December 1, 2009

  • Protestors voice outrage ahead of Obama’s speech on Afghanistan
  • On World AIDS day, a shift in policy from South Africa
  • Changes to Washington D.C. needle exchange program could leave out many
  • Unemployed to lose assistance for health care
  • Independent media, 10 years after the WTO protests

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Philippine mayor charged with 25 counts of murder in political massacre
Philippine authorities formally charged local mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. today with 25 counts of murder in last week’s politically motivated massacre that killed 57 people. The powerful heir-apparent of a clan closely allied with the Philippine President has denied the charges. Ampatuan’s family has singularly ruled the province for years. The attack on a convoy of political opponents and journalists took place in Maguindanao Province on the island of Mindanau. The victims were hacked with machetes and buried in mass graves. LAST WEEK, Philippine President Gloria Macabacal Arroyo ordered a state of emergency – today members of the Ampatuan clan appealed to the Supreme Court to order that any arrests be carried out with due process. More charges are expected as autopsy results are released.


Argentine court blocks Latin America’s first gay marriage
An Argentine court has blocked Latin America’s first gay marriage – the grooms were set to take their vows today.  FSRN’s Marie Trigona reports from Buenos Aires.

Hundreds waited inside a Buenos Aires civil registry for Argentina’s first gay couple.  Alex Freyre and José Maria di Bellowho were originally denied a marriage license — but in the last few weeks an appeals court ordered that they be allowed to marry. Then, just a day before the two men were to wed, a federal judge issued an injunction to stop the marriage. Despite the decision, the grooms tried to go ahead with the ceremony. Alex Freyre one of the grooms said in a press conference:

“Today on December 1, 2009, on world aids day, Alex and José Maria, we have made the decision to get married. This decision is much more representative of just two people who love each other and want to share their lives together. This is also a decision of the coalition of gay, lesbian and trans community who want all our rights.”

The recent ruling ordering the city to allow the men to marry was issued by a trial level judge — today’s injunction said that only an appellate level judge can make such a ruling — and threw out the order. Alex Freyre and José Maria di Bellowho may take their case to the high court.  The nation’s Supreme Court says it will decide on the issue of gay marriage — where one justice said today they are already considering another case on the matter. Rights groups call on Buenos Aires city representatives to uphold the reversal of the ban on same-sex marriage.   Marie Trigona, FSRN, Buenos Aires.


DC City Council takes giant step forward in approving gay marriage
The Washington DC City Council today easily passed the first of two votes allowing gay marriage in the US capital. The measure is expected to sail through a second vote before the end of the year and the District’s Mayor has pledged to sign the bill. After a period of Congressional review, it will likely become law.


Sri Lanka opens camps confining Tamil civilians
The Sri Lankan government says they have lifted all restrictions on some 127,000 Tamil civilians who remained confined to refugee camps since the end of the nation’s 25 year war with the Tamil Tigers. Sri Lankan High Commissioner Nihal Jayasinghe:

“As from first of December – there are no restrictions at all – they can move wherever they want to at their free will.”

No restrictions, that is, as long as they register before they leave. Hundreds of thousands of Tamil Sri Lankans were trapped in the war zone and used as human shields in the waning days of the war. When the government defeated the LTTE rebels – they confined those trapped in camps saying they needed to weed out any rebels in the group. But human rights organizations, many governments and the UN criticized the camps, citing deteriorating conditions and calling them internment camps. Sri Lankans will go to the polls in national elections in January – the war against the Tamil Tigers and treatment of the Tamil civilians are major campaign issues.


Senate casts first vote on healthcare reform amendment
The Senate is set to cast its first vote on landmark healthcare legislation today – it’s an amendment introduced by Democrat Barbara Mikulski and Republican Olympia Snowe. It calls for increased preventive care for women. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the amendment could add another 940 million to the cost of the bill over a ten year span. Sponsors say the measure is intended to stop insurance companies from limiting mammograms and cervical cancer screenings for women based on recent recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as well as an independent panel of doctors and scientists.  And Republican Senator John McCain has introduced an amendment calling for restoration of more than $400 billion in proposed Medicare cuts. He listed some of them:

“Hospital penalties totaling 7.1 billion dollars, home healthcare cuts totaling 42.1 billion dollars, hospice…of all the things…hospice!”

The cuts to Medicare would pay for nearly half of health care reform. The Congressional Budget Office says more than 30 million uninsured Americans would get health insurance under the bill.



Protestors voice outrage ahead of Obama’s speech on Afghanistan
President Obama is expected to announce the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in a prime time address to the nation tonight from the military academy at West Point. On Capitol Hill, both Democrats and Republicans are expressing dissatisfaction. Republicans are upset by how long it has taken Obama to reach his decision and many Democrats are disappointed with the increase of troops. Meanwhile, Americans are taking to the streets to voice their outrage at the decision. FSRN’s Sharon Sabotta reports.


On World AIDS day, a shift in policy from South Africa
Today is World AIDS Day and across the globe, activists, government officials and NGOs are participating in hundreds of events to raise awareness about the disease. Some 33 million people are living with HIV worldwide. But Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region most heavily affected, accounting for sixty seven percent of all HIV cases. What’s more, 91 percent of all new infections are among children, according to UNAIDS. Another 14 million children have become orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa, after their parents died from the disease.

The rate of HIV-AIDS in South Africa is particularly startling where, according to the World Health Organization, 1 out of 5 people live with HIV. That’s more than any other country. But policies could be shifting. Earlier today, President Jacob Zuma announced a new plan that would bring life-saving treatment to HIV-positive infants under 12 months old and to pregnant women. This comes, however, as international groups released a report criticizing President Obama for a lack of funding for AIDS/HIV programs in Africa. Assessing his first year in office, the report gave the president a grade of D-plus.

We’re joined by Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of Global AIDS Alliance, a non partisan advocacy network based in Washington DC.


Changes to Washington D.C. needle exchange program could leave out many
Washington DC has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the country. And there’s a battle brewing in Washington over the city’s needle exchange programs. Many HIV-AIDS workers advocate the programs as a way to stem the spread of the disease. But proposed changes to the city’s needle exchange program could make it more difficult for those who need the services – many of whom are at risk for contracting HIV-AIDS through dirty needles. FSRN’S Karen Miller more.


Unemployed to lose assistance for health care
Unemployed people will lose subsidies to pay for health insurance today.  The government’s stimulus plan gave relief to people who lost their jobs so they could continue to buy health insurance.  But for many, those subsidies expired yesterday. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.


Independent media, 10 years after the WTO protests
This week marks the 10 year anniversary of the protests in Seattle that took place during the World Trade Organization’s meeting. The week brought together a coalition of environmentalists, labor activists and human rights groups and drew attention to the WTO’s expanding influence throughout the world. It also led to new innovations in independent media and a growth in citizen journalism. In the second of a two-part series, FSRN’s Jill Friedberg has more on the legacy of independent media centers, ten years later.

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