January 23, 2009

  • Missile Attacks in Pakistan
  • Roadblocks to Obama’s Stimulus Package
  • What’s In The Stimulus?
  • New Ethics Rules Let Citizens Lodge Complaints Against Representatives
  • Grim Climate Change News: Trees Dying, Seasons Changing, Harvests Dropping
  • Bishop Desmond Tutu on Barack Obama

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FDA Gives First-Ever Approval for Stem Cell Research

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first-ever stem cell treatment study for spinal injuries.  Biotech company Geron plans to inject recent quadriplegics with embroyonic stem cells to test the safety of the procedure and the effectiveness of the treatment.  Many scientists are calling the FDA approval a breakthrough in stem cell research.

Obama to Lift Global Gag Rule
An Obama aid says the President will issue an Executive Order today lifting a US funding ban on international organizations that offer abortions.  Bush instated the so-called global gag rule when he took office, saying taxpayer money should not be used to advocate for abortion.  Critics said the rule not only adversely affected the poorest women in developing countries, it infringed on freedom of speech.

Offshore Oil Drilling Plan Moves Forward
A far-reaching offshore oil-drilling plan is not meeting as much resistance from the Obama Administration as many environmentalists would like.  FSRN’s Christina Aanestad reports.

The Minerals Management Service is moving forward with plans to open the outer continental shelf to offshore oil drilling by 2010.  Nick Pardi, spokesperson for the MMS told FSRN that despite the Obama administration’s call to suspend pending regulations, the 5-year offshore leasing program is moving forward.

“The new administration has lot of options right now.  They are currently reviewing the draft proposal and we’re going to move forward with their recommendations.”

The proposal would open the coast of California, Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast to offshore oil drilling.  The Democratic-controlled congress allowed a 30-year moratorium on offshore oil drilling to end in October.  But now California Democrat Mike Thompson has introduced legislation to ban drilling off the Northern Coast of the state. He says democrats will pursue another moratorium on offshore oil drilling under the Obama Administration.  I’m Christina Aanestad reporting for FSRN.

US Rep Kirston Gillibrand Appointed to Clinton Senate Seat
After weeks of speculation, and an abrupt withdrawal of Caroline Kennedy from consideration, the New York Governor has finally named Hillary Clinton’s successor in the Senate – Kirston Gillibrand.  She’s currently a US Representative from upstate New York, and considered to be a conservative Democrat.

Rebel Leader Laurent Nkunda Captured in Rwanda
Congolese rebel general Laurent Nkunda was captured and arrested last night in Rwanda by government forces.  The rebel leader has been engaged in on-and-off battles with the Congolese government – a conflict with roots in the Rwandan genocide.  The fighting has put tens of thousands of civilians in danger and prompted a refugee crisis in the country.  A DRC spokes person says the government wants Nkunda tried in a military tribunal for war crimes.

Iceland PM to Step Down Amid Continuing Protests
The economic downturn is provoking civil unrest in some European countries – including recent violent protests in Iceland. The EU is worried it’ll spread, and says it’s ‘intensively’ monitoring the situation. From London, Naomi Fowler reports:

The Prime Minister of Iceland announced today he will step down from his post and has called for an election in May.  This comes in response to days of protests outside Parliament over the country’s failing economy.  And Iceland isn’t the only country where people are takingto the streets in sometimes violent protests; there have been anti-government demonstrations that ended in rioting in Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria – all places where economic discontent is high.  In Greece, where protests have caused billions of dollars of damage, trade unions have warned that more strikes there are likely.  European governments are finding it increasingly expensive to borrow money and the first things to be cut tend to be social programs.  This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

Canadian Activists Look to Obama to Release Omar Khadr from Gitmo
President Obama signed an executive order yesterday to close down Guantanamo Bay, but many are wondering how this will affect the case of a young Canadian man who remains imprisoned there. FSRN’s Aaron Lakoff has the story.

Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen and the last Western national still being held at Guantanamo Bay, was arrested in Afghanistan when he was only 15 years old and accused of killing an American soldier.  With Obama’s decision to also suspend military trials indefinitely, it remains uncertain whether Khadr will continue to be held and prosecuted or sent back to Canada.  Khadr would be the first child in US history to be tried for war crimes, an outcome his lawyer, William Kuebler, thinks the Obama administration will likely avoid.  Obama’s first diplomatic trip is expected to be to Ottawa in the coming months, where one of the main topics on the table will be Khadr’s repatriation to Canada.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to intervene in the Khadr case, a decision that many Arab-Canadian groups are calling racist. From Montreal, this is Aaron Lakoff reporting for FSRN.

China Passes Health Reforms to Cover 90% of Population

China has passed a comprehensive medical reform plan that aims to provide basic health services to 90% of the population.  The government says the 124-billion dollar plan will be in effect by 2011.  The money will provide subsidies for health insurance and pay for a vast network of health care facilities.



Missile Attacks in Pakistan
The situation in Pakistan is escalating. Pakistani Officials say two missile strikes near the Afghan border believed to be fired by U.S. drones have killed up to 18 people, some of them civilians. They’re the first strikes in Pakistan during Barack Obama’s presidency – Pakistan’s government had hoped he’d put a halt to them. Today hundreds of tribal people rallied in the capital of Islamabad to demand an end to the drone attacks, and to Pakistani military operations in Swat Valley, where it’s fighting a resurgent Taliban. Afridai Afridi has more:


Roadblocks to Obama’s Stimulus Package
President Obama met with top congressional leaders today to try to clear roadblacks to his $850 billion dollar economic stimulus plan. On the way into the meeting, he told reporters that he thought congress was on target to approve a package by Presidents’ day weekend.

“Even as we move swiftly and aggressively on the recovery package, we are also starting to put in place the kind of reform elements – oversight, transparency, accountability – that’s going to be required in order for the American people to have confidence in what we’re doing.”

But Republican opposition could make for a partisan showdown over the size of the package and the spending priorities. FSRN’s Tanya Snyder has the story:


What’s In The Stimulus?
Well, as Obama pushes his stimulus package through congress, it’s drawing some fire from the left as well. Joining us to discuss that angle is Doug Henwood, editor of the Left Business Observer. Welcome, Doug:


New Ethics Rules Let Citizens Lodge Complaints Against Representatives
The new Office of Congressional Ethics has released draft rules meant to help root out corruption in congress. They’ll allow any member of the public to file complaints against their representatives – and read the investigations into other people’s complaints. Karen Miller has more:


Grim Climate Change News: Trees Dying, Seasons Changing, Harvests Dropping
More grim news about climate change in the science journalist this week. An article published in the journal Science suggests warmer summers are driving up the rate at which trees die in western North America’s old-growth forests, doubling it every few decades. Research published this week in Nature says seasonal changes are happening almost two days earlier than they used to. And a third study says climate change is hurting crop yields—something that could eventually leave half the world starving. Africa Jones reports.


Bishop Desmond Tutu on Barack Obama
Millions of people were in Washington, DC, this week, many to celebrate the Inauguration, and some to send their messages and advice to the new President. Before we close today, we bring you one more of those voices – Arch Bishop Tutu – who spoke to reporters about how the new President can take a different approach…

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