June 19, 2008

  • The US House Once Again Takes Up a Multi-Billion Dollar War-Funding Bill
  • California Medical Marijuana Users Targeted for Asset Forfeiture Seizure
  • Local Renewable Energy Transmission Options Examined
  • The United Nations Denounces Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War
  • The DOJ Goes After Perpetrators of Mortgage Fraud
  • The VA Accused of Testing Non-Approved Drugs on Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • LGBT Community Prepares to Battle State Constitutional Bans on Same Sex Marriage

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Nigerian Offshore Oil Rig Attacked
Nigeria’s oil exports have dropped by ten percent following an attack this morning on an offshore drilling rig operated by the Anglo Dutch oil company, Royal Dutch Shell. An American oil worker was taken hostage during the attack, but was later released. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

The attack occurred early this morning on the Bonga oil platform. The facility produces about 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day and is located more than 100 kilometers off the Nigerian coast. Most past attacks have been directed at onshore facilities which are by far easier targets than those offshore. The militants with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, said in a press statement that they deliberately chose the offshore platform to show that no facility is beyond their reach. Today’s attack is a major psychological blow to Nigeria’s oil industry, which has been forced to cut oil exports by as much as a quarter in light of the growing militant campaign against oil facilities in the Niger Delta region. The militants say their attacks will continue until local communities receive a share of the multi-billion dollar oil profits. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.

Biofuels Report Forces a Rethink in Green Strategies

New findings regarding bio-fuels will force British and European governments to rethink their green strategies of using bio-fuels to fight global warming. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

The findings of the Gallagher report, compiled by a panel of government experts are unequivocal: the rush to develop bio-fuels has played a “significant” role in the dramatic rise in global food prices; and that’s left 100 million more people without enough to eat. The IMF believes the growing of bio-fuels has impacted on food prices by 20-30%, some estimate it’s higher than that. The Gallagher reports says far more research is needed into the indirect impact of bio-fuels on land use and food production before any government should consider setting targets for their use in transport. The authors also say governments need to understand the difference between bio-fuels that come from edible and non-edible plant sources. Despite the controversy surrounding them, bio-fuels have been central to the British government’s environmental strategy. From London – I’m Naomi Fowler.

Artic Ice Melt – Ice Free Artic Summers in 5 Years?

New government data indicates that Arctic sea ice is melting faster than previously predicted. Maeve Conran reports from Boulder, Colorado

Scientists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, NSIDC, in Boulder say the Arctic may have ice-free summers by the year 2013. That’s in stark contrast previous models which predicted ice free Arctic summers within 2-7 decades. Although a colder winter in 2007 allowed for a partial recovery in the arctic ice, researchers say the overall thinner and less robust ice pack is more susceptible to melting in the summer months. NSIDC scientists say the sea ice is now so thin that there is little chance for a reversal of the current melting trend. The study also found a link between episodes of abrupt sea loss and rapid thawing of the region’s permafrost. Scientists warn this melt could potentially exacerbate the effects of global warming as arctic permafrost holds an estimated 30 percent of the world’s soil-based carbon. For FSRN, this is Maeve Conran in Boulder Colorado.

Colombian Union Leaders Assassinated at Alarming Rate

Colombian union workers are taking to the streets this week saying that assassinations of union leaders are increasing and that the government is doing little to ensure their rights. Manuel Rueda has more from Bogota.

A group of Bank workers is arriving in downtown Bogota. They began their march in Cali, over 300 miles away. Alvaro Contreras directs the Cali Branch of the National Bank Worker´s Union. He says the march was sparked by the assassination of a union member who was working for Citibank. [clip] “The right to association is the main bastion of democracy, and there’s no respect for that here. Our government talks about democracy when it goes abroad, but in Colombia there’s persecution of trade unionists, and those who persist are threatened, disappeared or murdered.” 39 union members were assassinated last year. And Colombia’s trade unions say that the murder rate is increasing, with the murder of 24 more union members in the first four months of this year. The government claims that most leaders are not being killed for their trade union activities. It says that many of them are victims of common criminals and armed groups who target all sorts of civilians. Union leaders reject such arguments. They say that they are being targeted by corporations, government agents and paramilitary groups, because they are negotiating better conditions for workers, including those who work for multinational corporations. Manuel Rueda, FSRN, Bogota.


The US House Once Again Takes Up a Multi-Billion Dollar War-Funding Bill

After being deadlocked by a threatened veto from President Bush, the House is finally getting back to business on the Iraq supplemental spending bill. At issue: $161.8 billion for the occupation, unemployment benefits, college tuition for soldiers and even flood relief for the Midwest. Karen Miller has more.

California Medical Marijuana Users Targeted for Asset Forfeiture Seizure

Twelve states in the US have laws legalizing medical marijuana. In California, medical marijuana is legal, legal to buy at a dispensary, but also illegal to sell. That arrangement has a slew of challenges for medical marijuana patients who say they are caught in the crossfire of the drug wars. In Mendocino County medical marijuana patients say they are vulnerable to law enforcement raids, and asset forfeiture seizure. FSRN’s Christina Aanestad has this report.

Local Renewable Energy Transmission Options Examined

The electricity transmission system in the United States is becoming antiquated. The lines are aging, and with energy deregulation, being used in ways they were not initially designed for. In addition, a growing population means a growing demand for energy. Those wanting to develop renewable energy sources are finding the power lines are set up to serve coal, hydroelectric and nuclear production facilities. This is a huge barrier for the renewable energy industry. But a study released this week by the Minnesota Department of Commerce shows there may be hope for using the existing lines for renewable energy. Instead of focusing entirely on building new power lines to distant large-scale wind farms at a huge cost, the report shows a significant amount of power from smaller community-based facilities could be injected into the existing system. Essentially, there’s a localized, cheaper, more efficient way to think about renewable electricity production and transmission. To find out more about this idea of Community Based Energy Development, or C-BED, FSRN spoke with George Crocker of the North American Water Office based in Minnesota. Crocker was instrumental in convincing the state to commission the report, which he refers to as the “sweet spot study.”

The United Nations Denounces Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War

The use of sexual violence as a weapon of war is epidemic, as the bodies of women and girls of all ages become battlegrounds in conflict zones the world over. In an effort to remedy the problem, the United Nations Security Council today approved a resolution to recognize sexual violence as a security issue for the council to address.

The DOJ Goes After Perpetrators of Mortgage Fraud

What the DOJ is calling “Operations Malicious Mortgage” has, over the past 3 ½ months, resulted in charges against more than 400 people. Just yesterday, the DOJ arrested 60 additional people, and the arrests continue today. Two former Bear Stearns hedge fund managers, Matthew Tannin and Ralph Cioffi, were arraigned today on nine counts of securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. Personal investments in funds like this are referred to as “skin in the game.” One attorney involved in the case says Tannin and Cioffi both “viewed the funds situation as ‘perilous’,” yet they failed to inform their investors of the problems. In one email written by Matthew Tannin in March of 2007, the fund manager wrote, “Believe it or not, I’ve been able to convince people to add more money.” Prosecutors however made clear that neither Tannin nor Cioffi are being blamed for the collapse of Bear Stearns. Attorneys for Tannin and Cioffi dispute the charges.

The VA Accused of Testing Non-Approved Drugs on Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

On Tuesday, the Washington Times reported that the Veterans Administration has been targeting War Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, with a new drug designed to help them quit smoking. But the side effects of that drug can include suicidal thoughts or actions. The drug varenicline, which is marketed under the name Chantix, is now approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Department of Veterans Affairs enrolled nearly 1,000 patients diagnosed with PTSD in test studies using different methods to quit smoking; 143 of them were prescribed Chantix, but before it was approved by the FDA. Last November, the FDA issued a warning about evidence of depression and suicidal thoughts among people using Chantix. In January, Chantix’s Manufacturer, Pfizer, updated labels to include the warning. The Federal Aviation Agency has banned the use of the drug among its pilots and air traffic control personnel. Despite all this, the Veterans Administration only warned people using the drug about the possible side effects in February. he Veterans Association has defended itself from the recent criticism, stating “This research program, like all VA research, is approved by independent institutional review boards to ensure the safety of all participants.” They go on to say, “The progress of the study is regularly scrutinized by a VA Data Safety Monitoring Board that closely tracks any and all reported side effects related to the study to ensure safety.” Presidential Nominee Barack Obama responded to these findings and called them outrageous and unacceptable. He said that he would be asking for a full and thorough investigation immediately. Yesterday three members of Congress joined that call.

LGBT Community Prepares to Battle State Constitutional Bans on Same Sex Marriage

As people across the country celebrate pride month and the first same sex marriages in California, many LGBT advocates are preparing for their next challenge to marriage – constitutional bans. The measure will be on the ballot in California and Florida. As Sean Kinane reports from Tampa, opponents say Amendment 2 could take away the rights of opposite sex non-married couples as well.

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