November 12, 2008

  • Violence and Rivalry Continue in Gaza
  • Argentine Workers Struggle to Keep Recuperated Enterprises
  • Colombian Sugarcane Cutters Celebrate Victory
  • Treasury Spells Out Next Moves
  • Banks Modify Loans to Help Borrowers Avoid Foreclosure
  • Will Change Begin with Healthcare?

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First Gay Couples in Connecticut Tie the Knot
That’s the sound from New Haven City Hall this morning as gay and lesbians cheered the first same sex marriages. Today the state finalized a state Supreme Court decision from September to legalize gay marriage. This morning a lesbian couple took out the first marriage license that no longer lists the partners as “bride” and “groom.” Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven.

Barbara and Robin Levine-Ritterman were among the 8 same-sex couples whose victory at the Connecticut Supreme Court in September legalized same-sex marriage.  The court ruled they had a right to equal protection under the state Constitution.  The couple had a commitment ceremony 16 years ago, and then was joined in a civil union when that became available in Connecticut in 2005. But standing on the steps of City Hall amidst white balloons, red roses, and supporters wearing big pink “I do” buttons, Barbara said that wasn’t good enough when she went to the hospital for a cancer checkup.

“When they said, ‘What’s your marital status?’ I said ‘civil union,’ and she said, ‘Oh, there’s no place for that in the computer; I’ll just put you down as single.’ Which just made me feel like I was back up there when the chemo almost killed me and wondering if I got sent to the intensive care unit, was Robin going to be able to come with me?”

The Levine-Rittermans haven’t set a wedding date yet, but later in the morning, a lesbian couple that was not party to the lawsuit got married at City Hall.  For FSRN, I’m Melinda Tuhus in New Haven.

Court Rules Navy Can Continue Sonar Exercises Despite Threat to Marine Mammals
The US Supreme Court released its first decision of the current term today – siding with the Navy in a case about sonar and its effects on marine mammals.  Environmentalists argue the sonar used by submarines and other vessels can cause irreversible damage to dolphins and whales.  But the justices determined the need for the Navy to conduct realistic training exercises outweighed the potential for harm.  The Navy is now cleared to go forward with testing off the coast of Southern California.

Bolivia to Inspect US DEA Offices
The US and Bolivian governments are taking steps to ease their current diplomatic crisis.  Leny Olivera reports from Bolivia.

The Bolivian government and the U.S. embassy have agreed to carry out inspections of Drug Enforcement Administration offices throughout Bolivia. The announcement came after a meeting in La Paz between the US Embassy and Bolivian ministers. Relations between two countries broke down on November 1st, when president Evo Morales suspended the work of the US Drug Enforcement Agency in Bolivia, saying the agency’s officials were planning to undermine his administration.  The objective of the inspections is to find information to confirm those suspicions.  The inspections will be carried out the 14 and 15 of November, led by high-ranking Bolivian police and the interior minister.  Bolivia is also setting up its own internal agency to fight drug trafficking.  For FSRN I’m Leny Olivera from Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Another School Collapses in Haiti
Another school building has collapsed in Haiti today following heavy rains.  The building came down while classes were in session and injured 9 people.  This is the second school to collapse in a week. The first, last Friday, killed nearly 90.

Saffron Rebellion Activists Receive Lengthy Prison Terms
Human rights groups are criticizing the Junta of Myanmar, or Burma, for handing down 65-year sentences to 14 activists. Amnesty International claims they are among 2,000 political prisoners in Burma’s jails.  FSRN’s Claudia Cragg reports.

Those sentenced are part of the Generation ’88 Students group being punished for their activities during the so-called “Saffron Revolution,” a monk-led uprising in Burma last year.  Speaking to FSRN, David Mathieson of Human Rights’ Watch said he is not surprised that, so far, there appears to be no reaction within Burma.

“These harsh sentences and intense intimidation are designed to scare the population so they won’t protest, so they won’t actually challenge the military government.”

