February 26, 2009
- Obama Unveils Budget Plan
- Lawmakers Debate Foreclosure Bill
- Government Close to Deal With Citibank
- Sri Lankan Police Arrest Newspaper Editor
- Palestinian Unity Talks Start in Cairo
Defense Dept. Will Allow Media Coverage of Returning Soldiers Coffins
US defense Secretary Robert Gates announced today that the ban of media photographing coffins of returning US soldiers will be lifted. Gates said that the new policy will still allow families to opt out of having their loved ones coffins photographed. “The decision regarding media coverage of the dignified transfer process at Dover, should be made by those most immediately effected; on an individual basis by the families of the fallen. We ought not presume to make that decision in their place.” President George H W Bush instituted the policy in 1991, in what many said was an attempt to keep Americans from understanding how many US soldiers were being killed in wars overseas. A review of the policy was ordered by President Obama earlier this month.
War Crimes Tribunal Finds Former Serbian President Not Guilty
A UN war crimes tribunal has sentenced 5 former Serbian government and military officials to prison for crimes committed during the Kosovo conflict in the 1990s. But former Serbian resident Milan Milutinovic was found not guilty. The tribunal found that the 5 helped forcibly deport ethnic Albanians in an effort to maintain Serbian control of Kosovo. Olga Kavran is the Spokesperson for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. “The trial chamber concluded that there was a broad campaign of violence conducted by forces under the control of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Serbian authorities directed against the Kosovo-Albanian civilian population during the course of the NATO air strikes and that the NATO bombing was not the reason for the mass displacement of Kosovo-Albanians from Kosovo.” Sentences for the high-ranking officials ranged from 15 to 22 years. The trial is the first to be concluded regarding Serbian atrocities during the conflict in Kosovo.
UK Admits Participation in US Rendition
The British Defense secretary has admitted that his country aided the United States in its policy of rendition, or transferring suspects to foreign countries, often in order to skirt the LAWS REGULATING INTERROGATION. Despite previous denials, defense secretary John Hutton said officials have long known that 2 Pakistani nationals were handed over to the US in 2004. The 2 men, accused members of a group linked to Al-Qaeda, are still in US custody in Afghanistan.
Standoff Ends in Bangladesh
Revolting border guards in Bangladesh have surrendered to the government and retreated to their barracks ending a 33-hour rebellion over low pay that killed at least 11 people. Bangladeshi authorities say all hostages have been freed, and they are in full control of the situation. But the conflict has already taken a toll on the country’s trade with neighboring India. Bismillah Geelani reports
Economic activities on the Indo-Bangladesh International border came to a standstill as the mutiny by Bangladesh Soldiers entered its 2nd day this morning. Because soldiers in other posts had briefly joined the rebellion, angry about pay and working conditions, the border remains virtually sealed and cross border movement completely suspended. Hundreds of trucks, many of them loaded with perishable items are stranded on the Indian side waiting for permission to cross over. At least 8 border guards died in the revolt. Sheikh Hasina announced a general amnesty for the guards, and assured that their demands will be looked into. For FSRN, this is Bismillah Geelani from New Delhi
The British Defense secretary has admitted that his country aided the United States in its policy of rendition, or transferring suspects to foreign countries, often in order to skirt the laws regulating interrogation. Despite previous denials, defense secretary John Hutton said officials have long known that 2 Pakistani nationals were handed over to the US in 2004. The 2 men, accused members of a group linked to Al-Qaeda, are still in US custody in Afghanistan.
Record US Unemployment Numbers Continue to Climb
The number of US workers claiming unemployment benefits reached a new record in the second week of February. More than 660 thousand new claims were filed in the weekending February 21st, that’s the most in a week since 1982. More than 5.1 million Americans are currently collecting unemployment, the most since 1967
Justice Dept Sues Forest Labs for Kickbacks, Marketing Celexa to Children
The US Justice Department is prosecuting a drug maker they claim paid doctors to prescribe its antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro, and pushed the drugs for unapproved use on children. Rebecca Myles has more.
