June 7, 2010

  • Officials project modest progress in Gulf oil spill but containment will take months
  • New Orleans residents criticize oil industry
  • Court in India convicts officials for negligence in Bhopal environmental disaster
  • Protests draw clashing views over Gaza flotilla attack
  • Obama nominates new national intelligence director
  • Candidates ready for key primaries across nation

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Mexican police remove strikers from Cananea copper mine
Federal police in Mexico have forcibly removed strikers from a copper mine at the heart of a long-running labor dispute. Workers have occupied the Cananea copper mine for the past 3 years, calling for better on-the-job safety guarantees. The Cananea mine is Mexico’s largest source of copper. The company that owns the mine, Grupo Mexico, says it will renew operations with 2000 contract workers. The national miners’ union has announced it will shut down one of Mexico’s busiest ports and carry out a series of actions throughout the country.


Afghanistan’s top security officials hand in resignations
Two of Afghanistan’s top security officials have resigned after failing to prevent Taliban attacks during last week’s National Consultative Peace Jirga. Asma Nemati has more from Kabul.

Minister of Interior Hanif Atmar and National Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh resigned Sunday in the wake of rocket attacks and a suicide bombing on the first day of the Peace Jirga. The National Consultative Peace Jirga was held last week to bring the Afghan civil war to end by means of reconciliation with the Taliban.

The resignations stunned and worried people throughout Afghanistan and also surprised international diplomats and military officials. Both former officials worked closely with the US and the leadership of the foreign military. Some analysts speculate the resignations came as a result of the security lapse, while others point to long-standing disagreements between the two officials and President Karzai, most recently on the issue of releasing Taliban prisoners.

The resignations come at a critical time for NATO’S operation in Afghanistan. NATO is currently planning its biggest offensive in Kandahar since the beginning of the US-led war. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the resignations “an internal matter” and called on president Karzai to identify replacements of “equal caliber”. Asma Nemati, FSRN, Kabul.


Suspected Army video “wikileaker” in custody
A US Army Intelligence Analyst alleged to have leaked footage of a deadly helicopter strike against civilians in Baghdad has been taken into custody by military investigators. The combat video made headlines in April after its release by the whistle-blower website, Wikileaks. The 22 year old analyst, Specialist Bradley Manning allegedly admitted to the leak during an instant messenger conversation with former hacker Adrian Lamo. Lamo told wired.com that he handed over chat logs to Army investigators and to the FBI after Manning made statements about having released over a quarter million classified diplomatic cables.


Amnesty International condemns use of cluster munitions in Yemen airstrike
Amnesty International has released photos indicating cluster munitions were used in a US airstrike that killed 55 people in Yemen last December. Twenty-one children were among the dead. The stated target of the strike was an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp. Phillip Luther of Amnesty International called the attack “grossly irresponsible”. An international treaty to ban the use of cluster munitions will take effect in August, but the US and Yemen are not signatories.


Israeli navy strike Gaza boat, Egypt opens Rafah crossing
Israeli naval forces killed 4 men in divers suits aboard a Palestinian boat near central Gaza shores this morning. This, as the 3-year long blockade of Gaza faces unprecedented international scrutiny. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

The Israeli navy opened fire on a Palestinian boat this morning killing four people aboard. The Israeli military alleges the men were planning to carry out a coastal attack against Israel. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed off-shoot of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party, has said the men were part of their group and were conducting a training exercise.

The Israeli military also carried out an airstrike in northern Gaza today, saying it was to prevent the firing of a homemade rocket. The missile left one man seriously wounded.

The 3 year old blockade of the Gaza Strip has come under severe international pressure in the wake of the deadly Israeli raid against an aid flotilla in international waters. Israel and Egypt sealed off border crossings with Gaza after Hamas’s takeover of the coastal territory in June 2007. Egyptian authorities have opened the Rafah crossing terminal in southern Gaza stating it will remain open until further notice. The Rafah terminal is the main outlet to the outside world for Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.

French and British officials have suggested that the European Union could take on a role of screening cargo arriving into Gaza’s ports as well as stepping up observation at the Rafah crossing terminal. Rami Almeghari, Free Speech Radio News, Gaza.

Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas enters retirement
And finally, Hearst Newspapers has announced the “retirement” of veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas. This comes after the 89 year old reporter made a controversial comment about Israel on video posted to the website rabbilive.com. Thomas was the longest-serving member of the White House press corps and held the coveted “front and center” seat in the press room.



Officials project modest progress in Gulf oil spill but containment will take months
Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen delivered some grim predictions about the Gulf coast Oil disaster today. He said that efforts to contain leaking oil from  the damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico would extend through the next months – even after the well is capped.

