Newscast for Monday, December 19, 2011
- Clashes in Cairo enter fourth day as military continues brutal crackdown
- Death of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il leaves region uncertain
- Critics of Bradley Manning trial raise issues of torture, military procedure
- As Iraq War officially ends, Minneapolis program aims to repair ethnic hatred
US House to vote on payroll taxes and unemployment
The U.S. House of Representatives takes up a bill today that would extend both the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for just two months. House Republicans largely oppose the bill, which the Senate passed 89 to 10 on Friday before leaving DC for the holidays. House Speaker John Boehner explains why he expects the bill to fail in tonight’s vote. The idea that tax policy can be done two months at a time is the kind of activity that we see here in Washington that’s really put our economy off its tracks. It’s time for Congress to do its work. No more kicking the can down the road. The House version of the bill would extend the payroll tax cut for a full year, but cut the length of unemployment benefits and restrict eligibility. Both the Senate and House bills include a provision to fast-track a presidential decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. Boehner said the issue will likely go to conference to resolve the differences, which would force the Senate to return. If Congress can’t agree on a bill before December 31st, millions of Americans could receive smaller paychecks in January.
W. African village leaders vow an end to female circumcision
Local leaders in west Africa gathered to pledge an end to female genital mutilation. Alpha Jallow reports from Senegal.
At the ceremony in the town of Bakel more than more thousand people from small villages in eastern Senegal and neighboring vowed never to perform female genital mutilation again. To the astonishment of the crowd, one elderly woman revealed that she has performed the operation on nine hundred and ninety nine girls. The procedure involves removing the clitoris of young girls. The woman promised to hang up her blade., and never perform the procedure again. TOSTAN is an outreach program in Eastern Senegal waging campaign against female genital mutilation, a tradition deeply rooted in this part of the country and the neighboring Republic of Mali. Leaders also pledged to end the practices of early and forced marriages. Alpha Jallow, FSRN, Bakel, Eastern Senegal.
The UN General Assembly officially condemned Syria’s state sponsored crackdown of pro-democracy dissidents today. The non-binding resolution calls for the state to release political prisoners and remove military forces from the streets. In Cairo today, Syrian officials did sign an Arab League proposal to allow observers into the country, but only after negotiating fewer observers for a limited period of one month. After 2 weeks in jail, Syrian blogger Razan Ghazzawi, a.k.a. Red Razan, was freed on bail. But reports from the ground reveal continuing violence, with at least another 15 people killed today.
Typhoon Washi kills at least 652 in Philippines
In The Philippines, mass burials were held for hundreds of unidentified victims of a typhoon over the weekend. Madonna Virola has more.
Instead of the traditional preparations for Christmas, residents of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities in the southern Philippines are cleaning up and rebuilding after killer tropical storm Washi surprised them Saturday morning. As of Monday, 652 people are confirmed dead, 911 others still missing. some 47,000 remain in evacuation centers. Local officials prepared sites for mass burials of unclaimed, decomposing bodies, after funeral parlors said they could not a accommodate more victims. Health officer Liddy Villarin said the cadaver bags would be marked with physical features of the body for possible exhumation. According to the The Department of Environment and Natural Resources the huge amount of rainfall coupled with denuded mountains and forests caused flash floods, creating what the agency called “critical” conditions in communities across the region. Madonna Virola, FSRN, Calapan City, The Philippines.
NATO will continue night raids; recent raid killed pregnant woman
NATO officials said today they will continue to conduct controversial nighttime raids. Despite calls from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to end the home invasions, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson says the actions are the safest way to remove militant leaders. Further, he noted that Afghan Special Forces are increasingly involved in the operations where troops force their way into Afghans’ homes during the night. One such raid on Saturday resulted in the detention of three men and the death of one woman – she was eight months pregnant.
Vaclav Havel 1936 – 2011
Vaclav Havel, the former President of the Czech Republic, died Sunday. The writer, dissident and politician played a prominent role in charter 77, which led to the velvet revolution and the end of the Communist Party’s total control of the country. His influential essay, The Power of the Powerless, described to opposition movements around the world how to thrive within – and thereby weaken – the repressive systems that denied them rights. The essay ends, “For the real question is whether the brighter future is really always so distant. What if, on the contrary, it has been here for a long time already, and only our own blindness and weakness has prevented us from seeing it around us and within us, and kept us from developing it?” Havel was 75.