June 2, 2010

  • International groups condemn Israeli attack as activists press for access to detainees
  • Dept of Justice proceeds with investigation into BP oil spill
  • Fedex holds up airline safety bill over labor rights
  • Bonn climate change conference opens
  • India considers law to limit liability for nuclear accident damage

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Surprising results for minority candidates in state primaries
Primary elections in Alabama have triggered a few upset victories – including one for Democrat Ron Sparks in his run for governor.  Sparks ran against US Representative Artur Davis.  If victorious, Davis would have become the first African-American candidate for governor in the state.  But Davis did not solicit endorsements from minority groups and leaders and many say this cost him the election.

Another Alabama Representative, Parker Griffith also lost his election bid.  In 2008, Griffith won his seat in the House as a Democrat.  But for this election, he decided to switch parties and run as a Republican.  Tea Party candidate Mo Brooks defeated Griffith for the Republican nomination.

New Mexico Republicans have advanced Susana Martinez as their candidate for Governor.  This marks the first time in US history a Hispanic woman will vie for a governorship as a major-party candidate.  Martinez currently serves as a county District Attorney.  She will face Democratic Lt.  Governor Diane Denish in the race to replace Bill Richardson, who is stepping down due to term limits.

Afghan Peace Jirga met with attacks from Taliban
Afghanistan’s long-awaited three-day Peace Jirga began this morning in the capital city Kabul.  The Taliban made sure their voice was heard – in the form of a suicide bomb attack – as President Hamid Karzai delivered the opening speech.  FSRN’s Asma Nemati reports from Kabul.

Militants fired rockets this morning in the vicinity of the National Consultative Peace Assembly during the inaugural address.  The three-day Peace Jirga is aimed at bringing the nine-year US-led war in Afghanistan to an end and to sway Taliban and other militant groups to put down arms and join the government.

Police exchanged fire with insurgents, capturing and killing two suicide bombers.  A third bomber managed to detonate but there are no reports of casualties.  The Taliban has claimed responsibility.  Despite the violent disruption, the assembly proceeded after a break.

Although a traditional assembly – or Jirga – calls for the two warring parties to come together to confer and settle issues, the Taliban has been completely left out.  Early in the year, the group did agree to enter talks with the Afghan government, but communication broke down after the arrest of the Taliban’s second in command.  Asma Nemati, FSRN, Kabul.

Japanese PM resigns over Okinawa base decision
A significant blow today for the recently-elected Democratic Party of Japan… In the wake of a publicity nightmare related to the relocation of the US Air Base in Okinawa, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has resigned.  FSRN’s Shuhei Nakayama has the latest.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama says he made his decision to resign because of financial scandals and the fact he could not keep his campaign promise to move the US base in Okinawa off the island.  The US and Japan reached an agreement last Friday that closely resembles an unpopular treaty signed in 2006.  In a news conference Wednesday, he apologized to people in Okinawa.

“Keeping a trusting relationship between our two countries is essential to security and peace, not only in Japan but also the entire East Asia region.  Under this circumstance, very sadly, I needed to put the burden on the people of Okinawa.”

Hatoyama’s approval rating has dropped significantly.  And the Social Democratic Party left the coalition government after Hatoyama dismissed their leader for not signing onto the base agreement.  Calls for his resignation had been also increasing within his own party, as members look forward to Upper House elections in July.  Democratic Party of Japan will likely to appoint Finance Minister Kan Naoto as the next Prime Minister.  Shuhei Nakayama, FSRN.

Australia sues Japan in international court over whaling
In other regional news, Australia has launched a legal case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in an effort to halt Japanese whaling in the seas off Antarctica.  For FSRN in Australia, Jessie Boylan has the details about this week’s legal action and the fallout.

The Australian Federal Government’s case against Japan comes months ahead of the November deadline it set for Tokyo to agree to stop whaling in the Antarctic.  Japan states that the whaling is purely for scientific purposes, and each year kills hundreds of mostly minke whales in the Southern Ocean.  Anti-whaling activists say the hunts are actually a commercial enterprise to provide whale meat to Japanese restaurants.

Australia has long protested against Japan’s whaling expeditions in Antarctic waters, and has recently hardened its position on the issue.  The lawsuit alleges the hunt is in breach of international obligations.  Jeff Hansen, the Australian director of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, commended the Australian Government.

