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In her 2001 book, Blue Army: Paramilitary Policing in Victoria, senior lecturer in criminology at Monash University Associate Professor Jude McCulloch reports 44 victims of police shootings in Victoria since the 1980s, mostly poor people from non-Anglo backgrounds, but also police themselves. That number is now more than 50.
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.”
Walter Chavez, an adviser to Bolivian president Evo Morales, has found himself in the centre of a well-orchestrated corporate media campaign aimed at delegitimising the Morales government internationally by linking it to “terrorist” groups. This accusation comes only a week after attempts by the Spanish media to link Morales’s party — the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) — with the Basque separatist group ETA.
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.
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 foretaste of US President George Bush’s plan to use 41,500 US troops to “stabilise” war-torn Baghdad came on January 24 when the US occupation forces conducted their second assault in a month on the city’s Haifa Street neighbourhood.
Washington’s plan for military action against Iran goes far beyond limited air strikes on its nuclear facilities and would effectively unleash a war against the country, a former US intelligence analyst told Reuters on January 21.
Last month, total US military casualties in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion exceeded 50,000 dead and wounded. By January 28, 3071 US soldiers had died in Iraq and at least 47,657 had been wounded, according to Pentagon figures.
Chanting “bring our troops home”, anti-war protesters rallied in front of the Capitol building in Washington DC on January 27 to pressure President George Bush’s administration to end the war on Iraq, now only two months short of entering its fourth year.
A mixed message — combining celebration and auto-critique — came from the Nairobi World Social Forum, held from January 20-25 in a massive sports complex 10km from the city. The 60,000 registered participants heard triumphalist radical rhetoric and yet, too, witnessed persistent defeats for social justice causes, especially within the WSF’s own processes.
More than 200,000 public service workers in the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) held a nationwide strike on January 31, which is being followed by a two-week overtime ban. The February 1 Morning Star reported that “the action hit 200 government departments, halted important court cases and paralysed passport offices, benefit centres, and tax offices”. In addition, the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff was forced to abandon proceedings, and in London the British Library, Tate Modern and Tate Britain were closed.
Reuters reported on February 3 that at least 23 people had died in armed clashes between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza during the previous 24 hours. The deaths helped bury a short-lived ceasefire that had been declared by the groups the two largest Palestinian political parties on January 30. In the two months prior to the ceasefire, more than 60 Palestinians had been killed, half of them between January 25 and January 29.
Comrade Roberts: Recollections of a Trotskyite
By Kenneth Gee
Desert Pea Press, 2006
207 pages, $29.95 (pb)
The Battle For Islam — Looks at how in some Muslim countries, it is women who are leading the charge for change. SBS, Friday, February 9, 1.30pm.
At an extraordinary Ard Fheis (congress) of Sinn Fein held in Dublin on January 28, delegates voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), long known for its discriminatory and violent practices towards the Irish republican movement and Northern Ireland Catholics. About 90% of the 982 delegates at the congress accepted the motion put forward by Sinn Fein’s Ard Chomhairle (national executive), paving the way for a devolution of power to the Northern Ireland Assembly as outlined in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Prosecutors are calling Amber Abreu a murderer. But the 18-year-old is a victim of restrictions on access to abortion. Prosecutors recently charged Abreu, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, with “procuring a miscarriage” — a felony that can carry a penalty of seven years in prison. They say they are planning to file additional charges, including a possible homicide charge, against her.

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