BlackBox Radio

November 28, 2005

BlackBox Radio for November 29, 2005

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 10:55 pm

Listen to the show: lower quality | high quality

On this week’s show: Michigan’s Northern Food Service and Falung Gong. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
Making Mott Children’s Hospital Green
Ann Arbor School Redistricting
Confused Detroit Police
Starving For Access

National and International Headlines:
Resisting Thanksgiving
Starbucks Charged With Anti-Union Activity
US Government Charges “enemy combatant” Jose Padilla
Border Reopened Between Gaza Strip and Egypt


Local Headlines

Since April of this year, plans have been underway to build a new Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan. The building plans have drawn criticism, however, due to environmental and health concerns. On fliers that have been circulating throughout Ann Arbor, opponents of the building plans explained that “the hospital system is the largest consumer of power in Ann Arbor. Emissions from the U of M power plant blow east over low-income Ypsilanti and Detroit Neighborhoods, where asthma rates are through the roof. Our children’s hospital has a special responsibility to provide healthcare without harm.”

The flier went on to explain the benefits of a greener facility, such as cleaner indoor air and natural light to help kids heal while they are hospitalized.

Mott’s peer institution in Pittsburgh, which is currently planning on a green built facility for about $200 per square foot less than U of M’s proposed structure, was also cited as evidence of green building’s economic feasibility. Residents are urged to contact Mott leaders and show their support for an environmentally friendly Mott Children’s Hospital.


The Ann Arbor School District will hold a series of community meetings to discuss the redistricting process. All are from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The meeting dates and locations are:
Dec. 1, Clague Middle School, 2616 Nixon Road.
Dec. 6, Tappan Middle School, 2251 E. Stadium Blvd.
Dec. 8, Slauson Middle School, 1019 W. Washington Road.
Dec. 13, Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine St.


Randy Kales, a twenty-one year old man, is suing the city of Detroit on charges of false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Kales was pulled over last month for a traffic violation. The Detroit Police immediately arrested him and imprisoned him for eleven days, saying that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

They were wrong. The Detroit Police Department was actually looking for his cousin, who had used Kales’ name when arrested on a fleeing and eluding charge. The man never appeared in court for the charges and a warrant was issued for his arrest. According the Detroit Free Press, Randy Kales is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.


In Flint, students are entering a 2nd week of protest outside the Michigan School for the Deaf. Ryan Commerson, a former teacher at the school, began his hunger strike named “starving for access” last week to call for better education for students, the hiring of a deaf principal, and employing staff members who are fluent in American Sign Language. The local protest has gained national attention and has been joined by a deaf and blind man from Minnesota and a deaf school counselor from Washington, D.C.

On Monday, 43 out of the 160 students at the school were suspended for participating in the protest. Senior-class President Tar Burt says the school needs to change but is resistant to calls for better conditions. Earlier in the week school officials said they had offered to talk with Mr. Commerson but that he canceled a meeting. Commerson has been on a diet of juice and water since last Monday. Updates of the ongoing protest can be found at



National and International Headlines:

While many Americans celebrated Thanksgiving weekend with feasting, family, and
shopping, others used the holiday as a time for resistance.

In Denver, Colorado, reports the Rocky Mountain News, the American Indian Movement
held a Thanksgiving fast, in which over 60 people vigiled outside the Colorado capitol building. Many of them fasted from sunrise to sundown to honor their ancestors and to show solidarity with other American Indians who are struggling against commercial development of sacred tribal lands

Cindy Sheehan and 200 others celebrated Thanksgiving by returning to President Bush’s ranch outside Crawford, Texas, where they protested the war in Iraq as well as recent laws enacted against camping or parking alongside public roads.

The day after Thanksgiving, many communities also celebrated Buy Nothing Day, an anti-capitalist holiday that attempts to counter hyper-consumerism by encouraging people to opt out and buy nothing on the biggest shopping day of the year.


