S. Korean civic groups protest base

A coalition of 11 civic groups is opposing a plan to build U.S. military facilities on 100 hectares in Uijeongbu City, South Korea. The Uijeongbu Citizens Committee held a press conference March 31 to protest plans by Washington and Seoul to build more bases in South Korea, and to demand the dismantling of all existing U.S. bases.

Committee members said people living near the U.S. bases suffer greatly increased levels of mental stress, headache, hearing loss and heart problems. They pointed out that the environment has been polluted and farmland ruined by waste water from existing bases, while noise levels force nearby schools to keep their windows shut even in summer and suspend events on school playgrounds. The committee also charged that crime levels rise in the vicinity of the U.S. bases.

Millions of Italian workers strike

Italian workers struck throughout the country April 16 to protest government plans to eliminate regulations requiring employers to take back workers found to have been fired for “unjust causes.” Unions said some 13 million workers stayed away from their jobs in the one-day general strike, while 2 million participated in demonstrations across the country.

Participants included Oscar-winner Robert Benigni, of “Life is Beautiful” fame, who told the crowd at Rome’s Piazza di Popolo, “It’s a grand demonstration. Everything is beautiful!”

Union leaders see ultra-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s proposal to allow employers to provide back pay to unjustly fired workers without taking them back as the start of a serious campaign to undermine workers’ rights.

Japanese group calls for ban on nuclear arms

A three-member delegation of the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Japan Gensuikyo) has presented Japanese people’s signatures on a letter from Gensuikyo to the United Nations and national governments, urging the start of international talks to eliminate nuclear arms.

The delegation arrived in New York on April 8 to attend the 1st Preparatory Committee meeting of the 2005 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at U.N. headquarters. The group also presented committee chair Henrik Salander with a statement from the Japan Confederation of A & H Bomb Sufferers Organizations.

Hungarian elections offer chance for change

The Hungarian Workers Party last week assessed the first round of parliamentary elections as creating “the most important circumstances to change the right-wing conservative government and return to the rules of parliamentary democracy.”

HWP President Gyula Thurmer expressed disappointment that the party’s vote – 120,000 – was not sufficient to gain entry into parliament, but said the party has become more popular, and its leaders have become better known to most of the people. He also said it was a positive sign that the extreme- right Party of Hungarian Life and Justice failed to get into parliament. Thurmer said the HWP will support the Socialist Party candidates in the second round of elections, April 21.

Cubans to help train South African teachers

Later this year 24 Cuban teacher trainers will arrive in South Africa to work for a period of three years. They will help upgrade skills of some 20,000 South African teachers of mathematics and science, especially in rural areas.

Russian oil workers strike

On April 8, over 200 workers at one of the Crimea’s oldest oil extraction and refining enterprises, Neftebitum, struck to demand their wages, which have been delayed for seven months. For a long time the workers’ unpaid bills have mounted at the local food store, and they have not been able to pay for municipal services. The final blow was when one worker, desperate over having no way to support his family, committed suicide.