Net Briefs – June 2010


 
Radiation Exposure

From Nukewatch comes news of a case of racist workplace endangerment. A nuclear waste processing company in Memphis has agreed to an out-of-court settlement after being accused of deliberately exposing African American employees to far more radiation than their white counterparts. The company was also alleged to have manipulated Black workers’ radiation monitors to falsely indicate that they’d been exposed to lower levels of radiation than was actually the case.

After being sued by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the company—Studsvik Memphis Processing Facility, formerly Radiological Assistance Consulting and Engineering (RACE)—will avoid trial, but will pay $650,000, to be shared among the 23 plaintiffs. According to EEOC lawyers, United Press International, and the Institute for Southern Studies, Studsvik managers assigned Black employees to work in a radioactively hazardous shop area while placing whites elsewhere. "I’ve been (with the EEOC) here 30 years and I’ve never heard allegations of race discrimination that I consider this serious," said EEOC trial lawyer Carson Owen (UPI reported). Some of the 23 plaintiffs alleged that they were never given monitors at all. Others claimed in depositions that during coffee breaks managers told them to switch monitors with white employees who were working in non-nuclear parts of the facility, again resulting in falsely understated documentation of radiation exposures. Some of the shop’s most hazardous work, to which African Americans were exclusively assigned, involved using a heavy torch to cut apart a damaged and highly radioactive reactor for disposal. One such "vessel head" was experimentally removed from Ohio’s Davis Bessie reactor after it was nearly punctured by corrosion.


No War Funding

From bringourwardollarshome.org comes word that the Portland City Council (Maine) passed a resolution asking the U.S. Congress to end the expenditure of citizens’ tax dollars for excessive and unaffordable war funding. Excerpts from the resolution read as follows:

"WHEREAS, the financial resources available for use by governments at the local, county, state, and federal levels in the United States are and must be limited; and WHEREAS, the people of Portland, Maine are collectively paying or becoming indebted for approximately 15 million dollars per year of their limited financial resources for warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan; and WHEREAS such expenditure is inordinate to the identified public benefits to Maine and the nation; and WHEREAS this warfare too often creates great and unnecessary harm to U.S. military personnel and their families, and to the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; and WHEREAS, essential public services such as education, infrastructure repair, family and small-business financing…throughout the State of Maine have been substantially reduced while an excessive portion of available financial resources is diverted from the constructive economy to largely unnecessary warfare.

"THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: that the City of Portland, Maine respectfully requests that the U.S. Representative from the First Maine Congressional District and both of Maine’s U.S. Senators oppose a legislation brought before the 111th U.S. Congress that provides further funding of the U.S. warfare and U.S. military occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan; and that the City of Portland, Maine also urges these members of Congress to take strong and forceful action to influence the U.S. Congress to terminate funding of these military operations."


Gulf Spill

Truthout.org sends the following from Greg Palast about the Gulf oil spill: "I’ve seen this movie before. In 1989, I was a fraud investigator hired to dig into the cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Despite Exxon’s name on that boat, I found the party most to blame for the destruction was British Petroleum (BP). That’s important to know, because the way BP caused devastation in Alaska is exactly the way BP is now sliming the entire Gulf Coast.

"Tankers run aground, wells blow out, pipes burst. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. And when it does, the name of the game is containment. Both in Alaska, when the Exxon Valdez grounded, and in the Gulf last week, when the Deepwater Horizon platform blew, it was British Petroleum that was charged with carrying out the Oil Spill Response Plans (OSRP), which the company itself drafted and filed with the government.

"What’s so insane, when I look over that sickening slick moving toward the Delta, is that containing spilled oil is really quite simple and easy. To contain a spill, the main thing you need is a lot of rubber, long skirts of it called a boom. Quickly surround a spill, leak or burst, then pump it out into skimmers or disperse it, sink it or burn it. But there’s one thing about the rubber skirts: you’ve got to have lots of them at the ready, with crews on standby in helicopters and on containment barges ready to roll. They have to be in place round the clock, all the time, just like a fire department, even when all is operating A-O.K. Because rapid response is the key. In Alaska, that was BP’s job, as principal owner of the pipeline consortium Alyeska. It is, as well, BP’s job in the Gulf, as principal lessee of the deepwater oil concession.

"Before the Exxon Valdez grounding, BP’s Alyeska group claimed it had these full-time, oil spill response crews. But it was all a lie. On that March night in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in the Prince William Sound, the BP group had, in fact, not a lick of boom there. And here we go again. Valdez goes Cajun.

"Where was BP’s containment barge and response crew? Why was the containment boom laid so late and too little? Why is it that the U.S. Navy is hauling in 12 miles of rubber boom and fielding seven skimmers, instead of BP?

"Last year, CEO Hayward boasted that, despite increased oil production in exotic deep waters, he had cut BP’s costs by an extra one billion dollars a year. Now we know how he did it. In the end, this is bigger than BP…. This is about the anti-regulatory mania, which has infected the American body politic."

