About 30 international guests and 120 shop stewards from the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) met over August 7 to 10 in Johannesburg to discuss building a new, left alternative to the ruling African National Congress (ANC). This challenge to the ANC by the country’s largest trade union, with more than 440,000 members, has caused shockwaves throughout the country. An August 6 Times Live article said the process was “likely to lead to the birth of a workers' party that will eventually challenge [the ANC] for power”.
El Salvador approves progressive tax reforms El Salvador’s National Legislative Assembly passed a package of tax reforms on July 31, CISPES.org said on August 13. The laws aim to shifting the fiscal burden from the nation’s poor majority to the wealthy elite and ease the country’s dependence on international loans to finance important social investment. The bill was approved despite a fierce campaign against it in the nation’s conservative media.
The morning after Lailat al-Qadr, the death toll in Gaza was approaching its first 1000. Al-Qadr ― the night before the last Friday in the holy month of Ramadan ― is believed to be the night when the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. I spent this special night with friends in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah after taking part in the “48K March” for Gaza. The march began in Ramallah and went to Qalandiya checkpoint.
Venezuela's communication minister Delcy Rodriguez has condemned “racial discrimination” in the United States. Responding to the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, Rodriguez said the incident was symptomatic of a broader problem. She said: “In the United States more than one third of the African American population has experienced some form of discrimination. The death of Michael Brown was not an isolated incident.”
Across Venezuela, commune activists are creating regional Presidential Councils of Communal Governance in order to play an greater role in the management of local and regional affairs in conjunction with national authorities. Communes in Venezuela are made up of representatives of groups of smaller communal councils. These councils are direct participatory organisations that help manage community affairs. Communes cover a larger territorial area than communal councils and can receive public funds for larger scale projects and responsibilities.
As a Palestinian political activist living in present-day Israel, Tareq Yassin, 23, has grown accustomed to racist intimidation and threats of violence. Yassin, secretary of the left-wing Hadash political party’s student wing at the University of Haifa, has been repeatedly targeted for his activism. Yet last month was the first time he was subjected to vigilante violence by right-wing Israelis.
Since Ecuador's president Lucio Gutierrez was ousted from power in 2005, relations between Ecuador and the United States have deteriorated with the Andean nation’s increasing rejection of US hegemony. The government of Rafael Correa, first elected president in 2006, has embraced regional integration, moving closer to its neighbours ― in particular Venezuela and Bolivia ― and further away from the US. Economically, the Correa administration has pursued policies that break with the neoliberal doctrines Washington had imposed on Latin America.
In the past few weeks, several large protest movements have rocked the Untied States political establishment and the elites it represents. These social explosions seem limited and separate, but they symbolise the growing contradictions of US society and the possibilities of mass struggles in the near future.
Flashboys By Michael Lewis W. W. Norton, 2014 288 pp, $39.99 Michael Lewis's Flashboys has had a dramatic welcome in the United States. It swept to the top of the best seller list and was only knocked from its perch by Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. It is revealing of the contemporary US mindset that Flashboys, which turns the machinations of Wall Street into a classic US-style morality play, should alternate with Piketty’s history of capitalist inequality. In reality, Lewis has not produced new information.
The recent media attention given to the case of “baby Gammy” — the child of an Australian couple born to a surrogate mother in Thailand, and left in her care by his parents allegedly because he was born with a disability — has led to suggestions that rules around surrogacy should be changed. The rates of surrogacy in Australia are very low. In 2011, only 80 women volunteered for it, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on August 10.
The release of up to 150 children under the age of 10 from residential detention is not a humanitarian move by the government, in case you were wondering. Immigration minister Scott Morrison claimed that issuing bridging visas to 150 children and their families to live in the community was a “dividend of stopping the boats”.
“Hyperactivity around security legislation is unprecedented,” Professor Jude McCulloch told a public forum in Melbourne on August 21. "Between 2001 and 2007 when Howard was defeated, the parliament passed 44 anti-terror laws – one every seven weeks. “Many legal experts have withdrawn from talking about this because of the difficulty of remaining an expert in this field. The basis of these laws is the politics of fear. The neoliberal government has nothing to offer on education, welfare and health. If a problem can be militarised, it will be militarised."
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