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Between the Lines

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Bush speech blunders - McDonalds sues complaining customers - US military fixes Star Wars tests

President Bush is making so many blunders in his speeches that the White House is editing them out of official transcripts. Bush has recently called on Americans to volunteer for 4,000 years of public service rather than 4,000 hours. He also said Japan had been an ally 'for a century and a half' instead of half a century.

French Election: Whither France?

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As polls closed after the first round of the French presidential election on 21 April exit polls were expected to confirm that the second round on 5 May would pit the incumbent prime minister, Lionel Jospin, against the outgoing president, Jacques Chirac.

Before the evening was out, however, Jospin had withdrawn from political life, Chirac had achieved the lowest ever score of a standing president and the shocking revelation that he was to face not a Socialist but the fascist candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round brought thousands of protesters onto the streets, sparking a nationwide wave of anti-fascist demonstrations which show no sign of letting up.

Racism: Stopping Them on Sight

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New Labour's Home Secretary David Blunkett has launched a new offensive around the issue of stop and search.

He claims, 'We must respect and tolerate differences but not tolerate unacceptable behaviour.' Behind Blunkett stand the newspaper tabloids and broadsheets with headlines such as 'Surge In Street Crime' and 'Black Gangs Lead Crime Wave'.

Both Blunkett and the press are building up a moral panic. Their comments stem from the false idea that following the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence 'the police are now afraid to stop and search black people', as one Tory put it.

Housing: No Easy Touch

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On 16 April Defend Council Housing (DCH) is organising a 'Case for Council Housing' briefing for MPs at parliament.

Tenants' federations, trade unions and local activists are organising delegations from each area, and contacting their MPs to persuade them to join them at the briefing. Contributors already include an impressive list of tenant reps, MPs, academics and trade unionists. Ucatt, Unison, and the GMB are all supporting the event.

French Elections: A Watershed for the Revolutionary Left

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Whatever the result of the first round of this month's presidential election in France, the poll is certain to confirm the crisis of mainstream politics.

Although the current president, Jacques Chirac, and prime minister Lionel Jospin will probably contest the second round stand-off on 5 May, the election has so far been notable for two things. The first is the general indifference which has greeted the contest between the two frontrunners. Polls have shown that a clear majority of voters see no difference in policy between the Gaullist right winger Chirac and the Socialist Jospin, whose party governs as part of the 'plural left' coalition.

Zimbabwe: Still Living in Limbo

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Zimbabwe was gripped by depression immediately after the recent election results were announced.

For most people the thought of six more years under Mugabe is a death sentence. For the thousands of people still being beaten and killed by Mugabe's 'youth militias' or facing massive food shortages this is not an exaggeration. People walking the streets of the city are starving. Most are surviving on one meal a day, and the prices of basic commodities are set to rise when the government removes price controls.

Between the Lines

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Contaminated steel from World Trade Centre dumped in Asia - Drug Tests on Police - Oxygen in Aeroplanes

More than 30,000 tons of contaminated steel scrap which made up the World Trade Centre have been dumped in south east Asia. The steel, containing asbestos, PCBs, mercury and dioxins, has been unloaded by workers in ports such as Chennai in India by workers with no protective clothing. Two US companies have made millions selling the scrap overseas.

Turkey: A Case of Trial and Error

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Radical academic Noam Chomsky threw the spotlight on Turkey's repressive laws last month when he challenged the Turkish state security court to prosecute him for sedition.

A Turkish publisher had been hauled before the court for printing a translation of Chomsky's writings discussing the repression faced by Kurds in Turkey. In front of the world's press Chomsky argued that if stating this fact was a crime, he and not his publisher should be in the dock.

Political Fund: History in the Making

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An important conference of rank and file trade unionists is set to take place in London on 16 March. Organised by the Socialist Alliance, the conference will bring together shop stewards and union representatives, as well as other trade unionists to debate the issue of the trade union political fund and the financial links between New Labour and the unions. It will also discuss the campaign against privatisation.

So far over 600 trade unionists have registered and organisers are expecting the final number to exceed 1,000. Demand to register has been so great that an overflow room may be needed. There will be delegates from virtually every trade union. Over 55 union branches have already passed motions at either branch or branch committee level to send official delegations. There will also be executive members there from both Unison and Natfhe and the conference is supported by PCS general secretary elect Mark Serwotka.

Asylum: Europe's Number One Fortress

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David Blunkett's white paper on asylum and immigration, 'Secure Borders, Safe Haven', published last month, will lead to further persecution of asylum seekers.

Under the proposals, asylum seekers are to be systematically segregated--they will either be forced to stay in accommodation centres or locked up in detention camps. New arrivals will be sent immediately to 'induction centres', modelled on the controversial Oakington centre near Cambridge, where their claims will be processed. Here already frightened, desperate people will be confronted with an array of immigration officials. They will be obliged to sign a document saying they understand the asylum seeker system.

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