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Poverty-stricken Hambantota among the worst affected areas in Sri Lanka

By our correspondents, 31 December 2004

Sri Lanka’s Hambantota district in the south of the island is one of the areas worst affected by the tsunami that hit on December 26. While the current official death toll claims 4,500 were killed when giant tidal waves washed over the low-lying coastal strip, survivors claim that this figure is a gross underestimate and that no one will ever know the real number of lives lost.

US: Bush administration targets medical care for the poor

By Jamie Chapman, 31 December 2004

The federal government has dispatched auditors to state capitals around the country in an effort to rein in the cost of Medicaid, the program designed to provide medical coverage for the poor. The program also pays for about 70 percent of the nation’s nursing home patients.

Britain: Royal Mail to sell off half its business

By Keith Lee, 31 December 2004

According to an article in the financial section of the December 12 Mail on Sunday, the Royal Mail is going to privatise a “large chunk” of its business. The newspaper reports that Royal Mail is to sell 20 percent of its shares to its workforce and 31 percent are to be sold on the open market.

The price of Ukrainian democracy

By Peter Schwarz, 31 December 2004

“Triumph for democracy” was the title of a recent commentary in the German Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper dealing with the results of the Ukrainian presidential elections. The author of the piece, Thomas Urban, is the newspaper’s European specialist. For weeks he has been describing the Orange opposition in Kiev in glowing and uncritical reports. But in his recent comment, written in a flush of enthusiasm, he says more about the character of Ukrainian democracy than perhaps he intended.

Tsunami death toll in Indonesia approaching 100,000

By John Roberts, 31 December 2004

Catastrophic is the only word that comes close to describing the impact of Sunday’s earthquake and tsunami on the impoverished Indonesian regions in northern Sumatra. As of yesterday, the official death toll had risen to more than 50,000. But government officials are warning that the figure will rise to at least 100,000 as relief teams reach more remote areas, particularly on the west coast.

By , 31 December 2004

What a difference a year makes. When Paul Martin replaced Jean Chrétien at the helm of Canada’s federal government in December 2003, the corporate media hailed the new prime minister as a veritable political colossus, whose enormous popular appeal was matched by his sagacity.

David Walsh picks his favorite films of 2004

By David Walsh, 31 December 2004

Two film lists are included below. The first includes what in my opinion were the best 15 films that had a theatrical release in North America in 2004 (although, in some cases, this might mean only a very limited run in New York and Los Angeles, for example). The second contains what seemed to me the 15 most successful artistic efforts that I saw in 2004, theatrical release or not.

Workers Struggles: Europe & Africa

By , 31 December 2004

The World Socialist Web Site invites workers and other readers to contribute to this regular feature by e-mailing information to:

Sri Lankan president issues appeal for “unity”

By Wije Dias, 30 December 2004

Two and a half days after the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated Sri Lanka, President Chandrika Kumaratunga finally addressed the nation on the tragedy. Her speech on Tuesday, which consisted of a mixture of obfuscation, evasion and empty sympathy, constituted a confession of bankruptcy on the part, not just of her government, but of bourgeois rule on the island.

Informe del Pentágono revela las mentiras del gobierno de Bush

By , 30 December 2004

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Fallujah residents return to a destroyed city

By Joseph Kay, 30 December 2004

On December 23, US forces in Iraq began allowing a handful of residents of Fallujah to return to their devastated homes. Reports from these residents have provided a glimpse of the destruction inflicted upon Fallujah by the American military since an offensive against the city began early in November.

Prensa de Estados Unidos ignora informe acusador del Pentágono

By , 30 December 2004

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Letters from our readers

By , 30 December 2004

The following is a selection of recent letters to the World Socialist Web Site.

Black fever in India: an epidemic rooted in poverty

By Parwini Zora and Daniel Woreck, 30 December 2004

Kala-Azar—known medically as visceral leishmaniasis and in popular English as black fever—is a curable illness, but it has become the second most fatal parasitic disease in India, claiming 60,000 victims annually. Only malaria causes a higher number of deaths. Most of the victims of black fever are from India’s rural poor.

