BlackBox Radio

December 31, 2005

CMRN Live Broadcast 12-31

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 3:29 pm

This month’s one-hour show features a retrospective of the year 2005, revisiting several stories produced by blackbox and seeing what has happened since they were first reported. Our stories include last year’s Coca-Cola’s water privatization scheme in Highland Park , the exoneration of wrongfully convicted prisoners, Hurricane Katrina, and construction of a massive dam in Iceland.

We also do a round-up of some of the most under-reported stories of the year, the worst corporate evildoers, and the top reasons why 2005 wasn’t all bad.

Find out more about the Critical Mass Radio Network here.

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Every year, Project Censored presents a compilation of the 25 most important news stories not covered in the corporate media. This year’s top spot goes to the Bush administrations’ ongoing efforts to eliminate open government.

These efforts include tightening and revising laws governing the release of information, making it more difficult to declassify government documents, reclassifying many previously declassified documents, and assuming unprecedented authority to conduct government operations in secret, with little or no judicial oversight. Congress has even been shut out, forced to go to court in attempts to compel the administration to release information Congress is legally entitled to.

On a positive note, the recent New York Times story revealing massive illegal spying on American citizens may be the wedge that brings these other stories out into the national dialogue and energizes popular resistance to these policies.

The next story on Project Censored’s most under-reported list also concerns a natural disaster: the Asian Tsunami. At the same time that U.S. aid was widely publicized domestically, our coinciding military motives were virtually ignored by the press. While supplying aid, we simultaneously bolstered military alliances with regional powers and began expanding our bases throughout the region, including in Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, and especially in Indonesia, despite its history of ongoing human rights issues.

Another story that made the top 25 most list concerns the distorted coverage of election results from the November 2004 elections.

According to exit poll data, John Kerry was projected to win the election by over 5 million votes, but the actual results showed George Bush with a 3 million vote win. This discrepancy of 8 million votes is orders of magnitude larger than the margin of error, yet the mainstream press called questions about the results “sour grapes” and refused to cover the information seriously.

In fact, a discrepancy between exit poll results and actual vote counts is the method used around the world – including by US observers – to gauge the authenticity of elections in other countries.

Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, the two companies hired to do the exit polling, waited until the eve of the inaugural to state their conclusion: that the discrepancy arose due to Kerry voters participating in exit polls at much higher levels than Bush voters. These findings were widely reported in the press as “proving” the veracity of the election results. How such an anomaly could have occurred, or why it had never occurred in any previous election in the nation’s history, were questions apparently not considered worth investigating by the mainstream media.


Global Exchange has released its list of the “14 Worst Corporate Evildoers of 2005”.
This list of “MOST WANTED” corporate criminals gives you information about the abusive behavior of this year’s top fourteen worst corporations, tells you who is responsible, and how to connect with and support people who are doing something about it. The more you know, the less these corporations can continue their abuses out of public eyesight: so share this information with your friends, get on the phone with the CEOs themselves, and exercise your rights as a citizen and consumer today.

Caterpillar, Chevron, Coca Cola and Dow Chemical have made the top of the list. Find more information about the other 10 corporations in Global Exchange’s list of Corporate Human Rights Violators at globalexchange.org.

The Coca Cola Company made the Global Exchange list of 2005’s worst corporate offenders for their crimes against workers and the environment.

Union leaders from Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia were killed after protesting the company’s labor practices and hundreds of others workers have been kidnapped, tortured, or otherwise intimidated to prevent them from unionizing.

Coke has also been responsible for environmental destruction in India. In Plachimada, Kerala, Coca-Cola extracted 1.5 million liters of deep well water, causing water shortages in thousands of communities and destroying agriculture activity.

In Turkey, 14 Coca-Cola truck drivers and their families were beaten severely by Turkish police hired by the company, while protesting a layoff of 1,000 workers from a local bottling plant in 2005.

The worldwide campaign against Coca Cola has also seen several victories this year, as major colleges and universities, such as New York University, have cut their contracts with Coke, demanding full investigations into allegations against the company.

The University of Michigan was the latest to sanction Coca Cola, by temporarily suspending University purchasing of Coke products effective January 1. U of M’s Dispute Review Board has recommended that the contract with Coca-Cola be permanently cut if reforms are not made by certain deadlines. Stay tuned to BlackBox Radio for future developments.

And here’s a more in-depth peek at some of the other companies on the corporate evildoers list.

First, Caterpiller. For years, the Caterpillar Company has been providing Israel with bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes. Despite worldwide condemnation, Caterpillar has refused to cut off sales of specially modified D9 and D10 bulldozers to the Israeli military. In 2003, a Caterpiller bulldozer crushed and killed peace activist Rachel Corrie as she tried to defend a Palestinian home.

Meanwhile, petrochemical giant Chevron is guilty of some of the worst environmental and human rights abuses in the world. For almost 30 years, Texaco, now part of Chevron, unleashed environmental devastation in Ecuador by leaving over 600 unlined oil pits in the pristine northern Amazon rainforest and dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic water into rivers used for bathing water.

Chevron is also responsible for the violent repression of peaceful opposition to oil extraction in Nigeria, and is accused of hiring private military personnel to open fire on peaceful protestors there. In Burma, Chevron settled a lawsuit filed by 15 villagers who accused Chevron of complicity in human rights violations ranging from forced labor to summary execution.


