Newscast for Wednesday, March 2, 2011

  • US sends navy ships and marines to the Mediterranean to help Libya
  • Libyans in Benghazi protest US and international intervention
  • Wisconsin Governor’s budget makes big cuts to education and healthcare
  • US Supreme Court rules that corporations are not entitled to a right to personal privacy
  • Ideological impasse divides Republicans and Democrats on spending bill

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NATO apologizes for deaths of 9 Afghan boys
In Afghanistan, NATO forces have killed 9 young boys who were walking in the mountains of Kunar province gathering firewood. In a statement, NATO commander General David Petraeus apologized to the families of the victims and the people of Afghanistan. NATO says there was an error in relaying information about the origin of an insurgent rocket attack and that helicopters mistakenly opened fire on the boys, all between the ages of 9 and 15. Petraeus said an investigation is underway and that disciplinary action is possible. The New York Times reports about 200 protested in the nearby village of Nanglam, shouting anti-American sentiments.


Pakistan minister killed for anti-sharia views
A Pakistani government minister who had been an outspoken critic of the country’s blasphemy laws was assassinated today.  Media outlets report leaflets from the Taliban were found near the body of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, who was shot at least 8 times.  In a video posted to the Guardian’s website, Bhatti talks about the death threats made against him.

“The forces of violence, militant band organizations, the Taliban and al-Qaeda, they want to impose their radical philosophy in Pakistan.  And whoever stand [sic] against their radical philosophy – that threatens them.  When I’m leading this campaign against the sharia laws, for the abolishment of blasphemy laws, and speaking for the oppressed and marginalized, persecuted Christian and other minority, these Taliban threaten me.”

Today Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was outraged by the murder, referring to Bhatti as a courageous man.  Another politician who criticized Pakistani sharia law was assassinated earlier this year, as UN Radio’s Charles Appel reports.

Pakistan’s Minister of Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti is the second high profile public figure to be killed since the beginning of the year.  On January 4, the Governor of Punjab Province, Salman Taseer was assassinated in Islamabad by his own bodyguards because of his opposition to the blasphemy laws.  Taseer had called for a Christian woman who was sentenced to death for blasphemy, to be pardoned.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay says that these killings are symptomatic of pervasive violence against religious minorities in Pakistan.  Pillay is calling on the government of Pakistan to declare a moratorium on blasphemy laws.  Charles Appel, United Nations.


Two US soldiers killed in Frankfort airport shooting
Two US military personnel were killed today at an airport in Frankfurt, Germany.  A gunman, believed to be from Kosovo, opened fire on a US military bus.  Two others were injured.  German police have apprehended the shooter.


After suicide, Rutgers opens some gender-neutral dorms
In response to last year’s suicide by gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, university administration has decided to turn three dorms into co-ed living spaces, allowing students of the opposite sex to live together in the same room.  Clementi killed himself after his male roommate allegedly streamed him having sex with another man over the internet.  According to the Star Ledger, gay groups on campus have been asking for gender-neutral dorms for years, without any movement by Rutgers officials.


Activists call for expansion of NC midwife certifications
Today in Raleigh, North Carolina, advocates for expanded home births gathered in support of a woman arrested last month on charges of offering midwife services without proper licensing.  FSRN’s Lynda-Marie Taurasi has the story.

56 year-old Emily Hyatt Medwin was arrested after attending a homebirth that resulted in the hospitalization of a newborn.  Police discovered that Medwin was not licensed with proper state credentials.  They charged her with the unlawful practice of midwifery.  For three decades, Medwin has been assisting women with home births as a “Certified Professional Midwife,” which is recognized in 27 states, including South Carolina, Virginia, California, and New York.

In North Carolina, to be a legal attendant at a home birth, one must be a “Certified Nurse Midwife” with an “Approval to Practice” signed by a physician.  This requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing.  Medwin’s qualifications are equivalent to a post-high school certificate, and supporters at today’s rally are calling for the state’s General Assembly to legalize that training.  Lynda-Marie Taurasi, FSRN, Raleigh.



US sends navy ships and marines to the Mediterranean to help Libya
In Libya, clashes continue between forces loyal to the regime of Colonel Gaddafi and the opposition. The air force dropped a bomb on the eastern oil town of Brega, but according to the AP, Gaddafi’s loyalists failed to retake the town.
In response to the violent crackdown on civilians by the Gaddafi regime, the United Nations suspended Libya from its Human Rights Council by unanimous vote in its 192 member General Assembly.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon welcomed the decision and appealed to the UN General Assembly to act decisively:

But in another speech today, broadcast on Libyan TV, Col Gaddafi denied he directly controlled Libya.

“Since 1977 I have handed over, me and my officers of the revolution have handed power to the people’s committees and congresses.  Since then it is the Libyan people who are responsible for administering power.  It is not a system based on one president’s government, or party, or class, or family.  Anybody who wants to make sure, they’re welcome. We defy them! And we will put two fingers in their eyes by force! We will put two fingers in the eye of anyone who defies the Libyan people!”

At a Pentagon Briefing, Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates said there was no unanimity within NATO about the use of armed force in Libya.  He gave details or US armed forces now deployed to the area:

“Well, first of all, I have directed several Navy ships to the Mediterranean.  The USS Kearsarge and the [USS] Ponce will be entering the Mediterranean shortly and will provide us a capability for both emergency evacuations and also for humanitarian relief.  About 1,400 Marines from the Kearsarge are serving in Afghanistan.  And so we are sending about 400 Marines from the U.S. that will be in support of the Kearsarge’s mission.”

Libyans in Benghazi protest US and international intervention
To respond to this US and international reaction to events in Libya crowds recently gathered in liberated.  At a protest, Libyans held signs reading in English, “We don’t need USA or UK” and, “No to foreign military intervention.” Jihan Hafiz with The Real News Network has more from Benghazi.


Wisconsin Governor’s budget makes big cuts to education and healthcare
Thousands in Ohio continue to protest a bill that would strip away collective bargaining rights from workers. SB 5 passed a Senate Committee today, shortly after a Republican lawmaker opposing the bill was kicked off the committee. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, the Governor unveiled a sweeping new budget with big cuts to education, healthcare, and local government services. Despite being shut out of the Capitol for two days, thousands continue to rally outside against the Governor’s plans for the state. Molly Stentz and Joanne Powers have the story from Madison, Wisconsin.


US Supreme Court rules that corporations are not entitled to a right to personal privacy
Today the Supreme Court ruled that an anti-gay demonstration by the Westboro Baptist Church at a funeral was legal.  The decision upheld an appeals court ruling that threw out a judgment in favor of the father of a dead Marine, who sued church members after they picketed his son’s funeral.   Albert Snyder’s son Matthew was killed in Iraq in 2006.  Members of the Westboro Baptist Church have picketed a number of military funerals to draw attention to their view that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God’s punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court released another decision. In FCC versus AT&T, the court ruled unanimously that corporations are not entitled to claim a right to personal privacy under the Freedom of Information Act.  This could have important implications for the controversial Citizens United ruling that gave corporations the same rights as individuals to donate unlimited funds to political campaigns.  For more we go to Elizabeth Wydra, chief legal counsel with the Constitutional Accountability Center.  She filed legal briefs in both this FCC vs. AT&T case and the Citizens United case.


Ideological impasse divides Republicans and Democrats on spending bill
Congress averted a government shutdown by passing a two week stop gap funding measure. Now the real debate begins as Republicans and Democrats have two weeks to agree on a spending bill. Right now, the two sides are worlds apart on how to move forward. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

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