On this week's show...
* Lawyers and Black Panthers discuss the recent arrests of former Black Panthers in a thirty-six year-old murder case
* from the World Social Forum, a Kenyan grassroots activist describes the connection between the HIV/Aids Pandemic and gender inequality
* in global news, an Armenian journalist and activist was murdered in Turkey, and federal agents began a new wave of raids against immigrants last week
* the word on the street about President Bush's State of the Union Address
* and more local and global headlines
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.
On today's show...
Lawyers and Black Panthers discuss the recent arrests of former Black Panthers in a thirty-six year-old murder case
from the World Social Forum, a Kenyan grassroots activist describes the connection between the HIV/Aids Pandemic and gender inequality
in global news, an Armenian journalist and activist was murdered in Turkey, and federal agents began a new wave of raids against immigrants last week
the word on the street about President Bush's State of the Union Address
and more local and global headlines
Rustbelt Radio airs live every Monday from 6-7 PM on WRCT 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, PA, and again on Tuesday mornings 9-10 AM. We're also on Pacifica affiliate WVJW Benwood, 94.1 FM in the Wheeling, West Virginia area, on Thursdays from 6-7 PM. And we're on at a new time on WPTS - 10-11AM on Wednesday mornings on 92.1 FM from the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.
We're also available on the internet, both on WRCT'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.
We turn now to local headlines.
[2:45] Prison board orders changes at Beaver jail
Last year, a Beaver County Jail guard publicly accused his co-workers of roughing up inmates and concocting a scheme to get workers' compensation. The county hired a private investigator to explore those claims. Based on the investigator's initial recommendations, the prison board ordered a range of internal changes on January 18th.
County Controller Richard W. Towcimak, the prison board's newly elected head stated that they are considering this “very serious.” He would not reveal whether the board received proof of any illicit activity, and he declined to discuss how widespread problems might be at the 400-bed facility in Hopewell.
According to Towcimak, investigators did not uncover information specifically related to the allegations made by guard Michael Sestile last year during the non-jury trial of inmate Anthony Tusweet Smith. Smith was charged with assaulting guards.
Towcimak added that the investigators Gentile-Meinert & Associates found information (quote) "relevant to the general charge of prisoner abuse and possible other criminal acts and activity." However, he refused to be more specific. The report submitted to the prison board is confidential, and members would not release a copy.
Mr. Sestile was called by the defense on July 27th to testify that Mr. Smith was abused by jail guards. He told Judge Richard Mancini that in nearly six years on the job, he was aware of seven instances in which inmates received (quote) "beat downs" at the hands of guards. He stated, "I have seen a number of times where inmates, after they were handcuffed and shackled or locked down, that beatings continued, sir, and I will not be part or party to any of them. I made many reports and they have gone to the front office without any action being taken, sir. It got to the point I was so frustrated I just stopped writing them."
Changes ordered by the prison board include doing better background checks of potential employees, videotaping use-of-force incidents, conducting body cavity searches on certain inmates and using a drug-screening device on everyone -- including jail guards and the warden -- entering the jail.
"I think it's a start. I really think there's a number of personnel down there that will never change. Supervision down there is poor," Mr. Sestile said.
In the meantime, the prison board has authorized a continuation of the investigation.
[0:30] UFPJ march in DC
This past Saturday, approximately 250 Pittsburghers traveled to attend the March for Peace, in Washington, DC. The Thomas Merton Center's Anti-War Committee organized a caravan of buses which sent over 200 of those protestors. In DC, an estimated 500,000 people gathered on the National Mall to demonstrate their commitment to ending the war in Iraq and bringing all of the troops home.
Today, Monday, January 29, at least 1,000 people-including those involved with the Merton Center- will bring the energy and conviction present in Saturday's demonstration into the offices of Congressional representatives. Today's efforts promise to be one of the largest anti-war lobbying days in decades. A large Pennsylvania delegation will meet with the staff of Senators Casey and Specter as well as Congressman Doyle's Foreign Policy staff. They hope to urge the officials to sign on to the Declaration for Peace, which calls on Congress to enact a plan by March 15th to withdraw US troops.
Saturday's march and Monday's lobbying efforts were organized by United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of national and local anti-war groups.
[2:00] Word on the Street
For this week's 'Word on the Street', Rustbelt Radio asked Pittsburghers what they thought of the President's State of the Union address last week. Word on the Street said...
