Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Shipload of Memories

I'M always a bit wary about stories that claim to be reporting "Jewish outrage" about something or other.  Not that Jews haven't the right to be outraged about anything. But too often the stories look like they've started in the news office, the "spokesperson" quoted was not leading an angry protest deputation, they were 'phoned for a quote; and the supposed anger over something trivial is pointed the wrong way.

l paid more attention to this story in Sunday's Observer, because it looked interesting, because Ed Vuliamy is a serious journalist whose work and integrity I've respected since the war in Bosnia; and anyway, I'm a sucker for pictures of ships! 

Jewish outrage as ship named after SS war criminal arrives in Europe

As Holocaust day nears, anger erupts at arrival in Rotterdam of the Pieter Schelte, the world’s largest vessel

Pieter Schelte arrives at Rotterdam port
The Pieter Schelte, seen entering the port of Rotterdam, is more than 120 metres wide. Photograph: Bram Van De Biezen/EPA

Leaders of Jewish communities and Holocaust memorial groups in Britain and the Netherlands have reacted with rage and despair at the arrival in Rotterdam of the world’s biggest ship, the Pieter Schelte, named after a Dutch officer in the Waffen-SS.

The vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, said: “Naming such a ship after an SS officer who was convicted of war crimes is an insult to the millions who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis. We urge the ship’s owners to reconsider and rename the ship after someone more appropriate.”

Ruth Barnett, a tireless campaigner who arrived from Nazi Germany as part of the Kindertransport, said: “I am outraged by the intensity and extent of denial and indifference that fails to challenge things like this ship, and allows the impunity for perpetrators to think they can get away with it.”

The London-based Lloyd’s Register dug in to defend its role in the ship’s building and development, while the shipbuilder said it had been named in honour of the owner’s father for his “great achievements in the offshore oil and gas industry

Allseas is owned by a Dutchman, Edward Heerema, who is the son of Pieter Schelte Heerema. The ship bearing his father’s name arrived in Rotterdam from the Korean Daewoo shipyards two days before the killing of four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris and three weeks before the Auschwitz anniversary.

John Donovan, a former Shell contractor who is completing a book on the history of the company’s relations with the Third Reich. His petition reads: “Please change the ship’s name so that it no longer sails under the name of a former Waffen-SS officer jailed for war crimes.”

Donovan told the Observer: “This public homage by Edward Heerema as the wealthy son of a Nazi war criminal is an affront to the relatives of tens of millions of souls who perished at the hands of Nazi Germany. The name is unacceptable.”



It turns out that untimely though the ship's arrival was this week, the row about its name has been going for some time.

Nevertheless, I'm thankful to Ed Vuliamy for bringing the issue to our attention,and the story up to date.

Lloyd’s Register, which has been closely involved in bringing the Pieter Schelte to launch and featured the ship in glowing terms on the cover of its magazine, stuck by its position. “It’s not our role to take a view on the name of a single ship,” said a spokesman, Mark Stokes.

Allseas refrained from comment, but its communications office sent “general information”, including an interview with Edward Heerema in the Telegraaf newspaper, and a summary of his father’s career. This stated that he “became a member of a national socialist organisation in the early stages of the second world war. From November 1942 to June 1943 he was a director of a company under the SS.”
It continues: “Heerema lost his sympathy for the Nazi regime, and defected in June 1943. At the end of the war he was arrested. His trial in 1946 led to conviction for the period of his detention awaiting trial.”
After living in Venezuela, according to his official biography, Pieter Schelte Heerema returned to Holland in 1963, becoming “a civil engineer with great technical creativity, and an entrepreneur … The choice of the [ship’s] name Pieter Schelte is [his son] Edward’s acknowledgement of his father’s great achievements in the oil and gas industry.”

 The Telegraaf article – reported from the ship’s “majestic bridge” and headlined “Unparalleled Dutch glory” – said the vessel was “set to revolutionise the offshore world”. Heerema tells the paper that his father “hardly ever talked about that time with his family … He turned his back on the Netherlands in 1947. Which also was a way to break away from the past.” But Donovan has unearthed an extraordinary case in the high court in London last summer, brought after Allseas fell victim to a fraud scam.

The judge, Mr Justice Peter Smith, asked a witness about Pieter Schelte Heerema: “He was in the Dutch SS, was he?” “No, he was in the German SS,” came the reply. Counsel then asked: “And then he left the SS, you say, in the middle of the war?” Whereupon the judge remarked: “I didn’t know you could leave the SS. I thought it was a job for life.”


■ Before the Pieter Schelte was built, the Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies was compiling information on its namesake. Its main researcher, David Barnouw, said Schelte was “a member of a small fascist party before the war, but was in Venezuela when the Germans invaded. Schelte saw it as a reason to return”.
■ Having joined the SS, “Schelte fought on the Russian front for the Wehrmacht, but was recalled to be part of the ‘East Company’, working for the SS in the occupied East. The job was to provide labour, and Schelte promised 2,000 Dutch volunteers. But they were not forthcoming, so he commandeered 4,000 for forced labour”.
■ As the war began to “go badly for Germany, he joined a resistance party, then went to Switzerland. He was interned after the war, tried and I think the judges found him one of their own – a good businessman, well educated”.
■ Schelte returned to Venezuela where, says Barnouw, “any suggestions that he helped Nazis to escape to South America are untrue”. But, he asks: “Why does his son, who is … not a Nazi, give this ship a name that people will inevitably discuss?”
■ Among Schelte’s remarks was his verdict that “the German race is model. The Jewish race, by comparison, is parasitic … Therefore the Jewish question must be resolved in every Aryan country”.

The Schelte story brings to mind a bigger fish.


Although Marcus Samuel, who started the British side of Royal Dutch Shell, was Jewish (the Shell part of the name, and symbol, came from his unlikely business beginnings importing and selling painted sea shells), the Dutchman Henri Deterding who became chair of the joint company from 1930-6  was a Nazi sympathiser.  Indeed, he gave the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler more than sympathy, helping to finance the party's rise, and in 1936 offering Germany the sale of a year's oil reserve on credit.  Ousted from the board that year, he retired to  Krakow am See, in Germany.  

