community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show: An Anti-Islamic DVD is being distributed in Pittsburgh and across the US, Electronic Voting Machines in Allegheny County, A look at the case of Eric McDavid, an activist who was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison, based on questionable FBI evidence, A discussion of human rights with William F. Schulz, former executive director of Amnesty International, plus more in our local and global headlines
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Rustbelt Radio for September 22, 2008
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 other 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:
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We turn now to local stories.
On September 14th, many Pittsburgh Post Gazette subscribers were surprised to find a free DVD inserted into their Sunday Paper. The DVD entitled "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" was praised by right-wing Conservative media outlets such as Fox News and CNN's Glenn Beck show. However, many Pittsburgh residents and others across the country were outraged at the content of the 2006 film which features scenes of Muslims chanting “Death to America” and shows Muslim children juxtaposed with Nazi youth. In addition to the content of the 60-minute film, the mass distribution of the DVD and its timing are calling into question the funders behind this ad campaign. Additionally, dozens of newspapers are coming under fire for accepting these advertising dollars and agreeing to insert Obsession into their papers.
28 million copies of Obsession were distributed shortly after September 11th of this year and were only sent out to the key swing states that are critical to this November's upcoming Presidential election including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and New Hampshire. The DVDs were distributed in regional editions of the New York Times as well. The Clarion Fund, the conservative fund that is behind the campaign, has revealed little information about their objectives and funding sources. A representative of the fund would only state that this campaign cost “millions of dollars”.
Islamic groups across the country and other citizens are speaking out against the distribution of this film which they say is racist propaganda targeted towards increasing fears of national security and influencing voters to side with John McCain and the Republican party.
Here in Pittsburgh, several letters to the editor were sent in response to the Obsession DVD. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette stated that space constraints prohibited the printing of all of the letters they received, however they offered to share additional letters on their website. The website, however only featured 2 additional letters.
In the Saturday September 20th online edition of the paper, J. Adam Johns of Bethel Park wrote: "You are not serving the common good by giving the imprint of respectability to homegrown fascism. Sometimes, an advertisement is not just an advertisement. I'd be less offended to see pornography in my Sunday paper."
Joseph Fridy of Plum wrote:
"The DVD "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" was distributed with my Sunday Post-Gazette this week. Why? The Clarion Fund is the source of the DVD. Although nominally a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization, it is clearly attempting to influence the American electorate by fomenting fear -- the Republican Party's only effective weapon after eight years of incompetence and misrule… Where is the Post-Gazette's article about this ad-buy? If you are going to lend your distribution channels to propagandists for money, the least you can do as a news organization is to give us the details on the origin of the DVD. Specifically, how much did the entire campaign cost? Which outlets refused the ad? What contributors paid the bills? And finally, who commissioned the project? And if these questions cannot be clearly answered, then you should report that too. Because if you distributed a DVD from ultimately unknown sources with questionable motives, the least you can do is to let your customers know that you did it.”
The mass distribution of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West was one of the items discussed at the Talking about Torture conference this past weekend in Pittsburgh. Isabel MacDonald of FAIR--or fairness and accuracy in reporting--spoke about the media and its complicity with speaking out about torture. Isabel also made connections between Islamophobia, the Obama campaign, and the creation of an atmosphere where the use of torture is permissible.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR is a national group working to defend the rights of American Muslims. Locally, CAIR-PITTSBURGH is calling on anyone who received the "Obsession" DVD in their newspapers as well as those who became aware of its mass distribution to contact the Pittsburgh Post Gazette to ask why they believe it is appropriate to profit from anti-Muslim hate. You can call the Post Gazette’s Customer Service at: 1-800-228-NEWS. And for more information, you can go to http://pa.cair.com (that’s PA dot C-A-I-R dot com).
At the Allegheny County Council meeting on Tuesday September 9th, the Council discussed a resolution that would ask the Board of Elections to conduct an audit of the software on Allegheny County voting machines. The audit would randomly select a small percentage of the machines and check to make sure the correct software is installed on them. About 30 people came to testify at the meeting, and all supported the audit. Many saw the audit as a first step in addressing more fundamental problems with electronic voting machines. We’ll hear some of their testimony, and we’ll also get the big picture on electronic voting machines in an interview with Colin Lynch, president of VoteAllegheny. Allegheny County’s voting machines are I-vote-tronic machines manufactured by Election Systems and Science, or E.S. & S. . The machines tally the voters’ responses from the touchscreen electronically, with no backup paper record of any kind.
