community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * Updates on the Court of Appeals Ruling for Mumia Abu-Jamal * Radio reporters assassinated in Oaxaca, Mexico * a report on the Longest Walk Two, a five month journey to raise awareness of Native American and environmental issues * National Labor Committee director Charlie Kernaghan speaks at Carlow University about sweatshop labor and workers' rights * 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.
On Saturday, representatives from Save-A-Lot grocery store chain met with Hill District community members for a forum discussion at the New Light Temple Baptist Church. The nine representatives presented their proposal for a new 16,850 square foot store to be built along Centre Avenue near Haldeman Street, across from the Hill House Community Center. The site is currently city property. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the plan received "a largely warm response," with citizens excited about the possibility of no longer having to travel as far as the South Side, North Side, or Shadyside for their groceries. Save-A-Lot executive vice-president and cheif operating officer, Mark Goodman, calls himself and his team (quote)"certainly very interested"(end quote) in reaching a deal, adding, (quote)"We believe we are a great candidate."(end quote)
Save-A-Lot, based in St. Louis, specializes in "extreme value, edited assortment" grocery stores according to their website. They sell a limited list of items at up to 40% below average cost, but do not offer such in-store amenities as a pharmacy, bakery or deli. The company calls itself "community-minded... with locations in urban and rural" areas. The chain has been considering building in the neighborhood since January of this year, while such compeating grocers as Giant Eagle, Kuhn's and Shop-N-Save have reportedly no interest in doing so.
The forum was organized by city councilwoman Tonya Payne and Landmarks Community Capital Corporation. Landmarks CEO Howerd Slaughter believes that if this plan goes through other businesses are likely to follow. Mr. Slaughter remarkerd, "We have to crawl before we can walk, and walk before we can run." Payne distributed feedback surveys to the citizens at the forum, saying that a deal could be reached within a few months. Pending the results of those surveys, she said, city, community and company representatives would begin working on a deal for the site. It would be the first grocery store in the Hill District in over 20 years.
A Pittsburgh bar recently received national press coverage, and it wasn't to highlight their excellent food and drink selections. The Garage Door Saloon, located in the heart of Oakland, came under fire for a baffling, racially insensitive special. The weekly offering, entitled “Wetback Wednesdays” gave discounts on tacos and Corona beers. A sign promoting the special hung outside the bar, catching the attention of many passerbys, including students at the University of Pittsburgh.
In late February, students at Pitt began to speak out against the special and its advertisement. Molly Ferguson, a recent graduate, complained to people inside the bar regarding the offensive nature of the sign—However, her complaints were dismissed, prompting Amelia Marritz, A friend of Ferguson's, to create a group on the social networking site Facebook to encourage a boycott of the bar and its racist special. Other University students immediately signed on to the group; to date, the "Boycott Garage Door and Its 'Wetback Wednesdays'" group has 423 members.
The owner of the bar dismissed the accusations of racism, dismissing it as harmless fun and comparing the special’s name to an Irish or Polish joke. He also claimed there were more important things to worry about in Oakland than, quote, “ a bar running a drink special”. Those opposed to the special stated that it was clearly racist, and was equivalent to using the N-word to promote fried chicken.
In addition to the Facebook group created by Pitt students, other individuals and groups in Pittsburgh decided to take action against the bar. The sign advertising the special was stolen in Mid-march, prompting the bar to change the sign's name from “Wetback Wednesdays”, to the more subtle, yet still racist “Mexican American Wednesdays—For the easily offended”.
The Pittsburgh Organizing Group Anti-Racist Action held a protest outside of the Garage Door Saloon on Wednesday April 2nd. The 50 protestors passed out literature encouraging patrons to reconsider entering the establishment.
The bar has now changed it special to promote tacos and Yuengling pitchers. Pitt students and members of POG and ARA continue to call for a boycott of the establishment, asserting that racist businesses - visible or not - have no place in Pittsburgh.
The long awaited ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the Mumia Abu-Jamal case was released on March 27th. The court rejected the appeals to hold a trial for the political prisoner who has been on Pennsylvania’s death row for over 25 years.
This ruling based its rejection for a new hearing on three main issues: prosecutors using racism to exclude African Americans from the jury during the original 1982 trial; the prosecutor giving improper comments and instructions to the 1982 jury at the end of the trial; and lastly, the pro-prosecution bias by the 1982 trial judge during a 1995 appeals hearing.
