Newscast for Monday, February 21, 2011

  • Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi under mounting pressure to step down as his regime’s deadly crackdown continues
  • US government balances political priorities in the wake of Arab world protests
  • Wisconsin demonstrations against the Governor’s bid to cut collective bargaining rights enter second week
  • The US government continues controversial drone attacks in Pakistan
  • Haiti’s former President Aristide due to return
  • Republicans cut Environmental Protection Agency funding

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NATO strike kills family today; Afghan officials say NATO killed another 65 civilians last week
NATO troops killed a family yesterday mother, father, and four kids. The air strike came just after Afghan officials said NATO killed 65 civilians in an operation in Konar Province last week. The provincial governor said that according to locals trapped in the village, almost all were women and children. NATO issued a statement saying 36 people died, and that they were all armed.


Suicide attacks kill 30 today in northern Afghanistan; another such attack killed 40 over weekend
The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack today that killed at least 30 people in the northern  Kunduz Province – most of the dead were civilians. A similar attack  Saturday at a Kabul bank killed almost 40 people, many of them soldiers collecting their pay.


Iraq’s government delays tax hike, cuts Parliament pay; protests continue
The Iraqi government announced today it will delay a major tax increase on imported goods. Yesterday lawmakers increased the budget for food aid and approved moderate cuts to politicians’ pay. Also yesterday, security forces killed one youth during protests in cities across the country and masked attackers torched the first independent TV station in northern Iraq.


Saudi Arabia ‘expressed regret’ about US veto of UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements
Saudi Arabia criticized the Obama administration veto of an otherwise unanimous  UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  Friday’s veto prompted diplomatic rebuke from around the world. Thousands took to the streets in Ramallah Sunday in protest.


Zimbabwe arrests dozens of activists attending discussion of Tunisia and Egypt
Dozens of activists in Zimbabwe were arrested after gathering to discuss the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings. Police officials said today that the 46 people were plotting a revolt; their defense attorney says they were having an academic discussion of  current events. They are due in court this later week.


DR Congo military court sentences commander to 20 years for mass rape
A  mobile military court in  DR Congo sent nine soldiers, including a commanding officer, to jail for as long as 20 years today after convicting them of mass rape. The case has been closely watched as an indicator of the country’s commitment to ending impunity for those who commit sexual assault against women. Margot Wallstrom, the UN’s special representative for sexual violence in conflict says the verdict sends an important message.

“We have to end impunity and this of course will send a very strong message within the military ranks that such a high officer has been for the first time convicted of a crime of this kind.”

The charges stem from a New Years Day attack in South Kivu during which 60 women were gang raped and beaten. According to the UN, the DRC is the rape capitol of the world some 160 women are raped there each week and these crimes often go unpunished.


Ivory Coast presidential stand off continues; troops kill 6 protesters; AU delegation arrives
Troops aligned with incumbent Laurent Gbagbo shot at supporters of Alasanne Ouatarra today, killing as many as six. Three others were killed in Abidjan Saturday, and security forces opened fire on demonstrators in two other cities as well. An African Union delegation arrived in the Ivory Coast today trying once again to broker a compromise in the disputed presidential poll.



Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi under mounting pressure to step down as his regime’s deadly crackdown continues
In Libya, hundreds have been killed and injured as security forces continue a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Al Jazeera reports that the Libyan military has used live ammunition and jet fighters to attack protesters in the capitol Tripoli today killing dozens more. Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, called on Colonel Gadhafi to resign:

“Well what’s going on is a real genocide against the Libyan people, the [inaudible] Colonel Gaddafi is shooting his own people and really the international community has to take a clear position against the regime, I think they cannot wait much longer, what’s going [on] now cannot keep anyone silent.”

Also today, two members of the military landed their planes in Malta and are seeking asylum. They told Al Jazeera they were ordered to bomb protesters. In a speech last night on State television, Gadhafi’s son said the four-decade-long ruler would fight the protesters to the last man standing. Authorities attempted to shut down telecommunications, but some people have managed to publish messages, photos and video on social networking sites.
Meanwhile in Bahrain, protesters have returned to Manama’s Pearl round-about after being violently attacked there last week. At least six have been killed. Demonstrators say they won’t end their protest until the government steps down.

Protests also took place in Morocco over the weekend. Tens of thousands turned out in dozens of cities to demand democratic political reforms. Although most peacefully assembled, government officials say five people were killed inside a burning building and more than 100 were injured, mostly security forces. And another 120 were arrested, according to AFP. Demonstrations also continued in Yemen, where so far President Ali Abdullah Saleh has refused to step down. An estimated 12 people have been killed over the last five days.


US government balances political priorities in the wake of Arab world protests
The US government has been watching the situation in Bahrain and Libya closely.  As FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, officials are balancing US interests with calls for democracy.


Wisconsin demonstrations against the Governor’s bid to cut collective bargaining rights enter second week
In Wisconsin, protests are now in their second week since the Governor unveiled special budget legislation which would cut workers collective bargaining rights. Seventy thousand people marched on the State Capitol on Saturday- the largest rally Madison has seen since the Vietnam War. FSRN’s Joanne Powers and Molly Stentz have the story.


The US government continues controversial drone attacks in Pakistan
Tensions continue between US and Pakistani officials following the case of Raymond Davis, the American being  held by the Pakistani authorities after allegedly shooting two men at a traffic stop. The Pakistani government is under public pressure to put him on trial, but the US government says Davis has diplomatic immunity.  News reports quoting government officials, both US and Pakistani, say today that was employed by the CIA.  Another contentious issue between the US and Pakistan — drones. Davis was arrested in late January — and since then there had been no drone attacks — until late last night. A strike by remote control aircraft killed at least five people. Another drone attack today killed another five. Drone attacks are the subject of report by the New American Foundation which says an increasing number of drone attacks are killing foot soldiers rather than the top ranking al Qaida or Taliban leaders they’re supposed to be targeting.  For more we go to Professor Christine Fair, assistant professor with the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University.  She’s currently in in Lahore.


Haiti’s former President Aristide due to return
Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s former president, is poised to return to his country next month after seven years in exile in South Africa. His supporters have rallied to encourage his return.  FSRN’s Ansel Herz has more.


Republicans cut Environmental Protection Agency funding
Early Saturday morning, Republicans in the House approved a spending bill loaded with controversial amendments.  Some of these target the EPA. Besides slashing the agency’s budget by a third, the amendments limit the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions at the nation’s oil refineries and power plants. The effort is likely to fail in the Senate, but the GOP says this is only the beginning. Matt Laslo reports from Washington.

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