February 17, 2010

  • French president makes first visit to Haiti and US troops ready for transition into rebuilding role
  • Ecological recovery seen as key in Haiti’s rebuilding efforts
  • Progressives make renewed push for public option in health care reform
  • New rules for credit cards go into effect next week, but loopholes persist
  • Critics say Google’s online library threatens privacy and copyright laws

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Obama marks 1-year anniversary of stimulus
Today, the Obama Administration marked the one-year anniversary of the passage of the stimulus program, stating unequivocally that the federal boost is “working.”

“One year later, it is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second depression is no longer a possibility.  It is one of the main reasons the economy has gone from shrinking by 6% to growing by about 6%.”

The Administration has faced heated pushback from Republicans on the issue, with not one supporting the original bill in Congress.  Obama says the Recovery Act is still controversial.

“And part of that is because there are those, let’s fact it, across the isle who have tried to score political points by attacking what we did.  Even as many of them show up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies in their districts.”

Obama concluded that there is still much work to be done, and urged Congress to pass additional measures and the jobs bill as quickly as possible.


Yucca Mountain nuclear storage project grinding to halt
The US government is moving ahead with plans to halt the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project.  Yesterday, a panel of Nuclear Regulatory Commission administrative judges approved a halt to hearings on the project.  The Department of Energy must completely withdraw the application before the project is officially dead.

While many in Nevada cheered the progress, government leaders in South Carolina are urging the Obama Administration to go forward with the project.  South Carolina houses the Savannah River Nuclear Site – a facility that once produced material for nuclear weapons.  Local Aiken County leaders have issued a statement saying the recent push to withdraw the Yucca permit violates many years of assurances from the federal government that the Nevada facility would be available to dispose of their waste.

This all comes as the Obama administration yesterday approved a loan guarantee for a new nuclear facility – a facility that will undoubtedly need a place to store its spent nuclear waste.


NYPD stops and frisks record number, at least 87% minority
In 2009, New York City police officers stopped more than a half million people on the streets – a practice often referred to as “stop and frisk.”  Newly released NYPD data also shows that the majority of those stopped were black and Latino men.  Salim Rizvi reports from New York City.

In 2009 the New York Police department stopped and frisked 575,000 people, a record for the city.  This is an eight percent increase from 2008.  The latest police data also shows that nearly 90% of those stopped were black or Latino men.

The policy of stop and frisk has been a controversial one.  Civil rights groups say that minorities unfairly face the brunt of the stops.  They have also filed lawsuits charging the NYPD with engaging in racial profiling for stopping and frisking people of color without suspicion.

Stop-and-frisks preformed without reasonable suspicion violate the Fourth Amendment.  And, under the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racial profiling is a violation of fundamental rights.

NYPD claims that the stop and frisk policy is an effective and legitimate means of crime reduction.  But according to their own data, only six percent of the stops in 2009 resulted in arrests.  Salim Rizvi FSRN, NYC.

Elections challenged in Sri Lanka and Ukraine
A Ukrainian court has granted a challenge by the loser of the country’s presidential election last week.  Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has accused winner Viktor Yanukovich of vote rigging.  The court agreed to delay approving the results until after the legal challenge is heard.

And in Sri Lanka, the loser of last month’s presidential election has also challenged the results.  General Sarath Fonseka, lost to the incumbent president.  He filed a petition with the country’s highest court yesterday.  The General is currently in government custody, after being arrested last week for violating army protocols.  But many observers say the arrest was politically motivated.


PA activist acquitted of wrongdoing during casino protests
In 2004 Pennsylvania mandated the licensing of 11 slots parlors across the state, of which 2 were slated for Philadelphia.  Since that day Philadelphia residents have successfully fought the opening of these casinos.  When the Sugarhouse Casino started construction in September 2009, 13 activists were arrested for protesting the ground breaking.  Now, a Philadelphia judge has acquitted them of all charges.  FSRN’s Andalusia Knoll reports:

Police arrested the 13 activists with the group Casino Free Philadelphia for blocking the entrance to the Sugarhouse Casino construction site.  They were charged with failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, and the felony charge of criminal conspiracy.  On Tuesday a Philadelphia Judge found them not guilty after their lawyer argued that their intention wasn’t to cause a disturbance, but instead to voice their opposition.

