MELVILLE, W.Va.: Mine inspector ordered to ‘back off’

Just 17 days after the Sago Mine disaster, a fire broke out at Massey Energy’s Aracoma Mine, killing two miners. According to a Pittsburgh Post Gazette report, days earlier a federal Mine Safety and Health inspector wanted to close the mine because it was unsafe but was told by his supervisor to back off.

MSHA inspector Minness Justice told fellow inspector Danny Woods that dangerous amounts of coal and dust had built up along the conveyor belt line, increasing the risk of fire, and the fire suppression system was inadequate.

“He [Justice] was just told to back off and let them run coal, that there was too much demand for coal,” Woods said. “He came up and told me he was told to do certain things and that the inspectors before him hadn’t done a proper job.”

A Bush administration change in safety rules raised the risk of sending smoke to where miners were working.

U.S. Attorney Charles Miller has begun a criminal investigation of the fire.

RICHMOND, Va.: Beaches saved from oil companies

Fending off intense pressure from oil and gas corporations, Gov. Tim Kaine rejected a plan that would have opened the state’s coast to drilling.

Applauding the governor’s action, Mike Town, director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter, said, “It’s time for Virginia to end the debate over auctioning off our valuable coastline to the oil and gas industry and high time we embrace energy solutions that will sustain our energy needs and our economy into the future.”

The Newport News Virginian-Pilot newspaper editorialized, “Drilling would almost certainly do nothing to help move America off its dependence on fossil fuels, an addiction that has cost us thousands of military lives and forced us to make friends with some horrible people around the globe. Virginia has been asked to trade something precious and irreplaceable for uncertain financial riches and to perpetuate a bankrupt national energy strategy.”

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y.: West Point grads speak out against war

Three West Point Military Academy graduates have launched West Point Graduates Against the War, urging other graduates to condemn the Iraq war. “This fraudulent war has done such enormous damage to the reputation and prestige of the United States and its military forces,” said co-founder James Ryan, who served in Army artillery. “Unless remedied, this will prove catastrophic to our country’s interests over the long term.”

William Cross, a combat Vietnam War veteran, Veterans for Peace founding member and former West Point military psychology professor, defined the group as “pro-military and pro-USA.”

LOUISVILLE, Ky.: Hundreds honor Anne Braden

The packed Memorial Auditorium couldn’t stop singing and celebrating the legacy of civil rights activist Anne Braden, who died March 6 at 81.

Family, friends and peace and civil rights leaders challenged the audience to see the memorial as a call for action.

“She was indeed an American hero,” said scholar and progressive activist Angela Davis.

Braden would have too busy to attend her own memorial, said civil rights leader C.T. Vivian. Like her, he said, “we shall stand in front of evil and we shall never give up.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (