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Turkish activists who have been on hunger strike in protest at the treatment of political prisoners in Turkey’s F-type isolation prisons have ended their “death fast”, following the Turkish government’s announcement that it would improve conditions in the jails. Prisoners will now be able to meet together in groups and have greater time to socialise and see visitors. Lawyer Behic Asci was taken to hospital for treatment after ending his fast, after 293 days without food. Since 1982, 122 protesters have lost their lives through the death fasts. Human rights groups, student organisations and unions joined demonstrations in recent months in support of the campaign. The Australian TAYAD (Solidarity with Political Prisoners) committee, in a January 26 statement welcoming the decision, said: “We will continue our struggle with all different means of resistance until isolation is removed totally.”
Nobody can quite believe their eyes and ears. More than 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has made it abundantly clear that his country is embarked on a socialist revolution.
A two-week strike ended late on January 27 after an agreement was reached with President Lansana Conte to delegate some of his powers to a new prime minister. More than 90 people were killed and hundreds injured during police crackdowns on the strike. Hospitals ran out of blood supplies on January 22, when attacks by soldiers and police left dozens dead. Unions called the strike to demand that the president step down and to voice anger at the appalling living conditions in the extremely impoverished west African nation. Guinea, ruled by Conte ever since he took power in a military coup more than 22 years ago, was ranked the most corrupt African country in Transparency International’s 2006 survey. While Guinea is rich in natural resources, some neighbourhoods in the capital, Conakry, do not even have running water or electricity, and low wages and massive inflation mean many cannot afford to buy food. Last May, police killed 20 people when mostly youth protesters in Conakry took to the streets to protest rice and fuel price rises.
One of the best-known and most successful aspects of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution has been the “social missions” — social programs funded by Venezuela’s oil wealth aiming to solve the most pressing problems of the nation’s poor majority. One of the best known and most successful social missions was one of the first to be established, the health program Mision Bario Adentro (“Into the Neighbourghood”). Established in April 2003, the mission has brought free quality health care via the establishment of popular health clinics in poor neighbourhoods across Venezuela. Before Barrio Adentro, health care was out of reach for many of the poor, as private health care was too expensive and the public health system was in a state of disrepair.
Five footballers at North Carolina’s Guilford College were charged with “ethnic intimidation” and the assault of three Palestinian students on January 21. The FBI will also investigate whether the footballers should be charged with “hate crimes”. The three Palestinian students were brutally attacked by up to 15 members of the college football team, who used “brass knuckles” and called them “terrorists”, “sand niggers” and “fucking Palestinians”. Students at the college have condemned the attacks as racist and have begun to organise in support of the Palestinian students. On January 24, Yes! Weekly online magazine reported that students have also threatened to walk out of school if the attackers were not suspended.
Petrodollar Warfare
By William Clark
New Society Publishers, 2005
$29.95 267pages
“It must never again be the case that a death in custody, of Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal persons, will not lead to rigorous and accountable investigations and a comprehensive coronial inquiry.”
When former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib announced last week that he would contest the March 24 NSW state election, the corporate media in Sydney cranked up a campaign of vilification against him. Habib was held in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay for more than three years before being released in January 2005 without charge.
The Labor and Liberal parties have been falling over each other in their rush to rub out the final vestiges of multiculturalism. In December, newly elected Labor leader Kevin Rudd renamed immigration spokesperson Tony Burke’s portfolio “immigration, integration and citizenship”. In his January 23 cabinet reshuffle, PM John Howard caught up, changing the name of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
“Brilliant, fantastic, inspiring … Never shaken so many hands in one day”, commented Pat Rogers, a Brisbane staff member of the Electrical Trades Union, after experiencing the May Day march of more than 1 million workers in Caracas during the Australian trade union solidarity brigade to Venezuela in April-May last year. People in Australia will have the opportunity to join a May Day brigade to Venezuela again this year, from April 30 to May 9, organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN).

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