June 21, 2010

  • Supreme Court rules on Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project
  • Kimberley Process meeting to weigh allegations against Zimbabwe
  • Former Defense Minister wins Colombian election
  • Picket action targets Israeli cargo ship in Port of Oakland
  • Sand berms explored as method to contain BP oil disaster

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Kyrgyz troops storm village killing 2 – displaced Uzbeks await relief
Kyrgyz troops stormed an Uzbek town today – witnesses say soldiers beat villagers, killing two people and injuring dozens. Kyrgyz officials acknowledged the operation but did not comment on the claims of violence. During the past week, as many as 2000 people died as a result of ethnic violence in the region and nearly half of the 800,000 strong Uzbek population has fled. Many are afraid to return to their homes – afraid of the very Kyrgyz troops who are trying to convince them it’s safe. Ethnic Uzbeks say that last week’s violence was supported by Kyrgyz forces. Most of those displaced remain along the border where they are still in need of food and potable water – relief supplies finally began to reach them yesterday.


Radical Islamic militia to join force with Somali troops
A radical Islamic militia in Somalia issued an order today that all men in the country’s capitol, Mogadishu, must grow their beards — warning that those that don’t will be punished. The same group – Hizbul Islam – is on the verge of joining forces with the Somali government. Abdulkarim Jimale reports.

Somali Deputy Prime Minister Adurrahman Haji Aden announced Sunday that the government is negotiating with Hizbul Islam extremist.  Aden said that the group will join the government army soon before the country’s Independence Day on the first of July. He added that the militia has no ties to Al-Qaeda. The militants are led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who has been on the US list of people linked to terrorism since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Hizbul Islam is the second most powerful rebel militia in Somalia. They will join Ahlu Sunna, a moderate Islamist movement that signed a similar agreement earlier this year, to join forces with the government to fight against Al-Shabab extremists. Somalia has been with out a functioning government for the last two decades. Nearly 21,000 Somalis have been killed in the past three years, after clashes between radical Islamists and the government troops broke out on January 2007. Abdulkarim Jimale, FSRN.

Company formerly known as Blackwater wins US contract in Afghanistan
The US in Kabul announced on Friday that it has decided who will protect US consulates in two Afghan cities – the contract went to a offshoot of Xe Services – formerly known as Black water Enterprises. The deal is worth 120 million dollars for one year – and can be extended for a total length of a year and a half.


46 miners die in Chinese mine blast
At least 46 miners died in China today – they were killed by carbon dioxide fumed after an explosion on the shaft. China has the world’s most dangerous mining record – more than 2,600 workers were killed in mines last year.


Investigators return to Massey mine in W. Virginia
In West Virginia today, inspectors returned to the Upper Big Branch mine. They’ll make sure it’s safe before investigators go back in to try to figure out what caused an explosion there in early April that killed 20 miners. Last week they discovered two small coal fires in the mine.


Free and reduced fare cards for students safe in NYC
Low income and minority students in New York gathered yesterday to celebrate a victory in their struggle to save their free or reduced Metro fare cards after more than a thousand students staged a school walk out over the issue last week. Jaisal Noor has more.

The Metro Transportation Authority has dropped its plan to scrap subsidized metro cards for over 500,000 youth from low income families in New York City. In a bill passed Friday, the state agreed to contribute a portion of the costs as did the city — but the program will still cost the MTA some $144 million dollars. This cost could sink the agency further into debt. As a result, the MTA may still have to raise fares more than 7.5 percent in the next year if ridership does not increase. Student groups representing low income, immigrant and minority communities worked together to defeat the proposal. They organized an intense lobbying campaign, held press conferences and spoke out at rallies. Vallerie Beinhart is a member of the Urban Youth Collaborative.

“We hope to figure out a long term plan because it can’t be a fight every year single year It’s just like putting a temporary bandage on an open wound.”

Organizers say they will continue their campaign until the one year extension is made permanent.  Jaisal Noor, FSRN, New York.

