August 2, 2012

  • UN Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan resigns as fighting continues in Aleppo, other cities
  • Israel increases spending on West Bank settlements
  • Senate rejects cybersecurity bill, but other Internet measures on horizon
  • Undocumented activists head toward DNC as Arpaio trial wraps up in Arizona
  • Caregivers in Los Angeles vow to continue fight to improve conditions after winning wage hike

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Former Colombian GM auto-workers on hunger strike

Former and present General Motors auto workers in Colombia are on strike today in front of the US Embassy in Bogota. Many say they were dismissed from their jobs because of injuries they incurred while working. Protests by the ASOTRECOL workers organization against GM have been ongoing for a year, without significant progress. The group posted a video online announcing the strike.

“This is not just a problem that affects the workers.  It affects entire families.  We, the wives of the workers and also our children have been have also been hit hard.”

Organizers say more than 100 workers have been fired after acquiring medical conditions like carpal tunnel, repetitive strain problems, and spine issues.  They say they don’t have medical coverage, pensions, or severance pay from the American company.  As part of the protest, which began yesterday, the five hunger strikers sewed their lips closed. They’re calling the hunger strike indefinite.


Rights group blames Myanmar government for not ending ethnic violence

A human rights group is blaming Myanmar’s military for involvement in the attacks on ethnic Rohingya in the western Rakhine State.  It says the government also failed to prevent the violence from escalating.  As FSRN’s Ron Corben reports, the United Nations human rights envoy is visiting the country, also known as Burma, assessing the violence that left at least 78 people dead.

The report by Human Rights Watch says in addition to a high death toll from sectarian bloodshed in western Rakhine State, hundreds of Muslim Rohingya men and boys are missing following mass arrests. Rakhine is mostly populated by Rohingya and Buddhist communities, and violence erupted after the sexual assault and murder of an Arakan Buddhist woman in late May.

Ten Muslim men, pilgrims from Yangon, were then murdered triggering an escalation in violence.  Hundreds of homes were burned, with at least 78 people dead and hundreds injured.  Up to 100,000 from both communities have been displaced by the bloodshed.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia Director, says the government and the army failed to prevent the bloodshed.  He says security forces were also linked to other abuses.

“The government did little to stop the sectarian violence, which was then compounded by acts of commission, which we documented as security forces took control of the situation and focused their attention on the Rohingya.”

Myanmar vice president, Sai Mank Kham, told a government committee the violence in Rakhine State was linked to racial and religious tensions and called for a long term solution.  Sai Mank says the government is working with international aid agencies to provide relief and assistance to those now displaced in camps.

On Thursday UN human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana visited the damaged state capital of Sittwe on a fact finding mission.  The Myanmar government has rejected charges of abuse by its security forces, saying they had used “maximum restraint” in order to restore law and order.  Ron Corben, FSRN, Bangkok.

Court temporarily halts Arizona abortion law

New Arizona abortion restrictions will not take effect today, after the 9th Circuit Court blocked a state law largely banning the procedure after 20 weeks. Previously a District Court had refused to halt the law, which abortion rights groups have called one of the most restrictive in the nation and a possible direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.  The ruling yesterday puts a temporary halt to the law while opponents appeal a lower court decision allowing it to stand.

Green Party presidential candidate arrested at PA protest

This week, Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney campaigned through Europe and the Middle East.  Barack Obama has been attending fundraisers and making campaign stops across the US. But Green Party candidate Jill Stein has been busy in another way. At a protest yesterday in Philadelphia, police arrested the third-party candidate and her running mate. And as Matthew Petrillo explains, this may not be their last stop in jail before the general election.

Green party presidential hopeful Jill Stein and her vice presidential running mate Cheri Honkala spent last night in jail.  Police arrested them and three others for leading a three-hour sit in here in Philadelphia at Fannie Mae.  About 50 other protestors joined in the demonstration, saying they wouldn’t move until the mortgage giant gave back the foreclosed homes of two Philadelphia residents.

