CRAWFORD, Texas: Barbecue for peace

Beneath a banner reading, “A mother’s loss, a nation’s pain” over 150 peace activists and local Crawford neighbors shared barbecue Aug. 12 just outside President Bush’s ranch, where he was vacationing. Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan, who vowed to maintain a vigil until Bush meets with her, was convalescing with the family of Texas’ best loved son, singer Willie Nelson, after she was rushed to a Waco hospital suffering from the effects of a 37-day fast and dehydration in the 100-plus degree heat.

Some local residents were angered when Sheehan, through a third party, purchased 5 acres to host the peace vigil. Even so, about a half dozen showed up at the barbecue, wearing “This is Bush country, by George” T-shirts. “You can have dialogue, but you’ll never agree,” said Crawford resident Valerie Duty, rib in hand. “Both sides agree about bringing the troops home safely. The difference is the way we go about that.”

Antiwar protester Jim Goodnow believes having a small group of Bush supporters attending the barbecue is a positive step. “If we can get away from the name-calling and see each other as Americans, that will be how we heal this nation,” he said.

Peace activists will maintain their vigil through Sept. 3.

LOS ANGELES: State AFL-CIO votes to defend abortion rights

Breaking a long-standing position of neutrality on the issue of abortion, the California Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, voted to oppose a November ballot question, Proposition 85, that would require parental notification before a minor could have an abortion. The federation represents 2.1 million workers in 1,100 local unions and is the largest in the country.

The executive board had voted 13-11 to recommend that delegates at the federation’s 26th biennial convention, July 25-26 in Los Angeles, remain neutral on the measure, as the federation did last year when voters defeated a similar ballot measure, 53-47 percent. Reflecting the fact that many labor leaders are women, and health care unions support abortion rights, the delegates insisted that a full vote be taken on Prop. 85. On an overwhelming voice vote, delegates overturned the executive board’s recommendation.

Shelley Kessler is executive secretary of the San Mateo Labor Council, one of the councils who submitted a resolution calling for opposition to Prop. 85. That opposition “may create some tensions,” but the federation had to take a stand, she said. “We want to be very thoughtful about getting engaged to the detriment of the overall labor movement, but this was bait. We cannot allow attacks on human civil rights, regardless of whether people are in unions or not, to go unchallenged.”

The Catholic Church, which has worked in coalition with the state federation, said it would continue to stay on board with labor on immigrant rights and organizing. “It would be unrealistic to expect every group to believe the same way we do about every issue,” said Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese. “It doesn’t preclude us from working together on those areas where we do share common concerns.”

LAS VEGAS: Homeless advocates plan court battle

Amid the bling and endless buffets of the casinos, it is against the law to provide food for free to homeless families in city parks here. Since the City Council passed an ordinance to this effect, July 19, city marshals have been handing out citations to homeless advocates and even to a local radio reporter who gave doughnuts to a hungry family while covering the story.

On Aug. 10, the Food Not Bombs movement protested the ordinance at City Hall and at Huntridge Circle city park. They handed out fruit, bread and water to homeless men and women in the desert heat. Patrick Band, Robert Edmonds and Suzie Oliveira were cited for breaking the law. “All people in our community have a right to our parks, not just the wealthy,” said Joe Sacco, a Food Not Bombs activist.

Earlier in August, the Nevada chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in federal court asking that the ordinance be ruled unconstitutional. The ACLU called the law “vague and overboard.” Gary Peck of the Nevada ACLU said, “Because of its very nature it’s going to be enforced selectively.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Jim Lane contributed to this week’s clips.