Tuesday, October 10, 2006

In Case You Missed It -- Last Week's UnderCovered News Stories

Last week's news stories that received little or no coverage. 
News Items Featured in The Progress Report
a publication of The Center For American Progress Action Fund
BUSH ISSUES SIGNING STATEMENT CITING AUTHORITY TO IGNORE FEMA LAW: This week, President Bush issued a signing statement, claiming executive authority to disregard a new law establishing "minimum qualifications for future heads of the Federal Emergency Management Agency." The White House sought to divert attention from the signing statement by waiting to release the document on its website until 8 p.m. Wednesday, after most reporters had gone home. Congress included the law in the appropriations bill "as a response to FEMA's poor handling of  Hurricane Katrina" and to shield FEMA from cronyism by requiring the President to select an agency director who has "a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management" and "not less than five years of executive leadership." In his signing statement, Bush claimed that "under his interpretation of the Constitution, the FEMA provision interfered with his power to make personnel decisions." A 27-page report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said the Bush administration is using these signing statements "as a means to slowly condition Congress into accepting the White House's broad conception of presidential power, which includes a presidential right to ignore laws." The report also indicated that, under most interpretations of the constitution, "the legal assertions in Bush's signing statements are dubious." Since taking office, Bush has issued a record 750 signing statements.

JUDGES STRIKE DOWN BUSH ANTI-ENVIRONMENT POLICIES: Federal judges in western states are chastising the Bush administration's "repeated and sometimes willful failure to enforce laws protecting fish, forests, wildlife and clean air." In a scathing ruling, U.S. District Judge James Redden wrote that federal agencies "have repeatedly and collectively failed to demonstrate a willingness to do what is necessary to halt the reverse and trend toward species extinction." Redden's decision is the most recent in a string of rulings critical of President Bush's environmental policies. In late August, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer accused the Forest Service of privileging timber harvesting and "trampling" environmental laws. U.S. Magistrate Judge Laporte recently reinstated Clinton's "roadless rule," charging that the Bush administration had failed to cite any new evidence for its elimination, and in Montana last week, U.S. District Judge Donald W. Malloy wrote that the Fish and Wildlife Service had "lost touch with science." Dan Rohlf, law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, noted, "You are seeing frustration in the federal judiciary. When judges express that frustration on paper, which is not all that often, they are often reflecting what they see as a systematic effort to get around the law."

A Congressional Research Service report states that Bush's frequent use of signing statements is "an integral part" of his "comprehensive strategy to strengthen and expand


According to a Union of Concerned Scientists report, climate change "could strain the Northeast's power grid, farms, forests and marine fisheries" and "summers in Boston could feel like July in South Carolina," unless carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 3 percent per year.

British commandos in southeastern Iraq have "found nothing to support the Americans' contention that Iran is providing weapons and training in Iraq."

The scarcity of African Union forces in Darfur has forced them to stop escorting women outside their refugee camps to collect wood for fuel. The result: in one camp, 21 women have been raped in the last two weeks, many in broad daylight

 "Excessive Indulgences" at the Interior Department. The department's inspector general "has uncovered an impressive amount of time spent by department employees surfing porn, game, gambling and shopping Web sites." "Our review of one week of computer use logs revealed over 4,732 log entries relating to sexually explicit and gambling Web sites by department computers," the report finds, adding that the estimates are "conservative."

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's delay in replacing former deputy Robert Zoellick, who quit in June, is creating policy gaps on major issues from China to Sudan," according to U.S. foreign policy analysts.

"Despite their packed megachurches, their political clout and their increasing visibility on the national stage, evangelical Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves." 

PBS Newshour -- described as "the mother ship of balance" by a Public Broadcasting ombudsman -- "fails to provide either balance or diversity of perspectives," according to a new study.

CREW, the watchdog group "that first provided the FBI with suspicious e-mails from then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) said yesterday that FBI and Justice Department officials are attempting to cover up their inaction in the case by making false claims about the group."

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, again said the Bush administration is suppressing a classified intelligence report on Iraq that paints a "grim" picture of the situation. Harman wrote a letter to CIA Director Michael Hayden requesting the document's release.

A new report from the Justice Department Inspector General says the federal Bureau of Prisons "does not read all the mail for terrorist and other high-risk inmates on its mail monitoring lists." It is also "unable to effectively monitor high-risk inmates' verbal communications," including phone calls. The Washington Post wonders why the Bush administration is "blowing the easy ones."

And finally: Earlier this year, London comedian Mark Thomas made headlines "when he helped a bunch of teenaged schoolgirls set up an online arms dealership. Before long, they were pricing out tanks" and "negotiating for grenade launchers." The stunt spurred action in Parliament, and yesterday, two men were arrested for internet arms sales.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Norway Breaks Silence on "Illegitimate Debt"
by Emad Mekay

Read the entire article at:


WASHINGTON, Oct 3 (IPS) - Anti-debt campaigners are hailing as groundbreaking Monday's decision by Norway to cancel 80 million dollars in debt owed by five poor nations after it determined that the loans were not granted in a good faith effort to promote development.

Several leading non-governmental organisations immediately touted the decision as a model for other wealthy creditors to follow in order to ease the global debt crisis that has squeezed many developing nations.