This is not the first time Honkala has faced jail time for similar charges. The Philadelphia-native often fights foreclosures, which she says affects more than 8 million Americans. The issue is addressed in Stein’s “Green New Deal,” a platform that advocates for a moratorium on the practice. The five arrested were set to appear before a judge this morning. Matthew Petrillo, FSRN, Philadelphia.

UC Davis pepper-spray officer no longer employed by university

The campus police officer who infamously pepper-sprayed UC Davis students during a campus protest is out of a job this week. Lt. John Pike has been on administrative leave since the incident last November. The Sacramento Bee reports Pike was on leave while an internal investigation into several officers’ actions during the protests was underway. The University has declined to comment on the details of why Pike is no longer with the force.



UN Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan resigns as fighting continues in Aleppo, other cities

UN Special Envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan resigned today citing frustration with the Syrian government and failure of the international community to respond to the ongoing violence in the country. Annan blamed both the Syrian regime and opposition forces and specifically mentioned the 15-member UN Security Council, which has repeatedly failed to adopt meaningful measures on Syria. “At a time when we need, when the Syrian people desperately need action. There continues to be finger pointing and name calling in the UN Security Council.” Russia and China have used their veto to block the Security Council from condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the 17-month-long crackdown. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he is in talks with the Arab League to find a successor. As international efforts to handle the situation in Syria falter, intense fighting continues in Syria’s cities. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports civilian casualties in Damascus and Hama. Human Rights Watch is condemning what appears to be public execution in a video carried out by opposition forces against suspected paramilitary members in Damascus. And the UN has confirmed that Syrian military jets have fired rockets into neighborhoods in Aleppo, where residents are facing shortages of water and fuel. FSRN’s Jacob Resneck has more from neighboring Turkey.

Israel increases spending on West Bank settlements

Two reports out this week have shown an increase in Israeli government spending on settlements in the West Bank. One from the Hebrew business daily Calcalist says that spending has risen by nearly 40 percent from 2010 to 2011. Another, from the human rights group Peace Now, which criticizes the settlements, finds that Israel is spending more on settlers in the West Bank and east Jerusalem than on the average Israeli resident. FSRN Ghassan Bannoura has more on the story.

Senate rejects cybersecurity bill, but other Internet measures on horizon

The Senate rejected a cybersecurity bill today that would have allowed more sharing of private consumer information between corporations and the government, including branches of the military. But alternative bills are on the horizon that privacy advocates say could have even broader impact on the Internet. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Undocumented activists head toward DNC as Arpaio trial wraps up in Arizona

The trial for controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio concludes today. At a Phoenix courthouse, lawyers for Arpaio called what is expected to be the final witness in his defense. Arpaio, who is running for reelection this Fall, is facing a lawsuit challenging his practices as racially motivated and discriminatory. The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (Arizona) and Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, called upon eyewitness testimony and research to show a pattern of violations to the equal protection clause under the constitution. Arpaio is also the subject of an ongoing Department of Justice case. Often lost in the debate are the voices of those most affected by these policies. Now, a group of undocumented workers are on a bus ride from Arizona to North Carolina, where the Democratic National Convention will be held in September. It’s called the No Papers, No Fears campaign. For more, we’re joined by Carlos Garcia, one of the organizers of the campaign. He joins us by mobile phone on the road.

Caregivers in Los Angeles vow to continue fight to improve conditions after winning wage hike

Recent financial problems in California cities have prompted some concern about city and county jobs. The city of San Bernadino declared bankruptcy, as did Stockton. But in Los Angeles County, after months of campaigning, home health care workers have won higher wages. The tens of thousands of workers who provide in-home care to low-income seniors and people with disabilities will benefit from the wage hike, approved unanimously by the board of supervisors. But while they celebrated the change, advocates say their fight to improve advocates say their fight to improve conditions isn’t over. FSRN’s Leilani Albano has more on the story.

This story was made possible in part by a grant from the Berger-Marks Foundation.

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