Mathieson is calling for the UN to rise to the challenge of showing how unfair the jail terms are.

“It’s ludicrous that people facing 150 years in prison on some 22 trumped up charges for doing nothing more than marching peacefully down the street and calling for dialogue with the military government for sustainable reform”

Meanwhile, a prominent labor rights activist, Su Su Nway, has also been sentenced to 12 and a half years for a poem criticizing General Than Shwe.  And a 28-year-old blogger has been given 20 years. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Claudia Cragg.

US Missile Defense Talks with Russia Break Down
And mediation talks have broken down today between Russia and the United States over a proposed missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.  Russia has countered with threats of its own missile deployment on the border of Poland.


Violence Grips Congo; UN Calls for Additional Troops

The UN Security Council will likely approve the deployment of an additional 3,000 UN troops to eastern Congo – some 17,000 troops are already on the ground, mandated to protect civilians and disarm rebels. Neighboring Angola has also pledged to send troops to counter rebel leader Laurent Nkunda’s estimated 10,000 fighters. The rebels and government troops now stand accused of extreme violence, including separating children from their families and forcing them to serve as soldiers, forcing labor at gunpoint, and rape. At least 100,000 civilians have been displaced and cut off from basic necessities. We hear from UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who is calling for an immediate truce to allow aid workers to reach the refugees, and from Juliette Prodhan, is the Congo Director for Oxfam, who is in Goma.

Violence and Rivalry Continue in Gaza

Voters in Jerusalem have elected a secular mayor, swiftly putting an end to ultra-orthodox rule in the Holy City. Although the majority of Jerusalem’s Arab population, who make up about a third of the population, boycotted the election, Mayor-elect Nir Barkat says he will serve everyone: the Jews, the Arabs, the religious and the secular. Meanwhile, increased violence between the Israeli Army and Hamas fighters in Gaza may put an end to a fragile truce. The latest skirmish began when Israeli troops fired men they say were installing a bomb near a border fence – the troops fired and killed four militants.  This as Hamas and Fatah are blaming each other for the failure of a scheduled Cairo-hosted national unity conference. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

Argentine Workers Struggle to Keep Recuperated Enterprises

In Argentina, workers who took over their workplaces to safeguard their jobs are rallying today to fight against state-imposed evictions. FSRN’s Marie Trigona has the story from Buenos Aires.

Colombian Sugarcane Cutters Celebrate Victory

Sugarcane cutters are back at working in Colombia today, after a long strike that began in September. An estimated 10,000 sugarcane cutters demanded better wages and improved work conditions. As Manuel Rueda reports from Bogota, most of those demands were met.

Treasury Spells Out Next Moves

Despite continued insecurity on Wall Street, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson insisted today that the bailout has “clearly helped stabilize” the US financial system. However, he did acknowledge the continued fragility of the financial system in the US and abroad and announced what the Treasury has in store for the remaining bailout funds. Paulson said they have identified 3 “critical priorities.” First to give both banks and non-banks more funds to offset their “troubled asset holdings” Second, to fund markets that securitize credit outside of the banking system, including those that secure auto and school loans. And third, to “explore ways to reduce the risk of foreclosure.”

Banks Modify Loans to Help Borrowers Avoid Foreclosure

Remember when government officials promised to help out not just Wall Street but Main Street? A major piece of that plan was to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Mortgage and banking companies are stepping up to modify loans that borrowers can’t pay – and the government has announced plans to do its part too. FSRN’s Tanya Snyder takes a look at how far this relief may go.

Will Change Begin with Healthcare?

President-elect Obama will place healthcare as a top priority once he enters office – and Congress, meanwhile, is getting a head start. Democratic Senator Max Baucus laid out a plan for reform today: it would cover everyone, including the 47 million currently uninsured. The plan, however, falls short of creating a single payer, government run system. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell has the details.

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