March 23, 2012

  • Borders, shops closed following Mali military coup that ousted President Toure
  • Privacy advocates slam expanded US counterterrorism surveillance policy
  • Residents of Gaza struggle as fuel crisis enters second month
  • Students in Quebec, Canada continue massive strike to protest tuition fee increase
  • Pesticide company pulls Methyl Iodide used on strawberries, tomatoes from the US market

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Obama addresses Trayvon Martin killing

For the first time today, President Obama addressed the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed African American teen shot by a neighborhood watch guard in Florida. “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this.” He then went on to say the teenager’s parents have a right to expect the case would be treated with the seriousness it deserves. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Students at several high schools in Miami staged walkouts this morning, demanding justice for the teen.  Yesterday, Florida governor Rick Scott named a special prosecutor to the case, according to state media.  He also ordered a review of the state’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law, under which police allowed shooter George Zimmerman to walk free.

Dartmouth president tapped to head World Bank

At the same announcement today President Obama named his nominee to be the next head of the World Bank. “The leader of the World Bank should have a deep understanding of both the roll that development plays in the world, and the importance of creating conditions where assistance is no longer needed.  I believe that nobody is more qualified to carry out that mission than Dr.  Jim Kim.  It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency.” Dr. Kim, who was born in Korea, is the current President of Dartmouth, co-founded Partners in Health and led a UN push to treat 3 million people with HIV/AIDS.  Because of World Bank voting structure and tradition, Kim is widely seen as a front-runner for the position.

US to give military aid to Egypt despite delays to democratic transition

Today Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the US would give $1.3 billion worth of military aid to Egypt.  This despite a State Department acknowledgement that the Egyptian government is not meeting “legislative conditions related to Egypt’s democratic transition.” The US will waive these requirements, citing the larger goal of maintaining a strategic partnership with Egypt. The decision is receiving criticism from some members of Congress, saying the US is ignoring human rights issues and delays in the democratic process.

Vermont Yankee protesters arrested

Peaceful demonstrations in three cities Thursday ended in arrests for more than 140 people, as activists protested what they called a “rogue” nuclear reactor. The Vermont Yankee power plant, of the same design as Fukushima, has received a 20-year license extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, the state has not renewed the license and the Public Service Board ruled Monday that the plant’s owners would be in violation of state law if they continued operations.  FSRN’s Carl Etnier has the story from Montpelier.

On a sunny Thursday morning, about a thousand colorfully-clad demonstrators converged on the Brattleboro Common, and marched three and a half miles to Vermont Yankee corporate headquarters.  There, they walked to the office building’s driveway, ducked under a yellow rope, and continued forward.  Brattleboro police through a bullhorn told protesters they were trespassing. “Your conduct is in violation of Vermont Statute Title 13, Section 3705, unlawful trespass.” Audio provided by Eric Bachman.  One hundred thirty demonstrators were arrested at the headquarters. Elsewhere, members of a group calling itself the Vermont Natural Guard also showed up unannounced at the offices of reactor owner Entergy in White Plains, New York and New Orleans.  There they demanded the plant be closed immediately.  Eric Gillard joined protesters in White Plains. “They’ve defied and attacked Vermont’s democratic process and our sovereignty to regulate industry in the state.” Police arrested five people in White Plains, including Gillard, and seven in New Orleans.  Carl Etnier, FSRN, in Montpelier, Vermont.

Atheists to gather in DC for “Reason Rally”

With much of the social and political rhetoric of the US mired in Christian and other religious doctrines, secular organizers are promoting visibility of an often overlooked, yet significant segment of the population.  This Saturday during the Reason Rally, the National Mall will host what is being billed as the largest gathering of atheists in history.  FSRN’s Brad Kutner has the story.

An estimated 50,000 atheists, humanists and freethinking individuals plan to show themselves to the world in Washington DC this weekend. Reason Rally organizers, from a coalition of secular groups from around the country, says they don’t have a political agenda, but just want to be recognized. Billed as a “coming out” event, Fred Edwards, National Director of the United Coalition of Reason, said atheists are often persecuted for their beliefs, and this event hopes to change that.  “An awful lot of people are in the closet. It isn’t that they are going to suffer dangerous physical persecution, but there are all sorts of subtle ways that religion has an influence on ones social standing and one can pay a social price for coming out.  And we want to make it to where that’s not that case – to where we are just as accepted as everyone else.” A Pew survey in 2007 found 5% of Americans said they did not believe in a higher power, that’s more than identified as Mormon, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist combined. Brad Kutner, FSRN, Richmond.



Borders, shops closed following Mali military coup that ousted President Toure

In Mali, tensions continue following yesterday’s military coup that deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure. FSRN’s Amadou Timbiné is in Mali’s capital, Bamako, where the airport is closed and people have been told by the coup leaders not to go to work.  Amadou gave us an update on the situation on the streets. The United Nations Security Council, the United States and the West African Regional body Ecowas condemned the coup. France, the former colonial power, and the European Union have cut off aid. Meanwhile, Tuareg rebels continue to advance in the north of Mali. For analysis, we spoke with Dr Robin-Edward Poulton, Mali expert at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of World Studies.

Privacy advocates slam expanded US counterterrorism surveillance policy

The US attorney general has signed new rules into law that allow the National Counterterrorism Center to mine other agencies for data on anyone in the US, and hold data for up to five years. The Justice Department says this will help the government connect the dots and prevent acts of terrorism. But privacy advocates are concerned and say the new measures give the government too much power, and too little accountability. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has the story, in Washington, D.C.

Residents of Gaza struggle as fuel crisis enters second month

In Gaza, the fuel shortages that started more than a month ago were temporarily abated after Israel allowed about 120,000 gallons of diesel fuel to enter the Occupied Territory. But it’s only enough for about a day of power, and the ongoing blackouts are affecting numerous sectors of society. Part of the problem is also political, as FSRN’s Rami Almeghari reports.

Students in Quebec, Canada continue massive strike to protest tuition fee increase

For six weeks, students in the Canadian province of Quebec have been on strike in opposition to the provincial government’s plan to increase tuition fees by 75%. Yesterday, more than 300,000 college and university students went on strike and many of them rallied in the streets.  FSRN’s Lillian Boctor has more.

Pesticide company pulls Methyl Iodide used on strawberries, tomatoes from the US market

Last year, FSRN reported on the use of the toxic fumigant, Methyl Iodide, in Florida and California on strawberry and tomato fields and how Florida’s Department of Agriculture did not keep track of where the pesticide was used. Today, FSRN’s Kelly Benjamin reports that, after months of harsh criticism and a lawsuit on behalf of farmers, health workers and environmental activists, the makers of Methyl Iodide have suspended all US sales.

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