community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show:Antonia Juhasz speaks on the power of the oil industry, Pittsburgh hosts its first African-American led green festival, Local activists organize in solidarity with massive protests in Greece, and The mayor announces plans to convene a Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Trangender task force
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Rustbelt Radio for December 15, 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.
Fed Up, the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Human Rights Coalition brings us this week's report on the prison industrial complex. This is the third part of a three part series:
In November, UPMC Braddock announced they would be closing a program that helps drug addicted mothers and their children. The House of Hope located next to the UPMC hospital on Holland Avenue, was designed to help chemically dependent, homeless pregnant women or new mothers through recovery. Unlike any other program in Allegheny county, it accepted mothers right off the street with no clean time. Residents were able to stay for 90 days, while receiving drug counseling, life skills and parenting classes. The women were able to keep and care for their infants, while working to get clean.
In UPMC’s 2007 Annual Report, it cited the House of Hope program as one of its accomplishments. During that year, they had successfully lowered the incidences of Braddock babies born with low-birth weight from 13 to 7 percent.
Due to the success and the necessity of the program, the announcement that the program would be shut down--as a cost-cutting measure--drew outcry and criticism from the community.
Regarding announcement of the closure, UPMC spokesman Frank Raczkiewicz stated (quote), "given the current economic conditions, UPMC has had to make difficult decisions in order to remain a strong organization so it can continue its mission to deliver the highest-quality, most patient-focused health care available in the region."
However critics are questioning UPMC’s expansion of a new hospital in Monroeville which is stated to cost approximately $250 million dollars. Other expenditures such as the UPMC sign which was recently placed atop the USX Tower are angering former residents of the House of Hope, who believe the money could be better spent on this vital program.
Arik Morgan, a successful graduate of the House of Hope, stated, "UPMC claims to care so deeply about the community, yet at the first sign of financial problems it decides to cut a program that has a wonderful success rate." Ms. Morgan was just one of many community residents and leaders who spoke out at a rally held at the House of Hope on Thursday December 11th. Rustbelt Radio spoke with local activist and health care advocate Ed Cloonan, about what prompted him to organize the rally:
Rumors that UPMC Braddock wants to remove the House of Hope to further develop its parking lot are unconfirmed.
Ed spoke about how the proposed closing of the House of Hope reflects larger problems with the US Healthcare system:
Because of public pressure, UPMC has agreed to continue the program under the direction of its Western Psychiatric wing, however a new location has yet to be decided. We asked Ed what he would like to see UPMC do in response to this community outcry:
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will have a GLBT Advisory Committee by early 2009. In a December 10th open meeting chaired by Kristen Baginski, the Mayor's Deputy Chief of Staff, and Gary Van Horn, President of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, plans for the committee were explained, along with requirements for applying.
Committee members must be residents of the city of Pittsburgh, and send a resume and cover letter to Baginski by January 15th. The Mayor will appoint the 8 to 10 members of the council by late February, and at least one member will be a city of Pittsburgh employee from the GLBT community.
According to Van Horn, the purpose of the committee is to be a voice for the GLBT community that speaks directly to the Mayor. The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, a local non-profit which produces events and raises and grant funds to other GLBT social and service organizations, put the word out to other GLBT groups about the formation of the committee and the informational meeting. Over 35 people attended, including representatives of the Stonewall Democrats, the Pittsburgh Lesbian and Gay Film Society, Pittsburgh Aids Task Force, and the Pittsburgh Trans Working Group.
Before the meeting, activist and attorney Elise Delong expressed her hopes for the future committee's work.
Dave Schelbe,[read SHELBY] president of the local chapter of Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays, had this to say about what he expected from the meeting:
This will be the first dedicated committee for GLBT issues in the city of Pittsburgh, and will be modeled in part by existing GLBT government advisory councils in other cities like Chicago. The committee will begin its work about one year from the time that Van Horn and others initially approached the mayor with the idea for a GLBT advisory committee, but Baginski says that is record time for a government group. She also said the future committee will create its own terms for service, operating procedures, and system for alternates when the first meeting takes place in March.
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 a historic agreement reached last week, Subway, the world's fastest growing restaurant franchise, entered into a partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee workers, committing themselves to improve wages and working conditions for the Florida farmworkers who harvest the tomatoes they purchase. Rustbelt Radio's Andalusia Knoll has more.
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On Saturday December 6th 2008, a 15-year-old-boy was murdered by policemen in the Exarchia [PRONOUNCE: ex-AR-kee-ah] area of Athens, Greece. The boy was shot twice following a verbal altercation between the police officers and several youths. The victim, Alexandros Grigoropoulos [PROUNOUNCE:Grig-or-OH-poh-los], was described as an anarchist, and Exarchia is a neighborhood with a large anarchist presence.
