BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Conyers calls for universal health care

Over 50 health care professionals and community leaders jammed Carver Theater Oct. 22 to launch a grassroots movement to enact universal health care legislation.

Keynote speaker Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who has introduced HR 676 in the House of Representatives to create a single-payer health care plan, told the meeting that, despite having the best doctors and technology in the world, the U.S. health care system is in a shambles. Recalling that organized demands from the people resulted in making Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday, Conyers said, “We want health care as a matter of right, not a privilege.”

Rep. Artur Davis (D), who represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, said, “We have a very serious problem,” noting that in the state’s rural Black Belt, Perry County has no hospital at all and Lowndes County has no doctor.

Davis called on Democrats to be prepared for regaining power in next fall’s congressional elections. When the 42 percent of African American Alabamans who are not registered to vote sign up, Davis predicted, the state will swing from red to blue.

HAMILTON, Ohio: GOP legislator slimes undocumented workers

Racism raised its ugly head Oct. 21 when Republican state Rep. Courtney Combs of Fairfield teamed up with Butler County Commissioner Mike Fox to announce the introduction of a bill in the state Legislature that would subject undocumented workers to deportation if they are arrested or pulled over for a traffic violation. Similar legislation is pending in South Carolina.

Earlier this year, Combs introduced “English Only” legislation.

“This is not about an ethnic group,” Fox told reporters. “This is about national security. This is about the federal government’s failure to act.”

But Fox’s true racist agenda emerged when he told the gathered media, “My theory is that if you’re too stupid to learn how to say ‘I want a beer’ in English, you’re too stupid to drink to begin with.” He was referring to a suit against a bar that posted a sign, “For service, speak English.”

Hispanic leaders reacted with anger. Lourdes Ward, who runs the Reach Out Lakota food pantry in Butler County, said the idea that Hispanics bleed the local social services is a lie. The most common complaint she hears at the food pantry is workers forced to use the pantry’s resources because they can’t find a second or third job to feed their families.

The Hispanic population of Butler County has grown by 500 percent since 1990, to about 4,000.

MIDDLETOWN, Pa.: Stop federal budget cuts, protesters demand

When freshman Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s staff looked out their windows, Oct. 19, they saw dozens of hometown voters carrying signs. “Don’t Sacrifice America’s Priorities to Give Tax Breaks to Millionaires,” one banner said.

Voters are upset that Congress is considering slashing $15 billion in food stamps, Medicaid and student loans from the federal budget. Meanwhile Congress plans to give millionaires $70 billion in additional tax breaks.

“It’s taking from the have nots and giving to the haves,” said Fred Viskovich, a retired businessman. “It’s buying Lynne Cheney [Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife] a bigger diamond ring.” Viskovich pointed out that he received tens of thousands of dollars in tax breaks as a businessman, while vital social services for families and children were being slashed and burned.

DALLAS: Miers cashed in on highway land deal

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers thinks the sale of a half-acre of her family’s land to the state government for $106,915 for a highway off-ramp is a “straightforward condemnation matter.”

The windfall dropped into Miers’ pocket in 2000 when a judge, who received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Miers’ law firm, appointed a three-member panel to determine compensation to landowners for highway construction. One of the appointees was a close professional friend of Miers. After rejecting offers of $5,900 and $27,000 for the land, Miers accepted the six-figure deal. State tax records indicated that the entire 18.7-acre vacant lot, of which Miers’ half-acre was part, was worth $244,890.

The panel reduced the compensation to $80,915 in 2003, and asked Miers to refund the $26,000 difference. Miers has yet to cut a check.

Meanwhile, Miers’ nomination is in more than a little trouble. Senate Judiciary Committee member Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told “Meet the Press” Oct. 23, “If you held the vote today, she would not get a majority either in the Judiciary Committee or the floor.”

CHARLESTON, W.Va.: Homecoming queen wore cleats

Darby Lentz, the only young woman on the Lincoln High School football team, was floored to learn that the students had elected her homecoming queen. She took her place at the head of her court in her football uniform, Oct. 14. “It was awesome,” she said.

Lentz, 17, carries a 3.8 grade point average and is on the student council.

“She came out in the summer and immediately earned respect,” said coach Jim Lopez. “She has done all the running drills the rest of the kids have done. She has been very pleasant to coach.”

Darby’s sister Valerie, 21, works construction to pay for college.

“Both do non-typical things for girls,” said Darby’s mother Jolyn. “I have always encouraged them not to limit themselves to what girls typically do and follow their hearts.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (