July 24, 2008

  • The Enron Loophole – Oil Speculation and Its Effect at the Pump
  • Housing Legislation – Help for Homeowners or Lifeline for Lenders?
  • Immigration Crackdowns Raise Legal and Humanitarian Questions
  • India’s Climate Plan – Why Should We Until You Do?
  • Indigenous Leaders  – Part 2

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EU Threatens Retaliatory Measure Over US Visa Requirements
The European Union has announced it will introduce retaliatory measures against US diplomats should the United States continue to refuse to lift its visa requirements for citizens of 12 EU states. Israel Rafalovich has more from Brussels.

As of January 1st of 2009, US diplomats will have to apply for a visa for travel to the European Union. The policy change is a reflection of EU frustration at the US government’s inaction on the issue of granting all European Union citizens visa-free travel to the United States. The European Commission says no tangible progress has been made despite the efforts of individual member states and the European Commission itself. At this time, citizens from 12 of the 27 member states need a visa to travel to the US. These include most of the ex-Communist countries that have joined the European Union since 2004 as well as Greece. The United States has instead initiated bi-lateral deals in which Eastern European countries would hand over passenger data in exchange for a promise of visa-waiver status. The US says countries can join its visa-waiver program once they have met specific security and migration requirements. EU states that have agreed to this include the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia. The European Commission has criticized the bi-lateral deals as a divide-and-conquer tactic that undermines the European Union’s data privacy laws. Israel Rafalovich, FSRN, Brussels.

Industry Groups Raise Opposition to Search and Seizures of Electronic Devices at Ports of Entry
A Technology Industry Association, representing 1,000 businesses in Washington State, has joined with other groups to oppose a US government policy that allows for the search and seizure of electronic devices at US airports and border crossings. Mark Taylor-Canfield has more from Seattle.

An investigative report published this week by the Seattle Times documents the cases a growing number of US business travelers who have been detained while customs officers search through their laptops and cellphones. According to the newspaper report, many of those who have been detained and questioned are Muslims or of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent. Ken Meyer, President and CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association says that the government’s policy has had a “chilling effect” on US companies doing business abroad. Meyer says the search and seizure of electronic devices can create a serious legal liability risk for business professionals who keep confidential and trademark information on laptops. The National Association of Corporate Travel Executives also opposes the policy that allows US Customs and Border Protection officers to search through and even copy information off of personal electronic devices. The Association’s Executive Director, Susan Gurley, told the Seattle Times that the Department of Homeland Security has refused to respond to questions regarding the government’s use of the information gathered from these searches, including who has access to it and how the data is stored. This is Mark Taylor-Canfield in Seattle for Free Speech Radio News.

Court Refuses to Hear Mumia Abu Jamal Appeal for New Trial
The US Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has rejected a petition submitted by the legal team of Death Row inmate and Free Speech Radio News Commentator, Mumia Abu Jamal. The legal team had requested that the full 9-judge panel hear Abu Jamal’s appeal for a new trial. His lawyers now plan to take their case to the Supreme Court.

Minimum Wage Hike Takes Effect – Already Overcome by Inflation
A federal minimum wage increase of 70 cents an hour took effect today. The new minimum hourly wage is $6.55 and represents the second of 3 increases according to a law passed last year. That law mandated the first minimum wage increase since 1997. The Department of Labor’s inflation adjustment calculator shows that the minimum wage of 1997 would now equal $7.02. That’s 47 cents an hour less than the new rate that took effect today.

Chamber of Commerce Campaigns Against Shareholder Activism
The US Chamber of Commerce is calling for curbs on the power of shareholders who seek to improve corporate governance through proposals at annual shareholder meetings. Francesca Rheannon of Corporate Watchdog Radio has the story.

