It isn't just Arabs who run afoul of Homeland Security bureaucrats in the post -9/11 hysteria. A 61-year-old Irishwoman who has been married to a US Air Force veteran for 33 years found herself on the wrong end of the immigration bureaucracy, which says she cannot re-enter the US to be reunited with her ailing husband. Bridget Reuter flew back to her native Ireland last November for a niece's wedding after finally obtaining US residence papers -- or so she thought. When she went through the document check at Shannon Airport for her return flight, she was stopped and held for six hours, then was informed that because she had failed to obtain an "advance parole" permission to leave the US before she left, she would not be permitted back in the USA, where her 70-year-old husband and son live in Lockhart, Texas. Since then she has been living with her 89-year-old mother in Longford, Ireland.
Foreigners of all nationalities run afoul of the advance parole regulations, which were beefed up after 9/11, a lawyer familiar with immigration law told TPP. Typically, thinking they have received approval for their "green card" for permanent residence, they return to their native country to say goodbye, only to be denied entry on their return. Mrs. Reuter applied for her green card in January 2001, paying $1,600 in processing fees, but Immigration Services is now a part of Homeland Security and processing is notoriously slow. Despite intervention on her behalf by US Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, the agency denied a plea for "compassionate parole" and said Mrs. Reuter may be barred from re-entering the US for 10 years, which would force her husband, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease, to move to Ireland to be with her. She also would be apart from her son and two grandchildren in Texas. "I just want to get home to my own family and see my grandchildren grow up. I don't think that's too much to ask," she told the Irish Voice in New York.
Her son, Richard Reuter, has spent thousands of dollars to get his mother's papers rectified. He told the Voice, "I think the Homeland Security people are feeding us a lot of nonsense when they say they have looked at all the possibilities. My father served his country for 35 years and it's like it never happened." Friends in Lockhart have raised more than $4,000 to help defray legal costs but they need at least $3,000 more, Reuter said. (To help, call 512-567-5429 or email email@example.com.)
Jim O'Malley, a New York-based immigration lawyer hired by the Reuters, told the Voice an immigration officer previously might have taken pity on her and let her through. "But that's not happening anymore. It's all to do with the zero tolerance policy in place after September 11."
Meanwhile, measures taken by the US against Arab and Muslim immigrants after 9/11 have not only failed to protect US security, but may have made it more vulnerable, according to a report released by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). The round-up and detention of more than 1,200 immigrants after the attacks on New York and Washington were particularly abusive, says the report (see www.migrationpolicy.org). The government's efforts to depict some of those who were detained as terrorists were simply wrong. "The only charges brought against them were actually for routine immigration violations or ordinary crimes," concludes the 165-page report, "America's Challenge: Domestic Security, Civil Liberties and National Unity After September 11."
''Many of the policies that have been adopted in the wake of Sept. 11 are an attempt to use immigration as a proxy for anti-terrorism,'' said Vincent Cannistraro, a former senior counter-terrorism official in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who is on MPI's board of advisers and helped prepare the report. ''We haven't learned anything about pre-empting terrorism in America, but we have intimidated, antagonized and alienated many (minority) communities (which is) counter-productive to what the FBI and other agencies are trying to do," he added at the report's release, according to Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service.
BUSH: GOD TOLD ME TO HIT AL Q, SADDAM. George W. Bush reportedly told Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas that he is receiving his instructions on Middle East policy from God. According to minutes reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz June 24 from cease-fire negotiations between Abbas and faction leaders from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian militants, Abbas told of his meeting in Aqaba with Bush, when the US president told him: "God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."
MEXICO TURNS LEFT. Following the trend of other Latin American countries, Mexico took a turn to the left in congressional elections July 6. The conservative National Action Party (PAN) lost 44 seats (down to 158). The old Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) made a small recovery, gaining 20 seats (up to 227), but Nathan Newman (nathannewman.org) noted the big story of the day was a gain of 44 seats by the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), which is expected to finish with up to 100 seats. Copley News Service reported that the PRD's triumph will give the party significantly more clout in Congress. It will also raise the PRD's profile as it prepares for the 2006 presidential election and as Mexicans search for a political alternative to the PAN and the PRI. "Already, the buzz is that Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel López Obrador, a populist from the PRD, could win the presidency. He recently oversaw the completion of a double-decker overpass aimed at relieving Mexico City's legendary traffic snarls. 'López Obrador is perceived as a doer. He has done what he said he was going to do,' said political analyst Primitivo Rodríguez. 'The person who comes out as a doer in the next election is going to win.'"
FCC 'OUT OF CONTROL.' Add Bill Clinton's voice to the chorus that the FCC is "out of control." In a column written for the June 28 New York Daily News, the ex-president said the commission opened the door for more monolithic control over local media with its June 2 party-line vote to allow big media conglomerates to own more local stations. "Organizations from the National Organization for Women to the National Rifle Association have spoken out against what the FCC decided to do. More than 750,000 Americans of all political persuasions registered their opinion of the new rules with the FCC, and nearly 100% of them were opposed!," he wrote.
