community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * Students take to the street in Pittsburgh for the national walk-out in support of the Jena 6 * A discussion on the role of Latinos in the new Ken Burns documentary, "The War" * Pittsburgh's local Peace & Justice Center faces financial difficulties * Costa Ricans get ready for a referendum vote on CAFTA * 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 is broadcast live from WRCT studios every Monday at 6 PM on 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, and the program airs again on WRCT every Tuesday morning at 9AM.
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We turn now to local stories.
Last week, Wal-Mart announced it will not develop the proposed superstore in Kilbuck Township, located on Route 65 just outside of Pittsburgh. Over one year ago, a massive landslide occured at the site, dumping thousands of tons of dirt and debris across the 4-lane road. One lane of Route 65 still remains closed due to the landslide.
Wal-Mart has met with the state Department of Environmental Protection to review its stabilization plan. The development site would be converted to a pre-development, natural sloping condition that includes trees and vegetation. The retailer said the revised plans address many of the concerns expressed by the DEP, elected officials and the public about future development of the 75-acre site along the Ohio River.
Wal-Mart said it will continue to explore "other opportunities for growth throughout the greater Pittsburgh area."
"We all Live in Jena" was the rallying cry for students who walked out of classes today at dozens of schools across the country in solidarity with the Jena 6.
Hundreds of university and high school students marched in Pittsburgh and numerous other US cities today, Monday the 1st. The marchers demand that that all charges be dropped against the Jena 6, six black male students in Jena, Lousiana who were involved in a schoolyard fight after fellow white students hung three nooses in a tree. The six black students were charged with attempted murder while the white students received little punishment. Their case has become emblematic of blatant racism in the criminal justice system.
Amira Rahim, a University of Pittsburgh student organizer, explains the phrase "We all live in Jena."
Deshaun Davis historically contextualizes the case of the Jena 6.
In addition to demanding that all charges be dropped, students are also calling for an investigation of District Attorney Reed Walters, the Judge and School Superintendent handling the case of the Jena 6.
There has already been one victory in the case: the first of the six to be tried, Mychal Bell, had his adult conviction overturned and will be re-tried in juvenile court. Mychal Bell was also set free on bail last Thursday after spending the last nine months in jail. The other five students are also awaiting trial.
On Monday October 1st hundreds of students from local universities and high schools took to the streets to show support for the Jena 6. Marching from CMU, Chatham, Pitt, Carlow, Duquesne, and other schools, they took a message to the courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh, demanding justice in the Jena 6 case and in cases of racism and police brutality closer to home.
That was Rustbelt Radio's report from Monday afternoon's march in Pittsburgh to support the Jena 6.
In the November 2008 elections, Pennsylvania residents might have the opportunity to vote on whether or not to virtually eliminate school property taxes by increasing sales and personal income taxes.
James J. Rhoades, a Republican state senator from Eastern PA and also chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has come up with the new tax proposal. If passed, Rhoades says it would generate $9 billion in additional revenue. It would also make this state have the highest sales tax rate in the nation with 55 counties at 9.19 percent and 10.19 percent in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties. The personal income tax would jump from 3.07 to 4.36 percent.
With this change, 305 school districts would see the elimination of property taxes from both homeowners and businesses, while the other 196 districts would have their property taxes cut by an average of 96%. The school districts would be given $5,000 for each student enrolled, or an amount equal to 100% of their property tax revenues.
Calling it a radical idea, Governor Rendell has said he doesn’t think that (quote) we should totally eliminate the property tax…it’s a stable tax (end quote) with predictable outcomes.
Democratic representative David Levdansky has another plan to raise the sales tax by 0.5 percent and the personal income tax by 3.29 percent, fearing that the large sales tax Rhoades proposes (quote) will have a negative impact on consumer spending (end quote).
Calling this decision a difficult one, Rhoades has said (quote) the decision should be up to [the people], so let's allow them to make it (end quote).
The Thomas Merton Center is a hub of progressive and radical activities in the city of Pittsburgh. For over 3 decades it has served as an outlet to protest war, oppression, poverty, and injustice in Pittsburgh and throughout the world. It currently is home to 26 different projects, ranging from anti-war, to reproductive justice, to transit equity. Now in its 35th year, the Center is facing unanticipated costs that resulted from repairs to their building on Penn Avenue. Kevin Amos, the Communications Director of the Merton Center, explains the financial situation:
Kevin has been involved with projects of the Thomas Merton Center since he was in his teens. Working as a community organizer for decades, and now as a staff member of the Center, Kevin discusses the significance of the TMC to the progressive community in Pittsburgh:
Kevin discusses the ways people can help out the Center during their financial crisis:
The Merton Center will host its annual dinner on November 15th, where they will present the 35th Thomas Merton Award to Cindy Sheehan. For more information or to make a donation, go to www. thomas merton center. org.