And now for some good news from Katha Pollitt at The Nation magazine on “Why 2005 wasn’t all bad”:

First, the seemingly invincible Bush administration is on the defensive, and the Republican machine that runs Congress is showing similar signs of decay. Most Americans don’t believe the President on why we went to war in Iraq and want the troops brought home as speedily as possible.

Second, there are signs that the mainstream media is finally waking up. The New Yorker revealed the role that doctors and psychiatrists played in the torture of enemy combatants. The Washington Post exposed the existence of secret prisons in Eastern Europe.

Civil liberties may also be making a comeback. The Senate failed to permanently reauthorize expiring sections of the Patriot Act.

And the left is alive and well in Latin America. Evo Morales has just been elected president of Bolivia on a platform of Indian and poor people’s rights, opposition to US-backed privatization schemes and support for coca farming. Socialist candidate Michelle Bachelet–pediatric surgeon, single mother, agnostic, feminist, former political prisoner–is the frontrunner in Chile’s presidential runoff.

The world is becoming more gay-friendly. Gay marriage was legalized in Spain, South Africa and Canada, and Britain and Connecticut now permit civil unions, joining Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Iceland, Luxembourg and Sweden.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ballot initiatives went down in flames. And perhaps most heartening of all: hardly anyone believes that global warming isn’t happening.

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December 28, 2005

BlackBox Radio for Dec 27th 2005

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 9:02 pm

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On this week’s show: a piece about the Labadie Collection, a radical archive housed at the University of Michigan. And a report about a new U.S. to Canada bridge slated to be built in SouthWest Detroit and the environmental justice concerns of local residents.. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
farmland preservation in Michigan
controversial anti-affirmative action proposal on ’06 ballot
hunger strike in Grand Rapids
funding for fuel cell research center

National and International Headlines:
labor and human rights issues on the gulf coast
37,000 NYC transit workers strike
U. S. state department suspends publication of Hi Magazine
lawsuit against Blackwater Security Consulting
death penalty abolished in Mexico, but continues in US

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Local Headlines

Last week Governor Jennifer Granholm awarded more than $1.3 million to support farmland preservation under a match program begun this year. Five communities and townships in the counties of Eaton, Grand Traverse, Kent, Macomb and Washtenaw qualified for the grants under the Agricultural Preservation Fund.

The Agricultural Preservation Fund Board selected communities from among grant applications submitted this fall. The selection was approved by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture at a public meeting held earlier this month.
“Michigan has more than 16,000 acres permanently protected, with thousands of preservation agreements being renewed and entered into every year,” said Mitch Irwin, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, which oversees the board. “The value of agriculture and open space has been recognized at all levels of government and this support from the top down will ensure that agriculture remains a vital and viable industry.”
To be eligible, local governments were required to develop and adopt a local ordinance governing development rights, update a community master plan to include farmland protection and provide matching funds of at least 25 percent.
For more information on farmland preservation, visit the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

###

Last Tuesday, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) be placed on the 2006 state ballot.

The controversial proposal that would prohibit affirmative action programs in university admission and government hiring was originally denied a place on the ballot when the Board of State Canvassers refused to put the issue on the ballot despite a previous court order.

Two main organizations opposing the initiative—One United Michigan and BAMN, are likely to pursue an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court. They claim that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative engaged in fraud while collecting the 500,000 signatures necessary to get the initiative on the ballot. Members of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative are alleged to have told voters that the initiative would protect affirmative action, as a ploy to convince voters to sign the petition.

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In Grand Rapids, Makoi Welken has gone on a hunger strike.
The Grand Rapids Press reports that Welken came to the United States seven years ago from the Sudan, where he was a doctor certified by the University of Cairo.
Welken and other refugees say the conflict in the Sudan blurs the line between war and genocide. Since 2003, the Arab forces confiscated land and driven off much of the male population in what has cost an estimated 180,000 lives due to the war and the associated disease and famine. An estimated that 1.9 million people in southern and central Sudan died of war-related causes since 1983.
Welken was able to bring his mother and daughter to this country, where they joined a growing Sudanese population. Michigan has the largest number of Sudanese refugees in the country.
Now in his third day of the hunger strike, he says he doesn’t know how long it will go. Welken said the world needs to be shocked into action and to understand the plight continues.
“I’m not on a suicide mission,” he said. “But as long as people are trying to avoid the issue, I will be here.”

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From the Flint Journal – Kettering University is $1.62 million closer to its planned fuel cell research center. The Department of Commerce will contribute to help build an Advanced Technology and Renewable Energy building in Kettering’s new research park – a move that’s expected to bring jobs and investment.
The center will manufacture fuel cells and develop fuel cell-related projects. Hydrogen fuel cells convert oxygen and hydrogen into water, producing electricity.
K. Joel Berry, director of the school’s Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration, estimates 20-30 jobs will be created in the first year of the 20-year project.
He says, “Naturally, I’m ecstatic about the future of Flint and the future of this project,” he said. “It’s another building block in helping the economic situation of Flint – one of many collaborations between Kettering and other entities. (But) it’s not the only answer. Other entities in Flint must step up.”

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National and International Headlines:

The Baltimore Sun reported that an immigrant advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit last week against a Howard County contracting company, saying it refused to pay 35 Maryland laborers hired for cleanup projects along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The claims are similar to complaints filed around the country by advocacy groups and labor organizers, who say that firms doing post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction have taken advantage of immigrant workers.

In the clean-up efforts following the devastation of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, many undocumented workers and homeless people were recruited to the area to work under large companies contracted by the federal government. Companies such as Haliburton, Kellog-Brown & Root- a Haliburton subsidiary, and EEC Operating Services.

