September 3, 2009

  • CDC releases latest Swine Flu figures
  • Obama to address Congress on healthcare reform
  • Virginia governor’s race heats up
  • High carbon emissions could affect fishing industry
  • Women seek political spaces in Lebanon

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US to cut aid to Honduras, but doesn’t say military take-over was a “coup”
The US State Department says it will cut off all non-humanitarian aid to Honduras, but will not go as far as calling the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya a coup.  The US hopes to pressure de facto president Roberto Micheletti to sign on to the San Jose Accord, a compromise agreement that would allow Zelaya to return with limited powers.  The sitting government in Honduras has thus far refused.

Riots follow announcement of Gabon’s election results
In the central-west African country of Gabon today, opposition protesters went on a rampage after hearing the results of Sunday’s presidential election. The government announced Ali Ben Bongo, the son of the former president Omar Bongo, won with 48% of the vote. But the opposition denounced the result as fraud and “a constitutional coup d’etat.”  In Gabon’s second-largest city Port Gentil security forces fought an angry crowd who set fire to the French consulate – France is the former colonial power that backed Omar Bongo’s government.

Ethnic tensions flare again in Western China’s Xinjiang region
Another riot has erupted in Urumqi, in the western province of Xinjiang, China.  The riot was apparently triggered by a series of syringe stabbings over the past month. This latest attack demonstrates that tensions have still not eased between the Uighurs – a Chinese Muslim minority group – and the Han Chinese majority.  FSRN’s Shuk-Wah Chung has more.

Police gave orders for everyone to stay inside when crowds of angry Han Chinese protesters took to the streets to demand better security.  According to local news reports more than 400 Han Chinese have been stabbed with tainted syringes by the Uighurs. Xinhua, the official government news agency, says 15 people have been arrested for the attacks.

For both groups, the riot comes at a bad time. The Uighurs have only just begun celebrating Ramadan and the Chinese are gearing up for the 60th anniversary celebrations. And it was only two months ago when these were the sounds from the streets of Urumqi.  During those clashes, at least 200 people died.

For now, More than 100 police have been stationed at each corner and internet access is still blocked.   Shuk-Wah Chung, FSRN, China

Indonesia surveys damage after large earthquake

Disaster and rescue teams are scouring villages in Indonesia after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Wednesday.   UN Radio’s Don Bobb has the details.

Indonesia’s National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) has reported that 57 people were killed and 3,118 people displaced.  Forty-two people are missing and feared buried following a landslide in Cianjur district. There have been 69 small aftershocks following the initial tremors on 2 September.  A total of 10,695 houses were totally damaged and more than 13,000 moderately; 367 schools and 353 places of worship in 10 districts/cities in West Java were damaged.  The Government of Indonesia has not requested any international assistance at this time.  Donn Bobb reporting.

Investigation reopens into Russian journalist’s murder
The investigation into the murder of prominent Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya will be reopened, after a Russian Supreme Court ruling today.   Politkovskaya was an outspoken critic of Russia’s handling of the war in Chehnya and was murdered in her apartment building in 2006.  But many, including the lawyer of Politkovskaya’s family, are skeptical that the new probe will actually lead to full and fair investigation.  Human rights groups believe the order for the hit came from within the government.

Somali militants threaten to expand operations into peaceful Somaliland
Somali extremist group Al –Shabab has threatened to expand their reach and attack Ethiopian targets in the relatively peaceful breakaway Republic of Somaliland.  Al-Shabab is thought to have ties with Al Qaeda.  The group’s leader, Sheik Muqtar Abdurahman Abu Zubeyr, released a tape announcing the plan today, accusing the Republic of harassing its people and hosting what he called enemies of Islam.

In listing Ethiopia’s offenses, Abu Zubeyr says the country is benefiting economically from Somaliland, at the expense of the Somali people there.

“Many innocents have been extradited to Ethiopia, others were detained with no reason and some were made scapegoats. We are warning people not to rent houses from Ethiopians or use Ethiopian women as house servants and we are calling on people to be far away from Ethiopian bases and not fly by their airlines.”

The militant leader said that Somaliland administrators are puppet for the West and similar attacks will target government buildings.  Somaliland declared independence from Somalia 18 years ago, and has been more stable than the troubled south-central Somali regions where conflicts have killed more than five hundred thousand people since 1991. But the Republic of 3.5 million people still lacks international recognition.

