ST. LOUIS: GOP kills assault weapons ban

It’s official. Anyone can now buy an AK-47 assault rifle at any gun shop in the U.S. over the counter. President Bush, who has claimed he supports continuing the ban on 19 types of military semiautomatic assault rifles, did nothing. Republicans in control of both houses of Congress just let the 10-year-old ban die.

“Even though the law has been and is supported by most Americans (about 68 percent) its [the ban’s] demise owes much to the fact that this is the most gun-control-hostile Congress and president we’ve ever had,” said Robert Spitzer, professor and author of “The Politics of Gun Control.”

The Brady Campaign delivered over 500,000 signatures on petitions, Sept. 10, to Congress and the White House supporting continuation of the ban.

Campaigning here Sept. 10 with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry charged Bush with caving in to the National Rifle Association. “George Bush made a choice,” Kerry said. “He chose his powerful friends in the gun lobby over the police officers and the families he promised to protect.” In 2003, Kerry worked in the Senate to continue the ban before it expired.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ky.: Education workers vow to strike for health care

Health care costs are skyrocketing, rising 13 percent per year, and the governor of Kentucky wants teachers, school workers and state employees to take the hit. The 200 delegates to the Jefferson County (Louisville) Teachers Association (JCTA) are having none of it. They rose as one Sept. 8 and voted unanimously to strike to protect their health care. Teachers approved a measure to ask the 29,000 member Kentucky Education Association (KEA) to call a statewide strike on Sept. 30.

“The governor has left us no other choice,” said JCTA President Brent McKim.

KEA President Frances Steenbergen said the state leadership will meet Sept. 17 to consider the JCTA’s request. They are polling union leaders and members across the state to test support for a strike. If approved, teachers and support personnel will defy state law barring them from striking.

“I will strike,” said teacher Denise Woodward. “We need those benefits.”

“There’s only so much you can afford,” said teacher Mary Kennedy. If the governor’s program goes unchallenged, she added, her co-pay for a migraine prescription will increase by hundreds of dollars per year.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Female inmates strip searched

Relatives of female inmates are outraged. On Sept. 5, low-risk women inmates from the Birmingham Work Release Center were returning to minimum security jail when they were strip searched and forced to urinate into a cup in front of other inmates and guards.

Cindy Ballis of Mobile said that her daughter, Kali Berzone, 24, was one of eight women inmates subjected to the search.

“Kali’s been in the system for a while and has not come close to having to do anything like this,” Ballis said. “If you want a urine sample, there are other ways to get it that are not humiliating.”

The center has denied all allegations.

“We’ve heard about this and it causes us a lot of alarm,” said Gretchen Rohr, an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights. “We’re going to pursue this.”

A state investigation is under way.

WASHINGTON: Gay Republicans withhold endorsement

For the first time in their 22-year history, the Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of gay and lesbian members of the party, is not endorsing the Republican candidate for president. In a 22-2 vote, its board decided to “withhold a presidential endorsement and shift our financial and political resources to defeating the radical right and supporting inclusive Republican candidates” for the House and Senate, said Log Cabin Board Chairman William Brownson of Ohio.

The group says 1 million gays and lesbians voted for Bush/Cheney in 2000, including nearly 50,000 in Florida alone.

Executive Director Patrick Guerriero said that the Log Cabins will support 50 Republican candidates for Congress. They continue to support the Republican Party’s position on defense, free market and tax cuts for business.

“At the same time,” spokesman Chris Barron said, “it is impossible to overstate the depth of anger and disappointment caused by the president’s support for an anti-family constitutional amendment (Federal Marriage Amendment). This amendment would not only ban gay marriage, it would also jeopardize civil unions and domestic partnerships.”

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