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The Bellman

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Zwichenzug Holding Zone

Business News Article | | Grocery Workers Expected to OK Contract: "Under the terms of the three-year agreement, current union members will not have to make any contributions toward their premium health care plans in the first two years and will only need to pay between $5 to $15 in the third year if health care contributions in reserves are not sufficient to cover the costs, Anreder said.

However, the contract creates a second, lower tier of supermarket employees who will receive less pay and inferior benefits. New supermarket hires will have to pay about $9 a week for a basic health care plan and will make less than the average wages of $12 to $14 an hour earned by their veteran counterparts.

In addition, the supermarkets will contribute 35 percent toward employee pensions for new hires versus 65 percent for veteran employees."
From U.S. Wrecks to Central American Riches ( "A flourishing trade is transforming cars sold as junk in the United States into cherished gems on the streets of Central America. Tens of thousands of damaged cars written off for a few hundred dollars in the north find a new life here to the south, arriving via a network of middlemen and often repaired by mechanics in backyard workshops."
Treasury Department Is Warning Publishers of the Perils of Criminal Editing of the Enemy: "Anyone who publishes material from a country under a trade embargo is forbidden to reorder paragraphs or sentences, correct syntax or grammar, or replace 'inappropriate words,' according to several advisory letters from the Treasury Department in recent months." (via Corrente)
San Francisco Chronicle | Social Security won't take S.F. licenses / White House's first bureaucratic obstacle to same-sex marriages: "The Bush administration has taken its first bureaucratic poke at same-sex marriages in San Francisco, ordering administrators nationwide to reject requests for name changes on Social Security accounts based on any marriage licenses -- same-sex or opposite-sex -- recently issued by the city."
Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage: "LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - President Bush told Congress on Thursday he would settle for now for making permanent only those of his tax cuts set to expire next year, after fellow Republicans warned the rest may have to wait until after the November election.

The comments underscore the difficulty the administration faces advancing its election-year agenda at a time of record budget deficits. The White House says Bush remains committed to making all of his tax cuts permanent -- at a cost of around $1 trillion over the next decade -- even if only step by step.


'We don't need to be raising taxes right now as the economy is beginning to recover. We've got plenty of money in Washington D.C.,' Bush said, making no mention of this year's projected half-trillion-dollar budget deficit."
Reagan Approved Plan to Sabotage Soviets ( "In January 1982, President Ronald Reagan approved a CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union through covert transfers of technology that contained hidden malfunctions, including software that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline, according to a new memoir by a Reagan White House official.

Thomas C. Reed, a former Air Force secretary who was serving in the National Security Council at the time, describes the episode in 'At the Abyss: An Insider's History of the Cold War,' to be published next month by Ballantine Books. Reed writes that the pipeline explosion was just one example of 'cold-eyed economic warfare' against the Soviet Union that the CIA carried out under Director William J. Casey during the final years of the Cold War.

At the time, the United States was attempting to block Western Europe from importing Soviet natural gas. There were also signs that the Soviets were trying to steal a wide variety of Western technology. Then, a KGB insider revealed the specific shopping list and the CIA slipped the flawed software to the Soviets in a way they would not detect it.

'In order to disrupt the Soviet gas supply, its hard currency earnings from the West, and the internal Russian economy, the pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines, and valves was programmed to go haywire, after a decent interval, to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to pipeline joints and welds,' Reed writes.

'The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space,' he recalls, adding that U.S. satellites picked up the explosion. Reed said in an interview that the blast occurred in the summer of 1982.

'While there were no physical casualties from the pipeline explosion, there was significant damage to the Soviet economy,' he writes. 'Its ultimate bankruptcy, not a bloody battle or nuclear exchange, is what brought the Cold War to an end. In time the Soviets came to understand that they had been stealing bogus technology, but now what were they to do? By implication, every cell of the Soviet leviathan might be infected. They had no way of knowing which equipment was sound, which was bogus. All was suspect, which was the intended endgame for the entire operation.'"
Workers' Rights Are Being Rolled Back ( "...any company willing to use intimidation and delaying tactics will never have to sign a first contract with a union, even if employees really want one.

That, certainly, is what anyone would conclude after reviewing the record of the nation's largest employer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Its file at the National Labor Relations Board includes roughly 250 cases that have gone through the board's arcane process since 1995. And yet, despite ample evidence of Wal-Mart's proclivity to engage in what look to be unfair labor practices directed by executives at corporate headquarters, the NLRB has yet to systematically interview them or look through their files.

