SACRAMENTO, Calif.: Feed the hungry or the corporations?

Bill Camp, executive secretary of the Sacramento AFL-CIO, led 1,000 workers, environmentalists, and food activists through city streets to the State Capitol steps protesting the invitation-only, U.S. government-sponsored Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology, June 23. Selling genetically modified seeds and high tech techniques to poor countries was the mission of the conference.

“There are alternatives to industrialized farming practices and genetically engineered food that do not risk public health, harm the environment or threaten the livelihood of small farmers around the globe,” said organizer Leda Dederich.

A public debate at Crest Theatre that night drew as many participants as the conference itself. Representatives from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture faced scientists and representatives from developing countries who argued that there is no evidence that genetically altered food is safe for either consumers or the environment. They pointed out that the patents on the technology are privately held by major corporations for profit.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Hungry? Fill out a 23-page form

The number of families receiving food stamps in Jefferson County has surged to 58,000 as of June 23, and they could remain hungry for a month while the paperwork is processed. Each applicant must fill out a 23-page form and bring in the family’s financial records and history. Caseworkers handle 725 cases each, double the national average, interviewing 12 to 16 people per day, including Saturday. Meanwhile, the county is cutting support to food banks, which provided a stop-gap to families waiting for the paperwork to move. Half of the county residents receiving food stamps are children.

HOPKINTON, Mass.: Cheney catches heat from the people

Stopping into town to pick up a check for the 2004 presidential campaign, Vice President Dick Cheney ran into hundreds of residents vowing to chuck him and President Bush out of the White House next year. The “We the People” reception condemned the administration’s war policy. Mayflower descendent and very distant cousin of George Bush, Alice Copeland Brown, joined the demonstration dressed as a pilgrim. Stella Penzer, a Holocaust survivor standing amid a busload of Teamsters, told reporters, “My whole family was wiped out by the Holocaust and I am a passionate believer in peace.”

UPPER ST. CLAIR, Penn.: Homes and water before profits

Branson Hudock, 27, who started a hunger strike on June 20, was joined by scores of his neighbors on “Coalfield Justice Day,” June 23, on the steps of Consolidation Coal Corp. (Consol) headquarters. Homeowners and farmers from around the southwest Pennsylvania coalfields protested the coal operators’ destruction of their homes and drinking water.

“The house I built fell four-and-a-half feet and split into three pieces,” said Don Stark, 54, a math teacher. “We’re still living there because the coal company has not settled with us.” Water is being trucked in to provide drinking water to Stark and 26 other neighbors. Run-off from Consol’s Maple Creek mine destroyed the drinking water.

Tombstones listing the names of families whose homes and drinking water have fallen to the corporation’s drive for profits lined a 50-yard stretch of a major road.

Families and businesses are demanding that the state legislature change regulations for underground mining to protect homes and the environment. For example, Section 23 of southwest Pennsylvania property deeds allows coal companies to mine underneath homes, schools and any other surface structure without permission from the owners.

McARTHUR, Ohio: Federal budget slashes youth jobs

On June 13, the state of Ohio, under Republican Gov. Robert Taft, eliminated the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), closing down the camp in rural McArthur and leaving young adults aged 16 – 25 on the street. The work they performed fighting the states’ forest fires, maintaining and creating recreation areas and repairing and cleaning nature preserves will be privatized.

Unemployment in Ohio is 5.5 percent, with corporations eliminating 202,300 jobs since January 2001. Over 10 percent of Ohio’s population, or 1,174,000 people, live below the poverty line.

“Obviously, state governments have to make very tough decisions,” said Harry Bruell, national director of the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, “but it’s flabbergasting to us that they would target these [programs]. In most cases, the Corps save more money through their efforts than they are costing.” CCC operates in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

“I don’t want it to close. I have no idea what I’ll do,” said a tearful Angrea Fiebiger, a Corps member in McArthur. “This place has given me so much, especially direction in my life.”

National Clips are compiled by
Denise Winebrenner Edwards (