ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.: Students say bring troops home, fund human needs

Meetings of the University of New Mexico’s Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) are usually staid affairs. That changed when state Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino and City Councilor Isaac Benton urged student representatives from all the professional schools, including engineering, medicine and law, to speak their minds on the Iraq war and occupation.

Speak they did, passing a resolution calling on Congress to bring the troops home and to fully fund their higher education and health care needs.

“The billions of dollars being squandered in Iraq could be much better spent making the campus safer and more family friendly and providing health care and affordable housing to students,” said GPSA President Joseph J. Garcia.

The professional schools at UNM do not represent the racial and gender diversity of the state, Garcia said. Instead of using tax money to fund war, he said, the money should “go towards more financial aid for aspiring graduate students from traditionally excluded backgrounds.”

HUNTINGTON, Utah: Coal miners mourned, gov’t inquiries begin

The Crandall Canyon Mine is a sacred place for the mining communities of Carbon and Emery counties in central Utah.

On Aug. 6, the mine collapsed, trapping six miners nearly 2,000 feet beneath the surface of a mountaintop. Days later, two miners and a federal mine inspector died trying to rescue the men.

On Sept. 9, over a thousand family members, miners, friends and neighbors gathered on the junior high school field to say goodbye to miners Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Brandon Phillips, Jose Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan and Manuel Sanchez, and to rescuers Brandon Kimber, Dale Black and Gary L. Jensen. The bodies of the original six miners have not been recovered.

Gov. Jon Huntsman paid homage to the deceased miners and their communities, who united “regardless of religious affiliation, regardless of country of origin.” In the wake of the deadly mining practices of Murray Energy Corp., owner of the mine, “our community and our state have been left hurting,” Huntsman said.

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) delivered a unanimous resolution of condolence from Congress. He said he remains unconvinced that the miners’ bodies should remain entombed in “that damaged tunnel as their final resting place.”

Meanwhile, congressional hearings on the collapse of the nonunion mine began Sept. 7. Although the Senate panel requested that mine owner Robert Murray appear before it, Murray declined to do so.

Mine Safety and Health Administration head Richard Stickler, a former coal operator, did testify at the hearing, but said only that the technology to locate the trapped miners does not exist. That claim is disputed by mining engineers and by the United Mine Workers union.

Meanwhile, the first-ever Utah commission of inquiry, which includes representatives of the union, has also begun work.

CORAL GABLES, Fla.: Dems debate on Spanish TV, GOP bows out

The first-ever presidential debate focusing on issues in the Latino community, broadcast in Spanish, took place on Sept. 9.

Univision, the largest national Spanish-language television network, beamed the positions of seven of the eight Democratic Party candidates into the homes of 47 million Latinos. The Iraq war and immigration issues dominated the debate.

Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas posed questions in Spanish and candidates, two of whom speak fluent Spanish, heard a simultaneous translation through an earpiece. All responses were in English, again simultaneously translated into Spanish. English-speaking viewers read responses by closed captions on their TV screens.

Latinos have a new voice in the Democratic nomination process, with Nevada holding an early caucus on Feb. 5 and Florida, breaking party rules, moving its primary up to Jan. 29.

In 2004, Bush won 40 percent of the Latino vote and Kerry garnered 52 percent, down from the 62 percent Gore got in 2000.

Although Univision scheduled a Republican debate for Sept. 16, only Arizona Sen. John McCain agreed to participate. The debate has been canceled. Most Republican candidates also ignored invitations to attend the conferences of the National Association of Latin Elected Officials and the National Council of La Raza.

WASHINGTON: Civil liberties groups hail two rulings

The Bush administration responded to the 9/11 attacks by bulldozing Congress into enacting the repressive USA Patriot Act. For five years, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have been fighting an uphill battle in the courts to restore the Bill of Rights.

On Sept. 5, U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy rejected the government’s broad claims of secrecy in its refusal to make public documents involving the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program.

“[The] ruling deals a blow to the administration’s sweeping and often unfounded secrecy claims,” said Nasrina Bargzie, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.

The next day, another federal district judge, Victor Marrero, struck down a key section of the Patriot Act, the one that allows the FBI to secretly seize personal records about customers from Internet service providers, phone companies, libraries, banks and other businesses. The government has 90 days to appeal.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696


Denise Winebrenner Edwards
Denise Winebrenner Edwards

Denise Winebrenner Edwards is a long-time trade union and community activist. She lives in western Pennsylvania.