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Joko Widodo confirmed president-elect of Indonesia

For the first time in Indonesia’s democratic history the country has a President who is not from the military or political elite. According to official results released today, Joko Widodo won 53 percent of the vote, with 8 million more votes than his opponent, Prabowo Subianto. Rebecca Henschke in Jakarta reports many see this is as a turning point for the country.

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In Indonesia’s 16 years of democracy, the faces on the ballot have been dominated by military and political elites.

Forty-year-old musician Marzuki Mohammad voted for the first time in this election. In the past he, like many of his generation, didn’t feel as if there was anyone to vote for. But in Joko Widodo he saw someone he could believe in. Markuzi wrote a rap about the candidate that became an theme song for Jokowi supporters.

“This election was crucial, it was historic,” Markuzi told FSRN. “I, like most people, feel exhausted and sick of our democracy being dominated by the elite. This is our chance to fight against the corrupt elite and return democracy to the people.”

Markuzi says he was also deeply worried about a victory for the rival candidate Prabowo Subianto, a former general who commanded the army specials forces under Suharto’s dictatorship. Prabowo was fired from the military for kidnapping student activists in the 1990s during the final days Suharto’s rule.

“There are lots of issues involving kidnappings and human rights abuses,” said musician Marzuki, in reference to the years of authoritarian rule. “I didn’t want this nation to be built on lies, we have to become more transparent, we need to heal our wounds. We can forgive but we can’t forget those things.”

Prabowo Subianto’s campaign was funded by two of Indonesia’s wealthiest men; Prabowo’s brother and Golkar party chairman Abu Rizal Bakrie. In contrast, Jokowi’s campaign was largely funded by a large number of individual donors – a first for an Indonesian presidential election.

Historian and respected author Goenawan Mohammad says he has never seen people so intensely involved in politics: “This is one of the most beautiful moments in Indonesian history. The volunteers are the real heroes not the politicians. The people who put their money and their time into this idea of voting for Jokowi,  which is not a very clear idea but the sentiment is there. How people sacrificed themselves for a common cause, which is unusual after so many years of cynicism. If I die tomorrow I am happy. I am happy to see this.”

Jokowi is playing down his election victory. On board a traditional boat in Jakarta’s historic harbor he called for nation unity, saying the priority now is to “repair the damaged relationships within families, between friends and heal divisions that have been created in the work place.”

The election has been the most divisive in Indonesia’s democratic history. Prabowo ran an effective and slick campaign and Jokowi has won by only a margin of 7 percent.

Shortly before the official results were announced Prabowo Subianto said he was withdrawing from the count calling the process flawed. “There was massive, structural and systematic cheating during the 2014 election,” he told a crowd of supporters. “We will exercise our constitutional right to reject the presidential election and declare it unconstitutional.”

Listening in the front row is Ibu Warni and her husband. They are dressed in the national colours of red and white and their five-year-old son is wearing full military uniform and Prabowo pins. “We will protest this result. We can still take this to the constitutional court, there are many suspicious things. It is not possible that Jokowi could have won without some vote rigging.” She adds that her family will not accept Jokowi as their president because he is “not fit to be President, just look at this face, he looks like an ordinary person off the street. He hasn’t serve or fought for his nation. He was just brought from the village to the city. The only person who is ready to sacrificed himself for the good of the nation is Pak Prabowo.”

Under Indonesia’s election laws, Prabowo now has the right to lodge a legal challenge in the Constitutional Court. While there have been some documented cases of irregularities, most international observers have declared the election free and fair.

For the first time, the election commission made all the vote tally forms from the thousands of polling stations publicly available on their official website. A crowd-sourced oversight project, kawan.pemuli, attracted some 700 volunteers. They have been downloading the forms and doing their own court. Wandy Tuturoong, who works as a consultant in Jakarta’s finance district, has been monitoring the voting during his free time: “Now everyone can participate. Everyone can see. There is no black box anymore. It is transparent. I think transparency is very important in government. All the data is there, it verifiable. If someone is trying to cheat or change the results at the provincial or national level, they can’t do that because every eye is on them.”

All eyes are now on Joko Widowo. A man who was raised in a bamboo shack in a riverbank slum is now president-elect of one of the world’s largest democracies. He now has the unenviable task of first uniting the nation of 250 million people before tackling issues such as rampant corruption, high unemployment and Indonesia’s crumbling infrastructure.


