Newscast for Tuesday, August 30, 2011

  • Cash-strapped FEMA faces struggles in record-disaster year
  • Thousands protest in Yemen as president announces elections
  • Families in Kashmir press for investigation into disappeared relatives
  • Philadelphia’s plan to close digital divide falls behind

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Childcare worker for Gaddafi’s getting burn treatment in hospital; thousands unaccounted for

An Ethiopian woman who cared for two of Muammar Gaddafi’s young grandchildren in an opulent Tripoli compound is in a local hospital today, receiving antibiotics for infected burns over much of her body. Shwygar Mullah was tortured by Gaddafi’s daughter-in-law, who more than once poured boiling water over her. She was discovered Sunday by CNN reporters. Her story is one of perhaps thousands tortured at the hands or orders of the Gaddafis. Rupert Colville of the UN Human Rights office says that summary executions and atrocious human rights violations in Libya are mostly attributed to Gaddafi forces, and thousands more may be unaccounted for.

“Given the gruesome discoveries that have taken place over the past few days, there is good reason to be extremely concerned for their safety. It is of utmost importance that these crimes – as well as other serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law – are properly documented and investigated, as the first steps towards accountability and justice for the victims and their families.”

The Libyan National Transitional Council (TNC) claims up to 50,000 people have disappeared but the UN Human Rights Office says those numbers have not been independently verified.

More US sanctions for Syrian officials; brother of Syrian human rights ex-pat arrested

The US Treasury Department froze the assets of three more Syrian officials as violence against protesters continues today, the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Al Jazeera reports at least 6 died today in Deraa alone – including a 14 year old. And the head the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies and a visiting scholar at George Washington University, Radwan Ziadeh, says his brother was arrested this morning after morning prayers. Ziadeh says he thinks his brother – Yassin – was taken to the headquarters of Airforce Security.

Eid eve sectarian violence in Nigeria, at least 20 dead

In Northern Nigeria, at least 20 people died in clashes between Christians and Muslims. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

The clash between Christians and Muslims occurred in Jos, a city that has seen years of sectarian violence. Fighting broke out in a predominantly Christian part of the city as Ramadan came to a close. Christians attempted to stop Muslims from holding prayers in a public place to mark the end of the 30 day fasting period and the eve of Eid al-Fitr.  An eye witness from the area told FSRN that Christians consider Muslims a security threat in the neighborhood, following a bomb attack last Christmas Eve that left 40 people dead. Scores of people have died since the beginning of this year in reprisal killings between Christians and Muslims. The situation in the city further highlights the tension between the two religious groups in Nigeria. This comes as police say they have arrested 50 people in connection with last Friday’s bomb blast at the United Nations House in Abuja , 23 people died. An Islamic group that wants the introduction of Islamic law in Nigeria claimed responsibility for the attack. Sam Olukoya FSRN, Lagos.

US medical researchers committed “grave human rights violations” against Guatemalans

A federal panel investigating scientific experiments on sexually transmitted diseases in the 1940s has found the U.S. Public Health Service committed “grave human rights violations.” The presidential panel on bioethics revealed yesterday that US scientists deliberately infected Guatemalans with syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroid, did not inform them in advance and did not get their consent. But when similar experiments were carried out on Americans, they only used subjects who volunteered and were fully informed. In one Guatemalan case, researchers not only withheld treatment form a woman dying from syphilis – they applied pus containing gonorrhea to her eyes. A full report on the matter will be sent to President Obama next month.

Alabama immigration law on hold

U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn delayed implementation of Alabama’s harsh immigration law pending appeal. The bill would make it a state crime to be an immigrant without documentation and would also require schools to collect immigration data on students. It would void contracts with undocumented immigrants and make it illegal to rent them property. And it would allow police to use a broad standard of “reasonable suspicion” to detain suspects.

ATF boss steps aside over Fast and Furious gun debacle

And the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives IS leaving the agency – but staying with the Department of Justice. Kenneth E. Melson oversaw the Fast And Furious program – in which ATF agents allowed the trafficking of  illegal weapons in an attempt to ensnare Mexican cartel leaders.



Cash-strapped FEMA faces struggles in record-disaster year

Flooding caused by Hurricane Irene continues to devastate communities in Vermont, New Jersey and Upstate New York, where more than a dozen towns are cut off after bridges and roads were washed away. Many places lost their electricity and running water, and emergency evacuations continued Tuesday to airlift people to safety. In New York’s Catskills, several villages and towns remained under a state of emergency, including Fleischmanns — where resident Glenna Herz and her husband told the AP about watching homes and barns get swept away.

“I was okay until I went through the village of Fleishchmanns this morning . . . where do you go now?”

Officials say the storm killed at least 40 people, including an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor in Fleischmanns whose cabin was swept away. Obama Administration officials are traveling to hard-hit areas, and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate is heading to Vermont to address the needs of the towns of Pittsfield, Bridgewater and Wilmington, which are completely cut off by flooding. But as FEMA’s workload skyrockets, there are growing concerns about whether the agency has enough cash reserves to deal with the costs of Irene and disasters to come. Alice Ollstein reports from Washington.

Thousands protest in Yemen as president announces elections

Thousands took to the streets in Yemen today and the country’s leader – in power for more than 3 decades – has announced elections. Protesters have been calling for change since January. But some say, the news of elections in addition to developments in Libya and Syria, could mean a turning point. For more, we’re joined by Stacey Philbrick Yadav. She’s Assistant Professor of Political Science and a specialist in Yemeni politics from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.

Families in Kashmir press for investigation into disappeared relatives

In Kashmir hundreds of people staged a sit-in to call for a full investigation into relatives who have gone missing. Today marks the UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances and the protesters gathered in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-Administered Kashmir, to protest what they called the government’s failure to act. The State Human Right Commission has acknowledged the presence of a large number of unmarked graves containing unidentified bodies. Authorities claim the bodies are of militants killed in gunfights but rights activists say the unmarked graves could contain bodies of many of the Kashmir’s disappeared people. Shahnawaz Khan reports from Srinagar.

Philadelphia’s plan to close digital divide falls behind

Access to the Internet has played an increasingly powerful role – in opening transparency to the powerful, facilitating civic participation and aiding communication in the Arab and North African uprisings. The UN has declared access to the Internet a human right. But around the world, the digital divide is still a problem affecting millions. Many rural regions have no Internet access, except for pricey satellite alternatives. And in urban areas, Internet is often too expensive for low-income families. Philadelphia is one city that has promised to close the digital divide, but as FSRN’s Matthew Petrillo reports, that goal is still far from being met.

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