SACRAMENTO, Calif.: ‘Terminating’ working families

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a super action hero – to the rich corporations. The governor’s budget ax slashes $1.7 billion from state public health programs and welfare and $1.3 billion to the cities and counties that provide real social services to real residents. For the budget to become law, the Legislature must enact it by a 66 percent majority. The state faces a $14 billion deficit.

State Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, a San Francisco Democrat, fired the opening gun across Schwarzenegger’s bow Jan. 12. “We are for protecting the poor people from onslaughts of this nature – when there are other ways to get dough,” he said. “What we have here is the poorest people in our society – the elderly, the blind and the disabled – being asked to basically pay for the car tax cut.”

The Terminator’s cuts gut reading readiness, after school and summer programs at Sacramento’s Oak Park Multi-Service Center, for instance, which served over 1,000 children, 668 for reading and 448 in after school activities. The center’s pediatric medical clinic is being forced to eliminate evening hours, making it almost impossible for working families to access health care for their children. About 92 jobs would be terminated in the parks system and 347 slashed from the Sheriff’s Department, probation and district attorney’s staff.

SPRINGVILLE, Ala.: Nurses blow whistle on prison water

Up until early January, Kim Chapman and Melissa Barbee, both nurses, worked at Alabama’s St. Clair prison. They quit because the state halted their efforts to get the water system repaired. Employees were told, reported the nurses, not to drink the water or eat the ice. The inmates were not warned.

St. Clair opened in 1983 to house 600 inmates. As of November 2003, 1,509 people were incarcerated there. The nurses said that 50 to 70 inmates reported to sick with gastrointestinal problems every week. Prison officials denied the nurses’ requests for bleach to clean showers and living areas more effectively.

St. Clair has been cited by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for dumping untreated sewage into Little Canoe Creek.

At a staff meeting just after the first of the year, said Barbee, the staff was told again, “By the way, for your best interest, don’t drink the water and don’t eat the food in the cafeteria.” Barbee quit and, along with Chapman, called the media.

VARNER, Ark.: State executes mentally ill African American

An all-white jury convicted Charles Singleton to death in 1979 for murdering Mary Lou York. Charles Singleton was a diagnosed schizophrenic. Before the state killed Singleton, 44, Jan. 7, prison officials forcibly administered anti-psychotic drugs to make him lucid enough to die.

Protests poured into Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee from Amnesty International and the European Union but he would not halt the execution of the severely mentally ill man. Amnesty charged Arkansas with racism, pointing out that of the 300 African Americans executed since 1977, 60 were convicted by all-white juries.

Singleton’s attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court because it has ruled that states cannot execute mentally retarded people or those suffering from mental illness where the convicted person does not understand that they are going to die. The high court rejected the case.

PITTSBURGH: Marching against police brutality

A citywide civil rights coalition, People Against Police Violence, is taking to the streets Jan. 19 to demand justice for two African American men and one African American child killed by police in 2002.

Renee Wilson said that protests will open with a rally followed by a march from Pittsburgh’s Hill District into downtown. The coalition aims to commemorate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by focusing on the famed civil rights leader’s actions that turned his vision of racial equality and justice into reality.

In 2002, Pennsylvania State Police shot and killed 12-year-old Michael Ellerbe in Uniontown on Christmas Eve. Just days before, on Dec. 21, Mt. Oliver (an independent borough surrounded by Pittsburgh) police grabbed Charles Dixon, 43, in a choke hold and he died in custody. On Nov. 15, 2002, Pittsburgh Housing Police opened fired and killed Bernard Rogers, 26.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards
( Julia Lutsky and Renee Wilson contributed to this week’s clips.