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Britain: Short’s allegations of spying against UN confirm criminal character of Iraq war

By Chris Marsden, 28 February 2004

Former cabinet member Clare Short has come under sustained attack by the Labour government and sections of the media for revealing that Britain spied on United Nations general secretary Kofi Annan in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Why Israel boycotted the International Court hearing on West Bank wall

By Jean Shaoul, 28 February 2004

Israel’s refusal to appear before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearing on the West Bank security wall demonstrates its longstanding contempt for the United Nations and flouting of international law. Yet, instead of eliciting condemnation and threats of reprisals from the United States, Britain and the European Union for having acted as a “rogue state,” Israel has been supported in its insistence that the ICJ—and by extension the United Nations—has no right to interfere in Israel’s affairs without prior agreement.

Britain’s Labour Party expels rail union

By Julie Hyland and Paul Stuart, 28 February 2004

On February 7, Labour’s national executive expelled the Rail Maritime Transport Workers Union (RMT) for allegedly breaking the party’s constitution by allowing its branches to affiliate to other parties.

US and France target Haiti’s elected president for removal

By Keith Jones, 28 February 2004

The United States and France are demanding the political head of Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Workers Struggles: Australia, Asia and the Pacific

By , 28 February 2004

Millions of Indian workers defy Supreme Court ruling

Sri Lankan prime minister passively accepts his dismissal

By Saman Gunadasa, 28 February 2004

For anyone who believed that Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would challenge the undemocratic dismissal of his government by President Chandrika Kumaratunga on February 7, his performance last Sunday would have been a disappointment. Speaking before the convention of his right-wing United National Party (UNP) in central Colombo, he mildly criticised the president’s actions but insisted that the party could do nothing but participate in the snap election on April 2.

Letters from our readers

By , 27 February 2004

Below we post a selection of recent letters to the World Socialist Web Site.

Two fires kill scores of people in China

By John Chan, 27 February 2004

Despite repeated claims by Beijing that it has taken serious steps toward improving the country’s appalling safety record in public buildings and industrial enterprises, at least 93 people died in two fires that occurred within hours of each other on February 15.

British government abandons trial of whistleblower who said Iraq war was illegal

By Paul Mitchell and Chris Marsden, 27 February 2004

The trial of Katharine Gun, the British intelligence officer who leaked a secret memo about joint United States/United Kingdom spying at the United Nations last year, has collapsed.

US: Congress approves school voucher plan for nation’s capital

By Eula Holmes, 27 February 2004

The US Senate last month gave final passage to a $14 million-a-year private school voucher program as part of an omnibus spending bill that includes funds for many federal agencies. The legislation cleared the Senate on January 22 by a vote of 65-28. The House of Representatives had already approved the spending measure in early December. President Bush praised the voucher plan, which he signed into law January 23.

Spain: Dozens of casualties after police attack striking shipbuilding workers

By Vicky Short, 27 February 2004

Nearly 60 people were injured on February 17 when Spanish riot police clashed with hundreds of striking shipbuilding workers outside several shipyards belonging to the state-owned Izar.

Workers Struggles: Europe, the Middle East & Africa

By , 27 February 2004

University staff and students protest in Britain

Australian sailors misled about anthrax vaccinations for Iraq war

By Terry Cook, 27 February 2004

The Howard government has been caught out in yet another gross deception relating to the war on Iraq. Evidence emerged last weekend showing that the government and the top defence brass deliberately withheld information from Australian military personnel about the effects of the anthrax vaccinations they were given in March 2003, just prior to the war being launched.

US central bank chief calls for cuts in Social Security

By Patrick Martin, 27 February 2004

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan called for cutting the retirement benefits of the elderly in order to preserve and extend the Bush administration’s tax cuts for the wealthy. The head of the US central bank made the proposal in testimony before a congressional committee Wednesday.

