Killer cops walk in California
District Attorney Grover Trask ruled May 6 that four cops who discharged a shower of 23 bullets that killed 19-year- old Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California, last December, did not commit criminal acts. Miller pulled into a gas station that fatal night with a flat tire. Relatives arrived on the scene to help and found Miller behind locked doors, foaming at the mouth in an apparent seizure. They called the police for help. When cops got there they banged on the car windows, shook the car, and flashed lights in the middle of the night at the sleeping woman, who they claim had a gun on her lap. When she reacted to this ruckus, cops opened fire, hitting her 12 times.
Public protests joined by civil rights activists, trade unionists, religious groups, angry Riverside residents, and others followed the brutal killing. "We thought we were going to get justice but we just got the same old thing," said Bernell Butler, Miller's cousin. "Police officers are able to murder and get away with it."
Cyclones rip through Midwest, U.S. gov't aid package pitiful
Vortical wind blasts from 76 tornadoes hit Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, and South Dakota May 3, reducing neighborhoods to rubble and killing more than 50 people. The myriad of twisters, some gusting up to 300 miles per hour, caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, as well as leaving tens of thousands of working people homeless. In the small town of Stroud, Oklahoma, for example, 107 homes and buildings were destroyed and damaged, and hundreds of workers are out of a job. Three days later 95 percent of homes and businesses still lacked electricity. At least one major employer there is considering moving out and not rebuilding. Insured losses alone in the five states hit by the tornadoes are as high as $1 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
In this context U.S. vice president Albert Gore toured some of the devastated areas in Kansas May 6 and announced a wee $5.7 million from the Labor Department to help clean up in that state. Other disaster relief programs are similarly inadequate, including payments for temporary housing, minor home repair, and low-interest loans for some businesses. According to one telephone operator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Office of Emergency Information and Public Affairs, for an uninhabitable home it takes at least 7-10 days before a person could even get help, and there are no guarantees.
EU won't lift beef ban on U.S.
Taking the trade conflict between Washington and its competitors in the European Union (EU) another step, the European Commission, the EU's executive body, decided unanimously May 4 to uphold its 10-year-old ban on hormone- treated beef. The EU asserts growth hormones often given to cattle in the United States are carcinogenic. U.S. rulers are threatening to impose a $300 million sanction on EU exports if the ban is not lifted by May 13. If the EU statement "reflects the sentiment in the EU," warned Peter Scher, chief agriculture negotiator for U.S. trade, "there is clearly not a serious intention to resolve the dispute, and we will be forced to exercise our rights in the WTO [World Trade Organization] to retaliate."
Russian coal miners strike
A thousand coal miners on Sakhalin Island in Russia, began a 10-day strike May 6 to demand 10 months of unpaid wages. The strip miners provide coal to the power station in the Far East region. Although the action is declared through May 16, a number of miners say they want to strike until they are paid back in full. Miners waged strikes throughout last summer and fall, pressuring Moscow to pay part of the wage arrears.
IMF tells Moscow: squeeze workers tighter to get loan
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is demanding the Russian government step up austerity measures in order to get a new $4.5 billion loan package over the next 18 months. "Pushing the controversial reforms through parliament by July will be no small feat," cautioned an April 30 article from London's Financial Times. The IMF is pushing for five steps: a new law to open banks wider to capitalist investors, changes in laws on bank bankruptcies, raising taxes for liquor and fuel, raising the regressive value-added tax to 20 percent, and relaxing foreign exchange restrictions. The new IMF funds won't actually be remitted to Moscow, but instead go directly to pay interest payments on a previous $4.9 billion loan.
Meanwhile, some 30 million people - one-fifth of Russia's population - will be in "extreme poverty" by next year if the economic crisis continues. "Extreme poverty" is defined as those living on less than half of the minimal subsistence income, which was figured at 830 rubles ($33) per month in February. The World Bank projects an 8.3 percent drop in the Russian economy this year.
Facing discrimination charges, Kodak agrees to pay raises
Eastman Kodak agreed to pay 2,000 employees - women, Blacks, and Latinos - $13 million in retroactive and current pay raises in New York and Colorado. The bulk of recipients are clerks, skilled workers, and factory workers. Individual employees as well as a local Colorado chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People complained Kodak was discriminatory in overlooking wage increases for women and oppressed nationalities by using "performance- based" raises. "Clearly racism is inconsistent with our values," asserted Kodak spokesman Charles Smith, "but there was a discrepancy that appears to be on the basis of gender and race."
S. Africa bus drivers strike
Bus drivers from the Transport and General Workers Union, Transport and Allied Workers Union, Western Cape Omnibus Staff Association, and the Transport Omnibus Workers Union went on strike April 15 demanding higher wages and a maximum 12-hour work shift. The strike by 18,000 workers ended May 3 with an 8.5 percent wage raise agreed to by the companies. Transportation bosses lost 80 million rands (US$12.8 million). The 12-hour work cap is still being negotiated by union officials and bus bosses. Unionists rejected a government-appointed arbitrator, which they said would hold a pro-company bias.
Zimbabwe Telecom fires strikers
Engineers and technicians on a national strike against the Post and Telecommunications Corporation of Zimbabwe (PTC) were fired April 29, supposedly to "prevent the alleged further destruction of property," wrote the Xinhua news agency. The PTC board accused strikers of sabotage. Workers were demanding a 200 percent wage increase. Acting Postmaster- General Sizo Mhlanga, trying to sow divisions among workers, labeled the strikers unpatriotic, selfish, well-paid trouble makers. The next day union Secretary Peter Manyonda and Chairman Simon Musvosve were arrested and charged with inciting other workers and sabotage.
- BRIAN TAYLOR
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