1136

I’m not one of nature’s optimists at the best of times, and a rash of media headlines predicting a doomsday scenario for Labour on June 8 aren’t exactly good for the spirits. But how far are their gloomy predictions born out by the facts of the May 4 local election results| — in which the governing Tories won 38% (up eight points from last year's vote) and Labour just 27% (down 4 points)?

More than 2000 Honduran campesinos have taken over 10 farms in La Lima belonging to the Tela Railroad Company, a successor to the dissolved United Fruit Company, La Prensa reported on May 3.

The campesinos, demanding better working conditions and health care from the company, vowed to indefinitely occupy the space until they take action.

Staff at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times started an “unprecedented” week-long strike on May 3, and staff at the Newcastle Herald and Perth website WA Today stopped work overnight, following Fairfax Media's announcement that it will cut 125 editorial jobs —a quarter of its journalists.

The full vote in the lower house of Brazil’s Congress on the government’s plan to reform the pension system will be delayed until the end of May, amid ongoing protests against it.

If passed, the controversial bill would cut benefits, raise social security contributions by civil servants and set a minimum retirement age of 65 years in a country where people work on average until 54 years.

Leaders of Palestinian political party Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, released a document outlining their guiding principles at a press conference in the Qatari capital Doha on May 1.

Much coverage focused on the document’s acceptance of Israel’s 1967 boundary as the basis for establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The document also includes pronouncements on how Hamas views the roots of the conflict, the role of Palestinian resistance and its position towards Jewish people.

Toxic sites in Australia are not well known or well managed. One such site is the old Nufarm chemical factory site in Melbourne’s northern suburb, Fawkner.

The factory operated from 1957 to 1974, making a wide range of noxious chemicals including dioxins; DDT; toluline-based emulsifiable concentrate; phenoxyacetic acid herbicide; 2,4-D; 2,4,5-T; esters; dichlorophenol and trichlorophenol and arsenic-based sheep dip.  

The demands of the hunger strikers are for basic civil rights. There are 6500 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, including 300 children. About 500 are being held under “administrative detention” — meaning they are held without trial by court orders that can be renewed indefinitely.

Despite the scale of the hunger strike and huge popular support enjoyed by the prisoners and their campaign for “freedom and dignity”, Israel shows no signs of acceding to any of the prisoners’ demands to end their ill-treatment.

"To our friends in Latin America and the world, we say: 'The Cuban Revolution will win!'" German Hermin Ferras Alvarez, director of the Asia-Oceania region of the International Relations Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, told a public meeting on May 3. The meeting of about 100 people was hosted by the Maritime Union of Australia and sponsored by the Australia Cuba Friendship Society (ACFS).

"Thank you all for your solidarity with Cuba," he said. "It is a source of inspiration to us to receive solidarity from this far-away part of the world.

At the same time as President Enrique Pena Nieto deports undocumented migrants trying to enter or pass through Mexico, his own party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), is under-paying migrants and refugees in its T-shirt factory.

Australia’s refugee policy over the past 25 years has resulted in a detention process best described as “Hell on Earth”.

Mandatory detention was first introduced in May 1992 by the Labor government with the support of the opposition and has been marked with increasing human rights abuses including deliberate medical negligence, sexual assault by guards, self-immolation and murder.

It suffocates people’s hope, as many people have been in detention for more than four years with no certainty of ever being released.

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