BlackBox Radio

April 9, 2006

BlackBox Radio for April 11th, 2006

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 10:08 pm

Listen to the show: lower quality | high quality

On this week’s show: Christian Parenti on the prison industrial complex, and a report on healthcare barriers faced by transgendered people. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
Students protest inadequate school conditions
Native American health care neglect
Telecom companies to restrict Internet access
Homeless allegedly beaten in Greektown

National and International Headlines:
Mine waste dumping
Voting in Peru


Local Headlines

In Detroit, 32 students protesting deteriorating conditions at MacKenzie High School were handcuffed and arrested by police, the Michigan Citizen reports. Students cited leaking roofs, lack of textbooks and toilet paper, and generally filthy conditions. Eight students are charged with disorderly conduct, punishable by up to 90 days in jail. One student is charged with inciting a riot, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Because of their children’s behavior, several parents have also been charged $500 dollar fines under the Parental Responsibility Ordinance.

Principal Bernard Bonam defended the March 29 arrests. Bonam claimed the students were protesting the uniform policy, a charge denied by students. Markell Donaldson, a sophomore said, quote, “this protest is about how the school is run.” Corey Williams, a junior, noted that three students share one book for classwork.

Several School Board members voiced support for the students’ protest and stated that the conditions at the school had been brought to the attention of the principal in January, when over 180 parents raised similar concerns. Board member Marie Thornton noted that 45 new computers acquired by the school are still sitting in their boxes after suffering water damage from leaking ceilings. “The kids have a right to protest,” she said. “The school should have addressed this issue.”


The UM Clinical Law Program, led by David Santacroce, has filed a class action suit in Federal District Court on behalf of Native Americans living in the Detroit area. According to the Free Press, the suit charges the Federal government with defaulting on its obligation to provide health care to all Native Americans and, if successful, would set a precedent that could affect Native Americans across the United States.

Santacroce and his students researched legislation and found that the federal government is obligated to provide health insurance to all Native Americans. A 2004 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report, “Broken Promises”, found that Native Americans are more than 7 times as likely to die from alcoholism, more than 6 times as likely to die from tuberculosis, four times more likely to die from diabetes, and have the poorest cancer survival rates of any racial group. Santacroce says that continued discrimination and neglect have deprived Native Americans of access to health care.

Metro Detroit has one health care clinic providing basic medical care for over 38,000 Native Americans, of which 27,000 have no health insurance. Patients needing more than basic services are either referred to specialists, which they cannot afford, or put on a waiting list to receive treatment on their tribe’s home reservation. Many patients die before receiving treatment.

Lucy Harrison, Director of the American Indian Health and Family Services of Southeast Michigan, says the issue is especially relevant in the Detroit area. She insists this is an issue of justice, not charity, noting that Native Americans gave up over 95% of their lands under duress in exchange for very few promises by the federal government, most of which have not been kept. President Bush’s 2007 budget, while cutting taxes for the wealthy, eliminates funding entirely for the southwest Detroit clinic and 33 others like it in urban settings across the country.


The idea of the Internet as a public commodity accessible to all citizens may be on its way out. US Telecommunication companies have introduced a series of bills at both the state and federal levels that would restrict Internet access based on fees, remove corporate “build out” obligations that mandate providing service to all customers within an area, and remove local franchise agreements that currently fund local cable stations and local services. These proposals arise as telecom companies are poised to offer video over the Internet which would allow TV to be delivered over DSL phone lines.

According to Michigan Citizen, US Representative Joe Barton of Texas, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s telecommunications and Internet subcommittee, has introduced a bill that would create a national franchise agreement for cable providers. Under this bill, providers could choose individual neighborhoods in which to provide service while bypassing others. AT&T, for example, has promised its investors that they intend to serve 90% of “high-value” customers but only 5% of what it considers “low-value” customers, namely low-income and rural residents.

Amazon, Yahoo, Google, and other Internet companies have sent a letter to Barton criticizing the bill, saying it would fail to protect the Internet from discrimination and would limit the power of the FCC to oversee fair access. The bill is similar to many state-level bills that have been introduced in Michigan and 20 other states. In Indiana, where a similar measure passed last year, local franchises have been eliminated completely and Public Educational and Government cable access is under State control. Local politicians, including the Detroit City Council, Wayne County Commission, and the Michigan Congressional Black Caucus have passed resolutions denouncing the Michigan bill. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has offered to fast-track local franchise negotiations with AT&T, but has not as yet received a response.


