December 12, 2008

  • Auto Industry Bailout Update
  • Workers Vote to Unionize at Smithfield’s Tar Heel plant
  • Bi-Partisan Committee Says Rumsfeld to Blame for Detainee Abuse
  • Human Rights Week Series: New York’s Domestic Workers
  • Human Rights Week Series: Justice for Brazil’s Victims of Dictatorship
  • Some Discouraged at UN Climate Change Conference
  • French Media Activists Caution Against Sarkozy’s Reforms

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Plans to Expand DNA Database Draw Protests from Civil Liberties Groups
A new policy published by the Justice Department authorizes law enforcement to collect DNA samples of all people arrested for federal crimes as well as detained non-citizens.  Sam Greenspan has more from DC.
The National DNA Index System, or CODIS, currently contains DNA from more than 6.2 million individuals.  The Congressionally authorized expansion of CODIS could increase the number of DNA samples by 1.2 million – or about 20% – every year.  Authorities want the additional data to help solve crime.  But civil rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, question if solely getting arrested or being questioned about immigration status is probable cause for taking a DNA sample.  Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights found a similar practice in Britain to be A violation of personal privacy.  The incoming Obama administration will determine how proactive DNA collection will actually be.  The rule-change goes into effect on January 9th.  In Washington, I’m Sam Greenspan.

New Bush Administration Rule Weakens Endangered Species Act
In another last-minute rule change – the Bush Administration has gone after 35-year old regulations in the Endangered Species Act.  The rule, finalized Thursday, eliminates mandatory independent scientific review on projects such as power plants and dams.  It also says that environmentalists and other groups cannot use the argument that a project endangers animals because it contributes to global climate change.  Interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne argued –quote “Nothing in this regulation relieves a federal agency of its responsibilities to ensure that species are not harmed.”  But environmentalists see this as a further erosion of endangered species protections.

Bus Accident Kills 25 Students in Nepal

Today at least 25 school children died in a fatal accident in southern Nepal when an overcrowded bus skidded off a bridge and fell 75 feet into a riverbed.  PC Dubey reports.
The children were returning home after a picnic in the famous Chitwan tiger reserve.  In addition to the deaths, over 60 schoolgirls and their teachers were badly injured and are undergoing treatment.  But hospital sources fear the death toll could rise because some are seriously injured and not responding to treatment.  Eyewitnesses say the bus driver became inebriated at the school picnic and was driving rashly.  He was able to jump off the bus before it fell into the river.   Social activists belonging to the group “No Alcohol in Public” say bus accidents kill over 2000 people annually in Nepal. They blame drunk driving for many of the accidents. The groups seek a ban on driving while inebriated that includes harsh penalties for violators.  From Birganj in Nepal, I am PC Dubey.

Greek PM Refuses to Call Early Elections
Following a week of violent protests, today the Greek Prime Minister rejected calls for a national election.  PM Costas Karamanlis cited the need for steady leadership during the global economic crisis.  Protesters clashed with police once again today in Athens.

Massive Subway Strike Paralyzes Buenos Aires
Subway workers in Argentina went on strike today, shutting down commuter services. FSRN’s Marie Trigona files this report from Buenos Aires.
The workers shut down Buenos Aires subway lines to protest what they call fraudulent union elections. The shut-down began early this morning and affected nearly a million commuters.  By early afternoon, police had removed striking workers from subway stations and supervisors took over operation of the trains.  Meanwhile, thousands from center-left union federations held marches against hunger today in cities throughout Argentina. Unemployed workers, also known as piqueteros, joined the protests – blocking a major access bridge into Buenos Aires. Organizers are calling for a government-implemented redistribution of wealth. For Free Speech Radio News I’m Marie Trigona in Buenos Aires.

