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Thu, 07 Dec 2023
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Two-Day General Strike Hits Greece, International Airport Affected

© Reuters
Greece will be shut by another 48-hour general strike organised by the trade unions, as the Pasok ruling party and prime minister George Papandreou try to convince parliament to support the second austerity package due to be passed on June 29 2011.

All public transport except for the Athens metro system will be shut on June 28-29, and public services will also be disrupted. The strike will affect buses, trolley buses, the tram, trains, the suburban railway and the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway. Additionally, air traffic controllers are to join the industrial action from 8am until noon and once again from 6pm until 10pm, the Greek daily Kathimerini reported.

The Greek government will attempt to pass a second round of austerity measures on June 29 to qualify for another bail out from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.


Gone With the Papers

I visited the Hartford Courant as a high school student. It was the first time I was in a newsroom. The Connecticut paper's newsroom, the size of a city block, was packed with rows of metal desks, most piled high with newspapers and notebooks. Reporters banged furiously on heavy typewriters set amid tangled phone cords, overflowing ashtrays, dirty coffee mugs and stacks of paper, many of which were in sloping piles on the floor. The din and clamor, the incessantly ringing phones, the haze of cigarette and cigar smoke that lay over the feverish hive, the hoarse shouts, the bustle and movement of reporters, most in disheveled coats and ties, made it seem an exotic, living organism. I was infatuated. I dreamed of entering this fraternity, which I eventually did, for more than two decades writing for The Dallas Morning News, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor and, finally, The New York Times, where I spent most of my career as a foreign correspondent.

Newsrooms today are anemic and forlorn wastelands. I was recently in the newsroom at The Philadelphia Inquirer, and patches of the floor, also the size of a city block, were open space or given over to rows of empty desks. These institutions are going the way of the massive rotary presses that lurked like undersea monsters in the bowels of newspaper buildings, roaring to life at night. The heavily oiled behemoths, the ones that spat out sheets of newsprint at lightning speed, once empowered and enriched newspaper publishers who for a few lucrative decades held a monopoly on connecting sellers with buyers. Now that that monopoly is gone, now that the sellers no long need newsprint to reach buyers, the fortunes of newspapers are declining as fast as the page counts of daily news sheets.

2 + 2 = 4

'Benevolent Sexism' is the last thing feminists should be worrying about

© Getty
I have, with some personal difficulty, now plodded my way through the turgid text of the report on perceived sexism by Julia Becker and Janet Swim, in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, which has caused a stir with its identification of a syndrome called "Benevolent Sexism". The study's full, throat-clearing title is: Seeing the Unseen: Attention to Daily Encounters with Sexism as a Way to Reduce Sexist Beliefs.

"Benevolent Sexism" is a form of patriarchal control designed to promote sexist attitudes in a pseudo-friendly way. Manifestations of it - as identified by the authors - include calling women "girls" but not men "boys"; believing that women should be cherished and protected by men; helping a woman choose a laptop computer in the belief that it's not the sort of task for which her gender is suited; and complimenting a woman on cooking or looking after children well because that is behaviour especially suited to a woman.


Russia to cut off electricity to Belarus at midnight over debt

© RIA Novosti. Anton Denisov
Russia to cut off electricity in Belarus at midnight over debt
Russia will cut off electricity supplies to Belarus on Wednesday until Belarus repays its 1.2-billion ruble ($43 million) debt, a spokesman for Russia's electricity export monopoly Inter RAO said on Tuesday.

Russia prolonged until Tuesday morning the deadline for Belarus to pay off its electricity debt for April and May, threatening to cut off supplies if it does not, but no payment has been made.


Dealing With Assange and the WikiLeaks Secrets

© Jenny Morgan (left) and Daniel Gordon (right)
This past June, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, phoned me and asked, mysteriously, whether I had any idea how to arrange a secure communication. Not really, I confessed. The Times doesn't have encrypted phone lines, or a Cone of Silence. Well then, he said, he would try to speak circumspectly. In a roundabout way, he laid out an unusual proposition: an organization called WikiLeaks, a secretive cadre of antisecrecy vigilantes, had come into possession of a substantial amount of classified United States government communications. WikiLeaks's leader, Julian Assange, an eccentric former computer hacker of Australian birth and no fixed residence, offered The Guardian half a million military dispatches from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. There might be more after that, including an immense bundle of confidential diplomatic cables. The Guardian suggested - to increase the impact as well as to share the labor of handling such a trove - that The New York Times be invited to share this exclusive bounty. The source agreed. Was I interested?

Comment: In short, Wikileaks were fed documents that they believed to be from a true 'whistle-blower' when in reality they were very likely from a US (or other) government source that wanted to create the impression that big governments can still be called to account in this world. The Wikileaks documents have provided little if anything in the way of an exposé of the truth of what has been happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the seedy depths of agencies like the CIA. Wikileaks therefore checks all the boxes of a 'limited hangout'.


UK: Major Strike Looms After Talks With Government Fail

A strike by hundreds of thousands of teachers, lecturers, civil servants and other public sector workers is set to go ahead on Thursday after negotiations failed.

