French workers keep fighting against Macron austerity


This 5 December 2018 video says about itself:

A nationwide strike brought much of France to a halt on Thursday as unions kicked off a massive protest against a pension overhaul by President Emmanuel Macron, which they say will force millions of people to work longer or face curtailed benefits.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

French pensions strike enters second day as unions call for mass protests on Tuesday

SCHOOLS, transport and tourist attractions around France remained closed in many areas today as a mammoth public- and private-sector strike against attacks on pensions continued.

Following Thursday’s action, in which most public services were paralysed as over 800,000 workers marched against President Emmanuel Macron’s bid to restructure pensions, trade unions called for a second day of action to be held next Tuesday.

In certain services, such as the Paris Metro, the strike has been extended to Monday.

Trade union leaders say the action is open-ended and that they will not rest until the government backs down on plans it has not yet agreed to publish, but which unions say will mean a longer working life for most and a smaller pension.

Left-wing union federation CGT’s confederate secretary Catherine Perret said: “Everyone on the streets on December 10 for a new day of strikes, actions and protests. Workers have made their point — it is a question of [the government] withdrawing the reform project and opening negotiations.”

Though Mr Macron has stayed aloof — getting aides to brief the press that he is “calm and determined” — ministers, including those for health and education, have met trade union leaders for talks having been spooked by the scale of the action, which polls show is backed by around 60 per cent of the French public.

Sud-Rail trade union leader Christian Mahieux said that “because we do a socially useful job, when this work suddenly stops it is a real inconvenience” but praised the “strong support and understanding” striking rail workers had received from the public.

He said trade unions were determined to repeat the victories they won against neoliberal government attacks by three weeks of strike action in 1995 and by the two months of social unrest in 1986-7.

Commuter Eric Dao said the strike made him late for work but “it is justified because it is necessary to find better social solutions.”

At Paris’s Balzac school, where teachers struck for a second day, they released a joint statement saying the action “concerns all employees in the public and private sector and, later, our students.

“Pensions should be a definitive sign of respect for accomplishing years of work, which are often laborious and annoying,” they stated.

This 5 December 2019 French video is on the strikers’ demonstrations.

By Anthony Torres and Alex Lantier in France, 6 December 2019:

1.5 million march amid mass strike in France against austerity and inequality

6 December 2019

In the largest such industrial action to hit France in decades, tens of thousands of rail, government and education workers walked out on strike, as 1.5 million people marched or struck yesterday against plans by French President Emanuel Macron to slash pensions.

The strike is part of a broad international resurgence of class struggle against social inequality and military-police repression.

Striking workers in France are joining mass protest movements in Iraq, Lebanon, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, Algeria, and strikes among US auto workers and teachers, as well as British rail workers. Yesterday in France, workers at the National Railways (SNCF), teachers, and workers in Paris mass transit, hospitals, airports, energy, ports, as well as students and lawyers marched together.

The strike demonstrated the enormous social power of the working class mobilized in struggle. Rail traffic was stopped across France, with just one in 10 high-speed trains (TGV) and 3 to 5 percent of Express Regional Trains running. According to SNCF management, 85.7 percent of train drivers and 73.3 percent of train controllers declared they were going on strike.

In Paris, mass transit also virtually stopped. The Independent Paris Transport Authority (RATP) announced 11 of 16 metro lines were shut, and only limited service available on the others.

Strikers blockaded fuel depots, and workers at 7 of France’s 8 oil refineries were on strike, threatening in the longer term to cause fuel shortages across the country.

According to statistics presented by the junior minister for the public service, Olivier Dussopt, 32.5 percent of government workers (including education, post office, and former France Telecom workers) joined the strike. Among schoolteachers, 51.15 percent of primary school teachers and 42.32 percent of secondary school teachers also went on strike. Many children stayed home, or had to be taken to emergency service centers run by city authorities.

Several major French airports were seriously impacted by the strike—including both major Paris airports, Nice, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse and Bordeaux—due to strikes by multiple categories of workers, including air traffic controllers in the south.

The strike will continue in multiple industries during the coming days. Union sources said rail traffic would be badly affected until Monday, and airlines said they would cut 20 percent of their flights on Friday. Many teachers are expected to be on strike today. One truckers’ association, lOTRE, had announced last night that it would carry out 15 blockades today to protest against the Macron government’s tax hikes on fuel.

