Justin

May 28, 2008

This is what mountaintop removal looks like



These are photos I took looking out across an active mountain removal site on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia.  It's hard to get a feel for the size of the mining site without being there.  It's even harder to imagine what it looked like in its natural state, but look at the dark green, tree-covered hills all around it to get some idea.

We'll be bringing you more about what's happening on Kayford Mountain soon, but I wanted to get these images out there right away.  Larry Gibson showed us around here.  He grew up on Kayford Mt. and now the land his family and others lived on for generations is being irreparably destroyed.  He came with his cousin that day to mow the grass in two family cemeteries that are here.  We walked past them on the way to what is now a cliff over the mining site where I stood and took these pictures.  Another of their cemeteries has already been destroyed by the mining company as they've blasted the mountain apart and carted away ton after ton of coal from inside of it.

Larry told us not to waste his time.  He wasn't showing us around for no reason; he wanted to make sure we were going to do something about what we saw.  Larry is for abolishing the use of coal altogether, despite having family members who work in the industry and are upset by his stance.  Unlike many people we spoke to who expressed support for continuing mining in a responsible, less destructive manner, Larry told us he doesn't believe it's possible to mine and use coal in a way that is not harmful.

Over and over again last week, people mentioned supporting the Clean Water Protection Act as the most important thing anyone can do right now to help bring an end to mountaintop removal.  Contact your Congressmen and make sure they support it!

Please also check out our new forum on mountaintop removal, and these two blog posts from West Virginia last week - 1 & 2.

-Justin

May 21, 2008

Day 2 in Coal River Valley

Butch & Patty Sebok at home in Seth, West Virginia. photo: Antrim Caskey

We spent our first full day in West Virginia visiting people in their homes, taping interviews. People shared incredible stories with us that we'll be bringing back. I recorded about 6 hours of audio today alone. We saw a 90 year-old woman's fingers turn black with coal dust from running them across her tv screen. Again and again, people expressed their respect for the old ways of underground mining. At the same time, they spoke with outrage about mountaintop removal and the unprecedented level of destruction coal companies have caused in this area over the past 25 years or so.

Antrim took this picture of Patty Sebok and her husband Harry "Butch" Sebok in their kitchen. Patty is a community activist who works for Coal River Mountain Watch. Butch is a union miner who worked underground for almost 30 years. He was forced to retire when a doctor told him he risked paralysis if he continued working after an injury on the job that resulted in a herniated disk.

We'll be up bright and early in the morning to tape some more interviews before heading up Kayford Mountain to see an active mountaintop removal site and meet the last man holding onto his home as the mountain is destroyed all around it. I encourage everyone to do their own research to learn more about mountaintop removal and the history of coal mining in West Virginia and beyond. Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts to share.

-Justin

May 4, 2008

Dispatch from Indiana, Part 1, Saturday May 4th 2008

 

Hey folks - one of our interns, Christina Arrison, is in Indiana for the primary. She's going to be sending us first-hand observations and thoughts from there for the next few days. By way of an introduction, here's her first dispatch. 

-Justin 

The Dirty Truth

The public face of any political campaign is a polished, powdered, and prepped candidate hopping on and off planes, buses, and trains to deliver speeches in front of supporters and ever-present news cameras. But the dirty truth is that the real work of a campaign is done once the candidate rolls out of town, by an army of sleep deprived, underpaid, junk-food-stuffed, (usually) 20-somethings, who serve as the ground troops for the candidate. I'm a new intern at CEM, and I'm also wrapping up a stint working as one of those sleepy 20-somethings for a group of labor unions that have endorsed Barack Obama in the presidential primary. Since the endorsement I've worked in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and the suburbs of Philadelphia, and I'm currently on a plane headed back to Indianapolis for second stint there leading up to next Tuesday's election. Justin asked me to write a little bit for the site about my experiences working in the primaries, so I'll be sending a few dispatches from Indiana during these final, hectic days of campaigning.

