Newscast for Wednesday, June 8, 2011

  • Hundreds of Syrians flee to Turkey as international condemnation of the Assad regime grows
  • NATO escalates Libya airstrikes while Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich proposes a peace plan
  • Growing alarm in Kashmir over feticide – the killing of female babies
  • Chicago jury considers its verdict in the trial of US resident prosecutors link to Mumbai massacre
  • Activists in Connecticut win wage theft case for restaurant workers

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Massive wildfire in AZ leads to thousands of evacuations

A massive forest fire in Arizona continues to burn today.  Authorities have had to evacuate thousands of people from the path of the so-called Wallow fire, which is burning approximately 400,000 acres in and around the Apache National Forest along the central Arizona border with New Mexico.  Two near-by towns are under pre-evacuation warnings, as no progress has been made in containing the wildfire.

Gaza running dangerously low on medical supplies says Hamas

At a press conference today, the Gaza-based health minister said the territory has been experiencing a severe lack of medical supplies for the past six months.  The minister blamed the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority for not delivering the supplies.  FSRN’s Rami Almeghari reports.

Health officials in Gaza say the lack of supplies could lead to health services breaking down and infectious diseases spreading across the coastal territory.  For the past four years, the Palestinian Authority has been in charge of delivering medical supplies to Gaza.  Authority spokesperson Dr.  Ghassan Alkahteeb said Hamas’ blame is unjustified.

“Our problem is that we don’t know enough about the availability of things in Gaza.  They receive from us but they also they receive from donors.  And there is no an independent body who is monitoring how these things are being used or whether they are adequate or inadequate or there is a need.”

Alkahteeb also argued humanitarian issues should be separated from politics.  Last month, Hamas and the Fatah-led PA a reconciliation agreement that put an end to a four-year-long split.  Rami Almeghari, FSRN, Gaza.

Another rehab center attacked in Mexico

A massacre at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in the city of Torreon has become the latest crime targeting recovering addicts in Mexico.  For FSRN, Shannon Young has the details.

Eleven people died on the scene when gunmen burst into a drug rehab center Tuesday and opened fire.  Another two victims died hours later from their wounds.  This is at least the 5th massacre targeting a rehabilitation center since 2008.  Police suggest they are the result of score-settling between criminals, but murders here are rarely investigated with rigor.  

Tuesday’s attack occurred as authorities had supposedly increased security measures in the city ahead of today’s visit by a cross-country caravan led by poet Javier Sicilia.  The caravan, which is protesting the militarized drug war, is making stops in some of the northern areas hardest hit by related violence.

The massacre also comes amid multiple discoveries of mass graves in the north.  Dozens of pits containing burnt bones where discovered just south of the Coahuila/Texas border over the weekend.  At least 7 bodies have been unearthed this week in the town of Juárez, Nuevo León.  Shannon Young, FSRN, Oaxaca.

Hundreds march on UN, calling for further HIV/AIDS commitments

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS.  Today, the United Nations is marking the occasion by kicking off a three-day high-level gathering of world leaders in New York.  The aim is to renew international commitments to providing universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care.  But activists are taking to the streets demanding world leaders do more.  For FSRN, Community News Production Institute Reporter Jaisal Noor reports.

Hundreds of activists from around the world descended on UN headquarters in New York today, demanding countries do more to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS.  They say world leaders are backing off pledges that could lead to the eradication of the disease.  Last year the United Nations reported that the overall death and the infection rate had declined over the previous decade, but still more than 7,000 people are infected with the disease every day.

Born HIV positive, 25-year-old Nabbumba Nuru is the Executive Director of Youth Caravan, A GROUP that educates youth on prevention and treatment of AIDS in her native Uganda.  She traveled to New York to take part in the march.

“I’m calling on donors and world leaders today to actually help us increase funding for HIV and AIDS treatment, since it reduces 96% chances of HIV transmission.  We can really see the rates of HIV really going down if you put everybody on treatment.”

