Newscast for Tuesday, February 26, 2013

  • Supreme Court rejects challenge to government surveillance powers under FISA
  • Documents show ICE used traffic stops for immigration checks in strategy to increase deportations
  • New Yorkers consider worker cooperatives as part of long-term recovery from Superstorm Sandy
  • Students in Quebec boycott government meeting and push for free tuition

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Palestinian boy near death; UN calls for probe of Jaradat death; ceasefire breach not the first

One of two teenage boys critically injured yesterday during clashes in the West Bank is reportedly near death today. According to the Palestine New Network, Odai Sarhan was shot in the head by Israeli troops. Violence erupted during a funeral march for Arafat Jaradat, the married father of two children with a third on the way. Jaradat died Saturday while in Israeli detention. The United Nations has called for an investigation into his death. Tensions in the region continue to escalate. The al-Aqsa Martyrs brigade has claimed responsibility for a cross-border rocket fired from Gaza this morning. While many media outlets called the rocket the first violation of a cease fire brokered last November,  Palestinian health officials say  Israel has violated the cease fire nearly 100 times. Last month, Hamas spokesperson Ahad al-Ghusain addressed the issue.

“These violations are continuous, they actually injured many people and sometimes they killed some Palestinian people.”

Eight more Palestinians detained in Israeli jails have joined ongoing hunger strikes. According to prisoner advocates, they join Samer al Issawi and three others who have been on prolonged hunger strikes protesting their imprisonment.

Nigerian university closed after troops kill two students protesting campus living conditions

A state university in central Nigeria is closed today, after military forces shot dead three students during a protest yesterday. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

Hospital sources said nine other students sustained gunshot wounds during the demonstration against poor living conditions at the Nasarawa State University in Keffi. The students had barricaded a highway to protest lack of water and electricity on their campus when armed soldiers moved in to quell the rally. Nigerian human rights groups condemned the use of excessive force to repress  a peaceful protest by unarmed students. The human rights groups also called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deployment of armed soldiers. Following the shootings, the state government ordered the university to shut down. The substandard living conditions on the campus reflect the state of facilities at government owned universities throughout Nigeria. Most of the country’s public schools are also in poor condition due to wide spread  corruption under which public funds meant to maintain facilities end up in private pockets. Sam Olukoya, FSRN, Lagos.

Colombia miners in 3rd week of strike at one of world’s largest open pit coal mines

Coal miners in Colombia are in the third week of a strike. About 5,000 workers at an enormous open-pit coal mine called Cerrejon are calling for higher wages and better health care. The site is owned by a joint venture of mining giants Anglo-American, BHP Billington and Xtrata.  Union Health Secretary Jose Brito  told  Al Jazeera that at least 700 workers at the mine suffer from serious work related illnesses.

“Workers are paying a very high price and we demand the company conforms to the international regulations.”

But company officials say that the incidence of work related illness at Cerrejon is lower than at any other mine company. Public protests last week in poverty stricken La Guajira department, where Cerrejon is located, slammed both the company and the local government; the former for not paying its fair share of taxes and the latter for misappropriating those taxes they do receive. Talks stalled last week. Negotiators are now discussing a framework to restart mediation.

Trayvon Martin killed one year ago; FL task force recommends updates to Stand Your Ground

Today marks one year since unarmed Trayvon Martin was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer while walking home from a market in Sanford, Florida. George Zimmerman faces second degree murder charges in the case, and pleaded not guilty on the basis of Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” gun Law. His trial is expected to begin in June. The law allows individuals to use deadly force in self-defense. Following Martin’s death, a state task force reviewed the law. On Friday they released their report, which says the law should not be overturned. But the panel did recommend that the law be updated to limit the role of neighborhood watch members to observing events, and not intervening. Martin’s parents will attend a candle-light vigil in his memory in New York City this evening.

Dozens of Republicans sign an amicus brief in support of gay marriage

A slew of Republicans have signed a friend-of-the-court legal brief that argues gay couples have the right to marry. The brief will be filed this week at the US Supreme Court in support of a case that seeks to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage.  The signatures include influential conservatives, some of whom served in former President George W. Bush’s administration. Among them are former NJ Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former Prop 8 supporter and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and two Republican members of Congress, Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Richard Hanna of New York. The High Court will hear the Prop 8 challenge in March, along with a challenge to the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Filibuster ended; Chuck Hagel expected to win Senate approval as chief of US military

And eighteen Republicans crossed the aisle today and voted to end the Senate filibuster blocking a vote on President Obama’s nominee for Pentagon chief. A former Republican Senator from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel is expected to win the nomination in a vote full Senate vote late this afternoon.



Supreme Court rejects challenge to government surveillance powers under FISA

In a five to four ruling, the US Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA, saying the plaintiffs concerned about being spied on by the US government have no standing to sue. Congress recently reauthorized the FISA program for another five years, but a handful of lawmakers say they will try to pass legislation this year to better protect Americans’ right to privacy and due process. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Documents show ICE used traffic stops for immigration checks in strategy to increase deportations

More information is coming out today about the release of detainees from ICE facilities at several states across the US. Today, the group Puente in Maricopa County, Arizona told FSRN that people who had been released from facilities in Florence and Eloy over the weekend were being told by officials that some 200 more could soon be released in the coming days. In a statement, ICE said it had reviewed “several hundred cases” and was putting people under supervision “less costly than detention,” noting that the possibility of government cuts, known as sequestration, has created “fiscal uncertainty.” ICE also said that those released remain in removal proceedings.

Immigrant rights advocates have long called for the release of detainees with no criminal background and the Obama Administration has pledged to focus on “high priority detainees” and to use prosecutorial discretion. Yet according to documents obtained by the ACLU of North Carolina, ICE officials have intensely focused on increasing deportation numbers, by using methods that advocates say raise concerns about possible legal and civil rights violations. For more, we’re joined by Raul A. Pinto,  staff Attorney with the ACLU of North Carolina. He joins us on the line from Raleigh. Immigration and Customs Enforcement responded to FSRN with the following statement:

“As fiscal uncertainty remains over the continuing resolution and possible sequestration, ICE has reviewed its detained population to ensure detention levels stay within ICE’s current budget.  Over the last week, ICE has reviewed several hundred cases and placed these individuals on methods of supervision less costly than detention. All of these individuals remain in removal proceedings. Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety.”

New Yorkers consider worker cooperatives as part of long-term recovery from Superstorm Sandy

Four months on, homes and business in many of New York City’s outlying areas remain abandoned since Superstorm Sandy swept along the Eastern Seaboard. Thousands of people remain displaced. Residents of Far Rockaway, Queens, one of the neighborhoods struck hardest, are working not just to recover from the storm, but also from the long-running effects of poverty they say were prevalent before Sandy arrived. FSRN’s Peter Rugh has more.

Students in Quebec boycott government meeting and push for free tuition

In Montreal, Canada today, students protested outside a government-led summit on post-secondary education. The summit was held to determine the future of public university financing in the province of Quebec, and comes in the wake of historic student strikes last year, which brought more than 300,000 students to the streets at its peak. While the provincial government assembled 350 people inside the summit to try to reach a consensus on the issue, one of the major student federations boycotted the meeting, saying what the government is offering isn’t enough. FSRN’s Aaron Lakoff has more from Montreal.

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