Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Headlines and action alerts

First, the link below will take you to a link by Act For Change, a progressive lobbying group, where you can submit your comments and ask the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the polar bear and its habitat.


As previously noted, the Bush adminstration has had to admit that the polar bear should possibly be added to the endangered species list, because its habit is melting. You can only deny reality for so long before it bites you.

Next, Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House, is visiting Syria. Bush is not happy. Exceprt from the NY Times reports:

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with President Bashar al-Assad in Syria today, the most senior American politician to visit Syria since relations between the countries faltered in 2003.

Her visit, which has been criticized by President George W. Bush, is seen as part of an attempt to sway Bush administration policy on Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

Ms. Pelosi, the third-ranking elected official in the United States behind the president and the vice president, met with officials including Walid al-Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister, before holding talks with President Bashar at the presidential palace in Damascus.

At a televised press conference afterward, Ms. Pelosi said that during the meeting with the president she had “expressed concern about Syria’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas,” and had “expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria.”

The Reuters news agency reported that Ms. Pelosi said she had passed on a message from Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert. “(Our) meeting with the president enabled us to communicate a message from Prime Minister Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks,” Ms. Pelosi said, Reuters reported.

“Peace in the Middle East is a high priority. We were very pleased with the reassurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process. He was ready to engage in negotiations (for) peace with Israel,” Ms. Pelosi said, Reuters reported."

"In Damascus, many welcomed Ms. Pelosi’s arrival as a breakthrough.

“There is a feeling now that change is going on in American policy — even if it’s being led by the opposition,” said Ziad Haider, Damascus bureau chief for Al Safir, a leftist Lebanese daily. Syrian officials are increasingly betting on improved relations with American Democrats, whom they expect to lead the United States in coming years, Mr. Haider said. “Pelosi’s approach represents a more practical policy; the administration’s policy over the last few years has been based on demands and ideology,” he said.

In Damascus’s old section where Ms. Pelosi’s name had become a household word, many spoke optimistically of an impending change in relations.

“Ms. Pelosi is going to be very happy in Syria,” said Izzat Abdoulkarim, who runs an optical shop in downtown Damascus. “George Bush says we are bad, but she will see this is not true.”

He added, emphatically: “She views the world through a different perspective than Bush. She’s more open-minded.”"

Ivan Eland, writing for the libertarian Independent Institute, gives Pelosi kudos.

"President Bush has scolded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria. In the president's opinion, shared by others, the U.S. government should speak with just one voice overseas. Yet that view flies in the face of both the text and the spirit of the Constitution.

Before the rise of the post-World War II imperial presidency, the powers among the branches of the U.S. government were much more balanced – as the Constitution originally intended. In fact, suspicious of European monarchs' propensity to wage war with the blood and treasure of their citizens, the Constitution's framers actually gave more powers in foreign affairs to the Congress than the president. The Congress was given the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, declare war, raise and support armies, provide and maintain a navy, regulate the armed forces, organize, arm, and discipline the militia, and call them forth to resist invasions.

In contrast, the Constitution gave the president only two unilateral powers in foreign affairs: the chief executive was designated the commander in chief of the armed forces and militia (narrowly construed so as not to imply that the chief executive was commander in chief of the nation), and was allowed to receive foreign ambassadors and ministers. The president was allowed to make treaties with foreign nations and nominate U.S. ambassadors and high foreign policy officials, but these actions were both subject to congressional approval with an overwhelmingly large two-thirds majority vote. Clearly, the framers wanted the Congress to be the dominant branch in foreign policy, as with most other aspects of governance.


In fact, the Founders undoubtedly would have noted that the warlike European monarchs of the day were the sole purveyors of their nations' foreign policy – the very problem the framers attempted to address with the constitutional separation of powers.


Instead of publicly condemning Speaker Pelosi for carrying out the bipartisan Iraq Study Group's heretofore-languishing recommendation of actually talking to Syria to resolve bilateral issues, the president should be happy that someone in the U.S. government is willing to take risks with one of America's major adversaries in the region.

In fact, while she was at it, Pelosi should have stopped by Tehran to see whether negotiation could have helped the troubled U.S.-Iranian relationship as well."

Finally (for now), Chinese unions have accused McDonalds and Yum brands (the latter operates KFC and pizza hut) of violating minimum wage laws. From CNN Money:

"U.S. fast food chains, including McDonald's and KFC, broke minimum wage laws in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, the state-backed labor union said on Wednesday, urging tougher enforcement of employment laws.

Guangzhou set the minimum wage for part-time workers at 7.5 yuan (97 cents) an hour at the start of this year, but outlets of McDonald's, and KFC and Pizza Hut, which are part of Yum Brands (Charts), paid workers less than that, said Li Shouzhen of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.

"This conduct violates the relevant rules of our nation's labor law," said Li, head of the union's Social Security Work Department, according to a report in the official People's Daily.


One 22-year-old college student, who spoke to Reuters on condition that his name not be used, said he had worked at McDonald's for six months and earns 5.3 yuan (69 cents) an hour.

Another woman who said she had recently graduated from college but had worked at KFC for the past couple of years said she still made less than 7.5 yuan. She also declined to be named.

The workers said they were not alone. Between 75 and 90 percent of colleagues at their restaurants, each with 40-50 workers, also made below the legal minimum, they estimated.


Within days, authorities had launched an investigation, which some political observers said reflected a new willingness to challenge business practices of multinational corporations."

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