May 21, 2009

  • Obama announces possibility of indefinite detention for GITMO detainees
  • US plan for Pakistan aid
  • Detention of UC Berkeley immigrant worker renews calls for sanctuary
  • Guatemala’s president says right-wing attack wants to strip him of power
  • Getting By series: micro-loan bank gets 99 percent debt repayment

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Consumer effects of Chrysler and GM bankruptcy explored
Today the House Judiciary Committee investigated the unintended consequences of the bankruptcy of Chrysler and the probable bankruptcy of GM. Much of the hearing focused on the impact of the bankruptcies on minorities and consumers.  Damon Lester, the president of the National Association of Minority Dealers, testified before the committee.  He says small dealerships across the country are in crisis and called on the federal government give dealerships financial help.

“For Minority dealers, our representation has always been disproportionate compared to the entire dealer network.  At our peak, we reached a maximum of over 2000 dealerships in the US.  And today we’re less than 1200, with another reduction due to the Chrysler and GM termination.  This reduction in our dealer body will and has began the elimination of wealth in the minority communities.”

Clarance Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety says consumers will lose the co-called “lemon rights” under the terms of the bankruptcy, and Chrysler will no longer face liability responsibility for it’s vehicles.

“What we would recommend is that the new Chrysler recognize those liabilities and assume them from the old Chrysler in the future.  And take out an insurance policy to cover it.  And if all else fails and we can get this bankruptcy court to listen to reason and take care of the consumer, then we should create a fund from the government to take care of the consumer, just like we’re taking care of the corporation.”

UAW reaches tentative agreement with GM
In other news, the UAW announced today they have reached a tentative agreement with GM and the US Government to help relieve the financial strain on the company.  Few details have emerged, but generally the cuts target labor costs and their retiree health care trust.

Five Alabama police fired after tape reveals beating of unconscious man
Authorities have fired five police officers in Birmingham, Alabama after a police video emerged showing them beating an apparently unconscious African-American man.  At a press conference, Birmingham Police Chief AC Roper spoke about the firings.

“The five officers involved in this troubling and shameful incident have all been terminated. We send them out to do a tough job, but it’s important for them and for us that they behave with ethical standards and do the best they can and in this incident, that was not our best work.  Bottom line, we can’t hide it, we won’t defend it.  We can do much better than that.”

Police originally pulled Anthony Warren over on drug suspicion, but he fled.  The video footage, shot in January 2008 from a car-mounted camera, shows a white minivan driven by Warren alluding police at high speed.  During the 22 minute chase that followed the van swerves and hits an officer.  Soon after, the van runs off the road and flips twice, ejecting Warren from the vehicle’s window.  At this point Warren is lying immobile, face-down in a drainage area off the highway.  Seconds later, officers from at least 3 police vehicles emerge, rush over and immediately begin hitting the unconscious man with batons, punching his head and kicking his body.  The tape finally emerged in March of this year as Warren’s trial was being prepared.  Warren’s attorney Kenneth Gomany told a local NBC affiliate the footage he originally received was edited.

“The last 11-12 seconds on the tape were missing from the tape provided to us pursuant to discovery.  And then we showed it to the client and he did not know he’d even been beaten.”

Warren thought all his injuries were the result of the wreck.  Warren was sentenced to 20-years for hitting the police officer with his car.  The Birmingham Police Chief says he is launching an internal investigation to determine who knew about the footage.  The FBI is also investigating the incident.  Warren has filed a $100 thousand dollar-plus civil suit against the city for the injury suffered in the beating.

Suspected leader of Georgian army mutiny killed by police
Police in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia shot and killed one man and wounded two others accused of masterminding a mutiny at a military base earlier this month. The three men were wanted by police for more than two weeks for planning what officials describe as a bloodless uprising at a tank base. Jacob Resneck reports.

Wanted posters for the three former military commanders are plastered throughout the capital city Tbilisi. Officials here say the men were behind a Russian-backed coup to start a wider rebellion, although opposition leaders accuse the government of staging the incident to distract the public from internal political problems.  Russia strongly denies any role in the plot and no evidence has been released to back up the government’s claim. Details of the early morning shootout in a suburb of Tbilisi remain sketchy.  Police say they shot and killed Gia Krialashvili – a former military commander who had led Georgian troops in the 1990s during the war with the breakaway region of Abkhazia.  Authorities allege that one of the wounded men was the ringleader.  The alleged mutiny occurred on the eve of a series of military exercises by NATO troops. The war games are still in progress and have exacerbated relations between Russia and the West. Jacob Resneck, FSRN, Tbilisi



Obama announces possibility of indefinite detention for GITMO detainees
Facing increased pressure from Congress on Guantanamo Bay, President Obama assured supporters and detractors that the notorious detention facility will be closed. In a major policy speech, Obama also included the possibility of indefinite detention for some of the detainees. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

US plan for Pakistan aid
Following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement that the US will give more than a $100 million in humanitarian aid to Pakistan, Senators stressed the new strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan should focus on assistance rather than troops. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.

Detention of UC Berkeley immigrant worker renews calls for sanctuary
There have been protests at the University of California Berkeley since campus police arrested a dining hall worker for allegedly using a Social Security number that wasn’t his. Jesus Gutierrez faces a false impersonation charge today at an Alameda County courthouse – and will be turned over to immigration authorities once he is released. Union reps say the university should comply with union protections for immigrant workers, and activists want the school to become a sanctuary for the undocumented. Africa Jones reports.

Guatemala’s president says right-wing attack wants to strip him of power
We now go to Guatemala – a country where the president has been accused of being directly involved in the killing of a lawyer and two prominent businessmen. The claims started when a video emerged one day after Rodrigo Rosenberg, an attorney, was found murdered. The chilling tape featured Rosenburg saying that he was assassinated by the president and an associate. But there may be more to the story: President Alvaro Colom has stood up to powerful military officials and tried to prosecute them in connection to the nation’s nearly four decade-long civil war. He’s also gone after influential drug cartels. President Colom says the accusations against him are part of a sophisticated right-wing scheme to keep the elite in power. Ricardo Martinez reports from Guatemala City.

Getting By series: micro-loan bank gets 99 percent debt repayment
Amid the banking crisis that has brought many US banking giants to their knees, there is one institution which is doing exceptionally well in terms of debt repayment. The bank offers micro-credit loans to poor people in Queens, New York. In another installment of our Getting By series, FSRN’s Salim Rizvi has more on this unique bank and its remarkable borrowers.

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