Evidently his was an active retirement:
Deterding was an honored friend and supporter of Hitler and a personal friend of Field Marshall Göring. They lived near each other in Germany and went shooting together. Deterding had also met Alfred Rosenberg, the chief Nazi ideologue and leader of the party department for foreign affairs. In September 1935, the German Foreign Office seconded one of its staff to Deterding as a personal assistant for political matters.

Deterding's connections  with the Nazis went back to early days. With them he dreamed of destroying the detested Bolshevism. In 1911 he had bought the  Azerbaijan oilfields from the Rothschilds,only to see these fall under Soviet rule after the revolution. With the Nazis he could plot revenge and war to get the oilfields back.

In England, Deterding had an honorary knighthood and a country estate, Buckhurst Park,Ascot, not far from Windsor, or Cliveden. When Alfred Rosenberg visited England in May 1933 he made for Buckhurst for talks with Deterding.

In Germany, Shell's subsidiary had already taken steps to make itself  Judenrein ,without waiting for Nazi legislation, or worrying what happened to those removed to make room for 'Aryans'.

Deterding maintained liaison with Dutch Nazis like Schelte Hereema from Germany.And some say Schelte's "resistance" group was nothing  of the sort,and his contacts with Nazis continued in his Latin American "exile"




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Debts that cannot be repaid

SALONIKA, SATURDAY JULY 11, 1942.  Jewish men being drilled by Germans to determine if they are fit for forced labour.

THE Greek people have elected the left-wing Syriza party into office, signalling they've had enough of imposed austerity and unemployment, and though the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn remains menacing in third place, Syriza's victory is a gain for democracy itself.  The new left party will face a rough ride, confronting powerful enemies, and may yet be forced to compromise, but for now it carries the hopes not just of Greeks, but of young people particularly, and we can only wish it well.

Tomorrow, January 27, is the anniversary of another kind of left-wing victory, the day in 1945 when Soviet soldiers, belonging to the First Army of the Ukrainian Front, liberated Auschwitz camp in south-west Poland, where so many people had been killed. This day has been designated Holocaust Memorial Day, and there will be various commemorative events.

Many Greek Jews were in Auschwitz, as well as some Greek resistance fighters,both Jewish and Gentile, and they did not go quietly to their deaths.  On October 8,1944, realising the Nazis were destroying evidence of their crimes and would kill them because they knew too much, members of the sonderkommando, who had been employed to dispose of corpses to the crematoria, rose up in Auschwitz-Birkenau, killing several Nazi SS men and blowing up a crematorium with a home made bomb, before they were crushed.  Some 300-400 prisoners took part in this rising,and some tried to escape,heading towards the approaching Soviet forces. Among the rebels were about 60 Greek Jews, led by an ex-army officer called Joseph Barukh.

There had been Jews in Greece since ancient times, but their numbers were considerably increased after the expulsion from Spain, and the Inquisition. Sefardi Jews found refuge in the comparatively tolerant Ottoman Empire of which Greece was then part, bringing with them their skills and their own Judeo-Hispanic language, Ladino.
Salonika, or Thessaloniki , became the main centre of Sefardi people in the world, for over 400 years. Like Vilna in the north for Ashkenazim, Salonika was renowned for its scholars and yeshivot, but also had a distinctly Jewish working class, particularly in textiles, and in transport and the docks. At the beginning of the 20th century Jews formed more than half of Salonika's mixed population.  It was said the port came to a standstill on the Jewish sabbath.

The Salonika Jews lost live, homes and jobs after a fire in 1917, and their position declined after the Greco-Turkish war from 1918-22 brought Greek rule, and the arrival of thousands of Greeks expelled from the Turkish mainland. Antisemitism and economic recession caused many Jews to emigrate, including 500 dockers enticed with their families to Haifa, where they enabled the Jewish yishuv to ease its dependence on Arab labour.      

In 1941, when the Nazis occupied Greece there were approximately 76,000 Jews in the country, of whom 56,000 lived in Salonika. That winter, the Greek Jews, and indeed the population in general, suffered almost as badly as people elsewhere in eastern Europe. Besides the destruction wrought by bombing and invasion, there was famine. Greece was unable to exchange its produce - dried fruits, tobacco, and olive oil -  for wheat. In March 1942 the German occupiers allowed the British government and Red Cross to send wheat shipments to Athens, but in Salonika, 20,000 Jews starved and there was an outbreak of spotted typhus.


The German command for Salonika and the Aegean decreed in July that all Jewish males between 18  and 45 should be conscripted for heavy labour, though the Todt Organisation had difficulty finding three or four thousand men for railway construction among this debilitated mass of people.  On Saturday, July 11, 1942, or "Black Saturday," thousands of Jewish men dressed in their best sabbath clothes were rounded up and taken to the Salonika town square, where they were beaten and humiliated, forced to perform physical jerks in the blazing sun for hours, to decide who was fit for manual labor.

Thousands were then sent to do road work under harsh conditions. Many hundreds died, others  were murdered as they tried to escape. The Jewish community tried to help with food,medicines and clothing. Then in October the German officer responsible for dealing with the Jewish community in Salonika, Dr.Max Merten, let people buy exemptions, finally exacting a fine of 2,500,000 drachma from the community to stop the conscription.

It was an illusory respite. Eichman, or at least one of his henchman, visited Salonika, and the order came to deport its Jews. Many appear to have told themselves that Poland could not be worse than the forced labour gangs, others were  told they would be sent to the easier conditions of Theresienstadt. The first train, of forty box-cars, arrived in Auschwitz on March 20,1943. Following the selection 417 men and 192 women were admitted into the camp. 2,191 people killed in the gas chambers.

By mid-May,  the great bulk of Salonika Jewry had been deported, 42,830 people in sixteen trains.

Nowadays there are no more than about 1,500 Jews in Salonika. Many of their synagogues and institutions were plundered and destroyed.  Last year it was reported that Salonika Jews were suing the German government to try and recover some of the millions extorted by Dr.Mertens. He is said to have hidden a huge fortune. But they are owed far more than can ever be repaid.         


