Officer Dorner hits the reset button

Former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and ex US Navy Reservist, Officer Christopher Dorner died, apparently by his own hand on February 12 2013, in a blazing mountain cabin set on fire by surrounding police after a gun battle lasting several hours. Variously described by the media as ‘rogue’, ‘insane’ and ‘revenge-seeking’, Dorner had allegedly killed two police officers, two civilians with a police connection and wounded two more officers. Thousands of police officers spent days searching for the ex-cop in an unprecedented manhunt extending through California, surrounding states and Mexico, with a reward of $1 million.

 

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Trayvon Martin: racist justice

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

Every so often, something happens to remind us how racist the United States really is. One such incident is the murder trial of George Zimmerman. The agreed facts of the case are well known: at 7.09pm, 26 February 2012, Zimmerman, a Neighbourhood Watch volunteer, called his local police department and reported ‘a real suspicious guy ... looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something’. When the emergency services dispatcher asked him if he was following the man, he replied ‘Yeah’ and the dispatcher said ‘We don’t need you to do that’. Zimmerman ignored the dispatcher and continued to follow the man, who, minutes later was dead, shot to death by Zimmerman. The ‘real suspicious guy’ was Trayvon Martin, a black youth aged 17, who was returning home after visiting a local convenience store to pick up some snacks. There were no reliable witnesses to what happened between the two. Zimmerman alleged that Martin attacked him, so he shot him in self-defence. Martin, of course, is dead, so we don’t have his side of the story.

 

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Snoopers exposed

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

The recent revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden about the activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA) have really put the cat among the pigeons. It is difficult to think of peaceful actions by any other single individual which have ever created such an international stir. US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

 

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Guantanamo hunger strike: dying for justice

‘Let them kill us, as we have nothing left to lose. We died when Obama indefinitely detained us. Respect us – or kill us. It’s your choice.’ (Hunger striker Faiz Al Kandari)

16 May marked 100 days since the start of a hunger strike amongst detainees at the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay. By 20 May, 103 out of the 166 men detained at the facility had joined the action, with 30 of them now being force fed. Force-feeding, in which the hunger strikers are strapped down while a plastic tube is painfully forced down through the nasal passage to the stomach, is considered torture by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

 

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US budget crisis drags on and on

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

Marx wrote that ‘all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice... the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce’ (Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852). He was fortunate enough not to have to sit through the endlessly repeated episodes of ‘the budget crisis’, as staged by the US Congress. What he would have said about them is difficult to imagine, but would probably be unprintable: ‘farce’ is far too feeble a description. The latest episode in the world’s most expensive and overlong soap opera has been playing itself out as we go to press.

 

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US gun control – no solution

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

The basic facts about the appalling slaughter of 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut are now well known and have shocked people around the world. The massacre comes in the wake of other mass shootings in the US and has re-awakened calls for stronger gun control. The gun control advocates appeal to common sense: fewer guns should, they say, mean fewer deaths. The threat of more gun controls has provoked a vigorous response from gun rights advocates. They point to the Second Amendment to the US Constitution as protecting the right of individuals to possess firearms. They also argue that preventing law-abiding citizens from owning guns leaves the guns in the hands of ‘the bad guys’ and that universal gun ownership would deter violent crime and enable private citizens to defend themselves. The cat, they say, is already out of the bag: millions of guns circulate on the black market, unhindered by gun laws. US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

 

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US workers thrown off ‘fiscal cliff’

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

After weeks of ‘will-they-won’t-they’ speculation, Congress finally passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act on 1 January. The ridiculous antics and accusations, the tension and the finger- pointing are not just ‘playing politics’, as the bourgeois commentators wearily call it, but reflect the inability of the ruling class to come to a final decision about the economic strategy they have to pursue. US capitalism, weighed down by some $16.4 trillion of Federal debt, needs to drastically cut back on state spending. To do the job properly means flushing all the expectations of more or less secure employment, increasing income and comfortable retirement, collectively known as the ‘American Dream’, down the toilet. With them will go forever the material basis for the political illusions that have contained class conflict in the United States for the last half century. The Republicans are the party with the necessary policy to do this, but they do not have the power; the Democrats have the power, but know that massive cuts will undermine the social and political coalition they rely on for support. This is the impasse in which the ruling class now finds itself.

