- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2011

ALABAMA

County gets a week to decide on bankruptcy

BIRMINGHAM | The state’s largest county has one week to decide whether to file for the largest-ever U.S. municipal bankruptcy or take a deal from Wall Street to settle more than $3 billion in debts linked to a massive sewer project stained by corruption.

Sewer rates will rise one way or the other for the 658,000 residents in Jefferson County, officials say, it’s just a matter of how much. The county, where rates already have jumped more than 300 percent in recent years, is Alabama’s economic hub and includes Birmingham, the state’s largest city.

Officials think they can stave off any new layoffs either way, and hope they don’t have to trim public services if they decide to file for bankruptcy.

CALIFORNIA

Chavez, farmworker union head, dies

BAKERSFIELD | Richard Chavez, who helped brother Cesar Chavez build the United Farmworkers of America, has died at the age of 81.

He died Wednesday at a Bakersfield hospital of complications from surgery, union spokeswoman Maria Machuca said.

Richard understood that the struggle for a more perfect union and a better life for all America’s workers didn’t end with any particular victory or defeat, but instead required a commitment to getting up every single day to keep at it,” President Obama said.

Born on the family homestead near Yuma, Ariz., the two brothers left farm work in 1949, spending a year working together in lumber mills in Northern California, Miss Machuca said.

Eventually dedicating himself to union work, Richard Chavez organized the farmworkers’ boycotts of California table grapes and other products in New York and Detroit during the 1960s and ‘70s. He was in charge of administrating union contracts in 1970, and later negotiated UFW agreements and oversaw union bargaining, Miss Machuca said.

GEORGIA

SCLC president dies of heart attack

ATLANTA | The president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Rev. Howard Creecy Jr., has died seven months after taking office, the venerable civil rights group said Thursday.

Damien Conners, the SCLC’s national program director, said Mr. Creecy, 57, died of an apparent heart attack in Atlanta early Thursday. Mr. Creecy, pastor of the Olivet Church in Fayette County, was elected SCLC president in January after the position was declined by Bernice King, daughter of the organization’s co-founder, the Rev. Martin Luther King.

Before that, Mr. Creecy served as the interim president of the civil rights organization founded in 1957. He was a native of Mobile, Ala.

NORTH CAROLINA

Post office closures to make long hikes harder

RALEIGH | Hiking the nearly 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail already is grueling, and the U.S. Postal Service may make it even tougher. A plan to close rural post offices could shutter several outposts long used by hikers to receive food and gear as they walk the trail from Georgia to Maine.

Closing the post offices in Fontana Dam, N.C.; Glencliff, N.H.; and Caratunk, Maine, would leave hikers without an easy way to get food and switch out equipment at critical points during their treks, which usually take between four and six months. Those key locations and some others near the trail are being reviewed for closure, though no final decision has been made.

More than 3,600 local offices, branches and stations could be on the chopping block as the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service considers closing 1 in 10 of its retail outlets to save money. Each place will be studied, and people served by the location will be able to make a case for keeping it open.

TEXAS

Attempt to stop prayer rally tossed

HOUSTON | A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit that sought to stop Gov. Rick Perry from sponsoring a national day of prayer and fasting.

U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller on Thursday ruled that the group of atheists and agnostics that filed the suit, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, did not have standing to sue.

The plaintiffs argued that Mr. Perry’s day of prayer and fasting would violate the constitution. The event, called the Response, is scheduled for Aug. 6.

Mr. Perry defended the event, comparing it to President Obama’s participation in the National Day of Prayer. He said “my prayer is that the courts will find that the First Amendment is still applicable to the governor.”