November 15, 2005

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Some 170 malnourished detainees have been discovered in a building administered by Iraq’s Interior Ministry. Iraqi officials have said some of the detainees showed physical signs of torture, including; indications of severe beatings, missing patches of skin, and a couple of cases of paralysis. The secret jail was discovered on Sunday night by U.S. forces. During a press conference today, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said an investigation will look into allegations of torture by officials from the Interior Ministry.

A Member of the European Parliament today called for a formal European Union inquiry into allegations that the CIA has been holding and interrogating terrorism suspects in secret prisons in Eastern European countries. From London, Naomi Fowler reports:

The European Commission was supposed to be investigating the allegations about US secret prisons; however, Member of the European Parliament Baroness Ludford today called it’s efforts ‘feeble,’ alleging it had done little more than simply ask and then accept the denials of authorities in Eastern Europe. British Members of Parliament have already been campaigning for a formal inquiry into allegations of so-called ‘torture flights’ coming through Europe on US-chartered planes. It’s alleged the United States has been flying terrorist suspects to countries where torture is routinely practiced for interrogations that would be illegal on US soil. This week a Spanish court received a prosecutor’s report that alleges the CIA is using an airport on the Spanish island of Mallorca for stopovers. Responding to criticism of the European Commission’s investigation today, EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini argued the European Commission is only authorized to carry out informal inquiries. It’s up to individual governments, he says, to examine the allegations. Since neither the European Commission nor individual governments have the powers to seize classified files from the CIA, the situation raises serious questions about the accountability of the United States and its actions internationally. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

France’s parliament is set to prolong for three months the state of emergency declared in response to the riots in many of the country’s low-income areas. Tony Cross reports from Paris.

Speaking in the National Assembly today, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy declared that the “republic is reconquering territory which have been left untouched for too long” … and that the state of emergency must be prolonged to continue the work. The clampdown was initially supposed to be for a fortnight but the government now wants to keep it going for up to three months. But the sweeping powers that it grants, including censorship, the right to enter premises without a warrant and to seal off areas, have hardly been used at all. On television last night president Jacques Chirac said that an identity crisis was at the root of the troubles and denounced the “poison of discrimination”. He proposed to introduce a voluntary scheme which will offer short-term work and training to 50-thousand young people in the military, the police and other public services and NGOs. But he also called for some welfare payments to be cut off from families judged to have failed to control their children. Meanwhile, figures released by the police show that only eight per-cent of those arrested during the riots were of foreign nationality, casting some doubt on the need for Sarkozy’s threat to deport foreigners who’d been involved in violence. For FSRN I’m TC in Paris.

THE former head of Chile’s deadly secret police was sentenced to a prison term yesterday. FSRN’s Jorge Garretón has more from Santiago.

A Santiago judge yesterday sentenced retired General Manuel Contreras to 3 years in prison for the disappearance of a school teacher. Contreras was the head of the DINA, Chile’s notorious secret police responsible for the large majority of human rights atrocities committed in the years following Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 military coup. The attorney for the missing school teacher says he will appeal the light sentence. Contreras is currently serving a 12 year prison term for the kidnapping, murder and disappearance of 8 people in the notorious torture centre Villa Grimaldi. Meanwhile, former dictator Augusto Pinochet has been interrogated four times this month following a decision that ruled he was fit to stand trial. Pinochet is being questioned in the so-called Operation Colombo case and the illicit enrichment Riggs Bank case. For FSRN this is Jorge Garretón in Santiago.

Activists in Los Angeles have planned a protest for today outside of the LA Times building in opposition to the termination of a long-time contributor to the paper. Kelly Barnes reports from KPFK.

Robert Scheer worked for 30 years as a columnist at The Los Angeles Times until the paper terminated his contract last Friday without explanation. In response to the firing of the outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, grassroots activists have called for a protest today outside the Times building in downtown Los Angeles. Protester Marcy Winograd says she feels disenfranchised by Scheer’s termination and calls this an ominous moment in media history. Winograd says Scheer raised important questions regarding the credibility of the evidence used as a pretext for the war in Iraq and laments that an important voice has been taken out of a mainstream paper. From Los Angeles, I’m Kelly Barnes for FSRN.

Senate Passes Defense Authorization Measure (3:54)
The Senate passed a mammoth $492 billion Defense Authorization measure today that would, for the first time, require the Bush administration to give periodical reports on the status of the war in Iraq. Although Senate Democrats failed to push through an amendment to allow cases brought by detainees back into the federal courts, another compromise amendment would allow detainees to challenge any conviction by a military tribunal that results in ten years or more in prison or death. Washington Editor Mitch Jeserich has more.

Ben Bernake Testifies at Senate Confirmation Hearing (1:05)
President Bush’s nominee to chair the Federal Reserve and replace Allan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, testified at his Senate confirmation today. Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee the best way to combat poverty is through business growth and inflation controls.

New Deadline for Medicare and Medicare Recipients Challenged by Lawsuit (2:13)
A coalition of eight consumer health care advocacy groups filed a lawsuit opposing a January 1 deadline that would force people who receive Medicare and Medicaid to switch their coverage to the Bush-backed new Medicare prescription drug plan. People who are under Medicare and Medicaid have until December 31 to choose their new plan. Organizations like the Medicare Rights Center say that a significant number of the 6.4 million recipients of both health care programs have not been contacted about the process and will therefore slip through the cracks and become ineligible for coverage for life saving medication. With enrollment for the new Medicare prescription drug plan set to begin today, opponents of the plan are afraid that there is not enough time for beneficiaries to make good choices for their health. Selina Musuta reports from Washington, DC.

Maoist Jail Break in India Frees Nearly 400 Prisoners (3:36)
In one of the world’s largest jailbreaks, nearly 400 political prisoners were freed by armed Maoists in an Eastern Indian prison early Monday morning. A prison complex guarded by armed policemen failed to put up a fight against the action by more than 1000 Maoists. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is the most powerful left party in India with a strong presence in South and Eastern states. From Delhi, Vinod K. Jose files this story.

Petitions Filed Criticizing the UN Mission in Haiti (3:01)
The Brazilian-led UN Force that monitors Haiti has come under harsh criticism for human rights abuses in carrying out its security operation. Security forces have failed to bring stability and peace to Haitian citizens, where some feel the UN has been responsible for fostering a police state. Meanwhile a group announced the filing of two petitions with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Gus Carvalho reports.

Choice and Access in Communities of Color (3:55)
Bush’s pick to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, is trying to distance himself from a comment he made in 1985 to the Reagan administration, that stated women have no constitutional right to an abortion. As Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court has embroiled the nation in a renewed debate about abortion rights, many women of color and poor women are re-framing this national debate along the lines of “access” rather than “choice”. Without economic security, they say, choice is a mirage, and access to affordable housing, job and food security, and free or low-cost child care, are just as much a part of the debate around choice as abortion itself. Sarah Olson has more from Oakland, California.

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