Bush’s response to South Asia disaster: indifference compounded by political incompetence

By Patrick Martin, 30 December 2004

President Bush briefly interrupted his vacation on Wednesday to issue a public statement, after three days of silence as the greatest natural disaster of the last half-century unfolded on the television screens of the world. He made a perfunctory and semi-coherent statement to the press corps assembled at his Crawford, Texas ranch, shortly after the administration had announced a doubling of the US government’s contribution to disaster relief efforts in South Asia.

Christmas all year round for Britain’s super-rich

By Simon Wheelan, 30 December 2004

Christmas may come but once a year, but Britain’s super-rich enjoy goodwill all year round courtesy of the Labour government.

US Congress uses Alice in Wonderland logic to sell cuts in college grants

By Charles Bogle, 29 December 2004

Prodded by the Bush administration, the US Congress has changed the formula for determining the disbursement of Pell Grants, the main source of financial aid for low- and mid-income college students. As a result, 1.4 million students will receive less financial aid for the 2005-2006 academic year, and at least 80,000 deserving students will receive no Pell Grant funds at all (“Students to Bear More of the Cost of College,” by Greg Winter, New York Times, 12/23/04).

Italian President Ciampi blocks Berlusconi’s justice “reforms”

By Marianne Arens, 29 December 2004

On December 16, Italian President Carlo Ciampi refused to sign Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s justice reform bill, thereby blocking its enactment. The “reforms” were passed by the Italian parliament on December 1, on the basis of the votes of the right-wing majority, consisting of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, the neo-fascist Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance), the Lega Nord (Northern League) and the UDC (Christian Democrats).

Tsunami death toll rises to 60,000 amid warnings of epidemics

By Peter Symonds, 29 December 2004

A terrible tragedy is unfolding around the rim of the Bay of Bengal. The lives of millions of people, most of them very poor, have been torn apart by the huge tidal wave that hit the coastal areas on Sunday morning. The estimated death toll has reached 60,000 and is expected to rise further as rescue and relief workers comb the wreckage and debris left behind in villages, towns and cities throughout the region.

Ukraine election: on-the-spot report from Kiev

By Patrick Richter, 29 December 2004

Opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko has been declared the winner in the third round of the Ukrainian presidential election. He received 52 percent of the vote, while his opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, trailed with 44 percent.

A soaring list of dead and injured on Thailand’s southern coast

By John Roberts, 29 December 2004

The impact of the tsunami waves that began crashing into Thailand’s southern Andaman Sea coastal towns at 9 a.m., local time on Sunday was only beginning to be comprehended two days later. By then, authorities had listed 1,473 dead and 7,000 injured.

Spain: Madrid Commission confirms conspiracy of lies used to justify Iraq War

By Paul Mitchell, 29 December 2004

Evidence presented to the commission investigating the train bombings on March 11 in Madrid in which 191 people died and 1,700 others were injured confirms that a conspiracy of lies was used to justify the Iraq war and deceive the Spanish people.

Sri Lankan tsunami victims speak to the WSWS

By our correspondents, 29 December 2004

With more dead bodies being discovered in the southern, eastern and northern coastal areas of Sri Lanka, the authorities admitted on Tuesday that the death toll from last Sunday’s tsunami could rise to 25,000. They also warned that epidemics such as diarrhea could rapidly spread as camps become congested with hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Britain: Sikh protests force closure of play

By Paul Bond, 28 December 2004

Birmingham Repertory Theatre has cancelled its production of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti (Dishonour), after violent demonstrations by Sikh groups forced the evacuation of the theatre. The cancellation, described by Shami Chakrabarti of the human rights organisation Liberty as “censorship through intimidation,” represents a serious blow to freedom of artistic expression and sets a dangerous precedent.

