February 9, 2012

  • Spanish judge who pursued human rights cases disbarred by Supreme Court
  • In Gaza, demolitions of homes displace hundreds
  • Feds, states reach mortgage deal with banks but many struggling homeowners still not covered
  • LA school district could cut entire Adult Education program, affecting hundreds of thousands of students

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Civilian deaths mount in Homs

The bombardment of the Syrian opposition city of Homs continued today. Video uploaded to YouTube shows a man standing on the street in what he says is a residential neighborhood, while bombs go off around him. “This is one of the… streets in Baba Armo. They just hit us with mortar bombs and tank shells and rockets.” The man then walks into one of the buildings. “These are civilian bodies. This isn’t the army. This is children, men, women being killed. Where’s the UN? We don’t want monitors again. We want the UN to interfere with the army. Four people are dead in this house.  Four civilians.” The number dead in the past 24 hours is well over 100 in that city alone.

Ousted Maldives President facing arrest

A court in the Maldives has issued an arrest warrant for Mohammed Nasheed, the democratically-elected president who was ousted earlier this week in what appears to be a military coup. But few countries are recognizing the violent shift in power as such.  US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said a representative was traveling to the country this weekend to assess the situation, but said US assumptions about the change of power remained unchanged. “This was handled constitutionally.” Nuland referred to the man who took control as President Mohamed Waheed.  Protests have been intense and violent since the overthrow.

Brazilian police abandon occupation of Bahia legislature

Now a follow-up on a story we brought you yesterday… After more than a week, Brazilian police officers and their supporters today abandoned their vigil inside the Bahia state legislature building.  FSRN’s Debora Pill has the update.

This morning the first group of striking police who had occupied the state legislature building in Salvador, Bahia started to end their occupation.  Police in the state have been protesting for nine days, calling for increased pay and better working conditions. Access to light, water and food were cut by military police, who were called in to surround the building.  Although the occupation has ended, demonstrators said they were still on strike. Local media report the protest could extend to other states such as Rio de Janeiro, where it could cause a major disruption to this year’s Carnival festivities. In Salvador, it is still unclear if the celebrations will continue as planned.  Debora Pill, FSRN, São Paulo.

Prominent Indian politician cleared in Gujarat riot death case

Nearly one decade ago, religious riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat.  More than 1000 people were killed, religious buildings were destroyed and thousands of people fled their homes.  Yesterday, a court said victims could seek compensation from the state for damages to buildings and other structures that happened during the riots. And today the legal fallout continues, involving one of the most prominent lawmakers in India. FSRN’s Shuriah Niazi reports.

On Wednesday the Gujarat High Court blamed the state’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi of “inaction” and “negligence” during the Gujarat riots of 2002. Modi, who’s sometimes mentioned as a future Prime Minister candidate, was specifically named in a case brought by the family of a politician killed in the violence. MP Ehsaan Jafri was brutally burned alive outside his house when he tried to plead for the lives of Muslims.  Jafri’s wife Zakia claims her husband called Minister Modi for help, but could not get any reply. Despite the court ruling, local media are now saying the Special Investigation Team charged with scrutinizing the riots has found no “prosecutable evidence” linking Modi with the death. It also cleared 60 others named in the case. Zakia Jafri is planning to file a protest petition against the decision. Shuriah Niazi, FSRN, India.

Washington House approves same-sex marriage bill

In a historic vote, the Washington State House followed the Senate and passed a measure that, when signed into law, will make Washington the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage. Devin Theriot-Orr reports from Seattle:

The 55-43 vote from the State House comes on the heels of a historic decision from the Federal Appeals Court on Tuesday, finding that California’s voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage violated the United States constitution.  The vote late Wednesday in Olympia will shift the battlelines on the issue from California to Washington state.  Republican Representative Maureen Walsh spoke on the House floor about her 23-year long marriage to her husband, and then concluded with this remark: “My daughter came out of the closet a couple of years ago and you know what, I thought I was just going to agonize about that. Nothing’s different. She’s still a fabulous human being and she’s met a person that she loves very much. And some day, by God, I want to throw a wedding for that kid.  And I hope that’s exactly what I can do.” Governor Christine Gregoire voiced early support for the same-sex marriage legislation.  She’s expected to sign the bill next week. Opponents can still stop the law by collecting 120-thousand signatures and putting a referendum on the November ballot. Devin Theriot-Orr, FSRN, Seattle.



Spanish judge who pursued human rights cases disbarred by Supreme Court

The Spanish judge who took on criminal cases against international figures accused of torture and crimes against humanity was disbarred by Spain’s Supreme Court today. Hundreds gathered in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol to protest the decision, according to El Pais. Critics say the sentence is retribution for his high profile pursuit of international law. Judge Baltasar Garzon ordered the arrest of Augusto Pinochet in 1998, arguing that international standards of justice apply across national borders. He also said those standards could apply to members of the Bush Administration for torture at Guantanamo Bay. Most recently, he ordered an investigation on behalf of victims of Spain’s dictator, Francisco Franco.

For more, we’re joined by Almudena Bernabeau, an international Attorney, with the Center for Justice and Accountability. She’s originally from Spain and has worked on cases that came before Judge Garzon’s court.

In Gaza, demolitions of homes displace hundreds

In Gaza, municipal bulldozers are destroying dozens of homes and hundreds of people are now homeless.  Local authorities say the demolitions are necessary to make room for better infrastructure, but families are angry, saying they have been forcefully displaced. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

Feds, states reach mortgage deal with banks but many struggling homeowners still not covered

In Washington, the House of Representatives passed the STOCK Act today. The ethics reform legislation is designed to prevent members of Congress and their staff from using inside information about the financial market for their own personal profit. The bill passed 417 to 2—but Democrats criticized the Republican leadership for making last minute changes, including stripping a provision forcing political intelligence consultants to register as lobbyists. Progressive Caucus co-founder Keith Ellison said he hopes the bill moves to conference soon, where it could become more like the stronger version passed by the Senate:

ELLISON: We did pass a version of the STOCK Act today. It was a weakened version. It wasn’t good enough. If Americans across this country decided that they were going to demand that there be a conference committee in which the stronger provisions were adopted, I think that would be a very good thing.

Meanwhile, the US Justice Department and state attorneys general have finalized a more than $25 billion housing settlement with five of the country’s biggest financial institutions. But homeowner advocates are calling it just a drop in the bucket. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has the details on Capitol Hill.

LA school district could cut entire Adult Education program, affecting hundreds of thousands of students

The US recession has had a big impact on education across the country. Budget cuts have forced schools to scale back programs while many students grapple with increasing tuition. But in one city, leaders aren’t just considering cut backs — they’re proposing to eliminate an entire education program. In Los Angeles, hundreds of thousands of students enroll each year in adult education programs, taking courses in the English language, basic education, and job training. But the Los Angeles Unified School District is considering plans to cut funding for all adult education. FSRN’s Leilani Albano spoke to students and city leaders about the proposal and files this report.

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