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That was Rick Hertzig, of Greenfield. East Liberty resident Megan Meagher had a similar response:
Dr. John Portello, of Bloomfield, was more supportive of the President's address:
Finally, Alan Gerber from CMU:
That wraps it up for this week's Word on the Street.
[1:00] Union Arrests Downtown
Objecting to the company S.E.T.'s use of nonunion labor for the Downtown Point State Park $35 million renovation, members of Laborers Union Local 10-58 and Local 3-73, have been picketing outside the park. On Friday January 26th, 8 picketers were arrested for blocking a truck from entering the park. Philip Ameris of Local 10-58 says their pickets have had an impact.
For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.
You are listening to Rustbelt 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.
[2:00] NYC Permit Laws
After much controversy, The New York Police Department has adopted rules that requires bicyclists and other people who gather in groups of 50 or more in the street to obtain permits. This permit decision came after many years of police harassment and arrests of cyclists participating in the monthly celebratory Critical Mass bike rides. Bill DiPaola of Times Up, a New York City Based Direct Action environmental group, describes the significance of this ruling:
For more information on the new regulations you can go to Times- up.org
[2:00] Immigration Raids
On Wednesday January 24, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents arrested 21 Smithfield workers from a Tar Heel, North Carolina plant on charges including overstaying of visas and lack of documentation. Wednesday's arrests come on the heels of the company announcement that it will fire up to 600 people in the coming weeks, primarily those who walked out in protest last November over the firing of 60 workers with alleged social security mismatches. Despite tremendous odds, Smithfield workers have been courageously struggling for justice at the workplace for over a decade, with a local of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).
The arrests this month follow the December 12 arrests of nearly 1300 workers in a series of immigration raids targeting meatpacking plants owned by the company Swift. The raids took place in Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Iowa and Minnesota. It marks the largest sweep of its kind ever against a single company in US history.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has filed an emergency lawsuit in an effort to release the workers who they say were illegally detained and are being held without access to legal counsel. In Iowa, immigration lawyers have accused the federal government of holding the arrested workers at the military site Camp Dodge near Des Moines.
Also this week in the greater Los Angeles area, ICE took over 750 immigrants into federal custody for deportation. Over 430 were deported. Federal agents attacked day labor centers, apartment complexes, and other gathering places in immigrant communities.
Today, January 29th, is a national call-in day for immigrant rights, organized by the Immigrant Solidarity Network, who are calling on all people who support immigrant rights and an end to detentions and deportations to telephone their congressional representatives. For more information, visit www.immigrant solidarity.org.
[3:15] Shahawar Matin Siraj
Shahawar (sha ha WAR) Matin (mah TEEN) Siraj (si RAAJ) , a 24 year old Pakistani immigrant living in Queens, New York, was sentenced on January 8th to 30 years in prison for plotting to bomb New York's Herald Square Subway Station. Siraj had been arrested and held without bail days before the 2004 Republican National Convention. Immigrant rights activists in New York have pointed out the glaring injustices of the sentence in light of evidence that an undercover officer entrapped Siraj into a plot to which he never really consented. The officer, disguised as a religious scholar, had spent two years frequenting a Bay Ridge mosque next door to the Islamic bookstore where Siraj worked. After many months of befriending Siraj, the officer taped a conversation in which the two discussed plans to bomb a subway station. The officer committed to supplying potential explosives for the plot. Siraj refused to go through with the plot, and the refusal was recorded on tape. Five days later, he was arrested on conspiracy charges.
On the morning of Thursday January 9th, ICE officers arrested Siraj's mother, father, and sister.
Kavitha Pawria (ka VEE ta POH ree ya) is a lawyer and activist with DRUM, a Queens based immigrant rights group working with Muslim and South Asian communities in New York. She had more to say about the arrests on WBAI's Asia Pacific Forum Pan-Asian Radio Hour:
At the hearing for the family, the Judge set a $35,000 bond for the mother and sister, Shaheena (sha HEE na) and Sanya (SUNN ya) Parveen (par VEEN) . Both were released after community and family members came together to post the bond. Organizers and supporters gathered outside of Elizabeth Detention Center last week to show support to the family. Siraj Rehman (ray MAAN), the father of Shahawar Matin Siraj, remains in detention with an application for asylum pending.
For more information on Shahawar Matin Siraj and his father's cases, visit the DRUM web site at www.drumnation.org. To hear past episodes of the Pan-Asian Radio Hour, visit www.asiapacificforum.org.
