On this week's show...
* Former US Military Chaplain James Yee speaks about the abuses he witnessed while on duty in Guantanamo Bay
* Mumia Abu Jamal's lawyer explains the current status of his case in Federal Appeals Court
* The FCC is set to gather in Pennsylvania to review media ownership policies
* A Canadian farmer takes on Monsanto
* plus more in our 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...
Former US Military Chaplain James Yee speaks about the abuses he witnessed while on duty in Guantanamo Bay
Mumia Abu Jamal's lawyer explains the current status of his case in Federal Appeals Court
The FCC is set to gather in Pennsylvania to review media ownership policies
A Canadian farmer takes on Monsanto
plus more in our 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.
[7:30] FCC Public Hearing
This Friday February 23, the Federal Communications Commission will gather in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for a public hearing to review rules on media ownership. All five FCC commissioners will attend. Rules under review cover such topics as whether the same company can own both a local radio and television station, how many television and radio stations a single company can own locally, and whether the same company can own more than one major TV network such as ABC, CBS, FOX, or NBC.
If commissioners relax the rules on ownership, corporate consolidation of media could increase drastically.
At a public FCC hearing in Los Angeles last October, over 1000 people filled the conference center of the University of Southern California with their bodies and voices. Testimonial from the public directly addressed the harmful impacts of big media.
Pennsylvanians are gearing up to make noise and share stories on February 23. April Glaser, of Prometheus Radio Project, a Philadelphia based group that helps communities build their own radio stations:
This Friday's FCC hearing will begin at 9 AM at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in downtown Harrisburg.
For more information visit the Stop Big Media Coalition at www.stop big media.com.
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] Abortion Referendum in Portugal
A referendum held in Portugal on Sunday, February 11th addressed the issue of abortion for the first time since a prior vote was held in 1998. At that time, 1/3 of voters turned out and 51% voted against the legalization of abortion. Now, 9 years later, almost 60% voted for a change in Portugal's abortion laws, which, along with Ireland and Malta, are among the most restrictive in Europe. Currently in Portugal, abortions are permitted only in cases of rape, fetal malformation or if the mother's health is in danger. Additionally, the procedure can only be carried out in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
"Finally women will be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve," said Maria Jose Alves, a medical doctor and leading figure in the campaign for reform.
While the referendum vote demonstrated a clear majority for changing the restrictive laws, voter turnout was at 44% that day, just shy of the 50% majority required for the result to be binding. However, Prime Minister Jose Socrates has been a strong supporter of the legalization of abortion, and he is pushing for the decision to be made into law immediately.
The government has portrayed the ballot as a measure of Portugal's willingness to adopt more modern attitudes. Its effort to change the law, though, has run into emphatic opposition from the church, which wants to keep the restrictions in place.
The easing of abortion laws also supports the Prime Minister's desire to fight clandestine abortions. Poorer Portuguese women, unable to afford the operation in Spain, often resort to backstreet abortions. It is not uncommon for the procedure to take place in dangerously unsanitary conditions, with the result that many women end up in hospital with infections or serious complications, some of which may result in death.
The abortion bill, which would legalize the procedure during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, is expected to be brought up in the parliament in a matter of weeks. After a few months the legislation is set to be introduced.
[0:45] Abortion in the US
In other related news, in the US, a Tennessee lawmaker has introduced a bill which would collect death certificates for aborted fetuses.
Representative Stacey Campfield, said his bill, introduced to the General Assembly last week, would provide a way to track how many abortions are performed in the state. The measure would also likely create public records on which women are having abortions.
The measure would give abortion providers 10 days following an "induced termination of a pregnancy" to file a death certificate with the state Office of Vital Records.
Campfield, a Republican from Knoxville acknowledged his bill might have a hard time making it through the Democratic-controlled House. But was confident the Republican-controlled Senate will most likely pass it.
House Judiciary Chairman Rob Briley, a Democrat from Nashville, stated Campfield's proposal was (quote)"the most preposterous bill [he has] seen in eight years in the Legislature. He added, "It's a huge waste of taxpayer money for us to even be contemplating it."
[5:00] Schmeiser v Monsanto
St.Louis based biotechnology corporation Monsanto markets agricultural products and systems to farmers around the world. In addition, Monsanto's products have been used as weapons; the US military released over 19 million gallons of Monsanto’s patented Agent Orange defoliant over South Vietnam during the Vietnam War in order to exterminate layers of jungle foliage. The release of dioxins by the use of this potent herbicide have since caused lung and larynx cancer in the local Vietnamese population.
Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s most popular herbicide, has been sprayed over Colombia agricultural fields by the US government in its self-named “Plan Colombia,” for the stated purposes of destroying coca plants. In the process, Roundup has also effectively obliterated acres of Colombian subsistence crops like manioc, corn, and banana. Roundup fumigation has also severely jeopardized the health of Colombian campesinos.