They were lured to the [Gulf Coast] region by promises of work and good pay. But it turns out that many of those workers have never been paid and have little recourse in collecting their promised checks. Some undocumented workers were even threatened with deportation when they demanded their pay.

An article on Salon.com, Gulf Coast Slaves, stated that the problem is “a shadowy labyrinth of contractors, subcontractors and job brokers, overseen by no single agency, that have created a no man’s land where nobody seems to be accountable for the hiring-and abuse of these workers.”

The federal government has yet to respond to these criticisms or attempt to set up oversight committees.

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37,000 New York City transit workers walked off the job last Tuesday morning as talks broke down between their union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last Tuesday morning. The MTA has sought to create a two-tier wage system between new hires and transit veterans, while asking greater health care contributions and an older retirement age.

Apart from economic issues, Transit Workers Union Local 100 members on the picket line listed the MTA’s disciplinary system and working conditions as reason for striking. Some bus operators talked about not having enough time to use the bathroom on the job, urinating in glass bottles and cups, and MTA officials making unannounced house visits on sick days. Others said that managers have great leeway in determining and deciding punishment. According to union officials, the MTA issued 15,000 disciplinary actions against TWU members last year.

The strike effectively shut the way business is run in the city, taking an estimated $400 million away from the economy each day. While transit workers see this strike as a fight for dignity and respect, public officials saw the TWU rank and file as lawbreakers. Both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki used harsh language that many see as coded race baiting. The mayor called TWU President Roger Toussaint “thuggish” and played up the illegal aspect of the strike, threatening Touissant with jail time.

The strike ended on Thursday afternoon. According to reports on New York Indymedia, TWU officials showed up on picket lines throughout the city and instructed workers to return to work without any explanation of what had been accomplished. This generated considerable anger among many workers who had struck for three days and willingly accepted the loss of thousands of dollars in wages under the anti-union Taylor Law.

The sudden calling off of the strike was followed by a news blackout on ongoing negotiations between the TWU and the transit authority. It is being widely reported that the TWU has offered to impose greater out-of-pocket expenses for health care on their members in exchange for management curtailing its demand for the rolling back of pension protections.

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According to Friday’s Toronto Star, the U. S. state department announced that it is suspending publication of its Hi Magazine, a monthly magazine established after September 11. The magazine is sponsored by the US state department and was distributed internationally in an effort to counter anti-Americanism in countries such as Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and others.

Announcing its creation in 2003 the company said the magazine was aimed at promoting an understanding of American values.

The magazine had been derided by commentators in the Arab world as “schlock” or “brainwashing” and one had dubbed it the CIA’s official publication.

Shortly after it hit the Arab street, the Al-Ahram Weekly in Egypt wrote, “many critics think the magazine is too naive to be anything other than an exercise in brainwashing.”

“Like other parts of our new diplomatic effort, it was not seen as something credible,” said Steven Cook, a Middle East expert at the non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations.

When the magazine was launched, Christopher Datta of the state department said it would counter disinformation or distorted images of America in the Arab world.

Along with Al-Hurra TV and Radio Sawa, Hi was a three-pronged $62 million (U.S.) annual effort to counter anti-Americanism.

Some critics argue that this is part of a broader U.S. strategy to control perceptions both inside and outside of Iraq. The LA times reported in late November that the Pentagon had been helping to feed news articles to various independent newspapers in Iraq in addition to paying off reporters who wrote pieces favorable to U.S. interests. Similar types of media manipulation were uncovered in the U.S. when it was reported in January that various federal agencies were distributing videos and news stories to US television stations and newspapers without identifying the federal government as their source and for paying U.S. journalists to promote administration policies. The Government Accountability office has labeled these actions as “covert propaganda”. Critics further argue that these examples of media control and distortion are not isolated but rather demonstrate a deeper systemic agenda by the Federal government to control both domestic and internationals populations opinions and understandings of U.S. policies.

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Corpwatch.org reports that an unprecedented lawsuit has been filed, concerning the deaths of four American civilians in Iraq.

The suit was brought by the families of four civilian contractors shot last year by Iraqi insurgents, who burned their bodies and hung the charred remains from a bridge across the Euphrates river in the city of Falluja.

The four men worked for Blackwater Security Consulting LLC, one of the companies fielding armed civilians in Iraq under contract with the Pentagon. The suit against Blackwater says the company broke explicit terms of its contract with the men by sending them to escort a food convoy in unarmored cars, without proper briefings, and in teams that were understaffed.

Alleging wrongful death and fraud, the suit is the first of its kind in the U.S. The way it is resolved, experts say, could have major implications for the future of military contracting and result in more rules and regulations.

Civilian military contractors now perform scores of functions once restricted to regular troops, and the trend toward “privatizing war” has been accelerating steadily.

###

Counterpunch.org reports that even as the United States celebrated its 1,000th execution since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, Mexico has finally wiped its own death penalty off the books. On December 9th, President Vicente Fox signed off on constitutional amendments that abolished capital punishment in both civil courts and military codes. Executions in Mexico have been suspended for decades – the last Mexican to be executed went before a military firing squad in 1961.

However, there are still has 46 Mexican citizens awaiting imminent execution on Death Row in the United States. U.S. death row inmates include approximately 120 foreigners from 29 countries.

Mexicans arrested in the U.S. are routinely kept in the dark about their Vienna Convention rights, including the right to contact their country’s consulate for legal assistance.

