Newscast for Thursday, June 16, 2011
- US lawmakers file a lawsuit against President Obama over the Libya war
- US nuclear safety preparedness post-Fukushima
- Wisconsin’s ongoing political and legal battle over budget cuts and union rights
- 40 years after the declaration of war on drugs, former supporters of the policy are calling for a change in strategy
- El Salvador radio station faces threats it links to its opposition to a Canadian mining operation
Congressman Anthony Weiner resigns
New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has resigned, in the wake of a twitter and text messaging scandal. Weiner had admitted to sending lewd messages and photos to several women over the past few years, and despite the lack of indications that Weiner had broken the law, numerous members of both parties had called on him to step down.
“I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do. To fight for the middle class, and those struggling to make it. Unfortunately the distraction that I have created has made that impossible. So today I am announcing my registration from congress…so my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can choose a new representative, and most importantly that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage I have caused.”
Weiner has represented New York’s 9th congressional district since 1999, and was re-elected 6 more times by significant margins.
Greek PM to announce new cabinet
Greece’s prime minister will announce a new cabinet, in an effort to stave off a growing lack of confidence in the economy from both Greek citizens and international financial institutions. Facing massive street protests on Wednesday, Prime Minister George Papandreou offered to resign; 3 members of Parliament from his socialist party have either resigned or left the party this week. The new cabinet will need a vote of confidence from the Greek Parliament to move forward.
Eurozone ministers are scheduled to vote on a new aid package for Greece this Sunday, which includes loans from the EU and International Monetary Fund. The Greek populace is upset that the loan conditions require more than 40 billion dollars of spending cutes.
Police station bombed in Nigeria
At least two people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a police headquarters in the northern Nigerian town of Damboa. Police say an Islamic extremist group with links to al-Qaeda, was responsible for the attack. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.
Police spokesman Shola Amore said the bomb detonated just as the bomber who drove into the premises of the police headquarters was asked to move the car to a parking lot. The bomber and a policeman are the two people officially confirmed dead, but some eye witnesses say the death toll was much higher.
Boko Haram, the group blamed for the attack has in the past carried out bomb attacks in Northern Nigeria. The attack came less than forty-eight hours after the Islamist group said its jihadists who have been training in Somalia had arrived Nigeria to carry out attacks that will be fiercer and wider than those in the past. The group says its objective is to introduce Islamic law in Nigeria. Sam Olukoya, FSRN, Lagos.
UN’s International Labor Organization gives historic rights to domestic workers
The United Nation’s International Labor Organization has voted to approve the Domestic Workers Convention, a document establishing universal standards for the estimated 50 to 100 million maids, cooks, nannies and others who work in other peoples homes. 80 percent of domestic workers around the world are women.
The convention, which still must be ratified by individual governments for it to be valid in each nation, calls for at least one 24 hour period off each week, a limit on non-monetary in-kind payment, maternity leave, and the right to collectively bargain.
Chilean University Students walk out to protest education cuts
In Chile, striking University and High School students clashed yesterday with police in Santiago and cities across the country. Today more peaceful protesters marched in Santiago, and elsewhere. The last month has seen protests and school shut downs across the country, with students demanding changes to the public education system. FSRN’s Jorge Garreton has more from Santiago.
More than 70 thousand university, high school, teachers and unions marched through the streets in Santiago and other cities, demanding the government funds public universities, guarantees quality education and stops corporate profiteering off education.
High school students are demanding the public education system be handed back to the central government; during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, local municipalities were given control. The current model of education leaves the poor and vulnerable in the public system, while those with disposable income send children to charter or private schools. Over the past 30 years, the public system has lost 50 percent of its students to charter schools that get government subsidies, and private schools.
University students are demanding a change to the loan system, which leaves the average student with a debt of more than 40 thousand dollars. Currently students from middle class families cannot get loans, forcing their parents to pick up the burden of university tuition fees. And lower income students who do get government loans have to pay market rate loan interests.
The rightist Sebastian Piñera government has responded timidly with calls to meet to discuss the students’ demands and announced a reform to university funding, transferring funds from public universities to students using education vouchers. Jorge Garreton, FSRN, Santiago.
