55 Minutes in Ogg and MP3 formats, and webcast at http://www.wrct.org (higher quality archive at audioport.org)
* a report from Charleston's West Virginia Capitol building where Mountain Justice activists from around Appalachia gathered for the Mountain Justice Summer Kickoff event.
* An interview with a Nepali man about the recent coup in his country.
* And our weekly interview with a local grassroots organization, the Pittsburgh Transportation Equity Project.
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 from Charleston's West Virginia Capitol building where Mountain Justice activists from around Appalachia gathered for the Mountain Justice Summer Kickoff event.
An interview with a Nepali man about the recent coup in his country.
And our weekly interview with a local grassroots organization, the Pittsburgh Transportation Equity Project.
But first, these local, regional, and global news stories.
The Collaborative on Health and the Environment in Pennsylvania hosted a conference on environmental health in Pittsburgh this past weekend. The conference brought together medical researchers, health advocates, and environmentalists to discuss the serious environmental health problems facing the world today. They emphasized the link between environmental issues and health issues.
According to presenters at the conference, over the past few decades the number of cases of a wide range of chronic diseases has steadily and dramatically risen. In some cases, this increase is linked to the growing production and use of synthetic chemicals, say conference participants. They're calling for increased safety tests of synthetic chemicals before these chemicals are released on the market. More than eighty-six thousand synthetic chemicals are widely used today, but only a small fraction -- 500 -- have been assessed to understand their impacts on human health.
Teresa Heinz, keynote speaker at the conference, emphasized this sentiment when she said (quote) "We have become lab rats in a complex biological experiment in which none of us agreed to participate." (end quote)
Some of the chronic diseases whose incidences have increased include childhood leukemia, breast cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, obesity, attention-deficit disorder, and learning disabilities. For example, in the 1960s breast cancer affected only 1 in 14 women, while today 1 in 7 women and even some men are affected by the disease and at increasingly younger ages. Studies have shown that only one third of these cases can be linked to family heritage, implying that the environment must play some role in the remaining cases and the recent dramatic increase.
Also at the conference, the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Health Environments and Communities released it's new report, "Environmental Health in the Pittsburgh Region: Towards an Assessment of the Current State of Information." You can view the report online at www dot C-H-E-C dot pitt dot E-D-U.
State Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty? is making state funds available for programs to develop "clean energy," electricity generated from nontraditional sources such as wind, solar power, waste coal and coal gasification.
She said the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority has released guidelines for obtaining some of $10 million in state assistance that's available for building clean energy projects.
Applicants can seek financial assistance in the form of grants, loans or loan guarantees.
The Legislature recently approved a bill requiring that, within 15 years, 18 percent of all the energy generated in Pennsylvania come from "clean" sources to reduce air pollution, create new jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Telecommunications giant Verizon is the principal lobbier behind a bill that could limit the implementation of public-owned Internet service in West Virginia.
ETOPIA (Senate Bill 740), or the Electronic Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Act, was introduced as a bill to allow local governments to treat high-speed Internet service as a utility, playing the role of internet service providers. High-speed Internet service is not available in many parts of the state, nor is it widely available in many other mostly rural states.
However, a new version of the bill reduces the rights of municipalities by only offering broadband services via so-called "public-private partnerships" and forbidding local city and town governments to compete on a level playing field with privately owned companies.
That new version of the bill has already passed the West Virginia Senate by a 27-7 vote, and is expected to face a house vote, perhaps as soon as this week, before the current session of West Virginia's legislature ends for the year.
Municipal internet is increasingly being seen as the best option to connect small and rural communities like most of West Virginia to the Internet, but the new version of the bill would reduce much of its power.
The movement to provide high-speed internet access to rural areas through utilities has been compared the the effort to electrify rural areas in the first half of the 20th century. Lobbyists for the telecommunications industry have resisted these efforts.
The nonpartisan public media advocacy group "freepress.net" said (quote) "Internet access is fast becoming a basic public necessity — just like water, gas or electricity. But far too many Americans, especially in rural and poorer urban areas, are finding themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide, priced out by high monthly fees or stranded by corporate redlining that has deemed their towns and neighborhoods to be unprofitable."(end quote)
West Virginia is not alone in a struggle over municipal internet rights. Similar battle over local internet rights are being waged in nearly a dozen other states, including Texas, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Colorado.
As the baseball season opened last week, groups around the region are going to the stadiums for various causes. In DC, the construction of a new baseball stadium has residents worried about gentrification, while in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, activists urge major league baseball to drop its ties to unfair sweatshop labor.
