A Green Surge has hit Britain. Thanks to an ongoing growth spurt, the Green Party of England and Wales has now hit 54,000 members, on top of nearly 10,000 members in the Scottish Green Party. Opinion polls put the party on the rise, frequently beating the Liberal Democrats, who are governing in coalition with the Conservatives. The Greens now have more members than the far-right anti-immigrant UK Independence Party (UKIP), whose growing support has generated much media attention.
US media reported on February 14 that more than 4000 ground combat troops are heading to Kuwait. Reports indicate it could be the US’ largest ground force in the region. The move comes as President Barack Obama is petitioning Congress for an Authorisation for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State group. Obama sent Congress the AUMF petition denying plans for a ground war, however the troops in Kuwait are prepared for any “contingency,” a Pentagon military source said.
Palestinian student Lina Khattab, 18, a first-year media student at Birzeit University, was sentenced by an Israeli military court to six months imprisonment, a NIS6000 (US$1500) fine and three years probation on February 17. She is also a folkloric dancer with the world-renowned El-Funoun Popular Palestinian Dance Troupe and is active in other cultural and political student activities at the university.
Instro Precision, a factory in Kent, England, owned by Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems was shut down on February 17 by four activists occupying the roof while others blockaded the entrance. Instro Precision is a manufacturer of military targeting systems. Its optical equipment is used in drones such as those Israel used to bombard Gaza during the summer of 2014, say the activists. Such surveillance equipment has also been installed in Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank.
This moving letter for Reza Berati from men incarcerated on Manus Island was released on February 18 by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. * * * Hello dear Reza. How are you? Are you in a good place? Everyone is here and they are saying hi to you. I'm sure you remember Mustafa! He is saying to you: "Let's play cards!" Ali is saying: "Do you remember you would always get 6-6 whenever we played backgammon?" Hussain is saying: "Do you remember whenever we played soccer, you would always be the goal keeper because you were tall?"
For the second time in three days, I was blocked from posting or commenting on Facebook due to a concerted campaign by a right-wing Turkish nationalist Facebook page. It ran an anti-democratic campaign of vexatious reports against photos I posted on my Facebook page for supposedly “promoting graphic violence”.
About 250 people gathered at the Leard State Forest in northern NSW from February 13 and 18 to stop Whitehaven Coal clearing the forest to make way for its proposed Maules Creek coalmine. The project has been plagued by protest for more than two years and more than 300 people have been arrested, including farmer Rick Laird and former Wallabies captain David Pocock.
Pressure is mounting on Australia’s big four banks over their support for the construction of coalmines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. Greenpeace launched a public email campaign targeting the executives of ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac, “to publicly rule out financing or advising Adani [Mining] on the Carmichael coal mine and associated infrastructure project in the Great Barrier Reef or Queensland”.
When 22-year-old Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein murdered two people in Copenhagen on February 15, and was killed in a shoot-out with police, the media and politicians across the world did not hesitate to declare that an act of terrorism had taken place. US President Barack Obama immediately phoned Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to offer condolences and invited Denmark to take part in a February 18 summit in Washington to counter violent extremism, Reuters reported on February 16. Other Western leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, responded similarly.
More than 700 creative professionals living in the Britain — including writers, visual artists, actors, musicians and many others — have signed up to a pledge to boycott collaboration with Israeli state-funded projects. The announcement marks a significant step for the British cultural boycott campaign. There have been many open letters and other statements of support for Palestine from British artists, but the pledge brings together a huge number of creatives in one coordinated effort.
The National Union of Students organises national days of action, in which students around the country take part in rallies to fight back against the latest round of attacks against public education. This year, students are continuing to fight the biggest attack on accessible education since HECS was introduced in 1989.
It’s reasonable to expect, that if you visit a relative or friend in a nursing home in NSW, you will find a registered nurse on duty. But that could change this year. The NSW Public Health Act currently requires all “nursing homes” in the state to have a registered nurse on duty 24/7. However, changes to the federal Aged Care Act in mid-2014 have now undermined this requirement.
On February 11, the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) report The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, was tabled in parliament. The report looked at the effect on children of being locked up in detention centres in Australia and Christmas Island but not Nauru. The report reveals that 34% of the children have mental health disorders so severe they need psychiatric support. This compares to 2% in the general population.
Coles meat workers picketed a new Coles supermarket in Richmond, Victoria on February 18 after a mass meeting of Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union members. Coles is proposing a new enterprise agreement which wipes out most of the conditions for newly employed butchers and meat wrappers. The new butchers can earn $12,000 less in a year and the new meat wrapper can earn $8,000 less for doing the same jobs.
Secretary of the South Coast Labour Council Arthur Rorris has stepped down from his union position to stand as an independent for the seat of Wollongong in the NSW State election on March 28. The seat is held by ALP right-wing factional leader Noreen Hay. Rorris lives in the electorate and has been a member of a local ALP branch for many years. Yet when he and other long-time local ALP members attended the Wollongong preselection ballot in December, they were not only denied a vote but physically escorted from the premises where the ballot was taking place.