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 Post subject: 2018 - Pitchforks
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:51 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: 2018 - Pitchforks
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:53 pm 
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Doctors in Poland protest overtime, disrupting hospitals
By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA
3 January 2018

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- A protest by thousands of doctors in Poland who refuse to work overtime disrupted services Wednesday at some hospitals, including children's wards.

Some hospitals, including those for children in Bialystok and in Gizycko, have been forced to postpone non-life-saving procedures or close night emergency service. The Health Ministry said Wednesday that some 3,500 of about 88,000 hospital doctors have refused to sign up to contracts allowing for work weeks of more than 48 hours. The protesters say the number was closer to 5,000. They are calling for talks with Health Minister Konstanty Radziwill to ask for a speedy, substantial increase of health care funds.

Poland's state-funded health care is chronically strapped, understaffed and poorly organized. In some regions, the wait for free procedures can take many years. Low earnings are forcing doctors to work overtime, to take additional jobs at private clinics or to emigrate. Last year there were reports of doctors collapsing after days of non-stop work.

The opposition is calling for Radziwill's dismissal in a government reshuffle expected this month. Radziwill was due to meet with a parliamentary commission later Wednesday to discuss the situation in health care. Radziwill called the protest "mutiny" intended to disrupt the hospitals. He said the situation was "under control" as hospital managers can reorganize work schedules. In Warsaw, patients reported no problems.

Last year, underpaid young doctors held weeks of hunger strikes to demand higher pay. The protest dissolved after Radziwill announced legislation to significantly raise spending on health care from the current 4 percent of the annual economic growth to more than 6 percent of the GDP in 2025. Wage increases took effect Monday. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said recently that improving the ossified health care system is a major challenge for his government. Many critics blame the situation on funds-consuming National Health Fund, an administrative body that assigns state many to individual hospitals, but often enters into conflict with hospital managers over the costs of procedures, delaying refunds.

Source: AP

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 Post subject: Re: 2018 - Pitchforks
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:09 pm 
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Iran's working class, facing dim prospects, fuels unrest
By LEE KEATH
6 January 2018

CAIRO (AP) -- The Iranian town of Doroud should be a prosperous place - nestled in a valley at the junction of two rivers in the Zagros Mountains, it's in an area rich in metals to be mined and stone to be quarried. Last year, a military factory on the outskirts of town unveiled production of an advanced model of tanks.

Yet local officials have been pleading for months for the government to rescue its stagnant economy. Unemployment is around 30 percent, far above the official national rate of more than 12 percent. Young people graduate and find no work. The local steel and cement factories stopped production long ago and their workers haven't been paid for months. The military factory's employees are mainly outsiders who live on its grounds, separate from the local economy.

"Unemployment is on an upward path," Majid Kiyanpour, the local parliament representative for the town of 170,000, told Iranian media in August. "Unfortunately, the state is not paying attention." That's a major reason Doroud has been a front line in the protests that have flared across Iran over the past week. Several thousand residents have been shown in online videos marching down Doroud's main street, shouting, "Death to the dictator!" At night, young men set fires outside the gates of the mayor's office and hurl stones at banks. At least two people have been killed, reportedly when security forces opened fire. Overall, at least 21 people have died nationwide in the unrest so far.

Anger and frustration over the economy have been the main fuel for the eruption of protests that began on Dec. 28. President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, had promised that lifting most international sanctions under Iran's landmark 2015 nuclear deal with the West would revive Iran's long-suffering economy. But while the end of sanctions did open up a new influx of cash from increased oil exports, little has trickled down to the wider population. At the same time, Rouhani has enforced austerity policies that hit households hard.

Demonstrations have broken out mainly in dozens of smaller cities and towns like Doroud, where unemployment has been most painful and where many in the working class feel ignored. The working classes have long been a base of support for Iran's hard-liners. But protesters have turned their fury against the ruling clerics and the elite Revolutionary Guard, accusing them of monopolizing the economy and soaking up the country's wealth. Many protests have seen a startlingly overt rejection of Iran's system of government by Islamic clerics. Under Iran's Islamic Republic, in place since the 1979 revolution, the cleric-led establishment has considerable power over elected bodies like parliament and the presidency. At the top stands Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state. "They make a man into a god and a nation into beggars!" goes the cry heard in videos of several marches. "Clerics with capital, give us our money back!"