The Chamber’s ire was sparked by a federal lawsuit brought by Harvard law professor and corporate governance expert Lucian Bebchuk. His suit against Electronic Arts, Inc. seeks a change in the company’s bylaws that would compel it to consider any lawful shareholder proposal, allow shareholders to vote on the proposal, and include information about it in proxy vote materials. The US Chamber of Commerce’s litigation center is urging the federal court to dismiss the suit. It claims Bebchuk’s suit violates SEC rules giving managers the right to decide whether or not to include shareholder proposals in the proxy materials companies send out to investors. The Chamber released a study this week claiming shareholder activism doesn’t improve stock prices. But, socially responsible investors called the study’s methodology “fatally flawed”. Bill Cunningham of Creative Investment Research criticized the report’s tiny sample of ten cherry-picked companies and its citation of academic research produced a decade ago. For FSRN, I’m Francesca Rheannon of Corporate Watchdog Radio.

Correction: National Security Archive is Based at George Washington University
And finally, a correction to yesterday’s headline on the petition to release all grand jury testimony from the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The petitioner, the National Security Archive, was mistakenly identified as being based at Georgetown University. The archive is located at George Washington University.



The Enron Loophole – Oil Speculation and Its Effect at the Pump

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a report that says some 90 billion barrels of oil and nearly a third of the world’s undiscovered natural gas sits untapped under an area north of the Arctic Circle. The USGS estimates about 84 percent of the undiscovered oil and gas is offshore, but most of it is still close enough to land to fall under national territorial claims.
In the US Senate today, political maneuvering continues as Republican legislators try to amend an Energy Bill aimed at cracking down on oil speculation. Democrats seek to grant the Commodities Futures Trading Commission – or the CFTC – more regulation authority. The CFTC oversees commodities trading. Republicans want to add numerous amendments – one of which would lift bans on offshore drilling and oil exploration. Republican’s rejected a Democratic proposal that would have  allowed them to vote on the offshore component.  The two sides disagree about the cause of the current fuel price crisis – Republicans say it’s supply and demand, Democrats blame the financial markets and speculation – or, The Enron Loophole. Joining us now to discuss these issues is Dr. Mark Cooper– Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America. Dr. Mr. Cooper, first – what is speculation?
That was Dr. Mark Cooper, of Research at the Consumer Federation of America.

Housing Legislation – Help for Homeowners or Lifeline for Lenders?

The Census Bureau reports that a record 18.6 million homes now stand vacant in the Unites States. As mortgage defaults continue to rise dramatically, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are in the final throes of completing legislation in AN attempt to slow down the number of foreclosures.  It’s taken months to craft the law – and the housing crisis continues to deepen.  There’s one more hurdle before the bill reaches a reluctant President’s desk — the objections of one Republican lawmaker who opposes the cost of the bill.  But, most are confident the measure will pass. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. “Housing is the bull’s-eye of our economic problems still. We’re not going to get us out of our economic morass until we solve housing.  This bill is a major step forward in decades and I’m glad we’re finally going to get to vote on it.”  Despite the bill’s long road to passage, critics say it’s a bail out for mortgage lenders, not the average homeowner. Africa Jones reports.

Immigration Crackdowns Raise Legal and Humanitarian Questions

Immigration officials in Ohio raided eight Mexican restaurants yesterday and detained 58 employees as part of a continuing crack down on undocumented workers. Recently, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in a Postville, Iowa left nearly 400 in jail or deported. Demonstrators on both sides of the immigration debate are due in Pottsville this Sunday. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration has looked into the matter and realized that two government agencies had different perspectives about the raids, resulting in questions about legality and humanity.  Karen Miller has more

India’s Climate Plan – Why Should We Until You Do?

The Indian government recently released its action plan for climate change. India is among the largest emitters of green house gases and the strategy document comes amid growing international pressure on India to set binding targets to reduce emissions. The action plan however makes no commitments on the issue. It reiterates India’s position that it believes in “common and differentiated responsibility” and therefore will wait for developed countries to cap their emissions – emissions that are several times higher. India’s action plan has drawn mixed reactions from environmental experts.
Bismillah Geelani has details.

Indigenous Leaders  – Part 2

North American Native rights advocates gathered for four days to discuss natural resources, extraction and pollution on native lands across the Americas.  As resource extracting companies and polluters like Exxon Mobile and Stericycle conduct dirty operations, some communities are fighting back. They’re creating alternatives to what they say is a destructive energy-hungry lifestyle.  Today Christina Aanestad wraps up a 2 part series on polluting industries on native lands, and how some communities are responding.

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