July 5, 2012

  • As rockets hit Homs, Wikileaks releases documents on Syrian conflict and regime
  • Critics say transpacific trade deal would allow corporations to override environmental, labor laws
  • Chevron threatens fisheries, ocean life in Angola, activists say
  • New York considers hydraulic fracking despite widespread concern

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Panel skewers Japanese government, utility for Fukushima disaster

A panel of investigators in Japan issued a scathing report today about way the government handled the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  The panel, which included scientists, doctors, lawyers, government and industry officials and a journalist, said the reactor meltdown was not a natural disaster, but was “profoundly manmade” and should have been foreseen and prevented. It also points to “errors and willful negligence” by plant operator TEPCO, regulators and the government.  Investigators say the accident was the result of collusion between these groups.  “Basic” safety measures, like evacuation plans, were not in place. Some residents were evacuated to areas with high contamination because of confusion and lack of radiation monitoring.  In addition, the report questions TEPCO’s posit that the damage to the plant was caused by the tsunami and not the earthquake, saying more study is needed. After shutting down all of the country’s nuclear power reactors for safety tests, the government has restarted the use of nuclear power.  The first of about 50 reactors nation-wide went back on-line today.

Mexican recount underway on accusation of vote buying

The preliminary results of Mexico’s presidential elections are being challenged as apparent irregularities surface in the wake of Sunday’s vote.  FSRN’s Shannon Young reports.

Independent election observers have begun a recount of ballots made available by Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute.  The agency as announced ballot boxes from more than half of the country’s precincts will be included. The partial recount comes as videos have emerged via social media revealing what appears to be an organized and expensive campaign of vote buying in favor of Enrique Peña Nieto. Some videos show people protesting outside of PRI party offices after not receiving promised payment. Others recorded panic shopping in a national supermarket chain by customers who said they received loyalty cards with varying amounts of credit in exchange for their casting ballots for the PRI. Peña Nieto, the presumed president-elect, has questioned the authenticity of the online videos. Meanwhile, protests continue to dog Televisa, Mexico’s largest broadcaster. With chants against Peña Nieto, voter fraud, and television culture, protesters yesterday forced the cancellation of a program that was to be filmed on location in Oaxaca. Televisa is widely perceived as having favored Peña Nieto throughout the campaign and has become a frequent target of protests in the past two months.  Shannon Young, FSRN, Oaxaca.

ACTA dead in European Parliament

The European Parliament has struck down the internet piracy law known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA.  Wednesday, MEPs voted nearly 12 to 1 against the legislation, which had been widely criticized by internet freedom advocates.  The multinational trade agreement has been pushed by the European Commission, citing the need to protect intellectual property and financial loss.  Many argue the Agreement strongly favors corporations and infringes on civil liberties.  Several MEPs held up signs reading “Hello Democracy, Goodbye ACTA.” British representative David Martin was responsible for steering ACTA through Parliament.  He ultimately advised members not to support it, saying the original negotiating process was not transparent enough.

“MEPs have understood what ACTA meant, and have said to the Commission, ‘This is unacceptable.  We do not support the curtailment of freedom of the internet that ACTA would involve.’  It’s now up to the European Commission to decide if they look for another treaty, of if they say, ‘That’s it, finished.’”

Martin spoke to EuroNews. The international treaty has been signed by several nations, including the US, but none has ratified it yet.

Journalists protest censorship, press intimidation in Sudan

More than 100 journalists protested Wednesday in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, demanding an end to the continued government crackdown on press freedoms. They delivered a message to the country’s Human Rights Commission seeking an end to harassment and censorship, according to MWC News. This year, several newspapers have been shut down and journalists arrested. That suppression has increased in the past month as popular opposition protests have swept the country. In the past two weeks, the international press freedom group, Committee to Protect Journalists, says one reporter was arrested, the office of AFP was raided, one journalist was deported, and several internet sites were blocked by the government.

Michigan’s GOP governor vetoes voter ID bill

This week, Michigan’s Republican governor Rick Snyder vetoed a voter ID bill that would have required voters to reaffirm their citizenship at the polls. The bill would have also mandated that absentee voters present a photo ID when picking up their ballot. He said the legislation could create voter confusion. According to Reuters, Snyder is the first Republican governor to veto a voter ID law in the most recent conservative push to implement them across the country.



As rockets hit Homs, Wikileaks releases documents on Syrian conflict and regime

Today Wikileaks began releasing what it described as a massive trove of documents related to the conflict in Syria. Speaking at London’s Frontline Club, Wikileaks project analyst Sarah Harrison said the documents consist of more than two million emails from political figures, ministries and companies doing business with the Syrian government.

“The Syria files shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and the economy but they also shine a light on how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another. The range of information extends from the intimate correspondence of the Baath party figures to financial transfers sent from Syrian ministries to other nations.”

For example, some of the documents made public today show that a company, called Selex, which is a leading provider of technology to Western powers, continued to sell communication technology to the Syrian regime through this year. According to the company’s website, Selex is based in Genoa, Italy and provides radio equipment to US Army National Guard troops along the US-Mexico border and to US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wikileaks said the documents, which span a period between August 2006 to March 2012, are being shared with the Associated Press, Al Akhbar in Lebanon, Owni in France and others. Only a couple dozen documents were released today, but more are expected in the coming week. Attacks continued on the ground in Syria today, including in Homs where activists say vital medical and humanitarian assistance remains blocked from much of the area. For more on that and other updates, we go to Sipan Hassan, spokesperson with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

You can access the documents at: http://wikileaks.org/syria-files/

Critics say transpacific trade deal would allow corporations to override environmental, labor laws

In San Diego this week, world leaders are gathered for the latest round of trade talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Critics call the multi-country free trade agreement “NAFTA on steroids,” and say it will allow corporations to override environmental, labor and consumer protection laws. Opponents also point out that the public has been denied access to the content of the negotiations. As the US seeks to enter into this binding international agreement, the government is tangled in two other recent trade disputes: one striking down country of origin labeling and another placing higher tariffs on American cars following the auto industry bailout.  FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports.

Clarification: The reference to “corporate lobbyists” in this story referred to corporate leaders and executives lobbying on behalf of their companies, not federally registered lobbyists under USC  1601. According to the Office of the US Trade Representative, the Obama Administration banned registered lobbyists from the federal advisory committees in 2009.


Chevron threatens fisheries, ocean life in Angola, activists say

As governments and corporations continue to make profits from fossil fuel extraction, a growing number of activists are trying to raise awareness about the devastating impact of these industries on ecosystems and livelihoods, often in poor countries. Earlier this year, activists from several countries rallied outside Chevron’s annual shareholders meeting in California. One of those protesters was Sizaltina Cutia program manager at Open Society Institute in Angola. The Real News Network’s Paul Jay spoke to Cutia about what’s been happening in Angola. He started by asking her why she traveled so far to go to a Chevron shareholders meeting?

To see a video of this interview, go to TheRealNews.com.

New York considers hydraulic fracking despite widespread concern

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently said the state may soon issue a decision on whether to begin hydraulic fracking, and that the best time to do it is when the legislature isn’t in session because he doesn’t want “a political discussion.” The fracking process involves injecting chemicals deep into the ground to release gas embedded in rock. It’s under fire in several states where opponents are concerned about contaminating water supplies, earthquakes and the toxic waste created during the process. FSRN’s James Krivo spoke to New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton about her response to Cuomo’s statements.

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