Newscast for Monday, March 28, 2011

  • Japanese officials confirm highly radioactive water has leaked from reactor buildings
  • Rising US and international concerns over military action in Libya
  • Civil rights lawyers investigate torture under Tunisia’s former regime
  • ‘US Uncut’ protest movement follows UK model
  • In Wisconsin, questions over whether the anti-union bill is now in effect
  • Obituary: Geraldine Ferraro

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Radioactive iodine found in Massachusetts rainwater

Radioactive iodine from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant has made it’s way to the east coast of the US. Trace levels were found in samples of rainwater in Massachusetts – the EPA says drinking water is safe and no contamination was found in air sampled at the same site. The tests were done as part of the EPA’s Radiation Network. The nationwide program uses 124 outdoor monitors checked by volunteers. Last week some 20 of them were offline. The EPA says they put temporary backups in place, and that levels of radioactive iodine in the US have not exceeded that which is safe.

32 years since Three Mile Island – candlelight vigils around the country tonight

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident – more than 150 candlelight vigils will light up communities around the country tonight – there’s info at

NATO forces kill three more kids

More children are dead in Afghanistan after NATO “accidentally” killed them on Friday. NATO released a brief statement Saturday – they acknowledged that mistaken intelligence resulted in civilian casualties in southern Helmand Province – but failed to note that seven people died, and that three of them were just kids.

Dozens kidnapped in Kunar, tens dead in Paktika

In Kunar province, 40 Afghan men were kidnapped. A spokesperson for the Taliban says they are police officers, a local official says they are youth who had not yet been accepted to the force. And a suicide attacker killed 20 people in eastern Paktika Sunday – the Taliban claim credit for both attacks.

Hundreds of thousands protest UK public services cut

In London over the weekend, up to a half a million people protested cuts in public services. Naomi Fowler reports.

The March for the Alternative was organized by one of Britain’s largest unions, the Trades Union Congress. They argue that the cuts will hit the poorest 15 times harder than the richest and that women will bear the brunt of them. Opponents of the cuts say they are unnecessary. Instead — they call for a fairer system which taxes large businesses and the extremely wealthy fairly. Currently, the poorest 10% of UK households pay a higher proportion of their income in direct and indirect taxes than the richest 10%. The government admits the combined total loss to the exchequer from tax avoidance and evasion is as much as £41 billion a year. Some businesses, stores and banks were vandalized in well organized, largely non-violent attacks. There was some violence later in the evening and around 200 people were arrested. The government said this morning that they will continue their financial policies. Naomi Fowler, FSRN, London.

Syria protests continue

In Syria today, witnesses report that government forces destroyed a protest camp in Deraa. When protesters reconvened, troops opened fire again. In Latakia, CNN reports that armed men went door to door last night, terrifying residents. Syrian Information Ministry spokesperson Reem Haddad says that a repeal of emergency law in is in the works.

I can’t tell you when, but I can tell you it will be lifted because a package of reforms was given to us by the pres adviser for media and and political affairs and one of these reforms was reverting the emergency law.”

As many as 125 people have died since recent protests began less than two weeks ago. Over the weekend, Syria released hundreds of political prisoners. The White House reiterated today that the US has no plans for military intervention in Syria.

Supreme Court turns down Troy Davis appeal; hears Arizona campaign finance

The US Supreme Court turned down an appeal from death row inmate Troy Davis today. Davis maintains his innocence in the 1989 murder of an off duty Georgia police officer. Nearly all of the prosecution witnesses have recanted and no physical evidence was presented at trial. The High Court turned Davis down without comment, paving the way for Georgia to reschedule his execution.

Also at the Court today, Justices heard arguments in a key campaign finance case. Arizona’s Clean Elections Act subsidizes publicly funded political candidates in an attempt even their bank balances with candidates who finance their own campaigns. Opponents of the law say it unfairly limits the free speech of privately funded candidates – and recent Court decisions, including Citizens United, show that a majority of Justices agree. An decision is expected in June.

German voters deal Merkel a blow; elect Green candidate 1 day after historic anti-nuke marches

German Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered a major blow at the polls yesterday. The Green party doubled its strength and narrowly took a state held by Merkel’s party for almost sixty years. Merkel recently reversed her nuclear power policy – and even temporarily took seven aging nuclear reactors offline last week. While Merkel’s nuclear plan may now be new, Green Party politician Jurgen Tritttin says the threat of a nuclear accident is not:

Core melting in nuclear power plants is possible wherever a power plant is standing. But the real bad new news is that it is possible in a high tech country like Japan to have a melt down in three nuclear power plants n parallel.”

Tritten spoke at one of four major anti-nuclear marches in Germany on Saturday. Hundreds of thousands turned in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne.



