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Archive for April, 2008

UPDATE: 05/01/2008 #1 son points out in the comments that now 7 of 8 of Minnesota’s congressional delegation have signed on to this legislation. The only holdout is Michelle Bachman. As of this date 261 members of the House of Representatives have signed on as cosponsors. END UPDATE

As hundreds of thousands of men and women return from serving their country in the military they are finding that the current G.I. Bill is woefully inadequate. Senators Jim Webb(D) and Chuck Hagel(R), hope to change that with the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act” (S.22/H.R. 5740). The current list of cosponsors include 58 in the Senate and 250 members of the House. Both of Minnesota’s senators have signed on to the bill. Six of Minnesota’s eight representatives in the House have signed on, including my congressman, Tim Walz. This legislation has bipartisan support and has been endorsed by the following veterans and educational groups:   

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars(VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), The American Legion, the Military Officers’Association of America (MOAA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), AMVETS, the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), the Student Veterans of America (SVA), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the Partnership for Veterans’ Education, a consortium of military, veterans, and higher education associations such as the American Council on Education (ACE) and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).

Democratic presidential hopefuls Clinton and Obama are cosponsors. Republican presidential candidate John McCain has introduced alternative legislation which is a slap in the face to our veterans and especially to our national guard and reservists. VoteVets.org issued a press release last week in which they repudiated the McCain-Graham-Burr bill. Here is and excerpt from the press release:

The veterans stated that the McCain-Graham-Burr bill falls flat in its key differences from the Webb-Hagel Bill, which has the support of 57 members of the Senate, from both sides of the aisle.

1) The McCain-Graham-Burr legislation creates a flat education benefit, not taking into account the cost of state colleges where veterans live. This would mean veterans in states where the cost of education is higher than the benefit would have go to into debt to get an education, or uproot themselves and their families to move to a place where the benefit would cover college. The Webb-Hagel Bill determines the education benefit based on the highest state college tuition in a veterans’ home state, allowing veterans to come home and attend college, without upheaval in their lives.

2) The McCain-Graham-Burr legislation creates second-class veterans, by offering those who serve in the military for 12 years the chance to transfer their education benefits to their children. This says to a veteran who serves for two years and loses both of his legs in combat that his service isn’t as valuable as someone who has served for longer.

3) The McCain-Graham-Burr legislation leaves the National Guard and Reserve out in the cold. In the current conflicts, the National Guard and Reserve have served faithfully alongside their active duty compatriots, and deserve equal benefits. Yet, the McCain bill does nothing to reward our Guard and Reservists for their cumulative service. Under the McCain bill, over 160,000 members of the Guard and Reserves who have done more than one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan would get no credit towards an education for their additional sacrifice. 

If this is an example of John McCain’s leadership and support for the troops, then we don’t need him. He is proving once again that he is out of touch with reality.  If we are going to go to war then we must consider all costs, and that includes education.

A fact sheet on S. 22 is available here.

Watch the video from VoteVets.org. 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

   

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Monday, April 28, workers in Minnesota and across the United States will observe Workers Memorial Day. The day was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the passage of legislation establishing OSHA. Similar observances are held in Cananda and by international trade unionists. The Minnesota AFL-CIO has issued the following press release:

 

Minnesotans observe Workers Memorial Day, Monday, April 28

 

As Minnesotans prepare to honor workers who were killed on the job, the national AFL-CIO today released a report saying that US work places are becoming increasingly dangerous. According to the report, 5,840 US workers, 78 of them Minnesotans, died from workplace injuries in 2006.

 

Ceremonies will be held in Monday in Duluth, Minneapolis, Roseville and Apple Valley to honor Minnesota workers who were killed on the job in 2007.

 

 

  • Duluth7-9 AM Breakfast followed by a 9:15 AM  Ceremony of Remembrance
    both at the Duluth Labor Temple—sponsored by the Duluth Central Labor Body

 

  • MinneapolisNoon--Ceremony of Remembrance at Bohemian Flats Park at 22ndAve. S. at West River Rd., Mpls.—sponsored by the Minneapolis & St. Paul Building Trades Councils

 

  • Roseville2 PM—Ceremony of Remembrance– MnDOT Waters Edge Building (1500 W Co Rd B2 in Roseville)—sponsored by the MnDOT Metro District
  • Apple Valley—6 PM—Lebanon Cemetery of Apple Valley—sponsored by the Southern Dakota Labor Alliance

Workers Memorial Day has been observed each year since Congress passed the Occupational Safety & Health Act in 1971. This week, the AFL-CIO released the 17th edition of the annual report, Death on the Job: The toll of neglect. The report includes national and state-by-state profiles on worker safety and health in the United States.

KEYC television in Mankato has this video of union members observing Workers Memorial Day  on Friday. 1st CD Congressman Tim Walz  was also there to honor the dead and support the living..

Fortunately for workers in Minnesota we have a state OSHA agency. Many states do not and must rely on the federal agency to do inspections and investigations. From my experience, the presence of Minnesota OSHA has saved lives and reduced work-related injuries and illnesses.

