Newscast for Thursday, January 6, 2011

  • In DRC, 33 women raped in New Years day attack
  • Two shot dead at anti-government rally in Tanzania
  • Obama chooses brother of outgoing Chicago mayor as Chief of Staff
  • Judge: Anchorage homeless camp law unconstitutional
  • Republicans read Constitution and omit parts
  • Georgia launches investigation into prisoner abuse
  • BP commission says oil spill avoidable
  • Peak oil approaches
  • Ivory Coast civilians seek refuge in Liberia

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In DRC, 33 women raped in New Years day attack
A humanitarian group says another mass rape has occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Thirty-three women were raped as part of a coordinated attack on New Year’s Day in the eastern part of the country, according to Doctors Without Borders.  Two other people were severely injured during the attack.  Rape is a chronic problem in the DRC.  Last summer an estimated 500 people, mostly women, were raped, according to the UN – including more than 200 during a sustained militia attack that lasted several days.

Two shot dead at anti-government rally in Tanzania
An anti-corruption rally in Tanzania turned violent today after police arrested the opposition party chair and dozens of other organizers.  Anger spread through the thousands of protesters at the rally in the capital Arusha, and in the clashes that followed, according to the BBC, two people were shot dead by police.  The opposition party alleges that the October polls that saw the re-election of President Jakaya Kikwete were corrupt.

Obama chooses brother of outgoing Chicago mayor as Chief of Staff
Today President Obama announced a major staffing change at the White House. This comes after his previous Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stepped down to run for Mayor of Chicago.

“Today I’m proud to announce the appointment of an experienced public servant, a devoted patriot, my friend, fellow Chicagoan, Bill Daley to serve as Chief of Staff.”

Obama boasted of William Daley’s experience.  From serving as Commerce Secretary under Bill Clinton to private pursuits…

“He’s led major corporations. He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy. And needless to say, Bill also has a smidgen of awareness of how our system of government and politics works.”

Just yesterday, Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced he would step down in February.

Judge: Anchorage homeless camp law unconstitutional
A judge in Alaska this week threw out an Anchorage city law allowing officials to clear homeless camps.  The law says the city must give 5 days prior notice to camp residents before dismantling the camps and disposing of any personal items left behind.  The ACLU, who represented a man who had all his belongings, including military ribbons, were confiscated or thrown away by city officials, argued that other city residents have much longer times to claim seized property.  The Superior Court Judge agreed.  In the ruling, he wrote that the city ordinance is unconstitutional because it violated the man’s due process rights.

Republicans read Constitution and omit parts
On the Republicans second day in charge of the House of Representatives, they set the stage for next week‘s vote to repeal health care reform. But they could violate their own rules of cutting the federal budget. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a preliminary analysis that repeal would add 230 billion dollars to the deficit in the next 10 years.

Also on their second day, the Republicans ordered the reading of the Constitution – a symbol of limited and smaller government. While both Republicans and Democrats participated in the reading, there was debate on which version of the Constitution was to be read.  Although many Republicans say they are strict constitutionalists, and believe in a literal interpretation, the Republican leadership decided to read an amended  version, which excludes language about slaves being 3/5 of a person.

Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. of  Illinois objected to the omission. He says it ignores history.

Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia responds to Jackson’s concerns.

But this recognition didn’t settle all of the unease. Women’s rights groups gathered outside the Capitol to push for a constitutional amendment ensuring women’s equality.

Thirty-five of the necessary thirty eight states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. The other way to amend the constitution is 2/3 majority of the House and the Senate followed by ratification in 38 state legislatures.

Georgia launches investigation into prisoner abuse
In Ohio, inmates sentenced to death have staged a hunger strike. Four prisoners say poor treatment has been ongoing for 17 years and consists of 23 hour solitary confinement, inadequate clothing and lack of access to computers to challenge their sentences.

Meanwhile, prison reform advocates are alleging brutal prisoner abuse at Georgia prisons. The advocates became alarmed after family members of the inmates complained about beatings and severe treatment. The allegations come just weeks after prisoners in several state prisons staged a work strike because of poor treatment. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations has opened an inquiry into suspected abuse.

Joining us to talk about the prisoner treatment is Chara Fischer Jackson with the ACLU of Georgia. She and a coalition of advocates received entry into 2 prisons last week to conduct their own investigation.

That was Chara Fisher Jackson of the ACLU of Georgia talking about allegations of prisoner abuse.

BP commission says oil spill avoidable
The National Commission on the BP oil spill released part of an upcoming report on the causes of the disaster. Commissioners assigned most of the blame to a “failure of management” by BP, Halliburton and Transocean.  The report says the deadly explosion was avoidable, if the companies involved had put safety first. Emphasizing a “system-wide” problem, commissioners also said government regulators could have prevented the disaster had they “the capacity and will to demand world class safety standards.” The commission’s full report will be released next Tuesday.

The explosion of the Deepwater Macando well killed 11 workers and led to the largest oil spill in American waters.  It devastated a Gulf Coast economy and ecosystem already struggling to recover following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and decades of wetlands destruction caused, in part, by the oil and gas industry. The oil disaster has also made many Gulf Coast residents and oil spill clean up workers sick. Mother and activist Kindra Arnesen started speaking out about her concerns last year after she noticed an increasing number of people with rashes and respiratory problems. She recently told Project Gulf Impact that people are still getting sick.

Arnesen, who lives in Venice with her fisherman husband, said she’s also seen people with mysterious bruising.

In a recent article for Al Jazeera by Dahr Jamail, a Florida-based doctor says he is finding high levels of toxic chemicals in his patients, people who don’t live on the coast and weren’t involved in the clean-up. Many experts blame the illnesses on the millions of barrels of oil released into the Gulf, as well as millions of gallons of toxic dispersants the federal government approved to try to contain the spill. While some people are showing symptoms of exposure now, doctors are concerned that people might develop long-term effects, including cancer, hormonal damage and brain dysfunction.

Peak oil approaches
As US regulators deal with the immediate fall-out from the country’s dependency on oil, the larger issue of Peak Oil – the point where humankind’s ability to continue to produce greater quantities of oil – still looms large.  The Nation Magazine and On The Earth Productions are exploring Peak Oil with some of the country’s foremost progressive intellectuals in a new video series.  Today FSRN has excerpts from authors Bill McKibben, Noam Chomsky and Richard Heinberg.

Ivory Coast civilians seek refuge in Liberia
The political crisis in Ivory Coast is forcing thousands of civilians to leave the country. More than 20,000 people fled to neighboring Liberia, where the majority – women and children – face a lack of food and clean drinking water. UN Radio’s Gerry Adams spoke to Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba with the United Nations refugee agency in Liberia .


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