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Rustbelt Radio for Dec. 21, 2009
by Pittsburgh Indymedia: Rustbelt Radio Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 at 11:19 PM
radio@indypgh.org

On today's show: The Climate Summit in Copenhagen ends after 2 weeks, We'll bring you both local and global updates on the event, Drilling in Marcellus Shale is set to begin in Western Pennsylvania, The battle to Save the Carnegie Libraries comes to a head, Pittsburgh Police Officer Gene Hlavac is once again involved in a domestic dispute and more in our local and global headlines.

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Rustbelt Radio for December 21, 2009

[1:00] Intro

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.

Headlines

Local News

[3:00] Pittsburgh Police Officer Involved in Domestic Dispute Again

On Saturday, December 19, Pittsburgh Police Sergeant Gene (pronounced le-VACK) Hlavac was charged with aggravated assault and arrested on Sunday morning. According to the police report, the victim is the ex-girlfriend and mother of Hlavac's 3-year old son. The report states that as a result of the altercation, her jaw had been partially dislocated. The victim had been involved in a "non-violent case" with Officer Hlavac in 2007.

Studies indicate that officer-related domestic violence incidents have a higher percentage of receiving "exceedingly light discipline and are often promoted." In June of 2007, Officer Hlavac was promoted along with two other Pittsburgh Police officers with criminal charges against them. His promotion came six months after a domestic dispute in January of 2007.

In response the domestic dispute, Hlavac's supervisor recommended that his contact with the public be minimized and he attend anger management counseling. Hlavac attended three days of anger management counseling and was relocated to the Hill District-- a Zone that Police Chief Nate Harper acknowledged involves frequent contact with the public.

In the summer of 2007, Gene Hlavac, along with two other officers with criminal charges against them, were granted promotions. Although the charges were taken into consideration, the Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson defended the promotions the officers and said (quote) "the Chief looked closely at their work records and their character. All three have distinguished themselves over the years, receiving awards and commendations."

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl issued a statement that he was unaware of the charges prior to the officers' promotions. The City's decision did not come without public criticism by social services groups, women's rights organizations and hundreds of concerned citizens. Pressure from the community effectively generated a demand for policy adjustments to the City's domestic ordinances.

On September 10, 2007, Pittsburgh City Council amended the Domestic Abuse Policy for the Bureau of Police.

The document states the City will adopt a 'zero tolerance policy'; defines qualifying domestic crimes; and outlines consequences for the accused. It defines domestic violence as (quote) "a pattern of abusive behavior which keeps one partner in a position of power over the other partner through the use of fear, intimidation and control.

Among the procedures for dealing with offenders, officers found guilty of a qualifying domestic violence crime through criminal proceedings shall be terminated.

Hlavac's arrest comes two years after the Council's adoption of the Domestic Abuse Policy. He was released on Sunday with no bond and awaits a preliminary hearing on December 22. Hlavac's case may the first indicator as to how the City will handled officer-related domestic violence cases since the 2007 policy adjustments.

[9:00] Marcellus Shale drilling in Western Pa

Natural gas companies are flocking to Pennsylvania, in hopes of securing lucrative, currently untaxed Marcellus Shale gas reserves. Here in the Pittsburgh region, an energy company is offering the Mars Area School District $3,000 per acre to drill in Marcellus Shale underneath school property. Another company awaits approval to drill in Marcellus Shale at two long-unused gas wells at an industrial site in North Fayette, located 18 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh.

The Marcellus Shale is a geologic formation spanning several states, including nearly half of Pennsylvania, and holds one of the largest gas reserves in the world. In recent years, extraction has become easier with new technology called hydraulic fracturing, or Fracking. This process, which was pioneered by Halliburton, requires millions of gallons of water, sand, and 300 unknown chemicals to be injected underground to break apart the rock and release the gas.

According to America's Natural Gas Alliance, expanded drilling in the Marcellus Shale is expected to create some 98,000 jobs in Pennsylvania by 2010, and will also generate about $800 million in state and local tax revenues from land leasing. Much of this is from leasing 800,000 Marcellus-rich acres in the 2.1-million-acre Allegheny National Forest.

