April 9, 2010
- Supreme Court Justice Stevens, leader of liberal minority, announces retirement
- Sudanese go to polls in first multiparty election in over two decades
- Call for equity in climate change talks as negotiations enter next round
- Despite discrimination in Russia, LGBT movement increases visibility
- Sri Lanka’s ruling party wins parliamentary elections as low turnout recorded
Third mine rescue attempt thwarted by underground conditions
Rescuers were turned back again today as they attempted to recover four miners from Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia. An explosion Monday killed 25. The four miners are still missing. The search team reached one rescue chamber, but found the emergency food, water and oxygen supplies untouched. As rescuers continued towards a second chamber, the encountered heavy smoke that signaled a fire deeper within the mine.
President Obama spoke at the White House today about Monday’s mine explosion.
“It’s a profession not without risks and dangers, and the workers and their families know that. But their government and their employer know that they owe to these families to do everything possible to ensure their safety when they go to work each day.”
Failures in mine safety practices and enforcement are being investigated by the government. Obama says he’s asked for a report from the Labor department that will show “what went wrong and why it went wrong so badly.”
Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak announces retirement
Conservative Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan announced today he will not seek a 10th term in the House of Representative. The abortion opponent was a key player in moderate Democrats’ efforts to win concession from the Obama Administration during the Health Care debate. Stupak was facing opposition from the Tea Party in his Northern Michigan district. At a press conference, Stupak said neither this nor other health care backlash was a significant factor in his decision not to seek reelection.
EPA says controversial California dump violated disposal rules
The largest hazardous waste dump in the West improperly disposed of waste known to cause cancer, according to a new finding from the Environmental Protection Agency. Locals in the nearby town of Kettleman Hills, California blame the dump for birth defects. FSRN’s Christina Aanestad has more.
Chemical Waste Management has illegally disposed of toxic waste like PCB’s, and acetone, at its Kettleman Hills landfill, according to a violation notice from the US EPA. The EPA says this isn’t the first time the company has been in violation of environmental laws. Chemical Waste Management failed to address past violations, and was fined for improperly monitoring seepage of cancer causing chemicals under the landfill.
The hazardous waste dump sits adjacent to Kettleman Hills City, a small farming town in California’s Central Valley, mostly inhabited by low-wage agricultural workers. Locals blame the landfill for the extremely high number of children born with birth defects in recent years. The EPA is now testing the soil in Kettleman Hills City for contamination. The landfill received a permit from the local government to expand, but that permit is now on hold as the EPA’s investigation continues. Christina Aanestad, FSRN.
Minority human rights violated in Katrina recovery efforts
Local, state and federal governments have failed to protect the rights of low-income and minority Gulf Coast residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That according to a condemning report released today by Amnesty International. FSRN’s Zoe Sullivan reports from New Orleans.
The report states that recovery efforts following the 2005 hurricane often ignored poor and minority residents whose families have lived in the region for generations. Thousands of New Orleanians remain scattered around the country because they have been unable to return. One third of the city’s homes are still abandoned because homeowners have been unable to rebuild.
The Executive Director of Amnesty International USA calls for the Stafford Act, the federal law governing disaster recovery, to be reformed. Seth Weingart of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center agrees with this proposal.
“We’d like to see the Stafford Act reformed to change this duplication of benefits rule, so that you can look at an individual situation and say, OK, this person, maybe they got this insurance settlement, but this money never went to the house. So we’re not going to consider that a duplication of benefits, and we’re going to give them assistance.”
The Amnesty International report also cites shortfalls in health care access and persistent problems with law enforcement. Police officers shot 6 unarmed people shortly after the storm in a case that has garnered national attention. The Department of Justice continues to investigate cases of police brutality. Zoe Sullivan, FSRN, New Orleans.
Kyrgyzstan’s deposed president refuses to resign
Political turmoil continues in Kyrgyzstan today, but the leaders of the revolution, which ousted the current president, remain in control in the country. Despite calls from the opposition, the Kyrgyz president refuses to resign.
The World Health Organization is on the ground in the central Asian country and spokes person Paul Garwood says it’s proving medicines and medical equipment.
“It will make available medical equipment like forceps, stethoscopes, infant scales, other surgical equipment along with medicines including antibiotics that could treat up to 1,500 cases.”
And medical providers in Kyrgyzstan are going to need those supplies. The Health Ministry says more than 500 people have been injured in clashes with the government that began Wednesday. Seventy-six people have died.
Supreme Court Justice Stevens, leader of liberal minority, announces retirement
US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced today he’ll step down from the bench this summer. Though he’s a Republican and was appointed by Gerald Ford, a Republican president, Stevens is a leader of the liberal wing of the Court. Tanya Snyder has more.
Sudanese go to polls in first multiparty election in over two decades
This Sunday, voters begin three days of polling in Sudan in the first election with multiparty candidates in 24 years. Voters will elect the next president. They’ll also fill the 450 seats in the national assembly. Incumbent President Omar Al Bashir, who took over leadership in a 1989 coup and is currently under an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court, is expected to win. But conflict continues in the region and this week the European Union pulled election monitors out of Darfur, citing safety concerns. That, along with an electoral boycott by opposition parties, has cast questions about the legitimacy of the outcome.
Still, according to the nation’s electoral commission, 81 percent of eligible voters have registered to vote. Two Sudanese voters in Unity State told reporter Lonya Bany that they’re hopeful.
“I think it’s going to be okay…I”m traveling to [Juba] tomorrow for the elections.”
The Sudan People’s LIberation Movement, the opposition party from the south, has pulled out – at least partly – from the election. FSRN’s Zach Baddorf is in Rambak, Sudan. He explains the implications.
“In a lot of media reports, you’ll see that the SPLM, the opposition party has boycotted elections and in part that’s true…and make it so that Bashir doesn’t have the legitimacy that he’s trying to go for.”
Southern Sudan plans to vote on a referendum next January that would establish its independence from the North in 2011. That referendum is a key issue in the current election. Again, Zach Baddorf.
“This is a big part of the puzzle, especially for the South…control the oil revenue in the south…Unfortunately, they do have to continue to work with the North because that’s where all the refineries are.”
That’s FSRN’s Zach Baddorf in Sudan talking about the elections this weekend. Polling will continue through next week.
Call for equity in climate change talks as negotiations enter next round
International representatives are gathering in Bonn Germany today for the next round of talks on climate change. It’s the first meeting since the December conference in Copenhagen. At issue are differences over emissions reductions and the roles of developing and rich nations ahead of the summit at the end of the year in Mexico.
One of those in attendance is the Stockholm Environment Institute, an international science and policy research group. FSRN recently sat down with the institute’s executive director Johan Rockstrom during a visit to New York for the State of the Planet Conference. We began by talking about the issue of equity in the climate change debate.
Despite discrimination in Russia, LGBT movement increases visibility
The Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement in Russia is growing even amid aggressive social and official repression. Across the country this week, activists are striking back against deeply-rooted homophobia in Russia through a series of events aimed at increasing the visibility of the rights movement. Jenny Johnson reports.
Sri Lanka’s ruling party wins parliamentary elections as low turnout recorded
Today, Sri Lanka’s ruling party emerged victorious in parliamentary elections. But it fell short of the two-thirds majority that would have allowed president Mahinda Rajapakse to amend the constitution. It’s the first election since the government’s defeat of the Tamil Tigers last year and turnout was low. FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam has the story.