October 30, 2012

  • Millions of US residents face severe damage, flooding after Hurricane Sandy
  • In Brooklyn, community center opens doors to Red Hook residents hit by Hurricane Sandy
  • Harsh weather raises concern of nuclear power plants in path of storm
  • US Chamber of Commerce spends millions to influence California congressional races
  • Indian government’s move to allow foreign corporations draws mixed response from local communities

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Storm strikes Northeastern US

Hurricane Sandy left widespread destruction across the Northeastern United States. At least 39 people have been killed, with that number expected to rise. Twenty states have been affected by the storm which brought with it heavy rain, high winds, and in some places, snow. Hundreds of miles of coastline have been flooded and almost 8.1 million people are without power. President Obama declared a “major disaster” in New Jersey and New York.

Caribbean countries struggle with storm aftermath

Many Caribbean countries hit by Hurricane Sandy last week continue to recover from the storm. In Haiti, some humanitarian groups are concerned about the spread of waterborne disease and a food crisis after more than 12 inches of rain fell in four days on the South of the country. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told Reuters that the storm had destroyed crops and stores which had survived Hurricane Isaac, earlier this year. Many of the 200,000 people still homeless after the 2010 earthquake live in make-shift tents with poor sanitation. A cholera epidemic which began in 2010 has killed more than 7,000 people.

We’ll have more on the storm, later in the newscast

South African mine workers protest

In South Africa today, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at a crowd of striking Anglo-American Platinum mine workers who protested against a deal brokered by unions to end their six week strike. For FSRN, Davison Mudzingwa reports.

The miners were supposed to return to work today if they wanted to get their jobs back.The mining giant had fired 12,000 workers for embarking on a wildcat strike. Last week, union representatives agreed to an Anglo-American offer to give the miners their jobs back along with a once-off hardship allowance of $230. But workers feel shortchanged by the deal that had a pre-condition of their returning to work today. They still want better wages, miners are demanding a monthly salary of at least $2000. Rather than returning to work today, almost 1,000 strikers barricaded streets of a nearby residential area, burning tires.  They also blocked access to one of the mining shafts. After a power substation was destroyed police responded and maintained a heavy presence in bullet proof vehicles and a helicopter. Davison Mudzingwa, FSRN, South Africa.

Assassination in Kenya sparks demonstrations

Demonstrations in western Kenya have entered a second day after the assassination of a local politician. Shem Onyango Kwega was shot in the head by unknown gunmen in the town of Kisamu on Monday. Kwega’s wife was also seriously injured. It’s not known what motivated the killing, but a political motive has not been ruled out. In response, hundreds of people took to the streets in the Odinga region. According to Al Jazeera, three people have been killed in the demonstrations. The protests sparked fears of a repeat of the violence that followed the disputed 2007 Kenyan presidential election in which more than 1,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

Intensive bombing in Syria

Syrian warplanes bombed Maaret al-Numan as the regime intensifies its efforts to re-capture the strategic Northern city. Rebel forces captured the city nearly three weeks ago cutting off a supply route between the capital Damascus and Aleppo, where government forces have been fighting for control. Syrian activists say the bombing is the most intensive since the uprising began 19 months ago. Today’s attacks follow the failure of a ceasefire agreement between the government and rebels.

Bahrain bans protests

In Bahrain, the Interior Ministry today banned all protest gatherings. The ban comes ahead of a planned demonstration by a government-opposition group on Friday. The Bahraini government also threatened to pursue legal action against any group calling for demonstrations. Thousands of people have been arrested since anti-government protests began in February 2011. Today’s announcement follows a similar move by the neighboring kingdom of Kuwait, which last week banned gatherings of more than 20 people. While the US has criticized Bahrain’s crackdown, it has maintained a close relationship with the country, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Songwriters jailed in Vietnam

Today in Vietnam, a court sentenced two songwriters to prison on charges of conducting propaganda against the state. Their songs are critical of the government and popular among overseas Vietnamese. Mike Ives has more from Hanoi.

