BlackBox Radio

June 5, 2006

BlackBox Radio for June 6, 2006

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 12:44 pm

On this week’s show, a piece produced by Pittsburgh Indymedia’s Rustbelt Radio, examining the wrongful conviction and incarceration of prisoners. Includes interviews with the Innocence Institute of Pittsburgh, and Tommy Doswell, who was incarcerated for 19 years before being proven innocent by DNA evidence, plus local, national, and international headlines (click the ‘more’ link).


Listen to the show: lower quality | high quality


National and International Headlines:

Kerry Criticizes Foreign Policy, Hints at 2008 Campaign
US Marines Murder Iraqi Civilian for Refusing to Become Informant
US Blocks Worldwide AIDS Prevention Measures



Local Headlines:

SE Michigan Employers To Cut Health Benefits
Possible Ban of Emergency Contraception in Michigan
Victory in Eastpointe “Biking While Black” Case
New Drivers License Law Targets Undocumented Residents
New Drivers License Law Targets Undocumented Residents
Greenspace, Katrina Relief on Agenda at Ann Arbor Town Meeting


Local Headlines




27% of SE MI employers are considering eliminating health benefits, and 61% are planning to reduce benefits, according to a survey conducted in May by John Bailey & Associates Public Relations and reported in the Detroit Free Press. The survey interviewed 203 of the area’s senior-level executives. 86% of the respondents said workers can expect to pay a larger share of their own health costs in the future because of rising insurance costs.

The results reflect the continuing slide in work-related benefits as wages are increasingly set in competition with those in offshore locations. In addition to these pressures, recent studies have found that even among high wage countries, the lack of universal government-funded health care in the US places further burdens on employers and leads to even more pressure to cut wages and jobs.

According to the executives surveyed, in an ideal world employers would pay for half of an employee’s health care costs while government and the workers themselves would pay the other half. Furthermore, two-thirds of executives felt that individuals who make healthy lifestyle choices should be rewarded when paying for health care, whereas those making poor lifestyle choices should be penalized. These choices include factors such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious diet, and smoking.

However, such measures would be likely to disproportionately hurt low-income and minority workers. Numerous studies have found that it is very difficult to implement a healthy diet on a low income. Not only are more nutritious foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, more expensive, they are also far less available in poor neighborhoods as compared to the proliferation of cheap and highly processed fast foods. Other studies have found that poor health, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease disproportionately affect both low income residents and people of color regardless of their income level, possibly due to the increased stresses associated with a lifetime of confronting racism and overcoming prejudice.


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Legislation being considered this week in the MI House Health Policy Committee will consider banning the sale of emergency contraceptives over the counter in Michigan even if the FDA approves its use. The power to Dispense pills would be limited to pharmacists. Other bills before the Legislature would allow pharmacists the right to refuse to dispense emergency contraceptives, or any other medication, on moral grounds.

Emergency Contraception, also known as the “morning after” pill, is a concentrated dose of birth control pills that is 95% effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex. It thus prevents unwanted pregnancies and reduces abortions, and is a much safer alternative with few side effects. The Scientific Advisory Committee to the Food and Drug Administration overwhelmingly approved the sale of Emergency Contraceptives over-the-counter. However, the Bush administration has repeatedly tried to block the implementation of the panel’s recommendation.

The Michigan chapter of NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League is calling on concerned MI residents to contact the legislature and help prevent the bill from moving forward. To find out more, visit http://www.prochoicemichigan.org/


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The MI ACLU reports that it has settled the “Biking while Black” racial profiling case after a federal court ruled that there was sufficient evidence of racial discrimination and illegal searches by the Eastpoint Police Department to take the case to a jury trial. The 160,000 dollar settlement comes 8 years after the case was first filed on behalf of black teenagers.

In 1996, an Eastpoint Police Department memorandum instructed officers to intercept any black youth riding through Eastpoint, a predominantly white suburb of Detrroit. Defendants in the case, children at the time, were pulled over and searched, and in some cases their bikes were confiscated. Bicyclists also claimed police used racial slurs and told them to get back to the other side of 8 mile road. Police logs show over 100 such incidents between 1995-1998 in which black youth aged 11 to 18 were detained.

Eastpoint has denied that any of the actions were improper, and an initial court ruling sided with the officers. However, in June 2005, the decision was reversed. In the decision it was ruled that the pat-down searches, hand-cuffs, seizure of bicycles and detention in police cars violated the 4th amendment, which requires that such police actions be based on reasonable suspicion, for example that the person involved is armed and dangerous.
Marcus Green, a defendant who was 13 at the time of the events, and is now a graduating student at Bowling Green State University, expressed relief that the suit had been settled and stated that he hoped no other child has to go through what he experienced. Kary Moss, Executive Director of the MI ACLU, commended the settlement and hopes it will; serve as a deterrent to the humiliating practice of racial profiling.


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In other news involving the ACLU, the organization has launched a nationwide action in response to NSA spying on individuals’ phone calls, urging citizens to press their local legislatures to investigate the phone companies involved. The national organization and 20 state affiliates have also filed complaints and sent letters to the FCC demanding an investigation.

In addition to conducting the warrant-less wiretaps, recent reports have discovered that the government also asked phone companies to turn over billions of consumer call records. The President also issued a memorandum that attempts to preemptively exonerate phone companies of lying to the public about such actions where such statements are intended to conceal matters of national security.

