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Diplomatic scramble by Japan, US to open up North Korea

By James Conachy, 31 December 1999

Over the last four months, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at lifting trade embargoes and opening up the isolated and economically crippled state of North Korea to foreign investment and international trade. The latest initiative has been a series of meetings between Japanese and North Korean Red Cross representatives and government observers from December 19 to 21 in Beijing.

Mergers lead to thousands of job cuts in Britain's utility companies

By Paul Mitchell, 31 December 1999

British utility companies have blamed their shedding of at least 10,000 jobs on price cuts ordered by government regulators. Ian Byatt of the Office of Water Services, OFWAT, has ordered a 12.3 percent average cut in water bills next year. Hyder, which owns Welsh Water and South Wales Electric, is cutting 1,000 jobs—a third of its workforce—and Eastern Electricity and London Electricity are cutting 800 jobs, one quarter of their workforce.

Mistaken identity

By David Walsh, 31 December 1999

A young American is the central figure in Anthony Minghella's new film, set in the late 1950s. As the result of a mix-up about a university blazer, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), working as a washroom attendant in New York City, receives a lucrative commission: to fetch businessman Herbert Greenleaf's wayward son, Dickie, back from his Italian idyll. Tom travels to Italy and falls in with Dickie (Jude Law) and his girl friend, Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow). He is attracted to Dickie's wealth and lifestyle, and his person. When Dickie eventually tires of him and threatens to end their relations, Ripley murders him and assumes his identity. More killings are required to prevent the police from figuring out the guilty party.

Country music singer Hank Snow dead at 85

By Ian Bruce, 31 December 1999

The death of country singer Hank Snow marks the passing of a major figure in the history of popular music. Snow, who died December 20 in Nashville at age 85, played a key role in helping transform country music from a localized, largely rural musical style to an internationally popular form. In a 45-year recording career, he sold an estimated 70 million records and influenced performers from Elvis Presley to Bob Dylan.

Britain's Labour government agrees to finance controversial Turkish Ilisu dam project

By Julie Hyland, 31 December 1999

The Blair Labour government has become embroiled in a row with human rights organisations and environmental groups over its decision to provide finance for the Ilisu dam project in Turkey.

Six Sri Lankans held for 19 months without trial plan to go on hunger strike

By a correspondent, 31 December 1999

Six young men from the plantation areas of Sri Lanka, who have been detained for nearly 19 months without trial, have said that they will stage a hunger strike along with two Tamil teachers from January 1 to demand their release. The hunger strike is to publicise their case, which last came before the court on September 27, only to be postponed until next April 26.

OSCE report paints devastating picture of conditions in Kosovo

By Mike Ingram, 31 December 1999

An extensive report released earlier this month by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) presents a chilling description of conditions in Kosovo in the aftermath of last spring's NATO bombing campaign.

Report cites continued global warming trend in 1999

By Joseph Tanniru, 31 December 1999

The warming trend continued in the year 1999, according to a preliminary report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) earlier this month. For combined land and ocean surfaces, the average temperature for the year is expected to rank as the fifth warmest since measures began in 1880.

Overloaded ferry sinks in the Philippines killing at least 42 people

By Keith Morgan, 31 December 1999

The sinking of the Filipino ferry M.V. Asia Korea at dawn on December 23, near Bantayan Island off Cebu province, is a further tragic indictment of the widespread practice across Asia of overloading aged and unseaworthy ferries. Based on the reports of survivors, the vessel struck rocks in heavy seas and its engines and generators stopped. The ferry began listing within 10 minutes of the accident, and went down within half an hour.

Floods devastate central Vietnam

By Gabriel James, 31 December 1999

In early December torrential rain blowing in from the east across the China Sea dumped up to two metres of water in some areas of Vietnam in just five days. The resultant floods came only one month after what had been the worst flooding in the country this century. At the beginning of November, flash floods killed 592 people and caused an estimated $US250 million in damages.

Indian Airlines hijacking highlights political tensions on the Indian subcontinent

By Peter Symonds, 30 December 1999

The hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 has entered its sixth day with little sign of any immediate resolution. Six hijackers armed with knives, grenades and pistols are holding more than 150 passengers and aircrew hostage aboard the A300 Airbus parked at the Kandahar airport in southern Afghanistan. Most of the passengers are Indian citizens who were returning from Kathmandu in Nepal to New Delhi.

What lies behind the German Christian Democrats' financial scandal?

