May 15, 2009

  • Lawyers for GITMO detainees say Obama is business as usual
  • UN envoy arrives in Sri Lanka effort to stop bloodbath
  • Amazon protests against free trade
  • 61st anniversary of Nakba
  • Quetzal boycotts Fiesta Shalom

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GM gives closure notice to 1100 of its dealerships
General Motors told some 1,100 dealerships across the US they will not have their franchise contract renewed.  The move comes as the automaker tries to restructure.  Earlier this week, Chrysler used the same strategy to close nearly 800 dealerships.

Prominent Zimbabwe human rights lawyer released on bail
A prominent Zimbabwe lawyer was granted bail today following widespread condemnation over his arrest on Thursday. He represents 18 activists who are facing charges of plotting to overthrow Robert Mugabe’s government.  Despite recent changes in its power structure, the three month old coalition government in the Southern African country has not halted a crackdown on critical voices. Davison Makanga reports.

Alec Muchadehama is being charged with “defeating the course of justice.” The government claims Muchadehama connived with a court secretary Constance Gambare to unlawfully release two political activists and a freelance journalist. The breast-feeding Gambare is still locked up in a Harare prison. Muchadehama denies the allegation, saying the release of his clients was procedural.  

“There was nothing hidden that we did, it was an open and transparent way in which we used for the release of our clients.”

Muchadehama has won several high profile human rights and media freedom cases. He is part of THE defense team representing civil rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko, who is facing terrorism charges. Meanwhile, Harare lawyers have petitioned the Minister of Justice, criticizing the latest crackdown on lawyers and journalists. Davison Makanga for Free Speech Radio News.

Pakistan relaxes curfew, triggering another wave of refugees
Pakistan’s government today temporarily lifted the curfew in the Swat region, allowing thousands more civilians to flee the conflict zone before the government continued its attacks on the Taliban.  According to the UN, refugee numbers are swelling near the 1 million mark.  The military says 55 militants were killed.  The military also said Taliban fighters were shaving off their beards in order to better blend with the refugees fleeing the area.

Gay rights advocates see gains in Catholic nations
In Ireland where same-sex marriage is illegal, hospitals are stepping up to offer gay couples basic protections in times of medical emergency.  The country’s Health Service Executive is devising policies that will protect the visitation and other rights of same-sex couples.  Across the Atlantic Ocean in South America, gay rights advocates are gaining ground as well.  FSRN’s Manuel Rueda has more.

In the small country of Uruguay, President Tabaré Vasquez signed a law that will enable homosexuals to openly enter the country’s armed forces.  Gay rights advocates welcomed the President’s decree.   They said that gays have always served in Uruguay’s military, but the new law means they will not have to hide their sexuality in order to pass admissions tests.  Several countries in South America are changing discriminatory laws as well.   Argentina’s army opened its doors to gays in March, and Paraguay’s President has vowed to end discrimination in his country’s armed forces.  But some laws on the continent reflect a still-common view that homosexuality is a shameful mental problem.  Earlier this week, Peru approved legislation saying police officers who sustain homosexual relationships can be fired.  The Interior Ministry backed the decision, saying the government is trying to avoid scandals and improve the image of Peru’s police force.   The new law also covers bribes and adultery, but only punishes the latter with suspension.  Manuel Rueda. Free Speech Radio News.

International outcry over arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi
International outcry over the arrest of pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi increased today as the European Union joined the UN and other international organizations in denouncing the actions of the Myanmar Government.  Suu Kyi and several members of her staff are currently in prison after being detained yesterday for violating the terms of her house arrest.  The charges come in connection with the unsolicited intrusion of an American man, who swam a mile to reach her home.  Her trial is scheduled for Monday.

South Asia nations promise to protect “Coral Triangle”
One of the world’s largest networks of coral reefs today came under the special protection of six Asia-Pacific countries in a new agreement.  FSRN’s Claudia Cragg has the details.

Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security was signed today by countries at the World Oceans Conference in Manado, Indonesia.  This follows an earlier memorandum of intent by officials from 80 countries, calling for protection of the world’s oceans from climate change, over-development and illegal fishing.  Today’s management plan for the ‘Coral Triangle’ reduces pollution, eliminates overfishing and to improve the livelihoods of impoverished coastal communities.  The Triangle spans Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor and makes up one third of the world’s coral reefs.  The region is home to 35% of all marine reef species. Among the signatories is the United States, which is to contribute $40 million over five years. Claudia Cragg, FSRN.



Lawyers for GITMO detainees say Obama is business as usual

Some human rights advocates are saying the Obama Administration isn’t acting quickly enough to correct some of the abuses committed under President Bush. The prison at Guantanamo remains open well past Obama’s first one hundred days; as Tanya Snyder reports, attorneys for the detainees say it’s business as usual.

UN envoy arrives in Sri Lanka effort to stop bloodbath

Sri Lanka’s military says it is nearing the end of its push against a few hundred or so Tamil Tiger rebels encircled on a small stretch of beach. The violence rages amid ever growing international concern over the safety of thousands of civilians trapped in the combat zone – many who have buried themselves into the ground to avoid being killed in the crossfire. As FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam reports, a UN envoy has now arrived in Sri Lanka, in a fresh effort to stop the carnage.

Amazon protests against free trade

Free trade protests are growing in Peru. A group of indigenous activists began demonstrating in April against the FTA with the United States, claiming the agreement robs them of their land and resource rights – instead selling rights to oil, mining, logging and agricultural companies. As the peaceful protests spread throughout the country, Peru’s President has declared a stateof emergency in several regions. FSRN’s Alfredo Cuadros and Pamela Cueva report from the capital city of Lima.

61st anniversary of Nakba

Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Territories and the Diaspora mark the 61st anniversary of Nakba, or Day of Catastrophe, today. At least one Israeli politician is moving to ban the commemoration of the day some 700,000 Arabs were dispossessed of their land and forced into exile in 1948. This year’s anniversary comes on the heels of hardened Israeli positions – including a repeated demand for Palestinians to recognize the Jewish identity of the Israeli state. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari files this story from the besieged Gaza Strip.

Quetzal boycotts Fiesta Shalom

A few weeks ago, the band Quetzal was asked to play at Fiesta Shalom, an event aimed at building relations between the Jewish and Chicano community. The band, which has long worked in community building exercises and projects, saw the invitation as a great opportunity – but when it came time to sign the contract, they realized the event was sponsored by the Israeli Consulate. Considering Israel’s recent attack on the Gaza Strip, along with six decades of occupation, the band decided against playing Fiesta Shalom, and issued a public statement explain their reasons why… Aura Bogado speaks with band member Quetzal Flores about their decision to boycott the event.

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