LEXINGTON, Ky.: Save the mountains

Coal operators have a vision: A handful of them get rich beyond their wildest dreams by robbing Appalachian residents of their dreams and their lives.

Almost 200 environmental activists, residents and scientists marched on the offices of the Kentucky Coal Association (KCA) here June 17. They were demanding an end to mountaintop removal, a strip-mining technique where companies blow off the top of a mountain to strip out the coal. The result is toxic streams and a landscape akin to the surface of the moon. Coal is loaded onto massive trucks that travel narrow, two-lane, winding roads to the tipple and railhead.

Darlies Carter was just 21 in 2000 when a coal truck smashed into her car on a narrow Martin County road, killing her.

“She was taken from me out of greed,” a shaking Patsy Carter, Darlies’ mother, told the rally before the march to KCA. “I will fight for the rest of my life to keep overweight coal trucks off the roads.”

Protesters were met by a counterdemonstration of officials from coal companies affiliated with the KCA. Al Meyer, a research assistant from the University of Kentucky (UK), and several others marched through the bosses’ line and delivered goblets and a plate filled with sludge to Bill Caylor, KCA president. During a forum at UK in 2004, Caylor had boasted that sludge was so safe he would eat it.

Through August, the Mountain Justice Summer campaign will be hosting town meetings and demonstrations at the doors of coal corporations in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania, demanding an end to mountaintop removal.

CHICAGO: Defend the right to vote

The progressive alliance has to “fight where the fight is and that’s in the South,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson told the to more than 200 people attending the 34th annual Rainbow/PUSH conference here June 12. Jackson, the president and founder of the group, said that the right to vote is most at risk in southern states because of especially harsh laws deny people coming out of jail the right to vote.

Rainbow/PUSH is organizing an Aug. 6 pro-democracy march in Atlanta to honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which ended 100 years of poll taxes and tests designed to disenfranchise African Americans. Co-sponsors include the Coalition of Conscience, the AFL-CIO and Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.

The Voting Rights Act expires in 2007 and Rainbow/PUSH has initiated a petition drive to collect 1 million signatures to reauthorize it.

“The quest for jobs, justice, the vote and peace” is part of the march theme. “It’s time to hit the streets,” Jackson said.

DES MOINES, Iowa: State restores voting rights to ex-offenders

As of June 17, about 80,000 Iowans who served their time in jail will now be able to vote. Flanked by a bipartisan group of state legislators, Gov. Tom Vilsack signed an executive order restoring the right to vote to people coming out of jail.

“The right to vote is the foundation of our government and serves as a symbol of opportunity for our citizens,” he said. “Research shows that ex-offenders who vote are less likely to re-offend and the restoration of voting rights is an important aspect of reintegrating offenders in society so that they become law-abiding and productive citizens.”

Monifa Bandele, field director for Right to Vote, applauded the state’s action. “This move will be particularly meaningful for African Americans,” she said, “who make up 2 percent of Iowa’s population but are nearly 25 percent of the state’s disfranchised citizens. This was the highest rate of disparity in the nation.”

There are only four states, Florida, Kentucky, Alabama and Virginia, who still deny ex-felons the right to vote.

WASHINGTON: House chips away at Patriot Act

The House voted 238-187 June 15 to protect U.S. residents from the Justice Department and the FBI from snooping into their library records and their bookstore sales slips, both provisions of the 2001 Patriot Act. Although President Bush has vowed to veto any changes, “This is a tremendous victory that restores important constitutional rights to the American people,” said Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), sponsor of the changes.

Meanwhile, libraries across the country have tossed out their patron’s records to protect their readers’ right to privacy. Six states, Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Maine and Vermont, have enacted legislation protecting their residents against police powers granted in the Patriot Act.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com). Terrie Albano contributed to these week’s clips.