August 19, 2009
- Specialty doctors criticized for opposing health care reform
- Whole Foods CEO´s views on health care reform spark progressive boycott
- LA Taxi drivers demand better working conditions
- Afghan government tells journalists to stop covering pre-election violence
- Afghans hope for high turnout during Thursday elections
- Secretary Clinton defends controversial US-Colombia military deal
Bombs in Baghdad kill nearly 100 people
A series of six coordinated explosions have left nearly 100 people dead in Baghdad. Almost 600 people are wounded. The bombs targeted government buildings and busy streets – photos from the ground show shells of mangled vehicles lying in heaps along the side of the road, and giant craters from the truck and roadside bombs. Iraqi officials told CNN they have two suspects in custody. This was the deadliest day in the country since the US drew down it troops in Iraqi cities at the end of June.
Preview: Japanese elections
Politicians across Japan have officially hit the campaign trail, ahead of national elections at the end of the month. FSRN’s Shuhei Nakayama has a preview.
Political campaigning began Tuesday for parliamentary elections on August 30th. Polls show Japan will likely see the end of the Liberal Democratic Party – or LDP – rule, which has lasted almost five decades with little inturuption. The country is facing its worst recession since WWII, and the economy is the focus of most campaigns.
Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan is accusing the LDP of ignoring the interests of the common people. Hatoyama would likely be made prime minister if the Democratic Party of Japan wins a majority. He promises to put more money in the hands of consumers, freeze sales tax hikes and adopt a diplomatic stance less subservient to the US.
But current prime minister Taro Aso says the promises from the opposition parties are empty and not practical. The LDP asserts the opposition does not have the experience to handle the government.
Despite the apparent shift in power to come, some voters don’t expect the policies of the two parties to yield widely different results. Shuhei Nakayama, Free Speech Radio News.
Seattle voters turn down a surcharge on plastic grocery bags
Seattle voters have turned down a referendum to make shoppers pay 20 cents for paper or plastic bags. Chemical companies were the main financial backers of the opposition, as Ann Dornfeld reports from Seattle.
The bag fee plan would’ve made Seattle the first city in the nation to charge shoppers for both plastic and paper bags. Advocates for the referendum wanted shoppers to switch to reusable bags, and keep plastic out of landfills and the ecosystem. But the opposition had 15 times as much money to spend, mostly from the American Chemistry Council. The chemical industry organization donated half a million dollars to the opposition effort in July. That’s one of the largest referendum donations in city history.
Christian Sinderman is a spokesman for the Green Bag Campaign, which pushed for the bag fee. He says the chemical industry “bought the race,” and got voters to turn down the fee through misinformation. Ads suggested the bag fee would affect people who visit food banks, for example. But Sinderman says that’s not true. He says since a bag fee won’t apparently work, next time they’ll try to ban the bags altogether. Ann Dornfeld, FSRN, Seattle.
Judge overturns Oklahoma abortion law
A judge in Oklahoma has overturned the state’s abortion law that said abortion providers must provide ultrasound imagery and a description of the fetus to women seeking the procedure. The judge did not rule on the validity of the provision itself, instead she said the law violated the state’s constitution, which requires that legislation only deal with one subject. The decisions also overturned provisions in the law banning certain types of lawsuits and protecting healthcare workers who refuse to administer abortions for religious reasons.
Arkansas freight company hit with EEOC reverse discrimination suit
In a case of “reverse” discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Propak Logistics Inc., a nationwide freight management company based in Forth Smith, Arkansas. The company allegedly hired only Hispanic workers during a two-year span. FSRN’s Lynda-Marie Taurasi has more on this story.
A North Carolina employment attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a discrimination lawsuit claiming that freight company Propak Logistics only hires Hispanic workers.
The EEOC accuses Propak Logistics of violating the law from 2002 to 2004 law; the company allegedly hired a majority of Latinos instead of equally or more qualified non-Latino workers for its Shelby, North Carolina facility. The lawsuit claims that Propak refused to hire non-Hispanic employees for non-management positions, infringing on federal laws and regulations.
