Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Quebec students, government resume negotiations

 Quebec college and university students and the provincial government returned to the bargaining table on Monday in an attempt to put an end to a months-long dispute over tuition hikes that has led to clashes with police and mass arrests.

No comments were issued at the end of more than six hours of talks Monday evening. The parties agreed to reconvene Tuesday.

Riot police were deployed as about 200 protesters stood in front of the building in Quebec City where the talks were held. They ordered people to disperse and moved in buses to hold those arrested.

Student leaders said Monday that the tuition hike and an emergency law put in place to limit protests would have to be on the table.

Students have called for a tuition freeze, but the government has ruled out that possibility.

The French-speaking province's average undergraduate tuition — $2,519 a year — is the lowest in Canada, and the proposed hike— $254 per year over seven years — is tiny by U.S. standards. But opponents consider the raise an affront to the philosophy of the 1960s reforms dubbed the Quiet Revolution that set Quebec apart not only from its U.S. neighbor but from the rest of Canada.

Analysts have said Quebecers don't compare their tuition rates to those in the U.S. or English-speaking Canada, but to those in European countries, where higher education is free.

More than 2,500 students have been arrested since the demonstrations began, including nearly 700 this past Wednesday, but arrests are down markedly since.

Student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said his group wasn't going to rush a decision and would take the time to ponder any agreement. He said if the government refused to budge on the two issues, his group would reconsider participating in negotiations.

"Since the beginning of the strike the organizations agree on the objective to cancel tuition hikes," he said.

Student leaders Leo Bureau-Blouin and Martine Desjardins agreed tuition fees have to be on the table and said the ball was in the government's court.

Education Minister Michelle Courchesne said she was showing up at the meeting "open" to discussions but didn't know how long the talks would last.

On Monday evening, protesters in Montreal held the latest of what have become nightly demonstrations, banging pots and marching through downtown streets under the watchful eye of police officers.

Lawyers wearing their black robes held their own march in Montreal against the new emergency law. Genevieve Dufour, one of the protesters, told French-language TV network Radio-Canada that the new law would have an enormous impact on the justice system.

"It raises a lot of questions on the legitimacy of laws," she said. "When the lawyers come out and challenge the laws it has an enormous impact."

Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who has vowed to shake up the debt-ridden province's finances since he was elected nearly a decade ago, has refused to cave in.

Charest's government passed emergency legislation on May 18 restricting protests and closing striking campuses until August.

The law requires that police be informed eight hours before a protest begins, including details on the route of any demonstration of 50 or more people. It also prohibits demonstrations within 50 meters (165 feet) of a college and declares that anyone who incites or helps another person break the new protest regulations can be fined.

Amnesty International says the law breaches Canada's international human rights obligations and called for it to be rescinded by Quebec's legislature.

The latest round of talks comes at a crucial time for the Quebec government, with thousands taking to the streets nightly in protest and Montreal's peak tourism season fast approaching, a period of international events such as the Grand Prix F-1 race and international jazz and comedy festivals that bring millions in revenue.

Event organizers have expressed concern about the impact the continuing protests could have on the festivals, which include nightly outdoor shows on stages surrounded by lucrative concession stands that draw thousands into the streets for weeks.

Students have been holding nightly protests, some of which have ended in clashes with police. The latest manifestation of dissent has been protesters pouring to the streets banging pots late into the night, creating a cacophony of noise some fear could disrupt festival performances.


Dear Graduates: You’re Screwed!

It’s graduation season, and prominent political and media figures are making the rounds to give commencement speeches at colleges across the country. The president, administration officials, progressive members of Congress, left-wing television talking heads, liberal columnists, etc., are spewing so many feel-good platitudes that you’d think doing so was an Olympic event and they were training for the gold in London.

The one thing missing from these speeches is reality.  As such, and since not even an online college has asked me to deliver a commencement address, I’ll give mine here.

Graduates, congratulations on successfully completing college. Since I was able to do it, it can’t be that hard. But it’s a feat worthy of celebration nonetheless. Kudos on a job well done.

Now comes the bad part.  After the hangovers from your graduation parties fade away, the hangover of reality will set in. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you rely on the mainstream media for your information, you probably haven’t heard this – you’re screwed.

In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars in student loans you now owe, your share of the national debt as a citizen is more than $50,000. Once you find a job and become one of the elite 53 percent of Americans who pay taxes, your share will jump to $138,000.

