In the aftermath of the April 24 Rana Plaza collapse, the plight of Bangladeshi garment workers occupied global media attention in a way it never had before. The inconvenient thing about Rana Plaza, as far as the fashion brands that rely on outsourced sweatshop labour were concerned, was that so many workers — more than 1100 — died in one spectacular incident.
"Thirty Years But Still No Justice!" was the theme of an Aboriginal deaths in custody forum held in Redfern on July 27. Speakers addressed issues of deaths in custody, victims of police brutality and other social justice concerns. The forum was also the Sydney launch of the National Deaths in Custody Coalition (NDCC), established in February this year to organise for a national day of action on Saturday, September 28 to mark 30 years since the death at police hands of WA Aboriginal youth John Pat in 1983. The meeting was sponsored by the Indigenous Social Justice Association.
The mainstream press has focused on the decision of the judge in the military courts-martial of Bradley Manning to find him not guilty of “aiding the enemy”. However, judge Denise Lind's conviction of of the whistleblower who exposed war crimes for 20 other charges amounts to a full-scale assault on democratic rights. The courts-martial now enters the sentencing phase. Manning faces a maximum of 136 years behind bars. Whatever the final sentence is, it is widely believed it will be decades in the military stockade.
Former Brazilian president Lula, who helped found the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) and governed from 2003–2010, took his time to comment on the wave of protests that erupted in mid-June, bringing millions onto the streets. But when he finally gave an interview, he warmly welcomed the protests: “Brazil is living an extraordinary moment in the affirmation of its democracy. We are a very young democracy ... It’s only to be expected that our society should be a walking metamorphosis, changing itself at every moment.”
Fearing state repression, farmers in the Cataumbo region of Colombia, on the border with Venezuela, have formally requested asylum in Venezuela. Farmers in the Rural Workers’ Association of Catatumbo (Ascamcat) erleased a public letter on June 21 asking Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for refuge. They have been protesting and blocking roads since June 10 in response to a campaign to forcefully eradicate coca cultivation in their area. They say they fear military reprisals.
The Barack Obama administration has proposed new regulations for hydraulic fracturing on 756 million acres of public and tribal lands. The rules were written by the drilling industry and will be streamlined into effect by a new intergovernmental task force, established by the president, to promote fracking ― a practice that has been linked to water poisoning, air pollution, methane emissions and, most recently, earthquakes.