February 19, 2009

  • Obama and Harper Discuss Long Term Commitment to Afganistan
  • Peace Deal in Pakistan Border Tribal Region
  • Death Penalty Up for Debate in Georgia
  • Hypersonic Air Travel: Green or not? Reality or not?

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Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament Votes To Close US military Base
The Parliament of Kyrgyzstan has voted to close the US military base, which serves as a major transit route for troops and supplies headed to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Once official notification is issued, the US will have 6 months to remove the roughly 1,000 troops stationed there since 2001.  Neighboring Uzbekistan also shut down a US base in 2005; Uzbek officials have expressed willingness to keep some rail supply routes open in the region for the US military.


California Budget Passes But Will Weaken Air Pollution Rules
California finally has a budget, after a republican senator gained several concessions from Democrats in exchange for his support. Democrats agreed to put a measure on ballot establishing open primaries, they dropped a 12-cent a gallon gas tax, and they also agreed to forbid pay raises for lawmakers when there’s a deficit.  The budget is full of spending reductions to vital programs, including $8 billion in cuts to education. Also, buried beneath the wrangling over tax increases are provisions that weaken California’s air quality standards. Kellia Ramares has more:

Virtually hidden among the 33 bills that make up the California budget is a measure that delays requirements for builders to retrofit heavy diesel equipment to reduce emissions. The building industry, which backed the delay, considers diesel retrofitting a job killer, but advocates say retrofitting is a labor-intensive process that would have created many so called “Green Jobs”.  The delay, which received no public hearings and was not debated by the legislature, makes it unlikely that Los Angeles, the San Joaquin Valley and other heavily polluted places, will meet federal air quality deadlines.   Bill Magavern, director of Sierra Club California, criticized the politics that led to the rollback:

“It’s outrageous that the legislative republicans have held the budget hostage and used the budget to weaken the protections that Californians have against diesel particulate air pollution. This weakening of our air quality standards is going to cost lives and cause increased health care costs because of hospitalizations and increases in asthma.”

According to California’s Air Resources Board, diesel equipment is responsible for an estimated 1,100 premature deaths, more than 1,000 hospitalizations for heart and lung disease and tens of thousands of asthma attacks each year.  For FSRN, I’m Kellia Ramares.


Greenpeace Study Says World’s Hazardous Waste Ends Up in Nigeria
The international environmental group, Greenpeace has accused developed countries of exporting obsolete and hazardous electronic waste to developing countries as second hand goods. Nigeria is one of the main destinations of the e –waste. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos. 

Greenpeace says a three-year undercover investigation has found that Europe, the United States, Japan, South Korea and other developed countries are not recycling their electronic wastes in a responsible manner.  The study found that developed countries are disguising waste such as televisions as second hand items, and shipping them to developing countries where they are sold, scrapped or illegally dumped.  Greenpeace says this practice takes place at the expense of the poorest people. It added that in most cases, children are put to work breaking apart the TVs, mobile phones, game consoles and other electronic items that contain toxic chemicals.  With no safety measures, the group says the children are exposed to highly toxic chemicals, which damage vital organs like the brain; reproductive organs and kidneys.  For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.


Student Sit-in at NYU
Several dozen students are staging a sit-in at New York University, with a variety of demands and under the umbrella cause of increased student power.   The sit in, staged by the group Take Back NYU, began Wednesday night in the University’s Kimmel center.  Among their demands, the students are calling for changes in hiring and labor practices by NYU, a freeze on student tuition hikes and the establishment of a student elected Socially Responsible Finance Committee. Students are also demanding that surplus university supplies to be sent to Gaza, and the establishment of 13 scholarships for Palestinians.


Protest Over Offensive NY Post Cartoon
Also in New York City today, citizens are calling for a citywide boycott of the New York Post over an offensive cartoon that critics think compared President Obama to a bullet-ridden chimpanzee.  Rebecca Myles reports.

Crowd –” Shut down the Post, Shut down the Post”

Over 200 New Yorkers joined The Rev Al Sharpton, and community and religious leaders in a protest outside the News Corporation offices today. In the cartoon in question, police officers had shot the chimp, and one is saying ‘they’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.’  City Council Member Charles Barron.

“We should not be fooled, this is not a cartoon, cartoons are funny. This is not funny. This is a racist caricature, don’t try and tell us you were talking about all members of the congress then you should have put all 532 monkeys down there, not one… Since when, since when can you call for the killing of the President of the United States and not be under investigation by the Justice Department.”

In a statement, the Post says, “The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy.”  Protestors are demanding an apology, the firing of cartoonist Sean Delonas and the dismissal of any editors who signed off on the cartoon. For FSRN I am Rebecca Myles reporting from New York.



Obama and Harper Discuss Long Term Commitment to Afghanistan

US President Barack Obama has crossed US orders for the first time as President. He traveled north, to Canada, one of the US’s closest allies.  Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched a new collaboration on energy and the environment, a promise to create new clean energy options between the two countries, such as an alternative energy power grid.

Another top discussed between the two leaders was Afghanistan.  Canada has 2500 troops in Afghanistan and Prime Minister Harper has promised a 2011 troop withdrawal. As President Obama issued an order this week to send 17,000 more US troops to Afghanistan, Obama said he did not pressure Harper to keep troops in.

Steven Staples, President of the Rideau Institute, a think tank in Ottawa talks to FSRN about Canada’s desire to withdraw combat troops in Afghanistan.

Peace Deal in Pakistan Border Tribal Region

Now we go to Afghanistan- Pakistan border, a region called the Swat Valley. There, a peace deal has been negotiated between a local religious cleric and a Taliban leader. For more than a year, the Tablian has controlled much of this once-popular tourism destination. In addition to a 10-day ceasefire, the deal includes the implementation of sharia [Sha ree ya] law. FSRN’s Puck Lo reads for our correspondent in the region, Gabe Matthews.

Death Penalty Up for Debate in Georgia
Forty-Two individuals have been executed in the state of Georgia since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. This year, 33 years later, the death penalty could be hotly debated in the State Assembly as there are multiple proposals to alter it. Some of the measures would greatly limit the death penalty as others would make it more accessible.  FSRN’s Sacajawea Hall reports from Atlanta.

Hypersonic Air Travel: Green or not? Reality or not?
How would you like to travel from Brussels to Sydney in 4 hours at a top speed of 3,000 miles per hour on liquid hydrogen? If British company Reaction Engines has its way, hypersonic air travel will be a reality 25 years from now. It’s technology being billed as green and sustainable. But, it might be a form of false advertising.  Naomi Fowler reports, in our latest installment of FSRN’s energy series, Running on Empty.

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