October 14, 2009

  • Honduras negotiates Zelaya reinstatement
  • US Congress reviews Afghanistan strategy
  • Congressional Democrats take on health insurance industry
  • Experts say most of Gaza´s children are experiencing PTSD

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8 Iraqis killed in bombing/New report on Iraqi deaths
Three successive bomb explosions killed at least eight people and injured 42 in the northern Iraqi city of Karbala today.  Two bombs exploded in main streets of the Shiite holy city, another one in a market area.  The deaths come a day after the Iraqi human rights ministry released a draft report that finds at least 85,000 Iraqis have been killed by bombs, murders and fighting in the four years between 2004 and 2008, and almost 150,000 have been injured.  Those numbers include non-civilians, but exclude about 10,000 missing persons, and around 15,000 unidentified bodies that have been found, brining the total estimate of civilians killed since 2003 to more than 102,000.


UK to deport Iraqi migrants
Following the Swedish and Danish governments’ decision to forcibly remove Iraqi migrants from their countries, the British government says they plan to deport more than 3 dozen Iraqis back to Baghdad.  George Lavender has more.

More than 40 people are to be placed on a specially chartered flight to Baghdad this week, in the first deportations to southern Iraq since the joint British and American invasion began, more than six years ago. Previous mass deportations have forcibly returned people to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, but this will be the first deportation to Baghdad, an area the UN has stated is unsafe.  Many of those deported to northern Iraq have been killed or disappeared.  Others have been forced into hiding.  The International Federation for Iraqi Refugees condemned the flight as ‘inhumane’ and has called for the deportations to be cancelled, and the detainees released.   George Lavender, FSRN, London.


Thousands flee South Waziristan as Pakistani military campaign is announced
Tens of thousands of people are fleeing the South Waziristan region of Pakistan, in fear that the start of an all-out military offensive by the Pakistani army is imminent.  Military jets have been already been bombing tribal areas in what officials say is an effort to root out about Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.  On Wednesday, officials say that air raids killed 9 militants on the Afghan border.  The Army’s Director General Ather Abbas, said the army is waiting for a right time to start ground operation there.

“The government has taken a principal decision that this organization is responsible for more than 80 percent of all the attacks, suicide attacks and extra terrorism in our country. They have taken a principal decision that there will be an operation in this area.  But its now a matter of military judgment what is the appropriate time.”

In the past few weeks, an estimated 200,000 people have fled their homes; leaving is not easy, as they face curfews during most of the daytime, and dangerous traveling conditions at night.  Thanks to Gabe Matthews for assistance with this report.


House approves Iran Sanctions Enabling Act
The House of Representatives has approved a measure that would make it easier for cities, states, and pension funds to remove any investments they have in companies involved in Iran’s energy sector.  The bill would grant legal protections to investment fund managers and government agencies, if they decided to divest from companies which have more than 20 million dollars in Iran’s energy sector.  During the Bush administration, similar legislation was passed by the House, but blocked by the Senate.  This time around, the Senate bill has 34 co-sponsors.  It’s expected that the sanctions enabling law will be part of a larger bill, encompassing many types of sanctions on Iran.


Hundreds of Somali women jailed and lashed for failing to wear veils
Islamic Militants belonging to the Al-Qaeda inspired Al Shabab movement in Somalia arrested and lashed more than 200 Somali women, because they disobeyed orders to begin wearing veils.  Nathan Moore reads this report, written by Shafi’i Mohyaddin Abokar.

Most of the women were arrested in and around Mogadishu, in areas where Somali insurgents are fighting the transitional federal government and African Union peacekeepers.  Al-Qaeda linked militants control most of south-central Somalia, and large parts of the capital where all women have been ordered to cover their entire bodies or face punishment.  Residents say that dozens of old women were hospitalized after they were very badly beaten by the extremist militias, after a two-week deadline to begin wearing veils expired.  One 24-year old woman who asked to remain anonymous, told FSRN that she’s not financially able to buy the veil and its skirts, so she decided to remain at home rather than risk being lashed or arrested.  The veil and its skirt cost more than 500,000 Somali shillings; many of the arrested Somali women who might have chosen to wear a veil can’t afford one.  Reading for Shafi’i Mohyaddin Abokar, I’m Nathan Moore.


Argentinean activists lift bridge blockade for soccer match
In Argentina, activists have temporarily suspended a 3 year long road blockade, to allow fans to travel to Uruguay and watch their team play in a world cup qualifying match between the 2 countries.  In a dispute currently being considered by the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Argentina is accusing Uruguay of allowing a the construction of a paper mill on a river bordering both countries. Argentina says the mill is illegally polluting the river, which people depend on for food and water.  For the past 3 years, activists have been blockading a bridge that crosses the river, but they have decided to let cars through for soccer fans who want to go to the game.


Congressmember Robert Wexler announces he will resign
Florida Congress member Robert Wexler has announced he will resign from the House of Representatives in January, in order to become president of the Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation.  Wexler has served for the past 12 years in a solidly Democratic district in Boca Raton.  Florida Governor Charlie Crist will schedule a special election to replace Wexler, who will not finish his 7th term.


Honduras negotiates Zelaya reinstatement
In Honduras, representatives of ousted President Manuel Zelaya and de facto President Roberto Micheletti are negotiating Zelaya´s return to power.  The two camps have agreed on several key points this week, including the formation of a national unity government if Zelaya is reinstated and a promise from Zelaya to refrain from pursuing efforts to change the Honduran constitution.  FSRN contacted someone who has spent the past three weeks with President Zelaya. Andres Conteris is the founder of Democracy Now in Español and he directs the Program on the Americas for Nonviolence international.

Conteris joined Zelaya and other activists at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, shortly after the ousted president snuck back into Honduras and sought refuge at the embassy.


US Congress reviews Afghanistan strategy
President Obama promised on Tuesday to publicly announce his military strategy for Afghanistan in the coming weeks.  On Wednesday, as the Commander in Chief again held a closed-door meeting on Afghanistan, the House Armed Services Committee heard from policy experts and a retired Army General.  As FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports, the witnesses disagreed on the way forward for US military involvement in the country.


Congressional Democrats take on health insurance industry
Democrats in Congress are talking tough against the health insurance industry. They say the industry´s campaign at the 11th hour of the health care debate backfired and emboldened the need for a public option and the need to break up the monopoly that insurance companies have in some states. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.


Experts say most of Gaza´s children are experiencing PTSD
Israel has imprisoned hundreds of Palestinians without trial or charges, according to a report released today by two Israeli human rights groups.  The organizations, B´Tsalem and HaMoked, claim that Israel currently holds 335 people under a system called “administrative detention,” which enables the Israeli army to capture people without allowing civil rights such as the right to challenge their detention and the right to see evidence against them.

The human rights groups say the Israeli government is violating international law, but the government says that under international law a state is allowed to detain residents of an occupied territory if it believes that individual liberty poses a security threat.

Meanwhile in the Gaza strip, people continue to rebuild after the 22-day long war last January. One of the lasting impacts is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and according to  psychological experts in the region, most of Gaza’s children are experiencing PTSD. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari files this story.

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