WorkdayMinnesota has a poignant story, Crossing one bridge at a time, by Michael Kuchta. This report relates the experience of Rob Baily, a union carpenter, who was working on  the I35 bridge prior to the collapse. He lost a union brother andothers were injured. Baily still has a hard time dealing with the events of that day, but is now working on the construction of the new bridge.

As we observe this day we remember the fallen workers and the sick and injured workers

Mother Jones said it best:

Mourn for the dead, fight like hell for the living.

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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Early Saturday morning, a minivan with Rock County DFL delegates set out to Albert Lea to attend the 1st CD convention. Despite the blustery winds and icy conditions on I-90 we arrived safely to join the other delegates from across the 1st CD to take care of business. Listening to speeches, electing officers, filling committee spots, etc. is par for the course for conventions. Tedious but necessary. The delegates to the national convention that were elected truly represent the makeup of the 1st CD. Of those chosen were party regulars, an 18 year old first time delegate, and a 75 year old delegate.

The best part of the day of course was the nomination of Tim Walz to represent the people of the 1st Congressional District. The congressman has done an outstanding job in his first term and has worked very hard to restore trust in the people we send to Washington D.C. I have been cynical and often disillusioned with our elected officials. Not so with Tim Walz. I am proud to claim him as my representative. His work ethic, openness, intelligence, values, and manner of speaking are just some of his attributes. He understands the challenges that I face. He understands my wants and my needs. He understands my dreams.

After several nominating speeches from delegates, Gwen Walz, the Congressman’s wife, gave a rousing introduction for her husband which really got the crowd pumped up. Prior to taking the stage, I was lucky enough to capture this moment with the Congressman getting last minute advice on his acceptance speech from his son, Gus.

His daughter Hope, joined him on stage while Gus worked the crowd. Congressman Walz gave a great speech and talked about building the largest grassroots campaign the 1st CD has ever seen. There is one thing about his message today that stuck with me. This campaign is not about Tim Walz.  It is about us taking our democracy back. It is about our hope for the future. It is about the people of the 1st CD. He is one of us and that is why we will send him back to Washington D.C.

 

 

Delegates conducting business

As always, you can find the latest news and views about Tim Walz and the 1st CD at A Bluestem Prairie.

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

 

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A lot of buzz today in the news about the nuclear reactor under construction in Syria that the Israeli military bombed September 6, 2007. Robin Wright from the Washington Post has an informative story:

A video taken inside a secret Syrian facility last summer convinced the Israeli government and the Bush administration that North Korea was helping to construct a reactor similar to one that produces plutonium for North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, according to senior U.S. officials who said it would be shared with lawmakers today.

The officials said the video of the remote site, code-named Al Kibar by the Syrians, shows North Koreans inside. It played a pivotal role in Israel’s decision to bomb the facility late at night last Sept. 6, a move that was publicly denounced by Damascus but not by Washington.

Sources familiar with the video say it also shows that the Syrian reactor core’s design is the same as that of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, including a virtually identical configuration and number of holes for fuel rods. It shows “remarkable resemblances inside and out to Yongbyon,” a U.S. intelligence official said. A nuclear weapons specialist called the video “very, very damning.”

The full article is here.

How this will affect negotiations with Kim Jong-IL and the North Korean government remains to be seen. If the U.S. negotiators have taken the opportunity to watch the 2004 Paramount Pictures film, Team America: World Police, they might just realize that the North Korean dictator is just a little ronery.

UPDATE: New Video

If you are offended by the TV show South Park, then you will not like this and should not watch it.

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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Good news! An AP story in the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports that the workers sickened by working with pig brains will finally receive workers compensation payments for lost wages and medical expenses.

By Steve Karnowski
Associated Press 

AUSTIN — Several employees at the Quality Pork Processors plant in Austin who were initially denied workers compensation for a mysterious neurological illness will be paid after all, attorneys said.

At least 18 workers have suffered symptoms of the illness, which was first made public by health officials in December.

Attorney Paul Dahlberg, who represents several of the workers along with Tom Patterson, said Patterson was notified over the weekend by a representative of Quality Pork’s workers compensation insurance carrier. Dahlberg said they represent some 10 clients.

Read the rest of the story here.

It really should not have dragged on as long as it has but it is good the affected workers will finally get the compensation they deserve. Unfortunately, may many of them still will have to live with the crippling effects of the illness. Perhaps now QPP can concentrate on living up to the standards of the safety award they received from all of their buddies at the American Meat Institute.

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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Today it was announced that the Association of Bloggers Who Live in the SW Corner of Minnesota and Live in a Corner House and Blog From a Corner of That House, has awarded CornerHouseComments its prestigious Braggadocio Award.

CHC had this to say:

“I was stunned! It is a real honor to be recognized by your peers, even if it is self serving. The Braggadocio Award is probably as prestigious as the over 120 awards handed out by American Meat Institute to its membership. I’m sure that the detractors will be coming out of the woodwork now, saying that CornerHouseComments doesn’t post enough and that what I post is crap. Just look at Quality Pork Processors, Inc. in Austin, MN. They were given an Award of Honor by the AMI recently and now people are bringing up stuff like they are dragging their feet on taking care of their employees sickened by vaporized pig brains. Jeez, it’s hard being on top.”

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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