“The House passed an amendment Wednesday that aims to prevent soldiers deployed to war from permanently losing custody of their children because of the absence.”
MASSACHUSETTS: Activists are close to killing a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
CALIFORNIA: With minorities comprising 57 percent of the population, California is the most diverse state in the country.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: D.C.’s African-American population continues to decline.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS: States issuing birth certificates for stillborn babies are stirring up controversy over abortion rights.
THINK PROGRESS: White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on why it took four years to appoint a war czar: “I don’t know.”
CREW BLOG: In a possible criminal violation, the Department of Education may be using private e-mail accounts for official business.
CROOKS AND LIARS: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews calls out Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) on his dishonest Iraq talking points.
WAR AND PIECE: Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s testimony raises serious questions about the FBI’s involvement in warrantless domestic spying.
REP. LINDA SANCHEZ: Are there anymore U.S. attorneys that we should know about that were forced out?
ATTY GEN. GONZALES: Congresswoman, it’s always been my understanding that this focus has been on the eight United States attorneys that were asked to resign last December 7th and June 14th.
— Testimony before House Judiciary Committee, 5/10/07
“Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified last week that the effort was limited to eight U.S. attorneys fired since last June, and other administration officials have said that only a few others were suggested for removal. In fact, D. Kyle Sampson, then Gonzales’s chief of staff, considered more than two dozen U.S. attorneys for termination, according to lists compiled by him and his colleagues, the sources said.”
— Washington Post, 5/17/07
Apply for Iraq Action Camp to meet other activists, learn how to organize, and tell Congress that it’s time to bring our troops home.
No Time Off
As summer approaches, many Americans are thinking about vacation plans. But unfortunately, nearly one in four Americans receive no paid vacation or holiday time. Even worse, nearly “half of all full-time private sector workers in the U.S. get no paid sick days,” with low-income workers, parents, and people with chronic illnesses hit the hardest. Businesses also suffer in productivity and other workers face health risks when sick employees are forced to go to work. The American public overwhelmingly agrees that all workers deserve days off from work; 95 percent of workers believe it is “unacceptable” for employers to deny sick days. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have introduced the Healthy Families Act (HFA), which would guarantee that workers receive at least seven paid sick days each year. Tell Congress to support this legislation here.
DAMAGING PUBLIC HEALTH: For many Americans, getting sick may mean getting fired. “At least 145 countries have paid sick days,” notes Public Welfare Foundation president Debra Leff. “The United States is the only industrialized country lacking such a policy.” The situation is the worst for the nation’s lowest wage earners, 80 percent of whom receive no sick days. Food service workers, who are in constant contact with the public, are also among the least likely to receive paid sick days. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote recently, “Eighty-six percent get no sick days at all. They show up in the restaurants coughing and sneezing and feverish, and they start preparing and serving meals. You won’t see many of them wearing masks.” Similarly, 55 percent of retail workers and 29 percent of health care and social assistance workers receive no paid sick days. Additionally, workers “who do not have paid sick days for doctors’ visits do not have the opportunity to get important preventive care, such as flu shots and vaccinations.” A study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research finds that 40 percent of workers “report having contracted the flu from a colleague.” “The lack of paid sick days isn’t just a family issue — it’s also a public health issue,” Kennedy said. “When sick people go to work or sick children go to school, they infect their coworkers or fellow students and the public as well.”
NEGLECTING CHILDREN’S HEALTH: Children also suffer when employers do not provide paid sick leave. Just one in three workers receive paid sick days to care for a child, meaning parents are forced to choose between losing a day’s pay or sending a sick child to school. Just as viruses rapidly spread in workplaces, the same happens in schools. Even though child-care centers require sick children to remain home, “when parents cannot get off work to stay home with them, many sick children do end up in care.” An even bigger threat to children’s health occurs when parents are unable to take time off to ensure that their children receive needed preventive care, such as immunizations and well-child visits. Failure to ensure that all children receive timely preventive care has long-term implications for not only their health, but our national health care spending.
