community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * In honor of Black History Month, we bring you voices and songs from black freedom fighters * Community leaders gather together at the Black and White reunion * Word on the Street on the new drink tax in Allegheny County * City Council in Berkeley, California condemns the local U.S. Marines Recruiting Center and * The Department of Labor announces intent to strip worker protections from its H two A guest worker program * 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.
Thirteen murders in Allegheny County last month appear to start the year’s homicide numbers off at an alarming rate. Out of the 13 murder victims in January, 10 were black, including 9 black males and 1 female. These statistics support a study released last year that showed Pennsylvania has the highest black homicide victimization rate in the US. The study, completed by the Violence Policy Center, found that there were 398 black homicide victims in Pennsylvania during 2004, resulting in a rate of 29 (point) 52 homicides for every 100,000 residents. The state’s rate is significantly higher than the national black homicide rate of 18 (point) 71. It is also six times over the national homicide rate of 4 (point) 86 per 100,000 people.
Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center and co-author of the study released last year stated: "In short, the toll that homicide exacts on black teens and young adults in America, both male and female, is disproportionate, disturbing and undeniable."
Up next is a new segment we'll be featuring on Rustbelt Radio from Fed Up, a local prisoner's rights group.
The Cambridge Springs prison where today's story comes from is located approximately 2 hours north of Pittsburgh. Stay tuned to Rustbelt Radio for more segments of 2.3 million and Rising.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has sued Consol Energy over damage to the dam at Ryerson Station State Park. The suit claims that Consol’s longwall mining activities in close vicinity to the dam caused the dam to develop cracks. The dam was judged unsafe and decommissioned in 2005. Previously it had held a 62 acre lake widely used for fishing and recreation. Longwall mining removes the entire coal seam, leaving no structural supports to prevent subsidence of the ground above. Substantial shifting and cracking generally occurs, causing great damage to buildings, surface water, and ground water flows.
The DCNR’s suit claims that Consol Energy knew it was risky to mine near the 45-year-old concrete dam, and falsely represented the level of the risk to the DCNR both before and after the damage to the dam occurred. The suit asks for 58 million dollars in compensation for the damage to the dam, the lake, and the parks’ natural resources.
Consol Energy claims that the dam was outside of the area that damage could have been reasonably predicted. Consol claims the mining was 1200 feet away from the dam at the time the cracks developed. However, a DCNR-funded investigation by the consulting firm Gannett-Fleming concluded that the failure of the dam could not have occurred by natural causes.
The DCNR complaint states that (quote) "Given the increased risk of catastrophic damages, which did in fact occur, the conscious decision by Consol to not advise DCNR of the true facts was irresponsible, reckless and indifferent. The actions of Consol employees with regard to the misrepresentations and concealment were incurred within the scope of their duties and were carried out with the intent to further Consol's 'for profit' interests at the expense of public safety and protected public natural resources. (endquote)."
If the DCNR suit succeeds, it could mean that regulators should expand the area that is considered eligible for property damage compensation from longwall mining. Under current rules the dam would fall outside that zone.
This week we bring you a special edition of the Word on the Street produced by high school students in collaboration with the Andy Warhol Museum's Youth Education Department. On today's episode Louis Liss tackles the issue of the Drink Tax, which went into effect on January 1st 2008 and imposes a 10% tax on all poured drinks to subsidize public transit.
Roger Westman, the manager of the Allegheny County Health Department's Air Quality Program, has been forced out of his job. According to the Post-Gazette, the decision was made by County Manager Jim Flynn Jr. As Westman has been widely praised by state and federal agencies, industry, and public advocacy groups during his tenure as manager, public advocates are questioning the motives for his removal. Jim Flynn, County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, and the Allegheny Conference have criticized the air quality program for being slow to grant permits to industry, and attempted to shut down the program and transfer authority to the state DEP.
According to Rachel Filipini, the executive director of GASP--the Group Against Smog and Pollution--(quote) "The chief executive's office has received push-back on the concept of moving the program to the state, so it appears that the new plan is to just manipulate the system from within, by micromanaging every aspect of the program. It's a shame that political interference trumps the efforts of a program dedicated to cleaning the air. We are very sorry to see Roger Westman go. We believe that he truly had the interests of Allegheny County residents at heart." (endquote)
The air quality program is nationally regarded as a model program due to its technical innovation, its commitment to enforcing public health standards, and its efficiency. According to the Post-Gazette, in 2007, on average the county issued permits more quickly than the state DEP. The U.S. EPA, which provides half the funding for the county Air Quality Program, also said the program’s turnaround times compare favorably with the other eight permitting authorities in its Region III, which includes five states and the District of Columbia.
