* a report on tasers and activists' efforts to ban their use by police departments
* an interview with one of the Greenpeace Smokestack Six, recently relased from jail for scaling a smokestack at a power plant in Greene County, Pennsylvania last summer.
* we hear former black panther Ashanti Alston, author of the publication Anarchist Panther, from his talk last week in Pittsburgh
* and United for Peace and Justice, a national anti-war network, held its national assembly in St. Louis a week ago, and Rustbelt Radio has a report
Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media. The show airs every Monday from 6-7pm on WRCT 88.3FM in Pittsburgh, PA and every Saturday from 5-6pm on WVJW Benwood, 94.1 FM in the Wheeling, West Virginia area. And we're also available on the internet, both on W-R-C-T's live webstream at W-R-C-T dot ORG and archived at radio dot I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot org.
On today's show...
a report on tasers and activists' efforts to ban their use by police departments
an interview with one of the Greenpeace Smokestack Six, recently relased from jail for scaling a smokestack at a power plant in Greene County, Pennsylvania last summer.
we hear former black panther Ashanti Alston, author of the publication Anarchist Panther, from his talk last week in Pittsburgh
and United for Peace and Justice, a national anti-war network, held its national assembly in St. Louis a week ago, and Rustbelt Radio has a report
But first, this special transit update:
SPECIAL UPDATE: Transit fare hikes postponed again (3-5 minutes?)
Tomorrow, March 1st, the Pittsburgh Port Authority was planning to raise the base transit fare to $2 and cut service by 12 percent, due to a lack of state funding. Despite years of campaigns by groups across the state, the Pennsylvania state legislature failed to pass the necessary funding bills.
However, today, less than 24 hours before the fare hikes and servic cuts were to take place, Governor Ed Rendell announced he would "flex" funds budgeted for highway construction. The 68 million dollars of federal funds will go to the Port Authority, Allegheny County's transit agency, as well as SEPTA, the transit agency in the Philadelphia area which was also facing severe cuts and large fare hikes. Also, the Governor is providing 530 million dollars of new funding for highways, so the loss of federal funds will not impact highway projects.
With these federal funds, the transit agencies will only be able to make it through the rest of this fiscal year, which ends in June. However Rendell also has another 412 million dollars availble which may be used over the next two years if the state legislature still does not provide reliable funding for transit. This two year stopgap may be in response to bus riders' complaints about transit being struck in a constant crisis, and could provide breathing room for the transit systems.
While the emergency funding may buy as much as two years of relief for public transit, but riders and the Governor are all still waiting for the state legislature to pass reliable long-term funding for the transit systems, which transit activists have been demanding for over two years.
Governor Rendell is also creating a Transportation Funding and Reform commission, which will be appointed by the general assembly and the Governor. It remains to be seen if these appointments will include representation from bus riders and transit employees, or if it will be used to push a neoliberal anti-union agenda under the name of reform.
The Port Authority has confirmed that fare hikes will not happen tomorrow as scheduled. We spoke to Steve Donahue less than an hour ago about the last-minute stopgap measure to save transit.
[ steve clip 1:00 ]
That concludes our special local transit news update for Rustbelt Radio.
We turn now to headlines from Independent Media Centers around the world.
United for Peace and Justice National Assembly (5:00)
On March 18 through the 21, United for Peace and Justice, the nation's largest anti-war coalition with 900-plus member groups, held its second national assembly in Saint Louis. David of Rustbelt Radio was there.
In an important victory for Indymedia and other radical journalists, a U.S. District Court Judge has quashed the latest in a string of subpoenas received by the New York City Independent Media Center.
The subpoena from the City Law Department arose from a civil suit in which New York City is a defendant. In it, the City demanded voluminous information, including all of the IMC's news reporting, emails, and web pages relating to the 2002 World Economic Forum. The City subpoenaed a number of different organizations, including the National Lawyers Guild, in an attempt to determine who organized an Animal and Earth Liberation March.
NYC IMC made three arguments in seeking to quash the subpoena: first, that the material sought was largely irrelevant to the case; second, that the City of New York could obtain the information it sought just as easily as NYC IMC; third, that a first amendment reporter's privilege protected the NYC IMC.
The US District Court judge agreed with NYC IMC that the material was of marginal relevance and also that the material was publicly available and thus obtainable by the City. While the judge did not directly address the question of reporters privilege, neither did he dismiss the argument outright. All but one of the other subpoenas were also quashed.
