Saturday, February 28, 2009

From Water Activist to Chemical Lobbyist | Getting Arrested Is Good | Dangers in Water‏

AlterNet: The Mix is the Message Water
February 28th, 2009
More Special Coverage about Water »

How a Clean Water Advocate and Senator Became a Chemical Industry Lobbyist

How a Clean Water Advocate

and Senator Became a Chemical

Industry Lobbyist
By David Corn, Mother Jones
In the fight over perchlorate in

drinking water, Richard Bryan

has oddly enough been on both

sides. Read more »

There is one piece this week that might not look quite like a water story at first glance -- Bill McKibben's "I'm Planning to Get Arrested on Monday (and You Should Too)." Bill is part of a massive action that will take place in DC, beginning this weekend and ending with a protest on Monday. Folks are gathering to raise awareness about needed action on climate change, beginning with our dirty coal habit.

Check out his piece and get involved if you can -- our water future will be determined by our response to climate change and the hard work of taking that on is just beginning.

Thanks for reading,

Tara Lohan, Senior Editor

Decade of Research Reveals Cancer Danger in Town's Drinking Water

Decade of Research Reveals Cancer

Danger in Town's Drinking Water

Scientists show that the controversial chemical

made famous in the film "Erin Brockovich" is

indeed carcinogenic in water. Read more »

Bill McKibben: Why I'm Planning to Get Arrested on Monday (and You Should, Too)

Bill McKibben: Why I'm Planning to Get Arrested

on Monday (and You Should, Too)

With thousands of big names and small gathering,

the first massive protest of its kind against global

warming will put the heat on DC. Read more »

Dam Building Is Booming, But Is it the Right Path to Clean Energy?

Dam Building Is Booming, But Is it the Right

Path to Clean Energy?

Dam proponents are touting hydropower as

renewable energy in an era of global warming.

But the human and environmental costs are

high. Read more »

New York's Drinking Water Threatened by Drilling Plans

New York's Drinking Water Threatened

by Drilling Plans

The state has done little to study the impacts

drilling might have on water supplies and is

unprepared to treat the waste water it

produces. Read more »

Despite Rising Demand, We May Be at Risk of Losing Public Services Like Transit and Libraries

Despite Rising Demand, We May Be at Risk

of Losing Public Services Like Transit and Libraries

Privatization is steadily undermining the things

we all depend upon -- libraries, transit, parks,

water systems, schools and public safety. Read more »

Guard to Pull Out of New Orleans After 3 1/2 Years


by: Mary Foster, The Associated Press

After almost four years, the National Guard is finally pulling out of New Orleans. (Photo: Gerald Weaver / AP)

New Orleans - Three and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard is pulling the last of its troops out of New Orleans this weekend, leaving behind a city still desperate and dangerous. Residents long distrustful of the city's police force are worried they will have to fend for themselves.

"I don't know if crime will go up after these guys leave. But I know a lot more of us will be packing our own pieces now to make sure we're protected," said Calvin Stewart, owner of a restaurant and store.

New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley said his rebuilt police department is up to the job of protecting the city. "I think we're ready to handle things," he said.

The National Guardsmen were welcomed as liberators when they arrived in force in a big convoy more than four days after Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005 and plunged the city into anarchy. The force was eventually 15,000 strong.

The last of the troops were removed in January 2006 as civil authority returned, but then, after a surge in bloodshed, 360 were sent back in beginning in mid-2006 to help police keep order. As of February, only about 100 troops were left in the city.

With Louisiana facing a $341 million budget deficit, state lawmakers were reluctant to keep the Guard in place any longer.

The Guard was used to patrol the less populated sections of the city where Katrina's floodwaters left most houses uninhabitable. That included the woeful Ninth Ward, where renovated houses are outnumbered by moldy, boarded-up wrecks and weed-choked vacant lots.

In their camouflage uniforms and Humvees, the troops were often a welcome sight.

"We don't have enough cops. It's not that they're bad, it's just that there's not enough of them. These guys are Johnny-on-the-spot when you need them," said 57-year-old Tom Hightower, who is still trying to get the mold out of his house. He added: "This is still a spooky place after dark."

The troops had full arrest powers but were required to call New Orleans police on serious matters. In their time on the streets, Guard troops were involved in only one shooting, and the district attorney ruled it justified.

The Guardsmen answered lots of calls involving domestic violence, reported to be up in New Orleans since the hurricane, and handled car wrecks, house and business alarms and other problems.

"One of the biggest things we did was keep those places safe so people could rebuild," said Sgt. Wayne Lewis, a New Orleans native who has been patrolling the streets since January 2007. "People would put the things to rebuild in their houses and thieves would come along and take them right out again. We stopped a lot of that."

New Orleans had 210 murders in 2007, making it the murder capital of America, with the highest per-capita rate in the country. That number dropped to 179 in 2008.

Nevertheless, "crime continues to be this community's No. 1 concern. Even with the lower numbers it is still unacceptably high," said Rafael Goyeneche, executive director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

Before the hurricane, the police force had more than 1,600 officers. But its ranks were reduced after the storm by more than 30 percent because of desertions, dismissals, retirements and suicides. (New Orleans has only about 70 percent of its pre-Katrina population of 455,000.)

The department has climbed back up to about 1,500 officers, and hopes to add by the end of April more than two dozen Guardsmen who liked the work so much they signed on.

The Guard was supposed to leave on Jan. 1, but Louisiana lawmakers approved funding to keep 100 troops through February to give the police more time to recruit officers.

The Guard's departure, which will take place after the final patrol ends at 3 a.m. Sunday, will be low-key. There will be no convoy, no bands playing. The last few Guardsmen on the street will check in their vehicles and head home for good.

"I don't think the city is ready for us to leave," said Lt. Ronald Brown, who has been part of Task Force Gator since April 2007. "I'd like to see us stay. I think we make a difference, but I guess it's a money thing."

Firms Defraud Government but Get New US Contracts


by: Larry Margasak, The Associated Press

The government bought body armor from the Pinnacle Corporation after the Air Force concluded that the company falsely claimed testing the equipment. (Photo: Wired)

Companies that defrauded the United States and jeopardized American lives received new government work despite rulings designed to stop them from receiving federal contracts, government investigators report.

