WORLD NOTES

Greek students support strike

Japan:
Peace committee says, ban the Marines.
The Japan Peace Committee on March 4 demanded that the government oppose the planned return to Okinawa of U.S. Marines from Iraq where they were involved in the massacre of civilians in Fallujah, Japan Press Weekly reported.

About 2,200 personnel from the Okinawa-based U.S. 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are expected to return to Okinawa this month, along with about 20 helicopters from the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.

During visits to the Foreign Ministry and Defense Agency, JPC Representative Director Sato Mitsuo and Secretary General Chisaka Jun also demanded that the Futenma base be returned to Japan immediately and unconditionally, and plans for a state-of-the-art sea airport off Nago City be withdrawn.

The JPC representatives told Foreign Ministry officials that under international law, the Marines cannot be allowed to return, and that this is necessary to ensure safety of citizens living near the bases.

Colombia: Reveal plot to kill unionists
Domingo Tovar Arrieta, director of the Human Rights Department of the CUT national trade union federation, last week revealed “a macabre plot to assassinate union leaders” because they have criticized the way talks are being conducted between the government and the right-wing AUC paramilitaries.

Saying he has presented the information to key government officials, Tovar called for international solidarity with Colombian trade unionists.

“We were informed by a trustworthy source that from Realito [location of the talks] a list has been organized of people considered to be an obstacle to the talks,” Tovar said.

The plan was to be carried out by Colombian army personnel, and included a list of specific unionists headed by Tovar, who was identified as “the principal problem.”

“My family has been threatened several times,” he said. “Nearly every day I am followed by cars and motorcycles without license plates and several people surround my residence, asking for me.”

Messages can be sent to: Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno, Embassy of Colombia to the U.S., (202) 387-8338, fax: (202) 232-8643, emwas@colombiaemb.org.

Tanzania: Teachers need respect, support
Low wages, heavy workloads, social disrespect, and HIV/AIDS have helped to diminish a profession once glorified by Tanzania’s first President, Julius Nyerere when he chose the Kiswahili word, mwalimu (teacher) as his title, the UN’s IRIN news service said.

Hakielimu, a local NGO specializing in education, said last month that “Many teachers have minimal material or intellectual support and their salary is often insufficient to maintain them and their families.”

Though all children are expected to be enrolled in school by 2006, Hakielimu said that in many schools, learning is greatly undermined by difficult working conditions for teachers. The NGO called for government action to increase educational services as a priority in the country’s plan to reduce poverty.

Over 140,000 teachers have died of AIDS-related diseases in the last 20 years, resulting in heavier workloads and soaring class sizes for other teachers.

Britain:
Union wins historic equal pay award

The UNISON public workers union has won the biggest-ever equal pay award with North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust, for 1,500 women working at Cumberland Infirmary and at West Cumbria Hospital. Awards to each worker will range from $66,500 to $380,000.

The union waged an eight-year legal struggle. Equal value claims were filed in August 1997 for 14 job classifications, using five different male comparisons. Workers ranging from nurses to office workers and domestics compared their pay and benefits with craftsmen and craft supervisors, laborers and maintenance assistants.

Some women will receive up to 14 years’ difference in pay, and interest of 50 to 60 percent will also be paid.

Afghanistan: Bitter winter kills children

Over 1,000 children may have died last month in a remote, mountainous province of western Afghanistan — felled by respiratory diseases made worse by grave food shortages and extreme cold weather, the London Daily Telegraph said March 2.

A reporter accompanied three Catholic Relief Service (CRS) workers, the first international aid workers to gain access to the Tulak region in Ghor province, which had been completely cut off from the outside world during the harsh winter.

“I have treated 160 patients in just two villages where 14 have died,” said Dr. Wahidullah Habibi, an Afghan doctor with CRS. “They have no food. Several people have frozen to death trying to borrow food from other villages. In another community of 75 families near the 9,000-ft. Janak Pass, villagers said seven children and six adults had died in the past month.

Area leaders and aid workers attributed the tragedy to 25 years of war, seven years of drought, poverty, and lack of medical facilities.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel

(mbechtel @ pww.org).

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