The Jews of Athens were less culturally distinct,and found it easier to disappear among neighbours, and only(!) two trainloads of them were taken away for the camps. Elsewhere, conditions varied. Sometimes Greek bishops and other leaders encouraged their followers to assist the Jews,and  the EAM-ELAS  resistance protected and recruited Jews. The city of Volos, which was in the Italian zone of occupation, had a Jewish population of 882, and many Jews from Salonika sought sanctuary there. By March 1944, more than 1,000 Jews lived there. In September 1943, when the Nazis took over, head rabbi Pessah worked with Archbishop Ioakim and the EAM resistance movement to find sanctuary for the Jews in Pelion. Due to their efforts, 74% of the city's Jews were saved. Of the more than 1,000 Jews, only 130 were deported to Auschwitz.

But all told, more than 80 per cent of the Jews of Greece perished at the hands of the Nazis, or of their Bulgarian allies in Thrace.

Meanwhile, what of the rest of the population?  The Nazi occupiers imposed a forced loan from Greece to finance their war effort, and plundered the countryside, leaving Greeks to starve while the food went to German armed forces. They were ruthless in punishing resistance.  

While we have been told repeatedly about Greece's debts for bailout,and some German newspapers have caricatured Greeks as lazy,  unproductive beggars spending their time in cafes, Greeks suffering the affects of austerity and joblessness have remembered wartime experience, or what they were told by their parents about life -and death - under German rule.

Here is John Psaropououlos, on April 25 last year:

On June 10, 1944, three Wehrmacht units converged on the village of Distomo in Nazi-occupied central Greece. They had received reports of black market activity in the area - a hanging offence under the Nazis, who stockpiled food to supply their armies overseas, leaving the local population strictly rationed. Instead of smugglers they found a dozen resistance fighters and rounded them up.

"A representative ran off and warned the resistance that was encamped three or four kilometres from the village," says Thanos Bouras, who was then 20 years old. "The resistance attacked, and they mortally wounded the German commander. A woman brought him some water. He thanked her, and said: 'The entire village [is] kaput, but don't harm this woman.'"
What followed was one of the worst Nazi atrocities in Greece during their three-and-a-half-year occupation. Angelos Kastritis, who was eight, remembers the Germans going house to house, bashing down doors and spraying interiors with machine-gun fire.
Kastritis' mother had told him and his father to make themselves scarce while she stayed home with her in-laws, believing that women and the elderly would not be harmed.
"When I returned I first saw my grandfather. The back of his head was gone and his brains had been splattered against a staircase. My grandmother was seated next to him [dead]. Inside the house I saw my mother… They had killed her execution-style, from behind."

Sture Linner, the Swedish head of the Red Cross in Greece, arrived in Distomo three days later. He described what he saw in his autobiography, My Odyssey, "For hundreds of yards along the road, human bodies were hanging from every tree, pierced with bayonets - some were still alive. In the village… hundreds of dead bodies of people of all ages, from elderly to newborns, were strewn around on the dirt. Several women were slaughtered with bayonets, their wombs torn apart and their breasts severed …"
Seven percent of the Greek population at the time of the war - over half a million people - was wiped out. Four-fifths of those were civilians and were killed in mass executions and punitive massacres like that at Distomo. But the single biggest killer was starvation, stemming from Germany's disastrous management of the Greek economy. Greece lost 97 percent of its exports. Agricultural production fell; infrastructure was systematically destroyed. A year into the occupation, Germany was so worried about a collapse of civil society that it let Britain and the Red Cross distribute food and aid.

Changing tones?
For decades, Greece's official position, that reparations for this disaster remain an open question, has contradicted Germany's - that the matter is closed.
But that may now be changing. On March 6, Greece's President Karolos Papoulias aired the subject during a visit from his German counterpart. "Greece never gave up its claims and a solution is negotiations as quickly as possible," he said.
A Greek foreign ministry source says that negotiations were given the go-ahead during Chancellor Angela Merkel's last visit to Athens, on April 11.
"The [Greek] government has sent the entire dossier to the Court of Audit for a legal opinion," said the source, on condition of anonymity. "As soon as that is delivered, talks will begin between foreign ministers."
But it isn't clear how much Greece will ask for. The Allies disagreed on the amount that Germany should pay in reparations after World War II and set up the Inter-Allied Reparations Agency  to distribute movable German assets among themselves - entire factories and blast furnaces were sawed to pieces and shipped.

Greece was awarded 2.7 percent of the fixed assets and 4.35 percent of the movable assets, says Hagen Fleischer, professor emeritus at Athens University, one of the world's leading experts on World War II reparations. "Some of this got to Greece and some didn't."

Fleischer's estimates will be detailed in a forthcoming book on the subject: "We might estimate that it was between 25 and 80 million dollars' worth [in 1938 dollars]," - roughly equivalent to the 2.7 percent share Greece was awarded.

For full article see:
See also:

Whatever the arguments about money, this is also about debts that cannot be repaid.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Killer in the Classroom

MESOTHELIOMA DAY, 2014.  Vince Hagedorn, (left, in white shirt), releasing doves at St.John's Gate, in London.  Vince's partner, Carole, had died of mesothelioma not long before.

IT does not seem absolutely clear what led to the death of Jennifer Barnett. The former art teacher died from malignant mesothelioma in September last year.  Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that  develops in the lining of the lungs, or sometimes other organs, and is usually caused by exposure to asbestos fibres.

Jennifer did cut asbestos sheets when she worked on farms in her twenties. But that was not the end of her contact with the dangerous substance.   

As her husband Nigel Barnett, of Painswick, Glos, told an inquest: “She became an art teacher and worked at various schools, often hanging paintings on walls containing asbestos.”  He added: "She was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in July 2013 and I was with her when she collapsed and died at home."

Coroner Katy Skerrett said: “It is clear that there was sufficient exposure to asbestos in her occupation for me to reach a conclusion that this lady died from an industrial disease.”  The inquest heard how the deceased had chemotherapy treatment "which was palliative and eased the pain." 

There is no cure for mesothelioma as yet. And because the killer disease works slowly, it is often detected too late for sufferers to undergo chemotherapy or benefit by surgery.

In the past we heard about asbestos-related diseases affecting miners, building workers, workers in ships and shipyards, women who made gas masks containing asbestos during the War, even wives washing their husbands' overalls filled with asbestos dust. But in more recent years we have started to learn that with asbestos present in more than three quarters of Britain's schools, teachers are a group at risk.
Carole Hagedorn, a foreign languages teacher from Essex, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in the Summer of 2008, after being exposed to asbestos during more than 30 years of working in schools.


