Peace & Justice News is a collection of news items collected by Bloomington Alternative contributor Linda Greene. Today's edition includes:
- Indiana’s Camp Atterbury one of 64 U.S. drone bases
- Vote for Hyatt as the country’s worst hotel employer
- Congressional opponents of women’s health attacking again
- Happy 50th to Walmart
- Global elite evades taxes to the tune of $21 trillion
- Most minimum-wage workers at large, profitable companies
- New Israeli ship operates without people on board
- Petition demanding troop withdrawal from Afghanistan now
- Judge prevents closure of Mississippi’s last abortion clinic
- Activist arrested near White House for protesting hemp ban
Read the Peace & Justice News archive on The Bloomington Alternative.
Indiana’s Camp Atterbury one of 64 U.S. drone bases
Camp Atterbury in Indiana, about 35 miles south of Indianapolis, is one of 64 drone bases in the U.S., as shown on a map released by Public Intelligence, a nonprofit that advocates for free access to information, according to a June 13 Wired article.
“This new map,” the post says, “comes almost two months after the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed another one, this time of public agencies – including police departments and universities – that have a permit issued by the Federal Aviation Agency to use UAVs in American airspace.”
Privacy activists have expressed concern about the possibility of military, police department and university drones flying in U.S. airspace.
“As the American Civil Liberties Union explained in its December 2011 report,” the posts says, “the machines potentially could be used to spy on American citizens. The drones’ presence in our skies ‘threatens to eradicate existing practical limits on aerial monitoring and allow for pervasive surveillance, police fishing expeditions, and abusive use of these tools in a way that could eventually eliminate the privacy Americans have traditionally enjoyed in their movements and activities.’”
The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the Pentagon from operating in the U.S., and so far there’s no evidence that drones have violated it.
Vote for Hyatt as the country’s worst hotel employer
Hyatt Hotel housekeepers have just begun a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels to protest the chain’s treatment of its housekeepers, and you can help by voting Hyatt as the worst hotel employer in the country.
According to a July 24 email from the ANSWER Coalition, “Hyatt has replaced career housekeepers with temp workers earning minimum wages. Hyatt housekeepers have heavy workloads that can lead to debilitating pain and injuries. Hyatt has fired women shortly after they have spoken out about abuse and indignities at work. And Hyatt even turned heat lamps on workers protesting these conditions during a brutal Chicago heat wave.”
Thanks to Hyatt housekeepers, the hotels’ customers have luxurious accommodations, “[b]ut invisible to hotel guests is the pain and hardship that housekeepers endure to provide us with an atmosphere of comfort and luxury,” says the email.
On July 26, actions took place in support of Hyatt housekeepers around the country, including Indianapolis, where supporters gathered at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis.
Congressional opponents of women’s health attacking again
As Planned Parenthood said in a July 25 email, since the beginning of this session, Congress has spent 37 days – or one out of every seven days – attacking women’s health and rights.
The goal of their efforts has been to advance policies that restrict, reduce and eliminate access to health care for millions of women.
Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) has introduced a bill that would delete funds for Planned Parenthood health centers around the country; deny millions of Americans access to basic care by refusing to fund the health care law; terminate the Title X program, which provides contraception to almost five million women annually; grant employers the right to deny coverage for contraception; and end insurance coverage for abortion for thousands of women.
Take action by signing a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Rehberg and their allies.
Happy 50th to Walmart
July marks Walmart’s 50th birthday, but it’s not cause for celebration, according to a July 23 email from sumofus.org.
Sumofus.org has prepared an infographic on the high cost of Walmart’s 50th birthday.
The world’s largest retailer uses as much energy each year as the bottom 57 countries combined: 27 billion kwh versus 26.2 billion.
Walmart has wiped out local jobs and made its owners, the Waltons, one of the world’s wealthiest families. For every two new jobs Walmart creates in the U.S., more than 2.8 existing jobs are lost.
Walmart is the world’s third largest employer (2.2 million,) after the U.S. Department of Defense (3.2 million) and the Chinese army (2.3 million).
The six Walmart heirs have a net worth equal to that of the bottom 30 percent of Americans.
Each year, Walmart costs U.S. taxpayers $1.5 billion because its employees earn too little to fulfill their basic needs. Because of a budget shortfall in 2012, the same sum was cut from the U.S. budget for AIDS treatment, education, vaccines and water programs worldwide.
The starting salary of the average U.S. Walmart “sales associate” is $21,000 per year, whereas the average Walmart heir earns $450 million.
Women constitute 67 percent of Walmart’s hourly employees but only 15 percent of senior management. At Walmart, women who earn the highest income earn 33 percent less than men.
As the email says, “Walmart is patting itself on the back about how far it’s come, but these wild facts show how far the world’s largest retailer has to go to live up to its motto of ‘Live Better.’"
Global elite evades taxes to the tune of $21 trillion
The super-rich global elite has exploited gaps in tax rules across borders to hide $21 trillion in offshore tax havens. That’s as much as the American and Japanese gross national products added together, according to a July 21 Guardian article.
Tax Justice Network commissioned the study that came up with these findings.
James Henry, former chief economist at the consulting firm McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, did the calculations. He demonstrated that at least $21 trillion “has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, ‘protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy.’ According to Henry's research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than £4tn in 2010, a sharp rise from £1.5tn five years earlier.”
The report indicates that for many developing countries, “the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world,” according to the post.
The figures show that inequality is much greater than official figures reveal. According to Henry’s calculations, 6.3 trillions pounds of assets belong to only 92,000 people, 0.001 percent of the global population, the post says.
Said a spokesperson for Tax Justice Network, "These estimates reveal a staggering failure: inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people. People on the street have no illusions about how unfair the situation has become."
