community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show... * We hear dispatches from the Egyptian revolution, as well as reaction here at home * A report about a local activist who is challenging trans-phobia in the mainstream media * News from Pittsburghers who support street artists serving time in prison * A feature about the ongoing health risks of drilling in the Marcellus Shale natural gas fields * And more in our local and global headlines
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Rustbelt Radio for February 14, 2011
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.
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.
On February 4th, local NBC-TV affiliate WPXI ran a story titled, “Police Bust Men Posing as Female Prostitutes in Strip District.” WXPI reported that two sex workers--who were advertising their services and using a Strip District hotel for their clients--were arrested in an undercover sting, a joint operation by the media and police. Vince Sims, a WPXI reporter, contacted the sex workers through the internet, and set up a meeting time. The police then came to make the arrest. The report noted that following the arrest, both individuals were facing charges of [quote] prostitution, criminal conspiracy and other charges [end quote].
Rayden Sorock is a fellow for the Initiative of Transgender Leadership through Coro Pittsburgh. As a transgendered man, Sorock said he felt the need to respond to the WPXI report. He questioned the network's portrayal of two groups: people who present themselves as transgendered, and those who do sex work.
Rustbelt Radio spoke with Sorok about the WXPI story, and how his concerns were echoed among local transgender support groups, including Trans Pitt and Persad.
The same day the WPXI story ran, the National Center for Transgender Equality and The National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce released a report called “Injustice at Every Turn." The report [quote] reveals the depth of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people in a wide range of areas, including education, health care, employment, and housing [end quote]. To read the report go to W-W-W [dot] the-task-force [dot] org and click on “Reports and Research.”
Sorock said that he has not contacted the individuals who were arrested. He said he doesn't want to draw unnecessary attention to the arrestees, or to make assumptions about how they identify or feel. Instead, he emphasized the importance of addressing transphobia in the bigger picture--not just related to the WPXI story.
Sorock described the next steps this coalition hopes to take:
That Facebook page is: stop transphobic reporting now.
For gender educational resources, please visit gender [dot] org and GLAAD’s media reference guide at G-L-A-A-D [dot] org [slash] referenceguide
Despite a wave of arrests of street artists and hefty sentences handed down by the courts, Pittsburghers are organizing to support incarcerated artists.
More than 100 people gathered for a benefit party in Bloomfield on Saturday February 13th for an artist currently serving prison time for graffiti. Guests enjoyed live hip-hop performances and bid on prizes in a raffle and art auction.
Last year, artist Ian DeBeer was convicted for painting the word Hert, that's H-E-R-T, in locations throughout the city. He pled guilty and was sentenced to serve one to three years in state prison, after which he will serve two to five years probation and be required to pay 46-thousand dollars [$46,000] in fines.
DeBeer is just one of dozens of street artists throughout the city that have been arrested by Pittsburgh's Graffiti Task Force, which was formed in 2006. Created to investigate street artists and remove graffiti, the task force has three full-time detectives and receives a budget of 35-thousand dollars [$350,000] every year. It has made more than 50 arrests since its creation.
To discuss whether these lengthy sentences are justified, we speak with one of the benefit organizers -- Peppy, who openly accepts the illegal nature of graffiti.
Peppy explains the role that the media and police force have in vilifying street artists in order to justify arrests.
One argument against graffiti is that it is forced upon the public because people have no say in its production. Graffiti writers counter that billboards, campaign ads, and flyers are also forced on the public in a similar manner.
Also, graffiti art should not be disregarded simply because it is not framed and placed in a museum or gallery. Peppy counters that despite its location, street art is in fact art and helps to beautify a city filled with grey walls and abandoned buildings.
While the Pittsburgh graffiti task force has pushed for harsher penalties for graffiti, there have been several street art gallery shows over the past few years, according to Mary Tremonte from the artist coop, Just Seeds.
Tremonte said that in 2008, police arrested 22 year-old art student Daniel Montano as he was installing his work for exhibition at the Mattress Factory. Ultimately, the judge sentenced him to two-and-a half- to five years in prison and more than 200-hundred thousand dollars [$200,000] in fines, in what may be one of the harshest sentences for graffiti in the United States.
The city readily admits that they were trying to make an example out of Montano, indirectly punishing him for the crimes of others.
According to the Post-Gazette, Detective Rende said that (quote)"task force members had hoped the Montano case would scare off future graffiti squads."(End Quote)
Both DeBeer and Montano are incarcerated in the same state prison in Pittsburgh, where they are not allowed to communicate with each other.
In response to Ian DeBeer's arrest, Montano wrote.
"It is a shame that my friend Ian was put in prison for cosmetic property damage when there is real suffering going on in the world! Walls do not have feelings, walls do not suffer, walls do not starve, and paint does not kill people."
To keep updated on Ian Debeer and other incarcerated artists in Pittsburgh, go to www [dot] freehert [dot] org.
