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US judge orders release of Guantánamo hunger strikers’ medical records

By Tom Carter, 31 October 2005

A federal judge ruled on October 26 that the Bush administration and the US military must provide information to defense attorneys about the conditions of detainees in Guantánamo Bay. The lawyers are representing detainees from Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan who have been participating in a hunger strike for more than three months to protest their incarceration and treatment at the US detention camp.

UK poverty report draws attention to widening inequalities

By Harvey Thompson, 31 October 2005

A recent study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found widening inequalities in all areas of life in Britain. The study, “Life in Britain: Using Millennial Census Data to Understand Poverty, Inequality and Place,” was released at the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society and used data selected from the 2001 UK Census.

SEP campaign in Sri Lankan election: interest in a socialist alternative

By our correspondents, 31 October 2005

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) is carrying out an extensive campaign for its policies in the November 17 presidential election in Sri Lanka. Its candidate Wije Dias is the party’s general secretary and a member of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site.

Interview with Mexican Committee of 68 member

By , 31 October 2005

Alejandro Alvarez is a Mexican economist and a member of the Committee of 68. As a student he participated in the peaceful student protest of June 10, 1971 which was attacked by paramilitary thugs, leaving scores dead. He spoke to Rafael Azul of the World Socialist Web Site about the committee’s work and the campaign to unmask the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

“Bali Nine” alleged drug traffickers set up for execution by Australian police

By Rick Kelly, 31 October 2005

Prosecution evidence put forward at trials of the “Bali Nine” currently underway in Bali, Indonesia, establishes that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) engaged in a calculated operation to set up the young Australians for execution by firing squad. The police provided Indonesian authorities with detailed information about the alleged drug smugglers’ activities, and encouraged their arrest in Indonesia, despite knowing that this would almost certainly lead to the subsequent imposition of the death penalty.

Mexican rights group exposes government’s whitewash of student massacres

By Rafael Azul, 31 October 2005

On October 19, the Committee of 68 led a rally in front of Mexico’s Supreme Court in Mexico City to demand an independent investigation into the student massacres of 1968 and 1971 and the “dirty war” of which these two events were a part.

Serious problem, treated by not so serious people

By Joanne Laurier, 31 October 2005

North Country directed by Niki Caro; screenplay by Michael Seitzman, based on the book, Class Action: The Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler

The political implications of the Libby indictment

By Barry Grey, 31 October 2005

Friday’s indictment of I. Lewis Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Justice Department probe of the outing of a CIA agent has shaken not only the White House, but the entire political establishment in the US.

Big business lobbies step up pressure on Germany’s grand coalition

By Ulrich Rippert, 29 October 2005

“All power proceeds from big business and its lobbies.” This is not how the German constitution reads, but this is how it is interpreted by numerous economic research institutes and business groups that, under the guise of scientific research, lobby on behalf of the employers and major capitalist interests.

Ibero-American summit criticises US policy

By Paul Mitchell, 29 October 2005

Heads of state attending the 15th Ibero-American summit have criticised the US administration’s policy towards Cuba and Venezuela.

Australia: jobs decline amid signs of economic downturn

By Terry Cook, 29 October 2005

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) labour force figures for September showed the official unemployment rate climbed for the first time in five months to 5.1 percent, up from 5.0 percent in August. Significantly, the data also revealed a loss of jobs—25,900 full-time and 16,500 part-time. The total number of people in work fell by 42,300 to 10.022 million, with the largest drop of 25,600 in Victoria.

Poland: Lech Kaczynski elected president in low voter turnout

By Marius Heuser, 29 October 2005

Lech Kaczynski of the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party overcame his rival, Donald Tusk of the right-wing Civic Platform (CP), in the final ballot for presidential elections held October 23 in Poland. Kaczynski received 54 percent of the vote and thereby becomes the new president of Poland. Voter participation stood at 51 percent, meaning that the winning candidate in effect had support from only a quarter of the electorate.

Workers Struggles: Asia, Australia and the Pacific

By , 29 October 2005

Philippines union leader gunned down

Fighting backwardness

By , 29 October 2005

By Emanuele Saccarelli 29 October 2005

US passports to contain remotely readable computer chips

By Mike Ingram, 29 October 2005

The State Department issued a final rule October 25 for the implementation of new electronic passports. The so-called e-passport will come into effect October 2006, requiring all new US passports to include a radio frequency ID (RFID) chip that can transmit personal information, including the name, nationality, sex, date of birth, place of birth and a digitized photograph of the passport holder. The chip will be 64KB in size to leave room for additional biometrics data to be added in the future.

