May 10, 2012

  • After Obama endorses gay marriage, equality movement cites challenges ahead
  • Trade deal for Asia Pacific region could restrict medicine in poorer nations
  • Palestinian hunger strikers draw attention to prison conditions and detention
  • University could move to clear activists off farm land in California

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Argentina says yes to transgendered rights

Today, Argentine lawmakers passed legislation providing some of the most progressive protections for transgendered people in the world.  From Buenos Aries, FSRN’s Eilis O’Neill reports.

The Argentine Congress passed a groundbreaking bill that allows transgender people to change their legal identity without consulting doctors, counselors, or judges.  Currently, transgender people in Argentina, and in many parts of the world, have to go through a long judicial process before they can change their legal identity.  The legislation also gives people access to sex reassignment surgery paid for by the state health care system. The bill was written by a legislator and edited by the Argentine Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons.  Fifty-five senators voted in favor of the measure. None voted against it.  President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is expected to sign the bill into law.  Eilís O’Neill, FSRN, Buenos Aires.

Massive explosions rocks Syrian capital

In Syria today two car bombs in the capital left at least 50 people dead and more than 350 people injured.  Two suicide bombers detonated the devices at busy intersection in a Damascus neighborhood, near a military intelligence building, according to the UN.  The government is blaming opposition rebels.  The opposition is blaming the regime of Bashar al-Assad.  But international media speculate that a third group, Islamist extremists, could now be operating in the country.  The bombing is being called the worst single attack since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.

Egyptian elections challenged by court

An already chaotic political transition in Egypt has plunged further into disarray after an administrative court ruled late Wednesday to suspend Egypt’s presidential election, which is scheduled for May 23rd and 24th.  From Cairo, Noel King reports for FSRN.

The court issued the ruling on procedural grounds. The date for the presidential election was set by an independent electoral committee.  But legally, the court said, the date should have been set by the council of high-ranking military officers that is currently governing the country.  The court’s ruling illustrates the complexity of Egypt’s transition to democracy.  It has been marred by fierce competition among judicial, legislative and executive branches whose powers remain largely undefined.  Legal analysts say despite the administrative court’s ruling, the elections will likely proceed as planned.  Presidential candidates continued campaigning today, and the two front-runners will face off in a presidential debate tonight. Meanwhile, several female protesters detained by Egyptian troops during clashes outside of Egypt’s Ministry of Defense last week, charge that they were sexually assaulted while in military custody. Testifying before a parliamentary human rights committee, one protester told of being groped, smacked and insulted by Egyptian troops who stormed a mosque where she and other protesters were hiding.  The Egyptian military denies the charges.  Noel King, FSRN, Cairo.

Seven dead in Yemen drone strikes

Two air strikes in Yemen have left 7 people dead, all militants, according to Yemeni officials who spoke to the AP.  One of strikes was reportedly a drone attack.  US officials have not confirmed they were behind the attack, but the US does operate drones in Yemen.

Colorado governor calls special session to deal with civil unions legislation

Several state legislative sessions are coming to an end.  Colorado’s closed yesterday with much-watched civil unions legislation dying in a GOP filibuster in the House.  But at the pressing of a US Congressman and Log Cabin Republicans, Governor John Hickenlooper has called for a special session to give Democrats and a few supportive Republicans the opportunity to push it through.

“Our goal is to make sure that we do everything we can to try to make sure there’s a fair open debate on the floor of the House, Senate.  That the issues get discussed.  That we allow people the chance to vote on it.  And that we move forward, we move this entire state forward.”

Connecticut closes legislative session passing education reform and medical marijuana measure

To Connecticut, where in the hectic run-up to the close of General Assembly session, lawmakers passed several progressive initiatives to add to their historic abolition of the death penalty last month.  FSRN’s Melinda Tuhus has this wrap-up.

Connecticut will be the 17th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow the growing and sale of medical marijuana.  After a ten-hour debate, the bill passed late last Saturday.  A similar bill passed in the legislature in 2007, but Republican Governor Jodi Rell vetoed it. This year’s bill is more restrictive, requiring that a doctor prescribe the drug and a pharmacist dispense it. Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy has promised to sign. Malloy had dubbed 2012 the Education Reform session. He initially pushed hard for a package that included virtually eliminating tenure for teachers and requiring evaluations that relied heavily on test scores. The compromise reached with legislators includes changes to the tenure system and recommends student test scores count for 45 percent of a teacher’s evaluation — changes that were accepted by the state’s two teachers unions. The bill passed on Tuesday by a wide margin in the Senate and unanimously in the House. Supporters say it will reduce Connecticut’s racial achievement gap, the widest in the country. Melinda Tuhus, FSRN, New Haven.


After Obama endorses gay marriage, equality movement cites challenges ahead

On Wednesday, President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to officially endorse same-sex marriage. But the historic announcement is drawing mixed reactions. Some gay rights groups say it’s too little too late, while others say there are more pressing civil rights issues for the gay community besides marriage. And as North Carolina passes an anti-gay amendment and the House of Representatives votes to prevent the government from spending federal dollars to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act. The movement for equality faces continued challenges ahead. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Trade deal for Asia Pacific region could restrict medicine in poorer nations

In Dallas, talks for an international trade deal in the Asia-Pacific region are underway. The Trans Pacific Free Trade Agreement involves the US and eight countries in Asia, South America and Oceania. One of the issues critics are raising concerns about is a push to protect pharmaceutical companies’ interests in poorer countries which could threaten access to vital medicines. For more, we go to Public Citizen’s Peter Maybarduk. He’s Program Director for the group’s Access to Medicines project. And he joins us from the Dallas area where he is monitoring the talks. For more information on the May 12 rally and the talks taking place in Texas:

For access to some of the leaked documents from the TPP:

Palestinian hunger strikers draw attention to prison conditions and detention

In Israel, more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners are weeks into an open-ended hunger strike. They’re protesting their detention without charges or trial and their conditions of their imprisonment. Two prisoners have gone without food for more than 70 days, and human rights groups say lives are in danger. They’re are calling for international intervention. FSRN’s Jillian Kestler-D’Amours has more from Jerusalem.

University could move to clear activists off farm land in California

On a piece of land just north of Berkeley, California, dozens of people calling themselves Occupy the Farm have been tilling the earth, planting seedlings, and caring for chickens. The action started on Earth Day last month. The University of California owns the land, known as the Gill Tract, and filed a lawsuit against the activists, saying the activities are illegal.The university uses part of the tract several months each year for crop research and plans to sell an adjacent parcel for commercial uses. But activists vow to prevent the university from developing the land they have occupied. FSRN’s Judith Scherr has the story.

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