Newscast for Friday, October 7, 2011

  • Afghans mark decade of war with calls for US withdrawal
  • San Francisco protesters call for shift from spending on military to social programs
  • Syrian opposition consolidates leadership as attacks on protesters continue
  • Supporters, critics of Keystone pipeline converge at final public meeting
  • Virginia resists calls to reform system for people with disabilities

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Women’s rights trio wins Nobel Peace Prize

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize will be shared by three women—Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and peace activist Leyma Gbowee, and Yemeni activist and journalist Tawakkul Karman. In their announcement, the Nobel council said: “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.” Karman is a leading figure in the uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and founded Women Journalists without Chains. Sirleaf became Africa’s first democratically elected female president in 2006, and is running for reelection next week. Gbowee directs the Women Peace and Security Network, and has worked to raise awareness of rape and abuse of women across Africa. The three women will equally share the 1.5 million dollar prize.

Chile faces national referendum on education as government cracks down on students

In Chile, student strikes continue as the country takes up a national referendum on education. All citizens over 14 can weigh in today and Saturday on whether education should be free and guaranteed by the state at every level, and whether giving public funds to for-profit schools should be prohibited. The referendum comes at the end of a week marked by Chile’s police forcefully preventing unauthorized marches and student leaders once again breaking off talks with government officials. Caroline Lewis reports from Santiago.

Last week the government promised to raise the education budget by over 7 % and create a 4 billion dollar student scholarship fund. But after Wednesday’s meeting with Minister of Education Felipe Bulnes, university and high school students in Chile once again abandoned the table of dialogue. Student leaders cited the government’s unwillingness to consider the students’ demands of free education for all Chileans. On Thursday, students attempted to march in Santiago, but police immediately dispersed demonstrators with tear gas bombs and water cannons. Over 130 were arrested, according to government statistics. Patricio, a first-year at the University of Chile, witnessed the scene from the school’s main building, which is being occupied by protesting students. “During the day, we’ve suffered strong police repression. A little while ago we also had a kid here whose eye was injured because he was hit by a gas bomb thrown by a police officer. We had to send him to the emergency room.” President Piñera signed a bill last week that would criminalize the occupation of schools as well as the disruption of the free flow of individuals and vehicles on bridges, streets, and roads. Caroline Lewis, FSRN, Santiago.

EU may regulate emissions of US airlines

Attempts by US airlines to avoid having to meet new European carbon emissions standards have taken a hit in court. A preliminary ruling says the EU can legally force airlines that fly to Europe to participate in the bloc’s carbon cap and trade program. Liam Moriarty reports from Normandy.

Starting next year, the aviation industry will be included in Europe’s cap and trade program—joining electricity producers and other heavy industries that already have to lower their emissions, or pay for their excess greenhouse gas pollution by buying allowances. Airlines based in the U-S and other countries are challenging the new rule, saying Europe has no right to impose regulations on foreign airlines. An Advocate General at the European Court of Justice issued an opinion Thursday that the requirement is legal under international law. Bill Hemmings with Transport and Environment, a Brussels-based non-profit that intervened in the case – says the industry really doesn’t have much to complain about. “The cost is extremely modest. The costs will be passed in their entirety to passengers. All of these objections seem to be a way for international airlines to avoid their responsibilities for the climate.” E-U officials estimate that transatlantic ticket prices would rise just six to twelve euros – about eight to sixteen dollars. The full court won’t rule on the matter till next year, though it usually affirms the preliminary opinion. The EU emission rules for aviation are slated to go into effect January 1st. Liam Moriarty, FSRN, Normandy, France.

New US unemployment statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced today that the US created 103-thousand jobs in September, and official unemployment still hovers at 9.1 percent. However, that rate climbs to 16.5 percent when including individuals who have given up or are unable to look for work, or are working only part-time but want to work full time. The official unemployed percentage of African Americans, 16.1 percent, is more than double that of white Americans, at 8 percent. And nearly 45 percent of the unemployed have been looking for work for more than 6 months.

Split verdict in Queens murder trial

The Queens Supreme Court issued a verdict Thursday with far reaching implications for domestic violence survivors. Noelle Hanrahan has the story.