[0:45] Corporate Funding Compromises Research
A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives shows that corporate funding influences the findings of medical studies on the health impacts of cell phones. The report found that studies funded by the telecommunications industry are 1/10 as likely to find statistically significant health effects, when compared to studies funded by public or charitable agencies. Studies with mixed funding sources were most likely to document health effects. The report suggests the influence of funding source on research outcomes is similar to the well-documented influence of the tobacco, chemical, and pharmaceutical industustries. For example, a 2003 review showed that peer-reviewed studies sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry were approximately four times more likely to have outcomes favoring the sponsor's drug than studies with other sources of funding.
[3:30] Hrant Dink
On January 19th, Hrant Dink (huh-RAANT DINK), a journalist and human rights activist was shot dead in broad daylight his home city of Istanbul, Turkey.
A seventeen year old man confessed to the shooting, and a prominent Turkish nationalist confessed to supplying the assailant with a gun and money, according to recent reports from Democracy Now and Amnesty International.
Dink had been known as the editor of Agos, a bilingual Armenian and Turkish weekly paper. Hrant Dink is the 62nd journalist to have been assassinated since the founding of the republic of Turkey. As an ethnic Armenian living in Turkey, he used his writing to raise public awareness around the 1915 to 1918 massacres against Armenians by the Turkish military, and to challenge dominant tellings of history. Turkish nationalists attacked Dink for asserting that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians during World War I. In 2005, Dink was convicted to a six month sentence by Istanbul courts for violating Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which makes it a crime to
"denigrate Turkishness." In September 2006, Dink was similarly charged, this time for an interview he did with Reuters news service discussing the Armenian genocide.
Over 100,000 people attended Dink's funeral, and over 10,000 people participated in commemorative marches in Istanbul. They chanted and held banners reading, "We are all Armenian. We are all Hrant Dink.
On the politics and life of Hrant Dink, here is Taner Akcam (ta-NAYR aak-CHUM) from a program aired last Thursday on KPFA Berkeley’s Voices of the Middle East and North Africa:
To hear the complete program, a tribute to Hrant Dink, visit www.kpfa.org/voicesofthemiddleeast. To read English translations of some of Hrant Dink's writings, you can visit the Agos web site at http://www.agos.com.tr.
[18:00] Panther Ten case
January 23, 2007, nine former members of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army were charged with murder or crimes related to the 1971 murder of a police officer in San Francisco.
Seven of the men: Ray Michael Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaquim, also known as Anthony Bottom, Henry Watson Jones, Francisco Torres, and Harold Taylor were charged with the murder of Sergeant John Young and with conspiracy to murder police officers.
Also arrested was Richard O’Neal, on charges of conspiracy to murder police officers. He was not charged as an active participant in the murder of Sergeant Young. Lastly, Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth was charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and aggravated assault on a police officer in connection with his participation in the murder of Sergeant Young. Bridgeforth’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Charges would also have been brought against another man involved in the case, John Bowman, but he passed away on December 23, 2006 of liver cancer. Thirty-six years after the killing, the men now range in age from fifty-five to seventy-one years old.
The officer, Sergeant John Young, was fifty-one years old when he was killed. According to San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong, “Sergeant Young exemplified the best qualities of a community-oriented police officer, decades before the term became part of the law enforcement landscape. He worked diligently with at-risk youth and former convicts trying to turn their lives around.”
August 21, 1971, five people entered the Ingleside Police Station in San Francisco and opened fire, shooting and killing Sergeant John Young. The shooting occurred eight days after San Quentin prison guards gunned down "Soledad Brother" George Jackson, an active member of the Black Panther Party, during an unsuccessful breakout attempt. According to the San Francisco police department, Sergeant Young was killed in retaliation for the killing of George Jackson.
The Black Panther Party for Self Defense had been targeted by law enforcement officers ever since its founding in 1968. J. Edgar Hoover described it as “The greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” The Black Panther Party led struggles for racial and economic justice in the later 1960’s and 1970’s, all around the United States. Their projects included free breakfast programs for youth, free medical care, summer school popular education in black history, registration of black voters around the country, and active solidarity with groups like the American Indian Movement and the Brown Berets.
The Black Liberation Army was created by former Black Panther Party members who had left the party due to internal power struggles, infighting, and infiltration by COINTELPRO.
Stuart Hanlon is the San Francisco attorney representing Herman Bell in the current case. Hanlon explains COINTELPRO:
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COINTELPRO was a secret program of the FBI designed to undermine political dissent in the United States . Short for “Counterintelligence Program,” Cointelpro relied on infiltration, psychological warfare through falsified documents, harassment, intimidation, and violence as its primary methods. Richard Brown, a defendant in the current case, calls COINTELPRO the forerunner to the Department of Homeland Security. Richard Brown explains the link between COINTELPRO then and Homeland Security now.
