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 talk to Sal Wilcox of Education Innovations about urban farms and charter schools
- We have an update from Mohammad of Beirut Indymedia about the situation in Lebanon and Syria
- and Pittsburghers react to the 2000th American soldier death in Iraq,
but first, these local headlines
[0:30] Striking workers arrested
14 striking workers were arrested last week in downtown Pittsburgh. The union members were arrested following an action where about 200 protesters linked arms and blocked the entrance to a garage at the intersection of Blvd of the Allies and Wood Street. All 14 are charged with obstructing a public passage way. The workers have been on strike since August 21, and a major issue in the dispute is the rising cost of health care.
[0:30] Panhandling regulations
Pittsburgh lawmakers unanimously gave their preliminary approval to anti-panhandling legislation last week. The new laws are intended to fight so-called aggressive panhandling, and drastically restrict the times and places where people can ask other people for money. If the new ordinance passes the final approval next week, then it will be illegal to ask for alms after sunset, or within 25 feet of a sidewalk cafe or line of people waiting to enter a theatre or buy tickets, or within 10 feet of food vendors and bus stops.
[1:00] SEPTA Strike
As of 12:01 AM this morning, Monday October 31st, workers at the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority (or SEPTA) went on strike. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 234 and United Transportation Union (UTU) Local 1594 ended talks with SEPTA management shortly before midnight. No deal or contract extension was reached, and no new talks are currently scheduled. One fiercely disputed issue was the shift of health care costs onto workers with rising co-pays and premiums.
Buses, subways and trolleys in the Philadelphia Metro Area are currently not operating. Regional Rail service is still available in the area as those workers as covered under a different contract.
TWU Local 234 President Jeff Brooks said (quote) "It is unfortunate that SEPTA has forced this strike. Neither our members nor the riding public desired this outcome." (end quote)
The last Philadelphia transit strike, in 1998, lasted for 40 days.
[0:25] Paul Hackett to run for senate
The marine-turned-political-candidate Paul Hackett announced that he will run for Senate in 2006. Hackett lost in the election for the Ohio 2nd Congressional District three months ago, but his strong showing surprised many, since his anti-Bush and anti-war message seems out of step with the mostly republican district who gave him 48 % of the vote.
[6:00] 2000th Soldier Vigil and Rally
Wednesday the 26th marked the 2000th US soldier killed in Iraq. 531 vigils, marches, and rallies, were held across the US, to commemorate the loss of life by Iraqis and by US-led occupying armies. Pittsburgh chapters of the American Friends Service Committee, the Women’s League For Peace and Freedom and, organized a silent candlelight vigil and march through Oakland. The march ended at the Carnegie Museum "Dinosaur," and the names of the 103 dead soldiers from Pennsylvania were read along with names of Iraqis who have been killed in the war.
Pittsburgh Organizing Group then held an emergency counter-recruitment rally. After a drum circle and speeches by the organizers, participants marched to the recruitment office in Oakland, then continued back through CMU.
Here are some snippets from the vigil and rally, featuring the voices of The Raging Grannies, Edith Wilson, and POG organizers, as well as local poet Jeremy.
MTV has compiled some new statistics on the 2,000 US troops killed in Iraq. Nearly a third were between the ages of 20 and 22, with the highest fatality rate--about 12 percent--being among 21-year-olds. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. casualties are under the age of 30. Forty percent left behind spouses and 30 percent were survived by children.
For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.
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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 news from other independent media sources around the world.
[1:00] Bush Admin. Drops Nuclear “Bunker-Buster” Plans
The Associated Press is reporting the Bush administration has halted research into controversial “bunker buster” nuclear weaponry. Republican senator Pete Domenici said a budget request for the weapons research has been dropped. The idea fueled concerns it would spread nuclear proliferation. Administration officials say they will instead pursue a non-nuclear bunker buster. Stephen Young, a senior analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, praised the decision, saying: "The proposed weapon, more than 70 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, would have caused unparalleled collateral damage."
[1:00] Wage protection restored in Gulf Coast
The executive order exempting federal contractors from paying the prevailing wage for hurricane relief work has been lifted, restoring the labor protection measures in the Davis-Bacon Act. The White House relented to calls from over 350,000 activists protesting the executive order. Several members of the Republican Main Street Partnership met with Bush shortly before the announcement and assumed credit for pressuring the president to reinstate Davis-Bacon worker protections. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney told The New Standard that the next step is to “reinstate affirmative-action requirements for contractors in the Gulf and end [White House] attempts to slash programs for working families while adding new tax breaks for the rich.”