But don’t think about that number just yet; it won’t apply to about half of you for some time. You see, in President Obama’s economy about half of you won’t find full-time employment – or any job – for quite some time.

Sure, you’ve been hearing for months about the dropping unemployment rate and are probably thinking your prospects are looking up. Well, I’m the pin here to burst your bubble, because someone has to.

The rate hasn’t fallen because jobs have been created. It’s fallen because hundreds of thousands of people have given up looking for work. In the government’s dishonest way of calculating labor statistics, these people no longer exist. In fact, not only do they exist, but the more they give up looking for work, the fewer workers we actually need. That’s an even bigger problem for you, and it’s one unlikely to be solved by the people who consider spending more than last year, but less than planned, to constitute a “draconian cut” in spending.

To those who went into practical fields of study, such as physical and computer sciences, you’ll probably be all right. Those jobs are always in demand and I can’t really tell you anything you either don’t already know or won’t be better off discovering on your own.

Those of you with a degree in Caribbean Pygmy, Eskimo Gender or theater studies…Yeah, that wasn’t a smart move. On the bright side, you can learn early decisions have consequences, and you might as well own it because you bought it.

For the record, when we run into each other in the future, to make that interaction less awkward – yes, I would like fries with that.

Some of you will go on to accomplish great things, live amazing lives and enjoy tremendous success. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, you may even become successful enough to become the type of people many of your fellow students, professors and even our president demonize on a daily basis. It’s the new American Dream, so to speak – to become successful enough your government attempts to turn your fellow Americans against you.

On the other hand, if government keeps spending the way it is, it’s unlikely you’ll ever obtain the level of success government would like to deny you.

But I’m not talking about the end of the world here – only the end of the civilized world. That’s because, just as much of our past comes from Greece, our future lies there too – unless we start to take fiscal responsibility seriously.

We’ll know if we are at least interested in avoiding a trip off the financial cliff on November 6. Neither candidate for president offers the sort of sanity we need. But hopefully, if we can defeat President Obama, we at least can start to get our government used to the idea of taking its medicine.

I know that thought isn’t popular here on college campuses, but then neither is independent thought in general, so…

Since we now live in a culture that rewards stupidity with reality shows and everyone gets a participation ribbon, maybe the key to our economic future is to be the world’s cautionary tale. I hope not.

Ultimately that’s up to each of you. Do we pull up from our current nosedive and continue moving down the road to greatness or do we get distracted by shiny plastic objects and keep the focus on who is Kim Kardashian’s husband of the week? Are we a beacon of hope for the world or people who obsess over who advanced on American Idol and fall for the false promise of candy land where birth control grows on trees, health care is magically free and where personal choices and responsibilities become rights and freebees?

The path paved with freebees is always the most alluring because who doesn’t like free stuff? But remember – Democrats have promised you that path your whole life. And now that you’ve graduated college, many of you will realize it’s only led you into debt and back to your parent’s basement. If that’s your version of Utopia…you misread the book.

I hate to end this speech on a down note, but as so many of your fellow graduates have joined the “Occupy movement,” mostly the philosophy majors and those getting their Ph.D. in disciplines like gender and race privilege studies, and, as such, haven’t showered since Republicans took back the House of Representatives, my eyes are burning and I must stop.

Good luck to you, good luck to us all. We’re gonna need it.


Australia:  University of Queensland nepotism inquiry completed by Crime and Misconduct Commission

THE Crime and Misconduct Commission has completed its investigations into the University of Queensland nepotism scandal and its report will be tabled in Parliament.

Vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield and his deputy Michael Keniger were forced out after The Courier-Mail revealed a "close family member" of Prof Greenfield's had gained entry to the medical faculty without the proper entry requirements.

A CMC spokeswoman said yesterday the report would contain a number of recommendations, but declined to elaborate.

"The public report will also incorporate recommendations from two ongoing reviews announced earlier by the CMC and associated with the forced offer for entry."

Prof Greenfield has denied any wrongdoing saying the relative was admitted to the medical school as the result of a misunderstanding.  [It was a "misunderstanding" that his daughter was admitted to medical school???   "My daughter the doctor" was just an accident?   Pull the other one.  Greenfield is a smart bootlicker who got just a bit too smart  -- JR]


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