community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show... * Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish Speaks in Pittsburgh of Peace in the Gaza Strip * The Anti-discrimination HB300 Bill Moves to Pass This Year * An Inside Look and History of Somali Pirates * United Workers march for Economic Human Rights in Baltimore's Inner Harbor * And more in our local and global headlines
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Rustbelt Radio for April 20, 2009
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:
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.
We turn now to local stories.
FedUp, the local chapter of the Human Rights Coalition, brings us this week's report on the Prison Industrial Complex
Mark Dixon overhauled his life a few years ago. He left his job in Silicon Valley, and along with two friends, spent a year in a hybrid SUV traveling around the US, talking to all kinds of Americans about climate change. Margaret Hagan spoke with him about the resulting project: Your Environmental Road Trip.
On April 13th, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian gynecologist from the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza, spoke to an audience at the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Center advocating peace and coexistence. He spoke with this same Pittsburgh audience in January through conference call from Gaza just hours before his house was shelled by an Israeli tank. Three of his daughters were tragically killed and another daughter injured. Dr. Abuelaish began the evening by reciting a poem about his eldest daughter, Bessan [pronounced: Bee-Zaan], written by the Director of the Creativity for Peace camp where she was a participant. He also spoke at length about the dreams and aspirations of his daughters, who were also actively working for peace. He then spoke about his roots in the Jabaliya Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip and his journey to becoming the first Palestinian doctor at the Soroka Medical Center in Israel.
As a public health expert, he also gave his assessment on the public health crisis on the surviving population of the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza strip. With more than 14,000 homes completely destroyed, it left one third (1/3) of the 1.5 million people in Gaza displaced, including 92,000 people homeless and 16,000 of them living in small tents. According to Dr Abuelaish, 1600 people will suffer permanent disabilities including amputations, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, large burns with crippling fractures which will, in turn, make the Gaza strip the most densely handicapped population in the world. Next, Dr. Abuelaish speaks about the memory of his daughters and about the foundation he is creating to empower women and girls in the Middle East through higher education:
That was Dr. Abuelaish. He has recently been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his active efforts in advocating peace between Israelis and Palestinians. You can listen to the entire lecture and Q&A session at the Pittsburgh Indy Media website, www.indypgh.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.
Low wage workers in Baltimore launched a new phase of an economic human rights campaign targeting the restaurant industry in the inner harbor. Led by the United Workers, the campaign seeks to win rights to education, living wage jobs, and health care, as well as dignity and respect. From Baltimore, Andalusia Knoll reports.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
After 3 stalled attempts over 8 years, a statewide bill to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in employment, housing and public accommodations, finally has been voted out of committee. This year HB300 moves on to a possible vote in the full Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and then to a vote in the State Senate, before being signed into law by the governor.
The bill was introduced to committee in early March by Pennsylvania State Representative Dan Frankel of District 23. Frankel says that some of his colleagues are surprised they have gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) constituents. He calls these legislators out of touch with reality.
The proposed legislation builds on the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, and non-job related disability or the use of a guide or support animal.
There is no federal GLBT anti-discrimination employment protection. Currently 13 Pennsylvania municipalities, including Pittsburgh and Erie County, have banned discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. According to the Value All Families Coalition, which includes groups as diverse as the Log Cabin Republicans of Philadelphia and the Women's Law Project, that leaves 80% of Pennsylvania residents living or working unprotected, including those in Allegheny County, where a separate anti-discrimination ordinance has been proposed.
Though a 2007 survey by Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, an organization that offers legal services to and advocates policy reform for GLBT citizens, indicated that Pennsylvania voters support this kind of legislation by as much as 60 to 70%, across age, region and gender lines, HB300 has lost some of its original 79 co-sponsors.
Pressure from organized, vocal opponent groups like the American Families Association (AFA) seems to be at the root. Diane Gramley is president of the Pennsylvania chapter and testified in front of the House State Government Committee in 2007 against past GLBT anti-discrimination legislative efforts. She calls such legislation special rights, citing homosexuality as a chosen behavior which should not be the basis for protection.
