April 21, 2009

  • Ahmadinejad calls Israeli policies “racist”, causes chaos at conference
  • Geithner tries to explain TARP past, present and future
  • Congress talks health care, but who’s at the table?
  • Landmark suit charges government negligent in Hurricane Katrina disaster
  • E-waste: electronic junk threatening health in the developing world

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President Obama suggests door open for prosecution of torture policy makers
President Obama said today that torture memos released last week reveal a loss of moral bearings. He defended his decision to not seek prosecution for CIA officers who conducted “enhanced interrogations” within the guidelines they were given. However, he suggested that he is open to a different position for those who crafted those guidelines:
Obama called for a further accounting of events and added that he remains concerned about investigations interfering with national security operations.

MI5 admits lying to British High Court about “rendition”
The British Secret Service – MI5 – today admitted it gave false evidence during a Guantanamo detainee case and apologized to the High Court. Tomorrow the High Court will hear fresh demands for the disclosure of documents that show exactly who in the British government was complicit in his interrogation and torture. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.
The British government has always denied claims that it approved the kidnap – often referred to as rendition — and torture of British resident Binyam Mohamed, released earlier this year from Guantanamo Bay. A letter from a government lawyer apologizes on behalf of an MI5 officer, referred to as Witness A, who gave what it calls “incorrect” evidence to the high court about when the CIA kept British intelligence informed about Mohamed’s secret interrogation. The letter also apologizes for not handing over thirteen documents which it acknowledges should have been passed to the judges. Judges have already said the secret documents appear to show British intelligence officials were present when Mohamed was allegedly tortured. Lawyers believe the documents also show who it was in government that implicitly approved the treatment. The Foreign Secretary argues that their release would damage US-UK relations. Naomi Fowler, FSRN, London.

Federal Court hears suit seeking declaration of Iraq war as unconstitutional
A veteran and two soldier’s mothers asked a federal judge in New Jersey today to rule the Iraq war unconstitutional. Citing a very strict constitutional interpretation by the Supreme Court in an unrelated case, they asked the Court to apply equal stringency to its interpretation of the President’s constitutional authority to invade another country without Congress first officially declaring war. The government said that the court does not have the appropriate purview to decide on a political matter.

Fighting continues in Sri Lanka – civilians continue to flee in large numbers
After deadline for surrender passed today, fighting continued between Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces. FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam reports from Sri Lanka.
Rebels have accused the government of killing about 1,000 civilians – the government denied the claim and blamed the rebels of targeting civilians. Yesterday, the government declared a 24 hour deadline by which the tigers were to surrender or face a final assault. The deadline expired at noon today with no word from the Tamil Tigers.  The military says it will continue its offensive to rescue the civilians held by the rebels. They claim in the past two days alone, nearly 50,000 civilians fled the area following a military push into the government designated safe zone. The International Red Cross says the situation is catastrophic and the fighting has killed and wounded hundreds of civilians who have only minimal access to medical care. Humanitarian agencies are concerned for the safety of some 150,000 to 200,000 civilians trapped in the conflict, while international countries are pressing the parties for a permanent cease fire. Ponniah Manikavasagam, FSRN, in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

EPA rolls back Bush rule relaxation on toxic chemicals
The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it is rolling back a 2006 Bush administration policy that eased reporting requirements regarding toxic chemicals. The EPA has restored rules requiring companies to fully disclose the toxic chemicals they release into the environment.

Department of Defense “in-sources” Lockheed Martin contract
The Pentagon is reclaiming work it had outsourced to Lockheed-Martin. Tanya Snyder has more.
Defense Department officials will handle veterans’ pay and benefits themselves from now on. The task was handed over to defense contractor Lockheed Martin in 2002. Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich has accused the company of poor performance, delays of up to five and a half years, and exorbitant charges. The allegations came as part of Kucinich’s investigation into Bush-era privatization efforts. Lockheed processed veterans pay and benefits totaling more than $3.5 billion a month and they say they did their job “accurately and on time.” The switch is largely the result of a law passed last year directing the Defense Department to consider hiring civilians rather than outsourcing. The Department says that taking the payroll task back from the private corporation will save up to twenty-five million dollars over the next ten years. Tanya Snyder, FSRN.



Ahmadinejad calls Israeli policies “racist”, causes chaos at conference
Participants at the Global Conference against Racism scrambled to respond to a massive walk-out after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel’s policies “racist.”  FSRN’s Sacajawea Hall reports.

Geithner tries to explain TARP past, present and future
A bank takes a loan and then wants to pay it back. It sounds like a simple equation but not if you are a bank that receives TARP bailout funds from the government. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner appeared before the Congressional Oversight Panel today to address this issue and others relating to how TARP funds are being distributed, paid back, and what future plans entail. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.

Congress talks health care, but who’s at the table?

Congress is back from its spring break, and a top issue on the list of priorities is health care. Lawmakers say they want to craft legislation by June, just over six weeks from now. Back room discussions among health care players are ongoing, but as FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, as the debate becomes public, some health care reform advocates say they are left out of the discussion.

Landmark suit charges government negligent in Hurricane Katrina disaster

A federal civil suit began yesterday in New Orleans that charges that the Army Corps of Engineers contributed to post-Hurricane Katrina destruction by building and operating a poorly-designed water channel. Six area residents contend that the navigation channel, known as MR-GO, played a catastrophic role in the flooding of New Orleans when the levees broke in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, and they’re seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. But the suit’s outcome could also mean that some 400,000 New Orleans residents may have a case in their claims as well. FSRN’s Melinda Tuhus reports from New Orleans.

E-waste: electronic junk threatening health in the developing world

Most of us have an old cell phone or computer that doesn’t work anymore, and can’t really be fixed. Once those things get thrown out, where do they wind up? Recent studies indicate that broken gadgets that arrive in developing countries are disguised as second-hand electronic goods, but are in fact electronic waste – which is an open violation of international treaties that ban the trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes. FSRN’s Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos, where defunct items become toxic electronic junk that threatens human health.

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