community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * The Citizens Police Review Board hearing on a Pittsburgh Police Officer's violent disruption of a critical mass bike ride * Updates on the crisis unfolding in occupied Palestine * Residents of Lomas del Poleo fight against displacement as a result of development on the US-Mexico border * our first in a series of reports from those inside Pennsylvania's prison system * 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.
A new study from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Social Work [concludes/reports] that the area's social service agencies that deal with addiction are not yet ready for the opening of the Majestic Star Casino on the North Shore next year. The study surveyed 137 agencies in Allegheny County, finding that that 75 percent of them do not treat problem gamblers and have not yet trained their staff to do so. Most organizations have stated that they do not feel it is an issue for them. Furthermore, less than one-third of the agencies are aware of the public service campaigns focusing on problem gamblers.
Says Dr. Rafael Engel, associate professor at the University in a prepared statement, "We got into this study because most of the public and media discussion were focused on the economic benefits of the new casino and issues such as traffic, parking garages and the like. We felt it was important to examine the potential strain that gambling would bring to human service providers."
Although the State plans to spend $1.5 million to address problem gambling, the study says that this amount may not be sufficient. In addition to increased funds, the report also recommends educational programs for service providers and that a list of certified gambling counselors be distributed to these agencies.
Pennsylvania consumers and organic milk producers are claiming a victory against the state’s Agricultural Department. In late 2007, the department implemented a new ruling that would make it illegal to place a "growth-hormone free" label on milk containers and other items. Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff announced the decision at the end of October after convening a Food Labeling Advisory Committee to look into false or misleading claims in "absence labeling." The Department stated that these labels were misleading and were a source of confusion to the consumer.
This decision primarily impacted milk labeled as “growth hormone free” in reference to the hormone rBGH, which is produced by the multinational corporation Monsanto. The company is also known for seed patenting and the promotion of genetically engineered food worldwide.
The new ban was to go into effect on January 1st of 2008, however public outcry led to a policy review called by Governor Rendell and a 1-month delay in the implementation of the new labeling laws. The law was dealt another blow on January 17th, when Governor Ed Rendell issued new standards, that would allow for labeling milk as “growth hormone free”. The new standards DO require a disclaimer stating there is no difference in milk from cows injected with hormones and milk from cows that are not injected.
Although the governor's decision applies only to fluid milk, this decision was applauded by organizations like the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and the Center for Food Safety.
Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, stated: "This is a victory for free speech, free markets, sustainable farming, and the consumer's right to know. Consumers increasingly want to know more about how their food is produced, and particularly whether it is produced in a natural and sustainable manner. There is no justification for prohibiting information about rbGH use on a milk label. Pennsylvania deserves credit for realizing that its initial regulation prohibiting such labeling was flawed, and for reversing its position."
Pennsylvania isn't the only state where this decision is being debated. The Indiana House Committee passed HB 1300, a bill which would ban the use of “compositional” and “production-related” claims about milk. Washington, Missouri and Ohio have also been considering bans on the use of hormone-free milk labels, and New Jersey recently rejected the idea.
Up next is a new segment we'll be featuring on Rustbelt Radio from Fed Up, a local prisoner's rights group.
This saturday January 26th, the 10th annual black and white reunion Summit Agaist racism was held at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church. Today we bring you highlights from the Summit.
Founder Tim Stevens introduced the theme of the summit:
The morning included a well-attended anti-racism workshop
After lunch the summit participants joined Black Voices for Peace in their weekly anti-war vigil:
Another workshop focused on media literacy
We'll hear more from the Summit Against Racism in upcoming weeks.
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.
And now Radio Rootz in New York brings us a radical history lesson for January 29th.
Thanks to Radio Rootz for that report.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
On Thursday, January 24th, the Citizens Police Review Board held a public hearing to examine the complaint of Morgan Ress against Sergeant Eugene Hlavac. The complaint stemmed from Hlavac's actions to disperse the Critical Mass bike ride of March 2006. It contained two charges, that Hlavac was a threat to public safety and that his conduct was unbecoming an officer. Morgan Ress was a participant in the Critical Mass ride.
