April 11, 2012

  • President Obama urges tax reform bill, but some say measure doesn’t go far enough
  • Military trials at Guantanamo open high-profile cases against detainees with history of torture
  • Protesters in DC say killing of Trayvon Martin a symptom of institutional racism
  • After an Israeli strike in northern Gaza, one family mourns two: a father, a daughter

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Indian Ocean residents breathe easy as tsunami threat passes

A massive earthquake off the coast of Indonesia sparked fears today of a major tsunami in the region.  Widespread tsunami warnings and watches were issued in the Indian Ocean as far south as South Africa.  Media reports indicated that coastal communities responded quickly and evacuated, and that the monitoring systems installed after the devastating 2004 tsunami in the region apparently functioned properly.  Despite the 8.7 reading and an 8.3 magnitude aftershock, waves were only moderately larger than normal.  The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancelled its tsunami watch early this morning.

Egyptian court blocks un-representative constitutional assembly

Egypt’s fractured political process has plunged further into disarray after a Cairo court suspended a 100-person panel tasked with writing a new Egyptian constitution.  For FSRN, Noel King reports from the capital.

The court order Tuesday indicated that the constitutional assembly was not representative of Egypt’s social and political diversity.  Egypt’s parliament, which was charged with choosing members of the constitutional assembly, is dominated by Islamist political parties representing Ultra-conservative Salafis and the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood.  Between sixty and seventy percent of the members chosen for the constitutional assembly were Islamists. Egyptian liberals, moderate Muslims and Christians were fiercely disappointed in the make-up of the panel, which included only six women, and a handful of Christians and liberals.  The Coptic Church pulled its members from the assembly and, tellingly, Al-Azhar, the powerful seat of Sunni Islam also voiced objection to the committee’s makeup. Now the case has been referred to Eygpt’s supreme administrative court.  The new constitution was intended to be completed before Egypt’s presidential elections, which begin on May 23rd.  When the assembly has finished writing the constitution, Egyptians will vote in a separate referendum to accept or deny it.  Noel King, FSRN, Cairo.

Nigerian official confirms looted Libyan arms have crossed border

The Nigerian government says weapons stolen from Libyan armories during the last days of Col.  Muammar Gaddafi’s rule have found their way to Nigeria.  FSRN’s Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

Olusola Obada, Nigeria’s Minister of Defense said the government is aware of an influx of arms from Libya following the war there.  Rumors have circulated that some of the weapons are in the hands of the Islamist group Boko Haram, which the government is actively fighting.  The group, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda, is responsible for a spate of suicide bombings and armed attacks which have claimed about 400 lives this year alone. A Malian official told the UN back in January that weapons stolen from Libya pose a threat to the stability of the countries in the Sahel region.  The UN Office for West Africa has also voiced similar concerns.  Most of the countries like Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Chad have porous borders through which arms can be smuggled in.  Several countries in the Sahel are struggling against ethnic unrest and al Qaeda-linked militants.  Sam Olukoya FSRN, Lagos.

Same-sex couples challenge Nevada’s marriage ban

Eight same-sex couples in Nevada have sued the state in federal court challenging the provision in the Constitution defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.  The plaintiffs argue that the law relegates them to second class citizens and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.  Lambda Legal filed the suit Tuesday.  The lead plaintiffs are a lesbian couple who have been together for 41 years.

Environmental group says BP oil spill still affecting Gulf of Mexico ecosystems

As the Gulf of Mexico approaches the two-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, an environmental group says researchers are just beginning to gauge its long-term impact.  A report from the National Wildlife Federation finds the impact on wildlife and the shoreline continues to be significant.  The environmental group is recommending that Congress allocate BP fines to coastal restoration through the RESTORE Act.  Wildlife biologist Dr.  Doug Inkley says any funds recovered from BP must be allocated exclusively for the Gulf.

“If Congress does not take action to pass a law that provides for that, then instead, the fines levied against BP and the others will go into the General Treasury.  They must go to the Gulf of Mexico.”

The National Wildlife Federation says only a small percentage of wildlife affected by the spill is detectable.  The federal government is currently conducting a Natural Resources Damage Assessment of the spill.

More corporations abandon ALEC

Several more companies have pulled their support for the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.  The group, which writes so-called “model legislation,” claims to be non-partisan, pro-growth and pro-jobs.  But according for the Center for Media and Democracy, their membership is overwhelmingly members of the conservative right, and their legislation, including voter ID and “Stand your Ground” laws has been passed in many states.  In the past week week McDonalds, Wendy’s, Coca-Cola, the Gates Foundation and Intuit all announced an end to their relationship with the group. An ALEC-supported education bill just went into law in Tennessee.  The controversial measure, passed in several other states, will permit public school educators to challenge evolution and climate change when teaching science.



President Obama urges tax reform bill, but some say measure doesn’t go far enough

As Tax Day approaches, the debate is heating up over who should pay more or less of their income to the federal government. According to a survey from Citizens for Tax Justice, nearly 30 major US companies paid no net federal income taxes in recent years, from 2008 to 2011. They include General Electric, Boeing and Verizon. Personal income tax rates are also coming under increased scrutiny. In a speech Wednesday, President Obama called on Congress to pass the so-called Buffett Rule—which he says would make the tax code more equitable, and help decrease the mounting deficit. But some say it doesn’t go far enough. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more, in Washington, D.C.

Military trials at Guantanamo open high-profile cases against detainees with history of torture

At Guantanamo Bay, a pre-trial hearing for a detainee charged with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen got underway today. Abd al Rahim al Nashiri was held at secret CIA black sites and his testimony could address details of his time at the sites, during which the CIA acknowledged he was subjected to interrogation methods widely considered torture. A military commission will also soon begin for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other defendants accused of planning the September 11 terrorist attacks. Both cases raise questions about the military tribunal system. For more, we’re joined by Zachary Katznelson, senior attorney at the national security project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Protesters in DC say killing of Trayvon Martin a symptom of institutional racism

US Attorney General Eric Holder said today that the Justice Department would take “appropriate action” in the case of the shooting death of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin, if an investigation found evidence of a civil rights crime. Holder was speaking at the annual convention of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization. The current whereabouts of George Zimmerman, who shot Martin, appear to be unknown. His lawyers said Tuesday that they had lost contact with him and suggested that he is no longer in Florida. His lawyers say they are no longer representing him. Florida’s special prosecutor in the case, Angela Corey is expected to make an announcement in the Martin case today. According to an unnamed Florida official cited by the Washington Post and the AP, Corey will issue charges against Zimmerman in the case. Street protests and demonstrations are growing, calling for justice in the case and an end to institutional racism. The Real News Network’s Megan Sherman has more from Washington, DC.

After an Israeli strike in northern Gaza, one family mourns two: a father, a daughter

One month ago, a missile from an Israeli drone hit a farm in northern Gaza, as violence in the region was high. The missile killed a 72-year-old father and his 30-year-old single daughter. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari visited their family members and files this report from the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya.

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