Payments went to a company whose president tried to sell nuclear bomb parts to North Korea, a company that jeopardized lives on the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, and a seller of body armor that the Air Force said was defective.

The companies were on a government database of 70,000 individuals and businesses suspended or barred by various U.S. agencies from receiving government contract work.

The Government Accountability Office blamed some of the mistakes on faulty computer searches by officials who left out commas or periods. But it also said the search engine for the database often failed to identify any of the entries on the exclusion list.

A hypothetical suspended company named XYZ Corp., Inc. - with a comma - would escape detection if one searched for XYZ Corp. Inc. - without the comma - the report said.

The investigators found a staggering list of offenses by companies awarded new contracts. They included use of fictitious Social Security numbers, massive tax fraud, delivery of faulty parts for the military, false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, use of insider information to bid on federal contracts, and Medicare fraud.

Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked in a hearing Thursday, "What is the point of having suspension and debarment regulations if our own agencies disregard them?"

Most contracts were awarded to excluded companies by mistake. However, the Army deliberately continued a contract with a German company, Optronic GmbH, whose president was convicted in Germany for attempting to illegally ship dual aluminum tubes to North Korea. The equipment can be used in the development of nuclear bombs.

The Army paid the company $31 million under the contract, including $4 million after it was placed on the exclusion list. The firm supplied civilians for training exercises for 7,000 U.S. troops prior to their deployment to Iraq.

In ruling that the company should not receive new contracts, the Army stated in July 2005 that the gravity of the conduct was clear, given that 37,000 U.S. forces were stationed on South Korean soil.

An Army official, in an interview, said the payments continued because the convicted president was removed from the company and the firm did an excellent job in its crucial role in the training exercises.

Edward Harrington, deputy assistant secretary for procurement, said stopping the contract early would have jeopardized the two brigades that needed the civilians in their battlefield exercises.

Other examples cited by the GAO, Congress' investigative arm:

  • The Navy suspended Tecnico Corp. of Chesapeake, Va., in April 2006, after discovering the company was using faulty fasteners on steam pipes on the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy. A rupture could have caused lethal burns.

    A Tecnico Corp. vice president, Richard Freeman, declined to comment.

  • GAO officials, in their own test, purchased body armor worth more than $3,000 from Pinnacle Armor of Fresno, Calif. The company was placed on the exclusion list in September 2007 by the Air Force, which concluded that the firm represented its body armor was tested and effective, when the equipment actually failed to meet requirements.

    Several attempts to reach the company were unsuccessful because the company mailbox was full.

  • Steven Industries of Bayonne, N.J., was banned in May 2007 after the GAO said it conspired to defraud the government by placing false labels on chemicals.

    Bill Rubenstein, president of Steven Industries, said the payments from the government after the company was barred were for contracts that existed at the time.

    Gregory Kutz, the GAO official who presented the findings, said the payments were for new orders under existing contracts and should not have been approved under the exclusion.

  • Chemco Industries, a cleaning supply company, was suspended in March 2007 - three years after its conviction for illegally discharging chemicals into the St. Louis sewer system. Officials in the Veterans Affairs Department never checked the exclusion list and ordered new cleaning supplies.

    Company owner Kamal Yadav said the firm didn't receive new business during its ban. The government "started buying again after we got reinstated," he said.
  • The GAO disputed that, saying the company was suspended March 7, 2007, and the new order was placed by the VA on Aug. 8, 2007.

    Unions Try to Heal Wounds of Bitter Split


    by: Sam Hananel, The Associated Press

    Former Rep. David Bonior (D-MI) is brokering talks to unite the union movement. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Washington - Nearly four years after a nasty breakup split organized labor, union leaders are again talking about reuniting under a single, more powerful federation, possibly this year.

    Leaders from 12 of the nation's largest unions, along with rival federations AFL-CIO and Change to Win, have held three meetings since January aimed at setting aside differences and taking advantage of the most favorable political climate for unions in 15 years.

    "We've had very positive discussions and we've reached some significant agreements," said David Bonior, the former Michigan congressman who is brokering the discussions.

    But Bonior stressed that significant hurdles remain as leaders work out how a unified labor federation would be structured and what its goals would be.

    Seven unions, led by the Service Employees International Union, bolted from the AFL-CIO in 2005. They complained the federation focused too much on political campaigns and not enough on recruiting new members. The break reflected frustration with steadily declining union membership, from a peak of 35 percent of the work force in the 1950s to about 12 percent today.

    But now the political landscape has changed with Democrats taking the White House and control of Congress. Union officials see a window of opportunity to accomplish key goals, including passage of legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize unions.

    "There's obvious benefits in terms of efficiency, message delivery, financial savings and a host of other reasons," Bonior said. "You can always be more effective if you're talking in one house as opposed to three."

    Talks have included the 3.2 million-member National Education Association, the nation's largest union, which was not previously aligned with either federation but could become part of the new structure.

    None of the leaders involved has publicly talked about specifics, but the pace of negotiations has picked up. The issue is prominent on the agenda during the AFL-CIO's annual winter meeting in Miami next week.

    "We are still talking," Change to Win chairwoman Anna Burger told reporters recently.

    Still, there are major issues to resolve, including who would lead the new federation, how organizing should be done and even what coalition would be called.

    Some breakaway unions swore they would never return to the AFL-CIO, so there's talk of changing the name identified with organized labor for more than 50 years.

    Leadership is tricky, too, with AFL-CIO president John Sweeney set to step down this year. The federation's secretary-treasurer, Richard Trumka, is a likely successor. But some unions, particularly the Teamsters, would oppose him.

    Robert Reich, former labor secretary in the Clinton administration, said the labor split didn't really matter when Republicans ran Washington and unions didn't stand a chance at reforming labor laws.

    But with Democrats in charge, unions realize that "strength lies in unity," said Reich. "A divided labor movement is inherently weaker than a united one, especially when it comes to national politics and policy."

    Nowhere is unity more important for unions than in efforts to pass the Employee Free Choice Act in Congress this year. The measure would take away the right of employers to demand secret-ballot elections by workers before unions could be recognized. Instead, unions could gain representation if a majority of workers sign cards authorizing it.

