KEENE, Calif.: Farm workers demand safe environment

Throughout his career, the late Cesar Chavez, co-founder and first president of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), battled to have methyl bromide, a toxic pesticide, banned. Now the Bush administration is planning to further weaken regulation of the chemical, which has been linked to prostate cancer and damage to the ozone layer. The administration already approved a 16 percent increase of the pesticide in 2004.

A medical study of 55,000 farm workers, published in 2003, showed that workers exposed to methyl bromide were two to four times more likely to develop prostate cancer than workers who were not exposed.

Currently the Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comment to permit increased usage of the pesticide. The UFW is organizing a national e-mail campaign to federal officials to halt its usage.

NEW YORK CITY: Raise the standard of living

An innovative, faith-based, neighborhood-level campaign is taking hold in Greenwich Village and Brooklyn, aimed at creating a union-friendly atmosphere, raising wages, improving medical coverage and providing paid vacations to thousands of retail workers.

In Greenwich Village, Rev. Bryan Hooper of the Washington Square United Methodist Church has organized community residents to boycott stores that only pay workers the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. “The standard of living in the Village is very high,” said Rev. Hooper. “And we want to make sure that the people who are working here, that the people who serve us, also have a good quality of life.”

Rev. John Powis of St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church is part of the “Make the Road by Walking” coalition in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.

“The money that some of these stores is making must be fantastic,” he said. “It’s a good idea to start doing some of these things at the neighborhood level because, knowing the situation up in Albany and in Washington, we all may be dead and buried by the time workers get overtime and paid vacations.”

ERIE, Pa.: Religious leaders defend Jewish temple

When Rabbi John Bush came to Temple Anshe Hesed Oct. 15, he found that vandals had painted Nazi symbols and two numeral eights across the building. Immediately, his phone began ringing as religious leaders from around the city condemned the crime and pledged support.

In a statement, Rabbi Bush wrote, “At a time when some would seek to sow seeds of hate, others are coming together to give God thanks for the good things we have and to build bridges between faith communities.” According to police, who classified the spray-painting as a hate crime, the two eights represent the letter ‘H’ and that together they mean “Heil Hitler” to white supremacists.

Ann Van Dyke, an investigator for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, is looking into the attacks and said that a white supremacist group has a chapter in Erie that targets youth for recruitment.

MONTGOMERY, Ala.: Supreme Court candidate speaks to KKK

A Republican candidate for the State Supreme Court, Tom Parker, passed out Confederate flags in June and spoke at a celebration for the founder of the Ku Klux Klan in July.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published pictures of Parker handing out Confederate flags at a funeral and identified two men standing with Parker as leaders of hate groups. SPLC editor Mark Potok identified two men with Parker in the photo as Leonard Wilson, board member of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, and Mike Whorton, leader of the League of the South, a secessionist hate group.

Parker spoke at a birthday commemoration for Nathan Bedford Forrest, who founded the Klan at the end of the Civil War. The “party” was held at the home of Pat Godwin, who is fighting to block recognition of the histoirc Selma to Montgomery civil rights march, according to the SPLC.

At an Oct. 15 press conference, Parker sneered, “If Southern Poverty Law Center is attacking me, I must be doing the right things. … They are the most liberal, politically correct law firm in the country and they have fought virtually every attempt in our state to acknowledge God, who is the source of all our rights.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Terrie Albano and Julia Lutsky contributed to this week’s clips.