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 live every Monday from 6-7pm on WRCT 88.3FM in Pittsburgh, PA, every Thursday from 11am to noon on WARC-Meadville from the campus of Allegheny College, and every Saturday from 5-6pm on WVJW Benwood, 94.1 FM in the Wheeling, West Virginia area. We're also available on the internet, both on W-R-C-T's live webstream at W-R-C-T dot ORG and for download, stream or podcast at radio dot I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot org.
On today's show...
- We speak to a volunteer in New Orleans who is helping to run a grassroots community health center
- We hear the story of a man who escaped from Orleans Parish Prison during the floods
- and we have an update from the week in Palestine but first, these local headlines
[0:45] Wind Turbines in Western Penn
Allegheny County's Pine Township is currently the sight of an energy debate. Township officials have approved the installation of a 120 ft tall wind turbine, however zoning officials claim the structure will exceed height limitations. Also, township residents who live close to the proposed sight worry that the wind turbine will lower their property values.
Pine Township officials argue that the wind generator will be a cost-saving investment for the township -- churning out $10,000 in annual electric-bill savings. The township must match a $62,500 state grant to buy the machine, which officials say will pay for itself within a decade.
Wind energy has grown into a $7 billion-annual industry, yet power derived from wind turbines only represents less than 1 percent of all energy used in the United States each year. Pennsylvania generates more wind power than any state east of the Mississippi River, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a Washington D.C., trade association that represents 700 companies.
Pine is the first Allegheny County community to consider a wind turbine. The state money that Pine tapped came from a pot of $5 million in alternative-energy grants last year. Mercer County also has used state money for a wind turbine.
Pine's zoning-hearing board rejected the wind-tower proposal, saying the structure would be too tall. Township supervisors ignored the decision, however, and are appealing the ruling in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.
[0:15] PA gets $5 million bonus
Pennsylvania received five million dollars in July from the US Department of Agriculture as a bonus for excellence in accurate food stamp payments. The award, the second-largest among seven states honored, marks a major improvement for Pennsylvania, which only three years ago was penalized for an accuracy rate below the national average. The Pa. Department of Public Welfare has not yet determined how these extra funds will be used, said Ed Zogby, Director of Department of Public Welfare Bureau of Policy. He invites citizens to share their input about priorities for the money.
[2:00] Public Hearing on Jerry Jackson Case
Last Tuesday, City Council held a public hearing to investigate the unsettled facts, surrounding the 1995 police shooting and killing of a 44 year old black man, named Jerry Jackson. Although the killing took place over 10 years ago, many members of the community are still struggling to bring out the truth of this police killing. Activists with the groups: The Black Political Empowerment Project, The Black and White Reunion, The Urban League, The Thomas Merton Center, and the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP, spoke to city council regarding the need for an investigation into the corruption and obstruction of the case.
Beth Pittinger of the Citizen's Police Review Board described the events which took place the night of April 5th, 1995. The police pursuit began when Jackson made a wrong turn on a one way street in the Hill District. Housing Authority Police Officer John Charmo then began following Jackson who was in a suspected, later confirmed, stolen car. The chase continued over the Birmingham Bridge to the South Side. At this point, Charmo radioed other officers, however he continued to pursue Jackson, despite the fact that he was now out of his patrolling area. The chase eventually ended in the Armstrong Tunnel. In the tunnel, shots were fired from the officers at Jackson, who was unarmed.
The left front end of Charmo's car then pinned the right front of Jackson's vehicle against the wall. Although Jackson's vehicle had come to a stop, and was not posing a threat to the officers, they continued firing. Chief of Police Robert McNeilly?
stated at the hearing that it is police procedure to not shoot at a vehicle if the vehicle is the only weapon used. Officers violated this procedure and a total of 51 rounds were fired at Jackson, 14 of which hit him. 35 of those shots were fired after Jackson's vehicle had stopped. Thirteen of the fourteen bullets that hit Jackson were illegal black talons. Officer Charmo was carrying the black talon rounds, although as a Housing Authority Police Officer, he was unauthorized to carry such bullets.
Also surrounding the case is the debate over a "missing homocide file". While activists claim the file is missing or lost, Chief of Police Robert McNeilly?
refuted the missing file. Later at the hearing B-PEP president Tim Stevens, cited a Fox News Report from October 20th, 1999 which stated that the homocide file had vanished.
B-PEP and others are asking City Council to review the conduct of the officers involved in the shooting, and the subsequent investigation. City Council members Gene Ricciardi, Sala Udin, and Twanda Carlisle seemed eager to cooperate with B-PEP's request for an investigation.
For more on all of our local news stories, visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot ORG.
You are listening to Rust Belt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to headlines from Independent Media Centers around the world.
[1:30]Plan for Great Lakes restoration & conservation efforts shelved by Bush administration
After a year of promises to make the Great Lakes a greater national priority, the Bush administration is pulling back from an ambitious $20 billion plan to restore and protect the world's largest source of freshwater.
