April 1, 2009

  • Petraeus outlines Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy
  • Congress to continue funding fusion centers
  • Bernanke reminded that minorities, women should be included in recovery plan
  • Sacramento’s tent city residents say they will not be moved
  • Egypt’s top film poses the prickly topic of divorce on the big screen

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G20 protest large and spirited
Thousands of protesters crammed into the streets of London today, ahead of the G20 – the meeting of the world’s 20 largest economies, which opens tomorrow.  Police presence in the financial district was large as well.  Although a majority of the protests were non-violent, some reports of police clashes and vandalism have emerged.  According to the AP, protesters broke into the Bank of Scotland.   Individual reports from protesters being posted on Twitter from within police lines, claim police dogs are on the scene and that authorities are severely restricting the movement of demonstrators.

DOJ moves to dismiss indictment against former Senator Ted Stevens
The Department of Justice dropped corruption charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens today – overturning a conviction that tainted his reelection campaign. Peter Granitz reports from Washington.

Last fall a judge convicted Ted Stevens of intentionally leaving large gifts off disclosure forms.  But today’s decision by the Justice Department means the former senator likely won’t spend any time in jail.  In a statement Attorney General Eric Holder said it was “in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment,” saying certain information should have been provided to Steven’s defense in the original trial, but wasn’t.  The DOJ kept private an interview with Bill Allen, a friend of Stevens, who admitted to providing gifts to the then-Senator. The gifts were valued at about two-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollars – most came as improvements to a second home in Alaska. But notes from the interview with Allen indicate the goods and services were worth about Eighty-thousand-dollars.  The conviction came soon before Stevens’ failed reelection campaign. Former Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich won the election.  Holder said the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility will investigate the prosecution’s conduct further.  Peter Granitz.  FSRN. Washington.

“Personhood Bill” loses traction in North Dakota Senate
A North Dakota bill giving a human fetus the legal status of a human being from the moment of conception may have been effectively killed by a legislative committee. The North Dakota Senate Judiciary committee recommended that the Senate vote the bill down.  But, as Jon Pike Reports, the campaign continues its push to extend personhood to fetuses as a way of challenging abortion rights.

The North Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted down the Personhood Bill, which would extend the legal status of a person to every organism that carries the human genome, including fetuses.  The bill’s sponsor, Dan Ruby said in news reports that the legislation was meant to challenge Roe v. Wade.  The bill already passed the North Dakota House of Representatives 51-41.  And under North Dakota law, the Senate must still vote on the bill.  But the unanimous committee recommendation to vote against the legislation does not bode well for its success there.  Despite the unfavorable news in North Dakota, the so-called ‘personhood’ movement is continuing its work… organizing a petition drive in Mississippi and introducing bills in other states.  Jon Pike.  Free Speech Radio News.

Russia and the US to reopen nuclear talks
Russia and the United States say they will reopen talks aimed at reducing the countries’ arsenal of nuclear warheads.  The new deal would bring the number of warheads below levels agreed to in 2002.  The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace estimates that both countries currently possess more than 3000 warheads each.

UN Rights Council welcomes US interest
The UN Human Rights Council today extended their blessing to the United State’s bid to join the group.  Former President George Bush did not opt to join the Council, which was formed in 2006.  Yesterday the Obama Administration announced its intention to gain membership.  The US could actively take a seat on the council following they body’s elections in May.

Palestinians react to new Israeli government
A new right-leaning Israeli government took office yesterday and in the wake of the power shift, some Palestinians are less than encouraged.  FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

The ruling Hamas party in Gaza sees Israel’s new government as a continuation of what IT calls a racist policy that never recognized the Palestinian peoples’ right to self-determination.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Netanyahu’s government to return to the state-of-mind that reigned prior to the outbreak of Palestinian-Israeli violence in 2000.  Abbas said this would allow negotiations between both sides to achieve a long-lasting peace.  Palestinians also reacted to the new Israeli government.  Atef Eisa is a Gaza resident.

“The government reflects the attitudes prevalent on the streets of Israel.  The war in Gaza has allowed this kind of government to come to power.”

Newly-elected Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, outlined his peace process policy by hinting at allowing limited autonomy for the Palestinians based on 1967 borders. In another news, the Israeli army clashed with a group of Palestinian fighters on the border yesterday, killing two.  One Israeli soldier was injured.  Rami Almeghari. Free Speech Radio News. Gaza

Argentina’s symbol of democracy dies
In Argentina, the man who led the country into democracy in the 80’s after the bloody military Junta died last night.  Marie Trigona reports.

Former president Raul Alfonsin died last night from lung cancer at the age of 82. Thousands lined up outside Congress in the nation’s capital to bid farewell to the former president, said to be a symbol for democracy.  Today and Thursday have been declared days of mourning. The deceased Alfonsin was elected president in 1983 following the collapse of the 7-year ruling dictatorship.   State representatives and human rights advocates celebrated Alfonsin as a president who criticized the military junta and later brought some measure of justice to victims of the Junta’s violence by prosecuting members of the military.  President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is now in London for the G-20 summit, will return earlier than expected to visit with the former president’s family. Marie Trigona.  FSRN.  Buenos Aires.



Petraeus outlines Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy
A pair of assumed U.S. drones struck Pakistan today, killing 14 people. This is the first time the Orakzai region has been attacked, which lies near the border with Afghanistan. The strike took place after the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud asserted his group is responsible for a deadly attack in Lahore in retaliation for U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan, and threatened attacks on U.S. soil. Meanwhile, General David Petraeus told lawmakers in Washington today that the U.S. in investigating the threats and responding to them. He added that the war in Afghanistan has now become the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a single war, which he said would be long and sustained. Although lawmakers praised this new strategy, some are concerned that the plan fails to layout how the terms of success will be measured. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Congress to continue funding fusion centers
The Bush administration created more than 40 fusion centers following the September 11 attacks. These offices are created to expedite the sharing of information between different local, state and national security agencies. The centers also collect data from the private sector. The sharing of information between the military, the government and the private sector has brought fusion centers under scrutiny – and reports that they’ve targeted anti-war war activists and third-party supporters have caused critics to cite fusion centers as a potential threat to a citizen’s right to privacy and free speech. FSRN’s Sam Greenspan is in Washington, where a Congressional panel today weighed the promise and danger of these fusion centers, and indicated they will continue funding them.

Bernanke reminded that minorities, women should be included in recovery plan
During this recession, the Congressional Black Caucus is reminding the Administration that it’s not just their portfolios that need diversifying. Caucus members charge that minority and women-owned businesses have been left out of economic recovery plans. As Tanya Snyder repots, the Caucus convened a meeting between business owners and Fed Chair Ben Bernanke to try to design a more inclusive program.

Sacramento’s tent city residents say they will not be moved
The National Alliance to End Homelessness says that an additional 1.5 million people could be left homeless, a third of them children, because of rising foreclosures and the recession. By one estimate the tent city in California’s capital, Sacramento, is growing by 20 to 50 people a week. Recent media attention on the encampment prompted the Sacramento city council last week to provide additional shelter beds in order to shut down the privately-owned site. But as Africa Jones reports, many of tent city’s homeless say they will remain outdoors.

Egypt’s top film poses the prickly topic of divorce on the big screen
The number one movie in Egypt now has caused a stir because of a scene in the film that addresses the thorny issue of divorce among Christians of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Egypt is home to at least 10 million Coptic Christians, making that community the largest religious minority in the country. In a report on the obstacles facing Coptic couples seeking divorce, FSRN’s Aya Batrawy speaks with the movie’s screenwriter and director and those opposed to the issues raised by the film.

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