Australia: CP condemns Bali terrorist bombing

In a statement issued Monday, the Communist Party of Australia condemned “in the strongest terms” the terrorist bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali, and conveyed its sympathy to families of all the victims.

“The Bali bombing is yet another event in the intensifying cycle of violence erupting in many countries and cities,” the CPA said. It cited the use of the Sept. 11 tragedy as a pretext to launch the “war on terrorism,” and the subsequent threat of war against Iraq despite the lack of proof Iraq is a threat to other countries or was involved in the Sept. 11 tragedy. “War is just another form of terrorism in which civilians inevitably become the main casualties,” the CPA said.

In the current situation, “a small handful of countries” are forcing other independent states to comply with outside interests and demands, the CPA said. The statement cited the demands made right after the Bali tragedy, that Indonesia “should put its house in order,” ban Islamic organizations and take other measures.

“The cycle of violence can only be broken by abandoning these policies and the unilateral threats of war against Iraq and other countries,” the statement concluded.

Venezuela: Two million march for Chavez

Some 2 million supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez marched and rallied in Caracas Sunday. Demonstrators massed to counter a march last week said by opposition forces to be half that size.

Supporters from all over the country – chanting “Viva Chavez!” and wearing the red, yellow and blue colors of Venezuela’s flag – thronged into Caracas to join the four-mile march, which was led by members of Chavez’ cabinet.

Last week, opponents demanded Chavez resign or call new elections by Oct. 16, or face a general strike on Oct. 21. Chavez, whose term ends in 2007, responded that the next presidential elections will be held in December 2006. “And we are going to win those elections,” he declared.

The Venezuelan president’s approval ratings of 30 to 35 percent are almost double those of any potential contender. He has called on the opposition to participate in a referendum on his government in August of next year, the earliest date allowed under the constitution.

The Organization of American States, the United Nations and the Atlanta-based Carter Center are working to get the two sides to sign a “declaration of principles” committing them to dialogue. The government said it will sign this week.

China: Developing own anti-HIV drugs

The majority of Chinese AIDS patients may soon be able to use a domestic version of a drug cocktail, as domestic drug firms are beginning to make cheap, generic anti-HIV medicines.

A Shanghai-based drug company said the State Drug Administration has approved production of didanosine (DDL) and stavudine (d4T), both launched by drug giant Bristol-Myers Squibb. The company, Desano Biopharmaceutical Co. Ltd., has also applied to make zidovudine (AZT) and nevirapine (NVP).

“With four drugs available, we can provide two drug combinations at an approximate price of $360 per person per year – about one tenth of the cost of imported drug cocktails,” Desano chairman Li Jinliang told journalists .

In China, where at least 850,000 people have been infected by the AIDS virus, only 300 to 500 patients are estimated to use the combination treatment with imported drugs. Most patients cannot afford imported medication, though the price has dropped to about $3,600 a year from over $8,000, according to Prof. Cao Yunzhen of China’s national AIDS prevention and control center.

South Africa: Gov’t acts to lower food prices

The South African government this week announced a number of immediate steps to lessen the impact of high food prices on the poor. At the same time, it announced a range of medium and longer-term measures to improve food security, information about the food situation, and price stability.

The government announced introduction of special white maize meal to be sold at a subsidized cost of little more than half the current price.

The government will also propose to Parliament immediate increases in old-age pension, child support grants, grant aid, foster care and care dependency grants, as well as improvement of the school nutrition program. These will be introduced together with a stepped-up campaign to register all citizens eligible for social security grants.