Newscast for Tuesday, June 7, 2011

  • In Yemen, violence and political uncertainty increases
  • Saudi Arabia’s response to the Arab Spring uprising
  • Wisconsin residents heighten campaign against anti-union laws and budget cuts
  • Massachusetts withdraws from Secure Communities program
  • A Vermont lawsuit tests limits of state authority over nuclear power plants

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Residents of Syrian town reportedly fleeing, lesbian blogger disappears
Reports trickling from Syria today reveal that residents in the northwest town of Jisr al-Shughour are fleeing, fearing a major massacre. Yesterday, the government claimed that 120 security personnel were killed there. Syrian Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar:

“A group of armed terrorists burned and destroyed a number of sites. They also used weapons, opened fire and used grenades on employees of those sites, both civilians and military. We will respond firmly and strongly and we will not keep silent on any armed attacks that target the security of our country and citizens.”

One soldier defecting from the Syrian Army sent a video statement to al-Jazeera. First Lieutenant Abdelrazzak Tlass.

“I am not able to stay in the Arab Syrian army. I have witnessed the violations against the people of Deraa, and the heroes and the rebels who are just protecting themselves and were fearing for their land and their children.”

Independent verification of events in Syria is not possible – international media remain banned, the internet is largely inaccessible. A Syrian lesbian blogger was seized from a Damascus street yesterday. Amina Abdalla Arraf foretold her disappearance on a blog post Sunday. According to an eyewitness, Arraf was detained by three armed men who covered her mouth and shoved her into a car. There is no word on her whereabouts. She blogs openly about being a Muslim lesbian and writes about Syrian politics and the opposition movement.

NATO slams Gaddafi compound on the Colonel’s birthday; he issues audio defiant statement
NATO pummeled Tripoli today with dozens of airstrikes from low flying aircraft aimed for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s compound. Gaddafi issued a defiant audio statement today, saying he would not surrender but will remain until the end – dead or alive. He called for his supporters to mass outside his compound, showing his willingness to use them as human shields.

International pressure steps up on Tripoli
Europe expanded sanctions on Libya today, adding six more port authorizes to the list. And a Russian envoy met with opposition leaders in Benghazi. Mikhail Margelov said that he hopes to mediate a political resolution.

“We truly believe that Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy after the first bullet which was shot against the Libya people.”

Russia abstained from voting on UN Security Council Resolution 1973 that established the no-fly zone and tightened sanctions.

Food Not Bombs volunteers arrested for feeding the hungry
Four more people were arrested in Orlando, Florida yesterday for distributing food in a public park. From WMNF in Tampa, Seán Kinane reports.

Food Not Bombs activists say their First Amendment rights are being restricted by an Orlando ordinance that requires a permit to feed more than 25 people. Yesterday, police videotaped the group sharing food, and arrested them after the 26th person was served. Spokesperson Ben Markeson is one of three people arrested last week for sharing food in a public park.

“We simply feel that there are a lot of people in our community – poor and hungry people – who need the food that we provide. We’re there to meet a community need that isn’t being met by other institutions or other groups.”

Under the 2006 Orlando ordinance, permits are only issued two times per year for any given park. In April, a federal appeals court judge upheld Orlando’s restrictions. Markeson says Orlando Food Not Bombs plans another feeding tomorrow in a downtown park. They expect the police will make more arrests. Seán Kinane, FSRN, Tampa.

UN says 100,000 displaced in Abyei
The United Nations said today that as many as 100,000 people have been displaced by violence in the disputed oil-rich Abyei region in Sudan. Abyei is contested by north and south Sudan. UN spokesperson Marixie Mercado says half of those displaced are children.

“Nearly two thirds of the population is thought to have moved to four southern areas, the majority of them in Warrap, Northern and Western Bah- e- Ghazal and Unity, places with very few resources to draw from to begin with. UNICEF and its partners are focusing efforts on disease prevention through immunization, basic shelter supplies especially important due to the rainy season, repairing water points and constructing latrines, and identifying and uniting separated children with their families.”

Violence flared in Abyei when north Sudanese soldiers took over last month. Yesterday, a UN spokesperson admitted that their troops there should have done more to deter the violence. When their compound came under fire, the so-called peacekeepers from Zambia refused to patrol, and locked themselves in their barracks for two days.

