June 7, 2012

  • Witnesses describe massacre in Syrian village as UN warns of “all-out civil war”
  • Youth occupy Obama’s Denver office to call for action on DREAM Act
  • San Francisco law seeks to align police and FBI anti-terrorism efforts with civil liberties
  • New Orleans residents fight cuts to Times Picayune

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NATO airstrike blamed for Afghan civilian deaths

A NATO airstrike has reportedly left at least 18 people dead in Afghanistan’s Logar province.Afghan officials say some or possibly all of the victims were civilians, including women and children, attending a wedding party.An AP photo of the scene shows people digging through the rubble of a collapsed building.NATO says it has launched an investigation into the incident.In addition, a string of suicide bomb attacks claimed by the Taliban left 22 civilians dead yesterday near a NATO military base in Kandahar province.

Montreal police make raid activist homes, make arrests ahead of Grand Prix

Activists involved in the ongoing student strike in Montreal are facing police raids and arrests today, ahead of the start of festivities for the Formula One Grand Prix car race. FSRN’s Aaron Lakoff has the story.

Montreal police showed up at the homes of 11 activists early this morning and made arrests.Among those detained was the daughter of prominent left-wing Quebec politician Amir Khadir.Yalda Khadir is being accused of mischief in connection with a student demonstration at the office of a former education minister in April.

This arrest comes 2 days after Amir himself was arrested in Quebec City after having taken part in a peaceful “casserole” march.These “casserole” marches, characterized by thousands of people banging on pots and pans, have become a nightly phenomenon across Quebec over the last few weeks.

These protests are just the beginning of what could be a tense summer in Montreal. Students and activist groups are targeting many of the city’s outdoor festivals with the hopes of putting economic pressure on the Quebec government. A recent report in the National Post newspaper revealed that Montreal’s tourism industry lost 6 million dollars in the month of May alone. Aaron Lakoff, FSRN, Montreal.


Indian heat wave leaves hundreds dead

A prolonged heat wave sweeping across the Eastern parts of India has claimed more than 200 lives over the past four days.In some places the temperature has reach 118 degrees.Aside from the deaths, thousands of acres of crops have been destroyed by the heat, bringing the possibility of a food crisis later this year.Prabhakar Mani Tewari reports from West Bengal, where the effects of the heat wave have been most devastating.

The state of West Bengal is experiencing the hottest summer in two decades. Scores of peoples are dying due to a dearth of healthcare facilities. In rural areas, lack awareness and infrastructure have caused the death toll to rise. Today the government took stock of the situation, cancelling leave time for local health department officials so they are available to deal with rising numbers of patients.

In past years, 3 to 4 days of high temperatures have been followed by a cooling rain, but this year the heat wave has lasted about 2 weeks. Meteorologists predict the situation to turn worse over the weekend. The ongoing heat wave is unlikely to subside until the monsoon begins in mid-June. Prabhakar Mani Tewari, FSRN, Kolkata.


Denmark approves same-sex marriage

Lawmakers in Denmark today voted to require the state’s Lutheran Church to preform full and formal same-sex marriage ceremonies. Previously the Church only allowed gay couples “blessing ceremonies” outside of regular church services. The new law passed the Parliament by a large margin, with more than three-fourths of MPs voting in favor. The law takes effect next week.


NY Judge rules DOMA unconstitutional

The Defense of Marriage Act has suffered yet another blow as a federal district court judge in New York found it to be discriminatory. The case focused on a tax issue where a woman was not allowed to claim a spousal exemption on estate taxes from her deceased wife. The judge ordered Wednesday that the $350-thousand paid to the federal government by the plaintiff be returned. This is the fifth time a judge has found DOMA to be unconstitutional according to Reuters.

Democrats push for reproductive health coverage for military women

The military’s health care policy forbids federal funds from being spent on abortion services for women soldiers except in cases where the woman’s life is in danger, even though other federal employees can receive federally subsidized abortions in cases of rape and incest. Today, New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen pushed for the passage of her amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would extend that right to servicewomen. FSRN’s Ness Smith-Savedoff reports from DC.

