May 28, 2010

  • House Increases Military Spending
  • Protests Resume Against Arizona Immigration Law
  • Oil Plume Approaches Mobile Bay
  • No Disarmament Timeline at Nuclear Summit
  • New Clothing Brand Fights Dismal Factory Conditions

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Okinawa base deal announced in Japan
Relocation of the US air base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa has been a major topic of dispute since the Democratic Party of Japan took office last September.  Today, the Japanese government took a significant step to resolve the issue, but controversy remains and a group of more than 150 protesters gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s office.  FSRN’s Shuhei Nakayama has the details.

Japan and the United States have reached an agreement that the US marine air base will remain within Okinawa.  A joint statement issued Friday says that the current base in Futenma will be relocated to a less crowded northern part of the island Henoko.  The agreement is similar to a 2006 treaty signed by the two countries – a treaty the US has been demanding be upheld.

In signing the agreement, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama went back on his longstanding pledge to move the base off the island.  In a news conference, Hatoyama stressed the importance of Japan’s alliance with the US, mentioning the rising tensions between North and South Korea.  Hatoyama also announced his decision to dismiss the leader of the coalition government’s Social Democratic Party from his cabinet, because she refused to sign the agreement.  Shuhei Nakayama, FSRN.


Mexico Court forces states to offer morning after pill to rape victims
The Supreme Court of Mexico has ruled that states must provide rape victims with the morning after pill if they request it.  Several Mexican states have restricted abortion access over the past 2 years – even for rape victims.  This came in response to Mexico City’s legalization of first trimester abortions in 2007.  Thursday’s court ruling forces all states to provide free emergency contraception to women who are victims of rape.  Many in the conservative Catholic hierarchy believe the morning after pill to be a form of abortion.


Alleged rebel attack in India leaves 65 dead
Indian police suspect sabotage is behind this afternoon’s train accident that left 65 passengers dead in the eastern state of West Bengal.  FSRN’s Bismillah Geelani reports:

The incident happened about 90 miles from the West Bengal capital Kolkata.  A passenger train derailed and was rammed by a freight train racing down the adjacent track.  The collision left at least 65 dead and more than 200 others injured.

Authorities are not yet clear whether a bomb blast or the removal of a portion of the railway track caused the derailment.  But they say it’s an act of sabotage by the Maoist rebels.  Bhupender Singh is Director General of West Bengal Police

“We found posters issued by a Maoist front group owning up to the attack.  Other information we are getting also makes it clear that the Maoists are responsible.”

But the rebels have not yet claimed any responsibility.  The Maoists insurgents, who say they represent the rural poor, have intensified attacks against security forces in recent months, but they generally do not target civilians.  The government has ordered a high level inquiry into the incident.  Bismillah Geelani, FSRN.

More casualties reported in aftermath of Jamaican drug mobilization
The death toll in Jamaica continues to rise as authorities continue to find people killed in this week’s violence in the capital Kingston.  More than 70 people – mostly civilians – died in clashes between security forces and supporters of suspected drug lord Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.  The US is calling for his extradition, but Coke is still at large.  Amnesty International today called for an investigation into human rights violations during the siege.


Medical marijuana workers in CA unionize
In California, advocates of marijuana legalization for all adults have gained a powerful ally: a major union has started to organize medical marijuana-workers.  For FSRN, Kellia Ramares has the story.

The 26,000-member Local 5 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in San Jose is organizing about 100 cannabis-industry workers in Oakland.  A Union organizer told the SF Appeal he believes this to be a first in the US or Canada.  Marijuana advocates see the unionization bid as legitimizing efforts to legalize and tax marijuana.

California legalized medical marijuana in 1996.  An initiative on the California ballot this November would legalize possession and use of small amounts of marijuana by anyone over 21.  Passage would create a growing pool of dispensary workers, cannabis processors and agricultural workers for the union, whose membership – mostly grocery workers and retail clerks – declined by 5 percent last year.

The national union has not officially endorsed the initiative, but could do so in July.  The federal government still considers all marijuana use to be illegal.  Kellia Ramares, FSRN, Oakland.

EPA to begin investigation of factory farm pollution
The EPA has settled with environmental groups and will now increase the monitoring of pollution from factory farms in the US.  Groups like the Natural Resource Defense Council says factory farms regularly store animal waste in large lagoons that often burst or overflow, sending tons of material into waterways, endangering fish and humans alike.  In this week’s settlement, the EPA says it will launch an investigation into factory livestock farm practices, identifying their locations, number of animals and their methods for storing waste.  The original Bush-era rule gave the farms exemptions from some clean water standards.



House Increases Military Spending
The House of Representatives approved defense spending for 2011 today, voting for a bill that increases military funding by 3 percent over the previous year.  Supporters of the bill say it provides necessary support for US troops, but opponents say its price tag is too high.  FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports.


Protests Resume Against Arizona Immigration Law 
A coalition of groups opposed to Arizona’s SB 1070 law is expecting tens of thousands of people to turn out for a national day of action against racial profiling in Phoenix this Saturday.