“Australia can take Japan to the international courts and Australia does stand a good chance of winning in international courts, and once that sorta happens the whole will be able to see that what Japan is doing is illegal.”

Later this month, the International Whaling Commission will convene their annual meeting in Morocco.  And some countries, including New Zealand, are criticizing the Australian legal action as premature in light of the coming opportunity for a diplomatic solution.  Jessie Boylan, FSRN, Melbourne.



International groups condemn Israeli attack as activists press for access to detainees
In Turkey today, lawmakers passed a resolution condemning Israel’s attack on a humanitarian convoy bound for Gaza. The resolution declared that the attack was a clear violation of the United Nations charter and international law. It also called on the Turkish government to review its political, economic and military relations with Israel and called on Israel to make a formal apology. Also today, the UN Human Rights Council voted to condemn the attack and to set up an independent investigation into the incident. Details are still emerging, but at least 9 civilians are reported to be killed and dozens more injured.

Turkish officials, who met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday, have said they are unhappy with the Obama Administration’s reaction and its unwillingness to publicly criticize Israel for the deadly attack.  Clinton, echoing the official US response, said Tuesday that “the acts” were tragic, but stopped short of supporting the demands Turkey and other countries are calling for.

“The United States supports the Security Council’s condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy and we urge Israel to permit full counselor access to the individuals involved and to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately.”

Clinton said the US supported the Security Council’s decision to pursue a “prompt, impartial,” and “credible” investigation into the incident and called the situation in Gaza “unsustainable.”

Meanwhile, Israel began the process of deporting hundreds of activists they detained, but many still remain in custody and activists said some could face serious legal charges.

To find out more, FSRN spoke to Audrey Bomse, legal coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement, the group that organized the flotilla. She joined us by mobile phone from Cyprus. She began by describing efforts by the group to gain access to detainees and basic information about the number killed and injured.

Dept of Justice proceeds with investigation into BP oil spill
BP’s most recent effort to contain the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico has hit a delay. The latest attempt called “cut and cap” is a risky procedure aimed at diverting oil to the surface. Some experts say it’s similar to the failed containment method BP tried last month, but this time the company is taking measures so that ice crystals don’t form on the containment device. But after under-water robots began the cut and cap method, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said the saw used to cut the riser pipe, had gotten stuck.

“Basically the diamond wire saw is a very, very sharp saw to try to get a clean cut right at the top of the lower riser package and the cleaner the cut there are three to four different devices they can put over it. The cleaner the cut the tighter the seal we can make on it. Partially through that cut the saw got stuck not unlike if you were sawing through a piece of wood and every once in a while it binds up. The question is can they move the riser pipe to free it up and continue or might they have to bring another saw down and they’re looking at that right now as we speak.”

Even if this cut and cap technique succeeds, it could increase the oil flow temporarily. The next steps would be to create relief wells, which would be to create relief wells which would take an estimated two months to complete

Meanwhile, the pressure on BP is mounting. The Department of Justice is proceeding with its criminal investigation of the oil spill. This comes as private citizens have also filed intent to sue.  FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports that this is not the first time BP has faced criminal accusations.

Fedex holds up airline safety bill over labor rights
Parcel carrying giant Fedex is protesting a provision in the FAA’s reauthorization bill that would make it easier for some of its workers to unionize.  FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports.

Bonn Climate Change Conference Opens
The next round of U.N.-sponsored climate talks after Copenhagen is taking place in Bonn, Germany and critics are drawing attention to what they say is an attempt by developed countries to weaken the global climate change response. The ongoing U.N. negotiating process is entering a critical phase in anticipation of final talks at the end of the year. Jenny Johnson reports.

India considers law to limit liability for nuclear accident damage
India’s parliament is considering a new law that would limit liability for damages cause by nuclear accidents. The Congress Party-led central government is seeking Parliamentary approval for the measure, which would cap liability at $450 million. The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill  is a key requirement for making the India-US nuclear deal functional. The deal was fiercely resisted by the Left parties in 2008, bringing the government to the verge of collapse. Now opponents accuse the government of trying to rush approval under pressure from the US and its nuclear industry. Bismillah Geelani has the story.