Iraq war is the real “underlying crime” in the Libby indictment

By Bill Van Auken, 29 October 2005

The indictment in the CIA leak investigation of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, has deepened the political crisis of the Bush administration, while further exposing the methods of criminality and conspiracy that extend from the White House on down.

Britain: attorney general prevents prosecution of police who killed Harry Stanley

By Paul Mitchell, 29 October 2005

Britain’s Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith has prevented attempts to prosecute police marksmen who shot dead painter and decorator Harry Stanley in 1999.

Energy companies announce record profits amidst soaring prices for US consumers

By Joseph Kay and Naomi Spencer, 29 October 2005

This week, the major international energy companies announced sharp increases in profits for the third quarter. The energy giants are benefiting from a prolonged period of rising energy costs, exacerbated in September by the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The record profits are being paid directly from the pockets of millions of Americans, who face increased gasoline prices and the prospect of sharply higher home heating bills during the winter.

India: Advani resigns as BJP president amid party crisis

By Jake Skeers, 28 October 2005

Amid intense inner party turmoil, Lal Krishna Advani announced late last month that he would resign his post as president of India’s Hindu chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in December. Advani will remain the BJP’s parliamentary leader, but media speculation is rife that he will be compelled to exit “gracefully” from this position sometime in 2006.

Workers Struggles: Europe & Africa

By , 28 October 2005

Europe

Power outages, gas lines, hunger fuel Floridians’ anger after Hurricane Wilma

By Kate Randall, 28 October 2005

Four days after Hurricane Wilma hit South Florida, close to 4 million people remain without power and the phone system is largely inoperable. The statewide death toll climbed to 10 on Thursday, and more than 2,900 people remained housed in 25 shelters spread over 11 counties.

Images of El Salvador carnage reprised in light of Iraq war

By Bill Van Auken, 28 October 2005

Over the past several weeks, thousands of people have visited New York City’s International Center of Photography (ICP) for the restaging of an exhibition that the museum presented two decades ago, but which has taken on fresh urgency in the shadow of the ongoing war in Iraq.

The financial imbalances of a “bizarre world”

By Nick Beams, 28 October 2005

How much longer can the imbalances in the world economy continue to grow before they give rise to a major crisis? That is the question being increasingly asked in leading financial, academic and government circles.

Fire kills at least 11 at Amsterdam airport detention centre

By Chris Marsden, 28 October 2005

At least 11 people have died and 15 are in hospital, as a result of a three-hour blaze in a detention centre at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport in the early hours of Thursday, October 27. Police have said the death toll could rise.

Collapse of the Miers nomination: Bush administration bows to the ultra-right

By Patrick Martin, 28 October 2005

The withdrawal of the nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court is a powerful demonstration of the Bush administration’s extraordinary dependence on ultra-right and Christian fundamentalist elements, who enjoy effective veto power over key government decisions.

Indian migrant workers in Oman speak to the WSWS

By Parwini Zora, 28 October 2005

The following interviews with Indian workers employed in Oman were made by WSWS correspondent Parwini Zora during a brief visit to the country last September.

Canada: ex-indépendantiste premier calls for intensified assault on working class

By Keith Jones, 28 October 2005

For A Clear-Eyed Vision of Quebec—the manifesto issued last week by a group of Quebec indépendantiste and federalist leaders—is an unabashed call for a renewed big business offensive against the rights and living standards of working people.

Bush administration seeks legal sanction for torture

By Joseph Kay and Tom Carter, 27 October 2005

On Tuesday, the Washington Post published a front-page article revealing that Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss met with Arizona Senator John McCain last week to urge the modification of a Senate provision banning the US government from carrying out “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” of prisoners in its custody.

Thomas Friedman and Iraq: A bad case of amnesia

By David North, 27 October 2005

Bill Van Auken of the World Socialist Web Site has recently commented on New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman’s reply to readers critical of his support for the United States’ invasion and occupation of Iraq. (See “Friedman on Iraq—the “thinking” behind the New York Times’s debacle”.) Van Auken provided a concise and damning analysis of Friedman’s tortured justification of his endorsement of the war.