By Ulrich Rippert, 30 December 1999

Hardly a day passes without new headlines appearing about the financial machinations of the former German Chancellor and long-serving Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Chairman Helmut Kohl. The man who was, until recently, celebrated as one of the greatest European statesmen and “Chancellor of German unity” has now become the focal point of fierce criticism.

Arrests made in India over screening of film on the Manjolai massacre

By Ram Kumar, 30 December 1999

Tamil Nadu's Dravida Munetra Kazhagam (DMK) state government, a coalition partner in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in New Delhi, arrested two men in October for holding a preview of the documentary Death of a River. The film deals with the police massacre of striking Manjolai tea estate workers at the Thamiraparani River and includes footage of the police attack on the demonstrators and their supporters.

New Argentine government shoots down protesting workers

By Margaret Rees, 30 December 1999

Within a week of taking office, the government of Argentina's newly-elected President Ferdinand De la Rua quickly revealed its true face when paramilitary police shot dead two demonstrators and wounded 50 on December 17 in the provincial capital of the bankrupt Corrientes province.

Christmas Eve coup in Côte D'Ivoire

By Chris Talbot and John Farmer, 30 December 1999

President Henri Konan Bedie of Côte D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) was removed from office on Friday, December 24 in a military coup led by General Robert Guei. Soldiers had begun rioting and looting the previous day, seizing luxury cars and racing through the streets of the capital, Abidjan, shooting into the air. There are no reports of casualties.

Favorite artists, works and performers of the twentieth century: a survey of WSWS contributors

By , 30 December 1999

The World Socialist Web Site editorial board asked a number of contributing writers and readers to list their favorite artists, works and performers of the century in several categories. The contributors, including artists and critics, have collectively spent a good many years thinking about aesthetic questions.

Study finds "indisputable" link between BSE/"Mad Cow Disease" and CJD in humans

By Barbara Slaughter and Harvey Thompson, 29 December 1999

A team of scientists working on the link between Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or “Mad Cow Disease”) and the degenerative brain condition found in humans, (new) variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD or vCJD), have made a significant breakthrough. The research, which has been carried out by doctors in Scotland and the US, found that the infectious agents, or prions, that cause both BSE and vCJD produced exactly the same disease characteristics when injected into laboratory mice.

Europe ravaged by record storms—more than 100 dead

By Richard Tyler, 29 December 1999

The worst winter storms on record hit France at the weekend, leaving a death toll of over 60. Other European countries were also badly affected. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, by Monday more than 100 people had been killed across the continent, over 80 on Sunday alone. Falling trees claimed many victims, causing accidents or crushing cars. The high winds blew down cranes and brought about extensive damage to buildings and trees.

Student loans report aimed at holding together Scottish coalition government

By Steve James, 29 December 1999

A review commissioned by the Scottish Parliament into systems of financial support for students in higher education has supported the abolition of tuition fees for university students whose home is in Scotland.

Fierce fighting around key northern military base in Sri Lanka

By K. Ratnayake, 29 December 1999

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is continuing its military campaign to penetrate the Jaffna peninsula in the northern province of Sri Lanka. Heavy fighting has been reported for the 17th day in a row around Elephant Pass, a strategic causeway at the southern end of the peninsula linking it to the rest of the island.

Australian unions call strikes as BHP shifts to individual contracts

By Peter Stavropoulos, 29 December 1999

Workers employed by Australian mineral and steel company BHP have begun a campaign of stoppages against the company's attempt to shift about 1,000 workers employed at its iron ore mines in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA) onto individual work contracts.

The rehabilitation of Gustav Gründgens

By Stefan Steinberg, 29 December 1999

December 22 marked the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the German actor and theatre director Gustav Gründgens, a flamboyant radical in the 1920s and early 1930s, who became one of the Hitler regime's most pliable artistic servants. Following the Nazi takeover in 1933, and under the direct patronage of Prime Minister Hermann Goering, Gründgens became director of Berlin's principal theatre, the Staatstheater, and remained in the job until near the end of the war in 1944. He is emblematic of the intellectual who chooses ego and career, even in the service of monsters, over principle. Gründgens' renegacy and opportunism were fictionally immortalised in Klaus Mann's novel Mephisto.

National Gallery of Australia cancels Sensation exhibition

By Jason Nichols and Richard Phillips, 29 December 1999

Just weeks after New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani failed in his attempts to force the closure of Sensation, the controversial collection of work by young British artists now on show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) announced that it will not be staging the exhibition previously scheduled for June next year.

