Striking workers question whether UAW leaders can be trusted
ROMULUS, Mich. — The strike against General Motors by the United Auto Workers is playing out amid a corruption scandal inside the UAW that has caused distrust of the union leadership among many rank-and-file members. On picket lines at plants across the country, many of the 49,000 workers have expressed doubts about whether UAW leaders are acting in their best interests in the dispute and in their handling of union money in general. Some have gone so far as to wonder whether the leadership took them out on strike to show that the union is working for them. “Where there’s big money, there’s dishonesty, unfortunately,” 41-year employee Brian Jaeger said outside a parts distribution center in Van Buren Township, Michigan. He said he is grateful for the life that the union has brought his family and he supports the strike, but he is also suspicious of the leadership. The walkout began Monday, with UAW members saying they want a bigger share of the billions that the No. 1 U.S. automaker has made off their hard work since it emerged from bankruptcy a decade ago with the help of union concessions. The strike — authorized Sunday in a vote by about 200 local union representatives — has shut down more than 30 factories in nine states, mostly in the Midwest. In August, the FBI raided the suburban Detroit home of UAW President Gary Jones as part of the widening federal investigation. He has not been charged and has not commented on the raid. Earlier this month, Jones’ successor as union regional director in Missouri was charged in a $600,000 embezzlement scheme, and another UAW official pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks from union vendors. Eight other people — including five UAW officials — have been convicted over the past two years of looting a jointly run Fiat Chrysler-UAW training center for blue-collar workers, with prosecutors alleging that $1.2 million was diverted to keep union officials “fat, dumb and happy” while they collaborated with the automaker in contract talks. Amid all this, the UAW is trying to reach a new four-year agreement with GM. “That’s sickening,” Clarence Trinity, 47, a UAW machinist, said of the scandal. “If it’s true, that’s upsetting because they raised our union dues. But it seems like they raised our union dues maybe just to line their pockets.”
Attack on oil site an ‘act of war’
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil installations an “act of war” against the kingdom by Iran, as the Saudis displayed missile and drone wreckage and cited other evidence they said shows the raid was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.” Iran, which has denied involvement in the attack, warned the U.S. it will retaliate immediately if it is targeted. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, said he is moving to increase financial sanctions on Tehran over the attack. At a news conference, Saudi spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki said the attack Saturday that did heavy damage to the heart of the Saudi oil industry was “launched from the north and was unquestionably sponsored by Iran.” Yemen is south of Saudi Arabia, while Iran and Iraq lie to the north. Al-Malki stopped short of accusing Iran of actually firing the weapons itself or launching them from Iranian territory.
Netanyahu’s future in doubt
JERUSALEM — After a decade of mesmerizing world leaders, subduing his rivals and eking out dramatic election victories, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political future is suddenly in doubt. With near-final results from Israel’s election on Tuesday, he has been left well short of the parliamentary majority he had sought — not only to continue in power but also to fend off a looming corruption indictment. With over 90% of the votes counted late Wednesday, challenger Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party captured 33 seats in the 120-seat parliament, to 32 seats for Netanyahu’s conservative Likud. That leaves neither party poised to control a majority coalition with their smaller allies, leaving maverick politician Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beitenu party, as the key power broker. Lieberman has called for a broad unity government with the two major parties. “Judging by the present situation assessment, Netanyahu is no longer capable of winning an election in Israel. This story is over,” said Yossi Verter, commentator of the Haaretz daily.
Trump names security adviser
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday named Robert O’Brien, his chief hostage negotiator and an established figure in Republican policy circles, as his new national security adviser. O’Brien, the fourth person in two years to hold the job, becomes the administration’s point person on national security amid rising tensions with Iran following the weekend attack on Saudi oil installations and fresh uncertainty in Afghanistan after the halt in peace talks with the Taliban. The announcement of O’Brien’s selection comes a week after Trump ousted John Bolton from the post, citing policy disagreements . O’Brien, who made headlines in July when he was dispatched to Sweden to monitor the assault trial of American rapper A$AP Rocky, was among five candidates Trump said Tuesday were under consideration. “He’s worked with me for quite awhile now on hostages and we have a tremendous track record on hostages,” Trump said Wednesday on a tarmac in Los Angeles, hours after revealing the pick on Twitter. “Robert has been fantastic. We know each other well. O’Brien, standing alongside Trump, said it was a “privilege” to be picked.
