Bush unveils ‘manufacturing czar’ post

President Bush announced yesterday he is creating a high-level government post to nurture the manufacturing sector, which is bleeding jobs in states crucial to his re-election.

On a rain-soaked Labor Day trip to a factory training center, Bush said he had directed Commerce Secretary Don Evans to establish an assistant position to focus “on the needs of manufacturers.” Keeping factory jobs is critical to a broader economic recovery, the president said, his outdoor venue ringed by cranes, backhoes and bulldozers.

Bush said the nation has lost “thousands of jobs in manufacturing.” In fact, the losses have soared into the millions: Of the 2.7 million jobs the U.S. economy has lost since the recession began in early 2001, 2.4 million were in manufacturing. The downturn has eliminated more than one in 10 of the nation’s factory jobs.

The president attributed the erosion to productivity gains and to jobs flowing to cheaper labor markets overseas. He suggested that jobs moving to foreign shores was his primary reason for creating the new manufacturing czar.

“One way to make sure that the manufacturing sector does well is to send a message overseas, (to) say, look, we expect there to be a fair playing field when it comes to trade,” Bush said.

“See, we in America believe we can compete with anybody, just so long as the rules are fair, and we intend to keep the rules fair,” Bush said, his audience of workers and supporters cheering.

Bush administration officials believe one way to spark the economy and deal with the bloated trade deficit is for other countries to remove trade barriers. That would allow U.S. companies to more freely do business in overseas markets, boosting America’s global competitiveness. The nation’s trade deficit ran at an annual rate of $488.5 billion for the first six months of this year, heading for another record.

Congress approved pacts with Singapore and Chile earlier this year, and the administration says it now is striving for an agreement for all of Central America.

Bush did not name the new manufacturing official, and gave no timetable for offering a nomination to the Senate. Nor did he specify what duties the new post would include.

He spent most of his speech expressing empathy for anxious workers, and wiping rain from his head, which became thoroughly drenched despite his union hat.

“I want you to understand that I understand that Ohio manufacturers are hurting, that there’s a problem with the manufacturing sector,” Bush said. “I understand that for a full recovery, to make sure people can find work, that manufacturing must do better,” Bush said.

Ohio lost 185,000 jobs during the recession from 2001 through last March, nearly two-thirds in manufacturing, according to a study released Sunday by a private economic think tank.

Politics loomed large in Bush’s 11th trip to Ohio – a state he carried in 2000, and one where he also spent the July Fourth holiday.

Yesterday, Bush brought along his chief political adviser, Karl Rove, for the half-day trip to address the International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents 400,000 construction and maintenance workers in the United States and Canada.

Bush has tried to woo some trade and industrial unions, which tend to be more conservative than public and service sector unions. The Operating Engineers union is among the largest labor donors to Republicans, contributing 16 percent of its $1.3 million to the GOP in 2002, and its president, Frank Hanley, has appeared at several previous events with Bush.

The White House chose politically friendly territory for the event. Although surrounding communities tilt Democrat, Richfield leans Republican. Bush’s motorcade route took him along stately homes in an affluent neighborhood, and clusters of supporters waved signs backing the president.

His crowd applauded when Bush argued that two rounds of tax cuts had kept the recession shallow and had helped spur factory jobs.

Democrats said the tax cuts have gone to the wealthiest taxpayers and have sent the deficit spiraling to $480 billion for next year, while doing little to jump-start the economy.

“I hope his tour of the state will include the empty factories and bankrupt corporations,” said Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, one of nine Democrats vying to challenge Bush.

The Labor Day trip marked Bush’s first public appearance since he returned Saturday from a monthlong stay on his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It kicks off a burst of heavy travel in the 15 months leading up to Election Day.

Bush still had Crawford on his mind as he addressed the operating engineers.

“We need a little rain in Crawford,” he told an audience shielding itself with rain slickers and garbage bags. “Send it that way, if you don’t mind.”


N. Korea rejects U.S. nuclear demands

Keeping up its bellicose rhetoric, North Korea yesterday dismissed U.S. demands that the communist nation scrap its nuclear program as “a game even kids won’t play.”

North Korea took an angry, hard-line stance following last week’s landmark talks in Beijing with the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia about its nuclear programs.

“Despite our goodwill and generosity, the United States has shown no readiness to drop its hostile policy toward the DPRK during the latest talks and blatantly put forward new gang-style demands,” the Foreign Ministry said yesterday in a statement from its Moscow embassy, according to the Interfax news agency.