“Oil will have flowed to the surface in some manner because we probably won’t get it one-hundred percent contained, we want to get as much as we can get, so there will probably be oil on the surface the day the well is capped and the question is, that will have to be dealt with, will there be long-term environmental issues before the oil comes on shore, we’re going to have to conduct natural resource damage assessments so we can determine the long term issues associated with that and what BP  should be held accountable as far as correcting those environmental problems. If you look at all of that, we’ll be dealing with oil or the effects of oil well after the time the well is capped.”

Allen also said that the leak is not just coming from one location, but now hundreds of thousands of small patches of oil going in different directions which is forcing authorities to adjust the response. Still, he said some progress in containing the oil is being made, noting that the ship siphoning the oil was now collecting around 11,000 barrels a day and said that calculations still need to be made to determine how much is still leaking into the Gulf. The government’s panel set up to estimate the rate of the flow leak says 12,000 to 25,000 barrels are gushing from the well daily.

Allen said the leak would not be stopped permanently until BP finishes completion of two relief wells sometime in August. In a statement today, BP said that work on the first relief well has reached a depth of almost 13,000 feet; the second is at 8,500 feet.

On Sunday, BP’s CEO Tony Hayward told the BBC’s Andrew Marr the company has a long-term commitment to deal with the oil spill.

“We are going to stop the leak, we’re going to clean up the oil, we’re going to remediate any environmental damage and we are going to return the Gulf Coast to the condition it was in prior to this event. That’s an absolute commitment and we will be there long.”

Hayward also said BP’s board is set to make decision soon on whether to pay out billions of dollars in dividends to investors next month. President obama has called on the company to use that money to compensate residents in the Gulf Coast Region whose livelihoods have been damaged by the spill.


New Orleans residents criticize oil industry
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, many local residents are speaking out against the oil industry. The growing public outcry comes after weeks of frustration while residents have watched their coastline fill with oil.  Julia Botero reports.


Court in India convicts officials for negligence in Bhopal environmental disaster
A court in the central Indian city of Bhopal today delivered its verdict in the long-awaited 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy case convicting 8 Indian officials of the US-based company Union Carbide Corporation, for criminal negligence. But the verdict comes as a major disappointment for the survivors of the tragedy and the NGOs representing them. They say the charge carries a maximum punishment of 2-yearS imprisonment. An estimated 20,000 people were killed by the disaster and many more died in the years following. Bismillah Geelani has the story.


Protests draw clashing views over Gaza flotilla attack
Today Israel announced it would begin an investigation into last week’s deadly attack on an aid Flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip. According to Haaretz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told legislators that the government would investigate the events and examine ways to “minimize friction” in enforcing the blockade of Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu has refused plans for an international investigation, such as the one voted on in the UN’s Security Council, saying Israel has the right to investigate itself.

Another ship, the Rachel Corrie, was stopped on Saturday. According to Israeli Defense Forces, Nineteen people were onboard the boat, including eight crew members, all of whom were scheduled to be transferred to the custody of the Interior ministry. Israel said thee cargo would also be transferred to the Gaza Strip following security inspection.

Meanwhile, details on last week’s attack continue to emerge.

Activists from the Free Gaza Movement released details of those killed in the raid. Drawing on preliminary autopsy reports, the group says that “two men were shot four times each and five others were shot either in the back of the head or in the back.” One 60-year-old activist was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back.  A 19-year old US citizen of Turkish descent was shot five times from less than 45 cm away, in the face, the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back.

Protests condemning the attack continued across the world over the weekend. Thousands marched in London, Edinburgh and in Paris, France. Demonstrators also gathered Saturday night in Tel Aviv where the protest was originally planned to commemorate the 6-day war 43 years ago, but turned into a clash over the aid flotilla with protesters from both sides filling the streets and police deployed to separate the two factions.

In San Francisco, activists organized the third protest since the May 31st attack of the Gaza aid flotilla. Hundreds of Palestinian supporters showed up, and as Judith Scherr reports, so did counter-protesters.


Obama nominates new national intelligence director
Over the weekend President Obama announced his pick to oversee the nation’s spy agencies. But nominee James Clapper faces a daunting bureaucracy that has led to rapid turnover in the position that was created after 9/11. Clapper could become the fourth director of national intelligence in just five years. Jacob Fenston has more.


Candidates ready for key primaries across nation
Tomorrow candidates across the country face off in primary races. In Nevada, Republicans vie to see who will challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November.

In South Carolina, a contentious race to determine the nominee for the Republican governor is marred with scandal as the only woman in the race, Nikki Haley, is accused of extramarital affairs, a claim she flatly denies.

In California, primaries will determine the GOP candidates for Governor and US Senate.

Progressives will be watching a race in California – Marcy Winograd is challenging long time incumbent Jane Harman in California’s 36th district. They will also be watching the runoff between incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln and progressive backed Bill Halter in Arkansas.

FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell is at the America’s Future Conference in Washington DC. She spoke with Jim Dean, Chair of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization committed to electing progressives to office.