Dated: 24 Aug 2002
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SOUTH AFRICAN workers, landless labourers, campaigners and activists are preparing a massive demonstration outside the Earth Summit in Johannesburg. Inside the plush corridors of the conference complex in Sandton, surrounded by police and barbed wire, politicians and businessmen will be meeting from Monday.
THE UNITED States has accelerated its military build-up in the Gulf. According to the New York Times the US Pentagon has hired ten cargo ships to transport helicopters, armoured vehicles and other weapons in preparation for an attack on Iraq.
THE GOVERNMENT has scrapped its plans to force owners of private care homes to improve conditions for elderly residents. Instead health secretary Alan Milburn is allowing private homes to stay as they are, no matter what the conditions. Elderly people in private homes often face miserable conditions and neglect.
THE SPATE of disputes involving journalists is accelerating, with strikes and ballots for action this week from London to Yorkshire and Scotland.
AROUND 120 people demonstrated outside the South African embassy in London last week in solidarity with 87 people who went on trial in Johannesburg. The accused included Trevor Ngwane who was interviewed in Socialist Worker last week.
OVER 200 people gathered outside Scotland's national football stadium, Hampden Park, in Glasgow on Friday of last week to protest at next month's under-21 football match between Scotland and Israel.
AROUND 5,000 members of the civil servants' PCS union in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are preparing to ballot on industrial action.
A RALLY has been called in defence of Phil Billows. He is the Unison union branch secretary at Barts and the Royal London Hospital Trust in east London. Trust bosses suspended Phil from his job over one month ago. Phil has been at the forefront of the fight against the PFI scheme at the hospital trust.
WESTMINSTER council workers are continuing their fight against plans by their Tory council to privatise up to 80 percent of council services. National union officials of their Unison union were due to meet this week to discuss possible escalation of the action. This is a crucial strike which has bosses worried.
AROUND 100 GMB union members are taking strike action at Lupton & Place's two die-casting factories in Burnley. They have already struck for three days and planned a further three-day strike this week. The workers have not had a pay rise for years.
A NATIONAL strike ballot involving all 180,000 postal staff in Britain begins next Tuesday. It has been called by the CWU union in opposition to management plans to launch a joint venture with one of Britain's nastiest multinationals. Bosses want to transfer 4,000 CWU members in the Romec cleaning and maintenance section to a new company 49 percent owned by construction group Balfour Beatty.
AROUND 6,000 workers in Reality call centres, part of the Great Universal Stores (GUS) empire, will be balloted from next Wednesday for strike action over a threat to their jobs. The workers fear their jobs will go as Reality, a home shopping company, is transferring work to call centres in India.
THE COLLEGE lecturers' Natfhe union is pushing the government to fund a 5.5 percent pay rise. That is the average pay rise civil servants have won at the Department for Education and Skills.
DRIVERS ON First North Western trains struck solidly on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, forcing management to seek talks over pay. The action brought services to a standstill across the north west of England. It also boosted drivers on Arriva Trains Merseyside, who have voted overwhelmingly to strike over pay.
ABOUT 1,000 firefighters and their families joined a march in Swansea on Saturday as part of the accelerating national pay campaign. Two days later 400 marched on the Isle of Wight. It was the perfect answer to the chief officer there, who had boasted to local Fire Brigades Union (FBU) officials that they would "never get anyone to turn out for a march on the Isle of Wight".
ANTI-NAZIS scored a victory last weekend in the battle against the British National Party (BNP) and its Red, White and Blue "festival" outside Burnley in Lancashire. The Nazis hoped the police's five-kilometre exclusion zone around the event would prevent them from facing any opposition. But anti-Nazis broke the police ban and gathered opposite the entrance to the Nazis' "festival".
THE BRITISH state, at best, has always had a two-faced attitude towards multiculturalism. On the one hand it likes to trumpet the supposed "tolerance" at the heart of British culture.
MANY HAVE feared that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has lost something of its cutting edge as it has grown ever larger. Yet, as this year's festival approached, we began hearing concerns about the number of shows with 11 September related themes. Most of the criticism was directed at the idea that comedians would make jokes about 9-11.
DAVID BLUNKETT, the home secretary, lied through his teeth to get a refugee family deported at top speed from Britain. That scandal was revealed last week in a Home Office letter about the Ahmadi family, who fled from Afghanistan to Britain last year. The letter was a key piece of evidence used in a court hearing on Tuesday of last week.
HUNDREDS OF health workers packed into a social club in the East End of Glasgow last Friday evening. The celebration had been organised to mark a stunning victory. Over 300 health workers at the city's Glasgow Royal Infirmary took on the multinational firm Sodexho, which runs support services at the hospital, and won.
How Britain created Iraq Britain set up Iraq in 1922. The area had been three separate provinces-Basra, Baghdad and Mosul-which were part of the Ottoman Empire run from Turkey. Britain's rulers wanted the territory after oil reserves were discovered there in the late 19th century. The Anglo-Persian oil company had drilling rights across 500,000 square miles in the region.
ROBERT BROWN has spent 25 years in a British jail for a crime he insists he did not commit. The 45 year old Scot is Britain's longest serving prisoner who is now known to be a victim of a miscarriage of justice. His case was finally referred to the court of appeal this summer, but he was denied bail by Judge Roderick-Evans and it could be a year before his new hearing.
WHAT SHOULD socialists say about the European Union (EU) and the euro? It will be a hot issue if, as seems possible, New Labour calls a referendum before the next general election. Europe helped to tear apart the Tory party. It is causing growing tension inside the Labour Party. But there are many more important reasons to take up the debate.
DOW CHEMICALS is one of George Bush's favourite multinational companies. In June Bush awarded the company the National Medal of Technology. Dow Chemicals now owns a company called Union Carbide. Union Carbide was widely held to be responsible for the worst industrial massacre in history - the Bhopal disaster. The chemical industry is pushing to prevent the introduction of new health and safety laws at next week's Earth Summit.
EVEN AMID the horror of full scale war there exists an obscene taboo. It is the fate of those soldiers who are severely wounded and mutilated. So when Margaret Thatcher ordered a Falklands War victory parade, such casualties were told not to attend.
A CLASSIC Marxist account of religion, The Meek and the Militant by Paul N Siegel, has been reprinted in a special deal for London's socialist bookshop, Bookmarks. It takes as its starting point Marx's famous description of religion as "the sigh of the oppressed, the heart in the heartless world, the opium of the people".
LANGSTON HUGHES was one of the greatest and most popular black US writers of the 20th century. He was one of the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. This was a movement that celebrated black culture and was associated with very left wing politics.
THE EARTH Summit starts in Johannesburg, South Africa, next week. World leaders will talk about tackling poverty, dealing with the environmental crisis and embracing "sustainable development". US president George W Bush is hostile even to making such noises. This could lead some people to think that the summit must contain something good.
PARENTS AND teachers in Hackney have argued for years for a new comprehensive school in Hackney. Instead we were greeted this week with the news in our local paper that 150 local school children have no secondary school places.
SOME PEOPLE who are horrified by the prospect of an attack on Iraq are looking to the United Nations (UN) to stop the slaughter. So one of several parliamentary motions critical of British foreign policy says military action against Iraq "can only be morally justified if it carries a new and specific mandate from the United National Security Council".
ONE DEATH will be forgotten in the commemorations by the New York authorities of the events of 11 September. Jason-Eric Wilson was 16 years old when he killed himself in a homeless shelter in New York two weeks ago. He died tragically after swallowing every pill he could find in his family's room.