Newscast for Thursday, April 14, 2011

  • BP shareholders express anger at oil giant’s response to environmental concerns
  • President Obama’s budget plan aims to cut deficit and defend social programs
  • Budget provision de-lists gray wolves as an endangered species
  • Thai officials threaten to shut down refugee camps

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NATO indecisive about arms support for Libyan rebels
Shelling continued today in Misrata, Libya and media sources report the rebel death toll has reached 23.  Conditions are worsening for residents trying to flee the war zone as well.

“The condition of about 6,000 migrants in and around the port in Misrata is very intolerable in the sense that most of them suffer from dehydration, lack of food, lack of shelter and they condition is really very bad.”

International Organization for Migration head Jumbe Omari Jumbe says they have been trying to evacuate civilians, but their efforts have been stymied by the recent intensification of fighting. Jumbe said a humanitarian aid ship is currently on its way to Misrata to deliver supplies to the coastal town.

Yesterday rebel leaders called on the US to step up its involvement in the NATO-led military action. Today at a meeting in Berlin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed the US’s current role, but made no promises for further action.

“We are also sharing the same goal which is to see the end of the Gaddafi regime in Libya.  And we are contributing in many ways in order to see that goal realized.”

The international community seems to be united behind calls for a ceasefire in Libya, but there’s less accord over what should happen to leader Muammar Gaddafi and whether to arm rebel forces.

Syria names new government
In response to large protests by women and children yesterday in Syria, the government says it will pull its secret police out of the Eastern port of Banias and replace them with military forces. Euronews reports the government also agreed to release many of the men taken into custody on Tuesday, the action that prompted the mass protests yesterday.  Many of the men released claimed they were tortured while in custody.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has formed a new government, according to state media. Assad appointed a new Prime Minister and cabinet.

Japanese rescue crews search for bodies near damaged nuclear plant
Emergency crews in Japan have found the bodies of 10 tsunami victims as they begin to search the off-limits area around the damaged Fukushima Nuclear power plant.  The Sydney Morning Herald reports rescue workers intend to make their way closer to the plant in an effort to recover the bodies of an estimated 1000 victims.  The 300 rescue workers are wearing protective suits and masks.  The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami currently stands at more than 13,000, with another approximately 15,000 still missing.

Pro-democracy protests in Swaziland cancelled after 2nd day
This week, pro-democracy protests have erupted in the tiny southern African nation of Swaziland.  The Monarchy in power has met protesters with force – using water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrations.  In a statement issued today, Union organizers called off planned demonstrations, fearing the lives of protesters were at risk.  The Union calls the decision not a defeat, but a – quote –  “tactical retreat to re-strategize on the next phase of this mass rolling action.”

OK, KS pass stronger restrictions on abortion
The Oklahoma legislature has passed through new restrictions on abortions preformed in the state.  Under the new legislation, which is expected to be signed by the Republican governor, abortion would not be allowed after the 20th week.  Another law passed prohibits private health care companies from offering abortion services in their basic plans – women wanting that coverage must pay additional.

Yesterday, Kansas’ governor signed bills forbidding abortions after the 21st week and requiring girls under the age of 18 to get consent from both parents before having the procedure.  The bills also require enhanced state reporting by abortion clinics.

Legislation targeting abortion clinics with stricter health standards failed to gain enough support in the Illinois House.

Millions of stillbirths each year, most in developing countries
There are 2.6 million stillborn babies delivered worldwide every year, according to a new study in the Lancet Medical Journal.  The World Health Organization is calling on governments to acknowledge stillbirths as a public health problem.  Dr Frederik Frøen is from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

“The vast majority of still births, 80 per cent, are never given a name, they are never held or dressed by the mother, they don’t have a funeral, they are disposed of in the simplest possible way.  That invisibility at the personal level is also seen for the mothers, a large proportion of them are marginalized.”

Nearly two thirds of the stillbirths occur in 10 countries.  And still, the study says many stillbirths are not even recorded.



BP shareholders express anger at oil giant’s response to environmental concerns

In London, oil giant British Petroleum held its annual general meeting – the first since the gulf oil spill disaster nearly a year ago.  Angry protesters gathered outside the venue, including environmentalists, trade union reps, and fishermen.   In a video uploaded to YouTube, Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Mathias Colomb Cree First Nation in Manitoba, Canada sings an indigenous song outside the meeting venue, in protest of BP’s tar sands extraction in Canada. Some Gulf Coast residents travelled to London for the meeting, including a BP shareholder who read a letter from the father of one of the workers killed on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Texas shrimper and activist Diane Wilson was arrested after entering the building and pouring an oil-like substance on herself. Security officers thwarted attempts by several other Gulf Coast residents to enter the meeting. But residents of the Gulf Coast aren’t the only ones unhappy with BP. Some shareholders are critical of BP’s response to safety and environmental issues. Mark Regier, is one such BP investor.  He’s director of Stewardship investing at MMA Praxis Mutual Funds.  He represents a coalition of concerned shareholders that together own about 35 million BP shares.

President Obama’s budget plan aims to cut deficit and defend social programs

This week President Obama laid out his plan to cut the national deficit. His proposal sets the stage for what promises to be one of the biggest debates leading up to the 20-12 elections. Matt Laslo has the details from Washington.

Budget provision delists gray wolves as an endangered species

Also in Washington, the House passed the 2011 budget compromise which includes 40 billion dollars in cuts to the current year’s budget. Lawmakers also attached a controversial rider that environmentalists say threatens the Endangered Species Act.   The provision allows some Western states, including Montana and Idaho, to remove the gray wolf the endangered species list, and will be the first time Congress – rather than a science based federal agency – has directly intervened to take an animal off the list.

The rider is backed by Democrat Senator Jon Tester from Montana and Republican Representative Mike Simpson from Idaho.  Their anti-wolf rider responds to concerns from ranchers about wolf attacks on their livestock and hunters who say elk and moose numbers are in decline because there are now too many wolves.

According to Defenders of Wildlife, at the last official count there were about 540 wolves in Montana and 705 in Idaho.  The organization’s Rocky Mountain Region Director, Mike Leahy says the anti-wolf rider will mean Montana and Idaho will only have to maintain 100 to 150 wolves per state and Oregon, Washington and Utah will not have to maintain any wolves in northern and eastern parts of their states:

“There’s a lot of anti-wolf sentiment in these states, particularly in the state legislatures and some of the Governors’ offices and they tend to call the shots on wildlife management.  There’s a legitimate threat that the states will take advantage of that flexibility and start reducing wolves down to unsustainable numbers.  What it means for the endangered species act  is now that any time anyone has an issue with an endangered species which is often they will run to Congress and try to get the same sort of deal that the people opposed to wolf conservation are getting.”

Leahy says there are about 360,000 elk and hundreds of thousands of deer in the 3 northern Rocky states compared to about 1650 wolves.  He says there are already measures in place that allow wolf populations to be culled if they threaten livestock.

The anti-wolf rider is one of numerous budget provisions that affect the environment.  But others will come from slashed funding, including a nearly $1 billion from clean water programs; about $150 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund; and about $50 million from climate change programs. The bill also prohibits NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from using funds to establish a Climate Service.

Thai officials threaten to shut down refugee camps

The plight of more than 100,000 refugees from Myanmar, also known as Burma, is in question following statements from Thailand’s Prime Minister that his government wants to shut down refugee camps along the border – some of which have been operating for decades. Some of the refugees are former political prisoners, who spent years in Myanmar prisoners and were subject to torture and forced labor. From the Thai-Burma border, Gayatri Lakshmibai and Felix Sayid report.

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