January 26, 2004

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Part of USA Patriot Act Unconstitutional
A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled part of the USA Patriot Act unconstitutional. The 36-page ruling was handed down on Friday but made available today. In the decision, Judge Audrey Collins said the ban on providing expert advise or assistance is impermissibly vague and in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Humanitarian Law Project brought the suit claiming that five groups and 2 U.S. citizens trying to provide lawful, non-violent support of Kurdish refugees in Turkey were threatened by Justice Department officials with 15 years in prison if they continued. It is the first court decision to declare part of the so-called Patriot Act unconstitutional.

No Aid in Sight for Homeless Palestinians
The Israeli government is still leveling Palestinian homes at the Gaza-Egypt border searching for tunnels that, in part, are used for smuggling. As Mohammed Ghalyini reports from Gaza City, more than 400 Palestinians will remain homeless until resources to rebuild arrive.

Colombian Military-Paramilitary Relationship Ongoing
Rights groups counter statements made by Secretary of State Collin Powell about the state of the Colombian military and criticize the U.S. gift of 34-million dollars saying the Colombian armed forces continue to violate human rights. Nicole Karsin has more from Bogotá.

Ecuadorians Fight Multinational Oil Companies
A state of emergency is declared in a region of Ecuador after violence erupts over access to oil fields by multinational corporations. Kurt Kanu from Quito.

Hispanics left out in New Hampshire
After walking out on the last round of talks over the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), this weekend Costa Rica came to an agreement with the Bush Administration that will see the NAFTA like free-trade agreement one step closer to implementation. Free trade has been one of the issues most of the Democratic Presidential candidates have remained vague on, with only Congressman Dennis Kucinich pledging to immediately cancel NAFTA and the WTO. John Kerry voted for “Fast Track” powers making it easier for Bush to win passage of his trade agenda. We begin this report with correspondent Chuck Rosina who reports that activists in Boston are trying to sway the candidate to a different point of view. Host Deepa Fernandes continues with a look at the issues that are affecting the Hispanic community in New Hampshire that most candidates are not addressing.

9/11 Commission report due
Late Friday, David Kay stepped down from heading the CIA’s search for weapons of mass destruction, saying they’ll probably never be found.  Kay recommended that the CIA and other intelligence agencies should be overhauled saying said the errors in the intelligence on  prewar Iraq were grave.  In a New York Times interview, Kay said Iraq’s unconventional weapons program were in a state of disarray under the erratic leadership of Saddam Hussein. Kay will be replaced by Charles Duelfer, a former UN Weapons inspector who has already expressed doubt of finding the weapons of mass destruction as did Secretary of State Collin Powell over the weekend. However Vice President Dick Cheney says the weapons may still be found.  So far the U.S. has spent close to a billion dollars looking for them.  A Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating the intelligence failure, but it is doubtful it will look into whether the White House manipulated the information.  Meanwhile with a looming deadline for a final report, today the September 11th Commission met in Washington DC.  The Commission took testimony from former Embassy Counselor officials and Customs officials on how the 19 hijackers sidestepped U.S. immigration law to enter and remain in the country. 9/11 family members are criticizing the White House for it’s opposition to extending the May 27th deadline. The Commissioners say the haven’t had enough time to go through all the evidence because, in part, the White House has been slow in providing subpoenaed documents.  Mitch Jeserich reports.

Mexican military invasion of Tlalnepantla
The situation in the small, mostly indigenous, central Mexican town of Tlalnepantla remains tense after a recent armed incursion by state police. The conflict began in July of 2003 when campesinos of Tlalnepantla occupied the town’s municipal hall in reaction to the results of what they called an illegitimate election. Although no mainstream U.S. media source has picked up on the story, the police invasion of the autonomous municipality has become major national news in Mexico. Vladimir Flores reports from Mexico City.

Slow to demilitarize Chiapas
Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas houses 70 thousand soldiers, making it the most militarized state in the country.  Despite seven military positions being removed in 2001 to comply with conditions set by the EZLN to reinitiate peace negotiations, the number of soldiers has not decreased. Currently, the northern zone of the state houses 5 military bases and the surrounding communities are suffering due to a break down of their social fabric.  With the growing resentment towards the military, the fight to remove them has just begun. Ximena Antillon and Luz Ruiz report from Chiapas.

Japanese peace envoy in Sri Lanka
The top Japanese peace envoy visited a northern rebel-controlled city in Sri Lanka last week to talk with the rebels’ top political leader. The discussion centered on the peace process between the rebel Tamil Tigers and the government. The Japanese representative also co-chaired a meeting of international donors in Colombo to discuss reconstruction in the war-torn country. Central to rehabilitation for thousands of refugees is de-mining. Our correspondent Miles Ashdown has more.


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