United States

Documentary maker Michael Moore has made headlines again with his latest film, SiCKO!, which premiered at the Cannes Film festival on May 23. The documentary is a loaded gun aimed at the US health-care system, which is the most expensive in the world and yet provides the worst cover in the First World, according to the latest World Health Organisation scorecard.

A few months ago, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would have seemed the least likely Democratic presidential candidate to lead a congressional charge to repeal the authority of Congress bestowed in 2002 upon George Bush to wage war on Iraq.

A new vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that causes most incidents of cervical cancer, is being opposed by religious conservatives in the US who claim it will “encourage promiscuity” in young women. According to Newscientist.com, half of all sexually active women in the US between the ages of 18 and 22 are infected with HPV and some of these cases go on to develop into cancer later in life. After successful trials of the vaccine, the US Centers for Disease Control and Protection recommended vaccination of all 11-12 year-olds. But so far only Virginia has passed a law requiring vaccination and West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi and New Mexico have rejected the program. In Texas, the Senate overturned the governor’s order for the program to be introduced in that state.

On October 6, 1976, two bombs ripped through Cubana Flight 455 mid-flight from Barbados to Cuba. All of the 73 civilians onboard, including Cuba’s national youth fencing team and 11 Guyanese medical students, were killed. Until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, this was the worst terrorist attack in the Western Hemisphere. On April 19, the mastermind behind this mass murder, Luis Posada Carriles, was released on bail from prison in the US, where he was being held since 2005 for violating immigration law, and allowed to return to his luxury penthouse in Miami.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers, mostly from Latin America, protested for their rights on May Day in cities and towns across the United States. For the second year in a row, the immigrant rights movement chose May 1, International Workers’ Day, to raise their demands.

In the latest move against the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalised abortion in the US, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 on April 18 to uphold the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The act was signed into law by US President George Bush in November 2003.

The streets of downtown Los Angeles became a sea of red shirts stretching for many city blocks on April 7 when at least 20,000 people turned out for one of the largest immigrant rights demonstrations since the big marches last year.

On April 6, notorious Cuban-born terrorist Luis Posada Carriles was granted freedom on bail in the El Paso Federal Court, which will allow him to return home to his family in Miami after the payment of US$250,000. Posada, a former CIA operative, was the mastermind of the deadly bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976, and has been involved in other terrorist acts and violent campaigns against popular movements in Latin America. Washington has denied requests to extradite him to Venezuela, where he had been imprisoned until he escaped in 1985.

A March 7-11 poll by the New York Times and CBS News found that just 15% of respondents believed the US government should engage in “regime change” operations overseas. The poll asked: “Should the United States try to change a dictatorship to a democracy where it can, or should the United States stay out of other countries’ affairs?” Supporters of regime change operations fell 12 points from 27% in 2004 and those who believe the US should “stay out” increased from 59% in 2004 to 69% in the March poll. The poll also found that a mere 10% of those polled support military action against Iran. Only 14% believed the US government was telling the whole truth when it claimed Iran is supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons to use against US forces occupying Iraq.

On February 25, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache in Maryland. A simple tooth extraction could have saved his life, but by the time he received medical attention a tooth infection had spread to his brain. Driver’s family did not have private health insurance and their Medicaid coverage had expired. Even with Medicaid, many people have to travel several hours to find a dentist willing to treat them — just 900 of the state’s 5500 dentists accept Medicaid patients. Figures show that fewer than one-third of children in Maryland’s Medicaid program received any dental care during 2005.

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