Protest continue in Egypt against police brutality – demonstrators beaten
Protests continued in Egypt over the weekend. Demonstrators were beaten and dozens of them arrested while calling for an end to police brutality. The demonstrations began 10 days ago, after a young man – Khalid Saeed – refused to be searched and was hauled off by police in Alexandria. Shortly thereafter he was found brutally beaten and dead. Protestors are calling for an end to police brutality they say is all too common – officials deny that Egyptian police routinely overstep their bounds. An investigation into Saeed’s death is ongoing.


Manute Bol:  1962-2010
NBA giant Manute Bol died over the weekend. Bol spent 10 years playing on various teams — never forgetting his native Sudan. Bol founded the group Sudan Sunrise and worked to end oppression in his homeland.  He supported opposition political movements and worked for peace in the impoverished African nation. Manute Bol was just 47 years old.



Supreme Court rules on Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project
The Supreme Court has expanded its interpretation of a law meant to deter terrorist organizations from receiving outside assistance. The decision in the case, Holder versus Humanitarian Law project, ended more than a decade of legal action and limits free speech. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

The Supreme Court issued two other significant rulings today that sided with big business. In Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, the High Court ruled 7-1 in favor of the biotech giant. Justices said that a lower court could not block the company from selling genetically modified Alfalfa while the federal government conducted an environmental impact study of the GM crop.

In Rent a Center versus Jackson, the court ruled that arbitration is a sufficient way to settle workplace discrimination suits. Antonio Jackson filed a racial discrimination claim to later find out his hiring contract waived his right to take employment claims before a court. Arbitration companies are often third parties employed by the business that is a party to the claim.


Kimberley Process meeting to weigh allegations against Zimbabwe
A meeting of the body that monitors the diamond industry opened today in Tel Aviv. The Kimberley Process is facing calls to prevent Zimbabwe from trading in diamonds due to allegations of human rights abuses. A Zimbabwean whistleblower was arrested ahead of the talks and today a judge denied his request for bail. Farai Maguwu faces charges of stealing official documents and passing false information on to the diamond regulatory body.

Shannon Young spoke with Bernard Taylor, Executive Director of Partnership Africa Canada. The organization authored of a recent report entitled “Diamonds and Clubs; The Militarized Control of Diamonds and Power in Zimbabwe”. The report is available here: http://pacweb.org/Documents/diamonds_KP/Zimbabwe-Diamonds_and_clubs-eng-…


Former Defense Minister wins Colombian election
Colombia elected a new president on Sunday. The South American country will soon be headed by former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos. He has promised to strengthen military and commercial ties with the US and to put more military pressure on the FARC guerrillas and drug trafficking groups.  Manuel Rueda has more from Bogota.


Picket action targets Israeli cargo ship in Port of Oakland
Israel has announced it will begin to ease its blockade of Gaza this week by allowing thousands of previously restricted goods into the coastal territory. Israel has been under unprecedented international pressure to lift its 3 year old blockade in the wake of a deadly attack on a humanitarian aid flotilla headed to Gaza’s shores. The announcement has received praise from former British Prime Minister and current Middle East peace negotiator Tony Blair, but others in the international community have adopted a “wait and see” stance. The United Nations agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees has called for a total end to the blockade.

Meanwhile in California, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the Port of Oakland Sunday in an effort to stop dockworkers from unloading an Israeli cargo ship. Judith Scherr has the story.


Sand berms explored as method to contain BP oil disaster
An internal BP document reveals that the company’s former oil well could be spewing as many as 100 thousand barrels of oil daily into the Gulf of Mexico. That’s more than 4 million gallons of oil per day and 20 times more oil than what BP had publicly acknowledged. Congress member Ed Markey released the information to the public, but a BP spokesperson said the document was based on a hypothetical worst case scenario. Either way, the spill has turned into the worst environmental disaster of its type in US history and a clear end is still not in sight.

People in the affected areas continue to seek ways to keep the oil out of the coastal wetlands. Some experts say booms have proven ineffective at holding back the oil because they haven’t been laid properly and the oil hasn’t been skimmed off at frequent intervals. Bumper stickers around New Orleans support a sand berm strategy promoted by Billy Nungesser, the President of Plaquemines Parish, but not all agree it’s the best way to capture the oil. As this plan moves forward, FSRN heard from people on the front lines. Zoe Sullivan has more.