Union leaders were unable to reach an agreement with the Government in a row over pensions and spending cuts.

Up to 750,000 workers will walk out for 24 hours, closing thousands of schools and colleges in England and Wales and disrupting Government departments, courts, driving tests and job centres.

The unions had called for a "serious response" from ministers but one leader said the discussions were a "farce".

See the full list of which unions are striking and when

Officials from the TUC and several trade unions met Cabinet Minister Francis Maude and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander - but the talks failed.

Further negotiations between the two sides are expected to take place in the coming weeks.

The ministers insisted the talks at the Cabinet Office in London had been "constructive".

The walkout is set to hit thousands of schools

Cell Phone

Bearded Mickey Mouse Cartoon Causes Stir in Egypt

© unknown
Egypt’s tycoon Naguib Sawiris is the executive chairman of Orascom Telecom Holding (OTH) and a Founding Member of Al Masreyeen Al Ahrrar political party.
An Egyptian Christian telecom mogul has angered Islamic hard-liners by posting an online cartoon of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie in a face veil.

The ultraconservative Islamists, known as Salafis, called the cartoon posted by Naguib Sawiris on Twitter a mockery of Islam. They launched an online campaign calling on Muslims in Egypt to boycott Sawiris' mobile phone company Mobinil. Shares of Mobilnil and Orascom Telecom, which Sawiris founded, both fell Monday on the Egyptian stock exchange.

Sawiris, who is also a politician, promotes a secular Egypt. He owns media companies and after Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11, he launched a political party that calls for separation of state and religion.

After the cartoon posted a few days ago stirred complaints on Twitter, Sawiris tweeted an apology on Friday and claimed he was joking.

"I apologize for those who don't take this as a joke; I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry," he tweeted.

But new Facebook groups cropped and quickly gained more than 60,000 followers, calling for a boycott of his widely used cell phone company.

Named "We are joking Sawiris," the Facebook group said: "If you are really a Muslim, and you love your religion, boycott his projects. We have to cut out the tongue of any person who attacks our religion."


US: TSA OKs Asking Old Woman to Remove Diaper

© unknown
U.S. airport security agents did the right thing in making an elderly woman with cancer remove her adult diaper for a patdown, the overseeing agency said.

The Transportation Security Administration "cannot exempt any group from screening because we know from intelligence that there are terrorists out there that would then exploit that vulnerability," TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz told the Northwest Florida Daily News of Fort Walton Beach.

Jean Weber, of Destin, Fla., told the newspaper the humiliation her 95-year-old mother went through was "something I couldn't imagine happening on American soil."

She filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA, and plans to file other complaints this week, she said.

Her mother, in the final stages of leukemia and wanting to fly to Michigan to be with family, was stopped in her wheelchair at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport's security checkpoint June 18, Weber said.


US: Muslim Woman Sues Abercrombie & Fitch Over Hijab

© The Associated Press / Eric Risberg
Hani Khan, a former stockroom worker for Abercrombie & Fitch Co. who was fired for refusing to remove her Muslim headscarf, listens to a question during a news conference in San Francisco, Monday, June 27, 2011. Khan is suing the clothing retailer in federal court, saying she was illegally fired after refusing to remove her hijab.
A former stockroom worker for Abercrombie & Fitch Co. sued the clothing retailer in federal court Monday, saying she was illegally fired after refusing to remove her Muslim headscarf while on the job.

Hani Khan said a manager at the company's Hollister Co. store at the Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo hired her while she was wearing her hijab. The manager said it was OK to wear it as long as it was in company colors, Khan said.

Four months later, the 20-year-old says a district manager and human resources manager asked if she could remove the hijab while working, and she was suspended and then fired for refusing to do so.

It's the latest employment discrimination charge against the company's so-called "look policy," which critics say means images of mostly white, young, athletic-looking people. The New Albany, Ohio-based company has said it does not tolerate discrimination.

Still, Abercrombie has been the target of numerous discrimination lawsuits, including a federal class action brought by black, Hispanic and Asian employees and job applicants that was settled for $40 million in 2004. The company admitted no wrongdoing, though it was forced to implement new programs and policies to increase diversity.


US: Prep School Teacher Busted for Kiddie Porn Stash Begs for Mercy, Gets 6.5 Years in Jail

© Jefferson Siegel for News
Jefferson Siegel for News
John Thomas, who was caught with over 9,000 pieces of kiddie porn, leaves Manhattan Federal Court after being sentenced.
A prep school teacher who downloaded thousands of kiddie porn images pleaded for leniency Monday because he was "no monster" -- but a judge sentenced him to 6½ years in jail.

As his mother and sister looked on, John Thomas, 28, told a Manhattan federal judge he'd never been in trouble and even read a letter one of his grade-school students wrote him.

The judge said he was only fooling himself.

"You were a monster, it's just that you were successful in hiding it," Judge Kevin Duffy said, noting that no parent would let Thomas teach their child if they had known the truth about him.