DECREASING BUSINESS PRODUCTIVITY: Most people don’t want to interact with a co-worker who is sick. In a recent survey, 59 percent of businesses said that they have a problem with presenteeism — workers showing up to work when they are sick — compared to 39 percent two years ago. A study by Cornell University “found that presenteeism despite medical problems costs $180 billion annually in lost productivity, and may be more costly than absenteeism due to illness.” Yet despite these facts, many businesses still do not recognize that employees need paid sick days. Herbert recently contacted Cracker Barrel Old Country Store about its lack of paid sick leave. The company simply responded, “If employees need to miss a shift due to illness, there are generally many opportunities to make up that lost shift later in the week, or the next week.” Ness notes that this type of policy can lead to “economic disaster” for many workers.
ALL WORK, NO PLAY: “The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation,” according to a new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Approximately 28 million Americans receive no paid vacation or holiday leave. Lower-wage workers “are less likely to have any paid vacation (69 percent) than higher-wage workers are (88 percent). The same is true for part-timers, who are far less likely to have paid vacations (36 percent) than are full-timers (90 percent).” Even the national average — nine paid days of vacation and six paid days of holiday — is “less than the minimum legal standard” set in almost all the world’s rich economies.
THE REMEDY: Kennedy and DeLauro’s HFA mandating that employers with 15 or more employees provide at least seven paid sick days would benefit 66 million Americans: “46 million would gain access to paid sick days; 19 million would gain paid sick days for leave for doctors’ visits and family care; and 1 million Americans would gain additional paid sick days.” “Paid sick leave is a basic right of people in the workplace and the price paid for denying employees paid sick leave is felt by all of us,” said DeLauro. Currently, California is the only state mandating comprehensive paid family leave. The law “provides most Californians with six weeks of partial pay when they take leave from work” to care for a family member. Rutgers University’s Eileen Appelbaum and the UCLA’s Ruth Milkman note that while the Family Medical Leave Act guarantees “12 weeks of unpaid family leave to eligible employees at large companies, many working families cannot afford to take the time off work without pay,” making clear why the HFA is necessary.
Under the Radar
NATIONAL SECURITY — SENATORS QUESTION WHETHER ALBERTO GONZALES LIED UNDER OATH ABOUT NSA WIRETAPPING PROGRAM: Yesterday, a group of senators, led by Russ Feingold (D-WI), sent Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a letter highlighting an apparent lie Gonzales told while testifying under oath last year about the National Security Agency’s warrantless spying program. Testifying to Congress in 2006, Gonzales said that there was no “serious disagreement about the program” within the administration, a claim that flies in the face of the extraordinary testimony delivered by former Justice official James Comey on Tuesday. Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that not only did he threaten to resign if the administration continued the program without Justice Department-approved changes, but that he believed both FBI Director Robert Mueller II and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft were prepared to resign with him, along with all of their top aides. “In light of Mr. Comey’s testimony yesterday,” the senators asked in the letter, “do you stand by your 2006 Senate and House testimony, or do you wish to revise it?” The Justice Department responded to the inquiry yesterday, saying that it will not retract Gonzales’s sworn statement. Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Peter Swire wrote yesterday that the contradiction between Comey and Gonzales’s testimonies raises two possibilities: either “Gonzales quite likely made serious mis-statements under oath” or “we would have senior Justice officials confirming that other ‘programs’ exist for domestic spying.”
IRAN — CENTCOM COMMANDER FALLON SAYS ATTACK ON IRAN ‘WILL NOT HAPPEN ON MY WATCH’: Earlier this year, the Bush administration deployed a second Navy group carrier into the Persian Gulf. Vice President Dick Cheney referred to the move as an attempt to send a “strong signal” about the administration’s commitment to confronting Iran. In February, Newsweek reported that the Bush administration was planning to ratchet up the pressure even further by deploying a third carrier into the Gulf. IPS reported that the administration’s attempt to send the third carrier group was vetoed by the new head of the U.S. Central Command. “Admiral William Fallon, then President George W. Bush’s nominee to head the Central Command (CENTCOM), expressed strong opposition in February to an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three and vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM.” One source said Fallon sent a memo that “insisted there was no military requirement for” an additional carrier. Fallon privately conveyed, around the time of his confirmation hearing, that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch.” IPS notes, “Fallon’s refusal to support a further naval buildup in the Gulf reflected his firm opposition to an attack on Iran and an apparent readiness to put his career on the line to prevent it.”