Surveys show significant growth in British Internet use

By Mike Ingram, 29 December 1999

Several recent surveys indicate a significant growth of Internet access in Britain in the last 12 months. According to a Guardian/ICM poll published Monday December 20, more than one in three British adults now have access to the Internet either at home or at work.

Workers Struggles: Asia, Australia and the Pacific

By , 24 December 1999

Malaysian bank workers to strike

"Freedom of speech must be defended"

By Sue Phillips, 24 December 1999

Sacked Australian secondary school teacher Geraldine Rawson won a partial victory in the Victorian Supreme Court earlier this month when she challenged gagging provisions promulgated in 1993 by the previous state Liberal government. The provisions, contained in Teaching Service Order 140, were used to silence and intimidate public school teachers while the most far-reaching attacks to public education were carried out, including the destruction of 9,500 teaching jobs and 400 schools. Rawson was sacked in 1998 after being charged under the provisions in 1996 and enduring a two-year Complaints Process. She was one of hundreds of teachers who were victimised and then driven out of the public school system.

Chilean teachers send message of support to victimised Australian teacher

By , 24 December 1999

The following two resolutions from Chile were sent to the World Socialist Web Site in support of the stand taken by sacked Australian school teacher Geraldine Rawson. The resolutions were sent on behalf of the Liceo de Aplicacion, a public high school in Santiago Chile and by the union president of the Regional Metropolitan College of Teachers of Chile, the representative of several thousand teachers in the metropolitan region of Santiago.

Striking Karachi newspaper workers appeal for support

By , 24 December 1999

The following was received from striking workers at the Daily Finance in Karachi, Pakistan.

Australian Labor helps deliver a "tax jackpot for investors"

By Mike Head, 24 December 1999

One of the final events of the parliamentary year in Australia was the passage of the last major piece of the Howard government's “New Business Tax System”. In a media release on December 10, Treasurer Peter Costello declared that “with key legislation passed by Parliament receiving Royal Assent today ... Australia will now have a modern, fair, and internationally competitive business taxation system.”

American historian C. Vann Woodward dies: an interview with Civil War historian James McPherson on Woodward's contribution

By David Walsh, 24 December 1999

The remarkable historian C. Vann Woodward, who contributed much to an understanding of the American South, died December 17 at his home in Connecticut at the age of 91. Woodward is perhaps best known for his work The Strange Career of Jim Crow, published in 1955, which did a good deal to debunk the myth that segregation was the inevitable consequence of Southern culture, and pointed instead to its roots in social and political relations.

Elderly patients being left to die in British hospitals

By Josie Armatrading, 24 December 1999

Dr. Adrian Treloar, a leading geriatric specialist, said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that an unspoken policy of "involuntary euthanasia" is being practised in government-funded National Health Service (NHS) hospitals.

Korean Air jumbo jet crashes near London

By Julie Hyland, 24 December 1999

As British accident specialists began investigating the cause of Wednesday's crash of a Korean Air (KAL) cargo plane near Stansted Airport, London, speculation focussed on the plane's cargo.

Some interesting films on US television, December 25-31

By Marty Jonas (MJ) and David Walsh (DW), 24 December 1999

Note: this will be the final such weekly listing. In future the hundreds of capsule film reviews that have appeared over the past year and a half will be posted as a permanent resource on the web site.

Former IMF deputy to stand in Côte d'Ivoire presidential elections

By John Farmer, 23 December 1999

The regime of President Henrie Konan Bedie has reacted with increasing desperation ever since the August decision by Alassane Ouattara, leader of the main opposition party in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), to stand in the presidential elections in 2000. It has banned demonstrations for six months, arrested Ouattara's supporters and whipped up an atmosphere of national chauvinism.

Trial in Amadou Diallo killing is moved out of New York City

By Fred Mazelis, 23 December 1999

A five-member panel of the Supreme Court Appellate Division of New York State has ruled that the trial of the four police officers charged with the murder of West African immigrant Amadou Diallo in the Bronx last February must be moved 150 miles north to Albany County.

Sri Lankan unions divide health workers over the color of uniforms

By Ajitha Gunarathna and Saman Gunadasa, 23 December 1999

The leadership of the Public Services United Nurses Union (PSUNU), the largest nurses union in Sri Lanka, is continuing with a divisive dispute that has already led to physical clashes between health workers. The union is demanding that the government withdraw new uniforms issued to other health employees, including hospital attendants.

