December 18, 2008

  • Obama Names Financial Regulatory Chief
  • Progressives Push for Specific Stimulus
  • Food Banks Struggle During Hard Economic Times
  • Healthcare Victory for Some Low Income
  • Utah to Support Same Sex Unions?
  • India Close to Passing Anti-Terror Law
  • Advocates Celebrate Migrants Day but Remember Struggle that Continues

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Chrysler to Close US Plants for a Month
Chrysler will close down all 30 of its auto plants in the US for at least a month beginning tomorrow.  Normally, automakers only shut down for two weeks at the end of the year.  The company says it needs to scale back production to match the current low demand for its vehicles.  Ford says it will shut down for a week longer than usual as well.

Ex-Rwandan Defense Minister Convicted of Genocide
More than 10 years after the Rwandan genocide, A UN court has convicted Theoneste Bagosora on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.   Bagosora, who appeared at the International Criminal Tribunal in Tanzania, was the Minister of Defense and issued orders for the slaughter of 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.  He is considered to be the primary organizer of the genocide.  The court sentenced Bagosora to life in prison.

Argentina Approves Airline Nationalization
Argentina’s Senate voted to renationalize the country’s largest airline. The vote finalizes the government’s plans to seize the troubled air carrier. FSRN’s Marie Trigona reports from Buenos Aires.

The formerly state-owned Aeorlineas Argentina was privatized in 1990, but the government says mismanagement has put the carrier into nearly 900 million dollars in debt.  The airline has also been plagued with industrial disputes and flight cancellations, and has been seeking a government bailout to battle bankruptcy.  Yesterday’s senate vote gives the Argentine government final go-ahead to take control of the airline from its private Spanish owners. The Spanish owners, a travel group called Marsans, have complained to the Washington-based International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.  But because the government holds the airline’s debt, it is unlikely it will be able to reverse the nationalization decision. For Free Speech Radio News I’m Marie Trigona in Buenos Aires.

UK Direct Action Law Could Face Challenge
After a British jury acquitted 5 protesters earlier this year of criminal damage, activists hailed the decision as a victory for democracy. But now the government is trying to overturn the jury’s verdict and change the law governing direct action. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

Five Greenpeace activists were charged with criminal damage after scaling a power station chimney in protest of plans for new coal fired power stations.  A jury accepted their argument that they had ‘lawful excuse’ to damage the plant because it would prevent further from global warming. Protester Ben Stewart gave his reaction outside the court:

‘This verdict marks I think a tipping point for the climate change movement when 12 normal people say that it is legitimate for a direct action group to shut down a coal fired power station because of the harm it does to the planet.”

But the attorney general now wants to refer cases to the Court of Appeal to “clarify a point of law.” If she’s successful, the “lawful excuse” defense may be thrown out. Lawyers say this is a cynical attempt to undermine the jury’s decision. They’re calling on the government make changes to the law publicly through Parliament rather than through the back door.  This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

Bronx Residents Protest New Jail
A proposal to build a new jail in the nation’s poorest congressional district has drawn widespread protests.  Opponents from the South Bronx community of Hunts Point say there are better ways to spend the city’s money.  From New York City, Rob Robinson reports.

Outside NYC Hall, protesters questioned the city’s plan to spend $500 million on a new jail in the South Bronx.  Tanya Fields is a member of Bronx-based Mothers on the Move, one of 19 groups protesting the new jail.

“If we allow another correctional facility to be placed in a community that is already over burdened we are not going to be able to achieve any of our individual goals.”

The plan for a new jail comes amid significant city budget cuts – most recently affecting subway riders, fire fighters and child protection workers.  Opponents like fields say the city should allow more time for public input on spending priorities.

“What needs to happen now is that there needs to be a stronger and more mobilization and possibly some city wide attention given to this because what is affecting the South Bronx is going to affect us city-wide.”