Workers Struggles: Asia, Australia and the Pacific

By , 28 December 2004

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Tidal wave brings death and destruction throughout Sri Lanka

By our correspondents, 28 December 2004

The massive tidal wave that struck Sri Lanka without warning on Sunday morning has left a trail of destruction, suffering and death in its wake throughout the island. The latest official death toll is more than 12,000 as no accurate picture has emerged in some of the worst affected areas. Rescue and relief workers are still searching for bodies among the wreckage. Transport and communications have been severely disrupted.

Yushchenko claims victory in Ukraine presidential election

By Justus Leicht and Peter Schwarz, 28 December 2004

In all probability, Viktor Yushchenko will be the new president of Ukraine. In the repeat election held December 26, the opposition candidate, who ran with the vocal political support and financial backing of the US and other Western powers, obtained 52 percent of the vote. His opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, who was backed by Russia, gained 44 percent. The election turnout was approximately 75 percent, somewhat less than in the original ballot held November 21.

US Airways workers stage Christmas job action

By Jerry White, 28 December 2004

US Airways was forced to cancel hundreds of flights over the long Christmas weekend. An unusually high numbers of baggage handlers and ramp workers in Philadelphia and flight attendants in other cities called in sick in an apparent job action against wage-cutting and other concessions being demanded by the nation’s sixth largest airline.

Tidal wave wreaks death and destruction throughout Sri Lanka

By our correspondents, 28 December 2004

The massive tidal wave that struck Sri Lanka without warning on Sunday morning has left a trail of destruction, suffering and death in its wake. The latest official death toll stands at more than 12,000, but there is still no accurate estimate from some of the worst affected areas. Rescue and relief workers continue to search for bodies among the wreckage. Transport and communications have been severely disrupted.

Workers Struggles: The Americas

By , 28 December 2004

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Devastating tidal wave kills more than 13,000 in southern Asia

By Peter Symonds, 27 December 2004

A tsunami or tidal wave, triggered by a huge earthquake yesterday off the coast of northwestern Sumatra, has devastated the coastlines of neighbouring countries, killing at least 13,500 people. The death toll is provisional and expected to rise further as relief and rescue workers comb through the wreckage, access isolated towns and villages and attempt to track down thousands of missing people.

Sri Lankan reports reveal widening social inequality

By K. Ratnayake, 24 December 2004

Two official reports recently published in Sri Lanka provide a devastating glimpse into the country’s deepening social inequality and the continuing deterioration of living standards for the majority of the population.

Documents reveal systematic torture by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan

By Joseph Kay and Rick Kelly, 24 December 2004

Official documents made public this week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demonstrate that the US military has engaged in the widespread and systematic torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. The material indicates that high-ranking administration officials not only approved of the abuse, but have carried out a systematic cover-up of these activities. The new revelations represent a damning indictment of the Bush administration, and make clear that it is guilty of war crimes.

Louisville, Kentucky: sharp rise in emergency food requests

By Naomi Sheehan Groce, 24 December 2004

The 2004 Conference of Mayors’ recently issued Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness tracks 27 major US cities and further confirms that state budgets are straining to compensate for the crumbling economy with social services. Nationally, requests for emergency food and housing rose dramatically, with over a fifth of all those in need turned away for lack of resources. Well over half of those seeking assistance were families, and over a third of the adults were employed.

One billion children worldwide suffering deprivation

By Barry Mason, 24 December 2004

One billion children are suffering from one or more forms of deprivation according to the latest UNICEF report.

Britain: poverty and homelessness rise under Labour

By Niall Green, 24 December 2004

Recent major studies of social conditions facing workers and young people in Britain have provided further evidence of the anti-social effect of the policies demanded by big business and pursued by the Labour government. A picture emerges of a downward curve in real pay for millions of workers that has lasted for over a generation, combined with increases in living costs—especially housing—that is both deepening and widening the scope of poverty in Britain.