 

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The election is over: the crisis intensifies

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

The 2012 general election is over. Although some $6bn was spent, with $2.6bn on the Presidential race alone, the political landscape has not changed much: Barack Obama was re-elected, and there were slight changes in Congress. With the Senate still controlled by Democrats, and the House of Representatives by Republicans, this split leaves Congress facing the same gridlock it has experienced for the last two years, promising further legislative paralysis. STEVE PALMER, US correspondent, reports.

 

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US presidential election: no choice but imperialism

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

The two candidates

First, let’s compare the two candidates. Mitt Romney has a background in private equity investment and regularly repeats the classic ‘free market’ mantra of tax cuts, state expenditure cuts and deficit reduction, with attendant fairy stories about how the US economy will expand as a result. His economic advisers are both former Chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisors under President George W Bush. Romney’s foreign policy team includes 17 members who served in the Bush-Cheney administration. Other Bush-era luminaries, such as extreme right-winger John Bolton, who advocates war with Iran, are also prominent advisers. Vignettes of a Romney foreign policy: he opposed the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (‘tragic’), announced that Russia is ‘without question our number one geopolitical foe’, and has described Dick Cheney as a ‘person of wisdom and judgment’ and the ‘kind of person [he]’d like to have’ working with him. Those Romney doesn’t want are the 47% of the population who are too poor to pay income tax who, he claimed at a fundraising dinner, ‘believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.’

 

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USAID - The United States Agency for International Development

The US agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. USAID states that ‘U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world.’ In 2012 ALBA expelled USAID from their countries after extensive evidence that it was funding subversion and destabilisation.

 

Defeat in Wisconsin

Photo: Workers protest February 2011

Defeat in Wisconsin

In early 2011, Scott Walker, the Republican Governor of Wisconsin presented a Bill to the legislature called the ‘Budget Repair Bill’. The Bill would end collective bargaining for most public sector workers, cap any wage increases, and force the unions to hold annual votes to certify as a recognized union. Employers could not collect union dues. Massive opposition developed culminating in demonstrations involving tens of thousands of Wisconsin’s workers. Yet the Bill was still passed by the Republican legislature in March 2011. As a result of this setback, a movement started to recall Walker. The recall was finally put to Wisconsin voters on 5 June 2012 and defeated. We are republishing this article explaining the failure of the recall, written by Jeff Bigelow, from Liberation News, newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in the US.

 

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Greed, arrogance and hypocrisy: Business as usual on Wall Street

‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ – especially when it is the love of money! On 10 March, the JP Morgan Chase bank announced that its Chief Investment Office had lost $2bn on trades. This is peanuts to JP Morgan, the world’s largest bank, which has total assets of $2.32 trillion – less than 0.1%. JP Morgan is widely touted by an enthralled media as an ‘exemplary’ bank. The President agrees: ‘JP Morgan is one of the best managed banks there is, Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got’ – Obama even has his own bank account there. However, Dimon has been a loud and outspoken critic of bank regulation, and particularly of the Volcker Rule, which would, in theory, prevent commercial banks like JP Morgan from gambling on the exchanges.

 

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US economy: unstable recovery at expense of the working class

The ‘Great Recession’ ended in the second quarter of 2009, according to the economists. The Dow Jones stock exchange index has broken through the 13,000 mark; employment is up; unemployment is down; production is up; exports are up, and consumer confidence is up. The US economy is apparently recovering. There are even whispers about the possibility of the stock market breaking through its 14,198 high from October 2007. But how robust is this recovery? Steve Palmer reports.

 

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Trayvon Martin: no justice, no peace

Trayvon Martin, aged 17, was walking home with some sweets and iced tea when he was shot in cold blood by George Zimmerman. After making an emergency 911 call to police to report a black male behaving suspiciously and, despite being told not to follow him by the operator, Zimmerman got out of his truck, went after Martin and shot him dead.

