August 1, 2008

  • Environmentalists Cautious About “New Era” of Energy Reform
  • Two Bills Make Way to President’s Desk
  • DHS Search And Seizure of Laptops Could Hurt Businesses
  • Hate Crimes on the Rise in LA County
  • Nepal’s Row over Language
  • NEW Feature Series: Rewind with the Pacifica Radio Archives

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Gulf Dead Zone Grows to 8000 Square Miles
The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico has grown this year to occupy 8000 square miles near the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, making it the second largest on record. The dead zone is an annual concentration of polluted ocean water with too little oxygen to support most forms of marine life. The leading cause is fertilizer runoff from agroindustrial operations along the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf. The fertilizers then spawn huge algae blooms which support an excess population of bacteria. As bacterial matter decays, oxygen is sucked out of surrounding waters, forcing marine life to flee. Scientists credit Hurricane Dolly with churning the gulf waters enough to keep this year’s dead zone from setting a new record.

5 Countries Meet to Weaken EU Soil Decontamination Rules
In other environmental news, representatives from Germany, France, the UK, Austria and the Netherlands are meeting to try to weaken a European Commission proposal that would require EU member states to identify and clean up sites polluted by industrial waste. Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin.

The European commission’s proposal required Member States to identify which sites were contaminated; to maintain a public list of these sites; and to say when they would clean them up. The bill also requires the identification of farm land at risk of degradation from erosion, landslides and soil salinity. However, if Germany, France, the UK, Austria and the Netherlands, have their way, contaminated soil in schools, playgrounds, hospitals and other public sites could remain polluted. France is holding unofficial talks to which only the five opposing countries have been invited, drawing criticism from environmental groups. France wants contaminated sites to be identified only when that site is sold, and is also calling for the list of sites not to be made public. Germany doesn’t want member states to be obliged to identify areas at risk of soil degradation or be required to rectify the situation. The European Environmental Bureau, a European-wide alliance of local green groups, has accused Germany, the Netherlands and Austria of bowing to pressure from farm lobby groups. Cinnamon Nippard, reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Berlin.

EPA Approves Air Permit for Controversial Power Plant on Navajo Land
The controversial Desert Rock Power Plant on the Navajo nation in nothern New Mexico is one step closer to construction after the Environmental Protection Agency announced the approval of an air permit for the coal-fired power plant. But as Leslie Clark reports, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has joined other state officials in disputing the permit.

In issuing the permit, the EPA contends that Desert Rock power plant would be one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the nation…but New Mexico’s Governor Richardson , the state attorney general , and the head of the state Environment Department call the permit “ill-advised”. The officials suggest the EPA and the power plant construction company, Sithe Global of Houston, cut a deal to evade judicial review of challenges to the plant. They also allege the EPA violated the Clean Air Act in issuing the permit. But Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. says the estimated $50 million in annual revenues to the tribe and the creation of thousands of jobs outweigh the environmental concerns. Many local residents and environmentalists say emissions from the power plant would threaten the health of the the people living in the Four Corners area, where two other coal-fired power plants are already operating. For FSRN, I’m Leslie Clark in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Verizon Workers Set Strike Deadline

Nearly 65,000 workers at Verizon in the Northeast are set to go on strike Saturday as contract negotiations have stalled, with the company demanding cutbacks to health benefits and the right to outsource despite its profits. Ari Paul has more in New York.

Verizon wants its workers to contribute more to health care costs and says it needs the flexibility to contract labor overseas. When the current contract expires Saturday at midnight, 65,000 workers at the telecom giant in five states are set to lay down tools to protect their benefits. Salvatore Incarbone is the vice president of Communications Workers of American Local 1109 and believes the company can afford to go without labor givebacks. (clip) “The company made, it was over 5.5 billion dollars in profits, now they want to cut our health care for our active and retired members, meanwhile these executives at the top they receive free health care as well. They’re contracting our jobs to overseas, which is another problem. We want our work to stay here in America.” Incarbone speculated that Verizon could still operate during a work-stoppage, albeit with slower service. The last strike at Verizon last 15 days in 2000. Ari Paul, FSRN, New York.

