January 03, 2006

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Headlines (6:08)
Washington lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, plead guilty today to charges of conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion. Ingrid Drake has more from Washington DC.

Charges against Abramoff include offering money, meals, and trips to public officials in exchange for favorable treatment for Abramoff’s clients, as well as enlisting former congressional aides to illegally lobby their bosses within a one-year window of employment. Federal prosecutors also charge Abramoff and his business partner Michael Scanlon for defrauding Indian tribes of approximately $82 million in lobbying funds for gambling casinos. By pleading guilty, Abramoff will serve only 10 years in prison, avoiding a 30 year sentence. Abramoff has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors investigating US lawmakers, including former house majority leader Tom Delay. For FSRN, this is Ingrid Drake.

This morning, Peru’s ambassador to Chile delivered Peru’s official request for the extradition of former president, Alberto Fujimori. From Santiago, Jorge Garretón reports.

The extradition request was received today by Chile’s Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker and promptly forwarded to Chile’s Supreme Court. The request contains 10 charges of corruption and two charges of human rights abuses against former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. Chilean Courts will now face a serious test that may play a role in the bilateral (and at times rocky) relations between Santiago and Lima. Human rights activists say this case is similar to Chile’s demands of Great Britain when this country’s former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, was arrested in London following an extradition request to Spain. Chile then argued that Pinochet could only be tried here. Fujimori’s defence says it will wait for an official notification before issuing a response. The former leader is in detention at a Santiago Prison Guards School. Peru’s Ambassador to Chile José Antonio Maier called the charges of corruption and human rights abuses “grave”. For FSRN this is Jorge Garretón in Santiago.

After a number of delays, Haiti’s national elections – scheduled for January 8th – will once again be postponed. The International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections estimates that the first round of elections may be delayed by a minimum of three to four weeks.

Meanwhile, one of the Haiti’s best-known prisoners, Catholic priest Father Gerard Jean-Juste, has been diagnosed with leukemia. Dr. Paul Farmer from Harvard Medical School visited Father Jean Juste in prison on Christmas Eve after hearing reports of the priest’s deteriorating health. Father Jean-Juste was arrested in last July and continues to be held without charge in Haiti’s National Penitentiary. Dr. Paul Farmer says that the leukemia is possibly a rapidly progressive form and that chemotherapy may be necessary. Dr. Farmer is calling for Jean-Juste’s immediate release in order to receive the medical attention that is not possible to deliver within Haiti’s penitentiary system.

Israeli settlers threw eggs at soldiers and police serving eviction notices in Hebron today. Israel’s High Court ordered the evacuation after the settlers were unable to prove ownership of the property in Hebron’s downtown market they have been occupying since 2001. Meanwhile, an Israeli High Court ruling on Sunday will permit the Israeli government to build the separation Wall in the northern West Bank in a way that would annex illegal settlements. This, as documents surface calling into question the legal basis of other Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Manar Jibrin reports.

The Israeli daily, Haaretz revealed today that Illegal permits were issued retroactively to build a new settlement bloc on Palestinian owned private lands in the West Bank village of Bil’in near Ramallah. Abdullah Abu Rahme, member of the land defense committee in the village said the land was illegally sold to Israeli land dealers through forged powers of attorney. “In the past few days we discovered that some Israeli companies have illegally bought some of the village’s land through forged documents. Today, the Israeli Civil administration admitted this fraud. Therefore, all the houses built in the Modi’in Ilit settlement are illegal.” The Bil’in villagers fear that government documents such as those published today by Ha’aretz are the tip of the iceberg of a plan to annex all the village’s land by the year 2020. For FSRN from imemc.org in Palestine, this is Manar Jibrin.

Hundreds of tribes people in India have blocked a main road in Orissa state, a day after police opened fire during protests over a planned steel mill. Vinod K. Jose files this report.