The Citizens’ Police Review board is an independent agency to investigate citizen complaints about improper police conduct. It was established in 1997 by voter referendum. Although it reviews hundreds of cases each year, according the records published on their website the agency has held fewer than ten public hearings in the last three years.
Hlavac’s lawyer summarized the defense’s position:
CPRB executive director Beth Pittinger said that (quote) They did investigate and do something on part of the complaint. What they did not investigate is the alleged safety risk that he presented. (endquote)
The Critical Mass bike ride of march 2006 began in Oakland around 6 pm; 50 to 100 cyclists were in the ride. The ride eventually reached East Liberty, and as it crossed Penn Circle West travelling along Penn Avenue, Officer Hlavac saw the group and drove his police cruiser towards them.
Morgan Ress described the scene for rustbelt:
Noah Willumson was one of five people who were given citations at the ride. He described other violent actions Hlavac committed:
Although Hlavac was subpoenaed to testify at the hearing, he and his lawyer aggressively asserted that they would not participate.
Hlavac sat in the back of the room listening to an ipod during most of the proceedings. He came to the witness table still wearing his ipod at full volume.
Beth Pittinger addressed the crowd at the close of the hearing.
Pittinger describes what will happen next:
Morgan Ress's reaction to the hearing:
This complaint is not Officer Hlavac's only brush with the wrong side of the law. Police were summoned in January 2007 to respond to a domestic dispute involving Hlavac and his girlfriend. She alleged he pulled her hair, grabbed her wrist violently, and hauled her out of a bed. The following day, Hlavacs’ supervisor Zone 5 Cmdr. RaShall Brackney recommended he be removed from active duty, undergo counseling and that his contact with the public be minimized when he returned to duty. Hlavac attended three days of anger management counseling, but was not removed from public contact. Instead he was re-assigned to the Hill District. Then in June 2007, Hlavac was promoted to Sergeant.
The past week, 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have seen an intensification in the humanitarian crisis that has been occurring over the past 7 months.
On Friday January 18th, Israel declared all of Gaza's border crossings completely closed, with a total ban on fuel and supplies to the coastal region. Israeli troops implemented the siege on Saturday, and by Sunday the 20th, Gaza was almost completely blacked-out as the local power plant depends on Israeli fuel. Blackouts have become commonplace since Israel's bombing of the Gaza power plant in 2006.
Israel says its actions are meant to stop attacks from the Hamas-ruled territory onto southern Israel. Israeli security officials admitted that the impacts of Israel's complete cut-off of the Gaza Strip became more severe than expected when they put the plan in place.
After the weekend’s events, thousands of Palestinians, including children, public figures and medics, took to the streets of Gaza city on Monday the 21st, in protest of the crippling siege.
After widespread international outcry, the Israeli authorities agreed to allow fuel and medicine into the Palestinian coastal region on Tuesday for one day only.
On Wednesday at dawn the Palestinian resistance destroyed part of the border wall separating the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah from Egypt using five home-made bombs. Shortly afterwards, thousands of Palestinians flocked across the border and started to buy food and fuel supplies from Egypt to bring back.
Once again the Israeli Army cut off supplies to the Gaza Strip, a decision the Israeli government said was in response to the Palestinian destruction of the wall. While these events were unfolding, the Israeli army continued to bomb Gaza, leaving 12 Palestinians killed in the area.
Arab Talk, a show on KPOO 89.5 FM in San Francisco, interviewed Mohammed Omer, a Palestinian student and reporter out of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. He also runs the website rafahtoday.org which describes daily life in the city. The hosts of Arab Talk Jess Ghannam and Jamal Dajani asked Mohammed to describe the situation that was occurring 1 day after the border wall was destroyed. Rustbelt Radio now brings you this interview which was recorded last Thursday January 24th:
Thanks to Arabtalk radio for that interview. For more on this program you can go to www.arabtalkradio.net.
