Newscast for Thursday, June 30, 2011
- The debt ceiling deadline nears but the White House and Republicans fail to find common ground
- As China launches another bullet train, the challenge of establishing a fast rail network in the US
- A new investigation into possible radiation contamination from nuclear testing in Alaska
- In Maine, tribes and state leaders create the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission of its kind in the US
Study: UN Soldiers likely brought in cholera to Haiti
A new study out suggests that UN Peacekeepers brought cholera into Haiti after the massive 2010 earthquake. In an article published in the US Centers for Disease Control’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, researchers found that contamination first appeared in a river northwest of Port-au-Prince. The data “strongly suggests” that the contamination, downstream of a military camp, “triggered the epidemic.” No cholera had appeared in Haiti for the previous century.
Protests erupted in Haiti after the outbreak, with locals accusing UN forces of bringing in the disease. But this is the first broad scientific study supporting those accusations. More than 5000 people have died of cholera on the island since the October 2010 outbreak.
Amid protests, Greece passes austerity
Locked in a financial crisis, Greece’s parliament today held a second vote on its controversial austerity program. The measures, which passed, are needed to ensure the government can secure further emergency funds from the IMF and EU. The new austerity means the country is now faced with tax hikes, pay cuts, pension reform and privatizations. FSRN’s Aris Ikonomou reports from Athens.
Protesters in Athens were in the streets all night, and actions continue today in the wake of the austerity vote. The majority Socialist PASOK party and their main opposition – the right-wing New Democracy Party – supported the measures.
Alexandros Papadakis has been protesting the government’s austerity program for the past year.
“This is another example showing that PASOK and New Democracy defend the same interests. They try to fool the people and the working class but they cannot fool us all the time. We know, and today we have more proof that they defend the interests of industry and the monopolies; they defend the EU and the IMF. Not the people.”
Outside Parliament, at Sintagma Square, the teargas has not yet settled form yesterday’s man to man battles. Like the strong smell of gas, today’s vote is a reminder of the preceding 48 hours. Today’s Union-led demonstrations are expected to go into the night. Aris Ikonomou, FSRN, Athens.
Riot police clear final protesters from Barcelona tent camp
Last night, riot police in Spain evicted the last raining protesters encamped at Barcelona’s Plaza de Catalunya. According to AFP, a core group of about 40 people remained in makeshift shelters in the square, left from a mass camp erected six weeks ago to protest austerity measures. The activists had initially agreed to leave Wednesday, but then recanted, claiming the structure the government provided in exchange was not sufficient for their needs. At its peak, the tent city housed nearly 5000 people.
Nationwide strike launched to protest UK pension reform
In the UK, public sector workers have staged a strike and are demonstrating in cities across the country. It’s the most significant sign of industrial unrest in Britain in years. But it’s without the support of the political opposition. FSRN’s Naomi Fowler reports from London.
Pay more, work longer, get less. That’s what teachers, court staff and civil service workers say government pension reforms really mean, and that’s why they’re striking today. The government says it can no longer afford the current pensions. They want public sector workers to pay more. They’re also raising the retirement age to 66.
The unions point to research by the government’s own bodies that say the cost of pensions will fall over the next 40 years. What it’s really about, they believe, is a ‘race to the bottom’ by a ruling elite who are removed from the realities of ordinary people.
The political opposition has angered unions by condemning the strike action. This means no mainstream party is behind the strikers. Members of Parliament have the most generous pension scheme in the country. There are no plans so far to reform their pensions. Naomi Fowler, FSRN, London.
Animal rights group exposes cruelty at Iowa industrial pig farm
Animal rights group Mercy for Animals has posted an undercover video filmed at Iowa Select Farms. The video shows piglets being thrown and smashed into the floor, having their tails and testicles removed while fully conscious, pigs with active wounds, and pigs living in so-called gestation crates, which are barley larger than their bodies. The group says the footage was taken over 3 months by a woman who was hired by Iowa Select Farms in April.
The farm, in talking to media, has suggested that the video was staged, but did not elaborate. Iowa Select is a pork supplier to Kroger and several other national grocers. According to PETA, Iowa and Minnesota are currently considering legislation that would criminalize the act of undercover filming on factory farms. Florida defeated a similar bill in May, and another has seemingly fizzled in the New York Legislature as well.
Rhode Island passes civil unions with optional recognition clause
Rhode Island lawmakers passed a civil unions bill yesterday that now heads to the governor’s desk. Governor Lincoln Chafee has indicated he will sign the bill into law. But many gay rights activists are not happy. They say the legislation, with substantial exemptions for religious groups, codifies discrimination. It allows religious organizations, such as some hospitals, not to recognize the unions.
The debt ceiling deadline nears but the White House and Republicans fail to find common ground
The White House and Republicans in Congress are trying to increase pressure on each other in order to get what they want out of a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. From the Capitol, Matt Laslo reports.
As China launches another bullet train, the challenge of establishing a fast rail network in the US
Today in China, Premier Wen Jiabao officially opened his country’s latest speed train link, as a passenger aboard the new Beijing to Shanghai fast train. Ninety pairs of bullet trains will operate on the line, with a capacity to carry about 80 million passengers a year. The trains will travel at speeds of up to 180 miles an hour, but have the capacity to go faster. China, Japan, France and Spain are some of the leading countries in the expansion of speed rail networks, but the US is lagging behind, and President Obama’s $50 billion dollar speed rail project has encountered serious political obstacles. For more we spoke with Matt Van Hattem, senior editor of Trains Magazine.
A new investigation into possible radiation contamination from nuclear testing in Alaska
In Alaska, on the western Aleutian Island of Amchitka, a research team is investigating contamination from nuclear testing four decades ago. FSRN’s Jacob Resneck reports.
In Maine, tribes and state leaders create the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission of its kind in the US
In Maine, the state government and the Wabanaki tribes have started the process of creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This effort, the first of its kind in the nation, comes from over a decade of work between tribal and state welfare agencies, to address the long term effect of child welfare practices on tribes. Meredith DeFrancesco reports from WERU in Maine.