Monday, June 15, 2009

Gordon Brown to announce inquiry, NYT attacks workers

The BBC is reporting that Gordon Brown, UK Prime Minister, will present his plans for an investigation into the Iraq War later today. The link contains a BBC interview with Rose Gentle who offers of the investigation, "It ought to be held in public, it can't be held behind closed doors. It's the families and people that have to know the truth. It was our sons that were sent and our sons that were killed." Rose Gentle is a member of Military Families Against the War. The Daily Mirror notes:

Rose Gentle, whose teenage son Gordon died in 2004, vowed to demonstrate in Downing Street if that happened.
She said: "What's the point of an inquiry behind closed doors? "No family would be happy with that. We don't want any more lies."
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg warned that his party would boycott the inquiry if it met in secret.

Two weekends ago in Iraq, five US contractors were arrested by Iraqi forces. One was released last week with two more said to be released or on the verge of being released. On Saturday it was announced that the two had been released. Yesterday came news that the last two were turned over to US custody. This morning Nada Bakri's "2 U.S. Contractors Transferred From Iraqi Jail" (Washington Post) explains the last two were Jason Jones and Micah Milligan (with Don Feeney Jr. being the first released followed by Mark Bridges and Don Feeney Jr.):

The embassy declined to elaborate on why the two men were relocated, although a spokesman said that, technically, they remain in Iraqi custody. He said their transfer conforms to a U.S.-Iraqi agreement that went into effect this year under which crimes committed by contractors would be covered by Iraqi law.
Two Iraqi officials said they were unaware of the decision. A third, in the Interior Ministry, said a U.S.-Iraqi committee was still interrogating the two and had made the decision "for the safety of the investigation and the safety of the men."

MP Harith al-Obeidi (also spelled Obaidi) was assassinated Friday. Sami Moubayed (Asia Times) reflects on al-Obeidi:

All hopes that the months to come would witness real reconciliation in Iraq were suddenly muted this weekend when Harith al-Obeidi, a heavyweight Sunni politician renowned for his moderation and civility, was gunned down after delivering a Friday sermon in Baghdad.
He is one of the most senior politicians in Iraq to have been killed since the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. Obeidi, who heads the Iraqi Accordance Front bloc in parliament, was shot twice in the head by a teenager at the Shawaf mosque, bringing the number of Front figures assassinated over the past six years to nearly 100. Four other people were killed in the attack, including Obeidi's brother-in-law, and 12 were injured before the young assassin was himself gunned down by mosque security. Shortly before his death, Obeidi, 45, was speaking to worshipers about the lack of accountability and justice in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Iraq.
Deputy chairman of the Human Rights Committee in parliament, Obeidi had often criticized Maliki for the continued detainment of Sunnis, calling for a general amnesty and a greater role for Sunni politicians in the post-2003 political system.

Swarms of snakes are out and about in Iraq. The Independent of London reports on that noting drought has led the snakes to leave the river beds:

"People are terrified and are leaving their homes," says Jabar Mustafa, a medical administrator, who works in a hospital in the southern province of Dhi Qar. "We knew these snakes before, but now they are coming in huge numbers. They are attacking buffalo and cattle as well as people." Doctors in the area say six people have been killed and 13 poisoned.
In Chabaysh, a town on the Euphrates close to the southern marshland of Hawr al-Hammar, farmers have set up an overnight operations room to prevent the snakes attacking their cattle.

In related news, Rose Foran (The Media Line) reports that the drought is being blamed on Turkey which Iraq feels is not following through on pledges "to allow water to flow at an increased rate from the Eurphrates River to Iraq after many formal requests". Foran notes the drought has gone on "for nearly three years."

IVAW's Aaron Hughes reports on his trip to Erbil for the International Labor Conference in Iraq at US Labor Against War:

