Dated: 11 Jan 2003
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BRITISH ambassadors were called back to London for a crisis meeting this week. The move was in response to growing panic in the government over global opposition to war on Iraq. Many of the ambassadors are worried that the drive to war is "radicalising" people around the world.
AFTER 31 people were killed in the Ladbroke Grove rail crash in 1999 deputy prime minister John Prescott promised that safety would be the top priority on the railways. Money would be "no object", he said, when it came to installing the new safety system.
"WE'VE WORKED our guts out at this plant and over the years they've made millions from us. Now because they want to make even more money they're throwing us on the streets." That was Andy's angry reaction this week. He is one of 500 workers sacked by Fullarton Computer Industries at Gourock, Inverclyde.
HUNDREDS of delegates were set to gather in London on Saturday for the conference of the Stop the War Coalition. There are now 13 national trade unions affiliated to the coalition as well as many campaigns, and community and student groups. The conference will be a crucial staging post in building the 15 February international day of action.
THE PRESS has suddenly picked up that Tony Blair is going to get a rough ride trying to push his "modernisation" proposals through the health service. The Guardian ran a front page story on New Year's Eve headlined "Pay Rebuff Threatens NHS Reform". It reported the growing opposition to the government's proposed new pay package for health workers, Agenda for Change.
OVER 60 people held a soup kitchen protest last Saturday outside the flats Blair has bought his son Euan in Bristol. It was organised by the Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers Campaign to highlight government policies which will leave refugees on the streets
TALKS BETWEEN the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), local employers and ACAS were due to begin this week. The FBU has called two 48- hour strikes for 28 January and 1 February.
FIREFIGHTER Steve Cracknell is standing for the Socialist Alliance in a council by-election taking place in Haringey, north London, on Thursday 23 January. Steve is the branch secretary of Hornsey fire station which is in the borough.
MEAN BOSSES at a meat factory in Kirkconnell, Dumfriesshire, are docking their workers £1,000 a week for the time they spend in the toilet. Around 200 staff at the Brown Brothers' factory have been issued with smart cards which deduct their pay for the time they're away from the factory floor. "We have to go through a turnstile to the toilet," said one angry worker.
THE MURDER of an Asian taxi driver in Oldham led to an anti-racist demonstration last Saturday through the town centre. Israr Hussain was stabbed to death after picking up a fare two weeks ago. A white man is wanted for questioning. The police have finally logged it as a "racist incident".
AROUND 30 people joined the Anti Nazi League leafleting campaign in the Mixenden ward in Halifax last Sunday and they received a good response. The BNP Nazis are standing a candidate in a council by-election on Thursday 23 January. Some residents said our leaflets were "brilliant" and offered to get some copied for friends and colleagues. Some said they were shocked and frightened when BNP materials came through their doors.
NORWICH BUS services ground to a halt last Sunday as bus drivers in the TGWU union started a seven-day strike. We are protesting against our bosses, First Bus, tearing up an agreement. The strike is hitting services hard. The 350 drivers have struck solidly. The picket lines are vibrant and confident.
A MAJOR public meeting is planed to support the "Anti-racist Three"-Unison union branch officers in Hackney, east London, who have been suspended by their council management. The attack by the New Labour council has set up a very important battle over racism and union rights.
THERE IS a gathering movement against the government's testing of school children. The executive of the largest teachers' union, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), is planning to ballot for a boycott of the SATs tests children in England take at seven and 11.
SOME 400 delegates gathered in Ramallah on 27 December for the World Social Forum on Palestine. Encircled by Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints, Ramallah feels distant from Bethlehem and Jerusalem, let alone the world beyond the West Bank.
HYDERABAD IS a city that is held up as a Third World high-tech success story by champions of globalisation. A myriad of multinational firms have settled here to take advantage of Indian workers' skills. But this week Hyderabad has been home to something very different-the Asian Social Forum (ASF).
THE US has been caught out banging the war drum over North Korea. That threat has provoked such a strong public reaction that the governments of South Korea and Japan, both US allies, have distanced themselves from George Bush. The division of the Korean peninsula into two states is a relic of the Cold War. The US backed the South, while China and Russia at different times supported the North.
A POLITICAL explosion reminiscent of the fall of the Berlin Wall is shaking Cyprus. It has the potential to overcome the tragic division of the island's people along ethnic lines-Turks in a state in the north, Greeks in the south. It could also challenge Greece and Turkey, which, along with former colonial power Britain, have fostered those divisions.
THE CARACAS city police shot dead Oscar Gomez and Jairo Moran on Friday of last week. Their "crime" was to demonstrate in support of the elected government against an upper middle class mob trying to besiege the Venezuelan capital's military barracks.
TALK OF empire is everywhere. Right wing historian Niall Ferguson is presenting a TV series on Channel 4 celebrating the British Empire. American neo-conservatives like Charles Krauthammer openly boast that the US has acquired a global empire since the end of the Cold War.
"TROOPS IN the Philippines have rescued a kidnapped Italian priest who had been held on the southern island of Mindanao for six months. He was kidnapped in October by a gang of bandits called the Pentagon Gang. The military says the group is mainly made up of former members of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Philippine President Arroyo said Father Pierantoni's rescue was a big step towards achieving peace in the troubled southern Philippines. " 'Give them no quarter. Annihilate these criminal gangs. I appeal to the people, to our Muslim brothers, to help us end this scourge of kidnapping,' she said."
POLITICIANS AND pundits have marked the new year with panic over the state of the global economy. They fear that global capitalism could slide into even greater instability, and slump.
THE HORRIFIC killing of two young women in Birmingham on New Year's Eve has sparked a debate-and a moral panic-about gun crime. Newspapers are screaming about "warfare on our streets". They say our inner cities are awash with gun-toting crack cocaine dealers. Politicians and the police line up to point the finger of blame at hip-hop and rap bands.
CLAIM: Gun crime has almost trebled in most cities over the last year. FACT: The number of offences in which firearms were reportedly used rose from 16,000 in 1994 to 19,500 in 2001. The vast majority of these offences involve people mucking about with air rifles. They are offences of vandalism-annoying but not lethal. There is a huge difference in offences where firearms are said to be "used" and those in which firearms actually go off which are much lower.
DONALD RUMSFELD, the US defence secretary, is urging George Bush on to attack Iraq. He demands war because "Iraq has nuclear and chemical weapons capacity". But one of the US's top daily newspapers, the Washington Post, last week underlined Rumsfeld's gross hypocrisy.
FLEXIBILITY is trumpeted by the New Labour government. Flexible working practices, we are told, will benefit both workers, who will be able to spend more time with their families, and bosses, who will gain a happier and more productive workforce. A government study which made headline news last week suggests most workers also want more flexible work.
THE BRITISH government is playing a key role in devising a new world trade agreement that will clear the way for multinationals to grasp even more control. The General Agreement on Trade in Services (Gats) will act as a weapon in the privatisers' armoury.
LAST WEEK'S Socialist Worker outlined the "troubles ahead for New Labour" this year. That issue had not even hit the streets when Tony Blair issued his grim new year message. He spoke of a year of war, recession and insecurity-a far cry from New Labour's 1997 election theme song, "Things Can Only Get Better". The message was devoid of any sense of personal responsibility for what he called the "difficult and dangerous" problems the rest of us face.
"What the fuck do you want?" Those were Joe Strummer's first words to me, backstage at London's ICA in the winter of 1976. I'd been photographing the gig for the New Musical Express, a revelation of the burgeoning punk scene. Born John Mellor in 1952, Joe Strummer, son of a British diplomat, boarding school, art college, cartoonist, artist, busker, musician, lived for a while in Newport.
A MEMORIAL meeting to celebrate the life of Jim Higgins, the former national secretary of the International Socialists, will take place on Saturday 18 January at 2.30pm. The meeting will be held at Caxton House, 129 St John's Way, London (Archway tube). Speakers will include John Palmer and Roger Protz.
WE ORGANISED an anti-war stall in Milton Keynes on the Saturday before Christmas. People were queuing up to sign the Stop the War petition. Among those queuing to sign were five British soldiers.
CALL ME cynical if you want, but I am not easily convinced by claims from a bizarre cult led by a former racing car driver who says he has been visited by extraterrestrials. I become more sceptical when this cult explain they have cloned a human, and say it is linked to their belief that humans originated when extraterrestrials cloned themselves.
TO JUSTIFY war in Afghanistan George Bush and Tony Blair claimed they would liberate the country's women. They even wheeled out their respective wives, Laura Bush and Cherie Blair, to talk about how the war would end the oppression that Afghan women suffered. Yet a new report by the Human Rights Watch organisation reveals that Afghan women are now suffering mounting abuses and restrictions on their rights. "Women and girls are still being abused, harassed and threatened across Afghanistan, often by government and officials," says report author Zama Coursen-Neff.