Boing Boing 

America's tent cities

The BBC's Panorama looks at the rise of semi-official homeless tent-camps in American cities. These are springing up in states where austerity "balanced budget" drives are severely cutting services. Especially concerning is the report of homeless children who are going hungry, going to bed hungry, getting dizzy from hunger, waiting through the weekend to go to school (with subsidized meals) to eat. City services -- shelters, emergency rooms, police -- actually send people to the tent cities, because there is no official place for them to go.

According to census data, 47 million Americans now live below the poverty line - the most in half a century - fuelled by several years of high unemployment.

One of the largest tented camps is in Florida and is now home to around 300 people. Others have sprung up in New Jersey and Portland.

In the Ann Arbor camp, Alana Gehringer, 23, has had a hacking cough for the last four months.

"The black mould - it was on our pillows, it was on our blankets, we were literally rubbing our faces in it sleeping every night," she said of wintering in a tent.

The camp is run by the residents themselves, with the help of a local charity group. Calls have come in from the hospital emergency room, the local police and the local homeless shelter to see if they can send in more.

America's homeless resort to tent cities

All is not well in Greece

A gasoline bomb explodes at riot police during a huge anti-austerity demonstration in Athens' Syntagma (Constitution) square February 12, 2012. Historic cinemas, cafes and shops went up in flames in central Athens on Sunday as black-masked protesters fought Greek police outside parliament, while inside lawmakers looked set to defy the public rage by endorsing a new EU/IMF austerity deal. Below, a protester hurls rocks at riot police; another flees.

(photos: REUTERS)

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UK education minister: times are tough, let's spend £60M on a new yacht for the Queen!


Britain's flamboyantly weird education secretary Michael Gove sometimes seems to me to be some kind of secret saboteur, bent on discrediting Tories as out-of-touch rich nutjobs. Education budgets are being hacked and slashed, teachers being laid off, class sizes ballooning -- so he proposes stuff like "Let's give every child a Bible!" and "Let's make Latin mandatory!"

But his latest suggestion is weird even by Gove's lights: "Let's buy the Queen a £60M yacht! Because that will help us all celebrate the diamond jubilee and put us in a great mood!"

Clegg who was responding to a question about the idea after giving a speech on the economy, said he wasn't going to comment on leaks – Gove's letter punting the idea – but joked about "haves and have-yachts".

In the confidential leaked letter that Gove sent to fellow ministers, he urged: "In spite, and perhaps because of, the austere times, the celebration should go beyond those of previous jubilees and mark the greater achievement that the diamond anniversary represents." He suggested "a gift from the nation to her majesty" such as "David Willetts's excellent suggestion of a royal yacht".

Tom Watson, the Labour party chairman, said the whole idea showed how out of touch Gove was. In a blog, he posted that although the diamond jubilee should be celebrated, Michael Gove has shown he is "out of touch" with this proposal.

Downing Street rejects diamond jubilee royal yacht idea

(Image: Mega-Yacht, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from simiant's photostream)

Margaret Thatcher reimbursed for more than £500K in expenses by UK taxpayers

Margaret Thatcher leads Britain's former prime-ministers in claiming expenses back from the taxpayer. She's been reimbursed more than £500,000 in the past five years.

Figures revealed by the Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, in response to a written parliamentary question by the Conservative MP Philip Hollobone, show that Thatcher has received £535,000 from the state since 2006, and John Major, who set up the allowance in 1991, has received £490,000. Tony Blair has claimed since 2007 and received £273,000. The figures reveal he received £169,076 in 2008-9, more than his salary in office.

The public duties cost allowance is administered by the Cabinet Office and claims must be supported by documentary evidence. Thatcher, who has suffered ill health which limits her engagements, still attends some public events, including an address by the Pope in the UK. According to figures released last year the maximum allowance claimable doubled from £47,568 in 1997-98 to £100,205 in 2008-9. Defending the allowance's value for money, Maude said: "The public duties cost allowance is kept under review."

Margaret Thatcher's £500,000 expenses claim revealed

(Image: Margaret Thatcher, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from bixentro's photostream)