Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered a maximum alert on Venezuela’s border with Colombia after the administration of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accused the Chavez government of harbouring terrorists and running terrorist training camps on July 22. Uribe’s government gave a shameful presentation before member states of the Organisation of American States (OAS) on July 22. It was similar to former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 “weapons of mass destruction” Power Point evidence to the United Nations Security Council to justify the war in Iraq.
Alarm bells should be ringing as the threat of war looms on the horizon, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned in his July 18 weekly column. The warning came after tensions again flared with neighbouring Colombia, and the Central American nation of Costa Rica agreed to 6000 US troops being deployed on its soil. Chavez placed Venezuela on high alert and broke diplomatic relations with Colombia after a July 22 meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS).
Victorian Electrical Trade Union (ETU) members have voted resoundingly to disaffiliate from the Australian Labor Party. In a ballot of ETU members on whether the union should remain affiliated to the ALP, 85% voted against affiliation. Nearly 44% of ETU members voted in the ballot conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. This is the first time in many years a union has disaffiliated from the Labor Party, and possibly the first time a union has conducted a ballot of members on the issue.
Joe Glenton, the British Army Lance Corporal who refused to return to fight in Afghanistan, was released from military prison on July 12. Glenton was jailed in March after going absent without leave from the army in 2007. He had previously spent seven months in Afghanistan as part of the US-led military occupation. He campaigned against the occupation, speaking at an anti-war demonstration in October. Glenton was greeted by about 30 supporters and dozens of reporters outside the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester, Counterfire.org said on July 13.
When right-wing billionaire Ricardo Martinelli was elected Panama’s president in May 2009, political commentators heralded it as a sign that Latin Americans were becoming disillusioned with the “pink tide” of progressive and leftist governments. But one year later, the Martinelli government is facing a wave of resistance to its anti-labour and anti-union laws. Resistance has grown in the face of deadly repression.
Anti-war campaigners have challenged British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to act on his belief that the invasion of Iraq was illegal by making sure those responsible were tried for war crimes, including former PM Tony Blair. Clegg, from the Liberal Democrats, shocked his pro-war Conservative Party coalition partners on July 21 when he declared the US-led invasion “illegal”. Clegg was standing in for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron for prime minister’s questions in parliament.
Chasing the Lollyman Presented by deBASE Productions State Library of Queensland, Brisbane
“Move them along!”, referring to police strategies to deal with loitering Aboriginal people on Australia’s urban streets, was a phrase parodied to hilarity by Mark Sheppard during his acclaimed one-man show, Chasing the Lollyman, which ran at the State Library of Queensland during NAIDOC Week.
Germany’s Federal Administrative Court ruled on July 21 that the Verfassungsschutz — Germany’s domestic spy agency — had a right to spy on the left-wing party Die Linke. Bodo Ramelow, Die Linke’s leader in the eastern state of Thuringia and others were appealing against the agency spying on them. The justification for the spying are claims Die Linke contained “anti-constitutional” elements because of its origins in the former East German state.
This election campaign is crazy. It’s crazy that so much fear is being whipped up about the few thousand of the world's 43 million refugees and displaced people who manage to get on a leaky boat to Australia. But neither mainstream party is willing to stop sending troops to the decade-long military occupation of Afghanistan. This war is largely responsible for 2.8 million Afghan refugees worldwide — the same war is opposed by most in Afghanistan and most citizens of the countries whose armies occupy it.
A spectre is haunting the healthcare system — the spectre of Big Pharma. Fears over the side effects of a widely used diabetes medication in Australia have revealed the power of big money and its influence on the healthcare system. The medication — known as Avandia — is under fire for potentially causing heart attacks and strokes in patients. The manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is accused of hiding evidence of the drug’s harmful side-effects.
In one of her first policy changes after replacing Kevin Rudd as leader of the Labor Party, Prime Minister Julia Gillard dumped Rudd’s idea of a “big Australia”. On June 26, Gillard said “Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population”. Instead, she called for a “sustainable population”. Almost four weeks on, however, Labor’s policy has no details — just lots of rhetoric designed to pander to fears that immigration (particularly asylum seekers) is causing a raft of social problems.
Forget about the climate science and the record high temperatures. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has decided she doesn’t need a serious climate change policy to win the federal election. In its place, she kicked off her election campaign on July 18 with a “sustainable Australia” policy. It promised a future of low population growth, which “preserves our quality of life and respects our environment”. Opposition leader and climate denier Tony Abbott was quick to say he fully agreed with this vision, but was even more committed to it than Gillard.
On July 17, 25 members of Justice for Palestine (JFP) Brisbane met in the CBD to launch their boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli goods and services. The target for the first BDS action was the Israeli Seacret cosmetics company that uses “mineral-rich mud and natural mineral salts of the Dead Sea”. It makes no mention of the occupied Palestinian land from which the minerals are extracted or the apartheid conditions under which Palestinians live every day.
Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) WA is organising a “Compassion Caravan” to the detention centre in Leonora, WA, where more than 30 families are being held, including more than 40 children. Some of these families’ applications have been “frozen” by the Gillard-ALP government in a political ploy to placate xenophobic sentiment toward refugees. This not only violates international law, but also punishes the bulk of refugees coming to Australia. To show that not all Australians agree with these policies, we will travel to Leonora to take gifts for the families being detained.
On July 22, Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Soubhi Iskander condemned the Australia First Party's leaflets attacking immigrants from Africa. The leaflets were letterboxed in the western Sydney suburb of Seven Hills. Iskander is a refugee from Sudan and lives in Seven Hills. “This is a call to incite racist violence against communities of colour", Iskander said. “Blaming Africans for the social problems in Sydney's west that are the result of a lack of employment, affordable housing and public transportation is wrong.