Fed cuts interest rate again
The Federal Reserve has cut its benchmark interest rate again, big news for the U.S. economy but something that will likely have a muted impact on Americans’ personal finances, experts say. That’s because the reduction doesn’t offset the increases of recent years. And as the key rate creeps closer to zero, financial institutions are less eager to pass borrowing benefits along. Lower rates could also further dampen the perks of savings. As a reminder, the Fed slashed its benchmark rate — which affects a host of consumer and business loans — to near zero during the recession and kept it there until 2015. Then, as the economy improved, it raised rates several times. Now it has lowered them twice in one year, despite a fairly healthy economy, due to concerns about slowing economic growth and global trade tensions. The central bank on Wednesday reduced its key rate by a quarter-point to a range of 1.75% to 2% and said it’s prepared to do what it deems necessary to sustain the U.S. economic expansion.
Sirens send bear up a tree
OREM, Utah — Police used their vehicle sirens to drive a 2-year-old bear up a tree after its presence in the central Utah town caused traffic delays Wednesday morning. State wildlife personnel then were able to tranquilize the bear, remove it from the tree, placed in a trap and relocated to the Wasatch Mountains.
Bermuda lashed by winds
MIAMI — Powerful winds from Hurricane Humberto began hitting Bermuda on Wednesday as the government urged people to stay off the streets during the British territory’s close brush with the powerful Category 3 storm. And another growing storm threatened tourist resorts along Mexico’s Pacific. Bermuda Gov. John Rankin called up 120 members of the Royal Bermuda Regiment to prepare for possible storm recovery efforts and National Security Minister Wayne Caines cautioned everyone to stay inside. Authorities ordered early closings of schools, clinics and government offices.
Oil price drops for 2nd day
NEW YORK — Oil prices retreated for a second day Wednesday even as the Saudi military blamed Iran for recent attacks to critical oil infrastructure and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the strike an “act of war.” Benchmark U.S. crude fell 2% to close at $58.11 per barrel. It fell nearly 5.7% Tuesday. It was another day of volatile, unpredictable trading — a taste of the new normal — after Saudi officials said oil production halted by weekend attacks would be fully restored within weeks. Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell 1.5% to $63.60 per barrel.
Tot stuck in power window, dies
DETROIT — A 2-year-old Detroit girl has died after getting her head stuck in a power window in a car. Kierre Allen’s father yelled, “My baby, my baby,” when he discovered her stuck in the window Monday. He had fallen asleep in the car in a driveway. Kierre was rushed to a hospital but couldn’t be revived.
Burglars just doing their job
The state of Iowa has released documents that appear to support the claims of two men who said they were just doing their job testing security when they were arrested on suspicion of breaking into a courthouse this month. The men were working for Colorado-based cybersecurity company Coalfire when they were arrested after being found on the third floor of the Dallas County Courthouse just after midnight Sept. 10. The state has said it hired Coalfire to test only the security of electronic access to court records and not to force “entry into a building.” The two workers still face criminal charges. Yet the contract between Coalfire and the state says that a “physical penetration test targets your facilities/buildings/locations” and notes that the company planned to “attempt to collect physical documentation” at the courthouse where the men were arrested.
$6.7M for death for exploding tire
NEW ORLEANS — Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. must pay more than $6.7 million in damages in the death of a garbage truck driver killed when a tire he was inflating exploded, a judge in a New Orleans suburb has ruled. Elwood Breaux Jr. was working for Plaquemines Parish when the “zipper failure” — named for a long sidewall rip with protruding metal reinforcement — occurred. Escaping air slammed Breaux backward on Feb. 5, 2014. He died 28 days later of massive internal injuries to his chest and abdomen, State District Judge Michael Clement wrote. He calculated damages to Breaux, his five children and his wife at $6.7 million but said about $481,000 of that will reimburse the parish for workers’ compensation. State law will return some of that to the family’s share and judicial interest will add at least $1.4 million to the total, New Orleans attorney Danny Meeks, who represented the family, said Wednesday. Clement ruled Sept. 10 that Goodyear failed to adequately warn the parish that an underpressurized tire might explode during inflation.
