community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show An investigation of Taser use by Police in Allegheny County, The America's Army video game recruits children while generating profits for private software companies, A special segment of 2.3 Million and Rising, A local activist describes the police repression faced by protesters at the Republican National Convention, A flotilla of kayaks challenge the world's largest pipeline laying ship off the west coast of Ireland, 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.
This show kicks off our new Fall season of Rustbelt Radio, and we'd like to thank listeners for tuning in once again.
We turn now to local stories.
In July of 1997, Da’Ron Cox was put on trial for the shooting of Brian Roberts in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Homewood. The questionable eyewitness testimony of Rasihai (RA-SHEE) Smith gave Cox a life sentence without the possibility of parole at the age of eighteen.
For this week's 2.3 Million and Rising, Fed up spoke with Rick Morris, who is the executive director of the Da’Ron Cox Legal Defense Fund, about the grave mishandling of Cox’s case that landed him in prison despite the very convincing evidence that he is innocent.
First, Morris gave some background information on the case:
Now Morris explains the appeals process and frustrations encountered along the way:
We'll end with things that local listeners can do to bring real justice to Cox and our Pennsylvania courts:
For more information about the Da’ron Cox case as well as to view a re-enactment of what happened the night of the shooting, you can visit the website at D-A-R-O-N-C-O-X dot ORG.
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.
The Shell to Sea campaign has heated up again on the west coast of Ireland, as local and international farmers, fishers, and environmental activists work to prevent Shell Oil from building a natural gas pipeline and refinery in County Mayo. Rustbelt has been covering this ongoing struggle for the past two years.
Recent developments involve attempts by Shell to Sea to shut down work at the pipeline landfall site on Glengad beach. The refinery at Ballinaboy is approximately half-finished, and the well at sea is complete. Shell still does not have permission to build a pipeline connecting the two. In spite of this, construction continues on the refinery and they have begun work on the off-shore sections of pipeline.
The world’s largest pipe-laying ship, the Soltaire, arrived in the area last week. It was met by the ‘Shell to Sea flotilla’ – a rag-tag bunch of ten kayaks and dinghies. In response to the delays caused by Shell to Sea, the Irish navy and Shell security forces sent two war ships and twelve other vessels to patrol the bay.
Irish police have made a number of arrests during the ongoing protests against the Corrib gas project, including eight arrests made on Thursday, September 4th. All but one of the arrestees was released within a few hours. Police have been reluctant to press serious charges against protesters since the 2005 arrest and jailing of the “Rossport five” which galvanized support for the Shell to Sea campaign across Ireland.
Dramatic images of the navy vessels and the Shell to Sea flotilla can be seen at www (dot) corrib s o s (dot) org, and more coverage of the ongoing story can be read at the Ireland indymedia site – www (dot) indymedia (dot) i e
Radio Rootz brings us this radical history lesson for September 7th:
Out of the 800 plus arrests made by the Minneapolis/St. Paul police at this year's Republican National Convention, most arrestees were charged with a citation for probable cause to riot. However, a select few, including members of the RNC Welcoming Committee, have been charged with conspiracy to riot in lieu of terrorism. Bob Fletcher, the local Ramsey country Sheriff, describes the group as (quote) "a criminal enterprise made up of 35 anarchists who are intent on committing [anarchy] before and during the Republican National Convention. These acts include tactics to blockade and disable delegate buses, breaching venue security and injuring police officers.(endquote) Ramsey also says (quote) They have recruited assistance in their criminal conspiracy from other anarchists groups throughout the country (endquote), and (quote) "in their plans and actions they have exhibited a blatant disregard for the law and the safety of others." (endquote)
Rustbelt Radio's Colleen Halley spoke to a local Pittsburgher, Peppy, a six year resident of Bloomfield, who was among at least 30 other local residents at the RNC protest. Peppy spent some time with the RNC Welcoming Committee, and he paints a different perspective of what they are about and what their goals are:
Peppy and those he was staying with were personally affected by the police in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Peppy and others like him were lucky to be only detained by police during their raids. Others in the RNC Welcoming Committee were not so fortunate. According to Peppy, they face severe sentences:
In closing the Rustbelt interview with Peppy, he shares his perspective on his experience at the Republican National Convention as a whole, remaining positive about the over all impact of their protests:
Another example of the RNC's treatment of "outsiders" comes in the form of the Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. Despite receiving more primary delegates than either Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson, Paul has been shunned by the Republican Party. In response, Ron Paul organized his own counter-convention in Minneapolis, calling it the “Rally for the Republic,”. He attracted thousands of supporters who praised him vigorously, calling him “St. Paul.” According to Stephen Dubner of the New York Times, the Paul convention (quote) “felt like a celebration.”
