June 18, 2008

  • Bush Pushes for Lifting of Offshore Drilling Ban
  • EU Approves Legally Binding Recycling Targets
  • “Green Collar” Jobs on the Rise
  • Major Offensive in Khandahar
  • Contractor Immunity Provision Removed from Iraq/US Security Treaty
  • Harris Pollsters Find Americans in “Foul Political Mood”

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Bush Pushes for Lifting of Offshore Drilling Ban

President Bush today called on Congress to lift the federal ban on offshore drilling and open the Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge to oil companies. Bush says the move would help to alleviate high gas prices and the domestic dependency on foreign oil. Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, who opposes opening ANWR to drilling – told an audience in Houston yesterday that he supports reversing the 27 year ban on offshore drilling. The push for offshore drilling and exploration in the protected Arctic reserve comes as the country’s strategic petroleum reserve is filled to 97 percent capacity.

EU Approves Legally Binding Recycling Targets

The European Parliament has voted in legally binding targets for the recycling of waste by all member states. Naomi Fowler reports from London.

Europe generates nearly 2 billion tonnes of waste a year – that’s an average of 3.5 tonnes a person. But under the new rules passed today, 50% of waste from households and 70% of hazardous materials are to be recycled by 2020. Those member states that don’t comply could face legal action. In order to achieve these targets, member states will need to introduce domestic legislation; for example, more citizens will be required to separate their household rubbish for specific collections; companies will face tighter inspections on waste disposal and more facilities will have to be provided. However, Green MEPs have criticized the lack of binding rules for manufacturing and industrial waste; they’re also disappointed that EU states could not agree on EU-wide waste prevention targets. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

“Green Collar” Jobs on the Rise

The global credit crunch may be causing economic downturns world-wide–but one sector has shown remarkable growth; that of renewable energy markets. Francesca Rheannon has more on the rise of these so-called “green collar jobs”.

Record high oil prices are helping to fuel the worldwide push towards renewable energy technologies. So much so that “green collar jobs” have increased by around 20% in the UK in the last year according to environmental job recruiter Acre Resources . The money is good, too, ranging from more than $60,000 to $120,000 dollars in annual pay. Driving the industry are corporations seeking to make good on their environmental commitments…and banks seeking a safe haven for their cash are pouring into renewable energy investments. Information technology firms Intel, IBM, and HP have all recently announced photovoltaic cell projects that take advantage of the fact that computer components such as semiconductors and solar cells both use silicon-based manufacturing processes. And Morgan Stanley recently closed a 20-million-dollar deal for a stake in a UK-based solar energy company. For FSRN, I’m Francesca Rheannon of Corporate Watchdog Radio in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Major Offensive in Khandahar
NATO troops and Afghan security forces have launched a major offensive in the area around the southern Afghan city of Khandahar. At least two dozen people have reportedly died in the operation, a majority of those being suspected Taliban insurgents killed in a single airstrike. Civilians in the area have been warned to stay inside. Khandahar is the city where the Taliban first emerged as a political force in Afghanistan.

Contractor Immunity Provision Removed from Iraq/US Security Treaty
Iraqi negotiators have decided to resume talks on a long-term security treaty with the United States after the Bush Administration dropped its demand that US private contractors receive immunity from prosecution. The treaty has been a contentious issue for Iraqi lawmakers who will have little to no influence on the agreement. Just last Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki told reporters in Jordan that the negotiations had reached a “dead end”, but Al Maliki has since backtracked. The security treaty calls for a long-term US military presence in Iraq, regardless of who is in the White House. Negotiations are set to end in late July although it is unclear if the two sides will be able to make their target deadline.

