News Briefs: Byrd Reports Back From Climate Talks | Resentencing Date Set for Luers | Project Homeless Date Set | Billions More for Occupation | War Dead | Early Deadlines | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
BYRD REPORTS BACK FROM CLIMATE TALKS
If labor doesn’t take a lead role in dealing with global warming, then business and industry will, turning solutions for global warming into a means for increasing corporate profit at the expense of workers, according to AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Barbara Byrd.
Byrd joined 85 other trade unionists from around the world, including 25 from unions in North America, at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali earlier in December and reported back last week.
“I was struck by several things,” Byrd told the union’s Weekly Update. “First, the scientific evidence is overwhelming that global warming is occurring faster than expected, with devastating consequences. Even the Bush administration has finally acknowledged the scientific data.
“Second, the rest of the world, and our brothers and sisters in the global union movement, feel a great sense of urgency to deal with the climate crisis. We have much to learn from them.
“And finally, we have an opportunity to deal with the crisis in a way that will create jobs and increase social justice, not just here in the U.S. but around the world.”
Byrd said the WTO was a strong presence in Bali, “trying to convince us that free trade will solve global warming. We know what a false promise free trade has been when it comes to economic development in general. We must act now to move our own agenda of green jobs, social equity, and global solidarity.”
Byrd called for convening a Blue Ribbon Committee on Climate Change to research the issue and help develop policy positions; participating in the governor’s stakeholder meetings on the Western Climate Initiative; continuing to work with the Oregon Apollo Alliance around its green jobs agenda; and developing educational presentations for union affiliates.
More information can be found online (www.aflcio.org); search for “Bali.”
RESENTENCING DATE SET FOR LUERS
A resentencing date has been set for convicted Eugene eco-arsonist Jeffrey “Free” Luers, who is now is in the Lane County Jail. A hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 8 in Lane County Circuit Court, according to his supporters. The date is subject to change.
Space in the courtroom is very limited, so Luers’ supporters are asking that only family and close friends plan to attend the hearing, and they are also asking that “things are kept low-key — any protest or similar activity would be acting against the wishes of Jeff and his family.”
Earlier this year. the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed Luers’ 22-year, eight-month sentence for setting fire to three SUVs at the Joe Romania Chevrolet dealership and attempted arson at the Tyree Oil depot. The court upheld the 2001 charges but overruled the merger of some of his arson convictions. Luers will get a new sentence with a possible 10 to 12 year reduction.
Updates and reports on the Luers case can be found at http://freejeffluers.org
PROJECT HOMELESS DATE SET
Last year’s Project Homeless Connect (PHC) provided more than 1,000 homeless people with access to nearly 100 local service agencies along with assistance from more than 300 community volunteers.
It’s happening again. The second annual PHC is set for Feb. 7 at the Lane Events Center at the Fairgrounds. And coordinating the event this year will be Sophia McDonald, Pearl Wolfe and Richie Weinman. For more information, visit www.homelessconnect.orgVolunteers provided free medical care, counseling, hot meals, eye exams, veterinarian care, bike repair and haircuts; they also gave out donated material such as clothing, blankets, hygiene supplies and bike trailers.
Local bicycle shops and mechanics are getting involved again to help homeless people gain pedal power. Bike shops around Eugene are currently accepting used bicycles to refurbish and give away to homeless citizens. Anyone interested in donating a bike for the PHC may do so at Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life, Blue Heron Cycles, Wheelworks and Eugene Revolution Cycles.
PHC is part of a nationwide movement to connect homeless citizens with services, while engaging local communities in finding solutions for homelessness.
BILLIONS MORE FOR OCCUPATION
The fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq is coming up in March, and the total death toll related to the war and occupation has been estimated at one million. U.S. military dead this week hit 3,897, and the cost of the war now approaches $480 billion.
Congress last week voted to support another $70 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, with no strings attached.
“It’s a disgrace,” says Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, the nation’s largest anti-war coalition with more than 1,400 member organizations. “Members of Congress who voted to support $70 billion in funding for the occupation of Iraq demonstrated once again how they are dramatically out of step with their constituents. The vast majority of the people of this country want our troops home safely and quickly,” she said in a message to members.
The war funding was part of $55 billion omnibus spending bill, and only 25 members of the Senate voted against it.
“We view the situation in the Senate to be particularly dire,” said Sue Udry, legislative coordinator for the coalition. “UFPJ activists around the country will step up their pressure on members of the Senate especially. Congress has spent one year ignoring the will of the people, and we do not have the patience to wait for another year.”