That night, thousands of people assembled in city centers across Greece in spontaneous acts of support. Protesters gathered at the Evangelismos hosiptal where Grigoropoulos was pronounced dead and prevented police from entering the building. Further riots and altercations with police occurred at Athens' Polytechnic University, where no less than three buildings were occupied. In the town of Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, banks and storefronts were torched and the main street was blocked for hours by burning trash bins.
In separate incidents just days earlier, police killed a Pakistani immigrant, and attacked textile workers organizing at their jobsite. The massive scale of the protests in Greece reflects popular outrage at all these actions. The protests have also sparked solidarity demonstrations around the world. Largely-peaceful demonstrations were held in such cities as Paris, Moscow, Berlin, New York, and Rome in the past week. In Pittsburgh, one such event was held Saturday December 13th in front of the Zone 2 police headquarters in the Hill District. Local activist Patrick Young was there:
The violence against the police and businesses flared throughout Greek cities for most of the week, fueled not only by Grigoropoulos' murder, but also by ongoing outrage over government corruption and economic hardship in that country. One-fifth of the population currently lives below the poverty line. The ruling right-wing and unpopular New Democracy party, which has a one-seat majority in parliament, has favored privatization and deregulation while showing repression against labor rights and social movements. Again, Patrick Young:
Meanwhile, the two police officers involved in the boy's murder were arrested and charged, one with premeditated manslaguter and illegal weapon use, and the other as an accomplice. But the 37-year-old policeman who shot Grigoropoulos did not express remorse in court on Wednesday, claiming that he fired warning shots that ricocheted. The incident and its aftermath are being called the worst unrest in Greece since its seven-year military rule ended in 1974.
Bank of America has revised its policy on lending money to coal companies, saying it will no longer finance companies that get most of their coal from mountaintop removal mining. The policy appears to be a response to public pressure from the Rainforest Action Network, and discussions between Bank of America and the Natural Resources Defense Fund. NRDC took Bank of America executives on a tour of mountaintop removal affected lands in Appalachia this past summer.
According to the Boston Globe, Bank of America participates in loans to seven major companies involved in mountaintop removal mining. However, most get less than half of their annual production from surface mining, so it is unclear whether they would be affected by the new policy.
Rebecca Tarbottom of Rainforest Action Network says that (quote) The language is vague, and we have a lot of questions. This is a small step, but what it does indicate is that we have leverage. (end quote)
Radio Rootz brings us this radical history lesson for December 17th:
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
On November 19th, author Antonia Juhasz (YEW-HAAZ) spoke to an audience at Carnegie Mellon University here in Pittsburgh. Ms. Juhasz is the author of "The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry--And What We Must Do To Stop It." She spoke about the structure and power of the oil industry, particularly with regards to competition and the question of governmental influence and regulation.
Ms. Juhasz discussed the history of the oil industry and its relation to government.
She also discussed how oil corporations have split and merged over time, shifting their efforts from finding oil in the ground to oil through investments.
While she was in Pittsburgh, Antonia also met with strategists from the United Steelworkers Union. The Steelworkers represent 30,000 workers in the oil industry whose contracts are set to expire on February 1, 2009. In this round of contract negotiations the Steelworkers are hoping to win contract language improving health and safety standards in oil refineries to reduce the risk of fatal explosions and other serious accidents.
For more information about Ms. Juhasz or her book, "The Tyranny of Oil," see her website at www.TyrannyofOil.org.
Namosha Smith, development associate with Legacy Arts Project:
Smith on the roots of the Jonkanoo festival:
The Pittsburgh Jonkanoo brought to life many of the traditional features of the festival, - including costumes, food, dancing and drumming – through the participation of many local groups that carry on this heritage.
Smith explains why Legacy Arts project decided to theme the festival around environmental sustainability:
In between African dancing from students at the Miller African-Centered Academy, and a performance from local steel drum band Caribbean Vibes, the Legacy Arts Project also brought Tanya Fields, outreach coordinator for Sustainable South Bronx, to speak to Pittsburghers about environmental justice.
That was Tanya Fields, media outreach coordinator with Sustainable South Bronx, speaking at the Jonkanoo Festival in Pittsburgh.
Namosha Smith spoke with Rustbelt Radio on environmental justice challenges faced here in Pittsburgh:
The Pittsburgh Jonkanoo festival brought together many groups and individuals working to solve these problems. They included artists whose work was themed around environmental issues or used recycled materials, and entrepreneurs with green businesses such as G-tech, who works to cultivate biofuels on vacant lots in Pittsburgh, and Green Sense Products, an online vendor of sustainable home products. To learn more, visit www.brothaashproductions.com/jonkanoo.htm.
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WPTS Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, and WIUP Indiana.
Our hosts this week are [ ] and [ ] with contributions from [Carlin Christy, Lizzie Anderson, Andalusia Knoll, Jon Heiman, Dan Papasian, Jessica McPherson, Kara Holsopple]. This week's show was produced by Phill Cresswell. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
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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.