November 25, 2009

  • US refuses to sign international ban on land mines
  • Honduras prepares for presidential election under military crackdown
  • Blockade in Gaza adds strain as families prep for Eid Al-Adha
  • As women increase in US military, key services lag behind
  • Questions continue over government’s handling of suspected shooter at Ft. Hood

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Seven Mumbai terrorism suspects face charges in Pakistan
Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai.  Gunmen killed more than 160 people in several spots throughout the financial capital.  Today, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan charged seven people in connection with attacks.  FSRN’s Rose Ketabchi reads for Gabe Matthews in Pakistan.

Security remains tight at the anti-terrorism court located just outside of Islamabad.  Almost all suspects charged in connection with the attack belong to Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.  They would be hanged if convicted.

The diplomatic situation between India and Pakistan has been extremely tense since the Mumbai attacks.  In a statement made Wednesday during a diplomatic mission in the US, Indian President Manmohan Singh called on Pakistan to do more.

“We expect the masterminds of the attack and their supports to be tried and punished.  The infrastructure of terrorism and all safe haven have to be dismantled.”

But in Pakistan, the sentiment on the street is not optimistic about a future alliance.  Rahmat Shah is a shopkeeper in Islamabad.

“I don’t believe the situation between the two countries can ever become normal because Indian acts like an Asian super power, while Pakistan does not accept this.  The politicians on both sides are not sincere.  They don’t want the situation improve.”

The US has been urging India and Pakistan build an alliance to help defeat extremism in the region.  I’m Rose Ketabchi reading for Gabe Matthews in Pakistan.

Philippines massacre update
Eleven more people have been found in mass graves in the Philippines, bringing the total dead in a Monday massacre to 57 – as many as 18 of those killed were journalists.  Those targeted were traveling to the elections authority to file candidates papers challenging the province’s ruling government – controlled by the power Ampatuan family.  Police have named Andal Ampatuan, Jr.  as the prime suspect in the massacre.


Israel pledges to halt West Bank settlements for 10 months
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government has decided on a 10-month freeze of settlement construction in West Bank.  FSRN’s Ghassan Bannoura has the reaction from Palestinians.

The temporary freeze on construction will not include settlements inside Jerusalem city or 3,000 homes under construction in current West Bank settlements.  This has prompted criticism from the Palestinian government.  Minister Issa Qaraqi said the Palestinians demand a total freeze:

“This announcement is deceptive and just for show.  The Palestinian position is clear: we refuse to negotiate while settlements continue to exist.  Furthermore, what does this freeze really signify?  I think it’s meant to drive us back to negotiations without reaching an agreement on ending the conflict.”

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters today that his announcement proves that
Israel is trying to reach peace with the Palestinians.

According to international law all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are illegal.  Ghassan Bannoura, FSRN, Bethlehem.

Court orders New Haven firefighters promoted in reverse discrimination case
In what looks like the final outcome of a groundbreaking U.S.  Supreme Court decision on civil rights, a U.S.  district court judge in New Haven, Connecticut, ordered the city to promote 14 firefighters who had charged reverse discrimination.  These firefighters scored highest on a civil service test, but were not originally promoted because minority firefighters disproportionately scored poorly.  Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven.

In June the U.S.  Supreme Court ruled in favor of the so-called New Haven 20 – 19 white firefighters and one Latino – who had sued without knowing their own standing on the test.  The High Court – by a 5-4 decision – overturned the original District Court ruling.

Now, 14 of the 20 who sued will be promoted.  Frank Ricci, the lead plaintiff, is among 8 who will become lieutenants.  The one Latino, Ben Vargas, will be promoted to captain.  The other six did not score high enough to advance.  These are the first promotions in more than six years.

On Nov.  16, seven black New Haven firefighters filed a lawsuit seeking intervenor status in the Ricci case, but Tuesday’s District Court order will likely put an end to the saga.  Melinda Tuhus, FSRN, New Haven.

Activists plan National Day of Mourning observance
And finally, Native American and other activists across the US plan to observe the 39th annual Day of Mourning tomorrow in lieu of Thanksgiving.  Perhaps the largest gathering will be in Plymouth, Massachusetts where some of the first European settlers arrived in the Americas.  Organizer use the day to call attention to the historic and present exploitation of native populations in North America.



US refuses to sign international ban on land mines
Following a review of its policy on land mine use, the US State Department says it will not join an international treaty banning the use of mines.  The US will send delegates this Sunday to a conference of nations who have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, but officials say they have no intention of reversing their landmine policy and joining the treaty. Landmines killed more than 5,200 people worldwide last year and can continue to threaten civilians long after a conflict is over. Humanitarian groups say they want to see a more thorough policy review.  FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports.


Honduras prepares for presidential election under military crackdown
This weekend, Honduras will hold its presidential election. The vote is scheduled for November 29th. It’s a pivotal moment in the five-month old political crisis that has divided the country, one of the poorest in Latin America. In June, a military coup forced President Manuel Zelaya from the country by gunpoint when soldiers broke into his home at dawn. Roberto Micheletti, the head of Congress, then took over. Zelaya clandestinely returned to Honduras in September and has since remained in the Brazilian Embassy. Micheletti says that if Zelaya steps a foot outside the embassy grounds he will be arrested for treason.

A compromise between the two leaders fell apart in October and a resolution is far from certain.

Here to discuss the election this weekend and what it means for the crisis is Suyapa Portillo, a research fellow at Pomona College. Portillo is from Honduras and has been closely watching the events there.


Blockade in Gaza adds strain as families prep for Eid Al-Adha
As families across the US prepare for the holiday of Thanksgiving, many Islamic nations around the world are also getting ready for the “Festival of Sacrifice” or Eid Al-Adha. As part of this religious holiday, celebrated around the world, families sacrifice their best cow or sheep. But in the occupied territory of the Gaza Strip, thousands cannot celebrate the holiday due to the Israeli blockade. From Gaza, FSRN’s Rami Almeghari reports.


As women increase in US military, key services lag behind
More women serve today in the US military than ever before. Despite the increasing presence of women in the armed forces, there remain many inequalities. Some women are finding it difficult to deploy when they have children to take care of. And when female soldiers return from a tour of duty, they don’t always receive the mental and physical health services they need. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.


Questions continue over government’s handling of suspected shooter at Ft. Hood
Funeral services took place today at Arlington National Cemetery for a soldier who was killed during the mass shooting at Fort Hood earlier this month. Maj. Libardo Caraveo had recently earned a degree in psychology and was set to deploy for Afghanistan. Meanwhile, questions continue about why and how the shooting took place. So far, in addition to the criminal case, President Obama, Congress and the Pentagon have opened investigations into alleged shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. As new evidence comes to light, questionable policies and decisions the Army and FBI made point to the possibility that they may have let Hasan slip through the cracks. FSRN’S Karen Miller has more.

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