BlackBox Radio

March 26, 2006

BlackBox Radio for March 28th, 2006

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 11:08 pm

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On this week’s show: On this week’s show, an update on the trial of Reverend Pinkney in Benton Harbor, and D’Lo, a gay Sri Lankan performance artist discusses her work.
Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
Michigan Groups Mobilize Against Anti-Immigration Bill
Student Charged with Urinating on Asian Students Pleads Guilty
Update: Residents Oppose Detroit Water Rate Increase
Rev. Pinkney Awaits Verdict in Benton Harbor Case

National and International Headlines:
Voting Disenfranchisement of Displaced New Orleans Residents
South Dakota Indian Reservation to Provide Abortions if Ban Passes
Belarus Police Brutalize Protestors after Corrupt National Election
Inhuman Detention Centers in Malaysia
China Uses Psychiatry for Political Repression of Dissidents
National Protests Against Immigration Legislation


Local Headlines

Michigan organizations are mobilizing against a proposed new law that would expand the definition of “alien smuggling” to include those who assist a person in attempting to remain in the US if they are not legally allowed to be here. Under this new law, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, refugee agencies, churches, and social and legal service agencies would be classified as smuggling organizations. Stiff criminal penalties would be the result of providing such assistance.

Under current law, presence in the United States without valid status is a civil violation, not a criminal act. HR 4437 would create a new federal crime of “unlawful presence” and would define immigration violations so broadly as to effectively classify every violation, no matter how minor, as a federal crime. The law would charge immigrants who commit minor crimes with aggravated felonies, which are usually reserved for violence crimes including murder and rape. The law would effectively criminalize the entire undocumented population, which currently includes including 1.6 million children.

University of Michigan students have begun an educational campaign around HR 4437, and MOSES, a faith-based community organization in Detroit, held a march this week to protest HR 4437. Stay tuned to BlackBox Radio for updates on the growing grassroots opposition to HR4437.


As the Ann Arbor News reports that Asians now make up the city’s largest minority population, a U of M student charged with urinating on two Asian students in a racially-motivated crime pled guilty to two counts of assault and battery last Tuesday. The student, Stephen Williamson, was accused of shouting ethnic slurs and urinating off his balcony on an Asian couple in September, writes The Michigan Daily.

The incident spurred a campaign by Asian/Pacific Islander students to pressure the University to consider the needs of students who still face discrimination in the campus community. The campaign included a discussion organized by the United Asian American Organizations at which students expressed outrage and criticized the University for what they viewed as an inadequate response to the incident.

Critical Moment reported in September that some Asian/Pacific Islander students feel that “it is not enough for the University to promote ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ on campus,” and that they demand a “radical transformation of the campus climate into a place where such incidences…will no longer occur.”

Last week, BlackBox Radio reported on the Detroit City Council’s decision to rate water rates for residents of the city and its suburbs. While the City Council had originally said they would hold off on the rate increase until a plan was put in place to help the city’s poor pay for water, they ended up going ahead and approving the rate increase without a plan.

The Call’em Out Coalition, a grassroots group that includes members of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and other Detroit residents and activists, has been publicly calling attention to the needs of Detroit’s poor residents, 45,000 of whom had their water shut off in 2005. The Coalition demands include the creation of an affordable water plan that will help the poverty-stricken city of Detroit, reports the Michigan Citizen.

Last week, Detroit residents and supporters gathered at the home of Council member Kwame Kenyatta, who voted to increase the rates without a plan for Detroit’s poor. The Coalition picketed outside, and tried to draw attention to the situation and promote the proposal put forward by Michigan Welfare Rights.

Under this proposal, prepared by attorney Roger Colton, who has devised similar plans across cities in the country, residential customers would be charged a yearly meter fee of $12, commercial users $24, and industrial users $3,300.


In Benton Harbor, Michigan, Rev. Edward Pinkney’s trial ended on Wednesday. Pinkney is on trial for election fraud after he led a successful recall campaign in 2005 to remove City Commisioner Glenn Yarbrough. The vote was eventually overturned by Judge Paul Maloney, who reinstated Yarbrough as Commissioner. Pinkney was later charged with paying $5 to individual citizens to cast their ballots for the recall; charges that Pinckney and other Benton Harbor residents decry as “completely fabricated.”

