May 9, 2012

  • House moves to increase military aid for Israel while cutting social programs
  • Hundreds protest Bank of America shareholder meeting in Charlotte
  • Oakland police lag in reforms as department faces federal takeover
  • Amidst tense relations, Sikh festival draws thousands of Indians to Pakistan

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President Obama backs same-sex marriage

President Obama announced his support for marriage equality today  In an interview with ABC this afternoon, he acknowledged he had been evolving on the issue.

“As I talked to friends and family and neighbors… when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together… when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage.  At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

North Carolina activists launch protest actions after LGBT rights defeat

This announcement comes as gay rights advocates today launched a series of protests against Amendment 1 in North Carolina, which passed with about 61% of the vote in elections yesterday.  The We Do Campaign has organized 40 LGBT couples that, over the next week, will visit government offices and attempt to get married.  When Amendment 1 goes into effect, marriage will be defined as being between one man and one woman and the state will not be allowed to recognize any other domestic legal unions.

Republicans in Colorado filibuster to block civil unions

In other gay rights news… After gaining momentum in the Colorado legislature, a civil unions bill appears to be dead.  FSRN’s Jim Pullen has the story.

During a Tuesday morning rally at the Capitol, hopes were running high that civil unions would finally become a reality in Colorado.  Those hopes were bolstered when, in the late afternoon, Representative Cheri Gerou broke ranks with her Republican colleagues to help the bill clear the final committee.  The civil unions legislation then went to the House for a reading required before midnight. But as the sun fell, so did hope as Republicans filibustered.  Democrats tried to counter, but near midnight, the House Speaker announced that the legislation would not be heard.  Thirty other bills fell as a result.  Now US Representative Jared Polis and the state’s Log Cabin Republicans are pressuring Governor John Hickenlooper, who supports civil unions, to call a special session.  Jim Pullen, FSRN, Boulder.

Former Milwaukee mayor to take on Governor Walker in recall election

Voters in Wisconsin have picked their challenger for next month’s recall election.  Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will again face Governor Scott Walker, sparking a rematch from 2010.  FSRN’s Molly Stentz has the story from Madison.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett handily defeated his 3 Democratic rivals and a protest candidate, winning 58% percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary.  Barrett lost to Scott Walker in the 2010 election by a slim margin – one his supporters hope can be bridged with higher voter turnout this year. The recall election has been fueled by public outrage over the Governor’s attacks on public unions and cuts to the state health care system and public education.  In Barrett’s victory speech Tuesday night he attacked Walker’s record on jobs.

“Scott Walker, instead of staying home in Wisconsin and focusing on creating jobs here, has decided that he is going to be a rock star.  A rock star to the far right of this nation.”

Meanwhile, Mahlon Mitchell, President of the state firefighters’ union and a leader of last year’s Capitol protests, picked up the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor.  Also, all four Democrats seeking to oust Republican State Senators easily survived challenges by ‘protest’ candidates placed on the ballot by Republicans.  The recall election is June 5th.  Molly Stentz, FSRN, Madison.

Moderate Senator Richard Lugar falls to Tea Party primary foe

Indiana Republican primary voters yesterday ousted long-time Senator Richard Lugar in favor of the Tea Party-backed Richard Mourdock.  Democrats are seeing the defeat of the moderate Republican as a potential boon to their own chances of winning the Senate seat in November.

Occupy the Farm warned to leave University of California land

In Albany, California, police moved to seal off access to a plot of land being used as a community farm.  For the past two weeks, Occupy the Farm has been planting crops on two acres owned by the University of California.  FSRN’s George Lavender reports

Early this morning, University police entered the site and warned occupiers that they face arrest if they remain.  Several activists said police threatened to use –quote – “chemical weapons.” Occupation of the Gill Tract followed a 15 year struggle to have the land used for community agriculture.  The farmers want the University to stop selling off the property for development. Lesley Haddock is a UC Berkeley student.

“We’ve been cultivating the land for the last two weeks, and everyone feels invested in what happens to this place.  And as long as the police are here we’re not going to rest well.”

This morning police blocked entrances and stopped all vehicles from entering the farm.  Since the start of the occupation, the University has cut off water to the site.  Occupiers say that closing the entrances means they will struggle to keep the crops irrigated, but have promised to keep farming. George Lavender, FSRN, Albany, California.

Nuclear activists protest new plant in southern India

Anti-nuclear activists in India are intensifying a protest against a nuclear power plant under construction in the southern part of the country.  FSRN’s Shuriah Niazi has the details.

The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy has been protesting construction of the 2,000 megawatt nuclear power plant at Kudankulam for several years.  The group, based in the southern Tamil Nadu state, has intensified its protest, saying Tuesday it collected tens of thousands of signatures opposing the project. Currently about 340 people are on hunger strike in the village of Idinthakarai.  Organizers say more than 20-thoudand people from the surrounding area have surrendered their voter identity cards because they don’t want to vote for government officials who don’t respect the hunger strikers’ lives and people’s interests.  One organizer, M.  Pushparayan, told that police are moving in with plans to arrest protest leaders.  He said he fears violence could follow.  Shuriah Niazi, FSRN, India.



House moves to increase military aid for Israel while cutting social programs

In Washington, lawmakers moved forward with debate on half a trillion dollars of military spending today. The Armed Services Committee of the US House of Representatives took up the Pentagon’s 2013 budget, which includes the largest ever military aid package for Israel, including an additional billion dollars for missile shields. The rise in military spending comes as the House considers several major cuts to food assistance for the poor and other social services. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has the details, on Capitol Hill.

Hundreds protest Bank of America shareholder meeting in Charlotte

Today protesters gathered in cities across the US to mark the Bank of America shareholder meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Protesters are challenging the company for what they call unfair mortgage practices, investment in the coal industry and rising executive pay. In Charlotte, a crowd of 500-700 marched outside the meeting and the mostly peaceful rally led to at least four arrests. According to Reuters, shareholders approved a compensation package for Bank of America Chief Executive Brian Moynihan of more than $8 million for 2011, up about three times his compensation the previous year, of about $2 million in 2010. For more, we’re joined by Randy Jackson, national coordinator for Unity, a coalition of grassroots groups from around the country and one of the organizers of today’s actions. Unity is made up of organizations from across the US, including Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Jobs with Justice, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Pushback Network, and the Right to the City Alliance.

Oakland police lag in reforms as department faces federal takeover

The Oakland City Council is scheduled to review a plan tomorrow detailing how city police will address a backlog of complaints stemming from police abuse during occupy events last year. A federal judge ordered the police department to submit the plan on Monday. This comes on the heels of a quarterly monitoring report that found officers using quote “ an overwhelming military-type response to Occupy Oakland demonstrators.” But the department’s problems go back more than a decade, when a group of officers beat, robbed and framed hundreds of people in the flat lands of West Oakland. Despite a legal agreement that aimed to bring accountability to the police force, continuing problems could mean a takeover by the federal government. FSRN’s Joaquin Palomino has the story.

Amidst tense relations, Sikh festival draws thousands of Indians to Pakistan

Each Spring, people of the Sikh faith commemorate the new year with the Baisakhi festival, which dates back to the 17th century. During three days of the festival, Sikhs from all over the world visit the birthplace of the founder of the religion, Guru Nanak and where he stayed in Punjab, Pakistan. The holy site, called Gurdwara Panja Sahib is about 40 miles from Islamabad. Although religious ceremonies are often targeted by extremists, the Pakistani government provided strong protections for the Sikh community and this year’s events passed peacefully. Jeannine Etter readers for our reporter Gabe Matthews, who joined the devotees in Panja Sahib in Northern Punjab.

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