January 16, 2006

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Armed groups continue their attacks on oil installations in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

The oil facility targeted in yesterday’s attack is a flow station belonging to the Anglo Dutch oil company Shell Petroleum. The company says “The attackers invaded the flow station in speedboats, burnt down two staff accommodation blocks, damaged the processing facilities and left.” Some reports indicate that more than ten people, mainly soldiers, died during the attack. The Nigerian military remains silent about its casualties. Shell says one catering contractor died while ten of its workers were injured. Just last week, four foreigners working for Shell were kidnapped. A group known as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta says it is holding the hostages. The group is demanding the release of a separatist leader who wants autonomy for the Niger Delta region. The group also warned foreign oil workers to leave the Niger Delta or risk losing their lives. Although Shell Petroleum has evacuated some employees, the company says it has no plans to completely withdraw from the region. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.

Dockers from all over Europe took strike action today in protest of a draft European Union directive which they say threatens their jobs and working conditions. Tony Cross reports from Paris.

Ten-thousand workers came to Strasbourg today from ports as far a part as Gdansk in Poland and the Canary Islands. Police clashed with some protesters, tear gas was fired and rocks thrown, and some of the European Parliament’s huge windows were smashed. Meanwhile, ports all over the continent stopped work for between three and 24 hours. The dockers say that the draft directive is another attempt to replace hard-won labour rights with the rules of liberal economics. An almost identical project was scrapped in 2003. The most unpopular proposal is to allow a ship’s own crew to unload it. The dockers fear that means they will be replaced by floating cheap labour. European MPs will vote on the plan on Wednesday. It’s unlikely to pass, since only one bloc of right-wing parties supports it. For FSRN, I’m Tony Cross in Paris.

An internal crisis is threatening to cripple Zimbabwe’s main opposition party. Na’eem Jeenah reports.

Zimbabwe’s main opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change or MDC, is wracked by division and has split. This, after a faction last week filed a 10 million US dollar defamation suit against party leader Morgan Tsvangirai. They claim he had accused them of wanting to assassinate him. A disciplinary committee set up by this faction expelled Tsvangirai from the party last week, accusing him of dictatorship. The two factions have announced separate party congresses for next month and a battle is looming for control of the movement name, symbols and property. The MDC was founded in 1999 by Tsvangirai and has posed the most serious challenge to the destructive rule of the Robert Mugabe government. That challenge has diminished over the past few months and threatens quietly to disappear. The split came to the fore last month when the anti-Tsvangirai faction fielded candidates for Senate elections despite the leader’s call for an election boycott. With Zimbabwe’s economy facing a crisis marked by three-digit inflation, over 70% unemployment, shortages of foreign exchange and fuel and a dictatorial government, a weakened opposition will add to its woes. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Na’eem Jeenah in Johannesburg.

Israel’s Knesset has agreed to allow Palestinians in Jerusalem to vote in this month’s Palestinian elections. Manar Jibrin reports from the West Bank.

The Israeli government yesterday approved the participation of Jerusalem’s Palestinians in the January 25th legislative elections, but did not authorize Hamas to campaign in the city. The proposal to allow Palestinians to campaign in Jerusalem was submitted to the Knesset by the acting Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. On Sunday, Israeli soldiers attacked and arrested three Hamas candidates in the Old City of Jerusalem for campaigning without permission. The Islamic Jihad Movement called on its supporters to boycott the upcoming Palestinian Legislative Council elections saying the elections are based on the Oslo accords which the group does not recognize. For FSRN from IMEMC.Org in Palestine, I am Manar Jibrin.

The results are in from yesterday’s presidential run-off election in Chile. From Santiago Jorge Garretón has the story.

Chileans made history this Sunday, when they elected Michelle Bachelet as the country’s first female president. Bachelet, a Socialist, becomes the fourth president of the centre-left ruling Concertación coalition. The ruling coalition has won every presidential election since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990. Bachelet defeated conservative billionaire Sebastián Pińera by a wide margin. A Bachelet government will continue the free market policies; particularly with regards to free trade agreements. But Bachelet also intends to implement major pending social reforms to the education, labor and private retirement pension systems. She will take office next March 11. For FSRN this is Jorge Garretón in Santiago.

Al Gore Attacks Bush’s Authorization for NSA Spying on US Citizens (3:51)
Former Vice President Al Gore attacked President George Bush today for breaking the law by ordering the National Security Agency to conduct domestic spying without a court order. Just yesterday, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter acknowledged that impeachment could be a possibility if the President did act outside of the law. Mitch Jeserich reports from Washington.

Vietnamese Workers Win Wage Victory (3:58)
More than a dozen strikes by over 40,000 workers in Ho Chi Minh City’s export processing zones have forced the Vietnamese government to raise the country’s minimum wage by nearly 40% – up to $55 a month in Vietnam’s two biggest cities. Workers elsewhere in the country will get less. The labor actions were some of the largest and best coordinated, and show increased frustration among workers who are only allowed to affiliate with a single, government-run trade union. From Ho Chi Minh City, Aaron Glantz and Ngoc Nguyen report.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Inaugurated as Liberia’s President (3:31)
Leaders from Africa and around the world made their way to the Liberian capitol of Monrovia today, to attend the inauguration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Not only is Johnson-Sirleaf Africa’s first female President, she is also Liberia’s first elected president since the end of the country’s 14-year civil war, which ended in 2003. Harvard-educated Johnson-Sirleaf has pledged to put an end to wide-spread corruption, as a way to gain the trust of foreign investment in the diamond, iron and timber-rich West African nation. Assumpta Oturo is host of KPFK’s Spotlight Africa. She recently spoke with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf about the future of Liberia, as well as the role of young African women.

Indian Government Meets with Kashmiri Separatists (2:50)
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with a five member delegation of the Kashmiri People’s Conference separatist group, led by Sajjad Ghani Lone over the weekend, in what the Indian government is calling the broadening of the dialogue process. Authorities previously held three rounds of talks with moderate factions of Kashmir’s main separatists’ alliance, All Parties Hurriyat Conference. FSRN’s Shahnawaz Khan has more.

NOLA Residents Defy Authorities and March Traditional MLK Day Route (2:03)
In New Orleans today, one hundred and fifty people defied the city’s official change from the traditional Martin Luther King Day parade route and marched from the Lower 9th ward through the city’s poorer downtown neighborhoods. FSRN’s Christian Roselund reports.

Washington State Supreme Court Considers Same Sex Marriage (3:14)
For nearly one year, justices on the Washington State Supreme Court have mulled over the constitutionality of the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which bans same-sex marriage in the state. Depending on their decision, the state of Washington may become the second in the nation, after Massachusetts, to recognize full marriage rights for same-sex couples. As Ben Tabor reports from Olympia, Washington, promise and uncertainty hangs heavy in the air as the public anxiously awaits the state Supreme Court’s decision.

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