December 29, 2005

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Headlines (6:11)
Troops are now being deployed in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region to protect oil installations following a spate of attacks on oil pipelines in the area. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

Four major oil pipelines in the Niger Delta have been attacked in the last two weeks. Authorities say explosives were used to blow up the pipelines. The Nigerian government has ordered troop deployments in both Delta and Rivers States where the attacks took place. The most devastating of the attacks was on a pipeline belonging to the Anglo Dutch oil company Shell Petroleum. A local militant group, which wants autonomy for the Niger Delta, claimed responsibility for some of the attacks. Local people accuse the Nigerian government and western oil companies of denying them a share of oil proceeds. Local human rights groups have urged the Nigerian government to be cautious in its deployment of security forces to guard oil facilities. Environmental Rights Action warns that the move could further heighten tension in the region. The group observed that security forces deployed to the Niger Delta in the past are known for gross human rights abuses. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.

The Israeli army has announced that the West Bank city of Tulkarem is now under military control after a suicide bombing at a nearby roadblock. Manar Jibrin reports from the West Bank.

A Palestinian man blew himself up at portable Israeli military roadblock near Tulkarem today, killing one soldier and two Palestinians. Also injured in the bombing were three soldiers and six Palestinians. The Israeli army claimed that the bomber was intending to blow himself inside Israel. Adnan Hattab, a journalist from Tulkarem, stated that the bombing happened meters away from an installed Israeli checkpoint that leads to Israel, adding that the bomber blew himself near a Palestinian car.
(audio) “The incident took place at a portable checkpoint, few meters close to a main military checkpoint that leads to Israeli areas. Apparently a Palestinian young man in his twenties with a beard who was riding a Palestinian car, blew himself up after the Israeli soldiers stopped the car, and asked him to get out and take off his Jacket. The explosion killed three Palestinians and one Israeli soldier and wounded many others”
Several Israeli jeeps and ambulances rushed to the scene of the blast after the bombing closed the area, and a imposed curfew. Palestinian police have been warned not to carry their weapons. For FSRN form IMEMC.Org in Palestine, I am Manar Jibrin.

Amidst fresh violence in Sri Lanka, its new President is on a four day diplomatic visit in India seeking help in the peace process. Vinod K. Jose reports from Delhi.

The Indian administration said to the visiting Sri Lankan President Mihindra Rajapakshe that it was concerned about rising violence in Sri Lanka and called for the resumption of peace talks between Colombo and the Tamil National Liberation Fighters – LTTE. However, India remained non-committed on President Mahinda Rajapakse’s request for its direct role in the peace process. Both sides of the conflict between the Tamil liberation force, LTTE and Sri Lankan government have been observing a ceasefire since 2002. So far this month, around 40 Sri Lankan soldiers and Tamil leaders have been killed in fresh violence. In mid-1980s India intervened militarily in Sri Lanka. The LTTE later killed Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who had sent the Indian army to the Tamil areas. Since then, Indian involvement in Sri Lanka has been limited to economic and social affairs. From New Delhi, this is Vinod K. Jose for Free Speech Radio News.

Family members of Korean farmers detained during this month’s protests against the World Trade Organization arrived in Hong Kong today to be present during tomorrow’s court hearing. The Archbishop of Hong Kong has also publicly given his support to the protesters while characterizing the actions of the Hong Kong police as inappropriate. Dante Toza files this report.

Hong Kong police arrested nearly a thousand people during protests against the World Trade Organization Ministerial meeting earlier this month. The majority were released within days without charge. Fourteen protesters – mostly Korean farmers – are facing legal action. They have been charged with unlawful assembly, which carries a penalty of five years in prison. The Archbishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen, in addition to publicly supporting the Korean farmers who protested against the WTO, also gave surety to the detainees: a legal support guarantee that was required in order to secure their temporary release. The 14 accused are due to appear in court tomorrow. Their legal team is asking that the charges be dropped, so that the defendants can return to their homes. This is Dante Toza for FSRN in Hong Kong.

Late Wednesday a civil court ordered a temporary halt to the official bulldozing of homes deemed unsafe in New Orleans. Christian Roselund has more.

In a last minute legal battle to stop bulldozing of flood-damaged properties in the lower 9th ward, lawyers from the grassroots legal network and the Loyola law clinic won a temporary victory yesterday against a city administration which they say was attempting to rush the process of home demolitions at a time when few residents would be around to question what was happening. City inspectors have declared over five thousand homes unsafe to enter in New Orleans, most of those in the city’s lower 9th ward. Of those homes, 2,500 were scheduled to be destroyed beginning this week. Steve Bradbury of ACORN, a plaintiff in the case, says that while many of these homes are damaged beyond repair, displaced homeowners are not being adequately informed of what is happening. The temporary injunction lasts until January 6th, when a full hearing on the demolition of these homes will be held. Lawyers with the Grassroots Legal Network, the legal team of aid organization People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, say that they will attempt to work out a settlement with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s office. For Free Speech Radio News In New Orleans, this is Christian Roselund.