Photo: Joko Widodo speaks to the press in 2013. Credit: Flickr user Edumariz. Used under Creative Commons license.

New Post has been published on FSRN

New Post has been published on http://fsrn.org/2014/07/israel-continues-assault-on-gaza-civilians-still-bearing-brunt-of-attacks/

Israel continues assault on Gaza; civilians still bearing brunt of attacks

Over the weekend, the Israeli military action in Gaza continued with ground troops and tank attacks backed by aerial support. Most of the attacks were levied on one neighborhood where almost 75 people died, 60 of them Palestinian – and most of those civilians. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon reacted to what many are now calling the Shejaiya massacre:

“I condemn this atrocious action. Israel must exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians.”

U.S. President Barack Obama also responded.

“As I’ve said many times, Israel has the right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas, and as a result of its operations Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.


“I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concern about the rising number of Pal civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. That is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease fire that end the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians; both in Gaza and in Israel.”

Obama went on to call for an “immediate cessation of hostilities.” Since Operation Protective Edge began two weeks ago, Israel has killed more than 550 Palestinians, largely civilians; 27 Israelis have died, all but two of them soldiers who died since the ground invasion began last week.

Food stores are running low in the occupied territory where imports are controlled by Israel. Tens of thousands of people are seeking refuge, though they can’t go far. And as Rami Almeghari reports, its not clear if its safer to go out, or to stay indoors.


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In a Palestinian refugee near the western Gaza seport, officials returned the dead body of Mohammad Bakr’S 11-year-old son, Ismail. Along with three of his cousins, the boy was killed on the beach by a missile fired from an Israeli drone.

“My son, Ismail used to sell out some tea and coffee, right there at the sea port, along with Ibrahim and Mansour, and he used to earn less less than 10 dollars a day,” recalls the grieving father. “The next think I know, his body is returned to me, dismembered into two parts. May God take revenge on Israel. Is this Israel’s bank of targets, some children playing on the beach? May God take revenge on Israel.”

The seaside killing of the four boys drew international condemnation, yet more atrocity followed. Over the weekend, more than 70 civilians were killed and and another 200 injured when heavy Israeli army fire targeted the Shija’ya neighborhood. Thirteen Israeli soldiers died in the offensive.”

Widespread displacement of Palestinian families from the northern and eastern Gaza Strip continues. Residents of both the Maghazi and Alburaij refugee camps in central Gaza received recorded phone messages ordering them to leave their homes immediately, or face the same destiny as did the families of Shija’ya.

The UN humanitarian agency in the region, UNRWA, is opening more of its schools to shelter those fleeing the conflict along border areas.

FSRN visited two of these schools in Gaza City and the Maghazi refugee camp. Five families have been here at Aljadeeda in Gaza city’s Alnasr Street, for the past week.

Koukaba Mohammad Alattar or Um Alabed is the head of one of the families. Last Friday, an Israeli air strike hit their house in the Attatra neighborhood of northern Gaza, destroying it completely.

“Our situation here is very difficult. It is true that this place has protected us from fear and panic,” she says. “But if I were near my home, even with little food handy, I would feel much more comfortable than here. The restroom facilities here are disgusting.”

According to UNRWA officials, there are now dozens of shelters in Gaza city, but the number of people seeking refuge is expected to increase as the Israeli army advances into more Gaza regions. UNRWA says it can’t accommodate more than 50 thousand people.

“Because of electricity shortages, each day 90 million liters of untreated sewage water gets dumped in the sea or underground, becasue we can’t operate the treatment plant.”

On Monday, an Israeli air strike hit the local al Aqsa hospital; four people died, dozens of others were injured, and the hospital building was damaged.

So far, mediation efforts by Egypt, Turkey and other international players have failed to curb the rocket fire and disproportionate military escalation on the ground. US President Barack Obama has deployed Secretary of State John Kerry to the region to assist with mediation efforts.

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New Post has been published on http://fsrn.org/2014/07/cameroon-attempts-to-revive-its-once-thriving-coffee-sector/

Cameroon attempts to revive its once-thriving coffee sector

The government of Cameroon has launched a wide-ranging program to rehabilitate old coffee plantations and open up new ones in an attempt to revive its once-flourishing coffee sector. The central African nation used to be one of the world’s largest coffee exporters, but structural adjustment programs implemented in the wake of a financial crisis more than 20 years ago forced the government to end price guarantees and trade protections for coffee producers. FSRN’s Ngala Killian Chimtom traveled to Cameroon’s coffee producing region and files this report.