New Zealand: tensions erupt over “preferential” policies for Maori

By John Braddock, 26 February 2004

A recent speech by New Zealand’s opposition leader, Don Brash, opposing “preferential” policies for Maori, the country’s indigenous inhabitants, has triggered a far-reaching shake-up within the official political establishment.

Why are the Democrats so incensed at Ralph Nader?

By Barry Grey, 26 February 2004

There are two types of criticisms of consumer advocate and independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader—those from the right and those from the left. Democratic politicians, newspapers such as the New York Times and assorted liberal commentators attack Nader from the right. They denounce his candidacy as an unwarranted disruption of the normal election process and a diversion that will take votes from the Democratic candidate, thereby facilitating the reelection of Bush.

The legacy of the 1960s: films by Fernando Solanas and Theo Angelopoulos

By Stefan Steinberg, 26 February 2004

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Australian Labor leader proposes retrospective laws to prosecute Guantanamo Bay detainees

By Mike Head, 26 February 2004

A controversy surrounding the continuing illegal detention of two Australians, David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, together with more than 600 others in the US military prison on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has underlined the lack of any support within the Australian political establishment for the most elementary legal and democratic rights.

Top US scientists blast Bush administration

By Jamie Chapman, 26 February 2004

In a statement issued February 18, more than 60 highly respected American scientists, including 20 Nobel Prize winners, blasted the Bush administration for suppressing and manipulating scientific evidence in order to promote a predetermined agenda. Entitled “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking,” the statement charges: “When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions.”

Does Haiti’s “non-violent” opposition want a bloodbath in Port-au-Prince?

By Keith Jones, 26 February 2004

Haiti’s self-proclaimed, “non-violent” political opposition has rejected a settlement to the impoverished Caribbean nation’s political crisis sponsored by the US, France, and Canada. The press has labelled the failed settlement a power-sharing agreement. In fact, it gave the opposition Democratic Platform—a coalition led by the political representatives of Haiti’s autocratic, traditional elite—virtually everything that it has been demanding, save the immediate resignation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the country’s democratically-elected president.

Britain: Prison overcrowding reaches breaking point

By Peter Reydt, 26 February 2004

The prison population in England and Wales has risen to 74,543, an increase of 2,674 from one year ago, according to figures released last week.

Spanish government rejects Iraqi WMD inquiry

By Paul Bond, 26 February 2004

Spain’s right-wing Popular Party (Partido Popular—PP) government has rejected calls for an inquiry into why it said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Along with British prime minister Tony Blair, Spain’s prime minister José Maria Aznar was one of the staunchest supporters of the US-led invasion, despite mass popular opposition.

The JVP reassures Sri Lankan business leaders

By Nanda Wickramasinghe, 25 February 2004

One of the first initiatives of the newly-formed alliance between the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the Sinhala extremist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has been to meet with top business leaders in Colombo to offer reassurances that corporate interests will be safeguarded in the event that the parties win the April 2 election.

Grand jury exonerates New York cop who shot 19-year-old youth

By Peter Daniels, 25 February 2004

A grand jury impaneled by the Brooklyn district attorney decided on February 17 against the indictment of police officer Richard Neri, who shot 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury Jr. to death last month on the roof of his building.

Estados Unidos se opone a plan de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para combatir la obesidad

By , 25 February 2004

WSWS : Español

Women workers face super-exploitation by global corporations

By Barry Mason, 25 February 2004

An Oxfam report, Trading Away Our Rights: Women working in global supply chains, highlights the plight of women working in garment and food production supplying goods to major Western retail companies.

Iran: Elections show political bankruptcy of the “reformers”

By Ulrich Rippert, 25 February 2004

The most important result of last Friday’s parliamentary elections in Iran was the complete failure of the so-called reformers around President Mohammed Khatami. Seven years ago, Khatami was elected with a great majority, because large sections of the Iranian people rejected the reactionary regime of the mullahs, the religious rulers of Iran. However, at no point has his government been prepared to seriously confront the conservatives in the Council of Guardians, the unelected institution controlling all institutions of state power, and to defend democratic rights.

