The world united today to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, with services held across the United States, from Ground Zero to the Pentagon to Pennsylvania.
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• The world united today to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
Memorial services and remembrance ceremonies have been held across the United States to honour the victims of the worst terror attack in US history; from Ground Zero to the Pentagon to Pennsylvania.
Two thousand, nine hundred and eighty three innocent men, women and children killed, thousands of families from around the world, of all backgrounds, their lives changed beyond contemplation.
From Gordon M. Aamoth to Igor Zukelman, the names of the dead were read out in New York, names inscribed on the memorial, by relatives of the victims. They were read, and read, and read. Firefighters, police officers, passengers, office workers, cleaners, hot dog vendors, real people, real lives.
The BBC’s Laura Trevelyan describes the scene at Ground Zero:
“By the pools of water in the footprints of the World Trade Center, a young girl weeps. She rests her head on the panel engraved with the names of the dead.
“A woman carefully makes a rubbing of the engraving of her dead relative’s name. Up on the stage, Patricia Smith, 12, pays tribute to her mother Moira, a police officer who perished in the South Tower trying to rescue others.
“‘I’m proud to be your daughter,’ says Patricia, her long brown hair blowing in the wind. As the names of the dead are read out, they speak to the ethnic diversity of New York City – Nestor Julio Chevalier, Alexander Chiang, Abdul Chowdry, Andrea Dellabella, Dennis Devlin.
“The ritual of reading the names is a powerful form of remembrance, relatives hug one another and cry as they listen. Petals float in the pools of the newly dedicated memorial. Up above, the skyline of the future takes shape.”
“Spoke to Don Marshall, whose wife Shelley died at Pentagon on #911. He had to tell his son, 3, that God needed more angels… Don Marshall: happiest moment of life was finding his kids, 3 & 18 months, in Pentagon daycare. Worst was realising his wife not there #911”
The longest day, the saddest day; a day the world, shoulder-to-shoulder with America, will never, ever forget.
• Domestically, the UK government’s economic strategy took another battering this week.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde said that “consolidating too quickly will hurt the recovery and worsen job prospects”, adding “the challenge is to find the pace of adjustment that is neither too fast, nor too slow” and that “there is scope for a slower pace of consolidation, combined with policies to support growth”.
Turning to Britain specifically, she said that, although the IMF “supported the government’s plans to move decisively on the fiscal front”, they warned of the “downside risks”, that “policymakers should be nimble… particularly if it looks like the economy is headed for a prolonged period of weak growth and high unemployment”.
The OECD, meanwhile, became the latest body to downgrade the UK’s growth prospects, following George Osborne himself, who this week said the recovery was “slower and choppier” than after previous recessions – indeed, as Left Foot Forward reported on Monday, this is the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. It predicts the UK economy will grow just 0.1 per cent between July and September and a further 0.1% between October and December.
If these figures (pdf) are correct, it will mean the UK economy will have grown only 0.9% this year; as a result, as Left Foot Forward showed in July, the chancellor will be unable to cut the deficit at all.
Friday’s Times (£) said of the bad news:
“The western powers are almost all looking decidedly sickly. But Britain is emphatically looking like one of the runts of the litter.”
While on Left Foot Forward Ben Fox wrote:
“Unsurprisingly, chancellor George Osborne continues to refuse to admit that his austerity plans have choked off recovery, yet again blaming a combination of increasing oil prices, the Eurozone crisis and the problems facing the US economy…
“The chancellor’s ambitious deficit and debt reduction targets were based on economic growth at least twice as strong. Indeed, when the Office of Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) confidently predicted growth of 1.7% back in March this was still a downgrade on the (2.3%) predicted by the Treasury in last year’s emergency budget.
“A stagnant economy with weak tax receipts will blow what’s left of Osborne’s fiscal plans out of the water.”
Earlier in the week, Eurostat data (pdf) on European Union growth revealed only Portugal and Romania have grown slower over the last year among states for which data is available – second quarter growth this year was just 0.7 points higher than Q2 2010, well below the EU23 average of a 1.7 point rise.
All in all, another grim week for Gideon.
• The House of Commons voted through the third reading of the Health and Social Care Bill on Wednesday.
The Bill passed by 316 votes to 251, with only four Lib Dem MPs voting against – Andrew George, Julian Huppert, Greg Mulholland and Adrian Sanders. The Bill now passes to the Lords, where Labour, together with more Lib Dem rebels, have vowed to “wreck” the Bill, fearing the changes, based on what shadow health secretary John Healey calls the “wrong ideology”, will see the NHS “destroyed”.
As Left Foot Forward reported on Wednesday, that threat is very real. At a £600-a-head Independent Health Reform conference that day, health minister Lord Howe informed the drooling, salivating private healthcare execs present that the NHS reforms will create ‘genuine opportunities’ for the private sector to line their pockets taking over large chunks of our NHS.
The conference further revealed the true intention of the reforms with sessions like “income generation – new markets for the NHS and the private sector”; “private practice the new market for the NHS?”; and “medical insurers overview on the emerging NHS private sector”, yet more evidence the NHS is far from safe in David Cameron’s hands.