The 1976 Hyde Amendment limited the use of federal money for abortion services to cases of rape, incest, and where the woman’s life is in danger. But further limits were added for servicewomen in 1979, eliminating the rape and incest provisions. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, said her amendment would at least make things consistent.

Retired US Army General Gale Pollock joined Shaheen on Capitol Hill Thursday to support the amendment.

“It makes me incredibly angry to know that after a sexual assault, our service women – the wives, the daughters, who each serve and sacrifice for our country – lack the same insurance coverage that other women in America enjoy.”

This amendment comes at a time when new investigations are shining light on widespread sexual assault in the military. The Shaheen Amendment was added to the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, which has not yet come to the floor for a vote. Ness Smith-Savedoff, FSRN, Washington.



Witnesses describe massacre in Syrian village as UN warns of “all-out civil war”

The United Nations said today that observers trying to reach the site of a massacre in Syria were blocked by the Army at checkpoints. General Robert Mood, head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria said monitors will continue to try to enter the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir to confirm facts on the ground. According to activists with the Local Coordination Committees, an assault Wednesday killed more than 78 civilians in the village Video purportedly of the victims posted online shows rows of dead children and women and black, charred bodies. In an interview posted to Youtube by Syrian Translators, a man who spoke from the village said he witnessed the aftermath of the killings. “I swear by God there was a three month infant who was burnt alive, they were all burnt by fire. Assad’s thugs bombed houses and burnt  them down. Families were slaughtered and burnt too.” UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan addressed the UN today, describing deteriorating conditions and warning of an “all out civil war.” For more, we’re joined by Radwan Ziadeh, director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights and a member of the Syrian National Council. He joins us on the line from Washington DC.

Youth occupy Obama’s Denver office to call for action on DREAM Act

Immigrants rights activists are occupying President Obama’s campaign office in Denver and are waging a hunger strike. They say they won’t leave until the President signs an executive order to stop deporting youth who are eligible under the DREAM Act, proposed legislation that offers a path to citizenship for some undocumented youth. The protest comes as a just-completed review of the Administration’s massive deportation backlog finds that far fewer “low-priority” cases have been dismissed than advocates had hoped, and thousands continue to be detained and deported. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more, in Washington, D.C.

San Francisco law seeks to align police and FBI anti-terrorism efforts with civil liberties

In New Jersey, Muslim students, religious and business leaders have filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department to end its surveillance program of Muslim communities in the area. According to investigations by the Associated Press, the police department infiltrated dozens of mosques and student groups and kept individuals under surveillance. The suit filed Wednesday by the group Muslim Advocates, calls the practice unconstitutional and discriminatory and seeks an end to spying and the deletion of files that the NYPD holds. Imam W. Deen Shareef is Convener of the Council of Imams of New Jersey, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “To find out that the New York Police Department actually took pictures of our mothers, our children and those individuals that come into our businesses has created an atmosphere where there is certainly and undo suspicion that has been cast upon the entire Muslim community.” Audio from NY1. While advocates continue the legal challenge in New York, groups in San Francisco are praising the city’s adoption of a new law that requires the Police Department to adhere to local and state civil rights standards when working with the FBI on its Joint Terrorism Task Force, or JTTF.  Backers of the “Safe San Francisco Ordinance” say it is the first law in the country attempting to balance civil liberties and public safety concerns. FSRN’s Max Pringle reports.

New Orleans residents fight cuts to Times Picayune

Many in New Orleans continue to fight the expected downsizing of the Times Picayune to printing just three days a week. The legislature unanimously passed a resolution this week calling for The Times Picayune to continue as a daily. And some in the city have mobilized a campaign to push the paper’s owners to “print or sell.” FSRN’s Zoe Sullivan spoke with New Orleans residents about the situation.

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