Australia: Hundreds mourn the death of TJ Hickey

By Rick Kelly and Richard Phillips, 25 February 2004

About 350 people carrying banners, placards and flowers marched in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern yesterday in remembrance of Thomas “TJ” Hickey, the 17-year-old Aboriginal boy who died on February 15 after he came off his bicycle at high speed and was impaled on a metal fence.

Washington utilizes rightist terror to effect “regime change” in Haiti

By a reporter, 25 February 2004

The Bush administration is utilizing an armed rebellion by fascistic thugs in the north and center of Haiti to effect a longstanding goal of regime change in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Bush education secretary calls teachers union a “terrorist organization”

By Patrick Martin, 25 February 2004

The top education official in the Bush administration said he regarded the largest US teachers union as a “terrorist organization,” in remarks to a delegation of state governors visiting the White House Monday.

Workers Struggles: The Americas

By , 24 February 2004

Mexican teachers and electricians march against privatizations

Bush installs right-wing judge without Senate confirmation

By Patrick Martin, 24 February 2004

For the second time this year, President Bush bypassed the regular constitutional process of Senate confirmation to install a far-right nominee as a federal appeals court judge. Both nominations had been blocked by the opposition of Senate Democrats who mounted filibusters to prevent a confirmation vote.

Millions of Indian government employees to go on strike today

By Arun Kumar, 24 February 2004

More than 10 million employees of the central and state governments, various publicly-owned companies, and India’s financial institutions are expected to join a one-day national strike today, February 24, to protest against a Supreme Court ruling that public sector workers have no right to strike.

California Democrats back austerity ballot measures

By Andrea Peters, 24 February 2004

The Democratic Party in California has come out in full support of a package of austerity ballot measures championed by the Republican administration of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Propositions 57 and 58, which will be voted on by Californians on March 2, are designed to place the burden of the state’s fiscal crisis squarely on the backs of working people. In supporting these propositions, the Democratic Party has underscored its repudiation of even the most mild reformist policies and its embrace of a policy of brutal attacks on health care, education, housing and other social services.

Israel boycotts International Court on West Bank barrier: Why the wall is being built

By Chris Marsden, 24 February 2004

The Israeli government is refusing to accept the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to render an “advisory opinion” on the legality of its West Bank security barrier. Its stance is supported by the United States and the European Union, which claim that it is outside the court’s remit.

Behind the disappearance of presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin

By Vladimir Volkov, 24 February 2004

The mysterious disappearance of Russian presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin for five days earlier this month and then his reappearance and the strange explanations he furnished recall the spooky appearance of Volands, the Mephisto figure in the Michael Bugakov novel, The Master and Margarita. Events at the pinnacle of Russian politics are increasingly sliding towards irrational darkness.

Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling indicted

By Joseph Kay, 24 February 2004

Former Enron chief executive officer Jeffrey Skilling was indicted February 19 on 35 counts of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading. He is the latest and most prominent former Enron executive to face charges since the energy giant collapsed in a wave of accounting and corruption scandals in December 2001.

Attack on Fallujah police highlights lack of US control in Iraq

By James Conachy, 23 February 2004

The circumstances surrounding the events in Fallujah on February 14 indicate that US control over the Iraqi city is tenuous at best. Apparently unconcerned about the presence of hundreds of American troops just 10 kilometres away, dozens of heavily armed men laid siege to the US-trained Iraqi security forces, stormed the police station and freed as many as 87 prisoners before melting away in the city streets.

Britain: Leaked report reveals plans to slash 80,000 civil service jobs

By Julie Hyland, 23 February 2004

A confidential report leaked to the Financial Times has revealed plans to slash 80,000 civil service jobs and significantly rationalise public services.

Australia: Police victimisation stepped up following Redfern riot

By Rick Kelly, 23 February 2004

In the aftermath of the clashes between police and Aboriginal people in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Redfern on February 15, the New South Wales police force has stepped up its campaign of intimidation and provocation of the local community. The full power of the state is being brought to bear upon those accused of involvement in the confrontation.