Japanese officials confirm highly radioactive water has leaked from reactor buildings

In Japan highly radioactive water has leaked from a nuclear reactor building and the detection has heightened concerns about further contamination. Tokyo Electric Power Company also detected plutonium in soil samples at five different locations around the nuclear plant, according to Kyodo news agency.   Greenpeace also said its experts found radiation levels of up to 10 micro Sieverts per hour in a village about 30 miles to the north of the Fukushima nuclear facility.  It described this level of radiation as delivering the equivalent of the maximum allowed annual dose within a few days.   It called for the expansion of a 12 mile (20-km) evacuation zone.

At their daily teleconference updating the situation, the Union of Concerned scientists said it was difficult to determine even how the contaminated water found its way into reactor buildings.  While the UCS said there were some positive developments over the weekend – like freshwater being used to cool reactors 1, 2 and 3 rather than corrosive seawater and the connection of an external power source to cool reactors 5 & 6, there were other worrying developments.  For example, the storage tanks where excess water is accumulating are full and some would have to be emptied before radiation levels in some areas can be reduced.  UCS plant safety expert Dr Edwin Lyman, said that would be a significant challenge.  He also criticized the Japanese authorities’ inaccurate recording of radiation levels:

“It’s clear that the radiation protection measures that are being taken on site are haphazard at best, there are anecdotal reports of workers not being given dissemeters, ignoring alarms because of the assumption that they are wrong.   So without having a good, accurate program for monitoring radiation levels in all these various areas it’s hard to see how they can actually implement a program for protecting the workers adequately.”

Today, TEPCO continued to remove highly radioactive water from inside reactor buildings and the government decided against letting residents within the 12 mile exclusion zone temporarily return to their homes.   According to news reports citing the national police, following Japan’s earthquake and tsunami earlier this month, about 200, 000 people are still in evacuation shelters.  The official death toll is now more than 11,000 and about 17,000 are still missing.

Rising US and international concerns over military action in Libya

As violence continues in Libya, world leaders are discussing a diplomatic path forward.  Following international meetings in Addis Ababa, last week the African Union announced that is has a commitment from the Gaddafi regime to a ceasefire and to undertake political reforms – but the meeting was not attended by representatives of the opposition.

As NATO takes control of military operations, US President Barack Obama will address the nation this evening facing criticism of the war from all points on the political compass, administration officials continue to defend the no-fly zone.  Michael Lawson has more.

Civil rights lawyers investigate torture under Tunisia’s former regime

In Tunisia, the interim President of the transitional government has fired the Interior Minister and in a partial government reshuffle, Habib Essid is the new Interior Minister.  No explanation for the sacking was given, but it comes at a time when Tunisians are demanding greater transparency from their government during their delicate transition from dictatorship to democracy.  A team of lawyers and academics from the U.S., UK and Turkey has just returned after visiting Tunisia to express support for the country’s transition and investigate human rights abuses committed during the Ben Ali regime. Azadeh Shahshahani, executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild and National Security project director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, was a member of the delegation.

In Wisconsin, questions over whether the anti-union bill is now in effect

In Wisconsin, the controversial anti-union bill that was the focus of over a month of protests across the state may now be in effect. On Friday, a Wisconsin state agency published the bill on its website, prompting many to question whether the law can take effect now. This move came despite a Court order that temporarily bars publication of the bill. Molly Stentz and Joanne Powers have the story in Madison, Wisconsin.

‘US Uncut’ protest movement follows UK model

A British protest movement has made its way across the Atlantic. US Uncut, modeled after the anti-austerity group UK Uncut, is taking to the streets with a simple message: instead of cutting programs and laying off workers, the government should make corporations pay taxes on the billions in profits they currently shelter in offshore tax havens.  Saturday saw an international day of action. From the “March for the Alternative” in London to a protest “carnival” in Washington, D.C., the Uncut movement is working to change the narrative about the global economic crisis and who should pay for it. Alice Ollstein has more.

Obituary: Geraldine Ferraro

Politician and lawyer Geraldine Ferraro has died. The daughter of Italian immigrants, Ferraro began her political career in 1979, after being elected to represent New York’s 9th Congressional district. Five years later, she became the first woman from a major party to run for US vice president, accepting the nomination to run with Walter Mondale before an emotional crowd at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. During the campaign, Ferraro faced George H W Bush in this televised debate:

Bush: Let me help you with the difference, Ms. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon. Iran we were held by a foreign government.  In Lebanon, you had a wanton terrorist action where the government opposed it.

But Ferraro, who had earlier condemned the CIA’s roles in covert wars, refused to let her challenger’s tone go unanswered:

Ferraro: Let me just say, first of all, that I almost resent, Vice-President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.

Women’s rights advocates called Ferraro a “trailblazer” for women and girls, noting her work to help pass the Retirement Equity and Economic Equity Acts. Some attribute her prominence during the 1984 presidential campaign as helping to open the doors to more women in Congress. She died Saturday at the age of 75.


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