February 21, 2012

  • Opposition grows to proposals that would restrict reproductive rights in Washington DC and Virginia
  • In Yemen, voters end three-decade-reign of Saleh as calls for prosecution mount
  • In Honduras, killings in Bajo Aguan continue as corporations seize more land
  • Medical facilities expand in Nigeria, but most still find health care out of reach

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Afghans protest  Koran burning by US forces

Thousands of Afghan protesters flocked to the gates of the US led airbase at Bagram today, after  soldiers burned confiscated copies of the Koran. Coalition guards  fired rubber bullets and helicopters shot flares at the angry crowd.  Hundreds more gathered near NATO facilities in Kabul. Commander of the International Security Forces –  US General John Allen – was swift to respond.

“I offered my sincere apologies  to the President, to the government of Afghanistan, but most importantly to the people – the noble people – of Afghanistan. So that’s my first point. The second point is very important as well, and that is this was unintentional. There was no intention by any member of ISAF to defame the faith of Islam or to desecrate precious religious materials of this faith.”

Laborers hauling garbage from the base found the burned religious books in the trash. They were removed from the base library because they allegedly had been written in by so-called Extremists. The US houses detainees at the base where some say they have been tortured and abused.

Palestinian prisoner on day 66 of hunger strike wins concession from Israel

Just before the Israeli High Court was to consider the detention of a Palestinian hunger striker near death, Israeli prosecutors agreed to his early release. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

Khader Adnan agreed to end his 66 day hunger strike in exchange for early release from administrative detention. The agreement came after a high court hearing set for later this week was unexpectedly moved up. Israeli authorities agreed that barring any new  “substantial evidence” they will set the Islamic Jihad leader free by April17 and will not renew his detention. Adnan has been in an Israeli jail since last December, but was never formally charged. Today’s agreement is viewed by many Palestinians as a victory for Adnan as well for the more than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, hundreds of them held without trial. Jaber Wishah is an Ex-prisoner from Gaza and deputy-director for the Palestinian Human Rights Center here. “I think that the misuse of administrative detention by the Israeli authorities has led to the detention of many Palestinians. Adnan’s case should shed light on this illegal and inhumane procedure.” There have been widespread protests in the occupied Palestinian territories, calling for Adnan’s release and both the UN and the EU called for his safety of the empty-stomach prisoner after his condition became life-threatening.

Human Rights Watch says Somali kids are raped, forced to fight and forced to marry

Human Rights Watch said today that children in Somalia are increasingly forced into insurgent fighting – with entire classes of kids kidnapped and compelled to fight. Somali children are also raped, forced into marriage and used as human shields by al Shabaab. Youth in Somalia also continue to serve as child soldiers in the Transitional Government’s Army and supporting militias.  Yet the US continues to provide military aid to Somalia, despite a 2008 law that bans such support to  countries that use child soldiers.

US and Mexico sign Gulf of Mexico oil and gas deal

The US and Mexican governments  signed a deal covering trans-border oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. Shannon Young reports.

The announcement of President Felipe Calderon’s signature on the trans-boundary energy agreement with the US seems to have taken many Mexican lawmakers by surprise. Now they want the Energy Secretary and the head of Pemex to explain the terms of the agreement. Ratification by Mexico’s Senate is required for the agreement to take effect, but it is being presented as a done deal. Oil and gas reserves in Mexico are national property, and Pemex, the state-owned entity which explores and extracts the reserves, is Mexico’s number one source of national revenue. Plans to open up the industry to private investment have met stiff political resistance in the past. But much of the country’s national attention has been diverted to the violence which has claimed more than 50 thousand lives since the militarization of the so-called Drug War in late 2006. Before assuming the presidency, Calderon was Mexico’s Energy Secretary. Shannon Young, FSRN.

Supreme Court says police don’t have to Mirandize prisoners

The US Supreme Court said today that when police question a prisoner about a crime other than the one they’re serving time for, they do not have to read them their Miranda rights. According to the majority decision, when a prisoner is questioned, the fact that they are in jail does not mean they are in custody for the purposes of the interrogation.  In other orders issued today, the Court sent a death penalty case back to the Third Circuit for another look. The lower Court had ordered that death row inmate James Lambert get a new trial or be set free within 120 days, that’s now on hold. Justices also refused to hear a death penalty  appeal from William Gerald Mitchell, a Mississippi man  who says he shouldn’t be killed because he’s developmentally disabled and had ineffective counsel. But the High Court did agree to take review affirmative action again. They’ll hear Fisher v. University of Texas next term.



Opposition grows to proposals that would restrict reproductive rights in Washington DC and Virginia

The debate about reproductive rights in Washington DC and Virginia is stepping up this week. A bill recently introduced by Republicans from Arizona and Utah would ban abortions performed more than 20 weeks after conception, in the District of Columbia. Today, reproductive rights and DC statehood advocates gathered on Capitol Hill to speak out against the legislation, calling it a violation of women’s bodies and the Constitution. Women’s rights groups are also protesting a bill up for a vote in the Virginia House of Representatives this week, that would mandate a trans-vaginal ultrasound for any woman seeking an abortion. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more, in Washington, D.C.

In Yemen, voters end three-decade-reign of Saleh as calls for prosecution mount

Voters in Yemen went to the polls today to formally end the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the country for more than three decades. Violence hit some polling stations amid high security. At least nine people were killed and half the stations closed early, in some areas in the south, according to the BBC. Two bombs hit polling stations in Aden Monday. In the capital, Sanaa, however, there appeared to be high turnout, with long lines outside poll centers in schools and mosques, according to international observers. The voting follows more than a year of protests and violent clashes, as a youth-driven movement demanded the end to Saleh’s power and a transition to a democratic government. There’s only one candidate on the ballot – the vice president under Saleh – and some are concerned about the former ruler’s continued influence after the vote. For more, we’re joined by Ibraham Qatabi. He’s with the Yemeni American Coalition for Change and also works for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which today called on the US Department of Justice to investigate Saleh for allegations of torture and other human rights violations during his rule.

In Honduras, killings in Bajo Aguan continue as corporations seize more land

In Honduras, family members continue to demand answers after a prison fire killed more than 350 people. On Monday, relatives broke into a morgue, demanding their loved ones remains. Many Hondurans are also questioning a second fire that erupted over the weekend at the country’s largest outdoor market in Tegucigalpa. no one was killed, but many vendors now lack a place to sell their goods. The fires are just the latest disasters to hit the country with the highest homicide rate in the world. human rights in the country have declined since the 2009 coup and one of the most violent regions is the Bajo Aguan. There, at least 64 farm workers — or campesinos — have been killed over the last two years because of complex land conflicts with the country’s wealthiest landowner, Miguel Facusse. Over the weekend, more than 1,400 campesinos, indigenous people and their allies met to continue their efforts to fight repression. from Tocoa, Honduras, FSRN’s Tim Russo reports.

Medical facilities expand in Nigeria, but most still find health care out of reach

Across Africa, the poor state of health facilities has led many people to seek treatment overseas. Dubbed “health tourists,” a number of travelers have been going to India.  Now some of India’s largest hospitals Are opening specialist hospitals in Africa. Such facilities are bringing high quality health care closer to millions of Africans. But the cost of quality health care is beyond the means of the majority of the continent’s residents. FSRN’s Sam Olukoya reports from Abuja, Nigeria.

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