In the past 30 years, more than 60 million people have been infected and 25 million people have died from AIDS.  Jaisal Noor, FSRN, New York

EPA says State Department oil pipeline analysis incomplete

The US State Department has added six additional public meetings on the TransCanada Keystone XL Oil Pipeline project.  The 1700-mile pipeline would link Canada’s tar sands with US refineries on the Gulf Coast.  This week the EPA voiced concern that the State Department has not completed an adequate environmental impact assessment.  In a letter from the Assistant Secretary, the EPA urged the State Department to “improve analysis of oil spill risks and alternative pipeline routes.”  The EPA also said the Keystone Pipeline experienced two leaks in the US in the past month alone and that pipeline spills are a “very real concern.”



Hundreds of Syrians flee to Turkey as international condemnation of the Assad regime grows

In Syria, residents are fleeing the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, some saying they fear a possible massacre. Tensions have grown in this northern city over the last few days following accusations by the Syrian authorities that armed gunmen killed more than 100 security forces. But residents say government troops carried out the killings, when security forces refused to fire on civilians.

The town is just a few miles from neighboring Turkey and hundreds of people are fleeing the violence by crossing the border. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will continue to accept the refugees but urged the Syrian government to implement reforms to stop the unrest. The United Nations says, since mid-March, more than a thousand people, including children, have been killed by Syrian security forces.

As international condemnation of the regime increases the UK and France are backing a UN resolution that would criticize the repression and demand humanitarian action to help the civilian population.   French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe:

“The situation is now very clear in Syria, the process of reform is dead and we think that Bashar has lost his legitimacy to rule the country.  Russia will probably veto any resolution about Syria, even a mild one, is a text that we are proposing with the British and the Americans.  So what to do?  And this is a point I discussed with Hilary Clinton.  We think, altogether that now we must go ahead and circulate this draft in the Security Council. We think that it will be possible to get 11 votes in favor of the resolution and we’ll see what the Russians will do.  If they veto they will take the responsibility.  Maybe if they see that there is 11 voters in favor of the resolution they will change their mind, though it’s a risk to take and we need to take it.”

Meanwhile the US wants Syria brought before the UN Security Council accusing it of failure to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Associated Press says a draft of the resolution was circulated among the Board of the Atomic agency today where it needs a majority vote in favor before it can go the Security Council.

NATO escalates Libya airstrikes while Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich proposes a peace plan

NATO’s airstrikes on Libya escalated yesterday and today, with heavy bombing over Tripoli—including on the compound of Colonel Muammar Gadaffi. Just after NATO announced a 90-day extension of the Libya war, Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich put forward a 10-point plan for peace. Alice Ollstein reports.

Growing alarm in Kashmir over feticide – the killing of female babies

Earlier this year, FSRN looked at the issue of feticide in India – where female babies are killed shortly after birth or aborted after the sex of the fetus is determined. A similar problem exists in Indian administered Kashmir, where results of the 2011  census reveals a sharp decline in the number of female children, suggesting a prevalence of female feticide. This has alarmed government officials, but also the anti-government Kashmiri separatists who are now lending their voice against the practice. Shahnawaz Khan reports from Srinagar.

Chicago jury considers its verdict in the trial of US resident prosecutors link to Mumbai massacre

In Chicago, closing arguments have finished and the jury is considering its verdict in the trial of the Pakistani national and US resident, Tahawwur Rana. Since the start of the trial three weeks ago, Federal prosecutors argued that Rana helped an old school friend, David Headley, find targets in India for the Pakistani militants who carried out the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.  They said Rana let Headley use his Chicago based immigration consulting business as a cover.  The Defense argued that Headley is a manipulator trying to avoid the death penalty who convinced Rana he was doing espionage work for Pakistani intelligence.  For more we were joined again by Sebastian Rotella, senior reporter for ProPublica who’s been covering the trial.

Activists in Connecticut win wage theft case for restaurant workers

In New Haven, Connecticut, members of a multi-racial alliance have succeeded in winning back pay for several workers who experienced “wage theft,” mostly in the restaurant industry. They’re also pursuing justice for three immigrant workers held in near-slavery conditions on a suburban farm. Melinda Tuhus files this report.


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