BlackBox Radio

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.



  1. very nice.

    Comment by corbin — January 14, 2007 @ 7:34 pm

  2. An encounter is defined as \”a face-to-face contact between a healthcare professional and an eligible beneficiary.\”

    Comment by Dr J Scott — January 20, 2007 @ 2:51 am

  3. makes you think doesn’t it

    Comment by bob — February 22, 2007 @ 3:42 am

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