Artists organise against artistic censorship in Berlin

By our correspondent, 23 December 1999

Filmmakers and film producers, journalists and publishers held a benefit evening at the Berlin Academy of Art on December 17 to protest against censorship of the arts and in particular to express their solidarity with the Videodrom video lending library, which was recently subjected to a massive police raid.

Kumaratunga's narrow election win sets stage for further instability in Sri Lanka

By K. Ratnayake, 23 December 1999

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga was reelected by a narrow margin in elections on December 21. She received 51.12 percent of the total vote—a decline of 11 percentage points from the November 1994 presidential elections. The opposition United National Party (UNP) candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe received 42.71—a 6 percent increase on the party's vote in 1994.

Letters to the World Socialist Web Site

By , 23 December 1999

I have never paid much attention to politics, but [Ontario's Tory Premier] Mike Harris makes everyone pay attention. All I know is that my basic rights are slowly diminishing. I cannot go to the hospital and get proper service. After waiting hours to see a doctor, you get a nurse that is miserable because she has been doing the work of three. A doctor that doesn't have the time to give you a proper diagnosis because he is thinking of all the other people still waiting to see them. I realize it is not the fault of the nurses or doctors, it is the fault of the government! The cutbacks are going way too far!

David Walsh names his favorite films of the year and the decade

By , 23 December 1999

Favorite films of 1999

Chilean Socialist Party candidate backtracks on abortion policy

By Mauricio Saavedra, 23 December 1999

One feature of the presidential election campaign in Chile has been the Socialist Party candidate Ricardo Lagos' backtracking on abortion. "I am not planning to legislate on abortion of any sort," Lagos said after a private discussion with Catholic priests three weeks before the first round of voting on December 12.

Workers Struggles: Europe and Africa

By , 23 December 1999

Euro Disney workers threaten strike over millennium payments

Defection of Conservative MP spotlights rightward lurch of Britain's Labour government

By Julie Hyland, 22 December 1999

Britain's Labour government hoped to use the defection of Conservative MP Shaun Woodward to highlight his former party's growing extremism and confirm Labour's place in the "centre ground” of British politics. Yet Woodward's defection, whilst compounding the crisis within the Tory Party, has served to focus attention on Labour's own rightward evolution.

Portuguese colonial rule over Macau ends after 442 years

By James Conachy, 22 December 1999

On December 20, 1999, the Portuguese territory of Macau and its 430,000 citizens were incorporated into the Peoples Republic of China as the Macau Special Autonomous Region. Negotiated in 1987, the resumption of Chinese rule over the six-square mile peninsula on the western edge of the Pearl River delta ends 442 years of Portuguese colonial control. Under a "one country, two systems" arrangement, Macau will be governed for the next 50 years by an elected local authority before reverting to Beijing's full control.

Pro-government forces make gains in elections to Russian Duma

By Peter Schwarz, 22 December 1999

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin—i.e., President Boris Yeltsin and his entourage—are the main winners of the Russian parliamentary (Duma) elections held last Sunday.

Welfare cuts hit co-operative jobs in Sri Lanka

By Ratnasiri Malalagama, 22 December 1999

Authorities in Sri Lanka issued a circular to co-operatives in the first week of December asking them to stop recruiting new employees and to find ways to employ “surplus” workers in other sections of their organisations. A few days earlier, authorities advised the co-operatives not to confine themselves to consumer service but to find other fields of business for their survival.

Panama Canal handover no end to US sway

By Bill Vann, 22 December 1999

On December 31 US control of the Panama Canal formally comes to an end. Washington's seizure of the Canal Zone, a 51-mile swath across the Central American isthmus in 1903, and its construction of a series of locks connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans marked, as clearly as any event, America's rise as a major world power. It inaugurated a century of US political domination and economic exploitation of the lands to its south.

Do nostalgia and serious purpose mix?

By Andrea Peters, 22 December 1999

Barry Levinson's Liberty Heights is, from one point of view, an ambitious and legitimate undertaking. Anti-Semitism, racial divisions and discrimination permeate the world of a middle class high school student from a Jewish neighborhood in Baltimore in Levinson's new film, the fourth he has made about his hometown ( Diner, Tin Men, Avalon).