Wal-Mart's tactics are right out of the union-busting handbook: give psychological tests to screen out job applicants who are likely union recruits; fly in SWAT teams from headquarters at the first sign of organizing; find some lame excuse to fire workers who openly declare their union sympathy; tell employees they could lose their benefits if a union comes in; set up surveillance teams outside the store to record which employees chat with union organizers; and, if necessary, offer improved pay and working conditions on the eve of votes. These aren't just allegations -- they are findings of fact by the NLRB's own administrative law judges."
Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Heavenly body gives Bush a close call: "Astronomers have revealed that during a 'nine-hour crisis' the night before Mr Bush's speech they believed there was a one in four chance an asteroid would hit the planet in 36 hours. Had it not been for a break in the clouds that allowed an amateur astronomer to give the all-clear, the scientists say they were on the verge of calling the White House.

'A preliminary analysis of the discovery data for this object yielded a possible impact with the Earth in less than two days' time,' said David Morrison, an asteroid and comet impact hazard expert at Nasa's Ames Research Centre. 'And if a possibility of an impact in two days existed, what should we do about notifying governments or the public?'

The scientists could only say they thought the 30-metre asteroid would strike somewhere in the northern hemisphere; at that size it would have exploded well before reaching the ground, though it could have killed thousands if it broke up over a big city.

The object - named 2004 AS1 - turned out to be around 500 metres across, and passed the Earth at a safe range of about 12m km: some 32 times the distance between the Earth and the moon."
LA Times | Settlement Near in Grocery Strike : "The deal on the table would trim supermarket employees' health benefits and create a second tier of new workers who would earn less than those hired before the dispute began, according to sources who know the rough details of the proposed contract."
NY Times | Ex-Minister Says British Spies Bugged Kofi Annan's Office: "British spies have regularly bugged the office of Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations, including during the period leading to the invasion of Iraq, a former British government minister said today.

The ex-cabinet minister, Clare Short, who quit as international development secretary because of her opposition to the war, said she had seen transcripts of Mr. Annan's conversations.

'In fact,' she added in a BBC radio interview, 'I've had conversations with Kofi in the run-up to the war, thinking `Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will see what he and I are saying.' '"
Mercury News | 02/25/2004 | Talks intensify in grocery strike: "The two sides have reportedly been closing in on a deal for the last two days. A tentative agreement was reached late Wednesday, although some details were still being negotiated, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. An announcement could come as early as today." - News - New Hope On Horizon For Grocery Strikers?: "According to strikers, the word is out on the picket lines that the strike could end this week.

Those on the inside of the negotiations are optimistic, but they aren't making any predictions."
Contra Costa Times | 02/25/2004 | Grocery strike settlement near, sources say: "After two weeks of nonstop negotiations in the five-month-old strike, unions and supermarkets are on the verge of reaching a settlement, several sources close to the talks confirmed Tuesday.

The two sides are working out final details and could make an announcement as early as today, sources said."
Pasadena Star-News - Business: "While Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons spent a 14th consecutive day Tuesday at the bargaining table with their workers' union, one of the grocers' biggest rivals, Costco, smoothly agreed to a new contract with 12,000 California employees.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters ratified Costco's contract proposal on a 94 percent vote and Teamsters officials contrasted their bargaining process to the bitter stalemate that has kept 59,000 Southern California grocery clerks out of work for 137 days.

'This contract makes sure that Costco employees remain the highest paid workers in the grocery industry,' said Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa."
(DV) Acuff: Standing Up For Workers' Rights : "In the United States, when private sector workers in America try to form a union through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process, they are subjected to weeks, months, or even years of harassment, surveillance, subtle and overt intimidation, and retaliation--including demotions, suspensions, firings, and sometimes beatings.