According to Pinkney’s organization BANCO, Black Autonomy Network Community Organization, Rev. Pinkney testified that: 1) he was not present when anyone voted their absentee ballot in last February’s election to recall corrupt city commissioner Glen Yarbrough 2) he did nothing to influence anyone while they were voting and 3) he never had possession of anyone’s ballot

On Friday, March 24, after two days of deliberation, the jury sent a note out to the judge saying they were at an impasse on all five charges, and asking what they should do now. The judge, who is openly in support of the prosecution, sent them back to continue deliberations. As of Sunday, March 26th, the jury is still deliberating on all five felony charges.

If convicted, Pinkney faces up to 20 years in prison. Pinkney said he belives he would have already been convicted if not for the outpouring of public support he has received from across the state and nation. For current updates on the trial, visit the BANCO blog at



National and International Headlines:

On March 16th, the US Justice Department authorized plans for carrying out the New Orleans primaries on April 22. In votes postponed from February 4, the city will vote on mayoral, city council and other local primary races. Polling stations will be set up throughout Louisiana, but remote balloting will not be available in other states with high concentrations of hurricane survivors.
The New Standard reports that even Southern cities like Atlanta and Houston, which host high numbers of Katrina refugees, will not host polling stations for displaced New Orleans residents.
Under the voting plan, displaced New Orleanians scattered in other states would still be able to send in absentee ballots. But opponents of the plan say absentee ballots are unfairly cumbersome. Would-be voters must request a ballot ahead of time, sign it in front of a notary or witnesses, and send it back before April 21. Voting-rights advocates say they fear the complexity of the process will lead to the disqualification of many absentee ballots.
Many critics of the current plan also worry that candidates will not have an opportunity to present their platforms to constituents without reliable lists of addresses for registered voters. The Urban League is urging FEMA to make its comprehensive lists of hurricane survivors addresses available to registered candidates.
NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon wrote to the governor: “Historically, the extension of voting rights to black citizens in Louisiana has been strongly resisted, whether through literacy tests, poll taxes or other formal and informal practices combined to keep black voting rates in the state low. The impact of Hurricane Katrina now threatens Louisiana’s African-American citizens’ voting right in equally devastating ways.”


According to Infoshop News, Oglala Sioux Tribe President Cecelia Fire Thunder says a clinic on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation could provide abortions if South Dakota’s new abortion ban goes into effect. The new South Dakota law bans all abortions except to save the life of the mother — with no exceptions for rape or incest. President Fire Thunder said the state law would not apply to the reservation because of the tribe’s sovereignty.

Some experts in Indian law have agreed that Fire Thunder’s proposal of an abortion clinic on Indian land was “potentially workable” — especially if doctors were Indians and if the clinic were on Indian trust land.

The new law banning abortion is set to go into effect July 1, but a court challenge almost certainly will delay it, and opponents of the law are already gathering signatures to put it on the ballot in November. President Fire Thunder predicts a federal court will rule it unconstitutional. But she said if the law did go into effect, she will work to open a clinic, that could serve South Dakota’s women. “We’ve got lawyers working on it right now,” she said.


The March 19th election results where the President of Belarus,
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, was elected for another five years sparked much scrutiny, including remarks from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, which has stated that the elections did not meet international standards. Furthermore, an estimated 400 demonstrators who were protesting the election results have been arrested and many beaten by the police forces of Belarus. Heather McGill, of Amnesty International, commented that, “The Belarusian authorities have yet again demonstrated a total disregard for freedom of expression. All those that have been detained for the legitimate and peaceful expression of their views must be released immediately.”

Under the Internal Security Act, or ISA, prisoners are being held at
the Kamunting Detention Centre in Malaysia without charge or trial.
With striking similarities to Gauntanamo, detainees are first held in
secret locations in solitary confinement for up to 60 days under ISA;
afterwards, the government is able to transfer the detainees to
Kamunting Detention Centre, where they might remain indefinitely.
More than 70 of the hundreds that have been arrested for suspected terrorist connections, now remain detained under the ISA, which the Malaysian government justifies as necessary to fight terrorism.
Prisoners at the Detention Centre have been subjected to assault,
forced to strip, sleep deprived, starved, and threatened with harm to their families. Malaysian human rights groups are now calling on the Prime Minister Abdullah A Badawi to either abolish or reform the ISA.

