September 14, 2009
- Obama speaks about financial crisis one year after Lehman Brothers collapse
- State Department officials asked about Afghanistan contractor
- US proposes new rules for Bagram detainees
- Mixed messages at Tea Party protest in Washington
- Facing dangers, IDP´s return to homes in Pakistan’s Swat Valley
AFL-CIO convention: Solis supports Employee Free Choice, Sweeney steps down
US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis addressed delegates at the 26th annual convention of the AFL-CIO in Pittsburgh. Solis reiterated President Obama’s support for the Employee Free Choice Act:
“We support worker’s free choice because we know union jobs help build the middle class, they get money into the pockets of working families and they insure the safety and security of all American workers.”
After fourteen years leading the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney officially stepped down yesterday. In his farewell address, also delivered at the federation of labor unions’ national convention, Sweeney recapped advances during his tenure in which the labor movement played a major role, including the election of both President Obama and what he called a pro-family majority in the US Congress:
“We changed the direction of our country and we should be just as proud of how we changed our movement. We built the strongest grass roots political operation in our country and brought hundreds of thousands of union volunteers into the fight to protect the dreams we share. We stopped just listening to politicians and started insisting they listen to the voices of working families.”
Incoming President Richard L. Trumka will take the helm later this week. Trumka was unopposed in his bid for the group’s highest post. Sweeney went on to describe the political juncture facing Trumka and the federation’s members.
“We are on the cusp of the greatest advance in labor law reform in seventy years, but we are taking heavy fire from the corporate captains of deceit. We are closer than ever to winning our long struggle for universal health care but our success has kindled a fire storm of meanness stoked by politicians playing on fear, racism, nativism and greed.”
The AFL-CIO convention runs through Thursday. President Obama is scheduled to speak to union delegates on Tuesday, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous will address the group on Wednesday.
OBIT: Crystal Lee Sutton – the real “Norma Rae”
In other labor news, longtime organizer Crystal Lee Sutton, whose fight to unionize a North Carolina Textile plant in the early 1970s was made famous in the film “Norma Rae”, died today, she was 68. In 1974, The Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union won the right to represent workers at the J.P. Stevens plant where Sutton was fired for her organizing activities.
Washington students go back to school – teachers settle strike
And Students in Kent, Washington will get back to school tomorrow after teachers voted to end an 18 day strike in the state’s fourth-largest school district. Teachers broadly approved a new contract today that reduces class size, increases the amount of time educators actually spend with students and limits administrative meetings. The agreement also calls for an increase in teacher’s pay.
Argentina sues Uruguay in International Court at the Hague
Argentina brought a major environmental case against neighboring Uruguay to the UN’s highest court today. FSRN’s Marie Trigona reports from Buenos Aires.
A dispute between two South American nations over water pollution reached the Hague today where a hearing began at the International Court of Justice. Argentina accuses Uruguay of breaching a bi-lateral treaty when it approved the construction of a paper mill plant that Buenos Aires claims pollutes a shared river. Residents in Argentina’s Entre Rios Province, across the river from the site continue to block roads between the two countries deepening the diplomatic dispute between the historically friendly neighbors. The river in contention borders a populated area used for fishing and tourism. Residents claim the mill emits pollutants into the air and water. Uruguay contends that the pulp plant is eco friendly with state of an art technological design and will begin making its case next week. Marie Trigona FSRN Buenos Aires.
Aceh passes law calling for death by stoning for adulterers, prison for homosexual behavior
Lawmakers in Aceh, Indonesia unanimously passed a new law today that calls for death by stoning for those convicted of adultery and lengthy prison terms for homosexual behavior. Shuhei Nakayama reports.
Lawmakers in Aceh Indonesia unanimously passed a new law today that calls for death by stoning for those convicted of adultery, and lengthy prison terms for homosexuality. Ache is a semi-autonomous region at the northern tip of Sumatra. The new measure reinforces existing code that harshly incorporates Sharia — or Islamic law. Ache already had banned gambling and drinking alcohol, and required women to wear headscarves. Despite protests by human rights groups and a provincial Governor, the new law will take effect within 30 days.
