Report says Afghan food airdrops ineffective
A report by retired U.S. Special Forces officers concluded that the airdrops of food to Afghan civilians in Fall 2001 were not winning the Afghan people’s trust, and therefore were “in direct opposition to U.S. military goals.” The retired officers studied drops during a two-week period in November in parts of northern Afghanistan, for a report issued by Partners International Foundation, a non-profit organization.

The retired officers reported that the bright yellow plastic-wrapped meals burst on impact and subsequently spoiled because they were dropped from too high an altitude. It also noted that many meals were sold at a profit by local warlords, and thus largely failed to reach the hungry families for whom they were intended. Others, attracted by the bright packaging, strayed into minefields when they confused the packets with similar-appearing cluster bombs.

Indian gov’t workers plan nationwide strike
State government employees all over India will observe a National Protest Day on April 16 against privatization, downsizing, retrenchment, stopping of economic benefits and the government’s anti-people economic policies, generally. They will join Public Sector and Financial Sector workers who have already declared a nationwide strike for that day.

The state government employees’ federation said that by pursuing neo-liberal globalization under the dictates of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, India’s government is “following a disastrous economic policy of outright sale of the national assets through privatization and handing over the economy to the multinational corporations for unhindered plunder.”

Teachers demand better pay, working conditions
Delegates to the annual conference of the British teachers’ union, ATL, last week unanimously supported a call for radical reform of teachers’ contracts. Two sister unions were to take up the issue at their conferences this week. The possibility of a job action was cited, if sufficient funding is not available following this summer’s comprehensive spending review.

Teachers are calling for contract guarantees of better pay and limits on time spent in preparation and in the classroom. One delegate accused the government of “following the orders of the World Trade Organization and the General Agreement on Trades in Services agreement, which forces governments to privatize key public services. Our comprehensive education system is to be fragmented and ultimately privatized,” he warned.

Construction to start on new Shanghai harbor
Construction of a deep-water harbor off Shanghai near the mouth of the Yangtze River is expected to start soon. The harbor is the core part of a long-range plan to build Shanghai into a leading international shipping center.

Located in Shengsi County, in the nearby Zhejiang Province, the harbor is planned to have a deepwater area 18 km wide and 15 meters deep, and accommodate over 50 fifth- or sixth-generation containers, nearly doubling Shanghai’s container handling capacity.

The Chinese government announced the plan to build Shanghai into a leading international shipping center in 1995. It is expected that in addition to serving the international shipping industry, the new port will also serve as an outlet to the rest of the world for China’s inland provinces.

Czechs living abroad urged to vote
Elections for the Czech Republic’s Chamber of Deputies will be held June 14 and 15, and Czech citizens 18 and older, living abroad either permanently or temporarily, have the right to vote. Special electoral districts are being created at Czech embassies and consulates.

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) said last week that it is very important to mobilize potential KSCM voters living abroad because the Czech government wants to include the votes of all Czechs living abroad in the results of only one regional constituency (South Moravia), “which could significantly affect the KSCM’s election results in a constituency where our party is in a relatively strong position.”

Czech citizens living abroad must apply in writing to the appropriate embassy or consulate by May 5 – 40 days before Election Day.