Here are some voices from the council hearing:
Rustbelt Radio spoke with Colin Lynch, president of VoteAllegheny and a Phd student in intelligent systems at the University of Pittsburgh, on the reliability of electronic voting machines. He describes how easy it is to hack into Allegheny County’s voting machines and compromise their software:
A WTAE-TV Channel 4 news report published in February found that Allegheny County stores its machines in a warehouse whose doors are often open on warm days, and which has an unguarded entrance connected to a private enterprise at the rear of the warehouse.
Penn State and University of Pennsylvania researchers conducted a study of the security of the types of voting machines used in Ohio, which included I-vote-tronic machines. Colin Lynch:
So many studies have been released on the problems of voting machines that the Federal Election Assistance Commission now recommends that all new machines should include a back-up paper trail that allows the votes to be checked. The watchdog groups Common Cause and VerifiedVoting.org also advocate for post-election audits of the accuracy of vote tallying to be adopted as standard procedure. Their websites summarize many incidents in which inaccurate counts were found, but only after an official demanded a recount. These incidents show that problems do occur regularly; without standard post-election audits, they may go undetected. According to VerifiedVoting dot org, 17 states now require voter-verified paper trail and post-election accuracy audits. 13 states require paper voter verification, but no audit, and 8 states have implemented paper voter verification statewide but have no legislation requiring it. Pennsylvania is one of 11 states that do not require paper voter verification.
According to Colin Lynch, state officials seem uninterested in changing this:
Seventeen of 67 counties in Pennsylvania now have machines with some form of voter verification. In Allegheny County, however, the board of elections appears unwilling to consider even the software audit recommended by the County Council. The Council has voted three times to recommend the audit, but the Board of Elections has not acted. On the board are County Executive Dan Onorato, who was instrumental in the purchase of the I-vote-tronic machines, and the two at-large council members, John DeFazio and Chuck McCullough.
To learn more about voting machines and other voting integrity concerns, visit www.commoncause.org and www.verifiedvoting.org. To learn more about local efforts to improve Pennsylvania’s voting machines, visit www.votepa.us and www.voteallegheny.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.
Radio Rootz brings us this radical history lesson for September 22nd.
* 3751-20080921-Sept-22.mp3: radical day sept 22 1 min
38 year old Troy Davis has been on Georgia's Death row for 17 years. Davis is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Tuesday, September 23rd at 7:00pm. In 1991, Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail at a Burger King in Savannah, Georgia. The case has gained international attention because of the inconsistencies and racism that played into the trial. The case against Davis consisted of 9 eye-witness accounts but no physical evidence. Since Troy Davis' conviction, 7 of the 9 witnesses have recanted their testimony.
Uprising Radio interviewed Laura Moye, the Southern Region Deputy Director of Amnesty International, regarding the legal situation:
In July of this year, the European Parliament has urged the United States to grant Davis a retrial. Various American and international leaders are also demanding a new trial. The most notorious of these include Pope Benedict XVI (16th), Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party nominee.
On September 15th, Amnesty International and the NAACP organized a procession from downtown Atlanta to Ebenezer Baptist Church, where an interfaith vigil was held. The 250 protesters that attended this event marched to demand a new hearing for Troy Davis. Around the country, similar demonstrations are taking place. For more information on how you can get involved, visit amnestyusa.org.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
And now we turn to Rustbelt Radio contributor Danny P for a look at a recent case involving the arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of a young man whom the FBI said was conspiring to commit "eco-terrorism"
We'll be back after this short break.
* anna-is-a-radioedit-stool-pidgeon.wav: Anna is a stool pidgeon - possible music break
That was "Anna is a Stool Pidgeon" by Tom Gable
On Sunday September 14th William Schulz, former executive director of Amnesty International USA, came to Pittsburgh to talk about the state of human rights in the world today. Schulz spoke from the campus of Carnegie Mellon University in a lecture sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist community. Schulz, who himself is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, served as the executive director of Amnesty USA from 1994-2006.
In his lecture, Schulz discusses how the United States, once widely respected and looked to for moral and political guidance, has experienced a dramatic drop in favorability rating in countries around the world.
We bring you a portion of the lecture, in which Schulz discusses some of the causes, backlashes, and possible remedies for this loss in U.S. leadership.
Schulz is the author of two books on human rights “In Our Own Best Interest: How Defending Human Rights Benefits Us All” and “Tainted Legacy, 9/11 and The Ruin of Human Rights”. Schulz is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and works on religion, public policy, and human rights reform.
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 Colleen Halley and Carlin Christy with contributions from Carlin Christy, Juli Stricklen, Jessica McPherson, Veronica Milliner, Dan Papasian and Jon Heiman. 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.