February 28, 2012

  • In Syria, dozens of residents trapped beneath rubble as UN condemns ‘atrocities’ of Assad regime
  • US Supreme Court weighs whether corporations can be held responsible for human rights violations overseas
  • In Arizona, Latino voters wary of GOP stance on immigration, education, civil rights
  • Greens hold first presidential primary in Arizona
  • Organic farmers in California lose Monsanto suit for GMO crop contamination

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Occupy London evicted, camp dismantled

The grounds at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London are cleared today, after officials removed the Occupy encampment there early this morning. Occupier George Barda told the BBC that removal of the camp will only shift the movement to other means of social action.

“My personal concern is that we don’t allow the drama of this event to eclipse the huge an important issues that we in this country and billions across the world are increasingly facing.”

The camp removal was fairly peaceful, but 20 Occupiers were arrested.


Idaho Occupy encampment can stay sans camping

In Idaho, Occupy tents are still pitched across the street from the state capitol today after a Federal Court said they could stay–for now. Leigh Robartes has more.

Occupy Boise had gone to court arguing the state’s eviction order was unconstitutional, because the ’emergency’ anti-camping law signed by Governor C.L ‘Butch’ Otter last week targeted a specific group exercising first amendment rights. The law prohibits camping on state-owned land except at designated campsites. Occupier Dean Gunderson says they are thinking of writing a thank you letter to Governor Otter. “He tanked the entire state’s case when he wrote in his signing statement to leadership that this was the authorization now to evict the Occupy Boise camp when they were saying all along through the process that this law was content neutral. It was not targeting any particular group.” Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a temporary restraining order preventing eviction, but also prohibiting protesters from sleeping, cooking or conducting other camping-related activities on the lawn of the old Ada County Courthouse, where they have been since November. Leigh Robartes, FSRN, Moscow, Idaho.


Occupy Seattle calls for police chief’s resignation

In Seattle last night, 10 protesters were arrested while occupying City Hall. They want the Chief of Police to step down after a U.S. Department of Justice probe found a pattern of excessive force.


Gaza’s power plant goes dark

The only power plant in Gaza ran out of fuel today, leaving residents with no electricity for more than half of every day. FSRN’s Ghassan Bannoura reports.

This is the second time in two weeks the Gaza power plant went offline due to lack of fuel. According to the Energy Authority, residents will get 6 hours of electricity, followed by 13 straight hours of darkness. Without the 80 mega watts generated each day by the Gaza plant, the region is left with less than half of what it needs for normal operation. What little is does get, a meager 120 watts, comes from Egypt and Israel. The electricity outages hamper water service and sewage filtration. And according to Gazan Dr. Baker Hassan, the fuel crises will leave Gaza’s hospitals unable to provide services. ““For sure health institutions use electricity for more than just lighting. It’s used to run vital machines like respirators and dialysis equipment.” The fuel crises escalated in recent weeks when blockade on Gaza in 2007, those tunnels have been one of the main sources of fuel to the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the coastal enclave. Ghassan Bannoura, FSRN, Bethlehem.


Keystone XL to begin on Oklahoma to Gulf Coast section

The Keystone XL pipeline is back. TransCanada says they’re going to break the project into two segments, and move forward on the leg from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. The White House says they’ll expedite the permitting. Once they’ve hammered out an alternate Nebraska route, they’ll reapply for the cross-border component.


Millions of workers in India strike to protest economic policy

In India today, millions of workers went on a nationwide strike demanding better working conditions and job security. Bismillah Geelani reports.

The strike was jointly called by more than a dozen major trade unions and saw participation from workers cutting across political affiliations. In most Indian states, including the national capital, New Delhi, businesses and banks were shut, government offices deserted and transport off the roads. Workers held protest rallies across the country demanding reversal of what they call the government’s anti-labor economic policies. Sajeev Kumar is a trade union leader. We are protesting against policies like privatization, out sourcing and contractual work. The labor class is suffering because of these policies and it is these policies which are responsible for soaring prices and unemployment. The strike evoked mixed response from West Bengal where the government had warned workers against joining it. The provincial government arrested more than a hundred workers supporting the strike. Bismillah Geelani, FSRN, New Delhi.


Dozens more bodies than previously reported discovered in Mexico mass grave

Dozens of bodies have been discovered in a mass grave in the northern Mexican state of Durango. Shannon Young reports.

The mass grave located just outside of Durango’s state capital contained at least 50 bodies. Officials say they were likely murdered in 2010. The site was originally discovered in December. At the time, authorities said they found just 10 bodies. News of the 40 additional victims was only made public yesterday, along with the announcement that 37 have been identified. More than 300 bodies have been discovered in mass graves in Durango since April of 2011. Shannon Young, FSRN.



