Around the World

News from around the globe impacting our world.

The Battle for Misrata Continues. Forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi pounded the rebel held city of Misrata on Sunday, hours after the Libyan government claimed its troops had pulled back from the besieged city in order to allow tribal leaders try to negotiate a political resolution. More from the The Guardian. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports more on the use of unmanned American drones in the conflict suggesting that they may provide a "psychological edge" in the fighting.

Army Joins Crackdown in Syria. Al Jazeera reports that the Syrian Army has been called into action to crackdown on anti-government protests in the southern city of Deraa and the Damascus suburb of Douma. Communications have been cut off and, for the first time, the military has become directly involved in attempts to quell the on-going protests against the regime of Bashir al Assad.

Clashes in the South Sudan. South Sudan's army (SPLA) claimed today killing 57 militia members during Saturday's clashes in Jonglei state. The militia forces were to integrate into the SPLA before July 9 when the South will secede from the North after voting overwhelmingly to separate in a referendum and it is not clear what set off this latest round of fighting. All Africa has the full report.

Alternative Vote Referendum Strains UK Coalition. The already strained relations between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Britain's coalition government reached a new low yesterday amid an increasingly bitter campaign ahead of next month's referendum on the voting system. The story in The Independent.

Hundreds of Taliban Escape. Some 500 Taliban fighters, including some high level commanders, have escaped from a detention centre in Kandahar via a 320 meter tunnel. According to a Taliban statement the tunnel was not dug by the inmates but by fighters outside the prison. The tunnel took 5 months to complete. A full report including video from Al Jazeera.


Around the World

News from around the globe impacting your world.

Egypt Detains Mubarak and Sons. The interim government of Egypt has detained former Hosni Mubarak, who apparently suffered a heart attack, and his two sons. A statement posted on Facebook by Egypt's top prosecutor read "The prosecutor general orders the detention of former President Hosni Mubarak and his sons Gamal and Alaa for 15 days pending investigation after the prosecutor general presented them with the current state of its ongoing investigations." More from Al Jazeera.

UK Unemployment Drops. The latest unemployment figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the under-25s and women workers are bearing much of the pain in Britain's jobs market, while average earnings continued to lag behind inflation. But economists were encouraged by an unexpected fall in the total number of people out of work, which cut the UK's jobless rate from 8 percent to 7.8 percent. Still one in five Britons under the age of 25 are unemployed. The full details in The Guardian.

Opposition Leaders Arrested in Uganda. Opposition politicians, including Dr Kizza Besigye and Mr Norbert Mao, were arrested yesterday morning and charged hours later with alleged incitement to cause violence and failure to obey lawful orders. The opposition in Uganda has mounting a walk-to-work campaign every Monday and Thursday in solidarity with Ugandans suffering under the weight of sharply rising fuel and commodity prices. President Yoweri Museven has close ties to the American Christian Right. All Africa has more on the story.

The Gambia Calls on the US to Prosecute Terry Jones. The government of the small West African country of the Gambia has called on US goverment to prosecute as soon as possible, Terry Jones, a pastor in Florida church for recently burning a copy of the Qur'an. In a strongly worded statement indicating the Gambia government's position on Monday, Ebrima O. Camara, the secretary general and head of the civil service on behalf of the Gambia government described the act as heinous, bigotry and provocative. The full text of the protest note can be read at All Africa.

Inflation in India Darkens Outlook. With the latest figures show Indian inflation galloping at 8.31 percent, Kunal Kumar Kundu of the Asia Times looks at the policy options and their implication for the fast growing Indian economy.

Libya Group Calls for Qaddafi's Exit. The newly formed international "contact group" on Libya calls for Colonel Muammar Qaddafi to stand down as the country's leader. The BBC has the full story.

Austerity, Just Another Word for Privatization

The sheer obscenity of this is beyond belief. From The Guardian:

A government efficiency drive aimed at slashing spending in town halls and boosting productivity in the health service is likely to deliver billions of pounds of new business for private companies, the Guardian has learned.

Outsourcing firms are preparing for a bonanza of local authority contracts to provide everything from bin men to back office bureaucrats and have reported a doubling in the number of deals on offer this year. Private health companies are also expecting to earn billions of pounds from the planned overhaul of the NHS in which GPs would take over responsibility for spending £70bn.

Executives at Capita, the UK's largest outsourcing firm, said the number of opportunities for local authority contracts has already doubled this year and they see the healthcare market as "vast and potentially lucrative".

Richard Marchant, head of local government strategic partnerships at Capita, an FTSE-100 company which already works for councils in Harrow, Swindon, Southampton and Sheffield, said: "A major problem for the public sector is, we feel, a significant opportunity for us. Opportunities are at their highest level in two to three years. This year we have probably seen a 100% increase in opportunities [compared with 2009] and I suspect we will see another 50% increase in the following year."

Such an increase could deliver a £60m boost to Capita's revenues while councils are anticipating a 30% budget cut over the next four years. Other firms vying for town hall contracts include Serco and Mouchel.

The private sector boom comes amid the toughest financial climate for public services in a generation, and despite continued assurances from ministers that reforms to public services are aimed at achieving greater value for money and improving efficiency. Councils are braced for the biggest cuts to their budgets since 1945 and the growth in the market for privatised services has provoked anger that private shareholders, rather than taxpayers, are likely to benefit from efficiency savings that come from cuts.

Nor is it just British firms that are hoping to cash in on the chipping away of the British state. American firms want a slice of the NHS pie.

The US health giants Humana, UnitedHealth, Aetna and MCCI are all understood to be interested in healthcare contracts that could flow from a new commissioning system in which GPs may be given the power to buy in services from any health group or hospital that is properly accredited.

Minnesota-based UnitedHealth has already become a key adviser to primary care trusts and is running two GP practices in Derbyshire and three in London.

"There could be a bonanza for private companies if these changes go according to plan," said Jonathan Jackson at the stockbroker Killik & Co.

Privatisation of healthcare is being opposed by the unions.

"Private health already has a small role in the NHS [providing 4% of services], but we don't want it to grow," said Karen Jennings a spokeswoman for Unison, the public services union.

"The danger is that private companies will become so powerful that they will be able to determine what services are provided and how much they charge."

How Nick Clegg sleeps at night is beyond me. "If the coalition succeeds, by 2015 Britain will be a more liberal nation, a nation of stronger citizens living in a fairer society," Deputy Prime Minister Clegg said in a speech on Friday at the Demos think-tank. Clegg went on to say that his party, the Liberal Democrats, was united behind the spending cuts and tax rises in the budget. "This was a coalition budget, not a Conservative budget. The Liberal Democrats stand full-square behind the budget judgement," he said.

Meanwhile, opinion polls show support for Clegg's Lib Dems falling to as low as 15 percent compared with 24 percent in the May 6th election. Just to note that tax rise was an increase in the VAT to 20 percent from 17.5 percent, a rather regressive tax that affects the poor more. Since 1839 the Liberals have been battling Conservatism in Britain but Nick Clegg opts to enable David Cameron's budget that hits the poor hardest and emasculates the state. 

Even The Economist noted that "whatever the coalition’s intentions, the coming years will be painful for the poor." In his budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne set out plans to entirely eliminate the UK’s record £155 billion deficit within the five-year lifetime of this parliament. Achieving this target will mean five years of austerity involving cuts in welfare benefits, public services, jobs, pay and pensions. While the VAT increase is expected to raise £13 billion, Osborne also announced a total of £11 billion in cuts to welfare spending.

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