US Senate resumes attack on antiwar MP George Galloway

By Julie Hyland, 27 October 2005

British antiwar MP George Galloway has denounced a US Senate subcommittee’s claim that he lied under oath when he rejected assertions that he had received money from the Iraqi oil-for-food programme. He has accused Republican Senator Norm Coleman, chairman of the subcommittee, of mounting a political vendetta.

The German Green Party: open to all offers

By Dietmar Henning, 27 October 2005

For the first time in twenty years, the German Green Party held a national conference under conditions in which it had no representation in either the federal government or any state government. Following last month’s federal elections, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) decided to ditch its Green Party partner in favour of a grand coalition with the conservative Union parties—the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU). The Greens, who emerged from the protest movement of the late 1960s, have been so successful in making their way through the country’s official political institutions that they have made themselves superfluous.

Iraq referendum produces a divisive and illegitimate result

By James Cogan, 27 October 2005

The result of the October 15 referendum in Iraq endorsing the draft constitution will only deepen the catastrophe caused by Washington’s attempt to establish a pro-US client state in the country. According to the Iraqi Electoral Commission, 63 percent of registered voters, or some 10 million people, cast a ballot, with 79 percent supporting the constitution and 21 percent voting no. The breakdown of the figures, however, shows a population that has been bitterly divided along sectarian and ethnic lines by the Bush administration’s policies since the 2003 invasion.

US colleges and universities increase tuition again

By Naomi Spencer, 27 October 2005

On October 18, the College Board released its two annual reports on the rising expense of higher education in the US. Trends in Student Aid is based on data from the 2004-2005 academic year, while Trends in College Pricing includes data from this year. Both reports reveal that the cost of postsecondary education in the US continues to outstrip inflation and lower-income students are being shut out of universities as a result.

US and Britain seek UN backing for action against Syria

By Ann Talbot, 27 October 2005

Events following the publication of the United Nations report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri confirm that the investigation was never more than a pretext for aggressive US and British action against Syria.

Germany’s grand coalition leaders suppress internal party discussion

By Peter Schwarz, 27 October 2005

Germany’s grand coalition is incompatible with democracy. This becomes clearer every day as the haggling and maneuvering around the new government continues.

Sri Lankan SEP holds election meeting in Kandy

By our correspondent, 27 October 2005

Wije Dias, the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) candidate for the November 17 presidential election in Sri Lanka, addressed a public meeting in Kandy as part of his campaign. A cross-section of university students, workers and professionals attended the SEP meeting held in the D.S. Senanayake Public Library Auditorium in the centre of the city. Kandy is in the central hills districts, is one of the island’s largest cities and historically a capital of the Sinhalese kingdoms.

US death toll hits 2,000—grim milestone in a criminal war

By the WSWS Editorial Board, 26 October 2005

The number of US military personnel killed in the Iraq war passed 2,000 Tuesday with the Pentagon’s announcement of three more combat fatalities. This grim milestone is all the more tragic because the lives of these soldiers have been sacrificed in a war based upon lies.

The Birmingham riots: Against racial politics—for class unity

By by Socialist Equality Party (Britain), 26 October 2005

The race riots in the Lozells area of Birmingham are a stark warning of the acute social tensions existing in Britain. At the same time, they confirm the reactionary impact of the type of identity politics promoted by the race relations industry, so-called community leaders and the Labour government.

Sri Lankan presidential election: false promises and the real record on education

By Panini Wijesiriwardena, 26 October 2005

If one knew nothing of the record of the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), one might be amazed at how aggressively their candidates in the November 17 presidential election are competing on public education.

Bush names another “free market” ally of Wall Street to succeed Greenspan at the Federal Reserve

By Kate Randall, 26 October 2005

President Bush on Monday named Ben S. Bernanke to succeed Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, who will step down January 31 after serving as the Fed chief since 1987.

Order broadens surveillance of Internet users

By Mike Ingram, 26 October 2005

In a serious attack on democratic rights, the US government has greatly increased the scope of legislation introduced in 1994, regarding the electronic monitoring of telecommunications providers.

