Newscast for Wednesday, July 20, 2011

  • The United Nations declares a famine in southern Somalia
  • Indian residents respond to the visit by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton
  • In Washington, lawmakers hold the first-ever hearing on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act
  • The ongoing cleanup of the Exxon oil spill on the Yellowstone River
  • In North Dakota, thousands of people still affected by massive flooding

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One dead in Malawi anti-government riots

Anti-Government riots broke out today in the Southern African country of Malawi, leaving at least one person dead. For FSRN, Davison Mudzingwa reports.

The Bingu Wa Mutharika-led government has come under increasing pressure following rising fuel prices, alleged bad governance and poor international relations. A recent austerity measure raising taxes is seen as triggering today’s violence

Demonstrators from poor townships were in the streets in three major cities: Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu.  Residents of the townships have been heavily burdened by the rising cost of living. In Malawi’s second capital, Blantyre, disgruntled residents gathered at the city assembly centre. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a journalist in Blantyre told FSRN the situation is tense.

“As I’m talking to you right now, the violence has spread to townships, people are burning tires and there are battles with the police right now.”

The government has banned the broadcast of the riots, fearing others would be encouraged to join. Human Rights Watch Southern Africa has condemned the police reaction to the protests. The group urged authorities to uphold the rights of civilians. Davison Mudzingwa, FSRN.

Final alleged Yugoslav War criminal apprehended

The last remaining fugitive indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has been arrested in Serbia.  Goran Hadzic was taken into custody today after 7 years on the run.  He’s one of 161 people indicted by the International Tribunal for their involvement in war crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s.  With the Hadzic capture, Serbia has cleared a major hurtle in its quest to enter the EU.  UN Radio’s Julie Walker reports.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia says it welcomes the arrest of Goran Hadzic.  He was indicted by The Hague in 2004 for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in eastern Slavonia, Croatia, between 1991 and 1992, including the leveling of Vukovar.  During the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Hadzic was President of the Government of the self-proclaimed “Serbian Autonomous District.”  Hadzic is being transferred into the Tribunal’s custody and is expected to arrive in The Hague within days.  Julie Walker, United Nations

Israeli doctors strike over wages and long hours

Residents at Israeli hospitals announced an indefinite strike earlier today.  Protests have been organized throughout the country as a controversial agreement between the Israel Medical Association and the Finance Ministry nears completion.  FSRN’s Jillian Kestler-D’Amours has the details from Jerusalem.

Hundreds of Israeli doctors walked out of hospitals across the country today in protest of an agreement taking shape between the Israeli government and the Israeli Medical Association, which represents about 20,000 physicians working in the public healthcare system.

Israeli doctors have been striking on-and-off since early April.  They are demanding healthcare reform and better work conditions, including a 50-percent increase in hourly wages, a reduction in the amount of time residents are on-call each month and additional doctor positions.

The Israeli government, which pays the public sector doctors, reportedly offered a pay raise of up to 40 percent this week, but doctors say this doesn’t meet their demands.  Over the past few months, Israel’s public hospitals have been working at limited capacity, outpatient clinics have been closed and non-urgent operations and services have been canceled.  Doctors are planning another protest for Thursday in front of the Israeli parliament.  Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, FSRN, Jerusalem.

Wisconsin Democrat staves off Republican recall effort

A Wisconsin Democrat has staved off a Republican recall effort, handily defeating his opponent.  State Senator Dave Hansen came under fire after the fight over legislation to strip state employees of the collective bargaining rights.  During that fight, Hansen had left the state to prevent a vote from happening.  Last night, the crowd at Hansen’s campaign headquarters in Green Bay was ecstatic.

“This is what democracy looks like!” Several other lawmakers are also being challenged – most of them Republicans.  Hansen said he hoped his win would lead the way to more Democratic victories.  The rest of those elections will be held in August.

Minnesota government shut-down ends

Today Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a compromise budget deal, effectively ending a nearly 3-week government shutdown.

“I’m not entirely happy with this budget that I just signed into law.  It’s not what I wanted.  But it’s the best option that is available, and would be for any time.”

The Democrat spoke at a press conference today after signing the legislation.  During the shutdown, the state laid off more than 20 thousand workers, who according to CNN, kept their benefits, but won’t get paid for the time.  Dayton said he wanted to get people back to work.  It’s expected to take a few days at least for state agencies to be operating at full capacity.



The United Nations declares a famine in southern Somalia

United Nations officials have declared a famine in southern Somalia. Drought and ongoing conflict have left half of the Somali population in need of urgent assistance. FSRN’S Mohammed Yusef reports.

Indian residents respond to the visit by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in India a week after bomb blasts in Mumbai which killed at least 17 people. There are many who say that the sole aim of the visit is to protect US trade interests. But FSRN’s Jasvinder Sehgal reports that the visit has raised hopes among Indian citizens of better US relations.

In Washington, lawmakers hold the first-ever hearing on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act

The US Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today on repealing the controversial Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal rights to same sex couples. Matt Laslo reports from Washington.

The ongoing cleanup of the Exxon oil spill on the Yellowstone River

In Washington today, lawmakers examined the oil spill along the Yellowstone River in Montana. Three weeks ago an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured spilling 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the river.  Exxon shut down the pipeline hours after the spill but more than 100 people were evacuated from the area, the cleanup continues and the ruptured pipe is still out of reach because of ongoing high water levels.  Scott McBurney, a landowner, told lawmakers at a Senate hearing today, what happened to his property:

“Oil had come over the ditch next to the river, big patches of oil were lying in the short grass where I had cut some hay.  As you went further down the property away from the house the amount of oil increased, oily water stood in the ditches and in the pasture.  The tall, uncut hay had acted like a big brush and stopped a lot of the heavy, thick oil, a thick line of oil showed on the edge of the uncut hay.”

Exxon has accepted full responsibility for the accident and is taking part in an EPA-led cleanup involving more than 700 personnel. One concern expressed by McBurney and Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County Commissioner is the lack of concrete information from the EPA about the impact of the oil on farmland.  Robert Perciasepe, EPA Deputy Administrator said until floodwaters recede it’s not possible to accurately estimate the amount of damage:

“The teams are now finding quantities of oil as the river levels go down under debris piles.  So the SCAT teams, including the State, are currently evaluating a range of options for remediating that oil without causing greater damage to the ecosystem which is always a balancing act that we have to play here.  To date water sampling conducted by EPA indicates that there are no petroleum hydrocarbons above the drinking water standards in that region.  In addition our air monitoring continues to show no detections of contaminants associated with the spill in ambient air along the Yellowstone River at levels that would pose a threat to human health.”

Depending on the state of the floodwaters, the EPA says it expects to finish the cleanup by September 8th.

In North Dakota, thousands of people still affected by massive flooding

Flooding in another state continues to affect thousands of people. The commander of the North Dakota National Guard says the disaster there could cost the state more than $1 billion dollars.  One of the most affected areas is the city of Minot.   Water levels along the Souris River, that divides the city in half, peaked nearly a month ago to record levels, but many hundreds of people are still unable to return to their homes.   For more on the situation we were joined by Ed Conley, liaison officer for Minot and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in Minot’s Emergency Operations Centre.

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