Newscast for Tuesday, May 14, 2013

  • Associated Press calls Justice Department gathering of phone records “massive” and “unprecedented”
  • Anti-poverty advocates urge protection of SNAP funds as Senators debate Farm Bill
  • Labor groups, free press advocates raise concerns over potential buying of Tribune Company by Koch brothers
  • High youth unemployment persists worldwide, despite austerity measures

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Human Rights groups condemn Syria war crimes; video highlights atrocities

The commander of a small Syrian rebel militia, Khalid al Hamad, admitted to Time magazine today that he is the man who appears in a  video mutilating the corpse of a soldier and biting into one of his organs. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch both condemned the video. UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay described the act as  “truly atrocious” and called for armed opposition groups to investigate. Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, degrading or violating the dignity of a dead body is a war crime. The advocacy group added that, though the act is shocking, so is the obstruction by some Security Council members to referring the matter of Syria to the ICC, a move that the UNHCR says could help to deter human rights violations. The UN issued a 131-page report in February documenting war crimes on both sides including massacres, torture, sexual violence and abuse of children.

Post electoral protests continue in Pakistan; vote rigging alleged

Supporters of the political party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf, or PTI,  held rallies and sit-ins across the country again today. In Lahore, thousands of people continued a three-day long occupation of a busy square. Umar Farooq reports.

Partial vote results released today reflect that Nawaz Sharif’s party, the PML-N, won 125 national assembly seats. But the protesters here in the square say many were won by ballot stuffing in districts like this one in Lahore. Here and in Karachi, they say they have video evidence showing how workers from rival parties locked themselves inside polling stations and stamped ballots for their own candidates for hours on Saturday. Three PTI protesters were injured in clashes with police in Khyber Pukhtunkwha today, and several protesters in Lahore were also injured in clashes two days ago. The interim government has agreed to hold a revote in one district of Karachi on May 19th, but these protesters are calling for fresh elections across the city of Karachi and in this district of Lahore. Umar Farooq, FSRN, Lahore.

Marikana miners on wildcat strike after union leader killed over weekend

About 10,000 platinum miners in South Africa are on strike today. The wildcat walkout follows the weekend death of a union leader who was set to testify at a probe of violence during a strike at the same mine last year. Davison Mudzingwa has more from Johannesburg.

All of Lonmin’s 13 platinum shafts at the Marikana mine are closed and the miners are turning down calls to report for duty. The mine is jointly owned by Anglo American Platinum Limited and Impala Platinum Holding and is located around 100 miles from the capital Pretoria. Police killed 34 workers in the Marikana area during strikes last year. The striking workers are affiliated with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, or AMCU. They went on strike as fury over security rises following the assassination of their leader last weekend. The union leader, Mawethu Khululekile Steven, was due to testify at an ongoing probe of last year’s deadly strikes at the mine, and was the fourth witness to die since December. The tension is complicated by conflict between rival unions, the AMCU and the national union of mine workers. Some workers demanded the closure of the national union of mine workers offices. Davison Mudzingwa, FSRN, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Indigenous youth trek 1300 miles; say Canadian law strips protections from lakes and streams

In Canada, a group of Indigenous youth wound up a 1300-mile-long walk to Ottawa yesterday to protect the country’s remaining freshwater lakes. FSRN’s Aaron Lakoff has the story.

The group of 15 Native youth ranging from 13 to 36 years old left Winnipeg, Manitoba in late march. After walking for almost seven weeks, they arrived in Canada’s capital of Ottawa yesterday. Calling themselves Youth 4 Lakes, they embarked on their journey to protest Bill C-45, a measure passed late last year by the Canadian government that scrapped environmental protections on thousands of lakes and rivers. The group was met in Ottawa by members of the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Idle No More movement, but government officials did not respond to letters requesting meetings. Youth 4 Lakes is the second indigenous group to make a long-distance trek to Ottawa in support of Idle No More movement in the last 2 months, following the Nishiyuu Cree marchers who arrived in the city in March. Another group of Mig’maq protestors are currently walking from eastern Quebec, and are due to arrive in Ottawa next month. Aaron Lakoff, FSRN, Montreal.

Minnesota becomes 12th state to grant marriage equality; Governor holds public signing ceremony

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton invited the public to the steps of the Capitol today, to bear witness as the state becomes the 12th in the US to grant marriage equality to all of its citizens. The state Senate approved a bill yesterday that will allow same-sex couples to marry beginning in August. Today’s signing marks a huge political pendulum swing in the state where just last November voters narrowly rejected an amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage.



Associated Press calls Justice Department gathering of phone records “massive” and “unprecedented”

The Associated Press is calling on the Justice Department to explain why it secretly obtained two months of records for the office, cell and home phone lines of AP reporters. The media group is also asking the government to return the records and destroy any copies made, saying they regard the action as a  “serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.” Other media outlets, civil liberties organizations and lawmakers are also speaking out against this and other Obama Administration actions they say have a chilling effect on whistleblowing and critical investigative reporting. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Anti-poverty advocates urge protection of SNAP funds as Senators debate Farm Bill

As proponents of austerity measures continue to push for cuts to social services, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps millions of low-income families purchase food, is facing drastic reductions. Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee took up those cuts as it debated the 2013 Farm Bill. The current Senate version of the bill would cut more than $4 billion dollars from food assistance programs over ten years, while increasing crop insurance subsidies to the nation’s largest agri-businesses. Other proposals from House lawmakers seek much higher cuts to food assistance. As lawmakers prepare to vote on the Farm Bill, anti-poverty organizations are advocating to protect the SNAP program. FSRN Contributor Anna Simonton has more.

Labor groups, free press advocates raise concerns over potential buying of Tribune Company by Koch brothers

Today, in Los Angeles, media advocates, labor groups and readers of the Los Angeles Times are rallying downtown to protest the potential sale of the newspaper, and its owner, the Tribune Company, to Charles and David Koch. The Koch brothers are billionaires who have funded an array of conservative causes, including efforts to weaken environmental regulation, gun laws, and labor rights and to promote the privatization of education through state laws and initiatives across the country. The Tribune Company is the second-largest media publisher in the United States and owns eight newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel and the Hartford Courant and operates 23 television stations.  For more, we’re joined by Danny Feingold, he’s publisher of Frying Pan News, an online publication on the economy. The site has been writing about the possible takeover by the Koch Brothers. He’s also with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, one of the groups putting on today’s action in LA.

High youth unemployment persists worldwide, to reach 73 million in 2013

Austerity measures implemented by many countries in response to the economic crisis aren’t leading to the creation of jobs. New figures from the International Labor Organization estimate that more than 70 million youth are unemployed across the globe. In some countries, including Malawi and Liberia, the rate exceeds 70 percent. The new figures are nearly as high as the peak of the economic crisis in 2009. UN Radio’s Derrick Mbatha reports.

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