Newscast for Tuesday, January 8, 2013
- In Bradley Manning hearing, judge denies pre-trial detention was torture
- Pentagon agrees to pay LGBT veterans severance after denying full amount
- Protests against Keystone XL pipeline expand to finance and construction companies across US
- Environmentalists rally in New York to push Governor Cuomo to uphold moratorium on fracking
- In Thailand, decriminalization of prostitution could make work safer, advocates say
India and Pakistan accuse each other of violating Line of Control cease fire; at least three dead
India and Pakistan are trading accusations today of major ceasefire violations along the frontier in Kashmir. Shanawaz Khan reports from Srinagar.
The Indian army says that Pakistani troops crossed the line of control today and killed two Indian soldiers in the Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir. According to an army spokesperson, Indian troops intercepted the Pakistani soldiers as they were approaching an Indian post amid thick fog, and a gunfight ensued. Afterwords, the Pakistani soldiers escaped towards their side of the frontier. This follows a similar claim on Sunday by Pakistan, who said that Indian soldiers intruded into the Pakistani side and attacked a post killing one Pakistani soldier. Pakistan’s foreign office summoned India’s envoy in Islamabad to protest the incident even as India denied the allegations. The allegations come as India and Pakistan are improving diplomatic ties that were badly affected after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. Shahnawaz Khan, FSRN, Srinigar.
Two Kuwaiti men sentenced for Twitter posts deemed insulting to monarch
In the last two days, courts in Kuwait sentenced two people to jail for allegedly insulting the country’s ruler on Twitter. Both men received two year sentences. Rashed Saleh Al-Enezi was immediately jailed after his verdict was announced. His October tweet did not directly mention the emir, but the court ruled the posting was an implicit insult. Opposition protests have increased in recent weeks after the emir invoked emergency measures to change voting laws that many see as limiting their electoral voice.
Amnesty Int’l calls for Saudi Arabia to free 11 detained female protesters
Amnesty International is calling today for officials in Saudi Arabia to release 11 women who remain in detention. They were among dozens, including children, arrested Saturday outside a state grievance office as they held up signs identifying relatives detained as part of so-called counter terrorism efforts. Amnesty’s Phillip Luther says the women simply “exercised their rights to freedom of expression and assembly” and should be freed unless charged with an internationally recognized crime.
Egyptian journalist first civilian to face military court under new constitution
An independent journalist in Egypt is still in jail ahead of a military hearing tomorrow. Muhamed Sabry was arrested Friday as he filmed at a military location in Rafah. Sabry will be the first civilian to face a military trial under the country’s new constitution. President Mohamed Morsi backed the contentious Article 123 that allows military trials for civilians for “crimes that harm the armed forces.” And prosecutors officially opened a probe of a wildly popular television host known as the Egypt’s Jon Stewart. Baseem Youssef is one of a number of media personalities accused of mocking the President in what many journalists fear is a crackdown on the press.
Protests continue on China after state censors liberal Southern Weekly magazine
In China, a standoff continues between journalists of a prominent liberal publication and authorities who recently censored it. Rebecca Valli reports from Beijing.
Hundreds of protests gathered for a second day on Tuesday at the Guangzhou headquarters of “Southern Weekly,” a liberal magazine known for its hard-hitting reporting. The magazine is at the center of a heated controversy after state propaganda departments censored the magazine’s annual new year’s address. The original piece called for constitutional reforms, but censors ordered they publish an editorial congratulating the Communist Party on its achievements. Li Datong is a pro-democracy supporter and former editor, he says that people in China are furious about the heavy hand of media censorship. “This affair is not just one small thing that ends here, it shows the great anger that all people in the news world feel against the media management system.” It is unclear if the paper will go to press this week. AP reports that negotiations are ongoing between editors and propaganda departments. Many social media posts on the issue have been shuttered, and mainstream media on the matter is heavily censored. Rebecca Valli, FSRN, Beijing.
New report directly attributes increased pollution in Canada lakes to tar sands oil production
A new environmental impact study on six of Canada’s pristine Alberta lakes shows increasing pollutant levels directly attributable to tar sands oil production. The study found that cancer causing levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in all six lakes grew as much as 23 times benchmark levels gathered in the early 1960s. Queen’s University biologist John Smol co-authored the the report. “Most of the controversy in the tar sands regions based on pollution has been argued that much of the pollution is actually natural and that’s because the bitumen is so close to the surface. But using our sediment analysis going back in time, and back in time is where we have most of these answers, I think we sort of have the smoking gun. We can actually show that these pollutants actually started to increase when the tar sands started in operation and they have been increasing steadily ever since.” Yesterday, a coalition of more than 70 environmental groups sent an open letter on climate change to President Obama, urging him among other things to block the Keystone XL pipeline project that would move tar sands oil extracted in Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. And protests were held around the country at offices of pipeline’s corporate owner, TransCanada including those in Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan and Texas, where at least two were arrested.
