Newscast for Thursday, July 11, 2012
- House passes Farm Bill that excludes funding for SNAP, putting millions of low-income Americans at risk
- Student advocates call on Congress to take broader action on education as lawmakers debate loan interest rates
- Washington DC council passes bills to increase minimum wage at large retailers, allow drivers’ licenses for undocumented residents
- 300,000 driven from homes in Darfur as crisis of displacement deepens
- Week six of Bradley Manning trial: witness describes public interest in leaks, more details emerge on Guantanamo prisoner assessments
- In Wisconsin, small groups can once again protest at Capitol without permit, though restrictions remain
Jury to consider additional manslaughter charge in Zimmerman trial
Today a Florida judge said the jury in the George Zimmerman murder case would be allowed to consider a lesser charge in their deliberations. Zimmerman had been charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Judge Debra Nelson agreed to instruct the jury to also consider manslaughter, a lesser offense. Yesterday the defense rested their case without Zimmerman taking the stand to testify. The prosecution’s closing statements began this afternoon. Assistant state attorney Bernie de la Rionda argued Trayvon Martin died because Zimmerman assumed he was up to no good.
“Because if the defendant hadn’t assumed that, Trayvon Martin would have watched the basketball game. George Zimmerman, I’m assuming would have gone to Target and did whatever he does on Sunday evenings and we wouldn’t be here.”
Zimmerman’s defense team is expected to make their closing arguments tomorrow.
Newly-revealed NSA document reveals undersea cable data monitoring
Not only is the US government allegedly collecting citizen data through the servers of companies like Microsoft, Apple, Skype, Google and Facebook, it is also tapping into undersea fiber cables and collecting information as “data flows past.” The Washington Post published what appears to be an instructional slide leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The slide instructs the intended viewer, presumably NSA employees, to use both PRISM and “Upstream” methods of intercepting data.
California prisoner hunger strike spreads
A prison hunger strike in California and other West Coast states continued today, expanding to include more than 30,000 inmates. Prisoners and their advocates have released a list of five demands, enumerated in a video by the group Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.
“End long-term confinement. End group punishment and administrative abuse. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify gang status criteria. Provide adequate and nutritious food. Create and expand constructive programming.”
Supporters of the striking prisoners are planning a demonstration and rally on Saturday at the Corcoran Prison south of Fresno. Yesterday state officials asked the US Supreme Court to issue a stay of a lower court order requiring California to reduce its prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates. The lower court ruled overcrowding in state prison facilities prevents them from providing adequate medical and mental health care.
Election controversy breeds apprehension in Zimbabwe
National elections in Zimbabwe are set for the end of July, and although the country has yet to see violence and instability that plagued elections in 2008, the process has been fraught with contention. Today a controversy involving faulty voter rolls and early voting for police triggered an official complaint from the party of the Prime Minister. FSRN’s Garikai Chaunza had the latest from Harare.
Under Zimbabwe law, police officers scheduled to work around Election Day can apply to vote early. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says nearly 70,000 officers have submitted applications to cast their ballots next week. The only problem, according to MDC Party officials, is that there are only 39,000 officers in the country. Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti is a member of the MDC. He says his party’s political rival, President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU(PF), wants to use the voter rolls to manipulate the election result.
“There is no way that the police have an establishment of 69,322. These figures are almost double the number of ZRP personnel that we are paying at the Ministry of Finance. So this is something which is questionable. We have no doubt in our minds that this again is a source of shenanigans.”
MDC officials are also upset about the arrest of one of their youth leaders on Wednesday. They say Costa Machingauta was attacked by an ZANU(PF) militia, and when he went to report the incident, police arrested and charged him instead. The incident is causing apprehension among the general public and elected officials that this is the start of political violence ahead of the July 31st election. Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission denied the applications of more than 50 international elections monitors, according to SW Radio Africa. The US-based Carter Center says its application was turned down, despite having secured support for their work from Zimbabwe’s three major political parties. Garikai Chaunza, FSRN, Harare.
Fukushima underground reservoir radiation spikes
Water sampling done yesterday by Japanese nuclear operator Tepco shows a sudden rise in radiation levels in an underground reservoir at the Fukushima power plant. Results from four test sites show the amount of radiation is now 2 to 5 times the detectable limit. Just a day before, the radiation levels were below that limit. On April 3rd, Tepco discovered a leak in the underground reservoir system and Japanese nuclear regulators say they fear the radioactive water is seeping into the ocean. These test results come as Tepco pushes regulators to allow the world’s largest capacity nuclear power plant to reopen in northwestern Japan.
