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Voice From the Back

Leave the kids alone

This should be taught in every schoolroom on earth, instead of the chloroform that is, at present, fed to our kids: “640 million children do not have adequate shelter. 500 million children have no access to sanitation. 400 million children do not have access to safe water. 300 million children lack access to information (TV, radio or newspapers). 270 million have no access to health care services. 140 million children, the majority of them girls, have never been to school. 90 million children are severely food deprived.” (UNICEF press release, 9 December) “Please, Sir, shouldn’t we try to change things?” asks the class rebel. “Be quiet and do as you are told”, is always the reply.     

A black christmas

Last year was a dreadful year for the working class. It was not a particularly good year for socialists either, so excuse us if we have at least one good laugh about 2004. “Members of the far right  British National party walked out of their own Christmas party after organisers accidentally hired a black DJ. ‘We had to be careful what we said when we did the raffle so we didn’t offend the guy,’ said BNP official Bob Garner. The party, at a London hotel was organised by the party’s central London branch. ‘He sounded white on the phone,’ said Garner.” (Sunday Times,12 December) You couldn’t make it up, could you?

No housing problem here

“Rupert Murdoch is set to pay a record $44 million for a New York home when he snaps up the Fifth Avenue penthouse of the late Laurence Rockefeller. ... However, even at $44 million, the price Mr Murdoch is paying is dwarfed by the $70 million that the Wall Street financier Martin Zweig wants for his nearby triplex atop the Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue.” (Times, 18 December) Any offers, fellow workers? Before you cash in your giros and make a bid it is as well to remember that Mr Murdoch’s inferior flat costs $21,500 per month in maintenance. You may well be a little more out of pocket each month with Mr Zweig’s pad.

Surprise, surprise

A study by academics at London University’s Institute of Education into the teaching of 8 to 11 year-olds, 88,700 of them, from 2000 to 2003, has come up with an astounding discovery. “The children from the poorest backgrounds made the least progress throughout — starting behind other children aged seven and falling further behind by the age of 11.” (Independent, 6 January) So a kid that is badly fed, badly clothed, badly housed and most likely badly treated is less likely to bloom academically. Astonishing, isn’t it? Where would we be without these academic wizards?

Oops, no one is perfect

“Fourteen Iraqis were reported killed and five injured early yesterday morning after an American war plane obliterated a family house in the north of the country.The military said it was a mistake.” (Independent, 9 January)  The authorities have promised a full inquiry. It must be reassuring to know that when a 500lb bomb annihilates your family there will be a full enquiry. These things happen in the struggle for oil, but it must be marvellous to think of your mother, father and all of your children described as collateral damage. Mustn’t it?