200 charged in Uganda riots
In Uganda today, more than 200 people were officially charged with offenses related to last week’s violence in Kampala that killed 21 people. The charges include rioting, unlawful assembly and threatening violence. All told, more than 600 were arrested during the two-day unrest stemming from government action that blocked a traditional ruler from visiting a rural area.
Obama speaks about financial crisis one year after Lehman Brothers collapse
Today marks the one-year anniversary of collapse of Lehman Brothers, which along with the breakdown of other major financial institutions created what many call “The Great Recession.” Speaking today at Federal Hall on Wall Street, President Obama said that Americans lost $5 trillion of household wealth in a matter of three months.
” . . . it wasn’t just a failure of oversight or foresight. It was also a failure of responsibility. It was fundamentally a failure of responsibility that allowed Washington to become a place where problems, including structural problems in our financial system, were ignored rather than solved. It was a failure of responsibility that led homebuyers and derivative traders alike to take reckless risks that they couldn’t afford to take. It was a collective failure of responsibility in Washington, on Wall Street and across America that led to the near-collapse of our financial system one year ago.”
The President urged Congress to enact a series of reforms, including establishing a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, closing loopholes that allow for systemic abuse of the financial regulatory system and fixing what is broken in the global financial system. Obama also had a stern message for his audience at Federal Hall and the recipients of the multi-billion dollar bailouts.
“It is neither right nor responsible after you’ve recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system and a more broadly shared prosperity. So I want to urge you to demonstrate that you take this obligation to heart. To put greater effort into helping families who need their mortgages modified under my administration’s home ownership plan. To help small business owners who desperately need loans and who are bearing the brunt of the decline in available credit. To help communities that would benefit from the financing you could provide, or the community development institutions you could support.”
Obama said banks have repaid an estimated $70 billion of bailout funds and the government has eliminated $250 billion reserved in the budget for additional bailouts.
State Department officials asked about Afghanistan contractor
On Capitol Hill Monday, State Department officials were in the hot seat at a hearing with the Commission on Wartime Contracting. Congress members wanted to know why a contractor that was hired to provide security for the US embassy in Kabul, held drunken parties and had staffing problems. Lawmakers also wanted to know why the US State Department is still using the contractor. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.
US proposes new rules for Bagram detainees
Detainees held at a US military base in Afghanistan have gained the right to present witnesses at US military hearings against them. More than 600 people are held the at the Bagram air base on the grounds that they supported terrorist groups. But detainees often don´t know why they have been imprisoned. And until now, their fate has been decided not by a judge or a court of law, but by a three-person military panel.
To learn more about the current changes proposed by the Obama administration, FSRN contacted Sahr Muhammed Ally, from Human Rights First. Like many human rights groups, Ally´s organization has been highly critical of the US government´s treatment of Bagram detainees.
Mixed messages at Tea Party protest in Washington
Tens of thousands of conservatives converged in Washington this weekend. The Tea Party protesters railed against big government, the supposed limitation of personal freedoms and fears that President Obama is turning the US into a socialist republic.
Fringe groups who believe Obama was not born in the country mixed with more mainstream groups who say they´re worried about the President´s plans for healthcare reform. FSRN´s Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell was at the site and on Monday, she shared her insights on this latest gathering against the President.
Facing dangers, IDP´s return to homes in Pakistan’s Swat Valley
At least 18 women and girls were killed in Pakistan today; they were trampled while waiting for a free flour give-away. As hundreds of women tried to enter a building in Karachi where the staple was being distributed, guards beat them back to clear the building. The flour was donated by an individual who was later arrested for not notifying authorities of the event.
Meanwhile, people returning to their homes in Pakistan’s Swat Valley after the government closed two camps for Internally Displaced People. This followed an announcement from the Pakistani Military in August that it had defeated the Taliban and Swat was safe for civilians to return. But fighting continues on the outskirts of Swat and many have no homes to return to. Catherine Komp reads for FSRN´s Gabe Matthews in Mingora, Swat.