ATLANTA, Ga.: Patriot Act inspires

dictatorships, says Carter

First, former Vice President Al Gore, and now former President Jimmy Carter have condemned the Patriot Act.

On Nov. 11 Carter said civil liberties have eroded in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001, and passage of the Patriot Act has emboldened dictatorships around the world to abuse human rights.

Carter said that the U.S. sent a worrisome signal by rounding up hundreds of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S., most held without access to a lawyer, for alleged violations of immigration laws.

Saad Ibrahim, an Egyptian human rights activist, spoke at Carter’s side. “Every dictator in the world is using what the United States has done under the Patriot Act to justify past violations of human rights and declare a license to continue to violate human rights,” Ibrahim said. Ibrahim himself was jailed for seven years for exposing fraud in the Egyptian election process.

Other examples include Tunisia, where lawyers defending accused terrorists are indicted for terrorism; India, where anti-terrorist laws were used to prosecute people for protesting a business development; and Colombia, where President Uribe referred to human rights activists as “politikers at the service of terrorism.”

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: The Cubans are

coming! The Cubans are coming!

Starting Nov. 17, the University of Alabama (UA) hosted a week-long seminar on Cuba which include 10 Cuban professionals: poets, scientists and writers. The seminar is an ongoing exchange funded by UA trustee and shipping magnate Angus Cooper. In 2004, a second Alabama-Cuba conference is scheduled for Havana.

Jimmy Lyons, director and chief executive officer of the Alabama State Port Authority, said U.S. policy toward Cuba remains volatile because of the anti-Communist Florida Cuban-American community, but “deepening ties are inevitable.” U.S. law does permit cash trade in agricultural and medical supplies. The Alabama Port Authority just signed a deal with Cuba to ship 10,000 to 20,000 tons of poultry through Mobile. “We certainly have other prospects going forward,” said Lyons. “There is a lot of potential.”

El PASO Tex.:

Racial double standard in U.S. Army

Jessica Lynch captured the hearts and minds of Americans and received an 80 percent disability benefit from the U.S. Army. That’s great, says the family of Shoshana Johnson, African American soldier who was also captured by the Iraqis. So why is Ms. Johnson only awarded a 30 percent disability? The difference amounts to $600-$700 a month. The family has enlisted Rev. Jesse Jackson to plead their case before Congress.

“Here’s a case of two women, same unit, same war; everything about their service commitment and their risk is equal. … Yet there’s enormous contrast between how the military has handled these two cases,” Rev. Jackson said.

In March, 2003, Johnson’s unit, a maintenance group, was ambushed by Iraqis. Johnson, 30, mother of a three-year-old, was shot in both legs. Eleven members of the unit were killed and six were taken captive, including Lynch and Johnson.

WORCESTER, Mass.:

Workers strike French company

A strike this month by members of the United Auto Workers union sent a clear message to French-based Compagnie de Saint-Gobain S.A. that workers in Massachusetts are growing tired of the firm’s stalling tactics. The strike took place Nov. 5-13. It began a day after workers overwhelmingly voted to reject company takeaway proposals.

The 800 workers at Saint-Gobain Abrasives voted the UAW in as their bargaining representative in August 2001. But the company has consistently delayed efforts to reach a first contract. Over the same period Saint-Gobain has committed 15 unfair labor practices, including unilaterally reducing workers’ health care benefits and bypassing the UAW on workplace health and safety concerns.

“We had no other choice,” stated Tony Quitadama, a 30-year mechanic at the plant. “We’ve been bargaining with them for almost two years and just as they [tried] to defeat the union vote in 2001, they continue to violate the law and make contract proposals that would take us backward, not forward.”

The union has received support from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), particularly from its affiliates at Saint-Gobain plants in France.

National Clips are compiled by DeniseWinebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com).

Pat Baker contributed to this week’s clips.

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