In Bradley Manning hearing, judge denies pre-trial detention was torture
A military judge ruled today that Private First Class Bradley Manning should get 112 days off of his potential sentence, because he was unnecessarily put on suicide prevention watch while detained at Quantico’s military prison. Manning’s defense had previously asked the tribunal to drop Manning’s charges entirely or greatly reduce his sentence, arguing the pretrial conditions violated the Constitution and international law. But the Judge, Colonel Denise Lind, said 8th Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment don’t apply to pretrial detention. And according to Firedoglake reporter Kevin Gosztola*, she said Manning was not held in solitary confinement for 9 months, because he had some human contact. But many legal and human rights experts, including attorney Michael Ratner with the Center for Constitutional Rights, have called the military’s treatment of Manning torture. Ratner told FSRN that the evidence presented at the hearings he attended reminded him of his clients’ experience at Guantanamo.
“Bright lights, stress positions, no sleep, and stripping, you look at what happened to Bradley Manning, you have to say yourself: what they did at Guantanamo they’re doing to Bradley.”
Manning, who faces charges that could result in a life sentence, was back in court on Tuesday for the latest round of pre-trial hearings. This week’s arguments will focus on whether Manning’s motives for passing information to Wikileaks should impact the tribunal’s final decision, and whether the court can consider the issue of government overclassification. Government prosecutors have asked the court not to accept any evidence of motive or overclassification. But Manning lawyer David Coombs argued Tuesday that both these factors are relevant, because Manning did not know the information he leaked could “aid the enemy,” and that information shouldn’t have been classified in the first place. In a speech in Washington, D.C. last month, Coombs said the charges Manning faces have a chilling effect on future whistleblowers.
“If you possibly can aid the enemy by giving information to the press, with no intent that that information land in the hands of the enemy, and by that mere action alone you can be found to have aided the enemy, that’s a scary proposition. Right there, that would silence a lot of critics of our government.”
No copies of Tuesday’s ruling will be released to the public or the press. As with all other developments in Manning’s case, reporters in the courtroom had to scramble to transcribe and understand the ruling as it was read from the bench. Ratner says the lack of transparency in the trial makes it difficult to keep the public informed.
“So think about it: I’m a lawyer. I go into that court. The judge starts reading an order, about a plea agreement. And there’s all these statutes mentioned and she reads it quickly. I can’t get a copy of that order even though there’s nothing classified. The journalists are sitting there, it takes 10 of them to try to figure out what the judge just said. It’s impossible! Here you have a case that’s about breaking secrecy being conducted essentially in secret.”
The current motion hearing will run through this Friday, and Manning is expected to stand trial in March.
*Correction: In the original 29-minute newscast, we incorrectly identified a sound clip as reporter Kevin Gozstola. The speaker was in fact attorney Michael Ratner.
Pentagon agrees to pay LGBT veterans severance after denying full amount
After more than two years in court, the Pentagon agreed this week to pay about two and a half million dollars to a group of gay and lesbian veterans discharged from the military under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The settlement seeks to undo a policy that lumped those discharged for their sexuality with those discharged for drug or alcohol abuse, and only paid them half their severance package. But LGBT rights advocates say much more needs to be done to end discrimination in the armed forces. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.
Protests against Keystone XL pipeline expand to finance and construction companies across US
Protests continue against the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the US Gulf Coast. Many are opposed to the pipeline’s environmental and health hazards. A study published this week by the National Academy of Sciences found that tar sands production is polluting Canadian water bodies with carcinogenic chemicals. Opponents also say tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels and contributes to global warming. One key group protesting the pipeline is the Tar Sands Blockade. They carried out actions Monday in several states and activists occupied the Houston headquarters of Transcanada, the company building the pipeline. For more we go to Ron Seifert, spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade. He joins us by mobile phone from East Texas.
Environmentalists rally in New York to push Governor Cuomo to uphold moratorium on fracking
Environmentalists rallied in Manhattan Monday evening outside a fundraiser for Governor Andrew Cuomo. They urged him to maintain the state’s moratorium on the controversial gas drilling method hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. They say fracking risks sparking an ecological crisis in New York State. FSRN’s Peter Rugh has more.
In Thailand, decriminalization of prostitution could make work safer, advocates say
The United Nations is calling for decriminalization of prostitution in Asia to reduce sex workers’ vulnerability to AIDS. Researchers say a human rights based approach that legally empowers sex workers will lead to a reduction in HIV and other health issues, as well as improve the lives and safety of people working in the industry. FSRN’s Ron Corben reports from Bangkok.