community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show... * The Yes Men speak on their latest prank * Malik Rahim of Common Ground in New Orleans comes to Pittsburgh * A look inside the Prison Industrial Complex * Pittsburghers protest California's gay marriage ban * plus more in our local and global headlines
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Rustbelt Radio for November 17, 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.
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We turn now to local stories.
On Saturday November 15, Over 400 people gathered at the pavilion in Oakland's Schenley Plaza to protest the November 4th passage of the California ballot initiative known as Proposition 8. Prop 8 restricts marriage in that state, to the union of one man and one woman. It also amends the California Constitution and overturns the May decision of the California Supreme Court to allow same sex couples to wed. Two other states, Florida and Arizona, also passed ballot initiatives on Election Day to limit marriage rights to heterosexual couples.
Protesters in Pittsburgh were organized through a larger effort to bring attention to Proposition 8 by the national group Join the Impact, which formed only days after the November 4th election. Protests were organized in cities and state capitals across the United States, mirroring the many protests in California which have taken place since Election Day. Local protest organizer Misty Harvey of Erie, PA learned about the nationwide protests through the Join the Impact website, and worked with local authorities and allies in the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender and Queer community to secure the necessary permit for the Pittsburgh protest, and to get the word out about the event through volunteers and media.
Randy Collins of Squirrel Hill heard about the Pittsburgh event through the online networking site, Facebook.
The Pittsburgh protest began with singing from the Renaissance City Choirs and loosely organized speeches from a few people in the crowd. Police stopped traffic as protestors then marched on the sidewalks of Forbes and Fifth Avenues in Oakland, carrying signs and banners in support of gay marriage. The protest ended back on the lawn of Schenley Plaza, where organizers and random crowd members took the microphone at an improvised podium and shared their personal stories.
We spoke with Kelly Flanagan of Upper Saint Clair who attended with her mother about why she came to the Pittsburgh rally to protest the California amendment.
Many protesters identified disappointment in the religious establishment which has been widely reported as being influential in the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Rob Frankenberry of Lawrenceville:
Join the Impact plans to hold more protests nationwide on January 10 against anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives as well as Defense of Marriage acts active in 37 states. These acts define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman and provide that states need not recognize a marriage from another state if it is between persons of the same sex.
Fed Up, the local chapter of The Human Rights Coalition, brings us this week's report on the prison industrial complex. Today's segment is the first in a four part series written by the same author:
Andre Jacobs is a young man who is currently incarcerated at State Correctional Institution Fayette. Mr. Jacobs, originally of Harrisburg, has been petitioning the courts for civil rights violations and to demand better conditions for over five years. He is currently suing the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, because in 2003 he claims SCI Pittsburgh staff infringed his rights by confiscating and destroying legal documents belonging to him.
Mr. Jacobs, who is representing himself at trial, is being forced to wear a "stun belt," a remote controlled electro-shock device. Numerous groups including, Amnesty International have denounced this as constituting a form of torture. The Department of Corrections - the defendant in the case - is forcing him to wear this belt, and they are wielding the power to administer shocks throughout the trial.
The Department of Corrections claim that they are making Mr. Jacobs wear the stun belt because in 2006, Mr. Jacobs allegedly assaulted United States Marshalls in a courthouse. Mr. Jacobs tells a much different story. He says that he was beaten by US Marshalls after telling his grandmother that he loved her as he exited court, which angered the Marshalls who had demanded his silence. He was then charged with assault as a means of covering up the police brutality.
Interviews with Mr. Jacobs' grandmother support Mr. Jacob's view of the case, according to a representative from the Pittsburgh-based Human Rights Coalition - Fed Up.
The judge presiding over the trial, Judge Conti, has so far allowed the DOC to force Andre Jacobs to wear a stun belt. Fed Up has decried this decision, and are encouraging the public to call Judge Conti to question her decision, and ask that she order the removal of the device. Judge Conti can be reached at 412 208 7500. That's 4-1-2, 2-0-8, 7-5-0-0.
