From January 24-29, the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre was again the staging ground for the World Social Forum (WSF), an annual international gathering of anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist activists. Among the various movements present, one of the most visible was Brazil's Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), possibly the largest social movement in Latin America.
Cajamarca, a town with tragic associations in Peruvian history, is the setting of another devastating imperialist onslaught. In 1532, a band of Spanish conquistadores ambushed the Inca king Atahualpa in the central plaza of this Andean town. The brutal spirit of conquista is alive and well in contemporary Cajamarca, in the form of the US-based Newmont mining corporation, an outfit with a slick PR machine and a very dirty environmental and human rights track record.
A vast icy pool of Siberian air, the coldest in 50 years, settled over all Europe in late January. At least 150 people without shelter were killed. Yet the suffering from this extreme cold snap will be nothing compared with that of the economic ice age now threatening to entomb Europe’s most vulnerable economies. Over the past fortnight southern Europe’s growth prospects have become increasingly wintry:
United States' oil giant ExxonMobil had the largest profits of the “big five” oil companies last year, raking in US$41.1 billion. This is a 35% jump from the year before. Here are a few more facts about ExxonMobil: Exxon’s $41.1 billion in 2011 profit translates into nearly $5 million in profit every hour, or more than $1300 every second. Exxon pays a lower tax rate than the average US citizen. Between 2008-2010, Exxon Mobil registered an average 17.6% federal effective corporate tax rate, while the average American paid a higher rate of 20.4 percent.
Port Kembla Coal Terminal workers began a week-long strike on February 1. The action is a result of management scaling back conditions during negotiations over a new enterprise agreement. BHP Billiton operates the coal terminal on behalf of its owners, which include Xstrata, Peabody Energy, Gujarat NRE and Centennial Coal. Management’s latest offer triggered Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) delegates to take industrial action. About 100 workers had previously voted to approve a seven-day stoppage from February 1, unless management made a late offer
A looming staffing problem in Western Australia's 26 Police and Community Youth Centres (PCYC) is exposing premier Colin Barnett and the Liberal government's disregard for youth services and the complete hypocrisy of the law and order rhetoric that crops up at every state election. PCYCs are formally independent non-profit organisations, supported by the state through the provision of police officers as full-time centre managers.
Thousands of Victorian nurses, mental health workers, public servants and others have been trying to negotiate new enterprise bargaining agreements with the Coalition government. Premier Ted Baillieu's intransigent state government has insisted it will not agree to any pay rises above 2.5% a year without productivity trade-offs. The exception was the police force, which won a 4.5% annual pay rise a few days after more than 500 police violently evicted Occupy Melbourne protesters from City Square.
Five anti-nuclear activists travelled from Australia to attend the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World held in the Japanese port city of Yokohama, over January 14–15. The conference was attended by 11,500 people over the two days including 100 international participants from 30 countries.
Rupert Murdoch's flagship newspaper, The Australian, has been on a campaign to destroy the Greens because the party represents a big electoral break from the two-parties-for-capitalism system that has dominated politics in this country for more than a century. In the past two weeks, this campaign has been hyped into McCarthyite Cold War hysteria.
In an historic decision, Fair Work Australia (FWA) awarded pay rises of 19-41% to 150,000 mostly female workers in the social and community services sector (SACS) on February 1. It was the most important equal pay case since equal pay for work of equal value was formally recognised in 1972. The decision awards an extra 4% rise in loadings, designed to recognise impediments to bargaining in the industry. Workers will also be entitled to any wage review by FWA each year. The pay rises are effective from December 1, to be phased in over eight years.
In the week after the January 26 Aboriginal Tent Embassy anniversary celebrations and protests, the mainstream media poured out a continuous stream of negative, scathing commentary on the Tent Embassy and the people that defended it. Ignoring the thousands of people gathered for three days to recognise the achievements of the Tent Embassy and protest against ongoing attacks to Aboriginal people today, the corporate media ran stories of an “angry mob” that surrounded a Canberra restaurant and “besieged” Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Liberal leader Tony Abbott.
This year, the rules of the game have changed drastically. The ALP now supports marriage equality, and the Greens submitted its Marriage Amendment Bill 2010 to a senate inquiry on January 26. The problem is the numbers in parliament. The ALP has allowed a conscience vote, which means its MPs can vote against party policy, while Liberal Party members are required to vote against marriage equality.