Ralph Nader to run as independent in US presidential race

By Patrick Martin, 23 February 2004

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who ran for president in 2000 as the candidate of the Green Party, declared Sunday that he would join the 2004 presidential campaign as an independent candidate. He made the announcement in an interview on the NBC News program “Meet the Press,” following several weeks of public discussion of a possible candidacy on his own web site and in the media.

Haiti: Washington gives greenlight to right-wing coup

By Richard Dufour, 23 February 2004

Former military and death-squad leaders are attempting an armed overthrow of the elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, with the connivance of an elite-controlled political opposition and under the complacent eyes of Western governments. This is the bitter truth revealed by last weekend’s events in the impoverished Caribbean island-nation. The poorest country in the Western hemisphere, Haiti is on the verge of civil war and a possible humanitarian catastrophe.

Pentagon institutionalises indefinite detention without trial at Guantanamo Bay

By Richard Phillips, 23 February 2004

Notwithstanding the impending repatriation of five British detainees and one Danish prisoner incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, the Bush administration has further undermined the basic legal and democratic rights of those held in the infamous military prison with the announcement of a new measure that will institutionalise the illegal detentions.

Workers Struggles: Asia, Australia and the Pacific

By , 21 February 2004

Indonesian teachers protest victimisation

The vetting of John Kerry

By Patrick Martin, 21 February 2004

The US presidential election has entered a new stage, with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts being treated as the near-certain Democratic nominee by the media, the Democratic Party establishment and the Bush administration. With the withdrawal of former Vermont governor Howard Dean, Kerry’s only major rival is Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who has won just one of the 17 state contests so far.

Hospitals oppose US government effort to obtain abortion patients’ records

By David Walsh, 21 February 2004

Administrators at several US hospitals are refusing demands by the federal Justice Department to hand over medical records of hundreds of abortion patients. This crude attempt to violate patients’ privacy is the latest assault on democratic rights by the Bush administration, part of its effort to defend the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act (PBABA).

French government attacks labour laws, working conditions

By Francis Dubois and Françoise Thull, 21 February 2004

Simultaneously with French president Jacques Chirac’s announcement of new attacks on social services in his New Year’s address, the first reading of the “law on social dialogue” took place in the National Assembly. Developed by Minister for Employment and Social Services François Fillon, the measure is designed to undermine existing French labour laws.

Conferencia pública auspiciada por el World Socialist Web Site y el Partido Socialista por la Igualdad

By , 21 February 2004

WSWS : Español

Berlin summit: Blair, Schröder, Chirac press for accelerated “reforms”

By Peter Schwarz, 21 February 2004

The summit of German, French and British leaders held on Wednesday in Berlin has drawn vigorous protests from non-participating European governments. Critics spoke of a “Triumvirate” and a “Directorate” seeking to impose its will on the remaining 22 members of the European Union (EU).

Dutch parliament votes to deport asylum seekers

By Paul Bond, 21 February 2004

The Dutch parliament voted February 17 to expel some 26,000 asylum seekers from the Netherlands over the next three years, marking an escalation in the brutalisation of immigrants across Europe. The bill—passed by 83 to 57 votes in the lower house—has yet to be ratified by parliament’s upper house, but no obstacles are expected. Indeed, the centre-right coalition government of Jan Pieter specifically rejected a number of opposition amendments designed to slightly soften the legislation.

Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s hunting trip with Cheney: the political and constitutional issues

By John Andrews and Barry Grey, 20 February 2004

Following press reports of a private duck-hunting outing with Vice President Dick Cheney in January, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has refused to recuse himself from a case currently before the high court in which Cheney is a named party. Scalia has responded to questions about the hunting trip with provocative statements that underscore his contempt for the public and scorn for long-standing canons of judicial conduct.