In the past, when Vienna Convention rights have been denied and Mexicans have later been executed, the U.S. response has been merely to apologize and argue that the denial of consular contact had no impact on the final judgment.

In 2003, President Fox took the cases of 51 Mexicans on U.S. death rows who had been denied Vienna Convention protection to the World Court in the Hague. By a 14 to 1 decision, that tribunal, which operates under the auspices of the United Nations, called upon Washington to review or reopen all 51 cases.

Of the 51 Mexican death row residents whose cases were decided by the World Court, two had been kidnapped from Mexico by private bounty hunters and brought to the U.S. to stand trial, a practice explicitly outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since the World Court decision was handed down March 31st, 2004, six Mexicans have been removed from U.S. death row rosters.

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December 23, 2005

BlackBox Radio for Dec 20th 2005

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 12:17 am

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On this week’s show: Max Sussman brings us information from both inside and outside the World Trade Organization meetings in Hong Kong. And Megan Williamson talks to Sheri Wander of Nonviolent Peaceforce about the organization’s international peacekeeping work in conflict zones. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
Twelve Year-Old Student Arrested for Bomb Threat
Pittsfield Group Calls for Recall of Township Officials
Two Cent Gas Increase in Michigan to Fund Fuel Spill Cleanup
Videotape Shows State Trooper’s Murder of Homeless Man

National and International Headlines:
March for Human Rights / Right to Return for Katrina Survivors
Pentagon Listing of Suspicious Incidents
Former Sinn Fein Leader Exposed as British Agent
Colombian President Uribe Condemns Plot Against Chavez

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Local Headlines

A 12-year-old girl was arrested Thursday in connection with a threat at a Clinton Township middle school. The bomb threat for Wyandot Middle School was made over the Internet last weekend, Local 4 reported.

Several students received information about the threat, which was allegedly sent via instant message. A parent learned of the messages and contacted police. Police sent bomb-detecting dogs to the school, but nothing was found. Classes were held Monday, but the approximately 600 students who attend the school were searched at the entrance.

The student who was arrested will face felony charges of using a computer to commit a false report for threat of terrorism. She could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors have not decided whether to charge the girl as a juvenile or as an adult.

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A group of concerned citizens called “A New Pittsfield” have initiated the process of recalling the Pittsfield Township Treasurer, Supervisor, and Clerk. The recall is due in part to the citizen’s concern over the way Township officials have failed to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens in their handling of a proposed Wal-Mart development.

FOIA documents revealed that the Washtenaw County Road commission staff “urged” the officials to consider changing the main entrance to the proposed Wal-Mart away from Campus Parkway. Hundreds of citizens and the Saline Schools Superintendent have also requested this change, but the township officials refused.

Local citizens are demanding that their voice be heard in regard to the new store location and its distance from local schools, to ensure the safety of young students. The proposed parking lot for the Walmart is currently zoned to lie within 1,000 feet of school property.

If you are a registered voter of Pittsfield Township, you can support the recall by signing the petition. Email anewpittsfield (at) yahoo (dot) com if you want to sign the petition or distribute it around your neighborhood.

###

Drivers could be asked to pay more per gallon at the gas pump to fund cleanup of little known fuel spills occurring underground all over the state Michigan. More than 7,000 leaking underground storage tank sites in Michigan are contaminating the ground and water sources almost 20 years after federal laws were passed to clean them up.

The state’s goal is 600 cleanups a year, but only 265 were completed during the past year due to lack of money. An advisory council is proposing a 2-cent-a-gallon fee on the wholesale price of gasoline to the state Legislature.

Petroleum can enter storm sewers and foul streams and rivers, contaminating drinking water. Spills also enter homes and businesses, creating dangerous vapors.

Even without the threat of fires and explosions, DEQ officials say LUST sites should be cleaned up to protect Michigan’s drinking water, half of which comes from groundwater. Measures must be put in place to ensure money set aside for cleanups is used for what it’s intended, said Kenneth Vermeulen, chairman of the advisory council. The Michigan state legislature habitually dips into the fund to pay the state’s bills, he says.

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Following up on the trial of State Trooper Jay Morningstar, who is charged with the murder of a homeless man named Eric Williams, the Michigan Citizen reports that new evidence has been introduced.

A Detroit police car videotape of the killing of Williams shows the homeless man, with his pants down at his ankles, being shot at point-blank range by Morningstar only five seconds after the trooper exited his patrol car.

A witness testified that just prior to the incident, Williams had been physically thrown out of the Detroiter Bar after aggressively begging customers for money, and had then pulled his pants down to moon the bar workers.

A Detroit police officer was summoned to the scene. That officer stated he did not draw his gun because he felt that Williams was not a threat. It was at this point that State Trooper Morningstar and his partner accidentally happened upon the scene.

Morningstar is white, while Williams was Black. The jury has only three African- American members. Eleven white jurists comprise the remainder.

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National and International Headlines:

New Orleans Indymedia reports that last Saturday, Fifteen hundred people gathered in New Orleans for the March for Human Rights and Right to Return for Katrina survivors. The March followed the Gulf Coast Survivors Assembly in Jackson, Mississippi, where Katrina victims drafted a People’s Declaration entitled Survivor’s Assembly Demands.

The list of demands included: a demand for temporary housing and access to healthcare and education, an end to price gouging and evictions, the demand that local residents must take the lead in the rebuilding of their communities and must be hired to do the work, and a demand for representation on all boards that are making decisions about relief and reconstruction. Marchers delivered the list of demands to City Hall at the end of the march.