The National Labor Relations Board has charged 15 Starbucks officials with an extensive array of anti-union acts including the discharge of two union members for organizing activity, according to New York City Indymedia (

The NLRB complaint alleges that Starbucks fired NYC union member Sarah Bender to discourage employees from engaging in protected union activity. Other alleged unlawful actions include the surveillance and interrogation of employee Anthony Polanco, and the issuing of a negative performance evaluation to employee Laura De Anda due to her union membership.

Stuart Lichten, the Union’s attorney from the labor law firm Schwartz Lichten and Bright, said quote “The sheer breadth of Starbucks’ anti-union activities is remarkable. The company has simply been breaking the law with impunity.”

In New Zealand, the world’s first strike at a Starbucks has spread to 10 other stores as employees spontaneously walked out to join over 150 fellow workers from KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds.

Daniel Gross, co-founder of the Starbucks workers union in New York, said the strike was an important step towards changing working conditions for those in the fast-food sector all over the world.


The US government has charged “enemy combatant” Jose Padilla with a crime, three and a half years after apprehending him, reports the New Standard. The charge came days before the Justice Department was required to file legal arguments in the Padilla’s Supreme Court appeal of his detention.

Padilla was charged with providing and conspiring to provide aid to terrorists, and for conspiring to murder people overseas. These charges are far different from the allegations Padilla was originally picked up on: planning to detonate a radioactive device in a major US city.

According to Amnesty International, he was barred from seeing his family or an attorney until February of last year and the military continued to restrict his access to outside information and people – including his attorney – throughout his imprisonment.

“It is long past time for Mr. Padilla to have his day in court,” Human Rights Watch added. “It remains to be seen whether it is possible now to repair the damage done to the rule of law and the cause of justice by the past years’ worth of indefinite detention, incommunicado interrogation, and denial of the most basic due-process rights.”


Thousands have passed through a recently reopened border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, reports the Associated Press. Opened for the first time this last weekend, the Rafah Terminal is now under Palestinian control.

Before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Israeli security checks at Rafah, meant to stop militants and weapons smuggling, often caused delays of hours or days. During the past five years of fighting, Israel also imposed travel restrictions on Gazans between ages 18 and 45, and most couldn’t leave.

In mid-December, Palestinians also will be able to travel between the West Bank and Gaza for the first time in five years, at first in Israeli-escorted bus convoys.



November 27, 2005

CMRN Live Broadcast 11-26

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 11:58 pm

This month’s one hour live show features:

Radio Insurgente, Thanksgiving as civil religon, and an excerpt of a talk by Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center.

listen to the show

Find out more about the Critical Mass Radio Network here.

November 22, 2005

Blackbox Radio for November 22, 2005

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 12:42 am

Listen to the show: lower quality | high quality

On this week’s show: excerpts from the International Tribunal on Haiti, and 826 Michigan. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
Westboro Baptist Church Anti-Gay Protest Outnumbered
Advertising in Ypsilanti School Buses
National Conference to Reclaim Our Cities – Detroit
Emergency Situation at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan
Kalamazoo Promises a College Education
UM Campaign to Cut Coke Update

National and International Headlines:
Is the Senate Curbing Torture, or is it a PR Stunt?
Human Rights TV Programming in Brazil
The American Medical Association’s Position on Torture
Multi-Lingual Mercury Warnings”

Local Headlines

This past weekend a production of the Laramie Project was staged in Ann Arbor at the Mendelsohn Theatre. The play, which recounts the 1998 hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard and denounces anti-gay bigotry, attracted members of the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church, who came to protest the event.

The Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka Kansas, is a hate group led by the infamous Fred Phelps. The group is well known for picketing Matthew Sheppard’s funeral and staging hateful counter demonstrations at LGBT Pride events.

About a dozen members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed outside productions of the Laramie Project on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, carrying signs with bigoted messages such as “God Hates Fags.” They trampled gay pride flags and seemed intent on inciting violence, although they did not succeed.