And finally, FSRN would like to retract the December 19th headline story about the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth student who was visited at his home by Department of Homeland Security agents after requesting a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s “Little Red Book”. The story was first reported in the New Bedford Standard Times and later picked up by a number of news outlets and circulated on the internet. According to the Boston Globe, the student has since confessed to UMass Professor Brian Williams — who FSRN interviewed — that the story was fabricated. Though FSRN reporter Catherine Komp took measures to confirm the story with Homeland Security officials, her calls were not returned.

International Donors Pull $375 Million in Aid From Ethiopia (3:12)
International donors announced today that they will withdraw $375 million dollars in aid to Ethiopia’s government following its post-election crackdown on dissidents. One hundred journalists and opposition supporters were charged with treason, genocide and other crimes last week. The aid cuts come at a bad time for Ethiopians: a monitoring agency says millions are threatened by a coming famine. Jenny Johnson reports.

Mexican Human Rights Worker Faces Criminal Prosecution for Exposing Child Porn Ring (4:10)
A Mexican human rights worker and journalist is facing criminal prosecution for authoring a book that implicates a powerful businessman in a child pornography ring. Amnesty International says members of Mexican police agencies have previously made death threats against Lydia Cacho Ribeiro for her work sheltering battered women and girls–the organization says the charges of defamation, which is a criminal offense in Mexico, amount to officially-sanctioned harassment of a human rights worker. Amnesty’s 2005 annual report report says attacks on Mexican human rights workers are a serious problem—especially when they happen with the complicity of government officials. Vladimir Flores reports.

Palestine: “New Guard” Dominates Fatah Ticket (2:44)
Palestine’s dominant but divided Fatah party has managed to submit a unified list of candidates its candidate list for Palestinian parliamentary elections. In move likely calculated to improve Fatah’s chances of defeating the more militant Hamas faction, the list is weighted in favor of the party’s so-called “new guard,” with jailed activist Marwan Barghouti heading the ticket. David Enders followed Mustafa Barghouti, who came in second in the election for prime minister earlier this year, during a day of meetings in the West Bank city of Tulkarem.

Amidst Electoral Turmoil, Disabled Iraqis Struggle for a Voice in Politics (2:09)
Iraq’s Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups have refused to open discussions with the Shiite religious bloc leading in Iraq’s parliamentary elections until there’s a full review of the contested results. Their refusal could deepen the political turmoil in the wake of elections that leading Sunni parties have accused of being plagued by electoral fraud. Preliminary results from the vote show the United Iraqi Alliance leading, but with a vote small enough to require the formation of a ruling coalition with other groups. Iraqi officials said they have found instances of fraud serious enough to cancel the results in some places but not to hold another vote in any district.

While political demonstrations and bombing attacks escalate in Iraq, one large constituency is receiving little attention—that’s the roughly 1.5 million disabled Iraqis–many of whom are war victims. FSRN’s Salam Talib spoke with Iraqi Disabled Rights Advocate, Zina Abrahem.

Ex-workers Drop Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Against American Apparel (3:22)
Two former employees of socially-responsible garment maker American Apparel have dropped lawsuits alleging the company’s CEO created a sexually hostile work environment. Leilani Albano reports.

Correction MP3 download (2:00)
FSRN would like to correct and clarify several misstatements made during our December 29 broadcast. The story in question looked at the history of wrongful termination and sexual harassment lawsuits filed against American Apparel and the company’s CEO Dov Charney. In the broadcast, FSRN reporter Leilani Albano stated that Mr. Charney was 35 years of age. He is 36. She stated that the company was founded in 1977. It was founded in 1997. We reported that the company earned $200 million dollars in profits. American Apparel says it has achieved $200 million dollars in revenue. The report also stated that Charney had faced charges of criminal sexual misconduct. In fact, all previous lawsuits brought against Charney, including the current case pending against him in LA Superior Court, have been civil suits. After reading court documents listing charges against Charney that include “conducting business meetings in his underwear, and parading in a penis and ball cover during meetings,” the reporter misinterpted a statement given by the public relations firm representing Charney as corroborating those charges. The actual statement from the PR firm reads: “American Apparel manufactures underwear as well as other garments and Charney, as a fit model for the company, sometimes wears these garments and others, as is entirely natural and appropriate in a fashion business.” Referring to an interview with anti-sweatshop organizer Trina Tocco, the report paraphrased a broad statement about oppressive conditions of women workers globally and implied that Tocco’s statement described working conditions at American Apparel. In fact, Tocco was not describing conditions at American Apparel. However, Tocco did describe charges of union-busting activity against American Apparel that were considered by the National Labor Relations Board. Those charges are no longer pending against the company.

Native Hawaiian Activist Jailed Over Buried Artifacts (3:33)
A federal judge has jailed a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner for refusing to reveal the location of artifacts his organization borrowed from a museum and then re-buried with the bones of Hawaiian elders. The Bishop Museum in Honolulu has controlled the items in question for nearly a hundred years. Fourteen Hawaiian groups claim rightful ownership of the artifacts, but don’t all agree on what should be done with them. More members of the group that buried them face jail time if they don’t reveal the locations of the artifacts—but they say doing so would violate Hawaiian religious beliefs. Anne Keala Kelly reports.

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