ETHICS — BANK COUNSEL HIRED BY WOLFOWITZ IS BEST FRIENDS WITH RIZA, TRIED TO BLOCK INVESTIGATION: In 2005, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz appointed former-Spanish government official Ana Palacio as Bank General Counsel, one of the top positions in the organization. Wolfowitz claimed that he had appointed Palacio for her “legal skill and diplomacy” and for her “exceptional leadership and management capabilities, which he assured “she will bring to this position.” In reality, she was appointed largely because of her strong support for the Iraq war, and “diplomacy” does not appear to be one of her traits. Highly unpopular within the Bank, an anonymous bank employee spoke up yesterday at the website worldbankpresident.org. “She is known to be overbearing and yell on a regular basis. … She is known to intimidate people by mentioning her proximity to the President. … Throughout the Bank, staff find her absent, incoherent, rude and simply not fitted for the job,” the employee wrote. Considered a “personal friend” of Shaha Riza’s by bank employees, Palacio has gone to great lengths to deflect the ongoing investigations. As the bank’s top legal counsel, she was supposed to help investigate the pay raise controversy, but she instead tried to stonewall the investigation from even occurring. According to an internal Bank bulletin, a bank employee wrote that during a private board meeting, “Palacio barged into the board room and demanded to participate in the closed door session. A needless debate that lasted close to an hour followed. … [t]he board was then forced to adjourn the meeting.” Furthermore, as the controversy began to gain attention last month, Palacio attempted to deflect attention towards an unrelated investigation, announcing at the same time that she was looking into a leak of “confidential internal communications” to Fox News. The abysmal management skills and partisan loyalty that Palacio exhibits reflects how Wolfowitz has loaded the World Bank with unpopular right-wing political appointees who have had little real effectiveness at the Bank.
The civil lawsuit brought by outed CIA agent Valerie Plame “is expected to face a withering attack this morning at a court hearing in Washington,” where attorneys for Vice President Cheney, Scooter Libby and others will urge Judge John Bates — a Bush appointee and former Ken Starr aide — that “the case be thrown out.”
“Newly declassified data show that as additional American troops began streaming into Iraq in March and April, the number of attacks on civilians and security forces there stayed relatively steady or at most declined slightly, in the clearest indication yet that the troop increase could take months to have a widespread impact on security.”
Al Gore will release his new book The Assault on Reason next week. Gore tells Time that he began questioning why “our democracy hasn’t responded” to both the climate crisis and the Iraq war. “So I started thinking, What’s going on here? … Our democracy was pushed around by false impressions and wasn’t able to hold its focus,” he says. “That’s the common denominator. Once I’d thought through all of that, I couldn’t not write this book.”
Filmmaker Michael Moore is “launching his own probe into the U.S. government’s investigation of him for making an unauthorized trip to Cuba to film scenes for his latest movie ‘SiCKO,'” beginning with a Freedom of Information Act request seeking all documents regarding the investigation.
“The Justice Department on Wednesday told an angry Senate Judiciary Committee chairman it does not have documents described in a subpoena that demands all materials relating to Karl Rove’s possible involvement in the U.S. attorney firings. Instead, it said, Rove’s lawyer must have them.”
Robert Novak claims that Rove’s former aide Susan Ralston “has nothing to say that would cause problems for Rove.” But Novak concedes Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) investigation of Rove is causing concern in conservative circles. “One prominent conservative House member who did not want his name used told me, ‘We just want it to be over.'”
“Federal funding for abstinence education will likely fall considerably this year” as House commerce committee chairman John Dingell (D-MI) said Wednesday he will “let a $50 million grant program expire on June 30.” “Abstinence-only seems to be a colossal failure,” Dingell said.
“The Commerce Department’s inspector general, who is supposed to look into complaints of wrongdoing by government officials, committed ‘egregious violations’ of the federal law that protects whistle-blowers by retaliating against two subordinates, a government investigation has concluded.”
Former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman has refused a request by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (R-NY) that she testify about the “government’s failure to respond adequately to the environmental crisis in Lower Manhattan” after 9/11.
And finally: CNN’s Ed Henry fumbles his big scoop. On Wednesday, when he called attorney Bob Bennett, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz accidentally picked up. Henry recalls, “Just then I heard a gruff voice pick up another extension on the phone line and say abruptly, ‘This is Paul Wolfowitz.’ I stuttered and stammered — wait, was this really him?! And when I heard the familiar voice say, ‘Hello?’ I knew it was indeed Wolfowitz.” But Wolfowitz’s attorney quickly picked up the line, and the golden opportunity was gone.