MIAMI: Protests in the land of Jeb Bush

Around the country, Americans used the Bush inaugural to demand peace in Iraq, beginning with the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Large protests occurred in the South, with New Orleans drawing 1,500 people on Jan. 20. In the heart of Bush country, Miami, over 400 lent their voices to the national protests of Bush’s Iraq war and inauguration.

“It might seem small by New York City standards,” said Linda Cleveland, a local activist. “And we had a small group of counter-demonstrators from They were vicious redbaiters. The cops let them demonstrate right next to us, separated only by police tape.”

But the antiwar demonstrators weren’t intimidated. “Our 400 chanting, ‘Bring them home now!’ drowned out the counter-demonstrators and their bullhorn. As darkness fell, we shined flashlights skyward to commemorate fallen Americans and Iraqi civilians, especially children. Pay attention — progressive voices in Miami are growing, getting louder.”

APPALACHIA, Va.: Miners, neighbors demand justice for child’s death

In the wee hours of the morning of Aug. 20, 2004, 3-year-old Jeremy Davidson was peacefully sleeping in his bed when a 1,000 pound boulder crashed through the walls of his home and into his bedroom, crushing him.

Jeremy’s family lives below a strip mine operation. That night, A&G Mining, a subcontractor for Matt Mining, was widening a road to Black Mountain in Wise County to accommodate 18-wheel trucks to haul out the coal. The bulldozer operator inadvertently dislodged the boulder and launched it down a 649-foot hill and into the Davidson home, killing the child.

“Since the child got killed, it’s sort of like when the towers got bombed [referring to 9/11] and the country came together,” said Carl “Pete” Ramey, a coal miner turned anti-strip-mine activist. “The death of an innocent child that had nothing to do with what’s going on has brought us together. I think a lot of people feel guilty they didn’t do something before.”

Since August, Ramey and his neighbors have demonstrated and demanded action to strengthen state laws and the enforcement of regulations on strip mining. They forced a public hearing before their state legislators, drawing over 250 residents in a town of 1,800.

Coal is king again in southwest Virginia with the demand for electricity skyrocketing, the cost of natural gas forcing people to take out a second mortgage, and the instability of oil prices. Coal keeps the lights on in over half of U.S. businesses and homes and is a major export to China.

When the Virginia State Assembly convened in late January, a bill to strengthen strip mine regulations was introduced with the backing of Gov. Mark Warner. Legislators from southwest Virginia are confident that bill will pass.

The Davidson family is suing Matt Mining for $26.5 million.

Pete Ramey and his fellow miners and friends went to Richmond, Feb. 7, to see that the State Assembly does the right thing. They plan to stay there until the Assembly does.

WASHINGTON: Torture architect Gonzales confirmed as U.S. attorney general

It should have been a shoo-in, a slam-dunk, but Alberto Gonzales, a Bush confidante from the president’s days as governor of Texas, ran into a buzz saw in the U.S. Senate. Led by Barbara Boxer of California, senators grilled Bush’s nominee for the country’s top cop over his authorship of memos justifying torture at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. It was reflected in the vote — 60 yeas, 36 nays and 4 senators not voting. Outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft, best known for his championing of the anti-democratic USA Patriot Act, didn’t experience such a fight or final vote.

The vote broke along party lines with the exception of six Democrats. Landrieu of Louisiana, Nelson of Florida, Nelson of Nebraska, Pryor of Arkansas, Salazar of Colorado and Lieberman of Connecticut crossed the aisle and voted with Republicans to approve Gonzales, Feb. 3. Democrats Baucus of Montana, Conrad of North Dakota and Inouye of Hawaii did not vote. No Republicans crossed.

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