November 1, 2007

  • Democrats Celebrate the First Anniversary of Winning Congress
  • US Diplomats Protest Required Service in Iraq
  • Burmese Monks March Again as the US Considers Further Sanctions Against the Country
  • A Constitutional Amendment in Zimbabwe Allows the President to Choose Successor
  • South Korea’s Intelligence Service Found in Violation of Human Rights
  • Yale Hospital Workers Win 4.5 Million in Union Arbitration

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Japan Pulls Navy Out of Afghan Military Operation
Japan’s Defense Ministry has pulled its navy out of the military mission in Afghanistan. The move comes after opposition parties refused to renew the deployment of two ships that supply and provide support for the US-led operations there. The Japanese Prime Minister has vowed to promote a new measure to ensure that Japan continues to play a supporting, if not symbolic, role in the US War on Terror.

At Least 430 Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans Have Committed Suicide

New data indicates that the suicide rate among US military personnel means it’s time to change the count of American war dead upward. Aaron Glantz reports.

According a new report from the Veterans Administration, at least 283 combat veterans who left the military between October 7, 2001 and the end of 2005 took their own lives. In addition, 147 troops have killed themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan since the wars began bringing the government’s count to 430. But the government’s count is not a complete one. It does not include members of the military who returned from Iraq and then killed themselves before being discharged from the service – It also doesn’t include those service members who’ve died in suspicious auto accidents or those killed in confrontations with law enforcement while suffering a flashback – deaths which are often called “suicide by cop.” What this means is that the US needs to change the count of Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties upward from 4,229 US military deaths to close to 5,000 – possibly more considering those deaths that still haven’t been counted. For FSRN, I’m Aaron Glantz.

Fundamentalists Ordered to Pay for Funeral Protests

A fundamentalist Christian church basked in Kansas has been ordered to pay nearly 11 million dollars for stalking funerals of military personnel with placards suggesting that the deaths are the result of divine retribution for the Armed Force’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy”. Signs often used at funerals by followers of the Rev. Fred Phelps include phrases like “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “God hates fags”. The congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church reportedly has fewer than 80 members and many of them are from the Phelps family. The 10.9 million dollar award is the result of a civil lawsuit brought by the family of a deceased Maryland soldier whose funeral was targeted by the fundamentalist congregation. The Phelps family has indicated they plan to appeal the ruling and continue picketing military funerals.

American Anti-War Activist Barred from Canada
An American anti-war activist has been barred from Canada for two years for misrepresenting herself at the border last month. Zack Baddorf reports on the decision to issue an exclusion order effective November 17th.

The immigration hearing adjudicator insisted yesterday that his decision to bar activist Alison Bodine from Canada was not politically motivated. Bodine is not convinced. As co-chair of the Mobilization Against War and Occupation, she had crossed the US-Canada border many times before. When Canadian border guards searched her car at the border September 10th, they found pamphlets against Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan. Canadian Border Services Agency officials requested that she withdraw her request to visit Canada, and Bodine did. But she handed off the anti-war material to a Canadian friend and then crossed the border later without the items and without problems. This, said immigration officials, is the problem. The adjudicator ruled that her initial denial to enter Canada might have been mishandled but was not politically motivated. He said her suspicions of political repression did not justify her “playing fast and loose with border officials.” For her part, Bodine says she will fight the ruling and expects more protests to be planned before she is required to leave the country mid-month. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Zack Baddorf in Vancouver.

SCHIP on Senate Floor

The Senate will vote once again on the children’s health insurance plan, known as SCHIP. The new version contains minor changes to address Republican concerns but has failed to pick up any GOP votes. If it passes, it will head to the President’s desk where he has promised to veto it for the second time

Severe Flooding in Southern Mexico
Intense rains have left hundreds of thousands of people homeless in southern Mexico. Vladimir Flores reports.