At the time of writing Zimmerman has not been arrested, because, according to police, he was protected by Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law which gives citizens who perceive a threat the right to use deadly force. At least 23 other States have passed similar laws, dubbed ‘Shoot First, Ask Questions Afterwards’ laws by opponents. In Florida, in the first five years of the law’s operation, ‘justifiable homicides’ in Florida more than tripled, to over 100 in 2010 from just over 30. The Stand Your Ground law was invoked in at least 93 cases over that time period, involving 65 deaths. The law has been used to excuse killings in bar brawls, gang shoot-outs and road-rage incidents.

 

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Republican primaries: competition of idiocy and ignorance

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

‘I must note that, going by what everyone is saying, that the selection of a Republican candidate to aspire to the presidency of this globalised and far-reaching empire is, in its turn – I am serious – the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that I have ever heard.’ (Fidel Castro, 24 January 2012)

If anything, Fidel is understating the truth. Since Barack Obama, as incumbent President, is the Democratic Party candidate in this November’s election, the stage has been occupied by the Republican Party race for its presidential nomination. It has been a pantomime for all seasons, overstuffed with buffoons and very poor jokes. The production opened last March with the entire cast of candidates denouncing Sharia law, something apparently threatening the USA (24% of the population believe that Barack Hussein Obama, a Christian, is actually a Muslim). One of the features of the race has been the rapid rise and fall of candidates or potential candidates. In April 2011, billionaire businessman Donald Trump briefly bounced on stage as a possible candidate, but almost as swiftly bounced back off. In August Texas Governor Rick Perry announced he was running for the nomination. In October, it emerged that the Perry family leases a hunting camp once called ‘Niggerhead’. Herman (‘If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself’) Cain appeared to roars of applause...only to be yanked briskly off when his mistress went public.

 

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Imperialist booty: how much does the United States loot from the rest of the world?

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 224 December 2011/January 2012

Imperialist booty: how much does the United States loot from the rest of the world?
Photo: US soldier harassing Iraqi workers in Fallujah, 2007

Nearly five years ago, in FRFI 195, we discussed an article by Charles Post about the labour aristocracy. FRFI has repeatedly argued that, in the imperialist countries, there is a ‘labour aristocracy’ – a privileged section of the working class, enjoying some of the spoils of imperialist exploitation and which behaves as the political agent of the ruling class. We have shown how this section has consistently betrayed the interests of the US, British and international working class by its actions. Post attempted to demonstrate that there is no such section, mainly by claiming that imperialist booty – the swag looted by the US imperialists from the exploited nations – is an insignificant part of the income of US workers. We argued that it is very significant and is quite sufficient to provide the privileges enjoyed by better-off US workers. Now Post has republished his article, with some minor modifications, in the academic journal Historical Materialism.1 Post’s absurd denial of the existence of a labour aristocracy undermines the struggle against racism and imperialism and covers up the betrayals of social democratic organisations like the Labour Party. We don’t have room to revisit our entire argument (see RCG website2), so we are going to bring the numbers up to date, correcting them and including all sources of booty. We believe FRFI readers will be interested in knowing the extent of US exploitation of oppressed nations. STEVE PALMER reports.

 

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Occupy US: arrests and evictions – where now?

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 224 December 2011/January 2012

The Occupy movement is steadily being clubbed off the streets of the United States. After two months which have shaken up political dialogue in the US, the ruling class is working its way around the country banning and physically removing Occupy encampments. This development is the greatest challenge the movement has faced, and its response will determine US politics in the years ahead. Steve Palmer, US correspondent, reports.

 

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US military to regroup after leaving Iraq

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 224 December 2011/January 2012

In October, President Obama announced that all US troops would leave Iraq by 31 December. The US had hoped to keep up to 20,000 troops in the country but negotiations broke down when the Iraqi government refused to grant immunity from prosecution to US forces – something the US always insists upon wherever its troops are stationed overseas. In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, 12 US senators wrote ‘the complete withdrawal of our forces from Iraq is likely to be viewed as a strategic victory by our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime’.

 

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Oakland General Strike - Nov 2011

bwd  Set 1/3  fwd

A major victory was achieved today for the ‘Occupy’ movement, when Occupy Oakland successfully shut down the heart of the city, many of its schools, the major banks and the port. The Oakland General Strike had been called to protest police brutality, after the police fractured Scott Olsen’s skull last week, and to make Capital pay for its crimes by hitting it economically.

 

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Occupy Wall Street – Occupy Oakland!