    Unions believe passage of the bill would spur a renaissance in the labor movement, perhaps doubling union membership with the ranks of workers now discouraged from organizing by employer intimidation. Business groups have railed against the bill for months, saying it would effectively deprive workers of secret ballot voting and subject employees to union bullying.

    Health Care Reform Is Needed Now More Than Ever

    by: Mark Weisbrot, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

    Doctor examines young girl.

    (Photo: Chris Jones/CORBIS)

    With the US economy's downward spiral still accelerating and the federal government looking at its largest budget deficits since World War II, some are saying that this is not the time to expand health care coverage to all Americans.

    But this is exactly the time for the Obama administration to move boldly on its campaign promise to implement a universal health care system.

    Obama wants spending that stimulates the economy in the short term, but he also wants to reduce the long-term deficit problem after the economy recovers. This is exactly what health care reform will do.

    In the short run, health care spending, like other government spending on goods and services, creates jobs and generates income. This will help arrest the economy's downward spiral.

    With the collapse of private spending, the federal government must act as the consumer of last resort - hence, the vital importance of the $787 billion stimulus package that Congress passed last week. Fortunately, this package did contain at least some health care stimulus. In included $87 billion for Medicaid payments to the state governments, $25 billion towards helping unemployed workers extend their employment-based health insurance after being laid off, and $19 billion for health information technology.

    But health care reform would do vastly more. President Obama has proposed a reform that would, while keeping the employer-based health insurance that covers most Americans, create a public health insurance system for the 46 million who do not have insurance. Large employers would be required to either pay into this system or provide their employees with insurance that is at least as good as the federal system. Individuals without insurance could buy into the public system, and the federal government would subsidize these payments so that they would be affordable for low-income households and those without ties to the labor force.

    The White House estimates that its plan would cost $50 billion to $65 billion annually, but it would be better to spend much more than this, with more federal subsidies to employers to cover uninsured workers and improve existing coverage. As big as it may seem, the $787 billion stimulus bill passed by Congress amounts to less than 2.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). This is not nearly enough to counteract our deep recession: the Congressional Budget Office estimates the output gap (i.e., how much output is below the economy's potential) at $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

    Besides saving thousands of lives by providing health care to the uninsured and supplementing the fiscal stimulus, health care reform has another huge advantage: it can drastically reduce future federal budget deficits. The vast majority of our government's long-term shortfall is due to exploding health care costs in the private sector. These spill over to the public sector, which currently finances about half of the nation's health care costs. The United States spends about twice as much per person on health care as other high-income countries, and yet has worse health outcomes, including life expectancy and infant mortality.

    The main economic reason for this colossal failure is that our system of private insurance and powerful monopolies is vastly more wasteful and inefficient than the health care systems of other developed countries. Insurance companies spend tens of billions trying to insure the healthy, avoid the sick, and deny payment for claims. Pharmaceutical companies take $350 billion of our health care dollars for drugs that cost a small fraction of that sum to produce.

    The Obama health care plan won't eliminate most of these perverse incentives and waste - eventually we will need a truly national, single-payer system like Medicare to accomplish that. But it would be a big step in that direction, creating a nearly universal insurance system and laying the foundation for a sustainable system that can contain costs.


    This op-ed has been previously published by McClatchy Tribune Information Services, The San Diego (California) Union-Tribune and other newspapers.


    Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, DC.

    ANSWER Responds to President Obama's Iraq Speech‏

    ANSWER logo2

    ANSWER Coalition Responds
    to President Obama's Iraq Speech
    of Friday, February 27

    All Out for the Mass March on the Pentagon
    on Saturday March 21, 2009!

    With his speech today, President Obama has essentially agreed to continue the criminal occupation of Iraq indefinitely. He announced that there will be an occupation force of 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for at least three more years. President Obama used carefully chosen words to avoid a firm commitment to remove the 50,000 occupation troops, even after 2011.

    The war in Iraq was illegal. It was aggression. It was based on lies and false rationales. President Obama's speech today made Bush’s invasion sound like a liberating act and congratulated the troops for "getting the job done." More than a million Iraqis died and a cruel civil war was set into motion because of the foreign invasion. President Obama did not once criticize the invasion itself.

    He has also requested an increase in war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, and plans to double the number of U.S. troops sent to fight in Afghanistan.

    President Obama has asked Congress to provide more than $200 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over the next two years, in addition to increasing the Pentagon budget by four percent.

    Based on President Obama's new budget, the Pentagon would rank as the world's 17th largest economy—if it were a country. This new budget increases war spending. Total spending in 2010 would roughly equate to an average of $21,000 a second.

    This is not the end of the occupation of Iraq, but rather the continuation of the occupation.

    There is only one reason that tens of thousands of troops will remain in Iraq: It is because this is a colonial-type occupation of a strategically important and oil-rich country located in the Middle East where two-thirds of the world's oil reserve can be found.

    Obama's speech was a major disappointment for anyone who was hoping that Obama would renounce the illegal occupation of Iraq. Today, the U.S. government spends $480 million per day to fund the occupation of Iraq. Even if 100,000 troops are drawn out by August 2010, that means the indefinite occupation of Iraq will cost more than $100 million each day. The continued occupation of Iraq for two years or three years or more makes a complete mockery out of the idea that the Iraqi people control their own destiny. It is a violation of Iraq's sovereignty and independence.

    It is no wonder that John McCain came out to support President Obama's announced plan on Iraq. McCain was an supporter of former President Bush's and Vice President Cheney's war and occupation in Iraq.

    Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld—the architects of regime change in Iraq—never had the goal of indefinitely keeping 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. They wanted to subdue the Iraqi people and exercise control with a smaller force. The Iraqi armed resistance prolonged the stationing of 150,000 U.S. troops.

    Bush's goal was domination over Iraq and its oil supplies, and domination over the region. This continues to be the goal of the U.S. political and economic establishment, including that of the new administration.

    President Obama decided not to challenge the fundamental strategic orientation. That explains why he kept the Bush team—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Generals Petraeus and Odierno—on the job to oversee and manage the Iraq occupation. They will also manage the widening U.S. war in Afghanistan and the aerial assaults on Pakistan. There have been over 30 U.S. bombing attacks in Pakistan in the last two months.

