community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * We interview Pitt Professor and Lawyer Jules Lobel about his new book "Less Safe, Less Free: Why America is losing the war on Terror" * International Photo-Journalist Chris Hondros speaks about his work in the war-torn countries of the world * news and analysis from the Mexico Solidarity Network * a look at the recent crimes and sentences of various Pennsylvanian government officials * plus Word on the Street, the History of Black Filmmaking, 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.
The first week of February saw three corruption charges and sentences for government, or ex-government, workers in the state of Pennsylvania. The crimes and their varying sentences have provoked questions about how gender and race relate to punishments and media coverage.
Ex-state Representative Frank LaGrotta pleaded guilty to giving $27,000 to two of his relatives who did little actual work. As a result, he was sentenced to six months of house arrest and followed by 30 months of probation. LaGrotta was also fined $5,000, must do 500 hours of community service and must repay the $27,000 to the state within two weeks though he was allowed to keep his legislative pension. While under house arrest he will be able to leave the house and to seek a job or to buy food, as long as it is allowed by a parole officer. According to Dauphin County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard A. Lewis, LaGrotta is receiving a far less severe sentence for cooperating with authorities, but he could have received 14 years in jail for pleading guilty to two felonies.
Mark Donley, a former Beaver county police chief, pleaded guilty to theft and obstruction of justice for accepting bribes totaling $5,000 taken from two men in exchange for not filing drunk-driving charges. Donley also used a combination of his own and township money to buy a firearm and lied by saying it was tax exempt. Donley was sentenced to five years probation and lost his police certification.
Also in the first week of February, Twanda Carlisle, former city council person for District 9, was sentenced to one to two years in prison for diverting $43,000 (quote) for her own personal benefit (end quote). In addition to the prison sentence, Carlisle was also ordered by Judge John Zottola to pay restitution for the benefit of District 9 through an account that will be set up.
Of these three people, Carlisle is the only African-American and the only woman. She is also the only of these three to receive prison time. The Pittsburgh Courier mentioned that Carlisle purchased jewelry, televisions, airfare and hotel stay and a mink coat which cost $4,000 with the illegally transferred funds. But how the money that LaGotta and Donley was spent has not been a highlight of their cases.
Last Wednesday Judge Zottola scheduled a hearing for Tuesday the 26th to hear Carlisle’s attorney argue for her to be able to serve the 12-24 months of sentenced jail time at home instead of a state prison.
The hearing will take place at 11 a.m. in room 530 of the county courthouse.
On February 19, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal of a 2005 ruling that rejected Abu-Jamal’s Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition. The PCRA was denied on the grounds that it was not “timely.” This decision comes nearly 26 years after Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted for the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner in a trial that has drawn international criticism for being tainted by racism.
Martha Connelly, an organizer for the Pittsburgh Committee to Free Mumia, explains the decision:
The 2005 PCRA petition was based on two recent affidavits that discredit testimonies given by two witnesses in the 1982 trial of Abu-Jamal. During the trial, prosecution witness Priscilla Durham testified that Mumia confessed to killing Daniel Faulkner. In an affidavit presented in the PCRA petition, Kenneth Pate states that Durham confided to him that she had lied in her testimony. The PCRA petition also included an affidavit by Yvette Williams, who states that prosecution witness Cynthia White had been coerced by the police into giving a false testimony. The PCRA petition was denied by Judge Pamela Dembe of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on the charge that the petition was filed too far after the 1982 trial. The recent appeal to the 2005 decision is based on the argument that the affidavits in the petition were not available until recent years.
Martha Connelly explains:
An appeal is still pending in the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals to determine the Constitutionality of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case.
Last month, a proposed $6 million electronic billboard received a building permit for installation downtown without a public hearing. The 1,200-foot LED structure by Lamar Advertising Co. will be installed on the Grant Street Transportation Center, currently under construction at the corner of Liberty Avenue and 11th Street. As part of the agreement the space will be rented for $30,000 annually, with the money going to the building's owner, Pittsburgh Parking Authority, and Lamar Advertising will remove 1,400 square feet of conventional billboards from the downtown area.
City councilman Bill Petudo wants to publicly question Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Zoning Administrator Susan Tymoczko about the approval. City code requires that downtown buildings that receive more than $50,000 worth in "exterior alterations" to undergo a public hearing before receiving the approval of the Planning Commission. The Urban Redevelopment Authority's executive director, Pat Ford, defended the decision by noting that the billboard, at 14 percent of the building's $42 million total cost, qualifies as a "minor change" and therefore is covered under the city code pending his approval. He also cites previous LED signs, including those at Grant Street and Boulevard of the Allies, that have been erected without public approval. Petudo, however, still sees the incident as a "crisis of democracy" and the latest in a series of incidents where the Planning Department has sidestepped public input. He added, "I would say that we can't close our eyes tight enough to make this go away."