Workers Struggles: Europe & Africa

By , 20 February 2004

Civil servants strike in England and Wales

Australia: Government and media attack Aboriginal community after Redfern riot

By Rick Kelly, 20 February 2004

The response of leading political figures and the media to last Sunday’s riot in the Sydney suburb of Redfern provides a striking demonstration of how far to the right the official political spectrum has shifted. Despite the extreme poverty and squalid living conditions of many Aborigines in Redfern and throughout the country, Australia’s ruling elite has made clear that it considers any examination of the underlying social causes of the conflict to be completely impermissible.

Disentangling “dark and difficult” cinema

By Stefan Steinberg, 20 February 2004

Last year’s Berlin Film Festival took place as storm clouds gathered for an impending US-led invasion of Iraq. This year, in a somewhat sombre comment, festival director Dieter Koslick warned his audience on a number of occasions that many of the films featured at this year’s competition dealt with “dark” and “difficult” themes. If people wanted entertainment, he said, then they could always go to the cinema.

Letters from our readers

By , 20 February 2004

Below we post a selection of recent letters to the World Socialist Web Site.

Kumaratunga tries to justify her anti-democratic actions

By K. Ratnayake, 20 February 2004

Last Sunday Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga made her first public statements over her decision to dissolve parliament and sack the government—more than a week after her unprecedented action. She chose a safe political environment where she could not be challenged—a convention of delegates from her own Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) at Mahara in the suburbs of Colombo.

Northern Ireland: Discussions aimed at rescuing Good Friday Agreement

By Steve James and Chris Marsden, 20 February 2004

Discussions have begun between all the major political parties in Northern Ireland and the British and Irish governments on a review of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The review will centre on the extent to which the far-right pro-British loyalist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Ian Paisley can carry out its stated policy of excluding Sinn Fein from power in a revived Northern Ireland Assembly.

Australian government introduces pro-business, regional-based immigration visas

By Tony Robson, 20 February 2004

The Australian government last month created two new visa categories that further tailor immigration policy to the requirements of big business and the privileged few. Eligibility will be determined by the size of an applicant’s bank balance and a commitment to live in a designated region, anywhere outside Sydney.

Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci: the fate of a member of the artistic “generation of 1968”

By David Walsh, 19 February 2004

Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci’s latest film The Dreamers is really a terribly poor work—at times, almost embarrassing. More than mere individual weakness, it expresses the intellectual and moral hollowing out of a generation of once-leftist artists who have reached the point where they have nothing to say to contemporary audiences.

Netherlands: Arming the state in response to growing poverty and unemployment

By Jörg Victor, 19 February 2004

The Dutch coalition government consisting of the CDA (Christian-Democratic-Appeal), VVD (the liberal Peoples Party for Freedom and Democracy) and D66 (Democrats ’66) is reacting to the country’s economic crisis and growing poverty by limiting civil rights and strengthening the state apparatus. In particular, surveillance and spying on the population are to be expanded.

Socialist Equality Party condemns Sri Lankan president’s dictatorial actions

By the Socialist Equality Party, 19 February 2004

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) strongly condemns the arbitrary and anti-democratic decision of Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga on February 7 to dissolve parliament and sack the United National Front (UNF) coalition government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Her actions are unparalleled in the history of post-independence Sri Lanka and amount to a constitutional coup.

Britain: The Respect-Unity coalition and the politics of opportunism

By Chris Marsden and Julie Hyland, 19 February 2004

Respect has been founded on a perspective that is a step backwards even when compared to the founding of the Labour Party. And despite its pretensions to being a “broad church”, Respect is entirely the product of behind-the-scenes discussions between the Socialist Workers Party and a handful of individuals.

Australian Labor returned in dreary Queensland election

By Richard Phillips, 19 February 2004

In an entirely predictable result, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) was reelected in the Queensland state elections on February 7 with a slightly reduced majority—winning over 60 MPs in the 89-seat parliament. Given the overwhelming majority won by the ALP in 2001 and the unanimous support right-wing Labor leader Peter Beattie has received from the corporate media over the last three years, the outcome was no surprise.