French workers demand justice over asbestos poisoning

By Pierre Mabut, 26 October 2005

A national protest of workers and victims of asbestos poisoning took place October 15 in Paris to demand criminal proceedings against those responsible.

Howard government abandons Australian citizen sentenced to death in Singapore

By Rick Kelly, 26 October 2005

Nguyen Van Tuong, a 25 year-old convicted drug trafficker, is expected to be executed by Singaporean authorities within the next four weeks. The Australian citizen has been abandoned by the Howard government, which has made no genuine effort to save the young man from the hangman’s noose. From the outset of the case, Canberra’s overriding concern has been to maintain good relations with its Asian ally.

PBS film documents Rumsfeld’s role in authorizing torture

By Joanne Laurier, 26 October 2005

The Public Broadcasting Service’s October 18 edition of “Frontline” aired a documentary on US torture of detainees held in American prison camps in Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq. Entitled “The Torture Question,” the report makes clear that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the brutal methods of interrogation used against US prisoners. In a climate where the mass media functions primarily as a White House and Pentagon propaganda tool, the PBS investigation is a positive and refreshing exception.

Friedman on Iraq—the “thinking” behind the New York Times’s debacle

By Bill Van Auken, 25 October 2005

Over the past week, the New York Times has carried pages of self-examination, mea culpas and even sharp criticism in response to the deepening debacle surrounding the case of its senior correspondent, Judith Miller.

Dissent suppressed at Oxford Union

By Ann Talbot, 25 October 2005

The Oxford Union Society is the most famous debating society in the world. It has hosted such controversial figures as Malcom X, who demanded black empowerment “by any means necessary,” and Richard Nixon, who made his first public speech there after Watergate. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams spoke there at a time when UK television was banned from broadcasting his voice, and the Ulster unionist demagogue Reverend Ian Paisley caused an uproar when he denounced Catholicism at the Oxford Union.

Letters from our readers

By , 25 October 2005

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

After the Kashmir earthquake, warnings of a second disaster

By Sarath Kumara, 25 October 2005

Even as the toll following the October 8 earthquake in northern Pakistan and India continues to rise, aid workers are warning of a second disaster. Hundreds of thousands of people are facing the Himalayan winter without shelter or adequate supplies of food, clothing and medicine.

Florida Medicaid privatization plan approved

By Naomi Spencer and Joseph Kay, 25 October 2005

Last week US Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt signed off on a Florida plan that will transform the state’s Medicaid program. The new plan, which will come into effect after receiving final approval from the state legislature, will largely privatize the health care program for the poor and elderly. It will also set caps on state expenditures.

Australia: Damning report on the illegal deportation of Vivian Alvarez

By Mike Head, 25 October 2005

A report by the federal Ombudsman into the unlawful deportation of an Australian citizen, Vivian Alvarez, has provided another revealing glimpse into the regime set up by the Howard government to detain refugees and “suspected” non-citizens.

Workers Struggles: The Americas

By , 25 October 2005

Latin America

BC teachers vote to end strike

By Keith Jones, 25 October 2005

British Columbia’s 40,000 public elementary and secondary school teachers voted last weekend to accept the recommendations of a mediator and end their two-week-long illegal strike.

US military suppresses information on death of contractors in Iraq

By Patrick Martin, 25 October 2005

US military officials in Iraq are suppressing information on an incident last month in a town in the Sunni Triangle in which four American contractors were killed by insurgents and their bodies dragged through the streets, while crowds denounced the US occupation.

Iraqi interior ministry accused of assassinating defence lawyer in Hussein trial

By James Cogan, 25 October 2005

The interior ministry of the pro-US government in Iraq is being directly accused of carrying out the murder of Sadoun Antar Nudsaif al-Janabi, a key defence lawyer in the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven others that began on October 19.

South Africa: nearly one million farmworkers evicted since 1993

By Patrick O’Keeffe, 24 October 2005

A recently released survey revealed that evictions from South African farms have accelerated under the African National Congress (ANC) government. Between 1993 and 2004 a total of 942,303 people were evicted, whereas under the apartheid regime, from 1984 to 1993, 737,114 people were evicted.

UAW-GM deal: a new stage in the corporate assault on American workers

By Barry Grey, 24 October 2005

The agreement announced last week between General Motors and the United Auto Workers union (UAW) sets the stage for an intensified corporate attack on jobs, wages, health benefits and pensions that will affect every section of the American working class.

