Sunday, February 26, 2012

Germany's presidency: corrupt incumbent out - obnoxious right-wing ideologue in.

German President Christian Wulff resigned on February 17 after prosecutors applied to have his presidential immunity stripped in a corruption scandal.

Wulff has been accused of having received a series of kickbacks from businessmen, including a home loan of 500,000 euros (paid via an anonymous bank cheque) in 2008.

He is also accused of receiving favourable car deals, free hotel-stays, free airline upgrades and other perks during his time as premier of the state of Lower Saxony.

When German tabloid Bild threatened to publish the allegations, Wulff left voice messages on the editor's phone threatening "war".

As more corruption accusations surfaced, prosecutors in Hannover, capital of Lower Saxony, asked the Bundestag (federal parliament) to lift Wulff's presidential immunity.

Faced with the destruction of his credibility, Wulff resigned. He now faces possible charges and the loss of his parliamentary pension.

Under the German system, a new president must be elected within 30 days of the resignation of his predecessor.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lift Redfern Station Campaign

Redfern Railway station is one of the busiest stations in the country, with over 40,000 people passing through its gates each day, yet it doesn't have a single lift.

Never mind the residents nearby with children, disabilities or heavy luggage; never mind the elderly, frail or unwell; never mind the thousands of students of diverse backgrounds and needs who use the station on a daily basis.

No, if you want to catch or get off a train at Redfern, you have to climb one of the steep concrete staircases, or - if you're lucky - catch an equally steep escalator to the underground platforms.

For many people, this challenge is simply too difficult - or too dangerous - to seriously contemplate, and they are effectively excluded from relying on rail transport to get around. This is an outrage, and is totally unacceptable.

It is, of course, nothing new, nor is the empty government rhetoric about 'reviews' and 'plans' for upgrades. Successive governments have been making - and breaking - promises to fix the situation since at least the 1990s.

So, in January this year, the people of Redfern launched the broad-based Lift Redfern campaign to get the NSW government to pull its finger out.

Germany: Spies target left-wing party

Germany’s domestic spy agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), has been exposed for spying on left-wing MPs.

German magazine Der Spiegel said on January 23 that the BfV spied on MPs from Germany's biggest left-wing party, the socialist Die Linke ("The Left").

Der Spiegel said the intelligence agency had 27 of Die Linke's members in the Bundestag - more than one third of its federal MPs - and a further 11 members of state parliaments, under surveillance, costing 390,000 euros a year.

The BfV spends about 590,000 euros a year on surveillance of the neo-Nazi German National Party (NPD), linked to violent racist terror groups.

Unlike the marginal NPD, Die Linke is Germany's fifth largest party, with representation in almost every state parliament and in the national Bundestag.

The individuals being spied on weren't "fringe" members either, but leading party members and MPs ― many are in the party’s “moderate” wing.