Newscast for Monday, March 18, 2013

  • At Supreme Court, critics say Arizona voting law restricts Latinos, Native groups
  • Detroit residents protest governor’s appointment of emergency manager, calling it “undemocratic”
  • In San Francisco, workers and activists rally to save US Postal system
  • Parents of slain US activist, Rachel Corrie, continue decade-long call for accountability

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DR Congo warlord asks US embassy in Rwanda to send him to the Int’l Criminal Court

According to Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, a leader of the  M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo indicted by the International Criminal Court is in the US Embassy in Kigali.  Former Congolese General Bosco Ntaganda is wanted for both war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC has issued two warrants for the man known as the Terminator, on charges including  murder, attacks against civilians, rape, sexual slavery and conscripting child soldiers. The United States still has not signed on to the International Criminal Court. There’s no word yet from the US State Department.


Farmworkers march 200 miles to headquarters of major grocer calling for fair food pledge

Correction: In the original version of this story, we incorrectly translated a rally chant at the culmination of the 200-mile Fair Food march as “Publix, listen, we are struggling.”  A more accurate translation is “Listen Publix, we are in this struggle!” FSRN regrets the error.

In Lakeland, Florida more than a thousand farmworkers and their allies finished a 200-mile, two week march. Their final destination is the corporate home of one of the country’s largest grocery chains. The marchers arrived there Sunday and called on Publix to support human rights for Florida tomato-pickers. FSRN´s Lenka Davis was there.

“Publix, listen, we are in this struggle,“ the protesters shout as they approach the Publix headquarters, calling for the corporation to join the Fair Food Program. The program protects the workers from sexual harassment, discrimination, physical and verbal abuse and wage theft. It also guarantees workers a wage increase of a penny per pound of harvested tomatoes.

Jordan Buckley from the group InterAction, which co-sponsored the march  with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, says while eleven major food corporations including McDonald’s, Burger King and Whole Foods are already participating in the program, Publix still refuses to join.

“Publix continues to purchase from at least two farms that are among the fewer than 10 percent of the Florida tomato industry, that has rejected the FFP, that continues these policies that have resulted in sexual harassment, have resulted in unfair compensation for hours worked, where a blind eye is turned to all sorts of violence and other sorts of abuse in the fields.”

Shannon Patten, the spokesperson for Publix, did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement, Publix claims the issue is a labor dispute between the farmworkers and their employers. Lenka Davis, FSRN, Lakeland, Florida.


Ohio to convene Grand Jury in Steubenville rape case; 2 men convicted as juveniles

The investigation of an August rape in  Steubenville, Ohio continues, after a juvenile judge convicted two young men in the attack yesterday. 16-year-old Malik Richmond  and 17-year-old Trent Mays were sentenced to at least 1 and 2 years respectively in juvenile detention. They will also have to register as sex offenders. Had they been tried as adults they could have received much longer sentences.

Last August,  a 16-year-old girl was raped twice in the same night. Pictures and a video of the attack then  then circulated on social media.  After the verdicts, Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine said the investigation into the sexual attack continues.

“While we have interviewed almost 60 individuals, 16 people refused to talk to our investigators. I have reached the conclusion that we cannot bring finality to this matter without the convening of a grand jury.”

The grand jury will meet in mid-April, which could result in additional indictments.


More  self-immolations in protest of Chinese rule in historically Tibetan areas of China

A Tibetan monk and a woman both torched themselves to death in a Tibetan area of China’s Sichuan province in recent days.  This month marks both the1959 exile of the Dalai Lama and the 5th anniversary of  violent protests against Chinese rule that spread from Lhasa to other Tibetan areas of the country.  Rebecca Valli has more from Beijing.

According to foreign media reports, 28-year-old Lobsang Thokmey set himself on fire in his room at the Kirti monastery on Saturday. The monk then ran to the compound’s entrance with a Tibetan flag in his hands. He died later the same day. Ngaba perfecture and the local Kirti monastery, have been the center of many demonstrations against China’s rule since 2008.

Earlier in the week, 31-year-old Kunchok Wangmo self immolated. According to Tibetan rights group Free Tibet, her act of protest was initially kept secret by authorities and her body quickly cremated.

