August 20, 2008

  • US, Poland Move Forward on Missile Defense Shield
  • How Accurate is the Defense Shield?
  • Teens Working to Improve Food in Inner-city LA
  • Political Conventions: Brought to You by Corporate America
  • Street Beat: Tackling Poverty

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Madrid Plane Crash Kills Dozens
As many as 146 people are feared dead after a commercial airplane veered off the runway of Madrid’s Barajas international airport. The plane caught fire after it crashed near the end of the runway with a full tank of fuel. A rescue official told the Associated Press that only 26 people survived. The crash comes at the height of Spain’s vacation season. The plane was headed for the Canary Islands with 172 people aboard. Reports of an engine fire are under investigation.

Judge Rules No Fly List Lawsuit Can Proceed

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has given the green light to a lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration’s no fly list. Africa Jones reports.

Tuesday’s ruling reversed a lower court decision and will allow Rahinah Ibrahim to pursue a lawsuit against TSA claiming a violation of her constitutional rights and discrimination. Ibrahim, a citizen of Malasia, was a Stanford doctoral student on her way to an architectural conference when she was stopped at San Francisco International Airport, handcuffed and questioned for several hours because her name is on the list. Marwa Elzankaly a Partner at McNanis Faulkner represents Ibrahim: [clip] “There is no basis whatsoever to put her name on any kind of list or for arresting her. The only basis that we can think of is very likely her religious and national background. That, in and of itself, is of course racial profiling and it’s unconstitional. Certain people have found there name on the list where there’s no reason for their name to be on the list, and I can certainly tell you that that is the case for my client. And that just illustrates the problems with allowing our government to profile people and to target them and put their name on a list and make things difficult for them in traveling and other ways, without giving them any kind of notice that they are being targeted or any opportunity to challenge that.” Earlier this year, the inspector general of the Department of Justice reported that the government received inaccurate and incomplete information for the nation’s terrorism watchlist for years from the FBI. The American Civil Liberties Union estimates over a million names are currently on the list. For FSRN, I’m Africa Jones.

DHS Expands Database to Track Land Border Crossings
The US government is tracking the land border crossings of foreigners and citizens alike – and storing the information for years in an expanding database. The Washington Post reports on its front page today that the data collected by Customs and Border Protection may be shared with other law enforcement agencies and could be used in separate criminal or intelligence investigations. The movements of air travelers into or out of the US have for years been subject to tracking, but the Department of Homeland Security only began registering land border crossings this year. The database will retain travel data on US citizens for 15 years, whereas personal information on non-citizens will be kept for 75 years. The Washington Post reports that DHS has requested that the government exempt its database from parts of the Privacy Act of 1974.

German Scandal Over Data Trafficking
Meanwhile in Germany, the illegal trade in private data has created a national scandal and sparked demands for tighter controls on access to personal information. Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin.

The sale of personal information has become a lucrative business in Germany. Not only have the addresses of the entire German population become a marketable commodity, but also the bank account details of up to 20 million people. That’s according to Thilo Weichert, data commissioner of the German state, Schleeswig-Holstein, where the scandal first came to light. There are now calls for a general ban on the trade of personal data – especially after the German Federation of Consumer Agencies revealed that it was able to purchase the data of 6 million citizens – including bank account details – for 850 euros, or roughly 1200 dollars. Call centers and lottery firms are suspected of trading such data and investigations are currently underway. This scandal comes at a time when the German government has been trying to weaken data protection laws under the auspices of fighting crime and terrorism. Now there are calls for tougher protection for Germany’s citizens. Cinnamon Nippard, reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Berlin.

Tenants’ Rights Challenged by Landlord Lawsuit
A landlord lobbying group in New York has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn landmark city legislation passed in March aimed to help tenants fight landlord harassment in court. Ari Paul reports from New York.