Trial Dates Set for Texas Border Fence Condemnation Suits
The Department of Homeland Security has been forced to compromise its plans to build a 18 foot high fence through the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville and its sister school, Texas Southmost College. The fence would have split campus and left the university’s riverside golf course on the south side of the barrier. The golf course is home to the remains of Fort Brown, the military outpost that gave Brownsville its name. Under the terms of a legal settlement approved yesterday, the university will renovate an existing fence and allow DHS to install cameras and sensors. Meanwhile, District judge Andrew Hanen set March 2009 trial dates for the DHS condemnation lawsuits against Rio Grande Valley property owners who have refused to give contractors access to their land to build the controversial fence. DHS had been operating under a timeline that called for the barrier to be in place by the end of the year.



Environmentalists Cautious About “New Era” of Energy Reform

As the Senate leaves on a five week recess, a bipartisan group of ten
senators came forward Friday morning with a proposal to both decrease
foreign dependence on oil and create new incentives for renewable
energy.  Evenly divided between parties, the group includes mainly
rural states, including the Dakotas as well as Georgia, Arkansas and
South Carolina. But environmental groups are hesitant to jump to
offshore drilling as a part of a plan for a “new era” in energy
reform.  Katharine Jarmul has more.

Two Bills Make Way to President’s Desk

Although Congress failed to agree on energy proposals as they left town
for five weeks, they are sending some bills to the President’s desk for
signature. One bill will double the amount of money given to Pell Grant
recipients from $4,000 to $8,000 by 2014. It will also simplify college
loan applications from more than 100 questions to a more simplified,
easy to read, two page questionnaire. The other piece of legislation
will increase money, oversight and regulatory authority to the federal
agency in charge of testing and recalling toys and consumer products.

DHS Search And Seizure of Laptops Could Hurt Businesses

US Customs & Border Protection agents can confiscate anyone’s
laptop computers or other electronic devices, search them out of the
owner’s sight and share the device’s contents with other federal
agencies and even with private groups who would assist with language
translation and data decryption. That’s according to the Department of
Homeland Security, which released a copy of these policies, which the
agency says have already been in place for some time. The searches of
electronic devices including hard drives, cell phones, iPods, and audio
tapes, can apply to anyone entering the country, including US citizens.
And agents can search books, pamphlets and other written materials. DHS
says it’s an effort to prevent terrorism. Senator Russ Feingold called
the policy “alarming” and digital privacy and civil liberties groups
are also raising concerns. There’s also opposition from business
groups. Ken Myer is the CEO of the Washington Technology Industry
Association, which represents some 1,000 businesses in Washington
State. He says the policy could have a chilling affect on companies
that conduct business abroad.

Hate Crimes on the Rise in LA County

Hate crimes in LA County rose by 28 % last year, according to the local
Human Relations Commission – and it’s not just the number of crimes
going up, but the incidents themselves are becoming more violent. Dan
Fritz has more on what some are saying is a national trend towards
rising hate crimes.

Nepal’s Row over Language

For the past week, there’s been a raging row over language has
disturbed public life in Nepal. The controversy started when its newly
elected vice president took his oath of office in Hindi, its neighbor
India’s official language. The protests that began last week brought up
centuries old tensions between the people of the hill regions and the
southern plains of Nepal. FSRN’s PC Dubey reports.

NEW Feature Series: Rewind with the Pacifica Radio Archives

This week, we start a new series on FSRN, featuring historic audio
preserved by the Pacifica Radio Archives. Once a week, we will rewind
some 40 years – and hear from the voices that shaped a movement for
change. We’ll hear from anti-war protests, raising the black fist at
the Olympics, the Chicago DNC, the assassinations of Martin Luther King
and Robert F. Kennedy, and a lot more… We kick off by hearing a portion
of a momentous interview between Congressman William F. Ryan and
General David M. Shoup – a decorated Marine Commander who served in
Vietnam, and returned to become one of the most vocal critics against
the war. For more information, go to

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