Occupy Wall Street – Occupy Oakland

Occupy Wall Street is now in its sixth week and has spawned clones in every major city in the US, and in many minor ones, as well as in hundreds of other cities throughout the rest of the world. The ruling class wants rid of it – a constant reminder to working people of the inequities of capitalism and the charade of capitalist ‘democracy’, and a constant reminder to the ruling class of the precariousness of their power. In their desperation to be rid of the movement they have tried ignoring it, dismissing it, patronising it, ridiculing it, sneering at it, condemning it, lying about it, and embracing it, trying to hug it to death. None of this has worked. People have had enough. So the ruling class has resorted to club rule.

 

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We are all Troy Davis – 21st century lynching in the US

FRFI 223 October/November 2011

On 21 September 2011 the US state of Georgia legally murdered 42-year-old black prisoner Troy Davis. Troy was convicted of the 1989 killing of white police officer Mark MacPhail and had always maintained his innocence. A national and international campaign against his execution was supported by Amnesty International, former US President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Pope, and one million people signed a petition calling for clemency. On the night of his death protesters gathered outside the prison in Jackson, Georgia, many wearing T-shirts and holding placards proclaiming ‘I am Troy Davis’. All this was not enough to save his life. The execution was due to take place at 7pm local time and there was a temporary reprieve while the Supreme Court deliberated on and rejected a last-minute petition. President Barack Obama refused to intervene in the case, stating it would not be ‘appropriate’. Troy Davis was put to death by lethal injection at 11pm.

 

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United States: bourgeois parties squabble as working class bear brunt of crisis

FRFI 223 October/November 2011

Although the Presidential and Congressional elections will not take place for more than a year, political posturing by both the bourgeois parties, Republican and Democrat, is already under way. Our last report (see FRFI 222) concluded with the cliff-hanging debate over the US government’s debt ceiling: would they agree in time to prevent the government shutting down? Once again, as we go to press, both parties are at loggerheads, threatening to shut the government down at the end of September. US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

 

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US debt turmoil

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011

On 30 June, the United States government had just $25m left in its usually fat piggy bank. In the world’s largest economy this is the smallest of small change. Normally this would not be a problem, since the US government can borrow up to a limit set by the US Congress. As government borrowing has increased, Congress has regularly altered this borrowing limit – 91 times since June 1940, usually about 300 days before the government runs out of money. Until now. As this paper goes to press, there is still no agreement on raising the US government’s debt limit and the deadline of 2 August, when the government totally runs out of money, is just days away. In the absence of any agreement, commentators have been reduced to putting a brave face on and nervously repeating Winston Churchill’s famous dictum that ‘The Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing… after they’ve exhausted all other possibilities’. Quite how ‘the right thing’ can be cobbled together by Congress in time is not all clear, however. If they fail, catastrophic consequences are likely as this key prop of the capitalist economy buckles.

 

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US Civil War and the British working class

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011

‘The first grand war of contemporaneous history is the American war … In this contest the highest form of popular self-government till now realised is giving battle to the meanest and most shameless form of man’s enslaving recorded in the annals of history.’

Karl Marx1

The US Civil War began 150 years ago, when the Southern army fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbour, South Carolina, on 12 April 1861. Seven slave states (later joined by four more) had seceded from the United States, following the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln in the autumn of 1860, and formed the Confederate States of America. While the war was obviously important to the development of the United States, it is less well-known that it also presented the British working class with important challenges.

 

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US budget crisis bites

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 220 April/May 2011

In the United States, just as in Britain, a major attack is underway on public spending and services. State and Federal budgets are being cut. The capitalists are trying to throw the cost of the economic crisis onto the backs of the working class so the bankers and their friends can continue to rake in billions of dollars. Workers in Wisconsin and other states have begun the fightback. US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

Federal debt

Thanks to the bank bailout and the recession, the US Federal budget deficit has swollen tremendously. (See Table 1.) From $160.7bn (1.2% of GDP) in 2007, the deficit has grown to an estimated $1,645.1bn (10.9% of GDP) this year. By comparison, Portugal’s budget deficit reached 9.3% of GDP in 2009 while Spain’s hit 11.1%.