Sri Lankan election leaves Tamil parties in complete disarray

By S. Rajendran, 21 December 1999

The presidential election being held today in Sri Lanka has left the various parties, factions and splinter groups of the Tamil bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie in complete disarray. During the 1994 elections, many of these parties supported the current president Chandrika Kumaratunga and her “left” People's Alliance coalition against the incumbent United National Party (UNP). Five years later, these groups are deeply fractured and divided.

Sri Lankan President Kumaratunga narrowly escapes assassination by suicide bomber

By Wije Dias, 21 December 1999

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on Saturday night by a suicide bomber at the final election rally of her People's Alliance at the Colombo Town Hall. The bomber attempted to climb a security fence as Kumaratunga was walking towards her car, and triggered the explosive device after being blocked by security guards.

UNP sniffs a possible win in the Sri Lanka presidential election

By Nanda Wickremasinghe, 21 December 1999

Less than six years after being ousted from power by a popular wave of indignation, the right-wing United National Party (UNP) in Sri Lanka has a chance of winning the presidential election taking place today. That the UNP has even the possibility of returning to government is an indictment of the People's Alliance government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, which, with the backing of the so-called socialist parties—the Stalinist Communist Party and the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP)—and the trade unions, has intensified the war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and implemented IMF's privatisation and austerity demands.

Venezuela: Pervasive poverty compounds human disaster from floods and mudslides

By Jerry White, 21 December 1999

Tens of thousands of people are feared dead from the torrential rains, flash floods and mudslides that have devastated Venezuela's Caribbean coast over the past week, government officials said Monday. In one of the worst disasters to hit South America this century, entire towns have been buried beneath tons of rubble and earth, and the total number of victims may never be known.

Workers Struggles: The Americas

By , 21 December 1999

Public sector workers battle police in Argentina

The end of the dole "as we know it" in Australia

By Mike Head, 21 December 1999

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has ended the year as he began it—by escalating the attack on welfare and the unemployed.

"Reform" of US tax agency has led to decline in audits of the wealthy

By Jerry White, 21 December 1999

The results of last year's political and media campaign against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), ostensibly waged to protect the average tax-payer against government abuse, provides an object lesson of the cynicism of American politics.

Readers comment on Elian Gonzalez and workers' rights in the US

By , 20 December 1999

The WSWS received the following letter in response to our December 14 article “US spurns father's appeal for return of Elian Gonzalez: Cuban child sacrificed to right-wing political agenda”

Scientists unravel genetic code for human chromosome 22

By Frank Gaglioti, 20 December 1999

The publication of the complete genetic code of the human chromosome 22 in the December 2 issue of the scientific journal Nature is an important scientific achievement, which has enormous potential for medical science and the study of human developmental biology and evolution. It is the first human chromosome to be mapped by the Human Genome Project and involved the collaborative efforts of over 200 scientists from the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Canada and Sweden.

Rifts emerge in ruling party as Taiwan's presidential election heats up

By James Conachy, 20 December 1999

The campaign for the second presidential election in the Republic of China (Taiwan), scheduled for March 18, has brought into the open the long brewing and bitter rift within the island's ruling Kuomintang (KMT). The party has effectively split into two camps, one grouped around current president Lee Teng-hui and the other formed around ex-Taiwan governor and independent candidate James Soong.

Strikes and protests signal a confrontation after the Sri Lankan elections

By N. Priyangika and K. Ratnayake, 20 December 1999

In the lead up to the presidential election in Sri Lanka tomorrow, strikes and protests have broken out among workers and professionals in the government and private sectors over wages, working conditions and the erosion of public services. The People's Alliance (PA) government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, which has the political backing of many of the trade unions, has been desperate to prevent the strikes spreading during the campaign.

US indicts Taiwanese-American target of nuclear espionage furor

By Martin McLaughlin, 18 December 1999

The indictment and jailing of Los Alamos physicist Wen Ho Lee marks an escalation of the politically motivated campaign over alleged espionage by China against US nuclear weapons facilities.

Some interesting films on US television, December 18-24

By Marty Jonas (MJ) and David Walsh (DW), 18 December 1999

Video pick of the week—find it in your video store

Rightwing could form government in Chile after presidential election

By Mauricio Saavedra, 18 December 1999

Presidential elections in Chile have, for the first time since General Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship, raised the possibility of rightwing parties forming the government. This state of affairs follows nine consecutive years of rule by the Socialist Party and Christian Democrats.

