community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * Two stories of victory - locally, prisoners boycott poisonous food. And in national news, Baltimore stadium cleaners will receive a living wage. * Pro-democracy protests continue in Burma, as monks hold authorities hostage following police and paramilitary brutality * Professor Norman Finkelstein speaks about the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History and Academic Freedom * Pittsburgh shows support for the Jena Six * and more in our local and global headlines
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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...
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 at 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 stories.
At the beginning of August, 80 percent of the prison population at the State Correctional Institution in Fayette County boycotted the dining hall for three days in protest of food that was making people ill. Around 200 prisoners and correctional officers were suffering from nausea, diarrhea and stomach pain that lasted from 2 days to a week. Reports say the final straw came when the warden sent a memo out to the prisoners declaring that the food was not the cause of their illnesses. Kitchen workers found long expired food labels in the trash, and brought them out of the kitchen for others to see. Word went out that for three days, Monday through Wednesday, no one was to go to the dining hall for meals. However, this was not technically a hunger strike because people were willing to eat food purchased at the commissary.
1,700 out of 2,000 prisoners participated in the boycott. A meeting was held between the prison administration and representatives of the prisoners. Eye witnesses saw a large amount of food from the kitchen thrown into two dumpsters, and also reported that the quality of food has increased dramatically since this large scale non-violent protest.
On Wednesday August 22nd the Pittsburgh Public School Board voted to tighten restrictions on recruiters who visit district high schools.
The policy change, which was approved despite one "no" vote from Mark Brentley Sr., was driven by concerns about high-pressure tactics by military recruiters. Because federal law requires the military have the same access as other recruiters, the change also affects university and company recruiters as well.
Some of the provisions of the resolution include:
The board also ordered the creation of a system for logging complaints about recruiters. Over the objections of board members Mark Brentley and Randall Taylor, the board cut two provisions from the proposed policy. One would have limited recruiters from a given organization to four visits per high school per year; the other would have banned recruiters from serving as tutors or mentors, unless they were parents.
The board had also considered banning recruiting in cafeterias and hallways, but this did not make it into the final policy. Under the resolution, Principals will determine where recruiters may interact with students.
The Pittsburgh Organizing Group kicked off a month long fast against the war on Tuesday, September fourth. Members of the group will consume nothing but water until September 30th as part of “End the War FAST”, while maintaining a 24-hour presence in front of the Armed Forces Career Center on Forbes Avenue in Oakland.
POG organizer Alex Bradley explained the significance of this location to the local anti-war movement as well as why this month may represent a turning point:
Though the group applied for a permit from the city well in advance of the event, shortly before the fast was to begin POG found out that they would only receive a permit for the first 24 hours. At as press conference held immediately after that permit expired, organizer Laney Trautman explained that the fast would continue:
During the first 24 hours of the fast, picketers were penned in within two fences erected by the city public works department. Once the permit expired, the fences were removed, but the protest continued. Two days later, on Friday evening, one faster received a citation for lying down without a permit, and on Saturday at 5 AM another faster was arrested for camping out without a permit. Later that day a scheduled picket outside the recruiting station went on as scheduled.
The next event in POG's month-long “End War FAST” will be a Candlelight Vigil on September 11th. The vigil will begin at 8 p.m. At the dinosaur by the Carnegie Library in Oakland. Then on Saturday, September 15th, while people from around the country march in DC against the war, there will be an anti-war march in Pittsburgh. The event will begin with a rally in Oakland at Forbes Ave and S. Bouquet St. at 2pm.
Six black teenagers in Jena, Louisiana are in a fight for their lives. The teenagers -- known as the "Jena Six" -- have been targeted by LaSalle Parish's district attorney Reed Walters. Walters has vowed to "seek the maximum penalty allowed by law" for a school fight that resulted in a white schoolmate being treated for injuries at a hospital and released that same day.
The school fight is linked to a number of earlier incidents of white-on-black harassment, intimidation and assault, including last fall when three nooses were hung by white students from a shade tree in the Jena High School courtyard. The day before, a black student sat under the tree, where historically only white students sat.
Superintendent Roy Breithaupt called the noose incident a (quote) "silly prank". He gave the white students three days of in-school suspension, against the principal's suggestion of expulsion. The black students protested the lack of responsiveness by school administrators with an impromptu gathering under the shade tree.
