October 20, 2009

  • Afghanistan’s presidential election goes to run-off vote
  • Lack of security hampers humanitarian aid distribution to those fleeing South Waziristan
  • Lead poisoning affecting Chinese children
  • Lawmakers mull extending tax credit for first-time home buyers
  • Census question on legal status sparks controversy

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Supreme Court agrees to hear GITMO detention case
Justices at the Supreme Court did not defer to the wishes of the Obama administration when they announced today that they will hear the case of seven Chinese Muslims – or Uyghur’s — who remain in detention at Guantanamo Bay. The White House encouraged the Court to turn down the case – saying diplomatic efforts to send the men to a third country are ongoing. The Pentagon has clearly determined that the men do not pose a threat to the US. Last October, they were among seventeen Uyghur’s who were ordered released into the United States by the US District Court of Washington, DC. The order was immediately appealed by the federal government, and a stay was issued. Ten of the men have since been released, some to Bermuda and the rest to Palau. The case will be argued at the Supreme Court in early 2010.


Defense Secy. Gates goes to Japan
In Japan today, the United States Secretary of Defense said that the US wants the two nations to keep their political status quo, but the new ruling party in Japan could alter long-standing military agreements.  Sam Greenspan reports.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Tokyo today to discuss the future of the Futenma air base on the island of Okinawa.  Some Japanese officials have called for closing Futenma, a major hub for the US Marine Corps.  Gates says he expects Japan to uphold a 2006 agreement which relocated 8,000 US marines from Futenma to Guam, and also moved the Futenma base to another location in Okinawa. This comes after Japan’s recent August elections, in which the Democratic Party of Japan achieved a landslide victory over the Liberal Democratic Party, which had maintained power almost without interruption since 1955.  Prior to their rise to power, Japan’s Democratic Party had been critical of some aspects of Japan’s involvement with the US, including Japan’s pledge of $6 billion help the US transition troops out of Futenma.  Secretary Gates says he sees no alternative to JAPAN’S honoring the 2006 agreement which would keep the Okinawa base open.   Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has not yet made any definitive statements about the future of the base. Sam Greenspan, FSRN, Washington, D.C.

Iranian-American sentenced to 12 years
An Iranian court convicted the only American charged in the mass trial of opposition members today. Kian Tajbakhsh was sentenced to 12 years in prison – he reportedly faced charges of espionage, contacting foreign agents and acting against Iran’s national security. The US has repeatedly called for his release following his arrest during post election protests in June.

Death Penalty: Report says executions “inefficient use” of taxpayer money

Yesterday a federal judge in Ohio delayed the fourth execution in that state since last month’s botched execution of Romell Broom. The state’s lethal injection method is undergoing investigation. Now, a new report suggests that other states could save hundreds of millions of dollars by ending the death penalty. FSRN’s Renee Feltz has more.

A new report from the Death Penalty Information Center argues budget cutbacks and furloughs aren’t the only way for state’s to save money. The center analyzed the costs of the death penalty in the 35 states that practice capital punishment. It found California spends $135 million each year on the death penalty even though it hasn’t executed a prisoner since 2006. According to the report, the total costs of a capital trial, appeals, incarceration, and then execution can cost taxpayers as much as 25 million dollars — far more than the costs of keeping a prisoner in jail for life. A nationwide poll of police chiefs released with the report found the death penalty ranked last among their priorities for crime-fighting. They said it fails as a deterrent to murder and is an   inefficient use of limited taxpayer dollars. Renee Feltz, Free Speech Radio News.

Uruguay’s Supreme Court rules dirty war amnesty unconstitutional

Uruguay’s Supreme Court declared a quarter-century-old amnesty law unconstitutional. This weekend the country’s citizens will also be deciding whether or not to keep the law that has protected military officials accused of human rights violations during the country’s dictatorship of the 1970s.  Mike Fox has more.

The ruling was made in the case of a young communist detained and slain by the military in 1974.  The justices said the amnesty law violates Uruguay’s separation of powers and failed to pass by a required supermajority.  The law remains on the books, but the ruling could swing voters in favor of overturning it in this Sundays’ referendum.  Recent polls show the plebiscite failing . Amnesties for human rights violators were key for the creation of the democracies out of the dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s in South America, but they have increasingly come under attack.  Brazil and Chile still have dictatorship-era amnesty laws in force, while Argentina has annulled theirs.  If passed, the referendum would also open the door for Uruguay to follow in the steps of neighboring Argentina, which began to try military officers a few years ago for crimes committed during it’s dictatorship.  Mike Fox, FSRN, Porto Alegre.

Last Friday, we introduced a story about a ruling by Mexico’s Supreme Court. The introduction included information about deaths that occurred in Oaxaca during opposition protests in 2006, stating that a dozen people were killed. In fact, according to Physicians for Human Rights, at least 18 were killed.



Afghanistan’s presidential election goes to run-off vote
The Afghan government announced today that it will hold presidential runoff elections on November 7th. The announcement comes two months after President Hamid Karzai declared victory in the first round of voting. Independent investigators determined that election was marred by fraud. FSRN’s Asma Nemati has more from Kabul.


Lack of security hampers humanitarian aid distribution to those fleeing South Waziristan
A twin suicide attack at the International Islamic University in Islamabad has killed seven people and wounded dozens more. This is the first attack in the Pakistani capital since the military launched a major push against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in South Waziristan. Pakistan’s army has requested that NATO troops assist the effort by sharing intelligence and by sealing the region’s shared border with Afghanistan. The military operation has sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing for safety.

To get an idea of what humanitarian infrastructure is in place to assist the displaced, Shannon Young spoke with Helene Caux, a spokesperson from the United Nations refugee agency covering Southwest and Central Asia.


Lead poisoning affecting Chinese children
The Chinese government plans to relocate 15-thousand people who have been living near the country’s largest lead smelting firm. The announcement came Sunday after a new case of lead poisoning came to light. Nearly one-thousand children under the age of fourteen showed excessive lead in their bloodstreams, which can cause anemia and brain damage. This is at least the fourth case of lead poisoning reported in China since August.

In the Western province of Shaanxi local authorities have admitted that 85 percent of the village’s children have been diagnosed with dangerously high amounts of lead in their blood. FSRN’s Daniel Bastard is there in the Fengxiang district. He files this report.


Lawmakers mull extending tax credit for first-time home buyers
The Obama Administration’s 8 thousand dollar tax credit for first-time home buyers is set to expire at the end of November. But that deadline may not be set in stone. On Capitol Hill today, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and others testified about the state of the housing market before members of the Senate committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. The question of the day centered around the possibility of extending the tax credit. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.


Census question on legal status sparks controversy
Civil rights groups are fighting a measure that would add a controversial question to the 2010 census – that of legal status. Critics opposed to the question say its inclusion in the census surveys could result in inaccurate demographic information and create wariness of census takers in many communities. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

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