Dated: 08 Dec 2001
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George W Bush dropped 10,000 bombs on Afghanistan
New Labour has finally admitted the NHS is in a huge crisis and needs more funding. A row has broken out about how to fund the health service, with talk of raising taxes, and even of a special "health tax". All the politicians shy away from the key way to raise money for health-taxing the rich.
Scientists have shattered a central claim by supporters of genetically modified (GM) crops. A study reported last week in top science journal Nature showed that genes from GM maize, produced by the Monsanto multinational, had contaminated wild maize in Mexico.
The daily massacre of jobs continued last week.
leaders of the CWU postal workers' union have postponed a decision over the timing of a national strike ballot until Monday of next week. On that day the union's postal executive will meet and hear reports on talks about pay and job security. Union insiders suggest that a deal on pay is likely.
Over 3,000 people took part in pickets of Esso petrol stations last weekend to highlight the firm's sabotage of international action on global warming. Over 300 petrol stations were targeted by the Stop Esso campaign with protesters attempting to turn vehicles away from Esso forecourts.
Janitors at schools and education centres in Edinburgh planned to strike on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week over pay. The city council is refusing to pay a nationally agreed irregular hours payment of £20 a week. The money is to compensate workers for their 6am to 6pm days. Pat Rafferty, TGWU official, said, "We have been trying to resolve this issue since May 1999. We offered to move to 7.30am start times but the council rejected this."
Around 350 people attended the Scottish Socialist Party's Socialism 2001 event in Glasgow last weekend. It was lively, informative and exciting with speakers ranging from novelist James Kelman to Tony Higgins from the Scottish Professional Footballers Association.
"In the villages around Kandahar there is a name that provokes horror and fear. It is not Taliban leader Mullah Omar, nor is it Osama Bin Laden. It is Gul Agha, the former Mujahadeen governor of Kandahar, whose tribal militia is backed and advised by the US."
Behind the three month long all-out strike by Benefits Agency and job centre workers lies the crisis which has been created by New Labour's draconian benefits system.
Shock waves rocked the key institutions of global capitalism last weekend. The crash of US-based energy multinational Enron is one of the biggest ever corporate collapses in the history of capitalism.
The scenes of hundreds of dead Taliban soldiers outside the fortress in Mazar-e-Sharif last week showed the brutality of US power. US warplanes bombed the fortress, killing around 400. Then the US allies in the Northern Alliance scavenged from the dead bodies.
The day started at 6.30am for most of the 350 or so homecare workers, organisers and clerks who are employed by Rochdale council. Picket lines throughout the borough were manned before the full light of day on Tuesday of last week.
Workers who print many of Britain's national newspaper titles voted last week to ballot on strikes against job cuts and a pay freeze. It is the first such vote in the national newspaper printing industry since the great defeat of the print unions at Wapping in the 1980s.
Three council by-elections in Burnley during the last two weeks have seen the Nazi BNP build on its general election performance but not yet break through to win a seat. In the latest election in Rosehill ward on Thursday of last week the BNP grabbed 230 votes (19 percent).
Over 150 people packed out the debate on the war in Afghanistan organised by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Stop the War group last week. Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee and writer on the Independent David Aaronovitch presented their pro-war position.
Members of NATFHE, the university and college lecturers' union, were due to strike at Middlesex University in north London on Wednesday of this week over compulsory redundancies.
Workers at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency are voting in a consultative ballot over attacks on pay and conditions.
Around 200 people marched in Northampton recently to demand justice for Abdi Dorre.
Protests are planned this weekend and on Monday in solidarity with the fight against Plan Colombia, the US-backed war in the South American country aimed at smashing resistance to neo-liberal economic policies.
Workers at the huge multinational firm Scottish Power began a two-day strike on Tuesday of this week.
Caledonian Macbrayne (CalMac) ferry crews on the Clyde are planning an indefinite strike from Monday. The action would affect CalMac's services from Ardrossan, Gourock and Wemyss Bay.
Council tenants in Dudley were celebrating this week beating off their Labour council's attempt to privatise their homes. A ballot of tenants in the West Midlands council saw privatisation rejected by 56.2 percent to 43.8 percent, with 70 percent of all eligible tenants voting. This was despite the council's expensive glossy pro-privatisation campaign, and then springing the ballot on people at short notice.
Rail Workers on South West Trains are voting in two strike ballots-over pay and the treatment of union officials. Over 2,000 RMT union members are taking part with the result expected on 17 December.
More than 200 tugboat workers have voted to strike as part of a campaign for better pensions. Members of the TGWU union based in London, Southampton, Liverpool and Felixstowe have backed industrial action.
Ariel Sharon unleashed the full force of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people on Monday of this week. The war criminal who is prime minister of Israel was given the green light for his bloody assault by US president George W Bush. "Israel has a right to defend itself and the president understands that," said Bush's official spokesperson.
They're feeling pretty bullish in the White House and the Pentagon. A few weeks ago Tony Blair was riding high as George W Bush's favourite adviser. But last Sunday's Observer, reporting American plans to extend the war to Iraq, quoted a "European military source" just back from US Central Command HQ in Florida:
As Christmas approaches you may be wondering how you're going to see your parents, grandparents, their friends and cope with all the guesting and hosting. If the thought of it all is getting you down, then spare a thought for George W Bush and his ambassador in London, William S Farish III.
Commentators like Polly Toynbee in the Guardian praised Gordon Brown's pre-budget statement last week for its "admirable next phase of increases for the poor".
The Socialist Alliance in England held its biggest ever conference in London last Saturday. Nearly 700 people came together to discuss how to turn the Socialist Alliance into a more effective, outward looking organisation. The day kicked off with an anti-war rally. There was an enthusiastic reception for guest speaker Gennoro Highore from the left wing Communist Refoundation in Italy.
Top of the list of novels has to be The Constant Gardener by John Le Carré (£6.99). It is a gripping novel, which exposes the murderous activities of profit-hungry giant pharmaceutical companies. Le Carré's novels have got more political in recent years. Particularly relevant today is The Tailor of Panama (£6.99), which shows the viciousness of US imperialism.
Tony Blair and his government have backed US president George Bush's war in Afghanistan to the hilt. But even some sections of New Labour are worried about his plans to spread his war to Iraq, Somalia or any other country the US decides is a "rogue state".
Merseyside Socialist Workers Party members are deeply saddened at the recent death of Kate Rankin, a longstanding member of the party. Kate played a key role as branch secretary for the SWP in Liverpool, holding together and building that branch during the difficult years of the 1980s. Her commitment to revolutionary socialism always shone out.
War against world's poor We are again seeing the big powers trying to sort out the world's problems through military force. More and more countries are on George Bush's list of targets – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, North Korea and others.
"We are The War Criminals Now." That was the headline in both the Independent and Mirror last week above a powerful article by veteran correspondent Robert Fisk. It was one of a string of pieces that described the horror of the capture of a prison near Mazar-e-Sharif by the Northern Alliance, the US and Britain's ally in Afghanistan.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has tried to get the US Senate to accept a known terrorist for a top foreign policy position. Otto Reich topped the list of 18 nominees submitted by Powell last month for the job of Under-Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere.