January 30, 2012

  • Occupy protesters at Washington DC park challenge eviction by officials
  • Police crackdown in Oakland leads to hundreds of arrests
  • UN team visits Iran to monitor nuclear program as sanctions, military build-up continue
  • Oil disaster still a concern for Florida voters as GOP candidates push for more drilling

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New HUD rule bans discrimination LGBTs

New federal housing rules banning discrimination against  lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender individuals become final this week. US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan.

“I am proud to announce a new equal access to housing rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose.”

The rule bans lenders from considering applicants’ sexual orientation or gender identity when reviewing  FHA-insured mortgage financing. Further –  families who qualify for HUD programs can’t be turned away  based on the  relationship or gender status of any one member  – either real or perceived.  And anyone who receives federal housing grants will be required to abide by prevailing state and local  anti-discrimination laws. The new rules  take effect 30 days from their publication in the Federal Register.

Arab League monitors quit Syria as violence escalates

Fighting in the suburbs of Damascus has reportedly increased dramatically today.  Arab League monitors ended their mission over the weekend. Russia slammed the Arab bloc for withdrawing – saying more observers are needed,  not fewer. And the United Nations Security Council met behind closed doors in continued effort to hammer out a draft resolution condemning the violence.  According to the opposition Syrian National Council,  state security forces corralled  hundreds of young men  in a central square in Rankus today, not far from Damascus. The SNC says the town is without power or water.  The US State Department says that  hundreds of  civilians have died in the past four days as state forces demolished occupied buildings. The UN has stopped tracking the death toll in Syria. Their last estimate  – in early December – was more than 5000 people dead during 10 months of uprisings.

South Ossetia’s Jioeva sets her own inauguration for Feb. 10

The political standoff in South Ossetia continues as the winner of the annulled November vote now says she’ll inaugurate herself next month. MJ Riquelme explains.

Two months ago, the Supreme Court annulled the presidential elections and rescheduled new ones for March 25. The winner of that poll, Alla Jioeva, defeated Anatoly Bibilov, who was staunchly supported by the Kremlin. After weeks of street protests, Jioeva agreed to new polls in March. Now she has canceled the agreement, and declared that she will inaugurate herself as South Ossetia’s new president on February 10. In the mean time – five other candidates have registered for the March elections. No one knows what will happen on the 10th of February. Jioeva gathered thousands of supporters, but it’s unclear who the Kremlin will support in the next round. South Ossetia’s economy is completely dependent on Russian remittances and donations. And Jioeva has not offered any plan of action after her February self-inauguration. MJ Riquelme, FSRN, Tbilisi.

Political stalemate in Iraq eases; al Iraqiya ends boycott

The political freeze in Iraq has started to thaw with the Sunni-backed bloc agreeing to end their  parliamentary boycott. Al Iraqiya walked out after Shiite  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government levied terrorism charges against the country’s Vice President, Iraqiya’s Tariq al-Hashimi. The break in the stalemate is a step toward greater power for Prime Minister Maliki. TheUS brokered a power sharing deal between Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds as part of the US withdrawal.  The New York Times reports today that the State Department is running a drone program over Iraq, to keep an eye on the security situation after the military handed off in December. The government plans to contract out the un-piloted spy plane program for the next five years.

Belgians protest austerity measures

Hundreds of thousands of Belgian workers unhappy with austerity measures introduced by the new Socialist government walked off the job today (Monday), paralyzing much of the country. More from FSRN’s Liam Moriarty.

Trains, local transit and many airline flights were brought to a standstill and factories were idled, as unions called the first nation-wide general strike in nearly two decades. They’re protesting plans by Belgium’s government to tighten retirement, pension and employment rules. The government says the cuts are needed to bring Belgium’s budget deficit down to meet EU requirements. But Rafael Lamas, with the Belgian General Federation of Labor – says the cuts will make things worse.

“If we focus only on austerity measures, we are going to enter in a vicious circle with depression, with less growth, so less revenues for the governments.”

The strike was called for today to send a message to European Union leaders, gathered in Brussels to finalize a new treaty to enforce budget restraint across Europe. Liam Moriarty, FSRN, Normandy, France.

Marine court-martialled in alleged hazing of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew

A US Marine was court-martialled in Hawaii today regarding his role in the alleged hazing of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew. Lew killed himself while stationed in Afghanistan in early April. Lance Cpl. Jacob D. Jacoby is one of three Marines accused of aggressively humiliating Lew. According to the AP, a plea agreement has been reached – but details were not available at air time.



Occupy protesters at Washington DC park challenge eviction by officials

Occupy protesters in US and European cities are facing police action in an effort to remain at sites. In London, protesters are criticizing the force used by security officers to evict protesters from an abandoned building owned by UBS BANK. According to the Guardian, 50 protesters were removed during a confrontation at which witnesses said an officer punched a photographer and then drove his car toward another. Protesters said the original encampment by St Paul’s Cathedral could be next.

In Washington DC, one of the largest and longest running Occupy encampments in the U.S. is in jeopardy today, as the National Parks Service promised to start enforcing a ban on camping in McPhearson Square. The move comes after a congressional committee criticized the director of the National Park Service for allowing the Occupy encampment to continue for nearly four months, citing concerns of health, safety and the rule of law. But those living in the park say the First Amendment protects them, and they’re not going anywhere. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports.

Police crackdown in Oakland leads to hundreds of arrests

In Oakland, California, thousands of people took part in an attempt to occupy an empty building to serve as a new home for the Occupy movement in the city. Organizers had hoped that the new building could be used to house homeless people and provide a space to distribute food. But the demonstration was met with a heavy police response, which left several people injured, and hundreds more arrested. FSRN’s George Lavender reports.

UN team visits Iran to monitor nuclear program as sanctions, military build-up continue

A team of UN nuclear experts is currently in Iran to monitor the country’s nuclear program. The visit comes at a sensitive time. Earlier this month, US and European countries agreed to sanctions on Iran and Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital passage for the world’s oil supply. But the current events could hint at a deeper shift taking place: a realignment of power in the region.

For more, we’re joined by Kaveh Ehsani assistant professor of international studies at DePaul University in Chicago. He’s also a contributor editor of Middle East Report.

Oil disaster still a concern for Florida voters as GOP candidates push for more drilling

Republican voters in Florida decide tomorrow which of the GOP candidates they prefer as their presidential nominee. As front-runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich trade political attacks, there seems to be at least one subject that most of the candidates agree on: promoting oil drilling in the Gulf. But the effects of one of the worst environmental disasters in US history are still fresh on the minds of many voters. FSRN’s Kelly Benjamin reports.

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