[2:00] Wal-Mart health-insurance real deal
Just one day after mainstream media across the country reported that Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, plans to implement a new health-insurance policy that will dramatically lower employee costs, an internal company memo leaked out suggesting the opposite.
The memo says Wal-Mart could lower overhead by cutting employee benefits, taking on more part-time workers and discouraging elderly, disabled and unhealthy people from working for the company.
The memo outlines several steps that the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company could undertake to cut employee-benefit costs.
In a statement, WakeUpWalMart.com campaign director Paul Blank said the very existence of the memo [quote] "robs Wal-Mart workers of their human dignity and instead treats them like products in their stores."
Wal-Mart Watch, which reportedly first obtained the memo, said it [quote] "shattered the myth that America’s largest corporation has a unique culture that prizes its Associates and cares for them." The group has outlined a series of statements by company officials that appear in direct opposition to the contents of the memo.
Among the suggestions offered are raising obstacles to family health coverage eligibility and lowering company contributions toward spousal coverage, cutting life-insurance payouts, hiring more part-time workers and increasing individual employee hours, restructuring retirement offerings, and offering a variety of benefits packages, some of which would end up costing Wal-Mart less than current plans.
[3:00] Philippine Labor Leader Murdered
Last Tuesday night, October 25th, Philippine labor leader Ricardo Ramos, was shot dead in his own backyard. Ramos was the President of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union, or CATLU, which is a union of sugar mill workers. Tuesday night, while celebrating with friends the settlement of a year long labor dispute with Hacienda Luisita Inc., shots were fired at Ramos. This occured five hours after the union received at least 8 million philippine pesos (about 145,000 US Dollars) from the Hacienda Luisita Inc. as settlement for back wages.
CATLU members walked off their jobs on Nov. 6 last year, simultaneously with the strike staged by 5,000 farm workers belonging to the United Luisita Workers Union. At least seven people were killed when police and military dispersed striking workers at the hacienda in November.
The 5,000-hectare hacienda in Tarlac is owned by the family of former Philippine President Corazon Aquino.
In the same 48 hour period, gunmen also shot and killed another labor leader and his two friends. Two men shot Francisco Rivera, local chair of the left wing Bayan party after an 8 a.m. jog in Angeles City in Pampanga. His companions, Dr. Angel David and Von John Maniti, were also killed in the attack.
Migrante International, an organization of overseas Filipino workers, condemned the killings of activists in Central Luzon that occurred less than 24 hours apart. "The murders of Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) president Ricardo Ramos, Francisco Rivera of Bayan-Pampanga and his friends, Dr. Angel David and Vonjohn Maniniti are the handiwork of the Arroyo administration through the Armed Forces. It is definitely politically motivated as it is aimed to sow fear to all those who oppose the corrupt and fascist Macapagal-Arroyo regime," Migrante International chairwoman Connie Bragas-Regalado said.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Arturo Lomibao yesterday said he would "leave no stones unturned" in solving the killing of Ricardo Ramos.
Last week's killings brought the number of activists killed in Central Luzon to 19 since early September. and According to the Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights, a Manila-based human rights group, there have been more than 116 political murders in the Philippines this year, all of them still unsolved.
A new report on violation of trade union rights by the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), states 145 people worldwide were killed last year because of their trade union activities.
“This year’s survey reveals just how far many governments and employers are prepared to go in suppressing workers’ rights to seek a competitive edge in increasingly cut-throat global markets.” said Guy Ryder, ICFTU general secretary.
[1:00] Bush on trial in Canada for torture
A publication ban was lifted August 19th and now reporters are allowed to inform Americans that their president is on trial in Canada for torture. Gail Davidson and Lawyers Against the War brought charges in 2004 over the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and Abu-Ghraib, under sections of the Canadian Criminal Code which enact the UN Convention Against Torture. Davidson said [quote] “The American legal system seems incapable of bringing him to justice and there are no international courts with jurisdiction. So it’s up to Canada to enforce the law that everybody has signed on to but nobody else seems willing to apply.”
You can read more independent global news stories by visting indymedia: I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot O-R-G.
