community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * as a legal challenge strikes down part of Pennsylvania's Hate Crime legislation, tens of thousands march in DC to urge the US Dept. of Justice to defend the civil rights of African-Americans * workers in Florida fight for their rights...by taking to the sea * National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn, speaks about Michael Mukasey, the War on Terror, Pakistani President Musharraf and the Impeachment of George Bush. * Salvadoran Labor Union Leader Ricardo Calderon speaks about the failures of CAFTA and free trade, political repression of union organizers and resistance to corporate privatization of Salvadoran natural resources * 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.
We can also be heard weekly on the following stations:
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 from our website at radio dot I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot org.
We turn now to local stories.
Last week a state court struck down amendments to a Pennsylvania hate crimes law that addressed crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation or physical disabilities. The decision, hailed as a victory by the anti-gay Christian group who challenged it in court, was based on a legal technicality.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled 4-1 against the enactment of the 2002 amendment, because it did not retain the original purpose of a bill; namely issues of agricultural vandalism and crop destruction.
The plaintiff in the case, Michael Marcavage, is director of the organization Repent America and is one of eleven people who were arrested in 2004 while disrupting the event OutFest in Philadelphia. Marcavage said (quote) "Praise the Lord ... There's an agenda behind these laws, and it is to outlaw Christianity."
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has urged the legislature to immediately approve "appropriate legislation" reinstating the state's hate crime protections for gays. (quote) "It's important to note that the Commonwealth Court's decision was based on a procedural issue and not on the substance of the amendment," said Gov. Rendell.
Stay tuned to Rustbelt Radio for a report on last Friday's march in Washington, DC, when thousands criticized the Justice Department for failing to bring hate crime charges in recent attacks on African-Americans.
Once again, Pittsburgh’s designation as “America’s most livable city” is being disputed by local residents. This time, it was by Urban League president and CEO Esther Bush, who shared her thoughts during her annual State of Black Pittsburgh address which was held at CMU earlier this month.
Citing statistics for African-Americans on violence, educational achievement, health disparities and unemployment, she said that Blacks in Pittsburgh are far from living the American Dream: “Here in Western Pennsylvania, this dream is just short of a nightmare for too many African-Americans.”
Bush believes the solution to the racial disparities in the city include a concerted community effort to improve opportunities for young African-Americans, especially males, through education, mentoring, and building a regional commitment to creating a diverse workforce.
Bush asked audience members to share their time and skills with children in order to promote their education and character development. She cited Urban League programs that mentor and support youth as examples of ways to get involved. Though she decried the fact that most African-American households in the city are headed by single females, Bush also noted teen pregnancy rates have dropped and an increasing number of Black females are graduating from local high schools.
But with Black males being murdered at four times the rate of whites; being arrested and incarcerated at 2-to-4 times the rate of whites; and having a 50% high school graduation rate, Bush argued that more resources should be allocated for job skills training –especially for young Black males.
“We cannot stand idly by to watch lives being thrown away. We need to teach Black men who have taken the wrong path that it is never too late to change, to do something positive,” she said. “We can do this. We can motivate change. We can challenge stereotypes. We can be prosperous and successful.”
Besides a handful of cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is home to many rural communities and farmlands. Many of these farms produce dairy products, making dairy the largest segment of Pennsylvania’s Agricultural sector. The dairy industry’s economic contribution to the state is $1.7 billion dollars annually. Nationally, the commonwealth ranks fifth in milk production, third in butter production, sixth in ice cream and seventh in cheese production.
It is perhaps the strength of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry that is leading to a new crackdown on labels that promote certain dairy products as (quote) “growth-hormone free.” This label is popular with health-conscious consumers, who are increasing the demand for hormone free milk.
Pennsylvania is now the first state to prohibit the use of these labels in the dairy section in a precedent-setting ruling that opponents say restricts consumer choice. As of January 1st, placing a "growth-hormone free" label on milk containers and other items will be illegal in the state. Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff announced the decision at the end of October after convening a 22-member Food Labeling Advisory Committee to look into false or misleading claims in "absence labeling."
The ruling covers all dairy products sold in the state, forcing some out-of-state manufacturers to make Pennsylvania-only packaging. So far, the state Department of Agriculture has notified 19 companies that their labels must change.
Of the three types of labeling affected by the ruling, getting rid of "growth-hormone free" milk labels has proven to be the most controversial.
The labeling refers to rBGH or rBST, which is short for recombinant bovine growth hormone. RBGH is injected into cows, and it used to increase their milk production by 15 percent. This hormone is produced by the multinational corporation Monsanto, who is also known for seed patenting and the promotion of genetically engineered food worldwide. Monsanto states that the hormone does not pose a health risk to people.
But rBST has been attacked by several dairy groups -- including ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's. Its use causes an increase in udder infections in cows, resulting in pus and mucus ending up in the milk. In addition, some studies have shown a correlation between certain types of cancer in humans and elevated levels of insulin growth factor, which is present in rBST-fueled milk.