Japan says radiation leaked from Fukushima twice that earlier announced
Japan admitted today that radiation leaked from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant was likely twice as much as previously reported. The new estimate of 770,000 terabequerals during the six days following the accident includes the likelihood that a meltdown occurred in all three nuclear reactors and the fuel may have moved beyond the core and through the containment vessels. Further, in a report to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tokyo admitted it was not prepared to handle a crisis of this scope, and pledged to separate government entities charged with regulating and promoting nuclear energy.

Sportswear workers to unionize in Adidas, Nike, Puma plants in Indonesia
Workers in many major sportswear factories in Indonesia will now be able to collectively bargain after trade unions and manufacturers signed an agreement today allowing them to unionize. The freedom of association protocol was signed by companies including Adidas, Nike, and Puma.



In Yemen, violence and political uncertainty increases
In Yemen, violence and political uncertainty in the country continues today. President Ali Abdullah Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia, seeking medical treatment for burns and shrapnel wounds after rockets struck the presidential palace on Friday. Vice President Abdu-Rabbo Mansour Hadihas taken power and according to Yemen Times, negotiated a ceasefire with armed tribesmen in the capital Sana’a. Protests there also continue, as journalist Mohammed al-Qadhi described to Al Jazeera:

“Right now there are about more than 2,000 protesters, they are protesting in front of the house of the acting President, they are demanding him to establish a national transitional governing council. They are saying this is the second objective of the revolution after the departure of Saleh and they have given him an ultimatum to announce this in 24 hours.”

Al-Qadhi works for Abu Dhabi’s, The National newspaper. He also had some information about the ongoing clashes in the southwestern city of Taiz, where armed tribesmen are fighting with Saleh’s security forces. According to his sources in Taiz the regime’s Republican Guard used tanks and mortars to shell the city killing three civilians and injuring 10. He said thousands of people are fleeing.

CNN, citing eyewitnesses, also reported that hundreds of tribal gunmen took control of the city today. More violence took place in the Southern province of Abyan, according to AP, where military officials said they killed 30 Islamic militants in airstrikes.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has reiterated US calls for Saleh to step down citing the country’s growing instability:

“…we’re calling for a peaceful and orderly transition, a nonviolent transition that is consistent with Yemen’s own constitution. And our position has not changed. It continues to remain the same. We think an immediate transition is in the best interest of the Yemeni people, because the instability and lack of security currently afflicting Yemen cannot be addressed until there is some process that everyone knows is going to lead to the sort of economic and political reforms that they are seeking.”

Saudi Arabia’s response to the Arab Spring uprising
Saudi Arabia has long been a political and financial supporter of Yemeni President Saleh. But in recent months, concerned by the deteriorating security situation, Saudi Arabia has led efforts by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to try and convince Saleh to step down. The Saudi regime has also taken steps of its own to stop any dissent from its own people. For more we turned to Madawi Al-Rasheed, a Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College, University of London. She specializes in religious and political debate in Saudi Arabia. This is the first of two FSRN interviews with Professor Madawi al-Rasheed looking at the political situation in Saudi Arabia. Our second interview will focus on the campaign in Saudi Arabia for women’s rights.

Wisconsin residents heighten campaign against anti-union laws and budget cuts
In Wisconsin, residents have marched on the State Capitol to protest Governor Walker’s budget cuts and anti-union laws for more than 100 days – yet demonstrations have largely not succeeded in changing Republican minds or votes. But as the State Budget showdown draws to a close this week, demonstrators are ratcheting up their attempts to impact on the process. FSRN’s Molly Stentz reports.

Massachusetts withdraws from Secure Communities program
Massachusetts is now the third state to withdraw from the controversial Secure Communities program – which mandates the sharing of information between local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Illinois was the first state to terminate its contract with ICE, followed by New York. But the Department of Homeland Security says the program is mandatory, and will continue to expand despite this resistance. Alice Ollstein has more.

A Vermont lawsuit tests limits of state authority over nuclear power plants
A lawsuit in Vermont is testing the limits of state authority over nuclear power plants. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant a license to operate another 20 years beyond the March 2012 expiration of its original, 40 year license. The state, however, has declined to grant the plant a state license. So the plant’s owner is suing the state of Vermont, asking a federal court to overturn state laws that regulate the plant. In Montpelier, FSRN’s Carl Etnier has the story.

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