LOUISVILLE, Ky.: Hundreds honor Emancipation Day

Freedom knows no religious bounds as hundreds celebrated achievements of civil rights pioneers Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 1, the day 143 years after the Emancipation Proclamation became law.

“It’s important every year that we do this to keep before us in our community the struggles that we’ve come through to be where we are today,” said the Rev. Gregory F. Smith, pastor of Hill Street Baptist Church.

Singled out for recognition were state Sen. Coleman Neal and Kathy Cooksie, who spearheaded the fight for equality in state government, education and human services for Katrina victims evacuated from the Gulf Coast to Kentucky. Cooksie is the human services director for the Louisville-area Sewer District.

In addition to community service, the power of unity was the main theme of the annual event.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Latinos sue to stop police harassment

Paperwork and “homeland security” are the ruses police here are using to jail and harass people of Latino descent. Workers, documented and undocumented, have had enough. On Dec. 29, their lawyer filed suit in federal court to stop illegal searches, jailing and racial profiling.

The suit is filed on behalf of Anel Mancero-Ramirez who charges, on behalf of at least 500 other people, that immigrants are coerced into pleading guilty to allegations of having forged documents. In addition to jailings, the suit contends that excessive fines and corruption are part of an effort to run workers from Mexico, Central and South America out of town.

In a related development, the local county sheriff’s department will track alleged undocumented workers through a new database system.

“That is appalling,” said Helen Rivas, leader of the immigrant worker community in greater Birmingham. “I’d rather they go after terrorists. Are they assuming tomato pickers are going to throw bombs?”

PITTSBURGH: Bridge collapses, no one killed — this time

Although the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is calling the collapse of a 53-foot long, 60-ton span across I-70 on Dec. 27 a “rare occurrence,” its statement is not instilling confidence among the hundreds of thousands of residents or commuters in the tri-county area here.

I-70 was detoured around the collapse for two days. There was one traffic accident when the span hit the major east-west corridor. No one was killed.

Current state spending on Pennsylvania’s 25,307 bridges is $500 million a year, which only addresses 10 percent of PennDOT’s designated “structurally deficient” bridges. There is little federal money for bridge maintenance.

To close all the structurally deficient bridges in the state would result in “chaos,” according to PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler. In the 10-county region surrounding Pittsburgh, almost 34 percent of the bridges are structurally deficient. In Pittsburgh alone there are 1,162 bridges with 357 classified as deficient. Thirty percent of the bridges in the “city of bridges” deemed as unsafe. Two are closed and 19 are “posted,” meaning there are weight restrictions.

Congress has been cutting the budget for bridge maintenance for over 20 years, since the Reagan administration.

Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a “D” grade to the nation’s infrastructure and said at least $1.7 trillion is necessary to bring the country’s roads, bridges, schools, parks, transportation, sewage and water systems up to par.

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla.: Vietnam refuser faces court martial

Jerry Texiero, 65, refused to deploy to Vietnam in July 1965 because he opposed the war. For the next four decades, Texiero lived peacefully here, where he ran a classic car business. He had a minor run-in with the law, but repaid the victims for any financial losses.

But in August 2005, a Marine AWOL apprehension unit working in the Pentagon discovered Texiero’s probation status. As a result Texiero was arrested as an AWOL by local police on Aug. 14 and placed in solitary confinement in a county jail. Four months later, Texiero was moved to the Marine brig at Camp LeJeune, N.C. Marine officials are weighing a court martial, which could result in a five-year prison sentence.

Citizen Soldier, a support organization for GIs, sees a connection to Iraq and is mounting a campaign. The organization’s legal director, Tod Ensign, wrote Lejeune Commanding General Dickerson asking, “Why are scarce Marine resources being squandered on the prosecution of a senior citizen who’s only ‘crime’ is refusing to fight a war that today is universally discredited? Or is the Corps warning Marines in Iraq that they will pursue deserters to the grave?” For more information, e-mail citizensoldier1@aol.com.

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