"The lack of diversity and independence in the broadcast media may be why you didn't hear much about this big issue on TV or radio in recent months. But the opposition is truly a grass-roots movement, and it won't go away, even if it's not on the evening news. And the voice of the people is beginning to be heard, at least on Capitol Hill," where the Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill to reinstate media ownership limits. But it's unclear whether the bill can pass in the full Senate or the House.
"Whatever your political philosophy, if you favor competition and diversity in the media, you should call, write or E-mail your senators and representatives," Clinton wrote. "In the brave new world being defined by the FCC, there will be more McMedia on our airwaves and far fewer broadcast equivalents of our favorite local diners. Unlike restaurants, the airwaves belong to us. We shouldn't give up our right to have more choice."
FAIR TRADERS SET PEOPLE'S TRADE VOTE. The Citizens Trade Campaign is participating in a hemispheric ballot campaign to give people the opportunity to vote whether they want healthy communities and a fair economy in trade deals. The ballots, available at www.citizenstrade.org/ftaa_ballot.php or by calling 202-778-3320, also work as an educational tool and provide organizers an opportunity to gather the contact information of interested fair traders. All ballots will be given to trade negotiators and our elected officials at the Miami Ministerial of the Free Trade Area of the Americas in November.
WILLIE LIKES DENNIS, 'POST' SHOWS BIAS. When the July 5 Washington Post reported Willie Nelson's endorsement of US Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the headline was "Music Icon Shills for Kucinich." "Shill," which is a carnival term for a decoy, is the sort of word you might expect from the right-wing Weekly Standard or Fox News, not the leading newspaper in our nation's capital, although critics have seen the Post's columns increasingly tilting toward conservative ideology. But Willie said, "I am endorsing Dennis Kucinich for president, because he stands up for heartland Americans who are too often overlooked and unheard. He has done that his whole political career. Big corporations are well-represented in Washington, but Dennis Kucinich is a rare congressman of conscience and bravery who fights for the unrepresented, much like the late Sen. Paul Wellstone. Dennis champions individual privacy, safe food laws and family farmers. A Kucinich administration will put the interests of America's family farmers, consumers and environment above the greed of industrial agribusiness." Nelson said he planned concerts to help fill Kucinich's campaign coffers. Kucinich, who appeared at the second day of Nelson's Independence Day picnic, was thrilled. "It's an honor to earn the support of a man who has come to symbolize the best values of America," he said.
ROVE SHILLS FOR DEAN? In the same column, the Post's Julie Eilpern reported that Bush's chief political adviser thinks Dubya can beat former Vermont governor Howard Dean. At a 4th of July parade in D.C., as a dozen people marched by wearing Dean for President T-shirts and carrying Dean for America signs, Rove reportedly told a companion, "Heh, heh, heh. Yeah, that's the one we want ... How come no one is cheering for Dean? ... Come on, everybody! Go, Howard Dean!" Of course you can get a headache thinking about whether Rove really would rather face Dean in '04 or whether he wants Dems to think he would rather face Dean, and lets that get into the Post, so that the Dems would nominate someone else ...
REPORT RAPS MEDICAID WAIVERS. Progressive groups such as the Urban Institute and Center on Budget Policy and Priorities have criticized the Bush administration's practice of allowing states to tailor Medicaid programs to fit their own priorities. (See reports at urban.org and cbpp.org, respectively.) Now even Republicans are upset that services promised to the poor, elderly and disabled aren't being delivered under the "waivers" that some states have already implemented. The General Accounting Office reported that the Bush administration has not held states accountable for the quality of care they provide. The GAO examined 15 of the largest waivers, covering services to 266,700 elderly people in 15 states, and found problems with the quality of care in 11 of the programs, the New York Times reported July 7. In Oklahoma, 27% of Medicaid recipients received none of their authorized personal care services, and 49% received only half of the authorized services. "These waivers should be put on hold until the department gets a handle on the quality of care going to older and disabled Americans," said Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. "Right now there's no accountability, and that's wrong."
As former governors, Bush and Tommy Thompson, secretary of health and human services, have said they want to give states more control over Medicaid by speeding the approval of federal waivers. Bush also supports a bill pending in the House to transfer control of Head Start funds from communities to the states. Program defenders say the GOP proposal would allow cash-starved states to merge Head Start funds with existing state programs and would loosen current federal monitoring requirements.