Members of a coalition called Community in Unity want the mayor to fund alternatives to incarceration.  And they say the South Bronx has other pressing problems, like environmental pollution, that need more attention.  For FSRN, I’m Rob Robinson.

Maricopa County Activists Arrested at Public Meeting
Sheriff’s deputies arrested four members of Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability at a County Board meeting yesterday morning.  The Arizona organization opposes the methods and policies of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Arpaio is know for his unyielding stance on illegal immigration and overseeing jails with deplorable conditions.  The four were asked to leave the meeting after cheering for those giving public comment. When they spoke out or were perceived to hesitate, deputies arrested them.  The activists are being charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing.  Member of Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability have been speaking out against the Sheriff at public county meetings for six months now.



Obama Names Financial Regulatory Chief

Prioritizing the importance of the economy, President elect Barack Obama announced key posts to regulatory agencies that oversee the financial industry.  During his announcement he gave a scathing critique as he spoke about the fraud Securities and Exchange Commission regulators overlooked in the case of Bernard Madoff.

ACT: OBAMA (:48)

Obama named Mary Shapiro to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. She will be the first woman Chair. She is a former SEC commissioner under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. She was former Chair of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission under President Clinton. She is labeled regulator as she has been an oversee-er of the financial industry in some capacity for the past two decades, also at a time when the financial markets have seen the largest de-regulation since the early 1900’s. Obama said that re-structuring and re-regulating the financial industry will be one of his top priorities as president.

Progressives Push for Specific Stimulus
As for his other priority – fixing the economy, President-elect Barack Obama is planning an economic stimulus package worth up to 850 billion dollars, according the Associated Press. The programs will be New Deal-esque. It will focus on highway, mass transit, broadband, energy, and school infrastructure, meant to create new jobs and update current dilapidated or lagging infrastructure.  As the details are falling into place, progressive groups are working to make sure their concerns are heard. They want to make sure the basics are covered… jobs, food and shelter. FSRN’s Karen Miller reports.

Food Banks Struggle During Hard Economic Times
As Karen Miller reported, advocates for the hungry think the economic stimulus must be centered around access to food.  Especially as the number of people seeking food aid continues to rise. More people are visiting food banks as the economy continues to fall. As the annual Homelessness and Hunger survey released by the US conference of Mayors found, cities are struggling to keep up. Africa Jones reports.

Healthcare Victory for Some Low Income

Soaring healthcare costs in a sinking economy continues to be a growing problem across the country.  This is especially true for low-wage workers.  For Houston janitors, though, things are looking up.  Two years after mostly immigrant women with the Service Employees International Union won a contract on the heels of a month-long strike, they now have their own clinic.  Reporting from Houston, Rachel Clarke brings us the latest on this healthcare victory.

Utah to Support Same Sex Unions?

While protests over the passage of Proposition 8 in California continue. Supporters in Utah are acting in solidarity with protests at the Mormon Temple. The Mormon Church was a large funder of the anti-gay marriage measure passed by voters in California in November. But as Jon Pike reports, there’s another issue
affecting gay people and their advocates in Utah that has been flying under the radar, the possibility of same sex civil unions in that conservative state.

India Close to Passing Anti-Terror Law
In reaction to the deadly attacks in Mumbai last month, the Indian Parliament is close to passing two anti-terror laws. One law would respond to such acts with harsh jail sentences and the other law would set up an agency, modeled after the United State’s FBI.  While there’s a near consensus among the political parties in India, human rights activists say the provisions of the law violate human rights. Bismillah Geelani has more from New Dehli.

Advocates Celebrate Migrants Day but Remember Struggle that Continues
Today is International Migrants Day – developed by the United Nations to draw attention to the plight of some 200 million migrants around the world. Prasad Kariyawasam is the former chair for the Committee on Migrant Workers. He says in this globalizing world, the number of people moving across borders is increasing exponentially. He said this phenomenon should be looked at in a “humane” manner.

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