US Supreme Court Rejects CA Prison Racism (1:00)
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Califonia’s prison procedures that separate new inmates by race. Eric Klein from Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley has more.
[ FSRN clip fsrn_california_prisons.ogg: racism in california prisons 0:45 ]
FTAA developments (1:30)
The co-presidents of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), Brazilian negotiator Adhemar Bahadian and Acting U.S. Trade Representative Peter Allgeier, met in Washington, DC last week to reopen negotiations of the FTAA, stalled since July. They also explored of such issues as access to Brazilian markets and intellectual property. The meeting was set during the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland on January 31st of this year.
The scaled-down FTAA that was agreed to at the November 2003 summit in Miami was supposed to be completed by January 2005, but that deadline has been missed as talks stalled. The US and Brasil will continue negotiations this year and possibly re-convene ministers from all 34 nations in April or May of this year.
The new negotiations were heralded by the US government's announcement of a possible reduction of agricultural subsidies. Subsidies are government funds that enable US producers to sell at lower prices or below cost, debilitating production of other countries. The issue of subsidies was the principal conflict that paralyzed previous negotiations between the US and Brazil. Their removal would be a strong motive for the application of the FTAA, which would intensify the process of privatization of services, education and place at risk the production of inexpensive medicine, among other things. The 2006 budget proposed by US Congress indicates a 5% reduction. However, estimations of the US Department of Agriculture confirms that, even with this small reduction, subsidies would actually increase by 24% in 2005 and by 19.8% in 2006 - consequence of the fall of the prices of soy, rice, corn and cotton.
The cut in financial support to agriculture in the US accompanies the president Bush's reduction of social spending. The principal reason being the increase in military spending including increases in salaries of armed forces personnel. In a press conference, the Brazilian negotiator in the World Trade Organization, Clodaldo Hugueney, stated that "It does not matter if the cut is the result of the internal necessities of the Americans. What matters it that there is a cut."
1 year anniversary of the coup in Haiti (1:00)
Today groups in cities across the US will hold protests to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the the U.S.-led coup in Haiti. The coup occurred when a contingent of U.S. Marines kidnapped President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from his residence, put him on a plane and expelled him from the country.
One year later, Haiti has descended into chaos. As many as 400 people have been killed since September alone. Armed gangs roam the cities and political oppression is rampant. Just last week, an armed gang broke into the city's main prison and released more than 500 prisoners - 95 percent of whom have been neither tried nor sentenced. In the country's poorest areas, rape has increasingly common as a tactic of political violence.
A recent human rights investigation by the Miami University's school of law writes: (quote) "Haiti's people churn inside a hurricane of violence. Gunfire crackles, once bustling streets are abandoned to cadavers, and whole neighborhoods are cut off from the outside world. Nightmarish fear now accompanies Haiti's poorest in their struggle to survive in destitution. Gangs, police, irregular soldiers, and even UN peacekeepers bring fear. There has been no investment in dialogue to end the violence." (end quote)
Thanks to San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia and Democracy Now for contributions to that story.
Vietnamese Agent Orange victims sue manufacturers (2:00)
Today, February 28, 35 years since the US ceased using Agent Orange in Vietnam, Vietnamese people who were exposed to the defoliant are about to have their day in court. The Vietnamese Agent Orange survivors will have a hearing on their case against the U.S. chemical companies that manufactured the toxic chemical, Agent Orange. Their hearing began this morning at federal district court in Brooklyn, New York.
Agent Orange contains the deadly substance dioxin and has caused death and sickness to millions of Vietnamese people and to many U.S. veterans of the Vietnam war.
The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin filed a lawsuit on behalf of people in Vietnam, many of them children, who suffer the continuing effects of Agent Orange birth defects and sickness. The victims are seeking compensation and a clean-up of contaminated areas from more than 30 firms, among them Dow Chemical Corporation and Monsanto Corporation, the largest makers of Agent Orange.
Today the companies who manufactured the chemicals and the U.S. government who sprayed them on the people and land of Vietnam will argue in court that this lawsuit should be dismissed on procedural grounds. The companies are argueing, with the support of the US Justice Department, that they were acting under the orders of the US Commander in Chief. The plaintiffs have compared this argument to the argument of Nazi war criminals who claimed they were just following orders. The defendants also claimed that international law exempts corporations, as opposed to individuals, from criminal and civil liability for war crimes.
