Newscast for Wednesday, July 13, 2011

  • US Democratic lawmakers introduce legislation to increase transparency in corporate campaign spending
  • Nuclear watchdogs call on federal regulators to improve safety at US reactors
  • Europe’s debt crisis intensifies as the IMF asks Italy to implement austerity measures
  • Wisconsin’s recall elections get underway
  • The ongoing hunger strike at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison

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Bomb blasts leave 20 dead in Mumbai

A string of bomb blasts in Mumbai, India has left dozens of commuters injured or dead.  FSRN’s Gayatri Lakshmibai reports.

Three near simultaneous explosions rocked India’s commercial capital of Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon.  Government officials declared 21 people dead and 113 injured.  However, reports suggest that the toll is likely to rise.  The injured have been rushed to various public hospitals around the city.

The blasts took place in three crowded areas during evening rush hour as people were returning home from work.  No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.  But the government has released a statement pointing at a terror link.

Anger is so far the most overt emotion among Mumbai’s residents, who have witnessed more than six bomb blasts since 1993.  The home minister has asked people to remain calm and maintain peace. Gayatri Lakshmibai, FSRN, Mumbai.

Cypriots protest deaths at military base

Last night in Cyprus, police arrested nearly 2 dozen people protesting a massive munitions explosion at a military base.  The explosion killed 12 people and significantly damaged a power plant, according to Al Jazeera.  Protesters say the explosion was caused by government negligence.

Thousands of protesters marched on the presidential palace.  Police used tear gas to subdue the crowd.  Two high-ranking government officials have already resigned over the incident.

Philadelphia DA appeal Mumia Abu Jamal case to Supreme Court

In Philadelphia, the city’s District Attorney has filed an appeal to the US Supreme Court concerning the fate of Mumia Abu Jamal., From Philadelphia, FSRN’s Matthew Petrillo reports.

Mumia Abu Jamal was convicted for murdering a police officer in 1981 and sentenced to death. After decades of legal battles, Abu Jamal and his supporters successfully won a reprieve. Last April, a federal appeals court ruled Mumia Abu Jamal’s death-sentence unconstitutional. But late last week, Philadelphia’s District Attorney sent an appeal to the US Supreme Court. The DA wants to keep Abu Jamal on death row, even though Pennsylvania has only executed three prisoners since 1976.  

Earlier this year, Abu-Jamal successfully argued the jury was issued flawed instructions during his 1982 capital sentencing.  At the time, jurors did not have to agree unanimously on mitigating circumstance during the sentencing phase.  If they had, Abu Jamal may have avoided death row.  In the current appeal, the Philadelphia DA is arguing that –quote-  “how states choose to structure jury instruction is typically left to the states.”

A spokesperson from Abu Jamal’s legal team told FSRN they will not comment while the Supreme Court is considering the latest lower court ruling.  Matthew Petrillo, FSRN, Philadelphia.

Mountaintop removal linked to birth defects

Today the US House passed legislation that would strip the EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Water Act.  The mining industry is supporting the legislation.  But the industry is coming under new fire today from scientists and activists.  They’re citing a new study linking mountain top removal mining to birth defects.  FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports.

Maria Gunoe of West Virginia has been speaking at events across the country to raise awareness about the effects of mining on her community.

“We appeal to the nation to intervene, and bring an end to the staggering human cost, and mounting death toll, from one of the most egregious heath and civil rights violations in our lifetimes.”

Environmental advocates have long cited high cancer rates and respiratory issues in mining communities, but new research shows significantly more birth defects in areas with mountaintop removal.  The University of West Virginia study, published in the journal of Environmental Research, says the results were conclusive even when they controlled for smoking and drinking during pregnancy, the age of the mother, race and ethnicity.

In light of this new information, Gunoe and other activists want a moratorium on mountaintop removal until the Center for Disease Control investigates the damages to public heath.

