Newscast for Thursday, August 4, 2011

  • Judge rules that a lawsuit accusing former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of torture can proceed
  • Somali Americans say they’re committed to combating radicalism
  • Lawmakers push for progress on debate over offshore drilling
  • Farm workers push Trader Joe’s grocery chain to sign the Campaign for Fair Food
  • Australia’s Immigration Policy Part 1: The controversial deal signed by Australia

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World Trade Center construction workers end strike

Construction workers at the World Trade Center site are back on the job today, after three days of striking over wages.  FSRN’s Rebecca Myles has more from New York.

Concrete workers had refused to work at the World Trade Center since their contract expired on Monday.  But the Cement League and the Cement and Concrete Workers District Council agreed with contractors late Wednesday to extend their contract until August 16.  Talks will be ongoing until then.

The main dispute is over contractors’ insistence that concrete workers accept 20% less in wages and benefits for residential and hotel construction relative to commercial construction.  The union hasn’t budged on that demand so far.

The strike affected not only work at One and Two World Trade Center, but the downtown transit hub, the new Barclays, Madison Square Garden, a medical center and a local residential development.  The strike did not affect the September 11th memorial set to open next month.  Rebecca Myles, FSRN, New York.

Fullerton, CA police officers put on leave after beating death of mentally ill man

Six police officers in Fullerton, CA were placed on paid administrative leave yesterday for their involvement in the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man.  Police stopped Kelly Thomas earlier this month on suspicion he had been breaking into cars.  Reports say he tried to run, and police beat and tasered him.  Bystanders filming the incident made comments about how brutal the officers were being during the arrest.  On Tuesday night, Kelly’s father Ron, a former law enforcement officer, asked the Fullerton City Council where his son’s rights went as a citizen.

“Listen to my son beg those officers, ‘Please, please, God, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ And the last words of his life, ‘Dad! Dad!’ I want you to hear that for the rest of your life like I will.”

Kelly Thomas was taken to the hospital after the arrest.  A photo from the hospital shows his face severely disfigured. Thomas fell into a coma and died less than a week later.  Ron Thomas said the city has already tried to settle with him for $900,000. The Orange County DA and the FBI are investigating the case.

Hawaii human trafficking case in possible jeopardy

The first of two large federal human trafficking trials has begun in Honolulu.  From Hawaii, FSRN’s Larry Geller reports on an unexpected snag in what appeared to be a solid case.

Aloun Farms is one of the largest in Hawaii, supplying melons and a variety of vegetables to supermarkets, restaurants and farmers markets throughout Oahu.  Its owners, Mike and Alec Sou, are now on trial in federal district court in Honolulu.  They’re charged with the forced labor of 44 workers recruited from Thailand, document servitude, visa fraud, obstruction of justice and conspiracy.  They each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

But the federal case was called into question this week.  Defense attorneys accused the lead government prosecutor of misstating the law to the grand jury that handed down the indictments.  The prosecutor admitted that indeed, she had mistakenly told the grand jury that it was illegal to demand recruiting fees of the workers.  In the 2003 to 2004 time frame of this case, it was not illegal.

The DOJ is now sending out more attorneys from Washington, and one of them is expected to take over as lead prosecution.  It’s too early to tell whether the misstep might lead to a mistrial. Larry Gellar, FSRN, Honolulu.

Syrian President says he will allow opposition political parties to form

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has announced he will allow citizens to form opposition political parties, according to state-run media. This comes after the UN Security Council condemned the government for using violence on its citizens. The military is maintaining its occupation of the city of Hama. The New York Times reports that more than 100 people have been killed in the city in the past 24 hours.

Remembering Judge Matthew Perry, civil rights pioneer

Today, South Carolinians celebrated the life of federal judge and civil rights leader Matthew J.  Perry.  Perry had a distinguished legal career and was instrumental in desegregating the state’s two major universities.  Perry spoke to South Carolina public radio about his nomination as a federal judge.

“You see, up until that time, there had never been an African-American on any federal court from any of the Deep South states. There were a few in other states, but no one in, let us say, south of the Mason-Dixon.”

At a funeral service today in the capital Columbia, SC Representative James Clyburn quoted Maya Angelou saying, “Diversity makes for a rich tapestry.”

“Matthew Perry was a brilliant thread of a tapestry that has formed our nation’s history.  While he may have believed that he was no more important than any other thread in that rich fabric, I must believe that he was a thread without which the tapestry would fall apart.”

Perry died last Friday.  He was 89 years old.



Judge rules that a lawsuit accusing former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of torture can proceed

A US District Court Judge has ruled that a US army veteran can sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for damages.   The unnamed plaintiff, who was working as a civilian contractor translating for the army in Iraq, was detained by US Navy intelligence agents in 2005 at a camp near Baghdad and jailed for nine months on suspicion of helping pass classified material to anti-coalition forces.  He was never formally charged and alleges he was tortured and held incommunicado in solitary confinement.  It’s only the second case of its kind against Rumsfeld that’s been allowed to proceed.  For more we spoke with Chicago attorney Mike Kanovitz who’s representing the plaintiff.

Somali Americans say they’re committed to combating radicalism

Yesterday the White House released a plan to combat violent extremism in the US.  The 8 page document calls for a community based approach involving schools and better training for law enforcement officials. The plan follows last week’s House Committee on Homeland Security hearing on the so-called radicalization of Muslim-Americans. This time, lawmakers focused on Somalia’s terrorist militia Al-Shabab and its recruitment of Somali-Americans. But many have criticized these hearings racist, and say lawmakers are overstating the threat.  And as FSRN’S Abdulkarim Jimale reports, many Somalis in the US say, rather than being a threat, they’re committed to combating radicalism.

Lawmakers push for progress on debate over offshore drilling

In Washington, the debate over whether to open up offshore drilling on the East Coast is heating up. But this time lawmakers aren’t stalled over environmental concerns. Instead, the issue is revenue sharing. As Matt Laslo reports, some Democrats are still trying to block the effort by steering the debate away from revenue.

Farm workers push Trader Joe’s grocery chain to sign the Campaign for Fair Food

This week, the farmworker rights group Coalition of Immokalee Workers kicked off the East Coast leg of their, “Trader Joe’s Truth Tour” They’re holding protests outside Trader Joe’s stores across the country because the company has so far refused to sign onto their Campaign for Fair Food. Alice Ollstein reports from Washington.

Australia’s Immigration Policy Part 1: The controversial deal signed by Australia and Malaysia

Now for the first part of our series looking at Australia’s immigration policy.  Today we examine a controversial deal signed last week by the Australian and Malaysian governments in which the countries will swap refugees. Malaysia will take 800 asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia, in exchange for Australia accepting 4,000 of Malaysia’s processed refugees.  For more we go to Ian Rintoul spokesperson for Sydney’s Refugee Action Coalition.  Welcome to Free Speech Radio News!

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