"It is not fair that the populations of debtor nations continue to pay the price of corrupt, negligent and politically motivated lending in the past," said Gail Hurley of the international anti-debt group Eurodad.  "Today the silence has been broken and we urge other creditor countries, in particular in Europe, to follow Norway's bold lead," she said.

A press release from the Norwegian foreign ministry said the countries that will benefit are Ecuador, Egypt, Jamaica, Peru and Sierra Leone.  Burma and Sudan are two other countries that could benefit from the plan in the future.

In its announcement -- the first of its kind by a rich lender nation -- the Norwegian government publicly admitted it had made "a policy failure" and that it had played a role in adding to the "illegitimate debt" that those poor nations accumulated over the years and which have eaten into their social spending budgets.

The decision is also significant because Norway broke ranks with the cartel of creditors who have mostly denied they were lending irresponsibly or for political reasons.

Rich nations, especially in the powerful group of bilateral creditors known as the Paris Club, and through multilateral lenders like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have long denied promoting illegitimate debt to corrupt governments or failed policies in developing countries.

In its statement, the Norwegian government said the "illegitimate debt" in question came about as the result of a campaign in effect from 1976 to 1980 to bolster the country's troubled shipbuilding industry by selling 156 vessels and shipping equipment to poor countries.  The projects in poor nations fell quickly into unsustainability and the Norwegian government became their creditor.

"As a creditor country, Norway has a shared responsibility for the debts that followed," the Norwegian government said in its statement.  "In canceling these claims, Norway takes the responsibility for allowing these five countries to terminate their remaining repayments on these debts," said Minister of International Development Erik Solheim.

An official probe in the late 1980s found that the effort lacked adequate analyses of the real needs of poor nations as well as risk assessments.  The main conclusion was that this kind of lending campaign should not be repeated.

"Norway's government has, in effect, admitted that its lending in these particular cases was irresponsible and motivated by domestic concerns, rather than an objective analysis of the development needs of the countries involved," said Hurley of Eurodad.

The proposal comes as part of the government's new 2007 budget put before parliament.

Such a move breaks the tradition of counting partial debt alleviation as part of new aid to poor nations -- a practice critics say has led to artificially inflated aid budgets that give the impression there is more money available for developing countries than there really is.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Rural states could wind up in Internet's slow lane - Technology - International Herald Tribune
By Ken Belson The New York Times

Published: September 28, 2006

CANAAN, Vermont For most businesses, the goal is to attract as many customers as possible.  But in the fast- changing U.S. telephone industry, companies are increasingly trying to get rid of many of theirs.

Bill and Ursula Johnson are among the unwanted.  These dairy farmers in northeastern Vermont wake up before dawn not just to milk their cows but also to log on to the Internet.  Their dial-up connection is so weak that the only time they can reliably get onto the Web site of the company that handles their payroll is at 4 a.m., when it is less busy. Johnson doubles as state representative for the area, and he does not even bother logging on to deal with that.  He communicates with colleagues in Montpelier, the capital, by phone and post instead.

The Johnsons' communication hurdles could soon get worse.  Instead of upgrading them to high-speed Internet access, Verizon, their local phone company, is looking to sell the 1.6 million local phone lines it controls in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.  
The possible sale is part of an internal plan called Project Nor'easter, according to a person with knowledge of the details.  A Verizon spokesman, John Bonomo, would not comment on the plan but said the company "continually evaluates the assets and properties in our portfolio for strategic fit and financial performance."

Verizon is not alone in its desire to reduce the number of land lines it owns. Big phone and cable companies are reluctant to upgrade and expand their networks in sparsely populated places where there are not enough customers to justify the investment.  Instead, they are funneling billions of dollars into projects in cities and suburbs where the prospects for a decent return are higher.  But such networks are unlikely to reach rural areas of Vermont and other states, leaving millions of people in the Internet's slow lane, just as high-speed access is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury.

If Verizon does sell the New England lines, it would most likely be to a smaller company or private equity group that could be even less capable of offering fast Internet access. That prospect has Vermonters fearful that the exodus of jobs and employers from the state could accelerate.  "We have companies that lose money because they don't have broadband," said Maureen Connolly, a director at the Economic Development Council of Northern Vermont.  We shouldn't have to beg for service."

The proceeds from any sale of New England lines would help Verizon pay for the potentially more lucrative fiber optic network it is building in and around cities like New York and Boston.  The network is part of Verizon's push to transform itself into a fast- growing technology company and shed its image as a stodgy utility.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


ICJ and Survival call on UN General Assembly to approve indigenous declaration

 2 Oct 2006


The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Survival International today called on the UN General Assembly to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, at its current session in New York.

Representatives of indigenous peoples across the world, Survival and many other NGOs, lobbied over the past two decades for the text of the Declaration to be finalized.

The Declaration sets out benchmarks that can be used to judge the way that governments treat tribal peoples.

Although it is not legally binding, it is the result of many years of intensive intergovernmental negotiations, with the full participation of indigenous representatives, and stands as the authoritative policy of the international community on the rights of indigenous people.

The Declaration recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to their land and to live as they wish.

"This Declaration recognises that indigenous peoples have rights and must be able to enforce them to protect their way of life."

Survival's Director Stephen Corry said today, 'The imperial era was largely based on the dispossession of most of the world's indigenous peoples and it cannot be considered over until the world accepts these peoples' rights.

Today's indigenous peoples are still threatened with extinction; they need this declaration now.'


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.