Newscast for Wednesday, June 19, 2013
- President Obama proposes reduction in nuclear arsenal, but maintains US hold on thousands of warheads
- FBI director defends surveillance as privacy advocates, lawmakers call for transparency
- Week three of Bradley Manning trial: defense questions tweets, “most wanted” list as evidence
- Indigenous communities press Argentina to confront land rights, education and health issues
Government relents to demands as protests rage in Bulgaria
Massive demonstrations are underway in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, where discontent has erupted with the newly-elected government. While this wave of protests started last week after the nomination of a media tycoon as security chief, there is also lingering anger over the previous government’s utility hikes. FSRN’s Roberto Nieto reports from Sofia.
More than 10,000 people gathered in the center of Sofia today, right in front of the presidential palace. They waved Bulgarian flags, blew whistles and horns and chanting slogans calling for new elections and a new constitution. “This will happen every day until the people win,” they shouted as they marched. Today’s gathering is the largest since the protests started.
Presently Bulgaria is ruled by a coalition government that some consider corrupt. Among the protesters is Velisklav. He opposes the government’s decision to name a media mogul as security chief.
“This particular occasion which was the appointment of the security chief, but people are protesting against the arrogance of power in general.”
Today the government responded to the protesters by retracting the appointment. The prime minister apologized for the decision. It remains to be seen if these concessions will quell the unrest. Roberto Nieto, FSRN, Sofia.
Transportation demonstrators target FIFA tournament in Brazil
Demonstrations in Brazil that were ignited by increased public transportation costs continue to draw large crowds. Yesterday’s protests in Sao Paulo drew an estimated 50,000 people, and today protesters blocked highways as residents continue to call for better public services. FSRN’s Debora Pill reports.
The protests began last week as organizers with the group Movimento Passe Livre, or the “Free Pass Movement,” demanded lower public transportation rates. The group says already 37 million Brazilians cannot afford to use public transportation, and increasing the fare is a form of injustice. The protests have already seen some success, with at least 7 cities across the country agreeing to lower their transportation rates.
The Sao Paulo city government says the increase doesn’t even keep up with inflation and without it, the city’s health and education budget would be impacted. But Sao Paulo’s mayor, Fernando Haddad, has agreed to consider other options like raising property taxes, reducing bus company profits, and implementing tolls.
The federal government has deployed troops to five Brazilian cities currently hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup. Organizers have indicated they will march this afternoon on the match in Fortaleza between Mexico and Brazil. Debora Pill, FSRN.
Worldwide refugee numbers at 18-year high
The UN Refugee Agency says the rate of forced displacement is at an 18-year international high. In 2012, 7.6 million people were forced to leave their homes about half of those were children. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres says the conflict in Syria is fueling a high percentage of the displacements.
“The number of refugees that fled from Syria since the first of January is more or less the same amount or the total amount of refugees that fled all over the world during 2012. This gives you an idea of how dramatic the Syrian crisis is.”
About 55% of the world’s refugees came from war-afflicted countries, including Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Sudan.
Boulder County extends fracking moratorium
Opponents of fracking have scored a victory in Colorado, as Boulder County Commissioners voted to extend a moratorium against processing oil and gas permits. FSRN’s Jim Pullen has more.
The decision Tuesday to extend the moratorium by another 18 months reversed earlier decisions that would have allowed the moratorium to expire in June and allow the slow, phased-in development of oil and gas resources. The Boulder commissioners repeated the public’s concerns about lingering health and air-quality issues, the need to allow baseline monitoring and scientific studies to be completed, and that the phased-in approach may not slow the industry’s rush to develop, as they had originally believed.
Anti-fracking groups were threatening a recall attempt against at least one of the three Democratic commissioners, and citizens have met to plan acts of civil disobedience.
The oil and gas industry has threatened lawsuits against Boulder County, and the commissioners have voiced concerns the state may also sue over jurisdictional issues. Jim Pullen, FSRN, Boulder.
AMA says obesity is a disease
The American Medical Association says obesity is a disease. In a vote Tuesday at the AMA Annual meeting, the group’s policy making arm said obesity, which effects about one in three Americans, requires a range of interventions. The group says recognizing obesity as a disease will advance changes in how the medical community approaches the issue.
Texas moves to restrict abortion services
The US House passed legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks yesterday, but a similar ban has failed to pass the Texas Senate. However, legislators did advance a bill Tuesday night that could shut-down most abortion providers in the state. FSRN’s Teddy Wilson reports.
The Texas Senate passed legislation requiring clinics that provide abortions to follow the same regulations as surgical clinics. The new rules would affect all but five of the 42 clinics in the state, forcing them to either undergo major facility upgrades or shut down. Rochelle Tafolla of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast says the new regulations would have a detrimental effect on women’s health.
“This agenda will end access to safe legal abortion in Texas, if it goes through.”
The bill is among the items Governor Rick Perry added to a special session. Perry suspended certain legislative rules that had previously prevented such bills to advance. It now goes to the Republican controlled House. Teddy Wilson, FSRN, College Station.
President Obama proposes reduction in nuclear arsenal, but maintains US hold on thousands of warheads
Speaking in Germany today, President Barack Obama announced further reductions in the US nuclear arsenal and said he’d pursue negotiations with Russia on the drawdown of deployed weapons.
“After a comprehensive review, I’ve determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third. And I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.”
Obama spoke at the historic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, joined by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and the city’s mayor. In 2010, Russia and the US signed a new START treaty, in which both countries agreed to cut their deployed nuclear weapons to about 1,500, but did not place limits on non-deployed weapons. According to the Pentagon, as of 2010, the US had more than 5,000 warheads in its stockpile. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would not allow the effectiveness of the country’s nuclear force to be decreased and a senior foreign policy advisor, Yury Ushakov, called for more countries to be involved in the talks, according to the BBC. Obama pledged to build support in Congress to ratify the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty and called on global nations to begin negotiations on a treaty to end production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.
FBI director defends surveillance as privacy advocates, lawmakers call for transparency
In the wake of revelations about the US government’s sweeping surveillance practices, some of the biggest companies that hand over private Internet and phone data to the government, including Google and Yahoo, are challenging a ban on releasing more details to the public about what information they’ve given to the government. As many legal experts, members of Congress and privacy advocates join this call for transparency and question the constitutionality of these spying programs, President Obama and the leaders of the FBI and NSA are speaking out in their defense. FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate Committee Wednesday that the programs are legal and have sufficient oversights, and said any move toward transparency would be “educating our enemies.” On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports.
Week three of Bradley Manning trial: defense questions tweets, “most wanted” list as evidence
This week, at the court martial proceedings for Army Private Bradley Manning, the prosecution and defense clashed over specific tweets and online documents that the prosecution wants included as evidence. At issue is how and when Manning leaked the classified documents on US military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the “Collataral Murder” video showing US killings of civilians and journalists. For an update, we’re joined by journalist Kevin Gosztola, he’s covering the trial for Firedoglake.com and is also co-author of the recently updated Truth & Consequences: The US v. Bradley Manning.
Indigenous communities press Argentina to confront land rights, education and health issues
Indigenous rights activists from across Argentina have launched a series of weekly protests. On Wednesday afternoons, they meet in front of the presidential mansion in Buenos Aires and in other locations around the country to ask for a meeting with President Cristina Kirchner. They’re hoping to start a conversation about indigenous land rights, which are currently threatened by multinational companies. They’re also pushing the country to address life expectancy, educational opportunities, and health care in indigenous communities. From Buenos Aires, FSRN’s Eilís O’Neill has more.