February 3, 2012

  • After public outcry, Komen Foundation forced to respond to Planned Parenthood funding cut
  • Harsh sanctions on Iran could hit middle and working class the hardest
  • Anti-war protests scheduled for US cities as war rhetoric on Iran grows
  • New evidence shows NYPD targeted Shia and Iranian Muslims for surveillance
  • EU move to strengthen online privacy protection draws criticism from marketing companies who bemoan loss of lucrative data

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Obama pushes plan to employ more veterans

President Obama today touted “more good news” about the economy, after the Labor Department said the US added nearly a quarter million jobs in January, lowering the unemployment rate to 8.3%. Obama spoke at an Arlington, Virginia firehouse, where he detailed new initiatives to put US veterans to work.

“We want to help states and local communities hire veterans to firehouses and police stations all across the country.  The second thing we want to do is to connect up to 20,000 veterans with jobs that involve rebuilding local communities or national parks.”

Obama said veterans are highly qualified for these types of jobs. He called on Congress to fund the “Veterans Jobs Corps” by diverting half the money that was being spent on war to nation-building projects. He urged the other half be used to pay down the national debt. Obama also wants to provide entrepreneurial training to vets who are looking to start their own businesses.

US opens bidding on wind energy projects on the mid-Atlantic coast

Making good on a campaign promise to shift the US toward clean energy, the Obama Administration announced plans Thursday to open up sections of the Atlantic Ocean for new wind projects. FSRN’s Brad Kutner has the story from Virginia, one of the states included in the plan.

We won’t see new wind projects off the coast of Virginia next month, but the Administration’s announcement is a step in that direction. Part of the “Smart from the Start” approach to developing alternative energy along the coast, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management started studying the environmental and socioeconomic impact of leasing land in 2010.

Opponents of wind and offshore energy often cite concerns for wildlife, but Chelsea Harnish from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said careful studies of each site would come before any construction begins.

“This isn’t just a green light to ‘ok, you can build a project tomorrow.’ There is gonna be several years of avian studies, studies of what is living below the water surface as well.”

The Interior Department said the offshore wind initiative has already cleared an initial environmental review.  In addition to Virginia, bidding will open for projects off the Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey coasts. Brad Kutner, FSRN, Richmond.

East Haven police chief steps down amid probe into Latino harassment

Today is the last day of work for East Haven, CT police chief Leonard Gallo. He retired after four of his officers were indicted by a federal grand jury for racial profiling and abuse of Latinos. FSRN’s Melinda Tuhus reports.

Gallo has been identified by his own attorney as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the case. The four officers stand accused of harassing and arresting Latino shopkeepers and their customers as they travel and shop in East Haven, which is 87% white.  Arrestees were allegedly beaten while handcuffed.

Latinos and their supporters say the arrests and retirement of the Police Chief are good signs, but much more must be done. They want to be consulted in the selection of a new chief.

A regional interfaith group this week announced a plan to reform the East Haven Police Department, including addressing use of force and discipline issues. Melinda Tuhus, FSRN, East Haven.

Former Guatemalan president faces genocide charges

For the first time, a Guatemalan court has charged a former leader with genocide.  Wartime general and President Efraín Ríos Montt lost immunity last month after he stepped down from his position in Congress.  Now Rios Montt is appealing a preliminary sentence of house arrest and $64,000 bail set after his first court appearance on January 26th.  FSRN’s Tim Russo brings us more.

Rios Montt’s prosecution is part of the so-called Guatemalan Genocide Trials.  He is accused of massacring 1,771 civilians, mainly poor rural indigenous people.  He also allegedly forced the displacement of 29,000 people and the destruction of 54 villages. Montt served as de facto President from 1982 through 1983. Human rights organizations consider Montt´s period in power to be the bloodiest of the 42-year civil war.

“I prefer to remain silent.”

Aside from this simple statement, Montt stood in silence during his initial court appearance.  He said he would remain silent until a formal trial date is set.

Despite this unprecedented shift to prosecute war criminals, denial of wrongdoing during the Civil War remains. President Otto Perez Molina defended Montt to the press, saying “there was no genocide here.”

Even human rights activists are skeptical of the trials, concerned they are a ploy to exonerate the military elite from any real responsibility for the genocide. Tim Russo, FSRN.

Mass election protests expected in Russia

Russian opposition groups are expecting at least 100,000 people across the country to attend mass protests on Saturday.  They are hoping to grow the new popular movement calling for fair elections. FSRN’s Ekaterina Danilova reports from Russia.

Organizers are encouraging people to come to the protest, despite it being the coldest time of year. Temperatures are expected to fall below zero degrees Fahrenheit. They are stressing that the action is legal, and police have no right to interfere.

Protesters are generally anti-Vladimir Putin and want the government to hold new Parliamentary elections because of allegations of corruption following December’s vote. Another key aim is to encourage people to vote in Presidential elections on March 4th.

Mihail Prohorov is a billionaire who is running for President against Putin. Speaking Thursday on a Russian talk show, he said the protests show that people are becoming politically engaged.

“People decided to demonstrate their civil opinion, and they went to protests.  Before, even a year earlier, these kinds of protests would not have been allowed.  Now the government cannot ignore that the citizens of the country want to live differently.”

Counter demonstrations in support of the ruling party are also planned on Saturday. Ekaterina Danilova, FSRN, Russia.


After public outcry, Komen Foundation forced to respond to Planned Parenthood funding cut

The Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to end its long-standing partnership with Planned Parenthood sparked a widespread outcry this week. Many groups and individuals vowed to pull funding from the foundation and send their donations directly to Planned Parenthood. This forced the Komen Foundation to respond with a statement today and apologize to the American public. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has the details, in Washington, D.C.

Harsh sanctions on Iran could hit middle and working class the hardest

Today Iran’s supreme leader vowed to retaliate in the event of an attack and condemned Western-backed oil sanctions on his country. According to Reuters, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke on state TV to mark the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

On Thursday, the US Senate Banking Committee approved sanctions on Iran that could cut billions of dollars of revenue from abroad. The legislation, called the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act, would stop transfers through the telecommunications network called Swift, and add to already strict sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. The bill now moves to the full Senate.

Rhetoric from the US and Israel has risen this week as UN said a team of nuclear inspectors will return to Iran later this month.

For more we’re joined by Arang Keshavarzian, Associate Professor at NYU’s Department of Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies.

Anti-war protests scheduled for US cities as war rhetoric on Iran grows

The call for military action in the region has galvanized the anti-war movement and on Saturday, actions are planned in cities across Europe, and the US.

One of the cities taking part is Minnesota and we go there now to speak with Marie Braun. She’s with Women Against Military Madness, part of the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition.

New evidence shows NYPD targeted Shia and Iranian Muslims for surveillance

Muslims and civil rights advocates are rallying today outside New York City police headquarters, following the latest in a series of abuses by the department. Yesterday, the AP disclosed new information about the NYPD illegally targeting Shia and Iranian Muslims for profiling and surveillance. This follows an earlier AP investigation into spying and revelations that the NYPD screened an anti-Muslim film. Muslims are redoubling their demand that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly resign. FSRN’s Salim Rizvi reports.

EU move to strengthen online privacy protection draws criticism from marketing companies who bemoan loss of lucrative data

Europe has strict rules for protecting personal data, often going further than the US to make sure private consumers aren’t taken advantage of. Now, as companies are increasing their use of data-mining and social networks are becoming troves of personal information, the European Commission is proposing to overhaul its landmark data protection law. Privacy advocates applaud the move while businesses say the new rules could affect their bottom line. From France, FSRN’s Liam Moriarty reports.

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