A sit-in at a closed Chicago factory has entered its fifth day as laid off union workers refuse to leave until the plant is reopened or they receive severance pay and accrued vacation time. The Republic Windows and Door factory closed last week after Bank of America cut off the company’s line of credit. The factory owners gave workers just three days of notice of the plant’s closure. Many of the plant’s 250 union workers have been occupying the plant since Friday. The laid-off workers are members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 1110. On Monday, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich ordered state agencies to stop doing business with Bank of America until it uses some of its federal bailout money to keep the factory open.
Rod Blagojevich: “So unless and until they do that, we, the state of Illinois, will suspend doing any business with the Bank of America, and we hope that this kind of leverage and pressure will encourage the Bank of America to do the right thing for this business, take some of that federal tax money that they’ve received and invest it by providing the necessary credit to this company so these workers can keep their jobs.”
Political leaders on the Chicago City Council and in Cook County threatened similar actions against Bank of America.
Five Blackwater security guards were charged on Monday with killing fourteen unarmed Iraqi civilians and wounding twenty others in the 2007 Nisoor Square massacre in Baghdad. The federal prosecutors accused the Blackwater guards of opening machine gun fire on innocent Iraqis and launching a grenade into a girls’ school. The five guards have been charged with fourteen counts of manslaughter and twenty counts of attempted manslaughter. They are also charged with using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a thirty-year minimum prison sentence.
Assistant Attorney General Pat Rowan: “The government alleges today that at least thirty-four unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, were killed or injured without justification or provocation by these security guards in the shooting at Nisoor Square. Today’s indictment and guilty plea should serve as a reminder that those who engaged in unprovoked and illegal attacks on civilians, whether during times of conflict or times of peace, will be held accountable.”
Congressional Democrats and the White House are close to settling on a plan to rush $15 billion in emergency loans to the Detroit automakers. Under the proposal, the Treasury Department would cut checks for the car companies as soon as next week. The plan also calls for President Bush to name a “car czar” to manage a vast restructuring of the firms and restore them to profitability. The Detroit Free Press reports the deal could grant Washington a majority stake in either General Motors or Chrysler.
In media news, Monday was a turbulent day for the newspaper industry. The Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy. The company’s holdings include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, twenty-three television stations and the Chicago Cubs. Meanwhile, the McClatchy Company has put the Miami Herald up for sale, and the New York Times Company has announced plans to borrow up to $225 million against its mid-Manhattan headquarters building to ease a potential cash flow squeeze.
In other economic news, Sony has announced plans to eliminate 8,000 jobs. Meanwhile, Dow Chemical says it will cut 5,000 jobs and close twenty plants.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and four other prisoners have asked to plead guilty to war crime charges they face at a Guantanamo Bay tribunal. All five men face the death penalty if convicted. It it unclear whether the men could be executed without a a verdict by a military jury. Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union compared Monday’s proceedings to a circus.
Anthony Romero: “What it underscores is just the circus-like nature of the Guantanamo military commissions, the fact that the rules are not understood, that they haven’t been truly analyzed by all sides, and that there is no way to salvage this debacle. And the only way to salvage it is by scrapping it entirely and starting afresh.”
In Greece, a fifteen-year-old boy killed by the police will be buried today. The death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos has sparked four days of unrest in Athens and other Greek cities as thousands of youths took to the streets. Hundreds of buildings have been torched. On Monday, students took over the Athens Law School, a fire was set at the Foreign Ministry, and a strip of five-star hotels were ransacked. Students have set up barricades at Polytechnic University. Police have arrested or detained 250 people. A spokesperson for the Uniting Anti-Capitalist Left said, “We are experiencing moments of a great social revolution.” A twenty-four-hour general strike has been called for Wednesday.
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has condemned the Jewish settlers in the West Bank who opened fire on Palestinians last week, saying their actions constituted a “pogrom.” The settlers shot and wounded three Palestinians and set fire to property after Israeli security forces evicted a Jewish group from a disputed building. Olmert said, “As a Jew, I was ashamed at the scenes of Jews opening fire at innocent Arabs in Hebron. There is no other definition than the term 'pogrom' to describe what I have seen.” The word “pogrom” is emotionally charged in Israel as it was often used to describe Russian massacres of Jews in the nineteenth century.
Meanwhile, Israel’s leading civil rights organization, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, has broken a taboo by describing Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank as being “reminiscent of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.” A spokesperson for the group said the organization decided to drop its previous reluctance to use the South Africa comparison because things are getting worse in the Occupied Territories.
In Britain, nearly fifty climate change activists have been charged with aggravated trespass after they were arrested during a protest at London’s Stansted Airport. The activists broke through an airport fence and ran onto the runways, forcing fifty flights to be canceled. The protest was organized by a group of activists trying to raise awareness of the potential environmental impact of airport expansion.
In Haiti, children are now being airlifted from rural villages to stave off death by starvation. Last month, international aid workers and doctors airlifted forty-six starving children in the southeastern Haitian village of Baie d’Orange after twenty-six had died from severe malnutrition.
Hillary Clarck of the World Food Program: “But what’s happened recently was a double-shock of the high food prices, which you remember, where the price of rice, which is the staple here, doubled in a year. And on top of that came the hurricanes, which did considerable damage to the crops of these farmers, many of them whom are subsistence farmers and rely on mangoes, avocados, cassava, to feed themselves. And so, losing those crops has put them into a very, very difficult position.”
In California, a fighter jet crashed into a San Diego neighborhood on Monday, killing three people in their home. The pilot of the fighter ejected safely.
And President Bush has bought a new home in an exclusive section of Dallas. Up until 2000, the gated community had a neighborhood association covenant that allowed only whites to own property. The document said the area’s land “shall be used and occupied by white persons only except these covenants shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race or nationality in the employ of a tenant.”