January 28, 2009

  • Indigenous activists weigh in at World Social Forum
  • First trial underway at International Criminal Court
  • Public transportation receives slight increase in economic stimulus
  • Conyers Reintroduces single-payer insurance bill
  • California’s budget shortfalls may impact the neediest

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Zimbabwean Parties Reach New Power Sharing Deal
Zimbabwe’s three opposition parties have reached a new agreement to form an inclusive government, raising the hopes of millions of people who suffered as country’s government, economy, and health care system collapsed.   The agreement follows a lengthy meeting at which Southern African Development Community, OR SADC leaders set a timetable for the formation of the new government. Moses Magadza has more from Namibia…

After a meeting that lasted into the early house Tuesday morning, SADC leaders proposed a timetable for the formation of an inclusive government.  And Zimbabwe government and opposition leaders say they have agreed to the deal.  Under the timetable, announced today, Zimbabwe will pass a Constitutional Amendment Bill by February 5. This will pave way for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his two deputies to be sworn in on February 11. The process will end with ministers and their deputies taking their place in the government on February 13.  The SADC proposal drew widespread support, notably from Botswana, which has been very vocal about Zimbabwe’s deteriorating situation in recent months.  Mugabe has also expressed optimism that the proposed government would lead to a “new chapter.”  Citizens of Zimbabwe hope the new government will be a platform for rebuilding the country’s battered economy.  But Zimbabwe still faces many challenges. They include a cholera outbreak, which has now killed more than 3000 people, a brain drain, food shortages, hyper-inflation and unemployment.  For Free Speech Radio News, I am Moses Magadza in Windhoek, Namibia

Israel/Hamas Ceasefire Strained
The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is being tested again today following Israel’s bombing of a Palestinian cross-border supply tunnel.  Yesterday Gaza militants killed an Israeli soldier in a bomb attack.  In other news from the region, Israel has expelled Venezuela’s diplomats from the country.  This comes after Venezuela sent Israel’s envoy home at the beginning of the year.


DTV Extension Fails to Pass House; Eric Holder Approved by Senate Committee
A bill that would have given people until June to prepare for the analog to digital TV transition failed to pass the US House today.  The bill needed a 2/3 majority to pass – it failed by nearly 30 votes.  According to Nielsen Co., some 6 million households that still use analog TVs aren’t ready for the transfer to digital, which is scheduled to go ahead on February 17th.  The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved Eric Holder’s nomination to Attorney General.  Only two Republicans voted against Obama’s choice for the position.  The nomination will now go before the entire senate for final approval.


Bush Denies Clemency Petition of Leonard Peltier
On his last day in office President Bush denied clemency for several high profile US prisoners, the Justice Department announced.  Among those denied is the so-called American Taliban John Walker Lindh and several convicted lawmakers.  Bush also rejected a long-standing clemency petition by Leonard Peltier.  Robin Carneen of NAAHMAPAHH First People’s Radio reports.

Leonard Peltier is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for killing two FBI agents 33 years ago.  But his case is disputed, and many consider Peltier a political prisoner.  Michael Kuzma is one of Peltier’s attorneys.  He says the denial was the final kick in the teeth.

“He could have actually just did what President, or former President Clinton did, he could have just did nothing.  It would have been sitting there, and our President, President Obama, could have decided to do something or stay on the path of two previous Presidents”

With president Bush’s denial, Peltier will now have to wait another 2 years to apply for a pardon or one year to ask for his sentence to be commuted.   But Kuzma says this doesn’t preclude Peltier from appealing directly to the White House.  For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Robin Carneen.

CA Appeal Court Says Private Schools Can Discriminate
A California appeals court has decided that private religious schools are exempt from a state law prohibiting businesses from discriminating. The decision stems from a case brought by two girls who were expelled for “conducting themselves in a manner consistent with being lesbians.” Kellia Ramares has more.

The two girls, now in college, were expelled from a Lutheran high school during their junior year.  School administrators initially found information about their sexual orientation on their MySpace pages.  The Lutheran School’s “Christian conduct” code allows for expulsion in cases of immoral or scandalous behavior on or off campus.  The Appeals Court unanimously ruled the school was a social organization, not a business.  And following a precedent set in a 1998 sexual orientation case involving the Boy Scouts of America, the ruled the Civil Rights Act did not protect the school’s students.  A lawyer for the Center for Law & Religious Freedom said the ruling preserves the right of Christian schools in California to make admissions and discipline decisions consistent with their religious beliefs.  The lawyer for the students said the ruling gives private schools the license to discriminate, as long as they use their religious beliefs as justification.  He plans to appeal to the California Supreme Court.  For FSRN, I’m Kellia Ramares.


Indigenous activists weigh in at World Social Forum
Pan-Amazon issues were the focus at the World Social Forum in Brazil today. It’s the first time organizers have dedicated an entire day to local issues. Indigenous activists from the Amazon region gathered in Belém to debate and denounce the numerous environmental threats they are facing back home. FSRN’s Natalia Viana reports.

First trial underway at International Criminal Court
It’s been half a dozen years since it opened its doors, but the first war crimes trial is underway at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Congolese national Thomas Lubanga plead not guilty Monday to charges that he recruited child soldiers as young as nine years old, who were often raped and forced to kill and pillage. The children were forced into combat between 2002 and 2003 – one of this trial’s distinctions is that more than 90 survivors are participating in the trial, and are being represented by their own lawyers. Lubanga was set to be tried in July, but judges said the prosecution misused key evidence; the trial was delayed is finally underway. Aura Bogado spoke with Richard Dicker, Director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch about the significance of this first trial.

Public transportation receives slight increase in economic stimulus
In its final hours of debate in the House of Representatives, few changes were made to the $825-billion economic stimulus. One of the proposed changes was to add an additional $3 billion dollars for mass transit programs. As FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, mass transit received more priority than it has in years past.


Conyers Reintroduces single-payer insurance bill
FSRN reported yesterday on the way in which laid-off workers are coping with inadequate healthcare coverage options after losing their jobs… Some say that establishing single-payer national health insurance would tackle the current healthcare structure and guarantee coverage for all. Michigan Democrat John Conyers has reintroduced a bill in Congress that would mean that the close to 50 million people currently uninsured would be covered. Sam Greenspan reports from Capitol Hill.


California’s budget shortfalls may impact the neediest
While Congress wrangles over what should and should not be included in a federal stimulus package, many states are facing serious budget shortfalls: 31 states have reported budget gaps, and 22 states have already cut more than $12 billion from their budgets this fiscal year. Many states have made tough choices to meet requirements for balanced budgets. California faces a $42 billion deficit – as Africa Jones reports, programs that help the most vulnerable could be delayed or cut altogether.

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