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It is 5:30 PM in Nguelemendouka,a rural community in Cameroon’s Eastern Region. 55-year old Ebane Sol Blaise Lebon is still working on his seven and a half acre coffee plantation. It is a tedious exercise that involves manual weeding and pest control. He works daily, from dawn to dusk, in the hope of reviving the yield.

Twenty years ago, Ebane could harvest up to a hundred bags – or 13 thousand pounds – of coffee from the land. But not anymore. “These plantations don’t yield anything now because we don’t have fertilizers,” says Ebane. “We have been given herbicides, but we do not know how to use them, and they instead seem to harm the farms. Per-hectare productivity is falling. So I can cultivate three hectares of land and not harvest up to twenty bags of coffee in a year.”

The government suspended subsidies to the coffee sector more than two decades ago in the wake of an economic crisis. As a result, many farmers abandoned their coffee plantations, which suffered from neglect.

Omer Maledy Gaetan, Executive Secretary of Cameroon’s Coffee and Cocoa Inter-Professional Council, points out that Cameroon used to be one of the biggest coffee producers in the world. “In 1980, we were the 8th world coffee producer. In 1992, when we liberalized the sector, Cameroon was the 12th World coffee producer. Today, we are the 30th coffee producer.”

According to the Coffee and Cocoa Inter-Professional Council, Coffee production in the Central African country has plummeted by 56% over the past three years. Maledy says when the government eliminated subsidies and trade protections for the sector in the 1990s,the costs of inputs -like fertilizers– spiked. The increased costs of production, coupled with low market prices at the time discouraged farmers, many of whom turned to food crop cultivation instead.

Memories of better days are often part of discussions among villagers here. The absence of government subsidies and lack of regulations which fix minimum prices have allowed middlemen to take advantage of small-scale producers.

Coffee farmer Laurentine Mengue says she is often unable to cover the cost of production, much less profit from her labor. “Middlemen come here and with just twenty dollars, they get a bag of coffee, and we know they can resell it for at least 50 dollars,” she told FSRN. “I think the state needs to fix prices for coffee. We find it hard selling our product, especially with fluctuating prices.”

The government of Cameroon has launched an initiative to dramatically increase coffee production by 2020. To do this, the National Cocoa and Coffee Inter-Professional Council developed an emergency program to fast-track production.

Its Executive Secretary, Omer Gaetan Maledy says the program involves working with farmer cooperatives in the country’s main production basins. “We have a program in the CICC named New Generation,” he explains. “New Generation is a program for youths. In this program, we introduce 200 young people every year, and we give them support over three years. From next year, we will be having 600 young people every year. That gives me hope that we will re-launch this sector.”

The Cameroon Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Essimi Menye has said the government will once again subsidize the sector to help farmers get inputs like fertilizers and insecticides.

Even if Cameroon were to meet its production targets, better marketing strategies are necessary. Marti Foncha of the African Coffee Trading Group says only 5% of Cameroon’s coffee is processed locally. But his group has developed approaches that would allow domestic producers to charge a higher price for their coffee.

“The coffee that we pulp, we don’t wash,” says Foncha. “We take a lot of care to dry it very, very quickly, so it doesn’t get moldy. When that coffee is dry, we’ve developed a new market for roasting…We roast it completely in its parchment, we don’t shell it. We preserve the sugars and the flavours that comes from the sugary muselage, when somebody roasts it and grinds it and makes a cup of coffee, it becomes a very different drink; it doesn’t taste harsh like coffee, it’s like a nice herbal drink with a coffee background.”

Figures from the National Institute of Statistics indicate that over six million Cameroonians depend on coffee for their livelihood. And with prospects that the crop will continue to grow in importance globally, Maledy believes boosting production is critical to the revival of Cameroon’s economy.


Photo of coffee farm by Ngala Killian Chimtom.

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New Post has been published on http://fsrn.org/2014/07/israel-launches-ground-invasion-of-gaza-strip/

Israel launches ground invasion of Gaza Strip

[Note to stations: This post contains two separate audios.]