Since Pennsylvania reinstated executions in 1978, the state courts have overturned at least 200 death penalty cases according to the ACLU. However, the issues such as racism in the jury selection which was cause to overturn these sentences, is somehow not enough in Mumia's case.Legal analysts, investigative journalists, and Mumia supporters are saying that the appeals rejection displays the blatant pattern of US courts ignoring precedent to deny relief to the political prisoner. They have dubbed this double standard as the quote “mumia exception” stating that the “courts have altered the rules just to keep Abu-Jamal on course for death.”
This March 2008 Third Circuit ruling leaves Abu-Jamal with few legal options to challenge his conviction. Abu-Jamal can appeal the panel's ruling to the entire Third Circuit Court hoping for that full Court to overturn the panel's ruling. Further, he can appeal any Third Circuit ruling to the US Supreme Court.
The Third Circuit issued an order stating Abu-Jamal will receive a life-sentence unless Philadelphia prosecutors hold a new penalty phase hearing seeking to reinstate his death sentence within six months. This mini-trial style hearing would allow Abu-Jamal to present evidence, including new evidence of innocence that has emerged since his first trial.
Mumia’s lawyer, Robert Bryan, will be filing a rehearing petition, that will seek a review of the case by all the judges in the Third Circuit. If this next step is unsuccessful, Bryan and Abu-Jamal plan to take the case to the Supreme Court.
After the decision was announced, Mumia spoke with J.R. and Fred Hampton Junior on the Block Report. He describes how many activists assumed he would win his appeal, and now that he hasn't they must start back at square one:
To learn more about what's going on with Mumia's Case and ways to support him, go to www.mumia.org. And to hear the full interview of Mumia on the Block Report, go to prisonradio.org
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.
Two indigenous spokeswomen for the community radio station “The Voice which Breaks the Silence” in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, were assassinated on April 7th. Teresa Bautista Merino and Felícitas Martínez Sánchez, along with three other passengers who were wounded, were driving to the state capitol to participate in the State Encuentro for the Defense of the Rights of the People of Oaxaca. They were on their way to coordinate the community and alternative communications for next week’s meeting, which will be hosted by Section twenty-two of the National Educational Worker’s Union.
CACTUS, an organization affiliated with the radio station, has called for an investigation into the assassination of the two women along with three other organizers killed in recent weeks. They are also calling for the immediate release of detainees and the cancellation of hundreds of arrest warrants for community and indigenous leaders. Above all, they are demanding the end of repression by the administration of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz against the social movement in Oaxaca and the full respect of the autonomy of indigenous communities.
Radio Rootz brings us this radical history lesson for April 15th:
Recently, protests held in San Francisco have been featured prominently in every major corporate-owned newspaper in the United States. These media outlets, which don't usually portray protest movements in such a positive light, provided spectacular publicity to those opposed to China's occupation of Tibet, as the Olympic torch passed through the city on its way to Beijing.
But China's repressive government wasn't the only target of protests in San Francisco earlier this month. On Friday April 4th, Antonio "Tony" Saca, the right-wing president of El Salvador, visited the city to be honored by mayor Gavin Newsome. On the steps of San Francisco City Hall, a crowd gathered to oppose Saca's visit, led by members of the Salvadoran community, labor unionists, religious groups, students, and solidarity organizations.
In San Francisco, Rubble interviews CISPES coordinator Alexis Stoumbelis, and also recorded speakers at the rally against Tony Saca.
After his visit to San Francisco, Saca visited Los Angeles on April 6th and was also met by protests there. Neither of these demonstrations, targeting a visiting head of state, received national media attention comparable to the the visit of the Olympic torch.
President Saca is an ally of President Bush, and the only leader in Latin America to send troops to support Bush's war in Iraq.
Last week, the U.S government renewed its contact with Blackwater, a controversial private security contractor, without the approval of the Iraqi government.
Blackwater is contracted to protect the most high-profile US officials and foreign diplomats in Iraq. Because foreign security companies such as Blackwater are not subject to Iraq law nor are they governed by US military tribunals, this allows them to operate without regard to any repercussions.
Last September 16th, the contractor's guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians while escorting an American diplomat. The incident was declared self defense by Blackwater and a crime by the Iraqi government. An investigation by the Pentagon revealed that all 17 of the Iraqis were killed as a result of unprovoked and unjustified fire by Blackwater operatives. The contract renewal comes despite an ongoing FBI investigation into the September incident.
In an interview with CNN, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said (quote) No judicial action has been taken, no compensation has been made. Therefore the extension requires approval of the Iraqi government and the government wants to resolve the outstanding issues with this company. I would say the US side should not move to renew the contract until the outstanding issues of the company are finalised. I feel the decision was taken without the approval of the Iraqi government (end quote).
