October 11, 2005

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Headlines (5:40)
Liberians went to the polls today to take part in the country’s first general elections since the end of a Civil War in 2003. Voters began lining up before dawn to cast their ballots for legislative representatives and the presidential contenders. Although twenty-two candidates are running for president, the election is down to two top contenders — a former soccer superstar and an ex-official from the World Bank. Both promise to restore running water and electrical services to Liberia’s capital city.

Indian Prime minister Manmohan Singh visited the quake-affected areas of Indian administered Kashmir today where he announced a $115 million dollar financial assistance package to the state government for disaster relief and rehabilitation. FSRN’s Shahnawaz Khan reports from Srinagar.

The death toll in Indian administered Kashmir has reached 1300. Across the line of control, more than 20,000 people are estimated to have died in Pakistan Administered Kashmir. Rescue teams have yet to reach many of the villages left inaccessible by the quake on Saturday. Around 80 per cent of the houses in the areas of Uri, Tanghdar and surrounding areas were destroyed. Many of the survivors spend their nights in the open without food. although authorities are distributing tents and food to those families, the pace of relief work falls short when compared to the scale of the disaster. Bad weather is compounding the miseries of the survivors and adding hurdles to the rescue work. India has offered help across the line of control in Kashmir and a plane carrying tents and medical supplies flew to the Pakistani side today. The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road connecting the capitals of the two sides of Kashmir is closed – damaged badly by the landslides triggered by the quake. The road was was opened in April of this year for the first time since Kashmir was divided in 1947 by a line of control. In Indian administered Kashmir, the challenge still is to reach all of the affected villages and to provide food and shelter to the survivors. For Free Speech Radio News I’m Shahnawaz Khan from Sriangar, Kashmir.

Search operations have been called off in Guatemala. The confirmed death toll is currently at over 650, although it is recognized that the actual number may be far greater. An estimated 1400 people died when the entire town of Panabaj was buried by a mud-slide. The exact figure may never be known as local authorities have declared the site a cemetery rather than to exhume decomposing bodies.

Members of indigenous groups in Colombia are in the second of a 3-day march that turned bloody on Monday. The ongoing national march commemorates 513 years of indigenous resistance to European colonialism and this year’s march specifically is directed against the implementation of a proposed Andean Free Trade Agreement. The peaceful demonstration was attacked yesterday by riot police. A fifty-nine year old member the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia died from asphyxiation as the march was gassed by police. Approximately 20 people were wounded in the incident. Groups opposed to the Andean Free Trade Agreement are calling for a general strike tomorrow throughout Colombia.

Nicaraguan leaders negotiated a political pact yesterday as the National Assembly ratified the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Nan McCurdy has more from Managua.

CAFTA was ratified by Nicaragua’s National Assembly yesterday in a 49 to 37 vote. All of the dissenting votes came from the Sandinista Deputies. They rebuked the Liberal Party Deputies, for bowing to pressure from the United States. Yesterday, a seven-hour meeting between former Sandinista President Daniel Ortega and President Enrique Bolaños resulted in a moratorium on the power struggle between the executive and legislative branches of government. It was agreed that constitutional reforms transferring power from the president to the legislature, passed nearly a year ago, will not go into effect until after the presidential elections in 2006. The United States opposed the reforms that would have weakened the mandate of President Bolaños, a close ally in the region. For Free Speech Radio News, from Managua, I’m Nan McCurdy.

A group of labor activists, dressed in Halloween costumes, demonstrated outside of a Target store in the Bronx, New York yesterday. Rebecca Myles explains why.

Two dozen Labor activists dressed in Harry Potter Halloween costumes joined in solidarity with Mexican organizers to protest labor conditions in Rubie’s, a costume factory in Hidalgo, Mexico. They were protesting the alleged use of child labor and sweatshop conditions in the Mexican factory Workers say they have been prevented from freely organizing to improve their working conditions at the factory where workers as young as 13 make Halloween costumes for the Rubie’s, Mattel and Warner Brothers labels which are distributed to stores like Target. Five months ago the company refused to recognize the workers’ union and locked out its labor force. Some have since accepted a company settlement and were officially dismissed. About 15 workers continue to fight for reinstatement. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Rebecca Myles.

Morocco Deports Thousands Back to Senegal (2:48)
More and more undocumented African migrants risk their lives attempting to enter Europe via Spain, some crossing the Atlantic Ocean on makeshift boats, while others travel through the continent on foot. Dozens of people have been severely injured in a rush at the border fence in Melilla, a North African Spanish enclave. Others have been crushed to death, and some have died from rubber bullets. Morocco, under pressure from Spain, recently rounded up and abandoned as many as 500 men, women and children in a remote southern desert. Doctors Without Borders treated at least 50 people dumped in the desert. Last week, Moroccan authorities deported some 1,000 Malian and Senegalese migrants to Senegal – 140 arrived last night and another 140 are expected to arrive later this evening. Ndiaga Seck reports.

Tough New British Asylum Policies under Fire by UN Commission for Refugees (3:45)
The United National High Commission for Refugees has criticized Britain for its ever toughening asylum policy. Tony Blair’s government plans to change the law so that even successful asylum seekers will not get permanent status to remain in Britain. He recently set monthly deportation targets at a higher rate than the number of asylum rejections. This week, 45 British partners of failed asylum seekers launched a campaign calling for recognition of their rights as European citizens. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

Campaigners Organize Against Death Penalty in the Philippines (3:40)
This week marks the World Day against the Death Penalty. Campaigners in the Philippines are stepping up their efforts to see the death penalty repealed in that country; where over 2300 people are currently on death row. Rupert Cook reports.

The Role of Afghanistan’s Kuchis in Elections (4:07)
Results are expected soon from Afghanistan’s legislative and provincial elections, which took place September 18. Transporting the votes has been an obstacle in the dry, mountainous country, which has been ravaged by war for nearly three decades. Voting officials also faced the practical problem of how to allow the country’s nomadic population, known as Kuchis, to vote. Special centers were set up for Kuchis, and ten seats in the parliament, or Wolesi Jirga, were reserved for Kuchi representatives. Tony Cross visited some members of the group, which is shunned by many Afghans.

DC Residents Call Moratorium on Sale of Public Property (3:12)
In the midst of urban revitalization and a real estate boom, some Washington DC area residents are calling for a moratorium on the sale of public property. Ingrid Drake reports.

National Coming Out Day
As we mentioned at the start of the newscast, today is National Coming Out Day, which commemorates the estimated 3/4 million people that marched in Washington on this day in 1987 for gay and lesbian rights. This day provides an opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their friends and family to highlight awareness of these communities. The Human Rights Campaign, which manages National Coming Out Day celebrations, released a list of 10 straight advocates for LGBT equality today, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, Hip Hopper Kanye West and Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero.

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