June 14, 2012

  • Amendment to Farm Bill seeks drastic cuts to food stamp program
  • Pacific trade deal could allow corporations to bypass domestic laws, leaked text says
  • As armed conflict increases toll on children, former child soldier from Uganda tells story of survival
  • In India’s Assam state, boat clinics bring vital services to remote communities

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Egypt’s high court dissolves parliament

Egypt’s Supreme Court issued a pair of shocking decisions today.  In one, the court ruled to dissolve the country’s democratically elected parliament on technical grounds.  The other clears the way for  the moderate presidential candidate to run, just days before the election.  FSRN’s Noel King is in Cairo.

The political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, which controls nearly half of the seats in the powerful lower house of parliament, held an emergency closed-door meeting to decide on a response to the ruling,.  The young progressives who formed the backbone of Egypt’s revolution called the maneuver a coup by the ruling military council.  Egypt’s ruling generals also dissolved the 100-member committee that was set to write the country’s new constitution, and said they will choose a new committee.  In another ruling, the court struck down the so-called Political Exclusion law, which sought to ban members of former president Hosni Mubarak’s regime from running for office for the next decade.  The ruling most directly impacted Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, who has positioned himself as the law-and-order candidate.  He has appealed to a broad segment of Egyptian society that is deeply unsettled by ongoing street clashes and economic instability.  Shafiq held a triumphant news conference following the ruling. This clears the way for Shafiq’s weekend face off against Mohammad Morsi, a stolid but charmless candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood.  As dusk fell, small groups of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square to protest the ruling.  It is unclear how the court decisions will affect the presidential election. Noel King, FSRN, Cairo.

The Egyptian court rulings come a day after the Justice Ministry reinstated the right of the military to arrest civilians. That power briefly went away when emergency rules expired at the end of May.  The Justice Ministry said the rule will be in place until a new constitution is approved. A lawyer told the AP this amounts to a “declaration of martial law.” Military arrests of civilians was a hallmark of the rule of former-President Hosni Mubarak.

Opposition party threatens to disrupt coming elections in Senegal

Campaigning for July parliamentary elections in Senegal began this week, and already accusations are flying between the country’s two largest political parties. The former ruling Senegalese Democratic Party is angry over corruption charges and the seizure of several of their vehicles by the government. For FSRN, Alpha Jallow reports from Dakar.

About twenty-four political parties and coalitions have qualified for the July 1st parliamentary election ballot. One-hundred fifty seats are up for grabs, and the poll will be a big test for President Macky Sall and his coalition ‘Benno Bocko Yakarr. However, there has been a tug-of-war between President Sall and former head of state Abdoulaye Wade, who famously sparked mass protests when he announced his intention to run for a third presidential term earlier this year. He lost to Sall in the election. Now Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party is criticizing the government over newly-launched corruption probes. Wade has threatened to disrupt parliamentary elections if his party members continue to be harassed and intimidated. However, a planned demonstration by Wade and his allies in Dakar today was called off, with no reason given by organizers. Alpha Jallow, FSRN, Dakar, Senegal.

Thousands protest election reforms in Togo

For the third day, thousands of protesters in the West African country of Togo clashed with police in the capital city. The BBC reports residents are denouncing recent electoral reforms that favor the ruling government. The same family has ruled the small country since 1967. More than 100 people have been wounded.

More than 14000 dead in Syrian conflict so far, according to rights group

Today a suicide bomb claimed the lives of ten people in the Syrian capital Damascus, damaging a Shiite shrine located next to a police station.  No one has claimed responsibility. Government forces shelled Deir al-Zor today, killing at least 11, according to Reuters. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an NGO based in London, now estimates more than 14-thousand people, including civilians, rebels, and government security forces, have died since protests began in March 2011.

Crime reporter murdered in Mexico

Another journalist has been murdered in the Mexican state of Veracruz, recognized as one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters. FSRN’s Shannon Young reports.

Crime reporter Victor Baez was found dead this morning on a street just two blocks from the government palace in Xalapa, the state capital of Veracruz. Baez was abducted last night while leaving his office. The murder is the fifth in less than two months in Veracruz.  In the wake of crimes against the press, the state government often issues statements condemning the violence, but rarely follows up with concrete actions like investigations. The murder in Veracruz comes less than one week after Stephanie Cardoso, a crime reporter in the state of Coahuila, was abducted from her home along with her 2 year-old son.  Their whereabouts remain unknown. The reporters most often targeted by violence in Mexico cover regional crime beats. Shannon Young, FSRN, Oaxaca.



Amendment to Farm Bill seeks drastic cuts to food stamp program

In Washington, the US Senate is set to begin debating the nearly one trillion dollar Farm Bill. But before taking up the massive legislation, lawmakers must first wade through more than 200 amendments dealing with everything from sugar subsidies to rural broadband access to foreign aid to Pakistan. One current battle pits powerful crop insurance companies against defenders of the food stamp program. More than 22 million US families depend on food stamps to meet their nutritional needs, but proposed cuts in the House and Senate versions of the bill have put that assistance in jeopardy. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Pacific trade deal could allow corporations to bypass domestic laws, leaked text says

A leaked document from secret negotiations of a wide-ranging trade deal in the Pacific shows that countries are considering terms that would allow transnational corporations special authority to challenge countries’ laws in the event of a dispute. The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, known as TPP, could become the largest in the world, affecting protections for the environment, labor rights, access to medicine in poor countries, and jobs in the US. It covers trade among the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. More countries could still join. Some groups have criticized the lack of public input and the secrecy of the talks. But the leaked text provides some details as to what world leaders are deciding. It was made public Wednesday by the watch-dog group, Citizens Trade Campaign. For more we’re joined by Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign. He joins us by mobile phone from Portland, Oregon.

To view the leaked document: http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/blog/2012/06/13/newly-leaked-tpp-invest…

As armed conflict increases its toll on children, former child soldier from Uganda tells story of survival

This week, the United Nations released its annual report on children in armed conflict finding that an increase in conflict in countries such as Syria, Libya and Sudan, is placing a heavy toll on children.   The report also found more than fifty parties across the globe that violate human rights by recruiting and arming children or attacking schools and hospitals. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, children continue to be recruited and used for suicide attacks. And in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Lord Resistance Army or LRA abducted more than 600 child soldiers and sex slaves over the past two years. The Ugandan rebel and founder of the group, Joseph Kony, is wanted by the International Criminal Court and remains the subject of a military hunt in the region, assisted by US Special Forces. One of those former child soldiers is Grace Akallo, who was abducted from her school by the LRA in 1996. She managed to escape seven months later. FSRN’s Salim Rizvi spoke with Grace Akallo at the UN in New York.

In India’s Assam state, boat clinics bring vital services to remote communities

In India’s northeast state of Assam, a higher rate of women die because of complications from pregnancy and childbirth than in any other area in the country. One of the reasons is lack of medical infrastructure. More than three million people in Assam live on islands on the Brahmaputra River, which flows across the state. And it makes it difficult to access vital health care. But a program that uses boat clinics is reaching local residents – for many it’s the only means of access to health care. FSRN’s Gayatri Parameswaran and Felix Gaedtke file this report.

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