Arcata, Calif., was one of the first cities to pass resolutions against war in Iraq. In March, it joined the rising chorus of municipalities to pass a resolution urging local law enforcement officials and others contacted by federal officials to refuse requests under the USA PATRIOT Act that they believe violate an individual's civil rights under the Constitution. Now the northern California town of 16,000 has become the first in the nation to pass an ordinance that outlaws compliance with the PATRIOT Act. "I call this a nonviolent, preemptive attack," said David Meserve, the City Council member who drafted the ordinance with the help of the Arcata city attorney, city manager and police chief. The Washington Post noted that citizens across the country have been forming Bill of Rights defense committees to fight curbs on liberties contained in the 342-page act, passed by Congress one month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It has been most publicly criticized by librarians and bookstore owners for provisions that force them to secretly hand over information about a patron's reading and Internet habits. To date, 89 cities have passed resolutions condemning the PATRIOT Act, with at least a dozen more in the works and a statewide resolution against the act close to being passed in Hawaii. "We want the local police to do what they were meant to do -- protect their citizens," said Nancy Talanian, co-director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee in Florence, Mass., which gives advice to citizens groups on how to draft their own resolution (see www.bordc.org). Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced the "Freedom to Read Protection Act" (HR 1157), that would restore the privacy protections for library book borrowers and bookstore purchases. The bill has 73 co-sponsors. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the ranking Democrat, asked the Justice Department for more information on the government's use of the PATRIOT Act to track terrorists, questioning what "tangible things" the government can subpoena in investigations of US citizens. Many of the provisions in the PATRIOT Act expire in 2005, but Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Senate Judiciary chairman, is leading efforts to renew those powers.
'CORPORATE CITIZENS' PRAISED. General Mills ranked at the top of 100 Best Corporate Citizens for 2003, as determined by Business Ethics magazine for its spring 2003 issue. Companies were ranked according to service to seven stakeholder groups: stockholders, the community; minorities and women; employees; the environment; non-US stakeholders; and customers. The Minneapolis-based food products company was noted especially for service to the community and to women and minorities. Commitment to communities was cited for second-place Cummins Inc. Third-place Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., was recognized for its attention to employee safety, as it scored a worldwide injury rate of just 0.27 injuries per 100 employees, compared to an industry average of 6.7. No. 6 Hewlett-Packard of Palo Alto, Calif., was noted for its focus on environmental sustainability, with a goal to "become the recognized leader in inventing environmentally sound and sustainable solutions for the common good." Eighth-place Green Mountain Coffee Roasters of Waterbury, Vt., was cited for good citizenship, including fair dealing with suppliers, including small farmer coops in Peru, Mexico and Sumatra. Familiar names that have been in the top 10 all for years include Procter & Gamble (No. 4), IBM (No. 5), and Hewlett-Packard (No. 6). Filling out the top 10 this year are Avon Products (7), Green Mountain Coffee (8), John Nuveen (investments, 9) and St. Paul (insurance, 10). Enjoying the No. 1 spot for the first time, General Mills moved up from No. 67 in 2000. It was one of 32 firms that have been on the Top 100 list all four years. See the full list and story at www.business-ethics.com/100best.htm
HYPOCRISY ON BALANCED BUDGETS. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., in February introduced a proposed constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance the federal budget. HJR 22, the same Balanced Budget Amendment that passed the House with 300 votes in 1995 and fell one vote short of the two-thirds margin in the Senate, is sponsored by more than 100 fellow Congress members, and Istook told a Capitol Hill news conference, "It's hypocritical to say you oppose the deficit but don't support the balanced budget amendment." So what is it when Istook and most of the co-sponsors voted April 11 for a $2.27 trillion budget with $550 billion in tax cuts that would put the federal government in a record deficit of more than $300 billion in both of the next two years?
FRANCE-BAITING BACKFIRES. The right-wing Club for Growth aired ads in Ohio and Maine, homes of Sens. George Voinovich and Olympia Snowe, in an attempt to pressure the Republicans to embrace all the tax cuts George W. Bush has ordered. The ads feature a photo of French President Jacques Chirac next to a waving French flag with the message the French leader "stood in the way" of efforts to liberate Iraq. Then the ads put either Voinovich or Snowe next to footage of the French flag, along with audio that says "some so-called Republicans like George Voinovich [or Olympia Snowe] stand in the way" of US economic recovery. The Club for Growth even described the two senators as "Franco-Republicans," according to Agence France-Presse. A spokeswoman for Snowe told Cox News Service the ads offend many Maine residents because about a third of the state's population is of French-Canadian descent. The state GOP quickly denounced the ads.
