N E W S B I T S

Racism on the Net

The following message was sent over a worldwide newsgroup, alt.chinese.text, originating from MIT: Hi, Chinamen, you are piges. I traveled to many countries in the world, but I never saw the people who are worse than chinamen. The common characteristics of chinamen is dishonest, chinamen are slaves of western people, but they are very aggressive to thier own peole.

Minnesota Court Denies Gay Health Benefits

Minneapolis can't offer health care benefits to partners of its gay and lesbian employees, the state appeals court said in a decision filed yesterday. The court agreed that state law doesn't recognize same-sex partners as dependents or spouses, and that the City Council acted beyond its authority when it adopted the domestic partners ordinance in August 1993. Vermont became the first state to provide health care benefits to unmarried partners of state workers in June 1994. The city of Austin, Texas had extended benefits to same-sex partners, but voters repealed the coverage in May 1994. [Reuter]

Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Right to Decide! Center for Reproductive Rights and Policy

Kawana Ashley is a nineteen year old single mother who found herself pregnant and unable to afford the $1,300 to $1,800 fee quoted to her for an abortion by a St. Petersburg, FL area clinic. Ms. Ashley was about five months pregnant when she got this quote. Earlier on in the pregnancy, her boyfriend had promised to get her the money. He later told her he couldn't. Kawana is living with her grandmother, whom Kawana was afraid would not accept another child. Without money, support from her boyfriend or an organization that would help her out, Kawana, in desperation, shot herself in the abdomen. At the hospital where Kawana was treated, the fetus was delivered by C-section and died later due to underdeveloped kidneys. Kawana'scondition after the shooting was never stated in media reports. One of her lawyers has stated that she is doing well. Five months after this event, Kawana was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The murder charge is due to the "illegal manner of the abortion," according to Bernie McCabe, a Florida state prosecutor. The manslaughter charge stems from a Florida law that says that a fetus able to survive outside the womb is a person. According to Catherine Albisa, an attorney from the Center For Reproductive Rights And Policy, no such law exists. Forty-four states have no Medicaid funding for abortion. The real crime is that every woman does not have access to reproductive health care. If she can afford such health care, she must face harassment from anti-abortion storm troopers; if she can't afford it, she faces prosecution by the state. The Center for Reproductive Rights and Policy are demanding that the state of Florida (the site of the assasinations of three pro-choice supporters) drop the charges against Kawana immediately. Please write a letter to the state attorney demanding that the charges against Kawana Ashley be dropped: District Attorney Bernie McCabe P.O. Box 5028 Clearwater, FL 34618 Letters of support to Kawana Ashley can be sent care of her attorney: Kawana Ashley c/o Bruce Johnson, Esq. Ste. B-100 5100 144th St. N Clearwater, FL 34620 Please help out in any way you can! Contact Catherine Albisa at the Center for Reproductive Rights and Policy: 120 Wall Street, 18th floor New York, NY 10005

Chinese Women Had Secret Language

For at least 1,000 years, perhaps closer to 2,000, women in small villages in China had their own secret, written language that was passed on from mother to daughter, from older sister to younger, from friend to friend, according to Chien-Ling Su. Su is vice chairwoman of the Awakening Foundation in Taipei, a leading activist group in Taiwan's growing women's movement, which is working to decipher the language. No one except the women ever knew about it until 40 years ago, when it was discovered accidentally in Jiang Yg County in Hunan Province of China, when a woman got lost trying to find her childhood home. She had some directions written on a paper and took them to a police station to ask for help, but the note held no meaning for the people at the station. Despite the intriguing nature of this event and the discovery of more examples, no one tried to translate the script into modern Chinese until 1982 when Zhe-Bing Gong, a male professor from Central Southern Ethnic Studies College in Wuban, China, attempted to interest other scholars in translating the writing. When he could find no interest in the project in China, Gong contracted the Awakening Foundation which was delighted to take on the work. A group of 30 volunteers translated all the existing Nu Shu (women's script) writing into modern Chinese in six months, publishing it in a book. Little is known about the script's origins except that the women devised the writing as a way to communicate with each other because few learned to read and write Chinese. They sewed stories into fans, scarfs, and handkerchiefs and sent them to each other. "When a friend would get married, her friend would send the Nu Shu as a wedding present and write her wishes about her marriage," said Su. As for the men she says, "They paid no attention at all. The women were so unimportant to them. It never occurred to the men that their wives were doing anything but sewing." [Chicago Tribune]

