September 27, 2012
- Palestinian President Abbas, Israel’s Netanyahu speak at UN as Wikileaks’ Assange critiques Obama
- Canadian lawmakers fail to advance controversial personhood proposal
- As Iowa begins voting, key states of Ohio and Florida contest right to early ballots
- Housing advocates file complaint against Bank of America for poorly-maintained foreclosed homes in Latino, African American neighborhoods
- California Regents approve $1 million settlement for UC Davis students pepper-sprayed by campus police
UN predicts 700k Syrian refugees by the end of the year
Today the government of Syria sent out a mass text message nationwide aimed at rebel groups, saying “Game Over.” The message follows reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that 300 people died yesterday. The reports cannot be independently verified. The number of people fleeing the country continues to grow, according to the UN Refugee Commission. It estimates there will be as many as 700,000 refugees by the end of the year. In response, the agency has increased its target for international humanitarian aid to nearly $490 million. Currently the UN efforts are only 29% funded.
India’s Supreme Court issues warning to nuclear operators
The Indian Supreme Court today issued a warning to the government that if safety measures are not in place, it will shut down a new nuclear power plant. Opposition to the Kudankulam Plant, located at the southern tip of the country, erupted after the Fukushima disaster. FSRN’s Shuriah Niazi reports.
The high court warned the government it will stop the loading of nuclear fuel into the Kudankulam plant if they discover inadequate safety measures. The court said the government must ensure protection of the environmental, as well as local communities. Anti-nuclear activists and local villagers have been protesting the plant. One opponent petitioned the court, arguing the facility does not meet new safety recommendations proposed by the nuclear regulatory agency. Others worry about how a leak would affect fishing, a major industry on the southern coast. This week, residents demonstrated in village graveyards, and in another protest, hundreds of others buried themselves neck-deep on the beach. Shuriah Niazi, FSRN, India.
Russian court rules protesters cannot fight back against excessive police force
Russian police have the right to use force against protesters at mass demonstrations, but people do not have the right to resist. That was the ruling of the country’s top court today. FSRN’s Ekaterina Danilova reports from St. Petersburg.
Previously, the Supreme Court said people have the right to defend themselves against police force. But today, the court revoked the right, even in cases of illegal use of force. Opposition activists have been using the provision as part of their defense in court. Vyacheslav Plakhotnyuk is a political lawyer. He thinks the Supreme Court decision won’t bring about any major changes. “When there were cases where police received injuries, people were prosecuted anyway. I don’t know many cases when activists managed to prove that it was necessary self-defense. Especially for rallies and demonstrations, the courts didn’t agree there was a self-defense issue.” The court says the decision is temporary and it will review the policy again in the future. The move comes amid an ongoing crackdown on opposition political activities. Ekaterina Danilova, FSRN, Russia.
Portland activist refuses to answer to Federal Grand Jury, faces jail time
In a follow-up to a story FSRN covered last week… A federal grand jury in Seattle found Portland activist Matt Duran in contempt of court Wednesday after he refused to answer questions during the hearing. Police raided Duran’s home looking for evidence relating to property destruction during a May Day protests in Seattle. He’s now facing an 18-month prison sentence at a federal facility. For FSRN, Mark Taylor-Canfield reports.
The grand jury served subpoenas to Matt Duran and three other political activists in Portland, Olympia, and Seattle as part of US Attorney Jenny Durkin’s investigation. Activists, including those called before the Grand Jury, say the inquiry isn’t just about property damage to the Seattle Federal Court House, but an investigation of the anarchist movement in Oregon and Washington. The National Lawyers Guild says the grand jury investigation and raids on the homes of political activists violate the First Amendment. According to witnesses, law enforcement was seeking anti-government political literature during the raids. In a statement released earlier this month, Duran said “I will do everything I can to resist the Grand Jury.” Mark Taylor-Canfield, FSRN, Seattle.
Arcata anti-panhandling ordinance partially thrown out by court
A California court struck down most of the City of Arcata’s anti-panhandling ordinance this week. It ruled that the city’s legitimate interests in controlling traffic and preventing unwanted communication did not justify the ordinance’s restriction on freedom of speech. FSRN’s Eric Black reports.