Indigenous people of Kalinganagar (of the Eastern Indian state of Orissa) have been demanding compensation for their land. Their land was taken over by the government and given free to private steel companies. Yesterday, India’s largest private steel company, Tatas, started construction on the site with police protection. Spontaneously, the local people resisted and disturbed the construction. Police responded with live ammunition and 12 of the protesting villagers died instantly. The deaths led large numbers of indigenous people to block the busy National Highway today. The roadblock brought traffic to a complete halt and seriously affected the movement of iron ore from the mineral-rich district. Private steel companies have set up huge steel mills in mineral-rich states of Eastern India such as Orissa and Jharkhand. In the past, locals lost land and were displaced in huge numbers. Compensation and transfer to arable land elsewhere is the demand this time. From New Delhi in India, this is Vinod K. Jose for FSRN.

Palestinian Elections in Turmoil (2:00)
In Palestine today is the first official day of campaigning for parliamentary elections set to take place on January 25, but escalating conflicts between Israeli officials, the Palestinian leadership, and more militant factions may derail the vote. This is the first election in which the militant Islamic group Hamas will field candidates, and the most recent polls suggest it will take at least 25% of the available seats. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel– the Israeli government has called for it to be disqualified, and has threatened to bar Palestinians from using polling places in Jerusalem. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that might be cause for delaying the election–a proposal immediately repudiated by the leadership of Hamas, which says the elections—already delayed six months—must go forward as scheduled. The question of voting in Jerusalem is a tremendous symbolic importance to Palestinians, who want to claim East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. Israel maintains that interim peace accords forbid any Palestinian political activity there. That conflict and boiled over this morning when Israeli police scuffled with Palestinian candidates campaigning in the Plaza outside Damascus Gate. They arrested eight candidates from the ruling Fatah faction, and briefly detained independent candidate Mustafa Barghouti. Meanwhile, FSRN correspondent David Enders reports that, despite the well-publicized withdrawal from the Gaza Strip earlier this year, Israeli forces continue to annex

Winter Storms Stymie Relief Efforts in Pakistan (2:40)
In the earthquake-stricken region of Pakistan winter weather grounded relief flights for the third straight day as aid workers scrambled to help survivors deal with the snow and rain. More than two million people have been living in tents or crude shelters since an earthquake on October 8 killed more than 73,000 people there. The snow and rain have triggered landslides that block roads and collapsed many of the tents housing earthquake survivors. Joining us to talk about the situation in Pakistan is Abrar Rashid, a journalist with Urdu News Television Station Geo TV who’s in Amedabad right now. Abrar Rashid, what are conditions like in earthquake-stricken areas right now?

(Audio: Abrar Rashid)

Abrar Rashid is a journalist with urdu-language news station GEO TV—he spoke with us from Amedabad.

Domestic Spying and Congressional Oversight (2:18)
As the white house slides deeper into controversies over its authorization of domestic spying, civil liberties advocates are calling for Congress to establish stricter oversight, and political analysts are predicting a shift in the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of government. Anastasia Gnezditskaia has more from the nation’s capital.

Zapatistas Mark 12th Anniversary by Launching National Campaign (4:50)
12 years ago, on New Year’s day, an indigenous army in the Mexican state of Chiapas launched a rebellion that captured the world’s imagination. The Zapatista National Liberation Army chose this year’s anniversary to launch their ”Other Campaign”, a plan to build a new left-wing popular movement in Mexico. Tim Russo and Luz Ruiz followed Subcommandante Marcos from his jungle stronghold to the city streets of San Cristobal de las casas. .

Nigeria Evicts Civil Servants from Government Housing in Privatization Bid (2:12)
Soldiers and police in Nigeria have forcibly evicted thousands of senior civil servants living in government-owned apartments. The Nigerian government ordered their eviction after it sold their official quarters to private investors under a World Bank backed plan to privatize public utilities. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

Canada Debates Prostitution (2:45)
Canada is debating how its legal system should deal with prostitution. FSRN’s Alison Benjamin interviewed a legal researcher, a woman’s rights activist, and an advocate for prostitutes on how the state should protect the human rights of people sex workers.

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