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New Postings of U.S. News after May 10, 2002

Posted May 10, 2002

U.S. Mood Hits Low Point of Bush's Term, Bloomberg Poll Finds
Less Than Half Satisfied With the Nation's Direction

(David Morris, Bloomberg News, May 8, 2002)
Public satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. is at its lowest point of George W. Bush's White House tenure, giving Democrats an edge as they battle for control of Congress, a Bloomberg News poll shows. . . . The number of voting-age Americans saying they're satisfied with the country's direction was 46 percent, down from 51 percent when Bush's term began and 15 points below December's peak of 61 percent. . . . The mood six months before congressional elections reflects concerns about an uneven economic recovery, including a jump in the unemployment rate to 6 percent, as well as violence in the Middle East and the failure to capture accused terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. . . . Women and older people are most displeased. While 52 percent of men are satisfied with the direction of the country, only 41 percent of women feel that way. . . . If the election were held today, Democrats would have a slight edge.

Lawmakers Charge: CIA, DOJ Obstructing 911 Probes
(Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, May 4 2002)
Lawmakers leading the investigation of intelligence agencies' failures surrounding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are increasingly concerned that tactics by the CIA and the Justice Department are actively impeding their efforts, congressional sources said Friday. . . . At the Justice Department, the intelligence committees' requests for records take weeks to wind their way through the department's bureaucracy and sometimes are simply not acted upon, according to sources familiar with the investigation. . . . The friction underscores the stakes of an investigation that could yield embarrassing details about what the nation's $30-billion intelligence community knew or didn't know leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. . . . The congressional probe was launched in February. It aims to determine whether the terrorist attacks could have been prevented, and to consider ways to improve the nation's intelligence capabilities. . . . All interviews with agency employees are supervised by CIA officials who have prevented investigators even from collecting business cards or phone numbers from interview subjects . . . "In a sense, they've put a wall up so no one can get to the investigators," a congressional source said.

 

Posted May 9, 2002

[Editor's Note: Did you know that it is against U.S. law to boycott Israel? At first we thought this website was a hoax. Unfortunately it isn't.]
U.S. Department of Commerce - Office of Antiboycott Compliance
U.S. companies continue to report receiving requests to engage in activities that further or support the boycott of Israel. U.S. companies may receive similar requests in the future. Compliance with such requests may be prohibited by the Export Administration Regulations and reportable to the Department. . . . Conduct that may be penalized under the TRA and/or prohibited under the EAR includes: Agreements to refuse or actual refusal to do business with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies. . . . The penalties imposed for each "knowing" violation can be a fine of up to $50,000 or five times the value of the exports involved, whichever is greater, and imprisonment of up to five years. During periods when the EAR are continued in effect by an Executive Order issued pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the criminal penalties for each "willful" violation can be a fine of up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to ten years. . . . The Arab League boycott of Israel is the principal foreign economic boycott that U.S. companies must be concerned with today.

 

Posted May 7, 2002

Bush's Band-Aid Approach to healthcare for the poor
(Fran Smith, Salon, May 2, 2002)
African-American infants are more than twice as likely as whites to die before turning 1. The average life expectancy for black men is 66, eight years shorter than for white men. Blacks of all ages suffer higher rates of illness and death from just about every major disease, including diabetes, heart disease, AIDS and a variety of cancers. . . . And the numbers for treatment are just as bad. Inferior care occurs at every step in the system . . . The Bush administration finally addressed the issues in the institute's call to action -- part of a chorus that has droned on for years -- with a gesture that has some health experts reeling. The plan, announced by Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services, is "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day," . . . "It's comedy," says Dr. Thomas LaVeist, associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Or it would be comedy if this weren't such a serious problem. It's very depressing, actually.'' . . . "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" is a crusade that essentially pins the problem of healthcare disparities on the patients, as if they were somehow responsible for a healthcare system that often gives them second-rate care or shuts them out altogether. . . . But in the context of the health gap, Thompson's message is weirdly patronizing, all the more so because his "Day" is a twist on the ever popular Take Our Daughters to Work Day. Is the subtext here that blacks, like 8-year-olds, must be led by the parental hand and shown what's good for them? . . . In Pittsburgh and Tampa, black babies are three times as likely as white babies to die before the age of 1; in San Diego, nearly four times as likely; in San Francisco, nearly five times. Hauling your sister to a health fair in September will not save black infants anymore than trotting your daughter (and now your son) through your cubicle in April will obliterate pay gaps for women.

