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Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions

Scott Walker, governor of WisconsinFaced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics.

State officials from both parties are wrestling with ways to curb the salaries and pensions of government employees, which typically make up a significant percentage of state budgets. On Wednesday, for example, New York’s new Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, is expected to call for a one-year salary freeze for state workers, a move that would save $200 million to $400 million and challenge labor’s traditional clout in Albany.


In Isolated Utah City, New Clubs for Gay Students

Gay Center in conservative Utah citySome disapproving classmates called members of the new club “Satanists.” Another asked one of the girls involved, “Do you have a disease?” But at three local high schools here this fall, dozens of gay students and their supporters finally convened the first Gay-Straight Alliances in the history of this conservative, largely Mormon city.

It was a turning point here and for the state, where administrators, teachers and even the Legislature have tried for years to block support groups for gay youths, calling them everything from inappropriate to immoral.


Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies and, Along With it, Reason and Justice

Arizona bans ethnic studiesWhile much condemnation has rightly been expressed toward Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, a less-reported and potentially more sinister measure is set to take effect on January 1, 2011.

This new law, which was passed by the conservative state legislature at the behest of then-School Superintendent (and now Attorney General-elect) Tom Horne, is designated HB 2281 and is colloquially referred to as a measure to ban ethnic studies programs in the state. As with SB 1070, the implications of this law are problematic, wide-ranging and decidedly hate filled.


Colfax pilot who posted S.F. airport security video steps forward

Chris Liu, Colfax PilotThe pilot who posted a cell phone video on YouTube revealing potential loopholes in airport security identified himself Monday and said he is "pretty shocked" by the national uproar he has caused.

Chris Liu, a 50-year-old Colfax resident and 27-year veteran pilot, said in an interview with a Sacramento television station that he never imagined his "little video" of what he felt were lax procedures at San Francisco International Airport would get much attention.


NYC Gallery Patrons Ejected Over Gaza Flotilla T-Shirts

US Gallery rejects patrons with Gaza Flotilla tee shirtsFour activists were forced to leave an art gallery in New York this month for wearing T-shirts promoting an effort to include an American boat in the next blockade-challenging Gaza flotilla.

The incident came on the final day of an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery called “Next Year in Jerusalem,” featuring pieces by the German artist Anselm Kiefer on the subject of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.


Judge orders feds to pay $2.5M in wiretapping case

US Dept. of JusticeA federal judge on Tuesday ordered the U.S. government to pay more than $2.5 million in attorney fees and damages after he concluded investigators wiretapped the phones of a suspected terrorist organization without a warrant.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker said the attorneys for the Ashland, Ore., chapter of the now-defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation should receive $2.5 million for waging its nearly five-year legal challenge to the Bush administration's so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program.


Judge revokes $5M bond for ex-Madoff worker Annette Bongiorno

Annette Bongiorno, Bernie Madoff's asst.One of Bernard Madoff's trusted former workers got an early lump of coal for Christmas this morning from a judge who revoked her bail and ordered her to surrender to US Marshals. Annette Bongiorno -- who allegedly pocketed $14.5 million through her boss's Ponzi scheme -- surrendered to marshals in West Palm Beach, Fla., this afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Manhattan federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain said Bongiorno has an "abundance of unrestricted assets" that could help her flee conspiracy charges that could send her to prison for life, Manhattan federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain said.


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