Dutch psychiatric experts recently reported that Wang Wanxing, a Beijing dissident who was locked up in a Chinese psychiatric hospital for 13 years “was not suffering from any mental disorder that could justify his admission.” The inmates of Ankang, the police-run mental hospital where Wang was held, have no access to lawyers, court hearings, or any right to appeal. Entirely under the police psychiatrist and officials’ control, most inmates are kept at Ankang for five to twenty years. Wang’s own release was a result of German diplomatic efforts. Brad Adams, director of the Asia division of Human Rights states that, “China has been repeatedly accused of using psychiatry as a tool of political repression, but until Wang left China, it was impossible to verify the accusations.” Both the Global Initiative on Psychiatry and the Human Rights Watch are calling on China to stop their political abuse of psychiatry.


Last Saturday, more than 500,000 immigration rights advocates marched in downtown Los Angeles demanding that Congress stops it anti-immigration agenda. This march followed a similar one of an estimated 15,000 people in Phoenix on Friday. The protested bill that faces Congress this week would make it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally. It also calls to build fences along one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border, mandate that employers verify the immigration status of all their employees, and require that churches check the immigration status of the people they help. Javier Rodriguez, part of the group that organized the L.A. march, said, “We have got to stop the approval of anti-immigrant reforms, demand a migration reform that is humane and fair, and not racist.” Similar rallies in Denver, Milwaukee, Charlotte, and Atlanta have also drawn thousands of protestors. April 10th will be the culmination, a “National Day of Action” organized by immigration, labor, civil rights, and religious groups.,,-5711724,00.html



March 22, 2006

BlackBox Radio for March 21, 2006

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 4:25 pm

On this week’s show, Max Sussman takes us to the Michigan Peaceworks antiwar rally for a critical take on the antiwar movement, Allison Harris brings us Hip-Hop 101, and poetry from the PCAP Spoken Word and Poetry event. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

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Local Headlines:
US Senate to Make Canada Pay For its Trash
Detroit Proposes Moratorium on Life Sentencing for Juveniles
Pinkney Trial Begins in Benton Harbor
Chicago Employers Crack Down On Pro-Immigrant Employees

National and International Headlines:
Republicans Introduce Repressive “Terrorist Surveillance” Act
1.5 Million Strong Protests Against French Loosening of Labor Rights
Events Commemorate Deaths of Two Basque Separatists
Campaign against Caveiraos escalates in Rio de Janeiro


Local Headlines

As cited in the Detroit News, the U.S. Senate approved a measure written by Michigan Senators Stabenow and Levin to make Canada pay the inspection costs of the trash they export into the U.S.

Michigan accepts over 400 trucks of trash each day, and all of it must be inspected before entering the state. This new bill could transfer the costs of the inspection process from Michigan taxpayers to the Canadian Government.

Michigan currently only charges 21 cents per ton of trash accepted, and past garbage loads have been found to hold illegal drugs and medical waste.

The state of Michigan has tried to restrict dumping and raise fees as well, but the trans-national waste transfer is protected under NAFTA trade laws.


According to The Michigan Citizen, Detroit City Council’s Human Rights
Task Force is working on drafting a resolution regarding The Second
Chance Initiative, a statewide initiative that calls for a moratorium on life without parole sentencing for juveniles. The Second Chance initiative also calls for an end to enhanced parole procedures for those who were sentenced before the age of 18. The Task Force will soon present a resolution to the City Council, in hopes of adding the City Council’s voice to the growing support for the initiative.

The Second Chance group plans to hold briefing sessions with state legislators in late April and early May. In these sessions experts will explain details of the legislation and family members of juveniles serving life sentences will present testimony about the effects of the current laws.

However, a representative for the Initiative acknowledged that it will be an uphill battle to gain support from state legislators who may be afraid of being seen as ‘soft on crime.’

To find out more about the specific legislation or to sign petitions in support of ending life sentences for juveniles, visit


The trial of Reverend Edward Pinkney, leader of the Black Autonomy
Network of Community Organizers (or BANCO), began last week in Benton

Rev. Edward Pinkney is fighting four felony charges that were leveled
against him by the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office after he led a
successful recall campaign in 2005 to remove City Commisioner Glenn
Yarbrough. The vote was eventually overturned by Judge Paul Maloney,
who reinstated Yarbrough as Commissioner. Pinkney was later charged
with paying $5 to individual citizens to cast their ballots for the
recall; charges that Pinckney and other Benton Harbor residents decry as
“completely fabricated.” If Reverend Pinckney is found guilty he faces up to 20 years in prison.

