June 17, 2009

  • Federal employees gain benefits for same sex partners
  • Obama calls for new regulations on US financial system
  • Civil Rights leaders say hate crimes are up; they claim media is responsible
  • Muslim charities “targeted” by US authorities
  • Protests continue in Tehran; Iran accuses US of meddling in its affairs
  • Sewage filled lagoons pose health risk in Gaza; Residents say Israeli border controls make problem worse

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Berlusconi tours Italy’s earthquake site following protests by homeless survivors
More than two months after an earthquake hit central Italy, killing 300 and leaving tens of thousands homeless, the government is still debating a plan to rebuild the region.  FSRN’s Diletta Varlese reports.

“Yes we camp!” shouted almost a thousand people from the Abruzzo region, as they demonstrated in front of the Parliament building in Rome.  They are representatives of nearly 55,000 who were left homeless and have been living in a tent camp for two months.  The camp lacks hygienic services and bakes in the 95-degree heat of an early summer.  The Abruzzo people say the Berlusconi administration has not kept its promise of a quick recovery.  The only construction in the area is related to the coming G8 meeting, planned for the 8th and9th of July.  On Wednesday, Berlusconi toured Abruzzo by plane and met with local government representatives.  Homeless residents say they are waiting for the G8 presidents to come and have a coffee with them at the tent camp.  Diletta Varlese, FSRN, Brescia, Italy.

North Korea renews threat against US and allies
North Korea has once again threatened an attack if the US and other nations continue to reign in their nuclear program, saying the technology is not a monopoly of the US.  In a statement released in a state-controlled North Korean newspaper, the government said, “If the US and its followers infringe upon our Republic’s sovereignty even a bit, our military and people will launch a one hundred or one thousandfold retaliation with [a] merciless military strike.”

The renewed threats come shortly after President Obama and South Korean Pres. Lee Myung Bak stood side by side in Washington to discuss ways to move forward.

“North Korea has abandoned it’s own commitments and violated international law.  It’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose a great threat to peace an security of Asia and to the world.”

In addition to North Korea being labeled a nuclear threat, the US also considers the country a top offender when it comes to human trafficking.

Economic crisis intensifying human trafficking concerns
In a report released yesterday, the US cites the economic crisis as a major contributing factor to the proliferation of human trafficking.  Ambassador Luis DeBaca is the Director of the US Office to Monitor and Combat the Trafficking of Persons.

“In a time of economic crisis, victims are more vulnerable, affected communities are more vulnerable.  And persons who are under economic stress are more likely to fall victim to the traffickers who often get their victims through promises of a better life.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the problem is global.

“Trafficking is a crime that involves every nation on earth, and that includes our own.  Trafficking and forced labor are grave problems here in the US.  And we’ve been reminded of this in recent weeks where authorities uncovered a scheme to enslave foreign workers as laborers for hotels and construction sites in 14 midwestern states.”

Twelve people have been indicted in that case – which actually involves trafficking in 14 states from Colorado to Florida to Massachusetts.

House passes war funding bill
The US House has approved controversial war funding legislation that includes a $5 billion credit line for the International Monetary Fund – with the intention that they use the money to help developing countries weather the economic downturn. The US has pledged $108 billion in total to the IMF.  The $106 billion bill now goes back to the Senate for final consideration.

Activists take over Detroit park for Peoples’ Summit
This week, Detroit is home to two national summits addressing the current U.S. economy and visions for the future.  The National Summit convened by the Detroit Economic Club featured the CEOs of Citigroup, Dow Chemical, and Ford.  While attendees say the messages of the National Summit have been positive, activists don’t feel the meeting is addressing the real problems.  In response, they have convened an alternative People’s Summit and Tent City, which continues through today.  Sacajawea Hall reports from Detroit.

Activists in Detroit, joined by supporters from 10 different states have taken over Grand Circus Public Park in the heart of the city – around the clock – as an alternative to what they call a big business summit. Kris Hamel, People’s Summit organizer

“I don’t know anybody personally that can afford $695 to go to a summit in order to throw in their 2 cents about what our future should be, that’s why we’re having the people summit and tent city to have really the voice of those who are the victims of these people at the business summit.”