These health concerns have prompted countries including Canada, Japan, Australia and the European Union, to not approve the use of rBST.
Turner’s Dairy, a local company that produces rBST free milk, will continue to inform their consumers that their milk is hormone-free. The company's website and point-of-purchase advertising will alert consumers. The Department of Agriculture has no jurisdiction over these tactics, only labels on the products themselves.
Agricultural regulators in at least two other states--New Jersey and Ohio--are now considering following Pennsylvania's lead.
On January first, public transit riders in Pittsburgh will be paying an extra quarter to get to their destinations. The Port Authority management recently recommended this increase in base fares and other proportional across-the-board fare increases, to take place starting in 2008 and the decision is expected to be ratified by the board within the next week.
The 14 percent increase will raise the base cash fare from the current $1.75 to $2 in Zone 1, which covers most rides and encompasses an area extending 8 miles from Downtown. It will be the first fare hike since September 2002. Zone 1 monthly passes will jump 25 percent, from the current $60 to $75. Port Authority officials said that monthly passes still represent a significant savings for daily commuters.
The Port Authority's tentative approval of higher fares came one day after the Westmoreland County Transit Authority's board approved a 24 percent fare hike for most of its 23 routes, the first fare hike since 1992.
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.
A mini-armada of about ten decorated boats carried 150 people on Saturday November 17, to the beaches of Fisher Island, near Miami, Florida, to protest discriminatory and abusive treatment of the workers who clean, maintain, and protect the island. Fisher Island was recently named the nation’s most expensive zip code by Forbes and labeled “Fantasy Island” by the New York Times.
The Florida Constitution guarantees public access to the Fisher Island beach by means of a pathway from the ferry boat landing to the beach. The SEIU asked the island to allow the boats to dock at the Fisher Island Marina and to provide a public pathway to the beach. When the boats were not allowed to dock at the marina, forty participants swam to shore and marched through the island.
Rustbelt Radio spoke with Tanya Aquino [a - QUEEN - oh] of SEIU Local Eleven in Miami, Florida, about the Fisher Island Challenge:
The challenge was inspired by the class action complaint filed with the Miami-Dade County Equal Opportunity Board against Fisher Island Holdings on October 18th. Nineteen workers charge that policies and practices on the Fisher Island Ferry Service that operates between the island and the mainland segregates Haitian, Hispanic, and African-American workers. The complaint questions policies on the island-owned ferry that the workers must take to get to the island.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Mark James, president of the Fisher Island Community Association, explained the segregated ferries by saying, (quote) “There's not enough room on either side to have a room large enough to accommodate everyone. It just seemed logical to have the larger room for employees.''
He went on to discount the SEIU campaign, saying they have (quote) ''engaged in smear, lies, deception, distortion on a continuing basis. The workers on the island are not unhappy.” According to Mr. James, island employees start at 10 dollars an hour, with most earning 14 to 20 dollars an hour. They receive two to four weeks of paid vacation, plus sick days, uniforms, 66 dollars a month to purchase food from vending machines and the opportunity to buy into health plans.
The SEIU's response:
The picture of Fisher Island painted by employee testimonials on the website 'one Miami now (dot) org' is very different. The Service Employees International Union, or SEIU Local Eleven, from Miami, collected workers’ stories, including those of Jose Rojas and Prosper Raymond.
Thirty-nine year old Jose Rojas has worked in the Porto Cervo restaurant on Fisher Island for 6 years. He works all afternoon and evening until one A.M. every day, after working at his second job as a delivery man in the morning. Jose earns seven dollars and twenty five cents an hour base pay. He pays more than 130 dollars a month for health care, and says he still has a high co-pay and expensive prescriptions.
Prosper Raymond’s position as a houseman on the island includes cleaning and preparing the more than 300 golf carts that are available for each hotel guest and resident. Prosper has worked on Fisher Island for nearly two years, earning eight seventy-six an hour.
Southern Florida is a prime example of the growing disparity between rich and poor in the United States. Tonya Aquino of SEIU Local Eleven in Miami says workers there are struggling to get by:
The struggle of workers on Fisher Island echoes that of residents of the Umoja Village shantytown in Liberty City, Miami and migrant farmworkers like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, based out of Immokalee, Florida.
The FBI reported today that hate crime incidents rose by 8 percent in 2006, with more than half of those cases related to racial prejudice. This figure does not include the threats and violence in Jena, Louisiana in 2006 because neither Jena nor LaSalle Parish, LA are among the 12,600 of the nation's more than 17,000 local, county, state and federal police agencies that participate in the hate crime reporting program.
Since the Jena incident, where nooses were used as a threat against African-American students who sat under a tree known as a 'whites-only' true, noose incidents have occurred across the US. Several noose incidents have been reported in the Pittsburgh area, as reported on Rustbelt Radio in past weeks.
