Labor waters down WTO protests

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THE SEATTLE WEEKLY’s Geov Parrish cuts through the hype surrounding organized labor’s plans for mass protest during the World Trade Organization summit from Nov. 29 through Dec. 3 in Seattle. He says the popular estimates that 50,000 workers will be marching on Seattle are inflated. Labor organizers’ plans to rent out the 70,000-seat Kingdome have been abandoned; they have reserved the 12,000-seat Memorial Stadium instead.

In light of the scaled-back plans for what was to be a showdown between the labor movement and its alleged arch enemy, free trade, Parrish wonders whether “labor really wants its big party at all.” He points out that the AFL-CIO leadersip is close to Al Gore, who is a big supporter of free trade. With Gore’s campaign for the presidency struggling to get off the ground, Parrish suggests his labor allies may be reluctant to force Gore into an embarrassing discussion on the sensitive topic of free trade.…


Nominee axed amid Senate racism charges

Oct. 7

The Senate voted along strict party lines Tuesday to defeat the nomination of Ronnie White as a federal judge, which a spokesman for President Clinton said exemplified a larger bias against appointing women and minorities. Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, executive director of the Black Leadership Forum, agreed, saying, “We’re outraged…. We think that this is a blatant and outrageous example of racism.” Ronnie White is the first African-American to serve on the Missouri Supreme Court, according to the KANSAS CITY STAR.

Senate Republicans, however, said they blocked the nomination because White was too soft in his views on the death penalty. According to Scruggs-Leftwich, though, requiring a nominee to be pro-death penalty biases the process against African-American candidates, who are more likely to oppose capital punishment because the death penalty disproportionately affects African-Americans. According to an analysis covering the 1997-1998 congressional term, 65 percent of minority nominees were confirmed, while 85 percent of white men passed the Senate’s scrutiny.

Naturally, Republican leaders vehemently denied charges of racism. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said the allegations were “unmitigated political hogwash.” Likewise, Sen. John Ashcroft R-Mo., instrumental in scuttling White’s nomination, tried to distance himself from charges of racism. “It’s outrageous for the president to accuse … senators from all over the nation of racial bias,” his spokesman said. “Where is one scrap of evidence for such scurrilous suggestions?”

Among such fine gentlemen as Jesse Helms and Orrin Hatch? We can’t imagine.…


Judge cinches logging loophole

Oct. 6

According to the ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS SERVICE, a small environmental organization has convinced a federal judge to stop logging on small parcels of federal land across the country. Chief Judge J. Phil Gilbert of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Illinois ruled that the Forest Service has been illegally exploiting a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) called the “categorical exclusion.”

The exclusion exempts very small-scale timber harvests from NEPA regulations. However, the judge ruled that the Forest Service was purposefully dividing timber stands into parcels small enough to be harvested without regard to environmental laws. He placed an injunction against further Forest Service timber sales under the categorical exclusion. The national scope of his ruling is unprecedented.


Where the petal meets the metal

Oct. 5

Traditionally viewed as enemies, environmentalists and labor unions have joined forces in a new alliance to battle multinational companies, which both groups see as a threat to their values. The new group dubbed itself the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, and includes some unlikely bosom buddies such as the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers of America, according to REUTERS.

Karen Pickett, an organizer for Earth First! was one of many who debunked the misperception that labor and the environment should be pitted against one another. That view comes from past conflicts in which environmental regulations and penalties for pollution cost large industries millions of dollars, after which companies would lay off staff to recoup the losses. Pickett said, “The bottom line is there are no jobs on a dead planet.”…environment_labor_2.html


Evolution, Utah-style

Oct. 4

At American Fork, Utah’s Ensign School, when kids ask about evolution, the teacher whips out the Book of Mormon and the Bible. There is rarely, if ever, any talk about Charles Darwin or, God forbid, monkeys.

“I guess it’s just not a big deal to us,” said Sue Otis, a teacher who co-founded the private Mormon school in American Fork, about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City. “We believe the Heavenly Father has created all things, so we let him worry about those things,” she said. “We just try to teach truth.”

The church’s teachings on such matters are based largely on this passage from 1931:

“Leave biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church.”

However, Utah’s statewide core curriculum requires that students in public high schools must understand the theory of biological evolution and be able to explain how species evolved from common ancestors. Ensign is exempt, as it is a private school.

Most popular excuse for missing homework at Ensign? “The White Salamander ate it.”…



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