June 15, 2009

  • Unrest follows Iranian elections; opposition says they were rigged
  • Palestinians angered over Israeli peace proposal
  • Obama speaks to American Medical Association about ambitious health care reform
  • Big news for border communities
  • FSRN takes you inside Jakarta´s growing slums

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US Supreme Court says no new trial for Cuban 5
The US Supreme Court announced today that it will not consider a new trial for the Cuban 5 — five men from Cuba who were convicted in 2001 of spying for Fidel Castro. The men argued that they couldn’t get a fair trial in Miami – a community heavily populated by anti-Castro Cuban exiles.  They also claimed that African-American jurors were unfairly excluded during jury selection. There were no Cuban Americans on the jury.  Cuban President Raul Castro has previously offered the US a prisoner swap – nearly 200 political prisoners for the Cuban Five.

Hundreds of detainees in Iraq go on hunger strike
Dozens protested outside an Iraqi prison today where hundreds of detainees have launched a hunger strike — they’re protesting what they describe as abuse. Most of the 300 men at Iraq’s Rusafa prison have been held without charge for at least a year. Last week, a Sunni lawyer who was a prominent voice for prisoner’s rights was killed. Harith al-Obeidi, the head of the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, had publicly called for Iraqi officials to respond to claims of torture in Iraqi jails.

US citizen tells UAE high court “I wanted the beatings to stop”
In the United Arab Emirates, a US citizen appeared before the Supreme Court yesterday and said he confessed to terrorism-related charges because he “wanted the beatings to stop.” Naji Hamdan claims that for three months he was kept in solitary confinement, beaten daily, and threatened with harm to his family. The ACLU filed a lawsuit last year on Hamdan’s behalf, claiming that the UAE arrested and is prosecuting Hamdan at the behest of the US government — The Department of Justice has denied that the U.S. is in any way involved in Hamdan’s detention.

Venezuela picks up Millennium Challenge tab that US dropped
Venezuela has promised to cover – with no strings attached — most of the $62 million dollars in development aid to Nicaragua that the US cancelled last week alleging fraud in the November 2008 municipal elections. Nan McCurdy reports from Managua.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US government development fund, was promised to the Nicaraguan people in 2005.  Over 100 million has already been disbursed by the US for road construction, land titling and agricultural improvements – the funds did not pass through the Nicaraguan government.  Although according to the Millennium Challenge webpage Nicaragua rates higher than other countries on 12 of 17 indicators of governance, education and economic freedom, aid was suspended in November 2008 after the Sandinistas won over two-thirds of the Mayoral races, and was cancelled definitively last week. The relationship between the Nicaraguan government and the MCC representatives was strained long before the accusations of electoral fraud. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega called the aid cancelation disrespectful adding the aid was promised to the Nicaraguan people, not to him.  He reminded those present of when ex president Ronald Reagan cancelled 75 million for wheat to Nicaragua in 1981, began years of low intensity warfare and was ordered to pay Nicaragua 17 billion dollars in damages in 1986 by the International Court at the Hague. For FSRN from Managua, I’m Nan McCurdy.

Police beat protestors in Georgian capitol
Police armed with clubs beat protestors in Tbilisi, Georgia today – 39 were arrested and officers confiscated cameras from press photographers and camera operators. The Interior Ministry has admitted that police had acted “inappropriately” toward the journalists – two TV stations say they will temporarily go dark in protest.  Demonstrations have been ongoing in Georgia for the past two months. The opposition is calling for President Mikheil Saakashvili to step down.

Nearly 40 killed in attack on aid flotilla in Sudan
Tribal fighters in Sudan attacked a flotilla carrying UN food aid en route to a rival tribe. A UN spokesperson said that at least 40 are dead, including women and children who were on the boats as well as South Sudanese soldiers. The troops were accompanying the boats along the Sobat River when members of the Jikany Nuer tribe demanded the right to search the vessels. They suspected the barges were transporting ammunition to a rival tribe – the Lou Nuer. After one barge was searched – the rest of the convoy began to leave and the fighters opened fire. The United Nations said thousands may now by left without emergency rations after the attack.