In North America, Roundup is frequently used on farms. Roundup Ready Canola, a genetically modified seed manufactured to grow in the presence of Roundup herbicide, is one popular example. In 2000, a Bruno, Saskatchewan farmer, Percy Schmeiser, found himself faced with a patent violation lawsuit by Monsanto for the appearance of Roundup Ready canola seeds on his fields. Schmeiser denied ever having planted the seed. Monsanto maintained that Schmeiser owed them $15 per acre of seed on his land, regardless of how the seed appeared there, even if prairie winds may have caused it to travel across from another farm. Schmeiser countersued Monsanto in 2000. In 2004’s Schmeiser vs Monsanto Canada case, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto’s assertion of patent rights. Schmeiser won a partial victory, as the court rescinded his fees to Monsanto, but he was still forced to pay his legal fees.
This past February 14th, Schmeiser spoke on Friday Morning After on CKUT Radio Montreal. He describes his struggle with the agricultural giant Monsanto:
For more on Schmeiser's case, visit www.percyschmeiser.com. For more on consumer and farmer challenges to Monsanto, visit www.corpwatch.org.
[1:30] Chad/Sudan Crises
On Thursday, Oxfam, and other international humanitarian groups, warned the international community about the real threat of an infectious disease outbreak, like cholera, if the on-going violence in Eastern Chad does not stop soon. Then Friday, the UN warned of a possible genocide facing the country, comparable to Rwanda and Darfur.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Darfur in 2003, more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees have sought shelter in eastern Chad. In addition to the Sudanese refugees, an estimated 120,000 people from other regions of Chad have fled their homes in response to attacks on villages by warring groups and are seeking refuge in eastern Chad. This influx of people is creating dangerous over crowding, violence and a severe shortage of water.
Not only has the violence from Darfur spilled over the border, with Chad saying Sudan government-backed Janjaweed militias have killed hundreds and left 110,000 people homeless, the ethnic violence has also spread within Chad to militia groups, some supported by the government.
Like Sudan, eastern Chad is comprised of mostly Arab groups and black Africans. Also like Sudan, the competition between these groups for water and land has led to armed conflict and displacement. The Chadian government, said to be too busy fighting rebel insurgents, has done little to stop the violence caused by these militias.
The escalating violence has made it very difficult for international aid and peace teams to remain in the area and provide services. Oxfam has asked the UN Security Council to take [quote] urgent and immediate [end quote] action to protect civilians caught up in the armed conflict. The UN Security Council is in the beginning stages of discussing the possibility of sending peacekeeping forces into Chad, but the decision is not expected to be made immediately.
[3:00] Colombian Activist Murdered
After dedicating her life to land reclamation for displaced campesinos, Yolanda Izquierdo was murdered, on January 31st 2007, by the paramilitary forces she had been fighting against. In the 1990s, Fidel CastaÃ±o a paramilitary leader violently drove off Izquierdo from her farm in Valencia, Cordoba, which is located in the Northwest region of the country. Sixteen years later, she joined with hundreds of other displaced families and became a leader of the Organizacion Popular de Vivienda (OPV) in Cordoba. With the OPV, she worked effectively to obtain housing for numerous displaced families.
Under the Colombian Justice and Peace Law, Paramilitaries are required to return land that they had obtained by force or threat of force. However, this law has not been put into practice, as many families have been unable to reclaim their stolen land. The Justice and Peace Law also seeks to protect those fighting for land reclamation, yet it failed to save Yolanda Izquierdo.
Izquierdo had been the victim of several death threats since December 2006 and had previously reported them to the local authorities and requested protection. These threats are believed to have stemmed from her work representing survivors of paramilitary human rights violations at the demobilization hearing of paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso. Carlos Holguin, the minister of Interior, said the government had been aware that Izquierdo had received numerous death threats, yet the Ministry did nothing to protect her life.
Izquierdo’s assassination was the third crime committed against community leaders in less than two weeks. In another area of Colombia, Oscar Cuadrado Suarez, the leader of the association of displaced people from Guajira, was murdered, as was Gustavo Espitia, leader of the organization of displaced people in Cotorra, also in Cordoba.
People in Colombia and worldwide are calling for the Colombian government to take action to prevent more assassinations. In a statement issued on February 3rd, The US-based Colombia Support Network, called upon the Colombian government to quote "investigate this heinous murder, and to bring those responsible to justice. We also call upon the government to protect the OPV and its leaders and acknowledge their right to return to the lands they were forced to surrender. The paramilitary demobilization must not be in name only."