The conference was set up to bring together the major labor constituencies from across Iraq to form a confederation based on worker rights. At the end of our second day, the eve of the conference, workers from fifteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces began to arrive. There were representatives from Iraq's oil and gas industry, its port union, the electrical generation and distribution industry, construction, public sector, transportation, communications, education, rail roads, service and health care industries, machinists and metal working sector, the petro-chemical industry, civil engineers, writers and journalists, food oil workers, tailors and students.
The historical nature of the conference was clear. This opportunity for the international community and the workers across Iraq to show solidarity was long overdue. After the United States invaded Iraq and set up the provisional government, a new constitution was drafted that included worker rights. However, at the same time, Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, retained Saddam Hussein's labor laws.
In their 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (from February 25, 2009), the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor notes:
"The constitution provides the right to form and join unions and professional associations, subject to regulating law. Labor Law 150 of 1987, enacted by the Saddam government, ...declared virtually all public sector workers to be government 'executives,' and therefore legally ineligible to form or to join unions, a move that, in effect, eliminated unions and the right of association from the public sector. In the private sector, the extant 1987 Trade Union Organization Law ...was also intended, in practice, to remove the right of association from a majority of private sector workers, because most private sector businesses employ fewer than 50 workers. Decree 8750 of 2005, which cancelled unions' leadership boards, froze their assets, and formed an inter-ministerial committee to administer unions' assets and assess their capacity to resume activity, also inhibited union activity. The laws and decree do not prohibit anti-union discrimination by employers or others. In addition to this oppressive legal and regulatory framework, violence and insecurity, high unemployment, and maladapted labor organizational structures inhibited the exercise of labor rights."
Throughout the conference, in moments here and there, over sips of tea, in the hallway between talks, over a meal of lamb and rice, or in the marble floored lobby I had the opportunity to speak with the different labor leaders. Their stories were hopeful and humble. They were filled with courageous acts of resistance against the many odds stacked against them. Their government does not legally recognize unions and organizing in the public sector (seventy percent of the economy) is illegal. Union assets are frozen and confiscated. The US military has raided union leaders' homes and occupied factories and plants. The local militias target union leaders and female workers. Despite these odds, the unions are organizing, growing and winning.

That's just a section of Aaron Hughes' report and he also has a moving poem worth checking out about flying back into Iraq. If we can use that for a transition to US labor, we don't have US labor reporters at major outlets anymore. We do have labor reporters, David Bacon is one. (And he's on KPFA every Tuesday morning for a segment on The Morning Show -- 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. PST.) Susan Saulny and Robbie Brown are probably really proud of their bad article entitled "On a Furlough, but Never Leaving the Cubicle" on the front page of today's New York Times. Why?

They should be ashamed and embarrassed. They're on the front page of the news section, not in the 'features' section of the paper. This isn't a lifestyle piece. This is allegedly a news report. What's a news report's primary purpose: To inform. They fail. They should be ashamed.

In California, furloughs are being used. They're being used across the country and people need to pay attention to this point: YOU WORK, YOU GET PAID.

It's basic. It's the damn law. It's beyond the idiots of the New York Times. They write about workers who are being furloughed but aren't allowed to take the furlough meaning they are working and not getting paid. That is a HUGE violation of the law. And it's indicative of just how stupid general studies majors (journalism majors) are that they wrote up that report and never realized what they were writing. IT IS AGAINST THE LAW FOR AN EMPLOYER TO WORK YOU AND NOT PAY YOU. If you are in California or anywhere and you are being furloughed -- you are being told that you are not being paid for a day -- you need that day off. If you're not getting that day off, they are taking your work and not paying you. That is a HUGE VIOLATION. You need to speak to a labor lawyer and you need to file.

And if you're a supervisor, it's your damn job to ensure that people are not, ARE NOT, working without pay.

That the New York Times didn't even catch that is rather telling both about how pathetic the journalism programs have become and about how little care there is for workers. You work, you get paid. Anything different is breaking the law and grounds for a lawsuit. Employers found guilty of violating the law are not only responsible for back pay and possible damages, they're also at risk of fines and penalties. I can't imagine another front page report -- on the news section -- that the Times would carry where the law was being broken and the reporters wouldn't bother to point that out. It's rather telling.

Now try to follow this, on the Law & Disorder broadcast on WBAI today, Heidi Boghosian gives a moving eulogy at the top of the show. Later the broadcast features Michael Ratner and Jeremy Scahill offering some strong speeches on Guantanamo and other topics from a recent conference. That's the episode broadcast on WBAI which is one week behind other outlets and behind the Law & Disorder website. That episode begins broadcasting this morning at 10:00 am EST on WBAI out of NYC and you can stream online at WBAI.

UPDATE: Click here for the June 8th program. Scroll down to find it. The episode's not airing on WBAI so that the broadcast are on the same schedule. The June 8th program is worth listening to.

Bonnie notes that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "CIA Diva" went up last night and she also asked if we could note Kat's Congressional coverage from last week? Yes and Thursday's needs to be noted in today's snapshot so thanks for reminding me Bonnie. "The do nothing Wartime Contracting Commission," "House Veterans Affairs Strategic Forces Subcommittee," and "Assessing CARES and the Future of VA's Health Infrastructure" were the three reports by Kat.

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