According to a recent article on the Pan-African News Wire, Rev.
Pinkney is being targeted because of his outspoken criticism of
Whirpool Corporation, which dominates the politics and economics of the
Benton Harbor area. Pinkney has called out Whirlpool for attempting to
gentrify Benton Harbor and uproot the predominantly poor and Black residents.

This trial will be monitored by people all over the United States. Stay
tuned to BlackBox Radio for future coverage of Reverend Pinckney’s


The Chicago Tribune reports that employers retaliated against workers who joined the massive pro-immigrant march in Chicago last week. Over two dozens employees at the Universal Form Clamp factory were fired after participating in the rally, which drew over 100,000 people. With help from the Interfaith Workers’ Rights Center, the employees filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the company on Thursday. Workers were initially told they could attend the rally, but managers later spoke to individual workers and told them not to bother to return to their jobs if they attended. They claim that the dismissals are the latest in a pattern of discrimination against Mexican workers at the factory, many of whom are illegal immigrants. Later in the day the company agreed to reinstate 33 workers who were dismissed for being absent without leave the day of the rally.

The rally was in response to new immigration laws being considered in the House and Senate. The current version of the bill criminalizes illegal immigration as well as any actions taken to aid illegal immigrants, for example by churches or social organizations. Although one possible amendment would offer at least hope of eventual citizenship, another version in effect creates a new form of American slavery by relegating immigrant workers to a lower pay scale and offered no pathway to citizenship. Such workers, while required to pay taxes and social security, would have no rights to collective bargaining or redress of grievances.

According to the Financial Times, illegal immigrants make up almost 5% of the work force, and are the backbone of essential sectors such as Agriculture and Services. Unrecognized in the Congressional debate is the fact that many of the migrants are forced here due to the loss of job security and decrease in wages in their home countries, issues that are brought on by multilateral trade agreements such as NAFTA. Such laws set up a dynamic in which capital can freely cross borders to lower-wage workers, but workers are not allowed to cross to better-paying jobs. Last month, the Army Corps of Engineers announced they had awarded a $385 million dollar contract to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Root, and Brown to build massive “temporary immigrant detention facilities”. On October 1st the Department of Homeland Security plans to end its current “catch and release” policy and begin indefinitely detaining entire families of illegal immigrants until they can be returned to their nation of citizenry.



National and International Headlines:

The “Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006” being introduced by Republican Senators Mike DeWine, Olympia Snowe, Lindsey Graham, and Chuck Hagel effectively removes the 4th amendment from the U.S. Constitution. Largely overlooked in the mainstream press, the law enables warrantless surveillance of Americans and officially removes actual oversight power from Congress and the Courts, allowing the President to indefinitely reauthorize the spying every 45 days. Ironically, the Bush administration signaled that it did not want Congress to introduce a law “legalizing” its activities since one of its main defenses has been to allege that its activities were already legal.

In fact, Glenn Greenwald, a former First Amendment attorney, argues that it is unclear what the purpose of such a law is since the President has stated that he has the right to break any such laws for reasons of national security. Even if the Intelligence committee disagreed with the President’s decision, their only recourse to halt the surveillance would be to convince a 2/3 majority of Congress to amend the law. Furthermore, the law makes it a criminal offense for any member of the committee to publicize illegal or abusive eavesdropping by the Administration.


More than 1.5 million people gathered in over 150 French cities on Saturday to protest a new youth labor law that will allow companies to fire employees under the age of 26 without cause during their first 2 years of employment. The government claims that the law, called the First Employment Contract, or “CPE”, was designed to end high unemployment rates among the youth. According to the BBC, over 20% of 18 to 25 year olds are unemployed, which is more than twice the national average. In many of the poorest communities in France, youth unemployment rates are as high as 40%.

Many employers are in favor of the law because it would allow them to overcome difficulties associated with terminating workers who are unsuitable or no longer necessary. Students, teachers, labor union leaders and politicians have come out in record numbers this weekend to oppose the law, which they claim would erode employment rights and benefits and would make it harder for young people to find permanent employment. Demonstrators argue that the law discriminates against young people and was pushed through Parliament without debate.

