Pro-democracy protests have escalated in Bahrain after the US threw its support behind the monarchy and tanks from Saudi Arabia were seen entering the country. Up to 200,000 people marched in the capital, Manama, on February 25, The New York Times said that day — a staggering size given Bahrain's population is only 1.2 million, and more than half of these are foreign guest workers. The protesters converged on Pearl Roundabout in two huge crowds.
The Youth for Change organisation has called for protests throughout Sudan on March 21. The February 28 Sudan Tribune reported that spokesperson Magdi Okasha said their aim is to overthrow the regime. The call follows a series of anti-government protests by youth and students, most notably on January 30, when thousands of students inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt were met with violence from security forces. Many activists arrested during and after the protests remain in jail without charge.
The US government says it wants “stability” in the Arab world. That sounds reasonable, right? However, as US author and political analyst Noam Chomsky explained to Press TV on February 24, for the US government, “stability” means something other than what most people would think. “You have to remember that stability is a cold code word,” Chomsky said. “Stability doesn't mean stability; it means obedience to US domination … [It] doesn't mean that things are calm and straightforward, [it] means they are under control. That of course it is inconsistent with democracy.
The US Army announced on March 2 that it has charged 22-year-old Private First Class Bradley Manning with a further 22 charges. Manning is being held on suspicion of having leaked classified information to WikiLeaks. One of the new charges is “aiding the enemy”. This means Manning could face the death penalty if convicted. So far, Pentagon and military officials have found no direct link between Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
There was another win for “people’s power” in Egypt when interim prime minister Ahmed Shafiq resigned on March 3. Shafiq was sworn in by the overthrown dictator Hosni Mubarak and is closely associated with the old regime. He was replaced by former transport minister Essam Sharaf, who was asked by the military government to form a cabinet in the lead-up to elections scheduled for later this year.
When the Kyoto Protocol was being negotiated in 1997, the European Union opposed the United States’ proposal to introduce carbon trading and “offsetting” as a form of compliance with mandated greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Instead, the EU favoured coordinated policies and measures. But by 2001, when the US unilaterally abandoned climate negotiations, the EU had already reversed its position and enthusiastically supported delivering the fate of climate policy to a speculative market.
The regime of Muammar Gaddafi has escalated its violence against rebel forces seeking to bring it down. On March 6, opponents of the regime were reported to be in control of several cities, especially in Libya’s east. AlJazeera.net said on March 4 that anti-government protests in the capital, Tripoli, had been met with tear gas by security forces. Opponents said Az Zawiyah, a town just 40 kilometres from Tripoli that is home to an oil refinery, was mostly under rebel control.
ASIO has delayed the release of 900 refugees from immigration detention because it had not carried out security checks, a Senate estimate hearing on February 24 revealed. Refugees can be held indefinitely after their visa approval until checks on their background, family networks and “risk” level are complete. Lateline said on March 1 that it took an average of 66 days to process one person. But some refugees have been held for 12 months or longer.
In the face of renewed protests in Tunisia's capital, Tunis, Tunisian prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi resigned on February 27. This was one of the key demands of the popular movement, which has continued to push for democracy in the aftermath of the January 14 toppling of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In another concession to the mass movement, the interim government announced that elections for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution would be held on July 24, AlJazeera.net said on March 4.
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members at Macquarie University in Sydney took rolling industrial action across four faculties during the first teaching week of semester. The industrial action was part of a campaign for a new collective agreement for academic staff. Three hundred staff and students rallied on March 3 to hear about the bargaining impasse. Issues of concern for staff include overcrowded classes, lack of facilities, workloads, budget cuts and job security.
Many millions of tonnes of coal have been exported since activists dubbed the Rising Tide Seven temporarily shut down coal loaders in Newcastle in September last year. They were convicted on January 31 of “remaining on enclosed lands”. Each was fined $300, plus $79 in court costs. However, on March 3, they were vindicated when magistrate Elaine Truscott rejected the Port Waratah Coal Services’ (PWCS) $525,000 “compensation” claim.
Mining company BHP Billiton’s whopping $10.5 billion profit for the second half of 2010 highlights the shameless greed of those making a fortune out of Australia’s valuable resources. Remember the tantrum thrown by BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata less than a year ago after then-PM Kevin Rudd proposed the Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT)? The RSPT wasn’t a radical proposal. Part of the revenue from the modest 40% tax would have been returned to the corporate sector, helping to fund a cut in the already low corporate tax rate and various subsidies to mining.
The protests that began on February 14 in Madison, Wisconsin against an anti-union bill have continued to grow. On February 26, an estimated 100,000 people defied sub-zero temperatures to rally against the bill. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s bill would outlaw collective bargaining for public sector workers, as well as slash pay and conditions. However, several events have combined to compound pressure on public sector workers and unions resisting the attacks. It remains to be seen whether this pressure will result in the proposed bill becoming law.
The Greens candidate for Heathcote in the NSW elections, Phil Smith, has renewed his party’s call for a moratorium on coal seam gas mining in the state. He said gas extraction poses real risks for communities throughout the Heathcote electorate, a seat that spans from southern Sydney to the northern Illawarra. The Labor state government recently approved 15 coal seam gas wells in the northern Illawarra region. “The Greens are leading the call for an immediate moratorium,” Smith told Green Left Weekly.
HOBART — About 20 people attended an Aboriginal rights forum organised on February 24 by the Socialist Alliance. The forum heard from a panel of representatives from the Tasmanian Aboriginal community and explored a range of issues they are campaigning around, including the Brighton Bypass, heritage issues and the NT intervention.
In a joint statement on February 25, indigenous communities that make up the Native Federation of Madre de Dios River and Tributaries in south-eastern Peru rejected a military crackdown on illegal mining on their lands. The statement said it was a “false solution to a problem that has social and economic roots”. Environment minister Antonio Bracks authorised the operation in mid February —involving about 1000 police and infantrymen — to destroy illegal mining equipment including bombing of dredges.