December 14, 2007
- Bali Climate Change Conference Ends with Deal
- Republican Victory in New Energy Bill
- Bio and Agro-Fuels May Accelerate Global Warming
- Presidential Campaigning in Iowa
- Women’s AIDS Health Policy
- Indian Tribal Communities Face Massive Displacement from Dams
New Orleans Public Housing Demolitions on Hold
A New Orleans civil district court decision issued this morning has temporarily saved three of the city’s public housing developments from demolition. The Housing Authority of New Orleans must now seek the approval of City Council before demolishing units in the St. Bernard, Lafitte and CJ Pete developments. The demolition of the BW Cooper development, approved in 2003, will continue as scheduled. Public housing residents and their supporters cheered the ruling, saying the lack of affordable housing has kept thousands from moving back. New Orleans has a growing post-storm homeless population, with thousands sleeping in parks, under bridges and in their cars. 4,600 units of New Orleans’ public housing were originally scheduled for demolition, to be replaced with only seven hundred units in mixed-income redevelopments. New Orleans City Council is expected to decide on the future of the demolitions next Thursday during their regular session.
Ohio Secretary of State Recommends Scrapping Electronic Voting Machines
Ohio’s Secretary of State issued recommendations today to the state legislature to overhaul Ohio’s voting systems. Among her recommendations; scrap all of the state’s touch screen electronic voting machines. Evan Davis reports from Columbus.
About 3 months ago, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner assembled a team of investigators to assess the effectiveness and security of the 3 electronic voting machine systems currently in use in just over half of Ohio’s 88 counties. A report from that investigation was made public today along with a number of recommendations. (Brunner clip) Brunner’s team included representatives from the voting machine vendors who currently service Ohio as well as a number of academics and an independent firm specializing in computer security. Brunner said all of the investigators reached the same conclusions; that none of the current electronic voting systems Ohio relied on in the 2004 and subsequent elections were able to meet (quote) “minimum security standards”. Vulnerabilities found in each of the three systems led Brunner to recommend scrapping the current systems before the 2008 Federal election in favor of a more reliable optical scan system that relies on paper ballots. It will be up to Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature to accept or reject the recommendations. For FSRN, this is Evan Davis in Columbus, Ohio.
House Votes to Outlaw Waterboarding
The US House of Representatives passed a measure last night to prohibit waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques. Katherine Jarmul has more from Capitol Hill.
Defying a presidential veto threat, the Intelligence Authorization Act passed with a vote of 222-199. The resolution brings interrogation techniques in line with the Army Field Manual, which prohibits sensory deprivation, electrocution, waterboarding and the hooding of detainees. Lynne Kates is the education and outreach coordinator for the Guantanamo Justice project at the Center for Constitutional Rights: (audio) “The reality is there is no debate about torture, torture is illegal, torture is wrong and even the military and intelligence experts say that torture does not produce any reliable evidence.” Waterboarding became an approved interrogation technique under President Bush’s July executive order which redefined article three of the Geneva conventions in relation to enemy combatants. The Bush Administration argues that so-called enemy combatants do not qualify for prisoner of war treatment as outlined by the Third Geneva Convention, which prohibits inhumane, humiliating or degrading treatment of captured or non-fighting combatants. For FSRN, this is Katharine Jarmul.
Major Fighting at Mogadishu Market
The main market in Mogadishu has been the scene of two days of heavy fighting in the battered seaside capital of Somalia. Mohamed Sheikh Nor reports.
More gunfire and explosions were heard near Bakara market this morning, but there are no details of casualties. Ethiopia has denied involvement in an mortar attack that killed at least 17 people in the market yesterday. Fighting is a now common sight near the city’s central Bakara market; one of several Mogadishu districts that have been almost completely deserted. Eyewitnesses said Ethiopian troops backing the interim Somali government were behind Thursday’s shelling, which injured more than 40 people who had come to the market to buy food and supplies. Ethiopian government adviser Berekat Simon said Ethiopia had no need to target markets since Somali insurgents had been severely weakened. That statement seems to contradict another made yesterday by the Director of Somalia’s National Security Ministry. Sheikh Qasim Ibrahim Nur said that 80% of the country is outside government control and warned that Islamist insurgents had regrouped and were poised to launch a major strike. For FSRN, I’m Mohamed Sheikh Nor.
Santa Cruz, Bolivia Expected to Declare Autonomy Tomorrow
Separatists in the gas-rich Bolivian region of Santa Cruz are expected to declare autonomy from the rest of the country this weekend. Diletta Varlese reports.