Saturday’s protests come at the close of a week of demonstrations that have closed down many universities throughout the country. In an interview with the New York Times, Bernard Thibault, head of the popular left-wing labor union CGT, said, “If they don’t listen to us, we are going to have to think about moving to a general strike across the entire country.”


Last week, events were organized in the Basque Country to commemorate and pay tribute to Igor Angulo and Roberto Saiz, two Basque independence activists who recently died in prison custody. ASKATASUNA, the political prisoner and exile support organization, has released a statement to inform the international community of these deaths and of the violation of civil rights created by the governmental ban on tribute events. According to their statement:

The Spanish and French penitentiary policy is criminal. It seeks to destroy the men and women in the Basque Political Prisoners’ Collective as well as their relatives. In order to do so, they are dispersed and held far from the Basque Country, they are isolated inside the jails, they do not receive healthcare, they are forbidden to study in their own language or at the University of the Basque Country, and there is an attempt to prevent them from taking part in the political process in their country. Despite the obstacles, they manage to participate. All in all, they are deprived of basic rights.

The recent demonstrations were all banned by the Interior Ministry of the Basque Autonomic Executive, a government that includes only three of the seven Basque provinces. The Basque Autonomic police, the Ertzaintza, brutally charged against demonstrators, causing a large number of broken bones and rubber-bullet injuries, as well as legal proceedings against demonstrators.

Askatasuna has released this call for support to the international community in the hopes that those who receive the message will take action against the penitentiary policy implemented against the Basque Political Prisoners’ Collective by the Spanish and French states.


Monday, March 13th, marked the beginning of the campaign against the use of Caveirao in Rio de Janeiro. Caveiraos are six-wheeled armored personnel carriers that have been used by the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro in the favelas, or slums, for the stated purpose of fighting off drug traffic. The black vehicles are painted with the emblem of Rio’s special operations police: a skull impaled on a sword. An Amnesty International report last week claims that Rio’s communities are suffering from such military tactics. Tim Cahill, Amnesty International’s research on Brazil, said that “By deploying a vehicle to aggressively and indiscriminately target whole communities, the authorities are using the caveirao as a tool of intimidation.” He reports of hearing that “people are scared to leave their homes, that they are too frightened to send their children to school in case they get caught up in a shoot out.” Although 11 killings have been attributed to the caveirao, the state security department defends the use of the vehicles, stating that they protect the population and the police.

March 18, 2006

Mitchell McLaughlin, MLA, Sinn Féin General Secretary

Filed under: Special Feature — blackboxradio @ 5:02 pm

Download full audio 55 minutes.

A Saint Patrick's Day Reception with Mitchell McLaughlin, MLA and Sinn Féin General Secretary. Sponsored by Friends of Sinn Féin Canada. Recorded on March 18, 2006 at Patrick O'Ryan's Irish Public House, Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

McLaughlin discusses topics such as the Irish peace process, power-sharing in the 6 Counties, and the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Audio file of full discussion plus Q and A.

March 14, 2006

BlackBox Radio for March 14th

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 12:18 pm

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On this week’s show: A report from from last weekend’s water rights protest in Detroit, just days after the City Council approved a hike in residents’ water rates, and interviews with Prison Creative Arts Project founder Buzz Alexander and Detroit writer Brandon Gatson. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
Local Democratic Party seeking impeachment resolution
Detroit to hire ex-cops to patrol schools
$2.6 million in military contracts for Grand Rapids
WUOM probe tied to alleged corruption

National and International Headlines:
Florida legislators pushing for probe in murder of juvenile
Bush proposes to sell National Forest land
UN: River depletion “a disaster in the making”
Hundreds of physicians condemn Guantanamo medical practices
Abortion discouraged for rape victims in Mexico


Local Headlines

According to the Ann Arbor News, the Ann Arbor Democratic Party wants the City Council to pass a resolution supporting the impeachment of
President Bush. On Saturday, the Ann Arbor Democratic Party passed a resolution saying President Bush and Vice President Cheney broke the law and should be impeached. The resolution cited the war in Iraq, secret surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency, and government acts of torture as grounds for impeachment. Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje has said he wants to speak with Congressman John Dingell about the resolution before making a decision. On March 2nd, a similar resolution was passed in San Francisco.


The Michigan Citizen reports that Detroit Public Schools is aiming to hire armed laid-off Detroit police officers in a pilot program to quell an alleged outbreak of violence at the schools. On March 6th, the school board voted 10-1 to hire up to 48 recently laid-off police officers.