"Banner Year" for Corporate Profits

Ford, Chrysler, and GM each reported record profits for 1994. Combined, their profits totaled $13.9 billion in 1994 compared to the previous combined record of $11.2 billion set in 1988. Analysts refer to 1994 corporate profitability as "sensational" and "a real Oscar-Winner." This follows 1993, described by Fortune magazine as "a bracingly upbeat year for the Fortune 500," in which "dazzling" profits were posted despite "virtually stagnant" sales growth. [Reuters/Fortune/Z]

Feed the Rich

"Buried in the Republicans' Contract with America is a very sweet deal for the nation's big capital-intensive companies," the Wall Street Journal reported, reviewing an array of tax breaks and other devices that will "provide a sizable subsidy" to corporations, possibly eliminating taxable income entirely for large firms. Among other current taxpayer assistance to the rich are the tax breaks that "shower billions in benefits on the oil and gas, timber, cattle-breeding, and real estate industries, amounting to more than $110 billion in tax subsidies for specific industries over the next 5 years." In addition to tax breaks, the public will give more than $114 billion to specific industries, some of which will go to paying for TV advertising. These figures do not include "purchases" by the public from the highly profitable weapons, prison, and construction industries. Clinton has proposed a $25 billion increase in weapons spending over the next 6 years. [Wall Street Journal/Z magazine]

Eat the Poor

Massachusetts is on the verge of passing the toughest welfare program in the country. The plan would cut off more than one-third of unemployed welfare recipients within 60 days, and would also prevent mothers from collecting an extra $90 a month for each child they have while on welfare. A proposal by Senate President William Bulger to at least give mothers vouchers to buy diapers and other essentials was defeated. [Reuter]

1 in 4 American Kids Lives in Poverty

More than a quarter of American children under 6 were living in poverty in 1992, though nearly three in five of these children had working parents, according to a new study by the Columbia University School of Public Health. The study found that 58% of the six million children living in poverty had parents that worked, and that less than a third of the families relied entirely on cash public assistance. The number of children living in poverty has nearly doubled-from 3.4 to 6 million-in the 20 year period from 1972 to 1992. The report noted that a parent working full-time at the minimum wage of $4.25 in 1992 would have earned $7,438, 34% below the official poverty line ($11,186) for a family of three. [Reuters]

Hunger Striker Halts Dam Construction

A woman leading the fight against a huge dam construction project in India ended a 26-day hunger strike Friday after the state agreed to suspend construction on part of the dam. Medha Patkar was forcibly hospitalized by police a week ago but refused treatment, said the Save the Narmanda Movement in New Delhi. She demanded that the government help those people who will be displaced by the lake created by the Sardar Sarovar dam. She ended her hunger strike after Digvijay Sinh, chief minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh, agreed to stop work on the dam until the displaced people were given new farmland and additional compensation. Villagers say the project's 30 large dams and 3,000 smaller ones will eventually submerge vast forests, ruin the area's ecosystem and displace hundreds of thousands of people. Other opponents add that the project will uproot 1 million people and destroy nearly 900,000 acres of forests and 600,000 acres of fertile farmland. [AP]

Texas Kills Mentally Retarded Prisoner

Mario Marquez, a mentally retarded prisoner, was killed on January 17, the second person to be executed this year in Texas. Two days later, the newly sworn in Texas Governor, Rep. George W. Bush, anxious to outdo his Democratic predecessor's murderous record, endorsed state legislation that would limit appeals of death sentences. Former Governor Ann Richards set a national record by allowing 48 executions during her 4 year tenure. [WW]

