community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show... * Cattle on a farm in northern PA are quarantined due to gas drilling activity * Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery warns that Israel is sliding towards fascism * West Penn Allegheny Hospital announces it may close * Pittsburgh Public Schools plans to introduce sex-segregated classrooms at Westinghouse High School
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Rustbelt Radio for July 19, 2010
Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-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.
In Marcellus Shale news, another fire broke out at a gas well platform in Auburn Township located in northeast Pennsylvania. A leaky valve in a separator tank created a fire that blazed for nearly two hours until a local emergency response team was able to arrive and put the fire out. Luckily,no injuries or environmental damage was reported. The incident is now under investigation by the Department of Environmental Protection.
The owner of the well, Chesapeake Energy, is the second largest gas provider in the U.S. They currently have 698 permits to drill in Pennsylvania alone. According to a Houston Chronicle article, they are no stranger to workplace accidents either.
In November of 2009, one worker died and another one was injured at a gas well blowout in Haynesville, Louisiana. The surrounding area, including 15 houses, had to be evacuated due to the size of the inferno.
Most alarming is another incident involving the death of more than a dozen head of cattle. Earlier in 2009, Darlin Lipp, a resident of Caddo Parish, Louisiana said that fracking water leaked out of a containment pond and flowed into a pasture where her cattle subsequently fell ill and died as a result of the chemical laden water.
If Louisiana seems far away, then look no further then Tioga (tye-oga) County in north-central Pennsylvania, where 28 cows on Don and Carol Johnsons farm had to be quarantined due to gas drilling contamination.
Local news station, WNEY brings us this story:
According to a Pro-Publica article published this month, Carol Johnson noticed the grass starting to vanish around her pond, approximately 30 to 40 feet of it. She alerted the well owner on her property, East Resources Inc. and later, the Department of Agriculture issued a quarantine of her cattle. The quarantine began in May but was announced nearly two months later on July 1st.
According to a DEP inspection report from May 3rd, an East Resources employee said a contractor had already inspected twice in April and he was unsure why the leak wasn't detected earlier.
Tests of the fracking water conducted afterward revealed a long list of chemicals including chloride, iron, sulfate, barium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium. Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said the most troubling chemical found was, “a heavy metal called Strontium, which can be toxic to humans, especially in growing children”.
Amidst widespread reports nationwide of explosions, fatalities, environmental damage, and now, food contamination involved in the Fracturing process, the Environmental Protection Agency is hosting a series of four public meetings around the country to further investigate complaints of gas drilling abuses.
The next public meeting is scheduled in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania on July 22nd.
Listen to Rustbelt Radio's next episode for a report from the meeting.
On June 21st, the Pittsburgh Public Schools unveiled their latest installment of the Reconfiguration Plan. In an effort to address budget needs, declining enrollment projections and low standardized testing performance, the District proposed a complicated reorganization plan for 2011-2012.
Amidst shifting East End students from one neighborhood to the next, the plan will transform Westinghouse High School into Pittsburgh's first single-sex public school. Modeling the program at Pittsburgh Milliones School--which offers only the core subjects in single-sex classrooms--Westinghouse will incorporate grades 6-12, separating the boys from the girls in every subject.
According to the June 21st press statement, the Pittsburgh Public School officials have worked closely with the Lawrenceville Homewood Advisory Committee, a steering group made up of parents and community leaders.
However, the decision to separate the students by sex in this historic Homewood school, has taken many by surprise. At a June 12th hearing, the public had an opportunity to address the School Board with their concerns. Among those who addressed the single-sex proposal, 8 out of 9 opposed the plan.
Representing the African American Workers Union, Calvin Clinton addresses the Board. While pointing out the Union supports the continued existence and well being of Westinghouse High School as a valued institution in the African American community, he calls the changes to the School District part of a larger shell game.
Many in opposition, addressed the short timeline given for the public to weigh in on the plan and lack of transparency about the District's decision-making procedures. Among those, President of the Squirrel Hill Chapter of the National Organization for Women, Jeanne Clark tells the Board that single-sex classrooms offer antiquated solutions based on inadequate research.
During her closing remarks, Clark echoed a sentiment repeated by others, stating "separate is never equal, equal is equal."
Health Coordinator, Arita Gilliam, spoke in support of the single-sex proposal. Representing the UPMC Shadyside School Health Partnership, she believes the plan will provide students with a healthy environment, meeting both collective and individual needs. While recognizing the District does not plan to reconfigure all the schools this way, she cites research that supports how students can academically thrive under single-sex environments.