[ HMB BREAK RUSTBELT - 0:20 (fades down 0:10 in to start global intro) ]
You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to global news.
As Egyptians celebrated the historic end of Mubarak's presidency though the night, here in Pittsburgh, supporters of the uprising shared in this momentous victory.
On February 11th, nearly 40 students, activists and organizers rallied at Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard--the hub of pedestrian and auto traffic on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus. Originally planned as a protest against the Mubarak regime, the rally was organized by the Muslim Student Association, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Council for American Islamic Relations.
Rustbelt Radio was there to hear from voices at the rally.
* Feb11_EgyptRally_montage.flac: (5:10)
To see photos of the rally, visit Rustbelt Radio’s Facebook page.
We turn now to an interview with local political artist, Tavia LaFollette. Last year, LaFollette and a global network of artists developed The Firefly Tunnel Project. The project aimed to create metaphorical tunnels--links between experimental artists from around the world. In the summer of 2010, LaFollette and a team of Egyptian artists collaborated to begin a visual dialogue between Cairo and Pittsburgh.
Rustbelt Radio spoke with Tavia LaFollette about how the Firefly Tunnel Project will use art to build a tunnel connecting cultures.
* tavia_inter.wav: tavia_inter.wav (3:43)
For more on the project, visit fire fly tunnels [dot] net
We'll be back with with more news from the grassroots after this musical break.
* We_All_Shall_Be_Free!.flac: (3:12)
That was "We All Shall Be Free," by local artist Jasiri X, featuring M1 of Dead Prez and produced by Drum Gang Productions. Check out the video at jasirix [dot] com
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.
Shalefields Grassroots Media is a new project of Pittsburgh Indymedia and the Shadbush Collective to document and share people’s experience with shale gas drilling. Marcellus drilling is now taking place in many regions of Pennsylvania, but the northeastern and southwestern portions of the state are hotspots. In northeastern Pennsylvania, the small town of Dimock is now a well-known name because of the problems residents have faced from drilling. Similar stories are also starting to emerge from southwestern Pennsylvania.
Today, Shalefields Grassroots Media brings you three stories: we'll hear from people who have experienced problems ranging from serious family illness, damage to their homes, and lost quality of life.
Walt Dana lives on a 1-acre property in Hopewell Township, Washington County. Drilling is taking place on numerous surrounding properties.
Ken Gayman lives in Greene County. He has a 12-acre farm in Mariana, and lives in Dry Tavern. Both Ken and Walt have noticed changes in the wildlife they see around them. Ken Gayman:
Disturbing effects are also being observed in livestock:
Drilling is affecting people here too. One woman from Washington County--who preferred not to be identified--told us about the problems her family has had since drilling began near their home. We will refer to her as Jane. She and her kids had also lost their animals, but worse, they had gotten sick themselves.
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Jane and her daughter were having symptoms too
Despite numerous trips to different specialists the family could not get any answers from the medical community. No one had asked them if they lived near any drilling operations. Then last summer, a year after the family’s symptoms had begun, a number of animals in the neighborhood mysteriously got :sick and died, including the family’s dog and goats. A few of the animals were brought to a veterinarian for testing. From those results, the cause of the family’s illnesses started to emerge.
An analysis conducted by an independent company identified the toxin in Jane’s well water. All signs point to the nearby drilling site as the cause of the contamination. The family had never had any significant health problems before drilling began, and there have been no other disturbances to the groundwater.
Jane did lease the family’s mineral rights for drilling but did not feel that she or her community were adequately informed about the process.
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For Jane the medical costs alone have exceeded the payments they have received. But nothing would have been worth the toll that the contamination has taken on their health and their sense of safety.
Although Jane’s family is feeling better, she will never feel safe drinking their well water again, and it is uncertain how long the company will continue to provide them with water. She also has fears about the long term effects of their exposure.
As Jane’s experience demonstrated, the strange health problems that can be caused by exposure to chemical pollution from gas drilling are not yet on the radar of the medical community.
Most doctors and nurses very rarely see chemical poisoning cases, and consider them to be associated with industrial worksite accidents, not rural home life. Detecting the problems is especially difficult because symptoms can be diffuse and insidious; fatigue, sinus trouble, headaches, nausea; feeling just a little worse than you used to. However, in the western U.S., where shale gas drilling has gone on for longer, many cases of chemical poisoning have come to light. Although shale gas drilling is now 15-20 years old, scientific studies on health impacts are only just now emerging. Citizen activism brought about the involvement of high-profile researchers such as Dr. Wilma Subra, who has advocated for communities in Louisiana’s chemical alley for decades, and Dr. Theo Colburn, a pioneer who uncovered the toxic effects of chemicals on our bodies’ hormone systems. Because the industry is exempt from so many regulations, studies were not done to determine whether drilling would create hazardous levels of pollutants before it was permitted on a massive scale.