This report prepared in collaboration with FSRN’s Shafi’i Mohyaddin in Mogadishu.

California health insurance providers deny over 20% of claims

One in five medical insurance claims in California are denied by insurance providers, according to a report by the California Nurses Association.  The CNA says they examined self-reported data from Health Insurance providers from the past 7 years to arrive at that figure.  The data was reported on the state’s Department of Managed Health Care website.  In the first half of 2009, PacifiCare and Cigna’s denial rates were well above 30%.  Insurance companies say the data reported in their annual reports can be misleading.  The California Nurses Association is an outspoken advocate for single-payer health reform.



CDC releases latest Swine Flu figures
Thirty-six children have died from Swine Flu, according to data released today by the Centers for Disease Control.  Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of CDC:

“In two-thirds of those cases, the child had one severe underlying illness, or underlying disability, muscular dystrophy, long standing musculatory or cardiac problems. There were some children who didn´t have an underlying condition and who did become severely ill and they were generally infected also by bacteria.”

In all, there’s been 477 deaths in the US connected to Swine Flu. Dr. Frieden said the H1-N1 virus is spreading in parts of the US, particularly in the Southeast where many have already returned to school.

According to the American College Health Association, some 1600 cases of Swine Flu were reported at colleges and universities last week alone. But the CDC says while the flu may affect many people – up to half the US population – most will not get severely ill.

Dr. Frieden says they are also looking at the risk to healthcare workers:

“They are the first line of defense and we need to ensure that we do everything we can to reduce to the greatest extent possible their risk of becoming ill on the job.  Protecting healthcare workers involves many different factors including how the healthcare are organized, whether people who are not severely ill come in for care and overwhelm the system and how many different healthcare workers have contact with people who may be infected.”

The Institute of Medicine released a report today examining the best ways to protect healthcare workers, including the use of masks or respiratory devices.

The CDC said the Swine Flu vaccine isn’t ready yet, but is expected to be available by mid-October. The vaccine will be free and some states and cities could cover the costs to administer the shot. CDC recommends all school children and people with underlying conditions and risk factors get the vaccine.


Obama to address Congress on healthcare reform
President Obama will address a joint session of Congress next week to discuss health care. It will be another attempt to persuade the public and Congress to support efforts at reform. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell speaks to host Manuel Rueda about the healthcare debate.


Virginia governor’s race heats up
With exactly two months to go before elections, the governor’s race in the state of Virginia is heating up.  Republican Bob McDonnell has led the polls for weeks, but the recent publication of a controversial thesis paper could give his Democrat challenger a boost. FSRN´s Karen Miller has more.


High carbon emissions could affect fishing industry
Today marks the 200th day of the Recovery Act, one of the first laws signed by President Obama. The Recovery Act seeks to create jobs and mitigate the impact of the economic recession on American families. Today, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis talked about the administration’s efforts to create jobs.

“During my first 100 days in office, my department released $45 billion of the $46 billion for recovery act efforts. We moved immediately to protect workers who lost their jobs and provided new worker training opportunities for those looking to upgrade their skills. We made $220 million available to help dislocated workers transition into high growth sectors. We are providing $500 million for high job training. And we rewarded $114 million to community groups across the country to provide education and training to young people.”

Despite these programs, recovery is slow. The US unemployment rate still hovers around ten percent and experts say it would be over 16 percent if those who have given up looking for a job were also counted. The sub-prime mortgage loan crisis and the ensuing financial breakdown have hit construction workers and manufacturers the hardest.

The fishing industry in another sector that´s concerned about job losses and some are pointing to climate change as the problem, connecting high carbon emissions to a decline in fish stocks.  In Alaska, fish industry workers and green groups are coming together to target this issue. This Labor day weekend, they´ve planned a visual protest out in the water involving dozens of fishermen and boats.

FSRN spoke to environmental activist Brad Warren.  Warren works for the Sustainable Fisheries Initiative and he´s one of the organizers of Voices of the Ocean, the event that will take place in Homer, Alaska this weekend.


Women seek political spaces in Lebanon
Its been over three months since Lebanon held its elections and the politically divided country is still struggling to name a cabinet that satisfies all political groups.  Meanwhile, very little attention is being paid to perhaps the biggest losers in the election: women.  FSRN´s Don Duncan has more from Beirut.

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