US: Republicans lose House seat in Kentucky special election

By Patrick Martin, 19 February 2004

In an election result that confirms a sharp shift in public opinion against the Bush administration, a Democratic candidate won a special election Tuesday to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives, taking a seat in the Lexington, Kentucky area held for the last six years by the Republicans.

Spain: Tens of thousands march against Iraq occupation

By Vicky Short, 19 February 2004

Large demonstrations were held in Spain on Sunday, February 15, to commemorate the anniversary of the millions-strong anti-war marches that occurred all over the world a year before. Spaniards were overwhelmingly opposed to the launching of the war against Iraq last year and staged some of the largest demonstrations in Europe, particularly in Barcelona with one-and-a-half million participating and Madrid with more than 1 million.

The rise and fall of Howard Dean

By David North and Bill Van Auken, 19 February 2004

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean’s announcement Wednesday that he is quitting his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination marks the end of a brief and meteoric campaign. He delivered his concession speech in Burlington, Vermont after placing a distant third place with 18 percent of the vote in Wisconsin—a state he had previously declared a must-win.

Microsoft threat to discontinue Windows 98 and NT operating systems

By Kerem Kaya and Mike Ingram, 19 February 2004

The decision by Microsoft to stop supporting its previous generation of Windows Operating Systems (OSs), Windows 98 and NT, has resulted in a market reaction leading to the long-term postponement of the decision.

Analysts warn China on verge of economic crisis

By John Chan, 18 February 2004

The year has opened with warnings that China is lurching toward a major economic crisis that will inevitably have far-reaching global ramifications. While the Chinese regime is hailing the country’s 9.1 percent economic growth last year, analysts are noting that the growth itself has produced the type of overcapacity and rampant speculation that has characterised other economies before they experienced a severe slump.

Britain: The Respect-Unity coalition and the politics of opportunism

By Chris Marsden and Julie Hyland, 18 February 2004

On June 10, a new electoral coalition, Respect, will be fielding candidates in the European Elections.

Creating the past in their own self-involved image

By Joanne Laurier, 18 February 2004

Girl with a Pearl Earring, directed by Peter Webber, screenplay by Olivia Hetreed, based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier

Bush on “Meet the Press”: a letter on the US media

By , 18 February 2004

The author of the letter below is a contributor to the World Socialist Web Site.

Australia: Government-media witchhunt of train drivers falls flat

By Terry Cook, 18 February 2004

All last week, the New South Wales state government with the assistance of the media, in particular Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid the Daily Telegraph, carried out a witchhunt against Sydney’s train drivers.

An exchange on Haiti: Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the dead end of “left” nationalist politics

By , 18 February 2004

Below we post a letter on Haiti from a reader and a reply by WSWS correspondent Richard Dufour.

France: National Assembly bans Muslim headscarves in schools

By Alex Lefebvre, 18 February 2004

On February 10, the French National Assembly voted (494 in favor, 36 against, 31 abstentions) to adopt a law banning “symbols and clothing that ostentatiously show students’ religious membership” in public elementary, middle and high schools. The law will apply beginning in September 2004 throughout France and in many of its island territories.

New York City Council opposes USA Patriot Act

By Jamie Chapman, 17 February 2004

On February 4, the New York City Council overwhelmingly approved a resolution denouncing provisions of the federal USA Patriot Act for infringing on civil liberties. With the 36-13 vote, New York joined nearly 250 other municipalities and three state legislatures in going on record against the Patriot Act. Just two weeks earlier, the city council in Los Angeles, the third largest US city, passed a similar resolution by a vote of 9-2. Other major cities that passed their own resolutions include Chicago and Philadelphia, the nation’s second and fifth largest respectively, as well as the states of Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska.