    We are marching on Saturday, March 21 because the people of this country are fed up with the status quo. They want decent-paying jobs, and affordable health care and housing for all. Students want to study rather than be driven out by soaring tuition rates. The majority of people want a complete—not partial—withdrawal of ALL troops from Iraq. They want the war in Afghanistan to end rather than escalate. They are increasingly opposed to sending $2.6 billion each year to Israel and want an end to the colonial occupation of Palestine.

    Don't miss the important announcement about the
    Dramatic Action Planned for the March 21st Pentagon March:

    On March 21, 2009, March on the Pentagon
    and the Corporate War Profiteers


    Get Involved
    Go to for more information.

    A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
    National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
    New York City: 212-694-8720
    Los Angeles: 213-251-1025
    San Francisco: 415-821-6545
    Chicago: 773-463-0311

    Claire Gatinois | After the Financial Crisis, Civil War?

    This is VERY long article but worth the read.......just click on the link.....

    Claire Gatinois | After the Financial Crisis, Civil War?

    Clair Gatinois, Le Monde: "Will the economic and financial
    crisis degenerate into violent social explosions? Tomorrow,
    will there be civil war in Europe, the United States and
    Japan? That's the rather alarming conclusion that the
    experts of European think tank LEAP/Europe 2020 lay out
    in their latest bulletin dated mid-February."

    Green Jobs Are a Way to Aid the Middle Class


    by: Joseph R. Biden Jr., The Philadelphia Inquirer

    Blake Rainville installs solar panels on a house in Fremont, California. (Photo: Newscom)

    Today, in Philadelphia, the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families is holding its inaugural meeting. Our charge is to assess current polices and develop new ones aimed at helping the middle class, the economic engine of this country.

    The economic-recovery package that President Obama signed into law last week contains more than $20 billion for investment in a cleaner, greener economy, including $500 million for green job training. The task force's first order of business is to evaluate how investing in green jobs will help build a strong middle class.

    So what exactly are "green jobs"? They provide products and services that use renewable energy resources, reduce pollution, and conserve energy and natural resources.

    Investing in green jobs also means keeping up with the modern economy. At a time when good jobs at good wages are harder and harder to come by, we must find new, innovative opportunities.

    According to the Council of Economic Advisers, green jobs pay 10 to 20 percent more than other jobs. They also are more likely to be union jobs. Building a new power grid, manufacturing solar panels, weatherizing homes and office buildings, and renovating schools are just a few of the ways to create high-quality green jobs that strengthen the foundation of this country.

    More green jobs can also mean more money in consumers' pocketbooks at the end of the month. They can reduce your electric and heating bills, leaving you more disposable income for other things.

    Right here in Philadelphia, for example, there are 400,000 rowhouses that could be weatherized and made more energy-efficient. Just doing that would lower household energy consumption by 20 to 40 percent, saving families hundreds of dollars a year.

    Fortunately, as we will stress in our meeting here today, Mayor Nutter, Gov. Rendell, and other state and city officials across the nation are ready to help us build a greener economy. Philadelphia, for example, is working with its unions, universities, and community colleges to impart green skills to workers from all walks of life. The city is also proposing a new public authority to support large-scale green investment, especially in weatherization, building retrofits, and infrastructure.

    We're excited to be in Philadelphia promoting an idea that has so many benefits. We're starting to make the investments needed to leave a cleaner world to our children while also creating good jobs right now. When you're creating green jobs, you're doing well by doing good.


    Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the vice president of the United States.

    Mexico Unconquered: Reviewing a People's History of Power and Revolt

    by: Benjamin Dangl, t r u t h o u t | Book Review

    Emiliano Zapata. (Photo: Bain Collection)

    Reviewed: "Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt," by John Gibler, 356 Pages, City Lights Publishers, (January 2009).

    Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, calls Mexico home, as do millions of impoverished citizens. From Spanish colonization to today's state and corporate repression, "Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt," by John Gibler, is written from the street barricades, against the Slims of the world, and alongside "the underdogs and rebels" of an unconquered country. The book offers a gripping account of the ongoing attempts to colonize Mexico, and the hopeful grassroots movements that have resisted this conquest.

    Gibler, a Global Exchange Media Fellow, has been reporting from Mexico since 2006. While writing for dozens of media outlets, he has covered events such as the Zapatistas' Other Campaign, the teachers' revolt in Oaxaca and other stories of police repression and popular resistance. These reports form the basis for much of the book. (His articles are collected at the Global Exchange web site.)

    In the prologue, Gibler writes of the book: "Each chapter bleeds into all the others: they all share the same blood." It's true: the chapters flow together smoothly, bonded by Gibler's steady class analysis and excellent storytelling skills. He breathes poetry and anecdotes into the history, and empathy and prose into the reporting, so these stories can be understood and felt, not just read.

    "Mexico Unconquered" starts off with an engaging people's history of Mexico. Gibler guides the reader through the country's various presidencies and popular uprisings. From Oaxaca, Gibler offers a firsthand account of the incredible teachers' revolt, with unbelievable reports on police brutality and people's solidarity. From Chiapas, Gibler provides a concise overview of the Zapatistas' history, contextualized with background information on indigenous autonomy and reports on the Other Campaign. The book also tells stories from Mexico's ghost towns, with numerous interviews with families that bear the burden of immigration to the US.

    But the book is more than just an account of neoliberal nightmares and grassroots revolts. It cuts to the heart of the problems ravaging Mexico today, dissecting the roots of the country's corruption, state repression, drug wars and poverty. In this respect, the book's approach reflects what the late folk singer Utah Phillips once said, as posted on the site: "The Earth is not dying - she is being killed. And those who are killing her have names and addresses." Well, Gibler offers the names and addresses of the people - and companies and ideologies - that are still trying to conquer Mexico.

    "I hope that the thoughts and stories presented herein will be of use to others reflecting on similar social conditions in other lands," Gibler writes. Indeed, harrowing accounts of Mexican police using torture to spread fear and expand power - but not necessarily get information - recall the torture methods employed in the US-led "War on Terror." The book's stories of how the drug war in Mexico is used as a pretext for police to murder and repress with impunity is shockingly similar to the drug war in the Andes. Numerous examples are also given in the book of how the law in Mexico - as in so many other countries - works only for those with political power and weapons.

