Global protests to demand freedom for Julian Assange

To mark the sixth anniversary of Julian Assange seeking asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy to avoid extradition to the United States to face espionage charges, protests have been called around the world. Danger to Julian is growing by the day as the new Ecuadorean Government moves to do the bidding of the U.S. and evict Julian from the Embassy. In addition Julian’s physical and mental health is imperilled by his ongoing detention and isolation.

There are now events planned across seven countries and in over twenty locations. The upcoming protests must be the start of an international movement of the working class to demand the Julian is given his freedom as part of a broader campaign against war, censorship and to defend democratic rights! Julian needs to be brought home safely to family and friends in Australia!

UNITED KINGDOM

LONDON

 

June 19th. 6-8 pm rally preceded by a vigil from 11 am. Ecuadorean Embassy, No3 Hans Crescent, Knightbrige :  .WisupActionWebsite.- Facebook event page

AUSTRALIA

SYDNEY

June 17th 1- 3PM Socialist Equality Party Rally, Sydney Town Hall Square. Speakers include John Pilger and James Cogan (SEP National Secretary). Endorsed by Julian Burnside QC and Terry Hicks (father of David Hicks) –Facebook event and website

 

 

vigilpostersydneyJune 19th, 9am – 1pm, British Consulate Gateway Building, 1 Macquarie Place, Sydney – Facebook Event

MELBOURNE

June 19th. 12- 2pm, Outside British Consulate, 90 COllins St, CBD.           Vigil will be attended by Julian’s father, John Shipton who stated “Julian’s total isolation from his bereft children, anxious brothers, sister and parents and worried friends had best, for Julian urgently, end. Bring him home“. Speakers include: Greg Barnes: Advisor to Wikileaks and Julian Assange, James Cogan(SEP National Secretary) and Shirley Shackleton(widow of Balibo 5 Journalist),   Class-conscious website and Facebook event.

 

  June 19th  6- 8pm Solidarity Light Vigil, Melbourne CBD. Bring candles and loved ones to show your support Disarm Facebook Event

BRISBANE

June 19th, Vigil 4-6PM, Ann Street Shrine of Remembrance, Ann Street, Brisbane City Centre (opposite Central Station) Facebook event page

PERTH

June 19th 12PM-2PM Forrest Chase Facebook Event Page

ADELAIDE

adelaide vigilSunday 17th June 1PM (77-91 Rundle Mall)

INDIA

TAMIL NADU

June 19th, 5PM Siriperumbudur bus terminal, Tamil Nadu – Supporters of the ICFI. Details on the ICFI/WSWS Supporters INdia

 

IRELAND

DUBLIN

JUNE 19TH. 6-8 PM BRITISH EMBASSY, 29 Merrion Road, Ballsbridge : Speakers Mariead Maguire,Nobel Peace Laurete, Clare Daly TD,Mick Wallace TD, * More speakers & musicians to be confirmed.

NEW ZEALAND

WELLINGTON

June 19th, 12-4PM:
12 Noon Australian High Commission (72 Hobson St) Then march to:
1.15 U.S. Embassy (29 Fitzherbert Terrace Thorndon) Then march to:
2.30 pm British High Commision (44 hill St)
Facebook Event

SRI LANKA

COLUMBO

June 19th, 4PM, Fort Railway Station in central Colombo – Socialist Equality Party protest. Details on World Socialist Website

SWITZERLAND / UNITED NATIONS

GENEVA

 June 19th, 10.30 AM Human Rights Council Meeting, Palace of Nations, Geneva. Meeting on Wikileaks and Julian Assange and the future of rights and freedoms in the West

UNITED STATES

BOSTON

 June 17th, 12 PM : Parkman Bandstand, BostonFacebook Event

LOS ANGELES

June 19th 2-8 PM – U.K. and Australian Consulate, 2029 Century Park East, LA CONSULATE, L.A Facebook Event

NEW YORK CITY

    June 19th 2pm- 8pm – UK Consulate, 845 Third Av, btwn 51st & 52d, Manhattan.  Bring brollies & banners. Contact @beaucoupmorceau on Twitter

PHOENIX

June 21st, 5 -6.30 PM, British Consulate, Phoenix,2425 East Camelback Road, Phoenix Arizona Facebook event page

SAN FRANSCISCO

        June 19th, 4-6 PM, British Consulate, 1 Sansome St, San Francisco

SAN DIEGO

   June 19th, 2-8 PM,  Balboa Park by Lily Pond

WASHINGTON D.C.