Unrest follows Iranian elections; opposition says they were rigged
In Iran today, hundreds of thousands defied a government order banning street protests and demonstrated in Tehran in support of defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. Crowds stretched for miles down city streets and some observers described the scene as the largest protest in 3 decades. Opposition candidate Mousavi, who filed a formal complaint contesting the election results, spoke from the roof of a car at the massive gathering in central Tehran.

An AP photographer witnessed gunmen firing into the crowd at Azadi sqaure, killing one and injuring others. The gunmen were allegedy from a volunteer militia associated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Photos show one man with a bloody leg sprawled on the back of a taxi.

Meanwhile, supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad protested outside of the French and British embassies. On Sunday, Ahmadinejad gave a victory speech and news conference, and insists the elections were fair.
Also on Sunday night, according to an opposition website, Iranian State Security Forces raided a dorm at the University of Tehran, injuring 16 students and arresting quote “many” students. The raid has not been independently confirmed.

Monday’s demonstrations follow a weekend of protests after last Friday’s contentious elections. Opposition candidates have called for an investigation into voting irregularities, with many claiming the election was stolen by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran’s theocratic  leader Ayatollah Khamenei also supports an investigation. Iran’s powerful Guardian Council will investigate the allegations that the results were rigged in favor of Ahmadinejad and said it will announce a decision in 10 days. The United States is cautiously responding to the unrest.

Meanwhile, some protesters allege that Iranian authorities are attempting to stem the flow of information out of the country, by shutting down cell phone services, closing local media outlets and blocking international journalists from sending out reports. However many citizen journalists have succeeded in sending out information using social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

Palestinians angered over Israeli peace proposal

In a controversial foreign policy speech on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for the first time endorsed the creation of  a Palestinian state.

The White House praised these remarks as a sign of progress in the Middle East. But Netanyahu´s speech angered many Palestinians who say his conditions for a Palestinian state, are unacceptable.  Ghassan Bannoura reports.

Obama speaks to American Medical Association about ambitious health care reform
This week marks a pivotal point in the debate to reform health care. Congress will start unveiling their proposals. But the release of this legislation does not mean that consensus has been reached on Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama spoke to doctors at the annual conference of the American Medical Association today.

The AMA has come out in opposition to the central theme in Obama´s plan, a public option. Obama challenged the doctors to get rid of pre-conceived notions.

“Now, I know there’s some concern about a public option. In particular, I understand that you are concerned that today’s Medicare rates will be applied broadly in a way that means our cost savings are coming off your backs.  These are legitimate concerns, but ones, I believe, that can be overcome. As I stated earlier, the reforms we propose are to reward best practices, focus on patient care, not the current piece-work reimbursement. What we seek is more stability and a health care system on a sound financial footing. And these reforms need to take place regardless of what happens with a public option.”

Obama criticized the current healthcare system calling it a model that promotes quantity of care over quality of care. He addressed doctors concerns over excessive lawsuits and spoke of ways in which healthcare spending could be made more efficient. But the backbone of the speech,was Obama´s promotion of a government run health care option, that would compete with private insurers.  FSRN´s Washington DC editor, Leigh Ann Caldwell, spoke about the current health care debate.

Big news for border communities
Today was a big day for border communities. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano signed a new cooperative agreement with Mexico on border security. And the Supreme Court had some important news for border residents fighting the construction of a fence through their lands. Tanya Snyder reports.

FSRN takes you inside Jakarta´s growing slums
Indonesia is one of the world´s most populous nations, and it´s economy is expected to grow by up to per cent this year. High rises and expensive boutiques are a common sight in the capital city of Jakarta, but there are also millions of people living in slums.

The slums are growing as thousands migrate from Indonesia´s impoverished rural areas. And  they´re so crowded that in some cases you can find up to 15 people living in a small house.

FSRN´s Nathan Moore reads for our reporter Gabe Matthews, who visited one of Jakarta´s slums and sent us this report.

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