April 9, 2009

  • Anti-Castro hardliners not giving up
  • Obama unveils electronic health records plan for service members
  • Under funded suicide prevention hotline ringing off the hook
  • Remembering the event that proceeded the Freedom Rides
  • Traditional practice questioned as un-Islamic

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Indonesia experiences election-related violence
National election polls in Indonesian closed today, and as elections officials tally the results, the island nation rebounds from an outbreak of violence.  FSRN’s new reporter in Jakarta, Belinda Lopez has more.

Five people were killed in Indonesia Thursday in violence that marred largely peaceful national elections.  Authorities say a group of 100 people armed with arrows and Molotov cocktails attacked a police station near Jayapura, the capital of restive Papua province.  In response, police shot and killed one person.  Police claim the group intended to disrupt the elections.  Separately, three non-Papuan motorcycle taxi drivers were stabbed to death, while a girl died in a suspected firebombing of a fuel depot..  Police also exchanged fire with unidentified gunmen near the Papua New Guinea border.  No violence was reported in the former separatist stronghold of Aceh, despite international concern and the murders of five former rebels in the lead up to the election.  Exit polls indicate show President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party is in the leading position with about 20 percent of the vote.  Belinda Lopez, FSRN, Jakarta.

Sri Lankan army accused of shelling hospital and firing on civilians in safe zone
A top Sri Lankan health official says scores of civilians were killed and wounded by shells fired in a safe-zone today. Following a series of military victories by the government over the past months, tens of thousands of civilians and the Tamil Tiger rebels have been pushed into a tiny pocket of land. FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam has the story.

In addition to the gunfire on civilians, Dr.Thurairajah Varatharaja says shells hit two health facility compounds in the safe zone during the past twenty-four hours.  “Heavy shelling in the safe zone throughout the day and night.  We received 596 civilian causalities and 90 dead bodies also we received, but there are more dead in the civilian area that is not included in this report.”  The military has denied responsibility for the civilian casualties, but a pro-Tamil website places blame on army.  The government says it has now captured all rebel territory and has cornered the rebels in the no-fire-zone set up to protect the civilians trapped in the conflict.  The International Red Cross says shells killed one of its aid workers on Wednesday.  The same day the group says it evacuated more than 500 sick and injured.  The UN claims more than 2,800 civilians may have been killed and more than 7,000 injured in fighting over the past two months.  The government disputes these figures. Ponniah Manikavasagam, FSRN, Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

Mass protests rock several countries

In Iraq, thousands of supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr gathered in the square where six years ago today, a US-led group pulled the giant statue of Saddam Hussein to the ground.  Protesters today called on the United States to leave the country.  In the Republic of Georgia today tens of thousand of protesters packed the area in front of the country’s parliament.  They are calling for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign over his mishandling of their recent war with Russia.
And nearly 100-thousand demonstrators in Thailand maintained their massive protest today, demanding the return of ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra.  The protests began two weeks ago.  Organizers are threatening to disrupt the Asian Summit – a meeting of 16 countries in the region – scheduled to begin this weekend in Thailand.

British policeman suspended for G20 assult
The British police officer who assaulted a passer-by who died minutes later during the G20 protests in London has come forward and has been suspended.  From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

Following the revelation and release of a video showing the encounter, four police officers have now come forward, including the officer believed to have carried out the assault. They’ll now be questioned by the British investigative body the Independent Police Complaints Commission.  New pictures suggest the key officer involved removed his shoulder number and covered his face with a balaclava before hitting Ian Tomlinson with a baton and pushing him to the ground. Some witnesses say they also saw Tomlinson being assaulted earlier on, before the now infamous footage was taken.  Former senior police officer Brian Paddick has called on authorities to arrest the offending officer, as they would any other member of the public; the police must not apply double standards, he said. He’s also expressed doubts over the impartiality of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Naomi Fowler, FSRN, London.

Labor victory for the SEIU
The National Labor Relations Board has handed down a victory for the SEIU Union of Healthcare Workers.  The decision affects more than 45-thousand workers at health insurance company Kaiser-Permanente.  Kaiser filed a petition* in an effort to decertify the SEIU- UHW as a union representing the company’s employees.

*Correction: The petition mentioned above was filed by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, not Kaiser.  FSRN regrets the mistake.



Anti-Castro hardliners not giving up
Days after members of the Congressional Black Caucus returned from Cuba, where they met with Fidel Castro, two conservative lawmakers are crying fowl. Although easing US policy toward Cuba appears imminent, and opposition is shrinking, some anti-Castro hardliners remain vocal. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Obama unveils electronic health records plan for service members
President Obama announced the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs will be creating lifetime electronic health records for service members. The records will contain medical and administrative information from the day someone enlists, to when they pass away. FSRN’s Karen Miller reports from Washington on what the President calls the simple goal of creating one medical record for the men and women that serve in the Armed Forces.

Under funded suicide prevention hotline ringing off the hook
The current economic crisis may have contributed to some high profile suicides: the chairman and CEO of a major real estate auction house in the United States, a German billionaire who Forbes Magazine ranked as the 94th richest person in the world in 2008, and a French businessman who lost nearly a billion and a half dollars investing with Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff. But plenty of people of ordinary means are also looking at death as the only way out of their financial misery. As more people are losing their jobs and their homes, some are reaching for their phones. FSRN’s Kellia Ramares examines the role of hotlines designed to help people save their own lives.

Remembering the event that proceeded the Freedom Rides
Today marks the anniversary of a remarkable, but relatively unknown, step in challenging Jim Crow laws. It’s a part of Civil Rights history that is often untold and occurred fourteen years before the well-known Freedom Rides of 1961. 62 years ago today, a group of 16 white and black men engaged in nonviolent protest, publicly challenging segregation in the South – and they paid the price. FSRN’s Lynda-Marie Taurasi is in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Traditional practice questioned as un-Islamic
Stone pelting is a common form of protest in Indian-administered Kashmir, where pictures of youth aiming small rocks at gun totting Indian police and armed troops is considered a symbol of resistance to Indian rule. But as FSRN’s Shahnawaz Khan reports from Srinagar, a debate is brewing – and some separatists and Muslim clerics are calling stone pelting un-Islamic.

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