MONTGOMERY, Ala.: City honors Rosa Parks

Fifty years ago, African American and white residents could not have lined up together at St. Paul’s AME Church. Jim Crow segregation ruled. That all changed when Rosa Parks, a 42-year old seamstress for a downtown department store, was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white man in the front of the bus.

Hundreds of Black and white residents waited patiently, Oct. 29, to enter St. Paul’s to honor Parks, the spark of the civil rights movement, as she was laid to rest at age 92.

“If it wasn’t for her, I couldn’t go to school with white kids, I’d sit at the back of the bus, have to go in the back of the restaurant, just being a second-class citizen, period,” said Deltrick Foster, a 21-year-old auto worker waiting to enter St. Paul’s. “That’s why I came, to show respect for what she did, not just for my race, but for everybody.”

Among the many events honoring Parks, the city of Montgomery covered the front seat of every bus in the Montgomery Area Transit System with a black cloth and her photo. Following Parks’ arrest in 1955, tens of thousands of African American workers boycotted the bus system for 381 days.

“Every rider of our city fleet of buses between now and the day she is buried will have the opportunity to be reminded when they step on that bus of her courageous life, by this special reservation of the front seat of the bus,” said Montgomery County District Judge Lynn Bright.

PHILADELPHIA: Transit workers strike

Buses, trolleys and subways operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority ground to a halt as 5,000 transit workers, members of Transit Workers Union Local 234, went on strike Oct. 31 to defend their health care benefits.

SEPTA wants to increase employee co-pays on health insurance, but the union says workers have given up enough in previous contracts. “SEPTA wants to break a deal that they made with their employees,” said Bob Bedard, a Local 234 spokesman. “That was, ‘If you guys take a little less in hourly wages and benefits, we will provide you with decent health care benefits.’ Concede is not a word transit workers know. We made a covenant with these people.”

One worker expressed anger that SEPTA’s management “gets free health care from day one.” Another charged the state Legislature with failing to fund public transit even as it gave its own members a 6 percent raise.

Digging in for the long run, the union is urging riders not to buy a transit pass for November. Over 460,000 riders use the system daily. In 1998, the union struck for 40 days.

WASHINGTON: Face-off on Arctic Refuge

A movement is spreading from the halls of Congress to the hometowns of 30 members of the U.S. House and a handful of senators to bar profit-gorged oil corporations from fouling the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

“The stakes are as high as they’ve ever been,” said Melinda Price, a Sierra Club lobbyist. “It is a top priority of the environmental community.”

In Minnesota, Sierra Club members and others are knocking on doors in GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy’s district, giving out his cell phone number and urging residents to call him to demand that he reject Arctic drilling.

Budget committees in the House and the Senate have approved the drilling and the bills will be voted upon in both chambers of Congress soon.

WASHINGTON: Danger in deodorants?

Applying deodorant and using toothpaste and shaving cream take place every morning in millions of households across the country, but none of those products are approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, says the Environmental Working Group (EWR).

EWR scientists have launched the “Skin Deep” web site,

skindeep, providing safety ratings for 14,000 products by brand name.

“Most of us expect that the products we find on store shelves have been tested for safety but the government has no authority to require tests,” said Jane Houlihan, the group’s vice president for science. “An average adult is exposed to over hundreds of unique chemicals in personal care products every day. These exposures add up.”

EWG found 10,500 industrial chemicals in personal care products including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins and degreasers. Of those 10,500 chemicals, 89 percent have never been tested by the FDA.

Public health is the main concern of EWG scientists, but the impact on wildlife, rivers and streams is also under scrutiny.

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