When the miners at an American Electric & Power coal mine in southern Ohio tried to form a union last winter, 31 were laid off because of the company's poor financial performance. Six weeks later--just a week before the workers were to vote in an NLRB election--the remaining workers received $1,000 plus bonuses a week for 'good financial performance.'"
Notes on the Atrocities - from The Atlantic Monthly, "Would Shakespeare Get Into Swarthmore": We and our colleagues at The Princeton Review have spent many years training students to take the SAT II, and have carefully analyzed the College Board's essay-grading criteria. To receive a high score a student should write a long essay of three or more paragraphs, with each paragraph containing topic and concluding sentences and at least one sentence that includes the words 'for example.' Whenever possible the student should use polysyllabic words where shorter, clearer words would suffice. The SAT essay will not be a place to take rhetorical chances. Flair will win no points; the highest-scoring essays will be earnest, long-winded, and predictable.
This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow: "But here's the thing: I think the damage he will do is in re-igniting the liberal/left Civil War of 2000. To expand on something I wrote a few days ago: Nader's critique is, essentially, that there is a cancer on the body politic--and he's right about that. The problem in the year 2004 is that the body politic is also suffering from multiple wounds and blunt force trauma, we're in the emergency room and it's a damn mess and there's blood everywhere and the doctors are working furiously but it's anybody's guess how things are gonna turn out. We are in triage, and we have to deal with the immediate problems, or the long-term ones won't matter anyway.
Firms Ignore Kids-Only Internet Domain ( "A little more than 1,500 people have plunked down $100 to $160 to buy a dot-kids address since the addresses went on sale last June, but only eight are attached to live Web sites. Twelve sites have been submitted for a mandatory content review.

That compares to the more than 2 million dot-info and dot-biz addresses, two domains that were only added to the Internet's addressing system in 2001."
Grocery Pact Seen as 'Only Days Away' : "The marathon bargaining also suggests that the 59,000 idled grocery workers and the stores' stockholders 'have metaphorically locked the various parties in a room and won't let them out without a deal,' analyst Mark Husson of Merrill Lynch & Co. said in a report Friday.
   - Top Stories - Chicago Mayor Backs Gay Marriage: "Mayor Richard Daley said he would have 'no problem' with Cook County issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in Chicago, the nation's third largest city."
New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Lawrence C. Moss: It's legal for gays to marry in New York: "A 1997 report published jointly by three committees of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and endorsed by the association's committee on matrimonial law concluded that New York's current domestic relations law is gender neutral. The association concluded that marriage licenses can and should be issued now to same-sex couples under existing law. A supplemental joint committee report by the association in 2001 reaffirmed this conclusion."
BCC Philosophy Department - Philosophy Jokes: "Descartes walks into a café and sits down ready to order. A
waiter comes up to him and asks, 'Do you need a menu?'
Descartes replies, 'I think not,' and he disappears!
Memphis Flyer :: Issue 781 :: ON GUARD -- OR AWOL? : "“The 50-point minimum has always been taken very seriously, especially for pilots,” says Rambo. “The reason is that it takes a lot of taxpayer money to train a pilot, and you don’t want to see it wasted.”
A Lawmaker's Ex-Aides in the Lobbies ( "Public Citizen's Union Elections

Public Citizen, the left-leaning consumer advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader, is going through a union election.

The group already has an in-house employees committee, but Public Citizen staffers in Washington yesterday cast ballots on whether to join Local 500 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Their colleagues in Texas and California are mailing in ballots, which are due Feb. 27. " - Daily Dish: "Public officials such as Newsom and Moore do not have the LEGAL DISCRETION to act as they have done in their respective cases. Moore ultimately was thrown out of office after he defied the Federal court's order, but he was only cited for contempt of court after he had already persistently violated his oath of office as a public official. And he was roundly condemned across this state and across the country for his actions long before the contempt order was issued by Judge Thompson. Again, if public officials have the privilege of being able to disregard the CLEAR mandates of the law in executing the law, then there is no law at all, just arbitrariness.

Civil disobedience relies upon private citizens forcing public officials to enforce unfair or immoral laws, even when the officials in good conscience would prefer not to do so. By doing this, it points out the immorality or unfairness of the laws in question.

The proper way for Newsom and others to have made a symbolic showing on this issue while conforming to the law would have been for thousands of gay/lesbian applicants to have appeared day after day at his office seeking marriage licenses, and for him to have publicly and reluctantly denied their individual requests. " - Daily Dish: "I still draw a distinction between those private citizens seeking marriage licenses and the mayor. They are merely seeking their civil rights. He is supposed to enforce the law. "
OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan: There's nothing lemonade-on-the-porch-overlooking-the-links-at-the-country-club about Mr. Bush. He isn't smooth. He actually has some of the roughness and the resentments of the self-made man. I think the reason for this is Texas. He grew up in a white T-shirt and jeans playing ball in the street with the other kids in the subdivision. Barbara Bush wasn't exactly fancy. They lived like everyone else. She spoke to me once with great nostalgia of her early days in Texas, when she and her husband and young George slept in the same bed in an apartment in Midland. A prostitute lived in the complex. Barbara Bush just thought she was popular.
Having trouble keeping up? Tom Englehardt has the run down. Just for scandal monkeys

No Help for Haiti ( "ONCE AGAIN a poor nation with strong ties to the United States is in desperate trouble -- and once again, the response of the Bush administration is to backpedal away, forswear all responsibility and leave any rescue to others. "
Hopes Are Raised as Talks Go On :"Negotiators in the supermarket strike talks spent more than eight hours at the bargaining table Wednesday and will meet again today, swelling hopes on the picket lines.

With pressure to settle mounting on both sides, the talks — heading into their ninth straight day — were described by people close to negotiators as the most serious since the strike began four months ago.
A person close to the union camp said progress at the negotiating sessions led by the federal mediator was very slow. But striking workers see the fact that talks have continued for so many days as good news.

"This is the longest they have sat down with a mediator," said Gabbie Cienfuegos, walking the picket line at an Albertsons in Los Angeles. "It has gone on long enough. Everybody is losing."
The Philadelphia Inquirer Online: "Graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania plan to strike for two days next week in a bid to shut down the campus and pressure the university to drop its legal opposition to a grad-student union.

The students hope to post enough pickets at Penn's nine main entrances to dissuade undergraduates, faculty and other employees from crossing the line and holding classes.

They also plan 'civil' public demonstrations along the route of a parade scheduled for tomorrow on campus for incoming Penn president Amy Gutmann.
The strike would be next Thursday and Friday - exactly a year after the students voted on whether to unionize. But those ballots were never tallied because Penn officials appealed to the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that the graduate students are first and foremost students, not employees, and therefore would not have legal standing to unionize. The NLRB has yet to rule."
FEC restricts use of 'soft money' - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics: "Today's ruling effectively shuts down illicit 527 groups that operate in the shadows by using unregulated soft money to influence federal elections,' said Ed Gillespie, Republican National Committee Chairman.
    The groups to which Mr. Gillespie was referring, called 527s for the name of the tax provision under which they were established, were formed in response to the 2002 law.
    Commission Vice Chairman Ellen Weintraub said the commission's ruling still provides room for groups to operate and encourages political activity.
    'The area of get out the vote is one that we should not go out of our way to discourage,' said Miss Weintraub, a Democratic appointee, referring to an activity that has been embraced particularly by Democrats in recent years.
FEC restricts use of 'soft money' - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics: " The Republican chairman of the commission, Bradley Smith, chastised his party yesterday for pushing for a prohibition of soft money after blocking campaign-finance reform efforts for years.
    'It is not our place to measure the law in partisanship,' said Mr. Smith, who was nominated to his post in 2000 by President Clinton.
    'Frankly, I'm disappointed that my party seems to be afraid to combat this campaign on ideas. If they think they can win by silencing their opponents, I think they are going to lose,' he said.

"Hit them where it hurts"
: "WHAT ARE the most important issues for you in this strike?

THE DOUBLE-tier [wage] system. These companies have made it mandatory to get this system in so they can erode union solidarity. On the tails of that are health care and pensions.

WHAT ACTIONS have you been taking within Local 1442 to put pressure on the companies?

A LOT of what we have done has been misconstrued by the public because of [what] the chains have led them to believe. Our primary target is to become highly visible, and the rallies have been important for this.

WHAT IMPACT do you think the rallies are having on workers, the community and the company?

FOR WORKERS, it keeps up morale, gets them involved in the union, and we are able to give out information about what we are doing. Every community is different. When we go to working communities, we have a lot of local support. When we go to communities by the beach where people have more money, they sympathize, but they don’t have the same kind of support. I don’t know if we are having the impact [on the companies] that we would want to have. It’s not the same as if we planned [the strike] years ago.

WHAT IS your assessment of the strike?

WE SHOULD have solved this a long time ago. [We could have] if we had been more aggressive in the beginning. When I say this, I am thinking of the janitors’ strike [which was known for effective civil disobedience tactics]. We should have become more militant months ago. But I am still hoping that we will be able to settle in the near future. They are still talking and hopefully some good will come from that, although the talks are behind closed doors.

WHAT DO you think it will take to win this strike?

