Inmates take over jail in protest
Hundreds of inmates at Durango Jail, known as "tent city," in Phoenix, Arizona, took over the prison citing inadequate medical care, bad food, brutalization by the cops, and poor, outdoor living conditions. Inmates say the November 17 struggle began when a cop pepper sprayed one of the prisoners for using the bathroom without permission. The seizure lasted for three hours, with 11 cops taken as hostages. It ended when Sheriff Joseph Arpaio agreed to meet with the inmates.
Arpaio is known for implementing chain gangs for women and
banning cigarettes for prisoners. While he told inmates that
he would launch an investigation on their grievances, Arpaio
later said he was skeptical about the prisoners' claims and
that things would stay the same. Earlier this year the U.S.
Justice Department had described the violence used against
those who are locked up in Durango as "especially and
unacceptably prevalent." According to the Associated Press,
one inmate told the sheriff, "The whole issue is everybody
wants to be respected."
Court weakens illegal search law
On November 18, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously voted that once police stop a car for alleged traffic violations they can request to search the vehicle without informing the driver that he or she is legally free to go, weakening Constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure. The court upheld an appeal by the State of Ohio. The ruling had the support of U.S. president William Clinton and 36 state governments.
In 1995, the Ohio Supreme Court overturned a drug
possession conviction because the cop used the pretext of
speeding to stop the car, and then asked to search for
contraband without informing the driver of his rights. The
Ohio court ruling noted that "most people believe that they
are validly in a police officer's custody as long as the
officer continues to interrogate them."
U.S. gov't must pay damages to victims of radiation experiments
The U.S. government will be forced to pay $4.8 million to families that were unknowingly made subjects for radiation experiments. Of the 12 cases the settlement will cover, only one woman is still alive. Washington's quest to develop atomic weapons spurred these experiments, conducted between 1944 and 1974. Mary Jean Connel, the woman who survived, recounted that in the 1940s she was trying to get treatment for a problem with her metabolism. Despite the fact that she turned down requests to be a part of experiments, Connel was injected with radioactive uranium. As many as 20,000 people - such as working people seeking routine medical attention, soldiers, and 820 pregnant women - were victims of these and other such experiments. Venezuela public workers strike
Tens of thousands of public workers in Caracas, Venezuela, held a four-day shutdown, beginning November 19. The chief demand was for the government to pay seven months worth of back wages. Spokespersons for the United Federation of Public Employees said the actions drew "98 percent of the workforce." Inflation in Venezuela over the past year has climbed to 114 percent. The monthly salary for administrative employees in Venezuela ranges from $97 to $275 a month. The average cost to feed a family of five is about $260 a month, according to a report from the Center for Documentation and Analysis for Workers. Bolivia workers fight pension cut
Some 340 Bolivian workers were on a hunger strike as of November 22 to oppose government plans to cut pension funds. Workers from different labor sectors are part of the actions across the country. Government minister Carlos Sánchez Berzaín blamed the strikes on "small groups of unionists that don't want to loose their privileges." Despite the increase of marches, protests, and work stoppages surrounding the hunger strike, Berzaín denied there is a rise in social tensions. U.S.-Japan military exercises flex muscles at China and Korea
November 17 marked the end of two-week joint military exercises by U.S. and Japanese troops. more than 22,000 military personnel, each country providing half the force, carried out land and sea battle drills they called "bilateral movements against a common enemy."
The aims of the exercises, while not officially designed for any "common enemy" in particular, seem clear to at least one soldier who told reporters, "We all suppose it could only be north Korea, if not the Chinese."
These war games are the first under the Acquisition and
Cross Services Agreement - a pact that went into effect last
month - which allows Washington and Tokyo to supply each
other with weapons and artillery parts.
Bangui soldiers demand payment
Soldiers in the Central African Republic seized an army base November 16, lashing out at the Bangui government, which has not paid troops' back wages on time in nearly a year. The third such mutiny in seven months, it took the help of 1,300 French soldiers to secure the capital city. The government has also failed to pay teachers and other civil servants on time yet this year. Abortion rights signed in Poland
On November 20 the Polish government signed into law a measure that would end the three-year banning of abortions in that country. The law states that any woman with financial or emotional reasons to do so may have the surgery performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Private clinics can also provide abortions now, whereas previously, only state medical facilities could do the operation. About 40,000 opponents of a woman's right to choose assembled outside the Parliament building in Warsaw, the day the vote took place. In pre-1993 Poland, abortions were available on demand. BP pillage of Colombia exposed
As part of the ongoing conflicts between the United Kingdom and Europe, the European parliament recently denounced British Petrolium (BP), a British oil company, for what Miami's Nuevo Herald describes as "grave violations of human rights in Colombia." The European Parliament requested that the Colombian government, through its Commission of Human Rights, document the actions carried out by the British company. The violations include destruction of the environment and the living conditions of those living and working near the plants. BP is also accused of collaborating with the Colombian army, and providing intelligence information about workers on strike and other union activists. Ottawa, Chile set up trade pact
The governments of Canada and Chile have set up a free- trade agreement that the Canadian government says may pave the way for Chile's eventual membership into the U.S.-Canada- Mexico pact known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It will go into effect on June 2, 1997. Canadian trade minister Art Eggleton, saying that NAFTA was "a model throughout their negotiations," gives Ottawa favorable trading status over the United States, Europe, Argentina, and Brazil. U.S. officials made it clear that Chile's admittance into the tri-country NAFTA agreement was not in Washington's plans.
- BRIAN TAYLOR
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