Both events were co-ordinated by the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund. One of the major aims of this coalition is to “initiate an action plan to rescue the Black population and all oppressed populations from their dependency on racist and incompetent governments.” A full copy of the Survivors Assembly demands can be found at their website.

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According to a document obtained by NBC News, the Pentagon has been spying on 1,500 “suspicious incidents,” including anti-war and counter-recruitment meetings and actions throughout the nation over the past 10-months. This averages to a cataloguing of 150 incidents per month.

William Arkin, the former Army intelligence officer, who obtained these secret Pentagon documents, commented that: “This is just one tiny picture of the actual amount of information which is collected by the F.B.I. and the intelligence community. We know that there are dozens of these [domestic] databases.”

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A surprising development in the North of Ireland occurred this week after the disclosure that top republican Denis Donaldson, former head of Sinn Fein’s administration offices at Stormont, had been working as a paid British agent since the 1980s. The disclosure comes just a week after charges were dropped against Donaldson and two co-defendants for their alleged participation in an “IRA spy ring” at the Parliament buildings. The allegations against them, which have been referred to as the “Stormontgate” affair, led to the ending of the power-sharing executive in the North of Ireland three years ago.

In a public statement on Friday, Donaldson said, “I was not involved in any republican spy ring in Stormont. The so-called Stormontgate affair was a scam and a fiction, it never existed, it was created by Special Branch.” Donaldson’s exposure as a spy working for British intelligence has sent shock waves through the nationalist community, and leaves many suspicious over the role of British intelligence in the spy-ring allegations and its impact on the current state of the peace process.

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Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced at a public press meeting on Sunday that former Venezuelan soldiers had plotted against the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at a Colombian military building in Bogota. Uribe said that intelligence efforts against the Venezuelan government were conducted in the building, and took full responsibility for the affair. Seven Venezuelans involved in the April 2002 coup against Chavez have been linked to the new plot.

Uribe’s disclosure lends support to long-standing allegations by Chavez that the United States was involved in the coup attempt against his government. The Colombian military has close ties to the Bush Administration, which has given not only 1.2 billion dollars in military aid to the Colombian government but also funds private forces to guard American energy investments in the country. Colombian paramilitary forces have been implicated in numerous human rights abuses, including the killing of 22 farmers last week who were suspected of being leftist sympathizers.

In making the announcement, President Uribe stated: “I took responsibility before President Chavez and I took it in public, because the government of Colombia, which suffers from terrorism, cannot permit anyone to plot conspiracies, especially against a brother country,” he said.

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December 14, 2005

BlackBox Radio for Dec 13th 2005

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 8:33 pm

This week’s show is dedicated to the life and work of Stanley Tookie Williams, who was executed on the 13th of December, 2005, after being denied clemency by the state of California.

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On this week’s show: a report on last weekend’s Neo-Nazi rally in Toledo, where anti-fascist protestors faced police brutality. Also, Building Bridges Radio speaks with UAW President Ron Gettelfinger about Auto Workers Resistance and a possible strike against Delphi. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
Great Lakes near ecological breakdown
Janitors protest in Detroit
Martin Luther King Day march and rally on January 16th in Detroit
city of Detroit’s bond ratings are BBB- one step above junk level

National and International Headlines:
Iraq round up
high school student suspended for speaking Spanish
Police fire on Power Plant protestors in China
FBI/police crack down on activists
NYU cuts Coke

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Local Headlines

A group of 75 scientists has stated that the Great Lakes are near ecological breakdown due to stresses from numerous threats. The statement came days before the release of a final plan for preserving the Great Lakes by a task force made up of federal agencies, Congress, local government officials and regional Indian tribes.

The body’s preliminary report in July recommended $20 billion in federal, state and private funding to upgrade antiquated municipal sewer systems, restore 500,000 acres of wetlands, and clean polluted harbors and bays. However the plan was scrapped by the White House on the recommendation of a federal oversight group which said the budget was too tight to allow additional funding.

Threats to the Great Lakes are converging, scientists who worked on the report said. These range from overfishing, toxic substances, invasive species, and global climate change. Alfred Beeton of the University of Michigan said,

“These have been dealt with individually. What we need to do is look at the ecosystem – the combination of stresses. Historical sources of stress have combined with new ones and we have arrived at a tipping point. What we mean is that ecosystem changes will occur rapidly and unexpectedly.”

The report emphasized the need for preserving or restoring shoreline “buffer zones,” such as wetlands and lake tributaries to help the lakes heal themselves.

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In honor of the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, hundreds of janitors and their supporters occupied the lobby of 1001 Woodward Avenue Dec. 1, reports the Michigan Citizen.

They were protesting Sky Development’s summary discharge of the building’s unionized janitorial staff in April. Service Employees International Union Local 3 members from as far away as Pennsylvania and Ohio joined Detroit janitors and workers from other unions in the protest.

Pete Hanrahan, president of SEIU Local 3, told the demonstrators, “We’re not going to let our tax dollars go for parking lots for buildings that screw janitors. We want the people’s money to go for union-building.”

Eight women who sat down and linked arms in the lobby were arrested and carted off by Detroit police, but later were released without charges. Dana Sevakis, one of the arrested women and an SEIU staffer, said the company has refused to re-hire the three janitors fired from the building. In the meantime, another company, Farbman Associates, has discharged unionized janitorial and skilled trades workers at the First National and Penobscot Buildings.

