Newscast for Tuesday, February 5, 2013

  • More countries could face legal action for role in CIA torture and rendition program under Bush Administration
  • Department of Justice memo expands legal rules for targeted killing of US citizens
  • Travel restrictions prevent Gaza mother from escorting injured daughter for medical treatment
  • Activists in Eureka, California seek to put minimum wage raise to vote

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Seattle Superintendent orders high school administrative staff to proctor controversial MAP test

Despite an ongoing protest by teachers at a Washington high school who refuse to administer a standardized test known as MAP,  Seattle Schools Superintendent Jose Banda ordered that administrative staff proctor the test today. Kris McBride, Garfield High school’s Academic Dean and Testing Coordinator says  that students are being pulled from their classes and made to take the test. “Students are trying to opt out. AS they look around the classroom and find out that a lot of other kids have opted out. They are calling their parents  immediately and saying please send an email. We’ve had several classrooms where we’ve had 100% refusal, and unfortunately the administrators have been told that they need to force the kids to take the test unless we’ve been given written permission for the parent to opt them out.” Yesterday, the Seattle King County branch of the NAACP join those supporting the boycott. Educators who refused to administer the test face disciplinary action.

UK advances gay marriage measure but vote splits Conservative ruling party

UK lawmakers advanced a measure today that if enacted would allow gay marriage in England and Wales starting in 2014. Aidan O’Donnell reports more than half of the Conservative MPs did not support their own government on the bill.

Support from the government’s coalition partners and from the opposition meant that rebel Conservatives weren’t able to stop the bill. There was significant division however within the main government party, particularly over whether churches might be forced to carry out gay weddings. But for the Conservative MP Nick Herbert, who supported the bill, this was not likely. “The Church of England and the Catholic Church object to gay marriage. I disagree with them. But their religious freedom is surely among the greatest prizes in our democracy. I would not vote for this bill unless I believed it protected religious freedom. No faith group should be compelled by law to conduct a gay marriage against its will. And none will be.” Conservative MP Roger Gale, however, believed legal challenges would be mounted in the future. “This bill, the product of this bill, will end up before the courts, will end up before the European Court of Human Rights and that people of faith will find that faith being trampled upon. And that to us is intolerable.” Ahead of the vote, senior ministers called on party colleagues to support the bill, while grassroots ConservativeS had warned that votes would be lost in the next election if gay marriage was introduced. Aidan O’Donnell, FSRN, London.

Indian administered Kashmir all girl rock group disbands after state cleric issued a fatwa

An all-girl rock band in Indian administered Kashmir called it quits today after a state cleric issued a fatwa against them. Shahnawaz Khan has more.

The first all girls rock band in Indian administered Kashmir performed once in a rock band competition organized by the Indian paramilitary, Central Reserve Police Force. Following their performance last December ,they received threatening posts on their Facebook page. While condemning the online assault, Muslim clerics also described the band and their show un-Islamic. Mufti Bashir-uddin, the official cleric or mufti of Indian administered Kashmir, issued an official declaration calling for an end to the band. After his order became public, the mufti said that his statement was only a recommendation and not an order. Police are investigating the online activity and say arrests are imminent. Shahnawaz Khan, FSRN, Srinigar.

Texas court says state education funding model is unconstitutional and discriminatory

A Texas judge has ruled that funding for public schools is neither adequate nor equitable. Andrew Oxford has details.

Over the course of a three month trial, attorneys representing more than 600 public school districts, charter school operators, and parents argued that the system for funding public education in America’s second-largest state is broken. Yesterday, State District Judge John Dietz agreed, in large part, saying that Texas either wants increased standards in its public schools and is willing to pay for it or it doesn’t. But there is no free lunch, the judge said. According to the ruling, the current funding system is unconstitutional in that it under funds schools, and does so inequitably. Low income communities have been short-changed due to a capped system of property taxes that the judge also found unconstitutional. While a full ruling is still being drafted, the court’s decision will open a contentious debate over public education as the state legislature meets for its biennial session. Some lawmakers are calling for the restoration of $5.4 billion cut from the public education budget in 2011. Republican leaders such as Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, meanwhile, say they expect an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. Andrew Oxford, FSRN, San Antonio.

Justice Department files multi-billion dollar civil action against S & P for mortgage crisis

The Obama administration has filed a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Standard and Poor’s, largely blaming the rating agency for the housing market collapse and the Great Recession. The Justice Department picked hard hit Los Angeles as the venue. Dan Fritz has more from LA.

Los Angeles is still dealing with a sluggish economy and a spike in the rental market related to the foreclosure crisis. Federal prosecutors allege that S&P managers pushed for workers to ignore company standards when rating mortgage-linked deals. S&P contends that its ratings are protected by the First Amendment as free speech. The inflated ratings led to a massive market melt-down, the largest since the Great Depression, after the inflated values rapidly dropped. A dozen states and the District of Columbia have announced lawsuits of their own against S&P. Dan Fritz, FSRN, Los Angeles.



More countries could face legal action for role in CIA torture and rendition program under Bush Administration

In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, more than 50 countries participated in the United State’s torture and rendition program. Now those countries — and the individuals who were tortured — have been named as part of a newly released report from the Open Society Justice Initiative. The investigation offers the most comprehensive overview to date of the CIA’s actions during the Bush Administration. And as legal cases advance in Europe and Asia against the countries who participated in the program, human rights groups are demanding more transparency and accountability in the United States. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Department of Justice memo expands legal rules for targeted killing of US citizens

President Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, John Brennan, could also face questions on the targeted killing program. A secret memo from the US Justice Department now made public sheds new light on the Obama Administration’s legal justification for targeted killings of US citizens abroad. The memo, called a white paper and published by NBC, lays out an argument for the killing of suspected Al Qaeda members or associates who are American citizens even when there is no evidence of an imminent plot to attack the United States. The 16-page document outlines an expanded use of US force abroad. At least three US citizens are known to have been killed by US strikes. In September 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both US citizens, were killed in a US strike in Yemen. The next month, al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, also a US citizen, was killed in a strike, along with others. The leaked memo comes as a UN inquiry examines the legality of drone strikes by the US and other countries. For more on this, we’re joined by Tarek Ismail, counterterrorism and human rights fellow at the Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School.

Travel restrictions prevent Gaza mother from escorting injured daughter for medical treatment

In the occupied territories, Palestinians often face challenges when trying to travel because of border restrictions. Residents in Gaza and the West Bank must be granted travel permits and many are denied even when they need outside medical help. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari reports on one Gaza family’s struggle to accompany their 12-year daughter to Jerusalem, where she needs special treatment for head injuries.

Activists in Eureka, California seek to put minimum wage rise to vote

Job advocates are calling for a federal minimum wage increase, arguing that a stagnant rate hurts low income earners. According to the National Employment Law Project, the current wage of $7.25 an hour will lose nearly 20 percent of its real value in the next decade as inflation and the cost of living increases. But some local areas are poised to take action. In Eureka, California a proposed minimum wage ordinance would require large employers to pay workers at least $12 an hour.  Activists have gathered about 2,500 signed petitions and they have until this Thursday to submit them to the city. They hope to qualify the measure for the June ballot. FSRN’s Eric Black reports the opening of a Eureka WalMart last summer helped spur the initiative.

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