Peter Boyle

Ben Bernanke is the chairperson of the US Federal Reserve Bank. If he sneezes at the wrong time, the world’s sharemarkets take another dive and currency speculators rush for their global roulette table. So when he addressed the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on April 3 he was choosing his words very carefully. And there was one word he was wary about using: “recession”.

“It was lunchtime in one of Haiti’s worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau.

Katarina Pujiastuti, a political activist in Jakarta, reports growing queues for petrol, massive electricity blackouts, and industry fuel shortages plaguing oil-rich Indonesia.

Malaysia's National Front (BN) government continues to refuse the Malaysian Socialist Party's (PSM) application to register as a political party, claiming that the PSM is a threat to national security.

On the basis that the right to form a

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:

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