Three months after the plan was released for public comment, administration officials are finalizing a report to President Bush that concludes federal spending on the Great Lakes should remain (quote) “within current budget projections”, meaning no new money should be allocated.
Instead, federal, state and local officials should concentrate on (quote) "improving the efficiency and effectiveness of existing programs."
Without the administration's support, Congress likely will not endorse more aggressive--and more expensive--efforts to clean up contaminated ports, fix aging sewer systems, block invasive species and improve the shoreline. Legislation calling for more spending on the Great Lakes already is bottled up in House and Senate committees.
A copy of the report dated Sept. 26 does not specifically mention the recent hurricanes that devastated the Gulf Coast. However, political leaders and environmental activists throughout the Great Lakes region fear that the skyrocketing costs to clean up the hurricane damage have influenced the administration’s budgeting to lower the priority of their goals.
The lakes are the world’s largest source of freshwater, and are in dire need of restoration after decades of chemical contamination from industrial operations, and ongoing pollution from combined sewer overflow systems in major cities surrounding the lakes, has led to a build-up of toxic contaminants and severely compromised the function of lake ecosystems.
[1:30] Automatic ROTC enrollment provokes protest at Buffalo high school
In Buffalo, automatic enrollment in ROTC provoked parents and students to protest against their high school.
Unless they opted out, freshmen at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School in Buffalo, NY were automatically enrolled this fall in the Army’s Junior ROTC program.
About 300 parents of freshmen received letters in August, informing them that their children would be enrolled in the daily, 42-minute program unless they objected before the start of school. About 190 students at the school were in the program when classes began. The number dropped to 157 following objections by parents and students, who were then reassigned to study hall.
Now, the New York Civil Liberties Union is demanding that the practice be stopped and feel that the principal is illegally abusing a provision in the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The Principal of the High School, David Greco, a strong supporter of JROTC, said he believes the policy is legal and does not violate state education law.
Greco claims he was following a little-known provision of the federal No Child Left Behind law that makes federal funding for schools contingent on providing the military with student contact lists. Also under the law, the schools are required to let students and/or their parents opt off such lists.
"Any parent that didn't comply in time with their child was processed out of the class in a reasonable manner." said Greco.
But, parents, who are calling this a “renegade recruitment operation,” reported that they had only two days before the school year began to submit the "opt out" form, removing their child from the program. Also, the forms were not widely circulated and many parents did not even know they existed. More importantly, a school may not legally enroll students in JROTC by default. The state Education Law provides that participation must be "voluntary on the part of the student and written consent of a parent or guardian" must be submitted.
"Compulsory JROTC is against the law," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. "The induction of children into a military program is a serious matter and should not be forced on anyone."
Wendy Van Scoeter, whose daughter Jennifer Brown is a freshman at Hutchinson Technical, is being forced to participate in JROTC. She asked the school to remove her daughter from the program on the first day of school, but an Assistant Principal told her that her daughter could not drop JROTC because the study halls were full.
This provision in the No Child Left Behind Act which forces High Schools to provide students’ names to the military, is a national practice. However, students can ask that their names not be released if they submit a form to their high school. Locally, groups such as Conscience, are working to inform people about this law. To find out more about this law and download the “opt out” form, see www.consciencepgh.org or www.militaryfreezone.org.
[0:30] Flex cars outsell gasoline models in Brazil
Alcohol from sugar cane can be blended with gasoline to run in an ordinary car engine, but in Brazil there are Flex Cars that use computer sensors to mix the alcohol and gasoline which adjust to any proportion of fuels, and even run on acohol alone. Volkswagen started selling Flex Cars two and a half years ago in Brazil and The Christian Science Monitor reports that last month Flex Cars sales accounted for 62% of new car sales in Brazil. At a time when much of the developing world is in economic crisis over fuel prices, Brazil’s example shows how wheat, corn, sugar beet or cane fields can replace fossil fuels with zero-sum carbon energy.
[2:10] After decades of controversy, General Electric agrees to dredge PCBs from the bed of the Hudson River
Nearly three decades after PCB's were discovered in the upper Hudson River, General Electric made a binding agreement yesterday to dredge them from the river in one of the largest and most expensive industrial cleanups in history.
GE discharged PCBs into the river for decades from its transformer manufacturing operations, until the chemicals were banned in 1976. For years G.E. has resisted efforts of government agencies and environmental groups to force the company to clean up the contaminants. It has spent millions on legal battles and scientific studies to back the argument that dredging the PCBs would do more harm than leaving them buried in the sediment.
However, while the consent decree commits the company to begin cleaning up, it also splits the cleanup into two phases. While General Electric has agreed to Phase 1, it will not make a decision about the second phase until the first is completed. G.E. will dredge the heaviest deposits of PCB's in phase 1, at a cost of 100 to 150 million dollars. That work, which is expected to take about a year, will remove about 10 percent of the 2.65 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment.