Strikers marched in the hundreds of thousands in gatherings organized across France. The unions announced 250,000 protesters in Paris, 150,000 in Marseille, 100,000 in Toulouse, 40,000 in Lille, and tens of thousands in Montpellier, Bordeaux, and Nantes, as well as 285,000 altogether in approximately 40 other cities. In several cities, authorities refused to provide to the press any figure whatsoever on the number of marchers. …

Well-known “yellow vest” protesters, including Éric Drouet, Priscilla Ludosky and Maxime Nicolle, had called on their supporters to join the protests.

Clashes broke out between security forces and protesters in several cities, including Lyon, Nantes, Rennes and Paris, where the security forces prevented large parts of the march from moving, then attacked them, first on Republic and then on Nation Square.

The Macron government had organized a massive police deployment—comparable to those for the largest “yellow vest” protests last December—but which was absolutely unprecedented for a social protest organized by the trade unions.

L’Express magazine reported that “overall, 108 security intervention units will be deployed across France: 60.5 mobile military police and 47.5 riot police. They will be overwhelmingly assigned, apart from the Paris area, to the south, southeast, and the north, leaving the north, the west and the southwest somewhat understaffed. 180 motorized teams of the BRAV (Brigades for the repression of Violent Action) will be deployed. In terms of technical means, six water cannon will be prepared for action, and three drones will overfly Paris.”

An anonymous high-ranking security official said he was “very worried” about the Paris protest and claimed that “we are in a pre-insurrectionary situation.”

In Paris, the security forces mobilized armored cars, water canon as well as soldiers and riot police armed with assault rifles to barricade the Elysée presidential palace and other state venues. Between 6,000 and 8,500 riot police were mobilized. At 8pm there had been 90 arrests, including 71 preventive detentions, in addition to 11,490 who had been preventively detained and searched.

The December 5 strike is the product of a new stage in the class struggle, with the radicalization of growing layers of the international working class. The call for the strike went from the SNCF, … after two major wildcat strikes shook the railways in the autumn, against SNCF privatization as well as wage cuts and the introduction of two-tier work. Once the call was launched, however, ever broader sections of workers tried to take the opportunity to join in a legally-approved strike.

This mobilization reflects broad, growing opposition to European Union (EU) policies—the public-sector wage freeze and drastic attack on pensions and other social rights. Macron is eliminating multiple special pension funds and moving towards retirement based on “points,” with no pre-set monetary value. The state has rejected aspirations for more social equality and better living conditions for workers with contempt, instead planning deep cuts to pensions, health care and other key programs.

There is widespread opposition among workers to the capitalist social order …

More broadly, none of the problems driving yesterday’s strike had a national character; all of them—low wages and social austerity, the exploitation of workers in understaffed workplaces, social inequality, military-police repression of any opposition to the diktat of the banks—are international problems that have mobilized tens or even hundreds of millions of workers internationally this year. Resolving these problems requires the expropriation of the billionaire financial aristocracy that dominates economic life through the international financial markets.

France to expect more strikes after PM’s ‘mockery’ announcement: here.

Fishing net lights save turtles and dolphins


This June 2019 video from the USA says about itsfelf:

Reducing Bycatch Helps Restore Sea Turtle Populations

Bycatch—when animals are accidentally caught while people are fishing for other species—is the biggest threat to sea turtles in the ocean. This project is helping reduce sea turtle bycatch and restoring their populations after the Deepwater Horizon [BP] disaster.

From the University of Exeter in England:

Lights on fishing nets save turtles and dolphins

December 5, 2019

Placing lights on fishing nets reduces the chances of sea turtles and dolphins being caught by accident, new research shows.

LED lights along the top of floating gillnets cut accidental “bycatch” of sea turtles by more than 70%, and that of small cetaceans (including dolphins and porpoises) by more than 66%.

The study, by the University of Exeter and Peruvian conservation organisation ProDelphinus, looked at small-scale vessels departing from three Peruvian ports between 2015 and 2018, and found the lights didn’t reduce the amount of fish caught from “target species” (ie what the fishers wanted to catch).

The findings support previous research which suggested LED lights reduce bycatch of seabirds in gillnets by about 85%. Gillnets, which can be either anchored or move with the ocean currents, are designed to entangle or snare fish by the gills, and are the largest component of small-scale fisheries in many countries.

