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The massacre of 16 people in the Panjwai District of Kandahar province in Afghanistan on March 11 re-ignited widespread calls, inside and outside Afghanistan, for Western forces to leave. US army spin has not quelled anger or questions over how the massacre took place, who was involved and how to deal with those responsible. Witnesses say US army staff sergeant Robert Bales, along with 15-20 others, went on a rampage — sexually assaulting, then massacring and burning mainly women and children from the remote farming villages of Najeeban and Alkozai.
Preliminary court-martial proceedings against United States soldier Bradley Manning have shown the US government's strong desire to make an example of him. Manning is the military analyst accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables and US military reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Rather than seek to investigate the serious war crimes revealed in the leaks — and prosecute those responsible — the US government has persecuted Manning.
Malalai Joya, a former MP and one of Afghanistan’s best-known democratic leaders, recently survived the sixth attempt on her life. Taliban gunmen attacked her office at 3 am on March 10, wounding two of her guards. In an exclusive interview, she told Green Left Weekly’s Pip Hinman that “such terrorist acts will never stop my fight for freedom, democracy and justice”.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture said in 2007 that “TASER electronic stun guns are a form of torture that can kill”. These deadly “forms of torture”, which are now part of policing in every Australian state, killed again on March 18. Twenty-one year old Brazilian student Roberto Laudisio Curti died after six police officers chased him down a Sydney street, capsicum-sprayed him, and then tasered him in the back. Police say Curti, who was unarmed, “may” have been involved in a robbery of “a packet
Six Zimbabwean socialist activists were convicted on March 19 for “conspiracy to commit public violence”. Their “crime” was to watch a video in February last year about the anti-dictatorship uprising in Egypt. But the activists won a partial victory two days later when they were given suspended jail sentences of two years. The six were also ordered to each do 420 hours of community service and pay a fine of US$500 (A$478). The six had faced up to 10 years’ in jail, a sentence demanded by the state prosecutor, Edmore Nyazamba.
LIVE BLOG Sunday March 25 Green Left Weekly is reporting live from the Coal Seam Gas Community Conference at Wollongong Town Hall on March 25. ----
At last, the bill has been passed to enable Britain's health service, the envy of the world, to become more like the United States system, universally derided as a chaotic disaster. Now they can introduce bills to make our ferry service more like the one in Italy, and our record on child abuse more like that of the Vatican. It takes inventive thinking to hear that in the US, drug companies spend twice as much on advertising as they do on research, and say, "That's MARVELLOUS, why can't WE do that"?
Mental health workers voted to escalate industrial action in two weeks unless Ted Baillieu's Coalition government begins to seriously negotiate with their union. The Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) covers psychiatric nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, psychologists and support staff. The Australian Nursing Federation covers some mental health nurses as well.
In response to timber industry lobbying, independent MP Rob Oakeshott moved a motion in federal parliament to allow foresters to claim Renewable Energy Certificates for burning native forests for power. The vote was lost on March 19 on a casting vote from the Speaker of the House Peter Slipper. The Labor Party, Greens, and independent MPs Andrew Wilkie and Tony Windsor voted against the motion. The Coalition voted for it.
After three weeks of action, warehouse workers at the Sigma pharmaceutical Melbourne plant returned to work on March 21. Workers fended off attempts by the company to abolish afternoon and night shift loadings. They also won a 4% pay rise. The workers, members of the National Union of Workers at the Rowville plant in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, had rarely been on strike.
On March 9, Gunns Ltd notified the Australian Stock Exchange that potential investor Richard Chandler Corporation pulled out of its bid to buy a 40% stake in the company. The Singapore-based investment firm of New Zealand millionaire Richard Chandler had planned to invest $150 million in the company. But it dropped the plan after consulting with stakeholders and communities. The news was welcomed by environmentalists as another big setback for Gunns’ plans to get its $2.3 billion Tamar Valley pulp mill started in northern Tasmania.
For many months now, major party politicians and the big business media have sung paeans to the Lucky Country’s luckiest mining bonanza yet, riding the coat-tails of the rapid industrialisation of China and India. Federal treasurer Wayne Swan told the National Press Club on March 5: “Asia’s enormous appetite for our mineral commodities drives an investment pipeline in the resources sector worth $456 billion.