June 19th, 2-8 PM, British Embassy, 3100 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington DC       Facebook Event

 

 

 June 19th, 11 AM Lafayette Park opposite the Whitehouse. Speakers : Ray McGovern Marsha Coleman Adebayo Margaret Flowers Medea Benjamin Kevin Zeese Angel Fox Lee Stranahan Statement by Kevin Zeese and Event Page

AUSTIN

  June 19th – Meet up to fly banners over bridges on freeways demanding freedom for Julian. Contact Kara on Twitter @LowHangingRuby for details about how to get involved.

CHICAGO

June 19th – Meet up to fly banners over bridges on freeways demanding freedom for Julian. Contact Veronica on Twitter @whaleswarrior for details about how to get involved.

MAP OF GLOBAL FREE ASSANGE VIGILS

OTHER CITIES

If you are planning to host or know of any other cities who wish to participate in the June 19th actions for Julian, they are being coordinated through the Free Julian Assange at U.K and U.S. Embassies Worldwide Facebook page or send a message direct to the Class-conscious website via our Contact page. Like wise if you have additional details of speakers etc about already listed events, please pass that on too.




Upcoming Australian protests demanding freedom for Julian Assange!

Julian Assange is now in immediate danger. He is trapped in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. The Ecuadorean Government of Lenin Moreno has blocked all visitors except his lawyers and all  communication with the outside world. The Ecuadorean Government has made it clear they want Julian out of the Embassy as soon as possible. June 19th marks the sixth year anniversary of Julian fleeing into the Embassy to avoid arrest and likely extradition to the United States to face Espionage charges.There is a conspiracy by the Imperialist powers including Britain, the United States and Julian’s home country of Australia to railroad him into prison or death as a punishment for his fearless commitment to exposing the crimes of the powerful.

This threat to Julian must be met by a powerful response from the working class to demand his immediate freedom and protection from extradition to the United States. The World Socialist Website sums up why this struggle is so vital:

This movement by masses of workers against inequality, oppression and class exploitation is, by its very logic, bound up with the fight to defend democratic rights and the struggle against war.The recent strike wave by teachers in the US has demonstrated that access to the Internet and the exchange of information is a critical condition for the development of the class struggle. It is not only that the working class is important to the defense of democratic rights, but democratic rights are vital to the working class! In order to organize and take forward their struggles, workers must be able to freely communicate, express their views, and, most importantly of all, know the truth. This connection must be made conscious, and thus the basis for a struggle.” – The working class must mobilize to free Julian Assange!- World Socialist Website May 30th 2018

Protests have been called around the globe around the anniversary of Julian entering the Embassy including in London, Ireland and the United States.

Protests in Australia are especially important as Julian is still an Australian citizen. In 2012 the Gillard ALP Government labelled Wikileaks actions as “illegal” as pledged to cooperate with moves to have Assange prosecuted in the U.S. The Turnbull Government has done nothing to fight for Assange’s rights as a persecuted Australian. Julian must be brought home safely by the Australian Government.

Details of Australian protests are provided below:

Upcoming Rallies and protests in Australia

SYDNEY

Sunday, June 17th 1-3 PM, Socialist Equality Party Rally, Sydney Town Hall Square : Speakers include John Pilger and James Cogan SEP National Secretary. Endorsed by Julian Burnside QC and Terry Hicks (Father of David Hicks), Chris Hedges (Pullitzer Prizing winner Journalist), Professor Stuart Rees Facebook event and website

 

vigilpostersydney Tuesday June 19th 9AM – 1PM British Consulate Gateway Building, 1 Macquarie Place, Sydney – Facebook Event

MELBOURNE

Vigil outside British Consulate,  – Tuesday 19th 12-2PM.: Vigil will be attended by Julian’s father, John Shipton and other young member of Julian’s family will be in attendance. Julian is totally isolated from his friends and family whilst trapped in the Ecuadorean Embassy.

Speakers include :

Greg Barnes :
Greg is a distinguished Australian Barrister and political figure who is a  advisor for both Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Here is a link to a recent article he wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald on Assange. 

James Cogan: National Secretary of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP):The Socialist Equality are playing a leading role in the campaign to defend Julian Assange and fight internet censorship. They have also called protests in Sydney, Tamil Nadu and Columbo and are publishing many articles on the campaign on the World Socialist Website.
Class-conscious website and Facebook event.

Shirley Shackleton
:whose journalist husband Greg was murdered by Indonesian forces in Balibo on the eve of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. Shirley fought for decades for the East Timorese and against the Australian government’s cover up of her husband’s murder (& four other journalists).