Smithsonian Votes Down World War II Atomic Bomb Exhibit

Yielding to critics, the Smithsonian's Board of Regents voted last week to eliminate almost all of the exhibit that was to accompany the display of the fuselage of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, in order to commemorate the end of World War II. For over a year veterans' groups and members of Congress complained that the exhibit portrayed Americans as racist and raised doubts about the US rationale for dropping the bomb, adding that it painted the use of the bomb as tantamount to a war crime. "In this important anniversary year, veterans and their families were expecting, and rightly so, that the nation would honor and commemorate their valor and sacrifice," said I. Michael Heyman, secretary of the Smithsonian. "They were not looking for analysis and, frankly, we did not give enough thought to the intense feelings such analysis would evoke." Gone is any discussion of the issues that influenced President Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Gone are arguments over the morality of using atomic weapons. Gone, too, is talk of the 205,000 Japanese who were killed or injured in the attacks. Several historians and groups like the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), were bitterly disappointed, arguing that the original exhibit provided a historical context for the bombing. Dr. Robert K. Musil, director of policy and programs for PSR, commented, "It is reminiscent of the McCarthy era when pro-military veterans groups intervened directly into what could be taught, learned or displayed about American history or American culture. This is more than just about one bomb; this ushered in...the atomic era with all its proliferation of weapons and environmental and health consequences." [New York Times]

Israeli Troops 'Cleanse' West Bank

US taxpayer-funded Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and beat Palestinian shepherds last Friday who were trying to salvage belongings left behind when the army drove them out of part of the occupied West Bank. Villagers said Israeli soldiers this week drove 30 Palestinian families from a 5,000 acre stretch of land between the West Bank town of Yatta and the Dead Sea, burning their tents and wrecking caves they lived in with bulldozers. Journalists who filmed the eviction said troops used force against the Palestinians, dumping cheese, ghee, and other products the families sell to earn a living and hauling residents away in trucks. Israel declared the area a closed military zone several years ago and drove out most of the 2,000 residents of the area. The army moved earlier in the week to clear the remaining 200-300 people. When some villagers ventured back to retrieve sheep and other belongings, Israeli soldiers beat them and chased them out with tear gas. [Reuter]

Black Churches Firebombed

Two black churches and a black-owned bar were firebombed in Columbia, Tennessee last week. A crude cross was burned in front of one of the churches as well. No injuries were reported. Also last weekend, the only black family in a Knoxville-area subdivision moved out after a cross was burned in their yard. Hate mail circulated throughout the neighborhood, and rusty nails were left in their driveway. A similar cross-burning drove another black family out of the neighborhood a few years ago. No one was arrested in that case. [Reuter]

Profits vs. People: Polaroid 'Reengineers'

Cambridge-based Polaroid Corp. launched a major "reengineering" effort last week, announcing plans to slash 400 to 600 jobs-5% of its worldwide work force. The announcement came 3 days after Polaroid reported that fourth quarter earnings were up by 46%, compared with the same period in 1993. "Broadly viewed, these steps will enable Polaroid to improve profitability through a more focused, aggressive approach to our markets and a streamlining of operations," said CEO, president, and chairman MacAllester Booth. [Reuter]

Trade Privileges Help Chinese Dissidents?

The US conceded last Wednesday that granting China privileged trading status had so far failed to improve human rights there. But senior State Department officials said the policy could still succeed in improving the situation in the long run. [Reuter]

"Barney Fag" House Majority Leader Armey's Freudian Slip

"I like peace and quiet and I don't need to listen to Barney Fag [pause] Barney Frank, haranguing in my ear because I've made a few bucks off a book I worked on," remarked House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R, TX) about Congressmember Barney Frank (D, MA), in response to rumors that Armey had signed a book deal. Republicans attempted to pressure the press into not airing the gaffe, even though, according to Frank, they regularly refer to him as 'Barney Fag,' and the leadership generally demonstrates an intolerance of lesbians and gays. Most Democrats were appalled with Armey's comment, and a number of Republicans also approached Frank to apologize for their party. Frank noted that if the same incident had happened to a teenager in a high school, and last year's Hancock Amendment had passed, "[If] the people telling me that it's okay to be gay were school teachers and school administrators, they could lose their federal funds." The New York Times issued an editorial decrying leadership in the GOP, to which Armey wrote a rebuttal letter in which he explained, "In saying that I did not want to 'listen to Barney Frank haranguing' me, I blended the two words (Frank and harangue, which I pronounce with a hard 'g') in a way that made it sound as if I was using a slur." Sure, Dick. [Bay Windows]

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