May 02, 2006
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN IN PUERTO RICO
The government of Puerto Rico has shut down many of its non-emergency public services due to a budget crisis. Some 100,000 government employees are temporarily out of work and an estimated half a million students have been unable to attend classes at public schools since the shut down began yesterday. The impasse at the root of the fiscal crisis stems from the lack of agreement between the island’s governor and legislature in the development of a spending plan. Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila has called for the approval of a 7% sales tax, but this proposal has met opposition in the legislature.
BOLIVIA NATIONALIZES GAS RESERVES
Bolivian President Evo Morales nationalized the country’s natural gas reserves yesterday. Diletta Varlese reports.
Multinational energy companies operating in Bolivia will have 180 days to re-negotiate their contracts under the terms of the presidential decree announced yesterday. The decree stipulates that the exploration and industrialization of the country’s hydrocarbon resources will be managed by the government. Companies operating in the most productive fields will retain only 18% of the total production, while the state keeps the rest. In other fields, companies can retain up to 40% of the gas produced. Brazil’s Petrobras and Spanish-based Repsol are the top foreign companies operating in Bolivia. The nationalization of the country’s gas reserves has been a key issue for Bolivian social movements and has led to the ouster of two presidents in recent years. Bolivia has the second largest natural gas reserves in South America. For FSRN, I’m Diletta Varlese.
CRITICAL LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY
The World Conservation Union today released its 2006 Red List of Threatened Species. The report found that of the over 40,000 species assessed, one in four mammals, one in eight birds, and one in three amphibians are known to be in danger of extinction. In the list of threatened species is the polar bear, the hippopotamus and the Saharan desert gazelle. The hippo population of the Democratic Republic of Congo has plummeted by 95% due to unregulated hunting. Humans, directly and indirectly, remain the number one reason behind the loss of bio diversity.
NATIONAL SECURITY LETTERS
In Washington, The Justice Department has issued a report detailing its domestic surveillance activities in 2005, including data on the number of secret search warrants it solicited. Selina Musuta reports from the capital.
Required under a new provision in the renewal of the USA Patriot ACT, the Justice Department conducted a study of FBI activities and reported the findings to leaders of both parties in the House. According to the report, the FBI issued 9,254 National Security letters, or NSLs, requesting the private information of more than 3,500 U.S. citizens or legal residents in 2005. NSLs allows the FBI, without court approval or grand jury subpoena, to demand personal information from banks, credit card, telephone and Internet companies about their clients. Civil liberties groups have attacked the use of NSLs and other clandestine methods of obtaining evidence, like the increased issuance of secret warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The secret court that oversees that law approved a record 2,072 orders for back door searches or surveillance in 2005. The report did not release data on years prior to 2005. Selina Musuta, FSRN, in Washington, DC.
UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI STRIKERS DECLARE VICTORY
After 2 months on strike, janitors at the University of Miami are declaring victory. Andrew Stelzer has the story.
Early on in the strike, the University of Miami agreed to give a pay raise and some health benefits to 400 janitors, and the schools more than 500 other contract employees. But UNICCO, the Boston based contractor who technically employs the janitors, would not allow them to vote whether to join the SEIU using a card check election. The janitors campaign found the national spotlight, with the support of students and clergy. After recent visits to the hunger striking workers by former vice presidential candidate John Edwards and teamsters president James Hoffa, UNICCO agreed to let a third party (the American Arbitration Association) examine and verify a card check which will begin later this month. Tanya Aquino is with Students Towards a New Democracy. She was one of several students who went on hunger strike along side a dozen janitors in early April, vowing not to eat until UNICCO allowed the janitors to use a card check election and stop harassing the workers in their organizing efforts. (ACT) “Zoila Mursuli, the worker who was fired for her union support when a Orlando Sentinel reporter came to interview her, is being reinstated with back pay, so this is a huge victory. Now they work on building the union, and they hope to have it up and running by the beginning of next semester.” The SEIU agreed that at by August 1st, at least 60 percent of workers need to sign cards for the union to gain recognition. The janitors return to their jobs on Wednesday. For FSRN, I’m Andrew Stelzer.
John Bolton Testifies in The House About Iraq and Iran (3:59)
At a meeting in Paris, a US diplomat predicted that Europe will back sanctions on Iran. Meanwhile, testifying before a House subcommittee, US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, denied any knowledge of intelligence information used in the lead up to the war in Iraq, and deflected any claim that the US is on a path to military action to Iran. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.
Over Half-A-Million People Participate in Pro-Immigrant Actions (2:41)
Over one-and-a-half million people took to the streets in dozens of towns and cities throughout the nation yesterday, participating in various walkouts, marches and rallies, and boycotting school and work sites. The Los Angeles School District says that nearly 72,000 middle and high school students did not attend school, but does not yet have an estimate for students in Kindergarten thru 6th grade. Businesses around the country closed shop, either in solidarity with the day’s action or because workers missed their shifts in mass. Spanish-language DJ El Piolín, who is largely credited with bringing crowds of people to the historic Gran Marcha in LA on March 25 – as well as yesterday’s marches in throughout LA, says that as an undocumented immigrant he felt a duty to encourage his listeners to attend.
Protests Against Anti-Immigrant Law in Paris (3:58)
On Monday, 7,000 people marched in Paris to denounce a draft law under which highly skilled immigrants will be favored over those coming to France to join their families. The law will make it easier to expel those without proper immigration documents, as well as those who do not respect the contract of welcome and integration, which is part of the bill. FSRN’s Khaled Sid Mohand has more from Paris.
German Company Indicted for Racial Discrimination In Nigeria (2:36)
A German construction company operating in Nigeria has been indicted for racial discrimination. Nigeria’s food and drug regulating agency says that worker’s nationality determined what types of drugs they received at the Company’s clinics: while the mainly German expatriate workers were normally treated with genuine drugs, fake drugs stored in poor condition were reserved for their Nigerian counterparts. FSRN’s Sam Olukoya has more from Lagos.
Sri Lanka On Possible Path to Civil War (4:18)
Sri Lanka appears to be sliding back towards civil war, with a drastic increase in violence between government forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels since December. Officials said more than 100 people have died in the last two weeks alone. The Norwegian-brokered peace process remains frozen, and peace facilitators are trying to lead the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels back to the negotiating table. FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam reports from Sri Lanka.
Indonesians Demonstrate Against New Labor Law (2:46)
Hundreds thousands of workers in Indonesia marched in cities throughout the country, rejecting a new labor law that abolishes many basic worker rights. The new draft has provoked massive protests over the past 2 months, but the government and business associations continue to support the draft labor law. From Jakarta, FSRNs Meggy Margiyono reports.