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John Sulston, 1942-2018

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John Sulston, who died on 6 March, was a pioneering biologist and a passionate life-long advocate for socialism.

Sulston spent his formative years working at the famous Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, sometimes called the “Nobel Prize factory” because of the number of its scientists who achieved that award. Indeed Sulston himself was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his role in the discovery of “cell death”, the regulated process that helps to shape an embryo as it develops, and to prevent uncontrolled cell growth in the adult organism.

‘We don’t want your thoughts and prayers’

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On 20 April, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, students throughout the US will walk out of school again to demand action over gun control. On 14 March thousands left their classes together at 10am. Then on 24 March they took the fight to the White House.

The movement that has burst onto the stage is militant, informed, and shaped by previous struggles. The last walkout was called by the Women’s March youth branch.

Editorial: Gearing up for battles this spring

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Could a spectre be haunting Europe once again? As we go to press millions of public sector workers in France — including teachers, civil servants, air traffic controllers, hospital workers and rail workers — are striking and marching together in protest at President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed “reforms” (read: pay freezes, job cuts and wholesale attacks on conditions).

This one-day action is set to be followed by three months of strikes by rail workers, who plan to strike for two days out of every five from 3 April to 28 June.

Germany’s grand coalition boosts right

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The Nazi-led Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) is poised to become Germany’s main opposition party thanks to the political bankruptcy of leaders of the country’s Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The SPD reached a deal with Conservative CDU leader Angela Merkel last week, reviving the “grand coalition” of the previous four years, which was a prime reason for the far-right’s rise.

Northern Ireland Executive impasse

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Talks to re-establish the Northern Ireland Executive after more than a year’s stalemate have collapsed. The Guardian editorial put the blame unequivocally on Sinn Fein: “The darker truth here is that Sinn Fein has chosen to weaponise the language question for political ends, less to protect minority rights than to antagonise unionists.”

This assessment could not be further from the truth. An agreement had been reached by all parties which included a proposed Irish Language Act.

Anxiety among Egypt’s leaders

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Campaigners internationally have welcomed the news that human rights lawyer Mahienour el-Massry and trade unionist Moatasem Medhat were released from an Egyptian prison on 16 January.

They had both been jailed in November 2017 for allegedly breaching Egypt’s repressive anti-protest law, for “insulting the president”, and for thuggery during the protests over the transfer of Egyptian islands Tiran and Sanafir. The charges against the duo were dropped after an appeal, while three other activists were tried and charged in absentia.

Linguistic juggling can’t hide Brexit woes

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Brexit has become a classic example of how public discourse is designed to obscure meaning. As May’s “triumph” at reaching the “end of the beginning” begins to look somewhat premature, metaphors of divorce have become stretched to breaking point. Donald Tusk, president of the EU Council, clearly auditioning for the role of marriage guidance counsellor, sets the ball rolling: “Breaking up is hard, but building a new relationship is harder.”

What chance a fight over pay this year?

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The cost of living is higher and the squeeze on earnings is back with a vengeance, but pay in the public sector and most parts of the private sector is still being held at below-inflation levels, as it has been for the best part of a decade. The Tories reacted to near-defeat in the general election in June by shifting their position slightly — increases of just 1 percent became 2 percent for some groups.

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