The ruling lifts prohibitions against panhandling on or near a pedestrian foot bridge, and within 20 feet of a retail outlet, intersection, or parking structure. The 2010 ordinance stated that panhandling in those locations causes congestion and threatens the economic vitality of the city by driving away shoppers. But in his ruling, Judge Dale Reinholtsen wrote, quote, “Arcata may not restrict solicitation merely because it makes people uncomfortable.” The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Richard Salzman, agreed: “My feeling is that if you’re gonna stand for civil rights. If you’re gonna stand for civil liberties. If you’re gonna stand for free speech rights, you have to be willing to protect everyone’s speech, including people you may disagree with or people you may find annoying.” The court upheld restrictions on panhandling within 20 feet of an outdoor ATM and on public transportation. The lawsuit did not challenge Arcata prohibitions against use of abusive language, unwanted physical contact, or intentional disruption of traffic while panhandling. The plaintiff’s attorney said he does not expect the city to appeal the ruling. Eric Black, FSRN, Arcata, California.
Palestinian President Abbas, Israel’s Netanyahu speak at UN as Wikileaks’ Assange critiques Obama
Today, leaders from Libya, Iraq, and other nations addressed the UN’s General Assembly in New York with some highlighting unresolved conflicts, such as the fighting in Syria, the dispute in the China Sea and the ongoing embargo on Cuba. But it was the appearance of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas followed shortly by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that drew a sharp difference. President Abbas, speaking through an interpreter, said Palestinians had been participating in UNICEF, but would push for full recognition at the UN.
“We will continue our efforts to attain full membership for Palestine at the United Nations and for the same purposes we have begun intensive negotiations with various regional organizations and member states.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the podium shortly after, warning of nuclear ambitions in Iran and what he called militant Islam and a fight between the modern and the medieval.
“President Abbas just spoke here. I say to him and I say to you that we won’t solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN. We won’t solve our conflict with unilateral declarations of statehood. We need to sit together, negotiate together and reach a mutual compromise in which a demilitarized Palestinian State recognizes the one and only Jewish state.”
On the sidelines of the general assembly, many came to watch a video feed of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Assange gave a rebuttal to president Barack Obama’s speech earlier this week.
“Who can say that the president of the United States is not audacious. Was it not audacity for the United States government to take credit for the last two years of progress? Was it not audacious for him to say on Tuesday that the United States supported the forces of change in the Arab Spring. Tunisian history did not begin in December 2010 and Mohammad Bouazizi did not set himself on fire so that Barack Obama could be re-elected.”
Assange spoke from Ecuador’s embassy in London. The UK government has prevented Assange from traveling to Ecuador, where he was granted asylum. Military documents posted online by Wikileaks and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request appear to show that the US government designated Assange and Wikileaks as “enemies of the state,” a designation Assange’s lawyer said could have legal implications.
Canadian lawmakers fail to advance controversial personhood proposal
In Canada, conservative lawmakers failed Wednesday night to move forward a controversial personhood proposal. motion 312 would have created a Parliamentary committee to examine the current definition of a “human being” in the Criminal Code of Canada and decide whether or not it should extend to fetuses. FSRN’s Tanya Castle has more from Ottawa.
As Iowa begins voting, key states of Ohio and Florida contest right to early ballots
Iowa became the first battleground state to begin absentee and in-person early voting today. Across the state, people are headed to the polls and will soon be able to cast votes at “satellite stations” in churches, college campuses and local businesses. Other states, including Oregon and Colorado, have also changed voting laws to make it easier and more convenient for residents to access the voting booth. But with less than six weeks until Election Day, the right to cast an early ballot is still being contested in key states, including Ohio and Florida. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.
Housing advocates file complaint against Bank of America for poorly-maintained foreclosed homes in Latino, African American neighborhoods
Housing rights advocates, activists and residents hit by the foreclosure crisis continue to push banks and the federal government for reforms. Today, groups rallied in the Washington, DC area, marching to the home of Ed DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The “Fannie Freddie 99 fighters” include homeowners from six states. They’re calling for an end to evictions and a plan to keep people in their homes, as well as for DeMarco to be fired. In another housing development, the National Fair Housing Alliance along with five member organizations filed a discrimination complaint against Bank of America. The complaint says the bank is not maintaining foreclosed properties in African American and Latino neighborhoods. For more, we’re joined by Shanna Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. She joins us from Washington, DC.
In response to our request for comment, Bank of America sent FSRN the following statement: “While we share NFHA’s concern about neighborhoods, we strongly deny their allegations and stand behind our property maintenance and marketing practices. Bank of America is committed to stabilizing and revitalizing communities that have been impacted by the economic downturn, foreclosures and property abandonment. We actively address the needs of such communities through existing programs, partnerships with non profits and governments and continued investment in innovative programs.”
California Regents approve $1 million settlement for UC Davis students pepper-sprayed by campus police
The University of California Regents have proposed a $1 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by students who were pepper-sprayed by campus police during a protest last year. If approved by a judge, the students would receive a payout and a formal apology and the school would review its policies for responding to demonstrations. FSRN’s Sally Schilling reports.