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PM John Howard is facing an election later this year and knows that his government’s support for Washington’s war in Iraq is highly unpopular — hence his vituperative attacks on Labor leader Kevin Rudd’s pledge to withdraw Australian troops.

The Howard government’s Work Choices laws are not bringing about “a more flexible, simpler and fairer system of workplace relations for Australia”, as the Howard government likes to argue, according to two recent damning research papers. The studies also disprove Canberra’s claim that the laws have improved productivity, increased wages, balanced work and family life and reduced unemployment.

“For two days now in parliament Treasurer Peter Costello has attacked ALP signatories of our sign-on invitation for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to visit Australia”, Kiraz Janicke from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network told Green Left Weekly on February 15. “But Costello’s attacks have been both ridiculous and factually inaccurate.”

US vice-president Dick Cheney, about to visit Sydney, is not welcome.

On the third anniversary of the death of young Aboriginal man TJ Hickey, his mother Gail told a rally of some 200 people at the site of his death in Redfern that her family was still being harassed by the cops. Hickey said police harassment of young people in Redfern must stop, or there would be more deaths like that of her son, who was impaled on a fence while being chased by police.

Blood Diamond

Directed by Edward Zwick

With Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly

In cinemas

@9point non = SYDNEY — Students from the University of Western Sydney (UWS) were joined by environmental activists and high-school students to present Julie Owens, the federal Labor MP who represents Parramatta, with a copy of the declaration of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition on February 16 — World Kyoto Day. The AYCC is building a nationwide, youth-led campaign that calls for urgent action against the threat of global warming.

As a schoolboy, Maximilien Robespierre gave a speech of welcome for King Louis XVI in a 1775 coronation ceremony at his college in Paris. Eighteen years later, Louis was decapitated by Robespierre’s revolutionary government. What, asks Ruth Scurr in her biography of Robespierre, had turned the dutiful student into a regicide, whose name in conventional history has left behind “no trace but terror”?

MELBOURNE — On February 13, a rally was organised by the Oromo Community Association to protest the treatment of Oromo refugees in Somalia since the US-backed invasion by Ethiopia.

“I voted yes and will always vote yes”, Reuters quoted Laurinda Duarte as saying. “Abortions will always take place so why not vote to allow women to carry them out under decent conditions? I am a Catholic but that does not mean I am not free to vote.”

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