Rigging accusations surround Iraq referendum result

By James Cogan, 24 October 2005

While no official result has been announced yet in the October 15 referendum on the draft Iraqi constitution, US officials are claiming it was endorsed by the majority of Iraqis. The count, however, is already surrounded by accusations of ballot-rigging and fraud and will to be regarded as illegitimate by wide sections of the Iraqi population.

Orgy of nationalist propaganda follows Chinese manned space flight

By John Chan, 24 October 2005

The Beijing leadership has exploited the return of China’s second manned spacecraft Shenzhou VI to earth last Monday to saturate the media with hymns of praise to the glories of China’s technical and economic achievements.

Washington seizes on UN report to threaten Syria

By Bill Van Auken, 24 October 2005

The Bush administration has seized upon the release of a United Nations report implicating senior Syrian and Lebanese officials in last February’s assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister and billionaire businessman Rafik Hariri as a pretext for escalating its threats against Damascus.

Working class life and other problems

By David Walsh, 24 October 2005

This is the second in a series of articles on the recent Vancouver International Film Festival

Austrian state elections: a clear rebuff of government attacks on social welfare

By Markus Salzmann, 24 October 2005

Regional elections in the Austrian states of Styria and Burgenland on October 2 and 9 resulted in a dramatic loss of support for the conservative and extreme-right parties ruling in Vienna—the Austrian People’s Party (APP) and the Alliance for Austria’s Future (AAF), Jörg Haider’s splinter group from the ultra-right Austrian Freedom Party (FP). The federal opposition, the social democratic Austrian Socialist Party (ASP), was able to claim victory in both states.

Security guards attack striking San Francisco hospital workers

By Don Knowland, 22 October 2005

On October 13, security personnel hired by Sutter California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco physically attacked 200 striking Sutter Hospital workers and their supporters. According to strikers, dozens of security guards began pushing and shoving after strikers confronted a bus of replacement workers. When strikers pushed back, guards beat and kicked them.

US auto union goes to court against its own members

By Jerry Isaacs, 22 October 2005

The degeneration of the American trade unions has long been a repugnant spectacle with tragic consequences for the working class. But the events of the last week in Detroit have underscored a basic rule of thumb: never underestimate how low the labor bureaucracy can descend in its services to corporate America.

Support the Socialist Equality Party in the 2005 Sri Lankan presidential election

By the Socialist Equality Party (Sri Lanka), 22 October 2005

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) calls on workers, young people, intellectuals and housewives to support and participate in our campaign for the November 17 presidential election in Sri Lanka.

Canada: BC Federation of Labour moves to end teachers’ strike

By Keith Jones, 22 October 2005

The executive of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), under pressure from the BC Federation of Labour (BCFL), has “reluctantly” recommended that the province’s 40,000 public elementary and high school teachers vote this weekend to end their two-week-old strike and accept the recommendations of “facilitator” Vince Ready.

Workers Struggles: Asia, Australia and the Pacific

By , 22 October 2005

Chinese workers attacked by company thugs

The new German parliament shows its true face

By Ulrich Rippert, 22 October 2005

The first sitting of Germany’s newly elected parliament (Bundestag) on Tuesday was characteristic. In the morning Norbert Lammert (Christian Democratic Union—CDU), who was elected parliamentary speaker (president) with a large majority, praised in the highest tones this “noble house” as the stronghold and heart of democracy. In the early evening the deputies then went on to make a thoroughly undemocratic decision.

US soldiers caught on film desecrating bodies of Afghans

By Tom Carter, 22 October 2005

Australian television Wednesday broadcast a truly ugly scene: the bodies of two dead individuals, whose names are not yet known, burning side by side in a field with a group of five US soldiers looking on from a few yards away.

Spain: refugees killed, survivors abandoned in Moroccan desert

By Paul Stuart, 22 October 2005

For weeks European television news reports have showed images of bloody and battered migrants attempting to scale the militarized fence separating Morocco from the Spanish colonial outposts of Ceuta and Melilla. Five were shot to death while trying to scale the border fence to get into Ceuta and six more died in “clashes” with Moroccan and Spanish security forces in Melilla.

