September 23, 2009

  • Honduras stand-off continues; Zelaya remains in Brazilian embassy
  • World leaders discuss climate change, economic crisis at UN General Assembly
  • As G20 nears, activists ask Obama to keep trade reform promises
  • Treasury Secretary Geithner asks Congress for financial regulation reform
  • Experts urge lawmakers to target aid to minorities hit by recession

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Obama Administration issues new rules for state secrets
The Obama Administration today released new rules governing the evocation of state secrets privileges as a means to keep certain sensitive data out of the public eye. FSRN’s Shuhei Nakayama has more.

The Justice Department releases a new policy that imposes stricter guidelines on when the government can use state secrets privilege in litigation.  State secrets provisions were often used by the Bush Administration to hide information about controversial national security strategies such as rendition and warrantless wiretapping.

Under the new policy, a new DOJ review committee will be established to judge claims of state secrets.  Government agencies will now need to gain approval of the Attorney General and the review committee to evoke the privilege.  The current policy only required agencies to obtain approval from one official and meet a significantly lower standard of proof.

Attorney General Eric Holder says the aim of the new policy is to strengthen people’s trust in government.   The new policy is scheduled to go into effect Oct.1. Shuhei Nakayama, Free Speech Radio News.

MA Senate votes to allow interim appointment to replace Ted Kennedy
Massachusetts is close to having an interim successor to the late Senator Edward Kennedy.  With new rules passed by the state Senate, only one more legislative step is necessary before Governor Deval Patrick can appoint someone to fill the seat until a special election takes place early next year.  One of the top contenders appears to be former Massachusetts Governor and Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis.  Another is close friend and aid to Senator Kennedy and former chair of the Democratic National Committee, Paul Kirk.


Progress Report on foreclosure mediation programs
State and local mortgage loan mediation programs are not working because mortgage lenders are not required to participate and there are no sanctions in place to encourage them to do so – this according to a new report by the National Consumer Law Center.   The reports looks at 25 loan mediation programs in 14 states that aim to keep consumers out of foreclosure by negotiating new mortgage terms with lenders.  Geoff Walsh is the report author.

“And what we’ve found from reviewing these programs is that while these programs could provide significant help to homeowners, they suffer from the same lack of industry accountability that’s plagued the voluntary federal programs that have fought to encourage large-scale modifications of mortgages over the last two years.”

Walsh says in these voluntary programs, homeowners have very little power.  He also says that the industry has fought provisions that require them to show compliance.  At this point there is no data that show loan modification programs have allowed a significant number of people to avoid foreclosure.


Floods subside in Georgia; thousands uninsured
Rains have stopped and widespread floods in Georgia are beginning to subside today, but the amount of damage is estimated to be $250 million – most of that will be shouldered by residents who don’t have flood insurance.  The floods have caused breaks to water and sewer lines – in one place raw sewage spewed into the Chattahoochee River.


Obama addresses UN Assembly
A meeting between US, Israeli and Palestinian leadership in New York yesterday yielded little to no progress towards peace.  And today, in his first speech before the UN Assembly, President Obama announced his intentions to skip over meeting preliminary goals and move on to negotiating larger issues.

“We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel, and we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.  The time has come to re-launch negotiations – without preconditions.”

He went on to say:

“The goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security – a Jewish State of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory.”

Obama said he is committed to battling climate change, but also touted the steps the US has already taken to mitigate its contribution to the world’s greenhouse gasses.


New fighting in Indian administered Kashmir
Two fierce gun battles in Indian administered Kashmir are threatening re-ignite chaos in the region.  One of the clashes, happening in a forested area, continued Wednesday evening.  From Kashmir, FSRN’s Shahnawaz Khan has more.

Police said two militant commanders were killed in one of the gunfights in the Badipora region of northern Kashmir.  In addition, one army officer and another soldier were also killed in the overnight encounter that ended today.

In a separate gunfight that continues in a forest area in Baramulla district, Indian state television said two militants and two troopers have been killed so far.  Indian security agencies say that the militants seem to have infiltrated the region from Pakistan over the past few weeks.

Intermittent attacks by militant outfits in recent months have broken the peaceful lull in the region.  Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last week that secessionist and militant groups are trying to create an impression of turmoil in the state.  Shahnawaz Khan, FSRN, Srinagar.


Honduras stand-off continues; Zelaya remains in Brazilian embassy
A stand-off between the ousted President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya and Interim President Roberto Micheletti continues to generate civil strife, with several clashes reported Tuesday between Zelaya supporters and government forces. FSRN´s Tim Russo Reports.

World leaders discuss climate change, economic crisis at UN General Assembly
World leaders met in New York at the yearly UN General Assembly Wednesday, to discuss the direction the multilateral organization should take.  For many leaders, finding solutions to climate change and the economic crisis were the top priorities. Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

“This is the most important General Assembly since the one in 2000, where we set the millennium development goals. There are three great issues, three great challenges we are currently facing. The first of them is how to exit the economic recession and that is directly linked to how the world responds to the climate change threat.”

Zapatero also said the international community should focus on security challenges in the Middle East and he said the UN should prepare to evaluate the millennium development goals 10 years after they were set.

In a conciliatory tone, President Obama told the assembly that the United States is ready to begin a new chapter of international co-operation, citing issues like climate change and arms control.

Brazilian President Lula da Silva was critical of Wall Street. He had this to say about the economic crisis.

“More than a crisis of big banks this is a crisis of great dogmas. What failed was a senseless way of thinking and acting that subjugated the world in the last few decades.  It was the absurd doctrine that markets could auto-regulate themselves, doing away with any state intervention, which was considered by many a mere nuisance.”

Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, said the UN must be reformed so that every country has an equal say in the Security Council. Another controversial speaker is Iran´s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; hundreds of protesters awaited him near UN headquarters Wednesday morning. Canada and Israel said they would boycott his speech.


As G20 nears, activists ask Obama to keep trade reform promises
During his campaign President Obama promised to reform trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, which public interest groups have criticized for allowing companies to get away with lax labor and environmental standards.

Obama is meeting Thursday with heads of state of the world´s largest economies at the G20 summit.  And workers whose jobs have been moved overseas are calling on the President to use this meeting to move forward with his promises on trade reform.
Activists want Obama to promote the TRADE Act, a bill that would call for the revision of America´s trade agreements.  On Wednesday, FSRN spoke with Arthur Stamoulis from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, his organization promotes trade reform; it recently helped to publish a report on how NAFTA has affected American workers. The report is called “Trade Matters” you can find it here.

Treasury Secretary Geithner asks Congress for financial regulation reform
As the Senate continues to work on healthcare reform, Congress is plagued with another piece of legislation important to Democrats, financial reform. But a packed schedule of healthcare, climate change legislation and funding bills will make it challenging for Congress to get it done. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Congress that reforming financial regulation is imperative to stave off more economic disasters.  FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Experts urge lawmakers to target aid to minorities hit by recession
With every corner of the US economy affected by the recession, minorities have been hardest hit.  On Wednesday, experts urged lawmakers in Washington to focus aide to minority communities where need is greatest.  FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports.


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