Walmart's Mexican bribery scandal is having repercussions in the United States. Though Walmart does not, thus far, face charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, it is facing increased scrutiny as it tries to move into or expand in a number of locations. Within the United States, Walmart has increasingly focused on moving into big cities since it has saturated the suburban and rural markets already, and it has spread around contributions to elected officials to ease its way around the political obstacles presented by organized opposition in cities. Now, there's increased attention to those contributions, and Walmart opponents have an added tool:
In New York, City Councilman Erik Dilan said the housing and buildings committee that he heads will conduct an investigation into a land-use transfer at a Brooklyn site Wal-Mart has been considering. The New York state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, was already reviewing a contract for the site, a vacant 14-acre lot in East New York owned by the state.It's unlikely there will ever be a single knockout blow against Walmart, but the company's practices are so shoddy on so many fronts that it provides a lot of targets to win small battles, to impose costs for the ways it grows by abusing workers, breaking laws or skating right along the edge of law-breaking, and buying its way into new markets.
In Los Angeles, opponents of a Wal-Mart site in Chinatown were using the bribery scandal to supplement an appeal they have filed that would rescind the project?s building permit.
In the Boston area, Wal-Mart is eyeing three possible stores, in Somerville and Watertown and in the Roxbury neighborhood. Leaders of the local anti-Wal-Mart coalition are now demanding that the company publicly identify its financial contributions to elected officials, local organizations and community leaders.
The secret source that legendary journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein referred to as a "mystic" in their investigation that brought down President Nixon turns out to have been a grand juror who spoke to them in a likely violation of the law.
The revelation came out on Sunday when one of Woodward's former research assistants published an article for New York Magazine, poking holes in a tale that seemed to have been a cemented part of journalistic lore.
In All The President's Men, their book about the investigation, Woodward and Bernstein wrote that they tried but were never able to interview grand jurors investigating the Watergate scandal in 1972.
But in the new article, Jeff Himmelman, who worked as Woodward's assistant from 1999 to 2002 and then again in 2007, revealed the existance of a memo Bernstein wrote at the time that shows otherwise.
Himmelman uncovered the memo while digging through the archives of Ben Bradlee, who was the editor of the Washington Post when the two journalists investigated the 1972 break-in at Democratic national headquarters, which eventually led to Nixon's undoing.
The memo detailed an interview Bernstein had with a woman he identified only as CB. She pointed the journalists to articles they had already written, told them they were on the right track and that they should dig into certain issues further. Bernstein quoted the woman as saying, "Of course, I was on the grand jury."
Himmelman noted the details of the memo seemed to match up with the description of a secret source that Woodward and Bernstein wrote about in their book and called only by the pseudonym Z. The pair, he noted, described the woman in their book as sounding "like some kind of mystic."
It would have been illegal for the grand juror to talk about the investigation. It's unclear whether it was also against the law for Bernstein to contact the grand juror, but the article noted that a judge at the time threatened the journalists with jail if they ever obtained information from any of the grand jurors they tried to interview.
The legendary journalists have already pushed back against the revelations, writing a rebuttal that accompanied the New York Magazine article. Their response confirmed the woman's role but downplayed the significance of the allegations.
"As the memo plainly shows, Carl did not know she was a member of the Watergate grand jury when he arrived at her home," they wrote.
"Though the woman threw out lots of names of those she suspected of furthering the criminal conspiracy (she had some right and some wrong), she provided no specific information of suspect or illegal action," they wrote. "What she said led to no story."
In an interview with Politico on Sunday night, Woodward again criticized the article. The details of the piece that have gotten the most attention are lingering doubts from Bradlee about minor details involving Woodward's secret meetings with his famous source, known as Deep Throat. Several years ago, the source was revealed to be former FBI deputy director Mark Felt.
"The whole premise is based on what Ben said 22 years ago, Ben in 1990 saying he had some doubt," Woodward said. "Then 15 years later, Mark Felt comes out, he does a book, I do a book, everyone re-excavates, and everything rings true."
