December 22, 2005

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Headlines (5:09)
The Senate agreed last night to extend the expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act for another 6 months. From Capitol Hill, Mitch Jeserich reports.

With just ten days remaining until 16 of the most controversial measures of the Patriot Act expire, Senate negotiators struck a deal to extend it as it is until the middle of next year. Last Friday the Patriot Act reauthorization bill was blocked by a Senate filibuster as some lawmakers believed that it lacked enough judicial oversight on how the Patriot Act is used. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say an additional 6 months should give Congress enough time to reach an agreement. Some of the sun-setting provisions include sections that give the FBI access to library, medical and business records and to allow the FBI to use roving wiretaps. Also set to expire is the sneak and peak provision that allows the government to enter one’s premises without notifying the occupant until several months later.

An appeals court has ruled against the Bush administration’s request to transfer a high-profile terrorism suspect. From Tampa, Andrew Stelzer has the details.

Saying the Bush administration has risked its credibility before the court, appeals court Judge J. Michael Luttig, yesterday denied the US Justice Department’s request to transfer terrorism suspect, Jose Padilla, from military to civilian detention. Padilla was held for 3 years without charge on suspicion of planning to explode a radioactive “dirty bomb”. He was recently indicted on an unrelated count. But Padilla has a case pending before the Supreme Court, challenging the extent of the president’s power to hold so-called “enemy combatants” without charges. The Bush administration had argued that the transfer from a military brig in South Carolina to law enforcement authorities in Miami would render the case before the Supreme Court moot and should be dismissed, but the judge ruled against the transfer and said the Supreme Court hearing should take place. The decision also questioned why the administration used one set of accusations before the court for 3 1/2 years to justify holding Padilla without charge, but another with a Florida grand jury last month. The judge said it created the appearance the government may be attempting to avoid high court review of the case. The appeals court also rejected the government’s request that it set aside a ruling that allowed Padilla to be held as an enemy combatant without being charged. Wiping out that ruling would have made it virtually impossible for the Supreme Court to review the case. From WMNF in Tampa, I’m Andrew Stelzer.

In Miami, family members and supporters of jailed Haitian priest and human rights activist, Gerárd Jean-Juste, gathered yesterday to call for his release on medical grounds. This, after dozens of Congressional representatives made a similar plea to the Haitian government last week. Father Jean-Juste is reportedly in poor health and a U.S. doctor who recently examined him in prison has indicated that he may be battling cancer.

Meanwhile, election officials in Haiti have indicated to the BBC that the country’s January 8th presidential elections may be postponed again. This would be the fourth time that the elections have been delayed. Haitians have been unable to pick their own political representatives since the elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide was forced from power in Feb 2004.

In Ethiopia, 131 people were formally charged yesterday with crimes against the state. Charges include conspiracy, high treason, and genocide. While many of the accused were charged in absentia, those present at the hearing were among those detained during multiple days of political unrest last month. Demonstrations erupted throughout Ethiopia’s capital in early November in response to widespread allegations of election fraud. Dozens of protesting supporters of the opposition CUD party were killed by government security forces during the November unrest and hundreds were detained. Among those charged yesterday with crimes against the state are opposition leaders and supporters, staff from non-governmental organizations, and a number of journalists. The charge of high treason is punishable by death.

In environmental news, governors from seven northeastern states have announced a first of its kind pact to set legal limits on greenhouse emissions from power stations. Rebecca Myles reports from New York.

Under the pact, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the participating states have agreed to curb carbon dioxide emissions, starting in 2009, by cutting emissions by 10 percent by 2019. The plan was endorsed New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. It is open to other states, but Rhode Island and Massachusetts have declined to sign, citing concerns of increased energy costs to the state. The bipartisan pact is being seen as a break with the Bush administration and is the initiative of New York Governor George Pataki who began work on it in 2003. It was originally due to be announced at the time of the Climate Change conference in Canada earlier this month. Under the RGGI, the signatories must proceed with required legislative or regulatory approvals to adopt the program. For FSRN, I am Rebecca Myles reporting.

Preliminary Agreement Reached in NYC Transit Strike (1:33)
On Thursday afternoon, New York’s metropolitan transit authority and Transit Worker Union (TWU) leaders agreed to resume talks and make moves to get the city’s transport systems up and running again. State Mediator Richard Curreri announced the decision at a press conference shortly before air time.

Day Laborers Continue to Organize (2:26)
While debate over immigration was prominent in the House of Representatives this past week, local communities continue to grapple with the issues locally. The bill passed in the House Saturday would treat undocumented workers as felons, and no provision for guest worker programs touted by President Bush were included. Kristy Li Puma Herrera and Darby Hickey bring us an update on how undocumented workers in Northern Virginia are dealing with the limited options presented to them.

Critics Discuss “Operation Community Shield” (2:19)
While immigrant workers continue to organize locally, other undocumented immigrants have been the target of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s newer plan called Operation Community Shield. FSRN’s Anastasia Gnezditskaia reports from DC, where the National Immigration Project has been discussing the deportation of the alleged gang members and the new immigration bill just approved by the House that threatens the legal status of undocumented immigrants.

Iranian Brain Drain taking its Toll (3:11)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranked Iran as having the highest rate of “brain drain” in the world among some 61 countries in 2004. The IMF reports that every year, more than 150,000 educated Iranians leave the country in the hope of finding a better life oversees. FSRN’s Iranian affairs correspondent Saeedeh Jamshidi has more.

Portland Against New EPA Water Rules (2:57)
The Environmental Protection Agency last week announced new safety requirements for U.S. cities with unfiltered water supplies to prevent disease caused by a water-born pathogen. The city of Portland, Oregon is resisting these requirements, and has said they will go so far as to sue the federal government to prove that their water should be exempt from the new regulations. FSRN’s Julie Sabatier has more.

Concern Over Plutonium Pits (3:46)
There’s growing concern about the Department of Energy’s rationale for consolidating Plutonium-238 production in Idaho. A Congressional conference report says consolidating production will free up space for producing nuclear bomb cores at Los Alamos, New Mexico. As FSRN’s Leigh Robartes reports, this raises questions about the US’ role in future nuclear weapons proliferation..

Indian Workers and Unionization in New Service Sector (3:16)
A decade after business process outsourcing, or BPO, became the most lucrative job opportunity for a large number of young graduates; left-leaning Indian parties have called for forming trade unions to protect workers’ interests. But the employees themselves have distanced themselves from the idea, and have also denied the claim made by established union leaders that any attempt to form a trade union or association by BPO sector employees is being curbed by the threat of dismissal. And, as FSRN correspondent Binu Alex reports from Ahmedabad, efforts are now underway to establish India’s first nationwide union of IT workers by end of 2006.

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