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On May 17, I received an email from Centrelink advising that I would no longer be eligible for the student start-up scholarship.

This means the $1035 payment that helped to pay for my textbooks, university car parking fees and other course materials will now only be available as a loan I will have to pay back on HECs.

Losing this start-up scholarship will hurt many students, with welfare payments hardly keeping up with the ever-increasing cost of living and rent.

A maternity hospital in Venezuela's Miranda state was attacked on May 17 as the death count in ongoing violent anti-government protests rose to 53. 

The attack comes as violent opposition protests demanding early presidential elections enter their seventh week, with new deaths being reported as opposition supporters clash with authorities, attack public institutions and state security personnel, and blockade roads nationwide. 

The recent federal budget announced a terrible new policy — drug testing 5000 new recipients of Youth Allowance or Newstart. The drugs tested for will be cannabis, methamphetamine and MDMA.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended the policy as "aimed at stabilising the lives of people with alcohol and drug abuse problems by encouraging them to participate in treatment as part of their Job Plan". At the same time, people with diagnosed substance abuse disorders have been excluded from disability benefits.

Sydney bus drivers walked out on May 18 in a 24-hour strike against plans by the NSW Coalition government to privatise public bus services in the city’s inner-west.

The action, which defied the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC), affected four bus depots: Leichhardt, Burwood, Kingsgrove and Tempe.

In his first hours of freedom after 36 years behind bars in US prison, Puerto Rican independence leader Oscar Lopez Rivera vowed on May 17 to continue to fight for freedom and independence while expressing solidarity with progressive movements across the Americas.

“During the years I was jailed I always thought I would return home,” Lopez said during a press conference, thanking all the progressive organisations and world leaders who supported him and worked for his release over the years.

Bylong Valley, near Mudgee in NSW, is a tranquil and secluded village. It is listed by the National Trust as a Landscape Conservation Area because of its stunning beauty and abundant prime agricultural land. But its tranquillity is under threat.

The Victorian Labor government is considering a restructure of Victoria's fire services, according to a report in the May 9 Herald Sun.

Victoria has two fire services — the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA). The boundaries between the zones covered by these two bodies have not been changed for many years. With the expansion of Melbourne, many outer suburbs are covered by the CFA. So too are large towns such as Ballarat and Bendigo.

Twenty years after the original Bringing Them Home report was released, Aboriginal children are still being taken from their parents — in greater numbers than before.

Commenting on the impact of Bringing Them Home — which documented evidence about the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children — Murri elder Sam Watson told Green Left that “it is beyond dispute that Aboriginal children were removed in significant numbers”.

“Every single [Aboriginal] family was affected,” Watson said and this “dated back to the first years of European invasion”.

Four hundred people gathered at the summit of Mt Donna Buang in the Yarra Ranges National Park on May 13 to create a human sign spelling out support for a new Great Forest National Park in the Central Highlands and Gippsland.

Called The Great Forest Picnic, the human sign was 60 metres long, 50 metres wide and spelled out the words “We ♥ parks”.

Artist and activist Benny Zable has been wearing a mask at protests throughout Australia for more than 30 years.

His distinctive skull-like gas mask and painted death-bringer costume, atop large black radioactive drums has become an icon of peace, anti-nuclear and environmental movements throughout the country. He is a performance artist who uses his art form to depict a chilling prophesy of nuclear and environmental catastrophe.

In recent weeks, there have been some worrying developments in the Italian political scene. Extremist, anti-refugee and xenophobic ideas are increasingly gaining ground.

In a growing climate of uncertainty and social instability, all major political forces seem to be riding the wave of discontent to raise their electoral profiles, rather than trying to calm things down.

For millennia, women have had to contend with the ideology that because of their biology, women’s second class status is part of some “natural order”. This has been perpetuated by the state, the church, the family, and reflected in laws and through education.

But this is bullshit. Throughout many millennia of human history, women occupied a status at least equal to men’s. The problem is that you won’t hear about this reality in school, you won’t see it reflected in the media or in film.

A report on the impact of youth programs in remote central Australia found that, with enough effort, they provided significant support to children, their families and communities, as well as the broader health, education and justice systems.

They also actively reduced rates of crime and drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

The report, released on May 16, examined three youth programs in Utopia, Hermannsburg, and Yuendumu.

US President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey for one reason: he was not 100% loyal to Trump. The boldness of the move was to underscore Trump’s drive to establish an increasingly authoritarian presidency.

In these almost two years of socialist government, it has been possible with the support of the left-wing parties, to reverse privatisations in public transport, restore four previously eliminated national holidays, reverse salary cuts for public sector workers, reduce the working week in the public sector to 35 hours, eliminate the surcharge on individual income tax and increase the supplementary solidarity payment for the elderly as well as family allowances and other social subsidies.

However, despite this progress, the current and future situations is not without cause for concern.

We live in strange times. A white, nationalist, billionaire businessperson has been elected president. His 24-member cabinet is made up primarily of wealthy white men, many former Goldman Sachs executives, who US President Donald Trump’s most extreme nationalist ideologues call “New York liberals.” Trump has appointed the fewest number of women and minorities to his cabinet since Ronald Reagan.

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