February 19, 2004

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US Military Team to Haiti
Pentagon officials have granted the U.S. Ambassador’s request for a military team to assess the situation in Haiti.  Reportedly, the Ambassador merely wants the small team of 3 or 4 officers to decide if the embassy is safe in the Caribbean nation fraught with internal violence. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.S. is looking for a political solution to the crisis.  Bands of men, described as everything from paramilitaries to thugs, claim the government is illegitimate and corrupt.  They are calling for President Aristide to step down.  Reports from Haiti Progré and other news sources indicate the bands are receiving arms from France. Aristide, a former priest, says he will remain in office until his term ends in February 2006. The Associated Press is reporting the Bush administration is privately exploring how to change leadership in Haiti without undercutting democratic rule.

Enron Executive Skilling Charged
This morning, former Enron Executive Jeffrey Skilling turned himself in to federal authorities and quickly responded with “not guilty” to charges he helped the energy giant’s massive fraud against clients and stockholders. Pokey Anderson reports from Houston.

Prisoners at Gitmo Heading to UK
Five of the nine British prisoners being held at the US military base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are to be released.  Naomi Fowler reports from London.

Presidential Debates Unfair Process
Political foes joined together to file a complaint against the Commission on Presidential Debates. Jay Tamboli reports from D.C.

Mentally Ill Must Take Meds
Mentally ill patients in New York can be forced to comply with treatment if family members or even roommates seek a court order against them, as another state supports the so-called Kendra’s law. Geoff Brady reports from New York.


Bush’s Economic Spin Unravels
Over 60 scientists, some of them Nobel Laureates, are accusing the Bush administration of manipulating scientific government reports to support the administration’s policy goals.  A report by the group Union of Concerned Scientists says the executive branch has suppressed data on several reports ranging from climate change to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. This report comes as the mainstream media is beginning to question the President’s credibility. Just yesterday Bush backed off his previous prediction that 2.6 million jobs will be created in the next year. Though unemployment is still high, today Bush continued with his upbeat economic predictions for the future. Mitch Jeserich reports.

South Asia Peace Talks Wrap Up
In what has been called an historic first round of peace talks between India and Pakistan which wrapped up in Islamabad yesterday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf today announced that the next round of talks would be held later this year, though no official date was given. While the 3 day meetings were mostly conducted between low level foreign ministry officials from both countries, and were aimed at coming to consensus over the next round of more formal talks, Beena Sawa, a Pakistani journalist, tells Deepa Fernandes that the meetings should be viewed as a success and a good first step towards peace between the two nations.

UN Says No Iraq Elections Before June 30
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan today said that he backed the US position that no elections could be held in Iraq before June 30 this year. Annan did not make any recommendations for how a formal transfer of power could occur or how soon. Annan did however say the June 30 date for the US to restore sovereignty to Iraq must be respected. American administrator in Iraq Paul Bremmer reiterated his statement that no direct elections could be held in Iraq due to concerns that the constitution would become too heavily steeped in Islamic law.

Poland Upset Over Iraq Contract Process
More controversy over the US contracts to rebuild Iraq when yesterday US war ally Poland lodged a protest that Washington was not being true to its promise of sharing contracts with countries that had supported the war effort. A state-owned Polish arms company lost the bidding to equip the new Iraqi army to an obscure company which is a member of the winning American consortium. 18 bidders joined the first tender, the next one is scheduled for March. As Danuta Szafraniec reports from Warsaw, even the political lobbying of the Polish  president directly with the Bush Administration has failed to win Poland any contracts which has many in Poland growing increasingly impatient.

Chevron Shuts Down Third of Production in Niger Delta
In Nigeria today heads of state from Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia and Nigeria attended the 4th annual summit of the “Developing Eight” group that was formed in the late 1990s to promote economic cooperation among the eight states, which have a combined population of more than 600 million people, many of whom are Muslims. The high-level meetings in Nigeria come as communal unrest in the Niger Delta region has forced Chevron Texaco to suspend its operations in several key places. The company has cut its daily oil output in the area by as much as a third. Chevron Texaco says it is suffering huge losses. Crude oil accounts for more than ninety percent of Nigeria’s export earnings. The Nigerian government has started deploying troops to the affected area to enable Chevron Texaco to resume operations. But local communities say the company’s absence from their land is a respite from the environmental problems Chevron Texaco has caused them. Sam Olukoya reports from the Abiteye village.

Neo-Confederate Church in Moscow, Idaho
A conservative church that has spent two decades quietly building an empire in a western university town has been the focus of a human rights march and a ‘not-in-our-town’-style campaign after ties were found to the neo-Confederate movement. Pastor Doug Wilson of Moscow, Idaho’s Christ Church denied supporting bigotry after community revelations that he co-authored Southern Slavery: As It Was, a revisionist pamphlet suggesting American slavery was a harmonious institution. Adding to the uproar are Wilson’s controversial biblical views on homosexuality and the role of women, along with the belief that the steady stream of followers moving to town shows he has a political agenda for the area. Leigh Robartes has more.

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