The Rent Stabilization Association’s lawsuit filed this week would undo the rights established by the Tenant Protection Act, which allows renters to take landlords to court if they experience harassment meant to get them to vacate. Elected officials and activists rallied at City Hall Tuesday to support the city’s legal battle. Marc Greenberg is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing and says harassment is a chronic problem in the city. [clip] “Either it’s a matter of not fixing the front doors, withholding heat and hot water, not repairing electrical problems…All these things happen, a landlord can be very creative. Not all landlords are doing this but it’s sad to me that the landlords that are ethical are standing up to support the ones that aren’t.” Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James said she is confident the court will dismiss the suit. In New York, this is Ari Paul for FSRN.

Carbon Sequestration Not as “Clean” as Touted
Burying carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants could cause more pollution from other sources, according to a new study published in Science News. Francesca Rheannon has more.

The practice is called carbon capture and storage. It’s been hailed as the solution to greenhouse gas emissions by the coal power industry. But it takes energy to bury the CO2. Along with new chemical processes, that could cause more acid rain and water pollution. Ken Caldeira says there’s an even bigger problem. He’s an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University. [clip] “Coal, with carbon capture and storage requires some kind of energy police, some kind of regulatory agency that’s watching the plant and making sure that when the inspector looks the other way, that the CO2 is not just vented to the atmosphere. In contrast, with conservation or solar or wind, you don’t need that policing because there’s no opportunity to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” Caldeira says there’s no free lunch in energy production — all methods have some environmental costs. But renewables are free of dirty emissions…and dirty money. For FSRN, I’m Francesca Rheannon of Corporate Watchdog Radio in Amherst, Massachusetts.



US, Poland Move Forward on Missile Defense Shield

Poland and the United States signed a deal today to begin construction on a missile defense shield; making a political declaration on strategic cooperation between Poland and the US in the case of an attack from a third country. A preliminary deal was signed by US and Polish negotiators in Warsaw last Thursday finalizing 18 months of delayed negotiations. Danuta Isler reports from Warsaw.

How Accurate is the Defense Shield?

The Bush Administration’s Missile Defense Shield program faces controversy from some scientists and researchers questioning the billions spent on technology that has regularly failed. The non-partisan research group, the Center for Defense Information points out that US missile defense tests conducted since 1999 only worked half of the time, and under heavily scripted circumstances that didn’t reflect real world scenarios. Victoria Samson, is a Senior Analyst with the Center. FSRN spoke to Samson by cell phone, outside a conference in Ithaca, NY.

Teens Working to Improve Food in Inner-city LA

Another historic public health policy was signed into law earlier this month, with the specific goal of ridding Los Angeles’ poorer south side of chronically unhealthy eating habits. The new law places a one-year ban on new fast food restaurants within a 32-square mile region of the city, and was passed unanimously by the City Council, marking what some supporters have deemed the end to a so-called “food apartheid.” According to the LA Department of Public Health, nearly 30% of south side residents can be classified as “obese,” compared to 19% of the citywide population – and only 14% of wealthier west side residents. While several community organizers are pushing to introduce farmers’ markets and other food alternatives to the area, the move toward healthier eating is being met with mixed sentiment amongst south side residents, with many worrying about how this new ban will affect them financially. FSRN caught up with Jessica Orellana, Liliana Pineda and Sinai Santizo – three teens that are working to bring affordable healthy food into Baldwin Park and South LA.

Political Conventions: Brought to You by Corporate America

The political conventions are not only a time to coronate the party’s nominee, but also a time for corporations to get in with the Washington establishment. As Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, it takes a lot of money to put on a convention, and most of it is being paid for by corporate America.

Street Beat: Tackling Poverty

A forum to tackle poverty is taking place in La Jolla, California this week. The Workshop on Innovative Strategies to Reduce Poverty gathers academics, public officials and non-profit sectors around the theme of poverty alleviation – on this week’s Street Beat, we hear from some of those in attendance about taking poverty head-on.

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