January 22, 2010

  • Aid slow to reach Haiti as shelter becomes priority for survivors of quake
  • Radio stations in Port Au Prince operate despite damaged communication system
  • Activists push to abolish ‘corporate personhood’ in wake of Supreme Court decision
  • Lawyers suing to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage wrap up arguments in federal trial
  • New evidence of abuse at Guantanamo as Obama’s deadline for closing facility passes
  • US claims that former Guantanamo detainees turn to terrorism based on questionable data

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Air America to go silent Monday
Progressives say goodbye today to what had become a fixture of lefty political talk:

“Air America Radio, real facts in a filtered world”

The radio network announced today that it will soon file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  It says it will shut down their network feed on Monday night.  In a statement on its website, Network leadership says Air America got caught up in a “perfect storm” of a poor economy, falling ad revenues, competition from new media, and cash flow problems.  Air America, which began broadcasting in 2004, eventually found audiences on 100 stations nation-wide.


Conflicting eyewitness accounts in trial of Aria Siddiqui
The trial of Afia Siddiqui continues today.  Siddiqui is the Pakistani scientist accused of shooting at her US military and CIA captors in Afghanistan in 2008.  Several government witnesses have testified in the Manhattan Federal Court trial, but have presented differing versions of what happened.  FSRN’s Salim Rizvi reports from New York.

Six government witnesses have testified in the trial so far, including the FBI lead investigator and an Afghan interpreter who was one of the eyewitnesses.  But the accounts of the shooting have differed in information as basic as Siddiqui’s location during the incident and whether she was standing or kneeling when she allegedly fired the M4 rifle.

Tina Foster is the family spokesperson of Afia Siddiqui.

“There were dozens of people in the room when this incident supposedly happened and nobody saw her do the shooting other than one individual, who is the Afghan translator.  I think it’s clear that as a result of his version of events that he obtained the fastest green card in American history and clearly he accepts the fact that it was a Thank You.”

The trial has been marked by threats of boycott by Siddiqui and several angry outbursts in the courtroom.  She has denied all the charges.  Salim Rizvi FSRN, New York City.

Sri Lanka election lead-up marred by violence
In Sri Lanka, a bomb attack caused major damage, raising fears that escalating violence could mar the Presidential election next Tuesday.  This is the first national election since the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels and decades of war.  FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam reports from Sri Lanka.

In this latest incident, a bomb damaged an opposition candidate supporter’s car and house.  The attack came just days after UN head Ban-Ki Moon appealed for calm ahead of next week’s presidential poll.  The incumbent president Mahinda Rajapakse is facing former army commander Sarath Fonseka for the country’s top elected position.

Keerthi Tennakoon is the director of Campaign for Free and Fair Elections known as CaFFE.

“CaFFE as so far received four complaints – incidents of election-related deaths, assassinations of course, and 80 people are wounded and those figures itself says the gravity of the situation.”

The forerunners Rajapakse and Fonseka are at the height of popularity because of their role in defeating the Tamil Tigers last May.  The Tamils don’t have a candidate in the Presidential race.  Ponniah Manikavasagam, FSRN, Sri Lanka.

Palestinians tell Mitchell Israeli settlement freeze necessary
Today, Washington’s peace envoy George Mitchell failed to lure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table.  FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stuck to his demand that Israel should freeze all settlement activities in the West Bank and the east Jerusalem, land he wants to be part of a Palestinian state.  Top negotiator Saeb Eriqat says Palestinians want the peace talks to resume from the point they stopped in December 2008, when a complete settlement halt was still on the table.

For the past two months, Israel has been slowing down settlement activities.  Israeli media reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has placed one more condition on restarting peace talks: if Palestinians achieve statehood, Israel would be able to keep some territory within the state for security reason.  Mitchell met with Israeli leadership yesterday.  Rami Almeghari, Free Speech Radio News, Gaza.

Roe v.  Wade anniversary; trial of abortion provider’s alleged murderer begins
And finally, today is the 37th anniversary of Roe v.  Wade.  Both pro-life and pro-choice groups are planning marches in several cities this weekend.  Today also marks the opening of the trial of Scott Roeder, the man accused of killing Dr.  George Tiller, an abortion provider in Kansas.  In a controversial decision last week, the district judge allowed Roeder to try for an involuntarily manslaughter conviction instead of first-degree murder.  If convicted of the lesser charge, Roeder would only server 4-6 years in jail.




Aid slow to reach Haiti as shelter becomes priority for survivors of quake – 1:20 minutes (1.22 MB)
A 4.4 magnitude earthquake shook Port-au-Prince this morning as rescue workers start to wind down their efforts to search for trapped survivors. Meanwhile, aid continues to trickle in to the makeshift tent cities housing hundreds of thousands of survivors. An estimated 200,000 Port-au-Prince residents have fled to other parts of Haiti, according to the US Agency for International Development.

FSRN spoke to Oxfam International’s incoming country director for Haiti, Claude St-Pierre, yesterday evening in Port Au Prince. He said he had just visited several hospitals where Oxfam delivered bottled water and supplies. The organization is working at seven sites across the capital.

St-Pierre said shelter is a primary concern for the country’s more than 1.5 million left homeless by the quake.

“So our approach to shelter so far in these immediate circumstances is to try to provide people with something to cover them. We had rain a few nights ago, we were very concerned that people did not have, for example, plastic sheeting, like simple means, a bit of a roof overhead. That goes as much for these people in these who have lost completely their houses as well as with the people who have not lost completely their houses but are feeling insecure with their houses and stay in the yard or, in some cases, in the streets in front of their houses.”

Activists push to abolish ‘corporate personhood’ in wake of Supreme Court decision – 4:11 minutes (3.83 MB)
Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on corporations’ rights to finance elections has already inspired a protest movement. Activists launched the Campaign to Legalize Democracy just hours after the decision came down. Their goal is nothing less than the abolition of corporate personhood – the idea that corporations have the same constitutional protections as human beings. Tanya Snyder has the story.

Radio stations in Port Au Prince operate despite damaged communication system – 4:33 minutes (4.16 MB)
Meanwhile, the communications infrastructure of Port au Prince remains unreliable. Telephone service is spotty and Internet access is extremely limited. This has made coordinating a response to the disaster especially challenging for relief organizations. But for the city’s residents, it’s also been hard to get information or connect with loved ones. Many are tuning into the radio for information. Ansel Herz reports from Port-au-Prince.

Lawyers suing to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage wrap up arguments in federal trial – 3:57 minutes (3.62 MB)
Plaintiffs suing to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage close their case today, ending two weeks of testimony that included academic experts, lesbian and gay witnesses speaking about the effects of anti-gay discrimination, .and even a proponent of the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage. Judge Vaughn Walker is hearing the “Perry vs. Schwarzenegger” trial in a federal district court in San Francisco. Christopher Martinez files this report.

New evidence of abuse at Guantanamo as Obama’s deadline for closing facility passes – 6:03 minutes (5.53 MB)
Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Obama signed executive orders laying out a timetable to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within the year. The deadline was set for today, but the facility remains open. The Obama Administration has also announced that around 50 of the nearly 200 remaining detainees may be held indefinitely without trial.

Documented use of torture and religious abuse have taken place at the facility in the course of its 8 years of operation. This week, Harpers Magazine reports that the deaths of 3 detainees in 2006, may have occurred due to torture and interrogation. The US government had previously called the deaths suicides.

We’re joined by journalist Andy Worthington, author of the book, The Guantanamo Files, and a co-director of the film, Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo.

Link to “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle” by Scott Horton: http://harpers.org/archive/2010/01/hbc-90006368

Link to Andy Worthington: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/