Attempts to rid Greektown of homeless people has resulted in several beatings, according to victims interviewed by the Michigan Citizen. After the city cut back on the number of police officers on duty, restaurant and casino owners hired a private security force composed of 8 laid-off police officers. Otis Jones, a lifelong Detroit resident, claims he was beaten by the officers and was subsequently prevented from filing a complaint. The Detroit police Department liaison denies the charges and claims that Jones has filed two false reports previously.

On February 16th, Jones says he attempted to stop two security guards from beating a homeless man when they assaulted him. He attempted to file a report with a nearby officer, but was told to go to the station. Upon arrival at the station, the desk clerk refused to take the report, stating that Jones had been interfering with the guards. It is unclear what powers private security guards have over citizens.

Jones states that all of the police he spoke with were familiar with the two officers involved in the beating. He says at least 8 other homeless men have been beaten by the security force. Two other victims confirmed Jones’ accusations.



National and International Headlines:

On Wednesday, Environmentalists in Alaska renewed a court battle against government regulators, seeking to upend a mining permit they say would enable mining companies to fill water bodies with toxic byproducts. Last week, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Forest Service reinstated a permit allowing a gold-mining company to dump some 4.5 million tons of waste products into Southeast Alaska’s Lower Slate Lake over a ten-year period. The plaintiffs – the Sierra Club, Lynn Canal Conservation and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, say the move would undermine the federal Clean Water Act and could open yet another channel for big business to legally destroy water bodies and habitats. Federal and state regulators’ environmental-impact report on the mining project anticipates a loss of the lake’s entire aquatic habitat during the operation period, along with a total loss of major fish and invertebrate species.

The report also predicts that the project would lead to an irrevocable loss of cultural resources, including relics of old mining areas at over a dozen designated historic sites. Federal law restricts the gold-mining industry from contaminating local waters with chemical wastes. Yet the Bush administration’s recent tweaking of Clean Water Act rules effectively frees mining companies from restrictions on toxic dumping in the nation’s water bodies.

The company and regulatory bodies contend that the project would have a minimal long-term impact. Army Corps spokesperson Tom Findter acknowledged that “there will be a temporary loss of aquatic life in the lake as a result of the mine tailings discharge,” but told The NewStandard the damage would be offset because the sludge-filled lake would eventually be reclaimed, and the filling would force it to sprawl out and in effect become a larger aquatic environment. But in their legal complaint, the environmental groups expressed skepticism that environmental engineering could fully reincarnate a habitat after a decade of deadening pollution. The groups pointed out that the EPA’s limited tests on local waterborne organisms had offered no comprehensive evidence that the residual mine sediment would not negatively impact survival rates.

Earth Justice and other groups fear that the enactment of this permit will enable the mining industry to invoke similar strategies at other sites in Alaska. Environmentalists say that water pollution from mining could devastate the area’s diverse ecosystem, including major salmon spawning grounds that have provided sustenance for local residents’ for thousands of years.


Peruvians have begun voting in national elections after a bitter campaign that reflected intense divisions in the country. Officials have said 53,000 police and soldiers are being deployed to make sure the election goes smoothly. None of the 20 presidential candidates is expected to obtain the 50% of votes needed for victory in the first round.

A key candidate is former army officer Ollanta Humala, a nationalist who has vowed to spend more money on the poor. His closest rivals are Lourdes Flores, a market-friendly conservative, and an ex-President, Alan Garcia, who had a disastrous record in office. Outgoing President Alejandro Toledo leaves office with a low popularity rating. Despite the country enjoying sustained economic growth, little of the wealth appears to have reached the more than 50% of Peruvians living below the poverty line.

On the eve of the poll, Mr Toledo – who, under the constitution, is barred from running for re-election – urged Peruvians to “vote constructively”. Be sure the person [you vote for] doesn’t represent the authoritarianism and the instability of the past,” he said, in what correspondents say was a veiled reference to Mr Humala. Mr Humala first came to public attention when he led a military rebellion against the government of Alberto Fujimori in 2000. His talk of rewriting the constitution in order to “stop the process of neo-colonialism in Peru”, and blocking the signing of a free trade agreement with the United States, has reportedly led some foreign firms to put investment plans on hold.

The business sector is widely said to favour Ms Flores, a former congresswoman who is hoping her chances will be boosted by Michelle Bachelet’s recent win in Chile. She will also be hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2001 election, when she was edged into third place by the left-leaning Mr Garcia. Mr Garcia’s 1985-1990 administration was marked by hyperinflation and rebel violence, but he remains popular among many Peruvians and has focused much of his campaign on attracting young voters. If no candidate obtains an outright victory, Peru’s 16.5 million voters will go to the polls again on 7 May to choose between the two leading candidates.




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