Although Ron Paul received over 29 delegates in the primary, he was not invited to speak at the RNC. Fellow primary contenders Rudy Guiliani and Fred Thompson both spoke at the convention. Paul’s views on many issues diverge from the Republican party line, most notably in his strong opposition to the war in Iraq.
Perhaps the most exclusionary behavior of the RNC towards Ron Paul is their handling of the delegate vote count. Several states, including Alaska, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia, cast a portion of their votes for Ron Paul. None of these votes were repeated aloud by the secretary, and thus were not recorded by the chair. According to Drew Ivers, Paul’s delegate coordinator, (quote) "There were several discrepancies. The RNC was roughshod, a little careless. They weren't as respectful as they could have been. I don't think that's very professional, and it's not a good reflection.”
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
Since the start of the war in Iraq in 2002, the US Military has had a difficult time finding new recruits to fill the ranks of the army, navy, marines, and other military positions. The growing unpopularity and disastrous state of the invasions into Iraq and Afghanistan bring additional challenges to Recruiters. As a result, the Military has resorted to tactics such as lowering quotas for the number of recruits, and lowering the academic standards for those interested in joining the armed forces.
According to an article by Slate Magazine, statistics show that the percentage of new Army recruits with high-school diplomas dropped from 94 percent in 2003 to 83.5 percent in 2005. This number fell to 70.7 percent in 2007, ultimately a 24% decrease of recruits with high school diplomas between 2003 to 2007.
In addition to recruiting fewer individuals with a high-school diploma, the Army is now signing up more recruits who score among the lowest levels of the Army’s aptitude tests. Previously, a regulation existed prohibiting no more than 2 percent of all recruits to come from "Category IV". Category 4 represents applicants who score in the 10th to 30th percentile on the aptitude tests. In 2004, just 0.6 percent of new soldiers scored so low. In 2005, the Army raised the cap to 4 percent. According to new statistics for 2007, the Army has exceeded that limit, as 4.1 percent of new recruits were Category 4.
In addition to lowering academic standards, the US Army and Marine corps are now recruiting greater numbers of convicted felons. Charges against the new recruits include armed robbery, rape, sexual abuse, and drug possession.
With all the challenges facing military recruiters today, new innovative techniques for recruitment have to be developed. Foreseeing this decline in enlistment, Lieutenant Colonel Casey Wardynski of the West Point Military Academy came up with the idea to target new recruits, or children, through online video game technologies. Out of this idea was born “America’s Army”—the official game of the US Army.
First released on July 4th, 2002, the game is designed to provide players with Army experiences similar to that of a new recruit. The game is said to familiarize players with soldier-values, and give technical experience in basic training, weapons and combat operations.
The Army spent $6 million to develop the game at the Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation Institute. Later in 2004, the development of the game was handed over to private gaming and software companies for adaptation to console formats. America’s Army thus became available for Xbox, cell phone, and Internet use.
In addition to being available in multiple formats, America’s Army is brought in-person to schools, fairs, and gaming tournaments to further target youth. Prizes and life like weapons are present at the events as added attractions. Since its release, America’s Army has been criticized as a propaganda recruitment tool that targets children ages 13-17. Critics state that this game only addresses the technological, not moral issues of warfare, thus providing a skewed view of reality to impressionable youth.