Congress Attacks Human Rights
(Stephen Zunes, AlterNet, May 3, 2002)
On Thursday, both the House of Representative and the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed resolutions defending the policies of right-wing Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in the occupied territories. Human rights activists are alarmed, both at the strong Congressional support for a repressive military occupation as well as the fact that the resolutions are being widely interpreted as an attack on the credibility of Amnesty International and other human rights groups. . . . This not only puts the House of Representatives in direct contradiction of reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but of Israeli peace and human rights groups like B'Tselem, Gush Shalom and Yesh G'vul. . . . That so many supposedly progressive voices in the House of Representatives would take the word of Tom DeLay over that of Amnesty International is indicative of how little regard there is in Congress for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization. . . . The huge majorities in support of these resolutions can not be attributed to a need to secure the "Jewish vote" in this election year. American Jews are increasingly divided over the policies of Israel's rightist prime minister and the vast majority of the resolutions' Congressional backers are from states or districts with only tiny Jewish populations. . . . perhaps the biggest winner is the Green Party, that has long argued that even on an issue as basic as human rights, there is no difference between the two major parties. Already, there are growing numbers of disaffected Democrats who are beginning to realize they can not support human rights and support the Democratic Party at the same time.

 

Posted May 5, 2002

Log cabin to White House? Not any more - The aristocracy of wealth in the U.S.
(The Observer, April 28, 2002)
America is the most unequal society in the industrialised West. The richest 20 per cent of Americans earn nine times more than the poorest 20 per cent, a scale of inequality half as great again as in Japan, Germany and France. . . . the richest 1 per cent of the population hold 38 per cent of its wealth, a concentration more marked than in any comparable country. . . . This inequality is the most brutal fact of American life. . . . The sumptuousness and bleakness of the respective lifestyles of rich and poor represent a scale of difference in opportunity and wealth that is almost medieval - and a standing offence to the American expectation that everyone has the opportunity for life, liberty and happiness. . . . As inequality grows, the grip of the wealthy on educational advantage becomes ever more evident, for the cost of going to university over the last 25 years has exploded. . . . Buffet's argument is that the US is developing an aristocracy of the wealthy. . . . Five generations of the Bushes, for example, have been 'tapped' to become members of the Skull and Bones Club at Yale, whose initiates retain a commitment to the lifelong scratching of each other's backs while never acknowledging they were members. In itself, there is nothing remarkable about private clubs of privileged insiders in private universities; it is just that the country that boasts them should be more self-knowing about its pretensions to meritocracy. . . . the US has the lowest share of workers moving from the bottom fifth of workers into the second fifth, the lowest share moving into the top 60 per cent and the highest share of workers unable to sustain full-time employment. . . . Yet it is the US, the country which has left so many of its citizens barren and ill at ease with themselves, and which is riven by internal concern and criticism, that is held up as a model for the world. It is time for Europeans to recognise the strength of their social outcomes and defend them.

Senior Republican calls on Israel to expel West Bank Arabs
(Matthew Engel, The Guardian, May 4, 2002)
The most senior Republican in the House of Representatives has called for Palestinians to be expelled from the West Bank, which should be annexed in its entirety by the state of Israel. . . . Dick Armey, majority leader in the House, shocked a primetime television audience when he said in a chat-show interview, that East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza - all occupied by the Israeli army since the 1967 war - should be considered a part of Israel proper. He was "content to have a Palestinian state", but argued that such an entity could be set up inside other Arab countries. . . . Mr Armey's views have been scarcely reported in America. The only mention was a passing reference in the deepest recesses of yesterday's New York Times and Washington Post. . . . However, Mr Armey's views were not far out of line with on Thursday night's debate in the House, which overwhelmingly passed a 920-word resolution entirely in favour of Israel . . . Both the House and the Senate voted for motions which started by saying that "the US and Israel are now engaged in a common struggle against terrorism".

