September 4, 2009
- Health insurance companies sway employees away from public option
- NATO airstrike kills 90 in Afghanistan; US general ponders troop surge
- Colombian activists stage global “No More Chavez” march
- US unemployment reaches record highs in August
NATO air strike in Afghanistan kills dozens of civilians as war loses support in Britain
A NATO air strike in Afghanistan has killed nearly 100 people, and Afghan officials say at least 40 of the casualties were civilians. The strike targeted two hijacked fuel tankers. Officials say many of the civilians killed in the strike were trying to collect fuel from the trucks. The air strike happened in the Northern Afghan province of Kunduz. NATO has promised a full investigation into the incident. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has promised the same.
The civilian deaths are widely expected to trigger a backlash against US and NATO forces within Afghanistan. But dissent is growing in other parts of the world as well, including in the UK where Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a major speech today to rally support for what he stressed was an international issue.
“It’s right of course that we play our part and that we do not leave the people of Afghanistan to struggle with their global problems on their own.”
But in a sign of waning support for the cause, a member of the British government has resigned over the issue. From London, FSRN’s Naomi Fowler reports:
Former army man and parliamentary aide Eric Joyce announced his resignation from the government hours before Gordon Brown’s speech. Fifty-two British soldiers have been killed in the country since July. Public and political opposition is mounting against the argument that British military action in Afghanistan will prevent terrorist attacks in the UK.
In a letter Eric Joyce called for honesty about the reasons for Britain’s presence. He also pointed out that fellow NATO members France, Germany and Italy have decided not be take part directly. In his speech, Gordon Brown denied he was making the same mistakes in Afghanistan as the Soviet Union did in the 1980s. Naomi Fowler, FSRN, London.
Israel says West Bank settlements will proceed
As plans for a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli leaders begin to coalesce, an announcement affirming more Israeli settlements in the West Bank threatens to derail negotiations. FSRN’s Ghassan Bannoura reports.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to approve the construction of hundreds of new settlement units, reversing previous assurances of freezing settlement activities. The news of the impending official announcement was widely leaked by unnamed Israeli officials. They say after this wave of settlements is approved, they will once again consider a temporary freeze on construction.
Palestinian officials have expressed anger at the announcement, saying it is an affront to the peace process. US officials recently hinted at the likelihood of renewed Israeli/ Palestinian negotiations during upcoming UN General Assembly convention in New York. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet with Netanyahu until Israel stops expansion in the West Bank.
There are 450,000 Israeli settlers living in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. All Israeli settlements are illegal according to international law. Ghassan Bannoura, FSRN, Bethlehem.
White House to release limited guest log
Obama’s campaign pledge of greater government transparency has been tested in the first months of his presidency, with many government watchdog groups accusing him of not doing enough. Today he announced the White House guest list would be made public – at least part of it, depending on who visited and when. Shuhei Nakayama has more.
The Obama administration says the names of most visitors to the White House will be released on its website starting around the end of the year. The longstanding policy of keeping visitors’ names secret was most recently upheld by the Bush Administration and continued with Obama. But the White House agreed to settle a lawsuit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to make the guest list available.
The new policy says that at the end of each month, the White House will post online a list of visitors from two to three months earlier. The list will not include those involved in “sensitive meetings” such as potential Supreme Court nominees or “purely personal guests” like the President’s and Vice President’s family members. Despite the limitations, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics say the policy change will still make this – quote – “the most open White House in history.” Shuhei Nakayama. Free Speech Radio News.
West African flooding displaces 350,000
Flooding in Western Africa has affected 350,000 people, according to the UN. Waters began rising in Burkina Faso, Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, and Senegal on Tuesday following torrential rains. Burkina Faso has been hit hardest. There 100-thousand people have had to be relocated, says UN Humanitarian Affairs spokesperson Elizabeth Byrs.
“So many public infrastructures have been destroyed. Bridges have been washed away. The main road is damaged and above all, the main hospital in Ouagadougou had to be evacuated because it was flooded. The authorities together with the UN agencies are monitoring the health situation.”
Photos show waters knee-deep in many areas, but some waters were high enough to engulf vehicles. The AP reports that at least 7 people have died. And UN officials are concerned about outbreaks of water-born diseases.
Aung San Suu Kyi granted appeal
A court in Myanmar says they will hear an appeal from Aung San Suu Kyi. The pro-democracy advocate was recently sentenced to 18 months of house arrest for allowing an American man to take shelter at her home. Suu Kyi’s lawyers say the appeal date is set for September 18.
Health insurance companies sway employees away from public option
This year’s debate on healthcare reform has been quite different from efforts to reform America´s health system in the 1990s. The health insurance industry is now saying they support health reform. But as FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, their actions don’t always match their public statements.
NATO airstrike kills 90 in Afghanistan; US general ponders troop surge
A military surge in Afghanistan could be on its way, just as a NATO airstrike killed up to 90 people in northern Afghanistan. The Obama Administration is evaluating General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment of the situation there. The US commander hasn’t asked for more troops yet, but his report is pointing in that direction. Tanya Snyder reports.
Colombian activists stage global “No More Chavez” march
Colombian activists organized a global protest against Venezuela´s President Chavez Friday. Organizers said the “No More Chavez” protest was held in more than 110 cities around Colombia and the world, including New York, Paris and Washington DC. Participants said they wanted to protest the Venezuelan president´s intervention in Colombia´s affairs and his alleged support of Colombia´s FARC guerrillas.
FSRN host Manuel Rueda spoke to the organizer of the “No More Chavez” protest, Oscar Morales. Morales is a Colombian engineer who made international headlines last year when he used the internet to organize a 5 million person march against Colombia´s FARC guerrillas.
US unemployment reaches record highs in August
National unemployment figures reached record highs in August according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate jumped from 9.4 percent in July to 9.7 percent last month. The underemployment rate reached 16.8 percent. This includes people who have given up looking for a job and those who are working part-time but would like to have a full-time job.
Dr Lauren Applebaum is from UCLA´s institute for research on labor and employment. She says men are being hard hit by the recession.
“The unemployment rate for adult men is now 10.1 percent, so it’s crossed the ten percent mark. A lot of those people who are involuntarily working part time are women whose husbands have lost their job and they are looking for work, but they´re able to find only part time work. And also the significance of the higher male unemployment in this recession is that women earn less than men do. A lot of families are trying to get by on much less, on that one female salary.”
Despite these problems, the rate of jobs lost is slowing down. In August, 216,000 jobs were lost, compared to 276,000 in July. Applebaum says that despite these advances the recession is far from over.
“There has been a slowdown in the job loss over the last few months because the stimulus package is doing something to jumpstart the economy. But 6.9 million jobs have been lost since December 2007 and there are shorter hours and lower salaries and fewer benefits now. While the stimulus package and while the economy has been jumpstarted, its not enough. The engine is not able to keep running on its own.”
The manufacturing and construction sectors continue to lose the greatest number of jobs. While employment in the healthcare and education sectors has stabilized.