There were several children among them, including a girl of about 7 years old. She stood on a gay pride flag and held a sign that read “Fags are Worthy of Death.” The children’s presence deeply concerned many observers, including a member of the Michigan Peace Team who stated, “It is very disturbing to see these young children being indoctrinated with such hate.”

The anti-gay protestors were greatly outnumbered by a coalition of over 400 counter-demonstrators, comprised of various local community and student groups. One counter-demonstrator said, “We wanted to come out and show that our city does not tolerate hatred. We have a strong queer community here, and we support that community.”


Last week, officials with Ypsilanti Public Schools signed a three-year contract with InSight Media to sell advertising space in its school buses. For the contract’s first year, the district will get 50 percent of the advertising dollars; in the years following, it will receive 40 percent, leaving a profit of 60% for the advertising company. The ads will mainly target middle and high school students.


One week ago, activists from around the United States gathered at Wayne State University in Detroit to work on a program to reverse the growing crises in urban areas. The National Conference to Reclaim Our Cites attracted delegates concerned about the $500 billion annual defense budget which is draining resources from the vast need for housing, healthcare, quality education, employment, infrastructural development, food, access to water and utilities, environmental safety and community control of police.

Under the theme: “feed the cities, starve the Pentagon,” the event took a strong position against the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also called for mass actions commemorating the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott on December 1. More information about the actions and the conference’s resolutions can be found at


This fall at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, more than 200,000 pounds of food ordinarily distributed to local pantries was instead sent south for Katrina victims. As a result, shipments from food suppliers were low. The food bank’s organizers are calling this an “emergency situation.” Besides Katrina, the food bank is also expecting more demands from Delphi Corporation workers and retirees hurt by the company’s bankruptcy.

According to President Bill Kerr, this is the emptiest the warehouse has ever been in the past 11 years. He said, “I don’t in any way say that product shouldn’t have gone to New Orleans, but in the same breath I’m not going to diminish the need here in our community.”

Thirty-year Delphi employee Vernita Coleman, of Flint, predicts all local charitable organizations are going to be hit hard because of the corporation’s bankruptcy. Coleman believes that those who can’t retire or put away money will desperately need the help. She hopes to retire soon and is worried about her Delphi pension, adding, “It’s not an ‘if this will happen,’ it’s a ‘when.’ ”

Adding to the food bank’s crisis is a possible cut in food stamps. There is an effort in the U.S. House to cut $844 million from the program, which would eliminate about 300,000 participants nationally. According to Sarah Waelde, director of programs and agency relations in the food bank, Michigan is one of the top ten states for distributing food stamps. In early 2004, more than 915,000 people were receiving them in the state.


Starting this June, anonymous donors are offering to pay for virtually all Kalamazoo School District graduates to attend any Michigan public college or university. According to The Detroit Free Press “Experts say it’s the first such scholarship program in the country that’s aimed at virtually all graduates of an entire school district, no matter what their grades and test scores.”

The exact amount each student will receive under the plan, called the Kalamazoo Promise, depends on how many years the child attended Kalamazoo schools, which enroll roughly 11,000. Students must have attended schools in the district since kindergarten in order to qualify for a full scholarship.

Because its donors are anonymous, and district officials are not commenting on the plan’s financing, it’s difficult to figure out how to replicate the Kalamazoo Promise in other districts, says the Detroit Free Press. “Whoever is doing this has to be seriously rich, that’s for sure,” said Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Detroit.

The scholarship program is also expected to benefit property owners in the Kalamazoo Public Schools district, which includes most of the city of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Township, as well as parts of Oshtemo and Texas townships. Brent Smith, a real estate and economic development professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and former assistant professor at Western Michigan University, said it’s reasonable to expect home prices in the Kalamazoo Public Schools district to increase by 10 percent in the near future.


