WASHINGTON: Al Gore says ‘repeal Patriot Act’

Before 3,000 people in Constitution Hall, Nov. 9, former Vice President Al Gore charged President Bush with “mass violations of civil liberties” and eating away at personal freedoms under the Patriot Act. To repeated applause, Gore called on Congress to repeal the Patriot Act.

“I believe that the Patriot Act has turned out to be, on balance, a terrible mistake, and that it became a kind of Tonkin Gulf Resolution conferring Congress’ blessing for this president’s assault on civil liberties,” Gore said.

Over 26 million Americans agree with Gore. Recently, Portland, Maine and Silver City, N.M., joined 203 cities, towns and communities enacting resolutions challenging the federal Patriot Act. The Gore event was sponsored by MoveOn.org, the grassroots online peace and justice group.

FRESNO, Calif.: More gov’t spying on peace groups

The quiet young man who sat in the corner turned out to be a detective for the Fresno County Sheriff. Members of Peace Fresno found out his true identity when the local newspaper published his picture.

Catherine Campbell, an attorney representing Peace Fresno, told the Sacramento Bee that the group is contemplating legal action.

In early November, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued new guidelines which expand law enforcement agencies leeway in spying on antiwar groups and others. Although portions of the new guidelines are “classified,” the guidelines in part call for “the proactive collection of information concerning threats to national security, including information on individuals, groups and organizations of possible investigative interest.”

The phrase “possible investigative interest” worries the American Civil Liberties Union. In a statement, the ACLU contends that the rules are “apparently designed to allow detailed monitoring of both citizens and noncitizens without any indication of ongoing or intended espionage.”

BECKLEY, W.Va.: Bush protects coal operator, fires whistleblower

Jack Spadaro, a mining engineer, enforced safe underground and surface mining regulations and taught coal mine safety for 26 years. In October, the National Mine Health and Safety Administration accused him of abusing his authority, failing to follow orders and misusing a credit card which cost the government $22.60 in bank fees. The administration said it would fire Spadaro within 30 days.

What Spadaro did was expose a cover-up. On Oct. 11, 2000, 300 million gallons of contaminated water, the result of strip mining, burst its restraining walls and flooded two hollows and an abandoned underground mine on the West Virginia-Kentucky border. The “sludge pond” spill was twice of the size of the fatal Buffalo Creek disaster, 30 years ago, when 125 people were killed. This time no one died when the mountain of polluted water and sludge spewed out, but residents have been buying bottled water for the past three years.

Spadaro was part of the investigative team and wanted to issue eight violations against Massey Energy, owner of the “sludge pond,” impose heavy fines and hold federal regulators accountable for inadequate enforcement of safety regulations. At the end of the day, Massey paid only $110,000 in fines.

“I would have to say flat out that Jack would not be in the spot he’s in if he had not been a whistleblower,” said Joseph Main, health and safety director for the United Mine Workers of America union.

Jason Huber, Spadaro’s attorney, agreed. “It is readily apparent that Mr. Spadaro’s proposed termination is not a result of meritorious complaints regarding how Mr. Spadaro dispatched his duties,” said Huber. “But is rather the Department of Labor, Secretary Elaine L. Chao, Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Bush administration’s retaliation against Mr. Spadaro for whistleblowing activities.”

Secretary Chao is married to McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. Massey is a major campaign contributor to McConnell and President Bush.

TULSA, Okla.: Free trade? Not if it hurts drug profits

Federal Judge Claire Eagan issued an injunction at the request of the Bush administration closing the doors of a company which assisted people in obtaining prescription drugs from Canada. On Nov. 10, Judge Eagan shut down 85 RxDepot and Rx of Canada stores.

An estimated 1 million to 2 million U.S. residents had been able to fill their doctor’s prescriptions at a fraction of the cost by purchasing them either through the mail or directly from Canada. Canada has national health care and bars prescription drug advertising.

Profits at prescription drug corporations, like Bayer, have skyrocketed to over 17 percent, according to the Alliance for Retired Americans, a union-based, national organization for retirees.

National Clips are compiled by
Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com). Julia Lutsky contributed to this week’s clips.