August 18, 2009

  • Credit card interest rates go up as industry faces new regulations
  • Prime Minister al-Maliki wants Iraqis to decide departure date for US troops
  • Armed protestors attend President Obama´s Phoenix meeting
  • South Korea mourns former President Kim Dae Jung
  • Israel freezes plans for more West Bank settlements

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Honduras: Detained protestors appear in court as human rights missions begins
In Honduras, the political standoff since the June coup d’etat continues. 26 people who were detained last week after skirmishes between police and protesters appeared in court today. And an InterAmerican Human Rights Court mission begins. Tim Russo brings us more.

Attorneys from the National Front of Lawyers against the Coup prepared to defend 26 men, women and youth that were detained during protests last week. They were then transferred to and beaten in the national congress building. COFADEH, a human rights organization, documented the excessive use of force by the police. The defendants were then held for forty eight hours without charge and claim they were denied medical care for the first day. Defense lawyers expect that charges entered today will include, sedition, terrorism and property damage. The popular movement was on the streets again this morning in Tegucigalpa in a march towards the Supreme Court. The Inter American Human Rights Court began its mission in Honduras on Monday — it will investigate human rights violations throughout the country this week. Today the mission meets with Military leaders, the National Honduran Human Rights Commission that has defended the coup and other de facto government officials. The mission will not however meet with de facto President Micheletti – He has refused to recognize the group as an official body. Tim Russo, FSRN, Tegucigalpa.


US House investigators release five more forged lobbying letters
A House Committee investigating a lobbying group released five more letters today that they say are forgeries. The letters were purportedly written by groups representing the interests of elderly constituents concerned about increasing energy costs and opposed to the recently passed climate and energy bill. The letters – 13 in all — were sent to members of congress by Bonner and Associates – who were representing coal industry interests. They were intended to sway congressional votes on the Waxman-Markey bill. Dozens more letters are yet to be verified.

Afghanistan: pre-election violence continues, more killed

Two days before national elections are due, several explosions hit Afghanistan’s capital and several provinces today — Asma Nemati reports from Kabul.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a main road in Kabul today. The suicide bomber’s explosive-laden car targeted a passing international military convoy, killing seven and wounding over 50 civilians. Two Afghan UN employees were among the dead. In two other separate attacks, a US soldier was killed in a southern province while in the east 7 people died in an attack on a military patrol. Earlier today, wo rockets were fired in the capitol, one damaging parts of the Presidential palace, while the other wounded several civilians near the Ministry of Defense. And in the northern province of Jawzjan, Mullah Abdul Rahim, a provincial council candidate was gunned down in his car while traveling home. Despite the rise in violence, NATO forces today announced that they will suspend offensive operations on the day of elections, only operating when necessary to protect civilians. Many troops have been deployed to polling stations throughout Afghanistan to ensure that civilians are able to vote freely. However, the Taliban today renewed their vow of more violence during the elections. For SRN, this is Asma Nemati reporting from Kabul.

DHS admits more immigrants have died in detention than previously reported

In response to an ACLU freedom of information case, the Department of Homeland Security admitted today to 11 more deaths of immigrants at detention facilities than they had previously disclosed. The information revealed today brings the number of immigrants detainees who have died in jail since 2003 to 104.


Ohio authorities execute Jason Gatsy despite clemency recommendation
Ohio authorities put Jason Gatsy to death this morning. Gatsy was convicted of a 1995 murder. Ohio’s parole board recommended clemency for Gatsy last month — they said that other’s convicted in the same murder with the same level of connection to the crime did not receive the death penalty. Gov. Ted Strickland overruled their recommendation last week. Late yesterday, the US Supreme Court denied Gatsy a stay, refusing to hear his challenge that Ohio’s lethal injection is unconstitutionally cruel.

UN relocates Somali refugees to ease rampant overcrowding at Dadaab
The U.N. says more than 12,000 Somali refugees are being moved from the largest refugee camp in the world to a less overcrowded camp in Kenya. UNHCR spokesman Andrej Maheci says the camps that comprise the Dadaab complex currently house more than three times the population they were intended to accommodate.

“In addition, in order to improve the living conditions of the refugees living in Dadaab, UNHCR is working on upgrading the aging water and sanitation systems, increasing the health services, and providing adequate shelter and nutrition as well as providing more funding to support the local communities neighboring the camps.”

Since January, more than 43,000 Somalis have sought refuge in the 3 Dadaab camps, bringing the total number of people housed there to almost 300,000.


Robert Novak:  1931 – 2009
After a yearlong battle with brain cancer, conservative political columnist Robert Novak died today, he was 78. Novak was the first to publish the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame sparking a political fire that revealed the extent to which the Bush White House would go to sell the war in Iraq.  Novak was long the co-host of CNN’s crossfire and for decades was a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.



Credit card interest rates go up as industry faces new regulations
Credit card companies are raising interest rates on consumers. These new fees are going into effect just days before new regulations on the credit card industry will be implemented. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.


Prime Minister al-Maliki wants Iraqis to decide departure date for US troops
In January, Iraqis could vote to give US forces the boot sooner than the timeline for withdrawal established by the US military. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wants Iraqis to decide the departure date of US troops through a referendum that would be held at the same time as the Iraqi national elections.

This comes as the US commander in Iraq announced that some US forces may be deployed to northern Iraq, following an up-tick in violence in the area. FSRN´s Karen Miller has more.


Armed protestors attend President Obama’s Phoenix meeting
For the second time in a week armed protesters have showed up outside an Obama event. Witnesses say about a dozen protesters with guns showed up at a rally in Phoenix yesterday, just outside a conference center where the President was addressing war veterans.

The rally consisted mostly of unarmed people with placards in favor or against the President´s plans for health care reform. The armed protesters, who did not appear to be together, included a man with a semi automatic assault rifle slung across his shoulder. The man refused to give his name, but said he was simply advocating his right to bear arms and expressing his opposition to Obama´s policies on health care and gun control.  CNN reported that a second man with a semi-automatic weapon was also present.

This comes less than a week after a man wearing a handgun around his leg came to Obama´s town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The incidents have raised concerns that armed protesters will continue to show up at Obama events and that these protesters may be part of a larger trend.

FSRN spoke to Mark Potok from the Southern Poverty Law Center. His organization has been monitoring the activities of radical right wing militia groups since the early 90s. Their recent report on the rise of militia groups can be found at


South Korea mourns former President Kim Dae Jung
Former South Korean President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kim Dae Jung died Tuesday after a month long battle with pneumonia.  Kim was 85 and after a long political career he came to be known as Korea´s Nelson Mandela.  Kim opposed his nation’s military rulers and opened the door for democratic reforms in South Korea. But he was best remembered for engaging North Korea after decades of hostility.  FSRN´s Jason Strother has more from Seoul.


Israel freezes plans for more West Bank settlements
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited the White House Tuesday and spoke with President Barack Obama in a closed door meeting.  Mubarak is making a short visit to the United States, during which he has expressed the willingness of Arab states to support a new peace initiative between Israel and Palestine.

Few details from Tuesday´s meeting were revealed. But Mubarak did say that Egypt wants to put aside plans for a temporary solution to the Palestinian issue.  And he called for final status talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Meanwhile in Israel, the government has decided to freeze the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, following mounting pressure by the Obama administration. FSRN’s Ghassan Bannoura reports.

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