November 29, 2012

  • West Bank residents rally ahead of UN vote on Palestinian status
  • In Doha, developing nations call on countries to commit to emission reductions, in bid to protect Kyoto Protocol
  • As Senate committee approves online privacy measures, advocates raise concern about video info
  • New York fast food workers launch campaign to unionize

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Internet down in Syria

Internet services in Syria have been cut. The internet traffic monitoring firm Renesys says all 84 of the country’s domestic IP address are unreachable. The government is blaming terrorists. Renesys refers to some kind of “kill switch” being thrown within the country. The firm says five Syrian IP addresses are still active, likely maintained outside the country. They include webservers suspected of targeting Syrian activists with malware earlier this year. The internet blackout comes amid heavy fighting between government troops and rebels outside Damascus near the international airport.

Amid turmoil, Egypt moves towards new constitution

Egyptian lawmakers are voting on provisions of a new constitution today, after a controversial panel dominated by Islamists released a draft yesterday. The constitutional panel, boycotted by several groups, included provisions to make Islam the official religion of Egypt and sharia the guiding legal principle of the country. Other provisions prohibit arbitrary detention and provide several basic judicial protections for individuals. If the new Constitution is approved by the government, it will then have to pass a popular vote before it becomes official.

Russian court bans videos of band Pussy Riot

A Moscow court ruled today that four video performances of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot are extremist and access to them on-line should be prohibited. FSRN’s Ekaterina Danilova reports.

The judge ruled the videos of Pussy Riot’s performances have hidden messages of rebellion and promote the organization of mass riots. The judge ordered that the content be prohibited and that Pussy Riot’s website be shut down. Olga Kurnosova is the leader of the opposition group United Citizens Front. She said the ruling reflects the growing move toward censorship by the authorities. “It’s undoubtedly censorship. We’ll see if it becomes repression. But on the whole, the passage of the new law creating a blacklist of websites and today’s decision are just two links in one chain. Of course censorship is becoming stronger, despite that it is formally prohibited under the Russian constitution.” Two members of the band are still in prison after a performance in a church earlier this year. A third, Ekaterina Samutsevich, who was freed by authorities, is vowing to challenge the video ban. Pussy Riot has one month to appeal before the prohibition on its content takes effect. Ekaterina Danilova, FSRN, Russia.

“Death flights” officials on trial in Argentina

The trial of 67officials who participated in the Argentine military dictatorship of 1976 to 1983 continues after opening yesterday. They’ve been charged with 800 counts of kidnap, torture, and murder. From Buenos Aires, FSRN’s Eilís O’Neill has more.

In 2003, then-president Néstor Kirchner reopened the cases against those who allegedly participated in the disappearance of thirty thousand Argentines during the country’s military dictatorship. Since then, a number of military officials, including ex-de facto president Jorge Videla, have been tried and imprisoned. Mercedes de Meroño is the mother of one woman, Alicia, who disappeared during the dictatorship. She says the trials are important because they bring details to light and provide closure for grieving friends and relatives. “Our children, for us, aren’t dead. We ask for their reappearance, alive—not because we’re stupid but because we believe. If they aren’t alive, they have to tell us who, when, and how, and we want those people in prison.” This trial, which opened Wednesday, includes eight pilots who participated in so-called “death flights,” where drugged prisoners were dumped from planes into the Atlantic Ocean. Lawyers estimate it will last about two years. Eilís O’Neill, FSRN, Buenos Aires.

US announced blueprint for battling the global AIDS pandemic

This Saturday, December 1st is World AIDS Day. The Obama Administration marked the event today with an announcement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  “Make no mistake about it, HIV may well be with us into the future, but the disease that it causes need not be.” This is the main goal of the Blueprint for an AIDS-Free Generation, a new initiative by the President’s Emergency Panel for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. “As we continue to drive down the number of new infections, and drive up the number of people on treatment, eventually we will be able to treat more people than become infected every year. That will be the tipping point. We will then get ahead of the pandemic and an AIDS-free generation will be within our sight.” The multifaceted plan mixes treatment and prevention efforts whereby PEPFAR supports country-led efforts to fight the spread of the virus. It also calls for targeting the populations at the greatest risk worldwide – IV drug users, sex workers, and men who have sex with men. The PEPFAR plan states that the US has led the world in funding the fight against HIV/AIDS and that other countries have to contribute to meet the proposed goals. Earlier this week a group of naked AIDS activists protested in the lobby of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office in Washington DC, calling for more AIDS funding not less, in light of the approaching budget deadline. Police arrested three women.



West Bank residents rally ahead of UN vote on Palestinian status

Today at the United Nations, member states are voting on whether to grant Palestine non-member state status at the General Assembly. As FSRN goes to broadcast, world leaders were still gathering for the late afternoon vote. The US is expected to join Israel in voting no on the measure. The vote comes on the 65th anniversary of the UN vote to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Speaking through an interpreter at the UN in New York, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestine comes to the General Assembly today because it believes in peace and its people are in desperate need of it. In opposing the move, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said the measure would undermine peace negotiations. The impact of the change in status from “entity” to “non-member state” is not immediately clear, but it could strengthen Palestinian efforts to join other UN and international agencies, such as the International Criminal Court. The vote, which failed last year in the UN Security Council, gained momentum when France pledged to support the move this week. That followed indications from Hamas that it, too, would support the effort. In the West Bank Palestinians rallied in support of President Abbas’ move. FSRN’s Ghassan Bannoura attended one of those rallies in Bethlehem city, southern West Bank.

In Doha, developing nations call on countries to commit to emission reductions, in bid to protect Kyoto Protocol

In Doha, Qatar nations are nearing the end of the first week of UN-backed climate change talks. One of the central goals of the negotiations is to put in place legally-binding commitments for greenhouse gas emissions in order to continue the Kyoto Protocol; the first commitment period expires the end of this year. Speaking in Doha today, Pa Ousman of Gambia, who chairs the group of Least Developed Countries, said he was urging countries to agree to a five-year period of emission cuts for the Kyoto Protocol, or KP. So far, the world’s richest nations, including the US, have resisted making such a pledge. “That you want to kill the tree but would be interested in the fruits. We don’t understand how one can kill a tree and still claim to get the fruits. So that is fundamental to us and we think it would not be an incentive for parties who are not going to be party to a second commitment period of the KP to benefit from the flexible mechanisms.” On Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organization said the first decade of this century has been the warmest on record and environmentalists and civil society groups cite extreme weather events this year as signs of an urgent need to combat climate change. For more on the UN talks, we’re joined by Meena Raman, climate negotiations expert with the Third World Network.

As Senate committee approves online privacy measures, advocates raise concern about video info

In Washington, D.C., the Senate Judiciary Committee approved key measures today to protect privacy rights online, updating a law that hasn’t been changed since the earliest days of e-mail. If the bill passes, law enforcement and government officials will have to get a warrant from a judge in order to read the content of private online communications. But some civil liberties advocates remain concerned about a different provision that lowers privacy standards for users’ video watching histories. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

New York fast food workers launch campaign to unionize

In New York today  workers, labor activists and their supporters launched a campaign to unionize some of the city’s thousands of fast food employees. Some of the workers are calling for improved conditions and higher wages. Strikes and pickets took place across the city. FSRN’s Jaisal Noor brings us more from New York.

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