Newscast for Tuesday, May 3, 2011

  • Lawmakers discuss the future of US policy in Afghanistan
  • Human Rights advocates question the targeted killing of Bin Laden
  • The reaction of families of September 11 victims to Bin Laden’s death
  • The World Bank considers a Canada company’s claim that it has a right to mine in El Salvador
  • Tucson students fight efforts to gut ethnic studies programs

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Doctors and nurses charged with seditious acts to be tried in military court
Bahrain’s Justice Minister announced today that nearly 50 medical professionals have been charged with acts of sedition and will be tried in military courts. Doctors and nurses who treated injured protesters were rounded up after the government crack down on protests last month. Last week, four protesters were sentenced to death; convicted of killing two police offers – three others were jailed for life. Last night, two former opposition Parliamentarians were arrested .

Syria continues to sweep up Sunnis; ICRC appeals for access; FSRN contributor set free
Government troops in Syria moved into Banias today and continued to sweep up Sunnis, checking ID cards and detaining people based on their names. According to the National Organization for Human Rights, security forces have arrested about 1000 people since Saturday. France and Germany called today for sanctions on Syrian leadership, and the International Red Cross appealed for access to the injured. Al Jazeera correspondent Dorothy Parvaz remains among more than a dozen missing journalists – she disappeared after arriving in Damascus on Friday. But some good news – freelance reporter and FSRN contributor Khaled Sid Mohand was released today. He was delivered to the Algerian Embassy after more than three weeks in detention.

Humanitarian vessel remains at bay near Libyan port town
A humanitarian aid ship remains stuck offshore from Misrata, waiting to rescue some 1000 people, many of whom are injured. The boat is sponsored by the International Organization on Migration. Shelling continues near the port and the threat of mines placed in the sea keep the vessel at bay. IOM spokesperson Jumbe Omari Jumbe.

“Today is particularly very important because there are many injured civilians, some of them in intensive care. And we have got reports that two of them have died actually while waiting to be evacuated. So, we are appealing to all parties involved, that is NATO and the Libyan authorities to allow the ship to dock so that we can evacuate these people who are around the port and further down the road.”

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan shifted posture toward the Libyan ruler today, calling for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to resign.

Canada’s Harper to lead majority government; House of Commons gets first Green
Results are in from yesterday’s federal election in Canada, and Conservative incumbent Stephen Harper is re-elected as the country’s Prime-Minister, although with some big changes in government. Aaron Lakoff has more.

“Friends, I have to say it: A strong national, majority, Conservative government!”

That was Canadian Prime-Minister Stephen Harper, speaking to supporters in his home riding in Calgary, Alberta, just minutes after the election results were announced. Harper and his Conservative party won 167 of the 308 seats in parliament Monday, giving him a majority government for the first time since he took office in 2006. The big surprise was the strong performance of the center-left New Democratic Party, which won 102 seats, making them the official opposition party for the first time in the country’s history. Both the Liberal party and Bloc Quebecois party suffered crushing set-backs last night, losing many of their seats in parliament. Also, a Canadian first: there is a Green in the House of Commons, with party leader Elizabeth May elected on Vancouver Island. Still, many Canadians are troubled by a Harper majority formed with only 39 percent of the popular vote. Some are calling for electoral reform. Aaron Lakoff, FSRN, Montreal.

Tennessee moves closer to killing collective bargaining for teachers
Tennessee lawmakers are poised to kill collective bargaining for teachers under the auspices of facilitating education reform. Last night, the Senate approved SB113, a bill that would block unions from negotiating contracts with school boards. Senator Andy Berke:

“2011 will be known as the session about the collective bargaining ban. Not jobs, not education reform, not infrastructure but a collective bargaining ban for teachers. This bill unfortunately moves us backward rather than forward. Renaming it the Advancement of Student Achievement Act fools no one.”

The bill now moves to the House, where it is expected to pass; and Republican Governor Bill Haslam has supported similar bills in the past.

US House poised to pass health reform roll back measures
And in the US House of Representatives today, lawmakers are likely to pass measures that would roll back two more provisions of last year’s landmark health care reform legislation. The first, HR 1213 – would repeal funding to set up competitive marketplaces – or exchanges – for health insurance. Texas’ Representative Sheila Jackson Lee said that without exchanges, health insurance will remain out of reach for many Americans, with premiums going up – not down.

“The fact is that the exchanges are to allow those who do not have means to get into an open market. The same thing that our Republican friends have been talking about to allow them to go across state lines to get the cheapest state policy or policy that they cam. Families with the sickest of the sick, children that are disabled or others in need who have heretofore been blocked.”

