E. PALO ALTO, Calif.: ‘Evict hazardous waste plant’

“When I take a shower, I itch; and I won’t drink the tap water,” testified Rosie Solorzano, 15, who has lived her entire life a block from U.S. Liquids’ 16-acre Romic Environmental Technologies’ hazardous waste processing plant. “It’s not fair that communities like ours have to live like this.”

Solorzano was one of scores of young residents, many in surgical masks, who stormed the state Department of Toxic Substances Control workshop June 11 that was considering whether Romic should be allowed to expand its operations. No corporate representatives attended.

Many charged Romic with environmental racism because the plant has operated for 20 years in this predominantly Latino and African American community with little regard for community health. A survey presented to the state agency by Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) found high rates of asthma among area young people.

Romic has continued to operate even though its permit expired in 1992. In early 2005, the state fined Romic $849,000 for numerous violations, including storing toxic substances in the wrong containers.

YUCA wants the state not only to reject Romic’s request for expansion, but also to force the corporation to shut down operations permanently and do the necessary cleanup.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Execs convicted of pollution

In a precedent-setting verdict June 10, the jury in the McWane pollution trial convicted the three top executives of the $1.9-billion industrial pipe maker for willfully fouling this city’s drinking water. James Delk, Michael Devine and Charles “Barry” Robison were found guilty of conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act based on testimony by more than 60 of the plant’s workers, members of the Steelworkers union. The employees said managers ordered them to dump water full of zinc, lead, oil and grease into Avondale Creek, which flows into the city’s water supply.

Delk, Robison and Devine face five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. McWane owns 23 plants in the United States.

WASHINGTON: Senate apologizes for inaction on lynchings

Between 1882 and 1968, at least 4,742 people, mostly African Americans, were lynched, and during that time the U.S. Senate rejected numerous bills to outlaw the murderous hate crime. But on June 13 the Senate passed S 39, a non-binding resolution introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) with 61 co-sponsors, apologizing to the families for the Senate’s failure to protect them.

Landrieu said that incidents of such racist terror have been documented in 46 states. The resolution expresses “most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of the victims of lynching.”

Present at the Senate action was Doria Dee Johnson, whose great-great-grandfather, Anthony Crawford, was hanged in Abbeville, S.C., in 1916, by a white mob of 200-400. His body was riddled with 200 bullets. Crawford was a successful cotton farmer who was lynched when he accused a white buyer of cheating him. A cousin of teenage lynching victim Emmett Till was also present.

WASHINGTON: High court defends ‘jury of peers’

Texas leads the country in executions, but in a 6-3 decision June 1, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of death row inmate Thomas Miller-El. The court ruled the state routinely seats all-white juries and unfairly questions prospective African American jurors. The high court sent a strong rebuke to lower state and federal courts that tolerated “strong prejudice during jury selection.”

Writing for the majority, Justice David Souter slammed the Texas prosecutor in the Miller-El case for eliminating Black jurors, shuffling the jury pool twice and more aggressively questioning Black jurors about the death penalty than whites. At the original 1985 trial, Dallas prosecutors struck nine of the 10 Black prospective jurors.

The high court condemned the Dallas district attorney for continuing to use a training manual that advises prosecutors to eliminate African Americans and Jewish people from death penalty juries. The practice continued into the 1980s.

“The prosecutors’ chosen race-neutral reasons for [eliminating prospective jurors] do not hold up,” Souter wrote, “and are so far at odds with the evidence that pretext is the fair conclusion, indicating the very discrimination the explanations were meant to deny.”

NEW PALTZ, N.Y.: Mayor faces charges for same-sex marriage ceremonies

The New York Supreme Court indicted New Paltz Mayor Jason West June 6 for performing 24 marriages of same-sex couples in 2004. West, a member of the Green Party, faces 24 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. The Liberty Counsel, the legal arm of ultra-right Jerry Falwell Ministries, initiated the legal action against West.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com). Marilyn Bechtel contributed to this week’s clips.

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