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Okinawans oppose US bases

On September 7, almost 90% of voters in Okinawa voted for a reduction of the US military presence on their island. Okinawan government officials said 482,538 votes supported the reduction and 46,232 voted against. Okinawa accounts for less than 1% of Japan's land area, but houses more than half of the 47,000 US troops stationed in the country. US bases occupy 20% of Okinawa's land.

The local government has been calling for a phased withdrawal of all US troops over 20 years. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party opposes a reduction of US troops on the island. The non-binding referendum followed a surge in the islanders' resentment triggered by the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl last September, for which three US soldiers were convicted.

Pacific NGOs oppose French links

The NGO South Pacific Parallel Forum has opposed the South Pacific Forum's decision to readmit France as a post-forum dialogue partner. The SPF, meeting in Majuro in the Marshall Islands on September 3, announced the readmission. France was expelled last year over its resumption of nuclear tests in the Pacific. The NGO forum said that France should not attend SPF meetings until it has cleaned up its testing site on Moruroa and compensated the Tahitian people.

Armed police raid Porgera villagers

More than 200 armed PNG police raided houses along the Porgera River on August 31. Police claimed they were attempting to recover property stolen last month during a riot by disgruntled landholders at the Porgera gold mine. The Porgera River Alluvial Miners Association (PRAMA) accused the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) of using its security guards and hiring armed policemen to conduct the raids and loot household items belonging to PRAMA members and other villagers along the river.

PRAMA chairperson Opis Papo charged that security guards and police raided his house and confiscated his computer. Documentation prepared for a compensation claim against the PJV in the National Court was also confiscated.

94% of forests unprotected

Only 6% of the 3300 million hectares of forests in the world today are formally protected in national parks and reserves, according to data released by the World Wide Fund For Nature as delegates from 53 countries met in Geneva to discuss ways of halting forest destruction at the third session of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. In the Brazilian Amazon there has been a 34% increase in deforestation since 1992. Countries like Cambodia, Russia and Cameroon, where large areas of forest still remain, have yet to establish representative networks of protected areas for all their different types of forest. The WWF's World Forests Map is available on the Internet (http://www.panda.org).

FSLN gains

The FSLN's candidate for president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, has closed to within 4% of Liberal Alliance front-runner Arnoldo Aleman, according to an opinion poll released on September 5. Aleman's support has declined to 34% and Ortega's has increased to 30%. Around 18% are undecided. The third place candidate, Conservative Party nominee Noel Vidaurre, scored just 2.4%. The election is scheduled for October 20.

250,000 unionists march in NY

A quarter of a million union members and their families marched up New York City's Fifth Avenue in a show of strength and solidarity during the city's annual Labor Day parade. Hundreds of local unions expressed their concerns over privatisation, corporate downsizing, unemployment, health and social cutbacks and the upcoming presidential elections. Also participating were members of Coordinadora 96, an organisation which is planning a march on Washington on October 12 to protest immigrant bashing. The US trade union leadership's support for Clinton and Gore was plain with hundreds waving Clinton posters. However, there were also many supporters of the newly formed Labor Party.

900 arrested in US forest protest

More 900 people were arrested at a September 8 protest by 6000 people opposed to logging in the Headwaters forest, the largest privately owned ancient redwood forest remaining in the US. The Pacific Lumber company has a permit to begin "salvage" of "dead, dying and diseased" trees. The giant redwoods, some of which are 2000 years old, are worth up to US$50,000 each. Demonstrators lined up to be arrested one by one for trespass as they crossed the property line, which took six hours. They were charged and released.