February 2, 2012

  • Advocates for poor counter attacks on public assistance and food stamps
  • Modest gains in fight against homelessness, but many still struggle in urban areas
  • US-backed NGOs in Egypt played controversial role in many countries
  • Students in Mexico demand justice for protesters slain by police

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 Yemeni activists in US criticize Obama Administration for sheltering Saleh

In New York today Yemeni-American activists criticized the United States for sheltering longtime Yemeni Dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. Community News Production Institute reporter Jaisal Noor reports for FSRN.

Activists gathered outside New York City’s exclusive Ritz Carlton Hotel where its rumored former Yemeni Dictator and current interim President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been staying.  The Obama administration has been widely criticized for allowing Saleh to seek medical treatment in the US, while enjoying immunity from prosecution in Yemen.  His regime – a close ally of the US in its war on terror – has been blamed for slaughtering hundreds of peaceful pro-democracy protesters. Ibraham Qatabi is with the group Yemeni Americans for Change.

“We’re here to protest that the Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh is staying in New York City.  We’re very disappointed by the Obama administration granting a visa to someone who committed crimes against humanity in Yemen and killed and injured more than 29,000 Yemenis.” Saleh is slated to step down in February after elections.  However the only candidate running is one of his close allies. Activists say they will continue to demand justice for those killed and injured under Saleh’s rule. Jaisal Noor, FSRN, New York.

NATO says Afghan mission timeline unchanged

The US and NATO leadership in Afghanistan is mulling a substantial mission shift in the country.  Yesterday US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the US hoped to move into a support role by the end of 2013, a much speedier timeline than previously floated by officials. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen supported Panetta’s statement, saying the timetable for the mission in Afghanistan hasn’t changed since it was announced in 2010.

“We expect the last provinces to be handed over to the Afghan security forces by mid-2013. From that time Afghan security forces are in the lead all over Afghanistan. And from that time, the role of our troops will gradually change from combat to support.”

Rasmussen said it is vital that the change in mission take into account the actual security situation on the ground, possibly leaving a door open to future changes in the Afghanistan timeline. An unnamed US official told the Washington Post that plans are not final yet, and that deliberations will happen at a summit meeting this May in Chicago.

Virginia Republicans push through conservative agenda

It’s been a busy week for Virginia lawmakers.  With a Republican majority across the state’s Assembly, conservative bills have been steadily making their way to the Governor’s desk.  Yesterday the state Senate passed a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound done before getting an abortion.  Several other bills designed to severely limit abortion access are also in the works. Republicans in the House passed a voter ID law Wednesday.  Opponents say it disproportionately affects minority and low-income voters.  Gun control has also been a target of Republicans in the Assembly, as FSRN’s Brad Kutner reports from the capital.

A 19-year-old law limiting handgun purchases was shot down in the Virginia House Wednesday, raising concerns, as Democratic Delegate Joe Morrisey put it, that the state could regain its title as the “Straw Purchase Capitol of the East Coast.” House Bill 940 eliminates the prohibition on purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period.  Delegate Morrisey said the law was put into place nearly 2 decades ago after officials discovered 40% of guns seized in New York City crimes originated in Virginia. Supporters of removing the purchasing limit say the law is unnecessary now because of federal restrictions.  The bill still has to make it through the Senate.  Brad Kutner, FSRN, Richmond.

Washington Senate passes same sex marriage legislation

The Washington State Senate has passed legislation clearing the way for same-sex marriage. There was speculation about whether Democrats had enough votes, but in the end the bill passed 28-21 with the help of four Republicans.  Now the bill goes to the state House, which is expected to pass it without problem.  Washington Governor Christine Gregoire announced her support for the legislation earlier this year. Washington would be the 7 state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Prison privatization measure on hold in Florida, for now

The president of Florida’s Senate wants to privatize more than two dozen of the state’s prisons. But, as Seán Kinane and Lisa Marzilli from WMNF Community Radio report, that plan has hit a temporary snag.

Two companies, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, stand to gain the most if 26 south Florida prisons are privatized. Both companies have contributed millions of dollars to Republican Legislative campaigns in the state.  But on Wednesday, the bill was shelved because it would probably not survive a floor vote.  Mike Fasano is one of the Senate’s ten Republicans who oppose the privatization plan.

“It’s being done for two companies that want to make a profit by privatizing these prisons in 18 counties in our state of Florida. What’s sad is that we’re only in our third week of session; we still have five weeks to go. This bill should have gone – this proposal which is now a bill – should have gone through the appropriate committees.”

After Fasano voiced his opposition to the legislation, the Senate President stripped him of his budget committee chairmanship.  That committee oversees spending on prisons and the courts. Fasano was also removed from the Senate’s main budget committee. Seán Kinane, FSRN, Tampa.


Advocates for poor counter attacks on public assistance and food stamps

Throughout the presidential primary campaign, candidates have repeatedly drawn attention to Americans who use food stamps, igniting a debate over who receives public assistance and why. That debate resurfaced in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives this week, as the House voted to restrict where some welfare recipients can spend their benefits. Today, Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro gathered economists, religious leaders and former food stamp recipients to address what they say is the misleading demonization of federal programs and the people who depend on them.  FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports from Capitol Hill.

Modest gains in fight against homelessness, but many still struggle in urban areas

As many Americans depend on food assistance to make ends meet, access to housing also continues to be a problem. But a federal program that aims to end chronic homelessness may be seeing some modest results. According to a new report, the number of people experiencing homelessness decreased by one-percent between 2009 and 2011. The National Alliance To Prevent Homelessness attributes this to a federal program that’s spent more than $1 billion. Chronic homelessness — defined as people with “severe disabilities and long homeless histories” — has also fallen, dropping 11 percent since 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. President Barack Obama has set a goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2015, but his challenge remains ambitious, especially in many urban areas of the country.  From Philadelphia, FSRN’s Matthew Petrillo reports.

US-backed NGOs in Egypt played controversial role in many countries

A military delegation from Egypt is meeting with US officials in Washington this week. Some US lawmakers from the powerful Senate Arms Committee have said that $1.3 billion of US military aid to Egypt could be affected as tensions about the role of US-funded groups in Egypt remains high. The organizations at the center describe themselves as promoting democracy in the country. But their history across the globe points to a more complicated role.  For a closer look at these US-funded groups, we go to Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. Requests for comment to the International Republican Institute were not returned by airtime. In a statement released in December after the raids on offices in Cairo, the IRI said it does provide information about democratic participation but it “does not provide monetary or material support to political parties or civil society groups in Egypt.”

To read the full statement from the IRI:

To read Mark Weisbrot’s column, “International Republican Institute Not ‘Promoting Democracy”:

Students in Mexico demand justice for protesters slain by police

In Mexico, students continue to protest for education rights following a brutal crackdown in Guerrero in December. Hundreds of police attacked a demonstration, killing two students. Young people and their allies want justice and vow to continue to fight for quality public education. For the Real News Network, Andualusia Knoll reports.

To see an expanded video report of this story, go to therealnews.com.

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