“That means … they promise not to shoot and we are supposed to lay down weapons first,” the North Korean statement said. “It’s a game even kids won’t play.”

North Korea says the United States must first provide security and aid guarantees before it will consider abandoning its nuclear programs.

North Korea on Saturday said there was no need for more talks.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed yesterday in a phone call to keep pushing for more six-nation talks to end the nuclear standoff, the Kyodo News reported from Toyko.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, who represented Russia during Beijing’s talks, said the six nations had reached a tentative agreement to meet again in October or November, but added that “each country wanted to assess the results before making a decision on the next round,” the ITAR-Tass news agency reported Monday.


3 charged in deadly Bombay bombings

Police yesterday charged two men and a woman with the twin bombings that killed 52 people last week in Bombay, India’s financial capital.

The three suspects were arrested under India’s tough anti-terrorism law and would appear in court later yesterday, said M.R. Raut, chief prosecutor in Bombay.

He said the three were charged with illegally possessing explosives, conspiracy in both bombings and planting one of the bombs in the parking lot of the Gateway of India, an arch that is a tourist attraction.

Raut declined to give the names of the suspects, who could face the death penalty if found guilty.

About 150 people were injured when two taxis carrying explosives blew up within minutes of each on Aug. 25 in Bombay, one at the Gateway of India and the other at a busy shopping complex.

Bombay, officially known as Mumbai, is the country’s biggest economic center.

The driver of the taxi used in the Gateway blast survived and told police he was hired by two men and a woman for a two-day sightseeing tour. It was unclear when the passengers left the taxi.

The Indian government has blamed the attacks on pro-Pakistan Muslim militants from Kashmir. Bombay police officers have said RDX, an explosive favored by Kashmiri separatist guerrillas, was used in both Bombay attacks.

Pakistan, India’s rival and neighbor, condemned the attacks.

India accuses Islamic Pakistan of arming and funding Muslim militants who have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence from predominantly Hindu India. More than 63,000 people have been killed in the insurgency.

Pakistan says it empathizes with the rebels, but does not support them with weapons or money.

Security has been tight in India after the attacks. Police in the capital, New Delhi, said on Sunday that security forces prevented a “spectacular” attack there by a Pakistan-based militant group.

Police killed two suspected members of the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed group in a New Delhi park Saturday, hours after explosives were seized and three people were arrested elsewhere in the city.


Jackson arrested at Yale protest, strike

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and 13 people were arrested yesterday after they blocked traffic on the Yale University campus in support of striking university service and clerical workers.

Jackson led more than 1,000 people on a Labor Day march and rally in support of the striking workers before he was arrested.

“This is the site of national Labor Day outrage,” Jackson said. “This is going to be for economic justice what Selma was for the right to vote.”

The march ended in a rally at Yale’s Beinecke Plaza and Woodbridge Hall, which houses university President Richard Levin’s office. Police said 1,000 to 1,500 people marched with Jackson.

including Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, who graduated from Yale, and state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Yale Law School graduate.

Jackson and about 30 others then blocked traffic. To the cheers of protesters, Jackson was the first to be handcuffed. The demonstrators were expected to be charged with disorderly conduct.

Intermittent rain dampened the Yale demonstrators, part of a band of wet, stormy weather that stretched southwestward to Texas. Rain also put a damper on holiday beach outings in parts of Hawaii, which was on the northern edge of Tropical Storm Jimena, downgraded from a hurricane early in the morning.

In Detroit, union members and supporters faced the rainy weather to march downtown to celebrate Labor Day and call attention to the challenges faced by American workers in a struggling economy.

The parade ended at the recently unveiled Michigan Labor Legacy monument in Hart Plaza, which symbolizes the continuing spirit of organized labor and the importance of unions to the region’s history.

“We’re very concerned about this economy,” said Patrick Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Greater Detroit Building and Construction Trades Council. “People talk about the economy picking up, but we don’t see it.”

The biggest celebration in New York City was the annual West Indian Day parade, which this year honored slain Councilman James Davis as marchers wound through his district in Brooklyn. Davis was shot to death in City Hall on July 23 by a one-time political rival.

The parade is famous for outrageous and colorful costumes, and bodies painted in colors representing the flags of the various countries of the West Indies. One woman, wearing a short dress, had her face and arms painted in the colors of Jamaica – yellow, green and black.

At Yale, the service and clerical workers from two Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International locals walked off the job Wednesday in a dispute over wages, job security and pension benefits.

