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Sun, 23 Feb 2020
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US: The Verizon Strike as the Next Wisconsin

verizon workers on strike
© modernsara
Verizon workers on strike on August 9.
The picket lines are up. This past weekend 45,000 Verizon workers on the East Coast, represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), went on strike. The cause of the strike was the company's attempts to win massive concessions from the unions. Verizon argued that the employees should give up gains they had won over many years of struggle and negotiation in previous contract fights.

As the Wall Street Journal put it, "Verizon Communications Inc. is seeking some of the biggest concessions in years from its unions." Demands include the weakening of health-care benefits, cuts in pensions, reduced job security, and elimination of paid holidays such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This despite the fact that the company reported billions in profit last year, and that, in the words of New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse, "Verizon's top five executives received a total of $258 million in compensation, including stock options, over the last four years." The unions argue that Verizon has made some $20 billion in profit in the same time period, and Citizens for Tax Justice has pointed out that the company has done so while paying little to nothing in corporate income taxes.

Light Saber

Throwing America Overboard

tea party tax protest
© Unknown
Time to Cap the Tea Kettle

The Boston Tea Party in December 1773 threw the East India Company's tea overboard. The Republican Tea Party in August 2011 threw America overboard.

Only in Congress, with its rules for minority rule, can a minority of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives impose its havoc on the American people there, then on the Senate side and on Obama's wilting White House.

Leaving aside the psychiatric question of why a clutch of Republican Tea Partiers, many of them freshmen, terrify the veteran Republicans who outnumber them in the House, consider what they just pushed through the House against the American people.

For 150 million workers, Tea Partiers pushed through more cuts in the already starved federal programs that are aimed at diminishing the yearly 58,000 fatalities in workplace-related disease and trauma plus larger numbers injured and wounded.

There are 307 million eaters in America. More than 7,000 of them die from contaminated food and more than 300,000 are hospitalized each year. The Tea Partiers pushed cuts through the House to the already underfunded FDA food safety programs. They did this even though last year Congress strengthened the FDA's authority and expanded its responsibilities, including closer inspection of hazardous foodstuffs increasingly coming from communist China.

War Whore

U.S. border guard pleads guilty to harassing B.C. teen

'I often dream of someone crushing my neck,' says B.C. teen. Surrey, B.C., teen still has nightmares after being physically attacked by an off-duty border guard.

[Editorial note: a video accompanied this story, but it appears the CBC was pressured into removing it]

A U.S. border guard has pleaded guilty to harassment for threatening to kill a Surrey, B.C., teenager during a road rage incident.

Joel J. Helle, 56, who works at the Blaine border crossing, was sentenced last week to one month of partial confinement.

According to court documents filed in Skagit County, the 17-year-old B.C. resident was driving northbound on the I-5 with his parents and two friends on his way back to B.C. from Seattle on April 23.

The teenager had just changed lanes when he noticed a black BMW following closely behind. The teen changed lanes again, away from the BMW, but it also changed lanes and moved in close to the teen's car, forcing him onto the shoulder of the road.

The BMW followed, at which point Helle got out of the BMW, struck the teen's window with his fist, then pulled out a badge and slapped it against the window. He then reached in and grabbed the teenager's neck, making statements like, "You are lucky I didn't shoot you."

Helle then let go of the driver, got back in his car and drove away.


Chavez Emptying Bank of England Vault as Venezuela Brings Back Gold Hoard

© Kerem Uzel/Bloomberg
In all, Venezuela has 365.8 metric tons of gold reserves, according to the World Gold Council.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the central bank to repatriate $11 billion of gold reserves held in developed nations' institutions such as the Bank of England as prices for the metal rise to a record.

Venezuela, which holds 211 tons of its 365 tons of gold reserves in U.S., European, Canadian and Swiss banks, will progressively return the bars to its central bank's vault, Chavez said yesterday. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Barclays Plc (BARC), and Standard Chartered Plc (STAN) also hold Venezuelan gold, he said.

"We've held 99 tons of gold at the Bank of England since 1980. I agree with bringing that home," Chavez said yesterday on state television. "It's a healthy decision."


One in five American children now living in poverty according to new report

* 14.7million children in families with income less than $21,756 a year
* Child poverty increased in 38 states from 2000 to 2009
* Mississippi is state with highest level - 31 per cent
* New Hampshire is state with smallest level - 11 per cent

child poverty US

One in five in poverty: 14.7million - or 20 per cent - of children in the U.S. live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level

Karla Washington worries how she will afford new school uniforms for her five-year-old daughter.

