FSRN Weekly Edition – December 19, 2014
- US and Cuban leaders announce thaw in Cold War-era diplomatic relations
- More mass kidnapping in northern Nigeria; Boko Haram suspected
- Taliban militants slaughter almost 150 children at a Peshawar school
- Israel showcases drone technology as the world’s top exporter
- Wichita outfits all police with body cameras, L.A. and Houston announce similar plans
- New York environmentalists celebrate first-ever statewide fracking ban
- New Zealand opens coastal waters to deep sea drilling
Celebrations in Cuba and outrage in Miami followed the news of major thaw between the U.S. and Cuba for the first time in more than fifty years. President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro announced the details in simultaneously televised speeches. The U.S. will reopen diplomatic relations and its embassy in Havana, relax a number of financial and trade restrictions and reassess Cuba’s status as a state-sponsor of terrorism.
Tuesday, Taliban militants killed nearly 150 people — almost all of them children attending an assembly at a military-run school in Peshawar. In accordance with Muslim practice, families buried their children late Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Peshawar is close the Pak-Afghan border, at the edge of the Federally Administered Tribal Area where Pakistan’s armed forces are waging an offensive against the militant group. FSRN’s Lewis Reining reads for Gabe Mathews, who was at the scene of the brutal attack.
Reports are just emerging from a remote village in North Eastern Nigeria where about 200 mostly women and girls were abducted on Sunday. Most in the region hold the Jihadist group Boko Haram responsible, the same believed to have kidnapped more than 200 school girls in April. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.
Wikileaks published a CIA assessment of its program to assassinate so-called “high value targets” this week . In the internal secret report from 2009, the CIA recognized the program could be counterproductive in that targeted killings “may increase support for the insurgents, particularly if these strikes enhance insurgent leaders’ lore, if non-combatants are killed in the attacks, if legitimate or semi-legitimate politicians aligned with the insurgents are targeted, or if the government is already seen as overly repressive or violent.” According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, within one year of the report’s internal publication, casualties attributed to drone strikes in Pakistan reached historic highs.
The use of weaponized and surveillance drones is often associated with the no-longer-secret CIA program, but the U.S. actually restricts the sale of unmanned aerial vehicles. However, a close military ally of the U.S. has cornered the market, becoming the world’s top exporter of UAV technology. FSRN’s Lena Odgaard visited a recent UAV expo in Israel and files this report.
Support for mandating the use of officer-worn body cameras has surged as a movement for police accountability gains momentum nationwide. The mayor of Los Angeles announced Tuesday the city will spend more than one million dollars in privately-raised funds to outfit all seven thousand of its police officers with the cameras. Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, also announced body-cams for all officers, but funding there will come from asset seizures.
A handful of smaller cities have already implemented similar policies. Last month Wichita, Kansas announced plans to equip its entire 510-officer force with eye-level body cameras. FSRN’s Joe Cadotte has more.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced during a year-end cabinet meeting Wednesday that the state will ban the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – for natural gas. This makes New York the first U.S. state to implement a statewide ban on the fracking. Cuomo said that he deferred to his environmental and health commissioners who concluded shale development carried insufficiently studied risks.
The New York governor was lobbied equally by anti-frackers and oil and gas interests. After the announcement, the industry said Cuomo has acted irresponsibly and threatened the state’s economy. But the news shocked and excited anti-fracking activists in New York who have spent the past six years aggressively pursuing a statewide ban.
Hours after the announcement, a small but enthusiastic crowd gathered outside the governor’s offices in midtown New York City to celebrate the rare victory and to thank the governor. Among them was Al Appleton, a former Commissioner for Environmental Protection for New York City who now works as an environmental consultant. He said the 14 thousand public comments on the Environmental Impact Statement likely had influence on the official decision.
“Many, if not most, of those comments were complicated, technical comments about the geology of the shale, the character of the chemicals, the movement of groundwater. That was an overwhelming body of material, the body of material on healthcare. When the Commissioner stepped up to the plate, he was facing dozens of groups that had done detailed health analysis so it was not just, ‘We don’t like this!’ but, ‘We have very good reasons for not liking this.’”
In recent years, New Zealand has opened up its coastal waters to dozens of oil companies interested in prospecting for deep sea oil. Last week, government officials from all over the world, including New Zealand, met in Lima for the latest UN-sponsored climate talks, which went into overtime as countries struggled to reach a consensus. Back in New Zealand, opposition to deep sea drilling has taken various forms, including the tongue-in-cheek. Carla Green has more.
View a slideshow of photographs taken at New Zealand anti-drilling protests here.
(Music Credit: Hepepe via Jamendo.com)