In Washington DC on April 3rd, over 20 DC Statehood Activists convened in section 438 at RFK stadium to highlight the residents' of Washington, DC second-class status. After each strike out the activists would hold up the letters that spelled out "STRIKE 4 DC STATEHOOD." When the Nationals were at bat and the pitcher would walk a player, the activists would hold up "BUSH PLAY BALL WITH DC."
A proposed new baseball stadium in the District of Colombia along the Anacostia Waterfront has residents in the area even more concerned about the growing prospect of gentrification. Many residents of South East DC fear they will be pushed out of their neighborhoods in a process similar to that of Adams Morgan, Colombia Heights and Capitol Hill, where businesses and affluent white people have displaced lower-income black families.
In Baltimore the United Workers Association led a march of over sixty workers and community groups to the Oriole Stadium at Camden Yards, where cost-cutting measures have converted full and part-time jobs into work contracted out to exploitative day labor agencies. Marchers carried signs reading "Stadium Authority = Sweatshops" and fans cheered as they traveled past.
The United Workers Association is in continuous negotiations with Orioles Owner Peter Angelos. They are seeking to improve working conditions at Camden Yards. Aramark, the cleaning contractor at Camden Yards was recently fired for maintaining abusive sweatshop-like conditions for day-laborers.
Last August the United Workers Association worked out an agreement directly with Angelos in which the Orioles would guarantee a living wage for the post-event day laborers who are responsible for cleaning the stadium. Workers were hopeful that Opening Day would be the beginning of a new era for day laborers at Camden Yards.
UWA leader Jason Perry said (quote) "We are now waiting to see if Angelos will honor his agreement... We've kept our word... Hopefully we won't have to wait forever" (end quote)
Camden Yards in Baltimore was an important site in the historic July 1877 B&O railroad strike. Workers in Baltimore came out to support strikers in Martinsville, West Virginia who were protesting a wage cut that was for the benefit of rich stockholders. The National Guard killed 10 protestors in Baltimore and wounded 20 others, sparking a 2-day riot.
The railroad workers strike and attendant unrest spread quickly from Baltimore's Camden Yards to other large cities, including Chicago, New York and Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh workers tore up the tracks in the Strip District and set fire to freight cars and locomotives. Militia from Philadelphia were called in and killed 24 Pittsburghers in the unrest 128 years ago.
And here on the international labor holiday May Day, the Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance will be at PNC Park. The alliance has been running a long-term campaign in Pittsburgh to end the use of sweatshop labor in manufacturing licensed merchandise for Major League Baseball, in particular merchandise for the Pirates.
The 4th Edition of Major League Sweatshop Baseball Cards will be distributed at PNC Park. The group will also hold an action at PNC Park on Friday, April 15th to educate fans about sweatshops and Major League Baseball.
In a letter sent last week to the Pirates and other local officials, Pennsylvania State Senator Jim Ferlo said (quote) "It is particularly important for the Pittsburgh Pirates to stand up and join other organizations such as the 150 colleges and universities that are working together to enforce criteria [to combat sweatshop labor]" He added that (quote) "the Pirates and many other Major League Baseball Clubs have profited greatly from taxpayer subsidized private venues. I am sure that the people of Pittsburgh, who have footed the bill for PNC Park, would be more than supportive of a Pirates' decision to improve the working conditions of the people making your apparel." (end quote)
You are listening to Rust Belt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to headlines from Independent Media Centers around the world.
In another story at the intersection of spectator sports and activism, the Boise State Arbiter is reporting that on the day before the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament kicked off at Taco Bell Arena in Boise Idaho last month, the FBI started questioning student activists there. Idaho Progressive Student Alliance secretary Audra Green was contacted by FBI Agent Joseph Hess and questioned about topics ranging from her previous involvement in protests to her driving record.
The Idaho Progressive Student Alliance, along with the Organización de Estudiantes Latino-Americanos, led the Boise State student boycott against Taco Bell and opposed the changing of the Pavillion’s name to "Taco Bell Arena". Agent Hess said the FBI had received word from the Boise Police Department that the group had been blocking drivers while protesting at Taco Bell a few weeks before the NCAA Tournament.
As Rustbelt Radio reported last month, the four year Taco Bell boycott ended when the company agreed to improved wages and working conditions for its immigrant tomato pickers in Florida.
