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John Riddell and Suzanne Weiss traveled to Venezuela at the end of November, as participants in a tour organized by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (<http://www.venezuelasolidarity.org>. The authors are members of the editorial team of Canadian publication Socialist Voice (http://www.socialistvoice.ca).

In the last instalment of a recent exchange that was sparked by Green Left Weekly’s interview with Eva Golinger (GLW #716, June 28, 2007), Professor Steven Zunes accused me of having made a “series of false accusations and major leaps of logic” in my critical assessment of the links that the non-profit International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) maintains with the United States’ leading democracy manipulators. (Online edition only: http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/727/37727). Taking into account that Zunes currently chairs the ICNC’s board of academic advisors, his distress over the facts I have revealed is understandable. Thus, in an effort to address all of Zunes’ unfounded concerns with my last article, I will work through each of the points he has raised concerning my critique of the ICNC.

“In the new year, the progressive community needs to take up the cudgels for all those who continue to suffer human rights abuses in this country”, Sam Watson, Murri activist and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate in the recent federal elections, told a speak-out for International Human Rights Day on December 7. He condemned the attacks on Aboriginal rights inherent in the former Howard government’s invasion of the Northern Territory, and the infringement of civil liberties represented by the mandatory detention of refugees and the “anti-terror” laws.

As an orgy of consumerism descends upon the Western world to commemorate the birth of Christ, it is poignant to consider the relationship between Christianity and the left. It is a common misconception that socialists are atheists and are opposed to all forms of religion. Indeed, many socialists are atheists, and the abhorrence of organised religion by some can be traced back to the role of the church in siding with regressive conservative forces at various stages throughout history (and indeed itself being at times a highly repressive institution). However, socialism is opposed to all forms of discrimination — be it based upon gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, or indeed religious belief.

Bolivia’s indigenous, left-wing President Evo Morales has announced plans to hold a referendum on whether or not he will continue in office, according to a December 5 New York Times article. The aim is to overcome the stalemate the country has faced between the right-wing elite — opposed to the process of change pushed by Morales — and the poor and indigenous majority that put Morales in power. The vice president and nine state governors will also a vote on continuing in office.

The jammed crowd of marchers on December 6 in Cochabamba took an hour and a half to walk past the window of our office, from start to finish. By the time that the dense snake of supporters President Evo Morales wound its way through the city centre and gathered as a single throng in the Central Plaza, it easily numbered 10,000 or more. It was the largest gathering I have seen in the plaza since the high tide of the “water revolt” in April 2000. It was also completely peaceful.

At a November 30 state council meeting, Victorian Australian Education Union (AEU) officials attacked the Teachers Alliance, a rank-and-file grouping, for distributing a leaflet at a November 21 stop-work meeting that warned of the dangers of compromises by the officials who are engaged in negotiations with the Victorian state government about a new agreement for teachers.

Worldwide, building construction and use accounts for around 40% of greenhouse gas emissions (materials, actual construction, heating, cooling, lighting etc.). The use of green building materials and construction techniques must be a key element in the drive to curb global warming.

The first days of the December 3-14 Bali meeting on a post-Kyoto framework for tackling climate change showed that the US-led call for a “comprehensive new agreement” that would require Third World countries that are big greenhouse-gas emitters to commit to emission reductions had the support of most First World government delegations. This push would reverse one of the most valuable aspects of the Kyoto Protocol, which is due to expire in 2012.

Kevin Smith, a researcher for Carbon Trade Watch, participated in the December 3-14 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Bali, Indonesia. Smith spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Zoe Kenny about the campaign against carbon trading.

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