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.
On Friday, February 8th, the Bush Administration's Department of Labor announced plans to gut regulations governing the nation's agricultural guest worker program. The proposed changes threaten to significantly cut farmworker wages, lower the bar on farmworker housing, and diminish government oversight of the already troubled program.
The agricultural guest worker program has long been criticized by labor economists as an unnecessary and exploitative favor to the powerful agribusiness lobby, designed to provide farm employers with a steady supply of low-wage, docile labor. Decades of stagnant farm labor wages fly in the face of growers' perennial claims of labor shortages. Still, despite scant evidence of these shortages, the growers' lobby has found in the current immigration debates an opportunity to further its longstanding agenda; to "streamline" guest worker regulations, and to expand the use of H2-A workers for the harvesting of U.S. crops.
You can read more at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' website: w-w-w (dot) c-i-w (dash) online (dot) org
Radio Rootz brings us this radical history lesson for February 12th.
The Inter Press Service reports that hundreds of Zimbabwean refugees are being harassed and threatened in Johannesburg, South Africa. Two weeks ago, police raided a Methodist church which provides shelter to hundreds of refugees from various places.
Officials have been accused of engaging in physical and verbal abuse during the late night raid, during which more than a thousand people -- many of them Zimbabweans -- were arrested on suspicion of being in South Africa illegally or of involvement in criminal activity.
In response, Zimbabwean migrants took to the streets of the coastal city of Cape Town last Thursday February 7th to demonstrate against the raid. They displayed banners and wore T-shirts with the slogan 'Refugee Rights Are Human Rights'. Several groups gathered together to hold the demonstration including The Treatment Action Campaign, which lobbies for HIV-positive people to have access to anti-retroviral drugs. They stated: "Our interest in this protest is that many of the people arrested last week were denied access to medication while in custody, and as a movement we condemn that in the strongest terms," said Regis Mtutu, projects officer for the Cape Town-based organization.
Another organizer, Braam Hanekom, of People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty, an immigrant and refugee rights group in South Africa stated: "We condemn police brutality at the Methodist church; they should respect refugee rights in this country. In fact, the raid is reminiscent of the apartheid era."
Church representatives deny that they are sheltering criminals. Thembi Sibanda, a church official stated: "We are just helping desperate people here. As you might know, most of them are running away from serious situations, like Zimbabwe. The fact that the court did not find any case against these people clearly shows that the police overstepped by harassing these people."
According to a recent survey, up to a million Zimbabweans are residing in South Africa; most have fled the political and economic crisis in their country. The study was conducted by the Zimbabwe Diaspora Forum, based in Johannesburg, the Mass Public Opinion Institute -- a non-profit in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare -- and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa.
Zimbabwe is scheduled to hold general elections on March 29th. Current president Robert Mugabe will seek a sixth term. He has ruled the county since its independence in 1980 and is now 83 years old. The vote will take place amidst ongoing rights abuses in Zimbabwe, and economic decline that has brought about hyper-inflation, unemployment reported to be at about 80 percent, and shortages of basic goods. According to the UN World Food Program, an estimated 4.1 million Zimbabweans currently require food aid.
There is little hope that the elections in March will bring about any change to the current situation. Zimbabwean political analyst John Makumbe stated: "The March elections are only academic. The ruling party will obviously win and the situation in the country will further deteriorate, and more people will leave the country even after the elections."
On January 29th, the Berkeley City Council voted 6 to 3 to tell the U.S. Marine Recruiting Station that "it is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders."
Council member Max Anderson grounded his opposition to the recruiting station in his personal life experience.
The council also voted 7- 2 to give the Women's Peace group Code Pink a free sound permit and a designated parking space in front of the recruiting station for protesting on Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. for the next six months. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates says that his views are aligned with those of Code Pink.
Berkeley's City Council's condemnation of the Marine Recruiting center has faced some criticism nationwide. In response to the city council's vote, Jim DeMint, a Republican Senator from South Carolina, has threatened to introduce legislation to strip the city of federal funds. Programs affected by DeMint's proposal would include money going to UC-Berkeley, money for school lunches in the Berkeley Unified School District and money for public safety.
DeMint wrote on his website: "This is a slap in the face to all brave servicemen and women and their families. The First Amendment gives the city of Berkeley the right to be idiotic, but from now on they should do it with their own money. I am currently drafting legislation to ensure that American taxpayers aren't forced to pay for this insult by rescinding all of the earmarks for Berkeley in the Omnibus Appropriations bill, and to transfer the funds to the Marine Corps."