One of their supporters, Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth, is sponsoring the Clean Water Protection Act.  The legislation would strengthen the Clean Water Act to prevent the dumping of mountaintop removal mining waste into local waters.  But that legislation has not yet made it to the House floor.  Alice Ollstein, FSRN, Washington D.C.

FIFA urged to address homophobia around women’s World Cup

And finally, the FIFA Women’s World Cup continues today in Germany.  Japan is playing Sweden and the US has already defeated France in their bids to make the finals this Sunday.  As the competition takes place on the field, activists are protesting the lack of official action against he Nigerian coach.  Under the coach, Eucharia Uche, several lesbian players have been kicked off the Nigerian national team.  The website has collected more than 45-thousand signatures urging action by FIFA, and a flash mob protest has been reportedly planned outside the stadium today.



US Democratic lawmakers introduce legislation to increase transparency in corporate campaign spending

Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation today that would enable shareholders to have a say in where their money is spent. As Matt Laslo reports from Washington, the bill’s proponents say it’s needed to combat a Supreme Court ruling that gives undue advantage to corporations.

Nuclear watchdogs call on federal regulators to improve safety at US reactors

In Japan today, the Prime Minister Naoto Kan, announced that his country should become a nuclear free society.  It’s the strongest anti-nuclear statement yet from the unpopular Prime Minister, as his administration continues to struggle with the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The crisis has prompted many countries to review their nuclear energy plants, including the United States. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Japan task issued recommendations to improve plant safety at more than 100 reactors across the US.  The task force recommends improving safeguards designed to deal with station blackouts, earthquakes, flooding and spent fuel pools.

The watchdog group Union of Concerned Scientists issued their own list of more than two dozen recommendations in response.  At a teleconference, UCS nuclear expert David Lochbaum said the NRC should require nuclear plants to move spent fuel from wet pool storage to dry casks.  The overheating of the spent fuels pools was a major factor in Japan’s nuclear disaster:

“The NRC’s recommendations 7.1 through 7.5 address spent fuel pool concerns but don’t advocate the transfer of radiated fuel into dry casks. Thus the NRC’s proposed actions while good, remain insufficient to responsibly handle this known hazard.”

The UCS also wants new reactors to be safer than existing ones, and resistant to terrorist attacks. Nuclear expert, Dr Edwin Lyman also wants US reactors to be able to withstand a Fukushima style disaster.

“It stands to reason that if we’re going to be building new nuclear reactors in this country that will be around for sixty or eighty years, that they should be built to the highest safety standards.  However the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a longstanding policy that new reactors do not have to be safer than existing safer, although they would like them to be safer, but they refuse to actually require them to be safer and as a result the US is getting exactly what we’ve asked for which is a fleet of new reactor designs, none of which actually demonstrate significantly enhanced safety.”

The NRC commissioners are scheduled to discuss the nuclear report in a public briefing on July 19.

Europe’s debt crisis intensifies as the IMF asks Italy to implement austerity measures

Today, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) called on Italy to ensure “decisive implementation” of spending cuts to reduce its debt. There are now rising concerns among financial experts that Italy may be the next victim of the Eurozone’s debt crisis but some see Italy’s economy as too big to bailout.  Meanwhile in Greece, the finance minister has said his country needs a second loan on top of the current EU-IMF rescue deal worth more than $150 billion US dollars.   For more we spoke with Andrew Watt, Senior Researcher, European Trade Union Institute in Brussels.

Wisconsin’s recall elections get underway

In Wisconsin, nine State Senators – six Republicans and three Democrats – are running in recall elections this summer, as a result of public outrage over their votes on a bill to strip public workers of their unions. Tuesday saw the first round of primaries in the state. From Baraboo, Wisconsin, Molly Stentz has more.

The ongoing hunger strike at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison

In California, prison inmates are in the 12th day of a hunger strike.  Prisoners in the isolation wing of the high security Pelican Bay jail are refusing meals and water to protest what they say are inhumane conditions. The strike has spread to at least six other other prisons. Tina Bachemin reports.

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