Floods have devastated the southern Mexican state of Tabasco with around 80 percent of the state underwater. Tabasco’s governor says the scene in the state capital of Villahermosa is like that of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Like New Orleans, Villahermosa is shaped like a bowl and lies between two bodies of water. A major river on one side of the state capital breached a wall of sandbags used as a makeshift levee. Floodwaters have also inundated the archaeological site of La Venta. More than 400,000 people have been affected by the floods, including many who remain trapped on their roofs awaiting rescue. The Mexican Army and Marine Corps have joined rescue efforts. The governor says the floods have destroyed 100% of the state’s crops. Tabasco is a major banana producer and the floods could have a significant impact on the international fruit market. For FSRN, I’m Vladimir Flores.



Democrats Celebrate the First Anniversary of Winning Congress (2:35)

Democrats marked their one-year anniversary of gaining the majority back in Congress today. They pointed to a list of accomplishments, calling their work new direction for America. But the celebration may be bitter-sweet – they are still locked in intense battle with the President and the Republicans on a number of issues. And all while, the war is still raging in Iraq. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

US Diplomats Protest Required Service in Iraq

“Hell no we won’t go” was once a popular slogan among anti-war demonstrators. But somewhat ironically, a few US diplomats now have reason to use it. They’re protesting a recent decision by the State Department that requires them to serve in Iraq – or risk losing their jobs. Karen Miller has more from Washington DC.

Burmese Monks March Again as the US Considers Further Sanctions Against the Country

Monks in Burma are once again risking their lives in the name of democracy. A group of about 250 defied the country’s military junta and staged a peaceful march in a small, central town. This is the first public protest since the violent end to ten days of peaceful demonstration in September. Officially the Burmese government killed 13 people, but many argue that number is actually in the hundreds. They also arrested thousands of marchers, who are now being held as political prisoners. The UN envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, is scheduled to arrive in the country this weekend to engage in and facilitate dialogue between the government and pro-democracy groups. But overall, the international community has been quick to condemn the junta verbally, but slow to take action. At a briefing today before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Republican Representative Joseph Pitts chastised world leaders.

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The US government continues to take heat – from outside and within for not being proactive on the matter. At the briefing Human Rights briefing today, the General Secretary of the pro-democracy group – the National Council of the Union of Burma – urged the US to go further. U Maung Maung argued that top US officials should make Burma a priority.

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On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden introduced the Burma Democracy Promotion Act, which would tighten sanctions on the Burmese military. It would ban certain kinds of travel for members of the Government and prohibit Burmese imports into the United States. Two other pieces of legislation are floating around Congress as well – one from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Tom Lantos and another by Senator John McCain. Despite these efforts, analysts say the US doesn’t trade much with Burma to begin with – and unless the country’s major economic partners in the region, including China, act, the sanctions will do little to change Burmese policy.

A Constitutional Amendment in Zimbabwe Allows the President to Choose Successor

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been chief executive of his country for 27 years. And recently, he has come under increasing international pressure to implement democratic reforms. In the face of this, the 83-year old Mugabe, has signed into law a constitutional amendment that would allow HIM to pick a successor to his post. From Cape Town, Davison Makanga explains…

South Korea’s Intelligence Service Found in Violation of Human Rights

A three-year investigation into abuses by South Korea’s Intelligence service is coming to a close. A recent report from the investigation has exposed serious violations of human rights in the country – including kidnapping, torture and the execution of several people falsely accused of espionage. The report also reveals the agency’s influence in almost every area of public life in the country – politics, labor, media, education… even the judiciary. Eunji Kang has more from Seoul.

Yale Hospital Workers Win 4.5 Million in Union Arbitration

Local 1199/SEIU and the Yale New Haven Hospital have been locked in a ten-year battle over the unionization of the hospital’s 1,800 service workers. A neutral arbitrator was chosen by both sides to settle any disputes arising from the parties; 2006 election conduct agreement. The arbitrator ruled last week that the hospital must pay a 4.5 million dollar fine for egregious violations of that agreement. Half that money will go directly to the workers. This is a victory for the union, but the ruling contained some bad news for the organizing effort as well. Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven, Connecticut.

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