Outrage in the Philippines over killing of plantation workers

By Terry Cook, 24 December 2004

The Philippine government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is facing a public outcry over violence meted out to farmers, plantation workers and their representatives in the ongoing labour dispute at the Hacienda Luisita Inc near Tarlac City. The plantation and associated sugar mill are owned and run by the Conjuangcos-Aquino family, relatives of former president Cory Aquino.

US: new questions about safety of anti-inflammatory drugs

By Joseph Kay, 24 December 2004

Last week, the drug company Pfizer announced that it had found evidence of a connection between Celebrex, an anti-inflammatory drug that it manufactures, and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. The announcement calls into question the safety of a whole class of drugs commonly used to treat arthritis in millions of people in the US and internationally.

Workers Struggles: Europe, the Middle East & Africa

By , 24 December 2004

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Israel: soldier admits he knew slain peace activist Hurndall was unarmed

By Brian Smith, 23 December 2004

An Israeli soldier on trial for killing British peace activist Tom Hurndall in the Gaza Strip in 2003 has admitted that he lied when he said his victim was camouflaged and carrying a gun. He also claims that he was under orders to open fire on anyone, even unarmed people.

BBC announces widespread job losses and cuts

By Robert Stevens, 23 December 2004

On December 7, the director general of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Mark Thompson, announced cuts of £320 million a year, including the shedding of 2,900 jobs.

Bush as Time magazine’s “2004 Person of the Year”: why him?

By David Walsh, 23 December 2004

The absurdity of Time magazine naming George W. Bush “2004 Person of the Year” does not necessarily lie in the fact that the US president has pursued reactionary and repugnant policies. One might revile a political leader and still accept his or her selection.

Tokyo extends troop deployment in Iraq

By Joe Lopez, 23 December 2004

The Japanese government earlier this month approved plans to extend its deployment of troops in Iraq for a further 12 months. As a result, 550 Japan Self Defence Force soldiers will remain stationed in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah until the end of 2005.

US military begins retaliation for Mosul bombing

By Jerry White, 23 December 2004

US Army and Marine forces, backed up by armored vehicles, helicopter gun-ships and jet-fighters, sealed off the northern Iraqi city of Mosul Wednesday, following the deadly attack at the US military camp outside of the city, which killed 18 Americans and 4 Iraqis Tuesday afternoon.

Peak Australian union body seeks alliance with religious right

By Terry Cook, 23 December 2004

An extraordinary article appeared early this month on Workers Online—the website of the New South Wales (NSW) peak union body, Unions NSW. It reveals just how far to the right the unions have moved in the wake of the Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) devastating defeat in the October federal elections.

The power struggle in Ukraine and America’s strategy for global supremacy

By Peter Schwarz, 23 December 2004

In 1997, former US security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski published a book entitled The Grand Chessboard that attracted considerable attention and treated America’s strategy for global supremacy. By chessboard, Brzezinski meant Eurasia, the enormous land mass comprising two continents and containing the majority of the world’s population.

The New York Times manufactures support for the Iraq war in aftermath of Mosul bombing

By Rick Kelly, 23 December 2004

In response to Tuesday’s attack on a US base in Mosul, the New York Times published an extraordinary front-page article yesterday, entitled “Fighting is the only option, Americans say.” The piece quoted a number of people who expressed their full support for the ongoing occupation, and presented their views as being representative of the US population as a whole.

European Union agrees on terms for membership negotiations with Turkey

By Justus Leicht, 23 December 2004

On December 17, the leaders of the governments and states of the European Union agreed on terms for negotiations with Turkey to begin in October 2005 aimed at full EU membership for the country.

Britain: Law Lords terror ruling provokes constitutional crisis

By Julie Hyland, 22 December 2004

The unprecedented ruling by Britain’s highest court against the government’s detention of nine foreign nationals without trial on grounds of national security has created a constitutional crisis, and further exposed the abrogation of democratic rights under the guise of the “war on terror”.

