September 10, 2008

  • Responding to Haiti’s Hurricane Disaster
  • In India, Parents Organize Against Child Trafficking
  • Residents in Nevada and Utah Oppose Coal Plant
  • Getting Left Out of The Transition to Digital Television
  • Critics Say Some Bank Policies Discriminate Against the Poor

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Border Fence $400 Million Over Budget
The Bush Administration’s planned barrier along the US/Mexico border is falling far behind schedule and running $400 million over budget. Meanwhile, the so-called “virtual fence”, a high-tech monitoring system built by Boeing, has been put on hold. The multi-million dollar virtual fence project has been plagued by technical problems for several months. The White House is pushing to finish 670 miles of physical barriers along the southern border before President Bush leaves office. So far, only half of the fence has been completed.

Iowa AG Files Charges Against Postville Meatpacking Plant Executives
Iowa’s attorney general has filed a slew of criminal charges against the owners and top managers of Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville. In May, the plant was the site of one of the largest immigration raids in US history. The plant’s leadership now faces more than 9000 misdemeanor charges stemming from alleged child labor violations. An offical affidavit says that minors were made to work with dangerous meatpacking machinery that only adults can legally operate. All of the previous charges related to the Postville raid have exclusively targeted the detained workers.

CIW Signs Landmark Agreement with Whole Foods
In other labor news, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers can now claim one more victory in their campaign for better wages and working conditions in Florida’s tomato fields. Whole Foods Market signed an agreement yesterday in support of the farmworker group’s “Penny-per-Pound” Tomato Program. Andalusia Knoll has more.

Building on past victories against fast food giants McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, or CIW, have taken their campaign against modern day slavery in Florida’s tomato fields to the supermarket. Whole Foods Market has become the first national supermarket chain to agree to pay one penny more per pound for Florida-grown tomatoes. This additional penny will be passed on directly to the farmworkers, representing a significant increase in their long-stagnant salaries. Whole Foods currently has a written committment to buy quality products from developing countries that “provides more money to producers, ensures better wages and working conditions for workers and cares for the environment”. Whole Foods told the CIW they are exploring the possibility of expanding this guarantee to their domestic market. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers will continue to organize for better wages and working conditions by setting the sights of their “fair food” campaign on the Subway franchise. For Free Speech Radio News I’m Andalusia Knoll.

Civil Strife in Bolivia’s Resource Rich Provinces

In Bolivia, tensions between the national government and right-wing political leaders in the resource-rich eastern provinces have flared up again. Opposition groups in the provinces of Beni, Tarija and Santa Cruz led violent protests yesterday and took over government offices and airports. Leny Olivera has more from Cochabamba.

The protests were led by a group of businessmen and local politicians in Bolivia’s gas-rich regions who object to a government program that raises taxes on the natural gas industry in order to help fund a pension program for senior citizens. The right-wing demonstrators attacked and looted buildings housing the National Telecommunications Company, the National Institute of Agrarian Reform, and the National Taxation Service. They also blockaded roads and airports in Tarija and Beni. The national government says the opposition’s actions are a provocation aimed at making President Evo Morales declare emergency rule. Members of Bolivia’s powerful social movements began a blockade of the highway that connects the opposition-dominated province of Santa Cruz with Cochabamba, a province where support for the president runs high. Social movement leaders have also announced plans to march on foot from Oruro to La Paz to call on the Bolivian Congress to approve a nationwide referendum on a new constitution, something the opposition has tried to block. For FSRN, I’m Leny Olivera in Cochabamba.

Kucinich Renews Impeachment Effort
US Representative Dennis Kucinich has announced a new phase of his mission to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney: a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Kucinich says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s goal is to bring about accountability and to create a process for future Presidents should he or she operate outside the realm of the constitution. FSRN caught up with the Ohio Representative in the halls of Congress. [Kucinich] “Tomorrow is going to be the 7th remembrance of 9-11 and yet the very government that took us into the war against Iraq and keeps us in war against Iraq hasn’t been held accountable for the fact that they took us into a war based on lies. Impeachment has always been about accountability and it remains about accountability.” Kucinich plans to offer this proposal to Congress before the end of the year. He has tried, and failed, to begin impeachment proceedings three times in the past two years.


Responding to Haiti’s Hurricane Disaster
Hurricane Ike took its toll in Haiti this weekend – the small nation
has been ravaged by four brutal storms in as many weeks, leaving about
650,000 people stranded, and claiming some 600 lives. Haiti has yet to
recover from April’s food riots, a result of demonstrations against
rising basic food prices that turned violent – and women and children
are some of the hardest hit. As aid workers attempt to make their way
to help with relief efforts, they are finding that essential
infrastructure such as roads and bridges have literally been washed
away. We hear from Diana Duarte, Media Coordinator for MADRE, and
international human rights organization…

In India, Parents Organize Against Child Trafficking
Thousands of people in India go missing every year without a trace.
Activists believe a vast network of human traffickers operates in India
making the nation the source, destination, and transit country for men,
women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and
commercial sexual exploitation. Now family members of missing children
have begun organizing – and amidst worries that their children may have
fallen prey to human traffickers, parents are on an indefinite sit-in
in New Delhi. Bismillah Geelani has the story.

Residents in Nevada and Utah Oppose Coal Plant
Residents of Nevada and Utah are waiting for the Bureau of Land
Management to release a report for a proposed coal-fired power plant.
As Jon Pike reports, the controversy over this plant has highlighted
the debate on safe and alternative energy in the Southwest.

Getting Left Out of The Transition to Digital Television
A 50 city tour kicks off today in Oakland – organized by the Federal
Communications Commission on the transition to digital television.  The
FCC is conducting a massive outreach effort to tell people that on
February 17, as many as 19 million people who do not have cable or
satellite, will need a digital converter box for their television to
work.  Wilmington, North Carolina was the pilot city, where residents
underwent the switch Monday.  FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell spoke with
Jonathan Adelstein, Commissioner on the Federal Communications
Commission, about those who are left out of the digital transition.

Critics Say Some Bank Policies Discriminate Against the Poor
Across the country, several national banks require thumbprints from
customers before providing services. While some banks claim that this
prevents fraud, public-interest advocates criticize the policy as a way
of criminalizing the poor. They also suggest that thumb printing is a
way of discouraging non-account holders from using the bank. From New
York City, Zoe Sullivan takes a look at Chase Bank branch, which
requires 2 forms of ID and a thumb print before they’ll cash a check.

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