The remaining mud, in which the contamination is lighter but spread over a much larger area, 43 river miles stretching from Hudson Falls to Troy, would be dredged in the second phase. Phase 2 would last five years and cost about $500 million.
Environmental and community organizations along the river expressed dismay about the agreement, fearing that because it leaves GE’s decision about the second phase of cleanup open, there is no insurance that the river cleanup will be completed.
Robert Goldstein, a lawyer with the environmental group Riverkeeper, said he was skeptical that the agreement would lead to the removal of all the PCB's. Because the company will be operating the dredges and monitoring the work, Mr. Goldstein said, it could make a case that dredging does not work, justifying a decision to drop Phase 2.
Federal officials said that if G.E. decided not to cooperate in the second phase, the government would use legal means to force the company to do the work, or would undertake the cleanup itself and bill G.E.
"We have made a commitment to all parties that this cleanup is going to get done, and we are unequivocal about this," said Alan J. Steinberg, regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, which filed the consent decree with G.E. in federal court in Albany.
[1:00] Municipal broadband services
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said that wireless Internet access is an individual's fundamental right. Many telephone and cable companies oppose publicly-provided free or low-cost services, and Newsom told a news conference that he is prepared to take on these companies to ensure wireless access in San Francisco. Other cities, such as Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and Saint Cloud, Florida, already offer a low-cost community wireless network. In November 2004, after Philadelphia's mayor announced plans to provide city-wide wireless service, Pennsylvania passed a law that nowhere else in the state can build a wireless network without Verizon's permission. Other states also have laws which prohibit municipal groups from competing with telecommunications companies to provide broadband services. In June 2005, Senators McCain and Lautenberg introduced a federal bill called the “Community Broadband Act of 2005” to protect municipalities looking to offer free or low-cost wireless.
You can read more about our global news stories by visting I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot O-R-G.
[5:00] This Week in Palestine and Israeli War Crimes
And now, an update on the devastation of Palestine by the Israeli military.
[4:20] Bad Cop No Donut
On this week's Bad Cop No Donut, we’ll hear about protests against the police in Cleveland, a policeman charged with stealing travelers checks, and other police misconduct from the region.
Welcome back to Rust Belt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
This week, in place of a local Pittsburgh organization, we will highlight the work of grassroots activists and volunteers in New Orleans.
[12:00] Common Ground grassroots in new orleans
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it became apparent that the Red Cross and FEMA were unable to adequately provide relief services to affected citizens. Former Black Panther Malik Rahim and other organizers took it upon themselves to start a health and supply distribution center out of their own home in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, which did not experience severe flooding. Activists and donations have now come in from around the country to contribute to the relief effort, in an area where the federal government has failed its citizens. We hear from Arthur Richards a volunteer with the Common Ground organization.
- common ground track 11:45
That was Arthur Richards of the Common Ground Relief Organization in New Orleans, Louisiana. For more information on their work or to make a donation, log on to www. commongroundrelief. org
You're listening to Rust Belt Radio.
[12:00] Escape from OPP
During Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of inmates were abandoned inside of Orleans Parish Prison also known as OPP. As of Monday August 29th all correctional officers had left Templeman III, one of the buildings of OPP, yet over 600 inmates remained inside the prison. As floodwaters rose, inmates could not leave and remained in the building for four days. Human Rights watch is calling this one of the worst human rights violations that occurred during Hurricane Katrina. While the prison was fully evacuated by September 2nd. 500 prisoners are still unnacounted for. We will now speak with Magelli whose family member was detained in Orleans Parish Prison during the storm.
For more information about what occurred at Orleans Parish Prison during the storm you can listen to the September 27th addition of Democracy Now or read the transcript at www.democracynow.org
[1:00] Calendar of events
And now we present the Indymedia calendar of events:
- Tomorrow, October 11th, there will be a panel discussion entitled: "Hurricane Katrina: The Gentrification of New Orleans" featuring professors from Pitt and CMU. The panel will be held from 7 to 10 pm in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, located on Schenley Drive in Oakland. For more information contact 412-648-7540.
- On Wednesday October 12th at 7pm , the new documentary film 'Enough IS ENOUGH: “The Death of Jonny Gammage”' will be screened at four different locations throughout Pittsburgh. This event is free and also includes a speaker with each screening. For more information on locations call 412-361-3022, or log on to www. thomas merton center dot org.
- Friday from 6 to 8pm at the Shadow Lounge in East Liberty, Prevention Point Pittsburgh and the Partnership for Minority HIV/AIDS Prevention invites you to attend a teach-in about Medicaid Cuts in PA and nationally and the impact on people living with HIV. For more information call 412-241-5960.
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Thanks for tuning in to Rust Belt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WARC Meadville and WVJW Benwood.
Our hosts this week are Carlin and Andalusia with contributions from Abie, Jessi, Jessica, Etta and Lora. This week's show was produced by Quinten. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
Your story 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 or podcast on our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG and this show can be heard again Tuesday morning on WRCT at 9 AM after Democracy Now
Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rust Belt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.