December 23, 2008

  • Massive Coal Sludge Spill Spreading in Tennessee
  • Feds Convict Five of Fort Dix Conspiracy
  • Philadelphia Residents Fighting Library Closures
  • Homeless in the Cold: Canada’s Winter Means Death on the Streets for Some
  • Egyptian Women in Parliament Pushing Quota System
  • Christmas in Bethlehem: Tension Over Tourism

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Coup Attempt in Guinea
Soldiers in Guinea staged a coup attempt today following the death of the West African nation’s president, Lansana Conte. Earlier today those attempting the coup announced on state radio that the constitution and the government were suspended. They cited broad based corruption and an economic catastrophe. But Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare said in comments broadcast by Radio France International that the government is still intact. Officials say negotiations were held but the situation remains volatile. Most of the people of Guinea live in poverty. The nation has recently seen anti-government riots, strikes and bloody military. Legislative elections were already planned for 2009.

Nepalese Media Protests Maoist Attack on Press Freedom

Hundreds of Nepalese newspapers ran blank editorials today in protest against an attack on a reputed media house by Maoist activists. PC Dubey reports.

Some 50 masked Maoists barged into the Himal Media House last Sunday and assaulted its 12 staff, including the editor. The media group publishes a number of Nepali dailies and periodicals which report the activities of the Maoist guerrillas and their political mentors who lead the Nepalese government. Even the radio and TV networks have skipped their headlines programs to protest the Maoists’ violence against the media. Also today, the Federation of Nepalese Journalists are holding protest rallies throughout the country demanding strong punitive action.  The protests have garnered massive support from foreign missions and human rights groups. Diplomatic missions in Nepal, mainly the US embassy, the French embassy, and the Indian embassy have also condemned the attack calling it a blatant, illegal and criminal  assault on freedom of the press in Nepal.
Nevertheless, such protests and condemnations have failed to bridle the Maoists who have threatened the two other media groups, The Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post.
From Birganj in Nepal, I am PC Dubey.

Court Reinstates Clean Air Interstate Rule
The EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule – or CAIR – has new life today after a federal appeals court ruled to reinstate it.  FSRN’s Jes Burns reports.

The Clean Air Interstate Rule aimed to cut down on the amount of air pollution that travels between states on the wind by reducing the amount of smog-causing emissions.  CAIR mostly applied to states on the east coast.  But that rule was thrown out last July in a case brought by Duke Energy Corporation and other utilities that claimed there were serious flaws in the rules. Today’s decision puts the regulations back into place – until the EPA can develop a new clean air program.  The judge said throwing out CAIR entirely would be detrimental to public health.  This ruling comes on the heels of an EPA report released yesterday showing that 100 million urban residents breath air that exceeds the legal daily limit of particulate matter – or soot.  The EPA added another 15 cities to their list of metropolitan areas in violation of the law – including Seattle, Fairbanks, Salt Lake City and Madison. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Jes Burns.

The Pope’s Remarks on Gender Spark Criticism
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups around the world are reacting to the Pope’s end of the year speech to Vatican staff in which he said use of ‘the term ‘gender’ effectively results in man’s self-emancipation from Creation and from the Creator.’ Federico Masrtogiovanni reports from Rome.

“Humanity is man and women” and if we talk about gender we’re opening the door to self destruction. These are the words of the pope Benedict the 16th. The Church, explained Benedict, has to teach an “ecology of Man.” This ecology doesn’t have to protect just the rain forests, but also “has to protect the human being from the destruction of himself.”

For the pope, the nature of the human being is that of man and woman, and it is important to respect this order of creation. In the words of the pontiff to disregard the language of the Creator and of the creation would mean the self destruction of man. The speech by the pope has clearly generated much discussion about homosexuality. “During one of the biggest economic crises in our history, said Aurelio Mancuso, President of Arcigay, the biggest gay organization in Italy, the Pope has this visionary nightmare against gays and transgender, and it doesn’t let him feel the real pain of humanity, the huge crying of hunger, of injustice, of oppression of billions of people in the world.” For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Federico Mastrogiovanni in Rome, Italy.

Protests in Greece Continue
Anti-government protests continue into a third week in Athens where hundreds took to the streets after a gunman opened fire at a riot police bus. After a two day break in the protests, students peacefully marched through Athens today.  Protests were initially sparked when police shot and killed Alexandros Grigoropoulos on December 6. Discontent at high youth unemployment and the global economic crisis, along with government scandals and right-wing reforms have shaken a conservative government. Some analysts say months of street protests could force early elections next year.



Massive Coal Sludge Spill Spreading in Tennessee
About 40 miles west of Knoxville, Tennessee, millions of gallons of ashy sludge have broken through a dike at a coal-fired power plant, flooding homes, burying roads, and threatening rivers and drinking water. Tom Kilgore is the president of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which owns the power plant: “I fully suspect that the amount of rain we’ve had in the last eight to 10 days, plus the freezing weather might have had something to do with this.”
The holding pond contained about 70 acres of fly ash – that’s the residue left over from burning coal. It often has elevated levels of toxic metals. And according to the EPA, the spill has released about 525 million gallons of the sludge – that’s nearly 50 times the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Anne Paine is covering the spill for the Tennessean:

[2Way Audio]

Again, that’s Anne Paine, environmental reporter for the Tennessean. The spill comes as the Bush administration is considering last-minute regulations that would make it easier to dispose of coal ash in old mines—something that environmental groups are asking incoming President Barack Obama to reverse. Lisa Graves-Marcucci is a community advocate with the Jefferson Action Group in Pennsylvania—her community was buried by a similar spill in 2005. Lisa Graves-Marcucci, thanks for joining me.  Lisa Graves-Marcucci is a community advocate with the Jefferson Action Group in Pennsylvania.


Feds Convict Five of Fort Dix Conspiracy
Federal Prosecutors have convicted five men on charges of conspiracy to attack the Fort Dix military base in New Jersey. But critics are accusing the government of entrapment and persecuting the Muslim American community. Karen Miller reports from Washington.


Philadelphia Residents Fighting Library Closures
Over the past month hundreds of Philadephia residents have taken to the streets to protest plans to close 11 of the 54 branches of the Free Library. Holding read-ins, rallies and marches they have told mayor Michael Nutter that closing their neighborhoods’ educational resource centers is not the proper way to deal with the city’s $1 billion budget deficit. FSRN’s Andalusia Knoll has more.

Homeless in the Cold: Canada’s Winter Means Death on the Streets for Some
Next, part two in our series on homelessness in north America. We turn to Canada, where cold claimed the lives of two people sleeping on the streets this week.  Aaron Lakoff has the story.

Egyptian Women in Parliament Pushing Quota System
Now, to Egypt. 50 years ago, Egypt elected the Arab world’s first woman parliament member. But despite the fact that they’ve enjoy full political rights for decades, women haven’t participated much in Egyptian politics. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is calling for women to participate more. From Cairo, Aya Batrawy reports.

Christmas in Bethlehem: Tension Over Tourism

Residents of Bethlehem are seeing the peak of their tourist season right now—the number visiting the holy city to mark Christmas this year is expected to top one million. Thanks to the West Bank’s economic isolation, tourism is one of the few sources of income that Palestinians living there can count on. But they’re complaining that Israeli tour guides are stopping visitors from shopping in local markets. FSRN’s Ghassan Bannoura has more from Bethlehem.

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