House passes Farm Bill that excludes funding for SNAP, putting millions of low-income Americans at risk
Despite the threat of a presidential veto, the House of Representatives narrowly approved a revised version of the Farm Bill today that completely leaves out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, or food stamps, that millions of low-income Americans currently depend on. Republican leaders split the legislation after a bill to fund all the nation’s farm and nutrition programs for the next five years failed to pass the House in June. They promised Thursday that the nutrition funding would be restored when the House and Senate go to conference on the bill, and said the revised bill merely strips out “extraneous” provisions that would prevent the bill from passing. Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern took issue with the claim.
“The 47 million people who are on SNAP are not extraneous. They are important. They are part of our community. And we should not diminish their struggle.”
McGovern and many fellow Democrats, as well as a number of food policy experts, say the change could result in cuts to food stamps, food banks and other programs for low income people even deeper than the more than 20 billion proposed for the original bill. California Democrat Barbara Lee called it a “new low” for the House of Representatives.
“Nobody wants this Republican bill to move forward. Not the 532 companies and organizations from every congressional district who have urged this congress to not break apart the Farm Bill. Not the Administration that issued a veto threat last not. And certainly not the millions of low-income and poor people and working families with children and seniors who continue to struggle from the impact of the Great Recession. Enough is enough!”
If the House and Senate can’t resolve their differences on the legislation, funding for farm subsidies, land and water conservation and dozens of other programs will expire at the end of September.
Student advocates call on Congress to take broader action on education as lawmakers debate loan interest rates
The US Senate is considering a new proposal to address the crisis of student debt, which is expected to get worse after interest rates on federal loans doubled to 6.8 percent at the beginning of July. After a bill to keep the rate at 3.4 percent for one more year failed on Wednesday, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are introducing legislation that would lower rates for now, but allow them to increase exponentially over time. Progressive politicians and student groups are blasting the proposal. They’re calling on Congress to take sweeping action to make education affordable for everyone. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports.
Washington DC council passes bills to increase minimum wage at large retailers, allow drivers’ licenses for undocumented residents
Washington DC will require large retailers to pay workers 50 percent more than the minimum wage after council members voted 8 to 5 Wednesday to approve a higher wage bill despite Walmart threatening to withdraw plans to build new stores in the city if it passed. The bill, which still needs to be signed by Mayor Vincent Gray, would require stores that have corporate sales of $1 billion or more and take up at least 75,000 square feet to pay workers at least $12.50 per hour. Washington DC’s minimum wage is $8.25. Yesterday, the City Council also passed a bill that would allow the District’s estimated 25,000 undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses identical to those carried by everyone else. Though a growing number of states offer a separate license for undocumented residents, Washington, DC became one of a few that wants to give the same license to all residents. FSRN’s Ben King has more.
300,000 driven from homes in Darfur as crisis of displacement deepens
An estimated 300,000 people in Darfur, Sudan have been driven from their homes in the first six months of this year, according to the UN. That adds to the country’s crisis of more than two million internally displaced people. Many face dire conditions in refugee camps, including lack of adequate shelter and food, and continued violence through rapes, attacks and even killings. For more UN Radio’s Patrick Maigua spoke to UN Humanitarian Affairs representative Mark Cutts, who began by addressing the origins of the conflict.
Week six of Bradley Manning trial: witness describes public interest in leaks, more details emerge on Guantanamo prisoner assessments
This week the defense for Army Private Bradley Manning rested its case at the military court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning’s legal team brought an expert to the stand that refuted the government’s claim that Manning intentionally aided the enemy, one of the most serious charges he faces. More details also came out about leaked prisoner assessments at Guantanamo. For a the latest, we’re joined by journalist Kevin Gosztola, who has been covering the trial for Firedoglake.com.
In Wisconsin, small groups can once again protest at Capitol without permit, though restrictions remain
In Wisconsin, groups of up to 20 people will once again be allowed to peacefully assemble at the State Capitol without a permit, following a decision by a federal judge this week. For over a year, groups as small has four were required to get a permit 72 hours in advance. Even a single person needs a permit for holding an event. While free speech advocates welcomed the court order, many say the administration of Governor Scott Walker is still restricting their constitutional rights. From Madison, FSRN’s Dylan Brogan reports.