ANTHRAX WHODUNIT UNSOLVED. The government still hasn't determined who sent anthrax around the country after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, resulting in the deaths of five people, Randy Schultz noted in the April 20 Palm Beach, Fla., Post. The attacks targeted news media in Florida and New York and the Capitol offices of Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. News reports suggested that the anthrax may have come from the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., where weapons-grade anthrax almost identical to the type used in the attacks was stored, but the investigation seems to have stalled, so the family of Robert Stevens, a photo editor who worked at American Media in Boca Raton, Fla., has filed a $50 million wrongful-death lawsuit against the government to make sure the investigation continues. Under Federal Tort Claims, federal agencies -- in this case, the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army -- must investigate and respond within six months, which would be sometime around August. A presidential commission also is investigating what happened with intelligence agencies in the years leading up to 9/11. "With all the talk about biological weapons in Iraq and other countries and the danger that terrorists might get them, there is too little public talk about the weapons available in this country -- many created to help, not kill -- and how well Americans are protected from them," Schultz wrote.
SANDSTORM FROM HELL. While Congress cuts appropriations for veterans' health benefits to pay for Bush's tax cut, Michael Ventura writes in the Apri l8 Austin Chronicle: "Two dirty words remain largely unspoken on television and unwritten in most printed Iraq War coverage: 'depleted uranium.' US and British tank, artillery and heavy machine-gun shells sport depleted uranium tips. A Los Angeles Times editorial, March 31: 'When depleted uranium burns upon penetrating its target, it turns into a fine dust that can remain highly concentrated in the environment.' There isn't yet conclusive evidence that this dust is the primary cause of Gulf War Syndrome or the astronomical cancer rates of the Iraqis since the Gulf War, or the high cancer rates among US soldiers serving in Bosnia. But no one has offered another theory on why, as the Los Angeles Times reported on March 30, 'of the 504,047 eligible veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, about 29% are now considered disabled by the Department of Veteran Affairs, the highest rate of disability for any modern war ... These guys were rough, tough, buff 20-year-olds a decade ago ... [They] lived for months in areas of the Middle Eastern desert that had been contaminated with depleted uranium.' The extent of the contamination boggles the mind. In the Gulf War "more than 350 tons of depleted uranium were dropped on Iraq, and later in Kosovo ... about 13 tons of DU were exploded.' At the outset of George W. Bush's Iraq War, our armed forces were enveloped for days in a monstrous sandstorm; with every breath they inhaled particles of contaminated sand. ... Let us pray the scientists and doctors who believe DU is deadly are wrong. If they're not, our men and women in Iraq are going to pay an awful price. We should know in about 10 years."
WHY BLACKS DISTRUST REPUBLICANS, CONT'D. Four months after Sen. Trent Lott reminisced about the old days of segregation, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) suggested that it was unfair that her sons could not sell guns to black persons because they are presumed drug abusers. "They are blond-haired and blue-eyed," she said of her sons. "One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does that mean if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person, or does that mean because my ... " At this point, Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) cut Cubin off and demanded her remarks be stricken from the record for implying that blacks are presumptive drug addicts. Cubin declined to retract her remarks, but she did "apologize to my colleague for his sensitivities." The House later voted 227 to 195 against striking Cubin's remarks from the record on the basis of their being inappropriate. No Republican voted in the affirmative. The Washington Post, in an April 11 editorial, asked "Where's the Outrage?" Clearly, not with the GOP. All House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) would say, through a spokesman, was that the remarks "clearly left the wrong impression."
SAVING PRIVATE LYNCH. The rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch was not the heroic Hollywood story told by the US military, but a staged operation that terrified patients and victimised the doctors who had struggled to save her life, the London Times reported April 16. Doctors at al-Nasiriyah general hospital said that the airborne assault met no resistance and was carried out a day after all the Iraqi forces and Ba'ath leadership had fled the city. Four doctors and two patients, one of whom was paralysed and on an intravenous drip, were bound and handcuffed as American soldiers rampaged through the wards, searching for departed members of the Saddam regime. The previous day, an ambulance driver had tried to carry Pvt. Lynch to the US forces close to the city but turned around when the ambulance was shot at by US troops. When the hospital came under fire during the "rescue," one of the hospital administrators took shelter in Pvt. Lynch's room, believing he would be safe. He was seized and taken with the US soldiers to their base, where he was held for three days in an open-air prison camp.