Solidarity Light Vigil, Melbourne CBD – Tuesday 19th 6-8 PM Bring candles and loved ones to show support. Disarrm Facebook Event

BRISBANE

Vigil 4-6PM – June 19th, Ann Street Shrine of Remembrance, Ann Street, Brisbane City Centre (opposite Central Station) Facebook event

PERTH

June 19th 12PM-2PM Forrest Chase : Facebook Event Page

ADELAIDE

adelaide vigil Sunday 17th June 1PM (77-91 Rundle Mall)

OTHER CITIES

If you are planning to host or know of any other cities who wish to participate in the June 19th actions for Julian, they are being coordinated through the Free Julian Assange at U.K and U.S. Embassies Worldwide Facebook page or send a message direct to the Class-conscious website via our Contact page. Like wise if you have additional details of speakers etc about already listed events, please pass that on too.




Release Julian Assange! – Melbourne Solidarity Vigil

Join us on Tuesday June 19th in a solidarity vigil outside the British Consulate in Melbourne to demand the immediate release of Julian Assange. This day marks the sixth anniversary of Julian Assange being trapped within the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Julian sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid life in prison or worse at the hands of the U.S. Government for exposing their crimes.

Conditions are rapidly worsening for Julian. Since March 29th, the new Government of Ecuador has kept Julian in virtual solitary confinement, blocking all communications and visitors.

Julian’s father, John Shipton and other young member of Julian’s family will be in attendance at the Melbourne Vigl. Julian is totally isolated and cut off from his friends and family. John made the following short statement:

“Julian’s total isolation from his bereft children, anxious brothers, sister and parents and worried friends must stop. Bring him home”

The Ecuadorian Foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa recently stated that the Ecuadorean and British Governments were both moving to “resolve” the situation. It is clear Assange is in imminent danger. Julian faces this threat despite being granted citizenship of Ecuador and the fact he has been charged with no crime.

Julian refuses to leave the Embassy because there is a conspiracy by the UK and U.S. Governments to get him into custody and extradite him to the United States. In the U.S a Federal Grand jury has been laying the ground work to charge him with espionage. The first attempt founded with the dropping of the Swedish investigation into trumped up allegations of sexual assault. However, the UK Government is still vindictively pursuing Assange over breaches of his bail conditions arising from the now dropped investigation. The Australian Government also bears responsibility for Assange’s ongoing persecution. Former Labor PM Julia Gillard in 2010  labelled Wikileaks as “illegal” and declared that Australian authorities were cooperating with the United States to prosecute him. Likewise the Turnbull Government has done nothing to advocate for an Australian citizen facing persecution.

It is obvious that the real “crime” of Assange was his journalistic work with Wikileaks which in 2010 led to the exposure of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and thousands of documents exposing the machinations of the U.S. State Department.

Assange had continued his journalistic work from within the Embassy and has used social media to continue to campaign against censorship and speak on international issues. Wikileaks also famously exposed Democratic Party corruption in 2016 and Hillary Clintons links to Wall St. Now Ecuador is silencing Asssange under pressure from the U.K and U.S. Government.

The attack on Assange’s liberty and freedom of speech is part of a global assault on democratic rights, net neutrality and a drive towards imperialist war. For the ruling class to advance their war plans, prominent anti-war voices must be extinguished. This is why the working class cannot stand by whilst Julian Assange is silenced or extradited. The campaign for his freedom is inseparable from the broader struggle against imperialist war, dictatorship and capitalism.

In Australia, the demand must be made by the working class the Australian Government immediately move to have Julian escorted safely to Australia with a guarantee against extradition to the United States. Julian must be brought home to safety to his family and friends in his home country.

RELEASE JULIAN ASSANGE!    DEFEND DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS!  OPPOSE IMPERIALIST WAR!

MELBOURNE SOLIDARITY VIGIL
TUESDAY  19TH JUNE , 12PM-2PM
Outside British Consulate, 90 Collins St, CBD

Speakers include :

Greg Barnes : Greg is a distinguished Australian Barrister and political figure who is a  advisor for both Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Here is a link to a recent article he wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald on Assange.

James Cogan: National Secretary of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP): The Socialist Equality are playing a leading role in the campaign to defend Julian Assange and fight internet censorship. They have also called protests in Sydney, Tamil Nadu and Columbo and are publishing many articles on the campaign on the World Socialist Website.

Shirley Shackleton:whose journalist husband Greg was murdered by Indonesian forces in Balibo on the eve of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. Shirley fought for decades for the East Timorese and against the Australian government’s cover up of her husband’s murder(& four other journalists).

Protests have now spread to six countries and sixteeen cities. Check out the full list here : Global List of Protests: If you would like your city added message via the Class-conscious contact page or join the Free Julian Assange at UK and US Embassies Worldwide Facebook page where events are being coordinated.

OTHER AUSTRALIAN FREE ASSANGE PROTESTS


June 17th – 1pm, Sydney Town Hall Square. Speakers include John Pilger and James Cogan. National Secretary of the Socialist Equality Party.  Endorsed by Julian Burnside and other prominent Australians.

