Timorese present 10-metre-long petition to Australian embassy protesting prosecution of whistleblowers

Activists from the Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea (MKOTT) delivered a 10-metre-long banner covered with the signatures of 1300 Timorese to the Australian embassy in Dili on September 16. The signatures were collected in protest at the Australian government's persecution of former spy Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, for allegedly blowing the whistle on the 2004 bugging of Timor-Leste Cabinet offices by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).

Following Lana Del Ray, Of Montreal pull out of Israel festival, call for protests against Israeli crimes

With a bold call for protests against Israel’s crimes of apartheid, US-based pop band Of Montreal has dropped out of Israel’s Meteor Festival on September 4, just days before it was set to begin.

This follows the cancellation by headliner Lana Del Rey, who nixed her performance on August 31.

'2028' offers quite tame satire, despite rave reviews

2028
By Ken Saunders
Allen & Unwin, 2018
$29.99

This satirical novel is set in Australia’s near future and revolves around an accident-prone Liberal Prime Minister running a hopeless election campaign.  

The setting is near enough to be uncomfortably recognisable but allows Ken Saunders to stretch out today’s neo-liberal realities to the point of absurdity. 

For example, in the world of 2028, Australia Post delivers all articles by drone. As a sideline, the drones do filming for the major TV news services — thus eliminating all human camera teams. 

In fact, in 2028 the only news outlet still publishing a newspaper is Green Left Weekly!  

The book’s cover features rave reviews from some of Australia’s leading comics praising it. Compared to those extravagant claims, I found it rather tame. It is gently humorous and politically, saccharine-liberal.

A celebration of regenerative farmers

Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth
By Charles Massy
University of Queensland Press, 2017
592, paperback

In Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth, Monaro farmer Charles Massy has written an excellent book on agricultural change to restore the environment.

Massy talks about his transformation from a land degrader to a land regenerator, and the inspiration he received from dozens of other Australian farmers who have done the same.

The book discusses five key landscape functions that conventional agriculture degrades and which regenerative agriculture addresses: solar, water, nutrient recycling, biodiversity and the human mind.

Plants convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and humus, but cannot do it on bare ground or short pasture. Therefore year-round ground cover and rotationally grazed livestock are essential.

Daniel Ellsberg exposes extreme nuclear threats to survival

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
Daniel Ellsberg
Bloomsbury, 2017
420 pages

After the controversy of US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning being refused a visa on “character” grounds, Phil Shannon takes a look at a book by one of Manning’s forerunners – Daniel Ellsberg, best known for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, exposing US military secrets.

One of the first reactions of Daniel Ellsberg to his revelatory acquaintance with US nuclear war planning in the 1960s was to decline to join the superannuation scheme of his company, the RAND corporation.

The private sector consultant to the White House and Department of Defence had concluded that he would not last the distance to collect on any retirement pension. He believed that US atomic war strategy made nuclear Armageddon more likely, and frighteningly near.

Malaysia: We must decriminalise sex between consenting adults

In recent days, Malaysia attained international notoriety for caning two women after their being convicted in a religious court of attempting to have sex in a car.

In striking contrast, on September 6, the Indian Supreme Court held that section 377 of their penal code, which criminalised consensual acts between adults of the same sex, was unconstitutional. That is a mature decision that gives 1.2 billion people in India the freedom to have consensual sex.

Were these two contrasting judicial responses in our two Asian countries a breakdown of Asian values? Certainly not. Both Malaysia and India have been using a British colonial-era law that legislated Britain’s Victorian-era contempt aimed at the LGBTI community.

All over the world, not just in the West, the times are changing. There are now more countries allowing consensual sex between adults than prohibiting it.

Malaysia: Unions slam new gov't over minimum wage

The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC), several other trade unions and the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) have slammed as “humiliating” and “beggarly” the new Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) federal government’s announcement that it would increase the country's minimum wage by just RM50 (A$17) a month to RM1050 ($350) from next January.

Unions are considering calling a mass workers’ protest.

Pakatan Harapan had promised to raise the minimum wage to RM1500 within 100 days if it won the May 9 general election. 

After Pakatan Harapan won the election, Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran suggesting this was a good as done as soon as the tripartite National Wages Consultation Council delivered its recommendation on a new minimum wage.

SBS 2018 Eurovision judge L-FRESH The LION joins Israel boycott

Australian artists are joining the more than 140 international artists in the call for a boycott of Eurovision 2019 if it goes ahead in Israel next May, says BDS Australia.

Inspired by the conscientious artists who refused to perform in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, Palestinian artists and cultural groups have called for non-violent pressure in the form of boycotts on Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law.

Prominent Australians who have signed the international statement so far include Crowded House’s Nick Seymour, former JJJ host and writer Helen Razer, hip-hop artist and judge in this year’s contest L-FRESH The LION, writer, director and multidisciplinary artist Candy Bowers, and Sydney-based contemporary Aboriginal artist Blak Douglas.

More than 1 million march in support of Catalan independence, political prisoners

More than 1 million people marched in Barcelona on September 11 in support of Catalonia’s struggle for independence from the Spanish state. The day is marked each year as Catalonia’s national day, commemorating Barcelona's capture by Bourbon forces in 1714 during the War of Spanish Succession.

This year’s march also demanded the release of pro-independence political prisoners, who have been jailed for their role in last year’s independence referendum.

Italy: Far-right Salvini takes control of government

Four months after the new Italian government was installed, the reactionary nature of the coalition between the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right Lega (League) emerges more clearly each day, writes Daniele Fulvi.

Despite the fact that the League won only about 17% of the votes in the last elections (compared with 32% for the M5S), the interior minister and League leader Matteo Salvini is emerging as the undisputed head of the government. He is dictating the government agenda as he sees fit.

Moreover, the radically conservative and racist propaganda of Salvini is giving cause for concern to both progressive and radical forces, and the European Union (EU) neoliberal establishment.

Salvini’s intent is clear: scapegoat immigrants and refugees to claim “illegal immigration” is the source of all evil. His strategy seems to be working, since, according to the latest polls, the League could win more than 32% in a new vote.

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