Pablo Alvarado of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network laid out the coalition’s main demands.

“We demand that this administration reassert the Federal governments exclusive control of immigration law by making it clear that state and local police do not have the inherent authority to enforce immigration law.  Second immediately suspend and terminate all police ICE partnerships including the 287 G agreement and the so-called secure communities initiatives.  Number three direct the dept of homeland security to refuse to take into custody anyone charged with violating provisions of SB 1070”.

Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox has been an elected official for 25 years and says SB 1070 has created a tangible climate of fear in the community

“I can´t begin to tell you, you have to come to Arizona, come to the march talk to the people here and you can feel the fear once you get off the airplane here. It is just amazing how people are being set against each other. It is affecting everything from the boycott to businesses who are now wondering are we going to be affected?  Our schools are being terribly affected, so many kids have left. The schools are having to rethink their whole staffing pattern, possibly close. Our communities are in dire crisis.”

Alfredo Gutierrez of the Arizona Boycott Committee says SB 1070 opponents also have a legal strategy in addition to pressure from the streets and an economic boycott.

“There is a mayor lawsuit that has been filed by ACLU, the National Day Laborers´ Organization and the National Immigration Law Council. It isn´t a single strategy all of these things are notes in a larger symphony.  And that larger symphony has to vow to repeal this. But also to reinvigorate the community to take on this issue of immigration reform.”

As protests continue around the country, musicians have become the latest group to join the anti-SB 1070 coalition. A group of bands calling itself the Sound Strike, has signed a manifesto against the law and said it will boycott all performances in  Arizona until the SB 1070 is repealed. The group includes American bands like rage against the machine and Sonic Youth, but also extends to Mexican bands that are popular in the southwest.

Supporters of SB1070 will also voice their views this weekend. A demonstration in favor of SB 1070 will take place at the Diablo Stadium in Tempe on Saturday, with organizers expecting some 10,000 to attend.

SB 1070 opponents say they will use the convergence of activists in Phoenix to develop a unified national strategy against the controversial Arizona law.


Oil Plume Approaches Mobile Bay
Scientists from the University of South Florida have discovered a major underwater oil plume in the Gulf. The researchers estimate the plume is 22 miles long and 6 miles wide with its thickest concentrations found more than 1000 feet below the water’s surface.

Gulf Coast environmental advocacy group Mobile Baykeeper is preparing equipment, volunteers and resources to tackle the massive oil plume headed for the coast of Alabama. Mobile Baykeeper Executive Director Casi Callaway spoke to FSRN earlier today:

“We need actual people on the ground – working, looking, watching, and protecting us. We need more monitoring equipment. We need to know when it is, where it is at all times. And then frankly, we’ve got to know the plan for sucking off the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Is that even possible? How can that be done?”

Callaway says the use of dispersants contributes to the higher concentration of oil below the surface, complicates clean up and increases the toxicity of the massive spill. She’s like to see the federal government take a stronger stance in this regard.

I´m fine with the fact that the EPA is the only one qualified to stop the hole in the middle of the Gulf gushing oil.  I´m not qualified for that. But what I know is that the Environmental Protection Agency needs to protect the environment.  If they say you can´t use toxic dispersants then BP should listen to them and not use the toxic dispersants. So I think the weight of the Federal Government has to be brought to bear. If the President said that and the President is in charge, then no more toxic dispersants, period.  That should have been accepted without question.

Casi Callaway also expressed frustration over the lack of cooperation between government officials and committed local volunteers.

Citizen organizations have fought and fought to get the state and federal governments to allow a volunteer program.  We started getting volunteer calls on April 28th, we started asking for the volunteer plan on April 30th, we got something that was completely uneventful to put it politely, by the end of the first week of May and it´s been a mess it´s been a disorganized mess and its only gotten as far as it has because of the drive of local people, it´s been the drive of citizens who want to see more done as a pose to coming from an agency. They´re kind of in the, this is our job, phase as a pose to this is our life.

Two days after the start of an operation to try to plug the gushing well with thick drilling mud, the outcome is still unclear. BP has indicated another 48 hours will be necessary to determine the success – or lack thereof – in stopping the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.


No Disarmament Timeline at Nuclear Summit
The Obama administration released its national security strategy yesterday, emphasizing the need for multi-lateral cooperation with the US.  Meanwhile, the 8th Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the NPT has drawn to a close without a timeline on disarmament. The final conference document was not forceful on the issue of restricting nuclear testing although the majority of signatory states tend to agree on the elimination of nuclear weapons. FSRN reporter Salim Rizvi has the story from the United Nations.


New Clothing Brand Fights Dismal Factory Conditions
Textile workers in Thailand and Argentina have joined forces to fight against slave labor. Workers cooperatives in the two distant countries are collaborating to fight against dismal working conditions in clothes factories, by launching a brand of their own.  FSRN´s Marcos Federman reports from Buenos Aires.