Newscast for Thursday, January 3, 2013
- Dennis Kucinich on campaign finance reform, drones, Middle East peace and political change in the US
- New Yorkers face health risks in clean up from Hurricane Sandy
- Local communities critical of California’s cap and trade program
India charges six in connection with Delhi gang rape
Amid continuing protests over last month’s brutal gang rape of a 23-year old student in New Delhi, the Indian police today formally charged six men with kidnapping, rape and murder. FSRN’s Bismillah Geelani reports.
After the public out-cry, the government set up a special fast-track court for the case. All six men accused have already been arrested and are now facing murder charges. The 23-year old rape victim died from her injuries in a Singapore hospital last week. Dharmenra Kumar, Special Commissioner of Police, indicated the government will seek the death penalty in the case.
“A special public prosecutor of eminence has been appointed to conduct the trial on a day-to-day basis. It will be our endeavor to ensure the harshest punishment in the book to the culprits.”
The government has also appointed a judicial commission to investigate the incident and a separate panel to review existing rape laws. Bismillah Geelani, FSRN, New Delhi.
Palestinians clash with Israeli forces in West Bank after raids
For the second time in three days, Israeli military forces raided a Palestinian town in the West Bank. Israel says they were searching for suspected militants. The action prompted violent clashes with local residents. Today’s raid in Jenin left several people injured. FSRN’s Ghassan Bannoura reports:
Thursday’s attack started when undercover Israeli troops entered the city and arrested Amjad Ighbariyah. The army says that Ighbariyah is with the Islamic Jihad group – a clam disputed by Jenin residents. Journalist Ra’ed Abu Baker witnessed the attack.
“The army operation was targeting Amjad Ighbariyah, despite that fact that he is just a teacher in the local public school, and works as a part-time baker at a local store due to the bad finical situation and the delay of salaries for public employees.”
When residents discovered the undercover soldiers, local youth hurled stones at them. The Israeli Army claims protesters threw firebombs as well. Armed Israeli soldiers then entered the city and fired back. At least 15 people were injured. Among them was 90-year old Amneh Hisnawi, who was attacked by military dogs at her home. Israel conducted a similar operation on Tuesday at the neighboring village of Tamoun. Ghassan Bannoura, FSRN, Bethlehem.
Rights groups ask Thailand to recognize fleeing Rohingya as refugees
More than 70 of Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya who recently landed by boat in Thailand are being sent home by the government, despite concerns for their safety. As FSRN’s Ron Corben reports from Bangkok, human rights groups are pushing the government to provide support for the refugees often persecuted in their home country.
The refugees, which included as many as 20 children, were headed to Malaysia, but Thai authorities allowed them to come ashore January 1st because of the poor condition of their boat. The group was later deported to their home country, which is also known as Burma. This is just the latest in a string of ethnic Rohingya fleeing their homes via boat. The largely Muslim group is denied citizenship in Myanmar, rendering them stateless. In addition, clashes with local Buddhist communities in Rakhine state left dozens dead and injured last year. Human Rights Watch is calling on Thailand to halt the deportations and recognize the Rohingya as refugees. The Myanmar caucus of the regional coalition ASEAN said Thailand needed to follow Malaysia’s example and allow United Nations access to the asylum seekers. Ron Corben, FSRN, Bangkok.
Drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen kill at least 16
The US launched drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen over the past day. International media report that two strikes in the northwest tribal region of Pakistan killed Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir and 12 others. In southern Yemen, a strike killed three people, reported to be suspected Al Qaeda militants. According to Reuters, this is the fifth drone attack in Yemen within the past 10 days. It’s unclear whether the strikes also killed or injured civilians. These drone strikes come on the heels of a decision by a New York federal court yesterday supporting the Obama administration’s effort to keep under wraps legal opinions justifying drone use against terrorist suspects, including US citizens, in other countries. The ruling comes after a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU and the New York Times. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon did indicate that releasing the information would benefit the public debate on the controversial issue. The ACLU says it plans to appeal the decision.
Illinois lawmakers consider gun control legislation
After a federal court struck down Illinois’s concealed weapon ban last month, state lawmakers are now considering two new pieces of gun control legislation. The bills cleared committees earlier this week and are now before the House and Senate. FSRN’s Evan Davis has more.