After a month-long trial, Barbara Sheenan was acquitted of 2nd degree murder. Sheehan had admitted shooting retired NYC police sergeant Raymond Sheehan eleven times in February 2008 at their home in Howard Beach Queens. She also testified about decades of domestic violence. The jury began the week by telling the court that they were hopelessly deadlocked. After instruction from the bench that they could deliver a split verdict, they announced an acquittal on the murder charge, and a guilty verdict on criminal possession of a weapon. Sheehan will turn herself in and serve time at Rikers Island while she awaits sentencing in November.  The weapons charge carries a minimum three year and potential 15 year sentence. Sheehan told reporters her arrest was something of a mixed blessing. “Being arrested was horrible and it was degrading and humiliating but I actually felt safer in jail than I did in my own house with my husband.” Sheehan’s attorney Michael Dowd told FSRN that he is researching whether the weapons charge can stand without a conviction on the primary crime. Noelle Hanrahan FSRN, Queens


Afghans mark decade of war with calls for US withdrawal

It was ten years ago today that US and British forces began bombing Afghanistan and setting into motion a war that is still ongoing. Yesterday, some 300 people marched through Kabul, demanding the immediate withdrawal of US and international forces. One man who joined the protest reflected on a decade of war. “Now it is ten years on from the occupation of the US and its allies in Afghanistan. Our people suffered a lot of instability and our poverty increased. There are no other benefits.” Sound from Reuters. Protesters held signs that said ‘No to Occupation’ and showed pictures of civilians killed during the war. They also directed their criticisms to Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who they called a puppet of the US government. So far this year has marked the highest total of Afghan civilians killed since 2006, when the UN began recording accurate data. Some 11,000 civilians have been killed in the past four years. 2010 was also the deadliest year for coalition military personnel, with 711 troops killed, according to icasualties, which monitors fatalities in the war. More than 1,700 US soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the invasion began, thousands more wounded. In a message posted on Youtube, Malalai Joya, former member of the Afghan parliament, said democracy could only come from within her country. “Ten years ago US and NATO invaded my country under the fake banners of women rights, human rights and democracy. But after a decade, Afghanistan still remains the most uncivil, most corrupt and most war-torn country in the world. The consequences of the so-called War on Terror has only made more bloodshed, crimes, barbarism, human rights [and] women rights violations, which have doubled the miseries and sorrows of our people.” Ten years of war has also increased US war spending. New figures from the National Priorities Project show that the US has spent $460 billion in Afghanistan. President Obama has said that foreign combat troops will leave Afghanistan in 2014. There are currently more than 130,000 coalition troops in the country, some 98,000 are from the US..

San Francisco protesters call for shift from spending on military to social programs

Opposition to the US-led wars is a theme at many of the Occupy demonstrations taking place from coast to coast. Anti-war groups are leading marches and rallies today in Washington, Syracuse, Los Angeles and other cities to protest the Afghan war. In FSRN’s ongoing coverage of the occupy movement, today we take you to San Francisco where residents are demanding elected officials slash military spending on the wars and direct those billions to social programs at home.  Judith Scherr has the story.

Syrian opposition consolidates leadership as attacks on protesters continue

Today in Syria, security forces fired on protesters in locations across the country killing at least seven people and wounding more. A prominent Syrian-Kurdish opposition figure was killed in the city of Qamishli and activists said pro-government gunmen beat another leader outside a mosque in Midan. The death toll of those killed in protests against the regime of President Bashar Al Assad has risen to more than 2,900, according to new figures from the UN out this week. The protests, which began in mid-March, have taken a turn with army defectors taking a larger role in the fighting and the opposition coalescing under a national council, which meets tomorrow in Cairo to choose an executive board and key leadership positions. Mohammad Al Abdallah is Just back from the Council’s first meeting last Sunday in Istanbul. He joins us now from Washington.

Supporters, critics of Keystone pipeline converge at final public meeting

In Washington, the State Department held its final public comment meeting before making a decision on a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. The controversial project would bring crude oil from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Today’s meeting was met with protests from anti-pipeline advocates as well as a show of force from union workers in support of the pipeline. Michael Lawson has more.

Virginia resists calls to reform system for people with disabilities

Across the country, disability rights advocates have been pressuring government officials to reform what they call a dated system that puts people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in large, state-run institutions. The Justice Department has been investigating some states. In Virginia, federal officials found the state is needlessly institutionalizing hundreds of people, a violation of their civil rights. Although state leaders acknowledge the problem, they’ve refused to commit to closing the facilities. Brad Kutner has the story from Richmond.

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