November 6, 2009

  • Fort Hood shooting sheds light on mental health issues in armed forces
  • Exxon-Mobil signs deal to develop major oil field in Iraq
  • Activists begin hunger strike to draw attention to climate change talks
  • Reporter’s Notebook: Getting the flu vaccine in Washington, D.C.
  • California overhauls its water system in third year of drought

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Zelaya: Honduras compromise plan “dead”
A US brokered plan in Honduras to form a temporary unity Cabinet has failed, according to ousted president Manuel Zelaya.  The coup government, led by Roberto Micheletti, announced the formation of a new government that does not include the former president.  This violates the terms of the latest compromise, which also dictated that the country’s congress should vote whether Zelaya should be reinstated.  Micheletti stated in a televised address that Zelaya did not send a list of cabinet members to be considered in the unity government, which will be in place until elections are held at the end of November.  Zelaya negotiator Jorge Reina spoke to reporters.

“The permanent violation of human rights, the cancellation of public freedoms, the censorship of media…  The elected president is surrounded by soldiers at the Brazilian embassy…  This is all is proof the coup government is preparing to commit political and electoral fraud on November 29.”

The deposed president has called for a boycott of those elections.


US wrap-up: Unemployment, health care and the single payer option

The US unemployment rate has broken the double-digit mark, rising to 10.2% in October.  According to the Labor Department, 15.7 million people in the US are unemployed.  The rate is the highest since 1983.  Although more jobs were lost last month, the number lost was lower than in previous months.   Today President Obama signed another piece of legislation designed to help the sagging economy.  The bill extends unemployment benefits by 14 to 20 weeks, cuts taxes on businesses…

“And will extend the tax credit for all homebuyers through April of next year while strengthening it with stronger anti-fraud measures.  The rebound in the housing market was one of the big factors that contributed to the growth of the economy last quarter and brought hundreds of thousands of families into the housing market.  We want to give even more families the chance to own their own home.”

Another of Obama’s big agenda items – health care – will see debate and a possible vote Saturday in the House of Representatives.  After elections this week, Democrats have filled two empty house seats.

“The chair announces to the House that in light of the administration of the oath of office to the gentleman from New York, the whole number of the House is 435.”

Nancy Pelosi today at the swearing in ceremony of newly-elected Representative Bill Owens.  California Democrat John Garamendi was sworn in yesterday.  Filling these seats is important for Democrats, who are making the last-minute push to wrangle enough votes to pass the $1.1 trillion bill.  Right now language surrounding abortion is a major sticking point.

For months, Representative Anthony Weiner has insisted that a single-payer plan get a vote on the House Floor as well.  But now he has withdrawn, saying he became concerned it would undermine the chances of the consensus plan passing.  That plan does contain a public option.


Narco-violence spreading in Mexican border state
The area surrounding the northern Mexican city of Monterrey appears to be teetering on the brink of increased cartel violence after the murder of a crime boss.  FSRN’s Shannon Young has more.

The industrialized city of Monterrey and its wealthy suburbs have been spared the level of drug violence plaguing other large northern cities.  But things appear to be changing.  All 78 municipal police of the town of Garcia have been called in for questioning after last night’s murder of the recently-installed chief of police and his 4 bodyguards.

The massacre came shortly after Mauricio Fernandez, the mayor of the elite community of Garza Garcia, publicly advocated for the formation of armed self-defense squads to combat organized crime.  The mayor’s advocacy of private commandos has prompted mixed reactions, including warnings that it could lead to Colombian-style paramilitary violence.  Shannon Young, FSRN.

Stasi survivors still waiting for justice
Monday will be the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the freedom of the East German people and the symbolic end of the Cold War.  But still, many who suffered at the hands of the secret police under Communist East Germany, have yet to see justice.  FSRN’s Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin.

The Stasi, the feared East German secret police, interrogated, tortured and imprisoned thousands of people… while hundreds of thousands of others were spied upon by informers who were often friends, family and colleagues.

In the first 10 years following the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was an effort to bring justice to those who suffered.  But despite almost 80,000 investigations, there were only 993 prosecutions and less than 100 convictions.  Even Erich Mielke, Minister for State Security and head of the Stasi, spent less than two years in jail.  And he was never held accountable for his actions in German Democratic Republic in East Germany.

It wasn’t until 2007 that victims of the Stasi were granted a pension by the German federal government.  They are now paid 250 euros a month – but only if they were jailed for more than six months and earn less than about €12,500 a year.  But even to apply for this small amount, victims must prove what happened.  While the Stasi kept meticulous files, there’s a two-year backlog to get access.  And many of the files were shredded as the GDR collapsed.  Cinnamon Nippard, FSRN, Berlin.




Fort Hood shooting sheds light on mental health issues in armed forces
As the nation mourns the victims of Thursday’s shooting at Fort Hood, Texas many are reflecting on the challenges facing men and women in the military. Suspected shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan was himself psychiatrist who counseled soldiers returning from war. FSRN’s Tanya Snyder examines what happens when there’s a crisis among mental health professionals in the armed forces.


Exxon Mobil signs deal to develop major oil field in Iraq
Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell have signed a deal with the Iraqi Oil Ministry to develop a major oil field in Basra, southern Iraq. The 50 billion dollar deal is the first American-led venture into Iraq since the oil industry was nationalized in 1972. It’s also the second major deal signed this week – a signal that perhaps multinational oil companies are ready to return to Iraq and make huge profits.

We’re joined by Charlie Cray. He’s the director of the Center for Corporate Policy, a non-partisan public interest group based in Washington, D.C.


Activists begin hunger strike to draw attention to climate change talks
UN climate talks in Barcelona wound down today with little progress made in negotiations. Developing nations say rich countries like the United States which produce a disproportionate amount of the world’s CO2 have pledged too little to reduce emissions. Meanwhile, with the Copenhagen Climate conference just a month away, activists and NGOs are trying to keep the pressure on governments to act decisively. In Australia, one group of activists IS already taking action – by going on a hunger strike. And, as FSRN’S Tom Allan reports, it’s an idea that’s spreading around the globe.


Reporter’s Notebook: Getting the flu vaccine in Washington, D.C.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that about 35 million doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine had been ordered. Though the Department of Health has been setting up free vaccination clinics across the country, there is still a shortage of the drug. In this reporter’s notebook, FSRN’s Sam Greenspan gives us an on-the-ground look at the vaccination campaign in Washington, DC.


California overhauls its water system in third year of drought
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed California’s most sweeping water overhaul in almost half a century. The legislation is aimed at protecting fragile delta ecosystems and modernizing the water system in a state now in its third year of drought. The measures split environmentalists as lawmakers crafted a plan to build new dams, cut water use, and up-date a water system for farms and southern California cities.  FSRN’S Christopher Martinez reports from Sacramento.

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