'When, at the beginning of my career, I went into classrooms to teach year eights the perfect tense, I did not expect it to end with an industrial disease,'  she told the NAS-UWT Easter conference in 2009.

Following her diagnosis, Mrs Hagedorn had to give up teaching, and endured 18 weeks of chemotherapy. The average life expectancy from diagnosis is between six and 18 months, she said.
'I am understandably unhappy that the lack of proper asbestos control will end my life prematurely, like some sort of collateral damage or natural wastage in the education game,' she said.
Mrs Hagedorn warned: 'It is believed that a single fibre of asbestos may cause mesothelioma. There is no such thing as safe asbestos or a safe limit.

'Children are thought to be much more susceptible than adults, though we won't know for another 20 to 30 years how many will already have contracted this cancer from exposure in schools because of its long latency period.'

Mrs Hagedorn, who received a standing ovation after telling her story, called for a national risk assessment of asbestos in schools, and for it to be cleared as quickly as possible.The responsibility for protecting children and teachers lies wholly with government, she said.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1170584/Asbestos-schools-kill-pupils-warns-teacher-dying-lung-cancer.html#ixzz3PjM5dlz2

In 2012 it emerged that a planned year-long survey of England's 23,000 schools would examine every aspect of buildings – from classroom decoration to whether fire alarms and toilets were in working order – but would specifically exclude asbestos, the most serious threat of all to staff and pupils.
An internal Department for Education email,d,ated September 2011, said pressure to include asbestos in the assessment of the state of schools had to be resisted due to "cost implications and the fact that asbestos management should already be carried out under existing legal requirements".

Former teachers, mesothelioma sufferers and campaigners felt the government was playing down the dangers even though Department of Education advice urged teachers to avoid pinning things on walls for fear of disturbing asbestos, and to prevent children running in corridors, slamming doors etc - all  the boisterous activity that defies admonitions and discipline in any normal school.

Sarah Bowman, who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009, was convinced she had been  exposed to asbestos at school. Brent Council admitted that William Gladstone School, since demolished, contained asbestos, but claimed any connection was "highly unlikely".

"I was 41 when I was diagnosed, You can't tell someone they are going to die at 41. I'd never even heard of mesothelioma. I had heard of asbestos and knew it was no good for you, but I didn't know it killed you. When I was diagnosed my world blew apart, I felt very alone, very scared. They know there was asbestos in the school I went to. I'll take this as far as I can. I remember one time when a kid threw a chair and it stuck in the wall and we all laughed – but now I know it's enough to disturb the asbestos, just like putting drawing pins into the wall.

"I think the Government should be more honest about the risks. They should manage it correctly and label it so that everybody knows about it.  Asbestos is 'safe if it is managed correctly', but how can it be? Kids slam doors, that's what kids do, and that's enough to disturb asbestos."

"All of the schools that I've worked in have been of a certain age and have all had asbestos" said Carole Hagerdorn. "I've had no other career so I am convinced I was exposed at schools. The worst thing about it is the shock because you don't expect to get an industrial disease from working in a school; your life changes shape, becoming a round of treatments and operations.

"The Government has played down the risks over the years. The bottom line is that it is very expensive to remove asbestos, but there has to be a phased plan of removal; working out which are the worst schools and dealing with those first. There needs to be some kind of commitment from the Government."


With local authorities forced to make cuts,  and many more schools removed from their control, it is blatantly obvious that government cannot shrug off its responsibility for doing something to remove asbestos from schools, and to make sure it is removed safely. Even if this goes against the grain of cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and what David Cameron calls"red tape".

Carole Hagedorn died in June last year, aged 63. It's possible her life had been extended five years by undergoing a pioneering treatment that uses a deactivated cold virus to kick-start the immune system ­enabling it to target and fight the cancer. Carole and her husband Vince had made the most of this time by travelling and enjoying life as best they could.  But they did not stop campaigning.  On Action Mesothelioma Day, July 4, Vince Hagedorn spoke in London on behalf of the Asbestos in Schools campaign, and released doves in honour of Carole and the other victims.

In September it was reported that Brent council had admitted liability for Sarah Bowman's exposure to asbestos while at school, and agreed to pay her  compensation. Ms. Bowman had had better news still. After successful removal of a tumour the medics had reported no cancerous cells remained. Sarah Bowman said she was hoping to return to work. But with her solicitors she will carry on pressing for the government to inspect all schools.

Sandra Naylor was not so fortunate. In April 2013,  having been diagnosed with mesothelioma, she decided to sue her local council, but she died at the beginning of August 2014.As a child Sandra attended Calverdale High in Airdrie. Her solicitor said “The school had just been constructed when our client was a pupil there and for the first year or so she recalls workmen regularly working in the school. “It is believed that her exposure to the asbestos dust came from the work being undertaken by the workmen in various parts of the school whilst she was there as a pupil. She has no knowledge of any other asbestos exposure in her life.” http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/woman-sue-council-after-contracting-1807383
Sandra Naylor   SANDRA NAYLOR, of Airdrie, North Lanarkshire.  Died of Mesothelioma last year

Whether Scottish ministers have been doing any better on schools asbestos than their counterparts in London is something that needs looking at.

"Workmen discovered white and brown asbestos while carrying out roof repairs to Holyrood Secondary in Glasgow's South Side during the summer holidays. The work was completed on August 8, just five days before pupils returned to Glasgow's biggest high school after the summer break".


Of course it is not only teachers,or pupils, that are exposed to danger in schools.

“THE family of a former school cleaner who died after coming into contact with asbestos is hoping to track down her colleagues. Mrs Routledge had worked at the old Fulwell Infants School, in Sunderland, as a cleaner from 1963 until the 1990s.

It is believed that the source of the asbestos was an old coal-fired boiler, which is thought to have been lagged with the substance.”


David Atkinson was a carpenter who may have been exposed to asbestos working on farm buildings or in a college.  He died of malignant mesothelioma.

On January 19, the issue was raised in Parliament.  

Asked by Helen Jones 19 January 2015 Teachers: Mesothelioma Commons221236

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate she has made of the number of teachers and former teachers who have contracted mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos in schools.

