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London students take to the streets Thousands of students marched through London Wednesday against cuts in university funding as a massive police operation prevented a repeat of the violence at similar protests a year ago. Organisers said 10,000 people joined the march through the heart of London’s financial district in protest against a tripling in higher education fees by the coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron. About 4,000 police were deployed, Scotland Yard said, adding that it did not dispute the number of protesters given by the organisers despite earlier giving a lower figure. Police made 24 arrests, mainly for public order offences but the rally remained largely peaceful despite a few sticks and bottles being lobbed at lines of riot police. The only real moment of tension came when officers forcibly cleared a group of demonstrators who briefly pitched tents in London’s historic Trafalgar Square, leaving one protester with a bloody head injury. Police had warned ahead of the rally that they had authorised the use of rubber bullets in case of “extreme circumstances”, but besides deploying riot and mounted police they did not take any major steps. “It went extremely well. We’re very happy with the turnout, which is good given the amount of intimidation there was before,” Michael Chessum, of the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts, told AFP. “We wanted to send out a clear statement to the government that this is a sustainable movement, it isn’t over, and I think that is what we have done pretty successfully today.” The heavy police presence was in response to the violence that marred a series of four student protests last year against the tuition fees hike, which the government says is needed as part of austerity measures. At the first rally on November 10, 2010, protesters smashed up the offices of Cameron’s Conservative party, while a month later they attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla. Riot police in fluorescent jackets lined the route of Wednesday’s protest from the University of London to the City of London financial district, blocking off all side roads, while police helicopters buzzed overhead. They handed out booklets to protesters advising them what to do if there is disorder, for example to stand aside and let officers work, demonstrators said. They also stopped the demonstrators joining a protest camp at St Paul’s Cathedral, where anti-capitalism activists inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement have been camping out since mid-October. A group of protesters had earlier broken off from the main rally to set up around 25 tents in historic Trafalgar Square at the foot of Nelson’s Column, which commemorates one of Britain’s greatest naval victories. Police later moved in, hauling protesters out of the green and blue tents which officers then folded up. “This is what democracy looks like,” screamed one protester with a trickle of blood running down his forehead, as police led him away in handcuffs. Another protester, Glyn Jukes, told AFP the demonstrators were allied to the “Occupy London Stock Exchange” movement in St Paul’s. “We’ve chosen this very public place at the centre of London to serve as a beacon for the general strike on the 30th to help communicate with people,” Jukes said. British trade unions are planning a major walkout over pension reforms on November 30, which the student movement says it will join. Fears of violence had also been raised after London was rocked by riots and looting for four nights in August, which the government blamed on criminality, but which many analysts linked to high levels of deprivation in some areas.

