March 3, 2010

  • Washington DC grants same sex couples marriage licenses
  • Legislation to repeal ban on gays in military introduced to Senate
  • Obama urges lawmakers to ‘finish the job’ on health care reform
  • New York plans to close parks and historic sites due to budget gap
  • UN sets deadline for independent investigations into ‘war crimes’ during Gaza conflict
  • Plan in Ecuador to reduce climate change emissions runs into politics, oil development

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Chile continues rescue efforts after earthquake
Rescue and clean-up efforts are continuing today in Chile after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the central part of the country.  The death toll has risen to nearly 800 according to the country’s National Emergency Office, and tons of aide materials are on the way to the affected regions.


Hope fading for Uganda landslide victims
The death toll from Ugandan landslides that buried remote villages in the eastern part of the country has risen to 150.  Hope of finding further survivors is already beginning to fade, as F-S-R-N’s Joshua Kyalimpa reports.

Early in the day rescue efforts gained momentum after a woman buried in the rubble made a distress call to a relative.  Joel Aguma, a police commander in charge of the area, said rescue workers hoped to find the woman near a destroyed health center, but the voice has since gone silent.

The army and other rescue teams are being forced to use hand tools to clear the soil because more sophisticated equipment cannot access the disaster area.  President Yoweri Museveni has ordered the relocation of residents living in remote villages in a valley near Mountain Elgon, because rains and landslides are expected.  The Uganda Red Cross has launched an appeal for 1 million dollars to help over 10,000 survivors.  Joshua Kyalimpa, FSRN, Kampala.

Bolivia denies US claims of skyrocketing narcotics production
The Bolivian government is fighting back against US accusations that cocaine production capacity in the country has increased 50 percent since 2005.  The State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released Monday says Bolivia isn’t doing enough to support the War on Drugs.  This is further straining the gossamer ties between the two countries.  Jessica Aguirre reports from Bolivia.

The Bolivian government has rejected the report as inaccurate, saying that illegal narcotics confiscation has nearly doubled under the Evo Morales administration.

Bolivia maintains a policy of “yes coca, no cocaine,” and considers the small-scale cultivation of coca leaf legal – a policy that goes against international conventions.

Bolivia does acknowledge that coca cultivation has recently increased, though not to the degree stated by the US report.  A spokesman for the Bolivia government affirms that Bolivia is working to eradicate some of its coca leaf production, but states that the US has no right to “certify” or “de-certify” another country’s anti-drug efforts.

The coca leaf is used extensively throughout Bolivia as a natural medicine, dietary supplement, and it is deeply significant in many cultural rites.  Jessica Aguirre, FSRN, Cochabamba.

Charlie Rangel temporarily resigns as Chair of House committee
New York Democrat Charlie Rangel announced today he would temporarily step aside as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.
“In order to avoid my colleagues having to defend me during their elections, I have this morning sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her to grant me a leave of absence until such time as the ethics committee completes it’s work.”

Representative Rangel is being investigated for numerous ethics violations including a trip to the Caribbean paid for by corporations.  The announcement comes as the House prepared to vote today on a Republican-backed resolution to strip Rangel of his chair position.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi has selected California Democrat Pete Stark to take the chairmanship in the interim.  Stark is considered one of the most liberal members of Congress.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has fought off a challenge by U.S.  Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.  Perry is trying to frame his win in yesterday’s primary as an anti-Washington victory.  Perry will now face former Houston Mayor Bill White in November’s election.

Burlington, VT voters repeal Instant Runoff Voting
City election results are in in Burlington, Vermont, and voters have rejected a voting method called instant runoff voting – or IRV.  The voting style is currently used by more than 10 US jurisdictions.  With the vote, Burlington becomes the first city in decades to reject IRV without an underlying change in election laws.  Carl Etnier reports from Vermont.

By 52% of the vote, Burlington voters scrapped a system they’d twice used to elect their mayor.  Under IRV, each voter ranks the candidates in order of his or her preferences.  If no candidate initially wins more than 50% of the vote, weaker candidates are eliminated, and voters’ second- and third-choice preferences are counted.

Proponents say IRV eliminates the so-called “spoiler” effect of third-party candidates.  Democratic state representative Jason Lorber chairs 50 Percent Matters, a coalition promoting IRV, says the repeal was the result of a general dissatisfaction with the current mayor.

Opponents in Burlington charged that the winner of the 2009 mayoral election wasn’t really preferred by voters and that the system is too complicated.  Carl Etnier, FSRN, Burlington, Vermont.




Washington DC grants same sex couples marriage licenses
Today, Washington DC became the latest place for same sex couples to be able to marry. The District joins five other states across the country in allowing gays and lesbians the right to marriage. The effort to secure the right overcame multiple hurdles, and starting early this morning couples gathered at the courthouse to obtain marriage licenses. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.


Legislation to repeal ban on gays in military introduced to Senate
Also in Washington, DC today, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut introduced a bill to repeal the controversial Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the US military. President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen have all expressed their support to end the law, which prohibits gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military. It was enacted in 1993 during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Representative Lois Capps, Democrat of California:

“I believe Admiral Mullen put it best when he said ‘Repealing DADT was a matter of integrity and forcing service members to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow Americans is just wrong.'”

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010 has already been introduced in the House of Representatives and has nearly 190 co-sponsors. On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Gates released details of a 10-month review of the law that would include input from military members and their families and help determine changes to policies, laws and military training.


Obama urges lawmakers to ‘finish the job’ on health care reform
President Obama outlined a new version of the health care reform bill today. Though the President has made a show of reaching across the aisle to Republicans, Democrats are preparing to use a technique that could pass the bill without Republican votes. FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports.


New York plans to close parks and historic sites due to budget gap
Many states in the U.S. are grappling with how to stay afloat with escalating costs and falling tax revenues. Closing state parks is one of the remedies.  Arizona has shut down two thirds of its state parks, Nevada is considering the same, and New Jersey closed 9 parks last year citing a budget crisis.  California proposed closing 200 before meeting an outcry from tax-payers and, instead, slashed the parks operating budget. And now, New York announced it is closing more than 50 state parks and historic sites. Rebecca Myles has more.


UN sets deadline for independent investigations into ‘war crimes’ during Gaza conflict
Today, the Arab League approved a plan to resume the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Ministers from the league, speaking in Cairo, endorsed a plan to have indirect talks during the next four months mediated by US officials. Talks between Israel and Palestine have been frozen since Israel’s invasion of Gaza in late 2008. The conflict continues to have major influence on the prospects of peace.

Last Friday, the UN General Assembly voted to give Israel and the Palestinian Authority an additional five months to investigate war crimes committed during that conflict. The move follows the Goldstone Report, presented to the UN last September, which recommended both sides conduct full, impartial investigations.

To discuss the latest news from the UN and what it means for the peace process, we’re joined by Zachary Lockman, chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University.


Plan in Ecuador to reduce climate change emissions runs into politics, oil development
During the Copenhagen talks on climate change, Ecuador announced a bold proposal. The South American country said it would keep oil underground the Yasuni National Park, one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, in exchange for funds from richer countries. At the time the plan was praised as an innovative way for poorer nations to stay competitive and help confront climate change.

But the initiative came under threat in January when President Rafael Correa announced that oil exploration could begin as early as June. The statement led his Foreign Minister to resign. Correa has since backtracked on his comments but many are concerned oil interests in the region are too strong. And that international pressure is necessary to save an environmental initiative, which could well become a model to tackle climate change. FSRN’s Sofia Jarrin reports.