“Gillnet fisheries often have high bycatch rates of threatened marine species such as sea turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds,” said lead author Alessandra Bielli, who carried out analyses as part of her master’s research at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“This could lead to declines in the populations of these non-target species — yet few solutions to reduce gillnet bycatch have been developed.

“Sensory cues — in this case LED lights — are one way we might alert such species to the presence of fishing gear in the water.”

The researchers placed lights every 10m along the float line of 864 gillnets, pairing each with an unlit net to compare the results.

“The dramatic reduction in bycatch of sea turtles and cetaceans in illuminated nets shows how this simple, relatively low-cost technique could help these species and allow fishers to fish more sustainably. Given the success we have had, we hope other fisheries with bycatch problems will also try illuminating their fishing nets,” said Exeter PhD graduate Dr Jeffrey Mangel, of Peruvian NGO ProDelphinus.

Most of the turtles caught in the study were green turtles (86%), though loggerhead and olive ridley turtles were also caught.

Among the small cetaceans captured, 47% were long-beaked common dolphins, 26% were dusky dolphins and 24% were Burmeister’s porpoises.

“This work has further shown the usefulness of lights on nets to save wildlife. We now need lights that are ever more robust and affordable,” said Professor Brendan Godley, of the University of Exeter.

Fluid dynamics may help drones capture a dolphin’s breath in midair: here.

Big pro-climate demonstrations in Spain, Chile


Climate activist Greta Thunberg (centre) walks at the COP25 climate talks summit in Madrid

This photo shows Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (centre) at the COP25 climate talks summit in Madrid, Spain.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Tens of thousands march for the climate in Madrid

TENS of thousands of people marched in Madrid and Santiago, Chile, today to demand real action on climate change.

Swedish eco-warrior Greta Thunberg joined the mass demo in the Spanish capital, where the COP-25 climate summit has been taking place.

Marchers united behind the slogan “the world has woken up to the climate emergency.”

Greta joined teenagers staging a sit-in in the UN climate summit itself who held hands, sang Power to the People and waved Fridays for Future banners.

Chilean groups on the march carried banners denouncing the neoliberal regime of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, which had been due to host the summit but dropped the idea in the face of mass anti-government demonstrations which have rocked the country for over a month.

Civil Society for Climate Action (SCAC) spokeswoman Estefania Gonzalez said: “I come from Chile, a country where an avocado tree has more right to water than a person.”

The mass protests against inequality in Chile were “directly related to the environmental crisis,” she said.

“Today, climate action means social equality, it’s not possible to have social equality without environmental equality.”

SCAC has run a Social Summit for Climate Action alongside the UN summit, with a strong presence from indigenous groups in Latin America who are seeing their rights to land attacked by the Jair Bolsonaro government in Brazil.

They have also been victims of a violent terror campaign implemented by Bolivia’s coup government since the military overthrew the country’s elected, and indigenous, president Evo Morales last month.

This September 2019 video says about itself:

Thousands of people joined a global climate strike in the Chilean capital Santiago on Friday.

Schoolchildren and workers marched past La Moneda presidential palace to demand action from government.

Demonstrators dressed in green and brought a series of homemade signs and banners to argue for their cause.

The strike in Chile was one of many taking in Latin American cities and across the world.

The global action follows a series of school strikes initially inspired by Swedish teenage and climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The Morning Star report continues:

A march in the Chilean capital Santiago was timed to coincide with the demo in Spain.

An alliance of US states, cities, academic institutions and companies opened its own venue at the climate talks, aiming to show that despite the Donald Trump government’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord, many in the US remain committed to curbing global warming.

Elan Strait, who manages the We Are Still In initiative for the World Wildlife Fund, said the movement was “a short-term band-aid not only to get those carbon dioxide emissions down but also to encourage policymakers to lay the ground for further achievements.”

Fourteen seafaring nations published a study on the likely impact of predicted warming on maritime industries today, saying if emissions were not sharply reduced fisheries will be devastated.

Rare brown hyenas in Namibian ghost town


This 5 December 2019 video from Namibia says about itself:

This Ghost Town Is Home To Africa’s Rarest Predator | BBC Earth

This elusive brown hyena has made a home in the ruins in the Namib Desert. She’s raised nine generations of cubs, can she provide for her current brood in the most hostile country on the planet?

British children’s cold hungry Christmas under Johnson


This 2017 British Sky TV video says about itself:

Hunger in the school holidays: Millions of British children at risk

Up to three million British children risk going hungry during the school holidays because they don’t have access to free school meals, or are living in poverty.

