PITTSBURGH: ‘Health care, not warfare’

“I’d rather see 1,500 more beds than 1,500 parking spaces,” said Iraq veteran Sgt. Geoffrey Millard as he stood in front of a parking garage being built at the Veterans Administration hospital here March 24. “Why do we even have to choose?”

Millard, a leader of the Washington, D.C., chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, spoke to thousands of veterans, health care workers, peace activists, students and area residents who marched against the war on the fourth anniversary of the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.

“The [VA] doctors and nurses at the hospital are the best,” said Millard, who has been on a waiting list to see a doctor for six months for a spinal injury sustained in Iraq. “The problem is that one doctor is in charge of hundreds of patients. Returning veterans should not have to be placed on waiting lists while they suffer just to see a doctor.”

Pittsburgh’s VA hospital has 550 beds and 2,600 workers serving 2,000 veterans. Building the parking garage is the largest project there in 50 years. The local crisis coupled with the national scandal surrounding soldiers’ and veterans’ health care provided the theme for the 2007 march.

“They can spend billions of dollars on a war, but my father, a Korean War veteran, doesn’t get the health care he deserves,” said Linda Graham, Service Employees (SEIU) member.

LOUISVILLE, Ky.: Seminary calls cops on gay rights activists

On March 2, Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler wrote in his blog, “If a biological basis [for homosexuality] is found and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as a means as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.”

Those words prompted a March 26 sit-in by dozens of members of Soulforce, an organization calling for religious groups to accept LGBT people as members and leaders. The seminary called the police, who arrested 12 Soulforce members.

Soulforce member Kyle DeVries said that Mohler, a prominent Christian leader, “has tremendous influence” and his “calls for eugenics for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people needed to be answered. We decided to come here and demand a rescindment of those comments and a public apology for them.”

As we go to press, the 12 Soulforce members are still in jail on criminal trespass charges. The seminary has yet to apologize.

TALLSMANVILLE, W.Va.: Owners close Sago Mine

Facing 15 lawsuits filed by surviving families of miners killed at the worst coal mining disaster since 1968, the International Coal Group (ICG) has closed the Sago Mine. ICG cited economic conditions for the closure. It said a small crew will remain to protect the mine’s infrastructure, and most of the 50-some other miners have been offered jobs at other ICG mines.

After the explosion that killed 12 miners on Jan. 2, 2006, Sago was closed for about two and a half months. Production declined by about one-third from the 900,000 tons mined in 2005. Last year, miners at ICG-owned mines produced 4.8 million tons of coal, up from 4.2 million tons in 2005.

Surviving miner Randall McCloy is also suing ICG. Section foreman Martin Toler Jr. is the only victim for whom a suit has not been filed.

Meanwhile, ICG plans to open the new Beckley Complex this year and for $5 million bought coal reserves and a preparation plant and rail load-out from the bankrupt Buffalo Coal Company.

With 47 miners killed at work, 2006 was the deadliest year for miners since 1995.

NEW YORK: Citigroup axing 15,000 jobs

It’s not that the world’s largest financial services corporation isn’t making any money, but Citigroup is not keeping up with the competition, according to CEO Charles Prince. Citigroup plans to slice 5 percent of its 327,000-member workforce, meaning that some 15,000 people will lose their jobs. Some 14,000 additional positions will be lost to attrition.

Citigroup’s stock rose 8.3 percent while competitors’ stock soared — J.P. Morgan Chase’s stock rose 15.4 percent and Bank of America’s climbed 10.7 percent.

Last summer, Citigroup’s largest stockholder, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, demanded the corporation take “draconian” steps to increase the stock price.

Citigroup is a private global financial empire operating in 100 countries with about 200 million clients, many of them quite wealthy. In 2006, Citigroup expanded banking and consumer loan services to Mexico, India and Turkey.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 @ aol.com).