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Middle East: The Humiliation of an Entire People

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February 2002 has undoubtedly been Ariel Sharon's toughest month in power since his overwhelming election victory just over a year ago. A string of Palestinian military successes has created a climate of near panic in the Israeli press.

A large roadside bomb destroyed a Merkava tank, and an officer from the undercover Duvdevan Unit was killed by falling masonry while overseeing the demolition of a Palestinian house. Then six Israeli soldiers were ambushed and killed at a checkpoint and their Palestinian attackers got away. The Israeli army has responded by attempting to batter the Palestinian civilian population into submission.

Between the Lines

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Nestlé and food safety - McDonald's strike victory - Bush and Enron

You've heard of a fly in your soup, but what about a lump of metal in your pickle? Sue Taylor bit on something hard in her Nestlé Branston Pickle, reports Which? magazine. It was a dark metal cube which bore the number 2.5. When she contacted the environmental health office they informed her it was a piece from a vegetable chopping machine. Nestlé argued it had taken all reasonable steps to ensure food safety and avoided prosecution. It did, however, give Sue £30 in compensation.

Milosevic Trial: Sold to the Highest Bidder

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The trial of Slobodan Milosevic opened in The Hague last month to much self righteous acclaim. Commentators were quick to draw comparisons with the trial of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg. Yet far from being a testimony to the moral rectitude of the west, the International Criminal Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is a symbol of its moral duplicity.

The mere fact that this is indeed the first international war crimes tribunal since Nuremberg and Tokyo speaks volumes. Why were there no such tribunals for the US carpet-bombers of North Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, where millions lost their lives? And few commentators saw fit to recall that at Nuremberg the first count on the charge sheet against Nazi leaders was that of planning and waging aggressive war. In 1999 it was Nato that planned and waged aggressive war against Yugoslavia.

Colombia: A War Conceived in Washington

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President Andres Pastrana has announced the end of the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

His latest declaration to the people of Colombia had a ring of deadly finality as he authorised General Fernando Tapias, head of the Colombian Armed Forces, to retake the demilitarised zone with immediate effect.

Between the Lines

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Kodak website dispute - Insurance claims - China and the WTO

Kodak is refusing to honour sales of a £330 camera which it advertised for £100, after thousands of people tried to take advantage of the offer. Disgruntled customers have set up a website which has so far attracted 13,000 visitors. The debacle is similar to the Hoover flights to America scheme which led to thousands of legal claims.

Parliament of the People

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The international movement against capitalist globalisation faces two important tests. The first is the protests against the bosses' jamboree of the World Economic Forum, moved this year from Davos in Switzerland to New York. The second is the World Social Forum (WSF) that meets in Porto Alegre in Brazil between 31 January and 5 February.

Porto Alegre is the capital of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. It first sprang to prominence a year ago, when 13,000 people from 117 countries gathered there to attend the first WSF. A kind of global parliament of the anti-capitalist movement, the WSF throbbed with the life of all the different campaigns and coalitions represented there. A live television link-up allowed representatives of the movement led by Walden Bello to debate - and wipe the floor - with George Soros and other corporate stiffs in Davos.

The Market Abandons New Labour

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Alan Milburn's plan to hand NHS patients to Bupa adds a new intensity to Labour's privatisation plans. However, his party's other market-driven flagships are sinking, stuck in the doldrums or simply failing to leave the dock.

The government has reversed its strategy on university fees, student loans, Railtrack and Education Action Zones. The 'Public-Private Partnerships' for London Underground and British Nuclear Fuels are near to collapse. The same scheme took flight in air traffic control but is currently in slow spiral descent. Adding this to Blunkett's downgrade of cannabis from class B to class C, and his announcement that the hated asylum vouchers are to be scrapped has led many commentators to talk about 'U-turns', and a newer, bolder and more progressive New Labour.

Argentina: The Masses Rise, a Government Collapses

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Protests, strikes and demonstrations by Argentina's workers against cuts and austerity forced the appointment of the fifth president in two weeks, Eduardo Duhalde, at the start of January.

Duhalde replaced Aldolfo Rodriguez Saá who took over at the end of December. Saá was unable to stop the country descending into further crisis. First he announced the government would cease payments on its £106 billion of public debt. This was the largest debt default by any country in history. He maintained a near total freeze on bank withdrawals to prevent a run on the banks by depositors. He also announced the creation of a 'third currency' - the argentino - that would float alongside the pesos and US dollars already in circulation.

Between the Lines

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Capita to process TV licence fees - Harry Potter and Coca Cola - Big increase in US military spending

The contract to process television licence fees has been awarded to Capita, the support services group. However Capita lost its contract with Lambeth council because of its failure to run the housing benefit scheme. Residents in both Lambeth and Westminster have lost their homes because of Capita's inefficiency, and Westminster still has a huge backlog of unprocessed claims.

Argentina: Sparking off a Chain Reaction

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Javier Carles reports from the streets of Argentina.

Tuesday, 18 December
IMF and US rejects financial help to Argentinia's government. Lootings of shops and supermarkets begin in provinces such as Rosario, and quickly spread. The reaction of the De La Rua government is to deny that there is any crisis and that the situation is under control but the looting continues.

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