February 7, 2012

  • Court rules California’s Prop 8 ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional
  • Civil rights groups say voting laws disenfranchise poor, people of color, women
  • Minnesota’s Susan Allen, Native American and lesbian, brings distinct experience to state legislature
  • In Indonesia, those fleeing violence in home countries trapped in search for asylum

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UNICEF says children continue to suffer in Syria

In graphic video reportedly taken in Homs Sunday, a young boy in a makeshift hospital lurches from a gurney – the lower half of his face is missing. According to the UN Children’s  fund, at least 400 kids have been killed in Syria over the past 11 months, and hundreds more are in Syrian jails. UNICEF spokesperson, Marixie Mercado. “There are reports of children being arbitrarily arrested, tortured and sexually abused while in detention. Over the past few days, reported heavy shelling by government forces of civilian neighborhoods in the city of Homs is undoubtedly causing further suffering for more children.”

France recalls diplomats from Damascus

Following yesterday’s closure of  the US embassy in Damascus, France recalled its ambassador to Syria today. Clea Caucutt reports.

France joins the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain in recalling its envoy to Damascus. Bernard Valero, spokesperson for the French Foreign Affairs ministry, denounced the ongoing repression in Syria. “There is a growing number of civilian victims of repression, which is not acceptable, which is not tolerable. We want to say very clearly to the Syrian regime that it’s not because there was no vote at the Security Council, that we are going to forget about what the regime is doing against its own population.” France was in favor of the UN Security Council resolution against Syria that was vetoed by China and Russia on Saturday. The EU bloc is discussing slapping new sanctions on Syria in the coming weeks. Clea Caulcutt, FSRN, Paris.

Arab countries recall ambassadors

The Gulf Cooperation Council also announced today that their six member states are recalling ambassadors and expelling Syrian diplomats. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Damascus today, meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Unconfirmed reports from the ground say that the violence continues unabated.

HRW: epidemic lead poisoning in Nigerian kids working in gold mines

Human Rights Watch says thousands of kids in Northern Nigeria need immediate medical treatment to deal with the worst lead poisoning epidemic in modern history. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

Four hundred children have died from  lead poisoning since the scope of the outbreak  became public knowledge two years ago. Some of the children were exposed to the lead dust when they process ore in gold mines. Human Rights Watch says even though the United States Centers for Disease Control  has treated more than 1,500 children for acute lead poisoning, thousands of other children urgently need the life-saving therapy that removes lead from the body. Children are particularly susceptible to high levels of lead exposure which can cause brain, liver, kidney, nerve, and stomach damage. Human Rights Watch blames the Nigerian government for not protecting children from being used as laborers in the mines. Sam Olukoya, FSRN, Lagos.

Maldives President quits amid clashes between military and police

The President of the Maldives resigned today, in what some are calling a mutiny and coup. Political tension and protests grew after Mohammed Nasheed ordered the arrest of a judge who freed a government critic from jail. Long a fighter for democracy and once a poster child  for global warming, Nasheed said he stepped down to avoid using force. Second in command, Mohammed Waheed Hassan was sworn in as President this afternoon.

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners begin gradual hunger strike

700 Palestinian prisoners inside an Israeli jail began a weekly hunger strike to protest prison conditions. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

Today’s strike follows warnings about prison conditions from both the Gaza-based Palestinian ministry of prisoners and community members. The strike will be staged each Tuesday. Ministry officials delivered a number of demands to Israeli authorities, including an end to solitary confinement, improved medical care, access to phone calls and permission for Gaza families to visit their loved ones inside the jail. If  these demands are not met, prisoners say they will expand the protest into an open hunger strike that would include Palestinian detainees in many other Israeli prisons as well. According to ministry statistics, Israel still holds about 7000 prisoners. Rami Almeghari, Free Speech Radio News, Gaza.

Komen executive quits on heels of Planned Parenthood controversy

A high level Susan G. Komen for the Cure official quit today. Karen Handel, the VP for Public Policy, took the fall for the group’s now rescinded decision that would have denied Planned Parenthood eligibility for future grants. In her resignation letter, Handel said she “continue[s] to believe” the initial decision that disqualified the group was the right one.



Court rules California’s Prop 8 ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional

Today, a US appeals court ruled that California’s Proposition 8 measure that bans same sex marriage is unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upheld a previous decision that also struck down the state measure. Backers of Proposition 8 vowed to challenge the decision and the case may make its way to the US Supreme Court. After the ruling was issued, Sandra Stier, one of the lead plaintiffs in the case along with her partner, Kristin Perry, spoke about the decision in reference to the couple’s two teenage sons. “Our greatest hope for them is that they fall in love and are loved and they get to be their best selves and fulfill their own dreams. We want this for our own kids certainly but we want it for other kids. We want it for kids in Iowa, we want it for kids in Los Angeles. We want it for kids gay and straight. Today our court sends a powerful message to us and our children and our children’s children. And that is that we are all equal, we all deserve the same rights and we all matter.” For more, we’re joined by John Davidson legal director with LAMBDA Legal, the country’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to protecting the legal and civil rights of LGBT people.

Civil rights groups say voting laws disenfranchise poor, people of color, women

The race for a Republican presidential nominee continues today, with a primary in Missouri and caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota. As the contest for the 2012 elections heats up, more and more states are passing laws requiring residents to present photo ID at the ballot box, which supporters say is in response to voter fraud. But civil rights groups are joining with unions to launch a national campaign today to combat these efforts, saying such laws will disenfranchise people of color, women, students, the elderly and the poor. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has the details, in Washington, D.C.

Minnesota’s Susan Allen, Native American and lesbian, brings distinct experience to state legislature

As voters head to the caucuses in Minnesota today, they’re also getting ready for a controversial amendment later this year. This November, voters will decide on a measure that would ban same-sex marriage. Groups for and against the amendment are raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, but as the campaigns compete to win over voters, the state did make history recently. Last month, voters elected the first openly gay Native American to a state legislature. Democrat Susan Allen is Lakota, Dakota and Anishinabe. She is a tax and tribal law attorney. As a Native woman and a lesbian, Allen has faced barriers and overcome discrimination throughout her life. FSRN’s Dixie Treichel recently spoke to Allen for KFAI community radio.

In Indonesia, those fleeing violence in home countries trapped in search for asylum

Many people fleeing violence in war-torn countries like Iraq, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, make a long journey to reach Australia, where they have a chance to start a new life as asylum seekers. Along the way, Indonesia has become a major transit point. For those attempting the journey by sea, it can be dangerous and sometimes vessels are rescued or intercepted in Indonesian waters. This often leads to long periods of detention or an uncertain life in a refugee camp. FSRN’s Rebecca Henschke recently visited some of these asylum seekers and files this report.

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