October 7, 2009

  • Anti-war groups seek greater coaltion against Afghanistan war
  • Afghanistan veterans struggle to return to civilian life
  • National Priorities Project says war spending growing in Afghanistan
  • Colombian activist connects hostages with families through Voces del Secuestro radio show

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Unionists protests layoffs and salary cuts in Romanian capital
Thousands of workers from the private and public sectors protested today in front of the seat of the Romanian government, blocking streets in the capital.  They are angry about recent salary cuts levied by the government.  The action follows a one-day strike earlier this week by nearly 1 million workers. FSRN’s Dana Lepadat has this update from Bucharest.

This is how Romanian workers celebrated International Decent Work Day.  More than 15,000 workers and union leaders protested for three hours in front of government buildings, shouting slogans and carrying signs critical of new employment policies.

The workers protested recent cuts to salaries, mandatory unpaid furloughs, and thousands of layoffs.  Currently the unemployment rate is nearing 7 percent.   Trade unionists hope to organize another, possibly longer, general strike and collected signatures of support at the protest.

The unrest comes as the Romanian government is facing crisis.  Last week the coalition government broke down, and a no-confidence vote that could dissolve the government is expected Monday.  National elections are scheduled for the end of November.  Dana Lepadat, FSRN, Bucharest, Romania.

Disease concerns arise after storms and flooding in Philippines
Fears about disease and devastated food production are coming to pass today as tropical storm Parma continues to stall off the Philippines coast for the third day.  The rains continue.  16 people have died in the storm so far, adding to the nearly 300 deaths caused by tropical storm Ketsana last week.  Relief agencies say cases of diarrhea and other illnesses are becoming more prevalent.  Almost ½ million metric tons of rice crop have been lost in the flooding.  The Philippines is the largest importer of rice in the world; but agriculture officials say so far the country has enough rice stockpiled to prevent a shortage.

Children at risk in Indonesia following earthquakes
Clean up and rescue operations continue in Indonesia today, following last week’s earthquakes.  The death toll is estimated at at least 1000 people – but the Red Cross expects that number to be three times as high.  Mike Penrose of Save the Children is on the ground near Padang, the city at the epicenter of the disaster.  He says many families have been forced to live under tarps in the front yards of their destroyed homes.

“It’s raining quite regularly.  There are a great number of children living with neighbors or in the front gardens of their houses that have been destroyed.  They’re in very bad conditions.  A number of health conditions can stem from that, including respiratory track infections because they’re having to sleep outside during the rain.”

Save the Children says nearly half those affected in the disaster are children.  Indonesian authorities are considering designating some of the razed villages as mass graves because of the number of people buried and the difficulty of digging out the bodies.

SCOTUS considers National Park cross case
Democrats are taking aim at a Supreme Court decision that made it more difficult for victims of age discrimination to prove their cases.  The Senate judiciary heard testimony today, and wants to lessen the burden of proof on victims of the bias.

In other Supreme Court news, justices heard arguments today on the case of a nearly 80 year old cross standing in Mojave National Preserve – and whether the Christian symbol is a violation of separation of church and state.  Shuhei Nakayama has more.

The cross was built in the 1930s as WAR memorial by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  Former park employee Frank Buono filed the suit in 2001, after the Park Service denied a request to erect a Buddhist shrine near the cross.  Buono, himself a Roman Catholic, argued that having cross on federal property violates first amendment bans on the government’s endorsement of one religion over another.

After Buono and the ACLU won the initial case, Congress decided to transfer ownership of the land to a private owner.  However, a federal appeals court ruled that was not a sufficient remedy.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says the fight to keep the cross was just one of several attempts by the Bush Administration to insert or maintain Christian imagery on public lands.  The Obama Administration has continued to argue that because the land is now private, there is no case.  Some hope the decision will elucidate the Supreme Court’s blurred approach to the 1st Amendment.  But arguments today suggested the justices will only rule on a narrow range of issues.  Shuhei Nakayama.  Free Speech Radio News.

GOP wants Rangel gone as House Ways and Means Chair
Republicans in the House have introduced a resolution calling for Representative Charlie Rangel to give up the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.  This comes as the New York Democrat undergoes investigation for tax evasion and ethics violations.  Democrats say no action should be taken until the ethics committee completes its investigation.



Anti-war groups seek greater coaltion against Afghanistan war
On this 8th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama is discussing the Afghanistan strategy with his national security team, amidst requests from military officers and Republican lawmakers to increase troop numbers.

As the President contemplates this decision, the American public is showing their concern.  Two new polls reaffirm Americans’ opposition to the Afghanistan war, especially an expansion of the war.  A poll by Quinnipiac University says that just 38 percent of respondents want President Obama to increase troops in Afghanistan.  While a survey conducted by the Associated Press says less than half, only 46 percent,  support a troop increase.

As the majority of Americans are growing more skeptical about the benefits of a heavy troop presence, peace groups have organized various demonstrations. But as FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, protests are small as anti-war activists are struggling to organize a strong opposition.


Afghanistan veterans struggle to return to civilian life
As the war in Afghanistan rolls on, so do the problems and struggles of veterans who are trying to readjust to civilian life. FSRN´s Karen Miller spoke to a group of veterans in Washington DC.


National Priorities Project says war spending growing in Afghanistan
Some public interest groups are using the occasion of the Afghanistan War anniversary to raise awareness about the costs of the war.

The National Priorities Project monitors war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan and calculates the wars will cost more than $1 trillion by March of next year.  The New Hampshire-based organization says taxpayer dollars could do a lot more if spent on education, health care, housing and other public goods and services.  FSRN spoke to the National Priorities Project´s Director, Jo Comerford.

If you´d like to see war spending figures for your state or your city, you can visit the NPPs website at www.nationalpriorities.org.


Colombian activist connects hostages with families through Voces del Secuestro radio show
In Colombia law enforcement authorities are prosecuting three men for the murder of 12 indigenous Awa people in August. Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva spoke about the case Tuesday, shortly after the suspects were captured by police officers in the southwestern Nariño province.

“The people who committed this horrible crime are members of a band called Los Cucarachos, they are also members of the Awa ethnic group. They had been operating in that region as common delinquents and hitmen. They had been running drug trafficking operations in the region. They are under investigation for other crimes in the department of Nariño such as participating in massacres, kidnappings and extortion.”

Colombian newspaper EL Tiempo reports an informant tipped off the police, saying the men massacred 12 Awa Indians in August because they wanted to silence a witness to a previous crime.  The Colombian Defense Minister  said one of the detained men is a former member of the FARC guerrillas, who have been involved in previous massacres of indigenous people in southwest Colombia.

Meanwhile, the FARC are negotiating the exchange of some 20 military hostages with Colombian authorities. More than 4,200 people have been kidnapped by the FARC over the last 15 years. Currently, more than 700 are held captive. These people have no way to contact their families and many are held by the FARC for years. But one activist is doing all he can to connect those held captive with their relatives; Voces del Secuestro or “Voices of the Kidnapped” is a radio program that has been aired every Sunday for more than a decade. FSRN´s Natalia Viana has the story.

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