In yet another attempt to seize the upper hand in the Congressional redistricting battles that will occur after the 2000 census, Republicans in Congress have funded an initiative for the California ballot that would delegate power to redraw congressional districts to the state Supreme Court.
Currently, as in other states, California’s legislature draws the district map and the governor approves it. However, Democrats control the California state legislature and the governorship, and congressional Republicans fear that the legislature will redraw districts to make it easier for Democrats to get elected and the governor will happily sign off on the plan, according to the SACRAMENTO BEE. At stake may be control of the House of Representatives.
In hopes of luring voters to take a stand in this internecine struggle, the measure’s proponents have tacked on a clause that would cut the salaries of state representatives by a quarter. That move has pitted many Republican state representatives against the Republican congressmen who have bankrolled the initiative.
This is not the first time that Congressional Republicans have tried to manipulate the decennial map-drawing to their benefit. They waged a fierce — and ultimately successful — battle to ensure that the census bureau could not use a form of statistical sampling in the 2000 count. The reason is that without sampling, millions of poor people and minorities don’t get counted. Since undercounted populations tend to vote Democrat, the Republicans would just as soon pretend they aren’t there.
Aug. 26, 1999
Evidence has surfaced suggesting that Boris Yeltsin and family accepted bribes in exchange for granting lucrative construction contracts, reports T HE GUARDIAN (UK). The Swiss federal prosecutor is investigating the case, in which it is alleged that the owner of a Swiss-based engineering and construction company gave Yeltsin and his two daughters credit cards, and footed the bill. One of Yeltsin’s daughters, who works as his “image advisor”, reportedly ran up roughly $10,000 in charges in a single day. The owner of the company, Baghlet Pacolli, also reportedly transferred $1 million into a Budapest bank account at Yeltsin’s disposal. Pacolli’s company was given contracts to refurbish the Kremlin and repair the Moscow parliament building.
If confirmed, it would be the first real evidence of bribe-taking on Yeltsin’s part. Pacolli admitted transferring money to the Budapest account, but maintained that it had nothing to do with his construction company. No word on how many cases of vodka and “I fired my entire cabinet and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” T-shirts Yeltsin bought.
Aug. 25, 1999
If misery loves company, Rodney King and Amadou Diallo may find bitter comfort in the news out of Denver this week. According to the DENVER POST, Denver police officers may have used way more than “reasonable” force when arresting two drug suspects after a 5-mile chase. A television news helicopter videotaped police kicking the suspect, and then after he was handcuffed — but before the officers searched for illegal drugs — slapping him and grinding his ear into the pavement. Both officers hit the second suspect in the head with their pistols, and then appeared to punch him when he was on the ground.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on the police department to conduct an investigation. The department has reportedly asked the television station for a copy of the tape.
According to the Denver police, the officers had good reason to suspect the two men of illegal activities. After the police began to follow them, they sped away, driving on the sidewalk at one point. Allegedly, they tossed out of their window what was eventually revealed to be money, a gun and 2.2 pounds of cocaine. Police also reported that the men were uncooperative during the arrest. It’s hard to cooperate when you’re getting your ass kicked.
Murders at private prison chain rise
Aug. 24, 1999
An inmate in a prison run by a private company in New Mexico was bludgeoned to death with a laundry bag full of rocks, prompting the state Corrections Secretary to threaten to punish the company. The murder was the fourth at a Wackenhut Corrections Corp. prison since the middle of last year, according to the ASSOCIATED PRESS. The other deaths were all stabbings.
Giving prison contracts to private companies has become a growing trend as the number of inmates has skyrocketed. Wackenhut currently holds a $25 million contract to hold 1,500 inmates in its two New Mexico prisons. However, Corrections Secretary Rob Perry has promised that if Wackenhut doesn’t clean up its act, he will fine the company or transfer prisoners out of state.
The 51-year-old prisoner, Orlando Gabaldon, was watching television when he was murdered. He was serving a life sentence for armed robbery. If New Mexico pays a lump sum for Wackenhut’s contract, having one fewer inmate to feed may just turn out to be good for the ironically-named company’s bottom line.
Coming soon: Cocaine “vaccine”?
Aug. 23, 1999
Scientists at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Association in New Orleans divulged details about one of their latest projects: Developing “designer antibodies” that would block the “rush” of drugs such as cocaine, PCP, and amphetamines. According to the ASSOCIATED PRESS (in an article printed in The Washington Post), the antibodies won’t cure addictions, but researchers say that they may revolutionize emergency treatment for the drugs and help people to kick the habit. The scientists’ work focuses on inducing the body to create certain antibodies — or injecting them pre-made into the bloodstream — that would essentially block the drug’s effect on the brain. It’s possible that the antibodies could block a cocaine, PCP, or amphetamine high for a month or longer.
In fact, a cocaine vaccine has already been developed by a Massachusetts company and is presently undergoing testing at a Connecticut clinic. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.