Harris Pollsters Find Americans in “Foul Political Mood”
President Bush’s approval rating has sunk to a new low. New data from the Harris Interactive polling agency shows that only 24 percent of Americans surveyed think the president is doing a good job. Vice President Dick Cheney fared even worse in the court of public opinion, with an 18 percent approval rating. And the lowest ratings of all went to the Democrat-controlled Congress with a full 83% of respondents giving a negative opinion. Overall, 4 out of 5 surveyed said the country is on the wrong track. The biggest concerns cited by respondents were the economy, the war, gas prices, and healthcare. Harris Interactive describes the poll results as an indication of Americans’ (quote) “foul political mood”.

Levees Continue to Break Along the Mississippi River

Levees are breaking all along the North Mississippi as floodwaters flow south from Iowa. The Army Corps of Engineers says 20 levees have already failed and they are predicting that as many as 30 more, most near small towns, are in danger of breaching or being overtaken by the rising waters. Pat Slattery is with the National Weather Services’ Central Region Office.

:35 – says now attention is on Mississippi river where waters continue to rise. A levee broke in Iowa yesterday flooding 5000 acres of farmland…

Communities along the river are frantically sandbagging the banks. The Illinois governor has called up the State’s National Guard and has enlisted the help of inmates.

But while the rising water itself is an issue, the impacts of what’s in the water may linger for years. Because the flooded areas are largely agricultural, fertilizer and pesticides are potentially running off at high rates as the waters rush over fields. In more urban areas, the waters are causing sewer overflows and have compromised businesses like gas stations where pollutants are concentrated. Officials are telling residents to stay out of the water and are preventing some from returning home. The Red Cross, despite financial troubles, has set up emergency shelters across the region.

But there is a bit of good news, Slattery says any flooding south of St. Louis will be relatively mild because the Mississippi becomes much wider and deeper – capable of handling more flow. Most communities will see moderate flood levels.

:33 says that could change with more rain but none is expected in the next few days. NWS forecasters can usually give officials 4-5 days warning about storms moving in.

President Bush is scheduled to tour the damage in Iowa tomorrow – about a week after flooding began. Bush says his administration is setting up a housing task force to aid those who loose their homes during the floods. Officials predict the price tag for the disaster will top $1.5 billion.


Israelis and Palestinians slowly wade into a shaky ceasefire

Today, Palestinians and Israel approved an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire, which will go into effect tomorrow morning.

But an Israeli defense official has stressed that this is not a peace treaty – and that Israel will continue to prepare for military action. And even though Hamas officials have publicly stressed their commitment to the
ceasefire, Palestinians are cautious about the sustainability of the truce. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more from Gaza city.

Teachers in Chile End a Three-day Strike, Call for Meaningful Education Reform

Teachers in Chile on Wednesday ended a three-day strike in opposition to an education reform bill currently being debated in Congress. The teachers argue the General Education Law does nothing to protect public education and will hurt low income students. The President of Chile’s Teachers Association estimates that 15-thousand teachers and students marched in solidarity. From Santiago FSRN’s Jorge Garretón explains.

Indian Protesters Fast to Demand Release of Prominent Political Prisoner

A group of intellectuals and activists in India are in the midst a 10-day fast in protest of the continued detention of physician and prominent human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen. Indian police arrested Sen more than a year ago charging him with sedition and having unlawful contact with Maoist insurgents. He denies the allegations. Protesters in India are demanding his immediate and unconditional release. Bismillah Geelani has more.

Community Rallies to Support LA Teacher Fired for Being ‘Afro-centric’

Teachers who express their opinions on controversial social issues can find themselves in a lot of trouble. Whether

it be evolution versus creationism, war versus peace, gay rights or their personal political leanings, a teacher has limited freedom of speech. Last year, a federal court of appeals ruled that a teacher’s words are “the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary.”

The issue has once again reared its head in South Los Angeles. Protests continue over the effective termination of an alleged ‘Afro-centric’ teacher who works in a predominantly minority school. School officials say although Karen Salazar is allowed to teach The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the way she teaches the topic is tantamount to “brainwashing.” Dan Fritz reports from KPFK in Los Angeles.

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