US crisis in Iraq sparks Republican attacks on Rumsfeld

By Bill Van Auken, 22 December 2004

With only weeks to go before the inauguration of the Bush administration’s second term, a raging dispute has broken out within the Republican Party over the performance of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

New Release from Mehring Books: The Crisis of American Democracy: the Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004

By , 22 December 2004

WSWS : Mehring Books

Post-9/11 memo argued for unlimited presidential war-making powers

By Joseph Kay, 22 December 2004

A newly released memo from the Justice Department, written shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, argued for the unlimited war-making powers of the president. The memo sought to create a pseudo-legal justification for launching a “preemptive” war against any country, even those such as Iraq that were in no way connected with the terrorist attacks.

Letters from our readers

By , 22 December 2004

On “The Bernard Kerik saga: the war on terror and the rise of the political underworld”

Mosul resistance attack reveals US disarray in Iraq

By Rick Kelly, 22 December 2004

Nineteen US soldiers were reported killed Tuesday by a suspected rocket or mortar attack on a major US military base just outside of the northern city of Mosul. A military spokesman reported a total of 24 dead, including contractors and Iraqis, although there have been conflicting reports on this figure. Approximately 60 others were injured.

Israel: Labour Party to prop up Sharon’s Likud coalition

By Jean Shaoul, 22 December 2004

On December 17, the Labour Party agreed in principle to shore up Ariel Sharon’s crumbling Likud-led coalition. Subject to getting eight cabinet posts and the deputy premiership, it will join—without any political conditions—the most bellicose and right-wing administration in Israel’s history to form a government of national unity.

Vanuatu government collapses following Australian economic threats

By Frank Gaglioti, 22 December 2004

After only four months in office, the Vanuatu government headed by Prime Minister Serge Vohor was brought down by a parliamentary vote of no confidence on December 11. The ousting of Vohor was the culmination of bitter domestic political infighting and the direct intervention of the Australian government in the affairs of the small South Pacific Island nation.

Dollar devaluation cannot right the US economy

By Nick Beams, 22 December 2004

Well-known international economist Barry Eichengreen has taken issue with the views of those he calls “congenital optimists” who maintain that the fall of the US dollar will bring about a smooth “rebalancing” of the world economy. Writing in the Financial Times on Monday, Eichengreen noted that at current exchange rates the US current account deficit was on an “explosive path” and set to widen from its current level of between 5 and 6 percent of US gross domestic product (GDP) to 8 percent by 2008 and 12 percent in 2010.

Sri Lanka: JVP leads campaign to impose budget burdens

By Nanda Wickramasinghe, 21 December 2004

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which is part of the Sri Lankan government for the first time, is in the forefront of imposing the burden of last month’s budget on working people. The JVP joined with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and other smaller parties in forming the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) to contest the April general elections, promising to lift living standards.

Closed-door court proceedings in Iraq against Hussein’s associates

By Peter Symonds, 21 December 2004

In an attempt to bolster the electoral prospects of Iraq’s interim prime minister Ayad Allawi and the embattled US occupation, two of Saddam Hussein’s former associates were brought before a court in Baghdad on Saturday. The proceedings, which were closed to the public and to journalists, were followed by a brief press announcement and the release of selected video footage.

Workers Struggles: The Americas

By , 21 December 2004

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Germany: report bares widening gap between rich and poor

By Dietmar Henning, 21 December 2004

The gulf between rich and poor in Germany has continued to grow since the SPD (German Social Democratic Party)-Green Party government took office six years ago. Contrary to all their election promises, they have presided over an unrestrained redistribution of wealth in favour of the wealthy and at the expense of the broad majority of society.