At a school assembly district attorney Walters, angered by the black students' protest, threatened to take their lives away (quote) "with the stroke of a pen."
On September 20, Mychal Bell -- the first of the Jena Six to be convicted -- is scheduled for sentencing. If Walters has it his way Bell will serve the maximum sentence of 15 years for aggravated second-degree battery.
The families of the Jena Six report that Mychal Bell did not receive proper or fair representation from his public defender, Blane Williams. Bell was tried before an all white jury, and without the benefit of the presumption of innocence. Furthermore, Bell's public defender didn't call a single witnesses in Bell's defense.
Thousands of people will be in Jena to rally for Bell and the other defendants on September 20. The organizers of the event say it will (quote) "help focus media attention on the situation in Jena, escalate pressure on Louisiana public officials, and most importantly, show the families of the Jena 6, especially Mychal Bell and his parents, that we will stand with them in the face of injustice."
Locally, Bret Grote is helping to organize a group of local supporter who'll be making the trip from Pittsburgh to the "Justice in Jena!" rally in Louisiana:
There will be a benefit for the Jena trip on Saturday the 15th at Belvedere's on Butler St. in Lawrenceville at 9:00 pm. Those looking for a ride to the rally in Jena Louisiana can contact Grote at 412-654-9070. Anyone planning to attend the Justice in Jena! rally is encouraged to RSVP online at colorofchange.org/jena/rsvp.html. For more information on the Jena Six visit freethejena6.org.
For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.
[ HMB BREAK RUSTBELT - 0:20 (fades down 0:10 in to start global intro) ]
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.
Labor Day, 2007 marked a victory for day laborers in Baltimore, Maryland. Members and allies of the United Workers Association celebrated by postponing their Living Wages Hunger Strike, after the Maryland Stadium Authority announced its intention to pay cleaners at 'Camden Yards' and 'M and T Bank Stadium' a living wage.
Maryland recently passed a state-wide living wage law, which will take effect on October first. The living wage law will require state government contractors to pay employees eleven dollars and thirty cents an hour in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, and eight dollars and fifty cents across the rest of the state. Stadium cleaners currently earn seven dollars an hour. But the law applies only to employees who work thirteen consecutive weeks. The stadium cleaners work only during home games and are not covered under the law.
The United Workers Association has been struggling for higher wages for three years. Some workers are concerned that they will not benefit from their own hard work, as the job will seem more attractive with the higher wages. Greg Rosenthal, a spokesman for the association, said the group will work with the stadium authority to make sure current workers benefit from the pay increase. The United Workers are also bringing attention to working conditions at the stadiums. They were successful in convincing the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to initiate an investigation of cleaning subcontractors' unlawful labor practices earlier this year.
On Wednesday September 5th, Philadelphia Taxi Drivers with the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania went on a 24-hour strike in protest of new regulations which they say are a financial hardship. The Philadelphia Parking Authority, which began regulating cabs two years ago, is mandating the installation of GPS tracking devices in all taxis at drivers' expense, despite numerous problems with the system, provided by private contractor VeriFone Transportation Systems. Drivers also object to a mandated credit card system which will cost them 10% of each fare. In conjunction with the cabbie strike in Philadelphia, the Taxi Workers Alliance in New York City held a similar strike on the same day.
And on Friday in Philadelphia, security officers from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania led 100 protesters at the Bell Tower in the middle of Temple’s campus in a rally to make their case for five paid sick days. They are hoping to pressure Temple president Anne Weaver Hart to in turn put pressure on Allied Barton, the security company headed by Revlon owner Ronald Perelman. Allied Barton subcontracts security officers for both Temple and Penn as well as a number of other locations around the city. Perelman is also a contributor to both universities.
A group of Philadelphia clergy went to deliver a letter about the situation to Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart’s office, but found the usually public building locked and guarded by Temple Police Officers.
Although the Service Employee's International Union abruptly cancelled its campaign to organize Allied Barton guards in Philadelphia, the workers, their student allies, and Jobs for Justice have formed a minority union campaign that has already won victories. Last spring, the Philadelphia Officers and Workers Rising campaign pressured U. Penn to give sick days to their guards. The coalition will continue to fight for paid sick days for Temple's guards.
