Newscast for Wednesday, July 27, 2011

  • Progressive lawmakers push the President to make a stand for the poor
  • In Kashmir, some residents condemn the arrest of the director of the US-based, Kashmir American Council
  • US-Pakistan relations and the arrest of the Kashmir American Council director
  • Human rights groups warn of a severe water crisis in the Gaza Strip

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Muslim radicalization hearings continue in House

The House Committee on Homeland Security today held its third hearing on the radicalization of Muslims-Americans.  This one focused on the Somalia-based terrorist organization al Shabaab, and their alleged efforts to recruit youth in the Midwest. From Washington, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports.

New York Republican Peter King, who chairs the committee, claims al Shabaab has recruited more than 40 Muslim-Americans and 20 Canadians to their ranks. He questioned St. Paul, Minnesota’s police chief Tom Smith, who described his successful community outreach efforts with the Somali-American community. Smith said programs that build trust and respect are more effective than criminalization.

The committee’s first hearing in March focused on Islamic radicalization in general, and the second examined radicalization in prisons. There was international backlash, as King acknowledged.

“These hearings have been attacked as anti-Muslim, bigoted, biased, racist, pick your terminology.”

And not all committee members were pleased with the proceedings. Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee questioned both the purpose and timing of the hearing.

“The difficulty with these hearings is, it may provide information, but it may provoke unnecessarily individual communities that are trying to do their best. I would also like to say, this is such a poor time for this hearing. If you want to know about the devastation of a nation, these are the innocent Somalis that are fleeing a famine that is the worst famine in the history of Africa at this point.”

Other members, like New York Democrat Yvette Clarke, agreed. She said the committee’s “fixation” on the Muslim-American community has both provoked resentment, and distracted from other security threats, such as gang violence and hate groups. Alice Ollstein, FSRN, Washington, DC.

Gas lease activist sentenced to two years in prison

Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for disrupting a federal auction for oil and gas leases. DeChristopher bid and won several leases in an act of civil disobedience but had no ability to pay the 1.8 million dollars for them. A Utah District Court convicted him. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Judge Dee Benson told the court that DeChristopher may not have been prosecuted at all for his crime except for his continued calls for others to commit acts of civil disobedience. DeChristopher supporters have been protesting the court proceedings from the beginning. After the sentencing Tuesday, dozens gathered outside the courtroom.

“The prosecution clearly stated that they were looking for a harsh sentence. They were looking for incarceration in order to deter us from any future action.”

A video posted by the group Peaceful Uprising shows protesters singing songs of support and calling for continued action on the issue.

“Consider this your call to action. Consider this the spark that will ignite this movement.”

After the rally, DeChristopher supporters tied their wrists together, blocking a downtown street. Police arrested 19 protesters and cited seven more after they refused to disperse. As of today, all 19 have been released from police custody, but face trial in the coming months.

Goodwin Liu nominated for CA Supreme Court

Goodwin Liu, the Berkeley law professor and Obama’s failed nominee to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, has now been asked by California Governor Jerry Brown to serve on the state Supreme Court. Liu withdrew his nomination to the federal court after being blocked several times by Republicans. Liu has accepted the nomination to the California court, and now has to be approved by a state commission. He is widely seen as a future nominee to the US Supreme Court.

Activists rally against fracking in New York City

New York is moving forward with plans to allow and regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he intended to lift a moratorium on the natural gas mining practice. This has triggered a new surge in activism around the issue. FSRN’s Jim Krivu reports.

Nearly 100 protesters rallied in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York City offices Tuesday, calling for a ban on fracking in the state. Last year, former New York Governor David Patterson issued a one-year moratorium on fracking, pending the results of environmental testing. Now that year has passed, and Governor Cuomo says he plans to terminate the moratorium, except in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds and on state-owned lands.

David Braun is a protest organizer with the renewable-energy advocacy group United for Action:

“This industry, the oil and gas industry, is what is standing between us and renewable energy, and it is simply because they want to be making money off gas.  And we don’t have to be doing this. We could be switching to renewables. You know, building this whole natural gas infrastructure and doing this whole fracking thing is taking us completely in the wrong direction.”

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a “preliminary” environmental impact statement, but says the official version will not be released until later in 2011, after more information is gathered. Jim Krivo, FSRN, New York.


Progressive lawmakers push the President to make a stand for the poor

In Washington, as the debt ceiling deadline looms, Progressive lawmakers on Capitol Hill are accusing Republicans of trying to balance the nation’s books on the backs of the poor. Matt Laslo reports from Capitol Hill.

In Kashmir, some residents condemn the arrest of the director of the US-based, Kashmir American Council

The director of the Washington, DC-based Kashmir American Council was released from jail yesterday and put under house arrest, a week after federal authorities arrested him on charges of being an unregistered agent of a foreign country. Since the 1990s, Ghulam Nabi Fai has run the non-profit organization, which lobbied politicians on Kashmiri issues, including self-determination. Fai is charged with another man, Zaheer Ahmad, who’s also a US citizen, with failing to register as an agent of a foreign government and receiving funds from Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI. As Shahnawaz Khan reports from Srinagar, Fai’s arrest has been welcomed in India, but in Indian administered Kashmir, separatists have condemned it.

US-Pakistan relations and the arrest of the Kashmir American Council director

For more on the arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai and the implications for US-Pakistan relations, we spoke with Robert Naiman, Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy. Marking a possible warming of relations, India and Pakistan held high-level talks today on the disputed Kashmir border. Pakistan’s newest, youngest and first female foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar was optimistic about the talks:

“This is indeed a new era of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, and I wish to convey to the people of India Pakistan’s desire to open a new chapter of amity and understanding between our two countries.”

The New York Times reports the two ministers agreed to increase cross-border trade and ease restrictions on travel between the regions.

Human rights groups warn of a severe water crisis in the Gaza Strip

In the Gaza Strip, Human rights groups are warning that residents face a severe water crisis. An estimated 95 percent of drinking water fails to meet international standards and water and sanitation plants have yet to rebuilt following the 2009 Israeli war. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has the story.


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