May 5, 2009

  • Federal Reserve Chair claims economy will get worse before it gets better
  • Accused warlord selected as running mate to Afghan President
  • Thousands of Sri Lankan Refugees Go Hungry
  • Displaced San Francisco Chinatown Residents Pioneer Affordable Housing
  • Taliban targets children in suicide bombings

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Georgia mutiny attempt results in Armenian boycott of NATO excersises
Georgian officials say they foiled a mutiny attempt today. This on the eve of a month-long NATO training that has soured relations between the military alliance and Russia. Moscow’s ally Armenia reacted by refusing to participate in the military exercises. FSRN’S Jacob Rezneck reports from Tbilisi.

It started with a video tape broadcast on television this morning that showed three former military men discussing their role in a Russian-backed assassination plot designed to forces surrounded the Mukhrovani base which they said had mutinied following the broadcast. President Mikheil Saakashvili arrived just before 3 p.m. local time to join ongoing negotiations. The President left about an hour later and the government said the uprising was over. No casualties have been reported. Minutes later, soldiers from the base were seen leaving on yellow city buses. Back in Tbilisi, police arrested several former military commanders for their alleged role in the plot. Members of the political opposition also question how these men who are regarded as war heroes for battling Russian troops in the 1990s could now be involved in a Russian conspiracy. Political opposition leaders have called for a full investigation saying the official version of events is not plausible. They have been holding mass rallies in Tbilisi since early April when more than 60,000 people turned out calling for the resignation. NATO has not commented on today’s events. The first soldiers from a 1,000-strong multinational contingent are due to arrive tomorrow for a month-long training exercise. Russia has protested, calling the maneuvers a dangerous provocation. Jacob Resneck, FSRN, Tbilisi

Same sex marriage makes gains in DC and Maine

The Washington D.C., City Council gave final approval today to measure that legally acknowledges the marriages of same-sex couples who wed in other states. The lone dissenting vote was cast by former Mayor Marion Barry. The matter now goes to Congress, who has the last word on DC laws. And in Maine, the possibility of same-sex marriage moved a giant step closer to reality. FSRN’S Amy Brown reports from WERU.

The Maine House of Representatives voted] to allow same-sex marriage in the state. The Bill, LD1020, “An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom” also recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states. While ensuring the individual’s right to wed, the measure also affirms churches rights to refuse to marry any couple. Despite an attempt to amend the bill by requiring that it be sent out to referendum, the bill passed in it original form. Last week the Maine State Senate also approved the bill. Maine’s Governor Baldacci has refused to say whether he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk. For FSRN, this is Amy Browne at WERU in East Orland, Maine

South Carolina suspends foreclosure sales
The Supreme Court of South Carolina has temporarily blocked thousands of pending foreclosure sales. The move will allow up to 5 thousand property owners a chance to save their homes through a new federal program to refinance mortgages. The order applies to any notes backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, along with those backed by any lender participating in a federal assistance program.

EU bans seal product imports
The E.U parliament endorsed a bill today that would ban imports on seal products. Free Speech Radio News’ Aaron Lakoff has more.

Citing the cruel and barbaric nature of how seals are hunted, the EU assembly easily approved the prohibition on fur coats, meats, and oils. The move would have a large impact across the Atlantic in Canada, where the largest seal-hunts in the world occur. The measure is expected to become law in a matter of weeks, and if it does, Canadian authorities have threatened to challenge the bill at the World Trade Organization. Tom Hedderson, the Fisheries Minister of Newfoundland, Canada’s poorest province, is particularly concerned about how this move could impact the region’s already fragile economy. According to Hedderson, at least 6000 people in the maritime province are dependant on the seal-hunts for their livelihood. Aaron Lakoff, FSRN.

Jestina Mukoko and 18 other activists go back to jail in Zimbabwe
Eighteen human rights campaigners and former opposition activists facing charges of insurgency have been re-arrested in Zimbabwe. The move is a major blow to a coalition formed three months ago. FSRN’s Davison Makanga has reports from Cape Town, South Africa.

The group that includes prominent activist Jestina Mukoko will spend two months in prison if a bail application launched by defense lawyers today is unsuccessful. The procedural detention follows a formal indictment yesterday. The move has been roundly condemned by civil rights groups who described it as testimony to an unstable unity government formed by rivals Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai’s parties. An association of independent journalists has boycotted a media reform meeting with the government protesting the re-detention of the activists. Political analyst Professor John Makumbe said the continuing violation of human rights is a great test for a government regarded by the international community of imperfect. Davison Makanga, FSRN, Cape Town, South Africa.

Villagers take bodies of women and children to Provincial capitol to prove civilian casualties, blame US airstrikes

According to the head of a provincial council in Afghanistan, villagers carried some 30 dead bodies to the capitol of Farah province to prove that women and children died in what they say were US airstrikes last night. Casualty estimates vary from 20 to 70. Clashes erupted yesterday and continued into the night after the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint killing three officers and then killed three government officials they accused of spying. US spokesperson Colonel Greg Julian confirmed the attacks and said claims of civilian casualties are under investigation.



Federal Reserve Chair claims economy will get worse before it gets better
Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke predicts the economy will bottom out and then turn around later this year. During Congress’ Joint Economic Committee hearing today, Democrats pressed Bernanke on consumer credit protections, Republicans wanted answers on taxes and the growing debt – and everyone wanted to know about inflation. FSRN’S Karen Miller has more.

Accused warlord selected as running mate to Afghan President
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington today, where he’ll be meeting with President Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The three are set to discuss security in the region. The trip comes one day after Karzai named Mohammad Qasim Fahim as one of two vice-presidential running mates in elections scheduled for late August. That pick has drawn criticism from groups that accuse Fahim of being a warlord guilty of grave human rights abuses. Now that a major rival has pulled out of the presidential bid, all signs point to Karzai’s re-election later this summer when voters head to the polls. Aura Bogado spoke with Sonali Kolhatkar, co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington Warlords and the Propaganda of Silence, co-Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, and the host of Pacifica Radio’s Uprising.

Thousands of Sri Lankan Refugees Go Hungry
As fighting continues in Sri Lanka, some 50,000 civilians remain trapped inside the conflict zone. The violence has also caused a crisis with displaced civilians, and nearly 200,000 people living in government camps after fleeing the fighting. FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasgam reports from one of the country’s make-shift camps – where even getting a meal can prove to be an obstacle.

Displaced San Francisco Chinatown Residents Pioneer Affordable Housing
Before the onset of the current housing crisis, people in many cities were already being driven out of their communities by skyrocketing rents. In San Francisco, the trend has affected numerous neighborhoods, including Chinatown. But low-income immigrant tenants, community groups and housing activists are pioneering a novel approach to create new affordable housing. They’re converting rental units into cooperatively managed land trusts. FSRN’s Puck Lo reports.

Taliban targets children in suicide bombings

On the day that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are to meet with President Barack Obama, thousands fled the Swat Valley in Pakistan as Taliban incited violence increases. The advancement of a military attack is forcing people out of the region and in the Northwest Frontier Province, children became the targets of a suicide attack. FSRN’S Rose Ketabchi reads for our Peshawar Correspondent, Gabe Matthews.

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