Corporations like Exxon Mobil and Shell are competing via their countless subsidiaries for the rights to the profitable Marcellus Shale. Exxon Mobil will soon control some 300,000 acres, much of it Marcellus Shale in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Of the top 15 gas-producing states, Pennsylvania, with the second largest reserves, remains the only one without a severance tax on energy companies to compensate for resource depletion and environmental destruction. As state and local lawmakers face budget shortfalls and struggle to fund libraries, education, and public services, some Democrats and environmental advocacy groups say not taxing natural gas effectually amounts to giving away billions of dollars of gas in exchange for environmental and public health problems.

But still several months late on a state budget for 2010, legislators in Harrisburg are hesitant to raise taxes in any capacity.

State representative Dan Frankel, a Democrat from Squirrel Hill, has argued exhaustively for a progressive tax on natural gas:

Frankel closes with this thought:

Drilling companies maintain that the practice of Fracking is safe, while acknowledging the validity of some environmental concerns. But opponents of natural gas drilling contend the practice pollutes groundwater with dangerous substances such as methane and various carcinogens.

Public interest in Fracking is growing, as increased Marcellus Shale drilling means millions of people-- and drinking their water, agriculture, and natural space-- will soon find themselves living near extraction sites. In New York, the state government is considering allowing Marcellus Shale drilling in the Catskill Mountains watershed, which is the source of drinking water for 15 million people, including nine million New Yorkers.

Recently, the New York-based research firm Toxics Targeting studied the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation’s database of hazardous substances spills over the last thirty years. They found 270 cases documenting ecological damage related to natural gas drilling. The group contends that Marcellus Shale drilling has tainted various watersheds with toxic chemicals, petroleum compounds, and radioactive elements like radon and uranium that are buried in the rock and are released in the drilling process.

According to research and advocacy groups like the Colorado-based Endocrine Disruption Exchange, known Fracking chemicals pose serious health risks: about a third are carcinogenic; half can cause brain and nervous system damage; and almost 90 percent are potentially harmful to the skin, eyes, and sensory organs.

The chemicals used in Fracking, have gone unregulated since the oil and gas industry were exempted in 2005 from federal environmental laws. But twin bills in both the House and Senate, would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act and give the EPA authority to regulate hydraulic Fracking. It would also require the energy industry to disclose the chemicals in its Fracking fluid-- information the industry currently does not have to disclose.

Recently Exxon Mobil signaled it may reconsider its investments in Marcellus Shale drilling if Congress places strict and expensive regulations on Fracking in a new energy bill. Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, a co-sponsor of proposed climate change legislation, plans to hold public hearings on Fracking next year.

Over the last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) charged gas driller Cabot Oil and Gas with five violations. In Dimock PA, a poverty-plagued town 30 miles north of Scranton, Cabot Oil and Gas was found responsible for various diesel fuel and drilling mud spillage and for an 8,000-gallon leak of Fracking fluids that seeped into fresh water streams under the care of one of its contractors, Halliburton. Cabot faces fines of up to $130,000. In November, Cabot agreed to provide 13 families with permanent drinking water supplies after the family sued when faulty cemented casings and excess pressures in the company's gas wells caused methane to leak into the groundwater.

In mid-December, representatives from Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy outlined plans at a public hearing to drill in Marcellus Shale at two gas wells on land leased in North Fayette, near state Route 980 and Steubenville Pike. Last week the DEP fined Chesapeake Energy $15,500 for a 295-gallon hydrochloric acid spill at one of the company’s natural gas sites in Bradford County, just south of the New York border. DEP officials said the spill contaminated some 126 tons of soil that had to be excavated, but did not affect groundwater.