 

 

  June 19th – Sydney Vigil 9AM – 1PM British Consulate Gateway Building, 1 Macquarie Place

Related Articles from the World Socialist Website

Australian officials visit Julian Assange as campaign to free him expands

Ecuador hints it may hand over Assange to Britain and the US

Why has Ecuador silenced Julian Assange

Wikileaks and whistleblowers condemn new allegations against Julian Assange

 

 

 




Hawaii bans sale of certain sunscreens to protect coral reef; too little, too late.

The Hawaiian State Legislature has moved to ban the sale of certain sunscreens that contain Oxybenzone and Oxinoxate as they have been found to be harmful to reef ecology. The law is awaiting ratification by the state governor before coming into effect in 2021. Hawaii is the first American State to ban the chemicals. While the ban of these sunscreens is a small step in conserving reefs, without tackling the root cause of ocean warming and acidification caused by Climate Change, it is ultimately meaningless. This episode exposes the perfidy of the ruling class as they are unable to mitigate climate change and protect the worlds reefs. 

Concern over Oxybenzone was raised after the publishing of a 2015 study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. They stated, “Oxybenzone is an emerging contaminant of concern as it poses a hazard to coral reef conservation and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.” (1) Oxybenzone is a genotoxicant affecting Coral’s ability to reproduce, it has also been found to slow down the healing process in regeneration (2) and can cause the coral to excrete a hard out layer and ‘entomb’ itself (3). This comes on the back of a 2008 study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science demonstrating that, the presence of oxybenzone can forment viral infections in corals and thereby increase the frequency and severity of coral bleaching events (4). Coral reef in popular tourist areas with low water renewal which allows the concentration of harmful chemicals are worst hit. The chemicals have also been found to adversely affect other marine life in similar ways.

The ban of the sale of certain types of sunscreen in Hawaii is a small step forward, though these contaminants are only one of many threats to coral reefs the world over. Jorg Wiedenmann, head of the Coral Reef Laboratory at the University of Southampton stated that “Banning sunscreen will not solve other problems: for example, temperature anomalies, overfishing, coral predators and the big issue of coastal runoffs that pollute and destroy reefs.”(5)

The admirable actions of the  biologists who have discovered this issue and have pushed it forward are counter posed with the cretinous state actors who are completely impotent in introducing the vast change required to ultimately improve the health of Hawaii’s coral reefs, and those the world over. The two aforementioned studies were published in 2008 and 2015 respectively, yet the legislation to ban these harmful chemicals wont come into place until 2021. The delay is in order to allow sunscreen manufacturers to develop new environmentally friendly products. In other words, the profit interests of a tiny minority take precedence over the protection of the worlds natural riches for future generations.

Hostile to any reform which could affect its profit margins sunscreen manufacturer’s association have employed lobbyists to defend their interests. Despite the fact there are alternative sunscreen products without these harmful chemicals in the UV blockers, they have been warning of a looming public health crisis if the sale of sunscreens are banned through a rise in skin cancer! (6,7) 

Banning the presence of sunscreens that contain harmful chemicals to coral reefs is a small part of the puzzle in saving the world’s reefs, but the overwhelming focus should be in mitigating anthropogenic climate change as much as possible. The world is set for a 2 degree rise in temperatures, with a worst case scenario in a 5 degree rise which would be catastrophic for the world’s reefs. The difficulty and opposition to this small reform is an indication of the impotence of the ruling classes in averting the degradation and in worst case scenario, the possible complete loss of Coral reefs through mass extinction.

Though the proposed laws in Hawaii have produced a great deal of excitement in the bourgeoise and state press, we are more subdued. Our perspective can be summed up through this succinct metaphor from Rosa Luxemburg, on the prospect for the reform of capitalism she said:

“No medicinal herbs can grow in the dirt of capitalist society which can help cure capitalist anarchy.” (8)

References

1. Environmental contamination and toxicology: Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7

2. Chemistry world: Hawaii set for first ever ban on two sunscreen ingredients. 
https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/hawaii-set-for-first-ever-ban-on-two-sunscreen-ingredients/3009002.article

3. Live Science: Hawaii is banning sunscreens to protect Corals. But what about your skin?
https://www.livescience.com/62494-sunscreen-kills-coral-reefs.html

4. National Institute of Environmental Health Science: Sunscreen cause coral bleaching by promoting viral infections
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291018/

5. Nature: Hawaii seeks to ban unfriendly sunscreen  https://www.nature.com/news/hawaii-seeks-to-ban-reef-unfriendly-sunscreen-
1.21332