In Pennsylvania, reports from people like Jane already suggest that the same problems found in the West are happening here. Ken Gayman:
For residents, it seems obvious there is a link to gas drilling when the people affected live directly in the shadow of new drilling infrastructure:
Gayman is taking action to bring the issue of gas drilling to the medical community’s attention:
The team will document people who are sick and how close they live to various kinds of drilling infrastructure.
Gayman and Dana both tried to get local and state government to address the problems in their communities:
Part of the reason citizens can’t find help from authorities is that the drilling industry actively works to influence the legislative and regulatory system in their favor. Here is Gayman's assessment of the state legislature:
Drilling companies have spent over 5 million dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying efforts in Pennsylvania. According to the Marcellus Shale Money Watch project, when the state legislature voted on a natural gas severance tax in 2010, the legislators who voted for the bill had taken an average of just over $800 from the natural gas industry, while those who voted against the bill took an average of almost $3000.
Companies have been fined for violations, but it hasn’t stopped the problems:
After seeing the impacts of shale gas drilling in his community, Gayman felt that the way it is currently being practiced is profoundly opposed to his values:
Dana offered a stark contrast to the optimistic predictions that drilling will bring prosperity to the region:
These stories may be only the tip of the iceberg. In 2010 about 300 wells were drilled in the 10 counties of southwestern Pennsylvania. But over 60 thousand wells are predicted for the state by 2030 as the gas rush continues, and southwestern Pennsylvania will continue to be a hotspot.
Gayman fears what this future holds for the region:
You've been listening to coverage brought to you by Shalefields Grassroots Media, a new independent media project working to amplify voices from the grassroots about the impacts of shale gas drilling.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events. Send yours to info [at] I N D Y P G H [dot ] org
* The Alliance for Police Accountability calls on all Pittsburgh residents to support our youth, and justice. Come out to a special City Council Public Hearing in Homewood on Tuesday, February 15 from 6-8:00pm at Shiloh Community Missionary Baptist Church, 6940 Frankstown Avenue. Visit www [dot] JusticeForJordanMiles [dot] com for more information.
* Come to a lunchtime teach-in on the continuing war in Iraq and the effects it is having on service members and their families, veterans and Iraqi labor unions. The meeting is at noon on Wednesday, February 23 on the first floor of the United Steelworkers Union on the Boulevard of the Allies in Downtown Pittsburgh.
* February is Black History Month. Check out the website of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture for listings of current exhibits and events. That address is www [dot] August Wilson Center [dot] org.
* ”Pittsburgh Welcomes,” John Detwiler's (pronounced DET-WHY-LERS) one-hour documentary about the Pittsburgh G-20 Summit will screen at 6:30 p.m. on February 14 at Point Park University Center on Wood Street Downtown. Discussion will follow.
* The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Homewood branch will show the film “What Does Trouble Mean? Nate Smith's Revolution,” at 8pm on Wednesday, February 16th. The documentary depicts the 1969 struggle of African Americans to integrate Pittsburgh’s labor unions.
* COMING IN HOT, a play about women in the military, comes to Chatham University’s Eddy Theatre, Woodland Road, on Sunday, February 20 at 3 pm. For more information, call 412-661-7149 or e-mail S M smith99 [at] verizon [dot] net. [email@example.com. ]
* I HEART EMPOWERMENT is a student-led and student-organized conference hosted on the campus of Carlow University on February 25th, 26th and 27th. More information from I HEART EMPOWERMENT [at] gmail [dot] .com.
* Three Rivers Community Foundation is offering grants ranging from $500 to $4,000 for organizations focused on creating change in the 10-county region of southwestern PA. The foundation works to bridge the gaps that divide people around race, economic status, gender, sexual identity and disability. Deadline to apply is February 25. For more information, go to www.trcf.net.
* As always, there are a lot of hydrofracking protest-related events and "Gasland" screenings going on in the Pittsburgh area -- but not quite as many as there are chemicals being dumped into the three rivers by evil fracking companies and fracking evil companies. Browse the calendar at marcellusprotest.org for a complete list.
* Prometheus Radio Project is coming to Pittsburgh in March to talk about the Local Community Radio Act! The Pittsburgh Independent Media Center invites you--listeners, activists, organizers and local media makers--to partake in the future of community radio here in Western PA. Check in with our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more details on bringing the people's voices back to the airwaves!
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WIUP Indiana, WNJR Washington, WLRI LanChester, and FRSC Santa Cruz.
Our hosts this week are [Lizzie Anderson] and [Bonnie Pfister] with contributions from [Lizzie Anderson, Seth Bearden, Emily DeMarco, Bonnie Pfister, Ben Fiorillo, Emily Laychak, Jessica McPherson, and Nigel Parry]. 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, and follow us on Twitter @pghimc. 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.