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In 1973, five Panthers were arrested in New Orleans in connection with the 1971 killing of Officer Young. According to Richard Brown, three of the men were tortured into making false confessions:
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In 1976, Judge Edward Cragen banned the use of Ruben Scott's confession because of concerns that the men were interrogated without access to an attorney. Judge Cragen also faulted prosecutors for failing to disclose to grand jurors the unlawful method by which Scott's confession was obtained. This ruling, along with a lack of physical evidence, ended the investigation until it was re-opened by the FBI in 2002. The decision to re-open the case coincided with the Department of Justice's expanding prosecution of political crimes in the name of homeland security.
In 2003, Frank McCoy and Ed Erdelatz were hired and deputized by the FBI after McCoy left retirement, and Erdelatz left the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. San Francisco Officers Erdelatz and McCoy worked on the case in the 1970s. They traveled to New Orleans in 1973 and participated in the interrogation of John Bowman, Ruben Scott, and Harold Taylor, who were allegedly tortured by New Orleans police. A defendant in the current case, Richard Brown, who was also arrested in New Orleans in 1973, describes his interactions with officers McCoy and Erdelatz, and what it was like to see these officers again in 2003, more than thirty years later:
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The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism, drastically enlarged government and law enforcement power in the name of a 'war on terrorism'. Passed shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, the USA Patriot Act has allowed law enforcement agents to conduct “sneak and peak” searches of homes, access private records from libraries, stores, and hospitals, label activists as terrorists, wiretap phonecalls without a warrant, monitor internet activity, and detain people indefinitely in prisons with no proof of terrorist activity, among other measures.
Established in 2002 with a goal of securing against, preventing, and responding to domestic emergencies, the Department of Homeland Security became the third largest cabinet department in the US government, and the primary body responsible for enforcement of the Patriot Act.
As Richard Brown stated earlier, the Department of Homeland Security has picked up on the Ingleside shooting investigation where COINTELPRO left off. More from Richard Brown:
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In 2005, federal prosecuters stepped up their investigations into cases from the 1970s. On May 2, 2005 the FBI placed a $1 million bounty on Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army who was convicted in 1977 of several felonies in related to the killing of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. She escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba with political asylum since 1984.
Also in 2005, state prosecutors convened a pair of grand juries in San Francisco to examine the Ingleside case. Richard Brown and four others were incarcerated from September to October for refusing to participate in a secret Grand Jury investigation into the 1971 murder case.
Richard Brown describes the grand jury that led to his arrest and incarceration in the fall of 2005.
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Attorney Stuard Hanlon outlines the indictment charges that led to the arrest of seven men on January 23, 2007:
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Hanlon is known for his previous defense work for another Panther and former political prisoner, Geronimo ji-Jaga, also known as geronimo Pratt. Pratt was convicted of kidnap and murder in 1972 and spent twenty-seven years in prison, eight of which were in solitary confinement. Pratt's conviction was overturned in 1997, and he was released.
Many people incarcerated as a result of COINTELPRO investigations consider themselves political prisoners, including Mumia Abu Jamal, Seth Hayes, Mondo we Langa, Ed Poindexter, Leonard Peltier, and dozens of others. Brown explains how so many people who claim to be innocent could have been arrested and wrongly convicted:
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Others, including Assata Shakur and Ronald Bridgeforth are in exile or hiding. Richard Brown explains why:
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Veronza Bowers, another former Black Panther and political prisoner, has been incarcerated for thirty-four years. Bowers was denied his scheduled June 21, 2005 mandatory parole, despite positive recommendations by four different parole examiners and the US Parole Commission. The release was rescinded under pressure from lobbyists from the Fraternal Order of Police. Here, Veronza speaks on the political prisoners and popular movements for solidarity:
The year 2006 saw important developments in the lives of political prisoners in the US, specifically those arrested in association with their work as Black Panthers.
In January 2006, Sundiata Acoli called for support for HR 3072, a bill drafted by Representative Danny Davis of Illinois, to revive the system of parole for federal prisoners. The bill would allow for early release of prisoners demonstrating positive behavior and work performance.
On February 15th, Herman Bell, one of the 'New York Three', and a defendant in the Ingleside shooting case, was denied parole for the second time.
