community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show: The Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project trains volunteers to monitor the gas drilling industry; An FCC Commissioner lands a job with NBC just four months after voting for the Comcast-NBC merger; A coalition of social services has formed against Governor Tom Corbett's proposed budget; Reports from the front lines of the campaign for Justice for Jordan Miles and more in our local and global headlines.
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Rustbelt Radio for May 23rd, 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.
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We turn now to local stories.
Governor Tom Corbett’s newest proposed budget will cut hundreds of millions of dollars of funding to social services around the state. A wide array of services from early childhood education, to home maker services would be basically incapacitated by the cuts, no longer being able to serve many of the Pennsylvanians who rely on them.
In response to the cuts a coalition of non-profits, community organizations and the United Way entitled “Why Cut What Works?” has formed. On Wednesday they held a rally downtown in Market Square in order to share stories with a crowd of around a hundred of what the human effects of these budget cuts would really be. Elaine Harris Fulton of Family Centers leads the crowd in a chant and Bob Nelkin, the president of United Way makes a brief overview of what kind of organizations these cuts are going to harm.
Representatives from Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, Community Human Services, Headstart, Family Centers and the Greater Pittsburgh Non-Profit Partnership all spoke during the rally about how these budget cuts would specifically harm the services they offer the community. In the crowd, a number of other organizations that would be harmed by the cuts, like a daycare center from Wilkinsburg, could be seen holding signs and banners drawing attention to their own situations as well. It seemed the overarching message of the rally was best summed up by Elaine Harris Fulton of the Family Centers when she said that these cuts “violate a pact that we have as a society to protect those most vulnerable”, and that those vulnerable deserve a voice.
This is the PA Prison Report for May 16th and 24th.
First, news from the inside:
In State Correctional Institution Cresson's solitary confinement cells, severe conditions are continuing. 42-year old John McClellan of Philadelphia was found unresponsive in his solitary confinement unit cell at SCI Cresson, shortly before midnight on May 6th, and was pronounced dead soon afterwards. HRC has received multiple reports that McClellan hung himself in his cell after his cries for help were ignored by staff, and that and he was encouraged by two guards to commit suicide. This death comes after HRC has continuously received reports of the warehousing of mentally ill prisoners in Cresson’s solitary units where they are denied mental health attention and treatment.
One such report was from Tracey Pietrovito, a forty-three year man held at SCI Cresson, who is being confined in a hard cell after he withheld his meal tray in protest of his food being served to him smelling of urine and chewing tobacco. He has been held in the cell under punishment conditions for over a week. Though the official reason for Pietrovito's confinement are prison staff's claims that he is suicidal, he currently has no meaningful access to mental health counseling and he has been deprived of a mattress, toilet paper, and access to his legal work.
Another report comes from Damont Hagan, a prisoner who was recently confined in the Restricted Housing Unit at SCI Cresson, became the fourth prisoner to report to HRC that prison staff ignored John McClellan’s attempts to seek mental health treatment and encouraged him to commit suicide shortly before he hung himself in his solitary confinement cell. The other three prisoners to report these details remain anonymous out of fear for their safety. Hagan also reported that one of the guards who encouraged McClellan’s suicide had abused him, cutting his eye, in April of this year. Mr. Hagan himself has been abused and retaliated against within the solitary units of Cresson as well, reporting that only days after Mr. McClellan’s suicide he was encouraged to take his own life while being held in a “psychiatric observation cell”.
These reports as well as others show a pattern of punishment in place of treatment for the mentally ill at SCI Cresson, “psychiatric observation cells” in reality being hard cells where guards encourage prisoners to take their own lives or continue to suffer the abuse and retaliation that is rampant in the solitary confinement units.
HRC-Fed UP! has received numerous reports from State Correctional Institution Frackville about abuses that have been occurring in the solitary unit. Prisoners have specifically identified prison guard Shaeffer and Sgt. Wilkersham as instrumental in the perpetration of human rights violations.
From the Courtroom Beat, a Pittsburgh activist has brought suit over police and probation abuse.
Adrienne Young filed a lawsuit in the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court accusing city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County employees of violating her rights through a series of arrests, incarcerations and detentions after she sought an internal review of police actions. The lawsuit stems from a minor traffic accident in May 2008, which resulted in police charging her with several crimes. The initial court dismissed the charges, but they were re-filed five months later for unknown reasons. During the time between the reissuing of the charges Ms. Young filed a complaint with the city’s Office of Municipal Investigations regarding mistreatment she had been subjected to by the police. In March 2009, Young was arrested for the fourth and final time, spent nearly one month in jail, and six months on house arrest, which she was forced to pay for. The only thing she was ever found guilty of, according to the lawsuit, was passing in a no-passing zone.
Adrienne Young is the director of Tree of Hope, a nonprofit organization that helps families who have suffered traumatic losses. Since her ordeal with the police, she has encountered others who have been placed on pre-trial house arrest despite not being a risk to leave the city. She is represented by attorney Edward A. Olds.
In prison news from around the nation, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox have entered their 40th year of solitary confinement in the Louisiana prison system. Wallace, Woodfox, and Robert King are known as the Angola 3. A series of events in New Orleans last month marked the 39th “anniversary” of their placement in solitary, following the murder of Angola prison guard Brent Miller–a murder for which Wallace and Woodfox were later convicted on highly dubious evidence. Robert King was convicted of a separate prison murder, and released after 29 years in solitary when his conviction was overturned.
The three men believe they were originally targeted because they were Black Panthers, organizing against conditions at Angola, and Wallace and Woodfox believe they remain in solitary for the same reason.
The PA Prison Report is brought to you by the Human Rights Coalition, fighting for the rights and lives of prisoners HRC is a group of current and former prisoners, family members and supporters whose ultimate goals is to abolish prisons, keep up the fight! The full report can be found at hrcoalition.org
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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 other independent news from around the world.