Washington targets United Nations for destabilisation

By Chris Marsden, 21 December 2004

In the aftermath of President George W. Bush’s reelection, Washington has stepped up a campaign to discredit and destabilise the United Nations, focusing on accusations of possible wrong doing by Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Skidmore, Missouri: woman carves fetus from a mother’s womb

By Kate Randall, 21 December 2004

As is so often the case in America, unspeakable crimes take place in the most unremarkable places. So it was last Thursday, when the body of 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett was found strangled and unconscious in her home in Skidmore, Missouri, her eight-month-old fetus cut from her womb. She was expecting her first child.

US: federal pension insurance program edges toward bankruptcy

By Jamie Chapman, 20 December 2004

In what the Wall Street Journal describes as a “slow motion train wreck,” the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) posted results last month of a $23.3 billion deficit, up by $12.1 billion in just one year. The PBGC is the government agency set up in 1974 to take over payment of workers’ pensions when their corporate sponsors abandon them.

More casualties of war: US soldiers charged in deaths of Iraqi civilians and fellow servicemen

By Joseph Kay, 20 December 2004

The US military has charged seven soldiers, members of the same battalion, with murder in the deaths of four Iraqis and two US servicemen. The charges arise from incidents this August and September that reveal a great deal about the character of the war and its brutal consequences, both for Iraqis and for American soldiers.

South East Asian summit seals free trade agreement with China

By John Roberts, 20 December 2004

The annual gathering of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) held last month in the Laotian capital of Vientiane was dominated by the signing of a free trade deal with China. The pact is expected to give a further significant impetus to a trade relationship on which the 10 ASEAN members have become increasingly dependent, particularly since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Britain: government treatment of Roma was racist, Law Lords rule

By Richard Tyler, 20 December 2004

Britain’s highest court of appeal has ruled that immigration procedures racially discriminated against Roma. One of the Law Lords, Lady Hale said that immigration officials had been “acting on racial grounds” by preventing Roma travelling to Britain from the Czech Republic.

Secret evidence used in Australian “terrorist” trial

By Mike Head, 20 December 2004

In a development without precedent in Australia, secret evidence is being heard in closed sessions, with access denied to the public, the media and even the accused man and his lawyer, in a hearing of terrorist-related offences currently underway in Sydney. A magistrate has granted wide-ranging secrecy and suppression orders, in the first test of the Howard government’s latest “national security” legislation.

Egypt deepens its collaboration with Israel

By Brian Smith, 18 December 2004

Ever since working together to ensure that Yasser Arafat was buried without provoking major unrest amongst the Palestinians, Egypt and Israel have been deepening their collaboration in preparing to suppress resistance within the Occupied Territories.

Workers Struggles: Asia, Australia and the Pacific

By , 18 December 2004

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Pennsylvania steel works mural restored: rescuing history from the dustbin

By David Walsh, 18 December 2004

A remarkable mural of the US Steel Duquesne Works (circa 1920) by Harry M. Pettit, newly restored, is now on display at a gallery in Washington, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. The Duquesne Works, once one of the largest and most advanced steelmaking operations in the world, closed in 1984, during the general collapse of the steel industry in western Pennsylvania’s Mon Valley. The vast majority of the facility’s buildings have been demolished.

Belgium: Opel union councils serve as management’s henchmen

By Helmut Arens and Andreas Kunstmann, 18 December 2004

“We had the job of saving 100 million dollars and that’s what we did.” With these words Rudi Kenneth summarised the role of the trade unions and its factory council at the General Motors Opel plant in Antwerp, Belgium. Reporters from the World Socialist Web Site recently visited the Belgian factory.

Top House Republican becomes chief US drug company lobbyist

By Patrick Martin, 18 December 2004

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the Washington lobby representing US drug manufacturers, announced December 15 that it was naming Republican Congressman W. J. “Billy” Tauzin of Louisiana as its president and CEO.

Britain: High Court clears way for investigation into troop killing of Iraqi citizen

By Julie Hyland, 18 December 2004

Earlier this week, the High Court ruled that there must be a full independent inquiry into the September 2003 death of 26-year-old Iraqi citizen Baha Mousa at the hands of British troops in Basra, southern Iraq.

