Newscast for Tuesday, March 22, 2011
- The US continues bombing Libya, as criticism of the operation grows
- Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh warns of civil war
- World Water Day and the challenge of supplying clean water to cities
- Environmentalists raise concerns about plans for Mekong River hydropower dams
- Chilean townsfolk divided over tailings dam
Radiation levels in seawater trigger concern about Japan’s fisheries
In Japan, hundreds of thousands remain homeless and many more have limited electricity as rolling blackouts continue. Four substantial aftershocks rattle survivors today. Electricity has been reconnected to all six units of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but the lights aren’t on yet. Officials will now try to fill the spent fuel pool in reactor # 2 with water to bring the temperature down and stop further radioactive emissions. Graham Andrew is with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“There continue to be some improvements at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant but the overall situation remains very serious. High levels of contamination have been measured in the locality of the plant. On the Fukushima site the highest concern remains the spent fuel in the storage ponds of eight reactor unit, particularly Unit 4.”
In fact, radiation levels near the plant have been recorded at 1600 times normal levels – locals are being urged to stay away from tap water – and concerns are emerging about the possible contamination of marine fisheries.
2 Children die as aggression between Hamas and Israel escalates
Two children are among four people dead in Gaza as Israeli army attacks escalate and homemade rocket fire continues. Rami Almeghari reports.
Medics in Gaza say most of those killed or injured by Israeli bombardments in the past 24 hours have been civilians, including several women and children. Monday night, Israeli warplanes launched a series of air strikes on southern, eastern and northern Gaza – injuring civilians and damaging a number of buildings including a Hamas owned medical clinic. Israel claims it targeted smuggling tunnels and suspected weapons stores. Adham Abu Silmiya is a spokesperson for the ambulance service in Gaza.
“This morning, the Israeli army targeted a number of people in the eastern Gaza neighborhood of Shijaiya, hitting them with five tank shells.”
The escalation began last week when two Hamas operatives were killed by Israeli warplanes. The group’s military wing retaliated over the weekend, firing a barrage of homemade rockets into nearby Israeli towns. Hamas says it is considering a ceasefire, once Israel stops attacks on Gaza. French officials expressed concern about the uptick in violence today — calling for both sides to exercise restraint. Rami Almeghari, FSRN, Gaza.
One of the Cuban 5 says he was denied due process; files appeal
One of the Cuban five says he’s innocent and filed an appeal today – Lillian Boctor explains.
Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Cuban Five, has filed significant legal briefs in their habeas corpus appeals. This is his last chance for a new trial. Hernandez is serving life without parole for conspiracy to commit murder, in the case of the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes. Hernandez says he was denied due process and never told that he could testify on his own behalf if he separated his case from the others. in this appeal he will be able to present evidence for the first time. Richard Klugh, Hernandez’s lawyer, says that the prosecution was based on suspicion and innuendo.
“Now that Gerardo has the opportunity to speak in his own words he is detailing how he is completely innocent, both factually and legally, and in every possible sense. It’s just a terrible injustice that he is being stigmatized as if he had participated in some kind of an attempt to kill.”
Hernandez’s appeal, as well as that of Antonio Guerrero and the upcoming appeal of Ramon Labañino, will also present evidence that the U.S. government paid journalists during the Cuban Five trial to manipulate public opinion. The U.S. government will respond to the new Cuban Five appeals on April 17th. Lillian Boctor, FSRN.
High Court rules that whistle blowers are protected even if they don’t put complaint in writing
The Supreme Court ruled today that employees can blow the whistle on illegal workplace conditions either orally or in writing. Kevin Kasten was fired from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics after he verbally reported that workers were required to don and doff protective gear off the clock, losing as much as 2.5 hours pay per week. Saint-Gobain said Kasten didn’t have legal protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act because he had not complained in writing.
DNA evidence frees innocent man after 27 years in prison
A Virginia man spent more than a quarter of a century locked up for a crime he didn’t commit – now, he’s free. Brad Kutner has more.
After 27 years in prison, Thomas Haynesworth is free from a Virginia prison, his innocence backed by DNA evidence. in 1984, the African American man was convicted of the rape and attempted rape of three white women. Hayworth’s case was re-examined as part of a sweeping review ordered in 2005 by former governor Mark Warren. The genetic testing cleared Haynesworth and implicated convicted rapist Leon Davis. Haynesworth is happy to return home, but his case is not finished. He is out on parole for the time being, but still faces an appeals court hearing on March 30th. Brad Kutner, FSRN, Richmond.
South Dakota governor signs abortion law – mandates pro-life counseling and 3 day waiting period
Women seeking to end a pregnancy in South Dakota will now wait longer than any other women in the country. Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a law today that mandates women must wait three days after meeting with a doctor to have the procedure – they must also attend counseling at specific so called pregnancy help centers – such centers by law must give counseling that seeks to “help women keep their relationship with their unborn children.” Abortion rights groups say they plan to legally challenge the measure.
