PORTLAND, Ore.: City Council says ‘Bring the troops home’

Most Nov. 7 congressional races were decided by voters’ demands to halt the Iraq occupation, but voters are not naïve — just changing faces does not necessarily result in change.

On Nov. 30, after over 50 residents provided moving, often searing testimony, the Portland City Council unanimously enacted a resolution calling on the U.S. government to “immediately commence an orderly and rapid withdrawal of United States military personnel from Iraq” and to support efforts to rebuild Iraq and to fund human needs in Portland.

“Three years ago, when the case was made for war, many people, myself included, were compelled to give those in charge the benefit of the doubt,” said Commissioner Randy Leonard, who introduced the resolution. “It is clear now that we were grossly misled, and our service men and women are standing in harm’s way. Adding our voice to the chorus of cities around calling for their prompt return is the least we can do.”

Since 2003, when the Iraq war began, 272 cities have passed similar resolutions. In the past election, 162 ballot questions calling for withdrawal from Iraq passed in Illinois, Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

The National Priorities Project calculates that Portland taxpayers have spent $419 million on the war and occupation. The resolution calls for money used for the Iraq war to be diverted to rebuilding Iraq, giving full benefits to returning veterans and providing health care and education for Portland residents.

ORLANDO, Fla.: Groups provide Thanksgiving dinners, despite city law

As in Las Vegas, the authorities in Orlando decided to bar any provision of food to homeless families in the city’s parks. But a coalition of organizations, with help from the American Civil Liberties Union, found a technicality in the ordinance and delivered Thanksgiving dinners to homeless families in Eola Park.

Code Pink, a peace group, brought 150 cupcakes; Food Not Bombs delivered mashed potatoes, squash, asparagus, green beans and rice; the ACLU donated pizza and the Young Communist League cleaned up after the feast.

No arrests were made, although police did take the names of representatives of each of the groups in the coalition. “I understand that this is more of a political statement than anything else,” OPD Officer Shawn Dunlap told organizers.

ST. LOUIS: Winter storm kills 23 in Midwest

St. Louis, where 203,000 residents were still without electricity in below-freezing temperatures Dec. 4, took the brunt of a deadly ice and snowstorm that blew through the Midwest last week. In all, 510,000 residents in Missouri and Illinois shivered as ice and heavy, wet snow downed power lines and trees.

The weather was credited with causing 23 deaths. At least eight people died in St. Louis alone.

AmerenUE, the power company responsible for service to area residents, predicted said it would be days before electricity was restored.

About 5,500 workers from 14 states joined 1,500 AmerenUE workers putting in 16 days to get furnaces and lights back on. The Illinois National Guard pitched in by going door-to-door in East St. Louis, checking on residents.

WASHINGTON: U.S. fails on AIDS fight, again

Dec. 1 was International AIDS Day and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued its annual report card on U.S. performance in answering the health crisis. It got failing grades.

U.S. policymakers received an F in the “prevention” category with the Bush administration’s insistence that only abstinence-only programs receive funding. Sex education, condoms and other proven measures were not funded. In 2006, Congress added anti-gay restrictions to an already failed program.

In the category of “care and treatment,” the government got a D. HRC said inadequate funding levels for the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act has resulted in pitting low-income residents of one state against neighboring states.

Inadequate funding for the National Institute of Health and AIDS research (the latter cut by $15 million last year) earned an F.

Congress’ linking of “abstinence only” to a third of U.S. funding for international AIDS education earned that action a C.

Few will be surprised that the Bush administration got an F on combating AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.

“We are hopeful that with a new congressional leadership the failed policies of the past will not continue to be repeated,” said HRC president Joe Solmonese. “The American people sent a message in these midterm elections that they want to see real actions on issues affecting people’s lives and we are optimistic that their voices will be heard in relation to the efforts to combat this disease.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 @ aol.com). Michael Munk and Joshua Leclair contributed to this week’s clips.

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