Obama donors receive jobs in administration at rates 4 times faster than Bush administration
President Obama has given major campaign donors almost 200 jobs in his administration thus far, a number that’s roughly equal to the number awarded to in all 8 years of the George W. Bush administration; that’s according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity.
The investigation found that nearly 80 percent of those who helped raise more than 500 thousand dollars in donations from others, also known as ‘bundlers’, took “key administration posts,” as defined by the White House. At least 19 of these bundlers have ties to companies that could benefit from the administrations policies.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz defended the administration’s actions, saying they hire qualified people, and that, quote, “Being a donor does not get you a job in this administration, nor does it preclude you from getting one.”
US lawmakers file a lawsuit against President Obama over the Libya war
In Washington, US involvement in the Libya war is causing opposition from lawmakers on both sides of the aisles in Congress. Matt Laslo reports on a new lawsuit filed against President Obama supported by ten lawmakers who claim the President is violating the War Powers Act.
US nuclear safety preparedness post-Fukushima
More than three months after a massive earthquake preceded a meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, the facility continues to pose a major health risk. The accident has since surpassed Chernobyl as the world’s worst nuclear disaster. The situation has turned public opinion against nuclear power in many developed nations…but less so in the US. Today members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave testimony on Capitol Hill about progress on safety reviews of the 104 nuclear facilities in the United States.
Chairman Gregory Jazcko said many of the details about the nuclear disaster in Japan were still unclear, for example how the hydrogen explosions occurred at the Fukushima plant. Jazcko and his fellow commissioners were able to give some examples of lessons learned from Japan. Commissioner William Ostendorff:
“I’d say one area that has come up from the task force at two meetings that we’ve had so far has been the need to evaluate the adequacy of our existing station blackout rules which deal with the loss of AC power on-site, off-site, and I think that the commission will probably receive from the taskforce perhaps some recommendations in this area.”
Commissioner William Magwood said better mechanisms are needed in the US to respond to Fukushima type events that cause overheating:
“One that I think leaps out at many of us, after 9/11 we put in place certain procedures and equipment to allow plants to respond to events that require emergency cooling from auxiliary diesel generators to drive pumps, provide water to cool reactors and spent fuel pools. We require those units to be just a very short distance away from reactor buildings. Clearly if we had those procedures in place and had experienced a Fukushima type event that equipment would have been wiped out along with a lot of the other site equipment.”
Much of the hearing in Washington focused on a political battle over nuclear waste storage at the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. The Obama administration has announced that it is ending the project – which has already cost billions of dollars – because of concerns that it is unsafe, a move supported by NRC Chair Gregory Jazcko. Republican lawmakers say there’s no evidence the project is unsafe and at the hearing accused Jaczko of withholding information and intimidating other members of the NRC to make sure the project was abandoned.
The NRC is conducting two reviews into nuclear safety in the US, the first is due next month. In Italy this week, in a referendum, Italians voted overwhelmingly against nuclear power. Late last month, Germany’s parliament voted to phase out nuclear energy.
Wisconsin’s ongoing political and legal battle over budget cuts and union rights
In Wisconsin, after a State Supreme Court decision supporting Governor Walker’s anti-union law, Public sector unions have now filed a federal lawsuit in response. With the law set to take effect, it may be the unions’ last stand against the Republican push to restrict workers’ rights. Molly Stentz from WORT FM in Madison has more.
40 years after the declaration of war on drugs, former supporters of the policy are calling for a change in strategy
This week marks 40 years since former US president Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs. Criticism of the punitive law enforcement policy has been around for years, but recently former drug war hawks have joined the ranks of those calling for a different approach. I’m joined on the line by Tony Newman from the Drug Policy Alliance.
El Salvador radio station faces threats it links to its opposition to a Canadian mining operation
In El Salvador’s Cabañas region, a local environmental activist has been found dead. The environmentalist, Juan Francisco Duran Ayala, went missing last week – a day after hanging up posters opposed to a mine operated by the Canadian Pacific Rim mining corporation. A community radio station has also received threats after speaking out against the mining company. The Salvadoran radio station, Radio Victoria is now trying to call international attention to the situation. Alice Ollstein has more.