June 11, 2009

  • Protests over Amazon oil projects spread through Peru
  • Profile of Rick Boucher; a negotiating force shaping landmark climate change bill
  • Lawmakers had investments in firms bailed out by Congress
  • Pacific Ocean ecosystems hurt by global warming
  • Portland musicians want fair pay to play

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World Health Organization declares flu pandemic
“The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic.”

The World Health Organization declared that the H1N1 influenza virus, or swine flu, has reached pandemic status.  Dr. Margaret Chan is the Director General of the WHO.  She says the world needs to brace itself for further infections, second waves of infections in countries where rates have stabilized, and ultimately more deaths.  But Dr. Chan said currently the virus is stable.  Pharmaceutical companies have indicated they will be able to produce vaccines at full capacity soon.  That said, no country would have access to a vaccine until September because it takes several months to produced a finished product.  And at that point, there will be relatively small quantities available.  Dr Chan stressed that this is a time when the developed world needs to step up to help limit the spread of H1N1 in poorer countries.

“The world’s countries, rich or poor, big or small,… must come together in the name of global solidarity… to make sure no countries, because of poor resources, no country’s people are left behind without help.

The World Health Organization says the declaration of pandemic should signal to countries to practice continued vigilance.

“In a country that has not been reporting cases, they must be on the watch out for the arrival of the infection.  And sought to prepare their people and also the health care system to deal with the arrival of the new disease.”

The Palestinian Territories are in this exact situation.  (Continued in West Bank story)

Palestinian territories see first case of H1N1
Today health officials there reported their first case of swine flu.  From the West Bank, FSRN’s Ghassan Bannoura reports.

The first case of the H1N1 virus was documented in West Bank city of Bethlehem.  Health officials diagnosed the infected four-year-old child just two days after he returned to the region from a visit to the United States. The young boy was taken to a hospital for treatment, but is now recovering under quarantine at home.  Palestinian medical officials SAY medical staff is working tirelessly to secure the necessary medicines and vaccines to prevent the spread of the virus.  An outbreak of H1N1 could be difficult to fight in the region, as Palestinian hospitals are poorly equipped.   In some areas like the Gaza Strip, they lack even the most basic supplies, like Band-Aids and disinfectants.  The supply flow into Gaza has been severely limited by the Israel-controlled border wall.  Ghassan Bannoura.  FSRN. Bethlehem.

Environmentalist disappointed in new mountain top removal mining rules
The Obama administration announced new regulatory changes for the coal mining practice known as Mountain Top Removal.  The changed policies will affect several coal-mining states in Appalachia.  Environmentalists complain that the mining methods have an adverse effect on communities and riparian environments.  One aspect of the regulation shift aims to protect streams.  David Hayes is the Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department.

“We will return to the 1983 rule for dealing with surface buffer zones.  It is a more stringent rule than the Bush rule.  We intend to implement that rule in a way that will be more environmentally protective.”

But the 1983 rule still allowed for the burial of miles of healthy streams.  Nancy Sutley, the chair of the White House council on Environmental policy, acknowledged the destructiveness of the practice, but says federal law restricts what they can do.

“This is a practice that we believe has serious environmental impacts, however it’s a practice that’s currently allowed under federal law.  What we’re trying to do today is to strengthen the oversight and reduce the environmental impacts of Mountain Top Coal Mining.”

The Administration also says it will begin a longer-term review of policies.  Many Environmental groups expressed disappointment with the announcement.  They were hoping for a ban on the practice.  Joan Mulhern, Senior Legislative Counsel for Earth Justice says the changes are not substantive.  She says, “Until the White House announces that it will stop the blowing up of mountains and burying of streams, we cannot support their policies, regardless of what process is used to review the mines on a case by case basis.”  The EPA recently decided not to challenge and approve 42 mountain top removal projects, and officials say those projects will not be subject to the new rules.

Judge hands NY Senate to Republicans
In New York State, where partisan drama has gripped the capitol, Senate republicans are establishing themselves as the new majority.  After being locked out of the building earlier this week, and a favorable ruling by a judge today, the Republican-led coalition opened the doors to the Senate.  FSRN’s Rebecca Myles has more from New York.

The new Republican majority went into session today in the New York Senate in Albany without the Democrats, except for the two who announced they were switching parties earlier this week.  The session began after a New York Supreme Court Justice rejected a request from the Democrats to delay the takeover, but he agreed to hear more arguments. Shortly before 11 a.m. the new Majority Leader, Dean Skelos, walked through a crush of media and protestors, took out a key and unlocked the Senate doors that have been sealed since Monday’s leadership coup.  Protestors outside chanted “The Senate is not for sale!” A reference to billionaire Tom Golisano, who they claim orchestrated the takeover. After a few speeches they adjourned until Monday.  The new leaders said they couldn’t conduct business because the Democrats locked away all legislative documents.  Work on more than 30 bills, including the Same Sex marriage bill and whether to renew New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s control of the Department of Education, for the moment are stalled.  Rebecca Myles, FSRN, New York.



Protests over Amazon oil projects spread through Peru
Protests are taking place across Peru today, in solidarity with indigenous peoples who oppose oil drilling in the Peruvian Amazon. Clashes between protesters and police turned deadly last Friday, with the number of protestor deaths still a matter of dispute. Today, protesters are blocking roads in northeast Peru and unions are staging a march in the capital city of Lima. President Alan Garcia says the socialist government of neighboring Bolivia is behind the protests, but critics blame Garcia for the current situation, saying he mishandled the initial protests and used excessive force. FSRN’s Pamela Cueva and Alfredo Cuadros report from Lima.

Lawmakers had investments in firms bailed out by Congress
Congressional disclosure forms reveal that some key lawmakers had investments in the financial firms they voted to bail out. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defends the investments and denies any conflict of interest. FSRN’s Karen Miller reports.

Profile of Rick Boucher; a negotiating force shaping landmark climate change bill
Virginia Democrat Rick Boucher is at the center of shaping landmark climate change legislation, that could be approved by congress this summer.  The bill squeaked through the House Energy Committee in May and will make its way to the House floor this month.But depending on who you ask, Boucher is either a skillful negotiator that brings people together or a sellout to energy companies.  Yanmei Xie reports from Capitol Hill.

Pacific Ocean ecosystems hurt by global warming
Baby shellfish off the coasts of Oregon and Washington may be global warming’s canary in the coalmine.   Hatchery production declined this year by 80% due to ocean acidification, which occurs when the ocean absorbs billions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere.  Marine chemists have been studying changes in the ocean´s acid levels for decades but it´s only recently that their findings are pointing to serious changes in marine ecosystems.  Martha Baskin has the story.

Portland musicians want fair pay to play
Go to your local coffee shop, and you can probably find Fair Trade coffee.  Fair Trade certification lets you know that the farmers were paid a decent wage for their work.  But can you get the same guarantees for the musician playing at the coffee shop? A union in Portland, Oregon, is launching a campaign to ensure working musicians earn a living wage for their labors as well. Deena Prichep reports.

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