number 31   11.27.05
Katrina Workers Devastated by Wrath of Privatization
As billions of government dollars are
directed towards the gulf region to
repair the damage caused by this
year's hurricanes, immigrant rights
groups and the National Council of
La Raza (NCLR), the nation's largest
Latino rights groups, have imitated
an investigation into complaints from
migrant workers who have worked for
weeks cleaning up the disaster area
with little or no pay.

Janet Murguia, the president of
NCLR, and a fact finding group
visited makeshift tent cities which
have sprung up along the gulf coast.  
The group interviewed
undocumented workers who were
lured to the to the region from Mexico
and as far away as Guatemala and
Honduras by
sub-contractors hired by giant
military contractors such as
Halliburton.  Promises of pay, food
and lodging have not materialized for
hundreds of migrant workers as the
federal government privatized the
disaster relief effort granting
multi-million dollar no bid contracts to
corporations with ties to the White
House and republican politicians.

Murguia told reporters that the
federal government has created a
situation where migrant labor has
been exploited by shadowy private
disaster relief businesses who struck
deals with the large corporations
granted contracts by FEMA and the
US Army Corps of
Engineers.  "There's been no
accountability with those
contractors," said Murguia
standing in a tent city that houses
some of the migrants, "we live in
the United States of America, and
it seems like we ought to have
basic standards, basic human
rights."

Non-payment of wages is a
violation of federal labor law, but
the migrant workers are generally
unaware of their rights under US
law.  To compound the matter, the
state of Mississippi has no
department of labor to investigate
worker's claims of non-payment of
wages or poor working
conditions.          
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Controversial
'Evolution' Theories
Scare Off Corporate
Exhibition Sponsors
Legislators Allow Sell Off of Public Wilderness so Developers Can Mine
Hotels
A proposal recently approved by the
US House of Representatives would
permit the sale of up to 5.7 million
acres of public lands currently under
the control of the US Forest Service
and the Bureau of Land
Management. The changes to a 133
year-old mining law relax the
restrictions private companies and
individuals purchasing and
developing the land. Sponsors of the
provisions say that the changes will
lead to “sustainable economic
development” of the land, which is
mostly in the rural West.
But the legislation is opposed by an
unlikely alliance of outdoor
sportsman and environmentalists
who argue
that it amounts to a vast sell-off of
public assets.

Using what has become a familiar
tactic, House Republican leaders
attached the amendment to the huge
omnibus spending bill, so that it
passed without debate by a two-vote
margin in the early hours of the
morning. Critics point out that
although the language approved
allows real estate to be purchased
under federal mining claims, there
are no restrictions on how the land
may be developed by the new private
owners.

One of the measure’s sponsors,
California Republican Richard
Pombo, tried to assure legislators
that language
protecting wilderness areas and
National Parks would be added to
the bill in conference committee
sessions. But Pombo is a
controversial figure who has called
for the repeal of the Endangered
Species Act and the sale of some
National Parks, and as such is
widely distrusted by
environmentalists.

Another sponsor of the bill,
Nevada Republican Jim Gibbons,
defended the proposed changes,
saying, “Unfortunately, several
special interest groups have
dishonestly portrayed this
measure as a giant land sale and
giveaway to developers.”
                            
its all true
A comprehensive exhibition on
the life and work of Charles
Darwin, which recently opened
at the American Museum of
Natural History in New York,
was unable to secure a single
corporate sponsor because of
a pervasive unwillingness to
offend fundamentalist
Christians.

The exhibition cost an
estimated $3 million to stage,
and is being produced by the
AMNH in conjunction with three
other major museums.

Because corporate sponsors
have shied away from the
“controversial” nature of the
program, the entire cost of the
exhibit is being underwritten by
private donations.

Darwin’s theory of evolution,
the basis of modern biological
studies, is increasingly under
attack by members of the
religious right. The recent
inroads made by creationists
supporting “intelligent design”  
in science curricula have
sparked new debate over
Darwin’s widely accepted
theory.

In a statement, AMNH
president Ellen B. Fuller said, “
At a time when American
education in science and
mathematics is failing
dreadfully in ways that
undermine this country’s
economy and security, and
yield public confusion about
major scientific issues,
including the origins and
diversity of life on earth, the
museum is honored to join with
its collaborators in presenting
this show on Darwin.”     
its all
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Union Busting Bishop's Tactics
Halted by Real Judge in State Court
redstat
A Catholic Ecclesiastical Court has
decreed that union contracts in a
Brownsville TX parish are invalid.  
The union contracts were the first of
their kind within the Catholic Church
and covered workers in five churches
in the Brownsville diocese.