The Hoosier View

The best part about being on the ground for three important primary contests has been the chance to talk to and work with people who are experiencing this election on an individual and personal level – people who, many for the first time, feel a meaningful connection to Washington and the process that puts politicians there. It's a nice counterbalance to the Big Media view of the campaign – all scandal and spin and personal attacks and very little examination of what the election means to real people. It's been four decades since the last competitive Democratic primary in Indiana. From what I've seen, many Hoosiers are a bit bemused by all of the attention – voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania are used to the swarms of canvassers and scads of robo-calls and TV ads from past general elections, but in Indiana, a solidly red state, many people are experiencing the invasion for the first time. Overall, though, I think people appreciate the attention and genuinely believe that their voice matters. Every day when our canvassers get back from the field they give reports of talking to voters who say that this is their first time voting, and that for once they think an election offers them a chance to concretely improve their lives – by getting better healthcare or livable wages, by ending the war, and for countless other reasons. We hear heartbreaking stories like the Katrina survivor with AIDS who can't afford his pills, and asked our union volunteer to have the Obama campaign contact him to get him cheaper medication. But even if the personal connection to the campaign just involves a voter yelling at a canvasser to get off her property, or slamming down the phone on another prerecorded call, at least they are offered the chance to participate.

Rising Tensions

That being said, I am a little worried about the length and tone of the race. Even in just the three primaries I've worked on there's been a shift in voters' attitudes. When I knocked doors in Ohio, most of the Clinton supporters I talked to were firm in their choice, but polite. On the plane back to DC after the Ohio election, I was seated next to the president of the New York chapter of NOW, and we were able to chat relatively amicably about the election, she in her Clinton button, me in my Obama t-shirt. Canvassing in Pennsylvania, five weeks later, the tone had shifted. Lots more people yelled at me, balled up their flyers and threw them back, or slammed the door in my face. I remember walking up the driveway of one house just in time to hear the woman say to her neighbor "If I get ONE more thing from Obama I'm just going to-" I didn't quite catch what she was going to do, as I was doing my best to blend in with the trees as I backed away. I think a lot of people (including some campaign staffers I know who literally have not had a day off in 15 months) are ready for this to end.

But in the meantime I hope that the next few days will provide some food for thought, and a chance to look at some of the issues that Indiana voters and the campaign workers and volunteers are thinking about.
-Christina Arrison
April 18, 2008

4/11/08 Andrei Codrescu is in town

We started the morning off today with a visit from Andrei Codrescu, writer of many formats and

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February 20, 2008

02/19/08 First Day on the Job

In case you didn't catch the news in Baltimore Business Journal or dcrtv today, thought I'd write a quick note to let everyone here know that yesterday was my last day at WYPR, and today is my first day working as a producer at the Center for Emerging Media!  I'm thrilled to be here, and looking forward to continuing working with Marc and Jessica.  The best way to contact me directly, for the time being, is justinlevy2@gmail.com.  If anyone knows who justinlevy1 is, I'd like to get in touch with him.
It's been great to see the discussion that has exploded on the blog here the past few weeks.  Hope this will continue to grow as a place for increasingly broader discussion.
I've been thinking about all of these things that we would have been discussing on the air the past few weeks.  What's been catching people's interest lately, outside of the WYPR fiasco?  Fidel Castro plans to step down, Kosovo declares independence, the largest beef recall ever, the worst suicide bombing in Afghanistan since 2001, Obama, elections in Pakistan...
-Justin 
January 31, 2008

1/31/08 interesting articles this week…

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Check out the first paragraph of this article:

 FINALLY SOME GOOD NEWS—someone is going to help me play music with whales instead of warning me that it’s against the law. According to the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, all “harassment” of marine mammals is illegal, including my idea of playing live music to them just to see what happens. But there are still places beyond the grip of the law.

Read it all here, and hear Marc interview the author, David Rothenberg, at about 1:30 today.  For more of David's writing, check out this piece on www.terrain.org.

Before that, after the news at 1pm, join us to discuss genetically modified food.  Seems like it was something that was really in the public eye, along with lots of outrage and uncertainty, a few years ago, but all of that has subsided a bit, here in the US, at least.  It certainly didn't go away, though, as more genetically modified crops are being grown worldwide than ever, and the highest percentage of any country is right here in the States.  Yes, if you're not sure, our food supply is flush with genetically modiefied ingredients.  We'll discuss the details, focusing on the company at the center of it all, Monsanto, with Brian Hindo.  He wrote the article Monsanto: Winning the Ground War in Business Week.

Every Thursday from 1-2pm for the past few weeks, we've been featuring interviews with the authors of articles that we've come upon and found particularly interesting.  If you've caught any of these segments, what do you think?  Would you like to see this continue as a regular, weekly feature on the show?  Also, comment here with suggestions for articles that you've read and would like for us to consider featuring!