Answered by: Mr David Laws 22 January 2015

The Department for Education is not aware of data that links the number of cases of mesothelioma contracted to occupation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) produces statistics about the link between mesothelioma related deaths and occupation, which the Department uses to inform its policy. The HSE statistics are published online at: www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/mesothelioma/mortality-by-occupation-


Michael Lees of the Asbestos in Schools campaign commented: "The Minister is being pedantic, and therefore has avoided stating that more than 291 school teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980 and at least 158 have died in the last ten years.

"Presumably the Minister does not want to acknowledge a link between asbestos exposure at school and the subsequent deaths of teachers, support staff and former pupils. He presumably justifies his answer because HSE advise DfE that teachers are developing mesothelioma because they have been exposed elsewhere other than at school.

Some might have been, but there is extensive evidence of school teachers being exposed to asbestos at school, in some cases frequently and over a prolonged period of time. HSE do not investigate mesothelioma deaths and do not examine the evidence of asbestos exposure of teachers who have died of mesothelioma.

Whereas coroners do, and in many cases have given a verdict of death from industrial disease because of evidence of asbestos exposure at school.

See:  http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/pdfnewslinks

The government has been dragging its  heels about acknowledging the size of the asbestos in schools issue  and its tragic effects, let alone taking responsibility for tackling it.  But it now seems that relentless campaigning, growing public awareness, and perhaps the thought of an election coming, are having some effect.

Michael Lees reports:


I am pleased to say that we have just heard DfE will be holding a meeting of the DfE Asbestos Steering Group on 3rd or 5th February “To share with you the findings of our review and discuss our proposals for our policy on the management of asbestos in schools in the future.”

I will attend along with other members of the Steering Group and will inform you of the outcome.

Best wishes

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Heritage and Security

SO OFTEN THE BACKDROP for protests, like last September's march for the NHS, the National Gallery, one of Britain's biggest tourist attractions, is the centre of a struggle for jobs and a living wage.   

MORE news for flag-waving patriots and those proud of the national heritage. Oh,and concerned - aren't we all? - for our security.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which is struggling to continue representing civil servants  and workers in firms doing government work, reports that hundreds of Metropolitan Police civilian staff face being handed to a private company that is sending civil service work overseas.

The union's ability to function is being attacked by government ending the check-off  system for union dues and taking away union representatives' facility time.  Weakening the union is one way of setting civil servants competing to keep their jobs by taking it out on vulnerable members of the public they deal with, rather than trying to cushion the coalition's vicious blows.  It also leaves whistleblowers exposed. 

In the latest privatisation move, around 500 support workers in human resources and finance could become part of an existing contract run by a new company Shared Services Connected Ltd.  The PCS says this decision by London's deputy mayor for policing Stephen Greenhalgh means a contract would either be given to SSCL as early as June or be put out for a full competitive tender.

"Majority owned by French multinational Sopra Steria, SSCL was set up in 2013 to take over similar functions in government departments and has already confirmed some civil service work is now done in India".

Funnily enough, with all the concern which right-wing politicians and media have been showing about our jobs supposedly being taken by immigrants, I've yet to hear any worries expressed about the jobs that are exported to countries with lower wages and conditions, fewer workers' rights and favourable tax arrangements.

Security does not seem a problem either,  with all our files winging their way to exotic parts. Still,with David Cameron so insistent on the state's need to eavesdrop and checkour e-mails, even if the state contracts the work out, maybe those poor sods in Asian call centres who keep ringing to ask me about my consumer lifestyle will be able to get all the information without calling. I assume it is worth something to somebody.

The deal to take away work from the Met's civilian staff is part of a framework agreement, which the PCS says allows SSCL to take over Human Resources and finance services in any part of the public sector.  The final decision is due to be made in April, but the union says the business case is flawed and it wants the work kept in-house.

All of the Met's "non front line services" are being reviewed to see if they could be privatised, including civilian staff who work side by side with officers in criminal justice.

Turning to the nation's  cultural heritage, expect protesters outside the National Gallery on Monday evening, over the use of a private security firm. The row started last Summer when the PCS union heard that the National Gallery's head of security - formerly with that reputable company G4S- had  appointed a private security firm with no prior consultation to guard artworks at an exhibition, Rembrandt: The Late Works.

CIS Security is being paid approximately £500,000 for the task and advertised three-month contracts at £10 per hour to cover the exhibition, running from October 15 to January 18, 2015. According to the advert, guards were expected to answer queries and provide visitors with advice, guidance and information.

There were soon reports that inexperienced and probably unmotivated casual security guards were touching paintings and talking on mobiles when they should be assisting visitors.  But now it appears  CIS is being given more work, moving into the gallery's Sainsbury wing, without having to tender, and without any consultation with the union.

The union said last year it was concerned about the lack of consultation before CIS Security’s appointment. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka accused the gallery of “using public money to usher in privatisation through the back door”.

Serwotka added: "Private security companies, driven by the need to make profits, have absolutely no place looking after world-famous works of art, and these plans should be scrapped.”

The appointment of CIS Security came after the gallery's announcement that around 400 of its 600 posts would be outsourced later this year, including all visitor, security and ticketing services.


It seems the Gallery and their favoured contractors are intent on lowering pay and conditions - even taking away seats from attendants - along with job security.  For this they are prepared to take a risk with standards.  A report in the Daily Mail  -not normally a friend of trade unions - said:

"The National Gallery’s ‘blockbuster’ new Rembrandt exhibition has been hailed a triumph by the critics, but visitors might be advised to keep a close eye on the masterpieces.

Some experienced security guards were replaced earlier this year by agency staff and sources claim the change is proving a disaster.

‘Five of them didn’t bother to turn up for training, while another has been sacked over a foul prank in a toilet,’ claims an insider.

‘When others were given a tour of the gallery, some showed little interest, texting away on their phones.

‘They have been spotted touching paintings and even caught on camera in the Rembrandt exhibition stroking works loaned to the gallery. They have apparently received warnings to stop, but this is really shocking.’

The gallery declines to discuss the claims. ‘We would never comment on matters relating to individual staff members as these are confidential between those involved and the National Gallery,’ a spokeswoman says.

However, she adds: ‘Safety and security are of paramount concern. CIS Security employees are vetted to the same level as existing staff; they will also undertake similar levels of training and assume identical responsibilities.’"


