Newscast for Monday, January 7, 2013

  • Obama’s nominees, Brennan and Hagel, criticized over civil rights, drone program, Iraq war
  • Anti-gay evangelist Scott Lively appears in Massachusetts court for role in Uganda
  • In Indian administered Kashmir, report shows impunity for police, security forces
  • Advocates point to harsh conditions for domestic workers in national push for protection

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Alaska oil rig dislodged and towed, no leaks detected yet

The Shell-owned oil rig that ran aground in Alaska last week is under tow today. The Killuk  was cut free from a tug boat amid 24-feet swells and is now bound for a sheltered bay where investigators can assess its stability. It’s carrying about 160,000 gallons of diesel and other petroleum products. So far, there’s no sign of leakage but the US Coast Guard and two oil spill response vessels are sailing alongside just in case.

Connecticut group calls for state to issue licenses to undocumented drivers

A church of mostly immigrants in New Haven, Connecticut is calling for the state to grant drivers’ licenses  to all eligible residents, regardless of immigration status. Supporters held a rally Sunday. FSRN’s Melinda Tuhus reports.

Several hundred parishioners at St. Rose of Lima church and their supporters in the faith-based organization Conect, or Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, are calling for the state to issue drivers licenses for all otherwise qualified undocumented residents, not just those who fall under deferred action, a federal program that allows some youth to stay in the country. Myra, who declined to give her last name, said her mother was stopped by police while driving her two little siblings. She was  arrested for not having a license and now faces deportation. “We want everybody to be safe out there and everybody to learn how to drive safely, and for undocumented people to have licenses so families won’t be torn apart and so you don’t have to get stopped and put away, or deported.” Supporters said granting licenses to thousands of additional residents would generate about two million dollars in badly needed state revenue. Only three other states permit undocumented drivers to do so legally, and according to a Conect leader that has helped significantly reduce accidents. Key legislative committee co-chairs attended Sunday’s rally, and one promised to hold a public hearing once the bill is introduced. Melinda Tuhus, FSRN, New Haven.

Al Assad speech met with condemnation; Dutch patriot missile system en route to Syria

In Syria, fighting continued today despite a so-called peace plan proposed by President Bashar al Assad in a rare speech yesterday. And the Netherlands began moving anti-missile systems to Turkey’s  border with Syria, where US troops are already on the ground. Felix Gaedtke reports from Istanbul.

In his first public speech since June, Syria’s President Bashar al Assad referred to the opposition as extremists who are puppets of foreign powers. “They are terrorists who follow al Qaeda philosophy. They call themselves jihadists. They come from across the world and are leading terrorist operations on the ground.” Al Assad urged the Syrians to continue the fight against the enemy and asked foreign powers to stop funding his opponents. His outlined peace plan was widely condemned. Only the Iranian government welcomed the initiative. Several groups of the Syrian opposition see his speech as an indication that he still refuses to step down. US state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Assad’s speech “…is yet another attempt by the regime to cling to power and does nothing to advance the Syrian people’s goal of a political transition.” Today, a convoy ferrying patriot missiles left an army base in the Netherlands, on the way to the Turkey-Syria border. It will be deployed together with US and German patriot batteries. NATO says it is doing so in order to secure the border of its member state Turkey, after several cross-border rocket hits from inside Syria. Felix Gaedtke and Gayatri Parameswaran, FSRN, Istanbul.

Washington State anti-GMO measure garners enough support to be placed on ballot

Washington state could become the first in the US to require labeling of all genetically modified seeds and food ingredients. Mark Taylor Canfield has more.

The Washington State Secretary of State’s Office has announced that 350,000 signatures were submitted on a petition calling for the GMO labeling measure. That’s 100,000 more signatures than is required to qualify for the state ballot in November. The sponsors of Initiative 522 expect the measure to be sent to the state legislature which could adopt the measure or submit it for a popular vote. Last fall, Voters in San Juan County passed an initiative banning the growth of genetically modified organisms in that county. Mark Taylor Canfield. FSRN, Seattle.

High Court in Bahrian upholds pro-democracy activists sentences

Bahrain’s High Court refused to overturn the prison sentences of 20  pro-democracy activists today. Among them, prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and seven others who were sentenced to life. Al-Khawaja staged a 110-day hunger strike last year. All were accused of trying to overthrow the monarchy and originally sentenced by a military tribunal on 2011.

Ten major mortgage banks agree to $8.5 billion foreclosure fraud settlement

Ten US mortgage giants agreed in principal to an $8.5 billion settlement today. More than half of the settlement funds will go toward mortgage assistance programs, the remaining $3 billion to individual borrowers who lost their homes. But the deal will halt a file-by-file review to find all the victims of the   foreclosure fraud. Critics say banks will avoid defining the full scope of the crimes and providing compensation to all victims.



Obama’s nominees, Brennan and Hagel, criticized over civil rights, drone program, Iraq war

President Barack Obama made two major cabinet announcements today, nominating former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to run the Defense Department and Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan to lead the CIA. In addition to Republicans, many human rights groups are protesting the nominations, noting concerns about the Iraq War, torture, the CIA drone program and civil liberties. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Anti-gay evangelist Scott Lively appears in Massachusetts court for role in Uganda

Today, lawyers for anti-gay evangelist Scott Lively asked a Massachusetts federal court to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses him of spreading an anti-gay agenda in the African country, Uganda. The case was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of a group of LGBTI Ugandans who face discrimination, violent attacks and a national bill that included the death penalty for gays and lesbians. The case is filed under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign victims of human rights abuses to seek justice in US court. Lively’s Abiding Truth Ministries, based in Massachusetts, is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Earlier today, we reached Cathy Kirstofferson with GetEQUAL MA outside the courtroom. GetEQUAL is a member of the Stop the Hate and Homophobia Coalition Springfield.

In Indian administered Kashmir, report shows impunity for police, security forces

In Indian administered Kashmir, human rights advocates are hoping that a recent report will finally lead to changes in India’s much-criticized justice system. The report documents the extent of impunity granted to police and security forces against alleged abuses. While rights groups have documented abuses by government forces in the past, this report focuses on the role of individual alleged perpetrators and the evidence against them. FSRN’s Shahnawaz Khan reports from Srinagar.

Advocates point to harsh conditions for domestic workers in national push for protection

Domestic workers across the country face abuses in the workplace. From low pay to hazardous conditions, house cleaners, nannies and caretakers, mostly immigrant women, are often exploited. But the workers and their allies are hoping a first-of-its-kind report documenting their working conditions can help them win long sought after labor protections this year. FSRN’s Max Pringle reports.

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