Newscast for Friday, January 11, 2013

  • Legal experts, human rights advocates say closure of Guantanamo overdue after 11 years
  • Nearly a half million Afghans driven from homes as Obama meets with Karzai over security pact
  • Texas rules to restrict health care access already impacting low-income women
  • Northern Californian residents debate gun reform at congressional forum

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France sends in troops to fight Mali rebels

France has deployed troops to Mali to assist government forces trying to stem the advance of Islamist rebels in the northern part of the country. Reports emerged yesterday that the Al Qaeda-linked rebels had taken a central city just 500 miles northeast of the capital Bamako. UN Security Council President Mohammad Masood Khan of Pakistan: “This serious deterioration of the situation threatens even more the stability and integrity of Mali and constitutes a direct threat to international peace and security.” The Security Council is supporting an African-led international intervention into the situation, but that force has yet to deploy.  In a speech, French President François Hollande said the intervention is being done “strictly within the framework of the United Nations Security Council resolution.”  Hollande said French troops would remain as long as necessary. The Guardian reports France’s parliament won’t debate the deployment until early next week.

Idle No More representatives meet with Canadian government officials

Thousands gathered today throughout Canada, the US and internationally for a global Idle No More day of Action. The movement, started by Canadian First Nations women in November, is demanding Native sovereignty, land and resource rights, and changes to the new Canadian budget, which curbs environmental protections. FSRN’s Lillian Boctor has more from Montreal.

Idle No More activists gathered in downtown Montreal this afternoon, beginning their protests with a drum circle and prayer. At the same time in Ottawa, First Nations leaders are meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and various government ministers. Alquonquin activist Widia La Riviere, co-founder of Idle No More’s Quebec branch, sees the First Nation meeting with the Canadian government as just a first step, and says Idle No More will continue. “We know problems are not going to be solved in one meeting and what we are expecting from the government is a commitment to establish a long term respectful dialogue between government and First Nations.” But the summit has not been welcomed by all. Numerous chiefs are boycotting and several aboriginal women tried to block entry to the meeting. Attiwapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence, who has been on a fish broth-only hunger strike in the Capital since early December, is not participating because her original demands of who should attend were not honored. Earlier this week, the Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Frog Lake First Nation in Alberta challenged the constitutionality of the new budget bill, saying it drastically reduces federal environmental protection and violates previous treaty obligations with Canada’s native population. Lillian Boctor, FSRN, Montreal.

On 3rd anniversary, activists decry slow rate of Haiti earthquake recovery

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck just outside Port au Prince in Haiti. Tens of thousands died and more than a million people were left homeless. In the years since, recovery has been slow. And some activists are attempting to hold aid organizations accountable for their part, holding protests in several cities and countries today. FSRN’s Judith Scherr reports from California.

A demonstration planned this afternoon at Red Cross headquarters in Oakland, California aims to hold NGOs accountable for what organizers are calling the “rape and pillage of Haiti.”  Since the earthquake, donors have pledged $9.5 billion, but aide organizations have disbursed just a little more than half, according to the New York Times. Protest organizers claim the US government is complicit. And Pierre Laboisière, with Haiti Action Committee, says the government of Haiti is only making matters worse. “The Haitian government, the current government of Martelly, is what you would call the 1 percent, in the words of Occupy. As people say in Haiti, ‘Argent crocot(?)’ meaning the money is hung up somewhere – it’s not coming to the bottom. You have those big multinationals, coming into Haiti to take advantage of the misery to give people very low wages in sweatshops and also building luxury hotels for the well-to-do.” Organizers with Global Women’s Strike and the Haiti Action Committee say on the third anniversary of the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of people still struggle to survive in tent cities without clean water or food. Haitians also continue to fight cholera brought by UN troops. Similar protests are happening in Philadelphia, London, and Guyana. Judith Scherr, FSRN, Oakland.

Congress creates new National Park

President Barack Obama signed a law yesterday designating what was Pinnacles National Monument as the 59th National Park. The 26-thousand acre park is located in the central coast area of California and is known for its volcanic formations and population of endangered California condors.  Local leaders are expecting an economic boost because of increased tourism.  Fred Ledesma is mayor of Soledad at the western entrance to the park. “We have been pretty much basically an ag-town with mostly farmworkers and prison guards because there are two correctional facilities here. And so this is really our opportunity to really jump on as far as ag-tourism and just tourism in general.” National Park status often is accompanied by larger federal budget allocations for management, in addition to greater environmental protections.



Legal experts, human rights advocates say closure of Guantanamo overdue after 11 years

Today marks the 11th anniversary of the first arrival of detainees to the US prison at Guantanamo Bay. There, more than 160 prisoners continue to be held indefinitely, even though many of them have been cleared for release. Legal experts and human rights activists in Washington observed the anniversary with a march to the seats of all three branches of government, and called on President Obama to fulfill his promise to close the facility. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Nearly a half million Afghans driven from homes as Obama meets with Karzai over security pact

After meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Washington today, President Barack Obama said US forces would shift their mission this Spring, from leading combat operations, to training and advising Afghan forces. He outlined two goals for continuing the US presence in Afghanistan, after the scheduled withdrawal of US troops in 2014.

“First, training and assisting Afghan forces and second, targeted counter-terrorism missions against Al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

Standing beside Obama, President Karzai said the two leaders had agreed on several key issues, including transferring detainees and detention centers to Afghan control and including Taliban leadership in future peace talks. Karzai said immunity for US forces after the scheduled withdrawal in 2014 could be a possibility.

“I can go to the Afghan people and argue for immunity for US troops in Afghanistan in a way that Afghan sovereignty will not be compromised, in a way that Afghan law will not be compromised.”

But while much of the focus is on the future of US military, the people of Afghanistan continue to face a myriad of problems, from dependence on a war economy, to government corruption, to the effects of controversial US-led drone strikes and night raids. The number of people driven from their homes and displaced by the fighting also continues to grow and is now approaching a half million, according the UN Refugee Agency. For more, we’re joined by Adam Combs, head of the Asia Section at the Norwegian Refugee Council. The group conducted a recent study of Afghans displaced in the country. We’re reaching him in Oslo, Norway.

To access the report from the Norwegian Refugee Council on IDPs in Afghanistan:

Texas rules to restrict health care access already impacting low-income women

In Texas, the legal battle over a new state rule banning Planned Parenthood from serving tens of thousands of women covered by the Medicaid Women’s Health Program continued in an Austin courtroom today. But as FSRN’s Andrew Oxford reports, the state’s rules have already had a big impact on low-income women and their communities.

Northern Californian residents debate gun reform at congressional forum

School officials at a California high school have suspended classes today and are offering grief counseling, after a 16-year-old shot another student Thursday. Police say the suspect used a 12-gauge shotgun at Taft Union High School yesterday morning, critically wounding another student. The shooting comes as Vice President Joe Biden met with the NRA Thursday and gun victims groups earlier this week as part of the White House response to the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Congress has also responded with a 13-member task force chaired by Representative Mike Thompson. Thompson scheduled three forums in his North Bay Area district this week. FSRN’s Karin Argoud attended one of the gatherings in Napa, which drew a passionate and tense crowd.

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