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Tens of thousands of people continue to suffer the effects of the world’s worst industrial disaster — the chemical explosion and leakage of deadly gasses in 1984 at the Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical) pesticide manufacturing plant in Bhopal, which killed thousands of people. Survivors have launched a hunger strike to demand urgent assistance from the Madhya Pradesh government, including decent health care, uncontaminated drinking water, jobs, and pensions for those who are too ill to work. Wells in Bhopal are poisoned by toxic chemicals leaking from the abandoned factory — which Dow refuses to clean up — including agents known to cause cancer and birth defects. Survivors are also demanding reparations from the company. While the victims and their families continue to suffer, Dow corporate executives have not been brought to justice and continue to live in luxury in the US. Send a message of solidarity to the survivors at . For more information visit http://www.bhopal.net.
March 14 was Black Bashing Day on Tim Blair’s blog . Most other days are Muslim-bashing days, but on this day his red-neck cyber-mates decided to pick on Jakalene X, Aboriginal activist, rap artist and the lead candidate on the Socialist Alliance upper house ticket for the March 24 NSW election.
The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement is protesting the March 13 promulgation of the Water Authority of Fiji Bill, which according to public service and public sector interim minister Poseci Bune will provide more “effective management” of water, including “opportunities for competition in the provision of water” and facilitating the “corporatisation of the Water Authority of Fiji”. Opposition to water privatisation sprang up last July when organisations including the Fiji Human Rights Commission protested the inclusion of five major private sector figures in a nine-person committee established to prepare a charter on water and sewerage. In a March 15 statement, FWRM executive director Virisila Buadromo said that “Water is a basic human right, and we are very worried about the commercialisation of this essential resource. We are appalled that water, as essential to life as air, will be treated like a business — especially in light of clear community concerns on the issue.”
Police from the NSW anti-terrorism unit joined Victorian police to raid the homes of political activists in Sydney as part of the fallout from protests against the G20 meeting in Melbourne in November. Four men were arrested and a fifth later surrendered to police.
The Campaign to Free Women’s Rights Defenders in Iran reported on March 12 that Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abasgholizadeh were charged on March 11 with being a “threat to national security”. They are the only two women remaining in custody after the arrests of more than 30 women on March 4. Sadr, a lawyer, was arrested while defending the women activists arrested at a demonstration that day. Sadr and Abasgholizadeh have been denied access to their lawyers and have been interrogated without their lawyers being present.
Turmoil continues in the Labor Party in Newcastle following the imposition by the party head office of Jody Mackay over popular local member Bryce Gaudry to contest the seat.
The AC Neilson poll published in the March 12 Sydney Morning Herald had the federal Labor opposition in a commanding lead over the Coalition, with 61% of the two party-preferred vote. ALP leader Kevin Rudd was the preferred prime minister of 53% of respondents. Green Left Weekly asked a number of trade unionists how much of Labor’s rise in the polls can be attributed to the union movement’s campaign against Work Choices and how they believe these unjust laws can be defeated.
In this NSW election Morris Iemma and the ALP are posing as big defenders of public services and public sector jobs.
A March 7-11 poll by the New York Times and CBS News found that just 15% of respondents believed the US government should engage in “regime change” operations overseas. The poll asked: “Should the United States try to change a dictatorship to a democracy where it can, or should the United States stay out of other countries’ affairs?” Supporters of regime change operations fell 12 points from 27% in 2004 and those who believe the US should “stay out” increased from 59% in 2004 to 69% in the March poll. The poll also found that a mere 10% of those polled support military action against Iran. Only 14% believed the US government was telling the whole truth when it claimed Iran is supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons to use against US forces occupying Iraq.
Sekai Holland, a long-time leader of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and a champion of women’s rights, was detained by police on March 11 in the latest violent crackdown by President Robert Mugabe’s increasingly unpopular regime. Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai was also arrested and later taken to the intensive care unit of a Harare hospital with severe injuries resulting from police beatings.
The Swedish government is proposing new legislation to allow far-reaching surveillance aimed at protecting “national security”, including monitoring phone calls and emails. In the debate around the unpopular bill, deputy prime minister Maud Olofsson admitted that the government has already been tapping citizen’s phones for decades and that the law would simply formalise existing practice. Critics of the bill range from the left to the Swedish intelligence agency Sapo. The Local reported that Sapo’s chief legal counsel Lars-Ake Johansson said the proposal “may lead to drastic violations of personal integrity”.
The March 1 British Guardian reported that an “elite team of officers advising the US commander, General David Petraeus, in Baghdad has concluded that they have six months to win the war in Iraq — or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat”.
On March 8, 300 people protested the Israeli military invasion of Nablus at the Huwwara checkpoint. Organised by a wide coalition of groups including the Popular Committee Against the Closure of Nablus and the General Women's Union, demonstrators chanted and carried Palestinian flags, signs, and photographs of loved ones who have been killed and arrested by Israeli occupation forces. Once at the checkpoint, several women leaders made speeches condemning the Israeli invasion of Nablus. The protest tried to pass through the checkpoint but was confronted by soldiers and border police. Demonstrators resisted when the Israeli soldiers and police created a barricade and prevented demonstrators from getting through the checkpoint. The Huwwara checkpoint was closed for one-and-a-half hours.
In early February, rains that flooded up to 70% of Jakarta and displaced some 450,000 people began. Across Indonesia, 85 people died, according to a March 12 Agence France-Presse report. Bloomberg’s wire service reported on March 6 that, according to government estimates, the floods caused a direct economic loss of “at least 5.2 trillion rupiah” (US$574 million), with indirect losses of 3.6 trillion rupiah.
The internet launch on March 5 of the Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV) has provoked both criticism and support. Author Antony Loewenstein, one of the initiators, told Green Left Weekly that the Jewish establishment reacted “very badly” because, in his view, their position as the spokespeople for the Jewish community for decades is now being challenged.
In 1989, 39 pharmaceutical giants sued the government of AIDS-stricken South Africa, seeking to stop it from implementing a law to improve the poor’s access to life-saving AIDS drugs. That aggression sparked a public outcry within South Africa and elsewhere, leading to an international campaign that only ended in 2001 when the 39 companies dropped their case.

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