WASHINGTON: Senate rejects minimum wage hike

With several states already enacting a raise in the minimum wage, dozens of others are now debating such a measure. With the 2006 congressional elections looming, Senate Democrats brought a proposal for a federal minimum wage increase to a vote March 7. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) authored the bill, which proposed an increase from the current $5.15 to $7.25 over 26 months. All 49 Republican senators voted against while the 46 Democrats voted for it.

Republicans brought a “Trojan Horse” bill to raise the minimum wage while stripping overtime pay after 40 hours and granting companies $4.5 billion in regulatory relief and tax cuts. That measure failed, with 41 Democrats, 17 Republicans and one independent voting against this sleight of hand. Just 38 Republicans voted for the scheme.

ST. LOUIS, Mo.: ‘Show us the money’ for health care

Show Me State residents, over 1,000 strong, rallied here March 5 to demand that the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center serving patients with long-term disabilities remain in business. Families of clients at BHC testified eloquently to the compassion and quality of care provided by the facility.

The protesters also were angry about proposed cuts in state-provided Medicaid, health care, and other benefits. The action was part of a March 4-9 series of events attempting to stop Republican Gov. Matt Blunt from slashing Medicaid.

A coalition of clergy, the Metropolitan Congregations United representing 75 religious institutions, and unions, led by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2730, are organizing the fight to save health care and jobs.

CHICAGO: Racists considered suspects in killings

Primary suspects in the brutal murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow’s husband of 30 years, Michael, and her 89-year-old mother, Donna Humphrey, include members of a violent domestic racist group, Creativity.

Within hours of the murders’ discovery, white supremacist groups celebrated the murders on the Internet.

At the center of the investigation is Matt Hale, leader of Creativity. Hale awaits sentencing and faces 40 years in prison after being convicted of conspiring to kill Judge Lefkow in the aftermath of a court decision against him.

Lefkow and Hale crossed paths in 2002 when she ruled in favor of Hale in a trademark dispute over his racist group’s name at the time, the World Church of the Creator. Her decision was reversed on appeal and she subsequently ordered Hale to either change the name of the group or start paying a $1,000-a-day fine. She immediately became a target for right-wing terrorists.

Hal Turner, who broadcasts a hate show via short wave radio, said on his show that Judge Lefkow was “worthy of being killed.” He concluded, “It wouldn’t be legal, but in my opinion, it wouldn’t be wrong.”

The investigation is continuing.

HELENA, Mont.: Bring troops home to fight fires, says gov.

Montana, a state that has been suffering from persistent drought, wants President Bush to bring 1,500 of the state’s National Guard troops home from Iraq to help fight forest fires.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer sent a formal request to the president March 4, comparing the crisis in the state with 1988 when 4,122 fires charred 2.2 million acres in the northern Rockies, including 793,000 acres in Yellowstone National Park.

The governor also requested return of 10 of the state’s 12 Blackhawk helicopters capable of dumping 600 gallons of water onto raging forest fires. The state has three larger Chinook helicopters able to haul 2,000 gallons of water, but lacks flight engineers to fly them, according to Montana National Guard spokesman Major Scott Smith.

WASHINGTON: Coalition protests right-winger from India

A coalition of human rights activists is protesting the invitation of Indian leader Narendra Modi to the United States. The Asian American Hotel Owner Association (AAHOA) issued an invitation to Modi, the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, to address its convention in Florida, March 24-26.

In February 2002, Gujarat erupted in horrendous violence when thousands of Muslims were killed in what many called “state-sponsored terror.” Modi, a political leader of the far-right Hindu “nationalist” movement, was charged as the chief architect of the terror.

The Coalition Against Genocide, a wide spectrum of U.S.-based organizations, urged AAHOA to rescind its invitation.

The Washington-based Institute on Religion and Public Policy called on the U.S. State Department to deny Modi a visa, “in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for his repeated engagement in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

More detailed information is available on the web site: www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com). John Pappademos and Jesse Knutson contributed to this week’s clips.