Palast further reports that one of the platform workers has revealed that the BP well was apparently deeper than the 18,000 feet depth reported. BP failed to communicate that additional depth to crews.


Feeding the Hungry

Foodnotbombs.net has announced it is celebrating 30 years of feeding the hungry in protest to war, poverty, and the exploitation of the earth by holding Soupstock free concerts and gatherings in cities around the world. Food Not Bombs was started by eight activist after the May 24, 1980 protest to stop Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire. Food Not Bombs collects food that can’t be sold, preparing food to share with the hungry in over 1,000 communities around the world. This all volunteer movement is dedicated to nonviolent direct action and has no headquarters or leaders. Each group is autonomous and makes decisions using a process called consensus. The food is always vegan or vegetarian and free to anyone without restriction.

Soon after Food Not Bombs (FNB) started its second group in San Francisco nine volunteers were jailed on August 15, 1988 for "making a political statement" by sharing free food. The police made over 1,000 FNB arrests in San Francisco from 1988 to 1996. Orlando, Florida, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Nevada, and other cities in the United States have also made arrests, but were not able to stop Food Not Bombs. In Russia, neo-Nazis stabbed to death several Food Not Bombs volunteers who were feeding the hungry. Also, FNB New Orleans coordinator Helen Hill was shot to death after Katrina.

Amnesty International has designated all imprisoned Food Not Bombs volunteers as prisoners of conscience and works for their unconditional release whether they are in the United States, Mexico, or the Philippines. Food Not Bombs also initiated many grassroots projects including Indymedia, Homes Not jails housing occupations, Bikes Not Bombs, October 22nd No Police Brutality Day, Food Not Lawns Community Gardens, and The Really Really Free Markets.

Food Not Bombs continues to work for change and provide food to the hungry in over 1,000 communities around the world as well as at many protests, including immigrant rights actions, direct actions against coal mining, logging and oil drilling, animal cruelty, corporate domination, economic exploitation, and the wars in Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East.


Appalling

An article from the Boston Globe was emailed to us. The article by Nahal Toosi, Associated Press, concerns a case of domestic abuse in Pakistan about a woman whose husband taunted, threatened, and thrashed her for seven years. When she finally filed for divorce, he threw acid in her face, destroying her left eye and scarring parts of her face and lips.

When asked why she didn’t leave sooner or go to the police for help, she pointed out that, "People don’t appreciate women who go the police stations," so she would have become a pariah in her town.

Rights advocates have proposed a law banning domestic violence, which is widespread in Pakistan. According to the article, "Pakistan moves closer to banning domestic abuse" (April 18, 2010), in 2008 there were at least 7,571 incidents of acid attacks, rapes, spousal beatings, and other acts of violence against women. Surveys also show that up to 80 percent of wives in rural Pakistan fear physical violence form their husbands; 50 percent of women in urban areas admit their husbands beat them.

Islamist lawmakers in Parliament are objecting to the proposed new law to punish abusers, claiming it could "tear apart the social fabric by undermining families." A leading lawmaker even suggested that there was no domestic violence "problem" until advocacy groups "appeared and created the issue of women’s rights."

There is an advertisement adjacent to the article. It’s for an Elizabeth Grady Mother’s Day facial to give Mom a "day of beauty."


Lena

Karen Lee Wald emailed news of Lena Horne’s death on May 9, with a reminder from Jane Franklin: "Some folks think that Lena Horne’s signature song is ‘Stormy Weather’ but her real signature is ‘NOW.’ For her politics, Lena Horne was blacklisted. She was dedicated to justice and ‘NOW’ is probably the song she cared for most."

The email included a tribute from Adam Rosenberg: "It’s amazing to think that Lena Horne, star of the stage and screen, was born in 1917 just a handful of blocks away from where I live now. The late, great jazz singer passed away on Sunday evening in New York City at the age of 92. Horne started her career young, joining the chorus line at famed speakeasy the Cotton Club when she was just 16. Her vocal talents landed her a starring role in Cabin in the Sky, the Hollywood debut for noted filmmaker Vincente Minnelli, an effort which is all the more notable for its use—in 1943—of an all-African American cast. Horne’s politics led to her being blacklisted in the 1950s.

"I know Horne best for a short film her music is featured in. In 1964, Cuban filmmaker Santiago Alvarez cut a five-minute political film called Now, a montage of civil rights photos and newsclips set to…Horne singing the title song as a call to arms for those who would stand against injustice. I first saw Now in college and it’s stuck with me ever since, to the point that I keep a copy of it on my phone at all times. Horne made plenty of other contributions in entertainment’s long history, but this is my most personal memory of her. R.I.P. Lena…. You will be missed." [We watched Now online. It is, indeed, amazing. -Eds.]