July 14: National Clips

COLUMBIA, S.C.: Antiwar veterans tour bases, get arrested

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War had barbecues, information for soldiers regarding their rights and a listening ear for soldiers’ stories on their minds when they kicked off their tour of U.S. bases in June. What they didn’t expect was arrest.

A group of five Iraq veterans entered the visitors’ center at Fort Jackson here, showed their civilian IDs and headed to the post exchange. A military cop approached them, saying they could not distribute literature. The vets agreed.

Just outside the exchange, MPs stopped them for wearing “Iraq Veterans Against the War” T-shirts. Handcuffed, they were threatened with arrest for criminal trespass. Police escorted them off the base.

“Frankly, it’s insulting,” said Steve Mortillo, who served in Iraq as a cavalry scout with the Army’s First Infantry Division. “I served honorably and to come home and have my First Amendment rights trampled is a disgrace.”

At the next stop, Fort Benning, Ga., police arrested Liam Madden, Nate Lewis and Adam Kokesh and charged them with criminal trespass. Again the issue was the T-shirts, although Kokesh had changed out of his T-shirt.

At stops in Philadelphia and Denver, there were no arrests. “Warm,” said Mortillo of the Philadelphia reception. “Great hip hop and good friends.”



RICHMOND, Va.: Support Republicans, lose your seat

There was no one more surprised June 5 than 29-year state Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III when Democratic primary voters gave the nod to his challenger, state Rep. Donald McEachin, by giving him 58 percent of their vote. Both are African American.

It was backlash, says University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato. Lambert endorsed U.S. Sen. George Allen, the pro-Confederacy Republican, in the 2006 elections. Democrat Jim Webb defeated Allen.

Lambert cut radio ads for Allen, accompanied Bush and Allen to a Republican rally and did a photo-op with Bush in a pumpkin patch. Lambert claimed he was trying get increased funding for historically Black colleges.

McEachin, who has no Republican opponent this fall, was backed by unions and grassroots groups. He raised $125,000 to Lambert’s $404,000.



TUCSON, Ariz.: Immigrant death toll climbs in heat

With temperatures soaring over 110 degrees, the Border Patrol found two more bodies of undocumented workers last week. Since July 1, 10 people have died trying to cross the desert into Arizona. Between Oct. 1 and June 30, 116 have died in the desert.

A Border Patrol agent said that on July 6 a man flagged down a police officer. He had stayed behind from a larger group of undocumented workers to protect a woman who became seriously ill. She died. He was deported.

The next day, another woman died alone, with no identification or personal belongings.



JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.: Law restricts abortion, sex ed

As of Aug. 28, a new state law backed by Missouri Right to Life requires Planned Parenthood reproductive health clinics to become “ambulatory surgical centers,” at an estimated $1 million cost, and bars anyone associated with abortion procedures from providing information on sex education to schools. However, abstinence-only programs will be permitted and funded.

“Essentially, what Gov. Blunt and the Legislature are doing is saying that teens need to be protected from information, not from sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancies,” said Peter Brownlie, head of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Republican Gov. Matt Blunt signed the bill July 5. Changing the designation of reproductive health clinics forces Planned Parenthood to expand hallways leading to operating and recovery rooms.



NEW YORK: Rent goes up, again

For the 40th year in a row, the Rent Guidelines Board, which regulates rents in rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments, voted to raise rates. Renters’ representatives on the board were as frustrated as the 200 who showed up at a public hearing on the increases. “Tenants continue to shoulder the burden,” said Adriene Holder, one of two renter reps. “The Rent Guidelines Board is part of the problem. And I am so embarrassed to be a part of the problem.” The board granted a 3 percent increase for a one-year lease and 5.75 percent for a two-year lease.

With its landlord-friendly record, board hearings are hot. This year, renters had to pass through a metal detector and speak under the eyes of security guards.

While the board was raising the rent on over 1 million residents, city government has been granting tax breaks to landlords.



National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 @aol.com). Libero Della Piana contributed to this week’s clips.