By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Although the bill passed the House, it was sidetracked in the Senate by opponents who tied restrictive amendments to it, thereby killing it. Now Rangel is pushing a revived bill. However, this time it is facing an alternative, offered by Jackson, that would set up a free-trade zone but also forgive $200 billion in debt that African nations owe the U.S., First World banks, the World Bank, and the IMF. In addition, Jackson's bill would set standards for labor, requiring companies to pay a living wage and stipulating that firms participating in the arrangement have majority African ownership.
A spokesman for Rangel said the Harlem congressman was "not concerned with Jesse Jackson's bill," portraying Rangel's measure as the centerpiece of Clinton's "African initiative," which was highlighted by the president's tour of the continent last year. Of the Jackson measure, the spokesman said, "It's not a competing bill. It is not a trade bill. It's a debt-reduction bill. It's not going anywhere."
Puny Penalty for Massive Spill
Ten years after his ship crashed onto the rocks in Prince William Sound off Alaska, causing the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, former Exxon Valdezcaptain Joseph Hazelwood will begin serving a court-ordered community-service sentence this summer, picking up trash in the streets of Anchorage. More than 1000 miles of Alaska's shoreline were polluted by the 11-million-gallon spill.
The ex-skipper, a resident of Long Island, was convicted on a single misdemeanor charge in 1990 by an Alaska jury, and sentenced to pay $50,000, serve one year's probation, and spend 1000 hours scrubbing oil from the beaches of Prince William Sound. But by the time his appeals were exhausted last summer, the beaches had long been cleaned up.
Hazelwood, who was fired by Exxon after the accident, tried to beg off going to Anchorage to fulfill his sentence. "I have no relatives or friends in Alaska, nor have I any reason to visit Alaska in the future," he said in an affidavit, pleading with the court to let him clean tanks at a fish hatchery in Cold Spring Harbor near his home, lest, as Hazelwood put it, he find himself "unable to meet my financial obligations to my family." But the court balked, finally agreeing to let Hazelwood pick up trash for a month every summer for five years to meet the terms of his sentence.
It seems incredible that picking up trash in Anchorage is the most severe punishment dealt out in the Exxon Valdezaffair. So far, Exxon has paid $900 million in compensatory damages, but not a cent in punitive damages. In 1994, in a suit brought by commercial fishermen, native Alaskans, and others claiming to have been directly harmed by the spill, an Alaska jury found Exxon liable for $5 billion in punitive damages. But Exxon appealed the verdict, and the final disposition of the case is pending. .
Despite the death penalty meted out last week to John William King in the atrocious "dragging death" of James Byrd Jr., the far-right racist movement is on a roll, with identified groups in the U.S. increasing last year by 40 percent, to 537, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Fastest-growing state for far-right action is Pennsylvania, where the gung ho chapter of American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is led by a woman, Kay Ryan of the western Pennsylvania village of Rural Ridge. There are now 27 racialist groups in Pennsylvania, making it the number four hate state, after Florida, California, and Texas. (In what must be another wacko first, Courtney Mann, a black woman who lives in Philadelphia, leads the state chapter of David Duke's old National Association for the Advancement of White People.)
The American Knights is the fastest-growing group in the Klan. It doesn't bother with more recent Klan niceties, such as promoting a yuppie look, describing blacks as "primitive, ugly, foul-smelling, jungle savages [who] have polluted America with their ape-like odor and disgusting habits," and using similar invective against Jews and Asians. Growing from a single unit in Butler, Indiana, in 1995 to 27 state chapters today, American Knights sports a cadre of thug leaders (not including Ryan) with lengthy rap sheets for offenses ranging from gang rape to attempted murder.
Denny's Finer Dining
Putting his stamp on the House Republican agenda, "good guy" Speaker Dennis Hastert won two victories last week. The first makes 911 the universal emergency number for all phones, including cell phones. The second relaxes House rules so corporate lobbyists can buy House members dinner or lunch. Previously, members were restricted to nibbling finger food from corporate-sponsored buffets.
Additional reporting: Ioanna Veleanu