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 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.
The Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, has been approved by 6 of the 7 affected countries. Costa Rica remains the only one yet to ratify the trade agreement. Public opposition to CAFTA is widespread in Costa Rica, and now the Costa Rican government has set up a referendum vote on the free trade agreement to be held this Sunday October 7th. It will be a "yes" or "no" vote similar to U.S. ballot propositions.
DR-CAFTA was passed as an international treaty in 2005 between the U.S., four Central American countries, and the Dominican Republic. El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Honduras implemented the agreement in 2006. Now, Costa Rica's approval of CAFTA is seen as an integral part of completing the trade agreement, and expanding Free Trade throughout the Americas. However, opposition to CAFTA has been the strongest in Costa Rica, where it citizens enjoy a higher standard of living than other Central American countries.
The government dropped efforts for a full Congressional vote in the Senate early this year after continued protest actions against the treaty, including a two-day general strike last October. Former Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias was re-elected President last December as a pro-CAFTA candidate. He defeated an anti-CAFTA candidate by a slim margin, and is under heavy pressure by the Bush Administration to get the treaty passed.
Fabian Pacheco Rodriguez, President of the Costa Rican Federation for the Conservation of the Environment (FECON) and son of former Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco, spoke last month in San Francisco in order to draw support for Costa Rica;s CAFTA opposition movement. Fabian describes the current climate in Costa Rica, and one of the major sticking points for the people, which is the regulation of seeds.
This referendum to be held on Sunday will be the first time any population has voted on a free trade agreement and Costa Rica has until March 2008 to ratify the treaty.
The Sixth Commission of the EZLN, or Zapatista Army of National Liberation, has canceled plans for the Other Campaign’s second stage tour to central and southern Mexico. In place of the tour, which was scheduled for October, November and December, 2007, they will hold civil and peaceful actions in defense of the Zapatista communities in the Southern Mexican state of Chiapas. The Other Campaign was initiated during the Mexican presidential election season last year. Mexican and global adherents are using the Other Campaign as a way to organize groups working from the left and from below to create alternatives to formal political systems dominated by supporters of neoliberal globalization and capitalism.
A delegation of the Zapatista Command will still travel to the territory of the Yaqui tribe in Sonora, Mexico on October 11th to participate in the Encuentro of the Indian Peoples of America. The encuentro will be a historic event, bringing together delegates and representatives of the original peoples of the American continent to know each other directly.
Native Americans have faced the eradication of their culture for hundreds of years. In August of 1863, Konkow Maidu Indians were forced to walk the Nome Cult Trail, also known as the Konkow Trail of Tears. On August 28th all Konkow Maidu were to be at the Bidwell Ranch to be taken to the Round Valley Reservation in Mendocino County. Any Indians remaining in the area were to be shot. 435 people were rounded up and marched under guard west out of the Sacramento Valley and through to the Coastal Range. 461 Indians started the trek, but only 277 finished, reaching Round Valley three weeks later, on September 18, 1863.
As elders pass on, the histories and stories of many Native tribes, like the Konkow are slowly being forgotten. However, the Konkow tribe in California is trying to honor the memory of their ancestors, by reliving their history.
Christina Aanestad brings us this story from KZYX Community News.:
Thanks to Christina Aanestad for that report.
According to a new report, the Interior Department is allowing many companies that drill for oil and gas on federal lands to underpay the government. The report says that the Minerals Management Service, the Interior department program that oversees corporate drilling on federal lands, is mismanaged. It also states that ethical lapses and retaliation against whistle-blowers are common within the service. The report comes from a review of the Minerals Management Service by the Interior Department’s inspector general, Earl Devaney. It was requested after four staff members complained that senior officials had blocked them from pursuing money from oil companies that underpaid the government.
The four staff members were auditors for the Service, whose jobs are to ensure that finances are correct between the government and the companies that lease rights to drill for oil and gas on federal land. Companies typically pay 12% of their sales revenue back to the government; however, the Clinton and Bush administrations reduced that percentage, a move justified by the argument that promoting drilling on American lands decreases dependence on foreign oil. The four auditors filed a lawsuit claiming that they were prevented from pursuing 22 companies that underpaid the government, totaling in a loss of billions of dollars. All the auditors either lost their jobs or were demoted to menial positions after the lawsuit became public.
Two auditors in Oklahoma City, Randall Little and Lanis Morris, said that senior officials had refused to demand $1.5 million in back interest from oil companies caught underpaying. Because the Minerals Management Service’s computer systems are not actually capable of calculating the bills of companies, the service had to ask the oil company to calculate the bills itself; senior officials decided that this request would have been a “hardship” and simply did not pursue the underpayments.
