December 22, 2003

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Free Speech Radio News Headlines
9/11 Fund Deadline Approaches
The 9/11 fund deadline is midnight on Monday December 22nd. After that the families of those who died or were injured in the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks will be unable to apply for the billions offered by the U.S. Congress as compensation for their loss.  In order to receive a portion of the funds, the family must agree to not sue any airline or other U.S. entities for negligence.  As of last week the fund has paid out nearly 1 point 5 billion dollars and as many as 90-percent of those involved have filed claims.
Some gay and lesbian partners of victims, while filing for benefits, are still unsure if they will receive any compensation. Kenneth Feinberg who is running the program said that states’ laws would prevail regarding recognition of the relationships. Also to date, at least 73 people are suing a variety of defendants including the U.S. government. But, the defendants are suing for answers and accountability rather than money, even if it takes years as expected.
Asylum Seekers Hunger Strike
Asylum seekers continue their hunger strike on a small island off Australia waiting for the Australian government to have a change of heart. Guy Deegan reports from Sydney.
Italian Transit Strikes
Italians transit workers continue their strike hoping union leaders find the will to force the government to fulfill promises made four years ago. In Breschia, Diletta Varlese reports.
Boston Officials Plan No-Protest Zones
On Friday, The Boston Globe reported that police and security officials working on plans for July’s Democratic Party presidential nominating convention expect to set up a five block perimeter open only to delegates, police and journalists. Dave Goodman has more from Boston.

Israeli Elite Reservists Refuse to Serve in Gaza  (3:33)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher passed out after a confrontation with Palestinians during which witnesses report Maher was heckled and called a traitor. Witnesses also say Maher was jostled by the crowd of Palestinians, and according to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the group attempted to choke him. The Israeli daily is also reporting that items were thrown at Maher for climbing the Mount via Mugrabi Gate, which is generally an access route for non-Muslims. Meanwhile, in the Occupied West Bank, five Palestinians were injured today in an Israeli incursion into the refugee camp of Jenin. Israeli troops also reinvaded the Balata refugee camp near Nablus only hours after the end of a five day incursion into the camp that left 15 year-old Nour Omran and 6 year-old Mohammed Al-Aaraj dead. Meanwhile, thirteen elite reservists from the Israeli army have written a letter to the Israeli prime minister saying that they will not be part of a “rule of oppression”, in reference to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  As we go to air, Ariel Sharon is giving the reservists a chance to retract their letter. Mohammed Ghalayini reports from Gaza.

Libya: Nuke Admission  (4:04)
Today the International Atomic Energy Agency announced it will travel to Libya as early as this weekend to inspect the north African country’s nuclear capabilities. This comes after Friday’s announcement by President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair that Libya’s leader Gaddafi acknowledged his country possessed a program to develop non-conventional weapons including nuclear and chemical weapons. Gaddafi said Libya would abandon its programs to develop such weapons and allow international inspectors to enter the country. President Bush responded by saying that if Libya continues to cooperate and assists in the Bush administration’s war on terror, Libya would gain a secure and respected place among nations. However, Bush made no mention of Libya’s human rights abuses or of the detainment of hundreds of political prisoners.  Mitch Jeserich reports from Washington DC.

California Budget Crisis  (3:29)
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Rigde this weekend raised the national so-called terror alert to the color orange, the second highest in the President’s post 9-11 color-coded scale that rates the likelihood of a terrorist attack. While there is no specific threat, critics charge that the orange alerts drain state budgets and funnels moneys away to security protocols, costing states millions of dollars. One state that will be hit particularly hard is California where governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used special budgetary powers to make cuts in the state budget. The move lets him keep a promise to cut an unpopular car tax, but it paves the way for more cuts in education and other services. Christopher Martinez reports from KPFA in Berkeley.

Independence for Kosovo?  (3:42)
A trial began today in Serbia for the alleged assassins of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic who was gunned down March 12 of this year. Djindic helped to oust Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 and infuriated Serbian nationalists by sending him to the Hague war crimes court. The trial starts just days before Serbia’s general election for a new Prime Minister scheduled for this weekend.  The United Nations Security Council has reiterated support for the UN mission’s plan for improving conditions in Kosovo prior to final status talks. The UN mission in Kosovo, (UNMIK) last week unveiled a roadmap for the implementation of international standards in Kosovo. Under UN resolution 1244, Kosovo is still a part of Serbia and Montenegro even if Belgrade’s writ no longer applies to most of the province. Kosovo Albanian politicians have by and large welcomed the standards for Kosovo plan, but it’s been roundly rejected by the authorities in Serbia and Montenegro who say the document paves the way for Kosovo’s independence. More from Sputnik Kilambi.

Muslim Women Protest Headscarf Law in Paris  (3:56)
Over the weekend, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in an interview that he is against allowing teachers in public schools to wear Islamic headscarves, saying the Islamic dress has “no place” among civil servants. In France, President Jacques Chirac’s proposal to introduce a bill that would ban the wearing of what he termed “conspicuous” religious signs in French state schools is being met with mixed reactions. While polls show that a majority of the French people supports the idea of a law to reassert France’s secular identity, France’s Muslim population feels specifically targeted by this law. Critics warn that the law will drive France’s five million Muslims into greater isolation. On Sunday, three thousand Muslim teenagers – mainly women – demonstrated in central Paris to defend their right to wear the Islamic scarf.  Nick Champeaux reports from Paris.

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