Outrage and accusations of corruption followed the May 12th announcement that FCC Commissioner, Meredith Baker, plans to resign early for a job with media giant, NBC Universal.
The announcement follows only four months after the Federal Communications Commission or FCC, voted to allow the controversial merger between Comcast and NBC.
"The system is fundamentally flawed," says Andrew Schwartzman, policy director of the Washington-based Media Access Project. Thanks to the revolving door, "People attain expertise which is extremely valuable to the regulated companies and turn around and make that expertise available to them at the expense of the public."
Commissioner Baker was one of the strongest proponents of the deal. In a March speech on the FCC merger process, she said that, “the NBC/Comcast merger took too long.”
Craig Aaron, president of the media reform group, Free Press, says that she showed no shame in her advocacy for the companies that she was suppose to be regulating.
The only commissioner that voted against the Comcast-NBC merger was Democrat Michal J. Copps. He said that the deal “confers too much power in one company’s hands,” and continued to predict that the deal would result in higher cable and Internet bills.
In an interview on the David Pakman Show, the Program Director of Free Press, Josh Stearn, says that the recent merger of NBC and Comcast is a major blow to consumers and democracy in this country.
Josh Stearn continues to point out that Comcast already has a bad track record.
The revolving door between the FCC and the corporations they were created to regulate is nothing new. Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell now earns millions as the top lobbyist for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group that lobbies for the industry he was tasked to regulate.
Craig Aaron of Free Press says the blatant move of FCC regulators to the private sector shows the public acceptance of corruption in Washington.
To keep up to date with other media related news, check out freepress.net
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.
As Marcellus Shale drilling expands in Pennsylvania, stories are emerging from local residents about problems resulting from drilling, and the industry has racked up thousands of violations from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. However, because the DEP has only 2 hundred inspectors for 4 thousand 5 hundred wells, these violations might just be the tip of the iceberg. And when something goes wrong at a well site, the consequences can be immediately dangerous to public health and safety. In response to this situation, the Mountain Watershed Association has partnered with a team of other environmental non-profit groups to develop a network of grassroots volunteers to keep watch on the industry and report problems.
Veronica Coptis, Community Organizer with the Mountain Watershed Association:
The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Healthy Environment and Communities, known by its acronym CHEC, has created a crowd-sourced website for collecting information about the Marcellus industry, called FracTracker. Anyone can upload and share data on the site. The information from the citizen monitoring project will be collected together and publicly available on FracTracker. Charles Christen, CHEC’s director of operations:
Mountain Watershed Association and its partner organizations have hosted several trainings to teach people to participate in citizen monitoring. Volunteers learn how to follow industry development through the permit paper trail, and what to look for on the ground to detect public health hazards. The trainings also introduced volunteers to the kinds of hazards Marcellus development poses to air and water.
Myron Arnowitt of Clean Water Action describes water impacts:
Arnowitt describes how people can detect water problems:
Sue Seppi from the Group Against Smog and Pollution addressed air pollution. Our region already has poor air quality, and study from Texas, where shale gas development is far more extensive than it is yet in Pennyslvania, shows that the gas industry will add to it quite substantially:
Seppi describes what people can do:
Citizens can’t object to permits on the grounds of air quality issues, because most Marcellus development is actually exempt from air permitting. However, there is one area which is now open for citizen comment as regulators figure out how to address this new industry:
Veronica Coptis describes the nuts and bolts of monitoring the industry:
Even if a volunteer can’t access the actual well site, erosian and sedimentation problems can be observed from their impacts on nearby streams:
Coptis encouraged volunteers to watch for spills and discharges, either on the drill site, or during transportation of wastewater. For example, a new practice of the industry is to create centralized waste impoundment pits, and pipe wastewater across large distances from many wells to the pits. Coptis encouraged community members to monitor these pipes:
Illegal dumping of wastewater poses a great threat to streams and drinking water, and is almost certainly occurring based on the discrepancies between the amount of wastewater produced and the amount of wastewater that is reported for legal disposal methods. However, it’s hard to catch, because trucks that are legally withdrawing water from streams look very similar to trucks that are dumping. Coptis describes how to tell the difference:
Coptis describes additional signs that might mean pollution escaping into the environment:
Volunteer reports are collected through an online form that can be found at the Mountain Watershed Association website, www.mtwatershed.com. To figure out where to go to observe the industry, Coptis described how to use the FracTracker data tool to find out where wells are being drilled.
Volunteers can also submit video and photos of their observations:
Coptis encouraged volunteers to also file complaints directly with the appropriate agency.
Volunteers should also call 911 if they observe fires, spills, or accidents.
While some problems such as fires, blowouts, or sediment plumes in streams are obvious, other kinds of pollution can be difficult to detect because the chemicals are tasteless and odorless. The only signs of pollution may be the onset of illness in those exposed. In these cases, GASP, Clean Water Action, and CHEC have equipment to measure air and water pollution, and can follow up on tips from volunteers to investigate potential contamination.
The long-term goal of the Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project is to build hard data to support advocacy efforts against the harms caused by the industry. Veronica Coptis:
To learn more about the Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project, visit the Mountain Watershed Association’s website. To report a Marcellus violation, call the DEP at 412-442-4000.
That was Burghtown, featuring Jasiri-X, performing "What U Gonna Do (Justice for Jordan Miles)". For more information visit www.myspace.com/jasirix
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Our hosts this week are Mana Aliabodi and Peter Claus with contributions from Seth Bearden, Jessica McPherson, Bonnie Phister, Nigel Parry, Hannah Talib, and Joyce Wagner. This week's show was produced by Shawn Watson. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
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