The unions represent about 4,000 clerical, technical and service and maintenance workers, but an undetermined number had crossed picket lines.

University negotiators and leaders of striking unions agreed to return to the negotiations tomorrow.

Yale officials say their latest eight-year contract offer is generous, with pay raises of 3 percent to 5 percent, pension benefit increases and signing bonuses worth 50 percent of pay raises they would have received dating back to January 2002, when the last contract expired.

The unions want more substantial raises and larger pension benefits, as well as retroactive pay for the 20 months workers stayed on the job without contracts.


Celebs slow to back Arnold in gov. race

For years, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movies have created more buzz in Hollywood than almost anybody else’s, yet there has been a resounding silence as this industry town considers whether he can also produce a hit at the ballot box office.

Celebrities, even those who normally aren’t shy about speaking out when it comes to politics, have so far kept quiet about the highest-profile movie star to enter a California governor’s race since Ronald Reagan.

“That’s the question everybody is asking. Where is Hollywood?” said Bob Dowling, publisher and editor in chief of The Hollywood Reporter, one of the industry’s leading trade publications.

He and other industry observers speculate that there could be a good reason for that: Many of Hollywood’s most outspoken celebrities are liberal Democrats but at the same time are friends and colleagues of the moderate Republican Schwarzenegger.

“Let’s look at the facts. Arnold is a stock Republican married to a lifelong Democrat. There’s built in ambivalence in his own household. How could there not be in the community where he lives and works?” said Leonard Maltin, film critic and host of the syndicated television show “Hot Ticket.”

“Add to that he’s very prominent in the industry and the community, and I guess you have all the ingredients for some confusion, some hesitation, some reluctance to go public,” Maltin added.

Although a handful of celebrities have gone public, even their comments have been muted. Actor Rob Lowe, who had been involved in Democratic causes in the past, announced early on that he had signed on to Schwarzenegger’s bid to replace Gov. Gray Davis if he is recalled Oct. 7. He has said little since then, however, and declined to be interviewed for this story.

Requests for comment from such usually talkative celebrities as liberal Martin Sheen and conservative Tom Selleck were also declined, as were requests to Warren Beatty, Ben Affleck and Whoopi Goldberg.

One of Hollywood’s most politically active celebrities, Barbra Streisand, has given $1,000 to an effort to defeat the recall and another $1,000 to Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante’s “No on Recall, Yes on Bustamante” campaign.

“Arnold is a social friend whose company and whose wife’s company I enjoy. I’m a Democrat and he’s a Republican,” Streisand said in a statement she first sent to Newsweek and rereleased in response to an Associated Press request for comment.

There is a chance more celebrities could begin talking where it really counts.

As of Saturday, independent candidate Arianna Huffington had received the most celebrity and industry donations, including $21,200 from producer Lawrence Bender (“Pulp Fiction” and “Good Will Hunting”), $21,000 from “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David and $5,000 each from actor Noah Wyle (NBC’s “ER) and writer Aaron Sorkin (NBC’s “The West Wing”).

Producer Stephen Bing and media moguls Haim Saban and Norman Pattiz also gave $100,000 apiece to Davis’ Taxpayers Against The Recall campaign, and billionaire broadcasting mogul A. Jerrold Perenchio has given $21,200 to both the Schwarzenegger and Bustamante campaigns.

Davis’ anti-recall campaign recently announced it has scheduled a Sept. 18 fund-raiser at the Century Plaza Hotel that it expects will draw celebrities, although it has not said who will be attending.

Schwarzenegger’s campaign is also said to be lining up celebrities for public appearances later this month, but campaign spokesman Sean Walsh has declined to say who they might be.

“I think you’ll see some dribs and drabs. But I don’t think you’re going to see a big movement coming out of Hollywood either way,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Dowling said.

Part of the reason, Dowling speculated, is that many celebrities may be burned out after pouring so much effort into former Vice President Al Gore’s failed 2000 presidential bid. Others, who opposed going to war with Iraq, may still be feeling chastised by the strong tide of public opinion that went against them on that issue.

Bill Maher, the comedian and political commentator, said it could also be a matter of politics hitting too close to home in this race, particularly for people who often share the same agents, publicists and managers.

“There are always six degrees of separation between any two big stars out here. It’s very incestuous out here,” Maher said.

Maltin agreed.

“There are a lot of business ties and social ties that have to be considered before someone in this highly visible industry is willing to make a statement,” he said.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports.

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