Any wonder, then, that virtually no one who cares about patients rather than profits actually believes David Cameron can be trusted with the NHS, and back his reforms. He may claim otherwise – incredibly telling PMQs that GPs, physicians, and nurses all support him – yet the overwhelming view is that they will, at best, “destabilise” the NHS; at worst, destroy it.
Progressive of the week:
US President Barack Obama, who on Thursday made the case for government investment as a driver of growth, provider of jobs and builder of nations, imploring Congress to “stop the political circus”, show unity and pass the Jobs Bill.
In making his case, the President also took on the small state fanatics and took apart their anti-investment rhetoric:
“…this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own – that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.”
Stressing the imperativeness of action, he added:
“There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There’s a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that’s on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America. A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country. And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating.
“How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school – and we can give it to them, if we act now.”
“These are difficult years for our country. But we are Americans. We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let’s meet the moment. Let’s get to work, and show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth.”
There is more on Mr Obama’s speech and the latest from the Presidential elections in the World Outside Westminster below.
Regressives of the week:
Once again, it’s the violent extremists of the EDL, these days not so much BNP lite as New BNP, with barely a cigarette paper’s difference between the racism, Islamophobia and thuggishness of the EDL mob who descended on east London last weekend and the terror wrought by their jackbooted brethren.
As Left Foot Forward reported on Tuesday, EDL members violently assaulted journalists who were covering last Saturday’s events in Whitechapel.
The NUJ said:
“Following the EDL event in East London, the union has received numerous reports of harassment, threats and abuse including physical assaults, racist abuse, bottles and fireworks being thrown at the press and photographers being punched and kicked.
“One journalist was subjected to a sexual assault and another NUJ member suffered minor burns after an EDL supporter used a flammable accelerant to set the photographer on fire.”
As NUJ photographer Jason Parkinson said:
“These attacks are just the latest in a long history of violence, threats and even fatwas issued against the press and there is only one reason behind them all – to intimidate and deter the media exposing the violent and racist behaviour of the far-right.
“An attack on the press is an attack on press freedom and on our democracy.”
Evidence of the week:
Monday’s IFS report on science and skills, which described the government’s failure to invest in these areas as “short sighted”, with Britain falling further behind and emerging economies like China surging ever further into the distance.
The report summed up:
“The current economic climate should not prevent investment in our capacity for economic growth in the future. The impact of China’s rise will depend largely on whether we are with them at the technology frontier or onlookers from the sidelines. We should choose the former.”
Left Foot Forward has long warned of the impact of Osborne’s real terms slashing of the UK’s scientific research budget by 8.9 per cent at the same time as other European countries and the US, as well as China, increase theirs.
“If we are to keep our global position in pioneering Research and Development, Westminster politicians must keep up with counterparts such as China, Singapore and even other European member states such as France.
“Germany is now increasing its science budget by seven per cent. President Obama has committed three per cent of American GDP to scientific research – a doubling of the budget as part of the economic stimulus package.”
The World Outside Westminster by The Grapevine’s Tom Rouse:
In the US, Republican primary season is now well under way with Wednesday night’s Reagan debate providing the first real sparring opportunity for the candidates. Rick Perry raised eyebrows repeating his claim that Social Security was a ‘Ponzi scheme’, but this statement was left unchallenged, as was his stance on capital punishment.
Although not challenged on the night, Perry may find he has to tone his rhetoric down come the primaries, with 57% of Republican voters and 62% of Independents opposing changes on the scale he proposes. Despite these concerns, his glowing poll ratings and competent showing on Wednesday mean he has effectively replaced Mitt Romney as the US media’s de facto frontrunner.
Romney escaped the debate unscathed, but will be concerned about his flagging poll ratings and failure to land a clear punch on Perry.
The latest Gallup presidential approval poll, conducted prior to Thursday night’s Jobs Act speech, placed Obama’s approval rating at 44%, with 50% disapproving of his performance. with research suggesting job creation is sinking back to lows that were last experienced at the height of the recession.
Obama responded in style last night, with a repeated call for Congress to pass his Jobs Act right away. The $447 billion package itself consisted mostly of moderate bi-partisan measures that are being offset as part of the Act and so not increasing the deficit.
Whether the Republican party will be willing to support the measures remains to be seen, but they may find it hard to oppose action that Obama claims will give the average American family a $1,500 tax cut. What they may find harder to swallow is the promised $60 billion for infastructure projects and further $35 billion to prevent public sector lay offs.
Moving south, Haiti is now into its fourth month without a prime minister and President Michel Martelly is turning to Garry Conille, a former Clinton aide and experienced development worker, as a surprise nomination. His previous two nominations have been rejected by the country’s parliament and there would be little surprise if Mr Conille faces the same fate.
However, the absence of a PM is hindering the country’s rebuilding efforts and Mr Conille’s background makes him a practical choice, though his failure to qualify for the country’s strict residency requirements is likely to hinder his candidacy.
Returning to Europe, Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is facing divides within his own party ahead of what promises to be difficult elections in November over a controversial deficit cap bill that he claims is essential to reassure international investors of Spain’s economic credibility.