Dan Hadjo of Casino Free Philadelphia says this is a victory for all activists and could set a legal precedent.

“When the representatives aren’t listening to you, you have to have other ways of getting your message out and this kind of action is one of the best ways of doing it and what this decision says is that it is open for us to do”

The defendants and other members of Casino Free Philadelphia say they will continue to make the case that predatory gambling is economically and socially detrimental to cash strapped cities like Philadelphia.  Andalusia Knoll, FSRN, Philadelphia.

Canadian activist charged as ‘ringleader” of Olympic protests
Canadian authorities have charged an Olympic protester with “mischief” after demonstrators committed several acts of vandalism in downtown Vancouver this past weekend.  Police are calling Guillame Beaulieu the “ringleader” of the protest.  He was among 200 arrested.  According to the Vancouver Sun, 11 people currently face charges in connection with Olympic protests.



French president makes first visit to Haiti and US troops ready for transition into rebuilding role
French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Haiti today and pledged $400 million dollars in aid for Haiti’s recovery. It’s the first time a French president has visited the former colony.

“Truly I would have liked to come here under other circumstances. But, it’s destiny. The destiny of Haiti. We have a shared history, you and us. It’s a painful shared history.”

When Sarkozy landed at the airport today, he was met with brass bands and a greeting by Haitian President Rene Preval, but the visit brings mixed feelings for many Haitians. France ruled over a brutal colonial period and then imposed a steep debt on Haiti after the country fought for and secured its independence.

Also today, US Lieutenant General Ken Keen, head of the joint task force in Haiti, acknowledged that US troops would soon transition out of their role in distributing food and aid to Haitians but said troops would stay on in the country.

“But what we will continue to be involved in doing, is supporting the USAID and our UN partners here. In particular I mentioned things like engineering assistance, logistical assistance. It gets into ensuring that the port, the capacity of the port continues to mature and eventually we’re able to hand the port over to the Haitian authorities.”

Keen said that the airport would open to commercial flights beginning this Friday. And he said in the coming weeks, US forces would take part in two other priorities: resettling the thousands of displaced survivors of the quake and clearing the rubble that continues to clog city streets and slow reconstruction efforts.

Haiti’s President Rene Preval says it will take the country three years just to clear the rubble left by the earthquake. According to a study released yesterday by the Inter-American Development Bank, the earthquake is now the most destructive natural disaster of modern times, with damages estimated as high as $14 billion.

Meanwhile, structural conditions still remain dangerous. On Monday, heavy rains caused a mudslide that hit a classroom in Cap-Haitien, the country’s second biggest city, killing four children and injuring others.


Ecological recovery seen as key in Haiti’s rebuilding efforts
As plans for rebuilding move forward, the United Nations is working with the Earth Institute at Columbia University, where scientists had already begun a project looking at environmental reconstruction after storms in 2008 led to heavy flooding and deaths. Teams from the Earth Institute were in Haiti when the earthquake struck in January. One of those there was Marc Levy, deputy director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at the Earth Institute. He joins us now.


Progressives make renewed push for public option in health care reform
In Washington, DC, Democratic efforts to pass a health care bill have stalled under the weight of Republican opposition.  But a group of progressives from around the country are organizing a renewed push for health reform, including the public option.  FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports.


New rules for credit cards go into effect next week, but loopholes persist
Next Monday, your relationship with your credit card company could change for the better. New regulations go into effect that are intended to give consumers a more level playing field with credit card companies. But, as FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, the industry is already finding ways around the new laws.


Critics say Google’s online library threatens privacy and copyright laws
Six years ago, Internet giant, Google, launched the ambitious plan to scan tens of millions of books and make them searchable online. Authors and publishers quickly sued, sparking a massive dispute over the complexities of copyright law and delaying the full launch of the service. Now that lawsuit is working its way towards a potential resolution with a hearing on Thursday.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a “statement of interest” earlier this month to the settlement deal – asking the judge to reject the settlement based in part on anti-trust concerns. Meanwhile, privacy watchdog groups have also filed an objection to the deal and critics point to Google’s own unofficial motto “don’t be evil” that is enshrined as part of the company philosophy. FSRN’s Eric Klein reports.