The federal court complaint filed in civil court in Boston says the New York-based drug maker, Forest Labs offered cash payments, expensive meals and entertainment to induce doctors and others to prescribe the drugs. It also says the company illegally promoted Celexa for pediatric use, even though the FDA had denied permission to do so. Studies had showed Celexa posed several risks to children, including suicidal thoughts. Vera Sharav from the Alliance for Human Research Protection says what the pharma companies are doing is dumping. “The fact is this is the modus operandi for the Pharmaceutical Industry. They want to expand the use of these drugs before they run out the patent; they are looking to expand the market beyond adults to make way for children. These drugs pose very serious hazards for children.” The lawsuit comes following a 5-year long investigation, which began when two former employees whistle-blew on the company’s practices. 11 other states and the District of Columbia are expecting to join the suit, alleging Forest’s actions triggered thousands of fraudulent claims to health care plans like Medicaid. Forest Labs said it is reviewing the complaint. A call placed to the company was not returned in time for our broadcast. Total sales from the drugs were $2.8 billion in 2008. For FSRN, I am Rebecca Myles reporting from New York.
Buffalo Creek Coal Spill Anniversary in West Virginia—Protestors Arrested
And today, February 26th marks 37 years since the Buffalo Creek disaster. A coal slurry dam in West Virginia broke, sending a 30 foot high wall of water and coal waste rushing through several coal mining towns, killing 125 people, injuring 1,000 and leaving 4,000 people homeless.
Many in Appalachia are frustrated at what they say is a refusal by government and industry to learn from Buffalo Creek. On Wednesday, 3 protestors were arrested after climbing Shumate Dam, which holds back almost 3 billion gallons of toxic coal waste in a sludge pond in southern West Virginia. Mike Roselle was one of those arrested.
“We have been opposed to the mining above this dam because the fill is put behind this dam, the sludge is put behind the dam, and the liquids are put behind the dam, and they are blasting above it. And there’s also people who live in the other side of those ridges who are having rocks roll down their roads and coming quite close to their property.”
Many in Appalachia are frustrated at what they say is a refusal by government and industry to learn from Buffalo Creek. On Wednesday, 3 protestors were arrested after climbing Shumate Dam, which holds back almost 3 billion gallons of toxic coal waste in a sludge pond in southern West Virginia.
Obama Unveils Budget Plan
President Barack Obama has released a budget plan for the next ten years. It outlines his priorities: health care, education and energy. Democrats are praising the $3.5 trillion budget, but Republicans are calling it an economic disaster. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.
Lawmakers Debate Foreclosure Bill
Lawmakers on Capital Hill wrangled over the “Helping Families Save Their Homes Act” today. The bill would allow homeowners to restructure their home loans through bankruptcy proceedings, potentially forcing lenders to reduce both the interest and the amount owed. Karen Miller has more.
Government Close to Deal With Citibank
As that foreclosure bill makes its way though Congress, the Obama administration is still wrestling with how to handle looming failures at some of the world’s largest financial institutions. As of airtime, the federal government was reportedly finishing a deal with Citigoup Inc., that could be announced as early as today. The deal is reported to center around converting the money the government has already used to bail out the corporation into common stock, which would give the U.S. government control over roughly 40% of the company’s voting equity. Joining me to discuss the impending citigroup deal is Lawrence Mitchell, professor of Business Law at George Washington University, and author of “The Speculation Economy: How Finance Triumphed Over Industry”
Sri Lankan Police Arrest Newspaper Editor
In the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, Police have confirmed they arrested a Tamil newspaper editor whose relatives had reported him as abducted. This arrest comes as the government faces criticism for a spate of attacks on journalists critical of the ongoing military operations against the Tamil Tiger rebels. Ponniah Manikavasagam reports from Sri Lanka.
Palestinian Unity Talks Start in Cairo
A dozen Palestinian factions met today in Cairo to discuss the formation of a unity government after nearly 18 months of sometimes violent conflict between Fatah and Hamas. The summit’s organizers say Palestinians will need a unified government to oversee reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel’s bombardment and invasion, and that without a unified government, it will be very difficult to eventually secure a Palestinian state through negotiations with Israel. Aya Batrawy has more from Cairo.