The Socialist leader managed to secure the passage of the bill, with only a small numbers of his deputies rebelling, but passage saw significant opposition on the streets, particularly amongst Spain’s youth who oppose any further cost cutting measures.
The Socialist party are currently 14 points behind their right-wing opponents the Popular Party and will be hoping for a significant economic recovery in the next two months if they are to remain in power. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi had to resort to a vote of confidence to force through his own austerity package, which narrowly passed the Senate by 165-141 and will now go before the lower chamber.
As in Spain, tens of thousands took to the streets in protest against the measures, opposing a rise in sales tax and revisions to a wealth tax.
Down under, the governing Labor party have breathed a sigh of relief after police in New South Wales concluded there was no basis for further investigation of Craig Thomson. The MP was facing allegations he had paid for escort services on a union credit card and if the police had brought charges, the likely result would have been an election, given Julia Gillard’s slender one seat majority.
Ms. Gillard has remained focused on trade talks at the Pacific Islands Forum throughout the crisis, but will doubtless be relieved to return home with her government intact.
Ed Jacobs’s Week Outside Westminster:
It was an eventful week for Scotland as Alex Salmond and the Conservatives grabbed most of the headlines.
On Sunday it emerged that the leading contender for the leadership of the Scottish Conservatives, Murdo Fraser, was planning to abolish the party altogether in favour of a new, independent centre-right party, arguing:
“If I am elected as leader of the party, I will turn it into a new and stronger party for Scotland. A new party. A winning party with new supporters from all walks of life.”
Yet whilst it was a move which had the support of Fraser Nelson at the Spectator, for many in the party and elsewhere it was a step that played right into Alex Salmond’s hands and plans for independence.
For example, Fraser’s challenger for the leadership, Ruth Davidson, said:
“I am proud to be a Scottish Conservative and Unionist. This is a destabilising distraction that will be welcomed by no one more than Alex Salmond.”
Salmond, meanwhile was busy presenting to MSPs his Programme for Government with a commitment to establishing single, Scottish-wide police and fire services and a prediction that the Scottish public would form part of the “independence generation.”
In his sketch for the Scotsman, Tom Peterkin wrote:
“Salmond, in an unusually earnest speech, attacked the ‘voodoo economics of the London coalition’, and argued that action had to be taken to stimulate the Scottish economy. ‘Waiting for London to show humility and recognise our democratic mandate is not enough to deal with the urgent need to boost growth,’ the first minister said.
“Salmond backed up his plan by quoting a triumvirate of distinguished economists Lagarde, Stiglitz and Roubini. ‘Scotland heeds these calls from some of the finest economic minds in the world,’ Salmond said.”
The General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists told Left Foot Forward that cuts threatened to “destroy BBC Wales”.
“These cuts will go to the heart of the unique nature of BBC Wales programming, and in many people’s minds will effectively destroy BBC Wales as a separate entity.”
In stark contrast to the success of their nationalist friends in Scotland, Plaid Cymru began what was dubbed a “renewal” conference with outgoing leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones using an interview with the Western Mail to dub himself a “lame duck, uncharismatic, colourless, characterless character”.
In his assessment of the conference, Vaughan Roderick, the BBC’s Welsh Affairs Editor, wrote:
“Maybe because they were doing some of the heavy lifting during the assembly powers campaign, Plaid then had a very poor showing in the May assembly election. They became the third party in the assembly rather than the second largest party, for the first time since it was established in 1999.
“You also have Ieuan Wyn Jones stepping down after 11 years in charge. So it’s a party in transition. I don’t think there are huge rows, I don’t think there’s huge bitterness, but I think there’s a lot of head scratching going on about what direction the party should take.
“No-one in the party is quite sure how to do that. They are having all sorts of reviews. I don’t think any of them believe there’s a magic bullet.”
As thousands of students descend on Queen’s and the University of Ulster for their annual ‘Open Days’ there were warnings it was now “D-Day” for ministers to decide the levels of funding for Northern Ireland’s two universities.
“Just weeks from (students) having to decide which university they would like to attend, they have no idea about the level of fees they will pay, what financial support will be available to them, or whether they will be forced out of a higher education place by increased competition from English students.
“Decisions on the appropriate funding of higher education are urgently required if our universities are not to be damaged beyond repair, if thousands of jobs are not to be put in jeopardy and if our students are not to be hugely disadvantaged.”
Dr Russell McLaughlin, who heads up the NHS trust’s casualty units, explained:
“We are not going from a perfect system, we are going from a deeply flawed system right now. As for the additional distance people will have to travel, it is not of clinical relevance. If you are going to die between you becoming unwell and travelling an extra half mile down the road then you are going to die anyway.”
Condemning the move, however, the SDLP MP for Belfast South, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, said:
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“This decision displays a disingenuous effort on the part of the Trust. I believe that the Trust has not given a genuine effort to secure the senior staffing required.
“In circumstances where the Royal’s casualty is already working to capacity in a temporary building, there will be nowhere for the current A & E clientele of the City Hospital to move to – I appeal to the Trust to start putting patients first and reverse this decision.”