Newscast for Friday, March 18, 2011

  • UN Security Council approves no fly zone over Libya opening possibility of international military action against Gaddafi
  • Thousands of fleeing foreign workers stuck on Libya’s borders
  • Haiti’s former President Aristide returns on the eve of Sunday’s elections
  • Japan’s authorities up the nuclear alert level at damaged Fukushima plant
  • Japanese resident of Hiroshima speaks of “invisible terror” of radiation
  • Public broadcasting advocates alarmed that short-term spending bill could have a major impact on community radio broadcasters

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Protesters massacred in Yemen
Yemeni government troops and snipers opened fire on a large protest today in the capital city of Sana’a. Reports indicate at least 30 people were killed, many by gunshots to the head. More than 100 were injured. Protesters have been in the streets for weeks calling for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for more than 30 years. Saleh has declared a state of emergency in an effort to stifle the protests.

Shiite protesters bury dead activists in Bahrain
Mourners gathered in Bahrain to bury Shiite activists killed in anti-government protests. Demonstrators there have been in the streets for two months calling for constitutional reforms. The head of Bahrain’s Sunni royal family declared emergency rule earlier this week. Saudi Arabia has deployed troops to support the monarchy.

The Bahraini government destroyed one of the symbols of the resistance today; a monument in the center of the Pearl Roundabout, which had become a key gathering spot for protesters. The government claimed the monument was demolished as part of infrastructure improvements.

Demonstrations in Syria
Protests were also reported in cities across Syria today. Security forces reportedly shot dead two demonstrators in the southern city of Deraa. Syrian state television has confirmed unrest in 2 cities but video posted to YouTube and messages circulated on Twitter suggest larger demonstrations.

French politicians stoke immigration anxiety ahead of election
The UN’s Refugee Agency reports over 10,000 Tunisian migrants have reached the Sicilian island of Lampedusa since mid-January. Many are believed to be on their way to France. As Marine Olivesi reports, some French politicians are stoking anti-immigrant sentiment for political gains ahead of Sunday’s local elections.

The newly-appointed French Interior Minister Claude Guéant sparked a political controversy yesterday with a single line. In Guéant’s words, “unchecked immigration sometimes make French people feel like they are not at home anymore.”

Two days before the first round of local elections, his comment is widely seen as an attempt to go after the votes of the extreme right by using the tactics of its leader, Marine Le Pen.

During her visit to Lampedusa earlier this week, Le Pen raised the threat of “hundreds of thousands” of migrants descending on European shores.

Only about 500 undocumented Tunisians have been arrested at the border region in Southeast France over the past month. Laurent Martin de Fremont, a local police union delegate says that’s an increase, but not a surge.

The Interior Minister’s comment has been rebuked by every party on the left….and some deputies on the right. But it will be up to voters to show if the rhetoric has real political traction among the French public. Marine Olivesi, FSRN, Nice.

Anti-immigrant bills rejected in Arizona Senate
In the US, Arizona has gained a reputation for taking a hardline stance on immigration issues…but the state’s senate shot down a series of controversial immigration bills yesterday. David Brooksher reports from Phoenix.

The five bills failed Thursday when moderate members of the senate’s Republican majority went against the party line. Two bills would have challenged the birthright citizenship guaranteed by the 14th amendment of the constitution. Another would have required hospital workers to investigate the citizenship status of patients seeking medical care, and notify immigration authorities when a patient could not provide documentation.

SB 1407 would have required public schools to gather data on their non-citizen students.  Schools refusing to participate in the program could be denied funding, and their staff could be subject to liability in court. SB 1611, the “Immigration Omnibus” would’ve required proof of citizenship to buy a car, get a job, or enroll a child in public schools.  Furthermore, it would have required schools to report non-citizen students to the authorities.

For immigration activist Carlos Galindo, the failure of the bills suggests a priority shift:

“Arizona’s 50th legislature is starting to understand that you cannot focus on one issue while governing an entire state.  I think they’re getting that now, finally, that we need them to focus on healthcare, education, balancing the budget.”  Dave Brooksher, FSRN, Phoenix.

Wisconsin judge temporarily halts controversial law
A Wisconsin judge has issued a restraining order to temporarily block the implementation of the state’s controversial law that limits the collective bargaining rights of public employees. A Dane county district attorney is challenging the new law, saying its passage occurred without the mandatory 24 hour public notice. State attorneys reportedly plan to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Anti-war veterans to rally in DC this weekend
Anti-war veterans and peace activists will gather in Washington DC Saturday to mark the 8th anniversary of the start of the US invasion of Iraq. The groups organizing the rally say they want the Obama administration to (quote) “stop the wars, expose the lies and free Bradley Manning”. A rally in support of the solider accused of releasing government documents to Wikileaks will take place in Quantico, Virginia on Sunday.