[3:00] Local Action on Climate Change

On December 10th, the Pittsburgh Environmental Climate Action Network and other local environmental groups held a vigil to support an effective response to climate change at the Copenhagen Summit. Various speakers from local communities, activists groups and student organizations spoke in Schenley Plaza to highlight the importance of effectual climate policy. The vigil was held during the Copenhagen Climate Summit in which international leaders met to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. Stephanie Simmons of the Sierra Club has more:

The Copenhagen Summit failed to produce any legally binding commitment to lessen carbon emissions or a serious consideration of the use of coal as an energy source. Stephanie Simmons also stressed the importance of the climate talks and local pressure for climate change:

After mass arrests and repression of protesters in Copenhagen, local groups organized vigils and events in solidarity with those in Denmark. In Pittsburgh on December 12, there was an unpermitted march on the streets of Oakland. The march was forced onto the sidewalk by police cars but no arrests or detentions occurred. On December 18th, the closing day of the summit, local activists demonstrated outside of PNC Bank to educate the public about the threats of climate change, the repression of protesters, and the failure of the Copenhagen Summit to produce a realistic framework for international climate change.

Stay tuned for more on the Copenhagen Climate Summit later in the broadcast.

[12:00 ] UPMC Updates

That was Bill Slade, resident of Allegheny county speaking against a proposal before council to refinance 1.175 billion dollars worth of bonds for University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Allegheny County Residents testified Tuesday Dec 15th for nearly three hours urging Allegheny County Council members to vote "no" on the resolution. The refinancing would mean a savings of 10 million dollars annually for UPMC, generating, in contrast only 175,000 dollars, in revenue for the county's Department of Economic Development. Ed Cloonan of Munhall, criticizes UPMC's business practices as a social justice issue.

In June UPMC began demolition in Monroeville for construction of a new hospital less than 2 miles from Forbes Regional Hospital, a facility of competitor West Penn Allegheny. The new construction comes in spite of West Penn's offer to share Forbes Regional with UPMC.

Marty O'Malley of Forest Hills, urged the council to ask questions before approving the issue.

David Hughes of Citizen Power and Save Our Community Hospital condemned the behavior of UPMC, County Executive Dan Onorato, and legislators for abandoning Braddock's interests. He urged County Council to hold UPMC accountable to citizens by denying the refinance completely.

Jan McMannis of Braddock Hills called for the council to demand amendments using the proposal as leverage:

Among the amendments proposed was Braddock Councilwoman Tina Doose (Doo-SAY)'s suggestion that council increase its income on the refinancing so that the extra income can be allocated to Braddock's economic development. This could act as reparations for UPMC's departure of the poverty stricken town:

Braddock Council President Jesse Brown said he has personally filed two complaints against not-for-profit UPMC for violation of the Civil Rights act of 1964, Title VI which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. The first complaint was filed with the Justice Department in November and the second with the Health and Human Services department in Philadelphia last week. Both complaints are in the intake and review processes with respective agencies. Mr. Brown continued, "I'm not saying I want [UPMC] to stay here if they are losing money but I'm asking for more time. They gave us 110 days. Once they leave us it's going to take us a long time to get [the hospital] re-certified as a hospital. We needed some time to get some other agencies here and I've talked to quite a few but we need time."

He also spoke on Tuesday regarding the impact of the hospital's exit upon economic development in Braddock.

The County Solicitor spoke against both proposed amendments, by questioning their legality.

Both proposed amendments to the proposal to refinance UPMC bonds failed by an overwhelming majority of 11 to 1.

Allegheny County Councilman James Burn, Jr., of District 3, offered a motion, approved 11-2, to hold UPMC to promises made in a letter dated December 15, 2009, sent to fellow Councilman Michael J. Finnerty answering questions raised by the Allegheny County Economic Development and Housing Committee meeting on Dec. 8th where the bond issue was first proposed. In the letter UPMC declared that it would not delay the closure of the hospital 6 to 18 months as the Committee had requested because (quote), "UPMC can see no circumstance that would provide benefit to the community or UPMC to keep the facility opened past January 31, 2010" less than 3 months after its surprise announcement in November.

In answer to concerns about the utilities and security of the building, "UPMC continues to work with the regions elected officials and the community economic development groups and is willing to donate the facility for a purpose that would advance the community's economic future. The facility will be secured and appropriately maintained for the immediate future as alternate uses for the building are explored... Equipment not directly related to the delivery of patient care will remain with the facility."