    Beyond its analysis, history and reporting, this book is also a call to revolt. Toward the end of the book, Gibler recalls the words of a friend, "[I]f we are all complicit in the damage, then we all share responsibility in the solutions; that is, we are united, or can be united, in taking a stand, in revolt."


    Benjamin Dangl is currently based in Bolivia, and is the author of "The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia" (AK Press). He is the editor of, a progressive perspective on world events, and, a web site on activism and politics in Latin America. Email:

    The Push to Downsize Defense

    by: Maya Schenwar, t r u t h o u t | Report

    US President Barack Obama in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on February 26, 2009, announces his administration's fiscal year 2009 federal budget. (Photo: Getty Images)

    As President Obama released his budget outline for fiscal year 2010 on Thursday, recommending about $664 billion in defense funding, a determined group of progressive Congress members and activists pushed for a marked change in the way the US spends those dollars. Led by Rep. Barney Frank, the group advocates a 25 percent cut in military spending, to be accomplished by eliminating wasteful and obsolete programs, reducing active nuclear warheads and withdrawing from Iraq in an efficient and timely manner.

    The Obama administration's budget allocates $534 billion in general defense funds for fiscal year (FY) 2010: an inflation-adjusted increase of about 2.1 percent over the amount appropriated by Congress last year, according to an analysis by Travis Sharp at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. It's a smaller increase than previous years have seen, according to Sharp, but nevertheless continues the trend of a swelling defense budget. An additional $130 billion is requested for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Obama's budget outline excludes funding for nuclear weapons and non-Defense Department military costs which, according to Sharp's analysis, totaled around $23 billion for FY 2009.

    Military spending has more than doubled in the past eight years; it now tops $700 billion and sucks up about 40 percent of US tax dollars. According to Frank, bloated defense funding is crowding out domestic priorities.

    "The logic is irrefutable," Frank said at a forum on Wednesday, where he discussed his proposal to chop off a quarter of the defense budget. "If we are not able to get military spending under control, if we are not able to break the trend that's now there, we will not be able to respond to important domestic needs."

    Frank was joined by Congress members Barbara Lee, Keith Ellison, Dennis Kucinich and Lynn Woolsey at Wednesday's meeting. Lee emphasized the benefits of reducing military spending, including more money for education, health care and homeland security. She also pointed to some obvious targets to slash: stale Cold War-era programs that somehow never made it to the chopping block.

    "It has been eighteen years since the collapse of the Soviet Union," Lee said in a statement. "I find it mind-boggling and inexcusable that nearly two decades later, the Pentagon continues to waste tens of billions of dollars buying outdated, Cold War-era weaponry for a national security threat that no longer exists."

    The flood of dollars toward obsolete systems is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cutting weapons purchases, according to Craig Jennings, federal fiscal policy analyst with the nonprofit OMB Watch. Substantially reducing the Pentagon budget will necessitate a meaty cost-benefit analysis, discarding appropriations that just aren't worth it.

    "Congress needs to ask the critical question, 'Are defense expenditures meeting the needs of the nation?'" Jennings told Truthout. "In other words, does the F-22 make us so much safer from present-day threats like al-Qaeda that it's worth expending tens of billions of dollars on? Do we really need $4 billion stealth naval destroyers? What is more ultimately harmful to the health of the nation: 46 million people without health insurance or the threat of intercontinental ballistic missile launches from North Korea? These are questions that Congress - Democratic and Republican - have consistently failed to pose. While Frank's specific plan may not be the right solution, the very fact that he's broaching the taboo subject of substantial cuts to military spending is very encouraging."

    Just trimming the fat - cutting obsolete programs, reducing nuclear arsenals and eliminating wasteful spending - would save more than $60 billion, according to Erik Leaver, policy outreach director for Foreign Policy in Focus.

    Also, withdrawing from Iraq could substantially reduce the defense budget. Obama has said that the withdrawal will help to curb the deficit, and despite a troop build-up in Afghanistan, he's probably right, according to Jennings, who estimates that the number of troops in Afghanistan will be about one third of the number currently in Iraq.

    However, withdrawal has its costs, too. Procurement and maintenance costs for equipment will continue as long as some troops remain in Iraq, and transporting soldiers and equipment home will add to the tab, according to Leaver. He also notes that the transportation of supplies is more expensive in Afghanistan than in Iraq.

    Moreover, any plan to reduce the defense budget must take into account President Obama's plans to expand the Army and Marines by nearly 100,000 troops. Growing the military not only increases short-term spending, but it racks up long-term veteran-related costs. According to Leaver, an enlarged military creates a "hidden cost" as well.

    "With a larger-sized military, President Obama or other future presidents may be tempted to use them more liberally in combat missions," Leaver told Truthout. "As we've seen with Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, what seems like a 'cakewalk' often turns into a military and fiscal disaster."

    Thus, Representative Frank and his colleagues are suggesting a fundamentally different direction: a reconceptualization of the Defense Department as a smaller, more limited enterprise. The transformation won't happen overnight, but it is far from doomed, according to Sharp.

    "While I think it is pretty unlikely that Frank's proposal will go anywhere this year, Frank himself has said that he wants this to be a long-term project, not a one-time effort," Sharp told Truthout.

    Changes in the defense-budgeting process may pave the way for reductions - or at least bring more scrutiny to skyrocketing military expenditures, according to Sharp. Departing from the Bush administration's general strategy of submitting supplemental spending bills throughout the year to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama budget requests the whole year's funding up front, though it remains in supplemental form, separate from the general budget. The Bush administration tended to request war funds in partial-year segments, obscuring the full cost of the war. The Obama administration has said that in future years, it will dispense with supplementals for war funding, forcing policymakers to weigh it alongside other priorities in the general budget. Experts commend the switch, calling it a boon for transparency.

    "This may seem like a small change, but it is an enormous improvement over the Bush administration, which insisted until the bitter end that it could not present its war budget at the beginning of the year even though it was required by law," Sharp told Truthout. "If war supplementals are submitted at the beginning of the year and eventually phased out, it will improve congressional oversight and allow policymakers to perform better long-term planning. It also will present a clearer picture to the American public of what the country spends in Iraq and Afghanistan."

