Newscast for Friday, August 16, 2013

  • Dozens killed in street clashes as Egyptians face rising uncertainty
  • Leaked NSA audit shows agency broke privacy rules in surveillance of US citizens
  • Public outrage grows in Ecuador after President Correa announces plan to drill oil in Yasuni rainforest
  • Mumia Abu-Jamal on the anniversary of the Zapatista movement in Chiapas: a legacy of education, freedom and struggle

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ACLU sues Department of Veterans Affairs for misusing land that should house disabled vets

A federal judge in California  heard arguments today in a class-action lawsuit  brought by the ACLU of Southern California against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The suit contends the VA is misusing land on its campus in West Los Angeles by leasing it to private interests instead of housing homeless disabled veterans.  Larry Buhl has more.

The West LA Veterans Affairs campus sits on one quarter of a 400 acre property donated 125 years ago. The original deed called for the land to be used exclusively for housing severely disabled vets. Until the Vietnam War the campus housed up to 4,000 veterans. Since then, the VA has been making money by leasing the land to businesses  including a private school, a theater, a laundry and a dog park. According to Mark Rosenbaum, Chief Counsel with the ACLU of Southern California, that land should be used for housing the estimated 6,000 homeless vets now living on the streets of Los Angeles.

“It’s been estimated by government personnel that if ten cents of every thousand dollars that went to bail out wall street was put instead to deal with the homelessness issue for veterans, the problem would disappear.”

The lawsuit demands that the VA discontinue its private leases and honor the 1888 agreement. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Larry Buhl.

West Papuans rally for self determination amid heavy Indonesian police and military presence

At least three people arrested ahead of protests this week in West Papau remained in detention today. Demonstrations were held across the island nation yesterday despite a police ban.  Protesters called for self determination on the 51st anniversary of the disputed New York Agreement, under which  the former colony of Dutch New Guinea was given over to Indonesian.  In Fak Fak, at least eight people involved in organizing the rallies were arrested in advance of the event, a move activists say was intended to stop the actions. But marchers were undeterred, and the rallies and street parades were carried out amid heavy Indonesian police and military presence.

Cross-border shelling continues along the line of control in Kashmir

Tension has flared on the line of control in Kashmir, the de facto border dividing the region between India and Pakistan. In the past two weeks there have been  frequent ceasefire violations, leading to casualties on both sides. Shahnawaz Khan reports.

Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid today ruled out the resumption of talks with Pakistan, in the wake of border tensions. Both sides have resorted to heavy firing using mortars and machine guns over the last few days. On Thursday, Pakistan said Indian troops injured at least six civilians in cross-border gunfire. India said that three of its soldiers and a civilian were injured on its side. Tensions soared last week, after India accused Pakistani troops of killing five Indian soldiers. Pakistan denied the allegation. Earlier Pakistani newspapers reported four civilian hunters had been abducted by the  Indian army. The news coincided with Indian army claims that its troops  some militant infiltrators. The flare up threatens the 2003 border ceasefire agreement between the two countries, which has largely held despite tumultuous diplomatic relations. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since gaining their independence from colonial Britain in 1947. Shahnawaz Khan, FSRN, Srinagar.

UN says internally displaced Somali women at high risk for sexual violence

The United Nations says that about 800 cases of sexual and gender-based violence were reported in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, during the first six months of the year. Patrick Maigua reports from the United Nations.

Women and girls who are internally displaced continue to be the most affected. OCHA says rape is often perpetrated by unknown armed men and men wearing military uniform. Other forms of gender-based violence that women in Somalia encounter include domestic violence, harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage. Marixie Mercado from the United Nations Children Fund says about one-third of victims of sexual violence in Somalia are children.

“Girls and women are at extremely high risk of being attacked while they are collecting firewood. So through funding from the Japanese government, we have provided thousands of displaced women and girls with fuel efficient stoves as part of the assistance that is provided.”

In 2012 there were at least 1,700 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in Somalia, according to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual violence in Conflict. Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Dream Defenders end sit-in in Florida Governor’s office; shift focus to voter registration

After a month-long sit-in at the Florida Governor’s office in Tallahassee, the Dream Defenders have left the building. The student activists began their protest just days after George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of an unarmed black youth, Trayvon Martin. The Dream Defenders were unable to convince  either Florida Governor Rick Scott or lawmakers to call a special session on the controversial Stand Your Ground law. They did garner a pledge from House Speaker Will Weatherford to hold a hearing on the law in the next session. The group says they’ll focus now on voter registration and be back at the Florida Capitol for the fall hearing.