The death toll in Gaza is on the rise as Israeli tanks moved into to the territory Thursday. Medical sources say more than 260 Palestinians have been killed, and according to the United Nations the vast majority were civilians. One Israeli soldier died on the first day of the ground invasion, the second Israeli fatality within the context of Operation Protective Edge. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least another 20 people died before dawn Friday.

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The ground invasion has prompted thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in the northern Gaza Strip. On Friday, the United Nations Relief Works Agency – or UNRWA – estimated at least 40 thousand residents of northern and southern Gaza have sought shelter in other parts of the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness: We are basically doing emergency food, emergency water, providing hygiene because they are taking refuge mainly in UNRWA schools which are built for a thousand kids to come and get an education in, not for thousands of people to come to for days and days of permanent accommodations.

Shannon Young: What’s the biggest challenge the agency is currently facing on the ground in Gaza?

Chris Gunness: Security. Security, security, security. We are very concerned that as in Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009, UNRWA facilities may receive direct hits, as they did then, most worryingly glaringly in those days by white phosphorus. And we hope that that sort of incident will not occur again; when the Israeli Army hits us with white phosphorus, but we only have to pray that all parties and we appeal to all warring parties to respect civilian life and the sanctity of UN property and of course, humanitarian workers.

Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital for paralyzed and disabled patients was severely damaged  by Israeli shelling Thursday. The El-Wafa hospital had sustained other attacks in the past week, including a missile strike Wednesday which hit a wing for elderly residents. The Israeli military claimed rockets had been fired from the area.

Joe Catron is an International Solidarity Movement activist who volunteered at the El-Wafa hospital. He says he neither saw nor heard evidence of what he could identify as rocket fire from the vicinity of the hospital.

Joe Catron: There were any number of military sounds in the area. We mostly stayed inside the building for reasons of safety. But the loudest by far were those coming from the Israeli side – tank shelling, air strikes and the constant drones overhead … certainly that was the military activity that was closest to the hospital. I never heard anything closer about which there could possible have been any doubt.

Sanitation services in the region have also been hard hit. Only about half of the region’s sewage treatment facilities are operational and UN health officials are concerned about an outbreak of waterborne disease.


The Gaza Strip lacks underground bomb shelters. With no designated safe place to wait out the airstrikes, many residents of the Gaza Strip have been staying indoors out of fear. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more from Gaza.


Download Rami Almeghari’s report

In the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, the Altall’a family just finished their breakfast or Iftar meal, following a prolonged fasting day during Ramadan. Like thousands of families here, the Altall’a household has been living under a cloud of stress in the past days due to the continuous Israeli army shelling in the area.

Abu Yazeed Altall’a is the head of the eight-member family. “We are not just numbers, and it appears we have turned into merely numbers in the eyes of the world,” he said. “How can these countries remain patient towards the wholesale killing of us? Where is their humanity?”

The Altall’a family lives in a modest home in an alleyway of the Maghazi refugee camp. Abu Yazeed Altalla’s wife, Um Yazeed fears for the well-being of their six children. “Sometimes, my son wants to go to grocery store to buy a yogurt or something. I then start to worry that he may not return back home safe,” she told FSRN. “A while ago, my son and daughter were too scared to go outside to fill up the gas canister. I know this fear will impact them in the future.”

The ongoing Israeli military offensive in Gaza has left the population of the coastal territory coping with regular power outages. Health officials say hospitals are short of essential medical supplies and fuel needed to keep back-up generators running.

Power outages in Gaza now last up to ten hours a day due to massive damage to electrical infrastructure. On Thursday, the Israeli cabinet announced the military campaign will continue for more than a week, now with a ground invasion.

Only a tiny minority of Gaza residents with foreign passports have been able to flee the enclave. Most of the civilian population – including the eight-member Altall’a family – have nowhere to run… and nothing to do but hope for the best.


Photo: IDF soldiers prepare to enter Gaza, July 17, 2014. Credit: IDFonline via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

New Post has been published on FSRN

New Post has been published on http://fsrn.org/2014/07/fsrn-weekly-edition-july-18-2014/

FSRN Weekly Edition - July 18, 2014

  • Israel launched ground invasion of Gaza Strip
  • U.S. teen beaten in Jerusalem returns to Tampa
  •  FCC receives more than a million public comments on net neutrality
  • Anti-fracking activists rally with opponents of LNG export facility
  •  Mentoring program cuts recidivism rates in Kansas prisons by half
  •  Cameroon tries to revive its once-thriving coffee sector

 

Download

Israel launches ground invasion of Gaza Strip

The death toll in Gaza is on the rise as Israeli tanks moved into to the territory Thursday. Medical sources say more than 260 Palestinians have been killed, and according to the United Nations the vast majority were civilians. One Israeli soldier died on the first day of the ground invasion, the second Israeli fatality within the context of Operation Protective Edge. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least another 20 people died before dawn Friday.