    Revealing the true cost of Iraq and Afghanistan would not only bring home the amount of money the "war on terror" is costing taxpayers. Squeezing defense money through the same funnel as comparably meager domestic allocations could potentially force a reassessment of America's priorities. However, even that hard comparison might not have enough oomph to knock Congress out of defense-budget overdrive.

    "When it comes to military spending, Congress tends to treat those expenditures as 'free money,' in that they are not in direct competition with other, non-defense program spending," Jennings said.

    Thus, according to Rep. Frank, the cost-benefit analysis needs to be spelled out not only for Congress but for the American people.

    "If we do not make reductions approximating 25 percent of the military budget starting fairly soon, it will be impossible to continue to fund an adequate level of domestic activity even with a repeal of Bush's tax cuts for the very wealthy," Frank wrote in an op-ed in The Nation earlier this month. "I do not think it will be hard to make it clear to Americans that their well-being is far more endangered by a proposal for substantial reductions in Medicare, Social Security or other important domestic areas than it would be by canceling weapons systems that have no justification from any threat we are likely to face."

    Signs may bode well for a serious consideration of Frank's proposal. The fact that the American people elected a president who objected to the invasion of Iraq, coupled with an economic crisis that sheds disapproving light on any wasteful spending, could fuel a new push to reexamine military excess. The Obama administration's moves toward defense-budget transparency could open new eyes to that budget's immensity. Plus, the very presence of an open discussion of the military budget's size is a positive signal, according to Sharp.

    "One notable thing about Frank's plan is that it represents a return to public debate about recalibrating and reducing defense spending," Sharp said. "It was politically taboo to discuss reducing or rearranging Pentagon spending requests in the years after September 11. Any member of Congress who dared to publicly question larger defense budgets risked being called unpatriotic, 'soft' on terrorism, or worse. Now, seven years later, it seems things slowly are returning to normal."


    Maya Schenwar is an editor and reporter for Truthout.

    Will-ful Deceit at the Washington Post‏

    Sierra Club

    RAW: Uncooked Truth, Beyond Belief

    Issue #2756
    Feb 27, 2009
    Will-ful Deceit at the Washington Post
    Josh Dorner

    After years of soft-pedaling the science around global warming and actively abetting the Bush administration's strategy of sowing doubt about the problem, it seemed like the media had more or less gotten its act together when it comes to reporting on climate change. This past couple weeks, however, we got an unfortunate reminder that denialism is alive and well on the editorial pages of some of America's most prominent newspapers.

    Two weeks ago George Will, occasional bow-tie wearer and one of the media elite's favorite conservative blowhards, penned a column (based at the Washington Post but syndicated nationally) attacking the so-called alarmist doomsaying (read: reality) around global warming. Conservatives ranting about global warming alarmism is of course nothing new, but this column struck a nerve because it blatantly misstated (read: lied about) some basic scientific facts around sea ice and global temperatures.

    Others have done an excellent take-down of the distortions, so I won't waste time there. The real story is the ridiculously cack-handed response from Will and the Post.

    First, the brand-spanking new ombudsman, Andy Alexander, dug the hole deeper by defending the Post's "fact-checking" and editing process. He pointed out that an astonishing FIVE editors at the Post had looked over the column. He then not only refused to concede the column's obvious and glaring errors, but doubled down on them in Will's defense. No correction has been issued.

    This stands in marked contrast to the New York Times, which offered repeated corrections to arch-conservative Bill Kristol’s notoriously shoddy columns during his brief tenure on their opinion page. It's somewhat ironic that after being kicked to the curb by the Times, Kristol is now going to start writing a column for the Post.

    (It should be of additional embarrassment to the Washington Post that the Center for American Progress discovered that Will has essentially recycled this same column approximately ten times over the years -- stretching all the way back to 1992.)

    The blogosphere was already seething and the Post's non-response response was so troubling that Sierra Club and other groups wrote a letter of protest to Alexander (noting, in part, that Will was entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts), but things really kicked up a notch when Andy Revkin of the Times took on Will. (Revkin also misguidedly attacked Al Gore by equating his supposed overplaying of warming to Will's lying, which then caused its own separate flap in the blogosphere.)

    And its not just bloggers, enviros, and media watchdogs who are upset. The Oregonian had refused to run Will's column and Galen Burnett, the paper's commentary editor, had this to say of the Post's response: "I was a little troubled by the response from the Washington Post editors which was basically dismissive of people's challenge of the column. That's the more troubling aspect to me. I would expect more of the Post."

    And then it just got totally nuts. Speaking to the Columbia Journalism Review, the Post's opinion page editor, Fred Hiatt, not only defended Will, but then bizarrely asserted that those demanding accuracy and truth when it comes to science were in some way advocating censorship. It gets better. Hiatt then defended Will's right to interpret science as he sees fit and even said that Will has no obligation to even mention that the scientists he is citing vehemently disagree with his characterization of their research.

    The escalation has only continued today, with Will writing a new column attacking his naysayers (including Andy Revkin) and doubling down on his original lies. Revkin then hit back, citing scientists discussing science (what a novelty). Our friends at Media Matters and bloggers continue to pile on. Should be interesting to see if Andy Alexander actually does some ombudsman-ing in his column this Sunday or just continues to defend the nonsense being spewed by Hiatt and Will?

    At this rate, I'm guessing the hole under Fred Hiatt's desk may reach China before Will makes the rounds on this Sunday's talk shows.

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    Worker Privacy Act ready for floor votes

    FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2009 (PDF version)

    Worker Privacy ready for floor votes

    Business lobby engaged in desperate bid
    to retain compulsory indoctrination
    of workers on religious, political issues

    Amid a legislative session dominated by debate about painful budget decisions, it was a worker-rights bill — the Worker Privacy Act — that inspired the most discussion at the Washington State Labor Council's 2009 Legislative Conference in Olympia on Thursday.

    "Workers should not be compelled to attend meetings about particular religious or political beliefs that they may not share," Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said, earning thunderous applause from the standing-room-only crowd of some 350 union members and leaders at the conference.