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The Pan-African News Wire reports that this year’s plans for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march and rally on January 16th in Detroit are well underway. This is the third consecutive year that a demonstration has been organized to specifically honor the peace and social justice legacy of Dr. King.

The theme for 2006 is “Freedom From the Shackles of War, Racism & Poverty” and is intended to highlight the growing socio-economic crisis in the country as well as the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Organizers state,

“The growing budget deficit in Detroit, the attacks on the standard of living of working people by the corporate structures, the efforts to outlaw affirmative action in Michigan and the total neglect of hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters displaced from New Orleans and the Gulf region, illustrates clearly the necessity of the majority of the population to take control of their own destinies.”

The rally will serve as an opportunity to connect with other progressive people and to build networks aimed at fostering change. Volunteers are needed to assist in a variety of ways. For more information, contact the MLK Planning Committee by phone at (313) 680-5508 or by email at mlkdetroit (at) comcast.net.

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Standard & Poor’s has downgraded the city of Detroit’s bond ratings to BBB-, one step above junk level, according to the Michigan Citizen. The move comes despite Mayor Kilpatrick’s lay-offs of almost 1,400 city workers since June and recently disclosed plans to close most of the city’s recreation centers. In its report, S&P noted “The administration’s hesitancy to cut positions, as well as the inability to adjust union contracts to gain savings” as major reasons for the downgrading.

The situation is eerily similar to that of indebted countries in the Global South who fail to meet the drastic structural adjustment program regulations imposed by the IMF and World Bank. Under these programs, countries must agree to neo-liberal prescriptions to cut social programs, privatize services, and weaken worker’s rights. Countries that fail to meet their obligations have their financial status downgraded and are no longer able to attract foreign investment or be eligible for loans.

In the case of the city of Detroit, the prescriptions include forcing workers to pay a larger share of their health care, and imposing a 10% pay cut in the form of a shortened work week. The city also plans to close 22 of the city’s 33 recreation centers, leaving only 11 such centers for a population of almost 1 million. In addition, the city is considering proposals to turn the City Zoo and Eastern Market over to private management, leaving the fate of the over 45 union jobs currently at the zoo in question.

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National and International Headlines:

Violence in Iraq reached unprecedented levels this week, as insurgents led multiple attacks and bombings just days ahead of the national elections.

The AP reports that insurgents killed four American soldiers in separate attacks Saturday. Two soldiers were killed southwest of the capital, and the others died in a roadside bombing in Baghdad’s Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah.

The U.S. military also said an American soldier was killed and 11 others wounded Friday in a suicide car bombing in the Abu Ghraib district of western Baghdad.

In a different attack, insurgents killed 19 Iraqi soldiers and wounded four in a coordinated ambush northeast of Baghdad.

No news has been heard regarding peace activists kidnapped by a group called Swords of Truth. The group accused the activists of being spies, and it said each would be killed if all prisoners in Iraq were not released by Saturday, reports the BBC.

Analysts expect the violence to continue to increase in anticipation of the elections on December 15. The White House has launched a public relations campaign in an attempt to regain public favor regarding the Iraq war, however the continued violence and inability to maintain oil production has left many still extremely critical of the US occupation.

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A student was suspended for speaking Spanish in the hallway of a Kansas City high school, reports the Washington Post. 16-year old Zach Rubio is fluent in English and was replying to a question in Spanish from a schoolmate in the hallway, when he was overheard by a teacher who sent the two students to the principal’s office.

The students’ suspension became a local news sensation, and the school has officially rescinded his punishment. The Rubio family has retained a lawyer and is considering a civil rights lawsuit.

The suspension and subsequent debate in the community reflect some of the issues arising as the Hispanic population in the US continues to increase. Some report increasing prejudice against Hispanics.

Regarding the lawsuit, Rubio’s father said, “I’m mainly doing this for other Mexican families, where the legal status is kind of shaky and they are afraid to speak up. Punished for speaking Spanish? Somebody has to stand up and say: This is wrong.”

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Witnesses and Chinese authorities differ on how many people were killed after police fired on protesters in a confrontation over demands for higher compensation for the loss of land to make way for the construction of a power plant.

The official reports say that three demonstrators were killed after “170 armed villagers” used weapons and explosives to launch an attack on a wind power station last week.

After the initial demonstration was cleared with tear gas and a number of villagers detained, the protesters regrouped, obstructed the police and threatened to blow up the power plant, the official account says.

Other witnesses, however, say that at least 20 demonstrators were killed and that police opened fire on them indiscriminately.

The prime cause of rural unrest across China has been the confiscation of farmland by local governments for use in industrial and real estate projects, says the Financial Times Online.

The commander of the police force that fired on the demonstrators has been detained for questioning by the Chinese government.

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New York Indymedia reports that federal marshals arrested six environmental activists in a series of coordinated raids in four states on December 8. The arrests were in apparent response to a string of arsons in Oregon and Washington attributed to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), including simultaneous attacks in 2001 at the University of Washington’s Urban Horticulture Center and the Jefferson Poplar Farms in Clatskanie, Oregon.

Daniel McGowan, 31 was arrested in New York City. Authorities have also stated that there will be more arrests, with at least one indictment immediately outstanding.

Bail has been denied in all of these cases.

Two Portland activists, Frank Winbigler and Shannon Urick, were also served with papers ordering them to be a witness for a federal Grand Jury, and were advised that they are both a target of the Grand Jury’s investigation.

According to spectators at McGowan’s hearing, prosecutors read through posts on the NYC Indymedia newswire and mentioned them as part of the bail hearing.