Greg Starr, who heads the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, said the U.S. government, in particular the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, will take a close look at the FBI's investigation report (quote) and then we decide whether it is consistent with U.S. goals and policies to continue the contract (end quote) after the renewed contract ends next year.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
The ‘Longest Walk Two’ is a five-month journey that began at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California on February 11th. Hundreds of communities are participating in the walk, which will end in Washington, D.C. on July 11th.
The Longest Walk is currently making its way across Kansas. The American Indian Movement’s Kansas spokeswoman, Joni Tucker-Nisbeth, spoke with the Syracuse Journal about the organizers and purpose of the walk.
Jimbo Simmons of the International Indian Treaty Council also spoke with the Syracuse Journal, about the 1978 Longest Walk.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the original Longest Walk, which resulted in historic changes for American Indians. That walk was conducted in response to proposed legislation in Congress that would have abrogated treaties protecting Native American sovereignty.
Some of this legislation was introduced by Republican Washington State Congressman John Cunningham, who introduced the so-called “Native American Equal Opportunity Act” which effectively called for the termination of tribal sovereignty. The bill called for breaking all treaties signed between the United States and Native American tribes and held that no group of citizens of the United States should have special privileges over any other group. This reflected the attitude of many white Americans in the Pacific Northwest, who believed that the special privileges Native Americans had received gave Indians a type of (quote) “super citizenship.” This white backlash ignored the realities of life on the reservation, including sub-standard housing, low income, and high rates of children taken away from their families and put in white boarding schools.
Some of the other bills threatening Native treaty rights included the Steelhead Trout Protection Act and the Washington State Fishing and Hunting Equal Rights Act, which called for the regulation of hunting and fishing rights; the State of Maine Aboriginal Claims Act and the State of New York Aboriginal Claims Act, which sought to replace rights to water and land with money; and the Criminal Code Reform Act, which would have diminished Native sovereignty by increasing federal and state jurisdiction on Indian lands. These bills were defeated, along with six others. The next month, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 was passed, guaranteeing Indigenous people the right to freedom of religion.
Tawna Sanchez, a participant in the 1978 Longest Walk, talked about the history of the walk and some of the issues that sparked it. At a gathering on the second day, in front of the state capitol building in Sacramento, California, Sanchez addressed the crowd.
She went on to explain how the issues of thirty years ago are linked to the struggle for indigenous rights today.
The Longest Walk is now in its ninth week, with twelve more to go. The walk will be in Pittsburgh from June 18th through 22nd to take a break before continuing on to Washington DC. For more information on the Longest Walk, you can visit their website at www (dot) longest walk (dot) org. Thanks to Brenda Norrell for the audio used in this segment. You can hear more of “the Longest Talk” radio online at www (dot) earth cycles (dot) net
That was Chumbwumba with the song "Sewing up Crap"
On April 8th, Carlow University hosted Charlie Kernaghan, the executive director of the National Labor Committee. The NLC is an independent human rights organization committed to exposing the sweatshop conditions and violations of workers’ rights. Kernaghan is internationally known for drawing attention to the overseas labor practices of U.S. corporations and the group is involved in many anti-sweatshop campaigns across the globe.
Recently, the National Labor Committee has been involved in exposing the injustices caused by the US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, which was signed into law in 2001. The agreement was considered monumental since it required the U.S. and Jordan to abide by their existing national laws and the International Labor Organization’s provisions regarding workers’ rights. Because of these requirements, the agreement gained widespread bipartisan backing and was supported by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
Despite the inclusion of human rights in the agreement, the US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement failed to produce humane working conditions. Charlie Kernaghan explains:
In addition to exposing cooperate misconduct, The National Labor Committee exposes police involvement in violating workers’ rights. In 2006, Bangladesh workers protested after months of working unpaid overtime. The police attempted to end the protest through violent and forceful means. More from Kernaghan :
In 2006, the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act was introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate. If implemented, the bill would prohibit the import, export or sale of sweatshop goods in the United States. Currently 26 members of the Senate and 169 members of the House of Representatives have endorsed the bill. Kernaghan explains the bill and the Dog and Cat Protection Act, which sets precedent for the Sweatshop legislation:
If you would like more information on the national anti-sweatshop movement, visit the National Labor Committee’s website at nlcnet.org.
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 and Ben Klahr with contributions from Carlin Christy, Matt Toups, Diane Amdor, Jon Heiman, Juliana Stricklen, and Lizzie Anderson. 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.