On Tuesday, 200 people, the majority of them retired or laid off autoworkers, demonstrated in front of the National Summit at GM headquarters.  Organizers plan to address the needs of workers and the poor by developing a People’s Stimulus Plan and Economic bill of Rights. Sacajawea Hall, FSRN, Detroit.



Federal employees gain benefits for same sex partners
Today President Obama is signing a presidential memorandum that will give some benefits to the same sex partners of  federal employees. This comes as many members of the lesbian and gay community express their growing discontent with  President Obama for not keeping campaign promises. FSRN´s Karen Miller has more

Obama calls for new regulations on US financial system
President Obama revealed plans to significantly change regulation over America´s financial system on Wednesday. In a White House speech, Obama called for tougher government regulations on large financial institutions.  He also called for greater coordination between America´s numerous financial regulators.

Obama spoke about the current situation, saying that one of the most significant contributors to the economic downturn was  “an unraveling of major financial institutions” and a failure by regulators to “prevent abuse and excess.”

One proposal that is expected to generate debate, is the creation of a consumer financial protection agency, an entity that would regulate financial products like credit cards and mortgages.  Obama also wants to increase the Fed´s powers to oversee financial institutions like insurance companies, whose failure poses a great risk to the economy.

Banks would also be required to hold a minimum amount of capital in their accounts, and products that have gone unregulated until now, like hedge funds, would be brought under government oversight.

Conservatives and financial interest groups are expected to oppose these reforms, arguing they could stifle the market´s potential for growth.  Obama tried to seek some common ground with his critics, saying he has “always been a strong believer in the power of the free market” and adding that markets will continue to be “the engine of America´s progress.”

The President said his reforms would mitigate reckless lending and irresponsible borrowing.  His blueprint for financial regulation will now go to Congress and the administration hopes to have the reforms approved later this year.

Civil Rights leaders say hate crimes are up; they claim media is responsible
In the wake of three fatal shootings fueled by racial and religious hate, U.S. Civil Rights leaders have issued a report that details what they call a “perfect storm of grievances” for extreme hate groups in America.

The report shows an increase in hate crimes against Latinos and immigrants, linking the rise to inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric in the mainstream media and on internet message boards.  Matt Pearson reports.

Muslim charities “targeted” by US authorities
The ACLU says that some government policies are restricting the rights of American Muslims to practice their religion. Some American Muslims are abstaining from donating money to Islamic charities – a practice called Zakat- because they fear US authorities will investigate them for links with terrorist organizations. The new report says that many Muslim charities have been mistakenly targeted by law enforcement officials.  Salim Rizvi reports.

Protests continue in Tehran; Iran accuses US of meddling in its affairs

Protests continued in Iran today over elections results that declared a victory at the polls for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Today, about one hundred thousand supporters of opposition candidate  Mir Hossein Mousavi, held a silent protest through Tehran´s streets.  Human rights organizations are saying the government is repressing protests and journalists´ freedom to report on the events has been significantly curtailed.

President Obama spoke about the situation on Tuesday, angering Iran´s foreign ministry which filed a formal protest, saying the US is intervening in Iran´s internal affairs. The US and Iran have already been at loggerheads over Iran´s nuclear energy program.  So how will the current situation in Iran change the difficult relations between both nations?

Reporter Rose Ketabchi spoke with Rebecca Griffin of Peace Action West.  Her organization has been working toward nuclear disarmament since the 1960s and more recently has focused on promoting diplomacy between the United States and Iran.

Sewage filled lagoons pose health risk in Gaza; Residents say Israeli border controls make problem worse
In the Gaza strip, scientists and community members are saying that lagoons filled with sewage are creating serious health and environmental problems.  But as FSRN´s Rami Almeghari reports, efforts to build a water treatment plant have been stymied by Israel´s tough restrictions on the materials that can be sent into the coastal strip.

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