Dozens killed in street clashes as Egyptians face rising uncertainty

Egyptian security forces once again fired on pro-Morsi demonstrators in Egypt today. As we go to air, Egyptian officials have told the AP that at least 60 have been killed across the country, including dozens in Ramses square, where a nearby mosque has been turned into a makeshift morgue.  Several deaths were also reported in the Suez Canal town of Ismailiya and clashes took place in Alexandria. The Muslim Brotherhood called on supporters to hit the streets following Friday prayers, resulting in massive nationwide protests. While the death toll from today’s violence is unclear, the Health Ministry yesterday confirmed 638 deaths since Wednesday. The Muslim Brotherhood has called on supporters to take to the streets in daily actions until the interim government resigns. With tension building ahead of the weekend, many Egyptians wonder if an elections roadmap will emerge or if the situation will deteriorate. FSRN’s Sean David Hobbs reports from Cairo.

Leaked NSA audit shows agency broke privacy rules in surveillance of US citizens

The National Security Agency has been breaking its own privacy rules thousands of times per year, and most violations include the unauthorized surveillance of US citizens. That’s according to an internal audit leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and published in the Washington Post. Both the President and intelligence officials have recently announced reforms to the information collecting programs, but legal experts and privacy advocates say they don’t address the root causes of the abuses. In Washington, DC, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Public outrage grows in Ecuador after President Correa announces plan to drill oil in Yasuni rainforest

Protests continued in front of the presidential palace in Ecuador today after the government turned away from plans to protect a vast stretch of the Amazon from oil drilling, abandoning a UN-backed initiative which sought international funding and support to protect the Yasuni rainforest preserve, a site rich in biodiversity and home to indigenous communities. On Thursday, President Rafael Correa proposed oil exploration in part of the Yasuni National Park citing the need for economic development and the failure of international investors to provide the $3.6 billion to maintain a moratorium on drilling. Half of Ecuador’s current oil production goes to the US. For more we go to Ecuador’s capital, Quito, to speak with Kevin Koenig. He’s the Ecuador program coordinator for Amazon Watch.

Mumia Abu-Jamal on the anniversary of the Zapatista movement in Chiapas: a legacy of education, freedom and struggle

Mexican and international supporters of the Mayan-led Zapatista movement are returning from the indigenous villages where they spent the past week participating in an initiative known as the Escuelita, or “Little School.” The purpose of the school was to share insights and methods about the Zapatista’s autonomous government. The Zapatistas sent special invitations to a short list of distinguished guests, among them imprisoned journalist and FSRN commentator, Mumia Abu-Jamal. With assistance from Prison Radio, FSRN spoke to Abu-Jamal this week about the escuelita and the anniversary of the Zapatista’s so-called Good Government Councils.

“Far too often, Norteamericanos, even so-called leftists, adopt a superior, in fact, an imperial attitude, as if we should teach others how to struggle or resist. Instead, experience is the best teacher and in the last decade at least, we’ve seen autonomy sprout into communities rich with equality and the dignity of self-governance, in a word: freedom in Chiapas. And Chiapas is the belly-button of empire in Mexico.”

Zapatista good government councils also administer their own system of basic services, including schools and clinics. While the “Little School” for teaching outsiders about their governance system began this week, the Mayan rebels have been running their own education system independent of government funding for years.

“Education in the empire teaches hegemony, false history, racism and that imperialism is a good thing. The Zapatista communities are relearning the knowledge of the first peoples, so-called indigenous people, and teaching a powerful and subversive way of living in the world, of community, of commonality, of balance with all living things, of respect for Mother Nature. Of course, we get the exact opposite in the Empire. We get isolation, materialism and really war against Mother Nature and the whole world. That’s worthy of learning, that’s worthy of teaching. In the words of that great historian, C.L.R. James, every cook can govern, all of us can learn.”

January first will mark the 20-year-anniversary of the uprising in Chiapas. Abu-Jamal noted that it coincides with the passage of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the rebels called a “death sentence” for Mexico’s indigenous peoples.

“Both Mexico and the US unleashed the dogs of war, Mexican oligarchs in Chiapas, the US in the Middle East. The imperial forces cannot tolerate any spark of resistance to their ownership of the entire world. The Zapatistas are a thorn in their side and they are growing.”

That’s Mumia Abu-Jamal, speaking from SEI Mahanoy Prison in Frackville, Pennsylvania on the anniversary of the inauguration of the Zapatista civilian governance system known as the Good Government Councils. This audio was recorded by Prison Radio’s Noelle Hanrahan.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is the subject of a new feature-length documentary “Long Distance Revolutionary,” opening theatrically in San Francisco on August 23rd.

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