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The close-knit Texas town of West, population 2800, was shaken to the core, literally and symbolically, on April 17 when the West Fertilizer Co facility exploded with the force of a small earthquake. The blast killed 14 people and injured more than 200. Today, West resembles a war zone. Up to 75 homes and buildings were destroyed, including the local high school and a 50-unit apartment complex that was reduced to a skeleton. A nursing home near the facility was also damaged ― 133 residents had to be evacuated during the explosions and fire that followed.
Construction unions have announced they will make a submission to the Victorian Coalition government that will call for unused government-owned sites in inner-city Melbourne to be used for public housing. Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union state secretary John Setka told the Age on April 22 that the proposal would cut the public housing waiting list and provide jobs for unemployed construction workers.
The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China John Bellamy Foster & Robert W McChesney Monthly Review Press, 2012 There is growing evidence that the global economic crisis will not end any time too soon. Most mainstream economists have proven time and again to be incompetent when it comes to predicting the course of events in an economic crisis, never mind predicting the crisis itself.
In the wake of Margaret Thatcher's departure, I remember her victims. Patrick Warby's daughter, Marie, was one of them. Marie, aged five, suffered from a bowel deformity and needed a special diet. Without it, the pain was excruciating. Her father was a Durham miner and had used all his savings. It was winter 1985, the Great Strike was almost a year old and the family was destitute.
The citizens of the Spanish state awoke on April 14 to shocking news ― acts of “pure Nazism” were spreading across the country. Not only that, but they were being organised in concert with “elements close to ETA” (the armed Basque independence group that has declared a permanent ceasefire). Who was responsible? A Spanish equivalent of the Greek neo-Nazi outfit Golden Dawn? Some surviving cell of the Falange (one-time shock troops of the Franco dictatorship and admirers of Hitler’s New Order in Europe)?
Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Volcanoes Bill McGuire Oxford University Press, 2012 303 pages, $35.95 (hb) It is easy to forget, says Professor Bill McGuire of University College London in Waking the Giant, that human civilisation has thrived only in the broadly benign climate of the past few thousand years following the end of the last post-glacial era.
An article by journalist Elizabeth Farrelly, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on April 11 titled “Protecting a cultural right to abuse”, starts by posing the question, “At what point does autonomy slide into apartheid?” It argues that a policy of self-determination for Aboriginal people will lead to violence in Aboriginal communities, based on the claim that violence was endemic to pre-contact Aboriginal culture.
The fertile plains of the Ord River Irrigation Area around Kununurra in Western Australia are being transformed by plantations of Indian sandalwood, Santalum album It is the largest commercial production of Indian sandalwood in the world. In more than 60% of the total farming area around Kununurra, about 3500 hectares, sandalwood has supplanted food crops such as melons, pumpkins, legumes, chick peas, bananas, and many other crops.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell signed onto Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s national education reform agreement on April 23. Many saw this as a windfall for public education, but little analysis regarding the detail has been made. On the surface it would seem that $5 billion over the next six years will be spent on students in NSW. However, it appears to be at the cost of tertiary education, namely university and NSW TAFE.
On April 23, Chris Carlson wrote at Venezuela Analysis: *** Opposition leader Henrique Capriles claimed yesterday that the presidential elections were “stolen”, and demanded further audit measures that the Venezuelan government has said are “impossible”. Capriles made the statements during a press conference on Wednesday in which he gave the government an ultimatum regarding the audit.
Prospects for left unity will be one of the key discussions at the NSW state conference of the Socialist Alliance on May 12. The Socialist Alliance will also discuss their election campaign and taking the people “before profits” message to a wider audience. There has been more collaboration on the left in recent times. These are positive steps, and form part of the unity process that the leaderships of Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative initiated last year. The other major report and discussion will focus on the Socialist Alliance's participation in the federal elections.
Most of the news on Venezuela in the week since the April 14 presidential election focused on the efforts of losing candidate Henrique Capriles to challenge the results. But another campaign, based in Washington, was quite revealing ― and the two were most definitely related. Without Washington's strong support ― the first time it had refused to recognise a Venezuelan election result ― it is unlikely that Capriles would have joined the hardcore elements of his camp in pretending the election was stolen.
Does Australia really need another party for the billionaires? Aren't the Liberal and Labor parties enough? Surely both have proved that they are loyal servants of the rich? But when a billionaire mining tycoon like Clive Palmer sets his mind on becoming prime minister, he just goes out and buys himself his own instant party, the "United Australia Party", which he announced will contest 127 House of Representative seats and all Senate seats in the coming federal election.
It must be great to have the ability to simply declare people you don't like “illegal”. This is the Liberals’ response to “boat people”. I get that the Liberals hate dark-skinned foreigners with the gall to arrive at our borders and ask for asylum rather than staying where they belong, getting bombed by our military in Afghanistan or tortured by a regime we support in Sri Lanka. But it actually takes more than simply hating something to make it illegal. You usually find it requires an actual law to be broken.
Socialist Alliance members hit the front page of the Fremantle Herald as part of the campaign for free speech at Notre Dame University in Fremantle. The university — a private institution — maintains strict control over many aspects of student life, including the student association. The only way student clubs can get any recognition is by affiliating to the university. But the university won't allow clubs who violate "Catholic social teachings" to affiliate.
A 700-strong march wound its way through the medieval streets of Freiburg, in the south-west German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, on April 20 to protest against the imminent resumption of deportation flights from the state. The theme of the protest was “Those who want to stay should stay”. Those targeted for deportation are Roma refugees who fled Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, and their German-born children.

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