On this week's show...
* locals react to the Federal Appeals Court hearing in Philadelphia for Mumia Abu-Jamal
* Earth First activists in Southern Indiana challenge the new NAFTA Superhighway in their region
* Author and ecologist Sandra Steingraber speaks about the connections between environmental and human health
* the Coalition of Immokalee Workers wins another battle for farmworkers
* and more in our 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...
locals react to the Federal Appeals Court hearing in Philadelphia for Mumia Abu-Jamal
Earth First activists in Southern Indiana challenge the new NAFTA Superhighway in their region
Author and ecologist Sandra Steingraber speaks about the connections between environmental and human health
the Coalition of Immokalee Workers wins another battle for farmworkers
and more in our 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 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.
[6:30] Federal appeals court hearing for Mumia Abu-Jamal
On May 17th, hundreds of people gathered outside of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to hear the oral arguments presented by attorneys on the controversial case of radio journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal, who is currently on death row, was convicted of murder for the 1981 shooting of police officer Daniel Faulkner, and he is now in his final appeals arguing that he was not given a fair trial. The main point of argument was whether or not racism played any role in swaying the mostly white jury's opinion at the original trial.
Outside the courtroom, Johanna Fernandez, a member of the Pittsburgh Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, gave us her reaction to the hearing:
While the court heard oral arguments, there were several lively marches around the courthouse by supporters from all over the east coast. After the hearing, people marched to city hall demanding a new trial.
Martha Connely, who is also from Pittsburgh, had this to add:
Mumia's attorneys add that racially biased jury selection was a widespread practice and that numerous other Philadelphia murder trials from the same period have successfully argued for a new trial.
The appeals court judges may take months to issue a decision. Abu-Jamal may be granted a new trial, or the court may decide if he will face the death penalty or life in prison.
[3:50] Liz Shropshire Music Foundation visits Pittsburgh
Children in war-affected countries are forced to live with physical threats and psychological damages due to the presence of violence and hate. Liz Shropshire spoke in Squirrel Hill this past Saturday about her efforts to help these children. In 1999, Shropshire utilized her musical experience and formed the Shropshire Music Foundation. The foundation conducts youth music classes in foreign countries with the goal of teaching children peace through music.
Here, Shropshire discusses the first time she used music to teach students in the schools and camps within Kosovo and the influence it had on the local children.
The foundation provides children in Northern Ireland, Uganda, and Kosovo with free instruments and musical instruction. Classes provide creative opportunities while fostering communication and understanding among ethnic communities in these countries. As Liz Shropshire explains, the classes are meant to [quote] show that the path of peace brings happiness and security, that weapons do not equal power, and that violence is not the answer [unquote].
More from Shropshire on the primary lesson she hopes all her students walk away with:
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.
[5:00] US health care report
The Commonwealth fund, a nonpartisan foundation that supports independent research on health and social issues, released a report last week on the performance of US health care in comparison with Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The US is the only one of these countries lacking universal health insurance coverage.
What they found was that the US health system is the most expensive in the world, but still ranks last or next-to-last on all five of the following dimensions of a high performance health care system: access, quality, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives. The US health care system was also found to be lacking in its utilization of information technology; its use of nurses to improve care coordination for the chronically ill; and in national policies that promote quality improvement.
In conclusion, the report states that (quote) if the health care system is to perform according to patients' expectations, the nation will need to remove financial barriers to care and improve the delivery of care. Disparities in terms of access to services signal the need to expand insurance to cover the uninsured and to ensure that all Americans have an accessible medical home (end quote).
Rustbelt Radio spoke with Ed Grystar, the co-chair of the Western PA Coalition for Single-Payer Health care, about the health care crisis in this country and what they see as a solution:
Coming off of the heels of April's successful campaign against McDonald's, The Coalition of Immokalee workers is now claiming yet another victory in its fight for fair wages in the tomato fields of Florida.
YUM! Brands, the owner of Taco Bell, announced last Friday that they will expand the agreement reached in 2005 to other chains under the YUM Brands umbrella including Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's, KFC, and A&W All-American Food Restaurants.
In 2005, after a four year campaign organized by the Coalition of Immokalee workers and the Student-Farmworker Alliance, Taco Bell agreed to pay workers a penny more per pound for tomatoes. Yum! began widening the program to its other restaurants several months ago, but announced the change at its shareholders meeting on Thursday May 17th.
While the majority of YUM's tomato purchases are made for the Taco Bell chain, Yum! vice president Jonathan Blum stated, "Nonetheless, it's an important thing to be supportive of the CIW, and we hope other restaurants and supermarkets will follow suit."
Lucas Benitez, a co-founder of the coalition, said he was happy with Yum!'s decision and added “We hope Burger King will join next."
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Student Farmworker Alliance have been boycotting and organizing to pressure Burger King to meet their fair wage demands since claiming victory against McDonald's in April. So far, Burger King has not made attempts to discuss the amount of money paid for tomatoes with the CIW, and has stated that it cannot control or track what its suppliers pay their workers. The company did offer the CIW opportunities for the farmworkers to work in the Burger King restaurants.
Lucas Benitez stated in response: “When presented with the opportunity to take a stand against the exploitation of farmworkers in their home state, Burger King executives refused. Instead, incredibly, they actually offered to address farmworker poverty by re-training tomato pickers to work in Burger King’s restaurants – eliminating farmworker poverty by eliminating farmworkers – adding insult to injury with such an obviously unworkable, and frankly pretty ridiculous, idea.”