Australia: Riots in Sydney as police blamed for death of 17-year-old Aboriginal boy

By Richard Phillips, 17 February 2004

Angry rioting and clashes with police involving more than 50 local youth erupted in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Redfern on Sunday night following the death of Thomas “TJ” Hickey, a 17-year-old Aboriginal boy, the day before. The teenager was killed after he was catapulted from his bicycle at approximately 11.15 a.m. on Saturday and impaled on a metal fence in a nearby public housing estate. He was admitted to Sydney Children’s Hospital but died some 12 hours later of chest, neck and internal injuries.

One third of the world’s urban population lives in a slum

By Simon Whelan, 17 February 2004

Late in 2003 the United Nations reported that one billion people—approximately one third of the world’s urban dwellers and a sixth of all humanity, live in slums. And it predicted that within 30 years that figure would have doubled to two billion—a third of the current world population.

Workers Struggles: The Americas

By , 17 February 2004

Antiwar protest in Honduras

The 2004 US election: the case for a socialist alternative

By , 17 February 2004

The World Socialist Web Site and the Socialist Equality Party will hold a public conference on March 13-14, 2004 in Ann Arbor, Michigan to discuss the critical political issues that the 2004 US election poses before working people in the United States and internationally.

Iraq: A convenient letter from an Al Qaeda terrorist

By James Conachy, 17 February 2004

A letter has been discovered in Iraq, allegedly authored by Jordanian-born Islamic fundamentalist Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, appealing to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda for assistance in destabilising Iraq and US efforts to create a new government.

Germany: Klaus Uwe Benneter—the new SPD general secretary

By Ulrich Rippert, 17 February 2004

The decline of a party is often expressed in the choice of its political leadership. This could be observed during the period of the fall of the Berlin Wall when Egon Krenz became general secretary of the SED (German Socialist Unity Party) in 1989. His attempts to renew the party were obsolete even before they became public. The committees which he sought to reform, with a huge flourish, dissolved before they could be convened as masses of members deserted the party.

The death of “TJ” Hickey—the social and economic circumstances

By Rick Kelly, 17 February 2004

The death of Thomas ("TJ") Hickey in Sydney last Sunday morning has deeply implicated the New South Wales police, who, either directly or indirectly, played a critical role in the events leading up to the fatal bicycle crash.

Greenspan testimony points to deepening US fiscal crisis

By Nick Beams, 16 February 2004

In his semi-annual testimony to Congress last week, Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan gave his now almost customary upbeat assessment of the prospects facing the US economy.

Spain: Catalan nationalist sacked after meeting Basque separatists

By Paul Bond, 16 February 2004

The first shots have been fired in the run-up to the Spanish general election on March 14. A political storm erupted after military intelligence was leaked to the press that pro-independence Catalan nationalist Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, a senior member of the regional government, held secret meetings in France with leading members of the outlawed Basque separatist organisation ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna—Homeland and Freedom).

South Africa’s health minister says of AIDS sufferers: Let them eat garlic

By our correspondent, 16 February 2004

On February 9 the South African Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang denied that she gave any commitment to the commencement of a national anti-retroviral rollout. Precisely such an HIV-AIDS plan, including the provision of anti-retroviral drugs, was announced in November 2003.

Sudan: Khartoum escalates civil war offensive

By Brian Smith, 16 February 2004

The Sudanese government has escalated its offensive against the western provinces of the country. In what the Khartoum regime has described as “a local security problem”, militias, backed by government troops and warplanes, have been bombing and terrorising villages in Darfur and driving the population off the land.

Australian prime minister capitulates to new Labor leader on superannuation policy

By Rick Kelly, 16 February 2004

In an unprecedented capitulation to the Labor opposition, Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced on Thursday that the government would adopt, virtually intact, a proposal to slash politicians’ superannuation payments that was made just two days earlier by the new Labor leader, Mark Latham.