Workers Struggles: Europe & Africa

By , 21 October 2005

Europe

British Columbia teachers strike in grave danger

By Keith Jones, 21 October 2005

The militant two-week strike that 40,000 British Columbia teachers have mounted against a government-imposed contract, in defiance of a battery of antiunion laws and in defence of public education, is in grave danger.

Spanish court orders arrest of US soldiers for war crime

By Bill Van Auken, 21 October 2005

A Spanish judge issued an international warrant Wednesday calling for the arrest and extradition to Spain of three US Army personnel in connection with the April 8, 2003 killing of television cameraman José Couso in Iraq.

US Senate rejects increase in minimum wage

By Joseph Kay, 21 October 2005

On Wednesday, the US Senate rejected a proposal to raise the national minimum wage from its current level of $5.15 per hour. As a result, it is unlikely that the minimum wage will be raised this year, making 2005 the eighth straight year in which the wage has remained unchanged.

British military investigator found hung in Basra

By Julie Hyland, 21 October 2005

A senior British military police officer in Iraq, Captain Ken Masters, was found hung in his military accommodation in Basra on October 15.

Germany’s new parliament: democratic fig leaf of an authoritarian government

By Ulrich Rippert, 21 October 2005

On Tuesday, the new German parliament (Bundestag) met in constituent session. In its first official business, the 614 deputies elected Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician Norbert Lammert as parliamentary president.

Australia: Privatised road tunnel creates havoc in Sydney

By Rick Kelly, 21 October 2005

One would struggle to conceive of a more compelling demonstration of the incompatibility of the profit system with the most elementary requirements of contemporary mass society than the debacle of Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel project. In the face of a motorists’ boycott of the privately run tunnel, the state Labor government has been thrown into crisis, as public attention has revealed what amounts to nothing less than the plunder of public funds for the benefit of private road and other infrastructure companies.

The Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the Kashmiri earthquake: lessons for the working class

By Wije Dias (Socialist Equality Party presidential candidate in Sri Lanka), 21 October 2005

Around the world people are witnessing a great horror unfolding in northern Pakistan and India. Just 10 months after a tsunami devastated South Asia and two months after Hurricane Katrina swept across the southern states of the US, more than 70,000 people have been killed by a massive earthquake in Kashmir and neighbouring areas.

Letters from our readers

By , 20 October 2005

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

Plans for World Trade Center site in disarray

By Peter Daniels, 20 October 2005

More than four years after the September 11 attacks that destroyed New York City’s World Trade Center and had a devastating impact on the city’s entire downtown business district, plans for the revival of the area are in a state of growing disarray.

German: Interior Minister Schily’s parting shot—a blatant attack on freedom of the press

By Justus Leicht, 20 October 2005

Just prior to terminating his term in office, Germany’s interior minister Otto Schily (Social Democratic Party—SPD) launched another attack on a fundamental democratic right: this time fundamentally challenging the right to a free press. If Schily had his way, every newspaper that uncovers abuses within the state apparatus would have to reckon with police raids of their editorial offices and seizure of their documents, while any journalist who reveals a political scandal has to expect imprisonment.

Bush vows crackdown on immigrant workers

By Bill Van Auken, 20 October 2005

In a transparent bid to placate its right-wing and xenophobic political base, the Bush administration vowed Tuesday to launch a crackdown against undocumented immigrant workers in the United States.

Australia: Leaked “Anti-Terrorism” Bill details draconian police-state plans

By Mike Head, 20 October 2005

A leaked copy of an “in-confidence” draft of the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005 has confirmed the police-state character of the measures being drawn up by the federal Howard government, with support from the Australian state and territory chief ministers. Under the guise of combatting terrorism, the legislation will introduce unprecedented and draconian police and intelligence powers.

Lack of government preparation for flu pandemic

By Barry Mason and Chris Talbot, 20 October 2005

Cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu virus have now been confirmed in poultry in Turkey, Romania and Greece. So far, the virus that is spreading from the Far East, through Russia and into Europe is infecting birds, though more than 100 people working in proximity to infected poultry have caught the flu and at least 63 have died over the last two years. Large-scale culling of domestic birds in Vietnam, China and other countries has failed to stop the spread. A World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman said, “Never before in the history of this disease have so many countries been simultaneously affected, resulting in the loss of so many birds.”