6. Consumer Healthcare Products Association: Statement from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association regarding Hawaii Suncreen
https://www.chpa.org/SunscreenBan2018.aspx

7. Personal care council: Statement by Alexandra Kowcz, Chief Scientist Personal Care Products Council on the Sunscreen Ban in Hawaii https://www.personalcarecouncil.org/newsroom/On-the-Sunscreen-Ban-in-Hawaii%20

8. Rosa Luxemburg: Speech to the Stuttgart Congress, 1898
https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1898/10/04.html




Taiping Island: A Concerto of Marine Life in the South China Sea: An exercise in science, beauty and propaganda

Taiping Island: A Concerto of Marine Life in the South China Sea documents the array of marine life around Taiping Island, part of the Spratly island chain and the largest natural island in the South China Sea. The 18 minute long documentary emerged following a one year research project commissioned by Taiwan’s fisheries agency in conjunction with Academia Sinicia Biodiversity research centre and underwater film maker Kuo Tao-jen (郭道仁). The beauty of the filming and natural wonders shown is contrasted with the crudity of the nationalist propaganda underlying the film that serves to justify Taiwan’s claim to the Island in the contentious waters of the South China Sea.

The reefs around the island have been called a biodiversity hot spot, so much so that during the survey 90 new species were discovered with 35 new species of seaweed, 46 new species of Coral, and 9 new species of large invertibrates.

The underwater film is very beautiful as it is sumptuously edited so that the fish almost seemed to be dancing in fine choreography to the classical music of Vivaldi’s four seasons and the blue Danube by Strauss that accompanies the images. The editing to accentuate the ‘dancing’ of the marine life is well executed. Our narrator states in the film: ”The arena of coral reefs showcase all types of live performances put on by creatures of incredible beauty. Species of all colours, patterns, forms and sizes form a symphony orchestra playing out the concerto of life. Composed of evolutionary rhythm and melody that transcends through borders, time and space”. The outcome is a spectacular foray into the majesty of the reefs surrounding this remote island, it is a visually stunning film.

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After the beauty of the reef is revealed and discussed, the tone of the documentary abruptly changes and there is a great degree of self-aggrandisement on the long historical connections between Taiwan and the Island and the role of the Taiwanese military presence in conservation work removing ghost nets from the ocean, and their humanitarian marine rescue operations.

All well and good but one senses that this documentary is little more than a pillar in a charm offensive as the Taiwanese ruling class try create a moral case for their disputed claim in the South China Sea so that they may stake exclusive economic rights over the oceans vast petroleum, mineral and fishing resources along with strategic control over important shipping lanes.

The marine boundaries of the South China Sea are currently contested by China, Taiwan, Phillipines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia as they each seek to re draw national lines in their own interest for control of energy, raw materials and other sources of profit. Taiping Island (known internationally also as Itu Aba Island), even has has its status as an island disputed. In the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration in the case brought by the Phillipines ruled it was a “rock” under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea and therefore Taiwan could not claim a 200 nautical mile economic zone around it. Taiwan rejected this ruling but it explains their determination to present themselves as the benign and rightful occupiers of this beautiful location.  

Under Washington’s long term Pivot to Asia strategy, along with the military encirclement and an economic offensive, there is also a diplomatic ‘front’ as US intrigues seek to ratchet up regional tensions by stoking long running territorial grievances, supporting opposing claims to weaken Beijing’s sphere of influence.

In addition while the Taiwanese ruling class speak highly of the beauty and importance of protecting the reefs around Taiping, we can call them out for their rank hypocrisy. The island has been home to over $100 million in development in recent years, with the construction of a 1.15 km long airstrip on the tiny island, a large port, lighthouse, hospital, library and perhaps most crucially an array of buildings and roads used to support the permanent basing of a navy garrison. Taiping’s construction work has adversely impacted the ecology of the island though land clearing along with the works required to build and maintain the port in this once pristine area. Clearly Taiwan’s need to cement its sovereignty trump all environmental concerns. 

D6DBEC99-0E8B-4897-8050-D7B4CF29FBE2 The reefs of Taiping Island are not only located within a geostrategic hotspot but they are also threatened by other capitalist pressures. According to Jeng Ming-shiou (鄭明修) project head  and researcher at Academia Sinicia Biodiversity research centre “Climate Change and increasing human activity pose great threats to Itu Aba’s marine life” (1). While Taiping’s surrounding reefs are said to be in excellent condition with an estimated 60 – 80% coral cover as they are largely not affected by coral bleaching, this happy situation will not last.