 

Posted May 4, 2002

New Emissions Limits for Ships Called a Sham
(Environment News Service, May 2, 2002)
Ocean going vessels represent the fastest growing, least regulated sources of pollution in the United States. Each day in large ports such as Long Beach, California, ships generate as much pollution as one million cars. . . . The EPA has identified domestic and foreign vessels as major contributors to U.S. air pollution, but has previously declined to regulate ship emissions. . . . The proposed new rules resulted from a lawsuit settlement reached in 2001 by the Bluewater Network, represented by Earthjustice, challenging EPA's failure to set any standard for smog forming ship emissions under the Clean Air Act. . . . On Wednesday, Bluewater Network called the EPA's proposed regulations "a sham regulation that will force public health and environmental groups back to court." . . . "Oil tanker owners and the oil industry have relentlessly lobbied the administration to weaken or delay this regulation, and clearly they succeeded," said Dr. Russell Long, director of Bluewater Network. "This is terrible news for Americans living around coastal cities because ships are the world's biggest polluters, poisoning the air with smog, fine particles, and global warming gases." . . . "These ships run on the dirtiest fuel available," said Martin Wagner, attorney for Earthjustice. "While port communities from Los Angeles to Boston try to meet federal clean air standards, their efforts can be thwarted by just a few cargo ships a day belching the equivalent of the pollution from thousands of unregulated vehicle and stationary source emission."

 

Posted May 2, 2002

How Wal-Mart is Remaking our World - Anatomy of a Truly Evil Empire
(Jim Hightower, Alternet.org, April 26, 2002)
Wal-Mart is now the world's biggest corporation, having passed ExxonMobil for the top slot. It hauls off a stunning $220 billion a year from We the People (more in revenues than the entire GDP of Israel and Ireland combined). . . . Behind its soft homespun ads, however, is what one union leader calls "this devouring beast" of a corporation that ruthlessly stomps on workers, neighborhoods, competitors, and suppliers. . . . Wal-Mart banks about $7 billion a year in profits, ranking it among the most profitable entities on the planet. . . . Of the 10 richest people in the world, five are Waltons-the ruling family of the Wal-Mart empire. . . . Wal-Mart and the Waltons got to the top the old-fashioned way-by roughing people up. . . . this far-flung retailer is the country's largest private employer, and it intends to remake the image of the American workplace in its image-which is not pretty. . . . the average employee makes only $15,000 a year for full-time work. Most are denied even this poverty income, for they're held to part-time work. While the company brags that 70% of its workers are full-time, at Wal-Mart "full time" is 28 hours a week, meaning they gross less than $11,000 a year. . . . Health-care benefits? Only if you've been there two years; then the plan hits you with such huge premiums that few can afford it-only 38% of Wal-Marters are covered. . . . Wal-Mart is in fact rabidly anti-union, deploying teams of union-busters from Bentonville to any spot where there's a whisper of organizing activity. . . . Wal-Mart is an unrepentant and recidivist violator of employee rights, drawing repeated convictions, fines, and the ire of judges from coast to coast. . . . In "Toys of Misery," a shocking 58-page report that the establishment media ignored, NLC describes . . . 13- to 16-hour days . . . production workers are paid 13 cents an hour . . . Workers typically live in squatter shacks, seven feet by seven feet, or jammed in company dorms, with more than a dozen sharing a cubicle costing $1.95 a week for rent. . . . The work is literally sickening, since there's no health and safety enforcement. . . . These factories employ mostly young women and teenage girls. Wal-Mart knows what goes on inside these places. . . . This outfit operates with an avarice, arrogance, and ambition that would make Enron blush. It hits a town or city neighborhood like a retailing neutron bomb, sucking out the economic vitality and all of the local character. . . . By crushing local businesses, this giant eliminates three decent jobs for every two Wal-Mart jobs that it creates-and a store full of part-time, poorly paid employees hardly builds the family wealth necessary to sustain a community's middle-class living standard. . . . Tremendous victories have already been won as citizens from Maine to Arizona, from the Puget Sound to the Gulf of Mexico, have organized locally and even statewide to thwart the expansionist march of the Wal-Mart juggernaut.