A letter criticising Ed Potter, Coca-Cola’s Global Labor Relations Director, is being circulated by email by students hoping to cut their the University of Michigan’s contract with Coca-Cola for it’s international human rights abuses. The letter was sent on Monday and written by Terry Collingsworth, one of the head lawyers in a Miami court case against Coca-Cola. The International Labor Rights Fund lawyer defends the Latin American food and beverage union, SINALTRAINAL, that has lost 9 Colombian Coke workers alleged due to paramilitary murder directed by Coca-Cola bottling plant managers to bust the union.

In September, Coca-Cola demanded that an inadmissibility agreement be made by all litigants which would bar evidence in a pending independent investigation of Coca Cola plants. However, in the letter, Colingsworth refused to “prejudice” his clients by making such an agreement. He wrote:

“If you know the facts will exonerate Coca-Cola, Ed, then let’s do the investigation and agree that the final report, and the supporting evidence, is admissible in court. In fact, let’s agree to split the cost of publishing 10,000 copies and sending the report to every university in the world.”

Collingsworth will visit the University of Michigan within the next 2 months as part of a university tour to “correct the record” about Coca-Cola’s actions. December 31st marks the U of M deadline for Coca-Cola to agree to a third party investigator to assess the company’s business practises in Colombia and India.


National and International Headlines:

Twin amendments passed in the Senate this week, ostensibly designed to halt torture and hailed by the mainstream media as re-establishing the moral high ground for the United States, are in fact nothing more than PR stunts that will allow torture to continue unabated, says the Moscow Times.

The original amendment, sponsored by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, permanently removed foreign captives in US custody the right of habeus corpus. This amendement denied them the right to challenge any aspect of their detention in court. The measure was strongly supported by the Justice and Defense Departments who wished to stop lawsuits by Guantanamo Bay detainees. Democratic Senators then pushed for an amendment written by Senator Carl Levin, which would grant detainees the right to appeal the verdict of a military tribunal after they had been convicted.

This, however, would still allow years of incarceration without rights or legal protection, and the amendment expressly prohibits the Supreme Court from jurisdiction over any aspect of this process.

American citizens can also be held indefinitely without charge or trial, but would be allowed to appear briefly in court prior to their conviction. However, all evidence against them can be classified.

Additionally, the Bush administration has redefined torture to allow almost any interrogation technique and has written orders expressly absolving the President and anyone committing crimes under his order of legal liability. The reach of these laws has become apparent. The US has already detained more than 83,000 people in its war on terror. According to the UN, the US is currently detaining people faster than it can process them.


In Brazil, independent human rights groups and collectives have been invited to create television programming that “uphold human rights.” This comes after the Brazillian open-broadcasting channel, Rede TV, was cut off due to offensive content. According to the Independent Media Center, the public civil action was signed by the Federal Public Ministry and six other entities, after the show Tarde Quente (Hot Afternoon) displayed scenes offensive to marginalized groups including women, blacks, homesexuals, and the disabled.

Following the suspension, Rede TV refused the ruling that called for alternative broadcasting, so the signal was cut off by Brazil’s National Agency of Telecommunications. Now, however, the broadcaster has recognized the civil action, and, in place of Tarde Quente, programs upholding human rights will be shown. In this unprecedented event, entities involved in human rights activism have been given 30 one-hour time slots to occupy Rede TV’s programming.


An article in the November/December issue of Clamor magazine reveals the American Medical Association’s complicity in the military’s use of torture.

At the AMA’s annual meeting last June, a resolution was introduced which cited the fact that physicians in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq failed to report injuries and deaths caused by beatings and in some cases collaborated with guards in the torture of detainees. The resolution called on the AMA to condemn doctors’ participation in physical or psychological torture and to encourage medical schools to teach ethical conduct.

However, after hours of debate, American Medical Association members voted to re-write the resolution. In the final version, all language related to torture was removed.

Shortly after the diluted resolution was adopted, the American Medical Association released a memo containing the military’s deliberately ambiguous policy on treatment of detainees. By all accounts, the military’s policy is in opposition to the principles of the Hippocratic Oath, which first asserts that a physician should ‘do no harm’.