While the chemical companies deny links between Agent Orange and sickness, in 1984, several chemical companies paid $180m to settle a lawsuit with US war veterans, who said that their health had been affected by exposure to the substance. Up to a million people were affected by Agent Orange and other chemicals. A study last year showed high levels of dioxin still persist today in food samples.
Thanks to New York City Indymedia for contributions to that story.
You can read more global independent news stories by visting indymedia dot org. We'll be back after a brief break.
[ Musical Break ]
That was .... Welcome back to Rust Belt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news overlooked by the corporate media.
In June of last year, 6 protestors with Greenpeace USA staged a protest at the Hatsfield Ferry Power Plant in Masontown, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh in Greene County. They scaled a 700 foot smokestack at the power plant and dropped a 122 foot banner from the top of the stack. When they climbed down, they were charged with an array of crimes, including some under federal anti-terrorism laws, and faced up to 25 years in prison each for a peaceful, non-destructive protest. Most charges were eventually dropped, and 5 of the six protestors just finished their five day sentences last weekend. A sixth will remain in jail for a total of 30 days.
We spoke with John Watterburg, one of the six protestors, just after his release. The full interview can be found on our website, but here are some excerpts from our discussion. We began by asking John why the Hatsfield Ferry Power Plant was a target for the protest.
We also asked John about the Bush administration's proposed Clear Skies initiative. Bush claims that it is an update to the Clean Air act, but in reality many of its provisions weaken environmental protections.
That was John Watterburg, one of the six Greenpeace protestors, just released from jail for their role in dropping a banner from a smokestack at a power plant in Masontown, Pennsylvania. You can listen to the rest of the interview on our website, pittsburgh dot i-n-d-y media dot org.
[ Musical Break ]
Despite an alarming death toll from Taser use, these so-called "non-lethal" weapons are becoming more and more popular among police officers. Activists are beginning to take steps to counter the rising tide of taser-related police abuse and injury.
In a subsequent program Rust Belt radio will report on local activists efforts to ban the use of Tasers by the Pittsburgh Police.
Ashanti Alston (10:30)
On Thursday February 24th Ashanti Alston spoke at CMU at a talk entitled "All Power through the People" Alston is a former member of the black panther party for self defence, a former political prisoner for his role in the black liberation army, a member of estacion libre (a people of color zapatista support group), author of the zine 'Anarchist Panther', and northeast coordinator for critical resistance, which struggles to abolish the prison-industrial complex.
Alston first spoke about the profound impact that the rebellions in the late 60's had on him and how he became involved with the Black Panthers as a high school student in New Jersey.
file ashanti edit 4:36
For his role in a a bank expropiation Alston spent 12 years in prison and spoke of his discovery and feminist and anarchist thought in prison.
While connecting the struggles of the Zapatistas in Chiapas Mexico with the Black Community in the United States Alston, spoke of the driving forces in the Zapatista Rebellion
Alston also spoke of how collective empowerment is often a part of people's every day existence and cited jazz as an example.
Alston's entire lecture can be found on www.indypgh.org and you can also go to http://www.anarco-nyc.net/anarchistpanther.html for more information about groups Ashanti Alston is involved with and some of his writings
Calendar of events
And now we go to the Indymedia calendar of events:
On Tuesday March 1st the Students in Solidarity will be picketing the Pitt Bookstore in protest of their sweatshop-abusing policies at 11:30 AM
Also On Tuesday March 1st the film Fourth World War, featured last year on Rustbelt Radio, will be showing at the Thomas Merton Center at 7PM. The film will also show on Thursday, March 3rd in Morgantown West Virginia at the Rosewood Theater and Cafe, 218 Walnut St., Morgantown, West Virginia at 7 PM and 9 PM.
On Thursday March 3rd the movies "Jenin Jenin" & "The People and the Land" will show at 6PM at CMU in Margaret Morrison Hall room 103 as part of Palestine Awareness week.
On Monday March 14th Norman Finkelstein will give a talk entitled "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History" at CMU in McConomy Auditorium in the University Center.
Thanks for tuning in to Rust Belt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh and WVJW Benwood.
Our hosts this week are [ ______ ] and [ ______ ] with contributions from [ ______ , ______ ]. This week's show was produced by [ ______ ]. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
Your audio submissions are welcome! To get involved with Rust Belt Radio, or to send us your comments, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. All of our shows are available for download on our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG
Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rust Belt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news overlooked by the corporate media.
-- MattToups - 25 Feb 2005