Newscast for Tuesday, July 9, 2013

  • Latin American countries push for declaration at OAS after Bolivian President Morales’ plane is diverted
  • Obama’s nominee to head FBI, James Comey, questioned by Senators on torture and surveillance
  • Judge denies Guantanamo prisoner’s request to halt force-feeding, saying Obama has power to act
  • California lawmakers advance bill to ensure transgender students’ rights in public schools

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Zimbabwe to end voter registration despite calls fro deadline extension

Zimabawe is set to hold presidential elections at the end of the month, and today is the last chance to register to vote.  But thousands are still waiting in line to enroll and political parties are calling for election officials to extend the deadline. Garikai Chaunza reports.

According to Morgan Komichi, deputy chairperson of Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party, they asked the Zimbabwe Election Commission  today give people more time to register for the July 31, vote.

“If you go now being the last day of the voter registration the queues are endless and the rate at which the lines are moving is very slow and it is discouraging.”

He says the registration bottleneck is a ploy by incumbent President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU (PF) party to rig the vote by frustrating the electorate. There are far fewer mobile voter registration points in predominately MDC areas than in regions where Mugabe has historically had more supporters. Zimbabwe Election Commission Chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau has ordered all mobile registration points finishing registering all those currently in line – and then close, insisting that today is the last day to sign up to vote. Presidential contender and current Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced yesterday that he’s formed a new coalition with the MKD and ZANU-Ndonga parties, creating what he hopes is an edge over Mugabe’s ZANU (PF) party. Garikai Chaunza, FSRN, Harare.

Egypt’s interim leaders sets timeline for elections; Muslim Brotherhood rejects plan

Egypt’s military-backed interim government issued a decree today setting a six-month timeline for constitutional change and elections.  But the Muslim Brotherhood rejected the plan, saying transitional leader Adli Mansour is “usurping the legislative process.” The Brotherhood also opposed the appointment of Hazem el-Beblawy as Prime Minster, saying he simply represents more of the Egyptian upper class. The political stand-off follows yesterday’s violence during which 51 protesters were killed as they rallied in support of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.  Authorities detained and questioned 650 people  in connection with the violence.  Officials say the demonstrators incited the violence, the Muslim Brotherhood says troops indiscriminately fired.

Beirut bombing in Hezbollah dominated area; dozens injured; sectarian tensions persist

A car bomb in Beirut’s Shia dominated southern suburbs wounded at least 50 people today. The neighborhood is a Hezbollah stronghold, and while no one has yet taken responsibility for the bombing, it comes as sectarian tensions are on the rise and Lebanese Shia and Sunni fighters continue to pour across the border into Syria. Jackson Allers has more from Beirut.

While no deaths are yet reported, military experts on the scene  say that 40 kilograms of explosives were planted in a stolen SUV causing massive material damage. Hezbollah holds total political sway over the majority Shia neighborhood of Beirut where the bomb was detonated. Hezbollah government representatives blamed the bombing on the party’s publicly stated military support of the Syrian government in its offensive against forces fighting to oust President Bashar al Assad. Tuesday marked the third attack this year in the Hezbollah controlled southern suburbs. The bombing follows consistent threats from anti-Assad forces in Lebanon and Syria who have said they would attack Hezbollah in Beirut until they retreat from Syria. Political parties across the Lebanese sectarian divide condemned the attack. Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s security teams joined Lebanese security officials in cordoning off the area for further investigation, barring journalists from approaching the blast site. Jackson Allers, FSRN, Beirut, Lebanon.

North Carolina lawmakers debate additional restrictions on abortion clinics

The North Carolina House of Representatives held a public hearing today on  efforts to add new  licensing requirements for reproductive health facilities that offer pregnancy terminations. Opponents say the costs of complying could cause all but one of the state’s such facilities to close.  The hearing followed an outcry last week  after state lawmakers added anti-abortion amendments to a totally unrelated bill in the Senate – one that would ban Sharia law in the state. The measure passed without any public input at all. Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina’s Paige Johnson urged lawmakers to block the measure.

“We can not understand how lawmakers could pass sweeping legislation like 695 without allowing  a single women’s health expert to weigh in publicly when the bill was still eligible to be amended.”

Texas lawmakers continue special session on law regulating abortion

Lawmakers in Texas continued their special session on a proposed anti-abortion law today, with House debate nearly identical to that in North Carolina. Texas’ SB 2 would outlaw abortion after 20 rather than the now-legal 24 weeks, and would require women’s health clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. Women’s health rights advocates predict that 37 of the states 52 existing clinics would be forced to close.