As the short window closes on her time at the podium, Gilliam ends with this counter position to earlier speakers.
The School Board is scheduled to vote on the final proposal July 21st.
The Bloomfield Citizens Council organized a community meeting at Immaculate Conception in Bloomfield on June 30th, one day after West Penn Hospital announced its "Urban Consolidation Plan"on the citizens council website, bloomfieldlive.com the council introduces the plan: "Healthcare is undergoing major changes across the nation. More and more, patients are seeking care closer to home, in an outpatient setting. West Penn Allegheny Health System continues to adapt to these changes in the industry and within the market. The future of this System will be defined by excellence in patient care delivered in a variety of clinical settings throughout the region."
At the meeting, Rustbelt recorded West Penn Allegheny Health System's Executive Vice President and Chief of Hospital Operations, Dawn M. Gideon's remarks highlighting the hit employees could take.
Following Ms. Gideon's remarks, WPAHS President and Chief Executive Officer, Gregory Burfitt, outlined the plan for consolidation in terms of services outlining that the hospital's tertiary care would help it stay afloat.
Community members's testified for two hours. Employees expressed fears about the continuation of pension programs and board members listened to accusations that WPAHS promises to place employees elsewhere in the system during changes have not been honored. Employees and consumers alike accused the board of valuing profits over human life as evidenced by the loss of emergency care and furthermore, in the honoring of Allegheny General Hospital's marketshare after years of boosts from West Penn Allegheny Bloomfield's hard work when the Northside hospital was ailing financially.
David McClenahan, Chair of the West Penn Allegheny Health System Board of Directors, promised that pensions would be paid and always had and admitted that WPAHS Bloomfield had saved Allegheny General. Like his fellow members he referred to the sacrifice as necessary to save the hospital from closing completely.
The decision highlights a major disagreement between consumers and healthcare providers. Advocates for single payer health care insurance have argued that healthcare is a human right. Community members waded through contradictory information from board members indicating that hospitals are closing due to a lack of federal subsidy, profit, and patients. Loss of patients was attributed to suburban expansion, to patients desiring short outpatient visits, and, even, to a healthier nation.
We spoke with mayor Luke Ravenstahl whose main concern can be read on the Bloomfield Citizens Council's homepage at www.bloomfieldlive.com:
You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media.
[ HMB BREAK RUSTBELT - 0:20 (fades down 0:10 in to start global intro) ]
We turn now to news from other independent media sources around the world.
Israeli writer and founder of peace organization Gush Shalom, Uri Avnery, recently visited the Knesset—-Israel's parliament--and wrote about what he saw concerning the state of the Israeli political heartland. This report is extracted from his longer article, "A Parliamentary Mob", published July 17th.
[In Israel] The production of irresponsible laws, most of them racist and anti-democratic, is booming. The more the government itself is turning into an assembly of political hacks, the more the likelihood of its preventing such legislation is diminishing. The present government, the largest, basest and most despised in Israel’s history, is cooperating with the Knesset members who submit such bills, and even initiating them itself.
Thus a paradoxical situation has arisen: parliament, the highest expression of democracy, is itself now posing a dire threat to Israeli democracy.
THE MAN who personifies this phenomenon more than anyone else is Member of the Knesset Michael Ben-Ari [BEN-AR-EE] of the “National Union” faction, the heir of Meir Kahane [KA-HA-NAY], whose organization “Kach” [KA-KH* - *as in German "Nacht"]--a Hebrew word meaning “Thus”--was outlawed many years ago because of its openly fascist character.
A few weeks ago I visited the present Knesset for the first time since its election. I went there to listen to a debate about... the decision of the Palestinian Authority to boycott the products of the settlements, a dozen years after Gush Shalom started this boycott. I spent some hours in the building, and from hour to hour my revulsion deepened.
The main cause was a circumstance I had not been aware of: MK Ben-Ari, the disciple and admirer of Kahane, holds sway there. Not only is he not an isolated outsider on the fringe of parliamentary life, as his mentor had been, but on the contrary, he is at the center. I saw the members of almost all other factions crowding around him in the members’ cafeteria and listening to his perorations with rapt attention in the plenum. No doubt can remain that Kahanism – the Israeli version of fascism – has moved from the margin to center stage.
Recently, the country witnessed a scene that looked like something from the parliament of South Korea or Japan.
On the Knesset speaker’s rostrum stood MK Haneen Zoabi of the Arab nationalist Balad faction, who tried to explain why she had joined the Gaza aid flotilla that had been attacked by the Israeli navy. MK Anastasia Michaeli, a member of the Lieberman party, jumped from her seat and rushed to the rostrum, letting out blood-curdling shrieks, waving her arms, in order to remove Haneen Zoabi by force.