After a half-day trial in Ho Chi Minh City, a Vietnamese judge sentenced songwriters Vo Minh Tri and Tran Vu Anh Binh  to four and six years, respectively. The court accused the songwriters of posting songs on the website of an overseas opposition group, according to Mr Tri’s attorney. Tri is widely known as Viet Khang. His songs criticize widening inequality in Vietnam and alleged police crackdowns of peaceful protests. Tran Vu Anh Binh is credited with composing music for a song that expresses support for the high-profile Vietnamese blogger Dieu Cay, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison last month on similar charges. Communist Vietnam is a one-party state that doesn’t tolerate dissent, and activists who speak out often face long jail terms. Mike Ives, FSRN, Hanoi.



Millions of US residents face severe damage, flooding after Hurricane Sandy

Millions of residents along the east coast and inland communities face disruptions in transportation, electricity and emergency services as Superstorm Sandy continues to push inland across the US. The National Hurricane Center said flood and coastal warnings remained in effect in mid Atlantic and eastern states and warned of flash flooding and river flooding that could continue over the next few days. High wind warnings were issued in the south Appalachia and the Great Lakes and winter storm warnings and blizzard conditions are in notice in western Maryland and parts of Tennessee. The Center said West Virginia could get two to three feet of snow. The US death toll from the “Superstorm” stands at 39, though that number could rise. Authorities said many of the deaths came from falling and damaged trees. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said search and rescue operations continued along the coast as communities deal with extensive flooding.

“The biggest issues we’re facing right now are in our most impacted counties are search and rescue and restoration of power…our state police and national guard helicopters are in the air as we speak, engaged in coastline rescue efforts.”

Several New Jersey towns in Bergen County experienced rapid and devastating flooding in the early hours of Monday, forcing an overnight rescue mission by emergency responders who used boats and inflatable rafts to navigate streets inundated with several feet of water. Meterologist Jeff Masters said New York City “experienced its worst hurricane since its founding in 1624.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said firefighters fought 26 serious fires throughout the five boroughs, including at Breezy Point where more than 80 homes were destroyed. The MTA said tunnels flooded, making it the worst disaster for the city’s subway system in more than a century and Con Ed called the electricity problems “unprecedented in scope.” Mayor Bloomberg described the challenges facing the city’s response.

“As you would expect, these things don’t happen gradually all the problems come together. If you lose electricity, you lose all of sudden, you’ve got to worry about your hospitals When you’ve got a transformer fire that may have cause a loss of electricity, you’ve got a fire. When the wind is there the fires spread.” When FSRN went out into the streets this morning, residents who lived out of the evacuation zone in Astoria, Queens expressed relief that their neighborhood was largely unaffected.

In Brooklyn, community center opens doors to Red Hook residents hit by Hurricane Sandy

Brooklyn’s neighborhood of Red Hook was one of the first to get hit by flooding Monday. Today, residents reported power outages and street damage. Some families are gathering at a community center in the area. The Red Hook Initiative started opening its doors today and is offering phone services and a kitchen to the community. We’re joined on the line by Sheryl Nash-Chisholm, she’s the youth job developer with the organization.

Harsh weather raises concern of nuclear power plants in path of storm

As Hurricane Sandy continues northward, grassroots and national environmental groups are raising alarm about the nuclear plants in the storm’s path. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported this morning that at least three plants have been shut down, one remains “on alert,” and another two are operating at reduced capacity due to flooding and electrical outages caused by the storm. But local and national groups are criticizing the Commission for allowing many other plants to keep running in areas where the President has declared a state of emergency. In Washington D.C., FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

US Chamber of Commerce spends millions to influence California congressional races

While Sandy has diverted the attention of some politicians on the East Coast, candidates in other parts of the country continue campaigning in the final days before the Election. Many continue the watch the so-called “dark money” being poured in races, including in California, where the US Chamber of Commerce is pumping more than $3 million to support mostly Republican candidates.  FSRN’s Vic Bedoian looked at two of these congressional campaigns and filed this report.

Indian government’s move to allow foreign corporations draws mixed response from local communities

Since the Indian Government announced it would allow foreign retail corporations to set up shop in the country, some states have welcomed chains like Starbucks and Ikea. But in West Bengal, the chief minister has vowed to fight the entry of companies that would compete with Indian small businesses and traders. Residents are divided on the issue. While some say they hope foreign investment will bring about financial benefit, others are worried about the costs to local economies. FSRN’s Prabhakar Mani Tewari reports.