Newscast for Wednesday, July 6, 2011

  • The Obama Administration changes a longstanding policy on US military suicides
  • Christine Lagarde, the first woman to run the International Monetary Fund, starts work
  • In Senegal, the public grows angrier at President Wade’s attempts to extend his political term
  • Humanitarian teams cross into Libya’s Nafusa mountains for the first time
  • LGBT activists in the Philippines campaign for equal rights legislation

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Rebels make progress towards Libyan capital

Rebel fighters in Libya are slowly making their way to the capitol, attempting to overtake government-controlled towns along the way.  Today, at least one Gaddafi-controlled town was captured by the fighters.  Rebel Commander Ibrahim Madani spoke to Al Jazeera.

“Our place is… you know the main place is Tripoli.  We want… we are going to Tripoli, but we are taking it step by step.”

At NATO’s monthly press briefing, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was on the defensive, touting the military operation in Libya as necessary.

“Because without NATO, there would be a massacre.  Ghaddafi would be free to use his tanks and missiles on towns and markets.”

He said NATO’s work has prevented towns like Misrata and others in the western mountains from being overrun by government forces.

“Momentum is against Gaddafi.  His economic strength to sustain a war against his people is declining.  His ministers and generals are deserting, and the international community is turning against him.  For Gaddafi, it is game over.”

Clashes in Misrata continued earlier this week, with several people reportedly dead.  Clashes are also reported during the nights in Tripoli, though the capital has remained calm during the day.

National Dutch Appeals court rules Dutch government responsible for some Srebrenica deaths

An appeals court in The Hague has ruled that the Dutch government is responsible for the deaths of three Muslim men killed by Bosnian Serbs during the Srebrenica genocide of 1995.  FSRN’s Hermione Gee reports.

As the bloody civil war raged through Bosnia in the summer of 1995, thousands of Bosnian Muslim families sought refuge in the UN safe haven of Srebrenica.  But on July 13th, after Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic had overrun the enclave, Dutch peacekeepers – known as Dutchbat – handed over some 200 people who had sought protection at the UN Potocari compound.  Over the course of the following week, more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were massacred.

For the past nine years, relatives of three of those men have been pursuing charges against the Dutch government.  In 2008, a Dutch court denied their case, ruling that the Dutch troops were under the command of the UN when the massacre took place.  But on Tuesday an appeals court in the Hague overturned that decision, finding that Dutch military and political leaders were in “effective control” of the Dutchbat troops.  “The State is responsible for the death of these men as Dutchbat should not have turned these men over to the Serbs”, the summary judgment stated.  Dutch troops had also witnessed Muslim refugees being beaten and killed outside the Srebrenica enclave, according to the court, so they should have been aware of the consequences of handing them over to Serb forces.

Government lawyers say they will need to study the ruling before deciding whether or not to appeal the decision.  The victims’ families also have a criminal case pending against three Dutchbat commanders.  Hermione Gee, FSRN.

Fukushima children found with thyroid radiation exposure

Damning information continues to emerge in connection with Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.  Today the country’s Reconstruction Minister resigned, after only a week on the job.  He blamed a controversial exchange with a regional governor on his blood type.  Troubles continue both inside and outside the nuclear plant as Japan approaches the disaster’s four-month anniversary.  FSRN’s Claudia Cragg has this update.

Fukushima Nuclear operator TEPCO has now admitted that most of the problems with the plant come from “defective construction.”   It has resumed the use of contaminated water in its ongoing effort to cool the reactor cores.  This practice had been suspended due to a series of leaks.

The government has confirmed that as many as 45% of Fukushima area children have suffered – quote –  “low levels of thyroid exposure to radiation.”  Also alarming is news of levels of other exposure well outside the 12 ½ mile evacuation zone.  Contamination by radioactive caesium is as much as 4 ½ times the legal limit – much higher than the levels considered safe for resettlement after the Chernobyl disaster.  This leaves thousands of evacuees who are scattered around the country waiting for emergency benefits, diminishing hope of being able to return home.

The Minister of Industry announced today the government will conduct stress tests for all Japan’s nuclear power plants.  The facilities have been shut down since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster.  Claudia Cragg, FSRN.

Chernobyl clean-up workers rally against pension cuts

Across Asia to Ukraine, workers at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site are protesting today outside the president’s office in the capital Kiev.  The AP reports thousands of clean up workers are angry about proposed cuts to benefits, including pension reductions.  Ukraine has been pushing benefits cuts for years, and efforts to slash clean-up workers’ pensions increased when the global financial crisis hit.

Ft. Hood shooter could face death penalty

And finally, Nidal Hasan, the man accused of killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at Ft.  Hood in Texas, will face a court martial.  As part of the decision by military leadership at the base, Hasan could receive the death penalty.  No date has been set for the trial.


The Obama Administration changes a longstanding policy on US military suicides

The Obama Administration announced it will now be sending condolence letters to the families of soldiers who commit suicide in combat zones. Matt Laslo has the story from Washington.

Christine Lagarde, the first woman to run the International Monetary Fund starts work

The new managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) started her job this week. At a press conference in Washington, Christine Lagarde, the first woman to run the IMF, said one of her goals is to encourage diversity of all kinds within the organization. Lagarde said she wants the IMF to be more connected, credible and comprehensive:

“Well you know you have the pressing immediate issues that have to do with sovereign debt and as I said it’s broader than just the Eurozone, there is a tendency to just focus on the Eurozone because it’s a mixture of various of components that make it more critical and more sensitive and more difficult to address probably, because of this Euro sovereignty, yet lack of political sovereignty in one single capital.”

Greece is negotiating to receive billions of dollars’ worth of aid from the IMF and the European Union. Last week the Greek parliament approved severe budget cuts as thousands of people protested on the streets of Athens.  Lagarde, alluding to the nationwide protests and political divisions in Greece over the government’s austerity measures called on the country to unite like other debt ridden European nations:

“I hope that Greek political parties all together, either in government or in position, can be rightly inspired by the decisions, the courageous decisions made by political parties in Ireland, the courageous decisions made by political parties in Portugal.  There comes a time when individual interests, political rivalries should be set aside when it’s in the national interest of the country and that was clearly demonstrated both in the case of Ireland and in the case of Portugal.”

European financial institutions met today to discuss Greek repayment terms and on Friday the IMF board will discuss Greek debt problems. Ireland and Portugal have already received IMF-EU bailouts worth billions.

In Senegal, the public grows angrier at President Wade’s attempts to extend his political term

In Senegal there’s ongoing political unrest and growing public anger at President Abdoulaye Wade’s attempts to extend his political term beyond that allowed by the constitution. Some also fear Wade plans to hand over power to his son Karim Wade, which he denies. But opposition groups have vowed to continue protests unless the younger Wade resigns from his government position.  For more, we spoke to journalist Alpha Jallow in the capital, Dakaar.

Humanitarian teams cross into Libya’s Nafusa mountains for the first time

Humanitarian teams have crossed into the Nafusa mountains in Western Libya for the first time.

An estimated 100,000 people have fled this area over the last 4 months. Brendan McDonald with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spoke to UN Radio’s May Yaacoub about what they saw.

LGBT activists in the Philippines campaign for equal rights legislation

In the Philippines, at Southern Tagalog Region’s University, LGBT activists have held the University’s first Pride march.  It’s part of a campaign to push lawmakers to pass legislation that would grant lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people the same human rights enjoyed by straight people.  Madonna Virola reports from Los Banos, in Laguna province.

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