Newscast for Thursday, May 30, 2013

  • In Istanbul, police raid protesters at historic park as tense debate over public space continues
  • In South Sudan, refugees at Yida Camp face rainy season, as humanitarian groups warn of crisis in Jonglei state
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finalizes rule to regulate home loans as feds extend loan modification program
  • As Yemen National Dialogue continues, youth demand accountability for Saleh regime

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Human rights groups sue over Mississippi prison conditions

Today the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center and a private law firm filed a lawsuit against the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian. They say the private prison is “hyper-violent, grotesquely filthy and dangerous.”  The prison facility houses inmates with psychiatric disabilities, but the suit charges suitable medical and mental health treatment is not provided and solitary confinement is widely utilized. In addition, many cells lack working toilets and prisoners are instead expected to use trays or plastic bags. The suit was filed in US District Court on behalf of 16 inmates.

Connecticut legislature approve driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants

Legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses is going to the Connecticut governor for signature today, after passing the Senate.  FSRN’s Melinda Tuhus reports.

The state Senate passed the bill on Wednesday, following an earlier House vote. Census data show an estimated 54,000 undocumented adults could be driving Connecticut’s roads without benefit of drivers’ education or proven knowledge of state laws. The bill was pitched mainly as a safety measure, but it was also clearly an issue of immigrants’ rights and necessity. At a hearing earlier this year, nearly 2,000 people – mostly Latino immigrants – poured into a New Haven high school to support the bill. Tania Esquivel of Bridgeport was one of them.

“I have an 8-year-old son now, and that worry is always in the back of my head– that what’s going to happen to my son if one day I get pulled over and I get deported back to my country.”

The IDs would not be valid for airline travel, and like all drivers’ licenses, could not be used as proof of citizenship for voting. Governor Dannel Malloy supports the bill and has promised to sign it. Washington, New Mexico, Maryland, Illinois, and Oregon all have similar laws on the books. Melinda Tuhus, FSRN, New Haven.

Colorado is also considering immigrant driver’s license legislation.

Animal welfare, health concerns arise over Smithfield buyout

The largest Pork producer in the world, Virginia’s Smithfield Foods, is being courted for purchase by the Chinese meat processor Shuangui. The nearly $5 billion dollar sale is raising concerns for several reasons. Shuangui has been accused of selling pigs containing the banned steroid clenbuterol. In addition animal rights groups say factory farm conditions could deteriorate. Progress was made after the Humane Society of the United States exposed the treatment of pigs at a Smithfield factory in Virginia. Paul Shapiro, the groups vice president of farm animal protection, says Smithfield promised to make changes, including expanding the cramped cages that didn’t allow pigs to move.

“As terrible as animal welfare in the US agricultural industry is, it is even worse in China, so there is a real concern about that here.”

Earlier this year, more than 10,000 dead pigs were found in the river that provides Shanghai’s drinking water. After the discovery, a village official told the Guardian that the government is trying to decrease the number of pig farms in China because of the negative environmental impact. Smithfield’s CEO issued a statement saying the company does not anticipate any changes in how it does business. The deal must still be approved by a federal government panel that reviews such transactions with foreign companies.

Lynne Stewart advocates push for compassionate release

Supporters of jailed human rights lawyer Lynne Stewart have organized a national phone-in drive today, asking the Justice Department to honor her request for compassionate release. Stewart was jailed for violating a Special Administrative Measure, while defending Egyptian Omar Abdel-Rahman against terrorism charges. Stewart spoke to Prison Radio before her incarceration.

“It’s a prison regulation that’s brought by the Department of Justice – there’s no judicial review, there’s no appeal – it’s just promulgated and it’s a take or leave it basis.  If you don’t take it, then you can’t see your client. So in this instance it was more important to see the client. But I don’t think anyone ever expected that it resulted in an indictment.”

Stewart has terminal cancer and is making the compassionate release request so she can seek medical care close to her friends and family. Organizers are asking supporters to call the White House, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons.

Argentine teachers strike for wage increases

Today in Argentina, teachers were on strike for a fourth day in the province of Buenos Aires, which surrounds but does not include the city. FSRN’s Eilís O’Neill has more…

Nearly 100% of the province’s public school teachers are on strike, says Mirta Petrocini, the president of the Buenos Aires Teachers’ Federation. That’s despite the governor’s warning that he will dock their salaries.

“Otros sindicatos han superado el porcentaje: el 24, el 25%.  La verdad que no entendemos por qué esta situación con los docentes.”
“Other unions have received 24 or 25% increases.  We don’t understand why they can’t offer that to teachers.”

Petrocini says a 22.6% salary increase, which will not be fully implemented until January of  2014, doesn’t keep up with Argentina’s inflation rate.  Independent analysts estimate inflation at 20-25% per year.

“Siempre vamos a pérdida. Cada vez podemos comprar menos a pesar de obtener incrementos.”
“We’re always losing. We can’t buy what we used to be able to even though we receive salary increases.”

With the increase, the basic salary for a new teacher would be about $700 a month, while monthly rent in the province averages about $400. The provincial governor says there’s no money for wage increases beyond what’s been offered.  Eilís O’Neill, FSRN, Buenos Aires.



In Istanbul, police raid protesters at historic park as tense debate over public space continues

In Istanbul, police used tear gas and vehicles in the early morning hours to evict a peaceful protest camp that’s been holding vigil to save an iconic public park in the heart of the city. But within hours protesters returned and construction work is again at a standstill in day three of a tense standoff between protesters and police. The issue has drawn attention to government control of public space and the use of police force.  FSRN’s Jacob Resneck reports.

In South Sudan, refugees at Yida Camp face rainy season, as humanitarian groups warn of crisis in Jonglei state

In South Sudan, ongoing violence has driven tens of thousands of residents from their homes. The UN Refugee Agency has registered more than 220,000 refugees in the country. Many of them are in the Yida camp, located close to the border with Sudan. With the rainy season arriving, humanitarian groups say it’s an area that can become virtually cut off from outside help. Aid groups are also pointing to another area, the nearby Jonglei State, located just south, where a recent uptick in fighting has driven more residents from the area and blocked services from entering.  For more, we’re joined by Caelin Briggs, she’s an advocate with Refugees International and she joins us from Juba, South Sudan.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finalizes rule to regulate home loans as feds extend loan modification program

As homeowners across the country face foreclosure, policy-makers in Washington are making some progress in regulating the banking industry and mitigating the effects of the mortgage crisis. Yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finalized a rule that will prevent lenders from offering loans too big for borrowers to pay back. Today, the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing jointly announced an extension of the Making Home Affordable program, enabling homeowners to apply for help with loan modification and refinancing for another two years. Organizers and families affected by foreclosure say that these steps are positive, but that more is needed to bring justice to people impacted by the banks’ failures. FSRN contributor Anna Simonton reports.

As Yemen National Dialogue continues, youth demand accountability for Saleh regime

In Yemen, the country is about two and a half months into a National Dialogue conference that aims to create a new constitution and a new government. The conference is part of the UN-backed agreement that helped end the more than three-decades-long rule of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, establish a transitional government and end the large-scale demonstrations in 2011. The conference brings together more than 500 representatives from across the country and the world in the capital, Sana’a to discuss how to mend the country’s torn social, economic and political fabric. But as FSRN’s Tanya Castle reports some young Yemenis who participated in the massive protests in 2011 are not pleased with the progress.

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