Detroit Public Schools Superintendent stated that the hiring of the Detroit police, who will have arrest authority, is a temporary move. However, he also stated that long-term plans to hire both Detroit police officers and Wayne County deputy sheriffs are being considered.

Many parents are concerned about having cops walking the halls of their children’s schools, pointing also to the fact that these officers will probably be non-residents of the neighborhoods in which they are patrolling. Parent Stephanie Mason also voiced concern that most of the officers would be white, while the student populations are mostly Black. She said, “They may not understand our culture and may be more hostile based on stereotypes. I feel that we need to re-hire laid-off school officers, not intimidate our children with guns.”

Officers are scheduled to begin patrolling schools by the end of March.


According to Media Mouse, Grand Rapids Independent Media Center, over $2.6 million in military contracts were awarded to companies in the Grand Rapids area last month alone. While the amount was not particularly large as far as military contracts are concerned, it highlights the fact that local companies continue to profit from the occupation of Iraq as the war nears the three-year point.


The Detroit Free Press reported on Monday that WUOM is being investigated in a criminal probe, relating to fundraising practices by two former development staff members: Jeremy Nordquist and Justin Ebright. Allegedly merchandise and meals were given to station staff in exchange for on-air announcements. Donovan Reynolds, Michigan Public Media director, who resigned March 1, said he reported “suspicious business practices” to U-M administrators and the U-M Department of Public Safety on Nov. 15, launching the criminal probe. Reynolds has declined to give details but said his resignation was not tied to the investigation.


National and International Headlines:

According to the Westside Gazelle, the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators, in conjunction with the NAACP, are pressing for an independent probe of a 14 year-old’s suspicious death while at a juvenile boot camp.

On January 5th, Martin Lee Anderson entered the Bay County Sheriff’s Office Boot Camp, one of five such Florida camps under the jurisdiction of the Department of Juvenile Justice. The 14-year-old had been remanded to boot camp for trespassing on school property, a probation violation on an earlier charge. His earlier conviction was for ‘grand theft’ after which he took his grandmother’s Jeep to go joyriding with friends.

Anderson died during his second day at boot camp, after he was severely beaten by guards for refusing to cooperate during the intake process. A surveillance videotape of the beating shows six to eight guards wrestling the 140-pound teen to the ground and striking his torso repeatedly. The videotape was made available only after a lawsuit was filed demanding its release to the public. Family members and their attorneys stated that the videotape has been tampered with. They note that parts that have been spliced together and sections of the original tape have clearly been deleted.

Anderson’s parents, who saw their son at the hospital after medical personnel rushed him there, said his body was so battered and swollen that he looked twice his normal size. His internal organs were damaged beyond repair.

In a statement that has been called “totally preposterous” by medical experts, the District Medical Examiner who conducted the autopsy, ruled that the 14-year-old died a natural death. The Medical Examiner claimed that Anderson’s death was due to “excessive exercising” and a previously undiagnosed Sickle Cell Trait, and was not related to internal injuries resulting from the beating by guards.

Florida state legislators are also outraged by Anderson’s brutal death, which came not long after the deaths of two other young men while in detention centers. “We expect some answers why our Black young men are dying,” asserted State Rep. Audrey Gibson. Of the roughly 600 detainees in juvenile detention facilities across the state, nearly half are Black in a state where the entire Black population is roughly 15 percent.


In President George W. Bush’s Fiscal Year 2007 budget, unveiled last month, the Bush administration proposed selling some 300,000 acres of National Forest land. Media Mouse reports that of the land that has been proposed for sale, 5,580 acres are in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. While the plan has been touted as a way to offset the cost of the Secure Rural Schools Act of 2000 and guarantee funding for rural school districts located in remote areas like the Upper Peninsula, advocacy organizations working on rural education are questioning the efficacy of the plan. The proposal is part of a series of Bush administration changes in forest policy that promote a transfer of publicly owned land and resources into the hands of private corporations. The proposal has drawn widespread opposition from environmentalists, conservationists, and legislators across the United States. The Forest Service is allowing public comment on the sale until March 30, 2006. Comments can be emailed to


This week, the UN’s triennial World Water Development Report will warn
that more than half of the world’s 500 biggest rivers have been
seriously depleted. Klaus Toepfer, the executive director of the
United Nations Environment Programme calls the state of the world’s
rivers “a disaster in the making”. Dams and global warming have
largely contributed to the drying of the rivers. Over 45,000 dams now
block 15% of all the water that used to flow to the sea. In recent
years, the United States has dismantled 465 dams, but a recent bill
that passed in Washington State will allow the federal government to
build a series of dams on the West’s largest river, the Columbia.
With increasing temperatures, even undammed rivers have been affected,
leaving dead salmon in the Yukon and a record draught in the Amazon
basin last autumn.


