Newscast for Tuesday, February 12, 2013

  • Ahead of State of the Union, bi-national couples push Obama for equal rights
  • North Korea’s nuclear test draws condemnation amid US military rise in Asia
  • Defying Buenos Aires’ government, artists take over cultural space set for closure
  • In Southern Philippines, hundreds of thousands remain in need months after Typhoon Bopha

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Arrests begin in Papua New Guinea related to brutal mob killing of woman accused of sorcery

Police in Papua New Guinea say they have arrested suspects related to last week’s mob torture and  murder of a 20-year-old mother accused of sorcery. All told, officials expect to make 50 arrests connected to the attack in which a crowd stripped Kepari Leniata, tortured her with a hot rod and then burned her alive atop a pile of tires and trash. United Nations spokesperson Cécille Pouilly says allegations of witchcraft are commonly used to deprive women of land and property in Papau New Guinea and that these brutal assaults are growing. “The government really needs to demonstrate it’s political will in addressing this very disturbing issue. This can be done through proving education, but as well providing protection for people who are accused of sorcery and witnesses of sorcery related killings. Another aspect would be to provide medical and psychosocial treatment for victims of sorcery assaults.” A reform commission in Papua New Guinea has called for the repeal of the country’s 1971 Sorcery Act, under which those convicted of “committing an act of sorcery” face up to eight years in jail. Human rights advocates are urging the government to take final action

12 dead when police fire on angry protesters at polls in India’s Assam state

At least 12 people were killed and many injured when police fired on angry protesters at a polling station in India’s Assam state. Prabhakar Mani Tewari reports.

A curfew is in place and military forces deployed after violence broke out during disputed local elections. Police opened fire when hundreds of people armed with iron rods, axes, machetes and sticks attacked polling stations in the Golapara district of Assam. Locals oppose the election, saying it undermines their independence. The resource rich state is often affected by communal violence. The State police chief says officers opened fire after coming under attack. After the shooting, the crowd rampaged, burning buses and security vehicles. Assam’s Chief minister  announced $10,000 in compensation for the next of kin of those killed, $1000 to those injured. The opposition Assam Gan Parishad  blamed the violence on the ruling Congress for pushing the contentious elections forward. Prabhakar Mani Tewari, FSRN, Kolkata, India.

ACLU sues to protect Solidarity Sing-a-longers in Wisconsin Capitol

The ACLU has sued the administration of  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker regarding what it says are unconstitutional restrictions on free speech at the State Capitol. Molly Stentz reports, from Madison.

It’s been two years since Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker first introduced a bill to gut public unions in the state. And while the mass demonstrations have died down, some protesters continue a daily vigil at the Capitol. Dozens have been ticketed, and some have been arrested and held at the county jail. But a new lawsuit is challenging the Capitol Police’s right to single out participants in a daily event called the Solidarity Sing-a-long. The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU of Wisconsin on behalf of Michael Kissick, a University of Wisconsin professor. “It’s my perspective that this country began out of political dissent.This is political speech.This should be the most protected speech.” The lawsuit seeks to halt the new Capitol Access Rules implemented by the State last year, which protesters say prompted the ticketing. Molly Stentz, FSRN, Madison.

France’s lower chamber of Parliament approved gay marriage and adoption

After days of debate, the French Assembly advanced a law legalizing gay marriage and adoption. The Marriage for All bill goes next to the country’s Senate, where it’s expected to pass. Already supported by President Francoise Hollande, the bill would go into effect as early as this May.

Human Rights Watch: Israel violated the laws of war in 2012 assault on Gaza

Human Rights Watch issued a report today alleging  Israel committed “apparent violation[s] of the laws of war” during attacks on Gaza in November 2012. HRW cited 18 attacks, many launched by drones,  in which at least 43 civilians were killed, 12 of them kids. The investigation found that the attacks were conducted without apparent legal justification, no clear military objective or no attempt to distinguish combatants  from civilians. The attack with the highest civilian death toll struck the home of  Jamal al-Dalu. “Everything –  all of the money, the house – that was lost. I’ll forgive God. But my children, my grandchildren. My wife, my life partner. I had a good life. They took it from me. Why? Why?” The report does acknowledge undiscriminate rocket fire by Palestinian fighters. The Israeli military says it is conducting an “operational debriefing” with results due in late February.



Ahead of State of the Union, bi-national couples push Obama for equal rights

As President Obama addresses the nation in his State of the Union, two groups are pressuring the administration for action: immigrant rights and LGBT equality activists. One issue that touches both groups may soon come up for debate in Congress–whether US citizens will be able to sponsor their same sex partners under the developing immigration reform law. Activists say that despite promises of “prosecutorial discretion” from the Obama Administration last year, LGBT undocumented people continue to face deportation. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports.

North Korea’s nuclear test draws condemnation as US military increases in Asia

Today, North Korea said it carried out a nuclear test underground in the northern part of the country, drawing condemnation from its regional neighbors, including China, and the international community. Kim Sung-hwan of the Republic of Korea spoke on behalf of the UN Security Council after an emergency meeting this morning in New York.

“The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this test, which is a grave violation of Security Council resolution 1718 in 2006 and 1874 in 2009 and 2087 in 2013 and therefore [unintelligible] a clear threat to international peace and security.”

Kim said the Security Council would begin talks immediately on a resolution to respond to the nuclear test. The Security Council has previously passed several resolutions tightening sanctions against North Korea, including one in January. The World Food Programme estimated in November 2012 that nearly three million North Koreans, or one in ten, face under nutrition and food shortages. The nuclear test also comes as the US has increased its military presence in the region. A joint exercise with South Korea last week included a US nuclear submarine. For more, we’re joined by Christine Ahn, board member of the Korea Policy Institute and member of the National Campaign to End the Korean War.

Defying Buenos Aires’ government, artists take over cultural space set for closure

In Buenos Aires, a group of artists is occupying a city-owned theater, called the Sala Alberdi. They offer free performances and art workshops to the public, but are now fighting the city’s effort to shut down the public space. The occupation is continuing despite a judicial order, issued last week, to leave. From Buenos Aires, FSRN’s Eilís O’Neill has more.

In Southern Philippines, hundreds of thousands remain in need months after Typhoon Bopha

Two months after Typhoon Bopha, people in the southern Philippines continue to struggle. The United Nations said it was 2012’s “deadliest” storm, with more than 1,000 killed, hundreds of thousands displaced and massive destruction to houses, infrastructure and farms. FSRN’s Madonna Virola travelled to the badly battered province of Compostela Valley and brings us this update.

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