November 13, 2012

  • Syrian Kurds make long trek to Iraq to flee violence, fighting
  • Departure of Petraeus from CIA prompts calls to reassess Afghanistan, drone program
  • Advocates urge protection of social programs as lawmakers face spending cut deadlines
  • In Mansfield, Ohio residents weigh next steps for challenge to fracking toxic waste permits
  • Fracking ban in Colorado could face legal challenge

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Gaza militants make cease fire overture; Israel keeps bombing

An escalation of violence in Gaza continued overnight as Israeli warplanes dropped several bombs; militants fired a single rocket this morning. Another Gazan died today from injuries sustained Saturday. The violence spiraled when four Israeli soldiers were hurt by a rocket fired from Gaza. Israel retaliated with airstrikes on a funeral. Today, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak called military efforts “ongoing,” despite a Palestinian cease fire offer late yesterday.

Preparations underway for Arafat exhumation

In the West Bank today, Ghassan Bannourra reports that Palestinian security forces have sealed off late President Yasser Arafat’s tomb.

The tomb is located in the presidential compound in Ramallah, where workers are beginning to remove concrete so they can exhume the former Palestinian president’s remains.Yasser Arafat died in November 2004 in a french hospital near Paris. Last August, french authorities opened an investigation into his death after a team of Swiss experts found traces of radioactive polonium-210 isotope on his clothing. Many Palestinians believe Arafat was poisoned due to the rapid and unexplained deterioration of his health.The exhumation and testing will be conducted in a joint venture between a Swiss team of scientists, who have already arrived in the West Bank, and french investigators. Palestinian officials said that the grave will be ready by November 26th. Ghassan Bannoura, FSRN, Bethlehem.

Calderon says US states legalizing marijuana alters global drug war paradigm

In the wake of the US elections, Latin American countries have renewed calls for the international community to re-evaluate drug policy. Shannon Young reports.

The elected leaders of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica met Monday in Mexico City to discuss security cooperation and regional trade. After the meeting, Mexican president Felipe Calderon re-iterated the countries’ commitment to fight organized crime and maintain international security partnerships. But he also said local and state measures to permit the legal production, consumption and distribution of marijuana constitute a major shift in what has been the international paradigm of drug policy. While not naming US ballot initiatives directly, the statements come less than a week after voters in Washington and Colorado approved measures to legalize and regulate the recreational consumption of marijuana. The statements aren’t likely to have any short term effect on the policy of militarized drug prohibition in Latin America. Media tallies estimate more than 60,000 people have died in drug war related violence in Mexico alone in the past six years. The presidents called on the UN General Assembly to hold a meeting on global drug policy sometime before 2015. Shannon Young, FSRN, Oaxaca.

UAE updates internet laws criminalizing online dissent

The United Arab Emirates issued a decree today regulating internet use. The law tightens current restrictions on activities like online gambling, pornography and fraud. But it also makes online dissent illegal, criminalizes political organizing and prohibits anything that officials deem to threaten public order. Such crimes are punishable by a minimum of three years in jail. The UAE has not experienced widespread  pro-democracy uprisings, but government officials have cracked down on activists and detained human rights advocates. Earlier today, the UAE was admitted to the United Nations  Human Rights Council.

Hurricane Sandy aftermath; tens of thousands still have no power

In Haiti, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is asking for another 40 million dollars to fund recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy.  Storm damage to agricultural lands left an estimated 1.5 million people in urgent need of food assistance. And in the US northeast, more than 80,000 residences and businesses are still without electricity because of storm damages to their property. They will need repairs and inspections before their power can be restored.

Protest at Bank of America close four branches; activists call on bank to stop funding coal

In Charlotte, North Caroline four Bank of America branches briefly closed today as protesters  called on the bank to stop funding the coal industry. Nine people were arrested, including a seventy-five-year-old  Bank of America shareholder, Patricia Moore, who worries about her asthmatic granddaughter living  downwind of a local coal fired power plant. Charlotte resident and campaigner for the Rain Forest Action Network, Todd Zimmer.  “Bank of America is the single largest funder of the coal industry in the United States. In the last two years, they have invested more than $6.4 billion dollars in the industry, and we want Bank of America to know that coal is a bad investment.” In 2008,  Bank of America agreed to phase out funding for mountain top removal  mining companies, but has actually increased underwriting for those companies as well as the utilities that use the coal they produce.



Syrian Kurds make long trek to Iraq to flee violence, fighting

Fighting continued to rage in Syria today as activists reported some 60 killed, 41 of those in Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the toll higher, at 110 for today. In Aleppo, video showed piles of rubble and destroyed buildings lining rain-dampened streets. The centuries-old Al Qadi mosque was ripped bare, destroyed both inside and out. The UN refugee agency said it removed staff from the northern area near the Turkish border as attacks made the region too dangerous. Also today, France joined countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council in recognizing the newly-named opposition coalition. The Syrian Red Crescent now says the conflict has displaced 2.5 million people within Syria and the violence continues to drive thousands across the border. Many ethnic Kurds are part of that flight out of the country. But they are not taking the most direct route to neighboring Turkey or Lebanon. Rather, many are settling in northern Iraq where Iraqi Kurds rule the Kurdish Autonomous Region. FSRN’s Jacob Resneck reports.

Departure of Petraeus from CIA prompts calls to reassess Afghanistan, drone program

The investigation into former CIA-director David Petraeus has widened to include his former deputy, General John Allen. Allen is the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan. According to a statement released from the Pentagon today, military officials have referred the investigation to the Inspector General. At issue is a cache of written communications between Allen and Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who first alerted the FBI to harassing emails she received, according to the Washington Post. The Defense Department has asked the president to postpone the nomination of Allen to commander of NATO forces in Europe, pending the investigation. For more on what these developments could mean for the war in Afghanistan and issues such as the CIA-run drone program, we’re joined by Ray McGovern. McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years, during which time he prepared the President’s Daily Brief on intelligence. He joins from Washington DC.

Advocates urge protection of social programs as lawmakers face spending cut deadlines

In Washington, orientation begins today for the many newly-elected members of Congress, while those already serving reconvened after a seven-week recess with a long and urgent to-do list. Groups from all sides of the political spectrum are weighing how best to avert the tax break expirations and automatic spending cuts set to be triggered by the end of the year.  A wealthy and powerful lobby group is mobilizing CEOs to push for continued corporate and upper-income tax breaks, paid for by deep cuts to social safety programs. But a coalition of progressive lawmakers, unions, religious leaders and advocates for the poor are preparing to push back. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

In Mansfield, Ohio residents weigh next steps for challenge to fracking toxic waste permits

In last week’s elections, there were some victories for environmentalists and opponents of the natural gas drilling process of hydraulic fracturing. We’re going to take a look at what happened in communities two states, Ohio and Colorado. First, we go to about 70 miles north of Columbus, Ohio to Mansfield, where voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment that challenges the state’s authority to permit the disposal of toxic wastes from fracking within city limits. FSRN’s Evan Davis has more.

Fracking ban in Colorado could face legal challenge

Voters in The city of Longmont, Colorado approved a ban on fracking within city limits in last week’s election. Opponents are already taking steps toward legal challenges, setting up a battle that could have implications for the rest of the state. FSRN’s Maeve Conran has the details.

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