Himmelman's article was adapted for the magazine from a forthcoming book, called Yours In Truth, which is set to be published in May.
Himmelman suggested that the revelations might be more significant than Woodward and Bernstein let on. In his article, Himmelman said at some point he approached the journalists with what he uncovered. They weren't happy with what they heard. Bernstein, he said, quipped near the end of their conversation: "Maybe they'll send us to jail after all."
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Here’s a telling quote from an article by Gail Collins:
An American child could go to a public school run by Pearson, studying from books produced by Pearson, while his or her progress is evaluated by Pearson standardized tests. The only public participant in the show would be the taxpayer.
You have to wonder about the dangers of the growing control of corporations when you read stuff like this.
John recently wrote about Ron Brown, an assistant football coach at the University of Nebraska who ruffled feathers recently when he testified against a non-discrimination ordinance which extended protections to gay and transgender people. And his reply to those who ask him if he's worried about losing his job? Bring it on:
To be fired for my faith would be a greater honor than to be fired because we didn't win enough games...I haven't lost any sleep over it.But calls for Brown's resignation do not stem from his comments alone. Many who wish to see Brown go take issue him making his comments while acting as an agent of the University of Nebraska (which has a non-discrimination policy that includes protections for sexual orientation, gender and genetic information), not as an individual. From ESPN:
Brown -- in a decision he said he now regrets -- gave Memorial Stadium in Lincoln as his address of record...people could have inferred he was representing the university, not just himself, when he [testified].Despite Brown's misuse of his public status, it appears that his job is, at least for now, safe:
Chancellor Harvey Perlman admonished Brown for giving the stadium address, but he said Brown's personal views do not reflect those of the university.Ron Brown is only the most recent example of religious individuals working for public institutions claiming the right to endorse religious beliefs on behalf of the taxpayer. A few years ago, the issue was put in the spotlight just down the road from Kenyon College.
Science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner.Freshwater was also reported to have told students to refer to the Bible for scientific research material and to have either ignored or intentionally mis-taught certain areas of the school's curriculum for years, particularly the section on evolution. But those actions were not deemed sufficient cause for his dismissal from the public school system. He was finally fired only after accidentally burning what appear to be crosses into the arms of two students with a tesla coil in a lab experiment.
Tomorrow, citizens around the world will make a statement by gathering to once again make May 1st the call to action it once was. (You can follow it here.) The NYC Occupy movement has called for a day of "mutual aid" and the day's activities will culminate in the offering of free education:
A major focus of May Day will be the Free University, which has been coordinated by college students throughout the city. They will be standing in solidarity with students from around the country and the world who are struggling for free or lower-cost education. Education is a human right, but more and more colleges and universities are raising tuition, closing off access and slashing workers? jobs. The students in New York have been organizing for massive student walk-outs on May Day that will converge in Madison Square Park for an afternoon of free classes provided by college professors, which anyone can join.
Contrary to popular belief, general strikes are not illegal, they're just governed by specific laws. Workers and unions used to be a lot more effective when they were more willing to strike:
Perhaps the first nation-wide labor movement in the United States started in 1864, when workers began to agitate for an eight-hour day. This was, in their understanding, a natural outgrowth of the abolition of slavery; a limited work day allowed workers to spend more time with their families, to pursue education, and to enjoy leisure time. In other words, a shorter work day meant freedom. It was not for nothing that in 1866, workers celebrated the Fourth of July by singing ?John Brown?s Body? with new lyrics demanding an eight-hour day.
Agitating for shorter hours became a broad-based mass movement, and skilled and unskilled workers organized together. The movement would allow no racial, national or even religious divisions. Workers built specific organizations?Eight Hour Leagues?but they also used that momentum to establish new unions and strengthen old ones. That year, the Eight Hour Movement gained its first legislative victory when Illinois passed a law limiting work hours.
