Newscast for Monday, April 29, 2013
Afghanistan’s President Karzai admits to bags of US cash, but insists it was legit
Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged receiving bags of cash from the United States. But Karzai disputed the scale of the payments – saying that the amounts were small and paid for operational expenses, aid to injured individuals and rental costs. Karzai was responding to a New York Times report out today that says the CIA has delivered tens of millions of dollars in cash to the President’s office during the past decade. In 2010, US officials harshly criticized Iran for sending Karzai bags of cash, saying they were trying to curry favor with Afghanistan.
U.S. Steel locks out 1000 workers at Canada plant after contract talks fail
Nearly 1000 workers at a US Steel mill in Canada are locked out today, following a breakdown in contract negotiations. Last week, 70 percent of the United Steelworkers Union’s Local 8272 voted against a company offer that would have done away with cost-of-living raises, cut paid holidays and offered no future wage hikes. The union offered to stay on the job at the Nanikote, Ontario plant while talks continued, but US Steel locked them out instead. US Steel bought two Canadian plants in 2007, this is the third lockout since.
Political violence persist in Pakistan as May 11th vote nears
In Pakistan, violence ahead of upcoming elections continues unabated. But targeted political parties pledge to continue campaigning and many are asking if the military should be deployed nationwide to ensure safety at the polls. Umar Farooq reports from Islamabad.
A suicide bombing in Peshawar today killed eight people, including two Afghan diplomats. And seven supporters of the Awami National Party died in three separate attacks in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa over the last two days.
On a daily basis, the Taliban targets candidates and supporters of the incumbent Pakistan People’s Party, the Awami National Party, and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. The violence rages in three provinces, but the parties vow to press on with their campaigns, albeit with a lower profile. Elections are due May 11th.
In Baluchistan, where separatists have vowed to enforce a boycott of the election, the 70,000 strong Baluchistan Government Teachers Association says they will not work polls on election day. They cite security concerns after the recent killing of a teacher. More than 50,000 Pakistani security forces, including 22,000 soldiers, are now being deployed to the province to secure polling stations.
And across a wide spectrum of political parties, many are calling for the army to be deployed across Pakistan on election day. Umar Farooq, FSRN, Islamabad.
Protests across Mexico against continued violence toward journalists and impunity thereof
Journalists demonstrated in 14 Mexican cities Sunday to protest ongoing violence against media workers and impunity for those who attack them. Shannon Young reports from Oaxaca.
The nationwide simultaneous demonstrations by Mexican journalists marked the one year anniversary of the murder of investigative reporter, Regina Martinez. The actions also come just days after the murder of a newspaper photographer in Coahuila.
For years, Mexico has ranked as the deadliest country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists. The killers enjoy near total impunity which, press freedom groups say, allows this type of violence to continue. Dozens of attacks in recent years have also targeted the physical offices of newspapers and television studios with gunfire, grenades, and arson.
Last week, Article 19, a press freedom organization which lobbies for the interests of and protects journalists received threats on paper against staff at their Mexico City office.
As a protective measure due to the absence of basic guarantees for the free exercise of the press in Mexico, many individual journalists and media outlets have reverted to self-censorship, choosing not to cover many events related to the country’s ongoing drug war or government corruption. Shannon Young, FSRN, Oaxaca.
Anti-drone protests in UK after revelations that drones are operated from Lincolnshire
Protesters opposed to drone warfare rallied on both sides of the Atlantic over the weekend. In the UK, hundreds gathered outside the gates of a Royal Air Force base in Lincolnshire. The rally was called after military officials confirmed for the first time last week that un-piloted craft were being operated from the base. Two protesters explain why they participated:.
“We don’t feel that our government should be killing people thousands of miles away, without trial, without convictions.” “A very, very wicked thing to do. We must not condone it. And a lot of our people do nor know that we are doing this, in fact.”
31 people arrested protesting drones at Hancock Field in Syracuse, NY
And in upstate New York, a weekend of anti-drone activities culminated yesterday when 31 protesters were arrested during a die-in at the gates of Hancock Field. Armed MQ-9 Reaper drones flying missions over Afghanistan are remotely operated from the Air National Guard Base in Syracuse. The base is also on the shortlist for sites that will train operators to remotely pilot drones for domestic use.
