Newscast for Tuesday, March 26, 2013

  • Supreme Court hears challenge to California’s Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage
  • Hunger strike spreads at Guantanamo prison as week of protest launches in US
  • In Canada, indigenous youth conclude 900-mile-march for aboriginal rights
  • Wells Fargo foreclosure policies could cost California $3 billion, report finds

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World Social Forum opens in Tunis, Tunisia

The World Social Forum opened today in the capital of  Tunisia, and tens of  thousands of participants from more than 125 countries convened. The annual gathering began with a women’s assembly. Shams Abdi with the the World March of Women said that Tunisian women’s struggle against the rise of Islamist rule is symbolic of  worldwide struggles of people against power. Abdi said that the global meeting seeking options to neo-liberal policies is vital to the growth of the feminist movement in the North African country.

“What really matters for us is that interchange between people. We need to learn things from our feminine friends and feminists who are coming from other countries. And we need to talk to them as well about our struggle and our fight and to teach them our ways.”

Yesterday, Algerian border police refused to allow nearly 100 Algerians bound for the event to cross into Tunisia. They would not say why. The forum continues through March 30th.


Russia continues raids of NGOs; Amnesty International offices among groups targeted

Many of the groups at the World Social Forum global are NGOs. In Russia, the government continues its massive raids of such groups. Yesterday, authorities searched the Moscow offices of Amnesty International. Jenny Johnson reports that hundreds of environmental, human rights and free speech groups across the country say that officials have shown up unannounced and demanded access to their official documents.

The investigators are requesting copies of accounting documents, articles of incorporation and other internal papers. Authorities say their purpose is to verify the organizations are in compliance with the law. A raft of new restrictions on NGOs has been enacted in recent months, including a controversial requirement for groups who receive support from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” Another bars foreigners and Russians with U.S. passports from holding leadership positions. Many groups said the authorities’ goal is to scare them and to find some way they are violating the law – one group was warned of fire safety violations.

Government officials in Moscow have sometimes been accompanied on raids by the pro-Kremlin television channel NTV. The channel is doing a series of so-called documentaries on the protest movement which suggest the movement is funded by foreign governments that want to overthrow the current regime. The Russian prosecutor’s office has not yet responded to requests for explanation of the raids. Jenny Johnson, FSRN, Russia.


Ntaganda appears in court at the Hague today; ICC charges officially introduced

A rebel leader accused of  war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo appeared at the International Criminal Court at the Hague today, where an official delivered the charges.

“The war crime for the enlistment of children under the age of 15 and having them participate actively in hostilities. Murder, rape and sexual slavery attacks against the civilian population. Pillaging constituting a war crime.”

Bosco Ntaganda told the court today that he was not guilty. Ntaganda was born in Rwanda, and fled the country in his teens. An ethnic Tutsi, he joined the Rwandan Patriotic Army in the early 1990s and fought with the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo in the gold-rich Ituri region. Ntganda was a leader in the M23 rebel movement, which human rights groups claim is supported by the Rwandan military and has been accused of war crimes.


Washington state considers banning employers from spying on workers’ social media

Lawmakers in Washington state are considering a bill today that  would ban employers from asking workers or prospective employees for their passwords to social media sites. Washington News Service’s Chris Thomas reports that the bill has already unanimously passed the state Senate.

Social media has blurred the lines between personal privacy and employers’ concerns about release of company secrets or unflattering product reviews. And Seattle attorney Jesse Wing thinks it’s important to set limits for how far employers can go to scope out their workforce.

“For example, you can find out a person’s age, whether they have disabilities, what their religion is, their sexual orientation – all this information might be on a person’s social media site that they would never provide willingly, or an employer would know they’re not allowed to find out.”

The legislation would set a 500-dollar civil penalty for employers who make demands found to violate workers’ privacy. Employers could still search for any information in the public domain. Chris Thomas, Washington News Service.


Voter ID signed in Virginia; vetoed in Arkansas

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a voter ID bill today that critics say will disenfranchise elderly and minority voters. Yesterday, Arkansas Governor Michael Beebe vetoed a similar bill that would require all voters to show photo IDs at the polls. The GOP-led legislature there plans an override, which shouldn’t be difficult. Arkansas is one of only six states that  requires a simple majority of elected lawmakers in both houses to overturn the Governor.


North Dakota governor signs nation’s most restrictive abortion law, banning as early as six weeks

And in North Dakota today the Governor signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law in the US , barring women from ending a pregnancy once a fetal heartbeat is present – as early as six weeks. Reproductive health advocates say they plan to appeal.


Supreme Court hears challenge to California’s Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage

The US Supreme Court heard arguments on California’s Proposition 8 today. The case focuses on whether or not the ballot initiative violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by banning same-sex couples from getting legally married in the state. The Justices weighed thorny issues of legal standing, states’ rights and discrimination as they heard the opposing attorneys disagree on the purpose of marriage in society. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein was in the courtroom this morning and brings us this report.


Hunger strike spreads at Guantanamo prison as week of protest launches in US

At least three hunger strikers at the US-run Guantanamo Bay detention facility have been hospitalized and 10 are being force fed, according to a military spokesperson. The strike began last month. The military counts 28 prisoners as hunger strikers, but lawyers who have spoken to detainees say that the number is far higher, and that the strike is spreading. About half of the 166 men currently held at Guantanamo have been cleared for release. The US Southern Command has requested nearly $200 million in funds for Guantanamo, including nearly $50 million for a new prison, calling into question if and when the facility would be closed or how the detainees would be released or brought to trial. This week, solidarity actions and hunger strikes are taking place across the US and in a moment we’re going to hear from Christopher Knestrick, an organizer who’s taking part with the group Witness Against Torture in Chicago, but first we’re joined by attorney David Remes. He represents several detainees at Guantanamo, he also represented Yemeni Adnan Latif who was cleared for release but died while in custody last year.


In Canada, indigenous youth conclude 900-mile-march for aboriginal rights

In Canada, a group of Indigenous youth who walked more than 900 miles in sub-zero temperatures wrapped up a historic voyage yesterday. They’re drawing inspiration from the Idle No More movement and calling for aboriginal rights and land protection. FSRN’s Aaron Lakoff has the story.


Wells Fargo foreclosure policies could cost California $3 billion, report finds

In California, more than 11,000 households who borrowed from the nation’s largest home mortgage lender, Wells Fargo, currently face foreclosure. Those foreclosures could cost the state more than $3 billion in lost revenue,  according to a new report from a housing rights organization that examines the effects of Wells Fargo’s foreclosure policies on distressed homeowners and hard-hit communities. FSRN’s Max Pringle reports.

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