On February 20th, the Pittsburgh City Council voted not to launch a full-scale investigation of the incident, instead opting for a special meting of the Mayor's administration, followed by a public hearing. Councilman Dan Deasy, expressing concern over the issue but not wishing to jump into a formal investigation, said, "The issue is conversation versus investigation." Stay tuned to future editions of Rustbelt Radio as we cover continuing developments.
On January 14th the Pittsburgh Planning Commission's approved the Penguins' new $290 million arena. The community coalition One Hill subsequently filed an appeal on February 12th to overturn the decision. They cited a variety of flaws in the design the planning process and most importantly the lack of a community benefits agreement.
Paul Ellis, attorney for the One Hill Coalition, outlined the grounds for the appeal at a downtown press conference
Speaking with KDKA, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl questioned the necessity of One Hill’s appeal filing.
Paul Ellis had referenced commissioner Todd Reidbord who had left the January 14th Public Hearing to attend a Pitt basketball game thus missing many of the Public comments. After the game he returned to the meeting to cast a vote in favor of the arena plan which passed 5-3. One Hill also said that many of those opposed to the arena plan were not given the opportunity to speak at the January 14th meeting.
Marimba Millones (pronounce Mih Lo Nays), Board chair of the Hill District Community Development Corporation spoke out at an earlier city commission meeting in December to articulate why a community benefits agreement is so crucial.
She says that while there are many concerns over parking and design issues, the core issue is the Penguins' unwillingness to sign a community benefits agreement.
With this pending appeal, One Hill hopes that work on the arena will stop until an agreement with the community is reached.
Teens from The Andy Warhol Museum's Youth Publications Program took to the streets of Pittsburgh to create Word on the Street segments for Rustbelt Radio. This week, we'll hear from Addie Johnson on where and how teens are learning about sex.
For more on local news, you can visit http://pittsburgh.indymedia.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.
Radio Rootz brings us this radical history lesson for February 26th:
In election news, Ralph Nader declared his candidacy on Meet the Press on Sunday. Nader ran as an independent in 2004 and as the Green Party candidate in 2000. The Green Party candidates for 2008 include Jesse Johnson, Cynthia McKinney, Kent Mesplay, and Kat Swift.
On January 27th, Cynthia McKinney received an endorsement from Mumia Abu-Jamal.
That was the Mexico Solidarity Network's weekly news and analysis for the week of February 11th through 17th, 2008. For more information on MSN's Study Abroad Programs, Chicago Autonomous Center, Speaking Tours and Alternative Economy Internships, contact M – S – N (at) Mexico Solidarity (dot) org or visit their website, at www (dot) Mexico Solidarity (dot) org.
In honor of Black History Month, we bring you this report from Pacifica which examines the history and origins behind black filmmaking in America:
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks the Bush administration declared a so-called “war on terror.” Taking “preventative measures” the administration launched massive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have left thousands of people dead and millions of people displaced. Civil liberties have withered as the administration legitimized warrantless surveillance, secret detentions, extraordinary rendition and torture. They justify these practices as necessary security measures in the so called “war on terror”. Yet worldwide we have seen a a fourfold increase in suicide bombings and a threefold increase in terrorist attacks.
Questioning these post 9-11 policies, leading constitutional scholars Jules Lobel and David Cole have published the book “Less Safe, Less Free: Why America is Losing the War on Terror.” Jules Lobel is a Law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and Rustbelt Radio had the opportunity to interview him about this new book.
That was just Jules Lobel, speaking about his book “Less Safe, Less Free: Why America is Losing the War on Terror.” He will be speaking on Tuesday, February 26th at 7pm at Pitt Law Building Room 111.
Chris Hondros has spent ten years photographing major conflicts across the world, from violent battles in Liberia's civil war to face-offs in the West Bank. His work has been featured on the front page of the New York Times and Washington Post, among other newspapers, and he has been published in many American news magazines. This February, recently returned from his ninth tour of Iraq, he spoke at the University of Pittsburgh about photography and his experiences abroad. After his lecture, "Walking into a War Zone," Rustbelt Radio's Ben Phelps-Rohrs spoke to him in an exclusive interview.
That was photojournalist Chris Hondros speaking with Rustbelt Radio's Ben Phelps-Rohrs. Mr. Hondros's work can be viewed online at Chrishondros.com.
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 Andalusia Knoll with additional contributions from Diane Amdor, Jon Heiman, Ben Phelps-Rohrs, Lizzie Anderson, and Juliana Stricklen. 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.