Last week’s dramatic burnings come as China wraps up its once in a decade leadership transition, with a new government led by Xi Jinping. Free Tibet’s Alistar Currie says that China’s repressive rule over Tibetans is unsustainable.

“Realistically, the new Chinese regime has to take an approach which involves ending human rights abuses in Tibet and engaging in dialogue with the representatives of the Tibetan people.”

Over one hundred Tibetans have set themselves ablaze since 2009. Currie says that unless China changes its policy in the region, Tibetans will continue to self immolate. Rebecca Valli, FSRN, Beijing.


Zimbabwe police refuse to release prominent  human rights lawyer despite high court order

Police in Zimbabwe did not release a prominent human rights lawyer from jail today, despite a  high court order late last night.  Yesterday, authorities arrested attorney Beatrice Mtetwa.  At the time of her arrest, she was representing a high level member of the Movement for Democratic Change, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.  Her client was one of four MDC leaders also arrested yesterday. Voters in Zimbabwe went to the polls over the weekend to decide on a controversial proposed constitution.  Results of the vote are not yet in. Presidential election are slated for later this year.


President Obama nominates Thomas E. Perez as next US Labor Secretary

And President Barack Obama tapped Thomas E. Perez as the next US Secretary of Labor. Perez  currently leads the civil rights division of the US Department of Justice. Republican critics were swift call the Perez nomination divisive, citing his support for immigrant rights.



At Supreme Court, critics say Arizona voting law restricts Latinos, Native groups

Civil rights lawyers argued before the US Supreme Court today that Arizona’s law requiring additional proof of citizenship to register to vote is burdensome and suppresses votes in Latino and Native American communities. The law was promoted by the controversial corporate policy organization the American Legislative Exchange Council, and its lead sponsor Russell Pierce was recently pulled from state office in a recall election. The case comes as the Justices deliberate on a separate court challenge to the landmark Voting Rights Act, which aims to protect the right to vote for formerly disenfranchised populations, including those in Arizona. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein attended this morning’s hearing and brings us this report.

Detroit residents protest governor’s appointment of emergency manager, calling it “undemocratic”

In Detroit, community activists, religious leaders and residents converged at a city convention center to protest the appointment of an emergency financial manager in the city, calling it undemocratic and a threat to labor rights.

Last week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed a Washington DC-based bankruptcy lawyer, Kevyn Orr, as the emergency manager for Detroit. According to the governor’s office, Orr would serve for 18 months, after which city officials will then assess progress. Detroit has an accumulated deficit of nearly $330 million.

Last November, Michigan voters repealed the state’s emergency manager law, known as Public Act 4, but legislators then passed a law to replace it.

For more, we’re joined by Senior Pastor W.J. Rideout with the All God’s People Church in Detroit. He’s also an activist with the community group, Good Jobs Now.

In San Francisco, workers and activists rally to save US Postal system

Across the country, activists and workers demonstrated over the weekend to save the US Postal system. In Burlington, Vermont, protesters called for preservation of Saturday mail. In Portland, Oregon, some 600 people rallied against plans to shut down half the state’s mail processing plants. In Martinsburg, West Virginia, workers protested the closure of sorting facilities. Forums on cuts to the postal system were held in New York and Philadelphia. San Francisco residents brought their protest to the annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade and the tens of thousands who gathered for the event. FSRN’s Judith Scherr reports.

Parents of slain US activist, Rachel Corrie, continue decade-long call for accountability

This weekend marked the 10-year-anniversary of the death of US activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003 while trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home with other activists. Speaking last year to WMNF community radio, Rachel’s father Craig Corrie described what happened that day.

The Israeli Army report on the incident said Rachel Corrie was not run over by a Catepillar bulldozer but instead hit by a slab of concrete. But witnesses refute these accounts. Rachel’s mother Cindy Corrie said they’ve long for fought justice and accountability in their daughter’s death.

Last August, after a two-year long case, an Israeli court ruled that Rachel’s death was an accident. The Corrie family continues to campaign for the rights of Palestinians and is pressuring Catepillar to stop selling equipment to the Israeli government. As President Obama prepares for a trip to Israel this week, the Corries are calling on him to suspend all military and diplomatic aid to Israel until it stops home and land demolitions and attacks and killings of protesters and civilians.

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