The PCS reported last week :

We are balloting our members at the National Gallery for strikes as part of a campaign against privatisation.
The vote that begins today among hundreds of workers at the world renowned attraction in central London could lead to extended days of industrial action.

We suspended planned strikes over the Christmas break after the gallery used the UK's anti-union laws to challenge them.
We are opposed to plans to privatise almost all staff, including those who look after the paintings and help the gallery's six million annual visitors with enquiries.

Our online petition against the proposal has attracted almost 40,000 signatures.

The National Gallery is the second most popular visitor attraction in the country and we believe the sell-off plan risks damaging its worldwide reputation. Private security company CIS was brought in last autumn to cover the gallery's Rembrandt exhibition.

Now the firm has been handed work in the Sainsbury wing, without any tender or consultation.
Gallery bosses have also reneged on a promise to introduce the London living wage, meaning the institution is the only major museum or gallery in the capital that does not pay it.

There will be a day of action against the privatisation plan on Monday 19 January, including a protest at 6pm outside the gallery in Trafalgar Square.

Sign the online petition


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Thursday, January 15, 2015

No, I am not 'Charlie'


NO, I am not 'Charlie'. And if  this nonsense continues much longer I might have to seriously consider changing my first name!

I am NOT 'Charlie'.  And if you want to know why I am not joining those generally good people who have unthinkingly hastened to identify with that awful magazine, here is one reason why:

I learnt a new French word from this cover. Les Allocs, from les allocations familiales, family allowances, and roughly translatable in a current British context as 'Benefits'.  We are used to British media and politicians whipping up hostility against so-called "benefits scroungers" and immigrants, but not to anyone suggesting the papers that target both are somehow left-wing or anti-establishment.

The 'Charlie Hebdo' cover refers to the "sexual slaves of Boko Haram", a subject whose humour is a bit above my intellect, then depicts a crowd of ugly women in Muslim attire, all heavily pregnant,  screaming "Hands off our 'Allocs'(Benefits)".

Tres drole, and very amusing.

Of course, I may not have grasped the hidden subtleties of this cartoon, nor be sufficiently au fait with sophisticated French thought and humour to understand that this was really aimed against racism and misogyny, rather than appealing to both; and to the age old bitterness against the lower orders and lesser breeds living and multiplying - "parish-fed bastards" as was the cry of the Yeomanry at Peterloo.

I don't know whether the liberating aim would have been what the thugs had in mind who attacked a pregnant Muslim woman in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil last Thursday, tearing off her veil and headcovering, and kicking her in the stomach for good measure. The young woman suffered a miscarriage and lost her baby on Monday. I don't know whether she appreciated the irony.

I had been going to add another 'Charlie Hebdo' cover featuring a black-clad bearded Orthodox Jew with an extra-long proboscis talking about the Holocaust , which I had seen posted on the internet, but it appears this was a spoof-cover produced by supporters of the antisemite Dieudonne.  I don't know whether 'CH' itself has done anything as unpleasant, but I note that friends who are normally sensitive to anything resembling antisemitism elsewhere were trying to find excuses for this caricature,  so long  as they thought it was genuine.  Such was the wave of enthusiasm for unrestrained freedom of speech.

I am not "Charlie", and nor am I any kind of apologist for the gunmen. Since they are dead, we don't know for sure what their motives were, or those of whoever sent them.  I don't buy the "lone nutters" theory, for these killers were either well-briefed and efficient, or very lucky, managing to strike at the CH office just when an editorial meeting was taking place. Perhaps if the French security services had been as effective at surveillance of those who'd already come on the radar, and stopping them getting guns, both the 'Charlie Hebdo' attack and the supermarket siege might have been prevented.

Still, I don't want to indulge in armchair detection, still less to be smug about those inferior French cops.  The two worst shooting incidents in Britain, at Hungerford (1987) and Dunblane(1996), were carried out by local characters, both white and neither of them Muslim, obsessed with guns, and with legally held firearms. Since then the law has been changed. But Nigel Farage, who blames events in France on "multiculturalism" , said last year that the restriction on hand guns should be scrapped. Maybe those journos who hang on Farage's every word should remind him and his fellow gobshites that culture and headscarves don't kill, guns do.

As for the disgusting media baron Rupert Murdoch, who wants us to hold all Muslims responsible for the killings in France, I don't recall him as a 'born-again Christian' apologising for the actions of his co-religionist Anders Breivik in Norway, any more than for the Inquisition, the Nazi Holocaust, or the massacres of mainly Muslim people at Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon, and Srebrenica in Bosnia, committed by men proud to wear the cross.  But I do remember that it was one of Murdoch's former minions, ex-Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, who blamed Breivik's victims, comparing the young people at a Norwegian Labour Party summer camp to Hitler Youth.

The gunmen who attacked 'Charlie Hebdo' were not "representatives of the oppressed", however, and there is no point in misguided leftists appointing themselves defence lawyers, and dragging in everything from bombing of Iraq to joblessness in France to "explain" if not exonerate the gunmen.
As for those who killed customers in a kosher supermarket, their crime did nothing for the Palestinians, but came as music to Mossad ears, boosting Netanyahu's effort to persuade Jews to leave France so he use them to reinforce his armed camp. The real hero of the day, and some would say, true Muslim, was the young shopworker Lassana Bathily, from Mali, who helped people hide and saved their lives.

Had the CH gunmen, or whoever sent them, really cared about France's Muslims, or been confident of their support, they could have mobilised a popular campaign against the paper's insults, instead of relying on guns. It might even have had longer-lasting results. But that would have involved convincing people, persuading them to act, and that their actions count. Once they are mobilised, they might want to take up other issues, like unemployment or exploitation. And as they gain confidence, and allies, they might be less likely to stay within the bounds of religion or outmoded authority. Who knows where it might end?

There are of course plenty of French Muslims and innigrants who are politically articulate and as capable of organising as anyone else. It is my guess that the last thing whoever planned these gun attacks wants is to encourage mass organisation or participation in politics. That two supposed heroes could find nowhere to hide among an estimated five million Muslims is significant. It also symbolises the kind of isolation their mentors would like to see imposed on the entire Muslim community.