Since the border wall was first broken on Wednesday, Palestinians continued to buy food and supplies in Egypt. At first Egyptian authorities allowed the Palestinians to cross freely and obtain supplies. Egyptian President Mubarak said to reporters on Thursday that he would allow the Palestinian to get their supplies from Egypt as long as there is a humanitarian crisis in the region. The United States and Israeli harshly criticized Egypt for the move. Meanwhile, Israel threatened to step-up attacks on the coastal region and stop water from coming into Gaza.
On Friday, The US congress suspended 100 million dollars of aid to Egypt for allowing the Palestinians into the country. That same day, the Egyptian government announced it would close the crossing after coming under fire from Western powers.
Egyptian troops sealed the borders and attacked the Palestinians civilians using batons and water canons. Both Palestinians and Egyptian troops were injured in the fighting. Later in the evening, Palestinian resistance fighters and civilians smashed a new hole in the Rafah Egypt border Wall using a bulldozer. Egyptian troops pulled back and allowed Palestinian to enter Egypt once again.
Also last week, the United States vetoed a UN Security Council statement to condemn and end Israel’s siege and attacks against Gaza. The statement called for an end to the attacks and siege on the Gaza Strip and also an end to the Palestinian home-made shell attacks. The US Ambassador to the UN, Zalman Zad, described the statement as unfair and said that it undermines the effect of the home-made shells that Palestinian fighters fire at Israel, a stance that is identical to the Israeli position on the statement.
Over the weekend, dozens of protests were held in cities across the US calling on Israel to end the imprisonment of the 1.5 million Palestinians inside Gaza and for an end of US funding to support to Israel’s actions.
Yesterday Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, met to discuss the Gaza border breach, as well as stalled peace talks. The Israeli government stated it will resume fuel supplies to the region. Abbas, other Palestinian officials, and Egyptian leaders also met to discuss security control of the border. The two sides are in favor of Palestinian control of the Rafah border, with monitoring from Israel and the EU. However, the Hamas faction is currently policing the border, alongside Egyptian officials.
Abbas has refused to talk to Hamas until the group gives up control of Gaza. But Taher Nunu, the Hamas government spokesman, said Hamas is a legitimate government and should not be excluded from any arrangements regarding the crossing.
More meetings will be held this week to discuss the peace process and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Last week the second annual Pittsburgh Hip Hop Awards honored countless local talents, musicians and producers at the Hilton Hotel. Community Activist Jasiri X was honored for his song "Free the Jena 6." We will now hear "Free the Jena 6" which won hit single of the year.
That was just Jasiri X with the Pittsburh Hip Hop single of the year "Free the Jena 6"
Lomas del Poleo is in a state of red alert this week. The neighborhood on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico announced the red alert in response to an attempt on Saturday, January 26th, to displace a resident and destroy his home. This is only the most recent incident in a long running conflict between the wealthy Zaragoza family and the low-income residents of Lomas del Poleo.
The Zaragoza family is one of the wealthiest in Ciudad Juarez, with control of a large share of the natural gas market in Central America and Mexico, in addition to the Lucerna dairy company in Ciudad Juarez. The land around Lomas del Poleo has been in Zaragoza hands since 1963, and the neighborhood was formed in the 1970s. Residents lived in peace until 1992, when the infrastructure for the North American Free Trade Agreement began to be put into place. Development plans in the area attracted attention from businesses and investors. Brutal crimes against women in the area attracted attention from international human rights advocates.
The neighborhood was a dumping ground for raped and murdered women during the rash of femicides that has plagued the state of Chihuahua since the early ‘90s. Several women from Lomas de Poleo have been murdered, including Sagrario Gonzalez, the daughter of Lomas de Poleo resident and activist Paula Flores.