    Brown was referring to the Worker Privacy Act (HB 1528 and SB 5446), which would allow workers in Washington state to choose whether or not to participate in employer communication on issues of individual conscience, including politics, religion, unionization, and charitable giving.

    This week, the legislation was passed from the House and Senate labor committees after being amended to reaffirm that employers would retain their freedom of speech on all issues, including those of individual conscience. The difference under the Worker Privacy Act is that employers would not be able to force employees to participate in such meetings, or punish or fire those who choose to opt out. (Read more about the amendment and the bill's momentum.)

    Meanwhile, the business community's leather-soled legions of lobbyists in Olympia are doing everything they can to undermine support for the Worker Privacy Act. The Association of Washington Business is misrepresenting a flawed, cursory 3-page "informal opinion" written by a deputy in the Attorney General's office to be the final word in whether the legislation is preempted by federal law. The AWB says "the Attorney General has concluded..." when the AG's web site indicates, "informal opinions should not be described or cited as 'Attorney General Opinions'... (they) should be cited as a letter or memorandum of the attorney who signed the opinion."

    In this case, the memo by Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey T. Even is refuted by extensive legal analyses by the former General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, Connecticut's Attorney General, and many legal scholars and experts who agree that states absolutely do have the right to enact such a law.

    The Worker Privacy Act has already inspired thousands of emails, phone calls and letters of support to legislators. It has 47 sponsors in the House and 21 sponsors in the Senate, and plenty of votes to pass, according to vote counts by WSLC staff that have discussed the issue with legislators.

    So it's time to step up the pressure for floor votes in the House and Senate -- contact your legislators RIGHT NOW. The cutoff day for bills to receive votes in the houses of origin is Thursday, March 12. Let's vote on it!

    Senate's one-sided U.I. reform bill needs fixing

    This week, the Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee advanced a major overhaul of the state's Unemployment Insurance tax system that would save employers hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years. But it included almost no benefits for workers and, in fact, took a step backward in one area.

    In its current form, SB 5963 is considered a "bad labor vote" for the WSLC legislative voting record. It is just bad policy to make a permanent structural change to the tax system without any corresponding permanent benefit change.

    The WSLC and others have urged legislators to restore the benefit multiplier to 4.0, where it was for decades before being cut to 3.85 in 2005. (This means your weekly benefit is 3.85% of the average of your two highest-earning quarters.) If legislators "Restore to 4," U.I. benefits would increase $8 to $19 per week, costing $20-30 million per year depending on unemployment levels. It would not be phased in until 2010, after the temporary $45-a-week benefit boost, enacted as an economic stimulus, has expired.

    Compare that to what businesses will save in U.I. taxes. The employers' own analysis finds that, in its current form, SB 5963 will save them up to $583 million if unemployment continues at its current baseline, projected above 8% through 2012. If the economy plummets into the "Worst Downturn Since the Great Depression" -- with 10% unemployment rates out to the year 2015 -- they still save $312 million in taxes between 2010 and 2015. Seems like making unemployed workers whole by restoring the traditional 4.0 multiplier, which costs $20-$30 million a year, is a fair and equitable change.

    Adding insult to injury, SB 5963 also undoes an important Supreme Court decision granting the Employment Security Commissioner some flexibility in determining whether workers have quit their jobs for "good cause" and are due benefits. The court found a previous list of good-cause quits established in the labor-opposed U.I. reform of 2003 was too restrictive and unfair to workers in unique circumstances. Restoring that restrictive list in SB 5963 doesn't even save any money because commissioner discretion has been used so infrequently. It's just a matter of fairness.

    The good news: on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown told the WSLC's Legislative Conference, "We know that bill needs some more work."

    So while we are hopeful that the Senate will restore some balance to this year's U.I. reform, it's important to call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and leave a message for your State Senator to OPPOSE SB 5963 unless it is amended to give workers permanent benefit increases alongside the employers' permanent tax cuts.

    A major step forward on health care

    Legislation passed the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee this week that encapsulates the vision of the state's Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care and sets Washington on a course to achieve significant savings for consumers, businesses and the state government. SB 5945, sponsored by the committee's chair, Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent), would establish the Washington Health Partnership to:

    • Commit Washington to working with the federal government to achieve the goal of guaranteeing secure, quality, affordable health care for all state residents by the year 2012;

    • Seek a federal waiver that would allow the state to offer coverage -- through an Apple Health program -- to adults in families with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level;

    • Consolidate state purchasing of health coverage and streamline administration;

    • Examine the health reform proposals studied by Mathematica (five comprehensive health care reform proposals commissioned to be studied in 2008's SB 6333) and selecting one, or a combination, for consideration.

    SB 5945 positions Washington to take full advantage of federal money that is part of President Obama's economic stimulus legislation. Those additional federal matching dollars for Medicaid will help preserve our state's health care safety net: the Basic Health Plan, public health and children's health programs, long-term care, mental health or family planning.

    SAVE THE DATE! Union members and other supporters of affordable, accessible health care are urged to support SB 5945 and other important legislation at the Healthy Washington Coalition's Lobby Day on Wednesday, March 11. The HWC is a coalition of unions, businesses, health care providers, consumer groups and others who support this goal. Learn more and RSVP to attend the Lobby Day at

    State's only labor college on chopping block

    Another issue that created quite a buzz at the WSLC Legislative Conference this week was the fate of the state's only labor college, the Labor Education & Research Center at The Everegreen State College. It is the only statewide higher education outreach program providing direct educational and research services to labor unions and worker-centered organizations. And it's on the legislative chopping block.

    There are countless publicly funded institutions in Washington whose mission is to train the next generation of business managers and executives. These business colleges teach tomorrow's management to treat labor as a mere cost that needs to be contained in order to maximize profits.

    Yet it's TESC's Labor Center, the one college in Washington that empowers workers to learn and exercise their rights, that faces elimination. And, as the WSLC reported earlier this week, there is evidence the targeting of the Labor Center is being prompted by the right-wing Landmark Legal Foundation as part of a national campaign to eliminate funding for labor colleges across the nation.

    The WSLC will keep you informed of this developing story as state budget talks progress.