Washington, an undergraduate student, earns less than $11,000 a year from a part-time university job.

The salary must cover food, rent, health care, child care and the occasional splurge on a Blue's Clues item for her only child.

'My biggest fear is not providing my daughter with everything that she needs to be a balanced child, to be independent, to be safe, to feel like she is of value,' said Washington, 41.


Wishful Thinking: Silicon Valley billionaire reveals plan to launch floating 'start up country' off San Francisco

Seastead Ayn Rand Paypal
© Unknown
'Big ideas start as weird ideas': An artist conception of a Seastead city.
PayPal-founder Peter Thiel was so inspired by Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand's novel about free-market capitalism - that he's trying to make its title a reality.

The Silicon Valley billionaire has funnelled $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute, an organization that aspires to launch a floating colony into international waters, freeing them and like-minded thinkers to live by Libertarian ideals.

Mr Thiel recently told Details magazine that: 'The United States Constitution had things you could do at the beginning that you couldn't do later. So the question is, can you go back to the beginning of things? How do you start over?'

The floating sovereign nations that Thiel imagines would be built on oil-rig-like platforms anchored in areas free of regulation, laws, and moral conventions.

The Seasteading Institute says it will 'give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get.'


US: Alaska Bank Employee Charged with Stealing $4.3M

© unknown
An Anchorage bank employee embezzled more than $4 million the old-fashioned way - by carrying it out of the building, according to federal prosecutors.

Gerardo Adan Cazarez Valenzuela, 26, is charged with stuffing $4.3 million into computer boxes and wheeling them out of a KeyBank vault on a rolling cart. He was arrested in Mexico on Aug. 1 and indicted Wednesday by a grand jury in Anchorage, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Valenzuela, also known as Gary Cazarez, remained in Mexico on Thursday.

Details of the case were revealed in an affidavit filed by FBI agent Susan Cusack based on bank surveillance equipment, interviews with employees and admissions by Valenzuela.

According to Cusack, Valenzuela entered the vault at 6:39 p.m. July 29 - a Friday - with three computer-size boxes on a rolling cart. He turned out the vault light and filled the boxes with cash.


US, Texas: Starbucks Pays $75K in Suit filed by Woman with Dwarfism

© The Associated Press
The Starbucks Coffee Company has paid $75,000 to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to settle a lawsuit for unlawfully denying a reasonable accommodation to a woman with dwarfism, according to a press release.

The lawsuit was filed by the commission on behalf of Elsa Sallard, who claimed she was fired from her job as a barista because she is a dwarf.

According to a press release from the commission, Sallard told employers during a training that she could use a stool or stepladder to do her job.

"The manager at the El Paso Starbucks location disregarded Sallard's request," the release said. "On the same day that Sallard requested the accommodation, Starbucks terminated her employment, claiming that she would pose a 'danger' to customers and employees."

Commission officials said that the settlement not only compensates Sallard, but is an agreement that Starbucks will provide training in compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act.


Taser-related deaths in US accelerating

© Unknown
The rate of deaths in Taser-related incidents is rising as police forces increasingly adapt the conducted energy weapons, a Raw Story analysis finds.

A 2008 report (PDF) from Amnesty International found 351 Taser-related deaths in the US between June, 2001 and August, 2008, a rate of just slightly above four deaths per month.

A database of Taser-related deaths maintained at the African-American issues blog Electronic Village counts 96 deaths related to the use of Tasers since January, 2009.

Assuming the statistics are correct, that indicates the death rate has increased to an average of five per month.

Electronic Village counts the 96th Taser-linked death as being that of Adam Colliers, a 25-year-old resident of Snohomish County, Washington, who was reportedly "running up and down" a street and causing a disturbance when he was Tased by two officers. He stopped breathing shortly afterwards, and was pronounced dead in hospital a short while later.

It was the second Taser-related death, and the fifth death in a police encounter, in the Seattle area over the past week.


UK: Bodybuilder Dies After Police Blast Him Three Times with Taser Gun

Dale Burns

Competitor: Bodybuilder Dale Burns is believed to be the first person to die from a police Taser
A bodybuilder is believed to be the first person in Britain to have died from a police Taser after officers shot him three times with the powerful 50,000-volt gun.

Father-of-two Dale Burns, 27, was confronted by up to eight officers after they were called to reports of a disturbance at his bedsit in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

He was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage but when he refused to calm down officers used pepper spray before one fired at him three times in quick succession.

His death reopened the debate on the controversial use of Tasers amid calls for a radical overhaul of their use.