Earlier this month, San Francisco passed an ordinance requiring grocery stores and restaurants to post warnings in English, Spanish, and Chinese regarding mercury in seafood. This is the first ordinance of its kind in the United States.

Public health and environmental groups support the new law as a step toward giving Latina and Chinese mothers the right to know about mercury in seafood, which has been proven to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. Previously, mercury warnings have only been posted in English.

Because some fish contain more mercury than others, it is important for women to select seafood carefully. According to the EPA, one in six U.S. women of childbearing age has unsafe blood levels of mercury. However, the FDA estimates that only 30 to 50 percent of women are aware of the risks.

November 15, 2005

BlackBox Radio for November 15, 2005

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 12:25 am

On this week’s show, local, national and international headlines, as well as an in-depth look at:

Mea Tavares reveals the trials and tribulations of coming out as transgender as told to producer Richie Duchon. Events observing this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance including a film screening and a vigil will commence this Sunday, November 20th at 5:30pm in the University of Michigan’s Rackham building.

Megan Williamson reports on the Icarus Project.

Listen to the show: lower quality | high quality

Local Headlines 11-15

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 12:15 am

The Ann Arbor proposal to raise property taxes to pay for the removal of over 10,000 ash trees dead or dying from the invasive species Emerald Ash Boar was defeated last Tuesday. Both property owners and the Huron Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club opposed the millage, saying that this was not the most effective way to address the problem. 57 per cent of voters agreed.


In Detroit, incumbent mayor Kwame Kilpatrick won over Freman Hendrix in a surprising defeat that defied the predictions of most poll watchers and media outlets. The Michigan Citizen reports that his victory was partially attributed to the young, black vote, which turned out in high numbers on Tuesday. Hendrix, on the other hand, won 90 per cent of the white vote.


Wayne County election judge Mary Beth Kelly granted federal investigators an injunction to have all absentee ballots, that were cast last Tuesday, preserved for evidence in their voter fraud investigation, which is centered on outgoing city clerk Jackie Currie.

Judge Kelly also gave the investigators authority to look into all payroll checks of Project Vote, which employs workers known as election ambassadors. For years, Project Vote workers have been accused of coercing seniors, or incorrectly marking the senior’s ballots in order to swing the vote in their favor. In this election, Project Vote workers are accused of manipulating seniors’ ballots to support Currie.

On Sept. 1, Judge Kelly ruled that the city clerk’s office can no longer mail tens of thousands of unsolicited absentee voter ballot applications to Detroit voters. Several days later, voters called in to talk shows saying they had received AV ballot applications in the mail despite the judge’s ruling. Currie was later ordered to pay a fine of $200.00 and subsequently lost Tuesday’s election to political novice Janice Winfrey.


Remarks made by some Livonia residents during a city planning commission meeting are propelling one white pastor to action. Their assertions that building a Wal-Mart store in their city would attract Black Detroiters and eventually turn their neighborhood into a ghetto has made headlines.

The Rev. Skip Wachsmann is pastor of the predominantly Black, Genesis Evangelical Lutheran Church on Detroit’s eastside. He said the remarks were racist and challenged all honest thinking people, especially the clergy in Livonia, to condemn them.

Waschsmann wants churches in Livonia—tagged America’s whitest city—to begin deeper discussion on racial issues.


As a result of pressures from the city fire department, Ann Arbor is going to reopen the controversial issue of the couch ban. The potential ban upset college students in August 2004 before the city tabled the topic due to lack of support.

The Ann Arbor fire department claims that two recent house fires started on porch couches. Assistant Fire Chief Chris Brenner told the Ann Arbor News that “it is only a matter of time before someone dies.”

According to the New West Side Association, there is no evidence that these fires began on porch couches. This group is raising questions as to the underlying reasons for the claims and may file a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate the motives behind these claims.

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