In Syria, dozens of residents trapped beneath rubble as UN condemns ‘atrocities’ of Assad regime

Syria’s security forces continued attacks on the country’s cities today, with rockets slamming into neighborhoods and activists reporting killings in Aleppo, Idlib, Daraa and elsewhere. A video posted on Youtube shows smoke rising from densely packed houses as the sound of rockets crash nearby. Activists identified it as coming from the Bab Amr neighborhood of Homs, where security forces have been shelling for 25 days. The Red Cross, which so far has been blocked from bringing medical supplies or evacuating the injured, calls the situation a humanitarian crisis and said on Monday conditions are deteriorating hour by hour. Syrian activists were also killed while helping bring Western journalists to safety. According to Avaaz, which helped coordinate the rescue, journalist Paul Conroy, wounded last week in shelling attacks on Homs, has reached safety in Lebanon. As we go to broadcast, other wounded journalists, Edith Bouvier and William Daniels of France and Javier Espinosa from Spain remained “unaccounted for.” Avaaz reports that 35 Syrians have been working on the rescue day and night; more than a dozen of them have been killed in the process. Also today, anti-Assad protests took place in Hama. A video posted by Activist News Association, a group based in Cairo, shows crowds chanting and waving banners. As the death toll mounts, action taken by the international community has so far failed to stop the killing. Today in Geneva the UN’s Human Rights Council met to address the crisis in Syria. Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and said a UN investigation showed that Syria’s regime had committed “crimes against humanity” during its crackdown on the pro-democracy opposition that began nearly a year ago. Speaking in Geneva, Paulo Sacadura Cabral Portas, Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of Portugal spoke on behalf of the EU. “The EU repeats its calls on President Assad to end immediately the killing of civilians, withdraw the Syrian army from besieged towns and cities and step aside in order to make room for a peaceful transition for the sake of the country.” Some countries, including France, have encouraged the Council to prepare a complaint against Syria’s regime in the International Criminal Court at the Hague. But Russia’s representative said that efforts to “instill democracy through force are doomed to disaster” and warned of a civil war. And Syria’s representative of the Assad regime walked out of the UN meeting, saying countries were “inciting sectarianism and providing arms” to the opposition. The Local Coordination Committees, a group of activists within Syria, has been monitoring the situation. Rafif Joejate, spokesperson for the group in Washington DC, told FSRN that the reports of killings and residents caught under rubble are still coming in. That’s Rafif Joejate, spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committees, speaking to us from Washington DC. According to the Guardian, Tunisia’s president has offered asylum to Bashar al Assad and his associates in a bid to end the conflict through negotiations. But it’s unclear what kind of support such a proposal has. Testifying before a Senate committee hearing, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Assad could be called a war criminal.

US Supreme Court weighs whether corporations can be held responsible for human rights violations overseas

Today, the US Supreme Court examined whether corporations and political groups can be sued in the US for human rights violations committed in other countries. The justices heard about abuses in Nigeria and Palestine. The cases against Shell Oil and the Palestinian Liberation Organization could have widespread repercussions, setting a precedent for corporate liability around the world. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein was at the high court this morning, and files this report.

In Arizona, Latino voters wary of GOP stance on immigration, education, civil rights

Voters head to the polls today in Michigan and Arizona. GOP candidate Mitt Romney was born and raised in Michigan, but he’s fending off a strong challenge from Rick Santorum. On the eve of the vote Monday, Ron Paul attracted a crowd of some 1,300, according to the Detroit News. Newt Gingrich said he skipped campaigning for today’s primaries to focus on Super Tuesday contests next week. In Arizona, Mexican-American political leaders in the state are saying front-runner Mitt Romney can’t be trusted to represent their interests. Some have gone as far as saying none of the candidates still up for the Republican nomination will be good for Latinos, the fastest growing demographic in the country. From Tucson, FSRN’s Caroline Jackson has more.

Greens hold first presidential primary in Arizona

Voters in Arizona also go to polls today to elect a Green Party presidential candidate. About 5,000 people in Arizona are registered as Greens and this is the first time the state party has qualified for a presidential primary election. In addition to Arizona, front-runner Jill Stein is on the ballot in 17 other states and the District of Columbia, and has qualified for federal matching funds in California and Massachusetts. Stein, a physician, is increasing her lead after winning last week’s online primary in Illinois. On the Thom Hartmann show last week, Stein explained why the country needs a Green New Deal. Stein faces five other candidates on the ballot in Arizona, including Kent Mesplay, who’s also running a national campaign. Mesplay is an air quality inspector for San Diego County, and ran for the Green Party presidential nominee in 2004 and 2008. Mesplay, who grew up in Paupua New Guinea and is part Blackfoot Indian, says he is running to counter the conservative attacks on immigrants, Mexicans, and Native peoples. Three candidates on the Arizona Green ballot are local, and another from Colorado, Gary Swing, is running for Congress too. Actress Rosanne Barr did not qualify in time, but may secure votes as a write-in candidate.

Organic farmers in California lose Monsanto suit for GMO crop contamination

Organic farmers are considering whether to appeal a federal court ruling that dismissed a legal action against the Monsanto corporation. Dozens of organic farms and businesses sought legal protection against lawsuits for patent infringement, should their crops be contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed. But US District Judge Naomi Buchwald found the claims “unsubstantiated.” FSRN’s Vic Bedoian reports from Fresno.

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