January 6, 2010

  • Clashes erupt along Egypt-Gaza border
  • Aid convoy arrives to Gaza after delay
  • Warming temperatures threaten Bolivian glaciers and indigenous communities
  • Obama halts release of Yemeni detainees following attempted attack
  • EPA to allow mountain top coal mine to go forward in West Virginia

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Two congressional democrats announce retirement
Two Democratic senators have announced they won’t run for re-election: Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. The moves could mean a shake-up in the Senate this fall. Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven about Dodd’s retirement.

Chris Dodd is serving his fifth term in the Senate — a 30-year career. He was facing a tough re-election fight, in which all three Republicans in the race were polling ahead of him. Many voters had soured on Dodd, long a popular liberal lawmaker, when he moved to Iowa briefly to run a Quixotic presidential bid in 2008. He was also plagued with allegations of ethics violations regarding special treatment he received in getting a mortgage from Countrywide, one of the biggest sub-prime lenders. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Senate ethics panel.

Dodd has many legislative victories to his credit, including the Family Leave Act of 1993. He worked alongside the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a close friend, in pursuing health care reform, and is currently at the center of financial reform legislation moving through the Senate. At a press conference outside his home in the town of Haddam, he told reporters:

“I’m very proud of the job I’ve done and the results delivered. But none of us is irreplaceable. There are moments for each elected public official to step aside, and let someone else step up. This is my moment to step aside.”

The state’s extremely popular attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, immediately jumped into the race. He is expected to take the lead and will likely keep the seat in Democratic hands. Melinda Tuhus, FSRN, Connecticut.

Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Ritter has also announced he plans to step down at the end of his current term.

Interior Department announces stricter review of oil and gas leases on public lands
The US Interior Department today announced reforms to how public lands – specifically BLM parcels – are leased to industry for oil and gas development. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar:

“The difference is in the prior administration, the oil and gas industry were essentially the kings of the world. Whatever they wanted to happen, essentially happened.”

Salazar says the new plan will provide a balanced approach that will put more power in the hands of the BLM to do site specific evaluations and engage the public locally. The Bureau will evaluate possible lease areas for environmental impact, cultural importance and threats to human health and safety. The reforms aim to relieve the number of legal protests made against hastily approved leases.

“The log jam has been essentially created because of the headlong rush to leasing has brought about enormous litigation. To have gone from having 1% of BLM oil and gas leases protested in 1998 to 40% in 2008 tells us we have a huge problem.”

Salazar says the new rules will provide “smarter access” to public lands and create more certainty for industry that the leases granted will not be delayed or overturned by outside challenges. He says the Interior Department is also working on new rules for offshore oil and gas leasing that will undo the mistakes of the Bush Administration.

Federal court says Washington inmates have right to vote
A federal appeals court has ruled that a Washington state law prohibiting inmates from voting violates the Voting Rights Acts of 1965. Mark Taylor-Canfield reports from Seattle.

The decision by a three-judge panel from the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overrules a lower court’s decision. The Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of an inmate from Bellevue, Washington, Muhammad Shabazz Farrakhan, who is suing the state for civil rights violations.

Farrakhan and five other prisoners argued that since racial minorities are incarcerated or paroled in disproportionate numbers when compared to the white population, the state’s law violates the federal Voting Rights Act passed by the US Congress in 1965.

This landmark decision could affect laws in 48 other states. Currently, only the states of Maine and Vermont allow prisoners to cast votes. Mark Taylor-Canfield, Free Speech Radio News, Seattle.

Soldiers kill three workers at Chevron facility in Nigeria
Soldiers at a Chevron liquefied natural gas installation in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region have shot dead three day laborers. Sam Olukoya has the details from Lagos.

The incident occurred Monday night at Chevron’s multi-million dollar Escravos-Gas To-Liquid project after security personnel refused to allow the causal workers to enter a housing compound. The workers began protesting the closure of the gate, and soldiers guarding the facility moved in and shot three of the men dead. Several others suffered gun shot wounds.