Workers in the Holy Spirit Parish
agitated for a union contract after
Bishop Raymondo Pena unilaterally
ended the workers pension fund and
established a 403b pension plan.  
The switch cut the retirement benefits
for long time staff at the churches by
two thirds.  The workers sought union
representation for their shop from the
United Farm Workers of America and
signed a contract with the parish in
2002.

The church fought back against the
workers.  Pena assigned a new
pastor at one of the parish's
churches and fired
the union activists who organized the
bargaining unit.
A Collegiate Ecclesiastical Court
then examined the contract and
determined that the local pastor
did not have the authority to bind
the parish in a contract
establishing worker's rights.  The
Catholic court ruled that only
Bishop Pena could sign such an
agreement and the panel nullified
the contract.

The workers have, however taken
the matter before another court,
the circuit court of Brownsville
Texas where four of the workers
from the parish who were fired by
Pena received a court order
returning them to their jobs in the
Holy Spirit parish.  Court ordered
mediators also ordered that the
worker's receive back pay,
reinstated the union contract and
required that the church establish
a grievance procedure to protect
workers from arbitrary firings.   
                          
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Californians Spend Nearly as Much
on Bureaucracy as on Health Care
Itself
The first ever study of the stock
market trading habits of members
of the US Senate has concluded
that senators’ personal portfolios
outperform the market by an
average of 12 percent  annually.
The study also revealed that
stocks purchased by senators
typically outperformed the market
by 28.6 percent in the following
calendar year. In separate studies
the portfolio of an average
household under performed the
market by about 1.5 percent a
year,  while the holdings of senior
executives beat the market by
about 5 percent.

“The results clearly support the
notion that members of the Senate
trade with substantial informational
advantage over ordinary
investors,” said the author of the
report, Professor Alan Ziobrowski
of Georgia State University. The
report, which was published in the
Journal of Financial and
Quantitative Analysis, concludes
that the success of the senators is
statistically unlikely.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,
(R., Tenn.) is currently the subject
of a Securities and Exchange
Commission investigation into the
sale of stock in HCA, a company
owned by Frist’s family.        
its all
true
An analysis of California's health
insurance industry reveals that one
in 3 health care dollars in the state
are spent purely on paperwork rather
than on patient health services.  The
study, by Dr. James G Kahn of the
University of California, San
Francisco, estimated that California
could save $18 to $21 billion a year
by adopting a universal single payer
health care system and eliminating
costly insurance paperwork.

Projecting the cost of insurance
paperwork nationally, the study
suggests that $230 billion is spent on
billing, marketing and other
insurance industry costs which are
completely unrelated to the care of
patients.  The authors of the study
project that over a ten year period,
California could save $344 billion,
enough to provide health care for all
of the state's residents.

The study sought to clarify for the
first time the costs specifically
associated with insurance program
administration in California.  The
authors of the study gathered
information from private insurers,
doctor's offices and hospital.  From
the overall data the authors
pinpointed how much of each health
care dollar was being spent on
purely administrative functions such
as
marketing, plan enrollment, eligibility
and
benefit determination and billing
appeals. The researchers were
stunned to find that , in hospitals and
doctor's offices 21 percent of each
dollar is spent on insurance company
costs and 13 percent is used to
cover administrative and billing
tasks.  With a third of each dollar
taken up in administration, only 66
cents of every dollar actually goes to
treat sick Californians.

A spokes person for UCSF medical
school, Dr. Thomas Bodenheimer
said that the study quantifies "the
enormous waste in our health care
system".  Dr. Kevin Grumbach,
professor and chair of the UCSF
Department of Family and
Community Medicine stated that the
report "conclusively demonstrates
that public insurance systems in
Canada and other nations have
avoided the costly administrative
inefficiencies that plague the
market-oriented US health care
system".

The study echo's the findings of a
study from Harvard Medical School in
203 which calculated that insurance
company bureaucracy accounted for
at least 31 percent of US health care
spending in 1999.  Public Citizen
reports that US health care
bureaucracy costs $400 billion yearly
and a single payer system would
save over $280 billion per year.
                            
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"Throughout history,
tyrants and would-be
tyrants have always
claimed that murder is
justified to serve their
grand vision, and
they end up
alienating decent
people across the
globe...
verbatim                                                                         number 6.1
…tyrants and would-be
tyrants have always
claimed that regimented
societies are strong and
pure, until those
societies collapse in
corruption and decay."
  Osan Korea        11.19.05
 
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