NASHVILLE: Baptists call for Iraq war end, no-vote on Gonzalez

More than 10,000 delegates representing 15 million African American Baptists in four denominations met here, Jan. 24 – 27, and issued a joint unity statement calling for political action opposing the war in Iraq, supporting the extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, government reinvestment in public education and the elimination of mandatory sentencing. Citing the “double standard concerning decent treatment for captured persons in the war on terror” the gathering approved a motion opposing the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales for U.S. Attorney General.

A special collection was taken to address the global AIDS crisis, assist tsunami victims in East Africa and support two historically Black colleges.

WASHINGTON: Victory for Guantanamo prisoners

It was a victory for civil rights and a defeat for the Bush administration when federal Judge Joyce Hens Green decided Jan. 31 that men from 42 countries rounded up during the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan are entitled to their day in court. The U.S. has held an estimated 550 men, who it calls ‘enemy combatants’ or detainees, in prison for over two years at the naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba.

“Her opinion sends a message to the rest of the world that democracy is still here,” said Barbara Olshansky, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented the 50 imprisoned men who petitioned Green.

Declaring the U.S. military tribunals to determine that the men on Guantanamo are “enemy combatants” unconstitutional, Green said some of the information against them was obtained through torture or coercion.

The decision directly contradicts Judge Richard Leon’s decision two weeks ago supporting the Bush administration.

The administration is appealing a November 2004 decision by Judge James Robertson, which found that the military “hearings” are defective, denying basic legal rights to the imprisoned men.

COLUMBUS, Ga.: Freedom fighters sentenced

Fourteen freedom fighters arrested for trespassing at Fort Benning were found guilty and sentenced on Jan. 26. On Nov. 21, 2004 16,000 people demonstrated there demanding the closure of the notorious School of the Americas (SOA). The fourteen committed civil disobedience to call attention to the torture training that takes place at the school. Twelve were sentenced to 90 days in federal prison and a $500 fine. Two high school students received community service. (See related story on page 13)

For decades Latin American military and police officers have been trained in torture tactics at SOA with U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

Tens of thousands have demonstrated to close SOA, over the last few years, and 170 people have been arrested serving a total of 78 years in federal prison.

BALTIMORE: NAACP defies IRS Probe

Charging that an IRS investigation is politically motivated, the nation’s most prestigious civil rights organization has refused to turn over documents to the agency. The IRS audit is aimed at the NAACP’s status as a non-profit organization, exempting the group from taxation.

“It appears that political pressure, rather than any sound legal authority, motivated the Service to open the audit,” wrote NAACP lawyers Marcus Owens and Lloyd Mayer in their Jan. 21 letter to the IRS refusing to submit documents. Attorney Owens is the former head of the IRS office that oversees tax-exempt groups.

MONTGOMERY, Ala.: State sues drug companies

At stake is millions of dollars that the state could have used for health care, but instead had to pay drug companies for what the Alabama Attorney General says were “overcharges.” State Attorney General Troy King is charging Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer and other corporations with intentionally inflating the average price of prescription drugs.

“This practice has unfairly and artificially raised the cost of drugs to Alabama Medicaid, thereby diverting scarce resources and limiting access to life-saving medicines and other services for some of the neediest in our state,” said King.

Etoposide, a chemotherapy drug, costs $34.30, but Bristol-Myers charged Alabama $136.49. Hundreds of drugs were cited in the suit. Alabama joins 17 other states suing drug companies for fraud.

WASHINGTON: Americans support legal status for immigrants

As the nation’s capitol braced for the president’s inaugural, an ABC/Washington Post poll indicated that Americans support jobs and legal status for undocumented workers and reject deportation.

The poll asked, “Do you think illegal immigrants who are living and working in the U.S. now should be offered a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status or do you think they should be deported back to their native country?” Sixty-one percent said undocumented workers should keep their jobs and be able to apply for legal status and only 36 percent felt that workers should be deported.

Even Republicans supported undocumented workers with 55 percent supporting jobs and application for legal status and 43 percent calling for deportation. Midwesterners were almost dead even responding to the question with 50 percent supporting jobs and legal status and 43 percent saying undocumented workers should be deported.

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

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