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New York University, the largest private university in the country, has banned the sale of Coca-Cola products on campus because of the company’s human rights abuses in Colombia. NYU’s decision, which was released last Thursday, was the result of a lengthy campaign by students and faculty.

Shortly before the decision was announced, a Coca-Cola spokesperson expressed concern regarding the possible removal of Coke products from NYU. She told the Washington Square News: “NYU is a trendsetting university, and that could greatly harm our reputation.”

The ban at NYU comes at a time when pressure is mounting from various groups — both in the U.S. and abroad — for Coke to address concerns of human rights abuses in India, Turkey, Pakistan, and Guatemala as well as Colombia.

New York University is the 12th college or university in the United States, and at least the twentieth worldwide, to have banned the sale and marketing of Coke products on campus.

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December 7, 2005

Blackbox Radio for Dec 6th 2005

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 1:16 am

Listen to the show: lower quality | high quality
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On this week’s show: a report on the School of the America’s Protest and proposed zoning changes in Northfield Township, MI. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
harnessing the wind in east Michigan
GM cuts jobs around the world
state trooper tried for murder
neo-nazis return to Toledo

National and International Headlines:
ruling may make toxic polluting easier for corporations
controversial technologies monitoring public school students
Declasified info on 25-year occupation of East Timor by Indonesian forces
Starbucks workers in New Zealand strike
Parlimentary elections in Venezuela
stability in the Middle East will come from leaving Iraq
ACLU takes the CIA to court

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Local Headlines

The Bay City Times reports that about 50 farmers have agreed to place windmills on their land in Huron County in the thumb of Michigan

One farm owner said her family expects to take in $8,000 to $10,000 a year per turbine. They’ll still be able to farm the land around the turbine pads, which will be about 16 feet in diameter.

Noble Environmental Power, the company building the windmills, already has signed a contract with Consumers Energy for renewable energy from the windmills. Each of the 32 General Electric turbines can generate up to 1.5 megawatts of energy. That’s enough to power 16,000 homes; Huron County has about 20,000.

Noble plans to hire 200 workers to build the park, including local contractors. The park also will create about 10 permanent local jobs for operations, maintenance and office duties.

Opponents to the windmill project want the towers located farther from homes and other property lines than a current county ordinance allows, due to concerns over noise and that the turbine locations will restrict future growth.

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The Times of India reports that within days of announcing it would cut 30,000 jobs from its US workforce, General Motors unveiled plans in India to immediately increase its workforce there by nearly 30%, including both manufacturing and executive positions. GM also has plans to build a second manufacturing plant in India.

In late November, GM announced that it would lay off workers and close 8 of its 77 US facilities. Michigan is one of the states that will be most heavily affected, with an engine plant in Lansing, engine facilities in Flint and Lansing, and Service and Parts facilities in Ypsilanti among those slated for closure. The closings and workforce cuts occurred despite a landmark agreement wrested by GM from its UAW workers for drastic reductions in health care benefits reached last month.

The union responded angrily to GM’s latest announcement, saying the company needs to design attractive and exciting vehicles to regain its prosperity. “Workers have no control over GM’s capital investment, product development, design, marketing and advertising decisions. But, unfortunately, it is workers, their families and our communities that are being forced to suffer because of the failures of others,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President Richard Shoemaker said in a joint statement.

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The trial of state trooper Jay Morningstar, who is charged with the murder of Eric Williams, a homeless man, began in Detroit last Monday.

Morningstar faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter for shooting Williams once in the chest on April 14, as Williams approached him in a state of disarray outside the Detroiter Bar near Greektown.

According to the Michigan Citizen, defense attorneys for Morningstar plan to present testimony from bar patrons who claim they repeatedly had “aggressive” run-ins with Williams.

However, Williams’ long-time friends and acquaintances from the downtown Detroit community, strongly dispute that portrayal. Nathan Owens, a worker at a local convenience store who had known Williams for 10 years, said “Everybody that knew him knows he’s a non-violent person. That was nothing but cold-blooded murder.”

Williams’ incarcerated brother, Johnnie L. Williams, is still facing threats from guards in the Alger Maximum Correctional Facility in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Williams wrote The Michigan Citizen in August, saying guards had threatened to kill him if Morningstar is convicted. Assistant prosecutor Gonzalez sent a letter to the warden expressing concern, but to date, Williams has not been moved to another facility.

Officer Morningstar is currently on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the trial.

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The National Socialist Movement, America’s largest Neo-Nazi organization, plans to march in Toledo, Ohio this Saturday, December 10th.

The NSM drew international attention in mid October, when they attempted to march through a residential Toledo neighborhood. This march was aborted when about 700 counter demonstrators shut down the event. The situation escalated as police began firing tear gas into the crowd and trampeling counter-protestors with horses. The events drew international attention.

According to a post on Michigan Indymedia, The National Socialist Movement has since released a list containing the names of local activists to be targeted for violence during this Saturday’s demonstration. They have also been trying to recruit for a larger turnout, calling on members of other White Separatist movements including the Ku Klux Klan.

Anti-fascists from around the Midwest and the country, including anarchists, communist groups, anti-racism activists, and Toledo community members will also be converging to send the message that White Supremacism is not welcome in Toledo neighborhoods. Many counter-demonstrators plan to once again shut down the march entirely.

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National and International Headlines:

A report by the National Environmental Trust warns that nearly 1,000 communities across the United States will lose access to data detailing the release of toxic chemicals in their areas under new regulations being proposed by the EPA. The Trust claims that the proposed cuts pose a risk to communities and to first responders such as police and firefighters.