The initial spark for the protests was a sudden jump in food prices. It is believed that hard-line opponents of Rouhani instigated the first demonstrations in the conservative city of Mashhad in eastern Iran, trying to direct public anger at the president. But as protests spread from town to town, the backlash turned against the entire ruling class.

Further stoking the anger was the budget for the coming year that Rouhani unveiled in mid-December, calling for significant cuts in cash payouts established by Rouhani's predecessor, hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as a form of direct welfare. Since he came to office in 2013, Rouhani has been paring them back. The budget also envisaged a new jump in fuel prices.

But amid the cutbacks, the budget revealed large increases in funding for religious foundations that are a key part of the clerical state-above-the-state, which receive hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the public coffers. These foundations, including religious schools and charities, are tied closely to powerful clerics and often serve as machines for patronage and propaganda to build support for their authority. As he announced the budget, Rouhani admitted his government had no say over large parts of the spending and complained about the lack of transparency over the funds going to the foundations. "They just take money from us," he said. "If we ask, 'Where did you spend the money?' they say: 'It's none of your business. We spend it where we like.'"

Rouhani's economic program has focused on trying to rein in government spending and build up the private sector and investment. His policies have managed to pull inflation down from the high double-digits where it long stood, edging it back to 10 percent last month.

After the lifting of most sanctions in early 2016, the economy saw a major boost - 13.4 percent growth in the GDP in 2016, compared to a 1.3 percent contraction the year before, according to the World Bank. But almost all that growth was in the oil sector, where exports jumped from around 1 million barrels per day in 2015 to around 2.1 million barrels per day in 2017.

Growth outside the oil sector was at 3.3 percent. Major foreign investment, which Rouhani touted as another benefit of opening to the world, has failed to materialize, in part because of continued U.S. sanctions hampering access to international banking and the fear other sanctions could eventually return. Iran's official unemployment rate is at 12.4 percent, and unemployment among the young - those 19 to 29 - has reached 28.8 percent, according to the government-run Statistical Center of Iran.

The provinces "face more economic hardship," wrote Brenda Shaffer, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies. "Income levels and social services in the periphery are lower, unemployment rates are higher, and many residents suffer from extensive health and livelihood challenges emanating from ecological damage." The pain has been felt in the capital, Tehran, and other major cities as well. But there it's been more cushioned within a large middle class. Many can ignore those picking through trash for food. However, in December 2016, Iranians, including Rouhani, expressed shock over a series of photographs in a local newspaper showing homeless drug addicts sleeping in open graves in Shahriar, on Tehran's western outskirts. "Things shouldn't be so expensive that people have to cry out. It was because officials don't care about people," said one Tehran resident, Nasser Nazari, though he added that protests were not the way to react.

Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.
Source: AP

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 Post subject: Re: 2018 - Pitchforks
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2018 8:40 pm 
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People across Russia rally against raising pension age
By NATALIYA VASILYEVA and JIM HEINTZ
9 September 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — A government plan to increase the age for collecting state pensions brought protests across Russia’s 11 time zones Sunday even though the opposition leader who called them was in jail. Nearly 300 people were reported arrested.

The plan calls for the eligibility age for retirement pensions to be raised by five years, to 65 for men and 60 for women. Opposition to it spans the political spectrum.

The rallies got started in the Far East and Siberia when it still was early morning in Moscow, where a downtown demonstration in the afternoon ended in scuffles when riot police stopped participants from marching to the Kremlin.

Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent foe, urged supporters to protest the pension proposal Sunday before he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for organizing an unsanctioned January protest involving a different issue.

Factory worker Olga Sokolova, 52, said she was “dumbfounded” when the proposal was introduced in June because she had hoped to retire from her physically taxing job at age 55. “I can’t keep being afraid anymore,” she said of her decision to risk detention by showing up at Moscow’s Pushkin Square for the protest that attracted several thousand people.

