July 8, 2008

  • FISA Makes Its Way to the President’s Desk
  • War Powers Act Re-Write?
  • Former National Security Advisor on Iran, The US and Israel
  • Haitian Death Squad Leader on Trial in NY
  • G8 Reaches Accord on Global Warming
  • Small Communities in California Struggle to Cope with Fires

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Federal Reserve Chairmain Outlines Plans for Expanded Fed Powers

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke today laid out his vision for a more powerful Federal Reserve. Speaking at a Virginia forum on mortgage lending to low income borrowers, Bernanke outlined an expanded set of powers for the Fed, new regulations for the mortgage industry, and the extension of a program providing short term loans to investment banks. Kat Aaron reports.

The bulk of Bernanke’s address focused on what he called the near-bankruptcy of investment bank Bear Stearns in March of this year. The Federal Reserve had engineered the sale of Bear to JPMorgan, supporting the transaction with a 30 billion dollar loan. In an effort to stave off further crises, the Fed established an emergency program of short term loans to the remaining investment banks. The loan program, originally proposed as a six-month support for the turbulent markets, now looks likely to be extended past the end of the year. But some question the wisdom of the loan program, known as the Primary Dealer Credit Facility or PDCF, since the collateral for the loans is often the mortgage-backed securities whose dubious value has thrown global markets into crisis. The securities that backed the Fed’s 30 billion dollar loan to JPMorgan have already dropped more than a billion dollars in value since March. While these losses don’t yet require taxpayers to pony up cash, further devaluation of the securities could put the American public on the hook for a bailout. Chairman Bernanke also outlined new regulations for high cost and subprime loans, potentially putting the regulatory brakes on the era of expensive and sometimes predatory loans made to borrowers across the country. But this may be a case of too little too late. According to foreclosure listing service, RealtyTrac Inc, over 260,000 homes received foreclosure notices in May, up 48 percent from the same month last year. For FSRN, I’m Kat Aaron in New York.

Secretary Rice Signs Missile Shield Deal with Czech Republic
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Prague today to sign a controversial deal that would allow the Pentagon to install part of a missile shield system on Czech soil. The radar systems slated for the Czech Republic will work in conjunction with interceptor missiles based in Poland. The objective is to be able to shoot down incoming missiles in mid-air. Russia has opposed the US missile shield system from the start and the rhetoric between the two former Cold War rivals has at times sparked concerns of a new arms race. Public opinion polls have consistently shown the vast majority of Czechs do not want the radar system in their country.

African Leaders and G8 Officials Differ on Sanctions for Zimbabwe
African leaders and top officials from the world’s eight richest nations clashed today over proposed sanctions against Zimbabwe. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

G8 member nations have agreed to support limited sanctions on the Zimbabwean government following the controversial presidential run-off vote which extended President Robert Mugabe’s 28 year rule. G8 leaders have described the re-election of the Zimbabwean leader as a sham because of widespread violence against opposition supporters. Seven African leaders, who met today with G8 officials in Japan, reject the proposal of sanctions on Zimbabwe. The African leaders, including President Umaru Yar’Adua of Nigeria and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, say sanctions will only make the situation worse. The African Union concluded its most recent summit by calling on Mugabe and the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change to form a unity government. The Zimbabwean opposition has refused to form a unity government, saying it would do nothing to adress state-sponsored violence. The G8 has requested the United Nations Security Council take up the issue of sanctions and appoint an envoy to investigate the situation in Zimbabwe. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.

Preliminary Hearings for Gitmo Habeas Challenges
Attorneys for Guantanamo Bay detainees were in DC district court today for the preliminary hearings on how to move forward with some 200 challenges to the government’s policy of detaining prisoners without charge at the US naval base. The latest round of hearings comes after the Supreme Court ruled last month that Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge their detentions in US civilian courts.

Intelligent Design Evolves into Constitutional Challenge in Texas
In other legal news, the debate over the teaching of so-called Intelligent Design in public schools has come back to life in Texas. Ann Raber has the story from Austin.