Anticommunism run amok: the life of Senator Pat McCarran

By Rick Kelly, 18 December 2004

Washington Gone Crazy: Senator Pat McCarran and the Great American Communist Hunt, Michael J. Ybarra, Steerforth Press, 2004

David Hicks details abuse in Guantánamo Bay

By Richard Phillips, 18 December 2004

An affidavit by David Hicks, a 29-year-old Australian citizen captured in Afghanistan and held by the US military since December 2001, was released last week by his lawyers during legal action in the US courts. Dated August 5, it is the first statement by a current detainee in Guantánamo Bay on the abuse of prisoners and adds to the mountain of evidence about Bush administration’s criminal actions in the notorious jail.

Chile’s arrest of Pinochet and the ”Condor” killers in the US

By Bill Van Auken, 18 December 2004

The indictment and arrest of Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet Monday for the killings and disappearances of political opponents carried out under his rule has provoked no comment from the US government and relatively little attention in the American mass media.

Britain’s Home Secretary David Blunkett resigns

By Chris Marsden and Julie Hyland, 17 December 2004

On December 15, Home Secretary David Blunkett resigned from government after acknowledging the discovery of an email confirming that a visa application for his former lovers’ Filipina nanny had been fast-tracked.

Letters from our readers

By , 17 December 2004

The following is a selection of recent letters to the World Socialist Web Site.

Grenade attack on Sri Lankan music concert kills two

By Nanda Wickramasinghe, 17 December 2004

Two people—a newspaper cameraman, Lanka Jayasundera, and Dilani Maheshika, a hotel receptionist—were killed in Colombo last Saturday when a grenade was lobbed into a packed audience at “Temptation 2004”, a musical extravaganza. Another 19 people were injured by the explosion, some critically. The events surrounding this vile attack underscore the reactionary character of communal politics in Sri Lanka, and point to the extreme tensions wracking the country.

Michigan school cuts highlight financial meltdown facing US states

By Debra Watson, 17 December 2004

Lower than anticipated state tax revenues have intensified the crisis of funding for Michigan’s publicly funded social programs. The state faces a shortfall of $450 million for the current (2005) fiscal year, largely from poor revenues in the state school fund.

Workers Struggles: Europe & Africa

By , 17 December 2004

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Conflict over arms embargo at EU-China summit

By John Chan, 17 December 2004

The seventh annual EU-China summit held in The Hague on December 8 highlighted not only the burgeoning economic ties between the major European powers and China but also moves toward closer political relations. Germany, backed by France, pushed for and achieved an in-principle agreement for the EU to work toward lifting the arms embargo imposed on China after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

Hungry and homeless ranks swell in US cities

By Rick Kelly, 17 December 2004

The demand for emergency shelter and food in US cities has risen significantly over the past year, straining a tattered social safety net beyond the breaking point, according to a report released Tuesday by the US Conference of Mayors. The “Hunger and Homeless Survey” covering America’s 27 largest cities showed that requests for food aid increased by 14 percent in 2004, while the demand for shelter rose by 6 percent.

Britain: paramedics question suicide verdict on whistleblower Kelly

By Chris Marsden, 16 December 2004

Two paramedics who attended the scene where Dr David Kelly was found dead on July 18 last year have queried the official verdict of suicide.

A New York City parable: Pale Male, the red-tailed hawk

By Clare Hurley, 16 December 2004

In Aesop’s Fables and other parables, animal behavior serves as an instructive paradigm for human and social relations. The sly fox dies of thirst trying to reach the grapes, the overconfident hare loses out to the persistent tortoise, the shackled lion humbles himself to let the mouse gnaw through his ropes.

Martin Jacques: Embittered British Stalinist pronounces on death of the “left”

By Chris Marsden, 16 December 2004

This is the conclusion of a two-part article. Part One was published on December 15.