In the latest development of the ongoing contract dispute between the Port Authority of Allegheny County and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, union leadership has publicly mentioned the possibility of a work stoppage. In late October, the Port Authority board voted unanimously to impose a contract on the union, which is scheduled to go into effect Monday, December 1st. In the 44 year history of the Port Authority board, its leadership has never before imposed a contract on the union. Union leadership has called the move illegal and filed a grievance with the Pennsylvania labor relations board saying the Authority has failed to bargain in good faith. The Union is threatening a work stoppage as early as November 24th, pending the outcome of a scheduled November 23rd meeting. They have been without a contract since June 30th. The Port Authority and County Executive Dan Onoroto maintain that the authority cannot afford to continue paying for healthcare and pensions at current levels. However, it rejected a savings plan designed by the Union. A state-appointed fact finding team then designed a compromise contract, which was approved by the authority but rejected by the union leadership.
Union President Pat McMahon said (quote) "They've painted us into a work stoppage. If they change the terms and conditions of our employment, it's definitely a lockout." (endquote) The new contract calls for a 3% pay raise for each of the next 3 years, but increases employee contributions for health care and pensions from 3% of the premium today to 7.5% in 2009 and 10% in 2010. It encourages later retirement, and eliminates post-employment healthcare coverage for all new employees. It also includes several provisions that the state fact-finding process recommended against. It allows Port Authority to outsource work now performed by the union, and calculates overtime on a weekly rather than daily basis.
Port Authority CEO Steve Bland said the contract was the agency's best and final offer because negotiations have reached an impasse.
When the union leaders met with no result on November 4th, Bland had this to say: A strike or lockout is (quote) "something that they have at their disposal if the union leadership has such a blatant and callous disregard for customers. I'm not sure you turn down an offer when you're making $24.25 an hour and continue to have some of the best health insurance and post-retirement benefits, so it boggles my mind that they would consider such a severe disruption to service to the community. If they do, it's on their heads." (endquote)
A potential work stoppage would stop the operation of public transit in Pittsburgh for its 247,000 daily riders, at a time when ridership is up 3.7% from last year.
The union has scheduled a meeting with their members for November 23rd to discuss its options. Other community groups have called for the union to allow members to vote on the contract put forth by the state fact finding team. Leadership may also ask for authorization to call a work stoppage. The union will likely challenge the imposed contract in court, but cannot do so until it actually goes into affect. If the union is turned down by the courts, a work stoppage would be one of its few remaining tools.
Additionally, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato is threatening to withhold the county's $27 million contribution to transit funding, collected through the county's recent drink and car-rental taxes, unless a new contract is agreed upon soon. Meanwhile, the Port Authority is looking to impose a similar contract on the approximately 75 members of Local 29, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The IBEW represents clerical, customer service, mailroom, treasury, and phone information employees, among others.
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.
In Philadelphia, residents have been fighting to keep casinos out of their neighborhoods for almost 2 years. After local opposition made it impossible to build a casino on South Philly's waterfont, Foxwoods casino is now trying to build in the center of Chinatown.
On November 1st, Philadelphians came out to protest the proposed casino.
On Thursday, November 13th, Philadelphia City Council voted unanimously to approve the zoning of the new Foxwoods casino. The plan still needs approval from Pennsylvania regulators and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. Organizations like the Center City District are backing the plan, while residents of Chinatown stand in opposition.
Today, November 17th, 24 hours after a meeting with members of the Chinatown community, Mayor Michael Nutter signed into law the legislation re-zoning the proposed site to a casino district.
Asian Americans United, who have been working to oppose the casino issued this statement: "In driving through this legislation, the Mayor and City have ignored the voices of citizens, abandoned campaign promises around residential buffers for casinos, raised serious questions about the intent to reform and improve planning and zoning, and recklessly put the city at financial risk by refusing to calculate the costs of this location.We as citizens of our beloved city will continue to fight for what is morally right, for a democratic and inclusive process, and for public interest over private interest."
Former president of El Salvador Alfredo Cristiani and 14 other ex-officials were sued by two human rights organizations last week for the 1989 massacre of 8 members of a Jesuit household during El Salvador’s civil war, and for the subsequent attempts to obstruct an investigation.
The suit was brought by the Spanish Association for Human Rights and California's Center for Justice and Accountability under Spain’s principle of Universal Jurisdiction, which lets it hear cases for crimes against humanity from anywhere in the world, such as previous suits against Al-Qaeda’s founder Osama bin Laden and Chilean military leader Augusto Pinochet.
