On May 15, German left-wing party Die Linke held its national congress in the eastern city of Rostock, electing a new national leadership and debating its new draft program. At the conference, charismatic left-wing firebrand Oskar Lafontaine stepped down as the party’s co-leader for health reasons. Lafontaine, the former head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and finance minister, quit the SPD in 1999 because of the party’s neoliberal policies.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's proposed tax on mining industry super-profits has, to the surprise of no one, attracted a great deal of whining from the mining sector. Andrew Forrest of Fortescue Metals accused those who supported the tax of engaging in “class warfare” and threatened to sell his mining interests overseas if the tax goes ahead, reported the May 19 Herald Sun. On May 20, he said that he had shelved $17.5 billion in new mining projects as a result of the tax.
The crude oil belching out of the floor of the Gulf of Mexico since the explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 has formed giant plumes beneath the surface of the water. That’s the latest nightmarish evidence that the gulf oil catastrophe, among the worst ecological disasters in US history, is much worse than either corporate giant BP or government officials have admitted.
Wollongong's Students Against War (SAW) collective crashed the university’s ‘fashion week’ on May 6 by holding a ‘die-in’ on the catwalk. Two activists entered the fashion parade and revealed bloodied clothes before they collapsed on the end of the catwalk. SAW co-convenor Ella Ryan said: ‘The idea behind this stunt, aptly named “Deathly Designs”, was to bring attention to Wollongong university's role in helping design military hardware for arms manufacturers as part of the $85 million "Defence Materials Technology Centre".
The oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to be far worse than oil rig owner BP has admitted. Independent analysis carried out for the US National Public Radio (NPR) indicated the company has vastly underestimated the size of the spill. Experts told NPR on May 14 the spill could be 10 times bigger than the company says.
In further moves to strengthen the state’s role in the economy, Venezuelan President Chavez announced on May 11 the creation of a publicly owned import-export company as part of a broader plan to combat “the hegemony of the bourgeoisie”, speculation and inflation. Despite price controls and a fixed exchange rate, inflation reached 25.1% in 2009 — the highest in Latin America. Central bank figures reported inflation climbed 5.2% in April (double that of March), bringing accumulated inflation for 2010 up to 11.3%.
An ex-oil worker has told the May 12 Huffington Post that oil giant BP often faked reliability tests for equipment meant to stop spills such as the Deepwater Horizon spill, which began on April 20. Mike Mason, an oil worker in Alaska for 18 years, said he personally witnessed more than 100 occasions when BP employees manipulated tests on safety valves designed to cut off oil flow in case of emergencies. He said the tests would determine whether the valves could withstand certain amounts of pressure for five minutes at a time.
“The time of big energy was supposed to have faded with the election of Barack Obama to the presidency”, Billy Wharton wrote in a May 12 www.counterpunch.org article. “Then, a humble Coloradan, with a cowboy hat that seemed permanently affixed to his head, named Ken Salazar ambled to the microphone to accept Obama’s nomination to be the new Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI).”
As Tiger Woods returns to golf, not all his affairs are salacious headlines. In Dubai, the Tiger Woods Golf Course is costing $100 million to build. Dubai relies on cheap Third World labour, as do certain consumer brands that have helped make Woods a billionaire. Nike workers in Thailand wrote to Woods, expressing their “utmost respect for your skill and perseverance as an athlete” but pointing out that they would need to work 72,000 years “to receive what you will earn from [your Nike] contract”.
Cuba provides the best conditions for motherhood among developing countries, Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers 2010 report has found. The Times of India reported on May 5 that the report “examines 160 countries — 43 developed and 117 developing ones — and analyses the best and worst places to be a mother based on 10 factors such as the educational status, health, economic circumstances of the mothers, as well as the basic well-being of children”.