Newscast for Thursday, January 27, 2011


  • Demonstrations on the streets of Yemen as protests continue in Egypt
  • Supporters of detained US soldier Bradley Manning claim his treatment in prison amounts to torture
  • A US government Commission says the economic crisis was avoidable
  • Report shows 2010 was the deadliest year in two decades for natural disasters

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Botswana Bushmen win water rights
A victory today for Bushmen in Botswana: an appeals court in the southern African country ruled the group, which is though to be the oldest inhabitants of the region, does have the right to drill for water in the Kalahari Desert.  Last summer, the Botswana government denied the Bushmen access to their water well in the Kalahari Game Reserve.  The Bushmen have been fighting the Botswana government for nearly a decade to retain rights to their ancestral home.

Ugandan gay rights activist murdered in his home
A Ugandan gay rights activist is dead today, beaten to death.  David Kato received international attention last year, after suing a local newspaper that outed a group of allegedly gay Ugandans.  The paper printed the photos and addresses of several people, next to the headline “hang them.”  Homosexuality is severely penalized in Uganda, and anti-gay sentiment runs high. Kato was an outspoken campaigner against a proposed law that would have punished homosexual acts with the death penalty. He spoke to the Dutch group Start To Wish last year.

“Will Uganda be able to under the faith-based hate behind the bill?  It’s the faith-hate base, which is causing… a genocide might come.  We’re going to die.”

The gay-rights advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda condemned the killing, saying Kato had been receiving death threats since his photo had been published.  Some gay rights advocates blame US-based Evangelicals for sowing seeds of hate within the country.


New UK anti-terror laws limit civil liberties
Civil liberties advocates in Great Britain are speaking out against a new round of anti-terrorism measures announced by the government.  From London, FSRN’s George Lavender reports:

This week the Home Secretary announced new anti-terrorism powers.  The Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, or T-PIM, will replace the controversial Control Orders, under which terror suspects could be held under house arrest without charge.

Under T-PIM, the Home Secretary can limit a suspect’s freedom on the advice of the Secret Service.  That order can be challenged in the courts – but the secret evidence behind it cannot be seen by the suspect.  Anyone subject to the new controls will be confined to their house at night, possibly for up to 10 hours, and have to wear an electronic tag.

Asim Qureshi is Executive Director of Cage Prisoners, a human rights organization that campaigns to provide due process for those detained or killed as part of the global War on Terror.

“Is this really for our benefit or just to perpetuate a climate of fear that will keep people thinking there are many dangerous terrorists out there?  They made the country a more dangerous place by removing any concept of human rights and due process.”

Critics say that the new measures are just a “re-branding” of the old system. George Lavender, FSRN, London.


Haiti’s ruling party pulls support for controversial Presidential candidate
Haiti’s ruling party has withdrawn support for its leading Presidential candidate Jude Celestin.  Celestin has been at the middle of a storm of criticism surrounding last November’s failed elections.  He finished second, but wide popular sentiment, amid allegations of voting irregularities, was that he should have finished lower in the polls and not advanced to the run-off.  Today’s withdrawal of support could ease political tension in Haiti.  But Celestin has not indicated he will drop out of the race.


Texas Senate passes voter ID law
The Texas state Senate has passed a law requiring voters to show a photo ID in order to vote.  It passed along partisan lines…

“Members there being 19 ayes and 11 nays, Senate Bill 14 is finally passed.”

…with all Republican supporting the bill.  Democrats say the measure targets left-leaning voters and may not pass the scrutiny of the Voting Rights Act.  It now goes to the state House, where a Republican majority is expected to support it.


Demonstrations on the streets of Yemen as protests continue in Egypt
Thousands of anti-government protesters filled the streets of Yemen’s capital Sana’a today, many wearing pink scarves and hats, a symbolic color for this popular uprising. Demonstrators are calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, after more than 30 years in power. One opposition activist told al-Jazeera that he’s hopeful the government will enact meaningful policy changes.