September 8, ‘Can’t Jail the Spirit’, an art show by Tom Manning, was censored from the walls of the University of Southern Maine, in Portland, Maine. Manning was convicted of the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. A week later, the art show was taken on a walking tour of Portland, from the University campus to Congress Square.
On November 19, Judicial District Court Commissioner Rachel Morgan recommended that the 1974 murder conviction of Herman Wallace, one of the 'Angola Three', be reversed, following an evidentiary hearing inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Evidence revealed that prosecutors had bribed a prison informant into a confession.
December 19, Douglas County District Judge Russell Bowie determined expert voice analysis of a key piece of evidence in the case of Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, also known as David Rice, is admissable. Poindexter's case may go to trial again. Poindexter and we Langa were convicted of killing Omaha police officer Larry Minard in 1971.
The cases of these and other political prisoners have gone on, like the Ingleside shooting case, for nearly four decades. According to Richard Brown, this is a threat to American democracy. Brown, with a message for the American people:
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Attorney Stuart Hanlon, also had a message on the importance of this case:
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For updates on this case and other political prisoners, visit the New York City Jericho Movement website, at www (dot) jericho n y (dot) org.
That was just Kenyan Hip Hop Duo Gidigidi Majimaji singing Ting Badi Malo
[16:00] World Social Forum
The World Social Forum began on January 20th in Nairobi, Kenya. The theme for the 7th edition of the World Social Forum, is “People’s Struggles, People’s Alternatives”. The goal of the World Social Forum is to be, “an open meeting place where groups and movements of civil society opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism, but engaged in building a planetary society centered on the human person, come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action.”
Panels, workshops, processions, and film nights composed the five days of cultural resistance at the World Social Forum, which for the first time was held on the African continent.
Media activists from Africa and around the world have taken this gathering as an opportunity to network, share skills, and strengthen the Indymedia movement throughout Africa. They reported on the events of the World Social Forum, provided hands-on media production workshops, and engaged in dialogue to support cooperative production across borders. The groups also worked to build two low-power radio stations in Kenya, with the help of the Prometheus Radio Project from Philadelphia.
Rallying around the call of 'Another World Is Possible', the World Social Forum has placed social justice, international solidarity, gender equality, peace and defense of the environment on the agenda of the world’s peoples. From Porto Alegre to Mumbai (MOOM (but don't make the oo too long) - beye (like the word 'eye') to Bamako (BAH-mah-co) to Caracas, Karachi and now Nairobi, the forces and the contingents of the World Social Forum have collectively expanded the democratic spaces of those seeking concrete, sustainable and progressive alternatives to imperialist globalization.
One panel focused on the HIV/Aids Pandemic as it relates to gender inequality and gender rights for young girls. Anita Johnson of Hard Knock Radio interviewed activist Anwanjiru with the Kenyan grassroots womens organization Groots about their work.
That was just Anwanjiru speaking with Anita Johnson about the work of Groots Kenya. For more information, go to groots.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the World Social Forum visit forumsocialmundial.org or indymedia.org
Calendar of Events
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
The documentary Ghosts of Rwanda will be shown on Thursday, February 1, 7:00 PM at the Community College of Allegheny County, Allegheny Campus on the Northside. The screening will be held in the Student Service Center Auditorium, located at 808 Ridge Avenue. A discussion will follow the movie.
This week, former U.S. Army Chaplain Captain James Yee will be at two events in Pittsburgh. Captain Yee counseled both Muslim soldiers and detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and after speaking out about detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay, he was held in a military prison for 76 days in solitary confinement. Lee will speak on Thursday, February 1st at 4:00 PM at the Duquesne Law School, Hanley Hall, Room 204. And on Friday, February 2nd at 5:30pm at the Kurtzman Room, of the William Pitt Union at the University of Pittsburgh.
On the 3rd and 4th of February there will be a black heritage celebration on the north side. On Saturday the 3rd, from 11am-2pm, there will be arts and activities at the Amani International Coffeehouse near the corner of James and Foreland Streets. And on Sunday the 4th at noon there will be a Consciousness Raising Workshop for race related questions, at the Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church located at 416 West North Ave.
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WVJW Benwood and WPTS Pittsburgh.
Our hosts this week are Diane Amdor and Andalusia Knoll with additional contributions from Vani Natarajan, Jessica McPherson, Matt Toups and Carlin Christy. This week's show was produced by Donald Deeley. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
You can get involved with Rustbelt Radio! To contact us, 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 Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.