April 25, 2012

  • US Supreme Court hears challenge to Arizona’s immigration law
  • Gas and oil boom in North Dakota drives tribal residents from homes
  • Protesters target Wells Fargo shareholder meeting in San Francisco
  • Sudanese refugees, hoping to return, kept away by renewed violence

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Manning trial date set for September

A military judge in Maryland has denied a motion to dismiss charges against former Army analyst Bradley Manning.  His lawyer had moved for a dismissal because the US government still has not presented the evidence to his client.  Manning is accused of passing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks.  The judge set a tentative trial date of September 21.

Justice Department makes first arrest in BP oil spill

The justice department has filed the first criminal charges relating to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April of 2010, spewing more than 200 million gallons of oil.  And now, just a little over two years after the incident, a former BP engineer has been arrested.  For FSRN, Tegan Wendland reports from Baton Rouge.

Kurt Mix, of Texas, is charged with destroying evidence related to the spill.  The Justice Department says he deleted a string of 200 text messages with a BP supervisor in October of 2010 involving internal BP information about how efforts to cap the well were failing.  He faces two counts of obstruction of justice.  BP says it had clear policies in place requiring preservation of evidence.  And the Justice Department confirms BP sent several notices to Mix requiring him to keep all communications about his work on the well.  The Department says investigators were able to recover some texts in which Mix indicated the flow of oil into the ocean was three times what the company was stating publicly.  Prosecutors say they are probing whether BP and its employees broke the law by intentionally lowballing how much oil was spewing from its out-of-control well.  Tegan Wendland, FSRN, Baton Rouge.

UC Davis activists face prison terms for blockading US Bank

At the University of California-Davis, 12 campus activists are preparing for an arraignment on charges that could result in up to 11 years prison time each.  For FSRN, Brian Edwards-Tiekert has more.

Each of the so-called Davis Dozen are facing 20 counts of “willfully and maliciously obstructing free movement in a public space” plus conspiracy to do so.  Earlier this year, they blockaded a campus US Bank branch for nearly two months. Campus police, reeling from backlash against the pepper-spraying of student the previous semester, never tried to remove them, never arrested them, and never even tried to discipline them under the campus code of conduct.  But, they did ask the county district attorney’s office to press charges – long after the protest ended. Sophie Kamara is one of the students facing charges, and also one of the students who was pepper-sprayed last fall:

“I think you can see in the change of tactics, to do this retroactive repression, shows that the University if going to be moved to types of violence against students, trying to put them in jail or fine them without the public eye on it.”

The University says it did give the protesters written warnings of misdemeanor charges every day for two weeks during the blockade.  US Bank eventually closed its branch on the Davis campus, and has accused UC Davis of defaulting on its contract by not clearing the protesters.  There’s some speculation that the charges may be an effort to shield the campus from liability.  The arraignment of the so-called Davis Dozen is set to start this Friday.  Brian Edwards-Tiekert, FSRN, Davis.

Israel allows illegal settlements

Israel is backing off plans to demolish an illegal settlement in the West Bank.  The Guardian reports the Attorney General will ask the Supreme Court to delay the demolition order on several apartment buildings.  The Israeli government had given a deadline of next Tuesday for residents to evacuate.  Yesterday the government announced it was giving full legal status to three West Bank settlements built in the 1990s.

Palestinian footballer among political prisoners on hunger strike

Yet another hunger striking Palestinian held in Israeli jail was denied appeal today.  Hassan Safdi has been on hunger strike since early March.  This is at least the third appeal denied by the Israeli courts this week. Today in Gaza and the West Bank, human rights and prisoners’ advocates warned the health of several detainees is quickly deteriorating.  Among them is a Gaza football player held now for 3 years without trial.  FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more on his story.

For more than five weeks Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian prisoner from Gaza, has been fasting in protest of his administrative detention.  He has been in jail since 2009 and has never been given a trial.  The Israeli army detained Sarsak while he was traveling to join the Palestinian national football team.  His attorney, Mohammad Jabareen, says that Sarsak is held under what Israel terms “illegal combatant law.”

“We have always asked the Israeli intelligence to provide whatever charges against him, yet they only say that he poses a threat.”

According to his family, Sarsak’s is being held at an Israeli hospital and his health is getting worse. Last week, 1,300 Palestinian prisoners launched an open-ended hunger strike demanding better prison conditions and an end to the practice of administrative detention.  Rami Almeghari, FSRN, Gaza.



US Supreme Court hears challenge to Arizona’s immigration law

At the US Supreme Court today, justices heard arguments in a high profile immigration case. The Justice Department is challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s SB 1070, the 2010 anti-illegal immigration law that has inspired similar bills in states across the country. The Supreme Court’s ruling could affect these states and others considering harsh immigration laws of their own. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein was in the courtroom and files this report.

Gas and oil boom in North Dakota drives tribal residents from homes

In North Dakota, oil and gas drilling has risen sharply during the past few years bringing millions in revenue to the state. The state produced 153 million barrels of crude oil in 2011, more than a 200 percent increase from 2007, according to the The North Dakota Petroleum Council.  But that wealth has left many residents out, especially among the Native American communities in the area. One ramification is displacement of local residents. In the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, homeland of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribal nations, residents are being pushed out to make room for housing for oil and gas workers. For more, we’re joined by Kandi Mossett. She’s the Native Energy and Climate Campaign Organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. She joins us from Bismarck, North Dakota.

Protesters target Wells Fargo shareholder meeting in San Francisco

Today in Detroit, hundreds of protesters gathered outside of the General Electric shareholder meeting demanding the corporation “pay (its) fair share.” Some managed to get inside the meeting, before being apprehended by police. Today’s actions are part of a nationwide campaign over the next couple months targeting corporations and shareholder meetings. On Tuesday, the target was banking giant Wells Fargo. FSRN’s Andrew Stelzer was at the action in San Francisco and files this report.

Sudanese refugees, hoping to return, kept away by renewed violence

The African Union is calling on Sudan and South Sudan to stop hostilities as the two countries inch closer to the brink of war. AU leaders have proposed a peace deal in an effort to end weeks of fighting and deaths, including aerial bombardments by Sudan. The violence has destroyed villages and halted hopes for many refugees who want to return home. FSRN’s Noel King reports from Cairo, Egypt where she spoke to Sudanese refugees who have been displaced since the last civil war started decades ago.

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