The demonstrators, predominantly people in their 20s and decades away from retirement, chanted “Russia without Putin” and held signs with messages such as “Putin, when will you go on pension?” They later marched toward Red Square and the Kremlin, chanting “Down with the czar!” as they passed the building of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, and leisurely Muscovites enjoying a hot afternoon.

The group was eventually blocked by police barricades. Riot police observing from the sidelines charged the marchers with raised batons when some tried to rush through the barriers. The crowd dispersed half an hour later.

Demonstrations took place throughout the sprawling country, from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on a Pacific island and in Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania. Photos on social media and footage from Navalny’s YouTube channel indicated most of the protests attracted 100 people at a minimum. In St Petersburg, the crowd appeared to exceed 1,000. An Associated Press journalist counted at least 30 people detained at that protest.

The OVD-Info organization that monitors political repression reported that 291 people in all were detained in connection with the protests around the country. A lawyer for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund was arrested in Moscow before the rally there. The largest number arrested was 58 in Yekaterinburg, OVD-Info said.

Raising the pension age is opposed both by older Russians, who fear they won’t live long enough to collect significant benefits, and by young adults worried that keeping people in the workforce longer will limit their own employment opportunities. “The reform is a robbery of my parents and grandparents. We’re stealing our future, too. Right now the only thing we can do is protest,” 24-year-old Igor Panov said at the Moscow demonstration. “The state should have found the money it needed in the budget or through fighting corruption,” 19-year-old Yegor Zhukov said at the St Petersburg protest.

Popular opposition leader Yevgeny Roizman, who is a former mayor of Yekaterinburg, said on Twitter that a younger generation took the lead because middle-aged Russians were too scared to protest. “My respect to those who took to the streets today, especially young people,” said Roizman, who was briefly detained at the rally in Yekaterinburg. “I want to say this to older people: The young have to take the hit for us and come out because we don’t.”

Putin’s trust rating in public opinion polls dropped after the proposal was put forward. Last month he offered some concessions, but he and government officials say the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancy in Russia could exhaust pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same.

The proposal changes offered by Putin are to be considered when the bill comes up for its second reading in the Duma, the lower house of parliament. No date has been announced for that reading, which is the point when proposed legislation can be revised.

Irina Titova in St Petersburg contributed to this report.
Source: AP

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 Post subject: Re: 2018 - Pitchforks
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2018 8:47 pm 
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Russian rights group says over 1,000 detained at protests
10 September 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — More than 1,000 people were detained at anti-government protests across Russia in what the Kremlin on Monday called a legitimate response to unauthorized rallies.

The OVD-Info group, which tracks police detentions and posts the names of the detainees on its website, said that 1,018 people were detained during Sunday’s demonstrations against a government plan to increase the ages at which Russians collect their state pension. Nearly half of those detained were rounded up in St. Petersburg, according to the OVD-Info. Russia’s second-largest city arguably saw the most robust response with riot police charging at protesters with batons. Minors and elderly people were among those arrested.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the police acted in accordance with the law in response to unauthorized protests. He added that “hooligans and provocateurs” mixed up with protesters and assailed police.

In Moscow, authorities charged two men with assailing police. On Monday, several activists tried to launch another protest in a tree-lined boulevard in central Moscow but they were quickly rounded up by police.

Sunday’s rallies, which had been called by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, were held in dozens of towns and cities across Russia. Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is Putin’s most visible foe, had called for protests against the government’s pension proposal before he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for organizing an unsanctioned January protest over a different issue.

The government’s plan calls for the eligibility age for retirement pensions to be raised by five years, to 65 for men and 60 for women. It has irked both older Russians, who fear they won’t live long enough to collect significant benefits, and younger generations worried that keeping people in the workforce longer will limit their own employment opportunities.

The government’s proposal has dented Putin’s popularity. The president responded by offering some concessions, but argued that the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancy in Russia could exhaust pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same.

Source: AP

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