Signs of political instability as South Korean government prepares for next year's election

By Peter Symonds, 18 December 1999

Recent defeats in two local by-elections, a confrontation with the trade unions, an ongoing corruption scandal and continuing uncertainty in the financial and banking sector have left the South Korean government headed by President Kim Dae Jung in an increasingly precarious position as it prepares for national parliamentary elections next April.

Russia on the eve of the Duma elections

By Peter Schwarz, 18 December 1999

On December 19 elections to the Duma will be held, the third parliamentary elections in Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Previous Duma elections occurred in 1993 and 1995. The present poll takes place under the shadow of the Chechnya war, which the Russian government has been conducting for weeks with great brutality.

Two Cuban detainees surrender in Louisiana jail standoff

By Kate Randall, 18 December 1999

Two of the Cubans holding hostages at a jail in St. Martinsville, Louisiana surrendered to police on Friday. They also released one of the deputies being held, Brandon Boudreaux, and three female inmates. The detainees surrendering to authorities were identified as Mario Mora Medina and Gerardo Santana.

Paul Cadmus dies at 94

By Fred Mazelis, 18 December 1999

The American artist Paul Cadmus died on December 12, just a few days short of his ninety-fifth birthday.

Election violence escalates as polling date nears in Sri Lanka

By Vijitha Silva, 18 December 1999

Political parties contesting the Sri Lankan presidential election have registered more than 600 complaints of election-related violence at police stations throughout the country. Many have been made by opposition parties against supporters of the Peoples' Alliance (PA) government, including MPs and ministers. Allegations include breaking into opposition party offices as well as shootings, bombings and assaults on their personnel and vandalism of party banners and election decorations. Similar accusations have been made against the main opposition party, the United National Party (UNP), and the JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna or People's Liberation Front).

Workers Struggles: Asia, Australia and the Pacific

By , 18 December 1999

Sri Lankan doctors launch indefinite strike

Canada's political elite supports law to impede Quebec secession

By Keith Jones, 18 December 1999

Canada's political elite, outside Quebec, has rallied behind the federal Liberal government's attempt to rewrite the “rules of the game” regarding Quebec secession.

Memphis jury finds that a conspiracy led to Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination

By Helen Halyard, 17 December 1999

On December 8 a jury in Memphis, Tennessee returned a verdict that civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was the victim of an assassination conspiracy and did not die at the hands of a lone gunman.

Australian Labor Party wins safe Liberal seat in Victorian by-election

By Sue Phillips and Laura Mitchell, 17 December 1999

One week ago, the new Labor government in the Australian state of Victoria secured a further parliamentary seat—the blue ribbon Liberal Party electorate of Burwood. The results of last Saturday's by-election shocked politicians and media pundits, with the Liberal-National coalition losing yet another safe seat.

British Labour government intensifies attacks on asylum-seekers

By Tania Kent, 17 December 1999

Asylum-seekers in Britain are confronted with a barrage of new legislation and emergency measures by the Labour government attacking their democratic rights and promoting an atmosphere of hatred against them.

The Jamie Bulger killing: European Court rules that two 11-year-olds tried as adults did not receive fair trial

By Mike Ingram, 17 December 1999

The European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday that the 1993 trial of two 11-year-old boys for the killing of a toddler was unfair. The Court further ruled that the fixing of their sentences by the Home Secretary was a breach of their human rights.

Sri Lankan government cuts funding for vital drugs in public hospitals

By Ajitha Gunarathna, 17 December 1999

When Sri Lankan health workers engage in industrial action to advance their conditions or oppose cuts to the free health service, the People Alliance (PA) government is quick to accuse them of depriving patients of adequate care.

Inexcusable

By David Walsh, 17 December 1999

This is a dreadful film.

Token compensation for some victims of forced labour under the Nazis

By Ute Reissner, 17 December 1999

The chief negotiators for the American and German governments, Stuart E. Eizenstat and Otto Graf Lambsdorff, have arrived at an agreement for the compensation of former forced labourers under the Nazis. The agreement has been officially confirmed by the respective heads of government, Bill Clinton and Gerhard Schröder.