In a letter in medical journal The Lancet this week, a group of about 260 physicians describe the force-feeding of Guantanamo detainees as violating international medical codes. They cite the Declarations of Tokyo and Malta, which both specifically prohibit force-feeding. The American Medical Association has also officially recognized a prisoner’s right not to eat. However, according to a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, potential Guantanamo Bay health care workers are screened before deployment to ensure that they are not ethically objected to “assisted” feeding. Physicians have also expressed concern about the restraining chairs used for the procedure. In the past, these chairs have been reported to cause circulatory and respiratory complications. Ultimately, David Nicholl, a British neurologist, argues that “the issue is one of patient consent” as prisoners who risk their lives by going on hunger strikes are making informed decisions.


Abortion in Mexico, while generally illegal, is allowed in rape cases. Yet, the Human Rights Watch has found that rape victims face numerous difficulties when seeking abortion services. Aggressive strategies used by government agencies, public hospitals and family services include inaccurate information about abortion risks and anti-abortion videos. As Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Watch states, “pregnant rape victims are essentially assaulted twice. First by the perpetrators who raped them, and then by public officials who ignore them, insult them and deny them a legal abortion.”


March 5, 2006

Blackbox radio for the week of March 7th 2006

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 10:45 pm

Listen to the show: lower quality | high quality

On this week’s show: an analysis of what South Dakota’s abortion ban could mean for the future of Roe v. Wade in the U.S., and activist & musician Joe Carr speaks and sings about his recent experiences in Iraq & Palestine.. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
Fraud charged in Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
Developers challenge Clean Water Act
Medicaid to provide affordable contraceptives
Bill will make it illegal for MI communities to ban GMOs

National and International Headlines:
Winter of Our Discontent faster and protesters arrested in DC
Detention of women and girls in Libya
East Africa drought
Discrimination impeding treatment of HIV/AIDS in Ukraine


Local Headlines

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is a controversial ballot referendum that would outlaw all forms of affirmative action in the state of Michigan. Last year during its development, fraud charges surfaced when it was found that MCRI petitioners led voters to believe the proposal would help to strengthen affirmative action, not take it away entirely.
Since then, individuals and organizations on either side of political party lines have spoken up against the initiative.
The most recent action against the MCRI comes in the form of a letter sent out by a group of Michigan corporate leaders on March 3rd. Detroit News reports that the sending group includes the chairman of DTE energy company Anthony Early and former Detroit Mayer Dennis Archer. The letter urges citizens to help preserve diversity by opposing the MCRI.
This is not the first time that big business has supported affirmative action in the state of Michigan; two major auto manufacturers filed briefs of support when the University of Michigan defended its practices before the U.S. Supreme Court.


The power of the 1972 Clean Water Act is currently being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court by two Michigan developers who claim the government has no right to regulate private use of “isolated” wetlands. According to the Toledo Blade, one developer wanted to build condominiums on his land but was stopped when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found the land to be too ecologically viable. The other developer didn’t even seek approval before he filled in over 50 acres of wetlands on his property.
Attorneys for the defendants argue that the Clean Water Act only applies to navigable bodies of water and their tributaries. The opposition includes senior U.S. House Representatives John Dingell and John Conyers, both from Michigan and both co-sponsors of the Clean Water Act. They assert that the Act was meant to protect all wetlands, even landlocked ones.
Wetlands are necessary to absorb rainfall, prevent flooding, and filter out pollutants before runoff can get into major water supplies and threaten the safety of our drinking water and fishing.


Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm recently announced a plan to use Medicaid money to provide birth control to low-income women. According to the Detroit News, the plan will provide affordable contraceptives and education on birth control. Although critics complain that this is a misuse of government money and will promote promiscuity, Granholm contends that by reducing the amount of unwanted pregnancies the plan will save Michigan millions in welfare costs.

