September 16, 2008

  • Constitutional Referendum Divides Bolivia
  • South American Leaders Back Evo Morales
  • Burmese Children Seek Education over the Border
  • Financial Crisis Takes its Toll
  • Washington Strikes Out on a New Energy Bill

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Bush Visits Gulf Coast in the Aftermath of Ike

President Bush was in the Gulf Coast today to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Ike’s collision with Galveston Island and the city of Houston. Rachel Clarke has more.

The death toll from Hurricane Ike has risen to at least 27 people. Four days after the storm, millions of Gulf Coast residents remain without power. Tens of thousands are scattered in private homes and temporary shelters across the state. Galveston Island has been declared uninhabitable and authorities there are unsure when residents will be able to return. The Bush Administration’s reaction to Hurricane Ike has been much more rapid than the response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Houston is the hub of the domestic oil industry and many important financial institutions maintain large operations here. Nearly half of the city of Houston remains without electricity. The few gas stations that do have fuel and electricity for the pumps to operate have long lines and are heavily guarded by police. Authorities say they expect the city’s 9pm to 6am curfew to remain in effect for another week. Reporting from Houston, I’m Rachel Clarke Free Speech Radio News.

This Year’s Ozone Hole Larger Than 2007’s

The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica has grown to surpass its peak size in 2007. The most recent measurements indicate the hole now covers an area of nearly 17 million square miles. This year’s Antarctic ozone hole is still growing and is expected to reach its maximum size sometime between late September and early October.

Greenpeace Announces New Company Ranking for Greener Guide to Electronics
Greenpeace reports that five leading electronics manufacturers are making significant progress in improving their environmental practices. Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin.

Since releasing it’s first Guide to Greener Electronics in 2006, Greenpeace has been assessing and rating major electronics brands according to the toxic chemicals used in their products and how they deal with electronic waste. Greenpeace demands that manufacturers phase out hazardous chemicals like PVC and brominated flame retardents, improve the energy efficiency of their products, and provide convenient and proper recycling. Martin Hojsik, Toxics Campaigner, from Greenpeace International: [Hojsik] “Nokia regained its first position after the penalty point was lifted because the testing in India revealed that the take-back systems are – as Nokia promised – are fully working – what was not the case before. What we saw as well is the growth of Fujitsu-Siemens which now is at 3rd place because the company gave timelines for the elimination for brominated flame retardants and PVC”. Apple has also promised to phase out these hazardous chemicals by the end of 2008, but Greenpeace remains disappointed with the intentionally short lifespan of Apple’s iPod batteries. Cinnamon Nippard, reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Berlin.

Internal Fighting in Gaza
Twelve people were killed in Gaza City today when Hamas police forces battled with members of a powerful local clan. Rami Almeghari reports.

Most of those killed during today’s raid were members of Gaza’s large Doghmush clan. Medical sources say a child was among the dead and some 40 others were wounded. The Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza says the fighting began yesterday when a police squad attempted to arrest three members of the Dughmosh clan who are suspected of a series of crimes, including last year’s kidnapping of BBC reporter, Alan Johnston. A police spokesman said the raid did not target the clan itself, but rather specific criminal suspects. Police carried out a similar raid in late July against the influential Helles clan. That raid claimed the lives of 11 people, including two policemen. Meanwhile, Israel has closed Gaza’s crossings for the second day in a row in response to Palestinian homemade rocket fire targeting nearby Israeli areas. Hamas and Israel agreed to an Egyptian-mediated truce deal in June. The agreement stated that Israel would gradually lift its blockade of Gaza if Palestinian armed factions stopped firing rockets into Israel for a period of six months. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Rami Almeghari in Gaza.

Nicaraguan Priest Assumes Presidency of UN General Assembly
A Maryknoll priest from Nicaragua assumed the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly today. Nan McCurdy has more from Managua.

The new president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel D’Escoto, was the Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister during the US-sponsored Contra War of the 1980s. D’Escoto was one of four priests in the Sandinista government. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, D’Escoto said that he plans to lead a General Assembly whose resolutions are taken seriously, saying (quote) “The United Nations is potentially the most important organization in the world and the only one that can rescue the planet from the swamp of insane egotism and set us on course to construct a better one.” D’Escoto wants to see major reforms to the structure of the UN Security Council because – in his words – it has “become a refuge for those who systematically violate with impunity the principles of the United Nations charter”. D’Escoto’s term at the helm of the General Assembly will last one year. For FSRN in Managua, I’m Nan McCurdy.


Constitutional Referendum Divides Bolivia
Massive unrest in four of Bolivia’s eastern provinces has taken the country to the edge of collapse in the past three weeks. Violence has claimed the lives of at least 30 people in the Pando province – whose local government belongs to the established right wing, which is in direct opposition to President Evo Morales’ plan for a referendum in January. That referendum could result in a new constitution which will benefit the country’s mostly indigenous peasants. Today, FSRN will examine the crisis from inside Bolivia and then go to Santiago, Chile, where South American political leaders met to condemn the violence and support Bolivia’s president. First, Leny Olivera and Aldo Orellana report from Cochabamba.

South American Leaders Back Evo Morales
And now we turn to Chile where the recently created Union of South American Nations, or UNASUR, offered strong backing Monday to Bolivian President Evo Morales. South American leaders met in an emergency in Santiago. As FSRN’s Jorge Garretón reports from the Chilean capital, the leaders pledged to defend their democracies.

Burmese Children Seek Education over the Border
More and more Burmese children are leaving their families and illegally crossing the border into Thailand in the hope of gaining an education. The repressive Burmese military regime spends one of the lowest amounts of money on health care and education in the world. Even basic education is very expensive. So children as young as five are making the journey into Thailand in the hope of getting a free education at schools run by exiled Burmese. Rebecca Henschke visits one such school in the border town of Mae Sot, where nearly 3,000 students are living and studying.

Financial Crisis Takes its Toll
The instability of financial markets is surmounting: economists are monitoring insurance giant AIG, which could file for bankruptcy. The fed is meeting with AIG and a handful of banks and has so far left the door open for some type of financial support. After two days of market turmoil since Lehman Brothers announced it would file for bankruptcy Sunday, FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell takes a look at how the market’s effects could impact you and what the Presidential candidates say they’re going to do about it.

Washington Strikes Out on a New Energy Bill
House Democrats are hoping to pass a comprehensive energy bill today, after weeks of debate and back and forth between the parties. The bill will include limited offshore drilling as well as increases in funding for renewable energy sources and tax credits for consumers who invest in renewable energy.  Despite the drilling initiatives, many Republicans oppose the bill, saying it puts too many limits on drilling, and that it is not a real solution to the energy crisis. In hard economic times, many are wondering how long it will take Congress to create an energy plan that works. FSRN’s Katherine Jarmul has more.

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