GOP CONGRESSMAN SKIRTS BANK PROBE. In 2000 and 2001, the former president of an obscure bank in western North Carolina admitted to FBI agents that he had violated federal banking laws. He also implicated US Rep. Charles H. Taylor, R-N.C., who founded Blue Ridge Savings Bank and was chairman of its board of directors. The banker, Hayes Martin of Asheville, and a major borrower, Charles Cagle, pleaded guilty to scheming to defraud the bank and launder money. Cagle also told the FBI Taylor was involved. However, Pat Stith of the Raleigh News & Observer reported July 6 that not only has Taylor not been charged; he was not subpoenaed for the federal grand jury that indicted the others. And the FBI hasn't interviewed him. But lawyers for Thomas W. Jones, who also helped put the loan package together and was convicted of bank fraud, are pressing their own case about why investigators have not questioned the congressman. They have filed a motion in federal court that suggested the Republican administration in Washington stopped the FBI from investigating Taylor. The attorneys allege that US Attorney General John Ashcroft or his assistants prohibited the FBI, the IRS and the US attorney in North Carolina from interrogating Taylor before a federal grand jury. Taylor sits on the House Appropriations Committee and a subcommittee that controls the Justice Department's budget.
DOOMED MALPRACTICE BILL MAKES CAMPAIGN FODDER. Republican Senate leaders planned to force a vote on a bill that would impose strict limits on jury awards in medical malpractice cases. Although Democrats appear to have enough votes to defeat the bill, the GOP wants a tally that can be used against Democrats in the next election. The bill, similar to one the House passed in March, would limit awards for pain and suffering to $250,000. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a leading foe of the bill, criticized Republicans for trying to force a vote on the bill without going through the normal committee process, including public hearings. "They don't want people of this country to hear both sides of the story," he said, but he and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., reportedly plan to introduce an alternative that would deal with "anti-competitive behavior by insurance companies" and other factors not addressed by the GOP measure.
FORD'S MPG WORSE THAN MODEL T. Ford Motor Co., celebrating its 100th birthday in June, makes vehicles that are less fuel-efficient now than when it began, the Sierra Club noted. The Model T got 25 miles to the gallon nearly a century ago. Ford's average vehicle now gets 22.6 mpg, with its popular Explorer sports utility vehicle getting 16 mpg, according to a Sierra Club ad in the New York Times and Business Week.
US NEWS WON'T CORRECT MISTAKE. In a June 16 column, US News & World Report editor Mort Zuckerman provided anecdotes to make the point that nowadays "anyone ... can haul anybody into court for just about anything." But when Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) pointed out that Zuckerman's facts were fiction, US News refused to issue a correction. "Zuckerman claimed: 'A woman throws a soft drink at her boyfriend at a restaurant, then slips on the floor she wet and breaks her tailbone. She sues. Bingo -- a jury says the restaurant owes her $100,000! A woman tries to sneak through a restroom window at a nightclub to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She falls, knocks out two front teeth, and sues. A jury awards her $12,000 for dental expenses.' Zuckerman offered these incidents as proof that society is 'rewarding cynical opportunists' and 'punishing innocent people, like the owners of the restaurant and the nightclub.' But in fact, all they prove is that US News needs to be more careful in checking its facts. As Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz pointed out in a June 23 column, the spilled drink lawsuit and the nightclub cheater lawsuit are long-discredited myths." (See the myth-debunking website Snopes.com. Instead of offering a correction, FAIR noted, US News ran a letter to the editor from Mary Alexander, president of the Association of Trial Lawyers, calling the anecdotes "urban myths" -- leaving readers to decide whether to believe the magazine's editor or the head of an interested lobbying group about the stories' veracity. FAIR suggested that interested people ask US News & World Report (phone: 202-955-2000 , email firstname.lastname@example.org) to "issue a correction in line with normal journalistic standards, and to check facts more carefully in the future."
LOCKHEED HIRES EX-PENTAGON BUYER. The revolving door is working at Lockheed Martin Corp., which elected Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge Jr. to its board June 26, less than a month after he retired as the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer. He spent three years as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. Aldridge has also been secretary of the Air Force and president of McDonnell Douglas Electronic Systems, now a part of Boeing Co. "The type of expertise he brings is clearly a benefit to the shareholders and the company," Thomas J. Jurkowsky, a Lockheed spokesman, told the Washington Post. As a board member, Aldridge would be eligible for a $75,000 retainer and $75,000 in stock compensation.
SOME GOT IT, SOME DON'T. Amount that states have cut programs this year to cover budget shortfalls, in billions: $14.5. Income of 400 wealthiest taxpayers in the United States, in billions: $70. Percent that tax rate has decreased for these 400 taxpayers since 1995: 27%. Percent of US workers who make $8.70 an hour or less: 25%. Amount President Bush aims to raise by next year's presidential primaries, in millions: $170. Amount South Carolina Democratic Party needs to hold its 2004 presidential primary: $450,000. Amount presently "on hand" in the Party's bank account (late June): $288.93 Sources on file at the Institute for Southern Studies (www.southernstudies.org).