Washington, D.C.: U.S. health care system is in crisis

The National Academy of Sciences demanded that President Bush take immediate action, including universal insurance coverage and no fault payment for medical malpractice, to provide medical services to 41.2 million people.

In their report, released Nov. 20, the 16-member panel said, “The American health care system is confronting a crisis. The health care delivery system is incapable of meeting the present, let alone the future, needs of the American public. The cost of private health insurance is increasing at an annual rate in excess of 12 percent. Individuals are paying more out of pocket and receiving fewer benefits. One in every seven Americans is uninsured and the number of uninsured is on the rise.”

Baltimore: African Americans remain locked out of banking

The NAACP issued an overall grade of C to the nation’s leading banks for their economic diversity practices.

Kweisi Mfume, NAACP president and CEO, said that the grades indicate the need for “sweeping improvements” in the multi-billion dollar banking industry. “The days have long gone when merely sponsoring community events or buying a table at a charity dinner is adequate corporate responsibility in terms of opening the doors of opportunity to provide economic equality,” he said. “It is disappointing that fair access and equal treatment are still not yet a reality within the banking industry.”

The NAACP further reports that African Americans have hit a plateau in the telecommunications industry, which recieved the same grades as in 1998. “These companies continue to do poorly when it comes to advertising and marketing through African American-owned media and vendor development,” said Mfume.

Somerset, Pa.: Quecreek miners say TV movie painful but real

For three days in late July, national attention was focused on the fate of nine coal miners trapped in hundreds of feet underground. On Nov. 25, ABC broadcast a TV movie of their successful rescue. The country caught of glimpse of the miners’ workplace.

Interviewed by Pittsburgh TV, the miners and their wives said that the film was accurate, and that it revived painful memories.

The mine had been closed since the accident and was reopened on Nov. 20. An investigation into the incident to determine why millions of gallons of water flooded the mine continues by state and federal agencies.

Only one miner, Joe Kstyk, has said he will go back to coal mining underground.

Birmingham, Ala.: Working families on the street

A national survey released last week found that the current economic slowdown is pushing more people into homelessness in Birmingham and other cities across the United States. In the October survey, 38 percent of 20,000 homeless people surveyed blamed economic conditions as the direct cause of their situation.

Two-thirds of those surveyed here said they’ve been homeless for less than a year, and 33 percent were homeless for the first time, Cooper said.

“Layoffs, plant closures and corporate failures mean that many more men, women and children are in need,” he said.

New York: Subway workers killed on the job

Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Roger Toussaint demanded an emergency meeting with NYC Transit officials when two union members were killed while working on subway maintenance. The union has repeatedly raised with management that warning procedures for track workers about oncomning trains are inadequate.

“What we hope to achieve out of this is no more deaths,” Toussaint told a news conference. “We’ve had four fatalities in the last 18 months. We can’t take this anymore.”

Currently all maintenance work is on hold pending an investigation.

On Nov. 21, signal maintainer Joy Antony was killed by a train while he was checking the box that controls the signal lights. The next night, 57-year-old Kurien Baby, who washed, cleaned and replaced lights on the platform, was struck and killed by a train in a tunnel. The worker, a 14-year veteran, was setting up caution lights at the time of the accident.

Contributors: Phil Benjamin and Denise Winebrenner Edwards. Send national clips to pww@pww.org