Newscast for Friday, December 9, 2011

  • Durban climate talks near conclusion with uncertainty over emission reductions
  • Youth pressure Durban delegates for action on climate change
  • Surge in attacks on activists amidst rising tension in Mexico
  • Obama draws criticism for approving block on emergency contraceptive

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Hospital fire in Kolkata leave dozens dead

Earlier today, at least 90 people, mostly patients, suffocated to death in a major hospital fire in Kolkata, India. Families of victims accuse the private facility of negligence.  For FSRN, Prabhakar Mani Tewari reports.

Relatives say the hospital staff abandoned patients and did not help them escape.  In their anger following the fire, the families damaged hospital property. The government of West Bengal has ordered a high level inquiry into this incident amid allegation that the hospital lacked fire safety measures. However, a top hospital official says all the necessary fire equipment was in place. The government has already revoked the facility’s operating license, and six hospital owners have been arrested. The exact cause of the fire is still unknown.  But early evidence suggests the fire started in the basement where flammable items were stored, in violation of safety rules. Prabhakar Mani Tewari, FSRN, Kolkata

Financial deal gives the European Union more oversight in member budgeting

European leaders emerged this morning from all-night talks widely seen as a last-ditch effort to stabilize the euro.  Most EU countries agreed to surrender more power to budget officials in Brussels. But objections from Britain and a few other non-euro zone countries prevented a wider agreement to fix Europe’s shaky economy. From France, FSRN’s Liam Moriarty reports.

At a pre-dawn press conference in Brussels, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy announced that 23 of the 27 EU countries – including all 17 that use the euro – had agreed to what he called “a new fiscal compact.”

“It means reinforcing our rules on excessive deficit procedure by making them more automatic.  It also means that member states would have to submit their draft budgetary plans to the Commission.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy convinced most of their colleagues that that kind of strong medicine was the only way to restore market confidence in the euro. Britain declined to join the pact when Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to exempt London’s financial services sector from more from EU regulations were rejected. Liam Moriarty, FSRN, Normandy, France.

Commission calls for more environmental study on Laos’ Xayaburi dam project

At a meeting in Cambodia Thursday, officials from four Southeast Asian countries agreed to postpone a decision on a controversial dam proposal along the Mekong River in Laos, until further environmental studies can be conducted. FSRN’s Mike Ives has more.

Laos says the $3.5 billion Xayaburi dam and other proposed dams would help lift its people out of poverty. The dam would be the first on the Mekong’s mainstream, and most of the electricity would be sent to neighboring Thailand. The officials convened this week at a highly anticipated meeting of the Mekong River Commission. Because the commission’s recommendations are non-binding, Laos could build the dam even if its neighbors object. Thai media reports suggest construction work on the dam has already started. Of Laos’ lower Mekong neighbors, communist Vietnam has been the most critical of the Xayaburi proposal. Hoang Thi Minh Hong, an environmental activist in Ho Chi Minh City, says Vietnamese people and officials worry that if the dam is built, it would threaten fisheries and food production in Vietnam’s fertile Mekong Delta.

“I’m always against this big dam so I just rely on the Mekong (River) Commission to make some strong debate with the (Lao) government and make them really rethink the plan. I think the governments of Vietnam and Cambodia are also against this, so I hope that they will find a way for the four countries to talk together and reach an agreement at the end.”

Hong says many people living in the Mekong’s watershed know the dam would affect their lives, but they do not have the power to communicate their concerns to their governments. Mike Ives, FSRN, Hanoi.

Haitian-Dominicans protest continued confiscation of birth certificates

Residents of the Dominican Republic rallied in the capital Thursday, saying the government has been targeting citizens of Haitian descent by denying them official birth certificates. The result, according to the Center for Justice and International Law, has been many Dominican citizens, including children, being left in a state of statelessness. The group says the practice is a violation of international human rights laws. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is considering the case.

Death penalty opponents rally in Philly

Today is the three-decade anniversary of Mumia Abu Jamal’s arrest for killing a Philadelphia police officer. City officials announced earlier this week that they won’t seek another sentencing trial for Jamal, meaning he no longer faces execution. But that is not enough for many advocates. From Philadelphia, FSRN’s Matthew Petrillo has more.

Mumia Abu Jamal will spend the rest of his life in prison without parole.  Jamal has garnered supporters from around the world from either those who oppose the United State’s current use of the death penalty, or from others, like Denise Ripley, who believe in Jamal’s innocence.

“Now Mumia has to spend the rest of his life in jail because he witnessed a cop being killed. He didn’t murder a cop.”

Ripley is among about 20 demonstrators who rallied in Philadelphia Friday morning.  She’ll join an expected 1000 more supporters later tonight, when they will hold a march from City Hall to the National Constitution Center.  Matthew Petrillo, FSRN, Philadelphia.



Durban climate talks near conclusion with uncertainty over emission reductions

This is the final day of climate talks in Durban, South Africa, and it’s turned into a cliffhanger. In the morning, the European Union announced it was making progress toward a compromise for securing more reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But by mid-day, protesters were jamming the hallways denouncing the deal as too weak, and talks were suspended until late at night. FSRN’s Brian Edwards-Tiekert is there, and brings us this report.


Youth pressure Durban delegates for action on climate change

At the climate conference, youth groups from around the world have been putting pressure on negotiators to take action. Members of the Canadian Youth Delegation and the Indigenous Environmental Network held actions to bring attention to tar sands projects and the effect on climate and their communities. We’re joined by Crystal Hajjar with the Canadian Youth Delegation.


Surge in attacks on activists amidst rising tension in Mexico

Mexico has witnessed a recent spike in attacks targeting known human rights activists, many of them associated with the anti drug war movement. FSRN’s Shannon Young reports.


Obama draws criticism for approving block on emergency contraceptive

President Obama says he fully supports the decision to restrict over-the-counter sales of the Plan B emergency contraceptive to women under 17. The president says it’s a question of safety, but supporters of reproductive rights see echoes of the Bush administration, when they say politics trumped science. FSRN’s Michael Lawson reports.

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