Newscast for Friday, April 1, 2011

  • In Libya, increasing evidence of civilian casualties from NATO airstrikes
  • Thousands of migrants stranded in transit camps on Libya’s border
  • Union leaders in Ohio hatch plans to block anti-labor law
  • Congress passes bill to curtail the bargaining rights of federal aviation and rail workers
  • The alarming link between No Child Left Behind and rising numbers arrests of juveniles

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Protesters in Yemen undeterred by emergency law

Anti-government demonstrators in Yemen today held what has been described as the largest protest yet calling for the immediate resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. A rival demonstration in support of the long-time ruler drew approximately 10 thousand people according to the Associated Press. Saleh declared a state of emergency two weeks ago in an effort to quell the protests.

Syrians continue to protest despite deadly force

Demonstrations also took place in cities and towns across Syria. Security forces there have met protesters with deadly force on several occasions. Reports vary putting the number of dead from today’s protests at between 3 and 10.

Media reports often rely on eye-witness testimony, but this online amateur video shows the use of live ammunition against unarmed Syrian protesters. The footage shows bleeding protesters lying on the ground with bullet wounds to the face and chest.

At least 60 protesters have been killed since demonstrations began in mid-March. One of the top greivances is the restrictive emergency rule that has been in place for nearly 50 years. Many had hoped that President Bashar al-Assad would announce major reforms to the law when he addressed parliament on Wednesday. Instead, he suggested it could be a matter of a committee study and blamed the protests on foreign conspiracies.

Bahraini blogger released

In a follow-up to a story reported yesterday, prominent Bahraini blogger Mahmood al-Yousif was released late Thursday after the US State Department criticized his arrest. The blogger is known for promoting the phrase “No Shi’a, no Sunni; just Bahraini” in reference to the sectarian divisions that have split the small country. An estimated 300 protestors remain in custody.

Massey Energy and Arch Coal pollution levels violate federal law

A West Virginia judge has found Massey Energy and Arch Coal to be in violation of federal laws for the release of selenium into waterways near some of their coal mining operations in the Appalachian region. The level of pollution released is more than what is permissible under the Clean Water Act and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Selenium can cause reproductive failure and deformities in fish and can damage the ciculatory and neurological systems of humans, among other problems. Further hearings are required to determine possible penalties and preventative measures.

UN working group issues recommendations on forced disappearances in Mexico

A United Nations working group investigating forced disappearances has wrapped up a 2 week fact finding mission in Mexico. Among their preliminary recommendations are the suggestions the Mexican government consider the withdrawal of the armed forces from public security operations and establish a national registry to document cases of force disappearances. Currently, the bulk of documentation of forced disappearances in Mexico is carried out by regional, non-governmental human rights organizations. The working group noted that distrust of the authorities often prevents citizens from documenting cases with governmental entities.

Argentina hands down sentences to former torturers

A court in Argentina handed down sentences to four former military officers for their participation in the human rights abuses carried out under military rule from 1976 to 1983. FSRN’s Marie Trigona reports from Buenos Aires.

A federal court sentenced Former General Eduardo Cabanillas to life in prison for directing the notorious Automotores Orletti detention center. Three other officers were convicted of illegal imprisonment. Outside the court house as the sentence was read, hundreds of human rights activists celebrated the verdict.

Giselle Temper from the human rights group HIJOS says that Argentina has set an example for other countries to revisit their history and show that it’s possible to address the impunity that has surrounded major crimes of human rights abuse for decades.

The Orletti secret detention center was a symbol of the Plan Condor, a shared strategy in Latin America’s Southern Region during the 1970s and 80s that received support from Washington. Human rights groups estimate that at least 300 were detained, tortured and forcefully disappeared from the center.

Argentina has taken the lead regionally in trying former military and police figures after amnesty laws were overturned in 2005. Uruguay and Brazil still uphold amnesty laws which protect former security officers from charges related to human rights violations. Marie Trigona, FSRN, Buenos Aires.



In Libya, increasing evidence of civilian casualties from NATO airstrikes

In Libya, there’s growing evidence of civilian casualties from NATO led airstrikes.  A doctor from Ajdabiya has told the BBC that he was called to a village a few kilometers from Brega following a coalition airstrike against a Gaddafi convoy.  Dr Suleiman Refardi said one of the shells struck a truck and trailer containing ammunition, parked between two houses.  It exploded killing 7 people and injuring about 25.  The dead included three girls from the same family and 3 teenage boys. But the Doctor said the relatives of the dead wanted airstrikes to continue because they were stopping Gaddafi’s forces from killing even more civilians in their village and other towns and cities.

In Benghazi, an opposition leader has called for a ceasefire. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the interim governing council said the condition for a ceasefire would be the withdrawal of Gaddafi’s forces from Libyan cities.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s forces continue to shell the western town Misrata and according to Associate Press are in control of the city’s port and main street.  In the east, both sides are fighting for control over the oil town of Brega.  An Al Jazeera’s correspondent said the rebels are not only outgunned but according to American military intelligence, outnumber the rebels by ten to one. But a BBC correspondent in Brega says the rebel forces there are being helped by the recent arrival of a number of well-armed soldiers.  He couldn’t say where those troops came from.

Thousands of migrants stranded in transit camps on Libya’s border

The violence in Libya has forced more than 400,000 people to flee the country according to the International Organization for Migration. About half of these refugees have sought shelter in Tunisia.   While most of the foreign workers have been repatriated to their home countries, some 5,000 migrants remain stranded in the transit camps along Tunisia’s border with Libya, and hundreds more are arriving every day.  From the Tunisian-Libyan border, Marine Olivesi reports.

Union leaders in Ohio hatch plans to block anti-labor law

Ohio Governor John Kasich has signed Senate Bill 5, a law which strongly curtails collective bargaining rights for state and local employees and weakens labor’s influence in the workplace. Union leaders hope to block the bill from taking effect through a referendum this November. From Columbus, Sehvilla Mann has more.

Congress passes bill to curtail the bargaining rights of federal aviation and rail workers

Today, lawmakers in the US House of Representatives passed a Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill that Democrats say cuts billions from the FAA’s budget.  It also keeps controversial language that critics have called anti-labor because it makes it harder for unions to organize. A statement from the White House indicates President Obama would veto a bill that curbs collective bargaining rights.  Michael Lawson has more.

The alarming link between No Child Left Behind and rising numbers arrests of juveniles

As Congress prepares to reform the No Child Left Behind act, public interest advocates are linking the program to increased rates of arrests and detentions of youth, and primarily youth of color and who have disabilities.  A new report, published by a coalition of advocacy groups, says school suspension and expulsion rates are at all-time highs and have risen dramatically since 2002 – the year NCLB took effect.   Black students are now more than three times more likely to be suspended from school than whites.  The NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational practice was one of the contributors to the report and Damon Hewitt is the Director.

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