Socialist Worker

Not much liberty in the 'land of the free'

Issue No. 1844

THE STATE is rounding up innocent people and imprisoning them because of their ethnic background. That sounds like a description of a repressive regime the US would be eager to 'liberate'. Except it is happening in the US. Everyone from an Arab or Muslim country who asks for asylum in the US is thrown into prison.

George Bush's Department of Homeland Security announced the arbitrary arrest and detention of hundreds of people from over 30 countries last week. This includes longstanding US allies like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It is part of Bush's Operation Liberty Shield. 'Traumatised people who have never committed any crime could find themselves in prison for months simply because they asked our country for asylum from persecution,' said Dr William Schulz, Amnesty International's executive director in the US.

WE ARE told that DNA evidence can be used to prove someone guilty of a crime, even if they have previously been acquitted. But many convictions in the US based on DNA evidence may be suspect. The scandal centres on Texas, which has the highest rate of executions in the US.

Josiah Sutton was jailed for 25 years for rape in 1999 on the basis of Houston, Texas police department's DNA testing. When it was retested it showed it could not possibly have been his DNA. An audit has shown lab technicians were incompetent, standards were poor and some DNA evidence was contaminated by rain leaking through a roof.

In the Frame - No. 3 Johann Hari

THE pro-war journalist claims the Iraqi people want to be bombed. He knows this because, 'Last October I spent a month as a journalist seeing the reality of life under Saddam. Iraqi people would hug me and offer coded support.'

Hari was on a two-week holiday. In December he said it was 'difficult to get Iraqis to express their feelings. Many asked 'why your government hates the Arab world'.'

Pigging out as people fear

MILLIONS OF workers around Britain are worrying about their pensions. Top executives running pensions have been out wining and dining in luxury. Some 350 pensions executives recently enjoyed a £30,000 banquet in the main hall of the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Many were executives who have closed down final salary pension schemes to new workers and want to increase workers' contributions.

A pheasant confirmation

TRAIN GUARDS in the RMT union are targeting the Connex firm for strike action over safety this week. The guards are angry that the privatised companies want to increase their workload, diverting attention away from being alert for potential accidents and emergencies.

The guards were proven right last week. A pheasant collided with a Connex train and put it out of service.

This branch won't answer

THE NATWEST bank has been claiming in its adverts that it isn't like all the other money-grabbing banks. The man in the advert boasts his bank allows you to telephone your branch rather than be directed to an anonymous call centre.

Trouble is the NatWest branch behind him is Hampton Court, which NatWest shut down in 1996 hoping to sell the land for a trendy wine bar.

Dismissing workers' rights

'OPEN NOW and discover how to take advantage of a loophole in the working time regulations' and 'dismiss safely without fear of a tribunal claim.' This is a letter that Britain's bosses received recently. It advises management on how to get one over on their workers.

'Employing people is becoming an ever more complex business,' began Tips and Advice Personnel, a fortnightly circular. The newsletter advises bosses to 'make sure that anyone who works more than 48 hours a week has signed an opt out agreement'.

There is even a section moaning about employee training. 'How can you be sure that you're not paying out just to further careers elsewhere? 'You might assume that you could simply deduct a fair sum from the employee's outstanding wages.'

To get round any problems the newsletter encourages bosses to get 'clawback' agreements as 'they will allow you to deduct costs from an employee's wages if he then leaves'.

A poisonous image

OIL GIANT BP prides itself on the 'green' image pushed by its logo and expensive advertising campaign. That image is looking a little tarnished in Los Angeles, as an official body is pushing for a record fine on BP for air pollution.

The British-based multinational is also charged with submitting false documents over the pollution to the official Air Quality Management District in California. BP is accused of allowing poisonous fumes to escape from its Carson oil refinery over an eight year period. On one occasion a local school had to be evacuated. The official pollution agency is seeking a £200 million fine on the oil company. This is by far the largest penalty ever sought by the agency.

'The company committed thousands of violations while routinely submitting documents that showed no violations,' said agency spokesperson Barry Wallerstein.

Figure it out

1 - THE NUMBER of the 535 members of the US Congress with members of their own family in the US armed forces. And they shed crocodile tears for soldiers killed in the war on Iraq.

Who says?

'You can't stay in to defend the indefensible in order to do other things that need doing.'
Clare Short, radio interview where she threatened to resign from the cabinet

'I must say that I prefer Robin Cook's approach. He felt he had no choice. If I was an MP I would definitely rebel against the party over Iraq.'
Joan Short, Clare Short's mother

'Never ever in the history of human conflict has such a vast material advantage been displayed by one fighting force over another.'
John Pike, Washington Military Research Institute

'Preventative war was an invention of Adolf Hitler. I would not take seriously anyone who suggested such a thing to me.'
Dwight Eisenhower, US president in 1953

'Resistance has been minimal because few Iraqis will fight for Saddam - and even fewer are prepared to die for him.'
Richard Perle, Pentagon advisor

'Stop it rally a flop. Fewer than 150,000 took part compared with 2 million on 15 February.'
News of the World, 23 March

'Blair tells 750,000 peace marchers, 'You're wrong'.'
News of the World, 16 February

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 29 Mar 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1844
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