As Rustbelt Radio has previously reported, throughout the month of April, a group calling itself the Minuteman Project is stationing armed vigilante border-watchers along the Mexico-US border to try to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the United States. Members of the quasi-militia group contend that the event is meant to bring attention to the lack of enforcement of the US-Mexico border.
Critics of the the Minuteman Project say that it helps to fuel anti-immigrant bias, and interferes with the work of law enforcement and border patrol agencies. The Border Patrol has denounced the Minuteman project, voicing concern that untrained civilians (quote) "could cause more trouble than they prevent.” For example, volunteers have disturbed the footprints agents use to track immigrants and set off carefully placed sensors along the border.
The ACLU of Arizona is providing legal observers at the Minuteman Project's site this month. Eleanor Eisenberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona, said (quote) "Too many migrants, coming to this country for the jobs we offer, have died in the desert from heat, dehydration and exhaustion. It would be even more tragic to have migrants die as a result of violence."
Ray Ybarra, an ACLU Racial Justice Fellow working on border and migrant issues in Douglas, Arizona, added, (quote) "Our concerns are based on the past history of abusive behavior by those who believe that the migrants are coming to ‘destroy our way of life.’ These people are symbolic of the fear and misunderstanding that exists in our society." (end quote)
As the Minutemen project in Arizona takes the media spotlight, Congress is quietly trying to roll back 30 years of environmental regulations and create a buffer zone of martial law along the borders of the US. HR 418 recently passed in the House and is currently being fast tracked through the Senate. This law would completely exempt any project to build fences or roads in the region of the borders of the US from all environmental laws. This would include the border with Canada as well as the border with Mexico.
In San Diego and Tijuana, on April 2nd, numerous organizations held a march and a rally at the US/Mexico border, the site of the construction of the Triple Border Fence. This rally was against HR 418, against the Triple Border Fence and against the Minutemen. The 1.5 mile march was followed by a rally on both sides of the fence.
Lotus of San Diego Indymedia was there to record these voices from the rally on the border.
[ sd_border_protest_edit.ogg: sd border protest -- 2:35 ]
Emails are the center of a scandal that could affect the use of the Yucca Mountain as a nucleur waste dump site. House members of the Federal Workforce and Agency Organization Subcommittee met tuesday to hear whether allegations of false data created by United States Geological Survey employees were true.
Selina Musuta of the dc radio coop gives an update from the capitol.
[ fsrn20050405yuccamountain_selina.mp3: FSRN Clip - 1:36 ]
On Thursday, March 31, groups and individuals from throughout Appalachia gathered at the West Virginia Capitol building in Charleston for the Mountain Justice Summer Kickoff. Mountain Justice Summer is a campaign to bring regional, national, and internationl attention to the human rights abuses and environmental devastation caused by Mountain Top Removal mining. The rally included speakers and musicians from around the Appalachias. The Mountain Justice Summer Rally followed the Friends of Coal annual rally in support of the coal industry. Here are a few speakers and musicians from throughout the day.
You can learn more about Mountain Justice Summer at http://www.mountainjusticesummer.org
[ Musical Break ]
The Pittsburgh Transportation Equity Project or PTEP is the featured grassroots organization of the week. PTEP also known as the Environmental Justice institue aims to engage, educate, and empower African American residents, groups, community and faith-based leaders to become advocates for transportation policy, equity issues, investments, and regional planning. We spoke with Fred Brown Jr. about the issues PTEP addresses and how they help mobilize communities around these issues.
We also spoke with Fred Brown about the role that youth can play in this grassroots organizing
Brown discussed with us the basic philosophy of environmental justice and it’s connection to the work PTEP does
And finally we asked Fred Brown to bicycles and their relation to transportation issues
For more information about Pittsburgh Transportation Equity Project and the Environmenatl Justice Institute you can go to http://www.ptep.org or call (412) 261 5514. If you know of any groups that would like to be part of our weekly feature please e-mail us at radio@indpghSTOPSPAM.org or call us at the station (412) 621 WRCT
[ interview from andalusia >10 min ]
That was ... on WRCT Pittsburgh. You're listening to Rust Belt Radio.
In the midst of a civil war, Nepal's king recently staged a coup, suddenly shutting down media coverage and arresting hundreds of people. Sage Radachowsky is a Boston-based ally to the struggle for democracy in Nepal. He was there on February 1st, 2005 when the king took over. Boston Indymedia brings us this interview.
[ Cue Outro music? ]
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.