Civil Rights leader Al Sharpton organized a rally in Washington DC last Friday to demand action by the federal government in cases where local authorities do not seriously investigate racial intimidation. Tens of thousands of people came to DC with only a few weeks' notice to march on the US Department of Justice building.
Speakers also cited the case of Megan Williams, a black woman in West Virginia who was allegedly raped and tortured for over a week inside a mobile home by six white people using racial slurs. And in other cases, police are the purveyors of violence against blacks: last week in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, 18 year old Khiel Coppin was killed in a barrage of 20 bullets from the NYPD, almost a year after Sean Bell was killed by police in Queens.
Al Sharpton and other speakers linked the recent acts of violence and intimidation against African-Americans to the history of slavery and lynching in US History. Here are sounds from Friday's rally:
That last speaker was Sheila Jackson-Lee, US Representative from Texas, at last Friday's rally against hate crimes in Washington, DC. Rev. Sharpton is calling on the new US Attorney General Michael Mukasey to have the Justice Department investigate increasingly common hate crimes.
And now Radio Rootz in New York brings us a special radical history lesson on Thanksgiving:
* 3751-20071118-Nov-23#1C71A3.ogg: radical days thanksgiving (1:38)
Thanks to Radio Rootz for that report.
On November 7th, Sixth Presbyterian Church, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America hosted Ricardo Calderon, a union organizer from the Salvadoran Union Front.
Calderon began the lecture with a critique of the political state of El Salvador. The Nationalist Republican Alliance government has held the presidency of El Salvador since 1989. In recent years, this party has been criticized for its attempts to strengthen bilateral relations with the United States. Under the leadership of former President Francisco Florez, El Salvador endorsed anti-terror efforts by sending troops to Iraq, and played a key role in negotiations for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The current president, Antonio Saca, has continued with the same policies.
CAFTA is a free trade agreement between the United States and the countries of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. With this treaty came promises of unemployment levels dropping, exports to the United States rising, and improvement of the overall economy. However, since the modification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the Salvadoran unemployment rate has increased while the cost of living has risen. Also, the exports to the United States have decrease and imports from the United States have increased.
Since its founding, the Nationalist Republican Alliance has been criticized for political repression implemented in Salvadoran laws. In 2006, El Salvador passed an anti-terrorism law modeled on the United States Patriot Act. Since its passing, protesters, journalists, and social organizers have been arrested on charges of terrorism. Human rights organizations claim that the law’s real purpose is to stifle political dissent:
In addition to government action, corporate policy of intimidation, harassment, and firing is used to suppress unions in El Salvador. Ricardo Calderon has more:
Calderon concluded the lecture by promoting solidarity with those in El Salvador and calling for a formal investigation of political repression:
That was union leader Ricardo Calderon of the Salvadoran Union Front. For more information on El Salvador visit cispes.org, the website of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.
That was just Salvadoran Hip Hop Group Pescozada with Que Estamos Haciendo.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
This Past Friday Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild, appeared in Pittsburgh to debate Michael Lewis, a former naval officer about " the Status of Detainees in the 'War on Terror.'" The National Lawyer’s Guild is a social justice minded legal association that was founded in 1937 as a counter to the American Bar Association that did not permit people of color to be members.
Shortly before the debate we had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Cohn about the recent appointment of Michael Mukasey as attorney general, Pakistani President Musharraf's crackdown on dissent and the campaign for impeachment of George Bush.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey has received much public criticism over his unwillingness to condemn water boarding as torture. Marjorie Cohn, said that the controversy surrounding him extends far beyond his stance on this one torture method.
The National Lawyers Guild just voted unanimously for the impeachment of George W. Bush.
Marjorie Cohn commented on the theory behind Jules Lobel and David Cole's new book "Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror."
In recent weeks President General Musharraf has declared a "state of emergency" in Pakistan and arrested thousands of lawyers, human rights activists and journalists who were protesting what they considered to be martial law. Pakistani Army Chief and President General Pervez Musharraf suspended the Constitution, replaced the country's chief justice and declared a state of emergency mere days before the Supreme Court was to decide on whether his re-election last month while remaining army chief was valid. President Bush has remained steadfast in his support of President General Musharraf as he is a "ally in the war on terror." Marjorie Cohn commented on Bush's hypocrisy concerning his support of Musharraf.
The National Lawyers Guild has issued a press release that demonstrates their support of the Lawyers and other dissenters in Pakistan.
For more information on these issues you can visit Marjorie Cohn’s website http://marjoriecohn.com/ and read her book Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WPTS Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, WVJW Benwood, WIUP Indiana and WKCO Gambier.
Our hosts this week are Lizzie Anderson, Ellen Pierson, and Andalusia Knoll with contributions from Carlin Christy, Matt Toups, Diane Amdor, Juliana Stricklen, and Andalusia Knoll. This week's show was produced by Matt Toups. 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.