The ground invasion has prompted thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in the northern Gaza Strip. On Friday, the United Nations Relief Works Agency – or UNRWA – estimated at least 40 thousand residents of northern and southern Gaza have sought shelter in other parts of the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness: We are basically doing emergency food, emergency water, providing hygiene because they are taking refuge mainly in UNRWA schools which are built for a thousand kids to come and get an education in, not for thousands of people to come to for days and days of permanent accommodations.

Shannon Young: What’s the biggest challenge the agency is currently facing on the ground in Gaza?

Chris Gunness: Security. Security, security, security. We are very concerned that as in Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009, UNRWA facilities may receive direct hits, as they did then, most worryingly glaringly in those days by white phosphorus. And we hope that that sort of incident will not occur again; when the Israeli Army hits us with white phosphorus, but we only have to pray that all parties and we appeal to all warring parties to respect civilian life and the sanctity of UN property and of course, humanitarian workers.

Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital for paralyzed and disabled patients was severely damaged  by Israeli shelling Thursday. The El-Wafa hospital had sustained other attacks in the past week, including a missile strike Wednesday which hit a wing for elderly residents. The Israeli military claimed rockets had been fired from the area.

Joe Catron is an International Solidarity Movement activist who volunteered at the El-Wafa hospital. He says he neither saw nor heard evidence of what he could identify as rocket fire from the vicinity of the hospital.

Joe Catron: There were any number of military sounds in the area. We mostly stayed inside the building for reasons of safety. But the loudest by far were those coming from the Israeli side – tank shelling, air strikes and the constant drones overhead … certainly that was the military activity that was closest to the hospital. I never heard anything closer about which there could possible have been any doubt.
The Gaza Strip lacks underground bomb shelters. With no designated safe place to wait out the airstrikes, many residents of the Gaza Strip have been staying indoors out of fear. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more from Gaza.

 U.S. teen beaten in Jerusalem returns to Tampa

An American teenager of Palestinian descent who was beaten unconscious by Israeli police two weeks ago has returned to his home in Florida. Tariq Khdeir was welcomed by dozens of friends, family and supporters late Wednesday night at Tampa International Airport. FSRN’s Seán Kinane reports.

 FCC receives more than a million public comments on net neutrality

The deadline for public comment on proposed new federal rules for the internet is fast approaching. So far, the Federal Communications Commission has  received more than one million comments about the potential changes to the net neutrality principle. The term “net neutrality” refers to the concept that online data and websites should receive equal treatment from Internet Service Providers. Some telecom companies support the creation of a two-tiered system with a premium fast lane.

For more on the proposed rules and the public response, FSRN’s Shannon Young spoke with Michael Weinberg, Vice President of Public Knowledge; a DC based organization focusing on internet, consumer rights and copyright issues.

Anti-fracking activists rally with opponents of LNG export facility

On Monday, police arrested 24 protesters for blocking the entrances of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The demonstrators were cited, fined and released. They were protesting what they called FERC’s rubber stamp approval process for an export facility for liquified natural gas, or LNG, in a heavily populated area of southern Maryland called Cove Point. It’s one of 14 such proposed facilities around the country.

The Monday action came after about 2,000 people marched from the national mall to the FERC on Sunday. Much of the natural gas slated for export through Cove Point and similar facilities would be extracted through the process of fracking. That’s leading anti-fracking groups to form an alliance with opponent of LNG export terminals. Melinda Tuhus sent this report from Washington D.C.

 Mentoring program cuts recidivism rates in Kansas prisons by half

Recidivism rates in Kansas have dropped dramatically since the state’s Department of Corrections introduced a mentoring program which pairs inmates slated for release with community role models. Other states have started to take notice and are turning to Kansas for advice about how to implement similar measures. FSRN’s Joe Cadotte has more from Wichita.