Residents of Lomas del Poleo and their supporters from Ciudad Juarez and El Paso have held forums to discuss the struggle. In October, the residents of Lomas del Poleo invited grass-roots organizations from both sides of the border to a human rights forum at an elementary school inside the neighborhood. The groups were stopped at the gate by armed private security forces hired by the Zaragozas. The residents of Lomas del Poleo were not allowed outside the fence, and their supporters were not allowed in. They held the forum across the barbed wire fence. December first, 2007, they planned to hold a second forum. The Zaragoza group blocked them again, but this time about a quarter of a mile away from the neighborhood.
At an earlier forum, held at the University of Texas, El Paso, on November 21, 2007, Lomas del Poleo residents and supporters spoke about the conflict. Lomas del Poleo resident Petra Medrano shared her experience of human rights abuses at the hands of paramilitary guards hired by the Zaragozas to displace her family and her neighbors.
Father Morton also spoke at the November 21st forum. He spent eleven years on the border as a Columban Missionary priest, living in Ciudad Juarez for eight years, and in Lomas del Poleo for three.
In September of 2006, a Zaragoza lawyer, whose brother is also a City official in Juarez, presented a case to Mexican immigration to force Father Morton to leave Mexico. He was subpoenaed by immigration officials, told he didn’t have the proper permit to work as a priest in Mexico, and deported.
At an earlier University of Texas forum, on November 19, 2007, El Paso resident Lupe Ochoa spoke about the connection between the struggle against development in her neighborhood, Segundo Barrio, and displacement in Lomas del Poleo.
The El Paso Downtown redevelopment Plan includes the use of eminent domain to transfer land to private developers, a violation of Texas laws prohibiting the use of eminent domain for commercial development. The residents, business owners, and community groups within the "redevelopment zone" in the historic Segundo Barrio were not consulted until after the area was selected as the proposed site of new strip malls and parking garages. The plan will forcibly relocate about 1,800 residents.
Hector Murguía was mayor of Ciudad Juárez from 2003 until 2007. In an interview with members of the group “Paso del Sur”, he discussed his connections to bi-national developers. He also inadvertently highlighted the connections between large scale, top-down development projects and displacement of poor people not only in Juarez and the El Paso border region, but in major cities all across the US.
Those with power may be finished with the land dispute, but for those who live in Lomas del Poleo, it is far from over. Residents of the neighborhood are receiving support from many groups in Ciudad Juarez, including the Tonantzin Women's House, Casa Amiga, the Mexico Solidarity Network, the Catholic Church, the Workers Solidarity and Research Center, the Border Organizations Regional Coordinator, among others. A boycott of gas and milk products associated with the Zaragoza family has been in effect since October 8th, 2007.
For updates on this struggle in English and Spanish, you can visit the website: w-w-w (dot) paso del sur (dot) com, which also contains links to sites with more current updates in Spanish, like the “Alerta Lomas del Poleo” blog. For the audio used in this story, thanks to the Paso del Sur group, for their YouTube coverage of events in Lomas del Poleo.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
Starting next week, Rustbelt Radio will begin featuring more stories from other independent media sources such the Pacifica Archives, This Week in Palestine, and Media Minutes on an every other week basis.
We are making this change temporarily because our current all-volunteer staff cannot sustain the huge demands that come from producing a one hour original show every week.
We will take this time to work on expanding our local and regional base of contributors, and we need your help! No prior experience is necessary in the many tasks that are required to produce this show, only a desire to be involved with helping Rustbelt Radio both sustain itself and grow. We will not be able to without more volunteers!
Our work has been and will continue to be very important in bringing to you the voices from grassroots social justice movements in Pittsburgh, and we would love for you to be involved. If you, or someone you know can, volunteer time, please contact us by emailing RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG or by calling 412-923-3000.
[ Outro Music ]
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 Matt Toups, Ben Klahr, and Jessica McPherson with contributions from Diane Amdor, Carlin Christy, Lizzie Anderson, Jon Heiman and Jessica McPherson. 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.