Other members rose from their seats to help Michaeli. Near the speaker, a threatening crowd of Knesset members gathered. Only with great difficulty did the ushers succeed in saving Zoabi from bodily harm. One of the male members shouted at her, in a typical mixture of racism and sexism: “Go to Gaza and see what they will do to a 41 year old unmarried woman!”
One could not imagine a greater contrast than that between the two MKs. While Haneen Zoabi belongs to a family whose roots in the Nazareth area go back centuries, perhaps to the time of Jesus, Anastasia Michaeli was born in (then) Leningrad. She was elected “Miss St. Petersburg” and then became a fashion model, married an Israeli, converted to Judaism, immigrated to Israel at age 24 but sticks to her very Russian first name. She has given birth to eight children. She may be a candidate for the Israeli Sarah Palin, who, after all, was also once a beauty queen..
As far as I could make out, not a single Jewish member raised a finger to defend Zoabi during the tumult. Nothing but some half-hearted protest from the Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, and a Meretz member, Chaim Oron.
In all the 61 years of its existence, the Knesset had not seen such a sight. Within a minute the sovereign assembly turned into a parliamentary lynch mob.
One does not have to support the ideology of Balad to respect the impressive personality of Haneen Zoabi. She speaks fluently and persuasively, has degrees from two Israeli universities, fights for the rights of women within the Israeli-Arab community and is the first female member of an Arab party in the Knesset. Israeli democracy could be proud of her. She belongs to a large Arab extended family. The brother of her grandfather was the mayor of Nazareth, one uncle was a deputy minister and another a Supreme Court judge. (Indeed, on my first day in the Knesset I proposed that another member of the Zoabi family be elected as Speaker.)
This week, the Knesset decided by a large majority to adopt a proposal by Michael Ben-Ari, supported by Likud and Kadima members, to strip Haneen Zoabi of her parliamentary privileges. Even before, Interior Minister Eli Yishai had asked the Legal Advisor to the Government for approval of his plan to strip Zoabi of her Israeli citizenship on the grounds of treason. One of the Knesset members shouted at her: “You have no place in the Israeli Knesset! You have no right to hold an Israeli identity card!”
On the very same day, the Knesset took action against the founder of Zoabi’s party, Azmi Bishara. In a preliminary hearing, it approved a bill – this one, too, supported by both Likud and Kadima members – aimed at denying Bishara his pension, which is due after his resignation from the Knesset. (He is staying abroad, after being threatened with an indictment for espionage.)
The proud parents of these initiatives, which enjoy massive support from Likud, Kadima, Lieberman’s party and all the religious factions, do not hide their intention to expel all the Arabs from parliament and establish at long last a pure Jewish Knesset. The latest decisions of the Knesset are but parts of a prolonged campaign, which gives birth almost every week to new initiatives from publicity-hungry members, who know that the more racist and anti-democratic their bills are, the more popular they will be with their electorate.
For more writings by Uri Avnery and more information about Gush Shalom, visit gush-shalom.org. Follow Gaza flotilla-related news at delegitimize.com
The Columbus Community Radio Foundation brings us this day in history for July 19th:
Free Press brings us this week's media minutes:
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.
We'll be back after this musical break:
That was "Peacemakers" from Pocket of Resistance. For more music by Pocket of Resistance, all downloadable for free, see pocketofresistance.net
Pittsburgh Public Schools may be breaking new ground in 2011, transforming Westinghouse High School into two, single-sex academies. While both boys and girls would be learning in the same building, they could be the first public school students in Pittsburgh to go to every class, separated by gender. Among those concerned with the lack of transparency around the plan, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania submitted a letter to the Board of Education detailing their concerns with the proposal.
Rustbelt Radio met up with Sara Rose, staff attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, to talk more about the organization's position on single-sex education within our public school system.
That was staff attorney Sara Rose, representing the ACLU of Pennsylvania. For continuing coverage of the Reconfiguration Plan proposed by Pittsburgh Public Schools, tune in to the next broadcast of Rustbelt Radio.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh and FRSC Santa Cruz.
Our hosts this week are Carlin Christy and Nichole Faina with contributions from Seth Bearden, Nigel Parry, Emily DeMarco, Gretchen Neidert, and Carlin Christy. 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, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. Become our fan on Facebook to receive updates on our latest episode. All of our shows are available 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 bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.
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