Cameroon tries to revive its once-thriving coffee sector

The government of Cameroon has launched a wide-ranging program to rehabilitate old coffee plantations and open up new ones in an attempt to revive its once-flourishing coffee sector. The central African nation used to be one of the world’s largest coffee exporters, but structural adjustment programs implemented in the wake of a financial crisis more than 20 years ago forced the government to end price guarantees and trade protections for coffee producers. FSRN’s Ngala Killian Chimtom traveled to Cameroon’s coffee producing region and files this report.


Photo credit: Flickr user Santibon. Music: Hepepe via Jamendo. Music and photo licensed under Creative Commons.

New Post has been published on FSRN

New Post has been published on http://fsrn.org/2014/07/fsrn-weekly-edition-july-18-2014/

FSRN Weekly Edition - July 18, 2014

  • Israel launched ground invasion of Gaza Strip
  • U.S. teen beaten in Jerusalem returns to Tampa
  •  FCC receives more than a million public comments on net neutrality
  • Anti-fracking activists rally with opponents of LNG export facility
  •  Mentoring program cuts recidivism rates in Kansas prisons by half
  •  Cameroon tries to revive its once-thriving coffee sector

 

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Israel launches ground invasion of Gaza Strip

The death toll in Gaza is on the rise as Israeli tanks moved into to the territory Thursday. Medical sources say more than 260 Palestinians have been killed, and according to the United Nations the vast majority were civilians. One Israeli soldier died on the first day of the ground invasion, the second Israeli fatality within the context of Operation Protective Edge. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least another 20 people died before dawn Friday.

The ground invasion has prompted thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in the northern Gaza Strip. On Friday, the United Nations Relief Works Agency – or UNRWA – estimated at least 40 thousand residents of northern and southern Gaza have sought shelter in other parts of the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness: We are basically doing emergency food, emergency water, providing hygiene because they are taking refuge mainly in UNRWA schools which are built for a thousand kids to come and get an education in, not for thousands of people to come to for days and days of permanent accommodations.

Shannon Young: What’s the biggest challenge the agency is currently facing on the ground in Gaza?

Chris Gunness: Security. Security, security, security. We are very concerned that as in Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009, UNRWA facilities may receive direct hits, as they did then, most worryingly glaringly in those days by white phosphorus. And we hope that that sort of incident will not occur again; when the Israeli Army hits us with white phosphorus, but we only have to pray that all parties and we appeal to all warring parties to respect civilian life and the sanctity of UN property and of course, humanitarian workers.

Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital for paralyzed and disabled patients was severely damaged  by Israeli shelling Thursday. The El-Wafa hospital had sustained other attacks in the past week, including a missile strike Wednesday which hit a wing for elderly residents. The Israeli military claimed rockets had been fired from the area.

Joe Catron is an International Solidarity Movement activist who volunteered at the El-Wafa hospital. He says he neither saw nor heard evidence of what he could identify as rocket fire from the vicinity of the hospital.

Joe Catron: There were any number of military sounds in the area. We mostly stayed inside the building for reasons of safety. But the loudest by far were those coming from the Israeli side – tank shelling, air strikes and the constant drones overhead … certainly that was the military activity that was closest to the hospital. I never heard anything closer about which there could possible have been any doubt.
The Gaza Strip lacks underground bomb shelters. With no designated safe place to wait out the airstrikes, many residents of the Gaza Strip have been staying indoors out of fear. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more from Gaza.

 U.S. teen beaten in Jerusalem returns to Tampa

An American teenager of Palestinian descent who was beaten unconscious by Israeli police two weeks ago has returned to his home in Florida. Tariq Khdeir was welcomed by dozens of friends, family and supporters late Wednesday night at Tampa International Airport. FSRN’s Seán Kinane reports.

 FCC receives more than a million public comments on net neutrality

The deadline for public comment on proposed new federal rules for the internet is fast approaching. So far, the Federal Communications Commission has  received more than one million comments about the potential changes to the net neutrality principle. The term “net neutrality” refers to the concept that online data and websites should receive equal treatment from Internet Service Providers. Some telecom companies support the creation of a two-tiered system with a premium fast lane.

For more on the proposed rules and the public response, FSRN’s Shannon Young spoke with Michael Weinberg, Vice President of Public Knowledge; a DC based organization focusing on internet, consumer rights and copyright issues.