Non-native bug to control thistle
BOISE, Idaho — Federal officials have approved turning loose a non-native insect to feed on an invasive thistle that sprouts in everything from rangelands to vineyards to wilderness areas, mainly in the U.S. West. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday it will permit the use of the weevil native to Europe and western Asia to control yellow starthistle, which is from the same area. “Its flowers have inch-long spines that deter feeding by and cause injury to grazing animals and lower the utility of recreational lands,” the agency said. There is little to no risk of the insect attacking native plants, the agency said. The weevils will initially be released in California, with additional releases in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and possibly Nevada, the agency said. It didn’t give a timeline for putting weevils into the wild. “We’re really excited about the release of this weevil,” said Jeremey Varley of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. Yellow starthistle “is not good to eat, and it’s toxic to horses.”
Pastafarian pastor leads prayer
SOLDOTNA, Alaska — A pastor wearing a colander on his head offered the opening prayer on behalf of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to open a local government meeting in Alaska, the latest blessing from a nontraditional church since a court ruling. Barrett Fletcher, the Pastafarian pastor, noted the duties performed by the members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in his Tuesday message, adding a few of them “seem to feel they can’t do the work without being overseen by a higher authority, “ Kenai radio station KSRM reported Wednesday. “So, I’m called to invoke the power of the true inebriated creator of the universe, the drunken tolerator (sic) of the all lesser and more recent gods, and maintainer of gravity here on earth. May the great Flying Spaghetti Monster rouse himself from his stupor and let his noodly appendages ground each assembly member in their seats,” Fletcher said. The only people who stood for the invocation were those without seats in the standing-room-only assembly hall in Soldotna, which is about 75 miles south of Anchorage. One man turned his back to face the wall during the invocation, and other men did not remove their hats. The Pastafarian invocation followed one in June from Satanic Temple member Iris Fontana that caused about a dozen people to leave the chamber in protest when she invoked “Hail Satan” in her opening prayer. Fontana was among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit litigated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska against the borough after it approved a 2016 policy saying that people who wanted to give the invocations at the government body’s meetings had to belong to official organizations with an established presence on the Kenai Peninsula. Other plaintiffs who had been denied permission to give the invocations included an atheist and a Jewish woman.
Burns love letters and her home
LINCOLN, Neb. — It seems this love was too hot to handle. A 19-year-old woman sparked an apartment fire Monday by burning love letters from her ex in her bedroom. Police say the woman used a butane torch to burn the letters and left some of them of the floor. She then went to another room to take a nap. Police say she awoke a short time later to find the carpet on fire. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire within minutes. Officials say the fire caused an estimated $4,000 in damage to the building. No one was injured. The woman was cited for negligent burning.
Johnson faces Brexit flak
STRASBOURG, France — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused by European Union officials Wednesday of failing to negotiate seriously and branded the “father of lies” by a lawyer in the U.K. Supreme Court, as his plan to leave the EU in just over six weeks faced hurdles on both sides of the Channel. In Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament said it would be the fault of Britain, not the bloc, if the U.K. crashed out of the EU without a divorce deal on the scheduled Oct. 31 departure day. In London, Johnson’s government battled to convince the U.K.’s top court that the prime minister’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks with Brexit looming was neither illegal nor improper. The government’s opponents claim Johnson illegally shut down the legislature to prevent lawmakers from scrutinizing his Brexit plans. Government lawyer James Eadie told 11 Supreme Court justices that the decision to send lawmakers home until Oct. 14 was “inherently and fundamentally political in nature,” and not a matter for the judiciary. He said that if the court intervened it would violate the “fundamental constitutional principle” of the separation of powers. But a lawyer for lawmakers challenging the shutdown accused the government of being “unworthy of our trust.”