* GRAMLEY.flac: HB300 [0:40]
While AFA's website and action alerts warn about potential embarrassing mix ups in public and workplace restrooms, Emilia Lombardi, a professor of public health at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the Trans Working Group, says their claims cloud the very real issues facing GLBT people.
Lombardi says she is using her privilege to make it safer for others who may not be able to come out and act in their own self interest, but adds that GLBT people are often stereotyped as economically advantaged and in less need of protection. However, a 2009 study from the Williams Institute at the University of California School of Law finds that poverty rates for GLBT adults are as high or higher than rates for heterosexual adults. Economic hardship can result from discrimination in the workplace or in housing.
Jake Kaskey, Policy and Outreach Coordinator for Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, echoes the need for anti-discrimination legislation for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. He says that citizens are far ahead of their legislators, and that education is the key.
At its core, HB300 is about ending discrimination, something, according to Sandra Telep, Program Director of Pride at Work, that would be welcome by organized labor. Pride at Work is the GLBT constituency group for the labor movement, encouraging labor unions to advocate for GLBT issues like domestic partner benefits and the GLBT community to be a proponent for economic justice. Telep says that GLBT workers may gain piecemeal protection through labor contracts, but statewide protection would give labor unions one less thing they would have to bargain for. Protections granted by employers can also be important, but are not legally binding. Most people, she says, are shocked to learn that someone can be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Another reason HB300 has hit a rocky road to a vote in the House is opposition by churches who fear that their religious freedom and autonomy are threatened by the bill. However the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act provides churches, parochial schools and faith -based organizations protections of their First Amendment rights. For example, religious organizations can ignore non-discrimination laws when hiring for positions that relate to teaching or expressing their faith.
Phil Wilson is a retired Methodist minister with 40 years in the ministry in Pennsylvania, as well as many years working in the justice and civil rights movement around racism and poverty. He became interested in civil rights for the GLBT community when a teacher of his daughter was denied ordination as a pastor due to support of gay rights.
He says that he doesn't think people choose to be gay, and supports HB300 because it promotes tolerance and respect. Wilson understands as well as anyone the stigma around gay issues in the religious community. He recalls with some humor a conversation with one of his former church members:
Misconceptions persist, and changing misconceptions, especially among legislators, is the aim of HB300 supporters.
On March 17th a delegation from the Pittsburgh area joined hundreds of others for a Rock the Dome Rally on the state capital rotunda to bring awareness to GLBT discrimination issues and convince their legislators to vote for HB300.
Jan Dahl of Glenshaw came to meet the rally bus before 7am with her partner, to whom she is legally married in Massachusetts, and their young son. Dahl's spouse was denied benefits by her employer, though their son was included in her benefits package. Dahl addresses why she believes it is so difficult for some Pennsylvanians to see the employment and housing anti-discrimination legislation as a civil rights issue:
Pennsylvania residents can find out who their state representatives are and contact them to let them know what they think about HB300 or any other legislative matter by visiting www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/find.cfm
Somalia has been without a central government since 1991. During this time, widespread poverty, lack of employment, hunger and violence have endangered the lives of its 10 million inhabitants. Somalia is located on the Horn of Africa--bordering two water bodies, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Every year, 22,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden to or from the Indian Ocean, carrying about 8% of the world's trade.
In the absence of a stable economy, piracy has become a means of securing funds for impoverished Somalis. Two recent attacks on US vessels has brought Piracy to the forefront of the news in the US. However, many mainstream media outlets are neglecting to tell the root causes behind the piracy.
In an interview conducted by hip hop journalist Davey D, Somali born rapper K'naan (KAY-naan) share the history behind Somali piracy:
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, and WIUP Indiana.
Our hosts this week are Helen Gerhardt and Kara Holsopple with contributions from Lizzie Anderson, Carlin Christy, Kara Holsopple, Khalid Harun, and Andalusia Knoll. 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.