VENTURA, Calif.: Stop the ‘Kindergarten Cop’

Handmade signs held up by over 500 parents, students and teachers said it all on March 10: “Liar, Liar, Promise on Fire” and “No Arnold, You Won’t Be Back.” Organized by the Ventura Education Partnership and Save Our Schools, parents spearheaded the rally to restore full state funding to their children’s public schools, threatened by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s projected state budget.

“We need a governor who will listen to the will of the voters and not try to run them over with a Hummer,” said state schools chief Jack O’Connell, keynote speaker at the rally.

Ventura County School Superintendent Charles Weis said, “We’ve seen 30 years of erosion in funding for public schools. We now have the largest class sizes, the fewest librarians and the fewest administrators. It’s time we changed course.”

In just the last four years, $9.8 billion has been slashed from the state’s education budget, and Schwarzenegger plans to cut another $2.3 billion. The results would be devastating, parents said.

Marie Lakin, parent and spokeswoman for the Ventura Education Partnership, said in frustration, “There are only so many buckets of cookie dough you can sell” to bridge the funding gap in the schools.

WASHINGTON: U.S. torture in Afghanistan

Human Rights Watch got their hands on official U.S. Army documents that detail torture and prisoner deaths at the hands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan a full year before prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were broadcast on television. The reports became public March 12.

Two Afghan prisoners, Mullah Habibullah and another identified as Dilawar, 37, died in December 2002 after soldiers chained them to a ceiling and beat them to death.

In 2002, Army officials said the two men died from natural causes. Lt. General Daniel McNeill, the U.S. commander of allied forces in Afghanistan at the time, denied all allegations of torture or murder.

After a New York Times investigation, the Army acknowledged the two deaths were homicides. In the fall of 2004, the Army implicated 28 soldiers and reservists in the murders, including Capt. Carolyn Wood. However, the Army then assigned Wood to Abu Ghraib to establish the “interrogation and debriefing” center.

Earlier this month, the ACLU filed suit against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, charging him with war crimes and violations of the Constitution.

FARMINGTON, N.H.: Town protests Patriot Act

The Farmington, N.H., council voted, March 9, to declare the town a “Civil Liberties Zone,” becoming number 375 on the list of local governments and four states to condemn the anti-democratic actions of the Bush administration and its Patriot Act. Joining Farmington this year are Exeter, N.H.; Paonia and Oak Creek, Colo.; Butte and Silver Bow, Mont.; Elmira, N.Y.; and Erie, Penn. To date, state and local governments representing more than 56 million people have stood up for civil liberties. In April, the Columbia, S.C., City Council will vote on a similar measure.

The USA Patriot Act passed overwhelmingly in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Patriot Act severely curtails the Bill of Rights and other hard-won civil and democratic rights.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, based here, provides updates and tools for residents to place a resolution and/or ordinance before their local government. For more information, visit www.bordc.org.

CHICAGO: Students organize American Girl protest

Students from Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy are organizing a March 29 protest at American Girl Place here to voice their concern about the company’s new doll, Marisol Luna, and her “official” storybook. The book, which comes with the doll, says Marisol and her family moved to the suburbs because the predominantly Mexican American neighborhood of Pilsen was “dangerous.” Community reaction to the slanderous stereotype has been strong.

At a recent community meeting, 200 residents offered their own stories for Marisol. “Her family had to leave because the landlord raised the rent,” said one resident, noting that politicians are raising taxes to gentrify the area.

Students are demanding that Mattel-owned American Girl offer 30 jobs for Pilsen youth and 15 full college scholarships, including for undocumented students, that the company stop publication of the book, and that it issue an apology.

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

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