Peter Boyle

It has to be one of the most unbelievable stories of the century: New Idea, a magazine that trades on gossip about royals and other celebrities, is blamed for exposing Prince Harry’s deployment in the British military intervention in Afghanistan. It is about as believable as the plot of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, in which a young prince swaps places with a street lad to see what life is like in “Paupersville”.

“I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!”, said Sergeant Hans Schultz in the 1970s US sitcom Hogan’s Heroes.

Parliamentarians are grossly overpaid. A backbencher gets paid more than twice median income, and that’s before adding allowances, generous superannuation, free air travel for life, etc. The PM gets double that: $330,356 (before expenses and perks). Last year, and the year before, the pollies awarded themselves a 7% pay rise while average wages rose 3.8%, putting the recently announced parliamentarians’ one-year salary freeze into perspective.

“M” was born in a small town in Western Australia’s wheat belt. Around those parts, lads like M were called “Keller fellers”. They were wildly applauded when they performed for the local football team but they knew about certain lines that they could not cross. An outsider could not see those invisible fences, but to the locals, white and black alike, they may as well have been painted in fluoro paint.

In addition to being the home of Bollywood, the Indian city of Mumbai can boast having Asia’s biggest slum, Dharavi. One million residents are crammed into a square mile of low-rise wood, concrete and rusted iron, reported the December 19 Economist.

This is an extract from an inspiring letter from Jim Knight, one of our loyal readers in northern NSW:

The 23rd Congress of the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance in Australia, reaffirmed its commitment to broader left regroupment.

There are two starkly different election processes underway right now, but most readers will probably have only been reading about one of them: the US presidential elections, which Forbes magazine estimates will likely cost as much as US$3.3 billion all up! In Cuba, just 145 kilometres from the coast of Florida, a very different election process is taking place.

The unforgettable tabloid headline “Greenie granny goaled” accompanied a picture of a smiling, backpack-toting Betty Downie being led away by two policemen from the Franklin River blockade sums up the fighting spirit of this wonderful activist. Betty died, aged 95, in a retirement home in Launceston on December 5, 2007.

When I switched on the TV on the day after the federal election, this message hit me: the election is over, now we can get on with Christmas shopping!

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