(rally sound) The campaign in favor of the declaration of autonomy reached a fevered pitch last night during a rally in the city’s main square. The local assembly has already approved the measure and the province’s governor has asked residents to do the same tomorrow in a public gathering in the main square of the provincial capital. The autonomy statute pits the Santa Cruz regional government and civil committee against the administration of Bolivian president Evo Morales. The move comes just one week after Bolivians voted to approve draft language for new constitution which will later be subject to a nationwide referendum. The driving force behind the the autonomy movement in Santa Cruz is the business class together with the traditional oligarchy. The province has the largest concentration of wealth in Bolivia thanks to the large gas deposits located there. Tension between the regional authorities and the central government began when Evo Morales became Bolivia’s first indigenous president on a platform of promises to give greater representation and constitutional rights to the country’s indigenous majority. The president has called for negotiations to reduce tensions, but has also deployed hundreds of federal police to monitor tomorrow’s gathering. For FSRN Diletta Varlese in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.
Colloquium for Change in Chiapas
Nearly 500 people from around the world have gathered in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas for a series of round table discussions on alternatives to the predominant economic and governmental systems. Tim Russo has more.
(Marcos sound) Saying great transformations do not come from above, but rather from small movements that appear irrelevant, Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Marcos yesterday inaugurated the First Forum in Memory of French historian Andres Aubrey at the University of the Earth in Chiapas, Mexico. The event kicked off 4 days of round table discussions attended by noted intellectuals, Immanuel Wallerstein, John Berger, Naomi Klein, Francois Houtart, and others. Mexican national prize winning economist Gustavo Esteva of Oaxaca asserted that the Empire-like power of the United States has reached its climax and begun its decline. Esteva quoted Napoleon, “a bayonet is good for many things except for sitting upon” as he stressed his point about the use of the historical deployment of military might at the onset of an empire’s decline as a fleeting attempt to maintain a perceived renaissance. A central goal of the colloquium is to find innovate and practical alternatives to the dueling systems of capitalism and socialism. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Tim Russo in Chiapas, Mexico.
Bali Climate Change Conference Ends with Deal
A deadline came and went at the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Bali to create a framework for negotiations for a new document to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012 – but with a day-long extension, a deal was finally reached. Talks with environmental representatives from 180 countries hit a snag – at issue was US resistance to incorporate certain targets. Marcelo Furtado is the Director of Greenpeace Brazil.
Republican Victory in New Energy Bill
Senate Republicans and oil companies scored a major victory yesterday. After twice blocking an energy bill, the Republicans finally chiseled away almost everything they don’t like. Yanmei Xie has the story from Capitol Hill.
Bio and Agro-Fuels May Accelerate Global Warming
As the UN Climate Change conference was held in Bali this week, another conference got underway in Berlin. The German NGO Germanwatch gathered people together from Europe, the United States, Africa, Latin-America and Asia to talk about biofuels or agrofuels. Agrofuels like soy, corn and sugar-cane are being promoted by the Global North as the answer to our dependence on oil. And car manufacturers like Volkswagen and major agro-business companies like Monsanto are among the companies investing in this new fuel source. But scientists are raising concerns about whether agro-fuels will actually help to mitigate or in fact accelerate climate change, as forests are being cleared to make way for these new fuel crops. Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin.
Presidential Campaigning in Iowa
Presidential candidates can do all the campaigning they want, but it all comes down to attendance on the one day it matters. In the final throws of primary campaigning in Iowa, candidates are switching their message from a ‘come get to know me’ to a ‘please show up on the third of January and caucus for me.” Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell is in the key state of Iowa with this report.
Women’s AIDS Health Policy
Even though women account for nearly 50 percent of all adults living with AIDS worldwide, the amount of research, counseling and services for women is less. Once considered a gay man’s disease, the AIDS profile is beginning to look like heterosexual women – especially globally. FSRN’s Karen Miller reports from DC, where AIDS researchers and patient advocates gathered for a women’s HIV Health policy forum.
Indian Tribal Communities Face Massive Displacement from Dams
The Lepcha tribal community in the Indian state of Sikkim is protesting against the government’s decision to construct massive hydroelectric power development projects in the state. The community members say these projects will result in destruction of the fragile ecology of the area and displacement of indigenous people. India is the world’s third largest dam builder, after the US and China. India has more than 4000 large dams and planners say many more are required to overcome a severe power shortage. But over the past two decades, the human and environmental impacts of such projects have been the chief source of large-scale internal displacement in the country. Bismillah Geelani has more.