Newscast for Monday, September 26, 2011

  • Bahrain government cracks down on protests as majority boycott elections
  • Victim families express concern over handling of Libya mass grave
  • Kashmiri leader seeks international involvement in resolving conflict
  • Police arrest dozens in New York occupation of financial district
  • Postal workers push action as plans to save service hit political divide

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Bolivian police violently break up protest camp

Bolivia’s Defense Minister resigned today after police violently broke up an indigenous protest camp – Shawn Arquinego and Aldo Orellana report from Cochabamba.

Cecilia Chacon called the police action “unjustifiable.” Last night, hundreds of Bolivian police fired tear gas and used batons to break up a peaceful protest march headed for La Paz. A six-month old baby died after inhaling tear gas. Dozens were injured and more than 30 others are unaccounted for. The march was led by native Bolivians who are opposed to a highway construction project that would cut through their territory. Some 1,500 people were camped outside the town of Yucumo. Government officials claim that they entered the camp in an attempt to defuse tensions between marchers and the residents of the town who support the highway construction project. Rolando Villena, head of the Bolivian ombudsman office, demanded a halt to the violence and threatened to pursue legal action against the government. Vigils and protests are now being carried out in major cities around Bolivia against the actions of the government. Shawn Arquinego, FSRN, Cochabamba.

Paramilitary force emerging in Veracruz?

The Mexican state of Veracruz has become a major hot spot in the so-called war against drugs. Until now, the major actors have been members of organized crime or federal forces. But as Shannon Young explains, that may be changing.

Several aspects of the violence in Veracruz make it stand out from the bloodshed in other parts of Mexico…notably the emergence of an armed group bearing the appearance of a paramilitary organization. A group calling itself “Los MataZetas” – The ZetaKillers – has uploaded a couple of video communiques to the internet, the most recent one dated Saturday, September 24. The video shows five men in ski masks wearing all black and seated at a table laid out in conference-style formality. The speaker expressed respect for the armed forces and said the goal of the MataZetas is to fight the Zetas cartel in a way the military cannot due to legal restrictions. It was the first communique from the group since at least 35 bodies were dumped near an overpass in Boca del Rio, Veracruz last week. A state government official claimed the dead were criminals…before medical examiners had established the identities of all of the murder victims. The mother of a 15 year old boy found among the dead said the last time she saw her son, he was in state police custody. Three reporters covering this story for major national media outlets were briefly detained on Thursday while documenting the condition of the bodies in the morgue…and forced by armed Veracruz state police to delete photos. Shannon Young, FSRN, Oaxaca.

BP petitions for Gulf of Mexico deep water drilling permits

For the first time since the 2010 Gulf oil disaster, BP has applied for permits to start drilling again off the Louisiana Coast. The company wants to drill four new wells almost 6000 feet down. A BP spokesperson says the company has learned its lesson – and now has “enhanced performance standards.” Cynthia Sarthou is with the Gulf Restoration Network.

“Our concern is whether they have in fact implemented the safety standards they say. And if not, whether they are actually any more capable than they were before at responding to a situation in which something goes wrong.”

Federal regulators have until late next month to rule on BP’s request.

First female Nobel Peace Prize winner from Africa dies

Kenya’s Professor Wangari Maathai, the Nobel peace laureate of 2004 died last night. She was 71 years old. John Bwakali has more from Nairobi.

Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Decades earlier, she was also the first woman to be awarded a doctorate in all of East and Central Africa. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977. Through it, she mobilized women across Kenya to empower themselves and conserve the environment by planting trees. This movement has since planted more than 47 million trees. In the 1980s, she was the environmental conscience of Kenya, taking on the government in defending natural spaces and resources both in urban and rural areas. Her courageous activism often landed her in prison, but she refused to be silenced. In 2002, she won a parliamentary seat and became the nation’s assistant minister of environment. After winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, Wangari Maathai became increasingly engaged on the global platform. Where among others initiatives, she steered the United Nations Environment Program’s billion tree campaign, greatly enhancing environmental awareness all over the world. Wangari Maathai died from ovarian cancer. She is survived by three adult children. John Bwakali, FSRN, Nairobi.

California jury awards 4.5 million dollars to family of homeless man who died in police custody

And on Friday, a California jury awarded 4.5 million dollars to the the family of a homeless man who died while in police custody. Jurors found that two Eureka police officers used excessive force against Martin Cotton, and three others failed to provide him with medical care.


Bahrain government cracks down on protests as majority boycott elections

In Bahrain today a court set up by the monarchy sentenced the head of the teachers’ union to 10 years in prison for participation in anti-regime protests. His deputy received three years. The sentences follow returned protests, which began last week ahead of elections that took place Saturday.

Security forces used stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters according to witnesses in the village of Sanabis.

A video posted on Youtube shows security forces in riot gear stomping on an unarmed man as he lies on the ground. A woman tries to intervene, and a policeman sprays her in the face with a canister as a crowd gathers.

According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, security forces attacked protesters in the lead up to the voting. Government forces also arrested 45 women and girls in one of Bahrain’s main shopping malls days before the election, according to the AP.

The majority Shiite opposition critical of the monarchy rule boycotted Saturday’s elections, which were scheduled to elect replacements for more than a dozen lawmakers who resigned in proteset of how the regime responded to the demonstrations. A second round of voting will take place October 1, as some candidates failed to win 50 percent of the vote.

Victim families express concern over handling of Libya mass grave

In Libya, hundreds of civilians are fleeing Sirte after NATO bombing on Sunday and more are facing shortages of food and medicine, according to the AP.

The National Transitional Council said yesterday they’ve discovered a mass grave in Tripoli containing the bodies of 1,270 inmates killed by Gaddafi’s security forces. today families of the victims flocked to the site, hoping to get some answers. Instead, they found little physical evidence of the mass grave and no doctor or official to supervise the search. Marine Olivesi sent us this report.

Kashmiri leader seeks international involvement in resolving conflict

As eyes are on the UN security council as it plans to take up the application for Palestinian statehood, another long unresolved dispute is the subject of talks at the UN: Kashmir.

The issue is being discussed between India and Pakistan as both countries have the Kashmir region under their administration. The main demand of the people in Indian-administered Kashmir is self-determination, which means independence from India.

At the UN, the Organisation of Islamic Conference or OIC held a special meeting on Kashmir on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. The meeting was attended by Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference or APHC.

He spoke to FSRN’s Salim Rizvi at the UN in New York.

Police arrest dozens in New York occupation of financial district

In New York City this weekend dozens of people were mass-arrested protesting the country’s financial system as part of the week-long Occupy Wall Street protests. Community News Production Institute Reporter Jaisal Noor arrived on the scene minutes after the arrests had been made. He brings us the story.

Postal workers push action as plans to save service hit political divide

The US Postal Service is facing a massive multi-billion dollar deficit and deep cuts to its workforce. In an attempt to find a solution, it’s become clear that although the postal service operates independently of the federal government it’s not independent of politics. Dueling bills introduced by each party that aim to reform the agency’s finances are facing opposition and prompting a national day of action by postal workers. Michael Lawson has more.

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