The second, HR 1214, would repeal required federal funding for establishing health care clinics in schools. The Democratically controlled Senate is unlikely pass similar measures.



Lawmakers discuss the future of US policy in Afghanistan
More details are emerging about the US assassination of Osama bin Laden. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described the moment when the US soldiers found the al Qaeda leader:

“Bin Laden and his family were found on the second and third floor of the building. There was concern that he, Bin Laden would oppose the capture operation and indeed he did resist. In room with Bin Laden, a woman, Bin Laden’s wife, rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”

Carney said the US Special Forces carrying out the operation were met with a great deal of resistance. Some of Bin Laden’s family members, including a wife and children, were taken into custody, according to Reuters. They will be deported to their home countries after questioning. The assassination is being praised by some world leaders, including Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari who responded to criticisms about Pakistani intelligence in a Washington Post op-ed. Zardari emphasized though, that Pakistani soldiers and civilians have paid an “enormous price” with thousands dead. US lawmakers are also starting to pose questions that have been on the minds of many for years. Senator John Kerry:

“With the death of Bin Laden some people are sure to ask, ‘Why don’t we just pack up and leave Afghanistan?” So it’s even more compelling that we examine carefully, what is at stake, what goals are legitimate and realistic, what is our real security challenge and how do we achieve the interests of our country? What type of Afghanistan do we plan to leave so we may actually achieve those objectives?”

Speaking during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Kerry said the cost of the Afghan war will reach 120 billion dollars this year alone. President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass told lawmakers that Afghanistan has become a “war of choice” and other viable policy options would save US taxpayers billions of dollars:

“I think that we should have a C.T., a counter terrorism policy, we should try to build up some local capacities but we should be realistic about what it is we’re trying to build up, we’re never going to, I believe, accomplish some of the goals I’ve heard here, and, we should save money. If we could save 75 billion dollars a year which I believe is the scale of savings we would get from the kind of policy I’m talking about, that is one fourth of the fiscal savings everybody suggests we need on a slope of 300 billion dollars a year. We would get 25 percent of what we need.”

But some lawmakers hinted that maybe resources should be directed to other battlefields. Senator Dick Lugar said the threat from al Qaeda is much larger in Yemen and Pakistan. Next week, Senator Kerry will travel to Afghanistan, where he said he will meet with Afghans themselves to get their feedback on US policy following Bin Laden’s assassination.

Human Rights advocates question the targeted killing of Bin Laden
While the full details surrounding the death of al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, remain unclear some human rights observers are questioning the process of targeted killing. Some suggest the Saudi national should have faced an independent court for ‘justice’ to be served. Ron Corben reports.

The reaction of families of September 11 victims to Bin Laden’s death

Across the United States, politicians, the media and members of the public continue to share their reactions to the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Responses have ranged from the euphoria expressed at the spontaneous gathering outside the White House on Sunday night, to more sanguine warnings from lawmakers and terrorism experts who say that the war with al Qaeda continues. Families for Peaceful Tomorrows also has a response. They want people to remember both the victims of the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and DC, but also the people around the world who’ve died, and continue to die as a result of the events of September 11, 2001. Myrna Bethke is a member of families for peaceful tomorrows, formed in 2002 by victims and survivors families. Her youngest brother William died on Sept 11 in the attacks on the Twin Towers. She’s also a United Methodist pastor in New Jersey.

The World Bank considers a Canada company’s claim that it has a right to mine in El Salvador
This week, hearings began at the World Bank in a case that pits the community of San Isidro, El Salvador against the powerful Canadian mining corporation Pacific Rim. After seeing the effects of mining on other communities in their country, the people of San Isidro began waging a campaign against Pacific Rim, committing acts of civil disobedience like blocking the roads so the vehicles and equipment couldn’t enter the El Dorado gold mine. And after five years of grassroots organizing, the community successfully pressured their government to revoke the company’s mining permit. But Pacific Rim had a backup plan. They purchased a shell company in Reno, Nevada so that they could sue El Salvador under the Central American Free Trade Agreement for loss of profit. Alice Ollstein has more.

Tucson students fight efforts to gut ethnic studies programs
The Tucson School Board will take up a controversial proposal tonight that would gut the district’s ethnic studies program. Arizona’s education chief says the move is necessary to bring the District in line with HB 2281, a law passed last spring that bans curriculum that, quote, “advocate[s] ethnic solidarity.” Opponents of the measure call it an out and out statewide ban on ethnic studies classes. But such classes aren’t offered across the state – they are only presented in Tucson. The Real News Network’s David Dougherty reports on the reaction from students – who last week took over a local school board meeting in order to block the vote.

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