-Justin

January 31, 2008

1/31/08 Bail Bonds

What comes to your mind when you think of bail bonds?  The nice folks who help spring you from jail when you're waiting for trial?  One of the few types of businesses that populate mostly vacant commerical blocks in poor neighborhoods throughout the city?  Those ubiquitous yellow and pink Big Boyz Bail Bonds pens that are everywhere in Baltimore? A article on the front page of the New York Times Tuesday pointed out the interesting fact that the US is one of only two countries in the world that use the bail bond system, empowering private companies to put up someone's bail for them in exchange for a fee.  The fee is generally 10% of the bail, non-refundable.  Critics raise the point that, although you are innocent until proven guilty, you tend to have to pay a lot of money to a private company in order to stay out of jail, innocent or not.  Bail bonds is one way among many that the United States has charted a unique course for its legal system, internationally speaking. Adam Liptak, the author of the article, joins us for the first part of today's show, and then we'll continue the discussion with a panel of local guests, discussing the pros and cons of the bail bond system, and possible alternatives. Also worth checking out is a post and comments responding to the article on the Freakonomics blog. -Justin
January 30, 2008

1/30/08 Student Perspectives – ‘08 Elections

Every time an election roles around, people (or at least the media) start to talk a lot about the youth vote.  We wonder whether young voters will finally start coming out in larger numbers than usual.  Why do less young people tend to vote than the older folks?  Are they just apathetic?  Do they think voting won't make a difference, or that no one represents them?  What issues do these elusive young people care about?  What about those who are politically active? One of my first assignments as a youthful WYPR news freelancer was to report on the youth vote in November 2006; check it here. At noon today, we're bringing together a group of college students from the area to hear their opinions and observations on the upcoming elections.  We'd love to hear your thoughts, as well, whatever age you might be.  Call 866-661-9309, email thesteinershow@wypr.org, or post a comment here. -Justin
January 30, 2008

1/30/08 The Geography of Bliss

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Living in Baltimore, I can't help but notice a lot of distinctly unhappy looking people  around town.  I know this is not exactly some kind of utopia, so is it reasonable to assume that people are, in general, happier elsewhere?

NPR Correspondent Eric Weiner will be joining us at 1pm today to discuss what he learned travelling the world purposefully seeking out happiness.  Check out his book The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World.

-Justin

January 28, 2008

1/28/08 Steve Larsen

At noon, a topic I know some of our listeners follow very closely... while some of you might just wonder how you're going to pay a $450 BGE bill this month, which, by the way, is slightly less than the bill that arrived at my house last week. Something for everyone, then: Steve Larsen, Chairman of the PSC (Public Service Commission, more info on both Steve individually and the PSC as a whole here) joins us to discuss the ongoing investigation into Maryland's 1999 energy deregulation deal, that led to a 72% rate hike for more than 1 million BGE customers last year, and could be followed by higher increases soon. If, indeed, consumers got a bad deal, what should/can be done now?  Should Maryland consider re-regulating?  How about seeking monetary compensation from Constellation Energy in court?  Last August, Illinois reached a one billion dollar settlement with a coalition of power suppliers over contentious rate hikes there.  Read one account of it, from EnergyBiz Magazine, here.  Please join us with your questions for Steve Larsen on the air at noon (866-661-9309 or thesteinershow@wypr.org) and don't forget to post your thoughts here, as well. -Justin
January 24, 2008

1/24/07 Iraq, Oil, War, Politics, and Media…

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photo of an Iraq oil field fire by Ian Waldie
...Those are a few of the topics we're planning to cover at 1pm today, focusing on the intersection of all of them.  We'll look at recent developments in Iraq's oil industry, and how it fits into the bigger picture of the Iraq War.  We'll discuss why the presidential candidates and the media both seem to not be focusing on Iraq as much as they should be. We'll be talking with Ben Lando, UPI's energy editor.  Check out an extensive archive of his articles here.  Ben also created The Iraq Oil Report, a website that tracks oil goings on in Iraq on a daily basis. We'll also be speaking with Antonia Juhasz, author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time. She is the Tarbell Fellow at Oil Change International and Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Policy StudiesHere's an archive of op-eds that she has written. -Justin
January 24, 2008

1/24/07 The Last Great Landgrab

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This summer, scientists mapped more than 20,000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico. The red lines indicate newly mapped areas of the continental shelf. Illustration: Chuck Carter/Paul Morin
One of the most interesting things we came across in the past week, was an article in Wired Magazine called Foreigners Keep Out! High Tech Mapping Starts to Redefine International BordersIt describes how new underwater mapping technologies are being used by nations to claim a bit of extra territory, even if it's all way underwater.
We're interviewing the article's author, Geoffrey Gagnon, in the last segment of the show today, so tune in to find out more.
And click here to see more underwater maps like this one:
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-Justin