Newscast for Tuesday, January 22, 2013

  • Protesters converge in Washington over measures to restrict abortion rights under Roe v. Wade
  • Israel’s Labor Party transforms itself in contentious election
  • Da’am Party cites economic equality, inclusion in calls for new Left in Israel
  • Four decades after Nigeria’s civil war, diverse groups still push for more autonomy

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Former Guatemala dictator Rios Montt expected to face genocide trial

Thirty years after the onset of the bloodiest period in Guatemala’s civil war, former President José Efraín Rios Montt may finally go to trial for genocide. Montt appeared in court for a hearing today. FSRN’s Dawn Paley has the story.

Rios Montt, who ruled Guatemala from 1982 to 1983, appeared in a Guatemala courtroom along with Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, a high ranking member of the military during Montt’s presidency. Public prosecutors appear to have overcome the last remaining legal obstacles preventing the case from going forward. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Public Ministry had requested a genocide trial for Rodríguez Sánchez. It is expected the judge will also require Rios Montt to undergo a public, oral trial. Rios Montt, who is in his 80s, instigated a scorched earth policy during his presidency. Hundreds of primarily Mayan villages were destroyed and their residents massacred or displaced. Montt had avoided prosecution for years because he had immunity as an elected member of Congress. But his recent retirement opened the door for a trial. Dawn Paley, FSRN.

Refugees continue to flow out of Mali amid fighting

Mali government forces supported by France have pushed back anti-government militants in the central part of the West African country. The New York Times reports the US has stepped into the conflict with logistical support.  US planes are transporting troops from France to Mali’s capital Bamako.  Reuters says soldiers from Chad and Niger are getting in position on the Niger-Mali border to launch an attack on militants there.  The UN refugee agency says air strikes and fighting on the ground has continued to prompt Malians to seek refuge in neighboring countries.  Spokesperson Adrian Edwards: “They speak of increasing shortages of food and fuel, with traditional markets unable to operate.  A lack of cereal is pushing breeders to either kill some of their animals as they have nothing, or to try to sell them.” The refugees are fleeing to Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania.

US drone strikes intensify in Yemen

A US backed drone strike in Yemen killed at least three people Monday – strikes today are also being reported.  There were also drone attacks over the weekend targeting Al Qaeda militants.  Media report more than 12 people were killed.  Yemen’s Human Rights Minister today spoke out against the strikes because of their toll on the civilian population.

Virginia GOP push through gerrymandering

The state Senate of Virginia passed a controversial redistricting bill Monday that some say will guarantee Republicans a majority in the now-tied legislative body.  The bill was pushed through while an African-American Democrat, who could have in effect killed it, was attending the Presidential Inauguration.  This comes after a revelation last week from the Republican State Leadership Committee.  A memo said gerrymandering was the key in several states to maintaining GOP control in the November election.  It went on to outline a strategy to ensure control of the redistricting process in order to preserve the party’s dominance in state legislatures and the US House for the next decade.

Striking NYC school bus drivers await decision of NLRB

A strike launched by 8,000 New York City school bus drivers, mechanics and attendants continues today, as bus operators scramble to train replacement drivers.  FSRN’s Peter Rugh has this update.

Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 rallied at school bus lots across the city Tuesday.  A continuing standoff between New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and workers, whose average salary is less than $40,000 a year, has ground school buses to a halt since last Wednesday.  The mayor is attempting to wave job protection requirements for contractors bidding on special needs routes.  Bloomberg says removing the job protections will lower the cost of student transport.  Arlene Lancetta joined a picket-line in front of Atlantic Express Transportation’s bus terminal in Brooklyn this morning.  She has worked as a special needs driver for more than thirty years and says Bloomberg is not only putting her job in jeopardy but student safety as well. “Most of us have been here fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty years.  So what does he want? Does he want people that just graduated high school and got their license, a CDL license, to just walk in here and start working? You know you have mature people here.  This is our living.” Contractors have filed a claim with the National Labor Relations Board stating that the strike is an unlawful secondary action, since Local 1181’s grievance is with the city not their employers.  The board is reviewing the matter and will hear arguments from contractors, the union and the city this week.  Peter Rugh, FSRN, Brooklyn, New York.


Protesters converge in Washington over measures to restrict abortion rights under Roe v. Wade

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe versus Wade, which affirmed a woman’s legal right to have an abortion. Reproductive rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters are converging in Washington this week to commemorate the event with protests, marches and lobbying campaigns. Both sides are gearing up for fights over several state and federal bills that could create additional barriers to the procedure in 2013. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Israel’s Labor Party transforms itself ahead of contentious election

In Israel, voters went to the polls today to choose the next parliament and to decide whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will return to a third term in office. Voter turnout hit 64 percent, surpassing the previous election in 2009, according to Haaretz. The process of forming a government in the 19th Knesset could still take weeks after the election results are in, which are expected later tonight. The months leading up to today’s vote have been dominated by conservative and religious leaders, and candidates have cited a host of issues for Israel, including settlements, a struggling economy and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Some parties on the Left are also hoping that the election will show gains for their platforms of social justice and inclusion, and in a moment we’ll speak with the leader for the Da’am Party who is one of the few Arab women competing for a seat in the Knesset. But first, two other parties could influence a coalition government that forms after the election: the Jewish Home Party, led by millionaire Naftali Bennett, and the Labor party, which has remade itself after faltering in the last elections. The Real News Network’s Max Blumenthal and Lia Tarachansky report from Tel Aviv. To view the video report, go to

Da’am Party cites economic equality, inclusion in calls for new Left in Israel

Another party running in today’s elections is the Da’am Workers Party, a socialist-based party that focuses on economic inequality and social inclusion. In the 2009 elections, the Party failed to receive enough votes to send a representative to the Knesset, but it has received a surge of attention after the protests in 2011 that focused on housing and economic disparity. Members call the party the face of the new Left in Israel. Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka is the  leader of the Da’am Workers Party. If elected she would become one of the few Arab women in the Knesset. She joins us on the phone from the town of Umm al Fahem in Israel.

Four decades after Nigeria’s civil war, diverse groups still push for more autonomy

Forty three years ago this month, Nigeria’s civil war ended, stopping several eastern provinces from breaking away from Africa’s most populous country. But there are still groups calling for a total breakup of the country or for it to be broken into autonomous regions. Some Nigerians see the country as a forced arrangement by colonial powers, with many diverse ethnic groups that cannot live together. The prospect of a peaceful coexistence has been further threatened by the violent activities of the Islamist group Boko Haram in a country that is almost equally divided between a predominantly Muslim north and a Christian south. FSRN’S Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

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