Thursday, September 6, monks from the Burmese town of Pakokku tore apart the home of a pro-government resident in response to violent repression of a peaceful demonstration by the monks on Wednesday.
Around 500 monks carrying signs and posters took to the streets on Wednesday to call for a repeal of recent fuel price increases and the release of political prisoners from recent demonstrations against the increases. They were met by government troops, police, and paramilitaries armed with clubs and rifles. Ten monks were arrested, one was severely beaten and taken to a hospital, where he later died.
Ten high-level local officials and military officers are now being detained by the monks in the monastery. The monks said if the authorities release the ten monks arrested on Wednesday and hand over the body of the monk who was killed, they will release the officials. After making these demands, the monks attacked the home of one pro-government official and an electronic store owned by the local secretary of the government supported 'Union Solidarity and Development Association'. The state-run newspaper “New Light of Myanmar” denounced the monks' actions, without mentioning the violent attack they endured earlier in the week. The newspaper warned, (quote) “any attempts to incite a situation similar to the 1988 unrest would be absolutely unacceptable to the people.” (end quote).
The Burmese situation has gained international attention following surprising demonstrations this year, on a scale not seen since 1988. For ongoing coverage of the monks and the situation in Pakokku, as well as other news from Burma and Southeast Asia, visit the Irawaddy News Magazine online, at www (dot) i-r-r-a-w-a-d-d-y (dot) org
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
On August 24th, more than 75 people gathered in the auditorium of the former Reizenstien Middle School building in East Liberty for a passionate discussion on the new partnership between Pittsburgh Public Schools and Community Education Partners. Also known as CEP, Community Education Partners is a for-profit, national company, which will operate a new school for 432 of Pittsburgh’s so-called "most disruptive" students.
The forum, put on by the Black Women’s Empowerment Institute, brought together administrative officials and concerned citizens for a panel and audience discussion. The panel portion of the event included a resident, school officials, a CEP employee and Fredrick Douglas from Urban Pathways.
Mark Brentley, who was one of only two school-board members to vote against this partnership, shares his thoughts on CEP.
Dr. Kaye Cupples, Pittsburgh Public Schools' director of support services, speaks on behalf of the city’s arrangement with CEP:
Randall Taylor, a member of the Board of Education who voted for the partnership, tells the crowd of his proposal:
After the representatives spoke, more than 20 audience members waited patiently in line to speak to the panelist about their concerns surrounding Community Education Partners.
Celtia Hickman, a teacher and parent, raised the question of community involvement and notification with both Dr. Cupples and then Mark Bentley giving a response:
When the members of the audience were asked to raise their hands if they had heard about the community meetings, 3 people did so.
Next, Dr. Cupples responds to a question about how the students will be chosen:
The legality of the contract was also brought into question:
The new school is set to begin this December in the former Clayton Elementary School on the Northside.
In recent years debates concerning ‘Academic Freedom” have swept through the hallways of American Universities and have targeted various prominent professors for their “liberal bias”. Professor Norman Finkelstein is one academic who has been targeted for his outspoken criticism of the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Lands. After being denied tenure this past June and having his class cancelled, he announced his resignation from DePaul University in Chicago on September 5th.
As a Political Science Professor at DePaul, Finkelstein has published many books including The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering and Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. In Septermber 2005 WNUR radio Chicago interviewed him about Academic Freedom and his latest book “Beyond Chutzpah (pronounce Hutz-pah): On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.
We now play an excerpt of this interview.
* finkelsteininterviewWNUR.ogg: 22:45
The full interview can be found on Norman Finkelsteins website at Normanfinkelstein.com and a Rustbelt Radio interview with Professor Finkelstein can be found on the March 21st 2005 show at radio.indypgh.org
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
[ 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 Carlin Christy with contributions from Diane Amdor, Carlin Christy, Lizzie Anderson, Matt Toups, Daniel Hammer, and Andalusia Knoll. This week's show was produced by Phill Cresswell. 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.
Rustbelt Radio for September 10, 2007 (ogg vorbis)
by Pittsburgh IMC: Rustbelt Radio collective Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2007 at 12:09 AM
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