Last year, the director the science curriculum at the Texas Education Agency, Chris Comer, was given the choice to resign or be fired from her job after she forwarded an email to friends and colleagues about an event on the problems of teaching so-called intelligent design in public schools. Her termination notice stated that she —violated the neutrality of the agency in regards to the teaching of intelligent design vs evolution. Chris Comer has now filed suit in federal district court against her former employer, alleging that she was fired for violating a policy that violates the first amendment of the US Constitution. The establishment clause, also known as the religion clause in the first amendment, states that congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the exercise thereof. Texas Observer magazine says the suit pits the religion clause against the neutrality policy of the Texas Education Agency. [clip] “The argument goes that the neutrality policy that the tea says it has is not in fact neutral, but is an endorsement of religion by a state body, and that comer was fired for opposing an unconstitutional policy. So, if this case moves forward it will basically be argued on constitutional grounds.” It’s unknown how far the suit will go, but Comer’s suit puts the issue of how Texas deals with the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools up for powerful scrutiny in federal court. For FSRN in Austin, this is Ann Raber.

Correction: Industrial Workers of the World
And a correction to yesterday’s newscast. In Monday’s headlines, a report on worldwide labor demonstrations against Starbucks referred to one of the unions behind the protests as the International Workers of the World. The correct name for the IWW is the Industrial Workers of the World.


FISA Makes Its Way to the President’s Desk

The FISA debate about the president’s warrant less wiretapping program may be coming to a close. After several delays by dissenting lawmakers, the Senate debated the issue today and are expected to pass a bill identical to the one passed by the House of Representatives in June. Approval from the Senate would send the bill to the White House – but depending on amendments, the President could veto the very bill he’s been waiting for. Tanya Snyder reports from Washington.


War Powers Act Re-Write?

A bi-partisan commission made up of former Secretaries of State is proposing changes to the War Powers Act – the statute used to seek approval for armed conflict. The Commission says the current law, implemented in 1973 is broken. We hear from Commission Co-Chairs and former Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and James Baker.


Former National Security Advisor on Iran, The US and Israel

In a speech to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards today, Supreme Leader Ali Shirazi said Iran will strike Tel Aviv, U.S. shipping in the Gulf and American interests around the world if it is attacked over its disputed nuclear activities. Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country would not stop enriching uranium. Today, G8 leaders repeated their call for an end to Iran’s program.


Haitian Death Squad Leader on Trial in NY

Emmanuel Toto Constant, a former Haitian death squad leader, is on trial today in a New York State Supreme Court charged with grand Larceny, forgery, and falsifying records. Haitian Human’s rights activists and supporters rallied outside Constant’s trial in Brooklyn to draw attention to his record, which includes crimes of murder, rape, arson and widespread terrorization of the Haitian People. Andalusia Knoll reports.


G8 Reaches Accord on Global Warming

Leaders of the world’s 8 most industrialized nations continue their annual summit today in Japan. To combat the global food crisis, leaders called on nations with excess food reserves to release some of their stockpiles and lift export restrictions. Expressing “grave concern” about the violence marred elections in Zimbabwe, G8 members warned of financial repercussions against individuals behind the violence. North Korea was urged to abandon nuclear weapons programs and encouraged to move forward in dialogue with Japan regarding abductions of Japanese civilians in the 1970s and 1980s. The heads of state also urged Iran to end its uranium enrichment activities.

After refusing to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, President Bush today joined key allies in pledging to try to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. The G8 – representing the world’s eight most industrialized nations – approved a plan aimed at spurring a new worldwide treaty to limit global warming. The plan acknowledges the need for the world to cut carbon emissions by at least 50 percent and for each nation to set its own target for a nearer term. Leaders noted a growing number of countries who consider nuclear power a viable means of attaining that goal. Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York at Old Westbury. He is also the author of Cover Up – What You Are Not Supposed to Know about Nuclear Power and other books about nuclear technology. We spoke with Grossman about whether a major shift to nuclear power would greatly reduce the carbon footprint of energy production – or not.


Small Communities in California Struggle to Cope with Fires

Wildfires have burned more than 600 thousand acres in Northern California. Firefighting efforts have claimed the life of one volunteer firefighter. State wide several communities have been evacuated; more than 40 homes have been destroyed. Some 200 National Guard troops are in the state to help in the fire fighting efforts. But sparse state resources have left some communities to fend for themselves. FSRN’s Christina Aanestad reports.

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