When citizens walked out to show disappointment that there was nothing council could do, Allegheny County Council Vice President, Chuck Martoni, had these words, "This hospital's in my district. I understand people getting upset. I think the worst thing we can do is penalize ourselves & penalize UPMC. They are the #1 player in our region... There are 10 other authorities in our region that they could go to to get this approval.... if we keep this kind of confrontation we'll end up in the same situation as we did with the steel mills 25 years ago."

These statements highlight legislation being debated in Senate addressing for-profit healthcare and the health and welfare of citizens.

City Councilman Bill Peduto offered supportive words in a phone interview last week:

Protests are on-going. Save Our Community Hospitals rallied Friday, Dec. 28th, outside UPMC hospital. Upcoming actions are posted to the calendar at savebraddock.org

Wrapup

For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.

[ HMB BREAK RUSTBELT - 0:20 (fades down 0:10 in to start global intro) ]

Global News

Intro

You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media.

[13:45] Pittsburgh Public Library System Under Threat

[15:10 ] Copenhagen

The week of December 7-18th world leaders met in Copenhagen to negotiate how to face climate change. The summit was also attended by thousands of people from all over the world who are concerned about the threat of climate change, and came to raise their voices to urge the summit delegates to pursue meaningful limits for greenhouse gas emissions. However, after a week of talks, world leaders did not agree to reduce emissions to a level which might prevent catastrophic climate change. Many climate models indicate that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions will lead to rising global temperatures. If temperatures rise 2 degrees, effects such as the melting of the Siberian permafrost will be triggered that further accelerate climate change. Leaders of island nations and tropical nations which are already feeling the effects of climate change were advocating for a reduction in greenhouse gases to a level that would allow only 1.5 degrees of warming for the global average temperature. However, the nations which emit the most greenhouse gases – the United States, China, and the European Union - were unwilling to commit to this level. Of the industrialized nations, only Brazil offered to make substantial emissions cuts.

On Wednesday December 15th, a coalition of organizations from around the world organized a demonstration and a People’s Summit, titled Reclaim Power. Several feeder marches were planned to converge on the convention center where the national leaders were gathered. Delegates of NGOs and other representatives inside the convention also planned to come out of the center to join the marchers and hold the People’s Assembly.

Vandana Shiva is a prominent Indian environmental activist, feminist, and 1993 winner of the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the alternative Nobel Prize. She spoke before the Reclaim Power demonstration:

Shiva 5:50

However, the demonstrations faced heavy police repression. Marchers were attacked by police, and several hundred were arrested. Delegates inside the convention center were prevented from leaving to join the people’s assembly. Throughout the week, police and armed military were ubiquitous in Copenhagan. Pre-emptive arrests of activists and media numbered over a thousand people. Police raided spaces used by protest groups, social gatherings, and arrested people en masse at peaceful marches.

A representative of a Danish group speaks as part of a Reclaim Power press conference after the demonstration:

Reclaim_power 1:45

Canadian author Naomi Klein, speaking from the Christiania neighborhood of Copenhagen:

Naomi_klein 3:53

Naomi ‘Klein and Vandana Shiva were recorded by mobile broadcast news in copenhagen. Visit their website mobilebroadcastnews dot com, or the denmark indymedia website for more coverage of the copenhagen climate summit.

Ending

Year Closing

Rustbelt Radio would like to thank our listeners for their support throughout 2009 and we wish everyone a happy and healthy 2010. Stay tuned during the holidays for a special broadcast next week which will feature voices of loved ones calling their incarcerated relatives and wishing them well for the holidays. We will return with a new episode on Monday January 4th.

[1:00] Outro

[ Outro Music ]

Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, WIUP Indiana, and WOBC Oberlin.

Our hosts this week are Laura Miller and Carlin Christy with contributions from [Juliana Stricklen, Carlin Christy, Jessica McPherson, Emily DeMarco, Gretchen Neidert, Seth Bearden, Anthony Brino]. This week's show was produced by Shawn Watson (and) 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.

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Rustbelt Radio for Dec. 21, 2009
by Pittsburgh Indymedia: Rustbelt Radio Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 at 11:19 PM
radio@indypgh.org

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