Japan: Anti-nuke meet opens

Hundreds of delegates from Japan and 23 other countries along with international and regional organizations gathered in Hiroshima for the Aug. 3 opening of the annual World Conference Against A and H Bombs. Messages from leaders of six countries, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Sweden, were read at the opening session.

The conference, sponsored by the Japan Council Against A and H Bombs, opened on the eve of the anniversary of the Aug. 6, 1945, U.S. atomic bombing of the city, which killed 140,000 by the end of that year and condemned many more to deadly radiation sickness. Participants heard reports on the serious aftermath of the bombing, and calls for universal nuclear disarmament.

The conference will reconvene in Nagasaki on Aug. 7, before the Aug. 9 anniversary of the U.S. bombing of that city.

Liberia: Emergency food airlifted

The UN World Food Program (WFP) has started emergency food flights into the capital, Monrovia, where hundreds of thousands of people are desperate since fighting intensified in mid-July, the WFP said Aug. 3.

The first shipment – half a ton of high energy biscuits providing an emergency ration to about 4,000 people – arrived Aug. 2 from Sierra Leone, and will be followed soon by another 11.5 tons. The biscuits will go to about 100,000 of the city’s most vulnerable residents, including thousands living in temporary camps near the airport.

Earlier, WFP had stocked over 10,000 metric tons of food in Monrovia, but the agency can’t access its stocks since rebels attacked the capital for a third time in mid-July.

WFP is urging the warring parties to agree to a secure humanitarian corridor across the front line so relief supplies can start moving immediately. In a related development, the first contingent of a west African peacekeeping force, 675 soldiers from Nigeria, arrived in Liberia this week.

Britain: Unions shift to left

In 2003, militant left-wing leaderships have been elected in the unions of railway workers (RMT), public services including health workers (UNISON), manufacturing workers (AMICUS), local government employees (GMB) and the big transport and general workers union TGWU, as well as the traindrivers (ASLEF), the journalists and civil service employees unions.

The annual general meetings of these, the biggest of British unions, have been strongly against the right-wing policies of the Blair government and have voted for the left line against privatization of public services, against the Iraq war, and against Blair’s concessions to big business while not defending workers’ rights.

Though some have cut their contributions to the Labor Party, the general position is to fight to regain the party from the Blair clique, which captured control about seven years ago.

Afghanistan: Union-busters help draft laws

Phillip Jennings, head of Union Network International, this week called on the International Labor Organization to explain how a union-busting law firm was handed a key role in drafting Afghanistan’s post-Taliban labor laws. He urged the ILO to make sure a similar situation does not occur in Iraq.

Workers Online News said the openly anti-union firm, Dechert, has supplied one of the lead lawyers to the Afghanistan Transitional Commercial Law Project, initiated by the Center for International Management Education and the American Bar Association.

Australian Labor Party spokesperson Robert McClelland warned that Afghanistan and potentially Iraq could end up with labor laws containing no effective right to organize and bargain collectively. “Such rights have always been essential to enable working people to raise and maintain their living standards at dignified levels,” he said.

China & Russia: Urge ban on space arms

At the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, China and Russia last week called for a quick start to talks for a treaty banning weapons in outer space. Supporters, including many European and nearly all developing countries, say it is vital that the 1967 treaty banning weapons of mass destruction in outer space not be undermined.

The risk of the weaponization of space is escalating. Since the U.S. withdrew last year from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, no reliable legal agreement bars countries from using outer space for military purposes. The Bush administration’s emphasis on developing space weapons has alarmed countries and organizations around the world.

France: Anti-globalization activist released

Some 200 supporters cheered Jose Bove, French farmer and outspoken critic of free trade and genetically modified (GM) food, as he left prison Aug. 2 after serving one month of a 10-month sentence. Bove, arrested in a dramatic June 22 dawn raid for damaging GM crops, was freed when prosecutors failed to appeal a judge’s decision that he could live at home and work on a nearby farm, which has promised to employ him.

Bove’s arrest was protested by opposition parties, including the Communists, Socialists and Greens. He leads the radical Confederation Paysanne.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel,
international secretary of the Communist Party USA.
She can be reached at cpusainternat@mindspring.com.
William L. Pomeroy contributed to this week’s Notes.