February 17, 2005

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House Passes Class Action Bill
The House of Representatives approved the “Class Action Fairness Act of 2005” this afternoon. The bill will now go to President Bush who is sure to sign it into law. Shirley Chang reports from Washington DC.

Lula Sends Troops to Troubled Brazilian Region
While many in Brazil are mourning the death of Sister Dorothy Stang, they question why, after so many assassinations, there has not been more attention to the violence in the area. Natalia Viana reports from Sao Paulo.

Bus Service Finally Approved for Kashmir
India and Pakistan have finally agreed to begin bus service across the line of control in Kashmir. The bus service, due to start on April 7, is the first substantive result from just over a year of talks between South Asia’s nuclear rivals. Shahnawaz Kahn is in Kashmir.

100,000 Take to the Streets In Ecuador
Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched near Quito’s presidential palace yesterday to demand President Lucio Gutierrez’s resignation. They charge that he is an authoritarian ruler and say he has filled the Supreme Court with his own judges. Gutierrez responded with a rally of his own, addressing thousands of supporters from his palace balcony. He called his critics “arrogant” and portrayed himself as a crusader against corrupt oligarchs. Government protesters filled several streets near the palace and reporters on the scene estimated they numbered about 70,000. They said about half that many gathered for Gutierrez’s speech in front of the palace. Gutierrez, whose term runs until January 2007, has faced a political backlash since early December after a pro-government congressional bloc replaced 27 of Ecuador’s 31 Supreme Court judges. Gutierrez claims the move was justified saying the judges were in the pocket of the rightist Social Christian Party, which has long been associated with the country’s financial and banking sector.


Negroponte Nominated For National Intelligence Director (4:05)
President Bush today nominated US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte to become the first National Intelligence Director. The position, which was created with the 9/11 Intelligence Reform bill signed in December appoints the Director to administer all US intelligence activities. Mitch Jeserich reports from Washington.

Election Reform Legislation In Congress (2:18)
Democratic Senate and House leaders announced today that they will introduce election reform legislation. Among much needed changes, the bill calls for improvements to electronic voting machines to assure the every vote is counted. Dolores M. Bernal has more from the Capitol.

Christians Struggle in Iraq (3:16)
Iraq’s electoral commission certified the results of the January 30 elections- with the main Shi’ite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, securing 140 out of 275 seats in the interim National Assembly. In Basra, Iraq’s second biggest city, secular parties are eager to defeat Islamic parties in the next round of elections, which are scheduled for December. A coalition of six secular parties called United Democratic Forces, which includes a movement representing Assyrian Christians, hopes to reverse the conservative trend in the city in the upcoming election, although they only received about 2% of the vote in the recent round. Meanwhile, in Northern Iraq, about 1,300 Christian families have registered with a special bureau of the Kurdish Regional Government, which helps them secure new jobs and housing. Aaron Glantz has more.

Freedom of Information Act Tested in Britain (3:24)
The Liberal Democratic Party in Britain wants its Foreign Office, or FCO to reveal the date the government first sought legal advice on the Iraq war. The FCO is refusing to hand over the information citing that it would harm internal discussion- a claim that Liberal Democrat Lord Lester calls “deplorable”. Lester now plans to request the information under the Freedom of Information Act. The Act recently came into effect when Britain joined over 100 countries that have similar procedures after many years of campaigning by public right to know advocates. In theory, the British public can now get unprecedented access to data held by public bodies. Yet, as Naomi Fowler reports from London, the Act is full of “get-out” clauses.

EPA Under Fire Over Pesticides (3:24)
According to a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Protection Agency is illegally negotiating agreements with industry lobbyists over pesticide regulation. The group alleges that the EPA secretly met with pesticide manufacturer Syngenta over 40 times. This, as the EPA is poised to formally adopt a policy of accepting human pesticide experiments without adopting any parallel ethical standards to protect the health of human test subjects. Brian Edwards-Tiekert has more.

The “Colombianization” of Mexico (3:41)
Mexico’s Federal Public Security Secretary announced reforms will be made to the country’s law enforcement system over the course of the coming weeks. This, as CIA director Porter Goss named Mexico one of this year’s potential instable countries during his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday. Human rights defenders say that drawing broad connections to criminalized acts is leading to what they call “Colombianization” of Mexico. In Oaxaca, Vladimir Flores files this report.


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