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Factbox: Why Papandreou wanted a referendum Panicked by riots in the street? Hoping to quell political opposition? Or did he simply want to throw in the towel? Greeks are debating Prime Minister George Papandreou’s apparently suicidal decision to call for a referendum on an EU bailout deal, which plunged the euro into a new crisis and enraged his European partners. “It’s tough to find a rational explanation” for his actions, said Thanassis Diamontopoulos, political scientist at Athens University. “Psychoanalysis” would be the only way to understand it, added the expert. “Fearing his government would fall, he perhaps wanted — in a totally irresponsible fashion — to play all his chips at once. “Either he would bring down the political system, even the eurozone. Or he would appear as a master poker player, on line with his father and grandfather”, two charismatic former prime ministers, said Diamontopoulos. The “fatigue and physical and mental pressure” Papandreou has been under probably also played a role, the expert said, as the prime minister has been trying to fight debts and deficits sometimes against his own socialist political DNA since he swept to a landslide election win in 2009. Certainly the 59-year-old marathon runner has harmed his reputation for negotiation and keeping a cool head in a crisis by picking apart a hard-won deal clinched only days earlier in late-night Brussels talks. Political expert George Sefertzis, thought to be close to the Papandreou dynasty, said he believed there were two main reasons for the shock announcement. One motivation was purely psychological: he panicked, said the expert. The other was more political: he wanted to “win the mandate” required to put his country back on its feet, despite the fierce austerity demanded by its creditors. “Being called a ‘traitor’ to his country during demonstrations last Friday that forced the cancellation of national day parades played a major role,” said Sefertzis. Born in the United States to an American mother, Papandreou was in exile until 1974 and once said he was “Greek by choice and not by necessity,” he recalled. He said that Papandreou really had “no choice” but to call the popular vote, in a bid to “stand up to the danger in a situation that had become uncontrollable”, as the main opposition party, New Democracy, continued to fiercely oppose any type of governing pact. “Last Friday, the far-left and the far-right were together in the street to attack the government. That could really lead to chaos in a country in which the administration is no longer working and people are demonstrating every few days. Another analyst, Michalis Spourdalakis, a political scientist at Athens law school, agreed that the anger in the country eventually pushed Papandreou over the edge. “Anger is everywhere,” he said. “Papandreou got caught up in it.” In an interview in June, Papandreou, whose democratic idea of a referendum was praised by several left parties throughout Europe, gave a small insight into the psychological pressure he is under, with the weight of his country and the entire eurozone on his shoulders. “We are in a singular state of war, one that demands a titanic effort and nerves of steel,” he told the To Vima daily. “I would not wish my worst enemy to face what I’m going through,” he said

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Gold Coast Utd boss ‘doesn’t hate football’ Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer has warned Football Federation Australia that it would commit a major blunder if it kicks his club out of the A-League. Palmer told SBS’s The World Game program that he would take FFA to court if the governing body revoked the club’s licence for the next A-League competition. ”We will injunct them in the Supreme Court and we will fight them in court to a standstill,” Palmer said. ”I have been involved in major business transactions in my life and unfortunately in 68 litigations and our record is 68 to zero. ”So if they want to come on that turf and get off the football ground I would be more than happy to accommodate them.” Gold Coast’s A-League licence expires in two years. Palmer sparked a huge controversy last week when he stood down coach Miron Bleiberg after he commented adversely on the club’s decision to appoint 17-year-old debutant Mitch Cooper as captain. Palmer followed this up with a stinging attack on the game and its governance that sparked a strong response from FFA. Palmer said his comments to a Sunday paper were taken out of context. ”What I was saying was not that I don’t like the actual game but I don’t like the game how it was set up in Australia because we can do a hell of a lot more,” he said. ”When we compare football with rugby league we see the chief executive of the NRL earning less than a million dollars, we’ve seen the five top executives at FFA paid over $5 million. ”We’ve seen the situation of the FFA being insolvent and they had to get $8 million from the Australian government. ”That’s a matter of great concern. ”We are not in crisis. We’ve paid all our creditors, we have a lot of money, I have a lot of money and we see our club as highly successful. ”But someone has to point out the fact that owners are losing an average of $4 million per club which is very disconcerting. ”And there is no light at the end of the tunnel. ”The FFA has run out of finding new owners every year to replace owners who are leaving their clubs. ”That can’t be sustained and we need to have something done about it.” FFA chief executive Ben Buckley, who also was on the show, said Palmer’s comments at the weekend had angered him and his organisation would evaluate Gold Coast’s status in the competition in the next few weeks. ”A lot of people are calling for things to be done like the termination of the licence and so on but the real issue is making sure that the season finishes,” he said. ”It’s been a wonderful season, we’ve had a resurgence in crowds, record television audiences and memberships and I don’t accept that the A-league is in trouble. ”Where has it gone wrong (on the Gold Coast)? There will be some commentary on that in the next six to eight weeks. ”What we say to every new club is ‘what is your strategy around these criteria?’ and I must say the Gold Coast’s one was well put together. ”But there is a difference between strategy on paper and execution. ”This is where we have been collectively let down.”