The demand for an eight-hour day was about leisure, self-improvement and freedom, but it was also about power. When Eight Hour Leagues agitated for legislation requiring short hours, they were demanding what had never before happened: that the government regulate industry for the advantage of workers. And when workers sought to enforce the eight-hour day without the government?through declaring for themselves, through their unions, under what conditions they would work?they sought something still more radical: control over their own workplaces. It is telling that employers would often counter a demand for shorter hours with an offer of a wage increase. Wage increases could be given (and taken away) by employers without giving up their power; agreeing to shorter hours was, employers knew, the beginning of losing their arbitrary power over their workers.
With the union threatening a general strike to hobble the city if strike breakers were brought in, PRT brought in 600 strike breakers, while denying they had done so. Trolley workers in Trenton, sensing the moment, went on strike, shutting their transit company down with a strike that would later fuel the rise of the Central Labor Union.
The final straw for calling a general strike was the National Guard and the Pennsylvania Constabulary entering the city to provide protection for PRT's few remaining workers. Members of other unions throughout the city saw this as a clear signal that the city and state governments were uniting in favor of the companies against the unions. When the well-trained, heavily armed Constabulary failed to immediately restore order, there was talk of bringing in the United States Army or Navy.
With the general population, newspapers, retailers and religious groups uniting against PRT, a general strike was called. All unions in all industries were asked to walk out, in hopes of adding financial burden to the city and PRT.
As city commerce ground to a near halt, the general strike had wider impacts, leading to sympathy walkouts along the East Coast. The public was hungry for reform and vengeance on the hated industries who controlled transportation.
The union's "scorched earth, take no prisoners" approach eventually brought PRT to the negotiating table, ending the general strike while the trolley walk-out continued.
Were general strikes effective, in terms of getting their listed demands? Sometimes. But they were a powerful tool for advancing their interests and being taken seriously by the bosses. Mothballing strikes meant the weakening of the union movement:
Others may question how the strike can be placed at the center of trade union strategy when unions typically lose strikes nowadays. We must remember, however, that what?s been proven ineffective is only the ?free market? perversion of the strike. For over three decades, the labor movement has accepted a model of striking, collective bargaining, and trade unionism that makes no economic sense whatsoever. Standing on a picket line and watching scabs take strikers? jobs has never worked for the labor movement. Of course it doesn?t work today.
As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted when he was leader of the United Mine Workers of America in the early 1990s, ?the labor laws in this country are formulated for labor to lose. And if you play by every one of those rules, you lose every time.? To win strikes, trade unionists must recreate an effective strike which draws heavily upon traditional trade union theory and practice. In doing so, the labor movement will have to directly confront the system of labor control?a system of laws and court rulings specifically constructed to outlaw effective union tactics.
Admittedly, breaking free from the system of labor control will not be easy. Union officers, staff, and members operate within a given context. A set of established laws, trade union practices, and underlying values and assumptions of labor relations constitute the ?rules of the game.? On a day-to-day basis, contracts are negotiated, advice is given, and decisions are made within this context. For any individual trade unionist, breaking out of this system will be difficult. That?s why the overall context?the ?rules of the game??must be changed.
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, whose tenure is marked by several high profile blunders, including a recent incident where she lost and then found about 14,000 votes in a high-profile state supreme court race, announced on Saturday that she will not run for reelection in November. While this is probably a positive development, it begs the larger question of why the state of Wisconsin believes that a county’s chief vote counter should be an elected position the first place.
Want to know where the country’s dirtiest hotel room is? No, it’s not that $20-per-night drive-in motel on the side of the highway. Chances are that it’s a penthouse suite in a J.W. Marriott hotel in Chicago.
And if you’re looking for the cleanest hotel in the country, you might consider going to a Vagabond Inn located somewhere in California.