 

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Free Bradley Manning!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 220 April/May 2011

Bradley Manning continues to be held in solitary confinement in Quantico prison, Virginia, for allegedly exposing the US’s dirty war crimes in the Middle East, via reams of data revealed on Wikileaks, supposedly accessed whilst serving with the US army in Afghanistan.

Manning was detained after video footage of a US Apache helicopter killing 12 Iraqi civilians in 2007, entitled Collateral murder, was released by Wikileaks in July 2010. The video, which went viral on internet sites like YouTube – it has been viewed over 11 million times – revealed the utter callousness and inhumanity of the US occupation.

 

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Wisconsin Workers Fight Back - 23 Feb 2011

wisconsin

In the United States, just as in Britain, a major attack is underway on public spending and services. State and Federal budgets are being cut. The capitalists are trying to throw the cost of the economic crisis onto the backs of the working class so the bankers and their friends can continue to rake in billions of dollars. At the Federal level both Democrats and Republicans are proposing cuts: the only difference is over what gets cut and how deeply. There have been local fightbacks – parents and educators fighting to keep schools open, to maintain senior centres at the local level, but a more widespread movement has been slow to develop.

Now, in Wisconsin, a State-wide struggle has erupted against the Republican Governor’s attempt to end collective bargaining and drive unions out of the public sector. In addition Governor Walker wants to cut pension benefits and increase charges for health insurance. All this follows concessions on pay and health insurance which the unions have already made. No wonder State workers are fighting mad! Tens of thousands have been protesting outside the Capitol, the State’s parliament and Democratic politicians have left the state in order to prevent Republicans from having a quorum and being able to pass a bill which would legalise the attack on unions. Students and workers have been occupying the Capitol for several days now. Support for the workers has come from exempt public sector workers like police and firefighters, as well as unions who organize in the private sector.

 

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Gunshots in Arizona

FRFI 219 February / March 2011

It’s been an eventful couple of months in the United States. The attempted assassination in Tucson, Arizona, of US Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the murders of six other people, including a nine-year-old child and a Federal Judge, have inevitably forced their way onto the political agenda. US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

The specific motives of the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, are unclear, but it seems, even to lay observers, that he has serious mental health issues. Although the bourgeois press hastened to describe this as ‘an isolated incident’, it wasn’t. The Sheriff of Puma County, Clarence Dupnik remarked:

 

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The mid-term elections and the Tea Party

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

The November mid-term elections in the US resulted in major gains for the Republican Party. This comes just two years after the country voted for Barack Obama and ‘Change we can believe in’. How did this come about? The right-wing ‘Tea Party’ has been at the centre of this shift. What does this mean and what are the prospects for US politics? US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

The Democratic Party has lost its majority in the House of Representatives: from 255 of 435 seats, it has dropped to 190; in the Senate from 59 of 100 seats to 53. There is a high proportion of new faces: the Republicans have 85 new Representatives and 13 brand-new Senators. This is the worst defeat for any party for several decades. The fault is that of Obama and of the Democratic Party: they promised change and used youth, blacks and Latinos as an electoral battering ram to win a sweeping majority in Congress. Then they expanded the war in Afghanistan, continued the Guantanamo torture centre, bailed out the banks and the car companies but not the people, enacted hopeless healthcare legislation and failed to bring unemployment down. Along the way they quietly dropped their most enthusiastic supporters and many who were yearning for change.

 

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United States: recession over?

FRFI 217 October/November 2010

In September the US National Bureau for Economic Research declared that the recession was officially over, claiming that it ended in June 2009. To the capitalists, it must seem that way – their profits have soared. Yet although production has grown, its rate of growth has started to falter, declining in the first and second quarters of 2010. Some 15 months after the ‘end’ of the recession, the official unemployment rate is still at 9.6%, while estimates put the real rate of involuntarily unemployed at over 20%. What is really going on? How is this affecting the US working class? US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

 

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Stop FBI Raids and Harassment on US Anti-War Activists

On 24 September, FBI agents took part in raids of the houses of anti-war and solidarity activists in states across the USA. Six houses in Chicago and Minneapolis were searched at 8:00 am central time, with agents of the “Joint Terrorism Task Force” serving grand jury subpoenas to activists in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. Activists in a number of other US states have also been harassed and intimidated by agents as part of the same operation.

 

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