Code Pink has vowed that they will protest outside of the Recruiting Center until the Marines leave town. They are also circulating a petition to amend the City of Berkeley’s Zoning Ordinance to regulate the location of military recruitment and private military support offices. Code Pink criticized the U.S. military’s occupation of Iraq, use of torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the practice of extraordinary rendition and it’s targeted recruitment of people of color and low income youth.
In their initiative they stated that these practices are in violation of The City’s Municipal Code which states that " State, national and international governmental bodies have failed to control war and in fact, have in many cases, been responsible for war and the conditions of war." The code also states that (quote) "the wealth that could be spent to help the poor, heal the sick, house the homeless, educate the children, and care for the elderly is now spent on ever more costly weapons of mass destruction." (endquote)
Carole Kennerly, former Vice Mayor of Berkeley, spoke at a CODEPINK press conference about the lack of educational opportunities for young people targeted by military recruiters.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
The tenth annual Black and White Reunion Summit Against Racism was held on Saturday January 26th at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church. The Summit was founded after the 1995 death of Johnny Gamage, a motorist who died of suffocation after being pulled over by Brentwood Police. The annual summit has a vision to (quote) bring together a “reunion” of Black and White people in a collaborative spirit to address the racial and class inequality and division in our society. (endquote).
This year’s event featured panel discussions and workshops on topics such as media literacy, community monitoring to end racial disparities, and interracial worship. Today we bring you some of the highlights of sessions attended by Rustbelt correspondents.
In his opening remarks, Reverend Randall Bush of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church spoke of the recent Pittsburgh appearance of Cornell West, a prominent black intellectual:
Dr. Edward Rhymes and Lisa Rhymes led an anti-racism workshop. The workshop opened with a series of questions designed to make white people think about how much their lives really engage the lives of people of color. Dr. Rhymes speaks on the importance of seeking out media authored by people of different races:
The issue of violence in Pittsburgh, especially in the black community, was another central theme of The Black and White Reunion. At the time of last year's event, it had just been reported that Pennsylvania had the highest homicide rate among blacks in the nation. The report also revealed that homicide was the leading cause of death of blacks ages 15 to 19, 20 to 24, and 25 to 34. An overwhelming majority of the homicides involved the use of handguns according to the report.
A community based organization --The Coalition Against Violence-- was formed in February of 2007 in response to these statistics and the violence occurring in many Pittsburgh communities. At the Black and White Reunion, the Coalition gave an update on the progress of their anti-violence strategy document, which they have been working on for a year now in weekly meetings. Over 200 individuals and organizations have contributed strategies during the year. So far, 2 preambles are completed entitled The Community Manifesto and The Role of the Family. A draft of the anti-violence document was given out at the Reunion in order to gather more input from the community for the final draft. The goal of the Coalition is to release the document this February, in honor of Black History Month.
Tim Stevens of the Black Political Empowerment Project has been attending the Coalition Against Violence meetings since they began. He describes the document and the collaborative method by which it was written.
Tim also referred to anti-violence initiatives which were sparked by the killings in 1995. In addition to the murder of Johnny Gammage, another black man, named Jerry Jackson, was shot and killed by Pittsburgh Police in the Armstrong tunnel. Tim spoke of the Coalition's desire to use the document as a call to action and to improve upon the work done in 1995:
The Coalition Against Violence will continue working this month until they complete their anti-violence strategy document. To hear the completed preambles to the document, entitled The Community Manifesto and The Role of the Family, you can listen to the September 24, 2007 episode of Rustbelt Radio. And for more information contact B-PEP at 412-758-7898, or send an email to one hood @ gmail dot com.
In honor of Black History Month, Rustbelt Radio brings you readings from Howard Zinn's book 'Voices of a People's History of the United States'. This piece will feature music from the compilation: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966. This program originally aired on 'Radio Free School', an all volunteer show by, for and about Un-schoolers & Home Learners, which airs on CFMU in Ontario, Canada.
The program begins with Howard Zinn introducing the first speech, which was written in August of 1963 by John Lewis of SNCC, (snick) the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
You have been listening to Readings in Black History. This program featured the music: "I'm On My Way" by the Alabama Christian Movement Choir, while the SNCC Freedom Singers contributed "We Shall Not Be Moved" and "Freedom Medley." Thanks to the Radio Free School in Ontario for this program. To visit the Radio Free School website, go to radio free school.ca
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 Carlin Christy and Ben Klahr with contributions from Carlin Christy, Lizzie Anderson, Jessica McPherson, Juliana Stricklan, Andalusia Knoll, and Diane Amdor. 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.