RICHMOND, Va.: Rally demands clean streams

Virginia Voters for Clean Water (VVCW) gathered, over 800 strong, on the steps of the State Capitol Jan. 16 to demand that the Legislature approve $242 million to clean up the state’s 7,000 miles of streams and rivers.

The total cost to restore Virginia’s waterways for safe swimming and fishing is estimated to be $2.3 billion. In 2000, under orders from the Environmental Protection Agency, the state signed on to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, which set 2010 as the deadline for the cleanup. But only a fraction of the money needed has been appropriated.

Last year, as a result of prodding from environmental activists, the State Assembly earmarked an initial $50 million toward the effort. But the Legislature’s foot-dragging has prompted the VVCW to intensify its lobbying campaign.

MIAMI: 5,000 students opt out of military

In just two months, Mi Familia Vota (My Family Votes), an organization dedicated to building the Latino community’s political power, has convinced 5,000 high school students to ‘opt out’ — to remove their names from lists supplied to military recruiters by their high schools under Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” act.

“We found out a lot of the kids were just signing up because they needed the money,” said Luis Cerros of Mi Familia Vota. “Recruiters were taking advantage of that.”

Franco Caliz, a junior at Miami’s Coral Park High School, said military recruiters “run up to you after school and harass you to enlist.” Formerly in Junior ROTC, Caliz says the recruiters’ pitch includes money for college and travel overseas, but “they pretty much avoid mentioning that you could get killed.”

School district records indicate that recruiters are targeting low-income students. For example, the low-income Felix Varela High School had 176 visits from military recruiters, while upper-income Coral Reef High had 20.

Nationally, the anti-recruitment group Leave My Child Behind estimates that 37,000 students have had their names removed from military recruiters’ lists.

BOSTON: Lawmakers crush students’ dreams

Patricia Oliveira’s parents brought her to the U.S. from Brazil when she was 6. She does not have a “green card” and is considered an undocumented resident in the eyes of the law. She graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in 2003 and hoped to attend college.

The Massachusetts House dealt Oliveira’s dreams a blow Jan. 11 when it voted 96-57 to reject a bill that would have enabled her to pay in-state tuition for college, just like her classmates.

“The fear and hatred that fueled today’s vote are a product of the Romney (Republican governor) administration’s sheer contempt for the community,” said Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) executive director Ali Noorani. “In fact, his record of eliminating health insurance for elderly and disabled immigrants, and now leading the fight against the In-State Tuition Bill, shows what type of immigrant he values: unless an immigrant is of the age and skills to push a broom or clean a toilet, Gov. Romney sees no need for them in Massachusetts.”

MIRA plans to support state candidates, including for governor, who support the rights of undocumented workers in 2006 elections.

SAN FRANCISCO: California executes man in wheelchair

On Jan. 17 California executed Clarence Allen, a 76-year-old Choctaw Indian who is legally blind, diabetic and has suffered two heart attacks and a stroke. Allen served 23 years in San Quentin. A predominantly white jury in a rural county imposed the death sentence on Allen for ordering the murder of three witnesses while he was in prison for another murder.

“The spectacle of Mr. Allen being wheeled into the death chamber, unable to walk and unable to see those who have come to witness his execution, violates all standards of decency and would amount to nothing more that the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering prohibited by the Eighth Amendment,” said Annette Carnegie, one of Allen’s attorneys.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected a stay of execution, saying that age and health of the condemned man did not matter.

The U.S. Supreme Court also upheld the execution, although Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissent, arguing it constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The State Assembly is expected to act sometime this year to suspend the death penalty, pending an investigation into charges of racial bias in its use and the inadequate legal representation of low-income defendants.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (