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United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Munich Security Conference Plenary Session on February 5, said the US had always stood for the principle “free people govern themselves best”. This, she said, is “not simply a matter of idealism, it is a strategic necessity”. A cursory look at events — past and present — demonstrates the exact opposite to be true.
In the space of a few weeks, Australia and the world have been rocked by devastating weather events, from huge snowstorms across the US to flash flooding and cyclones in Australia. Many of these events have not just been catastrophic, but have set new records for weather. Let’s pause to list some of the recent extreme weather events in Australia: · Serious and long-lasting floods in Queensland around Rockhampton. · Unprecedented flash flooding in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley. · The biggest floods on record in western Victoria. · A 100-year record flood in Brisbane.
Bolivian President Evo Morales praised “the popular uprisings in Tunisia and in Egypt” in his speech to the opening ceremony of the World Social Forum in the west African nation of Senegal on February 6. Morales said the uprisings were part of the “rebellion by the peoples of the Arab countries against US imperialism”. “This struggle by the people is going to be unstoppable,” Morales said, “even though the US government provides millions and millions of dollars of financing to try and finish these social movements. “But this is not going to stop.”
When a Billion Chinese Jump — How China Will Save the World, or Destroy It By Jonathan Watts Faber & Faber, 2010 485 pages, $32.95 http://site.whenabillionchinesejump.com/ When Jonathan Watts was a child growing up in England, he used to pray that all the people in China would not jump at once, lest they send the earth spinning off its axis.
A joyous night in Cairo on February 11. What bliss to be alive, to be an Egyptian and an Arab. In Tahrir Square, they chanted: “Egypt is free” and “We won!” The removal of Mubarak alone (and getting the bulk of his US$40 billion loot back for the national treasury), without any other reforms, would itself be experienced in the region and in Egypt as a huge political triumph. It will set new forces into motion. A nation that has witnessed miracles of mass mobilisations and a huge rise in popular political consciousness will not be easy to crush, as Tunisia demonstrates.
Nine weeks after a boat carrying asylum seekers was smashed apart on the shores of Christmas Island on December 15, traumatised survivors remained locked up by the department of immigration. They are almost completely cut off from family and support. At least 48 people may have died in the devastating shipwreck. The wooden vessel, named SIEV221 by authorities, was thrown onto rocks in savage seas to the north of the island at about 5am.
In a world-shaking event, after 18 days of constant street protests, the Egyptian people’s revolution won a huge victory when dictator Hosni Mubarak finally resigned on February 11. On that day, designated the “Day of Departure” by protesters, an estimated 20 million people (out of a population of about 80 million) were reported to have taken to the streets. They defied a regime that had tried to crush the movement in blood. More than 300 people have been killed by security forces or pro-regime thugs since the uprising broke out on January 25. More coverage:
Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) voted on January 13 to lift their ban on the transmission of student results. More than 40 staff members who took part in the lawful industrial action had been stood down without pay for nearly eight weeks. The decision to lift the ban followed concerns over attempts by university management to release unauthorised student results.
For communities affected by Cyclone Yasi and the recent floods across Queensland, Western Australia, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, it will be no comfort to hear that the Fair Work Act provides little protection for workers from unscrupulous employers. Many bosses will choose to stand workers down without pay if their business is affected by these natural disasters. At the height of the Queensland floods, state Workplace Rights Ombudsman Don Brown told ABC Online on January 21 that employers have the right to not pay workers for time off caused by the floods.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expressed his support for workers in a dispute at a Venezuelan Coca-Cola plant conflict in a televised address on February 4. “If Coca-Cola doesn’t want to comply with the constitution and the law, well, we can live without Coca-Cola,” he said to cheers from the crowd. Chavez was speaking in Valencia, the capital of Carabobo state, where 1230 workers are striking in a bottling and distribution plant of Coca-Cola Femsa.

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