WSWS reporters visit refugee camps in the war-ravaged north of Sri Lanka

By G. Senaratna and R.M. Dayaratne, 16 December 1999

The following report was prepared by a World Socialist Web Site reporting team in Sri Lanka, which visited some of the southern areas of the country's war-torn Northern Province where tens of thousands of refugees are housed after fleeing intense fighting. In recent weeks, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have inflicted serious defeats on the Sri Lankan army—the latest chapter in a brutal 16-year war that has claimed at least 55,000 lives and left many more maimed, homeless and poverty stricken. The LTTE is fighting for a separate state for the Northern and Eastern provinces where the majority of people are Tamils.

Two-tier system in New York City parks

By Fred Mazelis, 16 December 1999

The growing social inequality characterizing New York City extends to the most basic public services, including the city's park system.

Indian tea estate workers still on strike after six months

By K. Sundaram and Ganesh Dev, 16 December 1999

More than 2,000 workers from the Manjolai Tea Estates in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu have been on strike for more than six months, defying police violence and management threats of sackings to continue their campaign for improved working conditions and backpay. The strikers make up 85 percent of the total workforce on the Manjolai, Nalumuku and Oothu tea estates on the southern tip of the Western Ghats mountain range in the Tirunelvelly district.

US brokers Syria-Israel talks

By Jean Shaoul, 16 December 1999

President Bill Clinton brought Syria's Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara'a and Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Washington for a two-day meeting this week in an attempt to broker an agreement between the two countries. This is considered by the US and the Western powers in general as a key step in formally ending hostilities between Israel and the Arab regimes and stabilising economic and political relations throughout the Middle East.

In wake of anti-strike injunction, New York transit union accepts tentative contract

By Alan Whyte, 16 December 1999

Under the threat of a draconian court injunction, the leadership of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 accepted a tentative contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) early Wednesday morning. The deal was announced after Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the MTA obtained two separate court injunctions Tuesday morning prohibiting the union or any of its members from engaging in, or even discussing, a strike or slowdown.

"The heart and soul of country music is the experiences of ordinary people"

By Richard Phillips, 16 December 1999

One of the more interesting music documentaries screened on Australian television this year was Naked Nashville, a Channel Four production about American country music. While the program did not provide a definitive history of country music, a rich genre with varied traditions and numerous musical sub-groups, the four-part series did expose the crass commercialism dominating the Nashville music industry today and interviewed a number of musicians and critics who voiced their concerns about the artistic decline of their craft.

Workers Struggles: Europe and Africa

By , 16 December 1999

Cypriot civil aviation workers strike to halt privatisation

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman dies

By Justus Leicht and Peter Schwarz, 16 December 1999

"Tudjman almost certainly did not care that he was a monster because, unlike Milosevic, he was our monster." These are the words that the author Misha Glenny uses in his recent book to sum up the relationship between the Western powers and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, who died in Zagreb on Saturday night.

Cuban detainees take hostages at Louisiana jail

By Kate Randall, 15 December 1999

Five Cuban detainees at a rural Louisiana jail took the warden and several deputies hostage Monday afternoon, demanding to be taken to another country. On Tuesday the prisoners continued to hold Warden Todd Louviere and Deputies Jolie Sonnier and Brandon Boudreaux. A third deputy was released Monday night.

Mounting concern over failure of World Trade Organisation talks

By Nick Beams, 15 December 1999

Media commentary on the collapse of the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle reveals a growing concern over the failure to launch the so-called “Millennium Round” and the social and political meaning of the anti-WTO protests.

Australia: new Labor government in Victoria defends Kennett's gagging laws in the Supreme Court

By Mike Head, 15 December 1999

In her Supreme Court action, Geraldine Rawson, represented by David Grace QC, sought declarations that two key clauses of TSO 140 under which she was dismissed last year were unconstitutional and invalid. Grace submitted that, firstly, the clauses infringed the implied freedom of political communication guaranteed by the federal and Victorian Constitutions. Secondly, he argued that both provisions were ultra vires (beyond the power of) the Teaching Service Act.

German SPD party congress: united without a perspective

By Ulrich Rippert and Peter Schwarz, 15 December 1999

The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) has held its first national party congress since taking power over a year ago. A total of 522 delegates met in the plush Estrel Hotel in Berlin to draw a balance sheet, discuss further policy and elect the party leadership.

JVP enters Sri Lankan election with an eye to a deal with the major parties

By Vilani Peris, 15 December 1999

In the Sri Lankan presidential elections to be held on December 21, the Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) or People's Liberation Front has nominated as its candidate, Nandana Gunetileke, a lesser-known member of its Politburo, and is campaigning for him as "the common candidate of the left". From the outset, however, the JVP campaign has been oriented to seeking a deal or even an alliance with one of the two major bourgeois formations—the People's Alliance (PA) and the United National Party (UNP).