[Editor's Note: Members of the species Homo divinus refuse to shop at Wal-Mart stores . . . no matter how much money they might save.]

Toppling the Corporate Aristocracy - Interview with Marjorie Kelly
(Robert Hinkley, CommonDreams.org, April 19, 2002)
Our current economic system is an aristocracy, according to Marjorie Kelly. Think British rule of the American colonies. It's based on the divine right of kings: The interests of the king are paramount; the aristocracy alone has a say in government. . . . The aristocracy's primary goal is to pay shareholders as much as possible and pay employees as little as possible. The public good is ignored. . . . Just as we once democratized government, Kelly argues, we must now democratize economics. To her this means, in part, genuine empowerment of employees. "Corporate wealth belongs to those who create it," . . . Today's corporations, she adds, should be viewed as human communities, not just pieces of property to be owned and traded by shareholders. Employees should have a greater role in governing the corporation, including participation in decisions regarding whether, and to whom, the company will be sold. . . . When the interests of capital are primary, it's wealth discrimination. Until we turn and challenge this premise as illegitimate, and change the institutions that support this premise, all our efforts of social responsibility will fail. . . . The Divine Right of Capital: Dethroning the Corporate Aristocracy is about the good reasons to change the law of shareholder primacy. At its heart, this doctrine is undemocratic. It's aristocratic. It serves the interests of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Ninety percent of all financial wealth held by households in the U.S. is held by the wealthiest 10 percent. So serving shareholders means making the rich richer at the expense of everyone else. It is a form of government-sponsored discrimination. It's wealthism. Such discrimination has no place in a democratic society, and it is out of place in a free-market economy.

Posted May 1, 2002

Teenage Cassandra - To be young, pacifist and living in Orange County
(Stephanie Grob, LA Weekly, April 26-May 2, 2002)
Since September 11, I've observed my fellow teenagers actively participating in political discussions. What I have not seen, however, is much dissent. . . . the lack of debate is reminiscent of a McCarthy-era high school . . . My principles: I believe that our new war is not justified, because retaliation is never a suitable response to a national crisis. As Gandhi once said, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." . . . As an example of a monster, I brought in the infamous photograph of General Loan Ngoc Nguyen, the South Vietnamese officer who was caught on camera in the middle of his public, spontaneous execution of an alleged Viet Cong prisoner. . . . my teacher brought in an article written by James Zumwalt, a retired Marine colonel, who glorified General Nguyen for ridding the world of such a dangerous terrorist. Zumwalt also likened the man Nguyen executed to Osama bin Laden himself. . . . I had expected to explain my views about the photo to the rest of the class, but the class's response to my teacher's persuasive article, as well as my soft-spoken nature, prevented any rebuttal on my part. . . . I left with the feeling that I looked a complete idiot in front of my fellow students. I was convinced they walked away thinking that I was in league with al Qaeda. . . . I experience the more subtle ways dissent gets shut down in the classroom, by humiliation and name calling. What's worse, however, is the fact that I, a progressive-minded teenager, am not heard as an equal. . . . I'm old enough to know that freedom of speech is essential to democracy, and it's been branded into my skull through years of history classes that we do live in a democracy. I exercise my right as an American and as a citizen to express these views, and no one -- no student, no teacher, no adult -- can dissuade me.

U.S. news postings for April 2002

U.S. news postings for March 2002

 


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