Of the six nations that reached a preliminary deal with Iran concerning its nuclear program, five ― the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China ― have nuclear arsenals. Atomic weapons were first developed by the US, the only country to have used them against large urban populations twice, over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two war crimes killed hundreds of thousands of people. The hypocrisy is compounded by the fact that the strongest opponent of Iran in the Middle East is Israel, which has hundreds of fission and hydrogen bombs.
Tony Abbott used one of the “surprise visits” to Australian occupation forces in Afghanistan, popular with Australian prime ministers, to announce on October 29 that Australia was withdrawing from the conflict. Aside from offering the standard praise of the Australian soldiers’ prowess and virtue, Abbott made very little attempt to justify the 12-year long war and occupation. “Australia’s longest war is ending, not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that’s better for our presence here,” he said. 'War on Terrorism'
A special meeting of Toronto City Council was convened on November 18 to deal with the city’s “Ford problem”. It was the most bizarre chapter yet in the scandal surrounding Mayor Rob Ford. The meeting was convened by city councillors to adopt measures to reduce the power and financing of the mayor’s office. The council majority had supported Ford in office, but the politically well-connected conservative mayor had become a liability for business interests in the city.
There are times when the line between shock, rage and sadness become so blurred it is impossible to know when the flow of emotion ends or begins. The shock and rage come from hearing about an African-American student violently tormented by his three white housemates at San Jose State University in California. Thrown together randomly as first-year students tend to be, Logan Beaschler, 18, Joseph Bomgardner, 19, and Colin Warren, 18 found common cause in acts of racist sadism against their fourth housemate.
Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, a long time left-wing union and democracy activist in Thailand, has been in jail since April 30, 2011. He faces a further 10 years jail under the repressive lese majeste (insulting the monarch) law. Somyot became active in the democracy movement as a high school student in the 1970s. In the '80s, he became a key figure in building genuine, democratic unionism.
Filep Karma is a 54-year-old West Papuan independence activist and long-term political prisoner. He is in jail for his non-violent political activities in the struggle for West Papuan self-determination. In 2004, Karma organised a Morning Star flag-raising ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of the Papuan declaration of independence from Dutch rule in 1961.
Local citizens voted to create 169 new communes on November 24, deepening efforts to create forms of communal organisation in the South American country. A recent national census found there are more that 40,000 active communal councils in Venezuela. These are local participatory bodies that develop their communities and can receive public funding. Communes are based on groups of communal councils, and can take on larger -scale projects and economic activities.
Nearly 1000 workers at the Ansell Lanka factory in Sri Lanka’s Biyagama Export Processing Zone have been on strike since October 11 in protest against the sacking of their union branch president. Later, 10 other union members were also sacked. The striking workers set up a camp at the bus stop outside the factory. The company obtained a court injunction banning the camp.
Undesirable: Captain Zuzenko & the Workers of Australia & the World By Kevin Windle Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2013 274 pages, $39.95 (pb) On November 7, 1917, when the Winter Palace was stormed in Petrograd, sealing the victory of the Russian Revolution, Alexander Mikhailovich Zuzenko, one of the revolution’s most loyal servants, faced a local court in Ingham in northern Queensland. He was working on the canefields and was fined 10 shillings for losing his “aliens registration certificate”.
When Japanese forces occupied French Indochina in 1941, it was not entirely without French opposition. But for the most part it was close to business-as-usual for the French in Vietnam. Japan left the French colonial administration intact, beholden now to Tokyo rather than Paris. It was oppression-as-usual for the Vietnamese, 2 million of whom Japanese forces starved to death in 1944.
Forty people gathered on the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House on November 27 to protest against a new law that would make it an offence to cause serious harm to a pregnant woman. It was defeated by a single vote. Introduced by Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire, the bill seeks to introduce "foetal personhood”, with penalties as severe as life in prison for causing what is termed in the bill “the death of the unborn child”.
A Queensland Civil Liberties Network was formed on November 27 at a packed meeting at the Electrical Trades Union office in Brisbane. More than 60 people, including officials and activists from a number of trade unions, environmental activists, people involved in organising protests at the G20 meeting next year, members of the Greens, Pirate Party, and the Socialist Alliance, as well as individuals new and experienced in campaigning for civil liberties attended.
The Grattan Institute and the Productivity Commission both released reports on November 22 into the affect an ageing population will have on Australia’s economy. The Grattan Institute proposed that the pension age should be raised to 70, owner-occupiers should not be exempted from the Age Pension asset tests — meaning people could be forced to sell their home when they retire — and GST should be applied to fresh food. The Productivity Commission suggests access to the Age Pension and retirement should be linked to life expectancy — to continue rising as people live longer.
As a mother and her baby fight to avoid the “rat-infested” Nauru refugee camp, a Fairfax-Nielsen poll showed half of Australian voters disapprove of the Coalition government's refugee policy. The poll also showed Prime Minister Tony Abbott has come to the end of what has been described as the shortest “honeymoon period” of a PM in history. Abbott's popularity took an unprecedented dive — with a personal approval rating of 1%, believed to be fuelled by his attitude to the “diplomatic stand-off” with Indonesia over substantial spying allegations.
Peter Boyle interviewed Florencia Melgar, a former SBS journalist about her research into Australia's involvement in the 1973 military coup against the progressive government of Salvador Allende in Chile. Watch the full interview here. ***