May 30, 2008

  • DNC Meets – Will Michigan and Florida Count?
  • Protesters Sentenced
  • International Food Crisis – A Look at India
  • Pakistani Band Rocks Kashmir
  • Chile – Police Repression

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European Fishermen Strike Over Fuel Prices
Rising gas prices are fueling strikes by fishermen across the European Union. Aris Oikonomou has more from Brussels.

The wave of fishermen strikes and protests that started earlier this month in France has now spread to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Scotland. The fishermen want their governments to take action on the issue of rapidly rising fuel costs. They need fuel to power their boats and they say that if something is not done, they will have to significantly raise their prices, which could make the market price for fish cost-prohibitive and generally worsen food inflation. A similar wave of strikes and violent protests broke out at the end of 2007 both in France and Spain but a temporary agreement with their respective governments calmed the anger of the fishing sector. But this time, the situation is very different. Prices have not stopped rising and the European Commission has ruled out any possibility of subsidies. Fishing sector trade unions are meeting in Paris to form a common strategy ahead of a scheduled meeting of European Union fisheries ministers. For FSRN, this is Aris Oikonomou for Brussels.

TX Supreme Court Ordes Sect Children Returned to Parents
The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that children taken in the raid of a compound of a polygamist sect must be returned to their parents. The court ruled that the state’s Child Protective Services could not prove that the kids were in immediate danger when they were taken from their parent’s in the April raid. The sweep resulted in the largest single child custody case in US history. The fundamentalist sect’s leader, who claims to be a prophet, is facing separate charges of having relations with girls as young as 12.

Rally Against Move to Privatize Health Insurance Firms for NYC Workers
In New York City, a worker coalition is staging a second protest today against merging two non-profit health insurance firms for public employees into one for-profit entity. Ari Paul has more from New York.

The Coalition Against Privatization is opposing the merger of the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York and Group Health Incorporated, the non-profit firms providing health insurance for the majority of hundreds of thousands of city workers. The group says the merger could result in higher premium rates. It is staging a protest today outside GHI’s headquarters to urge the entity to remain independent and non-profit. High School teacher John Powers is one of New York’s workers opposed to the plan. (Power clip): “My concern became things like will they be beholden to stock holders, the concern for wanting to make a profit over servicing clients, cost-cutting measures.” One coalition organizer says a motivation for the privatization was to increase salaries for firm executives. Unions have largely been quiet on the merger. In New York, this is Ari Paul, for FSRN.

Haditha Trial Opens in Camp Pendelton
A military trial into the massacre of civilians in Haditha, Iraq opened this week in Camp Pendelton, California. Lt Andrew Grayson faces charges of obstructing the investigation of making false statements about the incident. An intelligence officer who took pictures of the scene says Grayson ordered him to delete his digital photographs. Charges against 5 or the 8 soldiers accused of having a role in the massacre have been dismissed. In November of 2005, a roadside bomb killed a marine and injured two other patrol members. Within hours, 24 Iraqis near the blast site were dead. Witnesses say soliders opened fire on an approaching car after the roadside bomb had detonated and that US troops subsequently went into three nearby houses and killed 19 civilians inside, including women and children. The accused claim to have been returning fire. Of the three men who still face charges, only one – squad leader Sgt Frank Wuterich – is accused of voluntary manslaughter.

Canadian Parliament Considers Measure to Grant Asylum to War Resisters
In other news, the Canadian Parliament has begun debating a bill that, if passed, would allow US military war resisters to apply for asylum in Canada with their partners and dependents. The motion enjoys the support of all 3 of Canada’s main opposition parties. This comes shortly after Canada issued its first deportation order to a US service member who moved to Canada to avoid redeployment to Iraq. War resister Corey Glass spoke at a press conference last week after receiving his deportation notice: (clip1). Jane Orian Smith is the General Secretary of the Canadian Friend Service Committee: (clip2). The War Resister’s Support Campaign says the Canadian Parliament is due to vote on the measure on June 3rd.



DNC Meets – Will Michigan and Florida Count?

The Democratic Party meets tomorrow to decide the fate of Michigan and Florida’s delegates. It’s a meeting that’s supposed to be about the rules, but with most of the committee members supporting one candidate or the other, and a highly charged protest expected outside, the Washington DC hotel conference room housing the meeting is likely to be one very political place. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Protesters Sentenced

Members of the group Witness against Torture, arrested for protesting outside of the Supreme Court building, faced sentencing today in DC. The protesters, who largely represented themselves, faced probation or jail if they did not agree to stay away from the court building in the future. Katharine Jarmul reports from DC.

International Food Crisis – A Look at India

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – or FAO — says that agricultural commodity prices should ease from their recent record peaks. But, over the next decade prices are expected to average well above mean levels of the past decade. High food prices will hit the poor and hungry the hardest. Record high food prices and the danger of hunger in poor countries will dominate the FAO summit to be held in Rome next week. As in rest of the world, food prices have been on the constant rise in India. While India has not yet experienced riots over food prices, the outlook is critical there – India is home to the largest number of the world’s poor. The Indian government attributes the situation to the global market. But experts blame economic policies which, they say, have led to the erosion India’s agricultural base – a safety net that provides subsistence to more than half of the nation’s population. FSRN’s Bismillah Geelani has the details.

Pakistani Band Rocks Kashmir

Indian president Patil visited the state of Kashmir last weekend to inaugurate the Institute of Kashmir Studies at the University of Kashmir. The President was met by violent protests and a shutdown on Saturday called by separatist groups who oppose Indian rule in Kashmir. As part of the inauguration ceremony, a popular Pakistani rock band mesmerized a large audience. The event was organized by the South Asia Foundation, a group working on regional cooperation between South Asian countries. Shahnawaz Khan reports.

Chile – Police Repression

In early April, Amnesty International’s chapter in Chile wrote the Interior Minister demanding an end to what the human rights organization calls violent repression of peaceful demonstrations at the hands of police. As FSRN’s Jorge Garretón explains from Santiago, heavy handed tactics by police began to re-emerge in 2006 when students seized schools and marched on the streets for more than a month.

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