[3:30] Port of Oakland shut down by war protesters
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On May 19th, a community picket at the Port of Oakland in California shut down the shipping operations of the war cargo shipping firm Stevadoring Services of America. Dock workers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 refused to cross the community picket line. When scores of picketers blocked the gates at the SSA terminal beginning at 7 a.m., the company eventually gave up and called off the shift. In the evening, an arbitrator ruled that this was not a bona fide “health and safety issue” and ordered the workers to go to work. However, the dock workers collectively refused. One longshoreman insisted that there was indeed a safety issue because of the heavy police presence. On April 7th, 2003, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq began, police shot pointblank at protesters and longshoremen at the same docks, injuring six ILWU members.
Yesterday’s picket line was called by a “popular front” coalition of antiwar groups, the Port Action Committee, rather than a labor group. PAC includes the Oakland Green Party and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). Oakland’s Democratic mayor Ron Dellums sent a sympathetic letter to the Port Action Committee.
A diverse group of activists attended the picket:
Those were interviews by Berkely Liberation Radio at the Port of Oakland community picket against war profiteering.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
That was "Free Mumia" by KRS-ONE featuring Channel Live.
[8:00] I-69 Resistance in Indiana
Interstate-69, known as the NAFTA Superhighway, is a controversial system of roads that will link the United States to Mexico and Canada to ensure the free flow of goods and capital from all parts of North America.
However, I-69 isn't a road system that is confined to US borders. As envisioned by the North American Free Trade Agreement, the I-69 system will link up with mega-highways in Canada, and also Mexico, where the road and infrastructure project is known as Plan Puebla Panama. Plans are also in the works to further link this network of roads to South America, via the IIRSA project. IIRSA is the "Integration of Infrastructure in the Region of South America."
The major goal of all of these road and infrastructure projects is to further free trade in the western hemisphere. The implementation of these systems will destroy huge swaths of natural land, open large areas to development, fragment natural ecosystems with barriers impassable to wildlife, and displace hundreds of thousands of people who live along the proposed routes. Those opposed to the NAFTA super highway and other mega-projects state that these projects will also lead to further exploitation of poor people in Latin America, who have already been suffering under the expansion of capitalism, free trade agreements, and policies of institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Inter-American Development Bank.
Here in the US, the super-highway has been constructed in Indiana and Texas. Several other states are waiting for the funding to begin construction in their areas. Earth First activists in Indiana are organizing community residents who live along a portion of the I-69 route which is set to begin construction in Fall of 2008.
We spoke with Gina of Road Block Earth First who describes what the particular effects will be in the Southern Indiana region, where the new interstate road will save a mere 13 minutes for drivers traveling from Evansville to Indianapolis:
gina 1 (0:41)
Activists have been reaching out to community residents in Bloomington and other parts of southern Indiana. Recently the group went on a 90-mile bike tour of the area that will be destroyed if construction begins.
Gina 2 (2:46)
Gina describes one of the obstacles the state of Indiana faces in the construction of their portion of I-69.
Gina 3 (0:37)
Finally, Gina discusses another key aspect of their fight to stop I-69 in the US.
Gina 4 (0:50)
For more information on Roadblock Earth First’s fight against the NAFTA Superhighway, visit: http://i69news.bee-town.com
The Roadblock Earth First group will be hosting this summer’s earth first redezvous. It will be held from July 2nd-8th in Southern Indiana. And from June 29 to July 1st, they will host a transgendered and women’s action training camp in Bloomington. For more information on these events, visit their website at earthfirst.B-E-E hyphen town.com (http://earthfirst.bee-town.com)
[22:00] Sandra Steingraber
Now we'll hear from Sandra Steingraber, who spoke at a conference on Women's Health and the Environment held in Pittsburgh on April 20th. Steingraber is an ecologist, cancer survivor, and mother; who investigates the connections between environmental and human health. She is author of the books "Living Downstream" and "Having Faith".
Steingraber on how she came to work in the emerging field of fetal toxicology:
Steingraber described the impacts chemical exposures can have at every step of fetal development.
Steingraber's investigation into the root causes and health impacts of early puberty in girls will be published next month in a scientific monograph that is freely available to the public. Audio and video of the other speakers at the Women's Health and the Environment Conference are also available from their website, www.Women's Health Pittsburgh.org.
Calendar of Events
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
This Tuesday the 22nd at 8pm, Rustbelt Radio offers Audio Production Skills training - technical skills workshop on digital audio equipment, field recording, and editing. It will be held at our office, located at 5125 Penn Avenue in Garfield, on the 3rd floor. For more information call 412-923-3000 or email email@example.com
On Wednesday the 23rd at 7pm, six Iraq war veterans will stop in Pittsburgh on their way to New York for an ‘Operation Casualty’. Come hear them speak on their opposition to the war and the growing GI anti-war movement. For more information contact Paul Abernathy, at p_abernathy@ hotmail.com.
At 6:30 on Wednesday the 24th, Join Pgh Friends of Animals for a Film & Discussion on the movie "Animals -- Friend or Food?". This will be held at the William Pitt Union in Dining Room A of the University of Pittsburgh.
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WVJW Benwood and WPTS Pittsburgh.
Our hosts this week are Andalusia Knoll and Matt Toups with contributions from Lizzie Anderson, Carlin Christy, Jessica McPherson, Veronica Milliner, and Matt Toups. 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.