Newscast for Wednesday, November 2, 2011

  • Oakland general strike brings labor, students, teachers into streets
  • Harsh police tactics criticized after crackdowns at Occupy encampments
  • As protesters converge for G-20 in France, US lawmakers weigh transaction tax
  • In Philadelphia, domestic abuse shelter strains under budget cuts
  • Syrian refugees wait in Turkey as violence continues in their homeland

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Boulder passes anti-corporate personhood measure

In Tuesday’s election, residents of Boulder, Colorado addressed the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, which allows corporations unlimited spending on election campaigns.  After a concerted grassroots effort, voters overwhelmingly supported the idea that only human beings are entitled to First Amendment rights.  FSRN’s Irene Rodriguez reports.

Under huge spending disparities, Boulder’s grassroots campaign against corporate personhood paid off.  By a 3 to 1 margin, voters passed a local measure that gives support to a US Constitutional amendment saying that only people are entitled to First Amendment rights.

Boulder voters also approved a measure authorizing the City Council to explore replacing the private power company, Xcel Energy with a local municipal power authority.  Voters also approved an initiative to financially support the process with tax dollars.  Xcel Energy, which could stand to lose a share of the utility market, outspent these grassroots and public efforts 10 to 1.

In the capital Denver, voters overwhelmingly rejected a local measure that would have mandated all nongovernmental employers to offer paid sick days to both full and part-time employees.  Initiative 300 would have required companies with more than 10 employees to give workers 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, for a maximum of 9 hours per year.

State voters also defeated a tax measure that would have provided nearly 3 billion dollars for education.  Irene Rodriguez, FSRN, Boulder.

NOTE: Irene Rodriguez’s story has been updated to remove inaccurate information about how many cities have passed similar measures.


UK judge allows Assange extradition to Sweden

Today in London:

“I have not been charged with any crime in any country.”

Julian Assange of Wikileaks spoke to reporters after he lost his battle against extradition from the UK.  A judge cleared the way for his transfer to Sweden to face sexual assault charges.  From London, Naomi Fowler reports for FSRN.

Many supporters of Julian Assange believe the rape allegations by two women in Sweden are politically motivated.  Last year, Wikileaks published its most high-profile leaks to date, making public hundreds of thousands of classified US documents.  Assange’s lawyers have argued the arrest warrant is invalid because there’s insufficient evidence for the alleged ‘unlawful coercion,’ but the judges rejected that.

It’s likely the US will now attempt to extradite Assange from Sweden to face charges over the leaked government documents.  Assange’s supporters say he won’t receive a fair trial there and could even face the death penalty or Guantanamo Bay.

Assange has 14 days to appeal today’s ruling.  After the ruling, Assange said he would be considering his next step in the coming days.  He could be deported to Sweden by the end of this month.  Naomi Fowler, FSRN, London.

Controversial Zimbabwe diamond field cleared for exports

Zimbabwe will resume the export of diamonds from the controversial Marange diamond fields after receiving Kimberley Process approval on Tuesday.  The Kimberley Process is a group of industry, government and civil society representatives charged with certifying diamonds are not mined under conflict situations.  These stones are often referred to as blood diamonds.  But many NGOs boycotted the most recent Kimberley meeting, complaining of the group’s weak position on human rights, according to Voice of America.  Just two months ago, Human Rights Watch released a report about the Marange fields.  Researchers found that Zimbabwe police and private security forces employed by mining companies were shooting, beating and unleashing dogs on local unlicensed miners.

Israel vows to increase settlement construction after UNESCO vote

Fallout continues following Monday’s UNESCO vote to admit Palestine.  Yesterday Canada announced it would halt funding for the UN’s cultural and educational agency.  And today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that building in Jerusalem is Israel’s “right and obligation,” referring to his government’s recent announcement that construction would be sped up in Jewish settlements.  FSRN’s Jillian Kestler-D’Amours reports from Jerusalem.

