June 26, 2009

  • Iran tops the agenda at G8 meeting in Italy
  • Activists say California judge approved torture and mistreatment of terror suspects
  • Mountain top removal coal mining opponents speak out on Capitol Hill
  • After fatal accident, DC Metro riders reflect on transport system
  • New Yorkers react to Michael Jackson’s death

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Honduran President staves off coup attempt
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has denounced what he refers to as an attempted coup against his administration.  He’s calling on the people to defend the rule of law.  From Managua, FSRN’s Nan McCurdy reports.

The ruling oligarchy of Honduras is represented by the country’s Supreme Court and Congress, and defended by the armed forces.  They are in conflict with the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, because of his support for major constitutional reforms that would give more voice to the poor majority.  A referendum set for this Sunday asks the population if they want to vote on reforms this November.  Oligarch-owned media in Honduras say Zelaya wants to change the constitution to allow his reelection.

On Wednesday Zelaya fired the head of the armed forces when the military refused his demand to distribute 15,000 ballot boxes for Sunday’s referendum.  The Supreme Court ordered Zelaya to reinstate the general even though they do not have the constitutional mandate to do this; Zelaya thus refused and the Congress began an investigation of him for his refusal.

But Zelaya enjoys popular support here since raising the minimum wage, eliminating the monopoly on petroleum imports and joining The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a fair trade and solidarity alliance that includes Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. Nan McCurdy, FSRN, Mangua.

Firefight near Pakistan’s Khyber Pass traps thousands of civilians
In Pakistan’s Khyber Agency today, a firefight between the military and militants left some 30 civilians dead and scores injured. Eyewitnesses told FSRN that tens of thousands, mostly women and children, were trapped a town near the Khyber Pass, connecting Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many injured – even those severely injured – were seen running and crawling to safety. According to sources on the ground, the local hospital has been closed for the last week, after militants kidnapped a doctor there. The nearest place residents could go for refuge is Afghanistan or Peshawar, though many in the region are poor and lack any resources to leave.

Nigeria offers amnesty to militants; another oil facility attack follows
In a desperate move to end insurgency in the Niger Delta region, the Nigerian government has announced an amnesty for militants who are willing to give up their weapons and renounce armed struggle.  Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

The military says it will observe a 60-day ceasefire to allow talks between the government and militant groups.  But just hours after President Umaru Yar’Adua announced the amnesty, militants attacked an oil installation belonging to oil-giant Shell.

Attacks on oil facilities by militants fighting for local control of oil revenue has seen Nigerian crude oil exports drop from more than 2 million barrels per daily to about 1.3 million barrels.  The armed groups stepped up their attacks on oil installations after the Nigerian military commenced a major operation against them.

Although some groups say they want a meeting with the president, it is unclear whether the militants will accept the amnesty given the relative ease with which they have blown up several key oil installations.  Sam Olukoya FSRN, Lagos.

International Whaling Commission says no compromise reached between whaling and non-whaling countries
The International Whaling Commission’s 61st annual meeting wraps up today on Portugal’s Madeira Islands, but the stalemate between whaling and non-whaling nations was not resolved – and may not be by the end of the year, according to the commission president quoted by the AP.    Currently Japan, Iceland and Norway all conduct limited hunts, as do several aboriginal communities around the world.

State Department agrees to streamline passport applications for Mexican Americans born to midwives
The US State Department has settled a class action suit filed by Mexican Americans who did not have a hospital birth and consequently had their passport applications denied.  The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of hundreds born to midwives along the US Border with Mexico.  The state department says it has discovered midwives who provided fraudulent birth records to the government.  But ACLU Lawyer Robin Goldfaden says the citizens targeted had one thing in common – they are Mexican American or at least perceived to be.

“And because this is happening in what appears to be, very much be a race-based manner, it also violates the constitutional promise of equal protection under the law.”

The State Department has agreed to implement a new procedure for reviewing these sorts of passport applications.  It says those denied will have the right to appeal.

CA denies request for better prison hospital facilities
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has rejected a tentative agreement to construct new prison health facilities. The agreement could have settled several federal lawsuits over inmate medical care. Kellia Ramares has more:

The plan called for building two new prison hospitals and refurbishing existing facilities. Schwarzenegger claimed that the state cannot afford the upgrades at a time when cuts are being made to programs for seniors and children. But State Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate says the plan would not affect the state’s deficit because the money would have come from bonds and other appropriated funds.

Federal judges have determined that California’s prison healthcare system violates federal constitutional standards. It has been under federal control since 2005, when hearings in a lawsuit revealed that the state averaged one unnecessary inmate death per week.

A federal court panel has found prison overcrowding to be the chief cause of the health care problems and has tentatively ordered the release of up to 58,000 prisoners to local jails, treatment facilities or parole. Kellia Ramares FSRN Oakland.



Iran tops the agenda at G8 meeting in Italy
The foreign ministers of the world´s most industrialized countries -also called the G8- met in Italy Friday in order to prepare the agenda for a G8 heads of state meeting that will take place in the town Aquila, on the 8th and 9th of July.  While many topics were on the agenda, the issue of Iran quickly became the focus. From Trieste, FSRN´s Diletta Varlese Reports.

Activists say California judge approved torture and mistreatment of terror suspects
Today marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, used the occasion to call on nations around the world to ratify and apply the UN convention against torture.

Pillay criticized US interrogation techniques and detention centers, calling the policies of former President George Bush a “grotesque practice.” The commissioner also warned against the Obama Administration´s plans to approve legislation that would allow for  the so-called “preventive detention” of terrorist suspects, saying that “there should be no half-measures, or new ways to treat people as criminals” when they have not been found guilty of any crime.

Meanwhile on the West Coast, several groups are trying to bring to justice those they say are behind US torture policies. FSRN reporter Africa Jones has more.

Mountain top removal coal mining opponents speak out on Capitol Hill
As law-makers debate climate change legislation on Capitol Hill, activists are making it clear that coal is not the answer, especially when it’s mined using mountaintop removal. Opponents of mountaintop removal – in Appalachia and in the Senate – say the mining practice puts communities in danger.  FSRN´s Tanya Snyder reports.

After fatal accident, DC Metro riders reflect on transport system
At least nine people were killed in the June 22 Metro crash in Washington, DC.  While the city endeavors to find the cause of the accident, the Metro system is continuing to run as usual for most train lines.  FSRN reporter Sam Greenspan spoke with Metro riders to see if attitudes have changed towards the city’s public transit.

New Yorkers react to Michael Jackson´s death
People across the globe are reacting to the sudden death of Michael Jackson.  In New York, two popular entertainment spots – Times Square and the Apollo Theater – attracted many King of Pop fans and mourners. From bars and cars across the city, the sounds of Michael Jackson could be heard filling the night sky with whoops in celebration.  FSRN´s Rebecca Myles reports.

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