That’s the findings of a new report by a panel of cross-party MPs, who say the problem can be solved.

They’re calling on the Government to direct money – raised by its sugary drinks tax — to fund local councils to help end the problem.

Sky’s Tom Parmenter has this special report.

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Friday, December 6, 2019

Nearly a million children will be deprived of warmth and food during Christmas, says charity

AN AVERAGE of three children in every primary-school class will spend Christmas without the necessities of warmth and nutritious meals, a charity has warned.

Almost a million children under the age of 10 will spend the two-week holiday without heating at home, a warm winter coat or fresh food.

In the absence of free school meals while schools are closed, struggling parents on low incomes are able to spend an average of just £2 a day on food per child, according to Action for Children, which analysed data from the Department of Work and Pensions and Office of National Statistics.

Leanne and her partner from Glasgow both work and have four children under 12.

She started to work part-time night shifts after the birth of her third child, but the family struggles to afford enough food, the charity said.

Leanne initially believed her family would be better off with her in work, “but then all the bills and taxes came in,” she said.

“Despite us both having an income, we had less than ever. I remember saying to my partner that we can’t afford to work.”

Leanne slipped into depression as the family struggled to pay the rent and she often skipped meals herself.

She said her children “were living off chips and plain pasta to fill them up, but it wasn’t healthy. They weren’t getting the fruit and veg they needed. But what else could we do?

“One day, I went to the Action for Children centre and just broke down. That was when my worker got me access to the foodbank. But I was so embarrassed. How was it fair that we are both working, and we are in the foodbank?”

The charity says demand for foodbanks is so high that it is planning to host unofficial foodbanks over the Christmas period, with the Trussell Trust already warning that it is expecting to have “more people than ever” using theirs.

Action for Children chief executive Julie Bentley said: “Politicians are telling us austerity has ended but every day at Action for Children our frontline services say child poverty levels are at the worst they can remember.

“The next government must deliver ambitious policies to end child poverty and bring in a National Childhood Strategy to give all our children a safe and happy childhood.”

Labour announced plans yesterday for “poverty proofing” schools by expanding provision of free breakfasts to all primary schools, and a pilot of the same scheme in secondary schools.

Outside of term time, a new programme would ensure children would have access to meals and sports in the evenings and holidays.

Labour in government would also extend free school meals at secondary school to every child whose family receives benefits, and also cap the cost of expensive school uniforms.

The party would also restore grants to help struggling families with uniform and equipment costs.

The axed Education Maintenance Allowance for teenagers from poorer families in further education would be restored and increased to £35 a week.

Labour’s announcements came as research from the Resolution Foundation think tank found that child poverty would rise to a 60-year high if the Tories’ manifesto was implemented.

This was labelled “a disgrace” by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, who added that Labour would “tackle child poverty while driving up standards in schools by providing extra support to the children who need it most.”

More children to go hungry and cold this Christmas than last, teachers fear: here.

More than 120 examples of Tory Islamophobia handed to Equality and Human Rights Commission: here.

Golden jackal, first time in Drenthe province


This July 2019 video from Israel is about a golden jackal, a red fox, Egyptian vultures and other birds.

Golden jackals are traditionally an Asian and east European species.

However, they are expanding to the west. They have been spotted in Germany and Denmark.

Dutch daily De Volkskrant reports today that for the first time ever, a golden jackal was seen on a camera trap in Drenthe province.

The species had been seen twice before in the Netherlands, in Gelderland province.

Big anti-President Macron strike in France


This 5 December 2019 Euronews TV video says about itself:

Mass strikes and protests in France over pension reform | LIVE

Unions call for a national strike across the public and private sectors against French President Emmanuel Macron‘s proposed reform of the country’s pension system.

From daily News Line in Britain, 6 December 2019:

FRANCE is paralysed by a nationwide general strike by transport workers, teachers and other trade unions, supported by the mass of the working population.

This is a showdown between the whole of the working class and President Emmanuel Macron, backed by the ruling class and its armies of riot policemen.

Macron’s planned pension ‘reforms’ force workers to work longer for a smaller pension.

Yesterday, the main cities were at a standstill. …

The strike is open-ended and could last a number of days or weeks. It has drawn comparisons with the struggle between government and unions in November-December 1995, when the country was paralysed for three weeks.