House Bill 1263 would ban the sale and possession of a range of semiautomatic or “assault” –type weapons. It also would ban attachments and grant state Police authority to license and regulate public shooting ranges. Certain semiautomatic hunting rifles are exempted. And people who own the banned weapons would be allowed to keep them, as long as they register with the state police. Another bill before the Illinois House would prohibit magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, although similar previous-ownership rules would apply. The NRA and the Illinois State Rifle Association are urging their members to oppose the bills, with the Illinois group claiming on its website that the legislation would “end gun rights completely.” But after the school shooting in Connecticut, proponents for tighter gun control laws have gained momentum, especially calls to limit magazine size. Illinois lawmakers have until January 9 to pass the bills. That’s when the current legislative session concludes. Evan Davis, FSRN.
Dennis Kucinich on campaign finance reform, drones, Middle East peace and political change in the US
In Washington, dozens of new lawmakers were sworn in at noon today, when the 113th Congress began. The new Congress brings a record number of women, people of color and LGBT legislators to Capitol Hill, including South Carolina’s first black senator, and the first female senators from Massachusetts and Nebraska. But many long-serving, influential figures won’t be returning this year. Some, like Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, Texas Republican Ron Paul and Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, chose to retire. In farewell addresses this week, Snowe and other outgoing lawmakers suggested that they could do more for the country outside of Washington.
“It is regrettable that excessive political polarization in Washington today is preventing us from tackling our problems in this period of monumental consequence for our nation. I intend to work from the outside, to help build support for those in this institution who will be working to re-establish the Senate’s roots as a place of refuge from the passions of politics, as a forum where the political fires are tempered, not stoked.”
Other lawmakers, like Ohio Democrat and two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, aren’t leaving by choice. Kucinich failed to win this past election after state leaders redrew district lines to pit him against fellow Democrat Marcy Kaptur. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein sat down with Kucinich during his final weeks in office to discuss a range of issues he has championed during his 16 years in Congress: from campaign finance reform to the Middle East peace process. He started out by explaining his last effort as a lawmaker: a resolution (which failed to win committee approval) that sought to force the Obama Administration to give Congress more information about the secret drone killing program that has claimed hundreds of lives in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
Correction: In the original version of this story, we incorrectly stated Rep. Dennis Kucinich spent “decades in Congress.” Kucinich began his career in Washington in 1997, serving 16 years before redistricting led to his defeat in November’s election. FSRN regrets the error.
New Yorkers face health risks in clean up from Hurricane Sandy
The newly-sworn in US House is expected to take up a proposal Friday to provide relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle harshly criticized House Speaker John Boehner for refusing to bring the bill to a vote earlier this week. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called it a failure of basic public service. Long Island Representative Peter King, whose constituents were hit hard by Sandy, called on New Yorkers not to donate to Boehner’s Republican party. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said those affected by the storm are in dire need of assistance.
“That congress was supposed to pass a supplemental that helped families that were hurt in a disaster. That’s what they were supposed to do. That’s what they said they would do, that was the agreement. That’s what the senate had done. And time matters. Because people are in a very bad situation and federal funding can help and time matters.”
As lawmakers stall on the disaster relief funding, many in hard-hit areas are concerned about health issues related to Sandy. The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health says there’s a host of problems: no standardardized procedures for removing mold or for re-entry into homes and businesses damaged by Sandy; no health registry to monitor those in affected areas and a lack of coordination between governmental agencies. From New York, FSRN’s Linda Perry Barr has more.
Local communities critical of California’s cap and trade program
This week California’s cap and trade program went into effect. The program is central to the state’s 2006 AB 32 law, which aims to cut 30 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Supporters call it the most comprehensive program in the nation that strives to make the social and economic costs of pollution part of production. But the program has drawn criticism for relying on a market-based system to rein in emissions and granting too much influence to corporations. For more, we’re joined by Jesse Marquez, executive director with the Coalition for a Safe Environment (CFASE), based in Wilmington, CA, a community in the heavily industrialized section of south Los Angeles.
CFASE is part of a statewide coalition of community groups, the California Coalition Against Toxics, that oppose cap and trade: http://stoptoxics.org/