When the NSA program was first made public in December, the ACLU of MI filed one of the first legal challenges to the practice on behalf of a diverse group of journalists, scholars, and lawyers. The suit is due to be heard by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of Detroit on Monday, June 12th, in what will be the first hearing nationwide on the legality of the NSA spying.


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Mediamouse reports that the Michigan House has passed another anti-immigrant measure. Last Tuesday, the House passed House Bill 6085, which will require people applying for a state driver’s license to make a statement that they are United States citizens. The bill was praised by supporters as a way of ensuring Michigan complies with the Real ID Act which was passed by Congress in 2005, although there is no specific provision in that bill that citizenship information be placed on driver’s licenses.

Opponents of the bill say that the measure is intended to further stigmatize non-citizens by placing their citizenship status in a prominent location, where it will be accessed by people having nothing to do with immigration enforcement. Opponents questioned whether Secretary of State employees would be expected to investigate non-citizens’ residency status, and said the information could alter how officials interact with non-citizens.

Bill supporters also claim that including citizenship information on drivers licenses will help homeland security efforts in the quote “war on terror”. The MI ACLU pointed out, however, that the bill is unlikely to deter terrorists since someone willing to commit a terrorist act is unlikely to hesitate at lying about their citizenship status.


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The next Ann Arbor Town Meeting, a series of monthly community forums, takes place this Thursday, June 8th, at 7 pm. Town meetings take place at 310 South Ashley in downtown Ann Arbor.

On the agenda are a medical re-supply trip being planned for victims of Hurricane Katrina in Waveland, Mississippi, and efforts to reclaim public, non-commercial space for residents in downtown Ann Arbor. Locations for a possible Commons include the Ann Arbor Main Library Parking Lot and the area at the NW corner of State and North University. Proposals also include barring vehicle traffic from a portion of the downtown area to increase green and pedestrian space. A proposal to the Ann Arbor City Council will be developed.

The meeting is open to all residents and begins at 7 pm.


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National and International Headlines:




In a speech in Los Angeles, senator John Kerry criticized the Bush administration for its unilateral foreign policy of “disdaining diplomacy” and favoring confrontation. According to truthout.org, Kerry said that the Bush administration’s foreign policy has hurt the U.S.’s standing in world politics and damaged national security. Kerry said that the U.S.’s entry into the war in Iraq was ill-advised, rushed, and showed a disregard for diplomacy. Aside from alienating other governments and diminishing world sympathy for the September 11 attacks, Kerry said that America’s current isolation, and the presence of thousands of US troops in Iraq, is “playing right into Iranian hands.” He said that negotiating with Iran regarding the development of atomic weapons is an uncertain proposition, but that there is still time for diplomacy. He added that any talks with Iran “must be more than an effort to check the box on diplomacy as they move toward a confrontation.” In regards to domestic issues, Kerry predicted that rising public dissatisfaction with the Bush administration could signify huge gains for Democratic candidates in November’s midterm congressional elections. He added that he is considering another presidential run in 2008


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According to truthout.org, an Iraqi family has accused Marines of killing an unarmed civilian. U.S. Marines allegedly approached Hashim Ibrahim Awad several times, asking him to be an informant so they could find out who was planting explosives in Al Hamdania, a small village outside Baghdad where insurgent activity and violence are common. Awad, a middle-aged man with a lame leg and bad eyesight, refused, because his family considered the job shameful. Awad’s family says that on the morning of April 26, U.S. Marines “dragged Awad from his home, killed him and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel next to him to make him look like a terrorist”. The family has also said that since the Awad’s death American investigators have harassed and questioned them for hours-long sessions, including a session at nearby Abu-Ghraib prison. Though there is no way to confirm the accounts, U.S. officials have announced that they are investigating the death of an Iraqi civilian and that “several service members from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment . . . were removed from operations and have returned to the United States.” This case is one of three involving the deaths of 36 Iraqis, including women and children, that have drawn fresh attention to complaints that U.S. forces in Iraq have wantonly killed unarmed civilians.


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While the United Nations struggles to assemble a new package to combat AIDS worldwide, the Bush Administration is blocking key proposals. According to The Nation, the Christian right is heavily influencing the Bush administration in these negotiations, and opposing UN proposals that include the distribution of condoms and needle exchanges and references to prostitutes, drug addicts, and homosexuals. While the US spends more on combating AIDS than any other nation, much of the money is directed towards abstinence campaigns. Many Muslim countries, including Egypt and various other conservative African and Latin American nations are siding with the US and opposing the proposals. In contrast to its usual stance of siding with US policy, the British government stands in favor of the UN proposals, along with Canada and other European countries.

A new campaign against AIDS is needed to update a 2001 UN declaration, and more than 140 nations are attending the UN summit in New York which began on Wednesday. UN secretary-general Kofi Annan told the summit: “The world has been unconscionably slow in meeting one of the most vital aspects of the struggle: measures to fight the spread of AIDS among women and girls. These shortcomings are deadly.” A recent report by the agency UNAIDS said that “an estimated 38.6 million people are living with the AIDS virus, HIV; 4.1 million were newly infected last year; 2.8 million died of AIDS last year; and treatment with medicines is available to less than half of those infected with the virus. Of those infected worldwide, almost half – about 17 million – are women, and three-quarters of those are in Africa”. International development secretary Hilary Benn detached himself from the US’s stance, saying: “We have to take action on the evidence of what works, on what saves people’s lives, and not on ideology. That means making condoms available and reducing harm to people at risk.”


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