A statement released by Amnesty International echoed the sentiment of the Colombia Support Network, stating that (quote) "The killing was designed to silence those brave enough to speak out against the human rights violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed by paramilitaries such as Salvatore Mancuso, and by those who have supported the paramilitaries, either politically, economically or militarily..." unquote
The killing of Yolanda Izquierdo once again raises serious doubts about the Colombian government's supposed demobilization process for the 30,000 combatants and paramilitaries they claim are no longer in operation. Amnesty International has repeatedly warned that paramilitary groups continue to operate and violate human rights throughout the country, despite Colombian government assurances of demobilization.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
[7:30] Robert Bryan on Mumia Abu-Jamal's case
Mumia Abu-Jamal has been imprisoned on Pennsylvania's death row for over 25 years. An independent radio journalist and former Black Panther member in Philadelphia, he was charged in 1981 with the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner, and convicted in a trial which has been widely criticized as unfair and tainted by racism. Since then he has been fighting for a new trial, and he has continued his radio work as a weekly commentator from his cell at the State Correctional Institution in Greene County, about 60 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.
Robert Bryan, the lead lawyer for Jamal, will be speaking in Pittsburgh this week to present an update on this internationally-known capital case, in particular the important constitutional issues that will be heard this winter or spring by the Federal Third Circuit Appeals Court. This decision is considered Mumia's best, and last, chance for a new trial. Speaking along with Bryan will be CMU professor Johanna Fernandez, and audiences will also hear recorded remarks from Mumia.
Before his upcoming visit to Pittsburgh, Robert Bryan spoke to Rustbelt Radio about the issues he is appealing before the Federal Court in order to get Mumia Abu-Jamal a new trial.
That was Robert Bryan, lead counsel for Pennsylvania death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal. He'll be speaking this week in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University and at the University of Pittsburgh.
[25:00] James Yee in Guantanamo
James Yee is a third generation Chinese American. His family has a background in the military, and Yee himself is a graduate of the US military academy at West Point.
Yee was deployed to Saudi Arabia at the end of the First Gulf War. There his interest in the Islamic religion grew, and he converted to Islam in 1991.
From 1993-2000, Yee spent his time studying Islam. Then in 2000 he was accepted back into active duty and in January of 2001 he began to serve as a Muslim Chaplain. Yee spent the following months advising Muslim soldiers in the military. In November 2002, recognition of his outstanding efforts led him to be handpicked to act as the Muslim Chaplain for Guantanamo Bay. There he would counsel the soldiers and 660 detainees who he met upon his arrival at Guantanamo Bay. Today, approximately 400 of those men still remain.
Today, Rustbelt Radio will take a look at the abuses James Yee witnessed while on duty in Guantanamo and his efforts to create a more tolerant environment.
First, Yee describes his role at Guantanamo Bay, the structure of the prison camp, and how the detainee's religious beliefs were used against them.
yee clip1 (6:10)
yee clip 2 (18:00)
You have been listening to James Yee, former US Muslim Chaplain at Guantanamo Bay. Stay tuned to Rustbelt Radio next week, for the follow up on what happened to Yee upon his return to the United States.
Calendar of Events
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
On Tuesday the 20th, B-PEP and 1 Hood will have a planning work session to discuss violence in Pittsburgh's communities. It will take place at the Hill House on Centre Avenue at 6:00 pm.
Also on this Tuesday, and every third Tuesday of the month, Rustbelt Radio will host our monthly audio production workshop. New Rustbelt Radio volunteers and the general public are welcome to attend. We will begin at 8pm at our office, 5125 Penn Avenue, 3rd floor.
This week Mumia Abu Jamal's lawyer Robert R. Bryan, will update and discuss the issues in this ongoing case. In addition to Bryan's discussion, the program will feature a commentary about Malcolm X, via CD, by Mumia himself. This even will be held Wednesday, February 21st at 7:30 PM in room 136A of the ADAMSON WING and again on Thursday, the 22nd at 12:00 PM at the Moot Court Located in the Pitt School of Law.
Thursday, Feb. 22, join Pitt's Africana Studies Department for the 1st in a 3 part series that will explore issues surrounding diamond mining. This event will be held at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium in Oakland at 7pm.
God Grew Tired of Us, a film which documents Sudanese Lost Boys and their new lives in the US, including in Pittsburgh, will continue every night this week at the Regent Square Theater. For showtimes go to pgh filmmakers.org
This Friday in Pittsburgh is the Critical Mass monthly bike ride. Meet at the dinosaur at the Carnegie Library in Oakland at 5:30 to join the ride.
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WVJW Benwood and WPTS Pittsburgh.
Our hosts this week are Tracy Braswell and Carlin Christy with contributions from Veronica Milliner, Natalia PatiÃ±o, Andalusia Knoll, Carlin Christy, Vani Natarajan, Matt Toups, Diane Amdor, and Lizzie Anderson. This week's show was produced by Donald Deeley and Deren Guler. 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.