FORT BENNING, Ga.: ‘Close torture school,’ thousands demand

Judy Cumbee marched over 150 mileswith scores of peace activists from Montgomery, Ala., to Fort Benning, joining over 20,000 from around the country demanding that the former School of the Americas be closed. “Our tax money needs to go to serve human needs, not militarism,” said Cumbee.

In the face of growing pressure, the Army changed the name of the infamous training center to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation a few years ago.

The annual protest is held on the date of the 1989 murder in El Salvador of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by graduates of the “school.”

Ten years ago, SOA/WHINSEC made headlines when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. No independent investigation has yet occurred.

Father Ray Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, the organization dedicated to closing the school, helped convince Venezuela, Argentina and Uruguay to stop sending “students” there. Bolivia pledged to withdraw all its soldiers by the end of next year. “A school without students must close,” said the Maryknoll priest.

Over the Nov. 17-19 weekend simultaneous demonstrations against the school were scheduled in Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and the states of Arizona and California.

RALEIGH, N.C.: Voters elect women to top courts

When Gov. Mike Easley appointed Justice Sarah Parker to become chief justice of the state’s highest court and Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill Parker’s seat, he selected two winners. Last week Timmons-Goodson became the first African American woman elected to a statewide judicial seat. She won handily, receiving strong support even in heavily Republican districts. Chief Justice Parker defeated a conservative judge who was endorsed by Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

Meanwhile, Alabama voters elected the first woman chief justice of that state’s Supreme Court. Sue Bell Cobb defeated incumbent Drayton Nabors Jr., beating him by 12,000 votes on his home turf of Jefferson County. A top Alabama Republican insider, Nabors was former finance director for Republican Gov. Bob Riley, who was re-elected.

During her campaign, Cobb told voters, “I would be proud to be the first woman elected chief justice. But more important, I would be the first chief justice in at least 66 years with at least 25 years of judicial experience and a background as both a trial and appellate judge.”

ASHLAND, Ala.: Tyson settles discrimination suit

Throughout the hot summer of 2003, African-American workers at the Tyson chicken processing plant here endured locked restrooms, some with a “whites only” sign posted on the door, and Klan-like racist abuse. In 2005, 13 workers had had enough and filed suit with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On Nov. 7, workers reached a settlement with the corporation. Racism will cost the company $871,000. Further, plant and maintenance managers were replaced and Tyson has to report to the EEOC on progress in creating a safe, equitable workplace.

Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who represented workers, called the settlement “a significant advancement” for the 300-plus workers at Tyson’s Ashland plant, saying it will “ensure a fair and better work environment for employees of all races.”

BOONVILLE, Ind.: Miners sue Alcoa for toxic dumping

Around the country, workers, their families and communities are paying the price for corporate dumping of toxic waste. Now 41 miners, members of United Mine Workers Local 1189, are fighting back. They have filed suit against Alcoa in Warrick County Circuit Court charging the company with disposal of deadly substances in at least 12 open pits which had been used for strip mining.

Peter Racher, the miners’ attorney, said, “These are folks for whom honorable work at the mine was their livelihood. They expected that through hard work they would enjoy good lives. Instead, through hard work they got sick, and with illnesses that are life-threatening. Every one of these people, their lives have been completely upended.”

The UMWA estimates that Alcoa dumped 71 million cubic feet of chromium sludge and 69 million gallons of tar pitch, known toxins. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has called the site a health hazard.

WASHINGTON: ‘Dream’ honored with King memorial groundbreaking

On four acres on the Capitol Mall near memorials to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, 5,000 Americans joined politicians, civil rights leaders, and artists at the groundbreaking for a memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It will be the first in the nation’s capital honoring an African American and the “dream” of the civil rights movement.

In 1997, President Clinton authorized the use of federal land for the $100 million project. To date, $65 million has been raised and the new Congress will consider an appropriation for construction, expected to be completed in 2008.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 @