July 22, 2009

  • Health care reform stalled in Congress
  • US Senate debates controversial amendments to defense spending bill
  • Native American tribes seek ways to develop green economies
  • North-South conflict affects Koreans in Japan
  • Community activists respond to foreclosure crisis in hard-hit Detroit

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Lawyers denied access to Aung San Suu Kyi
The lawyers of pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi say they have been denied access to their client, just two days before closing arguments in her trial are slated to begin.  The Myanmar Government has accused the Nobel Laureate of violating the terms of her house arrest – she faces five years in prison.  Today, while speaking in Thailand, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the government to free Suu Kyi.  She said the gesture could lead to US economic investment in Myanmar.

Zelaya urges the US to target potential sanctions to protect poor
Negotiations have once again been delayed between ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and de facto president Roberto Micheletti, despite increased pressure from the Obama administration on the coup government.  FSRN’s Nan McCurdy has more.


De facto President Roberto Micheletti says he wants a new proposal from the mediator before moving ahead with talks.  Negotiations came to a standstill Sunday in Costa Rica when Micheletti rejected a proposal that would have enabled Zelaya’s return.  But speaking in Managua, Nicaragua on Tuesday night, Zelaya announced he would return to Honduras within a few days.

“Honduran people are going to be respected from now on.  For that, we can’t lose this battle.  I tell my adversaries, you’ve lost this battle in the face of the world and are losing it in Honduras, and they’ll lose it in the next few hours.”

The AP Reports Zelaya sent a letter to Obama asking the US to use sanctions only against those involved in the coup – instead of broader measures that would hurt the country’s poorest citizens.

Additionally, tensions between Honduras and Venezuela remain high as Hugo Chavez continues his call for Zelaya’s return.  Tuesday the de facto government gave Venezuela’s embassy staff 72 hours to leave Honduras and accused them of meddling in internal affairs.  But the Venezuelan diplomats said they would not leave, because they do not recognize the authority of the new government.  Nan McCurdy, FSRN, Managua

Oakland plans to initiate first city-wide marijuana tax
Oakland California has become the first city in the US to tax marijuana sales.  Africa Jones reports.

Oakland voters overwhelming passed a measure that would add a special tax on sales from the city’s 4 medical marijuana dispensaries.  Right now the dispensaries pay the same basic tax as other businesses: $1.20 per $1000 in sales.  That tax will increase to $18 under the new measure.  Experts estimate the tax could add nearly $300,000 to the city’s cash strapped coffers.  Marijuana advocates celebrated the change as another step towards legalizing the drug for all in the state.  California grows nearly 14 billion dollars worth of marijuana a year.  And a bill to legalize and tax the drug like alcohol was introduced in the California legislature this year.  Oakland’s tax will take effect next year.  Africa Jones, FSRN, Oakland

Report cites ICE for Constitutional violations
A new report released by Yeshiva University’s Immigration Justice Clinic says raids conducted by Immigration and Custom Enforcement are illegal.  Kristofer Ríos with the Community News Production Institute reports from New York.

Today, the Immigration Justice Clinic in New York released the first public study of U.S.  Immigration and Custom Enforcement home raids.  The report examines cases in New York and New Jersey, and concludes that a majority of ICE home raids are violating Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.  Peter Markowitz, Director of the Immigration Justice Clinic, is the co-author of the report:

“Over and over again, ICE has been telling Congress and the public that its primary goals are to arrest people who pose some threat to national security or some danger to the community.  But the data just doesn’t bear that out.”

Markowitz wants to shift public perception of ICE raids as a necessity to National Security and open dialogue for reforming immigration enforcement.

“What we very much hope for is this report gives the administration an opportunity to look squarely in the face the abuses that were common place in under the prior administrations and to condemn and plot a different course.”

The authors also cite a pattern of arrests that they say suggests racial profiling of Latino residents.  For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Kristofer Ríos with Abdulai Bah.



Health care reform stalled in Congress
In Washington, the House of Representatives is struggling to move forward with health care reform. Moderate Democrats have halted the progress because of concerns with costs.  As discontent with reform grows, single payer advocates see progress.  FSRN‘s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

US Senate debates controversial amendments to defense spending bill
As the US Senate is trying to complete the passage of a new defense spending bill, lawmakers are grappling over controversial amendments to the bill.  Today, senators narrowly voted against an amendment that would have allowed gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.

Another amendment would expand federal hate crimes protections to crimes motivated by gender or sexual prejudice. But the amendment is in jeopardy, after Senator Jeff Sessions added a provision on the death penalty.  FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports.

Native American tribes seek ways to develop green economies
In Arizona, the Navajo Nation Council voted to install a new environmental commission Tuesday. The Navajo Green Economy Commission will oversee the use of state, federal and private funds for green job initiatives, allowing community members to apply for funds that go towards environmental projects.

Native Americans are making several attempts to develop green economies.  Tribal leaders from across the country recently met with business leaders and representatives of federal agencies at the Tribal Energy Development Conference in Washington, DC.  FSRN´s Melissa Langer reports.

North-South conflict affects Koreans in Japan
Foreign ministers from Southeast Asia, the US and Europe are set to meet in Thailand for the ASEAN Regional Security Forum. North Korea is at the top of the agenda, as Asian governments seek ways to convince the communist country to halt its nuclear program.

Koreans currently live in many Asian countries including Japan, where they make up one of the largest ethnic minorities. Koreans began to settle in Japan in the early 20th century and although many have never lived in Korea, the community has been affected by the Korean War, the Cold War and the tensions between North and South Korea. From Tokyo, FSRN´s Jason Strother reports on the divisions amongst Japan´s Koreans.

Community activists respond to foreclosure crisis in hard-hit Detroit
Default notices, auction sales and bank repossessions on US homes are increasing this year according to figures released by RealtyTrac, an online company specializing in foreclosure properties.

RealtyTrac says there were nearly two million foreclosure fillings in the first six months of 2009, a nine percent increase from the previous six months. RealtyTrac lists Michigan as the seventh state with the highest foreclosure rates.  Its largest city, Detroit, has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

The motor city once boasted the highest rate of home ownership in the US, but last year it experienced the highest rate of foreclosures in the country. Some homes in Detroit are currently on sale for prices similar to a used car, with the median sales price at $6,500, according to real estate company Realcomp. But community activists and some government officials are responding to the crisis with new solutions. FSRN’S Sacajaweah Hall reports.

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