Guantánamo Bay hunger strike enters third month

By Richard Phillips, 20 October 2005

The latest in a series of increasingly determined hunger strikes by Guantánamo prisoners entered its third month last week. The protest began on August 8 and has involved over 150 men, or more than a third of all detainees in the US navy prison.

Legal lynching of Saddam Hussein begins in Iraq

By James Cogan, 19 October 2005

The trial of Saddam Hussein that begins today in Baghdad, under the auspices of the US-created Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) and the US-sponsored Iraqi government, is a legal travesty. No credibility can be given to the prosecution of the former Iraqi head of state by a puppet court and client administration that exist only due to the illegal and predatory invasion of Iraq by US imperialism and the continued presence of more than 150,000 American and other foreign troops.

Indian and Pakistani nuclear ambitions: another barrier to effective earthquake relief

By Kranti Kumara, 19 October 2005

The massive earthquake that devastated parts of Kashmir on Saturday, October 8, 2005, has revealed not only the incompetence and callousness of Indian and Pakistani authorities towards the victims but also a critical deficiency in the collection and usage of accurate spatial earthquake data that, if corrected, could provide critical information in mounting effective post-earthquake relief operations.

New Orleans: school staff face massive cuts in jobs, benefits

By Tom Carter, 19 October 2005

The New Orleans Public School (NOPS) board is moving to break up the city’s public school system and force though massive cuts to the jobs, pay and benefits of its workforce in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Operating behind closed doors, the NOPS board has rushed through long-standing plans to charter all 13 West Bank schools, effectively removing any obligations to the United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO) union. The union president, Brenda Mitchell, has indicated she supports this move and only cautioned, “I think we’re rushing into this,” according to an October 15 article in the Times-Picayune. The new charter schools will hire new staff for as little pay as possible without any participation from the union. All the seniority rights, job security and negotiated salaries won by the union membership over the years have been thrown out the window. Plans are in the works to charter the East Bank schools as well. The NOPS board also recently decided to drastically slash health-care coverage for those employees who are not currently working, requiring them to pay the first $5,000 to $10,000 of medical bills. Until now, a visit to the doctor’s office costs a NOPS employee $15. The cuts will spell disaster for school employees and their families, the vast majority of whom have already suffered huge financial losses as a result of Katrina. The 7,000 NOPS employees affected by the health-care cuts have been on “Disaster Leave” without pay or benefits (except, until now, health care) since August 29. Since only 26 of those employees have been asked to return to work so far, the cuts, effective December 1, affect nearly all NOPS employees. Some workers have gone without a proper paycheck for work performed before August 29, since the computer systems containing payroll data were damaged in the floods. Alvarez & Marsal, the corporate "turnaround" firm that proposed the gutting of health benefits, has an 18-month contract with the city of New Orleans, dating back to before Katrina, to carry through similar cuts across the board. A&M may be reimbursed $4.2 million for their efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It is estimated the new health-care plan will save the school system $1.7 million a month. The drive to break up the New Orleans public school system is entirely in line with the Bush administration’s priorities for the nation’s schoolchildren. The federal government has recently announced that $20.9 million in federal grant money will be available for Louisiana charter schools only. Federal and state officials are collaborating to take advantage of the disaster in New Orleans to stampede through changes they have sought to implement for years, effectively turning the devastated city into a showcase for their reactionary privatization agenda for education. Even before the hurricane, the New Orleans public schools were in crisis. Louisiana teachers’ pay has been on a downward slide for years, sinking from 43nd in the nation to 46th since 2001, according to a report released October 6 by the American Federation of Teachers. A teacher beginning work in Louisiana before the hurricane could expect to earn on average $29,655 annually. Now, after months without pay or benefits, teachers will return to work to be paid even less with fewer benefits. The move by the board to cut health care is especially cruel when one considers many of the teachers facing the cuts have been personally affected by the hurricane and flooding--now is when they will need their health benefits the most! Without pay, benefits, health care, union rights--or any guarantee that they will be rehired in the new "chartered" system--virtually the entire public school workforce has been cut loose. Callous indifference has also been shown to the 55,000 students who formerly attended New Orleans public schools. Some of the displaced students have been assimilated into other public schools in the area and around the country, but many will go months without attending classes. Up to eight out of thirteen schools are expected to reopen on the West Bank, but the opening date has been pushed back from November 1 to November 17, and may be pushed back again. Schools on the East Bank will open at the earliest in January. Some teachers have also expressed concerns that the schools have not been adequately repaired and cleaned for the returning students and teachers. Toxic mold could be growing in the walls, and playgrounds have not been tested for poisonous substances. Public officials continuously cite a lack of financial resources and the extreme circumstances surrounding the hurricane as justifications for these ruinous transformations. The Bush administration insists that any federal money spent on rebuilding New Orleans be offset by cuts to other public spending. In reality, however, if one day’s worth of the money spent on the war in Iraq were diverted to the stricken city, the 13 West Bank schools could open tomorrow, with raises for the teachers instead of cuts.