Australia: Howard government seeks to provoke “abortion debate”

By Erika Zimmer, 16 December 2004

Not long after its victory in the October 9 federal election the Howard government attempted to launch a “debate” on abortion—opening a campaign to return to the days, only three decades ago, when medically-assisted abortion was a criminal offence.

Buying silence: Bush awards Medal of Freedom to key figures in Iraq debacle

By Barry Grey, 16 December 2004

President Bush’s awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday to three of the chief architects and executors of the Iraq war is an affront to the concept of freedom of Orwellian proportions.

Germany: Election Alternative glorifies the state

By Ulrich Rippert, 16 December 2004

The organisation Election Alternative Jobs and Social Justice (WASG) recently published the text of a speech by Detlev Hensche delivered at the end of November to a delegate conference of the group held in Nuremberg. Delegates agreed at the conference to transform the WASG into a party.

Congress-led government offers band-aid to haemorrhaging rural India

By Parwini Zora and Daniel Woreck, 16 December 2004

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled to a remote village in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh last month to announce the launching of a National Food For Work Program (NFFWP).

The war on terror and the rise of the political underworld

By Bill Van Auken, 16 December 2004

The ignominious collapse of George W. Bush’s attempt to install Bernard Kerik as his secretary of homeland security has lifted the lid on the rather ugly can of worms that constitutes political relations within America’s ruling establishment.

Ruling pro-independence party suffers a blow in Taiwan election

By John Chan, 16 December 2004

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan suffered a serious political setback in the country’s parliamentary election on December 11. Having won the presidency in 2000 and retained it in a bitterly contested election last March, the party had campaigned hard to gain a majority in the Legislative Yuan. Its expectations were, however, dashed by a poorer-than-expected outcome in Saturday’s poll.

Sri Lankan court jails senior opposition politician for contempt

By K. Ratnayake, 15 December 2004

Sri Lanka’s highest court last week found S.B. Dissanayake, a leading parliamentarian and the chief organiser for the opposition United National Party (UNP), guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to two years imprisonment. Despite the island’s often-turbulent politics, it is the first time since formal independence in 1948 that a sitting MP has been convicted of such a charge.

Letters on “The Scott Peterson case: a new American tragedy”

By , 15 December 2004

Below is a selection of letters from readers in response to the article “The Scott Peterson case: a new American tragedy,” posted December 11.

US caught wiretapping UN atomic energy head ElBaradei

By Peter Symonds, 15 December 2004

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has become the latest target of the Bush administration’s diplomatic thuggery. An article in Sunday’s Washington Post revealed that US intelligence has intercepted dozens of ElBaradei’s phone calls, with Iranian diplomats in particular, in an effort to dig up embarrassing details that could be used to oust him.

Martin Jacques: Embittered British Stalinist pronounces on death of the “left”

By Chris Marsden, 15 December 2004

This is the first of a two-part article.

Germany: Opel to destroy 10,000 jobs

By Martin Kreickenbaum, 15 December 2004

Weeks of negotiations between the works committee at the car maker Opel in Germany and General Motors management ended last Thursday with the complete capitulation of the works committee and union. Within the next two years, one in five jobs are to be cut at GM factories across Europe, which currently employ 63,000 workers. Most of the cuts are to take place at the Opel factories in Germany, where 9,500 jobs are targeted. However, the attacks do not end there. Management has already announced further cutbacks and savings measures that are aimed at reducing personnel costs by a further 20 percent. The threatened closure of factories and entire production sites is, contrary to the public statements of the works committee, still on the drawing board.

Sexual pioneer

By Joanne Laurier, 15 December 2004

Kinsey, written and directed by Bill Condon

Official documents vindicate Red Cross report on US torture

By Richard Phillips, 14 December 2004

When a confidential International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report exposing the US military torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba was published by the New York Times late last month Washington reacted with the usual combination of crude denials and legalistic justifications of its violations of the Geneva Conventions and international law.