The Worcester fire and the social crisis in America

By David Walsh, 15 December 1999

The tragic deaths of six firefighters in Worcester, Massachusetts December 3 has saddened and disturbed great numbers of people. Tens of thousands of people paid tribute to the dead men—Paul Brotherton, James Lyons, Jeremiah Lucey, Thomas Spencer, Joseph McGuirk and Timothy Jackson—in ceremonies held in the central Massachusetts city December 9. Thirty thousand firefighters from across the US and other countries marched through the city's streets. A crowd of 15,000 later filled the Worcester Centrum for a memorial service. A variety of politicians, including Bill Clinton, was on hand.

Sacked Australian teacher wins significant victory

By Linda Tenenbaum, 15 December 1999

Sacked public high school teacher Geraldine Rawson has won a political victory with significant implications for hundreds of other teachers hounded out of Victoria's schools by the former Kennett Liberal government. The Victorian Supreme Court has upheld part of Rawson's challenge to Teaching Service Order 140 (TSO 140), promulgated by the Kennett government in 1993. Last Thursday, Justice Philip Mandie ruled that Clause 3.7 of TSO 140, was ultra vires (beyond the power of) the Teaching Services Act, and thus invalid.

Italian officials ignored tenants' complaints in apartment building collapse

By Rosa Ieropoli, 15 December 1999

For two years before the collapse of an Italian apartment building, which killed 67 people, tenants complained to local officials that they feared the building was unsafe. Only days before the disaster a group of engineers sent by authorities told the nervous residents that the building was safe and that they could sleep peacefully.

Three prisoners set to die December 14 as US executions near 100 for the year

By Kate Randall, 14 December 1999

Three executions are scheduled in the US today. The state of Arkansas plans to put to death two men, Jack Greene and Andrew Sasser, and Robert Atworth is scheduled to die in Texas. These executions would bring the number of state killings nationwide to 99 for the year, more than in any year since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. At least two more executions are planned before the end of the year—Sammie Felder in Texas and Wendell Flowers in North Carolina.

New York transit workers prepare for December 15 contract expiration

By Alan Whyte, 14 December 1999

With just one day to go before the Tuesday midnight expiration of the contract between Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York City could be on the brink of its first mass transit strike in nearly two decades.

Cuban child sacrificed to right-wing political agenda

By Bill Vann, 14 December 1999

The case of Elian Gonzalez, a six-year-old Cuban child who miraculously survived two days at sea after his mother and nine others died trying to reach the Florida coast, has provided the world with a spectacle of imperialist arrogance and hypocrisy.

Incoming Labour Prime Minister rules out immediate rises in pensions and wages in New Zealand

By John Braddock, 14 December 1999

A little over a week after winning New Zealand's national elections, the actions of the Labour Party's prime minister elect Helen Clarke show that the policies of her coalition government will be little different from the defeated National Party. During the campaign, Labour and its coalition partner, the Alliance were able to capitalise on widespread hostility to the impact of the market reforms of the Shipley government to effect an election night swing of more than 4 percent. But the expectations of many voters that a Clark government will halt the decline in living standards are set to be dashed.

Helsinki summit marks aggressive turn by Europe

By Chris Marsden, 14 December 1999

Last weekend's European Union summit in Helsinki, Finland was marked by an aggressive assertion of Europe's interests against those of the United States in particular. The most striking example of this was the agreement reached to create a 50,000- to 60,000-strong multinational European military force by 2003.

US protests demand freedom for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal

By Tom Bishop, 14 December 1999

On Saturday, December 11 rallies were held in Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia and other US cities in support of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Jamal is currently appealing to a federal court in Philadelphia his 1982 death sentence for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Jamal has steadfastly maintained his innocence and has become internationally known through his writings as a spokesman for those victimized by the US criminal justice system.

Workers Struggles: The Americas

By , 14 December 1999

Salvadoran president insists on privatizations despite massive protests

Frankfurt intends to "go it alone" in creating pan-European stock exchange

By Julie Hyland, 14 December 1999

The "strategic alliance" between the London Stock Exchange and its German counterpart, Deutsche Börse, announced 17 months ago has broken down, with the latter's announcement that it intends to create its own pan-European exchange.