April 20, 2010

  • Bolivia opens “people’s” summit on climate change
  • Mexico’s shrimp industry reacts to new US regulations
  • Lehman Brothers misled public, SEC failed in oversight, report finds
  • Democrats push for financial regulation as Republicans remain critical
  • Voting rights for DC residents postponed
  • EPA announces new funds to clean up brownfield sites

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Former Argentine dictator sentenced to life for human rights violations
In a landmark human rights trial, a court in Argentina today sentenced the country’s most recent dictator to 25 years in prison for crimes against humanity.  FSRN’s Marie Trigona reports from Buenos Aries.

In the early 1980s, Reynaldo Bignone served as Argentina’s final dictator.  Prosecutors charged him with 52 counts of torture and illegal kidnapping committed at the Campo de Mayo clandestine detention center in the suburbs of Buenos Aires.

As the court deliberated, pro-dictatorship groups rallied in front of the Supreme Court, calling for amnesty for military, police and civilians being prosecuted in over two dozen trials currently underway.

But rights groups also marched, demanding that authorities investigate the murder of Silvia Suppo, a key witness in one of the trials.  She was killed at the end of March.
Human rights groups are still seeking information as to the whereabouts of the 30,000 people who were disappeared during the nation’s bloody military dictatorship.  Marie Trigona, FSRN, Buenos Aires.

TX Attorney General challenges gay divorce
The Attorney General of Texas is appealing the decisions of two family court judges who granted divorces to same sex couples.  Both couples, one from Dallas and the other in Austin, were legally married in Massachusetts, according to the Associated Press.  Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott says he’s defending “the traditional definition of marriage that was approved by Texas voters.”  Same sex marriage was banned in the state in 2005.  Tomorrow the Dallas couple will appear in appeals court.


PA school district takes 56,000 pictures of students with computer spy cams
Two months ago, parents of a student from the Lower Merion School District in the Philadelphia suburbs filed a class action lawsuit after they discovered the webcam on a school-issued laptop took pictures of their son Blake at home.  The Robbins family alleges the school invaded their son’s privacy.  And now, thousands of images of other students have surfaced.  From Philadelphia, FSRN’s Matthew Petrillo reports.

District investigators say remotely activated webcams on school-issued laptops snapped nearly fifty-six thousand pictures of students while they were at home.  The laptops also recorded screenshots of their computer monitors.

Mark Haltzman represents the Robbins family:

“That number, 56,000, is only what they’ve been able to recover.  We know that there are many, many more pictures that they haven’t been able to recover, or say that they haven’t been able to recover.”

District officials contend they weren’t spying, and only turned on the spy-cam software after a student reported a missing laptop.  The software supposedly deletes the images after the program is turned off.  But on a handful of occasions, according the investigation, the spy-program was never deactivated and kept shooting pictures for months.  Matthew Petrillo, FSRN, Philadelphia.

Civil Rights matriarch dies at 98
And finally, today the United States says goodbye to civil rights pioneer Dr. Dorothy Height.  She died of natural causes in a Washington, DC hospital.  She was 98 years old.  Height served as the President of the National Council for Negro Women for more than 40 years, and in that time was a staunch advocate for civil rights, fighting to end segregation and training women to be community advocates.  Height says by the age of 25 she had already shaped her life’s work.  She was pushed hard by her parents, church and teachers.

“They would talk to us about taking responsibility.  You know, standing up on your own, standing up for what you believe in.  That to me was the heart of it, helping me to see that you had to have your own convictions… that you were not just following along what other people do.  And I think that one of the things that we can do today is to take more time with our young people.  And to take some time with helping them understand that they have a potential.  It may not always be the same or the same kind, but whatever it is they can be… that they want to be… They can do a lot, if they can just get that sense.”

Audio courtesy of the University of Virginia.  Early in her career, Height was selected as one of 10 young people to help Eleanor Roosevelt plan the World Youth Conference.  She also worked with Mary McLeod Bethune, Martin Luther King and numerous other black leaders



Bolivia opens “people’s” summit on climate change
This morning marked the official inauguration of the People’s World Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Tiquipaya, Bolivia. Organizers are calling it an alternative to last year’s failed Copenhagen talks – one that puts front and center the needs and concerns of poorer nations many of which are expected to be hit hardest by climate change. FSRN’s Jessica Camille Aguirre and Aldo Orellana report.


Mexico’s shrimp industry reacts to new US regulations
Starting today Mexico cannot export wild shrimp caught in the open ocean to US markets. The US State Department has decertified certain shrimping practices. Mexican shrimping fleets are now racing against the clock to come under compliance by the start of the next shrimping season. Shannon Young reports.


Lehman Brothers misled public, SEC failed in oversight, report finds
On Capitol Hill today, the financial crisis, and how to prevent it from happening again, was the focus of several hearings. The House Financial Services Committee looked at a 2,000 page report on the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The day-long hearing consisted of four panels, including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke and SEC Chair Mary Schapiro, who became chair in January 2009. Schapiro said “vigorous regulation and a new culture and approach” are necessary.

“The examiner’s report raises serious questions about the oversight of Lehman’s liquidity pool asset valuation and its risk related internal control…It appears there was insufficient follow up on issues that should have raised concerns.”

The report, released last month by court appointed examiner Jenner & Block, said Lehman “painted a misleading picture of its financial condition.” The firm also puts blame on the SEC. Partner Anton Valuukas said the SEC stood by “idly” rather than fulfilling its mission to “protect investors.”


Democrats push for financial regulation as Republicans remain critical
Democratic lawmakers say the case of Lehman Brothers is another example of the need for an overhaul of the financial regulatory system. The Wall Street reform bill is getting closer to a vote, but Democrats must once again persuade Republicans, who oppose the legislation. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.


Voting rights for DC residents postponed
Washington, DC residents will have to continue their long wait for equal rights. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill announced today that they were scrapping plans to bring a controversial voting rights bill to a vote. The United States is the only democratic nation in the world that denies voting representation to the residents of its capital city. Tanya Snyder reports.


EPA announces new funds to clean up brownfield sites
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced nearly 80 million dollars in grants to clean up and redevelop brownfields across the country. Brownfields include abandoned industrial properties, such as old gas stations, textile mills and closed smelters. The sites are often located in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and supporters say the grants could help stimulate much needed jobs in the communities. But the clean up projects have not proved easy in the past.

We’re joined by John Pendergrass. He’s a co-director of the Brownfields Center at the Environmental Law Institute, a nonpartisan research and education center based in Washington DC.