October 5, 2012

  • In Syria, shelling hits Homs neighborhoods as concern rises about border attacks with Turkey
  • Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez faces strong opposition in bid for reelection
  • As US official unemployment dips below eight percent, economists question quality of new jobs
  • San Francisco’s new archbishop draws criticism over anti-gay activism
  • Vigils in Canada draw attention to missing, murdered aboriginal women and girls

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Jordan’s King Abdullah dissolves Parliament, protests follow

Thousands protested in Jordan today after King Abdullah dissolved the Parliament, calling for new elections by the end of the year.  The demonstrations are reportedly the largest in the country since anti-government protests swept the region in 2011.  Today’s 15,000 person protest was called by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Video from the AP shows thousands of men holding banners and chanting in the capital Amman.  They called for democratic reforms, an independent judiciary and an end to government corruption.  A demonstration in support of the government was cancelled at the last minute.


Canada to fire all non-Christian prison chaplains

The Canadian federal prison system is getting rid of all non-Christian prison chaplains.  Prisoners of all faiths will now all have to go to Christian chaplains for council.  Sikh prison chaplain Harkirat Singh spoke to the CBC.

“How can a Christian chaplain provide spirituality to the Sikh faith? Because they don’t have that expertise.”

The government says it won’t pick and choose which religions get “preferential status through government funding.”  But critics say that’s exactly what it’s doing in only keeping Christian chaplains.


Los Angeles LAPD Chief announces plan to scale back cooperation with Secure Communities

Police Chief Charlie Beck is proposing a change in LAPD policy whereby police would no longer hand over undocumented immigrants accused of committing low-level crimes to the federal government.  Under the federal Secure Communities program, local police forces are required, upon request, to hold undocumented immigrants for federal processing.  Chief Beck said the change was about building trust with the immigrant community in the city.

“ I think most people, if you have a discussion with them, don’t believe that families that exist here in Los Angeles should be torn apart because an individual gets arrested for a very petty crime.  An individual that does not have a criminal record; an individual that is not a gang member.  I don’t think they believe that.”

Beck said about 400 of 3400 federally-requested deportation holds in 2011 would not happen under the policy change.  But immigrants who have a violent criminal past, even if the current arrest is for a minor offense, would still be handed over.


Protests planned to mark anniversary of Afghanistan war

The US war in Afghanistan is the longest war in US history.  The Obama Administration has promised to withdraw troops from the country by 2014.  But this has not quelled anti-war activists in the US and abroad.  Demonstrations are being planned in at least 20 cities throughout the world to mark the 11th anniversary of the war.  FSRN’s Mark Taylor-Canfield has a preview of this weekend’s events from Seattle.

The United National Antiwar Coalition says protests will be held across the US with solidarity rallies in Canada, Pakistan, Iran and the UK.  Today members of the Iranian student movement have scheduled anti-Afghanistan War protests in Tehran after the traditional Friday prayers.

On Sunday demonstrators will gather in London at Trafalgar Square to read the names of people who’ve been killed in Afghanistan, both civilians and soldiers.  The Congressional Research Service reports there were nearly 20,000 Afghan security and civilian casualties from 2007 through the first half of this year.  Counts vary, but thousands more are reported to have died during the first 6 years of the war.  The website icasualties.org puts the number of coalition deaths at 3197, with the US and Britain experiencing the greatest losses.

Demonstrations coinciding with this weekend’s anniversary have also been organized in several major US cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco.  Activists in smaller cities like Mankato, Minnesota, Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma have announced gatherings.

Here in Seattle, three days of events are planned to coincide with Occupy Seattle’s one year anniversary and Columbus Day protests.  Antiwar activists will be picketing a military recruiting center and holding rallies and marches at Westlake Park.  Mark Taylor-Canfield, FSRN, Seattle.


Maine Republicans attack World of Warcraft-playing Democratic candidate

And finally, in one of the more unique political attacks in a long while…  The Republican Party in Maine has sent out mailers “slamming” Democratic State Senate Candidate Colleen Lachowicz for playing World of Warcraft, a popular on-line fantasy role-playing game, and blogging about her character stabbing things.  Her avatar in the game is an Orc Rogue Assassin named Santiaga.  The Democratic Party is trying to leverage the attack into support from the gaming community.  The so-called Friends of Santiaga have launched a donation site asking people to –quote- “support a gamer who’s under attack.”  Lachowicz is trying to unseat the incumbent Republican in a state Senate race that’s expected to be close.



In Syria, shelling hits Homs neighborhoods as concern rises about border attacks with Turkey

In Syria today, protesters marched through the streets of Aleppo, Deraa, Damascus and other cities and towns.

In a video posted online by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a small group of children marched with other protesters in Idlib. The Observatory said at least 40 people were killed throughout the country today, including in the city of Homs, where residents reported shelling and assaults from tanks. One activist in Homs told Al Jazeera that he counted five rockets per minute in his neighborhood during the bombardment today.

Tensions around the ongoing conflict have risen in the past 48 hours after the Syrian regime killed five civilians across the border in Turkey’s city of Akcakale and Turkey returned fire. On Thursday, Turkey’s parliament authorized the use of force. In response, thousands protested in Istanbul and Ankara last night.

One protester, Nevzat Evrim Onal, told the Telegraph that US interests played a role in Turkey’s decision.

“We are going through an ugly provocation of war. The Turkish and Syrian people are not enemies. The government is trying to drag us into a war with Syria in compliance with US interests.”

Turkey is sheltering nearly 100,000 refugees from Syria.

On Thursday, the UN’s Security Council condemned the shelling of Akcakale. The Council’s President for October, Guatemalan Ambassador Gert Rosenthal, called for restraint.

“The members of the Security Council underscored that this incident highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on its neighbors and on regional peace and security. The members of the council demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated.”

So far UN resolutions and peace efforts have failed to stop the bloodshed.


Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez faces strong opposition in bid for reelection

This Sunday, voters in Venezuela head to the polls for their presidential election. President Hugo Chavez is seeking a fourth term and faces what is being called the strongest challenge to his presidency so far. Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has highlighted a crackdown on the media and violence rates in the country.  But Chavez still has strong support, especially among residents who have benefited from his broad social programs and those who share his criticism of American influence in the region.

For more we go to Caracas to speak with journalist Virginia Lopez, she’s been covering the upcoming election for the Guardian.

For more of Virginia Lopez’ reporting in The Guardian on Venezuela:



As US official unemployment dips below eight percent, economists question quality of new jobs

New government employment numbers released today showed the economy added about 114,000 jobs in September, while official unemployment rate dropped below eight percent for the first time since the beginning of 2009. But if underemployed and discouraged workers are included, the total unemployment rate remains unchanged at 14.7 percent. And some economists are questioning the quality of the jobs created. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more, in Washington, D.C.


San Francisco’s new archbishop draws criticism over anti-gay activism

At St. Mary’s cathedral in San Francisco, the catholic church installed a new controversial archbishop Thursday. Salvatore Cordileone was one of the driving forces behind California’s 2008 voter-approved ban on same sex marriage, Proposition 8. A crowd gathered outside the invitation-only ceremony, some voiced support and others criticized the new religious order. FSRN’s Judith Scherr has the story.


Vigils in Canada draw attention to missing, murdered aboriginal women and girls

More than 150 vigils took place across Canada Thursday night to honor the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. The Native Women’s Association of Canada has documented nearly 600 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women, the majority of which were reported within the past thirty years. Some elected officials and families of the victims say the government is not doing enough to address the issue. FSRN’s Tanya Castle reports from Ottawa.

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