    Organized labor is "part of the solution"

    Rep. Steve Conway (D-Tacoma), Chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, reminded those assembled at the WSLC Legislative Conference of something President Barack Obama recently said: "I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem. To me, it’s part of the solution."

    We hope state lawmakers share the president's philosophy as they address the challenges of the 2009 legislative session. Washington's labor movement is fighting for policies that empower the state's citizens to improve their lives. It's people, not profits, that will lead the way to better times ahead.

    Schakowsky: Pushing for More After Ledbetter


    by: Allison Stevens, Women's eNews

    First Lady Michelle Obama poses with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), left, and Lilly Ledbetter. (Photo: Charles Dharapak / AP)

    Rep. Jan Schakowsky is hoping for a "big change moment" to tackle women's concerns. Even so, a bundle of bills propose incremental reforms that could add up. Sixth in a series on members of Congress who are advancing issues raised by the WeNews Memo.

    Washington - In June, Michelle Obama made a last-minute decision to take time out of her campaign schedule to speak at the annual fundraising luncheon for the National Partnership for Women and Families, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that lobbies for workplace fairness and balance.

    It was an auspicious sign that the group would have a key ally in the White House if her husband, Barack Obama, won the presidential race.

    Now first lady, Michelle Obama has appointed Jocelyn Frye, formerly the general counsel for the National Partnership, to be her policy director and has pledged to use her position to help working women balance responsibilities to their careers and families.

    Michelle Obama has not publicly laid out a work-family legislative agenda; a spokesperson did not return a call for comment.

    But the president supports legislation that would narrow the gender pay gap, lower the cost of child care, encourage companies to offer flexible work schedules, protect workers with caregiving responsibilities from discrimination and expand leave benefits to employees.

    Efforts to tackle these problems have come up short in recent years, partly because President Bush opposed many of them.

    But with a new president and first lady championing work-life balance issues - and with Democrats in firmer control of Congress - lawmakers and advocates see the possibility for major change on the horizon.

    "I have every hope this is one of those moments, those big change moments," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who is the new co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Women's Issues, a bipartisan group of female lawmakers in the House of Representatives. "I don't see change happening in small increments."

    Schakowsky spoke to Women's eNews in a recent interview. She addressed these and other issues at a panel discussion sponsored by Women's eNews at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last August.

    Uncertain Prospects for Family Bills

    Prospects for work-family legislation this congressional cycle are uncertain because of the recession, which curtails federal tax revenues and makes money for discretionary programs harder to find, said Heather Boushey, an economist at the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

    Also, massive budget and health care initiatives are coming down the legislative pike and could push work-family measures farther down the to-do list.

    Still, she said there's reason to believe Congress will act on behalf of working women, and cited as proof the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law by President Obama in January. It effectively reverses a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that made it more difficult to sue for wage discrimination.

    "It is very rewarding that the first bill the president (signed) is the Lilly Ledbetter Act," Schakowsky said. "I think it's symbolic that not only is the president moving quickly but the Congress is moving quickly on women's issues."

    Congress also set aside $2 billion for child care programs in the stimulus package signed earlier this month.

    Meanwhile, women's rights advocates have their eye on legislation that would expand employees' rights to take temporary leave from work to take care of themselves or family members.

    They frame the initiatives as a matter of economic security that will help employees - especially women - keep their jobs if they or a family member falls ill or if a new child arrives.

    These kinds of benefits are especially necessary during economic downturns, said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families.

    Women often bear the brunt of recessionary periods because they earn less than men, have fewer benefits, and are more likely to have part-time positions that often do not allow them to qualify for unemployment insurance. Because they earn less money overall, women also save less and have smaller pensions or retirement accounts.

    "More than ever it is critical that we have policies that don't add to that struggle," Ness said.

    Pro-business advocates argue that expanded leave benefits for employees impose unfair administrative burdens and costs on employers.

    Proponents counter that argument by saying that companies would save costs by reducing turnover and retaining trained employees.

    Under current law, companies with more than 50 employees are required to offer workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves or a family member after the arrival of a new child or in cases of a serious illness.

    The law applies to about 60 percent of the nation's employees and does not cover short-term illnesses, according to a study by the Department of Labor in 2000. Nor does it require paid compensation during absences; consequently, many eligible employees cannot afford to take advantage of the benefit.

    A number of bills are percolating in Congress that would expand workers' leave benefits, but one in particular - the Healthy Families Act - has drawn lawmakers' and advocates special attention, according to Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a think tank in New York that studies changes in the workplace.

    Sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, the bill would give most workers up to seven paid days off to care for themselves or for family members in case of minor illness.

    Most observers think the paid sick-day provision has the best chance of becoming law this cycle, Galinsky said; however, passage is not assured.

    Economic Pressure to Move Bills Ahead

    The worsening recession could make lawmakers more reluctant to force businesses to give workers more benefits, Galinsky said.

    However, the economy could also push the bill forward. "As you get more women in the work force, which is what's happened in the downsizing that's happened, these issues are going to have more salience. There's a little bit more pressure" to pass this bill, she said.

    Advocates also are pushing for a number of other bills that would expand workers' leave benefits.

    One measure, introduced in the last Congress by Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, would expand current leave law so workers could take up to eight weeks of paid leave to care for themselves or their family members.

    Bills that would take more incremental steps toward expanding workers' leave rights have better prospects at passage, said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and executive director of MomsRising, an online-based organization that lobbies for mothers' rights.

    That sort of incremental change could come in a measure to provide federal employees with four weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child. New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced the bill - called the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act - in January.

    And the House passed a bill earlier this month to make a technical fix to the Family and Medical Leave Act to make it easier for flight attendants and other airline employees to qualify for unpaid leave. Because some airline employees don't work a typical 40-hour work week, they have trouble qualifying for the unpaid leave benefit.

    Meanwhile, on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Obama could reverse regulations authorized by President Bush that made it more difficult for employees to access their leave.

    "There's no reason to think he isn't interested in reversing" Bush's regulations, Ness said, noting that Obama is a "strong supporter" of workers' leave benefits.


    For More Information:

    US Employers Pushing Women Out of Work Force

    Video: Jan Schakowsky, House member on Women's eNews YouTube Channel
    To view an interview with House member Jan Schakowsky, click here.


    Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief at Women's eNews.