June 9, 2009

  • Deadly hotel bombing underscores violence in Pakistan; FSRN speaks to displaced minorities
  • Senate committee hearing reviews prolonged detention of Guantanamo prisoners
  • US lawmakers discuss health care options
  • Continental economic leaders meet at Montreal summit
  • Brazil plans to build one million affordable homes

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Shell settles human rights suit for $15.5 million – avoids open court
Anglo Dutch oil company, Shell has agreed to pay $15.5m to settle a lawsuit brought by the Ogoni people of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. The Ogonis accuse Shell of complicity in human rights violations carried out by the Nigerian government. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

Shell is settling out of in the case filed in the United States by families of nine men who were executed by the Nigerian government. The men, including playwright, Ken Saro Wiwa, were executed by hanging in 1995 by the Nigerian government. At the time, the men were in the heat of their campaign against environmental pollution caused by shell’s oil activities in Ogoni land. The Ogonis said shell had a hand in their execution and other human rights abuses carried out by the Nigerian government.  This is one of several cases where people from communities in the Niger Delta have accused western oil companies of complicity in human rights abuses. Human rights activists say the fact that shell agreed to pay the settlement is further confirmation of the complicity of western oil companies in human rights abuses in the Niger Delta. Shell says they agreed to the settlement in the interest of reconciliation, but admitted no culpability in the murders. Sam Olukoya, FSRN, Lagos.

Leader of Indigenous movement in Peru seeks asylum

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega granted political asylum to Peruvian Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango today. Pizango had sought refuge in the Central American nation’s embassy after a warrant was issued Saturday for his arrest on sedition charges. The charges stem from protests against drilling in the Amazon jungle that turned violent last Friday.  Police opened fire at a demonstration by thousands of native Peruvians – 30 protestors and 24 police were killed.  Late yesterday, Peru’s Minister for Women’s Affairs – Carmen Vildoso – stepped down over a government sponsored TV ad that depicted the protestors as extremists.  And Peruvian Agriculture Minster Carlos Leyton may resign as well – he says he doesn’t want his contentious relationship with indigenous groups to impede negotiations. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is expected to decide on the today.

Boston Globe workers face 23 percent pay cut after contract negotiation vote fails
Yesterday, members of the Boston Globe newspaper’s largest union narrowly turned down the latest contract offer from owner the New York Times Company, who says it will lose up to 85 million dollars this year and had asked employees to accept huge cuts in wages and benefits. Two months ago, the company threatened to close the Globe if employees did not agree to the cuts. Dave Goodman has details.

Reporters, advertising sales, and business staff, members of the Boston Newspaper Guild, voted 277 to 265 against the contract offered by the New York Times Company. The proposed contract called for an overall ten million dollar reduction in wages and benefits. In a brief statement to reporters outside the Globe’s Boston office last night, Guild President Dan Totten said union members were calling on the Times to make a better offer.

“Globe workers and the New England community understand that the quality of The Boston Globe – an institution so vital to the life and culture of the region – depends on the fair treatment of the men and women who work so hard to produce it.  The Boston Newspaper Guild is committed to resuming good-faith negotiations with the New York Times Company and Globe management to reach an agreement.”

Shortly after last night’s vote, the company declared an impasse in negotiations and imposed a 23 per cent pay cut starting next week. In response, the union may try and stop the cuts by initiating a grievance procedure with the National Labor Relations Board. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Dave Goodman in Boston.

New York Senate shifts power balance – Republicans stage coup
The New York state Senate chamber was eerily quiet today, after two Democrats sided with Republicans and helped them seize control of the body last night in a move of high political drama.

“Mr. President …Mr. President, I have the floor. You have been removed from the chair.”

Democratic leadership in the state met throughout the night and say they are considering legal challenges to the move. Former Senate Majority leader, Democrat Malcolm Smith, says that the Republicans have misplaced priorities.

“We have nine days left of session, and they now chose to do politics over the people’s business.”

The shift in power calls into question the future a number of matters still pending before the upcoming recess – including a marriage equality measure. But one of the two dissident Democrats, Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx, said today that he still wants to see the marriage equality bill go to the floor for a vote. The change in leadership may not make that much of a difference though – while the new Republican majority leader may now allow the measure to move to the floor — the former majority leader, Democrat Smith, was reluctant to move it as well.



Deadly hotel bombing underscores violence in Pakistan; FSRN speaks to displaced minorities
An explosion at a five star hotel in Pakistan has injured over 50 people and killed at least 11 according local reporters. The blast occurred at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s troubled Northwest province. The hotel was reportedly the future home of the region´s US consulate. Pakistan’s army is fighting Taliban militants in the Northwest Province, but the civilian population is paying a great price.  Thousands of Pakistani Sikhs and Hindus are among the estimated 3 million people displaced by the government’s campaign to rid northwestern districts of the Taliban. Many of these minorities have been living with harassment, threats of death and extortion at the hands of the Islamic insurgents. Now they say the government has abandoned them, offering little or no aid since they fled the fighting. Many have taken refuge at one the Sikh religion’s holiest sites, the Gurdwara Punja Sahib. Catherine Komp reads for our reporter Gabe Matthews.

Senate committee hearing reviews prolonged detention of Guantanamo prisoners
CIA Director Leon Panetta has argued against the release of any and all records pertaining to the destruction and content of the agency’s 92 interrogation videotapes.  This comes in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The FOIA lawsuit is part of a pending motion to make public the treatment of prisoners held in US custody overseas. The Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the moral, legal and national security  consequences of prolonged detention for Guantanamo Bay detainees. President Obama recently said some detainees are too dangerous to release or transfer for trial, meaning that they could be held indefinitely.  At today’s hearing, human rights advocates and lawyers contested such ideas and if the “war or on terror”  justifies the detention of those held at Guantanamo in the first place. FSRN’s Karen Miller reports.

US lawmakers discuss health care options
Each day that passes in Washington, is a day where more details of health care reform legislation are falling into place. But as health care reform moves forward, lawmakers are drawing more lines in the sand, designating what they will, and will not, support.  Much of the debate centers around a public option, or a government run option for health insurance. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Continental economic leaders meet at Montreal summit

Finance ministers and policy makers from the Americas are meeting in Montreal, Canada to discuss the current economic crisis. Participants at the 15th International Economic Forum of the Americas are also discussing ways to promote free trade and decrease protectionism. But is this the best strategy to get the world economy back on its feet?  FSRN’s Amy Miller, is following developments in Montreal.

Brazil plans to build one million affordable homes

While the United States has been melting down financially in part due to mortgages that went bad, Brazil is launching a plan to build one million homes. Forty percent of these homes will be allocated to people of the lowest income levels. Brazil’s government is hoping this plan will help it to avoid the financial and housing disaster created in the United States.

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