On this week’s show, a review of the controversial Orange Order Marches taking place in Belfast (Kate McCabe producer), and a look at some creative campaigns by the Rainforest Action Network to curb U.S. oil consumption (Megan Williamson producer). Plus local, national, and international headlines (find them after the ‘more’ link).
Four farms in Washtenaw County have received the lion’s share of this year’s Farm Preservation funds for the State. The money goes toward easements that keep the land out of development. This is the second year that farms in Washtenaw County have received substantial funds and reflects the accelerating pressure on farmland in the greater Ann Arbor area as residential sprawl moves further from the city center.
The farms targeted include the Davenport Farm on Marshall Road, the Wing Farm in Scio Township, the Geddes Farm in Pittsfield Township, and the Alexander Farm in Northfield Township.
The preservation funds make up only a portion of the total amount needed to keep the land out of development. Local groups must now raise the additional money needed if the protection is to be fully funded.
The Detroit City Council has approved a new annual fee for trash collection. The Fee will cost households $300 per year, and be included in their property tax bills. The measure was approved last Friday, despite the strong objections of many local residents who spoke at a public hearing on June 26th.
According to the Michigan Citizen, several Detroiters at that hearing said that they would be forced to move out of the city if the fee was instituted. Many also pointed out that they are already struggling to keep up with rising utility, water, insurance and tax bills. Senior citizens and young first-time homeowners were especially vocal opponents of the fee.
In a weak response to these concerns, the City Council also passed a discount for senior citizens whose annual income is less than $40,000. If the mayor agrees, those residents will pay $150 per year.
The Detroit Free Press reports that council members said they backed the fee because Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had threatened to lay off 600 more city workers, including police and fire personnel if it wasn’t approved.
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, the only councilmember to vote in opposition to the measure, said that she did not accept the idea that the trash collection fee or mass layoffs of city workers were the only options for raising the needed funds. She suggested that the money for trash management could be taken from the $130 million owed to the city by the state of Michigan.
The Michigan Action Project reports that a bill in the Michigan Senate meant to protect Michigan waterways from the effects of excess fertilizer not only does little to control the problem, but preempts local governments and communities from regulating the compounds in future. This means that all local ordinances in place throughout the State passed to reduce phosphorous runoff would in effect be nullified.
Phosphorous is the prime suspect in the return of algae blooms in bodies of water throughout the State that pollute beaches and deprive the water of needed oxygen, leading to fish die offs. Algae blooms can also contain toxic microcystins which cause illness in humans when ingested.
The current bill would allow homeowners to apply up to a half pound of phosphorous per 1000 squarer feet of lawn. A single pound of phosphorous can lead to the growth of up to 500 pounds of algae, according to the report. The Project is calling on legislators to enact laws similar to those in Minnesota which allow the use of phosphorous only after soil tests show phosphorous deficiency.
Palestine News Network reports that thirty-two Palestinian organizers and activists from across the U.S gathered in suburban Detroit last weekend, marking the first politically diverse national meeting of Palestinians in the U.S. since 1988.
The meeting sought to gather Palestinians from a diverse range of political affiliations in order to develop ways of mobilizing the Palestinian community in the US. According to participants’ statements, this meeting “comes at a critical time when Palestinians are facing a political and economic siege.”
Out of this meeting came a document entitled the “Detroit Declaration, ” which asserts Palestinians’ right equality, self-determination, and the right to return to their original land.
The document also stresses the importance of empowering Palestinian grassroots organizing in communities across the US, stating “We believe that empowerment of our community hinges on its ability to live in relative security and safety. For this reason, we seek to address the community’s interest as members of the Palestinian national body, as well as its particular concerns as activists, organizers, recent immigrants, youth, women, and workers who face particular challenges in the US.”
The “Detroit Declaration” also announces that a ‘US Popular Palestinian National Conference’ will be held in 2008, the 60th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba.