Wisconsin judge issues temporary stay on additional requirements for abortion practitioners

And in Wisconsin yesterday a US District judge temporarily  blocked the implementation of a law that mandates doctors performing abortions have hospital admitting privileges. In his ruling, Judge William Conley found that the state failed to prove the new requirement provides any  benefit to women’s health. He did let stand a provision that require an ultrasound before termination procedures. Conley will take the matter up again at a hearing next week.



Latin American countries push for declaration at OAS after Bolivian President Morales’ plane is diverted

The US government’s vast spying program stretches to numerous Latin American countries, according to new reporting from Glenn Greenwald and two other journalists based on documents leaked by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden. In addition to revelations over the weekend about US surveillance of Brazilians, the National Security Agency, or NSA, spied on email, telephone and satellite communications in Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Honduras, Ecuador, Argentina and other countries through the “Prism” and “Boundless Informant” programs. Published in the Brazilian news outlet Jornal O Globo, the report says military and energy programs were targeted. An operation called “Silverzephyr” indicated the US government was partnering with a private corporation to secure access to some communications. Brazil’s national government held an emergency meeting today to discuss the spying and President Dilma Rousseff wants to bring the issue to the UN Human Rights Commission. The U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, Thomas Shannon, denied that spying, data collection and collaboration with private companies was taking place in that country. As the extent of US spying emerges, asylum has been offered to Snowden by Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. Latin American leaders have expressed outrage after several European countries refused to let a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales through their airspace last week forcing an emergency landing in Vienna. They characterize the move as a kidnapping, and a crime that violated international law. The Organization of American States focused on this today, at a special meeting dedicated to this issue. Carlos Romero is Bolivia’s Government Minister.

“We have requested this special session of the permanent council of the OAS for this council to reach a decision. First of all, condemning the event which has not precedent. Which has not been seen since 1945… and subsequently the cold war in our country. Such an event had not occurred to date. Certainly not within the context of the international community. So we believe it is of utmost urgency to make a declaration to the effect that this precedent not be repeated in the future.”

Romero says they are also requesting a “coherent, consistent, well-founded explanation” and appropriate apologies for the “act of aggression” against President Morales. Ecuador’s Ambassador, María Isabel Salvador addressed the right of asylum as well as the sovereignty of Latin American countries.

“It is illogical and, in fact, inconceivable that states that claim to be the leaders of international rights and equalities, are the very ones that violate the principles and norms that they uphold and claim to defend. Now what has transpired also shows that the “international border” is unfair and it is immoral. Might is right and it prevails over international reason and agreements. It is rather international disorder, it is a lack of harmony because it seems that those that flaunt the rules [unintel] that guarantee peaceful existence among ourselves, are the ones that act with snobbery or not, but without any doubt, clearly against the principles of international law, which while these excuses and explanations is what we must ask from the states that have acted against us.”

Both Spain and Italy opposed Bolivia’s request for a statement from the OAS, saying they followed international protocol in responding to the flight requests from President Morales’ plane.

Obama’s nominee to head FBI, James Comey, questioned by Senators on torture and surveillance

In Washington today, Senators held a confirmation hearing for former Bush Administration attorney James Comey, who was nominated by President Obama to lead the FBI for the next 10 years. Some lawmakers questioned Comey about his role in signing off on waterboarding and other torture methods while working for the Justice Department, and about his past several years working on Wall Street for companies that violated the law. He also faced questions about surveillance, both the wiretapping and web monitoring practices he dealt with under President Bush. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports.

Judge denies Guantanamo prisoner’s request to halt force-feeding, saying Obama has power to act

As the hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay military prison enters its fifth month, more than 100 prisoners continue to refuse solid food in protest. US officials say they continue to force-feed 45 men, a practice that requires a plastic tube to be forced up a prisoner’s nostrils and down their throat twice a day. Prisoners describe it as extremely painful. On Monday, a federal judge dismissed a court challenge from a Guantanamo prisoner to halt the force-feeding, though she criticized the practice itself. Judge Gladys Kessler called the practice “painful, humiliating and degrading” and said that the power to halt it rests with US President Barack Obama. For more, we’re joined by Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney, Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

California lawmakers advance bill to ensure transgender students’ rights in public schools

California’s Transgender students got one step closer to more equality in school activities, after the School Success and Opportunity Act passed the state legislature last week. The bill requires public schools to provide the opportunity for transgender students to participate in all activities, including sports, according to their gender identity.  California schools are prohibited by law from discriminating against any student because of gender. While half of the state’s students are in schools that do provide full opportunity, there are still many school districts are not in compliance. FSRN’s Vic Bedoian reports from Fresno.

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