In brief

Issue 

IRAQ: US bombing kills 100,000 civilians

About 100,000 Iraqi civilians — half of them women and children — have died since the US-led invasion in March 2003, most of them as a result of air strikes by the US-led occupation forces. The revelations come from a study, posted on the website of the British medical journal Lancet on October 28, that was carried out in 33 neighbourhoods of Iraq. Householders were asked about births and deaths in the 14.6 months before the US-led invasion, and births and deaths in the 17.8 months afterwards. The research was led by Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. The study found that air strikes by the US-led occupation forces are now the leading cause of death in Iraq.

THAILAND: Protesters massacred

On October 26, 78 Muslim protesters were killed by Thai police and soldiers in the southern province of Narathiawat. The protesters suffocated, and several had their necks broken, after being taken into custody and crammed into the back of security force trucks along with 1300 other arrested protesters. The protest was in response to an attack by police on a demonstration the previous day in which six demonstrators were killed and 1000 were arrested. Since January, 440 people have been killed by the police and the military in Thailand's predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking south. In April, 32 young men were gunned down inside a mosque. Thailand has a majority Buddhist population. The Chinese online newsagency Xinhuanet reported on October 27 that Thailand and Australia are about to extend an agreement on bilateral military cooperation.

World hunger increasing

An October 26 United Nations report revelaed that, while the world has enough food to sustain all its people, a dozen children die from malnutrition every minute. The report, prepared by Jean Ziegler, the special UN rapporteur on the right to food, said that 842 million people were permanently or gravely undernourished last year, an increase of 2 million on the year before. Hunger levels have increased every year since the 1996 World Food Summit called for action to stem world hunger.

IRAQ: 'Why should we care?'

A survey conducted by the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies in mid-October has found that, of the 1285 Iraqis surveyed about who they wanted to win the US election, 58.6% chose "I-don't-care". Many said that the election process was fixed and that US policy toward Iraq wouldn't change no matter who won. Democratic Party candidate John Kerry scored the next highest, on 20.7%, while George Bush, the "liberator" of iraqis, won just 16.5%.

BRITAIN: Unclear why refugee ignited himself

On October 21, Manchester coronor Leonard Gorodkin announced an open verdict on the inquest into the death of Israfial Shiri, an Iranian asylum-seeker whose application was refused by London in 2002. Shiri fled Iran after the authorities obtained evidence that he was gay. After having his application for asylum refused, he was kicked out of his accommodation and lived on the charity of friends. He was unable to get access to his prescribed medication. After an interview with a support group on August 23, 2003, he returned doused in flammable liquid, and flicked a cigarette lighter on himself. As he collapsed, he screamed that he did not want to die, and he did not want to go back to Iran. He died from his burns 10 days later. The coronor said he was unable to comment on government policy, but noted that Shiri believed he could only avoid deportation if he was too ill to be deported.

NAURU: Government re-elected solidly

On October 23, Nauru's 4600 voters re-elected the government, with a greatly increased majority. The country's economy has drastically dwindled in the last decade, caused by the exhaustion of its rich phosphate deposits and the subsequent desertion of many of those who profited from them. A major source of the country's current income is the money Australia pays for Nauru to maintain an asylum seeker concentration camp there. The election victory gives the government the majority it needs to pass a tough budget drafted by Australian officials.

UNITED STATES: White-Black poverty gap grows

Well, Halle Berry might have won an Oscar, but life for most Blacks just gets worse. An October report by the Pew Hispanic Center has revealed that the median net worth of an African American household is just US$6000 — and one-third of them have no assets at all. Hispanics did ever so slightly better, with a net worth of $7900 — but this is still one-eleventh the worth of white households. The study found that average household assets fell in 2000-01 across the board, but while whites and Hispanics mostly made up this fall, Blacks did not, regaining just 5% of the 27% asset fall they suffered in 2000-2001.

NETHERLANDS: Metals walk out

Up to 20,000 Dutch metal workers walked off the job on October 27, in what has been described as the largest strike of Dutch metalworkers. The workers were protesting government plans to attack social security, including eliminating tax breaks on pension schemes and reduction in healthcare rights.

CUBA: UN condemns US blockade

On October 28, for the 13th time, the United Nations General Assembly called of the US to end its blockade on Cuba. While 179 countries voted for the resolution, just four voted against — the US, Israel, and the Marshall and Palau islands — and one country — Micronesia — abstained. Representatives from Mexico, China, South Africa, Jamaica, Vietnam, Laos, Tanzania and Qatar spoke for the motion, arguing that the US government's blockade violates international law. Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque rebutted the US representatives arguments against the motion, pointing out that it had cost Cuba US$79 billion, and prevented vital medical technology from being available in the US.

NEW ZEALAND: 1000 celebrate cultural diversity

More than 1000 protesters hit Wellington's streets on October 23, dwarfing a neo-Nazi National Front protest on the same day. The coalition organising the march, Multi-Cultural Aotearoa (MCA), was formed in response to racist attacks on Somali immigrants and desecration of Jewish cemeteries. The march was supported by the Federation of Ethnic Communities council and the Wellington seafarers union provided marshals.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Hate crimes escalating

According to the October 27 BBC News, racist or homophobic attacks in Belfast doubled between April and September. During the 183-day period, there were 129 such attacks. An anti-homophobic week is planned in the city in December.

From Green Left Weekly, November 3, 2004.
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