1043

The devastating effects of the coal industry on public health in the NSW Hunter Valley were highlighted in a public forum at Glebe Town Hall on February 23. The forum was organised by the Balmain Defenders of Land, Water, Future and Climate Change, and Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle.
A second round of talks between US and Cuban diplomats began in Washington on February 27, with the aim of restoring diplomatic relations. US President Barack Obama announced, in what he termed the most significant Cuba policy shift in more than 50 years, that he will pursue diplomatic relations and urge Congress to dismantle the US blockade of Cuba.
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.
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
In the past three years, the Australian government has recovered more than $41 million that had been fraudulently claimed by private employment agencies. These for-profit employment agencies were found to have submitted forged and doctored records and lodged inflated fee claims. One source, a former agency employee, told ABC’s Four Corners that they had seen “thousands” of jobseeker records modified by the agency to support suspicious claims against the taxpayer.
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.
Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Amongst Us John Quiggin Black Inc., 2012 265 pages, $26.95 (pb) “Being already dead,” says John Quiggin of zombie ideas in economics, “they can absorb all kinds of damage and keep lumbering on.” And so, despite severe reality checks such as the historical Great Depression and the more recent Global Financial Crisis (GFC), classical free market economics continues to lead its undead life in the neoliberal form Quiggin calls “market liberalism”.
Cartoon by Norrie. Bellicose and racist jingoism is the last refuge of scoundrel Prime Minister Tony Abbott. His February 23 “National Security Statement” was blatant incitement of hatred, bigotry and suspicion against Australia's Muslim minority.
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released this statement on February 27. * * * The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) has called on the government to immediately halt all transfers of asylum seekers to offshore detention centres until the report into allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru has been released. The Moss Inquiry report was provided to the Minister for Immigration and Border protection on February 9, but its findings have not been made public, and there has been no timeframe provided for its release.

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