That so many of my friends on the Left are torn between "free speech" fundamentalism and deferential respect for 'Charlie Hebdo''s intellectual pretensions on the one hand, and a
patronising assumption that the gunmen are legitimate expressions of an otherwise cowed,uneducated and inarticulate poor community on the other; with no attempt to look critically at either terror or bourgeois 'freedoms'.  These are two faces of the emptiness that lies today behind so much phrasemongering and "theoretical" erudition.

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Monday, January 05, 2015


WAY TO GO!  DUE soon to have more time for his grandchildren, Steven Jefferys can bow out with pride in his department's work.
ALMOST two years ago we were supporting staff at the London Metropolitan University who were resisting what looked like politically-motivated victimisation.  More recently I was reporting on the row about the same university's employment of a former undercover police agent whose nefarious activities had been exposed. 

So now, catching up belatedly on some correspondence that reached me just as I was packing to get away for a break at Christmas, it is good to get into the New Year with some good news. It seems that far from "bringing the university into disrepute",  a charge which might sometimes have been levelled at LMU's bosses in the past, the team at the Working Lives Research Institute (WLRI), led by Steve Jefferys, have been judged  winners by peers in the Research Excellence Framework(REF) which assesses such work.

Here are the messages that tell the story:

Dear Friend,

In February and March 2013 you were one of 2,500 academics and trade unionists and friends who signed the letter to the then Vice Chancellor of London Metropolitan University demanding I and two Working Lives Research Institute administrative colleagues be reinstated from suspension.  This happened soon afterwards, thanks we are sure to your pressure, although I and the UNISON trade union representative subsequently both had to serve out ‘final warnings’.
I’m writing now to inform you of some really great follow-up news.
Your support in 2013 enabled me to put the WLRI academic record as well as our personal commitment to social justice before our peers in the REF November 2013. Their judgement is a tremendous accolade.
Thank you for that support. Without it we would not have been able to report this great achievement.
All the best for 2015

Research Excellence Framework gives WLRI 2008-2013 4-star billing

The LondonMet's Working Lives Research Institute (WLRI) REF result (announced on December 18) was amazing!

We put our collective academic outputs, my descriptions of our research impact and our research environment over the last six years and two excellent impact case studies before a panel of judges in the academic discipline of Area Studies. This includes American Studies, Middle East Studies, European Studies etc.

Our news is that we found out on December 18 2014 that we have been ranked 4th out of the 23 UK universities who do research in this very broad field.

Our 2014 overall UoA 27 rating was higher than Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, SOAS and Edinburgh universities to name a few, while those universities scoring above us were only the LSE, Birmingham and Exeter.

Not only that, but out of all the 36 Units of Assessment (UoA) covering research carried out by all UK universities, we were the highest ‘new’ post-1992 university ranking group of researchers except for the three vocational UoAs (Dance, Art and Design, and Sport). 

The WLRI team I led comprised 9 social justice researchers of whom three had recently come to us from another excellent Research Institute, ISET (the Institute for the Study of European Transformations). Two other excellent LondonMet Social Science and Humanities faculty colleagues were also in the submission, giving a total of 11 who were entered. Nearly all our research has been on European working lives and the University finance department reported we had raised £4.4m in external research income over the 6 years. There was another £1.5m income that was not included.

Our result was significantly better than six years earlier. In the 2008 RAE the 17 staff who were entered in the European Studies Unit of Assessment (UoA) that then existed were ranked joint 10th out of 27 universities.

Since then, despite misplaced attacks on research and on the WLRI directly, with my being suspended in early 2013 and being given a final warning, and then our being targeted for extra redundancies, we got this stunning result.

Outputs are the most important aspect of a REF submission. Ours were judged to be above the national average for Area Studies. A staggering 69% of our publications were rated 3* (internationally recognised) or 4* (world class) compared to a 63.3% average for Area Studies. 21% of our publications were judged to be world-class (4*).

Our Impact rating was even better: 70% of our Impact was judged to be world class (4*), and 30% having international recognition (3*). We were topped only by LSE and Exeter.
Our Research Environment rating was equal with Oxford and Cambridge (50% of it was judged to be world class), and we were exceeded on this measure only by UCL, Birmingham and LSE.

I am proud to have begun our Impact statement by writing that LondonMet's
'socially accountable and redistributive ethos is reflected in the university’s long history of addressing the needs and realities of the less privileged strata of British society. Thus social justice remains a key driver of our Area Studies research into migration, inclusion and exclusion, and representation processes – particularly in relation to changing forms of work in different European communities...

'Our approach to non-academic users, beneficiaries and audiences over the whole period 2008-2013 has been rooted in the philosophy of user-engagement and giving voice to those who are rarely heard. Our experience is that this approach maximises the ownership of impact by those involved in the research process.'

This highly positive competitive external audit of the WLRI's work between 2008 and 2013 comes out of our collective work.

But it is also a real personal high for me. I was a founder of the WLRI in 2002, with Mary Davis, Chris Coates and Fiona Colgan, and have been its Director ever since, and this great result falls just before my retirement and my move to Emeritus Professor status on February 14 2015.

Way to go!

We also commented in this blog on the way Warwick University authorities had been treating staff and students.  So here was one of the first comments on Steve Jeffreys' news from Dennis Leech at Warwick:

Excellent news. 

You may be interested to know that the department at Warwick that got the highest REF ranking (the only department ranked first nationally overall and by outputs) was English and Comparative Literary Studies, whose head of research responsible for preparing the REF submission etc  (and also immediate past head of department) was Thomas Docherty - before he was suspended and subjected to the most severe disciplinary process lasting in all over ten months being completely exonerated.

Best wishes



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Friday, January 02, 2015

The Hazards of Duke

UNITED STATES Republican Party leaders can be pretty right-wing and even racialist these days, they can beat the drums for war abroad, while waging war on America's own poor and minorities, but it all comes under the  heading of what they are happy to call conservatism. Except now they are trying to play down the story that has come out associating their leader in the House of Representatives with extremism, in the form of a white supremacist outfit led by a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

It all started when Louisiana political blogger Lamar White Jnr. took a look at some posts  on Stormfront, the far-Right bulletin board site that provides an online meeting point for Klanners, Holocaust deniers, Nazis and other racists. He found them referring to  Representative Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, speaking at a conference hosted by the white supremacist group European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). That was in 2002, when Scalise was just a state representative, and 12 years before he was elected Republican House majority whip.