Last week on BlackBox, we reported on agro-giant Monsanto and their quest for U.N. approval to internationally market terminator technology. Terminator seeds become sterile after one harvest and force farmers to buy new seed every year. At a national level, the U.S. department is being sued for allowing Monsanto to sell a biotech, herbicide-resistant alfalfa without properly assessing the risks. Now, the State of Michigan’s House of Representatives is poised to further support bio-tech agricultural companies like Monsanto by banning citizen’s rights to restrict genetically engineered crops.
In recent years communities around the U.S. have banned G.E. crops, including counties and towns in California and New England. Globally, 40 nations have mandatory labeling of all Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMO’s. But in the U.S., Monsanto, with the support of the Farm Bureau, is pressing State Legislators to pass preemptive bills that eliminate the right for citizens to object to GMO’s. These bills make it illegal to regulate seeds, restrict trade on biotech products, or label food that contains G.M.O.’s.
The farm bureau claims that fears on the dangers of biotech products are unfounded and that not having access to biotech seeds will harm farmers. The opposition, comprised of small farmers, concerned citizens, and environmentalists, states that much of biotech has not been fully tested and poses many risks to human and eco-system health. They were recently able to stop a senate bill through a citizen’s letter writing campaign, but now members of Michigan’s house are quickly trying to pass a similar bill. The bill will make Michigan the 15th state to make local bans on G.E. crops illegal.



National and International Headlines:

Since February 14th, four activists have been engaged in a 34 day fast for peace in front of the U.S. Capitol, as part of the Winter of Our Discontent campaign organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

According to email updates sent by Mike Ferner, one of the activists participating in the fast, seven peace activists were arrested on February 28th in front of the White House, in a civil disobedience protest against the war in Iraq.

The seven arrested were all from Catholic Worker communities. They were charged with the federal misdemeanor of demonstrating without a permit. The action was part of a series of worldwide demonstrations taking place in the month leading up to the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 20.

Mike Ferner also reports that on March 1st, fifteen people were arrested in front of the White House after protesting against U.S. sanctioned torture of detainees in military prisons.

Members of Witness Against Torture, many of whom are part of the catholic Workers Movement, began their protest at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, continuing to the Capitol and the Department of Justice. Escorting six fellow protesters dressed in bright orange jumpsuits, hands tied and hoods over their heads, the marchers proceeded along busy sidewalks to the White House, carrying signs that read, “You can deny it’s torture, but the world knows,” and “Ban all torture – no exception for Bush.”

The march took place on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, an annual period when Catholics pray and fast to repent for sins.

Several weeks into the 34 day fast, Mike Ferner had this to say,
“We are fasting with the realization that at best we may get a few members of Congress to think briefly about what they’re doing; with no real hope we can actually get them to stop funding this war.”


Human Rights Watch reports that Libyan women and girls are being held indefinitely in government facilities for “social rehabilitation.” They are kept in locked quarters without any opportunity to legally contest their confinement.
A researcher for the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, Farida Deif, says “these facilities are far more punitive than
protective.” Yet, many of the women and girls being held at the
facilities have not committed any crimes and some are there because they were raped and have been ostracized by their families. The women and girls can only get out of the facilities if they are taken custody by a male relative or agree to marriage, often to strangers who go there looking for wives.


A two-year drought, the worst in decades, threatens over 11 million people across East Africa with starvation. The U.N.’s World Food Programme launched an appeal for an emergency response on Saturday, warning that aid will run out in April unless help arrives in the next 10 days. “We will urgently need more help in the next 10 days because it takes time to buy, ship, and distribute food,” said James Morris, executive director of the WFP. Of the $225 million that is needed, WFP has only received $28 million.

A recent report from the Human Rights Watch documents how discrimination and abuse are impeding Ukrainian government’s efforts to fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Injection drug users, the population at highest risk of infection, are subject to routine police abuse and discrimination from healthcare workers, who frequently refuse to provide care. The common disclosure of HIV status by healthcare workers also further propagates discrimination and abuse. Rebecca Schleifer, a researcher with Human Rights Watch’s HIV/AIDS program, states that “the HIV/AIDS policies that Ukraine has put in place are generally good ones. But until the government addresses the chronic abuses of people at highest risk of HIV/AIDS, it will have little hope of stemming its HIV epidemic.”


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