S. CHARLESTON, W.Va.: City says ‘bring troops home now’

Mayor Richie Robb, a Republican and decorated Vietnam veteran, sat down and wrote a three-page resolution demanding that the troops be brought out of Iraq — now. Robb, who has served as mayor of this community of 15,000 for 30 years, had just watched a news report that the U.S. government is funding the rebuilding of Iraq, while his town receives the ax from Washington. “This is not a partisan issue,” Robb said. “War has never been a partisan issue, but the Bush administration has made it one. They have hidden behind party labels to hide their ineptness.”

With the City Council’s approval, South Charleston joined 70 other towns and cities from heartland to coasts, which have acted since September to bring U.S. troops, home, now.

Vermont leads all states, with 50 towns approving resolutions to withdraw troops from Iraq. Some City Council members in Sacramento, Calif., received death threats after they voted 8-1 for a “rapid and comprehensive” withdrawal. Gary, Ind., Philadelphia, and Chapel Hill, N.C., are all in the group of 70.

“We’re at a fascinating tipping point,” said Cities for Peace Director John Cavanagh. Cities for Peace helped galvanize 165 state, county, city and municipal resolutions opposing the Bush 2003 invasion of Iraq. Two years into the war, cities and towns are speaking up again.

DENVER: Bush seeks campaign money, finds protesters

Hundreds of peace and justice activists banged on pots and pans with wooden spoons, sounded holiday noisemakers, beat drums and chanted, “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation,” as President Bush stopped by the Brown Palace Hotel here Nov. 29. Bush was in town to raise money for GOP Rep. Marilyn Musgrave.

Parked outside Brown Palace was a mobile billboard reading, “Stop Gay Marriage Now So Osama Doesn’t Get Away,” satirizing the diversionary tactics used by Bush to launch and continue the Iraq war.

Nationwide: End the death penalty!

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner granted clemency Nov. 29 to Robin Lovitt, who would have become the 1,000th person executed in the U.S. since 1976 had Warner not done so. The governor’s action took place on the heels of numerous demonstrations by opponents of the scheduled execution, including in Pittsburgh, Pa., where people of faith and opponents of the death penalty rallied Nov. 28.

At the Pittsburgh demonstration, Ray Crone, who was released from prison after DNA evidence proved his innocence — one of more than 120 nationwide who have been exonerated in this way over the past 15 years — said, “Suppose those 120 falsely accused people had been killed. Death is forever. Capital punishment does not recognize the flaws and mistakes in the justice system.”

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, supporters of Stanley Tookie Williams, a death row prisoner slated to be executed Dec. 13, guardedly welcomed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to give Williams a private clemency hearing on Dec. 8. Over 32,000 signatures urging clemency have been given to the governor, and numerous civil rights leaders and media personalities have lent their support to the request. Schwarzenegger has declined clemency, however, in two prior cases.

Williams, a reformed gang leader, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for writing several children’s books aimed at discouraging youth from gang violence.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Pipe workers fight for retiree benefits

Workers at the 2,000-acre, sprawling American Cast Iron Pipe Company (ACIPCO) spent their lives producing products upon which every city and town depends. They produced the cast iron pipe used to move sewage and water for drinking and fire suppression systems. Their work made ACIPCO owners rich. Now, the company is closing the on-site health clinic and slashing their retirees’ health care benefits.

Over 75 retirees met Nov. 27 to plan their protest at the company’s upcoming board meeting. ACIPCO workers are not union members, but union was on their mind at the meeting.

Haskill Johnson hired into ACIPCO in 1949 and retired in 1983. Now, he says, the company is imposing a 25-percent-of-cost co-pay for medications, plus a $2.50 fee just for handing the pillbox across the counter. Workers hired after Jan. 1, 2006, will receive no medical coverage whatsoever when they retire, and the company is raising the retirement age from 58 to 65.

“I was told when I was hired that when I retired my medical and prescriptions would be free,” said Johnson. “But that’s not the case anymore. These are really outrageous things to ask.”

Jerry Sumerel, another retiree at the workers-only meeting, said, “I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that if you don’t have the guts enough to stand up and do something about it, nobody else is going to do it for you.”

Although Fortune magazine rates ACIPCO 28 on the list of best companies to work for, workers and retirees charge that the company is going downhill fast because of management’s total lack of respect for blue collar workers and retirees.

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