Under existing rules, companies that release 500 or more pounds of toxic substances annually must reveal how much of each chemical is released into the air and water or disposed of at landfills. The new regulations raise the threshold to 5,000 pounds. Data collected by zip code show that in some states up to half of all zip code areas will lose data from at least 50% of currently reporting facilities.

According to Kim Nelson, an assistant administrator at the EPA, the new regulations will help, quote “tiny businesses, mom-and-pop shops operating on main street”. However, according to the LA Times, the agency’s own data show that many of these small businesses are owned by large corporations, for example Pepsi Bottling Company and Raytheon.

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The New Standard reports that the US Justice Department is quietly accelerating efforts to get schools to implement controversial technologies to monitor and track students.

Although school violence is at its lowest rate in a decade, the Justice Department’s “School Safety Technologies” grants will be distributed to schools that develop proposals in four broadly defined areas: integrated physical security systems, bus-fleet monitoring systems, low-level force devices and school safety training.

Pilot programs are already in place in several school districts. 16,000 elementary students in the Spring Independent School District north of Houston, Texas, for example, wear radio frequency identification tags, embedded with chips that indicate their locations on a computerized map. The school also has 750 surveillance cameras mounted throughout its facilities, with plans to install 300 more.

Critics fear these programs will normalize electronic surveillance at an early age, conditioning young people to accept privacy violations while creating a market for companies that develop and sell surveillance systems.

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Newly declassified documents show that British diplomats in Jakarta and the Foreign Office lied about their knowledge of Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor and worked with the Unites States and Australia to cover up details of the atrocities committed by Jakarta’s troops during the attack, writes the Guardian

According to a top secret 1975 telegram sent by the embassy, then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger listed East Timor high on his list of places the US would not get involved in, and the British decided to follow suit.

The documents detail how the British embassy in Jakarta and the Foreign Office lied about their knowledge of atrocities, particularly the killing of three Australian and two British newsmen in a house in the town of Balibo shortly before the main invasion. John Ford, the ambassador in Jakarta, said in a December 24th, 1975 telegram that, quote “If asked to comment on any stories of atrocities, I suggest we say that we have no information.”

Relatives of the British journalists, Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters, were told they were killed in crossfire.

The invasion and brutal 25-year occupation of East Timor by Indonesian forces resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 Timorese. No member of the Indonesian military has ever been prosecuted.

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From New Zealand Indymedia:
Workers from stores across Auckland walked off the job on November 23rd to join the world’s first Starbucks strike. What began as a small protest by workers from one store became a city-wide strike when Starbucks workers heard that managers would be brought in to cover the shifts of the striking workers. More than 30 workers spontaneously walked out from 10 different Auckland Starbucks stores to join KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds employees, and around 150 other supporters.

One union organizer had this to say: “Our campaign isn’t just about fair pay at work, it’s about social justice…. The majority of low paid and minimum wage workers are women, Maori, pacific islanders, disabled, youth, students and new migrants.” ?The Starbucks strike is part of a larger campaign aimed also at fast-food establishments and other low-wage service sector jobs.

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Parliamentary elections were held in Venezuela this past Sunday. Analysts have uniformly predicted that left-leaning representatives supporting Cesar Chavez would increase their slight majority, perhaps to the two-thirds necessary for consitutional amendments, which would facilitate more direct social reform and economic redistribution.

In recent days, several opposition parties have pulled out of the election in an attempt to discredit it, almost guaranteeing the two-thirds majority. Mr Chavez has condemned the boycott as the latest of many attempts to destabilise his administration, which include a 2002 military coup that temporarily seized power, and last year’s failed recall. In response to the election boycott, Chavez stated that “there is no political crisis here, as they want to make it seem”.

The National Electoral Council said 556 out of 5,500 candidates have pulled out of the congressional vote. Opposition leaders accused the electoral body of favouring pro-government candidates.

The government has deployed thousands of soldiers nationwide to maintain order during the vote. Three small explosive devices were detonated at a government office and an army base in Caracas, on Friday. No-one has claimed responsibility for the incidents, but the government described it as an attempt to “disturb” the voting process. The poll with be monitored by observers from the EU and the Organisation of American States.

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From United Press International:
The former head of the National Security Agency says the only way to stabilize the Middle East is to leave Iraq. Retired three star Lt. Gen. William Odom, wrote last week that while President George W. Bush wants to bring democracy and stability to the Middle East, the only way to achieve that goal is for the U.S. armed forces to pull out of Iraq now.

Odom, one of the most respected U.S. military analysts and a prominent figure at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington, wrote, “Iraq is the worst place to fight a battle for regional stability. Whose interests were best served by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the first place? It turns out that Iran and al-Qaida benefited the most, and that continues to be true every day U.S. forces remain there.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is taking the CIA to court to stop the transportation of terror suspects to foreign countries to be tortured, saying that the intelligence agency has broken both US and international law. The ACLU is representing a man allegedly flown to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan.

The ACLU also wants to name corporations which it accuses of owning and operating the aircraft used to transport detainees secretly from country to country.

The highly secretive process is known as extraordinary rendition, where intelligence agencies move and interrogate terrorism suspects outside the US, where they have no American legal protection. A number of individuals claim that the CIA flew them to countries including Syria and Egypt, where they were tortured.

The US government and its intelligence agencies maintain that all their operations are conducted within the law and they will no doubt fight this case vigorously.

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