JUDGE UPHOLDS DOLPHIN-SAFE RULES. A federal judge in San Francisco April 10 blocked the Bush administration from gutting rules that forbid the use of the "dolphin safe" label on tuna caught using encirclement nets that endanger dolphins. In issuing a temporary injunction, US District Judge Thelton Henderson wrote that the Commerce Department's decision to change the dolphin-safe definition appears to have been influenced more by international trade policies than scientific evidence. "While the Secretary (Evans) has wisely refrained in this case from expressly invoking trade policy concerns as grounds for affirming his final reading, there is little doubt that he has continued to face pressure to consider factors beyond the scientific evidence," Henderson wrote. The case, Earth Island Institute v. Donald Evans, stemmed from the administration's Dec. 31 announcement that it planned to allow the label of "dolphin safe" even when fishermen intentionally corral dolphins in encirclement nets to catch the tuna swimming below. Since 1992, the United States has been under orders to weaken its dolphin law after it was ruled to be an illegal trade barrier by an international tribunal operating under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Recently, Mexico has stepped up threats of World Trade Organization action if the law is not changed. The Bush administration action underscores the concerns raised by public interest activists about domestic policies being attacked by foreign nations as illegal trade barriers in secret WTO tribunals. See www.citizen.org.
TEAMSTERS LINK WITH LABOR BASHERS. The Teamsters' obsession with opening up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has led them to an alliance with the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA), in forming a "Labor Environment Alliance," which sounds like a moderate GOP group, but when Nathan Newman checked the links promoted by CREA, he found a range of right-wing groups like the Christian Coalition, the Free Congress Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the main antiunion group, the National Right to Work Committee, which is listed as experts on "constitutional issues." As Newman noted, "The NRWC is so anti-union, they did a mass mailing denouncing the firefighters union for promoting funding for firefighting as making 'a shameful post-9/11 power grab at the expense of our homeland security and troops overseas.' In the wake of 911 heroism by firefighters in NYC, this was such an obscene comment that even Tom Delay, whose name had been attached to the letter, had to disavow it."
DEFEND GARAFOLO. Bush supporters reportedly have been deluging ABC with calls and emails, complaining about a sitcom the network has in development starring outspoken war protester Janeane Garofalo. "We do not wish to see the faces of liberal Hollywood, particularly those that provided aid and comfort to Saddam Hussein," one protester, Jon Alvarez, e-mailed ABC, , according to MSNBC.com. "We will stand up and fight for our right to request their exclusion from shows and sponsors that seek our attention." Take Back the Media is mounting an effort to support Garafolo (see www.takebackthemedia.com/janeane.html). "She laid it on the line for all of US and now we must 'get her back' on this," the site stated, advising supporters to contact ABC Audience Relations at (818) 460-7477 or email firstname.lastname@example.org "and make sure you put your support in the Subject line, that's how they tend to tally. But also make sure that you write a nice, friendly email as well. We are not like the Freepers who create programs and SPAM networks and polls with the same information 50 or 100 times."
PUTTING CARTS BEFORE THE POOR. In Florida, where House leaders have written a budget that would force poor people to spend almost all they have on medical care before they can get help from Medicaid, the Republican chairman of the Finance and Taxation Committee slipped into a 56-page package of legislation for the Department of Revenue a provision that would exempt from state sales tax the electric carts that tool around Celebration and other rich communities across Florida. On average, according to the Palm Beach Post, the "low-speed vehicles" cost about $9,000, meaning the typical buyer would save $540 in state sales tax. In all, the state would lose about $600,000 a year. Standard golf carts, which are defined as traveling no faster than 20 mph and are used in many retirement communities around the state in lieu of cars, would continue to be taxed. "So you have to have a Mercedes of golf carts for it (the tax cut) to work," Florida Democrat Chairman Scott Maddox quipped. "He wants a personal tax break for a golf cart."