Workers Struggles: Europe, Middle East & Africa

By , 14 February 2004

Thousands of workers strike in Germany

Canada’s Liberal government rocked by financial scandal

By Keith Jones, 14 February 2004

Less than three months after Paul Martin became prime minister, his “new” Liberal government is embroiled in a major financial scandal. At a press conference Wednesday, Martin said that the civil servants who authorized paying advertising companies with close Liberal Party ties some $100 million in return for little or no work must have done so under “political direction.” “All I know,” affirmed Martin, “is that there had to be political direction .... I don’t know who it was but that’s one of the things we have to find out.”

Protest planned over US killing of journalists in Iraq

By Harvey Thompson, 14 February 2004

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has declared April 8—the anniversary of the attack by the US military on a Baghdad hotel filled with foreign journalists—a day of mourning and protest. The IFJ denounced the killing of journalists during the Iraq war and the “abject failure” of the Pentagon to adequately explain why the journalists died.

Letters from our readers

By , 14 February 2004

Below we post a selection of recent letters to the World Socialist Web Site.

¡Por una alternativa socialista en las elecciones de 2004!

By , 14 February 2004

WSWS : Español

US pressures Norway to extradite leading exiled Kurd

By Niall Green, 14 February 2004

Mullah Krekar, the alleged leader of Ansar al-Islam, a militia based in northern Iraq and Iranian Kurdistan, was arrested on January 2 in his apartment in Oslo, Norway’s capital city. Krekar, whose real name is Faraj Ahmad Najmuddin, is charged with directing terrorist activities in Iraq through his leadership of the militia.

US: Over 100,000 job cuts announced in January

By David Walsh, 14 February 2004

Despite Bush administration promises and the president’s own claim that “things are getting better,” the overall economic reality for American working people continues to worsen. Unemployment figures released last week reveal a continuing lack of job growth. In the past nearly three years (since March 2001), the US has experienced the greatest sustained job loss since the Great Depression. The government continues to exhibit its indifference toward the plight of the unemployed, as Bush’s leading economic advisor, Gregory Mankiw, suggested that the outsourcing of jobs was “a good thing.”

Bush budget freezes social spending to pay for military buildup

By Patrick Martin, 14 February 2004

The fiscal 2005 federal budget delivered by the Bush administration to Congress on February 2 combines a record deficit of $521 billion with record military spending and a virtual freeze on spending to meet domestic social needs. As one of Bush’s editorial cheerleaders, the Wall Street Journal, observed approvingly, the budget emphatically chooses guns over butter, and demands that Congress follow suit.

Workers Struggles: Asia, Australia and the Pacific

By , 14 February 2004

Chinese workers and retirees renew protests

Sri Lankan opposition cynically exploits struggles of workers and farmers

By W.A. Sunil, 14 February 2004

A key factor in Sri Lanka’s deep political crisis is the rising tide of opposition among workers, farmers and young people against the impact of the economic restructuring measures demanded by the IMF and World Bank on behalf of international finance capital. The policies of privatisation and cutbacks to public spending, along with financial and other incentives for investors, have widened the gulf between rich and poor and led to increased poverty and unemployment.

Australian Labor conference bows to Washington: No debate on Iraq

By Terry Cook, 13 February 2004

Despite a mountain of new evidence demonstrating that the main pretext for the US-led war on Iraq—its possession of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction—was a complete fraud, not a single delegate at the recent Australian Labor Party (ALP) national conference condemned the illegal occupation of Iraq or called for the withdrawal of all allied (including Australian) troops.

Anatomy of a fraudulent “grassroots” campaign: Citizens for a Sound Economy in Oregon

By Noah Page, 13 February 2004

The campaign by the right-wing organization Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) to overturn a legislatively approved tax increase in Oregon and implement more than half-a-billion in cuts to public services was presented by both CSE and its supporters as a “grassroots” political operation. This claim is worthy of serious examination.

Britain aided US in spying on UN delegates

By Harvey Thompson, 13 February 2004

In March 2003 the Observer newspaper revealed that the Bush administration had requested help from Britain in conducting a spying operation on key United Nations delegates in the run up to the invasion of Iraq. In a lead article on February 8 this year the paper confirmed that the spies at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had “acted on” the request.