August 9, 2012

  • Advocates call for removal of housing finance head, DeMarco, after his refusal of homeowner debt relief
  • Pressure mounts on FCC to update cell phone radiation rules as industry tries to block disclosure of potential health risks
  • Russian city could become gateway for oil and gas drilling, but local residents, environmentalists express concern
  • Occupy Santa Rosa protesters say ban on sleeping penalizes homeless

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US begins cleanup of Agent Orange in Vietnam

The US and Vietnam today launched a project to clean-up the toxic ingredient in the defoliant Agent Orange, sprayed by US planes during the Vietnam War.  This marks the first time the US has actively engaged in the process to mitigate the toxic legacy of the war that killed an estimated 58,000 Americans and three million Vietnamese. FSRN’s Mike Ives reports from Vietnam.

On Thursday in Danang, the US and Vietnam launched a $43 million dollar project to clean up the chemical leftovers of Agent Orange at a former American military base. The move comes a half century after US planes first sprayed the herbicide over the former South Vietnam. US Ambassador David Shear said the project marks a historic milestone in countries’ bilateral relationship. “The US and Vietnam are moving earth right here and taking the first steps to bury the legacies of our past.”  He also said the US will work to clean up dioxin at another former base in the country. A Vietnamese general welcomed the project, but said more mitigation is needed at other contaminated sites, where the dioxin threat hasn’t yet been assessed. Vietnam says between three and four million of its citizens have been affected by dioxin, the toxic ingredient in Agent Orange. But Washington maintains the number is lower and that other environmental factors may explain health complications. Mike Ives, FSRN, Danang.

Elected General National Congress takes power in Libya

The transitional government of Libya officially passed off power to the newly-elected General National Congress in a ceremony last night.  The action was a culmination of the revolt against the long-standing regime of Muammar Gaddafi. The new government will now have to draft a constitution and plan for wider parliamentary elections.

July death toll highest yet in Syrian rebellion

Anti-government rebels in Syria pulled back today, after a heavy barrage from government forces continued in Aleppo.  At least 30 people have died in the most recent fighting, according to international media.  President Bashar al Assad also appointed a replacement Prime Minister today, after Riyad Hijab abandoned his post and defected on Monday. The Syrian Network for  Human Rights says July was the bloodiest yet in the Syrian uprising.  Nearly 3700 people died, including hundreds of women and children.

Indian court orders Bhopal clean-up within 6 months

There soon could be movement on the long-delayed clean-up of toxic waste at the Bhopal gas disaster site in India. FSRN’s Shuriah Niazi has the latest.

Toxic waste lying in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal for the past 28 years has to be disposed of within the next six months. That according to the Supreme Court of India, which today ordered the central and the state governments to remove the hazardous waste left from the industrial accident and 25 years of pesticide production at the plant. A gas leak from the factory in December 1984 killed 3000 people instantly and thousands more have died over the years. The high court called for the toxic waste removal to use science to ensure “no further damage to [the] human health and environment in Bhopal.” The court has also asked that a meeting of environmentalists, monitoring and advisory committee members, and government officials be held within one month. Shuriah Niazi, FSRN, Bhopal.

Student protests lead to mass property damage in Santiago

Student protests continued in Chile’s capital Santiago last night, despite not being authorized by the local government.  Most of the students demonstrated peacefully, but a smaller group broke off and set three mass transit buses on fire. FSRN’s Gorge Garreton also reports hooded protesters attacked journalists, accusing them of being part of the “capitalist press.” Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the thousands of students.  More than 70 people were arrested and dozens injured. This kind of violence has followed the student strikers, who have been protesting for a year now. Garreton tells FSRN that public opinion is turning against the students, who are demanding education reforms that would make Chile’s education system more affordable and accessible on all levels.

Canadian students continue to push for education reforms

Student protesters also were in the streets of Montreal, Canada yesterday afternoon.  Canadian Press video shows hundreds of students marching peacefully in the streets.  Protesters reportedly rallied outside the offices of the utility Hydro-Quebec.  After being told to disperse by police, some students resisted. Scuffles ensued. University classes in Quebec are slated to begin over the next few weeks and Premier Jean Charest once again defended the government’s work to negotiate with students. He blamed them for the continued breakdowns. “We expect them to resume classes where classes have been disrupted.” The students have been protesting tuition rate hikes, but have also voiced concerns over increased utility rates and other social justice issues.

Pharmaceutical company Amgen abandons ALEC

American pharmaceutical company Amgen has dropped their support for the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the group responsible for crafting many conservative bills favoring big business.  Activists are now shifting focus to eBay.  The internet company serves on at least two ALEC committees, according to the Center for Media and Democracy.


Advocates call for removal of housing finance head, DeMarco, after his refusal of homeowner debt relief

With Congress out on summer recess, a coalition of homeowner advocates is calling on President Obama to replace the official in charge of the nation’s federally-backed mortgages. They say current Director Ed DeMarco should be removed for refusing to implement a mortgage relief program for people who owe more than their homes are worth, also known as underwater homeowners. But other groups say even that plan doesn’t go far enough and are pushing for more affordable housing and further legal actions against financial institutions that manipulated and misled borrowers. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports.

Pressure mounts on FCC to update cell phone radiation rules as industry tries to block disclosure of potential health risks

In San Francisco today, cell phone industry leaders urged an appeals court to block a city law that would require disclosure of the potential health risks of cell phone use. The industry’s trade group sued to stop the 2010 law from going into effect, arguing that it violates its First Amendment rights. This comes as a new report from the Government Accountability Office has criticized the Federal Communications Commission for failing to update radio frequency energy exposure limits. Researchers said current guidelines don’t take into account changes in the use of cell phones during the past 15 years, such as increase in frequency of use and the rise of use by youth. Researchers point out that other countries have updated their limits based on more current research, while the US lags behind. The FCC has said it is considering reviewing those rules. The World Health Organization classifies cell phone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” For more, we’re joined by Renee Sharp, California director and senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group. The research and advocacy group has called on the FCC to revise its rules and make more information available to the public. Environmental Working Group’s guide to safer cell phone use.

Russian city could become gateway for oil and gas drilling, but local residents, environmentalists express concern

Not far from the Barents sea and the borders of Norway and Finland is the Russian city of Murmansk. It’s a port town of about 300,000 and could become a gateway for companies doing arctic drilling, as part of the government’s push to increase domestic oil and natural gas exploration. This week, environmentalists gathered here, warning that the drilling brings risks that could harm both the economy and the environment. FSRN’s Jenny Johnson reports.

Occupy Santa Rosa protesters say ban on sleeping penalizes homeless

The battle over public space in California’s Sonoma county took a quiet turn this week as about 30 Members of “Occupy Santa Rosa” repeated their call to rescind the ban on sleeping outdoors —which they say unfairly penalizes the homeless. The demonstrators sat in silent vigil at a city council meeting, with signs around their necks that read “Legalize Sleep!” For several months now, these protesters have been waging a “flash mob” campaign to protect the right for the homeless to sleep without harassment. FSRN’s  Karin Argoud reports.

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