The grand beauty of the worlds oceans and reefs could soon be completely lost through the mass bleaching associated with unchecked global warming and climate change (2), or the real possibility of a nuclear winter following the exchange of nuclear weapons in the event of WW3 as the world teters on the brink (3, 4), this madness cannot be allowed to continue. The working class of all countries must intervene and unite on the basis of their independent class interest in a common struggle against war and environmental degredation through the the fight against its ultimate source; the economic foundation of society: the capitalist profit system.

“Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression, and violence and enjoy it to the full.” –  Leon Trotsky. (5)

References

1. Taipei Times: Marine documentary released to mark Earth Day
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2018/04/23/2003691832

2. World Socialist Web Site: Book review: Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/31/exti-m31.html

3. World Socialist Web Site: Climate scientist Michael Mills describes the devastation of a nuclear detonation
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/04/27/mills-a27.html

4. World Socialist Web Site: Nuclear winter—the long-suppressed reality of nuclear war
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/01/19/nucl-j19.html

5. Leon Trotsky: The Testament of Trotsky
https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/fi-is/no7/testaments.htm




The Rat Race: A documentary exposing the inadequate state response to vermin and disease in Mumbai

The Rat Race is a 2010 documentary examining the life of a team of night rat catchers working in a government department in Mumbai, India.

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To this documentaries credit it makes serious steps in covering the entirety of the rat catchers existence. It shows their struggles as the students among them try to both work and meet the requirements of their course of study, as they battle to fulfill nightly quotas, their frustration in working conditions as they are displeased with rampant casualisation and the pay cuts, the mundane work, the religious sensibilities of the Hindu population who abhor the killing of animals, their giving up their passions to properly fulfill the requirements of this role, and the suspicions of the wider community as they work at night. It shows the cycle of their working life through the hiring of new recruits and the retirement of another after thirty-seven years on the job.

The men are poorly equipped, going out every night to hunt the rats armed only with a torch, a piece of wire and a stick. They stun the rats by blinding them with their torch before bludgeoning them, they also use traps and poison to a lesser extent, their department is woefully underfunded so they use very primitive means of vermin control. After the Rats have been killed and counted, two-hundred are selected at random to be tested to determine if they have any traces of plague.

The killing of rats is a control implement following a plague in Surat, Gujarat in September 1994. Like the Black Death in Europe it was spread by fleas from rats, it was found in both the pneumonic and bubonic form. The state’s response was woefully inadequate with with no official proper instructions for containment, pandamonium broke out as people fled the epicentre of the outbreak with an estimated half a million internally displaced people. Medicines ran out through panic buying. Through a coordinated international response the plague was eventually contained by mass applications of pesticides and antibiotics. Fifty-three people lost their life in that instance.

The City of Mumbai has only forty-four rat catchers, they do not have the manpower or the proper equipment to do their job properly. The vastly overcrowded conditions without proper sanitation in the shanty towns and slums of Mumbai are conducive to the growth of rat populations and epidemics. Despite the best efforts of the rat catchers under arduous conditions rat populations continue to rise along with Leptospirosis and other associated diseases. There is an estimated 88 million rats in Mumbai, so rather than small scale eradication the key to overcoming the problem of vermin in Mumbai would be to eliminate squalor and massively improve living conditions.

The documentary is admirable for paying much attention to life and times of ordinary people in Mumbai. A major weakness was that it doesn’t give enough time to explain the history of the outbreak of disease throughout India, nor does it spend much time discussing the poor sanitation that is the ultimate cause for the spread of vermin and disease in Mumbai. The film is an exposure of a pathetic vermin control program that borders on a joke.

According to a recent report by the Stockholm international Peace Research Institute, India just moved from 6th to 5th place for the greatest military spending annually, with a 5.5% increase from 2016 -17 to $63.9 billion. The report states “The Indian Government plans to expand, modernize and enhance the operational capability of its armed forces motivated, at least partially, by tensions with China and Pakistan.” While the ruling class waste a tremendous amount of money preparing for war, the working class is forced to live in poverty and squalor. The old maxim runs true; imperialist war abroad is always accompanied by the imposition of austerity measures at home. The ruling class give a blank cheque for the military, yet there are no funds for rodent control, sanitation and other essential social programs. This social crime must not be allowed to continue, the capitalist economic system that gives rise to such transgressions against humanity must be abolished.

Further reading

World Socialist Web Site, Global military spending at record $1.7 trillion

 

 

 

 

 




127 killed in India’s deadliest dust storm yet.

Wednesday night a massive dust storm converged over northwest India leaving 127 dead 200 injured, this catastrophe was the ‘perfect storm’ as a number of weather systems coalesced to produce a chain of thunderstorms over a large area, many people were either injured or killed as the intensity of the storm damaged buildings.