That’s according to a new report from the research firm Brighter Planet, which just released a comprehensive ranking of the energy and carbon intensity of hotel chains across the country. Here’s a look at the geographic spread of where the “cleanest” and “dirtiest” hotels are located:
There are roughly 51,000 hotels, motels and inns scattered around the U.S. that serve around five million guests each year. According to Brighter Planet, the lodging industry represents about 4 percent of all commercial building energy consumption in the country, generating 34.5 million metric tons of CO2 each year.
As appliances and building materials get more efficient, you’d think that the industry would be getting more efficient. But this analysis shows that modern hotels use far more energy per room than their “vintage counterparts.” This trend is particularly stark in upscale hotel chains, which use 25 percent more energy per night than the average budget hotel.
The dirtiest 25 percent of hotels ? a large share of which are upscale chains ? represent more than half of the energy use and carbon emissions from the entire lodging industry. The cleanest 25 percent only make up 7 percent of energy consumption and carbon emissions.
However, it’s wrong to conclude that high-class hotels are always going to be “dirtier” than budget lodging:
It’s probably no surprise that efficiency varies by price, with upscale hotels on average using 25% more energy per room-night than budget hotels. This is to be expected based on hotel characteristics: the average upscale hotel has twice as many rooms and was built a decade more recently than the average budget hotel, with midrange hotels falling in between.
But it’s important to note that there’s so much variability within each service class that the different service classes overlap significantly. Nationwide the cleanest upscale hotels are cleaner than most budget hotels, and the dirtiest budget hotels are as dirty as all but the dirtiest quarter of upscale hotels.
This study is particularly relevant for companies attempting to track their carbon footprints. It’s not just air or car travel that matters. Depending on the length of stay and the type of room purchased, lodging can rival the carbon intensity of office space.
The Los Angeles Times offers this review of Mitt Romney’s response to Massachusetts’ Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Romney used the issue as an opportunity to build a national profile among conservative voters — and despite running on a platform of expanding equal rights for gays and lesbians, sought to defuse the Court’s decision and supported a federal constitutional constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The tactic surprised some voters, who believed Romney’s campaign pledge to make domestic partner benefits a “hallmark of my leadership as governor,” as he himself seemed to indicate an early willingness to accept the pro-gay ruling:
Then came the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling in November 2003 that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry. In its 4-3 decision, the court gave the Legislature 180 days “to take such action as it may deem appropriate.” Opponents of same-sex marriage ? citing a quirk in the state’s colonial-era Constitution that gave the governor authority over matters related to marriage ? argued that the court’s decision was not binding and urged Romney to ignore it.
But Romney did not want to trigger a constitutional crisis ? seeking, his advisor Flaherty said, to be “respectful of the law and respectful of people at the same time.” Initially, he struck a balanced tone with his two-track move to find a legislative solution that would satisfy the court while corralling support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. “We certainly have to follow the law, and the Supreme Court has laid down what we must do,” he said on NBC’s”Today” show the day after the ruling. “But in my view, the right action is to follow two courses at the same time.”
But the governor quickly dropped all talk about complying with the ruling. Behind the scenes, Romney advisors worked to come up with ways to head it off, according to those involved. They consulted conservative constitutional experts such as historian Matthew Spalding, who works closely with former Reagan Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III at the Heritage Foundation.
It was soon clear that Romney could not push a gay marriage ban through the state’s liberal-leaning Legislature. So he helped persuade Republicans to support a compromise amendment that barred same-sex marriage but legalized civil unions.
Romney eventually seized on an obscure 1913 law (originally intended to limit interracial marriage), to keep out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts and “endorsed a separate citizens’ petition for an amendment to ban gay marriage. Still, some conservative activists criticized Romney for opening the door to civil unions,” accusing him of being “everywhere on this issue,” and even going so far as to claim that he personally issued marriage licenses to gay couples.
By 2005, however, Romney was appearing before conservative groups in South Carolina and declaring, “From Day One, I’ve opposed the move for same-sex marriage and its equivalent, civil unions.” Calling the ruling “a blow against the family,” he said that some gay couples “are actually having children born to them.”