The report was the latest in a long series of investigations into the Minerals Management Service. Last year, Inspector Devaney told a Congressional hearing that (quote) short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior. (endquote) Also, in 2006, the department made it public that the government might lose about $10 billion in revenue over the next decade because of a legal mistake in oil and gas leases that had been ignored for six years.
Last Week as the UN convened it’s general assembly, hundreds of world leaders gathered in New York City. The attendee who garnered the most media attention was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with newspaper headlines reading “evil has landed” to announce his arrival. Colombia University’s decision to invite him to speak as part of a World Leaders Forum drew widespread protest. In his speech at the University he rebuked Israel for their treatment of Palestinians, said further research needs to be done about the Nazi Holocaust and denied the existence of homosexuals in Iran. As he spoke hundreds of people gathered to protest him. Many also gathered around the campus to express their opposition to a U.S. war with Iran.
Bob Parsons of “The World Can’t Wait: Drive Out the Bush regime” questioned the jingoistic attitude of many of the protestors.
Some of those who came to protest Ahmadinejad’s appearance felt that the Anti-War protestors were being supportive of the Iranian President. Mary Lou Greenberg of the Revolutionary Communist Party disagreed and said one doesn’t need to choose sides.
One man, was wearing an Iran shirt and explained the treatment he received from protestors.
While most were there to protest Ahmadinejad’s appearance, there were some who came to support him. One woman questioned members of the American Left who see Ahmadinejad as an ally.
A fews days after Ahmadinejad’s appearance in New York City the Senate approved a measure that urges the State Department to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Senators Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Jon Kyl of Arizona said the amendment is threatening to “combat, contain and [stop]” Iran via ‘military instruments.” The final Senate vote on the amendment was seventy-six to twenty-two with Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton voting in favor of the measure and Barak Obama abstaining.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
Last week, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Rangoon, Burma to protest the military government. These demonstrations are part of the largest wave of uprising against the violence of the Burmese state since 1988's student-led protests. Buddhist monks, university students, workers, and others have participated actively. Protests began last month in direct response to the Burmese government's decision to raise fuel prices.
To explore the impact of British colonial rule on the current government and its treatment of Burma’s ethnically diverse communities, we bring you part of a piece by the National Radio Project. The show features voices of women organizers from the Karen community, living on the border between Burma and Thailand:
As protests continue this week in the Burmese cities of Rangoon and Mandalay, security forces have cracked down on dissent by using artillery to break up crowds, halting cell phone and internet connections, conducting arrests of over 700 monks, raiding and locking down monasteries, and killing and wounding civilians as young as nine years old. The government has also declared nighttime curfews and prohibited gatherings of more than five people. Still, despite the obstacles, journalists and bloggers have documented the atrocities.
Last week, President Bush announced a tightening of US sanctions against Burma. While Bush has framed this move as a statement against human rights abuses, Slate Magazine's Jay Singh writes, "the State Department last year estimated that U.S. import sanctions cost up to 60,000 Burmese textile workers their jobs." According to UNICEF, US sanctions against Iraq from 1990 to 2003 caused the deaths of at least 500,000 children, due to malnutrition, lack of medicines, and lack of clean water.
Street artists around the world are showing solidarity with the protests in Burma. Bright orange silhouettes of marching Buddhist monks have appeared on the walls of buildings in cities such as Bangkok and Philadelphia. The mass stenciling project is known as Saffron Revolution Worldwide, in honor of the color of monks' robes. You can download your own stencil image for free from saffronrevolutionworldwide.blogspot.com.
Thanks to the National Radio Project for audio used in this piece. To hear more, visit www.radioproject.org. And stay tuned to future editions of Rustbelt Radio for updates on Burma.
Last November, after a preview screening of Ken Burns' 14 and a half hour World War II documentary "The War," Dr. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez tried to find out why there was no representation of Latinos in the film.
Dr. Rivas-Rodriguez, of defend the honor dot org and project director of the U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project, talked to KPFT about the struggle with Ken Burns, why WWII was important to Latinos, and why it's important for Latinos to be represented in the film. She begins by describing what she learned after asking why Latinos weren't included in the documentary.
That was Dr. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez of defend the honor dot org. For more information about Latinos in WWII and the struggle with Ken Burns film, you can visit defend the honor dot org. Special thanks to KPFT's Radio Objectif Magazine for that audio.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Our hosts this week are Carlin Christy and Phill Cresswell with contributions from Carlin Christy, Vani Natarajan, Lizzie Anderson, Jessica McPherson, Diane Amdor, Andalusia Knoll, Matt Toups, and Don Deeley. This week's show was produced by Matt Toups. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
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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.