WE NEED to take it up a few notches. We need to really hit [the corporations] where it hurts, their bottom line. We need to get them to realize what they are doing to the entire workforce in Southern California. It’s not just the grocery stores. This is a lot bigger than we are. This is an impetus for the labor work force. It’s time to start looking ahead, to start strengthening, recruiting, crossing national boundaries, maybe even using civil disobedience.

DO YOU think other locals are going to take up Local 1442’s strategy?

IT IS hard for me to say...many individual workers from Local 770 [the main local in LA] want to be a part of it, but the other locals have not endorsed the rallies officially. A lot of these workers from other locals have asked, 'Why can’t we do this?' We’re discussing more militant strategies so we can raise national attention to this struggle."
DIS Apologizes For Fan Delays: "Daytona International Speedway would like to apologize for any delays that many fans may have experienced while entering the Speedway Sunday for the Daytona 500.

Due to the President's visit, security was heightened and increased bag checks were required by the Secret Service. Speedway officials cooperated with Secret Service requirements and deeply regret any inconvenience this may have caused the fans."
Take Action: Pictsweet victory, Help Gallo workers: "Farm workers at Pictsweet Mushroom Farm in Ventura, Calif. have won their 17-year battle for a United Farm Workers union contract. It is the first time California farm workers have benefited from a landmark 2002 state law providing for binding mediation when growers drag out negotiations. "
The Chronicle: 2/20/2004: Before Teaching Ethics, Stop Kidding Yourself: "Over the past couple of decades, the ethics industry has kicked into high gear. We now have a growing number of professional ethicists who are prepared to act as superegos for hire to the various professions. Indeed, take any given profession and there is another profession called the ethics of that profession. (Think bioethics, medical ethics, legal ethics, computer ethics, and so forth.)
" > News > Business -- Eighth straight day of talks scheduled: "Talks are expected to continue today in the Southern California grocery strike, the eighth straight day of talks between the union and the three major supermarket chains.

John Arnold, a spokesman for federal mediator Peter J. Hurtgen, said yesterday grocers and United Food and Commercial Workers Union have been talking into the evening for seven days. If they meet again today, as expected, it would be longest the sides have sat at the bargaining table since Dec. 2-8."
NBC 4 - Employment - Checks Handed Out To Striking Supermarket Clerks

Tuesday morning, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13 in Wilmington handed out 272 checks totaling $100,000 to financially strapped grocery clerks so they can continue paying for health care benefits.

corrente / Leah, Lambert, Tresy & the Farmer:

Anagrams for the Republican's (doubtless heavily focus-grouped) slogan for aWol's 2004 campaign: 'Steady Leadership in a Time of Change.'

Here are some of the better anagrams:

I'm a hypertense, death-dealing fiasco

I am a deathless deafening hypocrite

I am a tone-deaf, highly-paid erectness

I'm the fanatic, grandiose sleepyhead.

Oafishly indecent pig's ear meathead

Slimy, cheapish deafening toadeater

Oedipean cheating defames trashily.

Flag hype, eh? Administration decease (Jeffrey Kramer)

Grocers, Union Talks Expected to Run Through Weekend : "Negotiations to end the California supermarket strike and lockout continued through the day Friday and were expected to run through the weekend, according to John Arnold, a spokesman for federal mediator Peter J. Hurtgen, who is overseeing the talks.
God, governor and groceries

I held out for four months. I shopped piecemeal. I shopped for months at a converted pharmacy. I bought groceries at the pharmacy all through flu season and wondered if county health officials should allow such a thing. I stood in line with the sick and maimed, people coughing all over the avocados and yellow onions. I bought warm ground meat in plastic tubes and paid 39 cents each for bad apples — bruised, soft, tasteless apples.

I snapped. I lost it. I needed fresh fruits and vegetables. I did it for my children. There's a good one. I yielded to a force stronger than myself: navel oranges in February.
And, for what it's worth, I renew my broken promise, my pledge. Until this happens, you'll find me shopping for groceries at the pharmacy, there among the tired and sick and huddled masses. - Fallujah attack leaves 20 dead, mostly Iraqi police - Feb. 14, 2004: "The attackers, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and AK-47 machine guns, stormed the central police station and freed nearly 100 prisoners. They also struck the headquarters of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, where U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid's convoy was ambushed Thursday. Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command, and his entourage were unharmed in the attack."

Not a quagmire...