“These people are protesting for economic and political reform which we’ve agreed on with the government, there is still an opportunity but we are afraid that we we’ll reach the point of no return.”

Several people were injured, but media reports describe the Yemen rallies as peaceful. Demonstrations took place in several parts of the capital, with youth and opposition activists calling for lower prices, more jobs and less corruption – some of the same issues that have led tens of thousands to the streets in Tunisia and Egypt.

In Cairo, protests continued throughout the night and some describe violent encounters with police. At least four protesters have been killed, as well as one police officer. Ahram Online reporter Lina el-Wardani, who herself was beaten and detained, said police attacked a group of about 300 mostly young people last night in the capital. A poet and a filmmaker were also beaten, and the AP says police broke the cheekbone of one of their photographers. Amateur video shows crowds of people running from security forces, and some youth throwing rocks at a line of riot police. Another video depicts a group of men in dark clothing dragging a protester along the ground; one of them kicks the protester and another pulls him underneath an overhang, out of the camera’s sights. Some protesters started fires and hundreds have been detained. For more on the protests, FSRN’s Lillian Boctor spoke to Cairo-based journalist and blogger, Hossam el-Hamalawy. He predicted protests will continue until President Mubarak leaves the country.


Supporters of detained US soldier Bradley Manning claim his treatment in prison amounts to torture
Supporters of Bradley Manning continue to raise concerns about his detention. He’s been held at a military prison in Quantico, Virginia since July, when he was charged with illegally accessing and transferring classified information. But a trial date has not been set, and his attorney alleges he’s being mistreated. For more we go to Jeff Paterson from the Bradley Manning Support Network. He’s a former US Marine and Gulf War resister who was court martialed and jailed for three months.


A US government Commission says the economic crisis was avoidable
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has concluded that the US economic crisis was avoidable and that the government was not ready to deal with a financial catastrophe of its kind.

Today the commission released its final report. Over the past year and a half, the ten-member commission interviewed more than 700 witnesses and held 19 days of public hearings. Commissioner John Thompson said regulatory failure was a major cause of the 2008 crisis:

“Unquestionably in our minds there were actions that could have been taken by regulators that would have forestalled or mitigated the impacts of this crisis. The Federal Reserve was clearly the steward of lending standards in this country – the chose not to act…So it’s less about a particular individual than a systemic sense of deregulation and inaction by those who were in power to take action.”

Collateralized debt obligations – or CDOs – that were driving the housing market bubble, were also identified as a key problem. Commissioner Byron Georgiou:

“They took the triple B rated tranches for the most part, of other mortgage securities, which were the ones most likely to fail above equity and by slicing and dicing them and putting them into another instrument called the Collateralized Debt Obligation they were then rated as super senior and received triple A ratings from the agencies. This is a conundrum that we’ve labeled as alchemy…In fact what those CDOs did was create layers of correlated risk when the notion was somehow by putting them together they were diversifying risk and making them stronger.”

The Commission said that in spite of some regulatory reforms, the financial system today is not much different to what it was just prior to the crisis. They hope that their report will be used as a guidepost for future regulation. But political will to enact the recommendations may be short in supply. All four Republican-appointed members on the Financial Commission declined to support the final report.


Report shows 2010 was the deadliest year in two decades for natural disasters
Natural disasters continue to wreak havoc around the world. The Australian state of Victoria is waiting for a giant lake of floodwater, more than 50 miles long, according to some news reports, to hit towns in the south east. Since December, more than thirty people have been killed in the country’s worst flooding in a century. In Pakistan, The UN says more than 160,000 flood survivors remain in temporary camps six months after flooding left more than 3 million people homeless. Sri Lanka and Brazil have also experienced massive/devastating floods. These and other natural disasters have caused a record number of deaths over the last year.

According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, more than 350 natural disasters killed almost 300,000 people in 2010. It’s the worst since the center started keeping records in 1988. Jocelyne Sambira from UN Radio has more.

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