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Acclamation of new Quebec premier underscores crisis in separatist movement

By Guy Leblanc, 30 March 2001

Bernard Landry was acclaimed president of the Parti Québécois at a meeting of its National Council March 9, thus paving the way for his subsequent swearing in as premier of Quebec, Canada's only majority French-speaking province. Landry succeeds Lucien Bouchard who held the posts of PQ leader and Quebec premier for five years.

Germany: Record abstentions in recent state elections

By Peter Schwarz, 30 March 2001

State elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate last weekend were regarded as an important test for the Bundestag (federal parliament) elections in 2002. Although no change of government in the state legislatures was forecast—in Baden-Wuerttemberg the Christian Democrats (CDU) are in coalition with the Free Democrats (FDP) and in Rhineland-Palatinate the Social Democrats (SPD) govern with the FDP—the two polls were expected to provide a clue to the balance of power at federal level. Accordingly, the various spokesmen at party headquarters in Berlin endeavoured to interpret the results of the elections in their own favour.

Indonesian president moves one step closer to impeachment

By Peter Symonds, 30 March 2001

In a formal reply to the Indonesian parliament on March 28, President Abdurrahman Wahid denied any involvement in two financial scandals and insisted that his parliamentary censure on February 1 was unconstitutional. The speech, which was read in the lower house (DPR) on Wahid's behalf by Justice Minister Baharrudin Lopa, has done little to appease the president's critics, who are expected to take the next step toward removing him from office by voting for a second censure on April 30.

Japanese insurance firm collapses and more could follow

By Joe Lopez, 30 March 2001

The collapse of the insurance firm Tokyo Mutual Life, Japan's 16th largest, is a further indication of the enormous crisis gripping the country's banks and financial institutions.

Kenya: School fire kills at least 59 students

By David Rowan, 30 March 2001

At 1.40am on March 26, fire swept through a dormitory of the Kyanguli Secondary School in Machakos, 30 miles (65 km) to the southeast of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, killing at least 59 male students between the ages of 15 and 19.

Ralph Nader's political olive branch to Bush

By Barry Grey, 30 March 2001

Earlier this month former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader co-authored a column that appeared on the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal. Entitled “Ending Corporate Welfare as We Know It,” the article by Nader and Robert Weissman (editor of the Nader-backed Multinational Monitor magazine) presented a generally positive picture of the newly installed administration of Republican President George W. Bush.

California to hike electricity rates by 40 percent

By Gerardo Nebbia, 29 March 2001

By a 5-0 vote March 26, California's Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved an electricity rate increase that will hike rates by as much as 42 percent for some Southern California Edison customers and 46 percent for certain customers of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. PUC officials calculate that the overall rate hike will average around 40 percent.

Letters on the Academy Awards

29 March 2001

I enjoyed your Academy Awards review—26/03/01. It's refreshing to see the awards in context with normal life. Bread is denied but the circuses are relentless.

New York: Forced labor program for tenants

By Fred Mazelis, 29 March 2001

Public housing residents in New York City are outraged over the requirement in recently enacted federal legislation that they be forced to perform eight hours of unpaid “community service” each month if they wish to remain in their apartments.

Reports reveal systematic abuse in Australia's refugee detention centres

By Jake Skeers, 29 March 2001

Three recent reports confirm that a systematic culture of abuse exists within Australia's refugee detention centres. While none of them question the Howard government's mandatory detention policy itself, they have added weight to a campaign being conducted by the media, community groups and churches to pressure the government into changing the image of the country's notorious immigration system.