Anti-fracking activists rally with opponents of LNG export facility

On Monday, police arrested 24 protesters for blocking the entrances of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The demonstrators were cited, fined and released. They were protesting what they called FERC’s rubber stamp approval process for an export facility for liquified natural gas, or LNG, in a heavily populated area of southern Maryland called Cove Point. It’s one of 14 such proposed facilities around the country.

The Monday action came after about 2,000 people marched from the national mall to the FERC on Sunday. Much of the natural gas slated for export through Cove Point and similar facilities would be extracted through the process of fracking. That’s leading anti-fracking groups to form an alliance with opponent of LNG export terminals. Melinda Tuhus sent this report from Washington D.C.

 Mentoring program cuts recidivism rates in Kansas prisons by half

Recidivism rates in Kansas have dropped dramatically since the state’s Department of Corrections introduced a mentoring program which pairs inmates slated for release with community role models. Other states have started to take notice and are turning to Kansas for advice about how to implement similar measures. FSRN’s Joe Cadotte has more from Wichita.

Cameroon tries to revive its once-thriving coffee sector

The government of Cameroon has launched a wide-ranging program to rehabilitate old coffee plantations and open up new ones in an attempt to revive its once-flourishing coffee sector. The central African nation used to be one of the world’s largest coffee exporters, but structural adjustment programs implemented in the wake of a financial crisis more than 20 years ago forced the government to end price guarantees and trade protections for coffee producers. FSRN’s Ngala Killian Chimtom traveled to Cameroon’s coffee producing region and files this report.


Photo credit: Flickr user Santibon. Music: Hepepe via Jamendo. Music and photo licensed under Creative Commons.

New Post has been published on FSRN

New Post has been published on http://fsrn.org/2014/07/u-s-teen-beaten-in-jerusalem-returns-to-tampa/

U.S. teen beaten in Jerusalem returns to Tampa

An American teenager of Palestinian descent who was beaten unconscious by Israeli police two weeks ago has returned home to Florida. Tariq Khdeir was welcomed by dozens of friends, family and supporters late Wednesday night at Tampa International Airport. FSRN’s Seán Kinane reports.

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Tariq Khdeir looked like any other teenager when he was greeted, hugged and kissed by family at the airport arrivals gate. But in photos and a video taken two weeks ago his face was badly bruised and swollen. He was beaten after a protest over the murder of his cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who had been abducted and burned alive by Israeli extremists.

Tariq Khdeir made a brief statement shortly after this arrival in Tampa: “I know he must have been terrified like I was. I was in a new place and suddenly attacked by masked police. It was by far the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. The physical pain in those first hours was really rough. And I’m only fifteen but I’ll never think about freedom in the same way as I did two [weeks] ago. I wanted to ask you all to please remember my cousin Mohammed and the thirty-six kids that died in Gaza over the past several days. They have names like mine. I hope the violence will stop for their sake. No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die that way.”

The teenager did not take questions from reporters at the airport.

The executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Hassan Shibly, says Khdeir will get medical attention for injuries sustained during the beating. “His eyes were still red from the bloodshot and the veins that they burst when they kicked him,” said Shibly. “But thank God, he’s just so excited to be back. A lot of friends, lot of family, lot of love, lot of support. It’s really probably the most rewarding night I’ve had at CAIR. Just seeing Tariq home and smiling made all of our efforts really worthwhile.”

Now that Tariq Khdeir is back home in Tampa, he says he just wants to go fishing with his friends. This was the first time US-born Khdeir had visited relatives in Jerusalem in over ten years.


Photo: Tariq Khdeir speaks to reporters at Tampa’s international airport. Credit: Sean Kinane.

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FCC receives more than a million public comments on net neutrality

The deadline for public comment on proposed new federal rules for the internet is fast approaching. The Federal Communications Commission has so far received more than one million comments regarding possible changes to the net neutrality principal. The term “net neutrality” refers to the concept that online data and websites should receive equal treatment from Internet Service Providers. Some telecom companies support the creation of a two-tiered system which would create premium service for those who can afford to make their content more visible and accessible to internet users.

For more on the proposed rules and the public response, FSRN’s Shannon Young spoke with Michael Weinberg, Vice President of Public Knowledge; a DC based organization focusing on internet, consumer rights and copyright issues.