The event was the National/International EURO Workshop on Civil Rights, held from May 17 to 18, 2002, at the Landmark/Best Western Hotel in Metairie, Louisiana. It was listed on an Anti-Defamation League list of extremist events for that year. A Stormfront user said Scalise spoke to the organization at a workshop "to teach the most effective and up-to-date methods of civil rights and heritage related activism."

It's not hard to figure what EURO fans might understand by civil rights and "heritage".  The organisation was founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who never broke from his racialist past, but led a group that set out to modernise the KKK's politics, taking them away from pointy hoods and cross burning, and into business suits, ballot papers and links with like-minded European fascists.

 The British National Party's veteran John Tyndall was a guest at one of Duke's events.

Affecting more 'reasonable'-sounding language for aims reminiscent of the far-Right South African racists, Duke explained:  "We (Whites) desire to live in our own neighborhoods, go to our own schools, work in our own cities and towns, and ultimately live as one extended family in our own nation".

As for the charge that he was supporting European Nazi Holocaust deniers, Duke contended that they had a point. " You can't find one written order to one commander at any of these camps which says 'Exterminate the Jews.'"

Duke's efforts at political 'respectability' might have survived his conviction for tax fraud  in  2002, for which he served a short prison sentence.  Americans are less likely to forgive some of his foreign adventures and associates, such as the Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, jailed in Germany on race hate charges, whom Duke referred to as a "political prisoner", or the Russian fascist leader Alexander Dugin. Duke's attendence at a conference of Holocaust revisionists in Tehran, as well as promoting his book on Zionism as "Jewish Supremacism" in Moscow, make a curious contrast with right-wing Republicans' advocacy of Israeli expansionism and war with Iran. But maybe Republicans - and their Israeli proteges -don't embarrass easy.

Scalise and his defenders have tried to pretend he did not know how bad EURO really was, and that he had nothing to do with David Duke's politics.
"Throughout his career in public service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints," Moira Bagley Smith, a spokeswoman for Scalise, said in a statement. "In every case, he was building support for his policies, not the other way around. In 2002, he made himself available to anyone who wanted to hear his proposal to eliminate slush funds that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars as well as his opposition to a proposed tax increase on middle-class families. He has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question. The hate-fueled ignorance and intolerance that group projects is in stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes and practices as a father, a husband, and a devoted Catholic."

Scalise himself said later "I didn't know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous."

In fact, Scalise's attacks on public spending and affirmative action programmes slots in with Duke's longstanding claim that whites were the victims of discrimination.  Duke's first move after leaving the Klan was to form a "National Association for the Advancement of White People". 

And those attending the EURO convention appreciated Scalise's contribution. "In addition to plans to implement tactical strategies that were discussed, the meeting was productive locally as State Representative, Steve Scalise, discussed ways to oversee gross mismanagement of tax revenue or 'slush funds' that have little or no accountability," user Alsace Hebert wrote on May 21, 2002. "Representative Scalise brought into sharp focus the dire circumstances pervasive in many important, under-funded needs of the community at the expense of graft within the Housing and Urban Development Fund, an apparent give-away to a selective group based on race."

The same user also referenced Scalise's remarks in a post on Feb. 2, 2004.
"It was just announced that Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson will enter the race in the 1st Congressional District," Hebert wrote. "Those that attended the EURO conference in New Orleans will recall that Scalise was a speaker, offering his support for issues that are of concern to us."

Two years after speaking at the conference, Scalise was one of just six state representatives who voted to oppose making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday in Louisiana. That was at least the second time Scalise had voted against an MLK holiday. He was one of three lawmakers to vote against it in 1999, too.

People aren't buying the story that Scalise did not know who he was meeting.

"EURO already was well known as a racist hate group at the time that Steve Scalise apparently spoke to its workshop, and it is hard to believe that any aspiring politician would not have known that," Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "In any case, it's worth noting that Scalise apparently did not leave even after hearing other racist speakers spouting their hatred."

Even a visiting minor league baseball team from another state knew what the Louisiana Republican's office claims he did not. As the Des Moines Register noted at the time:
    The Iowa Cubs have changed hotels for their trip to New Orleans this month because of the meeting of an organization headed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
    The Cubs were scheduled to stay at the Best Western Landmark Hotel in Metairie, La., while playing four Pacific Coast League games May 16-19. The hotel also booked a workshop during that period for an organization called EURO -- European-American Unity and Rights Organization.

It seems the hotel hosting the conference wasn't happy with the publicity it attracted:

    The Best Western Landmark said "A contract to book this event was made some time ago, and it is our practice to fulfill our contractual obligations," a company spokesperson says. "Our company does not share the views of this organization." In the past, David Duke has held campaign events at the hotel, and "we have never had any trouble there," claims EURO national director Vincent Breeding.

And many conservatives aren't buying Scalise's story. RedState's Erick Erickson writes that he finds it highly unlikely the congressman would not have known this was a Duke organization at the time of the event.

 New Orleans reporter Stephanie Grace recalled her first meeting with Scalise,  twenty years ago.
"He told me he was like David Duke without the baggage".

The Republican Party of Louisiana has dismissed what it calls  a "manufactured blogger story."

“For the 25 years that I’ve known Congressman Scalise, he has been an aggressive advocate for conservative reform. He has been willing to bring this message to anyone who would listen and has spoken to thousands of groups during his career in public service. I’ve also known Steve to be a man of great integrity who embodies his Christian faith in his daily life. This manufactured blogger story is simply an attempt to score political points by slandering the character of a good man," Louisiana party chairman Roger Villere Jr. said in a statement.

But others say white supremacism runs deep in the part of  Louisiana region Scalise now represents in Congress, and the infection hasn't been confined to one party. The 2004 race for Louisiana's 1st Congressional District included Democrat Roy Armstrong, an ex-Ku Klux Klan leader and spokesman for Duke, who had just been released from federal prison. Republican Bobby Jindal, who is now the governor of the state, won the race in a landslide, but Armstrong managed to pick up more than 19,000 votes.

Meanwhile David Duke has issued a warning that if people don't lay off attacking Scalise he will name other politicians with whom he has been in contact.


And though Louisiana has some history, and social problems for demagogues to exploit, a report on Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin suggests the Duke's disease has spread out of its home swamp.

Main story:
 Duke in Russia:

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