May 15, 2008

  • House Moves on Iraq War Supplemental
  • Winter Soldier Hearing on Capital Hill
  • Central American Female Migrants Face Tough Crossing
  • Black Farmers Still Facing Discrimination by the USDA
  • Commemorating Nakbah

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Relief Trickles into Burma as Death Toll Soars
International relief agencies continue to call on Burma’s military junta to stop hampering relief efforts to the areas hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis. The junta has denied visas to the overwhelming majority of foreign aid workers requesting access to the Irawaddy Delta. The rice-growing region took a direct hit from the cyclone earlier this month. Meanwhile the death toll continues to climb. The military junta puts the number at 43,000 while the United Nations and the Red Cross both estimate that more than 100,000 have died. Aid groups estimate over 2 million people are still in urgent need of food, water, and adequate shelter.

Pipeline Explosion Near Lagos Kills 100
A pipeline fire on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria has killed 100 people and injured at least 30 others. Construction machinery reportedly punctured the pipeline, although what sparked the fire has yet to be determined. More than 2000 people have died in Nigerian pipeline accidents in the past decade.

CA Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on Same Sex Marriage

California’s Supreme Court has overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage by voting 4 to 7 that limiting marriage to heterosexual couples is unconstitutional. Kellia Ramares has more.

In a 121-page majority opinion states that “the constitutionally-based right to marry properly must be understood to include most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish – with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life – an officially recognized and protected family possessing mutual rights and responsibilities and entitled to the same respect and dignity accorded a union traditionally designated as marriage.” The court determined that domestic partnership legislation that gave same-sex couples many of the same rights as heterosexual married couples were inadequate because labeling the same sex partnerships differently could be interpreted as meaning that the relationship was not of equal dignity as the bond called “marriage”. Therese Stewart is the Chief Deputy attorney for the City of San Francisco: (audio). The six consolidated marriage cases now go back to the court of appeals for a the issuance of a writ-of-mandate directing the appropriate state officials to take all actions necessary to implement the ruling. For FSRN, I’m Kellia Ramares.

Airstrikes in Pakistani Tribal Village Near Afghan Border
Two US Predator drones launched deadly airstrikes on a Pakistani village near the Afghan border last night in a move that locals say could sabotage the peace efforts of the recently-elected opposition-led government. Mudassar Shah traveled to the scene of the airstrike and files this report.

The US drone attacks on the Dama Dola village in the Bajaur tribal region killed over 20 people and left dozens injured. The strikes occurred after media reports indicated the top Alqaeda leaders were to meet in a local house. The airstrikes killed a local Taliban leader and his brother. Women and children were also among the dead. 30 year old Madrassa Student, Shahid spoke to FSRN from the scene of the airstrikes: (clip) “The strikes destroyed a house, a mosque, and a male guesthouse belonging to a Taliban leader, but not the will of the Taliban. We do not expect good from Americans and their allies as they are our sworn enemies. They want to kill innocent people as you can see here.” Local people interviewed in Dama Dola believe the missile strikes aim to sabotage ongoing peace talks launched by the government with pro-Taliban militants to end a wave of attacks in the tribal region. For FSRN, I am Mudassar Shah.

British Inquiry into Iraqi Detainee Abuse
The British Ministry of Defense has decided to hold a public inquiry into the death of an Iraqi civilian in British army custody. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

A post-mortem exam on Iraqi civilian Baha Mousa found he had 93 injuries on his body. Seven British soldiers were acused of causing Mousa’s death, but a military court was only able to convict one on a single charge of inhumane treatment. Mousa’s family issued a legal challenge to the government’s initial refusal to hold an independent inquiry. After years of legal wrangling, the government’s Ministry of Defense moved quickly to announce an inquiry when it became clear that a High Court judge was about to order one anyway. The inquiry will investigate whether the underlying causes were due to a “systemic” failure in the army and in the way soldiers were trained. The soldiers involved, and other senior figures in the British army were apparently unaware that five interrogation techniques – wall standing, hooding, subjection to noise, sleep deprivation, and deprivation of food and drink – were banned. The lawyer representing the Iraqis said today the inquiry should also investigate other allegations of abuse by British soldiers; however the armed forces minister has said he wantS the inquiry’s terms of reference to be as narrow as possible. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.



House Moves on Iraq War Supplemental

Today the house passed the latest Iraq supplemental but did not pass the portion that funds the war. The bill does however extend unemployment insurance for Americans, and increases education benefits for veterans. Now it goes back to the senate to see if the money will go back in but democrats say ongoing support for the war will be up to the president and not up to them.  FSRN Karen Miller has more

Winter Soldier Hearing on Capital Hill

As Congress prepared to approve nearly $200 billion dollars in continued funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War testified at a forum organized by the Congressional progressive Caucus. For four hours, they spoke frankly about what they saw and did in the war zones. Aaron Glantz reports.

Central American Female Migrants Face Tough Crossing

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents entered a two story house in South Central LA early yesterday morning and took 61 migrants, mostly from Central America – but some from as far away as Ecuador. Three of those taken are teenagers, three more are toddlers. Authorities say they had a general location search warrant for the home, which they say they obtained following a human smuggling investigation. Yet is seems Central American migration to the US is slowing down. Increased border controls, workplace and residential raids, as well as a slowing economy, may be some of the contributing factors to why US Border Patrol has seen apprehension of non-Mexican migrants drop by as much as 60 percent. South and Central American migrants crossing into Mexico are forced to deal with violent attacks not only by Mexican police and immigration authorities, but by organized crime as well. The crossing carries even more risks for women migrants. Ricardo Martinez has more.

Black Farmers Still Facing Discrimination by the USDA

Congress enacted legislation in 2003, intended to address discrimination at the US Department of Agriculture. Part of that included the creation of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, to monitor abuses. But a Congressional oversight committee found that the USDA has done little to change its culture of bias. FSRN’s Naji Mujahid reports from Capitol Hill.

Commemorating Nakbah

The Israeli Army wounded two Palestinians in northern Gaza today, during a demonstration marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakbah, or the Day of Catastrophe. In 1948, 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands on what is present-day Israel to neighboring Arab countries. That legacy continues in the Palestinian Territories. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari reports from Gaza.

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