US President Obama vetoed a Republican bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline on February 24. Both houses of the Republican-dominated US Congress had passed a bill that approved building the highly controversial pipeline designed to bring crude from Alberta's tar sands in Canada to refineries in the US South.
He is an economist, academic, poet, blogger, video game consultant, libertarian Marxist, motorbike rider and accidental fashion icon. Now he’s the holder of possibly the most difficult job in the world: Greece’s finance minister. Meet Yanis Varoufakis, SYRIZA Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s right hand man and the key negotiator between Greece and its creditors. In downtown Athens, Varoufakis is well liked among the public. He is the definitive cosmopolitan, self-made man who sees himself as a citizen of Europe as much as Greece.
In Greece's January 25 elections, 388,000 people voted for the fascist, neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. The election was largely fought as a contest of hope and solidarity against fear and austerity. Radical left party SYRIZA defeated right-wing establishment party New Democracy. SYRIZA placed first in the popular vote with 36% of votes, but the openly fascist party Golden Dawn took third place in the poll with 6.3%. This is significant for three reasons:
Tens of thousands gathered in the North Carolina capital of Raleigh on February 8 for what organisers called the largest civil rights rally in the South since the famous Selma march in 1965. The Mass Moral March has been held annually to protest the right-wing state government’s attacks on voting rights, education, the environment, healthcare and women’s rights.
Political parties in El Salvador formally wrapped up their campaigns on February 25 ahead of local and legislative elections schedule for March 1, with polls showing the left-wing Farabundu Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) ahead of right-wing rivals. Electors in Latin America's smallest country will head to the polls to elect mayors as well as representatives to the country's Legislative Assembly.
Radical candidate for mayor of Chicago Jesus Garcia finished in second place in the first round of the city’s election on February 24. Incumbent Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff for President Barak Obama from 2008-2010, failed to reach the 50%-plus-one threshold, so there will be a runoff election. The New York Times said: “It was a serious blow after a campaign in which Mr. Emanuel had a huge fundraising edge over lesser-known opponents, not to mention an in-person endorsement last week from President Obama in his adopted hometown.”
If history is any guide, it is reasonable to assume that Greece’s recently-elected left-wing SYRIZA government will be subjected to a foreign-backed destabilisation campaign and possible attempts to install a new right-wing authoritarian regime. There is a long history in Greece of the left being suppressed by the oligarchy collaborating with outside forces.
Fifteen police descended on the home of Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) general secretary S Arutchelvan (Arul) in Kajang, a suburban satellite of the capital city Kuala Lumpur, on February 19. They detained him under the Sedition Act for a statement he issued on behalf of the PSM after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction on a sodomy charge.
Support for the Greek government headed by radical left party SYRIZA is growing, new polls show. The polls also found high support for SYRIZA's negotiations with its creditors, which secured a deal to extend its loans package by four months. The deal came with significant concessions to the institutions that have imposed austerity on Greece, which led to strong criticisms from SYRIZA's Left Platform.
The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) is working hard to defend its right to stay at its current location following being served with an eviction notice from the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) on February 20. The eviction orders mobilised a number of supporters and media to defend the site during the past week. So far, AHC head Mick Mundine has not called in police to shut the embassy down.
The huge multinational US oil corporation Texaco operated in Ecuador from 1964 until 1992 (Texaco merged with Chevron in 2001). The corporation poured 72 billion litres of oil waste and 45 million litres of crude oil over 2 million hectares of land in Santa Elena province — land which included the Amazon rainforest, rivers and agricultural land. Texaco just poured the oil into ground-connected pipes which just poured oil directly into the rivers and forests.
When unionised oil workers at the Tesoro Golden Eagle plant in Martinez, California walked off the job on February 1 to demand safer working conditions, they received some unexpected company on the picket line. Since the start of the strike, which has expanded from nine to 11 refineries nationwide, environmental activists with Communities for a Better Environment have joined members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union for their daily protests outside the plant.
Tasmania bans fracking for five years The Tasmanian Liberal government will extend the ban on gas fracking until 2020 the minister for primary industries Jeremy Rockliff said on February 26. He said the ban was needed to protect the $1 billion a year agriculture industry and “protect Tasmania's reputation for producing fresh, premium and safe produce.” The move has been backed by the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers' Association, Dairy Australia and Wine Tasmania as well as the Greens. RADICAL CANDIDATE CHALLENGES CHICAGO MAYOR
Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina, who were jailed for songs criticising Russian President Vladimir Putin, have released a song and video titled "I Can't Breathe". The video shows them being buried alive while wearing Russian riot police uniforms. The Guardian said on February 18 that the song is inspired by their recent trip to New York and the death of African American Eric Garner at the hands of an NYPD officer.
Frack Free Tasmania held a public meeting on February 18 at Sustainable Living Tasmania to warn about possible exploration for shale oil and gas in the island state. The current moratorium on fracking in Tasmania is due to end on March 31. The government put out an issues paper which received 157 submissions, 90% of which were opposed to fracking being allowed in the state. The government responded to the review on February 26 by extending the moratorium until 2020.
The Refugee Action Collective held a public meeting in Melbourne on February 23 to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka after the January 8 presidential election, at which Maithripala Sirisena defeated incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Trevor Grant, the author of Sri Lanka’s Secrets: how the Rajapaksa regime gets away with murder, told the meeting that Sirisena had been a member of Rajapaksa’s cabinet for 10 years. He was acting defence minister in May 2009, in the final days of the war, when the slaughter of Tamils by the Sri Lankan armed forces was at its height.