El Salvador’s civil war lasted from 1980 to1992 and was fought between a communist guerrilla coalition and a US-backed right-wing military government. The civil war was marked by extreme violence in the form of death squads, state terror and torture, and civilian guerrilla tactics that had a tragic effect on the large peasant farming population in El Salvador. The 1989 election of Alfredo Cristiani by 54% of the vote was the first legitimate and peaceful transfer of power to a president for the country.
The discovery that some of the soldiers involved in the massacre were trained in Fort Benning, Georgia at the School of the Americas was a blow to the public image of the United States anti-Communist efforts, and caused international concern and criticism. Indeed, the United States had spent over 7 million dollars in El Salvador to keep the military government in power as part of the efforts to hold the spread of Communism in Central America.
A trial for this massacre was previously held in 1991 in El Salvadorian courts. However, of the 10 defendants, only two were charged with murder, and both were subsequently released two years later when Cristiani instituted blanket policy of amnesty for human rights violators.
Impunity Watch reporter Sarah Benczik spoke with supporters of the case about what it could mean for El Salvador today.
Almudena Bernabeu, a lawyer for Center for Justice and Accountability said, (quote) "We hope this case helps to reawaken the memory and the conscience of El Salvador's people." David Morales, a lawyer with the Foundation for Studies on the Application of Rights, said the new lawsuit filed in Spain will (quote) "highlight the state of impunity that prevails in El Salvador, where thousands of atrocious and appalling crimes committed during the (1980-1992) armed conflict cannot be investigated" because "the state continues to protect the criminals."
It will likely take several months for the Spanish National Court to determine if it will hear the new case brought on behalf of El Salvador’s troubled human rights past.
Radio Rootz brings us this radical history lesson for November 17th:
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
Vietnam Veteran, former Black Panther, ex-con, community organizer and Green Party member, Malik Rahim has been working for social justice for several decades. Most recently in the wake of hurricane Katrina, Malik helped to found Common Ground, an organization providing health care, home re-hab and direct services to over two hundred thousand residents of New Orleans. An 18 year member of the Green Party, Malik is now running for Congress in District 2 of Louisiana. The election will take place on December 6th. Malik was recently recognized in Pittsburgh by the Thomas Merton Center for his life long struggle of inspiring activism and organizing. While in Pittsburgh, Malik spoke to several audiences about the realities of Hurricane Katrina, and the suffering that has taken place in its aftermath:
Unemployment and homelessness have skyrocketed since Hurricane Katrina. Malik questions why 3 years later, the citizens of New Orleans and the environment are still suffering.
Malik feels that the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina reflect not only a deep state of racism, but also classism.
You've been listening to Malik Rahim, Green Party member and community organizer in New Orleans Louisiana. To learn more about his political campaign, you can go to votemalik.com thats vote m-a-l-i-k dot com. And to hear his full talk, you can go to radio4all.net
The Yes Men are an activist duo who use parody, pranks and satire to protray government and corporate institutions responsible for perpetrating injustice across the globe. The group was created by Mike Bonnano and Andy Bichlbaum (bickel-baum) in the late 1990's. Through the use of media coverage the group are able to accomplish what they refer to as "identity correction" or presenting individuals and institutions as they actually should be to the public. The Yes Men have posed as spokespeople for The World Trade Organization, McDonald's, Dow Chemical, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Most recently, the group worked to produce a fake issue of the New York Times dated July 4th, 2009. Stories in the paper reflected a positive future for the US, including an end to the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act and CIA torture centers around the globe. Additionally the paper cites the expansion of national healthcare, clean energy policies, and the elimination of tuition fees at all colleges and universities.
Just two days after the paper's release on November 12th, the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University opened the first solo exhibition of the Yes Men's work. Marge Myers, the Associate Director of the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon had a chance to talk with Mike of the Yes Men and Astria Suparak of the Miller Gallery on the day of the show's opening last Friday the 14th. Today Rustbelt Radio brings you an excerpt of that interview.
To view the online version of the Yes Men's phony New York Times, go to www.nytimes-se.com. The Yes Men's exhibition will be on display at CMU's Miller Gallery though February 15th. Thanks to the College of Fine Arts podcast program LabA6 for this interview. For more information on the podcast, go to www.cfa.cmu.edu/labA6.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Our hosts and contributors this week are Carlin Christy and Dan Papasian with additional contributions from Jessica McPherson, Carly Dobbins-Bucklad, Kara Holsopple, Jon Heiman, and Lizzie Anderson. This week's show was produced by Phill Cresswell. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
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