UN Security Council approves no fly zone over Libya opening possibility of international military action against Gaddafi
After four weeks of unrest in Libya, the United Nations Security Council approved the use of “all necessary measures,” including a no-fly zone. Following the vote, Libyan Ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Dabbashi, who defected from Colonel Gaddafi’s regime shortly after the protests started, welcomed the decision:

“We are glad that this resolution is passed, we are glad that Benghazi now, the people of Benghazi will feel safe from this time on. Also all our citizens in the eastern part of Libya now they can enjoy their lives and they can feel that they are safe because the international community is with them. It is also a clear message for the Gaddafi battalions that they are no longer safe and that in the near future they will be the target of attacks and it is much better for them to leave Gaddafi and go back to their people and to defend the Libyan people rather than defending Gaddafi.”

China, Russia, Brazil, India and Germany abstained from the vote. Following last night’s decision, Gaddafi’s regime announced a ceasefire. However, opposition members in Misurata disputed those claims, saying Gaddafi’s forces continued to attack today. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton responded to the ceasefire announcement, saying they need to see proof, and repeated that the end goal is for Gaddafi to step down:

“The efforts by the international community to come together to make clear to Colonel Gaddafi that he cannot continue his violence against his own people, he cannot continue to attack those who started out by peacefully demonstrating for changes that are within the right of any human being to do so, and the fact that he now has received not just the message of those of us who have been calling for him to end and the fact that he has lost his legitimacy, but the Arab League and the statement that they called for with respect to the resolution.”

Friday afternoon, President Obama also addressed the crisis:

“We will provide the unique capabilities that we can bring to bear to stop the violence against civilians, including enabling our European allies and Arab partners to effectively enforce a no fly zone.  I have no doubt that the men and women of our military are capable of carrying out this mission.  Once more, they have the thanks of a grateful nation and the admiration of the world.

I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya.  And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal — specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.”

Thousands of fleeing foreign workers stuck on Libya’s borders
The UN is expecting a massive increase in the number of Libyans feeling the country. Earlier this week, more than 3000 Libyans crossed into Egypt. A much larger number of foreign workers, about 300,000 have already left Libya. But many remain stuck at the border, with little food and no shelter. FSRN’s Raphael Krafft reports.

Haiti’s former President Aristide returns on the eve of Sunday’s elections
After seven years in exile, Haiti’s former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned to the country today. He left South Africa yesterday and traveling with him was Democracy Now host Amy Goodman. Aristide, the country’s first democratically elected president, was forcibly removed from the country in 2004 in a move he claims was orchestrated by the US government. In recent weeks, Obama Administration officials have opposed this return, saying his presence could disrupt Sunday’s Presidential run-off vote. Hundreds gathered today at the Port au Prince airport for the Aristide’s return. FSRN spoke to one of them: Melinda Miles, Director of the Let Haiti Live Project at TransAfrica Forum.

Japan’s authorities up the nuclear alert level at damaged Fukushima plant
Heavy snowfalls in Japan hampered attempts by rescue teams to reach survivors of the country’s earthquake and tsunami.  Millions of people are affected, the death toll has now risen to about 7,000 with many thousands still missing and hundreds of thousands in temporary shelters.  At the Fukushima nuclear plant, on the 7 point international scale of atomic incidents, today officials raised the nuclear alert level from 4 to 5, the same as the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the US. In response to the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan and amid growing concerns from nuclear experts about the safety of facilities in the United States, President Barack Obama announced a review of US nuclear plants:

“Our nuclear power plants have undergone exhaustive study, and have been declared safe for any number of extreme contingencies. But when we see a crisis like the one in Japan, we have a responsibility to learn from this event, and to draw from those lessons to ensure the safety and security of our people. That’s why I’ve asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do a comprehensive review of the safety of our domestic nuclear plants in light of the natural disaster that unfolded in Japan.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists says about thirty reactors in the US are a similar design to the Fukushima plant and many urgently need to empty the nuclear waste from their spent fuel pools. Many of those fuel pools are fuller than those at the focus of the nuclear disaster in Japan. Today, UCS Nuclear Safety Program Director David Lochbaum was gloomy about the chances of stopping the radiation at the Fukushima facility, much of it caused by damage to the spent fuel pools:

“There are six spent fuel pools that need to be cooled or they could follow the pathways that Units 3 and Unit 4 went through. In addition there are 3 reactor cores that need to be cooled. The priority would be the spent fuel pools because they’re more exposed and more likely that radiation would get out if they’re not properly managed. You can’t forget about the reactor cores because there’s a lot radioactivity there and that can also get out. Without knowing exactly the extent of the damage in Japan and what options they have if any, it’s kind of hard to speculate. As I said there’s not many options. There’s a lot of material that could be released, there’s not a lot of barriers between that material and the environment so it doesn’t look like it’s going to come to a good outcome.”

Japanese resident of Hiroshima speaks of “invisible terror” of radiation
The Japanese city of Hiroshima was the world’s first victim of the nuclear age – the atomic bomb dropped by the United States in August 1945 killed more than 100,000 people and left tens of thousands with serious health issues caused by radiation for decades afterwards.  Eremi Rey is a Japanese resident of Hiroshima.

Public broadcasting advocates alarmed that short-term spending bill could have a major impact on community radio broadcasters
President Obama signed legislation today that will keep the government running for three more weeks. But there are growing concerns that the continuing resolution, which cuts $6 billion in spending, could have a big impact on community radio broadcasters.  Michael Lawson has more.

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