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In recent weeks, local and international media have attacked the left-wing Venezuelan government over alleged “economic woes”. Pointing to Venezuela’s inflation rate — the highest in Latin America — and an economy that shrank 3.3% last year, the private opposition media is raising fears of a serious economic crisis. These same media outlets, which have been predicting the fall of President Hugo Chavez for years, argue recent government actions will worsen the situation. Venezuelan business federation Fedecamaras warned on May 5 that Venezuela faces an “economic and social crisis”.
The Fair Work ombudsman began legal action on May 19 against a 7-Eleven store operator in Geelong who owed hundreds of hours in unpaid wages to four workers. The decision came after a two-year campaign by the Unite union, which organises workers in part-time and casual work. The ombudsman alleges that four workers were owed a total of $85,408 for work over 2005-09. One worker alone was underpaid $40,583.
Right, who knows a way of making “Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition, out out out!” scan properly? Events haven’t been made easier by the news coverage, which involved reporters telling us: “Oh my God, it’s historic, and the two of them look so lovely together, and they’re in the garden, ooohhh, I haven't cried so much since I last saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s."
The decade-long campaign against the Bickham coal project, north of Scone in New South Wales, ended in victory on May 14, when NSW Premier Kristina Keneally announced the government would reject the proposed mine. The open-cut mine would have extracted 36 million tonnes of coal over 25 years. Keneally's decision came after the May 3 publication of the state Planning Assessment Commission's (PAC) report, which recommended the mine not proceed. It could be the first time the NSW government has ever blocked the development of a coalmine.
On May 15, German left-wing party Die Linke held its national congress in the eastern city of Rostock, electing a new national leadership and debating its new draft program. At the conference, charismatic left-wing firebrand Oskar Lafontaine stepped down as the party’s co-leader for health reasons. Lafontaine, the former head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and finance minister, quit the SPD in 1999 because of the party’s neoliberal policies.
Friends of Palestine WA staged Perth’s premiere production of Caryl Churchill’s play Seven Jewish Children on May 15. The play attracted a full house of 200 people. Many more were turned away on the night. The play attracted controversy after the Jewish Community Council’s attempt to prevent its performance in WA. Two previous proposed performances at multicultural arts venue Kulcha and at the Hale School were cancelled due to a lobbying campaign by the JCC.
Wollongong's Students Against War (SAW) collective crashed the university’s ‘fashion week’ on May 6 by holding a ‘die-in’ on the catwalk. Two activists entered the fashion parade and revealed bloodied clothes before they collapsed on the end of the catwalk. SAW co-convenor Ella Ryan said: ‘The idea behind this stunt, aptly named “Deathly Designs”, was to bring attention to Wollongong university's role in helping design military hardware for arms manufacturers as part of the $85 million "Defence Materials Technology Centre".
Iranian cleric Dr Mansour Leghaei is being removed from Australia after being resident here for 16 years. Immigration minister Chris Evans has refused to allow Leghaei to stay, following an adverse security assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). Leghaei has committed no crime, incited no hatred and is the father of one of Australia's “working families” — that demographic otherwise loved by the Australian government. As he is not an Australian citizen, he is unable to challenge ASIO's security assessment.
Ironically, while the left is one of the fiercest critics of biased media coverage, it can also fall in the trap of corporate media distortions, particularly if its coverage dovetails with its own fantasies. A May 14 article by Daniel Lopez published on the website of Australian group Socialist Alternative is proof of this. The article echoes the view of a May 10 article on the BBC website, which has a clear dislike of Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Dirty diesel? At Orroroo in South Australia, Linc Energy plans to gasify coal in underground seams to produce “syngas”. Piped to the surface, this will be turned partly into diesel via the Fischer-Tropsch process.

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