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Britain welcomes Chinese Premier Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao toured Britain on Sunday and sought to strengthen trade links, as Bejing freed dissident activist Hu Jia. Wen arrived in the central English city of Birmingham on Saturday on the second leg of an European mini-tour, while news emerged that Hu, one of China’s most prominent prisoners of conscience, was to be released. On his first full day in Britain on Sunday, Wen launched the first new MG car to be made in 15 years, the MG6 model, hailing it as a potent symbol of friendship between London and Beijing. The new MG6 will be assembled at the MG car plant in Longbridge, Birmingham, which is now owned by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC), China’s largest automaker. “The successful cooperation of the production of the MG6 and other MG vehicles is a symbol of the friendship between China and the UK,” said Wen, speaking at Longbridge. “The model can be summed up as designed in the UK, manufactured in China and assembled in the UK, thereby making the most of China’s capital and markets, as well as the UK’s technology and managerial expertise.” Outside the factory gates, several dozen protesters were gathered to demonstrate against the visit, including supporters of the Falungong spiritual movement, banned in China, and Free Tibet campaigners. “Cameron and Wen. Human rights before trade,” read the placards of some of the protesters. The British government’s trade minister Stephen Green also attended the MG6 launch and described SAIC as a “pioneer for Chinese investors in the UK”. The Chinese premier later held separate meetings with former British leaders Gordon Brown and Tony Blair and vowed that support to Britain and Europe would be “in concrete actions,” according to China’s state run news agency Xinhua. Wen was keen to deepen China’s “exchanges and cooperation with Britain and Europe”, adding it was in the “fundamental interests” of both parties and vital for world peace and stability, reported the news provider. Wen will hold talks with current British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday and attend a UK-China summit — at which Beijing is expected to unveil huge investment deals. Meanwhile, Chinese dissident Hu returned home Sunday after completing a jail term for subversion — but seemed likely to be muzzled anew. The human rights activist’s release after more than three years in prison comes after Ai emerged last Thursday from nearly three months in police custody amid a government crackdown on dissent. Hu is widely expected to be hit with the same strict curbs as those applied to Ai and a range of other activists and rights lawyers, who have apparently been ordered to keep quiet in exchange for their freedom. Hu returned to his home on Sunday morning, his wife and fellow activist Zeng Jinyan said on Twitter. Britain’s Foreign Office has yet to give an official reaction to Hu’s release. EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton welcomed the news — but her spokesman stressed the bloc’s demands for Beijing to treat Hu fairly and accord him “full rights” after his release. And Germany said it will press human rights issues at its first joint cabinet meeting with China later this week, including the conditions of Ai’s release, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said. London has been among international critics, with Foreign Secretary William Hague repeatedly speaking out against Ai’s detention. Earlier on Sunday, Wen indulged his interest in Shakespeare with a visit to the bard’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he was treated to performances of extracts from the play “Hamlet”. The premier, who began his trip in Hungary, will leave Britain on Monday for Germany, where he will stress his support for eurozone economies that have been rocked by a debt crisis, with Greece on the brink of a second bailout.

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PM pledges flood relief payments The federal government has activated additional disaster assistance for flood victims in Queensland and northern NSW, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced. “Unfortunately these scenes are only too familiar to us after the events of last summer,” she told reporters in Canberra on Monday. “We’re seeing Australians again in need and in trouble.” Barnaby Joyce: St.George flood update (mp3) The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments will give flood victims $1000 per adult and $400 per child and are available through Centrelink. In Queensland, flood victims in shires of Balonne, Barcaldine, Blackall Tambo, Maranoa, Murweh and Paroo are eligible. In NSW, people affected by floods in Moree, Narrabri and Gwydir can also receive payments. View Queensland, NSW floods 2012 in a larger map People should phone the Department of Human Services on 180 22 66 to find out if they are eligible. The federal government has activated additional disaster assistance for flood victims in Queensland and northern NSW.

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