The US continues bombing Libya, as criticism of the operation grows
The US and European allies are continuing their 4th day of bombing Libya. The US State Department describes the strikes as tactical operations against military targets in coastal areas and across the country. The State Department said the forces of Gaddafi – in defiance of the UN resolution – are engaging with rebels in actions in or near Benghazi, Zawiya, Ajdabiya and Misurata. During a briefing, US Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear described the situation in Misurata:
“There are Gaddafi forces in Misurata. They are conducting attacks against civilians in Misurata and in violation of the Security Council resolution and we are considering all options as we look across the entire country of Libya the forces of Gaddafi are a fairly significant land force that he has arraigned in various locations and we are dealing with it. The no fly zone is in place, the no fly zone is effective and we have diminished his ability I think from an air defense and an air force perspective to the point where I am comfortable with the no fly zone and we’re going to continue to pursue all actions necessary to make him comply with UN Security Council resolution 1973.”
Admiral Locklear did not confirm the number of those killed by airstrikes but said the coalition aims to minimize civilian deaths.
Some leaders of the African Union, that initially supported the no fly zone, have expressed concern about foreign intervention and civilian casualties from airstrikes. The African Union has issued a declaration calling for the immediate cessation of all hostilities and today the Russian government called for all parties to stop the violence.
Earlier today, two US pilots were recovered safely after ejecting from their F-15 warplane when it crashed during operations in eastern Libya. Admiral Locklear neither confirmed nor denied a British report that during the recovery a pilot opened fire and injured civilians. He said a full investigation was being conducted.
Al Jazeera’s, James Bays, reporting from the frontline, just outside the city of Ajdabiya, said the rebels outnumber Gaddafi’s forces but are outgunned and lack basic communication capacity:
“One of the of the problems of this fluid situation, even the troops here don’t know whether it’s their own fire or the other side’s sometimes and as soon as you hear a thud everyone is trying to work out who actually fired it before they move forward. It’s a very, very confused and fluid situation and I think one of the main problems for the opposition is they really don’t have any communication or coordination of their forces.”
In this eastern part of the country on the border with Egypt, the United Nations refugee agency says it’s dealing a very challenging refugee problem. The agency says more than 300,000 people have fled the conflict and medical supplies and basic commodities are in short supply.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh warns of civil war
Today, in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh warned of the possibility of civil war. His government is facing a wave of resignations and defections to the opposition, from politicians to members of the army. The resignations follow a protest by many thousands of people on Friday in the capital Sanaa, during which snipers shot and killed about 50 people. For more we go to Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Assistant Professor of Political Science and a specialist in Yemeni society and politics from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva New York.
World Water Day and the challenge of supplying clean water to cities
Today is World Water Day, established by the United Nations to raise awareness about the human right to clean water and proper sanitation. According to UN data from 2000, more than 1 billion people, or 18% of the world’s population, lacked adequate water and 2 and a half billion, about 40%, lacked proper sanitation. The UN says future predictions are “bleak” and points out that the problem now isn’t scarcity, but poor management of both water supplies and sanitation. Scientists, environmentalists and water experts have been gathering in Cape Town, South Africa to develop solutions related to this year’s theme: water and urbanization.
Dr. Hannah Louisa Bissiw is Ghana’s Deputy Minister for Water Resources. She says they face challenges in meeting Millennium Development Goals or MDGs, but the government is investing both water access and sanitation.
“We are certain form this month we will be drilling 4,000 bore holes from the first year is the effort that the government is making trying to meet the MDGs and in fact go beyond the MDGs because as a country we do believe that water is right. If water is a common human right then any time we are not able to give water to a single person we are abusing the right of that person.”
The Millennium Development Goals include reducing by half the number of people without “sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.”
Some experts warn countries will need to invest up to $30 billion to meet these goals. World leaders say they’re taking steps. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined World Bank President Robert Zoellick to sign an agreement to work together on water issues:
“The approach proposed by the United States seeks synergies with water sanitation, irrigation and resource management…we’re very excited about tapping Noah’s capabilities and this MOU will make this this kind of cooperation much easier.”
Specific details on the agreement weren’t publicized, and in the past, public advocates have criticized the World Bank for attempts to privatize water. At today’s event, Coca-Cola executives were also present. The company, strongly criticized for depleting water resources in India, announced it was donating $6 million to water and sanitation projects in Africa. Meanwhile, the US faces its own water problems. Last year, Environmental Working Group released a study finding that a cancer-causing chemical, Chromium 6, was widespread in US drinking water. And fixing the US water infrastructure could be pricey. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates the US would need to spend $20 billion a year for two decades to “maintain water infrastructure at levels which meet health and environmental standards.”
Environmentalists raise concerns about plans for Mekong River hydropower dams
In Southeast Asia, authorities along the Mekong River will soon decide on construction of the first of a series of new hydropower dams. Environmentalists fear the dams may cause lasting damage to the environment and the livelihoods of millions of people living along the Mekong. FSRN’S Ron Corben reports.
Chilean townsfolk divided over tailings dam
From Papua New Guinea to West Virginia, mining operations around the world have had lasting impacts on human health and the environment. But mining can also divide communities, as has happened in the small Chilean town of Caimanes. Here, eleven people recently began a hunger strike against a massive tailings dam filled with waste sludge from the region’s copper mine. But in addition to fighting the pollution, these residents are also facing neighbors who say the mining company will save this small hamlet from poverty. From Caimanes, Jocelyn Wiener and Will Evans report.