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US President Donald Trump told the media on August 10 that he would not “rule out “military options” for dealing with Venezuela. His comments were followed by the imposition of economic sanctions against Venezuela on August 25.

Labeling Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as a "dictator", the White House said in a statement that the new sanctions seek to block "a critical source of funding" for the Venezuelan government, which is having to deal with a deep economic crisis.

There has been a lot of media focus on Venezuela’s recently inaugurated National Constituent Assembly (ANC). However, little attention has been paid to the response it has generated among grassroots organisations or the variety of proposals being discussed in communities in terms of potential constitutional changes.

Opponents of the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway have continued protesting around the Inner West, as public opinion is turning against the state government's growing network of tollways, road tunnels, exit ramps and polluting smokestacks.

The anti-WestConnex movement is now spreading into opposition to the government's proposed Northern Beaches Link and the planned F6 expansion threatening a section of the Royal National Park to the south.

In the past fortnight, many of us thought we were right on the edge of FINALLY winning marriage equality in Australia as dissent within the ranks of Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition government came to a head.

Liberal MP Dean Smith and others put up the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill and called for a free vote. Even Turnbull, a self-declared supporter of marriage equality even as he called for a plebiscite, said he supported the right of Liberal MPs to cross the floor to vote for the bill.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has raised strong objections to moves by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) to impose severe restrictions on public sector workers' personal use of social media. "It is completely unreasonable for a worker to face disciplinary action over a private email or something as benign as 'liking' a social media post," CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said on August 7.

More than 150 unionists and two giant inflatable mascots rallied outside Esso's Australian headquarters in Southbank, Melbourne, on August 3. The rally was organised by the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU), the Australian Workers' Union (AWU) and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

The rally was in support of maintenance workers who have been picketing Esso's Longford gas site since June in protest over the plan by UGL, which holds Esso’s maintenance contract, to retrench them and have a subsidiary rehire them on 30% less pay and a two-week fly-in, fly-out roster.

More than 300 unionists and local residents protested outside the electorate office of Liberal MP for Drummoyne John Sidoti on August 4.

Chanting “John Sidoti’s got to go!” and waving placards opposing the NSW government’s planned privatisation of public buses in the Inner West, the protest elicited much support from passing motorists and pedestrians. There was no response, however, from Sidoti’s office.

Flags from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the Australian Services Union (ASU) were prominent.

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) held their national conference in Chicago on August 5 and 6, at a gathering that confirmed its emergence as stronger, younger and more radical group than it has ever been.

Before last year’s US presidential election, the DSA boasted between 7000-8000 members. Since then, it has ballooned to 25,000 members — mostly young and hungry for a fight.

So the government is planning a plebiscite on equal marriage by means of post, presumably because it didn’t want to confuse elderly opponents of marriage equality with new-fangled technological developments like the telegram.

The whole project will cost $122 million for a vote that is not even binding, when all polls for years have shown a large majority in favour of marriage equality and the thing could be resolved in a matter of hours by a simple vote in parliament.

The threat by US President Donald Trump to unleash nuclear war against North Korea is not a Trumpian “excess”.

That has been made clear by his Secretary of Defense, retired Marine General James Mattis, who backed Trump. The administration is demanding that North Korea freeze its nuclear program, including the testing of missiles.

A new campaign, #HelpNotHarm: Stand against mandatory drug testing, spearheaded by Dr Alex Wodak and GetUp!, has been launched in response to the federal government’s decision to deny income support payments to those who test positive to certain drugs.

Many commentators in the US and elsewhere have poured cold water on the idea there could be a short term war between the US and North Korea.

The Guardian said on August 9: “But despite two unpredictable nuclear-armed leaders trading barbs, most observers believe the possibility of conflict remains remote, with the North Korean leadership using its nuclear program as a bargaining chip rather than an offensive weapon.”

In Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence — from domestic abuse to political terror, psychiatrist and trauma specialist Judith Herman wrote: “The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.”

Despite widespread community opposition and the Senate's repeated rejection of a plebiscite the Malcolm Turnbull government is persisting with a non-binding postal survey on the question of removing the current definition of marriage from the Marriage Act and replacing it with an unspecified definition that will provide for marriage equality in some unspecified form.

Flanked by military commanders, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was in the nation’s second-largest city, Mosul, on July 10 to announce the city’s liberation from ISIS.

An end to the three-year-long rule by the extremely violent and authoritarian terrorist group is obviously good news for the city's residents. But it seems unlikely the group’s defeat will mean an end to their suffering, which began long before ISIS captured the city in June 2014.

About 190 Oaky North miners were locked out of their workplace in the Bowen Basin west of Rockhampton on August 4 for a third consecutive eight-day period. It was the fourth time the workers had been locked out since June by Anglo-Swiss mining giant Glencore, which the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) suspects of trying to replace the permanent workforce with contractors.

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