The Israeli government announced Tuesday that approximately 2,000 new homes would be built in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank settlements of Efrat and Ma’ale Adumim.  The move came in response UNESCO’s 107 to 14 vote to admit Palestine as a full member.

Hagit Ofran is Settlement Watch Director at the Israeli organization Peace Now.

“I think that the announcement that Israel will build more settlements as a reaction to the unilateral steps of the Palestinians, has no connection to any Israeli interest.  The message that the Israeli government is sending is that Israel does not want peace and that we want to continue with settlement activity.”

In addition to settlement expansion, Israel said it would ban UNESCO missions in the country, and impose a freeze on the transfer of over 80 million US dollars in tax revenues that it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.  Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, FSRN, Jerusalem.



Oakland general strike brings labor, students, teachers into streets

Today in Oakland, students, labor leaders, teachers and city workers observed a general strike. The action sent many into the streets, where last week police forcibly removed protesters from an encampment near city hall.

We turn to reporter Brian Edwards-Tiekert who is in downtown Oakland and has been following the day’s events – Brian tell us where you are right now?

The general strike was voted on by Occupy Oakland’s General Assembly after a violent crackdown on protesters, US Marine veteran Scott Olsen remains hospitalized following the attack. The police have promised an investigation, and yesterday, the Oakland Police Officers Association, wrote an open letter to citizens saying they too are the 99 percent. The statement said they are also fighting for better working conditions  and were confused by Oakland Mayor Jean Quon’s mixed messages – including ordering them to clear out encampments last week, and later, ordering all police to work, despite giving all other city workers the day off to participate in the strike.

Harsh police tactics criticized after crackdowns at Occupy encampments

Oakland isn’t the only city where police have attacked Occupy encampments, and some are questioning leaders’ decisions to use force on non-violent protesters. For a look at the legal aspect of the police response to the Occupy protests we turn to Heidi Boghosian, she’s executive director for the National Lawyers Guild. Attorneys with the Guild have been working closely with occupy protesters in a number of cities.

As protesters converge for G-20 in France, US lawmakers weigh transaction tax

In France, thousands marched this week to protest the policies of the G20, which is meeting tomorrow in Cannes. Because that city is cordoned off to protesters, activists organized a rally and counter summit in Nice. Madouh Habashi from Egypt was in the streets Tuesday.

“The peoples of the world, in the South and in the North are facing the same enemy. Always more people in the world recognize this fact: that we are facing the same enemy. And we have to coordinate our struggles together.”

Sound courtesy of

One of the issues global activists want world leaders to approve at the G20 meetings is what’s called a financial transaction tax – also known as the Robinhood tax. Supporters argue everyday citizens shouldn’t bear the burden of bailing out banks, many of which are now reporting record profits. The plan would levy a half percent tax on financial institution transactions and has support from some EU countries, who estimate it could generate nearly $80 billion per year. In the US, lawmakers introduced similar legislation in Congress today. Matt Laslo has the details.

In Philadelphia, domestic abuse shelter strains under budget cuts

Advocates for survivors of domestic violence are urging Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which expired at the end of September. Over the last 15 years, the act has provided more than 4 billion dollars for programs and legal help. But some are worried the next round of funding will be slashed, at a time when there’s greater need for services and as budget cuts have hit some local communities. FSRN’s Matthew Petrillo reports from Philadelphia, where the city’s only domestic abuse shelter is struggling to get by.

Syrian refugees wait in Turkey as violence continues in their homeland

Syrian security forces killed at least 9 villagers at a roadblock in Homs, activists said today. This follows one of the deadliest days in the months-long protest, when some 40 civilians were killed last Friday in a crackdown that included house to house raids.

The ongoing unrest in Syria has forced thousands of people to flee the country, many of them to Turkey. Many come from the city of Jisr al-Shugur, which was besieged by government forces in June. Nearly five months later, more than seven and a half thousand Syrians are still in Turkey, living in five separate Red Crescent camps in villages surrounding the southern city of Antakya. Hermione Gee visited the camp of Boynuyogun last month, the temporary home of some 1,300 Syrian refugees.

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