Most minimum-wage workers at large, profitable companies
A study released July 19 shows that most people earning minimum wage are employed at large, profitable companies, according to a July 19 Nation article.
The National Employment Law Project reviewed Census data from 2009 to 2011 “and found that 66 percent of low-wage workers are employed by large businesses with over 100 employees. Moreover, it found that the 50 largest employers of low-wage workers have all recovered from the recession and are in strong financial positions,” the post says.
The top five low-wage industries are food services; accommodations; retail trade; arts, entertainment and recreation; and administrative services.
It’s obvious from the list which are the largest exploiters of low-wage labor. For instance, Walmart employs 1.4 million Americans, a huge majority of them earning less than $10 an hour. “The highest-paid executive, however, earned over $18.4 million last year,” the post says.
Other major exploiters are Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC), McDonald’s, Target, Sears, Doctor’s Associates Inc. (Subway), TJMaxx and Burger King, according to the post.
“Of U.S. jobs,” the post says, “26 percent pay less than $10 an hour.”
“[S]ome Congressional Democrats have joined forces with Ralph Nader to pass a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour immediately, and then index it to the Consumer Price Index after one year.
“But they are unlikely to find many allies on the other side of the aisle,” the post says.
New Israeli ship operates without people on board
The Protector is an “unmanned” surface vehicle that Israel used off the Gaza coast. The ship, like a small speedboat, was just upgraded by the manufacturer, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, to be longer, faster and more reliable than its predecessor and to feature a high-pressure water hose for use on “nonlethal missions,” according to a July 17 Jerusalem Post article.
The new version has two engines so that if one breaks down, another can take over, and contains cameras that provide operators with 360-degree views.
The ship features an elecro-optical surveillance camera and a “docking station that can accommodate a wide range of weapons,” according to the post.
The ship has a high-powered, nonlethal water hose Israel will use to stop Palestinian fisherman from sailing outside the area Israel permits them in and to prevent flotillas with humanitarian aid from sailing to the Gaza Strip.
Petition demanding troop withdrawal from Afghanistan now
The Council for a Livable World is asking people to sign a petition urging President Barack Obama to begin withdrawing 30,000 troops from Afghanistan this month.
The petition contends that when Obama sent 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan a year ago, he pledged to begin withdrawing significant numbers by the middle of last year, with no troops left in the country by the end of 2014. He also said the U.S. should keep at least 68,000 U.S. troops there for another decade past 2014.
“The U.S. war in Afghanistan,” the petition says, “is the longest in our history, surpassing even the Vietnam War. We are in a quagmire with no end in sight. Since we are not being asked to pay for the war, it is adding over $100 billion a year to our debt while important domestic programs are being cut.”
According to a recent email from Peace Action, Americans enthusiastically back withdrawal, by 78 to 19 percent, as found by a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Republicans back withdrawal by a two-to-one margin.
“[A]ccording to Administration officials,” the email says, “al Qaeda has been virtually defeated in Afghanistan and there is no substantial presence remaining in Afghanistan.”
Judge prevents closure of Mississippi’s last abortion clinic
On July 13, a federal judge stopped enforcement of a Mississippi law that was to close the state’s last abortion clinic, according to an email from the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“The Center, representing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization and Dr. Willie Parker, filed for immediate court action on June 27, asserting that the new law—which aimed to close the state’s last clinic by requiring all physicians performing abortions be board certified or eligible OB-GYNs with admitting privileges at an area hospital – clearly threatens the health of women and deprives them of their constitutionally-protected right to decide whether and when to have children.”
Though the law will take effect, the clinic won’t be vulnerable to criminal or civil penalties while the physicians continue attempting to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. So far, no hospital has granted clinic physicians such privileges.
Nancy Northup, president and CE of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said, “Today’s decision has ensured, for the time being, that anti-choice politicians in Mississippi cannot relegate the women of their state to a second class of citizens that can be denied their constitutional rights with the stroke of a legislator’s pen.
“Every woman in the United States must be guaranteed the same rights and protections under the laws of the land, no matter where she happens to live.
“It is truly shameful that after years of vicious legislative attacks on reproductive health care providers in Mississippi, the health and well-being of women in the state hinges on the survival of one remaining clinic.
“The federal judge has provided crucial temporary protection for the clinic and its physicians. We will remain vigilant in our fight to ensure the clinic isn't subjected to penalties that would force its doors to close."
Activist arrested near White House for protesting hemp ban
David Bronner, co-owner of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, was arrested in June outside the White House for protesting the ban on growing industrial hemp in this country, according to a June 11 Raw Story article.
"I had hoped that President Obama would not succumb to drug warriors' hysteria regarding hemp," he said. "I really don't know what else to do to get our 'Chief Law Enforcement Officer' to take a rational science-based approach to hemp policy in this country."
Along with several hemp plants, Bronner locked himself inside a steel cage but surrendered to police after fire fighters cut open the cage.
In May, Bronner told Democracy Now! that the ban on growing industrial hemp demonstrated “the absurdity and bankrupt nature of the drug war.”
“Industrial hemp,” the post says “is a commonly used fiber that’s in tens of thousands of products currently sold inside the U.S., and has a long history of use by the U.S. government. During World War II, for instance, the government urged farmers to grow hemp for military use. The fibers were used for dozens of practical solutions, including uniforms, paper, parachutes, rope and more.”
U.S. farmers aren’t allowed to grow industrial help because it shares genes with marijuana even though hemp grown outside the U.S. is made into products sold widely in this country.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has offered an amendment to the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 that would legalize production of industrial hemp in the U.S.
Linda Greene can be reached at email@example.com.