Six years after the release of the game Army, activists are now targeting the private software companies that profit from contracts with the US Army. Direct Action to Stop the War, a network of antiwar groups and activists in San Francisco, are leading this campaign. Direct Action to Stop the War was formed in 2002 in anticipation of the US Government’s invasion into Iraq. Once the war officially started, DASW helped to organize a coordination of 20,000 plus activists which shut down San Francisco for a day. This action resulted in over 2000 arrests. Newly re-formed in 2007, Direct Action to Stop the War are working to target war profiteers based in the Bay area.
Rustbelt Radio spoke with activist Michael Reagan of the group. He first described the origins of the America’s Army game.
* 1_origins_of_AA.ogg: history of Americas Army 1:57
In its 6 year history, America's Army has been released in approximately 20 different versions. Michael of Direct Action to Stop the War talks more about the history and popularity of the game:
America's Army is said to be popular due to its realistic features and life-life experiences. Michael, however argues that some key aspects of warfare are missing from the game.
Although America's Army is played by millions of people, its effectiveness as a recruiting tool is unconfirmed. More from Michael.
Direct Action to Stop the War's campaign was launched at the end of this past July. Michael Reagan of the group talks about the campaign's strategies.
Finally, Michael of Direct Action to Stop the War discussed ways the public can get involved in this effort.
You've been listening to Michael Reagan of San Francisco based Direct Action to Stop the War.
We'll be back after this break...
... That was "Rich man's War" by Steve Earl
On September 2nd, members of local human rights groups gathered outside of the office of Allegheny County District Attorney, Stephen Zappala. Members from The Black and White Reunion, The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), the Pittsburgh Branch of the NAACP, One HOOD, and Stop Taser Abuse Today held a press conference in response to the death of Andre Thomas and the questionable recent taserings of Jason Schmidt and Shawn Hicks.
On August 5th, Andre Thomas died shortly after being tased three times by Swissvale police officers. Taser use and police brutality in the case of Andre Thomas caused public outrage. Yet three weeks later, Jason Schmidt was tased four times by police officers in Brighton Heights, causing immediate hospitalization. The same day, the North Braddock Borough settled for a $100,000 suit brought by Shawn Hicks, a man who was tased three times by police who entered his house unannounced last year.
At the press conference, other Allegheny county taser victims told their stories. Chris Cason speaks about his experience with the Homestead Police Department:
* testimony.wav: chris cason testimony (1:00)
Tim Stevens, president of The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), comments on the issue:
Beth Pittinger, the executive director of the Citizen’s Police Review Board, describes current standards and trainings regarding taser use in Allegheny county. Her explanation is followed by comments by David Meieran, of Stop Taser Abuse Today, and Celeste Taylor, the vice president of B-PEP:
On August 26th, District Attorney Stephen Zappala and Medical Examiner Karl Williams announced that they would form a working group to study the weapon's use by county police. The group will include medical professionals and law enforcement personnel. The human rights groups at the press conference demand that the DA’s committee (quote) “has access to the factual information about Taser and use-of-force policies, invites residents and activists to participate, and includes mental health and law enforcement professionals with expertise in appropriate responses to individuals in distress.” (unquote) In addition, the groups call for a county-wide moratorium on the use of tasers until the DA’s committee has completed its study and released its findings.
David Meieran of Stop Taser Abuse Today:
* demands.wav: 1:42davidm
Chris Cason concludes with his demands for the District Attorney’s Committee:
For more information, go to www(dot)stoptasers(dot)org. Also on September 20th Pittsburgh Against Torture is holding a conference to address the many issues regarding torture. Stay tuned to our event calendar for details.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WPTS Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, WVJW Benwood, and WIUP Indiana.
Our hosts this week are [ ] and [ ] with contributions from Carlin Christy, Jessica McPherson, Colleen Halley, Helen ?, Diane A., Juliana S., Jon Heiman, and Carly ?. This week's show was produced by [ ]. 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.