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That was ....
Welcome back to Rust Belt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
[16:00] Education Innovations
This week we highlight the organization Education Innovations. Education Innovations operates with the mission of building communities of seekers, learners, and teachers who share the world as a classroom. We speak with Sal Wilcox about urban agriculture, community projects, alternative education and charter schools. He starts the conversation by discussing the NatureLab community center in Uptown that he helped sprout.
In addition to this urban farm project Education Innovations is also creating a charter School. A charter school is a public school that is created via a legal charter. Usually they are created with an express purpose or philosophy, and controlled in-house, independent of any local school district. Charter schools are freed of many restrictive rules and regulations, and in return are expected to achieve educational outcomes within a certain period or have their charters revoked. There are five charter schools currently open in the Pittsburgh Public schools system. If Education Innovations' charter is approved they will open for 300 students next fall. Sal first talks to us about the need for their charter school and then discusses the kind of education that it will provide.
: part 2 13:00
You can visit Education Inovations website at www.educationinnovations.org or give them a call at 412 363 7707.
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You're listening to Rust Belt Radio.
[6:00] Universal healthcare coverage bill unveiled in PA
The Pennsylvania Health Care Solutions Coalition, which includes PUSH, Pennsylvanians United for Single-Payer Healthcare, previously featured on Rust Belt Radio, has unveiled a bill to implement universal healthcare coverage in Pennsylvania. Rustbelt correspondant Jessica McPherson spoke with Stephen Larchuk, chair of the group, about the current state of healthcare and about the new bill.
- [pahcsc_interview.ogg] 5:30
That was Steven Larchuk, chair of Pennsylvania Health Care Solutions Coalition. To learn more about the new bill, visit their website, www.pahcsc.org.
[10:00] Lebanon/Syria Update
The UN Security Council today unanimously adopted a resolution, demanding Syria cooperate with the UN investigation into Syrian involvement in the murder of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The US, UK, and France dropped the explicit threat of sanctions from the resolution, to placate Russia and China, which hold veto power on the Security Council and strongly oppose sanctions on Syria. However, the adopted resolution is militarily enforceable, and Syrian non-cooperation could still ultimately result in sanctions. Syrian President Assad issued his own probe on Sunday, to investigate Syrian involvement with the murder. But Syria continues to publicly defame the UN report, which implicated high up Syrian officials in the murder of Hariri, including, in a leaked draft, President Assad's brother and brother-in-law.
Meanwhile, for the past week, Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have been held under seige by the Lebanese army. The seige is meant to pressure the pro-Syrian Palestinian militia, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, to disarm. However, the seige has eased somewhat following discussions between PFLP-GC's leader Ahmad Jibril, and the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. In related news, the UN, US, the EU, and Russia called for Damascus to close the headquarters of Islamic Jihad following the suicide bomb in Northern Israel last week, for which Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.
On Saturday, we discussed the situation in Lebanon and Syria with our Beirut correspondent, Mohammed Shublaq, who is also the webmaster for Indymedia Beirut. This is what he had to say.
[m:ss] Calendar of events
And now we present the Indymedia calendar of events:
- This Wednesday November 2nd from 6 to 7:30 pm, Voices for Animals and Animal Advocates will be holding a protest of the opening night show of Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus, at the Mellon Arena downtown. The Ringling Brothers Circus has a long and well documented history of animal abuse. For more information about the demonstration contact voicesfor animals at gmail . com
- This Thursday, the Campaign to end aids, which is travelling from Seattle to DC, will make a stop in Pittsburgh. The caravan is filled with AIDS activists from across the country. A rally promoting the caravan will be held Thursday, November 3rd, 11:00 a.m. at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church, which is located at the corner of Penn and Highland Avenues. For Campaign to End Aids information call: 1-877-END-AIDS or visit www.CampaignToEndAIDS.org.
- Also this Sunday the Palestinian Film Festival continues with "The Israeli Wall in Palestinian Lands" This film will be screened at the Pittsburgh Mennonite Church, located at 4005 Murray Ave, in Squirrel Hill. For more information log on to www. psc-pgh . org
- Book Em will be holding a pack a thon this Sunday. Book Em is located at the Thomas Merton Center in Garfield.
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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 Jessica with contributions from Andalusia, Matt, and Lora. This week's show was produced by Matt and Jessie. 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.
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