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 3,897 U.S. troops killed* (3,894)
• 28,661 U.S. troops injured* (28,661)
• 132 U.S. military suicides* (132)
• 307 coalition troops killed** (307)
• 933 contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 86,462 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (85.711)
• $479.8 billion cost of war ($47.8 billion)
• $136.3 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($135.8 million)
* through Dec. 17, 2007; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to one million
The holiday season means our offices will be closed Tuesday, Jan. 1. Early deadlines for reserving display ads will be 5 pm Thursday, Dec. 28. For more information, call 484-0519.
Last week in Slant we suggested that people send holiday cards to unnamed wounded U.S. soldiers at Walter Reed. We hear from readers that most of those cards are returned to senders, due to the occasional hate letter that arrives among the good tidings. Some cards do get through, however, thanks to volunteers who find the time to screen some of the large volume of mail addressed to “A recovering American soldier.” Perhaps a better gesture in support of our troops would be a letter to a member of Congress calling for improved benefits for wounded and traumatized soldiers, and bringing them home from Iraq ASAP.
• The Bush-appointed Federal Communications Commission voted this month to loosen media ownership rules and allow broadcast media owners in major markets to also own a newspaper. The FCC is claiming Americans now have a broad diversity of news sources available via the Internet and cable TV, so media monopolies are not really a problem. This vote came despite a massive public outcry against consolidation. What was the point of the long public hearings? The decision defied the concerns of 99 percent of those testifying.
Whoever controls the media controls the message, and when it comes to chain ownership of media, corporate accountants control the message through the budget. Investigative reporting is expensive. Foreign correspondents are expensive. Rehashing press releases is cheap. Big advertisers are not to be offended. There are exceptions, of course. A struggling locally owned newspaper or broadcast station might be bought out by a chain and actually improve its content through more professional management (eliminating nepotism) and an infusion of capital. But overall, consolidation has led to mainstream media providing less substantive content, and driving small, independent media out of the market. Twenty years ago, 29 major media owners shared at $100 billion media enterprise. Today, six media conglomerates control a $400 billion enterprise and thousands of investigative reporter positions have been cut. Democracy requires not only a healthy mix of voices, but also an army of journalists keeping a close eye on government, business and the arts.
What can be done about the FCC’s arrogant decision? The commission may have snoozed through the public testimony, but the FCC cannot so easily ignore Congress. A bipartisan group of 26 U.S. senators has announced an effort to overrule the decision. The public can support this effort through contacting senators or participating in an online petition through MoveOn (www.moveon.org).Lawsuits are also in the works, though they could drag on for years.
• Speaking of media consolidation, what’s happening with Oregon Public Broadcasting’s plans to buy KOPT-AM 1600, the local Air America affiliate? Will it affect local programming? We’ve asked both KOPT and OPB for updates but haven’t heard much during the holidays. A few rumors are circulating. One rumor is that OPB does not have any plans for local programming — everything will be canned. But the FCC requires local broadcast stations to provide some public interest local programming. Whether OPB will do more than the minimum is the real issue. Another rumor is that KLCC is not really happy about the OPB expansion into its market despite public statements to the contrary. We checked with Steve Barton, the big cheese at KLCC, and he tells us there “probably are” some folks associated with the station “who aren’t happy about this, but I’m definitely not one of those.” He also thinks the “community can benefit by having OPB here.”
Lane County listeners, depending on their location and equipment, can actually pick up six public radio stations. KLCC, KRVM, OPB, KWAX, JPR and KWVA can be found on the dial, according to Amy Pincus Merwin, who has the “Inform Radio” show on KWVA.
Air America in Lane County is about to go away as commercial KOPT becomes public radio KOPT. How about a group of local folks getting together to buy some struggling local radio station, pick up Air America and other national progressive programming and add local progressive talk every day? The nice thing about Air America programming is that it doesn’t cost the station much since it comes packaged with national advertising. The KOPT commercial model of mixing local and national content might work with some tweaking.
Local public affairs programming, including progressive or centrist talk radio, is an important part of the media mix in any community. Will KLCC and/or OPB fill that gap? KLCC is promising changes as it moves to its new facilities Jan. 4, and the station is expanding its geographic reach with new transmitters. “We have discussed with OPB the possibility of expanding local talk programming,” Barton tells us, “but it’s still in the discussion stage.”
• Looking for bargains after Christmas? Support our advertisers, please, but also check out local thrift stores. So many people make year-end donations for tax purposes that the stores have more good merchandise than they can display. Buying used stuff is another great way to recycle.
• We heard in an email from Bijou manager Louise Thomas that Bijou owner Michael Lamont, who opened our favorite art movie house in October of 1980, passed away on Dec. 22 at the age of 62. As we get more news, we’ll post it to the blog (blogs.eugeneweekly.com). Our condolences to all at the Bijou and to Lamont’s family.
SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, email@example.com