The strikes will be a major test of whether Macron, who came to power on the back of a promise to transform France and wants to be a new Napoleon, has the political strength to push through his pensions plan, and fight the issue out with the working class, using hundreds of thousands of riot police and even the army for that purpose.

This 5 December 2019 video says about itself:

Several thousand people wait outside the “Gare de l’Est” train station in Paris before a march through the French capital to protest against a pension overhaul by President Emmanuel Macron. Unions say the planned reforms will force millions of people to work longer or face curtailed benefits.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Thursday, December 5, 2019

France paralysed by mass strikes against Macron‘s pension raid

FRANCE was shut down by strikes across the public and private sectors today as workers took action against President Emmanuel Macron’s attacks on pensions and the retirement age.

The Eiffel Tower was closed, trains did not run and aircraft were grounded as rallies took place in all the country’s major cities.

Schools and businesses did not function and the presidential palace was barricaded shut, with an extra 6,000 police deployed to the streets of Paris and 65 people arrested before the main Paris demo even began.

Marchers wore yellow vests in solidarity with the huge gilets jaunes movement against neoliberalism or red ones symbolising their trade union membership.

Health workers, students and environmental campaigners joined demonstrations to decry the “social crisis” provoked by Mr Macron’s neoliberal regime, which has attacked workers’ rights and launched a wave of privatisations.

Supportive unions included the CGT, Force Ouvriere, Solidaires, civil servants’ union the FSU and many more. Unions say the action is open-ended and they hope to force government concessions within a week. The Paris Metro strike will last at least until Monday, organisers said.

The movement has also received backing from most political parties, including the Socialists, Communists and Jean-Luc Melenchon’s France Unbowed on the left …

The conservative Republicans said they did not approve of the action, but were also opposed to Mr Macron’s pension raid.

A guide to the action by France Unbowed said Mr Macron was determined to lower the value of pensions and make men and women work longer.

“Why work longer when by retirement age one in two people is no longer employed anyway and an employee produces on average three times more than in 1970?” it asked. “Progress is not about working more and more.”

France Unbowed’s Adrien Quatennens said that “under the alibi of universality, the government is picking everyone’s pockets.” Party leader Mr Melenchon, who marched with strikers in Marseille, has warned that the government’s bid to standardise pension arrangements undermines collective bargaining agreements and pays no attention to specific circumstances in different lines of work.

Communist leader Fabien Roussel said the plans “attack the principle of solidarity that is the basis of French social protection,” being based on changes to pension calculations that “individualise” pension pots and which Mr Macron says will “encourage some people to work longer”.

Security guard Joseph Kakou had to walk an hour to get home because of the lack of transport, but he told reporters: “It doesn’t please us to walk. It doesn’t please us to strike. But we have to. We can’t work until we are 90 years old.”

This 5 December 2019 Deutsche Welle TV video says about itself:

Much of France has ground to a halt as the country experiences its biggest strike in decades over proposed pension reforms. Many people are taking to the streets and there’s severe disruption to rail lines, schools and hospitals. President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to overhaul the retirement system would force workers to retire later or see their pensions reduced. Union leaders say they will continue the strike until Monday.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio, 5 December 2019:

The national action day was intended as a protest against President Macron’s plans to reform the pension system, but ended in an expression of general anger.

“What is striking is the fighting spirit of many demonstrators,” says correspondent Frank Renout in the radio program Nieuws & Co. “They have had enough of President Macron and think he is breaking down the social system.”

In Nanterre, a small town north-west of Paris, the correspondent noticed that people are willing to continue protests for a long time. “Eg, teachers, they say that the schools should stay closed if necessary.” …

The broad dissatisfaction can be seen in the diversity of action groups. In addition to union members, environmental activists from Extinction Rebellion also took to the streets …

Yellow vests also joined the protests. That movement organized massive protests last year; the group was eventually taken seriously by President Macron. An increase in the minimum wage was announced …

That there are now again large-scale demonstrations is, therefore, a setback for Macron. “The Elysée hasn’t responded yet, but you can imagine that Macron is following the protest with suspicion,” said Renout.

The current demonstrations are partly inspired by the gilets jaunes. “The protesters hope they can repeat the result of the yellow vests and hope that Macron will retreat again after new protests.”

A demonstrator from Nanterre, who spoke to Renout today, has little faith in that. “Macron is a puppet. Large capitalist corporations are pulling the strings. And if they will have had enough of him, then they will be looking for a new one.”