Newscast for Friday, August 26, 2011

  • Attacks in Nigeria imperil relations between religious groups
  • Pressure grows on oil companies that support Syria regime
  • Highway in Bolivia could threaten indigenous communities, Amazon
  • Haitians still waiting on housing, education under President Martelly
  • Schneiderman removed from key committee, deepening rift on mortgage crisis

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Japanese Prime Minister resigns amid Fukushima criticism

In a national televised address today, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced he intends to step down.  Recently a national poll showed that Kan’s approval rating had hit 15.8%, the lowest since he took office last summer.  FSRN’s Claudia Cragg has more.

For months, PM Kan – a co-founder of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan – has faced a constant barrage of criticism over his inept handling of both Fukushima and the Japanese economy.  The country’s debt is now twice the nation’s GDP, and further burdened with billions of dollars in disaster clean up.

There remain widespread complaints from disaster victims about persistently slow recovery efforts… and new reports of yet more radioactive caesium 137 leaks – said to be equivalent to 168 Hiroshima bombs – into the water, air and food supply.

Today the government announced plans to reduce radiation in the areas around the crippled Fukushima plant by at least half by removing soil, plants, trees and the roofs of buildings.  The ruling Democratic Party will hold debates and an internal election this Sunday to choose Kan’s successor.  Claudia Cragg, FSRN.

National Transition Council to get $1.5 billion in frozen government assets

The UN Sanctions Committee has approved the release of $1.5 billion dollars in seized Libyan government assets to the opposition National Transition Council.  But today the African Union refused to recognize the group as the legitimate rulers.

Amnesty international says that earlier this week, Gaddafi forces killed potentially dozens of detainees at military camps in the capitol.  The human rights group spoke to survivors of the ordeals.  They said troops opened fire and threw grenades as a group of prisoners tried to escape.  At another camp, guards shot at least 5 prisoners being held in solitary confinement.

Deadly arson at Mexican casino theorized to have cartel ties

The government of Mexico has declared three days of mourning in the wake of an arson attack that killed more than 50 people in a casino.  For FSRN, Shannon Young reports.

A fire started by a group of armed men killed at least 52 people Thursday at the Casino Royal in the industrial city of Monterrey.  A group of armed men doused the ground floor with gasoline and set it on fire.  The building’s emergency exits were apparently locked.

The motive behind the attack is unclear, but theories include that the casino may have been laundering drug money or that its owners had refused to pay an extortion fee.  Violence attributed to a turf war between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas has killed more than 1000 people in Monterrey this year.  Shannon Young, FSRN, Oaxaca.

Administration makes preemptive disaster declaration in six states

President Obama today issued a disaster declaration in 6 coastal states, ahead of the forecasted landfall of Hurricane Irene.

“All indications point to this being a historic hurricane.”

The category 2 storm is expected to strengthen before making landfall in the US.

Feds give crucial Keystone Pipeline approval

Today the Obama Administration okayed the environmental impact statement needed to allow the Keystone XL pipeline project to move forward.  The 3-foot diameter pipeline is intended to carry oil from the Canadian Tar Sands to the Gulf Coast of the US.  Environmentalists have soundly opposed the pipeline, saying any breach or leak could be ecologically disastrous.  Final approval is not expected until later this year.

Idaho protesters block equipment transport to Alberta tar sands

In related news… In Moscow, Idaho this morning, a crowd of about 150 protesters turned to spontaneous civil disobedience and blocked a 200-ton Exxon-Mobil ‘megaload’ shipment for about a half hour.  The equipment on the load is en route to the Alberta Tar Sands.  For FSRN, Radio Free Moscow’s Leigh Robartes has more.

Dozens of protesters repeatedly used crosswalks.  Others refused to clear the streets and were hauled to the side by police.  All the while, the giant two-lane wide tar sands module inched forward just a few feet away.  Six people were arrested.  Gary MacFarlane is a Moscow-based environmental activist.

“We have the people who are supposed to protect the citizens of the state threatening to arrest the citizens as an out-of-country corporation is trying to haul a giant megaload for the most destructive planetary project that we’ve probably ever seen in decades, if not centuries.”

The so-called ‘over-legal’ load is one of hundreds owned by an Exxon-Mobil Canadian subsidiary.  Imperial Oil wants to ship equipment through the Northwest to build a bitumen extraction plant in the Alberta Tar Sands.  Leigh Robartes, FSRN, Moscow.


Attacks in Nigeria imperil relations between religious groups

United Nations officials are condemning a deadly attack on the UN headquarters in Nigeria today. This morning, a blast ripped through the building in the capital, Abuja. According to AP, a car filled with explosives got past two gates and shattered part of the concrete structure with a massive explosion. Nigeria’s government said it is investigating and rescue operations are ongoing. The UN says at least 16 people are dead, but that the toll could go up. The building was filled with workers. Some 400 employees from more than two-dozen humanitarian and development agencies were at the compound.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon:

“This was an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others. We condemn this terrible act, utterly. We do not yet have precise casualty figures but they are likely to be considerable. A number of people are dead. Many more are wounded. Nigerian and international search and rescue teams have mobilized and are moving the wounded to hospitals and providing emergency aid.”

A spokesperson for an extreme Islamist group told the BBC that it had carried out the attack. The group, Boko Haram, says it is fighting for Sharia law. It’s responsible for a series of recent violent attacks — including attacks on banks and police stations on Thursday which left at least 12 dead. Churches have also been targeted. FSRN’s Sam Olukoya has more.

Pressure grows on oil companies that support Syria regime

As the fighting in Libya continues to remove long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, many eyes are turning to Syria, where embattled President Bashar al-Assad could be next. Today Assad’s security forces fired on protesters killing two in Deir al-Zour. Five more were killed around Damascus as thousands filled the streets. More than 2,200 people have been killed in the crackdown on Syrian resistance. As Syrian forces continue to repress civilians and demonstrators there is growing pressure on the oil companies which fund the regime. FSRN’s George Lavender reports.

Highway in Bolivia could threaten indigenous communities, Amazon

In Bolivia, activists, artists, and environmentalists took to the streets of Cochabamba to protest the construction a highway through a major stretch of Bolivian Amazon. The demonstration was an expression of solidarity with the 1,500 indigenous people who are marching from the Department of Beni to the capital, La Paz. That’s a distance of more than 300 miles. Shawn Arquinego and Aldo Orellana report.

Haitians still waiting on housing, education under President Martelly

Haiti’s new President Michel Martelly marks his first 100 days in office this week.  He came into power with bold promises, but the earthquake-shattered country is still struggling to form a government and deal with a massive displaced population. FSRN’s Ansel Herz brings us the perspective of Haitians on President Martelly’s term so far.

Schneiderman removed from key committee, deepening rift on mortgage crisis

A key member of the 50-state committee negotiating a deal with banks in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis was abruptly removed earlier this week. While some have urged New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to temper his calls for further investigations, the conflict illustrates the difficult road of wading through the mortgage crisis. Michael Lawson has more.

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