RADIO FOR THE 99 PERCENT: After years of grassroots campaigning by media activists, the airwaves are clearing for community radio. On March 19 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made room on the spectrum for new low-power FM stations, which will be licensed to locally based nonprofits, by dismissing thousands of applications for translators rebroadcasting distant stations.
“This is a major opportunity to transform the radio dial and to put media back in the hands of our communities,” says Brandy Doyle, policy director for the Prometheus Radio Project. With a range of a few miles and a start-up cost of as little as $10,000, low-power radio provides an accessible means of spreading local news. Such stations “can be real extensors for building community power,” says Milena Velis, an organizer with the Media Mobilizing Project, particularly in low-income, immigrant and working-class neighborhoods.
The decision is a final step toward implementing the Local Community Radio Act, which Congress passed in 2010 to remove decade-old restrictions on community radio. Nonprofits will have the opportunity to apply for a spot on the dial in a licensing period that could begin as early as next winter. That window, says the FCC, presents “a critical, and indeed possibly a last, opportunity to nurture and promote a community radio service” in underserved urban communities. ZOË CARPENTER
DEMS DIVIDED OVER HONDURAS: Almost three years after the military coup that deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, the Obama administration is still shoring up Porfirio Lobo’s illegitimate regime, while the country’s human rights situation continues to degenerate. On March 10 Fausto Evelio Hernandez was killed, the eighteenth journalist slain in two years. The month before, 360 prisoners died in the most horrific prison fire in modern history, when their guards threw away the keys and held back firefighters for thirty minutes.
Congress, though, is finally pushing back against the administration’s support for Lobo. On March 9 ninety-four members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling for a suspension of police and military aid to Honduras. Spon- sored by Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky, the letter has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and by nine major unions.
That letter came just a few days after an unprecedented appeal to Clinton, written by Democratic Representative Barbara Mikulski and signed by seven senators, that expressed alarm over human rights violations, including killings of civilians by Honduran security forces. It was the first time senators had jointly addressed the crisis in Honduras.
No sooner was that letter sent than the White House reasserted its support for Lobo. On March 6 Joe Biden rushed to Honduras promising additional military aid to combat drug trafficking. Obama’s budget proposal for 2013 more than doubles funding for the Honduran military and police. Why are Obama and Clinton increasing their support for this regime— in the face of a growing rebellion within their own party? DANA FRANK
CAN’T PAY, WON’T PAY: March 31 marked the deadline for Irish households to register and pay a new property tax—the latest deficit-reducing initiative introduced by the government at the behest of its bailout partners in the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. But in cities like Dublin and Waterford, and across rural towns from West Cork to Donegal, a network of “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay” groups has called on citizens to boycott this “unjust tax.” The grassroots movement was initiated by political organizations from across the left, trade unionists and residents’ associations, and the campaign has spread like wildfire. Local campaigns recently elected delegates to form a national steering committee.
An unemployment rate of 14 percent, swingeing cuts to local services and stalled economic growth have sown seeds of discontent. But no issue has galled the Irish people more than the continued payment of billions of euros to the unguaranteed bondholders of Irish banks. That the proceeds of this new household charge will go to the same faceless agencies that spec- ulated and lost on Irish banks—many of which are now defunct—has been enough to ignite the anger stirring beneath the surface. And the fact that the deadline falls on the same day $4 billion in government money is to be paid to service a fraction of the catastrophic debts of the Anglo Irish Bank— itself disbanded and the subject of a criminal investigation—has fanned the flames.
Town hall meetings on the issue have regularly drawn crowds of several hundred people. A recent gathering in Dublin attracted 3,000. The movement has found resonance across all sectors of Irish society, uniting financially stretched communities.
Less than a week before the deadline, a full 80 percent of Irish households had not paid the charge. Although quiet and restrained, this degree of civil disobedience is sure to be heard loud and clear in Dublin. And more pertinently given Ireland’s receivership status, Brussels and Frankfurt too. JAMES MURPHY
DAISEY’S DISTORTIONS: In my November 28 column, “Steve Jobs: An American ‘Disgrace,’” I quoted from Mike Daisey’s one-man show based on what he said he had witnessed in the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, China. As has been so widely discussed, we now know that while the incidents Daisey described have taken place, he was being less than truthful in claiming to have seen them himself. Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater, issued a statement reading, “We would not have called it nonfiction had we known that incidents described in the piece were fabricated.… We didn’t know, and the result was that our audience was misled.”
Unfortunately (and unknowingly), I passed along some of these fabrications and so participated in this process. I regret this and regret trusting Daisey, particularly since his fabrications will now be used to discredit his larger point: that of the unconscionable exploitation of Chinese workers by Apple and other computer makers. ERIC ALTERMAN
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: A CBS News/ New York Times poll released on March 26 found that 69 percent of Americans say the United States “should not be involved in Afghanistan,” the highest percentage since such surveys have been conducted.