National and International Headlines:
Tennessee Independent Media Center reports that despite serious questions as to the reliability of his conviction, the state of Tennessee executed Sedley Alley last Wenesady morning. Alley was convicted of the 1985 murder of Suzanne Marie Collins, but recently revealed evidence has led to questions about his guilt.
Evidence withheld from the defense at trial reveals that Alley was under police surveillance at the time of Collins death. The state also placed heavy emphasis on Alleys supposed confession, but the confession bore all the earmarks of being false or coerced. Many facts of Alleys confession bear no resemblance to the facts of the actual murder. More disturbingly, Alley was interrogated by police for over two hours, but the tape recording of the interrogation is under one hour long. The tape includes seven places where the recording was stopped and then restarted. DNA evidence exists that could be tested to prove, once and for all, whether Alley was guilty or innocent. But the state of Tennessee has continually refused to allow the testing.
Alley’s execution came only days after the Chicago Tribune revealed evidence that Texas executed an innocent man, Carlos De Luna, in 1989. De Luna’s case makes the fourth time in nineteen months that investigative journalism has exposed an execution of an innocent man.
According to a statement made on Saturday by an anonymous military official, the soldiers entered the home, separated the woman from her family, then raped her and set fire to her body in an apparent cover-up attempt. Three members of her family, including a young child, were also murdered. The official said the attack appeared “totally premeditated” and that the soldiers apparently “studied” the family for about a week before carrying out the attack.
U.S. officials said they knew of the deaths but thought the victims died due to sectarian violence.
This investigation is the latest in a long string of inquiries by the US army into crimes committed by soldiers. Last week, the U.S. military charged seven Marines and one sailor with premeditated murder, kidnapping and conspiracy over the April 26th killing of a 52-year-old disabled Iraqi civilian.
Four more U.S. soldiers were charged with premeditated murder recently, after being accused of shooting three Iraqi prisoners last May and then threatening to kill a fellow soldier if he spoke about the killings.
Other cases involve the deaths of three male detainees in Salahuddin province in May, the shooting death of unarmed Iraqi man near Ramadi in February, the death of an Iraqi soldier after an interrogation in 2003 at a detention camp in Qaim, and the killing of 24 unarmed civilians in the town of Haditha last November.
According to the International Middle East Media Center, some three hundred Palestinian residents have been stuck at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing since Sunday morning, after Israeli closed the Palestinian side. Palestinian officials have been holding talks with Egyptian and Israeli officials in an attempt to secure the entry of the residents into Rafah.
Palestinian Minister of Health, Basim Na’im, said that he contacted the Arab Physicians Society, in Cairo, and asked them to send medicine, land large quantities of food and water as soon as possible. Na’im said that so far, talks with the Israeli side have not brought about any positive result, adding that Israel rejected to give a final date for opening the border crossing.
The retrial of the Pitstop Ploughshares is set to begin in Dublin on July 5th. On February 3, 2003, as part of ongoing resistance at Ireland’s Shannon airport, Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Karen Fallon, Ciaron O’Reilly and Damien Moran disarmed a US warplane. Within the month, three of the four companies contracted to ferry US troops and weapons had left Ireland. Each of the 5 “Pitstop Ploughshares” spent between 4 to 11 weeks in Limerick Prison, and originally went to trial in March of 2005 on two counts of Criminal Damage for 100,000 Euros and $2.5 million US. If convicted, the penalties carry a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.
The first trial ended in a mistrial after 6 days, and the government’s first attempted retrial the following October also ended abruptly, with the judge removing himself in agreement with the Defence counsel that his attendance at the Bush inauguration in 2001 tainted his role as judge with a “perception of bias.”
The five anti-war activists return to trial this Wednesday, July 5 at Dublin’s Four Courts, and the trial is expected to last for two weeks. For more information on how you can help support the Pitstop Ploughshares, please visit their website at http://www.peaceontrial.com