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Mentoring program cuts recidivism rates in Kansas prisons by half

Recidivism rates in Kansas have dropped dramatically since the state’s Department of Corrections introduced a mentoring program which pairs inmates slate for release with community role models. Other states have started to take notice and are turning to Kansas for advise about how to implement similar measures. FSRN’s Joe Cadotte has more from Wichita.

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Mentoring4Success, a program of the Kansas Department of Corrections, has matched up more than 4,000 released offenders with mentors in the last three years.

Mentee Kyle Kelley called the program a “humbling experience” at a recent press conference in Wichita. “Somebody’s there to talk to you when you need them the most,” he said. “I get more out of it than I can ever describe. It’s a real good deal.”

Kelley was released last November after serving three years for attempted murder. Six months before his release, Kelley was assigned a mentor – who he says gave him the confidence to get a job.

The Mentoring4Success program is an initiative implemented by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. The initiative has a simple premise: connect inmates with a mentor at least six month before the end of their sentences. Mentors offers advice and support during the first year of release. The idea is to cut recidivism rates.

Gloria Geither, Mentoring Director for the Kansas Department of Corrections, says lack of family and friends is one of the biggest hurdles offenders face when trying to reintegrate back into the community. “It’s normal things that you and I take for granted every day; when we’re driving to work, or we have a bad day at work we pick up the phone and we call a support system that we have, a family member or friend that we know. Our offenders do not have that relationship in their life.”

And that support system – simply having someone to talk to – goes a long way.

In 2001, Jose Huerta was convicted of aggravated burglary and rape. He says he saw his two daughters ‘grow up in pictures.’ “There’s not one day that I do not wish I could take back all the bad I ever did in my life for them,” he adds. “I made promises that I broke to them. Those are the worse feelings and the worse things you can do when you’re locked up – especially if you have kids or family.”

In January 2014, six months before his release, Huerta was paired with mentor Jim Gardner, a Kansas Red Cross worker. Huerta says the relationship has been a lifeline. “When you have someone who doesn’t know you and is getting to know you, they can see you as what you want to become, which is a changed individual,” he told FSRN. “One needs someone to tell you, ‘hey, you’re a good person. Granted, you did bad things, but you’re not the same. You’re going to change because I can see it in you. That’s one of the main things that people need, because without that, what do you really have?”

Huerta now works as a machinist in a Wichita-area factory, and has been mending his relationship with his family.

Mentor Jim Gardner says the match has been positive for him as well: “Society tends to want to say ‘they don’t deserve a chance to change, and they don’t believe that they can and people judge way too quickly when it comes to these men; when all along they look at themselves and they realize they could be in the same place Jose was, they just didn’t get caught. When they get out of prison, they don’t have any place to go and they don’t have any support. And society says ‘well that’s just too bad,’ just go deal with it yourself. A mentor can help them change that, and let them know that they are worthy, that they are worth something because they are trying to change their lives, and I’m blessed to have Jose as a friend.”

The Kansas Department of Corrections has implemented measures such as job training, reading and higher education – as well as drug and alcohol treatment programs which have reduced the statewide recidivism rate by half in the last ten years.

While a 20 percent re-incarceration rate is well below the national average of about 48 percent – the Mentoring4Success program has cut Kansas’s already low recidivism rate by more than in half – in the year it’s been measured.

And the success is creating waves.

Twelve states have already toured the Kansas DOC to learn about its mentoring program – including North Carolina – which has the worst recidivism rate in the nation.

The Mentoring4Success program hits the three-year mark this month. A larger picture of its  success will come when its data is compared with that of states that measure recidivism by the likeliness former inmates will be convicted of a new crime within 36 months of release.


Photo: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks with Jose Huerta at an event to promote the Mentoring4Success program. Credit: Joe Cadotte.

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Israel resumes airstrikes on Gaza after ceasefire offer collapses

The Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip continues today after a brief pause. Israel unilaterally declared a six-hour-long ceasefire today to give Hamas the chance to consider a ceasefire offer brokered by Egypt. Israel resumed airstrikes after Hamas rejected the terms. The armed wing of Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel, which killed an Israeli citizen today: the first Israeli fatality in the context of Operation Protective Edge. Meanwhile, the Palestinian death toll was adjusted upwards to 192. For more on the situation in Gaza, Shannon Young spoke with longtime FSRN reporter in Gaza, Rami Almeghari.

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Photo: Damaged ambulance in Gaza City. Credit: Shadi Alqarra.