The Chevron facility is under construction, and seven thousand people are being employed on the project. In protest of the killings, the other workers have gone on strike.

Government officials are meeting with Chevron about how to resolve the crisis. Amid growing insecurity in the past years, the Nigerian government has deployed hundreds of soldiers to guard oil installations in the Niger Delta region. Most of the facilities there are owned by US and other international corporations. The soldiers have been accused of human rights abuses, especially in their dealings with local communities. Sam Olukoya, FSRN, Lagos.

Anti-whaling vessel collides with Japanese ship during hunt
A high-tech speedboat owned by the Washington state-based environmental group, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has been severely damaged after it collided with a Japanese whaling vessel. The ship, called Ady Gil, was trying to disrupt the whale hunt, which was being carried out by a research arm of the Japanese government. Sea Shepherd Society’s Paul Watson told the AP that the much larger Japanese ship deliberately aimed for the Ady Gil:

“It was aiming actually at the crew’s command quarters, which would have certainly killed somebody. But Peter Bethune, the captain, put the ship in reverse and was pulling back. He saved his crew, but it cut the ship in half.”

Video of the incident taken by the Japanese crew shows the whaler using a water cannon on the environmental group’s boat and the collision, but does not make clear which vessel initiated the contact. Including the Ady Gil, Sea Shepherd says it has three ships operating in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary near Antarctica.

Final survivor of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings dead at 93
And finally, the last remaining survivor of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has died. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was 93 years old. Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on business when the first bomb was dropped. He survived with severe burns and returned to his home in Nagasaki. A day later the US dropped a second bomb on that city. Yamaguchi died of stomach cancer on Monday.


Clashes erupt along Egypt-Gaza border over delay of aid convoy – 2:04 minutes (1.9 MB)
Dozens of Palestinians clashed today with Egyptian security guards on the Gaza-Egypt border line. The riots left one Egyptian soldier dead and 35 Palestinians wounded including 5 critically. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

Aid convoy arrives to Gaza after delay – 5:32 minutes (5.06 MB)
The Viva Palestina Convoy trucks encountered many obstacles before they were able to enter Gaza. FSRN spoke to Keven Ovenden, Viva Palestina Convoy leader, just minutes after they entered Gaza. He began by describing the crossing.

Warming temperatures threaten Bolivian glaciers and indigenous communities – 5:50 minutes (5.35 MB)
The Copenhagen climate change summit ended with mixed results leaving many wondering when – and if – a legally binding treaty will be reached. In response, some countries are continuing with negotiations on their own, and this time with a new emphasis. Bolivian President Evo Morales announced an alternative climate change summit to counter the failures at Copenhagen. It will take place in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April 2010. The summit will gather governments and indigenous nations, and will focus on climate justice and the rights of “mother earth.” Morales has also said that one goal of the conference would be to work toward an international court on environmental crimes. Bolivia is already experiencing the effects of climate change, especially in the indigenous community of Khapi. FSRN’s Jessica Aguirre takes us there to see what climate change looks like on the ground.

Obama halts release of Yemeni detainees following attempted attack -4:36 minutes (4.21 MB)
Today, a federal grand jury indicted the 23-year-old Nigerian man for the failed Christmas bombing of a plane landing in Detroit. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is charged with six counts, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder of 289 people on board the plane. One result of the incident has been a focus on the relationship between the U.S. and Yemen. US officials have said the alleged bomber had contact with al-Qaeda in Yemen prior to the attempted attack. On Tuesday, President Obama announced that he will halt the release of Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Also Tuesday, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling to detain a Yemeni terror suspect, despite calls from public defenders and human rights groups for his release. FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports.

EPA to allow mountain top coal mine to go forward in West Virginia – 3:19 minutes (3.03 MB)
The Environmental Protection Agency announced a compromise regarding one mountain top coal mine in West Virginia. The mine will receive its permit to operate but must decrease its pollution of surrounding streams by half. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.