Union and NDP leaders conspire to close down British Columbia teachers strike

By our correspondent, 19 October 2005

Hundreds of thousands of workers in British Columbia are poised to join walkouts in the coming days in support of the province’s 40,000 public school teachers and the challenge that they are mounting to a battery of antiunion laws and the BC Liberal government’s agenda of slashing public and social services.

What can be expected from Germany’s grand coalition?

By Peter Schwarz, 19 October 2005

“A cabinet of top political civil servants” was the way journalist Heribert Prantl (Süddeutsche Zeitung,October 14) described the governing team of Germany’s newly formed grand coalition between the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Union parties—the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU).

New York’s subway terror threat—was it a hoax?

By Clare Hurley, 19 October 2005

In a terror alert now widely dismissed as a hoax, New York City subway riders were subjected to increased searches of their belongings, and delayed and interrupted service on major subway lines at rush hour. Police officers, dogs and heavy weapons teams poured into subway and commuter rail stations in the days preceding and including the Columbus Day weekend.

Return of Soares to politics shows depth of Portuguese crisis

By Paul Bond, 19 October 2005

Mario Soares, the 80-year-old founder member of the Portuguese Socialist Party (PSP), has announced his intention to stand in the presidential election next January. Soares played a critical role in the defeat of the Portuguese revolution of 1974. He brings to the election a lifetime of service in rescuing capitalism from movements of the working class. At the same time, his decision to stand at such an advanced age is indicative of the worsening political and economic situation in Portugal.

Iraq and American life

By David Walsh, 19 October 2005

This is the first in a series of articles on the recent Vancouver International Film Festival

Australian government launches major assault on workers’ conditions and rights

By Terry Cook, 19 October 2005

A 68-page booklet, entitled “Workchoices: A new workplace relations system,” released on the weekend of October 8-9 confirms the sweeping attacks on working conditions and workers’ rights at the core of the Howard government’s draconian industrial relations (IR) “reforms”, due to go before parliament later this month.

Northwest Airlines union submits plan to cut 89 percent of members’ jobs for rank-and-file vote

By Cory James and Barry Grey, 18 October 2005

In the latest demonstration of the prostration of the unions before the US corporate wage- and job-cutting offensive, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), on strike against Northwest Airlines since August 20, announced Friday it was submitting the company’s latest contract offer for a membership vote. Under the “offer,” only some 500 of the 4,400 AMFA members at the airline would return to work. The rest of the union workers would receive a mere four weeks of severance pay.

Britain: public meetings discuss Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq war and the struggle for socialism

By Chris Marsden, 18 October 2005

The Socialist Equality Party in Britain held meetings last week in London, Sheffield and Manchester focusing on the political implications of Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. The following is the text of the speech given by Chris Marsden, SEP national secretary and WSWS editorial board member.

Refco collapse in US poses some troubling questions

By Nick Beams, 18 October 2005

The demise of US brokerage firm Refco has sent a tremor through financial circles, posing the question as to whether this is merely a “one off” event caused by circumstances peculiar to the company, or a symptom of bigger problems to come.

Northwest Airlines union submits plan to cut 89 percent of members’ jobs for rank-and-file vote

By Cory James and Barry Grey, 18 October 2005

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Workers Struggles: The Americas

By , 18 October 2005

Latin America

Guantánamo Bay hunger strike enters third month

By Richard Phillips, 18 October 2005

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US auto union in deal with GM to slash health benefits

By Jerry Isaacs, 18 October 2005

General Motors announced Monday that it had reached a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers union (UAW) to drastically reduce the company’s health care costs for hundreds of thousands of hourly workers, retirees and their dependents.