November 18, 2009

  • Attorney General defends decision to try detainees in civilian courts
  • Public interest groups call for reform of civil rights commission
  • UN food summit ends in Rome with little progress made in fight against hunger
  • Israeli government plans new settlements in East Jerusalem as Palestinians are evicted

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Iran turns down nuclear deal
After weeks of hedging, Iran announced today it would not send its nuclear material abroad for processing.  Iran, Russia, France, and the United Stated had come to a preliminary agreement to allow the country to develop its nuclear capabilities for medical and research purposes, while assuaging fears of weapons development.  Today, Iran’s foreign minister said the country would be amenable to a nuclear material swap within its borders.  It is unclear whether the other negotiating countries will accept this alternative.

In other news from Iran, the country’s judicial system has sentenced five more protesters to death for their role in post-election demonstrations.  At least three others have been similarly sentenced.


Mexican states move to pass anti-abortion laws
US states have taken it upon themselves to recognize or prohibit same sex marriage.  A similar scenario has been playing out in Mexico, but with the issue of abortion.  Shannon Young has more.

The state legislature of Veracruz passed a measure Tuesday evening to reform its constitution in order to grant legal guarantees to life – quote – “from conception until natural death.”  The debate attracted protestors from both sides of the issue.

A majority of legislators also approved a change to the state’s penal code so that any woman found guilty of an abortion has to undergo mandatory psychological counseling and pay a fine.  Repeat offenders will be subject to 1-4 years in prison.

Veracruz is the 17th state to pass anti-abortion measures since a 2008 decision by Mexico’s Supreme Court determined that states can make their own laws on the issue.  Mexico City is the only place in Mexico where first-trimester abortions are available without legal conditions.

In addition to the reforms passed Tuesday, the state legislature of Veracruz decided to send a recommendation to Mexico’s Congress urging it to include a similar amendment in the federal constitution.  Shannon Young, FSRN, Mexico.

Clinton stops in Afghanistan to advocate corruption fight
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan today, ahead of tomorrow’s inauguration of President Hamid Karzai.  There she called on the war-torn country to fight corruption and restore the peoples’ trust in the government.  Earlier this week the NGO Transparency International released a report naming Afghanistan the second most corrupt country in the world – behind only Somalia.


Iraqi elections threatened as Kurds and Sunni’s fight for greater representation
Iraqi parliamentary elections, scheduled for this January, could be delayed after the country’s Vice President vetoed part of the recently-passed elections legislation.  Sunni VP Tariq al-Hashemi is calling for Iraqis living abroad – a large number of whom are Sunni – to have a larger stake in the government.  Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is calling the veto a – quote – “threat to the political process.”   The Iraqi Parliament had worked for months to hash out the highly controversial elections legislation.  Kurdish officials have also taken umbrage with their lack of representation in the proposed parliament – saying yesterday they will boycott the vote if not allotted more seats.


Transport workers strike in Bucharest
Commuters in the Romanian capital are making alternate transportation plans as the city’s subway workers strike.  And although a Romanian court has now ordered the workers back to their posts, the general unrest in the country seems likely to continue as this Sunday’s Election Day approaches.  FSRN’s Dana Lapadat reports from Bucharest.

The tube hasn’t run here for two days now, as employees of the Metrorex Company strike over salary disputes.  The strike has forced an estimated 600-thousand commuters to use buses and their own cars, which has created traffic jams all over the city.

The workers are striking because, according to the law, they should have been given a raise on November 15th.  Despite this, a Bucharest court ruled today that the strike is illegal, and ordered the Metrorex employees back to work.

Romania is currently functioning without a formal government and budget legislation has been pushed aside as political issues are resolved.  Dana Lepadat, FSRN, Bucharest.

SC ethics panel considers impeachment evidence against Governor
An ethics panel in South Carolina today is considering if there is enough evidence to impeach Republican Governor Mark Sanford.  Sanford is accused of using government funds and transportation for personal and political reasons.  The movement to impeach Sanford has so far only received lukewarm support within the State’s republican-controlled legislature.  Although the state’s Republican Party voted to censure the Governor.


Attorney General defends decision to try detainees in civilian courts
Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before a senate hearing today. Hostile Senators pressed him on concerns about trying Guantanamo detainees in civilian courts.  He assured the Senate that the courts are the appropriate place to try Sheikh Mohammed, who is accused of planning the 9-11 attacks, as well as four other detainees. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.


Public interest groups call for reform of civil rights commission
A federal commission that was responsible for the Civil and Voting rights acts of the 1960s is under fire. A coalition of public interest groups headed by the ACLU, says the US Commission on Civil Rights has become harmfully politicized and can no longer fulfill its duty as a guardian of human and civil rights. Today they told congress that major reforms in the commission are needed.  FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports.


UN food summit ends in Rome with little progress made in fight against hunger
The UN Food Summit wraps up in Rome today. Leaders signed a declaration to end world hunger, but the meeting concludes without a firm commitment to fund the efforts. And critics say the meeting did little to address food pricing, agriculture development aid, or the effects that hunger has on women – all issues that are critical to confronting the needs of some one billion people who go hungry every night.

Well, while the Food and Agriculture Organization meeting ran this week, a parallel meeting was taking place. That’s the People’s Food Sovereignty Forum. And it released a final declaration today that criticizes the failure of state leaders to come to a meaningful response to hunger. FSRN’s Dilette Varlese has more from Rome.

And now we turn to an in-depth look at the Food Summit and what it means for efforts to confront hunger.

We’re joined by Raj Patel. He’s a fellow with Food First, a think tank on food in Oakland, California. He’s also the author of the upcoming book, The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy.


Israeli government plans new settlements in East Jerusalem as Palestinians are evicted
The Israeli government announced plans to construct an additional 900 housing units in East Jerusalem. Many are condemning the move, including General Ban Ki-moon who said the move threatens Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. President Obama also criticized the announcement and told Fox News that “additional settlement building does not contribute to Israel’s security” but instead “embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous.”

State Department Spokesperson Ian Kelly said the announcement comes at a sensitive time.

“This is at a time when we’re working to re-launch negotiations, and we believe that these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed. So we object to this, and we object to other Israeli practices in Jerusalem related to housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes.”

To learn more about this issue, we go now to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where more than 70 families are facing eviction notices to clear out their homes for Jewish settlers.  It’s the latest in a series of evictions targeting Palestinian families who’ve been living in the neighborhood for more than five decades. Israeli settlers claim the land is theirs and have already moved into four of the homes, leaving many Palestinian home owners in Sheikh Jarrah concerned that they too will end up on the street. FSRN’s Aya Batrawy reports.

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