The EEOC says they tried to settle with Propak before filing the lawsuit. They are asking for back pay and compensatory and punitive damages. Lynda-Marie Taurasi, FSRN, Chapel Hill.
First World Humanitarian Day observed
And finally today is the first celebration of World Humanitarian Day.
“It is above all a day on which we renew our commitment to help vulnerable, voiceless and marginalized people, wherever they may be.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke today at a ceremony in New York. The UN say since 1997, more than 750 humanitarian aid workers have lost their lives in the course of duty.
Specialty doctors criticized for opposing health care reform
As rumors circulate that the White House may drop its plans for a public option on health care reform, presidential aide Linda Douglass addressed these concerns. In a written statement today, Douglass said that the President wants to ensure there are affordable health care options for all Americans and increased competition in the insurance market. She said the President still believes a public option is the best way to do this.
Meanwhile in Washington, a group of specialty doctors met Wednesday to discuss their position toward health care reform. Cardiologists, orthopedic Surgeons and other specialists have come under fire for their opposition to a public health care system. Critics say these doctors are only interested in protecting their pockets and keeping the status quo. FSRN´s Karen Miller has more.
Whole Foods CEO´s views on health care reform spark progressive boycott
As progressives, moderates and conservatives continue to debate health care reform, some powerful entities are also leveraging their influence, including a figure who´s now attracting attention from both sides of the political spectrum, John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods.
Some progressives have been displeased with the organic grocer for several years.
But Mackey´s recent op-ed on health care, published in the Wall Street Journal has spurred an organized boycott. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.
LA Taxi drivers demand better working conditions
More than 100 taxi drivers rallied in front of the Los Angeles City Hall yesterday, demanding city officials overhaul the current taxi system and improve drivers´ working conditions. FSRN´s Leilani Albano has the story.
Afghan government tells journalists to stop covering pre-election violence
A sharp rise in violence continues in Afghanistan a day before its second national elections. The Taliban have made more attempts to limit people from voting, using threats, intimidation and violence. According to some reports, as many as 10 percent of the polling locations may not be able to open tomorrow due to poor security. Stories of election fraud are also threatening the legitimacy of tomorrow’s elections. And in a surprising move, the Afghan government has called on the media to refrain from reporting on terrorist attacks on election day. Asma Nemati reports from Kabul.
Afghans hope for high turnout during Thursday elections
Despite the latest round of attacks by militants, including the death of six US troops today and the murders of six election workers this week, many Afghans are hoping for a high turnout in tomorrow´s elections. FSRN spoke with Omar Sharifi, an Afghan citizen living in Kabul. Sharifi directs the Kabul office of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies.
Secretary Clinton defends controversial US-Colombia military deal
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is defending US plans to sign a controversial military agreement with Colombia. The plan would allow the US to use seven military bases in the south American country. After meeting with Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez Tuesday, Clinton spoke to members of the press.
“This agreement ensures that appropriate protections are in place for our service members. It will allow us to continue working together to meet the challenges posed by narco-traffickers, terrorists and other armed groups in Colombia. These threats are real and the US is committed to support the government of Colombia.”
Under the agreement, US military planes would use Colombian air force bases to go on anti-drug trafficking reconnaissance flights. US ships could dock at bases owned by the Colombian navy and US military personnel would also be allowed to use the bases to conduct intelligence operations.
The agreement has been criticized by opposition groups in Colombia, who oppose a clause that says US soldiers who stay at those bases will be immune from any prosecution by Colombian authorities. Some South American countries have also expressed their concern over US military presence in Colombia, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saying the bases could be used to launch attacks against his country. Clinton responded to these criticisms.
“I want to be clear on what the agreement does and does not do. First the agreement does not create US bases in Colombia. It does provide the United States access to Colombian bases, but command and control, administration and security will be Colombia´s responsibility. And any US activity will have to be mutually agreed upon in advance. The United States does not have and does not seek bases inside Colombia.”
The US military currently uses a base in Manta, Ecuador to conduct anti-drug trafficking operations. But the lease runs out in November and it was not renewed by the Ecuadorean government. South American presidents will meet in Argentina later this month to discuss the latest US –Colombia military deal.