February 23, 2010

  • Toyota’s response to safety issues questioned at congressional hearing
  • Justice Department report reveals lawyers’ roles in Bush torture policy
    (click here for web only version)
  • Reforms to federal oil and gas leasing to strengthen oversight on industry
  • Environmentalists use Hindu festival to draw attention to pollution of Ganges

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Senate to vote on jobs bill
With the help of 5 Republicans, including newly elected Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the Senate overcame efforts to block the job creation bill on Monday. That paves the way for final passage of the bill as early as tonight. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Most of the 15 billion dollar package focuses on incentives for small businesses to begin hiring. Business owners are exempt from paying Social Security taxes on new workers who have been unemployed for 60 days. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley co-authored an earlier jobs proposal costing 85 billion dollars, but he voted against the new version. “Democratic leadership has a different view on this bill before us that is a partisan bill, particularly about tax extenders being in that bill.” Tax extenders, or tax cuts, for business and energy companies, were dropped from the Democrat’s new jobs bill. So were initiatives promoted by the left – including an extension of unemployment insurance and Cobra health insurance benefits. These provisions are expected to in the next jobs bill as early as this week. The House and the Senate will need to reconcile their vastly different bills. Leigh Ann Caldwell, FSRN, DC.

Supreme Court examines part of USA Patriot Act
The Supreme Court heard arguments today about an anti-terrorism law that bars “material support” to groups on the US terrorist list. The law was enacted in 1996 and updated as part of the USA Patriot Act. It’s being challenged in a suit filed by the Humanitarian Law Project. Their case was argued by attorney David Cole who described the group’s argument to the SCOTUS Blog: “This is a case about how far the government can go in criminalizing pure speech advocating only lawful peaceable activity in the name of fighting terrorism.” The Humanitarian Law Project says its work with groups like the Tamil Tigers focuses on encouraging nonviolent political change and should not be included under the scope of providing “material support” to designated terrorist organizations.


Oil drilling reignites Argentina’s claim to Falkland Islands
As a British oil company begins to drill near the Falkland Islands, Argentina rallied support from Latin American leaders for its claim to the disputed territory. FSRN’s Marie Trigona reports from Buenos Aires.

The British company’s decision to begin exploring for oil near the Falkland Islands on Monday sparked a new diplomatic dispute over the territory off of the coast of Argentina. Speaking in Mexico at the Summit of Latin American and Caribbean Unity, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner claimed sovereignty over what it calls the Malvinas Islands. “I thank you in the name of my country the support we have received from this summit over our claims over the Malvinas Islands and legitimate right to demand that Great Britain sit down in negotiations.” Argentina has disputed Great Britain’s sovereignty over the islands since the two countries fought a two-month war over them in 1982. The new drilling by the British company, Desire Petroleum, is exploratory and expected to last 30 days. The company says the area may contain up to four billion barrels of oil. At the summit in Mexico, several Latin American leaders including – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega – approved a declaration in support of Argentina’s claims to the islands and the surrounding waters. Marie Trigona FSRN Buenos Aires.


Angry crowd attacks police in outskirts of Mexico City 
A township in southern Mexico City turned into an urban battlefield last night as hundreds of angry residents faced off with riot police trying to rescue federal agents from a lynching. FSRN’s Shannon Young has more.

The trouble started when three plainclothes federal police arrested two local residents of the San Pedro Atocpan township while reportedly investigating an anonymous tip. Word quickly spread that the 2 locals were being kidnapped. An angry crowd surrounded the plainclothes police and threatened to lynch them. The police locked themselves inside their unmarked car. By the time helicopters and municipal riot police arrived to rescue their federal counterparts, hundreds of residents were on the town’s narrow streets armed with cement blocks. The 3 hour street battle ended with the release of the 3 federal agents and the 2 locals. This is not the first time plainclothes police have been threatened with lynching in the Mexico City area. The present mayor of Mexico City lost his job as police chief in late 2004 after municipal police failed to rescue 3 federal agents before an angry crowd in the township of Tlahuac set them on fire. Shannon Young, FSRN, Mexico.

1000 U.S. troop death in Afghanistan 
According to the website icasualties.org, the death of US Corporal Gregory Stultz last Friday brings the total of US soldiers killed in Afghanistan to one thousand. Antiwar activists plan to mark the milestone at vigils planned tonight around the country.




Toyota’s response to safety issues questioned at congressional hearing
On Capitol Hill today, a Toyota care owner described a near-death experience when her vehicle got stuck accelerating at 80 miles per hour. It’s the first of two days of congressional hearings examining Toyota’s recent recall of millions of vehicles and allegations of putting profits over safety. The hearings come just days after secret company memos revealed that Toyota had saved millions of dollars by limiting recalls and delaying safety regulations. In addition to the auto giant, federal regulators are also being scrutinized for their role. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.


Justice Department report reveals lawyers’ roles in Bush torture policy
Memos released this week reveal that during the Bush Administration, congressional leaders blocked attempts to oversee the CIA program of torture and rendition and knew about the agency’s plan to destroy video tapes of interrogation sessions. The documents were released on Monday as a result of a FOIA request by several human rights groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights.

This follows a report from the Justice Department last week, that found that the lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who served in the department under Bush, engaged in “professional misconduct” when they authored memos justifying the use of torture on detainees. The report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility was made public last Friday. The so-called torture memos paved the way for the widespread use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation and psychological abuse. It also helped set the strategy for the creation of the Guantanamo Bay Prison. And, according to the report, John Yoo told investigators that the president’s authority in a time of war was so broad that he could order civilians to be “massacred.”

To discuss the recent report, we’re joined by Vincent Warren executive director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.


Reforms to federal oil and gas leasing to strengthen oversight on industry
New reforms announced by the Department of Interior in January will overhaul the nation’s oil and gas leasing program, adding tougher environmental analysis and more public input when companies want to develop public land. For the Obama administration, it’s another step toward reigning in the industry. But energy companies oppose the changes. After record high profits, they’re seeing a dip in earnings. And they say the federal reforms will lead to more red tape and slower production. Conrad Wilson reports.


Environmentalists use Hindu festival to draw attention to pollution of Ganges
Millions of Hindus are converging in the Northern Indian town of Haridwar to take a holy bath in the Ganges River as part of the most important Hindu festival the Maha Kumbh Mela. Often described as the largest religious gathering on earth, the 3-month long festival is also witnessing a campaign to clean up the heavily polluted Ganges River. Pollution in the Ganges directly affects about 400 million people who depend on the river for drinking water and crop irrigation.  And devotees consider it sacred. FSRN’s Bismillah Geelani has the story.