saying, "All we have to do now is bring back Keynesian ideas and regulation."

Economic crisis: making us pay

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To read the papers in recent weeks you might be forgiven for assuming that car workers' wage levels and public sector pensions caused the financial crisis currently wreaking havoc across the globe.

In an unrelenting effort to make working class people pay for the crisis, the fat cat bankers are forgotten as workers in the US, Britain and across the rest of Europe are told the only way out of the crisis is to accept pay cuts, three-day weeks and unpaid "holidays". One proposal to 2,200 workers at the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port was that they take a nine-month "sabbatical" on 30 percent of their pay. How anyone is meant to pay their mortgage and support themselves and possibly a family on 30 percent of their pay is not examined.

Trouble the Water

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Directors: Tia Lessin and Carl Deal; Release date: 5 December

When producers/directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal (best known for Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine) first met Kimberly and Scott Roberts at a Red Cross centre in Louisiana two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, they were about to give up on a planned documentary.

They had intended to follow the Louisiana National Guard, just back from Iraq to deal with the post-hurricane aftermath, but were blocked by army handlers from filming.

John Maynard Keynes - the second coming

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Politicians and economists across the world are dusting off their copies of the works of economist John Maynard Keynes. Suddenly the free market needs rescuing and state intervention appears to be the only solution to the crash.

Financial cupboards that were declared bare for every other demand - public sector pay, pensions, education and public housing - are suddenly bursting with borrowed billions to bail out the system.

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