Police Shooting Decision Draws Fire in Montreal
In Montreal, tempers are flaring yet again about a police shooting death of a teenager last August, and refusal of the prosecutors to bring any charges against the officer involved. FSRN’s Aaron Lakoff has more.
Last Friday, Quebec Crown prosecutors announced there will be no charges against Montreal police officer Jean-Loup Lapointe.  Lapointe shot and killed 18 year-old Freddy Villanueva in a park in Montreal’s impoverished north end last August. For Villanueva’s family and supporters, this was just another blow in the case, and sparked a large public outcry this week. In response, the Coalition Against Repression and Police Abuse, a group that formed in response to Villanueva’s death, is holding a rally tomorrow in the very park where the young man was killed.  The shooting death on August 9th led to an entire day of fierce riots in the neighborhood. With 43 people killed by police in Montreal since 1987, many are now questioning the standard procedure of having investigations handed over to outside police forces following deadly incidents.  This is Aaron Lakoff reporting for FSRN from Montreal.


Auto Industry Bailout Update

Let the finger pointing begin: Republicans and the autoworker’s union are blaming each other after Congress came to an impasse on the industry bailout. But President Bush and the Treasury may step in and issue the Big Three some $15 billion dollars from TARP funds to avoid an industry collapse. Karen Miller reports from Capitol Hill.

Workers Vote to Unionize at Smithfield’s Tar Heel Plant

After a 14-year-long fight for unionization, meat packing workers in North Carolina approved representation with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The vote was 2041 to 1879. Workers and labor advocates have battled with Smithfield management for more than a dozen years to get better working conditions, often under intense and intimidating circumstances. During a previous union vote, the company used local law enforcement to intimidate workers and union supporters. Meanwhile, workers complained of ongoing threats to their safety and the company’s repeated refusal to compensate workers for injuries on the job. FSRN producer Catherine Komp traveled to Tar Heel last year to interview workers and labor advocates. UFCW’s Eduardo Peña told her that unionization for Smithfield workers could be significant for workers throughout the South.

Bi-Partisan Committee Says Rumsfeld to Blame for Detainee Abuse

The bi-partisan Senate Armed Services Committee has issued a report that blames former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for abuses committed by U.S. soldiers against detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The report says that Rumsfeld and other top Bush officials are directly responsible for worse abuse in Abu Ghraib and beyond. Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican John McCain of Arizona issued the report, which argues that Defense Department officials falsely denied that Rumsfeld’s policies resulted in detainee abuse. Christopher Anders is Legislative Counsel at the ACLU – he explains some of the abuse detainees were subjected to as a result of these policies.

Human Rights Week Series: New York’s Domestic Workers

It’s Friday, and we begin wrapping up our week-long series commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by taking a look at two issues today: workers rights here in the United States and the struggle to bring justice to victims of a brutal dictatorship. First, we’ll go to New York, where children of domestic workers and those raised by nannies recently got together at the steps of City Hall to express support for those who are raising them. The children and their families are calling on NY State lawmakers to pass a Bill of Rights first introduced to the state legislature in 2004. The bill was issued by Domestic Workers United, a membership-based organization fighting for power, respect, and fair labor standard for domestic workers. FSRN’s Christine Lewis reports from New York.
That was Christine Lewis, a domestic worker and reporter working in New York City. Lewis is also a member of the Domestic Workers Union, interviewed in this story.

Human Rights Week Series: Justice for Brazil’s Victims of Dictatorship

We know head to Brazil – known around the world for its Carnival, beaches and soccer stars. Yet many forget that just a few decades ago, the country was ruled by a brutal military dictatorship. And as people around the world mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Brazilians are also commemorating the 40th anniversary of the passage of Institutional Act #5, which essentially legalized torture and the death penalty in Latin America’s largest country.  Mike Fox has more from Brazil.

Some Discouraged at UN Climate Change Conference

Meetings are wrapping up at the UN Climate Change conference in Poland, where representatives from 185 countries are negotiating the basis for a new agreement on climate change after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. As FSRN’s Natalia Viana reports, scientists are discouraged with the slow pace of the discussions.

French Media Activists Caution Against Sarkozy’s Proposed Reforms

In France, President Nicholas Sarkozy is attempting public television and radio reforms – that’s drawing sharp criticism from left wing opposition parties and media professionals. The law will enable the president to appoint general directors of public radio and TV channels. Media activists fear the reform will place them under stronger financial control of the state. Raphaël Krafft has more from Paris.

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