July 15, 2010

  • Argentina legalizes gay marriage – a first for Latin America
  • Displaced Haitians face intimidation and attacks in makeshift camps
    (click here for web-only extended version)
  • Lawmakers question controversial use of chemical dispersants in Gulf Coast spill
  • Senate passes comprehensive financial reform bill
  • New Orleans recovery funds at risk under war supplemental bill

Download Audio



Libyan aid ship bound for Gaza forced to dock in Egypt
Less than two months after a Turkish aid flotilla bound for Gaza was met with violence by the Israeli military, another aid ship has been diverted. Today, a Libyan ship bound for the Gaza Strip unloaded its cargo at an Egyptian seaport after Israel barred it from docking off Gaza. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has the story.

The Libyan vessel set sail for Gaza on Tuesday, carrying 15 tons of aid and 16 Libyan activists.  As the ship approached Gaza, the Israeli navy intercepted, forcing it to sail towards Egyptian territorial water instead.

Algadafi Charity International says that before the ship was towed to Egypt, Israel agreed to allow the charity to fund reconstruction projects in Gaza worth $500 million dollars.  The cargo from the aid ship will be sent to Gaza through a land crossing.

Also today, Jordanian Trade Unionists say Egypt blocked them from passing the Rafah crossing terminal into Gaza.  The 150-member aid convoy was traveling in 25 vehicles.  The group has condemned the action and vowed to continue attempts to break a three-year-long Israeli blockade.   Rami Almeghari. FSRN. Gaza.

Report: Illegal logging declining world wide
Illegal logging worldwide has decreased by nearly a quarter in past decade, according to a new report issued by the British think tank Chatham House.  It estimates that the reduction in illegal logging has prevented 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

The researchers find that some of the most notorious offenders have made significant progress.  Cameroon, Indonesia and Brazil have managed to reduce illegal logging by more than 50%.  Report author Sam Lawson says Indonesia in particular has been successful at controlling the industry.

“Partly it’s the reduction of corruption generally in Indonesia, increasing in democracy and transparency.  NGOs have been critical in bring pressure on the government, and the private sector in both Indonesia and elsewhere has taken its role as well.”

Lawson says that illegal logging is still a problem globally, and that producer countries should take further steps to improve regulations of their logging industries.

“The most important step that consumer countries can take is to prohibit the import and sale of illegally sourced wood products.”

The US became the first nation to do this in 2008 and the EU is moving towards that goal as well.


Feds to oversee 4 NY juvenile justice centers
Four juvenile detention centers in upstate New York will come under federal oversight under a deal announced by Governor David Paterson.  For FSRN, Rebecca Myles has more.

The federal oversight comes after the 2006 death of a 15-year-old who was pinned down by employees at an upstate Juvenile detention center. A federal investigation led to a report criticizing the four centers for rampant physical abuse, mental heath counseling that was scant or nonexistent, and failure to investigate allegations of excessive force.

The agreement with the Justice Department calls for retraining staff and hiring an additional 169 employees. A full-time psychiatrist will be assigned to each of the four prisons, along with an overall addition of five licensed psychologists and more than a dozen social workers and nurse practitioners. The agreement also bars guards from physically restraining youths except when a person’s safety is threatened or they are trying to escape.

Officials hope the agreement will become a model for the state’s other 26 detention centers. The legislature has budgeted $18.2 million dollars for the upgrades. The overall agreement still has to be approved by a federal judge.  Rebecca Myles, FSRN, New York.

Obama to reduce nuclear arsenal, but increase nuclear spending
The Obama Administration plans to cut the US nuclear arsenal by nearly 40% over the next decade, but still plans to increase spending on the country’s nuclear program.  This according to a government document published by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Federation of American Scientists.  The groups are questioning the Administration’s plan to spend $175 billion over the next 20 years on new facilities and weapons upgrades.  They say under the plan, there won’t be enough weapons to justify such a high price tag.


NC African American leaders banned from Wake County School Board meetings
The head of North Carolina’s NAACP has been given a written warning by the state’s largest school district: come on school property again and face legal charges. FSRN’s Lynda-Marie Taurasi has the details from Chapel Hill.

The president of North Carolina’s NAACP has been banned from Wake County schools. The decision came after Reverend William Barber, along Duke University Historian Tim Tyson and two others disrupted last month’s school board meeting in what they referred to as a peaceful protest.

Earlier this year, the district, which covers public schools in the state capital Raleigh, made national headlines when it decided to end its busing policy.   The NAACP claimed the board was attempting to re-segregate the district’s schools.  Three of the protesters were charged with 2nd degree trespassing after taking over the podium and then preventing the board from resuming their meeting.  They intend to plead not guilty in court.

The school board issued a written warning saying the protesters would face legal action if they came on district property without permission. The chapter president said he planned to attend next week’s school board meeting after a related march in the state’s capital. Lynda-Marie Taurasi, FSRN, Chapel Hill.



Argentina legalizes gay marriage – a first for Latin America
Judges for DC’s Court of Appeals upheld the capitol’s same sex marriage law in a narrow 5-4 vote today. The decision follows an attempt at a ballot challenge to the law, which the city council approved in December. Opponents of same sex marriage wanted to put an initiative before voters that would repeal the law, but the DC board of elections rejected the effort. Today’s decision says that the board was within DC law when rejecting the referendum, thus upholding the same sex marriage law.

Meanwhile, Argentina approved a gay marriage law early this morning, making the country the first in Latin America where same-sex couples can wed. Same sex couples will now be granted the same rights, responsibilities and protections that other married couples have. From Buenos Aires, Maria Trigona reports.


Displaced Haitians face intimidation and attacks in makeshift camps
According to the International Office of Migration, 1.5 million Haitians remain homeless six months after January’s earthquake – other relief groups put that number even higher. In Port Au Prince and surrounding areas, many live in tent cities that lack basic services, such as reliable food, water and sanitation. But there are added challenges. A new report released this week by the group International Action Ties documents a lack of security and forced eviction in sites around Port Au Prince. At some camps, residents are facing intimidation and raids by armed men.

We’re joined by Deepa Panchang, one of the field mobilizers with International Action Ties, a grassroots community development organization. She joins us from Port Au Prince.

Read the report from International Action Ties here:


Lawmakers question controversial use of chemical dispersants in Gulf Coast spill
At a hearing in Washington today, Senators grilled EPA officials and federal scientists on the use of chemical dispersants in the Gulf oil spill. Officials say they still don’t know the long-term effects of these chemicals, or whether they are contaminating sea food. BP continues to use the dispersants despite EPA orders to reduce their use. FSRN’s Jacob Fenston reports.


Senate passes comprehensive financial reform bill
Congress completed the last step of the long process of financial reform legislation. The Senate passed the bill with a vote of 60 to 39.   This is the second major priority Democrats and President Obama have successfully maneuvered through Congress.  FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.


New Orleans recovery funds at risk under war supplemental bill
As FSRN recently reported, the war supplemental bill to fund the US military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan included some $22 billion dollars in additional funding for domestic programs in order to sway war-weary democrats into voting for the bill. But the bill also strips nearly $12 billion dollars from some programs and agencies, such as highways, education, health and human services and defense spending. House lawmakers approved the bill before the July 4th recess – and now it returns to the senate. FSRN’s Zoe Sullivan reports on how it would affect Louisiana residents still struggling to rebuild after Katrina.