The storm originated in the desert area of North West India, as higher surface temperatures combined with a low level cyclonic movement took warm air into the atmosphere, taking with it dust and sand, creating a dust storm. In this instance it met with a western disturbance over Eastern Europe and high winds from the Bay of Bengal which allowed the updraught of warm air to take up moisture into the atmosphere to form dense thunderclouds.

As the warm air entered the atmosphere the water condensed to form dense clouds and rain.  As it rained it created a downdraught of wind, the downdraught can create another updraught, this created a chain of thunderstorms as they were continuously formed in a positive feedback loop. The presence of warm dry air through the dust storm may have made the storm more powerful.

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“It can be called a freak incident,” Mahesh Palawat, chief meteorologist at Skymet Weather, a private forecaster, said. “Dust storms are usually not this intense nor do these systems cover such a large area.” (1)

“In past years, fatalities from the dust storms rarely caused more than a dozen fatalities. According to local reports, many of the fatalities occurred when intense wind knocked over large structures, killing or injuring those in its way.” (2)

The storm produced strong downbursts of wind which are responsible for most of the the death and destruction and the strong winds toppled buildings and walls as wind speeds are estimated to have been as high as 132 km per hour.

“Indian officials say the main reason the most recent dust storms were so catastrophic was because of the time when the strongest winds hit – at night, as people were sleeping indoors. Most of 125 reported deaths were because of the collapse of buildings and other structures.” (3)

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Some villages had little or no warning of the impending extreme weather event and many areas are now without electricity and water following the disaster.

This latest episode follows that of another dust storm on the 11th April that killed 19, and left the Taj Mahal damaged as two minarets fell in strong winds.

The dust storm that hit can be linked to climate change, as the rising temperatures and instability produced by global warming is causing extreme weather events to become more frequent and severe, this storm was no exception.

“Local thunderstorm formation is impacted by temperatures,” Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, said. “All over India, temperatures are abnormally high, even if they are not the drivers, they will aggravate the situation by causing the atmosphere to become more unstable“ (1)

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The death toll was highest in the rural areas of India, which incidentally are also among the poorest. The ‘official’  poverty rate in India at the time of the latest figures is 29.5% with some 363 million living on less than $2.40 per day. The greatest cause of death and injury in this storm was engulfment and crush injury through falling walls and roofs through lightning strikes, high winds along with falling trees and other debris. The death toll would not be as high if it weren’t for those are forced to live in substandard housing through poverty.

If it could be said to be a ‘perfect storm’ through the convergence of various weather systems, we would be remiss to ignore the social conditions which are to blame for this mass suffering, the convergence of social factors, namely anthropogenic climate change and lack of access to decent housing through absolute poverty.

References

1. Hindustan Times: This is what caused the ‘freak’ dust storm that killed more than 100 in North, West India
https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/this-is-what-caused-the-freak-storm-that-killed-more-than-100-people-in-north-west-india/story-BjWBFrQeQj0TU2uNuc8MyL.html

2. National Geographic: Why this dust storm in India turned deadly
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/05/india-dust-storm-wind-fatalities-science-spd/

3. BBC: Why were India’s dust storms so deadly?
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-44010413




The invisible empire : Why the United States is not seen as a “foreign” threat?

The mainstream press in Australia is replete with dramatic headlines warning of “foreign interference” in our political system and “foreign” powers in our region. These reports almost invariably refer to China. However, in Orwellian fashion the United States, the reckless military power destabilizing the Asia Pacific and constantly interfering in Australian Federal politics is rendered invisible. This is because the Australian ruling class is fully lined up behind the United States imperialist plans for war.

In April Fairfax press quoted anonymous security sources to whip up fears that China was planning to build a military base on the South Pacific Island of Vanuatu. This led Australian Prime Minister to declare “We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific Island countries and neighbours of ours”.

Global Map of U.S. military bases (Source: Base Nation)

This is a statement of extraordinary duplicity. The Asia Pacific is currently virtually over run with “foreign bases” belonging to dominate imperialist power, the United States. As John Pilger has stated “China is surrounded by 400 US military bases in what one strategist describes as a ‘noose’. Many of these bases are on China’s doorstep, armed with missiles, naval battle groups, nuclear bombers, drones. US naval warships patrol just outside Chinese waters.” The U.S. has over 800 to 1000 foreign  military bases globally.

In addition the United States is rapidly building up its security alliances with countries surrounding China, most notably Australia, India and Japan. It is also increasing basing arrangements with Singapore, Thailand,  Vietnam and the Philippines. This all flows from the “Pivot to Asia” announced by Obama in 2011 which involves moving sixty percent of American naval and air power to the region by 2020.

