Newscast for Friday, June 14, 2013

  • Obama Administration plans more military aid to Syrian opposition amid push for arms trade treaty
  • US lawmakers, rights groups push for privacy protections after government surveillance programs revealed
  • Supreme Court strikes down aspects of clean truck program at Los Angeles port
  • Youth, religious leaders call for end to Islamophobia, attacks on Muslims after killing of British soldier

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Compromise reached in Gezi Park row in Turkey

In Turkey, demonstrators are weighing a government proposal that would allow the courts, and perhaps a citywide referendum, to decide whether Gezi Park will be razed to build a shopping center. After a violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Istanbul two weeks ago, towns and cities across the country have been rocked by clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police. All the while, the government’s pressure on media outlets continues.  FSRN’s Jacob Resneck reports:

A late night meeting in Ankara between the prime minister and protest organizers produced an early morning proposal. The government will ask an Istanbul court that’s already ruled against the redevelopment project in Istanbul to hear its final appeal. But should the court rule in the government’s favor, that decision would then be subject to a citywide referendum. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan then called on protesters to leave the park, saying in a televised speech that their concerns had been heard. But even as a deal to avert further violence looks possible, Turkish authorities are continuing a crackdown on independent media. After fining four channels for giving prominent coverage to the unrest, Turkey’s broadcasting council ordered Hayat TV off the air this afternoon. In defiance, the small collectively-owned satellite channel continues to broadcast a montage of protest images from the past two weeks. Hayat TV’s general manager Mustafa Kara told FSRN that the council’s order – based on a technicality over licensing – is politically motivated. He says his channel is being singled out by regulators because it gives a platform to dissenting views.

“Except for a few TV channels and newspapers, none have shown the reality of these past weeks to the Turkish people. And when they did finally start covering them, it was according to the government’s line.”

As of air time, Hayat TV managers were negotiating the order with the government. Jacob Resneck, FSRN, Istanbul.

Iran extends polling hours on high voter turnout

The Iranian government extended voting hours today in response to high turnout in the Presidential election, an official told local media. Several candidates are running to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who as president is the diplomatic and economic leader of Iran. But true power lies with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is not democratically elected, instead appointed by clerics. Early reports indicate support for moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rowhani.

Canada high court considers bid to legalize brothels

The Supreme Court of Canada is considering a case that could result in major steps forward in decriminalizing sex work across the country. The case is known as Bedford vs. Canada, after Terri-Jean Bedford, a retired dominatrix who initially challenged the constitutionality of Canada’s prostitution laws.  FSRN’s Aaron Lakoff has more.

Many aspects of the sex trade are currently illegal under Canadian law, including communication for the purposes of prostitution and operating a brothel.  However, in 2010, the Ontario Superior Court struck down the law criminalizing brothels, ruling that it was unconstitutional to force sex workers to work outside because it violated their rights to liberty and security.  Shortly afterwards, the Ontario government appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments Thursday.  Last weekend, sex workers and their advocates calling for decriminalization held rallies in six Canadian cities.  However, women’s groups across Canada disagree on how decriminalization should happen.  The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution argues that pimping and hiring sex workers should be illegal, but sex workers themselves should not be prosecuted.  On the other hand, sex worker rights advocates, such as the Feminist Alliance for Sex Worker Rights in Montreal, argue that sex work is a legitimate profession, and that sex between consenting adults should not be criminalized. The Supreme Court is expected to make their decision by fall.  Aaron Lakoff, FSRN, Montreal.

Republican dominate Arizona approves Medicaid expansion

After a heated legislative process that divided Republicans in Arizona, lawmakers have approved the Medicaid expansion offered by the Affordable Care Act.  Arizona’s share of the Medicaid funds is $1.6 billion dollars and is expected to cover nearly a quarter million uninsured Arizonans.  After opposing Obamacare, Republican Governor Jan Brewer came out in support of the Medicaid expansion earlier this year.  In a statement, Brewer applauded those who voted for the expansion, praising their “courage and conviction” saying they put the people of the state first.  Arizona joins 20 other states and Washington, DC that have approved the Medicaid expansion. Seven other states are still considering whether to expand, including New Hampshire.  There lawmakers are expected to consider the provision next week as part of state budget negotiations, according to Doug McNutt with AARP New Hampshire.

“And so, the House and the Senate are going to have to come to agreement in what’s in the final budget, and it’s our hope that they would agree on a budget that would have Medicaid expansion in it.”

McNutt says the state will only have to pay three cents out of every dollar to expand the program.  Lawmakers in Indiana, Tennessee, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio are also debating the Medicaid provision.  According to the Commonwealth Fund, generally speaking, the states that have declined the federal health care expansion have among the lowest rated health systems, some of the highest rates of uninsured adults and some of the lowest health care equity across race.


Obama Administration plans more military aid to Syrian opposition amid push for arms trade treaty

In Syria, mortars and rocket fire hit neighborhoods in the capital, Damascus, and fighting continued in Deraa and other cities, as protesters went out into the streets across the country. A video posted online by activists, showed children in Hama waving the opposition flag as a crowd chanted anti-government slogans in the street. The UN says more than 90,000 people have been killed in the conflict and a UNICEF report this week documented the heavy toll on the country’s children. The report blamed both government and opposition forces and found that “Syrian children are killed or injured in indiscriminate bombings, shot by snipers, used as human shields or victims of terror tactics.”

The Obama Administration cited evidence of the regime’s use of chemical weapons as part of its decision to increase military aid to opposition forces. White House official Ben Rhodes said Thursday that revised US intelligence assessments have found the regime of Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, but Rhodes did not make the specific evidence public. A UN investigation found probable evidence of chemical weapons use, but did not attribute it to the regime or opposition. The US step up in foreign military aid raises questions about international law and how an arms trade treaty, already signed by more than 70 countries, could affect the plan. For more, we’re joined by Scott Stedjan, senior humanitarian policy adviser for Oxfam America.

US lawmakers, rights groups push for privacy protections after government surveillance programs revealed

Responding to revelations of broad US surveillance programs, some US lawmakers are introducing more bills to curb the spying powers of the Executive Branch, disclose more information about these powers, and affirm the constitutional rights of all Americans. Activist communities are also speaking out in the wake of leaker Edward Snowden’s disclosure of US government surveillance, and are planning a global day of action to defend the Fourth Amendment, scheduled for the 4th of July. In Washington, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Supreme Court strikes down aspects of clean truck program at Los Angeles port

The U.S. Supreme Court gave the American Trucking Association a partial victory on Thursday when it struck down two provisions of a program aimed at cutting pollution generated by trucks at the Los Angeles port. The Trucking Association is claiming a win, but the port and environmental groups defending the Clean Truck Program say the most important parts of the program are intact. FSRN’s Larry Buhl has more from Los Angeles.

Youth, religious leaders call for end to Islamophobia, attacks on Muslims after killing of British soldier

Islamophobic hate crimes are on the rise in Britain. Police arrested four youth Sunday who are suspected of setting fire to an Islamic boarding school in London. That blaze was the fourth attack on Islamic institutions since last month, when British army private, Lee Rigby, was brutally slain in the street by two men who said they committed the act because “Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers.” FSRN’s Francis Ngwa reports from Liverpool.

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