California family, immigration advocates rally to stop deportation of Jagmohan Singh, father of three
As a comprehensive immigration reform plan moves its way slowly through Congress, immigrant rights advocates are calling for a halt to deportations for those that could be eligible for “prosecutorial discretion,” a policy that the Obama Administration said is supposed to shift focus to those with criminal backgrounds.. But families and advocates say many so-called “low priority” immigrants are still being deported.
One of them is Jagmohan Singh, a father of three, originally from India. His family says he could face removal as early as today or tomorrow. He has been living in Bakersfield, California for the past 15 years and was taken into ICE custody in February this year.
For more, we spoke earlier with his wife, Mariana Parmar.
Supreme Court dismisses case on right to speedy trial for defendant
The US Supreme Court issued two opinions today. In the first, justices ruled unanimously that states can deny Freedom of Information Act requests from people who live outside the state, upholding laws in Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, New Hampshire and New Jersey that limit government record access to state residents. In a narrow, 5 to 4 decision, the Court also tossed out a case related to the Constitutional right to a speedy trial. defendant Jonathan Boyer waited seven years in prison before his trial began, including five years during which he faced the death penalty. The majority opinion said they took up the case on a faulty premise, that the state failed to adequately fund indigent defense. But critics, including the dissenting justices, said that states have an obligation to ensure a defendant’s right to a speedy trial.
In Washington, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has the details.
Plunge in funding for pre-Kindergarten education could affect low-income children, special needs students
Before leaving for a week-long recess, Congress quickly passed a bill to shelter the Federal Aviation Administration from the automatic budget cuts triggered in March by the so-called sequester. But the deep cuts hitting other federal programs remain in place, including those that support at-risk children, the sick and the elderly. Low-income preschoolers and special needs students will be hit particularly hard, according to data released by the White House. At an event in Washington Monday, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said it’s an indication of the country’s priorities.
WEINGARTEN: We don’t actually do what we need to do to care for other people’s children. You see that in terms of austerity, and in austerity budgets, when there are choices, kids have gotten the short end of the stick. Even right now in terms of sequester! As someone who takes planes all the time, I’m glad that was fixed, but we still have a situation where 70,000 children are losing their Head Start spots under sequester!
A study released Monday by the National Institute for Early Education Research shows that even without the sequestration cuts, access to preschool and government funding for early education are at “grim” levels. The study’s lead author, Rutgers University professor Steven Barnett, said preschool in the US is currently in a “state of emergency.”
BARNETT: State pre-k funding fell $548 million. That amounts to nearly $450 per child. Real spending per child is now at lowest level since we began the survey in 2002. In 13 states, funding fell by more than 10 percent. 16 states had enrollment decline, 7 had no growth, only 17 states and Washington DC increased enrollment. And we estimate that as many as 8 in 10 children in state pre-k programs attend programs where funding is inadequate to provide a quality education.
The hardest hit are families who can’t afford private preschools and depend on state and federal programs for their children. Speaking at Monday’s event, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the situation “morally and educationally unacceptable.”
DUNCAN: On average, children from low-income families start kindergarten 12 to 14 months behind their peers in language development and reading skills.
Duncan voiced support for President Obama’s budget proposal for universal access to preschool, which would be paid for, if approved by Congress, by increasing taxes on tobacco products.
Ohio students, community protest for teacher fired after disclosing sexual orientation
Over the weekend students and graduates of a Catholic high school in Ohio gathered in support of a physical education teacher recently fired after school administrators learned she has a same sex partner. The case has led to broader calls for reform and protections for employees. From Colombus, FSRN’s Evan Davis has more.
Hundreds still missing in Bangladesh building collapse as calls rise for accountability in garment industry
The owner of the building that collapsed in Bangladesh appeared in court today wearing a bulletproof jacket and helmet. Mohammad Sohel Rana was arrested yesterday as authorities said he attempted to flee across the border to India.
Rescue efforts continued today at the site near Dhaka, where the eight-story building housing garment factories collapsed last week, though government officials said hope was fading of finding more survivors, according to the Daily Star.
The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, which has an office in Dhaka, said more than 400 were killed and about 1,000 remain missing.
For more, we’re joined by Liana Foxvog, organizing director International Labor Rights Forum.