Obama and Gillard addressing troops in Darwin 2011

The United States has developed the Air Sea Battle Plan to defeat China in a war which would involve a massive military assault on mainland China followed by a blockade to cut imports to China by sea. The United States has also been threatening to launch “fire and fury” on the border with China in North Korea for months. In January in its 2018 National Defence Strategy, the U.S. labelled China a “strategic competitor” and that America had to “prioritize preparedness for war.”

Map of U.S. bases in Australia {Source: R Tanter and J Waddingham)

Australia is intimately bound up in the war plans of this “foreign power”. Thousands of marines now rotate through Darwin. Crucial communications bases are located at the North West Cape in W.A. and the Pine Gap base near Alice Springs. PIne Gap is fully integrated into the U.S. drone, missile and nuclear war machine.

In comparison , how does the threat from the “foreign power” of China measure up. It is true that largely in response to the U.S. “pivot”, China has also built up its military presence in the South China Sea. However China currently has one, that’s right, one foreign military base in the world, located in Djibouti, in Africa.

Global military spending 2016

How does Chinese military spending compare to the U.S.? Again whilst Chinese military spending has increased in recent years, it is still approximately only a third of the $700 billion U.S. military budget for 2018.  The graph to the left based on 2016 figures gives an indication of how massive the U.S. budget is compared to rest of the world.

So why is Turnbull and the Australian media so unconcerned about all of this “foreign” American military activity in our region. Ever since World War 2, the Australian ruling class has looked to its security alliance with the United States to advance its own regional imperialist agenda. Whilst the Pacific has been seen as an “American Lake”, John Howard referred to the South Pacific as “our patch”. Australian corporations have profited from exploiting the resources of the seas and states to our North. We have sent troops and police to East Timor, the Solomon Islands and PNG in recent years to ensure this continues. Australian defence spending is already the 13th highest in the world and scheduled to rise dramatically. The rise of China economically has threatened not just the domination of the United States but also Australia’s domination of its “patch” too.

Whilst the Australian economy depends on exports to China, the United States is still the largest source of foreign investment in Australia. In 2016 U.S. foreign investment was ten times larger than Chinese investment, making up 27% of the total. Likewise in 2016 the United States was by far the largest destination for Australian foreign investment, making up 28% of the total.

Therefore the Australian ruling class, despite its economic dependence on China, is still very much committed to the Imperialist project of the United States. The interests of the Australian ruling class still ultimately rely on the domination of Wall St over the planet. This is the ultimate reason why U.S. bases are not designated as “foreign” threats whilst Chinese bases are a threat to Australia’s “national interests” and a “rule based order”. This is the reason that the Australian ruling class is lining up behind the drive to war against China by the United States.

There is a similar ongoing hysteria in the Australian press and Parliament about “foreign interference” into our political system. Once again “foreign” is simply code for alleged Chinese interference.  The Australian Parliament is currently preparing to pass two new draconian “foreign interference” bills.

As the WSWS recently stated: “Unprecedented new “foreign interference” offences will be created, for example, with prison terms of up to 20 years for working with a foreign or international organisation to “influence a political or governmental process. The bills also impose far-reaching surveillance over political groups, via intrusive registration regimes, and contain a range of new or expanded offences, such as “treachery,” involving up to life imprisonment, for activity regarded as a threat to any Australian war-related activities.”

The level of hypocrisy used by Australian politicians when discussing this issue is extreme. For example ABC radio recently interviewed Federal ALP politician, Penny Wong, in Washington. She stated “ I’m here as a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and also will be doing a number of side meetings as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. A key focus of the visit is foreign influence, and obviously we have legislation that is being considered by the committee in Australia.” The ABC reported that Penny Wong was “in the United States meeting members of Congress as well as officials from the FBI and CIA.”.

So just to clarify, Penny Wong was in a foreign country meeting foreign politicians and foreign spies and police, to learn about stopping foreign interference in Australian politics!

U.S. interference in Australian politics is hardly a new thing either with the U.S.state playing a role in the overthrow of both the Whitlam and Rudd Governments.

It is important to state that I am not advocating a more “independent” Australian foreign policy under a capitalist government. A breaking with the U.S. alliance under a capitalist framework would only lead to a massive increase in Australia’s already bloated defence spending. This would be required to defend the interests of Australian corporations in the region without assistance from the U.S.

Rather, I endorse the following perspective  as adopted at the recent Socialist Equality Party 2018 conference

“The SEP’s perspective, as part of the fight for world socialism, is to bring to power a workers’ government that will implement far-reaching socialist measures. A workers’ government will repudiate the US alliance, along with all basing and access agreements; repeal all anti-democratic laws, including the anti-terror and “foreign interference” legislation; and dismantle the entire military-police-intelligence apparatus. It will end the oppression of the peoples of Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the South Pacific island states by Australian imperialism and actively assist the working class in Asia and the world to put an end to the profit system.”